Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Art of the Race

Every year, on the eve of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the 500 Festival Foundation hosts The Snakepit Ball, a black tie event to celebrate the Indianapolis 500 and entertain dipolomats and celebrities in town for the race.
The Snakepit Ball has a different theme each year, though always with some connection to the world famous 500 mile race it fetes. The expected attire is typically black and white, evoking the iconic checkered victory flag.
The 2017 Snakepit Ball theme was The Art of the Race: An Interactive Art Event. The Indiana Roof Ballroom was transformed for the evening into a fully interactive combination of Racing and Art. 
In keeping with the artistic theme, the invitation encouraged guests "to make an artistic statement" with their black tie attire. 
If you follow this blog even a little, you probably already know how much I love a theme, and one with true artistic license to embrace creativity had my engine revving.
I knew right away that I wanted to embrace color, eschewing the standard black and white fare and celebrating the bold colors I associate with Indy cars and the drivers' graphic uniforms. I also knew that I wanted my dress to feature a hand-painted race design.
As is often the case, however, my artistic vision exceeded my skill set. So I set about assembling a creative and talented "pit crew" to help me bring it to life.
My first call was to my friend Nikki Blaine (featured in the third photo, above). Nikki is the creative mastermind behind Indianapolis-based Nikki Blaine Couture. She specializes in custom, one-of-a-kind designs, and shares my dramatic aesthetic. We also laugh a lot, which makes the "business" of working with her a party in its own right!
NIkki "got" my vision right away, and together we identified unusual fabric choices (like the webbing and faux leather that trim the dress) and graphic details that evoke race and automotive elements while still embodying evening gown elegance. 
Nikki also brought local artist Gary Gee on board to round out our (art of the) race team. I had a very specific picture in my head for the hand painted, vintage cars that circle the bottom of the dress, so I was a little nervous about working with someone whose work I didn't know well. But, my trust in Nikki as my "chief mechanic" was well-placed. Gary's work exceeded my every expectation, and he surprised us both by giving the winning driver a red ponytail and red lips!
Gary's fine work and the "art of the the race" theme are complemented by every detail of the ensemble: "tire tread" inspired canvas webbing creates the neckline and finishes the bottom of the dress; the same trim also embellishes the cocktail hat and its undulating blue silk abaca fabric, which reminded me of an abstract racetrack (the color wasn't quite right when I received it, but a can of high gloss spray paint was a quick fix); the strappy sandals (already in my closet) feature industrial looking black and white cords; the black crystal bracelet is evocative of a race tire; I carried a vintage silver compact from the 1920s that features a car similar in design to those in the painting; and, of course, I had to create another custom "milk purse" to complete the look, because #WinnersDrinkMilk!
As the other "driver" on my team, KDef's "uniform" got the same attention to detail: cobalt blue shoelaces echo his tuxedo shirt and match my dress; his cufflinks were silver racecars; the button covers are gearshifts; his Tag Heuer watch is a limited edition Indy 500 piece created to celebrate last year's 100th running; and his scarf features a pattern I designed using a black and white photograph from the 1965 race. Oh yes, the art of the race, indeed!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
I'm linked up with Hat Attack!
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wine, Women & (Horse)Shoes

Juan Carlos is a handsome red-headed steed who raised nearly $12,000 for Gleaner's Food Bank last week. 
When I agreed to attend last week's "Wine, Women & Shoes" fundraiser for Gleaner's Food Bank, I didn't expect my favorite shoes of the day to be horseshoes!
Handmade ribbon flowers from a local weekend market added to my heart-heeled sandals from Showstory pair perfectly with the explosion of yellow roses on my dress. Both the dress and the shoes are from Amazon.
And yet, when I met Juan Carlos, holding court at the Lucas Estate on a sunny Friday afternoon, he had me eating out of his hand...er, perhaps he had me feeding him out of my hand. In any event, those soulful eyes and that ginger mane had me swooning.
Graphic black and white framed sunglasses (found at Meier) were as much necessity as accessory for Friday's outdoor luncheon. The same can be said for my hat (a Steinmart find). 
The handsome horse was on hand (or hoof, as the case may be) to help raise funds for Gleaner's Backsacks Weekend Food for Kids program, an initiative that provides healthy meals to help children on reduced or free school lunch programs get through the weekend when they otherwise might go hungry.
It's a good thing for me that Juan Carlos wasn't part of the live auction, or my ginger haired puppy Tim Riggins might have gained an equine "brother!"
"Garden Party Chic" was the dress code for the day, and I took advantage of the long overdue Spring sunshine to don a wide brimmed hat and black and white dress (THE colors of Indy in May) punctuated with bright yellow roses. Handmade ribbon blooms in the same sunny hue on my shoes finished the garden party look tip to toe. 
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Run for the Roses

For someone who loves a theme as much as I do, you'd think I'd have decked myself out in red roses for the Kentucky Derby long before now. The iconic race is, after all, commonly referred to as the "Run for the Roses." Yet, my Churchill Downs choices over the past several years (this was my 8th Derby experience) have tended toward bright Spring colors and pastels.
I hadn't intended to go the rose route this year, either. But, with a weather forecast predicting rain and high temps in the mid-50s, I made a last minute decision to change course, both for the sake of saving a delicate chapeau and to provide (a bit) more warmth.
Inspiration struck when I spied this purse perched on a top shelf in my closet. It came from Germany - a one of a kind gift from a dear friend who owns an art gallery in Stuttgart. The bold red rose instantly reminded me of the cover of the most recent Churchill Downs magazine, and I realized it would pair perfectly with a rose covered dress already in my wardrobe.
As for the all important Derby hat...well, this one isn't my favorite, but for something I put together the night before I left for Louisville, I was satisfied. The base is a rather simple black wide brimmed hat that I've had for years. I jazzed it up with red roses and a few black feathers scavenged from my craft room. 
The finishing touch to the chapeau was the addition of dotted Swiss black tulle that echoes the tulle overlay on the dress itself. That element - repeated in both the dress and hat - made the look feel deliberate (rather than like I pulled it together at the last minute). Of course, I can't leave out KDef's dapper attire, also a last minute change to color-coordinate with my "new" ensemble. It's all about the details!
Thankfully, the sun smiled on us Saturday despite the chilly air and intermittent rain, and I even managed to pick the winner, Always Dreaming! I can neither confirm nor deny that I picked my horse because I like his name...
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Backup Butterflies

This year marked my 7th visit to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks. Sponsored by Swiss watchmaker Longines, the Oaks is a high stakes filly race held on the Friday before the Derby. Having now participated in both Oaks and Derby Days for several years now, I can say that, for me, Oaks Day is my favorite of the two. Maybe it's because there is so much anticipation at the beginning of a full and fabulous weekend; maybe it's because everyone and everything feels fresh and new on Oaks Day; maybe it's because it's a bit less crowded (though not much); or maybe, just maybe, it's because everything is a color-coordinated sea of pinks in every hue (think "blush" and "bashful" for those Steel Magnolias fans out there). This year, even the jockeys wore pink pants.
The wire-collared bolero is from Joseph Ribkoff; I added custom clips to my pink shoes using children's hair bows and a pair of clip-on earrings; The 1940s platinum and diamond watch is by Longines, which felt particularly appropriate since the Swiss watchmaker sponsors the Kentucky Oaks.
You can wear any color you'd like for Oaks Day, as long as it's pink. I always pay special attention to my Oaks Day ensemble. Redheads have to choose their pinks carefully, after all. This year, I was particularly looking forward to wearing a striking bespoke chapeau that was handcrafted to match a dress I'd yet to wear (I was saving it just for Oaks Day). But, on Wednesday afternoon, I learned that the forecast for Friday was grim - 100% chance of rain and a high of 52 degrees. It had never rained on my personal Oaks Day parade before, and it's never been anywhere near that chilly. I was bummed, and when the weather predictions did not improve thereafter, I decided it was too risky to wear the new hat, which has some very delicate and antique elements. 
The delicate black butterflies are laser cut from old vinyl records; The heart-heeled shoes were an inexpensive Amazon find that are as comfortable to wear as wedges, though I did change into wellies for the muddy walk to and from the track.
So Thursday night, I called an audible and dove into my closet to choose an alternative pink Oaks ensemble that could better withstand wet weather. I settled on this hot pink, black and white floral sundress from Nine West; the very same dress I wore to the Oaks in 2010. My chapeau style for track days has become quite a bit more adventurous since 2010, though, so I wasn't satisfied with the simple dupioni wide-brimmed number I paired with the dress the first time around (see bottom photo)....But then I spied the butterfly hat displayed on a pedestal candlestick perched on the fireplace mantle in my bedroom...
I lost count of the number of people who stopped me to ask about my clear raincoat which is styled like a classic trench coat with black fabric seamed details and a belt. It, too, was an inexpensive Amazon Prime find
This butterfly hat began life as a striking but simple creation from Marge Lilane (see it's original incarnation here). The butterflies themselves are laser cut from old records, and while you might think the one that sits over my right eye would impair my vision, its strategic placement allows a clear line of sight (much better, in fact, than wide brimmed hats with a dramatic tilt that completely obscure peripheral vision on one side). 
Simple pearl jewelry offsets the heaviness of the dramatic black collar and the butterflies.
As dramatic as the delicate black winged butterflies are, however, I wanted a bigger statement for Oaks Day (and I also needed pink!) So I went to work with a needle and thread and some very thin wire, attaching a few feather elements and two black velvet millinery roses I'd collected over time. M goal was to create a "custom" headpiece to coordinate with 7 year old dress, but in a way that would allow me to remove the embellishments later and restore the hat to its original form. I am so, so happy with how it turned out!
I was a little concerned the vertical elements of the hat wouldn't withstand the weather, but I didn't lose a feather despite the near constant rain.
It also withstood the wind and rain beautifully - better than I expected, in fact. The forecast was accurate, and It was by far the wettest, coldest day I've ever spent at the track. Yet, I managed to stay reasonably warm and dry with the addition of the wire-collared bolero jacket (an eBay find a few years ago), topped by a clear raincoat with black seamed details that allowed my ensemble to show through even when I was actually out in the rain. And most importantly, I still had a great time despite the weather. Oaks Day is still my favorite, and the last minute change in outfit means, weather permitting,  I already have next year's outfit, too.
Fashion is what you buy;Style is what you do with it!
I wore the same dress with a traditional, wide-brimmed hat in 2010 (right).
I'm linked up with Hat Attack!
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