Donyale Luna Makes History and Graces the Cover of British Vogue

On this day in 1966, a revolutionary issue of British Vogue hit newsstands, the first featuring a woman of color on the cover. Never mind that editors had the model cover most of her face (rumors later flew that she was specifically asked to hide her nose and mouth) or that the image didn’t run on American editions, but history had been made. The mystery woman was Donyale Luna, a 20-year-old beauty who was anywhere from five-foot-ten to six-foot-two, depending on the source and what the often contradictory model felt like saying she was. Whatever her height, Luna was having the best year of her career. Having only left Detroit for New York City about 16 months prior, her face was so Read More »

Diana Vreeland Adds Another Feather to her Cap: Editor of Vogue

She had joined the hallowed team just seven months earlier, and on this day in 1962, Diana Vreeland was promoted from associate editor to editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. The question was: Why did Vreeland leave Harper’s Bazaar, where she had been editor for 25 years after founding her now-iconic “Why Don’t You…?” column and established herself as one of the world’s most respected fashion editors? “Her appearance at a fashion show is the highest accolade a designer can hope for,” wrote the New York Times following her resignation from Bazaar on March 2. “When she jots down the number or name of a model during a showing, other editors are quick to do the same. At her rare appearances backstage at a fashion show, high-placed executives trail after her as docilely as school girls.”

The newspaper diplomatically implied that “drastic changes” occurring amid the magazine industry were the reason for Vreeland’s resignation. But money might have had something to do with it. For 22 years the editor was paid the same salary of $18,000, only receiving her first raise—of $1,000—in 1959. Read More »

The Day that Grunge Became Glam

It wasn’t supposed to be fashionable. Grunge, the cultural intersection of music and poverty and the Pacific Northwest, was so far removed from fashion that it wasn’t even anti-fashion. Or as James Truman, then-editor of Details magazine said in 1992, “It’s unfashion. …Grunge is about not making a statement, which is why it’s crazy for it to become a fashion statement.…Buying grunge from Seventh Avenue is ludicrous.”

So grunge wasn’t fashion, but it was undeniably a style, one that was spawned in and around Seattle before the logging and fishing industries were decimated, from the days when it was common to see flannel-clad lumberjacks and crabbers putting a dent in their fat paychecks at the dive bars where Bed Bath & Beyond and Abercrombie & Fitch stores now stand. The warm, layered and inexpensive style that suited the Northwest working-class was adopted by the flood of musicians drifting into town. Even the growing tribe of nerds that used funny words like “high tech” and “dot-com” dropped cash on comfy fleece, wool and Goretex at outdoor outfitters like Filson, Pendleton and REI. By the early 1990s, Seattle was quite probably the worst dressed town with the best music scene in the world. And then on this day in 1992 during New York Fashion Week, Perry Ellis designer Marc Jacobs introduced his now-notorious Spring ‘93 grunge-inspired collection, and turned 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 »

The Bra That Wasn’t There

They called him an “enemy of the church,” a menace and, my personal favorite, “the Bolivar of the Bosom,” a reference to the 19th-century general who helped lead Spain to independence. But Los Angeles–based designer Rudi Gernreich didn’t have a fixation on breasts, as many critics angrily contended. Nope, Gernreich was quite happily gay, for one thing, and his appreciation for nudity transcended gender and singular body parts. He insisted his interest was not in exploiting women’s bodies, but in freeing them from binding, structured garments. He aimed to create clothing that followed the tides of fashion, though most of his designs—the topless bathing suit, the thong, the see-through blouse and psychedelic color combinations—were more innovative than consequential. Which is how on this day in 1964, Gernreich came to launch the No-Bra Bra, a featherweight pairing of two bias-cut triangles of sheer nylon net molded with only a single small dart. The elasticized shoulder straps, wrote fashion doyenne
Eugenia Sheppard, “are as narrow as strings…and invisible as nothing.”

Light and invisible as it may have been, from Gernreich’s perspective, the bra wasn’t small enough. “I kept trying to make it briefer,” he said, “but there’s still too much going on.” Read More »

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