La Marinière

Known en anglais as the Breton sweater (after the French province of Brittany), la marinière is as French as baguette.

"Bah, ouais, allez-y…Moi aussi, j'aime le pull chameau avec la mariniere. Merci…Et bien sur c'est cashmere." Image via jakandjil.com/blog.

Or fois gras, maybe.

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As ohh-la-la as triple-crème brie. Or BB elle-meme.

It’s as Gallic as chain-smoking and existentialism.

It's said that this distinct, defined, and uniform design--these navy and white stripes--was chosen for its visibility amidst the choppy, murky sea, allowing for overboard young men to be spotted and hopefully plucked from their untimely, watery deaths. Image via TheSartorialist.blogspot.com.

Originally created for the French navy, the uniform was first co-opted by French sailors and mariners and seafarers and fisherman and other nautical men, becoming the iconic marinière, visual metonym for sailor and sea, marin being French for sailor.

The utiliarian uniform was adopted and adapted by Coco Chanel (above) in the early 20th century. Oft-repeated iterations by Gaultier and Galliano keep this look in the lexicon. As does the fact that every woman in France owns several versions. (P.S. Ain't Cooc's chien fantastic? Photo via Paperblog.fr)

The Breton striped shirt came into being following the 27th March, 1858 Act of France which introduced the navy and white striped knitted shirt as the uniform for all French navy seaman. This, I think, is really cool.

Given the smudged and sticky histories of stuff, it tickles me to no end that this one specific thing, this sartorial trope, has the benefit of a birthday, a quantifiable record beyond the quality of its endurance and distinction.

This adorable photo also tickles me to no end.

And of course Breton stripes are things that continue to pop up and prance down the runways.

For Spring 2010, Basso & Brooke offered up several allusive looks. This one is my favorite.

Peter Som sent this number down the runway for Spring, which basically proves incontrovertibly that stripes are the best of the prints to engage in mixology.

The simple, uniform pattern looks amazing paired with florals, leopard print, polka dots, toile, and so on. Here I’ve created a suggested look. Most of us have a floral skirt, great wedges, and some funky jewelry. Go wild.

My second recommendation for this French look pairing requires you to steal those camoflage cargo pants from your boyfriend. They make him look like a tool anyway, you know this. With the iconic striped blouse, these douchey pants make good. Mix dainty and dangerous accessories, for a rad masculine/feminine energy. To say nothing of the Army/Navy marriage. Yes, I am so clever.

For my final suggestion, I’m going for *POP*. In this case, RED is the **. Here I’m proposing a red sari as wrap skirt, but any red bottoms would work just as well, because the those stripes are going to stand out against the red. Though I would suggest choosing a non-knit fabric to contrast more acutely with the Breton sweater or T-shirt. For this particular look, because of the sari and the additional awesomeness of turquoise and red, I’m also throwing in Indian-Indian and American Indian accessories, throwing out mixed cultural references to the mix.

Note: Jak & Jil is a wonderful fashion photography blog run by the lovely seeming Tommy Ton. Likewise The Sartorialist is a wonderful fashion photography blog run by the smart and thoughtful Scott Schuman. All runway images taken from Style.com.

I'll leave you with one final fashion image: Moschino sent this look down the runway for Fall 2010. Long leather gloves! Sunglasses! Cowboy hat! Love.

Spring 2010: Lava and Lightning

Frans Lanting, Lava river, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

“I Have Never Seen ‘Volcanoes'”
by Emily Dickinson

I have never seen “Volcanoes” —
But, when Travellers tell
How those old — phlegmatic mountains
Usually so still —

Bear within — appalling Ordnance,
Fire, and smoke, and gun,
Taking Villages for breakfast,
And appalling Men —

If the stillness is Volcanic
In the human face
When upon a pain Titanic
Features keep their place —

If at length the smouldering anguish
Will not overcome —
And the palpitating Vineyard
In the dust, be thrown?

If some loving Antiquary,
On Resumption Morn,
Will not cry with joy “Pompeii”!
To the Hills return!

Water and wine at Basso & Brooke, Spring 2010

Basso & Brooke: Okay, I’ll admit it: Technology can be pretty kick ass. Just look at the digital prints coming out right now (Mary Katrantzou, McQueen). Designers Bruno Basso and Christopher Brooke were apparently inspired by the art of Jeff Koons. Now, because I worked for two years at the Academy of Art University I do actually know who Koons is, but I wasn’t an art history major and I never would have caught that reference if Style.com hadn’t told me that that’s what these clothes were referencing.

More trippy, molten majesty from Basso & Brooke, Spring 2010 RTW

Instead, because I am a girly geek from Berkeley, my first reaction to this collection was: “These are the clothes that Lisa Frank would design if she dropped acid in the Fortress of Solitude.”

Electric and ecclectic at Basso and Brooke, Spring 2010

In other words? Awesome. I love this collection.

A cut above the rest, Cushnie et Ochs, Spring 2010

Cushnie et Ochs: Though for me this is a somewhat hit or miss collection, out of all of the many, many, many shows with cutout clothes (Gucci, Louise Gray, Christopher Kane and Versus, Wayne, Threeasfour, etcetera etcetera etcetera), I am of the opinion that this was one of the best. The cutouts were interesting, innovative, and when the models weren’t half naked, the clothes were slyly sexy in what was taken away, in which swath of skin was revealed. I mean, how rad is this maxi?

A hit below the belt from Cushnie et Ochs

Mary Katrantzou: Okay, so it doesn’t quite match the fierceness of that very-first, perfume bottle-inspired collection (because that was a freakin revelation) but Katrantzou is one to watch and she’s helping to spearhead this digital print trend. Plus her name is really fun to say.

You can't help but be wooed by Mary Katrantzou.

These silk dresses are feminine, funky, and full of life. The trompe l’oeil patterns manage to suggest movement while also, to me, making it seem as if you’ve hit the pause button on the trippiest scifi/time travel caper ever.

Mary Katrantzou, Spring 2010 RTW

These are the clothes for that superior and super hot alien race we keep hoping will decide to vacation here and take us out to dinner. And, apparently, hopefully, bring us rad party dresses.

Red hot Mary: Katrantzou's saucy lava wonders for Spring 2010 kick ass.

I’ll bet their space ship has a full bar and the drinks are delicious.

U. S. Geological Survey photo by Jim Griggs.