Monica D. Murgia

Art, creativity, and fashion
April 9th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Patience

I’ve been trying to cultivate patience.  It’s not something I was born with.  Things never seemed to happen fast enough for me.  My childhood impatience carried over well into my twenties.  I always felt restless, always wanted to impose my will on situations and people.  When I didn’t get the desired outcome, I’d become very irritated and upset.  I had no emotional self-control.  Constantly being ruled by emotion is exhausting.  I decided to try consciously be more patient at 25, right when I started teaching.  Having to lead a classroom made me aware that growing irritable was a quick way to lose control and the interest of my students.
Patience is a discipline that can grow over time.  For me, it was very hard-won.  I still find it difficult to be patient with myself.  But I was lucky enough to find resources in developing a more peaceful way to deal with delays and setbacks.  I think painting has helped me tremendously.   Sometimes it comes out all wrong.  Preparing and mixing paints takes time and effort.  Then, the process of trying to make something beautiful can go terribly wrong.  My first few failed attempts would leave me outraged and angry.  Negative thoughts would stream through my mind, like: “What a waste of time. ” or  “I’m terrible.”  But for some reason, I kept showing up.  (New to my site?  You should check out my previous post, Showing Up.)
One day I realized why I kept coming back – the process of painting helped me to quiet my mind.
I’m not sure what your mind is like, but my is complicated.  I think lots of thoughts and am easily distracted.  I make plans for the future.  I read books.  I worry about things that are out of my control.  I judge myself harshly.  With all of these plans, hopes, fears, and ideas jumping around in my head, it can be difficult to be present.  Lost in thought, I’d bump into people in the subway.  I’d get irritated that they didn’t see me.  Or I would be so distracted I’d be late to appointments or meetings.  This would lead me to blame anything or anyone external to myself.  My inability to focus and tame my mind was the problem, not the train being late or the people in the streets.
These thoughts and feelings that were always whirling around inside of me would slow down and stop completely when I started to focus on creating.   A new-found patience started to grow within.  I could quiet my mind more.  Life became less about imposing my will on people and situations.  I experienced freedom from anger and irritation because I started to realize that there is nowhere else to be but here, now.  It’s been 5 years since I’ve made the decision to become more patient.  My relationships with other people are better, my ability to focus has improved, and I’ve learned to let go of expectations.
Still, waiting always seems to test me.  The new paintings I’ve been making require a lot of drying time.  The linseed oil needs time to harden.  At first, it looks slick, smooth, and saturated with color.  I let my paintings dry on an old Ikea clothing rack, since I don’t have a lot of space.  As the oil dries over time, the painting starts to look very different than how it started.
The surface hardens into textures and patterns.  It’s less shiny.
The colors’ vibrancy also change.
New shapes and color combinations emerge that I never intended to create.  It makes me realize the importance of being patient.  Not forcing the painting to occur in a set time period allows something more beautiful than what I set out to create to happen on its own.
It’s almost dry enough to hang, but not quite yet.  Until then, I wait.  Sometimes patiently, sometimes not.  When I catch myself aggressively wondering how long it will take to just be done, I stop.  I think to myself, “Maybe it’s time to make a new painting”, and I move on.


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April 4th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Knowing When to Stop

“If you don’t know what you are making, how do you know when to stop?”  That’s a reasonable question.  Yet it’s difficult to answer.  Maybe I can answer it with a personal story.  I started a new job at the end of August 2013.  It’s in a completely unrelated industry – a real suit and tie type of place.  When I went on my initial interview, we arrived at the question and answer portion.  I brazenly asked if I could remove the existing art work and replace it with my own.    (How’s that for bold?)
I got the job, and it was quite a transition.  I’m the only woman in the office (keep in mind that my previous work environments were the reverse – mostly or entirely female).  I’m also the only aesthete.  Making something for this shared space really preoccupied my thoughts.  It had to be appealing to an audience I knew very little about, and one that would have only one real strong opinion about the work – if they didn’t like it.
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This made me try doing a series of small studies on paper.  I used all kinds things, just doodling all over the page.  I used crayons, and colored pencils and markers, and pens, and ink.  When I started with ink, I used a brush to draw circles all over the paper.  Then I made circles with different colored markers.  Finally, I traced the circles with water and a brush.  The effect?  The colors started to bleed out.  All of the sudden, I saw rain drops hitting a puddle.  That’s when I knew to stop.  When I start to see something – like seaweed or rain drops – the picture is complete.  A feeling of finality washes over me.  (New to my site?  You should read my previous post – the first in the series of explaining the unexplainable.)
So I had an idea with I approached this canvas.  This allowed me to complete the painting very quickly.  I applied the blue base coat.  Then, I swirled silver paint onto a brush, and whipped the handle in little circles.  I’d have to dip the brush into the can of paint and pull it out quickly – this lets more paint settle on the brush than taking it out slowly.  I mixed black oil paint to a thin consistency and did the same thing.
I let it dry for a week and half.  It still needed something, so I decided to spatter yellow paint on the surface.  One of the guys commented: “Hey!  It looks great with yellow.”  That was another sign I knew this version was complete – someone so far removed from art could judge it favorably.  A man that I did not know well that had no previous interest in art liked the painting.  I’d say that’s a good point to stop.
It took another few weeks to decide where to hang it, and which type of frame would look best.  Here’s the finished product:


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March 29th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

New Series: Ineffable

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve been allowing myself to really run away with my thoughts; explore my ideas more fully, read, and experiment with new media.  Somewhere, I came across this idea:
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This was such a perfect word.  To say what can’t be said.  So much of my personal work is an attempt to express what seems impossible to say.  People often ask me how long it takes me to make a painting, and I struggle to tell them.  Sometimes it can be in one sitting, other times it can take weeks.
It’s even difficult to say how I start.  Every time is one big experiment.  Recently, I made a painting for a friend.   It was my first commission.  He was really interested in hearing around my process.  We even had a lengthy discussion about how to hang it.  It’s very difficult for me to explain my process, mostly because it’s spontaneous.
I generally start with certain colors in mind, and not much else.  My preferred media is oil on board, and I like to use lots and lots of boiled linseed oil mixed with the paint.  (Oil paints are ground mineral pigments mixed with a carrier oil, which is usually linseed oil.  The oil makes the dusty pigments gel up into paint that can later be put into a tube.   Applying more oil to the tubed pigment makes the paint more fluid.  There are different ways to process linseed oil, each rendering a different effect when mixed with the paint.  I’ve discovered that boiled linseed oil creates this interesting, textured surface. See above.)
I’ll apply a base color to the canvas with a thick consistency.  Then I’ll mix other colors and make them more fluid than the base coat.  Sometimes, I use a brush and thrash the paint.  Other times, I pour the mixture directly onto the surface.  (The orange, above, I poured right onto the surface.  The dark green color I applied with a brush.)
Then, I step back and look at it.  I look at how the paint is moving.  I try to see how the colors blend, and how it makes me feel.  I noticed that the dark green paint was bleeding out.  It wasn’t really staying in the area I wanted it to.  Instead, it made these dripping, tentacle-like shapes.
After some time had passed, I decided to edit it.  I thought it could be improved.   I picked it up on one end, and let the paint drip down to the other side.  Then, I repeated on the reverse end.  The effect much better; the colors blended so fluidly, it reminded me of seaweed.
But I don’t work on it from strictly one direction.  I attack it from all sides.  Then, I let it dry.  As the oil dries, the values of the colors change.  The surface hardens and becomes more textured.  It takes shape.
I wasn’t sure which side was up.  It’s difficult for me to visualize working that way.  Shouldn’t the entire process be more important than the initial concept?  I think it’s ok for the composition to change based on the process, as long as the product makes you happy.
It made me so happy to see it framed and hanging, too.  I have several paintings that I’ve made in the past 5 months that I’d like to attempt to express in words.  It takes a lot of effort to do this, because it’s trying to explain the ineffable – the thing that can’t be said.  And yet, I’d like to try.  That’s what I’d like this new series to be about -  explaining how to see beauty in that which you don’t fully understand.
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January 26th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Grace Kelly & Fashion Illustration, Part II

Today’s post is a summary of a talk I gave at the Michener Museum a few weeks ago.  So I suppose the big question is, why fashion illustration?  This was the only method of distributing fashion information for centuries.  Paintings , prints, and drawings were the only visual methods of documenting fashion until the 1850s, with the advent of the modern camera.  Photography was problematic for several decades after this.  Exposure times were long, forcing people to sit very still for several minutes.
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Illustration for the House of Paquin, 1907.  Image courtesy of the V&A Museum.


Photography progressed slowly through the early 20th century.  Prices went down.  The process became better and faster.  Color photography was soon possible.  Magazines started to incorporate more photography, along side with illustrations.  As the 1930s progressed, photography became the preferred media for covers and fashion editorials.  Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar added in-house photographers in addition to their the art departments.


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 Left: July 15th, 1936 Vogue cover.  Photo by Edward Steichen.  Image courtesy of We Heart Vintage. Right:  November 10th, 1930 Vogue cover.  Image courtesy of Baba Yaga.

 World War II impacted the fashion industry in many ways, including the duel between illustration and photography.  The most common materials were rationed for the war effort, including textiles, cosmetics, and the chemicals used to develop film.  Illustrations continued through the war.  Editorials that used photographs focused on showing patriotic fashions and how to “make do and mend” existing items.  Staged studio photography was deemed inappropriate and unpatriotic during this time.

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 Left: Rene Gruau illustration of a Christian Dior evening dress, c. 1948.  Image courtesy of Indulgy.  Right: “Venus” dress by Christian Dior, 1948.  Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 The Post-War period ushered in glamorous silhouettes and unbridled use of fabrics and trim.  1947 was a pivotal year in fashion, in which Christian Dior created the “New Look”.  This collection featured skirts were much longer and fuller than were available during the war.  Waists were nipped in with corsets and girdles .  The newly instated trappings required women to buy new garments.  This was initially met with some resistance.  Dior teamed with fashion illustrator Rene Gruau (1909-2004) to promote his sophisticated garments.  Gruau was one of the most prolific fashion illustrators of the Post-War era.  (New to my site?  You should read my previous post, Rene Gruau.)

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Left: Rene Gruau illustration of Christian Dior’s Bar Suit, 1947.  Image courtesy of Design Museum.  Right: Photograph of Christian Dior’s Bar Suit by Willy Maywald, 1947.  Image courtesy of Contemporary History.
Gruau’s had a clearly recognizable illustration style, which included:
  • stark outlines
  • the use of negative space throughout the composition
  • sensitivity to color used to contour figures with highlights and shadows
  • curvilinear compositions
 During this time, America’s most prominent fashion illustrators were Hollywood costume designers.  It is often easy to dismiss costume designers’ contributions to fashion history, since the focus tends to be primarily on New York.  Helen Rose (1904-1985) was an extremely influential costume designer that worked closely with Grace Kelly on and off the set.
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 Left:  Helen Rose’s illustration of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress.  Right: Grace Kelly in the wedding dress designed by Helen Rose.

Born in Chicago, Rose attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and began her career designing costumes for nightclubs and theaters.  During this period, she mostly worked for vaudeville acts, including the Lester Costume Company.  In 1929 she left for Los Angeles and began costuming for films.  She worked for Twentieth Century Fox from 1940-1943 and later became chief costume designer for MGM.

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Left:  Helen Rose’s illustration of Grace Kelly’s costume for High Society, 1956.  Image courtesy of Gracie Bird.  Right: Grace Kelly in her costume designed by Helen Rose.  Image courtesy of Equally Wed.
From 1947 to 1966, Rose costumed over 200 films and worked with Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr, and Esther Williams. Rose designed Grace Kelly’s 1956 wedding dress for her marriage to Crown Prince Rainier III of Monaco.  Rose also designed her civil ceremony outfit was a full-skirted suit of dusky rose pink taffeta with beige Alençon lace overlay (currently on view at the Michener Museum).  Many of Rose’s illustrations survive, particularly those made for Grace Kelly’s role in the film High Society.
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Left:  Helen Rose’s illustration of Grace Kelly’s costume for High Society, 1956.  Image courtesy of Live Auctioneers.  Right: Grace Kelly in her costume designed by Helen Rose.  Image courtesy of IMDB.
Edith Head (1897-1981) also worked very closely with Grace Kelly.  Born in San Bernadino, Head earned a Master’s degree in romance langauges from Stanford before switching to illustration.  She took classes at Chouinard Art college, and in 1924 was hired as a costume sketcher at Paramount Pictures.
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Left: Edith Head illustration for Grace Kelly’s costume in Rear Window.  Image courtesy of A Lovely Being.  Right: Grace Kelly in costume.  Image courtesy of December’s Grace.

 Some of the most wonderful costumes Head designed for Grace Kelly were from the 1954 Hitchcock film Rear Window.  Grace Kelly plays the role of Lisa Freemont, a society fashion consultant.

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Left: Edith Head illustration for Grace Kelly’s costume in Rear Window.  Image courtesy of A Lovely Being.  Right: Grace Kelly in costume. Image courtesy of Daily Mail.

As you can see from the illustrations and photographs, the costumes are a perfect character construction.  The costumes lend an air of elegance, sophistication, and refinement of someone “in the know” about fashion.

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 Left: Right: Edith Head sketch and costume for Grace Kelly in Rear Window, 1954.  Images courtesy of Classiq and Glamour Daze.  Right:  Sketch by Edith Head.  Image courtesy of A Lovely Being.

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December 17th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Find of the Week: Toile de Jouy by Wesley Simpson

Wesley Simpson
Wesley Simpson scarves are one of my favorite things to collect.  Simpson (1903-1975) was an American textile manufacturer who was responsible for bringing many artist-designed textiles to the market after World War II.  World War II had an enourmous impact on both the fashion industry and art market in America.  First, it liberated American designers from simply making copies of Parisian couture.   But it also allowed an new genre of artist to emerge, most of whom were in New York.  Abstract expressionism was very popular right after the war.  People had a renewed interest in the arts and the economic means to purchase.  Artists hoped to capitalize on this, and teamed with textile producers to make fabrics and accessories.  The marketing strategy was to bring art to everyday life.
Wesley Simpson
You can only imagine my delight at finding this 1948 scarf by Simpson called Toile de Jouy, in my favorite color!  The scarf tells the history of toile, an 18th century French scenic pattern usually printed on cotton, linen, or silk in one color on a light ground.  It reads:
In 1784, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Huet, an artist employed by the Oberkampf works located near Jouy, France etched this design.  This type of copperplate print, known as “Toile de Jouy” illustrates the various processes used in printing textiles. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar scarf in their collection.  And the Vintage Traveler has the original ad from 1948.  The ad reads:
Wesley Simpson presents a group of new scarfs from his collection of designs by famous artists.  Included are scarfs by Marcel Vertes and Salvador Dali.
This is a great example of how various artists, with completely different styles, made an attempt to be more commercial after the war.  (New to my site?  You should take a look atmy other posts on Wesley Simpson.) 
It seems especially fitting that the subject matter of this scarf is textile printing.  Each vignette depicts a different stage of creating the toile print on fabric.
Wesley Simpson detail


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December 4th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Existence is Musical


Existence is musical.  I heard this expression a few weeks ago, and it left a big impression on me.  The idea that life doesn’t have a destination, a goal, is really liberating.  For a long time, I felt trapped in an endless corridor of goals.  I became enmeshed in the idea that success is a far off destination, achieved only after years of school, tedious jobs, and walking over hot coals.  The dream is to one day arrive – whenever that is – save up a bit, retire and then enjoy the fruits of your labor.




 Image courtesy of Work of Heart Studios.  (And available for purchase!)

Interestingly enough, I “arrived” a bit early and realized that it was all a hoax.  At 25, I had finished a graduate degree, was teaching college, and had all the outer trappings of success.  But inside, I didn’t feel one bit different at all.  I had arrived at the finish line, only to realize that life isn’t a race.  Life isn’t a journey with a serious destination.  To think this is to cheat yourself out of happiness in the present moment.     You delay happiness and tolerate situations to hopefully, one day get there at the end.


Image courtesy of Akademi Fantasia 


In music, the end of the song isn’t the point of the composition.  We don’t dance to arrive at a specific spot in the room.  The point of music and dancing is to enjoy the experience.  And so is life.  Life is a musical thing, and the point is to dance or sing along the way.




Image courtesy of Deviant Art.

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November 19th, 2013 by Monica Murgia



Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.

As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.

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A few months ago, I bought some new paint. I like buying different materials. If I use unfamiliar media, I can’t go in with any expectations. I have to be observant and patient in my attempt to make something beautiful. I have to let the beautiful thing emerge on its own.


I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint.  From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.


Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished.  There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time.  I just had to feel it.  To me, painting is like playing a game.  When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance.  Games like poker or bridge.  You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill.  It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome.  Order and randomness go together, creating surprise.  That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.

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One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts.  He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident.  He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting.  Life should be lived in a manner like painting.  You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life.  You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves.  Never force something.  It will only elude you.  Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own.  You will be surprised – and happy.




If you liked this post, you should consider reading my previous posts :

Tantric Art

Looking at Buddhist Art

Showing Up

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November 14th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Find of the Week: Castillo for Elizabeth Arden Coat


Sometimes, good things find you.  That certainly was the case last week.  Every step forward bought surprise and delight.  Good news just poured in like bright yellow sunlight on the morning that you want to sleep in.  It just kept inching its way toward me, making me pay attention.  So things only got better when I was able to purchase this coat:



If you’re new to my site, you may not be aware of my complete adoration of  the work of Antonio Castillo.  The Spanish designer took up couture after the Spanish Civil War, designing for major couture houses including Paquin and Lanvin.  He did design for a 5 year period in New York in the 1940s.


Jody of Couture Allure contacted me about the coat a few weeks ago.  She had read my previous post on Castillo’s time designing here in America for Elizabeth Arden.  (New to my site?  Start with this post.)  I had posted a Vogue editorial containing the exact coat! It appeared in the November 1st, 1947 run of Vogue, page 142.


I had to wait a bit to purchase it, but it’s finally mine!  Don’t you think it will look stunning with the Castillo for Elizabeth Arden dress I snagged a few months ago?  Not that wearing them has ever crossed my mind . . .
Many thanks to Jody of Couture Allure!  Please visit her site.


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November 12th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Augusta Auctions, Part II


After work, I passed by Augusta Auctions preview of tomorrow’s New York sale.  Tomorrow at noon, 422 swoon-worthy lots will go on the block.  Sometimes people ask me how I amass my personal collection.  Once you really delve into a specialty, like American couture or a weak spot for Lanvin-Castillo, you begin to make all kinds of discoveries.  Like a vintage store in Houston.   Or a kindred spirit with an amazing blog.  You start to develop all sorts of relationships when you share your interests with other people.  Earlier this year, I took my fashion forecasting class to see the April sale preview offered by Augusta Auctions.  I can assure you that if you are a serious fashion collector, this auction is a must attend.


Lot 282: Paco Rabanne Coat & Helmet, c. 1965-67.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

Everyone should attend at least one auction in their life.  Bidding on a coveted item is a unique experience.  It’s a lot like gambling or playing the stock market.  It’s a mix of adrenaline, sweat, fear, and lust.  Questions flurry your mind and you only have seconds to make a decision: What if someone outbids you?  How much is too much?  What is the real or perceived value of the item?  Is it a solid investment?  Your mind is in overdrive and the auctioneer is crooning to get a higher price.  You’re all of the sudden unsure what hurts more, your purse strings or your heartstrings.

Lot 77: James Galanos Silk Day Dress, c. 1955.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

Augusta Auctions always has really amazing pieces.  Much of this is because they represent museums.  Museums have limited storage space.  They can only store so many objects safely.  New acquisitions and donations mean that space dwindles.  Curators can either re-organize the storage environment, or decide to edit the collection.  (De-accessioning is when the museum decides to remove items from their collection and sell them on the market.)


Lot 376: 19th Century Matador Cape.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

The de-accessioning process is what makes the auction so fun.  There is such a rich variety of objects available for purchase.  I was absolutely over the moon for this 19th Century matador cape.  It was a faded light sage green satin with gold gilt raised embroidery.   While signs of wear were apparent, it was such a beautiful piece.

The 1920s were well-represented.  There must have been two dozen beaded flapper dresses.  They were in such great shape they could be worn out on the town today.
Magazines from the time period were also on display.






Another beaded dress I couldn’t take my eyes off of was this Edwardian ballgown.  Beaded objects generally need to be stored flat because of their weight.  The weight of the beads can tear the fabric over time.
Lot 308: Gold Beaded Ballgown, c. 1908.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
 And the rest of the images are just items I thought were beautiful.  Take a look.  (And if you’d like to bid on anything, register for the auction on Live Auctioneers.  Good luck!)
Lot 189: British Consul’s Court Bicorn, c. 1799.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
Lot 118: Two Brimmed Cloches, 1930s.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
Dress by James Galanos.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
 Various Hermes Scarves.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.




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November 10th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Making Displays


Storing fashion and accessories can be a major challenge, especially in a New York apartment.  Space is limited.  So is time.  You need things to be orderly yet easily accessible.  I find this especially true of accessories like bags and jewelry.

I’ve had jewelry boxes before, and found them really counterproductive.  My jewelry was virtually hidden from view, making me forget to wear it.  The first time I moved to New York, I adopted the practice of displaying my jewelry around my room.

Here I am, back in the city.  I had the same idea of displaying my jewelry, but wasn’t sure of the approach to take.  I wanted it to somehow be part of the decor.  After looking up some ideas, I came across this idea on Pinterest:


I decided to make one for myself this weekend.  With the help of my friend Riley (see photo) I went searching for a piece of wood in Central Park.


After our walk in the park, we headed over to Paper Source.  This store has all kinds of sumptuous materials for making visual presentations.  I found some decorative pushpins that were perfect for my project.


Having two varieties made displaying the pieces more interesting.  The silver pushpins were great for organizing chunkier necklaces and rings .  The floral pushpins were better for more delicate chains.  Take a look:



The piece of wood I found was narrower on one end.  This was brilliant for adding my bracelets and cuffs.  Earrings are usually difficult to store, but this design made things simple.  The jute twine I bought for hanging the piece was perfect.  I mounted two adhesive hooks to the wall and voilà:





The twine in between the hooks was the perfect spot for earrings.  No wasted space and everything is easily accessible.  The best part?  It looks pretty and reminds me to wear my things.




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November 6th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Passion for Fashion at Kelly Taylor Auctions

close up Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons
There is nothing quite like a good fashion auction.  I’ve written about Augusta Auctions, Christie’s auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, and Thierry De Maigret.  Another drool-worthy set of fashion and accoutrements are set for the auction block in London on December 3rd at Kelly Taylor Auctions.
Leon Bakst for Diaghilev

Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe Scheherazade Costume for Young Man.  Designed by Leon Bakst, 1910.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

It was difficult not to squeal with delight flipping through the virtual catalog.  Aside from the beautiful curated offerings, photographs, and descriptions – the focus of the sale has a Russian spin.  There are several costumes from Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe available.  I have a big soft spot for the Ballet Russe, which was only intensified after my trip to the National Gallery this summer. (New to my site?  You should check out my previous post, Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe)
Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell Printed Chiffon Evening Gown and Cape, c. 1976.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

Costumes aside, there are some serious designers represented in the lot.  From Worth to McQueen, you’ll be able to find something to pine over.  I was delighted to see this Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell evening gown with a cape.  This power couple virtually created the fashion scene in England during the 1960s and 1970s.  Celia designed textiles while Ossie made garments for famous clients including: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bianca Jagger.


Madame Gres


Madame Gres Black Silk Jersey Evening Gown, c. 1935-1944.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

There is a beautiful Madame Gres available.  The Grecian draping is always perfection.  In black, it’s timeless.


Edwardian Wedding Dress
Madame Hayward Bridal Gown for Regina de Bittencourt, 1914.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
The 1910s are represented with this gorgeous wedding dress.  It belonged to Chilean heiress Regina de Bittencourt.  The dress is accompanied by primary source articles, wedding photos, and an impressive provenance.
Cecil Chapman
 Ceil Chapman Mint Green Taffeta Evening Gown and Coat, c.1954-58.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
I pegged this evening dress and coat as Dior, but read that it was Ceil Chapman.  Chapman was an American fashion designer active in New York during the 1940s-1960s.  (She definitely merits an upcoming post!)  Grace Kelly was photographed wearing a similar coat.
Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons 2
Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons.  Denim dress, 2001.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

And my last favorite is this denim dress by Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons.  The spiraling panels of denim and seam-work are too beautiful for words.  If I bought this, I’d never take it off!
close up Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons

See what else is available on the December 3rd auction via the virtual catalog.

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November 4th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Grace Kelly & Fashion Illustration

Pennsylvania always seems to produce fashion icons.  I know so many stylish, entrepreneurial women from this state.  The Michener Museum is celebrating one of Pennsylvania’s most famous fashion icon, Grace Kelly (1929-1982).  The exhibition From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly Beyond the Icon is running from October 28th, 2013 – January 26th, 2014.

Illustration of Grace Kelly’s  Wedding Day, 1956.  Illustration by Helen Rose.  Image Courtesy of Patterned History.

Grace Kelly was from Philadelphia, and became a famous actress during the 1950s.   The exhibition traces the unique path Grace Kelly took from Philadelphia to Monaco, highlighting her personal style and journey toward becoming a princess in 1956.   Many wonderful objects are on loan from the Palace of Monaco and the Grimaldi Forum, including: letters, photographs, awards, couture fashion, film clips, playbills.


Illustration of Grace Kelly’s Costume for High Society by Helen Rose.  Image Courtesy of Patterned History.

Throughout the month of November, the museum is offering lectures and workshops that explore Grace Kelly and the fashion of her era.  I will be giving a talk and workshop on Sunday, November 24th on fashion illustration from the 1940s-1960s.  Here is an abstract of the program:

Illustration was a major component of the fashion industry during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Everything from advertisements, magazine articles, to design concepts was the product of illustrators of the day. This lecture will explore the importance of fashion illustration during these three decades. A focus will be on analyzing the style and career of major illustrators Rene Gruau, Christian Berard, and others. Following the lecture, a workshop will be given on drawing the fashion figure. 
Illustration of Grace Kelly’s costume for Rear Window.  Illustration by Edith Head.  Image courtesy of C Sebastion.
We will take a closer look at major illustrators of the era, with special focus on those that created work for Grace Kelly.  New to my site?  You should read my previous post on fashion illustrator Rene Gruau
To purchase tickets, please visit: The Michener Museum
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