Fashion Statement: Edith Russell

“I’m a prisoner in my own skirt. I can’t even walk, much less…jump across the ocean into a lifeboat.” —Lady Edith Russell, American fashion stylist, writer and buyer and Titanic survivor, recounting how she replied to shipmates when asked to climb into a lifeboat while wearing a white woolen hobble skirt on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. The hobble, a full skirt fettered at the Read More »

The Reign of the High Heel

She may have terrorized the people, but she looked damn good doing it. She may not have been a runway model candidate with her Rubenesque curves, short stature and sharp Italian features, but she was definitely a style icon, the
Babe Paley or Gloria Guinness of her time. A trailblazer of 16th century fashion, Catherine de Medici is credited with importing many of Italy’s luxuries and customs to France: perfume, ballet, eating with a fork, and of course, Italian fashions (though the French would never admit it). At her wedding, on this day in 1533, to the future King of France, Henry, Duke of Orleans, she outshone everybody, including Henry’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, as she introduced the world to women’s high heels.

Bejeweled and bodiced, Catherine’s wedding attire may have been more extravagant than Lady Di’s meringue gown. In her biography of Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda describes Catherine’s dress of golden brocade robes; a violet corsage, or bodice piece, encrusted with gems and edged in ermine; a ruff, an Italian fashion standard that she also introduced to the French on her wedding day; Read More »

She Paid the Ultimate Price for Fashion

There a comes a time in every stylista’s life when she realizes that the day’s outfit might not have been her best choice. The moment might come after something as inconsequential as stumbling in her Natacha Marros platforms, or as scary as catching her sandal under the gas pedal while driving 70 miles an hour down the highway. Perhaps a cigarette gets too close to the diaphanous fascinator she pinned into her hair-sprayed coif, or she realizes too late that the babydoll Westwood she chose to walk a mile to work in is ill-suited to autumn winds. We’ve all been there, in some form or another. But on this day in 1927, dancer Isadora Duncan paid the ultimate price for fashion, when her long, billowing, hand-painted Roman Chatov scarf became tangled in the rear axle of a convertible sports car, yanking her aloft from the passenger seat, breaking her neck and strangling her. Duncan’s last words: “Je vais à l’amour” (I am off to love). Let this be a lesson to us all: Wear scarves shorter than the length of a sports car, and beware of Casanovas in convertibles.

Actual fashion victims—those so dedicated to style that they die for it—are nothing new, having been around for centuries. One of history’s most famous slaves to Read More »

Madrid’s Becomes the First Fashion Week to Say No to Skinny

I’m in pretty good shape, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t stand a chance of beating Naomi Campbell in an arm-wrestling match—and I’d probably suffer a worse fate than bruised knuckles for even trying. On this day in 2006 though, even Naomi wouldn’t have been deemed fit and healthy enough to work during Madrid Fashion Week after organizers announced they were banning skinny models from the runways.

That year, the fashion world was grappling with the death of 22-year-old Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos, who died of heart failure after stepping off the runway at Montevideo’s fashion week on August 2, 2006. She was 5-foot-9, weighed 97 pounds, and had reportedly been living on lettuce and Diet Coke. Eating disorders were—and still are—rampant in the fashion industry; 20 to 40 percent of models are thought to have one. So the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers decided to do something about it. They established a requirement that all models who walked their runways have a Body Mass Index of at least 18, becoming the first fashion Read More »

Dior Wigs Out in 1967

So you’ve got your black satin Dior dress with its dramatic, pleated-cuff sleeves and wide belt saddled low around your hips. You’ve got the patent leather three-inch heels and the sheer black stockings. You are so freakin’ close to nailing the amazing nouveau genteel look that the House of Dior painted its fall runway with in 1967. Aww, too bad your hair won’t cooperate. Better stay home and work on your macrame instead, cherie.

But wait, there’s hope! On this day in 1967, it was announced that for its new line, Dior was going to help you complete its fall look by getting into the wig business. The idea was to have semiannual collections of false hairdos, easy to pull on as your stockings, that replicated the styles paired with the 1930s-inspired Dior fashions on the runway. The new faux coifs were presented to the press and buyers at a luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel in New York and featured seven different styles available in 40 colors.

I don’t know about you, but unless I start spending Read More »

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