Sunday, September 14, 2014

Madame Predicts: Leggings are Back

Miranda Kerr and her little dog too

They're b-a-a-c-k. For some, leggings have never gone away. What started as "footless tights" turned into actual bottom pieces— heavier than tights and worn in place of pants (see "Leggings are not pants" below).

Then there were the "legging jeans", jocularly nicknamed "jeggings"— more substantial than lycra/spandex alone, hell to get into with a comfort level of zero.

Leggings may never have gone away, skinny jeans are still here, but leggings are coming out loud and proud. No fashion publication or guru on high has pronounced it so, but Madame has eyes, and what she sees at the mall are LEGGINGS. To whit:

The formerly sparse display of the Hue brand in Macy's near the garage entrance on level 2 has grown to include a good selection of Hue's 44 different styles available in a myriad of colors. There are leggings that look like jeans, of course, and wild ones that we will forget we saw. The majority of leggings are pull on, with or without various seams and stitchings. There are corded varieties, textured weaves and some with tuxedo stripes. The legging gold standard is rayon/lycra/spandex heavyweight, black and to the lower ankle.

Leggings are in the House

White House Black Market (what ever does that mean???) has a window display announcing a sub-shop called The Leggings Studio with 8 styles available in regular and petite. This is clearly an investment by the WH/BM people. They would not have gone out on such a limb had they not a pretty solid hunch leggings are back.

Madame also has eyes and sees what women wear, particularly when they are dressing for themselves. I see them out every day, doing what they do, in and out of The Lovely Boutique Where I Work.

Leggings are easy, and today's big tops and tunics require skinny bottoms. Since tummy and waist are essentially hidden under the top, it's the leg that shows. If the thigh is a problem, the top should be longer, but you knew that already. Even if you don't like your legs, leggings are so "Ford Model T" they make your leg dismissible if not invisible. In other words, the state of your leg in leggings doesn't count.

What about footwear with leggings? Ballet slipper? Check. D'Orsay flat? Check. Bootie? Check. Chunky heel? Check. High heel pump or running shoe? The check bounced.

Two things to remember:
1) Leggings are not the same as footless tights. Leggings could almost stand on their own with a little assist. Tights are as flimsy as pantyhose.

2) Leggings are not pants.  Nothing gets tucked in and worn in public. Fortunately I've seen this look only on someone too young to have seen "Flashdance" in a theater. Lucky you if you are reading this. For the rest of us, leggings are meant to be comfortable and not complicated. That's why they're back!

Shall we be dusting off the leg
warmers and sweatbands too?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Who's that Girl?

She's arrestingly attractive, bubbly, vivacious, of no certain age. She's the "spokesperson" (though she never says a word) for Chico's. In television and print campaigns this Sophia-like stunner drives the message that Chico's is for the young at heart, girls (maybe now ladies) who want to have fun and is not your mother's Talbot's.

But who is that girl? She's Magali Amadei, no mystery woman really but by now very connected to the Chico's brand. Magali is a former French fashion model who lives in New York City. Born in 1974, she's a mere 39 years old. Magali was discovered at age 16 while studying ballet in her native Nice. As a model she had covers on Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, etc. and has appeared in small television and movie roles. Especially interesting is that she suffered from bulimia for several years and now speaks out to educate young women on the dangers of such self-image issues.

Back in the day (1994) at age 19

A website called AskMen describes the lovely Magali particularly well:

"The long frame, the elegant features and the olive skin have cemented her reputation among fashionistas. Her famous legs are a neverending tribute to feminine perfection. In addition, Magali possesses a certain intangible quality that shines through in all of her photographic work. This trait is inherent in all of the big names in the business; call it photogenic magnetism or an ability to seduce the camera. Whatever it is, Magali has got it."

Is it a bad thing or a good thing for her that she got the Chico's gig? And how do we feel about a 39-year-old playing Grandma?

First of all, Chico's is not just for WOACAs (Women of a Certain Age). Before I knew I wasn't supposed to shop there, I would visit the branch in a small Connecticut town near my home and eye with some envy the colorful separates and accessories that were a bit too steep for my pocketbook. When I got older, and my pocketbook a little bigger, I looked closer and found that while accessories fit anyone, Chico's sizes (cunningly tagged 1-2-3-4) were too big for me. They've since expanded to include 0 and 00 and even stock petites.

Proud mom Debbie with
swimming champion Michael

But the perception is still that Chico's caters to a fun loving, socially active (meaning she goes places and does things) older woman whose figger may not fit a body-conscious silhouette.  At one time Debbie Phelps was a quasi-rep for Chico's, and I think she wore it well. We do know, though, not all fashion today is body-con and not all WOACAs have lost their figgers.

Despite wishing it weren't so, women buy into the notion that clothes look best modeled on—well— models. Sadly I also don't really want to see my true self looking back at me from the pages of my favorites magazines. I get enough of that in the mirror, thank you and am wise enough—or consigned to the fact— that everything I see won't look good on me. Everything never did anyways! The lovely older women models out there are still stick-thin so don't look like me either.

The lovely Linda 
The Charming Carmen
The Sassy Sue

So for me Magali is a winner. But I worry about her. She is is indelibly typecast now as the Chico's gal. I worry that she will never get work other than Chico's. One good thing, she probably has another 40 years in her modeling career.

Keep on keeping on

PS She's not the only one. Chico's has another model with an enviable cropped blonde pixie who never fails to make an appearance in the catalogues. Alas I've had no luck uncovering her identity.

Now who's that gal?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not Exactly a Full Gallop

Diana by Peter Emmerich

With the increased interest in Diana Vreeland (thanks to a new biography and the lovely film, "The Eye Has to Travel"), I was happy to see there would be a local revival of "Full Gallop", the one-woman play about her that premiered off-Broadway in 1996.

"Full Gallop" was written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton. It was a tour-de-force for Mary Louise, garnered postive reviews, won her a Drama Desk Award and had a good run. Of course New York City is the perfect venue for anything Vreeland. I glimpsed Diana only once, during her time as editor in chief of Vogue, and feel the connection still. In fashion, publishing and museum-centric NYC that sense must be in the thousands.

Mary Louise Wilson in the original production

More surprisingly, "Full Gallop" has been staged in other cities with different actresses for years. The production I just saw was itself a revival. The actress portraying Diana expressed her feeling that being older herself now gives the performance more depth.

Galloping actresses 

This is not a review, though I'm surely influenced in my desire to write by flubbed lines and garbled dialogue. I was disappointed because she was portrayed for laughs. Every amazing bon mot was delivered with the intention of prompting a rise from the audience. She came across as being hounded by creditors, desperate for small change and more of a huckster than someone who really did have no idea about money. Her fallen-apart dinner party seemed like the guests would do anything to avoid spending the evening with her, one even suddenly heading off to Morocco. The actress drank constantly, filling her glass with ice and water that I assume was meant to be vodka. Didn't Mrs. V drink scotch? And couldn't the actress have nursed it so we didn't wonder if Diana was really a lush?

My hope is this is not the way "Full Gallop" is being staged. I haven't found any of Mary Louise Wilson's performances to judge her original intent. Not everyone will have seen "The Eye Has to Travel" first and certainly may not wish to afterwards. From what I witnessed on stage, I think the lady needs to speak for herself.

Never at a loss...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Can We Talk... About Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers 1933-2014

No doubt there are some who thought Joan Rivers was brash or mean or a foolish plastic surgery victim or all the above. She was always honest (sometimes brutally) and often the butt of her own jokes, but in recent years she let her softer side sneak out.

I'm just so sorry she's gone.

I happen to think she got better as she got older. Yes, she went to unhealthy extremes that I don't condone or would ever attempt. She was searching for something and never gave up trying.

Have you seen the film "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"? It may change your mind if you've not been a fan. It's a lovely memento if you are.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Zara is Open!

To the 3,513 people who have read my post "Zara has Closed!" (no doubt fearing the worst):


That's right, Zara in the Houston Galleria is now open. I just found out last night, reading a squib in our local society/fashion monthly, Papercity (they know everything). There were no other official announcements or grand re-opening events that I knew of.

So I haven't been yet (it's 8:15 AM), but I hope this may end the blog equivalent of "War of the Worlds".

Zara has not closed.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Women We Love: Tavi Gevinson

Presenting Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson— the geeky little blogger girl I was sure must be an impossible brat— is growing up. Turns out she was never a brat at all, just amazingly intelligent and precocious.

You may remember her as this child who showed up at Fashion Week wearing outlandish get-ups and a blank expression. I knew she had a blog. But would I stoop to read it? Then I heard she had an online magazine for teens called "Rookie". Did I bother to take a look? Then I saw her in the film, "Enough Said" and was bowled over. In a movie that seemed to be trying a little too hard, she was genuine and real.

Tavi, girl blogger

Tavi Gevinson is 18 now. She stills looks— sans makeup— like a little kid, but seeing her yesterday on "CBS Sunday Morning" was meeting a young woman who has her ducks in a row and a star-bright future ahead. She is leaving her home in Chicago and is off to Broadway to appear in "This is Our Youth", the Broadway premiere of a 1996 off-Broadway production. She co-stars with Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin.

When asked if she was trying to make a statement with her wacky clothing choices back then, she said, no, she was trying to show she didn't care what people thought and wanted to dress that way for her. I then remembered I once did the same, though not with the notoriety or effect that Tavi had.

In 1956 Glamour declared the new musical "My Fair Lady" was the fashion influence of the year. Their September issue was full of somewhat romanticized clothing dubbed The My Fair Lady Look. Broadway and Glamour both spoke to me, and I took this to heart. I was 14.

Glamour, September 1956

I sewed myself a pink cotton sateen blouse and a full navy skirt, hemmed to mid-calf. I wore the blouse unbuttoned to there (no cleavage existed to worry the censors) and stuck a pink artificial rose down the front. Picture that please with bobby socks and saddle shoes, a face full of acne, a mouth full of braces, glasses and two strange pin curls that were my "romantic sideburns". I thought I looked fabulous. I knew I didn't look like anyone else, but that wasn't the point. I had achieved my own Fair Lady effect, and that was enough. I can't be too embarrassed by the memory of that because I wasn't embarrassed at the time.

Tavi is a beautiful young woman now. She will undoubtedly need to make wise fashion choices that suit her age and style. She'll be someone to watch without doubt. I hope there are hours enough in the day and night for her to do it all.

Tavi, cover girl, August 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Let the Feasting Begin

I feel a little bit like Dr. Samir Husni, known as "Mr. Magazine", who is the author of "Samir Husni's Guide to New Magazines", the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism as well as a professor and lecturer at the University's School of Journalism. As far as magazines go, this man has the chops.

My research project was less expansive. The goal was to calculate the total pages of the September 2014 editions of the leading fashion magazines. Not included are the special issues of "T" (the New York Times supplement), "Vanity Fair" or "New York Magazine" (both devoted to fall fashion and style), "People Style Watch" (fun but not ready for prime time), the niche magazines (such as "Teen Vogue" or "Essence"), all the foreign publications and any ink spilled about the upcoming Fashion Week (which will really be about next spring).

Here's what I've got: 3,866 pages. 

And because I know you care, here's how it breaks down:
170   Lucky
374   Glamour
452   Marie Claire
642   Harper's Bazaar
664   Elle
708   InStyle
856   Vogue

Did I figure how much of that are ads and how much editorial? Of course not. The two go hand-in-hand. Without one you don't have the other. That's math Dr. Husni understands.

What we do have is a feast of epic proportions, not to be ingested at one full swoop, but not to be picked at either. I'm gearing up for the banquet. When all is said and done, I'm sure we'll be served a few familiar dishes, with some old favorites not at the table. There may be the fashion equivalent of molecular gastronomy (interesting but can you wear it?). Hopefully it will be a balanced meal and one that won't leave us with indigestion.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why We Buy*

I saw this woman in the window of a shop on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. I'd always thought that's where the hippies hung out, but my friend and hostess said, "No, that's Haight Street." And indeed Fillmore Street is a San Franciscanized Madison Avenue. Being a beautiful Saturday morning, everyone was out, and this shopkeeper was getting ready for the day. She was a mannequin come to life. I wanted what she was wearing, to look like her going about my day.

Somewhere along the way Fashion decided we needed impossibly young and thin Ukranians to show clothes to their best advantage. Why? This woman was real and lovely and the best advertisement for what her shop was selling.

Could that be why we are so mesmerized by street fashion? Despite some of the out-for-attention get-ups, what we are seeing is real life— not a store window dummy or an unattainable human shape (you've got be born with legs as long as a racehorse).

I'm going out on a limb here (note well-placed pun) to say those of us who are easily moved by fashion also have vivid imaginations. We can see ourselves in what is presented before us. The more we relate to what we see the more we buy into it.

Are we ready for a revolution in the presentation of shopping? Should store windows be living tableaux and magazines be scanable videos? Maybe not, but I hope those in charge remember that connection to the theatre of the mind— where fashion is a dream and not a nightmare.

* Not to be confused with the excellent book on shopping, "Why We Buy" by Paco Underhill— must reading for anyone who cares more than a fig about these things.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Bow Before Lauren Bacall

I ran into Lauren Bacall once— in the mid '90s at the Kenneth Salon in the Waldorf Astoria (New York City of course).

Kenneth Battalle was the Sally Hershberger of his day, the Vidal Sassoon of the celebrity bouffant, Jackie O's favorite. His townhouse salon on East 54th Street was Haircut Central for Conde Nast, and Kenneth coiffed and cut for the editorial pages of Glamour for years.

Kenneth and a client

I admired a fellow train commuter's short haircut and had thus made my way to Kenneth's, now somewhat hidden in the basement of the Waldorf Astoria. The haircuts were expensive, and I didn't go for long. But one evening I had that "brush with greatness" as die-hard New Yorkers trying to be cool refer to celebrity sightings.

Lauren Bacall was paying for her services at the checkout desk. She was alone, a mature-looking lady wearing sensible shoes (a shock then not-so-much now) and a cloth coat. No air of entitlement, no look-at-me-don't-you-know-who-I-am. Just a nice "regular" in an easy chit-chat as she paid her bill and was on her way.

I've watched some of those early movies with Humphrey Bogart and totally see what the fuss was about. As her career evolved she could always be counted on to turn in a good job, often with accolades and Academy Award nominations. She lit up those old black and white movies, that's for sure and by all accounts was a classy lady.

That's the one I saw in Kenneth's.

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Over-dressed or Under-appreciated?

Did I overdo it?

My husband and I went out to dinner last night. Downtown. To a place considered— by location and price— to be a special occasion restaurant. It wasn't exactly a special occasion; Houston has an event called "Houston Restaurant Weeks" when hundreds of restaurants in town offer a set menu to attract diners and do good (a portion of the proceeds going to Houston Food Bank). This gives us an opportunity to try new places or revisit favorites that may ordinarily be out of the budget.

What I'm leading up to is— we got dressed. I wore a nice dress and even heels. This isn't exactly the dress, but it's close:

My husband wore a collared polo shirt, dark jeans, a blazer and his ancient python-skin boots that always get more attention than I do (the valet even commented on them).

We weren't dressing to impress, however. We got dressed because I like the idea of going to a nice restaurant and having a lovely evening with good food, drink and service. Aside from a small hiccup with the bread, we got all three and were stuffed and satisfied.

As I looked around me, though, I saw that practically no one was dressed to fit the place. There were a few young women in "date night"apparel— skinny pants, sky-high heels and a pretty top. Some gals dining together were just there for a girls' night out and may have come from work. What took me by surprise were the WOACAs (Women of a Certain Age) and their partners— women my age in other words— who have either given up the good fight or don't own a dress.

I'm not talking country-club chic either. These women may have been in chinos and a t-shirt or a blouse and cotton slacks— nothing special, nothing that said "I tried". As a consequence I began to feel a bit over dressed— as if my husband and I had suddenly become that "cute old couple" you might see in the park or at a concert. They look so nice together, but they look like alien space beings compared to the rest of the world.

Well, I'm not going to dumb-down dress just because everyone's doing it. Like my mother used to say when I gave that excuse, "If everyone jumped off a cliff would you do that too?" And I am obviously the keeper of the family flame. My husband actually asked if he could wear shorts to dinner.

We will keep marching along, and if we are marching to the beat of a different drummer— so be it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fall Fashion Snack Before the Feast

Have you ever made a meal of tasty hors d'oeuvres and felt satisfied? That's me after devouring InStyle's Your Look special issue for Fall 2014. Arriving, as it did, before the thud of September issues hits the doorstep ("Whoa, watch out for the right foot"), the 120 pages were a tasty treat and easy to digest.

InStyle is not just giving us this preview out of the goodness of their hearts. The issue isn't an "advertorial"— advertising content given in a journalistic style to mimic editorial content. It's more a sponsored "one-shot"— a one-off issue brought to you by Unilever and its fine family of beauty products. OK by me. I'm a fan of Dove and Nexxus anyways.

What the editors of InStyle have done is got me excited about Fall, a hard thing to do in the middle of a Texas summer. There are 30 Ways to Update Your Look, including go for the color claret (now being called Sangria) (nothing says Fall like a burgudy lip), wear one earring (haven't done that on purpose yet), wear socks with winter sandals (nevah), belt your scarf (interesting).

And here are the trends:
> Turtlenecks
> Winter pastels
> Neutral plaids
> Wrap coats
> Wide-leg pants
> Midi skirts
> Shearling jackets
> Jewel-toned leather
> Embellishment
> Sheer
> Prints of animals (as opposed to animal prints)
> Quilting

Sparkle plenty

I'm glad I don't have to throw out everything I own and can even bring back some that have been lingering in the back of the closet.

There are to-die-fors, like a pink funnel-neck scarf coat by Thakoon for $2,990 and a few pages of lovely lingerie. There's beauty info of course and a nice interview with Diane Kruger, more beauty, then a feature on looking good on the street (the better to attract The Sartorialist or Bill Cunningham).

Diane Kruger channeling Faye Dunaway

There are four pages of interesting color combinations:
> Red + sand + chocolate
> Cobalt + maroon + navy
> Olive + gray + navy
> Cognac + mauve + grape (that last particularly luscious)

We've got shoes, some dress formulas by type, delicate jewelry and how to look slouchy not sloppy. As befitting anything Fashion, the end page pokes fun at Pharrell Williams' hat and Anya Hindemach's cereal-box clutches.

You know that's not all. When the September issues are opened there will be more trends and more after that. But thank you, InStyle, for the delicious Whitman's Sampler.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What a Heel!

Sorry, I can't be silent about this. Sarah Jessica Parker is due to appear at our local Nordstrom to promote the fall offerings from her SJP Collection of shoes and handbags. The collection includes "ladylike and polished shoes crafted by artisans in Italy. Prices range from $350 for a pump to $695 for a knee high boot." I assume that is a pair of pumps or a pair of boots, but you never know. And why couldn't they be crafted by artisans in Los Angeles, please? Or Trenton? SJP will "meet with customers and sign their SJP purchases throughout the event, as time permits".

My first thought was There will be a mad celebrity crush to meet-and-greet Ms. P on August 21 between 4 and 5PM (if you are marking your calendar). My next thought was Who the heck will shell out $350 - $695 for a pair of shoes and/or a pair of shoes plus the chance to have them signed? And she is coming all this way for one hour?

So I'm having a hard time. Yes, I waited in line to have a picture signed by Priscilla Presley. I bought a book by Mitch Albom and did same so he could sign it (good book too). I even shuffled along a line so Julia Child could autograph my cooking hand (no book purchase needed). But shell out $475 (average price) for shoes? Saint Crispin himself (didn't know he was the patron saint of cobblers did you?) would have to have made them and do the signing himself.

So I predict a huge crowd at Nordstrom trying to get a glimpse of Ms. P and a few people silly enough to spend as much as would surely shod a small third world country's children's tiny feet. Whatever have we come to when we've come to that?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Is Heaven Fashionable?

There it is,

Why didn't I see this before? allwaySINfashion. Is Fashion a sin? Lord knows, it's my downfall, my budget breaker, my self-control slugger, my I-can't-stay-away-I'll-just-look temptation whether a store, a website or a magazine.

Not a fan of exercise, I used to joke that I would walk ten miles to a good sale. I always rewarded the trek from work to Grand Central by allowing myself one stop in a store before boarding the commuter train. I did indeed travel 60 nautical miles each way— from Provincetown to Boston and back— to pick up a copy of Vogue Knitting Magazine. I wasn't walking. On the slow P-Town/Beantown ferry, it sure felt like it.

The web weaves a trickier web. A new definition of trigger finger: the digit that pushes "Complete Purchase". There are some regrets in the moments immediately after; more regrets when the stuff arrives and disappoints. But like Santa Claus, online shopping is a hard concept to let go of. Maybe it's more like a blind date— sometimes it really does work out.

Fashion magazine obsession is easier to deal with, unless you are regularly plunking down $10 for a British Vogue or actually considering a $160 subscription to Grazia Weekly. Guilty and guilty. As it is Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, InStyle and Lucky fight to squeeze into my mailbox, along with catalogues from Anthropologie, J Crew, Chico's, Talbot's and the Vermont Country Store. Lucky may be the unlucky one soon as I don't think I'll renew. It's become elitist, expensive and a trifle outre.

So if Fashion is a sin, it's surely a little one, a transgression that makes us human. After all, saints don't change their robes, do they?

St. Peter's thinking about it

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Long Story

Word has come from down high (ok New York City and lovely friend D) that long skirts will be "in" for Fall 2014. This news greeted me with some alarm as Fall seems about as likely right now as an alien invasion. It is, in a word, hot.

You would think I'd be used to thinking ahead. We are gearing up for the first shipments of back-to-school at the Lovely Boutique. When I bought one regularly, the best winter coats were gone by Labor Day. In the publishing world from whence I came we would be shooting the Christmas issue about now.

I know several women who always wear their skirts long. They prefer them that way. They should be as happy to hear long skirts are "in" as I am when leopard makes its periodic return to chic. I wear leopard all the time, but sometimes I wear it with more oomph.

As I explained to D, long is not always my friend. Notwithstanding the time I tripped over my full length down coat ("How did that step get there?"), I am short and hippy (as in hippopatamus and not hipster). Wear a long full skirt and I can look like I came out of a grim Grimm's tale, about to offer Hansel and Gretel a piece of my house. So slimmer is better. That being said I do like long skirts in summer as they are romantic/bohemian and actually cooler than fabric sticking to your thighs.

How long will long be? 
As evinced by the Michael Kors runway for Fall 2014 long is "midi". I can do midi, though there's always the question what to do with the spindly legs. I'm thinking boots and tights, but Michael didn't.

Long-ish at Michael Kors

The Row is going both minimal and long-ish too.

Very "Funny Face" at The Row
Audrey as the center of attention

The toughest fall/winter look to pull off hits the ground running— or tripping (see paragraph 4). 
Full length anything is a slush magnet and potential ankle twister.

Beware city streets and stormy weather

Longer but not too long seems good to go.

Longer has legs