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October 23rd, 2002 Elizabeth Dye | Fashion
 

A FRESH COAT

Morale-boosting winter warmups, '60s style.

     
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In Portland, the onset of fall means ignoring fresh fashion directives in favor of the tried and true "hot cider and a good book" look. If you must hunker down by frumping it up (and you know you will), at least read something with style, like the new book by Oregonian film critic Shawn Levy. By the author of Rat Pack Confidential, Levy's Ready, Steady, Go: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London is sodden with the stories of eccentric stylemakers that made London, early to mid-1960s, one of the most glorious and gorgeous fashion moments of all time. From fashion photographer David Bailey to hair wizard Vidal Sassoon (who knew he was such a kick-ass military man?) to micro-mini designer Mary Quant, the book lays bare the miracle of a country that sings through 228 days of rain a year.

Like soggy London town, Portland likes to bundle up in several layers of vêtements to brace for winter's oncoming chill. But P-town is more of a windbreaker town: That cold-weather coat (such a pessimistic purchase) is left to the very last minute. But it doesn't have to be that way. Style and warmth can peacefully coexist, as they have for years in a certain pea-soup city by the Thames. Consider a fresh sartorial debut in something snug and cinematic, à la swinging London, and steal your inspiration from that era's more famous coats.

Pea Nutty: This wool melton, double-breasted classic--U.S. Navy standard issue since before World War I--is handsome and flattering on any man, smart and boyish on any woman. The pea coat was named for the coarse blue pilot's twill ("P-cloth") out of which it was originally made. In it, you conjure the Rolling Stones' 1967 cover for Between the Buttons--a frizzy glade of bare trees, mist rising from the hillocks, you looking pained and poetic. A royal blue turtleneck underneath wouldn't be amiss. If the young Mick liked it, so should you. Find it used at Andy & Bax Sporting Goods, 324 SE Grand Ave., 234-7538, or new at the Gap (various locations).

Togglemania: Barbara Parkins sounded every bit a Brit-bred New Englander as the fresh-faced Anne Welles in Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. As her character leaves behind her snow-dusted hometown for New York City's sin and glamour, Parkins lent much-needed dignity to this popcorn pic. Although she beautifies the Big Apple in pink suits and plunging evening gowns, what else would Anne wear back home but an understated wool car coat with wooden toggle buttons? This honey is derived from the English duffle coat 19th-century sailors wore to brave the North Sea winds (asymmetrical horn buttons and frog closures fight the erratic gusts). On Parkins, the crisp, plaid-lined melton against the virgin foothills of Vermont was preppie pastiche at its finest. Check one out at gear.sierratradingpost.com/ gloverall.htm.

Blow on This: There's no particular magic to the shapeless black coat worn by David Hemmings in the fashion-flickish Blow-Up--but then dear David was too busy shagging himself silly with London's teen models to wear it that often. This '66 film was inspired by the real-life hijinks of rebel fashion photographer David Bailey. The action here is when the coats come off for the costumed photo shoots. As if the retro cachet weren't enough, Blow-Up's costumes were copied stitch-for-stitch for the first Austin Powers movie. For mod miscellany, head to Magpie, 520 SW 9th Ave., 220-0920.

Hide & Seek: David Lean's 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago is not only a tragedy-buffeted walk through a nation in revolution, but a walk-in closet of great muffs, ruffs and furbelows. As we roll into the Russian winter, Julie Christie's banal wraps and headscarves give way to elaborate skins. Sooner or later, those gory patchwork rabbit-fur jackets molting in rural thrift stores had to come back into style. Value Village, 7110 SE 4th Plain Road, Vancouver, Wash., (360) 944-5225 and other locations.


Ready, Steady, Go: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London
By Shawn Levy Doubleday, 336 pages, $24.95
 
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