The Met Gala Shimmers!

Rita Ora in Tom Ford "Chinese Whispers"

Rita Ora in Tom Ford
“Chinese Whispers”

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I love the photos from the Met Gala, the big fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour, oversees the event, one of the last big formal parties left. Guests dress up and some go way over the top with wild outfits. The event – its theme this year was “Chinese Whispers” – is so divine and has so much cachet, that at even $25,000 a ticket the rich and famous clamour to attend. This is a witty evening of style, elegance, and celebrity.

 

The Met Gala shimmers in a world that is increasingly drab in the name of comfort and “cool”. Even the hippest hipsters and the grungiest grungsters get their glad rags on to come to see Anna at the Met.

Wearing Prada Olivia Wilde

Wearing Prada
Olivia Wilde

 

Some of the outfits this year were wild, as they were supposed to be; this is after all a themed event for the Museum of Art’s Costume Wing. It marks the opening of a new exhibition  each season – this year, “China, Through the Looking Glass” – so the towering headdress worn by fashionista Sarah Jessica Parker and Cara Delevingne’s artistic body painting were perfect. They underscore the purpose of fantasy and the glamour of fashion in our lives. The Met Gala is a huge fundraiser, but the event is also a reminder to dress up and shine. A message that is dearly needed when so many people think that life is nothing more than a perpetual come as you are party.

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In Vogue from Kennedy to Kardashian

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Click top title to open I recently read that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West issue of Vogue may out sell the issues with covers of Beyoncé and Michelle Obama.  Editor Anna Wintour defended her choice saying, “Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue, one that lies in a long tradition of this magazine, is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it,” Wintour who whose unerring instincts have made her fashion’s kingmaker concluded, “I think we can all agree on the fact that that role is currently being played by Kim and Kanye to a T. 

Vogue has always had a close relationship with both influential women and pop culture. Vreeland understood the relationship between culture and fashion. She once said “You can see the approaching revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.” Diana Vreeland discovered Twiggy. It was Diana Vreeland with her finger on the pulse of pop culture who advised a young Jackie Kennedy on fashion.  It was D.V. who told Manolo Blahnik to design shoes. She also put Diane Von Furstenberg’s first little wrap dress “in Vogue”.  

With the “Kim and Kanye cover Anna Wintour has proved she really knows how to sell magazines– in case anyone has forgotten what business Vogue is in. The success of the cover also underscores the power of celebrities to set trends and sell products. I have no doubt that Diana Vreeland would have put Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue not because of their fashion but because they are fashion now – for better or worse.

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Anna and living artfully

Quel scandal! Anna Wintour wore the same dress twice! What is it about the pursuit of personal excellence that irks so many people? The need to pick on accomplished, polished people perplexes me.
 
Many people vilify Anna Wintour because she seems perfect, or almost perfect. Her flawless exterior, discipline, and iron will seem to rub people the wrong way. Yet, to my knowledge she has committed no crimes, made no sex tapes, been involved in no scandals, or defrauded anyone. That makes her a celebrity-saint these days.
 
People seem okay with lovely-looking models, because — in spite of the Tyra Banks and Heidi Klums who have proven to be crack business women — many models often appear messy and troubled.  They have well-reported problems with eating issues, drugs, and men.
 
Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, has been called an ice queen, alien, dominatrix, and worse.  I do not know Anna Wintour. I have never met her, but I admire her. I have worked in the magazine business and it is rife with colossal egos, and it demands very hard work.  Anna Wintour made that point recently in an interview with David Letterman.  She was promoting RJ Cutler’s documentary The September Issue, which is about her magazine and her role in it.
 
Reading the reviews of the film, one could wonder why so many critics review Anna Wintour instead of the film, especially when it is doubtful they have ever met her. As Letterman pointed out in the first moments his interview, he knows little about Vogue magazine, but he knows a lot about Wintour.  He said she had “transcended what she did”.
 
I think there is much to be learned from women like Anna Wintour who provoke so much ire and controversy and wield so much power. By her own admission, she did not excel academically. Her father was a successful English newspaper editor. According to Anna Wintour, he determined she would be the editor of Vogue, “and so it was decided.”  She told Sixty Minutes correspondent Morley Safer this a few years ago; the implication that she had to met her father’s expectation was clear.
 
Wintour has worn her hair in the same signature style since she was 15.  She is in impeccable shape, yet it is widely reported that she eats.  She keeps her slim figure by exercising and playing tennis — with her son when she can. She is divorced and has raised two children.
 
Granted, she has lot of help to maintain her look this stage of her life.  Vogue pays for her hair and make-up to be done daily.  She also has an extravagant clothing allowance.  But, if you look back over her life, she has always appeared the same, even before the lavish perks.
 
Fame editor of Vogue, Anna WintourWhen asked about her reputation as slave driver and “_itch”, she points out that many of her staff members have worked for her for more than 20 years.  It is hard to believe that key long-time employees Grace Coddington and Andre Leon Talley –or the score of talented people who have worked all these years at Vogue — would have had to look very hard to find well-paying glamorous jobs elsewhere.
 
No darlings, I think women like Anna Wintour are great examples of people who make the most of their personal assets. I think it is as useful to study Anna’s look as her Vogue editorials. How foolish was the journalist who recently accused her of a fashion faux pas for wearing the same perfect Carolina Herrera print dress on Letterman because she had also worn it to the The Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.  Did this journalist ask herself what message Ms. Wintour was trying to send; that she is a hardworking editor with impeccable taste or a red-carpet hopping celebrity?  Vogue describes good pieces from significant designers as an investment.  So, can a classic print dress not be worn for a season without garnering ridicule?
 
I’m definitely not in Ms. Wintour’s league wardrobe-wise (sigh!), but I have collected some fabulous dresses over years.  I would not hesitate to wear any of them on any number of occasions.  They suit me, are timeless, and look fabulous.  The respected designer Oscar de la Renta said in recent Vanity Fair interview, “fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable.  Style is more about being yourself.” Anna Wintour is nothing if not herself — and bravo to that.
 
Fashion is the key to avoiding the kiss of dowdiness.  Fashion is fun.  Fashion is the mainstay of Ms. Wintour’s livelihood and the raison d’etre of Vogue.  But women without style are never chic, well-dressed, or distinctive. 
 
A younger women friend once accused me of “controlling my image” when I preferred to give her a photograph than just let her snap one.  She was right.  I was amused it piqued her, especially as she was so insecure about her look and always fussed with her appearance.  I explained I didn’t particularly care to be photographed, but had learned to take a decent photo, and therefore preferred to give out good ones.  Most of them are just snaps, but good ones.  After all photos are forever.
 
Darlings, you have one life and you can live it artfully.  You can dress well, eat well, entertain well — and conduct you yourself with grace — or you can slosh through life. The choice is yours. Style is very personal and it is not about money, dresses, or even glamour; it is about discipline, choices, and vision.
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