Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gal of a Thousand Outfits

Man of a Thousand Faces had nothing on me. I'm the Gal of a Thousand Outfits. I have this thing about not wearing anything twice in exactly the same way. It's part sport, part foggy memory— pretty much the way I operate.

My idea of mix-and-match is mix-and-mixmaster.

This is not rebellion on account of having worn a school uniform. I am so anti-uniform I once turned down a perfectly good sales job because the staff had to wear logo-embellished shirts.

I love to get dressed and look on it as an act of creative expression. What could be better? A necessity (one must get dressed), a challenge (to "make it work"), instant gratification. Failures are short-lived, and one usually learns from one's mistakes ("never wearing those together again").

Sometimes, in the great flurry that is getting dressed in the morning (which includes breakfast and the newspaper), I wish I could remember that interesting outfit I once put together. So I've taken to shooting a selfie and moving it to an album on my phone. Perhaps this idea is not the greatest since sliced bread, but the smart phone sure is.

A picture is worth...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Does Omar the Tentmaker Sew for Thee?

I've so reached the point where I look better covered up. It just happens, and if you're there yourself, you know what I mean. The way I see it, we have two choices as we age. And by age, I mean 70+. You fifty-year-olds are not old, no matter what you may think.

We can either become one of those wiry, stringy old ladies who are thin but painful to look at or we can become one of those lumpy, soft and saggy ladies who at least look nice to hug. Of course, we don't have a choice.

Your genetic makeup will pretty much determine which direction you take. And for that, look to your mother. My mother was a little birdlike woman who nonetheless complained she was "fat". Her fat centered on her tummy, which was far from flat. And now I know why she felt that way.

As you age you realize health is the most important A #1 thing, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you are a normal, healthy weight, and your doctor has not told you to lose or gain, don't start disrupting things. I lost a few pounds this spring as I can't seem to eat when I'm troubled or upset. I enjoy food, and it was no fun not to have an appetite, even if my pants fit looser. I kept thinking I really, really would rather be fatter and happier. In a week I was back to my old self again, in all ways including I kept thinking I should lose a few pounds.

Too much time on my hands? Hardly. I forget about these things as I go about my day. I make choices what to eat and how to exercise. I can rationalize the former with more of the latter. I remind myself we only live once, and you can take just a taste. We all have these brief intimate moments with ourselves when we take stock then move along. I just happened to write mine down.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Let's Hear it for the Boys

Shedding standard business attire has been the norm for high-powered tech executives. Led by Steve Jobs and fully realized by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the no-look of casual t-shirt-and-whatever signals "I'm a rich genius so it doesn't matter what I wear." Bill Gates was just born too soon.

Steve and Mark setting a low sartorial bar

Casual Friday at the office eventually morphed into Casual Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well, with Friday and Saturday becoming more casual yet. I've gotten used to seeing men in scrubs at the supermarket. They have undoubtedly discovered scrubs' optimum comfort. I've convinced myself those men are through at the hospital and will not be going back to work. Or at least will not be working on me.

After years of fashion trying to get men to grow-up-and-dress-up, it looks like even fashion has given into their inner little boy. Any woman who has ever dealt with getting a grown man to wear long pants on an occasion when he should may cringe at the thought. But to some extent, fashion is only giving in to what may already be the norm.

No one likes wearing uncomfortable uniforms, and  today's business 9-to-5 reflects that. Young men maybe have grown up— but not always out— of the fun stuff of their skater youths. And the younger generation always influences the older one, even if it takes a while.

This summer the most dressed up men I've seen are wearing Hawaiian shirts with chino pants. It was practically a uniform among grown men of a certain age at dinner on Friday night.

I'll have one from column A, B and C

I convinced my husband to break up his beloved seersucker suit by wearing the jacket with a collared polo shirt and jeans. I got the idea from "Garden & Gun" magazine who were advising their male readers how not to look like attendees at a convention for southern lawyers.

Men, take note, lest you think you can just reach willy-nilly into your closets. Ladies, take notes because the man in your life may need your guidance. Oh, and Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When "Banana Republic" Was a Destination

Once upon a time there was a banana republic as near as your local mall. A visit took you to another country, albeit a very tongue-in-cheek one, where khaki and olive reigned supreme and the further you were from your last safari, the closer you were to the next. No dictators or produce were harmed.

Inside a Banana Republic outpost

Whatever possessed the founders Mel and Patricia Ziegler (he a writer and she an artist) to think Americans would go for full-blown safari gear? Perhaps the term "urban jungle" had just been coined.  They began by finding, cleaning up and selling "vintage military surplus clothing in a new context". Like a few lucky geniuses before them, they had no retail experience and just plowed ahead into unknown territory. They "reinvented stores as theater and catalogs as must-read literary adventure journals" and soon began producing new safari-centric goods for both men and women. They were a hit from the start. Banana Republic was one of the first themed retailers and set a new bar for in-store merchandising. The Zieglers sold to the GAP in 1983 and the rest is a journey into the bland BR we know today. They wrote a book chronicling their adventures in 2012. "Wild Company" seems like a good read.  

Mel and Patricia and their wild ride

Today the bastion of acceptably cool corporate chic "Banana Republic" is a bit of a misnomer.  The offerings— and the stores— bear no resemblance to the glory safari days. That look is still so classic anything in the old catalogs could be trotted out and worn without irony today. Ralph and Michael, of course, will hopefully be a little safari forever.

Today's Banana Republic is the go-to for young men's and women's work wear, from buttoned up to button-down. You can depend on decent quality and fabrication at a lower tier but still on the corporate ladder. They've never been big on date looks or super casual weekend gear. If you run into your boss in the Hamptons, and you are wearing Banana Republic, you will pass muster.

In the country of 9 to 5

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Galliano Naming Rights— and Wrongs

Bill Gayten carries baggage

 Fashion is not just fun. It's not even just a business. It's serious stuff, sometimes in very polarizing ways. I refer to John Galliano's downfall as the designer for Christian Dior after a series of anti-semitic rants (even captured on You Tube) in 2011. I never brought it up before as it was sad to realize how a talented and successful man could be so stupid and clueless. In my opinion his fall from grace was well-deserved. And I'd rather not comment on his attempts at redemption.

John Galliano the brand still exists, owned by the conglomerate LVMH. It is not designed by Galliano, who is now the creative director of Maison Margiela. The designer of Galliano's namesake line is Bill Gayten, his former number two at Dior.

The Sunday New York Times recently ran an article titled, "One John Galliano Too Many". You may copy-and-paste here:

The John Galliano brand isn't garnering much attention but soon may as it begins producing a somewhat lower-priced line unattached to the couture stratosphere. I'm not in the position to buy any of this, so my opinion hardly matters. I did feel compelled to write the New York Times a letter to the editor. Chances of that being published are slim, so I'm putting it out into my own little corner of cyberspace:

Why recognize a man who still has a lot to atone for by legitimizing his name as a brand? Sure, it must rankle Galliano that he does not design it himself, but that is irony not punishment. I pity Bill Gayten who toils under a shadow and a burden. Why did the powers that could not change the name to something like "Nhoj Onaillag" (that up-and-coming Icelandic designer)? Or even "Bill Gayten"?

This is messy real life that shouldn't be swept under the carpet.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tidy is as Tidy Does

This will not be a paean to Marie Kondo's best-selling "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up". I won't be plunking down $16.99 as I know it will sit on that giant stack of Books I Will Read Someday. I'm intrigued though and am not about to pooh-pooh it away.

As a "hunter and gatherer" (coined by my friend DG), I don't really want the cure. I'm happy that over time I've been able to find things I love, some of which I didn't even know existed. I've never had a problem getting rid of stuff either. When we sold the big house in New York, the one with the walk-in attic full of stuff we were too lazy to take to the trash, the clean-out was the most liberating feeling.

This is a small house with no real attic, so getting rid of and/or tidying up (depends on how you look at it) is ongoing. I recently gave away a pile of favorite summer clothes— t-shirts, skirts, blouses, dresses— that were still in good condition, still fit and were still stylish. That t-shirt I enjoyed on our trip to Marfa in 2009 just made me feel older. Where has time flown?  I knew I would never wear any again, but I felt a little guilty letting go.

"The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" has legions of fans. I first heard of it from a friend who cleaned out her closet and asked about donating to Dress for Success. I was happy to help her and was positively floored that her whole car was filled. Lucky Dress for Success!

The book itself has four books written dissecting and summarizing it. I read an online feature promising to reveal Marie's secret in two words. It did: "Do it."

Reading the piece I was muttering yeah, yeah, yeah until I got to where Marie says we should thank our clothing for the joy it brought us then say goodbye. I guess my purging of still-good-but-no-longer-loved clothing fell into the category of bringing joy no more. I just forgot to thank and wish them well on their way.

So a belated thank you to those I loved, those I tolerated (though I loved you once) and those who disappointed me after the initial attraction. We are talking about clothes here. May you bring joy to someone else.

Bonus tip (though this may be cheating since I didn't buy the book): Fold your foldable items so they store vertically. That way no more rifling through stacks to find what you want.

Bye for now. I have A PILE of t-shirts to work on.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Don't Run in Palazzo Pants...

...or you may have a nice trip!

Proof that all things can be fodder for this blog, I tripped on the sidewalk the other evening while wearing my new palazzo pants from Zara. No, they had been hemmed. Yes, I was in a hurry— to an appointment at the Apple Store. Don't laugh— if you deal with technology you know when it's broken you want it fixed now. And I was literally running late.

I tripped on nothing— a bit of uneven pavement perhaps. I fell flat smack on my nose without a moment to break the fall. Good thing I'm not taller. Thanks to the two ladies who stopped to help and made sure I was okay. We all laughed as I eyed my pants, checking to see if they had ripped. They had not. Thanks to Zara for whipping up some sturdy polyester.

The end result is a non-displaced fracture and a prescription from the doctor for no contact sports for six weeks and a "let's see how it heals" for any further action. He does not consider shopping a contact sport.