Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Women We Love: Grace Coddington

Amazing Grace

Not just because she stood up to Anna Wintour in "The September Issue" (and was even caught on camera muttering under her breath), Grace Coddington has become a woman of interest. Long after going behind the camera rather than being in front of the lens, she is now recognized as the head pixie Stylist Extraordinaire for Vogue magazine.

Grace has just published "Grace: A Memoir", no doubt brow-beaten to do so by legions of fans and journalists clamoring for the back story. She previously wrote a book about her cats ("The Catwalk Cats") (see I told you she was interesting), but this one is a charming, low-key (and in large type) autobiography. Bonuses: 34 pages of thumbnails of work she's done for both British and American Vogue and a smattering of her charming illustrations.

Grace, 71 and a former model, has Pre-Raphaelite red hair that looks as if it were styled via electric light socket. She wears mostly shapeless black things, no discernible makeup and sensible shoes. Does this make sense for a woman so connected to channeling Fashion for the rest of us? Yes, because this lets me think Grace has come up with a formula for herself that lets her imagination run wild in her work. She's not shopping or agonizing over her closet, and we are the beneficiaries.

None of it would work if Grace did not hold the bag of fairy dust. Sometimes you remember the set-ups more than the clothes, but most of us are not shopping from the pages of Vogue per se anyways. We take away the spirit, and her art inspires us to become our own masterpieces.

Many thanks to Durell Godfrey for taking the lovely portrait and sending me a personally autographed copy of "Grace".

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kate Moss, Eat Your Heart Out

You've heard of supermodels, right? Well, how about two super models— me (left) and my friend June walking the runway for a fashion show at the lovely boutique where I work. Between the two of us we are 153 years old. You do the math.

I've not used this blog to brag before, but I must admit I'm pretty proud we pulled off our 30 seconds in the spotlight without tripping.
Note the expression on
the woman to June's left...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The One That Got Away

There's always one— the movie you missed seeing before it disappeared. The magazine you meant to pick up before it left the newsstand. The love you let slip through your fingers and now you'll never know. The dress you hesitated buying and now... it's gone. Or rather, I'm gone.

Last September I spent a day of our London trip traversing Oxford Street, Kings Road and Kensington High Street. By the time I hit KHS my dogs were barking, as they say. I could barely think straight let alone shop. The last stop before I would hurl myself back onto the tube and Hotel Home was TJ Maxx (called TK Maxx in the UK because ???). A bit of a hovel it was, not even trying for the decent presentation one finds in stateside stores. Nevertheless, I flipped through the Designer racks in the basement and spotted a Vivienne Westwood jersey dress. This dress was not only by the old master herself; it was made from fabric printed from another old master, Rubens, possibly a variation on The Rape of Europa.  

I'd only ever thought of Vivienne as a rather loony lady with a punk design sensibility who has managed to stay in business since 1981. The British equivalent of our own Betsy Johnson perhaps. Delightfully outlandish but never anyone whose label I would lust after.

That dress, however, has been my undoing. Shapeless on the hanger, you could see it was meant to come alive on the body. Yes, I tried it on, but it was size Large, and I am Small or even Extra Small. I suspected it would drape a whole lot better if it were a whole lot smaller. It would also have been $150 American. The last time I paid that for a dress at TJ Maxx was... never. So I let it pass. But it haunts me still.

I am now stalking the dress on ebay. Where there's a will, there's ebay.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Gift of Gifting

Some people know how to do this. Like having style, being a gifted gift-giver is probably in your genes. You can admire someone, hoping something rubs off. Or you can hone your skills by experience (yours and mine).

Wish list fulfillment. If someone says they want a certain something, GET IT. That's not taking the easy way out. This "thing", whatever it may be, is definitely wanted. Don't try to be all creative and go beyond what they request or interpret said item into something more along the lines of your taste level. This is especially true when gifting a child. Ever notice the look on a child's face when he/she realizes the present he/she asked for is NOT under that wrapping paper, torn off moments earlier in great anticipation? Better yet, remember when you didn't get that dreadful toy-du-jour you so longed for?

Gift card. If you are opting to go this route, add something to make that card more exciting to receive. Stick it in a page of a new book (that bears some relation to the gift card's provenance— an artist's work with a gift card to an art supply store, a book on gardening with gift card to a garden store). Frame a gift card in a pretty picture frame. Hide a movie gift card in a giant tub of popcorn. You get the idea: add a gift to a gift card.

The gift that keeps on giving— a year's subscription to a former hometown or vacation place newspaper, specialty magazine devoted to a hobby or interest, membership in a local cultural institution.

Money. Never underestimate the thrill of the real thing. The fun is in the creative way you present it. I have never discovered how banks keep supplied with new bills, but the bank is where you'll find 20 crisp $1 bills. Tie them on the branches of a tabletop tree (faux or rosemary). Roll them into tubes, tie with string and turn a bare branch into a mobile. Fill a mini lunch box, tupperware container or empty (dry) plastic water bottle with artfully crumpled bills. Note: Even if you are crumpling, start with new bills lest you end up with wilted lettuce instead of a fresh green salad.
Fun three ways:
to make, to unwrap, to spend

Why gift vouchers are not a good idea. Even in the best of economic times one can question how commercial the holidays become. Downright grubby sometimes, if you ask me. Nevertheless writing "gift vouchers" to friends and family doesn't do the trick because no one ever redeems them. I've written my share of vouchers for foot rubs and car washings and pick-the-movie-of-your-choice, but I've never been called on to make good. Perhaps the recipient is reluctant to appear grubby him/herself by asking me to "pay up".

Men and gifts. Though I'm guessing few men are reading this, the rest of us realize how the gift-buying process can unhinge them. In the lovely boutique where I work, we easily spot that deer-in-headlights look. We aim to soothe by giving them "extra bonus points for coming into her favorite store". Because everyone loves to open something, more boxes are better than less; any box is better than an (unadorned) gift card. We also caution him, if unsure of her size, to buy smaller rather than larger. Just because. If you're passing on this advise to a brother/father/son/nephew/friend remind him to get a gift receipt as well. I personally think giving a man your gift list (along with style numbers, sizes and colors) is a bit tacky, but hinting is a form of flirting.

Gifts and men. Experience has proven that gifting time is never the right time to perform a makeover. This is not when you present him with a new sartorial style or new hobby. If he wanted a satin smoking jacket he would have found a way to get one by now. If he wanted to carve his own recorder out of a block of wood, he would already have purchased said block and $300 worth of wood carving tools. You kind of can't go wrong with team logo anything, but only if he is passionate about that team.

Wrap it up. You don't have to spend a fortune to nicely tie up a gift. I've had great success with cheap (dollar store) butcher paper and (hardware store) jute twine. I know a gal who recycles her local newspaper's oversized wall calendar as wrapping. Foreign newspapers, especially Chinese and Korean, are colorful and graphic. Go for the noise factor and the dollar store again (the cheaper the paper the more it crackles) when wrapping kids' presents. Taunt the teenagers on your list with several layers of (dollar store) wrapping paper. Fie on the fancy gift box too. I'm not against recycling cereal boxes or soda cartons. If the present fits, so be it. For years I recycled a beautiful blue box from a nameless fancy emporium to hold any number of unrelated gifts. The warning scrawled on the lid avoided any disappointment: "NOT from T.....y".
Warning label required

While we're on the subject, I would like to know if anyone has ever actually received a new car for Christmas tied up in a big bow?
Don't forget I like leather upholstery...