Sunday, December 14, 2014

Agnes Towler and Her Perfect Work Uniform

Instead of sleeping in this weekend, I've awakened both mornings at 6 a.m. so I could have the lit Christmas tree--and the television--all to myself.

You see, I'm about three-quarters of the way through Mr Selfridge, and am absolutely smitten.  Even the store itself--and I truly dislike shopping--holds an allure, with its beautifully lit glass cases and displays. I'm even craving some Yardley, which I haven't thought about since I was a wee lass.


 There are some lovely clothes shown in the series and, to me, the loveliest of all are worn in Season Two by Agnes Towler. I absolutely love her long, fitted black vest-dresses over sumptuously embroidered or patterned shirts. 

It's a perfect uniform, and I plan to carry my lipstick-red Liberty-embossed Ianthe notebook around in the new year, as Miss Towler does a similar book.


Perhaps an even more engaging accessory than the book, though, is Henri Le Clair and his pine-green velvet jacket. (My French teacher from Paris [in boarding school] always wore velvet jackets by Le Chateau.)


 At the moment, Mr. LeClair is languishing in jail on charges of theft from the United States. I remember during Season One when he gave Agnes that salmon scarf and said he'd pay for it the next day. That may have been a harbinger of things to come.  But going against the nap of that famous pine-green velvet, it's too strong to say I'm pining for him, but I do hope that he and Agnes can strike a tableau in the future, even if it's to congratulate her at her wedding to Victor.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Miss Cavendish Talks with Jenny King, Master Embroiderer, for Selvedge

One of my favorite stories I've written is about Jenny King, an extraordinary embroiderer whose collaborations with Mary Katrantzou, Vivienne Westwood and Erdem have been transforming the ways in which embroidery is used in fashion.

My interview and article will appear in the January/February Selvedge, and here's a sneak peek!


























Saturday, November 29, 2014

Of Chintz, Stella McCartney, and Adrienne Vittadini

I used to audition for certain musicals with "Consider Yourself," from Oliver!, sometimes in full Cockney:

Consider yourself at home
Consider yourself part of the furniture . . .

Those lines came racing back today while I paged through an "auld" magazine as my nine-year-old lad got a fauxhawk for basketball season.

Why? because I saw a print from Stella McCartney's Resort 2013 collection that I absolutely adored--we might call it genteelly faded floral wallpaper. I've loved that chintz-y look since I was an undergrad.

Back then, somehow I managed to qualify for a Holt Renfrew charge card (why, HR, when my only employment was teaching aerobics a few mights a week?) and one of my prized purchases was an Adrienne Vittadini wallpaper-y floral linen dress on cream. It had a scoop neck, short sleeves, fabric belt with buckle, and a proper tulip skirt.

Rachel Williams in Vittadini ad, 1985
That summer I was working as a proofreader at a fancy schmancy law firm in Toronto and, as I was riding the elevator to my floor, one of the younger, handsome male lawyers remarked that his parents used to have a chesterfield just like my dress.  His bon mots didn't go over how he would have liked--seriously, is that the way to introduce one's self in good favour?--so he invited me to lunch to make up for it.

A week or so later we went to Dan Aykroyd's restaurant downtown, which was, if I recall, a grungy hole in the wall (albeit a large hole) and I learned quickly that well-dressed young lawyers with fancy jobs may have excellent taste in summer student employees, but that was it.

I reupholstered my impression of the lawyer luncher but haven't yet tired of wallpaper-y floral fabrics.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Where Journalism Imitates Art: Amazing Amy, a Vogue Cover, and Gone Girl

About two years ago, around the Thanksgiving Break from school, I devoured Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl in a day.

I remember recoiling a bit at the opening words--"Tra and la!"--finding them annoyingly perky and jaunty.  I immediately imagined the actress Amy Adams, based on her work in Junebug, for instance, of being capable of uttering them without any hint of irony. Would Amy A play Amy D?

And then, this month, Amy Adams turned up on the cover of Vogue with the accompanying headline AMAZING AMY.  I may have looked bemused for a moment because, as readers of Gone Girl will know, Amy D's parents write a series of YA novels about Amazing Amy, an idealized version of their own dear but imperfect daughter.

So Amy A did not play Amy D, yet language associated with Amy D has been publicly connected with Amy A.

So what was Vogue's copywriter thinking? I'd like to hear her/his side . . .

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Annual Thanksgiving Post: Of Treacy and the Trilby

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Toeing the Line? Hose with (Open-Toe) Heels

If a recent post sang the praises of slouchy socks in heels, this entry will assert that hose/nylons/tights/stockings--whatever they're called--should never slouch.

Imagining one's hosiery puddling around the ankle is not a pretty thought, so please delete it immediately. I've done half the work for you, there.

When I was in boarding school (yet another sartorial reference from those academic days) we had a formal dinner every night in the dining hall. And we dressed for the occasion.  During the summer I'd go to Fiesta, the newly opened boutique for chic adults with my hard-earned teenage cash in hand and buy what were then and probably still are exquisitely colored heels--robin's egg blue slingback pumps, dusky pink strappy sandals. And a midnight blue velvet collarless dinner jacket from Suttles and Seawinds (I went to school with the designer's son).

But back to the shoes.  (Eventually.)

My accommodations were an old house just off the more traditional dormitory (we responsible lassies had a little more freedom), so for dinner I'd run over in my boots and then put on my delicate shoes. The best part of this situation was the possibility of wearing open-toe heels all year long, as the dining hall was toasty. But we were in Atlantic Canada, so nylons were still necessary.

And here's my confession: we all wore nylons with open-toe heels.

I would not do this now, unless the nylons were, say, shocking purple and probably opaque. But I've seen photos of women who should know a thing or two about open-toe shoes, such as Christie Brinkley, wearing nude hose with them and not looking the least dowdy.



And the image at the very top, from (encore une fois) this month's Porter Magazine, even celebrates the look.

So I'll put it out to you gentle readers: open- or closed-toe shoes with hose?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

No Comment

For some mysterious and distressing technological reason, I cannot leave comments on some gentle writers' blogs.

And I have been trying!

I use the Foxfire browser and would be grateful if any tech-savvy reader might offer advice . . .

Slouchy Socks in Heels

I've always loved wearing skirts with socks in unexpected shoes. 

To personalize our boarding school uniforms, we wore slouchy blue socks over our navy tights and tunic until the headmaster passed a decree forbidding that particular self-expression.

In graduate school, I went full-on grunge via long, romantic floral dresses and gray woolen socks stuffed into my Doc Martens.

And as an undergraduate, I inherited my grandmother's absolutely gorgeous Bandolino shoes, with which I wore skinny, slouchy black socks with long lean black column dresses.

This was the mid 1980s, and how can I express the joy these shoes gave to a teenager who was famished for style, having grown up on a tiny island. The shoes were patent navy, with a low heel and deep V vamp. The vamp was made out of a basketweave in red, yellow, and navy leather, which truly was lovely and unusual for the time and place. 

My column dress was actually an ankle-length jersey jumper, also with a deep V neck (reaching almost to the waist), which I wore backwards. Continuing the backwards theme, I topped it off with a vintage red, bracelet sleeve, raw silk collarless top with covered buttons on the back that I turned around and wore as a jacket.

I'd wear this out at the clubs till 2 (in Quebec!) and all day besides.

Looking at the photographs in this month's Porter magazine (a lovely publication, by the way), I was struck by an editorial that featured slouchy socks in heels. These socks are Hermes, and I could either buy them or three pairs of Doc Martens, but truly, Hermes is not required for this look; indeed, it will fly with a sock that's more grounded in price.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

On not Inviting Jian Ghomeshi to Visit

Sometimes when I want to blog about something beautiful, I can't get past something unbeautiful that consumes my thoughts, so I have to write about it before I move on.

Since it broke, I've been following the disturbing news about Jian Ghomeshi, the once-celebrated Canadian founder and host of the radio program Q, whose fall from grace has been swift and, from what I have read, deserved.

I teach journalism, and, for the last few years, when we learn about interviewing, I show my students the video of Ghomeshi's live interview with Billy Bob Thornton and his band The Boxcars, during which Billy Bob is alternately silent, sulky, petulant, and indignant, all because Ghomeshi contextualized him as an actor and screenwriter instead of a musician, unmodified.

I really liked how the Canadian kid (whose youthful looks disguised the fact that the 40-something host wasn't a kid at all) handled Billy Bob in a calm manner, talking him down from his anger and eventually getting the interview back on track. I liked his style so much that last November I emailed his agent to see whether Ghomeshi would care to cross the border to address my students on journalism.

On November 18 his agent responded, wondering what fee we might offer and what other public figures had spoken in the same venue.  I was about to pull out my impeccable (really) Canadian literary credentials, including links to the Giller Prize; an important book imprint; friendships with celebrated publishing figures, both authors and editors.  But I didn't, and, after reading this week's news, I am very glad that I didn't bring Ghomeshi here.

I think of the women who had been temporarily charmed by the radio host's celebrity. Their stories sound familiar. When I was in graduate school, I went to hear an alumnus, who was a well-connected journalist for a hip American magazine. I misread him during his talk, having thought him gay, so when I saw him downtown the next day, I pulled my bike over and introduced myself. (I wasn't in the habit of introducing myself to men because they would more often than not misread me and think I was flirting.) Anyway, the famous journalist invited me to a party, I went, we had a witty, intellectual chat, and, to my dismay, I soon found myself declining his advances. I was successful in extricating myself without any harm done, but I did have a "why did he have to go and spoil our fledgling friendship?" reaction.  That and a bit of "Ewww."

 So why am I writing this? Because I understand the young women who were impressed by Ghomeshi's celebrity and who weren't expecting or desiring his subsequent violence. And because I am so relieved that he did not meet my students, my friends, or me. I'll be finding another example of a "bad interview" to show in class.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Portraits of the Magnate as a Young, and Older, Woman: Helena Rubinstein

I love these portraits of Helena Rubinstein, on display at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parliament Hill


Thinking today, with a heavy heart, of Ottawa, where I lived for six years, and of Parliament Hill, where we university students could eat lunch on the lawn, throw a softball, and feel carefree.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The "Lively" Preserve: Sundance for Millennials?

Do any gentle readers remember the 1990s, when receiving catalogues in the mail was like clockwork?

I was in graduate school during that decade, and one of my favourite catalogues was the Sundance Catalogue.  Bolstered by the rustic glam of founder Robert Redford, Sundance presented a dreamscape of models roaming the stunning Utah meadows, dressed in gorgeously tooled cowgirl boots, floaty linen dresses, and self-consciously "artisan" jewelry. 

I never ordered anything, as the shipping, even for a small pair of earrings, was in the double digits, but I soaked up as much precious metal/fragrant leather/crisp meadow as I could through the glossy pages.

A new website editor seems to be trying to produce a similar effect, though digital gloss this time.  Easily Robert Redford's outdoorsy wheat-blonde equal, Blake Lively, with her luxurious mane and propensity for marrying expensive, somewhat impossible layers with luxe landscapes, has created Sundance for Millennials with her website Preserve.

O, Pioneers; O Consumers? Blake contemplates a dip, not a Bob. (US Vogue)

If gentle readers haven't visited, the aesthetic recalls and updates Redford's, with a dash of Alabama Chanin.  The prose descriptions need a good copyeditor, but perhaps that will come in time.

I browsed the "shop" section and found that while the clothes did not appeal, Lively did introduce me to some jewelry designers that I quite like. One is Brooklyn's Jessica De Carlo, whose swirl hoop earrings I have ordered (see top image). 

But!  I didn't order them from Preserve.  Instead, I went to the designer's own website where I found the earrings in three sizes instead of the one size offered by Preserve and chose a smaller one.

I'm not a Millennial, so maybe I'll reserve judgment on Preserve. But it brings to mind a Lively dance in the sun.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Power Posing: It's a Man's Man's Man's World? Miss C Poses a Question to Amy Cuddy

Does the way we stand and sit affect the way we perceive ourselves?  Researcher and Harvard B-School professor Amy Cuddy thinks so, and her TED talk on the topic is the current "bright young thing" of the internet.

Cuddy distinguishes between powerful and weak poses--the first involves opening up the body: taking up space on a chair, feet planted firmly, arms in a variety of positions from what my son calls a "Brazilian goal" (named after his favorite soccer stars where they run the field with arms held high and out) to hands on hips (the Wonder Woman), to arms resting on chair arms.

The weaker poses involve crossed legs, crossed ankles, crossed arms, and, especially, chins in hands.

They are, as Cuddy notes, often gendered poses.  And indeed, they are.  That troubles me.

Because if I wear a pencil skirt to work, I pretty much *have* to cross my ankles or my knees when I sit down.

Cuddy also argues, via scientific experiment, that individuals' testosterone levels rise when they assume said power poses. And that, apparently, is a good thing for someone in a position of power (her actual experiment compared levels of testosterone with cortisol, the hormone emitted in stressful situations).

So then.  Are we women being instructed to find our inner testosterone by assuming power poses? But is there not a fundamental problem in the first place that power is being equated with testosterone, which is usually equated with men?

Maybe there's a different way to--ahem--pose the question.

Consider this: Cuddy recommends that people assume two minutes of power poses before going into a situation where power dynamics are involved--a job interview, for instance. She argues that such poses are part of the "fake it till you make it" philosophy: adopting the pose will make the person look more powerful, even if they don't yet feel it.
 
Here's my take:  I've done a good bit of community theatre; I sing and dance with our faculty rock band; and I certainly perform every day in the classroom. If I step on one of these stages right after, say, taking notes at my desk, or reading a music score, I'll bet that my initial performance will fall flat because I haven't got into character yet. (And yes: "the professor" is a character.)

In other words, all Cuddy is saying that that we have to warm up before an event, and we warm up not only our minds, but our bodies, even when the event appears to be a strictly intellectual one (like discussing de las Casas or Crevecoeur).

But what can we do about the gendered aspect of these power poses? Feminist scholars and theorists have long discussed how women are encouraged not to take up space, through posture, through diets, through staying in the house instead of entering the public sphere.

Personally, I see NO PROBLEM with crossing one's legs or ankles.  I think it looks attractive and smart. And yes, I find that arms folded or shoulders slumped do give off an unappealing, unengaged vibe. But I do take issue that we're all looking to--or need to--increase our testosterone levels.

And what do we do with Lisa Taylor in the Helmut Newton photo above? She's definitely taking on a power pose--legs apart, hand on hip (coding masculine along with the "assessing" look in her eyes).  But she's also twiddling her hair, a decidedly female pose. Or juxtapose, if you will.

Have gentle readers thought about Amy Cuddy's thesis?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Farewell Deborah Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

I learned, via BBC radio, that the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire died today. Born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford, into a family of six sisters (who all went on to be rather infamous), she was known as "Debo." After she married Lord Andrew Cavendish, she eventually moved into the family seat, Chatsworth (that's a greatly abbreviated version of her history).

I love these pictures of the Duchess, especially the one where she's in full plume, as glorious as one of her beloved chickens.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Literary Connections Miss C Hath Mayde

As a recovering medievalist, I find that my love for the period rekindles when I find fashions that remind me of certain characters.

Take Chaucer's Prioresse from The Canterbury Tales, for instance:

Ful semely hir wimpel pinched was,
Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful small, and therto softe and reed.
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed—
It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe—
For hardily she was nat undergrowe.







I think that a modern-day prioresse would be totally on the Bal if she wore these looks from  Bally and Balenciaga. 

The movement structured into the wimple and cape indicate her fashion-forwardness, not to mention the velocity of her garments--should her horse break into a canter.














Monday, September 15, 2014

Of Plastic Rain Bonnets and Prada Boots

Growing up in Canada, we dealt in boots and bonnets--the boot was the trunk of our car and the bonnet was the hood. (My grandmother, of Scottish descent, was a true Anglophile.)

That alliterative phrase came to mind again while paging through Vanity Fair (yes; I'm turning a good deal of magazine pages these days) and I saw these nostalgically hilarious boots by Prada.

Of course Prada is a venerable Italian company and not doubt looked toward some smart Italian historical reference, but all I could see with these boots were bonnets--the plastic rain bonnets worn on Coronation Street and beyond to keep a lady's hair dry in the wet. 

Indeed my grandmother wore them, and her carefully set coiffure never wilted in the rain. (Random French word alert.)


Even the patent leather recalls a sturdy rain slicker.  The loafers by themselves don't have quite the wit, but those boots! 

I think I'm getting a P* in my bonnet.


*P for Prada.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Blues (updated)

It's the most beautiful fall day today--crisp and clear--just what I;d been looking for the other week.  To celebrate (?) I tried yoga for the first time, and feel a pleasant full-body exhaustion on the horizon.

Upon leafing through the men's style magazine T, I was reminded of another fall day, waaaay back in the mid/late 80s when I was a second-year undergraduate (after having taken two full years off to work in the fashion world).

I was reading ELLE magazine (my 80s favourite) and saw either an editorial photo or an ad of a model wearing a navy silk shirt.  I can't recall the designer, but suffice to say that it was one carried by a boutique in the Market, the funky side of town.


This is neither the ad nor the shirt, but I did remember the designer: KIKIT.  Here's an ad from 1990, with a younger Antonio Banderas.


I high-tailed it to the boutique and learned that the shirt was actually men's wear, and that it was the most luxurious sueded silk. Of course, it was too large for me, but such was the alluring combination of ELLE, that particular shade of navy, and the sueded silk that I bought it.

I did that at times--bought men's things instead of women's.  When Ralph Lauren came out with fragrance, I bought the more medicinal Polo for myself instead of the unappealing Lauren for women. I wore a men's rugby shirt. (I still wear Mr. C's rainslickers.)

If I think about it, though, I wonder about my motivation.  Did I think men's wear; schmen's wear--I like it so I'm wearing it, or was I purposefully cultivating an eccentricity that filled my closet and vanity table with odd one-offs instead of things to mix and match. I may have been working toward Anna Piaggi when I really wanted to look like (a blonde) Yasmin LeBon.

I've written here before about my sartorial education in being "different"--how my grandmother would buy me a "cooler" equivalent of whatever was fashionable, even though I just wanted to look the same as my friends.  That shirt, brought back to mind via the photo above, has me thinking, somewhat uncomfortably, about past choices.

Do gentle readers ever travel back in time and reevaluate their style?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Take Meowwwout Tonight: A Rentmembrance of Things Past

Well, a misRentmembrance, if I'm being honest.  Mr. C and I have been married to each other for almost 23 years, and I've long considered the musical Rent to be part of our love story. 

I told our children how we didn't have a honeymoon (I balk at tradition) but instead, some six months after our fall wedding, we took an un-honeymoon, an unneymoon, if you will, at the Paramount Hotel in New York where we spent a long weekend taking in theatre and drinking morning Martinelli juice at the in-house Dean and DeLuca. (If readers know Martinelli, they'll know why I reference it.)

Seeing Rent was an enormously big deal, as it had just opened at the Nederlander Theatre and we had scored tickets not yet a month into its run, just five rows from the stage.  I adored the musical, especially loved Adam Pascal's voice, as well as Jesse L. Martin's and Taye Diggs's. Idina Menzel, fresh from the Long Island wedding-singer circuit was impressively raw and Daphne Rubin-Vega terrified me on the catwalk as she prowled and sang from a perilous height. I made visual and aural imprints of everything and couldn't wait for the cast album to be released and memorized all the songs without trying when it was.

Rent was further inscribed in my history as being on the weekend that I cut my almost-waist-length-hair (see photo above) into a short bob at the fabled Frederic Fekkai, still in Bergdorfs then. Mr. F himself was supposed to do the cut, but when I arrived I was informed that he'd broken his leg skiing in Gstaad and was taking only long-time clients.  I would be with his second-in-command, Mark Garrison (who went on shortly to have his own salon, as did my colourist, Kathleen).

In short, Rent was an important part of my 90s and of my unneymoon story.

Except that it's not. This weekend, I took my two daughters to see a professional, waaaay off Broadway production of Rent.  I could have performed it as a one-woman show, so fresh were the lyrics and line deliveries. Afterwards, I ran into the actress who played Mimi and complimented her, saying that I'd seen the Broadway production in '91 and that I enjoyed her interpretation. 

All was well till I returned home, looked up Rent, and determined that the online information included a major timeline typo, as Rent was listed as opening on Broadway in 1996, some five years after I got married. I looked up a couple of other sources and received the same info: Rent opened in '96(!!).

And so although I did see Rent a month after it opened, I also saw it five years after I was married, five years after I chopped off my hair chez Frederic Fekkai. (I hardly dare type what we saw on that unneymoon, but now I think it was Dancing at Lughnasa, among other plays.)  But who knows, now?

No day like today? No day like Rent in 1991.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Of Vintage Esso Stations, Trenchcoats, and Ingenues

This week I was re-watching the Carey Mulligan/Peter Sarsgaard film An Education (2009) and was reminded, yet again, of another film in which an Esso station, a trench, and an ingenue are prominently featured: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964).

Both films feature innocent heroines who wear trenchcoats and who receive educations of varying sorts. One such educating moment takes place for both women at a (vintage to us) Esso station.

Cherbourg, of course, is situated in France, and I read Education's Esso scene as a gentle homage, as our ingenue character from that film loves France: she listens to Juliette Greco over and over (the album cover with the eyes); she breaks out into French words and phrases during English conversation, which makes perfect sense to her schoolchums but comes across as utterly odd to Helen, a deliberately uneducated but well-clothed character. (You know, I do that seemingly random French inclusion too, not to be pretentious, but because of my many years spent in bilingual Ottawa and Montreal.)
Esso in Cherbourg, France

Esso in England
I think I also see both Esso scenes with nostalgic fondness because I grew up with that gas station on PEI. Mr. C tells me that it became Exxon in the United States; perhaps that explains why it remains only on film and in my memory.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

STELLAAAA!!!! A Cavendish Bag Named Desire

While paging through September Vogue this weekend, a bag with a colourful, clean graphic caught my eye. I made a mental note and moved on to the next page.

That same afternoon I was doing a little unrelated research via the trusty Google engine and discovered that Stella McCartney had made a Cavendish bag. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and saw that it was the selfsame bag I had liked chez Vogue!

Ah, gentle reader, through the alchemical reaction of surprise, appeal, with a touch of smug, that bag I liked no more. No--now I DESIRED it, as it was obviously the material manifestation of my discerning subconscious's ability to KNOW what naturally should belong to me.

Or so I thought till I typed that last paragraph. Because I don't even really like the bag *that much*--it was just the convergence of the metaphorical stars that temporarily convinced me I did.

So although my stars lined up--for a split second--I'm glad that McCartney had the sense to scatter hers on the bag above.

Gentle readers, have you ever unwisely fell under an item's spell because of its name?