27 July, 2010

The Duchess Considers . . .

"Take Ivy"


It seems as if the entire earth awaits with baited breath the re-release of "Take Ivy", a volume of photographs originally commissioned by Kensuke Ishizu to document the all-American Ivy League style of the 1960s (1965, to be exact). "Take Ivy" has been an exquisitely rare possession for several decades now, but its United States reprint (in English, no less!) will no doubt flood the market (at least a certain demographic thereof).

The blogosphere, for lack of a better term, has been hyping up "Take Ivy" for over a year now: on The Trad, for example, "Take Ivy" made an appearance as early as late 2008. But "Take Ivy" frenzy has reached new and unforeseen heights. And now of course discerning types can purchase a copy of their very own on none other than the J. Crew Web site.

As J. Crew wisely markets, "Take Ivy" is a men's accessory, and offers nothing of note to the typical red-blooded American female (at least, to this one). No provocative would-be heroes of fantasy, and (as there are of course no women in the photographs) no style pointers. The latter deficiency the Duchess considers here.

Because what is Ivy Style as it translates to the female form and spirit? Yes, we've all read "The Official Preppy Handbook" and purchased our Shetland sweaters from the Andover Shop, but androgynous dress has its limits, particularly among women of a certain age or figure. In other words, how does a woman capture the essence of Ivy Style without obliterating her feminine mystique?

W Magazine, July 2010

With the right set of legs, a touch of schoolgirl always works (especially dowdied up a bit with flats, as shown above in this month's edition of W Magazine (newly edited by Stefano Tonchi)). There's a shelf life on this look though, ladies, although the Duchess will solve that little problem (see photographs below).


The insanely mysterious vixen Audrey Horne (played by Sherilyn Fenn) of "Twin Peaks" completely epitomizes the dare-to-never bare conservatism emblematic of Ivy Style while simultaneously channeling witchy strength and carnal vulnerability. Quite well done. Smarts and perfect eyebrows never go out of style.


The ever reliable Jackie O. presents the ideal Ivy Style uniform. No makeup; easy hair; flat sandals; navy!; khaki skirt; Gucci bag. An effortless kit for the double-X chromo of any age, 9 to 99.


Anne McNally is perhaps the Duchess's most idealized fashion icon. The hair is terrific, the no-makeup makeup flawless. She's very chic but covered, with an all-American ease (jersey skirt) but with touches of glamour (fur collar and cuffs). She wears blue jeans with the same cache as a ball gown. Her look is unique and she isn't trying too hard (again, the very worst). A very modern Ivy Style.

The Duchess is a bit turned off by the "Take Ivy" fervor. Because we have reached a point where pursuit of a look conveying a lifestyle of privilege and leisure seems more costume-y than effortless, more stylized than natural. Because its authenticity is put-upon; because it's imitation without wit. And perhaps because it is undemocratic in the extreme. There is nothing stylish about that.

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