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Traveling Through Time, Space, And Art Periods At Milly Spring 2011





The late New York-bred heiress and influential 20th century art collector Peggy Guggenheim served as the muse for designer Michelle Smith‘s Milly Spring/Summer 2011 collection. Guggenheim’s progressive tastes in art made her an oddity in the art collector circuit of the ’40s and ’50s. Rather than investing in paintings as a profit-making means (or to flaunt her stature in society), Peggy Guggenheim bought works simply because they brought her joy, because she was able to discern something magnificent and sublime in them. An early supporter of the Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract art movements, Guggenheim used her wealth and connections to proselytize about the artists she loved — from Jackson Pollock to Salvador Dali, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Piet Mondrian, and many others — most of whom achieved legendary status. Aside from her connoisseurship, Guggenheim was known as a frequent traveler, having ventured to locales raging from her native New York City to Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Milan, London, Venice, and Brussels in search of tantalizing works of art.

The Milly Spring/Summer 2010 collection, then, references Guggenheim’s enviable art collection — not to mention her privileged New York roots, eccentric mannerisms, and the appreciation for different cultures facilitated by her many journeys.

The most successful designs embraced Guggenheim’s penchant for modern art, integrating these art movement references into the traditional Park Avenue princess aesthetic associated with the Milly brand. A white cotton voile skirt with a Kandinski-style print of overlapping red and black discs was paired with a tomato red and navy blue cotton jacquard cardigan (as pictured above, fourth from top) that recalled Blair Waldorf’s ensembles in Season One of Gossip Girl. A mustard yellow, matte red, ochre, minty green and chocolate brown cubist print was used for a slightly retro silk and linen shift dress (pictured above, second from top), which was then paired with a simple black jacket with cropped sleeves. The square red, white and black beads adorning the bodice of a navy sheath dress (pictured third below) nodded to Mondrian’s color-blocked pieces. Overlapping circle shapes in kelly green and black adorned the voluminous, pleated skirt of a white cotton voile dress (shown second below) featuring a fitted bodice and a scoop neck outlined in kelly green and black. And, in terms of accessories, bat wing-styled sunglasses (also designed by Milly) recalled the original frames Edward Melcarth custom designed for Guggenheim but featured brighter colors like a glossy violet (as shown above, at top).

The floral prints in the collection, though relevant to the Guggenheim theme, were far less appealing, often appearing dowdy and old-fashioned. The styling also misfired on a few looks, particularly when printed pieces were paired with handbags or shoes bearing the exact same print.  Also disappointing: the anticlimactic finale look, which consisted of a cumbersome, matronly navy cotton eyelet jacket and eyelet  tiered skirt.

Still, the turban-like head wraps adorning models’ heads added a delightfully Bohemian globe-trotter feel and many of the tribal-flavored jewelry pieces spiced up pieces in traditionally feminine silhouettes. A few rare missteps aside, the Milly Spring/Summer 2011 collection functioned as a worthy homage to Guggenheim while staying true to the line’s Upper East Side chic roots.

After the jump, we’ll break down the best and worst looks in the collection, so keep reading for more juicy details! Also, check out the video above and see the finale walk at the Milly show for yourself.

The Best Looks:


Why it works: The tomato red and black chevron print of this geranium silk twill maxi dress created a funky optical illusion, and the piece’s almost wrap-like, fitted  bodice created a nice contrast against the Grecian-inspired silhouette of the column-like skirt, with its ethereal, free-flowing hemline.



Why it works: This charming sleeveless dress epitomizes retro preppy chic, with a fitted tennis tank-like bodice, a belted waist, and a voluminous, coffee filter-like skirt featuring oversize polka dots in kelly green and black. The styling is also spot-on with a tribal-flavored beaded necklace, violet bat wing shades, and a striped turban head wrap in black, green, and white.



Why it works: This classic white, tomato red and navy blue striped sweater jacket just exudes preppy cool with its expert tailoring, gold buttons and the navy piping detailing along the lapels. The navy cotton Swiss pique sheath dress is sophisticated and versatile, but the square enamel beading along the front creates a mosaic-like accent that references cubist art in a subtle manner.


Why it works: There’s an ease to this look, facilitated by the movement of the floor-length skirt, that gives it a Bohemian vibe, but the contrast of the nautical blue and crisp white fits with the legacy of all-American sportswear. The curved, flattened “V” shape of the ivory and blue stripes along the bodice of the cotton dress follow the sweetheart neckline, creating a sense of harmony, while the vertical stripes along the center of the skirt, and the arcs along the hips work together to slim and lengthen the silhouette.



Why it works: While the colored black and red discs along the skirt reference modern art, the jacquard cardigan sweater is traditional preppy fare. This is a Constance-ready, Blair-Waldorf-on-the-Met-steps ensemble. The turban head wrap, meanwhile, adds just an unexpected gypsy-esque feel.


Why it works: The Milly customer is a bit more conservative and traditional, so she’s less likely to opt for a string bikini and see-through caftan when preparing for her next resort trip. The tie-knot bikini top and high-waisted pin-up shorts, then, provide enough coverage for her to feel comfortable. The chocolate-y block print, meanwhile, feels exotic and modern, so that the look doesn’t feel overly retro, like it belongs in a ’60s calendar.


The Not-So-Good Looks:


Why it’s a no-go: That tomato red floral print looks like it belongs on holiday paper napkins and plates, plus the matching shoes and handbag are just overkill.



Why it’s a no-go: The jacket’s violets print is simply unfortunate, recalling the patterns seen on antiquated ceramic dishes and bowls. And again here the styling was miscalculated by pairing the jacket with a matching handbag.



Why it’s a no-go: The length of those shorts is simply unforgivable —they neither lengthen or streamline legs, instead making the overall silhouette appear shapeless and boxy. Factor in that atrocious violet print and the clashing navy zip-up jacket, with embroidered red and black porcelain discs outlining the neckline and the two front pockets, and you’ve got an eyesore.



Why it’s a no-go: Those may be red roses, but as we saw these printed capri pants on the runway, “Holly Jolly Christmas” played in our heads. Do you really want pants that look like they could be used to wrap Christmas presents? Not so much.


Why it’s a no-go: Remember when Nicki took a job in HBO’s Big Love? That’s what came to mind when we saw this crosshatch pencil skirt dress, with its button-front cami-like bodice and flared waistline. And that ecru silk blouse? Straight outta Juniper Creek.



 Why it’s a no-go: A linen maxi skirt? In an ethnic-flavored print, at that? The pieces just don’t fit together. Add to that the fact that the skirt has a slightly frayed hemline but a high, fitted, belted waist, and you’ve got a true clustertruck. And don’t get us started on the hippy-dippy Jesus sandals. The horror!


Why it’s a no-go: Though the black turban-esque head wrap and oversize teardrop necklace aim to rejuvenate this ensemble, the feat can’t quite be accomplished given the matronly shape of the jacket and the funereal quality of the dark Navy lace material.

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