by James Tuttle

Gentle reader,

I’m going to tell you about an HGTV show that I would love to like.  It’s called Secrets From a Stylist.  I know that I complained about HGTV’s programming a couple of weeks ago, when constant airings of House Hunters were beginning to erode my mental state.  I’ve since stopped automatically tuning to HGTV when I sit down after a long day of dressing my girls or playing my ponies but this show is already in our DVR queue.  It pops up every Saturday night like clockwork and I just watched the most recent episode.

The premise of the show is really quite good.  Perky stylist Emily Henderson analyses the style of each member of the homeowner couple with an interesting multiple choice test, designs their room for one person’s style, then layers on the other person’s style to create a perfect blend in which the inhabitants can live happily ever after.  What could go wrong?

The well-adjusted Dan Vickery adjusts himself (right).

In the beginning, I felt very close to this show.  I’d watched Emily win the Design Star competition over that very cute gay guy, Dan Vickery, whom I couldn’t watch without thinking whether or not he had a corrected cleft palate.  We need more cute, well-adjusted gays on TV to show America that we’re not always wearing leather halters or snorting cocaine on dance floors lit from below while listening to Gloria Gaynor or Cher but, in spite of all that, I actually rooted for Emily.

We're calling it now: regardless of what her manager tells her, Emily Henderson is not the next Martha Stewart. It's that mouse-caught-in-a-trap voice and the wonky right lateral incisor tooth that makes you want to push her off the porch.

Then, her pilot episode featured a labor-intensive but successful redesign of Glee co-creator Ian Brennan’s living room.  I, like everyone else, watch Glee and I know one of the cast members quite well and frequently work out at the gym alongside a co-creator and several cast members, so Emily and I are, like, one degree of separation.

Finally, her second house was a few streets away, the Whitley Heights 1920s home of beautiful Barbara LaMarr, the famed silent star and screenwriter who tragically and famously died young from partying too hard.  How could I not be on board?

The exquisite Barbara LaMarr. Ah, for the days when women had thin upper lips and shaved their eyebrows as well as their pits.

Well, as much as I want to like the show, I don’t.  In fact, I kind of hate it.  I do give Emily kudos for her personal style, which is a sweet kind of Bohemian-Hippy chic and quite on-trend.  In this latest episode, she turned up in the flared jeans that are soon to be ubiquitous, yet the episode must have been taped last year even before I was thinking about women in flared jeans!

Her method, though, of analyzing the clients’ styles by having them choose their favorite and least favorite out of a few groups of objects—chandeliers, toy cars, silk ties, etc.—could use some help.  Has she heard of Architectural Digest?  It has lots of pretty pictures to choose from.  And what professional interior designer does a room entirely to suit one of the occupants then re-paints the walls, rips out the newly installed carpet and replaces half the furniture to layer in the tastes of another?  How is that remotely feasible, especially in today’s economy?  How could you afford anything decent to wear if you had to do every room in your house twice?  You’d just be walking around in your nice house looking stupid.

I could let all that slide, though.  I’ve sat through more ridiculous concepts just to get to the reveal and see if I liked how the room came out.  I nearly just wrote, “and to see if the homeowners liked it” but I already know what the homeowners think because they show a clip of them before the first commercial break gasping and saying, “Oh my god…”

It’s a good thing Secrets From a Stylist is only a half-hour because a full hour of listening to Emily Henderson’s annoying squeaky, strangely inflected voice would have us gauging at our eardrums with ice picks.

If we had ice picks handy, that is.  I just realized that I haven’t seen one in quite a long time.  I remember that my great-grandmother had an ice pick that we used when we needed an extra hole in a bridle or a stirrup leather.  Now that ice comes from a magical hole in the refrigerator door rather than a huge block delivered by horse-drawn carriages, I think they may be on the endangered list.  I just asked Scott about it and he replied with another question:  “If ice picks were for huge blocks delivered on horse-drawn carriages, why did Sharon Stone have one in Basic Instinct?”  Interesting thought.

"Really weird: I dreamed last night I had a career as a movie star, and I was on the red carpet at Cannes, and then this white rabbit with a pocket watch ran across my path, and… Never mind. Did you want that on the rocks or straight up?"

So, it seems the Cannes Film Festival is upon us and there are lots of Fashion Happenings there.  It’s an odd version of the Hollywood Red Carpet because A) it’s not in Hollywood; and, B) it’s in France, where Fashion is taken very seriously.

I’ve never been to the Festival but I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Cannes.  The first time was for a month one summer to brush up on my French, which wasn’t very good in the first place, before ambitiously embarking on my doctorate in French history at Oxford.  My thesis would have been entitled “La classe paysanne:  The Myth of Rural Unity in 19th Century French Social Catholicism.”  Yeah?  Me, neither.

The most memorable thing about that trip was my black Calvin Klein singlet-style swimsuit that looked like a tank top and swim trunks all in one.  And, yes, this is the same guy you gave you advice on men’s swimwear last week. Let’s just say that I wish I’d had a “me” back then.  In hindsight, it should’ve had stripes and been worn only by someone with a mutton chop sideburns.  In 1925.

I also remember spending many nights in a ridiculously exclusive nightclub because three gorgeous Serbian girls with big boobs had taken me under their, um, wings and dragged me everywhere.  It was the sort of place where bottle service was de rigueur because the dance floor was intentionally too tiny to fit more that a few people so we’d order bottles and dance on the sofas and tables instead.

I have to say, Cannes looks decidedly more chic today.  First of all, Pure Film Creative’s dear friend Diane Pernet brought her A Shaded View of Fashion Film Festival to town to coincide with the Festival de Cannes opening.  I was looking forward to hearing her opinions about the Red Carpet fashions but, from the pictures, it appears that she was partying the whole time.

Our Diane working hard with Almodóvar star Rossy de Palma and Scottish designer Pam Hogg in a nightclub at Cannes.

With no guidance from La Pernet, I hit Google Image Search, scrolled around a bit and before long, I could pretty much sort the whole thing out.  My personal favorites:

SJP wore Elie Saab Fall 2011 for a Weinstein party, a fabulous, long sleeved crazy floral thing that worked because she knew how to work it.  The hair and makeup were also perfection.

Tilda Swinton was stunning in a two-tone blue satin sleeveless gown by Haider Ackermann’s Fall 2010.  She is almost always beautifully turned out, which is a huge accomplishment in Couture World because she has an enormous ass.  Don’t ask me how I know, but I admire her greatly for always looking so amazing.

Finally, a newcomer Jessica Chastain was a breath of fresh air in a pale yellow Zac Posen gown.  Wearing a dress with too much stuff on it knocked Penelope Cruz out of my top picks, and I’m so over that red lipstick, but something about her overall look managed to make her a winner in my book.  Maybe it’s that she’s excited to be there and it shows through.  Let’s check in on her in a few years.

SJP in a Saab gown you wouldn't want to get near to if you're tripping on acid; Jessica Chastain with bodyguards; Swinton once again forgetting to wear jewelry.

The trends to watch for in gowns, which may or may not trickle down into dresses that you would want to wear, are:

  • Long sleeves,
  • High slits,
  • Super-slim silhouettes (buy stock in Spanx NOW!)

All in all, it was refreshing to see some red carpet dresses that one might actually wear in real life.  I was beginning to put the whole phenomenon into the category of costume.  I hope the freshness follows the awards season back to L.A. and I don’t have to report on tired old gowns.

In the end, a handlebar belongs on your beach cruiser or your Harley, but never on your face.

Much love,