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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Men We Loved: Anthony Bourdain

Can I write a piece about the late Anthony Bourdain under the aegis of a fashion blog?

I once wrote a post called, "I Write, I Shop, I Dress, and I'm Hungry for More" and thanked him for his catch phrase on "No Reservations" that I had co-opted. I mentioned that "Someday I must write about your amazing cool middle-aged dude look. You are AllWays in Fashion." That was six years ago. I never did get around to it.

Now comes the sad tribute to that very cool dude. He had one true determination of style: presence. Anthony Bourdain fairly jumped off a page or screen. Oozing intelligence and charm, fueled by curiosity and joy, he touched all of us in such personal ways. He always seemed a head taller than everyone and moved like a cat. He was able to be more unfiltered and "real" than we allow ourselves to be, especially in public and with strangers. Oh for an ounce of that self confidence!

This goes beyond what Anthony Bourdain taught us. And yes, weren't we along to learn something? I couldn't care about eating duck's eyeballs in Hong Kong, but I wanted to know what made that city tick, and I wanted to learn with the most remarkable of guides.

The fact that at 61 Anthony Bourdain was on his way to becoming the most impossibly cool old guy dude ever? Don't laugh, Anthony, though you may be looking down on us all and laughing just a little bit. We will miss everything about you.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Goodbye, Lord & Taylor

Not all the Lord & Taylor stores are closing, but the Fifth Avenue flagship at 38th and 39th Streets will be no more. This landmark building opened in 1914 and only last year underwent a $12 million renovation. It will soon house WeWork, a company that provides shared work spaces and services for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Lord & Taylor has many distinctions. It was the first New York City department store, founded in 1826 by Mr. Lord and his cousin Mr. Taylor. In 1945 Dorothy Shaver became the first woman president of a retail establishment. Under her leadership Lord and Taylor was the first department store to open a suburban branch, setting the style for suburban shopping to come (and possibly the death knell of downtown).

Lord & Taylor holds some special memories for me. It was the first New York department store I visited—in 1950 when I was 8. This was an extravagant family vacation—we usually went to Chippewa Lake—and my first visit to New York. I remember impatiently sitting on a couch in Outerwear while my mother and older sister picked out winter coats. My father became increasingly agitated as he figured out what this was going to cost him. I could hardly wait to get to FAO Schwartz where I would spend the $10 I'd saved up.

As I became aware of fashion, art and the business of fashion (in roughly that order) I appreciated Lord &Taylor's advertising. They used illustration paired with the sophisticated swash of their hand lettered logo. The ads definitely had brand recognition.

Fifteen years later I'd be living in New York and working at "Glamour" Magazine. Lord & Taylor was close to the magazine's offices and convenient for lunchtime browsing, but it was never my dream palace of choice. Their offerings were tasteful and reasonably priced, but not exciting like Bloomingdale's or cheap and chic like Ohrbach's.

My mother had joined me to live in New York. After retiring as a secretary she took a part-time job in Lord & Taylor's lingerie department. She loved it, and the customers loved her. This was the first time I saw my mother as a person in her own right and not entirely orbiting around me. I would meet her occasionally for lunch in L&T's Birdcage Restaurant (tiny little tables and delicate little food).

Then as now 34th Street was more the shopping hub, as is Fifth Avenue from 50th to 57th Streets. Lord & Taylor was kind of an orphan, though everyone loved their Christmas windows.

Where are the remaining Lord & Taylor's? I just looked up the store search to find my nearest is 933 miles away in Oakbrook, Illinois. That's a long way to go for Christmas.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Life's Lost Little Luxuries: Swim Caps

A swim cap is not a luxury to a competitive swimmer who needs one to eliminate any iota of "drag" as she (or he) churns through the water. Once upon a time every girl and woman wore one, despite the fact that they didn't really keep your hair dry. They were pretty ugly, too—utilitarian white rubber helmets (with chin strap) purchased for $1.98 from the drug store.  

Then came "swim chapeaus", imaginative toppers designed to show off your compressed skull with  pizazz. They were all the rage in the 1950s, the cap of choice while enjoying the sand and sea or your local community pool.

These caps weren't cheap. It took a lot of baby sitting hours to save the $10. Mine was two shades of shaggy pink latex, similar to the one below. I was going for water sprite.

I loved Esther Williams' MGM musicals. Esther rarely wore a swim cap in her elaborately choreographed swimming routines. I wonder what they used on her head during those film sequences... bear grease??? She did sport a cute cap while frolicking with her children in her own (Esther Williams brand) pool.

You can find retro-style swim caps today, to be worn with a wink and a smile. They are colorful and fun. But the originals promised you would have the allure of a mermaid, or appear as a sea creature come to life. Keeping hair dry was completely beside the point.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tour de Force

Not done this way today...

"If it's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium" was a 1969 comedy starring Ian McShane as a tour guide taking a busload of Americans across Europe. 

Fast forward to 2018 starring Mark Deckelbaum as the guide and a busload of Americans touring Israel. I had a bit part as "woman covered in sunblock, seat two, left of aisle."

My husband and I love to travel and usually hitch ourselves to day or half-day tours of places we are visiting on our own. The rest of the time we like to wander, meeting locals and tourists from other parts of the world. We also like to sleep late.

We realized two weeks in Israel to see everything we wanted meant being part of a full-fledged tour. The thought of someone else planning the details was very compelling. We had some help finding Which Tour, and in the end chose wisely.

Now group tours are very much like family: you don't have a choice who's with you, you have to get along, and you forgive a lot in the process. There is a group mentality that will color your experiences as much as what you see. Despite a (very) few hiccups, it was a wonderful trip. 

A lively group though not mine

Here's where the gist of this post kicks in. I packed all wrong. 

When I travel I like to put myself in context to where I am visiting. If it's a city, I like to dress city-style. If it's the tropics I'll give free reign to my Bohemian side. Seaside and the white pants and striped T will come out. You get the idea.

I packed for Israel much the same way (after checking out Eva Marie Saint's wardrobe in "Exodus"). Desert colors for daytime sightseeing, utility clothes like khakis for active touring, a few dress-up dresses for dinner in the cities...and corresponding shoes, jewelry, handbags, etc. As someone else would be lugging the suitcases I figured "Why not?".

Eva Marie Saint (left) in "Exodus"
However, I discovered what veteran travelers know: Touring with a group is a different animal. Many of the women thoughtfully put together what I would call a Basic Group Tour Wardrobe: simple t-shirts, pull on jersey pants, zip up jackets, baseball cap, practical sneakers, the all-important nylon cross-body bag. They dressed TO TOUR, to be part of that phalanx of 20 or so who go from A to B with headsets and name tags. They mean business

If I were smart I would have done the same. It made no sense to dress according to place so I would "fit in". We were so obviously a bunch of tourists. There was no way I could have been mistaken for anything else. 

Some days we would meet in the lobby dressed, fed and ready to go for the day as early as 6:45 AM. When we returned to the hotel at 7PM no one "dressed for dinner". It was head to the dining room then straight to bed. 

No one cared about hair, makeup or accessories. Our concerns were sunblock, water and the right shoes. Guess who wished she'd brought her all-terrain Brooks GTS Adrenalines? I thought it would be chic to wear olive and tan in the country and learned how to deflect jokes about looking like the Israel Defense Force.

With a new friend at the border

Although it's taken a week to recover from that 28-hour flight home, it was all amazing, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat—with a carry-on.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What if...?

What if Meghan Markle had worn a white pantsuit to her wedding? What if she had worn a short dress a la Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face"? What if she had worn a hat rather than a tiara? What if she had stunned the world as this whole divorced-older-woman/younger-man-biracial-royally unprecedented romance has done? She could have gotten away with it.

Instead Meghan chose a dress so simple I am pressed to describe it other than a white satin column with a wide (ill-fitting?) bateau neckline. The designer was Clare Waight Keller, who recently became head of Givenchy. It was tasteful, but in a cream-of-wheat sort of way. The veil was long with a small attempt at embroidered trim. The tiara was refined. The jewelry understated. The hair was hair. The makeup minimal.

I liked that. She looked as fresh-faced as a schoolgirl. I'd be surprised if freckles as an accessory didn't become a trend.

Young women looking to be inspired for their own big day will probably look elsewhere. At least they already have their prince.