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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mr. Darcy's Wet-Sea-Shirt Sculpture

Move over, Nessie; there's a new monster in town.

Making Sense of Barnes' Ending

Yesterday I read Julian Barnes' slender novel The Sense of an Ending in a few hours.  It would have taken me less long, had I not kept putting down the book and muttering things to myself like, "whatever happened to 'show; don't tell'?"

Or: "Are Barnes and Ian McEwan actually the same person?" (Does Tony "atone" for anything, in a nod to McEwan's Atonement?)

Or: "Is this the Downton Abbey of literature where entire decades are erased to get to the next plot point?"  Annie, anyone?  Margaret and Susie? I was waiting for Cousin Matthew to make an appearance.

Finally, I took another look at the cover, to remind myself that this novel had been awarded the Man Booker Prize.  I remembered that Anita Brookner's equally slender novel Hotel du Lac had received that honor some decades earlier in 1984, dubiously, according to various critics who couldn't imagine women at the center of a novel. Reading Barnes, I didn't care which gender; I just wanted a fully realized character.

The novel began promisingly enough, with a wink to the Brideshead Revisited genre, with a touch of Dead Poet's Society. But before all that started, Barnes' narrator listed some memories, which, if his intention was to be enigmatic, failed, as they were all quite obvious.  Just the who and why were missing.

If beginnings are obvious, endings abound.  There's the sense of an end everywhere the reader looks: from Adrian Finn's last name (fin; finis) to the missing end of the excerpt from Adrian's diary.  Middles cannot hold, as when Tony and Veronica meet at the middle of the Wobbly Bridge; but endings cannot necessarily be found.

One of the themes throughout the novel is that Tony "doesn't get it."  He doesn't, until he finally thinks he does. But does he get too much? Does history repeat itself because of his actions?  I'd say no, but that's not the point of the novel. 

It's really about how history is shaped, via documentation, voices, and actions, all of which come together to form some sort of picture. But that picture can be fragile, like a egg, which Sarah Ford demonstrates by sweeping a broken fried egg into a bin and starting a new, whole one. History can only be sensed, by all our sensory powers, even though, as the book shows, for some characters it can also be senseless.

Would love to have a conversation with fellow gentle readers--what did you think of this book?

Strapless Suits Me?

Last summer I was on the fence re: wearing strapless dresses, but after purchasing two from J Crew (here's one), I thought I'd try some more this season, especially since I need to get my original two altered for a snugger fit.

But unless I'm looking for bridal wear, J Crew offers practically nothing this season in strapless for day. There was that hydrangea-stripe dress, but it looked to be made from jersey knit, which did not appeal.  And the seersucker with the sweetheart neck? I'm down with seersucker, but not thrilled with sweethearts.  Plus, I want to spend practically nothing, as I did last year with the J Crew summer markdowns and my additional educator's discount.

So off to eBay it was.  My first purchase arrived today, and the colors were much prettier in real life than in the photos (good so far).  The cotton, lined dress fits like a glove (also good).  But when I look in the mirror I see that there are two large flowers on the front. And the brown center (pistil) of one flower is positioned on my body such that it looks exactly like an areola. Not so good. (The eBay photo suggested that the flower center has a different position on the dress.)

So a lesson learned again: caveat emptor. Fortunately the dress can be returned as no amount of adjusting will transplant the flower.

Do readers have any favourite strapless dress (for day) labels?  Lilly P is a tad too cute for me . . .

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Can't Change My (Men's Wear) Stripes

My trip to Chicago was surprisingly Proustian, upon reflection. The city itself reminded me of Ottawa, Toronto's tidier cousin (as is Chicago to New York), and the Brunello vitrine display yesterday transported me back to my graduate school style (though I promise that my grad school trousers were well under $1000).

In Barneys I moved from the beautiful but extravagant laser-cut-red-leather Alaia iPad case to the men's floor, where Mr. C and our son were browsing. (My 8-year-old-son learned from the sales associate not to go within breathing distance of the sunglasses case, I heard afterwards.) Had I known before, I might not have been so quick to pounce on a piece of rolled-up fabric I saw in the rolled-up scarf basket. But grab it I did, because the fabric was so enticing to me.

The scarf is utterly simple: it's a long gauzy slice of cotton, with fringed edged. Pale blue and white stripes stretch from end to end, and it's just the right amount of shabby chic coupled with flattering summer colour combination.  I bought it, and when I showed it to my family at dinner, my fashion police officer son said that it looked like a rag I had at home already. (He meant a dish towel, though I still can't figure out which one.)

Rag or not, dish-ready or not, this men's wear scarf called to me because, I realize, I have a history or wearing exactly these colours and design from men's departments.  When I was in Grade 11, I bought, during summer vacation, a coveted piece of Ralph Lauren attire. (This was in the early 1980s, and Ralph Lauren was as rare on my little island as moose.  Skunks were plentiful, though.)

At the Henderson & Cudmore Haberdashery (the schwankiest men's department of an upscale shop for ladies and gents) I saw a pale blue-and-white seersucker bathrobe embellished with a blazing red polo pony amid the displays of cologne and handkerchiefs.

I put it on hold, perhaps even layaway, and worked away at my summer job (I was waiting lunch tables during the day at the Confederation Centre of the Arts and working front-of-house for the Summer Festival, which produced the Anne of Green Gables musical at night). 

I wore that robe through my Grade 12 year, through my years at an undergraduate university and, even when it was falling apart, into my grad school years, I loved its colours so. (The polo pony, which made such an impact initially, eventually faded from favour; I'd probably patch over one or try to remove the stitching today.)

So, in homage to Mr. Proust, perhaps I should title my sartorial memoir In Remembrance of Things Bath-robe.

Brunello = My Fellow

While wandering about Chicago, prewriting my article in my mind, I came to a full stop in front of a most unlikely shop: Brunello Cucinelli.  It's not a label that had been on my radar, but the women's ensemble in the vitrine brought forth one of the strongest emotional responses I've had in a while.

Perhaps the look reminded me of how I used to dress during my university days.  It certainly had the elements: tuxedo-influenced jacket (readers may recall that I wore a fitted tux as my wedding dress);

skinny cropped charcoal trousers (but with an uncharacteristic-for-me sweatpants cuff!)

and a drawstring waist!

chunky patent flats;

and the wild card: a jean shirt with a neck tie.

I had a jean shirt once, during grad school, and wore it the day after my wedding to go out for brunch, so maybe this look is hitting all those notes to conjure up days of early romance.

(I also discovered, on the Cunicelli website, these trousers, also cropped, with a waist that has some desirable detailing):

In any case, this ensemble perfectly expressed my emotional sense of dressing.  Whether or not I wear all of these elements, this look is how I feel.

Do gentle readers have any particular emotional reactions to certain looks?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion, Modernity, and Chicago

I took a quick trip to Chicago this weekend on assignment to cover the exhibit Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I don't travel to Chicago often, and completely forgot how windy it is, and how that wind can produce a chill. One morning when I woke up, I thought I was experiencing the beginning of a Canadian Fall!

At least one day felt like summer, though, so I wore strapless-for-day to the exhibit.  (I'm clutching a cardigan and my press pass.) 

The dresses on display boasted considerably more fabric, but the quantity of material my dress lacked was made up for by the amount of intellectual material I took away from the exhibit.