Monday, August 31, 2015

Get the Look: Katharine Hepburn

Do you ever wear a skirt, by the way? the intrepid young reporter Barbara Walters asked Katharine Hepburn in a 1981 interview. I have one. I’ll wear it to your funeral, came the quip back.

Yes, Hepburn wore trousers, and not just because they looked great on her and she felt comfortable in them.

Photo from “Kit Houghton Hepburn, Her Daughter’s Mother”

Katharine Hepburn was born into a family of progressives. Her mother, Kit Houghton Hepburn, worked tirelessly for women’s rights. The family was devoted and loving, and both parents saw to it that their three sons and three daughters were given equal opportunity, education and independence.

The eldest daughter Katharine was strong in mind and body, a tomboy and excellent athlete. She attended Bryn Mawr, graduating with a degree in history and philosophy. While in school she decided to become an actress, and her talent, intelligence, focus and energy created for her a remarkable 60-year long career. Hepburn “wore the pants” in her life not only in reality but metaphorically, in every matter that required her authority. Like her mother, she was a pioneering modern woman of the 20th century.

In private life Katharine Hepburn chose comfort and quality for her wardrobe. Her signature outfit was a pair of tailored beige trousers and a linen jacket, often paired with a white shirt. She needed to be able to sit on the floor or drape her legs over the arms of a chair. In this outfit she portrayed an effortless elegance as well as a down-to-business attitude.

In the 1930s and 40s, seeing a beautiful A-list Hollywood star frequently wearing trousers was quite unusual. In her early career many considered Katharine Hepburn an anti-style icon. Her studio once tried to hide her slacks from her and she threatened to walk around the studio lot naked. ...She got the slacks back!

She is definitely a style icon. After all, what makes a such an icon besides fame along with an original sense of style? Hepburn certainly had both in spades. As her fame increased and her persona became better appreciated, Hepburn influenced American sportswear design and attitudes about dress.

For her movies, Katharine Hepburn engaged with costume designers to get the right feel for the women she would portray. You can see the influence of her personality and attitudes on the costumes that she wore: Effortlessly glamorous as Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story,” costumed by Adrian; ready to forsake the constraints of high society as Linda Seton in “Holiday,” costumed by Kalloch; sporting as Pat Pemberton in “Pat & Mike,” costumed by Orry-Kelly; chicly eggheaded as Bunny Watson in “The Desk Set,” costumed by Charles Le Maire—and so many more.

She had copies made for herself when she particularly liked a costume. A Norman Hartnell silk dress and coat from “Suddenly, Last Summer” were among the pieces that she had copied.

Upon her death in 2003, 700 pieces of Hepburn’s clothing, including iconic stage and screen costumes, were given to the Kent State University Museum. In 2012, a collection of this clothing was displayed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts...and a unique style icon finally got her due.

What might be considered the essential Katharine Hepburn wardrobe?

1. Trousers most of all, of course. Not just any will do, but well-tailored wide-legged trousers in good quality fabrics. Some of Hepburn’s slacks were inventively displayed at the 2012 exhibit, paying tribute to her ease of motion.

2. Button-downs, also impeccably constructed.

3. Tailored suits.
4. Jackets, from simple linen to dressier tuxedo in style.
5. A classic briefcase.
6. A comfortable full-length coat with room to move and no worry about rain.
7. When considering prints, make them clean and graphic, like stripes...
...and polka dots.

8. Actual sportswear—and you should actually play sports in them.

9. Some gender-bending pieces, the more iconic the better.

10. By all means, have a drop-dead stunning evening gown, preferably in black—feminine but not frou frou. 

And when the evening is over, make sure you are the one wearing the trousers!


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Sunday, August 23, 2015

*Closet* Environmentalist

I sell vintage fashion. And I want to save endangered species and the environment. Unrelated? Nope!

There’s no reason not to bring joy and beauty to ourselves and others through our dress, but there is every reason to make the right choices about what we choose to hang in our closets.

Cute, fashionable, new clothing—cheaply and quickly produced—is known as “fast fashion.” It has become the standard in fashion merchandising. What you will often get with fast fashion:
  •     dangerous and even lethal working conditions for the workers
  •     air and water pollution from its production
  •     enormous waste dumped on the planet when it goes unsold or is discarded

That’s why I want you to become a Closet Environmentalist!

It’s really simple: Fast fashion robs the world. You can help the world with your actions and that includes what you wear.

Vintage fashion is the time-traveling, green, smart and beautiful answer to fast fashion.

It’s because of my great customers that I’ve been able to raise awareness and funds for endangered species and their habitats, most especially Save the Manatee Club and Conservation Northwest.

Lots of you are already passionate about vintage for many good reasons. Looking to your closet to help the environment is yet one more great reason that vintage makes the world a better place!

Don’t forget, through the end of August 30% of your purchase price from the denisebrain web store or Etsy shop will go to a vital cause, the Elephant Crisis Fund.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

World Elephant Day

Elephants are in crisis. World Elephant Day was founded to bring people together to help conserve and protect elephants from the numerous threats they face. 

Most pressingly, the slaughter of African elephants for their ivory is leading rapidly toward their extinction. These beloved animals are known for their high intelligence, self-awareness, altruism, grief, learning, compassion, affection, cooperation, memory, allomothering, mimicry, play, use of tools, and empathy. Aristotle once said that elephants are “the animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind.”

How can we stand by when nearly 100 of these magnificent creatures are brutally slaughtered by poachers in the illegal ivory trade every day? The answers is we can’t. What kind of world would it be without the elephant?

Courtesy of Earth Day for Almost Extinct Animals on Facebook

Today, and through the end of August, 30% of your purchase price from my Etsy shop and web store will go to the Elephant Crisis Fund. This is being administered by two great organizations, Save the Elephants and Wildlife Conservation Network. As WCN states on its website:
The elephant poaching crisis is now too large for any one organization or government to solve and requires a coalition that can tackle poaching, ivory trafficking and ivory demand. The role of the Elephant Crisis Fund is to quickly fund the most innovative and effective projects in these three areas across the coalition. From fuel for a small plane to provide aerial surveillance over a national park in Kenya to anti‐ivory campaigns featuring celebrities in China, the Elephant Crisis Fund identifies and supports the most critical initiatives that can save elephants.
With the future of African elephants hanging by a thread, this is the moment for us to take action. Please donate directly to the Elephant Crisis Fund, or if you’ve been eyeing something in my shops, make the purchase now, knowing you are contributing to this vital cause.

If your funds are low (I understand!), please help by spreading the word.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spice is the variety

Looking at Pantone’s color forecast for fall 2015 makes me want to eat curry. Herbs and spices are on the menu, along with earthy bright colors. Every color looks like it was selected from a Moroccan rug. My August theme is a tribute to this savory fall palette: 

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