Special Sub-Topic: Beyond the Little Black Dress (LBD)
|What classic fashion designer is credited with introducing the Little Black Dress (LBD)?|
Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Coco Chanel was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Coming to prominence in France in the years surrounding WWI, Chanel's designs were credited with influencing the movement that freed women from the restrictive corsets, voluminous skirts, and stiff/heavy fabrics of turn-of-the-century fashion. In 1926 one of her simple black sheath dresses was touted by "Vogue" Magazine as a "uniform for all women of taste." The other listed designers, icons all, have/had their own versions of the LBD, but Chanel is credited with getting the party started.
|Most lists of fashion basics for women recommend a sweater or sweater set. What natural fiber is the most highly prized for these garments?|
cashmere. Cashmere fiber is obtained from the fine undercoat of neck hair of Cashmere and certain other goats. The most effective method for obtaining it is by hand-combing the animals during their moulting season. Because this process is labor-intensive, the moulting seasons limited, and the amount of fiber collected from an individual animal is small, the fiber can be quite expensive. However, the resulting yarn is rightly valued as strong, soft, light, and as an excellent insulator. When properly maintained, cashmere garments can last for many years. China leads the world in cashmere harvesting, although the fiber is also produced in many other places throughout the globe. Of the alternatives listed, silk and linen are both natural fibers used for sweaters, but are not as popular as cashmere. Nylon, of course, is not a natural fiber.
|Pants, slacks, trousers: whatever you call them, these garments, fashioned in a dizzying array of styles and a wide variety of fabrics, are wardrobe staples for every well-dressed woman. What legendary Hollywood actress consistently wore pants as part of her personal style, which set the trend for women in the modern era?|
Katharine Hepburn. It surprises us today to hear that in the 1930s Hepburn's pants-wearing was considered "subversive." Yet she wore them religiously, insisting that skirts were uncomfortable and that the pants were more in tune with her athletic lifestyle and Connecticut Yankee practicality. The advent of WWII, during which many US women took jobs in defense plants and in other formerly male-centric fields, widened the popularity of pants for women. From there we never looked back. The other great Hollywood ladies listed as options for this question were fashion pioneers in their own rights, but not necessarily for wearing pants.
|Women love to shop for shoes, and few shoe styles have been more popular than high heels, spikes, stilettos, etc. - there are many names for these popular shoes, which are prized for their ability to elongate the line of milady's leg. Which French shoe designer, famous for his high-heeled shoes with the "sammy red-bottoms," is a leader in the trend towards higher and higher heels? |
Christian Louboutin. Louboutin, who began designing shoes in his teens, has been in business since 1991. He is credited with helping bring stilettos back to popularity since then. With his shoes retailing for prices beginning at nearly $500 and extending into the many thousands of dollars, Louboutin has a huge celebrity clientele. His company has gone to court to defend its trademark red outer soles. The other shoe designers listed are all modern superstars as well; however, Bruno Magli is Italian, Manolo Blahnik is Spanish, and Jimmy Choo is Malaysian/English.
|Now to outerwear: Fashion commentators agree that the most versatile item of outerwear is the trench coat. It can be worn throughout the year in most climates, and is appropriate for casual, informal, business, and some formal settings. Which historic English company is known for developing one version of the trench coat in WWI, which it still manufactures today for the world market?|
Burberry. Founded in 1856 as an outdoor clothier, Burberry developed a "trench coat" in the First World War as a commission from the British War Office in an effort to modify an existing military coat for contemporary use. The style has grown in popularity ever since. The other options listed are all prominent British retailers/department stores.
|As much as they may love their LBD, fashion-forward women can't wear it all the time. When choosing another dress that is work-appropriate but which can be dressed up for dinner or for church, modern women can do no better than a certain jersey wrap dress, which has been a wardrobe must since the 1970s. Who designed this ground-breaking fashion classic?|
Diane von Furstenberg. Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) is a Belgian-born designer, now living and working in the US, who introduced her signature jersey wrap dress in 1974. The dress is noted for its ease of wear, simplicity of line, and for being flattering to a wide variety of female figures. At the height of its popularity, the dress was selling at the rate of 25,000 a week; and it has never really gone out of style. Now available in a range of prints, solid colors, sleeve styles, and fabrics, the DVF wrap dress is a key part of the designer's expanding and varied line of clothing, accessories, and shoes.
The other women listed as options have been the three most recent Editors-in-Chief of US "Vogue" Magazine.
|For every fashionable woman who's shoe-nutty; there's one who's handbag-mad. Ladies love their bags, purses, clutches, satchels, and totes ad infinitum. Beyond style, they're an accessory essential for the girl on the go. At the pinnacle of the handbag mountain is which style - made by Hermes and named for an ex-pat British actress living in France?|
Birkin bag. The Birkin bag was created in the 1980s by a Hermes executive and inspired by British actress Jane Birkin, who was then living in France. Usually made to order in custom leathers, sizes, and hardware, the bags are noted for their stratospheric pricetags, which range from at least $9,000 to upwards of $150,000; and for waiting periods for delivery which can extend up to six years, although lately the waits have lessened. Beyond their exclusivity the bags are prized for their meticulous individual craftsmanship. Their styling is instantly recognizable to connoisseurs: no logos are necessary. It is interesting to note that Hermes is also famous for another celebrity handbag, known as the Grace Kelly bag. That bag is distinguishable from the Birkin by several design details, and by the fact that its creation was not originally inspired by Princess Grace: it had been in the Hermes bag collection for over twenty years when in 1956 she was photographed carrying it, thus establishing its cult status.
The actresses listed as other options are also English ex-pats, at least part of the time: Helen Mirren to the US; and Kristen Scott Thomas and Charlotte Rampling to France - although none have a Hermes handbag named after them.
|It's hard to pinpoint a particular jewelry item that is a wardrobe basic; but many would argue that a pearl necklace fits this bill. Over the years, through many lengths, sizes, shapes, and colors, pearl necklaces have stood the test of time. Perhaps no one has appreciated this trend better than US First Ladies. What pair of First Ladies, otherwise different in many respects, were each noted for her fashionable pearls?|
Jacqueline Kennedy and Barbara Bush. All of the First Ladies listed wore pearl necklaces (although Nancy Reagan seemed to favor gold jewelry). However, it was Jacqueline Kennedy and Barbara Bush who brought pearl necklaces to prominence in their personal style, so much so that replicas of each lady's pearls can still be purchased today. Both wore triple-strand necklaces of very high quality faux pearls. Mrs. Kennedy wore Kenneth Jay Lane's 8mm pearls as a young mother in the White House. Mrs. Bush, who was older and more established as a mother and grandmother when she became First Lady 25 years later, wore larger diameter (12mm) pearls by Lane in more of a choker style.
|Perhaps the most ubiquitous garment type on earth, denim jeans are nonetheless a fashion and style essential. They can be stonewashed, distressed, or antiqued; skinny, wide-leg, or trouser-style; and come in every imaginable color and price range. We all have them; but who invented "blue jeans"? |
Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. In the 1870's a tailor named Jacob Davis teamed up with an immigrant San Francisco fabric manufacturer named Levi Strauss to create and market rivet-reinforced trousers for workmen. Since then the style has evolved from a practical garment to a symbol of teen rebellion to the leisure wear of choice to a designer specialty. Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, and countless other design houses created their own lines; and jeans are even accepted as office attire in many casual business settings.
The term "jean" is European; it derives from a fabric used to make clothing for Genoan sailors and is named for them. The term "denim" also derives from a fabric, "serge de Nimes," from Nimes, France.
|While we're considering the LBD, how about the "WWD", as in the White Wedding Dress: who is said to have started the fashion for brides to wear a white gown on their wedding day? |
Queen Victoria of England. For her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria chose a white satin and handmade lace gown. Contrary to the fashion of the day which favored colorful fabrics, including cloth of silver and/or gold. Victoria's gown was partly chosen to support local English silk and lace producers and followed an older design she favored. Although she was not the first royal to wear such a wedding costume, Victoria's style of bridal attire became an instant fad among the fashionable and spread to brides throughout the world. It remains the preferred style today.
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