Style Icon: Nina Simone

17/06/2011 § 2 Comments

I’m not sure when I first heard Nina Simone, but I do know my introduction to the singer/songwriter initially came through her studio recordings, which is probably the best way to familiarize yourself with the contralto’s distinctive voice and classically-informed style at the piano, but I quickly realized that the best way to appreciate Nina was to listen to her live recordings.  At times angry or moody or playful, Nina’s performances were unpredictable and always captivating.  She would abruptly stop in the midst of singing a song to talk to her band or ask the audience to sing along — and then admonish them for a sub-par performance.  She was amazing.

While I do not want to dress myself like Nina, I am in awe her spirit, vast talent and fearlessness.  Truly iconic.

In the final scene of Before Sunset, the 2004 Richard Linklater film, Julie Delpy’s character Celine adorably talks about seeing Miss Nina in person (if you haven’t seen that film — or its prequel, Before Sunrise — I definitely recommend making the time to).  I was going to embed the video for you to watch, but can’t seem to find a clip that will work.  So you will have to go here to see it.

Unfamiliar with Nina?  Try some of my favorites first:  Lilac Wine, Do I Move You, Wild is the Wind, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (live!), My Baby Just Cares For Me, I Want a Little Sugar In My Bowl

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Down the Rabbit Hole: National Library of Scotland on Flickr

15/06/2011 § Leave a comment

I have slipped down yet another rabbit hole that I thought I would share with you.  While looking through pictures of children with odd animals (Don’t ask me why I search for such things, I have no idea.  But the reward is finding a picture of a girl with a wombat on a bicycle!  Yes!), I happened upon a collection of images from the First World War maintained by the National Library of Scotland.  Taken from the papers of Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861-1928), these images are wartime propaganda and infinitely interesting.

“These photographs provide us with an invaluable record of how the Government and Military wanted the war perceived. Official photographers were encouraged to record morale-boosting scenes of victory and comradeship. Despite the restrictions placed on them, official war photographers succeeded in giving the most comprehensive visual account of the war. It is important to remember that these images were propaganda; few that could depict the war in a disheartening or disconcerting way passed the censors. As a result the photograph taken was often posed. They were intended to reassure those at home and boost morale. They were printed in newspapers, and were intended to confirm that ‘Tommy’ was winning the war.”  Via the National Library of Scotland

I won’t make you look at all of them, but if you’d like to there are more after the jump.  To see even more, head over to the National Library of Scotland.

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Sounds of Summer: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong ~ Summertime (from Porgy and Bess)

15/06/2011 § Leave a comment

And the Cotton is High…

15/06/2011 § 3 Comments

I have what I like to call a “cute jacket addiction.”  Wherever I am shopping, I will make a beeline for the jackets.  Not coats, mind you — although I do enjoy those as well — here I’m talking about light jackets that could probably stand alone just fine in a Los Angeles winter, but wouldn’t stand a chance in New York in February.  But somehow that doesn’t stop me from continuing to buy them like there’s no tomorrow.

Even in the hottest months I’m trying to figure out ways to wear a jacket and will do so until I’m bordering heatstroke.  The answer to layering in the summer is keeping everything light and breathable: linen, cotton, and the like.


More than a little obsessed with pocket squares.

Wearing: Rugby Ralph Lauren khaki jacket // J. Crew button down
Juicy Couture pleated skirt // Minnetonka moccasins // Ray-Ban Caribbeans
Dad’s watch // Bracelets from the flea market

Same: sunglasses, shoes

Similar*: jacket, shirt, skirt, pocket square

*I had to take a bit more creative license with the “similars” since I had quite a time trying to find something identical to what I have on.  While you’re not getting the same symphony of khakis in the click-throughs, the general concept is the same.  Light, airy fabrics, a simple cotton jacket and a pleated skirt.

New Additions: LIFE Magazines

14/06/2011 § 2 Comments

I arrived home today to find a small batch of LIFE Magazines I ordered, waiting for me.  Now, you must already realize how much I love the LIFE Archives, so you must understand how I feel about owning these magazines “in the flesh.”  I recently discussed my favorite issue — my Dorothy Dandridge issue — but these four may give Ms. Dandridge a run for her money.

The issue with Rita Hayworth on the cover, dated January 18, 1943, has a delightful photo spread of Ms. Hayworth.  A wartime film star, she gamely allowed the magazine to put her through a model’s typical day, complete with casting calls, stretching exercises and photo shoots.  But the best feature of this issue is definitely the advertisements: “Victory is Everybody’s Business!”

I also picked up an issue dated January 23, 1950 with a lead story on “Man-Tailored Shirts” for women.  No brainer.

Since I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that has to do with Gregory Peck, there was no way I was passing up an issue with him on the cover dated December 1, 1947.  But as I flipped through the pages, I realized that the issue also contained photographs from the wedding of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  Freaking out.  And rather timely…

The King and Queen of England

The fourth and probably most special issue that I have added to my collection is also the oldest.  Dated June 7, 1937, this issue studies collegiate style across the country.  It’s an amazing look back at prewar fashions, attitudes and amusement.

“The college girl and boy of 1937 both dress distinctively.  Look especially at heads and feat.  She will most often be wearing ankle socks and no hat.  He will have dirty sport shoes and a battered hat or none at all.”

Sorority girls at University of Missouri.

Necking at Vandy.

Photos of the Yale Class of 1888.  At graduation and 25 years later.

Yale class of 1878.

One source for my vintage LIFE Magazine fetish is this shop run by Ron Gilbert on Etsy.  I will admit I am a little leery giving away my secret — as you may steal all the things that are meant to be mine! — but it’s such a good little shop I feel I must share it with you.

Ask Me Anything: Shabby Haberdashery

13/06/2011 § 2 Comments

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net
Schwartz Tailor Shop, St. Paul, 1918.  Via Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.
Dear Mariah,
With a closet full of fine shirts (Borelli, Kiton, Charvet, Ascot Chang, Emma Willis, Battistoni et al.), I’m curious to know your thoughts on what to do with them as they age. After years of washings and ironings the first thing to go tends to be the collar. In most cases, the shirts and fabrics are in perfect condition – even ten years on. But the collars start to fray slightly. Do you think these are still wearable (albeit casually) and if so, only in the country or are they ok in the city as well? Or will I just look like a well haberdashed homeless person?

Fine shirts indeed.  I can see how you would be loathe to simply throw the baby out with the bathwater here.  The preppy adage that you should keep things — especially items of quality and sentimental value — as long as humanly possible, is near and dear to my heart.  In some cases you will be able to repair your keepsakes to make them good as (or better than) brand new — here I am talking about the soles of your shoes, the strap of your watch, restringing your pearls, etc. — but in some cases, your items cannot be repaired or reconditioned.  Instead, these are things to be loved in their perfect-imperfect state for years on.

In the case of your shirts, your instinct is correct here.  Your frayed-collars are no longer appropriate to be worn with a suit, but for weekends kicking around the city, country, shore and points beyond, they are perfect.  You should feel free to wear these shirts casually.  Take care not to pair them with anything too prissy, because this look is all about comfortably lived-in finery that gets better with age.  You definitely won’t look homeless.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

This one’s for Grete…

13/06/2011 § Leave a comment

At the start corrals.

This weekend, I got myself up extra early on Saturday morning to run the 40th annual New York Mini 10k in Central Park, my first road race since running the New York Marathon in November.  Joined by more than 5,000 women, the experience was not only personally rewarding (I was satisfied with my performance, even though I did not seriously train) but quite unique.  I hadn’t ever participated in a women-only race, and running alongside women of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and running styles on the 6.2 mile course was an amazing feeling.  The winner was Linet Masai of Kenya, who finished the course with a time of 31:40.  I came in second.  Just kidding.

The Mini 10K debuted in 1972, founded by New York running guru Fred Lebow (who also founded the New York Marathon), as the first strictly women-only race.  The race was held this year in honor of Norwegian marathon legend and 5-time Mini winner Grete Waitz.

Grete Waitz in 1977

I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Grete’s story until after the race, where I noticed many of the runners and supporters wearing shirts that said they were “running this one for Grete.”  Grete Waitz was truly a ground-breaking athlete and I am quite in awe of her story.  Not only because of her amazing athletic achievements, but mainly because Grete ran at a time when female athletes were not as well-funded and supported as they are today and when female marathon runners were a distinct minority.

A highly decorated runner, Grete won races and broke records all over the world.  The first time she ran the New York City Marathon (in 1978), she won it and broke the world record — and then went on to win it 8 more times after that.  Grete advanced women’s long distance running through her excellence on the road and her dedication behind the scenes after she retired from competitive running.

Grete died of cancer in April of this year and was given a state funeral in her native Norway, only the sixth Norwegian woman so honored.  Her husband, Jack, honored her memory by running the 10k this Saturday (after visiting a deli for breakfast — their tradition when visiting New York).

And so, I ran this one for Grete, too.

Quite Continental Wants: Princeton Stripes

10/06/2011 § 2 Comments

As you already know, I am a fan of vintage collegiate paraphernalia, with a special emphasis on the Ivies (recently evidenced by my recent post on the pennants I picked up at Brimfield).  I suppose it is fitting that my partner in vintage from Brimfield, the lovely Lani of Mon Petit Chou Chou, brought this find to my attention.  Currently available at Skinner, a specific lot of vintage clothing contains one sparkling gem that might just justify placing a bid for the bunch.  Of course, I am talking about the lovely striped jacket from Princeton’s class of 1904 in the picture below…

Image via Skinner

What to do, what to do…?

Quite Continental Loves: Kari Herer Photography

09/06/2011 § Leave a comment

Was wandering through my Etsy favorites and noticed that Kari Herer Photography has a few new things available.  I realized I hadn’t yet posted about her lovely collection so I thought that I might show you some of my favorites and admonish you to hop over to her boutique and choose a few for yourself.  She’s simply an amazing artist.

I especially love the photographs of flowers with drawn antlers.

Gorgeous, no?  If you would like to spend a bit more time with her work, do check out her photo blog as well.

Sounds of Summer: The Rolling Stones ~ Wild Horses

09/06/2011 § Leave a comment

“Everyone always says this was written about Marianne but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally.”Mick Jagger

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