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, alwaysinfashion.blogspot.com

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





Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'm a Believer


I just had an other-world, out-of-body, psychic experience with Fashion. Has anything like this ever happened to you?

A few weeks ago I lamented that I had not bought a dress we had in stock during the holiday season at The Lovely Boutique Where I Work. It was a stunner, but I had no place to wear it. I never tried it on, so as not to be tempted. I let it go... onto the markdown rack... out of the store...

 Now a wedding event has come up. I realize I have the perfect shoes, the cover-up, the jewelry— but not the dress. That coveted dress was indeed available to purchase on ebay, but at a price too unreasonable if it didn't fit or just plain looked terrible.

This past weekend we were in the magical city of New Orleans. Anything can happen, and it did. I always stop into a truly genuine outlet shop located in the French Quarter. A beautiful silk dress hung on the size 2 rack. I usually need a prayer and a shoe horn to get into a 2, but this dress had a price tag of $595— make that $59.99— better yet $14.99— okay $4.99. It was worth the effort to try on a $595 dress now selling at $4.99.

Which I did.

And it fit.

And looked divine.

So I bought it.

Before the store could change its mind.


For reasons (mostly guilty) I am not revealing the designer name. I don't want them to know one of their beautiful creations ended up begging "Please, please get me out of here". I don't want anyone to think the unnamed shop sells stuff for a song, because they don't. This was a fluke.

What struck me, not just that this was a lucky buy, but that the designer name was the same who had made the dress-that-got-away.

Was it New Orleans, the land of magical thinking? Similar things have happened before. The dry cleaner once ruined my old-but-still-favorite dress. When I had dropped it off I said (jokingly), "Please don't ruin this; it's my favorite dress." And they did— ruin it. I ran home, went on ebay, and immediately found one, NWT, in my size.

If fashion is your religion, you are a believer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Baby Snookered

Radio: theater of the imagination

Today is my birthday. I'm old enough to realize each day is special. I'm happy to have family and friends, good health, a purpose to my days... and a list a mile long of things I'd like to see or do or get filed away.

I'm also old enough to remember radio— and when television came into the house. One day a console radio took center stage. We kids would sprawl on the floor right in front of it. That was hardly necessary as you could hear the radio anywhere in our small living room. The next day a television took its place.. We then had to sit close because the screen was so small.

One of my favorite radio shows was "Baby Snooks", the comedic adventures of a little girl— but played by veteran vaudeville comedian Fanny Brice. Baby Snooks was probably too old to be called Baby; she was supposed to be around five. She was worldly wise and a wise-cracker, adept at getting into— and out— of trouble. Even at the age I first remember her (probably also five) I admired her gumption and ability to do anything and get away with it. Let's say she was the troublemaker I knew I should never be.

But I thought Baby Snooks was a child. It was a terrible disappoint to discover that Fanny Brice was a middle aged woman. Even in Baby Snooks-costume I knew she was no kid. Perhaps that was my first lesson in mutton-dressed-as-lamb.

Baby, you are no baby!

Fast forward a few years. I had just turned 14. Just. You could say I was 13 and 372 days. Never was there a more accurate description of my mother than "She had champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook". She saw that the Waldorf Astoria in New York City had a summer special where children 13 and under stayed free. I assume in those days you paid by the person and not by the room.

We hit the road— 550 miles in an un-airconditioned car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Howard Johnson's our only source of sustenance. I'm not sure what I wore in the car, but somewhere around Newark I changed into a baby pink cotton sundress and plunked a matching baby pink sailor hat on my head. How did I even own that hat?

All Waldorf, no salad

This served as my "checking-into-the-Waldorf" outfit. I must have looked about ten. My mother was not taking any chances we would be disqualified for the discounted rate. I was a full partner in this ruse. I loved the idea of staying at the Waldorf and had bragged about it to my friends. That night we dressed for dinner, and I wore a black sheath dress— scoop neck, sleeveless, pencil skirt. Tres chic that sheath but probably too sophisticated for a young teen. The pink ensemble made no more appearances in New York City.

We had a lovely trip, though we ate dinner every evening at the same restaurant: Stouffer's. My mother had coupons.

Stouffer's "Top of the Sixes" was
dining in high style







Monday, July 14, 2014

Tattoo You


I don't have much to say about this except it is Paris street style seen during the recent couture week. And I love it.

Me—

who would never

ever

get a tattoo.

: > )

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Second Most Interesting Man in the World

Nick Wooster

That Dos Equis beer guy may be the most interesting man in the world, but Nick Wooster has got to be next. I wouldn't call him a dandy (more on that in a minute), but he sure looks dandy.

I never heard of Nick Wooster until the New York Times (aka the newspaper of record) ran a story on him in their Thursday Style Section.

Beau Brummel has been labeled as the first dandy, though that may not be giving him his due. Beau was a clothing revolutionary. He thought men's powdered wigs and lace frippery in Regency England were stupid. He charmed his way into the good graces of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), gave him a well-needed makeover and paved the way for mens-wear forever after. Beau Brummel's downfall was a love of high stakes gambling without the funds to back it.

Stewart Granger as Beau Brummel—
both dandy

While there is indeed a Dandy movement afoot for "the return of the elegant gentlemen", most of us equate dandies with a love of fashion that turns perilously close to affectation. Think Tom Wolfe or Patrick McDonald— very nice men I'm sure, but I'd be nervous to challenge them to a style-off.

Wolfe at the door
Got it down Pat

Nick Wooster has been around for a while (he's 55). Let's credit (or blame) social media for his rise to prominence. He has an impressive resume: buyer at Barney's, design director at Ralph Lauren, fashion director at Neiman Marcus, president of John Bartlett, director of trend development at J.C. Penney. An endless source of fascination to fashionistas, bloggers and street photographers, his most impressive resume is himself. He joked to the Times that "Instagram is my 401K". He's been called a "digital man crush" and it's said that "young men's-wear dudes idolize and worship him". Nick Wooster doesn't have to say a thing. His own nickwooster.com is a wordless tumblr post of beautiful images— of him and things he likes.

The second most interesting man in the world can also not take a bad picture:


Can one make a living at this? It would seem possible. Harness a trendsetter to your business, and you can reap in the profits. Nick Wooster recently signed on as brand ambassador for the Lardini Group, an Italian maufacturer, and will be developing a Wooster and Lardini collection of mens-wear.

Looking at this from my perspective, I would love for my son or husband to be influenced by this guy. His style is 100% butch*— all the things about men's clothing that we gals love and have appropriated for ourselves over the years. Aside from that he ooooozes confidence, the one trait women cannot help but fall for. Any man who dressed like that with such assurance and chose me as his partner? Well, makes me look good!

Nick Wooster is (sadly) the only man who can make smoking look cool:

Please don't try this at home

*Not delusional; I am perfectly aware that Mr. Wooster referred to himself as an "old midget queen".

Friday, July 4, 2014

Days in White Cotton

Happy Fourth of July!

Much has been written about the white shirt but not by me. It's charms fell on deaf ears— until I realized I had just bought my third chemise blanc in as many months.

I could declare this The Summer of the White Shirt, but that's like saying The Summer of the Straw Handbag. A crisp white shirt has always looked cool and refreshing— until it is no longer crisp but soggy and sooty. I'm not a perfectionist but hate feeling yucky.

So why now? Am I just ready to simplify? Sleek Zara is one of my favorites; I'm chomping at the bit to visit COS when it opens in New York (mail order already and finally available in the US). I have a new admiration for Eileen Fisher now that my figger can use some skimming in the cloth department.

But a white shirt? With my boy-short hair and flat chest, shirts have never been a favorite. You can only wear a white shirt once. Me, iron? Nevah. Full disclosure: my new white shirts are what the French call chemisiers (shirt blouses). I've now a soft crepe, a cropped mandarin collared and a high-low button down with long tails. More interesting than the usual, the twists are what make 2014's Summer of the White Shirt so appealing.

While not my white shirts (nor on me) the following give you an idea:

Shirt as blouse
Cropped (just love her)
Woman-tailored
(on Olivia Palermo) 

Never say never, right? But here's a white look that will never happen chez moi:

Probably hot but so cool...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Proud of Pride


My report from Houston's Gay Pride Festival and Parade, held yesterday, will not be a critique of fashionable attire— and what fashion it was! As befits the huge attendance of L/G/B/T and S (S for straight) anything went (including some tops that stayed home). When it wasn't hot it was raining and hot. No one was comfortable, but everyone looked happy.

To celebrate who you are, who you want to be, who you would be all the time if you could be— what a quintessentially American idea. Considering I was volunteering in a booth to collect names on a grass roots petition urging Hillary Clinton to run for President, the point was brought home with striking clarity.

So no pix from the parade other than this one of the lovely Emily (who is not coughing up a cigarette). If only that tail had been a rainbow snow cone...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

'Tis Reunion Season


I haven't been to one since my one-and-only (the 30th in 1994), but 'tis the season. Reunion planners (bless their hearts), who work long and hard at it, realize summer is probably the best time to catch alumni with some time off and/or the need to scurry back to the old home place for family obligations.

Of course, at this point, anytime would be good for the class of 1960. So few of us are working we are now called "The Silent Generation". Nobody asked me, of course, but I'm more vocal than ever.

Why did I wait till the 30th to join in the festivities? Probably because I hated high school and dreaded a resurgence of that feeling that you want to run away or throw up. But A) my dad was not well, B) I had a great husband and son and successful career in my chosen field and C) no more braces.

I agonized over what to wear, as will you if you are going to a reunion. I ended up with a white linen suit encrusted with black beading and "Dynasty" shoulders (it was the dynasty of "Dynasty"). I made the mistake many of us do; I wore the suit for the first time that night and found the pencil skirt restricting, the jacket hot, and the whole thing wrinkled. I thought I looked good going into the hotel though, and that's what counted.

Tip to all reunion planners: we were given name tags at check-in with our high school yearbook photo attached. This was a good idea in a class of 550 and less humiliating than you might think. The women were all recognizable and for the most part looked smashing. Those that were gorgeous had kept their looks, those who just needed to grow into themselves had done so with great results, and those few who might have been lost causes had fixed what needed fixing and/or lost what needed losing. Because they'd come the farthest, they looked the best.

The men, on the other hand, at almost 50, were beginning to lose it— from hair to waistlines. Without a name tag I would not have recognized Mr X. Since I was chest height to him, I saw the name tag first, recognized that face and blurted out, "I had such a crush on you!" There was no way he could see what I was thinking, Yikes! Look what happened to you...

I left my lovely husband back home for this one. Why? Not because I wouldn't want to show him off (still looking good). Not because I was afraid he would find out nobody remembered me (not true as it turned out), but because I was sure he would be bored silly. In order to "arm" myself I brought a polaroid camera (1994 remember?) and played an early version of "street photographer". The camera was a crutch; I actually took few pictures, but it was good to carry.

What did I learn?
> Time changes everything. There were no butterflies, and I kept down dinner.
> People have short memories. A couple of times I heard: "Michelle! I remember you and your red hair." My hair didn't "turn red" until I was 40.
> We have short memories. I was reminded I used to wash my face religiously twice a day in school with some gook the doctor prescribed for my roaring case of acne. Like the acne itself, I had forgotten about that.

What started all this was reading Diane Keaton's new book, "Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty". This is not a compendium of Diane's fashion and beauty tips. Far from it. At 192 pages, triple spaced, it hardly qualifies as a collection of essays, let alone a book. But she does touch on what time has meant for some of her favorite dreamboat celebrities. They're still good looking, just in a different way. Men have always been able to get away with aging and most have done it successfully without the unfortunate intervention of Dr. Plastique (you know who you are, Arnold, Sly and Mickey). When plastic surgery goes wrong on a man it's just as wrong as on a woman.

Pacino...
...DeNiro
...Beatty

I only knew the mature Gary Cooper and the middle aged John Wayne. I had no idea what they looked like as young blades. The discovery was awesome but didn't make them less handsome later.

The Coop
The Duke

If you go to your reunion— and you should— road-test your outfit, bring a companion (or a camera) and be grateful that Time Marches On— and you are lucky to be marching with it.