Tag Archives: fashion

From fashion to film, gift-worthy coffee table books abound

Come holiday time, there’s never a shortage of splashy coffee table books to please just about any aficionado.

Some suggestions:


“Fashion Made Fair,” by Magdalena Schaffrin and Ellen Kohrer, Prestel, $49.95. Know someone deeply committed to sustainability in fashion? Taking a truly world view, this book dives deeply into companies that do it well. In Zurich, for instance, look to the brothers Freitag, Daniel and Markus. They’re bag makers who launched F-abric, a line of compostable workwear.

“Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015,” by Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Esguerra, DelMonico Books, $55. Going back to the 18th century, this tome celebrates all aspects of men’s dressing, from the French court to Speedo. Among contemporary high points: An intricately bleached denim suit by Vivienne Westwood and a futuristic ruffle suit by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons.

“Francois Nars,” by Francois Nars, Rizzoli International, $85. With some of the most famous faces in fashion represented, the visionary behind NARS Cosmetics tells his story in beautiful close-up color, with snippets of remembrances and inspirations. He includes the communion looks of both his parents and makes it clear beauty begins with beautiful skin.



“The Lyrics: 1961-2012,” by Bob Dylan, Simon & Schuster, $60. The Nobel Prize-winning man of the hour, and of oh-so-many hours, has released 36 studio albums that have sold more than 120 million copies. This book includes lyrics from his first album to “Tempest,” released in 2012. Dylan has edited dozens of songs for the book, to reflect the words he uses as he performs them now.

“The Rolling Stones: All the Songs, the Story Behind Every Track,” by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon, Black Dog & Leventhal, $50. The book covers 50 years and 340 songs, beginning with the band’s 1963 debut album. More than 500 photos are included, along with details like what instruments were used in the studio.

“David Bowie Play Book,” by Matteo Guarnaccia and Giulia Pivetta, ACC Art Books, $29.95. What better way to honor the icon who died in January than with a color, cut and play set. Includes paper dolls and his favorite footwear spanning his ever-changing look and a coloring page of the people who inspired him, from Dylan to Marlene Dietrich.



“Hollywood Icons,” by Robert Dance, ACC Editions, $65. Stunning studio portraits of film icons from the 1930s through the ‘60s from the collection of the John Kobal Foundation. Kobal was a film journalist and historian who amassed a huge collection of Hollywood portraits and set images. Look for Bette Davis, shot by George Hurrell for Warner Bros. in 1939.

“My Elizabeth,” by Firooz Zahedi, Glitterati, $75. Friend and acclaimed photographer Zahedi offers a private peek into Taylor’s life from 44 into her 70s. Includes the Washington, D.C., years, jaunts in Montauk, New York with Halston and Andy Warhol and intimate photos of her children and stepchildren. There’s Taylor making fried chicken, on a boat in Venice, on a trip to Iran.

“The Malkovich Sessions,” by Sandro Miller, Glitterati, $95. “Being John Malkovich” is so 1999. In this book, rather than on film, John Malkovich gets to be himself, in all his goofy, creepy glory. And he gets to recreate some of the world’s most iconic portraits, with the help of photographer Miller, in a book that offers both pathos and whimsy.



“Young Frankenstein, The Story of the Making of the Film,” by Mel Brooks, Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.99. Whether you’re a first-generation “Young Frankenstein” fan or trying to nudge along the next, nobody does this 1974 classic better than Brooks himself. With a foreword by Judd Apatow (“Even Gene Hackman is funny in it”) and behind-the-scenes photos, a great to hear the now 90-year-old Brooks in his own voice.

“Shop Cats of New York,” by Tamar Arslanian, photos by Andrew Marttila, Harper Design, $21.99. To heck with that Yelp reviewer who dissed the bodega cat. This book shows that shop life can work for felines, with a warning that not all may be treated like kings and queens. Dwelling in wine shops, bookstores, dry cleaners and yes, The Algonquin Hotel, think “Humans of New York,” only cats.

“Dream a World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America,” by National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Books, $40. As much a primer on the slave trade and racial discrimination as a celebration of early black entrepreneurs, musicians, writers, activists and athletes in a nuanced, global context. Marks the opening of the new museum in Washington, D.C., great for tweens and teens.


Does this gun make me look fat? Firearms spur fashion niche  

Does this gun make me look fat?

For decades, women have had few discrete clothing choices for pistol-packing mamas. They could wear baggy T-shirts or coats, or put it their guns in a purse and hope it didn’t get swiped or that they didn’t have trouble getting it out in an emergency.

Enter holsters, corsets, camisoles and other clothing designed to be flattering, feminine — and functional — for women packing heat.

“I don’t want to dress in tactical gear and camo all the time. I love tactical clothing for the range. It’s comfortable. I don’t want to ruin my everyday clothing,” said Marilyn Smolenski, who in 2012 created Nickel and Lace, a company that caters to women who want to carry a firearm concealed but don’t want to trade in their femininity. “But I don’t want to wear it to the grocery store.”

Smolenski started her company right around the time when Chicago city laws changed and she could again legally carry a firearm. When that happened, she struggled to find something that didn’t make her look frumpy and didn’t broadcast that she was armed. Most of the clothing was geared to men — coats with hidden pockets, or holsters that tuck neatly inside a waistband. But until the last few years, those weren’t always great options for women who don’t wear belts as frequently and are more likely than men to wear form-fitting clothing, making it difficult to hide the fact they’re carrying a firearm.

“When you put a man’s holster on a woman’s body it sticks out. It doesn’t hug the body,” said Carrie Lightfoot, founder and owner of The Well Armed Woman — “where the feminine and firearms meet,” according to its tagline — in Scottsdale, Arizona. The store does everything from providing firearms instruction to women to selling a variety of concealed carry clothing. One of the company’s first missions was to design and produce a holster that recognized the differences in body types and clothing styles between men and women.

Women’s waists tend to be shorter, providing less room to withdraw a gun from a holster. Hips and chests can get in the way too, she said.

Lightfoot and Smolenski said that some manufacturers tended to “shrink it and pink it” — thinking that taking gear produced for men and making it smaller and brightly colored would satisfy female customers. They and their counterparts emphasize they are driven first by function and safety before aesthetics come into the equation.

“Women need to know they can carry effectively,” Lightfoot said. “I think the key is finding a way to carry it so you can be comfortable and move through your day without being poked and having a big hunk of metal in your pants and not be able to sit at work.”

Both also are advocates for providing women with information and guidance on ways to feel secure and be safe. For Smolenski, that goal has led to the creation of the annual Firearms and Fashion Show which includes seminars on personal safety. Her company actually got its start with a line of jewelry — from necklaces that can be pulled away easily and then used as a weapon to “chopsticks” that can both be used to hold up hair and then be wielded against an attacker.

For Anna Taylor, the founder and CEO of Dene Adams LLC — named after her grandfather, who first taught her to respect firearms and handle them safely — the road to creating a line of concealed-carry clothing began at around the time she became a single mom and the safety of the family rested on her shoulders. When she got her first concealed carry permit in 2013, she went through seven different holsters.

“Some were hard and uncomfortable. Some of them I’d have to take off and set down when I went to the bathroom and I was afraid I would go off and leave it just like I’ve left my phone behind before. Others, belly- band types with a print so bad you could see the grip or outline of the gun through my clothes,” Adams said. “So when I went out in public, I felt like I had these awkward arms always trying to hide this thing.”

Her first design involved a mousepad and a post-partem corset to create a soft holster. She was able to carry the kids around, nurse, give the kids baths — even jump on the trampoline — “and I could forget that it was there.” With her last $200, she found a manufacturer willing to do a small run. Flash forward three years and she now has products on shelves at nearly 100 dealers around the country. She has expanded into safety and training and is now an NRA pistol and rifle instructor. She even has a few men who buy her products — including, she said, air marshals, who gravitate to the snug, comfortable designs.

“We have options that don’t have lace. We have solid black,” she said.

Metal artist Kim Cridler draws a ‘Descriptive Line’ at Lynden Sculpture Garden

A large tree branch seems to have fallen onto the polished parquet floor of the gallery. Or the recreation of a tree, at least, made of elaborate twists of metal by artist Kim Cridler.

Despite its large size, it is elegant and even delicate. The leaves of polished bronze shine as though it is autumn. Gently incised lines that recreate the veins within each leaf. The trunk is steel, but not solid. Cridler weaves together gnarled strands of metal in a manner echoing the organic flow of outer bark. Though fallen, the substantial materials of this branch will deny decay.

This undercurrent of time and transformation is borne out further, as the fallen branch has also taken down a large, three-dimensional rendering of a decorative urn. The urn is composed of metal lines, something like a schematic drawing. Two inscriptions are spelled out in metal letters, on the mouth of the vessel and beneath the base. The one at the top reads “ALL THINGS CHANGE.” The one at the bottom: “NOTHING PERISHES.”

This sculpture, Field Study 15: Bur Oak, is the centerpiece of the current exhibition on view at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, Kim Cridler: The Descriptive Line. Part of Lynden’s ongoing Women, Nature, Science series, The Descriptive Line makes Cridler’s training as a metalsmith and interest in the process of creation readily apparent, and is a compact but engaging show.

Her sense of detail is immediately visible in the five sculptures on view, but regular practice in drawing especially informs the character of her Field Study series. She says, “Several years ago I began a habit of drawing the living things from gardens and fields around my home. Making a drawing a day kept me engaged in careful looking, gave time and space for a contemplative task, and sharpened my consideration of patterns in even the most ordinary life forms.”

Cridler’s attentiveness to pattern and design is not reserved solely for nature, but also for the sculptural shapes of vessels and vases. In many, they are drawn out through a metal skeleton of lines, some topped off by topiary forms or decorated with branches or floral motifs. Delving into the details, other elements of life might be found, such as butterflies and insects.

Cridler 2
Kim Cridler, Bittersweet Basin, 2011. Photograph by Kat Minerath.

One of the most intriguing pieces in the show is Bittersweet Basin, which employs a variety of metals as well as amber, howlite crystal, and beeswax. In this work, a large footed bowl is made through repeated floral patterns in metal. Out of the entwined lines, two snakes emerge. One holds an egg in its mouth — whether it is to be simply carried or swallowed whole is hard to say. On the opposite side of the bowl, a cluster of golden bees mill about in a pile.

There is something elegiac about this arrangement. It has implications of regeneration, but not without the consumption and change that is part of the circle of life.

This idea brings us back to the words spelled out on Field Study 15: Bur Oak. Indeed, everything changes. But the assertion that nothing perishes, placed on the bottom of the vessel like a whispered secret, holds a sense of hope.

Over and over, the world is recycled through varying states, from one form to another. Even the shape of tipped vase beneath the tree branch seems to be reimagined from ancient vases. Early in Greek history, large vessels like this were used as grave markers, some with the bottom left open so libations could be poured in and sink into the earth, passing from the living to the dead.

While Cridler’s art is shown in the gallery, it is hard not to consider it in comparison to the monumental sculptures dotting the rolling 40-acre landscape outside. Her organic forms are light, airy, even dreamy. Their shapes and forms recall classical lines and decorations, the sort that might be found in formal English gardens of the nineteenth century. They are worlds away from the massive and often minimalist sculptures outside. Yet, their presence is a reminder to take note of nature, the patterns and rhythms that underlie the world, from the quietly transient to the most lasting and elemental.

Women, Nature, Science: Kim Cridler: The Descriptive Line is on view through June 5 at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W. Brown Deer Road, Milwaukee. Visit lyndensculpturegarden.org for more details.


Model’s suit pending against Trump agency

A judge will decide by the end of this month whether to proceed with a proposed class action lawsuit filed by a Jamaican fashion model against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s modeling agency, the judge’s office said.

Alexia Palmer accuses Trump Model Management LLC of lying to the federal government in its work-visa application that said she would be paid a $75,000-a-year salary while living in the United States, according to court documents.

Instead, according to court papers, Palmer received a total of $3,880.75 during the three years she was under contract with the agency. The complaint alleges “fraudulent misrepresentation” and violations of U.S. immigration and labor laws. It asks for $225,000 in back pay.

The suit was originally filed in October 2014. A decision on a pending motion by Trump Model Management to dismiss is expected by the end of March, the clerk for Judge Analisa Torres, who is presiding over the case in the U.S District Court, Southern District, told Reuters.

If Torres rules the case can proceed, it could revive attention on Trump’s foreign labor practices at a time when the celebrity billionaire’s rise in American politics has riveted the world’s attention.

Model Alexia Palmer, who is suing Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's Trump Model Management LLC of lying to the federal government, is shown is this undated handout photo released on March 8. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Pulse Model Agency/Handout via Reuters
Model Alexia Palmer, who is suing Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s Trump Model Management LLC of lying to the federal government, is shown is this undated handout photo released on March 8. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Pulse Model Agency/Handout via Reuters

Trump’s lawyers have called the case “frivolous” and “without merit.” In court documents, they said Palmer wasn’t an employee and was more than adequately compensated for a “very brief stint as a fashion model,” which they say amounted to less than 10 days of work over three years.

Reuters could not independently confirm that assertion.

“At the end of the day, this model just didn’t have a successful career, and we fully expect to win,” said Lawrence Rosen, a lawyer for Trump Model Management.

Although Trump owns the modeling agency, the suit does not name him. Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said in a statement that Trump Model Management’s treatment of Palmer was in line with “standard practice in the modeling industry.”

Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, says his client was cheated of earnings and seduced by a life of glamour that never materialized. “The visa application the company filed with the government requires that people are paid the full amount,” Gehi said. “It’s a requirement.”

Palmer, who was 17 when she came to New York in 2011, was not available to comment.


Sylvia Ayass, a lawyer who has worked with models on visas like Palmer’s, said agencies typically pay what they state on visa applications.

Trump has won Republican frontrunner status in the 2016 election in large part by positioning himself as a champion of the American worker who will deport illegal immigrants, build a wall with Mexico and do away with the off shoring of U.S. jobs.

This is not the first time Trump’s labor practices have drawn criticism. A Reuters story published in August revealed that Trump’s companies sought to import at least 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000. Of those, 250 were filed for foreign fashion models, according to the Reuters analysis of federal Department of Labor data.

Using a federal visa program called H-1B that allows U.S. employers to hire “specialized” foreign labor, Trump’s modeling agency offered Palmer “at least $75,000 per year” for three years. It listed that salary on her H-1B visa application in 2011, according to the court documents reviewed by Reuters.

Rosen, the lawyer for Trump Model Management, said the $75,000 a year figure was simply a guess, not a guarantee.

Under that contract, Palmer agreed “to promptly reimburse” Trump Model Management “for any and all costs and expenses” that the agency incurred relating to her modeling.

According to the suit, the agreement stipulated that Trump Model Management would take a 20 percent cut of Palmer’s earnings but instead took 80 percent by deducting charges for everything from postage to walking lessons to mobile phone costs and limousine rides, as well as $4,000 in “administrative fees,” according to court documents.

The suit said it was seeking class-action status to represent other models who believe they were misled and underpaid after coming to the United States with sponsorship from Trump’s modeling agency.

Fashion and film find romance in ‘The Looks of Love’

Fashion and style have forever been in bed with film, television and music, especially in the moments that scream love.

We all have our top pop memories of romance, lust, marriage and heartbreak from those worlds and more, including the beauty industry and the world of advertising. In a new book, The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance, insider and designer Hal Rubenstein has rounded up some of his. 

We asked him to illuminate his favorites from the book, recently released by Harper Design in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day:


Rubenstein calls 1970s Love Story a “cheaply produced, poorly shot and badly edited” film of Erich Segal’s runaway best-selling book. Both had fans weeping by the millions. Among the reasons the film did well were the genetically blessed stars, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, but coming as it did in the ascendancy of Woodstock, with its bell-bottoms and beaded necklaces, Love Story ironically led the way for preppy style. Forever.

In his Harris Tweed blazers over Shetland sweaters and blue Oxford cloth shirts with collars out, O’Neal’s Ollie might well have been raised by the sales staff of Brooks Brothers, Rubenstein said. MacGraw’s Jenny, meanwhile, walked a protest-free campus in a peacoat, black turtleneck and plaid skirt with matching scarf once the book (thanks to a plug of gold from fan Barbara Walters) hit the big screen the year after the seismic Woodstock.


Her Bob Mackie gowns and long, straight raven hair are legendary, as are his furry vests and Prince Valiant ’dos. But there’s something else, Rubenstein said, besides their break-out duets that hit the Top 40 in 1965. They followed up with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour that premiered on CBS in 1971, ending in 1974.

The two fell out of love and divorced in 1975. Both had short-lived solo TV shows before CBS persuaded them in 1976 to reunite as a divorced couple in the same time slot on Sunday nights.

“They were the first high-profile couple ever to appear public divorced and getting along,” Rubenstein, 65, said. “When I was a kid you said the word divorce the same way everybody said the word cancer. And they basically said, ‘Here we are and we’re having a good time,’ and it changed people’s attitudes toward divorce.”


With Taylor Swiftian efficiency, James Dean’s rise to teen idol started with his debut as the troubled Cal Trask in East of Eden. The film served as a 1953 counterpart to the more macho stars of the previous generation — Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck and even Marlon Brando, just seven years Dean’s senior, Rubenstein writes.

Trask was followed in 1955 by Dean’s portrayal of the vulnerable, unsure Jim Stark, who wears his teen heart on the sleeve of a red nylon windbreaker in Rebel Without a Cause. It’s not easy looking that cool in a red zip windbreaker, but Dean pulls it off.

Offscreen, he was more closely associated with Schott NYC Perfecto black leather motorcycle jackets. He never wore one in a movie but Brando did and the Perfecto line of leather jackets lives on. 

“There is not a leather jacket out there that is not stolen from that Schott jacket,” Rubenstein said.

Shop local at Milwaukee’s top retail districts

Having trouble finding that perfect gift this year? Braving Black Friday or adventuring on Amazon.com are not the only options. Milwaukee’s diverse shopping districts offer a variety of opportunity and options for every sort of gift recipient — from the fashionista to the quirky uncle and everything in between.


Perhaps the best place to start discussion of Milwaukee’s shopping districts is the Third Ward. Just south of downtown, the district is packed to the brim with boutiques, galleries and specialty shops, thanks to a successful campaign in the ’90s and early ’00s to draw businesses to the area. Much of the development has continued southward, into Walker’s Point, but the best shopping still remains in this small neighborhood — perfect for a weekend afternoon of wandering.

Third Ward businesses have a reputation for high price points, but there are options for the cost-conscious shopper. 

The big news in the district is the new West Elm store, 342 N. Water St. The modern home decor and furniture store opened in June, amid a great deal of hype from devotees and newcomers. While West Elm is part of a Williams-Sonoma-owned chain, Milwaukee’s store features a curated selection of products from Wisconsin artists as part of its LOCAL initiative. So you don’t have to feel too guilty about shopping at a national outlet instead of something closer to home (westelm.com).

Boutiques are one of the Third Ward’s main draws, and it’d take a full article to go through them all. One that stands out among the crowd is Denim Bar, 317 N. Broadway. Whether your loved ones are hopping back on the ’90s trend and hoping to deck themselves out from head to toe, or if they just need a nice designer pair of jeans, this should be your first stop. Denim Bar offers Wisconsin’s largest selection of denim for both men and women. Denim Bar also features a number of options from owner Heidi Darrow Mains’ original gig, online boutique Stella’s Trunk, featuring luxury gift items from around the world (denimbarmke.com).

You might also consider popping into Lizzibeth, one of the newest additions to the Third Ward. Formerly a pop-up fashion boutique that sold jewelry and clothing in random stores, restaurants and homes, as well as online, Lizzibeth now has a brick-and-mortar location at 550 E. Menomonee St. Owner Lizzi Weasler opened the store in November 2014. A year later, the store is a solid addition to the neighborhood, offering affordable women’s fashion options, with most jewelry priced under $40 and most everything else under $100 (lizzibeth.com).

You know what goes with new clothes? New shoes. And Shoo, 241 N. Broadway, has been the Third Ward’s top place to pick up unique footwear for more than a decade, specializing in hard-to-find footwear lines from the States and abroad. Operated by siblings Kate and Pat Blake, the store is known for its inventory, customer service and antique decor — creating an exceptional shopping experience in a store with a homey feel. For Madisonians, Shoo recently opened a location on State Street (shoostore.com).

If your giftee is the outdoorsy type more obsessed with function than fashion, the Third Ward has an answer. Clear Water Outdoor, 250 N. Water St., is an outdoor clothing and gear store offering such top brands as Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear and Arc’teryx. In addition, the store offers kayak, cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals and lessons

Wrap up a Third Ward shopping experience with a trip to Red Elephant Chocolates, 333 N. Broadway, to complete your list and pick up a tasty reward for yourself. Red Elephant specializes in handmade chocolates, including special seasonal batches, and their product is a perfect stocking stuffer


What the boundaries of Milwaukee’s “East Side” are may differ from person to person, but there’s no denying that traveling north of downtown along Lake Michigan you will find exceptional shopping opportunities. From Brady Street and North Avenue up toward Downer Avenue and Shorewood, there’s a string of businesses worth checking out.

Start with the artsy options of East Meets West, 918 E. Brady St., an Asian art, clothing, accessories and gift shop. With most of its inventory purchased by the owner in her native Thailand, the eclectic shop is packed with one-of-a-kind men’s and women’s apparel and accessories that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

Further down Brady, you can stumble across Uncommon Items, 1316 E. Brady St. This small boutique doesn’t look like much from the street, but inside it’s stuffed with affordable women’s apparel and handcrafted jewelry, with a bohemian aesthetic

Buying for pet lovers? You won’t want to miss EcoPet, 1229 E. Brady St., a local pet shop with an emphasis on healthy treats and accessories. The shop’s offerings include dog pizza slices and smoothies, natural and organic catnip and a wide selection of affordable travel gear and accessories that the humans’ll love.

Or, if you’re buying for parents of cuddly humans instead of cuddly pets, try Little Monsters, 2445 N. Farwell Ave. This vivid little shop features quirky toys, clothing and miscellaneous other items — and it is designed more for discovering that one special gift than the latest, most on-trend sensation (littlemonstersmilwaukee.com). 

Beans and Barley, 1901 E. North Ave., is best known for its restaurant and deli, but its adjacent specialty market is an out-of-the-box option for loved ones. Plus, while you’re browsing through Beans and Barley’s selection of natural bath and body care items, magazines and books, and food and wine options, you might find something for yourself to take home! (beansandbarley.com)

Still looking for one last thing? That’s exactly what Shorewood’s Mod Gen, 2107 E. Capitol Drive, is for. Around since 2001 as the Garden Room, Mod Gen recently rebranded as a 21st-century general store, expanding to offer more books, home goods, specialty foods, toys and more. (modgenmke.com)


Bay View isn’t just where Milwaukee 30-somethings go to settle down. It’s also a great place for Milwaukeeans of all kinds to find unusual, hip gifts for their artistic and adventurous friends, and the influx of residents to the area over the past few years has come with a similar influx of high-quality businesses.

Take Sparrow Collective, 2224 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., as an example of the Bay View aesthetic you can find all along KK Avenue and its tributaries. The artistic consignment store, established in 2009 after similar shops shut their doors, features handcrafted art, jewelry and decor by individual artists and groups — and a lot more of it than you’d think from the modest facade.

But not every Bay View gift destination is a new addition. Rush Mor Records, 2635 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is Milwaukee’s oldest record store, founded in 1971. It’s also still an essential a place to shop for vinyl lovers, fresh off an exterior makeover earlier this year and packed with music from across every genre and era. (rushmor.com)

If it’s old clothes instead of old records you have in mind, you’re in luck. Bay View’s an antiques, vintage and thrift store hub, with more options than we can list. One of the more established choices is Tip Top Atomic Shop, 2343 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a kitschy treasure trove of vintage clothing and household goods that’s a retro aficionado’s dream. 

You seldom go wrong gifting a good book, which makes Bay View Books and Music, 2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a must-browse stop. The store is one of Milwaukee’s few old-timey, claustrophobic-in-the-best-way shops not to either close or relocate in the past few years. The shop stocks a healthy assortment of records and DVDs, too. Bonus: The entrance bleeds seamlessly into R Vintage N More, an overstuffed furniture and antique mall that shares the space with the bookstore.

Wrap up the gift hunt with one of the best-smelling places in Milwaukee: Halo Soap, 2227 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. This storefront owned by soapmaker Stacie Cherubini stocks handmade soaps, bath bombs, skin care products and more. Technically, you can also buy any of Halo’s products online, but that’s a terrible, unscented decision. (halosoap.com)

Skylight’s ‘Fair Lady’ uses costume to define character

Skylight Music Theatre’s My Fair Lady will be a full-on fashion run, tapping designer Chris March’s considerable talents and wicked sense of humor to bring to life the story of phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who, on a bet, turns Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle into a proper English lady.

As March and fans of the 1956 Lerner and Lowe Broadway musical know, costumes are the largest visual cue for differentiating the classes of the play’s cast members. And costumes always have played a role in the history of the show.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the musical, opening on Nov. 20, embraces Shaw’s socialist views and upends his era’s thesis, which said no one can escape the social caste into which he or she is born. 

With instruction from Higgins (Norman Moses), Eliza (Natalie Ford) picks herself up, dusts herself off — literally — and successfully enters upper-crust society. But not before multiple suitors, including Higgins, fall ass-over-teakettle in love with her.

What a difference a Dior — or a March — can make.

“We’re making sure the poor in the cast are dirty and disheveled and the rich bejeweled and glamorous,” said March, best known for his appearances on Bravo network’s Project Runway and Project Runway All-Star Challenge. “The show is about the differences in classes and we wanted Eliza’s makeover as a lady to show some travel between the two distinctly different aspects of her character.”

The concept of “costume as character” is not new to My Fair Lady. Sir Cecil Beaton populated the original Broadway production, starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, with frocks dazzling enough to earn him a Tony Award. 

Beaton then repeated the feat for the 1964 George Cukor film version, with Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, garnering an Academy Award for his costumes.

“You have to acknowledge Cecil Beaton’s designs for the brilliance that they are,” March said. “I used them as a jumping off point and followed on to the point of absurdity.”

March, a San Francisco native, became notorious for his trademark hats and wigs in Beach Blanket Babylon, the Bay City’s longest-running musical revue. So one can only wonder just how absurd his definition of absurdity can get.

“My aesthetic has more of a sense of humor,” March said. “I think we do a little more to have fun with and skewer the socialite class.”

But the source material is not without constraints. Consider the “Ascot Gavotte” number, a cornerstone of the musical and Eliza’s coming-out society event. Conventions of the day for the Royal Ascot horse race dictated restraint, which meant morning coats, waistcoats and striped trouser for men and subdued dresses in shades of black, white and gray for women.

But other than color, nothing was said about ladies’ hats in terms of size and style. This is where March and assistant costume designer Susanne Maroske had some fun.

“The Ascot scene is fraught with the women trying to outdo each other with their haute couture and outrageous hats,” March said. “We’re going all-out for that one.”

“All-out” means really big hats, some 3 feet tall or 3 feet wide, March notes. 

“We decided in an early design meeting that the Ascot number could be a bit surreal and a fantasy,” March said. “The entire sequence is a pretty wild departure from what’s expected. It’s a big eye-opener in the middle of the show and the point where we really turn up the volume.”

The Ascot sequence is almost immediately followed by the formal ball, which has an entirely different air. March dresses the members of London society in elegant, dark jewel tones to mirror their economic levels. Eliza emerges dressed in virginal white, a stark contrast in color and tone to the others. 

The importance of costuming in these two sequences demonstrates the importance of couture — haute and otherwise — in the execution of the show, March said.

“In some shows, the costumes can be more important than other things based on the nature of the action,” March said. “In this show, costumes are particularly front and center due to the class divisions that we need to showcase and define.”

March bridles when those in the fashion world look askance at theatrical costumes as second-class. 

“Theatrical costuming is kicked around in the fashion world like an ugly step-sister and that’s ridiculous,” March said. “Costumes go a step further than fashion in that they define the people and the characters they play. And unlike other technical aspects, that’s a distinct step further in defining those characters beyond the playwright’s words.”

On Stage

Skylight Music Theatre’ production of My Fair Lady runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 27 at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit skylightmusictheatre.org.

PETA investigation reveals abuse of sheep, prompts designer to halt use of Patagonian wool

British fashion designer Stella McCartney says she’ll stop using wool from an Argentine supplier amid concerns about the treatment of sheep.

McCartney, whose brand doesn’t use leather, fur or animal skin, says in an Instagram post that she will no longer use wool from Ovis 21 after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video showing the alleged mistreatment of sheep.

McCartney says only one of 26 ranches used by Ovis 21 was involved, but that “is one too many.”

“I am devastated by the news but more determined than ever to fight for animal rights in fashion . and monitor even more closely all suppliers involved in this industry,” she wrote.

Ovis 21 says it is dedicated to regenerating grasslands and specializes in “holistic management.”

The enduring impact of Madison’s legendary hippie culture

There’s a popular misconception that all of us in Madison are hippies, that we wear sandals, tie-dye and batik year-round; that we only put down our protest signs to pick up a joint; that we still watch Cheech and Chong, and are permanently stoned unless we’re at a Badger game, when we’re drunk and wearing red.

None of this is true. Well, maybe some of it.

OK, a lot of it. Rush Limbaugh, among others, has called us the “People’s Republic of Madison.” Bill O’Reilly has scoffed, “You expect those people to be communing with Satan up there in the Madison.”

The New York Times called Paul Soglin  the city’s “hippie mayor” in 2011.

Like the Amish, we’re preserving a vanishing way of life — in our case, it’s the 1960s counter-culture.

We’re still plenty groovy and far out, man, but verifiable evidence of hippies is becoming rarer and rarer. After all, much that was radical 50 years ago is now mainstream. But Madison still has pockets of paisley and patchouli that serve as testaments to its more radical past.

First, though, we have to define “hippie.” Soglin, barely 28 when he was first elected mayor in 1973, recalls, “No one in Madison ever referred to me as a hippie. In 1974, AP did a story about me and the headline writer sent a national feed referring to me as the hippie mayor.”

Soglin was very politically active, took part in protests and got caught up in riots. Police beat him with heavy batons. The proof is in the 1979 Oscar-nominated documentary The War at Home.

But calling Soglin a hippie, he says, makes no sense. “Hippies were disengaged from politics, which was the focus of my entire life.”

Others aren’t so quick to separate political activism from hippie-ism. Sharon Kilfoy is a self-described “hippie artist” who arrived at UW-Madison as a freshman in 1968.

“Hippies were counter-culture,” she says. It was only later that it “became more about sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But I believe it was political at first, and then really became a cultural revolution.”

Whatever hippie culture was or is, we know it when we see it, and there are still examples all over Madison, including:

The Mifflin Street Block Party: The first block party was in 1969. It was an anti-war street protest/celebration that became a riot, with fires and tear gas. Soglin, then an alderman on the city council, was arrested — twice. Held the first weekend in May ever since, the party’s politics waned as its drunkenness increased. The city has been actively discouraging it since 2012.

“Mifflin should see some celebrants on Saturday, May 4, but if last year is any barometer, it will continue to be a much smaller gathering, consisting primarily of several house parties,” says Joel DeSpain, Madison Police Department spokesperson. “We had no problems last year and don’t anticipate any this May. That said, we will have additional officers on hand and be ready for any contingencies.”

Mifflin Street Co-op: The grocery, founded in 1969, served as an activist and counter-culture center. Facing competition and declining sales, its directors voted to close the store in late 2006. But its lavish, two-story mural remains. Norman Stockwell is operations coordinator for WORT-FM community radio — a hippie institution itself at 89.9 on the dial.

Back when he was a co-op employee, Stockwell and more than 60 others spent nearly a year planning and painting the mural, which features images of lush fertility and capitalist death. “The reason why this mural has lasted so well, and has no graffiti, is that it really is a coming together of the community in which it lives,” he says.

Efforts to restore its chipped surface occasionally arise. The 1987 mural was preceded by several others. The first included a dancing bomb, in solidarity with those who tried to destroy Sterling Hall.

Sterling Hall: On the night of Aug. 4, 1970, anti-war activists set off a massive 2,000-pound bomb contained in a stolen van parked next to this campus building. Their goal was to destroy the Army Math Research Center inside. The explosion killed one person and, adjusted for inflation, caused more than $11 million in damage. Faint blast marks on the building’s southern face bear testament to the tragedy.

The Daily Cardinal: Two of the Sterling Hall bombers worked at the more liberal and far older of the university’s two student papers. The Daily Cardinal, founded in 1892, has seen its pages thin over the years, but it still serves as training ground for fledgling journalists. Its alumni have won 20 Pulitzer Prizes. The paper is available free at many downtown and campus locations.

Otis Redding: In 1967, on his way to a concert in Madison, a plane carrying “The King of Soul” crashed into Lake Monona. Only one of the band members survived. On the shoreline near the Capitol there is a memorial to Redding, best known for the song “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” 

Wild Hog in the Woods: There was more to music in the ’60s than rock ‘n’ roll. The decade also saw a blossoming of folk music. Wild Hog has kept the spirit of that time alive since 1978. Performances are held Friday evenings. More of a concert series than a venue, Wild Hog has had several homes over the years. These days it’s at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. It began at the Green Lantern Eating Cooperative. 

Tie-dye, jeans and fringe: Hippies changed fashion. Men no longer wear hats and everyone wears jeans. Madison dresses primarily for comfort, including an awful lot of sandals. But we also dress symbolically, just as the hippies did.

“I haven’t seen as much tie-dye lately, but I’ve seen more batik and ethnic prints,” says Caitlin Wagner, a junior in the fashion design program at UW-Madison. And — bad news — “fringe is totally coming back,” Wagner says.

Thrift shop clothing, which was popular in the ’60s and ’70s, is still popular in Madison. Ironically, today’s thrift shops recycle vintage treasures from the era that glamorized previously worn garb.

But perhaps the most significant carry-over from hippie fashion is the application of social consciousness to wardrobe selection.

“What I see as hippie fashion that continues is the importance placed here on the context of what you’re consuming, how much you’re consuming and who we support by consuming certain products,” Wagner explains. 

Willy St. Co-op: In addition to thrift shops, the ’60s were a time of collectives, communes and, especially, cooperatives. This grocery co-op on Williamson Street — we locals call it “Willy Street” — was modestly founded in 1974. It’s since grown so much that a second location has opened in nearby Middleton. At one time, its selections were classified as “health food.” Now we just call it food.

“It’s amazing that so many of Willy Street Co-op’s core values and ideas that used to be considered counter-culture — natural food, organic food, bulk food, growing your own food, and sustainability — are now fairly mainstream,” says director of communications Brendon Smith.

Madison Community Co-ops: Madison has at least four independent housing co-ops. Twelve others are gathered into this co-op made up of co-ops, known as “MCC.” More than 200 people of all ages, but mostly students, live and eat in MCC houses with fanciful names such as Ambrosia, Hypatia and Syntropy. The largest, Lothlorien, suffered fire damage and is vacant and under repair. The best, because I lived there, is International Co-op House, where I learned to cook for 27 at a time.

“MCC was formed in 1968 by a group of seven or eight independent co-ops that already existed in Madison,” says Steve Vig, coordinating officer. Most houses welcome dinner guests, particularly prospective members, though there may be a small charge.

Tuschen: His first name was John, but locally he had single-name celebrity. Madison’s first poet laureate resisted the “hippie” title. Says his longtime partner, Suni Taylor, “I was the hippie, he was a throwback. Either Bukowski or Ginsberg — I can’t remember anymore — called him ‘the Baby Beat,’ and that really was the generation he fit into best.”

Beatnik or proto-hippie, Tuschen’s poetry was definitely a sign of counter-culture times. He was born in 1949 and passed in 2005, though his work lives on. He published “State Street Poetry Sheets,” collecting his work and that of others, and sold them in State Street stores. A fundraising effort is underway to reprint them.

Cecil’s Sandals: “In the ’60s, suddenly everyone was having custom sandals made at Cecil’s Sandals,” recalls Peter Berryman, half of the touring Lou and Peter Berryman folk/comedy act. Nicknamed “Jesus Boots,” the footwear was actually carefully crafted by Cecil’s son Ron Burke, just off State Street.

“Those are bygone years,” says Burke. “That was the era of the sandal craze. Everybody was a hippie. That was the start of the long hair and crazy dresses and things like that.”

Burke no longer makes sandals — all the getting up and down is too hard on his knees — but he continues to repair shoes at Cecil’s West, on Madison’s Odana Road.

Willy Street: Still the funkiest of Madison streets, with odd shops, coffee and lots of art, Willy Street is becoming gentrified.

“I am the longest surviving hippie resident-artist of Willy Street and have been producing art with the people for many years,” says muralist Sharon Kilfoy. She recalls when her counter-culture peers packed the mixed business-residential street. “The rent was cheap. There was a lot of real freedom of expression here. And the other people living here were poor, just like we were.”

Kilfoy compares it to Greenwich Village. “The artists come into a poor area and it becomes chi-chi. It’s exactly what happened.”

The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest: Held the first weekend in October each year, this protest and march from the campus Library Mall to the Capitol is “to educate and inform people considering medical marijuana legalization and hemp,” says Dennis Brennan, one of the organizers. This autumn will mark the event’s 45th anniversary.

“We’re a loose cooperative,” says Brennan, who calls himself “just one of the crew.” The last few years attendance has been around 2,500 but, before states started legalizing marijuana, as many as 10,000 showed up from across the Midwest.

“It used to be that we had to go out of our way to get politicians to speak,” Brennan says. “We’re having the opposite problem now. The world’s been changing, and that’s in a lot of things. This city is a great example of that in so many social aspects. Things that were shunned upon and that people fought for 30, 40 years ago, are now part of our society here.”

Sunshine Daydream: Madison’s oldest surviving head shop is surely The Pipefitter on State Street, founded in 1972. But it’s Sunshine Daydream, just down the street, that claims to be “Madison’s favorite hippie store.” It features tie-dyed clothing, Grateful Dead paraphernalia, body oils and incense and a huge selection of glass pipes that could conceivably be used to smoke tobacco. Manager Jamie Strunz says, “We also carry tickets for a lot of the fests and things like that. We try to keep the hippies happy.”

But surely all the real, bonafide hippies are now at least in their 60s?

“This is true,” he says. “But we still have a few hippies left.”

Dolce & Gabbana faces celebrity boycott after anti-gay remarks

Celebrities are joining the boycott launched by Elton John after fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana criticized same-sex parents and the use of in vitro fertilization in an Italian magazine, calling the resulting children “synthetic.”

Courtney Love, Ricky Martin, talk-show host Andy Cohen and “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy are among those pledging to ditch their Dolce & Gabbana clothes and support the boycott.

“My D&G shirts are going in the bin — don’t want ANYONE to wear them,” tennis star Martina Navratilova posted on Twitter.

Murphy said not only will he personally cease to wear the brand, he won’t allow the characters in any of his shows to wear it, either.

Dolce & Gabbana has been popular on red carpets and TV and film screens for years.

Channing Tatum and David Oyelowo wore the brand’s tuxedoes to the Oscars. “The Theory of Everything” star Felicity Jones chose one of D&G’s gowns for the Critics’ Choice Awards. Mindy Kaling recently donned a colorful frock from the designers on her show, “The Mindy Project.” Taraji P. Henson, as Cookie Lyons, has also worn Dolce & Gabbana on the Fox hit “Empire.”

Blogger Perez Hilton, who runs a website about fashion and celebrity, thinks the designers’ comments could hurt their Hollywood relationships.

“If a stylist or a celebrity has a choice of a designer to wear right now, I don’t think anybody will be choosing Dolce & Gabbana,” he said. “Because they haven’t just offended gay people, they’ve offended people across the board.”

Most shoppers wouldn’t be in a financial position to boycott the designers. A man’s pullover sweater costs $1,100; a cocktail dress could top $6,000. 

The company also has faced criticism over its fashion advertisements, including one campaign that suggested a gang rape of a woman.

Martin blasted the designers on Twitter Sunday, saying their voices are too powerful to spread such hate.

“Wake up, its 2015,” he wrote. “Luv urselves guys.”

Dolce and Gabbana are both gay and were previously in a relationship with each other.

“To see two very successful gay men with a large platform use that to promote small-mindedness infuriates me,” Hilton said. “We should be promoting openness and acceptance.”