Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: Style Profile

As we celebrate Ronald Reagan's centennial, a look back at his first lady's style


When First Lady Michelle Obama drew some flak for choosing a gown from British design house  Alexander McQueen instead of one from an American designer for a state dinner recently, it reminded me of how a first lady's wardrobe choices symbolize more than just her individual taste.

Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore has touched on this subject frequently. For instance, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, she remembered another changing of the guard. "In 1977, Rosalynn Carter recycled the blue gown she'd worn for her husband's gubernatorial inaugural, in keeping with the president's decision to host the People's Inaugural, complete with $25 ball tickets," Moore wrote. "Four years later, Nancy Reagan's $10,000 bugle-beaded James Galanos gown signaled a return to glamour in the White House that was curiously timed, considering the country was about to enter a recession."

Indeed, Nancy Reagan drew considerable criticism at the time for her elegant clothing, often borrowed from the likes of Bill Blass, Adolfo and James Galanos -- but she always looked great.

This weekend, the nation celebrates the centennial of President Reagan's birth, and on Sunday at 10 p.m. PBS plans to broadcast a documentary about Nancy Reagan. All the Rage thought it was a good time to take a look back at her impeccable style.

-- Susan Denley


Top photo: Ronald and Nancy Reagan at his 1967 California gubernatorial inauguration. Nancy is wearing a brocade evening gown with a braided halter neckline by Galanos. Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Bottom photo: Nancy Reagan wears a comic outfit for the 1982 Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Credit: Associated Press

L.A. artist Kimberly Brooks targets the style set in her latest show

Elizabeth Stewart Artist Kimberly Brooks has been in and around L.A.'s style scene for years -- as a painter, Web designer, fashion lover and Hollywood wife (she's hitched to Albert Brooks). So it makes perfect sense that she would choose some of the city's top style-makers as her latest artistic subjects.

"The Stylist Project," a series of oil paintings by Brooks of some of L.A.'s most well-known fashion names, will debut at the Taylor De Cordoba Gallery on Feb. 27 and run through April 3.

Among those who posed for Brooks -- in their own clothes -- were celebrity stylists Arianne Phillips, Rachel Zoe, Andrea Lieberman, Jessica Paster and Jeanne Yang, local retailers Rose Apodaca and Cameron Silver, New York Times Magazine stylist Elizabeth Stewart, "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant and fellow artist/fashion maven Liz Goldwyn.

Brooks, who was unavailable for comment, according to her publicist, will debut Part 2 of "The Stylist Project" in spring 2011 -- featuring a who's who of New York-based style names, including Grace Coddington of Vogue, Joe Zee from Elle, Brana Wolf of Harper's Bazaar and Nina Garcia from Marie Claire and "Project Runway."

-- Emili Vesilind

Photo: A painting of stylist Elizabeth Stewart by Kimberly Brooks. Credit: Kimberly Brooks

Q&A: 'Project Runway's' Christian Siriano talks Starbucks, Payless, more parts of his fashion empire

Christian-siriano What's pocket size, full of energy and can be everywhere at once? These days, both fashion designer Christian Siriano and his new Starbucks holiday gift cards fit the bill. As if the mini-mogul doesn't have enough on his plate with projects such as a Saks clothing line, a more affordable capsule collection for his own website,, a maternity line for Moody Mamas, his Payless shoes and a new book on fashion tips ("Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self"), he also has a thirst to get his name in the restaurant industry.

Siriano is the first designer outside the company to create a Starbucks holiday gift card (which hits stores Nov. 17). And just like its soon-to-be-24-year-old designer, the shiny silver card is compact and ready to go at a moment's notice, as it can be attached to a key chain for on-the-go swiping. In honor of the collaboration, Starbucks has made a $50,000 donation to the Art of Elysium, a nonprofit that brings working actors, artists and musicians together with children who are battling serious medical conditions. For his part, Siriano is working with budding fashionistas in the program to design their dream dress.

Despite his hectic schedule (he's also busy with his coinciding "dark, edgy" Fall 2010 ready-to-wear runway and his "really, really fabulous, you're-gonna-die-over-it" Payless collections), Siriano found the time to chat with All the Rage about the Starbucks partnership and his other endeavors.

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Q&A with Mark Liddell, celebrity and fashion photographer

Exposed-cover The job title "celebrity photographer" can take on various meanings. There are the icons of the trade who could very well be famous names in their own right -- those with expansive lofts and high-quality costumes and visions who can turn an 8-by-10 of a reality star into something that will later be found in a museum or gallery. And then there are those who (sometimes) stealthily sneak up on starlets during their morning pre-Starbucks, post-Bikram run.

Photographer Mark Liddell falls into the first category, having spent 10 years capturing A-listers for magazines like Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and People, as well as shooting celebrity-themed advertising campaigns for Fendi and Versace and charities like PETA, voting-awareness nonprofit Declare Yourself and Women's Cancer Initiative.

However, the title of his new book might make him feel like he's in the glare of the paparazzi's cameras: "Exposed: 10 Years in Hollywood" ($30, Channel Photographics) encapsulates not only some of his renderings, but interviews with him about how he approached shooting stars such as Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Aniston, as well as some juicy bits of gossip about his subjects (some names obviously extracted).

Liddell called up All the Rage to chat about this book, how he got to this point in his career, his favorite shoots, celebrity photography versus fashion photography, and how much he hates the paparazzi.

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Style Profile: A few questions for Pegah Anvarian, Three Dots' new creative director

Three dots

Designer Pegan Anvarian made her mark on L.A.'s fashion landscape with her eponymous jersey-based collection, which launched in 2003. She recently shuttered the line, but has picked up where she left off as the new creative director for Three Dots -- another jersey-heavy brand famous for its super-soft T-shirts.

We caught up with the Texas-bred designer to chat about her newest endeavor:
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Style profile: George Esquivel's shoe-in for the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund award?

George-esquivel George Esquivel's shoe style -- classic leather loafers fit for either a Rat Packer or Sun Records star and featuring modern-day detailing and coloring popular among those who might have been known to wear a (sometimes) ironic workman's or bowling shirt -- recently earned his eponymous label a nomination for a CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund award.

An avid music fan, the Southern California native started small, selling shoes to friends at concerts and eventually to the musicians on stage -- and their friends. No Doubt, 311, Social Distortion; his client list looked like a 1990s O.C. teen's BMG mail order. And just like many of the bands he worshiped -- his start was in someone's garage.

"It was where my shoemaker lived," he says with a laugh when we talked on the phone earlier this month, mentioning how his teacher worked out of his home. "And my distribution center was my garage."

He's credited Desi Arnaz as an influence and loves what "Mad Men" has done for the resurgence of vintage fashion, but he won't mind a chuckle if you happen to call a pair of his handiwork "Duckie shoes," comparing them to the white-and-black pair Jon Cryer shows off in "Pretty in Pink."

Although Esquivel's poised with an opportunity to make men's shoes the object of desire the way women are willing to go into credit card debt for a pair of Christian Louboutin, he does have one small problem -- he can't decide which pair of his shoes he'll sport for the awards gala on Nov. 16 ("I don't wear black shoes."). However, he did share some plans for the future of Esquivel Shoes. Continue reading for the Q & A.

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Style profile: David Furnish*

He may be best known as Elton John's other half, but David Furnish is also the producer responsible for bringing the critically acclaimed musical "Billy Elliot" to Broadway earlier this month. He also happens to have a wicked fashion sense that's totally apart from John's flamboyant look. Now that the couple has an apartment in L.A., it’s only fitting that Project Angel Food, the local charity that provides meals to those living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, would honor Furnish with the Man of Style Award at its Divine Design fundraising gala Dec. 4. We caught up with him for a few minutes on the phone Tuesday to talk about his affinity for Thom Browne suits, the musical “Fame,” and why he’s no longer wearing denim.

For more information about Divine Design, and how to purchase tickets for the shopping event that continues through Dec. 8 in Beverly Hills, go to

Rage_furnish_2You’ve just opened “Billy Elliot” on Broadway. Do you have a good-luck piece that you wear when you have a big opening?

I have around my neck a little tiny locket and it has a lock of Elton’s baby hair and a picture of him as a baby. I wear it for important occasions, when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and on airplanes. It’s a talisman of sorts that makes me feel protected, like I have got him with me all the time.

What was your style like growing up in Toronto?
I was in a high school drama program with Eric McCormack, who actually approached me about accepting this award. We were the “Fame” generation running around school with leg warmers on, taking dance classes. We formed a little acting company and we had a great drama teacher who said you can wait your whole life to teach a class like ours. He fed us so much, from Pinter to Shaw to classic musicals and Shakespeare.

As an adult, what was your first big splurge?
Just before I moved to London, I was working in advertising, and I discovered the British high street stores — Britain has a much more defined affordable fashion culture with TopShop and the like. I remember going to NEXT in the mid- to late-1980s and I couldn’t believe I could buy all these great shoes and suits for a fraction of what you pay elsewhere. They were so beautifully cut, detailed and so cheap.

Do you still shop the high street?
I do. It’s fun, especially if you are looking for limited shelf life items to update your wardrobe.

You and Elton have very different looks, do you advise each other on clothes?
He asks me to help him get dressed, and pick out which ties and shirts match, but he has his own sense of style, which is much more exuberant than mine. He can pull it off because he has that larger than life personality. He has all of his suits custom-made by Yohji Yamamoto, because he can find traditional tailoring quite a restriction, and he gets very hot. The Japanese work with light fabrics, and the way they cut them and weave them, he feels quite liberated wearing those. He has a stock element of Yohji shoes, Etro shirts, and he collects loads of neckties. He’ll land on a color scheme and get the socks to match. And he travels with hundreds of eyeglass frames all lined up in cases — the red, the blue. I don’t know another man who can wear color like Elton does.

If he collects eyeglasses, what do you collect?
Tailored pieces, I suppose. I don’t feel dressed up unless I am in a suit. I find it an empowering thing to wear. Nothing makes you feel better or more presentable. Thom Browne’s suits are beautifully cut, he pushes the envelope. He’s been one of the most influential men’s suit makers in the past decade, really ahead of the game. There’s an irony and witticism to him.

Do you wear his short pants?
No, I stop at that. I don’t wear the short pants or hem the trousers halfway up my calf like Thom does. I would look like a fashion victim. I like my trousers to skirt the top of the shoe.

You like a slimmer cut to your suits, right?
Yes, another designer who I really admire but who sadly is not working in fashion anymore is Hedi Slimane. He changed the line of suits, and he’s been a friend for 10 or 11 years. I started wearing his suits when he did his first collection at YSL. And that was back when YSL menswear was associated with duty-free shops, and boringly classic. I was in Charivari in New York, and the buyer had bought Hedi’s first collection for YSL. I snapped up the whole collection. It was so modern in its cut and detailing. I went along and we have been friends ever since. And I still wear those pieces.

Is there anything you won't wear?
I am trying to wear a lot less denim, because I think I’m 46 now and shouldn’t be wearing it. I also find as I’m getting older, I’m liking the modernity of the new cuts but with traditional details. I’ve been going to Brooks Brothers. I started going in to look at Thom Browne’s line Black Fleece, but I’ve noticed the Brooks Brothers ties and shirts are getting more in line with the times, and less boxy.

Where do you get your shirts?
Thom Browne, where they are handmade. Except I like them pressed and crisp and Thom likes the rumpled look. That’s not me. You have to be careful with any clothing choice, because a designer makes a proposition when they have a runway show, but you have to tailor it to your sensibility. Also, a real treat would be to get a shirt made in Paris at Charvet.

You host and go to so many parties. Do you have a go-to party outfit?
A menswear line I think is getting better and better is Lanvin. I like the evening jackets. If you are getting it right, when you arrive in a room people don’t notice you right away.

Anything you regret wearing?
Oh God, yes. I remember a fancy dress party we had for Elton’s birthday at the Ritz Hotel in London. The hotel had a baroque dining room, and we did the party with artist Sam Taylor-Wood — a rock-meets-baroque theme. I wore a white and gold leather stitched jacket and baroque print jeans, and I was dabbling with highlights in my dark hair at the time, and was way too blond. Elton was wearing a baroque print suit and trousers. And someone had given him a Louis Vuitton Stephen Sprouse graffiti bag. It was statement, statement, statement. The number of times magazines have pulled up that picture ... we always say, “But it was a costume party!”

What are your favorite places in L.A.?
We just got an apartment there, in West Hollywood, because it’s a great base when Elton needs to get out of Las Vegas, and being a filmmaker, it’s an ideal place for me to get some work done. I love Fred Segal and Maxfield. James Perse does nice laid-back cotton T-shirts and beachy stuff. I just went to the new Luau. We went with Loree Rodkin who designed it and is an old friend. It’s fabulous.

David Furnish photo by Justin Downing

*An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Divine Design would be held at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.

Style Profile: "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant


Talented costume designer Katherine Jane Bryant (left) goes by "Janie" and oversees the sartorial look of my favorite show, "Mad Men." She won an Emmy for her work on the dearly departed "Deadwood" and "Mad Men" just got nommed for 16 Emmys--the first episode  received a nod for costume design by John A. Dunn. The second season debuts tomorrow night and I already have a bottle of Scotch and a pack of Pall Malls ready to go. Bryant, a Tennessee native, is mad for good manners and well-dressed crowds. Here's the skinny on her personal style:

Amount of pressure a costume designer feels on Halloween: People always ask me, "What should I be for Halloween?" My stock answer: "Be creative and really, really scary." I ask you, what happened to being scary on Halloween?Barbie2a_2

I first played dress up with:  My grandmothers' closets. My Barbies, my friends, my baby sister Anna, and my cousin were all subjects of my visions!


Cinematic style icon: The ever so glamorous and sultry Norma Shearer.

Go-to outfit: Black Valentino buckled boots with
036stamqu Swarovski crystals, J Brand skinny dark blue jeans,  majestic light gray henley style-shirt, 1970s vintage  leather jacket with leather appliques on the pockets, a pair of vintage sweetheart bracelets, and gold hoop earrings.

Favorite on-set experience: Would have to be on the set of"Deadwood." Deadwood_wideweb__430x303_2
It was season one and  was the first time the principal actors
and 150 background actors were together all  in period
costume! Definitely a moment of WOW!

Purse du jour: The Maison by Valentino in burgundy patent leather, gorgeous.

Men should never skimp on: Manners!

Women should always skimp on: Men with no manners!

C101_siamese_cat Animal I most resemble: A Siamese cat.

Top three vintage stores in Los Angeles: Play Clothes (11839 Otsego St., Valley Village; [818] 752-6569), The Way We
Wore (334 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; [323] 937-0878), and Golyester (136 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; [323] 931-1339).

If I could makeover anyone, it would be: Middle America.

Memo to designers: Always be true to yourself.

Barneys Warehouse Sale or Fred Segal Sale: Barneys Warehouse Sale.

Worst fashion blunder: I'll have to go with panty lines or a fanny pack.

Rainbow_elam_1_closeup Right now, I am collecting: Positive thoughts.

My mother always told me: "You can do and have anything you want, you just have to put your mind to it" and "No use cryingImages over spilled milk."

Makeup must-have: False eyelashes.

I dig fashion because: It's a way in which each one of us
can express ourselves. Fashion is outrageous, creative, beautiful,
Zsa_zsaopulent, minimal, whimsical, understated. Fashion is always evolving. It's everything.

I wish my nickname was: Zsa Zsa.

Photo credits: Janie Bryant, (her collection); Barbie doll, Smithsonian; Norma Shearer, Photoplay; bracelet, Marathon jewelry; "Deadwood," HBO; Siamese cat painting, Mimi Harvey; rainbow,; Zsa Zsa bust,

*This post originally ran last November, but I re-posted now that Mad Men has new fans and 16 Emmy nominations.

Advice from a pro: Gift giving

Allison2 When it comes to bestowing presents, New York style editorAllison11_4 Allison Reynolds wins the blue ribbon. Her wit, imagination and bull-dogged pursuit of the most unique offerings has garnered her a reputation and countless invites to birthday parties.

In addition to freelancing as a market editor for magazines, she has put together gift guides for Harper's Bazaar, People magazine and Here's her take on how to win the coveted trophy for best gift giver.

Describe your style as a gift giver: "I imagine I am a cross between
Images Maria Callas and Dennis the Menace, a diva with a case of hyperactivity. "Darling it’s Hermes. Open it, open it!"Images2

What is the best present you ever received? Why?

"Keeping a theme… as of late I enjoyed tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s showing of Anthony Minghella’s 'Madame Butterfly.' It was a mesmerizing performance and I am thrilled I saw it. Now I know the story of 'Madame Butterfly.' "

Worst gift you ever gave someone?

"Whew, being a confidently cruel and vindictive glamour puss, I don’t get to do it enough. Images3Lately, I’d say it would be a calculator shaped like a carton of eggs. It’s called the egg-ulator. That was sort of bitchy and regift-y…"

What's the biggest mistake people make when giving gifts?

"They give things THEY want. No no no. One must look at the receiver and give them something that suits their style, soul and sassy self."

If your sister-in-law has atrocious taste, do you indulge it and buy her a sequined toilet seat cover?
"Hell no! No sequined seat covers. No Precious Moment figurines. Stop the insanity. Your job is now to imbue some good taste. Act as a taste wizard/superhero. Wear the cape and shield when you give her a cashmere throw or a coffee table book on “Style”… Do it!"

Bep5l_2Name your top three online sources for unique




Better books: Taschen or Rizzoli?
"I’d say Rizzoli. I’m a little stiff. Although the Ralph Lauren book nearly did me in… egads. Now I am into a little Cali publishing house called Ammo who have a picture book on Hunter S. Thompson’s antics called 'Gonzo.' I likey."

How much should you spend on a hostess gift?
"$50 seems civilized."

Give us your top three picks for last-minute gifts that Marvisaquaticwon't bludgeon your bank account.
"Amaryllis in a beautiful terra cotta potty.
A crazy expensive toothpaste like Marvis. No one’s going to buy that forClementines1_2 themselves. A little oral decadence and you’re out $15, tops.
Or a carton of clementines.
Oh I could go on and on…."

Photo credits: Reynolds, private collection; Callas, Bruno Rosi; Menace, Hank Ketcham; eggulator,; "Peter Beard," Dashwood Books; "Gonzo," Ammo.

Style profile: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

Photo2_2 If you haven't seen "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, you don't know what it is to laugh so hard that you wonder if you're having a stroke. The brilliant show -- think smart sketch comedy on LSD --features countless characters with distinctive style. How do they do it? Read on:


Burning question: Why so many turtlenecks?
Tim: Turtlenecks accentuate our many, many chins.

Eric: I prefer a short mock. Makes me look stockier.


You’re also fans of the vest, a tricky look for men. How do you pull it off?

Tim:  We don't pull it off. You first have to unbutton it.
Then, it just slides off the back, like a jacket.

Eric:  Vests are flair for men. It's one of the few ways men can accent themselves in a formal yet fun fashion.

60703gd Describe your personal style when you were kids:

Tim: Apparently, vests.  Vests and bow-ties.   I also appeared to26146l prefer posing in front of winter landscapes holding stuffed animals.

Eric: When I was 15, I wore combat boots with a fluorescent Columbia ski jacket. I was trying to find myself.

As Jan and Wayne Skylar, you both wear lip gloss. Name the brand and shade and why it works for you:

Eric: It's actually not lip gloss at all. We use a touch of canola oil mixed with Vaseline. Stays shiny all day!


Tim, what the hell is all over your face, as Casey?
Tim:  It's a surprising mix of mascara, lipstick and hair gel to give it an oozy look.  Like he's just come out of the womb. Mascara on the eyebrows:  It's MY secret!

What’s your secret for removing makeup?Tammy1
Eric: We've actually been debating some permanent makeup options. Like Tammy Faye. It's much more efficient. No removal and fun for our wives!


Best fashion advice for a guy who wants a new look:

Eric: Look to the stars! I try to wear whatever Dax does.

Tim: Costumes are fun.  Dress up like a pilot some night and watch as people stare!

Go-to outfit on a Friday night:

Tim: Nothing impresses the ladies like a clean, pressed pair of khakis and a large pattern shirt featuring either classic cars,  mojitos or men playing golf.

Eric: Something that you can easily rip off. You know, for sex. In restrooms.

Photo credits: All Tim and Eric shots, Cartoon Network; Tammy Faye, CNN; buff Dax Shepard,


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