Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Women We Love (Hair Edition): Princess Charlene

I know so little about Princess Charlene that when I clicked on a story about her I was expecting to see holiday photos of the newest little English princess. Uh-oh. That would be Princess Charlotte. Instead up popped a beautiful blonde with a pixie haircut who also happens to be Princess Charlene of Monaco.

With twins Gabriella and Jacques

There are many British Royal Family watchers here in the US. As a dyed-in-the-wool-jumper Anglophile, I am one of them. But I've no idea what's going on with other monarchies, though I do understand Spain, The Netherlands and a couple of Scandinavian countries still have them. Since Monaco isn't even a country (but a principality), I'm not sure how theirs rates.

Princess Charlene, 37, is South African and a former Olympic swimmer. She is the wife of Prince Albert of Monaco, who was a bachelor so long we all lost interest when or with whom he'd finally settle down. They met at a swim meet in Monaco in 2000. He already had "two known illegitimate children" (don't you just love Wikipedia) when they married in 2011.

Charlene and Albert 2011
Grace (with Rainier) 1956

Charlene bears a striking resemblance to Albert's mother, Princess Grace, a Hollywood princess before she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.  She also looks a lot like Charlize Theron, Jean Seberg and the grown-up Twiggy. But Charlene was not a movie star or a model before her marriage, and we've all had too much scandalous information about the Grimaldis down the years. I think it's been a relief to hear so little about her.

So I don't know enough about Princess Charlene to love anything other than her hair. As a short-hair-forever gal, I always jump at beautiful celebrities who've chopped their locks— from Charlize Theron to Michelle Williams to Anne Hathaway— although they've grown them out. Don't worry; I have photo files on all of you if you need reference material.

A hairy tale from this...
to this...
to maybe not this...
to this

A pixie is hard to deal with if you need your hair to look perfect all the time (aka in public if you're a princess). The best pixie cuts look a little messy. Too sleek and you're either a flapper or a boy. Charlene has achieved the right balance.

The short hair seems to be fairly recent, since the birth of twins (and the male heir) in 2014. Under normal circumstances it's understandable a busy mother of twins might want to simplify her hair care routine. Considering she is a princess, Charlene surely must have hot-and-cold-running help, no? More likely she is trying to rectify that choppy do with the dangling earrings in the photo above.

She doesn't smile much in pictures, and there have been plastic surgery rumors, but I'm pretty sure her hair is hers alone. Only her hairdresser knows for sure...   

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Get to 100

By cheating of course.

This post will not be about making it to 100 years old (though if I get there I will gladly tell you how). It is just the 100th blog posted in 2015 and my thank you for reading throughout the year.

Going into a new year is always hopeful, no matter how foggy the path ahead. I wish you all the very best.

Maybe next year I can reach 101.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Guilt-free Gifting with Gift Cards

She'd rather have a gift card...
The humble—or not so humble should you wish— gift card has been maligned for being "the easy way out". I will no longer hang my head should that be my gift of choice. Perhaps it's advancing age and a subsequent reality check, but there's a lot in favor of the gift card.

My contemporaries say they have too much/need for nothing/nowhere to put it/and shouldn't eat or drink it anyways. Others I know are paring down before they get over-stuffed or have a finely-hewn style and you would only be guessing. Then there is the cost of mailing presents. If you still like the personal touch of wrapping and sending them yourself, be prepared for sticker shock at the post office.

Santa and the post office may be in cahoots...

That's not to say there isn't a place for money.  A five-dollar bill looks like a fortune to a five-year-old. It will then teach her the value of a dollar, because $5 doesn't buy much these days. On the other hand, children usually have A List— and mean it. Back in the day, my favorite aunt was the one who actually got me something on mine.

The trouble with money is it's so easy to fritter away on Starbucks or mix it in with the grocery money or find it disappearing before we can say "trip to DSW". True, grocery stores will accept gift cards, but one usually thinks twice before giving up a gift card for milk and oj. Gift card to a fancy grocery store? Check. You can introduce people to the wonders of Trader Joe's or soften the blow at Whole Foods.

The good old Visa/Mastercard/AmEx gift card works for anything where those cards are accepted. The Amazon gift card is a good choice because Amazon sells just about everything, any time of the day or night. You can get gift cards from dream stores or for activities (movie theaters or sports palaces). Caution: don't try to be cute and tuck a gift card to Bowl-Mor inside a Tiffany box.

How can I hook this gift card thing into Allways in Fashion? You should present your gift card with a little style. Frame it inside a small picture frame. Use it as a bookmark in a special book. Tuck it into a little bibelot box. Put it in a passport holder or coin purse. Hide one in a deck of cards. Box a gift card turducken-style in the smallest of boxes inside a number of progressively larger boxes. This works best if the recipient isn't easily frustrated and/or knows your wicked sense of humor. Do you have any other "card" tricks?

There's no time like the present (December 20) to rethink this whole presents thing.
Don't believe Mrs. Claus; get a gift card

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Forbidden Fruit

Theda Bara and furry friend
Fur is the forbidden fruit in fashion. Beautiful to behold, soft to the touch, to me it says "look but don't buy". Thank goodness the days of owning a mink to show the world you've made it are no more. Never mind that mink is incredibly warm as it rests feather light on your body. We're over it.

Gloria Swanson in a fur burrito

For a long time vegan leather was dreadful to behold. Not the case today. The handbag selection at TJ Maxx will have you guessing what's what. Only a look at the price tag will tell you for sure. Same with fake fur. While the stuff's not perfect, it's much improved. I picked up a faux sheared beaver chubby a few weeks ago that brought me right back to my childhood and my mother's beaver pride and joy.

Unfortunately, I didn't need to see them in person to have been stopped in my tracks (bad animal pun) by these gorgeous fur coats in the Fall 2015 Saks Fifth Avenue look book (generously left by someone at the gym). Do you know how you can get hungry looking at beautiful pictures of food? I felt the same about these— knowing how soft they would be to the touch and how decadent wearing one would make you feel. Forget that I never would. I'll hold one of my kitties instead. The "leopard" (itself an alpaca blend) is $19,500 and the dyed mink a few dollars more at $19,950. I can't even go into the chutzpah it takes to dye mink.

So what primal urge had me give these pictures more than a cursory glance? Is it the insouciance of the casual black pants, top and loafers thrown on with that leopard? Is it trying to imagine where our lady in her "copper and tobacco colorblock dyed mink" is setting off? Do I even wish I had $20,000 to throw away on a coat? If you have that much money you better be doing some good stuff with it. The burden of responsibility involving those coats is a hefty price to pay.

Easier to pass up was the "brown dyed crocodile bolero with detachable sable collar and sable skirt" for $102,450. It would definitely make my hips look too big.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Color Me Shouting

It's always in fashion to give a shout-out to a good friend's accomplishment.

The super-talented Durell Godfrey has just published "Color Me Cluttered", a coloring book for grownups of all ages that throws a curve at those mind-numbing books of mandalas and meditation templates.  $15.00 at the bookstore or $11.11 from Amazon. You can't wear it (1960's paper dresses aside), but you can have— as they say— hours of fun.

Her scenes reveal how we actually live, the minutiae of everyday, the what-might-happen-if-you-let-go mix of chaos and collecting that is real life.

Each picture is a little treasure, because you don't see the details until you start coloring. And you don't have to color in everything to create a charming vignette. Like most of these books, it's best to use colored pencils. I just discovered a giant tin from my old graphic design days, all sharpened and ready to go. And hurrah to Random House for choosing sturdy paper stock.

Did you have that Dylan poster?

You may be familiar with Durell Godfrey's work if you read Glamour Magazine in the '70s and '80s. She created the illustrations for Glamour's monthly "How to do Anything Guide", one of their most popular features. In recent years she has become a contributing photographer for the Easthampton Star and is their resident "hunter and gatherer" (shopping maven).

Durell wearing another hat...

Durell has never stopped drawing, of course. But I asked her if it was hard to get the fingers (and the brain) working fast enough to turn out the 44 illustrations needed for the book. She says, no; it was like riding a bike. Once she warmed up she just kept going. On a Schwinn Flyer!

"Color Me Cluttered" makes a great gift...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

How does a Jewish Girl Celebrate Christmas?

Carefully... very carefully.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's a holiday for everyone. If you're in America, you are celebrating. In some respect you could call it the Freezing Fourth of July. I feel as patriotic, if not more so, in November than July. For one thing, the food is better.

Christmas is trickier. Whatever you celebrate (Channukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati) has some religious backstory. At its core, we all have a very-long end-of-year ritual involving presents, parties and decorations.

I can't speak for the other two, but Channukah is not the Jewish Christmas. When I was a kid there were few if any Channukah "tchotchkes". No banners, sparkles, Channukah wrapping paper, Channukah-centric toys and trinkets. We got menorah candles from the temple (really crappy but imported from Israel). We avoided anything resembling Christmas wrappings (and got pretty creative in the process).

Eight days? More like 8 minutes

Did I feel like I was missing something? You bet. One year I somehow convinced my mother we should put presents under a big sheet that she let me decorate with a giant Star of David (David, not Bethlehem).

Another time I was visiting my (liberal) aunt in Florida (long story but something to do with my parents' divorce). I convinced her to turn a little palm tree in her front yard into a "Channukah bush" and spent hours decorating it with tin-foil streamers and assorted flotsam and jetsam. I must have been a very persuasive child.

Does this seem like a sad story? It shouldn't. I love Christmas and have always celebrated it with others, just not in my own home. I'm the one you call to help decorate the tree. Better yet, I'll help undecorate it and tenderly nestle those cherished ornaments in their tissue paper cocoons. I send Christmas cards (still). I make sure they are generic wishes, although "Peace" these days seems an impossible dream.

At sixteen I started working for the Christmas season at Sterling Lindner Department Store. My post was in the toy department. I can still conjure up the potent fragrance of all those vinyl dolls in the stock room. One year I was a Santa's Helper. Play "Jingle Bell Rock", and I'm there again too, wrangling kids onto Santa's lap. No, I haven't seen "The Santaland Diaries"— yet. On my lunch hours I would volunteer to help wrap presents at the gift wrap station. The ladies were grateful, though they always barked at me for using too much ribbon.

The tree at Sterling Lindner

And friends! We visited the family of one of my father's co-workers every Christmas night. That family had boys, so I got to play with trains, erector sets and Lincoln Logs. Downside: one year Angel Hair (made of fiberglass) got into my underwear. A painful rash followed. 

I celebrated Christmas with office mates for years, had delightful "holiday" rituals with dear friends (I miss your eggnog you-know-who-you-are). "A Christmas Carol" is one of my favorite movies, and I never get tired of watching "A Christmas Story" (in part because it was filmed in Cleveland where I too pressed my nose against the glass at Higbee's Department Store).

There's still that Channukah/Christmas disconnect. This year Channukah begins at sundown on December 6 and will be history by the 14th. I've thoroughly accepted the fact that the two holidays will never be equal, but I embrace my role as an elf. Nobody asks them their religion or even if they have a green card. They're just busy helping Santa get the presents ready.

How may I elf you?

I will gift wrap your present with care at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work. I've a great cranberry/pumpkin bread that I pack up for gifts (tastes like fruitcake but don't tell anyone). We've put up our aluminum pole to join those who celebrate Festivus (a festival for the rest of us). We started a (gulp) Christmas Eve family tradition a few years ago, watching a Christmas movie and indulging in the worst possible junk food for one night only. Christmas Day we and our fellow tribesmen used to be the only ones in the movie theaters and the Chinese restaurants. Now the best movies open Christmas Day, and you need reservations for the Chinese restaurant. This year, thanks to a new daughter-in-law, we've been invited to a family celebration. And family is what it's all about.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Where Do You Get Your Fashion Advice?

Did Edith Sitwell need some?

I lovelovelove reading old fashion magazines. And I mean old. 1920s, '30s '40s, '50s... Not only did the magazines show and tell you what to wear, they gave you a blueprint to pull it off. From Diana Vreeland's whimsical "Why don't you"s in Harper's Bazaar in the '30s*, to the twice-yearly "What to Wear with What Chart" in Glamour in the '50s, one could figure it out with some authoritative help.

Glamour advises, September 1957

The downside of this is women were not encouraged to think creatively on their own. Anyone who dressed outside the box was considered "eccentric" (think poet Edith Sitwell). The upside was a woman had guidelines and direction— a map. Today fashion is like setting out on a journey through a jungle set with mines without even a compass.

I read in a 1956 Glamour that Audrey Hepburn wore the strap from a case of Italian wine as a belt around her tiny waist. Never mind that I've yet to find wine sold with a strap. She wasn't following any chart.

By the late '60s it was all about the Youthquake and not about matching your handbag to your shoes.

At the Lovely Boutique Where I Work, women sometimes ask me how to wear their purchases.
This question surprises me because I myself won't buy it if I don't know what to do with it.  I may tell them, "Dark denim goes with everything" or "You don't want to match but blend" or "Your eye will tell you if it's working". I want women to be able to think for themselves and have confidence in their decisions.

Judging is seemingly everywhere

There are plenty of outlets for sounding off on what other people wore. Everyone is willing to tell you what you did wrong but not how to get it right.  Magazines aren't giving the advice they used to. Bloggers will show you what they wore, but no one wants to be a copy-cat (or shouldn't). Sales associates who care are few and far between.

Those might have been the days...

Where do you get your fashion advice??? Or do you slog through the jungle on instinct and faith?

* From the reasonably sane ("Why don't you try a beige linen blouse and black linen shorts on the beach with red zippers and a tiny monogram just below the belt?") to the absurd ("Why don't you turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe?"), Mrs. Vreeland had advice to give.