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free speech: hadley freeman ponders wedding attire etiquette

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Katemoss

Many questions come to mind after seeing the photos from Leah Wood’s wedding to Jack Macdonald last weekend. Number one: Was Keith Richards’ Edward Scissorhands-meets-Björn Borg look wise? The answer probably depends on whether you think a pensioner in a headband looks rebellious or ridiculous. But the question that’s even more to the point is surely: Why on earth would anyone invite Kate Moss to their wedding anymore? If there’s any day on which you’d want to be the center of attention, that’s it. So why invite the woman who, deliberately or otherwise, always grabs everyone’s attention? Moss turned up to the Wood-Macdonald nuptials looking gorgeous in a full-length Chanel dress that was such a light shade of gray that it looked dangerously close to bridal and sporting the most photogenic of accessories: a rock star boyfriend in a rather fabulously anachronistic suit, and a cherubic daughter (in fur, no less). As an outfit, it beat even the formerly unbeatable white shorts suit with fedora she wore to Katy England and Bobby Gillespie’s wedding in 2006. And the fact that Moss turned up late, arriving after the bride, surely did not help Leah’s mood.

But Moss’ outfit raises the interesting conundrum of what constitutes suitable wedding-guest attire these days. At Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s wedding last month, guests were instructed to wear white, thereby overturning everything your mother told you about wedding etiquette and suggesting that Moss may not have made such an attention-seizing faux pas after all. Or perhaps not—by getting all of her guests to dress in the same color, Beyoncé not very subtly ensured that absolutely none of them would stand out. At Jenna Bush’s wedding earlier this summer, guests stuck, predictably but wisely, to the more traditional, anonymous fare (who would want to annoy the Bush clan in Texas?). But the real question is what the dress code will be at the two most anticipated if as yet unconfirmed weddings this summer: Brangelina’s and, yes, Kate Moss’, rumored to be held on the Isle of Wight in early September, supposedly at a music festival. A pregnant bombshell and the world’s leading trendsetter are not women to be trifled with. In both of those cases, I’d wager the one rule is really the only one that still stands: Don’t take attention from the bride. Or else.

Photo: Beretta/Sims/Karius /Rex USA

free speech: hadley freeman on the michelle obama-paris hilton connection

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Obama

Though there are another seven months to go before she potentially crosses the White House threshold, much has already been made of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe. She surprised the fashion crowd with the Isabel Toledo tunic she wore to a New York fundraiser this week, and in an earlier piece titled “She Dresses to Win,” the New York Times quoted André Leon Talley on her “black Camelot moment.” But a key point has been missed, I feel. The excitement has stemmed from one particular dress: the purple shift she wore in Minnesota two weeks ago. Now, “The Color Purple” may have been a fine movie and a finer book, but the shade itself, well, that hasn’t had such a good time of it. Until now, that is.

The most elegant evening gown in YSL’s current collection is a one-shouldered purple dress (and, FYI, Banana Republic has done its own pretty impressive version). In “Sex and the City: The Movie,” Carrie wears a purple shift that’s very similar to the one worn by Michelle and even more similar to one worn by SJP on the TV show, back when it was still good. (In fact, it was worn in one of “SATC” ‘s finest episodes, in which the women mock a baby shower in the suburbs and celebrate their independence, as opposed to doing the precise opposite, as they do in the film. But I digress.)

This new purple—more of a violet/purple mix than full-on grape-ish hue—is the color of the season. But what does the resurgence of this shade, one so associated with pomp and circumstance, suggest? Well, some have claimed that it reflects the Obamas’ ruling aspirations (very royal, all that purple), but I think that may be stretching it. Or is it an Alice Walker reference, suggesting, well, what? The emancipation of a black woman? That Michelle likes to write letters? The support of Oprah? Again, the word “stretching” comes to mind. One could make an argument for the influence of Alber Elbaz, whose work at Lanvin has proven that women are not averse to wearing bright clothes. I suspect a different influence, however: Paris Hilton. Hilton and the rest of her posse have pretty much requisitioned all strong, paparazzi-pleasing feminine colors: pink, of course, but also attention-grabbing red, trashy and flashy yellow, even Kermit the Frog green. Thus, a new hue had to be found. Hence the rise of grown-up, quasi-regal purple. So there we go: Michelle—classic, fashionable, and a reader of In Touch magazine. That couple sooooo have my vote.

Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

free speech: hadley freeman on designers’ rampant, er, creativity

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Maybe the accusations finally got to them. After all, there are only so many times a designer can hear criticisms of the “recycling,” “overly familiar,” and even occasionally “copying” ilk before he begins to suspect that he might not get away with that “homage” to the sixties again this season. Perhaps that explains the latest trend to come down the fashion pipeline: Reinventing the Wheel. Sleeveless jackets, clutch bags as big as flat-screen TV sets, strange ballet flats that curve like U’s instead of conforming to the usual shoe shape and lying flat—not since the glory days of three-legged trousers, circa London fashion week 1999, have designers demonstrated such determination to coin not just new trends, but whole new kinds of clothes. And while in some cases the squeak of a barrel scrape can definitely be heard, that YSL elongated jacket “sans manches” looks pretty splendid and is ever so convenient for our climatically changed post-global warming world. As proof of its success, forget about searching for pictures of Kate Moss wearing it—Topshop has already knocked out a version. You can’t get more proof of its acceptance into the style pantheon than that, surely.

Photo: Marcio Madeira

free speech: hadley freeman on the beauty of ugly shoes

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Glad2

Some trends slip down easily with the masses: tunic dresses, oversize sunglasses, giant It bags. And then there are trends that only appeal to those who wear fashion goggles, those amazing glasses that make the implausible look desirable—magically morphing, say, dresses with stiffened, puffed shoulders from an alien’s version of eighties shoulder pads into a gorgeous mix of modernism and retro referencing. Ugly shoes fall squarely into this latter category. Shoes that look like Transformers, shoes with teapots for heels, shoes with no apparent heels, and the ugliest (and currently most fashionable) of them all: gladiator sandals—fabulously casual to the fashion-goggle wearer, orthopedic and/or geriatric to everyone else.

Although there is something perverse in spending $500 (OK, closer to $1,000) on shoes that are, well, ugly, there’s a delightfully honest quality about the trend. A conventionally attractive choice—say, quasi-invisible strappy stilettos—might make the wearer look sexier in an “Oh, yes, I naturally glide through the air like Tinker Bell” sort of way, but if I spend half the month’s rent on a pair of shoes, I want people to notice them. OK, maybe this “noticing” comes in the form of them asking, “Why are you wearing my Great-Aunt Gerta’s sandals with your jeans?,” but at least attention has been paid.

Photo: Davide Gallizio

going whole (hedge) hog

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Though the Brits have long had an affection for the cute, quill-covered animals, most Americans’ exposure to hedgehogs is limited to Sega’s early nineties hero, Sonic. Lately, though, designers seem to be finding inspiration in the spiky creatures, because they’re popping up in some unexpected places. A few that have turned up on our radar:

Le Sportsac is introducing a hedgehog print for Fall that features two rather friendly specimens falling in love on the nylon (top left, available in August, www.lesportsac.com).

Clothier Madewell gets to the point with a well fitting tee emblazoned with a graphic line drawing of an Atelerix albiventris—and the shirt is ultrasoft, even if its inspiration isn’t (bottom right, about $30, in stores this fall, more information at www.madewell1937.com).

And perhaps most fabulously, the dangerous-looking animal gets the luxe treatment from Bulgari, cast as a statement ring in rose gold, complete with ruby eyes and a black diamond nose (top right; more information at www.bulgari.com).

Want to know more about this adorable muse? Check out Hedgehog World for photos and information on the domesticatedAfrican pygmy variety, kept as pets here in the U.S. of A. Disclaimer: After your faithful correspondent perused the photo galleries, it was only a matter of time before I had to have my own (Elvis, bottom left, about $225; similar models available at www.hamorhollow.com).

Photos: Bag, shirt, Elvis: Nicola Kast. Ring, courtesy of Bulgari.