July 2010


I am born and bred in the Philippines, an archipelago of over seven thousand islands in the Southeast Asia. This month, we celebrate Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) as for most of the year we are divided by class, religion and language (we number over fifty dialects).

I dedicate my succeeding blog entries to the beauty that is my motherland, the Pearl of the Orient.

FIRST VOLUME

Twenty-nine years ago, there was a fairy tale wedding, featuring Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. It turned out horribly as the whole world knows but the first snag in that extravaganza was the dress: a crumpled, fussy jungle of lace, taffeta, ribbons and bows as seen below:

Diana looked like a meringue.

Even in black-and-white, it looks all frumpy. Being a 1981 creation, this may have heralded the decade of excess. And the designers behind it:

David and Elizabeth Emmanuel. They failed to consider that Diana’s dress has to fit in a roomy glass coach and so the work was ruined. It may have attempted a romantic look but it sunk – just like the high hopes for this union to work out. The scenario I imagine is this:

Nineteen-year-old Diana Spencer is shown sketches of the dress and of course, it looks beautifully frothy and all princess-y on paper. Then the Emmanuels go to work, finish the dress (oh-so-top-secret and now we know why) and when it is sent to Clarence House, even Diana does not like it. Being very young and naive, she says nothing (if she did say anything about the Camilla specter hovering even back then, she would have saved herself a lifetime of heartbreak.) Instead, she settled for an overdone dress and went on to become a sitting-duck-turned madwoman.

I hope Kate Middleton follows the footsteps of Autumn Kelly and does the Brits proud that one of their own has good taste in one of the most important dresses of a lifetime.

It was on a cool July night in 1918 when the Bolsheviks executed the Romanovs, Russia’s last Imperial Family. And I dedicate this post to them – in pictures:

Tsar Nicholas II with his wife (right) Empress Alexandra and her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Tragically, all three would perish in July 1918 at the brutal hands of the Bolsheviks.

The Imperial Family in 1899. Alexandra holds baby Marie, with Nicholas propping up tiny Tatiana and little Olga in the foreground.

The Imperial Family after the birth of Alexis in 1904. Olga, aged nearly nine, holds her father’s arm. Tatiana snuggles to her mother while Marie sits in front of her. Nicholas holds Anastasia by the hand.

Their Imperial Highnesses the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia in a formal sitting in 1906.

The Imperial Children in 1906 (l-r) Olga, Alexei, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia

The Imperial Family eating a meal like any other family.

Empress Alexandra and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Marie in 1913, during the Romanov tercentenary

The Grand Duchesses Marie, Anastasia, Tatiana and Olga in 1914

The Romanovs in 1915

Tsar Nicholas with Tatiana, Olga, Marie, Anastasia and Alexei in 1916; in the foreground and at the back are some of his nephews

The Imperial Family

In 1971, the film “Nicholas and Alexandra” premiered in London. The cast (Michael Jayston as Nicholas, Janet Suzman as Alexandra, Roderic Noble as Alexis, Ania Marson as Olga, Lynne Frederick as Tatiana, Candace Glendenning as Marie and Fiona Fullerton as Anastasia) also posed for pictures, similar to the royal family’s formal sittings:

The real McCoy

from the film

And another match-up:

I wish Hollywood would make another film based on the Romanovs. Casting the four daughters is actually tricky but if I had my way, I’d cast the following:

Olga


Apart from the blond hair and squarish face, Julia has the strong-willed, intelligent, well-read aura of the eldest of the Grand Duchesses:

A runner-up to play Olga would be Kirsten Dunst, who actually resembles Fiona Fullerton, who played Anastasia in 1971. But I think with the proper hairstyling, she’d be a credible Grand Duchess Olga. She is also talented enough to convey the complexities of Olga’s character.

Tatiana:

Emily Blunt can capture the figure of authority and elegance in Grand Duchess Tatiana. She already has one royal role – that of Tatiana’s maternal great-grandma, Queen Victoria. Her eyes are also slanted in a manner similar to that of the grey-eyed stunner:

One runner-up can be Keira Knightley:

My take on Keira is that I never really found her to be elegant; she seems more skittish than anything else, really. One reason why she was perfect to play Lizzy Bennet is because she has that rather playful manner.

Marie

I’ve never seen how Selena acts but am sure she can pull off the more docile role of Grand Duchess Marie. Properly styled and costumes, she would be a dead ringer for the prettiest (albeit chubbiest) of the Grand Duchesses:

A distant runner-up (who would also need to gains something like twenty pounds) would be Leighton Meester:

It would be a far cry from her days as Queen Bee as she will assume the title Her Imperial Highness but wear rather dowdy clothes. Marie has been described as flirt of sorts so Meester can assume the same stance.

Anastasia

Saoirse Ronan would play the tomboyish, mischievous Russian Grand Duchess; her work in “The Lovely Bones” just might prepare her for the bloody night of July 16-17, 1918.

Another contender would be Mia Wasikowska (who played Alice in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” – which is a throw-back to Fiona Fullerton as she played Alice after playing Anastasia)

I think these casting choice could do justice to the girls after the 1971 version:

left to right – Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and Olga

Hopefully their deaths will be properly commemorated in 2018.

Today, Jackie Kennedy Onassis would have been 81 years old. While I’d be the first to readily admit that the lady strikes me as rather self-involved, she does camouflage it with her own brand of charm and style. I love how she always looks so put-together in pictures (even the candid ones). She is not a great beauty – I’d select Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Charlotte Casiraghi as my favorite beauties of all time. Jackie, meanwhile, has incredible appeal to me and there is something about her that makes people want to watch her every move. Other people are fascinated by Elvis or Princess Diana; my idolatry is reserved for the Romanovs and for Jackie O.

As a birthday tribute, I’ve chosen my favorite colored pictures of Jackie. These do not include her official portrait as First Lady or Ron Gallela’s windblown New York photo. I chose the relatively uncirculated ones and here they are, in no particular order:

Jackie looks so relaxed here in full ’70’s attire. I like how she’s free from ceremonial rigors here.

Jackie glows as she hangs out with some children during her Mayan trek; it shows that she enjoys the company of the young.

Jackie takes a dip into the Aegean sea after her marriage to Onassis. It strikes me that a woman who is described as greedy takes great pleasure in the simplest joys like the sea (of course, it helps that she’s some feet away from one of the largest private yachts in the world).

Jackie is famous for her love of horses and she looks plenty regal here as she trots off in Ireland, 1967.

Jackie is described as a solitary person who enjoys taking quiet walks, whether around Central Park or by the shores of the Cape. Here she is snapped up in 1978, in Israel.

Jackie with President Kennedy at Hammersmith Farm in 1962. They both look like they are in their element – high style by Cape.

A private moment for the one of the most photographed families in history

A tender Yuletide moment for Jackie with her children Caroline and John, Jr.

JFK’s body arrives at the White House, November 22, 1963. It is amazing how the camera angle obscures Jackie’s bloodied skirt.

A winning sartorial moment: this gown of Jackie’s is not as featured as her pink gown during the Malraux dinner or as the celadon green jersey dress worn for the dinner in honor of Nobel laureates. She was actually pregnant with Patrick at this point. I love how the gold blends well with the yellow and of course, the bow detail finishes the look.

Motherhood was a role Jackie took seriously and I love how she’s focused on Caroline and John here, despite the hordes of photographers.

Despite all the tragedies, Jackie continues to smile and to bounce back. She seems to be as memorable as the New York skyline here.

My morning routine consists of checking my yahoo mail, posting on my facebook page, taking the daily quiz from blogthings and reviewing the fashionable lifestyle on this site.  For this month, I’ve seen the campaign ads for the fall 2010 season of various fashion monuments. The following are my personal observations:

Balenciaga

The red theme and sepia tinge makes the overall look quite attractive yet ethereal at the same time. The disheveled look complements the color theme but the clothes seem to stick out like a sore thumb. A classic example of clothes wearing the person and not vice-versa. Is the concept “Fashion in Mars”? That’s the overall projection I’m sensing. I was never a fan of clunky heels and this campaign convinces me to maintain my stance.

Calvin Klein

I’ve seen plenty of CK ads and they’re known for the black and white look. It’s the signature, the trademark. But am thinking, trademark is the new dull. The ala Kate Moss look does nothing to spruce up the campaign. Blah.

Chanel

I like this ad – it’s a jazzed up look that moment when Holly Golightly, in her downtime clothes, sings “Moon River.” The placement of “Chanel” on the railing does not jump out but is cleverly eased into the picture. I like the style of the shadow as it adds character to the whole portrait. The question is, what does the ad say about the label? That it’s into the downtown scene? That side stairs are the new platform? That bricks are back? What’s the statement here?

Escada

Milla Jovovich looks stunningly fierce here. I like the audition concept here (complete with casting couch). Or is it rehearsal time? The concept is such a tease – as campaign ads should be. The clothes seem tailor-made for her and they fall on her as effortlessly as butter melts onto ciabatta bread. I like the way textures are played up here, from the clothes to the set up.

Fendi

Sleek surfaces, sleek hair and sleek colors. Properly styled and the furnishing used speak of a story (party espionage, partly a glamorized Jen Aniston’s “The Good Girl”). But overall, I find the campaign rather run-in-the-mill. Like, “Get the blond with shoulder-length hair. Get Fendi’s latest. Get the mirror for the background.”

Hermes

This I found rather stunning. It takes one masculinized model and a backdrop straight out from Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” to lend this fashion house some testosterone. Actually, I felt it reflects the straight lines and no-nonsense designs of Hermes. This is my favorite ad campaign.

Miu Miu

Prada’s little sister knows its target market rather well: the young and the cliquish. I like the colors, the textures and the metallic tinge used in this campaign. The yellows, blues and green eye shadows make for this colorful display. It is playfully neat and teasingly preppy.

Prada

Obviously edgier and more street smart than little Miu Miu. Prada mixed various textures and prints to achieve this rocker/ house party look.Rather, naughty, partner-swapping house party look may I just say. This campaign exudes illicit affairs almost wanting to be discovered.

Am still a sucker for Miu Miu’s matelasse bags.

Valentino

This black-and-white ad has more edge than Calvin Klein’s campaign. I like the stark contrast of a weed-thin nude model and the embellishment of a British drawing room. It exudes sex but in a very restrained, stiff-upper lip sort of way. It’s very Kate Moss of the early ’90’s, the epitome of heroin chic. My last comment is, does the ad feature a before-and-after sort of theme? Like, while wearing Valentino’s sedate designs you will party hard then end up naked and wasted at a glamorous locale?

Versace

It’s prolly because I started with Calvin Klein’s black-and-white blah campaign but Versace’s ads focus more on the models and the clothes. They speak attitude and appeal while complementing the background. The ads also seem to condone same-sex relationships, which adds to the racy, edgy feel of the campaign.

So to rank accordingly – I’d give Hermes props for their campaign, followed by Escada with Miu Miu and Prada tied at third. Then I’d give it to Versace, Valentino, Balenciaga, Chanel, Fendi and… quite poorly, Calvin Klein.

There are three giant female icons of the twentieth-century who were born in July. They grew up in relative anonymity but their marriages to prominent men catapulted them into the stage of the world. They were the focal point of their respective countries first, then the rest of the world.

They are (in order of age, left to right) Imelda Romualdez Marcos (b. July 2, 1929), Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (b. July 28, 1929) and Diana, Princess of Wales (nee Lady Diana Spencer, b. July 1, 1961).

Imelda, the Philippine first lady, is renowned for her beauty, her involvement in politics and diplomacy during her husband, Ferdinand Marcos’s twenty years in power. Before all the hullaballoo about her shoe collection, she was actually a force to be reckoned with. She was so popular in the late 1960’s that when the Beatles visited Manila and pulled a no-show for a private concert at Malacanang Palace, their police escort was withdrawn and the crowds ran after them, shouting abuse (this at the height of Beatlemania!) Bong Bong Marcos, her son, thereafter famously remarked, “I prefer the Rolling Stones anyway.” It was also Imelda who visited Colonel Gadaffi when Libya was supplying the Muslims in Mindanao with weapons (thereby wiping out battalions of the army). This meeting resulted in the Tripoli agreement.

As for her so-called “edifice complex”, Imelda gave the Philippines the Cultural Center, the Heart Center, the Kidney Center and the Lung Center, all currently institutions of the country. People have lambasted her for her extravagance and made a loud stink about her shoes, gowns and jewelry… but I must say, there is a bit of Imelda in all girls. Personally, I love jewelry and shoes  and one can’t have enough of them. Imelda might as well be the precursor of Carrie Bradshaw (famous for her love of Manolos, Choos and Louboutins).

Imelda, of course, became the widow who failed to inspire pity (unlike the admired widow of all time, Jackie Kennedy). With Marcos gone, she attended several high-profile court sessions and was eventually vindicated. She is currently the sole surviving legend among the three mentioned and she has not faded into obscurity. Currently the Congressman of her late husband’s province, she dazzles or offends the public as she holds lavish birthday parties and wears her famous jewels.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Sorbonne-educated American First Lady, who would go on to marry a Greek billionaire, dazzled the world only years before Imelda; coincidentally, the year Jackie became First Lady was also the year Diana was born. There was no one like Jackie and no one else since (except for this First Lady, perhaps). In hindsight, Jackie actually fashioned her style after another fifties icon:

At a certain point, after she married JFK, Jackie actually cropped her hair into an Audrey-like pixie, which did not bode well for her square jaw. Jackie also made no secret of the fact that she admired Givenchy’s creations (and who should be Givenchy’s muse then but Audrey). The good thing about Mrs. Kennedy was that she eventually gained confidence in her own fashion sense and went on to popularize the pillbox hat and the boxy jackets with 3/4-length sleeves (and later on, she perfected the Capri look for the next generations – scarf, oversize shades, pedals and Rogers sandals).

If Imelda felt she was obligated to spend because she was the wife of the head of state, Jackie’s sense of extravagance had a self-involved tinge to it. Her world was narrower than her Philippine counterpart and she played the grand dame role to the hilt: horses, yachts and the jet-set. Her attributes are namely her devotion to her children, which is laudatory.  However, this also reflects how she chose to remain a private citizen and nothing more, which is a shame because to live such a great life entails giving back to the greater good.

In the end, Jackie is best remembered through her gowns and sense of fashion, which really has no use to people in general. She is also the glorified house wife who spent her husband’s money redecorating the home and overseeing menus. This is not in itself a negative thing but it is all too limited an occupation given her apparent intelligence:

She was acknowledged as more handsome than beautiful and she may have been chic but even Audrey had her U.N. missions and Liz had her AIDS advocacy. Jackie is the true product of media sensationalism, her husband’s martyrdom and her subsequent tragic widowhood the fodder for the image elite. With LIFE and LOOK magazines, and later even Hustler and Hello!, Jackie was the best thing that happened to the media moguls.

Princess Diana was born in the most comfortable situation (as Jackie and Imelda were deemed to be the poor relations when they were growing up) but she was certainly the most ill-educated. Her appeal was similar to that of Imelda’s: they centered on emotion. Diana’s strength lies in her ability to connect with the regular persona and even the marginalized. However, Imelda’s extravagance seemed to be at odds with her pronounced charity. Diana, born the wealthiest of the three, may have her occasions of indulgence but I doubt if it is ever at par with Jackie’s or Imelda’s.

On the other hand, Diana did take a leaf out of Jackie’s book and devoted much time to her children. Some might criticize her for using Wills and Harry as part of some publicity campaign (something Jackie resisted) but in hindsight, Diana was the walking magnet for the paparazzi. If those pictures with her children at McDonald’s or Disneyland were never published, she might as well never have spent time with them. One thing though which neither Imelda nor Jackie ever did, which Diana played to the hilt, was the shameless defamation of her husband. Maybe Charles may not have been as powerful or as charismatic as JFK or Marcos but Diana seemed bent on destroying him, not only to their children but to the whole world. To this day, Imelda speaks highly of Marcos and Jackie, to the public’s knowledge, never spoke a disloyal word about her husband’s infidelities.

Diana was also rather reckless and had no sense of history. She seemed to have no respect for her position or her sons’ positions. I daresay she was acting out her extreme humiliation and pain when Charles openly chose Camilla over her. But this did not seem to  make her any wiser. Of the three, Diana is portrayed more often as being downright bitchy and petty. Am sure Jackie and Imelda had their low-blow moments but with Diana, the people who work for her actually resign in protest (most notably, when she gloated over Tiggy Legge-Burke’s “abortion”).

Diana’s death, though, took the world by storm and there are several angles to it: her youth, her sons, all these possibilities after her divorce. I will remember the time I heard about it: my best friend rang me up on Sunday afternoon and told me. I was a high school freshman then and was moved by the spectacle of the funeral (though I felt that Earl Spencer was pushing it with his not-so-subtle swipes at the Royal Family). True, I do not condone Charles’s apparent disregard for Diana (unlike JFK, who was proud of Jackie’s triumphs abroad, Charles resented his young wife her fame) but the Princess’s behavior was so awful that I couldn’t side with her either. In any case, the victors of it all would have to be William and Harry, who seem to be well-adjusted young men.

These July born icons – Imelda, Jackie and Di – embody all that is adored and resented in women. They have us quite a show but now, in the days of Paris, Lindsay and Britney, they are sorely missed.

Every girl dreams of her big day – when she marries the love of her life and lives busily ever after, raising a family and probably balancing her career along with it.

However, a big part of this dream big day centers around yards of silk. Or satin. Or chiffon. With lace. Or tulle. No matter how the marriage turns out, the wedding dress is the icon of the day. I am still one of the fortunate few who have yet to see my very own wedding dress (why fortunate? Because am still enjoying the single life). For the time being, I am quite content to observe and to discuss my favorite wedding dresses:

There are two mother-daughter tandem whose wedding dresses I both adore (as opposed to the wedding dresses of Jacqueline Bouvier and Caroline Kennedy, which I find bordering on nuptial nightmare): the first stylish pair being Princess Margaret (left) in her 1960 marriage and her daughter Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones in her 1993 wedding:

Both Margaret and Sarah opted for none of the embellishment of beads, appliques and brocades. They opted for rich silks, using diamond tiaras to accessorize their wedding day look. Of course, Margaret had her gown cut to suit her rather petite yet curvy figure while Sarah’s dress emphasized her lean silhouette. In a sense these dresses may have influenced my own personal preferences as I keep telling my mother that I refuse to have much bead work.

Another simple stunner was worn in 1996 by Carolyn Bessette when she married Camelot hunk JFK, Jr.

Carolyn could not have chosen a better dress as her debut to being Mrs. Kennedy. It was so chic in its simplicity and it complemented the charming little chapel where she married. The casually-knotted hair, the sheer gloves and the bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley were her accessories and she carried them off with great aplomb.

Quite a change from her mother-in-law’s overdone wedding dress for her first marriage:

Coincidentally, the only other woman who can claim to be more famous than Jackie O also had a rather disastrous wedding dress (as her marriage turned out) all crumpled and frumpy:

My second mother-daughter sartorial wonders are Grace Kelly in her 1956 nuptials and Princess Caroline of Monaco in her 1978 wedding:

Grace and Caroline both used interesting headpieces, with the former wearing a classic Juliet cap and the latter sporting boho-chic flowered ringlets. Lace is their cloth of choice, which they layered over silk. I like how they were able to maximize this potentially fussy fabric and yet it still looked so elegant. Grace might be the classic nuptial chic but I like the scalloped hem of Caroline’s gown and how it grazes the ground so gently.

My final choice is the one dress very few can pull off since it requires being a size zero. Grace’s dress has been modified countless times but this one is associated with one woman and one legend:

Mainbocher’s creation for Wallis Simpson emphasizes her ultra-skinny figure and her most famous motto, “You can’t be too rich or too thin.” The dress, of course, gained attention for the notoriety of its wearer: the woman who stole England’s King Edward VIII. Wallis, who preceded the skinny Twiggy and the equally frail-looking Kate Moss, wears a dress no one else would wear. It seemed cut and stitched for Wallis alone; moreover, the silhouette of the dress is very 1930’s and very unforgiving to anyone who weighs over ninety pounds. However, I chose it for the love story surrounding the dress and its uniqueness.

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