Monday, August 31, 2009

Cry Havoc

Last post, Pirate wrote about the importance of finding a set of pieces that work together for her as an outfit. And I responded by saying that despite my best intentions to the contrary, mostly, my style is a mish mash. What I wouldn't give to reign it in . . .

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m ADD, multiple personality disordered, or just incapable of making a decision, but more and more these days I seem to be playing an increasingly powerless Nurse Ratchet to a loony bin full of fashion icons all refusing to take their medication and clamoring to be let out into the light of day.

This one, she starts early, banging her fists loudly against the door and demanding, "WTF, dude? What do you mean someone drank all the tequila?"

While other days, she comes sidling up all fey-eyed to politely point out that why yes, of course, everything does go with diamonds, thank you very much.

Then there are the days when the twin Viking Warrior Princesses, wafting their particular mix of Dioressence and Amyl Nitrate, crash the party, break all the champagne glasses, insult the hostess, and then go screaming into the night with the college student waiter and his La Crosse playing roommate. It takes me days to wrangle them back home.

So what I'd like? Is for this girl to represent for me on a regular basis. Only not that young, that blond, or that coked up.

I have been trying to think lately where my affinity for this particular look comes from - this ever present, only slightly revolving variant on the jacket, sweater, jeans, boots, and scarf theme. Then it hit me. For some unknown reason, it screams to me of California. No, no, not the California of Haight-Ashbury with its deliberately unwashed vibe and tiresome floaty skirts, and most certainly not the California of today, with its parade of petulant Porno Fried starlets with their dismal French manicures and ass-grazing shorty shorts.

I mean more the California Before the Fall, the California with which I have always, for some reason, had a major preoccupation. The California that represents the sunlit possible, rather than the darkly decadent, already attained.

Maybe it's a California that only exists in my mind. Most things do. Then again, I DO have pop cultural evidence. Linda Ronstadt circa Heart Like a Wheel, for instance. The writer Joan Didion, assuaging waves of self doubt with a good scream down the PCH in a gleaming white Corvette Stingray, the contrails of a Pucci head scarf flickering in her wake.

It's the California of Donna Mills in Play Misty For Me, of Pam Greer in Foxy Brown, and Lily Tomlin in Moment By Moment. Of the ladies in Joni Mitchell’s canyon, the suite of Judy’s blue eyes, and the dreaming of Fleetwood Mac.

Most recently, I caught a glimpse of it in Frances McDormand's lusty, scenery chewing turn in the terrific Laurel Canyon.

It's also been oozing out of Natascha McElhone as Karen, the long suffering, long time partner of David Duchovny’s Hank Moody in Showtime’s gleefully over the top Californication. With her swath of sun streaked hair, butta soft leather car coats, roughened jeans, and ever present Frye boots, she’s the Ghost of 70’s Chic come back to luminous life.

Still, a girl cannot live on boots and jeans alone. That's what Diane von Furstenberg-esque wrap dresses are for. But I have to be careful. Because this one, give her an inch and she'll go Full On Caftan faster than my Famolare's will allow me to tackle her.
That right there? That's a Malibu beach party just waiting to go out of bounds.

So, what's your ideal fashion era and if you could spend the rest of your life in just one outfit, what would it be? I know, I know, it took me a looooonnnng ass time to get here to ask just this one simple question, but I really wanna know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

in the closet

This is a totally self-indulgent post. After reading all about body image issues and the ensuing personal stories, I feel kind of selfish about posting an Outfit Success.

But I'm gonna.

Ever have one of those moments when you aren't sure about what to wear, because you're in a hurry, because you need to get the kids to school and your training kit together so that you can run after work, and you're rushing because you still don't have your makeup on and you are standing there in your closet wearing underwear, and your hair is dripping and you just don't know where to start?

No? Well, that's me maybe once a week: standing there in a closet full of great ideas, with no braincells to put it all together.

As I explained to Moi once, I tend to buy things in outfits. This way I know what each thing goes with. For example, I will always put X shirt with X pants because I bought them together. If I buy single pieces, I get easily confused and I don't know if it goes, I don't know if it works, I turn into a headless chicken. I know. It's like I need Garanimals for grown ups.

There's really a lot of answers to this quandry:

1) Buy everything as outfits . . . except I can't always afford a whole wardrobe, and sometimes I like single pieces. And sometimes I shop at Anthropologie - where there is no outfit, only a whole lot of really quirky, expensive, and cool single pieces.

2) Color code my closet, or just shop at White House/Black Market, where you can never, ever go wrong with anything you put together in their store. White/Black eliminates all fashion risk because black and white always go together, or with jeans.

3) Take a fashion risk. This is hard, because sometimes I stretch and it goes wrong. It goes very wrong, and I get to live with it all day. But then, every so often I have a fashion triumph, when it works.

4) Phone a friend, which I have been known to do. But not always an option when I'm in said closet in a bad way . . .

5) Keep a style book and plan ahead - like Moi does. More on this later.

This morning I'd missed my early morning run, slept in, I was running late, needed to pack a whole bunch of crap, and was basically throwing a tiny tantrum because I didn't want to wear any of my matchy-matchy outfits.

The fashion ghost whispered in my ear - start with one thing you know you want to wear, and work from there.

Languishing in a corner is a simple silk taffeta mini that jCrew has been selling all summer long. It's silver, it's shiny. I fully admit I am a magpie. I once had an opportunity to shop at a jCrew outlet store, but I only had 10 minutes. Not one to miss out on a bargain, I bought 4 pieces at slashed prices. I shop there online often, I thought I knew what I was getting into. When I saw the silver taffeta mini on sale for $30 I snatched it up, along with a little purple cardigan (really, what can go wrong with a purple cardigan and a silver skirt?). I had this catalog image in my head when I did:

That looks awesome, doesn't it? Casual, effortless, but a little glamorous. That's totally me!

Wow, even though her shirt is untucked, she looks fab. Messy and chic. I want that!

Mine looks more like this, in real life:
It's pretty shapeless on the rack, and it's pretty shapeless on the ass. It's a bag. It's like a wide belt. It's like a pair of shorts with no crotch. Elastic waistband means it's effortless to put on, but it's really casual, not fitted. When I first tried it on, I was bitterly disappointed. I thought it looked more like this.
...except less fabulous. But I want to wear it, dammit, I paid $30 for that skirt! I look fab even with no clothes on, how can I be flummoxed by a stupid skirt?! Moi said I should keep it. Silver is neutral, it goes with everything. Surely something can be found...

I grabbed the skirt and then pawed through the closet for something that would not reveal the skirt's main flaw (a bad bad bad waistline), and I landed on this, a slightly risky purchase from jCrew this summer:
I bought it based on this catalog photo (I mean, look at this -- wouldn't you?):
Doesn't she look amazing with that top with her vintage jeans? I bought the top myself to go with a pair of shredded jeans and heels and have worn it that way since day 1. Chic, casual, approachable, etc. This top looks sorta like this on me, if I had a much longer waist. Sigh.

Yes, this post is so far all about how I am a victim of jCrew's marketing, more than fashion snark, isn't it?
Snarker, snark thyself.

I took a risk this morning: I paired the Giraffe with the Hippopotamus, and then a nice pair of sandals, like these

. . . except mine are all silver and not #350 pounds and not Giuseppe Zanotti. Then I let one of my daughters choose accessories. She does pretty good, she picked pearls.

I'll be darned. It totally works. Hmm . . . Maybe jCrew is like Garanimals for grown-ups.

So, the moral of the story is: If you compulsively purchase a very pretty garbage bag from jCrew, be sure to pair it with something that is not fitted and has no waist, and you too will look chic, effortless, and put-together, and no-one has to know the story of your inner turmoil and closet panic.

Unless you blog about it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beauty is in the Eye of the Editor

This is twenty year old "plus-sized" (12-14) model Lizzie Miller, who is featured on page 194 of Glamour magazine's September 2009 issue. A small photo, 3x3, but it's causing a big stir in the industry.

Because this is what editors usually serve us up as the ideal female form.

Devoid of fat. Devoid of muscle. Delicate of bone and transparent of rib, yet also somehow, inexplicably, bursting with bolted-on boobs.

I worked part time as a model my last two years of high school. I stood 5'7" in my stocking feet and weighed 120 pounds. I was told by my agent that in order to continue to have a career, I needed to lose TWENTY more pounds. "Fuck that," I said through a mouthful of Cheetos, and left the building.

Designers claim that when they first start showing a collection, and because they of course do not yet have any orders, they deliberately make their "samples" in the smallest sizes possible in order to save time and materials. Fine. Then show the clothing on REAL hangers and leave the rest of us in peace to purchase whatever size we happen to be naturally.

Friday, August 21, 2009

wellies as high fashion

This fashiony bloggy thing seems to be going well so far, but you know, good things always start in an inspired way. I fear that soon we'll have to resort to dirty tricks. Like buying copies of Vogue. Ew.

So, while I was in Europe (tm), I
saw a lot of people wearing wellie boots. With regular clothes. Like this.

I'm used to seeing wellies in their natural setting. They're big ugly utility boots - they're meant for tramping around in the pond. Like these.
Understand, I was in Scotland, and this is not dry high desert territory, it's a wet, wet place. The good wellies are made in Scotland - they're made for survival. People are forced to wear wellies as part of their daily life - you know, to get to the coffee... However - I was not roaming the highlands or out trodding the bogs when I observed said shoe occurrence. I was in Edinburgh proper - an urban environment. Why, oh why, would people be wearing their wellie boots, with regular clothes, in the Cit-tay?

To their credit, these were not ordinary wellies, these were fun and unusual. And interesting (like these). They were so good, I'd almost (I SAID ALMOST) be tempted, you know, if a pair of these fell into my hands...

Hell, even Dame Westwood makes some fab Wellies

I'm almost sold on the idea - except for the fact that, they are Big, Heavy, Non-Breathing Rubber Boots. Not sexy. What is up with the wellie boot casual wear trend? Am I just that much of a desert rat that I don't get it?

I swear I've seen jCrew capitalize on this fashion nonsense before. And I see they've got some really good ones up for grabs right now, including the highly respectable Hunter boot made in Scotland. I think I've worn a pair of these, though not in this colour...


Tis, indeed, nonsense. The thing is, the Wellie, it is a beautifully built boot. I have had my very same pair for 15 years now. Not a thing wrong with them. But they are for the garden. For mucking out stalls . . . I hate the appropriation of “working person” style into the world of high fashion To me, it seems very condescending. Unless you’re calf deep in shit, mud, rain, or snow, forgo the Wellies.

Hm. Good point. Working boot appropriated for street fashion does seem condescending. There's a history lesson in there, somewhere.

My spouse has a friend still in the UK who is kind of a girl - well, he's a girl about shopping. He's all man in all the other ways. Anyways. He and I were speculating that wearing the wellies as streetwear was perhaps the only way one could ever wear the beautiful wellies. I mean, if you splash out on some pretty cool and fabby boots, you want to show them off. And you can't show them off to everyone if you're saving them only for the odd wet day tramping around in the country, right?

Perhaps he and I are thinking too practically.

Sometimes a cute boot is just a cute boot. There are always these:

Ho. Lee. Shit. That does change the color of the whole wellie thing. I suppose if it ever rained here, I could picture me swanning around town in something like this...No?

I for one cannot picture mucking stables in anything *except* those ugly green ones.

Ooooo, you said "swanning around." My favorite two-word phrase, next to, "Dinner's served." and "Louboutin sale." Dang it. I guess you could spend a day merrily swanning about in Wellies, provided you were: A. Swanning about someplace you normally wouldn't be – London, Paris, New York, Munich, you know, anywhere were it actually rains on a regular basis, and B. You were wearing an outfit just as offhandedly
insouciant as the one in the photo above.

Okay, we have got to get out of Europe and back to the states. I'm beginning to use French words.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

these boots are made for?

Dateline: August 18, 2009, 10:44 a.m.

Thus emailed The Pirate:

I got the athleta catalog the other day - did you see these?

I'm in two minds about them... On the one hand, they're heel-less, and therefore not very sexy. On the other hand, they look sleek enough to be worn with a lot of stuff, and they look like one could actually run in them. Comfy. Also, pseudo wonderwoman-y. But, still not the sexiest. Interesting.

Thus replied Moi:

. . . ah-hem, missy . . . Not that I’m opposed to a flat heel. Oh no, siree. I spent all of last winter in fact practically 24/7 in a pair of 1” heeled riding boots. But these, these I am struggling with . . . Because there is a difference between something that looks vaguely like it belongs on the legs of one of those elfin-type characters in the Lord of the Rings whose every sentence begins with "Lo!" or "Verily!"

. . . and something that Wonder Woman might actually wear.

You know, to horse around with Sven the stable boy down in the south pasture while the old man is up at the manse busy checking his stocks on-line or something. That Wonder Woman. She married late and her husband SO does not understand her . . .

Thus respondeth the Pirate:

You know, this is exactly why I have friends like you, so that you can save me from myself and my sometimes cockeyed and not too-well-thought-out fashion fantasies. Sometimes a girl needs a second opinion. This, my dear, is why your e-mail address and phone number for texting are kept close at hand.

In my defense. I did see a lot of these flat-heeled jobbies in my recent trip to Your-rope (yes, I'm gonna drag that out for as long as I can - it's not so often a girl can say "when I was in London" so I'm gonna).
I was picturing more of this -

Note the distinct lack of heel on her boot...

I said look at the shoes, not the flowing tresses, or her bountiful rack, or her perfect proportions... The BOOTS.

See? No heel!

Also, did you not see the cute little sweater dress they paired the boots up with in Athleta?

But I guess with those fabrics, in those colors, I would most likely end up with less of the Apres Ski look, and more Elven reject from the Society of Creative Anachronism look, as you've so aptly identified.

deep sigh...

Moi's Final Word. I SWEAR:

You may purchase the sweater dress. Also, thanks for reminding me: Instead of eternity as Disco Queen, I want to spend it as Wonder Woman.

trendspotting in europe

*ring ring* the 80's called, it said, give me back my stupid neck scarf, bitches.

Back when I was young, and the earth was still cooling, that arabic-scarf-thingie-avec-little-dangly-bits was a cool look that was being sported worn around the necks of mainly rock stars. Like Bono. In my teenaged lack of political savvy, even I recognized that arabic looking scarf thingie as the same dishrag that Yassir Arafat wore on his head. The internets tell me it is called a Keffiyeh.

Wikipedia gives an extensive history of this little scrap of cloth and its political symbolism. Yes, children, if Yassir Arafat is wearing something, you better believe it is probably a political symbol. Lucky for Bono, only the Keffiyeh was taken on as a trendy fashion item, and not Arafat's ugly green military uniform. 'Cos otherwise, I might have had to re-think my crush.

I myself never owned or wore a Keffiyeh. At the time, I was all anti-establishment (what teenager isn't?) and the wearing of garb that was representative of The Uprising Of The People would totally have suited me. Alas, there were no Keffiyeh to be had in Deepest Darkest Fashion Purgatory where I lived.

I spent a few weeks in the UK recently. What fun that was, being in the place that pretty much was central to my fashion senses when I was a youth. And what to my aged eyes did appear but Every Other Person On the Ever Loving Street wearing a Keffiyeh, or Keffiyeh-looking scarf.

Especially in London.

Look - even David, his Beckhamness is wearing one...

and also, Colin Farrell.

And of course, Sting. I think he just dragged it out of his closet from way back when, the hoarder.

Now, I do not feel I am qualified to discuss the history of politics and fashion and how they collide, and my brief googling has found that there is plenty of work already done on this subject.

I do, however, feel qualified to say HOLY SHIT THE 80's REALLY ARE BACK AGAIN.


Because, I am not kidding when I say Every Other Person on the street was wearing one of these things. Knock-off shops had knock-offs of them. Street vendors were selling them.

So, kids, if you really want to look just like those trendy bitches in Europe, I suggest you go out and get one now - right now apparently, it's the trendo-accessory du jour.

oh, and the fluorescent clothes thingie? That's also back. Please please please, let the nightmare end soon...