Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Return of The One-Piece Swimsuit

MODEL Katherine McLeod

What has happened to the one-piece bathing suit? It seems to have disappeared from pool sides, sea shores, and swimsuit racks around the world. While there was a time when it epitomized chic, it's now only reserved for a select few soccer moms, plus-size women, or seniors who would rather not show everything off. Are these the only women with any modesty left?

Recently, I decided it was time to join the ranks of the modest few, though modesty had little to do with it. The reasoning behind my decision? If everyone else was going to wear bikinis, then a one-piece had to be most stylish the way to go. Don't get me wrong, I've been known to don an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny, but after seeing women, their babies, their mothers, and their mother's mothers wearing skimpy bikinis I came to the conclusion that this trend has run its course.

There was a time when girls around age 12 understood that wearing a bikini signified their passage into teen-dom. But that time is no longer. Back then, little girls ran around in a one-piece suit or just bottoms dreaming about the day their mothers would allow them to wear bikinis. Now, there seems to be no age requirements, as tots happily strap on flappy little triangle tops that never seem to stay in place for the obvious lack of anchorage.

The same goes for women. Ladies used to draw a line somewhere around age 25 that signified their ascension into Womanhood. Once out of their early twenties, they decided that it was much more dignified to wear a one-piece suit. Dignity? Who needs that? We've got freedom! Where has it gotten us? Well, for one thing, women are left in a rather awkward position when ordering a drink at the poolside bar with everything just hanging out. If that woman is not you, then you're most likely staring at her.

In this respect, the one-piece is the true liberator. You don't have to worry if anything is falling out, or if anyone has noticed the way your tummy wobbles when you walk. You can relax and be the image of self confidence every woman should be when showing their figure off. And let's face it, wearing a one piece is not exactly the same thing as wearing a curtain. When asked, men like ladies in bikinis, one-pieces, nude, whatever. Most guys aren't that picky. The female figure is sexy however you want to display it.

But aside from the freedom from self-consciousness, the one-piece offers several other advantages: for a lady who is more well-endowed the physical support that many one-piece suits have to offer is unmatchable in a bikini top. Some one-piece suits come engineered with additional structure built in to help avoid that unflattering chest flattening, and to help support our feminine form. Secondly, many one-piece suits present a woman's figure as athletic even when she is not so inclined. The one-piece is still the silhouette of choice for Olympians and ballerinas alike. That reference to health and fitness is one most women should love when putting on a bathing suit.

Then there is allure. Admittedly, most women want to draw eyes when they put on a swimsuit. But in a sea of bikinis and belly buttons, there are very few women who actually can draw any attention without making a spectacle of themselves. However, the one-piece bathing suit strikingly stands out amongst all of the bikinis with its bold, block silhouette. It creates mystery, leaving much to a viewer's imagination. I'd rather leave people wishing to see more than begging to see less.

Here's where many of my readers might say, "But I'm wishing for more..." sun, that is. The biggest argument most women have with the one-piece is the tan line. I'm personally too fair to bother with tanning, slathering on 30+ sunblock in order to avoid skin damage, wrinkling, and cancer. But for those ladies who do tan, I would suggest trading out multiple suits with different neck and back lines to avoid the same tan line repeatedly. Same rule applies for your bikinis, and you could even interchange your bikinis and one-piece suits to make sure that you get that even tan you're working towards.

I hope this has gotten some of you ladies out there to reconsider the one-piece swimsuit as an option. Please let me know if any of you still wear a one-piece. I'd be interested to hear about any additional benefits that I've overlooked.

Best wishes,

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bespoke Bride

MODEL Bella LaGosi
DRESS, ACCESSORIES, HAIR & MAKE-UP Starbuck Sister Collaboration

For many brides-to-be, picking their wedding garb is an intense process. What a woman wears to begin her new life can say a lot about her, but quite often finding the right wedding gear is nearly impossible. Many dresses lack originality and fail to describe the brides that will be wearing them. And when one actually finds a dress that does express something of oneself, it usually costs far more then any reasonable bride would spend. Much of the wedding industry counts on the likelihood that brides will be utterly unreasonable.

This was the dilemma that this young woman faced. In the end, she decided to make her own dress and asked for advice on how to go about doing it. Hers was going to be a beach wedding, so she wanted her dress to be comfortable, and not so tailored or formal. But this is a Lady of Luxury, and polish, so casual was not going to cut it either. 

First step: INSPIRATION. She began to collect ideas, pulling magazine pages, searching for heroines that she identified herself with, and finding scraps of fabric for colors and textures that she liked. After weeks of gathering images and materials, she finally landed on her inspiration from a rather surprising source: Jessica Lang as the Bride of King Kong.

Not typical by any means, but she liked the tribal styling of the gorgeous, revealing gown. We also thought this look was achievable because it allowed us to approach the design in a Paul Poiret way: simple in form, with the fabric, color and embellishment being the main emphasis (coincidentally, Poiret - like my sister - claimed that he could not sew well). She ended up choosing champagne colored silk charmeuse for the base with a matching silk gauze for the accent to add a light and airy effect.

Next came the construction. For years, I've kept long wide panels of silk on hand as main accessories; they could be turned into turbans, sashes, and even halters when necessary. I decided we could start with the easy-to-sew sash structure to create the base for the drape of her dress. I instructed her to buy 6 yards of wide fabric, cut it directly down the center, length wise, and make doubled tubular panels out of each half. This gave us 2 sashes to work with that were about 1.5' x 6 yards in dimension.

To drape it, we put one sash over each shoulder, extending them evenly down her front to the floor. Then we made knots at the high point of each shoulder to make the panels narrower through the bust. From there we decided to attach the two panels together at the front from the waist to the floor so that the skirt would be closed down the center front.

At the back of the dress, we criss-crossed the panels under her shoulder blades and wrapped them in opposite directions around her waist, creating a sash and a trim waist. While wrapping her waist, we made sure to leave enough fabric for her train to be at the desired length. We tied a knot at her center back, tucking and overlapping the two panels into the sash to make the appearance of one center back panel. The knots all played a crucial role in anchoring the dress and keeping it from shifting while allowing us to avoid extra sewing, zippers or other closures.

This drape left us with a loin cloth effect at the skirt, and we decided to use the silk gauze to create hip panels. We attached the silk gauze to a shell-beaded belt, to go over the skirt of our dress and cover her hips in a feminine, flattering way. The end result was a skirt with four full panels that overlapped enough so that the dress was demure when she was standing still in the ceremony, but would move and give flashes of her legs when she danced at her reception.

The last details were the accessories. She decided that a feathered headdress would best suit her style. I offered to make this part of her wardrobe, since headdresses happen to be a passion of mine. With purple being her favorite color, we decided to incorporate purple into the braiding of the headband, and felt that albino peacock feathers would be a good replacement for a white veil. To complete her look for the actual wedding, she incorporated the sea theme by adding shell bracelets and a long strand of black fresh water pearls clustered around her neck.

I hope this gives viewers an idea of how it's possible to create your own vision, even with a normal budget and minimal sewing skills. All it takes is inspiration, a small amount of know-how (or the advice of someone with it), and the determination to see your project through. If you have any questions about how-to or any other examples of home made dresses, please add them to the comments. Bella completed her dress in one month's time. Not bad for someone who's about to get married! 

Congratulations Lady!
Best wishes,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wedding Dress Resurrection

Queen Victoria in the wedding gown that made white
the new standard color for brides.

Victoria, 50 years later, reusing parts of her wedding gown for her
Diamond Jubilee.

MODEL Caroline Casey
DRESS found decaying on a hanger in a Brooklyn brownstone after the former tenant died.

For millions of women around the world, their wedding day is one of the most significant of their lives. This makes the wedding dress potentially the most obsessed-over garment that a woman will ever wear. But why is it that we ladies spend so much time dreaming up a dress that we most likely will wear only once? Historically, women have often designed their wedding gowns to be worn again as their Sunday best, or as a party dress after the fact. Even Queen Victoria wore the lace over-skirt of her wedding gown to her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations 50 years after her wedding. Today's woman has simply lost the foresight to design wearability into her dress.

But, if you really love your wedding dress, why shouldn't you be able to enjoy wearing it again, instead of watching it decay in your closet? Let's start by getting past the concept that wearing a gown warrants an extremely formal event. If Ginger Rogers could wear floor length ball gowns nightly as if she slept in them (which she likely did), then we have every reason to go out in a gown on a date Friday night. Just clue your husband in so he can make the appropriate dinner arrangements for your attire.

The brides-to-be out there might want to think ahead and try to find a dress that is timeless. I suggest you ignore whatever dress you saw such-and-such wearing in the tabloids. If it's in the tabloids, that dress is yesterday's news! First and foremost, pick a dress that is flattering to your figure, in a color that complements your hair and skin, in a classic fabric that you love enough to want to wear it again.

Let's consider the potential of altering your dress. For instance, I personally would take the dress shown here and dye it a deep indigo blue. After that, it's no longer a wedding dress, but it's practically Dior! And as an indigo blue dress, you have less to fear when your train gets dirty after an evening of dusting the floors. Another option would be altering the dress. If you can take another dress and combine the two, a la Victoria, you can come up with something new, and no one will be the wiser.

The last part may be the hardest for a sentimentalist. Many brides can't bring themselves to make alterations to their dress after the wedding, but, ironically, these are the women who most likely wish to wear it again. While, I applaud the originality behind the recent idea of throwing a Wedding Dress Ball, let's face it ladies, there's something slightly twisted about wanting to recreate a single moment in our lives over and over again. Think of Mrs. Havisham. This is the reason it's socially frowned upon in the first place.

If we are fabulous enough to desire a regular appearance of Royalty, what's holding us back? I hope this gave you Brides out there some great ideas. Tune in for my next post, were we tackle the possibility of making your own dress, easily, with details that speak to you. Viewers, please share any stories you have about how you revamped your wedding dress to be worn again! We need all the inspiration you have to offer!

Best wishes,