Thursday, January 31, 2008

Glorious Color

If you attend a sporting event in the United States, more than likely your ticket will be unattractive: “courier font”; no design, very little color.

But if you attend Wimbledon or some such event in the United Kingdom, then you’re in for a treat: the tickets are mini works of art. (You'll need to scroll down a bit for the image.) I have my 2001 ticket framed; it's just that pretty!

In 2005 my husband and his brother attended “Glorious Goodwood,” a weekend of horse racing, and their tickets are above. Glorious color, I’d say.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gatsby Style

One of the reasons I enjoy rereading The Great Gatsby is its attention to color.

From the “torn green jersey” of young Jay Gatz to the “green leather conservatory” (the interior of Gatsby’s car), from the ballooning whiteness of Daisy and Jordan’s dresses to the “blue coat and six pairs of white duck trousers” that mark Gatsby’s transformation, from Gatsby’s “gold-colored tie” to Daisy’s rapture over his pastel-hued shirts, color is suffused with yearning, privilege, and delight.

(Of course color can also be read racially in this novel, but I’ll save that analysis for my college classroom.)

I’ve always thought it fitting that Ralph Lauren was the designer of Robert Redford’s clothes in the film version. As Gatsby seduces Daisy with his closet of delicately colored shirts, Lauren lures in his customers with his ice-creamy colored Polo shirts every season. And like Jay Gatz, Ralph Lipshitz came from humble roots, while striving toward a particular kind of American aristocracy that codes as British, with nods to Oxford, polo ponies, and well-dressed leisure.

J. Peterman, with his Lexington, Kentucky-based clothing business, knows a thing or two about Gatsby style. His catalogue displays watercolor portraits of each garment, accompanied by a poetic rendering of their charms. I’ve found that the clothes can’t live up to the prose, but it’s fun to imagine that they can. One of his classics is the Gatsby shirt, in several beguiling colors. He made a Daisy shirt too, but to me Daisy conjures up a soft dress, not a collar and buttons.

Peterman lost his company in the 1990s, then bought it back, and has creative control once more. A Gatsby story if ever there were one, with a happy ending.

Literary Fashion: The Great Gatsby

Here’s the debut of a series I’ve been thinking about—fashion in literature. Do let me know if you have any suggestions for inclusion!

* * *

“I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.”

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired, he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms of Indian blue.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Things She Carried

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to handbags. I carried only a wallet into my 30s because I always felt embarrassingly hyper feminine whenever I’d sling a purse-like object over my shoulder, as if I were conforming to a stereotypical vision of femininity to which I did not subscribe.

To me, women looked a little helpless with their bags, their independence compromised by their dedication to this bulky or dinky inessential object. I wanted to be a woman, unmodified, not a woman-with-a-bag who updated it seasonally and kept it close. So I’d jam my lip gloss into my pocket (or sometimes the zippered change pouch of my wallet; Bobbi Brown makes compact cases) and off I’d go.

But of course there were times when I had to carry something with a strap. I tended to cling to my university satchel—good leather, scholarly look that spoke to its owner’s intellect, not to her participation in hyper-feminine consumerism. (I even did this when I worked in New York, telling myself that since I was in publishing, of course a satchel was the most appropriate accessory!)

Or if I were en route to the gym, I’d stuff everything into a giant woven leather bag I bought at an African shop in Ottawa. Its size alone separated it from the purse culture so I didn’t feel uncomfortable sporting it.

When the first of my three children was born, some eight years ago, the seismic shift began: a bag became a necessity. I did not want a traditional diaper bag, with bunnies or colorful patterns, because that presented another problem altogether: the infantilized mother. So I purchased a navy blue nylon Kate Spade “baby bag,” sleek, rectangular, and large. It was my constant companion through the first two years of each of my three children.

And then I caved in. The geography of my life had become such that I needed a bag on a daily basis (to tote the occasional diaper, wallet, lip gloss), but one that made me feel confident, not a fashion victim, not a helpless damsel.

I now own two bags, one for fall/winter, one for spring/summer. The fall/winter bag is perfect: it’s a LV Musette. With a flattering vertical shape, this bag has a long flap in front (no buckles or pockety-details). It also has a long strap, which I wear slung across my body, which gives me a feeling of the anti-bag.

But the spring/summer bag is a natural leather that verges on purse-i-ness. So I’m rethinking it. I’d like a neutral leather, strong shape, without much embellishment, to wear on my shoulder. (The sling works best with outerwear.) Any ideas??

Think Pink (and Red)

Although I've made it plain in an earlier post that I don't like the overly constructed clothes of this lad, I do love this red and pink color combination.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Turtleneck Turmoil

This morning while visiting one of my favorite “smart fashion” blogs, I was excited to read Linda Grant’s link to Hadley Freeman’s column in the Guardian in which she would denounce polo-neck sweaters.

Perhaps, to paraphrase Nick Carraway, I’ve remained in these parts too long, for going into the article, I thought that I knew what a polo-neck sweater is: a double-knit sweater with a button placket and a collar reminiscent of a Polo™ shirt, though not as stiff (hence no collar popping). Such a sweater speaks to me of that dreaded category of Business Casual, rendered even more ghastly when it’s emblazoned with business-y logos: XYZ Drug Supply, say, for physicians, or Pencils-a-Plenty for accountants.

Anyway, I digress. Even when living in Canada, I knew good and well that while our countries share a lexicon, the meaning of those words differs. But I was still surprised to learn that Ms. Freeman was critiquing the turtleneck sweater—something I really like on men.

Granted, Tom Cruise (in the image Freeman provides) has given turtlenecks a bad name lately, what with their links to scary acting and megalomaniacal life-saving excursions. And what we call the “mock turtleneck” is truly a horror (think Steve Jobs)—it’s as if the owner shrunk something woolen in the wash but chose to wear the garment as if its fit on the neck were intentional.

But the true turtleneck sweater, if it’s not too tight, too sheer, or too reverend (the white turtleneck is a fashion faux pas for me), can be very attractive and dignified on men. Think Samuel Beckett! Think fishermen!

Now here’s where I’ll need a little more translation help: Ms. Freeman closes by suggesting that men should simply wear a jumper. To me, a jumper is a crew-neck sweater, and, as such, looks irredeemably goofy unless worn with a collared shirt or—wait for it—a turtleneck.

Any thoughts on this turtleneck turmoil?

Today’s photo, an image of some gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Uruguay, comes from Purl SoHo’s website. All this thinking about sweaters has me yearning to knit!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In which Miss Cavendish Channels Miss Manners

It’s a commonplace these days to be hyper-aware of the labels you’re wearing.

Consider these two exchanges between friends:

Friend One: “Love your sweater!”

Friend Two: “Thanks; it’s Marc Jacobs. Your sweater looks great too!”

Friend One: “Thanks; it’s Tory Burch.”

* * *

Friend One: “Love your sweater!”

Friend Two: “Thanks; it’s a hand-me-down from my cousin. Your sweater looks great too!”

Friend One: “Thanks; I got it at the thrift shop last week.”

Whether the clothing comes from a high-end designer or a local thrift shop, its wearer feels a compulsion to state its origin—to mark the wearer, if you will, in terms of purchase power: one who embraces spending or one who eschews it.

Both responses seem to me inappropriate, for rather than revealing the person’s style, they speak to her economic status, which codes as style or taste. Can one not respond to a compliment simply by saying “Thank you” and moving on in the conversation?

But the initial comment is equally inappropriate: why not compliment the person as a whole instead of breaking down her clothing, item by item, into a catalogue of labels?

An unfortunate and very public instance of this kind of exchange occurred not too long ago in the pages of the New York Times. Visiting a posh party, the Times reporter asked the host about his outfit. Said host knew exactly where each piece was from (jacket: Salzsburg) and informed the reporter that his shirt and shoes were “custom,” not off the rack.

Then the reporter asked the host’s daughter about her outfit. Quite appropriately, she told the reporter that her father picked it out for her—that was all she knew at age eight.

But the father knew the provenance of his daughter’s clothing in minute detail: that the dress was hand-smocked, that the shoes were from Paris, and stated all this as if it mattered. And in those two moments, wherein the father was attempting to prove that he could purchase style, he effectively disproved his thesis.

But the old adage stands: you can’t buy style—or taste.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Chelsea Evening

When I worked in New York, my publishing house hosted a book launch party at the Chelsea Hotel to celebrate a biography of one of the hotel’s musical inhabitants.

Certainly I had read all about the Hotel Chelsea (its official name) in my Edie biography and was thrilled to visit it. New to big cities outside of Canada, though, I was a little wary when I approached the hotel; the neighborhood seemed rather seedy to this innocent’s eyes.

Our party set up shop in the charmingly dilapidated reception area, and I took in my surroundings: the Spanish restaurant next door, the tremendous wall of cubbyholes behind the front desk, the strong paintings throughout.

I left the book launch and walked up the stairs and down some of the corridors, anticipating ghosts, finding only colored walls. And I called my husband several states away from the inside phone booth, for a touch of familiarity.

As the party got underway, I found myself talking to a lovely woman who was very interested in my graduate school experiences and impressions of New York. As our chat was winding down, I asked her whether she were connected to the subject of the book or its author.

“Neither,” she said. “I’m the owner’s wife.”

And with that, the kind gentleman who must have been Stanley Bard came over to collect her. He’d been managing the Chelsea for some 35 years at that time and indulged this star-struck visitor with answers to my questions about Edie Sedgwick, who famously burned the interior of her Chelsea room in the 1960s.

There’s a new book of photographs out about this hotel, one that looks like a complement to this collection. I plan to read them both, to conjure up some of that storied vibe again.

Do you have any Chelsea memories?

Crease Is the Word?

Today the Sartorialist ran a couple of photos about a trend he spotted in Italy: creased jeans. I immediately fired off a response about how I cannot abide said creases, unless they are worn by cowgirls/cowboys.

But I made an error: I assumed that the cowgirl/cowboy’s boots helped to produce the crease. Indeed, making the crease—and a white crease too—is a significant part of an authentic western wardrobe, as this blog entry from a "sixth-generation Texan" shows.

But even the above-noted crease-endorsing person states, no creases with tennis shoes; that’s a total faux pas. (And don’t even bring up pleats.) As for me, I prefer the Jack Kerouac-inspired jeans look above.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Botox of Dorian Gray

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the works of the Bard hold many valuable lessons for those attempting to negotiate the world of business.

But today is Black Thursday for working women everywhere, as the spectre of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray has assumed its place in the canon of business tomes.

According to this New York Times review article, the new book How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp offers such sage advice as “looking hip (i.e., young) is critical to every woman’s personal and financial survival.” Women with creased brows and (shudder) gray hair are dismissed as “nuns” (a slip in logic if ever there were one) and “out of it,” undesirable colleagues.

Hmm. Which would you rather look: Your age? Or desperate?

Flower Power

I’m quite willing to judge something by its cover. For instance, I love how florals have been blooming all over previously bland essentials.

I’ve been collecting pretty file folders—ideally with William Morris-inspired prints—from all over and keep my course notes in them.

I also love these Wild and Wolf products (thermos, gardening tools, scissors, water bottle) made in collaboration with Victoria & Albert. To borrow from Mr. Morris, these are both beautiful and useful.

And I’m smitten with the gorgeous Claus Porto packaging on its lovely soaps above. In a perfect world I'd have two boxes: one to use and one to keep wrapped.

Do you have any favorite florals?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Edie, KJL, and Me

One of my literary/fashion treasures is my cloth copy of Edie: An American Biography, by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, which I bought in 1985 while an undergraduate.

I loved Edie Sedgwick’s style, especially her way of tossing her chandelier earrings as if they were her hair. So a year or so later, when Holt Renfrew (one of Canada’s fashionable department stores; think Neiman Marcus) sent me an invitation to meet Kenneth Jay Lane, the designer of many pairs of Edie’s earrings in the 1960s, I was thrilled. Mr. Lane had moved on in terms of style; the collection he was presenting was more formal than funky, but he indulged his Edie-obsessed fan.

I brought my well-read book with me, and Mr. Lane was a real gentleman: he autographed the page above. His inscription reads “Fake earrings by the real KJL,” followed by his signature.

I wish Mr. Lane would design some more chandeliers!

Unpublished Letter to the Editor, Vogue Magazine

To the Editor:

Reading the beauty, health & fitness features in Vogue for the past 25 years has filled me variously with yearning (for those mid-90s workouts with Radu); imitation (I still won’t drink any beverage with bubbles after reading Dodie Kazanjian’s decade-old piece on body sculpting); anger (Helen Bransford gets a face lift so she’ll feel less insecure around her younger husband [who later divorces her anyway]); and anthropological curiosity (how does it really feel and look to have plastic surgery?).

But until the April 2007 body issue, never have I felt like cheering. As I began to read “Seven Women Obsess over their Bodies,” I fully expected to share the drama of their surgeries, their painful but encouraging recovery, and their happiness with their revised, taut look. That Ayelet Waldman and Rebecca Johnson choose instead not to alter their bodies (belly and chin, respectively) seems to me a watershed in Vogue. Rather, each article ended with the author’s appreciation of her natural self, stretched or baggy though it may be. And that attitude is a real feature of beauty.


Miss Cavendish

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Canadian Style

The old joke about Canadian identity goes: we may not know who we are, but we definitely know who we’re not. Many a Canadian has bristled when a well-meaning “talking head” from south of the border has suggested that we become the 51st state. But apparently, we know what we have: style.

As a contest sponsored by the Globe and Mail last year shows, Canada is not exclusively a nation of toques and Hudson's Bay blanket coats. (The image above actually comes from an antique collection located in Minnesota. I couldn't resist the design and colors.)

I particularly like how the judges (in the thoughts from the judges section) discuss style—they largely stay away from designer labels and articulate mood or cut instead.

And if you check out the two stylish winners, you’ll also note the absence of labels; again, it’s the look, not the provenance that matters.

So you might say that we Canadians don’t have a need or a desire for labels. Especially those that try to call us “American.”

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Asphalt Carpet

With the dearth of award shows this season, I’ve heard a good deal of cries bemoaning the lack of red-carpet fashion. Good riddance, I say.

Award-show fashion has become nothing but an advertisement for the designers. When a starlet walks the red carpet, the first question she’s asked is “who are you wearing?” And she spouts out the name, cheerily in her first red-carpet sashays, but a little more bitterly as she attends more of these functions. After all, isn’t the focus supposed to be on her work? And indeed, she hasn’t even truly “dressed” herself; a starlet’s “signature” style comes from her celebrity stylist.

Instead of fretting about losing Oscar night, I look forward to the weekly arrival of my New York Magazine. I turn right to the “Look Book” pages, which highlight a photograph and an interview of a stylish person (or persons) on the streets of the city. These true portraits of seen-on-the-street style are more exhilarating and inspiring than anything that glides down the red carpet.

Indeed they range from ghastly to fabulous, but that’s what I appreciate: they’re individual. To paraphrase Diana Vreeland, “having no style is worse than having bad style.” (Now you can purchase a “Look Book” book that collects many of the “best” images.)

I think that magazines need more photographs of this asphalt carpet and less of its colorful cousin. (The Sartorialist’s vast audience proves the public’s hunger for true personal style.)

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, the northern equivalent of the New York Times, conducted a bold contest last year to determine the Most Stylish Canadian. (Ha! Some of you scoff. Canadians wear lumberjack jackets; there’s nothing stylish about them!) But from what I can tell, this contest was a success, with its two winners being a female graduate student and a male schoolteacher. And clearly, they were chosen for their style.

Could such a contest be possible in the United States? I think not at the moment; we’re too glutted here with manufactured celebrity style. But maybe we’re seeing a turn in the tide; the individual shows signs of surfacing as the red carpet takes a welcome plunge.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I, Conned

Keira Knightley’s green dress from the film Atonement has just been awarded (in a poll by Sky Movies and In Style magazine) the distinction of the best movie costume ever for women. Designed by Jacqueline Durran, the dress is indeed a pretty shade of emerald green, and has pleasing lines, though its bodice does fit Ms. Knightley rather like Gwyneth Paltrow’s pink Ralph Lauren dress worn when receiving an Oscar: too loosely.

Fit aside, the question remains: is this green dress iconic in the way that most of the other top-ten inclusions were, like the clothes from Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall, Olivia Newton John’s spray-on black pants in Grease, and Audrey Hepburn’s perfectly simple black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

I think that a dress should have an incubation period—a waiting period—before it’s declared anything. Indeed, it seems suspicious that in this round of gown-less non-award shows that a dress from a 2007-nominated film has garnered such an honor. Perhaps the establishment is trying to inject a little dressy glamour into this sweats-and-tees-at-home awards season.

Further, will this dress have lasting iconography? Will it be muse to countless women as they dress in years hence? Will designers riff on its color, its shape? Or will knockoffs be sold to the 2008 prom set, never to be conjured again?

Sky Movies and In Style magazine, we’re savvier than this. Where’s Elizabeth Taylor’s slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Dorothy Dandridge's black top and red skirt from Carmen Jones? Kim Novak's little gray suit from Vertigo? Now those were iconic.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tuxedos Suit Me

The New York Times’ Sunday story on tuxedo jackets for women (“Half a Tux Is Perfect”) brought back memories of my first (and only!) tux.

Remember Willi Smith? The delightful designer of WilliWear and brother of the terrific model Toukie Smith? In the late 1980s I bought a women’s tuxedo suit from his line. The jacket was very long, black (natch), and double-breasted with tortoise shell-colored buttons. It nipped in dramatically at the waist, so you knew you weren’t wearing your boyfriend’s jacket. The tux came with a pair of high-waist, wide, wide-legged trousers and I’d wear them with high, high heels.

As I contemplated the resurgence of le smoking for women, my mind drifted toward formal occasions where men typically wear tuxedos—gala events documented in the NYT pages, say, or weddings. While I respect the institution of marriage, I’m really not a fan of weddings. For one, I don’t like the clothes that brides are expected to wear—the long white dress, no matter how exquisitely made, how beautiful the fit—seems to impose its personality on the wearer.

So when my then-beau and I decided to get married, my wedding clothes were a real issue for me. As a graduate student in the Middle West, my options were few. I scoured catalogues from gracious New York women’s stores to no avail (this was, of course, before the Internet revolutionized shopping). I took a day trip to a store in a near-ish big-ish city and found a perfect Chanel midnight blue cocktail dress, but it was well beyond my budget.

What to do? With my wedding approaching rapidly, I turned to my tuxedo. In an unplanned homage to Nan Kempner (who famously doffed her tux-suit trousers at a French restaurant to meet the establishment’s dress code), I wore my tuxedo jacket as a dress down the aisle, accessorized by pearl studs and a happy smile. The groom wore a Brooks Brothers navy suit.

And unlike some white lace dresses, which perhaps should be left at home after the wedding, my “dress” can be worn again and again.

Do you (ladies and gents) wear a tuxedo anywhere?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In which the Author Goes Shopping in Canada and Drops (more) Names

The recent post from All the Best about Creed fragrances stirred my memory about another top drawer enterprise with the same name.

When I spent a summer in Toronto in the late 80s, I loved to haunt the boutiques of Yorkville and the grand shops of Bloor Street. At that time, Creeds was the Bergdorf Goodman of Toronto (sorry, Holt Renfrew; I’ll post about your own particular greatness soon).

Exclusive to Toronto, Creeds was a luxury women’s store that began in 1916 as a fur manufacturer. But by the 1980s, Creeds specialized in European labels like Maud Frizon, Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler, delicacies to tempt the Canadian palate during our long, harsh winters.

As I was an undergraduate, I spent much of my time at the accessories counter, which suited my student budget. One day, as I was comparing barrettes, a vision in white swept through the main doors. Clad in white t-shirt, white jeans, and cowgirl boots, the dancer and actress Janet Jones exclaimed—seemingly to nobody in particular—“I could buy everything in this store!”

But there was a somebody, following closely behind her: Jones’s then-fiancé Wayne Gretzky; or, as we Canadians call him, “The Great One.” Somebody indeed.

Reader, I followed them. Intoxicated by this inter-national celebrity duo, I followed their twin blondness as they wound their way through the store, stopping to linger in the Krizia department. There Jones tried on dresses, modeling them for Gretzky and an enthralled undergrad. I remember that the sales assistant engaged Gretzky in quite a chat, as she, in a previous job, had been a flight attendant for the Oilers on many occasions. Maybe that’s why Jones’s dress choices became prettier and prettier.

Creeds overextended itself and by 1990 went bankrupt. But it still deals in terrific memories.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Arctic Style

Growing up in Canada, we had a mantra: when you’re dressing for warmth, it’s not easy to look stylish. When I was in university, I used to skate to class every (possible) day on the Rideau Canal, wearing a hat and scarf around my neck, ear muffs and another scarf around my head, ears, and chin to stay warmer. And my down jacket from Robe di Kappa was a size too large so I could layer sweaters under it. That’s Canada.

But I recently discovered a style icon who’d look good in even the harshest Canadian winters. I keep a bookmark from the Maine Women’s Writers Collection with her photo on it taped to my computer because I think this unwitting icon looks just right: warm, comfortable, and confident.

I’m talking about Josephine Peary, who was the first woman to go on an Arctic expedition, which she did at age 28 when she traveled with her husband Robert to Greenland in 1891.

Her fur coat—not politically incorrect in 1891; rather, culturally necessary—sets off her leather strap, which looks like it could carry a natty satchel but really holds her double-barrel shotgun close. I originally assumed that this strap belonged to a bag or canteen—my bookmark is cropped like the photo above—so I want to be clear that I’m not touting a weapon as something stylish, but the rugged strap and thick furs are appropriate for Peary’s adventure at the time.

What are some of your favorite cold-weather coverings?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Perils of Publishing

I recently purchased two elegant books, one a lavishly illustrated biography of the genius designer Tony Duquette by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson, the other a photographic peek into the preppy world, A Privileged Life by Susanna Salk. Whereas my heritage is squarely in the WASP-y culture of one book, I find that I am drawn to Duquette’s gloriously bohemian vision and the bold way he mixes texture and color.

But this post is not about that. Rather, I find myself compelled to write about my disappointment with some of the content of these books. As a copyeditor, I tend to be fussy about details in any circumstance, but especially in texts. So you can imagine how I squirmed in my chair while reading A Privileged Life when I saw Luke Wilson—in full Tenenbaum regalia with Gwyneth Paltrow—labeled as his brother Owen. And a few pages later, the society hostess Jayne Wrightsman was called “Jane.”

What really irked me was the chapter on WASP fashion, in which the author, who shares a good number of family images in this book to position herself as a WASP insider, made a true faux pas: she proclaimed Jack Rogers the WASP sandal of choice.

Now, had I not been a reader of Mel’s savvy blog, I might have not given this brand a second thought. But last spring Mel’s blog took me to Vivian’s blog, which complements her company, Stephen Bonanno sandals, a long-time family-owned business and originator of the authentic WASP-y sandal. As Vivian explains, Jack Rogers is a knock-off, and uses vinyl as well as leather. Lilly Pulitzer wore (and wears) Bonannos. I'll bet Jackie Kennedy Onassis wore Bonannos.

Why, oh why is Jack Rogers being touted by a supposed WASP-y insider? This book is beginning to lose its credibility with this reader.
* * *

In the Duquette book, the images are front and center, as they should be. But that doesn’t mean that editors can get sloppy with the prose. On p. 360, the last page of the last chapter, the sentence “When his ranch in Malibu burned down in 1993, . . .” appears at the beginning of two paragraphs in sequence. Methinks a copyeditor or proofreader should have brought equal care to the prose as to the images.

As a consumer, I’m disappointed that these art books, published by reputable houses (Abrams and Assouline), are lacking in editorial expertise. And I don’t want to pay $75 for typos. I’m a professor. I can read those for free.

Friday, January 4, 2008

In which the Author Drops some Names

When I worked in Manhattan, one of the perks was meeting some of the fabulous fashion/beauty names I’d read about only in magazines.

When Frederic Fekkai was promoting his now-defunct-but-then-new line of makeup, I had a consultation with him at Saks’ flagship store. I thought it was fitting because some four years earlier, when I was a graduate student in the Midwest, I had made an appointment with him to cut off my very long hair.

I had seen his work on Isabella Rossellini in the late great Mirabella and loved the way he shaped hair around the nape of her neck. So, with summer vacation in sight and graduate student paychecks to hoard(!), I made an appointment with him at Bergdorf Goodman, where his salon was then located. I cannot emphasize how much I looked forward to this appointment, this one-on-one with the current NYC hair darling known for his flattering cuts as well as his own good looks.

So I don’t need to say how horrified I was when the FF salon called me about a week before my appointment and cancelled it. FF had been skiing in Gstaad and broke his leg or twisted his ankle—I didn’t even hear correctly because my hope at having fabulous hair was dashed. The hair guru was seeing only limited clients because of his injury and I was quickly rescheduled with his protégé, Mark Garrison, the super-charming and lovely stylist who now has his own eponymous salon.

But back to the makeup. The textures and colors of FF’s line did not thrill me, so when Bloomingdale’s was offering a chance to meet Bobbi Brown, whose lip stain and gloss I love, I jumped at the chance. Her advice was to go to a good brow shaper for some definition and recommended Bliss in SoHo. At that time—1996—Bliss was still a beauty sanctuary in the city, so I gladly heeded her advice and miraculously found a lunchtime appointment for the next day.

After my brow shaping, I went to the waiting room to settle up, and began feeling quite hungry, as I’d skipped lunch in the name of beautiful brows. To my right stood a woman with a plate piled high with mouth-watering fruit and other delicacies. I felt like I was looking in the Patimkins’ basement refrigerator in Goodbye Columbus, so desirable was this plate of food. I gazed at the woman’s plate, wondering how she had procured it, when I felt a pair of eyes upon me.

Glancing to my left, toward the door, I saw a very tall man in a suit standing with legs apart, hands folded behind him, watching me watch the plate. And then it struck me. Just as the woman with the food was accepting two spa goodie bags (two!!) and was saying how “maaarrrvelous” her Bliss experience was, I realized that I had been staring down Oprah Winfrey’s plate of food and that her bodyguard was having none of my bad behaviour.

Off then I went, sans goodie bag or lunch bag, back to my publishing office, in search of a perfect NY bagel on the way.

What are some of your name-dropping encounters??