Influences: Cleopatra

Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemed Prisoners by Alexandre Cabanel, 1887.

Over the past few weeks I've been deeply immersed in Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Having finished its detailed, dense, and scholarly 300 pages, I'm intrigued by this powerful Egyptian queen, who wasn't really Egyptian but Greek. Not merely a seductress, as Schiff demonstrates beautifully, Cleopatra was a politician, a living goddess, a mother, a diplomat, a generous patron, a scholar, a strategist, a lady, and yes, a passionate lover. What is even more intriguing is her lasting influence over the millenia. From Plutarch to Shakespeare to Cecil B. DeMille, this woman's political savvy, allure, and style have inspired art, film, music, dance, and fashion.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in 1964. Massive sets, location changes, budget overruns, a solid gold dress, and Le Scandale - did anyone actually think this movie would turn out okay?

Claudette Colbert at Cleopatra in 1934. I don't care for Colbert's Cleopatra - she's entirely too smiling and too saucy to really be right for the role. Indeed, as one of the last pre-code films, Colbert plays up the "Cleopatra as sex vixen" aspect. However, her costumes are spectacular.

As Chip Brown mentions in his National Geographic article "The Search for Cleopatra" from July, 2011: "When not serving as a Rorschach test of male fixations, Cleopatra is an inexhaustible muse. To a recent best-selling biography add—from 1540 to 1905—five ballets, 45 operas, and 77 plays. She starred in at least seven films; an upcoming version will feature Angelina Jolie." Along with all of this are the many paintings and drawings of the queen, many of which date from the academic period of the late 19th Century, when all things ancient came back into vogue. The most famous film depictions of Cleopatra are of course the Elizabeth Taylor version from 1964, but also the Claudette Colbert version from 1934. Before filming, DeMille reportedly asked Colbert "How would you like to be wickedest woman in history?" It is this myth of wickedness that Schiff's book helps to dispel. Rather than relying on her feminine wiles, one can see that Cleopatra had true intelligence and an inherent diplomacy needed to calculate political risk, assert herself as a world leader, and protect her kingdom. The long-lauded affairs with Julis Caesar and Mark Antony are in truth, merely sidenotes to the real political intrigues.

The coveted Pegasus Necklace from Stella & Dot. $198

Cleopatra was also a calculated image-maker. She knew how to orchestrate opulence in order to woo a crowd, or even a Roman general. She knew what to wear, how to speak, and she spoke multiple languages. Her image as a wealthy queen, and as the living embodiment of the Goddess Isis, was part of her power, and one that was carefully maintained. Even the city of Alexandria maintained the standard with its libraries, technological advances, golden statuary, marble walkways, perfumes, and lavish meals. Schiff describes her dress as being bedecked with "plenty of pearls, the diamonds of the day."

She coiled long ropes of pearls around her neck and braided more into her hair. She wore others sewn into the fabric of her tunics. Those were ankle-length and lavishly colored, of fine Chinese silk or gauzy linen, traditionally worn belted, or with a brooch or ribbon. Over the tunic went an often transparent mantle, through which the bright folds of fabric were clearly visible. On her feet Cleopatra wore jeweled sandals with patterned soles.

But other than this, what Cleopatra looked like remains a mystery. The cover of Schiff's book shows a woman with her face turned away - perfectly appropriate considering there are no frontal views of Cleopatra's likeness. All of her portraits are in profile, showing a somewhat large nose and prominent features. It is understood that while Cleopatra was not beautiful, her allure, charisma, and intelligence developed enough attraction to hold many in her thrall.

Louis Vuitton's "Desert Goddesses" ad campaign from 2004, featuring Naomi Campbell and shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

Perhaps it is this alluring mystery that has inspired so many for so long. That, and the luxury of ancient Alexandria whose gold, silver, and pearls seemed to flow through the streets. Indeed, luxury fashion designers often return to Cleopatra and Egyptian iconography for inspiration. In 2004, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton developed his "Desert Goddesses" collection, with an array of black, gold, and turquoise looking like warm sands meeting the Meditterranean. In more recent seasons, Gareth Pugh sent gold and black striped looks down his runway for Fall 2011, offering a tough, almost robotic take on Egyptian motifs and headdresses.

Gareth Pugh, Fall 2011 collection.

Even more than mere fashion, the history of the age of Cleopatra lives on. HBO's series Rome offered a lush take on the relationships between the Egyptian queen and both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, while also showing a vivid portrayal of Octavian - the man destined to end the Ptolemaic Empire forever. Through many marriages and inter-marriages, both Octavian and Mark Antony's descendants were future Roman emperors including Tiberius, Claudius, Caligula, and Nero. The histories of these emperors are celebrated in all their gory machinations in I, Claudius from 1976. Mark Antony's Roman wife, Octavia - sister to Octavian, comes out as the kindest and most generous of all, taking guardianship of not only her own children (3 by a first marriage), and her two children with Mark Antony, but also of the three children Mark Antony and Cleopatra had together.

At the end of Schiff's account of Cleopatra, she dispels the notion that the queen committed suicide by being bitten by an asp. Instead, she suggests that it was poisoned figs that did the job, killing Cleopatra and her two attendants almost immediately. Poisoned figs serve as a leitmotif for Octavian, who, 40 years later, after securing his empire and launching the Pax Romana, was rumored to be killed by his own wife Livia Drusilla with poisoned figs. (Peter Greenaway picked up on the poisoned figs in the 1980s in one of my favorite films, The Belly of an Architect. Apart from the main character Storley Kracklite's obsession with Octavian Augustus' tomb, he shows his growing insanity by accusing his wife of poisoning some figs.)

The famous Cleopatra Earrings by Wendy Brandes. 18K gold with 1.36 carats of diamonds. $9,000

So what can we expect as a trend response from Schiff's wonderful biography and the upcoming film with Angelina Jolie? Probably a lot of gold, pearls, and Grecian sandals, but perhaps with even more regal jewels. As with all bio-pics, there is usually a strong fascination that results in the general public. It was the same with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, and it will likely be the same here, with designers adapting classic Grecian draping to modern tastes. One of the best parts of the Cecil B. DeMille-Claudette Colbert version of Cleopatra was the way the film's designers adapted the look for the sleek shapes of the Art Deco period of the 1930s. Not exactly historically accurate, but really great style.

Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1896

One thing that will certainly change with upcoming depictions of Cleopatra is the charge that she was merely a seductress, not a leader. As Schiff concludes: "It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life...Cleopatra unsettles more as sage than as seductress; it is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent."

Images: 1) Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp 2) Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, 1963 by 20th Century Fox 3) Claudette Colber in Cleopatra, 1934 by Paramount Pictures - from Doctor Macro 4) Stella & Dot 5) 6) Fashion Gone Rogue 7) Wendy Brandes Jewelry 8) Public Domain

Influences: The Winged Messenger

Jimmy Choo Kevan Sandal, $2495 at SaksEarlier this week, Susan Joy wrote a short piece in the New York Times about the trend of be-feathered, be-furred footwear that's just arriving for Fall. While the piece was a jaunty bit of topical "how to wear it", I kept thinking about these luxurious delights for the feet and their implications.

At the surface these shoes are just fancy (and fanciful) designs. A touch of frou for the feet. Since we're all wearing tighter belts and shopping the closet, why not go over-the-top with some fantasy somewhere? Indeed, these little flights will set you back a pretty penny; those feathers don't come cheap. But considering how valuable the first pair of winged footwear was, I'd say we're getting them at a bargain.

The first pair of Talaria or "winged sandals", were forged from imperishible gold by the God Hephaestus, the son of Zeus & Hera and the blacksmith of the Gods. In other legends the sandals are said to be made from palm and myrtle, with no wings at all. When Hermes was born to the Pleiade Maia by Zeus, he immediately became a precocious trickster, deft musician, agile athlete, and cunning thief. He was fast, faster than any of the other Gods, so Zeus gave him the enchanted sandals for his role as messenger.

Brian Atwood, Sanchez sandal - $1100.00

In the fourth book of the Aeneid, the Gods are upset that Aeneas has been distracted from his duty by a love affair with Dido, so Hermes is sent to him with a gentle reminder...

Hermes obeys; with golden pinions binds

His flying feet, and mounts the western winds:

And, whether o’er the seas or earth he flies,

With rapid force they bear him down the skies.

Hermes was also one of the few Gods who could move between the mortal and immortal worlds, sometimes guiding the dead through the underworld and across the river Styx. Since he moved so easily between realms and people, the sandals could only have been his.

Winged Mercury detail, from the Capitoline Hill, Rome

In the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, it is Hermes who guides Eurydice out of the underworld, only to have her remain there because Orpheus turns to look for her. In the poem Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes, Rike describes him:

"the god of errands and far messages,

the travelling-hood above his shining eyes,

the slender wand held out before his body,

the beating wings at his ankle joints;

and on his left hand, as entrusted: her."

In Marcel Camus' gorgeous film Black Orpheus from 1959, Hermes is a streetcar conductor (fitting, considering that a streetcar takes travelers where they need to go) and friend to Orpheus. Later on, it is Hermes who tries to help Eurydice, and who also guides Orpheus to contacting her once she dies.

Diego Docini, Feather-Heel Pump $1220

As with all of the Gods, Hermes (also known as Mercury in the Roman tradition) can be your best ally or your worst enemy. Sometimes his tricky nature comes out, making things a general mess as he sits back and laughs. Thus, when "Mercury is in retrograde" we all need to be on our guard! So, while Hermes and his winged sandals continues to symbolize speed, travel, agility, athleticism, commerce, and communication, when he's in a bad mood he can mean just the opposite.

All of this symbolism makes the implications of this new flock of shoes even more interesting. The changeable nature of fashion, commerce, communication, etcetera? Yes, I'd say we're all familiar with that in spades. There's also the implication of femininity being equated to birds, as in "birds" - the slang term for a woman - and all of its ideas of exoticism, delicacy, and freedom.

The original winged sandals also wielded tremendous power. Perhaps the gods of fashion are giving us some extra oomph to get through our daily duties? Alright, so that's a stretch even for me. My first instinct regarding these shoes is to say "YES", and then back off a bit to hear myself say..."those are kinda silly".

Nicholas Kirkwood

Then what is going on here? Do the designers really think we're willing to spend $1000-plus on a little bit of feathered detail? Forget about the practicality issues, will these feathers and pelts even survive after one wear?

If they were trying to capture the essence of the friend/foe that is the Winged Messenger, I'd say: mission accomplished. These shoes are sexy, exotic, delectable, whimsical luxury at its best, and they'd surely garner a lot of attention. But would anyone take you seriously?

Don't look now, but I think the Gods are laughing.

Bang Envy - Sylvie Vartan

For our next installment in the Bang Envy series we have the fun and fabulous Bulgarian-French singer, Sylvie Vartan. Blonde and bubbly, Vartan was one of the original yé-yé girls of French pop, making a name for herself in the early 1960s as a teen pop sensation called la collégienne du twist - the twisting schoolgirl.

Born in Bulgaria to a French-Armenian father and a Hungarian mother, Sylvie Vartanian emigrated to Paris with her family in 1952, when they shortened the family name to Vartan. Both her brother, Eddie Vartan (father of actor Michael Vartan), and the strict nature of her French high school spurred her interest in American rock-n-roll; her early favorites included Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley.

After finishing high school, Vartan signed with Decca Records and began recording an EP "Quand le film est triste" which went on sale in December of 1961. In 1962, she had recorded a French version of "The Loco-Motion", as well as "Tous mes copains" - both of which went on to become major hits. In the same season, she released her first album entitled "Sylvie".

In total, six of her thirty-one songs released in 1962-1963 went on to the European top 20.

In 1962 during a performance at the Olympia, Vartan met the famous Johnny Hallyday. In the winter of 1963, the pair went on tour together and were then married in the spring of 1965. The Hallyday-Vartan marriage made the duo the "golden couple" of France in the 1960s and 1970s. Their son, David Hallyday is also a singer-songwriter, continuing the family tradition.

With The Beatles in 1964.

I would die to have this bouffant bob.

With husband Johnny Hallyday.

In 1964, Vartan appeared again at the Olympia, headlining a concert with The Beatles and Trini Lopez. At this concert she played the hits from her new album Sylvie à Nashville, which included "Si je chante", "La plus belle pour aller danser", and new songs in English written by Paul Anka.

Because of her performances, Vartan created a "rocker-girl" style that had never been seen before, thus cementing her reputation as a yé-yé girl. Where others sang while standing in front of a microphone, Vartan sang, danced and moved around on the stage, keeping her act dynamic. Later on, she created complete, choreographed numbers with scores of costumes and backup dancers.

With Francoise Hardy in 1967.

Vartan continued to perform throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, both as a pop star and as a jazz singer. She and Johnny Hallyday divorced in 1980. Today, she is married to producer Tony Scotti with whom she adopted a Bulgarian daughter named Darina. Vartan has been honored by the French government as a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1987, and as a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1998. (She became an Officer of both these orders in 2006 and 2009 respectively.) In 2005, Vartan was appointed by the World Health Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal and Child health in the European Region.

Sylvie Vartan in 2011 - from PurePeople.com

Bang Envy - Britt Ekland

My, it's been a while since we had a good Bang Envy post around here! I'm not sure when Britt Ekland occured to me - I've been collecting her images here and there for some time and filing them away (as I do for all of my BE posts) and then coming back to them again & again to try to edit down to the best ones. While the Bang Envy category is full of French & Italian ladies of note, this may be our very first Swede...and the Swedes know a thing or two about allure - things we should all learn!

Although she was a model throughout the 1960s, it was her 1964 marriage to Peter Sellers that really brought  Britt Ekland into the public eye. Although the marriage was short-lived, Ekland went on to be one of the original "IT" girls of the 1960s-1970s, dating rock stars and even doing her time as a a Bond Girl opposite Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.

From the movies to the romances to the rock & roll, Ekland's life is a lovely mix of glamour, humor, style, and playfulness.

Classic Swedish glamour... modeling shots from the 1960s.

In one of the greater urban myths of 1960s Hollywood, Peter Sellers fell for Britt Ekland after just seeing her photograph. He then proposed to her after just one face-to-face meeting. After having daughter Victoria, the pair split in 1968. In 1973, Ekland had her second child, Nic Adler, with producer Lou Adler.

With Peter Sellers, circa 1964.

 I LOVE LOVE LOVE this look - the beret, the tunic with the pockets, and most of all the tassel necklaces. It's very Bonnie Parker meets Patty Hearst, with a little bit of Emma Peel mixed in. The perfect cocktail of so many different icons of the era, but reduxed and toned down for real life.

Ekland in a leopard cat suit, Vogue 1965 by David Bailey.

After a while (especially as the 1970s dawned), Ekland moved away from her classic "Swedish straight" hairstyles and signature bangs to a more natural, honey-blonde color & free-flowing style that was totally in tune with the new decade. In 1973, Ekland sealed her cult-goddess status in the folk horror film, The Wicker Man. Ekland's singing & slapping the wall while naked scene from the movie was considered so risqué that even now it's hard to find an original print in the United States.

Ekland on the cover of Esquire - a classic George Lois era - from 1969.

Ekland as one of the more provocatively-named Bond Girls, Mary Goodnight, from 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun.

Ekland met Rod Stewart in 1975 via mutual friend Joan Collins, and the pair lived together for nearly two years. After this, she went on to relationships with Phil Lewis from Girl & L.A. Guns, as well as Slim Jim Phantom, with whom she had her third child, T.J., in 1988.

Rod Stewart and Britt Ekland from Life.

Ekland still remains close friends with Sharon & Ozzy Osbourne, and remains a figure in the rock & roll scene. In the 2005 HBO biopic The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, Ekland was portrayed by Charlize Theron who invited her to attend the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Today, Ekland raises funds for Osteoporosis and Alzheimer's charities, and makes an occasional appearance on television. What a life, eh? So many things I'd love to ask her.....

Bang Envy - Linda Ronstadt

I owe this entire Bang Envy post to the soundtrack that plays at my job... Every so often "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" comes on the stereo and everyone sings along to Linda Ronstadt. This made me dig a little deeper. After all, if everyone knows this song there must have been a time when La Ronstadt was on constant rotation. When was said idyll of pop music? Probably in the 1980s sometime on a soft-rock station, but why judge? The fact remains that Linda Ronstadt is a bona fide legend in her own time, and one who continues to bring the talent well into her sixties. According to her Wikipedia page:

"In total, she has released over 30 solo albums, more than 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt has charted thirty-eight Billboard Hot 100 singles, twenty-one of which have reached the top 40, ten of which have reached the top 10, three peaking at No. 2, the No. 1 hit, "You're No Good". In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much", peaked at #2 in December 1989. In addition, she has charted thirty-six albums, ten Top 10 albums, and three No. 1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts."

Doing research on early Ronstadt I found some amazing pictures of her which show her as a fresh young singer capitalizing on the sweetspot between country, pop, and rock, and bringing the style to match. In her early days, Ronstadt seems to play up the look of an innocent young flower child, but within all of her cuteness there's an incredible amount of sex appeal. It's the best combination of the All-American Girl.

Born in Tucson, AZ of Mexican and German parents, Ronstadt began singing at 14 with her brother Pete and sister Suzy. At 17, she dropped out of college after just one semester and moved to Los Angeles where she met up with Bob Kimmel - a friend from home. Together they started a band called the Stone Poneys with Kenny Edwards in 1966. But just a few years later, in 1969, Ronstadt went out on her own.

The cover of Evergreen, Volume 2 by the Stone Poneys from 1967.

In 1968.

On the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. At 22, Ronstadt was invited for her first appearance on the Johnny Cash Show; during the rehearsal, June Carter Cash noted that the singer wasn't wearing any panties. Ronstadt's tart reply? "I sing better bare-butted."

Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Jim Beam in 1974.

Blazing a trail for "girl singers" in the 1970s, Ronstadt experienced the pressures and difficulties of relating to men musicians on a professional level. In a 1969 interview in Fusion magazine, she said it was difficult being a "chick singer" with an all-male backup band. But, finding her stride, she went on to become the most successful female singer of the 1970s with such albums as Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, and Simple Dreams.

All of her albums offer solid pop tunes that crossover easily into Country. Her mix of genres shows her complete vocal and stylistic versatility which was furthered later on in her career when Ronstadt recorded a number of albums of traditional Mexican folk and Ranchera music.

Also notable for her public romances, Ronstadt dated then California governor Jerry Brown, and was also engaged to George Lucas in the mid-1980s. Ultimately though, she adopted two children in the 1990s by herself and has never married. She remains a steadfast supporter of women's rights, gay rights, and is a vocal advocate of national arts programs. Most recently, Ronstadt spoke out against her home state of Arizona's controversial SB1070 illegal-immigration law, participating in a National Day of Action in January 2010.

On a trip to Africa with Jerry Brown in 1979.

The famous Rolling Stone cover from December, 1976. Image by Annie Leibovitz.

And what about "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"? Well, I ended up downloading Ronstadt's Simple Dreams album and have been listening to it on constant rotation. It is indeed a classic album for the ages, and if you don't have it, you should get it. To offer you another quote from Wikipedia:

At the end of 1977 Ronstadt surpassed the success of Heart Like A Wheel with her album Simple Dreams, which held the #1 position for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. It also knocked Elvis Presley out of #1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It sold over 3½ million copies in less than a year in the US alone. The album was released in September 1977, and by December, it had replaced Fleetwood Mac's long running #1 album Rumours in the top spot. Simple Dreams spawned a string of hit singles on numerous charts. Among them were the RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou", a Country Rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song, "It's So Easy" – previously sung by Buddy Holly – and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", a song written by Warren Zevon. The album, garnered several Grammy Award nominations – including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou" – and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, the first of three Grammy Awards he would win for designing Ronstadt album covers.

Simple Dreams became one of the singer's most successful international selling albums as well, reaching #1 on the Australian and Canadian Pop and Country Albums charts.Simple Dreams also made Ronstadt the most successful international female touring artist as well. The same year, she completed a highly successful concert tour around Europe. As, Country Music Magazine, wrote in October 1978, Simple Dreams solidified Ronstadt's role as "easily the most successful female rock and roll and country star at this time."

Bang Envy - Stefania Sandrelli

As I look back on the Bang Envy files, I noticed that there's a strong showing from the Italians more than any other. I would have thought it would be the French girls that dominated but no, when it comes to bombshells it seems the Italians know a thing or two. Which brings us to our latest installment: Stefania Sandrelli.

Although I first saw Sandrelli in a small supporting part in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (one of my favorites!), her early work from the 1960s shows her true appeal. It's unexpected, really. Sandrelli is so perfect playing the bourgeois Italian type because her beauty is sort of ordinary. Her eyes are close together and cross a little bit, her smile is crooked, and she doesn't have the kind of glamour or presence of Elsa Martinelli or Monica Vitti. She's cute, but not gorgeous.

As Jean-Louis Trintignant's character Clerici says in Bertolucci's The Conformist: "She's all bed and kitchen."

As a Vespa pin-up in the 1960s.

But then she turns on the sexy and the men seem to fall at her feet. Take Pietro Germi's brilliant 1961 comedy Divorce, Italian Style; Sandrelli was only 15 when she played the nubile Angela, the object of the middle-aged Marcello Mastroianni's obsession.

Her roles, especially from her early career, show a naive innocence that is eventually won over by the sex pot within.

I suppose it's her corruptible cuteness that makes her so appealing. She's a Lolita in a world of Humberts and every man's downfall. Again, this makes her perfect for the 1960s Italian cinema of middle-class character studies and satirical humor. Indeed, it's even difficult to find an image of Sandrelli from her early days where she actually has clothing on. She always seems to be in a swimsuit or wrapped in a sheet after tumbling from another man's bed. This is a bit disquieting because she was so very young at the time, which makes me wonder who was looking out for her. Also, she can act - both comically and dramatically, so it's unfortunate that her sex appeal is what is best preserved from this era.

Later on, the Sandrelli sex pot bloomed into her full glory, especially in films such as The Key and Jamón, Jamón which gave her cult status in the world of erotic film.

The movie poster for Lo la Conoscevo Bene or "I Knew Her Well" from 1965 illustrates the charms of Sandrelli front & center.

In The Conformist from 1970.

I love Sandrelli in Stealing Beauty as the advice columnist Noemi, because the role is so essentially perfect for her: a saucy, but aging beauty who falls for a younger man. Noemi is clearly a cosmopolitan woman of experience, but has decided to live the life of a Bohemian on a hilltop in Tuscany with other artists. And then love finds her. It's such an authentic story line for her, and so very appropriate for her age and personality.

Sandrelli (left), with Liv Tyler, Sinéad Cusak, and Rachel Weisz in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty from 1996.

In 2005, Sandrelli was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for her lifetime of work. Today at 64, she's still sought after for films, and if she keeps this up, legendary status isn't far behind.

At the Cannes Film Festival, 2010.

Influences: Silent Cinema

John Galliano Menswear, Spring 2011A shuffling, bumbling, mustachioed prankster in a too-tight hat and jacket, and too-big pants and shoes – we all know him because Charlie Chaplin’s dandified hobo is part of our visual lexicon. A genius character for sure, but The Little Tramp as fashion icon? Only the talent of John Galliano could make this work. Galliano’s menswear collection runway for spring 2011 was filled with facsimiles of The Tramp, as well as nods to another silent cinema great: Buster Keaton, including his famous porkpie hat. Another influence on the collection was Visconti’s Death in Venice, set around the same time as the silent cinema era. Somehow, the threads of each of these were drawn together in a dandified version of modern menswear.

Galliano’s choice to create a collection based on these influences is the most interesting part.

In a motif surely borrowed from Chaplin’s final silent film, Modern Times, the models emerged fromthe shadowy gears of a large clock. Released in 1936, and known as the final film of Chaplin’s Little Tramp, Modern Times is a timeless commentary on the battle between man and machine. Chaplin never intended his iconic character to transition into “talkies”, so he instead walks off toward an unknown horizon at the very end. Historically, the film marks the end of the silent era and the beginning of modern Hollywood.

Poster for Modern Times, 1936

Meanwhile, Death in Venice considers a similar theme, depending upon your perspective. For me, I have always thought that Aschenbach’s obsession with Tadzio was not lustful, but merely a metaphor for a love of beauty. Tadzio’s youth, grace, athleticism and handsomeness are all on the brink of manhood; Aschenbach knows he is doomed to die before these will come into maturity. As the composer has already lost everything he holds dear, this one shining point of purity seems to be everything for him. Set on the Lido of Venice – the world’s most famous “dead city” – the entire story is told during that delicate time between the Belle Époque and the modern 20th Century. (Although these motifs are much more abstract in Thomas Mann’s novella, Visconti’s film interpretation is exquisitely detailed perfection.)

Dirk Bogarde in Visconti's Death in Venice, 1971

So why does Galliano seem to think that we’re at the end of an era? Is classic menswear meeting its doom? Despite this premonition, or maybe because of it, the designer presented classic suits and sportswear, but with unique quirks throughout. Indeed, the designer claimed he wanted to play with the proportions of menswear, turning the usual notions of fit and tailoring literally upside down. The “old fashioned” cuts were refreshed with an unorthodox mixing of pieces and layers, pulled together by buttons and straps. The Tramp’s baggy pants alternated with slim trousers, either straight to the ankle or cuffed just above it. The palette of greys, deep blues, blacks, creams, and whites was punctuated by a few checks and stripes – reinforcing the look of old film.

John Galliano Menswear, Spring 2011

While these ensembles may not make sense at first glance, Galliano is offering a concise collection of wearable separates that will fit seamlessly into a man’s wardrobe. Once the matinee idol makeup is gone, one sees that the lines are simple and the fit is clean. Once again, Galliano's theatricality creates a point, but his design provides the function.

So perhaps this show was just an elaborate way of Galliano to move ahead while looking backward? Or is the designer sounding a death knell for menswear as we know it? What do you think?

Runway images by Marcio Madeira, Style.com.

Bang Envy - Astrud Gilberto

Oh Astrud...! Her naive lilting voice has served as the gateway drug for so many intense jazz addictions. The kind that commence around the third year of college over cheap bottles of wine, and alternating pulls between the bong and the pack of Camel Lights. Somewhere, late at night, between Led Zeppelin II and Kind of Blue comes Getz/Gilberto or Beach Samba. At that moment the only thing that holds you steady in the smoky darkness are the many colorful mosaic glow candles and the voice of Astrud Gilberto.

Born in Bahia and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Astrud Weinert married musician João Gilberto, the "Father of Bossa Nova", in 1959. In 1964, his shy young wife was unexpectedly prompted to sing "The Girl from Ipanema" during a recoring of the seminal Bossa Nova album, Getz/Gilberto, an album which featured not only the Gilbertos, but also Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. This airy single went on to become an internation hit, reaching #5 in the United States and charting highly throughout the world. This song, as well as her version of "Corcovado" on the same album made Astrud Gilberto a household name and launched her career as a vocalist.

Astrud Gilberto and husband João Gilberto.

Singing with Stan Getz (left) in the mid-1960s.

During her early days as a star, Astrud Gilberto had a very wholesome, coiffed look. Her simple shyness seems to come through in the smooth, sweet hairstyles of bouffants and flips. After the Gilbertos emigrated to the United States, the couple became estranged; while the reasons are unclear, it is believed to be due to João Gilberto's increasing drug use and Astrud Gilberto's romantic affair with musician Stan Getz.

After the Gilbertos divorced and her own career began to grow, Astrud Gilberto's sweet style gave way to a sensual sexiness in her style and imagery. The well-coiffed 'dos became windblown, beachy, and adorably unkempt - a look that was perfectly in tune with the late-1960s hippie vibe.

The image that became the cover for Astrud Gilberto's Beach Samba album.

The Girl from Ipanema: Sexified

Astrud Gilberto continues to write, record, and perform music today. She lives in the United States, choosing a very private, reclusive life out of the media glare, and never gives interviews.  But her fans are legion and continue to grow. Long live the Girl from Ipanema!

Bang Envy - Juliette Gréco

Juliette Gréco with her Daschund near St. Germain des PrésJuliette Gréco has always intrigued me. Her throaty voice and peculiar beauty are far too unsettling to be considered classically beautiful, but she created her own type of glamour and style by virtue of being against the norm. Her idiosyncratic lifestyle among the famous artists and thinkers of the mid-20th Century has made her a true Bohemian icon.

A friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, and the great love of Miles Davis, Juliette Gréco is the original cool chick. Her signature fringe of bangs with a long hairstyle became the look of Existentialist girls the world over (and still is!), especially when paired with all-black clothes and a smoky café. This is the look Astrid Kirchherr was going for when she started wearing capes and tailored suits.

An actress and singer, Gréco is usually known as the chanteuse who sings "Bonjour Tristesse" at the very beginning of the film of the same name. But it was almost ten years prior that she appeared in Cocteau's haunting film Orphée as one of the evil Bacchantes.

While her film roles were few but significant, Gréco still continues to record and perform her music today, at the age of 83!

Juliette Gréco by Studio Harcourt Paris - the classic Existentialist look of the late 1950s.

Young and alone in Paris after World War II, Gréco started to sing in the cafés and jazz clubs in the St. Germain area. It was here that she met other existentialists, artists, and musicians, including Miles Davis. While I knew the two had been friends, I didn't realize that they actually had a romance too. I tracked down this excellent piece from The Guardian that Gréco wrote about Davis in 2006 that tells their story beautifully.

"And there I caught a glimpse of Miles, in profile: a real Giacometti, with a face of great beauty. I'm not even talking about the genius of the man: you didn't have to be a scholar or a specialist in jazz to be struck by him. There was such an unusual harmony between the man, the instrument and the sound - it was pretty shattering...... In America his colour was made blatantly obvious to me, whereas in Paris I didn't even notice that he was black. Between Miles and me there was a great love affair, the kind you'd want everybody to experience. Throughout our lives, we were never lost to each other."

Emerging from her dark hipness of the 1950s, Gréco's look adapted seamlessly into the pop glamour of the 1960s. Her hair became bouffant and her smile finally emerged. In 1965, she starred in the famous French mini-series called Belphégor, showcasing her elegance and grace.

Two images from Philips Records, and two stills from 1965's Belphégor.

Most recently the film An Education featured a few of Gréco's songs in the film, using them as a symbol of the bohemian freedoms that awaited just across the channel in Jenny's mind. (The short sequence of Jenny and David's trip to Paris is set to "Sur les quais de vieux Paris", making it a picture-postcard of the city in springtime.)

Despite their modernity for the time, Gréco's chansons have become tunes as ubiquitous to Parisian romance as anything recorded by Charles Trenet or Edith Piaf. Her famous hit of 1963 "La Javanaise", written by Serge Gainsbourg, is now considered a standard, being covered by both Jane Birkin and Madeleine Peyroux. Her strange and throaty style is indeed an enduring sound!

Juliette Gréco in 2009 from Pure People.

All images found online; final image from Pure People.

Bang Envy Influences: Anna Karina

When is a Bang Envy post an Influences post too? When it concerns Danish-born actress of the French New Wave cinema, Anna Karina. (I should note that while I've been cooking this post along for weeks, re-watching her films and gathering some images, The Impossible Cool beat me to the punch this week by posting one of her pictures as well. But it's a really good pic, so you should all go over there and pay it a visit. Great minds think alike!)

I've been thinking a lot about Anna, her first husband Jean-Luc Godard, the colorful films they made, and how that whole time and look of the cinema has influenced fashion for decades. Most recently, Michelle Smith of Milly sent a number of mini Anna Karinas down the Fall 2010 runway, with peacoats, striped tops, and red tights to beat the band. If that proves anything it's just that Ms. Karina's colorful, kooky style is just as fresh and wearable today as it was in the 1960s.

Born in Denmark in 1940, Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer had a pretty rough childhood. Eventually she'd had enough of her mother and hitchiked to Paris in 1958 where she quickly became a fashion and commercial model. It is said that Coco Chanel was the one who helped her refine her professional name to Anna Karina. After seeing her in a Palmolive commerical, Jean-Luc Godard offered her a bit part in Au Bout de Souffle, which she refused. However when he asked her to join him in his 1960 film Le Petit Soldat, she agreed. The two married in 1961 when she starred in one of her most iconic films Une Femme est Une Femme.

Anna Karina with Jean-Luc Godard

That film, plus 1965's Pierrot le Fou are among Godard's most famous of the New Wave genre, offering wildly colorful photography, odd and adventurous story lines, and his idiosyncratic take on modern romance. It is through Anna Karina, like Jean Seberg in Au Bout de Souffle or Brigitte Bardot in Le Mepris, that Godard presents his own brand of modern woman: an angelic face hiding the soul of a thrill-seeking, manipulative, and even tawdry demon within. 

Images from Pierrot le Fou with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

I believe that it is the vibrant color palette (usually centered around red, white, and blue hues,) and the simple styles of Anna Karina in these films that fashion designers come back to again and again. The whiff of the ingènue schoolgirl gone bad and sexy all in one - it's a heady combination and one that certainly sells fashion. The Fall 2010 collection from Milly captured this to a T, even a little heavy-handedly with the berets, but it still works.

Milly Fall 2010. Images from Style.com

It's not just Milly who's looked to Godard for inspiration - I think Marc Jacobs comes back to him time and again, especially for the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. It's nice to know that designers still take their cues from the French New Wave of almost 50 years ago and still make it work. Or perhaps Jean-Luc Godard and his muse Anna Karina defined effortless chic in such a way that it always bears repeating?

To close, I had to post this little film re-mix created by Dimitri from Paris. A fantastic re-dux of Une Femme est Une Femme, the DJ has pulled together the playfulness, color, and mod New Wave essence in a fun little music video. (Plus, you can see how Anna Karina sported her red tights!)

Images from the internet, and the website Eff Yeah, Anna Karina which has more good ones to see.

Influences: Bauhaus

Givenchy Fall 2010

Even more interesting than the presence of the Arts & Crafts movement on the runways for Fall 2010, is the presence of one of its contemporary aesthetic movements: Bauhaus. Long a favorite and familiar influence across all tenets of design, The Bauhaus has been seducing fashion designers for decades. Most notably (to call out the obvious) in 1965 with Yves Saint Laurent's Mondrian collection. So what more is there to say in 2010?

Meaning "House of Building", The Bauhaus was a German design school that pursued a unification of art, craft, and technology just after World War I.

Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany in 1919, the school drew parallels to the Arts & Crafts Movement, expanding on William Morris' adage that "form follows function". It differed from Arts & Crafts however, in that The Bauhaus considered the machine to be a positive element, making industrial and product design important parts of the school. Likewise, the aesthetic of The Bauhaus style (also known as The International Style,) was a complete departure from that of Arts & Crafts; here the stylized details and natural materials gave way to clean lines and a complete absence of ornamentation.

Two designers on the Fall 2010 runways claimed influences drawn from The Bauhaus: Donna Karan for DKNY and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Done in different ways, both designers have created crisp, modern collections that seem to celebrate The Bauhaus in its efficiency and practicality.

DKNY Fall 2010. Images from Style.com

DKNY utilized warm neutral shades and colorblocking to showcase The Bauhaus influence, creating glamorous and breezy pieces that look very wearable for all types of bodies. True, colorblocking in fashion is not new especially not colorblocked dresses with tendencies toward Mondrian. However this group looks sufficiently refreshed and kicky for this year's party girl.

(As a side note, I want to mention that Piet Mondrian was not, in fact, a "Bauhaus" artist per se. He did lecture at The Bauhaus, but his own artistic theory was Neo-Plasticism, more commonly known as the Dutch artistic movement of De Stijl - a contemporary of The Bauhaus.)

Givenchy Fall 2010. Images from Style.com

The collection offered by Givenchy turned up the Mondrian element even more with a stark mix of black, white, and bright red throughout. Riccardo Tisci specifically cited the Bauhaus palette, characterized by neutral grounds with pops of primaries, as his inspiration. While I didn't care for this interpreted in Fair Isle knits and oddly-cut lace, I believe the collection held together best when the strong colors were paired with strong, architectural silhouettes.

While The Bauhaus' influence on Fall 2010 isn't nearly as whimsical and lush as the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement, it does offer some interesting ideas. Perhaps in our world of fast fashion and new media we can incorporate more art and craftsmanship? I'm not sure what the exact lesson is, or why designers have come back to The Bauhaus again for this year.

It is ironic though, that The Bauhaus school never provided design history courses to its students. It was thought that everything should be designed according to principles rather than precedent.

Influences: Arts & Crafts

Detail from Anna Sui Fall 2010 with Rycroft Tile necklaceFashion, like art, repeats itself over and over. A cultural thermometer of sorts, the fashion world reflects and responds to the social climate faster than any other produced consumable product. Designers reflect our own fears and uncertainties and mix these with a heady cocktail of beauty, luxury, and desire.

It’s clear that with the current economic and social outlook, the era of bling and the gaudy counterfeit it created have faded away (thankfully). In its place there seems to be an inherent appreciation of craftsmanship and creativity. At its most obvious, this appreciation is found in the collections of Anna Sui and Duro Olowu, both of whom found inspiration in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th & early 20th Centuries.

A reaction against the Victorian era’s penchant for “reviving” historical styles and the soulless production of the Industrial Revolution, the Arts & Crafts Movement sought artistic reform, both in its process and product. Aesthetically, the movement sought simplicity of form without superfluous decoration, often exposing the construction of an item. As many of the studios were in rural areas, Arts and Crafts motifs were inspired by the flora and fauna found out of doors.  Seeking an “equality of arts”, the movement revived traditional crafts, and created the role of the “master craftsman” at the heart of production and design. Ironically, by placing greater importance on handicraft, the resulting products were too expensive to be purchased by anyone but the very rich.

Anna Sui Fall 2010. Images from Style.com.

Perhaps designers’ looking to this era and design philosophy portends a resurgence of true luxury goods? I doubt that this idealism will trickle down to the Canal Street shoppers, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

“If you cannot learn to love real art at least learn to hate sham art.” – William Morris

For her part, Anna Sui took her inspiration in the design motifs and crafts of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Citing the artistic furniture of Charles Rohlfs, her Fall collection was adorned in architectural, but colorful, floral prints and geometrics. Small Roycroft tiles mixed with natural wood to create simple necklaces, all designed by Erickson Beamon. The result was classic Anna Sui hippy girl, but with a dash of sophisticated craft.

Duro Olowu Fall 2010. Images from Style.com.

With a more modern take, Duro Olowu drew inspiration from Hidcote Manor, home of England’s great Arts & Crafts garden, which is now part of the British National Trust. Hidcote’s lavish topiaries and outdoor rooms led to cozy knitwear, mod geometrics, and just a whiff of floral print. 

I realize that these are but two designers among hundreds, and while fashion is always looking to the aesthetic movements of the past, I found it interesting that the Arts & Crafts Movement in particular found its way onto the runways at just this time. Going by the fashion thermometer, it seems we need more simple luxury, beauty, and craftsmanship in our lives. What do you think?

Influences: La Casati

I finished Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino's book Infinite Variety - The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casatilast evening and, true to form, I've spent this morning furiously questing for additional imagery and information on the fascinating Marchesa and all of her far-reaching influences. Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino, Marchesa di Roma is truly a non-pareil that could hardly be summed up here, but I did want to celebrate her miasmic life in art and fashion.

I mentioned this book a few posts ago in the Lit Tag, but now that I've read the entire book I have to say that I'm really haunted. I cannot tell if I even like the Marchesa as a person, but I am completely enthralled by her ceaseless devotion to art and creativity - both in herself and others. So, the whole snakes and monkeys thing sort of creeped me out, but how shockingly fabulous would it be to wear a little coiled snake as a dramatic necklace at a dinner party? Or to walk a pet cheetah or alligator like they were the family Jack Russell? As the authors did state, the Marchesa's quest to always out-do herself got a bit stale over the years; her profligate lifestyle becoming almost insulting during political and economic crises, while her overbearing eccentricity hid an ever-growing personal insecurity. As a quote from Maurice Druon said in the book: "Eccentricity is tolerable only in its first freshness. Cherished until it has gone stale, it becomes unbearably pathetic and at the same time alarming."

Eccentricities aside, the Marchesa did accomplish exactly what she set out to do: become a living work of art. Her personal style of medusa-like curls dyed bright red, large black-rimmed eyes, sleek gowns, and hats swathed in veils have influenced many fashion designers, writers, and film directors. Even toward the end of the Marchesa's life when she was forced to live in poverty, her tattered elegance recalls everyone from Dickens' Miss Havisham through to Big and Little Edie from Grey Gardens. While one cannot help but feel sorry for one of Europe's former glitterati in her late-life squalor, looking at the reach of her influence you can see this is not how she is remembered.

In 1998, John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture created a masterpiece of runway theatre when he presented an entire collection honoring the Marchesa Casati. Shown at the Paris Opera Garnier, the show was said to be surreal, haunting, and overwhelmingly elaborate. After trolling through the internet, I was able to find this news clip covering the show from so long ago...

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The Marchesa Casati by Augustus John

La Marchesa Luisa Casati with a Grehound by Giovanni BoldiniFollowing-up on some of Luisa Casati's portraits, I learnt more about Augustus John and Giovanni Boldini, both of whom painted significant images of the enigmatic woman. In 2003, London's Royal Academy of Arts held an exhibition Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection, which included Boldini's 1908 portrait of the Marchesa with her Greyhound. Art historian Christopher Wood stated: "The staggering Boldini portrait of the legendary Marchesa Casati is surely the greatest portrait of the Belle Epoque." Augustus John's 1919 portrait is considered a twentieth-century masterpiece, and was purchased by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1934, while the tripe-eye photograph of the Marchesa taken by Man Ray in her hotel suite at the Paris Ritz is considered the first and most important of Surrealist photographs. Even the Marchesa's famous ruin of a home in Venice, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, was purchased in 1949 by Peggy Guggenheim and now houses the prestigious Guggenheim Museum.

Thought to be lost, another major portrait by Romaine Brooks has recently been recovered and is in a private collection. Hopefully an image will become available sometime soon! Having never seen any of Brooks' work, (now impossible to believe) I have enjoyed looking at her paintings, finding them incredibly odd, yet beautiful, and certainly very modern for their time. Likewise, the work of Giovanni Boldini is now among my favorites for its romantic yet impressionistic style. I've learnt that a handful of Boldini's pieces even reside in San Francisco!

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Her influence is not limited to art and fashion, however. Vosges Haut Chocolat created a special collection of Marchesa Truffles which are available only in December. "Black sea salt caramel ensconced in 85% bittersweet dark chocolate and real freshwater pearl dust." A very fitting tribute.

My friend Michael Mattis wrote a piece about this book and La Casati on Dandyism.net a few years ago, wondering if the Marchesa could be considered "a dandy"; if she were a man then no doubt the term would apply, but as a woman? According to Mr. Mattis, even if the Marchesa were a dandy, being androgynous, masculine, and beautifully dressed as she was, she wasn't elegant enough for the term to apply. True, the Marchesa was heavy-handed with everything from eyeliner to pearls to gold lamé, but I would hold off on the dandy label anyway. To me, the Marchesa's androgyny and aggressive extravagances set off her distinct womanhood, I don't find her masculine at all. This, like Marlene Dietrich or an Yves Saint Laurent Smoking, make the true woman. The Marchesa's style was all about NOT being manly, but being every bit the independent, entitled woman that she was born to be in this world.

As another fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, stated about La Casati: "Tall and gaunt with heavily made-up eyes, she represented a past age of splendor when a few beautiful and wealthy women adopted an almost brutally individualistic way of living and presenting themselves to the public."

The rest of us should be so brave... 

Portriat of Marchesa Casati, Man Ray 1922

The Marchesa Casati, Augustus John 1919, Art Gallery of Ontario

The Marchesa Luisa Casati with a Greyhound, Giovanni Boldini 1908, collection of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber

Influences: It Happened in Hamburg

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Astrid Kirchherr, self-portrait, 1960Can one woman’s personal style actually change a generation? In the case of Astrid Kirchherr, it did. Yesterday’s episode of Fresh Air on NPR featured an interview with Ms. Kirchherr which should not be missed.

In 1960, Astrid Kirchherr met a group of young (some even underage) boys who were playing in a rock band on the Ripperbaum in Hamburg, Germany. According to Kirchherr, this was not an area of town where nice girls went out at night, but she went with her then boyfriend Klaus Voormann. The band she saw was The Beatles – popular culture and fashion has never been the same.

Kirchherr was attending art school at the time and was practicing as a photographer. The story goes that she gathered up The Beatles one morning, took them out to an abandoned fun fair and took the famous iconic images of the band in its early days. The Beatles then featured Harrison, McCartney, and Lennon of course, as well as Pete Best on drums, and “the fifth Beatle” – Stuart Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe was a painter by trade and talent, but sold a painting to buy a bass guitar at the request of John Lennon who really wanted Sutcliffe as part of the band.

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The Beatles by Astrid Kirchherr, 1960 - Best, Harrison, Lennon, McCartney & SutcliffeAfter a few weeks in Hamburg, Sutcliffe and Kirchherr fell in love and became engaged. Sutcliffe left The Beatles, McCartney moved over to the bass, and a few years later Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Kirchherr is credited as giving The Beatles their “mop top” hair styles, which she insists wasn’t so unusual in Hamburg at the time. She states that she originally gave Klaus Voormann the haircut to cover his protruding ears. Stuart Sutcliffe liked the style and was the first of the group to adopt it – Kirchherr says that the cut was relatively easy for him as his hair was already long to accommodate the Elvis-style rocker pompadour. It was simply a matter of washing out the brylcreem and even-ing things up. The next Beatle to get the style was George Harrison, who had such “beautiful hair that it turned out great and he was very pleased.”

Kirchherr states that Stuart Sutcliffe matched her in height and build; when he moved in with her he began to wear her clothes and adopt her style. She states that at the time in Hamburg there were many different youth subcultures designated by their different uniforms – “the rockers, the exis, the mods…” Influenced by Jean Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau, she and Klaus Voormann were a part of “the exis” – short for existentialists – styling themselves after Parisian university students with capes, berets, long scarves and lots of black. Kirchherr recalls “we had to do our own clothes if we had weird ideas,” - knitting the long maxi-scarves herself since no one sold them, and stealing an over-sized sweater from one's father to try and look like “the Sartre people in France or Juliette Greco.” Kirchherr states: “we looked a bit weird, but we all thought it was great to be different.”

Sutcliffe went on to borrow a collar-less corduroy suit from his girlfriend which she had made herself after seeing a high-fashion version by Pierre Cardin in a magazine. John Lennon initially made fun of the look, but later on adopted it along with the band to create one of their signature styles.

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Klaus Voormann's "Revolver" cover - 1966Klaus Voormann went on to create the famous cover art for The Beatles’ Revolver album in 1966, and The Beatles went on and became history.

After leaving The Beatles, Stuart Sutcliffe went back to art school in Hamburg. In 1962, Sutcliffe collapsed and died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 21. Astrid Kirchherr states that he was, and is, the love of her life. She says that she still wears black, cuts her hair short, wears long scarves and leather pants, and is looking forward to her 70th birthday this year.

Imagine it: the contents of your closet, your personal style, one day gets “borrowed” and blown up by some close friends who become mega-stars. How would your style change the world?

Listen to the full interview between Terry Gross & Astrid Kirchherr on NPR. The story of Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe and The Beatles is captured in the 1994 film Backbeat with Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe and Sheryl Lee as Kirchherr.