Baby Vintage.

Now, what about baby vintage?  There is a lot of commotion around  vintage clothes in the fashion world, but previously worn baby clothes that move from toddler to toddler are just  too banal to fall  under the glamorous ‘vintage’ term.  Aren’t they? Well,  I think I have something that qualifies as a baby vintage.  A dress that is old enough and has some sentimental value to it.

The dress comes from Norway. My mom was visiting some of her friends there about fifteen years ago and at the time they were getting rid of the  accumulated baby clothes.  Mom loved one of the  dresses and asked if she could have it in the prospect of  potential grandchildren.  It  took almost a decade  before the dress found its wearer.   Sylvia has been wearing it  this summer causing a stir every time we were out and about.

These  pictures were taken two weeks ago at the  World War II Weekend in the San Jose Historical Park, the event  that commemorated the entry of the USA into WWII.   It was interesting how people reacted to Sylvia’s dress. They thought we had her wearing it purposefully, in observation of the event and someone even said “thank you…”

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What Color is your Polka Dot?

May babysitter was in a car accident, but now she is  back to work   which means  I am back to work.   I am terribly behind of my schedule so today I spent one of those usual days in front of the computer tossing   images and  organizing ideas  into a comprehensive  sartorial instructions for one of my clients.  Among other things I  ended up writing an entire chapter  on polka dots for her.   I believe there are  ‘polka dot people’ and there are those who aren’t.   The former can wear a very wide range of polka dots beautifully  and the latter are polka dot challenged.  Yet, there is a version of a polka dot for anyone out there.  Give me a face and I will find a polka dot for her.  My client was a definite ‘polka dot person’ but she had her limitations too.

As I was brushing through  polka dot designs, picking the right ones and weeding out the wrong ones I suddenly realized there are  polka dots that are friendlier as well as there are more demanding ones.  And I thought may be I should try to write about it here?

Then I got skeptical.  I spend my days working on nuances of each individual because I despise generic style advises.   All those “great designs for  every age and all  body types”  basically means mediocrity for each particular woman. Giving a style advice to a group of people is like calculating an average body  temperature  in the intensive care unit. It can be done, but who cares?

And yet, I decided I’d try.

A lot depends on  a cut and fabric.  But if I go into these type of detailing now I will end up with the manuscript of a size of Britannica.  That’s why I will assume that we are talking about garments that without a polka dot would be extremely becoming of any given person who happens to read this.

I will concentrate on these  three areas:

  • Color
  • Size&Scale
  • Spacing&Placement

Color: observing my clients and people on the streets   I have found  the  most demanding polka dots to be  black and whites and red and whites.


They are believed to be ‘classics’ and they are definitely  eye catchers, especially in the shopping windows and shelves, so they sell best.  But these  are extremely demanding of facial bone structure and generally  they want ideally balanced facial features.  Well, most human faces are  asymmetric and these rigid geometric spheres will accentuate that.

Yet even a high contrast  polka dot will become friendlier to many faces  if  the  dots are of  different scale.  Somehow they  just suddenly become more charming… and a little bit more French.


But say you are not a polka dot person and your face is asymmetrical and your facial features are out of balance  but you just want to wear it and you want to wear it in black and white.  Then  I would say, go for a dress, don’t settle for a scarf.

A dress is a statement. It looks very self assured (providing you invest a great deal of time into makeup and a hairdo).   While  a polka dot scarf looks as if sheepishly saying:  “yeah, I want some edge, but I am not sure I am getting it  right, so  here I am taking baby steps…”

But then hey, put the same little piece of polka dotted clothe on a hat and it gets all its allure back effortlessly.  I guess, a hat ribbon is less predictable and more dashing. I’d go for a hat.

The demanding B&W polka dots aside,  these sheer dragées  look terribly sweet and so forgiving  of various imperfections. As I write this I am going through all the different faces in my mind  and I haven’t found a type yet  that would not shine with this breezy thing around their necks…

Basically, it would probably be right to say that  low contrast is key.


Come to think of it the famous “pretty woman” dress was a low contrast version of the  black and white polka dot and it turned out to be way more classic than the B&W.

Right now I feel like the best ones are some unobtrusive combinations with  beige. And that  brings up a matter of size and scale.


Size & Scale:  when it comes to polka dots:   the smaller, the better.  Where “better” means that a wider range of faces will look good in this design.  Small to medium sized (like on Julia Roberts dress) and really tiny dots  (right above) work best.

Spacing & placement: Another key to a successful polka dot  number is spacing. When myriads of circles, large or small  evenly cover the garment it makes a busy print.  Busy prints  can be  very demanding and unbecoming on various facial features.  When there is more space between the dots it becomes more of an equal opportunity garment.


My personal favorite is placement:  when these larger polka dots are placed on a garment randomly they  look so much more sophisticated, especially when they are of different scale (as mentioned above).


Well, these are a couple of things to consider when choosing a polka dot. I hope this will make the world of polka dot more interesting and easier to navigate.  

Posted in Adopt-a-Trend, Prints and patterns | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Sylvia and a hat.

Today Sylvia was trying on my hat.  I left the cloche on the bench and as she started cruising towards it, my first thought was: “oh my… good bye, hat.”  I thought she would just pull all the feathers out and destroy the flower. But I decided to wait and see. And my trust sure paid back. She grabbed the hat with the pincer grasp and started trying to place it over her head. Her aiming wasn’t good at once but eventually she succeeded.  I had a blast. This was really a birthday of my daughter.

I don’t know for how long  doing things my way (at least, sartorially) will  be pleasing for her,   but I plan to enjoy every single moment of it.   Some of my friends who have babies of the similar age seem to be really concerned about  what activities a toddler really needs and whether they reached their developmental mile stones by such and such month, and  so forth. I think the most important thing for any baby  is  her mother’s  happy and smiling face. As for activities…  the best thing is doing things  together.  While  we are striving for some time away from our clinging toddlers we are steadily turning into  the clinging parents of our independence seeking teenagers…    So, why not have some fun together while you tickle her fancy!

The other day I had dinner with my one year old.   I put all the same stuff I had myself on a little plate in front of her, gave her a little  piece of bread and turned on   Paris Chanson.  An online radio that’s playing in our home all the time anyway, unless it’s ‘Italian Graffiati’ or ‘Martini in the Morning‘ or we all want some silence. We didn’t eat anything fancy, just the leftovers from the baby shower party I organized for a friend of mine the day before. So I will be posting tiny, modest pictures.


Her little table and a floor underneath was a mess, but I had fun and I  hope, she did too.   I feel sorry I haven’t dined with her during our recent stay in Italy.  That would have been lovely. I am going to do it in Palo Alto some time this August. Just me and Sylvia in her high chair.

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We Used to be Smoother. The Evolution of a Shoulder Line.

Once on my  Russian blog I explored the  role of the jaw line in the standards of beauty throughout the 20 century. Now   I decided to develop the subject further by moving down to the shoulders .

At the aforementioned  lace shop in Burano I – tried on  a blouse  with a stand up lace collar, gently puffed sleeves  and buttons in the back.   The lady who ran the shop suggested  I wear small  shoulder pads with it.  She was absolutely  right, since   I have a very narrow back and sloping shoulders .   The long and gradual transition from neck to shoulder adds to the neck length but steals from the shoulder horizontal.  These shoulders of mine would be perfectly acceptable, even desirable, if I were living in the 19th c.  They are mostly suited for the décolleté and clouds of soft fabrics, which  play up the soft, gentle line of the neck slipping down into the shoulder.


This feature’s soft appeal got lost in the previous centuries. Ever since Joan Crawford, with  the help of Adrian, the – celebrated Hollywood designer, was acknowledged as a beauty and a style icon   in the 1940‘s, the broad shoulders and a sharp ‘break’ from neck to shoulders became desirable and beautiful.

Anthropometrically speaking the slope connecting the shoulder and neck had turned into a right angle.

Today’s ubiquitous ”wife-beaters”  and tank top looks require this right angle connecting shoulders and neck and these broad, Joan Crawford  shoulders.


Women with  soft, gentle shoulders and narrow backs look hideous in tank tops. (I know i do.  Most clothes sold in the US today   – whether designers realize -it or not – are meant for   broad shoulders. When it comes to choosing clothes, gentle shoulders and soft neck slope prove to be extremely limiting.   Shoulder pads can help, but in the US they are viewed not as a mere correction but mostly  as a fashion enhancement typical to the 80s, thus  the  small and good ones are not all that easy to find. That is exactly why I am hanging out  in lace shops and other places where I can find vintage inspired designs….

In an attempt to  explain to me what she meant, the shop owner –  pointed at her own straight shoulders — and then to her mother’s – sloped.  My Italian was  not good enough to explain to her that I knew all too well what she was talking about.

the comparison of the shop owner’s shoulders with her mother’s made me remember a friend of mine,  – a biology major and – therefore prone to noticing subtleties of human anatomy.  She once pointed out that  there aren’t too many women nowadays with gentle, sloped shoulders.  Come to think of it, in the last two years I haven’t had a single client with such  shoulders.  Most people tend to have a more developed shoulder line.   I know a couple of people with shoulders similar to mine, but   overall they seem to belong to a bygone era.

I vividly remember one case though.  About six months ago, I attended   a distinguished speaker event put on by the University of Notre Dam de Namur. The speakers were  from the Fashion industry: an independent designer,  a fashion journalist for the SF Chronicle and a PR director  for  Bloomingdale’s. The first two ladies had strong cheeks bones and seemed pretty taut and muscular. The PR executive had very sloped shoulders and a very  little indentation from chin to neck. She  literally  looked like  a  Modigliani portrait.


I was looking at her and thinking ‘how does she survive in the fashion industry?’ a world  – inhabited with – fierce facial bone structures and rails of shoulder lines-  Amazingly enough she was the only one of the three who pointed out several times that ‘the fashion business is a very rough place.’   I think it’s a far rougher place for people with sloped shoulder line and oval face than it is for the cheek boners with broad shoulders  😉

Fashion industry aside, women – generally tend to be more muscular and taunt. than in previous generations. If my observations are correct,  -gentle, sloped shoulder lines have become less and less frequent – as not only the standards of beauty change, but peoples  bodies change too!   Is it possible – that a mere aesthetic – change in – the  standard of beauty   could cause the sloped shoulder to become vestige of a bygone era?

Posted in Proportions and Fit | Tagged | 2 Comments

Burano Lace

I spent the entire   month of July, 2011 on  Lido di Venezia, an island, right next to Venice.   I didn’t get around much, because my one year old daughter Sylvia was with me,  but we made it to Burano, another tiny island near Venice, famous for its lace.  It is almost like Murano that  is known for its glass.  I don’t know what is going on with the glass techniques these days, but  the lace making is a dying art.   Myriads  of lace table clothes, blouses, napkins and dresses piling up in numerous  kiosks of Burano are machine made.

Prior to my trip I looked up Burano lace in the web  and found some amazing texts, pictures and videos that lace enthusiasts put out there.   I learnt that it can take up to several months to make a lace piece and  several  laceamkers, each one experienced in different type of stitches.  They described specific difference  of typical Burano and typical Venetian lace with large pictures provided for comparison.  Yet,  with all my interest to the subject I couldn’t quite grasp the difference.

So, given there aren’t much people who can appreciate the mastery of lace and pay the money it deserves the craft is slowly dying (almost like any craft these days).   A few old ladies in every other shop  bend over lace pillows  to add some  flavor to the ubiquitous lace kiosks. I walked into one with a lady bending over a pillow.  I love flavor.

A young woman (must be her  daughter)  was running the shop and  showed me a couple of handkerchiefs, ranging in price from  $7 to $170. The former is a standard piece that falls under the category “gifts under $10” in the tourist books  and the latter  was truly hand made.  I  admired the latter and bought  Sylvia a dress. Machine made.


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Sartoria Aldous Huxley

I’ve got this  young girl  who is willing to take my advise on professional  matters. Yesterday she  sent me a letter asking about the trends forecasting and, in particularly,  why  earthy stones and natural colors are  all over the runways.

I do not know why they are out there for sure, for I have not been following trends close enough,  but I guessed it could  be the part of the  ‘tribal’ trend that recently enjoyed the brave new raise.   The tribal trend could be  the form of the latent protest against the unified clothes entering our life in the dystopian,   Aldous Huxley way.    I remember  how during one of my visits to Milan I was   looking at the people on the streets  through the taxi window on my way from the Linato aeroport.  I  spotted a girl with a   purse I have literally just  seen in the other part of the world:   in the H&M window,  downtown San Francsico, hours  before my departure.    No matter where you go these days, you run into  complete strangers  and  you know just where they bought the dresses  they are wearing and purses they are carrying.

Clothes may no longer be a   class indicator, but  the sense of belonging in human beings haven’t weakened and is as strong as thousands of years ago.  So  while some find harbor in the logo bliss, others gravitate  towards  pagan atributes.  Both longings are of the same mechanism and aim to satisfy the natural human desire of  belonging  and indicating that.   The next thing we  know  crude jewelry and earthy colors of the tribal aesthetics are all over the runways.

My own latent protest against the ‘dystopia’ of the garment industry  took form in ordering  custom made shoes  in  one of the Venice shoe bottegas  today. They should be ready in the end of September and I am both, excited and nervous about the end result.  Will post pictures either way.

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