Monday, September 10, 2012

Paint the Town Purple!

Dear friends,
I haven't had much time for "Dress of the Day" lately, but I appreciate those of you who have told me you miss it. I have devoted my blogging activities to Syrinx Journey, my project performing Claude Debussy's solo flute piece Syrinx every day throughout his 150th anniversary year and posting the videos on my blog. Please visit to see it.

This fashion post is in honor of my dear friend Jane Tamaccio, a woman of style and elegance who dazzles in any color, but especially favors purple. For years she told me I should get a purple concert gown, and when I finally did it became one of my favorites. Today's "Dress of the Day" is a festival of purple items from a range of periods and aesthetics.

These gowns and gloves demonstrate the many moods of this captivating color. The richness of Worth's royal velvet tea gown; the romance of the Jane Austen-style neoclassical ballgown (ca. 1820) in a fresh shade of wisteria; the regal stature conveyed by Charles James's draped, aubergine gown. Lilac gauntlets over 300 years old personify the statement accessory. The iridiscent, amethyst silk of Dior's gown imbues it with a futuristic edge. The two gowns from House of Schiaparelli, attributed to Hubert de Givenchy's period designing there, are fantastic creations in shades from plum through pink.

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, American, silk, ca. 1820
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Tea Gown)
Tea Gown, House of Worth, Jean-Philippe Worth, silk and metal, ca. 1905
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, Charles James, silk, 1949
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gauntlets, British, leather, silk, and metal, 1680-1710
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gown, House of Dior, Christian Dior, silk, 1951
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (Ball Gown)
Ball Gowns, House of Schiaparelli, attributed to Hubert de Givenchy, 1953
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heat Wave!

With temperatures over 90 degrees for the past 11 days, many of us are hot and some have been bothered. I relish the opportunity to wear light summer frocks.

This cocktail dress by Yves Saint Laurent, ca. 1967, keeps the air circulating while you circulate at the party. The high bateau neckline and silk grosgrain trim and bows are a ladylike contrast to the substantial cutout areas. The black wool bouclé and sheath silhouette are characteristic of the 1960s - think Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress - and also subtly reminiscent of 1920s flapper styles.

The question is, would you wear it?

For more information about this piece, visit its page at the Metropolitan Museum site:,b

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dress of the Day - May 8, 2012

Madame Grès, cocktail dress, ca. 1960

Madame Grès is one of my most featured designers on Dress of the Day. Famous for intricate draping and absolute integrity of craftsmanship, Grès identified with the sari during her visit to India in the 1950s. She recognized in the sari an emphasis on the quality, texture, and color of the fabric, and the use of draping as the key styling tool as well as the source of meaning in the garment.

In this dress, the gold-bordered and fringed fabric is draped on the bias and wrapped over the shoulder in keeping with most traditional Indian styles of sari. But the dress fits in with 1960s cocktail length, and the overall sense of naturalness and freedom are also characteristic of the decade.

From the Metropolitan Museum collection

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dress of the Day, May 3, 2012: Cecil Beaton / My Fair Lady

Yesterday, quite by chance, I caught the beginning of My Fair Lady on television. As happens whenever I glimpse one of my favorite films, I was hooked. Three hours later, I had cried and laughed and marvelled again at the perfection of this great production - music and lyrics and acting and costumes. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical rendition of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady (1964) stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in a brilliant cast including Wilfrid Hyde White, Stanley Holloway, and one of my favorites, Gladys Cooper.

Cecil Beaton's costumes are breathtaking, not only for Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle but for a large cast in ensemble scenes such as Ascot and the embassy ball. The fashion design is a sumptuous evocation of late Victorian and Edwardian fashion with a whimsical twist.

Here is the famous Ascot gown in the dazzling scene in which Beaton dresses the women in all black and white and the men in dove gray (except Professor Henry Higgins).

At the embassy ball, Audrey Hepburn is stunning in a neo-classical gown, simple in form with beaded embellishments. Gladys Cooper, playing Henry Higgins's mother, is also in a Grecian gown and hairstyle.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Excitement at Whole Foods

Something very unusual happened today. While shopping at Whole Foods, the power went out in the store. The staff swung into action to protect the items that need to be kept cold, wrapping plastic around the raw meat cases. The cash registers operate on battery so we were able to check out and leave. In all the commotion we forgot rosemary for roasted chicken and potatoes but when we went back, the store had closed. I can't think of anything sadder than a power outage at Whole Foods.

The fellow doing check out was wearing this pin. Naturally when I saw it I thought it said "composing" not "composting." I commented on this and he gave his pin to me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dress of the Day (March 19, 2012)

So much for my resolution to blog more frequently. I have been very busy, but I have also been absorbed with the transition to spring. Unseasonably warm weather plunged us suddenly into thoughts of vernal and estival style. Coupled with the plethora of articles on the wardbrobes, makeup palettes, and coifs that will define our approaches to the season, I admit to feeling nonplussed. Prints are everywhere, from Herrera to H&M, Prada to Penney's. But are they for me? Will I try the trendy bright lip? How can I reconcile that with my recent forays into the dramatically charcoal-lined eye?

Complete looks sometimes come to me with instantanteous clarity, but other times I need to let various threads percolate before I am ready to choose my next path in fashion. Lately I've been experiencing the latter situation and there's no use in pushing myself until I am certain. Instead I turn to my favorites,  what I call "comfort fashion", analogous to "comfort food" - the looks, styles, and designers that feel most familiar and always right to me. The 1940s are where I go for comfort fashion. Raised on the films of this period, I was deeply attracted to the clothing at a young age, and the glamour of old Hollywood drew me into fashion history. Here is a gorgeous gown on Bette Davis, one of my favorite actresses, in "Now Voyager" (1942), one of my favorite films. Here, Charlotte Vale aka Camille descends the grand staircase in her Boston home in an Orry-Kelly evening dress. This designer dressed Bette Davis throughout her career at Warner Brothers, including for some of her most celebrated roles in Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Letter, and Mr. Skeffington. His impressive credits also include gowns for Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.

This ivory evening gown is a perfect example of 1940s style because of its harmonious blending of elegance with ease. Matching clutch and open-toed shoes are characteristic accessories which complete the look. Sparkling and floor length, it retains the padded shoulders and tailored shape of a suit. Very little skin is revealed due to the discreet neckline and long sleeves, yet the look is extremely alluring.

In this scene, Charlotte meets her suitor Elliot Livinston for an evening out. At a pre-concert dinner, she runs into her true love Jerry. I won't give it away in case you haven't seen the movie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dress of the Day / February 22, 2012

My pick for today was inspired by Katharine Marris, my former history student at Moore College of Art and Design. Katharine told me she suspected I'd love Zac Posen's Resort 2012 collection, and she was right! Those of you who follow my blog note a definite bias toward fashion pre-1960. One of the things I love about Posen's designs is his obvious knowledge of and interest in the fashion of earlier eras. His clothes are modern and classic, with a high quotient of glamour. Posen said about this collection: "It's about how to be dressed up and poised, but still cool."

I selected a few of my favorite looks from Resort 2012. The model is Coca Rocha. To see all 33 looks, click here.

The two most prominent silhouettes in the collection are the structured jacket and the mermaid skirt. Here they look boldly feminine together.

The extended shoulders and nipped waists on the jackets remind me of the 1940s, one of my favorite fashion periods. Add a peplum, and I'm gleeful.

This white dress also evokes the 1940s, its crisp lines and detail at the shoulders and neckline give it interest as well as simplicity.

Here are two dazzling mermaid dresses. The first is flamenco-like, the ruffles of the sleeves balanced by those on the skirt, the sheer insets at the sides help the crisscross front streamline the entire look.

This vermillion gown is a pièce de résistance in 720 hand-dyed yards.

I love how Posen can combine the most extravagant styles with the simplest in the same collection and make them feel part of an organic whole. Here, a classic trenchcoat looks dressy and elegant.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dress of the Day - February 20, 2012

Today's dress is a sequel to yesterday's, as it is also inspired by the Opera Company of Philadelphia's production of Mozart's opera "Abduction from the Seraglio" I saw yesterday. This opera, which tells the tale of Europeans held captive by a Turkish pasha, is a vivid example of 18th-century musical orientalism, with Mozart's evocation of the music of the Turkish janissary bands. The alla turca style was not closely related to actual Turkish music; it was more like an imagined version of this exotic style. Its hallmarks were march tempi, percussion instruments such as triangle, cymbal, and bass drum, and often the keys of C Major or A Minor.

In the OCP production, one of the main costumes for Konstanze, by designer Guia Buzzi, reminded me of the "lampshade dress," a famous look by the great French couturier Paul Poiret. He revolutionized fashion in the early part of the 20th century by freeing women from the confines (and corsets) of the Belle Époque. Captivated by images of the Orient after seeing Rimsky-Korsakov's Schéhérazade at the Ballets Russes in 1910, Poiret created looks inspired by the Near East, such as "lampshade" tunics and "harem" pants. Here are two examples of this striking look, one from the Victoria & Albert Museum and one in a drawing by George Lepape from the Gazette du Bon Ton. Note the use of exotic headgear, turbans and a band wrapped across the forehead, as well as necklaces and the risqué, transparent bodice in the drawing. The second example also shows Poiret's "hobble skirt," a narrow silhouette that made walking difficult.

Paul Poiret (1912)
Lampshade dress
Victoria & Albert Museum

Paul Poiret (1914)
Le Collier Nouveau evening gown
Georges Lepape, Gazette du Bon Ton

Dress of the Day 2-19-2012

I'm back with "Dress of the Day": Madeleine Vionnet (1922). Famous dancer Irene Castle wears draped Vionnet gown complete with foliage theme, jeweled tiara, long strands of pearls, and extravagant ostrich plume fan. Why did I think of this look today? I'm about to see Opera Company of Philadelphia's production of Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" and think this exotic number would be perfect for enjoying this Turkish-themed opera. Not exactly practical...but should fashion always, or ever, be practical?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rehearsal video - Vivaldi Piccolo Concerto

Here's a video clip of me rehearsing Vivaldi's Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra in C Major, RV 443 with Spartanburg Philharmonic and conductor Sarah Ioannides, a few days ago in South Carolina.

It was fantastic getting to work with Sarah again. We were friends and made a lot of music together when we were students at the Curtis Institute of Music. She's a wonderful musician who combines great skills as a conductor with fine leadership of the orchestra.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hello my friends!
Clearly I haven't been a very active blogger these past few months. I've been extremely busy playing concerts, practicing, rehearsing, teaching, and generally furthering the cause of Dolce Suono Ensemble. But I still make time to be a consumer of culture as well as a producer of it and will be sharing news as it comes up. I read a very interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday with a forecast for fall colors in fashion. The Pantone company evaluates orders and collects data from designers to predict the most popular colors in wardrobes this fall. Here are the findings, with descriptions by Pantone's Leatrice Eiseman. Notice how the "women only" colors are slightly punchier or warmer versions of the "men only" colors.