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...?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

This has been a tough November. I'm not referring to the Thanksgiving turkey; Butterball never disappoints. I'm talking about the election... I could make other references to turkeys and goose eggs, but it's time to face reality.

The First Lady has always been an object of fashion fascination. Some First Ladies have been dismissed (certainly Bess Truman) if only for their fashion sense (Eleanor Roosevelt). Others have been pegged (Nancy Reagan for her James-Galanos-correctness); others have been swooned over (Jackie Kennedy you think???). Michelle Obama turned out a delightful surprise. Much has been written about her. I can only add she will be sorely missed.

Which brings us to... Melania Trump. The Melania backlash has already begun. Through no fault of her own (she didn't really help), her husband was elected. Melania was a beauty queen/model before being elevated to the third Mrs. Trump. Obviously she dresses for The Donald as her choices are form fitting on spike heels. In my opinion her makeup is too hard and masque-like. She never looks relaxed and comfortable.

The jury is still out whether she will be an active First Lady. It doesn't look like they will be leaving NYC anytime soon. Whether she spends most of her time in the ivory (and gold) Trump Tower or not, Melania will also have the responsibility to represent the United States on the world's stage.

Seventh Avenue and the fashion press are rumbling about who will "dress" her. The New York Times reported on this in Thursday's Style section. French designer-turned-New-Yorker Sophie Theallet got the ball rolling with a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter post calling for a boycott of dressing Melania Trump. She is a CFDA member (Council of Fashion Designers of America). A few other designers have publicly followed suit. Tommy Hilfiger said he would have no problem.  The Times made mention that his offices are in the Trump Tower.

Diane von Furstenburg, CFDA chairwoman and a Hillary supporter, had already urged members to try and help "on the eve of this new era" and to "embrace diversity, be open minded, be generous and have compassion" and to "be an example of good". Geez, I love Diane von Furstenburg.

The website Fashionista, in a piece titled "How we Plan on Covering (or Not Covering) Melania Trump's Fashion Choices" attempted to take the high road by staying neutral, adding, "We plan on having no part in normalizing the Trump family... we don't want to contribute to humanizing or making light of an administration that poses such serious threats to women, minorities, immigrants and more...".

The elephant is there, alright, and not just the symbol of the Republican party. As a blogger I don't feel I am a reporter. I have definite opinions, though I'm personally not the least bit influential. Though I may wish I could write about Hillary's pantsuits for the next four years, I have to say I am sympathetic towards Melania. This is another brouhaha I'm sure she didn't sign on for. I definitely believe that Donald Trump wanted to win but never expected to actually be President.

If any designers would step forward to dress him, I think they would do this country a great service. Right now Trump looks like an Ivy Leaguer gone to seed or a used car salesman trying to look successful. Voices from Shakespeare to Mark Twain have stated "Clothes make the man." I fear this would be a Herculean task. It doesn't appear anyone could make Trump do anything he didn't want.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Prince Has Come...

Prince Charming and you-know-who

For years I've wanted one of Ralph Lauren's military-inspired jackets but have never been able to find the right one. If I could swan into his Madison Avenue atelier I might, but I'm not that kind of gal. Something about champagne taste and a (domestic) beer pocketbook.

This is a look a stylish friend also loves. She has four of them, purchased through various combinations of ebay and the Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply shop. Our styles don't really mesh, but in this case we agree. I've tried on a few that may have made it to the sale racks, but nothing really said "go for it" until yesterday.

Prince TJ of Maxx

I found my "prince" hanging on the end of a random rack at TJ Maxx, that mecca for the beer-budget fashion-possessed. There wasn't another in sight. My size. Regular price: $245. Their price: $69.99. Aside: Marshall's and TJ Maxx are owned by the same company. Is it deliberate that TJ's fashion is more forward than Marshall's?

I'm a firm believer in the "it was meant to be" aspect of shopping. I've been able to accept defeat uttering that mantra. Yesterday was " It was meant to be!"

This type of jacket has been part of the Ralph Lauren canon for many years. It adapts it to his "moment du jour", be it English, Russian, Native American, etc. Lately it lands most frequently under his "Denim & Supply" label, which leans towards the fanciful/Boho/Americana look.

Marching on...

To show you how long I've been coveting my own, I bought an old marching band jacket at a thrift store in the '90s and wore it for a bit. It was quite stiff and unwieldy. Hard to imagine anyone playing a piccolo let along a tuba while wearing it.

Not only did my fabulous find scratch a long-time itch and arrive in time for Nutcracker season, I came home to this in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar:

Rare selfie moment


Friday, November 11, 2016

Women We Love: Leslie Caron

Is it? Could it be? I bet it is... Yes... It is Leslie Caron!
— my thoughts as I watched episode three of "The Durrells on Corfu", a  British import on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre based on Gerald Durrell's quasi-autobiography of his family on Corfu in the late 1930s.

The family is high-spirited and a bit madcap, maybe downright mean to each other at times. This may take some liberties with the truth, but the Durrells were in fact an unusual brood.

In character on Corfu

How did Leslie Caron, now 85, land on Corfu? She plays Countess Mavrodaki, a reclusive member of Corfu's aristocracy. The Countess gives the sweetly miserable adolescent Margo Durrell a job as her "companion". Primary function: reading sappy romances aloud as the Countess paints some pretty awful still lifes. Aside: The Countess' butler is played by Jeremy Swift, also Maggie Smith's butler on "Downton Abbey". Leslie Caron has a small role, but she is lovely. Her appearance reminds me how little we have seen her and how much we have missed.

Leslie as Gigi

Leslie was one of the "gamines" popular in the 1950s. She achieved movie fame in 1951's "An American in Paris" and went on to star in the musicals "Gigi", "Lili" and "Daddy Long Legs" as well as "The L-Shaped Room" and "Father Goose". She continues to appear sporadically in films, on stage and television.

Lovely Leslie was born in France to a Franco-American ballet dancer and a French chemist-perfumer. She trained to be a dancer from childhood and was discovered by Gene Kelly while appearing in Roland Petit's renowned ballet company. She's been married three times and has two children. A scandalous affair with Warren Beatty in the early '60s caused the break-up of her second marriage (to playwright Peter Hall). Her 2010 autobiography, "Thank Heaven", tells all.

Leslie with Warren

There is an interesting gamine connection. After Audrey Hepburn's death Leslie had a relationship with Gamine #1's long-time companion, Robert Wolders. And Zizi Jeanmarie, another '50s gamine still kicking at 92, was married to Roland Petit of Leslie's ballet company.

Audrey with Robert
Zizi Jeanmarie

If being a dancer contributed to these ladies' grace and poise, sign me up for lessons.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Mix-Match not Mismatch

Not this...

Working at The Lovely Boutique allows me to eavesdrop on women's minds. In the brief course of a transaction I can often get a handle on what makes us tick. And believe me, we all have different tick-tocks.

The other day a customer asked if she could wear brown boots with the print dress she had just bought. I answered of course she could. The boots didn't have to match; they would blend. "Matching is easy for me", she said. "I have trouble with blending."

There is a difference. Matching means those two navies match. That red handbag matches those red shoes. It's really difficult to match navy— or black or any color. And matching accessories has been a no-no for so long, it might actually become Fashion again. For now, matchy-match is OUT.

So how does one blend??? In an era of very few fashion rules, there are some guidelines— helpful I hope.

Big + small(er) sideways

> Pattern
Pair big with small. Big with big equals sofa upholstery. Small with small is too ditsy to make the point. Certain rules still apply: Big on top if you are smaller there. Small on top if you are bigger there.


> Geometric vs. floral
Geometrics pair well with other geometrics. Likewise florals with florals. Exception: when you mimic coloration you can mix florals and geometrics. Let's call that the graduate degree. Animal prints work with everything.

Always exceptions...

> Color versus shade
Colors don't always have to "go together" in the traditional sense. The same grey value or shades of colors can work together. Squint your eyes; if the edges of the colors seem to disappear they are probably similar shades.

> Color chameleons
Sometimes colors take on more of a hue when they are next to another color. Taupes and greys can appear more lavender or more yellow, depending... Likewise, the light (incandescent vs fluorescent vs daylight) can make a difference. Argghhh!

Neutral rest stop

> Pop with a neutral
Just as three pieces make an outfit, the third piece in mixing patterns can be a neutral— a rest for the eye. This is the best way to get into mixing patterns if you are taking baby steps.

> Trust your instincts
Theories aside, if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. Period.

Likewise, if it does it does.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Four

A gaggle of flappers
What follows is the conclusion of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. Still concerned with "popularity", I was obviously getting tired of my subject.

1910 -1920
Women wore "hobble skirts" with wide-brimmed hats. Colors were bright, but they turned darker towards 1920. Waistlines were lower by 1920, also.

Nothing much had changed with men's clothes. The Prince Albert or Frock coat was worn. High, tight white collars were popular.

Sailor suits were popular with children. Middy blouses were also popular towards the end of the period.

Theda Bara barely influencing '20s fashion

1920-1930 is commonly known as the "Flapper Age". The movie "vamp" had a strong influence on women's clothes and styles. "Flapper" was originally a name given to girls between the ages of 14 and 20, because they were at their "awkward" age. This name originated in England.

Still stunning after all these years

Women wore low-cut hats, ropes and ropes of pearls, low-cut necklines and short, short skirts. Shoes with accommodations for the big toes only were very popular. All in all, women had no shape at all.  Longer skirts came into being towards 1930.

Straw boaters were popular with men. Tweeds were a favorite material.

 *   *   *

Future clothes? How should I know about future clothes? Maybe someday we'll wear the caveman's clothes again.

Emily Post was once asked "What makes a brilliant party?", and she answered "Clothes".

The End

Reflections from the future: Not sure why I decided to ignore the '30s and '40s (aside from having met the assignment's required length). I probably thought they were like the '90s now— just not worth talking about (though I've been hearing '90s whispers lately). How could I ever have imagined the Youthquake '60s, the Hippie '70s and the Disco '80s, all just ahead but over many mountains?

In so many ways I am indeed still that twelve-year-old girl— vocal, opinionated, wanting to share my not-always-correct grip on the facts— all while dressing for that brilliant party. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Debate About It

Further proof of the Power of Fashion (if you needed any): Hillary's white suit at last night's final debate. Designed by Ralph Lauren, it echoed the white theme of the suit she wore to accept the Democratic presidential nomination and completed the patriotic trio of red, blue and white worn for the debates.

I thought then— and think now— that this was a winner's choice worn by a woman with supreme purpose and confidence. You know how hard it is to wear all white (unless you're the bride). Never do I feel more conspicuous than when I wear white pants, let alone white top and bottom.

Hillary has worn Ralph Lauren throughout (but not exclusively) this campaign. He's always a woman's friend. No one, especially Hillary, should choose an outfit other than to feel wonderful and flattered. Her choice last night spoke loud and clear:
I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Three

The Gibson Girl... and guy

What follows is part three of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. I think I may have gotten tired of writing as everything became a popularity contest.

1890 - 1900
Tubed pants for men were very popular. Women looked much older than they really were because they wore entirely too heavy and too bulky kinds of clothes. The colors and styles that were popular definitely didn't grace the woman of the 1890s. Sewing machines were cheaperizing clothes. The poor continued to copy the rich people's clothes. The famed Ballon and Leg-of-Mutton sleeves were very popular. The bell-shape look took the place of the hour-glass. As you've probably gathered, the late Victorians were so busy with their money that they didn't have time for anything else, let alone clothes.

Legs of mutton and bells on parade

The dinner jacket was introduced at Monte Carlo because the men gambling there complained of the discomfort in wearing a stuffy Frock coat all evening. There was a complete change in men's clothes because of the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Men's clothes were becoming masculine again. Maybe you've seen some of Gibson's drawings; his men were heavy and muscular, and they had extremely square jaws.

Color harmony was popular in women's dress. Trains were worn at night. Cheapness was desired everywhere. The result was poor dyes and cheap materials. Starch was used as a face-powder.

Victim of Little Lord Fauntleroy

This was another age for boys— the ridiculous "Little Lord Fauntleroy" look. Sailor suits, the exact replica of HRM Navy were also quite popular.

1900 - 1910
The hour-glass look was back and the Gibson Girl look was still popular.  Women wore odd goggles for automobiling. Kimono gowns and other Japanese modes were popular.

Fashionable mourning dresses were popular with women. Deaths were almost pleasant because then a woman could go buy a new dress for the funeral. The soft, flowing silhouette was popular. Skirts were tight around the hips. Bolero dresses were worn at the beginning of the period. High, wired necks are characteristic of the early 1900s. 1,106 yards less material than was needed fifty years before was used.  At the death of Edward VII in 1910, the reign of lingerie and corsets came to an abrupt halt.

Evelyn Nesbit, 1900s "it" girl

Mother Hubbard dresses were introduced. These were loose-fitting house dresses— not too beautiful but very comfortable. Cartwheel hats were popular.  There was a tremendous "Merry Widow" influence. Feather boas, properly saturated with lavender were worn over dresses like stoles are today.

Red flannel undies were very popular with men. Also popular was a big, loose coat with a heavy, padded shoulder. Dark colors— mostly blues, blacks, browns and dark green were worn.

Buster and his dog Tige

This was still another age for children's clothes, however this time it affected the girls, too. This was the age of the comics character Buster Brown. Boys wore suits with wide starched collars and topped off with a "dashing" gigantic bow-tie. The girls wore low-waisted dresses which vaguely resembled a Chinaman's coat. Girls wore big bows on their hair.
Sally, Ida and Jean—my aunts and my mother (in the middle)
to be continued...