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Fashion History | Manolo for the Big Girl
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Review Revue + How To Wear: Wide Leg Pants

Do you ever just get an image stuck in your head and declare “THIS. THIS is what I want to be wearing right now, and I shall never know another moment of joy until my dream is realized!”?

Well that’s what happened with me when I saw this:

It was exactly, exactly the feel of what I wanted for my upcoming adventure as a mex-pat. Not the exact outfit per se, but the breezy early 1930’s sportswear feel so I searched and searched until I came upon these:

Silk and Linen Wide Leg Trousers


70% silk, 30% linen, acetate lining. Obviously I would’ve preferred a silk lining, but we live in a broken and sinful world, so a girl can’t have everything. The silk/linen blend is lovely with an excellent drape and just a slight slub in the material. The lining isn’t bad either, a nice solid twill with good tailleur details you’d expect to find in a much more expensive piece.


When they say wide leg, they MEAN wide leg.

In fact, I’d probably categorize them as true tailored palazzos. Stay with me, I know we’ve been burned by palazzos before.

Are there words that strike deeper fear in the hearts of the big-boned than “polyester georgette palazzo pants”?

I think not.

Still, these are very good, just perfect for the loose, 1930’s Biarritz meets Marisa Berenson style I want while I’m in Baja.

We’ve been due for a resurgence of pajama dressing for a while, what with the natural order of things (the 70’s coming back), the undying influence of Poiret and YSL and Karl Lagerfeld bringing back the old Sara and Gerald Murphy trope a few years ago for Spring 2008, which was brilliant but ahead of its time.

Plus it’s not like pants can get tighter, so there’s nothing new or interesting fashion-wise to “say” there. Even Hermes got in on the (slightly more tailored) act for its most recent ready to wear collection.

The cut is elegant and thoughtful. Whoever designed these trousers knows their stuff. The front pleats (stay with me now) are sewn down through the waist and stomach so you don’t get that gut-level poochiness one usually associates with front pleats.  Instead you get an elegant trimness through the waist and hips. There are side pockets and besoms in the back. Nothing too distracting, but it adds a great sportswear look.


Long-legged girls, you’re in luck. On me these are entirely too long –I’m 6’3″ in 5″ heels and I’ll still need the taken up at least 2″ inches– so unless you’re half giraffe, you’ll probably need to get these hemmed.

The drape is excellent and although I would’ve liked a slightly higher, narrower waist, that could be user error since I’ve got a high, narrow (er, comparatively) waist to begin with and I really could have/should have gone down a size.

My experience with the plus size range in Spiegel is they run about a size small, so being a pear-shaped 18/20 I ordered a size 22W. I’d still err on the side of caution if your trunk comes with its own considerable collection of junk, but I don’t think you’d be led too far astray if you ordered true to size.

From the side they look like heaven. From the front it’s a little harder to get used to, but once you try them  on as part of an entire outfit instead of just “naked plus pants” it comes together beautifully.

How To Wear It:

One thing you want to remember with all dressing, but especially when you’re playing with dramatic proportions, is to stay balanced. If you’re wearing gorgeous billowy trousers, then your top needs to be slim and there needs to be some structure to it. Look at the American magazine and the Hermes still. 80 years apart, but still the same basic idea: wide, flowing pants require a slim, structured top and/or other elements to offset it.

I don’t have just a ton of experience wearing this silhouette, I don’t tend towards separates in the first place and palazzo pants can be a hard look to pull off in a way that looks chic before one is Of a Certain Age, especially if one is fatly, since fatties as a species have been done so grievously wrong by bad palazzo pants in the past.

Still, I’m determined to do loose, 1930’s Biarritz meets Marisa Berenson style while I’m in Mexico, just for my own enjoyment, so on with the show.

Current plans for deployment are with mile-high espadrilles –I’m going to be a foot and a half taller than everyone in the country anyway, might as well make it an even two– an absolute armful of thick lacquer bangles in solid brights (optional) and a scarf tied on the diagonal as a top which is surprisingly effective and flattering, covering all less-than-gracile parts of self, while putting my best features –my shoulders and neckline– on display, sans cleavage, with a cardi for modesty when I’m not on the beach or lounging at home.If you even have to ask if I’m going to be wearing a big hat I’m not angry, just disappointed. I thought we knew each other.

Parting Shots:

These are Very Good Pants Indeed, especially on sale for $29.99. It’s a lot of capital F Fashion payoff for a dead comfortable and effortless look that still has the whiff of “she took hours to look that effortless” about it, and who doesn’t love that?

You’ll probably want to give these a steam or let them hang for a while when you first get them, but after that, don’t worry too much about creases. Even though it reads more silk than linen, you still don’t want these to be pristine as crisp shirting. The key is easy, soft, a little rumpled and utterly, utterly fabulous. Kind of like me, actually.

It’s Easy to Be Green

Gina Lollobrigida once asked “What’s the point of being beautiful if you have to buy your own emeralds?” and while I’m sure there’s a good answer out there, it still doesn’t change the fact that there are entirely too few people in the world who have made it their life’s mission to cover me in Bulgari.

So to tide us over until then –and in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day tomorrow– let’s have a little celebration of some seriously glam costume jewelry for the girl who finds it extremely easy to be green.

Kenneth Jay Lane Foiled Drop Earrings — this classic 80’s drop looks fresh and modern but not *shudder* ironic.

Kate Spade New York Palace of Mirrors Large Bib – life is too short for small jewelry and this proves it.

Kenneth Jay Lane Snake Cuff – Queen Victoria’s wedding band was a serpent. Cartier made them big in the belle epoque and beyond and KJL’s iterations in crystal and enamel have been iconic since the early 60’s.

Kendra Scott Sona Earrings – a little Paul Poiret, a little Edie S. What’s not to love?

Nicky Hilton Sterling Silver Bullet Earrings – I hate that these are good, but they are. I’m going to guess they’re copies of some Lalique earrings in the family vaults.

Privileged NYC Green Aqua Quartz Gold plated Branch Earrings Sweet little figurals manage to be both delicate and statement-making.

Kenneth Jay Lane Ergo Ring – Until that plover-egg emerald comes in, you could certainly console yourself with this.

Lilly Pulitzer Behind The Hedge Cuff – A little prep never hurt anyone, and you know I’m a sucker for basket weave.

Kenneth Cole New York “Urban Rock” Green Hoop With Gold Wrapping – I still maintain that Nice Girls Don’t Wear Hoops (go ahead and argue, it’s a cultural thing) but I’m awfully tempted to make an exception for these.

‘Tis the Season for the Fashion Maven

British Vogue – By far the best, sharpest journalism of its kind. It’s a spendy subscription, but worth every penny. Less fawning than American Vogue and less kiddie-porn than Paris Vogue, the UK version of the Conde Nast giant is my favorite fashion publication.

Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Sandals – The word iconic is overused, yet it’s justified with the YSL “Tribute” series. With new iterations released every season, still maintaining that sky-high heel and architectural platform, they’re destined to become the YSL signature wink for those in the know as much as the legendary Le Smoking.

Menswear Gold Watch – We’ve been seeing women wearing men’s over-sized watches for a few seasons now –wear it slightly loose, like a bangle– but mostly with round faces. I’m really feeling the louche good taste/bad taste 70’s feeling of a big chunky square face now. Think borrowing your grandfather’s (or father’s) Rolex, but not getting the links taken out.

Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion by Patrica Mears– Fashion isn’t stupid. It’s shallow, but it’s not stupid.  The history of why we wear what we wear is fascinating and real lovers of fashion know their history.  Sure any yahoo can recognize a Chanel jacket or might be able to tell you that Valentino is known for bows and its signature shade of red, but if you’re really interested in fashion, you’d do well to dig deeper. Madame Grès, described as the “couturier that time forgot”  by Linda Grant, is a fascinating study and although few know her name, anyone who has noticed those Grecian goddess dresses that’ve been ubiquitous on the red carpet for half a decade might be interested to know it was the reclusive Grès who brought that look to the forefront of modern fashion in the 1930’s.

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

‘Tis the Season for the Jackie O Wannabe

A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House by Oleg Cassini. Who doesn’t love Oleg Cassini? I could take or leave Jackie (she was at best the SECOND most interesting woman either of her husbands slept with. Marilyn Monroe and La Divina were hot messes, but fascinating ones) but getting the scoop from her then-controversial designer? Juicy.
Hermes Astrologie (Dies et Hore) foulard (as worn by Mrs Kennedy casting her vote in New York) I mean you can’t really go wrong with one of THE classic scarves of all time. I’m kind of bitter there’s only one left for sale right now, because I don’t have that particular design in my admittedly extensive collection and I’m just not sure I’m okay with that.

Jacqueline Kennedy Classic 3-Strand Simulated Pearl Necklace aka The John-John Pearls. I believe her original fake pearls were Kenneth Jay Lane but these are the currently licensed reproductions. You can’t go wrong with a triple-strand of pearls. They’re like the dry martinis of necklaces.
Ray-Ban Jackie Ohh II sunglasses I think we all know how I feel about oversized (emphasis on over) sunglasses but whatever.  If you’re going to do it at least do it with style.

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

Shoe Month! Disco Inferno

I have been staring at my computer for fifteen minutes now trying to explain how much I love these shoes without using the words “Bianca Jagger” “coke spoon” “Studio 54” “Liza’s spider lashes” or “Grace Jones/Halston cat fight” and I just can’t.

Although I’ve always been more of a Lou Reed than a David Bowie and I don’t put anything stronger than caffeine in my body (and that comes in the form of precisely one cup of tea between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday), I’ve always loved the wretched excess of New York’s glam rock/disco days.

The “Cabaret” from Due Farina rings my beee-eee-eeell in a major way, especially because they have a solid heel (THANK YOU), a wider toe box and a good bit of elastic at the ankle strap. Also? Almost 70% off!!

I’m going to be featuring shoes from the incredible Bluefly sale going on all this week, so be warned: sizing is going to be limited. Get while the getting’s good.

Elements of Style: We Had FACES Then!

Good morning mein schnauzers! (I don’t really speak German, although I HAVE seen Cabaret a bunch of times. Plus I stole the line from the occasionally NSFW Mr Peenee anyhow.)

Today’s blog post is going to be Law and Order style: Ripped from today’s headlines.

Except by “Today’s” I mean “Yesterday and quite late the night before” and “headlines” I mean “conversation I was having with an aerialist cum chef pal of mine who may or may not also breathe fire.”

The question?

Whether one might learn to be photogenic.

Listen, I’m not going to lie: I take a hell of a picture. In person I look like an extremely posh cartoon frog and I’m at peace with that, but on camera? I’m Myrna freakin’ Loy.

See, the things that make people beautiful to look at in real life don’t necessarily translate onto film, so there is absolutely no use hating bad photos of yourself. You DON’T really look like an off-Broadway musical revue staring Lady Bunny as The Elephant Man. It’s just a bad photo.

BUT you can hedge your bets by learning how to fake being photogenic.

How? Easy. Learn how to work your light.

You do this two ways: through makeup (easy) and through posing (easier).

Makeup first:
Most people who wear makeup focus on their eyes and lips and don’t pay much attention to their skin. This, particularly when it comes to photographs, is a mistake. Even if you want to go for “the natural look” for a photo, a little foundation or powder will even out the way light bounces off your face, making for a much smoother look.

plumcake necklace

For the look above -which was taken last night after an evening out celebrating the newest acquisition of the Château Gâteau Collection of Enormous Sparkly Things: a vintage Kenneth Jay Lane necklace the size of a sheep– I’m actually wearing relatively little on my lips and eyes.

The lips are just a generic tinted lipbalm and for the eyes I simply took my trusty MAC 217 brush and blended Paradise Pearl pure pigment from Coastal Scents over the lid, ran a bit of Milani’s Mediterranean Blue eye pencil along the waterline and along the outer corner of my eye and topped it with a lick of Rimmel Sexy Curves mascara.  I just cleaned up and shaped my brows using an old brown pencil whose make and model have been lost in the mists of memory.
yes to carrotsParadisePearlGoldMica_300rimmel-sexy-curves1

What I did spend a lot of time on was the highlighting and contouring of my face.  For those of us who are fat of face or otherwise not blessed with an aquiline nose, cheekbones so high and sharp people try to commit suicide off them and the generally accepted number of chins (i.e., one) highlighting and contouring the face can be a godsend.

The painfully lovely and exceedingly talented Chapman sisters can teach you this and pretty much everything else you’d ever wanted to know about l’art du maquillage (I say that in French because it sounds nice, the sisters themselves are from Norwich) through their wonderfully accessible tutorials.

Sam Chapman doing a model's makeup

Sam Chapman Contouring Tutorial

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Sam Chapman might actually be the most gorgeous woman to ever have lived and if Crystal Renn ever got a look at her she’d be cowering in her technically-plus-size Martin Margiela boots.  I highly commend these videos to anyone with even an sprinkling of interest in makeup. If you’re an old hand, they’ll be inspiring and if you’re new to the wonderful world of better living through eyeliner it’s a great place to start.

So we’ve got the makeup down, right? Now on to posing.

Any small success I had as a photographer’s/artist’s model (my plus-size fashion career was as short as my too-short-for-fashion neck) was because I knew how to literally put myself in the best light.

Part of that is just being aware of your face and how the light hits it. You know when it’s nice outside and you turn up your face to get just that perfect sweet spot of sun? That’s a really natural example of finding your key light.

The undisputed queen of key light was Marlene Dietrich.

Killer bone structure notwithstanding, Dietrich wasn’t a great beauty (and let’s not even talk about the tragedy that is Jean Harlow’s wighat)

but she knew how to play to her light when a camera –moving or still– was on her.

Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor worked lights well too, but they had the disadvantage of being actually breathtakingly beautiful, too, so it’s not as useful from an academic perspective.

A silly “key light” finding exercise, is to set up a spotlight in your house (yes, this can be a flashlight or a can light on a music stand on your commode) and practice just moving your face around in the light.

Odds are you’ll find some positions where the light just feels better, feels right.

That will get you in the habit of paying attention to the light, so the next time someone wants to snap your photo and you have a second to pose, just lengthen your neck, find your light and you’ll be surprised how much better your photos turn out.

Now someone go find me that charming Mister DeMille.

In Which Plumcake’s Heart Grows Three Sizes That Day

When it comes to the fashion world, especially the modeling world, I am a cold, cold jaded shrew.

I know most plus-size models are size 10/12 and travel with their own set of pads to make them look bigger. I know there’s only ever one famous plus-size model at a time and I know nine times out of ten, if there’s a plus-size model in a straight-sized shoot, she’s there like a token black model would’ve been in the early 70’s.

And it’s not that I’m bitter. I had a blast when I modeled. My neck was too short for me to ever be a real success, but I was popular enough as an artists’ model to pay my bills for a while and I got to do the occasional charity runway thing which was all kinds of fun (Mama can STOMP. IT. OUT.) and I got to meet all sorts of cool artist guys I’m glad I never slept with. If you’ve ever wanted to model and have the required beauty, thick skin and good head on  your shoulders, I say give it a try.

But when you’ve been in and around the industry for a decade or so, you can get a little jaded. You realize Crystal Renn is just the new Mia Tyler, who was the new Kate  Dillon who was the new Sophie Dahl etc etc etc.  Now granted, all those girls –except for Sophie who is back to a straight size and just as gorgeous as ever– are still working as plus size models, but only Crystal is getting the covers.  Crystal is a damn good model but I’m just about exhausted of all the kerfuffle made over her each time she gets an editorial. It’s nothing new. She’s just the token “fat chick” who is virtually indistinguishable from a skinny chick.

THIS, however, is new:

V Magazine preview courtesy of models.com

V Magazine preview courtesy of models.com

(click on the photos to view more previews, you know you want to)

What we have here are four gorgeous undeniably plus-size models in V Magazine’s upcoming “Size Issue” and you know what these photos say to me?

Supermodels are back.

Good old-fashioned Gianni Versace schmoozing, George Michael lip-synch, don’t-get-out-of-bed-for-less-than-$10,000 quoting, early 90’s supermodels and it’s




Because this? Is gorgeous and lush and LONG overdue. It is full on glamor and I LOVE it because dammit, life is HARD right now for a lot of people and by God if ever there’s been a time to be allowed to do a smoky eye AND a major lip, it’s when we can’t afford anything BUT a new red lipstick and some kohl pencil.

Do I think we’re going to see a preponderance of plus-sized women on the catwalk and in major fashion editorials any time soon? Not hardly. But I DO think it means we’re moving away from the size 00 models and might start seeing fours and sixes again. I think the pendulum will swing away from the hard, post-modern space-age praying mantis ideal we’ve got now back to lushness and a certain over-the-top natural sexiness that just cannot happen when you don’t have any vavas to voom.

So well played, V Magazine. Well played indeed and I  hope this is the start of something big –as it were– for all of us.

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