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John Galliano

In the Clintonian roman a clef, Primary Colors, campaign strategist Richard Jemmons (so, you know, basically James Carville) takes aside the newly-disillusioned True Believer and gives him the single most important piece of counsel I’ve ever heard about living publicly:

“They love you and then they stop loving you.”

By now you probably know John Galliano, my favorite designer, has been removed from his position at Dior after video surfaced of a clearly inebriated Galliano spouting off some shockingly anti-Semitic remarks at a Parisian bar.

Was he provoked? Did he mean what he said or was it just scandal for scandal’s sake? Should it matter? The video theoretically happened around New Year’s Eve, is it coincidence that the video is surfacing in the wake of Charlie Sheen’s outbursts and the upcoming Paris ready-to-wear shows? What does it say about our ever-growing love for tabloid feeding frenzies?

What a nightmare.

Of course Dior had to fire him. Of course they did. It doesn’t matter if he really meant it, or whether it’s right to judge people on what they say when they’re off the clock and on the sauce. It doesn’t matter that Galliano for Dior was the most brilliant partnership of the post-couture age. He had to go.

But it still breaks my heart.

Listen, I’m not a real fashion insider by any means but even I knew the open secret that was John Galliano’s increasing struggles with mental illness. Do I think he truly is anti-Semitic? No, I don’t. I think he’s a brilliant, self-destructive artist who is finally cracking under the pressure of unrealistic expectations in an industry that sells unrealistic expectations for cold, hard cash.

I think in some way, he wanted out. It happened to McQueen, too.

Yesterday, Suzy Menkes wrote in the International Herald Tribune:

While the vile statements seen coming from Mr. Galliano’s drunken lips on the Internet video deserved the nearly-universal condemnation they were receiving, there is pathos in the vision of one of the world’s most famous — and best paid — designers alone, clutching a glass in a bar. The pressure from fast fashion and from the instant Internet age to create new things constantly has worn down other famous names. Marc Jacobs, design director of Louis Vuitton, ended a wild streak in rehab. Calvin Klein famously rambled across a sports pitch and admitted to substance abuse. And the late Yves Saint Laurent spent a lifetime fighting his demons.

Above all, the suicide of Alexander McQueen, a year almost to the day before Mr. Galliano’s public disgrace, is a specter that hangs over the fashion industry. The death from cardiac arrest of Mr. Galliano’s closest collaborator, Steven Robinson, in 2007 also sent out an early warning signal.

Most other designers, preparing their collections for Paris Fashion Week, and stunned by Mr. Galliano’s swift fall from grace, asked not to be quoted on the record.

But Victoire de Castellane, Dior’s jewelry designer, summed up the general feeling when she said: “It’s terrible and pathetic at the same time. I never knew that he had such thoughts in him. Or that he so needed help.”

Obviously I don’t agree with what Galliano said, and LVMH was 100% right to fire him, if for no other reason that he did damage to the brand by being in violation of France’s laws explicitly against Anti-Semitism.

I also understand why Natalie Portman –the new face of Dior fragrance Miss Cherie– would refuse to be associated with Dior as long as Galliano was on board. She said “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

I get it, but girlfriend also loves her vintage Chanel and I’m going to go ahead and guess that on the Bigot-meter, Galliano’s stupid drunken rant isn’t anywhere close to Mme Gabrielle’s antics –including but not limited to being the long-term romantic partner of Nazi officer Hans Günther von Dincklage, using his influence to keep her apartments in Paris during Nazi occupation, using newly-passed anti-Semitic laws to try to regain control of her perfume from the Wertheimers and getting involved in a failed Nazi attempt to get the ear of Winston Churchill by using one of Chanel’s former friends who was related to the prime minister. The friend, Vera Bate Lombardi, refused to cooperate and got arrested by the Gestapo for her trouble.

I also wonder if supporting a brand whose creative director has anti-Semitic views is worse than supporting a company that uses sweatshop labor and turns a blind eye to ongoing and systematic human rights violations and inhumane labor laws?

Is it okay to punish someone for what they think but not for what they do?

I don’t know. This thing is tragic from all ends. And of course I’m Episcopalian. I get a lot of garbage for being a person of faith but the last time Anglicans were killed just for being Anglican was 1557 so I can’t know or even pretend to know what it would be like to hear something like with the ears of someone for whom the Holocaust still looms large.

I wish I could come up with something pithy or a meaningful insight but I can’t. I’m sad. Sad for Galliano, sad for Dior, sad for an industry that’s fundametally broken, sad for a society that’s loves a feeding frenzy more than it loves forgiveness and sad that we’ll never see anything like the Fall 2007 Dior Couture show again.

Thousand Dollar Shoes on a Hundred Dollar Budget

I get a lot of people who ask me how I manage to have the things I do –particularly my shoes– with the job I have.  Now ignoring for a moment that it’s kind of a rude question,  I do have a bit of wisdom to share as to how I managed to amass a shoe collection worth more than what I earn in a year without hooking, selling my kidneys or getting into credit card debt. While finding thousand dollar shoes for a hundred dollars is a bit on the ambitious side of things, if you follow my lead (and learn from my mistakes) you will be well on your way to your own enviable shoe salon.

Here goes:

Know what’s out there.

There is life outside Louboutin. In fact, I kind of feel that loubies are just a wee bit déclassé at the moment.

For every brand that gets namechecked and overexposed there are dozens of smaller houses making shoes just as interesting and luxurious, who have the talent and the quality, but not the advertising budget.  This is where you can find your best deals off-season.  You can mark down last season’s Dolce 20% and people will snatch them up as a bargain, but in order to move product of a lesser-known but every bit as talented shoe designer like Nicole Brundage, the retailer will cut deeper and faster just to get them out of the store.
Often you can bring home a $600 shoe –and worth every penny– for $150, maybe less.

Know what you like.
As you expose yourself to more designers (uh, as it were) you’ll also get a better feel for who and what you like.

Designers rarely change horses in the middle of a stream, so if you see a current shoe you love but can’t afford, look at the past season or two. Same thing goes for trends.  Odds are you’ll find similar themes or shapes in the sale section. This is particularly true if the house has any sort of signature look, like Valentino’s bows.

Speaking of Valentino, when you have a house that traditionally skews a bit older in clientele, the odds of finding an iconic shoe at a great price increases.  Valentino, even with the current chuckleheads trying to singlehandedly ruin Maestro Garavani’s house with their bid for the Chloe set (ptui ptui), will always always always release some iteration of  bow-embellished d’orsay.

Want some but don’t have one particular design etched on your heart? Give it time and keep your eyes on the sales racks. The right one will come down the pike sooner rather than later.

Patience Grasshopper.

Unless it is The One True Shoe (in which case you must buy it immediately regardless of price, lest you wake up in tears of regret every night for the rest of your sad, anticlimactic life) I don’t mind taking my chances and shopping the luxury clearance sales. Neither should you.

The Green Dior Anniversary is my One True Shoe and it got away. It haunts me in my dreams.

I’ve had particularly good luck at Neiman Marcus Last Call for a bricks and mortar experience and YOOX.com for online. YOOX lets you create a Dream Box. This is particularly handy because even if something is megabucks now, in six, nine, twelve months it might be a fraction of that. Plus every once in a while they’ll send an email with a coupon code for a percentage off everything currently in your Dream Box (no, you can’t go add things). If you still love it, buy it and rejoice. If you don’t still love it? You’ve saved a ton of cash avoiding a passing fancy you would’ve worn once.

Know what you won’t wear.
Every time I buy a pair of slingbacks I SWEAR I will never do it again.
In fact, I know as a gospel truth that somewhere floating around stately Chateau Gateau are at least two pairs of painfully fabulous slingbacks that have either been worn for less than an hour (I’m looking at you, magenta silk satin Brian Atwoods worn for half of midnight mass 2009) or not at all (iridescent mercury pebbled leather Guillaume Hinfrays) and even a pair of black croc house-brand slingbacks I bought at Saks several years ago rarely get worn now, and why? Because the damn sling always slips.

I’ve taken them to my shoe whisperer, I’ve done all the pads, everything.  The rise of my heel is simply too high for 99 out of 100 slingbacks.

A quick visit to Bluefly tells me the average Brian Atwood and Guillaume Hinfray both go for about $750 a pop and I seem to recall buying the black heels at Saks for retail, which I’m guessing was around $300.  So conservatively speaking, I have $1,850 worth of shoes that are just gathering dust, and those are just the ones I can remember right now. Granted I think I probably paid about $300 each for the Atwoods and Hinfrays, but that’s still close to a thousand bucks I could’ve saved if I’d remembered that I don’t wear slingbacks.

Never forget a name
We all have That Perfect Shoe. The one that fits like it was molded to your feet, makes your legs look like eight miles of heaven and miraculously works with everything in your closet? Find out the model name and set an eBay saved search. Don’t have the original box? Do some creative searching with Google Image or on department store sites you know carry that brand. Already found a shoe you want online but aren’t sure you’re getting the best price? Put the model name into any search engine with a shopping features and compare different sites on one screen. These are the Manolo Blahnik Caldos. If I find a Caldo in a size 41 I buy it. That’s it. Don’t care about the fabric, print, whatever. They fit my feet like a dream, I can walk a million miles in them and they can go from day to evening to formal evening like a song.

Shoe Month! Nude Shoes

I’m always surprised when I like something by Kate Spade, because Kate Spade is not generally considered Real Fashion.  Received fashionista wisdom has it that Kate Spade is for people who wear Juicy Couture and carry Coach bags with logos, i.e., people who think they are fashion people but are, in fact, dental hygienists.*

It ain’t necessarily so.

I have a much beloved pair of red patent leather heels that I can clomp around in for twelve hours that are Kate Spade and they’re terrific. That being said, whenever people ask me who made them, I answer in that same bashful voice usually reserved for admitting my cute prom date was my cousin (he wasn’t. My cousin I mean. He was cute though.  Miss Plumcake doesn’t do ugly.)

That being said, I have warm feelings about both these:

Kate Spade nude bow

This is what I call a First Lady Shoe (and I’m charmed by the “film” treatment of the bow.)  It doesn’t look like much on the screen, but you’ll find yourself reaching for these again and again for years and as long as they’re in season, they’ll be in style.

I’m a big proponent of the nude shoe, and I know some folks aren’t, but for when you want to elongate the leg and look polished without adding another serious element to your outfit, these are perfect.  The Gracie slingback from Kate Spade (above) reminds me very much of the heyday of Valentino and Ferragamo, before the tyranny of black shoes trampled the nude neutral.

For another, more contemporary sexier take,  check out the Gianna pumps (currently almost 25% off at Endless):

Kate Spade Gianna

Usually I approach anything snug around the ankle with an appropriate quantity of fear and trembling.  While I do not have “cankles” my ankles are delicately turned in perhaps a more substantial way than the average woman’s so I need a strap that’s a bit more generous in nature.

My red Spades have ankle straps and they are the easiest, most generous straps I’ve ever used, so I can buckle down in the beginning of the day and loosen up as my afternoon progresses (read: no pump fat.)

These remind me a bit of the lingerie inspired Diors from couture last year (which I loved) but are drastically less expensive.

*Please do not put me on some sort dental hygienist death list. I love you all. Also I floss regularly. Also also, I agreed to go out on a blind date with the moron son of my favorite hygienist, who truly was an idiot (btw: DON’T tell someone your son is a professional cyclist when in actuality he’s a 35 year old guy who still plays with BMX bikes in his sweatpants) which I think is going way above and beyond the call of dental health.

Prom Week: Big Question

On Monday I defended the flight-of-fancy prom dress and I stand by it. If we ever redo the Plumcake familial creed and for some unknown and hateful reason they DON’T go for “Psycho Killer: Qu’est-ce que c’est?” or a quote from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Love, Julie Newmar (my two suggestions) I hope they might entertain the following:

There is no excess like wretched excess.

Most women don’t have many occasions where it’s socially acceptable to have a full on sartorial extravaganza. It’s pretty much costume balls and prom. Note how I DIDN’T say wedding? Although by all means keep wearing bad wedding dresses, it’s the only thing –except the open bar– that makes most weddings enjoyable. You just go ahead and marry your fourth husband while wearing a Cinderella gown. The gays and I will be in the back pew making knowing comments about the kind of girls –fairytale heroines included– who wear clear heels.

But the fact most of our lives –and most of our budgets– can’t support high octane fashion fantasies, shouldn’t stop us from occasionally indulging in a daydream or two.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

If you had to do it all over again what would you wear to prom? Money, time, history and physics are of no matter. I just want to know your fantasy gown.

At first I thought I might want something by Poiret, but then decided my shape didn’t suit his ideas. Then I thought about putting Queen Elizabeth I’s dressmakers to the test. I AM awfully fond of that fabric with all the swampthings on it, but I just know I’d put it on and feel like an aquarium made sweet upholstered love to an overstuffed ottoman.

So then I went to the great couturiers. Cristobal Balenciaga: gorgeous and flawless but not exuberant enough. Coco Chanel: Nazi sympathizer. Christian Dior: now we’re getting somewhere.

I’ve always loved –and been flattered by– The New Look which took the fashion world by wasp-waisted, full-skirted storm in 1947.

It’s gotta be John Galliano.

dior fragonard
Dior Matador
Dior michelangelo
Dior starry night

I’d happily wear any of these from our Funky Little Fashion Troll for Dior’s 60th anniversary of the New Look. Heck, I’d wear pretty much any gown he’s done for Dior. Mostly I just want to wear a lyre on my head.

Of course, when I first asked myself the question, one dress did pop out and, surprisingly, it wasn’t from the mini maestro. It was the cream feather dress from Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2008 ready to wear.

McQueen feather dress

Is it my favorite McQueen ever? No. It’s not even my favorite from that show, which literally made me weep it was so beautiful. But it’s up there and it’s haunted me for years, so in my made up life –the one where Stephen Fry is straight and MADLY in love with me and Hugh Laurie is just sick with jealousy– this is the dress I would wear to prom.

But I still want that damn lyre.

Fashion Week: Dolce and Gabbana

We’re in Milan now. Well I’m not, but the shows are.

I’m still here in Austin, nursing what might actually be the hamthrax and wondering how long it will be before I can go home and unearth my jammeroos, which are the pj’s I wear exclusively when I’m sick.

I’ll go back and do London later and talk about the three “plus size models” used in a show that caused two stylists to quit. I say “plus size” because two of them were American 8’s and 10’s, there was one size 12. The show was awful and the clothes are ugly, but read Style Spy’s reaction to tide you over.)

I don’t really know what to make of the Dolce and Gabbana show. I DO know they had several bloggers sitting in the front row, which I think is swell, and since I’m in big drop-drawers love with dinner jackets right now I loved pretty much all of those.

But.

Well, I didn’t HATE it, and I have a feeling it might grow on me, but as it stands right now? Meh.

I think the problem is, this didn’t really feel like a Dolce show to me. It felt like a mediocre Gaultier show with a splash of Dior. Now, a mediocre Gaultier show is still going to rock my casbah, but…I don’t know, I just didn’t love it.

Plus there were 63 exits. That’s a lot of exits. Up close the clothes are all amazing, but seriously, did they even edit at all? The show was all over the place. Do D and G ski *ahem* with Marc Jacobs?

There was the Latin cowboy look which was my favorite motif, providing some amazing jackets:

Loved this jacket, but can’t say I’m digging the pannier pants.

Very much want. But not the pants. It’s like a pumpkin is mourning in her crotch.

Yowza.

It’s tough for a big girl to do a whole severely tailored look, because our bodies fight it, but I do like –and often employ– a mess jacket over a feminine dress.

This look works better on apples than on pears, unless you’re quite tall or very comfortable with your legs since when doing a jacket/dress combo it’s best to keep the dress on the shortish side and wear a heel heavy enough to “anchor” the look.

I was not crazy about the widow’s weeds exits. It seemed messy to me,especially in the wake of Dior’s recent triumph with under-as-outer and lingerie fabrics, especially black Swiss, of which we see a lot in the Dolce show.

It either looked messy:

unfinished:

or just well, whatever the hell this is:

God, that’s a mess.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t like the show, I dug several of the exits including the unfinished one worn by Sessilee Lopez, my model of the moment. it’s just…it left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Like it sort of veered of into Givenchy In a Bad Way territory by way of Lady GaGa.

viz:

That’s one immaculately made bordello lampshade!

and did we really need what is essentially a cake wreck in corset form?

There weren’t any Enormous Ball Gowns so who knows what Vogue will do without them –I’m always glad to see them, but I’m just as happy they were given a break– but there were animal prints, because it wouldn’t be Dolce without them:

I’d say we’d see this on Beyoncé, but there isn’t enough gold lamé.

The Daily Kick: Beautiful and Deadly

The Topkapi emerald dagger

Dior Cartagena Sandals

17th century Mughal dagger

early 17th century Mughal Dagger

…it’s like lookin’ in a mirror.

Dior “Cartegena” Sandals and a collection of 17th and 18th century Mughal daggers, because a girl’s GOT to have accessories.

Happy Hunting!

I’ve wanted a full on leopard print dress for ages now, but –and this might shock long time readers– I’m just a teensy bit particular.

I LOVED this on Queen Latifah on whom I have an unabashed girlcrush way back in 2007.

queen-latifah-2007-ama-1.jpg

This from the last Dior couture collection pushed me right to the edge:

dior-couture.jpg

while the coat from the Dior Resort 2010 show pushed me right over:

dior-resort-10.jpg

Good gravy Marie, that’s a hell of a coat. Is freelance organ harvesting still illegal? If not, does anyone have a bathtub and an ice machine? (uh, this was written before those folks in Jersey got arrested for trafficking in illegal organs. So, uh. Yeah.  –ed.)

Anyway, I wanted to avoid the sheath because  it’s one of my less successful shapes. The Queen is pretty much straight up and down for a big girl. Your pal Plummy, however, is shaped not unlike the butternut squash which makes sheaths a bit more difficult to style.

I wanted something with movement and volume, but no stretch and for the love of Gaultier, NO SHINE.

Thankfully, Speigel heard my plea and provided this delightful silk leopard print dress on sale for comfortably under a hundred dollars.

speigel-leopard-swing.JPG

Love this so much; it’s an excellent silhouette for pears, especially for those of us with the travel-sized busoms. I’d guess that half of my dresses are some variation of this shape. If you want more va in you voom, take one of those super-wide elastic belts that were so popular a few seasons ago and wear it UNDER a dress like this. I call it –for absolutely no reason in particular– my “Well you should’ve thought about that before you left me for an East German amnesiac, now shouldn’t’ve you?” look.

The sheath isn’t bad, either.

speigel-leopard-sheath.JPG

I’d wear it under a fitted blazer, or with an alpaca net cardi and my enormous YSL belt.

There are lots of other leopard goodies on the Speigel site, so take your pick and happy hunting!

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