Thursday, June 23, 2016

Come One Come Kimono

This summer the trend flying out of The Lovely Boutique Where I Work are kimonos. We call them that, but really these bits of frippery are shawls-with-sleeves, summer ponchos or wrappers (the "w" is important). They are not negligees or peignors or anything boudoir and not strictly Asian-inspired. The T shape is their unifying link. Think soft instead of structured. Most look like giant scarves until you try to fold one. They are hip-length or long but certainly not boleros.

A kimono is not going to keep you warm. It will barely stave off the arctic chill of air conditioning. Throw one on over practically anything and you've created an ensemble. If three pieces make an outfit, this would be three easy pieces.

Kimono in the city

The kimonosizing began about two years ago on the music festival scene. Coachella has nothing to do with the iconic leather goods emporium and everything to do with Coachella Valley in California. Yearly concerts there feature music (rock, indie, hip-hop and electronica) along with art installations. Dressing for the event has taken on a Woodstock vibe— deliberately Bohemian blessedly not encrusted with mud. There is more freedom and bare bits than we saw in the 60s. Back then you either wore clothes or you didn't.

The "Coachella uniform" is t-shirt, cut-offs, kimono, fedora and lace-up sandals. All of that has trickled down to the masses. So how does a WOACA* wear one?

> You can do white t-shirt and denim, but make yours skinny jeans and not shorts

> Go with minimal jewelry so you are not channeling Ming the Magnificent

Styled a little too Advanced

> Wear one over a jersey jumpsuit or a t-shirt dress

> Try with a close-fitting top and soft palazzo pants

> Make one your bathing suit cover-up. Who isn't always wanting one of those?

> You should look like you just threw this on. Don't make it all stiff and perfect. Thus it's not for dress-up occasions.

> You needn't break the bank either. Fast fashion versions are as decent as those at upper crust boutiques. This could be the first time you ever step into a Forever 21.  

* Woman of a Certain Age

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friends With Style: Linda

Linda in the mood at Mood Fabrics

The first time I met Linda my reaction was, "Oh my gosh— it's Diane Keaton!". Sure enough, Linda has the bright, outgoing personality of Diane in the best of her rom-com roles. She has that quirky Keaton style of dressing (without the oddball gloves and ankle socks). Although her own style is Very Linda, Diane Keaton had a hand in it.

I haven't known Linda long, so my interview tries to put her style in context of its development with some tips on finding (and keeping) your own style.

AIF: How would you define your style?
LW: Creative classic with a twist

AIF: When did you know you had one?
LW: I didn't become comfortable with my style until my late '50s/early '60s. Before then my style was Corporate America. It wasn't an "aha moment", more an evolution as I was drawn to black and white with pops of color.

AIF: What do you say to women who may be timid or afraid to try something new?
LW: Try something on with a friend who will tell you the truth, really. And you need to feel good in it— like the way you look— or don't buy it.

AIF: How did your love of fashion evolve?
LW: As a teenager I used to design clothes in boring classes. My mother and grandmother always sewed. I did too, but I've never sewn anything since I got my first job.

AIF: What was your worst fashion faux pas?
LW: I went through a very cliched red-white-and-blue period, even matching my husband!

AIF: Who has been your biggest fashion influence?
LW: It actually was Diane Keaton. When I found out she wore all her own clothes while filming "Annie Hall", I felt permission to be more quirky.  I met her last year and mentioned people often think I look like her. She didn't exactly agree but told me, "You look great".

The resemblance is uncanny

Even their fathers looked alike
AIF: What are your favorite places to shop?
LW: I love the treasure hunt of consignment shops and TJ Maxx' The Runway. It's not as much fun to pay full price. I also love to check out consignment shops in foreign cities like London and Paris.

AIF: I'm thinking you are an accessories maven. What are your favorites?
LW: Scarves, bracelets, purses and colored glasses. I have red, green, black and tortoise frames. 
(Note: Just the other day I ran into Linda in The Dollar Store where she had found an amazingly cool pair of black and white checked readers)

AIF: I mostly see you in black and white with pops of bright color. Am I right-- no earth tones and no pastels?
LW: No earth tones or pastels. My favorite pops are green, blue, coral and oddball citron yellow.

AIF: Carry-on or steamer trunk? Do you pack a little or a lot?
LW: Depends where I'm going. I'll do carry-on for New York City. I like the challenge to be creative with just a few pieces. But I'll pack a lot when it makes sense, and I'm not carrying the luggage.

AIF: What do you have too much of in your wardrobe?
LW: White blouses

AIF: What are you always looking for?
LW: Scarves

AIF: We live in an almost season-less climate here in Houston. How do you mark the change of seasons in your wardrobe?
LW: I just dress in more layers and really don't wear a lot of white after October. I think of black and white stripes as Summer.
(Note: Linda grew up in central Florida so is kind of used to this) 

AIF: What's your favorite everyday go-to outfit?
LW: Black pants, white shirt or blouse, pop of color in a purse, cardigan or shoe

AIF: What's your favorite special occasion outfit?
LW: I don't like dressing for special occasions, but I do have a red dress I like that I'll wear with a black shrug.

AIF: What trend will you never wear?
LW: Ruffles and lace

AIF: What was your "best buy"?
LW: A citron yellow Burberry skirt found at a department store sale. I've never seen another one like it. 

AIF: What are the fashion pieces you can't live without?
> oversized white shirt
> skinny black pants
> black Fly London wedges
> a black, white or citron skirt
> black and white polka dot Mary Quant scarf
> multiple bracelets or a big cuff
> black fitted t-shirt
> black and white checked shirt
> a flirty dress

AIF: If you could pick an era, other than one in which you lived, based on its style, which would it be?
LW: The 1920s as that was the break out to be free, flirty and have fun.

AIF: I could not resist this. How often do people think you're Diane Keaton, and how often do you let them believe you are?
LW: Once every week or two. I thank them but never let them believe I am.

AIF: Any last words of wisdom?
LW: Fashion is fun and became even more so after 50. Sometimes it's the most fun I have all day!

Art imitating life

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The 73-Year-Old Romper

As I never ruled it out, I won't apologize for buying a romper. I knew (hoped) that one would appear not too bare, short, frilly or young for this 73-year-old.

Sure enough I found it in the most unlikely of places when really wasn't looking. Sort of like meeting the man I fell in love with and married.

It was in Banana Republic while on a trip and avoiding a downpour (finding romper not husband). Okay so I will shop rain or shine, but I really was avoiding leaving the mall on account of the rain. Banana Republic isn't a place I would normally investigate on vacation as there are two in spitting distance of each other back home. 

Seek and ye may find...

As is sometimes the case, this Banana had different offerings. The romper, on the clearance rack for $29.99, was one. 

I'll try on almost anything for $29.99 and even convince myself I have to have it, but this was the real deal. I liked it on its own merits and would indeed pay twice as much (the classic test).

While researching for this blog I see that the very same romper is listed on the Banana Republic website for $119.99, reduced from $138. Depending what day of the week and what special offers are afoot, you could pay 20% or 30% less, but nothing like $29.99. 

This is true for a few other items I saw: The Mixed Stripe Boatneck for $29.99 (was $55), in store for $8.99; the Geo Lace Midi Skirt for $129.99 (was $138), in store for $84.99; the Geo Lace Strappy Dress for $149.99 (was $178), in store for $39.99.

$29.99 or $8.99?
$129.99 or $84.99?
$149.99 or $39.99?
Why the discrepancies between what you see online and in store? Banana Republic is not the only one. It happens at the Gap and J Crew but not at Anthropologie and Zara. 

Does this mean you will be rewarded for shopping at a bricks-and-mortar but punished for shopping online? Sure, stores want to get rid of "online only" returns that may be clogging up the real estate, but is this not a little unfair?

The same can be said for shipping fees that are waived if you order above a certain amount or are in-store or call the store, restocking fees that turn free returns into not-so-free returns and price differences such as just mentioned.

Not long ago I read an article explaining why prices at retail keep going up. The reasons are almost all to cover costs associated with so much returning, shipping and restocking.

I'm happy to take my $29.99 romper out of the system to cut back expenses, even if I just wear it around the house!

$119 or $29.99?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Giving This the Cold Shoulder

I'm giving summer's hot off-the-shoulder trend a pass. Reluctantly. It's a fun look— and new. We haven't seen many fresh trends lately, just lots more of the same sailor stripes and chambray and track pants and clunky trainers (Brit-speak at least sounds more chic than "sneakers").  Bill Cunningham has spotted enough bare clavicles on the streets of New York already to fill his "On the Street" column in today's New York Times. Every window in the mall shows the look in mutiples. It's arrived.

He saw one every six minutes

As a WOACA* my problem with off-the-shoulder is my problem with shoulders— lack thereof and/or morphing into an osteo-arthritis widow's hump (premature as I'm still happily married). In other words, I'd be looking rather too much like Mary Todd Lincoln in a shoulder-baring silhouette.

Mary Mary

It's a shame when we have to "call it" on account of age, but call it I do. I'd like the world to know that's the only reason I haven't latched onto the look, and the world should be grateful. I hope those of you with time on your side will opt in and wear one for me. Cheers!

Proenza-Schouler's shoulders

* Woman of a Certain Age

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fads of '48

When my sister Lonnie died last year it was left to my nephew to comb through the collections of her life. And my sister saved everything. He was lovely to ask what I wanted. One memento meant the most— her Betty Betz "Things 'n Stuff" scrapbook. She had started it the year she turned 15, her freshman year in high school. I was not allowed into this teenage world as I was only 6, though I would sometimes be reluctantly dragged along on outings (her reluctance not mine). What I would do was pour through her scrapbook when she was out of the house, being very careful and always putting it back in its hiding place.

It looked like being 15 was the most wonderful thing in the world. Never mind what was the true outcome of that. Many years later, when I admitted to Lonnie how I would sneak peeks, she told me she always knew but had let it go. We were both then very grown up women, looking through the scrapbook again, this time together.

With "Things 'n Stuff" now in my possession, I relived not only my life but hers. One thing I had forgotten was a page she drew titled "Fads of '48". She obviously had every intention of making a record for all eternity.

"Fads of '48"

It's always interesting how fashion fads begin. Try to remember that in 1948 we may have had movies and magazines, but nothing was instantaneous, and there was barely any television. Even developing photos at the drugstore took 5 days. Nevertheless fads existed and, by the looks of my sister and her friends, were followed. Herewith:
"Dad's old shirt, washed out jeans, loafers"
* * *
"A long full coat with a hood" or in this case, a babushka. 
Note the "stadium boots", de riguer for winter wear
* * *

"A full skirt...or a pencil thin one"

Pencil skirts... with pearls
* * *
"A ribbon around your neck, peasant blouse, a very full ballerina skirt with some petticoat showing, ballerina shoes"
The ribbon (with cameo), the peasant blouse and full skirt as a dress, ballet flats. I'm on the left, squinting as usual

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Wait, Wait... There's More!"

No one has mentioned this... no one dares bring it up... but why are former fashion luminaries in the televised home shopping business and peddling dreck? So far none of them have urged me to keep watching by shouting out Ron Popeel's famous catch-phrase, "Wait, wait... there's more!", but I'm waiting.

I cringe whenever I watch Isaac Mizrahi on QVC (and he's on several times a week). I cringe because he presents the most common denominator basically boring stuff with an even more manic dose of Isaacness than is his usual. And I love Isaac Mizrahi. His couture years were great. His career-reviving ISAAC line was lovely (and affordable pour moi). His Target collaboration was fun. But the QVC line is just embarrassing. He might say, "You have to pay the rent, honey." And I would say, "Isaac, please find another way."

There's Lori Goldstein, a formerly hip and high-fashion editorial stylist in New York who worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair with famed photographer Steven Meisel. She's now selling t-shirts and stretch pants in simpering pastels cut to hide the jiggly bits on QVC. Lori's fun to watch as she bounces all over the place adjusting the models, and her New York accent reminds me of home. But the stuff looks flammable, not desirable.

Stephani on the right in the very wrong

The latest to emerge from a fashion pedigree onto the tv screen is Stephani Greenfield. A founder of one of the trendiest NYC boutiques, Scoop, she was the ying to Diane von Furstenburg's yang on the ill-conceived tv reality show "House of DVF". This show, Curations with Stephani Greenfield, purports to promote fashion inspired by her travels to exotic places. I tuned in to see the formerly high priestess of chic decked out like a bag lady you would cross the street to avoid. Would I buy what she was selling? Are you serious?

Is there even a place for fashion on tv? We all laughed at the idea of online shopping for anything you need to try on. Now we're all doing it. At the Lovely Boutique Where I Work half my day is spent processing returns from the online store. As much as we know it probably won't fit, hope springs eternal, and pushing the "buy now" button is easy.

The only person who seems to have gotten it a little bit right is the now 94-year-old Iris Apfel. In 2011 she debuted a line of jewelry— copies or in the spirit of the costume jewelry she loves. Much of the stuff is really fun. Some of it is overpriced ($499 for a beaded glass necklace). She needn't apologize for the jewelry, and I don't think less of her for selling it. But then Iris Apfel can do no wrong... 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Women We Love: Florence Welch

I'm usually pretty immune to the latest Flavor of the Month. That's why past subjects of Women We Love have all been seasoned players. Florence Welch (the Florence in Florence and the Machine), though only 29, hardly just fell off the turnip truck, but our paths crossed the other night when I saw her perform at an outdoor venue in Houston. I knew who she was, of course, but seeing her on television or in a magazine is way different from being part of a loving crowd on a beautiful late Spring evening.

Florence 5/17/16; photo by

What I saw that evening was a woman in complete command of the music, her musicians and the audience, but who nonetheless could have been that girl alone in her room dancing and singing as if no one were there. She performed barefoot in a beautiful long chiffon dress— more Valentino than Stevie Nicks. Her trademark red hair is worn long and loose— Alice in Wonderland with bangs. She wore very little makeup — probably a good thing because she worked up quite a sweat.

It had been many years since I'd been to a rock concert, and I'd forgotten about the crowd's anticipation, the burst of welcome and enthusiastic response to favorite songs. My companion thought Florence talked a little too much, but that's what made Florence no machine.

Florence Leontine Mary Welch is British (English father, American ex-pat mother). In 2009 her group Florence and the Machine released a first album, "Lungs", to wide critical acclaim. No real critic would make this comparison, but Florence is almost an English Taylor Swift— her songs are 100% personal and have broad appeal. Both are designer muses (Gucci and Chanel for Florence) but still have their own sense of style. It's easy to see how designers would respond to her pre-Raphaelite looks— strong and delicate at the same time.

Florence, upper right corner?
By Dante Gabriel Rosseti
Musing for Chanel
She describes her look as, "For the stage, it's The Lady of Shalott meets Ophelia...mixed with scary gothic bat lady. But in real life I'm kind of prim". Musical influences are Grace Slick and Francoise Hardy. It's easy to see that in her choice of stage attire as well.

Influenced by Francoise

Florence may be a style enigma (enigma Machine— get that?) as she obviously responds to her moods and can morph chameleon-like into what suits her. For two hours the other evening I was part of her world, and it was a lovely planet to visit.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A-Dressing Home

"It's time..."

Sometimes I shut the closet door and start outfitting the house. It doesn't happen often, but we're doing a "refresh" (aka painting every room with total disruption to life as we knew it).  Repainting means moving the furniture and packing up the tchotchkes.

The first thought is always, "How did we get so much stuff???" Along with a little weeding comes acknowledgment of dingy lampshades or cracked plant pots that should/must be replaced. Seeing your home naked makes you think of new ways to dress it. Then comes a good long session at Homegoods or on I challenge anyone to repaint her rooms without replacing so much as a shower curtain!

My mother was a stylish but disciplined dresser. She decorated the same way. When it was finished, it was done. Her challenge came when we moved, which was whenever the lease was up. Mother didn't like the fact that landlords could raise rents. She always managed to rearrange the furniture seamlessly in the new layout and was only stymied once.

We moved into an older building with a fireplace flanked by extensive built in bookshelves. Talk about focal point! We were not a family of book owners. Library cards, yes. Hardbound books? Not so much. Mother's solution was to hit estate sales and buy books by the boxes. She took off whatever covers there were and recovered them in either turquoise or hot pink glazed paper. They were then assembled on the shelves in a pleasing abstract pattern. The books were not for reading; they were Art.

Over time I got curious what was under those papers and would amuse myself (if she wasn't home) taking a peek. No Hemingway first editions turned up, but I did read some 1940s potboilers like "Forever Amber".

My mother's very good taste in furniture has stood the test of time. I am fortunate to have her pieces by Harvey Probber (living room) and Paul McCobb (bedroom), as bright and stylish as they were when new in 1953.

I never understood the logic in going through the trouble and expense of moving to counteract a rent increase, but we had freshly painted walls and newly polished floors in one fell swoop. Now I see...

Harvey still looks good

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Madame Predicts the Summer Trends

This is what I see coming down the pike
on May 4th:

> Lace-up shoes
(ghillies, sandals, gladiators)

> Laces in general
(As in nautical not lacy) 

> Off-the-shoulder necklines
(a true vintage revival)

> Kimono jackets
(and dusters)

Kimono and fringe...

> Fringe
(on bags and hems and trims)

> Wide leg crops
(long enough and wide enough is key)

> Flowered dresses
(crisp or soft)

> Jumpsuits 
(or rompers if age appropriate)

* * *

In the Summer Hall of Fame:

> Chambray shirts
(wear with everything)

Chambray and laces

> Striped Sailor T
(heavily influenced by the Breton)

> Denim
(And more denim)

May the fashion forth be with you!