Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Timeless Style of Classic Cinema: Part 1

When I'm not watching classic film, I'm vintage-clothing obsessed, and constantly trying to recreate the vintage look for myself. The looks are so feminine, flattering, stunning, and timeless...  the classic lines of the clothes just never age. How can I help myself? (I was born in the wrong era, I know!)

In the Golden Age of Hollywood, some of the most timeless, intricately crafted, and fabulous clothing was showcased in film. As a result, many style icons are classic film stars.

This post will be a two-parter. Part 1 of this Vintage Style in Cinema Tribute focuses on the top timeless fashion icons of Hollywood's Golden Age... the men and women who wore the clothes and made them famous. Part 2 will focus on the amazing designers (Edith Head, Helen Rose, Adrian, Jean Louis, Hubert de Givenchy, and more) that made these stars style icons. While the stars wore the clothes and made the designers and styles famous, the designers are the ones who are responsible for the looks that we still love today.

Here are my picks for the essential timeless style icons of classic film. Feel free to weigh in with your faves!


1) Grace Kelly: Ultimate Style and Grace 

Stunning in To Catch a Thief
Grace represents the "classic" look: clean lines, simple, ever timeless. We envision her as a the master of the casual scarf and sunglasses, the ultimate blushing bride, a Grecian goddess, and, if that weren't enough, a perfect formal dress wearer. Ultimately, movie star-turned-Princess Grace is an icon of both casual and formal style. She never wore lots of makeup, she was happy to wear her prescription glasses in public, and yet, we envision her as perhaps the class act of all time. Her lesson for all women: keep it simple, be yourself, and it will be classy.

Goddess Grace in her final film, High Society
Neutral colours with the pop of red in the kerchief: divine... not to mention those sunglasses!

2) Audrey Hepburn: The Effortless Everywoman

Beautiful in black: Audrey in Sabrina

Audrey: the proponent of modern chic. The master of the Little-Black-Dress phenomenon. The phrase "That's so Audrey" is uttered all the time today as women strive to create outfits that Audrey would be proud of. Working hand in hand with clothing designer Hubert de Givenchy from 1953 to the end of her life, the two crafted a look that can only be called "Audrey." While Grace Kelly represented the style of  a Princess that was almost unattainable, Audrey came along and made outfits seem possible for every woman. Today, every time we wear that perfect black dress, tailored capri pants, and flat shoes, we can thank Audrey for introducing them to the world and making us believe we could dress like her.

Adorable in Funny Face (look at those white flats!)

The first (and most perfect) LBD: Breakfast at Tiffany's

3) Cary Grant: Classic Timelessness

Jacket-less and still completely modern today

Cary Grant's look on film never seems old or dated. He could wear his grey suit from North By Northwest or his tux from Notorious, and fit right in today. Women want to date Cary Grant because of his perfect style, and men want to be Cary Grant because of his constantly immaculate image. His impeccable style, paired with his charming wit and sense of humour, are what make him a lasting style icon. These qualities made his perfect style approachable; we always knew he was our onscreen friend even if he always looked otherworldly. It has been said that Cary could effortlessly pick a suit off the hanger and wear it perfectly. He knew what looked good, he had the foresight to know that classic lines, patternless clothes, and simple looks would always be timeless.

Black suit, black tie, white shirt: perfection.

The essence of Cary: Impeccable, approachable, relaxed, joyful.

4) Gene Kelly: Ever-Modern Casual

GAP Ad: "Gene Kelly wore khakis." Did he ever!

Gene Kelly's classic and clean casual looks are ageless: he was one of the first men to wear jeans on film, and boy, did he wear them well. He represented the everyman, and, as a result, danced in street clothes on film all the time. It's no wonder GAP did a series of ads with him as their poster boy for khakis a few years back. Gene's looks transcend time due to their simplicity and modern feel. He made casual sexy on film, and must be part of the reason Gene still has such a huge fan base of young women. Gene said he used to receive mash notes in the 1990s from women in their 20s thinking he was their age... in no small part due to his fab casual and ageless fashion sense! His clothing has never aged, and so, neither has he!

Gene rockin' jeans on the set of Summer Stock

Sweater and khakis: relaxed, casual, ageless.

Who are your timeless film style icon picks? I want to hear them! And stay tuned for Part 2: The Timeless Designers for Classic Film.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Evenings with Cary Grant: Book Review

OK, so it's not a brand new book (the first edition was released in 1991). However, it looks like this gem of a book by Nancy Nelson will get another printing in September (see new cover below), and is certainly more than deserving of a shining book review.


In addition to daughter Jennifer Grant's portrait of her father in Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of my Father, and Dyan Cannon's (Jennifer's mother) book entitled Dear Cary, Evenings with Cary Grant is far and away the finest book tribute to Grant. Less a biography and more a compendium of quotes about Grant from people who knew him best, the book is a beautiful insight into the real Cary Grant. 

It seems that to those who knew him most, Grant wasn't unlike his legendary screen persona. He was witty, sophisticated, humble, and a kind and loving man. However, his darker side caused him to be unsettled and not truly satisfied in his life until his final years: once he had Jennifer (he called her his "greatest production") and met his final wife Barbara Harris, who he called his "best piece of magic." 

Author Nancy Nelson got to know Grant when he began his one-man tour called "An Evening with Cary Grant." Across the United States and Canada, Grant enchanted audiences as he answered questions, and shared anecdotes and film clips. Nelson was the woman who finally convinced Grant to embark on these presentations. He didn't believe that the public would be interested in him anymore, since in the early 1980s when the "evenings" began, Grant was pushing 80. Boy, was he wrong. Every session was always sold out, and Grant, not wanting the price to be unreasonable, never charged more than $25 a ticket. 

Nelson's close relationship with Grant reflects in her honest, heartfelt, and accurate book tribute. She also calls upon passages from many of Grant's closest friends and colleagues: Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Irene Dunne, Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor, Burt Reynolds, Quincy Jones, Prince Rainier, Virginia Cherrill (Grant's first wife), Betsy Drake (Grant's third wife), Jill St. John, and more. Other less famous friends also speak fondly of Grant and feature prominently in the book with wonderful anecdotes about Cary Grant away from the camera. 

Grant fans will delight in reading excerpts of his own letters to his friends and family (often full of wonderful wisdom and much humour) and reading Grant's own words, including some of his best answers from "An Evening with Cary Grant." A true treat, so we feel like we had the pleasure of seeing and hearing his wonderful presence in person. One particular letter that stands out is his letter to daughter Jennifer, right before she went off to college. The obvious love and admiration he had for his daughter fills the page. In the book Nelson states that Grant regretted never having more children, calling himself too self-centered in years past, and therefore, not becoming a father until he was over 60. 

Despite having Jennifer so late in life, Grant's friends said that he never seemed to age. Even at the time of his sudden death on November 29, 1986, friends said that he still acted (and looked!) like a young man. Friends are also quick to point out that despite the huge age difference between he and fifth wife Barbara, it was never the kind of relationship that required Barbara to dote on Grant. Burt Reynolds said, "They were like two kids together." 

I don't want to give away too many more anecdotes since the book is so deliciously full of them. But, I do want to encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this book. Whether you wait til September or find an existing copy now, you won't be disappointed. It's a breezy, heartfelt, and lovely read that makes you feel like you got to love and know the real Cary Grant.

Grant and daughter, Jennifer, 1970s.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The "Too-Skinny is Beautiful" Epidemic

I'm sure many of you have seen this picture that floated around the internet a few months ago:

I was prompted to re-share the photo above after reading some absolutely horrendous online comments about Megan Hilty (pictured below), the beautiful Broadway star turned TV actress on the hit show Smash. The voluptuous and (more importantly) talented actress has been described by some teen girls as "chunky," while preferring to idolize the weight of Hilty's costar Katharine McPhee. Furthermore, online article titles about Hilty (e.g. "Curvy Girl Gets TV Show!" and "Smash star Megan Hilty: no thanx to Spanx") demonstrate the shock and surprise at casting a woman with an actual figure. My question is: when did it become such a shock to see a female with a womanly figure landing a coveted role on TV? 

When Hilty was asked by Access Hollywood if there was any padding to her Smash costumes (since her character is seeking to land the role of Marilyn Monroe in  Broadway musical), Hilty proudly stated: "There is no padding. That's what you get for casting someone with a real body on TV." My question is, why was that question even asked in the first place? Why are we so stunned that Hilty is proud of her weight? Why are her curves even making headlines? I'll tell you why: stars like Hilty are, in the 2012 era of "skinny is so beautiful epidemic," are, sadly, an anomaly. 

I now encourage you to look at the picture at the top of this post again. Hilty's figure is reminiscent of the 1950s stars that the mass media of the day promoted as beautiful: the figure of say, Marilyn Monroe, or Elizabeth Taylor. That's not to say that all stars of the 1950s were voluptuous. (Look at any photo of Audrey Hepburn to have that one confirmed.) However, the difference is, Hepburn was in many ways the anomaly of the 1950s, not Monroe or Taylor. We are now seeing a complete shift in what society covets and promotes as sexy and beautiful. 

What are the problems with this, you may ask? You have Smash (mainly McPhee) fans who are picking their favourite star (Hilty or McPhee) based on weight, not talent. We are living in a skinny-obsessed society, one that values weight over everything else. Scary stuff. Because, when you look at the sheer talent of both women, while both are gifted singers, there's no contest in my mind to who the stronger singer is.

These days, when we see anybody modern with curves in the media, we automatically think, "Ooh, a vintage look for a change!" Why must this be a look we only consider "vintage?" Why can't it be a look we value for every woman in 2012? Most women with curves on TV is not in a show that takes place in our modern times. Hilty portrays a character portraying Monroe, so her curves are considered "acceptable." Christina Hendricks is on Mad Men, a show set in the 1960s, so, again, it's "acceptable." I can't, off the top of my head, think of anyone else on TV that has true curves. We've been on a steady decline, from the 1970s onward, to idolizing women who are skinnier and skinnier. See the photo timeline below for examples: 

 1950s (Lucille Ball): The I Love Lucy icon was what I would call a  "very healthy skinny."

1960s (Barbara Eden): In the 1960s, I Dream of Jeannie audiences dreamed of a voluptuous and stunning genie in Barbara Eden.

1970s (Farrah Fawcett): The 1970s presented women of many different body types (e.g. curvy Wonder Woman), but skinny Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels fame became an idealized body type.

1980s (Tracey Gold): The Growing Pains star battled eating disorders after feeling pressure from ABC to lose weight.

1990s (Courteney Cox): The skinny Friends star reflects the average image of women in the media for the 1990s decade.

2000s (Eva Longoria): While this Desperate Housewives star isn't dangerously skinny, the nature of the photo shoot suggests the image-obsessed culture we currently live in.

I did not post these pictures of current women in the spotlight to criticize their weight; I am merely pointing out the progression of societal image idolization. It's no wonder that Megan Hilty is an anomaly when looking at the mass-produced images of women of the last few decades. I hope that the casting of Megan Hilty produces a turning point, where we in society start to re-idolize the HEALTHY figure. Not a woman who professes herself as "curvy" but is actually overweight, not a dangerously skinny woman who exercises herself to the point of exhaustion and starvation, but women who are naturally beautiful. I hope we can reach a point where we aren't shocked by Megan Hilty's healthy appearance on TV.

I truly look forward to a resurgence of a day when healthy, curvy women are no longer the minority in both the media and our everyday surroundings.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The rest of the vintage!

 Here are the rest of the shots from my shoot with Brian Lockyer Photography! Thanks so much to Brian for all his great ideas, and Brianne Peori for her amazing hair and makeup!