Monday, February 27, 2012

In Black and White on the Red Carpet

Miss Sandra Bullock on the red carpet at the 2012 Academy Awards.
I didn't think the Oscar program was half-bad last night – what did you think? It seemed cleaned up and spiffed up, not so cheesy. And the Cirque de Soleil performance was truly breathtaking. Part of the fun of the Oscars of course is the fashion parade on the red carpet, and my favorite was Sandra Bullock in Marchesa, though the girls in my office were giving me a hard time about this today. Still, I thought she and the dress were beautiful, and I was tired of the pretty strapless gowns that look the same.
Here is another shot at the Vanity Fair party.

I like the dress because of its simplicity – it almost looks like a white tee shirt and and black skirt – but of course it's a very structured and expensive gown with ornate silver beading at the waist and a back that is actually...backless. She wore her hair in a sleek ponytail which complemented the clean, modern look of the dress. I thought it had a lot of style.
She seems like a fun girl, Sandra Bullock – America's sweetheart. And we know about the rough time she had with her ex-husband after she herself won an Oscar. On the red carpet before the ceremony last night Sandra talked to an ABC newscaster who had such a thick British accent that Nick Nolte could not understand a word she said to him. Sandra said, "I'm having a good time tonight. It's called sexy time. We're having sexy time tonight. Everything we're doing is going to be sexy."
Here she is pictured after the ceremony later inside the Vanity Fair party with Chris Evans

who is Captain America.
Hope she had fun!
But I digress.
A lot of people named Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford as their favorite best-dressed star.

She certainly did look strikingly, timelessly beautiful in the white gown and cape, kind of like Katherine Hepburn in Hollywood, no? Gwyneth's hair was also pulled back in a ponytail. The look was so very simple though, almost monastic. I would have liked perhaps to see her golden hair flying around, or some diamond chandelier earrings to dazzle the eye. What can I say, I'm like a magpie that is attracted to shine. But obviously, Gwnyeth wanted to look unadorned, and that's what personal style is about.
In general, one yearns to see more personal style on the red carpet, and not another strapless dress. Maria Tomei wore one of my favorite red carpet outfits at the Golden Globes a few years ago. The white blouse and black skirt by Oscar de la Renta echo Sandra Bullock's color scheme. This outfit is elegant and sophisticated but relaxed and easy at the same time, and that to me is chic.

It's like when Sharon Stone wore to the Oscars in 1998 a lavender silk skirt by Vera Wang topped off by a white oxford cloth shirt from the Gap out of her husband's closet. It takes a lot of style and confidence to pull of something like that, but that mix of refined luxury and casual nonchalance is to me very American.
(photos from and

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gay New York and the Arts of the 20th Century

With Cecil Beaton's authorized biographer Hugo Vickers.
Last weekend I enjoyed attending an all-day symposium at the Museum of the City of New York. The symposium was called "Gay New York and the Arts of the 20th Century", and it was aligned with the Cecil Beaton exhibition at the museum which I wrote about for Elle Decor magazine.

The museum is located in the far (for me) reaches of Manhattan at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street but I managed to get there Saturday morning at 10am with coffee in hand. The event was held in the museum auditorium which was quite packed with more than two hundred people. Kudos to the museum for hosting a day on this fascinating subject.

Donald Albrecht, the curator of the Cecil Beaton exhibit who I interviewed for my article, opened the event with welcoming remarks and talked a bit about Beaton in New York. Next up was George Chauncey, the renowned Professor of History at Yale, and author Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1980-1940, which TD read and is lying around here somewhere. He noted that in the 20th century, New York became the cultural capital of the world, succeeding Paris in the 20's, and that "gay artists and composers played a large part in shaping American culture." At the time, many gay men felt they were "the last defenders of civilization" (I can relate).

Then there were eight more guests at the symposium who spoke on a range of topics including the Ballet Russes and modern dance, gay composers who created the music of America, gay Harlem, E.M. Forster and his American friends, gay Latinas in New York, the art collector Sam Green, and more observations on Cecil Beaton from Hugo Vickers, Beaton's authorized biographer. By the end of it, my mind was spinning with history and culture.

It was all interesting, and the crowd especially enjoyed Hugo Vickers who knew Beaton and many of his acquaintances. "It's fantastic for me to be here in New York," he said in his deliciously plummy accent and then went on to share funny bits like the fact that artist Jean Cocteau called Beaton "Malice in Wonderland." It was a knowledgeable crowd that was ready to laugh and be entertained by this insider's view.

What I took away from the day was this chorus of gay men besides those mentioned – Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Ned Rorem, Paul Cadmus, George Platt Lynes, Andy Warhol, just to name a few – who came to New York to produce creative work. It's a long tradition of those who came before and those who will come in the future. At the end the question was asked, why are gay men so often attracted and interested in the arts? There were various answers, but I didn't hear anyone say "Talent." Gay men often are just innately gifted in art and style and aesthetics. Why is that I wonder. What do you think dear reader? Why is it that gay men are very often talented creatively?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Five Bloggers and Several Cocktails

A round of drinks for five style bloggers at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
I had the great pleasure on Thursday night of meeting up for cocktails with four other blogger friends who I had never met in the flesh before. Lisa Borgnes Giramonti of A Bloomsbury Life was visiting New York City from her home in LA. Lisa and I have been online friends for several years, following each other's blogs, leaving comments, and connecting on Facebook. Likewise the pen-named Reggie Darling and his partner Boy Fenwick who joined the party, as well as Nick Olsen, who is a new friend.
Lisa was staying at the apartment of a friend who lives on Gramercy Park so we all met there and then hightailed it across the street
to rustle up some drinks at the swanky Gramercy Park Hotel, owned by Ian Schrager and designed in collaboration with Julian Schnabel. After an ill-fated attempt to take the elevator to the roof garden bar which turned out to be closed, we landed on a chic perch in the ground floor Jade Bar on low little stools surrounding a table with one glowing candle.
The Jade Bar, photo from the Gramercy Park Hotel.

There we had a great time getting to know each other in person. It was funny because we already knew a lot about each other – our families, our homes, what we have been up to for the past couple of years. We talked about the what we like about blogging (the global reach, the opportunity to teach) and what we didn't like (the hours required, the lack of monetary reward). Lisa observed that for the most part we like romantic things that go back in time but that we are using the very modern internet to communicate our point of view. We agreed that blogging helped us to know ourselves better; certainly my blog about style has helped me define my own style. The Infinicam iphone photo app was recommended, we discussed the current second season of Downton Abbey, and talked about the books we are reading (Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, The Guest List by Ethan Mordden, The Love of Erika Ewald by Stefan Zweig). It was fun to be with others who share a similar viewpoint about aesthetics and manners and art, and the internet had already connected us.
Soon our time together was over. We dispersed our separate ways
but we can always meet again online. I rode my red Raleigh bicycle home around dark, historic, nineteenth-century Gramercy Park.