Thursday, March 31, 2016

Workout Wears Out its Welcome

The New York Times recently reported that athletic wear has hit a setback. This would be the Lulemon/Athleta/Lucy etc. segment of the retail apparel industry aka the Dressing Down of America. I read the news with glee as I am not a fan of never getting dressed.

Sadly the trend is not what's in trouble. The young are still loving that barely disguised athletic wear can be worn to the office, although I'm not sure what office (dot com? start up?). It's pretty clear we as a civilization care less and less about getting dressed, let alone dressed up.

What's happening is that shoppers are realizing Old Navy's $15 yoga pants are really just as good as Lulemon's $98 pants, and that nobody can tell the difference. The high end merchandise isn't selling like it used to, and latecomers entering the market are deciding to divest.

Five years ago when I signed on the dotted line for a gym membership, I picked up 4 t-shirts, 2 pairs of yoga pants and a hoodie at Target. They're not worn out (or worn out).

Does spending the big bucks on workout gear kind of force you to wear it all the time just to get your money's worth? In that case, let's hear it for cheap gym stuff. Save your money so you can buy some real clothes.

It could happen again...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Wedge of Heaven

Carmen Miranda liked a nice wedge...

What says comfort, can be dressed up or down and is a classic (but not a salad)? That's right! The wedge. No icebergs need apply.

In the land of footwear, the wedge is a triple hitter. It's comfortable, classic and can have real style. You don't usually get all three in one shoe.

One piece of material serves as the heel and sole of the shoe, with the heel cut thicker to form a wedge shape. This style dates back to ancient Greece but was made popular in modern times by Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo in the 1930s, using cork and wood for the wedge because of a leather and rubber shortage. WWII caused a worldwide shortage (those materials obviously needed in the war effort), and wedges became even more popular. 

A Ferragamo wedge

Fashion being the cyclical beast that it is, wedges turned up again in the '70s, especially styles by the brand Kork-ease. Forty years later, Kork-ease were revived along with the Boho look.

A Kork-ease wedge

Wedges continue in footwear of all kinds. From dress-up/dress-down sandals to flexible walking shoes that owe a lot to the popularity of Yoga and athletic wear.

The answer to "Why?" is simple: they are comfortable and (more) safely give the wearer that added height to lengthen the leg. Many women with arch problems swear by wedges as the only shoes they can comfortably wear all day long.

So what's not to love? 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Delicious Find

This was discovered quite by accident by my nephew while going through a trove of family holdings (not all treasures). My mother drew it around 1928. She would have been 21 and studying at the Chicago Institute of Art.

Oh so true! Don't we just feel that Spring means new things? In this case it looks like Spring 1928 was very new. Check out the shorter skirts on the "latest model", who is being eyed by last year's model's beau. Legs— the latest thing! To tell the truth, I rather die for what 1927 is wearing too.

I never think of my mother as a young woman who doodled (well) and cared quite this much about fashion. Don't you wish you knew your mother when?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

And So Life Begins...

March 1956

Sixty years ago this month marks the first day of the rest of my life. I purchased the March issue of Glamour magazine and nothing was ever the same.

Why did I buy it? It wasn't the cover. That pageboy hairstyle would look terrible on me even if I could achieve it. I certainly didn't care what famous men expected of women (unless one of them were Elvis Presley), and I didn't need to know what-to-wear-with-what to junior high. Something prompted me to plunk down 35 cents not for a movie magazine.

I had found something I could aspire to, something to believe in. It's always been a wonder that a magazine— put together by many people— can have its own voice. Glamour spoke to me like a wise older friend, and I listened.

I was hooked. Every month I would show up at the drugstore the day the next issue was due on the shelf. I never took out a subscription for fear it might arrive late.

I thoroughly read and re-read each issue. I didn't keep them, but I have re-bought them all. I may have been ebay's earliest best customer. It took years, and I spent way too much on 58 piles of printed paper, now brittle with age. Even today, before I carefully turn a page, I can tell you what will be there.

Reading Glamour was not just an escape from high school. I knew one day I would move to New York and be that "girl with a job". Glamour was the travel guide before the trip. You know it will be a different experience when you get there, but it helps to have the lay of the land. And Glamour had NYC written all over it.

Yes, yes, you may have read before that indeed I did move to New York in September 1964. Shortly thereafter I got a job at Glamour magazine, where I worked for almost 25 years. Still can't believe my good fortune.

Have scarf will travel

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Why We Shop (Again)

This is not the first time I've attempted to explain why we women who love to shop, love to shop. If you hate shopping for shopping's sake you may stop reading now.

I've long said I would walk ten miles to a good sale, but it takes a mental mule team to get me to the gym. I actually reward myself after a workout with a spin through Marshall's or TJ Maxx, both located in the same strip mall as the gym. If you don't recognize me, I am in workout gear and trying to hide from you.

The other day at TJ's I spotted this love of a dress in the Runway section. It was both naughty and nice and reminded me of a prom dress I once had that was pink and white checked gingham trimmed in black lace. A hand-me-down from my older sister (the dress not the boy).

The spotted dress was by the oh-so-Boho brand Free People, and the price was a reasonable $129.95. Reasonable IF I had a reason to buy it; IF I had a place to wear it; IF I wasn't far beyond the expiration date for wearing it.

None of that mattered compared to the pure joy of seeing it hanging there. The thoughts that ran through my head were (in random order): I wish I had that dress 45 years ago... I wish I knew someone who could wear it... that could have been Rose's tea dress from Downton Abbey... my mother might have worn it around the time she got her HAIR BOBBED (an event recorded in her teenage diary in capitals).

So I took a picture. Because I couldn't stop looking at it, and I had to get home.

We shop sometimes to discover the unknown, to dream a little bit, to remember happy times, to appreciate someone's vision. None of those are reasons to, but they may be reasons why.

Dream dress fleshed out

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Je Suis Iris Apfel"

Iris Apfel had a stellar week in Paris. As the New York Times says, "Paris may never be the same". She went to the shows; she was wined, dined, entertained and shown off. You all know about Iris. If you don't please copy and paste the following to catch up:

Part of this grand event is Iris in Paris at Le Bon Marche on the Rive Gauche. This exhibition and pop-up shop honoring her and curated by Iris herself runs from February 27 to April 16. Cut and paste and be sure to click on the videos:

Apfel... Eiffel... April in Paris... let's go!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Daisy Do

Kate Spade knows it. Iris Apfel wears it for her. The New York Times declares it to be. This is the year of the daisy. That cheapest of cheap flowers to decorate your first apartment ($1 a bunch at the old florist above the Sheridan Square subway stop) is now the freshest symbol of Spring 2016.

Daisies are forever the '60s to me. What would Twiggy be without daisies? Or Mary Quant without that stylized daisy logo? There is something innocent, simple and unpretentious about a daisy. The '60s were anything but. There was that whole putting-daisies-in-guns thing...

Today everyone is going daisy crazy. Dolce and Gabbana show daisies for little and big girls. Giambattista Valli thinks daisies are ducky. Anthropologie delivers a dress from Mia Farrow's 1968 closet.

Sweet Dolce and Valli of the daisies
Rosemary's daisies

Daisies can be graphic and direct or unapologetically feminine. Black and white is a cool combo. A pop of daisy yellow is always happy. As long as there are no daisy smiley faces, I'm happy.  Daisy Duck is forever, but there is a daisy don't— please, no Daisy Dukes.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I'll Miss Edith Most of All

At the end, my favorite Downton Abbey character is the one I least liked in the beginning. Edith Crawley was a loser— the middle sister who was neither beautiful, clever or intellectual.

Early Edith

She couldn't hold a candle to the patrician, flawless Mary or the kind, forward-thinking Sybil. She knew it; you could see it in her face. You would feel sorry for her if she wasn't such a sourpuss.

Oh happy (wedding) day

Fast forward six seasons and 13 years in the story. "Downton Abbey" concludes with Edith marrying an accidental marquess (making her more royal than her own family). She's the owner of a successful woman's magazine (and capable of pinch-hitting as editor) and able to be a happy mother at last. She survived being jilted at the altar, falling in love with a married man who then disappeared, leaving her pregnant. The lovely Sybil died in season three, and Edith had to put up with Mary's snipes almost until the end.

Working gal

For Edith the new fashions of the '20s turned a not naturally pretty woman into one who was stylish and attractive, which in turn gave her character self-confidence. Ah, the power of clothes! And not only the clothes themselves, but how they make you feel when they feel right.

I'll have what she's wearing

Edith's fashion breakthrough was never part of the narrative, as opposed to Sybil's hobble skirt or Mary's bob. Edith began spending more time in London, away from the country house. Big city style must have rubbed off on her.

Lovely Laura

The "real Edith" is the very pretty 29-year-old Laura Carmichael. She had only two small movie roles (one as a maid) before landing the Downton gig. I hope they told her Edith would shine in the end. Why else would one play a frownie-face for six seasons?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Charlotte Rampling and the Wardrobe Malfunction


I'm not going to pick apart the Oscars and what everyone wore because, well, it's yesterday's news and who really cares? I'll just add my thoughts that this year there was too much of less.

Charlotte Rampling is outspoken about not using a stylist and wearing her own clothes to various events. I half-expected her to show up in a white shirt and black trousers from her closet. She would have looked stunning, while making a not altogether viable statement that the Oscars aren't important. They are, but fleetingly. So I was interested in what she was wearing.

The camera panned to Charlotte in the audience after a clip from her Oscar-nominated part in "45 Years". She was wearing a simple jewel-neck, brocade long-sleeve sheath (to the floor with a slit as seen), peppered with some tasteful beading (though I'm not a fan of those patch pockets). She looked regal and very Charlotte while still honoring the spirit of the occasion.

My husband said, "She's falling out of her dress". What? Charlotte Rampling falling out of her dress? Never! What was he talking about? Thanks to the remote, he scrolled back a few seconds and showed me. Yes, indeed, the lady sitting behind Charlotte in a white gown was certainly falling out of her dress.

I don't know who she was. No picture to show you. Her dress was cut so low and the bodice so narrow that from the camera's angle she looked uncomfortably close to a wardrobe malfunction. 


And she was not alone. Many women, Charlise Theron and anonymous others, chose to bare more and cover less. There were side-boobs and indelicate decolletage, not to mention Sarah Silverman sort of covered by a stiff strapless gown a la Frida Kahlo's back brace.


There were definitely many women lovely to look at, but there were too many shouting, "Look at me!"