Sunday, August 30, 2015

Behind on My "Advanced Style"

I avoided watching the documentary "Advanced Style" as I feared I wouldn't like those old ladies in outlandish get-ups. As a card-carrying WOACA myself, I would be embarrassed for those of us hoping to age gracefully, not glaringly. I was wrong of course. Like the dress you won't try on because it looks terrible on the hanger, and once on it flatters— the film was a treat.

First there was a blog (2008), then a book (2012), followed by the movie in 2014. Ari Seth Cohen, now 33, was new to New York from California and working in a bookstore when he  began photographing mature women on the streets. He admits to missing his grandmothers. He was also responding to popular blogs that tend to ignore those older than fifty. He discovered some gently stylish women and some quirky characters whose "looks" went hand-in-hand with their personalities.

A judgment call on my part, I lumped the quirky personalities with show-offs and disdained the whole dress-as-theatre thing. It's a fine line indeed— to express yourself through what you wear or to exist solely as a walking canvas for your creations. Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost would be two of the former. I worried that Ari's "girls" might be of the latter.

Iris Apfel does make a brief appearance as an elder statesperson. She always has something wonderful to say. Beatrix Ost is only glimpsed briefly and not mentioned. Interestingly, the post I ran on Beatrix has been read far-and-away more than any other—3,220 views at this writing.

Iris and Beatrix: beyond advanced

"Advanced Style" is about women who are not necessarily on the highest tiers of fashion, design and art. They are New Yorkers, which makes them leading unique lives. As one says, "We walk a lot. That's why we stay in such good shape". Plus they go out. You can't live in New York City and not go out. Believe me, I tried it. Too much to do, too much to see.

Attention well deserved
He focuses on seven women from 62 to 95. None of them are donning wild get-ups only to attract attention, though they like it and are aware how they look. One does admit to wishing she had married and knows she treats her clothing like the children she never had. Another, in her 80s and legally blind, is still in the market for a nice man who likes to go out and is "rich of course."

A head for fashion...
Never too old to be a supermodel

One woman runs a vintage boutique while caring for an ailing husband and cheating death a few times. She knows when she can manage full makeup and hair, she's feeling great. This is most of the time. At one point Ari must ask her to tone it down so others can have their day in the sun.

No shrinking violet

Another, elegantly beautiful, needs only a little prodding to belt out an aria and relish center stage. It was fascinating to watch another, a Betsy Johnson look-alike, turn up with spiky hair in various hues from blonde to pink to purple and sport some amazing bracelets made from toilet paper rolls.

Those bracelets!

The most outlandish of the group, at first glance, uses her own bright-red hair to fashion long false eyelashes. She's the one I fell in love with and would scoop up to take home. She sings cabaret, dances, draws, paints and teaches. She leaps so much as walks with joy in her steps. Yet she knows, as we can see, all the pains of advanced (physical) age— so much so she "won't buy green bananas".

She leaped into my heart

As life itself is unpredictable this documentary has a surprise turn of events. I won't spoil it for you. "Advanced Style" won't show you how to put an outfit together, but it will teach you that much more about Life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Two Trends to Try

Two trends to try. Try saying that five times fast.

Faithful readers of the blog will know I rail against wearing trends just because they are trendy and urge you to question if one is really something you love. If you have to ask yourself Do I have the nerve?, you don't. I still can't get behind Tevas as fashion though I did buy a pair and regret money spent (though the shoes were donated to bare feet in Haiti).

Two trends popping up for fall are intriguing because they are lighthearted and inexpensive. I like to be out of the gate early on little things so may not exactly wait until the weather cools.

A less-scattered moment on the Prada runway
First is the smattering of scatter pins. This look was last seen around 2005. I was happy at the time to unearth some of my mother's costume jewelry and bought a few new sparklers myself. That bling has sat in a drawer for years. Now Miuccia Prada is pulling out the stops in her fall collection with over-sized and decidedly unusual pins on jackets, blouses, dresses and coats. Other designers and stylists have followed suit. The adorned dresses (top) may look like the models walked through an electromagnetic field, but a pin or two on a jacket would be lovely.

Next up is the skinny black scarf. This look supposedly started with Carine Roitfeld (former editor-in-chief of French Vogue and current global fashion director for Harper's Bazaar). She wore one every day of the Paris Fall 2015 runway shows. I tried re-purposing a black silk sash from an old robe but opted for Zara's $10 version— wider (but not too wide) and longer (but not too long).

Carine fit to be tied

The pleasure in trends is finding those that are just for fun and require very little investment. Best of all, of course, would be starting a trend myself. I'm working on that in my off hours.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Does Anyone Get Dressed Anymore?

"I forget; am I dressing or undressing?"

Topic of (brief) discussion among three women, one in her 50s, one in her 60s, one in her 70s. I was one of them. That's a wide swath of womanhood, but we all had the same question: Does anyone get dressed anymore? In real clothes? Not hats and gloves (and girdles and stockings and all the awful stuff that was part that) but in the clothes they seem to be shopping for eternally (while wearing workout gear or worse).

Part of the problem (as stated by the youngest) was "anything goes" so people go with anything. It's an effort to decipher what's fashionable when everything seems to be. The easy way out is no effort at all, thus workout gear 24/7.

Unwitting trendsetter?

Celebrities may have been the first to adopt this. Diana didn't hide the fact she was on her way to the gym. That has unfortunately dumbed down to its being okay looking like you are going to or fro the gym all day, every day.

If you believe in your own celebrity, you may have a sense of entitlement that allows you to wear anything you please. When I read about one who is taking exceptionally good care of her body, it turns out she works out 6 hours a day, every day. I understand; that doesn't leave a lot of time for getting dressed. It isn't only the young who are doing this. They are just the most photogenic.

They shall remain nameless...

Stand-alone fashionable exercise wear has also spawned its own genre of shopping. Lulemon, founded in 1998, is at the top of the parallel bars in this category, followed by Athleta (a part of the GAP) and Lucy. Today there are athletic wear sub-shops within stores from Nordstrom to Walmart.

Princes Alarming...

Men don't get a pass either. Flopsy, Mopsy and Shirtail here look like they've spent the day at Hank's garage. And they're all really nice looking men. But how can we expect the guys to listen to us when we set pretty bad examples ourselves? Without conducting any door-to-door research, I'm going to suppose women who care about their own public appearances make sure their men do too.

By far the best dressed men I've seen in many a year are rodeo cowboys— spit-polished and starched-shirted for a ten second ride on a bucking bronco.

Be still my horse...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Big Bucket o'Fashion

A lovely friend has alerted me to a delicious offer for lovers of fashion's September magazines. Hearst has packed together three of their top titles— Harper's Bazaar, Elle and Marie Claire— in handy, tote-able packaging— for a slap-it-down $14.95. They promise 1800+ pages of fall fashion for one low price, handle included.

Now my friend lives in New Yawk City, where newsstands can be choc-a-bloc with offerings and competition is fierce. This special offer may not be available in your corner of the world (investigating mine later), but as sure as the swallows fly back to Capistrano, the September issues mean fall is almost here.

Let the dreaming and closet cleaning begin!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Stylish Read: "Audrey at Home"

Just when you thought you'd read everything about Audrey there could ever be, here comes a charming book written by someone who should know his Audrey— her son, Luca Dotti. In "Audrey at Home" (subtitled "Memories of my Mother's Kitchen") he tells us that Audrey may not have been the best cook, but whatever she served was made with love. Love indeed makes everything taste delicious.

This is not a recipe book with stories, this is a book of stories (and many photos) with recipes. Luca says if you only ever prepare two dishes, they should be Audrey's flour-less Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Penne with Ketchup (which doesn't sound half bad— the ketchup is just a splash). Many of the recipes are very continental and perhaps a little too formal for the way we cook today, but this is cookbook reading of the best kind— no cooking required.

Audrey and Sea Bass en Papillote

Luca's memories of his parents are seen through a child's eyes. His life in Italy was carefree until his parents' divorce when Luca was twelve. Despite the split he remained close to his father, as did Audrey and Andrea. I always had the feeling Andrea Dotti was a bit of a bounder and could never fathom what Audrey saw in him. Luca reminds us that love can be blind.

Luca with his parents
Audrey retired from films for many years to raise her two children, first in Italy, then in Switzerland. She loved her home there, "La Paisable", with its many gardens. The book's photos are candids, snapshots and/or family photographs with added snippets of recipe cards and notes. It's a privilege to get to know this out-of-the-public-eye Audrey, and I thank Luca for sharing. Of course we love her even more.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Slip Into Something

One of those looks that has never quite gone away but is suddenly having a moment is the slip dress. That could only happen in Fashion.

There have been slip dresses throughout history as they obviously began as slips. The flapper chemise took its shape and name from the simple garment worn under a dress.What could be more daring than wearing your underwear in public? At the hands of the masters (Chanel, Vionnet, Lanvin) these chemises were hardly slips.

The  slip dress of the 1990s was the first time I recall a trend starting from the street. Suddenly one hot New York City summer black skinny-strapped silky slip dresses were everywhere. The first designer jumping on the bandwagon, as I remember, was Calvin Klein. The slip dress fit his sensibility of easy and minimal.

Brad later gave Gwyneth the slip

They were ubiquitous for several years, worn day or evening (with sandals and a tan) or winter (with boots and a jacket). Slip dresses came in all colors, patterns, fabrics and lengths, though most were long-ish. One of the very worst combos was the slip dress and a t-shirt. I am guilty of wearing that, but I'll let a very young Penelope Cruz illustrate the point:

Penny for her thoughts...

After a while we all got tired of slip dresses. Not entirely banished, just put aside or making rare appearances for evening in dressy fabrics.

Now, as we think ahead to winter, the slip dress is back. The New York Times this week gave us the word. I've been seeing them in stores myself and on a few young women these sultry days.

The New York Times 8/6/15

Young. Now that is the rub. The slip dress does not flatter the saggy, the bony, the rippled flesh or the bursting-at-the-seams. In other words for me personally time in a slip dress has slipped away.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight

The time: 1988
The setting: United States presidental election campaign
Spotlight on: Kitty Dukakis

Our presidential elections are not kind to the participants, including their nearest and dearest. If there is dirt to be dug, it will be. Kitty Dukakis was the subject of several unflattering stories during Michael Dukakis' unsuccessful campaign.

One of the stories she herself told endeared me to her, although I don't remember getting too excited about her husband. Kitty Dukakis admitted she loved to shop (as do many of us). Sometimes she felt a bit guilty and would leave her packages in the trunk of the car until Michael was asleep. 

Michael and Kitty back when...

I remember thinking "what a great idea" and then feeling guilty I was trying to pull a fast one on my unsuspecting husband. I only did it once.

This guilt seems to be a strictly female thing. The results of a very informal straw poll show many of us have ways to camouflage our buying guilt. This includes:

> Condensing bags into other bags to make fewer in number

> Wearing the new item so as to eliminate even the hint of a bag

> Purchasing item using credit/debit card husband doesn't see

> Returning item for store credit then using merchandise credit for new item

> Actually bragging about how much we saved as new purchase was on sale (as if we would have ever spent $428 for that blouse)

> And, yes, keeping item in trunk of car until it can make it into the house under cover of darkness

I am not defending this behavior and won't even attempt to justify it.

My husband has never chastised me for over-shopping. The only additions he notices are "new things to dust" as he does most if the dusting these days. He's never taken me to task for buying too many clothes, although I'll occasionally remind him how lucky he is that I don't covet diamonds, designer shoes or expensive handbags.

Confession is indeed good for the soul.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Armed with Armor

Julia Roberts + credit card = Pretty Woman

There is nothing more annoying (or frightening) than having your credit card declined at checkout. Often it's something simple: You went on vacation and forgot to notify them you would be 1500 miles from home. Or, as happened to me one very successful afternoon, you've been shopping a lot, and the bank wanted to hear you give the okay. In both cases your bank is looking out for you, and for that you really should be thankful. On the other hand, no one wants to receive that call, "We've cancelled your credit card due to suspicious activity"— particularly if you are on vacation and only brought the one card.

I did have a wallet stolen once out of my backpack while traveling. That was my fault for not knowing about the side zipper. It was recently brought to my attention there is another kind of nasty, hi tech thievery going on. You know those handy pay-as-you-go scanners often used in restaurants to take care of your bill right at the table? We have one in the Lovely Boutique Where I Work to assist customers waiting to check out on busy days.

They are the wave of the future (pun intended). They may also be the next opportunity to rob you blind. Counterfeit scanners can be used without your knowledge to scan the embedded information on all your fancy credit cards, driver's license and any US passport issued after 2006. It can happen from across a room. You won't even know.

Safari chic "armor" from

Now that I know, it would seem idiotic to walk around like a sitting duck target for these bad guys. You can have protection in the form of a specially lined wallet (great for guys but not very feminine) or individual sleeves for your cards, coated to detour RFID Radio Frequency Identification waves. I've ordered a set— $9.95 for four— but in the meantime, guess what works?

Yes, the lowly Altoid tin has proven a very good deterrent to RFID theft, thus protecting your identity after having refreshed your breath. I modified that tip as the corners of the cards tend to get caught in the tin. Just tape a length of ribbon to the bottom to give them a little lift when you open.

I feel safer already.