Fashion as Memory

On some days if you are lucky, you see the world with crystal clarity.

Sometimes that clarity comes on the foggiest and dreariest of days. And through that grey, there is the vivid green of a spring blossom, long awaited, long anticipated, illuminating your thought path.

In that haze of glistening streets, of Mr. Eliot’s muttering retreats, are gleams of familiarity: old songs you know by heart; laughs shared more than once; there are captured snapshots of your life.

It struck me during what I dare call a perfect day the other day, how much our memories are tied to the visual culture of our lives – to handwritten song lyrics, to the decor of a room, and most often, to the clothes we wore during the simple (and complex) puzzle pieces that have formulated our individual stories.

Sometimes it’s a skinny suit that’s cut to perfection with a pant break that will break your heart in the best of ways, or in a pair of men’s boots that’ll make you bite your lip.

Sometimes it’s in the tune that plays above your head, or the light that dangles precariously above a conversation, or in a conversation coloured by #54 lips.

Sometimes it’s in the flashback of a slingback.

Sometimes it’s in the leather and silk of a Shangri-La-di-da afternoon.

Sometimes there is freedom in the inevitable curls that accompany a torrential downpour.

Sometimes, we are bound by the tied laces of the winklepickers, given away long ago, and sorely missed.

We know what we were wearing when that boy looked at us across the dance floor.

And we remember what he wore, right down to the burnt orange of his shirt.

It’s the cargo we have carried – in our zippered cargo pants, in our electric blue eelskin clutches, in our over-sized coat pockets.

These memories, these captured moments, too, are like that favourite coat, that cozy sweater that recalls your cologne, that silky pashmina that flutters in the October breeze. We wear them with ease.

Fashion has never been forgettable for this girl. Remembering that made me want to write in this space, again.

These are some fashion photographs that reside only in mind. I wanted to share a few of them with you.

It seems I have a few more stories yet to tell you, my dears. Look for more fashion memories scattered like fairy dust in upcoming posts, along with my usual observations on the intersections of fashion, marketing, art, music and culture.

Good Bones

Well, well, well, Winona, it’s been a while.

Winona Ryder for Rag and Bone FW14 Campaign on Exshoesme.com

We’ve missed you, Veronica. 40-ish looks good on you.

The inimitable Ms. Ryder is the face (and cheekbones) fronting rag & bone’s FW14 women’s ad campaign.

The cool kids behind the NYC label/Brit edge brand thought to bring a couple of our fave cool kids back where they belong -  front and slightly off centre.

Speaking of cheekbones, Michael Pitt (swoon) returns for a second season on the men’s campaign front.

Michael Pitt for Rag and Bone FW14 Campaign on Exshoesme.com

The leading man off mainstream.

Nice to have you back, darlings.

“Heather, my love, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

Campaign shot by Glen Luchford for rag & bone. Quote from one of my favourite movies of all time.

Ciao, Amore

The official poster for this year’s Cannes Film Festival has been released and all I can say is…Ciao Marcello!

Based on a photogram taken from Federico Fellini’s iconic , the poster designed by Lagency/Taste, Paris has Mr. Mastroianni looking at us, looking at him. We like what we see, sì?

Cannes 2014 Official Poster on Exshoesme.com

Reflections of the way life used to be…

Everyone on ze tapis rouge can wear whatever they want, because the poster has all the style of this year’s Fest already wrapped up.

Signore e signori, buonanotte.

Image courtesy of Cannes.

Déjà Vu: 1930s Gala Glamour

That 1930s glamour? I thought Kate Moss wore it well the other night.

Kate Moss at the amfAR Gala April 2014 on Exshoesme.com  Fernanda Calfat Getty Images South America

While some may find this a ’70s-inspired gown, it recalled a different decade for me.

Her crimson YSL gown at the amfAR gala in Sao Paolo reminded me of the Valentina red 1930s gown on display at MFIT for the Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashion of the 1930s exhibition.

Valentina Full-length dress Rayon crepe Circa 1940, USA The Museum at FIT, 95.180.18 Gift of Igor Kamlukin from the Estate of Valentina Schlee

Valentina rayon crepe dress, circa 1940, USA.

Even those tassels teased that the Thirties were at play here.

Kate Moss at the amfAR Gala April 2014 on Exshoesme.com Getty Images South America

Mind the gap – the cleavage is Studio 54, but the tassels say so much more.

Remember that Charvet robe? Here is a detail of its tassel belt.

Charvet Dressing gown detail - yellow silk brocade Circa 1930, France The Museum at FIT, P89.4.1

Charvet Dressing gown detail – yellow silk brocade Circa 1930, France.

Leave it to Moss to mix her decades so elegantly.

Images: Moss shots by Fernanda Calfat Getty Images South America; others courtesy of MFIT

Out-beaded

Beads of sweat – that’s surely what the eight bidders were wiping away in the heated Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong the other night. At least seven of them likely wiped away tears as well, after having lost to winning bidder, The Cartier Collection.

The beads they were sweating over? The Hutton-Mdivani necklace, called the greatest jadeite bead necklace in the world.

I should hope so – because it involved a lot of green – HK$214 million / US$27.44 million (approximately CAD$30 million) of it, if we are counting abacus beads.

Sotheby's HK_The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace

The luminous Hutton-Mdivani necklace.

That’s a world auction record for jadeite jewellery and for a Cartier jewel. It’s mesmerizing in more ways than one, no?

A couple of other records were smashed on the same night…for nothing major, just a couple of wee ruby and diamond baubles.

A 29.6 carat ruby set by Cartier with a smattering of diamonds will adorn someone’s hand for a ruby-record breaking HK$57,240,000 (USD $7.34 million). Hand it to the bidder for getting a bargoon, compared to the beads above.

Have I mentioned how much I love the hue of a Burmese ruby lately? I haven’t? The love started in Jaipur at The Gem Palace (natch).

26.92-ct_Burmese_Ruby_and_Diamond_Ring,_Cartier_(1)

Burmese ruby ring for me? You shouldn’t have…

If your heart beats for thirty heart-shaped and thirty pear-shaped rubies, then it will break over the fact that this 104.5 carat (+ almost 60-carat of diamonds!) collar decoration was also sold that night, for HK$77,400,000  (USD $9.92 million).

lot 1914 THE_RED_EMPEROR_Pigeon's_Blood_Ruby_adn_Diamond_Necklace,_rubies_total_104.51_ct

The Red Emperor necklace.

I know you’re not crying – the glare from the gems just makes your eyes tear.

When it comes to jewellery, my dears, natural reactions such as these are well, only natural.

All of this talk of jadeite and precious gems is putting me in a Forbidden Empire State of MindThat string of jadeite beads also reminds me of these baubles, including my favourite Eina Ahluwalia piece. Deep breaths.

All images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Worlds Collide

Sometimes, my dears, my worlds collide in the best possible way.

And sometimes, that collided and collaborative world makes total sense.

Today is one of those days.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk opens at The Barbican in London tomorrow and they had the sweetest media launch today – with Breton striped eclairs, done by PAUL Bakery (no visit to Paris or London would be the same without a treat from PAUL).

Paul Bakery Breton Eclairs for Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition at The Barbican Centre in London

JPG + Barbican + Breton eclairs = Happy Jyotika.

You already know of my love for JPG, plus I think the Barbican is a wonderful next stop on the exhibition’s journey that started at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, curated by MBAM’s rock star curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot (with whom I had the loveliest conversation at MFIT’s symposium a few years ago). It’s been a ground-breaking exhibition for so many reasons (I’ll have a post on it soonish) but I thought at a time when so many museums are trying so hard with their marketing efforts, this was just a simple and lovely way to get the word out. Let the Breton-wearing, Breton-eating selfie races begin…

I wasn’t there in person – the exhibition has eluded me as yet for one reason or another – but am planning on heading to the Barbican before it ends on August 25th. If the stars somehow align, I might even be there for JPG’s live chat next week. Oh, and those eclairs? You can get them at all PAUL UK locations starting tomorrow.

Can someone FedEx me some, svp?

Image: @BarbicanCentre.

 

Elegance, Exhibited.

Elegance. Grace. Glamour.

These words are sprinkled haphazardly in our modern fashion lexicon; descriptive ingredients in an already over-spiced stew of collections that likely derived from an era that exemplified these words more aptly, that wore them with more aplomb.

The 1930s was a time of change and transformation – financial, political and technological. It was also a time of softer silhouettes, shifting proportions and less ornamentation in fashion. It was truly a time of quiet glamour, of grace, and of elegance.

Dorvyne Mlle Boecler in a gown of somber green tulle and satinExcelsior-Modes vol. 5, no. 19, Spring 1934

Dorvyne Mlle Boecler in a green tulle gown, Spring 1934.

Augustabernard Gown Black crepe, lame 1933, France The Museum at FIT, 70.57.65 Gift of Mr. Rodman A. Heeren

The dramatic back drape of an Augustabernard crepe gown, 1933, France.

Valentina Full-length dress Rayon crepe Circa 1940, USA The Museum at FIT, 95.180.18 Gift of Igor Kamlukin from the Estate of Valentina Schlee

Valentina rayon crepe dress, circa 1940, USA. How very Valentino red gown, too.

Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashion of the 1930s, one of the current exhibitions at the Museum at FIT in New York City, celebrates the decade’s innovations in fashion, highlighting both men’s and women’s clothing from couture to custom-tailoring, avec accoutrements.

Madeleine Vionnet Gown Black crepe, lame Circa 1937, France Collection of Beverley Birks

Madeleine Vionnet black crepe lame gown, circa 1937.

Huntsman red wool riding coat, 1937

Huntsman red wool riding coat, 1937.

During this period, designers had new methodologies and textiles at their fingertips for the first time. We take so much for granted now in the era of digital prints and computerized textile production, but things like wider looms for woven fabrics and larger vats for dyeing materials altered the way clothing creators thought about and ultimately made their garments.

Claire McCardell Evening dress Black rayon Circa 1939, USA The Museum at FIT, 2005.65.9 Gift of Denise Otis

Claire McCardell evening dress, circa 1939, USA. What’s so amazing to me is how modern these pieces still look.

There was a deconstruction in the way suits were cut, for example, or how a dress was to drape. Designer ideas weren’t weighed down by the heavy fabrics of the Edwardians, and those voluminous 1920s shapes could suddenly be contained. Designers could step outside of that boxy silhouette.

Joan Crawford in the MGM film “Dancing Lady,” 1933 Publicity still courtesy of Photofest.

Joan Crawford in the MGM film “Dancing Lady,” 1933. [Publicity still courtesy of Photofest.]

Hawes Evening dress Striped silk and rayon Circa 1936, USA

Hawes striped silk and rayon evening dress, circa 1936, USA.

One could say this was the era that leaned in first – clothing fit well, but was also unrestrictive and offered movement. The Victorians had shape but didn’t dare breathe in their corsets and collars. The flappers were floaty, to be sure, but the fit wasn’t always flattering. The ’30s offered both fit and function in proportion.

Augustabernard Gown Black-and-white printed silk 1929, France The Museum at FIT, 71.268.3 Gift of Muriel King

Augustabernard black-and-white printed silk gown, 1929, France. I may be biased but I want to wear this right now.

Fred Astaire 1936 Photograph courtesy of Photofest

Fred Astaire, 1936. [Photograph courtesy of Photofest.]

It’s no surprise that this new classicism was a hit the world over. The exhibition includes 80 ensembles and 30 accessories, showcasing tailoring from London, couture from Paris as well as global glamour from Havana, Hollywood, Shanghai and Europe.

HatPurple felt, brown grosgrain ribbonCirca 1935, USAThe Museum at FIT, 81.30.27Gift of Mrs. Janet Chatfield-Taylor

Purple felt hat with brown grosgrain ribbon, circa 1935, USA.

Val-ArsEvening sandalsSilver metallic leather, black silk crepeCirca 1935, USAThe Museum at FIT, 88.2.25Gift of Carroll Cook

Val-Ars evening sandals, circa 1935, USA.

Anna May Wong, circa 1933 Publicity still courtesy of Photofest

Anna May Wong, circa 1933. [Publicity still courtesy of Photofest.]

Anna May Wong, circa 1939 Publicity still courtesy of Photofest

Anna May Wong, circa 1939. [Publicity still courtesy of Photofest.]

The fashion folk at MFIT always tell great stories through their exhibitions, and this show seems to follow that pattern. Divided into four sections, it showcases: active and resort wear; developments in men’s tailoring and women’s couture focused mainly on daywear; formal wear including examples from Vionnet and Balenciaga organized by trend; and the final section includes a couple of very special luxury garments for both men and women – think lush velvet and infinitely pleated silk chiffon before Issey Miyake made you look.

Ski Togs, Sak's Fifth Avenue Woman's ski ensemble Circa 1935, USA The Museum at FIT, 96.69.38 Gift of The Dorothea Stephens Wiman Collection

Woman’s ski ensemble, circa 1935, USA.

Ski Togs, Sak's Fifth Avenue Woman's ski ensemble interior jacket detail Circa 1935, USA The Museum at FIT, 96.69.38 Gift of The Dorothea Stephens Wiman Collection

The lining of that ski jacket.

Man's 3-piece walking suit by Anderson & Sheppard, 1935.

Man’s 3-piece walking suit by Anderson & Sheppard, 1935.

Louiseboulanger Dress and jacket Printed crepe 1929, France The Museum at FIT, 71.268.10 Gift of Muriel King

Louiseboulanger dress and jacket, printed crepe, 1929.

London House Founder Gennaro Rubinacci, Tailor Vincenzo Attolini Trench coat Wool 1930s, Italy Collection of the Rubinacci Museum

Vincenzo Attolini trench coat, 1930s, Italy. [Collection of the Rubinacci Museum.]

Madeleine Vionnet Gown Ivory silk organza with black lace insets 1937, France Collection of Beverley Birks

Madeleine Vionnet silk organza gown with black lace insets, 1937.

Cristobal Balenciaga Gown Black velvet cutwork 1938, France The Museum at FIT, 91.255.2 Gift of The Estate of Tina Chow

Cristobal Balenciaga black velvet cutwork gown, 1938, France.

Wood Carlson Co. Tailcoat Black wool 1935, USA The Museum at FIT, 89.65.9 Gift of Kay Kerr Uebel

Wood Carlson Co. black wool tailcoat, 1935, USA.

HélèneYrande Negligee ensemble Coral and peach pleated silk chiffon 1932, France The Museum at FIT, 75.69.9 Gift of Sophie Gimbel

Hélène Yrande coral and peach pleated silk chiffon ensemble, 1932, France.

Bottle green cotton velvet smoking jacket, cashmere trousers, black bowtie 1936

Bottle green cotton velvet smoking jacket, 1936.

Charvet Dressing gown Yellow silk brocade Circa 1930, France The Museum at FIT, P89.4.1

Charvet silk brocade dressing gown, circa 1930, France.

The exhibition (which started in February) runs until April 19th. Sadly, I won’t be able to see this one in person, but there is an accompanying publication and of course, the exhibition website, if you’d like to travel back in fashion time with me.

Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket, examining high fashion interpretations of the black leather motorcycle jacket, just wrapped up this past weekend at MFIT. There’s an online playground for that one, too. I got lost in the Extras section, which shows image sources from so many musical genres. If you click on The Clash link, you will never come back up for air…I warn you now.

Another exhibition entitled Trend-ology, examines the diverse sources from which fashion trends have emerged over the past 250 years, and runs until the end of the month. A  lingerie exhibition is on the way next. The Museum is one of my favourites and a must-stop during every NYC visit – I love the constantly rotating exhibitions (there are at least two running each time I visit).

There seem to be a lot of great global museum shows this season – more to tell you about in upcoming posts, I promise. It’s hard to keep up with them all…

All images courtesy of MFIT, as noted.

Dayal’s Secrets Revealed

It is a week for revealing secrets.

Twitter kicked off Museum Week yesterday – an initiative that will give users behind-the-scenes access to museums across the UK, France, Italy and other parts of Europe. Tweets and images shared by museums and galleries of their collections on Monday using the #MuseumWeek hashtag showed a day in the life of curators and other staff, with additional themes in store for the rest of the week. I was re-tweeting my favourite images for much of the day and they came from beyond European borders initially set out by Twitter. There really are no limits anymore – my tweets were re-tweeted from Belgium to Venice to down the street here in Toronto. Being a marketer and digital strategist by trade, who often works with cultural institution clients, I think it’s a great way to get conversations about culture and art started.

Many museums were slower than most for-profit entities to use tools like social media to their advantage, but that is quickly changing. Once dark and closed places are now opening their doors and vaults to the world, quite literally bones and all. They are learning that the learnings for us are not always in the final and finished product on display, but in the delight of the process. These are some of the best storytellers in the world, and they are finally starting to speak to us in a language we can relate to, in an engaging and interesting way.

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, for one, has commissioned TVO, an educational media organization, to help tell some of their stories. The ROM kicked off a six-week TV series appropriately titled, Museum Diaries in late February. Having shared tales from the authenticity of artifacts to the dissection of DNA to a research expedition to the rain forests of Borneo, the next episode looks at the making of a photo exhibition of one of the most renowned photographers in 19th-century India.

Between Princely India & the British Raj: The Photography of Raja Deen Dayal was on display at the ROM last year and tonight’s episode of Museum Diaries follows the Museum’s World Cultures Curator, Dr. Deepali Dewan through the planning, preparation and launch of the exhibit.

1.Portrait of Raja Deen Dayal, April 1904, E. Craig, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons studio, Bombay

1. Portrait of Raja Deen Dayal; April 1904, E. Craig, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons studio, Bombay

If you don’t know Dayal’s work, the episode will enlighten you about the master portrait photographer of elite British and Indian society who in 1894, was appointed as the official court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad. He was an innovator when it came to developing glass plate negatives and albumen prints, producing more than 30,000 images over the course of his career. His was the first Indian business to receive the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria.

I am guessing that his work and even his name have been hidden from view for many – until now. Here are some of my favourite images that reveal the characters and fashion of the day, through Dayal’s lens.

2.Mr. J. N. Tata & Family, 22 March 1898, C. Schultz, Staff Photographer, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons

2. Mr. J. N. Tata & Family; 22 March 1898, C. Schultz, Staff Photographer, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons

The Tatas – always such a graceful family – and always at the height of fashion. Note the full-sleeved sari blouses and the variety of toppers. (There seems to be a fez-tive vibe in the air this week.) I also love the menswear – whether eastern or western garb, it was all dandy.

3.Duke of Connaught and Royal Party Watching Sports at Fateh Maidan , January 1889, Raja Deen Dayal

3. Duke of Connaught and Royal Party Watching Sports at Fateh Maidan; January 1889, Raja Deen Dayal

One could write a dissertation on the moustaches of the day, alone. Hats (yes, more) would be another volume.

4. Sir Asman Jah’s Fancy Dress Ball, Bashirbagh, February 1890, Raja Deen Dayal

4. Sir Asman Jah’s Fancy Dress Ball, Bashirbagh; February 1890, Raja Deen Dayal

This is a ball I’ve attended in my couture dreams many times.

5. Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Asman Jah; circa 1887, Raja Deen Dayal

5. Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Asman Jah; circa 1887, Raja Deen Dayal

While the photo above was taken in 1887, you can still see traces of this miliary tailoring and swirling embellishment during almost every Fashion Week. I recall Burberry’s modern maharajahs, Alexander McQueen’s divine cape from his Angels & Demons collection and Ralph Lauren’s zardosi encrusted woollen coats from recent memory.

6. His Royal Highness Prince Damrong and Party after Breakfast, Asmangarh; 1892, Raja Deen Dayal

6. His Royal Highness Prince Damrong and Party after Breakfast, Asmangarh; 1892, Raja Deen Dayal

I love the stories these photos tell, but more importantly the questions they ask. Who are all of these people? What was India like in 1892? What does one serve HRH Price Damrong and his party for breakfast?

7. Nizam Mir Mahbub Ali Khan of Hyderabad; circa 1892, Raja Deen Dayal

7. Nizam Mir Mahbub Ali Khan of Hyderabad; circa 1892, Raja Deen Dayal

The three-piece suit, circa 1892.

Nizam of Hyderabad receive the Duke and Duchess of Connaught at the 8. Railway Station; January 1889, Raja Deen Dayal

8. Nizam of Hyderabad receive the Duke and Duchess of Connaught at the Railway Station; January 1889, Raja Deen Dayal

Corsets AND helmets!

9. Viceroy Curzon with the Maharaja of Gwalior; circa 1903, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons Studio

9. Viceroy Curzon with the Maharaja of Gwalior; circa 1903, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons Studio

In the age of digital photography, it’s lovely to stop and get lost in Dayal’s world. These vintage photographs are visual reminders of a lush history, but also of the technology and innovation of the day. Dayal’s work was ground-breaking over a hundred years ago.

This TV series is part of the ROM’s Centennial celebrations, which started with a blockbuster exhibition that dares to reveal treasures from China’s Forbidden City. The theme of uncovering the hidden continues in May, with the ROM Revealed weekend.

All of this revealing by previously locked institutions does something wonderful – it opens up conversation – about culture, about our past, about our connections to each other.

These stories are important – whether they are told in 24-minute videos or a series of images or 140 characters at a time.

The Dayal episode airs Tuesday March 25 at 7:30 PM EST in Ontario, but will be online the following day for the rest of the world to see. Watch previously aired episodes.

Need more vintage Indian photos? Get a cup of chai and look through these.

Images: 1, 2, © 2011 Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; remaining are © Royal Ontario Museum and all are made available via the ROM. 

Feeling Fez-tive

Carolina Herrera was feeling fez-tive for fall.

Her FW14 collection not only celebrated ladylike dressing, but topped it off with a little spice.

I loved the fez toppers, sans tassels – sort of a modern pillbox.

Carolina Herrera FW14 pencil skirt and fur jacket on Exshoesme.com

Getting dressed shouldn’t be a headache.

Cultures – and fabrics crossed in wonderful ways.

Carolina Herrera FW14 origami dress on Exshoesme.com

The origami dress in ochre. Oh.

Ochre and dusted khaki green and cerulean have me falling for next fall, even before spring has had a chance to bud, much less bloom.

Carolina Herrera FW14 luxe suit and fez on Exshoesme.com

Travelling the world in luxe style.

I liked the point she was making with the shoes and hosiery.

Carolina Herrera FW14 textured suit on Exshoesme.com

Glamour should always be this effortless.

It was a nod to the ’80s, but the silhouettes were ’50s and ’60s inspired – all making for a thoroughly modern mix.

Ms. Herrera’s adept hand and eye for elegance should always be celebrated.

Images: Vogue.com.

The 30-Year Club

“Do you know how popular I am? I am so popular.”

Like, for 30 years…

Breakfast Club Promo Shot BW on Exshoesme

The kids who went to detention and schooled us along the way.

We’ve all sort of grown up together since The Breakfast Club, innit?

Happy 30th Anniversary to all of you Club kids.

John Hughes always got each style and musical reference just right.

 

Image: IMDB.

Forbidden Empire State of Mind

The Forbidden City has been revealed in the most unexpected of places.

The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Treasured objects from inside the court of China’s emperors can now be found in downtown Toronto, courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum’s latest exhibition.

One can cross the central threshold of Bloor Street and enter into a world previously hidden from view, for anyone but the imperial family of China, their servants and trusted advisors.

Enter The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

The Forbidden City:

14 years of construction. 

980 buildings.

8700 rooms.

728,000 square metres.

24 emperors.

You, too are now entrusted to view the 250 treasures visible in Canada and in many cases, North America for the first time. The ROM kicks off its Centennial celebrations by bringing to light (in many cases, quite literally) 500 years worth of China’s imperial past out of the vaults, in collaboration with Beijing’s Palace Museum.

Panorama 1 from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

In fact, over 80 of the textiles, armour, calligraphy and more have never actually been outside of the Forbidden City, before now.

Imperial throne set from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Imperial throne set, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period.

Child emperor's ceremonial robe from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Child emperor’s ceremonial robe, Qing dynasty, Tongzhi period.

As such, many of the objects are light-sensitive and will be rotated throughout the exhibition.

Carved table from the Imperial throne set from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Carving out some quality time, Qianlong period.

While some of these may be referred to as everyday objects, there is nothing ordinary about them.

Yellow - the colour of The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Yellow – a colour reserved only for the inhabitants of the Forbidden City.

Mirror, Qianlong period from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

When both sides of the mirror depicted something of beauty…

There is opulence at every turn and in every silken tuck. Each object tells the story of a mystical existence.

Ceremonial armour from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Ceremonial armour.

One can’t help but envision the grassy path upon which the Emperor’s carriage travelled, nor the picnic feast laid out by servants alongside a running creek. Can’t you hear the water flowing over the rocks now? I can.

Transportation of the day from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Green transportation.

Food basket, Qianlong period from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Picnic, anyone?

The shape of the cups within the tea set are surely a nod to the natural surroundings they were used in. We use the word luxury so loosely in present day, but these emperors were bespoken for centuries ago.

Each textile weaves within it the weight of importance – imperial importance. I am guessing they carry actual weight, as well. It’s miraculous to me that these fabrics have lasted the length of time that they have. It speaks to both the laborious effort involved in their making, but also in their preservation through the ages.

Empress's ceremonial summer coat (Chaogua) from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

‘Oh this? Just a little summer ceremonial couture I threw on’, said the Empress.

This is couture of the Courts. Each piece was constructed on its own to complement the whole and each element was likely made by a master in their own right; each flourish signifying the importance and stature of the shoulders it was to grace.

The Emperor's old clothesThe Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

The Emperor’s old clothes. Sigh.

Grace, too exists within these garments. There is music within them – the skirt of a tunic sings like the plucked strings of a harp. The studs on the  warrior garb gleam with sound…and fury.

Helmet and cape from ceremonial armour from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Warrior wardrobe essentials.

Imperial dog outfit, Qing dynasty from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

The Emperor’s dog was the Emperor’s dog, after all.

One thing that consistently emanates throughout the displays, whether on garments like the dog’s coat or in the carved throne or in the painstakingly painted characters in the ceramics – is Patience (with a capital P, please). There is a such a quiet and controlled hand at work in each and every object. Nothing is done without reason and nothing is just passable. Each detail is extraordinary.

Imperial dog outfit, Qing dynasty from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. Palace Museum image.

The patience of this pattern-cutter…

Jar with 10000 shou characters from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Jar with 10,000 shou characters.

Jar with 10000 shou characters detail from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

10,000 characters. Painted by hand. One by one.

It’s easy to just stroll through and look at the objects in a museum, but one must really stop and see them. One must really stop and listen to what they are saying.

Panorama 2 from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Look at the wider context, as well as at the details.

These objects may not be from one’s own cultural past, but they tell us so many things about our world and how we came to be. In my initial stroll through, I could see Indian influence and perhaps hear Buddha’s footsteps in places; a nod to Persia in others.

Cup and saucer and ewer from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Cultural connections.

There is something about that tea box that Art Nouveau surely borrowed from.

Tea set from the food basket, Qianlong period from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Nouveau rich references.

And the Victorians and Edwardians ornamented their hair as finely as the ladies of China’s royal courts.

Hairpin, Daoguang period from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

Pin-tastic!

We’ve been let into a secret world, here. It’s worth getting lost in for a couple of hours, to travel back five centuries.

All you have to do is walk through the Crystal and travel to China.

All will be unforbidden.

Opulence from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum March 2014 on Exshoesme.com. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra

The ROM has a vast collection of Chinese artifacts, some of which augment this exhibition. It’s worthwhile to drop by the Museum’s Gallery of Chinese Temple Art during your visit to get a wider context, or just to stand in awe in front of the murals that once lived on the walls of a Buddhist monastery in the 13th century.

I’ll share more thoughts on some of the textiles included in the exhibition, in a future post.

Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors will be on display at the ROM until September 1st.

Portrait of Emperor Yongzheng in his study, Qing dynasty from The Forbidden City Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. Palace Museum image.

Portrait of Emperor Yongzheng in his study, Qing dynasty.

Images: Emperor’s portrait and dog outfit pattern images are © The Palace Museum. All other photos have been taken by me, so please provide credit if you are using them.

Spring In Your Step

The weight of winter hasn’t yet left us, but that’s not reason enough for you to flatten the spring in your step.

Clear the path ahead and colour will come into your life.

You will dazzle.

Rochas SS14 Feathered Flats on Exshoesme.com

Fairytale flats from Rochas SS14. I might give up heels for these.

Happy Holi, my dears! Sprinkling some virtual rang on you…suits you. Wear it well.

Also, don’t you just love excessories?

Image: Vogue.com.

Change Your Luck

If things aren’t going your way, you can change your step, change the tune that you step to and change your luck.

If you aren’t dressed for the new lucky you, you had better change…

Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2005 Haute Couture green gown on Exshoesme

Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2005 Haute Couture – from my personal digital dreams archive.

As luck would have it, you also have a pair of matching (JPG Couture SS10) heels, so take a step forward…

I plan on dressing for my couture life. Et vous?

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, my dears.

Photo courtesy of Style.com.

Oscars 2014: Heavy Metal Man

Heavy metal seems to be a running influence tonight.

Michael B. Jordan rocked collar-to-toe custom Givenchy.

Michael B. Jordan in Givenchy on Exshoesme.com

Suits him, no?

Stars all around. (I’m going to need that collar clip, Mr. Tisci.).

Both of my fave looks tonight belong to the men. Your turn, ladies.

Image: @KCDworldwide.

Oscars 2014: Kidult Couture

This is not a suit.

Pharrell Williams keeps it short and simple on tonight’s Oscars red carpet.

Pharrell in Lanvin at the 2014 Oscars on Exshoesme

Sockless and pantless, Pharrell rocks shorts and brilliant brogues.

He’ll certainly have a leg up on the best dressed rest. Plus, bless him for the correct pronunciation of Lanvin.

His red carpet rebellion reminded me of another rocker…

Angus Young's rock uniform.

Angus Young’s rock uniform.

Let’s see what he changes into for his performance during the ceremony tonight. One thing I’m guessing won’t change are the sartorial surprises he keeps throwing our way.

Images: Getty and Brandish.tv, respectively.

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