Wednesday, October 16, 2019

It Had to Happen: Anthropologie's Newest Shopping Idea

I've often joked I wish we could just rent our clothes. I love variety and am always tempted by the new. I've bought as many things I tire of quickly as pieces that last, and I am tired of that. Along comes Anthropologie with a new clothes rental service called Nuuly.

Full disclosure: I worked at Anthropologie for 12 years. My forte was being in the fitting room, guiding and suggesting. I was one of a half dozen associates brought to Philadelphia to develop the Personal Stylist program, and I'm proud to say I helped shepherd the program in its beginnings.

I never dreamed Anthro would come up with the various initiatives it has, from its brief stint in workout gear to its odd emphasis on beauty products, to eternal discounts (once as rare as hens' teeth) to offering plus sizes (formerly scorned upon). There have been some misses—the upscale Liefsdottier line and the BHLDN bridal line (still around but much altered).

The folks at Anthro central in Philadelphia have come up with another idea, and this sounds like a winner: Nuuly. It's a clothes rental service. I have no idea what the letters mean. Could it be "New You Truly"? Six pieces for $88. Wear them for a month with an option to buy or send them all back and pick out another six. No shipping or cleaning charges. Sounds too good to be true, BUT what a brilliant idea, and boy-oh-boy am I tempted.

If you've ever trolled the Anthropologie website you know how exhausting it can be. There is much more online, more than in stores. Some of it is quite pricey. Naturally those are the things I like. Nully has its own site for making selections. It's pretty extensive, featuring more Fashion pieces than Basics and including some of those pricier items.

One obvious downside is the usual one when buying clothes online: how will it look on you? One or two of your six choices will undoubtedly not make it on your back during the month. You will be out of luck if something needs shortening.

I worry about the company, too. They say you don't have to deal with cleaning or repairs. I assume all garments will be sent out newly refreshed. Does that mean part of the huge Urban campus will become a dry cleaning plant? Will you be advised not to drink red wine while wearing your white sweater? And is this truly a money-making proposition? $88 barely buys a t-shirt at Anthropologie. For those many thousands hooked on Anthro, will not that $88 satisfy the itch that might have been scratched spending so much more?

Will I try it? Well, as I said, I'm tempted, although I'm not lacking in clothes (an understatement). What I don't have is a five-days-a-week job or a dating life. n.b. I don't miss either. With a modicum of restraint, I think I'll pass.

When I was a little girl one of my favorite pastimes was leafing through my mother's catalogues and "choosing" what I would order. It was great fun to imagine going here or there wearing this or that. I must have spent hours pretending on rainy or winter afternoons. I have a feeling that's exactly what I will do with Nuuly.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tie One On: The Pussycat Bow Blouse

Zara, $69.90

What's always in style but never (before now) a trend? What's been around forever but doesn't look old? The answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind. It's the pussycat blow blouse, beloved of school marms, secretaries and fashionistas for decades.

This pussycat has been napping as nobody really wore one for years. It was romantic Hollywood fluff in the '30s and gave the power suit a feminine touch in the '70s. If you had one in your closet, you probably didn't have the heart to give it away. Now, rejoice, as the pussycat bow is having a moment.

Joan Crawford in the '30s
Iconic 1970s  Helmut Newton image

The bow-blouse trend is being seen at a wide range of retailers, from Neiman Marcus... Banana Republic.

My favorites are at Zara, who offers a huge selection, at reliably reasonable prices. I scrolled so you don't have to.

Zara, all $39.90
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  
Zara, all $49.90

How to wear it? So you don't look like a school marm or a secretary, wear a bow blouse with some irony—as part of a menswear look (ie casual work pants)...

Zara, $39.90

terrorizing the neighborhood in black leather...

Zara, $39.90

thrown on oh-so-casually over denim...

Zara, $39.90

Of course, you can always go full Hollywood pairing it with satin, brocade or velvet. You can even leave the bow untied. Just don't trip.

Zara, $25.99

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Clearly 2020


You are going to see so many riffs on "2020" as the year approaches, you might as well get used to it. As a kid I thought about 2000. I would be so old! It turned out I was 58. I've never thought ahead to 2020, but here it almost is. You can do the math.

Vanessa on the job

The 4-city marathon of shows (New York, London, Milan and Paris) has just finished. As reported by the lovely fashion editor of the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman, and distilled by Elizabeth Paton, we now have a sneak peek at trends for Spring 2020.

The Row

L O N G   S H O R T S
I would like to think this trend was influenced by my reporting on how awful women look wearing short shorts in the city as tourists. Alas, long shorts keep trying to be a thing. Street style stars love them; real women not so much. But longer and fuller shorts may have a chance. Not much different than a mini skirt, yes?

Bottega Veneta

S U P E R   S I Z E   B A G S
So much for the fanny pack trend. 2020's bags are bigger than ever. We women can't leave anything at home after all. Start doing your shoulder exercises now.

Bottega Veneta
Alberta Ferretti

O R A N G E   I S   T H E   N E W   B L A C K
Really. Orange and variations like apricot and saffron were seen everywhere. Not the easiest color to wear, you will stand out. Obviously do not pair orange with black.

Christopher Kane

C U T!
Besides the usual midriffs and bare shoulders, designers treated fabric to further punching and perforating in a deliberate manner. We are not talking shredded anything.

The 70s Ferragamo Rainbow sandals
Aquazurra, Spring 2020
S E V E N T I E S   S H O E S
Bring out the clunkers! Those chunky, colorful shoes are back. We almost broke our necks on them, but they were fun. Perhaps saner versions will emerge.

Christian Siriano
S U M M E R   S K I N S
It's never too hot for animal prints, which were hot hot hot for fall. Spring will see more prints than fur (faux or otherwise), snakeskins and jungle foliage touches.


2 0 2 0  I N   T H E  1 8 T H   C E N T U R Y
The ruffles, poufs, jacquards and florals of 18th century European courts (as in off-with-her-head) were popular for their gender-bending possibilities as much as their sheer romanticism.

Once again it's a bit "anything goes" and "what goes around comes around". If you can say one thing about fashion, it does keep going.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Take Two Steps Back...

When does a designer's "inspiration" end up looking like a blast from the past? No matter that my friends and I can replicate Celine's 2020 runway look from the depths of our closets, so can a much younger fashionista. Jenny Walton is an illustrator, fashion director and girlfriend of the Sartorialist, Scott Schuman.

Here is probably the signature look from Celine.
It's the one that's been reproduced myriad times:

Here is a candid shot of Jenny by Scott as posted on his Sartorialist Instagram feed:  

The small type says Jenny reproduced the look from vintage—except the boots, which were a gift from him.

Were I to pull out this outfit from my own vintage (aka closet), I would feel like I hadn't evolved since 1985. There is no reason I want to wear this, other than to prove it still fits. OK, maybe the belt won't.

So what is the point? Is fashion just for the young? I remember reading, ages ago, that if you wore it once you can't wear it again. I interpreted that as meaning I am free to wear anything from the 1940s back.

Which is really okay. Have you seen the frocks in the new Downton Abbey movie???

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Instagram Scam

The legit The Grey Layers
Whatever you may think of it (I have my opinions) Instagram is facing a new scam that is a serious reflection of who and where we are now.

Instagram Influencers are finding their identities stolen and others are receiving the free merchandise promoters generously give in hopes of receiving a boost. 

The suspicious The Spicy Cocktail

A bit of history:

The popular subjects on Instagram are food ("what I ate" and "what I cooked"), travel ("where I went"), decorating ("what I did" and "what I wish I could do") and celebrities. There are cuddly pets and adorable children, of course, and—now—way too many ads. There is also fashion, which fills a huge amount of Instagram's endless space. And there are Influencers.

Someone during Instagram's infancy decided to show the world what she was wearing. Many, many did the same. A term was coined, OOTD (Outfit of the Day). Even more began to "follow" them, perhaps asking, "Where did you get those cute shoes?" The Cute Shoe Company suddenly got a lot of requests. Instagrammers realized they had influence. Promoters discovered another outlet. A match was made, an idea hatched, and Influencers were born.

I would like to say I can smell a rat, but at first I was taken in. I was impressed some women were recognized for their style. I just assumed the coat one wore or the lipstick another liked were their own discoveries. Slowly I realized this could be their jobs.

Now, not every fashion-loving woman on Instagram is an Influencer. There are professionals I follow who have legitimate businesses as reporters or stylists, whose work and point of view I enjoy seeing. There are stylish women who aren't promoting anything, of course.

But Influencers, posters on Facebook with followings of 50,000 to 500,000, are big business. Millions of dollars in merchandise are allotted to wooing them in exchange for a photo and a mention.

The New York Times reported on the Instagram scam with this eye-opening example. Jeane Grey has posted as @TheGreyLayers since 2009. She's one of those Instagram professionals, an Influencer, with 460,000 followers. She must be catnip to a product hoping for exposure on her feed. She discovered that her identity had been stolen by a young woman (a minor) living in Spain. I'm not sure how it worked, but @TheSpicyCocktail started receiving gifts meant for @TheGreyLayers and posting them on her site.

The scurrilous Spicy Cocktail

I don't want to give her much exposure because what she's doing is wrong and stupid and sad. Jeanne Grey has alerted the Instagram community. @TheSpicyCocktail has victimized others as well. She denies it was anything but a simple mistake (highly doubtful).

The Times quoted a publicist who works with Influencers, saying that most people impersonating her clients were 9 to 15 years old. This fills me with alarm. What kind of message are we sending to girls growing up? What kind of pursuit is this? Why the interest in promoting oneself? What a horrible way to gather that approval we all wanted as teenagers. What values do these girls have? And who has taught them? Is it us as a society? Can we blame the girls' mothers for encouraging this? Do they even know? The horrid Spicy Cocktail has been on Instagram for a very long time. I found older pictures of her where she looks about 10.

Too too too young...

I'm left with a feeling of dread. What may have started as fun has become a terrifying endeavor that can not end well. For anyone.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Mining Gold: Day 7 and Graduation!

Nobody rests on the 7th day of the Miracle Course. This is where we learn How to Be a Fashion Expert.

The section's first two pages seem nothing more than a bunch of stock photos the art department had left over and the copy department tried very hard to justify. Titled "Fashion is a lot of little things", two gems are "When in doubt about a hat—wear a beret. Goes with everything!" and "There's something about a long skinny tightly furled umbrella that practically screams: 'she's fashionable'."

The Course then answers the question "What is this thing called high fashion?" I think we would easily say, "couture, runways, famous designers." In 1952 high fashion was that which was not yet accepted and worn by all. "It's a style that nobody wore yesterday—that very few are wearing today—and that everybody will wear tomorrow." Could this not also be the definition of a trend?

Some good advice: You have got to have the nerve and the "fashion bearing" to pull off anything brand-new as it (and you) will get attention. So, wear it with conviction. If you're not convincing no one else will be convinced.

More good advice: If you have a major purchase to buy, say you are replacing a winter coat, pick one in tomorrow's style rather than today's. Your investment will last longer.

Still more good advice: Can't afford high fashion? Pick up the colors, details or accessories of the new look and update yours in small ways.

Now you know all the answers

I found some early thinking on wearing separates. Try to remember that in 1952 dresses were numero uno. A suit was a suit, not two pieces that could be worn individually. So having a collection of blouses and sweaters and jackets to increase your wardrobe possibilities was pretty revolutionary. And it caught on. The dress has only returned, and then really in a diminished way, in the past ten years or so.
The models on a two-page spread are having a conversation, blonde and brunette. They are discussing the all-too-real conundrum that men have with how women look. Men like women who are a bit sexy as long as they aren't their women. So the trick is to have "a little sex-appeal in a lady-like way." Flirty skirts, hair that's touchable, "dainty little shoes to make their feet look bigger", a little glitter (but not too much), "swishy and pretty dresses". And then the girls compliment each other on their pretty dresses. By this point I think the staff were either reaching deadline or were so over the whole project.

Finally, on page 97, you are given permission to insert a little personality into your style. If you love hats, indulge yourself. If it's shoes, go for them. Have a trademark piece of jewelry? Wear it with everything. Adore scarves? Wear them unconventionally, around your wrist or on a handbag.  

* * *

What have we learned? Well, I learned that back in 1952 fashion was serious business. As happens so often when a decade turns, the early 50s were more like the end of the 40s. Fashionable in 1952 meant one way and one way only.The Miracle Course feels like a battle plan. There were rules to follow, and if you did you could expect success. The ego was pretty sublimated. There was none of this "dress for who you really are."

My report on the course was not meant to be a put down. I found still much go still to be mined. Good advice is good advice no matter the year. The revelation was how strict it all was. The idea one could become a "fashion expert" by taking the course might be a stretch, but I hope it helped some readers.

It's hard to believe three of our greatest fashion icons were barely a blip on the radar in 1952. Audrey, Grace and Marilyn were just beginning their careers. Audrey (the Original), Grace (the Lady) and Marilyn (the Bombshell) changed the way we saw fashion. By emulating our favorites we developed our own styles. I know; I was there.

A new day was dawning...