A return to glamour of the old movie stars


I'm 83 and still interested in fashion. Lately, all I see in the press and on TV is "retro" fashion -- the return of looks from the '40s and '50s. But what I see are skimpy little shift dresses, nothing like the glorious portrait dresses we wore for great occasions. They were so glamorous they made us feel like movie stars. Is anyone making dresses like these today?

You'll be pleased to know there are designers around the world who have made '50s-inspired ball gowns. One with a particularly fine hand is Inno Sotto, a star of the Philippine fashion world.

"The catalysts of my last couture collection were the French and American designers of the '50s," he told me when I was in Manila recently. "I researched the shapes and the fabrics and had the time of my life doing it."

Sotto also has a ready-to-wear boutique in Manila.

I'm a park ranger in Vermont, and I've been hiking the Appalachian trails for the last 10 years. I have fallen in love with a bank executive I met skiing. We're getting married, and I'm moving to Atlanta. He says he loves my "rugged" looks, but I know he prefers it when I primp. My skin has taken a beating after years of sun, and I need help. I'm thinking of going to a spa, but I'm worried that it might be too late. Is it?

It's never too late to start taking care of your skin. A visit to a spa may or may not improve your skin, but it can teach you how to protect and care for it. To help you decide here's the advice of Laura Hittleman of New York's Canyon Ranch:

"You can improve your skin by carefully exfoliating, nourishing, hydrating and moisturizing it. You might want to begin with a seaweed body treatment, which is suited for dry skin.

"First, dead skin cells are exfoliated (sloughed off). Then comes a treatment with hydrating essences and a light application of rich body milk to seal in the moisture.

"Don't forget a hand treatment to relieve dry skin and soothe inflamed joints. And, finally, get a manicure to show off your newly revitalized hands."

To maintain healthy skin she offers these tips:

"No more sun. Use a self-tanning-product that doesn't have the harmful effects. Wear a sun screen that blocks UVA, UVB and UVC rays. Moisturize twice a day, drink lots of water and, if possible, avoid coffee."

My uncle left me a pair of diamond and emerald oval cuff links. In his will he wrote that he envisioned my turning them into earrings. I'd much prefer turning them into a pin, but I do not wish to upset my family. I need a clearer idea about how to do this beautifully so I can persuade my family. How should I go about it?

First, take the cuff links to a well-established jeweler and get an appraisal, as you would with anything valuable. Also ask the appraiser what impact changing the cuff links would have.

Then you might want to get in touch with a jewelry designer. I can't think of a better way to explore affordable and innovative possibilities.

I asked jewelry designer Mary Sheer of Bali Muse in Chicago for her ideas. She specializes in converting jewelry that has ended up "at the bottom of the closet" into pieces that are valuable and wearable.

"Since you have a pair of identical pieces," Sheer suggests, "you might consider turning them into a pin and a ring, or a pin and and a bracelet. You will also want to take your wardrobe into account.

"Sketch your ideas and take them to the designer along with a favorite blouse or jacket. A pin can be beautiful in the abstract, but if it is too heavy you'll never wear it. When you and the designer are agreed on a design, get estimates of how much the recycling will cost."

A final note from Sheer: "Have fun with this creative opportunity. Let your imagination run free."

My father tells me I'm the luckiest woman alive, but I think I'm downright unlucky. The problem is his brother, my uncle, who is a well-known fashion designer.

All my life he's preached at me about what to wear. I'm tall and thin and look good in clothes, but he says I must look elegant like my mother. To me elegant means conservative, dull and boring.

He's having a big party at his summer house, and he, of course, expects me to wear one of his outfits. I'd be happiest wearing an outfit that I love and will feel great in. It may well upset everyone, but it will also get my point across.

Don't dismiss your uncle as a tyrant. Go to him and explain gently how you feel. Tell him what you would like to wear and work out something together.

He may be hurt at first but will end up glad to get some honest feedback about his clothes. The people in your generation are, after all, his future customers, and it would be wise of him to understand your needs.

You might even remind him that nothing changes faster than fashion.

Elsa Klensch welcomes questions from readers. Send questions to Elsa Klensch, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 218 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90012.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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