If you want proof that the 1940s were actually more colorful, psychedelic, and wild than today, all you have to do is watch Carmen Miranda dance.
Like a painter, or a musician, I can't get through the day without having a muse to feel creatively inspired by, and for the past week Carmen has invaded my mind, covered it in baubles, and topped it off with bunches of plastic fruit. My adoration of the Brazilian Bombshell began as a little girl, when my mom bought me a book of Carmen paper dolls (see below), and once I found out this vibrant cartoon of a lady had actually been a real, living person . . . fuhgettaboutit! It was true Latin love.
Carmen has always been a powerful style icon for me, and in the mid-'90s I threw a Surrealism themed party for a friends birthday, and dressed as "Carmen Miranda on LSD" (pics below! Check out my doll-parts-bunny-ears headdress! The dude on the right is my friend Scott Free, who is now a fashion stylist, go figure). Also back in the Swingers era, I loved to dress in Technicolor pin-up girl homage to Carmen and Betty Grable's '40s films, like in the photo on the right, which was taken at a luau for my 22nd birthday:
But i'm sure you'll be happy to know that even now, I still enjoy piling crazy looking things on my head, in homage to C.M. (pic of me below, on Venice Beach, circa 2006):
Here are some of my favorite shots of the "Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" herself (click to enlarge):
At the age of 46, Carmen tragically suffered a heart attack while performing live on the Jimmy Durante show in 1955, and true to form, she kept on dancing. She sadly passed away to Havana-Heaven the following morning. Her heart was weak due to frequent Amphetamine usage, and it has been rumored that to keep her otherworldly energy-up during filming, she used cocaine, which she kept in secret compartments of her platform shoes. If you want to know more about the vibrant, fascinating and groundbreaking life of Ms. Miranda, I highly recommend renting the fabulous documentary, Bananas is my Business.
Here are some items you will need to achieve the look of Carmen couture:
* On another note, a big vintage kiss to Linlee for featuring me in her Los Angeles Street Style story for Lucky!
In the photo, I'm standing outside one of my favorite Vintage LA shopping haunts, Golyester . . . never a place to browse if you're broke. There are the most wonderful things everywhere you look . . . from intricately beaded '20s cloches and cute figural animal basket purses, to Rita Hayworth-style gold bathing suits and mystical giant Siamese cuff bracelets!
Photos: Corbis, The Carmen Miranda Museum, carmenmiranda.com, ebay, and my personal ephemera collection.