Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrapping Up the Year

This post has nothing to do with Diane von Furstenburg's iconic dress, but I'm happy it got your attention.

Regular readers of the blog may have noticed less from me. It hasn't been less of a year (au contraire), but I may have had less to say.

The fashion world has been in as much free-fall as has the rest of the year. Designers closing up shop or moving around (followed by lawsuits). Fashion "rules" out the window— everything goes (and comes and goes). Fashion magazines as we knew and loved them are saving trees as they get skinnier and throw more content online. Retail is open-all-night thanks to our smart phones, tablets and laptops. Life is decidedly more casual, but fancy clothes continue to tempt us.

I've almost drained my fashion memory bank in these posts. But I still believe we are forever influenced in fashion by our childhoods— our mothers, the Bohemian aunt or the cool girl in school— as well as what we loved or were forced to wear.

We may have an idea who we are in our heads. Sometimes we even achieve that in our clothing choices. Because it makes us feel so good, we wonder why can't we always do that? 

I will continue to write as the spirit moves, of course. Just try and stop me! As we close down 2016, let's look ahead to a beautiful New Year, all shiny and bright, ready to be unwrapped.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Carrie Fisher Story

... with only a tiny connection to Fashion.

Working in New York City and living in its environs, we all had "celebrity sightings" so often we jokingly called them "brushes with greatness". From strap-hanging with a sans-makeup Gwneyth Paltrow to sharing an elevator with JFK, Jr. I had mine too.

My Carrie Fisher story is a favorite because it touched all of us, most importantly our Star Wars obsessed son. It must have been 1983 or 1984 as Carrie was only married to Paul Simon for a year. We were visiting Montauk, Long Island. At the time Montauk, at Long Island's tip, was just a fishing town with access to scuba diving (our reason for being there). There was one really good restaurant that had become a celebrity spot for those vacationing further south in The Hamptons.

It was Saturday night; the place was crowded; we were a big group. Fortunately our seven-year-old was thoroughly "restaurant trained" and able to join us for dinner. Looking around the room, who did we spot but a table with Carrie Fisher, Paul Simon and a few others.
Paul and Carrie at some dinner
Our son was (and still is) a huge Star Wars fan. I blame that on his seeing "Star Wars: A New Hope" in utero. We excitedly pointed out "Princess Leia" sitting across the room and suggested he ask for her autograph. Now, as jaded New Yorkers, we ourselves would never do this. But who could resist a star-struck (well-behaved) child with such a request? I know what you're thinking, but sometimes parents are just big kids themselves.

Equipped with pen and paper we gently scooted him towards her table. He was a little hesitant because he didn't quite see the connection to the lady we had pointed out and the Princess he knew. On his way he passed a table where Cheryl Tiegs (aka Fashion Connection), still a top model, was sitting with her companion. As he hesitated, Cheryl made a move to reach out to him. She may have thought he was headed her way for that autograph. As he passed her by, oblivious, there was a very surprised look on her face, and she watched as he moved across the room. 

Not this time, Cheryl

We kept our eye on our son, of course, as he approached Carrie Fisher. We watched as she bent towards him sweetly and said a few words. We couldn't hear what she said, and our son, by this time believing she was indeed Princess Leia, couldn't remember. She had signed her name:

P r i n c e s s   L e i a

Where is that autograph now? Maybe it will turn up in one of those many boxes of memorabilia in the attic. The son swears he barely remembers the incident; the parents have never forgotten. In the years that followed, Carrie Fisher came across as self-deprecating and very funny. Her talents as a writer and raconteur grew while she faced demons that she shared with honesty and humor.

Carrie often railed against her identity as Princess Leia and claimed it ruined her life. Remembering her sweetness that evening on a Saturday night in Montauk, I never really believed her.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Basically Speaking...

Amazing Amazon...

If you wonder why online shopping has become the behemoth that it is, just try shopping for a basic anything in our brick-and-mortar stores.

Last week we two grandmas of our brand-new grand baby ran around town trying to fulfill a simple request: "Please find some plain t-shirts like the one he wore home from the hospital." That was the easiest, best fitting garment for everyone concerned.

Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, the Gap. We had no luck. There were fancy onesies up the wazoo but no soft, plain white t-shirts. The Gap at least had simple onesies, but even at 40% off a wardrobe of them would be a pretty penny. My fellow grandma was smart enough to suggest looking in the supermarket. Sure enough, the baby food aisle did have packs of plain white onesies by Gerber— in size 6 months only.

I love shopping, but this was exhausting— and frustrating.

It's not just baby clothes. Try to find: a half slip; a full slip, two-piece pajama sets, a real terrycloth robe, bras without wires, white ankle socks, a plain belt, a solid color scarf... the list goes on. And don't get me started on everything else I can't find, including Dole Raisins and Profoot Heel Rescue Foot Cream. But they are all online. And Amazon would seem to have everything.

Cheaper... free shipping (mostly)... fast.

True, you can't gauge quality online, but I've been 99% satisfied and online customer service is far more empathetic than its non-existent counterpart in stores.

If you can dream it you can find it online. And if you can't, well, build it and they will come.

At but not at Walmart

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Knit One Purl Two

Ever hear of the Museum of Broken Relationships? The first Broken opened in Croatia in 2010; the Los Angeles museum opened in 2016. I read about it and was intrigued. Their mission statement:

The Museum of Broken Relationships explores broken love and other human relationships – what they mean to us, what they tell us about what we share and how we can learn and grow from them.  It is composed of objects donated anonymously by members of the public from all over the world.  Each exhibit is an object (some of them ordinary, some of them extraordinary) and a story, which together recount a watershed event in someone’s life. 
The exhibits reflect the full range of human emotions.  Some are sad; but many are amusing and hopeful and remind us that people change, grow and recover.  Love relationships may end; relationships with family members, business partners, cities, religions and even with our former selves may end.  But we learn and move on. 

They have a number of items related to apparel and accessories, including a classic modern tragedy about a little black dress. I realized I had my own souvenir of a broken relationship taking up space in a closet. This unfinished sweater, the yarn and big needles it called for had followed me through many moves over many years.

I'm not much of a knitter. I've only made a handful of projects. Knitting a Fair Isle cardigan kept me awake during 8 AM college lectures. I have it still, mercifully not moth-eaten.

Then there was the crew neck pullover destined to be worn by an ex-boyfriend's grandfather in the old folks home. Or so I was told when I asked for it back.

My husband isn't the sweater type.  I made a few things 40 years ago for our infant son. I had a flurry of activity knitting new grandson some sweaters of his own. He's too young to protest.

Then there was the unfinished sweater. It was almost done. Just needed to be sewn together. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to do that. I decided to donate it to The Museum of Broken Relationships. They asked for a submission story: 

In 1963 I promised a young man I met while working in Provincetown for the summer that I would knit him a sweater. He bought the yarn and gave me $10 for my labor. Although I worked on it for the next ten or fifteen years, I never finished it. We were living in the same city; his business and social contacts made him easy to find. In 1996 I did contact him and promised to finish the sweater and have a reunion. 

In 2015 I finished knitting but still haven't sewn it together. I tried contacting him again, but he never responded. In the meantime I got married and even have a son, but I couldn't give the sweater to either of them. It's been 53 years. I acknowledge I will never finish it and that the relationship is broken. I still feel guilty that I took his money and never gave him what he paid for. Somehow I think he would approve of its becoming a museum object.

That young man died last week. He was 74, which doesn't strike me as old enough. We had still not been in touch, so he never knew.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Do We Wanna Talk About Ivanka?

"Her Father's Daughter" NY Times 12/3/16
I almost wrote a piece on Ivanka Trump a few years back. I had recently been sucked into a mindless reality show (aka "The Celebrity Apprentice") and was impressed by the demeanor of Donald's favorite daughter. She was cool,  clear-headed and well-spoken. She asked hard questions fairly. Her put-downs were gentle.  She was unlike her father who always seemed ready to shout "Off with his head!". Oh, and she was drop-dead gorgeous.

Although Ivanka had always been in a spotlight, it was as arm candy for the Donald Trump show. We knew she was smart. She had a passing fling as a model. She started a not-very-original accessories and apparel line. She married a nice Jewish boy (and converted!). At this time Ivanka was about to be or had just been pregnant with her second child.

Privileged, yes. But privileged with a purpose besides.

Mr. and Mrs. Kushner

Come election season I scrapped my blog draft and recoiled at the Ivanka Trump line. Still poised, well-spoken and beautiful, I didn't understand how she could associate with her father's campaign shenanigans. The election is over. Trump isn't gone, and neither is Ivanka. In fact, she seems to have Arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Jared Kushner are now THE #1 power couple in Washington, and I don't know what to make of it.

There is no lack of press reporting on Ivanka now. The Sunday New York Times just gave her the cover story of the Style section. The Times is never just about style; it's about the substance behind it. They are curious how she will handle her new role as "First Daughter", one that is ready to eclipse "First Lady" now that it seems apparent Melania is not hot for the job.

Since the election Ivanka and Jared have been part of the transition team and visited dignitaries with The Donald. Her name has been bandied about for a cabinet post (Climate Control? Women's Issues? Are those even drawers in the cabinet?).

Today New York, tomorrow the world?

It's pretty certain Ivanka will supply the glamour to presidential events. There are no plans for a Melania makeover of the White House as she will remain in New York City for an unspecified time.

The NY Times was not able to answer What makes Ivanka tick? Some of Ivanka's friends who were interviewed insisted she is a lovely person, with many hoping she can make a difference by enlightening her father for the good. The Times concluded that she and Jared are quintessential politicians, able to interact well and leave people feeling ambivalent about them personally.

Ivanka seems to want it both ways. She's not about— or even able— to separate herself from the life she has always known. I've no doubt she truly cares about the plight of working women but "it's easy to talk about self-help when you have access to the best medical care in the world by virtue of your birth", said Faye Wattleton, the former president Of Planned Parenthood.

And what of Ivanka's conflicts of interest vis a vis the Ivanka Trump brand? There was already a dust-up regarding a $10,800 "Ivanka Trump" bracelet she wore on a "60 Minutes" interview which was later promoted by her company. If half the women in America voted for Hillary and decide to boycott her brand, what will that mean for business?

It will be interesting to see how one woman can be First Daughter, a Washington Hostess with the Mostest, cabinet minister, mother to three young children, wife of a high-powered executive and CEO of a global brand. If she can pull that off,  are we looking, someday, at the first woman president???

Madame P...?