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David Bowie Is [on display]

22 Apr

Fashion in Film Beat: Yahoo! Movies

by Staci Layne Wilson

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David Bowie is, therefore we think.

Bowie bolt

“David Bowie Is” is the name of the exhibit on display now at the V&A Museum in London (the show ends on August 11). It’s brilliantly titled, as it leads to almost as many roads as the entertainer himself took on his long and continuing journey through fame.

As you walk into a virtual labyrinth (yes, film fans – Bowie’s star turn in the Jim Henson film Labyrinth is featured within the presentation), the first thing you will see is the writing on the wall “All art is unstable” and hear Bowie’s voice intoning, “There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings.” Paraphrasing fellow troubadour Bob Dylan’s go-to muse, Arthur Rimbaud (and let’s not forget Bowie’s own A Song for Bob Dylan, off the Hunky Dory album), the ultimate glam rock entertainer leads you by the brain into his silvery lair.

Bowie  – a poet and a pin-up, a sell-out and a maverick, a lover and a loner, an actor reading from a script and an off-the-cuff philosopher – is pretty much impossible to define. And so is this exhibit. A mish-mash of glitter and substantive information, it’s up to the beholder to find the beautiful. Co-curated by Geoff Marsh, the items on display seem, at first, to possess a cohesive narrative (early career, glam era, influences, movie work), but then, like Gretel running out of breadcrumbs, I found myself lost in this forest of finery. Overwhelmed and all done, I could barely remember all that I’d seen.

Original Ziggy Stardust bodysuits are on display, as are Kansai Yamamoto’s Aladdin Sane tour outfits, an amazing Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen and Bowie himself for the cover of the Earthling album, as well as a deeply striking, very irreverent religious-icon mask worn in the Dead Man Walking music video directed by Flora Sigismondi.

dead man walking mask


As a bit of a museum rat, I’ve seen some pretty awesome collections – from the unprecedented Stanley Kubrick exhibit by Elvis Mitchell currently at LACMA, to last year’s Hollywood Museum Marilyn Monroe retrospective in the famous Art Deco Max Factor Building in Hollywood. While I did love every spangle and glistening thread of “David Bowie Is”, I was unable to grasp a through-line. Perhaps that’s the blessing of, first of all, trying to make sense of such a mysterious icon, but also the curse of presenting a definitive picture of a living legend.

As you enter the first room, look up at the aerial library. It’s a disparate mock-up of suspended books that open like flowers to show a gilded glimpse of the intellectual influences inside the man who was so much about the façade. Then take a gander at the glamour Bowie beheld, regurgitated, and repackaged in his own image – the famous Marlene Dietrich photographic portrait and Bowie’s mirror of that same angular face on his Hunky Dory album cover is the most striking illustration. However, sprinkled throughout the rooms are many more eye-opening examples.


Eerie, androgynous mannequins lurk in corners and stand on open display, wearing Bowie’s most famous costumes. Room décor ranges from the Soho flavor on his U.K. beginnings to his current bedroom in Manhattan. Then we go from the deepest, darkest outer spaces bringing to mind Major Tom and The Man Who Fell to Earth, to bright and airy floor-to-ceiling video monitors showing Bowie strutting his stuff onstage throughout the eras. His Broadway dressing rooms are recreated to remind us of his powerful performance in Bernard Pomerance’s play about the “Elephant Man” John Merrick in which Bowie self-transformed without the aid of prostheses or makeup.

David Bowie exibition at the V&A

Film fans will flock to the rooms which feature Bowie’s considerable acting accomplishments, including the aforementioned sci-fi noir film directed by Nicholas Roeg, 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, to his work some 30 years later as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s magic mystery, The Prestige. Fantasy fanatics will thrill over the Labyrinth props, including The Goblin King’s sepulcher and crystal ball, and will enjoy reading the hand-written letter from Henson to Bowie asking him to read the enclosed “rough” script and please consider the role. Also on display is the white Andy Warhol fright wig Bowie donned in Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat bio-pic. (Aside: just prior to seeing “David Bowie Is”, I attended my first Jean-Michel Basquiat show in New York City. Those pieces are now in London at Sotheby’s, awaiting auction)


Like shed skins, each look and incarnation is left behind as the beholder moves from room to room. In the homestretch, we see a faux Ziggy Stardust laid to rest supine on the floor in a glass coffin; handwritten and crossed out lyrics; marked-up outtakes from the Diamond Dogs photography sessions snapped with Terry O’Neil’s camera; and much, much more.

Terry O'Neil Diamond Dogs Photo

Finally, a last look: The iconic photo of Bowie from 1972 by Japanese photographer, Masayoshi Sukita “Exit” and you do just that (through the gift-shop, natch).

Masayoshi Sukita Photo 1972

David Bowie Is book, last page


Bouncy Blonde Brigitte & Her Bodacious Black Boots

22 Sep

I haven’t seen many of Brigitte Bardot’s films, relatively speaking, nor would I consider myself a “fan” — yet, there is something about her that lures me in every once in awhile and I’ll go on a BB  kick (so to speak — she could rock thigh-high boots like nobody’s biz).


Interest has been reignited by seeing her portrayed by Laetitia Casta in the beautiful biopic, Gainsbourg: A Historic Life, but I am trying to remember when I first became truly aware of her. I suppose I always knew who she was on some level, my own mom being something of a sex symbol and pinup… so, I grew up with an almost inborn appreciation of feminine beauty — but my first strong recollection is from reading Roger Vadim’s autobiography, BARDOT-DENEUVE-FONDA in 1986. It is an extremely personal, revealing book, certainly one of the best filmmaker memoirs I’ve read. I’ve gone back to it a couple of times, since.


I saw some of her movies in the 80s. I recall checking out her breakout film, one directed by Vadim, called And God Created Woman (1956). A few years back, I watched all of the movies (Come Dance With Me!, Les Femmes, Love on a Pillow, Naughty Girl, À Coeur Joie) on a boxed set I got for review. I remember not being overly impressed with the dated films, but I liked her. She’s a woman with playful, girlish qualities, but it’s easy to see at a glance that she’s nobody’s fool.


Favorite Bardot performances of mine are definitely from the Edgar Allan Poe anthology, Spirits of the Dead (1968), in which she’s a brunet bad-girl named Giuseppina (in the segment William Wilson, with Alain Delon and directed by Louis Malle), and Contempt (1963), directed by Jean-Luc Godard. I only just saw the latter for the first time in 2010, some 37 years after its golden star retired from the silver screen.

This image from it has ever captured my imagination, but the entire film is even better. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves movies about movies.

She’s only wearing a sheet in that image, and is only clad in little of the same in the Gainsbourg pic, however, she was known for a certain “look” and seeing it once again gave me the impetus to break out the black thigh-highs and my vintage style leopard-print coat from storage.

I’ve never been much for boots myself. Being petite as I am, heels, especially the kind that don’t create a break at the ankle, look best on me. But that doesn’t mean I can create an illusion through photography — hence, my boot-kick. Here are some cool kicks I really love…


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Fashion Photo Frenzy – Finito!

29 Jul


Yes! Feeling so accomplished. I worked till midnight and I finished my massive undertaking of photographing myself in EVERYTHING I own, from nightgowns to evening gowns, bikinis to business suits, and from mod minis to twill trench-coats (plus many, many things in-between).

I did two full days last week, then worked Comic-Con, and came back to the rest of the clothes, camera, and good old self-timer. There are over 1,000 images to go through — so, I’m not **really** done. Now that I have separated out every garment and accessory I am going to sell, even more work comes in the form of photographing those pieces on my mannequin and finally (yay!) launching my Etsy store.

I’ve been playing with the photos I took, just a little bit. I am going to post one of every single outfit in my personal Picasa album once I get everything organized, but I have a question: Should I post the pictures “as-is” or should I use the diffusion filter?

Plain (left) – Diffused (right)

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Diffused (left) – Plain (right)


With the white, you can see the yellowy ivory of the satin and the lace detail better. I don’t see a lot of difference in the black fabric. The unvarnished photos do show the details of the clothes better and the colors are richer, but I think the diffusion makes the picture itself a lot prettier (and also nicely hides the closet door, where my framing was a little off).

Since the album of self-portraits is not meant to sell clothes (those pics will be on the mannequin, and posted to Etsy) — I’m thinking diffusion. Which do you prefer?


As people who know me are aware, I love self portraiture. Not just mine, but the whole concept in general. I won’t rehash my thoughts on that, but here’s a blog and my most-recent series for anyone who’s interested. My favorite self-portraits are by female artists — such as Leonor Fini, Frida Kahlo, and Floria Sigismondi. (Though Dali took some AWESOME self-portraits; his may actually be the best, overall.)

I have never undertaken anything like this, when it comes to self portraits though. Usually, they are just for fun with no real purpose. In this case, I wanted to document all my clothes, and it turned out to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. Now, of course I know I have a lot of clothes (some in storage unearthed for this, two chests of drawers full, two sides of a bedroom closet, and a very big antique armoire stuffed to capacity), but what I hadn’t figured on was not really having a “holding area” for the clothes. So, I just did them little by little, in sections, which meant towards the end of the shoot I would up with a lot of orphans — random shirt and skirts which don’t go together at all (but I’d already photographed the pieces they DO go with, and had put them away). As a result, there are a few bad apples in the bunch. Oh, well!

I am not proud of this, but I found out I still fit into the first bra I ever bought (at Bonnie’s Happy Look in Idyllwild, in 1980). And I am definitely not proud of this: I do not fit into my favorite little pair of size 0 tight jeans anymore. Just last year, they were snug but easy enough to hop into; now, I couldn’t even dream of wedging one thigh in. Time to go on a SERIOUS DIET and get back to my exercise routine (my abs and biceps are gone – sob!). All in all, it wasn’t too bad, though… out all the stuff I have, even things I wore as a teenager and 20s, there were only about 4 or 5 things that were impossible to even try.

It was truly fun for me to go back and revisit some of the outfits I have not donned since my days in the corporate work world — Ally McBeal power suits with should pads and miniskirts. They’re cool again, and they still fit, so maybe I’ll move one or two to the front of the closet. And then there are some gorgeous, beautiful, amazing things I have kept over the years but that either a) don’t fit me quite right, b) don’t go with anything, or c) that I just never wear… I keep thinking, “Someday, I’ll need that!”

But, a lot of things are going on the auction block. Some really stunning things, vintage stuff, even a few of my mom’s old dresses from 60s, one-offs, and designer labels. Can’t wait to get started. I’m really hoping my friends will help me spread the word; with a million other clothes-peddling sellers to compete with, reputation and recommendations will be what really makes or breaks

Staci-Style Ready to Launch… Almost

21 Jul

As I mentioned awhile ago, I’ve got my Etsy Store all registered, plus a website for selling non-vintage clothing, bought a mannequin from Italy, got my logoed hang tags made, business cards, got all the boxes of old clothes from storage, took lot$ of thing$ to be drycleaned, and went through all three of my closets (and both chests of drawers) to see what I should sell.

Well, there is A LOT. I embarked on the huge project in doing a series of self portraits wearing everything I own… then revised a bit. Do I really need a photo of every single tee-shirt and pair of jeans I own? Are there enough hours to spare, for me to put on, photograph, and take off, and put on again ALL the patterned stockings and stuff I have? Probably not. So, I just hit the highlights with all the actual outfits: of course shirts and skirts, dresses and gowns, but also a few PJs and bikini’s — mostly vintage. A few things I did not find in storage are my mom’s baby-doll nighties from the 60s, and some authentic Victorian era jackets I bought at the Long Beach Swap Meet a long, long time ago.

I still have about one more day of shooting (after 5 days of Comic-Con craziness in San Diego for work), then I’ll take pictures of everything I’m selling (I have four boxes full, so far) on the mannequin and hopefully will be able to launch my stores by mid-August. I’m selling some of my mom’s sexy dresses from the 60s, some of my now-embarrassing 80s outfits, several things I always liked but that never fit me right, and a few brand-new with tags designer dresses (Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Betsey Johnson) I snagged on the cheap.

Along the way, I encountered a bunch of pictures of me wearing the clothes “back in the day” when they weren’t vintage yet. Here is a bikini (Eugena) I’m wearing 20 summers ago, and yesterday. (I’m not thrilled about being two decades older, but I am happy I discovered scissors and self-tanner!)

eugena bikini

It’s in perfect condition, because I’ve only worn it twice for pictures! (I’m not brave enough to actually walk around in a bikini… if and when I swim, it’s in cutoffs and a shirt; if I bought a bathing suit, it’d be a one-piece, old 50s bombshell style. This bikini was given to me and it still has the $78 price tag on it.)

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Dior-noir en Blanc

3 Jul

This is just a little “Dior-ama” inspired by the polished, classy style and fashion of Mr. Christian Dior…

I saw this silk and satin gown from the 70s for sale online





and now it is mine!


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