A few good books, Favorite things, Inspiration, Quote

Excerpt from Empress of Fashion: A life of Diana Vreeland

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As editor in chief Diana felt – and was initially allowed to feel – that she had the freedom to take everything she had ever learned about becoming the Girl, everything of beauty, every fantasy that had ever caught her inner eye, and place it all at the reader’s disposal. As the new editor in chief she ranged backward and forward across half a century of experience. The creative relationship between film actress Audrey Hepburn and the couturier Hubert de Givenchy blazed with the same inspiration that flew between the women of style and their couturiers in the 1930s.

“What fires his imagination races hers; the message he cuts into cloth she beams to the world with the special wit and stylishness of a great star in a role that suits her to perfection.”

“Isn’t that life, darling?”

“You pool all the things of your childhood, and then you become a woman…and you’ve got it all together on your own. But all the while, you’re developing every moment. You develop every moment of your life. Don’t you think that’s how it is?”

To be herself, a woman had to allow herself to dream – dreaming of becoming the heroine of her own life. This was the theme to which Diana would return over and over again throughout her time at Vogue; and soon she took the reins, she extended the idea of becoming a heroine to women who were not born beautiful and did not conform to contemporary ideas of prettiness.

By 1964, Diana was actively challenging conventional American ideas of female beauty, asking Vogue’s readers to look instead at women with vital, distinctive, alluring faces. On August 1st, 1964 Diana turned over most of the magazines to two new prototypes, the “Chicerino” and the “Funny Girl”. The “Chicerino” was “full of zest of doing things”. She had “the vividly personal quality” of a girl who liked herself, who expected the best of herself and the best of everything, a girl with a “star quality”. As Diana put it:

“The image she presents is of her own, intensely personal manufacture – a projected vision of herself, nourished by intuition, by ego, and by single-minded clarity of her thinking. Her presentation is perfect: she comes in a blaze of certainty, engages all interest, sustains it, provokes. Unhesitatingly she chooses what’s good for her – the gesture, the look that conveys her mood, her quality, her special dash. No other fashion counts..the Chicerino is every country’s phenomenon: she is the girl who owns the world, makes it swing..the girl who holds onto her personality with both hands and projects it with style.”

“There’s only one thing in life – and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.”

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A few good books, Favorite things, Inspiration, Quote

Grace: A Memoir

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The Vogue creative director, Grace Coddington is a true one of a kind: from her signature flame-colored hair to her championing of non-cookie-cutter beauty, she put distinctive fingerprint on everything she does. 

The memoir takes her readers through her impressive fashion career and personal lives, from her childhood memories to her first day on the job both a model and fashion to editor to her big loves (men and cats), early days as a model to her current tenure at Vogue – including her close relationship with Anna Wintour.  

Fore more than four decades, Coddington – a onetime model turned master stylist – has collaborated with the best photographers, hair and make up artist in the business to create amazing picture on the page. This maybe the first time I am reading about her – and yet, I recognize her work I’ve read from the magazines. She is shy and loves to work behind-the-scenes. 

Coddington has also great talent for illustration which is showcased in the book. She is well-known for sketching looks as they come down the runway from her front-row perch during fashion week – and in her memoir, the remarkable, hand-drawn pictures reveal yet another dimension to an already famously fascinating woman. But her drawings take on a personal and often humorous tone.  

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Grace Coddington back in her modeling days sporting the famous Five Point Cut invented by Vidal Sasson. 

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Grace Coddington

“Is fashion art? I think it’s sometimes very creative but I’m not sure I would call it art, that’s pushing it a bit. In fashion photography, rule number one is to make the picture beautiful and lyrical or provocative and intellectual – but you still have to see the dress. Of course, I like to push the boundaries; I think that’s the most interesting element much of the time. when you walk the line. But you can’t forget to show the clothes and, in the end, not alter them beyond recognition; to pretend a dress is something it is not unfair to the reader, too.” 

Beautiful, funny and so inspiring, this one is for the required reading list. And I have acquired so much inspiration from her. 

xo,

Nelissa

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A few good books

Do You Act Your Part?

After the excitement, gaiety or tragedy of a fine play or movie, haven’t you felt that the experience was more real than the actual events of your own existence? If acting is much more real then routine living, and so much more exciting, why shouldn’t all of us cultivate the art on a larger stage, our world? I don’t for a moment mean that you should cultivate affectations. On the contrary, I suggest acting as a means of genuine self-expression and release. Learning how to control and direct emotions.

Superficial play acting – pretending to be something you are not – is an easily detected in life as on the stage. Real acting is a matter of making outwardly apparent the thing you feel true within. It is a matter of projecting yourself imaginatively into a situation and then letting action and speech luminously interpret what you feel.

Few of us are conscious of the satisfaction we could get if we accepted and played heartily the varied roles that life gives us. Usually we go from one situation to another with no change of pace or manner. Or we typecast ourselves as does the actor who plays butler so well he is always cast for a butler role.

The actor enters a scene with purpose and directness, eliminating all that does not relate to the immediate problem. If you try this, you are not content with aimless geniality or vague irritability, but you set yourself to show specifically the friendliness or indignation that fits your part. You may be worried about home situations while attending to business, but if you use the actor’s methods of concentration you will rule out concerns that do not affect the job of the moment.

Obviously this practice means that we enter every situation with all our forces marshaled, not unused or scattered over a lot of lingering worries. It means too that by integrating our personalities around the role of the moment we can avoid incongruities and ineffectualities – things that are out of character, as when a man putting up an aggressive argument uses a whining or pleading voice.

Dame Sybil Thorndike, the great English actress, once explained to a group of young actresses that the reason the stage was so splendid was that ordinary incidents of everyday living become a symbol on the stage. Pouring tea is no longer just pouring tea; it becomes the spirit of sociability, the symbol of hospitality. If you can translate this sense of symbols into life, the rewards will be immense.

You will be surprised to find how the inner embodiment of a role actually creates a new outward appearance. I remember once being asked to a party when I realized that I had no dress suited to the occasion. I considered not going at all. Then I decided to use the actor’s art and dress my mind as best I could, to go and put my whole being into acting the role of guest. I let appreciation of the party, the hostess, the other guests take possession of me. The odd part of it is that the compliments I got that evening were on the dress I wore.

To feel and behave in a manner appropriate to the scene is far more important than to dress appropriately. Often I have seen girls applying for jobs who are handicapped by concern about their looks and what are they going to say. I want to tell them, “Dress the part as best you can, but the chief thing is to fill your clothes with the person you intend to fill the position you are applying for. Practice telling what you have to offer – skill, experience, knowledge and above all, interest. State each with its own quality, not cloaked with either apology or conceit.

Were there no other advantage to be gained, acting in daily life would be worthwhile for the detachment it affords. Good acting is always dispassionate. It calls for poise, balance and control, and hence helps you to draw apart from a situation and view it as a participant and spectator. Only the dispassionate person has full mastery, whether in social conversation, family discussion or business conference.

This impersonal quality in good acting has the value of making you more acutely aware of other person in the scene. The best acting is done with a full awareness of your partner’s role. Every contact we have throughout the day – from good morning to the elevator man to the last good night – may be pleasanter by skillful use of this principal. Our lives can be drab if we allow them to become habitual – zestful if we act up to our role and our partners.

To those who protest that such histrionic displays are affected and unnatural, it can only be replied that all of our behavior is, in the broad sense, unnatural. Talking itself does not come natural with us; why not go on and talk in a way that expresses the role we feel best suited to the occasion? Such acting is not a matter of imitating another person. We may think that the charm, grace and vivacity of some actress dwell in her mannerism. But to copy these externals is only to become an affected imitator. The true technique is to make the most out of every good trait you yourself possess. Technique is not a putting-on, it is a drawing-out process. It is making your everyday speech and movement, gesture and manner, habits of thoughts and feeling, good instruments and tools to use in expressing yourself in your many relationships. Not just to “get by” but to be wholly effective.

This idea of acting your part in life adequately, with truth and assurance, gives you an incentive to improve your voice and speech, carriage and posture, manner and habits of facial expression. In Shaw’s Pygmalion, we have an insight into the transforming power of technique. It requires a kind of self-discipline that is cultural and thus draws out the individual’s potentialities you can’t improve the speech without improving the person. And there are more ways of speech than words.

Posture can say: I am tired. I am discouraged. I am careless. I am timid. I am a great guy.

Walk can say: I pound the pavement. The earth is my springboard. It’s a long, hard road. I must not miss the surprises of the way.

Facial expression may say: I am disappointed. I am interested in you. I have a sense of humor.

Voice quality may tell that you are a nagger, a whiner, a comfort, a mouse or a lion.

It’s your own choice whether you slump into the less prepossessing of these alternatives, or create for yourself the role – the personality – that springs from others. A certain pose may gain the effect we desire, and if its does, it is as legitimate to use it as it is to seek the apt word – and equally effective. The crowning principle of good acting is simplicity – economy of action and movement, restrained emotion, controlled thinking. Simplicity in acting is using just enough of all your powers to convey your intent and elicit the right response from the listener.

Simplicity is not to be confused with easiness. Simplicity is a certain fine clarity, even austerity. The person of great learning speaks simply, a person of great wealth dresses simply, a person of fine eloquence talks simply, an actor of rich technique is simple in his acting. But this great quality is hard-earned and represents the deepest honesty. It cannot be put on, it cannot be pretense; it is the expression, the making actual of the truest within us.

Everyday, as we play the series of roles that life demands of us, we can employ these principles of acting. The wise father needs a correct sense of his various roles in daily affairs. When as an executive he has a problem to solve, he must have the actor’s dispassion and detachment. At a business luncheon with clients, awareness of the scene and his partners in it are of first importance. Back home in the evening he must understand that the role calls for good humor and simplicity and perception, for the attentiveness that marks him as the wise father.

Whether we like it or not, all of us must act: we must express outwardly what we feel within. The question is whether we do it poorly or well, whether we are content to be puppets operated by the strings of habits, or whether we shall consciously and skillfully portray our full role in each new scene or relationship. The thing to aim for is a cultivated technique or self-expressiveness by means of which your feelings, reactions, thoughts or wishes can be effectively conveyed.

Written by Maud Scheerer, How to Live with Life.

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A few good books, Inspiration

Test of strength

Men who came up “the hard way” usually try to make things as easy as possible for their children, thus denying them the discipline of struggle and self-establishment that worked so well in their own cases. Such parents reminded me of the kindhearted amateur who raised butterflies as hobby. He was so touched by the difficulties they had in emerging from the cocoon that once, out of mistaken kindness, he split the cocoon with his thumb so that the tiny inmate would escape without struggle. The butterfly was never able to use its wings.

– Charles F. Kettering

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A few good books

Eloquence

Two of us sat together on the terrace of a summer hotel.

“See that young woman over there?”, said my friend.

“A chap is talking to her – talking rapidly, eagerly. Now watch her. She is meagerly endowed – no lure that you can see, and yet there isn’t a beauty in this hotel that attracts men as she does.”

“Is she an heiress?” I asked.

“No. It isn’t money. See the way she listens to that chap, her interested expression? She knows great secret.”

“What’s the secret?”

“She knows,that there is no more gratifying tribute one can give to another than absolute, undivided and sympathetic attention. Every man that talks to her finds that he is interesting to her. He just knows it, and he likes her for letting him know it. The oil of encouragement fairly pours from her eyes and lubricates a man’s ideas.”

“You grow eloquent!”

“Why not? Remember what Saint-Beuve said of exquisite Madame Recamier: She listens with seduction. Her inspired attention invited and drew confidence. That was her great charm, her genius for listening.”

From The Challenge of Existence, 1965, Hong Kong

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A few good books, Inspiration

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

Paul Howard Arden, advertising creative and successful writer, was born on April 7th, 1940, and died on April 2nd, 2008. This short blog post can, in no way, do justice to his creative influence. What it can do, however, is serve as an introduction to those who are unfamiliar, and as a brief reminder to the rest of us.

Here’s a snippet from one of his best-selling books.

From the book “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.”

A website tribute to Paul Arden.

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A few good books, Inspiration

Are you the Cinderella, the Venus or the Aristocrat?

“I have divided the women who have come to me into three categories: the Cinderella, the Venus and the Aristocrat.

The Cinderella takes a shoe smaller than size Six, the Venus takes size Six, the Aristocrat a Seven or larger.

The Cinderella, I have observed, is essentially a feminine person, a lover of jewels and furs, who must be in love to be truly happy.

Venus is usually of great beauty, glamour and sophistication, yet under her glittering exterior she is often essentially a home body, loving the simple things of life. Because these two characteristics are mutually contradictory, the Venus is often misunderstoof. People accuse her of too much luxury-loving and frivolity.

The Aristocrats are sensitive, even moody, but possess a great depth of understanding.”

(from S. Ferragamo, Shoemaker of Dreams, London 1957)

What are you?

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