Friday, July 31, 2009

It's Raining ___?

Today, in the car, I was grooving to the Weathergirls ripping into “It’s Raining Men.”

It’s raining many things here on the east coast—sideways, gently, torrentially—but it isn’t raining men. Mr. C would call this atmosphere “slimr,” which is Icelandic for wet, wet, miserable weather.

I have my umbrella (from Liberty of London), though I didn’t think to bring my boots (Le Chameau). But even though I’m only half equipped for the watery day, my two youngest children are literally singing and dancing by the pool, delighted for the soaking.

Getting Dizzy

When I designed my Mad (Wo) Man avatar, put her in a boardroom to make a presentation on lingerie, and quipped about Midge the brassiere illustrator in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, I hadn’t ever seen the Mad Men show, nor did I know anything about it other than that Jon Hamm was the star.

Tonight I watched the first three episodes on DVD and was floored (pun intended) to see that not only its opening credits (the falling man) were borrowed from Vertigo but that Midge also appeared, in name, as a boho illustrator of puppies (often a code word for bosoms). And I suppose that the German analyst in the trim gray skirt suit was just a coincidence.

So tell me, gentle readers, should I begin a psychic network on the side? And oh yes--I both love and loathe the show.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Miuccia Met Morris

How I love it when designers take William Morris prints as inspiration (or C. F. A. Voysey, for that matter).

To wit, Prada has an art nouveau-inspired resort collection, which I’ve put together in a collage because I think that these colorful prints and shapes are best seen in a jumble. (Click to enlarge for a clearer view.)

One piece is *interesting* on its own; eight are a jolly riot (well, to me). (Oh, those amazing little handkerchief bloomers!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Portrait of the Professor as a Mad (Wo)Man

Oh, here I am, giving a talk on Vertigo, specifically, on the character of Midge, the brassiere designer who would probably like to start a men’s line with Scottie as her fit model.

The only anachronism in this tableau is the fringe; I like to show my forehead.

And, well, the cigarette isn’t usually in my personal pictures either, but it does work here as a pre-modern pointer; I like how its glowing ash anticipates those red laser thingies that business types use in presentations.

For yet another disclaimer, I don’t watch TV, have never seen Mad Men on DVD, but am happy to borrow this idea to make your own Mad (Wo)Man avatar from the always current Deep Glamour. Do let me know if you design your own!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Miss C Takes (Another) Trip

Mr. C has been reading some well-written rock biographies during our trip, the latest of which is Sharon Lawrence’s study of Jimi Hendrix.

I popped into the narrative when she began talking about where Jimi shopped, particularly Granny Takes A Trip in London.

The above image is one of Granny’s ever evolving storefronts, an homage to Jean Harlow.

And below is one of the founders, Nigel Waymouth, wearing a Granny printed jacket.

Long before I saw this jacket, I was imagining what Granny would conjure up for its rockers and dandies about town, and I thought that a slim-cut silk blazer from a peacock-print Liberty fabric would be perfect.

As it happens, Liberty is in *trip* mode itself, with its new line of self-described art fabrics with a travel theme:

And as Liberty is having its famous sale right now, how I wish I were tripping over there right now. I’d get this great little insect beaded bag.

I daresay, it’s really bugging me that I’m not there . . .

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mooning About

I’m generally not fond of high-maintenance fingernail polishes.

It’s mais, non! to a French manicure; jamais! to its American cousin, that interloping French pedicure, and pourquois? to the chipped nail look (although I note here that Helena Christensen rocked it in the nineties).

But the half moon manicure has me in thrall.

Sure, it’s got shades of Gatsby, but the look can be aggressively postmodern too. The trick is to choose a dark, plummy, or jet color in a high lacquered gloss.

The photo below even incorporates a half moon with what I’m calling a wing tip.

This is a fall look, not really one for floaty summer dresses, and one that could punctuate a style effectively.

So are you for a full moon (entirely polished nail) or a half moon?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Of Figureheads and Figures, II

As you may know, one of the most romantic and imagination-inspiring images for me is a ship’s figurehead.

Perhaps now I know why: yesterday I visited a museum that had material on display about my great, great uncle, who was a ship’s captain until he died of yellow fever in 1892. He sailed several vessels up and down the Atlantic Ocean: to New York to pick up a cargo of cocoa beans; to Newfoundland to deliver bales of needed hay and other produce to “the Rock.”

One of his ships was called the Camellia.

I can imagine a lovely figurehead draped in a Grecian column, perhaps with a camellia in her hair, representing fragrant beauty.

Or maybe she’d be depicted in the style of one of Barbara Cooney’s fanciful illustrations, gracing the prow.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a carver of figureheads?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Barouche, Scaramouche, in which to Wear the White Linen

“Our beautiful white girlhood,” Daisy Buchanan once murmured to her girlfriend Jordan Baker. Daisy didn’t realize that her comment was loaded, especially since her old beau Jay Gatsby didn’t *code* as white.

She and Jordan were both wearing white dresses, though, probably linen, and would have been properly dressed for an afternoon at Dalvay by the Sea, this seasonal hotel on the North Shore of PEI.

Last week I saw an antique barouche, with double wicker seats and a fringed parasol canopy, that had been brought by a colonel from the United States to his summer home at Dalvay in the 1800s. Daisy and Jordan and their white linen dresses would have punctuated that barouche nicely.

And Gatsby, whose army uniform was a class leveler, would have fit right in it too.

(Now I can’t stop revising Queen’s classic song into “Barouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango . . .”)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview from the Underwire: Talking Style with Quinn Cummings

Perhaps you already read The QC Report, a droll, hilarious blog written by Quinn Cummings about her life in LA. It doesn’t involve red carpet moments, though Quinn’s early career suggests it could: she acted in productions such as the film The Goodbye Girl and the TV show Family.

Quinn has (very successfully) reinvented herself as a writer and has just published her first book, Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life. If we're talking recipes, then Quinn's writing style reminds me of a 3/4 cup of David Sedaris, peppered with a dash of Susan Orlean. Plus she has a strong animal rights conscience.

As the subtitle to this blog is “literate style,” I avoided exclusively bookish queries and asked Quinn two questions that address the intersection of style and writing (they don’t involve commas).

Miss Cavendish: What is your most memorable literary moment involving clothing?

Quinn Cummings: Scarlett's green dress. I loved Gone with the Wind, for all the right, wrong, pulpy reasons; I was twelve, she was badly behaved and still gorgeous and desirable, and she had green eyes. I'm still a little convinced my eyes changed from mostly brown to mostly green in adolescence out of love for her.

MC: And what do you wear when you write?

QC: Either the t-shirt which encourages people to adopt a pet rather than buy one or the t-shirt I bought to help support the Michael Vick dogs at Both t-shirts are elderly and doddering. With this goes pajama bottoms I believe I wore while first figuring out how to swaddle my baby as an infant. Realizing as I write this that I must be very confident in Consort's love because these might be the ugliest outfits on earth.

MC: Thanks, Quinn!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stampede for Sequins

It’s the height of summer here in the Island and impossible to think about fall in between bites of strawberry shortcake and butter tarts (I’ve been conducting a month-long taste test).

Occasionally, though, my thoughts do turn to shoes, which are much less likely to induce summer fashion claustrophobia than, say, a belted coat.

However, I didn’t expect to be thinking about boots, which fall on the too-hot end of the summer fashion spectrum.

And I certainly didn’t expect to be thinking about cowgirl boots, as I am over that boot-and-floaty-dress LA thang that happened a couple of years back.

But these *sequined* Frye boots at Bergdorfs have caught my fancy. Roped it right in, on the heels of the Calgary Stampede.

I like the unusual color and the pretty-but-tough sequins for day. Maybe I’ll even give jeans a second chance this fall . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is It Smug to Snub? Toe-ing the Line

I’ve always thought that snub-toe shoes are the u.g.l.i.e.s.t. shoes on the planet. Indeed, I snub them whenever I see them in shops or online.

Chie Mihara has been one of the leaders in the snub-toe campaign, with snubby offerings for the last three seasons or so, all of which I've ignored with my nose in the air.

But today, while thinking about wildly romantic eccentric skirts and jackets like the ensemble above from IF in Soho, I had a revelation: snub-toe shoes would bring just the right element of Dickensian eccentricity to this look.

So I’m taking another look at Chie Mihara:

They’re ghastly, I know, but could be perfect (in a dark color) with Exhibit A above. Shades of Sweeney Todd and I Capture the Castle.

However, if I ever begin singing the praises of high-heeled penny loafers, please stage an intervention!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tread-ing Water; or, the Dolphin Wore Prada

In an earlier post I denounced, blasted, and condemned a “tread” sole as being simply “treadful.”

But perhaps the beautiful water I’ve been treading at Cavendish Beach has done something to my perspective, because I’ve been liking these shoes by Prada.

They’re casual and smart at the same time.

I’d wear them with this bag,

And I adore this little wrist pouch (both bags by Prada):

(I’ve actually made pouches [for gifts] just like this out of William Morris “Strawberry Thief” Liberty of London fabric. Must start making things for self.)

Fall feels a long way away from these red cliff beaches, but it’s beginning to percolate. . . Or is it just the coffee in my cottage?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paisley Skies

I’ve mentioned—even boasted, perhaps, that in boarding school I won an award for dining-room etiquette. And those good manners carry over to other rooms.

Just yesterday, for instance, I walked into a little studio in Rustico and politely asked whether the “hooker was home.” (A gentleman had greeted me.) Almost midquestion I realized what I was asking, but completed it anyway and then clarified, with a smile, “the rug hooker.”

He turned out to be one of the rug hookers, so I was guilty of gender profiling too. Sigh.

I had forgotten how much I love certain primitive hooked rugs—and how much I want to make some.

I’m particular: I don’t like anything kountry or cute or touristy or self-consciously arty. Like, if someone hooked this photograph, I wouldn’t want it (wrong medium; I do think the large photo is fabulous).

But I do very much like maritime scenes, if they’re done intelligently.

My favorite maritime rug-hooking artist is Deanne Fitzpatrick, who fashions the most wonderful skies. They remind me of fabric (the paisleys) or knits (Kaffe Fassett’s) or Van Gogh’s starry nights.

And I love how the houses dance, as if their pointy rooftops can’t resist swaying in the ocean wind.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cirque de Miss C

When we went to see Disco Cirque, my eldest daughter was smitten by the silk work—an extremely flexible performer executed stunning acrobatics while gripping two pieces of silk cloth that hung from beam to floor.

So now her birthday wish is for two long pieces of silk and duct tape, to best attach the cloth to our ceiling.

Oh dear.

I might just go with the second option on her birthday list: a pair of Rollerblades, which I was fully prepared to veto until her obsession with circus silks.

Perhaps she’s be satisfied if she saw her mum wearing these fab Circus Suede and Net booties by Christian Louboutin?

Or should I just send in the clowns?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Beaches, Starfish, and Elsa Peretti

Do you own anything from Tiffany & Co.?

I have two pieces: my trusty tank watch (verrry simple stainless with a black-leather matte band) and a starfish charm bracelet by Elsa Peretti (like this one, but with ONLY the starfish charm. I'm a minimalist these days.).

The bracelet is a Christmas gift from about ten years ago and for the past year I’ve been wearing it (sans removal) on the same wrist as my watch. I find that the watch acts as an attractive dam: it keeps the dangly element of the bracelet under control by preventing it from slipping annoyingly down onto my hand.

Only once has the bracelet come off: when my four-year-old son (a future lock-picker?!) undid its clasp without my even noticing. I put the bracelet back on immediately and made a mental note to self: watch out when son is near bracelet.

On Thursday night our whole family went to the theatre in Charlottetown to see Disco Cirque, a combination of Cirque du Soleil (fantastic acrobatics involving two loooong silk pieces hanging from the rafters) and a history of disco music and dance (fab singing and dancing from Canadian performers who gather every summer to perform in Anne of Green Gables: The Musical and another musical revue).

My son sat in my lap for the second act and I casually registered, sometime during Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm,” that he was fidgeting with my bracelet. We went home to our cottage and it was still on, so I forgot to check that the clasp was secure.

On Friday we went to the beach (so I took off my watch, but not my bracelet) and I eventually did some late-night laundry in the little outdoor laundry shed we have.

On Saturday I woke up to a naked wrist!

I knew where my watch was, but the Peretti bracelet was gone, baby, gone. I flew to the laundry shed to see whether that late-night armful of towels had opened the clasp, scoured the grass en route back to the cottage, but no luck. I stripped the bed and shook out all the sheets, but no luck. I looked under the bed, removed all the cushions from the couch where I had set the late-night laundry.

But no luck.

We all went to the farmer’s market for lunch, replenished our pantry, and then decided to take a peek at the beach, to see whether we might spy the bracelet there. Fortunately we had chosen a rather isolated beach on Friday, so the possibility of a beachcomber finding my bracelet was remote.

But so were *our* chances.

After looking for a half hour, I gave up, waded into the deeper water, and began to weigh whether I should buy a replacement bracelet next Christmas for myself or forget the piece entirely. It had given me pleasure, but it wasn’t my engagement ring, for instance, or my wedding band, both of which have greater sentimental value.

But how I hate to lose something, especially something of quality, because my philosophy is to buy once, and to buy well.

As I disheartedly turned my thoughts to collecting shells, Mr. C waded up to me with a kiss and my bracelet. He had kept up the search (Mr. C reads not only Old English but Old Icelandic, so he’s not easily deterred from a detailed study), and had located my bracelet, twisted in a mound of seaweed, sandy but intact.

I certainly didn’t expect a happy ending and am very happy to turn my Christmas thoughts to a new digital camera. (Suggestions are welcome!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sun and Clouds

It’s been cloudy on the Island, but a lovely spot of sun shone through today.

This photo from Vogue China reminds me of that combination of cumulus and sunshine: the white feathery quel que chose supports and balances the model’s sunkissed hair. Doesn't her hair look like it's had a lovely dip in salt water? (Moi, j'adore salt-water waves [both kinds] in one's locks.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Foodie Edition

You’ll remember that I’ve written about my summer working at the Confederation Centre Courtyard Café? (It was where I used to indulge my love of butter tarts, made not by brittle pastry chefs, but by a round, grandmotherly baker.)

I had a terrific summer there, eating not only butter tarts, but, when I tended bar for the dinner theatre in the evening, discovering, in the huge walk-in fridge, vast bowls of butter frosting.
Don’t worry; I never double-dipped my spoon (I didn’t win my boarding school’s dining room etiquette award for nothing!).

But I digress already.

Part of what made that summer magical was meeting a great group of students with whom I waited tables during the busy lunch hours. One was a triple threat who had also won a Miss Teen PEI pageant; another, a budding law student who left us to take on social work a couple of weeks into the summer; another, an Anne of Green Gables look-alike with wild-turkey eyes, and my new buddy J, who was one part pirate and two parts teddy bear.

J was a great pal because he loved music, food, and was well connected in the social department—manna for someone returning from boarding school who felt out of the loop.

That summer J and a group of us had an enviable summer—late-late-night meals with producers of and actors from the Charlottetown festival; live intimate concerts by fantastic Charlottetown musicians; delightful witty conversations to our teenage minds (we rechristened the part of the café veering out into the hallway the “existension” to suit our Camus-esque leanings).

I never spent a full year on PEI anymore, but every time I’d come home I’d run into J—in the Confed Centre, in a café—and we’d take up right where we’d left off. Even Mr. C and I caught up with him at the late, great Pat’s Rose and Gray, home to exquisite carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting (I *do* like frosting) and housed in a vintage apothecary.

Last summer was the first time I’d been home in some 15 years, and as my situation was different (three children! academic conference!), I didn’t hit my usual haunts and wondered whether that was why I didn’t run into J. And why didn’t I call him? Ummm, I had forgotten his last name. Major oops.

Yesterday, as Mr. C and I were nosing around the downtown, I picked up a local arts newspaper. We were driving back to the beach and I mused that I had forgotten J’s last name and was brainstorming a bit. But it wasn’t there.

As I turned the pages of my paper, though, I let out a shriek of delight. For smiling up from the pages was an image of J, who’d just returned to PEI to become the Executive Chef of a well-praised waterfront seafood joint (slow-cooking, 90-percent local ingredients).

In the years between meetings, he’d taken to the chef life, even hosting his own cooking show on TV for two years!

I won’t out him here, because Mr. C and I haven’t yet descended upon him for a meal, but I’m excited to reconnect. And maybe invite him over to ignite our barbeque, you know.

Happy Canada Day, literal and symbolic Canadians!