“Ray Won’t Let Me Wear My Glasses!”: Crystal’s Style in Susan Seidelman’sDesperately Seeking Susan

Everyone has got at least one or a couple of films which have changed his/her life. You know, one of those films which leave a permanent mark on your memory and almost contribute in making the person you are today. In my case, the list is pretty endless, but Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) is firmly sitting in the top 10 since the first time I saw it (around 1988, I think). All the elements of this romantic comedy have been carefully dissected by bloggers and film critics, especially the locations (symbols of an alternative/punk-y New York) and the style of the two protagonists, Rosanna Arquette as Roberta and Madonna as Susan. The Madonna-mania was about to reach its peak and the film incredibly boosted the singer’s popularity: if you tell me you’ve never dreamt of being Susan [1], I won’t believe you. Her short jacket with the golden pyramid embroidery on the back, her studded booties and stolen Egyptian earrings are still in my wish-list, along with all the garments worn by my favourite character, Crystal (Anna Levine Thomson). She’s Susan’s friend, a good-hearted girl who works at the Magic Club as the assistant of an illusionist.vlcsnap-2014-07-09-01h05m00s19

vlcsnap-2014-07-08-23h59m08s171She makes her first appearance during a show. She’s clumsy and receives disappointed looks by the illusionist she works with. The cause of her clumsiness is her short-sightedness: Crystal can’t see a thing without her glasses, but the club boss, Ray (John Turturro), doesn’t want her to wear glasses on stage. In this scene, she’s wearing a dusty mauve tulle and lace costume – strapless, tiered skirt, the waist chinched by a matching belt. She’s also wearing a platinum blonde wig, a satin ribbon as choker, pink stockings and mary-janes.


Costume Institute Gala 2013 – PUNK: Chaos to Couture

The big night arrived and passed, leaving a trail of fashion disasters behind… The night every fashion lover was waiting for – the annual Costume Institute Gala, which took place last night in New York – will remain in the collective memory because of a red carpet packed with irrelevant “celebrities” and bad dresses. The theme of the fashion exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, was a tricky one and yesterday what I had been thinking for a while finally became clear: nobody seems to care for the exhibition, for art, not even Vogue’s editor-in-chief; the only thing which seems to be really important is the buzz and the gossip surrounding the attendees. There’s no point in denying that everyone loves a good (or bad) red carpet to scrutinize, but the event is becoming more and more irrelevant: some celebrities are walking disasters and have no sense of style whatsoever; others just fade into the background; others are plain boring. The result? Nobody – or a very few – nailed the “theme” of the event, but I shouldn’t be surprised, since Anna Wintour herself walked the red carpet wearing a floral dress (“Florals for spring? Groundbreaking”, Miranda Priestly would say).

While Darby Crash and Wendy O. Williams were rolling in their graves (or maybe just drinking another beer or sawing another guitar), some guests gave their own rendition of punk, thus demonstrating they had no idea what punk was/is. I firmly believe punk is a state of mind, not only a lifestyle, so here are the four celebrities who – I think – nailed it.

This is “punk”…

Dree+Hemingway+PUNK+Chaos+Couture+Costume+7NTSgGo5onPxTo me, punk has always been a big, huge “fuck you” in the face of society and social conventions. Despite not symbolizing such a strong statement, I think Dree Hemingway embodied the spirit of what I’m referring to. She wore a Stella McCartney dress, with gathered waistline and neckline, pairing it to a black leather biker jacket and black clogs. Side-swept hair, a wood clutch, a big ring and kohl-rimmed eyes completed the look. She didn’t dress up, but just made a simple dress her own.


The Witch of the Place

So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards;

the frillings and trimming on her bridal dress, looked like earthly paper.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

As a teacher and a fashion nerd, I’ve always admired the designers who are able to encapsulate the mood of a novel or of a literary period in their creations, like Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig did in their fall/winter 2011 collection. Furthermore, as a lover of all things from the Victorian Age, you may realize my excitement when I learnt that the primary source of inspiration had been one of Charles Dickens’ masterpieces, Great Expectations. The semi-autobiographical bildungsroman was originally published in instalments from 1860 to 1861; thanks its success, it was transposed into several movie versions, the most notable of which is the one directed by David Lean (Craig got the idea of a Victorian-tinged collection after watching it).

If you have read the novel or watched the movie, you should remember one of the most memorable characters is Miss Havisham [1], a rich spinster, adoptive mother to Estella, the female protagonist of the story. Even if the story is centered on the life of an orphan, Phillip “Pip” Pirrip, we get many glimpses on Miss Havisham’s past, explaining why she lives secluded: when she was younger, she fell in love with a man, Compeyson, whom she fell in love with;  at twenty minutes to nine on their wedding day, while she was getting dressed, Havisham received a letter from her soon-to-be husband, who was leaving her.  Shocked from the event, she had all the clocks stopped at the exact time in which she had learned of her betrayal. From that day on, she lived in her mansion, always wearing her wedding dress and a single shoe (she was wearing one shoe only when she received the letter), the wedding cake left uneaten. Miss Havisham is a symbol of betrayed love and decay, a woman who cannot accept what happened to her and thus forces herself (and the few people who know her) never to forget the worst moment of her life.

It’s stunning to see how Chapman translated all these elements into her collection. Most of Marchesa’s distinctive style signs are still there, but infused with a bit of darkness, destruction and the idea of a slowly decaying process. Tulle, lace effects, taffeta and velvet in black, red and white are featured in an impressive set of dramatic outfits.

Nothing speaks Gothic Victorian to me like this black dress, where chantilly lace and tulle mix. The ruffles at the hips and on the shoulders, the touch of veil on the neckline, the delicate scalloped hem concur in creating a magnificent and perfectly balanced example of mystery and seduction.