Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chanel 2009: Snow White and Ebony Ravens

My eye is always soothed and invigorated by 3D color on color. And this season Chanel is thrilling me.

Look at the beautiful use of texture,

the unexpected pop of black,

this gorgeous raven out for an evening (just look how her capelet approximates feathers!),

and Snow White departing for a lunch date.

I am content.

Who Was that Masked Woman?

In case you think my mask idea is madness, take a look at the new J Peterman catalogue. Masks are the new chic!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


If you’ve seen my avatar, you’ll know how much I love masks.

Today we popped into a little costume shop (for the girls) and my youngest was immediately enchanted by a theatrical garment hanging from the ceiling.

It was a pink skirt made out of a soft, plush fabric, lined in something stiff for shape. This skirt was bedecked with tiers of rolled deep pinky red rosettes that were connected by a graceful grosgrain ribbon. It looked like something a stylish young fox would wear with a fitted jacket to a woodland ball and both my six-year-old daughter and I wanted it.

So we walked over to the rental counter and I gasped, because on a shelf, way in the back, I saw the peeking profile of what simply had to be a lady fox mask.

And indeed it was. Made out of faux fur, this red fox half-mask wore a jaunty blue felt mini top hat at a rakish angle (tipped down over the brow). On the front of the hat were three gently faded silky grosgrain apricot flowers, all the prettier for their shabby state.

I immediately yearned for a dress-up party to attend, preferably one in the English countryside in a fabulous manor home, with smart, delightful, witty people to chat with.

Or perhaps a ball in the forest clearing.

In the meantime, I’m dreaming about that chic half-mask (it's about 30 years old and not for sale) and imagining a handsome wolf in a trim suit twirling with me through the ballroom leaves.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Metropolitan Midwestern Woman

Did anyone read Isabel Gillies’ piece in the current Vogue? It’s about, in part, how her cad of a husband, a poetry professor, took her to a small Midwestern college (it’s easy to find out which one, if you have even the tiniest sleuthing gene) and then dropped her for his Audrey Hepburn-esque colleague.

Gillies returned to her well-heeled, well-connected parents and to their apartment in New York with her two young sons in tow. She picked up the pieces of her life, eventually remarrying and becoming friends with her ex-husband.

Although Gillies explains how lovely her life was in the Midwestern town (a historic house! a “tangle of rosebushes”! William Morris wallpaper!), there’s also an implicit suggestion that her return to the City is triumphant (even though she was in defeat).

For Gillies, if you recall, was one of the young actresses who starred in Whit Stillman’s classic little movie Metropolitan (1990), about a posse of East Side preppy youngsters—and one from the other side of town—who were going to the winter debutante balls in New York.

I loved Metropolitan for its talkiness, its commentary on being literate (why read Jane Austen when you can read lit crit about the novel?), its mix of terrific actors (Chris Eigeman especially) with OK ones, and for its glimpse into a certain way of life. (My favorite scene involves the aging preppy at the bar, bowtie and floppy forelock both in place.)

Metropolitan is now available on the Criterion collection, if you’d like to check it out. It makes for cozy watching during the winter and offers a terrific opening for cultural critique.

And for the record, I think that Gillies knows that she is more Metropolitan than Midwestern.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I’m sitting at my computer with a genial bowl of vanilla-bean ice cream smothered in a half cup of homemade chocolate sauce.

And indeed, I feel content, but at the same time, ready for a change.

Don’t run away when you read this (because you’ll think I’ve jumped on the trendy bandwagon), but I’ve been mulling over doing a brief juice cleanse in the next couple of weeks.

In fact, I even have the equipment on my kitchen counter.

Does anyone remember the Juiceman infomercial from the early 1990s? Taking well-deserved breaks from reading Foucault, Barthes, and Kristeva, I was captivated by its promises of nutrition and was thrilled to receive a Juiceman juicer as a gift.

(The only problem for this ardent feminist was its name. I quickly designed a new label—the female/male biological symbols—and affixed them to the, ahem, Juiceperson. I ran with a Walkwoman too.)

When the semantics were cleared up, I loved juicing, but eventually, after a move and a new job and children, I ended up keeping the Juiceperson in my cupboard.

But earlier this week, inspired by GOOP’s January cleanse, repulsed by the MasterCleanse, and intrigued by the BluePrint cleanse, I brought out the machine and made a glass of delicious apple/celery/carrot juice.

So: I’m halfway thinking of doing this juice cleanse on my own and adapting recipes from GOOP and BluePrint, saving a couple hundred dollars in the process (BluePrint is fairly pricey ($85 a day if you aren’t in NY/CT), and I’m not thrilled about having fresh-pressed juice sitting in my fridge for three days—I’d like to drink it immediately upon making).

Both GOOP and BluePrint also call for some dessert nut milk—coconut or cashew, and I’m thinking of making almond instead.

But this will take some planning and I’m curious to learn whether anyone has tried a three-day juice. I will begin on Thursday next (I think!).

New Jimmy Choo Sandals

A little amuse bouche for a Saturday evening:

I visited Bergdorf’s online shop to see whether I could find any inspiration for spring shoes.

This was the heavily promoted sandal by Jimmy Choo, and I stumbled a little in anticipation as I looked at the height of that sliver of a heel.

I love height, but I’d prefer to be a tad more grounded.

So I probably won’t choo-se these.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

J Crash: When Malia and Sasha Wore the Coats of the Year

As reported on the New York Times Technology blog, J Crew’s Web site crashed on Tuesday after news got out that the Obama girls were wearing Crewcuts coats.

But as savvy NYT critics noted, the J Crew website crashes—or is painfully slow—lots of times; don’t blame the Obamas for its bad performance.

I confess: I contributed to the J Crash, if that’s what it was, yesterday evening

I clicked on, sometime around 7 p.m., because I was curious to see exactly what the girls had worn to the inauguration. Although my daughters have a couple of choice Crewcuts, I usually avoid that children’s label because I find it wildly overpriced in relation to its quality. Wildly.

So I was expecting to find expensive but pretty coats and did indeed find one, but only one, this pink trench.

(Seriously, I’d rather call a spring jacket for a child a spring jacket. There are later years in which to wear trenches.) Like I anticipated: pretty and expensive ($168).

I also saw a note to the gentle public: Malia and Sasha Obama’s coats were made just for them, and versions of their looks would be made available at a later date.

I though that the girls looked absolutely darling, and would have looked darling no matter what they were wearing, because, well, they are darling, and no clothing, no matter how fancy or simple, could add or detract from their overall darlingness.

So I don’t think I’ll scramble to outfit my darlings in similar J Crew style. Rather, I’ll fix in my memory the way that the girls’ parents lovingly look at them, lovingly discuss them with respect and honor, and will follow those stylish cues.

(And, truth be told, I hope I do that without any prompting!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tag! You're *It*?

I’ve been toying with the idea of a tag line, or a subtitle, for a while, but didn’t start to panic until I read Jennine’s IFB newsletter on the necessity of one.

So I’m testing some.

Last week I had “literate style” under my banner head. Somehow that seemed a little prim. I don’t want something too academic sounding, something that evokes the MLA stylebook, for instance, but maybe this one was appropriate?

This week I have "'too intellectual' for Vogue since 1996." This one may read like self-deprecating egotism (huh?), so I added a little context to the “about me” section. It is “true,” so I like that.

I suppose I could also have a rotating tagline, but would that be confusing?

Any reaction to any of these possibilities?

Photo Inspiration

I love this photo that Tommy took for his Jak & Jil blog. (Click to enlarge.)

The proportions of the ensemble, the red reflected in the windows--all is right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hail to the Hat; or, the First Lady of Soul: Aretha's Crystals Rock the Inauguration

I wondered whether Michelle Obama or Jill Biden would wear hats to today’s inauguration. I don’t associate either one of them with hats, so I was curious to see what, if anything, they would don.

It has been a tradition, no? that the First Lady wears a certain chapeau to this event. Of course Jacqueline Kennedy had her memorable pillbox, Hillary Clinton had a mumsy cobalt blue number, and . . . I can’t remember any others.

(But maybe that’s my Canadian blindness speaking. However, I can only think of Margaret Trudeau in that photo at Studio 54, or fainting when her husband was trying to be official.)

If there had been a tradition, then Michelle Obama went her own way (not a bad thing, especially if one is not usually a hat wearer. I like to wear my beret daily, though I feel that that style has been sullied for wearing at all future presidential events.)

But if anyone was disappointed that Michelle did not wear a hat, then I suspect that a double cheer rang out when Aretha Franklin emerged to sing.

Her title, “the Queen of Soul,” or perhaps now "the First Lady of Soul," was entirely appropriate for today’s occasion, and her hat was a combination of over-the-top classic and outrageous.

Essentially a prim, perfectly shaped, ENORMOUS gray bow, the hat was embellished with Swarovski crystals and was, according to the LA Times, made by Detroit’s Mr Song Millinery.

Now, I’m not going to say that the First Lady of Soul stole the show, stylistically speaking, because I don't want to--ahem--dis-r-e-s-p-e-c-t Michelle, who looked lovely. But Aretha did work that crown and inject a little extra glamour into an already starstruck crowd.

Because Even an Historic Event Can Use a Little Pun

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Emerson on Givenchy; or, Full of _____ Beans?

**UPDATED: Here are the jellies, from Saks' website (which is, in fact, probably where I saw them in the first place):

My conscience, aka Ralph Waldo Emerson, was whispering in my ear this morning. It was a postmodern excerpt from his more primly worded “Self Reliance,” but its meaning was the same.

“Hey slowpoke,” he said, “Make sure you post your ideas on your blog as soon as you get them, or someone else is going to do it and you’ll pull out your hair reading your ideas under a different byline.”

So true, Ralph.

Here’s the sad story: A couple of days ago, while perusing Barneys’ website, I stopped at the Givenchy section and saved a couple of images of high-heel shoes (see post from last week). I had noticed a new pair of Givenchy jelly sandals (not the gladiators), that were lace-up, and had, thought I, a cunning shape—kind of a postmodern flapper line.

But I was looking for heels, not sandals, so I didn’t save the image.

Then, this morning, the NYT ran a Barneys ad with the jelly sandals and I berated myself for not posting about them last week, with the other Givenchy shoes. Off I went to find the image chez Barneys, only to learn that it had been removed from the Website.

I suspect that the NYT ad resulted in a sold-out shoe?

So there I have it. I had wanted to write a piece of about jellies and nostalgia (didn’t you have a pair of jellies when you were eleven?), but instead am glumly writing about missing my chance for a good photo and having to scan the darn NYT. And you know that I like a good photo on these pages!

Anyway, here’s a peek at Givenchy’s jellies, via the NYT ad. I like them, and would happily get a pair to wear with ankle-length skinny spring trousers.

Would you revisit your youth and buy some designer jellies?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wyeth x 2

As you know, the artist Andrew Wyeth died yesterday, at the age of 91. I loved his soft, muted colors, as did many other people.

One designer who took Wyeth as his inspiration is Todd Magill. Born in Long Island, but currently working out of Los Angeles, Magill had a wonderful line called “Wyeth,” which was, to my eye, a particularly glamourous take on Andrew Wyeth’s corn-colored palate.

When I was in Palo Alto a few years back, I bought what I call my Jane-Austen-in-LA dress from Wyeth’s line. (The dress is much prettier on when one wears it with a little tan, instead of wan, skin.) I plan to wear it with these, in the spring.

And Pure Cashmere used the skirt on the cover of its 2006 catalogue too:

The fashion line Wyeth is, alas, no more, but Todd Magill has a new take, called Graydn. My favorite piece here is the green top (called “geranium”).

As a whole, the line is less glamourous and more work appropriate, and my verdict is out, for the time being, since I haven’t seen any looks that truly speak to me.

Has anyone in California, especially (where the line is more accessible), checked out Graydn?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shoe Roundup

Sure, we associate Givenchy with the elfin chic of Audrey Hepburn, but take a look at these skyscrapers that are perfect for stalking about concrete cities.

And I recently found this self portrait of Manolo Blahnik. What a vamp! (But at least he’s not a heel . . .)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Apocalypse Wow

Gareth Pugh has been recently touted as the designer most capable of dressing a woman for the apocalypse.

The end of the (fashion?) world looks a lot like Pierrot in dialogue with Queen Elizabeth. With a little of the Bard thrown in, as well as that doctored picture of Emily Dickinson.

No matter—I’m digging these leggings.

The best-dressed apocalypticistas might also be sporting these shoes from Ann D:

and maybe this pair from Sigerson Morrison:

as well as this machinist bracelet from Fallon:

Kindle: Akin to Books?

I’ve been reading (for the gazillionth time) Octavia Butler’s marvelous time-travel narrative Kindred, and wonder whether I shouldn’t be reading it on “Kindle.”

After all, Butler’s novel plays with the various meanings of “kin,” and Amazon’s Kindle inspires some of those associations in me.

I saw one up close during December, when a friend received one as a Christmas gift. Kindle didn’t kindle any warm thoughts in me, though, with its gray machinery disguised in an equally nondescript black book jacket. (Guess you can jazz up the jacket.)

Its type was easy enough to read, but I was surprised that the book “covers,” such as they are, weren’t in full color.

But this is not a review of Kindle; rather, it’s a contemplation of the gadget’s name.

Kindle is an ingeniously sly name, because it’s designed to connote a variety of “warm” feelings, including “kin” (for cozy associations; Kindle’s one of the family—that cyborg cousin from your father’s side); “kindred” (think of Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, kindred spirits!); “kindling” (ahh—a natural reference: kindling wood to start a fire, and wood also makes paper); and “kindle” itself (to illuminate [knowledge?]; to light).

There’s even “kind,” which denotes being sympathetic or gentle (Kindle is user-friendly!); or type (You’re one of my kind, a quaint recognition of PLU [People Like Us]).

Kindle thus seeks to dredge up warm, cozy feelings of sameness, simplicity, gentleness, family (happy family), and nature (wood, paper).

But despite all these banked-upon notions of community and warmth, the feeling that Kindle generates in me is kinDread. I prefer my books in paper, with full-color covers.

Do you want to take a match to Kindle or curl up with it on a cold winter’s night?

P.S. Don't forget to vote for the most fashionable blog in the 2008 weblog awards. My vote's going to WendyB, who is known to read a stylish book or twelve . . . (Click on Wendy's name to find a voting link on her page.)

*Top image by Ulrike Hahn

*Middle image of a "colorized" Phillis Wheatley; frontispiece to her book of poetry

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Some Poet! (with props to E. B. White)

A recent NYT article held forth on, among other things, the dent in the restaurant industry now that publishing houses and literary agents are no longer having long, leisurely lunches on expense accounts.

It quoted agent Amanda Urban, “who represents Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison” (and who I remember better as Binky, rep. to that young author of Bright Lights, Big City), on the matter. Here’s her perspective:

“Ms. Urban said some of the more lavish practices could not be sustained by a slow-growth, low-margin industry that can’t charge luxury prices. ‘Books can only support a certain retail price,’ she said. ‘It’s not like you have books that can be Manolo Blahniks and books that can be Cole Haan. Books are books. A book by James Patterson costs the same as a book by some poet.’”

*Some* poet?! Perhaps Ms. Urban means

Gwendolyn Brooks
Seamus Heaney
Sharon Olds
Billy Collins
Margaret Atwood
T. S. Eliot
Sylvia Plath
Langston Hughes
Michael Ondaatje
Julianna Baggott
Yusef Komunyakaa
Etc . . .

I really hope that there’s a little problem with parallel structure above. Just who is writing the Manolo Blahniks and who’s writing the Cole Haans?

"Bathing Place"

A tiny gem of a card (about 3.5 x 4.75) that I found in Yale’s Center for British Art shop.

Image by Nikolaus Willem von Heidelhoff (1761-1838).

Pub. in The Gallery of Fashion, London, 1797.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Text and Textiles

I’ve been craving textiles this evening, and since I’m snowed in (hurrah!), I turned to the Web.

Selvedge’s site led me to Meg Andrews Antique Costumes and Textiles and I’ve been happily gazing at these delightful pieces.

My phantasy is to have a series of stunningly decrepit cupboards, painted in peeling white, lined with the most sumptuous wallpaper around. Perhaps flocked wallpaper. (Or anything from Cole & Son.)

Then, when the cupboard doors were opened, these beautiful, ethereal garments would be gently displayed on vintage dressmakers forms. (Yes, my cupboards would be enormous. Perhaps the dressmaker forms would even be on little turntables that would discreetly twirl for a 360ยบ perspective.)

Here are some favorites (everything is sweet and pretty), followed by a specially commissioned poem that took hours (OK, 40 seconds) to compose.

Some Puffs:

and Poufs (ohhh--the hem!):

These weeds are perfect for an apres-midi stroll around a pond draped with weeping willows:

Look at the wonderfully eccentric bosom lace! It reminds me of happy lambswool.
Mary had two little lambs . . . :

This is such an Anne of Green Gables ice-cream social dress:


Miss Cavendish Hubbard went to the cupboard
To fetch her new iPhone.
But when she got there,
The cupboard was rare,
filled with muslin, lawn, and bone(ing).*

*(to fudge the rhyme, you know)

Catch the Wave!

A number of months ago I noticed this hair.

The New York Times has been noticing hair like this too, for yesterday it ran an article on the resurgence of Veronica Lake “peekaboo” hair.

Once upon a time I had hair like this, though I didn’t want it then. I had just had my typical cut, when I asked my stylist about the possibility of Andie MacDowell/Kim Basinger hair pour moi. (My wave holds a curl quite well.)

But he pooh poohed me and said we should try something else.

So two hours later, after tiny rollers galore, I emerged with Bacall/Lake/Kelly hair.

It was lovely, but oh! the work! Even my stylist said he’d be reluctant to try that again (the nerve!). . .

None other than Sally Hershberger assures NYT readers that this truly is a labor intensive look (it’s really “done,” I believe she said), but still, where there’s a pincurl, there’s a way—or a wave.