Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feeling Sheepish?

Different media have been posting images of the invitation to Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming wedding and speculating on who's been invited and who's been "snubbed." 

As I did when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, I'll wake up bright and early to watch the ceremony on television. (Note to self: reinstate cable TV by late April.)

I don't see myself being moved to wear a Kate-inspired article of clothing (or nail polish), though.  For me, Diana will be the royal fashion touchstone, even though I couldn't imagine ever wearing "her" black sheep sweater that's been in my closet since 1983.

But look above: See by Chloe has given us Sloane Ranger (circa 1980) wannabees a terrific option, via the sheep scarf.

True, there's no black sheep on it. but one could easily embroider over one of these white sheep and add green eyes.

And if any further proof is needed regarding the chic of sheep, just look at this darling black lamb in her own red sweater:

(image by and courtesy of Kristin Nicholas)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

These bright, cheerful shoes

(a hybrid of Firebird- and Josephine Baker-style?)

complement the strong statement

made by today's sun,

which has been bringing much-welcome light and warmth.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


It's always an overabundance of beauty when the Westminster Kennel Club Show follows on the heels of New York Fashion Week.

I've selected some of my favourite canines and paired them with some complementary spring shoes.

Brix, the glorious bulldog,

goes with these Reed Krakoff boots (from Saks):

Delightfully rumpled Baxter, the otterhound,

wouldn't look out of place beside these shoes by Chloe (Saks):

Red, the dignified basset hound,

would elevate these Sigerson Morrison (Bergdorf Goodman) flats:

Lance, the noble and fluffy Newfoundland, in his two-tone Landseer coat,

should have an owner who pulls a Helena Bonham Carter, wearing one Giuseppe Zanotti (Bergdorf Goodman) sandal of each colour:

Snoop Dog, the Bedlington terrier, deserves  a more regal name . . .

How about McQueen?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Forget What? Gwyneth's Grammy Performance Recalls Janice

Updated below with video

The other night I was watching the Grammys and amusing (only) myself by "live-tweeting" the event.

And "tweeting" is the appropriate verb, because as soon as I saw Cee Lo in his Elton John meets Elmo-inspired costume, my virtual feathers began to fly across the keyboard. 

I knew that Gwyneth Paltrow was scheduled to perform with him, so I posed a question on Twitter:  "Does that mean Gwynnie will be Janice"? 

You all remember Janice, right? 

The lead guitarist from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem? 

Gwyneth certainly has the hair:

And she has learned how to play the guitar:

Janice poseable action-figure

But alas; disappointment reigned.  For Gwyneth dressed in a black catsuit (what New York Magazine called an homage to bad-girl Sandy from Grease) accented with hot-pink feather earrings.

I get the Sandy reference, but I thought of another icon immediately; well, two icons really.

In her black suit, Gwyneth conjured a ventriloquist, or a puppeteer, which would be completely appropriate, given her fellow musicians.

And the feathers in her ear lobes?  I saw a reference to Wayland Flowers and Madame:

Indeed it was a brilliant piece of performance art to evoke two such different individuals in one simple outfit.

Here is the original--Elton with the Electric Mayhem and Janice grooving on guitar:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Take a Hike

What is it about the slim (no padding, please!) black leather hiking boot with red laces that I find irresistible for winter walking? 

Paired with skinny cropped black trousers and a dark jacket, these boots are the perfect example of urban Alpine.

Although I wear J. Crew hikers from about 19 years ago, Roots Canada makes a handsome version, above (though I'd want to vet the red piping and patch in person).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Of Valentines and Other Letters

One of the more bemusing moments in my education came in Grade 10, when my class was reading Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd

I'd completed my assigned pages for the day and probably then some, but found myself baffled by the conversation among my excited classmates about "the valentine." 

When I asked my teacher what was going on, he pointed me toward a certain page with a look of "what, you didn't do the reading?" Then I saw that the all-important page, which contained the story of Bathsheba Everdene sending Farmer Boldwood a prank valentine, which he read seriously, was torn from my book. 

Images from the Julie Christie film

I was reminded of this incident twice recently.  The other morning, when I saw some of Bright Star (oh dear, I could not get through it), I watched the cruel poet Charles Brown send Fanny Brawne a (beautifully) hand-drawn valentine through which he mocks her referral to his "suitcase-brown" eyes and the institution of love itself. 

(I missed the second letter):

And then again, when I was driving and listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation, the writer Meghan Daum (whose terrific essay "My Misspent Youth" gave me a great sense of kinship during graduate school) was talking about the lost culture of mail, how proper paper mail has been replaced by catalogues, brochures, bills, and email.

So I thought back to the school where I read Far from the Madding Crowd, which was, in fact, a boarding school, and I remembered how, each day as we lined up to enter the dining room for lunch, the male and female prefects would descend the stairs, each holding a thick packet of letters, which they would distribute among the waiting recipients.

I remember how almost every pair of eyes would seek out the prefects, for surely making eye contact would mean that there was a letter waiting there in the stack.  We hoped to will the presence of a letter into being, and the only thing better was to see your name on a list enclosed in a glass case beside the dining room, for that meant there was a package waiting (wrapped in kraft paper, tied up with string; cliche, but delightfully true).

I do love a book or a film with a letter.  Just think of how Edith Wharton's Undine Spragg communicates her midwestern fish-out-of-water-ness when she moves to New York and writes on pigeon-blood stationery with silver ink (she does think better of it before sending the letter).  Or Mr. Darcy's letter to Lizzy. 

But I love a life with a letter even more.

John Keats to Fanny Brawne, 1819

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fancy Fanny Brawne and her Needle

One of the more intriguing sewing moments I've seen on film is the opening of Jane Campion's Bright Star

Against a dark background an enlarged needle is threaded (with the absence of a human touch).  The rather thick needle pushes to penetrate the waiting cloth, which has its fibers in a visible fluff.

It's a far cry from, say, the opening credits of the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice, in which completed works of colorful embroidery are caressed by the camera'a eye, lulling the viewer into a state of textile bliss.

No: Campion's seamstress, Fanny Brawne, takes a less delicate approach, which is punctuated by her carefully made but rather clownish garments, early in the film. 

Thee's a primitive feel to Fanny's sewing, which I welcome. Her garments are not precious; though she may boast of making the only "triple-pleated mushroom collar" in Woolwich or Hampstead county, the result is charmingly awkward, a mushroom that belongs better in the woods.

Working on the triple-pleated mushroom collar

Wearing the collar--the only one in two counties

But she has a deep passion for sewing and it's after she meets the wordsmith John Keats, critiques his Endymion, and attempts to study poetry that her own touch becomes lighter, culminating in a delicate embroidered pillowslip to honor Keats' deceased brother Tom.

But it's the early Fanny, who made a white ruff to complement a military-inspired cropped redcoat, who sticks with me.  Her combination of sincerity and naivete, coupled with the intimacy of rustic texture is a lively step away from the romantic Austen stitch (which was growing a little tired, truth be told).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Scarf with a Scar

In my virtual absence, I have composed several posts in my mind.  I am waiting for the invention of the microchip that will transfer them seamlessly to my blog.  Until then, here is the first, and most pressing one:

Today was another chilly walk to work (about 1.5 miles), but one that I thoroughly enjoy.  I wear J. Crew black hiking boots (from about 20 years ago), a glossy navy down jacket with a zip-up turtleneck collar, a navy beret (comme toujours) and a lime/light-green paisley pashmina for a scarf. 

The pashmina is a favourite of mine, as it is an odd enough color combination to be both arresting and unsettling at once.  I wear it both outdoors and indoors.

As today was particularly chilly and snowy, I zipped up my jacket completely about five minutes into my journey.  When I got to work, however, the zipper would not move. 

A quick inspection in my mirror revealed that I had zipped the pashmina into the zipper (really underneath the widest part of the zipper) and I could not dislodge it.

As I had about 15 minutes before I had to greet my public, so to speak, I tried to remove the scarf from the zipper; when that failed I tried to remove it from my neck.  Failure again.

I did not wish to strangle myself in my office by attempting to climb out of the turtleneck puffer while still wrapped in a scarf.

So I (gasp) took my scissors and cut my favourite pashmina out of the zipper.

After my public appearance, I inspected the damage and entered repair mode.  At home I knew I had some beautiful ribbon from the textile designer Laura Foster Nicholson, so I shall sew a sliver to my wounded pashmina, scarring the once flawless scarf.

But I shall keep in mind something that my grandmother taught me while painting: don't fret about mistakes; incorporate them into your work and it will be all the more beautiful and unique.  That's my plan.

Have gentle readers ever improved something via a mistake/accident?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For Your Inner Wealtheow

These clever and intricate hand-knit socks that incorporate the opening lines of Beowulf have been making the literary-fashion rounds. 

And I would wear them round the skating rink, too, trusting that neither Grendel nor Grendel's Mother would rise from the icy depths.

If there are any knitting pros who would like to illuminate their own manuscript socks, the pattern, by the Sanguine Gryphon, is available for purchase here.