Saturday, October 15, 2011

2.9: Breaking Flowers

Paul:  At the time of writing this post, we are out of garden party season.  The convention of the garden party is a lovely one.  People get well-dressed and gather in a garden or park.  Refreshments are served.  Outdoor games like croquet are played.  If I could, I would throw a summer garden party with paper lanterns, fireworks, chilled sparkling rosé, a Punch and Judy show and a banjo orchestra, and gold and silver crowns for everyone. I would buy myself a new white linen suit for the occasion.

Laurie:  Ah, I would love to throw a party like that too!  But in order to make this possible, mucho mega yard-work must first be done!

Paul:  I would like to make an aside about this sort of party and my feelings about such things.  I have a "cannot be happy if anyone anywhere in the world is suffering" streak.  This is not meant to be self-congratulatory, but rather expressing what a wet blanket I can be if I don't check such attitudes.  I have the capacity to crash into absolute joylessness at the drop of a hat.  For some reason I kept thinking about Truman Capote during this episode.

Capote is, in my opinion, without a doubt in the top-five list of greatest authors that America has produced. He had an early success with Breakfast at Tiffany's, but for some reason then chose to write a non-fiction novel, a journalistic experiment following the crime, capture, and aftermath of a family that was murdered in Kansas.  By many accounts, the long and harrowing experience of essentially becoming part of that story destroyed Capote or, at least, severely twisted him permanently.

Very soon after the executions of the murderers and publication of his book, Capote threw a massive and expensive masqued ball at New York's Plaza Hotel.  The guest list could work as a who's who of the period.  It very well may have been the definitive elite party of that era, perhaps even that century.  There was great criticism at the time (even inside the party by the ungracious Norman Mailer) about throwing such a lavish event while the nation was in smack dab in the quagmire of Vietnam.

I've always thought that Capote was trying to recapture some of that pre-In Cold Blood energy, now that he enjoyed the position of fame where he could, as it were, come inside Tiffany's for breakfast.  It almost seems to me as if he spent the rest of his life both trying to recapture something along those lines and subsequently reacting when the pink unicorn proves to be invisible.  He cultivated a life amidst the jet-set and then smashed it to bits when he began publishing thinly-fictionalized stories about the people he had surrounded himself with.  He worked his way into the Warhol and Studio 54 world, then spiraled into a nose-dive of very public substance abuse.

I felt a twinge of this as our designers, filmed six years ago, were dashing about the floral district while right now the serfs are revolting in that same city.  I can see the ghost of my friend New York Rob admiring the lilies.  As I am internally designing my own "Masque of the Red Death" ball, I become acutely aware that I, like Capote, sort of live in that danger of being the guy who gets tossed out of the bar for weeping in despair during happy hour.

Laurie:  Though not bent quite as sharply as you in that same direction, I can testify from my own experience that grief and Mardi Gras can stir into a pathetic mix. I well remember attending an annual summer pool party that was held in spite of the fact that two of the individuals who would normally have attended had been murdered just days before.  The idea was, at first, to cancel it, but then someone got the idea that it should be held anyway, in honor of the victims.  I don't know how the rest felt, but it turned into a disaster of embarrassment for me.  The combination of sadness, horror at the idea of partying at such a time, and my own alcohol consumption left me publicly maudlin. To this day it is one of my most humiliating memories.

Paul:  But we were talking about the Garden Party challenge.

Laurie:  Yes we were, and somehow you've managed to turn this into some kind of meta-narrative.

Paul:  That's been my intention since starting this blog.

Laurie:  Well, I'm having a hard time pulling my head out of the dark place you've stuck it; I keep wondering what our designers would have come up with if their challenge required them to produce funeral garb.  After all, gardens and cemeteries tend to be different by only one significant measure, and the same goes for funerals and parties. Death certainly does have a way of sucking the life out of things.

As the saying goes, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."  Is it possible for wisdom, fashion, and garden parties to co-exist, or to enjoy them must we remain fools?

Paul:  That is an excellent question phrased in such a way that it seems as if you almost expect me to be able to answer it.  Certainly there is a time to every purpose and whatnot.  Personally, the house of mourning makes a lot more sense to me with existence as I've experienced it.  On the other hand, here I am watching a television show about fashion every few nights.  I may have a few suggestions of a middle path culled from secular sources.  The poet Keats wrote "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need know."

If you were to ask an Aristotelian about living a meaningful life, they would respond that the only life worth living is the life of virtue, a cue taken from Socrates.  They would say that happiness is a constituent of virtue, in fact even so far as the only constituent of virtue.  Along with the Socratic "cardinal virtues" (prudence, temperance, justice, and courage) they would emphasize the indivisibility of beauty and good (while Socrates was much more focused on "wisdom" as the best window to virtue.)  In this way, and really only in this way, I can begin to delight in things like fashion and garden parties.

Laurie:  That's all well and good, but do our own scriptures not provide any direction in this regard?

Paul:  Certainly, as I said, there is a time to every purpose and we are instructed to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  I find that scripture advocates temperance and wisdom and proscribes unbridled mirth and jocularity.  It is also my belief that scripture would back up the Aristotelian view of appreciating beauty expressed above, although I can tell you from personal reading experience that someone like Augustine would take great and turgid 25 page long pains to insure that all glory is given back to the creator of such beauty.  And rightly so, I think.

Carrying on:

The challenge was to create an actual outfit out of garden.  They were taken to the flower district to purchase materials for their dresses.  As usual, I intend to spend as little time as possible talking about the actual challenge.

As a major parenthetical and can of worms, Daniel Vosovic is shown in one of the endless loops of fabricating in the windowless Parsons dungeon (I was half expecting one of the designers to buy ammonium nitrate at a gardening store and blow one of the walls off so that they could all run to freedom!)  Daniel makes mention of the elephant that follows almost all of the men around the rooms on Project Runway.  Daniel recounts "coming out" to his decidedly Christian parents.

Laurie:   I gathered from what he said, and from what I know having seen the full season by now, that they behaved themselves as Christians in response.  They kept right on loving him.  The kind of people his parents seem to be, I think, explains a lot about Daniel's demeanor on the show.  From what we've been shown of him, he is even-tempered, honest, respectful, and gentle. I'd say his parents raised him well.  He is a superb young man.

Paul:  Agreed. 
Daniel V's winner, image via
Laurie:  And, here's the segue: his superb design was the winner of our garden party challenge.

The judges for this challenge expressed uniform disappointment at the overall lack of flowers in the finished dresses.  For those of us watching, their decisions made practical sense.  This was a two-day design challenge.  Cut flowers have a very short shelf life.  Individual petals even shorter.  Our models are women, not Rose Parade floats and can't be sent down the runway covered with water-soaked florist's sponge.

Daniel, however, did manage to float a bright wash of purple over the bodice of his dress, letting a few blossoms spill lightly down to the waist and hip.

Paul:  Michael Kors says to Santino that it is as if he doesn't care about dressing people.  He cares about making wearable art.

Santino's dress, image via

Laurie: Kors makes a good point.

Paul:  Kors always makes a good point.  The man speaks nothing but gold.

Laurie:  I think that in photographs Santino's dress is stunning, even more so than Daniel's, but it was so stiff and heavily lacquered that it left the model moving as though in a body cast.
Kara's design, image via
 And then we have the rest of the pack.  It is clear that we've gotten down to the meat of the talent in this competition. None of the presentations were real duds, in my opinion anyway.  You can see Kara's at left.  She also managed to bring in some color albeit with a bit less pizzazz than Daniel.

Nick's is lovely too. I like the touch of yellow in the model's hair and the flip little floral fringe along the hem.  His dress ran into a bit of the same trouble that Santino's did, though. It photographs quite nicely, but in motion it was stiff.
Nick's dress, image via

 I've shown Chloe's dress in a larger frame to show the detail.  She covered her entire sub-garment painstakingly with individual leaves. The finished look was simple but lovely.  I think the skull cap, however, was over the top (so to speak) and just plain ugly.

And finally we bid adieu Andrae. The judges thought his moss-covered dress looked like a door mat. While I see their point, I think he made something rather sweet in its simplicity. We have really enjoyed getting to know quirky and sensitive Andrae, but someone had to go, and at this point I agree that it was probably his turn.

Andrae and his design, image via

No comments:

Post a Comment