Thursday, January 26, 2017

Women We Love: Marlo Thomas

"That Girl" becomes "That Woman"
Marlo Thomas starred as Ann Marie, an aspiring actress in New York City, in the tv sitcom "That Girl" from 1966-1971. Her character was single, slightly goofy, spunky (a characteristic later attributed to Mary Tyler Moore's Mary) and quite well-dressed for a sporadically employed young woman. I never watched the show because— well— at the time I was a gainfully employed single young woman in New York (with considerably less wardrobe).

Don't forget the fishnets!

With the exception of a sailor hat that must have been left over from "Gigi", we really did dress like Marlo. Or tried to. Short-short body-skimming shifts, bright colors, geometric patterns. Flats or kitten heels. I even had a "fall", fake hair to achieve that flippy hair do (cemented in place with Elnett hairspray).

I mention all this because Marlo Thomas, at 79 and with many wonderful achievements to her credit, has just launched a 15-piece fashion line for HSN (Home Shopping Network) called "That Woman".  This is the first time Marlo Thomas, known for her initiative and support of feminist, educational and charitable causes, has put her name on a commercial venture.

Marlo today in one the looks

Marlo Thomas is the daughter of Danny Thomas, a 1950s comic, who was best known as the patriarch in the sitcom "Make Way for Daddy". Danny was the son of Lebanese immigrants. Interestingly, his ethnicity had no bearing on the show and just explained his (unusual for the time) leading man looks. Danny Thomas became even better known as the founder of St. Jude Hospital for Children in Memphis, lauded throughout the world for its study and treatment of childhood cancers. St. Jude is one of the charities Marlo continues to actively promote.

Marlo counts Gloria Steinem as a good friend and worked with her to help found the Ms. Foundation. She created the best-selling book, album and tv show "Free to be Me... You and Me" which champions gender equality and is the author of a biography and three self-help books.

Two looks from the line
So what of the clothes? Aimed towards a mature customer (older than Ann Marie), they will not, as the New York Times said, "make fashion history". Wearable if not exciting, Marlo credits quality fabrication and spandex as a plus. She also suggests a little skin as we age, to keep things feminine. I like the dress she is wearing above, certainly a riff on a classic "That Girl" look— further proof you can wear many things at any age... with a few adjustments.  Fancy THAT!

Still going strong

Friday, January 20, 2017

Behind the Veils

I've purposely chosen inauguration day to publish this post. Whatever the future holds for us as a democracy, we should not turn our backs on others out of ignorance. We should not be turning our backs on anyone anyways.

Houston, where I live, is quite an international city. Oilandgas you know. We were told when we moved here that Houston had more Thai restaurants than any city outside Bangkok. We haven't counted them in either place, but that gives you an idea of our diversity.

It's no surprise to encounter a good number of Islamic women, especially at the Lovely Boutique Where I work, which is a destination for visiting shoppers as well as local residents. While we're all seeing head coverings more frequently, I was woefully ignorant what they mean. They are not just a fashion statement, although a headscarf would be a good solution on a bad hair day. On the other hand a burqa would seem an extreme solution to "What to wear?".

Herewith a brief glossary of various Islamic head coverings and their significance in the culture:

Claire Danes as Carrie

> A hijab is a headscarf, not a veil. It can be very structured or loosely thrown on as per Carrie on "Homeland".

> It hides the hair, ears and neck leaving only the oval of the face visible.

> The hijab has widespread use throughout the Muslim world and is championed by the Muslim Brotherhood (which promotes strict adherence to Muslim principles).


> The chador is a full cloak that covers the body and the hair and opens at the front.

> It's traditionally worn by women in Iran and Afghanistan but is not obligatory in Islamic countries.


> The burqa is a full veil traditionally worn by Pashtuns (an ancient and strict sect of Muslims) in Afghanistan.

> It covers the head and body and has a grill which hides the eyes.

> This covering has been enforced by the Taliban.

Burqa (left) and niqab (right)

> The niqab is a veil which entirely covers a person, including the mouth and nose, but has a small opening for the eyes.

> Its use is widespread due to the influence of Wahabi Islam (an ultraconservative branch of the Sunnis), especially in urban areas.

When do women remove their veils? I found this answer online:

"Muslim women take off their hijabs in the exclusive company of other women (beauty parlors, girls' nights at home watching Ally McBeal, etc), as well as among close family members at home.  And of course alone in the shower, while sleeping, and so forth. They're not "never nudes," they're just culturally modest in public places. Lots of Muslim women actually have very nice hairstyles under there, but they save them for appropriate company." 

Thus why the shopping...

This is but a brief guide. There are myriad ways to wrap or tie with various meanings as expressions of religious belief. And that's something a democracy respects.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

At a Store (Probably) Not Near You

From the Spring 2017 Lefties lookbook
Along with the news that Zara has outlet stores along with a lower-priced line (think Old Navy to the Gap)* is the fact that they are not anywhere remotely near me. That is, they are remote.  Currently all of them, called Lefties (as in "leftovers" natch), are located in Spain (aka Zara Central), Mexico, Portugal, Russia and Qatar. There is even a website. No mail order but pick up available at the brick-and-mortars.

A Lefties' interior

A look at the Lefties site (men, women, kids) shows possible former Zara items and a lot of althleisure. My guess is it's very much an Old Navy-type concept— many basics and some fun pieces in the style of the parent. I can't imagine there would be much actual outlet merchandise. My local Zara has Sale up for weeks and weeks. Surely it's all gone eventually!

The big tease...

Still, nice to know (and hope and dream). Whether I would be much of a customer, who's to say? But I just hate to be tortured with so-near-yet-so-far.

* Thanks to website

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tiny Creatures

And in January we find the creatures have been working overtime... The web page Grammarly hosted this image, passed onto Facebook by a friend.

I used to think that mid-winter pudge happened because I was trapped into inactivity by the northeast winter. We now live in Texas, where winters are actually more conducive to being outside and active.

So is it really the egg nog/fruitcake/champagne/chocolate truffles/mincemeat pie of the last two months?

Well, I like the idea of little creatures in my closet. I imagine they all look like Rumplestiltskin, the nastiest of fairy tale villains. And I thought the cats were only stationed by the door on account of mice...

It's inevitable to hate ourselves when this happens— though my only New Year's resolution this year is not to be so hard on myself.

But really, I must get them out of the closet! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Limited Loss

Announced today: The Limited is closing all its 250 stores, laying off 4,000 people and abruptly sealing the vault on my '80s-'90s fashion lusts.

Once upon a time...
When The Limited opened in my local mall I suddenly felt hip, chic, with-it or whatever we called "being in fashion" at the time. The clothes were aspirational but affordable, stylish but not silly. The last 15 years of The Limited were not pretty, but back in the day...

The Limited began in 1963 in Columbus, Ohio, as a single store in a shopping center. It was named The Limited because it specialized in a limited amount of merchandise that turned over quickly. Founded by Leslie Wexner, the stores grew rapidly. Wexner then purchased Victoria's Secret in 1982, followed by Lane Bryant, Lerner Stores, Abercrombie & Fitch, Henri Bendel, and Bath & Body Works. Wexner started Express, for younger women and men, and Limited Too as a much younger version. He turned Abercrombie & Fitch, once an upper-crust sporting goods and related haberdashery, into teeny bopper heaven and drained Henri Bendel of its sophisticated quirkiness. But he was a huge success, the stores becoming fixtures in the retail firmament.

Last week

Eventually Wexner sold off or consolidated many of the brands. The Limited itself was sold in 2007 and continued to limp along under new ownership. I only noticed my store was closed last week when I ran through the mall to check out the Zara sale. I just never thought they would all be gone.

It's not been given credit, but The Limited was an early example of fast fashion. The stores were fairly small with a finite selection of clothing, often within a theme of color or style. There would be a few accessories— belts, scarves, handbags, jewelry— to complement the clothing. You could never find an extensive range of anything (not a plethora of winter coats for example). The merchandise had a bit of a young French feel. Think Jean Seberg in Breathless.

For the working gal with style

I remember once buying a brown tweed suit with a faux fur collar. I thought it tres jeune fille. It was hot as hell to wear in the office, but I stubbornly did for a season or two. In recent years I would walk into the stores, go a few feet, sense too much polyester in the air, turn around and leave. They "lost it" so very long ago.

There are a few other stores on life support. I hear Chico's and Talbot's are limping along. I think they've said that about Talbot's for years. The Taylors are suffering, both Ann and her Loft. I always wonder how The Gap can still be in business, but I love Old Navy. Go figure. J Crew and Banana Republic may not hold the fascination they once did. Shopping in general has left me feeling a bit "meh" these days.

But you surely know this yourself. All it takes is one lovely thing to catch your eye, and the (shopping) world looks bright again, the future—well— unlimited.