I recently finished Simon Doonan’s latest tome, The Asylum, Simon’s homage to the insane people that dictate what we wear. The Asylum manages to poke fun at the fashion industry through Simon’s behind-the-scenes stories and name dropping left and right while at the same time being poignant, as he reflects on fashion critics of yore, the effect of the AIDS epidemic on fashion, and how much the industry has changed. While the book does contain a lot of fashion references, Simon’s smart, David Sedaris-esque writing will capture a wide audience of reader. That, and he drops more than one Valley of the Dolls reference. #youhadmeathello
Fortunately I was able to actually say hello to Mr. Doonan himself, as he was having a book signing at Barney’s right here in Chicago.
I headed there after work, rushing to get there on time as I anticipated a line out the door. Much to my surprise, I waltzed right in, took a glass of champagne off of the silver tray, and waited in line behind three people to get my book signed. As I waited, I looked around the store, everyone was dressed in black, and I stood out like a sore thumb in my Pucci knockoff dress from Filene’s (RIP) I had specifically worn because I knew Simon’s fondness for florals and the 70’s. I guzzled the champagne that no one else was drinking and felt horribly out of place. As I contemplated sidling out the back door, it was my turn, and Simon was sitting at the table, smiling at me.
I introduced myself timidly and handed Simon my book. He looked up at me, smiled and said “that’s a groovy dress you’ve got on, Betsy”. I thanked him and took the book he signed, telling him how much I enjoyed his Slate column that day. His face lit up and he thanked me profusely, telling me how much that means to him. As I started walking away, he asked me what I did, continuing the conversation, and we chatted for a few minutes about this and that. Our conversation wasn’t particularly deep or memorable, but I will always remember the nice connection I felt with Simon, who is not only unapologetically true to himself, but is constantly imploring others to be the same. As I left Barney’s with my signed copy of the book and my head held high, I felt a little bad for Simon, the lone flower in the sea of all black.
Last week I finally had the chance to see the Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity exhibit that is making the final stop on it’s tour at the Art Institute. I have enjoyed Impressionism since studying it in high school, and one of my favorite museums I’ve ever been to is the Musee D’Orsay in Paris (the first stop of this exhibit’s tour). The exhibit features amazing works of art from Manet, Cassat, Desgas (just to name a few) along with actual garments from that time period that reflect the Parisian styles portrayed in the paintings. I was amazed out how similar they could find dresses suitable to be displayed next to the paintings until I realized about halfway through that the style back then was pretty homogenous, everyone essentially wore the same thing.
This dress is only one in the exhibit that is the actual one in the painting, the artist had it preserved. Check out that print-mixing!
Photo courtesy of The Art Institute
The exhibit also touched on how department stores were coming into existence, and how that affected fashion and how people dressed and shopped. They even had old catalogs–complete with fabric samples! Can you imagine having your J.Crew catalog coming with samples?
The exhibit runs through September 29th, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is in the Chicago area. It is extremely well curated, not to mention fascinating. You’ll also breathe a sigh of relief that we no longer have to wear corsets. Au Revoir!
This past Saturday I trekked down to Grant Park and entered my first Lollapalooza. Armed with a hipster headband and my sidekick Lisa (along with hand sanitizer) I prepared for a day of laughs, sun, a beer or two, and of course, great music. What I saw were wayyyyy too many crop tops* and three ladies who literally rocked my socks off.
Our first stop was Matt and Kim, they weren’t a must see for me, but Lisa wanted to go and I like their song Daylight, so I went along. I was expecting them to be a bit more chill, and was I wrong. As soon as they entered the stage, Kim started totally jamming out on the drums, occasionally standing on top of them. Her energy was contagious, and it really set the pace for the whole day. When Kim decided to walk across the crowd, I was smitten. This is what sets Lolla apart from other music festivals.
Photo courtesy of Elle.com
After Matt and Kim we re-fueled and headed over to Ellie Goulding. I’ve been a big fan of hers since Lights came out (just last summer) and regularly listen to her Pandora station. Walking over to her we were both struck by how beautiful her voice is in real life. After belting out her amazing cover of Your Song, she immediately kicked it into high gear with Anything Can Happen which caused everyone to go nuts. It was so great to be part of such a large group all in sync, and I’m definitely planning on seeing her in concert again soon.
Photo via my Instagram
After heading over to the other end of the park to watch The National, The Lumineers and a hot minute of Mumford and Sons, we headed to the performance I was the most excited for: The Postal Service. I had been a fan of that single album of theirs for ten years and could not wait to see them live. Boy, did they deliver. It was a great crowd too, most of the teens in braces were puking up their first beers ever over at Mumford and Sons.
Video courtesy of Billboard
It was also at Postal Service that I officially fell in love with Jenny Lewis. She is gorgeous, and I loved seeing a black sequined cocktail dress at Lolla. She is also insanely insanely talented, not only did she play practically every instrument on stage, she also at one point played her guitar with her teeth. Still not convinced? She ALSO starred in Troop Beverly Hills. Being in one of my favorite bands of all times and starring in one of my favorite movies of all time? You had me at hello! I’m still reeling from the fact that I was able to see them at what they claimed was their last live show ever.
Image courtesy of Flickr
It was so refreshing seeing these women rock on their own, playing their instruments, and garnering amazing crowds. Wish I had stuck with those piano lessons!
*quick note on Lolla fashion: I was a bit underwhelmed, everyone was wearing pretty much different versions of the same thing–crop tops and high waisted shorts. Yawn! Also, that look isn’t very one size fits all if you know what I mean. We are so lucky to live in such a global marketplace that allows everyone to have their own style, I always get disappointed when people don’t take that advantage to be unique.