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February 27, 2015 - Comments Off on Shopping Guide: Where To Shop in NYC

Shopping Guide: Where To Shop in NYC

Pro Tip: Avoid this scene at all costs // Photo by Joey Lax-Salinas on Flickr

Shopping in New York City can be a lot of things, but the first word that comes to mind is "overwhelming." If dodging camera-toting tourists, waiting in fitting room lines long enough to make it through your entire Instagram feed, and battling techno music-induced headaches (down with the trendy department store DJs), this round-up is for you.

It can be tough to pull out the gems among the "quantity over quality" global retailers that seem to be on every corner of the city. Nicole Lenzen (who confesses to not really enjoy shopping in most cases) has a few go-to spots for low-key browsing of timeless wardrobe essentials and quality designs that will last for years to come—if you give them the care they need. Give our NYC shopping guide a read and start planning that buying spree.

Clothes: Eva Gentry Consignment

If you couldn't tell, we're really into the idea of clothes having a story behind them. Eva Gentry does consignment like no one else. All of the pieces comes from tried-and-true names (think McQueen, Margiela, Band of Outsiders, Helmut Lang, Proenza Schouler) guaranteeing that you're going home with a piece that's sure to impress.

Nicole's recommendation: Eva Gentry definitely has a knack for retail buying. I came across her stores in Boerum Hill by first wandering into her high-fashion boutique (killer avant-garde aesthetic leaning very Antwerp-Six). Then I discovered her consignment shop down the street (which now appears to be her sole business focus), with an amazing collection of designer pieces in impeccable condition, across a wider style spectrum.

371 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Clothes: Kaight

Photo: Kaight's Facebook page

Stop into Kaight for a taste of Brooklyn designers, and stories behind the brands. All of the pieces in the store (womenswear, accessories, and gifts) are made sustainability and/or are locally produced. The shop was recently named Best NYC Sustainable Fashion Boutique by Ecocult.

Nicole's Recommendation:  Kate (founder and owner of Kaight) has a nice eye for curation and I always enjoy browsing her shop. Plus she has always only carried lines with an ethical and sustainable focus. If I'm going to buy something new, I always try to shop from someone I respect. (Plus it's fun catching up with her if she's in the store, always a rewarding experience!)

382 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Read more

October 29, 2014 - Comments Off on A Brief History of Halloween and Where the Costume Came From

A Brief History of Halloween and Where the Costume Came From

Photo cred: Emily Hildebrand/Flickr

Photo cred: Emily Hildebrand/Flickr

If there's one thing that pops to mind at the first mention of Halloween, it's got to be the costumes. While getting dressed up when you were young and planning out your candy route might have been exciting for a an entirely different set of reasons (hint: copious amounts of free candy), celebrating Halloween as an adult can be just as fun. But along with those years of costume experience comes an interest in why we spend so much time and money planning our get-ups. That's where we come in. Read on and see why you're really going all out with the wardrobe on October 31st.

Photo cred: Allison Marchant/Flickr

Photo cred: Allison Marchant/Flickr

It turns out that the Halloween costumes of years (read: centuries) past are much more terrifying than any fake-blood-spurting plastic mask situation. The costume tradition dates all the way back to a mention in Shakespeare's 1593 play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (and even earlier). The house-to-house begging came into the picture around the 16th century, where friendly neighbors would hand out cakes and other sweets to those who came for a visit. In their defense, it seems that the threat of "trick or treat" was taken much more literally than it is today.

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August 4, 2014 - Comments Off on What to Wear to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island

What to Wear to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island

voon_michelleVintage style mavens Michelle Coursey & Voon Chew on the dance floor - photo by Paul Stein

When it comes to themed summer happenings, the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island is one of my favorites. It takes place over two glorious weekends, with the final 2014 dates coming up August 16-17th. Conceived by the dapper bandleader Michael Arenella, the event is a dreamy escape back in time: 1920's garb, antique gramophones, a vintage motorcar exhibition, pie contests, properly themed cocktail, and—of course—lots of dancing. (You can see the complete "Run of Show" here.) Once you get past the excitement of what the Lawn Party actually is, don’t let the anxiety of coming up with an outfit weigh you down. There is no specific dress code, but everyone is encouraged to channel elegant vintage-inspired attire to contribute to the overall spirit. Here are a few tips for dressing for the occasion, but make sure to buy your tickets first.

miu_miuMiuccia Prada + Catherine Martin costumes for Baz Luhrman's Gatsby

The Dress
The 1920s style brings about visions of fringed shifts and beaded extravagancies. This is the event to pull out your finest and wear it well. For inspiration, the gorgeous costumes created by Miuccia Prada and Catherine Martin for Bahz Luhrman's Gatsby take the cake, and we absolutely love the campaign for Campari starring the lovely actress Eva Green. Try scouring vintage and thrift shops for aged beauties from the era. Or if you're feeling more daytime summery, lightweight feminine cotton dresses can also fit the bill. For previous lawn parties we've worked with clients to revamp their vintage finds: dresses in silk + cotton gingham as well as a pretty floral print.

nicole_lenzen_jazz-ageNicole Lenzen handmade lace & silk headband paired with a vintage dress - photo by Sarah Joj Tester

Mind Your Head
The headpiece played a role as an extension of a hairstyle in the '20s. What that means: Feel free to keep your 'do simple—a few waves and finger curls should do the trick—and compliment it with a flapper-style headband that was popular towards the end of the decade. If you are one of those DIY-inclined ladies, try using a plain headband or scarf and adding your own adornments to match your outfit. Or if you prefer a hat or fascinator, NYC milliner Gretchen Fenston has gorgeous jazz age-inspired creations. Otherwise a floppy woven hat is perfect for a hot summer's day full of drinking and dancing.

jazz_age_feetDancing in Air - photo by istolethetv

Dancing Shoes
This is a given. Whether you decide to go for a more modern look and pair your favorite pair of lace-ups with your get-up or an era-appropriate pair of crescent-tipped heels, make sure you won't end up nursing blisters halfway through the festivities. If it's a pair of '20s inspired shoes you're hunting for, look for a pair that features an ankle or t-strap (great for dancing!); low, chunky heels; or an oxford for a menswear inspired look. Finding a local pair might be the quickest, but Modcloth has a great selection of era-inspired shoes, as well as Remix and American Duchess for quality vintage repro.

gretchen_fenston_Milliner Gretchen Fenston in her own creation - photo by Voon Chew

Feminine Accessories, Bold Lips
A string of pearls can go a long way. Toss a few around your neck or on your wrists for a feminine touch that won't take away from the rest of your outfit. Bonus: Playing up the nude colors of your accessories allows for a bold, red lip—which is always the best way to cap the perfect outfit. Read more

December 23, 2013 - Comments Off on The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Bubble Dress

The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Bubble Dress

by Lisa Viet

The recently launched Nicole Lenzen New York collection takes us through an amazing story of elegant, contemporary, feminine silhouettes conveyed by dresses inspired by vintage fashion and swing dancing.

After the Elena dress and the Mariposa dress, we now introduce the original design that inspired the entire Candy Collection: the Bubble Dress. Drawing from the playful airiness of bubble gum, the dress silhouette is feminine, flattering and fun.

Nicole-Lenzen_Swing-Dress_Evita-Arce_09 Nicole-Lenzen_Swing-Dress_Evita-Arce_10


The quintessential Candy dress

As the first dress design that led to the entire Candy Collection, the Bubble dress draws inspiration from bubble gum and candy that will transport you into a whimsical world of fun and play. From the candy ribbon folds of the belt to the lightness of the skirt, the sweet Bubble Dress is perfectly delicious.

This playful hourglass silhouette has a sleeveless bodice and flattering boat neckline. The bubble hem provides just the right amount of fullness while the sheen of the silk accentuates the natural movement of the skirt. Read more

December 4, 2013 - Comments Off on The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Elena Dress

The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Elena Dress

by Lisa Viet

The recently launched Nicole Lenzen New York collection tells an amazing story of elegant, contemporary, feminine silhouettes inspired by vintage fashion and swing dancing. Nicole Lenzen’s designs flatter the female body whilst providing comfort and modern style. Each dress features unique details, which we will share with you in the coming weeks based on the designer’s creative input.

We start with the Elena dress. Inspired by a real-life vintage dress transported and transformed into a twenty-first century fashion silhouette, it truly represents the reconstruction of an era.


Photographs by Ned & Aya

The true story of a vintage dress

Well-known dancer Evita Arce who specializes in the Lindy Hop style and is famous for her high-flying aerials and dynamic movement reached out to Nicole Lenzen to design costumes for her dance company’s performances in New York City and abroad. Lenzen was strongly inspired by vintage dresses that Evita wore at shows and competitions, many originally worn by NYC swing dance icon Elena Iannucci, co-owner of Dance Manhattan. “Elena had a beautiful collection of vintage dresses and accessories that she handed over to Evita when she retired from dancing professionally” said Nicole Lenzen. But unfortunately the dresses were not tailored for dancing. “One of Evita’s favorite dresses – a 1940’s navy floral print which had been torn and patched up on multiple occasions – did not survive a New Year’s crowd-surfing performance!” she added with a laugh. So although the vintage dress was no longer functional, it provided great inspiration for the Elena dress. Read more

September 6, 2013 - Comments Off on Profile: Evita Arce, Dancer and Choreographer

Profile: Evita Arce, Dancer and Choreographer

Evita Arce wearing a Nicole Lenzen dress and vintage gloves,
photographed by Ned & Aya at Brooklyn Farmacy

I sat down with internationally renowned swing and jazz dancer, choreographer, and instructor Evita Arce in New York, in between her travels to Malaysia and a 6-week tour to teach and perform in Europe.

I have had the great fortune of collaborating with Evita on costumes for her dance company's performers and took this opportunity to ask more about how she became the incredible dancer, artist and all-around inspiring woman she is today.

Nicole: Evita, how long have you been dancing?

Evita: I have been dancing Lindy Hop for 15 years. I started when I was 18 and I’m about to turn 33. But before that I did other dance styles, mostly of Latin origin. I was in my very first dance class at age 3.  And it wasn’t one of those my mom put me in--I wanted to go.

Nicole: Did you want to become a professional dancer?

Evita: I never thought I would ever be a professional dancer. I never ever, ever, ever even wanted to because I always assumed I wasn’t tall enough or thin enough. So never did that enter my mind!

Dancing was always for fun, like a pastime. Then it just so happened that I was doing what I loved all the time and that led to people saying, "Well could you teach? Could you perform? And so on."

It’s so cliché because people say follow your heart and you’ll end up doing what you love. But if you actually do what you love all the time, it sort of takes over. And that’s what happened--now I’m a full time dancer.

Evita_Arce_Nicole_Lenzen_lace_dressEvita Arce wearing Nicole Lenzen, photographed by Ned & Aya

Nicole: Who are your inspirations?

Evita: Well, when I was a kid my uncle was an incredible artist and he should have traveled the world and left his tiny city to go and do bigger and better things with his life. But he never did.

And I remember thinking back when I was a kid, “You’re so talented and you could and should be more.” So that was a little bit of a push to reach for higher and bigger things in life, like stepping out of my hometown.

Ryan Francois and Jenny Thomas, they were and still are my mentors and teachers. They live in London and are Lindy Hop dancers. I auditioned and worked with them and that’s actually where I met Michael Jagger, my dance partner.

Nicole: Yes, tell us more about your dance partnership.

Evita: Michael and I have been partners for about nine years but we’ve known each other for over ten. We love and hate each other extensively. He’s like my big brother, business partner, soul mate, and best friend--everything.

When I work with someone else, it makes me realize how well matched I am with Michael. I can learn and enjoy other people’s ideas but it helps me to see how right the collaboration is between us.

Nicole: How would you describe your style of dance and what distinguishes you from other dancers in the same community?

Evita: We do swing and lindy hop. But the two things that I think really set us apart are that we are much more theatrical. We like to use props and take on characters; it’s not just an athletic thing based on speed or tricks. One example of this is our most famous dance pieces called Singing in the Rain. That one is like a musical - theatre through dance.

Evita Arce & Michael Jagger perform Singing in the Rain,
film produced by Jeff Bond & Eileen O'Donnell

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May 18, 2013 - Comments Off on Profile: John Warren, Furniture Designer

Profile: John Warren, Furniture Designer

John Warren Designs

Photo by Saunders Moore

SOWA Vintage Market

Photo by Saunders Moore

A few years ago while strolling through the Brooklyn Flea during its first season, I met a furniture designer from Boston named John Warren, and his partner Stephanie. I was immediately attracted to his design aesthetic and creative use of repurposed materials. My studio was in dire need of a cabinet for organizing fabric swatches and sewing supplies, so I decided to commission John to create a custom piece.



For the cabinet, I specified the dimensions, as well as a general color palette, and some types of materials and details I liked from John's previous creations. I knew that I wanted ceiling tin to be included in the mix, as well as the ability to hold a couple rows of locker baskets–also sourced from Stephanie and John–inside, as they are perfect for cataloguing fabric color cards.



I then gave John creative freedom to design and construct the cabinet. To my immense satisfaction, he came up with the most beautiful asymmetrically curved shape for the doors, and incorporated vine-patterned metalwork from discarded schooldesks. As a couture clothing designer I tend to have incredibly high standards. I was floored by his craftsmanship, especially the precision with which he cut the wood to match the jagged edges of the metalwork pieces.

John Warren Designs

It was such a pleasure to work with John on my one-of-a-kind cabinet that I wanted to share with you more about the details that went into the piece, how he got his start in craftsmanship, and about the vintage market called SoWa that he and Stephanie now run. To do so, I went up to Boston to see John and Stephanie in their element at SoWa. Here's a bit about how they are keeping Boston hip and bringing vintage back.

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September 11, 2012 - Comments Off on Laurel – Reconstructed Vintage for the Jazz Age Lawn Party

Laurel – Reconstructed Vintage for the Jazz Age Lawn Party

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August, Laurel found an adorable summery dress on eBay. However, when she received the piece, it was in a sorry state of wear & tear. She brought the piece to me, and while I deemed the bodice a patchwork of repairs, the skirt (delicately smocked at the waistband and cleanly bound at each skirt tier) was in great condition. I proposed disassembling the bodice to remove and reuse all the cute blue & white gingham cotton trim, and creating a new bodice in silk organza to match the skirt. In this manner we were able to salvage the best parts of the original, and make a new dress constructed to endure endless dances.

The talented photographer and fellow dancer Lynn Redmile captured Laurel in her dress at the Lawn Party (above & below).

Below, I outline the process of reconstructing this vintage dress, starting with disassembly of the original dress and cleaning the usable parts to bring back the white and blue pop of the gingham print. The trim and the skirt were re-used in the recreation.

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September 11, 2012 - Comments Off on Lyana – Restored & Altered Vintage Dress for the Lawn Party

Lyana – Restored & Altered Vintage Dress for the Lawn Party

For her first time attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governor's Island, Lyana wanted a special dress for the occasion. Her friend Laurel had found her a vintage chiffon dress with a precious dance-and-flower-themed print, but which needed some work to be wearable, and a little extra care for a more contemporary feel.

When I received the original, several parts were disintegrating, most significantly the shoulder area. While the sleeves were also shredded in some spots, there was enough salvageable fabric in the sleeves to cut a new shoulder yoke to replace the disintegrated areas on the bodice. Read more

January 15, 2012 - Comments Off on Brit – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Brit – Reclaimed Wedding Gown

Brit, a sustainable-minded person and regular vintage shopper, brought me not one, but three vintage dresses from which to create her custom wedding gown. They are pictured below from left to right:

1) Her grandmother's wedding dress (circa 1950s) - a beautifully constructed satin, lace, and tulle dress, which her grandmother recalls in retrospect as being very out of character in terms of her style!
2) A vintage (circa 1940s) lace dress discovered at Brimfield, the amazing antique fair Brit has been frequenting with her family since she was young.
3) Her mother's wedding dress (circa 1990) - a very Stevie Nicks-esque satin and lace creation replete with winged sleeves and flowing skirt.

My biggest challenge in combining these dresses was integrating them into  a cohesive look that maintained a high level of taste and sophistication, instead of reading as a hodgepodge. Here is the lovely bride in the final dress, which we both ended up being thrilled with. I describe the process from A-to-Z below.

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