Table of Contents: Fashion

Agent Diana Prince


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


[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:


Earth Tony



A text book, literally, of 70’s glamour and style, with every stylistic permutation extensively covered and visually documented. It features in-depth case studies on Twiggy, Françoise Hardy, Jean Shrimpton, Verushka, etc. The book itself is a gem – in fact, one its chief pleasures is the contrast between the impeccably elegant design and the exuberance of the looks themselves. The supporting diagrams (including detailed schematics of every single iconic 70’s hairstyle) are worthy of their own post and will be featured later. Oh, and the authors name, Bronwen Meredith, is as peerless an embodiment of the era as you could hope for – a perfect blend of the earth-toned and the tony.


For your pleasure, an oddly charming, earnest, hippy-dippy photo recreation of Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass from an old 1970 photography annual.

Just fabulous… Photo by May Lin Le Goff for Test Shoot Gallery / Singapore; Everybody’s got their predilections, yes? Well, one of mine is a soft spot for supermarkets as photoshoot backdrops.

A moment’s rest at the Rochester Institute of Technology, between two immense murals by Joseph Albers meant to evoke the equally brilliant Kodak logo. Aces.

Fashions, Bill Blass… Trimline® phone, your Bell Telephone business office – reads the tweaked out copy on this gem of an advertisement obviously composed during a brief moment when the entire country was on an epic cocaine bender

This age needs [artists] who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic. — John Updike, 1951

Fine art’s always gone for filthy lucre

Seriously, this is a must read. It’s a detailed description of the unhinged, lunatic magnificence of a 15th century “living painting.” As the author Anita Albus makes vividly clear – “it’s pointless to look for the line where kitsch ends and fine art begins.” Utterly gobsmacking… just contemplating it nearly defeats the imagination.

(Taken from Albus’ The Art of Arts, which I’ve only just begun, but is emerging as one of the best books I’ve ever read on the mechanics and philosophy of painting.)


Two splendid specimens of Kabel, a geometric sans-serif typeface designed in Germany and released in 1927. Further geekery -The  L’eggs name, package and logo were created by designer Roger Ferriter, working in legendary typographer Herb Lubalin‘s studio in 1969. And, of course we have the James Gang to thank for the indestructible boogie of Funk #49Sleep all day, out all night / I know where you’re goin’ / I don’t think that’s actin’ right / You don’t think it’s showin’, etc… (L’eggs logo from over at so much pileup)

Neil Krug & Joni Harbeck

A most excellent series of handcrafted hemp-soaked vignettes by photographer Neil Krug and his wife, model Joni Harbeck. Krug had long harbored a desire to shoot in a style that would evoke Bob McGinnis’ paperback cover paintings. One frisky late night while fooling around with a Polaroid camera, some expired film, an Indian headdress and a cigarette, the couple stumbled on something close – a sunburnt, grainy buy vicodin in spain instance of pulp. This led to a formal series, Pulp, which drew on Sergio Leone westerns, weathered thrift store records, Italian giallo flicks, and woolly late night b-movies for inspiration. The project culminated in a hardbound LP sized book, available this month, here. Both their Flickr pools and websites are worth visiting – here, here, and here – as is an interview with both, here.

Marilyn Monroe: Cover to Cover

These covers are taken from the book Marilyn Monroe: Cover to Cover. It was published as basically a collectors guide, featuring a comprehensive, chronological survey of magazine covers featuring Monroe. At first it seems like a janky, quickie affair, a slim paperback with a shabby downmarket cover design. Actually, it turns out to be extremely rewarding read. Its considerable cultural and aesthetic interest derives from seeing the visual evolution of both Monroe herself and magazine design in general.

There is something in the direct, immediate nature of magazines that makes the images more vital and nuanced than the usual, canonical, perpetually reproduced “Stations of Marilyn Monroe.” In Cover to Cover it’s fascinating to watch the fluid transitions in lesser known photos from ingenue to pinup to starlet to studio player, to star, to personality, to icon.

The book also makes a real significant contribution to the record of magazine design. It’s a surprisingly far flung, international collection, spanning the late 40’s to the early 60’s. It documents many distinct, cool modes – spare, modernist, highly graphic tabloids and newspaper inserts; roughly composed semi-professional fanzines; lush lurid highly-saturated Hollywood gossip rags; and high-circulation general interest slicks.

What’s really impressive, lasting and artful is when the best of both intersect – when an indelible image is pared with a striking layout, like in the examples above… The book, now out of print, can be had, here.

Chanel No. 5

The scent of Chanel No. 5, when deployed, begins with top notes of bergamot, lemon, and neroli, blooms into a heart of jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, and orris; it finishes with a base of vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, and amber, and fades to musk, civet, with traces of oak moss, and cinnamon – figured this was a good thing to share, just in case it comes up… (photo Hayley Haynes)

Dogs in Space: The Bewildered Hipster

So, we’re in the midst, again, of another salvo of assessment of this whole Hipster thing. The occasion this time is the publication of What Was the Hipster?, an anthology of essays assembled by the editors of the literary journal n+1. New York Magazine adapted an article by n+1 founder Mark Greif from the collection a week or two ago… it was, eh, ok, useful mostly in it’s classification of the growth rings of the phenomena overall. Another offshoot was published this weekend in the New York Times Book Review.  The essay, again by Greif, focused on the timelessness of the artificiality & class stratification of supposedly “authentic” regimes of taste and connoisseurship. Anyway… in light of all this it seemed a fine moment to dig up an old sketch I wrote about two years ago – for my nickel it all goes back to that Marshall McLuhan chestnut about the medium being message… for your consideration, then:

[originally posted October 22, 2008]

These hipster zombies… are the idols of the style pages, the darlings of viral marketers and the marks of predatory real-estate agents, – And they must be buried for cool to be reborn. – Time Out New York

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new. – ADBUSTERS

Ultimately I don’t even really care if people call me a hipster. I especially don’t care if they say that hipsters are lacking any meaning behind their lifestyle/wardrobe, I thought I was just dressing a certain way, I didn’t realize “we” were supposed to be saying something with our clothes or facial hair. – Adam Flanagan, Hipster

The phenomenon of the hipster has lately generated a great deal of heated chit-chat and brouhaha. Condescending bile from earlier generations of cool cats (They must die for cool to be reborn…) flabbergasted ire from anti-consumerist pick-noses (oh the vapidity! oh the shopping!), awkward sniffing by curious marketing organs (mmmm, yummy…. tastemakers….) topped off by the defensive wail of the misunderstood hipster himself (What, what, what?… I’m not even a hipster) – more than half of it is nonsense on stilts and all of it misses the forces at work by a country mile.

I think it’s like this…

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Harry Callahan

When I saw these photographs by Harry Callahan reproduced in a magazine, I took them to be photo-realist paintings. It’s the compositions – they’re so deliberate and graphic. What I love about the photo-realist painters that I love is the degree of framing and editing they employ. They hold reality in abstraction, and the intersection of the two is the source of a great deal of the aesthetic impact they deliver. It’s why I was so gobsmacked to find that these images were caught in camera.

Callahan was an engineer with Chrysler Motors in the 40’s, where he joined a camera club. A visit by Ansel can you buy real vicodin online Adams to the club transformed his passion for photography from a hobby into an artistic calling – a search for the intensified image. As he put it – “The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem” – which gets at the essence of his images perfectly. Half a decade later he was hired by Bauhaus legend Liszl Moholy-Nagy to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago. He went on to create the photography program at the RISD. More on Callahan here.

ASME Cover Design of the Year

This year’s candidates for the American Society of Magazine Editors Cover Design of the Year are being hosted here, for your review. I wish I could say it’s a cavalcade of awesomeness, but it’s a shabby parade at best. The general interest/feature magazines are interchangeable, lazily designed and garish. Especially slack are the mainstream design magazines, mostly smothered by a bland, Pottery Barn-ish aesthetic.

Still, some really strong entries amidst the gruel: For my money New York Magazine is a marvel – smart, sharp and elegant week after week. Chris Ware’s cover for the Halloween issue of the New Yorker is a wonderfully nuanced vignette, essentially warmhearted but clinically sharp in it’s social commentary. Real Simple remains a reliable model of great taste and clean execution. The New York Times Magazine is easily the most vigorously conceptual, with the main feature driving a unique visual solution for every issue. So to them, bravo. To the rest, anywhere from meh to feh.

Onward and upward, etc…

Rex Reed and Raquel Welch on the set of Myra Breckinridge. Those looks of concern and finger gnawing anxiety? They’re watching a zonked, manic director losing control amidst an anarchic shoot coming apart at the seams. Originally, I filed this photo away for the blog simply for it’s stylishness, and the opportunity to reference the legendarily disastrous filming. But the after three weeks of technical glitches, Tumblr disconnects, posting delays, hacked code, and Google-robot imposed Internet blacklist, I’m starting to relate to it a bit more personally.

As in many seemingly hopeless situations, however, inspiration can be found in Welch – who dusted herself off from this debacle, and was soon again in top form, appearing in Richard Lester’s bawdy, exuberant adaptation of the Three Musketeers. So, then, as goes Miss Welch, so goes the blog – onward and upward…

In White…

A quick, sketchy thing, based on an old Helena Rubenstein ad, painted in gouache, on 100 year old ledger paper from an evening business college that was based in Camden, NJ. (psst… this ditty’s part of the art sale, here.)