Happy-Go-Lucky

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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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On My Birthday Wish List.

on my bday wish list

(Photos: Guerlain Météorites http://www.guerlain.com; “The Allure of Chanel” http://www.tanum.no; LV Never Full http://www.louisvuitton.com; Bose Quiet Comfort http://www.amazon.com)

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)

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. “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)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Zelda.” by Nancy Milford.

9780062089397

I knew F. Scott Fitzgerald books, but before the lecture of “Zelda” I never quite understood how deeply personal and biographical they were. Biography written by Nancy Milford gives a detailed overview of Mrs. and Mr. Fitzgerald life, taking a reader on a journey through decades and places, quoting correspondence and personal notes written over the years by this extraordinary couple, allowing a glimpse into their personality and complicated relationship.

Zelda, the notorious and eccentric wife of a great american writer who made a name for himself in the jazz era, was a complex and difficult personality. She was fearless and unstoppable, scandalous and passionate. She and Scott lived a glamorous life, that was dangerously close to his stories. Drama of their life was set between French Riviera, Switzerland, New York and other locations favored by the international jet set. In the roaring twenties they became a living legend, icons of the new era, impersonalization of trends and tastes.

Life in the spotlight, seeking for constant attention, driven by the need to exceed all that was done before at all cost, overshadowing own legend in the fumes of alcohol and all night parties, left a mark. Its weight was especially heavy on Zelda who slowly, but gradually, fell into insanity. Her initial eccentricity became a dangerous mania, separating her from loved ones, from her passions and finally – from life outside an institution.

I found the book really interesting and truly captivating. It presents a life story of two remarkable personalities, who couldn’t live together and at the same time couldn’t live apart. “Beautiful and Damned”, who experienced many “sides of paradise”, but never reached a safe harbor.

(Photo: www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “I love your style. How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style” by Amanda Brooks. Foreword by Diane von Furstenberg.

9780061833120

When it comes to searching for a personal style, Amanda Brooks knows well what she is talking about. This fashion consultant and regular contributor to Vogue has been through many style phases in her life and has very good understanding for each and every style that she defines and describes with multiple examples illustrated with great selection of photos and practical tips.

“I love your style” presents major fashion styles and their codes – classic, bohemian, minimal, high fashion, street and eclectic. For each of them the reader receives a suggested reading list as well as movie list. This makes a nice addition and helps to develop even better understanding as well as a good deal of fashion “know – how”.

The final section is dedicated to shopping. What I liked the most was a chapter chapter covering shopping for vintage garments, but there was a good deal about basics, cheap chic and designer shopping “dos” and “don’ts”.

I can recommend “I Love Your Style” to all who still are on a quest, searching and trying to define what their personal style is, but also to those, who already found the definition of their own style, but would like to learn a little more and gain a better understanding for fashion principles related to other styles. If to believe the author, personal style evolves over a lifetime and maybe one day a sworn minimalist will welcome a brand new day as a converted bohemian.

(Photo: www.tanum.no)

Happy-Go-Lucky Book Review. “Paris Street Style. A Guide to an Effortless Chic” by Isabelle Thomas and Frederique Veysset.

9781419706813

This book was among my finds brought home from Paris. During my stay I was fascinated by the parisian street style and this special kind of an effortless elegance that Parisians seem to radiate with. Having said that, it was pretty obvious I had to get the book, if not for an inspiration, than at least for a purpose of my fashion research.

The book is a know how written for all who admire the Paris street style and would like to apply some of french chic into their daily life. It was written by two insiders who know the Paris style inside out and are not afraid to share this secret knowledge with others. The book is full of pictures, illustrations, fashion tips as well as interviews with prominent people related to french fashion. It makes an easy and interesting reading, not to mention how inspirational it may become.

After the lecture of fourteen chapters you will know what are the key pieces no Parisian can survive without, how to mix chic and cheap, how to go vintage, how to upgrade your look to make it more refined and what is to be avoided at all cost. I thought it very applicable and easy to incorporate into my wardrobe policy, so if french chic is your thing, this is the book that is worth the attention.

(Photo: www.tanum.no)