Monday, March 31, 2008

Of Fairies, Tales, and Tails

I’ve always loved a good fairy tale, and now that I have three children, they’re very much a presence in our home. There’s something thrilling about a world where humans fuse with animals, producing such colorful figures as the satyr, for instance, or, of course, the iconic image of Catherine Deneuve as Peau d’ane, that I blogged about in an earlier entry.

I think such creatures have been on my mind because Easter has come and gone, and I had laid out a centerpiece for the dining table: two white raffia rabbits—one standing up with a lovely necklace of pastel eggs and tiny flowers in her ear, the other with paws tucked beneath him as he nestled beside her.

These rabbits—who look so human!—and the fairy world recall some of my favorite fashion images—ones that are a veritable hybrid of beast and human being, others that take the wilderness within the domestic borders. Consider this image of Dita von Teese, from Sunday’s New York Times:

She lives in her jewel-box arts and crafts home with a number of creatures—this stuffed peacock and, below, a pair of equally stuffed swans. Normally these images could promote squeamishness in me; I’d rather enjoy my animals alive, thank you, but there’s a certain lushness to these, almost a fairy tale quality.

A couple of summers ago I went to the Anglomania exhibit at the Met and fell in love with this arresting display of a Galliano dress. No matter how stunning the dress may be, it’s taken to another level entirely with the addition of the raven’s head.

And I first saw this collar/capelet on Susie Bubble’s blog awhile ago, but wanted to post it here because it so reminds me of the Galliano presentation. I could wear it with “my” floor-length Comme des Garcons skirt while teaching anything Victorian—or modern, for that matter!

Finally, who could forget lovely Candice Bergen in her bunny mask at Truman Capote’s black-and-white ball?

I love fantastic dressing like this. It reminds me of my childhood creative play and conjures a beautiful world. I still believe in magic!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is To Flip To Be a Flop?

There’s been a good healthy controversy on the internet lately about proper summer footwear, so I thought I’d dip in a toe.

The Manolo linked to Plumcake’s blog post about how flip flops are acceptable in only certain contexts (a beach or a communal shower, for instance), and I greedily read (and thoroughly enjoyed) the passionate comments, both pro and con.

I grew up on the lovely red sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island, and am quite sure that I never owned a pair of flip flops (or thongs, as we called them). As a child I preferred anything else, finding the flip flop silhouette unsatisfactory (though I wouldn’t have used that language at age ten). I think I’ve always liked eccentric looks and the flip flop was, well, too plain, and not flattering to the foot.

But in recent years, I admit that the flip flop has been immensely easy to wear—as long as I don’t look in a mirror.

Doesn’t that statement say it all? The flip flop is a complete sacrifice of style for ease, perhaps a version of letting one’s footed self “go.” And for someone who is fanatical about the shape and color of shoes, as I am, this knowledge is unacceptable.

What to wear instead, for those days when you pull on a simple cotton sundress or throw on shorts and a well-cut tee? Glads are a possibility (and I have a pair by Cole Haan), but they can sometimes be “too” dressed—and can take too long to buckle! Bonannos can work too, and you get to choose your color combination, but they’re more of a preppy look. (See below.)

One of my favorite--perhaps to be considered a hybrid?--pairs of sandals is by Camper. I bought a pair of Camper "twins" in San Francisco a number of years back, and while I'm definitely NOT into novelty clothing, these twins transcend the cute, I like to think. They are leather flip flops, or thongs, and the left is in the shape of an eggshell-colored dove, while the right is a perfect green line of olive leaves. Odd as they may sound, they're shockingly flattering and wearable. Believe me, I was very surprised to be walking out of the shop with them! (I'll try to take a photo of the sandals when we get some sun.)

So: two questions: What’s your go-to summer sandal shape? Or: is to flip to be a flop?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Helmet Hair

Do you know Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust?

One of my favorite characters in it is Mrs. Rattery, “the shameless blonde” (surprisingly played by the very dark Anjelica Huston in the film), who literally swoops into the book via her self-piloted twin-seated airplane.

She’s the rare American in Waugh’s aristocratic English world, and she brings to the novel a touch of “can-do” attitude (she flies her own plane, helps carpenters about the estate), a sobering dose of fortune (she represents the randomness of good and bad luck), and a happy measure of fashion.

For as any good pilot would, Mrs. Rattery wears a leather flying cap, which happens to be one of my favorite hat models. Although this style of hat does wreak havoc on one’s hair (I’d like to have one custom made with a hole for my top-knot), it is, I think, very, very chic in a rugged, adventuresome way.

Consider the flying cap pictured above: It’s one that was made for Amelia Earhart, and one that Amelia gave to her dear female friend as a souvenir. (It was recently auctioned off for some $16,000.) Imagine how smart it would look with a long Cossack coat, equally long hair flowing from beneath those leather flaps.

I think the trick to making this cap work is to mix it with a feminine but strong piece. Then the two balance each other nicely and engage in a dialogue, rather than a cage match.

In New York there’s a tiny hat shop by the old Joel Name location, right at the street (Houston) that separates the Village from SoHo. I found two leather flying caps there—one black, the other brown, and was sorely tempted, but thought them a tad too military. (I’ll keep looking for one that has a more civilian vibe.)

I also love the idea of a helmet hat—if done right. Some boiled wool helmets can venture too far into elf territory, and I for one don’t want to look like one of Santa’s helpers when out and about.
But done right, the effect can be that of a medieval maiden warrior, again with a winning balance of femininity and strength. Here are a couple of hats by Angelika Klose that come—ahem—close to my style. I’d want some more subtle colors, though, and might add a strong (that word again!) sparkly brooch for effect.

I’ve also written about hats here, if you want to take a peek.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of Manes and Trains

I’ve had this image in my inspiration file for some time now. It’s from a fall/winter Bergdorf Goodman catalogue and I love how it functioned as an amuse bouche in the middle of a photo essay about clothes.

The texture, the colors, the line are all so appealing in this image; it reminds me that natural beauty can and does trump the artifice that this culture puts so much emphasis upon.

But then, this image also reminds me of a comme des garçons skirt that I saw at IF in SoHo.

Here’s a photo of it in brown; the one I saw and loved was midnight blue.

Here’s an image of the same texture in the blue, but please remember that I like the skirt, not the dress! I’d gladly wear the skirt in the classroom, paired with a form-fitting long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of tough, high-heeled shoes.

Think Jane Eyre with an edge.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Which the Author Takes a Snip or Two; or, Belinda's Revenge

Do you know how some assistants in swanky hair salons can baaarely contain their condescension and boredom as they give their clients instructions and attention?

A murmured “five minutes” as the assistant sweeps away from the sink in which your wet head is slathered with some freezing cold potion-y lotion translates as: “We’ll leave this substance on for five minutes; it’s meant to set the color and bring shine to your hair.”

Does a client really have to abruptly move her head 90 degrees in order to assuage the burning that comes from a blow dryer concentrated too long on one spot?

But when it’s time to check out, I’m always amazed how “gorgeous” and “beautiful” my hair becomes, as if the assistants simply can’t bear to part with the vision of my loveliness.

Like Belinda in Pope’s Rape of the Lock, the client feels adorned with tiny sylphs that swoop around her, whispering bon mots in her ear, never leaving her side until she pays her bill, distributes her tips, and makes a run for the elevator.

I cultivate a healthy vanity, I admit; it’s lovely to hear from a stranger that you are looking attractive, but I do wish that the sudden fawning attention weren’t so blatant.

Rather, I’d like a little more consistency in attitude. To rewrite Emerson, “foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of swanky hair salons.”

**For the heroic couplet version of this post, see the previous entry.

Image by Aubrey Beardsley,
a sylph attending Belinda in Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock

The Heroic Couplet Version; or Belinda Uncut

in medias res
with props to Alexander Pope

And so Miss Cavendish laid her tender head in the mammoth porcelain sink,
Pondering a gentle thought or two, for she dearly loved to think,

When the dainty claws that had been massaging her tresses suddenly came to a stop
And in their stead came an icy cold squeeze of some indeterminate hair salon glop.

Just as our client was gathering her wits, and a mental basket (to place them in it),
She thought she heard out the side of her ear a vague murmur that rasped, “Five minutes!”

* * *

As Miss Cavendish, now shaken, sat in a chair, awaiting her hair blower,
A sylph stalked up, dressed all in black, greeting her client with a glower.

She wielded the blow dryer with great skill, executing perfect curls with each turn,
But didn’t stop to notice when the dragon dryer breathed out such fire that burned

The delicate flesh of Miss Cavendish’s left cheekbone, once pale, now so red and sore.
Miss C wrenched her pretty head away, while the sylph’s eye roll suggested she was bored.

* * *

Our heroine, now colored and coiffed, went to don her cashmere sweater
Whilst the sylph, now multiplied by three, followed her, chirping, “I’ve never seen anything better!”

“Gorgeous!” she cried; “Beautiful!” she shrieked; “Divine . . .” she whispered knowingly
As Miss Cavendish approached the desk, bill in hand, sadly thinking, “Woe is me.”

“I like my hair, tis true indeed, but I’m now a bit of a wreck:
I’ve gone from cold to burning hot, and this pigeon wants to peck

Every green morsel from my pockets, every crumb from my wallet’s inside,
She’s ignored me while supposedly in my service, now all I want to do is hide.”

So down the elevator went innocent Miss C, thinking fresh air would be just the thing
Yet hoping that the closing door would not clip that hovering pigeon’s wing.

The false cries of pleasure echoed in the halls well after our client descended
And still ring in her ear and mind, even though her salon morning has ended.

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Which the Author Becomes a Critical Shopper

When I visit SoHo, I don’t want to see a Chanel shop, a Burberry, a Club Monaco, a J Crew, for goodness’ sake! I don’t want to pop into stores like Kirna Zabete and Scoop to see the same Stella McCartneys hanging on a rack.

I want art. Not paintings; clothing.

My first venture into SoHo this trip was a sneak arrival: we entered from the side by the Triumph/Ducati store, and hence avoided the familiar name boutiques. Instead, we could pretend that this was the SoHo of old: we took a jaunt to Blue in Green for some Japanese denim, had lunch in a one-off café beside some chic French students, admired the verdigris-and-orange graffiti on some of the quieter buildings.

In SoHo, I don’t want to feel like I’m at Bergdorfs or Saks, and was dismayed to see how much mall culture has invaded this once insulated area.

So I was relieved to find IF, a wonderful European boutique located on Grand St. Inside were long tables piled with somewhat rustic, worn-looking eccentric shoes, shoes that looked as if they had been kicked off after a night of dancing or philosophizing in Paris. Artisan-style bags—from tiny to large—made out of thick leather were heaped on another table, each looking more enticing and individual than any “it” bag from a magazine.

And the clothes! I do love a good theatrical look, and these clothes fit the playbill. There were floor-length pieced, stiff satiny skirts from comme des garcons, shirts with outrageously puffed sleeves (for the postmodern Anne Shirley in us), and dramatic garments from Ivan Grundahl, a Copenhagen designer (see the posted images above).

It took awhile, but I did find my art in SoHo. But what a shame that it is the exception to the rule.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Say It with Meme-ing

Before I left for my NYC vacation, I was tagged by the stylish Bronwyn with this series of questions. So, after a week of thought, here goes! I’ll keep my own tags to three—perhaps Musette, Thumbelina Fashionista, and Mode et Utopie would like to join in?

Books I’ve read recently. (As I’m a literature professor, I thought I’d mix this up a little. Here, then, are novels or novellas that involve fashion as significant plot points or symbols.)

1. Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden
2. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
3. Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
4. Nella Larsen, Quicksand
5. Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country
6. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
7. Theodore Dreiser (encore une fois), Sister Carrie
8. Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick

Things I frequently say:

1. Mummy just needs to . . .
2. We’re LATE!
3. Where’s my . . . ?
4. You’ve identified something; now explain its significance.
5. I’d like a tall skim decaf latte, please.
6. I’m going for a quick run!
7. What do you think about . . . ?
8. I love you.

Music I like:

1. Anything by New Order
2. Eighties house music
3. Damian Rice, “The Blower’s Daughter”
4. Gladys Knight, “Midnight Train to Georgia”
5. Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, “The Love I Lost”
6. k. d. lang, “The Joker”
7. Macy Gray, “I Try”
8. The O Jays, “Love Train”

What I couldn’t live without (in absolutely no order):

1. Style
2. Color
3. Pattern
4. Intellectual curiosity
5. My husband and children
6. Wit
7. An edge
8. Creativity

What I’d love to do before I expire:

1. Move to Europe
2. Move back to Canada
3. Publish some significant works—articles, books, columns, etc.
4. Make a creative mark
5. See my children raised, happy, healthy, educated
6. Relax
7. Sing and dance on Broadway
8. Buy a little beach cottage on Prince Edward Island

Hair, Apparent

My grandmother always loved the services of a grand store, as opposed to a boutique. From our little Prince Edward Island in the 1960s, she’d make twice-yearly pilgrimages to Montreal, where she would set up residence inside Ogilvy, the once venerable fashion institution (that appears to be making a comeback).

There she’d choose her clothes for that season, enjoy lunch, and have her hair styled—all under one roof. Although I’ve enjoyed my share of cool salons on the street—Mark Garrison, Salon AKS—I find that I am my grandmother’s granddaughter: I do like the concept of stylish inclusivity.

And so it is that I typically make my way to Bergdorf Goodman, up to the ninth floor, for Frederic Fekkai in the early nineties, for John Barrett in the noughties.

This trip, perhaps it was the luck of the non-Irish: I booked the John Barrett salon for cut and color at 11:00 on Monday, March 17—the day of the annual Saint Patrick’s parade. The parade was also scheduled to begin at 11:00 about ten blocks below my destination, so I thought I could slip in to BG off 57th Street and avoid the crowd on 5th. But I hadn’t counted on police barricades, which lengthened my journey considerably and jostled my sensibilities.

Fortunately the salon was an oasis from the increasing outdoor festivities, and was all but empty of clients. Indeed it felt like I had booked the entire salon for myself, which was a rather luxurious thought.

Some three hours later, I emerged from the chair, still layered and long, but now a “dark golden blonde” with highlights that I’m quite pleased with. (The image I’ve selected to dramatize my new hair is one of Natalie Clifford Barney, an American in Paris during the modern era who held a literary salon there. She’s ten years old in the portrait, and while I am not, my hair looks like it could be!)

Apres hair, Bergdorf’s eight remaining floors (plus the beauty section in the “basement”) remained to be explored. The atmosphere this spring reminded me of a circus—strong primary colors for clothing, bold chunks of jewelry, gladiator (lion-taming?) sandals galore. Indeed, the whole store had a cheerful and youthful vibe that day.

Perhaps Bergdorfs is to me what Tiffanys was to Holly Golightly: the latter soothed her “mean reds”; the former calmed my “green nerves.” Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

SoHo, So Home

So: SoHo yesterday, home today.

One of my favorite haunts in SoHo is the Paul Smith shop. An unabashed Anglophile, I’ve been to Smith’s boutiques in Iceland and London, and happily declare that his eye never fails to delight me.

His women’s wear line is small and beautifully edited, and, this spring, even had the audacity to have me reconsider one of my style rules: no collared shirts.

The garment in question is pictured here, though the one I tried on was sky blue in color. Made out of crisp men’s shirting, this shirt managed to be soft in attitude—and I liked the tension there. The flower, stitched on petal by petal, gave the shirt a hint of femininity, as did the nipped-in waist, but the fabric carried a certain authority. (Click on the photo to see the detail.) This design is also found on Smith's appliqued rose jacket, as below.

Tonight I think I’ll be dreaming of cobbled streets, graffiti-covered pillared buildings, and, of course, flowers for spring.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A bientot!

I know, I know—I’m only taking an airplane, not an ocean liner, but there’s something irresistibly glamorous about standing on deck, waving farewell.

I hope to blog now and then over the coming week, but this site will be a little less active than usual.

Upon return I should have some fashion adventures and sightings to report.
Á bientôt!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March of Color

You know how a color—sometimes just a small detail—can catch and hold your eye? The three images pictured here all contain variations on a blue-green color that I find absolutely captivating.

The first image of a Prada shoe and black pearl brooch is from a 2004 NY Times magazine cover. I love how the feathers reveal a range of colors, from blue-green to purple to gray, and tie together the light glistening on the black pearls and crystals.

The second image is of an oil painting by Katherine Fraser, an artist who grew up in Maine. Perhaps because I’m an Island girl, I love how the various depths of water resonate in the child’s dress; you can see the shallows as well as the ocean here.

The last image is from an old Tatler magazine. It’s the fellow’s shirt that stands out: the gorgeous textured ruffles against what looks to be a “shot” fabric, one that appears in two colors depending on how it’s sitting on the body.

These turquoise-y colors are a feast for my eye—a delight for the first sunny warm day in months.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fashion Illustrations

When I was supposed to be writing my dissertation, I took many journeys into color.

The day after I passed my qualifying exams I went to the fabric store, returned home with an armful of cottons, and taught myself to piece and quilt by hand.

Then I enrolled in a fashion illustration class, in the same department where the Sartorialist studied, though I don’t believe our paths crossed. (I took my class in fall 1996.)

One of our projects was to assemble a portfolio on a theme and I chose to do an update of the film Sabrina. Julia Ormond’s forgettable remake had come out the previous year, and I felt like redeeming that narrative—giving it the re-vision that it deserved.

So I illustrated Naomi Campbell as Sabrina—waiting at the train station upon her return from Paris, celebrating in Paris by the Eiffel Tower, taking a moonlight stroll near the tennis courts.

I also did Sabrina/Naomi in a ball gown, the photo of which I incorporated into a sample Vogue article I wrote for an interview: a mock-up of that magazine’s “People Are Talking About” pages. I was talking about the bustle.

The images were inspired by a Vanity Fair spread, one I can no longer recall, so I’m unsure how closely I followed the color scheme of the clothes. One memorable moment during my whirlwind of Conde Nast interviews was showing these illustrations to the lovely managing editor at VF, who recognized the Galliano dress from the original shoot.

Drawing (and painting) clothes and the body was a transformative experience: my eye changed out of necessity. I think it might be time to begin looking in this manner again, a decade or so later. I know the wonderfully talented Patricia illustrates; does anyone else?

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the Swim?

I quite fancy sports clothing. When I was an undergraduate I taught aerobics (low impact was just making its debut then) and treasured my super-cool black-and-purple Nike shoes. I’d wear them to class and later go running in my color block tights, feeling sleek and athletic.

I still love to dress in well-cut, well-fitting pieces for the gym. But do these clothes make a successful transition to the street? Miu Miu tried for fall 2008, and I can’t say I’m thrilled.

Miu Miu has combined the swimsuit chic of Liza Bruce and Body Glove with a generous dollop of Sgt. Deanna Troi, then seasoned the mix with warm-up suits, and the effect is eclectic, to say the least.

I don’t know whether these watery spacey togs will be worn, but I can safely say that I’d rather have one of the sherbet-colored swimcaps from the above New York Magazine cover.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Eighties Redux

Last night I went to a birthday bash with an “eighties” theme. I conjured my best early Madonna, with shades of Jennifer Beals, Cyndi Lauper, and a touch of Azzedine Alaia.

Here’s what I wore:

Black high heels, multi, multi, multi-strapped á la Alaia mid eighties;

Black footless tights, of course, falling at just the right spot on my calves, neither too short nor too long;

Authentic eighties Calvin Klein black circle skirt, just above knee;

Navy long sleeve thick cotton t-shirt, neck cropped á la Flashdance by moi, just before putting it on;

Black bra (a simple Hanro) for display when above-mentioned neckline scooted down my shoulder (often);

Long hair teased into a large pouf; anchored with a black hair tie;

Authentic eighties enormous silver hoops;

Lots of mascara and red lipstick.

I was surprised by how much I actually liked that look! Or at least components of it. I haven’t been tempted to try footless tights/leggings for years, but now I’m psyched to get a simple spring dress and go for it. I have my eye on this one from Christiane Celle.

And how I miss Alaia in the eighties! I had an undergraduate’s affordable version of one of his ballerina dresses: goldenrod thick-cotton-and-spandex leotard upper that flared out into a short, fluttery, and totally cool skirt. I do also love his recent ballet coats and, well, practically anything he designs. Does anyone have an authentic Alaia garment?
Image of Alaia dress from V&A museum

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Reflective Fashionista: When Clothes Attack

How do you know when your clothes aren’t working for you?

For me, and for many other women, I suspect, it’s physiological: my stomach begins to twist in knots and I become so irritable that I have to put something else on that very second, so unbearable is the sensation of being improperly dressed.

It’s terrible when this feeling strikes you at work; in New York I have been known to flee my office during lunch in quest of a better pair of heels.

But oh! the indignity of walking up Fifth Avenue en route to Bergdorfs or perhaps Barneys while wearing the wrong shoes. Running the gauntlet of perfectly dressed women in those wrong shoes becomes a walk of shame. I’d instinctively quicken my pace and slap a concerned look on my face to indicate the seriousness of my mission—anything to distract my querulous fashion peers from my wrong shoes.

Once, when living in Montreal, I did a bit of modeling for some local designers. I always thought it a treat to have my hair and makeup done and so looked forward to this particular engagement. I didn’t even bat an eye when the stylist said that red hair would work best.

But the strawberry blondish hair I had been expecting turned out to be fire-engine red; London-telephone-booth red; stop-sign red.

As I walked home down Sherbrooke Street (Montreal’s Fifth Avenue), wearing my beloved Vakko leather jacket (in a very cool Thierry Mugler-esque cut; remember: this was the mid 1980s!), I was mortified by the disapproving looks I got. To my sidewalk mates, I was not myself, I was a “freak,” and I washed my hair about seven times to remove the color as best I could. (That bright shade of red truly was not flattering for everyday life!)

My list of style don’ts is reasonably short: natural colors for my hair; rarely a collared shirt; never matchy-matchy colors; never anything that could be construed as an “outfit.” I dislike that term, “outfit”—it smacks of something costume-y, something planned and thought out, whereas I prefer the more radical mix of separates.

So: how do you know when your clothes aren’t working for you?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Written on the Body, of the Body

The New Yorker’s recent style issue (March 19, 2008) presents a dramatic cover: a head-and-shoulders illustration of an Asian-inspired woman with the tendrils from her floral dress creeping up her neck and cheeks, becoming one with the blossoms in her hair.

This inscription on the body reminds me of the film Bee Season: as Eliza considers how to spell “dandelion,” tiny flowers sprout from her neckline and shape themselves into the letters of that word.

But I’m also reminded of Nordstrom’s recent advertising campaign (as found in the March 2008 edition of Vanity Fair).

In this eight-page spread, the artist Ruben Toledo (who, incidentally, is profiled with his designer wife Isabel in the above-noted New Yorker) paints black-and-white images both directly on a model’s body as well as on the set to stage the clothes.

The opening image, a head-and-shoulders shot, depicts a woman in whiteface with black birds (ravens? crows?) flying on her face, framing her eyes and lips, while other black birds and lushly petaled flowers adorn her neck and shoulders.

On the ensuing pages, Toledo paints in black on the white walls and floor: more black birds that look like they are hovering (like hummingbirds?) or ready to attack, á la Hitchcock. (And on these pages the model’s hair resembles a bird’s nest.)

But there are also images of water—drops of rain landing in puddles; a ship being tossed by angry waves. It’s these images that recall another artist who works in a similar medium: Kara Walker, the young African American woman who has reimagined the way we think of silhouettes.

I saw Walker’s show “After the Deluge” (2006) at the Met, which invokes both the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as the injustices committed against slaves in the nineteenth century—from their journey across the Middle Passage to their lives in bondage. Walker uses the silhouette form—enormous black images that she cuts out and applies to the wall—to tell the story of unspeakable hardships through a beautifully poetic medium. It’s this contradiction that works so well—Walker’s art is stunning; its content cruel.

It’s curious and not a little disturbing that Toledo seems to be culling from Walker’s work here—both thematically and in terms of medium. To pay homage to an artist is hardly forbidden, but to celebrate white models in glamorous dresses in the context of an African American artist’s statement against white oppression of black women and men gives me pause.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Snow Day

Last night we had a beautiful, thick snowfall that this Canadian truly appreciated. When I awoke this morning, the sun was shining, and there were feet of powdery snow to be shoveled, which I did happily.

Although magazines are telling us to think about spring, my mind’s still in a snowdrift. I love winter wear, especially the pleasure of adding a folkloric scarf to a shoveling ensemble.

Here’s one of my favorites, from the lovely Orkney knitter, Ingrid of Tait & Style. To be worn with a French beret, Norwegian mittens, and furry Technica boots, just to confuse the references.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Easter in November

If Chado Ralph Rucci and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton have their way, women will be dressing like Easter eggs next fall—lemony yellows, delicate aquas, and robin’s egg blues.

These colors are a treat for my winter-exhausted eyes, but will they be inviting in the fall?

By the way, has anyone seen the MJ/LV documentary? I hear it’s fabulous.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Secret Worth Keeping?

So Victoria’s Secret thinks it’s time to update its image, with a return to modesty (er . .. femininity).

I remember when this shop was much more tasteful, some eighteen years ago, when I first moved to the United States. When you’d call the catalogue, a plummy British voice would answer, thus feeding the fantasy that VSC was a sophisticated brand from London, undergirding the illusion that Queen Victoria wore lacy dainties under her imposing gowns.

My own take on VSC has gone from one of interest—back in 1990 it was an affordable and pretty place to purchase matching lingerie sets—to embarrassment as the models’ poses have become more aggressively “sexy” (in quotation marks because these poses try so hard, they’re anything but!).

The former poet laureate, Billy Collins, has a poem called “Victoria’s Secret,” which presents a male reader flipping through the catalogue he’s randomly received in the mail. The female models look at him as he looks at them, thus presenting an interesting twist on what we call the “male gaze.”

Right now Victoria’s Secret is a secret I can keep. Let’s see whether it becomes worth sharing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pink? Aye!

I keep a small inspiration book, into which I paste colors, shapes, and patterns that appeal to my eye (and I add a couple of doodles to break up the white page).

In December I pasted a photo of a pink dress accessorized with a large, chunky turquoise necklace by Giambattista Valli, and promptly forgot about it until Ronda from the beautiful blog All the Best wrote a post on Valli’s dresses and jewelry.

It’s the winning combination of pink and turquoise that first caught my eye (and my eye remained to explore the interesting silhouette). Pink is not a color that typically goes into my wardrobe; I like to dress with authority, and pink can be too hyper feminine, too quiescent for my taste.

But this Valli pink is a strong one, coupled with a strong shape, and I find this look to be quite wearable.

I also like the Bottega Veneta ensemble above, in a muted, almost dull pink. (I’d ditch the bow, of course.)
And Hermes’ campaign featuring “Indian pink” is enticing; these shoes could complement a number of colors in a wardrobe.

So maybe it’s time to rethink pink?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Veneta, Vidi, Vici

If I could wear one designer exclusively for a month, it would be Bottega Veneta. I love how Tomas Maier constructs feminine, yet strong silhouettes, and leaves his clothing spare—a showcase for the woman’s personality, not to mention BV bags and shoes.

His color palette has been consistently pleasing—the muted pinks, beiges, and browns from spring 2007 (first two images) all eminently wearable; the grays and jewel tones for fall 2008 (last two images) rich and gratifying.

Spring 2008 (two middle images) reminds me of yet another film: Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday. I’m not typically a fan of the shirt dress—it can so easily look dowdy—but seeing these two looks gives me confidence.

I’m off to NYC two weeks from today, and I know you’ll be able to find me at 635 Madison Avenue at some point!