Whether or not one agrees with Miss California USA Carrie Prejean’s views about marriage, she deserves respect for having the courage to stand on her convictions at the expense of a goal she had worked so long and hard to achieve.
Millions watched April 19 as a judge questioned the San Diego native about the controversial issue in the final round of the Miss USA pageant. Some were surprised when, in response to a judge’s question about same-sex marriage, she politely stated that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. The judge who asked the question, gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, later lambasted her for both her opinion and for not giving a politically correct answer.
Had Ms. Prejean lied about her opinion or not disclosed it, she probably would have won. Donald Trump, the pageant’s owner, said as much in a subsequent interview.
Well coached pageant contestants know that their chances of winning improve when they respond to politically charged, potentially divisive questions with noncommittal, vague answers. That Ms. Prejean, a 21-year-old model and college student, knew that yet chose to stand on her personal convictions at the cost of the crown is commendable. It’s especially admirable at a time when too many people have no convictions, let alone the courage to stand on them.
It wasn’t the San Diego native’s honesty that caused her to place second after Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton. It was a flawed judging process that may have allowed one judge to tilt the outcome.
In the best scoring system, one or two judges on a moderately large panel can not sway an entire decision against or in favor of a contestant. With an adequate number of judges - Miss USA had 12 telecast judges - and the highest and lowest scores thrown out, the truest consensus of how the judging body thinks contestants should place has a way of emerging.
Another way to make judging most fair is to ask finalists the same questions, or interview them together in a group setting to gauge their conversational skills in answering multiple questions at random. This has been done before.
Pageant drama of any kind invariably opens the door to criticism that pageants are sexist and exploit women. That tired refrain ignores the reality that pageants staged on local and global stages are usually about more than good looks. Nearly 20 years of experience as a pageant volunteer, coach, judge and emcee have taught me that pageant participants generally end up more poised, polished and success-ready than the average person.
More American fashion designers are realizing that it’s good business sense to make clothes for women whose sizes are in the mid-teens and higher - the so-called “plus” category. However, few of these designers serve up edgy looks that reflect expertise in dressing larger, curvier women.
They could take some lessons from Henry N. Jackson, a New York-based international couturier who once designed for Valentino and Oscar de la Renta. In April, he unveiled “Real Woman Bodies,” a line of 24 looks for women whose genetic sizes range from 12 to 20. (They’re also creatively sub-categorized according to body shape.) The fall-winter 2009-10 dresses and other pieces aren’t garments created on a size 2 fit model and then expanded in scale for the big girls, the strategy of some designers.
“This statement-making collection will make you re-think what fashion means for curvy women,” says Jackson, whose label is Henry Jackson Couture. “Our mission will be to maintain a consistently high standard of workmanship and to apply a modern fashion sensibility, expressing the diversity of our customers and accentuating the beauty of their bodies’ curves. Think Sophia Loren instead of Kate Moss and you will understand it.”
Jackson employed techniques such as intricate cutting and goddess draping to enhance rather than hide the larger woman’s figure. Signature colors are shades of gray and tropical brights in imported silks, Italian stretch wools and other fabrics. “Sub themes are 1930’s looks updated for modern function and fit,” he adds.
The idea for the collection began with a seed planted in childhood “when I sketched fashion designs at age 12 and showed them to my mother, who was a size 12 on top and a 14 on the bottom,” he recalled. “She commented that she loved the designs, but she said, ‘What about me and my friends? Why don’t you design some things for us?’ I dropped the ball until 2007 in Paris, and it hit me like an epiphany after seeing the revolt in Spain against ultra-thin models on the runway.”
The Boston native, who began sketching at 5 and sewing at 13, has won several design awards, including the “Rising Star” award from the International Press Association. Just after finishing high school in the latter 1970s, he twice won the “America’s Next Great Designer Award” from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In 1980, People magazine referred to him as “Seventh Avenue’s latest wunderkind.”
After graduating from Parsons School of Design in 1979 - he also studied in Harvard’s pre-law and business schools - he began designing for de la Renta. But it wasn’t long before he was hired away to Rome to design for the couture clients of another global fashion luminary, Valentino. Henry had just turned 18.
At the age of 21, the rising star decided to leave Valentino. “I knew that if I stayed there,” he said later, “I would be designing in a couture vacuum, not for most women.” He returned to New York to work for himself, armed with those two high-end design stints and apprenticeships with Perry Ellis, Charles Suppon and Chester Weinberg. He also had the ear of his mentor, Bill Blass.
Jackson later designed for or managed design teams for Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Bally of Switzerland menswear and womenswear. He also consulted internationally with fashion houses on matters ranging from design to business operations and spent time as an executive in young men’s sportswear design for Converse, Legends and Heroes and Boston-based Stall and Dean.
Since 1980, he’s designed independently. That same year, Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley brought Johnson Publishing heiress Linda Johnson Rice to Jackson’s showroom as she procured clothing for the company’s annual Ebony Fashion Fair. Since then, his designs have been part of the traveling fashion show and charity event.
Jackson’s bold and elegant designs have been sold in specialty and high-end department stores in America, the United Kingdom, France and Japan. He has designed personally for such women as Oprah Winfrey, Tovah Feldshuh, Whoopi Goldberg, Julie Taymore, Cicely Tyson, Eunice Johnson, Halle Berry and Janet Jackson. His designs are available in Paris, at select U.S. retailers and directly from his atelier. Prices range from skirts and pants starting at $120 and ranging up to $850 to bridal looks in the $4,000-$10,000 range.
Many would agree with Jackson’s assessment of the current state of American fashion as “pretty dismal and cookie-cutter. I can’t really say there are new geniuses coming from the American fashion industry, since the influence is not on talent but on hype alone,” he said. “And it is further diluted by the constant influx of celebrity-based lines who do not have any sense of style or background designing fashion, but are in it to make more money as the incentive alone.”
You can learn more about the designer and view some of his looks at www.henrynjackson.com.
Warning: These tips are only for students who are secure enough to not care what their peers think about how they pay for the biggest social night of their high school career. This frugal minority can laugh all the way to the bank while the haters spend the morning after sifting through piles of credit card charge slips.
- Instead of renting a tuxedo, borrow one. Or wear a suit.
- Wear shoes you already own rather then renting or buying.
- Limos are expensive rentals, even for a group. Instead, do a 24-hour lease on a luxury car. Better yet, if a parent has a halfway hot ride, borrow that.
- Borrow a prom dress. If you have to buy as a last resort, check eBay and other Internet sites such as PromGirl and Edressme.com.
- When ordering the corsage and boutonniere, guys, request the cheapest in-season flowers in the colors you need.
- Skip the hair and nail salons. Have a skilled friend hook up your hair in a kitchen or go to a beauty school’s student lab. And do your nails yourself.
- Do your own makeup. If you’re not great at it, ask somebody for help.
- Borrow, don’t buy, jewelry.
- Skip the pricey posed photos and do it yourself with a digital camera. Wal-Mart has some great affordable options.
- Have dinner at a restaurant where you have coupons or a discount. Save the leftovers to satisfy after-prom munchies rather than paying for another meal.
- Buy your prom tickets as late as possible. You may be able to find somebody who bought tickets, can no longer attend for some reason, and is willing to sell them to you for less.
Finally, the ultimate tip for the shamelessly enterprising. Start a pre-prom 50-50 raffle, selling tickets for $1 each or 6 for $5 for at least one week. Advertise it as something like The Prom Payoff and sell tickets to any warm body you encounter. Have the drawing prom night and award the winner 50% of all ticket sales. Guess who keeps the other half? Sell enough tickets and you could recover a significant chunk of what you spent on the big night.
All the recent eco-conscious talk about “going green” conjures images of fuel-conscious vehicles and recycled grocery bags. Allow us to go literal for a moment about Mother Nature’s signature color, one that symbolizes health, fertility, renewal, regeneration, vibrant new life.
Green is spring’s it color, from natural shades such as grass, jade, emerald and moss to the more appetizing hues of lime, mint, pistachio, olive and avocado. Of nearly 10 million colors distinguishable to the human eye, green has the widest range and, as such, is the most complex and versatile of colors. In nature, green can be inviting or revolting. In home décor, it can be relaxing or stimulating. And in fashion, it suggests a grounded stability yet a determination to soar.
Green is always in, and there’s a hue or shade to complement every skin tone. But this season’s trendiest variations range from loud lime to chic chartreuse. They are accent colors best worn one or two pieces at a time against a palette of white, tan or some other neutral.
If you haven’t heard of Billy Jealousy, it’s about time you discovered the quality line of men’s personal-care products. The Dallas-based brand seems to understand that tapping into the growing male grooming market requires effective, simple-to-use products with cool names and sleek packaging — and a sense of humor. The cosmeceutical line includes more than 20 products and sets, among them Sucker Punch face scrub, White Knight facial cleanser, Wipe Out eye cream, Hot Towel warming pre-shave, Illicit body wash, Cashmere Coat strengthening hair conditioner and Golden Gloves hand cream. The best part is, they actually work. And unlike many other luxury men’s lines, you get quantity along with quality. Prices range from $16 to $75.
Bulging wallets in hip pockets can literally be pains in the butt and have been linked to an increasing number of hip and back problems among men. And how many women waste time searching for something stuck somewhere in the middle of an overstuffed wallet held shut with rubber bands? The Big Skinny is changing the game with its flexible, fast-drying nylon microfiber styles that were engineered by award-winning entrepreneur Kiril Stefan Alexandrov to be lighter, thinner and more durable than other wallets. The brand has just introduced trifold styles, colors such as cocktail red and peacock teal, leather hybrids, more extra-wide pockets, slots with rubber that helps cards and cash stay put, and additional waterproof materials. Prices range from $8.95 to $24.95 at www.BigSkinny.net.
Since 2007, Paris Presents has used natural, earth-friendly materials such as bamboo and cruelty-free bristles in its Ecotools cosmetic brushes and bath accessories. Now the brand has taken sustainability to the next level with new energy-saving recycled aluminum, stainless steel and washable bamboo products. There’s a recycled stainless steel nailcare set, a recycled aluminum retractable kabuki brush, soybean oil-infused cleansing sponges, a five-piece bamboo makeup brush set, a six-piece bamboo mini-brush set, and nail files and machine-washable powder puffs made of bamboo. Prices range from $1.99 to $12.99. How serious is Ecotools about environmental preservation? Each product package has a “green” tip on the back. News releases are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based ink. And the company donates 1% of its annual sales to the nonprofit organization 1% For The Planet. You can buy them at eco-tools.com, walgreens.com, or www.drugstore.com.
There’s a new bohemianism in fashion, a more elegant, exotic and pulled-together look exemplified by Ports 1961. The brand’s creative director, Tia Cibani, is behind a chic new mod-to-modern style that is gaining wide appeal among confident independent women who prefer to define their own personal style rather than mimic mall mannequins.
Cibani’s life and experiences have influenced her design aesthetic and inspired her latest collections. They reflect the passions of her life: an international perspective through world travel; a whimsy inspired by love of children; an ethnic flavor spiced up by a love of food; the “discreet surprises” found in modern art and contemporary architecture.
“My muse,” she says, “would be all the women in my life. I find it amazing when I can be inspired by my friend who is a stay-home mother and the president of Ports 1961, Jacqui Wenzel, or my sister who is a mother of three and a strong career woman who can juggle it all. They all indicate the times in which we live. So my muse is the courageous woman of this era who manages it all seamlessly!”
Born in North Africa and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cibani is one of the most authentic influences on the Africa-inspired trend in women’s fashions this spring and summer. For fall, the line pays homage to boy-meets-girl, India-inspired colors, textures and silhouettes that harken back to the Mughal Dynasty.
With Cibani at the helm. Ports 1961 has rapidly risen as an American luxury brand and become a favorite in China.
Cibani, 36, became interested in fashion as a child, watching her father’s retail business and developing an appreciation for fine fabrics, shapes and details. She later attended Parsons School of Design and apprenticed at Ports International in 1992 under the now-famous D Squared design team Dean and Dan Caten. Cibani soon moved to China and further developed the brand with her sister, Fiona.
After Cibani’s return to New York City in 2004, Ports 1961 began to soar. The Chelsea-based womenswear label became a regular presenter at New York Fashion Week in 2006, and a showroom opened in Milan in 2007. In 2008, the brand showed at Paris Fashion Week and opened a store on Melrose in Los Angeles. This year, a sleek showroom designed by architect Michael Gabellini opened in New York’s historic Meatpacking Distric.
Along the way, Ports 1961 has dressed celebs such as Sandra Bullock, Anjelina Jolie and Ali Larter. The brand has grown beyond apparel to accessories, including organic-inspired jewelry and architectural hats and wooden handbags. In every design, there’s a mature femininity that manages to stop short of taking itself too seriously.
When the weather is warm, most folk want to wear less and feel the sun on their skin more. But while you’re showing off your summer wardrobe or angling for a more even skin tone, it’s important to remember that the best way to fight visible signs of aging is to wear sunblock.
Here are 17 tips on protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, from sunscreen application to wise selection of accessories.
- Wear lightweight, layered garments. Be mindful that more tightly woven fabrics and darker colors help block the sun’s rays.
- Add to your wardrobe clothes that have sun protection factor built in. They’re becoming more common for children and adults.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect the head and face. The fabric or material should breathe without having cracks or spaces that allow direct light through. Lab Series makes an effective one for men that works as well for women.
- Wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays, especially if you have cataracts, macular degeneration or other eye problems. Shades labeled “UV 400″ keep out 99% of UV rays while polycarbonate absorbs 100%. Some of the better cosmetics that contain SPF are at Prescriptives, Clinique, Lavera, Bliss and Bobbi Brown.
- Before buying shades, check for scratches, distortions or imperfections on the lenses. The wisest choices cover the entire eye areas. There are hip styles at Nautica, dELiA*s, Buckle, AmeriMark and Overstock.com.
- Although some clear lenses can have total UV protection, dark lenses generally are better because they automatically screen out 75-90% of visible light.
- Polarized shades reduce glare while anti-reflective coatings and mirror lenses give some protection. When a lens gets scratched, replace the glasses for optimal protection.
- Because UV damage begins in childhood, kids — who are more vulnerable than adults — should wear sunglasses. Everyone should wear them even on overcast days because UV rays penetrate clouds.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunblock (that blocks both UVA and UVB rays) on any day where you’ll be outdoors for at least 15 minutes. There are some good options at benefit, Origins, DERMAdoctor, Glowology, AmeriMark, Beautorium and Walmart.
- Use a minimum SPF 30. Apply the equivalent of a teaspoon for an area the size of an arm at least 30 minutes before going out, and reapply at least every two hours if outdoors for a prolonged period.
- Use waterproof or sweatproof sunblock if you plan to engage in any applicable activity. Banana Boat has many options.
- For the face, use a sunscreen formulated especially for that more sensitive skin. Some of our favorites are by Clarins, Darphin and Hampton Sun. Apply to the neck and the upper chest just below.
- Don’t miss key areas such as lips, ears, nail beds and between the toes when sporting footwear that leaves feet or toes exposed. Skin cancer rates are increasing in all four areas. Also popular are options by Origins, Lavera, Zirh, benefit and Bobbi Brown.
- Jo Malone’s Vitamin E Lip Conditioner SPF 15 for men and women (pictured on right) protects and heals ($20).
- Choose hair grooming and scalp treatment products with SPF. More women are choosing lipsticks, foundations and other cosmetics that contain SPF.
- Rather than the widely used sunscreens, kids under the age of 6 and adults with sensitive skin should use zinc dioxide, titanium dioxide and other such topical sun barriers.
- Note expiration dates on products containing SPF. Toss them upon expiration, or save money by using them simply as moisturizers.
- If you seek the sun just for a tan, try self-tanning products that contain SPF. You’ll kill two birds with one stone. Bobbi Brown and Bliss have quality sunless tan products.
Aside from costume, it can be difficult to find clothing that makes you feel regal and spiritual at the same time. It’s even harder to find a fragrance that generates the same aura. That’s what makes Creed’s Original Santal such a rare and alluring scent. Formulated by hand for both men and women by sixth-generation master perfumer Olivier Creed, the scent was inspired by Asian aromas. Every note was found in India, from roses, orange tree leaves, lavender and coriander to cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and sandalwood. And because of Creed’s rare infusion method and unusually high concentration of oils, the scent lasts all day. A sublimely opulent masterpiece from the legendary 249-year-old fragrance powerhouse, Original Santal is available at PerfumeWorldwide and elsewhere. On another note (pun intended), the brand has been shipping free soaps, deodorants and other Creed products to U.S. troops in Iraq for several year. Army Lt. Eric Rogers sent the company a note of thanks in March, saying: “There isn’t much to look forward to on a daily basis, but a product from Creed makes all the difference.”