Thursday, September 21, 2017

Falling for a Coat

DG facing Winter (credit: John Musnciki)
It's still 90 degrees; I haven't even picked a pumpkin, but I bought a coat. This is how I know it's Fall. For many years the only way I could deal with the frigid months was to buy a new coat. I hate the cold so much, I needed to find one I loved enough and that would (hopefully) keep me warm.

Calling Julie not Omar

The search has come up with a few duds. There was the Russian-style suede with a shearling lining. It was "Dr. Zhivago" snazzy but weighed a ton. There was the full-on full-length fur from a thrift shop (in London no less). It was wonderful, although I did feel like I was wearing one of my cats. It was also very old and in the process of molting. Then came the mohair cape, in theory a giant blanket, but the arm slits let in cold air.

And you can sleep in it

Once Norma Kamali made the down-filled coat chic, life changed for the better. I never owned one of her "sleeping bag" coats, but my versions were toasty if not exactly flattering. Like Pedro, the cold-blooded penguin of "Three Caballeros", at least I was warm.

Now I live where 60 degrees on a winter's day is cold. And it is, if you're not used to it. This still requires a coat, even if the down coats are stored under the bed. Zara is my go-to for coats that are stylish and not too expensive. Sure enough, one recent sweltering day (when the air conditioned mall promised relief), I found this one, and it came home with me:

Brushed wool, Zara, $169
Also comes in navy

Here's why you should find yourself a coat to love. If you live in a cold place, a great many people will see you only in your coat. That all important first impression will be made wearing a coat. You will make an entrance— and exit— wearing a coat. There will be the act of putting it on and taking it off. It almost doesn't matter what you wear underneath. If you know you will leave your coat on in the museum/gallery/store you don't want a lot of frippery getting in the way of an unbuttoned coat, so the simple top and bottom or dress will do.

Anna knows how

If it's not that cold a lightweight version or sweater coat or long jacket works the same way. It can be the third piece that makes an outfit. It can make a statement of its own. Did anyone say "kimono"? Let's face it— a coat can cut the mustard.

A coat and a dress and mustard!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stylish Cinema Coming Attractions

Once fashion documentaries were few and far between. There were Hollywood confections like "Designing Woman" and "Funny Face" (What? Do you mean "Funny Face" wasn't a documentary?) If you ever get the chance, catch at least the last twenty minutes of "The Women" for a 1930s fashion show in color, gowns by Adrian.

"Unzipped" from 1995 documented the charming Isaac Mizrahi's highs and self-doubts, but it wasn't until 2009's 'The September Issue" that fashion documentaries got into gear. Two of my favorites are  "Bill Cunningham New York" (2010) and "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" (2011). There have been films on Bergdorf Goodman ("Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's") and eccentric fashionistas ("Iris" and "Advanced Style") and documentaries on Valentino and Raf Simmons at Dior.

Here are three new ones to look forward to, coming soon:

Andre Leon Talley's "The Gospel According to Andre Leon Talley". This just opened at the Toronto Film Festival. ALT is larger than life, a force of fashion. If you know who he is, you will be as excited as am I. If you don't, get excited anyways. He's amazing.

Manolo Blahnik's "The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards". This is the man behind "the Manolos" of "Sex in the City" fame. MB creates those exquisite, desirable shoes women dream about (and some can even buy). To think he started by fashioning tin foil slippers for creatures in the garden.

Lady Gaga's "Gaga: Five Foot Two". Is she really only 5' 2"? Another force of fashion and a few other things. I feel there's a lovely person beneath the crazy get-ups. Listening to her album "Joanne" was a revelation.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's Old is New Again, Again

Stuart Weitzman @ $575-$598
H&M @ $39.99
Flying off the shelves from your local Stuart Weitzman to your neighborhood H&M is the pointy-toe-skinny-heel ankle boot of many, many seasons ago. If you're lucky (like me) and have a big closet* to house your shoes, you may even have a pair or two stashed away.

*About that closet— I think it was meant to be a linen closet, but I don't have that many sheets.

Pointy toes have been rather looked down upon in recent years. Now they're back. There is no rhyme or reason for this shift in favor. I've seen it happen over and over, and I'm always taken by surprise. This year especially is seeing a record number of Greatest Hits from Times Gone By.

I'm happy to trot out the pointy toes for my trotters to enjoy. My opinion is they make my feet look more like a ballerina's. You may think yours look more like those of the Wicked Witch of the East. This is fashion, where beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and the beholden.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weighing in on the September Issues

The blessed event that is the September fashion magazines weighs in at 10.6 pounds this year. That's a hefty baby but 1.4 pounds less than last year's delivery. The fashionable five are Vogue at 774 pages, Harper's Bazaar at 474, Elle at 496, Marie Claire at 294 and Glamour, the runt of the litter, at 216 pages. Everyone lost a little compared to last year. I fear only the trees will be happy with this news. 

The health of a magazine is determined by its number of pages, signifying many or fewer ads.  Love them or hate them, ads are what breathes life into a magazine. Your subscription at a bargain price is a "loss leader", as they say,  but pumps up the circulation figures. That number determines the price of an ad.

It's a fascinating exercise in economics, but one that pales when I get my hands on the little beauties themselves. New clothes— or the wishes thereof— mean a new season, new activities, new adventures.

This year as well as last I did not include InStyle in the mix. At 440 pages it's pretty healthy, but I've always considered InStyle more celebrity watching/lifestyle wishing. The September issue is called 'The Fashion Issue" and true to itself is chock full of fashion trends and some nice first-person pieces (as well as plenty of celebrity sightings). It might even be the one to have if you're just having one. 

A peek inside September InStyle

I hate to see summer end, but those September issues are a magic bridge to what life may be on the other side. I plan to enjoy them wearing shorts and flip flops while drinking lemonade on my backyard chaise under the shade of an umbrella. Perfect.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cherchez la Femme

It's rare when corporate America gets the WOACA (Woman of a Certain Age) right. We are many women, and we're not all Fabulous, but for those of us who want to be, role models have been pretty slim pickin's.

That's why this woman stopped me in my tracks. I wanted what's she's having. At first I did think the ad was for a new style magazine to retire to bed with. The brain has many neurons. Then I got it. She is retired; she has great style, and she wants to know how to make the most of her money.

It's a far cry from the way advertisers present this age group. Often we are dressed in perfectly utiliarian clothes but look slightly frazzled.

Or we pull at the heartstrings by appearing truly out of it. One of these two is supposed to have Alzheimer's; I'm not sure which.

Then there is the unfortunate series of ads for Miracle Whip. May the person who dreamed up this bit of elderly abuse and child abuse wake tomorrow covered in liver spots.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Greetings from Houston

"Houston, we have a problem."

No one dared use that old line last week. Houston and Corpus Christi and Rockport and Victoria and Kingwood and Beaumont and Port Arthur all had big problems thanks to Mother Nature's bad seed cousin, Harvey.

We are fine. My family and, for the most part, friends and family of friends are okay. It rained for a solid four days, often with unrelenting intensity. We watched as water pounded us and ran down the street, but thank goodness it kept running. We didn't lose power, water or gas. We were (and are) incredibly lucky. We didn't dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannonball.

Houston is HUGE. There are no suburbs. It's all "Houston" and goes on for miles. Some of the flooded areas are far from us. Houston has many "bayous", slow moving rivers or inlets that snake all through the city. We have one about 1/2 a mile from the house, and it did overflow its banks to a frightening degree, but it is set lower than the roadway so did not impact the neighborhood. This is probably more than you wanted to know but good to know not all of Houston is under water.

What Harvey left behind is at least 100,000 homes in need of major repair or replacement. Schools and businesses and all city services are affected. We want to help, and we will. Houston is an amazingly diverse city, where people work together and live together. Just yesterday I spotted this in a front yard:

My eyes have been glued to the tv. I've been busy letting everyone know we are okay, sometimes more than once. It didn't seem possible to the outside world that anyone could be okay.

I just can't write about fashion yet. Maybe tomorrow, if I can figure out what day it is. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Art Trumps Everything

Bonwit Teller's facade, 1950s

As a lover of fashion, New York City, shopping, old department stores and violets, it was terrible to read this in the NY Daily News.

I don't expect you to haul out your magnifying glass to see it, so please allow me to transcribe.

Bonwit Teller and Tiffany shared the block of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. The building with the 56th Street corner opened briefly in 1929 as Stewart & Company. Considering the year, we can have a pretty good idea what happened to it. Bonwit Teller bought the structure in 1930. The pre-existing 15-foot tall limestone relief panels depicting nearly nude women became known as a "Bonwit Teller signature".

"President Trump thinks destroying sculptures is bad— but that wasn't always the case.
   Trump Tower, the skyscraper that put the former real estate developer on the map, was steeped in controversy after the future President reneged on a promise to save valuable pieces of artwork.
   The contentious tale goes back to 1980, about a year after Trump bought the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue and 56th St.
   The Metropolitan Museum of Art offered to take a pair of sculptures from the 11-story Art Deco building, which Trump planned to raze to make way for the Trump Tower. Trump ordered them destroyed anyway.
   John Barron, a Trump Organization executive later revealed to be Trump himself, told the New York Times the preservation was scrapped because 'the merit of these stones was not great enough to justify the effort to save them.' The faux spokesman also told The Times the sculptures weren't even worth $9,000 in 'resale value'.
   At a party at his Grand Hyatt Hotel in November  1980 attended by a New York magazine reporter, Trump said the gold table cloths and lion's head medallions there were 'real art, not like the junk I destroyed at the Bonwit Teller.'"
— Terence Cullen

"Can you imagine the museum accepting them if they were not of artistic merit?", a spokesperson for the Met's Board of Trustees told the New York Times at the time. In addition to the bas reliefs, the huge Art Deco nickel grill over the front entrance, also promised to the Met, disappeared. The faux spokesman, "John Baron," again said "We don't know what happened to it".

Good day, Sunshine
One person did manage to capture a bit of Art Deco history. Louise Sunshine, a real estate developer who worked for Trump for 15 years has one of the bas relief heads in her Miami Beach apartment.

We got this instead


Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Grim Fairy Tale

One of my favorite fairy tales as a child was "The Emperor's New Clothes". It would have been read to me from a volume of Hans Christian Andersen's stories. The book had few pictures, which was fine. I could easily imagine the pompous old emperor in his underwear, thinking he was outfitted in the finest cloth ever woven. I was always the child in the crowd who cried out, "But he hasn't got anything on!"

It's probably no coincidence that my other favorite Andersen tales were "The Princess and the Pea", "The Poor Little Match Girl" and "The Red Shoes"— all fashion-related in a way. What can I say? It started early.

For those not familiar with "The Emperor's New Clothes", the emperor was a vain fellow who cared more about clothes than running his country. He was convinced by two would-be swindlers (not named Bannon and Scaramucci) that they could weave beautiful cloth with magical properties. Only one worthy of his position could see it. The fabric would be invisible to the unworthy. The emperor dearly wanted a suit cut from this magical cloth. He paid the weavers their exorbitant fee and was assured by his ministers that the cloth was magnificent (though none of them could see it). The emperor couldn't see it ether but would never admit to that. In the end he parades before his people clad only in his underwear. It takes the little child to say out loud what everyone was thinking.

So here we are today. At this point many of us know the emperor isn't wearing any clothes; some of us have come right out and said so. It may even sound like "I told you he wasn't wearing any clothes." Others have finally noticed: "He's really not wearing any clothes, is he?" There will always be those who see clothes that aren't there. Very good imaginations or susceptible to suggestion?

His courtiers were afraid to tell the emperor what almost everyone else knew. There were no clothes. He wasn't wearing any. People were laughing at him. And when people are laughing at you, it doesn't matter whether you are wearing nothing or a long red tie and a boxy suit. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Boho Ho-Hum

Though it's only the first week of August, in the alternate world of retail it's beginning to look a lot like... Fall. This should come as no surprise to anyone trying to find a bathing suit (which are relegated to the nether reaches of the clearance racks). It's traditional to haul out the autumn offerings before one could ever need a pullover sweater or wool pants.

Retailers do not reveal everything. These are teasers to whet your appetite or coax you into buying something irresistible for fear it might be gone later. What I've seen en masse at the mass marketers (in this case Target) looks like Boho overload— racks and racks of ditsy prints, dark florals, lace, trim of every description, puffed sleeves and way too many kimonos. Stevie Knicks in a fun-house mirror.

Now I like a little luxe louche as much as anyone. A bit of droopy chiffon swathed in furs gets my Biba-addled heart all a-flutter. But Boho en masse in cheap synthetic fabrics just makes me go Boho, oh no.

Surely not there again! Haven't we revisited that look too many times already? Does this mean I have to put away my kimonos in order to stand out? Is there nothing truly new?

Think I'm going to let the dust settle before I settle on this.

When Biba was the real deal...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to Wear a Hawaiian Shirt

Rolled and tucked

It's Summer, and the islands are calling! I love Hawaiian shirts for their variety of patterns, casual vibe and cultural history. They are just not easy to give a feminine touch. Jimmy Buffett looks great in one; I just don't want to look like Jimmy Buffett. So what's a gal to do?

Hawaiian or "Aloha" shirts were popularized in the early '30s by Ellery Chun who sold them at his dry goods store in Waikiki. Locals (especially surfers) and tourists gobbled them up. It wasn't long before many Hawaiian manufacturers starting producing them, and they became THE civvies uniform of armed forces personnel in Hawaii during WWII. As tourists began to flock to the islands in the 1950s, so the shirts made their way back as part of leisure time culture.

In 1946 the city of Honolulu passed a resolution that allowed employees to wear sport shirts from June to October. This spread to other businesses and to a year-round "aloha spirit" that signified much of what island culture wished to express. If you want to know where "Casual Friday" started, my guess would be there.

Tradition has the buttons made of coconut shells. Avoid rayon when shopping for one. Instead choose cotton or a cotton blend to avoid droop and wrinkling.

Herewith a mini pu pu platter to up your Hawaiian shirt game:

> Give the sleeves a roll up.

> Go all Katharine Hepburn and wear the collar turned up, secured with a snap or hook if necessary.

> Wear out, tying the ends in the front in a small knot. Tuck ends under.

> Hem to the top of hips, adding side slits for ease, and wear out.

> If it's long enough, wear out and belted.

> Wear as a jacket over a dress or skirt.

> Avoid man-tailored shorts or chinos. Instead wear with palazzo pants, culottes or skinny capris.

> Pair with espadrilles, strappy sandals or straw wedges, not boat shoes or sneakers.

> Forget necklaces but add hoop or chandelier earrings or bangle bracelets.

Oh and guys can wear them too.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

7.5 Fashion Tips for 75-Year-Olds

Happy Birthday to me! 75 today. In honor of that 3/4 of a century, here are 7.5 of my favorite fashion tips. You didn't really think there would be 75, did you? These are especially formulated for those of us who aren't getting any younger, although a good tip is a good tip whenever.

1) Learn how to divert, distract, disengage. Fool the eye. Make it look someplace else.  See #2.

2) Harness the Power of Accessories. Layers soften. A scarf, a really interesting necklace can be your focal point.  Accessories can stretch your wardrobe, are a quick pick-me-up and don't have to break the bank. Though if you've always wanted a Hermes scarf, this would be the time.

3) Feet don't fail me now! Without 'em you literally are going nowhere. Forget silly shoes that may be gorgeous but are killing you. There are plenty of high-styled flats wedges, slipons and lace-ups. Avoid anything that resemble Oxfords like the plague. 

4) Wear pantyhose again if your legs look better with them than without. You just might start a new trend.

5) Turtlenecks don't fool anyone. If you like them, and it's cold where you live, fine. But a turtleneck is not going to help you feel any less bad about your neck. 

6) Be easier on yourself. Accept that you have spent XX years on this wonderful planet.  See #7.

7) Dress for who you are and the life you lead today. They say when men look in a mirror they always see themselves at whatever age they thought they looked best. You are smarter than that. The trick is to realize every year is your best.

7.5)  Drink more water. Not exactly a fashion tip, but drinking water is good for you and they say will give you a trimmer figure.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Check Mate

Thanks to American Airlines I am now in the market for a new suitcase. This is what happens when a blogger doesn't take her own advice to travel carry-on. But it was a beach vacation at a place where people like to dress up! It was wonderful. I don't regret one minute of wardrobe planning or clothes changing.

The giant rip in the corner of the suitcase wasn't apparent until it got to my hotel. I then noticed my clothes were starting to fall out. It was a large rip, separating frame from fabric. No amount of hastily applied duck tape would keep it together for the trip home. The airlines rep assured me it would survive. He also let me know how to claim the damage after I landed.

I must say American Airlines was very nice. They have a system, though, which smacks of a little racket. They would exchange my suitcase for a new one of the same size. I would then leave behind the ripped one. Or I could come back (within 30 days) with the busted case to see if it could be repaired. If it could not, I would be reimbursed.

How much could I get for a ten-year-old cloth suitcase without a sales receipt? It didn't go that far. I stopped at the idea of coming back to the airport and took their replacement. The new one is not bad looking, but it's the luggage equivalent of $5 umbrellas sold on the streets of New York. It might make one trip without falling apart.

So now I need a new suitcase. It will be (drumroll please) one of those hard-sided plastic jobs with eighteen wheels. But here's my quandry and the reason this can even remotely be considered Fashion: Do I go for conservative black, grey or silver, or do I break out in song with something bright or even patterned?

It used to be one did not call attention to oneself with lovely luggage as that might indicate the contents were lovely as well. Nowadays all bags look like Tumis. How's a bag-napper to know? If I were one, I would assume the beat-up, soft-sided suitcase held the treasure.

Do I pick one in a subtle, sophisticated color to reflect the subtle, sophisticated person I wish to appear? Or do I get one so loud I can spot it from the instant it hits the carousel?

Any thoughts please? My next trip is only 10 months away.    

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Where Fashion Has Flown the Coop

No, I didn't see this at the airport during my recent vacay. I've long railed against the dumbing down of— not just fashion— but good taste while traveling. From jeans and sweatpants we have now digressed to Ready for Spin Class. Yoga wear— and not pristine high-end Yoga wear either— is literally taking off. And don't get me started on flip flops as foot gear. I've never seen so many sloppy looking women of all ages in one place. Have we completely given up? Is air travel so miserable that we must express our displeasure by wearing the worst our wardrobes have to offer?

Yoga class will be held at Gate C26

This is a mystery, part of my quest to uncover where women wear all those clothes they are always shopping for. Personally, whenever I spend a lot of money on something, I like to look nice doing it— a nice restaurant or a Broadway show. That airline ticket cost plenty. It's the least I can do.

Looking better than average
On the other hand, what's to be done about the men??? Unless they are going to a business meeting and are forced to look respectable, men are ridding themselves of real clothes faster than women. They are not donning workout gear so much as throwing on a t-shirt and shorts. I'm going to say it right here, with my husband sitting in the next room: no man over 50 should wear shorts to travel on a plane. The old school end of the spectrum tuck in the t-shirt, wear a nice dress belt and add socks to whatever is on their feet. It's a skewed sense of decorum that some woman should have stopped from going out the front door. Perhaps it's not fair to pick on these guys as I bet they think this looks okay.

What's to be said for other men, especially those who know they will be noticed and possibly recorded for posterity? Channing Tatum, I'm talking to you.

Channing not charming


Friday, July 7, 2017

Women We Love: Angela Merkel

There are many reasons to love Angela Merkel— humanitarian, diplomat, politician... Chancellor Merkel used the full force of her (feminine) powers to stand out at the meet-and-greet for dignitaries at the 2017 G20 World Summit in Hamburg. She wore a bright red jacket and landed smack in the middle of the first row. No pushing required.