Tuesday, November 27, 2012

EOF: Holiday Style

EOF = Equal Opportunity Fashion
Class, recap if you please. EOF is fashion that will flatter women of all ages and body types. In these here parts dark (preferably skinny) denim and something fancy on top qualifies. Gold cowboy boots optional but definitely EOF.

What else befits the distinction of being Holiday EOF? 
> Black lace
> Metallics
> Sheer
> Long skirt
> Hair thing
You may need to tweak a bit to create the proper mix of holiday pizazz and good taste.

Black lace— If there is such a thing as being too young for a fashionable look, black lace would be it. Black lace is better— more sophisticated, more knowing— the more woman you are. Ingenues don't wear black lace. Black lace can be:
The top...
...the bottom...
...the whole nine yards
Metallics— It has certainly been a great year for glitz. This would run the gamut from sequins to metallic threads woven into fabric or knit to full-on lurex (which does sound a bit lurid). The trick is to pare it down. If you go the sequin skirt route, a plain top (tank, tee or turtle) is your best bet. Likewise a metallic jacket calls for a simple partner. You can pare glitz with black velvet if the velvet's lines are simple, but the combo is top tier dressing, definitely not dressy-casual.
Maybe add black tights?
Sheer— Sheer is where you go when you don't want to go bare. A sheer sleeve will answer that "I don't want to show my arms" conundrum. A sheer bodice requires— no question— a camisole under-piece.
Sheerly yours
Long skirt— Go ahead and try it. If you've hesitated to wear a long skirt during the day (too impractical! too littlehouseontheprairie!) see how elegant you feel gliding through the night in one. And yes, Thumbelina, you can wear long even if you're short. Just don't do ball gown volume. 
She's a real princess too
(Letizia of Spain)
Hair thing— We've been fascinated with the fascinator since Kate and William's nuptials. This British bit of style fluff has been known here as a "cocktail hat". It's easy to pop on, even if you sport short hair and is one step dressier (plus leaps and bounds more sophisticated) than a headband.  
It was fascination...

Holiday dressing can be fun. This is indeed the time to indulge in a bit of Cinderella-at-the-ball fantasy or go for your favorite vintage look. I know a lady (pretty well as we share the same closet) who pulls out the same palazzo pants and jeweled back cardigan every year for New Year's Eve. And sometimes it's even in style!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hooray for Hollywood

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's give thanks for the gift of imagination and the craft of realization. From amazing blockbusters to independent zingers, the movies have given us food for thought for over a hundred years.

Herewith follows a selection of the best fashion movies ever to grace a dimly lit room. This is a personal list, of course. I've been disappointed in some and may not have seen your personal favorites, but here goes (in no particular order).

Fashion films fall in three catagories:
1) Amazing costumes that may or may not be historically accurate and/or influence your wardrobe but are a treat nonetheless
2) Trend-setters whose looks were responsible for influencing the ways we were and are
3) The business of fashion (be it creating or reporting).

> The Boyfriend— if the 20s really looked this good I will rue being born forty years to late.
The original "boyfriend" look
> Gone With the Wind— Scarlett's character is so defined by wardrobe choices, from the innocent barbecue party dress to the widow's weeds she wore in name only. And who could forget that green velvet dress aka the drapes?
Whatever do you mean by drapes?
> Marie Antoinette (the Sofia Coppola version)— Despite (or maybe because of) the anachronistic sound track, this is a romp in girl-land dress-up.
Let them eat...
>Barry Lyndon— That 18th century again
No words needed
> Out of Africa— Two great actors, one beautiful continent
Meryl + Robert + Ralph: three is not a crowd

> Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn version)— I've written before that I once paused throughout a VHS tape of Sabrina to sketch all Audrey's looks in order to replicate them. They are pretty much still wearable.
And this is only the "before"...
> Bonnie and Clyde— What girl didn't want a beret, pullover sweater and pencil skirt (not to mention Warren Beatty) after seeing Faye Dunaway in hers?
Bonnie Miss Bonnie
> Pretty Woman— Dress like a dressed-up hooker? Yes, please
Still looking pretty
> Grey Gardens— Edie Beale as trend-setter? She was royalty before the Tenenbaums. And proof that if you believe in yourself the world will too.
If you've got mink, wear it!
> Annie Hall— Inspires millions to this day, inspired itself no doubt by Katharine Hepburn
Annie Hall wins a hall pass
> The Best of Everything— Not often mentioned on the lists, but we actually dressed like this. Working girls aspiring to look chic in our Ohrbach's knock-offs
Hoping for the best
> Love Story— And who didn't wear a knitted cloche in homage? Methinks Ryan O'Neal is a great accessory in a fashionable movie (see Barry Lyndon).
Ali McGraw with two accessories
> Breathless (original version)— Cut off your hair! Wear a white t-shirt! Move to France! Forget what actually happens in the plot.
A breath of fresh chic

> The Women (original version)— The technicolor fashion show at the end of the black and white film is the whipped cream and cherry. A movie about women and for women (hence the fashion show)
Sundae best
> Funny Face— Audrey! Fred Astaire! New York! Paris! Givenchy! Gershwin! Think pink!
And Dovima!
> The Devil Wears Prada— Surprisingly accurate portrayal of life at Conde Nast (except for the part where our heroine takes home clothes from the sittings closet). Meryl Streep never looked better.
Devilishly delicious
> Valentino: The Last Emperor— What begins as a voyeuristic peek into another world ends up a sympathetic portrayal of a passionate genius— and a love story.
It's good to be the emperor
> The September Issue— The real star is Grace Coddington, probably the only woman in the world to stand up to Anna Wintour...
...and make Anna smile
> Unzipped— The business of fashion is life-changing and serious stuff, even if you are the delightful Isaac Mizrahi.
In fashion all the world's a stage
>Bill Cunningham New York— A love letter to fashion, Bill and New York City rolled into one
My three loves
>Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel— The latest release on the list and last but not least. Without saying as much, Diana Vreeland states the case for Life=Fashion and Fashion=Life, math I can certainly understand. You'll wish you knew her.
My favorite professor
Thanks to Durell Godfrey for suggesting this feast. By the way, Netflix will be open Thanksgiving day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Run don't walk...

...to your nearest Nordstrom. Although they are profitable and respected, Nordstrom is one of that dwindling species, the American department store. Despite the Macy-frying of America, department stores (even Macy's) are not what they used to be. For one thing there are less departments. One used to be able to furnish a home from basement water heater to attic fan at a department store, with many stops in between for rugs, lamps, furniture and drapes (not to mention the contents of your closets). The in-store travel agents, bookshops and hairdressers too are long gone.

There are 117 Nordstrom stores in America (plus an additional 110 discount Nordstrom Racks which don't count). They are not takeovers of old-line department stores as in the Macy's formula. Do you recognize a dearly departed in this list of the conquered-by-Macy's?
> Bullock's
> The Broadway
> Emporium
> Weinstock's
> May Company
> Robinson's
> I. Magnin
> Meier & Frank
> Bon Marche
> Foley's
> Jones Store
> Famous Barr
> L.S. Ayers
> Marshall Field's
> Lazarus
> Goldsmith's
> Hecht's
> Burdine's
> Kaufmann's
> Strawbridge's
> Bamberger's
> Stern's
> Rich's
> A&S
> Jordan Marsh
> Filene's

Depending on how dedicated a shopper you are, there may be a Nordstrom near you and you don't know it. They famously advertise but twice a year, for the Half-Yearly Sale and the Anniversary Sale. Holiday decorations go up Thanksgiving Day and are down the day after Christmas. There are no water heaters or attic fans (never were), but Nordstrom has one thing in very short supply in today's marketplace: customer service. I don't just mean the sales associates are nice (which they are), but the stores themselves are beautifully maintained, spaciously laid out, with a real honest-to-goodness live pianist at a baby grand on the first floor, restaurants with delicious food and restrooms you could live in.
The showman is not for show

A bit of Nordstrom history: The first store opened in Seattle in 1901. Called Wallin & Nordstrom, it sold only shoes. There were two Seattle stores by the time Wallin retired in 1929 (and sold his shares to the Nordstrom family). By 1958 Nordstrom had expanded to eight stores in two western states, still only selling shoes, thus becoming known as "The World's Largest Shoe Store". They are famous for bend-over-backwards customer service and the policy that any item may be returned at any time for any reason. To this day, if you wear shoes in two different (whole) sizes, Nordstrom will not charge you for the second pair.

Nordstrom back in the (shoe)day...
...and today

Expansion continued with the purchase of Best Apparel in 1983, resulting in today's mix of men's, women's and children's clothing, accessories, cosmetics, jewelry as well as a small range of home furnishings. Offerings run from the moderately priced to couture. Many in-house alterations are gratis. Associates are encouraged to develop relationships with customers and to "make the business their own". Nordstrom also has a strong internet presence offering free shipping and returns.

Still family owned, what Nordstrom doesn't have is a lot of buzz. They are not tastemakers or trend setters. Nevertheless management is very astute in who is their customer and buy for her/him accordingly. There's enough that you want and nothing that you don't want. And they do feature a tremendous selection of shoes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Third Piece

The piece is not The Third Piece

Too young to have seen "The Third Man" at its 1949 release, I do remember before that time no one had heard of the zither. After "The Third Man" no one wanted to hear zither music ever again. I finally got around to watching this film noir classic but haven't quite determined what it was about.

In the fashion lexicon "the third piece" is infinitely easier to understand. This is what makes a look, creates an outfit, ties it together, makes it zing. It's what you add when you feel something's missing.

What the third piece can be:

> Jacket— not one that matches your skirt or pants (then it's a suit). This jacket has its own personality.

> Cardigan— A simpler, sophisticated one perhaps. Holiday sweaters need not apply.

> Vest— Watch it as vests go in and out of fashion. Sometimes it's a man's vest, sometimes a bolero. Today's vest is of the giant Sherpa variety that can make one look like a Yeti.

> Belt— a statement belt, not a flimsy little thing that disappears at twenty paces

> Scarf— of noticeable size, color and/or pattern. The male equivalent of this would be his tie.

> Chunky necklace— or necklaces— that are a focal point, not a trinket

What the third piece can't be:

> Shoes— No matter how wonderful on their own, it takes too long to process shoes as an essential component of your look. Besides, there are two of them.

> Leg wear— Tres important but can't stand on its own (pun intended).

> Handbag— too peripheral. Besides, unless you're the Queen you put it down sometimes.

Coco: Which was the last to go?

One needn't stop at three, but you do have to know when to stop. Coco Chanel believed in taking the last piece off; Iris Apfel says she adds one more.

Iris: Room for one more?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Women We Love: Shala Monroque

Do you hide your style under a cabbage leaf, or do you wear a cabbage rose with aplomb? Check out the lovely Shala Monroque.

The gorgeous 33-year-old Shala is a mere child in my book, but I suspect she will be as stunning at 66 or 99. Talk about style! She "works it" effortlessly. First of all, that smile would light up a room. Shala is photographed everywhere she goes and doesn't take a bad one.

Deemed "a very modern kind of style icon" by New York Magazine, Shala has a lot on her plate. She is the creative director of the avant garde publication "Garage". Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia she arrived in New York City at age 20 with the proverbial one suitcase and an itch to be a model. There's as much beauty in her head as on it. Her blog, Shala's Rabbit Hole (shalasrabbithole.com/blog/?page_id=8) is all about strong women and empowerment. Some of her favorites: Miriam Makeba, Maya Angelo, Liya Kebede, Nina Simone, Angelina Jolie and Diana Vreeland.

Unlike Daphne Guinness or Britney Spears, Shala's style is not for attention or a cry for help. She looks ladylike and fashion-forward both, not an easy accomplishment. Though she can hardly avoid the spotlight, when asked if she ever gets fashion fatigue, she answered, "I love clothes and enjoy it, but it can't be my whole world— absolutely not. When I get fashion fatigue I just wear a uniform: the same pair of jeans, for example, with a rotation of button-down shirts. The same coat, etc. Or I go to museums. Or the movies. I go out into the world. The mind neeeds diversity. Fashion feeds off it."

She may be most famous for being famous at present, but I predict if she keeps up her happy and original outlook on life and style, she will be one to watch for a long time.
Shala ooh-la-la

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Home Alone

What do you wear when no one is there? Like that tree in the forest, does what you wear matter if no one sees it? In my day I have probably tackled all the scenarios:

1) Wear your grubbiest, most broken in and most comfortable one-step-short-of-the-rag-bin garments.

2) Change into purpose-bought "at home" clothes usually referred to as "lounge wear"— too good for bed but not meant for street wear.

3) Don't even bother to change out of work clothes until you fall into bed.

4) Recycle what was trendy and fun a few seasons ago, but is a little tired and/or pilled today.

And here's what happened:

1) Those worn out garments, soft as downy chick feathers and twenty shades from their original colors, are Giving Up. It's depressing that you knowingly choose to put those on, let alone keep them stashed somewhere within reach. Does not count if you are about to strip furniture or rake leaves.

2) Spurred on by some crazy logic, I decided that "at home" clothes required a dollars-and-cents investment. Once, when summarily let go from a job, I bought a rainbow-striped turtleneck to wear as I sent off resumes and cleaned dresser drawers. That sweater was my scarlet letter. Putting it on signaled another day of house arrest. First new paycheck = turtleneck in donate bin.

3) In this scenario stains (of the cooking and eating variety) require a committed relationship with your dry cleaner. Once fallen into bed, changing out of work clothes is optional.

4) This is what I seem to be doing lately, easing the too-good-for-Goodwill/too-tired-for-town into their next life at the thrift shop.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Women We Love: Jenna Lyons

Does the "J" in J. Crew stand for "Jenna"?

J. Crew. Who knew? Would you ever imagine this emporium of preppy t-shirts and chinos would go all glam on us? J. Crew was a step above the GAP, style-wise, but just a tiny step. Suddenly (ok the past four or five years) J. Crew has become both a desirable and an aspirational brand. Once popularly-priced, J. Crew now touts Italian cashmere as well as a pair of wool pants priced at $495. Credit goes to Mickey Drexler, of course, who took over the successful but predictable brand in 2005 and to one other person— the mysteriously alluring Jenna Lyons.

Since I am indeed old enough to be Jenna Lyons' mother (she's 43) you might wonder why I've included her in my list of Women We Love (which in subtext is Women of a Certain Age Usually Over 60). Jenna Lyons is a great example of Timeless Style. If you wanted to adopt her look at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 to infinity and beyond, you could. The principles are easy:

> Add something shiny to casual
> Add something messy to perfect
> Unbutton a few buttons 

A modern muse
Jenna herself is not classically beautiful but definitely striking. The fact that she is six feet tall with a supermodel's frame doesn't hurt. Born in Boston, raised in California, her fashion obsession started early. Her grandmother gifted 12-year-old Jenna with a sewing machine and a subscription to "Vogue". She says it was "Love at first Vogue" and went on to graduate from Parsons (in the same class as Derek Lam). She joined J. Crew in a very minor position at age 21 and has been there since. Her actual title? President and Executive Creative Director.

Unlike fashion that dictates from on high, the popularity of the Jenna Lyons Look just happened. First it's the vintage-y costume jewelry necklace with a t-shirt and tomboy jeans. Then add a blazer (roll up the cuffs). Or pair a chambray shirt with a brocade pencil skirt. Don't forget the horn-rimmed glasses. It's a mix of high and low— J. Crew still has $24 tees alongside the sequins and brocade— and a mix of girly with tomboy. It's the mash-up that makes it modern.

Some of Jenna's put-togethers may make you smile, but I think that's also the point. And I just love the way she poses, so simply and directly:

As befits a modern celebrity, Jenna has weathered a few media dust-ups. There was the photo story showing her five-year-old son sporting pink toenail polish and her comment "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon." Then a year ago Jenna left her husband, supposedly for another woman. Wait a minute— Mary Portas, Jenna Lyons... are we trend spotting?
What's a little dust-up between friends?

It all adds to the Jenna mystique. Just who is this woman with such style, drive, talent and the courage of her convictions?