Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Charmed or Alarmed?

The other day I had lunch with my daughters at their new (private) school.

As I was waiting outside one daughter’s classroom, a delightful little line of four-year-olds came meandering down the hall en route to computer class.

One winsome lassie, with big blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair, took pains to look me up and down and announced, sweetly, “I like your shoes.”

Granted, I was wearing my Chie Mihara sandals, but should one be charmed or alarmed at the girl's keen fashion sense at such a tender age?

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Posting

for a quick public service query:

Can anyone advise me on how to superimpose letters (words) over images that I've saved to my computer? Is there some software that’s downloadable or is there another, easy trick?

This Luddite has some ideas for upcoming posts, but doesn’t know how to execute them!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Green Acres; Blueberry Beer

Last night I ate dinner in a most unusual place: on the green acreage of an organic farm.

And I wasn’t alone. Some 100 guests and I dined at outdoor tables set with white linen and china, decorated with cups of basil and wildflowers, in an event comparable to those planned by Outstanding in the Field.

Chefs came to prepare delicious dishes made from the farm’s own fresh organic ingredients; a microbrewer provided a different drink for each of the six courses (the bluberry-enhanced beer was my favorite).

I wore a jade (called Nile, but a much prettier color than this photo) shot-silk Christiane Celle wrap Julia dress with simple pewter sandals.

It was a wonderful green evening.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Rule of Thirds

There are three things I wanted to do this month:

1. Win a part in a Shakespeare play (all parts went to students instead);

2. Audition for a local musical (audition day was not well publicized; only insiders knew when and where to sing);

3. Purchase one of J Crew’s vintage flower pins that they’ve been touting in their catalogues. Surely that was something I could do!

Having looked at J Crew’s Website numerous times for the flowers this week, I called customer service tonight only to learn that the pins had sold out immediately and would not be reordered.

It just might be true that bad things (and of course I use the term loosely) happen in threes.

But: the lovely customer service woman at J Crew was kind enough to give me the URL to the flower manufacturer’s online boutique.

I don’t want anything vaguely corsage-y; it’s an oversized flower that I’m looking for in a riotous color.

And you know, as things in nature don’t occur in even numbers (something I learned in fashion illustration class), I just might order three.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Glove Story

This post may seem predicated on what I just wrote about hands, but they really aren’t meant to be connected. (This one was in the works long before I read the story on beautiful hands; I was just waiting for the weather to turn.)

But the weather is still maddeningly warm and I still want to write about gloves.

There’s something romantic about wearing gloves that extend to one’s elbow. I love the idea of a bracelet-length sleeve on a coat, with a couple of stunning cuffs.

This fall I’m seeing opera-length leather gloves in all sorts of lovely colors. My caveat (and this applies to opaque tights too) is: choose your color wisely, lest you end up resembling a Muppet.

But if you wear these beauties just right, say, with a blue-jeans edge, you’ll pull off a delightful combination of funky elegance. (I’ve ordered a pair from Prada; will report back when they arrive.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hand It to Me

Today the New York Times ran a story on anti-aging strategies for hands. Featured was Ellen Sirot, who has made a considerable career as a hand and foot model.

Sirot, whose hands are her livelihood, takes exceptional care of them. She wear gloves almost constantly, taking them off every hour to moisturize. She dips her nails in lemon juice to keep them white. To avoid those nasty disfiguring calluses, she rarely writes, and further protects her hands from bumps, bruises, and barnacles by never cooking, cleaning, or holding hands with her husband. And she wears absolutely no jewelry, of course.

To borrow from Jennifer Egan’s novel Look at Me, Ellen Sirot is an Extraordinary in a world of Ordinaries. (Her husband, who does EVERYTHING, including opening her car door, is pretty extraordinary too.)

Ellen Sirot’s hands are indeed beautiful, if one’s standards of beauty include white-and-pink nails, hands that are sans pesky veins, brown spots, and other general lumps or hairs.

But at what personal price comes this modeling success and beauty?

Granted, Sirot is a character, in the best sense of the word (watch her “Big Idea” interview on YouTube) and, as such, is separate from everyday mortals. She holds her gloved hands above her waist, which gives the impression that she’s about to break into a puppeteer’s routine. (Hands below the waist send more blood into the veins, thus accentuating them.)

She’s chosen her career and is spectacularly good at it. But I can’t help thinking that she’s missing out on the small joys of daily life, with all this fussing over preserving her beautiful hands.

My hands, which probably betray my age (43), show evidence of a life well lived. There’s a small burn scar on one hand from an encounter with a Thanksgiving turkey and an oven; there is the well-formed callus from having written hundreds of thousands of words with my pen; there’s the muscle memory of having pricked my fingers dozens of times as I embroidered and quilted. There’s even the hint of a tan, from my one of many summers spent on the beach.

With the emphasis on pure beauty for hand models, I’m reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birth-Mark,” in which a scientist is so desperate to satisfy his bride’s potential for complete beauty (she has a small red birthmark on her cheek) that he has the mark chemically removed, accidentally taking her life in the process. (What does that say about the most beautiful women?)

I’d never want the burden of beauty to be so great that I gave up on actually living. I’d miss wearing my wedding band (though never together with my engagement ring!); I’d miss helping my nine-year-old assemble her breakfast slide for her Invention Convention; I’d miss holding my six-year-old’s hands in the water while she kicks; I’d miss letting my three-year-old grip my finger as tightly as he wants as we begin his first day of school..

Ellen Sirot is now developing a line of skin care for hands to help those of us who haven’t had the luxury of caring for our hands all these years. That’s fine. I might even give it a try.

But I also feel for her. As the NYT notes, Sirot has been the advertising world’s hands of “countless” women, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Cheryl Tiegs. How I wish she could be the hands of her own self.

Like Mike? Of Kors!

I’ve been guilty of underestimating Michael Kors for the past several years. When he began on Project Runway, I feared that he was going to become a caricature, à la Issac Mizrahi, and then I noticed his diffusion line anywhere and everywhere, it seemed.

But Michael has slowly, carefully (Korsfully?) been winning my fashion heart.

One of his fall looks—a watercolor purple/green coat paired with a classic skirt and sweater—was a teaser in Vogue a few months ago, and I was intrigued.

Then on Sunday, the NYT showed a leopard print bolero (made out of silk and wool) on one of its stylish professors and I visited Kors’ website to see exactly what he had in mind for fall.

I adore his trim little suits, his use of silver, and his fitted dresses. His clothes can be a little too “department store” for me, but a few pieces judiciously tailored (some dresses are too long, I think), could be lovely staples.

I’d get a pair of black motorcycle-inspired boots to wear with the long silver dress above.

Because it’s so uncharacteristic of me, I’d wear this suit as is—matching top and bottom! (But no fur scarf, thanks.)

This purple dress would be lovely for the classroom.

And this for an evening out.

If I can’t have my (and your) beloved Jil Sander, this little gray number might do. The corseted waist reminds me just enough of Alaia.

I suppose that the Kors deal was sealed when, last night, I flipped to Bravo TV and caught a couple of episodes of the Rachel Zoe Project. Of course, a zillion puns came to mind before I watched it (the Flair Witch Project?), but I was intrigued once again, as Ms. Zoe clearly demonstrated her serious, respectful attitude toward fashion. (Compare her to the vapid, vain Kimora Lee Simmons, for instance.)

One of the episodes situated her at Fashion Week in New York’s Bryant Park, and as I saw familiar clothing coming down the catwalk, I felt my style sense start to tingle: Zoe was at a Michael Kors show, and the clothing looked good.

So I’ve had a mind-opening couple of days, which I always welcome. And maybe some Kors will find its way into my closet.
***UPDATE: As I look at the hemlines in the cold, hard light of morning, I'm second guessing myself. I still like the purple and the leopard, but the other two looks are coming across as sloppy. So maybe this isn't a love match after all . . . What do you think?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket: TKOB

As I often discuss my penchant for mixing but never matching, I hope you’ll read this blog post as a written example of that practice.

* * *
I was honored and charmed to receive an “I love this blog” award from the delightful Songy last week, and, as is the custom, I’m going to pass it on.

Here are some of the style blogs I read daily, in random order:

The Thoughtful Dresser, which has a winning combination of style and all things literary from across the pond;

Thumbelina Fashionista, for a carefully vetted selection of clothes accompanied by beautifully written prose;

May/December, for a genial and welcoming approach to city/country style;

My Marrakesh, for a riot of gorgeous color, the author's humanitarianism, and her disarmingly charming voice;

K-Line, for her fellow Canadian-ness and love of “prim with an edge.”

* * *
Wintour in Fall revisited: Melissa has a smart post on BlogHer about the Anna-Wintour-photos-on-HuffPost episode.

After receiving complaints, HuffPost disingenuously countered that readers were too quick to look at the Wintour photos as negative, that it wasn’t implying that Anna was unattractive, so—so there! We’re at fault for seeing Anna as imperfect.

Melissa responded to this and linked to me, which is how I found her post. She analyzes the photos in a significant manner: she compares them to that famous illustration from psychology class—look at it one way and it’s an elderly woman; look at another and it’s a young beauty. Go check it out. . .

* * *
Readers have spoken and so have my daughters: I’m going for the gold. Sorry brown/black shoes; you just weren’t a showstopper. The search continues . . .

* * *
If you read the NYT this weekend, you might imagine that I’d have something to say about the fashionable professors photographer for the magazine. I do indeed. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mary or Nary a Jane?

There are three visitors at my home this weekend, and at least one of them will be departing on Monday. They’re lounging about in their finest Liberty of London cotton lawn today.

Will you please help me choose who should leave?
The gold Mary Jane has been with me the longest, but has never been worn. It was too hot to wear these in July (plus I hate closed toes in summer) and I had purchased them for fall anyway, because I love the idea of a cream patent shoe with opaque tights. But there’s the matter of all this gold. It’s crackly gold, and so very yellow that I’m unsure.

Its sister shoe is this similarly styled black patent and brown crackly metallic MJ. If the gold shoe is too much, I fear that this shoe may be too little. As a Mary Jane is a fairly conventional shape, I’d want a truly rocking texture. And I’m not sure if this crackly brown metallic stands out enough to meet my eccentricity quotient.

Both shoes, by the way, are by Juicy Couture, which also gives me pause re: quality. And they weren’t exactly modestly priced.

Finally, here’s the Tibi, in her peacock glory. This one could be a charmer, if only the toe were pointier and the embellishment smaller. I’m quite sure I’d never wear it. Tibi, alas, is not to be.

But: what do you think of the two MJs? Is the gold too bold? Is the brown too timid?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tibi Continued . . .

The Tibi shoes came yesterday (about two months ahead of schedule!).

Problem is, they remind me of clown shoes, with the really quite-too-large button embellishment and toes that turn up ever so slightly..

And you know I prefer Boho to Bozo.

So . . . they’re going back, but there’s a little L.A.M.B. who’s going to follow me to school (college) next week. (I just spied them on Couture Carrie's blog.)

Caveat Emptor

When Gilt Group announced a sale on Te Casan shoes today, I clicked as fast as I could. I found a pair of pumps in my size that looked mildly promising, on sale for $168, down from $365.

For fun, I went to the Te Casan website to see whether it had any sales offered. The same shoe was on sale there for $99.

Is Gilt Group feeling a little guilty for this faux sale (or sale that isn't so special after all)? (I sent an email to GG’s customer support.)

Of Pailettes and Power

To my mind, Christopher Kane’s fall 2008 collection was a cross between Grendel’s mother and Nessie, what with the seaweed green pailettes dripping everywhere. And this handsome young Scotsman would know both those lassies well, I’d hope.

For spring 2009, Kane has continued with the pailette embellishment, but turned it from a shiny, tiny disc into leather (and fabric, I think) of all sizes.

On skirts:

On jackets and trousers:

On jackets and skirts:

On tunics:

On teeny dresses:

Of course, the image everyone’s talking about is the angry(?) monkey t-shirt, à la Planet of the Apes, which is also an extension of his "natural woman" theme, if I’ve read his earlier collection properly.

This would be an interesting shirt to wear to a meeting, no?

Boss Man: "Miss Jones, would you take the minutes, please?"

Ms. Jones: "Let me just take off my jacket."

(Ms. Jones gets promoted to CEO.)

Gothip Girl?

I was perusing the NYT Thursday Styles section yesterday morning while merrily sipping my grande decaf nonfat latte,* when I was stopped in my tracks with the shock of recognition. Could I really have been a goth in an earlier incarnation?

I certainly didn’t ever feel gothic, with my blonde hair and blue eyes and natural makeup. But on the pages of the NYT the similarity was undeniable.

In grad school my favorite dress was a charcoal gray thickish jersey number (can’t remember the designer any more but I bought it at BG) that had a gentle crew neck, tight long sleeves, a fitted empire bodice and a long, long skirt. Not long-dowdy; long-cool.

Like the model in the photo, I wore my dress with a high topknot; unlike the model, I also wore black velvet lace-up Charles Jourdan high-heeled oxfords and black-and white striped tights. (Or sometimes Doc Martens and black thin slouched socks, with a thick African metal necklace around my neck.)

Was this gothic? I felt more like a Calvin Klein minimalist, but am rethinking, with a bit of a blush.

Have you ever gone goth? Or *are* you gothic? (Southern gothic included . . .)

*called a “why bother?” in New York, a “Puritan” in New England. I like it because it gives me the illusion of coffee and milk without the jitters or calories.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Quality of Mercy . . . Details, Details

I’m never comfortable when I post an image of a garment that I’m not completely thrilled with. It’s as if I’m wearing it—the image is supposed to be representative of me and if it isn’t one hundred percent, I squirm and fidget until I either change clothes or take down the post.

This isn’t the case when I think that I have a truly outrageous image—the treadful shoes of a few weeks back, for instance.

Rather, it’s the “almost” attractive garment that tortures me. I love harmony, be it asymmetry, a clash of patterns, a clean line. If it works, I’m content. But—oh—the misery when something isn’t quite right.

So: I hope that this post stays up. We’ll see.

Here’s what I’ve been wrestling with today. A catalogue arrived from Peruvian Connection, which is, as far as I can tell, a collection of handsomely made sweaters and dresses, though they’re usually not my style.

A dress did catch my eye, though, the red one above, because it was embellished with Suzanis, which I adore. A closer look revealed the waist-defining band, which I like, and the deep V, which I also find flattering. I was warming to this silk dress.

But then—I read that the dress had a tie in the back and slapped the catalogue closed with an agonized cry. (Remember when St. John Rivers proposes marriage to Jane Eyre and her response is “Have mercy!”? The two moments aren't completely dissimilar.)

To me, a tie in the back conjures up an expanding waistline, one that grows into full-fledged maternity wear. And after happily having carried three children, and worn dresses with ties in the back for many a month, I do not wish to reenact that stylish phase unless biologically required to do so.

Sorry, Peruvian Connection, no sale today.

Is there a sartorial detail that’s a real deal-breaker for you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gestalty Towers: The Rachel Zoe Project

I confess that I haven’t been paying much attention to my gestalt lately—at least not using that specific term.

It brings me back to graduate school in English, when we were all pondering our gestalts, while imbricating this, deconstructing that, and generally spending our days lost in our thoughts. We looked like we weren’t actually doing anything but sitting in cafes and thinking (and a little writing, I guess).

Indeed, that grad student vibe describes the look that stylist Rachel Zoe seems to be advocating for her clients, as evidenced in a review of “The Rachel Zoe Project” by Ginia Bellefante for the New York Times.

The look Zoe promotes, says Bellefante, is one of “idleness,” as embodied by an Olsen sister, and, significantly, “a Starbucks cup is essential to the entire gestalt.”

Starbucks wasn’t in my neighborhood when I was in grad school, but I can tell you that I was often accessorized with a medium latte (the first year with caf, the second year sans, when the stresses of literary theory began to kick in). (Grande wasn’t in our vocabulary then, either.)

My current gestalt might just still involve a latte (downgraded to a small [tall]), but I like to think that my wholeness truly comes from just having read a thoughtful book. It jumpstarts my person in a way that coffee simply can’t and is, I like to think, an internal accessory.

Even though grad students might look to be idling, downing cup after cup of joe while parsing a line from Browning or unpacking cyborg references in Kathy Acker, I’m quite sure that all six cylinders are truly revving.

What’s essential to your gestalt?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gatsby in Uniform

I often think about Ralph Lauren and The Great Gatsby in the same breath. And ever since August, I’ve added the Olympics to my exhale.

As TV watchers know, Ralph Lauren designed the Olympic opening ceremony uniforms for the USA team. It’s both ironic and fitting that Lauren outfitted the athletes in preppy navy jackets, white trousers, and a white driving hat—an ensemble that wouldn’t have been out of place in the film The Great Gatsby. Of course, you also know that Lauren made Gatsby’s clothes for that film and arguably, those clothes were as much the star of the film as was Robert Redford.

The Great Gatsby is both a novel and film about manufacturing one’s identity. Jay Gatsby rose from his working-class roots as Jimmy Gatz to court, lose, and temporarily woo back Daisy, a wealthy Midwestern beauty whose roots were planted firmly in WASP culture.

And he did it by wearing his military uniform, which functioned as a class leveler.

Daisy’s husband, Tom, once noted that the only way Gatsby could legitimately get near Daisy’s house was if he were to deliver the groceries to the back door. But in his uniform, he wasn’t “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere”; rather, he was able to penetrate Daisy’s society, which should have been off-limits to him.

Ralph Lauren, too, famously changed his name into what has become an international symbol of WASP style and culture, in the process gaining access to and ultimately holding the key to elaborate lifestyle fantasies, as depicted in his advertisements.

But these Olympic athletes don’t need a uniform to hide behind; they have their original talents to gain them entry to the Olympic Games. Putting Ralph Lauren uniforms on these athletes smacks of deception, as if, like Gatsby, the athletes were poseurs rather than the “real thing.”

If you want to argue, though, that Ralph Lauren represents the self-made American man à la Gatsby, (and we can add woman here too), then the choice of his clothes was brilliant, for these athletes were participating in the Games not only to achieve personal bests but also to forge their name in the national consciousness, to “make something of themselves.”

Although Ralph Lauren’s Olympic uniforms can be seen as homogenizing diversity among athletes (and Suzanna Mars has a fine post on this), they’re also, in the Gatsby tradition, a symbol of personal transformation. I’d bet that most of the American athletes would have been fulfilled to leave the Games newly crowned an Olympian. But do they want to represent Lauren’s cultivated WASPy style?

In other words, should Lauren's uniforms be one-size-fits-all? Can they be anything else? I like made-to-measure, myself.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gray Ladies

Three of my very favorite fall gray dresses—and I’ve blogged here, here, and here previously about each of them—have had the good taste to turn up in adverts or editorial in September’s UK Vogue.

At the risk of seeming redundant, here they are, together for the first time, so we can all have a good ponder.

A gray day never looked so tempting.

Jil Sander's Hitchcockian cool, with postmodern architectural elements.

Bottega Veneta: soft yet authoritative.

Faux feathery fur (or faux furry feathers?) by Burberry Prorsum. Divine with argyle.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Looking Good: Wintour in Fall

In a sorry example of anti-feminist backlash, the Huffington Post has posted three photos of Anna Wintour, each one more of a close-up, to show that Ms. Wintour’s skin has wrinkles and to imply that she is therefore not fit to run a magazine on fashion, beauty, and style.

While I’ve disagreed with Anna on this blog over some of her editorial choices, I commend her for, well, looking her age so beautifully, without any obvious enhancements.

This HuffPost isn’t going to push me toward Botox or equally invasive attempts to reclaim my teenage years.

Rather, I’m happy to champion Ms. Wintour’s confidence in her own looks and hope that this uncalled-for scrutiny from HuffPost doesn’t encourage her to make any drastic changes.

Oui! for Sui

Truly I had no desire to think about next spring/summer until I saw Anna Sui’s 2009 collection.

Sui has been the back of my mind for quite a while. I own one piece, which I bought from her Soho shop in 1993: it’s a pistachio-colored pleather jacket in a funky lab-coat shape, with covered buttons.

I wore it many a spring and, even though the pleather is now cracked and relegated to my closet, I can’t throw it out because it reminds me of some early happy trips to Soho.

In recent years, though, although I always pop in to Sui’s shop, I haven’t been interested in her line. Her outrageous prints and shapes had become a little cliche, in my opinion, and needed to be refreshed.

Sui has done just that. Although I’m not fond of her St. Pauli girl looks, I’m loving her Mexican-inspired embroidered sheaths and her raffia sandals. Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Just a few inches longer, please, before it hits the shops!

The Erickson Beamon jewelry makes this dress less bare, more wearable for day:

I can't wait to see these sandals:

Love the colors and the fringe detail at the bottom:

I'd like the scarf (worn here as belt) from this ensemble:

Just perfect for the beach:

When's spring, again?

Everything Old Is New Again

I loved this post-it-note dress by Tom Ford for Gucci during its first go-round in September 2001.

And now Fendi, in September 2008, has released its version in this ad, which even adapts the lovely Ms. Evangelista’s hair style.

The post-it notes are a little curlier this time, though . . . as if they’re vintage postmodern.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Twin Feathers

Sometimes I’ll take note of the shops that are featured on What Not to Wear and go for a virtual browse.

This afternoon I visited Intermix and was struck by an image on its homepage: a delicate yet very urban blue-green feather skirt.

And I was even more surprised to see that it was by Elizabeth and James, the Olsen girls’ line.

I’m no advocate of celebrity designers, but I’d like to take a closer look at this skirt.

Any New Yorkers who want to bring it on a test run and report back?!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Second Chance

Sounds like a romance, doesn’t it? I guess it was, but of the sole-ful variety.

Some five, maybe six years ago, I saw a pair of Emma Hope shoes in Hello Magazine.

I’d always loved walking past Emma Hope’s shop as I entered Sloane Square, but found that the court shoe style was a little too Marie Antoinette for me (if I had to pick a style queen, I’d choose Wealtheow).

Anyway, these shoes were the antithesis of court: they were flats, made out of a cool pistachio suede, punctuated with some smooth mother-of-pearl discs. Delicate and stunning.

The problem? They cost ₤239, about $400, not including international shipping, and that was five to six years ago, before our eye became “adjusted” to a higher sales tag on shoes.

Besotted as I was, though, I called up Emma Hope and had them sent to me.

They arrived, I swooned. I tried them on, and found that the sole was so flat that it was like walking in a cardboard box—you hoped that the shoe would stay on as you rigidly moved across the room. And because the sole was so flat, there was absolutely no protection for that gorgeous sea-glass suede: it would be soiled the minute I took a step outside.

So I sent them back, but always slightly regretted it. I mean, these shoes were objets d’art! I could have happily put them in my duck-egg-blue china cabinet next to my blue-and-white Wedgewood and gazed at them daily.

But that would be impractical, even for me.

So I waited and waited for word that the return had been processed. The shoes didn’t arrive in London, so I applied to have them traced. They were untraceable.

I forgot about the whole thing for about 11 months because it gave me a headache. Big credit card bill, no shoes to show for it.

Then, just as I applied for my shipping insurance to kick in, my original, battered package reappeared on my doorstep. Something had gone wrong at customs, and the box was returned to me.

I had a second chance!

But sometimes one’s first instincts are right. I opened the box, shivered with delight, and tried the shoes on. Still no arch support. Still ready to be soiled with one hearty stride outside. They went back for good.

But now, the bewitching shoe fairies at Tibi have seen fit to taunt me with this tender morsel.

There’s the same slim sole (a potential problem?), and a not dissimilar mother-of-pearl decoration. I'm seeing them with an ankle-length pair of peg-leg trousers.

What to do, gentle readers? Be strong, or order them?

Blogger Speaks!

No, not Greta Garbo, but the lovely enc, from Observation Mode, on a podcast by The Sunday Best.

enc has been (and continues to be) a generous blogging chum: she always has something spot-on to say about a post I’ve written, and she is even able to respond to the many daily comments on her blog.

She writes—and now speaks!—about what she sees.

So do go check out what enc has to say, in full OM.