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At Home With Vintage

Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight

Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight


It’s been a while since the last issue of Vintage graced the stands of indie bookstores and museum shops, but now, at long last, the wait is over. Yes, the quatrième issue of Vintage Magazine is finally available, in all of its gorgeous, gutsy glory.

For the uninitiated, Vintage is the brainchild of Ivy Baer Sherman, a visionary editrix who strives to capture the spirit of Fleur Cowles’ groundbreaking Flair (published 1950-51) with her own revolutionary print (yes, paper!) publication. Sherman has most certainly achieved that goal, creating a vividly vibrant, magical magazine that salutes the past while embracing contemporary times, covering everything from food and fashion to travel and culture under the umbrella of one cohesive theme. What sets Vintage even further apart from the magazine pack: graphics, photographs, illustrations, typography and tactile effects that truly elevate the reading experience to another dimension.

The fourth issue spotlights design and architecture and once again Sherman has honed her multi-faceted theme with an artist’s eye. Read Chip Kidd’s homage to vintage linoleum, experience a pop-up tour of design team Robert and Cortney Novogratz’s own home or enter the world of influential interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, courtesy of curator Barbara Lippert. You may even read a story contributed by none other than, ahem, the Brooklyn Gal. (Yup, looks like we are a bit guilty of self-promotion, but believe us, this is definitely an issue suitable for framing.)

For more info on the quatrième issue go to Vintage Magazine.


It’s been forever and a day since the Brooklyn Gal last posted. We certainly never intended to take such a long hiatus but heck, stuff happens. We’re ready to make amends, so stay tuned for newsy tidbits and off-center observations about style, Brooklyn and anything else that piques our interest…

We're back!

We’re back!


Wardrobe Wonders

Most people probably don’t obsess over nearly every clothing purchase, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal have been known to over-think even the most off-the-cuff pick-me-ups. Sure, once in a blue moon we give in to the Gilt-y urge or snap up a must-have or two at cheapy cheap joints like Joe Fresh, but we don’t buy on the fly or on impulse as readily as others seem to. Still, with fall around the corner and our inbox overstuffed with sale notices and bargain offers, it’s hard to resist what seems so natural: buy a shirt there, boots here, all for a song, end of fashion story. And yet, we hesitate, largely because we are wary of winding up with a closet full of nothing.

All of this comes to mind because of a quote we came across in The New York Time’s Style Section about boutiques doing bang-up business online. While talking about her loyalty to a cool-sounding Seattle boutique Totokaelo, a Web customer in the piece stated that the store’s owner helped her “build a wardrobe as opposed to buying clothes.”

Bingo! We can totally relate. A stack of clothes, whether bargain-priced or investment-worthy, gets women nowhere, but a wardrobe, well, it kind of makes us feel like we’re in control of our style destinies, like we’re dressing our aspirational selves.

And it made us remember one of our favorite dream boutiques in Brooklyn, which sad to say, recently closed shop. Years ago, when it was known as Butter, we used to slip in for a dose of cool, rarely buying, unless it was sale time. Most of the merch was geared towards that urbane woman with limitless funds, but every once in while we scored a gem or two.

One day our inner demons put the kibosh on a dress we really wanted. It was perfect but we had no real need for it. As we stood before the mirror, the owner told us when you fall in love with a special item you need to buy it, because it won’t come back around again. And she was right. Sometimes when we’re on the fence about some closet-changer or another, we can still hear her preaching those wise words of retail wisdom.

Would that black beauty of a dress still be a workhorse in our wardrobe today, nearly a decade later? It’s hard to say. After all, we’re still trying to build one, garment-by-garment, and season-by-season…













Let it Snow

For years and years we here at the Brooklyn Gal have always considered Vogue to be the fashion victor, far surpassing its glossy competitor Harper’s Bazaar in every way. But now that we’ve read A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, Penelope Rowlands’ 2005 biography of the legendary editor, we see Hearst’s style bible in an entirely different light. During Snow‘s reign at HB, from 1934 to 1958, it seems that every chic woman of intellect actually turned to Bazaar, hungry for the scoop on the Paris collections and the latest fiction of the day, written by literary lions like Truman Capote. A powerhouse and prognosticator, Snow was the editrix who delivered all of this and so much more. Blessed with sheer talent and uncanny instincts, she was unstoppable, setting her trained eye on a target and never saying no until she got what she wanted.

If the Devil wore Prada, well, the Irish Snow wore Mainbocher, before bridging into Balenciaga with wardrobe changes to Chanel in between. Diana Vreeland’s quirky style, quotable quotes and indelible imprint may be far better known by fashion worshippers today, but in her time Snow, Bazaar‘s  tough, highly influential and oftentimes pickled editor, ruled the roost. Her list of discoveries — yes, Vreeland, along with Avedon, Balenciaga and Pucci — reads like a who’s who of fashion hitmakers, while her work ethic, career first, family second, was more akin to today’s world than hers and not especially laudable in those days.  She had her flaws, for sure, but she also had a vision.

Books, plays and museum exhibits have all placed D.V. on a pedestal and she will never be forgotten. Perhaps there’s room for another mover and shaker on your e-reader. We think the time has come for a Snow revival.








Another Side of Coco

As every style-obsessed woman knows, 2011 was the year of the Chanel biography. Having seen the fashion films Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou as the adorable singer/hatmaker/couturière on the rise, we here at the Brooklyn Gal couldn’t resist jumping on the Coco bandwagon yet again.

At the moment we’re about halfway through Lisa Chaney’s Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life, which seems to grow more intriguing by the chapter. Should we still find ourselves curious about the designer’s dark side, including her alleged Nazi sympathies (quelle horreur how could it be so?), we may even dip our toe into Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie or Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan.

Or perhaps we will just revisit yet another Chanel homage, a lovely novel by Gioia Diliberto
called The Collection about Isabelle Varlet, a wide-eyed seamstress from a tiny town in France who moves to Paris and takes a job in the atelier of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Blending historical facts with a compelling story, much as she did with her page-turner I Am Madame X, Diliberto takes us on a ride back to the world of high fashion after World War I.  Weaving together characters both real and imagined, she paints a portrait of Mademoiselle Coco that’s ultimately flattering and one of Jean Patou, that’s far less so.  Though a work of fiction, we happen to think it’s essential reading for any fan of fashion.



















Ode to Iris

There are countless reasons why we here at the Brooklyn Gal adore the European e-commerce site YOOX. For starters, the merchandise mix is unlike that of any other online store, ranging from cult Japanese labels to luxe, ever-unobtainable Italian goods with stratospheric prices. The sweet spot, of course, is the staggering selection of discounted goods, particularly the footwear from boldface and little-known labels, most of which hail from fashion lands abroad. (We have been known to troll the site on many a night in hot pursuit of that killer pair of top-quality, infinitely stylish, well-priced boots sure to work with every item of clothing in our closets. Should such a miracle occur, you may be the first to know…)

But, we digress. The new reason why we love this site is its current editorial and e-commerce homage to interior designer and self-professed clotheshorse Iris Apfel, aptly titled called An Iris Lovefest. Fashionistas have put this wealthy, wildly attired octogenarian on a pedestal for years, and no wonder: all hail the expressive, snowy-haired New Yorker as a style icon unlike any other, a glamorously-garbed wisp renowned for her super-sized specs, more-is-more fashion philosophy and irrepressible joie de vivre. Whatever it is that Iris is drinking, we want a sip; her eye for color and willingness to experiment not only keeps her forever young, it gives rise to creative inspiration for women of all ages.

And so, YOOX gives Iris her due in its New YOOXER magazine, with a photo tribute by Bruce Weber and bon mots from a select group of designers, filmmakers, bloggers and fashion personalities attesting to her fabulous flair and influence. There’s a commercial component, too, of course: an irreverent mélange of merch ready to purchase, ranging from Iris’s own wardrobe selections to items that celebrate her singular vision, including colorful, zany jewelry and imited-edition keepers made with rare and vintage materials.

The YOOX sale may be short-lived, but there is no doubt in our minds that Iris Apfel’s spirit will live on for generations to come.



Who’s Your Goddess?

A strange thing happened the other night in Nyack, New York: the Brooklyn Gal got into the goddess groove.

We’ve never considered ourselves, well, particularly mystic or otherworldly, we’ve never studied ancient myths, Greek or otherwise, with scholarly intensity, we’ve never even hummed Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” that Stevie Nicks’ chestnut, inspired by the Welch lunar goddess. And yet, there we were, on a crisp fall night, whirling around a yoga studio-turned-party room, hands joined with men and women of all stripes, celebrating the release of photographer Lisa Levart’s glorious new book, Goddess on Earth, Portraits of the Divine Feminine (LUSH Press).

A visual feast printed in Verona, Italy, Lisa’s hardcover volume features women ages 8 to 99, from doctors, designers and psychiatrists to renowned actresses Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Lisa Gay Hamilton and best-selling authors Isabel Allende, Madhur Jaffrey and Rose Styron. Each woman is powerful and awe inspiring in their everyday life; each transformed, as if by magic, into a strong, beautiful goddess of their choice by Lisa’s lens.

Whether Celtic or Roman, African or Egyptian, the goddesses’ stories transcend the ages, and so do Lisa’s exuberant, life-embracing photos. Her book may be called Goddess on Earth but these images are most definitely celestial.



Serge to the Forefront

Several months ago the Brooklyn Gal wrote about Serge Gainsbourg, the late Gallic legend whose musical talent knew no bounds. We were wondering when, if ever, Joann Sfar’s film Gainsbourg Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus, would make its theater debut. We had been lucky enough to catch it at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010, and we suspected that it might have sunk into the cracks of oblivion.

Yesterday Serge resurfaced. First, a friend sent us this incredible photo of the French provocateur and his main squeeze, Jane Birkin (yes, the parents of Charlotte Gainsbourg). Then, while flipping through the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar on our Nook, we discovered that that long-shelved film is ready to roll; it will finally see the light of day, or, rather, the dim light of the movie theaters, on August 31.  The old title has been replaces with the new, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, perhaps to appeal to an American audience that knows little of his influence and prodigious talent, not to mention his incessant smoking, tomcat tendencies and charming bad boy ways.

Should anyone need a Serge fix till the film opens, we here at the Brooklyn Gal have a Band-aid solution: find yourself a copy of Sylvie Simmons’ biography, Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes and indulge in a late summer read…










Fashion on Fifth

For the past few weeks we’ve made detours to Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets just to peer in the window of Cozbi and check on its progress. To date all we saw were the vague signs of a Park Slope boutique unfolding, namely, a papered-up glass window and the moniker Cozbi stenciled on the front, with the alluring promise of ‘homemade goodness.’

We had heard of Cozbi, of course and knew that the designer behind it, Cozbi A. Cabrera, also ran a cute shop in Carroll Gardens where she sold her Brooklyn-made women’s frocks, children’s clothing and handmade dolls. We always meant to visit her original shop but somehow never made it during business hours.

On a whim we just took another stroll to Fifth and behold: plenty of progress! The window, now unsheathed, features eyelet dress and other summery temptations and beyond, racks of colorful cottony clothing and boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Our guess is that the Slope opening is just days, maybe moments away so we won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to explore Cozbi’s lovely designs firsthand.

Welcome to the neighborhood!






Brooch, the Subject

First things first: we here at the Brooklyn Gal are not necessarily fans of Dita Von Teese, though we do admire her retro moxie, alabaster skin and ink-black tresses. Still, the other day, while we were working out at the gym, we couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of divine Dita on the silent TV screen above.

Ms. DVT sat daintily on the edge of the couch, chatting to her host, Ms. Wendy Williams. With the sound turned down, we had no clue what this striptease star was saying, but, never mind, it did not matter one teensy bit because, hello, her gigantic flower-shaped brooch, all glitzy and rhinestone-y (or, dare we say, diamond-encrusted?) radiating against her reddish-pink-clad chest, seemed to do all of the talking.

We happen to own a few pretty pins from way back when, scooped up at flea markets and such, but believe us, we’ve never seen anything quite as head-turning as Dita’s glamorous piece of festoonery.

As it turned out, that little episode was a repeat show from May and Dita, her hair coiffed like a calendar girl from back in the day, her nails and lips painted a rich ruby red, with high-heels to match, was giving Wendy an earful about her love for 1940s lingerie and how she got her start in the va-va-voom business.

We were intrigued. A little bit more research revealed that this vintage vixen does indeed have a penchant for such glittery chestal ornaments from back in the day — her fulsome flower was no fluke. We have to confess, in her own particular way, Ms. DVT is a class act: this girl knows how to turn up the shine factor.

So, do we smell a brooch trend in the air? Well, not exactly. After all, no one else can play pin-up like a true burlesque queen.