Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not a Lust List and Some Bugs

I've been threatening to publish my Fall 2014 Lust List, and I will, but I'm changing the name. I'm just not feeling a lot of sartorial lust this fall. It isn't a lack of beautiful pieces out there. And there are interesting new (or new-to-me) ideas to play with and interpret. But I also want to get better at doing what I began last year.

I'm just not done with last fall. Like a lot of you, I'm drawn deeper back into the wilds of my existing fall wardrobe this year. This time, it's about fine tuning how I wear the pieces I have. This is a pretty cool, low stress place to be, and I'm happy to have a good base to start out my season. Since I cut my hair early this spring, everything I have looks different to me, and I want to work with that, too.

I do, however, have a list of items to acquire and put to work with last year's pieces. (Did you ever doubt it? Of course not.) And here it is.  We'll just call it this:

Fall-Winter 2014 Fine Tuning List

Replacement items
(because stuff wears out ...)

Spanx Power Panties, "new and improved" version
You can stop snickering now. These sleek, cuddly, light-weight little miracles are my winter panties and they make me very happy.
And if you think you are too cool for Spanx, I envy your perfect figure (some of you really have one, or a very nearly perfect one because of youth, steely exercise and dietary discipline, good genes, or that pact you signed with the devil. Honey, have you seen our firstborn around lately?) And I send you my admiration if you practice a saintly acceptance of your aging, natural shape between waist and knee (really?) But for those of you with truly elderly contours like mine who have never tried Spanx and are only concerned about an imagined lack of comfort ... I weep for you.
More stock in-store for me.

Black "leather" pencil skirt replacement. ( Check! Done! )
My favorite and elderly Loft ponte knit and faux leather skirt began to "slough" it's leather-ish fabric finish in alarming ways. It developed big spots that looked like a peeling sunburn. (I know. Ewww.) Beyond hope, help, repair. I found a good replacement at Penny's.

Classic black pumps. A much needed replacement for my best old ones that have died, a leftover item from last year. I have my eye on a pair of shapely Bandolinos.

New, primarily black Breton striped T-shirt. 
( Replacement as mine are trashed, and I've wanted to wear one a couple of times already this fall.)

Classic LBD or deep-dark color equivalent ... updated. ( My old favorite is getting shiny and shoddy.)

( There are always a couple of items that I never find but are on my list every year anyway.)

Finally... crisp white shirt that fits shoulder and bust with curved shirt tail that can be altered.
This is another item on my list from years past. Never found one, but miracles do happen.

Good, light weight, white T-Shirt with long sleeves for tom-boy looks with jeans... not too tight, not too sloppy.
An item related to the crisp white shirt that is equally difficult to find, and so remains on my list.

Yearning to Try Items
(These ideas have been around for a while, but I'm suddenly interested in trying them.This sometime happens when they appear here after being available elsewhere for a couple of seasons. Or they're classic items that I'd like to try in new-to-me ways.)

Zipper or asymmetrical pencil skirt
I like how these look, but am in relaxed mode, waiting for the right one to turn up. It could supply a little badassery for existing pieces.

Plaid shirts or other button-down shirts that can peek out under cropped sweaters. Low bulk, please.
The LIOLI rule (Love It Or Leave It) applies here, especially. I'm set for few solid ones, but no plaid. Some floral print shirts can be too matronly on me, so use discernment.
Additional note to self ... don't be so quick to put away sleeveless summer tops with collars, 'cause these can work really well this way!

Cropped sweaters with straight or hi-low hems to wear over button-down shirts.
LIOLI again. And part of this is to figure out how to shorten knit sweaters and alter some ones I have but wish were much shorter!

Bright but tertiary-colored, very structured and lady-like bag ...wait for True Love. To be worn with solid darks.

Scarf, gloves to go with pretty pink coat (squeeee!)
Does not mean pink overload, necessarily. But it could.

Long gloves? (Take gray ones with broken zip to the cobbler ...)
TJ Maxx always has great quality leather gloves for almost nothing later in the season. Guilt free treat that is right up my alley.

"Just Looking, Thank You" Items

(The following are items that I'm just remaining open to. Just considering. Leaving to fate to throw in my path, and may or may not be purchases. I never thought I'd love skinny jeans so much, though ... they used to be in this section 
of a past list.)

Little flat-but-luxe or athletic kicks or menswear style oxfords of some kind. Looks fun, but don't fall for the really clunky, broguey, wingtippy ones. LIOLI.
Keds over Vans preferred.

Consider a pair of dark, dressy athletically inspired pants, low bulk that can be altered for length. Definitely LIOLI. This is a recent idea that I didn't like when they were just glorified baggy gray sweats or track pants paired with a sparkly top and stilettos, but I'm seeing a more refined version out there that I like. Don't hold your breath waiting to see me in these for OOTD, though ...

Shoes and Boots
I've been on the case for a couple of months now because my size goes fast, and I'm happy to report that I'm in pretty good shape right now with knee-high boots from past years that I still adore, last year's booties and both new and old wintry heels.
I only lack trying on a pair of strappy mid-calf booties, but haven't seen any yet that tempt. They may be problematic for my short legs, but nothing this year says badass like these booties. They remind me vaguely of Victorian high-button boots but with a mega-dose of attitude.

Will she or won't she?
Stay tuned to find out ...

                  WIW for a little shopping on Sunday.

A closeup of my amazing bug necklace!  All kinds of bugs in silvertone and bronze with a few sparkles.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Casual Essay on the Manifestation of Badassery in A Very Mature Woman

From the Urban Dictionary and the entry for badassery : "Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck."

From the on-line Oxford Dictionaries: "Behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery "


Badassery. Isn't that a great word? It just rolls off the tongue and flips up a slide show on that big screen in your imagination, doesn't it? I've been playing with that word and all that it can mean for some weeks now, ever since I watched for the umpteenth time how Helen Mirren got her womanly badassery on with such elegant professionalism in the film Red 2. It wasn't the guns, truly. It was the clothes and the serious, serious attitude about the work at hand.

I am easily influenced.

We can all conjure instant images of popular culture badassery. With the young men, it's easy to come up with a quick short list of anti-heroes and super tough guys. Interesting how we've allowed a lot of these guys to continue their badass careers into late middle age and beyond; Bruce Willis in almost every film he's ever made, Samuel L Jackson in absolutely every film he's ever made, ditto for a more cerebral Morgan Freeman ... the list goes on. 

There are probably fewer on the women's list, but I'll bet if you are reading this post, you are already pulling up your own. From film and fiction I think of the characters Scout Finch, Ripley, Lara Croft, Hermoine Granger, Lisbeth Salander, both Carries (Stephen King's and Homeland's) and lots more, but all of them had that kind of toughness of mind, body and/or spirit that is most often exhibited by the young and fit.

Happily, because we are all living longer and more productively, we are allowing a few of our cinematic heroines to rock on into seniordom. My friends across the Big Pond really have a handle on how to do this with style; Dame Helen Mirren, of course, and Dame Judy Dench. Was anyone more badass as M to Daniel Craig's James Bond? And there never was a more terrifying Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

But my all time favorite Lady Badass is Dame Maggie Smith. Whether she was wielding her lethally badass wand as Professor McGonagall at the Battle of Hogwarts or upstaging the entire cast of Downton Abbey as the adorably cynical Dowager Countess of Grantham, Dame Maggie is indisputably badass in dove gray lace. When we add all of Shakespeare's women to the mix, the tradition is set for us. All three of these women have portrayed the extremely badass Elizabeth I, and one of them Elizabeth II (who has had her own moments of real-life badassery.)

It's easier to reference pop culture badassery icons than it is real world women. There are plenty, but it is the nature of the real badass woman that she'll offend someone because that's sometimes what she does. Often she manifests her badassery by telling her understanding of Truth to power, and since there has never been a greater divide in opinion regarding the great Truths, at least in this country, I'll leave it to you, Dear Reader, to choose your favorites. Love them or hate them, we have powerful women on both sides of the political aisle. In only nominally more neutral territory, our three Women Supremes among the old boys on the Big Court, Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, clearly exhibit judicial badassery in their professional doings. The three branches of our government are chockablock with women who put out a singularly powerful kind of badassery. And not just in this country, as we see. There are women leaders worldwide, badassing all over the planet these days.

So many ... nay, most ... of them are mature, or very mature, and some are perfectly mature. I'm just very mature at 64, so I still have some badassery to aspire to, or at least appreciate and try to emulate, even if it only works a little. And that brings me to why I'm contemplating this notion at all.

As you read this, fall will have just become official, and that time of year brings out the deeper, darker, richer colors, more substantial fabrics, and leathers and furs, faux and real. We are heading toward the dark of the year, and as Ned Stark noted, "Winter is coming." I take my fall wardrobe fantasies very seriously. I've been looking back at my blog photos from the last year or so, thinking about what works and what doesn't. I tend to be an aspirational dresser. I take on new and old ideas, shapes and silhouettes that I especially like and try (successfully and NOT) to make them work for me.

The pieces that work I love and go back to, again and again ... the pieces that make me feel the best when I walk out of the house ... the pieces that feel the most authentically my own, and pieces that might well belong to some other woman I like better than myself ... all of them have at least a touch of the badass.

And I've learned that there is no particular genre of dress that lends badassery. It's not only found in biker chic, or punk, or grundge, or boho, ladylike, vintage, retro, minimalist, menswear or architectural. But it can be found in all of them. (I don't think you can find it in Normcore. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.)

Badassry is found and on display when what you are wearing makes you feel badass. Simple. Who knew it is all about confidence and serendipity? Some days it all works; hair, clothes, makeup, accessories, and you walk out the door with the complete confidence that you can demolish whatever dragon is on your day-planner, slated for slaying. And that you'll smell really good while doing it.

The items that make me feel particularly badass are often the most obvious; leather anything, including boots and booties, moto jackets and dressy leather pumps with a satisfyingly high stiletto heel, Also a perfectly fitting pencil skirt, an ear cuff, a minimalist silhouette. But I guarantee that I will feel completely badass when I wear my pink wool coat for the first time this winter.

My most often used pieces that lend a classic badass finishing touch to my outfit are my Ray-Bans. Dan and I spend considerable time in the car, driving sunward coming and going, as it always seems. I've saved up for my little collection of Wayfarers (black and tortoise-shell, larger frame) and classic Aviators (an all black pair and a pair of gold frame ones that are from Dan) and Dan's properly sized black Wayfarers for his huge head. We get in the car, fasten our seat belts and put on the sunglasses. He looks at me, I look at him. We grin. Yup, we're cool. This is our badass.

Go forth. Find and embrace your badassery.
I just know you have it in you, and its manifestation is already in your possession.

Just a little badassery from the leather-ish top. A favorite work outfit for this still-warm time of year.


This post is dedicated to the Wonderful and Ruffly Patti, who hosts Visible Monday for us all.  Thank you, Patti.  Are you sure you aren't just a little Badass?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Altuzarra, A Bigger Target and Me

Altuzarra for Target. 
  I should know better.

I had decided to lower my expectations and not even get up at 0-dark-thirty to make the 45 minute drive to to hit the Altuzarra for Target debut at our Big City store. Dan suggested that we might want to try a bigger store in a Bigger Big City and see if they had more stuff.  I'm all for a little exploration of that kind, so we got up very early and left while it was still dark to make the drive north to a Bigger Big City Target.  We left in plenty of time because I was sure there'd be at least a little bit of a line.  We chose the newer and largest of the two Targets, and it took us just under 2 hours to get there.  

No line. That was the good news.
The bad news was that out of the 50 items in the collection, we were offered fewer than 20 of them. Typical. 

We tracked back to a second Bigger Target and they had even fewer items, and I learned that I could have saved myself the whole trip north, as they were stocked just about as well as our more local-ish store. 

I did get one item that I liked from the collection, which I'll wear much later in the year.  There were only three of these at the store, one each in large, medium and small.  As I was coming out of the dressing room from trying on the one I bought, I passed a woman who must have been the second arrival.  She was carrying the remaining two sizes of the same sweater to try on.

The moral to my little tale is that the early bird might not get all the worms she wants, especially if all the prettier, dressier or more interesting worms are available only online or sent out to the much larger, urban worm habitats, but she still has to get up early to get any worms at all.

We had a decadent brunch followed by great and equally decadent hibachi grill lunch (no actual worms were consumed.)  That made the day better. But what made the day very much better was that during the shopping that occurred between brunch and lunch, I found the pink wool coat I have yearned for since last winter.  Love at first sight, and the price was right.  You will see that one later in the year, as well.  And I still have a chunk of the change I had saved to spend on the Altuzarra stuff.  

Too bad for you, Target.


Update! (9-18) Yikes ... stopped by yesterday at our little, local-ish Target, and there was no sign of any Altuzarra stuff.  None.   Not even a sign.  According to their customer service, we have an "ultra low traffic store" and will not be getting any of the collaboration pieces in future.

They might have traffic if they had product.  

Sad.  This is one of the reasons I get so discouraged living down here.  One step forward, two behind.  Wrote them a scorching letter.  Not that it will do any good.

Double rats.  No wonder I often feel bad that life is getting more difficult rather than easier.  'Cause it is.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Little Short Post

After last week's long winded post, I thought I'd give you a break.

Short and sweet, this week. Just like ME. (hahahahahahahah!) 

Although I don't really have my Fall-Winter 2014-15 Lust List fully compiled yet, and it's still hot here, I'm transitioning into an Autumnal State of Mind.  

I came across this dressy little skirt ... one of the first real midis I've seen in any of my haunts here. It happened to be love at first sight, and the price was right.  How could I not bring it home and put it right to work? I'll wear it often this fall and winter, too, I know.

But for now, I'm beginning to bid a fond farewell to summer with a white embroidered lace crop ( the sororal twin of of the black one I wore some weeks ago here. )

The little BCBGeneration shoes are a recent purchase as well.  Hard to see in the big picture, but here's a close up ... these little darlings deserve their own pic.  They're suede and some minuscule reptile-reminiscent (like from a really tiny reptile) textured fabric.  I love them, and you'll undoubtedly see them again.

And that's that for this week.

I'm going over to Darkly Sleek Patti's Visible Monday to catch up with the grownup glamourati.  Join me?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fixin' to Get Ready ... or Why I Love the September Issues

I come by my fascination with process honestly. My grandmother used to announce that, when she was beginning to consider the steps necessary to even begin a process and before actually taking any action, she was "fixin' to get ready to" begin the whole thing. The women in our family break down the steps this way, I guess.

That's sort of where I am with the whole fall wardrobe thing. There's a process I construct for myself regarding the decisions I make about what I'll put on my back every fall. More than practicality, it's mostly to prolong the delicious sartorial pleasures that seem to belong especially to this time of year, and it starts with the knowledge that the September magazine issues are ready for my perusal. Anticipation is such a huge part of any pleasure, and fall outfits are right up there with all the things I most enjoy anticipating . It's way too hot to wear any of the fall and winter clothes that I see in the magazines even if I owned any, and the local stores are just beginning to show some limp-looking transitional items. So I begin with an eager appraisal of the ideas the designers are selling. First, it's all about the ideas.

For those who pay attention to such things, we saw the first versions of these concepts hatch months ago at the annual-seasonal string of international Fashion Weeks held in the great capital cities of style. These events are devoted exclusively to what designers had to say and show about what they hope to sell to the stores who will, in their turn, hope to sell to us in the coming weeks. I don't pay a lot of attention then because it's just too far away in time. There's another season or two of What I'll Wear to play with and figure out before the coming fall is imminent. But now, I'm fixin' to get ready to consider what they're saying. And the people who put these magazines together know how to talk to those of us who want to listen.

The delicious juiciness of this part of the process is that it's all potential. No money beyond the price of the magazine is required at this point ... and that's good because I'm squirreling my pennies away for later, but I can give my imagination a work out. Right now, it's not just about the stuff, the goods, the acquisitions to come. In the pages of the magazine, the efforts of lots and lots of very talented and highly creative people end up in my hands, for my evaluation and appreciation. Every coherent article or editorial photo spread is a further response to the creativity of designers that began months ago. For my nickel, this seat is better than any I could have wished for at any tent at NYFW.  It's all a distillation and interpretation of what a lot of passionate people in multiple arenas of contemporary design are thinking right now, and these narratives they create and display in the magazines are wonderful to me. I love a good narrative in a book, or a film, or in a song, but especially in a great pair of shoes.

Anyone reading here knows at least a little about the relationship of politics and social realities to fashion. A familiar example is how skirt hems went up in the last century during two World Wars. We're all familiar with examples of political and social ideas that resulted in world-defining, life and culture changing, post-war responses from all the arts. Some of the most controversial and subversive ideas of  past decades have shown up illustrated in September issues of the fashion glossies.  Our own generation's relationships are likewise producing similar responses by the arts in this information-saturated era,  right now, for us to see in an abundance of ways never before imagined.  It's all another way our history is reflected.

It isn't world peace, and it's isn't a cure for cancer, but there's a place for an appreciation for this kind of beauty and these visual ideas that help define who we are as part of popular culture. There's certainly room in my somewhat isolated world.

As an example, I'm seeing a ramping up of the 60s revival that's been going on for some time now. And it's not just the sweet flirtatiousness of the mod-mini and bright prints, although they are still there, front and center. I'm interested to see a substantial dose of Clockwork Orange - dystopian bootery worn with the girly minis and floaty prints. It's gone from workman-like, construction-inspired boots worn in contrast with sheers to paramilitary lace-ups with everything in a couple of seasons. Lots of narratives implied here, and much to be inferred from them, and all of it at least a little angst ridden. "Tough, street-stomping" lug soles (that description from an editor at Bazaar, last month's issue) are hot this year. That's in line with that implied social nervousness, feeling at best assertive and at worst a little defensive, frightened and aggressive. If that isn't a strong narrative, I don't know what is. But to the broader point, what is it that we fear and need to defend ourselves against?

Like Doctor Who warned, just last week, "Don't look in that mirror ... it's furious!"

I'm charmed and invigorated by the evolution of culturally specific fabrics, patterns and ideas that, in recent decades, we have ripped whole-cloth from cultures that we may or may not be insulting when we've cheerfully co-opted their traditions. Here's a distillation I can enjoy guilt free, because in returning traditional elements back to their originating cultures, we can say a belated thank you for the loan and allow the inspiration to remain in "tribe international" wovens and bulky knits.  This year, they're often rendered in non-traditional materials, but with a hand-crafted and sophisticated beauty we see in the best of traditional indigenous expression in textile art. It's not so much "a-cultural", but multi-mixy-cultural and satisfyingly blended. In an era where a lot of our political and social divisions around the world are fueled by our differences, it does my psyche no harm to indulge in the hope that we might be ready to celebrate such a cultural collaboration and lose some of our fears of blending.  (Ahem. I know that sounds pretentious, but that's what I think.)

All of the above is closely related to this year's fauve-like hand painting on luxury leathers and fabrics. To me, it translates into a beautiful iconoclasm, and I want to do some of that!

And big, hairy muppet-fur coats, this year in pastel and jewel-like tertiary colors. It's likely I won't indulge in this outerwear idea, but when I see anyone in the real world wearing one, I will think "more power to her!" and indulge in a few envious thoughts about the good time she's having wearing it. There's nothing to be understood about this idea beyond the desire for some fun while remaining cozy in the cold, and who can fault that? After the year I've had so far, I could use some fun when the winter skies inevitably turn gray.

And if those ideas don't grab you, consider the ramifications of Normcore as applied to the already presumably normal people we already are? What does all that mean? Am I the only one who is cracked up that Gap has a whole, huge ad campaign admonishing us all to "Dress Normal," with examples set for us and modeled by the celebrity-likes of Zosia Mamet (Girls) Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and the style-iconic Angelica Huston? 

Huh. There's a thing to ponder. But probably not for very long ...

So, as I look at the images, some of which are just so beautiful that, with or without the fashion context, they exist as their own separate pleasure, I begin to think about what I might like to say about myself this fall when I dress for the day. And what I don't want to say. It has been a year of a lot of changes for me here, and those reflect in what I'm thinking about, and that determines a lot of what I want to wear. I don't yet, can't yet make actual efforts in that direction, although I do admit to snagging a couple of pairs of serious fall shoes that were perfect bargains. 

This is the time to sit back, sip an apéritif, think about my appetites, eyeball the menu and put my napkin in my lap before the meal actually arrives. All fixin' to get ready for the actual feast, which can sometimes be as much fun as the consumption of the main dish.


What? You say you want pictures illustrating those ideas above that I went on for so long about? Sorry, you will have to go look at a magazine or Google the Interwebs and see for yourself. I'd love to know if you are especially taken with any ideas for this fall.

 All you get today is a picture of me in late summer, in extra casual go-to-town togs. Too hot to dress up, too tired to think about it much, but wearing a combination of a few favorite this-summer pieces that I wanted to put on one more time.

 I haven't worn the cork clutch and shoes together before, but they hit it off pretty well, no?