A photo taken out of a ’60s fashion spread featuring Julie Christie. I love her one piece and she looks amazingly alluring.
“Some people dream of swimming pools. I dream of closets!”
Summer shopping was not too eventful for me. I had the most difficult time finding new clothes. My best purchase was a fitted white jacket that I love for its versatility and clean, crisp fit. Truth be told, although I am not averse to the summery look, my fashion heart has always been and will forevermore be autumnal/wintry.
Still, this past summer was particularly resistible except for some adorable Nanette Lepore pieces that I nearly gave in to. While the practical aspect of my nature tells me that this is a good thing, when you’re planning a wardrobe overhaul, nothing can be more disappointing!
So there I was, both bewildered at how the MJ denim jacket has become a uniform of sorts, and crestfallen that I cannot locate a white halter exactly like the one Grace Kelly shows off in Rear Window. And then it hit me: I love fashion. I love films. What could be better than going through the film archives for fashion ideas? So here is what I came up with.
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Rear Window: What I wouldn’t give to find a white halter exactly like this one. I am thinking of just getting it copied by a seamstress.
Rear Window: Grace Kelly’s ensemble is perfection—from the simple pearl choker to that incredible dress. Edith Head outdid herself.
Bonnie and Clyde: Another case of sartorial perfection. I never tire of admiring how Faye Dunaway looks in those classic berets and scarves.
Belle de Jour: As Séverine, the very bored and imaginative physician’s wife, Catherine Deneuve looks nothing short of stunning in an array of Yves Saint Laurent pieces.
Mandalay: My dear friend F. brought this gown, worn by Kay Francis, to my attention. For the Paramount starlets of yore, this is what you call a true showstopper.
I Found Stella Parish: Kay Francis in a publicity still. What Grecian flair!
Letty Lynton: Holy glamour, no? Joan Crawford in one sexy number by Gilbert Adrian. Might get the seamstress cracking on this one, too.
Anna Karenina (1948): I love the details of this gown. Vivien Leigh looks positively patrician.
Gone With the Wind: Vivien Leigh makes an entrance in gorgeously festive garnet designed by Walter Plunkett.
The Blue Dahlia: A publicity photo of Veronica Lake. Just a lovely frock with pleats and ruching in all the right places.
Laura: Gene Tierney in a beautifully cut, black-fringed dress with skinny straps and a dazzling dress clip.
The Thin Man: A toast to Myrna Loy and one fabulous dress.
Please Note: The above photo must be enlarged for a proper viewing.
Gigi: Leslie Caron in an elegant ensemble complete with elbow-length white gloves.
Funny Face: This looks like a page from a ’50s fashion spread. Hepburn and Astaire look so genteel and Thompson could not ooze more chic.
Sabrina: Isn’t she just dreamy?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: This film showcases my favorite Hepburn/Givenchy collaboration. Everything is just jazzy and marvelous.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: This is a wildly campy film, but the costumes are among the most gorgeous I have ever seen—absolutely ravishing, decadent, and lush.
The Wings of the Dove: This is for the fabulous Annieytown whose impeccable taste naturally leads her to the altar of costume designer Sandy Powell.
Annie Hall: Diane Keaton in what will become her signature style. Diane Keaton, the sartorial George Sand of our time.
Chungking Express: The original wuxia ballbuster, Brigitte Lin has a supercool return to the big screen, charmingly clad in a cool trench and pristine satin white Manolos.
House of Yes: The hippest Jackie-O ever, Parker Posey rocks the classic pink suit and hatbox hat.
The Talented Mr. Ripley: Cate Blanchett in a palette of soft, cream-colored cashmeres.
Anna Karenina (1997): Beautifully garbed, Sophie Marceau looks absolutely stunning in this shallow, lifeless adaptation of Tolstoy’s great novel.
In the Mood for Love: Wong Kar-Wai slips Maggie Cheung into a stunning procession of cheungsams.
Gosford Park: Jenny Beavan designs draping crushed velvets and shimmering silks for the upper echelon of English society.
Devdas: Aishwarya Rai, the queen of Bollywood, is graced by breathtaking costumes in this film that serves as a feast for the eyes. For my dear friend V. with whom I would watch Indian films with so that we can gasp in unison.
Devdas: Warning Before Viewing: Your eyes may water due to the incredible degree of visual stimulation.
This summer has been unusually cool where I live. Thus, I have been able to wear many fragrances that I normally would designate for brisk weather like Parfums de Rosine Rose D’Argent. A sojourn in Washington, D.C. provided me with a few days of insufferable humidity, when I returned to my old standby—the scent of my own skin. But otherwise, it has been a season of revisitation, discovery, and unlikely summer choices.
1. Caron Violette Precieuse
On those rushed mornings when I have had to get out of the house pronto, Violette Precieuse is the one I have reached for. It is, to my estimation, the perfect dry violet—green, twiggy, with a bit of fresh bitterness. Like Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, I find it inherently sophisticated, urbane, and destined to go with the driest of martinis.
2. Serge Lutens Daim Blond
This is another fragrance I have grabbed when in a state of helter skelter in the early morn. Like Caron Violette Precieuse, it never ceases to amaze me how perfect it smells. It is another indubitably elegant composition, joining the scent of buttery soft leather with divine flowers.
3. Caron Tubereuse
Sends me to cloud 9 and I stay there all day long because the tiniest drop truly goes a long way with this extrait de parfum concentration. It is the creamiest, most delicious, yet utterly soft and refined tuberose soliflore I have had the pleasure of experiencing. It is a definite year-rounder for me, as it never fails to make me praise the heavens for the invention of perfume.
4. Guerlain Apres L’Ondee
The most beautiful poem of a fragrance, at once melancholy and artistic. Violet does pirouettes with anise, rose, and iris to spin a story that evokes nostalgia in the coldest of hearts.
5. Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier
When I first tried Fleurs de Citronnier, I did not think much of it, finding it a bit too soapy for my taste. But this softly clean floral, with its sunny citrus overtones, has grown on me with each wearing. As before, it still opens with a shot of soapy neroli, but it is softened by petitgrain, warm honey, and the subtlety of florals—a whisper of delicious tuberose and faintly powdery iris. The musk is evident on my skin, but it figures beautifully, an extremely clean and pure scent, like baby’s breath. This is a perfect choice for those days you step out into the sunshine with towel-dried hair, looking forward to either running errands or just going for a sauntering walk.
6. Hermes Un Jardin Sur Le Nil
This is another surprise for me given my general dislike of sweet and fruity scents. But, the mango Jean-Claude Ellena uses is an underripe green, which acts as a brilliant foil with the notes of pine. I find it pleasantly refreshing and it cools me off on those days of intense dry heat.
7. The Different Company Divine Bergamote
When I was in New York this summer, this was the perfect choice. Now I am not a huge fan of citrus, as I find them generally too sharp and often akin to cleaning agents, but The Different Company got it irresistibly right. Opening with bergamot, it unfolds into the most delicious execution of orange and grapefruit mingling with ginger. Sadly, it does not last too long, but on those oppressively sweltering days, it is the answer.
8. Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle
A notorious fragrance and one of my favorites by the Lutens/Sheldrake team. At this point, I have fully acclimated to the menthol opening and even like it. For those who feel they might inflict harm to their sinuses, the emerging tuberose is worth the wait. It is unbelievably beautiful with a quality that is more silky and refined than lush and decadent. For those summer evenings you want to be a man magnet, wear this with a killer pair of heels.
9. Parfums de Rosine Rose D’Argent
This is a fragrance that I would normally wear in the cooler months, as it can get a bit too spicy. However, many a day has been grey in southern California this past summer and I have successfully worn what I view as Ms. Rogeon’s most unique rose bouquet. The notes include green anise, pepper, geranium leaves, Turkish rose essence, Grasse rose absolute, Ambrette seed, angel root.
10. Guerlain Nahema
For whatever reason, Nahema smells unusually gorgeous on me lately and I cannot get enough of its rich, honeyed floral evolution. It is aldehydic with a large dose of rose, glorious peach, honey, and ylang ylang. It is a voluptuous, ultra feminine scent, and one that should be applied with a light hand. If you have a swanky summer event to attend, wear Nahema with a fire engine red dress and the perfect ’40s red lipstick.
Want to see more Top 10 Summer Fragrance lists? Check out An Alabaster Brow, Bois de Jasmin, Blogdorf Goodman, Brain Trapped in Girl’s Body, C’est Chic, Koneko’s *Mostly* Beauty Diary, Life in Paris, Now Smell This, Make a Mental Note, Ombligo!, Seldom Nice Nowadays, Self-Styled Siren, She’ll Be Feverish After So Much Thinking and This Bananafish Smells Like Leaves.
Gene Tierney, looking ravishing in a beautiful ice blue with black lace bodice nightgown.
“Who is that girl with the gorgeous red hair?”
-William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld
I watched The Great Ziegfeld (1936) for two reasons—William Powell and Myrna Loy. I got a lengthy dose of Powell, which was lovely, but after what seemed like four hours, I wondered, where in heaven’s name is Myrna Loy? I checked the video cover several times, searching for Loy’s name in the cast of characters. Hmm… well, there it was as plain as day. During the necessary intermission, I logged onto my computer and triple-checked IMDb, muttering to myself, “Don’t tell me, Myrna has a cameo appearance.” (As it were, Fanny Brice ends up having a great cameo.)
After what seems like 10 hours, in strides in Ms. Loy, the queen of cool, classy, and confident. Naturally, Powell is all aflutter to meet her and steal her attention from rival Jack Billings, played by Frank Morgan. The ploy that he devises as they dance the Paul Jones impels her to remark, “You seem to stand in with the whistle.” As always, I absolutely adore how she projects unflappable wit and intelligence.
And now comes my favorite scene in the entire film, a moment of quiet, good old-fashioned romance.
Powell: Look, there’s another ferryboat going across to the Palisades. Will you keep your eyes on it while I tell you something?
Loy: Must I look at a ferryboat to listen to you?
P: Yes, or else I won’t be able to tell you.
L: You mean the great ladies man is bashful?
P: As strange as it may seem, in your presence he is.
L: All right, I’m looking.
P: I love you, Billie.
(Loy turns and looks directly at him.)
P: (Powell points) The ferryboat! (Loy obeys) I haven’t anything to offer you because there is nothing you really seem to need. You’ve made the most of yourself unassisted and that’s grand. But—
(Loy turns again)
P: (Powell points again) Ferryboat! (Loy obeys again) You’re a great star already so there’s little I can offer you. There’s nothing I can give you except my love.
(After a dramatic pause, Loy turns.)
L: That isn’t enough. I’d expect one-third of your ambition, half of your trouble, two-thirds of your worries, and all of your respect.
(They embrace and kiss.)
Prepare yourself for much more of this sparkling duo. Just as I can never have too much champagne, I can never surfeit of them.
I was a teenager when I first watched Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Lover. Yes, I had an awakening a la Kate Chopin. But what made me linger in my seat afterwards to watch the credits roll by was the desire to listen to more of the music. The sensual main theme had me both enraptured by the sense of discovery of my own sexuality and sweetly lulled by the simplicity of its mellifluous beauty.
I bought the soundtrack immediately and listened to it over and over again. The composer is Gabriel Yared, a native of Beirut, Lebanon. He is best known for his recent original work in The English Patient (for which he won an Oscar in 1997), The Talented Mr. Ripley (for which he was nominated for an Oscar in 2000), and Cold Mountain (for which he was nominated for an Oscar in 2004). His work for The Lover (1992) and his unabashedly romantic original score for Camille Claudel (1988) presaged the poetry, passion, and graceful yearning that mark many of his compositions.
To be sure, the soundtrack for The Lover is not all original. Included are period pieces that take you back to 1950s Indochina when both Western and Chinese music, such as the foxtrot and the traditional Chinese wedding march, were imposed on indigenous culture. There is also the inclusion of Chopin’s Waltz in B Minor, that most delicate of nocturnal cries. Thus, while I am giving a happy nod to the musical arrangement, it is the main theme that I am lavishing my praise for. You will hear it repeatedly—beginning with a short interlude, a few more bars, then in its entirety with a selection named after the film title, “The Lover.” What is most noteworthy is that you will hear it played by different families of instruments. It is only when strings, winds, percussions, and piano come together that the composition takes flight, allowing you to inhale its beauty and go deep into yourself.
While listening, you may be visited by this sense of innocence finding passion. The delicate pianissimo trills provide a glimpse of a blushing ingénue. Yet the power of the flourishing crescendo conveys an incremental, willful surrender. Although the piece is tinged with the melancholy of a farewell, the aura it creates is The Beginning: entrance into young adulthood, first loves, and the passé notion of the deflowering of a maid.
I recently found my copy and, once again, am amazed at how music acts like a recorder of emotional memories. As it did then, it happens to me all over again. Listening to it, I am immediately transported to the bedroom of my youth, legs dangling in the air, precocious profundities at the tip of my tongue. I recall the many hours spent talking on the phone with dear friends until the early hours of dawn. At one point, I would tell them that I had to play something for them. “Hold on,” I would say as I scrambled to play early morning deejay. Supporting a speaker against the receiver, I would close my eyes, welcoming the all-encompassing sensation of being touched for the very first time.
One of the inevitable statements that I reiterate with friends is, “I don’t know if I love life, but I love beautiful things.” It underlines my extreme appreciation of all things beautiful, whether it is a richly textured book or painting, sumptuous cinematic or culinary experience, a heartbreaking piece of music, breathtaking landscapes, exquisite gowns, or a stunning human face.
Beauty is everywhere and I think to be attuned to it is a privilege. I find that my seeking senses always approach beauty with quiet exhilaration. Moreover, it is amazing how you cannot get acclimatized to what strikes you as remarkably beautiful. I am always left in the best mood with a glowing smile radiating this palpable positive energy from deep within that makes me at once serene and worshipful of life.