Rolling Stone’s Daughter Marries in Pre-Raphaelite Inspired Wedding Gown

Leah Wood, daughter of Rolling Stones rocker Ronnie Wood, was married to TV Producer Jack McDonald last month at Southwark Cathedral. Her Pre-Raphaelite inspired gown was the toast of the affair. It featured a pleated bodice, intricate embroidery, draping sleeves and a juliet cap (I haven’t seen one of those in a while!). Her bouquet also had an old fasioned feel, and was made of pale pink roses, irises and other more traditional flowers.

Afterwards the wedding party headed to the reception (which was held at Ronnie Wood’s mansion in Surrey), which was based around the theme Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What a lovely idea!

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre

I’m forever moaning about the demise of luxury–true luxury–which to me means hand crafted products made by people who are passionate about their art. And so, when I saw Dana Thomas being interviewed on Canada’s Fashion Television about her new book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre, I knew I had to read it! I bought it for the trip home from Paris and finished it in one sitting.

In the book, Thomas takes her readers on a tour behind the scenes of the world’s best-known luxury brands. In the process, she reveals that many of the brands we associate with luxury and quality are actually anything but. Thomas details how luxury manufacturers cut corners to fatten up their bottom line through techniques like using cheap thread (Prada), shortening the sleeves on their suits, manufacturing goods in third world countries and then tearing out the labels and replacing them with ones that read “made in Italy” (Valentino) and making the uppers of their shoes in one country and the bottoms in Italy so that their products can legally read “made in Italy”(Prada again).

While Deluxe is critical of cost-cutting measures like having goods made in China, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) mastermind Jean Arnault comes across as the villain of the book for his aggressive business tactics (he routinely engages in hostile takeovers of family-owned businesses) and his way of re-invisioning luxury as focused on branding, rather than quality.

Thomas is particularly harsh on Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Georgio Armani , although very few luxury brands escape her critique. The one brand that seems to escape relatively unscathed is Hermes: their products may be overpriced, but they have held fast to their commitment to creating quality handcrafted objets d’art.

Dana Thomas also explores the world of fake luxury goods. In a world where brands are more prized than true quality, fakes are inevitable. People want a piece of the image they feel wearing a certain brand creates. Unfortunately, there is a real price for buying fakes–money from the sale of counterfeit goods supports organized crime and terrorist organizations like FARC in Colombia. Moreover, conditions in the factories where these goods are produced are MUCH, MUCH worse than in legal factories–since manufacturers are already breaking the law, there isn’t much incentive for them to provide their workers with clean, safe working conditions. There was one truly horrific account of a counterfeit luxury manufacturer in Thailand who had broken the legs of his young workers when they said they wanted to go outside to play.

Deluxe is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered whether $700 shoes are really worth it or not (they aren’t–and they probably aren’t even really made in Italy). Her book proves that very few so-called “luxury products” deserve their exorbitant price tags. So, next time you are wishing you could afford couture clothes, pick up this book–you’ll be glad you did.

cover image courtesy

Bois de Rose Children’s Clothing, Paris

I still remember my favourite dress growing up. It was navy blue and smocked with pale blue tulips. I just adored it. I think my sister had a matching one in pale green.

Smocking is still a popular design feature in children’s clothing, but most of it is pretty poor quality. Hand smocking is labour intensive, which makes it very expensive. But if you are looking for luxurious smocked outfits, look no further than Bois de Rose. Situated in the heart of Paris, Bois de Rose specializes in delicious smocked dresses (their website is in both French and English). I ran into this store two years ago while I was walking through the Latin Quarter with my mom. They were closed, but we peered through the window in astonishment. I had never seen such beautiful children’s clothing (they have great things for both boys and girls and in an amazing variety of fabrics). They are truly little works of art. They are the Hermes of children’s clothes! For the truly indulgent, Bois de Rose will even create matching dresses for your daughter and her doll! If you are ever in Paris, this shop is a must-see! I’m expecting the arrival of a neice in June, so this is one place I have to shop while I’m in Paris.

If you are drawn to the design appeal of smocking but want to avoid the hefty price tag, there is a smocking association, the Smocking Art Guild of America, and numerous websites that cater to smockers. If you want to learn to smock on your own, A-Z of Smocking is a comprehensive resource with easy to follow instructions and clear illustrations for all of the stitches(the company that publishes this book also publishes a smocking magazine in Australia–who knew smocking was popular enough to have its own magazine?).

In other news, only two more days until I leave for Paris! I’m so excited! But I’m also a little freaked out–I need to have my thesis all finished before I go. Right now I’m in the process of doing my last bits of editing and writing my abstract. I will be so glad to be done with this!

Spring Fashions Inspired by Art History

This spring’s fashions are inspired by the kind of “romantic freshness” that was prominently displayed in last year’s period drama, Atonement (starring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy).

The Spring runways almost always display the year’s most feminine fashions, but this year they seem to have stepped it up a notch, with designs that borrow heavilly from the heady romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites. And I’m not the only one who thinks so!

Horacio Silva just wrote a lovely piece for New York Times TMagazine on Jane Morris’ contribution to this season’s fashions, called The Innocence Project. Be sure and check it out! His discussion of the Pre-Raphaelite’s influence on fashion is very interesting, although he does make a factual error (Jane Morris was not a fan of floral prints! Although she enjoyed using them for decorating, she preferred solids, which is amply evident in all of the photographs ever taken of her). The slide show of spring fashions accompanying the article really demonstrates the “turn to the romantic” that designers seem to be taking. Even Roberto Cavalli, who is best known for his plunging necklines and penchant for animal prints has shown a surprising romantic streak this season. This beautiful white lace gown is typical of the soft silhouette and feminine fabrics that Cavalli’s utilizing this spring. Note also the Edwardian hairstyles! It looks like this will be a great season to find fearlessly feminine pieces in a variety of fabrics (especially soft floral prints).

Jane Morris and Artistic Dress

Thomas Carlyle once wrote that “society is founded on clothes” and it seems that most social reformers throughout history have agreed. From the long hair sported by hippies in the swinging 60s to the indie fashions of today, clothing has always played a major role in protest. Not surprisingly, clothing also played a leading role in the Pre-Raphaelites vision for a better society. The fashion trend known as “artistic dress” which was popularized by the Pre-Raphaelite models was one of the movement’s main legacies.

The movement towards artistic dress can be found in the Pre-Raphaelite’s paintings and literature. In Morris’ Utopian novel News from Nowhere, the working people are freed from the exploitation of greedy capitalists. One of the first things they do with their freedom is to create beautiful things, including clothing. Their dress is characterised by bright colours, embroidery and handcrafted buckles. The women of Nowhere are “clothed like women, not upholstered like arm-chairs”(53). Because their clothing is not as restrictive, the are able to participated in activities like rowing boats and making hay.

As with their notions about art and architecture, the Pre-Raphaelties weren’t content to let their ideas about clothing remain in the art scene. Artistic dress soon became wildly popular in the real world as actresses and other women connected to the art world began imitating the styles sported by Jane Morris and the other Pre-Raphaelite models, such as Lizzie Siddal.

Artistic dress was a reform movement, and was sometimes referred to as “Dress Reform” or the “Rational Dress Movement.” Dress reformers were particularly concerned with the restrictiveness of Victorian-era undergarments (especially the corset). As you can see from this painting of Jane Morris, her dresses did not have the extreme “wasp” or “S” shape that was all the rage at the time, and instead featured a more natural silhouette.

As the popularity of artistic dress grew, companies began offering styles that catered to the new trend. Arthur Lasenby Liberty’s department store soon became a mecca for followers of the fashion of aesthetic or artistic dress. Liberty specialized in fabrics that appealed to fans of Pre-Raphaelite style and even sold ready-made “artistic” fashions.