Bilkish Vahed

Notes on Style & Daily Rebellion

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The Riding Boot

EQUESTRIAN STYLE – SLEEK & TALL

Sleek, shiny, soft leather that hugs the length of the leg imbuing the wearer with  a beautifully proportioned longer silhouette. Classic with edge.

Vintage Riding Boot

Vintage Equestrian Style – photographer unknown

Film - Belle du Seigneur - Ariane and Solal in stylish equestrian clothing

Film ‘Belle du Seigneur’

The Leather Jacket

EVOKING THE UNFETTERED OPEN ROAD

There’s nothing quite like soft buttery leather, cut to beautiful proportion, sleekly hugging the body. Nothing like the feeling of soigné power drenching the self. Nothing like the feeling of adventure, open roads, pulsing possibilities.

All of this swimming in an exquisitely crafted leather jacket!

The endless open road

Bradley Cooper wearing a leather jacket in watch ad for IWC Schaffhausen.
Bradley Cooper, for IWC Schaffhausen watches, “The Road Less Traveled”
Andreea Deaconu wearing Belstaff leather jacket.
Andreea Deaconu, for Belstaff, photographed by Peter Lindbergh

Ugly, Beautiful & all that

DIANA VREELAND – LEGENDARY EDITOR

Diana Vreeland2

Diana Vreeland is compelling to watch on film – her independent attitude, spiritedness, uniqueness, her clipped almost incantory style of speaking, her body language – are brought fully to life in the documentary The Eye Has to Travel.

With a frankness that is brutal she tells how her mother used to say, “It’s too bad that you have such a beautiful sister and you are so extremely ugly.”

“I was always her ugly little monster,” she continues coolly.

“And how did that make you feel?” the interviewer, George Plimpton, asks.

“Now George,” she says, ” I don’t think we want to go there. Let’s just say, mum was a wild woman, you know, she used to hunt rhinos.”

One evening at a party in 1924 Diana fell in love with an elegant, quiet man.

“I never felt comfortable about my looks until I met Reed Vreeland. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. Very quiet. Very elegant. I loved all that. I believe in love at first sight because that’s what it was. Reed made me feel beautiful, no matter what my mother made me think.” – DV

Diana & Reed Vreeland

Diana & Reed Vreeland

Diana VreelandDiana Vreeland getting into a taxi

Despite her alleged lack of beauty, she was a wild success in a world defined by bodies and faces: fashion. Fashion Editor at Harpers Bazaar for twenty six years (1936-1962), then Editor of Vogue for eight. Writing about Vreeland in Vanity Fair Amy Fine Colins  explains that Vreeland was unerringly prescient about fashion trends, “a kind of seeress, a philosopher whose subject happened to be style.”

“Vogue always stood for people’s lives. I mean a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living in the dress.” – DV

“You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.” – DV

“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.” –DV

Svelte in a Dress

DIANE VON FÜRSTENBERG & THE WRAP DRESS

The wrap dress works for all body shapes, slinkily swathing in soft luscious fabric, then dramatically nipping in at the waist, around the breasts – loosely or more closely shaping and contouring the body in a svelte silhouette.

Diane von Furstenberg did not foresee the success of her wrap dress:

“I never dreamt that the simple dress I launched in 1974, a dress that was easy, sexy, elegant, and affordable all at the same time, would catapult me into fashion history.”
— Diane von Furstenberg, The Woman I Wanted To Be

Diane von Furstenberg wearing her wrap dress

Diane von Furstenberg wearing her wrap dress

The story of the dress begins in 1968, when twenty-two year old Diane went to Italy to shadow tycoon Angelo Ferretti. At his factory, she observed “knitted silk and high-quality mercerized cotton jersey fabric” being manufactured, learnt about which designs make good prints, and how to create a repeat pattern – in short, “everything about jersey” was grasped from Ferretti.

Whilst on a trip to New York, Diane noticed a gap – on the one end “high-fashion hippie clothes,” on the other “stale, double-knit dresses.” Returning to Feretti, excited and full of new thoughts, “an idea began to percolate” in her mind. She would make some dresses with the colourful, printed jersey fabric – dresses both sexy and easy to wear that might fill this gap.

At a fashion show in 1974 the wrap dress made its debut. There were snags along the way but Diane pushed ahead step by step, made lucky associations with talented associates and sales of the dresses rose dramatically establishing the wrap as the “it” dress and Diane as celebrity.

“Back then, my main goal was to be free and independent. I was constantly on the go. I loved being that woman high on her heels walking in and out of places like a tornado, taking planes as if they were buses, feeling pragmatic, engaged, and sexy. I loved the idea of being a young tycooness… I loved having a man’s life in a woman’s body.”
— Diane von Furstenberg, The Woman I Wanted To Be

DVF Fall 2013 campaign - Model Daria Werbowy styled by Carine Roitfeld and photographed by Sebastian Faena.

The Fall 2013 campaign “was evocative and gritty. Night in New York. A beautiful woman walking alone, confident, knowing where she is going, glancing behind her.“

“As a designer, Diane has always been more interested in the feelings inspired by clothes than in the technicalities of cut and fit. She knows that the true subject of fashion is romance—women in alluring outfits and the emotions they evoke. Sex was a big part of Diane’s life, and the force of her style came from the heat of sex flowing through it.”

Gioia Diliberto,   Diane von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped.

The story line then becomes curvy. A nose dive in the dress business in 1978 when the market was said to be saturated and Women’s Wear Daily pronounced the “end of a trend.” The dresses disappeared from production till the nineties when a surge of nostalgia for fashion of the seventies was felt. Approaching fifty, Diane was again doing well in business but felt a strong desire to revitalise her “signature brand.” On 9 September 1997 the jersey dresses were launched at Saks and took their place in the wardrobes of women and in the fashion cultural landscape.

A Fearless Aviatrix

PIONEER – AMELIA EARHART

After midnight, the moon set, and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.”

– Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

The Appeal of Denim

CONFIDENCE & EASE – ALL ROLLED UP IN BLUE

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity — all I hope for in my clothes.”
Yves Saint-Laurent

Gisele Bündchen walking for Colcci

Jennifer Lawrence in Calvin Klein, Vanity Fair March 2018

François Sagan, 1954

BOOK – SAGAN, PARIS 1954

In  Sagan, Paris 1954  Anne Berest delicately weaves multiple narrative threads. The events of early 1954  that led up to the publication of Bonjour Tristesse, and the reflections of a woman who is going through “one of the most painful periods of her life” since being separated from the father of her daughter – Berest herself.

What emerges is an exposition that criss- crosses genres: the novel, biography, fictionalised autobiography. Events are imagined – Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is placed on the night table of the young Sagan, only to be tossed in the air later after a conversation with Sagan’s best friend, Florence Malraux. “Do you think that in 1954 Françoise might have had A Room of One’s Own on her bedside table?” Berest asks Florence. “I don’t think people read Virginia Woolf until quite a bit later. In 1954 we were reading Proust, Dostoyevsky… but Woolf, I don’t think so.”

Writer Françoise Sagan

Françoise Sagan

Anne Berest had been immersed in the writing of her third novel when Denis Westhoff, the only son of Françoise Sagan, approached her. In his “soft, staccato tone,” he asked her to write a book about his mother. “We will soon be marking the tenth anniversary of her death… and I would like people to remember just what the publication of Bonjour Tristesse represented for society back in 1954.”

Chapitre Premier  – Bonjour Tristesse

“Sur ce sentiment inconnu don’t l’ennui, la douceur m’obsèdent, j’hésite à apposer le nom, le beau nom grave de tristesse. C’est un sentiment si complet, si égoiste que j’en ai presque honte alors que la tristesse m’a toujours paru honourable. Je ne la connaissais pas, elle, mais l’ennui, le regret, plus rarement le remords. Aujourd’hui, quelque chose se replie sur moi comme une soie, énervante et douce, et me sépare des autres.

Cet été-là, j’avais dix-sept ans…”

Bonjour Tristesse written in six weeks and published almost immediately was a literary triumph. It is a refined story told by a young sophisticate about boredom and love. What is arresting is the tone, the voice.  The cool, clear eyed, sure footedness of the young woman narrator. Her steady nonchalance.

It is probably Sagan’s abiding fearlessness, intimately wound up with her recklessness and voraciousness that pulses through her text and her life, catching her public’s attention. Hers is the glamour of both a Paris Match style combined with a real love of books. “My mother was never afraid,” Denis Westhof tells Berest. “No, she wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone… It was one of the things she taught me. Not to be afraid.”

In the end, this is not a book primarily about a debut novel. It is an encounter between two women, both French writers. Berest creates a kind of mystical space for this when she makes an appointment to see a clairvoyant, overlaying Sagan’s own visit to a fortune teller.

“Yes, I can see that you’re writing a book on someone’s life,” the clairvoyant says. “It’s the life of a woman who lived as a man would…. She was a woman who had experienced everything. She did whatever she wanted to do.”

Then with certainty she says, “I am seeing Françoise Sagan – that’s correct, isn’t it?”

The clairvoyant alerts Berest: “You are sometimes going to want to do certain things that you are not used to doing….. go ahead…. You have nothing to fear, she is watching over you.”

Berest encounters Sagan. Sagan moves through Berest, altering her.

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