THE IT: Furious Love

Hiding from both the rain and the G20 this weekend, I read Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of a Century in less than two days. Get excited by reading the excellent excerpt in the current issue of Vanity Fair, but then click to buy—this is a book to own.

It’s full of naughty Old Hollywood glamour—Bloody Marys for breakfast, Burton feverishly outbidding Aristotle Onassis for the Cartier diamond—but it’s also rooted in real scholarship. (Um, Kitty Kelley? Sit down.) The authors, Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, spoke to hundreds of people, from gossip columnist Liz Smith to Sir John Gielgud. Taylor herself shared the nearly 40 letters that Burton had written her. (Kashner and Schoenberger report that she was moved to preserve her late husband’s memory when they told her that a film student had exclaimed, ” “I didn’t know Tim Burton was married to Elizabeth Taylor!”)

What started as just another conquest for Burton turned into a love affair that rocked the world. This is from the set of Cleopatra, the first of their seven films together, when they were both married to other people:

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THE IT: Hardly at Parts & Labour

NXNE may be over, but please don’t stop the music! This Wednesday, the Shop at Parts & Labour plays host to three bands in honour of Hardly, a soon-to-be launched online magazine for teenage girls. (Think Sassy, not Teen Vogue.) Part of the proceeds go to support Sketch, the art studio for street youth.

THE IT: What makes a perfect magazine cover?

According to The Guardian, this comes close.

In The Guardian, Imogen Fox analyzes the delicate art of choosing a face who will sell magazines to the masses—loyal readers are served between the covers, but the cover girl needs to appeal to everyone in the Loblaws line.

The winning (and totally depressing) formula? Tawny hair, white skin and a pink dress that isn’t too fashion-forward. In England, the dependable triumvirate is Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and Cheryl Cole.

Who would be the North American equivalent?

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), the Howard Hawks-directed film based on Raymond Chandler’s novel.

“The purring voice was now as false as an usherette’s eyelashes and as slippery as a watermelon seed.”

Raymond Chandler isn’t known as a stylish writer in the fashion-savvy sense. His renown comes from his mastery of perfect similes like the one above, and for gifting the world Philip Marlowe, the private detective whose job description is usually preceded by the adjective “hard-boiled.” Chandler’s rep is that he writes about dames and gangsters, cops and criminals—he’s more visceral than visual.

But after reading The Big Sleep (1939)—my first on-the-page Chandler experience—I found him to be one of the most visual writers that I’ve ever read. He doesn’t drop designer names when describing a dress, but he can make you see it. His descriptions—of dresses, faces, streets—are alive to the impact of precise language, and are just as rooted in style as more traditionally glamorous writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh.

These are his and hers descriptions, heavy on the fashion content.

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THE IT: The new Drake Hotel General Store

Inside the new location (82A Bathurst, at King) of the Drake Hotel General Store, which opens today. Photography by Connie Tsang.

Inspiration, as any artist will tell you, can come from anywhere, but to find it in a store is a rare and beautiful thing. At the third outpost of the Drake Hotel General Store, inspiration seems to comes from everywhere. Stock includes a mix of the vintage (including a cookbook for “caravanners”) and the new (Shared T-shirts with exclusive “magic” prints). Look also for Fortnight lingerie made in Toronto, jewellery by In God We Trust and pretty, shiny pinatas. Yep, you heard us.

TALK TO ME: Danielle Meder, part II

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of our conversation with fashion illustrator and blogger Danielle Meder. You can read the first part here.

What inspires you?

“For illustration: gorgeous human beings, beautiful clothes, a sense of confidence and poise. For writing and thinking: provocative ideas, stories of successes and failures, revealing humanity, broad trends and minute details.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Lillian Hellman, specifically in her memoirs, and especially in Pentimento. She’s not fictional, but I can’t think of another character who I’ve identified with so closely, and at so many different stages in my life.  I look forward to re-reading that book over and over and over again.”

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TALK TO ME: Danielle Meder, part I

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

In her excellent blog, Final Fashion, Danielle Meder shows that there is nothing contradictory about being a straight-talking artist who loves fashion. She has a clear eye, a unique voice and—as evidenced by her lovely illustrations—a handy way with a pen. Recently, Danielle answered The Style Notebook’s weekly “Talk to Me” questionnaire.

What was the first fashion blog you started reading regularly?

“I believe it was Manolo’s Shoe Blog in 2005. He (?) was really the first big fashion blogger that I remember. He’s still around, and with much the same layout too.”

What are your favourite blogs now?

“There are so many that I tend to drift through blogs sort of aimlessly now, finding them through Twitter or Google searches, letting their posts pile up in my RSS reader. Many of the blogs I consider my favourites had their glory days a long time ago, much like saying that New York was my favourite city 40 years ago.

I got rid of my sidebar a year or two ago to reflect the new way that I tend to harvest content and friends in blogland. It’s less clubby and political that way. I replaced it with widgets that show my del.ici.ous links, something that I hope rewards current, compelling content as well as randomly unearthed old-but-good stuff, rather than a particular blog title.”

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THE SPIRIT OF STYLE: Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Sayre in 1919, the year before her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Over the five weeks of the Fall 2010 collections—in New York, London, Milan, Paris, and, in Canada, in Montreal and Toronto—the attention of fashion editors and writers was necessarily focused on the concrete. What was the new silhouette, the top hue, the hemline? Are vertiginous heels coming down to earth? Who’s the new face?

But now that the sparkle has dimmed, it’s interesting to think about the more abstract elements of style—less about the individual pieces in an outfit, and more about the individuals whose approach to life is itself a lesson in style.

I started thinking about this last week, while reading Zelda, the 1970 biography of Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford. It’s a beautifully written account of a brilliant, complicated woman who became known as “the first flapper,” and served as inspiration for some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most enduring characters, including The Great Gatsby’s Daisy (with her “low, thrilling voice”) and Nicole Diver, the tragic heroine of Tender is the Night.

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TALK TO ME: Nathalie Atkinson, part II

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

This is the second part of The Style Notebook’s conversation with Nathalie Atkinson. You can read the first part here.

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Age 3, before starting junior kindergarten, I had to get inoculations at the local health unit and be ‘evaluated for readiness’ for school. I was scared, but my parents promised me a treat if I could be a big girl and not cry–anything I wanted. I chose clothes (to which, when my mother tells the story, and that’s often, she now meaningfully adds: ‘Of course’). Not a tear was shed, and immediately afterwards we went straight to Kay’s Tot & Teen, the kids clothing store in town. I remember the outfit perfectly: an apple-green gingham sundress, smocked and covered in tiny appliqué red felt cherries, with a matching kerchief. Truth be told I somehow managed to finagle two dresses out of my mother that day! She still has them.” Continue reading