Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bye Bye, Bill

Photograph by Durell Godfrey
Bill Cunningham died on June 25 in New York City. He had been hospitalized after recently suffering a stroke. He was 87 and the only New Yorker ever declared a "living legend".

To call him a street photographer would hardly be accurate. Bill Cunningham never editorialized, but his exquisitely trained eye told the story. He was self-effacing to a fault, almost ascetic in his personal life.

I can't do an obituary justice. A lovely one was written in the New York Times, where he photographed fashion and its foibles for over 40 years. A link is here. Sorry that you must copy, cut and paste:

Photograph by Durell Godfrey

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Come One Come Kimono

This summer the trend flying out of The Lovely Boutique Where I Work are kimonos. We call them that, but really these bits of frippery are shawls-with-sleeves, summer ponchos or wrappers (the "w" is important). They are not negligees or peignors or anything boudoir and not strictly Asian-inspired. The T shape is their unifying link. Think soft instead of structured. Most look like giant scarves until you try to fold one. They are hip-length or long but certainly not boleros.

A kimono is not going to keep you warm. It will barely stave off the arctic chill of air conditioning. Throw one on over practically anything and you've created an ensemble. If three pieces make an outfit, this would be three easy pieces.

Kimono in the city

The kimonosizing began about two years ago on the music festival scene. Coachella has nothing to do with the iconic leather goods emporium and everything to do with Coachella Valley in California. Yearly concerts there feature music (rock, indie, hip-hop and electronica) along with art installations. Dressing for the event has taken on a Woodstock vibe— deliberately Bohemian blessedly not encrusted with mud. There is more freedom and bare bits than we saw in the 60s. Back then you either wore clothes or you didn't.

The "Coachella uniform" is t-shirt, cut-offs, kimono, fedora and lace-up sandals. All of that has trickled down to the masses. So how does a WOACA* wear one?

> You can do white t-shirt and denim, but make yours skinny jeans and not shorts

> Go with minimal jewelry so you are not channeling Ming the Magnificent

Styled a little too Advanced

> Wear one over a jersey jumpsuit or a t-shirt dress

> Try with a close-fitting top and soft palazzo pants

> Make one your bathing suit cover-up. Who isn't always wanting one of those?

> You should look like you just threw this on. Don't make it all stiff and perfect. Thus it's not for dress-up occasions.

> You needn't break the bank either. Fast fashion versions are as decent as those at upper crust boutiques. This could be the first time you ever step into a Forever 21.  

* Woman of a Certain Age

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friends With Style: Linda

Linda in the mood at Mood Fabrics

The first time I met Linda my reaction was, "Oh my gosh— it's Diane Keaton!". Sure enough, Linda has the bright, outgoing personality of Diane in the best of her rom-com roles. She has that quirky Keaton style of dressing (without the oddball gloves and ankle socks). Although her own style is Very Linda, Diane Keaton had a hand in it.

I haven't known Linda long, so my interview tries to put her style in context of its development with some tips on finding (and keeping) your own style.

AIF: How would you define your style?
LW: Creative classic with a twist

AIF: When did you know you had one?
LW: I didn't become comfortable with my style until my late '50s/early '60s. Before then my style was Corporate America. It wasn't an "aha moment", more an evolution as I was drawn to black and white with pops of color.

AIF: What do you say to women who may be timid or afraid to try something new?
LW: Try something on with a friend who will tell you the truth, really. And you need to feel good in it— like the way you look— or don't buy it.

AIF: How did your love of fashion evolve?
LW: As a teenager I used to design clothes in boring classes. My mother and grandmother always sewed. I did too, but I've never sewn anything since I got my first job.

AIF: What was your worst fashion faux pas?
LW: I went through a very cliched red-white-and-blue period, even matching my husband!

AIF: Who has been your biggest fashion influence?
LW: It actually was Diane Keaton. When I found out she wore all her own clothes while filming "Annie Hall", I felt permission to be more quirky.  I met her last year and mentioned people often think I look like her. She didn't exactly agree but told me, "You look great".

The resemblance is uncanny

Even their fathers looked alike
AIF: What are your favorite places to shop?
LW: I love the treasure hunt of consignment shops and TJ Maxx' The Runway. It's not as much fun to pay full price. I also love to check out consignment shops in foreign cities like London and Paris.

AIF: I'm thinking you are an accessories maven. What are your favorites?
LW: Scarves, bracelets, purses and colored glasses. I have red, green, black and tortoise frames. 
(Note: Just the other day I ran into Linda in The Dollar Store where she had found an amazingly cool pair of black and white checked readers)

AIF: I mostly see you in black and white with pops of bright color. Am I right-- no earth tones and no pastels?
LW: No earth tones or pastels. My favorite pops are green, blue, coral and oddball citron yellow.

AIF: Carry-on or steamer trunk? Do you pack a little or a lot?
LW: Depends where I'm going. I'll do carry-on for New York City. I like the challenge to be creative with just a few pieces. But I'll pack a lot when it makes sense, and I'm not carrying the luggage.

AIF: What do you have too much of in your wardrobe?
LW: White blouses

AIF: What are you always looking for?
LW: Scarves

AIF: We live in an almost season-less climate here in Houston. How do you mark the change of seasons in your wardrobe?
LW: I just dress in more layers and really don't wear a lot of white after October. I think of black and white stripes as Summer.
(Note: Linda grew up in central Florida so is kind of used to this) 

AIF: What's your favorite everyday go-to outfit?
LW: Black pants, white shirt or blouse, pop of color in a purse, cardigan or shoe

AIF: What's your favorite special occasion outfit?
LW: I don't like dressing for special occasions, but I do have a red dress I like that I'll wear with a black shrug.

AIF: What trend will you never wear?
LW: Ruffles and lace

AIF: What was your "best buy"?
LW: A citron yellow Burberry skirt found at a department store sale. I've never seen another one like it. 

AIF: What are the fashion pieces you can't live without?
> oversized white shirt
> skinny black pants
> black Fly London wedges
> a black, white or citron skirt
> black and white polka dot Mary Quant scarf
> multiple bracelets or a big cuff
> black fitted t-shirt
> black and white checked shirt
> a flirty dress

AIF: If you could pick an era, other than one in which you lived, based on its style, which would it be?
LW: The 1920s as that was the break out to be free, flirty and have fun.

AIF: I could not resist this. How often do people think you're Diane Keaton, and how often do you let them believe you are?
LW: Once every week or two. I thank them but never let them believe I am.

AIF: Any last words of wisdom?
LW: Fashion is fun and became even more so after 50. Sometimes it's the most fun I have all day!

Art imitating life

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The 73-Year-Old Romper

As I never ruled it out, I won't apologize for buying a romper. I knew (hoped) that one would appear not too bare, short, frilly or young for this 73-year-old.

Sure enough I found it in the most unlikely of places when really wasn't looking. Sort of like meeting the man I fell in love with and married.

It was in Banana Republic while on a trip and avoiding a downpour (finding romper not husband). Okay so I will shop rain or shine, but I really was avoiding leaving the mall on account of the rain. Banana Republic isn't a place I would normally investigate on vacation as there are two in spitting distance of each other back home. 

Seek and ye may find...

As is sometimes the case, this Banana had different offerings. The romper, on the clearance rack for $29.99, was one. 

I'll try on almost anything for $29.99 and even convince myself I have to have it, but this was the real deal. I liked it on its own merits and would indeed pay twice as much (the classic test).

While researching for this blog I see that the very same romper is listed on the Banana Republic website for $119.99, reduced from $138. Depending what day of the week and what special offers are afoot, you could pay 20% or 30% less, but nothing like $29.99. 

This is true for a few other items I saw: The Mixed Stripe Boatneck for $29.99 (was $55), in store for $8.99; the Geo Lace Midi Skirt for $129.99 (was $138), in store for $84.99; the Geo Lace Strappy Dress for $149.99 (was $178), in store for $39.99.

$29.99 or $8.99?
$129.99 or $84.99?
$149.99 or $39.99?
Why the discrepancies between what you see online and in store? Banana Republic is not the only one. It happens at the Gap and J Crew but not at Anthropologie and Zara. 

Does this mean you will be rewarded for shopping at a bricks-and-mortar but punished for shopping online? Sure, stores want to get rid of "online only" returns that may be clogging up the real estate, but is this not a little unfair?

The same can be said for shipping fees that are waived if you order above a certain amount or are in-store or call the store, restocking fees that turn free returns into not-so-free returns and price differences such as just mentioned.

Not long ago I read an article explaining why prices at retail keep going up. The reasons are almost all to cover costs associated with so much returning, shipping and restocking.

I'm happy to take my $29.99 romper out of the system to cut back expenses, even if I just wear it around the house!

$119 or $29.99?