Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Divine Dame Dench

I've just seen "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and come away with renewed adoration and admiration for the wonderful Judi Dench. Only the Grinch would not love her, of course. Throughout her long stage, television and movie career she has played everything from a Bond girl (007's boss M) to Queen Victoria and emerged victorious. At age 77 she has let herself age without letting herself go. So she's a little pouter-pigeon in shape; so she's got lines and bumps, hair as white as snow and a bit of a widow's hump (she is one after all). But have you seen that smile? Do you feel her enthusiasm for life and that self-deprecating sense of humor whenever she's interviewed? And who cuts her hair in such a perfect pixie? I'm going to London in the fall; maybe I can discover her hairdresser in time.

In the "Best Exotic" Judi's character is a bit timid yet determined. She has the most empathy of the great ensemble of characters (and character actors) but not without having paid a price— the realization she was never in charge of her own life. Not for a moment in the film (and I suspect real life) does she stare mournfully into a mirror bemoaning a few extra pounds or give up teatime in favor of a brisk jog in the 110 degree Jaipur weather to sweat off a few inches. She dresses comfortably (could there be elastic in those pants?) but still stylishly. In real life she does not shy away from cleavage or best exotic jewelry. If seeing Judi Dench on the screen or in a photograph is enough to make me want to know her, isn't the image we project likewise what makes people interested in knowing us?
Still true today to her 1968 self

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Spy... a Trend or Two

This summer's trends are rising to the top like freshly churned cream. Who gets to decide what we must wear anyways??? Nevertheless, as I see them and in no particular order of deliciousness:

The High-Low
A little whimsical, a little cockeyed— this trend has no blueprint. If it looks good— and you feel comfortable— wear it.

Photo Print
Wear then hang on the wall.

Color Blocking
As easy as one-two-three

Not only for nail polish; I just like this photo.

Nautical (now and forever)
Classy and classic— this summer's nautical is a little more relaxed.

Long Sundress
Still a favorite as the secret is out— dresses are cooler than pants.

Patterned Pants
Maybe not cool, but they sure are cool.

Espadrilles have gone beyond basic to embrace pattern, trim, ballet and driving moc shapes.

Retro Swim
I really did have a bathing suit that like this when I was ten. That is not me.

Blue Work Shirt
The chambray shirt is everywhere— paired with pants, shorts or skirt, as a jacket, over a sundress. All shades from dark denim to faded near-white. The fit is easy and should look like you've had it for-evah.

Clunky Sandals
There's a fine line between chunky and clunky of course, and one can lead to a sprained ankle.

Narrow Belt
Further proof that one should never throw out a belt. Narrow is back; neon makes it newer.

Bold Necklace
And it's neon!

Friendship Bracelets
Bet you can't wear just one. Note neon nails and clutch.

Straw Tote
The bigger the better it would seem

Hold onto this trend, or you might lose your keys.

While the idea is not to sport neon nails with friendship bracelets with a photo print long sundress while carrying a wicker tote, while sporting a bold necklace and wearing crazy sandals... it can be done. Summer is time to get a little crazy— or does Houston heat just make that easier? 

And speaking of cream floating to the top, when was the last time you had a Root Beer Float? Or a Coke Float? Or a Dr. Pepper Float? Or whatever floats your boat? Says Summer to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Daughter Knows Best?

"Mom, don't you think you're a little old for that?"

If you're a daughter, please listen up. If you are the mother of a grown daughter, listen closer. There is something going on between you. I would say it's been happening since Eve, but Eve doesn't seem to have had any daughters.

Call it the inevitable shift as every generation overtakes the last in terms of what's new. It could be payback for all those years of wearing Mother's taste to needing her approval not to mention credit card. I see it happening time and again.

Setting: the Lovely Boutique where I work
Principal player: customer old enough to have a grown, opinionated daughter
Scene: customer plops bag of clothing items on counter for return
"My daughter told me I'm too old for this." or "My daughter told me this is too young for me." 

What's happening here? Otherwise smart, savvy, stylish women are having their confidence co-opted by savvy and stylish grown daughters.

And I have a theory why. It's not that Mom really is too old for the article of clothing or said clothing is not really too young for Mom. I believe daughters have the idea that what's good for them can't possibly be good for their mothers.

How could daughter and mother— a generation apart— be united in an article of fashion? Is what's good for the gosling really good for the goose? How can the next generation make its mark when you can't tell them apart at forty paces? I don't believe any daughter sets out consciously to sabotage her mother's fashion choices. I do think there may be an underlying current of this being her playing field now and please take your place on the sidelines.

I'm not talking about an intervention to save mother from looking like mutton dressed as lamb. We should all be thankful for that. Short shorts, midriff tops, frou-frou ruffles and cheap baubles have an expiration date, and every wise woman should know hers.

What is age-specific about a tunic paired with crisp, dark skinny jeans? Printed palazzo pants with a neat fitted top? A covered-up jersey dress that nevertheless shows off a toned and trim figure? Colored denim worn with a striped t-shirt?

On the other hand, why is this otherwise smart and savvy woman caving to non-peer pressure? She spent considerable effort deciding what to purchase only to have her daughter send it marching back from whence it came. Are daughters the new bullies?

We could be living in one of the few periods of fashion history where the lines of demarkation are blurred. Toddler to grandma to everyone between can wear variations of the same look. Diane von Furstenburg and Stella McCartney have designed for GAP Kids. We can all enjoy wearing vintage, though propriety tells you not to wear your high school pleated skirt even if it fits. But your daughter can wear it. So how is youth to make its mark? By not letting you make yours?

The last thing a mother wants is to break the bond forged over so many shopping trips, tears shed or even arguments endured over what to wear. At this point her daughter may truly have become her friend for life, and friendship is a gift to treasure. Now is not the time to open old wounds over a few articles of clothing. Besides, she thinks, there might be signals a mother can miss that a daughter can see! Perhaps the daughter is saving her clueless mother from sartorial embarrassment?

Well, I don't know the answer. It's never happened to me as I have a son. I do have some words for daughters: You have the power, so use it wisely.

By the way, Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Princess Principle

Princessing isn't all fun and games

Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" played a princess who wished she were a commoner. Nine out of ten American three-year-old girls seem to wish they were princesses. We live in an age of the Princess Phenomenon, and even mothers are baffled how it happens. 

"I don't know; she just woke up one day, and there it was", said one mother of her little princess-in-tow I met on a shopping trip. Princess Little was decked out in a cheesy-Halloween-costume-quality princess dress, neatly accessorized with one of mom's necklaces and an evening bag. She was cute as a button and terrified me. There but for some lipstick and blush was Jon Benet Ramsey all over again. Moments later in walks another princess with mother and baby sister as entourage. This princess was wearing a crown. The mothers smiled in helpless agreement. I could swear the two princesses were giving each other the eye as to "who wore it best". I sensed Princess Little felt eclipsed by that crown.

In my childhood the princess either spent an inordinate amount of time in a tower waiting for Prince Charming to climb up her hair or worried herself sick how to outsmart the hideous Rumplestiltskin. We wanted to be nurses, ballerinas or airline stewardesses— not princesses. Cinderella had to suffer a lot, but at least she proved you could grow up poor with mean stepsisters and still snag the prince.

Blame Disney, perhaps. In trying to be egalitarian, the Disney corporation has developed princesses for almost every race and cultural persuasion. Officially they are Ariel, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Belle, Rapunzel, Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana, Mulan and Snow White. Coming soon to the list may be the red-headed Scottish princess Merida. They are merchandising block busters, netting 4 billion dollars in global sales "touching every aspect of girls' lives around the world".

I wonder how the princess experience will touch the lives of those around her in years to come— family, teachers, friends and potential Prince Charmings. This could be interesting to watch.

Gregory Peck would be worth giving up the throne