historical fashion

Fashioning San Francisco at the deYoung Museum review

Christian Dior fall/winter 1948

Louise Boulanger winter 1927

Callot Soeurs 1908

I finally got a chance to visit the “Fashioning San Francisco” exhibit located at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. I have to admit, I did not really read the description of this exhibit when I purchased my tickets. From the name, I thought the exhibit would be a history of fashion in the city including Levi’s and The Gap, but instead, it was a collection of couture and demi-couture from the earthquake era to modern times worn to events in San Francisco by collectors of couture.

When we first arrived, we went into the virtual try-on room first. It was fun to try-on couture dresses, even though my Gap shirt was peeking out from underneath the gowns. haha, you can see the result below.

pictured: virtual try-on of a Valentino gown / on me: shirt / nail polish / earrings /

There were a total of three gowns to try-on virtually, which to be frank, seemed thin. I would have loved to try on more couture gowns, but I assume it is a lot to put this virtual try-on exhibit together and three was not a small task. Although it went by way too fast, it was fun and I ended up with some hilarious photos from the experience.

My favorite portion of the exhibit was the first section when you enter; the earthquake era fashion. I loved seeing gowns from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The fabric, texture, and attention to detail was amazing.

Another section of the “Fashioning San Francisco” exhibit I enjoyed were the shoes! I actually spotted a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s a co-worker of mine used to wear in the office a little over twenty years ago. I have to admit, I felt a little old seeing a pair of shoes I knew from the wild inside a museum on display. Yikes! But I digress. . .

Sommer and Kaufman 1940

My favorite pair of shoes from the exhibit was this pair pictured above. The structural silhouette seems modern, yet they are from 1940. Love that!

Of course, if you scroll to the bottom of this post, you will see one of my favorite designers of all time; Chanel! I love how the deYoung was clever and featured both a Gabrielle Chanel gown, and Karl Lagerfeld gown together. It really shows how Karl Lagerfeld was so good at channeling Chanel’s original intent in modern designs. He really was genius.

The “Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style” exhibit will be on display at the deYoung Museum through August 11, 2024. If you are local, or plan to visit the city, I highly recommend seeing it. Your ticket to the special exhibit will also grant you access to the regular collections, which I recommend as well.

You can learn more at famsf.org.

Thanks for stopping by!



Chanel: front by Gabrielle Chanel 1939, back by Karl Lagerfeld 2012 /

Betsey Johnson spring 2016 New York Fashion Week

betsey johnson spring 2016 nyfw DSC_0735 DSC_0778

Photos: Cathy OBrien/Bay Area Fashionista

Betsey Johnson sent her spring/summer 2016 collection down the New York Fashion Week runway on September 11, 2015. This was no ordinary Betsey Johnson spring 2016 collection, this was her 50th anniversary celebration collection; which was beyond any other runway performance at fashion week.

Although my photos are not very good since I was sitting towards the back, you can see there was fun to be had on the runway. Betsey Johnson featured segments on her runway which celebrated themes from decades throughout her career. The models walked down the right side of the runway, then back up the left, then they stepped onto a platform runway which was placed in the middle of the regular runway; and they walked down that, then stood in line dancing! It was unlike any runway show I have seen thus far.

When all of the models were dancing on the raised runway at the end of each segment, Betsey Johnson told a poem which related to the decade theme of the segment. The themes were playful, saucy, and downright fun! Isn’t that what Betsey Johnson is all about? FUN!

Throughout the decades, Betsey Johnson played with prints, color, bold accessories, and silhouettes. The spring 2016 collection evoked the correct vibe for each decade, yet offered something fresh and modern on each piece. This made the collection ideal to wear, while feeling a little bit of historical significance with each piece. This fusion between modernity and historical fashion is hard to achieve, of course, Betsey achieved it effortlessly. Love it!

Of course, to close the show, in true Betsey Johnson style, she came down to the end of the runway surrounded in large silver balloons which read “50.” At the end of the runway, Betsey herself did one of her signature cartwheels which had the crowd standing, cheering, and clapping on their feet. I have never been at a fashion show where people stand and cheer like they are at football game before. It is amazing how Betsey Johnson knows how to bring the FUN into fashion. Which is what fashion is really about. It is wearable art which expresses who you are; so why not be fun!

To learn more about Betsey Johnson, please click here.

Video credit: FatalefashionIII (they have amazing videos, I recommend subscribing)

Kate Spade brings back her classic mini tote

kate spade classic handbag tote

Kate Spade tote

Kate Spade first became famous in the mid-1990’s when her beloved nylon mini tote hit the handbag scene. Handbag fans and Fashionistas everywhere ran out to purchase their very own Kate Spade mini tote; making the tote hard to come by! The tote appeared on the forearm of every woman on the street. Although Kate Spade’s tote was popular and worn by many women, very few of these Kate Spade handbags looked exactly alike. The small tote came in a variety of colors and patterns, making it as unique the next “IT” bag after the Kate Spade tote; the Fendi Baguette.

The Kate Spade “IT” bag of the mid-1990’s was coveted by almost every woman on the street. In fact, counterfeiters soon caught on to the trend and inauthentic versions of the ultimate small tote were popping up on the forearm’s of unscrupulous women on the street. This was disconcerting to see, the pretenders were easy to spot, and showed the poor ethics of the wearer. 

For the holiday 2014 season, Kate Spade has brought back a version of her famous small tote and it is nothing short of fabulous! This beautiful rendition of Kate Spade’s ultimate “IT” bag is made from a beautiful black nylon which holds up in the rain. The tote is embellished in sparkling jewels making it ideal for the holiday season as well as an evening investment. This new tote from Kate Spade can easily be worn for many years to come as an evening tote with sophisticated casual attire through to semi-formal wear. Love that!

One of the reason’s Kate Spade’s nylon totes became so highly sought-after in the mid-1990’s was due to the fact that they offered extraordinary quality. I owned a black one which I wore everyday. I lived and worked in San Francisco at the time and used the tote for work. I stuffed it full of everything I needed for myself and work. I took the tote with me everyday on BART and Muni. The tote was caught in the rain, subjected to daily fog, and who knows what wars it went though on public transit! The tote survived, and always looked new. I wish I still owned it today; unfortunately my Mom took it from me! Roughly fifteen years later, my Mom uses the tote bag and it looks amazing!

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. It would be amazing if Kate Spade continued to release this beautiful yet practical handbag every season in new colors and prints. It is a classic style and something every Fashionista should have in his/her closet. Do you remember when Kate Spade’s small tote was the “IT” bag in the mid-1990’s? If so, did you own one?