Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How to Dress Up a Late Summer Outfit

The days of the chandelier earring trend may be waning, but don't tell that to the scads of women I've seen this summer sporting a pair. In fact they are the easiest way to up (as in dress up) your game during the last, lazy days of summer. You know, when you are enjoying all summer has to offer while counting the days till the September issues.

It's easy to get very, very relaxed, bordering on lazy. In south Texas it's that time of year when you open the front door and wonder who left the oven on. It's no longer possible to put on a "crisp cotton" anything. T-shirts and drawstring linen pants are what I'm grabbing.

It's amazing how a pair of beaded, feathered or fringed drop earrings turn this into something that looks intentional. This must be the sartorial equivalent of plating a dish. The elements may be tasty, but you have to present them cohesively. And I am not about to sprinkle myself with chopped parsley.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Would You? Will I?

Saw this pix of Victoria Beckham in one of my guilty pleasures, Grazia magazine. Not sold in the US, I get my fix from a British friend on her semi-annual visits. She knows how much I love seeing her!

I adore clothes with a sense of humor, and this shirt gets the joke. Leave-'em-open-blowing-in-the-wind! What a great summertime solution for the I-will-not-go-sleeveless set (that's me). And they always make the sleeves too long...

Obviously this top has been constructed with a seam to leave unstitched, not easy to find. But will I take an old shirt and a scissors to get the same effect? Will you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

One Fun Dress

Zuri dresses all in a row by Durell Godfrey
I have more than enough clothes to cover every possible occasion from washing the car to meeting the Queen. There is a better chance I will be at the car wash than the palace, but you never know.

I've bought little this summer and felt not the least deprived. It's not that I'm smart as much as stuck. Fashion today is a bit of a mish-mash. There is an overabundance of choices at all price points, and nothing seems to be really "in" or "out".

Zuri dresses from Zuri.com

When the Zuri dress popped up on a fashion website, I quickly recovered from my summertime malaise and decided I had to have one. I've always loved those bright African cotton prints but never found a dress that didn't look like a costume. Sure enough, Zuri dresses, made in Kenya, bill themselves as the one dress you need. Perhaps it's not the only dress you need, but it's certainly a fun and versatile addition to your wardrobe.


Here's a dress that flatters a crayon box of figure types (thanks to waxed cotton that has some life to it), comes in many patterns (big and small), a range of colors (bright to subdued), is beautifully made for a reasonable price ($145-$160), and is providing decent work and wages for workers in Kenya.

Fitted through the shoulders, a Zuri dress swings away from the body, has a stand-up collar, pockets and hidden buttons down the front. The Zuri can be worn as a dress, belted or sashed, worn as a tunic or a jacket or even worn as a skirt with a little artful tying. It totally defies an age-range and is pretty much the Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress.

This is the backstory: In 2016 a transplanted New York designer living in Nairobi, Sandra Zhao, created a dress she could shove into a backpack that would still look good when unpacked, be easy to wear, pretty and culturally correct. It's fast and cheap to have clothing made in Nairobi, and there is a huge selection of the fun designs we call "African prints." She so enjoyed wearing it she started living in it. Ashleigh Gersh Miller, another transplanted New Yorker, spotted her at a wedding, wanted one as a maternity dress, and the rest is history.

They began in just a few stores stateside, spread through ongoing pop-ups throughout the country, have a website (shopzuri.com with free U.S. shipping) and last year opened a brick and mortar at 363 Bleeker Street in New York City.

The name Zuri comes from the Swahili, mzuri, meaning good. Dresses are produced in a fair trade and ethical workshop and workers have benefits, including childcare.

Melissa at Shark Bites; photo by DG

I heard about a pop-up at Shark Bites in Montauk, Long Island, and asked my friend Durell Godfrey if she would check it out. Not only did she investigate, she found a dress for herself. And it's the same one I had chosen for myself. It's a good thing we live 1700 miles apart.

Durell at the pop-up
Me in my front yard

Monday, July 23, 2018

76 Trombones and a Birthday Cake...

That's 76 candles on the birthday cake today.

My doctor calls this "the bonus round". While at first I felt that was a little harsh, I see his point. One difficulty of growing older is realizing everyone doesn't.

So here's to remembering family and friends lost, celebrating with family and friends present (near and far), and to bigger cakes, not smaller candles.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


"Hey, Stella!!!"
That was the first thing I thought when I saw this mannequin in Neiman's window. I still can't get Marlon Brando's plaintive, tortured cry in "Streetcar Named Desire" out of my head. This outfit is sure calling Stella.

It's too early for the real fall looks, of course. Some retailers will show a line called "transition"—quieter tones but in lighter weight fabrics—as they know we are getting bored with our summer stuff and thinking ahead already. What I saw in mall windows the other day was surely not meant to wear now. It's 98 at this very moment, and my weather app says it feels like 104. It feels like Hades, that's what it feels like.

Aside from the layers and wraps, it was just all too much, and it appeared in Versace's windows as well as Prada's and Miu-Miu's. I just don't want to wear ankle socks with mules and those prints don't work together. Maybe the window dressers have suffered a bout of heat stroke?

Leave it to Ralph Lauren to opt for a little sanity.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jackie Kennedy's Packing List

Four pieces of paper surfaced last week that have fashion historians and the rest-of-us-just-plain-curious examining their every detail. The papers are Jackie Kennedy's hand written notes of what to pack for that ill-fated trip to Texas in November, 1963. The lists were written on White House stationery and intended for Jackie's personal assistant, Providencia Paredes. Funny how a few small sheets of paper can tell so much about a person, a time and a place.

Jackie was a meticulous organizer. That much we know. How else could she have accomplished all she did as First Lady—arranging the many cultural events and restoring the White House itself along with orchestrating life as a wife and mother of two small children? In addition she loved fashion and used it to carefully construct her persona.

President and Mrs. Kennedy's trip to Texas was intended to shore up Democratic support in a state where it seemed to be slipping. Although Vice President and Texan Lyndon Johnson was a Democrat, as was the state's governor, John Connally, Texas was creeping towards its present Republican majority. None of that was apparent as crowds gathered to greet the Kennedys, stars in the firmament no matter what your political convictions.

Their short trip over a weekend was scheduled thus:

> San Antonio: Dedication speech at Brooks Air Force Base for the School of Aerospace Medicine
> Houston: Testamonial dinner honoring Congressman Albert Thomas
> Fort Worth: Arrive at Hotel Texas

> Fort Worth: Chamber of Commerce breakfast
> Dallas: Luncheon at Dallas Trade Mart
> Austin: Fundraising dinner at Municipal Audirorium
> Johnson City: Weekend of relaxation at Lyndon Johnson's ranch

It's a touchstone for those of us old enough to remember the day Kennedy died to never forget where we were when we heard the news. I was in the photography department at the Cleveland Institute of Art. A senior, I had fiddled away most of lunch in the studio and was getting ready to return to the afternoon's classes. I instinctively know reading the list today that Jackie never made it to a weekend of relaxation and horseback riding at Johnson's ranch (though she packed for it). 

While making notes of what to pack is not a surprise, the fact that these survived certainly is. The notes were found in 2015 in the possessions of the late Shirley Conover, who had once worked in the Department of Veteran Affairs. It was her wish to donate them to the Kennedy Presidential Library, but they were overlooked for some time.

Jackie's notes for that trip specified she wanted to wear a pink and navy Chanel suit, navy shoes, navy bag, and white kid gloves on Friday. Although originally designed by Chanel, Jackie's version was created by one of her dressmakers, Chez Ninon. Though she loved European fashion, Jackie was very careful to wear American. There is then some question whether the white outfit seen below is in fact by Chanel.

Although the museum has 95 of her dresses available for display, including the white outfit she wore the day before Kennedy's assassination, shown below, that pink suit will not go on display until 2103.

The day before the fateful day

Monday, July 9, 2018

Women We Love: Jeanne

I've never met Jeanne (pronounced Jhan) Jenkins, but in the wonderment that is social media, I see her often. Jeanne is one of the few "style influencers" (ie fashion bloggers) whose posts I follow to see what they are wearing. I try not to be influenced by others as much as inspired, and I love her style. She has kindly agreed to this interview, a great way of getting to know her.

Jeanne was born in Philadelphia and has lived pretty much 50/50 throughout her life on the east coast and west coast.  Her online presence began 2013 when she and daughter Kate decided to blog together, though they lived 2500 miles apart. "Two Take on Style" was a unique voice, "dedicated to all stylish mothers and daughters out there". It was a fun read as the two love fashion and have fun with it together. Life got busier for Kate, and their blog ended in 2016. Jeanne now posts only on Instagram.

Jeanne and Kate

Two years ago she retired from careers in private education, healthcare and fundraising and moved from the Bay Area to Knoxville, Tennessee, closer to Kate and the first grandchild. She has been getting to know her new city, babysitting three times a week and working and volunteering at the Knoxville Museum of Art. She is 69 and facing a milestone birthday soon with some trepidation but deserved confidence!

That photo at the top? Jeanne says that's "my philosophies of life all in one pic...oh and that's a scarf posing as skirt."

1) How would you define your style? 
Age appropriate fashion forward 

2) When did you know you had one? 
I've known since I was in my twenties that I had an eye for fashion and style.  In those days I'd try anything—my look today is tempered by knowledge about what works on my body and knowledge of fabrics and how they behave.  No more 100% linen or suede. I hate Modal, skinny belts, and empire-waisted dresses.

3) What's the first thing your remember wearing as a child that you loved?  
I remember some of the clothes I wore as a child but nothing was important as the outfit I wore for the first day of high school—bright plaid wool stitched-down pleated skirt and vest with white tube socks and loafers. 

4) What was your biggest fashion faux pas? 
I'm sure I've had many, but I probably should have passed on the chartreuse hot pants I made and wore to pick up my new in-laws from the airport. Oh yes and then there is the time I was on a business trip. My checked luggage was lost, and I had to wear a DKNY red leather skirt and matching red fish-neck stockings for a sales call on a delegation from a conservative religious college in the midwest. 

5) Did you ever try to emulate anyone else's style? 
I went through a preppy phase where I adored the insouciant style of the models in the J. Crew catalog. Lots of people inspire me today, but I must say I do love Cherie of Style Nudge, @journeyofastylist, silver_isthenewblonde, artfulcitystyle, individualstyle101, and notesbyastylist—all on Instagram.

6) Who has been your biggest fashion influence?  
I've followed in the footsteps of my mother and grandmother.  My French grandmother made her own clothes and was extremely chic.  My mother was always chic, and she spent very little money on clothes.  They were both great inspirations. 

7) What are your favorite places to shop?  
I shop almost exclusively online these days.  I get impatient with the organization in brick and mortar stores—unless I'm looking at a sales rack.  I like a mix of high and low—Asos, Mango, Zara on one end and on sale Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Shopbop designer stuff on the other. 

8) What influences your fashion choices— other people, magazines, movies, none of the above? 
I am always looking for age-appropriate interpretations of the latest styles.  I watch for ideas from online mostly—blogs, Instagram, fashion sites.  I'm pretty good at visualizing how items will go together. 

9) What are your favorite accessories? 
Wide belts for waist defining, scarves and wraps, and jewelry. I got over the big necklace trend a few years ago. I focus more on earrings, rings and bracelets and funky brooches.  And I definitely consider shoes the most important accessory. Also I can't ever forget eyeglasses; they are a necessity for me.  I have 15 pairs at the moment. I buy on sale CHEAP reading glasses or sunglasses and then have prescription lenses put into them.

10) How diligent are you in cleaning out your closet? 
I've been very good about that. I'm a neat, organized person anyhow so its not hard for me. The past year I've been engaged in winnowing my wardrobe post-retirement.

11) Carry-on or steamer trunk? Do you pack a little or a lot?
I always mange to pack more than I need, but I do it all in one carry-on and a small backpack.  So I think I have a steamer trunk soul tempered by the realities of modern travel. 

12) What do you have too much of? 
Fabulous scarves and way too much jewelry, and—oh yes— eyeglasses.

13) What are you always looking for? 
The perfect white shirt—dramatic collar and cuffs, perfect black turtleneck, stylish shoes with less than a 2" heel, and more glasses. 

14) What trend or style has most influenced you? 
I don't think a single trend or style defines me. 

15) What's your favorite everyday go-to outfit?  
Definitely active wear—my default for grandchild babysitting and running errands. 

16) What's your favorite special occasion outfit?
I really have no special event clothing.  I rely on black skirts and trousers—even a black tulle midi skirt from Amazon.  If that doesn't work, I'll borrow and, as a last resort only, I'll buy something new.  Usually the something new goes immediately to Thred Up afterwards. 

17) What trend will you never wear? 
Stilettos, any shoes that are like comfort shoes for "older women" (I just can't give in!), cropped jackets,  oversized or shaped designs. 

18)  What's one item in your wardrobe you can't live without? 
As of today, it would be my leopard print ankle booties from Asos.  They are perfect and they remind me every day of the fashionista look I am trying to achieve. 

19) You recently changed your hair color and changed it back. Any thoughts on that? 
Many thoughts.  I loved the idea of having a red pixie cut, but it was simply too hard to maintain the color to my satisfaction, so I returned to platinum.  Always at the back of my mind is whether I should return to my natural hair color.  It still seems like the last concession, after my Medicare, to the aging process. 

20) What was your "best buy"?  
I don't have one—they're all best buys or I don't purchase them. 

21) What's the "one that got away"?  
Probably my Loewe handbag purchased in Madrid.  I got to use it only a few times before it burned up in the Oakland Hills (CA) fire which completely destroyed my home and all my worldly goods. 

22) That fire sounds horrific. I can't imagine losing everything. How did you deal with it? What did it teach you, if something like that can actually be a learning experience? 
At the time of the fire, my daughter and I were living in a rented house. We were evacuated and took nothing with us except a change of clothes—and the silver flatware of course.  It was horrific—for me like the loss of my personal history, my soul.  It took several years to come to terms with all this.  The result is that I don’t have a lot of stuff I don’t use.  I don’t invest much in material things—except maybe clothes.
 It was a powerful learning experience: don't get attached to "stuff" and always be prepared to lose the things you have, even those you love the most.
23) What are 10 fashion pieces you can't live without?
> Perfect black pants
> Perfect fashionable jeans that suit me
> Perfect white tee
> Perfect black blazer
> The perfect black flats. booties and booties (that's three!)
> A 3/4 or full length trendy coat
> Leopard skin anything—currently I have heels, flats, slides and booties, backpack, two-piece dress, and cardigan sweater, also scarves   

24) What do you say to women who may be timid or afraid to try something new? 
Build your confidence slowly. Try one new thing at a time.  If it is the right thing for you, you'll hear compliments, and that will give you confidence to try something new. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Tale of Two Twisters


This is what happens when two people get dressed from closets in separate rooms but have been married for 50 years.

My Aunt Sally called matching outfits "looking like sin twisters."

We decided not to change.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Stylish Cinema: "Book Club"

Am I the only woman in America who did not like "Book Club"? For various and assorted reasons—not the least of which was three days of continuous rain—I was seriously ready for a rom-com, one that I could enjoy despite its being perhaps a little silly. What I wasn't willing to accept was one that insulted my intelligence while being as full of holes as Swiss cheese.

To be clear, I loved "Bridesmaids", another film about women behaving badly. I very much enjoyed "I'll See You in My Dreams", a rom-com with a slice of reality. And a book club saved my life back when I was having serious issues with my son's kindergarten teacher. I really, really wanted to love this movie.

Alas, I left with too many questions. Why did we never see Jane Fonda, as the owner of a chic California hotel, actually working? Ditto the chef/owner of a trendy restaurant. Certainly that has to be one of the most labor-intensive professions ever, yet Mary Steenburgen's character spent most of the time trying to get her reluctant husband into bed.

Diane Keaton was, as always, Diane Keaton. She has got that down so well the film didn't bother giving her another job. My favorite was the vulnerable Candice Bergen, believable as a federal judge, unfathomable as a divorcee obsessed with her ex-husband.

The male actors, (mainly Richard Dreyfuss, Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, and Ed Begley, Jr) all recognizable from better days and former glories, were for the most part accessories.

Speaking of accessories, my intent was to report on the fashion in this movie. I was interested how the actresses would be dressed in their roles as obviously well-off, sophisticated mature women.

A fun fact: the books the club is reading are E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. The costume designer for "Book Club", Shay Cunliffe,  also did that for the third "Grey" movie, "Fifty Shades Freed". Oh, and featured actor Don Johnson's daughter Dakota starred in those movies.

Here's how Shay did:

Diane Keaton's character (also named Diane) is dressed like someone who admires Diane Keaton and adopted her best looks without the silly bits. Diane's wardrobe is mostly black and white, including a stunning white pantsuit worn to the airport (not too practical) and shown without the jacket above. She has one scene in a light blue shirt and great fitting jeans. Her makeup was understated and hair an impossibly sleek swatch of white blonde. Diane herself could take a few lessons on how to look like Diane in "Book Club".

Jane Fonda as hotel-owner-allergic-to-love Vivian wears intentionally body-con clothing that's more Sexy Cougar than high fashion. Some of the prints were a little matronly. The clothes fit her splendid shape flawlessly. She has not a wrinkle on them or her face. Jane Fonda is fairly encased in plastic these days. She doesn't look real until the scene with Vivian in an untucked plaid shirt scarfing ice cream, meant to demonstrate she was vulnerable to love and frozen dairy products. That red head of hair was pretty obviously a wig.

Candice Bergen's Sharon is a believable federal judge with her understated work wardrobe. She hasn't a clue how to dress for a blind date. I did laugh at her wrestling match with a foundation garment in a fitting room. Nobody won that fight. Less feasible was her transformation to a hot mama (more like a chic Martha Stewart) on her second  blind date. Who gave her the makeover?

Mary Steenburgen is Carol, the chef and restaurant owner. Her wardrobe is modified Boho mixed with sleek working woman sheaths. Chef whites make a fleeting appearance but are never seen again. Her wardrobe is fairly forgettable, which may be why I found few shots to include.

I'll give "Book Club" props in two areas. It's a testament to the power of friendship, no matter how unrealistic those relationships might have been. It would be lovely to think your friends would help you dress for a big date when you are in your '70s, then hide behind a curtain to watch what happens. Or would it? Although the actresses range in age from 65 (Mary Steenburgen) to 72 (Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen) to 80 (Jane Fonda), they make for a plausible quartet of friends from college days. 

Casting turned a blind eye to age. Jane Fonda is paired with Don Johnson, 12 years her junior in real life and Diane Keaton with Andy Garcia, 10 years younger. Another Hollywood moment!

You may notice a lot of wine in the photos. There is much drinking in this movie. Those glasses deserve a set decorator credit of their own.

Looks like fun off set as well.