Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beyonce is American Royalty on TIME Cover

By Christopher Cole

Many were upset when Beyonce posed for the May 5 2014 cover of Time Magazine in her underwear, which leads me to wonder why she chose to wear that attire. 

The outfit itself is less underwear than a bathing suit that a stylish woman might wear to the beach with kids in tow. If a woman wore this on the beach, it would be considered tame, but it’s the context that bothers people. She wears a halter bra and high-cut briefs both in white and a see-through chiffon shirt with slightly puffed short sleeves.

Is this appropriate for the beach? Yes. Is this appropriate for the cover of a political magazine? Not so much. But is the question of “what’s appropriate” all relative? Apparently Beyonce thought it was appropriate.

Seeing a crotch in your face on a magazine where female figures usually wear power suits, the reaction to the cover is understandable, but Beyonce’s natural body exudes a sexuality that another woman’s body would not. This is Beyonce’s cross to bear.

Deep down, I think Beyonce wants to push her media darling reputation as far as it will go. I've spoken to church-going black people who view Beyonce as if she were royalty: Beyonce is Duchess Kate for the black community, just as Jay-Z is its Prince William. (When Kate and William visited the U.S. recently, they met Beyonce and Jay-Z with headlines that read "Britain's Prince William and his wife, Duchess Kate Middleton got to meet some American royalty"). Black people forgive a lot about Beyonce and Jay-Z because they're the ideal Black nuclear family (with baby Blue Ivy included) that many black people aspire to be, and are celebrated by the world.  

 The shirt Beyonce wears on the cover symbolizes a transparency that has defined this “Drunk in Love” era of her career.  She has the big career, the husband and the baby. She has it all. Despite her sexy image, Beyonce’s career has been free of scandals (aside from the Destiny’s Child mean girl drama of the early 2000’s) and she professes to be a God-fearing woman, albeit a scantily clad one. In all fairness, a woman’s sexy dressing doesn't mean she’s not faithful in God. When Beyonce and Jay-Z perform “Drunk in Love” simulating their bedroom activities, many shrug that off as a married couple being proud of their love.  

The long blond hair that’s been a staple of Beyonce’s brand is on full display on this cover; the hair is a tool that helps her transcend race. This is hair Jennifer Aniston would wear. Beyonce has achieved a status closer to royals that most white celebrities have not achieved, which makes it so hard to turn on her. She’s not just a singer, but also a symbol of a prosperous lifestyle for all races. She’s Michael Jackson’s heir apparent in terms of being palatable to so many people and highly regarded. Michael professed his royalness by donning military jackets with military sashes; Beyonce’s blond hair is her military sash showing that she’s the Queen of Pop. Not R&B, but Pop.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Katy Perry Likes Her Roses Red for American 'Vogue'

By Christopher Cole

With its passionate reds, smooth flesh and yearning looks, Katy Perry's first American Vogue cover locates where romanticism, freedom and sexual desire meet.

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, the Rodarte dress Katy wears is embroidered with red roses on top of an airy silk-satin; I can feel the breath on my skin just looking at that silk-satin. When I see those roses, I see Mena Suvari draped in nothing but roses in the film American Beauty, and that's what the photo seems to be saying: Katy Perry is an American beauty.

The exposed shoulder looks as if an invisible hand is pulling it down, undressing her, freeing her and hiking her dress up to the thigh. All she needs is herself. The dress in reality is long and almost floor-length with the fabric wrapped around gathered like a bustle. Although her leg extends outside the frame, I imagine she might be wearing the calfskin ballet flats she wears in another photo inside the magazine; the flats would give her a hipster look (Warped Tour 2008! where she performed), but bare feet would reinforce her romantic, goddess look. 

There's also something very nostalgic about Katy, which is appropriate since Katy has made a career of bringing back pop culture past to unite Millenials. She looks like a young Jennifer Connelly, a similarly pale-skinned, raven-haired beauty who was the girl-next-door.  This cover elevated Katy for me because it was the first time I'd seen her in an elegant, non campy way. Now every time I hear her music, I forever think of this cover. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sleek and Slick is the Name of the Game on TV drama "STALKER"

Laurie Fortier (center) wears the leopard print cardigan on the set of "Stalker."

By Christopher Cole

Stalker (2014- ) is scary because it sneaks up on you, which accounts for all the sleek clothes that allow the actors to move like panthers. In the episode “Tell All,” the costume designer Maya Lieberman draws on the excesses of the 1980s to 1930s elegance to bring the episode’s Real Housewives-like characters to life.

The series, created by screenwriter Kevin Williamson (the Scream films), centers on Beth Davis (Maggie Q) who’s the Lieutenant of LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit (TAU) which investigates stalking crimes. In the episode “Tell All,” the estranged wife of a professional hockey player is terrorized by an intruder, just as she’s about to release a tell-all memoir.

The sports wife Stella (Laurie Fortier) makes a lot of people angry about her impending book, including her ex-friend Cynthia Walker (Chandra West). The two women bicker at cocktail parties and throw insults at each other, which sounds a lot like the women of the “Real Housewives” reality-TV franchise, but Stella and Cynthia dress better.

 Stella and Cynthia are haughty, narcissistic women who crave attention and this craving reflects in their clothing. At the cocktail party, both women wear flowing column dresses like the goddesses in ancient Greek times; it’s a look that the Real Housewives wear all the time with a flute of champagne in one hand. Stella wears a column dress with silver leaf detailing on the thin straps that really emphasizes the Greek influence, but instead of thong sandals she wears a more modern choice: open-toed shoes with stiletto heel and platform sole.

When interviewed by Beth and TAU officer Janice (Mariana Klaveno) at the police station, Cynthia ravishes in a red chiffon blouse again commanding attention in a bold color. The shirt’s flowing fabric reflects how comfortable Cynthia’s life is, exuding leisure. There’s slight padding in the shoulders instantly evoking Dynasty and the 1980s silhouette. Similarly, when Stella is interviewed, she makes a statement in what seems like the vixen’s uniform: a leopard-print outfit. The leopard-print cardigan is interesting because the leopard spots are shaped like hearts paired with a leather skirt, once again summoning the spirit of the 1980s.

The main characters of the show—members of the TAU—have a style that contrasts strongly against the lurid styles of Stella and Cynthia. Beth and Janice dress similarly in chiffon peasant blouses and slim pants highlighting their trim figures. Beth starts the episode in a soothing beige chiffon blouse that’s in line with Cynthia’s blouse, but the more demure version. After getting fully involved in Stella’s case and getting closer to catching her own stalker, Beth is emboldened and it shows in her form-fitting sleeveless black top that’s flexible so that she can move like a panther; sleeveless always means virility to me. The mandarin collar is an unusual little treat since a crew neck or turtleneck is expected.

Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott), a detective in the TAU, jogs in an early scene wearing a nylon shirt that clings to his body as do his pants as he strides in flawless cross trainer sneakers. Even the clothes Jack wears to work are slim-fitting and cat-like, making him the masculine mirror to Beth.

As much as the clothes differ in the episode “Tell All,” they manage to intersect blurring their differences: men dress as slinky as women and women dress as virile as men. The ultra-feminine clothes of Stella and Cynthia shed the light on the darker, simpler styles of the police enforcers at the center of “Stalker.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Michael Kors ad is Pretty, Pink & Pleated Seventies Style!

In a New York Times newspaper, this photo of pink jumped out at me. Like getting sucked into Barbie's Dream House. This must be how Nicki Minaj feels. That floral shirt is pink, peasant and pleated. Unbuttoned so that she sports a plunging neckline circa 1978. Think of Amy Adams's perky breast necklines in American Hustle. Even the satchel wrapped across her body feels seventies, as do the pink suede pants that I imagine are bell bottoms. Hmm, I guess I'll never know. The smoothness of the purse is classic "It bag." It looks like the smooth shell of a Valentine's Day M&M. Is there chocolate inside? The woman's bushy eyebrows are pure Brooke Shields. Dark roots and sun-kissed hair blowing  in a warm wind, hair pulled back Grace Kelly-style. The ad is supposed to sell the purse, but forget the purse!

Calvin Klein Eyewear ad Full of Rich girl Moodiness

This is pure Ice Queen fierceness. The light brown hair, a bit stringy (probably blond as a child). Hair pulled back in a bun. A bun head, perhaps. That long swan lake neck. Then there's the porcelain vampire skin. Her face gives me Uma Thurman, but who knows what lies behind those broken sunglasses she wears. The ad is selling Calvin Klein eyewear, sunglasses with chunks of the frame missing. There's something almost glam-rock about them, yet Gothic. From what I can see from the edges of the photo, she looks to be wearing a black fuzzy sweater; add a black choker with an iced-out buckle and you'd get something Amber would have rocked in Clueless. But that black fuzz is more likely a big black coat worn like a classic fur coat. Rich bitch all the way. Moody and cold like Audrey Hepburn wearing big sunglasses in the library giving George Peppard the cold shoulder.