Friday, November 28, 2008

Silver Belles; or, Lucky Me

Today I got Lucky.

Well, actually, I picked up Lucky from my coffee table, where it has been sitting for a few weeks, and began to page through.

But I kept coming back to the cover, and the beautiful photo of Keri Russell in what looked to be a stunning dress. I adore silver, and silver plus tasteful beading or sequins is a win-win combination.

Upon closer reading, I learned that the dress was from Banana Republic, and that even Ms. R. was pleasantly delighted when she learned it was under $300.

So off I went to the Internet for some research. But—oh dear—my hopes were dashed when I saw the dress on the BR model. I didn’t like the darker outline of sequins on the bodice, nor did I think the fit or length were flattering. I guess that’s where the extra hundred or so dollars comes in—one must hire a tailor for adjustments.

But truly, I’m always pleased when my yearning is thwarted so early. Now I can enjoy and appreciate this pretty picture from a happy distance. And that’s good luck indeed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Traditions (and Hats!)

Here’s something I wrote a while ago. Perhaps it will become my Thanksgiving tradition, along with sweet potato cranberry casserole and homemade pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and hats. Just go to your local elementary school this week and you’ll see children decked out in Pilgrim hats, playing with their fellow Native Americans in homemade headdresses.

I’ve always been a hat girl. My Scottish grandmother would bundle me in coarse tam o’shanters, made from scratchy undyed wool, and during my university years I graduated to French berets, jet noir; loden festooned with a long feather; creamy cupcake pink.

I wore berets throughout my undergraduate and graduate education. They were functional, fit my considerable head, and, I liked to think, marked me as “quietly sophisticated” (ahem).

But this steady relationship was rattled when I went to New York City to visit my husband’s family one Christmas. After visiting the requisite art galleries, I ducked into Bergdorf Goodman to check out some living art—the impeccably dressed patrons who glided through the corridors.

Getting somewhat lost among the mirrored walls on the accessories level, I took a turn and found myself gazing at a hat: a Philip Treacy design. To be exact, an asymmetrical trilby, with navy cotton exterior, pewter satin lining, silver unicorn logo on the brand, provenance England. I was smitten.

Although this Irish-born, London-bred milliner known as the Mad Hatter designs wildly eccentric confections, he also makes wearable fantasies; hence the—no, my—assymetrical trilby.

Reader, I bought it. What else could I do? And I carried it down Fifth Avenue in its glistening silvery BG hatbox, feeling, perhaps, a tad guilty. For I, the feminist scholar who critiques Sister Carrie’s seduction by the snug little jackets in a Chicago department store, fell prey to the same siren song. (Theodore Dreiser’s Carrie, not Carrie Bradshaw!)

Geography, though, was the wild card I hadn’t counted on. My eccentric new navy asymmetrical trilby didn’t stand out on the fashionable streets of New York, but it practically screamed “Outsider” when I returned to the Midwest farmland where I then lived and taught college.

In the Midwest, where people pride themselves on four-post homes, three square meals a day, and unwavering moral values, asymmetry isn’t exactly a virtue. Rather, it makes people suspicious of you.

Usually I tend to court my outside status. I quite like to be contrary, so couldn’t my asymmetrical trilby coexist with the John Deere farming caps and the German Baptist bonnets? After all, I’d worn a beret for many a year and the Midwest wasn’t exactly a bastion of French style.

But whereas my beret was looked on with grudging acceptance, my trilby was more a source of humor. Noone actually said anything directly, but locals would talk to my hat instead of my face, colleagues would be overly smiley when I’d stalk around campus.

I felt self-conscious and soon found myself wearing my trilby only at home, happy to catch surprise glimpses of my reflection in the windows as I’d go about my evening. And eventually I put it away, nestled inside its hatbox, sitting at the bottom of my armoire, as I gradually forgot about it.

Until, that is, last November, when, in a burst of enthusiasm for cleaning out my closets, I rediscovered the box and its contents. I listed the hat on eBay, enjoyed a mild bidding war, and prepared to ship the trilby and box to its new owner, known to me only by her excellent feedback rating.

But when I received the eBay-generated message containing the winner’s email and home address, a different kind of feedback quickly flashed in my mind. For the new owner of my Philip Treacy trilby was a Famous New York Personality of TV and Movies, she of the high cheekbones, sassy persona, and megawatt smile.

A celebrity bought my London-via-Bergdorf’s hat. A beautiful, edgy New York celebrity. We must be soul sisters! thought I. We could bond over our love of Philip Treacy hats! We could chat over email like fashion insiders; we could meet, even, when I returned to New York on my thrice-yearly pilgrimages! We’d go hat shopping together and she could show me how she sports my—our—no, her hat in the city and makes it her own.

Or I could mail her the hat with a note saying that I hope she wears it in the best of health. Which I did.

Like Chaucer sending his “littel book” out into the world, I sent my hat back to New York, where it is meant to be, with its citified asymmetrical attitude.

Perhaps it will go dancing, to a movie premiere, to a little bistro. Perhaps one night it will even get tipsy. And I am thankful that it is with its rightful owner, someone who can literally take the hat out of her closet, who can enjoy it in public. And I can enjoy it too, from the distance of my imagination.

It’s not chilly enough here yet for my beret. But it will be soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And While We're at It,

Why couldn't this look work for day?

Especially with the right kind of career, like, say, one teaching Edith Wharton novels, or one swanning around Paris in search of just the right mille feuilles for a photo shoot . . .

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sequins for Day

I love sequins for day. And the NYT does too, because this morning it promoted a Gryphon sequin jacket in its Pulse section of the Style pages.

It does take some work, though, to get this look right; indeed, work that should appear effortless.

The jacket should be the most glam part of the ensemble, paired with a sneering, skinny, I’ve-been-out-til-3:00-a.m. pair of jeans, and a rogueish shirt. Shoes could be heels, with architectural interest, or flats that have a strong line.

I might even chip my nail polish for this one.

But it’s important to find exactly the right sequins. Last winter I was on a quest for a sequined sweater and ordered this Nanette Lepore (below). Problem was, when it arrived, it reminded me too much of my Scottish grandfather, and I developed an otherwise inexplicable craving for haggis and cigars.

So back it went. For summer I have a linen flax-colored trapeze short jacket that has matte silvery sequins all around the hem, about a third of the way up. It’s got a strong Mad Men vibe, and I’ve truly only worn it to concerts at Stanford Jazz, but I think that this summer will hold more possibilities.

So when I’m in NYC late December, I’ll be looking for something like the Gryphon jacket (at the top of the page). I think it would be perfect for adding some magical, but tough, twinkle, to the dark January days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bowing Out?

What is the appeal of hair bows? They can be elegant or girly, depending on how they’re worn.

I love when women of a certain age pull back their chin-length white locks and secure them with a neat bow just as much as when I see a velvet ribbon around a little girl’s long tresses.

When I was 18 or so, I was interviewed on TV at a sporting event, all because, as the reporter later told me, she liked how I had tied up my hair with a black bow.

But what to do when you’re between, say, 20 and 70, for the slope becomes slippery fast. How does one maintain one’s sense of cool without lasping into Baby Jane territory?

I do like how the hair bow is interpreted in the New York Times (above) and in the Juicy Couture ad (below).

However, I shall not bow to pressure! Might you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pilgrim Buckles and Rhinestones

I'm busy with some other writing for a bit, but while I'm occupied, in the spirit of an early Thanksgiving, feast your eyes on these vintage YSL shoes, with gorgeous rhinestone Pilgrim buckles, via New York Magazine's gift guide.

If these were new, I'd pass, but as they're new-old, they're just right!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Last night I watched Saturday Night Live and became better acquainted with Beyoncé, the musical guest. I’d certainly seen her splashed all over the pages of In Style, etc., listened to her sing on the Academy Awards as well as in Dreamgirls, but I really didn’t have a sense of her pop music après Destiny’s Child.

So there she was, singing her first number, delivering some strong vocals with some pounding dance moves, but I still can’t really speak to her music because I was so distracted: Was Beyoncé going to fall out of her dress?

She was wearing what looked to be a knit bodice that had a plunging neckline. And I don’t mean a deep “V”; I mean a deep rectangle. Of course double-sided tape was hard at work, but Beyoncé seemed to test its limits, as she’d slam from side to side to punctuate her song.

I *think* I liked her as a singer, but really, I’d get the girl a new dress.

For is there anyone out there who finds these deep rectangular necklines attractive? Sexy, bold, yes, but attractive? Just overly exposed, without a pleasing line, from my vantage point.

And truly, line is everything. When Liz Hurley debuted her poitrine in safety-pinned deep-V Versace, the long line worked. In contrast, when Jennifer Lopez wore her green voluminous, deeper-V Versace, she looked like she forgot to do up her buttons.

For singers who wish to look beautiful but daring, I suggest a return to the days of Cher and Bob Mackie. No matter how outrageous or tiny her dresses, Cher’s line was always beautiful (even in her scandalous Academy Award dress). And no amount of teasing can make up for a garment that simply doesn’t sit well on the body.

L' Angleterrible Bag

You already know how much I heart Alexander MacQueen’s Britannia clutch, with its spookily elegant skull closure.

Now Chanel has embraced the Union Jack. Vive l’Angleterre!

Yesterday I was paging through Bazaar and saw a photo of Agyness Deyn with what looked to be a Chanel clutch. Quick research this morning discovered a quilted Chanel Union Jack shoulder bag, complete with the gold chain strap that I’m never fond of.

The strap is, though removable, and there’s even a wrist strap that can be attached. And you can rent it for under $100 a week at Bag, Borrow, or Steal (now called Avelle?!). Qu'est-ce que c'est?

But seriously, this bag looks like a high end rip-off to me. I’d rather spend my virtual thousand-plus dollars on the cunningly delightful MacQueen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Circle Game; or Vincent Van Goth?

The always attuned Savvy Girl noted that this chic jacket from Emporio Armani is on sale in store.

My heart leapt when I thought it might be leather, but settled a bit when I learned it was nylon.

Still—the stitching is beautiful in a “starry night” sort of way—or maybe in an Emersonian concentric circles thought.
But alas—black is not my color, so I shall pass. Might you try it?

Color Weighs

While Juicy Couture is not one of my go-to lines (though I do have a smashing pair of crushed gold shoes), I always appreciate the use of color in the JC ads.
I love a rich, saturated hue, and Juicy makes even these neons appealing—on paper, that is!

In my inspiration file I’ve been keeping these images from an earlier Vogue shoot. I love how colorful makeup is used here.

But if rendering your skin Crayola is a little too Peau d’Ane (remember the blue statues) or perhaps too Blue Man Group, there’s always fabric.

I like these rich colors from Aquascutum—they add a touch of joy to a gray fall day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Suitable Dressing

This week’s NYT Thursday Styles ran a story on interview suits in which the designer Nicole Miller talks about how she saw a woman en route to Wall Street, wearing a gray trouser suit. Here’s what she said:

“I hadn’t seen anybody in pantsuit for so long that I thought it looked wrong.”

(Of course she’s forgetting that she must have seen the New York senator Hillary Clinton, oh about a gazillion times in a pantsuit, but that’s another story.)

Miller’s point was that the matching, polished pantsuit (which I unwaveringly call a trouser suit; it has less of a seventies [the decade] feel), had given way to mix and match separates. And the return of the matchy-matchy trouser suit heralded in the return of the job search, by virtue of Wall Street’s sudden downturn.

I’ve said many a time in this blog that I eschew match-matchy, and I do, except for when I don’t.

For I absolutely adore a smashing suit, like the one pictured above. I love the clean lines of a well-cut jacket and how a long trouser in a fine quality fabric lengthens the leg and, frankly, boosts one’s ego. And there’s nothing wrong with a good “mistress of the universe” suit these days, especially when some of us may feel overwhelmed by trying to master the damn laundry or dishes.

When I worked in NYC, my favorite trouser suit was chocolate brown with very thin turquoise pinstripes. The jacket was a classic, fitted shape, the trousers had wide legs. I don’t wear suits often these days (I turn their jackets into separates), but maybe it’s time for a second look.

And just in case you were concerned that this was becoming an all-things-Gwyneth blog, here’s something to fan the flames: that gorgeous velvet Gucci suit from Tom Ford’s beautiful collection.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On the Double: Vogue's Twin Set

It’s difficult to imagine what the Vogue staffers were thinking when they created twin covers for Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.

Sure, their names are kind of twinny (JA to AJ); Angelina *has* twins while Jennifer is *suspected* to be carrying a pair; both called or call Brad Pitt her spouse or partner at one time.

Or maybe it was at the same time, as Aniston’s cover quote implies.

But I digress.

So what do you think—is this twin set in red too matchy matchy or is it just right?
**Some context: these covers are about 12 months apart. I spied this story on Jezebel.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the Pink


is Natalia

in this winning photo

by the Sartorialist.

I could look upon it all day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pomo Puffs

Sometimes puff sleeves are too little-girly.

When I buy a Christiane Celle Calypso dress, for instance, I’ve learned to remove the elastics from the short sleeves so as to deflate the puffs, making them more grown-up and wearable for me.

But in this look as worn by Gwyneth Paltrow

and in the two jackets by Balmain here

and here,

this new, postmodern puff sleeve can be,



**Photos of Gwyneth from Bauer Griffin, accessed from the Manolo's Ayyy! website

Sunday, November 9, 2008

365 Days of Swinging from the Chandeliers

A year ago today I posted my first style entry on this blog.

It truly seems like yesterday.

And look: who’s the first female commenter?!

(How did she find this joint, anyway?)

As for the gentleman commenter,

he might do well to heed the senator’s words (via The Thoughtful Dresser).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Face

Georgia May Jagger
November British Vogue

Down with Sleeves!?

In my twenties and thirties I never would have considered wearing a down vest. In fact, I thought it utterly useless, a purely wasteful garment manufactured simply to rid guileless shoppers of their money.

In the last few years, though, I’ve had an abrupt change of heart. I borrowed one from a friend one mild winter’s day and suddenly saw what all the fuss was about: down vests were practical when a coat or jacket had simply too much fabric! And for this Canadian, who’s always too warm, the vest offered excellent climate control.

But: down vests work nicely with a pair of dark wash jeans, and not much else (unless you’re on the slopes).

Couldn’t there be a more upscale version of the same fashion concept?

Enter the short sleeve jacket and coat. The bracelet-sleeve jacket below is from Neiman Marcus's private label; the coat above, worn by the rather querilous-looking model, from Alberta Ferretti.

These have been, if you’ll pardon the pun, hot, hot, hot lately, as evidence from the blog traffic they’re getting. Enc has posted a ladylike stunner from Barneys, and Songy has a great photo of two winsome lasses just rocking the look.

There’s also a sweater coat/cardigan version, as seen here (#10) on Savvy Mode.

So—are you “down” with the short-sleeve look?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Anthropological Digs

I’ve been reading the Anthropologie catalogue for the last six to twelve months with a low resting heart rate. Much of its casual, sometimes surprisingly pricey Boho chic had been too studied, too precious for my taste.

This month’s offering, though, saw a slight rise in beats. So here, for your pleasure, is a peek at my virtual shopping spree (in both senses of the word).

Ordinarily I wouldn’t like a large collar (too girly-cutesy), but the one in the large photo seems like it could be tough enough when paired with that shirt. And the trousers remind me of a beloved pair I had when I was 18. That can’t be bad, no?

I love a slight peplum, and this sweater is both delicate and grown-up enough for work. I’d choose it in the brown shade.

This is the kind of dress I’d wear all summer (why is it in the fall catalogue?). Great color and line (though I’d want to vet those flowers in person). Always a qualification . . .

**Image manipulated by me, with Phixar (per Songy's recommendation)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paradise Found?

I would n.e.v.e.r. wear anything reptilian

(can’t even type the other word),

but these boots by Malandrino,

with their laser-cut lacy styling on top

made me look twice.

Available at Vivre.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Dress!

Although I was delighted to see the lovely and deserving Obama family take the stage at Grant Park last night/early this morning, I must admit to some confusion over Michelle Obama’s dress.

Perhaps it was the time of night (morning?), but I couldn’t quite figure it out—there was a shrug; did it tie around the body? But no—there were strips of satin-y material running down the side that matched the criss cross on the waist. And was that ombre? No—more of a dotted blend from red to black. Perhaps it would have made more visual sense to me without the shrug . . .

There’s been debate on the blogosphere over who designed it. Frockwriter has put in a vote for Narciso Rodriguez, and while the dress certainly shares elements of the NR dress that Frockwriter points to, I wonder whether the dress is in fact an homage—something interpreted by another designer.

Any votes for who designed this dress?

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Which Dr. Cavendish Posits a New Blogological Theory

It’s a biological fact that when a group of girls or women live together—say, in a dormitory—their monthly cycles will soon coordinate.

Perhaps the same thing happens in the blogosphere.

Well, not exactly, but here’s what I mean:

Yesterday I spied a pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes on the Nordstrom website. They were flat, with cutouts and laces and reminded me of a pair of white shoes I had purchased from Holt Renfrew many, many years ago because they were Great Gatsby-esque. I checked to see whether they were available in my size. They weren't. I thought about posting on the shoes but had other things to take care of.

This morning I visited my blogging friend enc’s site and saw that she had ordered those exact shoes (in a different colorway) from a completely different website. Now these shoes are not in the popular conversation. I haven’t seen them featured anywhere splashy or on anyone else’s blog. But we both found them on the same day, on different boutique websites.

So here’s a new blogological theory: once a month, bloggers of style will feel an irresistible pull toward one item. They will blog about it and notice with pleasure and surprise that others are doing the same. Then they’ll return to their divergent blogging styles until the following month.

Have you ever had a stylish item on your mind that you were surprised (and delighted) to discover that someone else liked too?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

GOOP-y "I"s

My email in-box was full of GOOP last week.

I’d heard the buzz about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new lifestyle website, GOOP, but it seems like it’s still under construction. For the time being, one signs up for a newsletter, to be delivered via email, and the site will have its grand opening in the future.

Ironically, just a week ago or so, I wryly commented on someone’s blog that I wouldn’t want to read one of Ms. Paltrow’s novels, were she to write one, and here I was, signing up for her newsletter. (I was assuming she wouldn’t have characters in it.)

But she did have a main character, namely herself, which, truly, made perfect sense to me, because she’s writing about what she knows—her experiences in various areas.

Actually, in this installment, she was writing about what she didn’t know—how to overcome some bodily and psychological ailments through proper food and other kinds of nourishment. So she turned to three doctors, who each gave their advice (one mentioned his “best-selling book” for more detailed information).

The advice was simple: get at least eight hours of sleep, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods, sugar, caffeine, flour, etc. I didn’t learn anything new, but was reminded how difficult it is to follow all of those sound rules during this time of year, when coffee so beautifully accompanies baked goods, when the dark evenings disrupt our sleep rhythms.

Prettily packaged, with soothing visuals, and prose (from Gwyneth) that doesn’t take itself toooo seriously, GOOP is neither POOP nor GOOD—yet. It’s still figuring out its consistency, but without any high fructose corn syrup, please!

India (Th)inks

The first time I noticed India Hicks, I didn’t really, though I should have. But tiny Clementine, the littlest bridesmaid at Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding, charmed everyone, while thirteen-year-old India, with her noble brow and intelligent eyes, was more of the wedding party than the party itself.

I noticed her again, while she was beginning her short-lived modeling career—in the pages of Vogue wearing a white tank top and Isaac Mizrahi ballgown-skirt, bringing credence to Ralph Lauren’s fauxtocratic English country-living adverts. (India and Honor Fraser were my two favorite “pedigree” models; Stella Tennant has obviously transcended that label.)

I liked that she was much more statuesque than waif; she freely commented in interviews that she was not “naturally” reed thin; in her post-pregnancy months she utterly unself-consciously modeled for Marina Rinaldi. (And she actually gained weight while pregnant! No “Body after Baby” triumph stories three weeks later in People magazine).

I cocked an eyeball here and there whenever India made news: her island living aesthetic appealed to me; though I thought her currency sank a little with her line for Crabtree and Evelyn.

And now India’s in the public eye, in the national pop culture, really, as the host of Bravo's surprisingly delightful Top Design. It’s the only TV show that could keep me up till midnight on a work night. I watch it to see what India wears and how she wears it, like this Cavalli flapper-esque number:

And this Tony Cohen knotted beauty:

India may be “never the bride,” but she’s certainly not wearing bridesmaids’ garb any more.