Tinseltown holidays

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Bring on the feather fascinators, the fur collars and the sparkly shoes. The holidays are the stuff of fashion fantasy, the one time of year when, no matter your age, you can get away with dressing like a disco ball. Whether you take your cues from Hollywood or the pages of fashion magazines, almost everyone wants to add a little tinsel to their everyday lives.

This season, designers have all the trimmings: smoldering ruby-red sequins from Marc Jacobs; tulle tiers from Christian Dior; bijoux printed silks from Oscar de la Renta, and exploding ruffles from Lanvin. Just try to take your eyes off of Jason Wu’s jeweled satin box clutch or Miu Miu’s pink suede platform pumps with glitter on the soles.

Beyond clothes, there are seasonal decorations and home accessories to inspire, such as Rodarte’s cosmic Christmas ball ornaments for the Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection, Kelly Wearstler’s bejeweled brass bottle openers and the extraordinary vintage jewelry tabletop Christmas trees by Margaret Larkin that I spotted at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City but am determined to try to re-create at home.

We’ve dedicated this issue to holiday dressing and gift giving. Whether you are looking to buy for a traditionalist, a modernist, a romantic or a locavore, we’ve got ideas.


One such bestowal could be the new book “Hollywood Unseen: Photographs From the John Kobal Foundation,” a tribute to the stars who embodied the fantasy of Hollywood during its golden age. Nearly all of the photos were staged by studio publicity departments. Some are hilariously strange (Laurel and Hardy posing with a kitten on a movie camera), while others are captivatingly glamorous (Gary Cooper in a perfect houndstooth three-piece suit, boarding a train at Waterloo Station).

But the image that really charms is the 1940 photo of Betty Grable climbing out of a convertible with holiday presents spilling about. Taken by Frank Powolny, the picture is perfectly art directed. That legendary leg, the strappy red suede shoe, downy fur coat and bordeaux lip — it’s no wonder Grable would go on to become the girl World War II GIs wanted to come home to, immortalized in an iconic 1943 bathing suit shot, also taken by Powolny.

Never mind that the holiday photo was probably taken on a studio lot during one of L.A.'s balmy 75 degree days. It’s all about getting into the spirit, right? Studio portraits like this one kept the Hollywood factory humming and the world dreaming, even in tough times. In the book’s foreword, Joan Collins, who was under contract with various studios for two decades, writes that the images brought back memories of endless hours spent posing “in a variety of ‘turn ‘em on’ outfits!”

“Turn ‘em on outfits.” You have to love that description. It’s what dressing up is all about. Whether it’s for a holiday dinner with family, a charity ball or a New Year’s Eve bash, it’s time to turn ‘em on!