Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why Are You Reading This?

For all I know, you could be a bot— what I imagine as a computer generated gnat on a mission. I recently heard that advertisers on the web are concerned their ads may be seen by bots and not humans. The bots work for someone who sets ad rates, and the whole thing is a new kind of internet fraud. Well I might have got that a little wrong, but it sounds scary.

What started me thinking, however, is What is a blog and why are you reading? First of all— thank you. Without you I'm nothing. Without you, the very thought of you, I'm just a diary.

I've personally always loved diaries— from the very real "Diary of Anne Frank", a rite of passage, to the delightful novel "I Capture the Castle", the diary is an intimate form of communication. We learn so much about the writer— we may see it before they ever do— and in turn can't help but look within ourselves.

Anne Frank and her real diary

But who am I? Why should you read my blog? I'm nobody. I may have the literary equivalent of a big mouth, but from what authority do I speak? None at all.

My first trip to Europe at age 23 was solo. I read a lot. After finishing "The Leopard" somewhere around Rapallo, I was out of books and desperate. The only bookshop in town had but a few secondhand books in English, no doubt picked up or dropped off by tourists. The one that caught my eye was "Diary of a Nobody", an odd piece of fiction from 1892. It was so arcane and tongue-in-cheek it took a good fifty pages to realize it wasn't a real diary.

The Nobody from "Diary of a Nobody"

I've tried keeping a diary at least half a dozen times (trip diaries excluded). I think I write pretty good letters, and friends like my emails, so I'm a performer at heart. I need an audience. YOU give me the reason to write.

One the occasion of attracting 100,000 reads, I'm taking a bow (as would any good performer). I'm blowing kisses from the footlights. You've encouraged me so, yes indeed, I'll be back for an encore.

Diaries I've loved and maybe you will too:
The Diary of Anne Frank
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
Diary of a Nobody by Weedon Grossmith and George Grossmith
The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
A Fine Romance by Susan Branch
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
Few Eggs No Oranges by Vera Hodgson
Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Great Harper's Bazaar

One of the best covers...

Vogue Schmogue. It seems whenever I get inspired to share some style inspiration, it comes from Harper's Bazaar. Many people, especially those who work at Vogue, think of Bazaar as Vogue's whiny little sister. History would not be on their side. Vogue is an upstart, founded in 1892. Harper's Bazaar has been around since 1867. of the first...

Editor Glenda Bailey is not a star in her own right (thinking of Vogue's Anna Winter). But Glenda is a solid voice and obviously loves being at the helm. It isn't mentioned, but she is no beauty. Either was Diana Vreeland. No matter; it makes Glenda more approachable for the rest of us. One of her great gifts is allowing editors and contributors to express themselves. I may not agree with them, but they are always interesting.

Glenda the Good

Harper's Bazaar excels in fashion coverage. They have a small, weirdly wonderful editorial well that could be called Harper's Bizarre, but for the most part they serve up real news for the fashion possessed. What they show is wearable if not exactly attainable. A "Great Find" could be a $625 sleeveless blouse.

"Fabulous at Every Age" is one of my favorite features and would be on a tattoo if I had one. Every issue devotes several pages to what's in and how to wear it in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70+. Funny thing is there's almost nothing that can't really be worn by anyone, but it's a nice hook, and I love that "70s+" tag. No end in sight!

Fabulous and ageless

There are designer profiles, but not presented in the usual way. April's subjects are both Sonia Rykiel and Lola Rykiel in "My List"— how they spend 24 hours. Fascinating. What I like best throughout is that Bazaar isn't continuously tooting its own horn. The don't sponsor Met exhibits or CFDA fund competitions. They will link you up to online shopping sites to buy featured merchandise, but this is how fashion magazines are trying to stay alive in the publishing desert.

As you may have figured out, I read them all. I subscribe to most and look at the ones I won't let into the house (aka People Style Watch) at the gym. IF I had the will power to stack them up like jets on a runway to Paris (instead of read as I pry them out of my mailbox), Harper's Bazaar would be the first.

...the current cover

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

As the Swallows Fly Back to Capistrano...

"Sorry I can't go out with you. I have to switch my closets."

...or the mosquitoes fly back to Texas, it happens every spring. I don't just mean Tax Day, April 15, which today is, I mean that great migration known around my house as The Switching of the Wardrobe. You may not be doing this yet, depending where you live. You may never do it, depending where you live (Alaska and Hawaii come to mind), but for most of us the shedding of skins (figuratively of course) is a twice-yearly event that is welcomed on the one hand yet dreaded on the other.

Why I welcome the great migration:

> Spring is coming/spring is here! I hate winter. At the very least I'm tired of it.

> As I'm tired of winter, I'm bored with its raiments. Enough already. Boredom thy name is woman.

> I can pack away all those things that need hemming or buttons replaced that are lined up at one end of the closet. And though I know I should have the sweaters and pants cleaned before I store them, I won't. It's painful to squoosh newly dry cleaned clothing into my storages boxes, and squoosh I must.

> I can reinvent myself yet again. My summer self is way different from my winter self. It's a lot more Bohemian-on-Safari. Hard to pull off floaty when you're freezing.

Why I dread the switcheroo:

> There are more summer clothes than winter necessitating more hangers (where did I put them???), but winter clothes take up more space in boxes. Who said I wasn't good at math?

> Last summer's pile of mending is facing me again.

> I am faced with the irrefutable evidence that there is a little more of me to love (no, clothes do not shrink in the storage box).

> I have too many clothes, both coming and going.


Nevertheless, it must be done. I will try to follow my own advice. Which is:

> Do the task in one fell swoop. You will make a mess, so give yourself plenty of time. At the very worst, do sweaters one day, pants another, then dresses, etc. And clean up after yourself. I've tried sleeping on a bed of hangers, and it's no fun.

> Speaking of beds, cover yours with a sheet or blanket before you start. We have cats. Cats have fur. Everybody has lint.

> Take everything out and lay it on the bed. IF YOU DIDN'T WEAR IT ALL WINTER make plans to GIVE IT AWAY. Many charity and thrift shops won't take what would be out-of-season merchandise so you may have to find another place to store it through the summer. Put it in a bag or box and don't look at it again!

> Once you have tidied that up, move on to your "new" clothes, most likely wrinkled beyond belief after their long winter's nap. If it needs cleaning, naturally this is the time to do it. Don't hang anything that isn't ready to wear. This is where a full-size stand steamer comes in handy, and I swear by my Jiffy Pro J2. It set me back $150 but was life-changing.

See how happy she looks!

> Suck it up. Try it on before you hang it away.

> If you haven't yet get some good hangers. Please, please no wire hangers or plastic tube hangers. They are useless and break. You can now get those formerly-pricey felt non-slip hangers at drugstores and metal skirts hangers are a one-time investment.

> Organize, organize! Ideally you want to do it by color then sub organize color by sleeve length. Some women prefer to separate work clothes from weekend clothes, dressy from casual. Organize however works for you, but do it and keep it that way.

> We all begin with resolutions to go minimal. We think this will make us better dressers. Space abhors a vacuum, and I can assure you that if you have too much space in your closet you will go out and buy stuff to fill it. So hang up a few questionable pieces you wonder if you will wear. Just be sure your closet is still "shopable", a nice retail term meaning the customer can actually reach in and pull an item off the rack.

I wish you good luck. I wish me good luck.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The List of Shame

Guilty! A very unofficial poll I've taken has revealed what it is we women do that annoys the hell out of us. We strive to be better shoppers and smarter dressers but are beset by a host of demons that lead us astray. They tend to fall into easily definable catagories. Herewith:

The Groundhog Day Effect

> We keep buying the same things over and over, whether we wear them or not.
These could be pencil skirts, white blouses or black turtlenecks— basic pieces that are basically boring but we Think We Should Own. I can't tell you the last time I wore a pencil skirt, which looks terrible on me anyways, but I have given them too much closet space. I also own many lovely white blouses that I won't wear because I don't want to get them dirty. Please tell me I am not the only one.

> We keep buying our personal weaknesses over and over— be it handbags, shoes, scarves or jewelry. This is the amassing of quantities of a particular commodity that far outnumbers the need. Don't you really wear the same two necklaces all the time anyways?

>  We keep buying it over and over— trying to get the RIGHT one. This is usually a basic item— like black pants— not a luxury piece like Swarovski-encrusted cardigans. Whatever the initial enthusiasm, after one wearing you've decided these are not the end-all, be-all of black pants. And you will start looking for them again. I personally have done this with blue chambray shirts and now have enough for a road company of "Oklahoma".

OK but not for me...

Fuzzy Logic

> We bought because it was a bargain.
It was so cheap you couldn't get it at Target for that price. You don't need it, but need is not the issue. You've thrown away more on a lunch. Truth: it is so rare to actually find a bargain, something that you need and love and wear ad infinitum. Rule of thumb: items found in the bargain bin usually end up in the dust bin.

> We bought because we wanted to shop and/or had money in our pockets. There is no worse feeling than going shopping and finding nothing. You will find something, which primes the pump to buy more— all of which should be returned pronto.

Wishful Thinking

> We try to replicate our favorite long-gone outfits. You may have divested in an orgy of resolution, but are not that resolved the next day. You are, however, too late and will have to buy it back from the thrift shop if you ever see it again. What follows is a prolonged— usually futile attempt— to repurchase it.

> We have happy memories. It reminds you of the dress you wore that summer on Cape Cod or the sweater your college roommate loaned you for the semester (and you hated to give back). It's not an exact replica, of course, but it's got you thinking— with a smile on your face. This can be an expensive (and futile) trip down memory lane.

> We bought in hopes of the occasion that never happened. Just because I have the right floaty sundress and rustic sandals does not necessarily mean I will spend my summer vacation on the Amalfi coast. Although it would be nice...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Zara has Closed!

Panic not unless you live within 150 miles of zip code 77056. That's your closest Zara— in Houston.

Everyone else: breathe a sigh of relief.

The Zara Houston Galleria closed on March 29 to renovate. Great! Except they won't be open again until fall. No temporary quarters anywhere. Closed. Boarded up. Not even a sign, but word has it "fall" is the target re-opening. Extra bonus good news: the new Zara will be two stories thus two times bigger. Of course this will take six months; they have to saw through the ceiling!

I won't miss customer service at the old Zara; it doesn't exist. That's not the same as bad customer service. The associates do their jobs, but that consists of staff the fitting room, ring up customers, put away go-backs. No outfitting suggestions or personal shopping. I won't miss the fitting rooms either; they are freezing. Despite all this I can't helping thinking what are those folks doing about jobs in the meantime?

The first Zara opened in Spain in 1975 and was originally to be called Zorba, but a nearby bar of the same name objected. One of the earliest purveyors of "fast fashion", it manufactures all its own goods (all over the world) and never advertises (one of few retailers who do not). The differences between Zara and its competitors H&M, Top Shop, Forever 21, etc. is a fairly sophisticated style ethic that picks up on designer trends before anyone else (and quickly). Quality fabrication and manufacturing belie the reasonable price tags. Plus Zara has its own "cool" and doesn't try to mimic those high street or mall neighbors.

Zara is an international operation with 1808 stores from Algeria (2) to Venezuela (10) and everywhere in between. There are 324 in Spain, 126 in France, 89 in Japan, 71 in Russia, 2 in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 45 in the United States. Or is that 44?

And what will I do? Shop online? I've done it before, and Zara by mail is quite efficient. But I've only ever cyber-shopped when the store was out of my size. Feeling and fit are still two important reasons to get yourself into a bricks and mortar establishment. The nearest Zara is now four hours away— in Austin. Road trip, anyone?

See you in September...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cropped! A Short Story

Ever since Audrey Hepburn wore one in "Funny Face", I've tried to pull off the cropped top. With no success. Many moons have passed. There is no way to do it today. Or is there? Perhaps we need to re-examine this whole cropped thing.

The crop top has appeared after seasons of tunics and flow-y. This makes sense as Fashion must induce us to buy something new or else why buy anything at all? Did I mention Fashion was a business? I seriously doubt anyone over 16 has the right to publicly bare her midriff off the beach. No matter your age, if you are hesitating over this trend, don't do it.

On the other hand, there are smart ways to wear cropped:

> Layer a crop top over a cami, tank, or shirt.

> You can pop on a cropped jacket. Just be sure it's a fuller cut so it does not say "bolero".

Yes, you can crop with cropped

> Dust off your "Chanel". The classic and classy Chanel -style jacket is short and boxy. Two out of three ain't bad. It can play cropped when layered over something longer.

> You can choose instead the crop top's saner sister— a dropped shoulder/wider body piece that hits at or slightly below the waist. Think of it as "square cut".

You've not outsmarted Fashion, exactly, but you've showed her who's boss.