Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pretty Hair

Late this summer on the East coast I treated myself to “pretty hair” at one of my favorite salons.

After multiple swims in the wonderfully cold salty waters of Prince Edward Island and Cape Cod, after gathering sea shells on red, then on white sandy beaches, my hair was officially sun-kissed blonde.

I kept the summer color, and added a pretty cut: below the shoulders, long layers all over, with some ponytail sideswept bangs.

It is, if I do say so myself, very pretty hair.

But it ain’t me, babe.

While I’ve seen pretty hair on many an attractive blogger and know that you can and do pull it off beautifully, I’ve decided that my pretty hair wears me.

In fact, pretty hair takes over my look, hiding my cheekbones and nape, beginning the day clean instead of textured, settling into its desired edginess after the evening meal.

And really, I don’t want my hair to look its best as I’m brushing my teeth before bed.

I prefer a sleeker look—hair up in a messy topknot, occasionally with but more often without the sideswept bangs.

I came to this revelation after seeing two radical hair re-dos. The first: Michelle Obama, whose hair looked pretty on the night she gave her address at the DNC, whose entire self looked stunning the second night, when she wore her hair up. (The image below is not from the convention; Mrs. Obama wore her bangs in a particularly flattering sidesweep that night.)

The second: Victoria Beckham, who looked pretty/edgy with her Pob, who now looks sophisticated and unexpectedly attractive with her hair up.

And when I got dressed to go “back to school” this week, my pretty hair eventually went up—the sides and back in the morning, the bangs after lunch—because, well, pretty wasn’t making the style grade.

Sometimes not looking pretty is the best style counsel around.

Friday, August 29, 2008


The title of this post describes me to a T.

In fact, one of my favorite jogging tees is from the Anglomania exhibit at the Met, one of those rare times when it’s fashionable to wear a flag (a watercolor Union Jack, natch) on your shirt.

And, while in confession mode, let me reveal that I have a large orange silhouette of Queen Elizabeth on a pillow in my fireplace room (a funky Union Jack is on the other side of the pillow).

When I saw these booties by Alexander McQueen on the Manolo’s site, I was helpless but to poach them for my blog, with props, of course, because I think they are the epitome of cool.

I would emphatically not wear them with a skirt, though, as shown on the Net a Porter site, because the ankle is too wide (it’s got to be fitted!). But with a long and lean pair of jeans and a navy cashmere sweater, I’d have my go-to casual fall look.

Too bad they’re almost sold out. Size 38, anyone?!

Winter Whites

With Labor Day right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about how to wear the color white for the next nine months.

I’m not a fan of white, usually; in fact, the only white garment I own is a fitted Lacoste down vest. I find white t-shirts to be too outfitty; ditto white blouses. And although I like the idea of a white dress during the height of summer, I’d prefer it on someone else: on me it would be a cliché.

So I intend to wear white in untraditional ways this fall and winter (though I fully realize that I’m not the first to do so). Here are some items on my wish list:

Winter white heels with opaque gray or black stockings. I love the idea of a non-stark white with a dark stocking.

Winter white beret. I wear only berets in winter, and this will be a soft alternative to my usual power navy.

Winter white lace skirt. Never to be worn with above shoes, but with tough-girl high heel shoes and a cashmere sweater.

Which white is right for you? (By the way, I think silver is the new white.)

Literary Style: Elizabeth Bowen

If Anna had fought against Portia’s coming, she knew how to give her defeat style. . . . Portia arrived as black as a little crow, in heavy mourning chosen by her aunt—back from the East in time to take charge of things. Anna explained at once that mourning not only did not bring the dead back but did nobody good. She got a cheque from Thomas, took Portia shopping round London and bought her frocks, hats, coats, blue, grey, red, jaunty and trim.

--from Elizabeth Bowen's superb novel, The Death of the Heart

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Suitable Semantics

When you’re sensitive to language, many a good ensemble can become tainted.

For instance, I refuse to ever use the pejorative (but popular) term for tank tops and was appalled to find that term on the sales tag for my daughters’ dance class tops. There’s no amount of ironic intonation that renders that term acceptable to me.

On a lighter note, however, I did enjoy a laugh when I heard Senator Clinton invoke the “sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits” last night, while sporting a bright mango—you guessed it—pantsuit. (The image posted here is one of a light check for the Senator's pantsuits before her speech that evening.)

That’s another term that I’d prefer not to wear, because it sounds more dowdy than sexy, codes more 70s leisure suit than power suit.

When I was in grades one and two, my mum put me in dresses every day, until the magical grade three, when she bought me some pretty funky pantsuits.

So pantsuits remind me of red corduroy floral, thick yellow dotted swiss overlay, and denim bells.

I go with the term trouser suit, because it’s Canadian/British enough that it sounds a little foreign and mysterious(!), because it sounds more grown up to my ear. Of course, I could always just say suit, but that often codes as a skirt suit.

Are there any fashion terms that curdle your whey?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Choose Shooes

Strange as it may seem, I don’t have a pair of black high heels in my wardrobe that are suitable for a skirt.

With standard colors (black, brown), I like a lot of detail or a very strong design to keep the shoe from being plain, and I simply haven’t seen anything I like lately.

Until now, of course.

Consider these three exhibits. The top photo, exhibit one, is Nanette Lepore. I bought a pair of bone asymmetrical NL shoes last spring and realized that I couldn’t get them on my feet, so there’s a bit of an unpleasant muscle memory. But these shoes don’t look complicated to wear.

Below is a pair of Oscar de la Renta cut-out booties: exhibit two. These are very strong, perhaps too strong for anything but a sleek pencil skirt or an Azzedine Alaia-inspired flare.

But I do have some floaty dresses for fall, so maybe these might not be the neutrals I want. They’d be great with trousers, though—always a plus. (Oh, that’s right—I don’t need trouser shoes.)

Exhibit three below is from Te Casan, which has a smashing shop in Soho. I’ve already purchased one pair from this company (and exchanged them because they were defective [bad glueing]), so I’m a little wary about the quality:gorgeousity ratio (gor-JOS-ity).

But for a pump, these are captivating.

In theory I like a pump because it doesn’t break the line of the leg; in practice I find it dull. And when I look down, I like to smile. These, as long as the cutouts don’t take flight as wings, could be smart.

The decadent in me says to buy all three. But that would be impractical and absurd and fantastic.

Do you have a shoe-selecting rubric? And which shoe would you prefer, if you could have only one pair? (You could wear the others in your rich inner life.)

Maria Pinto Rocks the DNC

In my lifetime, North American political dressing has never inspired me—Jackie Kennedy was lovely, but I was too young at the time; Laura Bush dresses herself like a lady, but she's not a style leader; Margaret Trudeau was too hippie; Mila Mulroney too-too.

But last night I couldn’t take my eyes from the stunning turquoise dress that Michelle Obama wore to give her speech at the Democratic National Convention.

The double v-neck, the bracelet sleeves, the fitted shape, the sunburst pin, and, especially, the color, were just stunning.

Chicago native Maria Pinto is the designer, and her clothes can be found at Barneys, Saks, and Takashimaya.

I’d wear this dress in a heartbeat.

Monday, August 25, 2008


When my New York Magazine arrived today with Christie Brinkley on the cover, it could have been the 1980s if I squinted hard enough.

Christie’s golden lion’s mane? Check.

Wind machine? There too.

High-gloss California girl smile? You bet.

The only hint that we were some 20 years into the future was the delicate sprinkling of lines around Brinkley’s eyes, a gentle reminder that this supermodel is indeed in her 50s (even if those lines pictured are more appropriate to a thirtysomething).

Just the other day I was commenting on Thumbelina Fashionista’s blog about the time I saw Christie in New York.

I was checking in to Frederic Fekkai’s salon (still in the Chanel building), when the elevator doors opened behind me. Immediately all eyes behind the counter came to attention and looked conspicuously over my head.

I turned around just in time to see a blonde apparition dressed in a man’s pink Oxford shirt, rocking a megawatt smile and flashing blue eyes. She waved to the desk as she swept off to her private room.

And then everything returned to normal: the assistants in black skulked; the women behind the counter resumed their bored affectation.

I loved how she literally lit up the salon, and even though the New York cover is in black and white this week, all that color still manages to burst through.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Plain Style

In Soho I paid an extended visit to Morgane Le Fay: there were two brides to be and me, trying on dresses.

No layers of white for this lass, though; I was drawn to a transitional dress made of lovely light blue-gray jersey. It wasn’t really my style: it was cut to the knee (good), had short sleeves (good), a straight drop waist (hmm) and a thin tie at the neck (yikes).

But when I put it on with a pair of heels and stalked around the cavernous boutique, gazing out the window at the gray-white pillars and cobblestones, it seemed right.

Mr. C. came in with our lad, after having spent some time at BAPE, and broke my reverie with three pointed words: “Remember the Amish.”

Suddenly I wasn’t dressed for a day of lipstick and patent four-inch heels; I was ready to thresh hay and bake a pie, all without electricity.

That’s the brutal thing about context.

I once taught at a college close to Amish country, and was smitten by the beauty of the clotheslines I’d see daily—the deep aquas, greens, purples drying in the sun.

But I didn’t wish to emulate or, worse, imitate plain style, no matter that Chloe Sevigny once declared the Amish her style influence. (I don’t like Chloe’s style anyway; I always think she needs a good scrub and a cut.) The Amish are, of course, a culture, and they don't need a fashionista appropriating their thoughtful dress for a moment of style.

The dress thus remained chez Le Fay, waiting for an owner who didn’t have a memory of whoopee pies and clip-clopping horse-drawn buggies.

And truly I’m glad, because for me to dress Amish would be a miss.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Brief Note to Ms. Wintour

Dear Ms. Wintour,

All year I look forward to the September Vogue. And never more than this one—I hadn’t even purchased Vogue for the last three months because I know better: they’re just summer fillers until the fall, when the spectacularly heavy book loaded with stunning editorials and thoughtful journalism arrives.

But is there some mistake? I seem to have flipped through a double dose of August, arguably the least important magazine of the year (so once said Linda, I believe, who was getting snitty about Cindy’s August cover; do correct me if I have my supes mixed up).

Where are the interesting articles? (Aside from the one about the woman with the addictive husband.) Don’t even try to tell me that the excerpt from Candace Bushnell qualifies as prose. To take Capote one step further, it’s typing with name dropping.

Where is the extra-inspiring fashion and photography?

And what is going on with the covers lately? The Kate Moss last month was a rare spot of model-y joy, but this month—Keira Knightley (again!!) in a busy ensemble on a busier page just does not work. I sense that there’s a slight homage to your jaw-droppingly bold and successful Michaela cover from 1988, but I’ll take the original (see a version above) any day.

To misquote Madonna, “C’mon, Vogue!”


Miss C

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beaux, Tied

If last season was the year of the ruffle, September represents the Fall of the bow.

I’m seeing bows all over, on blouses (to the right, a post[ahem]modern version from Charles Nolan):

On clutches (from Kate Spade),

On dresses with pluuunging necklines (from DVF). The actress Katherine Heigl wore this to an event recently.

While I like this look from a distance (say, from a magazine page to me), I can’t get past the Granny-chic element to incorporate one into my wardrobe.

In fact, I think that bows look best on beaux:

Hello, Mr. Darcy!

Lovely to see you, Mr. Ferrars!

These are some beaux I’d be happy to tie . . . umm . . . oh never mind!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cool and "Schooled": A Style Interview with Anisha Lakhani

Anisha Lakhani has just published her first novel, Schooled, about the intersection of fashion, teaching, and New York money, to a great deal of buzz.

A graduate of Columbia University, Anisha taught English literature until 2006 at the elite Dalton School in New York, where students spared no expense in dressing for class (think Gossip Girl). She took on after-hours tutoring jobs in order to bolster her teacher’s salary and wardrobe: she wanted to dress like her privileged students. Just check out the Bendel-inspired shopping bag cover!

Anisha’s wickedly incisive and funny roman à clef follows ingénue teacher Anna Taggert into the homes of New York’s wealthiest families, where she tutors their children (for over two hundred dollars an hour) in order to be perfectly turned out in the classrooms at Langdon Hall.

I was delighted to have the following email conversation with the lovely and gracious Anisha about Schooled style. There’s even a scoop!

Miss Cavendish: What is the role of fashion/style in the prep school classroom? That is, does it give you authority? Distract your students from the lesson at hand?

Anisha Lakhani: I think the role of fashion in the classroom varies—certainly different age groups and zip codes place varying premiums on labels. For example, as a teacher and a tutor at a Manhattan private school—and I may be attacked for saying this but I'm being brutally honest—yes, wearing fancy labels did garner the attention and respect of many of my students. Not all—it is important to note there are always exceptions! Fashion does create a statement—I am guilty of having been too fashion conscious in the classroom—that is for sure—and I roll my eyeballs now and chalk it up to youth and a healthy dose of superficiality—but I do think it is important for teachers to look professional. Speaking from experience, I don't think my seventh graders particularly cared what I wore two minutes into my lesson plan, but certainly walking into a classroom and looking like I put some thought and effort into my appearance set a tone.

MC: At one point Anna, your protagonist, covets a student's Cartier watch. Anna was originally an idealistic teacher who loved her subject, who knowingly took a modestly paying job. What kind of significance do designer labels have in our culture that they can alter Anna's focus from academics to the acquisition of things?

AL: I think designer labels are becoming a gigantic monster—look at shows like My Super Sweet Sixteen, Gossip Girl, and The Hills. Product placement is rampant—I emulated that in my book not to bow down to it, but rather to create a tongue and cheek lens through which I could show how it is distracting the educational landscape of American youth. That sounds a bit lofty, I know, but I'm serious about it.

MC: In Schooled, some of the texts the students read are iconic in terms of the function clothing plays in them: The Great Gatsby, an Edith Wharton novel, Romeo and Juliet (I think of the Zeffirelli and Luhrmann films), and even Lord of the Flies (for its anti-fashion). What, for you, are some other significant works of literature that engage fashion?

AL: This is an odd choice and perhaps not one people will think of immediately, but my most memorable fashion moment in fiction comes from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Henry Rearden makes a bracelet out of the first pouring of Rearden Steel. His wife shuns it, but my all-time heroine Dagny Taggert (note Anna's last name in Schooled!) considers it a thing of beauty. (No other blog has asked me about why I named my protagonist Anna Taggert so you would be the first!) The bracelet represents creation and work ethic and the potential of man—it is, in my mind, the most iconic fashion statement in modern literature.

MC: What fashion extremes would you wear/have you worn in class? What would you avoid?

AL: I did carry a couple Chanel schoolbags, which now in retrospect seem pretty extreme. . . but I have to give props to Chanel, because that same darn handbag I bought in 1999 still looks pretty good today! I avoided bargain shopping and opted for fancy boutiques, which is completely different from how I shop today! And believe me, the joy of finding a little black dress from Zara that looks like a million bucks but costs less than sixty dollars is quite thrilling indeed!

MC: You’re quoted in a Page Six Magazine profile as saying, "I don't even care what next season's Chanel flats look like. It's a peaceful feeling." But certainly in your publicity talks on television and at your readings you are beautifully dressed and groomed. How is fashion now different for you?

AL: This is quite funny, because while it's true I'm no longer as obsessed with next season's Chanel flats, that doesn't mean I'm not quite obsessed with my old ones! Tutoring afforded me quite a wardrobe, and even though I stopped tutoring, I still have some items that may cause people to raise their eyebrows! But they're old! I swear! As for my recent reading, I wore an Ann Taylor dress, and all my jewelry has been from Banana Republic. Has anyone gone to Banana Republic recently and seen their jewelry? Two words: rock star. It's funny—having less "splurge money" makes you dress better, I think—because it's no longer "Wow, this is Prada, so it must be cool" but rather, "I love the cut of this dress and it's a bargain!" It makes you more creative—it causes you to EDIT yourself when shopping—and that, I think, is true style.

MC: Finally, as I’ve just posted about what to wear while working at home, could you tell me what you like to wear while you write?

AL: When I am writing, I wear these old, beat-up pajamas from the Gap that I purchased a year ago. They have blue flowers on them, and for some reason I am like Pavlov's dogs – I mean, I don't salivate—ew, gross—but I do have an instinctual response—I put them on and immediately feel creative. They are my creative Jammy Jams.

MC: Thank you so much, Anisha. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tread Lightly

Stuart Weitzman, what’s going on?

I like the clean line of this pump.

I like the neutral bronze color.

But after looking at the sole, I think that it is simply treadful.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Off the Cuff: Jewel Tones

When I was in Soho the other weekend, sidewalk vendors abounded. In the past, I’ve bought some lovely pieces from on-site artisans—one kind gentleman even made me a pair of gray pearl dangles on the spot.

This time, one item was ubiquitous: the faux enamel flower.

It turned up on statement rings (one enormous flower punctuated with a faux crystal center); it turned up on corsage cuffs (about five flowers of varying sizes on a silver- or gold-tone band.

Outside Morgenthal Frederics I tried on some cuff/ring combinations. I liked the cuff until I caught sight of it in a shop window—it ultimately looked too prom-queeny, so I passed.

I’m glad I did, because the charming and cool vendor had tried to seduce me with a sale price of $40, down from $45, and the not-so-subtle sales pitch, “These are being sold in Bergdorf Goodman for over $100!”

And wouldn’t you know it—on another block there was another table of identical corsage cuffs, this time with a starting price of $30.

I am, however, loving some colorful jewelry for fall from two unlikely sources.

J Crew has steadily been improving its overall stock over the last few years (they even have a pair of shades made by Selima, the quirky NYC optical shop), and last fall they introduced some fun cuffs and rings. I didn’t bite then, but am thinking of doing so now.

And thanks to a hot tip from a new friend (more about her on Monday), I’ve been loving Banana Republic’s jewelry line. Even though I don’t usually wear necklaces, I’m rethinking that self-imposed “rule.”

Any anticipated additions to your fall jewelry wardrobe?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Reader Query: Work-at-Home Wear

Another gentle reader left me a question in the comments section of my last post concerning work-at-home wear. This is a topic I’ve had intimate knowledge of these last fifteen years, as I’ve worked as a freelance editor.

There’s often a distinction between work and home clothes, and when those two genres intersect, confusion and discomfort can reign.

So: here are my guidelines for clothing to wear while working at home:

Nothing Fussy.

And that’s really it.

No wrap tops with ties, no bell sleeves, no low necklines to adjust, no hair that flounces gently in your face.

For while all of these may be appropriate for the office, where you’re working and socializing with other people, where, somehow, the ratio of comfort to style is often a dazzling 2:11, at home, comfort and simplicity are crucially intertwined in maintaining a professional look.

While I could see myself editing in a suit jacket at the office, at home I need to roll up my sleeves, for I just might wash a dish after calling Federal Express, or I might throw in a load of laundry while mentally parsing a particularly thorny passage.

So my advice is:

1. A comfortable but polished pair of trousers—jeans, twills, cords—something you could conceivably wear to a café for lunch. AVOID: yoga pants, ratty jeans, sweats, or anything with an elastic waist unless you really need to wear them. For summer, a simple skirt (but not the peasant variety unless that’s your work vibe) or longish shorts. I don’t wear Bermuda length (I have quad vanity), so I wear a moderate length that goes well with good sandals.

2. A sleek top—a cashmere crewneck, perhaps, for winter, something that’s not quite a t-shirt for summer. For long periods of sitting and editing I gravitate toward mixed-pattern tops that have a good one-inch waistband and then flow gently (think of almost any top that Stacy and Clinton endorse). **Anything less that a one-inch-think waistband will make you look pregnant unless you are 20 and super slender. AVOID: college t-shirts, too-tight t-shirts, sweatshirts.

3. Good shoes. You don’t want to be tottering around your home in four-inch heels, but you do want something that you can run out for lunch in. In summer, instead of flipflops, try Bonannos. Fall and winter, perhaps a Prada or Coach sneaker, or a Puma leather shoe if you want a more casual vibe. I have a pair of flat Donald J. Pliner shoes that I adore. They’re two-tone: black all along the bottom and dark caramel on top, with a zipper straight up the vamp. They manage to be elegant and sporty and eccentric all at once. AVOID: the scuffy shoes you walk the dog in. Do not wear Crocs. But you knew that.

4. A fantastic jacket, for running to the bank, the post office, the café, the grocery store. Although only one of those locales may be part of your business, you’ll find that a great jacket (or coat) can really make the outdoors rock. I love feeling “dressed” in an appropriate coat and shoes. Consider a variety of trouser jackets: I have my navy Prada for fall, a pistachio Anna Sui pleather for spring, a Max Mara brown tweed car coat, and a navy Elie Tahari military short coat with silvertone buttons for winter. And there’s a Barbour for wet weather. AVOID: windbreakers unless you’re going on a jog.

5. Minimal accessories. You don’t want to be fussing with clinking bracelets or look overdone with chandelier earrings.

6. Makeup: a little, so your look is pulled together. And always a good lip gloss or stain. My favorite is Bobbi Brown.

7. Simple and clean hair. I can’t work with it in my face. I can’t concentrate if it’s dirty. Can you?

And be sure to take a pajama day if you want to. Just be sure to put on clean nightwear before you go to bed so you don’t feel grungy.
**Just in case there's confusion, please know that I'm well aware that women work at home every day. (I have three children, remember? And a second full-time job too.) But I find that FOR ME, taking-care-of children clothing doesn't, well, work, for the business-world work-at-home iteration of myself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reader Mail: City Dressing

A few weeks ago a gentle reader posed the following question:

I moved to New York ten months ago and realized my wardrobe needs a major overhaul due to lack of closet space and the simple fact that what worked for me in my home state does not work here. My closet is extremely small, and my budget is somewhat limited.

Additionally my clothes don't even work well with each other—I have bits and pieces of an "adult work wardrobe," a preppy suburban wardrobe for weekends, and a few "city" pieces.

I suppose a general question for you is how you curate your wardrobe—when do you keep and when do you get rid of items? Is it according to age, wear, how pieces fit into your life? Also, did you ever consciously decide on a "style" and begin to buy for that, or is it constantly evolving? Any insight into your buying strategy and closet purging would be most appreciated.

I remember when I first moved to New York, while writing my dissertation. I moved out of my university town to take a position at a Big Apple Publisher, keeping one eye on the brass ring: a job at a Conde Nast publication. (I interviewed at two of them but was overqualified—almost-PhDs don’t schlep coffee, apparently—or underqualified—I didn’t have editorial experience at the time.)

Anyway, I remember buying my lunch and bringing it to Bryant Park that first July week, feeling pretty fine in an oatmealy DKNY linen skirt and yellowy J Crew linen shirt. But then, as I gazed out upon the sea of polished urbanites with their gleaming heels, expensive hair, and tailored suits in colors that commit(!), my steadily rumpling linen felt like it belonged among the stacks in a research library.

That moment was when I decided to redefine my style. And lucky me, I had all of Manhattan to research it—no dusty stacks here, but the polished floors of Bergdorf Goodman or the smart little boutiques of Soho to ponder.

So what to buy first? As my job was entry level, I had a modest income, and wanted to make the most of my clothes. So I picked my best city colors—navy for fall and winter, a tobacco-y flax for spring and summer—and built around them.

My good clothes were these: I chose a navy DKNY trouser suit, with a cool, buckled, nipped-in waist (this was 1996, OK?), a navy DKNY skirt to switch off, an oxblood Tahari trouser suit with self belt, an inky Calvin Klein trouser suit (I know, perhaps too much blue), a tobacco-y flaxen Jaeger trouser suit (which I already owned, having found it at Canada’s Holt Renfrew earlier), and my still-favorite go-to piece: my navy Prada belt-buckle nylon jacket.

While I was buying it at BG, a lovely dark-haired lass was moaning to her mother that she was “sooo sick” of Prada nylon jackets, but immediately corrected herself when she saw me trying it on, so as not to hurt my feelings. I am not sick of it yet and probably never will be.

To complement these neutrals, I had some shoes already in my closet: Via Spiga lace-up oxford high heels in oxblood and black; knee-high boots in brown and black. I have never been able to find a black dress/skirt shoe I like, and so that gap still remains in my closet.

As for color, I could have punctuated the suits with some bright shirts, a la Gwyneth in her velvet Gucci suit days (Ok, ok—her suits supplied the color, but use your imaginations!), but trailblazer that I was, I preferred to wear my suit jackets sans shirt, buttoned up, of course. This felt less office-y and more publishing rock star, which was, of course, the look I was going for, if I had to give it a name.

I even had an innocent “All about Eve” moment when my VP complimented my oxblood suit and I responded that I was “dressing for the job I want, not the one I have.” “You’re aiming high,” she said, and I embarrassedly realized that I probably implied that I wanted her job. (I didn’t. I wanted Holly Brubach's job. Still do.)

Some twelve years later, I still follow those principles that guided me in the city: good neutrals in strong shapes, shoes with equally strong shapes (nothing annoys me more than a blah shoe), with spots of color or trends.

I find that the pieces don’t have to be expensive as long as they have character. For instance, I just bought two J Crew cotton taffeta skirts in dark fog and buttercup to wear this fall with my cashmere crews. The lines are clean, which I appreciate, and strong, so they don’t wilt on the body, but they don’t “wear me” either.

As for closet purging—oh dear—I still have those original suits and yes, I still wear the DKNY jacket. The trousers are sadly passé—but the jacket still rocks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beauty School Dropout

While I was away, my golden retriever was using my beloved Mason Pearson brush (note which noun gets the adjective).

She looks lovely, but . . .

can my brush be salvaged?

*image from Bruce Weber

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homeward Bound

I embark on a 16-hour car ride over the next two days, so my blog will be shuttered accordingly.

I actually haven’t been “home” since June 15, so I suspect there will be lots to do upon return; I may need a day or two to get revved up again.

Readers with questions, I haven’t forgotten you—I’m just getting my thoughts in order.

Hope to read you all on the other side of this journey!

On the Heels of Liberty . . .

To me, the Manhattan equivalent of Liberty of London is the unromantically named ABC Carpet and Home, except, of course, that those exceedingly glorious ten floors of fantasy don’t sell clothes, or shoes.

Well, until now.

The NYT announced today that Gary Graham will open an in-store boutique on Monday, in the former Chandelier Room.

There are a couple of Gary Grahams to be googled, and rest assured that this GG helped design products at ABC before starting his line. His clothes, as befit ABC, are eccentric and have a cool cachet—J. T. Leroy wore one of his jackets.

I particularly love the display—with the jointed mannequins who sport animal heads. Do visit and let me know what you think of the boutique!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Liberty Lust

Be still my beating heart.

For I’ve learned today, via that savvy despot Imelda, that Liberty of London has opened a House of Heels. It has also (finally!!) unveiled an online boutique (sans shoes, alas). My name is on one of the embossed travel wallets.

Truly, my pulse does race for Liberty because it offers the most gorgeously eccentric and sophisticated shoes, clothes, home furnishings, fabrics, and accessories imaginable—and then some beyond the imagination.

If you’re going to London, there’s not a more whimsical, magical, self-indulgent shopping experience than Liberty.

And just look at the blue shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood (click to enlarge) in the far right of the image above. I heart them with all my soles.

Of Collars and Cuffs

I went by an old favorite yesterday, the Robert Lee Morris jewelry shop in Soho.

I first entered the shop some fifteen years ago, back when RLM was making hip jewelry for Donna Karan, back when I had a glorious young brindle bulldog named Marilla. Get the literary reference?

At Robert Lee Morris I outfitted Marilla with a sturdy brown leather collar, embellished with cool bronze studs (not spikes) and a feminine heart hanging from the buckle. I thought she should become a model (but that darn bulldog from Tea and Sympathy was getting all the jobs!).

No collar this time, but two RLM hammered silver cuffs will always intrigue me. Kind of like the ivory cuffs that that other great acronym, DV, used to wear—or like the armfuls of Nancy Cunard African bangles.

Woof! if you agree.

Mens, Where?

Yesterday Mr. C., our son, and I took a turn at his favorite jeans shop, Blue in Green, on Soho’s Greene St.

There they sell Japanese selvedge jeans, and Mr. C. picked out a pair of Sugar Cane jeans, modeled after the original blues wore by miners in Nevada.

While waiting, I had a good time checking out the men’s shoes in store: I loved a pair of Paul Smith wing-tip sneakers (either black or white base, white tip) and saw some shoe art in motion: one client was wearing a pair of Liberty print Nike Dunks (which I blogged about here).

They looked totally cool on him, but I was happy to be in my Chie Mihara sandals, which have considerably more air conditioning (I wilt in the heat). And he accepted his compliment gracefully and graciously, so he not only looked good, but acted good too. Oy vey—can’t this blogger conjugate a verb?

I also liked how Blue in Green packaged Mr. C’s new jeans—white tissue in a plain, unmarked black bag. Because—and this may be a quirk of mine—I don’t like seeing men with logo-ed shopping bags.

My men’s wear day continued with a pop into John Varvatos. A few weeks ago the wily Mr. C. tried to fool me again by saying that someone we know would only buy Varvatos. But I knew he was talking through his hat since I’d just seen an item in the Page Six magazine about an athlete who “gets John Varvatos to make [him] clothes.” By the way, it’s another quirk that I never like when a celebrity “gets” someone to make him or her something. I consider designers to be artists, not service providers, so I’d prefer a little more semantic respect.

But I digress.

I entered Varvatos to confirm a direction and was accosted not only by lovely shoes and clothes, but by a gorgeous young Italian fellow, with brown curly hair and soft brown eyes. After he pointed me toward my street, he asked me whether I was alone (!) and I faux-grudgingly-bemusedly admitted that I not only was I with Mr. C., but was with my three-year-old son as well.

Ah well—a New York moment for the ages . . . maybe I should go shopping with/without Mr. C more often.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New York Stories: Potty Mouth


Café Café on Greene Street in Soho, a fun little joint for a fruit-and-yogurt pick-me-up, or perhaps for some breakfast pancakes.

The Players:

Handsome young dude, with artfully mussed dark hair that has a racy streak of red.

Miss Cavendish, feeling fine on a Saturday afternoon in the city.

The Exchange:

Handsome young dude to Miss C: “Is this the line for the washroom?”

Miss C to handsome young dude: “Are you a _____?”

Handsome dude, a little taken aback but simultaneously charmed: “Why, yes, I am!”

The Mystery:

What did Miss Cavendish ask the handsome young dude? And why did she pose this question?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Professor's Book

The Neiman Marcus fall 2008 *book* arrived chez Cavendish today, and before even opening it, I was captivated.

I love smart fabric art, and this cover delighted me. It incorporates embroidery, appliqué, and a tactile mix of textures.

The inside of the book had its pleasures too, and here are a few of my favorites for work (I’m a literature professor, and these would suit the classroom):

This Jill Sander, with its gentle form-fitting flannel waves:

This Alberta Ferretti, though not a typical color for me, wins with its mix of silk, velvet, and the funky burn-out waist:

And for the commute, this Marc Jacobs bag. I LOVE the colors (dark orchid and lavender; silver-tone hardware), and though the chain link confuses me—is this extra strap even necessary?—I’m willing to give it a closer look:

But I won't be buying these pieces from NM--that store lost my business during my tender graduate school years. I'm willing to accept new bids, though!

Caged Feet!

I confess: I rip items out of magazines while at the salon.

Yesterday I went in for some pre-fall maintenance—a little color to complement my salt-water blonde highlights, a slightly shorter sideswept fringe—and paged through Lucky magazine.

These cage shoes by Klub Nico immediately caught my eye. I don’t know how they’d look in person—cool or cheesy—but I’m tempted. I’d like to see them with some opaque black tights for fall and winter.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On a Tyrade

Bazaars are full of novelty—they’re a genial clash of color, shape, sound, smell, and texture. While I welcome such novelty in an open-air bazaar—Marrakesh, anyone?—I think that one fashion magazine is taking its name too literally.

Last month I paged through Harper’s Bazaar and found a novel spread: Lucy Liu wearing designer clothes as an Olympian. The concept irritated me a little—an Asian model for the Bejing Olympics seemed too Orientalist—but the spread annoyed me more. Lucy had to strike seemingly awkward poses (on a balance beam, for instance) while trying to show off the clothes. With the exception of the Javelin and the archery shots, Lucy looked uncomfortable, hence, so did the clothes.

This month we have another novel story to anticipate: Tyra Banks styled as Michelle Obama. The never subtle NY Post gave a sneak preview today, and called the spread “vaguely unsettling.”

In the NYP image, I think that the little girl is darling, the presidential hubby looks professional, if young, but Tyra is hamming it up. Indeed, this spread as well as her new promotional ad for ATM are a step back from her elegant photos for Italian Vogue.

My verdict is out until I see the whole spread, but I hope there are some sophisticated, yet novel, surprises hidden within.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Purple Reines

It can be challenging to be a Canadian in the United States during an election season (which seems to go on for years). I don’t have a vote for president, but can express my voice by analyzing political fashion.

Don’t worry—this will not be a post on red vs. blue.

Rather, I’ve been thinking about a happy merger of those hues: purple.

On the national front, I loved Michelle Obama’s purple sheath with the super-savvy Alaia perforated belt. I don’t think I ever imagined that a candidate’s spouse (or a candidate) would wear Alaia!

And internationally, it’s hard not to see that purple is quickly becoming Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s signature color. After all, it’s regal and, as I tell my students, is associated with once-silenced women finding their voice (The Color Purple, the [grim] story of Philomel).

And how unusual that political wives may actually be influencing fashion in a positive manner—perhaps for the first time since Jacqueline Kennedy.

To wit: check out Dior’s fall 2008 campaign above. Starring Daria Werbovy (a Canadian!), it features a mod purple coat grounded with a black alligator bag--not at all unlike Mme. B-S's ensemble.

This Canadian’s voting for Alaia with Dior as VP.