Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vintage for the Ages

Vintage for the ages of what???
How old is too old to wear vintage?
What exactly is "vintage" anyways? 
Those are the age-old questions in today's mash-up world of vintage/retro looks.

To answer the last question first: An antique is considered anything 50 years or older. That date for vintage is 20 years. Thus if it's older than 1967, it's an antique. But we are still calling fashion from the 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s and 20s "vintage". Likewise if it's older than 1997, it's "vintage". If it's newly made but in the style of a past era, it's called "retro". But you knew that already.

The first time I heard the term vintage given to what might be considered an "old dress" was the gown Julia Roberts wore to the Oscars in 2001. It was designed by Valentino in 1992. I have canned goods older than 9 years.

A "Pretty Woman" alright
Since then "vintage" is practically anything not from this season. We no longer have old clothes in our closets. That stuff is "vintage". I don't take it seriously. It's like calling Target "Tar-jay".

Is there an age-limit to wearing vintage? I once read you can only wear vintage from eras you were not alive and/or actually wearing clothes. That means I can wear looks from the 40s backward. This dictum in itself has an age limit. I do not want to look like an old silent film star a la Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard".

Not ready for my close-up
How should a WOACA* tackle vintage? By now you know what looks good on you, or should. We all wore miniskirts back in the day or felt left behind. Today you can disregard anything vintage that is less than flattering.

Avoid vintage looks that are not on trend. No 40s or 80s big shoulders. A few years ago high-waisted "mom" jeans were totally outdated. Today you can wear them— with a great tucked-in shirt and cool belt— but no pleats, please.

Look to classic vintage. I have a black turtleneck from B Altman circa 1965, which makes it "antique". That sweater is no different from one I could buy today. I scored a pair of plaid Pendelton wide-leg, high-waisted pants at a resale shop. The giveaway is the size label. Evidently a 14 was once the equivalent of today's 6. Chanel jackets, whether genuine or channeling Chanel are timeless, as are military jackets from Army surplus to Ralph Lauren. A cape is still a cape. A trench coat still has it.

Classy classics

Remember the icons. Marlene Dietrich's and Katherine Hepburn's man-tailored styles. Audrey Hepburn's capri pants and ballet flats. Jackie Kennedy's simple shifts. And my all-time favorite, Sharon Stone's GAP shirt and ballgown, another Oscar winner.

Berets are "in" this season, too.
Bridging the GAP

Ditch the trim. Avoid juvenile flounces and rick-rack, puffed sleeves and suspenders. Heidi was never a good role model.

Choose modern accessories. This is how vintage gets updated. I see chandelier earrings with t-shirts. If you like them, wear lots of bracelets. Go for on trend necklaces and au courant shoes. Accessories will make it yours.

Pin stripes perfected

Never do matchy-matchy. The only person who gets away with that is the Queen.

God save the touch of black.
*WOACA = Woman of a Certain Age


Monday, October 30, 2017

The Naughty, the Nice and the Nasty


Christmas decor is now in the stores before Halloween. That's the only excuse for the plethora of questionable holiday attire I spotted today at Target.


Target is not exactly a bastion of good taste, though it seems to me they used to try a little harder. Target is fast fashion for the masses and used to have a point of view. That was "You don't have to spend a lot to be stylish" and in parentheses ("as long as you don't care it's going to feel kind of tacky and fall apart in the wash"). Several of Target's collaborations with legitimate designers were very successful. I particularly liked those with Isaaac Mizrahi, Missoni and Victoria Beckham.


What I saw today was as frightening as watching "Friday the 13th" alone on a rainy night. Everything looked like a Halloween costume. These were not just Ugly Christmas Sweaters, though there were plenty of them. I fail to see the irony in Santa dresses and poinsettia prints, candy canes shaped like hearts and— so help me— a print of ugly Christmas sweaters.


Don't think Channukah gets a pass either. There were menorah prints and Ugly Channukah Sweaters too.


Forgive me, Tiny Tim, but, "God help us, every one."


Monday, October 23, 2017

For Magazine Lovers

Unless you have been enjoying magazines your whole life (especially the fashion glossies), this blog may leave you feeling "meh". You get a pass; I understand. Everyone else please ponder this: Why are so many top magazine editors suddenly leaving their posts?

In a very short space of time, Cindi Leive (Glamour), Robbie Myers (Elle), Nancy Gibbs (Time), Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair) and Alexandra Shulman (British Vogue) have given up the reigns for no reasons we've been told.

Aside from Graydon, a bigger than life character, I knew little about them except what they revealed through their stewardships. Nina Garcia, the new editor of Elle, is a familiar name. She's been a judge on Project Runway since its inception and is the author of 4 fashion books, all of which I've enjoyed reading. 

Nina, back at Elle, this time in charge

In my 38-year career in magazines, only two editors (and this is THE editor— the one in-chief) have left. One joined her new, recently retired husband back in his home state. The other left one magazine to join a rival; her replacement was an internal promotion and all was right with the world.

I can only imagine how these sudden departures can shake up staff, as well as loyal readers. New editors bring new views and positions. "Glamour" became more issue-oriented when Kathleen Casey Johnson moved to Ohio and Ruth Whitney took over. I suspect Nina Garcia will gift Elle with her fashion vision. There are mumblings that the Glamour and Elle shakeups are related to our age of Instagram, et al.

Are our attention spans too short to take in more than What to Wear or Who Wore it Best? Do we not have enough time to read about goals and challenges and what concerns our lives in the 21st century?

There will always be a place for magazines and the advertisers who support them. My eyes have gotten very good at glazing over the ads that intrude on my digital media. They are harder to ignore on the printed page and can even (yes) add to the enjoyment of what I'm reading. At the very least, as an old magazine hound, I know their purpose, and I'm okay with it.

Magazines can't exist without editors, and good magazines need good editors. As in any position of authority and power, the editor needs a clear vision and the skills to bring the team together. I wish the departed and the newbies good luck in their next ventures.

Anna probably doesn't have to worry...

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Day Late and a Dollar Spent

Has this ever happened to you? You have a mission to find something, be it a black cardigan, ankle boots, a nice trench coat. You buy what you think will be okay because you need it NOW. You wear it, of course, and then several days, weeks, months later you find THE one, the one you should have bought, the one if you had bought you would not still be looking for.

It has happened to me often. Only pretty recently did I start to ask myself, Will this purchase satisfy the need, and will I no longer be searching for it?

Then there's the lure of sale merchandise. Some people use the "Would I still buy it if it were twice the price?" test. This can help diffuse the incredible bargain you were never looking for in the first place. I tend to ask myself "Will (fill in incredible sale price here) really blow my bank account?" The answer is usually "no", but that doesn't always make it a good buy.

The sin-twister (as my Aunt Sally used to say) is another phenomenon I've noticed during this fall's closet switching. Why is it something you loved last year and maybe for several years before suddenly doesn't look as good? I don't mean it doesn't fit (another issue) or it appears threadbare, faded, pilled, etc.

It just doesn't have that je ne sais quoi anymore, that zip it once had in spades. These are the pieces I will shove back in the closet but never wear. It takes a lot of courage to let them go. Eventually I do. I just wonder why that happens.

R. I. P.
(I Loved You Once But No Longer)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Copy Cattiness on Project Runway

Claire and Shawn
Those of you who still enjoy watching "Project Runway" know that the drama surrounding twins Claire and Shawn Buitendorf has been a pivotal story arc in Season 16. Claire and Shawn are indistinguishable but for Shawn's shaved head and Claire's Barbie dos. They both wear shades of too-bright lipstick and matching nose rings. Their annoying speech patterns are interchangeable.

It's okay to help each other... to a point

One didn't seem to be able to work without the other's help, and they faced suspicions of copying long before Claire admitted she had a tape measure in her hotel room and was measuring clothes she owned. Claire forfeited her challenge win (plus a $25,000 prize) and was banished from the competition. Shawn had left the previous week before completing a sister-to-sister sew-off. Although it was the tape measure that did Claire in, the other contestants were disdainful of their copying. The judges were more dismissive. "You all are influenced by each other", said Heidi Klum.

We know there is nothing original under the sun, or the moon for that matter. It's how those influences go through your brain patterns and come out in the creation that counts. Their "references" were just a little too twin-like.

Lanvin 1939 and 2017

The New York Times Style Magazine ran a piece in its September 24 issue that fits nicely into this.  "The New Old Look" is about the "heritage brands" of French couture (Balenciaga, Dior, Paco Rabanne, Chanel, Lanvin, etc.), how they preserve their histories and how the designers working under those labels interpret and/or reinvent them. It's a very interesting read with evocative photographs by Annabel Elston that I have mashed together for space in this blog (forgive me, Annabel).

Balenciaga 1964 and 2017

There are many fine stitches between honoring, copying and throwing the baby out with the bath water. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel has perhaps achieved the most success. We still love Chanel bags and tweedy "Chanel" jackets, but he's been at it the longest (since 1982). It's a challenge the new designers for heritage brands acknowledge and seem to treat respectfully.

Paco Rabanne 1967 and 2017
Dior 1947 and 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

My (Not a) Dinner With Andre

Cherie Flores & Lynn Wyatt with ALT
There was no dinner with Andre Leon Talley Sunday afternoon, though I imagine that would have been fun. In his opening remarks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Andre graciously thanked the assistant who fetched his espressos from Hotel Zaza ("very important to the work") and pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches from Picnic ("I like to eat, you may have noticed"). For Andre Leon Talley, Fashion is the staff of life. This is what he lives on. He may have talked for an hour, but he could have gone on into the night.

Clifford Pugh with ALT at the MFAH

ALT (as he shall be known hereafter) was a protege of Diana Vreeeland. He's best known as former editor-at-large of Vogue and Friend of Anna, but he seems to know everyone who is anybody in the worlds of fashion and celebrity. He may have begun his career as a journalist but has far-reaching opinions and a true gift of gab.


Houston is hosting a retrospective, "The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta", through January 28, 2018. ALT curated the show, which is a version of one that previously appeared in San Francisco at the De Young Museum. Houston socialite, fashionista and friend of the arts, Lynn Wyatt, got the ball rolling.


There are dresses from the de la Renta archives, MFAH collection and loaned from Houston socialities and other celebrities. Amal Clooney allowed her wedding dress to be shown exclusively for this exhibit (ALT can be very persuasive). There have been festivities for weeks (a ball, a runway show, a luncheon), but Sunday afternoon belonged to Andre.

He is 6'6" and sat on a sofa plumped with additional cushions. All in black and wrapped in black velvet, he did indeed look like the "fashion god" he has been called. Although he came out with notes, he never referred to them. He didn't need to.

The host, Clifford Pugh, writes about Houston cultural goings-on and has known ALT for years, so it was an easy conversation. ALT told how he met Oscar through Diana Vreeland. He was volunteering as an assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Here he explained that even as he became friendly with myriads of accomplished and well-connected people, he was "never arrogant". To this day he refers to her as "Mrs. Vreeland". Oscar, it seems, was different. He was always "Oscar", loved to have fun and make you feel at home.

ALT told a story how Oscar came unannounced to his house in White Plains, New York. Though only 25 miles from Manhattan, White Plains, an unassuming residential enclave, is not a celebrity haven. Oscar told him he must start taking care of his trees. ALT, who was raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, thought trees just grew in the yard. They didn't need to "have the canopies pruned back", which Oscar insisted he do at $2,000 a clip. But he now has beautiful trees that he cherishes.

He also graciously called Laura Bush "one of the two best dressed women in the world, along with the Queen". That was a nice thing to say and proved he knew he was in Texas.

Laura and Oscar

When it came time for questions, ALT didn't miss a beat, from explaining the mannequins' footwear in the show— artfully tied ribbons or lace or suede leg coverings— to the choice of white or black evening gloves for the ball gowns ("always white— only showgirls wear black"). He really stepped up when a young woman commented on fashion being one of the great polluters of the ecosystem and what did he think of that? "Honey", he said to a round of applause, "that's not why I'm here."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Holiday on a Hanger

If you invite me to your holiday party this year, I am going to be wearing this soft, fuzzy sweater from Zara. Not only does it feel squooshy-wonderful next to the skin, at $19.99 it gives me a guilt-free solution to special-occasion dressing. I've always felt it makes little sense to spend the big bucks on something you will wear for a few times at best and never again for sure (ie wedding gown).

You will see me and my new best friend paired with black lace track pants, wide-leg black satin pants, straight-leg black jaquard pants, wide- and straight-leg black velvet pants, a black lace skirt, long black taffeta skirt, black knife-pleated skirt in chiffon and the long version in velvet PLUS all the assorted pants and skirts in prints, tweeds and solids because— we all know— black goes with everything.

Are you tired of looking at me yet?

Hope I get a lot of invitations!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What's Old is New Again: Part 2

Fair Isles in the field

After finishing the September issues and making a few laps around the mall, it's clear many of our old friends are returning for another stylish go-round.

This isn't as simple as "Oh it's the nineties". Yes, some of it was worn in the '90s, but every era is represented. In the light of the mish-mash that passes for trends today, these old friends are looking better and better. At least they are definable.

Channeling my inner Diana Vreeland, why don't you try...

> Pointed-toe kitten-heel booties   I've already welcomed them back in an earlier post (and celebrated with buying a pair). 

> Berets   Berets flatter many face shapes. Play around with how to wear one— slouchy or not, to one side or another, slightly back, slightly forward. Remember that with a beret, as any hat, it's either a Hat or a Hairdo. You can't take it off and expect your hair to be happy.

> Trench coats   You probably have one shoved to the back of the closet, but now they're b-a-c-k and not just in tan.

Fair Isle sweaters   These are sleepers, but I feel them coming back. And what's not to love? In a plethora of colors and patterns they're the ultimate throw-away casual chic.

> Leather Leggings   If you loved them once, you'll love them now. Leather has generally been replaced by lightweight synthetics that may even be comfortable. But this is not a look to sport if you haven't the courage of your convictions.

Suits   How long has it been since you wore one? And do you even need one? Try a suit that's cut softer and in an interesting pattern. Not a leisure suit but as far from Brooks Brothers as you can get.

> Leopard  Always and furever. I just love it when someone declaress leopard is "in" again. Ready for that one.

The double whammy

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!