Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011

The Best (and Worst) Dressed List: The 2011 Academy Awards

Gowns with  sleeves made their mark at the Golden Globes this year. High necklines made their mark at the Academy Awards.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein Collection

Minimalism at its best. Notice how the slice in the high neckline creates an almost sculptural effect and eliminates the need for a necklace. Also notice how the horizontal seam at the hem creates another level of complexity that balances the vertical cut at the neckline. This is the same designer–Fransisco Costa– responsible for the best dress at The Golden Globes worn by Emma Stone.

Cate Blanchett in Givenchy Haute Couture

Couture at its best. Again notice how the embellishment at the neckline, done with a sprinkle of color , brings the eye up toward the face, without the need for jewelry.  The dress is quite gorgeous from the back, which is open and has the same sprinkle of color as the neckline.

This is the same designer–Riccardo Tisci– who created Zoe Saldana’s  exquisite dress last year.

Mila Kunis in Elie Saab Haute Couture

Gorgeous color, gorgeous dress, great hair and makeup–but she looked sullen all nite long. Why?

HONORABLE MENTION:  Anne Hathaway (onstage in  Atelier Versace and Armani Prive), Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Hale Berry, Hilary Swank andSusan Bridges.


Penelope Cruz in LWren Scott

Looks like a tacky second rate copy of a Bob Mackie gown. Perhaps one of the worst Oscar gowns ever!

Scarlet Johansen in Dolce and Gabbana

Was she steamrolled over by a lace machine?

Jennifer Hudson in Atelier Versace

Yes, it’s a gorgeous color but she looks like a drag queen. She lost weight, yes, but she also lost her mind–though she seems to have found her breasts.

I know this sounds particularly harsh, but  I put it this way because she is either a victim of spectacularly bad advice or she’s using her weight loss as an excuse to wear something that she might have wanted to wear when she was unable to. She should be looking forward and not backward. (The two gentlemen behind her were in charge of hauling around the dress’ train.)

Imagine for a moment how smoking hot–yet classy–she would have looked wearing the Gucci gown worn by Hillary Swank!

She’s a class act and she should dress the part.

Yahoo picture gallery

February 26, 2011

The Sociology of Fame: Concealing and Revealing (or Thus Spoke Gaga)

In a 2007 interview with GQ magazine  to promote “The Bourne Ultimatum,” Matt Damon came clean about why he’s such a notoriously difficult interview subject, as far as his personal life is concerned.

“The better the actor, the less you know about his life. I mean, nobody’s better than De Niro, and you don’t know anything about him, right? Look at Meryl. We don’t know sh*t about Meryl. Look at Clint. And Jack. And Brando. Marlon Brando—who f*ing knows, right?”

That certainly explains why  at the peak of her fame Sharon Stone was  incessantly forthcoming.

On a fundamental level, as an artist, you want the quality of your work to speak for  itself but in the tabloid culture we live in there is constant demand for personal details. Some entertainers know how to conceal themselves despite that demand while others mete out  revelatory dribs and drabs as it suits their career arc or affects their their bank account. (A few years ago, during the press junket to launch her new talk show, Jane Pauley revealed she was bipolar. Recently, Tyler Perry revealed on “Oprah” that he had been molested as a child while promoting his latest film “For Colored Girls.” Senator Scott Brown reveals similar abuse in his new book, timed to coincide with his re election campaign.)

Still  others openly court that demand. We are now witnessing the advent of  “reality stardom”, in which  the otherwise talentless  (housewives, baby mamas, Kardashians, New Jersey hooligans, et al) become famous precisely for divulging every sordid pathological detail of their private lives.

If you’re interested in managing your image, it’s essential that you understand in which one of the three paradigms you operate.

That of course assumes that only those paradigms I’ve outlines are the only ones which exist. Might there be more? In a recent interview with “60 Minutes” Lady Gaga details to Anderson Cooper her personal image paradigm:

“As part of my mastering the Art of fame, part of it is getting people to pay attention to what you want them to pay attention to and not pay attention to what you don’t want them to pay attention to–the Sociology of fame: how to maintain a certain privacy without feeling like you are withholding anything from your fans.

My philosophy is that if I am open [with my fans] about everything yet art direct every moment of my life, I can maintain a certain form of privacy–in a way I maintain a certain soulfulness that I have yet to give.”

In other words, art is not an end product separate from the artist’s personal life. Art is a means by which one  manipulates the balancing act between revealing and concealing.

She says her music is about “self empowerment and self acceptance”  though she admits the creation of Lady Gaga in all her guises came about because she felt disconnected and disenfranchised  and bullied as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

Lady Gaga, as she presents herself, teeters between being the product of the warm and fuzzy philosophy of  “Oprah” and the cold calculation of Nietzsche, though from the outside looking in, the scales tip heavily toward Nietzsche.

While there is an element of sexuality to Gaga, it’s by no means conventional or even appealing. (She’s often referred to by men as “butterface”–as in everything about her is desirable but her face.) Sexuality is unmistakably present and potent in her work but it is  also fraught with danger, usually mixed up in some trajectory of birth and death. Most recently, she arrived at the Grammys in a Hussein Chalayan plexiglass egg from which she later emerged on stage dressed in Mugler to sing “Born this way.” Later in the week she appeared dressed as a condom on “Good Morning America” to promote AIDS awareness.

Credit: Jason Merrit/Getty Images

Unlike Madonna, who used her sexuality to manipulate the male gaze on her way to superstardom, Gaga’s interest is in mining our cultural interest in the “decay of the superstar. Isn’t that the age that we live in that we want to see people who have it all lose it all? It’s dramatic. It’s a movie.” Madonna’s ability to reinvent herself was a  patent career move, whereas Gaga’s creation is at once both more revelatory and more disturbing as it depends on the abandonment of Stephani–a career move perhaps but one with a decidedly psychiatric component–or a healthy dose of poker face deception.

Her fame, deception and all, can be seen as the revenge of the nerd (Stefani), something she shares in common  with the other world famous 20something seeking to empower everyone, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, as portrayed in “The Social Network.”

The reality of course is that most of us don’t have the luxury of art directing our lives, certainly in the extreme way Gaga does it.

But there are lessons to be learned here and it would seem that Michelle Obama has done just that. The First Lady is widely lauded for her sense of personal style. Most people are blithely unaware of the amount of time, money and human resources that go into creating and maintaining that image.

The First Lady’s image is as art directed  as Gaga’s. Her sense of style, as it has evolved with the expert oversight of the luxury retailer Ikram Goldberg, consists mainly of pieces of clothing which individually cost more than most people’s mortgage. Yet the First Lady’s style is in no way seen in  to be  extravagant. As a matter of fact, most women will tell you that her style is eminently approachable and affordable. How does this happen?

When Mrs. Obama dresses specifically for  mass media appearances–talk shows, magazine covers–she is always careful to wear an outfit that the masses can easily find and afford. Best leave the couture for events which get far less attention. It’s a strategy which started with her appearance on “The View”  before the election in a White House Black Market dress, and continued with various J Crew ensembles for other talk shows. As First Lady she donned a $395 Tracy Reese dress for the cover of People magazine and just a few weeks back, clearly mindful of the sad economic times, donned a dress from H+M on “The Today Show.” (The way she accessorized the dress, however, made it  painfully clear that Ms. Goldberg is no longer officially involved in styling Mrs. Obama.)

Of course, the studied choice and the complicit PR machine from both the White House and H+M meant that the dress sold out in a matter of hours.

The more  important takeaway from this story is that  every woman who bought that dress ($34.95) felt that she had just acquired the exact style of Michelle Obama (priceless).

Watch the entire “60 Minutes”  Lady Gaga interview HERE.

Lady Gaga appears in concert at the United Center February 28.

February 25, 2011

Design: Jimmie Martin

Maybe it is the impending Academy Awards that has me seeing “Black Swan,” “The Social Network,” and “The King’s Speech” references in places where they don’t necessarily belong, let alone in furniture design.

But something about the furniture of the English duo Jimmie Martin, usually referred to as “rock and roll” in style, feels cinematic to me, at the very least evoking the graphic design of movie posters. But this year, especially when scrawling figured so prominently in both “Black Swan” and “The Social Network,” and when perfection and communication were dominant themes, their work  seems ripe for reflection.

.Since 2004, Jimmie Martin has provided an eclectic showcase of one-of pieces of furniture combining the decadent and quirky with the nostalgic and urban. All pieces are individually finished off to either the customer’s personal taste, or to the ideas of the founders, Jimmie and Martin.

One of a kind and custom pieces available through Kara Mann Showroom in Chicago.

February 25, 2011

What’s love got to do with it? Swiffer treats women like dirt.

Is it just me or are these the most sexist commercials on television?

I don’t think you need a graduate degree in semiotics to figure out what assumptions are being made about the relationship between single women and the the state of being single itself .

February 24, 2011

Born this way? Get thee to a cosmetic surgeon.

Ethnic Differences Emerge in Plastic Surgery

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

“When a patient comes in from a certain ethnic background and of a certain age, we know what they’re going to be looking for,” said Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, the president of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, which has three clinics in the city. “We are sort of amateur sociologists.”

Read the entire article here.

February 24, 2011

Where you should be shopping now: BCBG Max Azria Runway Spring 2011

If you are not familiar with the BCBG Runway collection, you are missing out on some beautifully designed dresses for a fraction of what you might pay in the contemporary department of any high end store. The Runway collection is a separate BCBG collection from what you find in department stores and is only available at a select number of BGBG stores.

In Chicago, only the Oak Street and Damen Avenue stores carry the line. The dresses pictured above will deliver in the next 45 days but you can shop the Resort collection which is in store now. See entire collection here.

All images from

February 22, 2011

Congressman:Turn Off The Dark (or What a Wicked Web We Weave)

Note to the producers of Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark

How disheartening it must be for you to have put on a $65 million dollar musical and have the critics universally trash it. “As directed by Julie Taymor, who wrote the show’s book with Glen Berger, and featuring songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge, “Spider-Man” is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst,” wrote Ben Brantley.

I mean, the people responsible for the film versions managed to turn them into one of the most lucrative movie franchises of all time, but you came up with something which Peter Marks of  The Washington Post noted:

“The 8-year-old boys in the audience might be able to key on the Cirque du Soleil-style stunts on wires and video-game graphic elements, and probably not worry too much that Spider-Man is a tangle of disjointed concepts, scenes and musical sequences that suggests its more appropriate home would be off a highway in Orlando. Come to think of it, the optimal audience might be non-English-speaking.” 

It must also be disheartening to learn that for all the similar pre-production skepticism that accompanied  the premiere of “Anna Nicole”–yes, as in tabloid trainwreck Smith–  in London, “it proved a weirdly inspired work, an engrossing, outrageous, entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving new opera,”  according to Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. “This was an improbable triumph for Covent Garden.”

Clearly you need some help and I’m here to help. Scrap the incoherent everything and start from scratch. I propose to you:


Turn Off The Dark

It’s the story of New York congressman Chris Lee, a 46 year old married father( pictured, left)  and his  web alter ego lobbyist Chris Lee, a divorced  and buff 39 year old (pictured, right).

Lobbyist Chris fights his arch nemesis unprepossesing, mendacity prone CL Man by sending shirtless photos of himself to a woman  on Craigslist who implores in song: “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?”

By day congressman Chris is a family man and one of the 50 richest members of Congress. The lobbyist Chris fancies himself a “fit, fun and classy guy” who promises “not to disappoint.”  By night lobbyist Chris battles CL Man who frustrates his mission to meet only  the hot gullible women without access to Google  and who populate the  “women seeking men” ads on the web.  Cue the production number  “She was not as advertised,”  a lament in which lobbyist Chris details the pain caused him by dishonest damsels who got caught in his web.

Meanwhile, in a flashback sequence, congressman Chris, on the campaign trail, lectures teenagers against the dangers of using the web and social media inappropriately: “responding to what may seem like a friendly e-mail or an appealing marketing offer can have serious consequences. Private information and images can so easily be transmitted to friends and strangers alike.”

It turns out to be prescient advice. Cue the dancing algorithms which fly atop the audience in high tech harnesses.

Clearly, at the heart of the story is the  how  this man–and by implication all of us– can use social media to create  any number of new realities, the search for the meaning of it all– or just a cheap thrill–  just an engine search away. What is identity, authenticity and privacy in the vast darkness of the new frontier of the web?

The production will also feature the Queen of reality television Kim Kardashian, about whom Lynn Hirschberg has written “can’t sing, act, or dance but she’s found the role of a lifetime playing herself.” (Tony nomination anyone?)

Ms. Kardashian will appear in a parallel storyline in which she plays a vixen who  continuously complains that she doesn’t want to be famous for taking off her clothes but just can’t stop herself from doing exactly that at every opportunity. Her character will be known as “The Lying Queen.”

And since you still don’t have a showstopping number to end the show, no need to further humiliate Bono and The Edge to come up with yet another listless one. They’ve already written the perfect song long ago. It begins:

I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

February 21, 2011

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2011

What was desperately missing from New York Fashion Week was any sense that getting dressed should evoke some sense of joy. Remember joy?

With some notable exceptions (Derek Lam and Narciso Rodriguez), there was too much black (again), too many Ugly Betty parkas and ponchos, enough tortured high concepts and enough tricked up styling in place of good design to make one want to run for the hills.

Or London.

You can usually count on the English to lighten things up and Jonathan Saunders presented a collection with a sophisticated sense of color and, yes, joy.

I would love to get a hold of some of his debut menswear pieces for myself!

See his entire collection here.

February 21, 2011

Game, Set and Match: Rafa Nadal for Emporio Armani

February 21, 2011

The 411 on the Gap 1969 Selvage Skinny Fit Jeans for men

I hate online shopping.

For one thing, the photos of the items provided are capriciously deceptive.

Would you believe the men’s jean pictured here on the left is one of the best fitting and looking men’s jeans you can buy at any price, let alone $90?

But it is.

I bought a pair about this time last year when the Gap rebranded the jeans with the 1969 label and I lived in them until May. Then I bought another pair.

In the March issue of GQ magazine, they are the top pick in the article “Everything a man needs to know about jeans in 2011.”

So, unless you shop in the big and tall department or are a hockey player, march right in to your local Gap and ask for them by name.  Make sure you insist on the selvage hem which will make them look so much spiffier when you cuff them up and you can see that the outside seam is finished in a white canvas piping.

You will most likely need to go up a waist size in this cut and unless you are a fan of rigid wash jeans, avoid that wash.

If you shop in the big and tall department, go online  to and look for the “selvage straight fit” in which you may find you need to go down a waist size. Again, avoid the rigid wash, which at the moment is the only one available. Keep checking back online as the offerings on the site can be erratic.

The selvage straight fit is also a good alternative for guys with very muscular thighs and who need a bit of extra room in that spot.

Happy shopping guys.

And ladies, now you have the perfect excuse to finally get your man out of those “Sienfeld” jeans.