Fashion Icons

The Glamorous Style of Candy Darling

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Candy Darling was a Warhol Superstar who led a life of parties, men, and disappointments, but the one constant in her life was style. Even on her deathbed, Darling stayed true to who she was, a Hollywood glamour puss.

Born in Long Island in 1944, Darling spent her childhood idolizing Hollywood. In this world, she learned about glamour, which exuded from the fabulous women on her screen. From then and there, she wanted to become a famous actress.

Darling’s love for cinema may have also been a form of escapism from her less than charming childhood. Darling was an only child of divorced parents who was often bullied; a group of boys once attempted to lynch her when she was 16, which caused her to drop out of high school.

Although she was born a male named Jimmy, she identified as a female. It was only her outside appearance that appeared masculine. In order to embrace, and be accepted, for her true self was a difficult task for anyone in the conservative suburbs of Long Island during the 1940s and 1950s.

Darling often escaped this world for the excitement of local gay bars or the Manhattan LGBTQIA scene. There she could be herself, dressed to the nines as a woman. It was during one of these trips that Darling’s mother spotted her in public and confronted her when she arrived home, who was then back in her boy drag. Darling instructed her mother to sit at the kitchen table while she went to change into her evening attire. Her mother later said to a friend, “I knew then… that I couldn’t stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.”

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Darling’s acting aspirations took off when she met Andy Warhol. Attracted to her outgoing personality and beauty, Warhol saw her potential as a star. How could he not? She was the living embodiment of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Bennet, and Jean Harlow all in one.

As a Warhol Superstar, Darling’s personal aesthetic was a combination of Hollywood nostalgia and 1970s bohemian. She blended prints with furs and lace, and because of her tall frame, she never veered into tacky territory. She accessorized these looks with platinum hair, patterned headscarves, and kohl-rimmed eyes.

At the young age of 29, Darling died of lymphoma. Her funeral was a star-studded event with Gloria Swanson saluting the coffin. While in the hospital, Peter Hujar created the famous photo series “Candy Darling on her Deathbed,” which documented the actress in the hospital. Although extremely sick, she still looked like a movie star.

Candy was both brave and brilliant by just being herself. She once said, “There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth …You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”

To learn more about Candy Darling, check out the 2010 documentary, Beautiful Darling.

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Fashion Icons

Jayne Wrightsman’s Dazzling Style

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

American arts benefactor and philanthropist Jayne Wrightsman passed away on April 20, 2019. An often private presence on the New York social scene, Jayne and her husband Charles Bierer Wrightsman helped develop the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s French Decorative Arts wing (Wrightsman Galleries) through extremely generous donations (Vanamee, 2019). They have been dubbed the museum’s “most important benefactors (Baetjer, 2019).

Another element of the former model’s persona that dazzled American society was her personal style and in particular, her jewelry collection. “What really struck me about her taste was how educated it was while not being overly academic,” said the head of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Auctions in New York Catharine Becket to Vanity Fair (Vanamee, 2019). Some examples of her jewelry collection can be seen in a 2012 Sotheby’s auction that garnered millions of dollars. Included were collections of pearls, diamonds, a 17th-century emerald rosary, and a mid-19th-century diamond bow brooch worn by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II (Vanamee, 2019; “Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman,” 2012). These jewels display Jayne’s taste for dazzling pieces in classic and referential shapes. “Everything was beautiful, but she had broad cultural interests,” says Becket (Vanamee, 2019).

Like the fine and decorative art that the Wrightsmans’ donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a portion of Jayne’s wardrobe has been given to the museum’s Costume Institute. Included is a collection of gowns, evening separates, and accessories that showcase her signature style. “Her clothes, which were incredibly well-tailored, served as a blank canvas on which to hang jewels,” said Becket (Vanamee, 2019).

During Jayne’s early beginnings in the 1960s social scene, she wore fashionable gowns that blended classic shapes with ornate details. As she got older, her clothing continued to incorporate eye-catching detail, but with a streamlined silhouette.

A famous example of her personal style is seen in a 1966 Cecil Beaton photograph of Jayne at her Fifth Avenue home (Bowles, 2019). She is documented wearing a 1965 Balenciaga quarter-sleeved gown that is accessorized with feathers and a silk ribbon belt. The photograph has been so inspiring that it was the basis for a 2010 Steven Meisel photoshoot featuring model Amber Valletta (Wintour) and is featured in the Costume Institute’s exhibition, “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (Bowles, 2019).

Jayne’s signature style is also seen in a photograph of her wearing a white Middle Eastern-inspired Balenciaga coat while posing in front of a Georges de la Tour painting entitled “The Penitent Magdalen” (Vanamee, 2019). Both in this photograph and the Beaton piece, Jayne is wearing clothing that blends fashion trends with cultural influences. She would continue this theme in her wardrobe years later with a 2000 ensemble made with a colorful ikat print and simple green trousers. As with her taste in jewelry, she chose pieces that initiated conversation and thought.

To learn more about Jayne Wrightsman and her contribution to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit the Charles and Jayne Wrightsman and The Metropolitan Museum of Art page.

References

Baetjer, Katharine. “Jayne Wrightsman (1919–2019).” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 23 April 2019, https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2019/jayne-wrightsman-in-memoriam.

Bowles, Hamish. “Hamish Bowles Remembers Jayne Wrightsman, Esteemed Arts Connoisseur and Legendary Hostess.” Vogue. 24 April 2019, https://www.vogue.com/article/jayne-wrightsman-tribute-hamish-bowles.

“Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.” Sotheby’s. 05 December 2012, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2012/magnificent-jewels-from-the-collection-of-mrs-charles-wrightsman-n08925.html.

Talley, Andre Leon. “Talking Fashion: Couture.” Vogue Oct 01 1989: 480. ProQuest. Web. 22 Apr. 2019 .

Talley, Andre Leon. “Talking Fashion: Vogue’s Spring Spree.” Vogue Apr 01 1990: 414,414, 415, 416. ProQuest. Web. 22 Apr. 2019.

Vanamee, Norman. “Jayne Wrightsman’s Jewelry Collection Was the Stuff of Legend.” Town & Country. 25 April 2019, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/jewelry-and-watches/a27259640/jayne-wrightsman-jewelry-collection/.

Wintour, Anna. “Editor’s Letter: Letter from the Editor: All the Right Roles.” Vogue May 01 2010: 78,78, 84, 86. ProQuest. Web. 22 Apr. 2019 .

Fashion And Body, Fashion Icons, In Royal Fashion

From Queen Alexandra to Jillian Mercado: The Changing Views of Physical Disabilities In Fashion

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Before there was Lady Diana, Duchess Kate, and even Elizabeth II, Alexandra of Denmark was considered the top fashion icon of the Commonwealth of England. The Queen of England from 1901 to 1910, Alexandra is remembered in fashion history for her dust-colored, high neck and tightly corseted gowns bejeweled in sparkling baubles. She was a visual break from her mother-in-law Victoria, who favored darkly colored clothing in the English tradition of mourning. However, with all of her beauty and power, Queen Alexandra used her appearance as a way to hide a secret: her physical disabilities.

Beginnings

Born into a Danish royal family, Queen Alexandra became an English princess after her marriage to Edward VII in 1863. She then became Queen in 1901 after the death of her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria. King Edward and Queen Alexandra’s entry into the English throne brought in the Edwardian era, an opulent time in English cultural, technological, and social history.

Queen Alexandra was seen as an influencer within English fashion for her tightly corseted, S-bend gowns that came to be known as ‘Queen Alexandra dresses’ (“Fashion: The queenly figure,” 1939). Much of Queen Alexandra’s evening wear was designed by the House of Redfern, a British fashion house that found success in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In her 2013 academic article, Fashioning Alexandra: A Royal Approach to Style 1863–1910” Dr. Kate Strasdin states that Queen Alexandra was aware of the public attention toward her clothing and as a result, she used fashion to emote an image of femininity and well being. The Queen fit the mold of an English societal woman: she was wealthy, titled, and was dressed by an haute courtier.

According to Strasdin (2013), Queen Alexandra was rumored to have had a tuberculous infection, which was due to a small scar on her neck. This rumor occurred shortly before her marriage to then-Prince Edward, and if proven right, it would have stopped the courtship due to worries of inherited diseases. This fear developed into a habit of her wearing high neck gowns, ribbons, and dog collars to hide her scar (Strasdin, 2013). Although this was an attempt to hide an imperfection, these neck coverings became an evening wear trend in British fashion.

In 1867, the Queen contracted rheumatic fever. This sickness caused impaired hearing and gave her a knee injury that resulted in a walking limp. According to Strasdin (2013), Queen Alexandra used her ornamental evening gowns to steer attention away from her bad hearing. She also altered her evening gowns to reduce a visible curve in her spine. An example is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a curved center back at the bodice that hid her body’s arching shape. Although Queen Alexandra found methods to hide her disabilities, she continued to walk with a limp. This is said to have caused a trend among fashionable women, who copied the Queen’s stroll.

Jillian Mercado

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Although Queen Alexandra went to great lengths to hide her body, there is now a growing presence in the fashion industry that advocates for visibility of disabled persons. One example is seen through the work of American fashion model Jillian Mercado, who has muscular dystrophy. Mercado is signed to IMG and has become a figure in fashion in both her modeling and Instagram photographs. Mercado has appeared in major advertisements for brands like Diesel and in singer Beyoncé’s “Formation” merchandise tour.

The stigma against physical disabilities in the fashion has been dubbed by critic Vanessa Friedman as the industry’s ‘newest frontier.’ As more figures like fashion model Jillian Mercado grow in popularity and adapted clothing lines become more available, the preference for ableist bodies may shift. To learn more about fighting the stigma of ableism in fashion, visit MIT’s Open Style Lab.

Resources

Fashion: The queenly figure. (1939, May 01). Vogue, 93, 72-72, 73.

Strasdin, K. (2013). Fashioning Alexandra: A Royal Approach to Style 1863-1910. Costume-The Journal Of The Costume Society47(2), 180-197.

Fashion Icons, Political Fashion, Uncategorized

An Ao Dai and A Jumpsuit: The Fashions of Dang Tuyet Mai

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The third and final subject of Vietnamese First Ladies Fashion, Đặng Tuyết Mai, was not the wife of a President, but that of a Prime Minister, and later, Vice President. A stylish figure photographed during the Vietnam War, Mai’s clothing choices mirrored the style of another political wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Both chose clean lines in stylish late-1960s and early-1970s silhouettes that complimented their youthful, but confident, beauty.

Early Life

Đặng Tuyết Mai’s was born in 1942 to an academic family in Bac Ninh, and later, Hanoi. In the 1950s, she became one of the first air hostesses of Air Vietnam Airlines. An Air Vietnam stewardess wore an Ao Dai, matching cap, and high heels which honored Vietnam’s heritage while referencing Western fashion.

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Image via hoanghaithuy.wordpress.com

In 1964, she married Vietnam Air Force Chief of Staff Nguyễn Cao Kỳ. Despite his military occupation, Kỳ was known for his penchant for flash. In 1965, the couple was photographed wearing matching military jumpsuits, which was a visual sign of solidarity with military troops. Đặng Tuyết Mai wore her jumpsuit with a chin-length bob, oversized-square eyeglasses, and a leather handbag.

Fashion Sense

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As the Prime Minister’s wife, Đặng Tuyết Mai was photographed wearing both Western and Vietnamese fashions. When in Western attire, she chose elegant eveningwear ensembles, like cap-sleeved ball gowns accented with a hand fan or a sleeveless dress with panels over black trousers. For daywear, she was photographed wearing sophisticated French ensembles that embraced texture and color.

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Image via Life by way of Elle Vietnam

She also wore Aio Dais, which connected her sense of style to national pride. Her ensembles included a beige, pastel floral silk gown and a pink and white piece with a strand of pearls. Her hair was styled in a sweeping bob or bouffant, and her eyes were lined in thick, pointed eyeliner with rose petal lipstick.

As she aged, Mai’s style became expensive with daring flair. She showed more skin in tight-fitting dresses and displayed brightly colored jewels, all while keeping a well-coiffed face and hair. Before her death in 2016, she was photographed looking ageless in a black bikini and gold accessories.

For more on Vietnamese fashion, visit these articles of Madame Nhu and Nam Phuong.

Fashion And Music, Fashion And Race, Fashion Icons

Beyonce’s Black Hat Statement

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After Beyoncé received the Style Icon award at the CFDA Awards, the fashion press was abuzz about her wide brim black hat. Worn both in her already iconic “Formation” music video and on her latest tour, Beyoncé’s hat is more than just a summer trend. Beyoncé’s black hat serves as a visual statement of Black women taking on America’s horrible history of slavery.

Unlike what certain fashion websites are stating, Beyoncé’s headwear is not a typical sun hat. The square crown and flat, wide brim recall a type of straw hat worn by farmers and plantation owners during the mid-1800s. Although a similarly shaped hat would have been used for outdoor work, the formal black coloring and large size send a message that the wearer is in charge.

By wearing this style of hat, Beyoncé replicated an intimidating aspect of a slave owner’s costume and has taken away their power; no longer is this imposing headwear solely for them. This mindset is also present in the all-white gowns worn in “Lemonade” and the corseted wardrobes in “Formation,” which has an “Antebellum vibe.” The “Formation” set designer Ethan Tobman told Curbed.com,  “the idea was that this is not a house the slaves are working in, this is a house where the slaves are the masters.”

Although worn for a different situation, Beyoncé’s hat at the CFDA Awards helped strengthen this idea of empowerment. In her acceptance speech, Beyoncé discussed the struggles of being judged by the fashion elite for being a Black girl from the South. It wasn’t until her mega success as a solo artist that she traded in her mother’s well-sewn clothing for high-end brands. She stated, “When we were starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels didn’t really want to dress four black, country, curvy girls, and we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture…. she (Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles) used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.” And although Beyoncé has only ventured into a style icon status recently for some, her struggles have allowed her to understand the message clothing can make. Beyoncé ended her CFDA speech by saying, “We have the opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection… You (designers) have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, and to show people how to embrace their complications, and see the flaws, and the true beauty and strength that’s inside all of us.”