Last weekend the first Designers & Books Fair launched in New York – a live event at the intersection where design, architecture, and books meet.
For two days on October 27-28 The Fashion Institute of Technology hosted more than 35 U.S. and European design book publishers and booksellers displaying and selling the newest titles for the Fall and upcoming holiday season as well as important backlist titles. Many publishers were present from around the world. Many of the speakers at the event were on hand to sign their books, like Hal Rubenstein, who talked about his book “100 Unforgettable Dresses”.
Unless you are immersed into the fashion industry, you might have not heard of Hal Rubenstein, but if you are a big fan of red carpets, In Style magazine and read the fashion sections of New York Times, Huffington Post, The New Yorker and People, Hal Rubenstein is the name you most likely know.
Fashion Director Hal Rubenstein has been with In Style since it launched 18 years ago. He created its signature section, “The Look,” which established the magazine as the authority on celebrity style. He also helped define the confidence-building, down-to-earth tone that sets In Style apart and has made it the leading luxury fashion magazine in the marketplace today.
An expert on red carpet glamour, Rubenstein appears on top-rated national morning and entertainment shows including The Today Show, The View, Access Hollywood, Extra, and E!. He has also appeared on The Food Network, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. He was a series judge on Lifetime’s Blush: The Search for the Next Great Makeup Artist, and a fashion expert on the second season of Bravo’s Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. Additionally, Rubenstein was the 2011 recipient of the CFDA’s Eleanor Lambert Founder’s Award.
Prior to joining In Style, he was Men’s Style Editor of the New York Times Magazine and wrote The Edge of Nightlife column for The New Yorker. He is the author of Paisley Goes With Nothing: A Men’s Guide to Style, The Gentry Man: The Guide to the Civilized Male, and 100 Unforgettable Dresses, which he came to the Designers & Books Fair at the Fashion Institute of Technology to talk about.
I consider myself being lucky to be able to attend the Designers and Books Fair 2012 and to be meeting Hal Rubenstein who I consider a celebrity and whose personality and knowledge of the subject matter of fashion is bigger than life. I found his tales about the dresses he chose to feature in his book 100 Unforgettable Dresses both educational and mesmerizing. Rubenstein is one engaging speaker who knows a lot about the fashion industry and the history of fashion, and – in this particular instance – the history of dresses.
During this one-hour session “Style By The Book”, Rubenstein shared with the audience the stories and details behind some of the most famous, iconic dresses in the world.
In each of the segments you are about to watch on my YouTube channel, Hal Rubenstein introduces and talks about a specific dress, explaining why it is known to the world, what made it famous and how the dress changed the person’s life who wore it.
The certain dresses you will see might not be of any surprise to you because these are the iconic dresses that either defined the era or made such an impact on the people and environment in presence that everyone took a note, such was the gown that Merilyn Monroe wore when she sang the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy – the moment in history that no one would ever forget.
These are the dresses that transformed Nicole Kidman from Mrs. Tom Cruise to the top leading Hollywood actress, dresses that made both the designers and the stars who wore them – famous forever. Princess of Wales, Diana’s both the wedding gown and the Christina Stambolian dress she wore on the day when Prince Charles was going public declaring that he’s always loved Camilla Parker-Bowles – The Revenge Dress that was called after and the dresses that played a significant role in defining the global fashion trends, such as the asymmetrical one-sleeved velvet gown Tilda Swinton wore on the red carpet for the Academy Awards in 2008, or the Safety-Pin Gown by Gianni Versace that Elizabeth Hurley wore when she was dating Hugh Grant, or Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s wedding gown by Narcisco Rodriguez, and/or the ultimate dress that now has presence in every woman’s closet – Diane von Furstenberg’s Wrap-Up Dress.
I must admit, I think, personally, that this wrap-up dress revolutionized the whole fashion industry for women. There’s not a single woman who can look bad in a wrap-up dress; it’s an ultimate fit-all-women dress that makes any women look good. Only to think that this dress is as old as I am, being introduced in 1978, almost 35 years later – my generation is wearing it in the same shape and length as the original.
According to Hal Rubenstein, the dresses you are going to see in the book might shock you as some of them are not the most beautiful dresses you’ve ever seen, but the reason they became famous is because of the impact they’ve made at that time for the reasons stated clearly in the book. Moreover, Rubenstein says that it’s not the most gorgeous dress that makes the red carpet “Best Dress” list; it’s the most different, unique and somewhat shocking dress that makes history.
As you watch the videos, take a note. One of the things that Hal Rubenstein kept emphasizing is that today’s ladies should watch the classic black and white films such as Sabrina, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, Bye Bye Birdie, Gilda, Letty Lynton, A Place In The Sun, and Top Hat to see the fashion that not only defined the eras of the fashion, but also to see what was, is and will always be considered classy. Some of the best gowns and dresses were made for the actresses in film in the 40s, 50s and 60s.
In his book, Rubenstein also talks quite a bit about the weddings that were of the global meaning because of the dresses. Those were the royal weddings of Prince Charles and Princess of Wales, Diana, Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince of Monaco and the latest royal wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William that, according to Hal Rubenstein, was the best thing that’s happened to the British royal family in a long time. These were the ceremonies that millions of people around the globe watched and will always remember as the events of the decades and centuries that could never ever be replicated like there would never be another Audrey Hepburn.
Hal Rubenstein on Audrey Hepburn’s Evening Gown for Sabrina
Hal Rubenstein on J. Lo’s Plunge Dress by Donatella Versace for 2000 Grammy’s
Hal Rubenstein on Tilda Swinton’s Asymmetrical One-Sleeved Gown by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin for the 2008 Academy Award
Hal Rubenstein on Her Royal Highness Diana, Princess of Wales, Wedding Gown by David and Elizabeth Emanuel
Hal Rubenstein on Princess Diana’s Revenge Dress by Christina Stambolian
Hal Rubenstein on Elizabeth Taylor’s Debutante Dress for A Place In The Sun by Edith Head
Hal Rubenstein on Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Ball Gown by Jason Wu
Hal Rubenstein on Elizabeth Hurley’s Safety-Pin Gown by Gianni Versace
Hal Rubenstein on Nicole Kidman’s Chinoiserie Gown by John Galliano for Dior
Hal Rubenstein on Psychedelic Gowns for The Supremes
Hal Rubenstein on Cher’s Academy Award Dress by Bob Mackie
Hal Rubenstein on Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap-up dress 1978
Hal Rubenstein on Ostrich-Feather Gown by Bernard Newman for Top Hat 1935
Hal Rubenstein on Merilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” Gown by Jean Louis
Hal Rubenstein on Wedding Gown for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge