Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Today my eldest daughter and I worked on her science fair project. 

She made parachutes out of four different types of plastic and tested them to see which one lowered a tiny doll most slowly from a three-storey indoor height.  (I ran the stopwatch and photographed my daughter's drops.)

Naturally my thoughts turned to Norma Kamali and her fantastic parachute-fabric confections.

The orange above is stunning, and this jumpsuit/dress pairing takes me to a dance club on Mars.

Here is a skirt and top available now on Kamali's website--love the billowing puffs.  I'd happily wear this skirt to work with a structured shirt. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Susannah Hunter in Full Bloomsbury

You may know that Susannah Hunter, based in London, designs bags that are embellished with applique flowers.  (My dear blogging pal K.Line did a post on them a while ago.)

She also makes what look to be stunning pieces of furniture for the home.  The room divider above, for instance, explodes with flowers,

and this chair with footrest

as well as this ottoman

both look very enticing.

Full disclosure: I ordered a bag a couple of years back and was not thrilled with the quality of the leather--it was rather crackily and didn't measure up to the asking price.  But these pieces, which are available only through Hunter's bricks-and-mortar shop look to be more substantial. 

Indeed, they conjure up a Bloomsbury world both physically and symbolically.  Have any British readers seen these larger pieces in the flesh, so to speak?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Monograms Are Not Monotonous

In this ongoing recession, some women are making a choice to reject outward labels.  I, for one, have given my standard winter bag, a LV cross-body messenger, a rest because I feel uncomfortably conspicuous carrying it this year.

But I recognize a certain charm in sporting initials, just not Louis Vuitton's. 

Instead, I've been thinking this year about the pleasure of monograms.  In our contemporary society, monograms are often associated with preppy dressers (not my style) or beach bags (I have a large pink one with a lime green monogram.  Who says preppy isn't her style?).

But monograms can also be mini works of art, placed on linens, tucked into the folds of a wedding dress, hidden on a shirt placket, displayed on a pocket.

Caroline Brackenridge designs and embroiders some of the loveliest monograms I've seen.  She works in tone on tone (not shown here) as well as color. 

And she appears to be fearless in both her designs and sense of color.

Do any gentle readers have monograms?  Would you like one?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Whimsical Leather: Not Your Usual Post

I had decided not to post this piece, but in the last half hour, there have been signs telling me to do so. 

For instance, I opened up my latest GOOP to find no less than three mentions of pork.  And then I opened up my linen drawer, in search of a vintage Moroccan tobacco box, and discovered my first fabric baby toy: a small velvet pig still in fine condition (but with a new tail).  So I'll let this one fly: it's something a little different.

*  *  * 

Before I loved bulldogs, I had a crush on pigs. 

Lovely, pink, clean, sweet-tempered pigs, the kind that would live in enchanted meadows and didn't know the meaning of slop.  Bulldogs, with their dear scrunched noses and jolly snorts, reminded me of these idealized pigs, and I raised two of them, each for ten glorious years.

After bulldogs came human children and I forgot all about pigs, though I gave my eldest daughter an enormous, angelically fluffy, soft pig toy with dainty, pink leather hooves that had been mine during, well, university.  Undergraduate.  I packed it away for grad school.

Today, browsing the NYT House and Home section online, I came across these charming bookends in the "desirable" design-item section.  Handcrafted by New York State resident Sandy Vohr (the NYT misspells her name), these porcine bookends are at once substantial and whimsical. 

The LA shop quoted by the NYT has sold out of them, but you can find other boutiques selling these online and can also visit Sandy's collection on her website.  She even has a flying pig, among other charming creatures.

I'd get a pair in a second, perhaps for my shelf of cookbooks, but I need the space.  There's no room for pigs in . . . oh never mind.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Now Ear This!

Are ears irresistible?

Hot on the--ahem--heels of my ear-hat post comes this peek at the coiffures at Chanel.

Eerie, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Mascarae

Confession: I haven’t worn mascara on a regular basis since, say, 1989. Could that really be 20 years?

When I followed Janet Sartin’s skin care program, which I did, in its entirety, from 1984-89 (when I lived in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto) and 1995-96 (when I worked in NYC), I wore not only mascara but eye pencil because they complemented the “dual performance” veil-like foundation-y potion that was part of the regimen.*

But as I grew up (ahem), I turned away from mascara because I found it too aging or messy or smudgy. I have very long lashes that are tipped blonde, and they tend to function as a paintbrush. **

Because my lashes are tipped blonde, though, I’ve sometimes felt that a little bit of dark color might not be a bad thing. However, experiments with expensive department store mascaras, including Bobbi Brown, my usual go-to maquillage guru, ultimately produced a slept-in dark eye circle effect. Not so professional or pretty.

In December I performed in a musical, which meant, much to my horror, that I had to don a full face of makeup. If I were shopping for every day, I’d go to some makeup counter with a properly seductive name to outfit myself, but this makeup was for four perfs—not worth a three digit investment.

So off I went to my local apothecary (let’s have a little romance, ok?) and bought two mascarae (isn’t that the Latin plural? And what's that song again?  "You say mascaras, I say mascarae").

One mascara was Maybelline Volume Express, which was waterproof. The other was Cover Girl Professional All-in One, which was smudgeproof, and shares a name with my computer printer. (My computer ink does not smudge, so that was a good omen.)

On dress rehearsal night I asked a seasoned actress which was better: waterproof or smudgeproof. She recommended the latter, so I tried it. At intermission I was furiously washing away the under-eye smudges.

For Act 2 and for each subsequent perf. I wore the waterproof. It stayed exactly where it should: on my lashes.

And I’ve even been wearing a dash on my upper lashes these days—not enough to look “made up” but enough to give definition.

Epilogue: Although I had moaned about buying TWO mascarae, they still added up to about a quarter to half of what a department store would have charged. So there’s no need to lash myself.

* I wore this product to protect my skin from city pollution.

** I did not use Irving Penn’s “Mascara Wars” image in this post. It’s appropriate in theme, and beautifully executed, but I thought it looked too painful.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Puffs and Proms: Miu Miu Sleeves for Spring 2010

Blame it on Anne of Green Gables (which I’m rereading at the moment), but I’m craving a puff sleeve.
Just look at the fantastic leg-o-mutton sleeve on this Miu Miu blouse, paired with an austere pointy collar in a lively red print.
And these sleeves below remind me (just a little) of the dress that I had commissioned for my—umm—prom some years ago:  (Mine were more elaborate by far!! eek!!)

Even thought prom season is in the past for this grad, one could always take a promenade around the lake or about the town.

If puffs are not your pleasure, then this dress is a gem—worn with a schoolmarm-y cardigan for day.

The long rat-tail braid, though, is best left to fairy tales.  I prefer shorter and fuller.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

All Ears

As you may have guessed from my avatar, I am mad for headgear with animal ears.

Today I was delighted that the New York Times printed a photo of some skating hats with ears from the 1950s.
This week I am making a promise to myself to find a library that has a collection of Vogue and Elle magazines from the early 1990s, because I have been yearning to find a photo of one of Anna Sui’s cunning animal ear hats (with pompom strings) from that time.
For now, a picture of Blythe in full eargear will do:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jessica Lanza / Suzanne Biel: Seeing Double?

This month's Vogue cover with Jessica Biel reminded me of Suzanne Lanza, a model from the early 90s, who's now an actress.
Remember her?

I *do* remember full denim ensenbles from . . . the 1970s, and unless they're worn by someone like Jerry Hall, I think I'd rather forget them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Canada Goose Flies into Soho Shop

It’s always a surprise to see something so practical from my native land being treated as an expensive hipster purchase, but when I was in Soho’s Blue in Green over the December break, I was cheered and a little amused to find, among the uber-cool jeans from Japan, a significant display of Canada Goose parkas.
I don’t know if one of these expedition quality parkas is really what a New Yorker needs to get around the city on a daily basis—it’s more for residents of Nunavut or the Yukon Territory to my mind—but if you want a warm coat with a touch of Canadian mountie chic (the red!), this is your parka. And you might just feel an irresistible urge to say “eh” while wearing it.

If you aren’t for wearing your Canadian geese, though, then you might want to check out this film:

It’s Fly Away Home, starring a young Anna Paquin, an endearing befuddled Canadian scientist aka Jeff Daniels, a hint of Dana Delany, as well as a talented flock of . . . you know.

And no—not a flock of seagulls. They didn't fly away home; they ran so far away.  But today they’re here:

Anyway, it’s a gaggle of geese. But no 80s band has that name. Eh?

UPDATED:  On the other hand, these coats may not only be for the great outdoors.  According to this NYT article, sometimes the outdoors comes indoors.  And stays.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cygnet Rings?

My old boarding school just sent me a brochure about signet rings with our school crest on them.

They’re styled in a charmingly retro fashion (my school is the oldest in Canada, so the designers entered the vault), and I’m tempted, but, as gentle readers may recall, I typically wear only two rings—my wedding ring and my engagement ring, and never on the same hand.

So if you were to wear a signet ring, which hand and finger would you choose?

And, indeed: would one be a cygnet in such a ring?  We won't mention the alternative.

(You’ll recognize Miranda above, from Picnic at Hanging Rock, who is compared to a swan throughout that film.)

Snowbird: Julie Christie Forever

I've been watching Sarah Polley's brilliant film Away from Her for the umpteenth time. 

I love the portrait of Ontario in the winter (the cross-country skiing!  the lake cottage! the snow!) but it is, of course, Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent who keep me returning to the screen. 

In an era that endlessly celebrates youth, it's invigorating to see Julie Christie outshine everyone else.  She may be my quintessential "It girl," as her "it-ness" both transcends and celebrates age.

UPDATED to add:  Here's where I wrote about Julie Christie (and this film) a couple of winters ago.  It seems that I write seasonally too . . .

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Daniel Hechter, Cintra Wilson, and Me

As I read Cintra Wilson’s Critical Shopper column earlier this week, I was unexpectedly transported to 1985.

For although she was unfamiliar with Daniel Hechter, the designer of the wool jacket that the owner of Lily et Cie grudgingly let her try on, and even more haughtily contextualized for her, I knew exactly who he was.

Now, this is hardly bragging, because the Daniel Hechter I knew in 1985 was not the “French designer from the early 70s” from Wilson’s uncomfortable visit to Lily et Cie, but the man whose name graced his bridge-line shops throughout Canada, shops that sold colorful clothing to a university-student and first-job clientele.

He was better known in Canada for his men’s line, which was more formal, but for women, he made clothing that was the more sophisticated French cousin to, say, Esprit.

I remember going to Holt Renfrew’s shopping centre in Ottawa and gazing upon the ceiling-to-floor display of perfectly folded, bright, cheerful stacks of DH sweaters.

In fact, I purchased the quintessential mid-80s ensemble there. It was a heavy jersey knit, marled-charcoal-gray long skirt and v-neck cardigan (with shoulder pads, bien sur). And it was perfect for the time.

From his current collection

I haven’t thought of Daniel Hechter in years, so thanks, Ms. Wilson, for that unexpected rush of nostalgia.

And I encourage LA readers to go to Lily et Cie to try on something. From Ms. Wilson’s article, it sounds like Lily needs a little more Cie.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dumpster Decorating: It's a Wrap!

Wrapping ordinary—even industrial—objects in pretty materials and patterns may well be the trend of the turn-of-the decade.
Indeed, Jeanne-Claude and the late Christo have wrapped everything from palaces to bridges, with the results looking, to my eye, like a stunning Madame Gres dress.

We've also seen William Morris prints jazz up humble gardening tools.

And a savvy bunch of knitters—calling themselves yarnbombers in Canada and guerrilla knitters in Britain—are covering outdoor objects from bicycles to trees to telephone booths.

Now Finley, an American artist living in Rome has turned her eye to the New York City Dumpster and the results are delightful. (Her work was, however, tagged by graffiti writers not too long after it was completed, which could actually be an act of hospitality—a friendly “welcome to the neighborhood, fellow New Yorker” sort of gesture.)

Wouldn’t taking out the garbage be a slightly more enjoyable task if there were a pretty receptacle in which to toss it?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

J. Crew or Pay. Crew? Considering the Brogue-y Brodie Boots

I’ve been contemplating these Brodie ankle boots (below) from J. Crew since I first saw them the other week. I like the brogue styling with monk straps, perforations, and hidden platforms.

I even took the step of placing them in my virtual shopping bag (both colors, for educational purposes).

Pressing the “checkout” button, however (for one pair), is a different story. I’ve had good luck with J. Crew boots in the past (I actually have four pairs, when I take count: hiking, riding, short, and full-length).

In fact, I’d argue that J. Crew’s boots are their best-made product—shoes are usually ill-fitting; shorts and tees are fine for a summer but not made to endure; dresses have bodices that are too low cut for anyone who’s nursed three children (I can't bear [ahem] cleavage on moi); cashmere is . . . OK: the cashmere is terrific.

But back to the boots: they’re clearly being promoted as an “investment” purchase, with a wildly un J. Crew price of $300+. The only time that J. Crew ventures into that range is when it sells products from other houses, like Quoddy (handmade in Maine) or Barbour, which has an English pedigree (and I hope it’s made in the UK too).

So are these boots truly special, or is J. Crew remaking itself as Pay. Crew, reimagining itself as the purveyor of luxury goods, and trying to convince its gentle clients that $300 is but a dip of the oar in the water if one is to sport the Crew?

I can’t decide whether to keep my oar wet or dry (see opening image).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Ordinary Blue-Haired Lady: Beatrix Ost

Sometimes women of a certain age, whose hair has turned gray, engage in “blueing,” a process designed to take any yellow tones out of the gray, to brighten the color.

This activity has led to the affectionate term “blue-haired ladies” because sometimes the color blue kicks out the yellow but then takes up residence itself in the gray.

The stunning artist and writer Beatrix Ost explodes this concept at her seventieth birthday party, with her perfectly blue-hued hair.

It’s not too strong to say that I am harbouring a considerable style crush at the moment, so exquisitely turned out and poised is Ms. Ost (together with her husband Ludwig Kuttner) at a number of art-and-theatre-world events.

Indeed, I would like to sing this kind of “blues.”