Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carolina Herrera Spring 2011

A jeweled evening gown topped by a staw hat: chic.
(Photos from
I have been admiring the Spring 2011 collection of Carolina Herrera, shown last week in New York City. Carolina Herrera was born and grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, the daughter of the aristocratic governor of Caracas. Carolina, who has two daughters from a previous marriage, is married to Reinaldo Herrera, special projects editor at Vanity Fair, and they have two adult children – Patricia and Carolina, who works with her mother at her fashion company and is married to an ex-bullfighter.

In 1980 Carolina Herrera started her designer label with the encouragement of none other than Diana Vreeland. I am drawn to Carolina's work because it is definitely luxe and rich but there is a simplicity to it too, like her signature work outfit of a crisp white shirt and a black or grey skirt. I like her combination of the refined and the casual, for example finishing a gown with a straw hat, belting a skirt with a bit of string, or combining a ball skirt with a tee shirt. Her style is romantic but modern, and she also has a wonderful sense of color. I think that's why Jackie Onassis was a big fan of hers too.

The show notes said the designer was inspired for this collection by traditional clothes of Korea. A red silk dress in an Asian print was finished with a jeweled obi belt.

while a light summer skirt was tied with red string.

For this collection, Manolo Blahnik designed shoes that featured what looked like Asian boxes wrapped in red.

Herrera was also inspired by eighteenth century floral prints. You can even see the tape depicted in the print.

I love the combination of colors below. These colors remind me of Christian Lacroix.

For evening there was this vivid orange gown accessorized with a Korean fisherman's hat.

This gown comes with its own "diamond" brooch of embroidered crystals.

A beautiful blouse and skirt: John Singer Sargent style for 2011.

Like a watercolor wash, embroidered black beads zig-zag down the front of this gown

which is topped with a straw hat.

Here is an eighteenth century floral print interpreted in a gown and belted with a green ribbon, perfect for a spring dance at the botanical garden.

This confection features the floral print as an underskirt topped by a pouf of silk which has pockets for a casual stance.

Eighteenth century style for today, no?

Beautiful details.

Hats off to La Herrera.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two Thousand Points of Light

The view at Church Street and Park Place.

Last Friday night, the night before September 11th, TD and I attended a non-denominational rally downtown to support the new Park 51 Islamic center and mosque. Incorrectly called the "Ground Zero mosque," the center is planned two and half blocks away from Ground Zero on the site of the former Burlington Coat factory on a rather nondescript block downtown.

You know that this center and mosque has stirred up a lot of protest from those on the right who think that Muslims should not be practicing their religion there. People don't seem to know that religious freedom was the very basis upon which our country was founded, it is the very reason that the United States came into being. Several of the original thirteen colonies were established by settlers who traveled here to practice their own religion without discrimination: the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established by English Puritans, Pennsylvania by Irish and English Quakers, Maryland by English and Irish Catholics, and Virginia by English Anglicans. Now, four hundred years later, some Americans wish to take away that freedom of other Americans saying, "No, you can't do that here."

The rally to support the mosque was organized by New York Neighbors for American Values. People were asked to wear white and carry a candle but no protest posters. A vigil with style – now that's my kind of rally.

Different faith leaders and elected officials spoke and there was some singing. It was a positive and peaceful event, unlike the anti-mosque protesters who were yelling and shoving the next day on September 11th which to me was so terribly disrespectful of the horrible tragedy of the day which all New Yorkers remember with painful vividness. My brother Eric Boehlert, who is an author and senior fellow at Media Matters, wondered in his blog why the candle-light vigil did not attract more media coverage, while noisy protesters with less numbers garner more press.
Behind the rally on Friday night rose twin lights representing the twin towers.

The crowd was diverse too and wonderfully "New York." I have been recently shocked by the racist language that I have been hearing from those on the right. The new Arizona immigration law which states that police can stop and question anyone who looks like an immigrant is truly mind boggling. I think the hate is push-back against President Obama. Some people on the right seem to be saying, "Hold on a minute. Did you think we were going to have an enlightened and tolerant society just because we have an African-American president? Not so fast." But those who believe in peace, equality, harmony, progress and culture must keep up their voices and not let hate and ugliness win out. And be sure to vote in November.
As Joni Mitchell said, "Let your little light shine."

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Florence Griswold Museum

May Night, a painting of the Florence Griswold House in Old Lyme, Connecticut, by Willard Metcalf, from 1906, now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Over Labor Day Weekend TD and I celebrated our 25th anniversary together in a sweet and memorable visit to Guilford, Connecticut. On Saturday we drove with my parents to nearby Old Lyme. We stopped first at a big antique store there and had a nice lunch on the edge of the Lieutenant River at the Morning Glory Cafe. Then we headed to the Florence Griswold Museum. TD and I once took Jane to this museum when she was younger but hadn't been back in several years.

By the 1890's, Miss Florence Griswold, whose father had been a sea captain, inherited her big 1817 late-Georgian-style family home. Single and nearly 50 years old, she took in artist boarders to pay her bills. Thus the house became a center for American Impressionists, including Childe Hassam and Henry Ward Ranger. The house is now part of the campus of the Florence Griswold Musuem.

The visitor starts first at the Krieble Gallery, a modern building completed in 2002 which houses temporary exhibitions.
Looking at American art:

The gallery is on the side of the Lieutenant River. I liked this balcony off the gallery – a nice place work.

The lawn slopes down to the river.

It was a beautiful John Constable day.

Back up the hill, a trellis leads to the garden.

Florence Griswold was an avid gardener whose designs have been faithfully recreated. She had two gardens for perennial flowers, one for roses, and one for herbs and vegetables. Unlike the more formal gardens of the Victorian era, her gardens were meant to look natural and untamed, and they are now bursting with old-fashioned country plants like hollyhocks, phlox and delphinium.

At the main house, the visitor enters through the porch door into the front hall. I like the old house because it reminds me of, you guessed it, 611.

This painting by Willard Metcalf from 1914 caught my eye. It depicts his wife and daughter enjoying a summer afternoon in Connecticut. The wicker furniture, wood floor, long curtains and French doors opening out to the garden beyond all capture a relaxing style. This painting reminds me of the photograph of the Tsarina of Russia with her daughters.

The style is natural and easy and comfortable. I like the simple white cotton dress too. Coincidentally there was a visitor at the museum dressed similarly. An older woman with short grey hair was wearing an airy, antiquey white cotton dress with a streak of beige embroidery near the bottom. Over her shoulders she wore a maroon paisley challis wrap. It was like Jane Austen style in 2010. Not a look you behold every day, and she completely pulled it off. Maybe she was an artist. I loved seeing it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Video Tour of My O'Donnell Family Home

My grandfather George Mumford painted this version of 611.

By now readers know that our family home at 611 West German Street in Herkimer, where my grandmother and her eight siblings lived and which my relatives owned for more than sixty years, had a big influence on me when I was growing up. The house is now the Bellinger Rose Bed & Breakfast, and, happily, I can return there to visit. On our last stay, TD and I made a video tour through the house. In it I explain how the house and the people who lived in it shaped me and my sense of style: