December 14, 2009 Decoding the Holiday Dress Code

The holidays are in full swing, and so is the holiday party circuit: business lunches, festive get-togethers, chic soirées. So how to de-code the dress code for all of these events? Black tie is pretty self-explanatory, but what does “Festive” mean? Or “Creative Black Tie”? Or “Dressy Casual”? Don’t worry… we’re here to help. One thing to keep in mind when planning your outfit: Evening events are always dressier than events that take place during the day.

Cocktail Attire:
The look here should be sophisticated and chic. Stick to tasteful, knee-length options paired with kitten heels or sexy, strappy sandals. Think of that perfect LBD. Or for a more conservative look, try a classic sheath dress.  PC Suggests: For a real head-turner, we suggest the Rosebud Dress. Other beautiful options include the Lombard Dress (made even more chic with the Victoria Falls Collar) and—an elegant two-piece option… the Sugarplum Sequin Skirt with the Soirée Top.

Business Attire:
Business attire is a glammed-up version of what you would wear to work. A polished suit is fine—with either trousers or pencil skirt. Go a little bolder with the jewelry and accessories. Stacks of bangles, a statement necklace or pretty scarf add an elegant touch. PC Suggests: We love the Femme Fatale Jacket and Dietrich Skirt. Also the timeless, versatile D’Orsay Dress. 

No, this doesn’t mean donning a holiday sweater with a 3-D Rudolph or light-up Santa. Festive attire actually falls somewhere between business and cocktail attire. PC Suggests: Try the Picadilly Riding Coat and Treasure Trove Necklace over a pair of skinny black trousers. We also recommend the Sullivan Skirt with either the Celeste Cardigan or Jackie Cardigan. For a chic trouser option, try the Balmoral Trousers with the stunning Victorian Corset Blouse.

Creative Black Tie:
Think formal, but with a trendy, creative twist… a modern touch to the traditional. PC Suggests: The floor-grazing, fabulous Taffeta Fishtail Skirt is oh-so glam yet contemporary. Pair it with the Chevron Lace Cardigan and Stitchery Tank. It’s also possible to go shorter here with the Riverbend Skirt.

Black Tie Optional: 15B_hol_09_008
You don’t have to wear a long evening gown (but you can if you want to). You can also wear a formal cocktail dress, a dressy pantsuit, or even a long full skirt with an elegant sweater. PC Suggests: The hand-beaded Wonderland Dress is stunning in winter white, and even dressier in go-everywhere black. Another option: the hand-crocheted Lattice Lace Dress.

This doesn’t mean casual; it actually means “semi-formal.” A chic cocktail dress or dressy separates would work well for this. Make sure to complete the look with stand-out accessories and a great pair of shoes.  PC Suggests:  The Faubourg Dress—in twilight-blue velvet—with our Black Orchid Headband would fit the bill beautifully. Another option: the French Quarter Dress in silk georgette.

Dressy Casual/Elegant Casual:
This means just what it sounds like: relaxed, yet polished and pulled together.  PC Suggests: This could mean something as simple as an elegant sweater-dress with cool accessories—like our East-West Dress with Pompom Sash, the Tambora Batik Dress or Camilla Dress. Or you could wear a crisp pair of Pencil Jeans with a cool jacket or dressed-up sweater, like the Raj Jacket or Delia Cardigan.

This doesn’t mean wear your sweats, but it does mean relaxed. For evening, a pair nice jeans or cords with a pretty top or nice sweater would be appropriate. PC Suggests: Start with a pair of Pencil Jeans, Boot Cut Jeans or Stretch Pinwale Cords. The sweater/top options are endless, so we’ll give you just a few suggestions: Jacinta Top, Lotus Blossom Kimono, Vineyard Blouson, Paisley Lace Cardigan, Eden Top.

Need more tips on sailing through the holiday season with grace? Read our Holiday Party Etiquette Guide:
• Never arrive early (unless, of course, you have a specific request from the host). For formal fêtes, arrive within 15 minutes of the time listed on the invitation. For informal invitations, it’s best to show up about 20–30 minutes after the party officially begins.

• Always say hello to your hosts within a few minutes of arriving. And make sure to say good-bye before you leave.

• Although it’s not required, it’s nice to bring a bottle of wine or a sweet treat when showing up to a dinner, lunch or cocktail party. Don’t bring flowers that need arranging; this will just add more stress to a harried host. If it’s a large, formal event and you don’t know the host well, you don’t need to bring anything.

• Always bring a gift if you’re staying at the host’s home overnight. The longer you stay, the more expensive the gift.

• Keep cocktail party conversations light; in these situations, it’s always best avoid controversial subjects, like politics or religion.

• Holiday parties are not the place to check emails, send texts, surf the Internet or make cell phone calls. Turn off your phone and enjoy the people who are actually in the room with you.

• If the invitation has an ending time, don’t linger too much longer; it’s rude to overstay your welcome. If the party doesn’t have a specific end time, keep an eye on the crowd and plan on leaving when approximately half the guests have departed.

• Always, always, always say thank you! Don’t email your appreciation. Call the next day to thank your host, or send a handwritten thank-you note within a week of the party.

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December 9, 2009 Seeing Red

What is it about red that attracts people? The hottest of all the warm-spectrum colors, red is emotionally intense and physically stimulating, the color of fire, energy, strength and vitality. Red motivates, red stirs the blood, commands attention—it even raises human metabolism. Red represents passion, power, love, danger and glamour. Celebrities saunter down red carpets; politicians and business magnates don red power ties; rich playboys cruise around in cherry-red Ferraris. Red_Ferrari Joyous revelers paint the town in this selfsame color. Red is high visibility—which is why fire engines, stop signs and stoplights are represented by it. It’s also the color most often chosen by extroverts. In short, red is not for the shy and retiring.

Red makes a splashy statement throughout the calendar year. From romantic valentines in February to summer’s ripe berries and flowers to the rust red leaves of autumn to Santa’s festive holiday get-up, red makes the rounds in high style.

Culturally, red has potent symbolism all over the world. In China, red represents happiness and good fortune; brides wear red dresses, and special red packets are used during the Chinese New Year to wrap monetary gifts. Both the Greeks and the Hebrews associated the color with love. In India, where it denotes marriage and purity, women wear red saris when they wed. In Central Africa, Ndembu warriors rub themselves with red during celebrations, since the color symbolizes life and health. The first major chakra. or energy center, of the body (called Muladhara in Sanskrit) corresponds to survival, instinct and sexuality and is represented by the color red.

Louis_le_Grand;_Harnas Red has quite a colorful history in the world of fashion as well. Many centuries ago, ancient Mexicans produced a brilliant red dye from the cochineal insect, which lived on the cactus plant. In the early 16th century, the dye was “discovered” by Spanish conquistadors in the Aztec marketplace; it was shipped back to Europe, where no one had ever seen such a gorgeous shade of crimson. Because it was such an elusive and expensive color to produce, red was only worn by the very wealthy, and this continued to be the case for centuries. King Louis XIV of France was a fan, habitually painting the heels of his shoes bright red (some 350 years before shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s scarlet soles!). This heel-painting trend caught on with the rest of the nobles of his time. In some countries, like Japan, wearing red was reserved for people of high status; it was forbidden for commoners to wear it.

In her autobiography, D.V. (a must read, by the way!), Diana Vreeland—the 20th century’s most influential arbiter of fashion and taste—said: “Red is the great clarifier—bright, cleansing, and revealing. It makes all other colors beautiful. I can’t imagine becoming bored with red—it would be like becoming bored with the person you love.”

Red makes a bold appearance at PC in all its deep and dramatic hues this season—from the Viennese Sweater Coat to the Volterra Skirt to the racy Fulton Street Jacket.

**For more on the fascinating history of red, read A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield.

–Jane Driesen

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November 30, 2009 The Tale of an Orchid

I have always coveted the breath-taking, stylistic beauty of orchids, but much to my chagrin, our climate is not conducive to their survival. Despite my best efforts to negate this reality, I have been reduced to appreciating their natural artistry through photos and dreams. My adoration exploded when I recently discovered that my beloved vanilla beans come from orchids. It seemed too good to be true: two of my favorite things combined in one glorious package! This culmination of love sent me reeling into a frenzy of research and fascination. What other miracles were hiding within these gorgeous plants? Coincidentally, I learned that orchids thrive in the rich climate of Peru, with over 3,000 different varieties found in all three regions: from the coast of the Pacific, to the Andean highlands and the jungle areas.

Orchids were accidentally discovered by a British explorer, Swainson, who was collecting moss samples in the Amazonian jungle regions of South America for the horticulturalist William Cattley. Back in Great Britain, the collected samples produced beautiful lavender flowers, which became known as Cattleya orchids in 1818. Ever since this "official" recognition of orchids, more than 30,000 varieties have been identified around the world. This rare Cattleya Rex variety is strongly rooted in the city of Moyobamba in the northern high jungle of Peru. Known as "The Orchid City," Moyobamba is home to the most diverse selection of wild orchids in the world.

Masdevalliaveitchiana Although orchids were not officially classified until 1818, it is believed that these marvelous wonders existed thousands of years before. An ancient Quechua legend tells of a tragic "Romeo and Juliet" love story enchanted by bright red orchids. It is told that a young Incan princess destined to marry the Sun God fell hopelessly in love with a victorious warrior. Upon learning of their romance, her father, the Inca King, sent the warrior to the battlefields of the Amazonian mountains, knowing his death would be imminent. Heartbroken with tears streaming down her face, the princess followed her beloved into the forest. According to the legend, wherever her tears fell a bright red orchid bloomed, leaving a trail for her lost lover to follow. This bright red orchid, now known as Masdevallia Veitchiana is thought to be the most beautiful orchid variety and has even been honored with the First Class Certificate, the prestigious award of the American Orchid Society.

Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, houses the largest private orchid collection, with 372 species growing in the sanctuary of their natural habitat. Like Moyobamba (The Orchid City), tourists can embark on official "orchid tours" or enjoy leisurely strolls through the vast orchid trails. With awe-inspiring orchids blooming year round, this is simply one more reason to visit the marvelous world of Peru. I for one can’t wait to get lost in the perfumed beauty of the orchid trails!

Orchids have inspired artists and PC's designs over the years, including the Wild Orchid Silk Shift and the Floral Lacework Tunic, and a stylized orchid adorns this Holiday's Black Orchid Headband.

–Amanda Hart

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And the winner is…

DSCN2202MaryAnne Lauderdale of San Jose, California was the lucky winner of Peruvian Connection’s grand-prize shopping spree. The prize included a free trip (air and hotel) to Washington, DC, plus a $1,000 Peruvian Connection gift card to enjoy at our flagship store in downtown DC. DSCN2198 MaryAnne and her husband had a great time in Washington, where they visited the Ford Theater as well as the Newseum. And, of course, she loved trying on all of the clothes at Peruvian Connection, and came away with some beautiful outfits.

Here she models a couple of her glamourous favorites, the Victorian Corset Blouse and the Faubourg Dress.

Congratulations, MaryAnne!

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November 23, 2009 India’s Inspiring Mystique

From the famous Patola weaving of Patan to the intricate art of wood block printing, India’s mystical textile legacy has long been a touchstone of inspiration for our global designs. As I was amorously ogling the upcoming spring collection, gorgeous prints and hand-dyed fabrics from India kept my eyes sparkling with wonder. My heart leapt at a cardigan inspired by an antique block printed resist-dyed head covering from Gujurat, a sari-inspired little black dress and a skirt patterned after a Punjabi women’s bandhej shawl. We even have a few pieces that have been skillfully hand-embroidered and hand-beaded by artisans in India (remember the Raj Jacket from Holiday?). These striking pieces left me lusting for both the majestic garments and more knowledge about the textile tradition in India.

Indian textiles have flourished for thousands of years and can be traced back to early tribes in the Indus Valley, a Bronze Age civilization from as far back as 2600 B.C.E. They were referenced in ancient Hindu epics, traded along the historic Silk Road and were even found in Egyptian tombs. Prized for meticulous detailing, dazzling uniqueness and innovative techniques, India continues to produce the finest textiles around the world.

Child's dress Shaped by tradition, location and indigenous materials, every region within India has developed a distinctive style. From batik to printed fabric, from embroidery in the Punjab to the Rajasthan tie dye and from vibrant colors to muted pastels, the varying styles are rich with cultural heritage. The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat, known as Bandhej, are among the most celebrated in the world. In fact, Gujarat alone accounts for 25% of India’s massive textile production. Bandhej is a technique in which the printed portion of the fabric is pinched into small sections and then knotted with 2 or 3 threads. These knotted portions are left uncolored as the fabric is dyed in the lightest shade. Then the fabric is retied and dyed in a darker color for a unique shading effect. A similar process, known as Batik, is commonly employed in this area too. Batik also involves dying colors one at a time, from lightest to darkest, but instead of using thread wrapped knots, undyed areas are protected with molten wax. You can find a wide variety of Batik-inspired pieces throughout our collection, including the Totem Tank Dress.

Sari Often used to make wedding saris, the famous Patola weaving of Patan is known for its colorful and strikingly beautiful geometric patterns. Using a unique tie and weave method, silk threads are dyed in warps and wefts and then carefully woven on a hand operated harness loom made from rosewood and bamboo. Requiring extreme precision as the weft is woven into the warp, the desired pattern is achieved by an intricate juxtaposition of similarly dyed shades on equal lengths of interlaced warp and weft threads. It is a highly complicated process that has been perfected over the millennia.

Although the traditional method of Ajrakh is being replaced by more modern techniques, the intricate art of printing fabrics using wood blocks continues to blossom in Dhamadka, Jetpur and Kutch. Expensive and labor intensive, the entire process of Ajrakh involves 13 successive stages. After the fabric has been prepared and treated, a resist paste is block-printed by hand in order to retain the white areas of the final design. Different solutions are then individually applied to create the colorful portions of the pattern. For example, an alum solution mordant is applied onto areas that will eventually turn red. This complicated process yields a wonderful depth of color that can not be achieved with surface printing.

India has a vivacious reputation not only for their remarkable dying and weaving traditions, but also for their elaborate artistry in embroidery and beading. Using needle and thread, small mirrors, beads, gold filaments and even broken glass can be used to create illustrious embroideries. From this small sampling of techniques, I hope you too have an appreciation for the legendary acclaim of India’s textile tradition and an eager anticipation of our new spring collection!

Image of Qanat and child's dress from the Textile Museum's permanent collections.  See more Indian artistry as home furnishings in the Textile Museum's upcoming exhibit:
The Art of Living: Textile Furnishings from the Permanent Collection, Feb. 12, 2010 – Jan. 3, 2011

Amanda Hart

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