Thursday, December 30, 2010

Down by the Baaaaay: Blanket Stitches by Hudson's Bay

I have been happily, gloriously snowbound, and to say that I am obsessed with snowy-weather dressing would be an understatement.

In particular, I have been contentedly researching the Hudson's Bay outerwear, two vintage pieces of which I featured when I began blogging some two years ago.

This snowfall I'm also locating vintage, if 2009 can be considered such (rather than simply "late to the party").

In a delightful show called "Blanket Statement," sponsored by the Bay, Canadian designers reinterpreted the faithful Hudson's Bay blanket or jacket.

This coat calls up the Bay's trapper/trader heritage.  I don't think I could buy real fur at this point in my life, but if this were in faux, it has the over-the-top the drama that I like in a coat.

Here's an affectionate shout-out to the red coat with black stripe far above, which I know well as a blanket bought for my boarding-school bed.

This pert jacket below creepily reminds me of Hello Kitty: see the blanket-stitch whiskers on the side? 

HK has troubled me ever since I realized that she was a girl without a mouth.  She can be said "hello" to, but cannot utter the words herself. (Gratitutious professorial cultural critique, in case any readers were missing University over the break.)

Then there's this, perhaps the most marketable jacket, if one must go there.  I will, because it would give me a chance to wear tricep-length slinky leather gloves. (The hawking-length gloves here aren't dramatic enough. 

So this jacket is named (by me) the Try coat, because of its triple stripe at the bottom and nod to the triceps.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's Tutu Chilly: Moncler Outfits the Black Swan Cast?

Was Moncler's Gamme Rouge collection inspired by the antics of the new feature film Black Swan

The images below might suggest so.  And yes, it is a one-woman show, so please keep your characters straight!

Do also note that I have not seen the film, so the dramatic confrontation to follow is not intended to be a spoiler in terms of plot.  Though it may spoil the film in other ways.

I want to dance the Black Swan!

No; you cannot dance the Black Swan because you are all technique and no emotion!  I will dance the Black Swan!

I am SO emotional!  Look how my feathers are ruffling!

Bah--those are tiny ruffles.  Look how I can ROCK a tiny tutu!!! 
I am all unrestrained come-hither danger!

Ohhh!  My tutu may be long but just look how I can unleash my ruffly fury!!

Kid, you're making me uptight.  Beat it.  I am the Black Swan.  And take your ugly duckling mother with you.

Who, me?

I am not an ugly duckling.  I am the Firebird, the Greatest Failed Ballerina in the World!


   *  *  *  

But still: when one is tutu chilly, Moncler remains my fantasy choice of a winter jacket.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Mix

Oh, so dressing like this is a trend now.

Where I come from it's called common sense--eh!

Fur hat (25 years old, from Moscow, gift from Russian friend)? Check!

Gorgeously patterned Latvian mittens?  Check!
Scandinavian colourful knit scarf? Check!

 *  *  *

In other winter-dressing news, I was amused to see that Starbucks has decorated its windows with images of girls in red coats and sky blue mittens and scarves. 

Does that mean that my much-loved combo (from the post below) is (eeek!) corporate chic?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Red and Sky Blue for Winter

I think that it would be pretty to carry

this petite red Celine box bag

with these sky blue mittens

from Kate Spade.

The mittens also have instructions on the palm:

*Place snowball here*

but any good Canadian already knows that.

I've even been wanting to place snowballs in my winter boots this last week,

so sort-of-but-not-really cold has it been.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beautiful Books

Had I remained in the in-house publishing world, I think I might be writing books by night and designing them by day.
Right now it might be time for an updated Vanessa Bell/Hogarth Press collaboration--primitive, almost childlike hand-lettering accompanying a simple painted line.

But lush certainly has its pleasures, as in these New York Review Books--the classics--created by noted book designer Katy Homans.

Lush isn't quite altogether accurate, though, because on these books the lavish backgrounds are smartly interrupted by a modern block of color. 

When the World Spoke French is a favourite title, just because,

but I'd enjoy taking a peek at The Dud Avocado (do read the linked blurb).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Russian Dressing

The first time I paid close attention to Russian dressing was in the early 1980s, when I was reading Edie: An American Biography.  Edie Sedgwick hosted a dinner party at the Boston Ritz, ordered her favorite "roast beef with lots of Russian dressing," then tipped 100% on her father's charge account, before climbing on the table and singing "Loads of  (lovely) Love."

When I saw these stunning gowns from the Russian ballet (in the latest Selvedge magazine) Les servants roses et rouges, Russian dressing took on a new meaning.  This is just a sample from a gorgeous photographic story in the November/December Selvedge.  Although these beautiful dresses were constructed for the stage, I could see any of these worn for day or evening. 

Russian dressing has also been on my mind because, in a burst of energy the other weekend, I made my children's teachers some holiday gifts. Here they are, mini Russian nesting dolls made from felt and embroidery.  Each doll's hair colour and style resembles the appropriate teacher's coiffure.  Those are French knots around the scarves.

Now that I see them on our tree (which we just cut down and put up today), I'll have to scramble to make my own set. (This is a hazard of making gifts.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hats for Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving is a time for thanks and hats. Just go to your local elementary school this week and you’ll see children decked out in Pilgrim hats, playing with their fellow Indians in homemade headdresses.

I’ve always been a hat girl, growing up on Prince Edward Island, Canada, where the ocean breeze kept a chill in the air. There, my Scottish grandmother would bundle me in coarse tam o’shanters, made from scratchy undyed wool. During my university years in bilingual Ottawa, I graduated to French berets in jet noir; loden festooned with a raccoon’s tail (what was I thinking?); creamy cupcake pink.

On bitter days, and there were many, I’d pull the beret over my brow, slap on a pair of ear muffs, and ice-skate down the Rideau Canal toward my campus. I’d share the ice with various Members of Parliament (Parliament Hill was just beyond the university), their long winterized trench coats parachuting around them, their briefcases somehow not throwing them off balance. During her lunch break one senior MP would don a racing suit and make slow, steady strokes up and down the canal, stopping later at the stands selling deep-fried beaver tails, a Canadian winter delicacy.

Does this hat need ear muffs too?

I wore berets throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, from Ottawa to the United States. They were functional, fit my large-ish head, and, I liked to think, marked me as “other” in my new home: a beret was a subtle symbol of Canadian pride.

But this steady relationship was rattled when I went to New York City to visit my husband’s family one Christmas. After visiting the requisite art galleries, I always ducked into my favorite store, Bergdorf Goodman, to check out some living art—the impeccably dressed patrons who glided through the corridors—and, of course, the fantastic displays of merchandise. Getting somewhat lost among the mirrored walls on the accessories level, I took a turn and found myself gazing at a hat: a Philip Treacy design. To be exact, an asymmetrical trilby, with navy cotton exterior, pewter satin lining, silver unicorn logo on the brand, provenance England. I was smitten.

Treacy's hat shop, London

For a Philip Treacy hat n’est pas un chapeau. Rather, it is an idea. Picture Treacy’s former muse Isabella Blow wearing a large orange acrylic disk that overwhelms her face, a slender wedge of pie extracted for her mouth and nose, or a model wearing a sculpture—a representation of a gently askew tophat spelling out h-a-t in lissome, sky-scraping letters. But this Irish-born, London-bred milliner known as the mad Hatter for his confections also makes wearable fantasies; hence the—no, my—assymetrical trilby.

Oui--ce n'est pas Isabella

Reader, I bought it. What else could I do? And I carried it down Fifth Avenue in its glistening silvery BG hatbox, feeling, perhaps for the first time, like a lady rather than the feminist scholar that I am. I, who critique Sister Carrie’s seduction by the snug little jackets in a Chicago department store, fell prey to the same siren song. And like Hortense, in another Dreiser novel, I wanted the hat so badly that my lack of cash didn’t stop me; whereas Hortense lures her boyfriend into purchasing her a coat with vague promises of affection, I used my BG charge card, with half-hearted assurances to myself that I’d pay if off in no time.

Geography, though, was the wild card I hadn’t counted on. Although my eccentric new navy asymmetrical trilby didn’t stand out on the fashionable streets of New York, it practically screamed “Outsider” when I returned to the Midwest farmland where I then lived and taught college. In the Midwest, where people pride themselves on four-post homes, three square meals a day, and unwavering moral values, asymmetry isn’t exactly a virtue. Rather, it makes people suspicious of you.

Usually I tend to court my outside status. I quite like to be contrary, and have ever since I was a teenager, when, yearning for the black velvet pants and pastel pink satin blouse that all my friends had, my chic grandmother returned from Montreal with forest green velvet trousers and a burgundy satin shirt. I wasn’t immediately sure about this combination, but quickly saw how one could work within a fashion concept while executing your own take on it. Couldn’t my asymmetrical trilby coexist with the John Deere farming caps and the German Baptist bonnets? After all, I’d worn a beret for many a year and the Midwest wasn’t exactly a bastion of French style.

Puritan bonnet or Chaucer's chic Prioresse?

But whereas my beret was looked on with grudging acceptance, my trilby was more a source of humor. Noone actually said anything directly, but locals would talk to my hat instead of my face, colleagues would be overly smiley when I’d stalk around campus. I felt self-conscious and soon found myself wearing my trilby only at home, happy to catch surprise glimpses of my reflection in the windows as I’d go about my evening. And eventually I put it away, nestled inside its hatbox, which sat at the bottom of my armoire, as I gradually forgot about it.

Until, that is, last November, when, in a burst of enthusiasm for cleaning out my closets via eBay, I rediscovered the box and its contents. I listed the hat on eBay, enjoyed a mild bidding war, and prepared to ship the trilby and box to its new owner, known to me only by her excellent feedback rating. But when I received the eBay-generated message containing the winner’s email and home address, a different kind of feedback quickly flashed in my mind. For the new owner of my Philip Treacy trilby was a Famous New York Personality of TV and Movies, she of the high cheekbones, sassy persona, and megawatt smile.

A celebrity bought my London-via-Bergdorf’s hat. A beautiful, edgy New York celebrity. We must be soul sisters! We could bond over our love of Philip Treacy hats! She would totally “get” me; we could chat over email like fashion insiders; we could meet, even, when I returned to New York on my twice-yearly pilgrimages! We’d go hat shopping together and she could show me how she sports my—our—no, her hat in the city and makes it her own.

Or I could mail her the hat with a note saying that I hope she wears it in the best of health. Which I did.

Like Chaucer sending his “littel book” out into the world, I sent my hat back to New York, where it is meant to be, with its citified asymmetrical attitude. Perhaps it will go dancing, to a movie premiere, to a little bistro. Perhaps one night it will even get tipsy (umm—symmetrical). And I am thankful that it is with its rightful owner, someone who can literally take the hat out of her closet, who can enjoy it out in public. And I can enjoy it too, from the distance of my imagination.

It’s not chilly enough here yet for my beret. But it will be soon.

All images from Philip Treacy.  Hope all readers celebrating Thanksgiving this week have a lovely day!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sandy Pink and Gold

My daughters are far too old to wear anything that remotely matches their mother's clothing (OK: they were born too old to do this, in my opinion).

But when I saw these two sandy pink-and-gold confections at J Crew, above and below,

I thought that it would be lovely to don this Stacy Lomman dress for a mother-daughter holiday trio.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leg Up! A Kelly Wearstler Christmas Story?

Far be it from me to question Bergdorf Goodman's judgment of chic gifts,

but this table sculpture by Kelly Wearstler

(from Gifts to Captivate advertisement in NY Mag)

reminds me of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story.

Perhaps Ms. Wearstler has been watching holiday movies a little early this year?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And Even More Selv-Indulgence

I was delighted to receive these PDFs this morning from Selvedge.  They represent my first proper feature for the magazine, a story about French artist and interior designer Pascale Palun. 

If you haven't seen Selvedge in a good magazine shop, do look for it.  The thick paper, the beautiful layouts, even the ads are a visual and tactile pleasure. (You can click on the image to read the text.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Your Mother's Bag

"Not your mother's" (or "Na-cho mama's" chez mes trois enfants) is a common catchphrase in advertising.

Indeed, it's not unusual to see an editorial borrowing this phrase.

While filing through the mountaneous pile of seasonal catalogues that has been arriving steadily since Nov. 1, I leafed through a new Harper's Bazaar and was struck by an item that was very much my mother's: a gorgeous, structured, boxy handbag.

Made by Roger Vivier, this bag is, to my mind, perfectly grown up, and reminds me of something my mum would have carried while wearing a matching coat and dress, her hair in a chignon.

So here's an instance where my children say "Yo mama!" and I'll happily agree.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shear Delights

Tonight, surprised by a snow flurry, I realized it was time to replace my screen windows with storms. 

As I live in an ancient Victorian home, I have a selection of pretty but quirky windows, some low enough to reach, some high enough that I must commission some help. 

Maybe this wasn't my ideal Friday night task, but I admit, I loved the opportunity to put on some wintery outerwear.

To wit: Le Chameau rubber boots and a vintage New Zealand shearling jacket. 

I don't know about you, gentle readers, but I simply adore winter outerwear: boots, down jackets, scarves, mittens, berets.  It's either a simple summer dress or piles of outergarments that make me feel most comfortable. 

But I draw the line at climbing a ladder to my overly high second floor to put in a storm window, shearling or not.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Princess Diaries

Updated with a personal photo of Princess Diana

Long before Lady Diana Spencer arrived on the scene, I was in search of a princess to emulate.

When I was about six years old, I beame aware of Princess Anne, who is a dewy yet composed 21 in this photo.

Seeing this image again, I marvel at how modern, yet Lady of Shallot-inspired it is.

And here is a detail of a Polaroid I took of Princess Diana during her first visit to PEI, in June 1983.  I had just turned 18 and was in full princess-adoration mode.

In fact, in September that same year, when I went away to university, one of my first purchases was a Laura Ashley dress that closely approximated this blue one.
 I've posted this image here before but as it fits my princess theme, I hope you'll forgive a second viewing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Violet and Olive

I know: the title to this post reads like a twee children's label.

That connection's not inappropriate, though, for I have gleaned colour inspiration from the considerably upscale children's catalogue Papo d'Anjo.

Children's clothing usually doesn't translate into colours or styles that I would like for myself, but I find the combination of violet and olive irresistible. 

Now: to find a grown-up sized version of this colour palette (that doesn't involve cable-knit cashmere)!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Do you know the proofreader's worry of "eyeskip"?  It happens when you read a sentence that's missing word, but your eye fills it in automatically.

I experienced a similar phenomenon yesterday while spying the new L. L. Bean Signature catalogue out of the corner of my eye.  From my vantage point, the model on the cover resembled Carolyn Murphy, of early Prada, mid Lauder, and late Tiffany fame.

So when I actually paged through the catalogue, I was still under the illusion that the blonde model was Murphy, until I snapped out of it!

This instance of "modelskip" reminded me of the years when I was convinced that Carmen Kass was the daughter of Carmen dell Orefice.  File these model genealogies under the late, great Spy magazine's Separated at Birth feature.