Propeller Head

There are many reasons to be jealous of Dita Von Teese. Perhaps my most coveted was her front row seat at last month’s Philip Treacy show at London Fashion Week.

Philip Treacy at London Fashion Week

The show marked the avant-garde milliner’s first show in London in twelve years. Beyond the phenomenon of Treacy’s incredible art-for-the-head, there were a whole lot of notable points about this show: that it was opened by Lada Gaga, declaring Treacy “the greatest milliner of all time”; that it showcased some of Michael Jackson’s most famous stage outfits (and music); and that in a time when they often have difficulty getting work, Treacy’s runway was cast exclusively with black models.

As if that weren’t enough to leave the audience wide-eyed and giddy, enter collaborator Moritz Waldemeyer, an East German technology/art/fashion designer now living in London. Waldemeyer created two hats for the show: one in partnership with Treacy, the second, of his own design.

Philip Treacy Shroud Hat

Philip Treacy’s “Shroud hat” was developed by Waldemeyer using 6000 LED lights programmed with animated sequences. The structure fully cloaks the model but is supported only by the head. When the lights shine directly out onto the audience, the shroud appears to float.

Treacy-Waldemeyer Shroud Hat

The piece itself is an intricate mesh of threads woven around a specially designed styrofoam core. The threads are soaked in resin, which when dry are rigid, allowing the creation to be complex, but still lightweight.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

For Waldemeyer’s own design, he created the “Virtual Reality” headpiece. The “hat” is actually a propeller encircling the model’s head. The end of each blade is finished with LED lights. When in motion, the hardware disappears, giving the illusion of a wide, unattached, halo of light.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Waldemeyer's LED lights

Waldemeyer refers to his contributions to the show as “Millinery for the 21st Century”. On the merger of his lighting and fashion design: “It has long been my aim for the technology to disappear, to dissolve it into the surface of the work, so that the light effects themselves become the focus”.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

How long, I wonder, until Tyra Banks gets a wobbly second generation version of the “Virtual Reality” headpiece? I very much look forward to season 457 of “America’s Next Top Model”, when Tyra has the girls in 8” stilettos, centrifugally-forcing their way down a mylar balloon runway, bobbing atop a pool of dumpster juice.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Fabulous, avant-garde hats off to Philip Treacy and Moritz Waldemeyer for a well-lit future.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Vintage Fashion Fancy


Red Peacock Hat

Last weekend was the bi-annual San Francisco Vintage Fashion Expo. It was very hard to keep my hands in my pockets, let alone my wallet in my purse. Rather than buy every single thing, I decided to capture some of them digitally.

Shoes at Two Sisters

Please note that photographing garments out of focus was a very intentional strategy to encourage myself to save more to buy more next year. Or something.

Here’s some eye candy for those in need of a prescription upgrade:

Allyn Scura Sunglasses

1920s Cloche Wig


Black Hat

Bakelite Pin

Basket Purse

Green Feathered Hat in profile

Checked Dress

Red Feathered Hat

Cowboy Boot

Brown Feather Hat

Flavor Flav Purse

Green Shoes


Impossible Conversations, Happening Simultaneously

Schiaparelli & Prada - Classical Body I looked forward to the Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for many months. I LOVE Elsa Schiaparelli’s work and while I run hot and cold about Miuccia Prada’s career, I was excited to see “the striking affinities between the two Italian designers from very different eras”. It’s true, they exist. A lot of designers have things in common, not least of which are being either female or Italian. Schiaparelli & Prada - Neck Up/Knees Down Signature pieces by both designers are arranged in seven themed galleries: ”waist up/waist down”, “ugly chic”, “hard chic”, “naïf chic”, “the classical body”, “the exotic body” and “the surreal body”. Given that you can even find work by two designers that could fit into those subheadings, shows that the two very innovative artists (my designation, they disagreed about that title) have overlapping themes in their work. Schiaparelli & Prada -Trapeze Buttons Schiaparelli could simultaneously flatter the female form, put a shoe on its head and drawers across the chest. Depending on my mood, I would say that Prada has only nailed the “surreal body” and the “ugly chic”. Schiaparelli & Prada - Ugly Chic Whatever bipolar feelings I had about Prada were approximate to my feelings about the actress Judy Davis. Davis plays the role of Schiaparelli in Baz Luhrmann’s eight short videos projected huge across the walls in each room. Incidentally, while it must have been an honor to be asked to portray such a talent, it must have come with mixed emotion, as Schiap believed herself to be unattractive. (Then again, beautiful Marion Cotillard successfully pulled off Edith Piaf, another unconventional looker and European star of the early 20th century.) Schiaparelli & Prada - Judy Davis Thanks to this exhibit, my opinion of both the designer and the actress has increased significantly. What opinion didn’t change was mine about Baz Luhrmann. The director has a way of taking a fantastic subject and making it annoying. How is it possible to turn stories from Shakespeare and the Moulin Rouge into tarty, seizure-inducing, strobe lit films? (As a director at the Art Deco Society of California, I’m dreading next year’s release of The Great Gatsby.) The films shown here are physically too big and too loud for the space. The volume encouraged visitors to talk to one another over the din. The dialog is repeated as subtitles and again on the exhibition signage, so jockeying for a view of all three was unnecessary and distracting. Not all museum shows need to incorporate multimedia. Sometimes the subject matter really does just speak for itself. Schiaparelli & Prada - Surreal Body That said, it was a thrill to see so many iconic pieces by both designers in person. Not since the fantastic 2004 Shocking exhibit of at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, have so many of Schiaparelli’s garments been assembled. I am grateful to have seen both. Schiaparelli & Prada - Bug Buttons Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations is at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from May 10th until August 19th, 2012   Photos by Jeremy Brautman and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Stuck at Prom

1st Place Lara&Cole

Despite what anyone else on Facebook may imply, I wouldn’t go back to high school under any circumstances. Except possibly one: the annual Duck Tape duct tape “Stuck at Prom” contest.



Apparently, 1000s of high school students around the U.S. spend upwards of 342 hours of valuable study/team practice/make out/self doubt time instead crafting duct tape into haute couture. Sadly, this wearable art phenomenon didn’t start until 2001, or I would have been

Runners Up Rebecca & Jay Travis

Based on the entrants’ own write ups, they claim to have used anywhere from 19 to 62 rolls of duck tape to craft their ensembles, which at $6.29-$7.29 a roll, is no huge bargain. Or maybe it is? (I wore a vintage dress to my senior prom in the 1980s, which I bought with babysitting money, so it probably didn’t cost much more than a few rolls of duct tape.) To insure that contestants would have the support of their folks, each member of the winning couples can score as much as $5,000 in scholarship money and $5,000 for their high school.

Runners Up Nasia & Caine

Did I say “entrants’ own write ups”? Yes, and now I want to work in college admissions. The explanations are almost as fun and colorful as the gowns. From the suck up (“we <3 duck tape!”), to the earnest 3rd person fashion lesson (“styled after Victorian era 1830’s clothes”), to the “whatever”, unfortunately, many are united in their misspellings. Go graduating class of 2012!

April & Paola

“As young philosophers and supporters of the arts, we set out to persevere through the trials of the duct tape contest and conquer this worthy adversary. This notion of a heart of gold, the heart of a lion inspired our prom attire; our minds correlated a heart of a lion to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and our Rastafarian theme.“

Runners Up Cole & Gabrielle

The winners were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Workmanship (30%)
  • Originality (25%)
  • Use of Color (25%)
  • Accessories (10%)
  • Use of Duct Tape (10%)

You don’t even really need to know that, as perusing the hundreds of photos, it’s clear who the winners are. Some are winners because their craftsmanship clearly lands them a future spot on Project Runway, or into the Martha Stewart upper echelons of craft superstars; others just because they are so out and proud at age 16.

2nd Place Kelvin & Kailie detail


There are a few entries who weren’t official winners, but you know their mothers think they should have been. Good on all of them, I say. I’m just so dang jealous.

For more information and pictures of ALL the entrants, go here.


That Hat!

A few weeks ago, I happily came upon the opening night reception for Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles current exhibit, THAT HAT! 100 Years of Hats in Fashion. While I’m always game for an impromptu show of vintage hats, my unclad dome wished it could have showcased something from my teetering towers of hat boxes at home. It’s not every day that I’m in a roomful of aficionados, but I resisted the urge to grab something off the wall and slap it onto my head. Most of the assembled guests seemed to have planned ahead and dressed for the occasion.

Bonnets, top hats, toy hats, cloches, a pith helmet, a calash from the late 1700s and fascinators galore. Fur, feathers and felt, found in well over one hundred hats, over a span of what’s probably closer to 175 years. It’s a nicely curated, very comprehensive little show of American popular fashions. Fantastic examples of a wide variety of millinery which rival the several delightfully creepy wax mannequins donning them.

 It’s really interesting to see how the beauty standard has changed over the past 100 years. The mannequins’ physical appearance change almost as much as the fashions of each decade. Beyond the obvious hair and makeup styles (or use of) – height, face shape, coloring and expression all dramatically morph too.

Fun fact: Strands of hair on wax mannequins, including the eyebrows and lashes around the glass eyes, are individually inserted using a hot needle.

Fun fact 2: Wax mannequins are difficult to come across (production tapered off in favor of fiberglass after WWI) not just because many melted beyond recognition in hot attics, but also because rats would often chew on their extremities. Wee!

That Hat! 100 Years of Hats in Fashion is showing at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline Street in Berkeley, California from April 7th until August 4th, 2012.


Photos by Jeremy Brautman.