Friday, July 3, 2020

Don't Tread on My Hawaiian Shirt!

At least he's wearing gloves...

The New York Times this week reported a simmering phenomenon I wish they hadn't noticed. Members of alt-right groups called the Boogaloo Movement have adopted the Hawaiian shirt as part of their regalia. Their aim, besides trashing my husband's beloved shirts, is to inspire a second civil war. You can just imagine all the ugly things that entails.

I absolutely see no connection.

This has something to do with a 1984 movie called "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo", the word  mashed into "big igloo" and "big luau". So references to igloos and Hawaiian shirts represent the group's aims from civil libertarian rebellion to all-out race war. The Hawaiian shirt is even meant to be ironic, representing as it does a middle aged man's shirt of comfortable choice.  

As the wife of one of those middle aged men, I welcomed my husband adopting the uniform. They were more dressed up than a crew neck t-shirt and more original than a collared polo. Besides, the shirts were more flattering to his middle aged man shape, the one I probably fueled with too many homemade apple pies.

My husband has quite a collection of Hawaiian shirts now that he's even beyond middle age. One of his favorites cost $1.98 on sale at Sears. I love it too as it machine washes and tumble dries like a dream. Another favorite is a classy Ralph Lauren design, the first Father's Day gift our son chose and paid for himself. Who can deny my husband showing his team pride? Although this one is a dreadful rayon blend that wrinkles as you button it on. A Hawaiian shirt is the answer to How do I get him to look dressed up without making him put on long pants? In fact a Hawaiian shirt and long pants is too Miami Vice, and not in a good way.

The not-in-a-good-way way

The last thing my husband wants to promote is civil unrest. He's already put away red baseball caps. The Times wasn't clear whether the Hawaiian shirt can ever be reclaimed unless everyone starts wearing one. The best way to lick 'em may be to join 'em. Who knew camo looked so good with Hawaiian shirts? Just ditch the accessories.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Edith Head, Up Close and Personal

The National Arts Club will present an online "Afternoon with Edith Head" on June 30 at 3PM Eastern Daylight Time. Registration is free, and you can do it here:

The National Arts Club, out of New York City, has had a number of events called, "National Arts Club at Home" during this time of extreme social distancing. There have been a few fashioned-themed lectures such as this, with one on the history of tartans coming up July 14.

The genuine article

Edith Head has a fascinating life story, both the one she created and the actual one. She was the most famous costume designer in Hollywood's golden age, determined in no small part by tireless self promotion.

The National Arts Club will not just be presenting a lecture on Edith Head. She will be there, in the person of Susan Claassen, an actress who inhabits Edith with astonishing reality. That is her at the top of the page.

I've had the pleasure of seeing Susan's performance some years ago at a small venue. I was sitting thisclose to "Edith" and didn't doubt for moment that Edith Head, who died in 1981, had come to Houston for the day.

You don't have to know much about her to enjoy the visit. She will fill you in, trust me. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Sleeping Beauty and Dr. Fauci

Dear Virginia, Jill, Suzy, Linda, Pat, Arnita, Sheila or whoever you are,

Yes, there is still Fashion.

As my mind is spluttering around these days Fashion is less like a letter to the New York Sun than a fractured version of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty". Fashion is the slumbering princess waiting for a shot in the arm from the handsome prince, Dr. Fauci. She will awaken (refreshed and looking ten years younger) with someplace to go and a reason to get dressed.

Man of my dreams...

With my real life on hold, I feel less like Sleeping Beauty and more like the troll who lives under the bridge. I have to believe that day will come. It breaks my heart to take little joy in what was one of my major life forces, up there with air, food and water.

I can't get excited about a wardrobe of masks to coordinate with my clothing. The only thing sadder than everyone wearing masks is that everyone isn't wearing a mask.
Still, I dream about what I might wear when I go...where? I check to see if my appetite perks up on some of my favorite shopping sites (not so much). I'll even try to snag a bargain or try something new.*  I do know getting dressed—not dressed up, just dressed—makes me feel better. There are so few reasons to do it and so little discipline to do it without reason. Please tell me I am not alone.

Day 91. Still healthy. Missing you all.

*I'm sorry to report the drawstring neck from the last blog's caftan is strangling me.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Come Back, Little Caftan

I may have finally figured out what bit of fashion excites me now (Day 73 of Coronavirus House Arrest). Athleisure—be it comfy sweats or Yogawear—has never been more than utilitarian, not a fashion choice for me. I want to get excited about something, but I can't foresee a time when I may actually be wearing a dress.

Jacqueline Bisset—timeless

What garment holds a bit of mystery, creativity, and comfort all in one? A caftan (or kaftan) was originally an ankle length garment with flowing sleeves worn by men and women in the Middle East. The style is thought to have originated in Ancient Mesopotamia. Kaftan is a Persian word. Similar styles of dress are the djellaba, abaya and burnouse, but in the West, "caftan" is generally used for all.

illustration by Diyali Sen Bhalla
Once an exotic souvenir brought back by intrepid 19th century world travelers, the caftan came into its own in the 1950s and '60s when it was adapted by French high fashion. Dior and Balenciaga showed versions as loose-fitting evening gowns or a caftan worn as a robe over matching pants. It became the jet-setter's style-du-jour, popularized by everyone from Talitha Getty to Elizabeth Taylor.

Talitha Getty
Liz—no last name needed

My clothing need of the moment is something to wear around the house while not gardening, cleaning, sorting or cooking. Something that will look as if I meant to put it on if the doorbell rings. I know it's only Amazon, but still, we dress to impress. Something that will play with my love of fashion during this stressful time, something a little "Let's pretend" and a little out of my comfort zone (while being way so comfortable).

It's a nice look to try out/try on. Besides a long kimono that I converted by sewing together the front, I just purchased this caftan from "& Other Stories" (one of the H&M brands). It's a nice mix of linen and cotton, so not too flimsy. It does, however, run huge.

On sale @$49

I'm not sure if I'm about to hit the street in a caftan.

My front porch with a cup of coffee might be as far as I dare travel.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Madame Gives a Shout Out...

...and a blatant plug, something that is not usually my intent.

Back in early April—you know, 20 months ago—Johnny Was, based in Los Angeles, was among the first to offer masks for sale. A pack of five, constructed from their signature prints, lined in cotton with a pocket for inserting a filter, cost $25. For every pack ordered, a pack would be donated to essential workers.

That to me is a win/win—something I needed from a designer whose lovely Boho tops, dresses and kimonos are a bit too pricey for me and an opportunity to help do good. Wait time was three weeks (now shortened to a week). I actually wondered if we would still need masks by then.

The masks arrived today, and I couldn't be more pleased. They are lovely, all different, all lined in a soft striped cotton. They are nicely pleated and finished. I sew, but I could never have the patience for that kind of detail.

Lined interior

The pocket allows you to insert a filter. I understand paper cone coffee filters work well. A few snips and you have it.

There are now three choices of designs. Cotton sateen prints or cotton sateen in neutral (unisex) prints are 5 masks for $25 or 50 for $250. Silk charmeuse prints are 5 for $40.

Cotton sateen prints
Cotton sateen neutrals
Silk charmeuse prints

For every pack sold Johnny Was will donate a pack to essential workers in hospitals and charities. They have donated over 300,000 masks so far.

I respect the spirit and the manner in which these are being offered. A card enclosed with my masks read in part, "We are grateful that during this unprecedented time, we are coming together stronger than ever and all doing our part to protect one another."

Besides, it was great fun to open the package and see what I got. Imagine my great joy and surprise when one print turned out to be leopard!

Monday, May 11, 2020

To Shop or not to Shop?

Pandemonium at a reopened TJ Maxx
This question depends on where you live, what has opened up or is on the verge of doing so.

I recently conducted a straw poll and received as many varied answers as you might imagine. We are presently living in an un-united state.

Target seems to be the store of choice, mainly because all locations have been open during the pandemic. I haven't been myself, but I understand they are at least putting some precautions in place, such as limiting the amount of shoppers inside. It's easy to grab-and-go at Target, to pick up no-brainers like t-shirts. Many don't mind trying on at home and returning.

There are those who would love to just poke around a store to see what's new, but that's mostly a pipe dream. I understand as my week always included a run through the neighborhood TJ Maxx and Marshall's, places where inventory can change daily. That risk doesn't seem worth taking.

Those were the days...
One respondent said she would feel more comfortable in a boutique, just not in a mall. That behooves boutiques, usually small-staffed, to take on extra precautions of cleaning and maintenance. This, I think, will be necessary for the sake of attracting business and appealing to customers who may trust such an atmosphere over the big stores.

I read a newspaper article where Macy's stated they will effectively set up a 48-hour quarrantine for clothing tried on in fitting rooms. If my local Macy's is any indication, "Apparel Jail" will not look any different from the massive pile-up of go-backs one usually encountered outside the fitting rooms. You know, the kind of stack you wouldn't want to touch with a ten-foot pole, let alone a six-foot.   

One answer from hard-hit New York City had a plaintive "if only". New York is wisely still locked down. Stay strong, New Yorkers. It's also tough to stay strong here in Texas where things seem to be opening up like a house of cards in the wind. It's hard to "do the right thing" when so many around you have other ideas.

Shopping online for the forseeable future is getting some takers. If you think about it the dangers are still there. Someone may have tried that on anyways. The person who packed your delivery may not have been wearing a mask or gloves or may even have, heaven forbid, sneezed into your button-down. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. Besides, does anyone really know how long these virus germs last?

Then there are thrift stores, from tony consignment shops to rummage sales. Who's up for those? At this point, when we have so much, sometimes thrifting is a justifiable form of shopping for entertainment. From "something to think about" to "I would wash it anyways", reactions are mixed. I am pretty sure if it were me there would be gloves.

One light bulb has gone off in many closets: I don't need anything; I have more than I need already; I have things I've never worn; where am I going anyways?

Which reminds me, if you haven't seen it, Turner Classic Movies is showing a delightful romantic comedy from 1945 starring Wendy Hiller as a headstrong young woman with some surprises coming to her, "I Know Where I'm Going". It airs Tuesday, May 26 at 12:15 AM Eastern. I'll be there.


Saturday, May 2, 2020

Life Along the Amazon During a Pandemic

I'm not meaning life along the Amazon River here. We are talking about life along the Amazon delivery truck route, and let me tell you its been a life saver.

Perhaps I should rephrase that. Staying sequestered, venturing out gingerly and carefully, may be saving my life. Amazon has done wonders for my sanity.

Nowadays the mail can't be expected to hold any surprises. The bills are paid automatically from my checking account. Magazines are getting delivered with the newspaper. No one writes anymore, not even a greeting card. I'm as guilty as anyone, and it can't be blamed on the pandemic.

The sight of that Amazon truck? Since mid-March I have ordered so much online it's a rare day I don't get a delivery of something. What have I been buying? Well, it's not just sheer laziness or even fear keeping me from the store.

We got a new kitten right before lock-down. Sidney requires canned kitten food. My local supermarket doesn't really stock those little tins of tasty tidbits. Where once I would not have minded the chore, I'm not about to run all over town even for Sidney. Amazon delivers.

Who's wearing much makeup? I'm not. But I do feel more human with lipstick. I'm pretty good with a lipstick brush and a deep coral color, but for now it's a swipe of a color so pale using a brush would be a waste of effort. While it's still creamy, this tube is so old no one stocks it anymore. I found one (yes one) on Amazon, and I'm not too embarrassed to order one tube of lipstick.

Books! The library is still closed. I have 496 unread books in my house, but when someone tells me about a great book they've read, well, you know what has to happen. I love getting books from Amazon because they come practically the next day.

Finally found my favorite faux-Birkenstocks in white plastic. I was looking for those all last summer as the perfect pool shoe. They turned up on Amazon. All I need now is the pool.

And so it goes. I've stocked up on vinyl gloves. The box I bought six weeks ago for $9.99 now sells for $24.99, but at least its available.

If we're in this for the long haul disposable masks just seem cleaner than scarves and bandanas. I don't think I'm going to bother matching my masks to my outfits—or even to my face. Amazon has them.

I wish I hadn't heard troubling news that Amazon isn't supplying their workers with protective gear. I understand the company is now investing in that, to the point where Jeff Bezos warned stockholders not to expect a profit this year despite how much Amazon seems to be raking in. He personally donated $100 million to food banks around the country. I hope this is just the beginning.

I'm still not a fan of online fashion shopping in general. I bought a shirt from Banana Republic Factory Store in two sizes, but neither fit. Shipping was not free, either, but I sent them back, only to receive my bill with no credit for the return. When I called customer service I was told that instead of the usual 15 days to process returns, the company can now take 30. Meanwhile I should pay my bill or face a fine. Fortunately I was able to convince the rep leaving me with a credit on a Banana Republic card was not acceptable. It's the hassle that continues to sour me on most online shopping. Say what you will about the behemoth, Amazon is hassle-free.

First responders, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, scientists looking for cures and vaccines? You have my undying gratitude. Amazon? I gotta say you have my thanks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Broken Promises/Happy Endings

Sometimes it pays to disappoint yourself, especially this year.

Every January I make the same promise I make in July: Don't buy anything for next season until that next season arrives. This is a promise I can never keep.

The stores start hauling out spring and summer clothes while the winter sale signs are still wet. I love me a good sale, but I CAN NOT resist the shiny and new.

It's easy to forget what you actually own when it's packed away for a winter nap, so I'm often replenishing what doesn't need to be replenished. I will also imagine events that never occur—patio parties where I swan about in a silk caftan passing out hors d'oeuvres and cocktails to my neighbors. I don't even know the neighbors. I envision romantic evenings in a flowy summer dress on a cruise ship in tropic waters, strolling the decks with my husband apres dinner. What's wrong with this picture? I hate cruises and get seasick besides. Nevertheless the fantasies persist, and I can end up in October with outfits still hanging in the closet, tags attached.

I've gotten better over time but am not 100% pre-season impulse-free. This year, when stepping inside the mall or a department store seems a far-fetched idea, I'm happy I broke my promise. What that means is I start the season with new clothes I WILL wear, mainly because they are new. I bought some striped Breton sailor tees, black pants with white daisies, wide-leg linen pants in a terra cotta color, a black knit blazer cut like a riding jacket, that flowy summer dress for my husband's birthday dinner (which will still happen just not aboard ship), a black straw bag of shredded raffia, a pair of tooled leather mules and a pair of black slip-on sneakers with white treads.

You might think this is enough to satisfy a woman's summer wardrobe in its entirety. But you don't know me. Before this all happened, I shopped, like a shark swims, constantly. I enjoyed the hunt while always looking for "a good price".

I've learned a lot, even in six weeks. I've learned how little I need and how much I have. I've learned to do other things with my time, like cooking real recipes instead of throwing dinner together. My garden has never looked better. I'm reading more. I can't find an excuse to avoid cleaning house, but I'm working on that.

As retail slowly opens up here, I wonder how things will change. I'm old enough to need to proceed cautiously, but I do feel I won't go back to my meandering ways. The new normal doesn't seem able to support that idea anyways.

I will tell you one thing: I'm happy to have something new to wear when I can be let out!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Coming to a Summer Near You? Socks with Sandals

With most of us missing months of pedicure appointments, I wonder if the new trend this summer will be socks and sandals.

This has been touted before, many times, and has never caught on. It has either cried "trying too hard" or looked too 1940s. Many trends have no reason for being, of course, but wearing socks with your sandals now Fulfills a Need.

Miami, 1940

Lest you think I am just a prima donna and can't do my own toes, I really can't. They are so gnarly that, well, let me spare you the details. For years I would never even wear sandals until a wonderful nails person assured me she had seen it all and not to worry. So, yes, I get pedicures. And can now wear sandals.

The always-stylish Eva Chen

But now is then, if you know what I mean. It's finally sandal weather in Texas. Okay, it's always sandal weather even when it isn't. Texas women will put on a winter coat before they change out of sandals. It's not necessary to ask forgiveness these days. It's more a case of self-pride. Even I don't want to look at my unkempt toenails.

Maybe not

Of course, these might be a new trend altogether...

Friday, April 17, 2020

How Chic is Your Mask?

I never thought I would be seeing this, let alone writing about it, but I noticed two women in the supermarket today who looked so fabulous in their social-distancing masks, I had to stop and tell them (from a safe distance of course).

Me, I was wearing my bandana-and-a-rubber-band mask, baseball cap and no makeup. Who could tell who I possibly WAS? (one benefit of all this cover-up-ing). I felt emboldened to compliment them, as one so often does become more chatty when in disguise.

I didn't get up the nerve to ask for a photograph, but one was wearing a pink-and-white gingham mask with strips of white appliqued flowers along the side pieces. She had a black pixie haircut and bold, black eyeglass frames helping to keep the mask in place. I didn't notice what else she was wearing because she looked so cute from the neck up.

The second woman, a statuesque African-American, had on a sweeping caftan dress in one long swath of mustardy-olive. Her hair was pulled back; the mask was a deep-colored African print (which she said she made herself), and she was wearing one killer pair of false eyelashes.

Whatever glorious pictures you have in your head, keep them there. These women looked—dare I say—stunning and appropriate. And who looked like Glamour Dont's? The few women not wearing masks.

Is there some new chic afoot? Will it no longer be okay to just wear a mask? Will the well-dressed woman get points for coordinating her look with her outfit? This will either give me a new push to get creative or another reason never to leave my house.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Tone Deaf During Covid 19?

Any place I've ever bought anything from is sending me emails, lots and lots of emails. I've learned to ignore those missals from Banana Republic, Old Navy, the Gap, Carter's, Ann Taylor, J Crew, DSW, H&M, J Jill, etc., but now they are beginning to feel wrong.

I've not Unsubscribed because eventually I will want to know what's happening out there. I don't bother to open them; I just delete from the inbox. I can't help seeing that first line as I do. Over time those emails are feeling more tone deaf and more desperate.

"Comfy clothes for this special time!" I don't need any more comfy clothes, thank you. I especially don't need them without a pay check coming in. I don't need a "wardrobe refresh" or a "personal online shopper".

I've also received a few tailored to me by local store managers. I will refrain from mentioning which stores to save them any embarrassment, but I do NOT want a video consultation or a curbside pickup to get new clothes. Do you not understand?

I am not going anywhere. I am not doing anything except trying to stay healthy. I know you are feeling desperate. I work in retail and, I don't have a job anymore. I have zero confidence that I will ever have one again. Now is not the time to buy what can't be consumed, read, listened to, played, or wiped with.

I understand your plight. Clothes are a need or a pleasure in our lives. Fashion has always been the stuff of angels' wings. I feel your pain (do I ever!), but I don't want to see you sweat. Leave me my illusions (which means being very, very quiet) or treat me like a good friend.

Tell me you understand how we are all feeling. Let me know you want me to be safe and healthy and that you look forward to seeing me again soon. Send me a sweet thought but not a 60% discount coupon. I'll still be your friend. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Who Cut Out the Dress?

Will "Making the Cut" make the cut? "Project Runway" was a trailblazer when it debuted on Bravo in 2004. There have been many "seasons" and many iterations, most recently with Karli Kloss and Christian Siriano as host and mentor respectively.

Yesterday the originals, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, debuted "Making the Cut" on Amazon Prime, a glammed-up version of the original with a million dollar prize and 12 contestants who have established lines but want Worldwide Brand Recognition.

It all seems a bit desperate, with Heidi barely able to contain herself at the thought of that million and Tim having apoplexy over being in Paris (and using the word titillating in not exactly the right way). The big get is the viewer's ability to purchase the winning designer's look immediately after the show.

This was tried once before on one of the other "Runways" with not much success. The winning look was able to be ordered right after the show, with a wait time of 6-8 weeks for delivery. In other words, "slow fashion." No one wants to wait two months for anything unless it's your wedding gown, so it was no surprise that disappeared early on in the run of the season.

Back to "Making the Cut". The designers were challenged to create two looks for a fashion show—a runway, or extreme, version of their style and an aspirational, or saleable, one. The presentation was staged at night at the Eiffel Tower. That was such a small part of the episode you barely had a chance to look at the clothes.

Instead of judges examining their favorites and least favorites (so at least we could see them again), Heidi separately called four contestants to the judge's table to be grilled by her and have their fates decided by the panel. "Did you change your minds?", she asked the judges after her inquisition. Everyone always said "no". I'm surprised they didn't use the old gladiatorial thumbs-up, thumbs-down. One designer was sent home, one given a warning, one praised for her good work, one  crowned the winner (but no laurel leaves).

The winner, Esther Perbandt from Germany, found the seamstress hadn't put her dress together correctly. That's another thing; designers don't actually sew because most of them use pattern makers and seamstresses in their businesses (yet another reason to unleash a horde of completely untrained fashion designers onto the world). She was forced to create a new dress in the two hours left, and this was the winner.

Actually it's a nice dress. I could see this going to a party or out to a special dinner. It looks a bit Grecian or Empire, flattering and dramatic. I was curious enough to go on the Amazon website, where I understood it would be available immediately.

I could see if I were watching a few days or weeks following the program's debut. It wasn't even midnight, and Amazon's site told me this:

What was the point? Did they not anticipate the volume of orders (which I kind of doubt there were)? Did they run into a coronavirus problem importing from China? Possible. There was no price listed, but a bit of further investigation revealed it was $64.90. I've had enough bad luck ordering from those Chinese fashion sites to imagine the quality of the fabric/how well this is made for that price. I also wonder if any designer hoping to become the next global brand was thinking "Forever 21" rather than "Armani."

So I'm on the fence about this version. Or maybe the clothesline—hanging on, but I don't know for how long.