The Wickedly Provacative Handbag Designs of James Piatt

A great artist can do amazing work in any medium, and that is certainly evident in the amazing handbags made by James Piatt, a packaging designer with influences in the surrealist art movement.

Read more about Piatt and see some examples of his innovative handbag designs in this excerpt from “The Art of the Handbag,” written by Clare Anthony.

Since graduating from the Art Center College of Design in Pasedena, California in 1999, James Piatt had designed consumer products ranging from iPad and e-reader accessories to bathroom fixtures.

Surrealist art has been a major influence on his work. Citing Meret Oppenheim’s fur-covered teacup and spoon as an example, Piatt says that most of his designs are “about combining two different ideas that do not obviously belong together.”

In 2004, Piatt designed his first handbag as a gift for a friend. When the knuckleduster handle attracted a lot of attention, he decided to produce and sell the bag through his website. Since then, Piatt has both refined and varied the design of his signature bag.

The knuckleduster handle of the “PeaceKeeper 4000,” shown below, may look dangerous, but not to worry: even though its detachable, it’s made not of brass or steel polyurethane.

The Knuckleduster 4000

The Knuckleduster 4000

James Piatt has said that he wants to create handbags that are provocative, and the “Persuader” certainly fits the bill. It also fit s Piatt’s interest in using new methods of construction.

The laser-cut leather bag is not stitched, but held together by interlocking tabs. Instead of holding bullets, the ammo clip is just the right size for a cell phone.

The Pursuader

In some ways, “Tinkerbell” may be even more provocative than the “Persuader.” Piatt named the bag after the teacup Chihuahua that Paris Hilton carried everywhere–then lost…and found…and then, as some stories have it, gave away because it weighed too much.

Whatever actually happened to Tinkerbell, Hilton started the trend of carrying a small dog as an accessory. Piatt’s “Tinkerbell” takes the trend to an extreme, imaging what might happen to the dog once it goes out of style.

Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell

 


The Art of the Handbag“I find that it is vital to have at least one handbag for each of the ten types of social occasions.” – Miss Piggy. Most women would agree with Miss Piggy – and even those who disagree would think one bag for all occasions isn’t really enough.

Ever since the reticule came into style after the French Revolution, women have been attached to their handbags. And whether you’re a woman of leisure who wants a tiny bag to carry a lipstick, comb, and mirror or a working woman who needs a satchel to hold your cell phone, e-reader, laptop, water bottle, makeup, lunch, and whatever else you need in the course of a long day, you’re sure to be enchanted by the variety of bags featured in this lavishly illustrated book.

In “The Art of the Handbag,” a wonderful range of bags is presented–from Judith Leiber’s sculpted, crystal-studded metal “minaudières” to James Piatt’s handbag with its knuckleduster handle, from Lulu Guinness’s red snakeskin “Lips” clutch to Hester van Eeghen’s elegant “Monocle” bag, from Kathleen Dustin’s exquisite “Rose Bud” wrist purse to Inés Figaredo’s retro “Telephone” shoulder bag. It’s a showcase gallery of 25 contemporary handbag designers, and it features over 100 artful creations. The crazy beautiful bags in this book provide perfect accents for every wardrobe.

The Hot Dress that Made “Maggie the Cat” a Sensation

For those of us who didn’t grow up during Elizabeth Taylor’s heyday, it can be easy to overlook what a stunning beauty she was. One viewing of the film “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will change all that, however.

In this steamy drama based on a Tennessee Williams’ play, Taylor is remarkable as the increasingly desperate Maggie the Cat.

Part of what made the performance so legendary is a white dress that was designed by MGM costumer Helen Rose to fit Taylor’s legendary curves to a T. Here is some background on the film and the sensation that the Maggie dress caused in the late 1950s, from “Classic Hollywood Style” by Caroline Young.

cathottinroof

The Film

The Tennessee Williams Pulitzer Prize winning play that the film is based on is an erotically charged drama about a wealthy but dysfunctional family who gather for an afternoon birthday party for the patriarch, Big Daddy, who is dying from cancer.

His son, Brick, is alcoholic, impotent and in a leg cast, and grieving over the suicide of his close friend and homosexual lover, Skipper. Brick’s sultry wife, Maggie, is used to being wanted by men, but desperately claws for her husband’s affection.

The play was directed by Elia Kazan and premiered on Broadway in 1955.

MGM swiftly bought the rights for a screen version, but the story was changed to comply with production codes which objected to any suggestion of homosexuality.

This led to director George Cukor turning it down and Tennessee Williams calling for audiences to boycott it.

Nevertheless it was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for Richard Brooks, Best Actor for Paul Newman as Brick and Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie.

As was typical for 1950s drama productions, the film was to be shot in black and white, but when Taylor, with her violet eyes, and Newman, with his bright blue eyes, were signed up, it was decided to shoot in color.

The Maggie the Cat Dress

  • Helen Rose was the costume designer for MGM at the time of the film
  • She had only three costume changes to work with for Taylor; a slip, a skirt and a blouse, and a short simple afternoon frock which was worn through most of the film
  • Director Brooks and Rose agreed on the slip, blouse and skirt, but they had trouble coming to a decision on the dress
  • Both wanted it to be white and ‘unobtrusive’ so it would not detract from the scene
  • Brooks wanted a silk tailored shirtwaist dress, but Rose suggested a white chiffon dress with draped Grecian bodice and short, full skirts
  • When Taylor came in for the costume fitting, she loved the Grecian dress and the wardrobe department worked through the night to get it ready for shooting the next day
  • When Rose launched her own ready-to-wear clothing line, she replicated the dress, which became known as “the Cat dress” (Taylor’s character refers to herself as “Maggie the Cat” throughout the film)
  • The $250 dresses flew off the shelves! They sold thousands of copies in different sizes and colors for ordinary women who wanted some of the Taylor effect
  • As Rose said “Every woman who could afford $250 apparently wanted to look like “Maggie the Cat”
  • Taylor loved the dress so much that she asked Rose to make replicas for her personal wardrobe

Check out the trailer for the film:


Classic Hollywood StyleClassic Hollywood Style” explores iconic looks from the golden era of Hollywood, covering 35 films from the 1920s to the end of the 1960s. Caroline Young looks at the history and social context of the costumes through stories from the production, photos, interviews and original costume design sketches, and tips on how to ‘get the look’ today.

While we celebrate the glacial elegance of Grace Kelly and the skin-tight sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, behind every look on screen was the costume designer who shaped the image. In the golden age of Hollywood, designers like Edith Head, Adrian and Travis Banton became stars in their own right. Women queued up to see the latest Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo release to lust after the glamorous costumes the stars would wear on screen. Department stores shamelessly mass-produced copies of gowns, film magazines would preview the new looks and women ran up their own versions on their sewing machines. In the 1960s women lowered their hems and sported berets to look just like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Even today, an article on the little black dress will inevitably make mention of Audrey Hepburn.

Every one of these films has perfectly captured a moment of fashion zeitgeist or has become an indelible image of cinema, whether it is Garbo in a trenchcoat in A Woman of Affairs, Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads in Mildred Pierce, Rita Hayworth’s strapless dress in Gilda, James Dean’s red windbreaker in Rebel Without a Cause or Steve McQueen’s ivy league style in The Thomas Crown Affair. Through archived records, studio press releases, behind the scenes memos, costume designer sketches and notes, censorship records and articles from magazines of the time, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the classic costumes of the silver screen.

Have You Met the “Steampunk Ghostbusters”?

The steampunk trend has been around since the late 1980s.

An offshoot of traditional science fiction, it embraces retro-futuristic technology, steam powered inventions, clockwork technology, the writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and hundreds of other influences.

Sound interesting? A little daunting, perhaps?

If you’re interested in steampunk but not sure where to begin, the performance group the League of S.T.E.A.M. seems like a great way to get into the genre.

They are a fun and accessible collective that is remarkably creative in the characters they create, the inventions they develop and the humorous scenarios that they portray in their videos.

Here is what Katherine Gleason has to say about the League of S.T.E.A.M. in her book, “Anatomy of Steampunk.”

 

Monster Hunters

Monster Hunters

“This is the performance troupe the League of S.T.E.A.M., a group of artists, actors and inventors who present stage shows, interactive live entertainment, and demonstrations of their fantastic and fully-functional gadgets.

Monster Hunters 4

Those include tools such as the “Phantom Eradication Apparatus,” a backpack-like device that shoots bursts of steam to drive away paranormal pests, and the “Hunting Utility Gun,” which, with the pull of a trigger, launches a net twenty feet into the air.

MonsterHunters2

Troupe members play retro-futuristic monster hunters. Poised and ready for action, they have come from the Victorian era to make our world a safer, zombie-free place. They also make it a more fun place.

Dubbed “Steampunk Ghostbusters” by L.A. Weekly, the League’s presentations, which are modeled on old-time medicine shows, have been described as part magic show and part circus. In addition to appearing at conventions, festivals, weddings, nightclubs and corporate events, the League has shared the limelight with groups from the music world.

League members appear in various roles in the music video “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” by Panic! At the Disco. The League also records its own videos for their award-winning web series “The Adventures of the League of S.T.E.A.M.”

Check out the trailer for the series here (it’s worth the watch—we guarantee some giggles)

Be sure to enter this giveaway to win a copy of the book!

******************************************

Anatomy of SteampunkFrom formal outfits to costumes crafted for the stage, from ensembles suited to adventure to casual street styles, steampunk fashion has come to encompass quite a few different looks. But what exactly is steampunk?

Originally conceived as a literary genre, the term “steampunk” described stories set in a steam-powered, science fiction-infused, Victorian London. Today steampunk has grown to become an aesthetic that fuels many varied art forms. Steampunk has also widened its cultural scope. Many steampunk practitioners, rather than confining their vision to one European city, imagine steam-driven societies all over the world.

Today the vibrance of steampunk inspires a wide range of individuals, including designers of high fashion, home sewers, crafters, and ordinary folks who just want to have fun. Steampunk fashion is not only entertaining, dynamic, and irreverent; it can also be colorful, sexy, and provocative. Most of all, steampunk fashion is accessible to everyone.

Illustrated throughout with color photographs of the dazzling creations of numerous steampunk fashion designers, “Anatomy of Steampunk” is an inspirational sourcebook. In addition to presenting the looks and stories of these creative fashion artists, the book also details ten steampunk projects for the reader to try at home. Allow steam to power your imagination!

Steve McQueen and the Ivy Style: A Match Made in Fashion Heaven

One of our most popular posts over the past year at Body Mind Beauty Health was the story of how Bass “Weejun” Penny Loafers got their name. This came from “The Ivy Look,” an illustrated pocket guide to classic American clothing by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul.

We thought we’d return to the book to talk about what Marsh and Gaul have to say about one of the signature fashion icons of the Ivy Look, actor Steve McQueen.

“Wearing a navy blue cashmere turtleneck sweater, brown tweed Ivy jacket, and still to this day, the most sought after pair of Steve McQueenbrown suede, crepe-soled boots; Steve McQueen set the standard for Ivy cool as the anti-hero cop in the movie “Bullitt.”

Not only did McQueen look pin sharp in “Bullitt,” he also got to drive a very fast, drab green 1967 390 GT fastback Mustang. It was the Ivy look on speed.

Movies have always had a habit of elevating everyday objects and clothes to cult status. On a big screen, even the smallest details become as glamorous and cool as the stars that wear them. In “The Tomas Crown Affair,” Steve McQueen’s favorite picture (originally a story written by Boston attorney Alan Trustman), McQueen was transformed brilliantly into character, perfectly groomed down to the last detail, wearing a series of softly tailored, immaculate Ivy style formal suits by Beverly Hills tailor Ron Postal.

Off set McQueen was certainly no slouch in the sartorial department. His wardrobe was brim full of the finest Ivy classics. From short-sleeve seersucker button-down shirts and needle cord, cross pocket, fourteen-inch bottom trousers to that iconic shawl-collared cardigan and 501 Levi’s, battered and faded to perfection from riding his beloved motorcycle.

During the early 1960s, photographer and friend of Steven McQueen, William Claxton, took some memorable shots of Mr. S. and guess what? In nearly every one he was wearing those trademark brown suede boots that he wore in “Bullitt.” A fortune is probably waiting to be made if any boot maker out there can exactly replicate those boots.

Steve McQueen in Persol Sunglasses

In an interview McQueen once said, “I am a limited actor. My range isn’t that great and I don’t have that much scope. I’m pretty much myself most of the time in my movies.”

He may not have had the range of Laurence Olivier, but he looked better in a Baracuta G9 Harrington Jacket and Persol sunglasses than the entire coterie of Hollywood’s leading actors.

**********************************************

The Ivy LookBefore the “Preppy Look,” there was the “Ivy Look.” Democratic, stylish, and comfortable, the Ivy Look’s impact and influence can be seen to this day in the clothes of designers such as Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, as well as in the more proletarian offerings of L. L. Bean, J. Crew, Dockers, and Banana Republic. From the button-down hip of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Miles Davis to the enduring style of the cast of Mad Men — they all knew the true cool of the Ivy Look. “The Ivy Look” digs deep into the vaults to produce the ultimate guide to the genuine article, featuring new, still-life shots of original clothing and accessories plus key examples of the cover art of Blue Note, Stax, Motown, and Atlantic Records. Contemporary magazine advertisements, French New Wave, and key American movie posters and new illustrations bring the Ivy Look into sharp focus.

The Movie That Made the Beret Famous (Again)

Fashion trends and movie stars have gone hand-in-hand since the first time a Hollywood film lit up the silver screen. While men have contributed their fair share to film fashion, it’s the female film stars who have played a major role in shaping new styles by the way they dress onscreen.

Caroline Young’s fun and informative book, “Classic Hollywood Style,” charts the intertwined relationship between film and the fashion industry through a series of vignettes that begin all the way back with the 1921 film “Camille” and end with the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

Here’s the trailer from the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde,” and how Faye Dunaway’s signature look as Bonnie in that film helped to reintroduce the women of the sixties to the beret.

Bonnie and Clyde were the Depression-era folklore heroes whose incarnation on screen in 1967 set a huge trend for pinstripes, miniskirts and berets.

With its dust bowl settings, Flatt and Scruggs banjo music, vintage Ford coupes and the small towns shutting up shop as they fell victim to the Depression, “Bonnie and Clyde” struck a chord with sixties audiences.

But it was Theadora Van Runkle’s costume design that really shaped a glamorous, nostalgic view of the thirties. Van Runkle created such excitement with her designs that she would become an overnight sensation, sparking a dramatic drop in hem lengths and bringing a new lease on life to the beret industry.

beret, hollywood fashion, bonnie and clyde, theadora van runkle

Costume sketches by Theadora Van Runkle show a belted tweed jacket with matching midi skirt, worn with a black beret and flat pumps.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, as the impossibly glamorous crime spree couple, captures the imaginations of the young, idealistic audience who felt they were also fighting against the stuffy traditions and the repressive government who were sending young men to fight in Vietnam.

Women of the sixties wanted more than their fifties counterparts–a career and control of their sex lives. The Bonnie Parker style was one of confidence that rejected submissive 1950s girdles, perfectly coiffed hair and petticoats.

Bonnie’s costumes chart her development from bored Midwest waitress to bank robber. She begins the tale in the loose, crumpled pale peach button-down dress and a pair of flat ballet pumps, swinging her bag down the dust bowl streets as she sips a Coca-Cola.

But as the gang get in the swing of bank robbing, her dress becomes more professional. The couple get dressed up for their first bank robbery and Bonnie wears a black beret, printed necktie and blue sweater, freshly purchased for their new ‘business”.

bonnie and clyde, hollywood fashion, classic hollywood style

In a scene that reflected the real life Bonnie and Clyde, the bank robbers take provocative photos to enhance their sense of glamour.

The beret made something of a comeback after adorning Bonnie’s blonde locks, and production in the French town of Lourdes reportedly shot from 5,000 to 12,000 being produced each week. It had been a trend for confident young American women in the early 1930s, as word by Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford,but it had fallen out of fashion.

Explaining her choice to dress Bonnie the beret, Van Runkle said, “The beret was the final culmination of the silhouette. In it, she combined all the visual elements of elegance and chic. Without the beret it would have been charming, but not the same.”

Bonnie fever swept through Paris and London in 1967, and New York soon followed suit. Berets, neckties and mid-length skirts were requisite for smart young things, and Faye Dunaway even adopted the look off-screen.

Be sure to enter our giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***************************************************************

ClassicHollywoodStyle

Classic Hollywood Style” explores iconic looks from the golden era of Hollywood, covering 35 films from the 1920s to the end of the 1960s. Caroline Young looks at the history and social context of the costumes through stories from the production, photos, interviews and original costume design sketches, and tips on how to ‘get the look’ today.

While we celebrate the glacial elegance of Grace Kelly and the skin-tight sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, behind every look on screen was the costume designer who shaped the image. In the golden age of Hollywood, designers like Edith Head, Adrian and Travis Banton became stars in their own right. Women queued up to see the latest Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo release to lust after the glamorous costumes the stars would wear on screen. Department stores shamelessly mass-produced copies of gowns, film magazines would preview the new looks and women ran up their own versions on their sewing machines. In the 1960s women lowered their hems and sported berets to look just like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Even today, an article on the little black dress will inevitably make mention of Audrey Hepburn.

Every one of these films has perfectly captured a moment of fashion zeitgeist or has become an indelible image of cinema, whether it is Garbo in a trenchcoat in A Woman of Affairs, Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads in Mildred Pierce, Rita Hayworth’s strapless dress in Gilda, James Dean’s red windbreaker in Rebel Without a Cause or Steve McQueen’s ivy league style in The Thomas Crown Affair. Through archived records, studio press releases, behind the scenes memos, costume designer sketches and notes, censorship records and articles from magazines of the time, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the classic costumes of the silver screen.