Thursday, October 30, 2008
As readers may remember, I’ve had a long relationship with the book Edie: An American Biography, and today I came across a recent story about one of the feature players in Edie’s world.
The relatively new blog Deep Glamour posted on Brigid Berlin, one of the daughters of Richard Berlin, the very successful CEO of Hearst in the 1960s. During that time Brigid was known for her extraordinary collections: the anatomical books that she would compile, for instance, as well as for her, shall we say, vitamin injections.
Berlin has been turning her needle to artistic use these decades since, becoming prolific and accomplished in needlepoint. Most recently she’s designed a subversively compelling series of pillows based on the front pages of the Daily News and the New York Post. One of the least sensational ones is pictured above.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do have a soft spot for artistry that combines jarring juxtapositions—such as the infamously over-the-top NYPost headlines with the demure, ladylike stitching. I might not want one in my home, but I do appreciate the idea very much.
And in case you’re wondering how Brigid lived after she left those tin-foil factory walls behind, here’s a glimpse into her gracious pug-and-floral world from the NYSD. She’s still collecting, as you’ll see. (Deep Glamour also posted this link.)
I’ll bet that the only tin foil these days is in Berlin's kitchen cupboard.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My nylon Prada works wonderfully in an urban setting, but it’s not the thing for running through the meadow with my boisterous hound.
As a girl in Canada, I typically wore an Inuit embroidered parka in winter—lovely but a straight column. In university (in the 1980s) I remember lamenting the lack of fitted winterwear; I’d resignedly think that one cannot be stylish *and* warm in the great north.
But now—several years later, body-warming technology and cold-weather style have finally made a free trade agreement. So my number one criterion (following warmth!) is that this hypothetical jacket must have a nipped-in waist.
And Barbour, that venerable English institution, has a fantastic motorcycle jacket (elegantly renamed the “international” for “ladies,” though I’d stick with the biker jacket moniker).
Although I don’t like to wear black next to my face (I think it can be too harsh), this lined, heavy jacket looks to be a soft black, which makes all the difference.
And look: not only a nipped-in waist, but a belt, which I love. It’s kind of Gstaad interpreted by English biker/moor-romper dudes.
Monday, October 27, 2008
It is, I think, perfect weather for a trench. Certainly there are lovely classic trench coats to choose among (remember Catherine Deneuve in Umbrellas of Cherbourg?), but I also like basics with a little edge.
Enter this stunning Gaultier couture trench.
While it will be keeping me warm this fall via the glow of my computer screen, one can dream . . .
Sunday, October 26, 2008
My first instinct was to skip right by it, as it was titled “How to Be a Good Wife.”
But the article opened with a quote from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women that caught my eye. Soon after Meg marries her beloved John, she tells her sisters this:
“My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend home whenever he likes . . . There shall be no flurry, no scolding, no discomfort, but a neat house, a cheerful wife, and a good dinner.”
Knowing this novel well, I read over the article, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
However, the article began by commiserating with husbands who were now expected to participate in domestic duties—and continued by critiquing women who use up all their nurturing on their bosses and their children, leaving their husbands to cook their own dinners and bring their own laundry to the cleaner.
But where were Meg and John, the "superior wife" and good husband? Nowhere to be found in this article.
Here's how their story continues: One day John does, in fact, bring home a friend for dinner, unannounced, and finds a wife who is “worn out” from attempting to make jelly all day (and largely failing to do so).
Instead of preparing her husband and guest a meal in her shockingly messy kitchen, Meg orders John to take his guest to her mother’s home, “and tell him I’m away—sick, dead, anything. I won’t see him, and you two can laugh at me and my jelly as much as you like; you won’t have anything else here.”
Thomson’s article ended with the possibility of compromise: share duties at home, which makes perfect sense.
And although I’d like to end Alcott’s chapter as above, with a lesson to the young couple that neither spouse can be "perfect," however one chooses to define "perfection," I must admit that Meg does apologize first to her husband, through a “penitent kiss.”
But I do appreciate that she had enough spirit to chase away her husband and guest the first time, when she was busy, busy, busy with her own work.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Four places I go over and over:
1. Morgane Le Fay
2. the bookstore to buy Selvedge magazine
3. The 7th Ave. fashion district to buy fabric
4. Wherever I can get a really great “why bother”—a 16 oz. decaf skim latte
Four (OK--three!) people who email me regularly:
1. My NYC editor—Hi MJ!
2. My journalism students (on deadline)!
3. Miss C readers
Four places I’d rather be:
1. On a salt-water beach.
2. In Liberty of London.
3. Shopping on Laugavegur
4. At the Irish Lion drinking Guinness.
Four television shows I watch. (I’m tweaking this a little, because I rarely watch TV these days. So here’s a list of four groundbreaking *stylish* shows that I have watched and appreciated for their *dressing* savvy:
1. Style with Elsa Klensch
2. Ab Fab (loved Bubble!)
3. MTV’s House of Style (original version with Cindy Crawford)
4. Mr. Dressup (any Canadian readers join me on this one?)
Four people I’m tagging:
1. Mr. Style
4. my man Imelda
Four places I like to eat.
1. The Raft, Newport Beach, California. Enter a modest café front and step through the back door to a little gem of a boating dock where the breakfasts (fruit/yoghurt/granola; huevos rancheros) were delectable. Eat as the boats gently knock against each other right beside your table. (It is now closed, alas.)
2. The wharf near Dalvay by the Sea, Prince Edward Island. Enjoy a lobster roll made fresh from the boats and super-creamy ice cream.
3. Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen, St.-Laurent Blvd., Montreal, Quebec. Go for the hot smoked meat sandwiches and Cott’s Black Cherry soda.
4. Bibendum, London. Sit in the café section for delicious coffee and pastries and marvel at the Art Deco building (an original Michelin factory). (See photos above.)
Friday, October 24, 2008
But wait! Aren’t I the blogger who loves gray?
So, then, here’s a preview of a little gray silk dupioni dress that I just ordered from Christiane Celle for some rainy-day cheer. I like that its tiers have raw edges—they balance any preciousness and add a welcome tough chic.
This dress could be just the thing for holiday parties, with an outrageously glam/eccentric shoe.
It’s always a challenge to order a dress online, as you know, and as I was doing so, I thought of how my grandmother used to shop. She’d go to the chicest little boutique in town, choose 10-12 Ports dresses, skirts, and blouses, and take them home with her, “on approval.”
Those were the wonderful days when boutique owners knew their clients and would literally give them clothes—sans deposit—to try them on in the comfort of their homes, far away from the fluorescent lights and cramped dressing rooms.
So although I had to drop a credit card, I’m imagining that the lovely Christiane Celle is sending me this dress on approval. If I approve, fantastic. If not, the cost of shipping is a small price to pay for the pleasure of trying on something chez moi.
I’m Miss Cavendish, and I approve this message.
***P.S. Many thanks to lovely La Belette Rouge for, ahem, approving enough of my blog to give me the "I love your blog" award. It’s deeply appreciated! I'll pass on this bloggy love soon.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I rocked my band jacket in the 1980s, one found in a vintage shop: black, cropped, fitted with two rows of snazzy silvertone buttons, tender buttons, thankyouverymuch, Ms. Stein. I wore it with my Guess jeans, Marilyn length, zipper at the ankle, while dancing to whatever New Order was putting out.
Later on I saw New Order in concert, which was a sad affair, in a hotel ballroom in Ottawa. The group looked pretty bummed to be there, because a hotel ballroom in Ottawa—really!—and they scorned their audience, playing a hostile version of “Bizarre Love Triangle” before stomping off the tiny stage early.
But now Chris Martin, Mr. Coldplay Leadsinger, is bringing back the New Order sound, though in a jauntier manner, and he’s wearing his military/band jacket too.
Happier than Adam Ant,
definitely sunnier than New Order, Martin played the MTV something Awards a few months back, and as soon as the opening chords of the synthesizer started pumping, I knew I was home. His song “Viva la Vida” takes me right back to the eighties, its New Order-esque groove thumping out an irresistible call to the dance floor, Martin’s foot, encased in a skinny boot, beat, beat, beating out the rhythm à la any eighties bootleg import star worth his black jeans.
And so it was yesterday, driving to pick up my children from school: I found a “Viva la Vida” CD in my car, popped it in my machine, and zoomed down the empty highway. As the synthesizer took over, giving way to a swell of strings, I was returned to a smoky, dark club, where the music played till 3 a.m. I was in black leggings, some sort of tunic-y shift dress, and hit the zone while Martin and his boys “ruled the world,” a flurry of red petals descending upon him, one perching on his forehead while he, oblivious, kept pumping the lyrics and thumping his foot and I, I too pumped on the gas pedal while in a dancing daze of red and black and—what’s this?—a persistent blue, blue, blue invading my scene. So I pulled over and Chris Martin’s still wailing and I’m caught up in his sound and my left foot’s pumping now and I can scarcely unwind the window to greet the copper, who, standing there with his shiny badge and shiny sunglasses doesn’t look in the mood for a dance, but what can he do? He catches the groove and if I squint really hard, I could swear that his shiny badge multiplies into rows of tender buttons.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Not one to rush to judgment (just savor the irony of that statement), I commented that I’d like to see them on someone before committing.
So here, found on the savvy site Jak & Jil, is an image of the boots in motion.
A very interesting silhouette, think I, but perhaps one reserved for the supernaturally attenuated, such as the balletic gazelle.
This model looks divine, but would mortals appear to be wearing exceptionally handsome leather rectangles that would considerably stockify their gams?
Still, I like the low, architectural heel, and think that it would lend an attractive line to one’s silhouette du jour.
In other Margiela news, these pleated pumps
remind me of these curly pups,
or perhaps the famous Barrymore profile.
Friday, October 17, 2008
He was admiring a fitted tweed jacket on a Gap mannequin, but when he tried the garment on, it was inexplicably baggy.
Our Critical Shopper put on his sleuthing cap and learned that the jacket on the mannequin had benefitted from some artful pleating/gathering in the back to give it that sleek look.
Disillusioned, Albo discovered that the Gap liberally performed this alteration on its mannequins. He is unhappy.
But we women, we’ve fallen from this fashion paradise years ago, haven’t we? When I look at an editorial, I’m well aware that the clothing has been smoothed and crimped, pegged, and pinned, and shortened, and *whatever* else in an attempt to show it off in the best possible light, whether or not that light is false.
And I’m well aware that this kind of in-store pinning happens most often at mega brand shops like the Gap or possibly J Crew, where the clothing is designed to fit a spectrum of body shapes that fall within, say, the size 8. (Although J Crew is less forgiving in terms of body shape than Gap.)
False light can get a journalist in trouble, but it’s meant to boost a retailer’s sales.
But the Critical Shopper did notice something important: there was a Gap between the advertised and the actual fit of the jacket.
In it, Tim Gunn visited the finalists to offer them guidance on their developing lines. He was, I felt, particularly impressed with Kenley’s hand-painted dress and her feathery bride’s gown.
I, too, was in thrall to the feathers (the hand-painted number was too cutesy) until the judges pointed out that Alexander McQueen had already *done* that dress. “No,” insisted Kenley—there wasn’t another silhouette out there like hers, but the judges were firm.
To see a very illuminating side-by-side comparison of Kenley’s dress with McQueen’s, check out Thumbelina Fashionista’s latest excellent blog post. She also compares the hand-painted dress with a Balenciaga, and the results are distressing: Kenley’s clothes are not an homage to, but a direct copy of designers’ dresses.
To the mix I’d like to add the image above—a Balenciaga original—and the one below—Kenley’s dress. The shapes of the skirts are identical.
While I don’t believe there’s a copyright on shape, one shouldn’t be able to look at someone else’s *original* design and say, “Oh . . . Balenciaga,” which is what I was able to do.
I wonder why Kenley was permitted to show her collection in light of her obvious copying. Did the judges think that it would make “good TV”? As she emerged as the season’s villainess, was the showing of her copied dresses simply an extension of that theme?
To (ahem) *borrow* from TF, this isn’t Project Plagiarism.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
For instance, check out the logo for feministing.com, a smart, savvy site of feminist thought. Doesn’t it look very similar to Hussein Chalayan’s dress above?
Winter waves from Anthropologie.
And: from Project Runway’s finale last night: a couple of wavy looks from winner Leanne’s collection.
Even this anti-bride loves the wedding dress.
Waves aren’t just for the beach . . .
Monday, October 13, 2008
Stamped with the trusty, venerable Good Housekeeping magazine seal of approval (as opposed to, say, Interview magazine), these products seemed trustworthy and sans danger.
So, in a moment of fun, I ordered a vial of LiftFusion to see what wonders its contents might work on the creases in my brow that have been gently etched there from years of thinking, thinking, thinking about ideas.
LiftFusion arrived on Saturday; I put a dab on my lower brow. I soon felt gentle tingles on my forehead (so far so good) and soon after that felt like the inside corners of my eyes were stinging. Whether the stinging was imaginary or not (and my imagination is vivid indeed), I quickly washed off the product and reprimanded myself for trying to interfere with nature. LiftFusion was not meant to be.
Later that afternoon I was contentedly thinking about color—pink with red, turquoise with green, and was struck by the memory of a label I’d long forgotten: Monsoon.
Do you remember in the early nineties when all the “It” girls were wearing London’s Monsoon? If I recall correctly, the clothing was super-exclusive (when I was in London the shop was by appointment only), super-expensive, had a tremendous rock-star vibe a la Talitha Getty, and was desirable because of the wild, bohemian mixes of color and shape (ethnic fusion).
I had a quick search on the internet and was shocked to see that Monsoon, once the arbiter of all things cool, had become, well, pedestrian. There was a catalogue, as well as an online shop. I cheered when I saw a link to “Monsoon Fusion,” hoping to find some of that glorious color and decadent vibe of the last decade, but all I saw was rather mumsy-hippie wear. What happened?!
So “fusion” didn’t fuse this weekend.
At least I have my memories of Wagamama; perhaps culinary fusion is here to stay?
Saturday, October 11, 2008
But somewhere along the way, the powers that be decided that Allure should be reimagined as a celebrity fashion mag. That original fresh air became more and more recycled gossip about uninteresting starlets and I stepped away.
But lately I’ve been giving Allure a second look. Although it still puts celebrities on the cover and is jam-packed with product samples (I had wondered where all the perfumes inserts had landed. Answer: in Allure), it does contain some editorial styling that I quite like.
Here, for instance, are two images from September. In winter I do like a handsome, fitted turtleneck, and I’d love to wear this one (above) with that extraordinary necklace. (And this from a non-jewelry person.)
I’ve blogged twice before about this silk “feather” texture from Burberry Prorsum (below) in a dress, and see here that it’s rather, well, alluring in a jacket too.
I’d hold back on that slash of blush, though, which reminds me too much of Diana Vreeland’s famous red cheeks that extended to and powdered her ears.
By the way, when I worked in NYC, the first play I saw was Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson’s Full Gallop, in a little Off Broadway theatre, starring La Wilson as the ever theatrical DV.
It was a treat to see her reimagined, as a celebrity of the theatre. She continues to have real allure.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Does anyone miss the days of Merchant/Ivory film-making?
I wanted to wear anything and everything from Howards End—the generous paisley wraps especially.
If I were to don this fabulous velvet cocoon coat from Alexander McQueen, I could almost hear my gown rustling as I walked through the wet meadow.
But tell me, would Mrs. Wilcox have carried this snappy clutch? (Don't say Jacky would have!)
Here's another view of the clutch. It costs 635 pounds sterling, about $1260 US dollars. Cintra Wilson (the NYT's Critical Shopper) noted that it was available in the McQueen shop in NYC. The coat, however, is available on Net-A-Porter for just below $17,000.
Lovely to look at, I'd say.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Of course both of those statements were lies themselves, but it’s clear that in making them, Celie’s *father* was attempting to exclude her from participating in a Keatsian concept: “Beauty is truth; truth, beauty.”
As a rural, uneducated, poor African American woman, Celie didn’t yet have access to a proper mirror (Shug Avery)—one that would show her that she was indeed beautiful and full of truth.
There’s a new kind of mirror making the rounds, and I’m not sure how truthful it is.
In the Thursday New York Times the lead Style story was about a computer program nicknamed a “beautification engine,” which takes photographs of people’s faces and, using a mathematical formula, makes small adjustments in the people’s features until they are in a more “beautiful” alignment and shape.
I was first struck to note that the only scientist named as one of the developers of this formula is a man.
But then I was also struck by the digital manipulations. The first woman changed from herself, I’d say, into Christina Ricci.
And then Brigitte Bardot was transformed from a lush beauty into a more statue-like beauty. (The article agrees that something intrinsic was lost.)
Certainly there have long been studies about the proportion of beauty. In the nineteenth century books detailing physiognomy were published and taken very seriously. But in this day and age, I’d hope that the definition of beauty would continue to expand, not be reduced to a mathematical formula and a computer Photoshopping of one’s features.
Indeed, I find that the beauties that catch my eye aren’t about “perfect” proportions. Take Christie Brinkley. If you look at her closely, you’ll see that one of her eyes is a bit wild when she breaks out into full smile. And Angelina Jolie’s lips? Out of proportion, of course, but just last week Clint Eastwood told People magazine that she has the most beautiful face in the world. (So it must be true.)
In my Gender Studies class last year we examined images of already attractive people whose faces had been digitally rendered symmetrical and, to a person, they all looked artificial, even alien. Certainly our eyes aren’t trained to accept such symmetry, so there’s a good deal of social conditioning informing our reactions, but again, I’d like to think that beauty is not something that should be contained, in a symmetrical fashion, but something that’s more individual.
If I really look at those Brigitte Bardot photos, I’d say that she’s lost some of her character in the “beautiful” photo, and that just won’t do. Who would Linda Evangelista be without her nose? Christy Turlington without her slightly raised eyebrow? Beatrice Dalle without her everything?
So, mirror, mirror on the wall, is beauty truth, or is beauty a mathematical formula?
A cup of NYC’s finest below . . .
And for a little gratuitous photo of creative jewelry styling: diamonds and a bike fender.
**Top image: Allure; bottom two images: New York Magazine. Metal necklace by Chanel.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I think it’s the transitional weather that’s confounding me: it’s too soon for cashmere sweaters and wool skirts, but too cool for light cotton dresses.
Indeed, for me, seasonal transitions are the most difficult times of year in which to dress. While I can usually write a transition that moves an idea smoothly from one paragraph to the next, wearing a transition is a different narrative, so to speak.
And I think it’s fascinating how strong one’s reactions to previously acceptable clothing can be. Just this morning, for instance, I took a camel-colored cotton tulip skirt from my closet, hoping to pair it with something, but the lightweight feel of the garment led me to fling it onto my bed in annoyance. This was a perfectly good skirt a couple of weeks ago.
That irritated feeling was the same one I get in early spring, when I’m caught on a warm day in a wool blazer. I have to peel it off, roll up the sleeves of whatever I’m wearing underneath, and tie up my hair immediately so I don’t feel the winter weight of my clothing.
So what did I wear today? Skinny black cropped trousers, three-inch black patent lace-up oxfords with silver thingies that the shoelaces weave through, scoop-neck tee, and an Elie Tahari plum-velvet, fitted, short jacket, with same-thread paisley embroidery all over.
But no socks. Actually, I can’t abide socks with cropped trousers (unless I’m looking at Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face). Nor do I like boots with crops. I think that the charm of cropped pants is that they saucily show off one’s bare ankles, and they lose their insouciance when paired with socks. (Yes, I’m lucky that my day job permits me to forego conventional foot furnishings.)
As a line from one of my son’s favorite films goes: “Whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.” (Little Bear)
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I seek out hills to run up, like the view from my b-i-l’s Beacon Hill pad, wear high heels. Even my hair gets high (via a topknot, not “teasing”!).
In fact, my heels have been getting higher each season: last spring I ventured into three-inch territory; this fall I’ve been perching on four-inch stems.
But as the gray clouds roll in, my mood is shifting, too, and I’m tired of scraping the sky; I’m leaning more and more toward the flat of the hill.
Today, for instance, I wore dark skinny cropped jeans, a nipped-in navy blazer, and super-pointy tweed flats with a chartreuse velvet ribbon trim. The “right” heels certainly could have worked, but flats seemed to punctuate the look perfectly.
Do you have “high” and “low” days, or are your shoe moods more consistent?
Monday, October 6, 2008
It isn’t raining, but today there’s a real nip in the air and the skies are turning somber. Consequently, I’m craving a riot of color.
or Vanessa Bell-sian screens and fireplaces.
Hence the caravans. I’ve always loved painted furniture, a la Swedish Gustavian style.
But to have a delightfully painted home, that’s a different story. What would you wear?!