Invite a ‘Black Swan’ or ‘Fighter’ to your Oscar party

Make the Oscars your night on the red carpet, too, by hosting an Oscar theme party. This is becoming a more popular practice among star struck movie lovers. With a little planning, it’s easy to pull together, and it’s destined to be a night you and your friends will remember long after the awards have been handed out and the curtains have closed.

With the recent announcement of nominees, you can customize your party to some of this year’s prospects. You can plan your evening around one movie, or use all the ideas listed below for a real blockbuster night.

The Black Swan makes for some creative decorations. Wrap the backs of your chairs up in black tulle and tie them with some black ribbon to really set the mood. Encourage your guests to don black boas, and if they’re really into it, they can sport tutus and fake blood. As for the gents, they can come dressed in their finest– ready to watch the ballet. Top hats and tuxedos get bonus points.

You can wow your guests with a cake in the spirit of The Fighter. Make it look like two boxing gloves at the point of contact by using two round cakes, with a bit cut out to make the thumb of the glove, and small squares at the wrists. Then frost the cake red and use white frosting to make the laces.

Obviously, the main part of the evening is to actually watch the Oscars, so a large part of the evening is going to be spent in front of the TV. A quiet game inspired by The Social Network will be a perfect fit for intermittent mingling. Have everyone bring a few photos of themselves to post up around the room. Leave out several Sharpies and pads of sticky notes so your guests can “comment” under their friends’ action shots.

You can go crazy with the Blue Valentine theme. You can pretty much dye anything edible – blue drinks, blue cake, blue popcorn – but if food coloring isn’t your thing, stick with the decorations. You can put non-flammable plastic wrap over your lights and splash the room with blue confetti.

Whatever movie theme you choose for Oscar night, your party wouldn’t be complete without a red carpet. Roll out a long, red piece of fabric for your arriving guests, and announce their arrival to the eager crowd, and even go as far as handing out awards to the winners.  Top it off with a photo shoot – take a Polaroid while they strike a pose.

However you decide to structure your evening, don’t forget to tune in for the real thing on February 27 at 8 pm on ABC. See you on the carpet!

Costume Designers: Creating Characters with Fabric

The process a costume designer goes through is very much like that of an actor. When an actor receives a script, it’s like they’re trying on a new identity. Success is determined by whether they can bridge the gap between who they are, and who the character is supposed to be.

They look for the nuances of the character they’re going to play, and reach deep inside to see if they have what it takes to bring that to the surface. Can Colin Forth really be the stammering King of England? Lucky for us, he read through the script and found enough royalty in his soul to say “Yes!”

Likewise, a costume designer reads through the script and searches their imagination for the resources equal to the task of making the characters breathe. But they are more limited than the actors, who have the same working parts as the character. Instead, designers have nothing but the pictures in their minds, and yards and yards of fabric.

How’s that for a daunting task?

And yet, they do it. Time and again, we sit in our seats in the dark theater, and we believe what we see. It’s magic. And the magicians creating the costumes deserve just as much thanks as everyone else that worked to give the story a voice.

The Costume Designers Guild Awards was created in 1999 to do just that. Each year, we get to honor the artists working behind the scenes in Motion Pictures, Television, and Commercials. But for almost 50 years, they were the unsung heroes of the industry.

The Costume Designers Guild was founded in 1953 by 30 passionate designers that understood that the design process isn’t about luck – it’s about strategy and passion. Today, there are about 900 members of the guild, which is centered (surprise!) in Los Angeles.

Those who are so lucky may share an evening with the stars on February 22 as they gather at the Beverly Hills Hilton to celebrate, and thank the ones that help create their onscreen universe. For  the rest of us who have zero chance of going for whatever reason, check back to see who was given one of the costume designer’s high honor.  Who are this year’s nominees to catch movie lover’s eyes? Read below to see the list  so you know who to root for.

Excellence in Contemporary Film

“Black Swan” – Amy Westcott

“Burlesque” – Michael Kaplan

“Inception” – Jeffrey Kurland

“The Social Network” – Jacqueline West

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” – Ellen Mirojnick

Excellence in Period Film

“The Fighter” – Mark Bridges

“The King’s Speech” – Jenny Beavan

“True Grit” –Mary Zophres

Excellence in Fantasy Film

“Alice in Wonderland” – Colleen Atwood

“The Tempest” – Sandy Powell

“TRON: Legacy” – Michael Wilkinson and Christine Bieselin Clark

Outstanding Made for Television Movie or Miniseries

“Big Love” – Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko

“Dancing with the Stars” – Randall Christensen, Daniella Gschwendtner, Steven Norman Lee

“Glee” – Lou Eyrich

“Modern Family” – Alix Friedberg

“Treme” – Alonzo Wilson

Outstanding Contemporary Television Series

“Boardwalk Empire” – John A. Dunn, Lisa Padovani

“Mad Men” – Janie Bryant

“The Tudors” – Joan Bergin

Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series

“The Pacific” – Penny Rose

“Temple Grandin” – Cindy Evans

“You Don’t Know Jack” – Rita Ryack

Excellence in Commercial Costume Design

“Chanel – Bleu de Chanel” – Aude Bronson-Howard

“Dos Equis – The Most Interesting Man in the World” – Julie Vogel

“Netflix – Western” – Lydia Paddon

“Target – Preparing for Race/Black Friday” – Michelle Martini

Costume Jewelry: Does it Pay to Get the Cheaper Stuff?

Staying in the latest trends can get expensive. From the current fashions and shoes to the latest in jewelry, it can add up fast. Finding ways to stay on trend without breaking the bank takes a little creativity, but there are many ways to save money without compromising style. When it comes to jewelry, costume jewelry is a great way to keep your wardrobe interesting without spending a fortune on the real stuff.

Costume Jewelry Gives You Assortment and Versatility

Trendy items are most likely things you might not want to wear for the long term, making it possible to skimp on quality in certain cases. Costume jewelry gives you the ability to add a degree of versatility to your wardrobe you simply can’t get in fine jewelry. Cost-wise, you can buy several pieces of costume jewelry for every one piece of fine jewelry, instantly creating a wide assortment of looks for any occasion.

Fun rings, brightly colored necklaces, and unique earrings can completely transform any look. Jewelry is an inexpensive way to take a basic outfit from dull to delightful. A simple black dress can take on infinite looks just by changing the jewelry with which you wear it. Simply put, inexpensive costume jewelry is a quick way to give yourself a fashion makeover and make your wardrobe more fun.

When is it Better to Buy Fine Jewelry?

Like clothing, there are certain pieces of jewelry that are considered timeless. The little black dress is a style that is always in, making it important to find a quality piece that will really last. Jewelry is no different; there are certain items that you will be able to wear no matter what the current trends are. A great example of a timeless piece of jewelry are diamond stud earrings.

Diamond studs and other classic pieces will be in style no matter what is going on in the fashion industry. An item like this is worth the investment. Jewelry of this type, which will stand the test of time, is certainly worth spending a little more on. Classic pieces will likely be in style indefinitely, making them a great example of when the cheaper stuff isn’t necessarily better. Building your jewelry wardrobe is about diversity and it’s important to know when to invest more money, as well as when it’s okay to go cheaper.

Vintage Costume Jewelry: Timeless Pieces

Since Ancient times, costume jewelry has been a popular alternative to fine jewelry. A great way to accessorize without spending a fortune, costume jewelry was made more popular throughout the early 20th Century, as designers like Coco Chanel would revolutionize the market with a fresh approach to its design. Once these designs became readily available, women everywhere fell in love with this affordable way to accessorize.

Timeline and Influences

One can hardly utter the words “vintage costume jewelry” without thinking of the influence of designer Coco Chanel. A “vintage” item refers to one that was created from 1920 to 1980. Chanel’s influence on costume jewelry began in the 30s when she wanted to give women access to affordable jewelry that looked luxurious. Coco herself often wore costume jewelry, which is why she not only revolutionized its design, but also influenced more women to wear it. Her ability to show women how to transform a little black dress with the right choice in costume jewelry made Coco Chanel vintage jewelry’s greatest influence.

Other jewelry makers would also enter the market as the style became more popular. In the mid-20th Century, jewelry maker 1928 would enter the market with offerings of costume jewelry meant to replicate antique items. Avon would later follow suit, giving women access to iconic jewelry pieces through their unique door-to-door sales approach. As more celebrities were being seen with costume jewelry as the focal point of their look, its popularity continued to rise.

Trendsetters and Fashion Icons

Thinking of stars like Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor immediately brings to mind a luxurious lifestyle. These two icons are notorious for their contributions to not only the entertainment field, but also to the world of vintage costume jewelry. Always known for their sense of style, these two stars have been enjoying costume jewelry on sets and red carpets for many years. They have encouraged women to enjoy the versatility that can only be found in this affordable alternative to fine jewelry.

Along with Coco Chanel, who is considered costume jewelry’s biggest influence, many movie stars have also taken part in the growing popularity of this trend. Today’s wealthiest stars are often seen with costume jewelry at the industry’s biggest events. Chanel’s take on costume jewelry as a tool used to make women more beautiful is carried on today, with many new jewelry makers giving women access to affordable styles that will enhance any look. Vintage costume jewelry is more desirable than ever today, with many jewelers offering replicas of popular vintage pieces. Including vintage items in your wardrobe of costume jewelry is a great way to add interest and versatility.

Edith Head: Hollywood’s Costume Designer

If it’s a Paramount film, I probably designed it.” So said the tiny 5’ 1 ½” powerhouse long considered Hollywood’s most successful costume designer—not to mention definitely one of its most colorful personalities. Born in San Bernadino, California, to Max and Anna Posener, Edith’s exact birthdate is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Though she claimed to have been born in 1907 or 1908, she had graduated from college, married, divorced and worked as a teacher for a number of years by 1923, so those birthdates are highly improbable. Her birthdate on bios is listed as October 28, 1898. Though many tried to squeeze details out of Edith over the years, she remained vague on much of her background, and even stated that “I have in my mind a special room with iron doors. The things I don’t like I throw in there and slam the door.” Not such a bad idea!

The Designs

Following the divorce, Edith was in need of a higher-paying job so answered an ad for a costume design artist at Paramount Studios where the chief designer, Howard Greer, was incredibly impressed by her portfolio. A while after she accepted the job—which paid double her teacher’s salary—Edith confessed to Greer that she had actually “borrowed” the portfolio from another art school student. By this time Greer was impressed enough with Edith’s work that he let the deception slide. One of Edith’s first major projects was to design the gowns for Mae West in She Done Him Wrong; the extremely form-fitting outfit contributed to the film’s huge success, leading West to frequently request Head for her costume designs. In her message to Head, Mae, in her typically provocative manner said “Make the clothes loose enough to prove I’m a lady, but tight enough to show ‘em I’m a woman.” Edith was also responsible for Dorothy Lamour’s clinging sarong in The Jungle Princess, and once she began designing for Barbara Stanwyck, her success was almost a given.

In 1938 Edith’s mentor left Paramount for Universal Studios. Head was selected as his successor to run Paramount’s design department—a first for a woman. Edith created a flamboyant peacock cape for Hedy Lamar for the biblical epic Samson and Delilah in 1949 and designed the costumes for Bette Davis in All About Eve. Outfitting Elizabeth Taylor in the movie A Place in the Sun garnered Edith her third Oscar for best black and white costume design. Head would go on to design for many movies, and many stars, most notably Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood.

The Book

Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer, is a book that will leave you visually stunned by its array of gorgeous color photographs and illustrations of the costumes Ms. Head meticulously designed throughout her career. This scrupulously-researched book is filled with more than 350 images, including never-before-seen and rare sketches done by Edith through the years as well as costume test shots and behind-the-scenes photos. A fascinating book for connoisseurs of fashion and film, the golden age of Hollywood sparkles from the pages. Background and biographical information on Ms. Head is, of course, included, however the author, Jay Jorgensen, focuses primarily on the clothing designs of Edith Head.

The Memories

What we know definitively about Edith Head is that she was nominated for 35 Academy Awards including every single year from 1948-1966–winning eight of those–and designed the costumes for over 1,100 films. In 1967 Edith’s contract at Paramount was not renewed despite 44 years of faithful service. She moved over to Universal and continued her workaholic ways until her final film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, starring Steve Martin. Edith Head will long be remembered for her unusual trademark appearance which included large-framed dark glasses, severe tailored suits and long bangs. Despite her generally unorthodox appearance, Edith admitted that at night she wore wild colors and evening pants. Edith Head was a feisty, incredibly talented designer whose immense talent and witty quips ensure she will be remembered for a long time to come.

Erte: Father of the Art Deco

The Early Days of Erte’

Erte’ was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23, 1892 as Romain de Tirtoff. He was a child prone to fantasy and would spend hours and hours immersed in books from his father’s library. Erte’ was fascinated by the ballet and opera at a young age, and his beautiful and stylish mother quite likely had a large influence on his later career. Erte’s father was an admiral in the Imperial Fleet and hoped his son would follow suit, but the young boy resisted. Though his father considered a career in fashion to be a disgrace for a young man, when he was 20, Erte’ moved to Paris to pursue his dream of design and illustration. Erte’ reminisced in his later years that “Of all the members of my family, it was my father who dominated my thoughts at this time. What a trial I must have been to him! Once I had staged my first rebellion against those wooden soldiers, there was no let up.”

Let the Designs Begin

After his move to Paris, it didn’t take long for Erte’ to become a well-known designer who created fashion and costume designs as well as illustrations for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He began designing costumes for both the theater and the stage during this time in his life; the majority of the women Erte’ designed for were tall, slender and somewhat austere, with faces which seem so sophisticated as to be almost cold. Prior to Erte’s influence women were stuck in Victorian clothing with corsets and voluminous skirts, however he found many ways to emphasize the female form. The dresses Erte’ designed as costumes were luxurious, often dripping with jewels and pearls; his first theatrical designs were fancy dress balls, created for Paul Poiret. Although Erte’ tended to use color somewhat sparingly, it was nevertheless used quite brilliantly in his designs, oftentimes stark black backgrounds printed with red, white, gold or blue, each ensuring it became a work of art in its own right.

While a serious student of costume history, who was faithful to the style of the period, Erte’ nevertheless left his stamp of originality on every costume he designed. Although censorship was incredibly strict in the early Hollywood days, Erte’ managed to design costumes which were sexy, gorgeous and incredibly feminine at the same time. Erte’ designed costumes for some of the most beautiful and successful actresses of the time, most notably Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies and Anna Pavlova–many of these creations remain unmatched to this day. Knowing how critical a designer’s participation is to the future success of the costumes, Erte’ made sure he was involved in every single detail. Throughout his career he was a meticulous designer, spending incalculable hours working on his exacting sketches. For his costumes, very fine lines were painted rather than drawn, and where he painstakingly applied minute dots of paint in multiple layers, pearls and jewels emerged. Although Erte’ designed costumes for the films Ben-Hur, The Comedian, Time, Dance Madness, La boheme and The Mystic, he had little patience for the necessary      pandering to the egos of Hollywood’s stars—something Edith Head, however, did masterfully.

Known as the Father of Art Deco, Erte’ defined Art Deco as “a fusion of the curvilinear designs of Art Nouveau of the 19th Century with the Cubist, Constructivist and geometrical designs of modernity.” In his biography Erte’ wrote that it was the duty of every human being to “make himself as attractive as possible,” and that “not many of us are born beautiful.” Erte’ was well-known for his belief that clothes could transform people into things of beauty or things of ugliness, and glamor was definitely the signature of his art. Perhaps Erte’s most well-known image is called Symphony in Black, and depicts a tall, slender woman draped in black, holding a thin black dog on a leash. A book about his career entitled Erte’ at Ninety details the man who lived in a home with no interior lighting along with his two beloved cats and was heard to say “The cat is a solitary animal, very independent, very quiet by nature…I cannot stand people visiting me when I am indisposed. I want to be left alone.” The Father of Art Deco is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, with a near-limitless imagination and a career spanning nearly a century.