Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Unicorns .......... and Carolina Herrera

This story was inspired by an old nursery rhyme that you all may know ...

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;

She gave them some broth without any bread;
She whipp'd all their bums, and sent them to bed.

                                                     from J. Ritson, 
                                                    Gammer Gurton's Garland,
                                                    or The Nursery Parnassus: a choice collection of pretty songs
                                                    and verses for the amusement of all little good children who
                                                    can neither read nor run
                                                                    (1794, rpt., Glasgow, 1866), p. 27.

                            (Or Mother Goose. Whichever.)                      

Once upon a time, in a backward little village, far, far away from anywhere of any consequence, there was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Classic Stiletto-Heeled Black Pump. (We'll just call her Old Woman because it's much easier. ) She had so many pets, she didn't know what to do, but that's another story for another time.      

One morning, Old Woman stirred her old bones early to go to market and resume her unending quest for the most magical and elusive of wardrobe pieces; the Perfect Crisp White Shirt. Late that afternoon, as Old Woman flipped wearily through the Women's Medium Long Sleeved Shirts rack at Ye Olde Discount Department Store, she was startled when ... POP! ... the great designer Carolina Herrera suddenly appeared at her side, as if out of nowhere!

"Old Woman," the great designer began. "I know of your sincere desire to find the fabled Unicorn of Fashion, the Perfect Crisp White Shirt, " she continued, in perfectly elegant, Spanish-accented English. "Why, Old Woman, do your eyes bug out so? You should see a doctor about that. And you may close your mouth, now. It looks very stupid."

"I'm sorry ... who are you? You look like Carolina Herrera, but you can't be," Old Woman stammered.

"That was fast. You're smarter than you look," the apparition murmured to her self. "Okay, so you found me out. I'm just a figment of your imagination. An illusion. The psychological manifestation of your anxiety caused by your foolish fixation on one, impossibly perfect item of clothing," she continued, her exotic accent turning abruptly into a Midwestern version of American English. "But illusory help is better than no help at all. And you need help, you know? Besides, you can't afford the real Carolina Herrera. "

"Hey ..." Old Woman began defensively.

"Here's the deal," the apparition interrupted sharply. "Rather than just granting your wish, all poof-and-there-it-is, I'm advising you to grab the very next white shirt that you come upon in this rack, and actually go and try it on. You'll be glad you did, I promise. But remember this; unicorns come in dark neutrals as well," she said, in a more kindly tone.

Then, as abruptly as she arrived ... Pop! ... the spitting image of Carolina Herrera disappeared. Only then did Old Woman notice other women near her giving her some seriously suspicious side-eye and pulling their children closer.

Old Woman decided, for once in her life, to do precisely what she'd been advised and sure enough, she soon came upon a lovely, tailored white shirt by Jones New York. The moment she touched it, the shirt whispered to her, " I am the shirt you desire. I am the White Unicorn of tailored shirts. Take me home with you. And while you're at it, take my sister ... the shirt right behind me on this rack. She is the fabled Black Unicorn, and just as rare and magical."

"Time to get my blood sugar checked," Old Woman decided as she carried both shirts to the fitting room. "Or maybe just skip that second glass of wine with lunch ..."

As all good stories do, Dear Reader, this one has a happy ending. Old Woman ended her quest with more than she dreamed of, and took both shirts home at significantly less than suggested retail price. She hung them in her closet, and the shirts chatted happily to one another about their new home and how inferior the rest of the clothes were, giggling about their escape from the Final Clearance rack. They chattered on, non-stop. Into the wee hours of the morning. And because they kept the Old Woman awake with their merriment, she got up from her bed, threw both shirts into the washing machine and laundered them in cold water with no chlorine bleach as the instructions advised, in Woolite and on the longest possible wash setting. In the morning she dried them thoroughly on the Permanent Press cycle and hung them back in the closet.

But now, they were silent and never, ever spoke to anyone again, because, as everyone knows, washing a new shirt takes all the magic out of it as well as the factory sizing.

But Old Woman was pretty sure she'd wear them Happily Ever After anyway.

Carolina Herrera (the real one)
in her signature white shirt

Me (AKA Old Woman) having my own 
budget-Carolina Herrera moment in
Jones New York.  Still ... not bad.

Of course, she does it in black, as well.

And so does Jones New York! 
So happy ..... 

Update (11/10)  I'm going over to Patti's Visible Monday ... come see what all the fuss is about!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Old Lady Runway Rant

If I hear Heidi Freaking Klum or Nina Freaking Garcia say one more time, "That looks old lady" when they mean dowdy, old fashioned, unfashionable, outmoded, out-of-date, passé, unstylish, or frumpy, I will be forced to reconsider my weekly indulgence in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: watching Project Runway. (I participate in lots of other light-minded pleasures and activities. I just don't feel guilty when I indulge in them.)

I'll miss you, Tim Gunn. But I have to say, Tim, you should be all over this one and on my side.

It is just plain ageist, incorrect and mean-spirited to employ two words that describe an at least passably well-behaved and civilized woman who has attained a considerable number of years past her youth when Ms Klum attempts to describe an especially unhip outfit made by one of the anxious competitors. The fact of a woman's age doesn't and never should automatically define her stylishness or un. When Klum says this, she implies that we old women look dowdy in whatever we're wearing simply because we are not young, no matter how great our clothing might be without us in them. Oldness makes everything about us uncool.

She uses this phrase fairly frequently, and I cringe for her when she does it. I try to remember that as a non-native speaker she does worlds better in English than I do in her native German, and I can understand her searching for a word while on camera. But it isn't live-broadcast, so somebody needs to look at editing out this gaffe the next time it occurs. Really, it's important to at least be clear and respectful when she's paid as much as she is to opine about something as subjective as the hipness of clothing design.

Garcia often climbs on the band-wagon with Klum, but sometimes has the grace to use other, only slightly less offensive terms such as madame, or mother-of-the-bride in the same insensitive way. As the 49-year-old mother of young sons, it is likely that she will one day wear her carefully chosen and couture outfits at the nuptials of her grown boys, and she won't be a spring chicken by that time, either. I guarantee that she won't like to hear her ensemble unkindly described as "soooo mother-of-the-groom." I'd offer her the excuse that she may well not have been a childhood speaker of idiomatic English as she was born in Columbia, but I won't because she holds a bachelor's degree from Boston University as well as a second one from FIT.

Yooo-hooo, Ms. Klum and Ms. Garcia. Hellooooo. We're sitting right here in front of the TV. We're old but we can still hear you.

I know. It's American Reality TV. Therefore, I should not be surprised. I also know this isn't so-much-of-a-much all in itself, and the next, most obvious step should be to let it go now that I've vented. But it's been a week where I've been noticing more disdain exhibited towards older women than usual in our language and popular culture and media, and it's been frustrating. I beg that my darling vintage-enthusiast friends will cut me a bit of slack and not pummel me for equating only current, knife-edge newness with great style. I do not mean that at all. It's the equation of advanced age and non-style that I object to. I've been chastised black and blue because I neglected to clarify my smarty-pants glibness. Completely black and blue, I tell you.

In fact, since I'm bound to offend someone, I'll apologize ahead of time and show my contrition by wearing my black and blue shame right out in the open; in a very soft and comforting blue Max Studio extra-fine merino wool sweater over my Old Navy black and blue hounds-tooth Pixie Pants. And my navy, cobalt and black suede d'Orsay ankle-strap pumps ... more black and blue, from me to you.
Oh, yeah. And my sleek and snazzy Old Lady bag, too. 
Snap to you, Heidi.

Taking this silliness to the Lovely Lacy Patti at her Visible Monday link-up.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Official ...

I knew it would happen one day, and that day is here.

I'm little.
I'm an old lady.
And I'm wearing Keds Champions.

I am now a Little Old Lady In Tennis Shoes.

Note that the first three letters are LOL. You may begin. Go for it. Knock yourself out.

So, that's it.
Don't get used to me in flats, much less athletic shoes.
Just seemed like the thing to do on a lazy Sunday in the Big City.

I'm off to try to catch up with all of you. Have a great one, you young whippersnappers.

Late breaking ....
I'm popping over to Patti's Visible Monday  ... come see what we're all up to!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Women In Clothes

Women in Clothes
Blue Rider Press / Penguin Group (USA)
Published September 4, 2014

Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton

These three women, youngish at 37, 46 and 41 respectively, all established writers beyond the fashion industry, all with their own serious professional chops, got together and devised over 100 questions, organized them into a questionnaire, and compiled the responses of 639 of the women who answered them. Then they made a huge book of it all, plus additional conversations, photography and illustrations.

Beyond those specifics, it's not an easy book to describe. A few famous names that I recognized offered their opinions, and quite a number of highly accomplished women that I'd never heard of but probably should have recognized. But for the most part, the women who responded were from almost everywhere, from very rich to the very poor. A few very young girls spoke, a few very old women, but mostly from twenty, thirty and forty-somethings. What they all had in common was that they all had worn clothing for their whole lives and were happy to talk about the impact all these clothes had on those lives. " Women in Clothes" makes a wonderfully rich compendium of little story-snippets, each reflecting the sometimes life-altering impact what we choose to put on our backs can have.

In her review that appeared in the September 25th edition of The New Yorker, Judith Therman described the book as "a communal dressing room in book form." That was a pretty apt and concise description. (In fact, I recommend her review as a very good read all in itself... you can find it HERE .) Expanding on her analogy, I'd ask you imagine the biggest football stadium you can think of, and imagine the field packed with hundreds of dressing room cubicles; nice ones, crummy ones, all sizes. Then imagine them all crowded with hundreds of women; all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, all ages and all trying on clothes. Talking about clothes, looking at clothes, critiquing the garments of their own and others. Imagine you can hear snippets of conversation, but never the whole of one, then imagine someone organized it all for you and made it readable. That's what the book was like for me.

Below are just a few of the questions that grabbed me. Since I am a chronic button-hole gazer, you can see why these subjects were right up my alley. You can see the whole list at the book website HERE , and answer them all for yourself. It seems that the editors are posting these responses as sort of a DIY online addenda to the book. I was completely charmed with this idea that allows the reader to join in after the fact.

What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

Please describe your body.

Please describe your mind.

Please describe your emotions.

With whom do you talk about clothes?

How do institutions affect the way you dress?

Did anyone every say anything to you hat made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

Weighing in at 518 pages, this is a fabulous book to download onto your tablet. It's ideal for toting around this way, and the editors have broken it down into bite sized segments that make it easy to enjoy in spare moments or when you can settle in for a deep read. Between these segments, the editors have interspersed photographic "Collections" of items belonging to their respondents. Many of them are what one would expect; one woman's collection of cashmere sweaters, another's fedoras, or another's collection of vintage three-inch heels. It was less clear to me the value of presenting collections of one woman's earplugs, a collection of identical dental-floss sticks, a collection of a week's worth of one woman's cigarette butts, and another of someone's collection of individual bobby-pins. Quirky. Certainly they added an element of artsy-fartsy charm, but I can get behind even that when judiciously presented.

Another section belonged to photographic "Projects". One of the most memorable was "Poses from Fashion Media" featuring actress Zosia Mamet clad in a plain black leotard against a white background, aping the essential silliness of each famous magazine pose. You'll instantly remember looking at heavily editorial fashion pages and ads, wondering what the magazine pros were thinking by using such improbable and unlikely arrangements of a woman's body to show how clothes could look. Cute commentary, but since there were 50 of them, and I'd gotten the point very quickly ... certainly by about the third one, and was ready to move on after the 15th one ... I felt more editing might have yielded a less-is-more effect. Overall, though, the sometimes silly but more often poignant visuals in the book jived beautifully with the very basic and very personal conversation about how we feel about what we wear and carry and conceal. One certainly gets the impression that nothing important was edited out and lost for lack of space.

When time permits, and I'll make time soon, I'm going back to the site the editors have provided and join the other women who have submitted their survey responses. I'd like to hear from any of you that decide to do likewise ... let me know and I'll be delighted to read what you have to say. In fact, a visit to the site and a look at the questions will tell you whether or not you'll enjoy the book itself. If you're reading this, and you bother to blog yourself, I'll bet you will.


WIW in to the Big City on the hot, humid Sunday afternoon.  My attempt to suggest fall-ishness with with oxblood and get one more wearing out of my favorite summery crop top.  

Got a lovely compliment from a 20 something, hipsterish guy out with his girlfriend.  "Love your outfit," he said with a charming smile for us as we entered the restaurant.  Nice.  Very nice.

Checking in late but repentant at the always forgiving Patti at her Visible Monday link-up.  Come see what everyone is wearing!