Asylum-True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion by Simon Doonan*

IMG_20190913_204858

“Ah! Fashion. A nuthouse? A refuge? Or maybe both. Yes, an asylum in both senses of the word. A place where unemployable crazy people are always welcome.

Every seasoned personage has his or her favorite stories of folly, aberration, derangement, kookiness and excess.”-Part of a quote of Simon’s author quote in his book Asylum: True Tales of Madness a collection of madcap essays about what Doonan has witnessed during his life in the fashion biz.

Among them include peers that peanut gallery of nuttiness, models who fancy themselves as spiritual advisers and who are also total cheapskates, Anna Wintour barely blinking, let alone freaking out, when a ceiling fell at a runway show during fashion week, the dating habits of the fashion elite, which include affairs with hustlers, porn stars, gangsters, and jailbirds, fabulous fashion femmes like Diana Vreeland, Polly Mellen, Suzy Menkes among them, and so much more sordid stylish and fashionable fables that will entertain both fashionistas and people who can’t tell the difference between a Jimmy Choo and a Jimmy John’s.

And of course, Doonan can’t help drop names, names, names when it comes to the factory of fashion, including Chanel, Rei Kawakubo from Commes des Garcons, Lagerfeld, Balenciaga, Tom Ford, Thierry Mugler, and so much more!!!

But there is essays that reflect on more serious topics, like how AIDs impacted the fashion industry, taking the lives of creative visionaries like Perry Ellis, Tina Chow, Willi Smith, Halston, Patrick Kelly, and Juan Ramos.

Smart, sassy and wonderfully written, you will find a sensitive man of true compassion and fashion. I have no doubt Mr. Doonan would give you one of his technicolor shirts off his back when you’re in the depths of despair while also filling you in on the a la mode of all the people, places and things of fashion.

*I also reviewed Doonan’s book Wacky Chicks.

 

 

 

Book Review: Edith Head-The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer by Michael Chierichetti

IMG_20190913_204830

When you think of Hollywood’s golden age you probably think of the movies, stars, and directors of that glittering era. I know I do. But I also think of Edith Head, costume designer extrodinaire.

Edith Head’s career began in the silent era and ended in the early 1980s.

Some of the movies she worked in include All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and several films by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most Oscar nominated people in show business, she won eight of those golden boys.

Head also designed for television productions, often working with Bob Mackie and Nolan Miller. She even designed costumes for the Muppets!

Head had one heck of a career, which deserves one heck of a biography. Is Michael Chierichetti’s book Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer up to such a daunting task? I should think so considering Chierichetti is a film historian, costumer, and was a confidant of the legendary Head.

After an opening chapter recalling Head’s early life, Chierichetti quickly moves onto Head’s lengthy and impressive career, starting out as a lowly apprenticeship, her commitment to getting costumes just right, her strong work ethic, her talented design staff, and the relationships she had with the stars she fitted with her costumes.

But Chierichetti isn’t shy about revealing low moments in Head’s life and career. He also gossips about some of her unsavory personality quirks.

Head made sure her costume were true to the time period the movies’ reflected. She had a gift for highlighting a star’s figure assets while hiding his or her faults. And like many of the stars she outfitted, Head was often a media sensation.

As a fan of film and fashion, I thought I knew a lot about Head. But my knowledge wouldn’t fill up a thimble. Fortunately Chierichetti’s research and commitment to telling Head’s life story as thoroughly as possible helped me sew up some loose threads. I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the names of film, dates, studios, colleagues, and movie stars named in this book.

Interspersed throughout Edith Head are pictures of her actual sketches, film stills, screen tests, professional and candid photos, and glossies that do a wonderful job illustrating Head’s exemplary career. Chierichetti also divulges some secrets about her creative process.

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer sews things up for film lovers and fashionistas alike.

 

Retro Review: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

When I look back at the books I loved as a child I think of the books by Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the poetry of Shel Silverstein. I think of the classics and think of getting lost in a world of fairy tales, myths, legends, and folklore.

And then there is the Newberry Medal Winner The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.

Even as a little girl I was a bit of a fashionista. I played dress up and adored my Barbies. I even made clothes for my paper dolls.

The Hundred Dresses is about two classmates and besties, Maddie and Peggy. Wanda Petronski is their classmate.

Wanda has a funny last name, lives in a scary place called Boggins Heights, and her family is very poor, not exactly a recipe for popularity.

Wanda also wears the same raggedy dresseveryday, which her leads her classmates to tease her, including Maddie and Peggy.

Wanda tells her classmates she has a hundred dresses at home. She has to be lying. If this is true why does she wear she wear the same dress? The girls continue to tease Wanda. They are total bullies.

Then one day Wanda isn’t in class. It turns out she won’t be back. The Petronski family are moving.

Soon after the class learns about Wanda’s hundred dresses, conveyed by her creative and artistic talents.

Though released in 1944, The Hundred Dresses is very important book. Bullying still exists and people deemed as different are still demonized.

But on a positive note, The Hundred Dresses is an inspirational tale of how art and creative expression can be an act of healing and human connection.

I loved this book as a child, truly appreciate it as an adult. Estes’s writing is warm and heartfelt. And Louis Slobodkin’s impressionistic illustrations are lovely.

The Hundred Dresses is a tale that endures.

IMG_20190807_174957

Book Review: The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Every once in a while I really need to escape to the fun and fluff of what might be called chick lit.. But sadly, a majority of these books leave me less than sated. The plots are wafer thin and characters are one dimensional.

So thank the twinkly stars above for Teri Wilson’s gem of a novel The Accidental Beauty Queen.

Charlotte Gorman is a bookish lass who adores her job as a elementary school librarian. Her identical twin sister, Ginny, is a stunning beauty and Instagram star.

As The Accidental Beauty Queen begins, Ginny is hell bent on winning the Miss American Treasure pageant. However, her hopes are nearly dashed when she has an allergic reaction and her looks are severely compromised. She convinces Charlotte to go as her replacement, which Charlotte begrudgingly agrees to do even though it compromises her sense of right and wrong. In The Accidental Beauty Queen the Gorman sisters travel a twist and turn journey that opens both their minds and their hearts about the very different worlds they live in.

The premise interested me and thank goodness the novel did not  disappoint. Both Charlotte and Ginny, along with the stable of supporting characters, are multi-dimensional and Gorman girls convey the complexities of sisterhood in a way that is very relatable. They are more than they seem.

Speaking of sisterhood, the contestants are not bimbos or bitches, but funny, bright, accomplished and fully supportive of each other.

And then there is a certain mystery gentleman, Gray, who enters Charlotte’s life. Is he a Prince Charming who will sweep Charlotte off her platform stilletoed feet or a callow playboy who will break her heart into a million little shards? Like I mentioned, I really adored The Accidental Beauty Queen. Wilson can actually write and she keeps you guessing as a reader. She doesn’t rely on tired old clichés that lazy writers often do. She has a clever way with dialogue that is contemporary but wouldn’t seem out of place in a 1930s’ screwball motion picture.

The plot is funny and vibrant, but at times heartbreaking and profound. And her sexscenes are actually sexy, not sleazy.

In other words, Wilson writes chick lit for those who aren’t into chick lit. I can’t recommend The Accidental Beauty Queen enough.

 

Book Report: The Fashion Intruder by Roma E Black

41ZnYpBm7pL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

The Fashion Intruder by Roma E. Black should be an ideal book for me. It involved elements I adore-high fashion, culture and art, the silliness of celebrity worship, strong female characters (like our main character Sophia, an attorney who takes a job at a fashion start up) who band together and take no bull, a European setting and lots of twists and turns.

However, The Fashion Intruder turned out to be less than satisfying. Black ignored filling us in on the issues of launching a startup, especially in the rough world of fashion and I found it odd that Sophia rarely used her experience and knowledge as an attorney to advance the plot. In the end, I didn’t end up caring about Sofia, her gal pals or pretty much anything they did when it came to solving the mysteries of fashion, high art and the people who make up these intriguing words.

The Fashion Intruder should have been the September issue of Vogue magazine of fashion fiction. Sadly, it’s more of a moldy Sear’s catalog  circa 1980.

Grade C