Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coach or First Class?

In 1990, when I first moved to the United States, I was in thrall to the Coach magazine ads.

If I recall, for the purposes of this post, anyway, there was only one bag being advertised: the Coach “train” bag, or somesuch name, being carried by an elegant youngish blonde woman at a train station. The bag itself was a vertical rectangle, made of what looked to be sturdy leather, with both a top handle and a long strap, and Coach’s signature turnkey closure.

The chic of the bag came from its American aristocratic feel—not from its prettiness, but from its steadfastness. Here was a bag in which Great Aunt Mildred might have carried her heirloom engagement ring to Tiffany for polishing, while tiny cousins Jane and Elizabeth might have used it to lug their silver dollar collection (courtesy of Grandfather) to the bank.

I studied this bag, but felt that it was ultimately too gracious for me. I would have had to disavow my saltwater roots in northern Atlantic Canada and imagine a new backstory, one involving camelhair coats, smart pumps, and thin leather gloves. A pleasant piece of roleplay, but a performance all the same.

When I saw Coach advertise another bag, I was cheered. Called the Soho (just the Soho, to my mind, not the Soho bucket, etc . . .), it was edgier: a big, deep, roomy vault of a bag with two thick straps—one with a bridle-esque brass buckle—that just fit over the shoulder. This was more my style, and I received it in black for the first Christmas of my marriage, in 1991.

But for some reason, sometime I put the bag away, on a post in my closet, and left it there, for at least ten years, possibly fifteen, until today.

Today, as there was a genuine chill and damp in the air, it was time to switch from my natural pale leather spring summer bag to a heartier fall one. I have an absolute capsule (blogosphere word for the week!) bag collection: one leather piece for spring/summer, one large good bag for fall/winter, one evening bag, and a cloth messenger for casual treks.

(And there are also three irresponsible bags, about which I shall not speak, but they are utterly lovely and therefore banished from this capsule idea that I am trying to conjure.)

But I am very tired of my large good bag, having carried it for years upon years, not to mention its prominent logos (see above photo), which are annoying me. So it remained in its dust bag and out came the newly christened vintage Coach Soho, devoid of current silvertone dangly charm thingies, but stately-edgy with early nineties charm and reliability.

Pleased, I filled it with my wallet, lipsticks, and keys. And then I carried it to work.

And remembered why I had banished it to a post in my closet.

For those two lovely leather straps that are supposed to keep the bag on my shoulder are so slippery that they slide right off. No amount of trying to stack the straps atop one another would secure them. (And it’s not my posture, bien sur.) I ended up carrying the bag on my elbow, college satchel in my other hand.

But I will not give up, having rediscovered the Coach Soho. Perhaps tomorrow it will sit on my shoulder like a parrot perches on Captain Jack Sparrow’s.

It just needs some coaching.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cowboy Kate Rides Again!

When my daughters were younger, I read them Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, a children’s story about a cowgirl and her horse.

Perhaps the author was (unconsciously?) riffing on Sam Haskins’ Cowboy Kate, a lush black-and-white photographic book from 1965 that documents Kate and other female “cowboys” in a dewy, sensual love letter to the female body. It's easy to see his influence--from the Claudia Schiffer-for-Guess-jeans ads (above) to a recent Madonna spread for Elle (below).

This work is now available in a “director’s cut,” and I’m thinking about getting up on that horse—this could be a lovely book for my library.

(Above image from Haskins' Five Girls [1962])

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Etro-ordinary Glamour

Although I own a bag by Etro (a crazy oversized structured pony-hair bag crossed, inconceivably, with edelweiss), I have yet to purchase a piece of clothing from this wonderfully creative Italian company.

I especially love Etro’s burnt velvets, but would be equally happy with the dress above, which manages to combine a raffia vibe with that of fine metals, all the while looking utterly wearable. (And I also like the model’s freshly washed flowing locks . . .)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Surfing on the Hair Waves: A New Hair Crush

I’ve written here before about Rita Hayworth hair, about how I wanted my stylist (in the late 1980s) to give me Kim Basinger corkscrew curls but he insisted on a Hayworth wave instead.

I certainly had the most elegant head of hair at the dance club that evening, even though it was all wrong for the “disco night.”

Probably inspired by Betty Draper and L'Wren Scott's clothes (her black-and-white bib dress is pictured below), I’m craving that gently set look again, though on a longer length than Mrs. Draper’s pretty blonde locks.

Of course this hair crush comes only weeks after I chopped off about seven inches of my own hair (three on my own, the remaining four by my stylist). I had wanted a super-short ponytail, which I now happily have, but undulating waves will have to be put on hold.

For now, I’m content reveling in these photos from W—cropped (haha) to emphasize the model’s hair.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading Ullipses

Yes I said . . . Yes.

The Necklace Dilemma

When reading the October Vogue, I was struck by something in the interview with Michelle Williams: she noted that she doesn’t like to wear jewelry; she feels that jewelry doesn’t suit her. (And of course she was featured on the cover with earrings.)

I immediately sensed a kindred spirit, for although I very much appreciate jewelry on others, and enjoy looking at it on others, I wear very, very little.

My engagement ring and my wedding ring are constants (but never together!), as is my Peretti bracelet that was temporarily lost among the seaweed.

Earrings are occasional, though, and necklaces are even rarer. But this morning, inspired by Sally’s necklace tutorial, I pulled out a gift from a Nepali friend: a multi, multi strand necklace of tiny beads.

I put it on with my blue linen wrap dress, looked at it, and said “OK.” Then I went about my pre-work activities and every time I passed a mirror, one of which seemed to be always in my path, my OK began to mutate into Nnn-OK. After ten minutes I was practically ripping the necklace off my throat and stuffing it back into its pretty box, with a firm “NO!”

I just feel too too with a necklace: too accessorized, too polished, too much. And while I will continue to enjoy them on other people, I’ll remain minimal . . . until I don’t, of course.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

*Really* Feeling Sheepish

Oh dear—I *know* that I made gentle fun of these sheephawk booties by Christian Louboutin, but couldn’t all be forgiven?

Just look at how gorgeous they look on Lauren Santo Domingo:

I would like these rawther baa-dly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peter Pan for Girlz

My four-year-old son has been telling me that he’d like to move to Neverland and bring his mum and dad with him.

Hmmm . . . a possibility, but are girls permitted to stay in Neverland?

If I recall, and I may be mis-remembering, the closest girls can come to living with Peter Pan is choosing a Peter Pan collar to wear. And I think I’ve outgrown that look.

But hold that thought!

For here’s L’Wren Scott’s fall collection, with a pretty-in-pink “headmistress” dress punctuated with . . . a Peter Pan collar!

The difference here is that the collar is spread in an almost boatneck iteration, while the dress itself is classic Scott: long, lean, and curve enhancing. There’s not a hint of Lolita style here (to introduce a different text); indeed, this dress is completely grown up.

So: is this not a fabulous feminist revision of a “difficult” text? A grown-up Peter Pan (collar) that women can live with happily?

And for those gentle readers for whom C Z Guest is a stylish reference, Scott's dress does indeed recall this pretty, preppy look.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Not to Wearstler

The title to this post is deeply ironic, since I think that Kelly Wearstler wears her clothes very well.

But this post is not about clothes; rather, it’s about the wallpaper in this image from the October issue of Vogue US.

It’s hand-painted, designed by Wearstler, and reminds me of either . . .

a) a single brush stroke of a perfect shade of nail polish that doesn’t exist,


b) a genial slick of sheer, yet colorful imaginary lip gloss.

I could see myself taking this magazine page to a chemist and demanding that a nail and lip color be concocted for me, pronto!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shameless Blondes

Of course the title is a compliment, referring to a character in Evelyn Waugh’s Handful of Dust who flies her own airplane, puts on overalls with the house painters, and generally befuddles Tony Last (though she sweetly plays Animal Snap with him).**

Channeling Mrs. Rattery (for that is the shameless blonde’s name), I’d like to report that I’ve been thinking about blondes with a certain iconic hairstyle, prompted, sadly, by the recent loss of Mary Travers (she of the gloriously clear voice).

There’s Mary in the top image.

And here’s Nico, below:

And Joni Mitchell:

And Marianne Faithfull:

Indeed, all these blondes have something else in common: they’re musical. But shameless? You tell me.

**Why, oh why was this shameless blonde played by raven-haired Anjelica Huston in the film version? She had the spirit, but Waugh readers would miss the hair. At least this one did.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Les Feets Fatales by Tabitha Simmons

Updated below with a photo of the designer in these shoes.

I’ve been watching a lot of film noir in black and white lately, and have developed quite a fondness for les femmes fatales.

Their shoes are always important; remember Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity as she descends the staircase? All one can see are her calves and shoes, a gold anklet sparkling against the shadows.

Don’t worry: this isn’t an ode to anklets, but rather to an updated femme fatale shoe.

I’m swooning over Tabitha Simmons’s fall collection, available in person at Bergdorf Goodman and by post at Net-a-Porter.

This two-tone tan-and-black wedge (above) offers both attitude and grace—a perfect candidate for engaging in some fast-paced banter with a handsome but unsuspecting chap.

And these red and purple shoes (below) amaze me. Usually I run far away from anything that suggests kilty (kilts: yes; kilty: no), but this wonderfully eccentric but elegant silhouette would be a welcome addition to my closet.

Red and purple are, in my eye, the new neutral. And yes, I would love to wear the shoes with this Miu Miu dress:

In fact, these shoes might even make even the most discerning femme fatale yearn for Technicolor.
Below is a picture of the designer (also an editor at Vogue US) jumping in the first pair of shoes. Her husband, photographer Craig McDean, took the photo, in case the fine print is, well, too fine. I certainly think that the shoes are fine!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Going Bananas

These acidic, slightly garish yellow shoes by Boutique Nine (the upscale line of Nine West) remind me of Josephine Baker’s banana girdle.

Here’s Paul Colin’s memorable modern-era portrait of La Baker wearing her bananas:

And here’s a contemporary interpretation by Pascal Campion:

Anyone else find these shoes a-peeling?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grounded (Again)

I’m reposting this piece, in response to positive feedback from several gentle readers. Do let me know what you think.

After a summer of wearing flat sandals, I was mentally ready to climb back into my heels and lengthen my legs with some pencil skirts. I wore 4-inch heels on Monday for two hours, Tuesday for three hours, and by Wednesday I was having pain and difficulty walking, so I wore flats yesterday and today.

I’m always amused by how the eye trains itself to accept new silhouettes. In the 1990s in graduate school I loved cigarette pants à la Audrey Hepburn, and wore them long and lean, grazing my ankle but firmly cinching my waist. I was none too pleased when the waistbands across the country; indeed, the world, inched downward, with their 70s bell-bottom vibe and, thought I at the time, their unflattering lines.

But my eye adjusted and I suppressed my desire—no: the desire actually vanished—for high waisted cigarette pants.

The same has happened with heels. I have some kitten heels in my closet, but find that they look comical on, even clownlike. And my 2-inch heels are veritable stubs, relegated to the back of my wardrobe or for schlepping days. It’s my 4-inch heels that are the stars, the shoes that make my clothing look “right,” even though I can only bear wearing them for short periods of time.

But what hath this upward mobility wrought? At the moment: pain, fear of not being able to walk for exercise, irritation at being unable to wear my expensive shoes, and general fury at having bought the expensive high heels in the first place.

I’m no longer in my tender teens, twenties, or even thirties, and last night I started to worry about the lovely young women who wear skyscraping heels and lovingly post images of them on their blogs. I’m concerned that they might be setting themselves up for decades of foot pain, pain that can hobble young legs not ready to sit out the dance on a chair.

I decided to look at shoes online last night, seeing these vertiginous high heels in a new light—as crippling rather than enhancing. Strong language, I know, but I think it’s time for me to re-vise my attitude toward high heels.

To wit, I cancelled the treadful Prada Mary Janes that I had placed on advance order (with their leg-lengthening 5-inch platform treads) and I’m going to look more deliberately for 3-inch heels (and under, if they exist).

I’d rather ground myself than have some heel do it for me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Make Mine A Double

Easy pun, I know, but I wanted to post this shot of Fashion’s Night Out at Bergdorf Goodman to make a stylish etiquette point: I’d never drink out of a glass that was served to me in this “overhand” grip.

Please, lovely baristas, hold the stem.

(I did win the dining room award at boarding school, you know . . .)

(And maybe the fussy award too.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rock-Grrrl Sandal Booties

Although I had Prada’s “treadful” mary janes on advance order, I’ve decided that 5 inches is simply too high a shoe for the moment.

So I’m scaling down to these cut-out sandal-booties, with a rock-grrl edge. I see them with ankle grazing black trousers, pencil skirts paired with prim blouses, and trim fall jackets.

Closed-toe shoes can wait until the first snowflakes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Literary Style: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Here's my visual (and postmodern) interpretation of Muriel Spark's “peasant dressing”:

Deidre Lloyd had been the first woman to dress up as a peasant whom Sandy had ever met, and peasant women were to be fashionable for the next thirty years or more. She wore a fairly long full-gathered dark skirt, a bright green blouse with the sleeves rolled up, a necklace of large painted wooden beads and gipsy-looking earrings. Round her waist was a bright red wide belt. She wore dark stockings and sandals of dark green suede. In this, and various other costumes of similar kind, Deidre was depicted on canvas in different parts of the studio.

—From Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Heights

Am suffering from completely unreasonable desire for these black booties with gray suede flowers at Nordstrom.

But seriously: how high is too high? These are 5 inches, and, I suppose, a genial 4 with the claw platform.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Typos(es): The Sartorialist's New Book

I’ve long been an admirer of Scott Schuman’s photographs for The Sartorialist, and, when I saw his self-titled new book, I bought it.

Published by Penguin, the book boasts a strong selection of Schuman’s photos, each lovingly reproduced on thick, waxy paper. And that’s the $25 paperback edition, not the bespoke $175 version.

However . . .

(and this is a major *however*)

Who on earth copyedited and/or proofread this book? Penguins themselves?

For there is an unforgivable amount of typos in this work, which is, ironically, light on text.

Take page 98, for instance: there’s a comma needed after Brooklyn in the prose: (Somewhere close to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I spotted . . .)

Maybe that’s picky of me.

But then go to page 244, where Schuman compliments the young Swedish man’s “incredible high cheeckbones . . . .” His what-bones?

Maybe that’s minor, too, but please follow me to page 445, where Schuman photographs a reluctant, elegant Italian woman who protests, “Mi bruta”—(I’m ugly). Here is the first paragraph:

I saw this elegant woman on one of the most chic shopping street in Milan. I didn’t take me a moment to know I had to ask her if I could take her photo.

Shopping streets? It didn’t take me a moment?

. . .

I really, really, really like the careful treatment of the images in this book and what Schuman says about them.

The editing of the prose, however, is bruta.

Poses, oui; typos, non!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Charlotte's Topknot

It's from Monaco's 2007 National Day, but never mind; it's still current. Lucky magazine featured it today (photo below) and I, as a former topknot wearer, am smitten.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leg Up

Oh, how I heart these sequined-panel leggings by Alice and Olivia. I would skulk about most cheerfully if they were only mine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Feeling Sheepish

Last year the sea was a dominant influence in fashion. Christopher Kane made delicious scallop dresses and tunics, through which you could channel a floaty mermaid, or, if you were feeling more fierce, Grendel’s mother.

I certainly took the bait (ahem), and bought a pair of bitter yellow scallop-y booties by L.A.M.B. (I know, I know: surf and turf) that I still adore.

This year, however, the tide is no longer high, for designers have turned their gaze landward.

Toward the farm.

Or perhaps, for my more romantic readers, toward the Lake District of England, where sylvan creatures nibble the green grass surrounding Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage:

In any case, I declare that sheep are the new scallop.

Consider this boot, for instance, by BCBG Max Azria with its unshorn leather “fleece”:

And here is a Christian Louboutin sheep-inspired bootie with a Mohawk (Sheephawk?) (Mosheep? We want mo sheep!):

Sheep don’t have to be white or black. When I am a fashionable sheep (by Manolo Blahnik) I shall wear purple:

And finally, this second Manolo sheep bootie calls to mind—well—hair plugs (fleece plugs?):

By the way, L.A.M.B. must be feeling quite at home this fall.