Table of Contents: Fashion


Texture

Excide PersisKhambatta- PortReyes_Chair 1&2 Contour_Lace Allentown_NewWave
SwirlFrom top: Point Reyes Lighthouse; Lambertville, New Jersey; Point Reyes Lighthouse; Point Reyes Lighthouse: Lambertville, New Jersey; Allentown, Penna; Ballston Spa, New York

Turn and face the strange

English singer, musician and actor David Bowie, 1974. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There’s a reason when the news hits that so many of us instinctively reach out and gather our memories of first hearing ChangesOneBowie / Because that wasn’t a record, it was a door. A magic door. Here’s how it was magic. Because if you knocked on it, it opened easily, and you could go in and just boogie. But. But. If you pushed on it just right, if you were buy vicodin craigslist bent, just so, you tumbled through — and you never stopped falling. And as you fell, year after year, your freak flag just kept unfurling. And as you fell & flew you wondered — when do I get to the bottom? And there is no bottom. It’s just Bowie all the way down. Today every freak flag flies at half mast. Goodbye David Bowie.

Golden Years

Every time I look at these photos they light up my noggin like a pinball machine. I linger over them, careening from detail to detail, setting off little bright explosions of nostalgia, recognition, longing and sheer delight.

Some context… They’re snaps taken at a Sam Goody’s record store in mighty Paramus, New Jersey from about 1976 until 1980. They were taken by a friend of an old acquaintance of mine, and I spotted them one day out on the more distant orbits of the Facebook. The photographer, one of the employees of the shop, kindly gave me permission to post them.

I was transfixed the instant I saw them. Aesthetically they’re amazing – the pale yellow cast of the film encasing the era as if in amber. A wistful melancholy sets in when you start to weigh what we lost as a culture when we lost places like this. But it’s the people, finally – this wonderful, quirky, ramshackle cast –  that really bring these photos to life.

I’ve tried many times to describe their effect on me – jury-rigging metaphors that do justice to their peculiar spell. It’s weird. I’m just old enough to recall when the texture of life felt like this. So sometimes they trigger deeply felt, familiar, yet sketchy, memories. Other times they read like fiction – especially vivid stills from a movie that one the one hand I desperately wished existed and on the other I feel like I’ve already seen. Like I said, weird.

Soviet girl manual

Diagrams and fashion spreads from a book called For you! Girls! published in the Soviet Union in 1965. I found it in a profoundly random box of discarded books and cassettes in the “free trade” corner of a U-Haul self storage warehouse in Philadelphia. It was published by something like the Committee for the Literature for Popular Sciences & Medicine (My Ukrainian provides an imperfect guide to the Russian) It’s a comprehensive guide to the Soviet can i buy vicodin in tijuana Girl, with a strange mix of propaganda, health and fitness tips, fashion spreads, and aspirational portraits of female astronauts, seamstresses, soldiers, and miners. Odd, fascinating, unsettling in the soullessness of the sloganeering and the gap between the lightheaded lifestyle spreads and the grey reality of Soviet life… but as often is with this stuff, aesthetically compelling – a mix of constructivist graphics, great type, and high key black and white photography.

Wonder Woman Costume Sketch

This, I covet. It’s the original costume sketch for the Wonder Woman TV series. It was designed and drawn by Donfeld, – Hollywood bon vivant, four time Academy Award nominee for costume design – who’s heyday spanned the 60’s to the 80’s. Besides the costume for Wonder Woman, his other lasting contribution to Western culture was designing Jill St. John’s costumes in Diamonds Are Forever. All this while dedicating himself tirelessly to keeping Jacqueline Bisset looking foxy – a great, great man. Anyway, in 2005 this treasure sold for $2,390 at auction (It was originally inscribed and given by Donfeld to his good friend, actor Richard Chamberlain.) I vow to you, if I ever make my pile, someday this will hang proudly on my wall.

Made in USA

The stills above are taken from Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in USA. Made in 1966, it was an unauthorized adaptation of Donald Westlake’s the Jugger, featuring the adventures of Parker, a hard-boiled thief – the same character played by Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s 1967 classic Point Blank. (Parker was also recently adapted by Darwyn Cooke in an amazing graphic novel, the Hunter)

The movie is a squirrelly one. On the one hand, visually, it’s perfectly captivating. It is composed like a comic book, all bright colors shot rigidly against stark backgrounds.The stills speak for themselves – Scene after scene, the movie is farrago of pop art, mod fashion, and commercial signage. The dialog could be in Tasmanian and it wouldn’t matter a smidgen – it’s still a flat out sock knocker.

Which it might as well be, because the movie scarcely makes any sense at all. It’s confusing, deadpan, stiff, meandering, and plot-wise, essentially indecipherable. A decoder ring is provided on the Criterion Edition DVD in the form of a short interview with two Godard scholars. According to them, the flick is simultaneously a passionate love letter to, and a fierce rejection of, American films and culture, as well as a record of the disintegration of one of two concurrent love affairs. It is also, obviously, French. Enjoy it any way you see fit.

Bright Young Things

From 1915 till about 1940 or so, the Brinkley Girl cut a feverish swath through the cultural imagination. As drawn by illustrator Nell Brinkley, she was like the Gibson Girl on an absinthe bender – exuberant line, riots of splashy color, and buckets of joie de vivre. Girls obsessed over her adventures, hairstyles and fashion shifted in her wake, and she was feted in songs, films and theater.

Nell Brinkley’s specialty was the episodic themed series. Golden Eyes and Her Hero followed our heroine’s exploits and derring-do during World War One. Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages, my personal favorite, featured a besotted glamorous couple in various romantic historical vignettes – intrigue in Southern plantation society, among Medieval troubadours, Phoenician swashbucklers, etc… The format begins to open up in the 20’s with sophisticated frothy flapper larks like the Fortunes of Flossie.

Fantagraphics Book’s wonderful new survey, The Brinkley Girls, collects these series and more, along with a fascinating introduction by the book’s editor, Trina Robbins. Aces.

Wonder Woman Costume Sketch

This, I covet. It’s the original costume sketch for the Wonder Woman TV series. It was designed and drawn by Donfeld, – Hollywood bon vivant, four time Academy Award nominee for costume design – who’s heyday spanned the 60’s to the 80’s. Besides the costume for Wonder Woman, his other lasting contribution to Western culture was designing Jill St. John’s costumes in Diamonds Are Forever. All this while dedicating himself tirelessly to keeping Jacqueline Bisset looking foxy – a great, great man. Anyway, in 2005 this treasure sold for $2,390 at auction (It was originally inscribed and given by Donfeld to his good friend, actor Richard Chamberlain.) I vow to you, if I ever make my pile, someday this will hang proudly on my wall.

Royal Bodies

Lose yourselves in this utterly engrossing essay by Hilary Mantel, currently free to read at the London Review of Books. Entitled Royal Bodies, it considers the construct of this utterly peculiar institution, it’s basest aspects and its most unworldly character, in Mantel’s typically direct, painterly, and slightly off kilter way — In looking at royalty we are always looking at what is archaic, what is mysterious by its nature, and my feeling is that it will only ever half-reveal itself… Royal persons are both gods and beasts.

Mantel wrote the incomparable historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, two thirds of a trilogy centered around Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and the founding of the Anglican Church. So skewed and revelatory is her lens, and so brilliantly constructed is her authorial voice that I waited for the release of the second book with an anticipation usually reserved for a new record by a beloved band — as much as I wanted to hear the story continue, it was the style of the writing, the sound of her language that I couldn’t wait to submerge in…

The essay caused, and is still causing, a retarded kurfuffle in the UK for her gimlet eyed assessment of Kate Middleton. Umbrage, in this case, relies on classic non-reading or a stubborn non-comprehension of the essay’s essential humanism. Read on here

To Die For

Can we take a moment to be gobsmacked by the art direction and costume design of Gus Van Sant’s To Die For? (written by the brilliant Buck Henry, in bowtie, above) Lurid, mean, lusty, sarcastic, and genuinely and absurdly fashionable in equal measure, just like the movie itself. Well worth digging up and re-watching, both for it’s delectable eye candy as well as the tart sweet taste of it’s sadly unexpired satiric cocktail —
~ 1 jigger of Hallmark
~ a generous splash of Maury Povich
~ 1 dash of vintage Vogue
~ fresh squeezed orange juice
~ two fingers carbolic acid.
Mix well and enjoy.

 

O blue stewardess…

Her arrow-straight hair will not escape from its bow. Her glasses will never slide down her nose. From now on her base will be Boston. She will tell the passengers tied to their seats how she and our captain are going to be divorced. Her voice has made up its mind.

On Dumbo, a great grey beast, we head north towards Philadelphia, over an ambiguous fog where turtles swim in mud which is neither sky nor sea. The turtles are only four inches long. Their small paws are webbed. Their shells are surprisingly sensitive. We know which way they are going.

Who can tell what an elephant will do? In the hook of Dumbo’s trunk, Captain Wright swings like a broken bell, as if he’s drunk or piloting an invisible bomber running out of fuel. Soon his shoes will drop from his feet, two birds plummet to earth. O blue stewardess with red striped cuffs, we hope you enjoy your fight.

Phyllis Janowitz, Soon The Final Decree

Esquire Magazine, June 1977. Janowitz is a poet, and Professor of English, at Cornell University. Also, yup, the mother of Tama Janowitz, author of 80’s novel / artifact Slaves of New York.

A Wyeth Echo

This is a weird one, or at least it seems so at the moment. I was checking back in on the work of German photographer Michael Magin the other day. What I love about Magin, who works under the rubric Zeitautomatk, is his gift for framing natural and architectural forms in stark graphic compositions. Color, contrast, negative space, and abstraction are tools that, in his best work, reveal new things about the essential topography of archetypical forms – the female nude, nature, atmospheric vistas, and architectural structures.

In any case, this time, as I looked at his work, certain photos seemed to echo something familiar. After a bit of noggin racking I had it – Andrew Wyeth, specifically, his paintings and studies of his neighbor, German-born Helga Testorf.

Flipping through a Wyeth survey, I found convergence after convergence, echo after echo of poses, gestures, textures, moods, compositions. The weird thing? It’s not exactly clear that these are homages by Magin. The photos are amidst a series with a very different aesthetic agenda, ordered primarily by color tone. The ones that most strongly evoke Wyeth occur randomly in the series. But still, it seems so deliberate. She was German, he’s German… Then there’s the tree… a near twin of the tree from Wyeth’s Four Seasons portfolio.

That what is so intriguing to me, not knowing what’s going on here. I’ve thought about emailing Magin directly. I may, but not just yet. Not knowing keeps this convergence alive, the echos never settling or fading, just pinging back and forth, kept in play by uncertainty.

 

Agent Diana Prince

wonderwoman2

Wonder Woman is really confusing.

Consider the other members of the comic book trinity. Batman: Bruce Wayne, Gotham, detective. Superman: Clark Kent, Metropolis, boy scout. Their essences are schematic. Wonder Woman has been an Amazon and an Olympian. She’s been a god, a mortal, and a mix of both. She’s Diana Prince sometimes, she’s Diana Prince always, she’s never been Diana Prince. She had the invisible plane, gained the power of flight, then gotten the plane back – which I guess she uses when… she…umm… flyes back home? Yes home, which is on the island of Themyscira… or is it Boston, Gateway City, New York? Severe shifts in character and narrative continuity are endemic in comics, sure, but this schizoid blackboard eraser approach is more than a little nuts. It has left her less an icon than a notion of one.

That said, one of Wonder Woman’s most random, and most enjoyable, phases was her 60’s incarnation as a mod boutique owner and secret agent. Pop culture was undergoing a massive collective spy fantasia. Bond movies were at the height of their popularity and surreality. Every flavor of espionage was in vogue – Harry Palmer, Michael Caine’s working class spy, Italian comic book adaptations like Danger: Diabolik and Modesty Blaise, and Dean Martin’s candy colored Matt Helm absurdities. The genre’s high point is probably James Coburn’s peerless set of Flint movies (don’t miss this extended montage of highlights). They all shared a common widescreen Technicolor palette – mod fashions, mid century modern design, a taste for a splashy op art and the occasional dose of the lysergic. On television, Aaron Spelling’s pioneering swinging lady detective series Honey West had just been annihilated by the arrival of a fab new import from the UK – the Avengers.

The Avengers featured the espionage escapades of dapper Victorian John Steed and incomparable hepcat Emma Peel. In Peel, played by Diana Rigg, the genre had found it’s female icon. She was a stone cold fox, a brain box, a wit, and singularly, unforgettably stylish. (Peel’s wardrobe is virtually a case study in 60’s mod fashions – saturated pop colors, geometric patterns and cuts)

Emma Peel became the explicit model for the 60’s manifestation of Wonder Woman. She shed her powers and permanently adopted her mortal alter ego Diana Prince. She opened a fashionable clothing store. She rebuilt her fighting skills under the tutelage of her new sidekick, the wise, blind kung fu sage, I-Ching. The art was fantastic – a perfect blend of 50’s Romance comics, Good Girl Art, and Dan DeCarlo’s Josie and the Pussycats. The result was derivative, obvious, and absolutely delightful. (DC has recently reissued 3 volumes of this era – all are worthwhile, all easily found).

Cherry Vanilla

cherry_vanilla

[Reposting this jem in light of two things – finally happening upon the 7″ of “The Punk” in a dusty box under the counter at the endlessly magical Molly’s Record and Book Store in Philly’s Italian Market, and the publication of Lick Me, Vanilla’s deliciously lurid memoirs. Cheers.]

At the Rock n Roll High School cafeteria, Cherry Vanilla was the wild tag-along little sister who sat with the Ramones whenever they decided to attend, and never got over the one time the New York Dolls asked her to share a cigarette behind the gym. But what she really pined for was the part of Magenta in the class production of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

At first, The Punk, her greatest (and single) moment, seems plugged into the same outlet that powers Sheena is a Punk Rocker and Personality buy vicodin 10mg online Crisis – all buzz-saw chords and pounding keys. But what really beats at the heart of this corker is The Time Warp. That is what makes this song so awesome, its utter fakery, its schmaltz. It’s not gutter rock, it’s musical theatre. It’s a prime exponent of the other great strand of New York Punk, the hammy glammy one that gave us Rocky Horror, the Mumps, Klaus Nomi, etc…

Cherry Vanilla was David Bowie’s publicist until the mid 70’s. After they parted ways she embarked on a short lived rock bender. (In a wonderful footnote, she’s also the object of Blondie’s catty classic Rip Her to Shreds) All of which is perfectly fitting. “The Punk” is punk written by a publicist – insanely enthusiastic but utterly inauthentic.

Cherry Vanilla — The Punk: