Tag Archives: fashion icons

A Kalen Review: Schiaparelli and Prada

6 Jun

One of the destinations on our list this summer is NYC (well, really, when isn’t it?) to see the new exhibit at the Costume Institute at the MET. Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations opened May 10 with the annual Met Ball Gala. Considered to the be the ultimate Red Carpet event for the fashion industry, the Met Ball Gala brings out the who’s who of the fashion and entertainment world. We’ll talk more about the Gala in a later post, but for the moment I want to dive in a little deeper to the seemingly odd pairing of Schiaparelli and Prada.

Elsa Schiaparelli began her career in Paris in 1928 with a single item; a black sweater with a trompe d’oeil bow.

She opened her first workroom specializing in sport attire to be worn for golf, tennis, etc. In 1930, she added an atelier to design couture and evening wear and began the most successful decade of her career. Her clothing was very much influenced by the art of her day; Cubism in the early 30s with clean, architectural lines, and Surrealism in the later 30s with whimsical buttons, creative fabrics and abstract accessories (insect necklace, anyone?).

During the war, her atelier closed and the house reopened in 1945. Schiaparelli’s post war designs were still artistically influenced; they lacked the humor and novelty of her pre-war collections.

Miuccia Prada took over the family leather business in 1978. Becoming famous for nylon bags and backpacks in the 1980s, Prada launched their ready –to-wear collection in 1989.

While other designers in the late 80’s were designing lines that were short, sexy and flirty; Prada came on the scene showing clean lines, luxurious fabrics and basic colors and the fashion world took notice.

By the 1990’s, Prada was a leading force in the fashion world producing simple, classic styles in luxurious fabrics and neutral colors. In 1995, Miuccia Prada won the Designer of the Year award by the Council for Fashion Designers of America.

Today, Miuccia Prada is known as one of fashion’s most intellectual talents. She plays with fabrics and colors; pairing the opulent with the every day, and creating color schemes only she could dream up. Yet luxury and high quality continue to be the core of the brand.

So, two driven female designers breaking the mold and innovating fashion, one in the 1930’s and one in the 1990’s. Elsa and Miuccia were bound together by their love of opulent fabrics, clean lines and impeccable detailing. Creatively, their influences were vastly different. Elsa looked to the art of her time and was not afraid to take risks in quirkiness. Miuccia was driven by technology and manipulation of fabrics and sought to innovate while always maintaining her high standards. If you look at the images from the Met Museum website, it is uncanny how similar their styles were. There is no evidence that Miuccia was influenced by Schiaparelli, but undoubtedly, she was familiar with her. It is a conversation that I for one, would love to be a fly on the wall to witness. If you find yourself in NYC this summer, make a point to drag whoever it is that you are with to this exhibit. There are very few female designers past or present as influential in the fashion world as Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. If we are lucky enough to make it there ourselves, we’ll be sure to give a full report!

A Tribute to Mrs. O

13 Feb

Ending my month long run of vintage fashion favs, I could no longer hold in the urge to dish about the one and only, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Before she was Jackie O, or even Jackie K, she was Jackie Bouvier of Southampton, New York. After a world class education at Vasser and studying abroad in France, she returned to Washington D.C., to graduate from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature. Following graduation she landed the job of “Inquiring Photographer” for the Washington Times-Herald. Being a New York born gal, she had a witty and fun personality that made it easy for her to do the job and pose those inquisitive questions that a pretty lady with a smile can only get away with asking. While her family ran in the same social circle as the Kennedys, it was this position that got her face to face with the future President of the United States. In one of her biographies, of which I own several, it was this interview where she and Jack had their first intimate encounter. Afterwards she told a friend that while she found him quite charming, she couldn’t see herself with a man like him. The representative, about to be senator, was undoubtedly being groomed to become President, and she didn’t know if she wanted to be that kind of wife. A wife that would stand behind a powerful man in his shadows always putting his needs above hers. Such a modern thought for a woman of her time. She did however decide to begin dating him, and their history began.

And so did the fashion legend that is Jackie. She was now the wife of the most notable man in the world. She had to dress the part. And always dressing the part of what most consider “a true lady”, she quickly set the precedent for how other women dressed, spoke, and carried themselves. Although pregnant during the voting year, she still made an effort to help him on his trail by answering letters, taping commercials for television, giving interviews, and writing a weekly column entitled, appropriately, “Campaign Wife”. People wanted to not only see him, they wanted to see and know her as well. It could be said that she was the extra push he needed to win him the election. I’d like to think so at least. Her style, posed and lady-like, but never stiff. She was not just likeable, she was loveable. You didn’t want to be her, but you wanted to be just like her. And many women tried their hardest.

With her Chanel suits and her pearls, her style couldn’t be mistaken. Some of her favorite designers included Giorgio Armani, Carolina Herrera, Lacoste, Pucci, Lilly Pulitzer, Valentino, of course, Chanel, and Kennedy family friend, Oleg Cassini,. While she frequented Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Ave, she also loved The Gap in her later years, and made wearing a T-Shirt and a pair of designer pants cool before anyone else did! (thank you savvy-women-magazine.com for that little tid-bit 😉

And while some think it was Nicole Richie or the Olsen twins who made the oversized sunglasses a fad, just take a look at some old
Jackie pics from the 60’s. Sorry Nic and Ash, you weren’t even born yet! Wearing pearls should’ve been invented by Jackie herself, because she wore them best. Some compare the current first lady’s style to that of Jackie O’s. You know a woman has become a style setter when simply using her name conjures up a specific look.

The list of why I love Jackie could go on forever. For me she not only represented the way a lady should look, but also taught us the way a lady should act. Always carrying herself with style and grace, even through the downfall of Camelot, and becoming a widow twice to two very powerful men. It’s said that after the assassination of her iconic husband John F. Kennedy, she refused to change out of her pink Chanel, blood-stained suit, because she wanted “…the world to see what they’ve done to Jack.” She held her husband’s blood soaked head in her lap as the motorcade sped away, and she stood beside his VP as he was sworn in on Air Force one. She was a woman to be reckoned with. Her courage and strength gives me chills to this day.

A woman of such stature and integrity could’ve done so many things, none of which would be of importance after she was gone. She chose the less traveled path, and devoted her life to charity and humanitarian work. LIFE magazine called the “America’s unofficial roving ambassador” for her many visits to war-torn countries and impoverished countries. But her work was completely devoted to overseas. She worked diligently to preserve history around the US, including Grand Central Terminal, Lafayette Square in D.C., and helped preserve many of the historic homes we still enjoy today in New York City.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in her sleep on May 19, 1994, just after ten at night. She had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January, and lost her battle after the cancer had spread. She is buried in Arlington Cemetery alongside Jack, their son Patrick, and their stillborn daughter Arabella, beside an eternal flame. Her soul, her style, and essence are remembered in every vintage Chanel, every strand of pearls, and every low-heel pump we find today. Jackie O lives on in every woman who savors integrity over notoriety. Thank you for teaching us what it means to live classy.

An amazing recount of her funeral and that unforgettable day can be read in full at: