Saturday, June 25, 2011

Paper Dolls In Paradise

As a young fashion obsessed girl growing up in a small California enclave, I took my fashion where I could get it. 

Raised by a single working mother, I entertained myself after school at the library, pulling great stacks of photography books, books on fashion photography such as "Scavullo's Women" and books by Irving Penn, David Bailey, Horst, et cetera. I read every art book I could get my hands on. I even read whole sets of encyclopedias from Brittanica to the How-To library. I have always been almost pathologically image obsessed. 

In a need to overcome adolescent boredom, I one day adventured into a sewing supply store, and walking past the spools of technicolor thread and endless skeins of yarn, I discovered a new library. On a large wooden table, there was one massive volume after another, laid out with names like "Butterick", "Simplicity", "Vogue", "McCalls"... a pattern book revelation!

In these volumes, there were drawings of cute, button nosed girls with dark eyes and high ponytails wearing frilly, fun dresses in crazy patterns and bell bottoms with t-shirts sporting slogan patches. All of the girls had tan skin, the color of butterscotch. 

The Vogue pattern books were so elegant, with sophisticated ladies dressed in sharp looking suits and glittering gowns. They wore wild hats and big jewelry and had expressions on their faces of haughty dissatisfaction, as if they were thinking that they would rather be drinking champagne on a yacht. 

These pattern books were full of endless fashion possibilities. One could look like a Disney princess or a hippie chick in a patchwork poncho and leather short-shorts. The illustrations for the most part were very accessible, not the flamboyant fantasies of a couturier designing dresses for only the gilded few. These were drawings of girls one could actually look like, a feat, of course much more easily accompished if your mother could sew.


Below is a fun Pop-Art romper that was made in Miami in the 1960s.

                                                                                                                                         available here

Below is a fantastic lime green sundress designed by Oleg Cassini in the 1960s.

a                                                                                                                                        available here

Below is an adorable pink gingham party dress from the 1960s.

                                                                                                                                           available here

If you have any early fashion memories that you would like to share with us, please do!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gardens of Dreams & Delight

Above is a view of the Pearl Modern Garden, containing Globemaster allium, Bernini Oriental Hybrid Lilies, various hostas and a "Penelope" tea rose bush.

Our New York garden is a mysterious place. In the shade of the great mulberry tree, countless creatures of every description carry on with their daily duties, some as mundane as gathering fallen seeds or rotting leaves, or as violent and chaotic as waging war or relocating the colony. Birds of romance who mate for life holiday here - bringing their spouses year after year to take the waters and eat the gourmet seed we indulge them with. Swooping yellow Swallowtail butterflies arrive just as the Rose of Sharon begins to flower, drinking the sweet ambrosial nectar. 

When the Casablanca lilies bloom, their intoxicating perfume suspends you in a magical invisible net. Time seems to slow down as you breathe in their indescribable scent, their long petals opening fully as if in one instant, a color so white, like crisp white sheets in the midday sun.

Jardin Majorelle is the jewel-like garden in Marrakesh, Morocco where the great designer Yves Saint Laurent lies in rest. The walls are painted a haunting blue that lies somewhere between lapis lazuli and cobalt glass. Gardens in North Africa are Eden-like oases where succulents grow with citrus alongside towering cypress trees as pointy as spears. 

Below is a favorite photograph of a moonlit garden in Neuilly, France.

We love to host intimate dinners in our garden. We ritualistically light the candles in our collection of Indian, Turkish and Moroccan lanterns, their mosaic panes shine kaleidoscopic colors, making everyone look absolutely gorgeous. 

The mysteries of the night garden abound. The nocturnal sleeping vines begin to creep. The hallucinogenic moonflower unfurls itself, and if you are very lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a luna moth dancing with the moonlight.

Cocktail of the Week - "The Moonflower"

serves four
2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
2 oz lime juice (2-3 limes)
6 oz vodka
8 oz white cranberry juice

chill glasses
combine all ingredients in a large ice filled cocktail shaker or pitcher
shake well and strain into chilled glasses
garnish with lime peel


If you have any favorite outdoor entertaining ideas, please feel free to share them with us!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beating the St. Tropez Blues

We at Pearl Modern have many favorite places in this grand world, but when it comes to perfect leisurely shopping, long hours people-watching at outdoor cafés and sexy cocktails in late night boîtes, The South of France takes the cake. 

On the train from Spain, we decided to randomly jump off at Toulon. What a nice surprise! In the mornings there is a wonderful open air market where you can pick up gorgeous local Mediterranean specialties. Each morning after drinking much delicious, milky coffee we would set out for the market. There are such good ones in port towns. 

While traveling, we love to gather elements for a picnic, a little this and that. For instance, some plump figs and tangy spiced almonds from North Africa. You can easily throw together a simple salad of just-picked tomatoes, quartered on mustardy frisée, drizzled with a fruity green olive oil, a handful of torn basil leaves, sea salt and cracked pepper. In France, you can have the most perfectly simple sandwich consisting of just a baguette and brie and it will be a sublime experience. At the market, we bought sweets for later in the hotel room. One pastry in particular was divine! It had a flaky outer layer and inside, a custard that tasted of almonds and vanilla, pure heaven.

Antiques abound along the edges of the food stalls. You can find rustic thrown clay dishes and cooking pots, simply glazed and decorated, finer Limoges pieces and silver long removed from some great villa. We particularly love the provençale fabrics with their tomatoey reds and sunflower yellows with their scattering of wildflowers. 

Below is a maxi sundress with a provençale fabric skirt, perfect for a modern day Jane Birkin.

                                                                                                                                           available here

There is something so romantic about wearing a full, flowered skirt, espadrilles or gladiator sandals with a straw hat and just taking things in... slowly.

Below is a classic Lanvin shirtdress, just right for a walk along the shore.

                                                                                                                                        available here

If you close your eyes, you can smell the wild sage on the air, its oils being released by the Mediterranean sun. You can taste the salty air on the tip of your tongue, sweet and salty, like boardwalk taffy.

Below is a vintage 1960s nautical woven handbag, ideal for holding all of your holiday essentials.

                                                                                                                                          available here

When we think of France, we linger on the image of the amazing Alain Delon. Delon is seen here starring in "Plein Soleil" aka "Purple Noon", Rene Clement's reimagining of Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr. Ripley", an excellent and dark film set in the Mediterranean. He co-stars with the beautiful Marie Laforet and Maurice Ronet.

We adore the voice and style of the great French singer Jacques Higelin. This is a consummate piece entitled "Amor Doloroso".

In the clip below, from the 1961 film "St. Tropez Blues" directed by Marcel Moussey, the legendary actress and singer Marie Laforet sings a beautiful song with her co-star Jacques Higelin. 

Do you have any special memories of France and the Riviera? Please share them with us!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cocktail Of The Week - "The Fresh Gondolier"

We at Pearl Modern have created a cocktail to celebrate Venice and all of its watery mystery and flamboyant carnivalesque exuberance. Inspired initially by the classic Venetian Bellini, we have put a twist on it, keeping it fresh but giving it a more complex, almost lurid flavor...

Cocktail Of The Week - "The Fresh Gondolier" 

Serves Four

2 c Lillet Blanc (chilled)
1/8 c Cointreau
1 bottle good chilled Prosecco
1 ripe white peach, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh mint

chill four champagne flutes
in a pitcher, combine:

Lillet Blanc & Cointreau, stir

place two to three thin slices of white peach in the bottom of chilled champagne flutes
pour Lillet Blanc and Cointreau mixture halfway up the glass
fill glasses the rest of the way with chilled Prosecco
garnish each glass with a fresh mint sprig


Yet again, it is time for the denizens of the art world to descend upon Venice for the festivities surrounding the Venice Biennale. The ultra-chic, black clad intelligentsia arriving from or leaving for Basel will boat through swollen canals, hopping from fête to fête, surely sporting the latest Prada platform loafers. 

Our one and only instance of being in the presence of Gina Lollobrigida was while on holiday in Rome years ago. We were dining on rigatoni pomodoro in a small restaurant not far from the Piazza di Spagna on a street with a wonderful old theater. While taking in the passers-by in all of their well put together finery, we noticed that the previously boisterous crowd of diners had gone silent. When we turned to see what was the impetus for such an abrupt quieting (fearing that a hot-blooded knife fight had broken out, as often does) and were startled to see the now older, yet still beautiful Gina Lollobrigida accompanied by two handsome young men walking into the restaurant wearing what looked like a long silk dressing gown and sporting a massive diamond necklace. It was the epitome of true glamour. We still feel privileged to have been in the company of a true Italian movie star, if only to be momentarily blinded by the glinting of her diamonds.

Venice has been the haunting backdrop of so many of our favorite films, such as Luchino Visconti's "Death In Venice", Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Rainbow Thief" starring the incomparable Peter O'Toole, as well as Paul Schrader's "The Comfort of Strangers" with Christopher Walken playing such an amazing character that we often find ourselves reflecting on the image of him wearing a crisp white suit sitting in the most magnificent and decadent palazzo, his icy wife portrayed by Helen Mirren at his side. Another film we absolutely love is the Joseph Losey film "Eva" starring Jeanne Moreau, Stanley Baker and Virna Lisi. Jeanne Moreau is at her best in this gorgeous film from 1962, shot in hotel rooms, villas and bars that are grand and sinister, the architecture and decor luxurious and coldly unapproachable, very much like the character Moreau plays.

"Death In Venice", directed by Luchino Visconti, from 1971 features the magnificent performance by Dirk Bogarde, who also starred in another of our beloved Joseph Losey films - "The Servant" from 1963.

Finally, the tragically evocative Fifth Symphony (Adagietto) from Gustav Mahler that was used so brilliantly in the film "Death In Venice".

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Collecting Hats Is Serious Business - Mr. John

Mr. John was born John P. Harberger in Germany around 1902. He was as famous in the world of hats as Christian Dior was in the realm of haute couture.

Mr. John's hats were worn by the Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Swanson, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. Mr. John created hats (astonishingly) for over one thousand classic films. His hats were worn by such film icons as Marlene Dietrich in "Shanghai Express" and "The Scarlet Empress", Greta Garbo in "The Painted Veil", Vivian Leigh in "Gone With The Wind" as well as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". 

His work was featured on the covers of countless fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, photographed by Irving Penn and Horst P. Horst. Mr. John was a wildly creative genius milliner and a fabulously eccentric gentleman.



Here at Pearl Modern, we are always on the hunt for exciting hats. We have developed a deep appreciation for the creations of Mr. John. We tend to choose hats that have a certain "attitude", hats that a movie star on the lam might choose, worn with ridiculously large dark sunglasses. We love real glamour and think that one can look glamorous any time of the day and in any situation, from walking the dog to sipping cocktails. Hats are a brilliant way to up the ante with one's wardrobe, either giving your look an edge or softening it with a giant pouf of tulle sitting just so...

Below is an attention grabbing 1960's Mr. John woven raffia checkerboard hat with a daring black vinyl feather.

                                                                                                                                          available here

Below is a wildly sexy 1960's Mr. John leopard print faux fur hat. Rawr!

                                                                                                                                          available here

Below is a 1960's Mr. John mod Carnaby Street bubble hat.

                                                                                                                                        available here

Below is a 1960's Mr. John chic bohemian floppy hat.

                                                                                                                                          available here 

For a more in depth look at the incredibly interesting life of Mr. John, please read this excellent article from Framework.