Monday, December 29, 2008

The Balconette Scene

Ahh—the thespian in me is unleashed once again via this Alexander McQueen balconette dress.

Wouldn’t it be perfect for performing the balconette—umm, balcony—scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?

[Insert naughty humour here involving Romeo climbing the balcony—umm, balconette—to pursue his beloved.]

O Romeo, Romeo! Well-placed darts, thou Romeo!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

One for All and All-in-One?

Growing up on Prince Edward Island, Canada, I know from snow.

My father would shovel our driveway by hand in the mornings, tossing me up into the almost-roof-high snowbanks for pictures.

And my mother, who insisted I wear dresses to school, would stuff me in thermal long johns that went, improbably, under my tights. Oh the indignity of long johns that bunched toward my ankles! I longed for trousers or, more likely, spring.

So it was with bemusement that I checked out Alexander Wang’s glam thermal all-in-one in today’s New York Times (sorry style mongers—even if you call it a bodysuit, it’s still an all-in-one).

Note to Wang: *onesies* are for babies. Am still smarting over that dignity thing, apparently). (Resemanticizing, reschemanticizing.)

And here’s the crazy part: I like it. I’d never wear it out in a million years, unless Bob and Doug McKenzie were having a New Year’s bash, but I really like how it’s styled with heels and the suggested option of a black jacket.

(Of course, the model’s pose helps conceal the all-in-onesieness of the thermals. But that’s marketing.)

A while ago slips were the new lingerie-inspired eveningwear. Will we be seeing all of you in an all-in-one?
Or in Bob-and-Doug-speak: Put on, or take off--eh?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Myglass to Yourglass

I love how this hourglass hair mirrors a woman’s curves.

(Umm—let’s hope that this model has curves instead of right angles.)

In any case, ourglass (the royal “our,” natch) is filled with Champagne ce soir.

Happy Holidays, and here’s a wish that ourglass is always at least half full with glad tidings of your (our!) choice.

But keep it fresh, please. We definitely don’t want sourglass.

The Mane Event

Ahh—the influence of this beautiful photograph continues.

Fresh from the pages of New York Look is a fringe-y dress by Alexander McQueen, with a certain horse-y vibe.

It reminds me very much of the above photo of a lovely horse’s mane (of Bergdorf Goodman catalogue provenance and given as a gift to Francisco Costa by BG’s Linda Fargo).

And if that isn’t a mouthful of a sentence, try chomping on some apples while stomping around the paddock on a wet Christmas Eve or cuddling up in your stable under a colorful Hermes blanket (which I imagine this horse might be doing), dreaming of sugar-plum saddles.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ski (Bunny?)

I’m off early tomorrow morning for a festive, wintry road trip.

There’s a black-tie party waiting at the end, as well as some other sartorial adventures, I hope.

I’ll post intermittently, like the precipitation, and wish you and yours very happy holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

This Time It's Personal

Cathy Horyn’s recent article on two acclaimed personal shoppers at Bergdorf Goodman sparked some happy memories.

For when I was in grad school working on my dissertation, I set up a number of interviews in New York—both with the magazine world and the book-publishing houses.

As a grad student I had more imaginative than literal access to polished interview clothing, so I called up Bergdorfs and told them my situation. I was paired with a delightful long-distance personal shopper whose mission it was to find me a suit—just one—that would travel between, say, the hyperfashionable women and men of Conde Nast and the more sensible book editors of midtown Manhattan.

A few days later a large box arrived at my tiny apartment and I moved my novels off the couch so it could have the seat of honor. Inside were three beautifully packaged trouser suits: a purpleish Piazza Sempione, a navy slim-cut Calvin Klein, and something else.

There was also an Anne Klein silk blouse in the most sophisticated shade of light blue. Not baby blue (eeek!), not gray-blue (dull), but a perfectly professional, yet romantic, soft blue.

I must have vetoed the *something else* instantly, and debated between the other two suits for a bit. The PS ultimately lost because of the jacket’s length: even in 1996 a long jacket didn’t feel right.

I went for the trim navy Calvin, and, although I didn’t wear a blouse underneath it, kept the blue silk for good luck. (It’s still in my closet.) Repeat after me: “Nothing comes between me and . . .”

The BG personal shopper definitely worked her magic, because I felt perfectly at home in the Conde Nast offices as well as at the publishing house (with a change of accessories, natch). It was a lovely long-distance shopping experience, and one I’d definitely do again.

Now, if I could only have access to the Chanel collection, as detailed in the article . . .

Ice and Ennui

Woke up to a powerful ice storm today:

schools cancelled,

grocery stores closed,

fallen tree branches,

popped electrical lines.

It’s a perfect day to don this 1970s-inspired maxi dress by Alice + Olivia (check out the detailing on the cuffs)

and mix up a gimlet or two while lounging around your boxy glass home with a look of ennui on your elegant face.

Until you find that Jacqueline Susann novel you had tucked away behind the cereal boxes.

Gold I; or, Ish

For the past two days I’ve been feeling a gold rush coming on.

A yellow gold rush.

This is highly unusual for me, as I’ve been drawn to only white gold for some twenty odd years.

But this image on the cover of Selvedge has been mesmerizing me, so I’ve been imagining a hammered gold *something* in a rich, rich gold-ish color.

As I was out and about today, I popped into a chic little joint that I know to have a small but nicely edited assortment of jewelry.

A pair of small brushed/hammered-ish gold discs caught my eye and I bought them.

Here’s the uncanny part: when I returned home I researched the designer and learned that she does a collection for Calypso St. Barths (formerly Calypso Christiane Celle).

And you know how I feel about Calypso dresses.

So does this mean that I have a style, or something? Ish?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Miss Cavendish, I Presume; or, a Miss-taken Identity

To all gentle readers who’ve inquired:

Nope—that’s not me at the Art Basel party (see top image, Lady Liliana Cavendish), photographed for New York Magazine.

I never go anywhere without my bunny mask.

And no, this isn't Mr. C either. Mr. C's sideburns have more character.


I really am a tough sell. I rarely buy things on impulse, preferring to think and think and think for weeks, if necessary, before taking the plunge.

And in a shop I’m a sales assistant’s nightmare because I distrust every word that comes out of his/her mouth. I greet compliments with a raised eyebrow; I walk if I’m told, “That’s the very last one!”

But once in a while I fall in love at first sight, and the whole narrative explodes.

A few months ago I saw a pair of shoes in profile in a Toronto shop, thanks to a photo that K.Line took on one of her scouting trips. I liked them; the gracious K.Line found out the label (Whyred, from Sweden [the link is to their sales website]) and the price in Canadian dollars; I looked online in the States and came up empty handed.

But in a Lucky break, a certain magazine featured said shoes from a little California boutique, with a delightful 25% off for magazine readers. And since the shoes were already on sale, the discount was that much sweeter.

The shoes arrived, and, I’m thrilled to note, are just what I hoped for. They’re tall AND comfortable. They have a great edgy silhouette that will work with pencil skirts and jeans and will even toughen up a floaty dress.

I’m feeling a little wired right now for Whyred.

Whyred? Whynot?

Tree Cakes

One of my favorite character names in American literature is Tea Cake from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Born as Vergible Woods, Tea Cake changed his name, and to good effect: a tea cake is a delicacy, a small, sweet luxury.

I thought of him as I was making Christmas gifts for my daughters’ teachers. Like Brad Pitt (ahem), I like to give handmade gifts, and decided to update my tiny cakes as ornaments.

I made two with velvet ribbons and, because I always like a visual pun, two with teapot ribbons. My tree is modeling them above and below.

This year, Tea Cake = Tree Cake.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reader Response

I’ve been tagged by enc to continue a narrative thread, to build a story through community. Here's my addition:

* * *
“Mum!” hissed a fellow across the aisle, breaking my train of thought. “Our stop is next!”

He gave her a meaningful look, not unkindly, but I sensed a bit of—something—in his gaze. Like his mother, he was dressed like an anachronism: black frock coat, white silk scarf tied at the neck á la Mr. Darcy, and tall black riding boots pulled over his breeches. But in an aggressive nod to the twenty-first century, his long, slender hands were covered with tattoos.

Tattooed Darcy pulled the cord and the bus stopped. He, his elegant mother, and a company of four other similarly-dressed riders stepped off the bus, each carrying a black case.

“Don’t forget Josephine!” called out the fancy woman.

An elfin girl in black leather nodded briskly and followed them, with the budgie safely in hand.

The group walked to the street corner and, after trading looks, opened their cases, removing various instruments—a guitar or two, a keyboard, a drum kit, and a trumpet. I was gaping openly by now, as the grand woman leaned into a microphone and her son, the keyboardist, struck the opening chords.

**I tag materfamilias and Mary-Laure, two great readers, to continue as they deem fit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is This What Barthes Had in Mind?

With the miserable news from the book industry, it could be easy to become disheartened by the state of publishing.

But Penguin UK has the loveliest idea to cheer up book lovers: this beautifully designed collection of classics that is, unfortunately for readers in North America, available only at Waterstones.

Just look at how beautiful these books are: there’s not a hint of chick lit jollity (just think of what could have been done to Anna Karenina), but a generous measure of what I’d call Hogarth-Press-meets-Liberty. (Please scroll down the link for hand-painted Hogarth Press covers by Vanessa Bell.)

In fact, these books remind me of another favorite: the stunningly packaged Claus Porto soaps, which this lucky blogger happily owns. I haven’t bought any Claus Porto yet because I know I couldn’t bear to break the seal on their gorgeous wrapping. I’d keep them lined up in a pretty row, changing their order from time to time, like piecing and repiecing a quilt.

But I would gladly read these books (without breaking their spine, of course—ohh, the horror of that term!), and would gaze lovingly at them in my bookshelf. This is one of those happy moments when the book cover more than reflects its distinguished contents.

The pleasure of the text, indeed!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Departure of Department Stores?

It’s with sadness that I read about the latest goings on at some of the most venerable department stores: Saks and Bergdorf with shockingly deep discounts, their tables piled high with designer bags that are being pawed over, and as Roller Girl tells us, the same thing is happening across the pond at Liberty, which has the same tables of goods, but with undisclosed discounts that are revealed only at the cash register.

For the department store used to be the grand dame of elegant shopping (though it had its sneaky strategies for seducing shoppers).

One of the most famous is Wanamakers in Philadelphia, which opened its doors in 1876. In his brilliant history of shopping, stores, and their cultural implications, Land of Desire, William Leach analyzes how Wanamakers attracted its clientele.

He notes how the ground floor was set up with a long central aisle, leading to a grand pipe organ in the very back, echoing how an organ would sit behind a church altar. On each side of the aisle were locked glass cases, filled with goods that a clerk would assist customers with, long cases that resemble the layout of church pews.

By introducing symbolic religious design into the department store through its physical layout and pipe organ at the “altar,” Wanamakers was linking the experience of shopping with the spiritual, hoping that shoppers would (unconsciously) connect the two and not feel guilt over spending money.

Wanamakers is gone now, with Macys having taken over its space, as is Russek’s of Fifth Avenue, which was begun by the photographer Diane Arbus’ grandparents, but Saks, with its striped canopies and Bergdorfs, which once had a penthouse on top, remain.

But in what state?

And what about Liberty, in its Tudor edifice with its stunning tiered interior?

Have these institutions given way to warehouses with shelves of clothing? Or as the New York Times reports today, are luxury shoppers now having items brought to their homes for consideration, instead of braving the crowds?

I’d certainly miss the wonderfully eccentric displays at Liberty and the old world charm of Saks and Bergdorfs. I'd miss their gracious bones and sales staff who have been with them forever. And I'd miss their destination as an idea--when it meant something special to have bought a treasure there.
What role does the department store play in your life? Would you miss it?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Postmodern Jodphurs

It takes a lot to get me excited about a new trouser silhouette.

I hated boot cut jeans when they reemerged, having been miserable in “wide legs” during the 1970s. I even disliked a lowish rise, having adored cigarette pants a la Audrey Hepburn for many a year.

Yesterday, though, I was flipping through Bazaar and saw several examples of a silhouette that looks just right. My favorite incarnation is the Alexander Wang pant (above), with its snug calves and gently draping material. It works with a really strong shoe, like the one here.

But there are a couple of caveats: A woman would have to make sure that her pants are neither too blouson-y, lest she resemble a parachute, nor too long, lest her look conjures up that unfortunate term “harem pant.” And –oh—the pants can’t be too short either, because then she’ll have that uncomfortable sensation of having the cuff ride up in a too-tight manner.

The more I look at these pants, the more I remember a favorite pair of winter white jodphurs that I used to wear in Montreal. With a strong black patent shoe and a slim sweater they were just perfect (this was back in the 1980s, remember—but there was NO slouchy sock!!).

I’ll be looking for this silhouette on my December trek to NYC. Could you see yourself in these?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hitting the Right Tone with Tim Walker

Last weekend I finally rented Atonement, which I’d been putting off seeing because of my mixed reaction to the novel.

On the one hand, the novel is a graduate student’s dream if one is pondering narrative theory; on the other, it reminds me of the infamous season opener of Dallas when Pam woke up and discovered that the whole rotten preceding season in which Bobby had died, etc., etc., was all a bad dream.

I can agree with myself on one detail, though: the film was gorgeous.

But my eye went not toward Keira in her green dress, doing her fastest impression of Kristin Scott Thomas’ clipped speech. Rather, it fixed upon Lola Quincey and her little red-haired brothers.

This trio appeared as if straight out of a Tim Walker photograph, so doll-like were they lit and filmed. And Lola’s pink clothes, coupled with her beautiful red hair and peachy complexion, made a stunning aesthetic statement.

Too, the shabby ferris wheels and carnival rides on the beach depicted a dreamlike wasteland, in which childhood delights—the bright colors, the promise of cheerful activities—engagingly contrasted with the brown sobriety of all those young soldiers. It’s as if the designer and cinematographer are daring its viewers to take visual pleasure amid a landscape of injuries and uncertainty.

So although the plot may deal with atonement, and perhaps Mr. McEwan might be made to atone for his writerly manipulations, the look of the film is spot on. Nothing to atone for there.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scarfing Down some Art

Last summer I was doing some research in Salem, Massachusetts, and after climbing up the skinny secret staircase in the House of the Seven Gables, after admiring Hawthorne’s Custom House, and after dodging the kitschy witchy haunts to locate the more serious, sober monument to the trials, I treated myself to the Peabody Essex Museum.

After spending some time in the exhibits I wandered through the gift shop, and, to my surprise and delight, found a scarf by Margo Selby, who had been known to me only through the wonderfully curated advertising pages of Selvedge magazine. (I buy Selvedge as much for the fabulous advertisers as for the gorgeous photographs of textiles.)

Selby is a London-based fabric designer who makes textured, *bubble* fabric in sturdy silk. She crafts throws, pillows, small bags, and scarves, to name but a few items. My scarf is in the *parrot* colorway (see color scheme of the sachet on the left in first photo) and I love how it is both tough and elegant with a jacket or coat.

As the cold, snowy weather comes, I’m drawn more and more to scarves and winter wear, so you may be seeing more of that on my blog. Or maybe not. For as soon as I proclaim something, I usually do the opposite. It’s that contrary nature.

Perhaps it’s frightfully cliché to buy a piece from an art museum gift shop. Perhaps it screams *deliberately arty* in the way that long, boxy clothing with precise architectural cuts does.

Que sera sera. Whatever Selby, Selby.

Highland Things

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that my grandmother was Scottish. I grew up, consequently, with a love for tam o’shanters and Fair Isle knits, though those items eventually morphed into berets and cashmere crews.

Now that winter has officially arrived, however (even if the calendar date says otherwise), I’m feeling a great pull toward those cozy garments of my youth.

And what better company than Thistle and Broom to quench my Scottish knit desires?

Above is a stunning wreath made from Fair Isle gloves.

And below is a Fair Isle sweater, updated for a postmodern woman who might pair it with skinny jeans and tough boots from Balenciaga or even Doc Martens. Wear it on the moors, or by the sea, when the first ice has just formed on the water.

And for those of you true laddies and lassies, check out these great kilts.

I wore one most Saturdays, with my boarding school’s cadet corps. We donned full Highland dress (Black Watch kilt, red jacket, great [faux?] furry hat) and stomped about the hills and dales. I think I even had a fling with the highlander who played the bagpipes. But no, his name wasn't Danny.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Would You Buy a New Bag from . . .?

The new Madonna ads for Louis Vuitton are déjà vu, to my eye.

I see a generic American Frenchified bistro, a la Pastis or Balthazar, back in the day, and a weary circus performer who’s popped in for some absinthe, or just to stretch her legs, before hopping back on the trapeze.

I liked LV’s last campaign for its unexpected models—Gorby, Keef, et al. But this series of ads just seems tired (though I quite like the shoes and bags throughout).

"If I Had A Haa-aaa-mer"

An intriguing new shape by Cie Mihara.

I suppose, on one the foot, you could call these the Hammer Pants of shoes . . .

But on the other, I quite like these for some casual chic.

Slingbacks *can* be annoying to walk in, though, and even though much of my day is spent posing, there are moments when I do have to take a stroll down the hall).

What do you think? U can’t touch this?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Marie on a Tree; or: Let Them Decorate with Cake!

Marie Antoinette made an appearance on my Christmas tree this weekend, as she’s done for the past two years.

I had an idea, a while ago, to make a series of “Royal Court” ornaments in response to the Coppola Marie Antoinette movie.

This is the first, the Queen herself, with her infamous (if mythological) cakes at the bottom of the skirt. You can click on the image to see her embroidery stitches a little closer.

The second, the Queen’s dear friend, the Countess of Chocolate, has chocolate cupcakes around her elegant brown skirt (I gave her to a friend, so, alas, no photo).

I also have bumblebee ribbon and am contemplating making a Queen Bea when all the dust clears from my semester’s end.