Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Because Paul Harnden Shoemakers

One of my favourite destinations in Soho is IF, which sells European and Asian designs.  I'd always gravitated toward Ivan Grundahl's clothes, but today someone else stole my stylist's/stylish heart.

The English company Paul Harnden Shoemakers makes shoes, obviously (or not necessarily, really), but it also makes beautiful scarves and coats.*  The scarves I saw at IF both incorporated vintage illustrations.  Above is my photo of an oblong scarf, and you can see the same print on a man's shirt, below:

Harnden also showed a bone-colored scarf with navy illustrations of individuals from a children's book, with each page number intact. And he makes a scarf which reminds me of my R. L. Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (which I still have) and its beautifully faded illustrations, with colors like someone hand-tinted a photograph.

This coat, which research shows me is available in LA at Decades, reminds of me a Vivienne Westwood. 

But better because discovered.  (Read this article from The Atlantic on the "new" use of "because"):


Because The Atlantic.

Not into this new use of "because"? Ahh, well.  No Harn-den.

*Actually it would be quite brilliant for Paul Harnden Shoemakers not to make shoes, though the gentleman does make some beautifully shabby ones, perfect for dancing across rooftops or to wear while sweeping the hearth.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Somewhere in Soho

Somewhere in Soho I was cold.  That's why my hair, which is a good foot longer than what you see here, is wrapped around my neck and tucked in my jacket as a makeshift scarf.

I was also feeling something cold-y or even phlu-y* taking me in its grip.  And that's why I don't remember the name of this pop-up shop or even the street it's on.  (It's perpendicular to Broome, parallel to Greene, closer to Houston; that much I do know).

But my foggy mindedness is trumped by that of the manager/owner who was happy to tell me the provenance of the ridiculously delightful feathered shrug stage right (or is it left? Delirious.).

This riot of orange feathers and fabric, he said, is a one-off made by a Project Runway contestant from Season 11.    As I just had an article printed in which I interviewed a PR designer from this season (will blog about that later), and as I have a faculty rock band perf to get ready for this spring, I thought that the shrug might be a serendipitous find.

But as it was rather snug, I passed. When I got home, I tried to find out more about the garment.  The manager had shown me a runway photo with "Merlin" printed beside the image, so I searched for Merlin, Season 11, Project Runway.  What I found was that Merlin was a contestant on Season 1 of The Fashion Show, hosted by Issac Mizrahi and Kelly Rowland, and aired on Bravo.  And it was not renewed after Season 2. 

I remembered how the manager told me not to listen to any of the guys working in the shop because they didn't know anything about fashion. Ummm . . .

So I immediately felt better about passing on the shrug, though I can't shrug off the miserable cold-y/phlu-y feelings just yet.

*I know it may be just a wee bit phantastic, but I do like to substitute a "ph" for an "f" wherever possible.  Maybe it's that Diana Vreeland documentary rubbing off on me, like her phormidable rouge.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Eye Travels with Betty and Karlie

Tonight I watched the documentary The Eye has to Travel, which is about Diana Vreeland's career. 

In it, we were shown photographs of a young Betty Bacall, newly discovered by Vreeland.  I thought how much Betty resembled a model of the moment--Karlie Kloss.

A quick internet search showed me that Dior did as well, back in 2010 when Karlie became Betty for a series of ads.  The eye travels, indeed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jane Franklin's Potentially Beautiful Book Jacket

I was browsing in a book store last night and the novel Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin caught my eye.

Well, it caught a sideways glimpse from me, because the book jacket is, unfortunately, so poorly executed.

The cover art is gorgeous--it's from an oil portrait of Jane Flagg Greene (Jane Franklin's granddaughter) and painted by Joseph Badger in 1765.  The original is located in the Thayer Memorial Library, Lancaster, MA.  (I'm infatuated with 18th-19th-century early portraits of children, so much so that I embroidered two miniatures for my daughters as well as a "portrait".)

However, by placing an oversized piece of parchment (with too much white [umm, tea-faded] space) front and center, the portrait is sadly obscured (it stretches over the spine and back).  And there's just an unpleasant visual juxtaposition with the blob of parchment against the subtle background colors.

Would that the parchment could be deleted and the title printed on the painting.  Please do for the second edition, Knopf designers!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Strapless with Shirt: Does the Look Hold Up?

I've been obsessing for the past few days about strapless dresses worn over shirts, especially since I misplaced the magazine where I recently saw an image that inspired me. (It was buried under a pile of novels. Imagine.)

While I was searching for the magazine, I tried out a couple of looks to see if I could extend the life of my strapless dresses into the fall and into the classroom.

One combination was a crisp blue gingham shirt with a cream dress heavily embroidered with blue filigree. I felt like I should be holding some chilled mugs of St. Pauli Girl.  So no it was to Oktoberfest.

Another combination was a bright watercolour-y floral silk dress over a Liberty of London pink rosebud-print shirt.  It was bold and wild, but not in a gorgeous Issie/Daphne manner.

But the above look (east corner) seems "just right" to me.  Lovely menswear checks with a feminine silhouette.  Would gentle readers give this--or somesuch version--a try on?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Dressing for The Day apres Thanksgiving

As a Canadian living in a foreign land (the large country directly south) for twenty years now, I still cling to some things I grew up with: I say "washroom," for instance; the letter "u" has popped back into my spelling; the expression "eh" may even find its way into a comment (though I NEVER uttered that verbal tic when living in the Great North; it's now entirely deliberate).

When I first moved here, I also made some sort of nod to our Canadian Thanksgiving, which takes place during the American Columbus Day holiday.  Maybe I wouldn't exactly cook a turkey, but I'd remember our Thanksgiving and raise a festive Moosehead. 

This year I don't even have time for beer, with increased demands at work and chauffeuring duties for children.  But I did have time to imagine a pretty side dish, inspired by the colours in these gorgeous photos from October's Vogue.  They're the ingredients for my butternut squash and cranberry dressing, with a dash of blueberry.

As gentle readers may note, I also grew up saying "dressing" instead of "stuffing"--and I like this distinction.  I'd rather dress a turkey, and dress one's own self, rather than stuff them both.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Having a Ball with Old Masters and Valentino Shoes

 I bought a pair of Valentino shoes long before I should have. 

I was working in Canada at an embassy (I wrote dinner speeches for the ambassador) during the eight months between earning my BA and beginning graduate school (I graduated in December) and was invited to a ball. 

Yes, a ball.

I had a dress already, but for ball-appropriate shoes I turned to the pages of Vogue and saw, in an advert, a pair of black lace heels by Valentino.  I called up the boutique in New York and asked them to send me a pair (this was eons before the Internet).  To give you a better sense of how prehistoric the times were, I may even have sent a money order in US dollars, as I do not think I had a credit card at the time.

Still more curious: either I did not seem to know what size of shoes I wore, because the pair that arrived  turned out to be a half-size smaller than what I should wear, or European sizes run small and narrow.  I think the latter.

I paid for Federal Express shipping, but the shoes just did not arrive. And did not arrive. The day before the ball, I called up Fed Ex and learned that the shoes were delayed in customs.  Is that--umm--customary?

At about 4:55 on the night of the ball, I was at my desk at the embassy when the ambassador's chauffeur came running up, all a-flush, with a box in his hands.  If I remember, a small crowd gathered as I opened the packaging, then the Valentino shoebox, and lifted the lace shoes from their tissue paper.

These "old masters" adverts from Valentino, with the richly designed still-lifes, remind me of the tactile pleasure of those shoes.  You could certainly have a ball in these clothes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Momo Wang, "Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity" and Miss C in Selvedge

Yesterday I picked up the September issue of Selvedge (it takes a good while to cross the pond and assume residency in my bookstore's magazine racks).

In this issue I have two stories--the cover story on Momo Wang, who graduated from St. Martins and makes wonderfully creative "upcycled" fashion and a review essay of the "Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity" exhibit, which I saw in Chicago.

I was delighted to see on Selvedge's Facebook page that Momo Wang stopped by their shop earlier this week.  Here's Selvedge's snapshot of the designer holding a copy of the magazine with her look on the front.

It was a real pleasure to learn about Momo Wang's vision and to see images of her imaginative, lovingly handcrafted clothes.

Below: a peek at the layout and gorgeous photography:

And the review essay:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rockstud Love

My daughter and I went to see the 1D-3D documentary last night, but no--my header's not referring to Harry, even with all his Mick Jaggerish charm and pointy-toe boots.

It's the Valentino Rockstud that I know has already made the rounds, and is available in far too many models to be special, but special indeed is the version on the right.

I've seen the shoe alone in many a photo, as well as on a model, always with the straps perfectly positioned and straight.  It's this image that speaks to me, with the slightly slouchy strap on the left-to-us shoe.  My preferred beauty always involves a bit of "off"--messy hair with a tidy dress; rumpled jeans with smooth hair--something has to have a thrown-together quality to save a look from being an outfit.

And these shoes, with their publicity machine and their pedigree, could be too too except for their vulnerable slouch, which humanizes and tips them over into the "desirable" category. (And, oh, how that "desirable" category maddens me, as it's difficult to think of anything else except how to make them mine. But as I've learned, often "yearning" is more desirable than "having.")

Think I'll try them on the next time I'm near the shoe shop--if the strap is in proper parallel form, I'll be able to walk away, but if it slouches, well . . . what about that 1D-3D movie? The lads were charming, n'est pas?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to School with Alfred H

I popped in to J Crew's end-of-summer sale last week, really too late to have much of a selection, but timely enough to scoop up a pencil skirt in "natural"--kind of an antique/winter white and a very lightweight merino pullover (silhouette below) in a prettier colour (vivid aqua, pictured further below). 

I plan to wear these with my berry pumps in the classroom, for a sorbet Hitchcock look.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Quilting by the Pool

Last night I completed a quilt top, and took a photo of it today, sunning itself by the pool. (My iPhone's smarts do not capture how vibrant the colours are; click on the image for a better idea.)

It's a log cabin variation, with two traditional cabins (in untraditional colours) in two corners and kind of a bento box, or maybe a loft log cabin elsewhere (all that space reminds me of a loft).

I made my quilt top mostly from my scrap bag--there's fabric from Amish country; lots from my beloved Liberty of London; some from 7th Avenue's Fashion District, circa 1997, when I wanted to start a neckwear line; and one piece from a generous student.

To continue my "lofty" thoughts, I'll get a proper backing fabric from Purl Soho (whose neighbors include lofts aplenty) and then quilt.

Or I may simply tie knots in the colourful fabric with embroidery floss (burying the ends, bien sur)and may embroider/quilt something on the linen-y sections.

Or who knows? I know better than to plan ahead when making something; I prefer to let the piece unfold as it likes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Manolo, Madewell, and the Day's Eye

En route to Matilda The Musical, my daughter and I stopped in to visit the Manolo Blahnik boutique opposite MOMA's Rain Room. (The lines!)

There were no lines for Manolo's shop, though, which is a long, slender space, much like the feet he fits in his gorgeously detailed, but frustratingly narrow designs. As I looked at each desirable shoe, I felt it was made for a flower fairy, with feet like a dainty willow leaf, not a Canadian maple.

And there was much "alas-ing" and wringing of hands, because the daisy boots above would have looked smashing with my yellow eyelet Madewell shift. 

"Daisy" derives from "the day's eye," or the sun, and my Madewell is the sunniest of colors, but with a welcome hint of acid to make it less sweet. 

It is not, however, Styledwell in this stock photo, as is an ongoing problem with this brand. I don't add a belt to my dress, which gives a cleaner line (it has a defined waist), and wouldn't select this rugged leather if accessorizing.

It also struck me chez Manolo that many of his shoes seemed to have a le cirque theme--scallops, vibrant color combinations--that were perfect for a Matilda attendee, with its acrobat and escapologist characters.

While it might take some acrobatics to fit comfortably into a Manolo shoe, I can still enjoy them from the orchestra level.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Roset for Baby Cambridge?

The timing was uncanny: Princess Kate gave birth yesterday afternoon and last evening I found her the perfect pair of going-home shoes, quite by accident.

My daughters and I had to run to the shops to return some failed uniform trousers and on the way out we popped into Nordstrom's to check out the shoe selection. 

As I waded through the unusually uninspiring selection of fall shoes and summer leftovers, a certain pink caught my eye.  I've loved the pink of ballet slippers since I was a girl and, more recently, loved them as interpreted by a J Crew flat

That flat flopped, as it was too tight, but this new ballet pink flat at Nordstom could have redemptive qualities, thought I.

There were some hurdles, though: at first glance I thought it a Tory Burch design, because of the  metal logo.  It wasn't--it was L. K. Bennett, which presented another hurdle: the L. K. Bennett Sledge pumps I returned last summer were notoriously stiff. These weren't--they were buttery soft. 

The last thing to do was try them on, which I couldn't because my size and surrounding sizes were completely sold out.

Always making lemonade out of tart situations, I imagined that the Duchess of Cambridge's people had been buying up lots of these ballet flats (called Roset) for her, as surely the Duchess would A) wear flats as she left the hospital and B) wear L. K. Bennett. 

Her wedges may well have been L. K. Bennett, but they weren't my flats.

So even though the lovely, blooming new mother did not offer her baby boy a roset, I may yet do so--if I can locate a size to try!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cake Balk

Do or have any gentle readers watch/watched the television show Cake Boss?  For the past two summers I tried to take my daughters inside the Hoboken store, but the lines were so overwhelmingly long, we never made it.

This summer Carlo's Bakery has opened in a new New Jersey location, in a fairly well-heeled zip code, but without the lines. 

So today I went in to place an order for a birthday cake--a quite simple cake with a pair of ballet shoes sculpted out of modeling chocolate as the only extra embellishment. As my daughters had waited some three years to try a Carlo's pastry (both girls had cupcakes the day before), I was prepared to spend a little more than usual on a special cake. 

I was not prepared to spend five times my budget on said cake, however. 

I realize that the rent at this location is high and that the TV show has inflated the value of the cakes, but am amazed that a bakery can charge such an extravagant price for a simple cake (removing the slippers would have reduced the cost by $100, but the "reduced" sticker was still stratospheric).

The pleasures of a beautifully homemade birthday cake outweigh every bit of icing sugar that helps to frost a TV gateau.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pump Up the Jam

Berry jam, to put a fine point on it.

Context: sometimes when I look in my closet, I want something classic to wear.  And then I realize that 99.9 percent of my shoes have crazy shapes: shields, straps, zippers, grosgrain ties, etc.  I have only one pair of pumps, in a tobacco brown, with a dangerously pointy toe. (Dangerous for me, because I have to lift my feet higher than usual while walking, lest I trip over my own shoe.)

Fortunately I want classic only sometimes, because it's obviously not forthcoming.

Last year, for my birthday (back in June), Mr. C bought me a pair of the Duchess of Cambridge's favourite L. K. Bennett nude platform pumps.  They were hideously uncomfortable, like jamming my foot into unyielding cardboard.  Back they went. 

That kind of jam I did not like.

The kind of jam I do savour is berry, which is also the colour of these Bettye Muller pumps.  They have a hidden platform for comfort and height and traverse the worlds of crazy shape and classic well: they're classic shape in a crazy colour.

Two Berry; the new Blueberry?

So berry is my new neutral, as I plan to wear these pumps with anything and everything this fall.