35 posts tagged "Sarah Jessica Parker"
I can’t deny it, I love lingerie. I do. I have drawers full of the stuff—saucy bras, basques, corsets, skivvies, you name it. I usually buy my extravagant unmentionables on a whim—not for some romantic occasion—and I’ve never given it a second thought. So naturally, I was very excited when The Museum at FIT announced its current exhibition, Exposed: A History of Lingerie (on view until November 15). However, the news of the show broke at a time when a new wave of feminism seemed to be at the center of most of my conversations. Prada’s feminist Spring ’14 was in stores (“I want to inspire women to struggle,” Miuccia Prada told Tim Blanks after her powerful show), as was Rick Owens’ sporty Spring range, which was presented on muscular American step dancers. And, of course, there was Anja Rubik’s Free the Nipple campaign, as well as the fight against Instagram to allow women to proudly display their breasts without being banished from the social platform. So after pondering all of the above, I, a woman who considers herself to be a feminist, suddenly thought, Good God, I’m a terrible hypocrite for loving sexy, lacy lingerie.
To be sure, there’s something empowering about secretly donning ornate underwear and thigh-high stockings beneath my boxy Comme des Garçons frocks. But lingerie is often thought of as appealing to the male gaze. And you can’t tell me that crotch-less panties, sheer lace bras, and little satin onesies weren’t produced with the male viewer—or at least sex—in mind. Is the case of my lingerie the same? Do I love it only because I’ve been trained to love it by watching old Sophia Loren films and reading too many magazines? Can I be a feminist and embrace delicate underpinnings?
“Absolutely,” offered Colleen Hill, the curator behind the FIT show, which includes everything from 18th-century corsets to Hanky Pankys.”I think that nowadays, particularly since we have options—we’re not forced into wearing a corset or a push-up bra or anything that may have been somewhat more dictated in the past. You can absolutely love to wear basically any item of clothing for yourself and be a feminist.”
Let’s explore those corsets and things of the past. Something about a garment that suffocates a woman—often to the point of fainting—in order to enhance her bust and taper her waist seems pretty antifeminist to me. But perhaps that’s because the corset could be qualified as antifeminine. That is to say, it was originally designed for men. “Men had been wearing corsets for hundreds of years before women,” explained Carlis Pistol, the go-to couture corset-maker for everyone from Oprah to Sarah Jessica Parker. “It started in the medieval period, and when the 16th century came along, they began making corsets for women. I think women were looking for a new silhouette, and in wearing corsets, it showed that women could do what men could do.” Wait, so does that make the corset the ultimate feminist garment?
According to Hill, corsets were often worn for medical reasons (actually, one of the sexiest corsets in the show, a bright red number from 1889, above, was marketed as a health corset), particularly to correct one’s posture. Because of that, they were initially quite plain. “They were modest garments—a lot of them during the 19th century were just white or black or brown. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that you start to see colors and decorative elements,” said Hill. It was at that time, too, that “the idea of beautiful undergarments in relation to a happy marriage began to be talked about a lot more.”
There it is. The shift. The point when men took away our lovely lingerie. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that Chantal Thomass, the queen of contemporary French lingerie, brought back the concept of decorative underthings for her, not him (below, right). “It was actually really unfashionable at the time,” said Hill of Thomass’ more traditional styles. Indeed, Thomass’ aesthetic was a strict departure from the ’60s feminist movement’s “burn the bra” mentality. In fact, when Thomass introduced her line, the unstructured “no-bra bra”—a sheer brassiere designed by Rudi Gernreich, the same man responsible for the monokini—was all the rage (below, left). But in the end, Thomass prevailed (and her brand still exists today). “I think by the 1980s, this idea that you could embrace this really feminine style of lingerie as a way to please yourself as a woman was finally accepted,” Hill added.
“In the ’60s, women were like, ‘I’m tired. I’m not even going to wear a bra. I don’t want to feel like I have to be a slave—like I’m bound,” said Jennifer Zuccarini, a Victoria’s Secret alum who cofounded Kiki de Montparnasse before launching her current lingerie label, Fleur du Mal. “Then you get to the ’80s, when fashion was all about lingerie. It was like [women] really took it back. We made it our own, and that was very empowering.”
But what about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, where supermodels strut down a runway wearing next to nothing? Where does that fit into lingerie’s girl-power narrative? “That’s a tough one,” Zuccarini told me. “It is male-oriented. And you know, there’s a conversation about women wanting to see real women…I don’t necessarily buy into that. I want to see an idealized version of something. That’s why I like fashion. And there’s something about those supermodels and the image Victoria’s Secret puts out there that women do like. They continue to shop there—it’s the most successful lingerie brand ever created. So the show definitely appeals to men, but VS is a company led by women, and when I was there, no one ever said, ‘Are guys going to like this?’ It wasn’t even part of the conversation.”
Even so, one has to consider that the popularity of the Vicki Secret show among male viewers is just another example of women either consciously or subconsciously wearing lingerie for men. “Women love lingerie because it embraces their bodies and makes them feel good about themselves,” said Pistol. “It’s a celebration of your own body. You feel strong with it on. It’s not that women wear it for men—it’s about making yourself feel good.” But the corset-maker also raised an interesting point about ladies who do buy lingerie to impress a gentleman. “The happiness of the woman is still believable if she’s doing it for a man. It makes the woman happy, but other people are able to appreciate it as well.” Hill had some similar theories as to women’s adoration of luxe underwear. “I think lingerie tends to be some of the most beautiful clothing. When we get up in the morning, we are presenting ourselves to the world. But knowing that you’re wearing something special underneath, even if it’s not going to be seen by anyone, that’s beautiful and special. It sets the tone for the day.” For her part, Zuccarini (whose designers are pictured below) wears a little something special under her work-ready clothes on a daily basis. “I mean, I’m not wearing a garter belt every day, but everything I have is pretty nice,” she laughed. “There’s something emotional about lingerie—it inspires an emotional response and there’s almost an impulsive need to buy it. I think most real lingerie enthusiasts buy it for themselves. They get something from wearing it. And why wouldn’t you want to wear something beautiful under your clothing?” she reasoned.
You know, despite all the expert opinions, I was, until the tail end of this journey, on the fence as to whether one could be a feminist and a lingerie lover. I wasn’t convinced that I adored wearing lingerie for any other reason than, since youth, movies, magazines, and TV ads brainwashed me to believe that lingerie was an instant and necessary sexuality enhancer. So I asked my mother, a deeply chic, incredibly modest woman who happens to be my personal style icon, what she thought. She’s been in the hospital for the last few weeks, and her only response was, “Oh, Kate. That reminds me. Can you go and pick me up some nice things to wear under my gown?” So I did (nothing too risqué—she’s my mother, after all). When I returned from my shopping excursion (during which I bought something for myself, too, obviously), she smiled the biggest smile. I had my answer. Whether or not it’s made with males in mind, today’s women own their lingerie. It’s ours. We can do with it and wear it as we please. And now, I love lingerie a little bit more.
I sincerely hope the rumors that broke today about Harvey Weinstein’s plans to revive the house of Charles James are just rumors. According to Page Six, the movie mogul is in talks with James’ children to buy and “breathe new life into the Charles James name.” If the publication’s unnamed sources are to be believed, Weinstein aims to create an “exclusive couture house,” and will bring his wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, on as a “creative consultant.” At press time, Weinstein could not be reached for comment.
No one is more thrilled than I that last night’s Met Gala and the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibition have helped the public to discover the late great couturier, and given him the recognition he so deserves. And my reservations have nothing to do with Chapman’s skill as a designer—everyone she dressed for the Met bash looked lovely. Rather, my concern is that this will not celebrate, but muddy James’ legacy. James was of a certain era, and if some of the throwback styles we saw on the red carpet yesterday evening are any indication, his aesthetic does not easily translate to modern day. His gowns were works of sculpture, and I fear that if someone were to re-create them—or create wares “inspired” by them—the results will be cartoonish (or worse, mediocre) rather than respectful.
Look at Halston, which was also revived by Weinstein. (He invested in the brand along with Sarah Jessica Parker, but sold his share back in 2011.) Once the go-to label for the crème de la crème of New York’s seventies party scene, Halston’s new age incarnation is but a mid-market mockery of its former glory. Please, Mr. Weinstein, don’t let the same thing happen to James. Allow his brilliant, singular designs to be appreciated for the works of art that they truly are, and don’t attempt to transform his revolutionary mid-century vision into a 21st-century cash cow.
“Now, I know that Anna hates being the center of attention, so this all is probably killing her—but we love it,” said Michelle Obama as she took the stage at the ribbon cutting of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Anna Wintour Costume Center this morning. The first lady, sporting a green floral Naeem Khan, was speaking to a crowd of—as she put it so accurately—legends, including the likes of Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, Olivier Theyskens, Alexander Wang, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, and many more. “The truth is, I’m here today because of Anna. I’m here because I have such respect and admiration for this woman whom I am proud to call my friend,” said Obama. Adding, “thanks to Anna and so many other dedicated individuals, the Met will be opening up the world of fashion like never before.”
The new world at the Met was brought to life by the soon-to-open Costume Center and its inaugural exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion—a preview of which was given to guests after the first lady’s opening remarks. Wandering through the near empty (and Met Gala prepping) wings, the attendees made their way to the exhibition space. (Not without pausing to view the towering Charles James dress constructed entirely of roses in the lobby —“I have Michael Kors in my picture! Photo-bombing,” exclaimed Sarah Jessica Parker as she snapped away—and getting a bit lost along the way. “This is a sitcom. And a divine one at that,” narrated Kors.)
The exhibition, in contrast to those of recent seasons’ past, is decidedly pared down. The emphasis is clear: The viewer is here is to see the dresses—James’ elaborately constructed ivory silk satin ball gowns, famous (or perhaps infamous?) little wrap “Taxi” dresses, and the voluminous “Tree” dress created for socialite Marietta Tree being just a few. Rotating X-rays, developed by architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, allow the viewer to thoroughly examine the inner workings of many of James’ painstakingly created works. Original sketches and (some rather punchy) writings add further reference. “James was someone who engineered the hidden physics of a dress even though he is remembered for the loud surfaces of his designs,” explained head curator Harold Koda. “He is an artist who just happened to work in fashion. We believe that the public will leave this exhibition with an understanding of his great innovations.”
This exhibition and space will see “hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of them students,” said Obama. “That’s really who I think about. Fashion isn’t an exclusive club for the few who can attend a runway show or shop at certain stores. This center is for anyone who is curious about fashion and how it impacts our culture and our history.”
The Anna Wintour Costume Center and Charles James: Beyond Fashion will open May 8.