Pop Goes the Jazz Age

SEE | The Great Gatsby 
When readers feel possessive or fiercely passionate about a classic work of fiction, the film adaptation is guaranteed to get people talking. In this case we're talking about the fourth big screen version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Once the project was green-lit, speculation about who would be cast began. This time Tobey Maguire will play our guide, with Gatsby and Daisy being played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. But the most telling announcement was that of who would sit in the director's chair. With Moulin Rouge filmmaker Baz Luhrmann behind the camera, viewers are sure to grasp the overindulgent nature of the wealthy during the jazz age. Enter the film's first trailer. It's flashy and luxurious and filled to the brim with style. Luhrmann's clearly created an alluring and inviting world, but will experiencing it be far better than witnessing the drama between the characters? In this glimpse, the swirling party circuit looks more engrossing than any individual. Viewers will have to wait until Christmas to decide.

READ | Rules of Civility
 In his debut novel, Amor Towles weaves a swift-moving story about a young heroine trying to establish herself in 1930s Manhattan. As she navigates big city life, level-headed Katey has her belief in friendship, love and herself tested. Eager but never naive, the heroine grows more self-assured as the years pass. For fans of both The Devil Wears Prada and Breakfast at Tiffany's, Towles balances the story's glamour with an intriguing sadness surrounding those who are swept up by the scene.

WEAR | 1920s-Inspired
The fashion world has not been immune to pop culture's recent infusion of jazz age references. Designers in Milan and New York have played upon the era's signatures, like drop-waisted silhouettes and art deco patterns. Gucci's Frida Giannini created a collection of decadent flapper dresses for Spring 2012, and the Italian design house (established in 1921) has become the go-to brand for celebrities and pretty young things looking to test drive the trend. Actress Camilla Belle has gravitated toward the look (right, in Gucci), and channeled that same decade for inspiration at this year's Met Ball (left, in Ralph Lauren). This isn't last Halloween's flapper costume. Follow Belle's lead by keeping the hair simple and makeup modern.



"Editors are reporters. I know when a look is important, whether or not it reflects my personal style. My job is to make people dream, and to get them excited about dressing in a new way." 
- Elle Style Director Kate Lanphear


Reading About Girls and Pop

Every boy band frenzy requires the same essential ingredients. Harmonies, a mop-topped frontman and co-ordinated outfits go a long way. For weeks, radio stations have been playing the syrup-y sweet, "What Makes You Beautiful" by British imports One Direction. With their debut performance on Saturday Night Live and an upcoming North American tour (not to mention rival British group The Wanted on their heels), it's safe to say boy bands are back. But did they ever really leave? In Rob Sheffield's second book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, he embraces the '80s group for their catchy singles and the love lessons he learned from them. Their wardrobes may be different, but the focus remains on music that makes the girls scream.

In this heartfelt tome, Sheffield - a contributing editor at Rolling Stone - looks back on the songs that became the soundtrack to his adolescence. Growing up with three sisters in what he calls the "pre-Snooki era," he dedicates each chapter to a different '80s song and shares the story behind it. Laced with pop culture references spanning the past century (including Celebrity Fit Club, Pretty Woman, The Great Gatsby and of course, John Hughes movies), Sheffield pieces together significant moments from his teenage years with exuberance and humour. You don't have to know every song to smile when he recalls the summer he spent driving an ice cream truck (Prince's "Purple Rain") or when he asks the hot girl, 'Am I always going to be this way?' after an incredibly awkward car ride (Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"). 

With his years of reporting experience, Sheffield includes anecdotes he's collected throughout his career writing about pop icons. But what makes the book resonate is his descriptions of how the songs made him feel. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran defends pop music as a reflection of society and a source of inspiration. Each chapter reiterates that songs that were new thirty years ago still, "add up to a playlist that gives [the author] a taste of that moment." Whether he learned from literally listening to lyrics or from the moments those songs set the mood for, Sheffield's memories are a reminder that every coming-of-age story has a soundtrack.

"Sometimes the only way they come back is in a song. Sometimes the song is the green light at the end of the dock, a sign that the dream we've been chasing is already behind us, in the past. Sometimes when a girl goes away, the conversation doesn't end. You keep talking to her, just in case she can hear. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into Bryan Ferry." - Rob Sheffield, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran


Travel: A Taste of Milan Part 2

Cappuccino and cornetti at Sant Ambroeus
Gucci on Via Montenapoleone
There's no doubt that Milan is an elegant city. Strolling down via Montenapoleone is where you'll witness that elegance firsthand. Here is where you'll find all of the most famous, high-end designer boutiques, as well as many of their head offices. Rub elbows with fashion's elite at two of the area's most bustling cafes, Sant Ambroeus (7 Corso Giacomo Matteotti) and Cafe Cova (8 Via Montenapoleone). See where the well-known New York Sant Ambroeus cafes got their start at the original outpost, just off of the main strip. Choose a treat from their variety of fresh pastries to go with a creamy cappuccino. The barista serves the drink with one of their signature chocolates as well. Or step inside the ornate sitting room at Cova for an intimate breakfast or a quick espresso at the marble bar. Each morning the cafe - which opened its doors in 1817 - is filled with a mix of tourists and locals alike.
Espresso break at 10 Corso Como
Regardless of your budget, there's one address that is sure to inspire any fashion-lover. Tucked behind a greenery-covered archway is 10 Corso Como, the brainchild of Carla Sozzani (sister to Vogue Italia's Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani). Exploring the three-story concept store for the first time is an experience that will leave you breathless. Witness some of Milan's best street style among the well-heeled here inside the boutique, book store, gallery or cafe. Since opening 10 Corso Como in a converted garage in 1991, Sozzani's emporium has been the address to know for quirky housewares, artistic coffee table books, statement-making shoes and the latest from houses like Balenciaga. Should your senses become so overwhelmed that you never want to leave, Sozzani opened the intimate hotel called 3 Rooms in 2003. 
Visit the southwest end of the city for a stroll through the neighbourhood surrounding Porta Ticinese. Small restaurants and shops line the streets, but these aren't the chains and big brands found near the Duomo. Style is much less manicured in Ticinese, and the independently-owned boutiques reflect that. Scour the vintage clothing stores for oversized sunglasses, sequinned blouses and Gucci bags. After taking in the area's laid-back vibe, it's time for a gelato at Grom (51 Corso di Porta Ticinese). With several locations throughout the city, you'll have multiple chances to indulge in any of their monthly flavours. 


Travel: A Taste of Milan Part 1

A closer look at the Duomo, from the patio at La Rinascente
Milan is a city that surprises at every turn. While it has the same charm found in other Italian cities, it's somehow blended with the non-stop sensibility often associated with New York. The winding roads take you either to a centuries-old building worth marveling over or a slick high rise. The people are strolling along or swiftly moving past, either way it's probably in an impeccably-tailored outfit. So grab your sunglasses and a pair of comfortable (albeit good-looking) shoes, it's time to take on Italy's fashion capital. 

With it's intricate marble details, the city's Gothic cathedral is a breath-taking first stop no matter what time you arrive. The Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by stores catering to those with both high and low budgets. But steps from the Duomo itself is the go-to department store, La Rinascente. Like Harrods in London, this eight-storey shopping centre offers cosmetics, fashion, housewares and even an assortment of specialty foods, bars and restaurants. For a closer look at some of the Duomo's detail, enjoy lunch on the store's rooftop patio. Though aperitivo time on the patio at La Rinascente is bustling, enjoy a change of scenery by strolling just outside of the piazza. A table on the sunny patio at Bar Mercurio (8 Via Giuseppe Mazzini) is perfect for people watching and sipping on cocktails (including mojitos and caipiroska alla fragola), while you discuss what's next on your itinerary. 
A glimpse of the treats you'll find at La Rinascente

The picturesque streets in the Brera district are lined with high-end boutiques and cozy restaurants. Even in February, the outdoor tables are filled with people laughing theatrically or meeting for an intimate meal. Located on a narrow street off of Via Brera is Ristorante Nabucco (10 Via Fiori Chiari), a small restaurant specializing in Milanese dishes and fresh pasta. Craving something you don't see on the menu? Just ask. The friendly servers are quick to accommodate. Whether you're in the mood for gnocchi al pomodoro or spaghetti alla carbonara, these plates are loaded with deliciously fresh flavour. When you think the experience couldn't get any sweeter, the waiter brings complementary chocolate strawberries for dessert. Afterward, follow the sound of the music playing at Bar Giamaica (32 Via Brera), where a boisterous crowd fills the patio. 
Stay tuned for more shopping, tasting and sight-seeing in my next installment of Life is Glossy's guide to Milan.


Milan: Seeing People

The entrance to Galleria Carla Sozzani
Who better to mentor a novice photographer than legendary lensman Helmut Newton? In 1970, when the iconic German photographer was dealing with an illness, he sent his wife on an assignment in his place. Australian actress June Newton's new career began with that first shoot in Paris. Under the pseudonym Alice Springs, she snapped an advertisement for the French cigarette brand Gitanes. By 1974, she shot the cover of French Elle and has had her work featured in Vanity Fair, Vogue and Marie Claire since then.

Now Milan's Galleria Carla Sozzani at 10 Corso Como is hosting an exhibit of Springs' work called People. Lining the white walls are ad campaigns, nudes and celebrity portraits taken over the last 40 years. From Yves Saint Laurent to Anjelica Huston, Springs doesn't romanticize her subjects. Without dramatic poses or concepts, the black and white images are both stark and revealing. Produced by Berlin's Helmut Newton Foundation, People proves why June Newton stepped out from behind her husband's shadow, and became famous in her own right.

View of the courtyard patio at 10 Corso Como from Galleria Carla Sozzani


To Capture a Moment

Within the pristine white walls of Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox, fashion-lovers, royal followers and film fans alike were brought together by the recent exhibit, Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess. Though patrons shuffled between her handwritten notes, scripts and most memorable pieces from the Dial M for Murder actress' wardrobe, no item encased in glass could match the experience of seeing them brought to life on screen. 

Audiences became infatuated with Grace Kelly, the movie star because of her beauty and reserved charm. While walking through the portion of the exhibit dedicated to Kelly's Hollywood years, movie posters and iconic outfits were on display. But for evidence of the personality that intrigued generations, you purchased the wrong tickets. The tribute to her short film career soon led to displays of the clothes which marked her transition to royalty, from the floral dress she wore to meet Prince Rainier for the first time, to a replica of her wedding gown. For more of the personality that first caught Hollywood's attention, a screening of To Catch a Thief was the perfect accompaniment.

Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 mystery was one of the first movies to romanticize the French Riviera. To see it is an indulgent experience in which the beauty of the setting is layered with glamorous leads (Kelly and Cary Grant) and luxurious costumes by Edith Head. Kelly plays Frances, a restless American heiress who romances reformed criminal John Robie. She's sure of herself and of getting what she wants but bares none of the petulant attitude she has playing rich girl Tracy Lord in her final film, High Society. As she moves through scenes in looks by the legendary costume designer, her over-the-top accessories also communicate the character's love of attention. When she isn't wearing jewels, a wide-brimmed hat will suffice. The solid blues and whites in her wardrobe reiterate her cool demeanor to the audience. Just as costumes were used to convey Frances' identity, so to was the camera. Hitchcock frequently used profile shots of the actress to highlight her refined, icy quality, which were then juxtaposed with her character's aggressive pursuit of John Robie. Aside from the film's aesthetics, the audible gasps from the audience made it clear that Hitchcock's mystery is still a thrill to unravel.


Travel: Hours in New York

There's no feeling quite like getting on a plane without luggage. Along with the thrill of exploring a city, boarding without bags leaves you free to begin the adventure as soon as you land. It also makes for a fuss-free trip when you plan to travel to and from New York in one day. Make the most of those few, indulgent hours with a list of stops that will inspire.

Get the day started with a creamy cappuccino and chocolate croissant at Sant Ambroeus (259 West 4th St.). The cozy room is decorated in traditional style with plush banquettes for friends looking to linger, and high marble bar for those interested in downing an espresso, glancing at the headlines and dashing out the door. A less formal location than the Upper East Side original, the West Village outpost also offers a full menu including brunch, fresh panini and their house-made gelati. 

Top up the inspiration that exists in the architecture and store windows around you with a stop into Casa Magazines (22 8th Ave.). This tiny corner shop is filled with floor to ceiling magazines ranging from popular consumer titles to obscure periodicals from all over the world. Don't let this magazine-lover's heaven overwhelm you, the helpful owner is always willing to locate (or order in) whatever it is you're looking for. (Note: After debating, I left with British Vogue and Italian Glamour)

Cross the cobblestones and head toward Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave.), to browse and sample treats from a variety of vendors and restaurants. Each stop along the concourse showcases specialists in their product, whether it is cupcakes, lobster or nuts and spices. The One Lucky Duck booth is filled with juices and snacks for raw food eaters, while L'Arte del Gelato tempts shoppers with typical choices like nocciola alongside intriguing flavours like olive oil. The Food Network offices are upstairs, so keep your eyes peeled for Bobby Flay. 

Elevated above the city's West Side is the High Line (runs from Gansevoort St. to West 30th St.), a public park built on a former freight train track. Steps from the busy streets, the High Line is an ideal place to stroll, read or catch some sun without ever leaving the city. 

No matter how you define your style, the shops lining the streets of Manhattan's Meatpacking District are sure to please. Head to British brand AllSaints (411 West 13th St.) for deconstructed knits or leather. Craving colour? The Diane von Furstenberg (875 Washington St.) flagship has got you covered. With the clock ticking, window shopping may be all you have time for before lunch!

If you've chosen New York's Restaurant Week over Toronto's Winterlicious, try lunch at Fig & Olive (420 West 13th St.). The restaurant's streamlined design contrasts its industrial surroundings in the Meatpacking District, and the casual atmosphere makes it a fitting stop for lunch with friends or even a client. It comes as no surprise that at a restaurant that also sells a wide variety of olive oil, the meal begins with a tasting of oils from Portugal, Italy and Chile. After a delicious bouillabaisse with sole, scallop and striped bass, chocolate pot de creme makes the whole experience even sweeter. Though taking time to savour lunch is highly recommended, don't forget you've got a plane to catch.


The Talented Mr. McQueen

As fashion insiders applauded Alexander McQueen’s seventh collection, 1996’s Dante, the British designer retreated from the spotlight. He deliberately remained mysterious, out of fear that his rising star would result in the loss of the social security benefits he was living off of. That same year he was appointed to design for Givenchy. When he became chief designer for the French fashion house responsible for dressing Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, there was no longer any need to hide.

In May 2011, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art paid tribute to the late Alexander McQueen with a 100-piece retrospective called Savage Beauty. The accompanying hardcover book, a 240-page collection of images and quotes is a reflection of the exuberance and social awareness that he embodied. Known for his dark sensibility and unflinching confidence in his work, the book sheds light on the joy he took from putting together shows and his desire to always convey beauty through his designs.

From the Victorian era to heroic women like Joan of Arc, McQueen interpreted his inspiration in a way that made a statement about his experiences. “My work is a social document about the world today,” he said. Raised in a working-class family, McQueen dropped out of school at 16 and began his design education as an apprentice on Savile Row. Working with Anderson & Sheppard, tailors by appointment to the British royal family, he learned about construction before studying at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Regardless of being anti-establishment, he had great respect for history and tradition. While the book provides an all-encompassing look at the influential designer and his collections, it also celebrates the way he communicated through clothes. “I prefer extreme reactions,” he once said. “There is no point in doing it if it’s not going to create some sort of emotion.”


Paris: Meet Madame Grès

A Grecian-inspired dress is encased in glass. Its cream fabric is swathed elegantly around the mannequin, and falls to create a floor-length skirt. A sash accentuates the form’s waist, and then extends beyond the hem. On first glance, it is a timeless dress. But one of Madame Grès’ designs deserves a second look. Its angles and delicate pleats represent the complex construction she used to create one of many minimalist looks during her sixty years in fashion. In a room filled with towering stone statues, her work is equally striking.

The Musée Bourdelle in Paris is the site of “Madame Grès: Couture at Work”, her first retrospective. The space – an extension of Antoine Bourdelle’s home and studio – is fitting for a designer who originally wanted to become a sculptor. “For me it is just the same to work with fabric or stone,” she said. Born Germaine Krebs, she launched her design house, Alix in 1934. The exhibit proves she identified her design signatures early and stayed true to them, regardless of trends. Her aesthetic is what curator Olivier Saillard describes as being, “fashion that wasn’t fashionable.” Consequently her masterfully draped dresses could easily be imagined being worn on the red carpet today. Dresses in tangerine, emerald and violet stand out from her typically neutral colour palette. Also on display are original sketches, a video of Grès fitting a couture client and magazines in which her designs are featured.

Seeing pieces in the retrospective dispersed among the museum’s sculptures highlights her artistry. But a row of varied white gowns has just as much impact without the juxtaposition. Each dress in the group showcases the complexity and range of her skills. Much like the rest of Grès’ work, these are minimal, but far from simple. Moving through the exhibit from the ‘30s to the ‘80s sheds light on the life and work of this mysterious couturier. The intricate designs and legendary craftsmanship on display show that above all, she was an artist.