Friday, May 30, 2008

D.V. Speaks!

The "high-priestess" of fashion speaks on one of my favorite periods, the Belle Epoque!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Love Wurlitzer!

Nothing else much to really say. I love the Wurlitzer organ used in pop, jazz, and r&b music in the 60s. It has such an intoxicating sound and hearing the whirl(?) of the organ instantly transports me back in time and to glamorous places. A good example is Henry Mancini's scores for Charade, Pink Panther, and Two For The Road which, for me, are inextricably linked with luxurious European resorts and jet set haunts like Megeve, Cortina d'Ammpezzo, and St. Tropez, used for the films respectively.
Its rose' champagne cocktails (in classic, pre-flute, shallow champagne glasses), massive paste diamond parures, 30 yards of gathered silk in a single skirt, mile-high bouffants & dynel falls and up-dos, and sumptuous mink stoles all rolled up and translated into stereophonic sound!!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Now you can officially subscribe to the Charles Chic Chat blog. Just visit the blog's homepage ( and enter your e-mail address in the field to the top left of the page. Thanks!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Maria Callas interview with Barbara Walters

Maria Callas was one of the most beautiful and elegant women in the world!

Dee Dee Sharp "I Really Love You"

This is one of the most glorious songs ever! The Spector "Wall of Sound" is in full effect with sweeping orchestra and Miss Sharp's booming voice. It evokes a aura of high glamour and sophistication...the bouffant and diamonds version of Percy Faith's "A Summer Place".

Dinah Washington "Only A Monemt Ago"

Friday, May 2, 2008

Backcomb'n Beat

An album cover from a compilation of 60's British girl group hits and rarities. I love the title and the pic!

For those of you who know me well, you know how I have an affinity for bouffant hairstyles. I just think they are swell!! I like the bouffants of the 60's, the ones that have lots of height at the crown, back and away from the face and fall elegantly back and to the sides. They frame the face and neck so well. (I don't care for the beehives of the 50's.)
Princess Luciana Pignatelli in Valentino
Some of the best bouffants today are worn by Deeda Blair, a phenomenal halo of salt and pepper she has donned since the 60s, beautiful actresses Lynn Whitfield and Diahann Carroll, and the incomparable Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama

Back in the day, every chic woman would backcomb as a daily ritual, not just for specail occassions. I recall Andre Talley recalling how the women would go to Kenneth (Battelle) in New York to have thier hair combed before traveling. Also there were the profuse usage of switches and falls, also de rigeur for the chic set, made of Dynel (a favorite accessory for the models of Vogue during D.V.'s day) or real hair cut from Italian women - the best of which was coiffed and sold by Carita of Paris. Those who did not go to Carita or Kenneth, went to Alexandre de Paris.

Kenneth Battelle

Some of my favorite bouffant wearers of that time were Babe Paley (of course), Louise Savitt, Diana Ross, Ira von Furstenberg, and Jackie O. (for the most part I did not care for her bubble cut of the White House years, prefering her longer styles of 63-69). I also cared for the 70's versions frequently seen on the cover of Grace Mirabella's Vogue and sported by the likes of Mica Ertegun or Catherine Deneuve.

Diana Ross and the Supremes

Ira von Furstenberg 1968

Jackie in 66 with Caroline

But of them all, I think the best and most consistent chic belonged to Lee Radziwill , Jackie's sister. For the entire decade of the 60s, her bouffant was pitch-perfect; from the shorter days of the early White House years to the longer days of Truman Capote at the end of the decade.

One of my favorite pictures of Lee. (same sitting , two different shots) The bouffant is perfect and I love the sweater dress.

Lee in Paris 1962

Lee (2nd from left) at the State of the Union Address 1963

Lee with Truman at the Emmy's 1968

Whether this style of hairdressing is dated or not is totally in the eye of the beholder, but one cannot deny its greatness!

Semper Chic!

Charmed, I'm sure!

Why does no one say that anymore? It used to be a common pleasantry. One would introduce themselves to you and you would reply "Charmed, I'm sure." There were other time it was used too....but I can't think of them right now. I must watch some more TCM and keep my ears out for other usage of the term. But in any case, you would add your own touch by exchanging the "Charmed" for any number of other words expressing delight, such as Delighted, Enchanted, or the most coquettish of them all, Likewise. Yes..."Likewise, I'm sure"! It can imply earnesty or sarcasm, disdain or affection. I can hear any number of MGM stars saying it right now!!!
(Remind me to post an entry on why the studio system should be reinstated.)

Oh, I just remebered, you can also use it as response to appreciation as in "The pleasure was mine, I'm sure!"
Isn't it a wonderful phrase!

Two very stylish ladies in two films in which, I'm sure, the phrase was used:

Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce in Mildred Pierce

(get a load of that fur!!!!!!!)

Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve

A Private Affair

Whatever happened to the dance? I don't mean the samba or waltz or tootsie roll. I mean the dinner dance, the private ball? No one has them anymore.

Last week I re-read Party of the Century by Deborah Davis, chronicling Truman Capote's famous Black and White Ball of 1966. I was carried away into a sea of invitations, decorations, jewels, and coiffure, the likes of which we rarely ever see today. At least not privately. Sure there's a ton of grand social occasions like the Costume Institute Gala at the MET, and other such institutional and charitable events, but its not the same. It lacks that special quality that only a private affair can have.

Marella Agnelli arriving at the Black and White Ball.

Gloria Guinness, Bill and Babe Paley at the Black and White Ball

Princess Lee and Prince Stas Radziwill at the Black and White Ball

Maybe its the idea of one host and/or hostess who orchestrates the whole thing. That singular vision of a very elegant man or woman and how that vision is made manifest in every detail. The nuance of the guest list, invitations, decorations, menu, music all say something about the host and what kind of world they want to create, if only for an evening. It doesn't even have to be a big to do. It can be very intimate. It doesn't have to be a ball, what about a dinner party for 10 or 12, but executed beautifully. The music doesn't have to be live , but stimulating- encouraging dance and/or conversation. Or having a musically gifted guest regale the party on the piano or with song. Something. Anything. Grand or simple, just as long as its beautiful and special

I know there is no dearth of stylish people people out there, so why are there no great hosts/hostesses anymore like there used to be? Or maybe its not that they don't exist anymore, just that they are not praised and celebrated publicly for their social achievements. More and more our society admires celebrity (i referring to the idea of fame moreso than the famous) and more and more celebrity goes to those (the famous) who are vaguely worthy of it.

I understand that American life has changed drastically in the last 50 or 60 years, but why? We still like to wear beautiful things and go beautiful places and spend time with interesting people, both familiar and new, so why has entertaining- and even larger, entertainment- become so... so ordinary, so mediocre. I say mediocre, because something can be casual and still be spectacularly extraordinary in style. Hanging out with 20 of your dearest friends and family is casual, but it can be beautiful because of the surroundings as well as because of the love.

And to go back to my point about entertainment, theres no place to go for a chic night out. I realize not everyone now or back in the day could afford to entertain in a grand style, but you could always get dressed in your finest and go to a supper club. Where are El Morocco, Cocoanut Grove, the Cotton Club, Tropicana, the Stork Club and all those other places where the decor was outstanding, the food was delicious, the music was sweet, and the crowd was dazzling??!!! You can't go to a restaurant now in black tie and evening gown, without looking sorely out of place. So what is an aesthete to do?

Lee Radziwill and Gianni Agnelli leaving Maxim's, Paris' chicest restaurant where one always dresses!

This could go on and on. I won't even begin to list the countless grand balls one could immulate like the Beistegui Ball, Proust Ball, Oriental Ball of Baron de Rede, the balls of Antonio Lopez-Wilshaw and Antenor Patino and Jacques Fath. Nor will I go on about how the Americans never learned how to entertain (or simply LIVE for that matter) the way the Europeans do and argue that the Europenas do it better than we. It would just take too long and get my blood pressure up (and as a black man, I don't need any more reason for hypertension!). So instead of writing a dissertation on the collapse of grandeur as we know it, I am just putting these thoughts and questions out there for you and the rest of the country to ponder. I just can't imagine living in a world where people's only memory of a formal is prom and maybe their wedding!! We have got to do something about this sad state of affairs and bring back the NORMALITY of elegant social life.

Semper Chic!

Here a picture of Bill and Babe Paley from 1952 going to their in-laws Jock and Betsey Whitney's home Greentree (which was next door to the Paley's Kiluna Farm) for what is obviously a very elegant evening. Can you imagine going to your sister's house for dinner in black-tie today?? That's whats up! And I bet it wasn't even that out of the ordinary for them; just another evening at Greentree. You can't even get people to dress for dinner these days!

C.Z. and Winston Guest on their way to a ball in Palm Beach 1958

Gianni and Marella Agnelli having a glamorous night out.

Patricia, Mrs. Arturo Lopez-Wilshaw, in repose in her chateau in Neuilly, France. Probably thinking about the many glamourous moments she will spend in this couture confection!

Why Don't You?

In the spirit of the late, great master arbiter of style Mrs. Diana Dalziel Vreeland (D.V. to those in the know), I think I will periodical post some creative, slightly eccentric, bon mots of my own. I may even have by indefatiquably stylish cousin B. to contribute to these posts as he has one of the most sophisticated minds I know! In any case, here goes...

Why Don't You...
...when angered to the point of violence by a friend or a foe, get a rifle!
BUT, instead of shooting the target of your unrest, redirect that and go skeet shooting. Its much healthier all around, cheaper than legal defense, and supremely chicer. And imagine how good your aim will get?! Maybe I am naive, but I think it will go a long way toward alleviating a lot of Black-on-Black crime!

I am reminded of a terribly chic picture of Slim Keith -during her days as Mrs. Howard Hawks- at a shoot, looking statuesque, rifle in hand, wearing those insouciant slacks she helped make in vogue. I have the picture in Slim's autobio and I would post the picture, but I have lent it to a dear, chic friend who has yet to finish it and return it ( you know who you are!), but I will post it later when I can. In the meantime, here's a pic of Slim with D.V. and her husband T. Reed Vreeland at Kitty and Gilbert Miller's annual New Year's Eve party in 1952. Just a little eye candy! Semper Chic!