Friday, March 15, 2019

AllWays in Fashion Forever!

Not everything without a happy ending is a sad story.

About a year ago my friend Durell Godfrey suggested we do a book combining AllWays in Fashion with her illustrations. We were collaborators for many years, putting together Glamour Magazine's How to do Anything Better Guide each month with staff writer Linda Gordon.

Solving problems in the "How to do Anything Better" book

Durell's drawings garnered much praise and quite a fan following. She's also illustrated many books and recently created two of the best grown-up coloring books, "Color Me Cluttered" and "Color Your Happy Home". Eight years ago I began this blog to scratch the writer itch that has been on me since earning that Author girl scout badge.
The sash and badges are long gone, but the memory lingers on. Of all the ones I earned, that Author badge meant the most. I worked hard for it, creating my own "magazine", on which I was editor,  writer, illustrator and layout designer. Never was a magazine put together with such a singular vision. 

Durell and I were fortunate to secure a New York book agent who loved the idea and encouraged us in writing the proposal for submission. That included an outline of the book, an expanded table of contents and sample chapter with illustrations. We put together a survey and polled 100 women from ages 55-85 about their relationship to clothes. We secured promise of a foreword by a lovely movie star of a certain age. 

Slowly it became clear no publisher considered us worthy of a book deal. The reasons given ranged from the possible ("Fashion books don't do well for us") to the ridiculous ("Women that age aren't interested in fashion"). The rejection letters themselves were full of praise. There were enough of them to paper a small room. We would join the ranks of the many thousands of the unpublished.

Writing a book would be hard. I had a taste of that preparing the proposal. There were days I stayed in my bathrobe and fairly threw dinner at my husband. I made up a sign that said "Do Not Disturb" and waved it at him if he was talking too much. Durell was halfway across the country; we telecommunicated by trial and error. I learned that perhaps I was not (nor ever would be) ready to write a book.

I now have THE GREATEST RESPECT for any published author. If you've published more than one, you are either a glutton for punishment or super human. When they say "It was a labor of love", I suspect they may be playing down the labor part.

Please don't feel sorry there was no book for us at the end of the rainbow. Durell has plenty on her plate, as do I. You will still get my crotchety views on fashion or my delight in something just too fabulous not to share. All's truly well that ends well. And thanks to Durell, I now have another badge.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Now Can We Get Back to Normal?

Sartorially speaking I'm so glad the awards season is over. I enjoy them as much as anyone. Not a dog fancier, I still love the Westminster Kennel Club show. I used to love Miss America, back when we were less enlightened. I've always loved the Academy Awards. Honk if you remember when they were sponsored by Toni Home Permanent. Nowadays I wouldn't miss the trifecta of Golden Globes, BAFTAS and Oscars.

Glenn didn't win an Oscar, but she wore one.
What I don't watch is the red carpet. Plenty of people do, and they really care. The red carpet has become its own dog and pony show (two hours long on this year's Oscar telecast). Back in the day the stars tried to look nice. Those who wore crazy get-ups were known for their outlandish attire. Who can forget Cher in 1986? Only Cher should and could have worn this:

Wacky by Mackie

Then came Joan Rivers, who found fault with almost everyone. She was very funny, and I miss her dearly. But if I were a celebrity crossing her path on the red carpet I would have been shaking in my Manolos.

Joan trying to blend in

Now things have gone off the rails. Celebrities (or the stylists who dress them) try to outdo each other with one more bizarre outfit after another. I find myself saying, "What was she thinking?" or more and more frequently, "What was he thinking?"

Fashion and style are not the same thing. They are more like siblings who share some traits but don't always get along. Expressing yourself is one thing. Looking good while doing it is another. So, no, I'm not going to post my faves (there were some) or the horrors that should have stayed on hangers. I'm just breathing a sigh of relief we can finally get back to figuring out what to wear ourselves.

I'm pretty sure it won't be this, but—oh my—if it could!

Melissa McCarthy, presenter extraordinaire

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Madame Predicts...Nothing New

That's right, from my perch on high (reading the fashion press and trolling upscale and mid-scale shopping meccas around town), I see nothing new for spring-summer 2019 (or sprummer as I call it).

Spring is a state of mind here in Houston and increasingly in the rest of the world. One day is winter; the next day is summer, then back to winter, then summer again with spring maybe at 3 AM for an hour or two.

What to wear is all about how you relate to the season of the day and where you are going. At the Lovely Boutique Where I Work, it's summer somewhere. Our offerings are all colorful versions of the classics we sell, but what to wear to work?  I caught myself almost choosing a linen shirt with velvet pants the other morning.

So let's just forget about spring.

If you liked your wardrobe from last summer, well—hurrah—I don't think you'll be tempted to buy anything new. I see the same mix of Boho, sleek chic, athletic wear, menswear, and quirky retro.  This is not meant to be worn together; it's more a choose-your-own-adventure. Pick your path and play along. All the players are staying true to their thing: Etro, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Armani, etc.

Ralph Lauren
If there is something you missed finding—the right sundress or jumpsuit or wicker basket bag—you'll have another chance this year. None of the trends appear "out", a reprieve if you will. In truth it's been a very long time since we worried about what's in/what's out. Like super-permissive parents, fashion seems afraid to tell us "no". I worry what that can lead to.

You say you got nothing from this post? That's kind of the point. Despite the fluctuations in temperature, the azaleas are still budding. Next summer will soon be this summer, and I'll look the same.

That might not be a bad thing.

Now where can I find a version of these Chanel pants?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Dressing the Wife

There once was a how-to fashion book called "Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife", published in 1959 and written by Anne Fogarty, a popular American designer. The book has some timeless advice, but that title is rough. Some book titles, like fashion, don't wear well.

This post is about the movie, "The Wife". Glenn Close plays a stoic, long-suffering wife of a famed author about to receive his Nobel Prize. He's not much of a prize himself, a philandering egomaniac who is something of a big baby. Glenn Close does a terrific job, never crossing the line into melodrama and pity.

I didn't realize there was more to "The Wife" than all this suffering, which is why it took me so long to see it. Glenn Close is up for an Academy Award, and she deserves it. Her wife has a story to tell, which is revealed even more in her eyes than words in the screenplay.

I had been told, "Michelle, you'll love the clothes.", but I don't spend the bucks and fight the crowds at the multiplex just to see nice clothes. They were, however, lovely. 

Joan's clothes hint at the steely person inside. From practical plaid flannel pajamas to a classically formal gown for the Nobel ceremony, Joan is a woman of few frills but impeccable taste.

Everything is of the best quality.  She wears a "good cloth coat" to Stockholm as she thought fur would be ostentatious—the movie takes place in 1992 when we did wear fur—but it's the most luscious camel wool coat ever. She knows the power of a good scarf. She knows enough to keep an ethnic jacket free of extraneous adornment. An important part of her look is cropped but softly styled silver hair, restrained makeup and fine accessories. Her jewelry is either unobtrusive or an artistic piece possibly from a museum shop.

These are clothes chosen by a woman who likes nice things but doesn't want to stand out. You get the feeling an afternoon of shopping would not be her idea of a good time, especially as she turns down that very suggestion.

The movie has more than a few surprises which I won't reveal. Here's one I will. The actress who plays the younger Joan in flashbacks is Glenn Close's own daughter, Annie Starke. Now that is perfect casting.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Older Model Bandwagon

Turning silver to gold...

Along with diversity in general there has been a real effort to cast older models who are relatable to ordinary women.

I do love a fantasy supermodel, a Maye Musk or Carmen Dell'Orefice. Too often, however, older models look like a second thought. I can hear the (young) art directors thinking, "Oh let's put her in the shot but keep her matronly and don't let her smile" or "Let's get some garishly outlandish older woman because everyone loves a character."

The fashion industry has been notoriously stupid for ages. I remember having navels airbrushed from two-piece swimsuit photos back in the '60s. That was only just after we stopped whittling down already skinny models at the waist.

I still want some fantasy in my fashion. If a model is too young, I just  mentally lop off her head when considering the clothes. I can determine if they will be right for me.

I do love to see someone who is not only older and beautiful but could be a woman I work with, volunteer with or am friends with. I saw an example today, looking at me from the window of Dress Barn, next to the Dollar Store in a strip mall. I usually pass by Dress Barn grateful there are other stores to shop. I'd never been inside.

Reflecting the window...and me?

I was stopped by a poster of an older woman with long grey hair.  Her expression is candid; she's thinking of something. She's also decidedly wrinkled and freckled, like me. The poster is huge, probably six feet high. She's beautiful, but she's also real, and what she tells me is I can still wear a leopard knit top with jeans and push up the sleeves. Why the hell not?

The "she" in the photo is Roxanne Gould, a 60-year-old native Californian. Dress Barn—sizes range from 4-24—is using a diverse group of models in a campaign promoting they are "more than just a name".

The tall (5'11") Roxanne joined her model mother in a Bayer Aspirin shoot at age 3 and has been modeling since. She spent 9 years in Europe as a popular, dependable model, but her career really took off when she stopped dyeing her gray hair and let it go natural. She's found more success than she ever did as one of a barrel-full of pretty girls.

Pretty, sure, but...
I truly believe the key to happiness as we get older is accepting ourselves. I'll never look like Roxanne, but I love looking at her. Those two sentences have got to be the ying and yang of woman.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I'm always a little behind in my magazine reading around the holidays, so I just got to December Elle, with Michelle Obama on the cover, interviewed by Oprah inside.

This is what we should all have—the confidence and pure joy Michelle Obama has in her photo shoot. This not a willowy thin model. You may know who I'm thinking of, the one with the perpetual scowl who now lives on Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a normal-sized, healthy, happy and confident woman who by the nature of all that magic mixing together, is absolutely beautiful. Stunning.

Is this a life lesson? I hope so.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Matte About This Lipstick

I rarely tackle Beauty in the blog. Not that it isn't Fashion, but I thought I'd leave Beauty to the experts. New beauty products are constantly introduced, many promising miracles. Some work, some don't.

A generous friend once gifted me with La Mer, one of those miracles-in-a-jar that sells for $130 an ounce. I was loathe to use it as I was afraid it would work too well. Well, La Mer was lovely; I managed to stop at one jar. I still believe it isn't which moisturizer you put on your face as long as it's something.

The paint box is another story. These cosmetics really can perform miracles, albeit temporarily. This is where habits are hard to break. I usually switch products only when they stop making my favorite. I always feel I could benefit from lessons. Those so far have left me running from the makeup counter to the ladies' room, kleenex in hand. These might be something I actually need to pay for...

This is all a long-winded intro to a recent discovery. Zara has introduced their first lipsticks—12 "velvety-matte" lipsticks ($12.90 each) and 8 "ultra-matte" liquid lipsticks ($9.90 eacht6).

I'm not a fan of liquid lipstick but decided to give one of the velvety-mattes a try. The lipsticks popped up as I perused Zara's sale online; they're not carried in my local store. You might want to check yours. 

I've never had luck with matte lipstick. I've hated the chalky way it goes on and sits on your lips. I'm not even convinced matte lipstick is the way to go. Aren't we supposed to look all dew-y and kissable? I picked this one as it reminded me of my dearly-beloved and late-lamented Mahogany lipstick from Biba.

Well, surprise, surprise. It does look matte in the tube but goes on smoothly. It actually feels creamy. It's a bit scented, but not unpleasantly so. That dissipates as it quickly dries. It stayed on for ages—through a cup of mid-morning coffee and into lunch. I could probably have gone without a touch-up, but I liked that creamy feel so went ahead with one. Unlike some other lipsticks (matte or creamy) it didn't bleed into my lips (and my lips are pretty old). Check, check, check. So it's that miracle of science—a creamy matte.

You might want to take a flyer on this one. I'd like to know what you think.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Few More Ways Not to Look Old

It's a new year. Why look old?

One of the ways to look old is to dress young, too young. Too young means ruffles (except around a hemline), puffed sleeves, puffy anything else (except a puffer coat), Alice in Wonderland headbands, midriff tops, clothes that fit too tight, etc.

Too old can be outdated eyeglass frames, shoes that look more comfortable than stylish (it is possible to have both), baggy clothes, items beginning to show wear (pilled sweaters and scuffed leather), and wearing what no one is wearing anymore.

Some of us reach a point where we feel we have enough clothes and better things to do than try to keep up with the fickle finger of fashion. That's when your look can become frozen in time. Trust me, you will not appear timeless.

Another hard truth is sometimes you just have to let go. Something you have always loved may have its moment and then be gone. Tough as this may be, you must put it away for a while.

For example: the kimono jacket.

I've always had a few in my closet, folkloric or Boho or Asian. A collar-less, no-button, slightly oversized T-shape jacket in an interesting woven or embroidered fabric This was my go-to what-to-wear for an evening event where dressing up was expected and creativity was okay. A kimono was easy to pack in a suitcase. It folds flat! With a black top and black pants (satin, silk or velvet depending on the season) it became an instant evening look.

Then kimonos got popular.

Suddenly they were everywhere...

...but not where I wanted to be.

When I first noticed they were in the stores again, I was happy to join in. I added several fanciful new ones and wore them often. At first I felt ahead of the game, then right in style, then just one of the pack. When kimonos were everywhere at every price point and on everyone, I put mine away. Perhaps this was a little act of fashion snobbery on my part, but I didn't want to hang on too long.

It's hard to keep up with how fast fashion changes. Even classics come and go. They are called classics for a reason, but they're not always "in style". When was the last time you saw anyone wearing a twin set with pearls? Yet those are certainly classics.

As we get older we learn not to get rid of the good stuff because it will come back. Belts come and go. A good belt will not deteriorate waiting for its time again (though your waistline may). Delicate jewelry is in; then it's out; now it's in. Just hold onto it. How much drawer space could it possibly take up?

Part of not looking old is being current. If you sense its time has come and gone, give it a rest.

If you love bell bottoms, but no one is wearing them, put 'em away. If you like velour track suits (I'm just saying), but no one is wearing them, put 'em away. If you love kimonos, but the look looks tired...well, you know what to do. 

It's knowing what to wear when that means you are staying on top of things.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Coming Attraction: Frida Kahlo in Brooklyn

Frida Kahlo didn't clean out her closets, and that's a good thing. Traveling from London's V&A, Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art beginning February 8, 2019 to May 12, 2019.

Frida, the painting
Frida, the person

This will be the first U.S. exhibit of Frida's clothing and personal possessions, locked away since her death in 1954 and only discovered in 2004.  I was fortune to see them some years ago on display at Casa Azul in Mexico City, the beautiful family compound and her home since childhood.

The courtyard of Casa Azul

Frida Kahlo's work was intensely personal. She was a prolific painter and confronted every triumph, tragedy, fear and longing in her art. Frida was a dramatic personality and lived life to the fullest while in almost constant pain. Injuries from a bus accident when a young woman never healed, and multiple surgeries never helped. She had a tumultuous marriage to the also charismatic Diego Rivera. Then there was that affair with Leon Trotsky...

A rather odd couple...
Some of Frida's iconic looks

Frida often chose garments that represented her culture and country, yet she was a very modern woman. She smoked. She wore cat's eye sunglasses and used Revlon cosmetics. Coincidentally Revlon is a sponsor of the Brooklyn show.

Frida's art, her life, and her style are sources of endless fascination and scholarly analysis. She continues to be celebrated and homaged This show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art should be all that—and a feast to behold.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Revelations Not Resolutions

First end-of-year order of business: Thank you. Thank you for reading. Would I write if you didn't read? Maybe. That would be called a diary. Do I write because you read? Maybe. That would be called a sense of purpose. As the year draws to a close, I publish my 586th effort and send my heartfelt
T  H  A  N  K  S.

Now to the business at hand: Rather than make New Year's Resolutions (that I always break), I'm looking back at what the year meant for me in terms of fashion, both grim and good.


> I still can't figure out how to deal with my legs. Tights in winter are fine, but Texas winters are short. Sheer pantyhose are still frumpy. We know Meghan and Kate only wear them because they have to. Pants are still the great equalizer, but sometimes you just feel like a skirt.

> I tried to write a book this year. Let's say I tried to get a publisher interested in a book about fashion for older women. My illustrator friend and I thought we had a great idea for this rather tricky subject and would do it with humor and finesse. Despite a lot of positive feedback no one was willing to take a chance as between the two of us we have about 500 Instagram followers, not anywhere near the 100,000 it takes to get published these days.

Booked with ideas

> I made a few wardrobe mistakes, most blatantly on our trip to Israel wearing khaki and olive. I looked like the oldest recruit in the Israeli army. And I will never travel anywhere again without my packable down jacket.

> Finally, this year saw the continuing demise of magazine publishing, my former bread-and-butter and lifelong love. The current issue of Vogue barely made it to 100 pages, and the last issue of Glamour was—alas—its last.

The first...
...the last


> I found some pieces on the Will-I-Ever-Find-It? list. That means I can now stop looking for them. I bought not one but two "little black dresses". Either would be the perfect dress for those times when you need a little black dress. There's been a hole in my closet for years. It matters not that I haven't had occasion to wear either one yet. They are there. I found the perfect pussycat bow blouse in the right shade of off-white. Everything is right about it, and I've worn it a lot. I found a pair of black suede kitten heels that are dressy enough for the little black dress, and I can actually stand and walk in them. No small thing, that.

This classic was hard to find

> I hauled less to the thrift shop this year. Must mean I've made less mistakes.

> I learned how to use online shopping to my advantage—as a research tool, to price check and comparison shop, to beat the crowd at the mall (especially during the Zara sale). I learned when not use it (for buying shoes) and that I better make sure returns are easy and preferably free by reading all the fine print.

> I discovered the wonderful Zuri dress. This dress brought fun and joy back into the idea of dressing. It always gets compliments and seems to put everyone in a sunny mood (especially the wearer). I do resolve to get one more in 2019.

The happy Zuri dress

> I made peace with my body (yet again) in terms of what I can't and won't wear. No more full skirts; the proportions are now wrong. No sleeveless because I have nothing to prove and am always cold anyways. Everyone's list is different. The important part is the peace treaty.

> I realized the wisdom of saying "never say never". A store I'd previously dismissed as Not My Style now has many pieces that work for me. Did J.Jill change or did I?

Never say never