Well, dear readers, it’s finally happened. I have officially gone all California on you. Each day begins and ends for me with a leisurely stroll along the beach – Venice Beach, to be exact. In between, I search for fashion inspiration. Finding absolutely none at the beach even further up the road in Santa Monica, I often venture into town, to stroll Rodeo Drive or Melrose Avenue or even the gritty streets of downtown LA. More often than not, I resort to magazines and the internet to get my high fashion fix. Oddly enough, rather than relaxing into California’s surf and denim casual, I find myself holding on even stronger to my high fashion beliefs, like some sort of religious zealot.
In typicaI California fashion I spent all of last Saturday in a bathing suit – Prada, midnight navy with black trim, mid-thigh square cuts, if you’re wondering – hand washing and double waxing my new totally loaded M class BMW X3. Yes, I’ve become one of “those” California car people. The color of my SUV is Carbon Black, which any fashionista can tell you is as far from black as midnight navy. It’s actually a color shifting paint job that changes with the angle of the light hitting it. I’m now as completely obsessed with keeping my car spotless as I used to be about keeping my blacks lint-free at New York Fashion Week.
My summer obsession with all things dark began Memorial Day weekend. Just as the rest of the fashionable people were finally donning their summer whites (month’s behind you loyal Second City Style readers who adopted the “all white” trend earlier in the season), I too was unpacking my summer classics from storage. Then it happened. I went with a visiting friend from New York to a “dine-in” theater (so California) to see Maleficent. Regardless of what you think of Angelina Jolie or the relative merits of retelling a Disney story from the viewpoint of a sympathetic villain, the film is visually stunning and a testament to the many subtleties of shade and texture in black. I left committed to finding and wearing the very best fashion in dark shades for the summer.
I’ve been poring over the spring summer 2014 haute couture collections, searching for pieces that I think would be inspirational to you as you pull together outfits for daytime and nights out on the town. Here is what I’ve found.
Raf Simon’s collection for Dior was a study in all black and all white. Putting aside for now the all white looks and the high-low hemlines that you may recall were the bane of my existence several seasons ago, his all black looks were as diverse as the General Assembly of the United Nations. My favorite is a lacy day dress with an overskirt. The bodice and skirt are constructed entirely of overlapping circles of silk chiffon; the overskirt is made of the fabric from which the circles were cut – a sort of polka dot eyelet, if you will. The overall effect is purely classic Dior, but the details are purely modern Raf Simons.
My next favorite Couture look is from Valentino. All of the looks in the collection were inspired by famous operas. The feather butterflies applied randomly to the gown are a clear reference to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly without the riot of colors so often associated with the delightful winged creatures. The multi-layered tulle ballerina skirt is the perfect answer to the question of summer formal. I know that I’ve been pushing for the plunging neckline since Amy Adams hit the red carpet earlier this year for American Hustle, but I really do believe it to be quite flattering, if you have the good posture to carry it off and we both know you do!
Any ode to black has to glorify variations on a theme. My favorite black dress this season from Chanel is made from mostly the same materials as the previous two – tulle and feathers – but the effect could not be more dramatically different. The volume of the ballerina skirt is perfectly balanced by the strong, feathered shoulders and the nipped in waist. If the other dresses are ladylike, this one is a broad!
Finally, it wouldn’t be fashion if we didn’t offer alternative, if not diametrically opposed, viewpoints. Maison Martin Margiela is known for edgy, cerebral fashion and this last favorite of mine could not be less like the others. A simple, draped silk satin, column gown, is paired with surrealist gauntlets. I may have a disproportionate admiration for the women of Game of Thrones, but I honestly feel sometimes that maintaining high fashion standards is battle, if not all out war. You best be armed!
Now that the summer has officially begun, as of June 21st, I hope you will find the beauty in black for summer. Shabby chic whites may be classic and comfortable, but wouldn’t you rather be daring and just a bit more sophisticated than the competition?
– Joseph Ungoco
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Tags: Ballerina Skirt, Black In Summer, California Style, Chanel, couture, Dior Dress, fashion, Haute Couture Spring 2014, Joseph Ungoco, Maison Martin Margiela, male box, Raf Simons, summer 2014, Valentino