Thursday, October 27, 2011

All About Chocolate - guest writer David Bruce Duncan

I've invited my friend David, a connoisseur of fine chocolate, to share his extensive knowledge of boutique chocolatiers in the Philadelphia area.

Boutique Chocolate in the Philadelphia area
By David Bruce Duncan

Chocoholics unite. There are mounds of confectionery chocolates to be discovered and conquered and millions of Americans willing to take on the challenge. So it begins, my personal “holy grail” quest for the best of the best chocolates, recognizing that we each have a varying taste palette that will take us to many different delights and conclusions.Pennsylvania has a distinguished history of making chocolate. At the turn of the 19th century, Hershey produced the first “candy bar” for Americans. Early in the 20th century, Asher’s Chocolates in Germantown developed a variety of chocolate candy treats. The Whitman’s Sampler (started by Stephen F. Whitman on Market Philadelphia in 1942) gained its reputation with a map identifying each different piece.Market Philadelphia in 1942) gained its reputation with a map identifying each different piece.

So now we come specifically to the Philadelphia area's handmade gourmet chocolates.

Aux Petits Delices
One of America’s premier French chocolatiers and Master pastry chef Patrick Gauphron came to the US in 1978 to work as a pastry chef at Le Bec Fin. He opened his own shop, Aux Petits Delices in Wayne in 1986 and dazzled Philadelphians with his extraordinary European style of making chocolates, desserts and pastries. He is known for pushing the envelope with intense yet delicate flavorings such as his new Basque pimento chocolate. Other noteworthy creations are his raspberry ganache in white chocolate and key lime ganache center. A trip to his shop is reminiscent of the finest rue St. Honoré and Place de la Madelaine confectionery boutiques.

John & Kira’s
John & Kira’s are my personal stars. Each taste sensation is silky smooth and the flavors are sublime. The mint is the perfect blend of the finest chocolate taste, with a light natural mint leaf aroma. The strawberry is not so much like adding strawberry jam but rather fresh picked fraises des bois in a pairing with incredible rich chocolate. All work is hand made, piece by piece. They employ colored cocoa butter in the design of fantastic hand painted bees filled with caramel and ladybugs filled with ganache centers.

Éclat Chocolate
A burly, aproned chocolatier working both the front and the back of the shop, Christopher Curtain in West Chester is the personification of how a chocolatier should appear. He’s always searching for new distinct and intense flavors. The day I was in the shop there were three tasting dishes of flat chocolates with roasted corn, Aztec chili and another with pretzels. His liquid caramels are incredible. The anise and strawberry lingered on the palate.

Antoine Amrani Chocolates
Antoine Amrani runs a small factory-shop in East Norriton. He uses Weiss chocolate, rarely used outside of France, as the base for his creations, and designs his own molds so that the resulting chocolates are jewel-like works of art. Antoine offers wine pairing and dessert making classes on the premises.

Jagielky’s Homemade Candies
This third generation “Mom and Pop” store that started on North 5th Streetin Philadelphia now has shops in both Ventnor and Margate. Their Rocky Road, almond butter crunch and turtles are over-the-top in both quality and taste.North 5th Streetin Philadelphia now has shops in both Ventnor and Margate. Their Rocky Road, almond butter crunch and turtles are over-the-top in both quality and taste.

So there you have it, plenty of information to renew your own personal quest for the “holy grail” of chocolates. Commencez, s'il vous plâit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New CD Released!

I am excited to announce the release of Odyssey: 11 American Premieres for Flute and Piano, my 2-CD set with pianist Charles Abramovic on Innova Recordings.

This project has truly been an odyssey - a journey of musical discovery. Charlie and I recorded 11 works by a brilliant lineup of composers who present a diverse panorama of musical styles and backgrounds.

The composers are Mason Bates, Benjamin C.S. Boyle, Richard Danielpour, Michael Djupstrom, Katherine Hoover, Daniel Kellogg, Gerald Levinson, David Ludwig, Andrew Rudin, David Bennett Thomas, and Zhou Tian. It was a thrill to work with these great musicians and bring their flute works out to the listening public.

To read more and buy the CD, visit our Artist Page at Innova:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holocaust musicology

I had a fascinating meeting with Bret Werb, the musicologist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I sought him out for guidance in planning and preparing for our Dolce Suono Ensemble's upcoming concert commemorating the Holocaust. "A Place and a Name: Remembering the Holocaust" will feature music by composers who were murdered in the Holocaust - Gideon Klein, Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann, Ilse Weber, and composers who reflect on the Holocaust in their music - Tzvi Avni and André Previn, who escaped Germany as children, and Shulamit Ran, our 2011-2012 Composer-in-Residence and Artistic Co-Curator. Lucy Shelton, soprano will join us as guest artist.

Bret's knowledge of his field is extensive. As I sat with him in his office, he pulled books and recordings off the shelves, grabbed copies of archival material from files, and extemporized on dozens of composers, works, and historical information. There are very interesting Soviet composers who are not very well known in the West. I left excited about new musical areas to research and repertoire to perform.

I'm always attracted to artistic communities or milieux, where artists of different disciplines - music, visual art, theater, dance - inspire each other in their creative endeavors. That's why my curiosity was particularly aroused when Bret told me about the circle of Mieczysław Weinberg, who was one of the most important Soviet era composers. A Jew born in Warsaw, he managed to escape to the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II, but the rest of his family perished at the hands of the Nazis. Weinberg married the daughter of Solomon Mikhoels, a Jewish actor and director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater. Marc Chagall designed costumes and sets for the theater before he emigrated to Paris and joined another rich artistic community. Stalin had Mikhoels murdered in his purges of intellectuals and Jews after the war. In addition to the great talents of these artists, it is inspiring how they pursued their art despite the oppression they faced.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This afternoon, we were at a meeting at First Baptist Church in Philadelphia to plan our performance of Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." Suddenly there was a loud crackling sound like all the pews and stained glass were rattling against each other. There were two bursts of activity. Alan Morrison jumped up and said we should move into his office. At the time, he thought the cause was work being done in the basement and thought we should not be under the dome of the church. I didn't see anything shaking around us, and it was over very fast. At the time we had no idea it was an earthquake. The thought didn't even occur to me. By the time we were out on the street after the meeting everyone had found out. Pretty amazing! A man we spoke with said he was on the 16th floor of his office building, which was shaking a lot so it was pretty scary. Hope everyone is safe! Certainly don't expect earthquakes in Philadelphia.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Baroque and Brazilian

I had a tremendously energizing musical day on Saturday. I went to NYC for a Baroque session with distinguished harpsichordist Anthony Newman. I had the pleasure of performing with him when we performed for the Young Concert Artists 50th anniversary marathon concert at Symphony Space this past season. We played J.S. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and C.P.E. Bach, and Tony's insights on ornamentation, rhythm, articulation, and character were revelatory. I read his book, Bach and the Baroque, which is a valuable resource.

It was really fun to hear Tony improvise ornaments for each composer's style and copy them to play them myself! In addition, the approach to meter and tempo and specifically how the feel of each movement, Largo, Adagio, Allegro, etc. is related to tactus or pulse is one of the most striking differences between modern and period practice. Another very important point is about the influences on Bach and Handel from French and Italian musical thought, regarding the accent or release on certain beats; note values to be played shorter than full length; and the most radical of all: that the score provided the basis for the musician to embellish and interpret in a uniquely personal and virtuosic way. This approach is so different from the later conception that the score is a finished, comprehensive text to be followed literally. I learned a lot and had a great time applying new ideas to the music. Tony and I are coming up with some concert plans to perform together.

My next musical experience of the afternoon was an impromptu jam session on Brazilian chôros with my friend the composer, pianist, and recording entrepreneur David Chesky. I went to visit him and his family, and discovered that among his many musical endeavors is playing Brazilian music. This multi-talented guy also writes his own chôros. I love chôros and perform them regularly with my duo pianist Charles Abramovic, and Charlie has made flute/cello/piano arrangements for our trio. David does authentic Brazilian playing so it was great fun for me to imbibe the style. The chôros have a rhythmic groove as distinctive in its own way as the different Baroque styles I had just explored with Tony.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Julius Baker and David Soyer Perform Villa-Lobos

I was excited to come across the following video on YouTube - Julius Baker, flute and David Soyer, cello performing Heitor Villa-Lobos's The Jet Whistle in a live television broadcast from the 1960s. It's a great performance by two giants - legendary flutist Baker was principal flute of the New York Philharmonic and several other major orchestras, and as a teacher for over 60 years he taught many prominent flutists. I feel fortunate to have had him as my teacher and mentor. He brought me to study with him at the Curtis Institute of Music when I was twelve, and he took me under his wing in a nurturing and grandfatherly way. Since he passed away in 2003 I am glad to find new recordings and videos of my beloved teacher. They are testaments to the magnificent artistry of Julius Baker, and I feel he lives on in his music.
What is particularly poignant for me about this video is that David Soyer, distinguished cellist of the Guarneri Quartet and important pedagogue, was the teacher of several of my dear friends and colleagues who are fellow Curtis alumni. For me and Yumi Kendall, my Dolce Suono Trio partner and Assistant Principal Cello of The Philadelphia Orchestra, it is meaningful to see our two teachers play together.

Villa-Lobos's The Jet Whistle, written in 1950, is standard repertoire today, but when this performance was broadcast it was still relatively new!

I'm impressed by the high cultural level in the early years of television.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Osteria, Philadelphia - Beet and goat cheese plin

The laurels reaped by Osteria are well deserved: chef Jeff Michaud won the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Mid-Atlantic 2010, the restaurant was nominated for Best New Restaurant 2008, and best pizza in Philadelphia according to Philadelphia Magazine 2011. Osteria is part of lauded chef and entrepreneur Marc Vetri's restaurant group Vetri Family, which includes his flagship restaurant Vetri, along with Amis, Alla Spina, and a children's charity foundation.
The setting is an industrial space converted into a large, airy eatery reminiscent of a Tuscan country house, with exposed wood tables, an open kitchen with brick oven and salumeria meats on display, and a lovely greenhouse-like dining room enclosed in glass. The feel is relaxed and rustic.

One of the standouts at Osteria was the beet and goat cheese plin with tarragon. This was my first time eating plin, which are Piemontese "pinched" ravioli. Plin are oblong pasta pouches narrower than typical square or circular ravioli. The plate arrived looking like a watercolor - the pink of the beets muted through glossy pasta, a few dark green strips of tarragon throughout - with a dusting of snowy grated cheese on top.

The Plin were delicious, and a perfect match of taste, texture, and color - the sweetness from the beets tempered by a hint of sharpness in the cheese, the texture creamy but with a little bite in the al dente pasta. The fun part was biting or cutting into one of the plin and revealing the hot pink beet mixture inside.

I tend to associate ravioli with winter - especially traditional cheese or spinach ravioli - so the beet version was a bright, summery twist on this ultimate comfort food.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dress of the Day - Trench Coat

Dress of the Day: Humphrey Bogart in trench coat, Casablanca (1942). This is a classic look from a classic film. Bogey in his trench, together with fedora and cigarette, is one of the iconic images of this coat. The trench coat is ubiquitous in 1940s Hollywood - worn by private eyes and gangsters alike in films noir and by both Allies and Nazis in war films.

The trench coat had a long history by the time Rick told Ilsa they'd always have Paris. Two British firms claim they invented the trench coat first - Aquascutum and Burberry. In the 1850s, Aquascutum developed a water repellent wool fabric which was used in a forerunner of the trench as a raincoat in the Crimean War. By 1901, Thomas Burberry had created wool gabardine and proposed a raincoat design to the British War Office. The coats became an optional item for officers in World War I, where they helped in the miserable conditions in the trenches, hence getting their name. Officers bought their own trench coats, and other ranks were not allowed to use them. Some of the straps and rings were used to carry equipment. After the war trenches became widespread for civilians, and remain a classic style to this day.

Dress of the Day: Louiseboulanger, Evening dress

Dress of the Day: Louiseboulanger, Evening dress (1926). This one is a collection of powerhouses! Photo by Edward Steichen of Marion Morehouse, Mrs. e.e. cummings. This moire gown has an open back characteristic of Louise Boulanger's style, the allure of which is accentuated by the hair gathered in a full bun grazing the nape of the neck. A large bow creates a bustle-like effect ending in a falling panel behind the rest of the skirt, which is in a classic 1920s below-the-knee length. I love how Steichen's photography captures so much texture - it's a rich image.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dress of the Day - August 3, 2011

Dress of the Day: Jeanne Paquin, Evening Cloak / Manteau du soir, "La Joueuse de Théorbe" (1914). Drawing by George Barbier in the Gazette du Bon Ton.
This is one of the most captivating images of fashion I have ever seen. It is the product of two talented and skilled creative minds - Paquin as designer and Barbier as artist. What are we looking at? A woman playing a theorbo, a lute with 16th-century origins, wearing a luxurious mantle of black and pink velvet, trimmed in fur, with geographic-printed fabric embracing a plunging, open back. She is playing outside at night, in front of an pagoda-like temple with a fountain. A tiny red shoe peeks out from her cloak, matching the red tassel hanging from her music. Many layers of history and imagery are referenced here - The Orient, The Renaissance, Art Deco.
To me, this image is a vivid example of fashion inviting the wearer (and the viewer) to a realm of imagination. Is the woman really in the scene or did her evening mantle transport her to this fantastic setting? Or perhaps, just as the hem of her cloak dips out below the frame towards us, great fashion invites us to live in the world around us and let our imagination take flight.

Dress of the Day - August 2, 2011

Dress of the Day: Adrian, Evening dresses for Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Rosalind Russell in "The Women" (1939).
Born Adrian Adolph Greenberg in Naugatuck, CT, Adrian became one of the most important designers in Hollywood in the 1930s. He is known for developing the images of Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and other stars. Adrian turned Crawford's unfashionably broad shoulders into an asset by accentuating them with shoulder pads, setting a major 1940s trend (see yesterday's suit). In addition to this fantastic film, he designed costumes for "The Wizard of Oz," "Grand Hotel," "Pride and Prejudice," and other classics for a total of around 200 films.  He left Hollywood in 1941 to open his own fashion house.
In this photo, we see the three main characters in the film, their roles conveyed through the gowns Adrain designed for them. Norma Shearer (left), plays Mary Haines, the loyal, wronged wife who is determined to get her way in the end. Joan Crawford is Crystal Allen, the seductive, brassy Other Woman. Rosalind Russell is Sylvia Fowler, an insufferable gossip.
The gowns for rivals Shearer and Crawford show they are opposites - Shearer's is demure white with a jeweled waistband in a similar shape as Crawford's, but her gown is flashy gold lamé. She shows a lot of skin, even cutouts on her torso. Russell's gown is clearly high fashion as befits her status as a society woman, but it is fussy and overdone (note the headpiece), just like she is.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dress of the Day - August 1, 2011

Dress of the Day: Arnold Scaasi, Evening ensemble (1981). This fur and silk evening look is comprised of black jacket, horizontally banded black skirt, and an ivory blouse with leaves embroidered in pearls and beads. Padded shoulders are typical of the 1980s but these are not bulky, reminding me more of the 1940s.  Together with the long, slim skirt, I think the ancestors of this look are 1940s dinner suits by designers such as Adrian and Schiaparelli.
Scaasi is famous for dressing First Ladies such as Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Barbara Bush, and Hillary Clinton. I've been planning to feature him and am doing so now because I just saw his wedding was covered in the NY Times yesterday.

Dress of the Day - July 31, 2011

Dress of the Day: Hardy Amies, Suit (ca. 1951). I'm returning to my feature on suits with this lovely example by British designer Hardy Amies. He is known for his fine tailoring and association with the royal family as dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II. He designed the Queen's gown for her Silver Jubilee in 1977, which he described as "immortalized on a thousand biscuit tins." He also designed for the British government during World War II and uniforms for service industries.
The silhouette looks akin to contemporaneous suits by Dior, Balenciaga, and Fath. The big pockets and chunky buttons give this suit a town and country feel, which I happen to love. Together with overcoat, hat, and brolly - the wearer is ready for an afternoon of splashing about in London rain and fog.

Dress of the Day - July 31, 2011

Dress of the Day: House of Worth, Evening Dress (1902).  Today's dress was inspired by my visit to the Newport mansions, envisioning the lavish elegance of the Gilded Age. This silk gown ornamented with rhinestones, lace, and flowers exemplifies the formal wear of the period. It is ivory with pale purple and green detail, a regal train, and a sash accentuating the narrow waist cinched by the late Victorian / early Edwardian corset.

Dress of the Day - July 30, 2011

Dress of the Day: Christian Dior, "Junon" dress (1949-1950). Dior's magnificent take on Juno, or Hera in Greek, the queen of the ancient Greek pantheon. Light blue silk with sequin embroidery in iridescent blue, green, and rust. More on this later. After an exciting concert and after party, I feel like a festive look and immediately thought of this breathtaking gown. It's amazing how often designers draw on classical Greece for inspiration, and also how the resulting creations take on many varied forms.

Dress of the Day - July 28, 2011 #2

Dress of the Day: Poiret, Suit (1914): Contrast the Paquin suit below with this one by Paul Poiret. The slouchy fit part of Poiret's revolt against the corset, which he effectively did away with in his revolutionary designs. The checked wool, double breasted waistcoat, and cut-away jacket are clearly references to the man's suit. Notice the unadorned hat and exaggerated white collar and cuffs. The long, tight skirt is an example of the hobble skirt, one of Poiret's innovative pieces. It was short-lived as it impeded movement and made it nearly impossible for women to get in and out of cars.

Dress of the Day - July 28, 2011 #1

Dress of the Day: Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit (1910). The concert and after-party ended pretty late last night, so I didn't post dress of the day until now. Therefore here are two looks - suits by Paquin and Poiret - to return to the suit theme I started last week.
The first is a gray wool suit with metal accents by Jeanne Paquin, whom I've written about before. It is shown with an American silk blouse by Thurn. You can see several additional views on the Met Museum site, showing how the shape of the outit conforms with the hourglass, corseted figure. Compare with the following suit by Poiret.

Dress of the Day - July 27, 2011

Dress of the Day: Madeleine Vionnet, Evening Dress (1937). A silk gown from the master of draping and the bias cut. Vionnet used minimal cutting and seams, often creating dresses from one piece of fabric. Her admiration for ancient Greek clothing is evident in this elegant and simple gown. It also sublimely versatile: the blue hue is rich but the fabric is sheer. It can be dressed up or down with jewelry.
How would you wear it?

Dress of the Day - July 25, 2011

Dress of the Day: Beach pajamas (1930s). I'm on the coast in Rhode Island so I'm in the mood for something sea-worthy, or at least beach-worthy. Beachwear, including swimsuits, loungewear, and sporty day clothing became popular in 1930s as swimming and sunbathing expanded as pastimes. Baking in the sun was considered healthy. This attractive outfit in summery white includes a cropped top over a printed halter with tie at the side, and wide legged pants. Notice the matching sandals. The hair and makeup look late 1930s into 1940s.
Would you wear this look, and if so what would you do in it?

Dress of the Day - July 25, 2011

Dress of the Day: Chanel, Evening Dress (late 1920s). This dress is typical of 1920s flapper style, with dropped waist accentuated by large bow. Notice how the long ends of the bow dip almost to the floor, an example of how designers in this period employed assymetry. They often used the space in between the upper calf and the ground as a blank canvas in which to create interesting shapes and movements of fabric.
Thinking ahead to fall, this red cotton velvet number seems perfect for the season!

Dress of the Day - July 23, 2011

Dress of the Day: Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, suit (ca. 1955). Staying with our theme of the suit I'm showing one of the most classic looks for women, Chanel's suit. In the 1920s, she designed several genre-defining pieces such as the tweed suit, the little black dress, and other sportswear separates such as cardigans. Over the decades, Chanel herself and then her house designed tweed suits in many colors but often with elements you see here - contrasting trim, boxy jacket, and accessorized with strands of pearls.

Dress of the Day - July 23, 2011

Dress of the Day: Cary Grant's Kilgour Suit in North by Northwest (1959). I'm starting a feature on suits, to which I shall return, so here is a classic - the suit on one of the most stylish men of the 20th century. Hitchcock probably had Cary Grant choose his own wardrobe for this film, not uncommon at this time for movies set contemporaneously.
Why this gray lightweight wool suit looks smashing:
1) It's on Cary Grant
2) Long, lean line created by the perfectly tailored jacket over trousers at the natural waist with no belt.
3) Socks match the suit, continuing the line, and dark brown shoes elegant and sporty
4)  White shirt is impeccably crisp, while the light gray tie harmonizes with the suit for overall unity
Additional points:
The jacket is ventless, which is unusual for today but quite common back then. Cary Grant can put his hands in his pockets in a suit and not bunch it up in clumsy ways. He also wears his suits with shirt cuffs showing, a really attractive look which I think should have a revival.
Did I mention that Cary Grant looks stunning?

Dress of the Day - July 22, 2011

Dress of the Day: Bathing suits (1922). As the temperature approaches 100 degrees in Philadelphia, nothing is more refreshing than a swim. Here are bathing suits from 1922. This photo in the Library of Congress collection shows a policeman enforcing a rule that bathing suits at a beach in Washington D.C. must not be more than six inches above the knee. How times have changed!

Dress of the Day - July 20, 2011

Dress of the Day: Edith Head, dress for Grace Kelly in "Rear Window" (1954). Time for another famous celebrity-designer pairing! Edith Head designed lots of clothing for Grace Kelly on screen and off, including her green Oscar gown. This black and white dress is classic 1950s, with a full skirt in the style of Dior's New Look. Grace Kelly's statuesque beauty would shine in any outfit, and here is alluring yet demure in pearls and white gloves.
I think this dress would flatter most people though - would you wear it?

Dress of the Day - July 19, 2011

Dress of the Day: Augusta Bernard, Evening dress (c. 1933). This silk crepe satin and velvet gown is characteristic of 1930s glamour and sensuality, with plunging back. This French designer's label was the eponymous Augustabernard, and her successful line of clothing was imported by Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Thurn for the American market. The magenta bow is placed over panels of the shell pink satin, which are made full by shirring, one of Bernard's signature techniques.

Dress of the Day - July 18, 2011

Dress of the Day: Pauline Trigère, Ensemble (1972). The French-born American designer of Russian-Jewish parentage was celebrated for her expert tailoring and clothing that epitomized sophistication in the mid-20th century. I admire her bold lines, often draping the body with geometric shapes that still mold to the figure. This ensemble includes a wool coat in which large lapels form a capelet in the back. The next photo features the blouse and skirt worn inside, coordinating colors creating an elegant depth of texture.

Pauline Trigère - first layer of ensemble (1972)

Dress of the Day - July 17, 2011

Norman Hartnell, Wedding dress for Queen Elizabeth II (1947). The British designer was appointed dressmaker to the royal family in 1938, and also designed extensively for theater and film. He was particularly known for his wedding gowns, and this one for the future Queen Elizabeth II was decorated with thousands of seed pearls and crystal beads. He also designed the Queen's coronation gown and clothing for her official travels. During World War II, Hartnell abided by British wartime restrictions on use of material, including his clothes for the royal family, and designed the uniforms for the Women's Royal Army Corps, British Red Cross, and Women's Police Force.

Dress of the Day - July 16, 2011

Dress of the Day: Yves Saint Laurent (1955). This photo, "Dovima with Elephants" by Richard Avedon, is one of the most famous fashion photos ever taken. This is YSL's first evening dress as Christian Dior's assistant. In 1961, he opened his own fashion house and became a major designer. Among his signatures are the tuxedo for women- Le Smoking, revivals of earlier styles, safari jackets for men and women,  and the beatnik look.
Of interest: Dovima was the first supermodel. In the 1950s, in-demand models made a lot less money than they do today, but she evolved into a celebrity, setting the tone for top models after her.
YSL's dress is very simple, a dramatic, floor-length sash the only adornment on a black column with long sleeves and a notched neckline. The starkness of the black and white and smooth polish of Dovima's porcelain skin contrast with the rough gray skin of the elephants. At the same time, to me the elephants seem playful and active; the woman serene but aloof.
Another time I'll feature fashion photography as it's a fascinating area.

Dress of the Day - July 15, 2011

Dress of the Day: Chanel, costumes for Le train bleu, Ballets Russes (1924). It's summer and I'm in the mood for something sporty. Here are Chanel's ballet costumes for Jean Cocteau's ballet le train bleu with music by Darius Milhaud and choreography by Bronislava Nijinska. Chanel's streamlined bathing and tennis outfits for this story, set on the Riviera, influenced sportswear of the time.

Dress of the Day - July 15, 2011

Dress of the Day: Callot Soeurs, Evening Dress (1910-14). Stunning gown in silk, cotton, and metal. If you visit the Metropolitan Museum website, you can see a close up of the sequined embroidery. It was truly an age of elegance. I featured a flapper dress by Callot Soeurs house on June 8th. The four Callot sisters opened their fashion house in 1895, and became known for their embroidery and rich detail. Callot Soeurs is one of my favorite labels - innovative, opulent, and beautiful.

Dress of the Day - July 13, 2011

Dress of the Day: Cristóbal Balenciaga, Suit (1951). The great Spanish designer who based his fashion house in Paris for 30 years was one of the few designers who could make a design into a garment entirely by hand, due to his rigorous training as a tailor since childhood. Balenciaga was particularly known for his suits, though I also love his elegant, dramatic gowns (and featured one a few weeks ago). Along with Dior, he led trends in the silhouette through changing the proportions of the waist, shoulders, and hips in his different collections.
This suit is incredibly elegant, with large bell-like sleeves drawing the eye down the arm to the ladylike black gloves. The waist is slender and defined and the skirt ends below the knee in typical 1950s fashion. Pearl necklace and petite hat over trim updo complete the look.
Where would you go in this outfit: To lunch, to a meeting, a rehearsal, to pick up your kids from school, to shop?

Dress of the Day - July 12, 2011

Dress of the Day: Elsa Schiaparelli, Music Dress (1939). This fantastic dress comes from Schiaparelli's Music Collection. With matching gloves also printed with music, the ensemble is made from silk, leather, plastic, and metal and was manufactured by the House of Lesage.

Dress of the Day - July 11, 2011

Dress of the Day: Walter Plunkett, dress for Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939). This is the famous "curtain dress," when Scarlett visits Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) in jail to ask him for money, but has nothing to wear. The green velvet drapes are one of the only things left intact at Tara and she has Mammy (Hattie McDaniel)  take them down and turn them into a dress.
Walter Plunkett was one of the major designers in Hollywood's Golden Age, designing for such movies as Little Women (both 1933 and 1949), The Gay Divorcee, Singin' in the Rain, Father of the Bride, and Kiss me Kate. He specialized in period and dance costumes. It is interesting how in Gone With the Wind and other period films, Plunkett evoked the historical style while incorporating modern elements. He also influenced current fashions; Scarlett O'Hara's barbecue dress for Gone With the Wind inspired many knockoffs.

Dress of the Day - July 11, 2011

Dress of the Day: Women in 18th century style gowns at Laurel Hill Mansion, Philadelphia. I performed there with Priscilla Lee and Charles Abramovic this evening. It's a special feeling to play an all-Baroque program in an 18th-century house. I usually feature couture or period clothing, but it's not everyday you come across people in their colonial/early Republic finery.

Dress of the Day - July 9, 2011

Dress of the Day: Nicholas Roerich, costume for Le Sacre du Printemps, ballet by Igor Stravinsky presented by the Ballets Russes (1913). Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes took Paris by storm when they arrived in 1909, creating truly interdisciplinary art - with the most modern music, dance, fashion, and set design.
Nicholas Roerich was a teacher of Marc Chagall, and I saw works by both of them today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibition "Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle." This splendid exhibit brought to life the world of Paris in the early to mid 20th century through the art of Chagall, Chaim Soutine, Ossip Zadkine, Amedeo Modigliani, Chana Orloff, Moïse Kisling, Moïse Kogan, Jacques Lipchitz, and others. A variety of mediums appeared in the show, such as painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, and illustrated books, providing a sense of the breadth of their artistic endeavors. I was particularly excited to see depictions of costumes and sets from Ballets Russes designers such as Leon Bakst, Natalia Goncharova, and Mikhail Larionov, as well as Roerich. It's amazing to see what the premiere performances of some of my favorite music looked like!
This costume for a Maiden in Rite of Spring evokes Russian folk clothing. It is of white cotton with painted geometric motifs on the yoke.

Dress of the Day - July 8, 2011

Dress of the Day: Oscar de la Renta (2008). These are the newest fashions I've shown so far from one of my favorite designers today. His clothes are feminine and elegant, more wearable than avant garde, and often with distinctive elements from traditional Spanish dress, like flamenco skirts.
From de la Renta's spring 2008 collection, these two gowns have different silhouettes. Which one do you prefer?

Dress of the Day - July 7, 2011

Dress of the Day: Lucien Lelong, 1937. Jewels by Bijoux Boucheron. Lelong was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, and Hubert de Givenchy are among the designers who trained and worked with him. Lelong was the first designer to open a ready-to-wear line, and built a thriving perfume division. During World War II, he was President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, and was instrumental in preventing the Nazis from forcing the French fashion industry to move to Berlin.
This striking photograph captures the luxury of Lelong's style. I will show more of his pieces soon. This gown shows the sinuous, bias cut of the 1930s, but it is also timeless.
Do you think it looks modern?

Dress of the Day - July 7, 2011

Dress of the Day: Jacques Fath (1955). A contemporary of Dior, Fath was famous for his glamorous clothes and active role in Paris society. I chose this stunning photo of a woman and a Cadillac because my trio took a road trio today to perform at Princeton University. We didn't wear Fath, or drive a Cadillac, but we had a great time.
What do you wear to go on a road trip, my friends?

Dress of the Day - July 5, 2011

Dress of the Day: Cartoon from "Punch," the British humour magazine. Today I am thinking about the topic of fashion satire. This cartoon from 1867 pokes fun at the long skirts then in fashion, see caption below.
Positively the last of the long skirts of the season by George Du Maurier. Punch (10 August 1867): 56.
Hostess.“Oh, how Tiresome! Somebody must be Standing on my Dress! Would you just run down-stairs, and see who it is, Mr. Brown?.”
Just as there are people who follow trends in fashion, there are people who refuse to follow the trends or even satirize them. What fashions today do you find ridiculous or funny or worthy of satire, and why?

Dress of the Day - July 5, 2011

Dress of the Day: Dolley Madison portrait by Gilbert Stuart (1804). In honor of July 4th, a tribute to a great American and definer of style. Madison developed the public role of First Lady, and was a skilled and popular hostess. She redecorated the White House, hosted the first Inaugural Ball, and entertained with such grace that she put visiting dignataries at ease, making them disposed to productive political discussion. During the War of 1812, when the British were about to burn Washington, Dolley Madison refused to evacuate the White House until she had made sure that the portrait of George Washington would be safe.
Dolley was raised a Quaker, and in her first marriage to a fellow Quaker she wore subdued clothing in dark colors. When she married James Madison, she took on his Episcopalian faith, casting off her somber clothing for colorful, fashionable gowns. This portrait shows her in a white, Neoclassical gown in the Empire style that was in vogue in the beginning of the 19th century. As First Lady, Madison dressed elegantly yet simply. She considered all Americans to be her constituents, and inspired respect and admiration for the Presidency.

Dress of the Day - July 4, 2011

Dress of the Day: Jeanne Lanvin, La Nuit de Paris (1926). Lanvin designed this gown for Jeanne Renouard, the director of the Theatre Daunou, the interior of which she also designed. By adding interior design to her couture business, Jeanne Lanvin foreshadowed the total lifestyle branding by fashion houses we see today. In addition, she was the first to make mother-daughter fashions and add a men's collection, so that the empire she built included fashion for adults and children as well as interior design.
As for this dress, it is singular. Lanvin excelled at sleek flapper dresses (see 6-29), but also went against the fashionable straight silhouette, as in this dazzling creation. The slim top contrasts with the fantastically full, cascading skirt.
Lanvin designed costumes for theater productions, and did 17 plays in one especially prolific year. Of the volume of creation she did, Lanvin wrote: "When you are constantly thinking about new designs, everything you see is transformed and adapted to whatever is in hand. The process happens naturally and becomes an instinct, a truth, a necessity, another language."

Dress of the Day - July 2, 2011

Dress of the Day: Philadelphia Quaker outfit, 18th century. At Brandywine Battlefield this afternoon, I spoke with Marie Stotler, who weaves beautiful Indian baskets using methods and materials from the colonial period. Marie's outfit includes cotton shift, linen short dress and petticoat, and an embroidered pocket. She told me that the Quakers in colonial Philadelphia tended to be among the wealthier members of society, enabling them to buy brightly colored clothing.
Marie weaves baskets out of rye, which she explained was the only material mice wouldn't eat, so that one could use these baskets for storage and bring them into the fields without worrying about mice. Her specialty is woven skeps, which are baskets used to contain beehives.

Dress of the Day - July 1, 2011

Dress of the Day: Molyneux, Evening Ensemble (1950-51). Captain Edward Molyneux (1891-1974) was a British fashion designer who presided over his own couture house in Paris from 1919-1950, with branches in London, Cannes, and Monte Carlo. Captain was his rank in WWI. Royals, actresses, and socialites sought his understated yet breathtakingly elegant designs.
This silk evening ensemble is strapless, with a full peplum which extends all the way around. A large chartreuse sash provides dramatic asymmetry. The bodice is alluringly scooped in the back.

Dress of the Day - June 30, 2011

Dress of the Day: Oleg Cassini's inauguration gown for Jacqueline Kennedy (1961). Cassini designed around 300 outfits for the First Lady, who decided to promote American fashion designers while in the public eye. This inauguration gown in ivory double-faced silk satin twill is decorated with a cockade, a symbolic nod to Jacqueline's French heritage as a Bouvier, and her love of history. The simplicity and understated elegance of this gown are characteristic of Jacqueline Kennedy's style, which many women emulated in the 1960s.

Dress of the Day - June 29, 2011

Dress of the Day: Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis in "Jezebel" (1938). In this film set in antebellum New Orleans, Bette Davis plays Julie Marsden, a headstrong belle who shocks everybody by wearing this red dress to the ball instead of the traditional, virginal white. For black and white film, however, a red dress would look almost black, so this dress was actually brown so that it would look lighter than black, and believably red. Orry-Kelly designed regularly for Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and other stars in classic Hollywood. I love his costumes for Bette Davis in this film and others such as "Now Voyager"  and "Mr. Skeffington."

Dress of the Day - June 29, 2011

Dress of the Day: Jeanne Lanvin, Cocktail Dress (c. 1924). The designer drew from a world of influences - Renaissance, Byzantine, Celtic, and Asian art and her contemporary artists, to name just a few. She created clothing in different aesthetics, but always beautiful, impressively crafted, and with a dash of fantasy. This cocktail dress is boldly graphic. I love the contrast of ivory and black and the lively feeling of motion.

Dress of the Day - June 27, 2011

Dress of the Day: OK, many dresses! Charles James (1948), photographed by Cecil Beaton. Charles James was an Anglo-American designer who showed his collections in New York and Paris. He is known for his ballgowns in architectural shapes and sumptuous fabrics. I understand his work by dividing it into two overall styles: one is neoclassical, the elaborately draped gowns in this photo; and the other involves more geometric silhouettes in dresses evoking elements from nature, like the tree and four-leaf clover dresses. Cecil Beaton was a photographer, fashion and set designer for films and stage, and writer. He won Oscars for "My Fair Lady."
What do you think this photo is saying about fashion? Some of the women appear to be talking, and others are primping in the mirrors. Is there camaraderie in their question for beauty, or are they isolated from each other and those outside? Are they enjoying themselves, or is there tension? Or do you see this completely differently?

Dress of the Day - June 26, 2011

Dress of the Day: 18th century farming clothes at Mount Vernon. Yumi Kendall and I met these people who were working on George Washington's farm, next to his wharf on the Potomac. They paused in their work churning ice cream to tell us about their outfits.
The ladies are wearing linen and cotton summer garments: shift, short dress, petticoat, and apron. The young man is wearing typical farm hand garb of shirt, waistcoat, and trousers. His three cornered hat indicates slightly higher social status than a typical farm hand, and not as suitable for work in the fields as a hat with a larger brim to shade the face.

Dress of the Day - June 26, 2011

Dress of the Day: Schiaparelli, 1930s. Marlene Dietrich was one of the stars dressed by Schiaparelli. The bold design in this knit piece suits Dietrich's dramatic style. And she gets the plume of cigarette smoke just so! I decided to feature Schiaparelli again today because of the thoughtful comments on yesterday's dress. I'm most interested in hearing what you have to say about these looks.

Dress of the Day - June 25, 2011

Dress of the Day: Elsa Schiaparelli, Lobster Dress (1937). Schiaparelli, one of the seminal designers of the 20th century, often collaborated with artists. She designed this famous lobster dress with Salvador Dali. As part of her highly individual approach to fashion, Schiaparelli often sought to provoke thought and surprise. She designed her signature shade "Shocking" pink, with perfume of the same name. I love how Schiaparelli created clothing that is beautiful and also raises questions. Viewing this dress, we ask ourselves, what does it mean? Why a lobster? To choose what to wear is to choose how we present ourselves to others, and our choices can also tell us about ourselves. Is our approach to fashion shaped by our own psychology? Schiaparelli made this question vivid - she designed a dress in a print inspired by a Rorschach test. Whimsical, yes. Profound, absolutely.

Dress of the Day - June 23, 2011

Dress of the Day: Duster or car coat. Edwardian men and women needed dusters when they went motoring because their cars were open and many roads were unpaved, kicking up a lot of dust. This one is linen trimmed with silk. I spotted it at

Dress of the Day - June 21, 2011

Dress of the Day: Queen Elizabeth I, the "Ditchley portrait". For many people, this is the primary mental picture of Queen Elizabeth I, one of the great leaders of all time. She understood the power of fashion to convey, well, power. Queen Elizabeth imported  dresses, styles, and tailors from all over Europe, and throughout her reign the aristocracy followed the Queen's lead as the fashion became ever grander. This gown appears to be of jewel and pearl encrusted satin or taffeta, with elaborately jeweled headress, lace ruff and wing-like extension behind her head. Skirts were puffed to massive proportions using a hoop skirt called a Spanish farthingale, with a pad known as a bumroll fastened around the hips for extra volume. The full sleeves and floor-length cape reinforce the Queen's imposing stature. She carries gloves and fan. In addition to her red hair, Queen Elizabeth's slender, pale hands were considered her most attractive feature. Her delicate face and hands contrast with the heaviness of her garb. 
This is an excerpt from Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe accounts.
1588 Wardrobe Warrant April 3, ER 30
Item for making of a payer of highe bodies & slevis of russett satten tyssued the slevis lyned with cloth of silver tyssued and drawinge oute the Jagges with lawne of our greate Guarderobe
This portrait is at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The meaning and iconography of the painting are very interesting.