Happy-Go-Lucky

Category: Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Dior. A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947 – 57).” by Alexandra Palmer.

9781851775781

“Dior. A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947 – 57).” is another fascinating book released by V&A Publishing. It presents Christian Dior and the House of Dior from different perspective, taking into consideration sociological, historical and economical factors related to the famous New Look and true revolution in fashion that it started. What makes this publication even more interesting are unique pictures presenting life of a couture house from the inside.

The author takes readers through the post war France, giving a good introduction of Haute Couture market just before and right after the war, focusing on historical and social backgrounds. Becoming familiar with the subject, one can better understand the social uproar and global discussion initiated by the New Look, which changed the model of femininity and brought back the “old days”, taking back achievements of various movements promoting gender equality as well as undermining fashions that liberated women from restrictions of corsets and crinolines, making them once again into beautiful and simpleminded mannequins, whose main purpose is to display wealth of their spouses or senior family members. Dashing woman dressed in Dior’s New Look was definitely fragile and flowerlike, stunningly chic, but also highly restricted in her movements and forced to strict diet, as hardly any woman was gifted by nature with measurements idolized by Dior.

Christian Dior was not only a visionary and talented designer, but also a meticulous businessman. Supported by well organized financial department as well as having implemented elements of market intelligence, the House of Dior was well run commercial enterprise, a forerunner for global corporations, with overseas offices in New York and London, numerous partnerships and license agreements. Throughout his career, Dior took every possible measure to ban illegal copies and stop wide spread practices of fashion espionage and copy right abuse. Considering that in 1958 the Dior couture house alone had an annual revenue of $ 8 million and was accounted for over 50% of total export of Haute Couture, he had a lot to protect!

(Photo: http://www.tanum.no)

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French Week. Vendredi. Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Lessons from Madame Chic.” by Jennifer L. Scott.

9781451699371

Paris is an international capital of fashion, chic and elegance. Since nowadays so many aspire to upgrade their life style to more glamorous, there are many chic lit publications focusing on life in Paris, French joie de vivre or secrets of a diet a la Parisienne. If the subject is close to your heart and you wouldn’t mind to read some more, I selected a great book that combines all mentioned topics and in addition, offering great advice on fashion, wardrobe building and Parisian life style.

Although the plot may sound very cliché, as it is a memoir of an American exchange student who moved to Paris and found this experience life changing, it makes an excellent reading. It not only offers a good deal of “know how” from both banks of Seine, but also provokes reflections on the quality of life and the importance of celebrating little pleasures that once can find on most occasions. It is not about budget, social standing or age, it is about an attitude and willingness to make every day count, living beautifully and excitingly.

I liked the book so much that I recommended it to some of my friends and even gave it as a Christmas gift to one of family members, believing that this is the type of lecture that will stay with the reader for longer and with some luck inspire changes, bringing more refinement, elegance and good attitude towards daily life.

(Photo: http://www.tanum.no)

Happy – Go – Lucky Book Review. “The Little Dictionary of Fashion. A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman.” by Christian Dior.

9781851775552

There was a lot about Christian Dior in April, yet I see no reason why we can’t conclude with one more topic related to one of the greatest Couturiers! Dior is always a good idea, especially when one can read about fashion in Master’s own words.

This petite and handy booklet can be seen as a part of fashion studies for all who are drawn to ideas of 1950ties fashion, considering the New Look a testimonial to timeless femininity and sophistication. The Dictionary takes a reader on a journey through fashion from A to Z, starting at “Accent” and closing with “Zest”. Some entries may sound as retro as an “Afternoon Frock” or “Veils”, while others highly applicable like “Elegance”, “Lace” or “The Way you Walk”.

The book is beautifully illustrated, containing good selection of black and white photographs of Christian Dior’s designs. I would definitely recommend Dior’s “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” to all vintage loving readers, who like to dress up, wanting to experience the Zest of the New Look, feeling like a Dior model.

(Photo: http://www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “A Dash o Daring. Carmel Snow and her life in fashion, art and letters.” by Penelope Rowlands.

9780743480468

Carmel Snow, larger than life editor of the American Harpers Bazaar, who before joining the enemy camp worked in the American Vogue under none other than Edna Chase. A woman who discovered Diana Vreeland, promoted Richard Avedon and numerous personas in the fashion industry, one who loved fashion, never step away from a challenge and lived her life “with a dash of daring”.

Born in Ireland as Carmel White, she moved with her mother and numerous siblings to United States of America in pursue of better life and open career opportunities. As a young woman, she worked at her mother’s New York based couture shop, after hours being a notorious fun loving girl, who was rumored to sleep while dancing. Her encounter with Conde Nast secured her a position in the American Vogue, where she continued for several years, staying in the shadow of the imperious Edna Chase. Carmel, now Snow, after her marriage to Palen Snow, couldn’t fully realize her enormous creative potential and at one point in her life did the unthinkable, joining Harpers Bazaar and moving to Hearst publishings. This betrayal was never forgiven, but… if not for her bold decision, we might have never had Harpers Bazaar as the glamorous magazine as we know it today. The rest is history with a truly amazing heroine at the centre of a stage.

Once responsible for Harpers Bazaar, as an editor in chief, Carmel Snow transformed this declining magazine into real fashion book, presenting innovative photo editorials, offering articles and stories contributed by reputable writers as well as giving us Vreeland’s ever famous “Why Don’t You…?” column (“Why Don’t You… tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child’s bed on Christmas Eve?”). Her fascination with French couture made her take many risks, like traveling to Paris in 1944 in order to report latest designs to her American readers as well as inform about the extend of war tragedies and destructions. Her efforts to revive French Couture were recognized in 1949, when Mrs. Snow received Legion of Honor.

According to Christian Dior, “no show ever began until Mrs. Snow arrived”. Later on in his career Dior had many reasons to offer her best sits during presentations of his collections, as it was Carmel Snow herself who baptized his innovative 1947 line into world famous New Look. Carmel Snow had an extraordinary intuition when it came to fashion and an impeccable sense of style, that distinguished her from even most fashionable crowd. She was the most respected and at the same time feared persona in the world of fashion magazines, her wit as well as sharpness were legendary. As observed by Hubert de Givenchy, “She registered more than anyone else. Her talent was enormous. Madame Snow understood”. Even though her retirement was turbulent and quite sad to say the least, till this day Carmel Snow is an icon of fashion journalism and her story is definitely worth reading.

(Photo: http://www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Are you a Jackie or Marilyn? Timeless Lessons on Love, Power and Style.” by Pamela Keogh.

9781592406777

Normally I am not a fan of chic lit, but this time I made an exception. Firstly because the author is reputable and secondly because the idea presented in a book interested me, not to mention that both Marilyn and Jackie are equally fascinating.

Pamela Keogh plays with a notion that every woman is either Jackie or Marilyn, believing that each one of us can learn important life lessons from both ladies, using this newly acquired “wisdom” in own life and to own benefit. If anything, which woman wouldn’t like to be as adored as Marilyn and as successful as Jackie, only if for a day!

This book is a light reading, the type one could enjoy the most on a plane or having boarded a train. What adds to it are anecdotes and facts related to both leading ladies. After all Pamela Keogh is not a storyteller, but a writer and a journalist, who bases her book on a research rather than a gossip or a cheap sensation.

So if you would like to discover your inner Jackie or Marilyn (or both for that matter…), and have some fun doing so, there is no time better than now. Enjoy!

(Photo: www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Dior Glamour 1952 – 1962” by Mark Shaw.

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This Christmas I was very lucky to find under the Christmas tree gifts listed on my letter to Santa Clause. Among them was this amazing photo album presenting Dior Glamour, giving an insight into the greatest years in one of the most fascinating couture houses ever… and since one picture is worth more than thousand words, some photographs in place of a regular book review.

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(Photos: www.vogue.de)

Week with Grace Kelly. Day 4. “High Society. Grace Kelly and Hollywood.” by Donald Spoto.

9780099515371

Donald Spoto is a reputable biographer who doesn’t chase after a cheap sensation, but bases his books on an earnest research, writing with the highest respect towards those whom he portrays.His book about Grace Kelly is a fair record of her life, especially that Donald Spoto was acquainted with Princess Grace of Monaco, hearing many facts and stories firsthand from the Princess.

With a lecture of “High Society. Grace Kelly and Hollywood” the reader will learn about Grace’s Hollywood years, beginnings of her movie career, her biggest film projects, including those made with Alfred Hitchcock as well as her creation in “The Country Girl” for which she was recognized with an Academy Award.

There will be a lot about her fairytale romance with Prince Rainer III of Monaco that resulted in a happy ending and a truly regal wedding ceremony held in Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco on the 19th April 1956. After the marriage, Grace Kelly retired from her acting career, focusing on family life and her official duties as Princess Grace. This is where the book ends, saying very little about her married life in the final chapter. Grace Kelly was known for her discretion, therefore unwilling to share her private life which more than once was troubled and remote from the picture perfect official image.

(Photo: www.tanum.com)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Dior by Dior. The Autobiography of Christian Dior” by Christian Dior.

9781851775170

The very first time when I came across information on books written by Christian Dior was when reading Christian Dior’s biography by Marie France Pochna. I felt so excited! Books by Christian Dior himself! Moreover, books about the history of the House of Dior, the New Look and, most exciting of all, on style and chic as seen by one of my ultimate fashion gurus. As easy to guess, I had to have them! Thanks to V&A Publications the task wasn’t so complicated as it might have seem in the beginning. Some search on the internet and voila!, order was placed.

I started from “Dior by Dior”, wanting to know behind the scene history of this great couturier and his revolutionary creations. I was a little worried that maybe Monsieur’s Dior talents were limited to couture only, but to my great surprise, he had a way with words and was a gifted storyteller.

His autobiography tells a lot about the establishing the House of Dior, giving an insight into fascinating details and allowing one feel the atmosphere of the great Couture house. A reader will know more about creation of a collection, organization of a fashion show, sales, marketing as well as overseas establishments in both New York and London.

Dior’s philosophy was to make women look beautiful and be charming. As easy to guess, dressing at 30 avenue Montaigne wasn’t available to many considering the expense, but as Madame Linzeler, one of Dior’s trusted associates remarked, “The best bargain in the world is a successful dress. It brings happiness to the woman who wears it, and is never too dear for the man who pays for it. The most expensive dress in the world is a dress which is a failure. It infuriates the woman who wears it and it is a burden to the man who pays for it.” 

(Photos: www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “How to Dress for Success.” by Edith Head with Joe Hyams.

9781851775545

Reading “How to Dress for Success” was a part of my ‘fashion anthropology studies’ rather than a pursue of any particular fashion wisdom. My heart beats faster whenever I hear names such as “a suburban wife” or “a hostess pajama”, while imagination runs wild, taking me to good old 50ties. However, as much retro as some passages may sound, Edith Head knew the art of design and image building with the ability to formulate many sound advices that can’t be undermined till this very day.

First and foremost – the self knowledge, for good and bad, is the first step towards style and elegance. No sweet illusions Ladies! Only by knowing, and yes – accepting, own assets and limitations can one name and incorporate most becoming silhouettes and trends.

Secondly, good planning in reference to to daily needs based on general lifestyle. Working professional and home stayed mom may live next door, but living different lives, would definitely need to support them with different wardrobe options.

Thirdly, it’s not only about who you are an what you do, but also about where you’re going to and what you dream about. An aspiring female executive will select other style from an aspiring wife of an executive.

Last, but not least, the need for somber mind when it comes to shopping and money spending. Going for the best of what one can afford, in tune with all mentioned above.

Does it still sound old fashioned? No, I don’t think so.

(Photo: http://www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Helena Rubinstein. The Woman who Invented Beauty.” by Michele Fitoussi.

9781908313461

Helena Rubinstein grow up in the family of polish Jews settled in Krakow as eldest of eight daughters. Her path from poor polish neighborhood to being one of the richest and most influential women, the “empress of beauty” as Jean Cocteau nicknamed her, is a captivating story of never ending endurance, strong will and hard work.

It all started when headstrong and stubborn young woman decided to emigrate to Australia, in pursuit of happiness and with a hope of changing her life. Helena wanted to escape her traditional world, where a woman was expected to get married, be obedient to her husband and have many children. This life was never an option for this courageous and independent woman, as she wanted so much more. Few jars of a miraculous face cream received from her mother as parting gift became her gold ticket, but many years had to pass before Helena built an empire, starting from nothing but her hard work and bold ideas.

We follow Helena Rubinstein through continents, new establishments, faces and places that filled her long and amazing life. There is a lot of heartache and happiness, drama and success. Despite being rich and famous, she always craved for more and never stopped to seek for improvements, trying to excel in all undertakings. In her lifetime, Helena Rubinstein met many artists, designers, architects and socialites, naming Christian Dior, Gabrielle Chanel, Misia Sert, Pablo Picasso or Paul Poiret among others.

This biography is more than just a record of a fascinating life story, it is also a portrait of a century, describing its ups and downs, conflicts and inventions, fashions and art, lifestyles and societies, but most of all, it is a written history of beauty industry, presenting many facts, that most readers were not familiar with. Who would tell that first face lifting was performed in 1901 in Berlin, that slimming body creams were introduced in 1923 or that first tanning cream was available as early as in 1936? Helena Rubinstein had an amazing intuition and could read her customers requests, believing that beauty industry is founded on more than  just a simple sale, convinced that it works with dreams and fantasies, selling a promise of a better life, making women feel special, if only for a moment.

(Photo: www.tanum.no)