Monday, January 27, 2014

"My Phar Mountie": Pharrell Williams at the Grammys

Any Canadian worth her snow salt recognizes the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (aka the Mounties): jodphurs, red coat, and generous Stetson hat, dating from 1891.

So I couldn't associate Pharrell Williams's outfit at the Grammys last night with anything but.

To my eye, he offered a cool, urban update of our classic Mountie garb: jeans, red Adidas jacket and that hat (made, I believe, by Vivienne Westwood).


 My Tweet from last night:

And now the hat has its own Twitter feed.

Even if Mr. Williams' inspiration was something else, it was fun to see a little self-proclaimed Canadian style on stage last night.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Governess chic and Huishan Zhang

Whenever I browse through a magazine, a dark dress with a white collar with or without a bow is sure to catch my attention.

In some places I've called it "governess chic"; maybe it's also schoolgirl chic (think of la petite Madeline).

Whatever its name, I love the clean lines, the aura of uniform. (Maybe it's a nod to my own boarding school dress?)

Paging through British Vogue last night at my bookstore, I paused upon and pondered this photo.

It's kind of Hitchcock heroine and completely captivating.  No white collar, but no matter.  The bow more than makes up for it.

The dress is by Chinese designer Huishan Zhang (more about him here).

Tellingly, perhaps, the dress was not shown on the runway with the bow:

It also looks more fitted in the photo.  The magic of a Vogue stylist? She's a quick study.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Speech. Less. Attention: All Awards Nominees

Movie-awards season has begun, and so, apparently, has the reminder that actors generally do better with words someone else has written for them.

I used to think that dull acceptance speeches were a rite of passage--something to endure before getting to the next imaginative dress or bon mot from the host--but this year at the GGs I found them quite unendurable.

Jennifer Lawrence has built a reputation for herself as being "refreshing natural," but I thought she came across more as "inarticulate teenager."

Amy Poehler proved that even a writer can freeze when not working from a script.

And how I wanted Jacqueline Bissett to pull herself together (calling on her Scottish roots was a good sign, but it failed).

So I am announcing a new business:

Miss Cavendish’s
Award-Winning Speeches

All starlets, grand dames, gents new and seasoned, producers, costume designers, directors, etc., may contact me via email (see right sidebar) and I will work with you to prepare a smart, concise, elegant speech that suits your personality.

Be forewarned: no long lists of agents and other entourage members will make the cut. My services may be pricey, but less so than the cost of the Monday morning quarterbacking that your PR team will otherwise engage in.

Have people talking about your speech for all the right reasons.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Ballroom Upstairs; Those Sea-Blue Eyes

If I were in a punning mood, this post could be called "In Praise of Daryl's Halls," as it's inspired by this week's NYT piece on music stars who renovate their homes.

Daryl Hall is fixing up his 1787 home in CT, and my imagination took flight when I read that the bachelor sea captain who built it installed a ballroom on the top floor, in place of bedrooms.

Having a ballroom on the top floor brings new meaning to the idea of "dancing on the ceiling" and conjures up images of Austen-esque balls, with a handsome, young sea captain hoping to find his first (or only) mate.

If I were to go to a ball today, chez Hall, I might wear something primitively beautiful, to complement Mr. Hall's love of "the handmade world."

Perhaps something from Alabama Chanin might like a spin on the dance floor.

 I have a great-great uncle (maybe even greater) who was a ship's captain, based in Cardigan, PEI, which was a shipbuilding hub.  His captain's clock, his logs, and other artefacts, as well as his photo, are on display at the Cardigan Heritage Center.  I cannot locate my copy of his photo at the moment, but I see that my young son shares his great-great-great (possibly greater) uncle's sea-blue eyes, that hint of distant horizons. Here is one of his ships, the Caspian, built in 1890:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Snowy Day

The so-called Polar Vortex and its accompanying snow dunes remind me of winters on PEI when my father would wake up who-knows-how-early to shovel our driveway entirely by hand.

Here is his daughter, wee Miss Cavendish, at 21 months, who's been tossed up into a carefully piled bank.

She (I) grew up reading this book.  Did any gentle readers?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Big Joe Muffera and Johnny Chinook Chic

Maybe this post headline jogs the memory of some of my gentle Canadian readers.

 It was a snow day yesterday and is again today, with lots of lovely, large, fluffy flakes making a thick blanket on the ground.  On Sunday middle child and I ventured out on a hike to the drugstore to buy a New York Times.  It felt like old times to me, having grown up on Prince Edward Island and having live in Ottawa, where I ice-skated to university in the winter.

Now my winter boots are more suited for apres-ski--for drinking a hot toddy around the alpine fireplace rather than forging a Josephine Peary trail.  But the spirit prevailed.

After coming in from the snow, I looked up one of my favourite winter-jacket designers--Moncler--to see what witty winter wear it's offering.

Clearly Mr. Valli has been watching some History Channel mixed with a binge of Deneuve, as he showed some Finding Bigfoot Meets Peau d'Ane outerwear.  Or maybe it's Peau d'Ane Finds Bigfoot.  Whatevs. It's usually Bobo on a late-night constitutional.

Then there were some Nutcracker-ready Snow Queen jackets.

 There was also what may have been a tribute to Marianne Faithfull, what I'm calling "As Tiers Go By":

And, for fans of Big Joe Muffera and Johnny Chinook, some lumberjack chic in plaid mohair.

So did any other gentle readers watch this television show when growing up?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Fiorentini & Baker's Dozen

I popped into a shoe shop over the December break to warm up and quickly gave it the once over--some interesting Doc Martens lace-up boots with Black Watch lining and Black Watch ribbon laces (I do like a grosgrain ribbon), a Belle by Sigerson Morrison lace-up boot with a 3-inch monkstrap.  They earned a mental fileaway, but didn't merit a try-on.

Then, as I was on my way out the door, I spied, to my eventual preoccupation, the perfect pair of boots.  Made by Fiorentini & Baker, they are the Eternity two-buckle moto model, and come in smooth black leather (and other colors I'm sure) as well as soft grey suede.

I couldn't loosen the two-buckle's hold on my fancy over the next few days, so on Christmas Eve I ventured back to the shop to give them a try.  I selected the grey suede, as its lived-in temperament suits me more than the shiny smooth black leather. 

I'd done my research on sizing, which says that F&B boots run a size large.  This may be accurate for some, but I went a full two sizes down--I usually wear 39 in European sizes, but found 38 too long.  37 was just right.

And indeed 37 was right, sooo right that my right foot was wondering how I could possibly justify making this incredibly right boot mine on Christmas Eve.  It just seemed greedy.  And that's not rightRight?

The boots I tried were all suede, including straps and heels

But then my mental machinations left the shop, justlikethat!  Because, gentle readers, I tried on the left boot.  Oh, it fit, no problem.  But F&B have a very pretty, leathertooling kind of way of stamping their logo inside the boot.  It was the name surrounded by a scalloped circle that, because of the tooling, made the circle puff up like a fluffy cloud and irritate my left arch.

Sure, I could have asked for another pair, but thought I'd leave well enough alone and pronounce the boots unwearable. But there's always next time. Maybe I'll try a F&Baker's Dozen then.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Of Art, Novels, and Forgeries

Last month my eldest was well into her Nutcracker run, so when it stormed one Saturday and she had two performances, I sat out the snow in a bookstore and read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, cover to cover.

The book is more of a tiered cake than a Tartt, as it comes in at some 740++ pages, so gentle readers can imagine how long the day was.  But it was a lovely spree, with nothing to focus on but my novel.

It's no plot secret that the titular goldfinch refers to a painting in a museum (currently on display at the Frick), a portrait of said bird.  I've been thinking of portraits a good deal lately, as well as forgeries and fakes, in an aesthetic literary context (I may offer a seminar on the "literary hoax".) 

The New York Times, at summer's end, printed an article about one gallery dealer who commissioned a painter to do up some Basquiats, Pollocks, and Rothkos, among others. Here is a response piece in "praise" of forgeries.

 And there's a new exhibit at Springfield Museums in Massachusetts called Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World, which opens later this month. One forgery, "Head of Christ," even had its own security personnel accompany it in the transAtlantic flight from the Netherlands. (All the portraits featured in this post are forgeries from that exhibit. Many are from the collection of Mark Forgy, who wrote a book (below) about one of the artists and who has an almost perfect last name for such an investigation.) 

I can imagine that it would be a tremendous blow to learn that a painting one believed to be by one celebrated artist is actually by another painter.  But I've also been thinking about a different kind of art fraud (the term is loosely used, as you'll learn), one prompted by some antiquing and novel reading.

Do gentle readers know Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country?  It's one of my favourite Wharton novels, with a social-climbing, thoroughly unlikeable heroine who's the product of "new money," the aggressive and determined entrepreneurial culture.Without giving away the plot, this midwestern lass moves with her family from the cornfields to New York City, where she actively pursues husbands, depending on their social position and perceived wealth.  And she learns that status and wealth do not always go hand in hand.

The novel ends in a splendid New York City home, which has its walls covered with ancestral portraits, though none of them are of the owner's family. He's purchased them all from Europe, and on one hand they function as hunting trophies, the spoils of looting aristocratic families in need of money, and on the other hand they look toward what would become a new American pasttime--antiquing--or even its more humble cousin--American picking.

I confess (does this need to be a confession?) to LOVING vintage portraits of people I don't know.  One of my first purchases when I moved here was a very old, quite small oil painting of a grandfather with a lush white beard, formal suit.  In December during my east coast swing I saw two more portraits that were beautiful--a mother and daughter--and I continue to think about them.  Perhaps as we move more and more into the digital realm these objects will become more precious.

I think I'd be quite happy in a house filled with beautiful portraits of people I don't know, to whom I'm not related.  It's kind of an art fraud, but if I really think about the concept, I am related to the portraits, just not by biology.  I relate to them through their aesthetic appeal, through the warmth in the subjects' eyes, through the collection of my haphazard aesthetic family.  And I'd hope that the paintings, if they come alive at night while the flesh-and-blood humans have gone to sleep, might find a community among themselves too.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chimney Chic

While at IF in Soho I saw a long, somewhat itchy-looking, black watch tartan coat.  It had a Beatles collar and was artfully wrinkly. It had a certain chimney chic quality to it, a label I'm giving to Dickens-meets-Mary Poppins types of clothes, a hybrid of chimney sweep and whimsy (dancing penguins and all that).

That coat was by Casey & Casey, and an internet search led me not to them (although it did) but to a designing duo I didn't know I needed to know about; Meadham Kirchhoff. 

These two British lads, Mssrs. Meadham and Kirchhoff have not only been scooped up by the V&A, they've solidified their popular appeal by doing a collection for Topshop.  (The documentary I saw about Bergdorf Goodman noted that Halston was quickly dropped from that venerable store when his designer name became diluted via J. C. Penney.  It then quickly showed how times have changed by showing Philip Lim's collaboration with Target.)

The piece that caught my eye is the blouse above. It is, to me, a perfect blend of Victorian and modern design and I particularly love the navy colour.

A quick visit to the MK website showed me that this season anyway, navy is an anomaly, as the boys like to do up their designs in brights, which suggests a boudoir for clowns (you'll need to watch the short film). But I did like this one dark number:

and the cakes looked good enough to eat. 

Silver pearls on a pinkly iced cake make me crazy with desire.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Story in Selvedge and a Brown Paper Package Tied . . .

Between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve I went to the bookstore to replenish my magazine stock and was delighted to find the Nov/Dec Selvedge on the shelf, with my story on Dolce and Gabbana's Winter 2013/2014 collection inside.

My story explores how the designers incorporated religious iconography into their gorgeous collection, partly via the gold mosaic cathedral ceiling at Monreale, partly via colour and silhouette.

Wearing Vatican red

I was fortunate to interview two excellent sources: Alexander Pope from the most recent Project Runway (remember he was eliminated after making a dress with a cross on it?) and Professor Lynn S. Neal, who is currently writing about the relationship between fashion and religion.

A sneak peak; the story includes much more prose . . . and photos!

If enjoying the entirety of the magazine wasn't enough, I received a generous package today from the Selvedge team, wrapped up in brown paper and tied with tri-colour string. Here's what was inside:

Each piece was wrapped individually:

There was some Liberty of London fabric, which I plan to use as the binding of a new quilt:

A selection of ribbon, for making more ornaments (see previous post):

A beautiful hand-embroidered summer throw from Stitch by Stitch in redwork:

And two perfect bags.  The large Margo Selby is for cosmetics; the small wool Melin Tregwynt for change, or buttons, or charms, or simply for gazing upon.

Time for sleep, and gentle textile dreams.

Twas the Night Well after Christmas

My son's class was studying Christmas in Austria (actually they were studying Christmas in many different countries; he was assigned to Austria) and, true to form, my eight-year-old lad has such confidence in his mum that he asked me the night before to make him a traditional christkind doll tree ornament to bring in.

On the bottom you'll see what I made, in a 4-hour flurry (had to dream up a pattern, which added some time, I think).  She has her traditional wings, tree, and a new holly headdress.

Above her, wearing the same Norwegian ribbon, is her Russian nesting-doll-ornament cousin.

Elizabeth Mawson, Elena Dawson

I first saw the musical Anne of Green Gables when I was three, sitting on my mother's lap.  I watched it every summer onward, eventually working front of house one summer (and performing with the cast in the end-of-summer fundraiser), and, decades later, taking my children to see it.

Ninety-nine percent of the Marilla performances I saw were played by the superb mezzo soprano Elizabeth Mawson.  Though "Marilla" wore a tight little schoolmarmish bun, simple, functional clothes, and sensible shoes on the farm, when she sang, she soared, all vibrato and gorgeous tone.

I thought of Elizabeth Mawson when I discovered Elena Dawson shoes the other day.  Firstly, and most obviously, their names rhyme, but also, Elena Dawson designs the kinds of shoes that Marilla would not wear, though she could.

Dawson helped my new crush, Paul Harnden, establish and expand his clothing line and she eventually left him to develop her own label. Her vision is eccentric shabby; certainly a bit of chimney chic with a dollop of Miss Havisham.

Elena Dawson makes me crave mules, and I think that mules are better relegated to the late 80s, early 90s, where they belong.  But these mules, all ripped ribbon, torn tulle flowers, and messy edges, have such an appealing sense of being lived in by a storybook, historical character that I cannot resist.

I also LOVE how she reimagines shoelaces. Following the example of baker's twine that wraps up pastry boxes, Dawson wraps her shoes.  It's totally impractical, however, and wildly appealing (to me).

And after telling my eight-year-old son every day to tie his shoelaces so they don't get dirty, it's a bemusedly welcome aesthetical kick in the pants to sully one's ties intentionally.