Hal Rubenstein is a writer, designer, lecturer and one of the founding editors at InStyle magazine, where he served as fashion director for fifteen years, after being a Style Director at The New York Times Magazine for five years. In fall 2013, he launched his eponymous women’s collection on the Home Shopping Network and formed Hal Rubenstein & Associates, which has provided private consultation to brands such as Gabriel & Co. jewelers, the Raleigh Hotel, Giorgio Armani, and American Express.
Now Special Projects Editor to Architectural Digest and a columnist for Forbes.com, Rubenstein recently launched his Web site, Halrubenstein.com, which focuses on popular culture and providing advice on leading a better life, The author of the bestselling 100 Unforgettable Dresses (Harper Design, 2011) and Paisley Goes with Nothing has also been a contributing editor to The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Interview, Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Details. Since 1995 he has been a frequent red carpet and fashion commentator for Good Morning America, The Today Show, Extra, E! and The View He lives with his husband, David Nickle, and his dog, Murray, in New York City.
What does love look like?
Am I a romantic?
I think the answers above pretty much give this one away. But let me put this forth. What’s the advantage of NOT being a romantic? What can you possibly gain by suppressing your feelings, withholding affection from the people who deserve it most, taking for granted the gift that someone has given that makes everything else in life bearable? The mistake people make is equating romance with fantasy. In fact, romance is reality at its best; it just sometimes takes a little more effort and belief to achieve and sustain it. But gosh, it’s so worth it!
Where can someone getting married find inspiration in your new book?
What’s so delicious about THE LOOKS OF LOVE is how it reveals and revels in the myriad ways people express their ultimate passions. I doubt that many bride and grooms will take vows wearing a baby doll dress and pajamas, respectively, the way Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain did. But how glorious is it when Gene Kelly brings Debbie Reynolds onto a bare soundstage and suddenly, with lighting on a cyclorama, a ladder, a wind machine, and a scarf, plus a few irresistible dance moves, wins her heart in song. There are the spectacular costumes that Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting wear as the young lovers in Franco Zeffirelli’s lavish and youthful film version of Romeo & Juliet, which may prove that you can never overdress for love. Check out the eight, yup, 8, different outfits Elizabeth Taylor chose for all of her weddings, each unlike the other to signify a different time, and man, in her life. And, what could be more unique than Angelina Jolie’s Donatella Versace designed wedding gown, which featured a veil embroidered with the designs of her six children with Brad Pitt. You don’t necessarily have to imitate any of these, but what THE LOOKS OF LOVE confirms to anyone wanting to create an unforgettable moment, is that tradition isn’t nearly as desirable as individuality, that what counts is what excites the two of you the most. That’s how you make the bests memories; by pleasing each other and not everyone else.
Where did I find inspiration for this book?
From two sources.
1. Being the lucky witness to the 60-year love affair between my mother and my father. Neither one ever forgot for one day who came first, and everything they did, from how they talked to each other, how they raised me and my sister, how they dressed each day was aimed at keeping that love vibrant and strong.
2. I have stored years of movies, television series, concerts, fashion shows, and public events as watershed moments in my life. So they entries actually chose me because they already had already established residency in my brain. What’s so wonderful is that to have witnessed so many of the entries firsthand. I attended every fashion show cited in the book, seen every film multiple times. I went to Woodstock, both New Kids on the Block concerts, attended of the first sneak previews of Bonnie & Clyde. Gianni Versace was a dear friend; I worked with Donna Karan, interviewed Galliano numerous times. I even took tap lessons for ten years in hopes of dancing like Gene Kelly. This book boasts more than mere research. I lived this. Every entry helped shape how I look, dress, dream and love. And from the response that the book has had, I’m not alone.
Which is the ultimate LOOK OF LOVE in the book?
Easy. It’s Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger locked in a mutual radiant gaze, the first time they walked the red carpet as a married couple. It was the night Williams blew everyone away in that spectacular yellow-tiered Vera Wang chiffon gown. Sadly, their love didn’t have a happy ending, but at the moment caught in this photograph, it’s obvious, everyone around them had vanished. All they could see were each other.
Does our current culture of celebrity imbue any skepticism or cynicism in the book when it comes to love?
I don’t believe the book is cynical, probably because I deliberately omitted the part of our culture that Instagrams and Snap Chats every craving with equally “to die for” hyperbole. But the book is realistic because love isn’t always pretty, or healthy, or carefully thought out. But then, passion is a part of life and life is a mess. However, even with social media ramping up our senses, you can’t really fake being in love -not to yourself anyway – for very long without it unbalancing and screwing with everything around you.
What’s my favorite romantic restaurant in New York and why?
New York, for all its extraordinary food venues is not overflowing by romantic restaurants. However:
What the criteria for selecting the entries in the book and how did you maintain the balance from each brand of culture?
Remember, I pulled the choices out of my head, but it’s important to remember that that despite our media, which does its damnedest to slot into tidy categories, each area of our culture forever spills over into the other. Movies start fashion trends, fashion dresses rock stars, rock stars write movie scores and start clothing lines, chefs become TV stars, advertising synthesizes all of this and everyone dresses cool to go out to eat. So what mattered most in the choices that went into LOOKS OF LOVE is how did each chosen person, show, ad campaign, etc. change or influence how we see how ourselves, how we communicate, flirt and seduce, and how we dress to get ourselves noticed.
How was my personal journey affected by the book?
I’m already at the point in my life where all my choices about love, romance and friendship have been made. But it has been fascinating to see how those choices develop. And it was wonderful to be reminded how much influence my extraordinarily loving parents had in shaping the decisions that I’ve made.
What do I want anyone who is in love, whether it’s been for two months or two decades, to take away from this post?
There is no one way to love. No right way to love. No way that is too crazy, or quiet, or outlandish, or foolish. Whatever makes both of you happy is the way that works. And even better, when you are in love, you get to keep on finding new ways to express it. And the amazing thing is as you can see in the book; you will never run out of options.
Advice on Wedding Dresses
The bride is the indisputable star of her wedding day. But the star we are coming to see is a woman we all know and want to celebrate. Make sure you are recognizably her on this day. Don’t transform yourself to the degree that you are transformed into someone else, no matter how spectacular you think the change. If you’ve never worn your hair in a French twist, and tumbling in tendrils, why start now. Instead, be the best version of you.
1. Though you will never wear it again – no, you won’t – buy a dress whose silhouette you have come to trust.
2. Do not choose a dress that upstages your personality. You are the star of the day, not the gown.
3. Unless you are still a virgin, a gown should be sexy enough to make your father blush just a little, and your husband wish the wedding was over.
4. You can never have too many fittings.
5. Remember – this is so important – that 99% of the people with you at the ceremony will be looking at you FROM THE BACK. Make sure your dress is as dynamic from that side as the other.
6. If you are not going to change, your gown should have a detachable train.
7. However, changing is a great idea, especially if you want to have fun, and be able to dance and move. Either way, remember it is going to be one LONG day (or night), which means:
a. Your gown better be a dress you can move/sit/stretch/and hug in
b. Find shoes that are going to last as long you have to
c. Inexpensive makeup rarely makes it through the day. Use products that last, and do a touch up at least once every 90 mins. Wear as many waterproof items as possible.
d. Choose a hairstyle that doesn’t need constant repair. You won’t have time to whip out a hair dryer.
8. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you ever to take off your shoes. This is your wedding, not a sock hop.
9. ONE VITALLY IMPORTANT ITEM ABOUT FOOD. NEVER EVER EVER SERVE SOUP More clothing is ruined at weddings due to spilled, sloshed or splattered soup than any other food item. In fact if you can, keep all sauces to a minimum. Your guests will thank you.