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Ingrid Serban

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Unapologetically Comfortable

Me 012015 purple

Kathryn in Purple Fleece

I think I have never liked dressing to please others; I have always dressed to please myself. But sometimes societal constrictions force us into changing the ways in which we perceive ourselves.  Sometimes one has to put one’s bluejeans aside and simply dress up for that play, concert or party or meeting.  It’s a sad fact, but we do what we must.

I love comfort, but I would never wear my pajamas out in public.  But this is really the initial thought behind starting Brava!  I was looking for something that packed well and traveled easily, no-ironing or worrying about wrinkles.  I found these great Bamboo pieces from Bay Area designer, Carole Wang.  I thought they were pretty, and I wore them out to dinner one night.  Now usually when I come home after dressing up for some occasion, I can’t wait to change out of my clothing into something more comfortable.  Not this time.  I forgot to change. and I knew I was onto something.  I returned to the little boutique to buy more pieces.  Selection was limited, so I bought what I could, but I wanted more.

Months later, I decided to investigate the possibility that a lot of other women would be interested in feminine, practical, ecologically sustainable clothing too.I did an informal survey, the results of which led to Brava!  I now lead a

busy life, spreading the word to theater performers, orchestral musicians, housewives, and business professionals, and mothers. Brava! clients are all ages and all sizes, but we all share one important thing in common – we’re comfortable!

 

What Would My Mother Say?

Missy in PurpleI came across this old photograph from my niece’s graduation in 1977.  My mother, Missy, is sitting next to my father, Edward.  She’s exactly my age in this photo.  And, she’s dressed in a purple knit outfit, a bit like our Brava styles.  When did I become my mother?

I often wonder what my mother would say about Brava, and how she’d like our designs.  I see very clearly now, that she would have loved them.  Like me, she would have embraced our feminine styles, their comfortable and easy-care practicality.  I’m sure they would have brought out Missy’s “Twirl Factor”, and caused her to start singing her favorite song, “Pretty Woman”.  I can see her now, sashaying around the room, decked out in our Plum Flower Skirt and Shawl Collar Top, flirting with the vision of a hapless Roy Orbison, laughing.  I miss you every day, Mom.

 

Outstanding in Orchestral Blacks!

Patricia Heller

Patricia Heller

We all know how the right scarf can add dimension and visual appeal to our everyday clothing, but what about our Orchestral Blacks?  We’re not allowed to wear any colors in the orchestra pit.  We accept this as a part of everyday work life.  Sometimes we sneak a pretty piece of jewelry, earrings or a nice pin, but truthfully jewelry can get in the way of serious musicianship.  So, how do we differentiate ourselves from the other dozen women in the pit when we are all wearing black?

We are talking about fit and style.  Your clothing has to fit properly, be comfortable and appropriate.  Your Black pieces must match; not an easy thing.  Over the years you’ve collected various Blacks in different fabrics and styles, now in all different stages of wear.  It’s probably time to donate or throw out those items which no longer fit properly, are out of style, or do not match anything.

A common rule for weeding out one’s closet is, that if you haven’t worn something in two years, get rid of it!  I think that’s nonsense.  I have had some of the same dresses for over thirty years, and have no plans to discard them.  Well-loved, well-designed clothing deserves some respect.  This may sound trivial, but I believe how one presents oneself, especially in the workplace, makes a real difference in how one is perceived.  A Brava! Consultant can help you make these decisions.  The second rule is style.

Let’s clean out our closets and put together a Working Wardrobe!  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to throw on an outfit for work, and know you’re looking perfect?  It’s all in the pre-planning.  For instance, this 2016-2017 season, the San Francisco Opera has seventy performances.  That’s seventy different times the women in the Orchestra have to find something in Concert Black to wear. Seventy outfits, which have to span the quirky Bay Area weather patterns from September through December, then May to July.  Our Brava! fabric in Bamboo and Organic Cotton is perfect for this.  It’s cooler in summer, and warmer in winter. The comfortable knit moves with your body, and there’s no static cling.

We offer many different styles which suit all body types, XS – 3X.  And even better, we custom fit even before the garment is made, at no extra charge. No alterations necessary.  Our designer, Carole Wang, is based locally, in Fremont, so turnaround time is usually fairly short.  We make sure ahead of time that your Black garments match from the same dye lots.  Little or no color fading or shrinkage guarantee your Orchestral Blacks remain attractive and work-ready for a long while.

 

Lamplighters Music Theatre – Volunteerism

“Volunteer Spotlight – Kathryn Fox Ma

What do seahorses, high tea, and designer clothing have in common? The answer is the inimitable Kathryn Fox Ma, one of Lamplighters Music Theatre’s most active volunteers. Since 2007, Kathryn has been our go-to person for organizing and beautifying the silent auction displays that the Lamplighters feature at the annual Gala. With a sophisticated eye for design, Kathryn provides the invaluable service of showcasing the items in ways that encourage attendees to bid, which has a direct impact on the Lamplighters’ fundraising efforts. Over the years, our silent auctions have generated more than $170,000 in support for the Company, and Kathryn is quick to share praise. “It’s really the whole team of us. Jim MacIlvaine, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Kristen Jones, and all the Guild volunteers who help support the Lamplighters.”

Kathryn Fox Ma

Kathryn routinely donates a gift basket of handcrafted, natural soaps and accessories from Seahorse Fine Soaps, of which she is the proprietor, as well as a High Tea For Two serving set and goodies in a keepsake box, to the auction. Both items are among the bidders’ favorites each year! But her volunteerism isn’t restricted to this event. Kathryn also brings the decorative sparkle to our annual spring fundraiser (Too Much Happiness, formerly known as Hidden Treasures) and is a consistent organizing force—and a delightful presence—at many donor receptions and Company meetings.

Kathryn and her husband Zach became involved with the Lamplighters in 2004 through their daughter, Marina, who began participating in the Gilbert & Sullivan Scenes summer program (a collaboration between the Lamplighters and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music). “She felt so comfortable and happy in the program that she attended an audition workshop with the Lamplighters, and soon after got cast in a production ofThe Mikado,” says Kathryn. “Marina was young, so I stayed there for rehearsals, too. I didn’t want to just sit around, though, so I asked Barbara Heroux [who was Artistic Director at that time] if I could help. Barbara would throw me into anything- it was fun!” Marina has since appeared in many Lamplighters productions, and also volunteers to create special video and slide presentations. Not to be outdone, Zach—a Tai Chi Sifu—has donated certificates for martial arts instruction, as well as pieces of his original artwork, to the auctions, and he can usually be found serving behind the bar at our special events.

Zach, Marina, and Kathryn Ma

Kathryn’s most recent business venture,Brava! Fashions, combines her love of the performing arts with her degree in Merchandising/Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. The clothing line, which has been showcased at a fashion show at the Lamplighters rehearsal space, features stylish performance attire for female orchestral musicians and other women on-the-go. “The line is really taking off, especially as I’m able to give the designer feedback from musicians, who have different needs depending on their instrument,” says Kathryn. She adds that one of the dresses in the collection is named afterDiana Dorman, principal clarinet player in the Lamplighters Orchestra, as well as Orchestra Contractor & Music Librarian. “The dress has classic lines with no adornment in the front, so it doesn’t interfere with my clarinet. I love it!”

The Mas have been an important part of the Lamplighters family, in a variety of ways, for over a decade. “Knowing we can depend on volunteers like Kathryn to put together a great silent auction makes the staff’s work so much easier,” says Development Director Amy Himes. “Her friendly, no-nonsense manner and a generosity of spirit makes her a great person to work with.” Hats off to you and your family, Kathryn—we are so grateful for your involvement.”

My Love Affair with the Color Purple

Me 012015 purple

It’s a strange irony that Brava! Fashions really started with my search for the color purple.  I was trying to find something comfortable to wear, which packed well and was also versatile in that I didn’t know exactly I was going to be doing on my trip back home to Connecticut.  I found the exact color top I wanted, which also happened to be in 95% Bamboo/5% Spandex.  It fit.  I bought it.  Then I went back and bought a skirt.  Then another piece, then a wonderful Purple Fleece Jacket with a charming Bamboo Leaf Button Closure to top it off. I was hooked.  The irony is that I usually wear so much Black.  And when the idea came for Brava’s Performance Attire in Concert Black, I was wearing this Purple color.Purple hair put up

I love Purple, so much so, that this year after my hair dye fiasco when my hair literally turned Purple, my daughter suggested I keep it.  I don’t think so, Dear.  Not at my age.  I think the color Purple belongs in one’s closet.

However, I am very happy to be able to offer a limited number of 3/4 Length Wrap Cotton and Bamboo Fleece Wrap Jackets  for Fall, 2015.  High-collared with a charming Bamboo Leaf Button, we will have these in Purple and our popular Teal for $225.00.  Email me for details. Purple Fleece Jacket

What Were You Wearing When…?

Some moments stand out clearly in my mind, more so when I think about what I was wearing when they happened.  I still have the dress that I wore the night, almost twenty-five years ago, I met my husband.  I’ll never see a size 6 again, but that dress is a cherished possession.  It’s a strange deep lavender color, in a strange fabric, and it has a cowl neckline with small weights attached to it on the inside, so it hangs perfectly.  It’s one of those dresses with no “hanger appeal”, but once it’s on….  Actually, it reminds me of Brava’s Carol Ann Dress, minus the weights; it has the same straight silhouette, very flattering.  The focus is on the face, rather than on some busy style or print.

At Brava! we believe in helping you create your own memories.  We offer a complete size range from XS to 3X, and anything in-between.  You can choose your own styles, and we can customize any of them to suit your particular body-type and need.

Shirred Ankle Pants

Shirred Ankle Pants

A couple of months ago one of our new clients asked if we could do a rush order of our popular Shirred Ankle Pants for a special occasion.  We could, and we did.  I delivered her order personally and waited while she tried them on with her Three-Quarter Sleeve Crop Flower Top.  When she returned, fully-dressed, I was stunned at the change in her.  She looked incredible.

She asked, “Do you think this is dressy enough for Carnegie Hall?”  I assured her that it was, not wanting to embarrass her with too many compliments.  But I was really moved.    I couldn’t stop thinking about the real change in the way she carried herself.  Yes, it was good enough to wear onstage at Carnegie Hall.  She looked lovely.  I only wish I had taken a photograph.  This is what Brava! is all about; helping women feel good about themselves.  She will always have that moment.  And she will always remember what she wore.

If there be Sequins…

Emerson TV

Emerson TV

In the really early days of television, my family owned a small, small screen Emerson.  The tiny tube was ensconced in a blonde wood box that had Bakelite dials on the front, with an alien antennae perched on top.  No remotes back then, and only black & white, with three or four stations made up our choices.  Apart from the excitement of “Captain Kangaroo”, there wasn’t much to offer a really young child.  However, I remember one exciting day, when I was told that my sister was going to appear on television.

Evelyn was working at the Hanover Modeling Agency in New Haven, Connecticut, teaching modeling classes.  She was going to model evening gowns on some local program.  We could hardly wait until she came on.  When she did, however, I burst into tears, thinking that now I had lost her.  She had somehow gotten into that box and couldn’t get out.  It sort of ruined the day for my poor mother.  Evelyn wore some kind of sequined gown, and stood out from the others.  The TV lights hit those sequins, and made them sparkle.  She seemed to emanate some sort of magic.

Later she told me that when faced with a decision about what to wear, there were a couple of rules one should follow.  The first rule was, if there are sequins. wear them.  The second one was  never tp dress down for anyone.  I’ve kind of thrown out the sequin rule, this being over a half-century later, but the second rule has stood me in good stead all these years.  Never dress down for anyone.  Period.  I’ve broken this rule several times in my life, and these particular times stand out in my memory as personal social disasters.

I’ll just tell you one of these times, concerning a barbecue at my then-boss’s home.  Stupidly, I assumed that a pair of jeans would be fine, but this was a Marin party, disguised as a barbecue.  No one but I was wearing jeans, and I felt like an idiot.  My boss’s stares clearly told me she didn’t approve of my outfit.  I guess she thought I should have known better.  I’m sure my sister, Evelyn would have known instinctively that high-end sportswear would have been more appropriate.

These days I don’t wear jeans very often; but nor do I dress in sequins.  My closet is well-stocked with Brava! elegant Casualwear, which is always appropriate, and always looks good.  When others are confined in their overly-constructed, stiff dressy clothes, I sail through the day or evening, comfortable, unwrinkled and nonplussed.  I think my sister would have been proud.

Dancing in a “Hot Wind”

My mother kept a lot of mirrors, in every room, in her apartment.  As she grew older, Missy became somewhat vain.  She shed pounds, as she shed a husband or two, and never looked back.

In the days before Pinterest, Missy hung a real bulletin board on the wall near her closet.  She’d cut out photographs from magazines, and tack up the looks she thought she might copy.  But no matter what glamorous styles were on that board, for every day, Missy wore a uniform of sorts, a denim or corduroy skirt and a cashmere sweater.  She only went to the back of her closet two or three times a week, when she’d pull out some fancy dress to wear to the dance with the boyfriend of the moment.

This was all when she was in her eighties.  By this time in her life Missy knew exactly who she was, and liked what she saw reflected in her mirrors.  She was the excellent dancer, who wore all the pretty clothes, and stole all the men, even the younger ones.  She knew the other women at the dances were jealous because she was thinner, and knew how to dress.  I once had to defend Missy’s joie de vivre to one woman who complained about her.  My mother’s self-confidence was hard-won, and long-overdue.

Her father owned a farm in Connecticut, and was a harsh, abusive man who drank.  At a very young age, she and her friend, Ann Corio, ran away from home to join the Ziegfeld Follies.   Missy was dazzled by glamour, and the idea of being able to dance for a living.  She didn’t make it to Manhattan though; becoming frightened, she turned back.  Her friend, Ann Corio, however, became a famous strip-tease artist, later worked in Hollywood,  and was considered the last Burlesque Queen.  My mother named my sister, Evelyn, after Ann Corio’s daughter, although she didn’t feel comfortable contacting her after she’d become famous.

Ann Corio

Ann Corio

My mother survived another few years on the farm, then married the first man who asked her, a handsome Italian, Frank Scirocco, who danced well.  She might have thought about twice about this, had she known his name meant,  “hot wind”.  There wasn’t any dancing in my mother’s life, then, with the Depression snuffing out the hope of living a glamorous life.  Her life for the next twenty years was a hot hell.  Her husband drank, and beat her.

My father came to her rescue, but that’s another story.  He was a much better husband, but he didn’t dance.  So, dancing was put on hold for another forty or so years.  And when most people would have given up on their really old dreams, Missy pursued hers in her late seventies.  She took dancing lessons, where she met Karen Black’s mother, Peggy Ziegler.  Peggy and Missy would put on their false eyelashes, pretty outfits, and cruise around looking for fun.

Missy found a  new boyfriend, Bernie, who serenaded her at night over the telephone, and knew how to tango.   She entertained a lot, and partied with Peggy and their  friends.  Missy found herself, finally.  She was still happy and active into her 90’s, telling people that dancing keeps you young.  At 98, she suddenly came down with pneumonia.  Fighting to the end, she was mad at having to miss the dance that week.  She passed away on Thursday, the day of the dance.  I think of her, at eighty, up on that stage in Old Town, San Diego, Bernie dangerously dipping her in their last tango, happy at last.

Missy would have loved our Brava! dresses, perfect for dancing.  Elegant, easy-care, packable and static-free, the bamboo fabric drapes well, and swings with every movement.  Brava! dresses might have been designed for Missy’s dances, and for the hot wind in her blood.

Ready for “Ruddygore”?

The Lamplighters Music Theatre’s auditions for “Ruddygore” are coming up!  Are you ready for your audition?  This very popular Gilbert & Sullivan operetta has all the ingredients for fun, ancestral ghosts, a witch’s curse, lost love, a madwoman, a love triangle, a ridiculous plot and beautiful music, costumes, clever sets, and excellent performances.  Be a part of the controlled chaos…audition!

Okay, you’ve chosen your song; have two contrasting songs ready.  You’ve familiarized yourself with the plot.  You’ve checked out the Lamplighters videos on YouTube.  Are you ready?  All the rehearsing in the world won’t help you if you don’t make an impression in the first thirty seconds of your audition.  Of course you shouldn’t carry in anything resembling a “prop”; not even a water bottle.  No costumes.  You should be neat, clean and appropriately dressed.  Your clothing should be flattering, and fit properly.  It should be comfortable, and make you feel self-confident. Avoid really extreme high heels, especially if you can’t walk in them.  Flat shoes are fine, providing they’re in good condition, but please, no sneakers.

Brava! Fashions specializes in Performance Attire for women in the Performing Arts.  We understand your particular needs, and can help you present yourself in the best light, whether it be in the orchestra pit or during the audition process.  Our clothing is made from natural fiber, like Bamboo, which is wrinkle and stain-resistant; has no static cling.  It’s comfortable, fashionable without being trendy, affordable and attractive.  We fit sizes XS-3X, and we can customize your clothing, and deliver special orders with a quick turnaround.  Private fittings and showings can be scheduled.  Let us help you land that role in “Ruddygore”.

You’ve got at most, two or three minutes to show off your incredible talent to the auditioners.  Make them sit up and take notice.  Spend your time working on your audition songs; not worrying about your wardrobe.  Let Brava! do that for you.  Contact us at kathrynfoxma@gmail.com.

Contact the Lamplighters Music Theatre at http://www.lamplighters.org for an audition.  Then call us at Brava!

Break a leg!Ruddygore ghosts 2006

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