Old-World, Not Old-Fashioned
These fashion favorites are inspired by the past but live firmly in the present.
I’m suffering from “Downton Abbey” withdrawal. What’s a girl to do on a Sunday night anymore? And although I watched every episode in my pajamas, the PBS TV series makes me want to step back into a time when people changed into formal clothes for dinner. I realize the chances are slim that I’d be upstairs rather than downstairs, but I can dream, right?
The Victorian three-story home in which I grew up in London is a far cry from Highclere Castle (where most of “Downton Abbey” is filmed). But my childhood home had many rooms, with lots of nooks and crannies for me to hide in and feed my imagination.
One-thirty-five Clapham Common had stained glass windows, black and white tile floors and a creaking spiral staircase with a wooden banister that I would slide down. I grew up knowing that there must have been other people who had lived in that home before us. And, of course, I would imagine how they might have dressed. I wondered how they would have gone up and down those narrow stairs in a bustle and an ankle-length skirt. The high French collars and embroidered shawls women wore would have certainly helped keep out the draft before the central heating system was installed. I spent a considerable amount of my spare time in its huge attic, where I would play. There, I would discover all kind of treasures, such as piles of dusty books and suitcases full of forgotten clothes.
It’s often the past that inspires many fashion designers to create their latest collections, but the best often reinterpret the old by adding a modern twist. And although I may be fascinated with the look and the times of the past, I’d like to avoid looking like I actually belong to that era.
If I could enter a fashion time machine, I would go back to the 1920s and remain there for an eternity. Like an Erté drawing, I’m obsessed with loose-fitting, drop-waist flapper dresses, intricate jewelry and feather headbands. And although I’m patiently waiting for the next season of “Downton Abbey” and its fashion, I think it’s wise to be enthused by wearing only one old-world-inspired item at a time.
A master at taking inspiration from the past and making it new is Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary designer behind Chanel. This brocade lace-up bootie with an elaborately carved golden Baroque heel could have easily been worn by the courtiers at Versailles (where this collection was shown), if it wasn’t for its modern open-toe design. Opera bootie, available at Chanel/South Coast Plaza, $1,750.
I’ve been a devotee of the L.A.-based clothing designer Nataya for over a decade. In a world where fashion changes before we can say “Downton Abbey,” her clothing line evolves while she remains true to herself. Every time I slip into one of her vintage-inspired dresses, I feel like she must be a kindred spirit. Her signature dresses with layers of chiffon, lace or intricate embroidery manage to transport me to another era while keeping my feet firmly on modern ground. Cream and black chiffon Central Asian embroidered dress with rosette ruching at the bust and adjustable waistline, available at natayarack.com, $198.
I happened to walk into Traditional Jewelers in Fashion Island one day and saw a thing of beauty that I had to try on. This custom-made bracelet could have been an estate piece with untold history, but it’s all new. The floral, Victorian-inspired bracelet, made with diamonds and white gold, has been rhodium-treated with a charcoal coating to make it look old-world. I was going to write that the price is available upon request, but for those of you with inquiring minds and fine taste, it’s $60,000, and there’s only one. Available at Traditional Jewelers/Fashion Island.