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The A-to-Z Style Guide: A Special Section

© David Sawyer

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

The A-to-Z Style Guide: A

Amethyst

How does it happen that designers—all working independently—seem to fall in love with the same color at the exact same time? And why, this season, is it the color purple, aka amethyst, lilac, violet? Witness Christian Dior’s ladylike three-quarter-sleeve suits and purple ostrich fedoras, Alberta Ferretti’s satin trench, Derek Lam’s pleated Chantilly lace, Bottega Veneta’s woven tote, embroidered coat, and bias-cut evening gown. It is not, in fact, fashion magic but the work of forecasters like Pantone’s color lab, which establishes trends approximately four seasons in advance (after researching everything from socioeconomic factors to museum exhibition schedules), then releases its findings. For fall 2008 the Pantone survey says: “Best described as a season of change, [it] is defined by rich, elegant hues.” Among those, Pantone 18-3531, Royal Lilac. And we suspect it’s more than just coincidence that purple—the color of kings since it was created during ancient Roman times from the dye of the exceedingly rare Tyrian mollusk—established supremacy during this highly political year. See Michelle Obama in a purple Maria Pinto sheath when her husband accepts the Democratic nomination for president. See Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Dior’s purple fitted coat on her first official trip to meet the Queen of England. And watch a fashion trend shape history.

Architects of Desire

Eric Clough and Eun Sun Chun of New York architecture firm 212box are behind the design of many Christian Louboutin stores. They recently did his boutiques in Moscow and Las Vegas, complete with a roulette wheel. Their latest project is a store for bespoke clothier Seize sur Vingt, in the revamped Plaza Hotel. But they’re not all retail. One Manhattanite loved the Louboutin store so much, she asked the two to build her closet. And they said yes. 212-233-9170; 212box.com

A.A. by Antonio Azzuolo

Antonio Azzuolo, 36, was the design director for Ralph Lauren Purple and Black labels and trained in menswear at Hermès; he knows his way around a tailored garment. His new line, called simply a.a., features overcoats made from recycled mink and sheared beaver as well as Holland & Sherry Donegal tweeds handsewn into neat suits and blazers with high armholes, rope sleeves, saddle shoulders, and mother-of-pearl buttons. Ready-to-wear suits begin at $3,400, custom suits at $4,100 (by appointment; antonioazzuolo.com)

Alexis Mabille

Mabille’s latest ready-to-wear and couture collections got as much attention as the whimsical bow ties he designs (some in straw, others in pheasant feathers). Bow-Bag, $500; 800-423-6335; alexismabille.com

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: B

Bridal Chic

“The idea of a big wedding gown is rather old-fashioned,” says Marchesa codesigner Georgina Chapman. Which explains why her new bridal collection is chic and sweet: just seven dresses, some with embroidered necklines and the Grecian-style draping Marchesa is known for (from $3,500; 212-753-7300; bergdorfgoodman.com). Other designers have joined the mission to make brides modern—a cause pioneered, of course, by Vera Wang. Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz debuted sheaths, bubble skirts, even a wedding caftan for his aptly named Collection Blanche. Oscar de la Renta created cocktail-length beaded dresses along with strapless gowns in silk organza. There’s also a new place for brides to buy it all. This spring Barcelona-based Pronovias opened its U.S. flagship. The six-story space features lines by Elie Saab and Valentino Sposa, plus the house label, designed by creative director Manuel Mota (from $2,000; 212-897-6393; pronovias.com).

British Invasion

Gareth Pugh (pronounced Pew) is just one of a slew of bright young British things putting London fashion back on the map. Alexander McQueen Union Jack boot, $1,260, and skull clutch, $1,425; 212-753-7300

© Courtesy of Bedat & Co.

Black Watch

The time has come for the little black watch

BlancPain The Fifty Fathoms Automatique is water-resistant to 984 feet. $14,400; 877-520-1735

Chopard The Happy Sport Mark II Chrono has five floating diamonds. $9,380; 800-246-7273

Breguet The water-resistant Marine wristwatch features a rubber strap. $13,950; 866-458-7488

Bedat The No. 8 black chronograph dial is on a handstitched leather strap. $7,400; 877-233-2826

Piaget The Limelight Paris Altiplano is circled by 60 diamond baguettes. $209,100; 877-874-2438

Roger Dubuis This white-gold Excalibur is water-resistant to 164 feet. $39,150; 888-738-2847

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: C

Chicago?

Yes, Chicago. The Windy City has taken an official government position on style. In June 2006 Mayor Richard Daley appointed Melissa Gamble director of fashion arts and events for the Department of Cultural Affairs. Her platform? Let’s work together to build a chicer Chicago.

© Brandon Perlman

Cult Magazines

Print’s demise appears to have been greatly exaggerated. We’ve spied swarms of people at the magazine displays at the Paul Smith store at 142 Greene Street, Manhattan. Cliff Hunt, head of U.S. retail for the British haberdasher, is responsible for the selection. His favorites: Fantastic Man, the self-dubbed gentlemen’s style journal; PhotoIcon, a very international magazine of photography; Motif, a vintage British mag that lasted from 1958 to 1967, with just 13 issues (warning: Hunt will sell only a full set). And some of ours: Dossier, a biannual overview of music, art, food, fiction, fashion; Acne Paper, a thematically driven biannual with contributors like Bill Cunningham, Richard Prince, and Nigel Perry; Another, a twice-a-year luxury chronicle; Dune, fashion and pop culture from Tokyo’s elusive Fumihiro Hayashi, aka Charlie Brown; Purple Fashion, an edgier alternative to French Vogue and whose editor, Olivier Zahm, was just tapped by Chanel to do a one-off magazine for its Zaha Hadid–designed Mobile Art project.

Colored Fur

“Lavender mink” may just be the most decadent phrase we’ve heard all year. Michael Kors Furs, $6,500; 212-452-4685

Cultural Moment

Scene-stealer: The white gown worn by Irina Dvorovenko in ABT’s Splendid Isolation III was designed by fellow dancer Elena Comendador.

Candycast

Inimitable fashionista Candy Pratts Price holds forth on topics like the chic of a polka-dot kimono and smoke signals: Two puffs, crisis averted. style.com

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: D

© Courtesy of Donna Karan

Donna’s Brand-New Bag

The hobo, the satchel, and the shoulder bag are classic forms that could stand a tweak or two. Enter Donna Karan, whose recently unveiled handbag collection centered around those three trusted shapes. But being Donna Karan, designer–cum–spiritual guru, she has named them all after the signs of the zodiac. Which doesn’t mean, she says, that a Leo can’t carry the Libra. $2,195; 866-240-4700

Designers on Film

As Hollywood runs out of plots centered on musical legends and sports heroes, designers enter the spotlight. With deals for biopics and behind-the-scenes documentaries being brokered and films set for release (and rerelease), it seems you are nobody in fashion these days unless someone wants to make a movie about you.

Diana Vreeland

“Why Don’t You...” was a column Vreeland wrote for Harper’s Bazaar. Her next phrase might be “make a movie of my life.” Art dealer James Danziger has purchased the rights to Vreeland’s autobiography, the tale of a Manhattan girl who grew up to be editor in chief of Vogue and declared pink the navy-blue of India.

Chanel

Coco is the lady of the hour: Anne Fontaine is shooting Audrey Tautou as the mademoiselle in Coco Avant Chanel (i.e., the early years), and William Friedkin is working on Coco & Igor (as in Stravinsky).

Halston

The life of Halston—from a boyhood in Des Moines to being a regular on Studio 54’s dance floor—was destined for Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein is making it happen with, some say, Jude Law in the title role.

Marc Jacobs

Loïc Prigent’s Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton DVD spies Jacobs and team using macaroons for inspiration and captures the hypertoned designer describing a healthy dinner. Mangosteen juice, anyone? $30; amazon.com

Valentino

Matt Tyrnauer trailed Valentino, on yachts and to French châteaux, to get footage for Valentino: The Last Emperor. The documentary closes with Valentino’s parting words to his successor: Après moi, le déluge.

YSL

As reclusive as he was, YSL gave two filmmakers backstage access. In the wake of his death, both YSL: His Life and Times and YSL: 5 Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris are being rereleased. $22 each; filmforum.org

Vivienne Westwood

Kirsten Dunst wore a corset to play Marie Antoinette in 2006; word is, she may play Westwood in a Brian Grazer film about this designer who makes corsets—albeit they’re worn over one’s clothes.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: E

Earth Pledge

An Oscar de la Renta– designed shimmering gold dress made from ecologically friendly hemp. A Michael Kors striped sweater in recycled cashmere. A Stella McCartney organic voile shift. This is not an environmentalist’s fashion fantasy. In January the Earth Pledge foundation gathered designers and challenged them to bring style to sustainability. The results were on view at the FutureFashion show this January and soon after in the windows at Barneys New York. “We don’t want anything that screams ‘green,’ ” says Earth Pledge director Leslie Hoffman, who’s now gathering the troops for FutureFashion Fall, on the runway early September and available from designers by special order and at Barneys. earthpledge.org

Extravaganza!

Who said fashion shows should just be about clothes and catwalks? Karl Lagerfeld showed Chanel couture on a stage set with a monument to the Chanel jacket. He followed it up at the ready-to-wear show with a working carousel. “The audience is looking for a great collection and a great piece of theater,” says set designer Stefan Beckman, who has transformed the New York Armory into a neoclassical villa out of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, created rivers from 600,000 pieces of candy for Marc Jacobs, and crafted a surreal garden in a Park Avenue church for Oscar de la Renta. Others have taken the fashion show even farther afield. Fendi’s spring 2008 show took place at the 2,500-year-old, 4,500-mile-long Great Wall at sunset. (It being China in October, guests sat on heated chairs and were given complimentary Fendi hand warmers.) Roberto Cavalli shut down Florence’s Ponte Vecchio to show his collection. And Diane von Furstenberg staged her travel-themed 2009 cruise collection, La Petite Valise, at Giardino Torrigiani, the largest private garden in Florence.

Evening Slippers

Ah, the velvet loafer Etiquette dictates they should be worn only to a formal occasion in someone’s home. But these six are too good to be kept indoors. Cole Haan, $375; 800-201-8001. Harrys of London, $575; 212-217-2745. Hickey Freeman, $595; 888-603-8968. Berluti, $1,500; 212-439-6400. Yves Saint Laurent, $655; 212-980-2970. Stubbs & Wootton, $395; 877-478-8227.

Eco-Shahtoosh?

Loro Piana’s exclusive new weaving technique makes cashmere shawls so light, so soft, they’ll put customs officers on high alert. $1,950; 212-980-7961.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: F

© David Sawyer

Faking It

“It’s jewelry on steroids,” said Vera Wang of the boldly oversized costume pieces in her fall runway show. She was one of many designers who decided that this season, the truest statement might be faux.

Dries Van Noten

The designer took multiple candy-colored Indian bangles and strung them on grosgrain ribbon to be worn as a necklace. $875; 877-551-7257

Tory Burch

Move over, Reva ballet flats. Burch’s rapidly growing accessories line now includes pieces like this agate necklace. $325; toryburch.com

Christian Dior

This Swarovski-crystal and bronze-glass-bead bib may not be discreet, but it looks real enough to keep them guessing. $3,090; 212-931-2950

Vera Wang

Many pieces in Wang’s show, such as this bronze tassel lariat, were inspired by her own collection of vintage gems. $650; 888-888-4757

Fur + Cashmere

What’s better than a cashmere jacket? One blended with cashmere and chinchilla (or mink) from Italian clothier Corneliani. By special order; 800-222-9477.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: Glitterati

© David Sawyer

The Hoop Dreamer

For her, circular logic is a line of pavé diamonds.

David Yurman gold hoops, $1,650; 212-752-4255

Kenneth Jay Lane bamboo hoops, $100; 212-308-7088

Kara Ross jet and diamond hoops, $5,400; 888-774-2424

Robert Lee Morris sterling-silver Blade hoops, $250; 212-431-9405

Kwiat yellow-diamond hoops, $81,100; 212-725-7777

Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti hand-woven silk earrings, $595; 800-526-0649

De Beers micropavé hoops, $1,500; 800-929-0889

© David Sawyer

The Pink Lady

She sees the world through rose-colored gold.

Sevan rose-gold mesh bracelet, $33,325; 800-237-9477

Faraone Mennella rose-gold earrings, $2,000; 212-753-7300

Marco Bicego Confetti ring, $1,500; 866-424-2346

Pomellato rose-gold and jet toggle necklace, $9,000; 800-254-6020

Mattioli Tibet bracelet, $4,000; 800-827-7590

© Courtesy of Camilla Dietz Bergeron

The Snake Charmer

With just a few notes, she can coax a serpent out of a jewel box and onto her hand.

Temple St. Clair gold and moonstone ring, $2,300; 800-590-7985

Nancey Chapman gold and ebony cuff, $12,000; 877-925-1930

Lucifer Vir Honestus Iranian-turquoise cuff links, $3,300; 888-222-7639

Camilla Dietz Bergeron shagreen and gold cuff, $1,250; 212-794-9100

Roberto Coin gold and enamel Cobra choker, $19,000; 800-853-5958

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: H

Heir Apparent

Du?an worked under fellow Serb Zoran for six years, and his time with the master of “deluxe minimalism” is evident in his seamless cashmere cocoon coats. “My clothes are ‘post-trend,’ ” says the Milan-based Du?an, 41. “They’re for the woman who has tried fashion but now wants something more understated.” And though Zoran’s fans are a devoted lot, we suspect Du?an’s faille organza evening coat ($1,955), sand-colored distressed taffeta anorak ($1,695), and his side-zipper tan canvas trench with back pleat ($1,485) might make them cheat—just a little. 800-330-8497

High, Higher, Highest

It’s official: Three-inch stilettos are the new kitten heels. It happened slowly—first four inches, then a shocking five, soon a seemingly unwalkable six, until suddenly this year the seven-inch heel was born and quickly became the height of fashion.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: I

© Courtesy of Ilori

Ilori

Sunglasses may have started out purely functional—darkened lenses to shield eyes from the sun—but they’ve become a fashion collectible. Pioneering the trend is Ilori, a Manhattan eyewear boutique devoted solely to sunglasses. There are pairs by Chanel and Prada, Tom Ford and Proenza Schouler, Thakoon and Derek Lam. Oliver Peoples even created an exclusive aubergine-hued style that is a nod to Ilori’s interior (212-226-8276; iloristyle.com). Further proof that Ilori’s onto something? Italian brand Modo, which, in addition to its own handmade frames, carries designs by 3.1 Phillip Lim and Fabien Baron, opened its first outpost just a few blocks away (212-625-0014; modo.com).

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: J

Juggling Acts

Moonlighting has become a fashion statement. Karl Lagerfeld, perhaps the original multitasking designer, is at it again with a book of photographs—from publishing house Steidl—called Metamorphoses of an American, which chronicles five years in the life of model Brad Kroenig. For Fighter: The Ultimate Fighters of the UFC, Coach’s president and executive creative director, Reed Krakoff, shot athletes who have competed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Silvia Venturini Fendi has secured the film rights to Rossana Rossanda’s novel La Ragazza del Secolo Scorso (The Girl from the Last Century). Tilda Swinton is set to star. Meanwhile, in Chianti, Roberto Cavalli has traded leopard print for vino rosso. His first run of Cavalli Selection red wine, produced on his family’s estate, comes in bottles bearing motifs borrowed from his gowns (deglidei.com).

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: K

Klimt, Gustav

Separated at birth: Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the women on the runway at Christian Dior’s couture show. Or Christian Lacroix’s ready-to-wear show. Or Oscar de la Renta’s. Soon after Ron ald Lauder reportedly paid $135 million for the painting and just before the first full-scale survey of Klimt’s work opened at the Tate Liverpool, Klimt mania swept the land of fashion. His gold-flecked palette and vaguely geometric shapes were most literally applied at Dior in a hand-appliquéd saffron silk suit (by special order; 212-931-2950), at Oscar de la Renta in a green and gold embroidered strapless gown ($13,250; 212-288-5810) that looked like a Klimt silkscreen, and at Christian Lacroix in a series of gold lamé shifts set off with strokes of pink and black, as well as a gilded metal and sequined clutch ($3,725; 212-753-2569).

KirnaZabete.com

The New York boutique that first brought Lanvin flats and Pierre Hardy messenger bags to Manhattan finally gets the Web site it deserves—and the exclusive U.S. rights to sell Lanvin online. kirnazabete.com

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: L

© Courtesy of Givenchy

Lace

Italian architect Elena Manferdini built a 300-pound installation called Merletti for her show at Los Angeles’s SCI-Arc Gallery earlier this year. The piece, crafted from laser- and die-cut plastic panels, is a tribute to her heritage—merletto is Italian for lace. Thankfully, there are more wearable tributes to the Italian art form—like Prada’s metallic lace cocktail dresses and Givenchy’s black lace purse—currently available ($1,975; 212-826-8900).

Lane Crawford

With four shops in Hong Kong and a new 80,000-square-foot space in Beijing, Lane Crawford is determined to become the coolest department store in the universe. lanecrawford.com

Lapel Pins

Inspired by Tomas Maier, who accented the four most formal looks in his men’s collection with enamel lapel pins, we make a call to bring back the boutonniere. Here, to support our cause: Victorian salamander stickpin, $1,450; at Kentshire, 212-421-1100. Antique scarab pin, $1,450; at Kentshire. Verdura gold and baroque-pearl bird stickpin; by special order, 212-758-3388. Bottega Veneta antique silver lapel pin, $580; 877-362-1715. Antique shell mask stickpin, $1,950; at Kentshire. Antique enamel ladybug pin, $3,150; at Kentshire. Bottega Veneta antique silver enamel lapel pin, $580.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: M

Monogram Mystery

Take away Takashi Murakami’s cherries or Stephen Sprouse’s graffiti and the Louis Vuitton monogram is a simple pattern: rows of four symbols—interlocking LVs, a diamond, a flower, and a quatrefoil. But what do they mean? No one is quite sure. Are they based on the tiles in the Vuitton home in Asnières? Do they follow the lines in a Coptic tapestry in Paris’s Cluny Museum? The four-leaf flower does look like the stone quatrefoil on the Doge’s Palace in Venice. One thing is certain: Georges Vuitton first put them together in 1896 as a tribute to his father, Louis, who had recently passed away. The monogram was also created to protect the company from plagiarists who’d begun to copy its checkerboard Damier canvas. Yes, Vuitton counterfeits were an issue even then.

Mammoth

Global warming may have one upside: Mammoth ivory, found in thawing Siberian glaciers, is giving jewelers a legal alternative to the banned elephant variety. Seaman Schepps mammoth and diamond bracelet, $93,000; 212-753-9520

© Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Macao

When it comes to luxury retail, this gambling resort just 17 miles west of Hong Kong may be the next Dubai, the new Las Vegas. The Four Seasons hotel, set to open this fall, houses close to 200 high-end boutiques such as Prada, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton.

Man Bags

It’s the modern man’s attaché: more relaxed than a briefcase and with all the zippers and compartments of a woman’s purse. Tumi Townhouse Brompton satchel, $1,195; 800-299-8864

Muses Perenniale

Their names are cited, evoked, and worshipped as design inspirations at least once a season. But what’s the story behind these endlessly fascinating women?

Maria Felix

This ’40s Mexican screen siren is the spirit behind Cartier’s La Doña watch. The curved timepiece is inspired by Félix’s necklace with two intertwined crocodiles. She supplied the jeweler with a live model. From $4,650; 800-227-8437

Marchesa Luisa Casati

A turn-of-the-century Italian heiress, she cultivated the bizarre—and kept pet cheetahs. Devotees of Casati’s brand of Gothic glamour include Gucci and Alexander McQueen.

Millicent Rogers

The American oil heiress went to Taos in 1947 and wore jewelry from New Mexico with French couture. We love Ralph Lauren’s turquoise belts and Navajo jackets, but it was Rogers who pioneered southwestern chic.

Nancy Cunard

Yes, she’s of the shipping Cunards, but she was very much the family rebel. A photo of her by Man Ray captures her penchant for hand-carved bangles. The masses of jewelry on fall runways were “very Nancy Cunard.”

Sonia Delaunay

The Russian-born painter decamped to Paris in 1905 and applied her artwork to clothing. Designer Fiona Kotur Marin cites Delaunay as the touchstone for a collection of patchwork leather bags. From $570; koturltd.com

Talitha Getty

Born in Java to Dutch parents, she met John Paul Getty II and became the toast of ’60s London. A photo of her in Marrakech, clad in a colorful caftan, linked her name forever with haute bohemian style.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: N

New Kid on the Block

Can a 16-year-old Russian debutante designer go wrong? This spring Kira Plastinina, the daughter of a Moscow orange juice tycoon, opened her first eight stores in the United States, with six more set to open across the country. First America, then the world. 594 Broadway; 212-219-8453

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: O

One and Only

The best way to pack light may be not to pack at all. One&Only Resorts’ Capsule Collection invites guests to preorder Missoni caftans, Tomas Maier bikinis, Acne jersey dresses, and Christian Louboutin espadrilles from the resort boutique. All is then neatly packed in a trolley bag and waiting in the guest’s room upon check-in. From $790; oneandonlyresorts.com

On the Road

“Figure out your suitcase and you figure out your life,” says designer and frequent traveler Diane von Furstenberg. If only it were that simple. Still, stylish luggage is a step in the right direction.

Diane von Furstenberg

Inspired by Von Furstenberg’s own efficient packing philosophy, this trolley bag is made with exterior pockets and a telescoping handle. $1,500; dvf.com

Globe-Trotter for J. Crew

The black-and-tan limited-edition suitcases by the cult British brand (normally $580 to $4,000) are available while supplies last. $1,800; jcrew.com

Anya Hindmarch

The British designer puts her whimsical logo on this water-and tear-resistant trolley. $595; anyahindmarch.com

Alexander McQueen Silver for Samsonite

It’s super-slick and shiny, but being Samsonite, it is also scratch-resistant. $4,600; 212-861-2064

Cole Haan

In honor of Cole Haan’s 80th anniversary, the steamer trunk is accented with 18-karat-gold detailing by jeweler Anna Sheffield. $3,250; 212-765-9747

Gucci

This tobacco-colored crocodile trunk comes with pull-out drawers and hanging space. $299,000; 800-456-7663

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: P

Pants

In the early sixties a Russian-born, Rome-based aristocrat named Irene Galitzine designed a pair of evening trousers. She sold them at her store on the Via Veneto and wore them herself to parties on Aristotle Onassis’s yacht and when visiting Pamela Harriman in Nassau. Diana Vreeland named them the palazzo pajama after Florence’s Palazzo Pitti (where Galitzine staged her fashion shows). And though Galitzine is gone—she died October 20, 2006—her palazzo pajama lives on. At their fall shows Proenza Schouler, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, and Hermès all showed pants for evening.

Peter Som

If worn correctly, leopard print is terrifically chic. If not, it’s a little dowager auntie. Which is why this perfectly modern Peter Som coat got so much attention during New York fashion week. “I kept the design very simple,” says Som, who also took the helm at Bill Blass this season, “with just a subtle portrait collar. There needs to be a certain nonchalance about the way a coat like this is worn.” For Som’s show the coat—actually a cheetah pattern printed on goatskin—was paired with a multicolored sweater and full skirt. Som’s muses were the women of Mad Men, the television series about sixties advertising execs (and their wives, lovers, and assistants). But he advises not to take the inspiration too literally: “Those women matched everything. The trick here is to keep things slightly off kilter.” $4,500; 212-941-9656

Paris Fashion Week: Plaza Athenee

Yes, that was Miuccia Prada carrying a garment bag through the lobby. More discreet than the Hotel Costes, more surprising than The Ritz, for one week in February the Hôtel Plaza Athénée became the unofficial center of Paris fashion. Perhaps it was the location on Avenue Montaigne, across the street from stores like Fendi, whose late-night party featurd a performance by Amy Winehouse after which editors, models, and designers arrived en masse to the Plaza bars. Some chose the Galerie des Gobelins for its low-slung sofas and resident harpist, others the dimly lit Le Bar for a Bellini martini Popsicle or a cosmopolitan jelly shot. Now they’ll have a place at the Plaza to fully recover: A full-service Christian Dior Institute spa opened in August. At 25 Av. Montaigne; plaza-athenee-paris.com

Presidential Style

Yes, their minds are focused on far more important things, but a man in power needs to look like one. After careful research and countless polls, we assembled a most electable suit.

Shirt + Tie

Rumor has it that President Kennedy bought French Charvet shirts and had the labels removed ($375; 800-347-9177). Not necessary for presidents Reagan and Johnson, who wore Chicago-based Oxxford Clothes (tie, $160; 212-593-0204).

Jacket

Hickey Freeman has been the suitmaker to heads of state like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George H. W. Bush. The company decided to make it official with a Presidential collection of handsewn suits in wool and cashmere. $3,000–$4,000; 888-603-8968

Shoes

Johnston & Murphy made classic wingtips for Kennedy and Nixon; Reagan and Clinton preferred the company’s black cap-toe. Conley II wingtips, $375; 888-792-3272

Watch

Rolex’s gold Oyster Perpetual Day-Date is commonly known as The President. Legend has it, Marilyn Monroe gave one to President Kennedy inscribed “Jack, with love as always from Marilyn” the night she delivered her infamous rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.” $24,800; 800-367-6539

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: Q

Q&A: Exotic Skins

THE EXPERT: Cameron Silver, owner of vintage L.A. emporium Decades and self-confessed croco addict.

Q: First things first. How can I tell my alligator from my croc?

A: Crocodile and alligator skins are often misidentified by retailers or used interchangeably. The Alligatoridae family includes the American alligator and the caimans; Crocodylidae includes the saltwater (porosus) and Nile (niloticus). There are other varieties, but these four are the only ones legally traded in the United States.

I don’t claim to be a herpetologist, but the easiest way for a layman to decipher the difference is to know that only crocodile has a dimple in each scale, called a dermal pressure receptor. American alligator is noted for its clean, totally smooth skin. Caiman comes from South America and has an outer skeleton, giving the skin a varied texture and a bit of a savage quality.

Q: Crocodile versus alligator: Who wins?

A: Crocodile is perceived by many as superior to alligator, porosus crocodile being the absolute ultimate for an exotic skin handbag. Rumor has it that Hermès has a virtual monopoly on the export of these skins, which are found mostly in Australia. Among the alligators American is preferred, the skin used most often by fashion designers since its fibers are not as dense as a crocodile’s, so the skins are softer; that’s why it’s perfect for supple garments like Brioni’s zip-up men’s bomber.

Aficionados think of caiman alligator as at the lower end of the exotic skin totem pole. However, as a more affordable alternative, it has no shortage of fans. Caiman-loving Nancy Gonzalez is the largest worldwide purveyor of exotic skin brand-name handbags, which range from $645 to $35,000 [neimanmarcus.com].

Q: That’s the low end?

A: Yes, exotics are expensive. Caiman skins can grow big enough in nine months to make a single bag. In contrast, farmers need to wait a few years until a porosus crocodile is big enough to farm the skin.

Q: Do alligators actually come in shiny green and gold?

A: Regardless of how fantastic they might look, a lot of the new trendy tanning techniques like white, metallic, and hand-painted finishes can compromise the durability of the skin. The glaze finish is classic, most gorgeous in porosus but prone to fingerprinting and sensitive to water. The matte finish is oil- and water-resistant, doesn’t smudge, and looks great in both alligator and Nile crocodile. The protective topcoat used in the millennium finish, a hybrid of glazed and matte, tends to take away from the natural beauty of the skin; it gives the pieces a bit of a plastic look.

Q: What’s next on your shopping list?

A: I collect vintage crocodile Hermès travel bags and wallets from as far back as the twenties. And I’d love to add YSL’s iPhone case and Samsonite’s Black Label Bespoke trolley to my personal wardrobe of exotic accessories, which include Louis Vuitton alligator shoes and an antiqued alligator coat.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: R

© Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Required Reading

She was the original supermodel—and Veruschka (Assouline, $500), a compilation of portraits by Peter Beard, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn, is a just tribute. Designers also get their due in Valentino: Themes and Variations (Rizzoli, $75), Narciso Rodriguez (Rizzoli, $75), Vivienne Westwood (Steidl, $40), and Yves Saint Laurent: Style (Abrams, $50). Shiny, glittery things are the focus of Temple St. Clair’s Alchemy: A Passion for Jewels (Collins, $50). Tokyolife (Rizzoli, $75) anoints the true design talents of the city and explores their global influence. Does it all seem too serious for words? Tim Walker: Pictures (teNeues, $125) catalogues the photographer’s whimsical work. Fashion Game Book: Fashion History of the 20th Century (Assouline, $35) comes with its own quizzes and puzzles. Dictionary of Children’s Clothes (V&A/Abrams, $60) defines kiddy chic. Fashion v Sport (V&A/Abrams, $38) chronicles the relationship between those two worlds. And from PR mavens Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman is Party Confidential: New Etiquette for Fabulous Entertaining (St. Martin’s Press, $25), a clever compendium of dos—do offer to pay for dry cleaning when you fling Merlot across the table while telling a great story—and don’ts, such as don’t try to clink glasses with everyone at the table (to avoid another spilled Merlot).

Reread Now

“Ordinariness, carried to such a high degree of perfection, becomes eccentricity,” wrote Dame Edith Sitwell in The English Eccentrics. First published in 1933 and reissued multiple times, the book documents the idiosyncrasies and obsessions of a cast of characters living in the town of Bath after World War I. There is Curricle Coates and his diamond-studded clothes; Dr. Van Butchell, who rode a purple-polka-dotted white pony; and Squire Waterton, who rode bareback on his crocodile. It’s a tribute to those who truly take the term “personal style” to heart. First editions (Faber and Faber) range from $200 to $400 and can be purchased at Archivia Books (212-570-9565); a new edition (Pallas Athene, $23) can be found at amazon.com.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: S

Sample Sale

Virtual catfight? Late last year a crop of Web sites began staging online sample sales of high-end goods. “It gives shoppers the thrill of competition without the bad aspects, like getting elbowed over a Prada clutch,” says Paul Hurley, CEO of Ideeli (ideeli.com), which specializes in bags and other accessories that are discounted up to 80 percent; some are from labels rarely available in the United States, like France’s Lamarthe and Lancel.

On Gilt Groupe (gilt.com) Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson have collected an impressive roster of designers—from Carolina Herrera and Rachel Roy to John Varvatos and Valentino—since their November 2007 debut sale, which featured items from close friend Zac Posen at up to 70 percent off retail. Membership is via word of mouth and personal social networks, including a VIP invitation card distributed at select events. Ideeli maintains its exclusivity by targeting certain demographics and offering shoppers first- and second-row alert options (much in the way friends and family are privy to traditional sample sales before the doors open to the public). Once a member is online, the sample sale rules of first come, first serve, still apply. Both Web sites are offering Departures readers exclusive access (ideeli.com password: departures; Gilt Groupe address: gilt.com/departures).

Soccer Fashion

By day they are cashmere-factory workers, by night the best-dressed soccer players in the Umbrian League. Their team, A.S. Castel Rigone, is owned by Brunello Cucinelli, designer of the six-ply cashmere sweater and native son in the town of Castel Rigone. Full disclosure: When out on the field, the team wears Nike.

Superga vs. Bensimon

Two classic European sneakers face off. In one corner is the traditionally canvas, rubber-soled Superga—the “people’s shoe of Italy—designed in 1925 and updated through a collaboration with sartorial menswear brand Isaia in ostrich, crocodile, or water-resistant Aqua-cashmere (from $295, 212-245-3733). In another corner, the very French, très simple Bensimon, inspired by army surplus and favored by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, is now available for the first time in America (from $42, bensimon.com).

Skeleton Watches

Many a movement can appear transparent, but how do you know when a watch is really a skeleton? “The term is used loosely today,” says Doug Escribano, a watch specialist at Christie’s New York. “But a true skeletonized watch has a movement that’s visible from the front and back.” Patek Philippe’s new 5180/1G is the real deal. $84,000; patek.com

Sign of the Times?

Saks Fifth Avenue will now convert prices to euros upon request.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: T

© Geoffrey Sokol

Texas Style

Two Texans talk shop: former fashion editor Alexandra Knight, 35, who now makes alligator handbags, and Dave Wheeler, 58, one of the leading custom-boot makers in the United States. Knight and Wheeler discuss such topics as the rising cost of alligator and how to work with stingray (“It’s a real needle-breaker,” he says; she nods). Last year Knight approached Wheeler about a collaboration, but he had no interest in the fickle world of fashion. Instead he gave her his blessing to design two bags inspired by his work. Knight’s Cowboy clutch is pink alligator with yellow lizard and orange ostrich ($5,995). The Cowboy India hobo at right is orange alligator with brown and white ostrich insets ($9,995). 713-527-8848; alexandraknightonline.com

Tech Toy

Christian Dior partnered with the engineers at Modelabs to create a cell phone. It comes in three colors (cranberry, silver, and white) and features a mini phone that can be detached and hooked onto a bag—Dior of course. From $5,100; 212-931-2950

To Sleep...

Perchance to dream: Duncan Quinn’s inaugural pajama collection is 100 percent Egyptian cotton, made at a family-operated mill in Italy. From $550; 212-226-7030; duncanquinn.com

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: U

© Courtesy of Ernst Benz

Underwater Odyssey

For us, the allure of a diving watch has been all about aesthetics. A Rolex Submariner, for example, looks exceptionally smart with a suit. Yet given the number of diving watches on the market, we decided it was time to, well, test the waters. We sent our most unSurvivor-like contributor to the Cayman Islands armed with a wet suit and his new Ernst Benz ChronoDiver. It was an experiment meant to challenge man and machine.

In the early eighties Swiss aviator and engineer Ernst Benz created large pilot watches with oversize numerals, based on midcentury designs. The ChronoDiver is a big watch—47 mm—and water-resistant to an impressive 656 feet. We are happy to report that the ChronoDiver fared extremely well during the morning dive. Our intrepid reporter, on the other hand, is in the Hermès store still searching for his sea legs. $4,900 with rubber strap; 248-203-2323; ernstbenz.com

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: V

Vintage Obsession

Vintage clothing collectors guard their address books as if they were the last Poiret cape on the planet. But we’ve heard that these are the secret sources: the New World Order for Thierry Mugler, Galliano, and couture shoes right off the runway (13 Ave. B, New York; 212-777-3600). Elio Ferraro at Selfridge’s for Gucci, Chanel, and Alaïa (400 Oxford St., London; selfridges.com). And the 10,000-square-foot C. Madeleine’s in Miami for James Galanos, Azzaro, and Balmain (1370 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-945-7770).

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: W

© Michel Arnaud

Why I Wear What I Wear: Guy Trebay

This culture and style reporter for The New York Times may write on all things haute, but he’s got a simple plan when it comes to his wardrobe.

Under the Radar

“I never want to compete with the people I write about. I just want to be anonymous and do my job. I often wear Hinoya house-brand remakes of Levi’s from the sixties that I get in Tokyo with a Thomas Pink button-down and a Prada or Jil Sander blazer.” Hinoya Plus Mart, Ueno Station, Tokyo; 81-3/3833-2577. thomaspink.com. prada.com. jilsander.com

The Skinny

“I’m tall and thin so I like Dior suits. The two-button jackets have a good proportion for my body type.” diorhomme.com

Stride Right

“Living on the East Side, I’ve developed seasonal perception disorder. I see private-school kids wearing flip-flops when it’s cold out, so I figure it’s okay for me to wear my L. L. Bean camp mocs year-round. I replace them every six to eight months—and I’m a bit obsessive. When I order over the phone, I insist they send the models made in El Salvador. They hold up better.” llbean.com

Easy on the Eyes

“I’ve been wearing the same style of glasses since I was seven. Right now it’s the O’Malley frame, from one of Oliver Peoples’ first collections. I bought a few pairs just in case the company stops making them.” oliverpeoples.com

Blank Canvas

“I always carry this canvas Banana Republic tote bag that I really wish they would reissue. I could never use a briefcase; I’d feel as though I were trying to impersonate my father.” bananarepublic.com

Bare Essential

“My favorite watch is my Rolex Air-King. It is the Timex of Rolexes—the plainest starter model—with no date bump, just the dial and steel.” rolex.com

Life Lessons

“As a child I rode horses; you always want your horse to be clean and well presented, not all fancied up. I think that is a good rule for people, too.”

Styled and written by Christopher Campbell

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: X

X Marks the Spot

When Paris boutique Colette closed briefly this summer, a collective shock wave went through the world of style. Then relief.

It was just going to be a renovation, after all, and in the meantime the inventory would be available on the store’s Web site. (The new, improved Colette opened late August.) It was an understandable reaction given the state of the economy, but plans for store openings and global expansion seem to be recession-proof. Colette is coming to New York, albeit temporarily, with a so-called pop-up store on 54th and Fifth from September 6 to October 5. Tod’s debuts in New Delhi in October; Christian Dior opened in Istanbul; Giorgio Armani is preparing to unveil its megastore on New York’s Fifth Avenue; Tom Ford expanded to Milan; and Dunhill recently opened Bourdon House, part retail store, part gentlemen’s club, complete with spa, barber, bar, and private cinema. Come fall 2009 Hermes will have a new four-level shop—for men only, directly opposite its New York flagship—at 690 Madison Avenue. There are glimpses into the future of retail: Shoppers at Alexander McQueen’s Melrose Avenue store in Los Angeles are greeted by a nine-foot-tall metal sculpture, and on the ground floor of Jil Sander’s Howard Street store in New York there was no clothing on display. And there are some favorites from the past—Bonwit Teller is poised for a comeback. But perhaps the most exciting news is the imminent arrival of Britain’s Topshop on these shores. The store, which prides itself on offering current trends at low prices, is set to open at 478 Broadway in October.

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The A-to-Z Style Guide: Y

© Courtesy of Foundation Pierre Berge–Yves Saint Laurent

YSL

Almost immediately after his death on June 1, newspapers began to track Yves Saint Laurent’s influence, documenting who’d copied his safari look, his “le smoking” tuxedo. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was already engaged in the same backward glance preparing for its YSL retrospective (at San Francisco’s de Young Museum beginning November 1). And though all YSL boutiques closed on June 5 during the time of Yves Saint Laurent’s funeral, this was the year that many felt current designer Stefano Pilati made the house unmistakably his own. Pilati’s brainchild, Edition 24 ($200–$3,800), a slightly more gently priced line of classic looks in black, beige, and white, was a hit, as was his fall 2008 show. That collection, shown on models wearing blunt-cut black wigs, featured sharply cut jackets with classic trousers, slim pencil skirts, and a standout yellow silk cocktail dress with black flock inset. As one newspaper headline put it, YSL: THE CHIC IS REAL. 212-980-2970; ysl.com

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Z

The A-to-Z Style Guide: Z

Zegna Now

Long the bastion of the great Italian tailoring tradition, Ermenegildo Zegna, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2010, has its sharp eye fixed on the next chapter: Architect Peter Marino has designed stores in New York and Milan; Antonio Citterio created a Milan headquarters complex; and for the first time, this year there was a Zegna show during men’s fashion week in Milan. But true to its heritage, for Zegna the future is in the fabric. Its high-tech materials mean designs like the Solar ski jacket, which can recharge a mobile phone ($1,450), as well as a line called Elements ($2,795–$16,000), whose textiles are wired to adapt to temperatures, becoming more breathable in heat, denser in the cold. And Zegna was among the first luxury brands to create a jacket with an iPod pocket. Launched two years ago, the Zegna Sport iJacket ($850) is already a Zegna classic. 888-880-3462; zegna.com

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Contributors: Shannon Adducci, Christopher Campbell, Charlotte Druckman, Elettra Fiumi, Nandita Khanna, Mary Beth Klatt, Christopher Mason, William Middleton, Abby Nagler, Meredith Reagan, Cameron Silver