Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Feet?

Trainers (so British) sounds better than athletic shoes (no ring to that) or running shoes (too much work) or tennis shoes (too specific) or sneakers (too sneaky) or gym shoes (those things moldering in your school locker). I still like to call them sneakers but hate the thought of them with street wear. Karl Lagerfeld disagrees. His models wore sneakers with dresses and gowns on the Paris runway. Marc Jacobs thinks they look fetching with a tinfoil coat. You know once capital D designers lace up their seal of approval, we think we should follow. Anna Wintour— you first.

And who doesn't love comfortable shoes? I was wise to explore Pompeii in sneakers rather than patent leather ballet slippers. There was no one to judge but other similarly shod tourists. However I don't see the reason for this look with real clothes in real life.

The history of canvas top/rubber sole shoes is quite interesting. The Liverpool Rubber Company first produced them to be worn on the sand in the 1830s. Who knew? They earned the nickname "plimsolls" as the colored horizontal band of rubber that joined canvas to sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship's hull. If you walked into water that reached above that line, your foot would get wet. The more leisure time, as time went on, the more this comfortable, affordable shoe adapted to various sports: tennis, croquet, basketball, running, etc.

One of these is the Plimsoll line

Sneakers crept onto the public streets in the mid 1980's Working Girl era. I would very much like to forget the sight of young women in suits energetically maneuvering New York City streets. They would stop to switch shoes outside their office buildings, balancing on one foot like so many uniformed storks.

Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl"

Granted there are some very cute sneakers— reptile or leopard patterned, with touches of gold or interesting hardware, in bright colors or covered in fun graphics. But is this footwear meant to be worn seriously with real clothes?

Here's my biggest concern. The Number One Don't Do This on the list for WOACAs (Women Of A Certain Age) is No Sneakers. Unless you are wearing exercise gear (and I love to see us chickadees in fitness mode) or are a tourist who would be crazy not to, sneakers will stamp you o-l-d before you can lace them up. That's actually a shame. Who else but WOACAs deserve a comfy shoe?  After decades of use— let alone years of abuse (tottering in heels) and non-support (flopping in sandals)— our tootsies would be thankful.

The only woman, in my opinion, who has earned the right to wear sneakers with her dress-up street clothes is this one:
And even she doesn't

Friday, January 24, 2014

Now is Not the Winter of Our Discontent

It happens every year about this time. The holidays are done. Spring is around no corner that I can see— weeds greening in my grass don't count. The cardigans need pilling. The legs haven't seen daylight since the end of daylight savings time. A trip to the shops for a little boost? No luck. They are all begging and pleading with us to take away their tired sequins and neglected brocades. "Fifty percent off sale!" But who needs black velvet when my fashion soul is black as night already?

Perhaps I exaggerate about the latter, but this really is a strange time of year. What you bought with such enthusiasm in fall is either worn out or didn't work out. It's too early to think about Summer, and Spring is less about buying clothes than shedding layers.

What to do? What to do?

Your left brain will suggest winter is a great time to take a hard look at "intimates"— your socks and bras and panties and tights and slips and such. Or your basic white and black t-shirts or button-downs. White turns yellow; black fades to grey over time and through the wash. I'm settling down for a long winter's nap, how about you?

Your right brain will have you planning vacations to exotic locales or at the very least making note of spring's hot fashion trends: pleats, embroidered flowers, boxy silhouettes, forties' style dresses, schoolgirl looks, transparent fabrics, longer skirt lengths, wearable art.... dream, dream, dream.

Wake up, Little Susie. Such activities are no substitute for the first hint of a real, lasting Spring, the kind that has you throwing off your coat at lunch.

Wake up, fashion moguls of the world and INVENT a reason for us to get excited. Instead of going in one swoop from offering long sleeved turtlenecks to short sleeve t-shirts, give us jerseys in pretty colors with necklines, not scoops. Bring back the vest (it gets so little fashion respect). Is there nothing between hunter green corduroy and neon pink stretch in the pants department?

Can we have another season? Not "resort"; that only incurs envy in those of us who don't partake. Why not call it "Sprinter" or "Wing"? Those certainly call to mind flights of fashion fancy.

Don't forget about us as you count your losses at the end of the fiscal year or cheer a great one. This is a new year, and we want something new!

Monday, January 20, 2014

This is a Joke, Right?

I nearly laughed myself silly last night. The January fashion magazines are so thin I figured I could gobble them up in one sitting. What makes a magazine thin (for the most part) is a lack of ads. January is notorious for no ads to be had. What ads there were, were hysterical.

First off came Marc Jacobs. This was worth pointing out to the husband, although it was preaching to the choir. He thinks fashion is pretty silly anyways, although he is nothing but sweet when it comes to my obsession. Does Marc really think we are going to tie our hair to our necks, don clunky trainers and throw on a glitter trash bag? I told the husband to tie me down if he ever sees me heading out the door in that get-up.

Who the heck is Marc kidding? Am I in on the joke, or is the joke on me? Granted there has been some fashion that I said I would never wear. I've learned to never say never. Pleated pants come back as the world turns. Shoulder pads are waiting in the dresser drawers. What the heck?

If it isn't the fashion it is the ads themselves. Alexander Wang's shoe ad is a mystery that I care not to solve. Chanel's mustachioed model is an homage to... whom? Galliano? The whole thing has me flummoxed and not in a good way.

Okay, okay. I do have a certain fondness for Dolce & Gabbana's ad campaign with the donnas and their lovely boys, although one of them does appear to be a priest. This may not be as far afield as you think. Last summer in Italy I discovered that priests can be models as well.

Priests of Italy 2014 calender; Father September is my fave

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Francoise Hardy

Francoise Hardy turns 70 today, January 17. Before we go further, here is a recent picture:

The woman is still gorgeous. And ambiguous. And oh so, well, French.

Has there ever been a time when Francoise Hardy was not a fashion icon? In fact was she ever anything else? The answer is yes and no. Americans who have heard of her have mostly never heard her, myself included. Yet she is one reason I chose to take French in 10th grade— so I could read about Francoise Hardy in French "Elle", purchased whenever I had the five bucks* from Schroeder's Bookstore and Foreign Newsstand in Cleveland, Ohio.

Perhaps my French wasn't up to it, but I didn't learn a lot. I loved looking at pictures though. She was impossibly tall and slim, with thick straight hair and strong features devoid of (much) makeup. The camera adored her. She reciprocated.

Never looked that good in a trenchcoat,
though I tried
Ditto the motorcycle jacket

Francoise Hardy began recording in 1962, the heyday of French New Wave cinema and the French influence on pop culture (aka pre British invasion). While her music was a hit in France, she never caught fire in America. She has a clear, soulful voice. If you go to:


you will recognize "Les Temps de L'Amour". You've probably heard it a thousand times and can't remember where.

Even reading in English I can't seem to find out much. She didn't have a movie career— a few cameo appearances, that's all. Some fashion shoots. She is evidently a shy person who doesn't relish the spotlight. Nevertheless she still performs and records.

Longtime companion/husband/fellow performer
Jacques Dutronc

The Lovely Boutique Where I Work has anointed Francoise Hardy their inspiration for Spring 2014. Yes that means more nautical stripes, moto jackets and '60s silhouettes. And Francoise Hardy envy.

* $5 in 1962 money = $38 today

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Men We Love: Toni Servillo

I saw "The Great Beauty", but I watched Toni Servillo. The film has received a slew of awards nods; the buzz is practically a din. As expected the movie itself is reminiscent of "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2" with a little "Last Year at Marienbad" for good measure. But in color.
I won't pretend I understood it. Perhaps I was distracted by... Toni Servillo. His character, Jep, is an erudite 65-year-old with the most impeccable fashion sense since Robert Redford got all pastel for his turn in "The Great Gatsby".
Jep doesn't just wear clothes well, he inhabits them. You know the expression about being comfortable in one's skin? He is that comfortable in his skin plus its layer of clothing. The man looks elegant in a rumpled dress shirt and boxers (don't ask). His principal accessories are a well-worn face and slicked-back, little-too-long, many shades of gray hair. Spoiler alert since this could be discussed as to its deeper meaning: towards the end of the movie you see a glimpse of his corset.

I may just be personally susceptible, but Italian men of a certain age do have a certain something. Mary Martin thought so about Ezio Pinza in "South Pacific. Gianni di Gregorio shuffled into my heart after "Mid August Lunch". Tony Bennett got better with age (and can sing too).

Take note, Anthony Bourdain. You may not be Italian, but you could look this good in a few years.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nowhere to Wear

Ready for take-off

Why do we keep buying clothes for occasions we don't have, places we don't go and people we aren't? Or, at least, why do I?

My New Year's resolution not to make (because I knew I wouldn't keep it) was "buy less clothes". It was kind of a joke, because I really do buy less these days. The reason is a combination of no room/ no place/ no interest.

I literally have no room to hang or stash anything. We live with a finite amount of closet space. Our dressers have not grown more drawers. The attic, with visions of squirrels chomping away on sweaters, is not an option. I cull and give things away regularly resulting in no more space, just a box of empty hangers— to store.

Do I have no place to go? Of course I go places. I barely have time to stay home and clean out a closet. But do I go to the opera? Gallery openings? Caribbean cruises? Charity balls? No, no and nope. But I have the clothes for them.

I have taken too close to heart my mother's philosophy that if you buy that party dress, you will have a party to attend. Or maybe it was more like "be prepared". It seems to me she was always prepared, but it was because her clothes did double and triple duty and she was a whiz with accessories.

Nevertheless, when I see something that has me adrenalized I can justify a "maybe" event to buy it. It's tough, but the right brain does step in and slap my hand before it reaches the credit card. What I can't do is stop looking. Not that I am comparing myself to the elderly man with an eye for pretty young girls, but "I'm not dead yet".

Sad but true that I have no interest in so much of what I see. Maybe I've been around fashion too long, but it feels like I've seen it all, and this mash up of trends— stripes with lace with leather and a peplum all on the same garment— has got to end. I'm not waiting for something original to appear; I'm actively looking for it, and it isn't there. So what has always been a (little bit of a guilty) pleasure— shopping— is more than a little frustrating. I can't even find something to tell myself not to buy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

In Living Color

And I have no idea who they are

This photo struck me. I saved it, with no intent in mind. Now I know why. These gals are sassy, full of life, relaxed, enjoying the moment and look gorgeous. I don't wish to glamorize war— far from it— but sometimes we forget that any generation older than our own could not possibly have the same hopes, wishes, dreams or resemble us in any way. That's especially true of the WWII era, ingrained in our minds in black and white, as if lifted off the pages of Life magazine.

All our family photos are black and white as were most Hollywood movies— and those that weren't were in such startling shades of Technicolor that they became their own reality. WWII was so long considered black and white that Steven Spielberg shot "Saving Private Ryan" in as muted a color palette as possible so as not to jar our responses. In recent years the History Channel has shown footage tagged "World War II in Color". Color film was hard to get, unstable and expensive to process, but the images in color of young men jolt you into realizing this could have been my boyfriend/husband/son. The lasses above are not in color, of course, but they still manage to strike the chord Hey, that could have been a friend/a neighbor/a relative/me.

The following "rare photos of women in WWII" were obviously shot as a public service effort. The models —though no doubt chosen for being attractive— are not pros. Doesn't the color bring them to life? And isn't it a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

The iconic Rosie the Riveter poster was inspired by a (now lost to history) photo of a real woman, Geraldine Hoff Doyle. She was working at a factory in Inkster, Michigan, when the photo was taken that inspired the poster's artist, J. Howard Miller. Although the poster has been an icon for what a working woman can do, Geraldine quit her job at the war factory shortly after the photo shoot on account of how dangerous it was. Oh yes, they were human too.

Geraldine the Riveter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Life of Pie

Life is just a bowl of cherries. What does that really mean? It sounds happy-go-lucky and carefree, but eating cherries can be dangerous. What about pits???? It was the pits... Were they the culprit? Easy as pie. C'mon, pie isn't easy... at least not until Pillsbury Refrigerated Piecrust.

Can you see where I'm going? Sometimes we have an excuse for everything— for not doing what we want to do (the consequences!!!) or what we should do (the effort!!!). All year long we battle with our inner selves— should we or shouldn't we? It's called over-thinking. It's called guilt. Failure is not an option, so we fail to move. Perfection is unattainable, but that seems the only goal.

I recently enjoyed a day in the country with a friend. We headed to a small (population 90) Texas town whose lone restaurant has a plus-sized reputation for serving the best pie around. While waiting for our table, we walked around the mini town square and came across a boutique called "It Fits". Someone surely chuckled when she thought of that one. I can barely think of a better name. From a peek inside there were relaxed clothes in happy colors and oodles of accessories.

Two women were lazily rocking on the front porch. "You need to eat some pie and come back", one woman called out.

So maybe 2014 should be about having cherries without pits in a nice slice of ready-made pie. Stylish pie too. That's a la mode, you know.

Happy New Year!