Monday, November 23, 2009
'Tis (Always) the Season for Giving - Please send this little boy his last wish of cheery Christmas cards.
Consider this quote from William Hazitt: "Fashion is the abortive issue of vain ostentation and exclusive egotism: it is haughty, trifling, affected, servile, despotic, mean and ambitious, precise and fantastical, all in a breath - tied to no rule, and bound to conform to every whim of the minute."
And here I am, writing about myself and about fashion everyday. Now, granted, I don't agree with this assessment entirely, though I acknowledge that fashion and the fashion industry can sometimes take on an air of haughtiness, flash, and exclusivity and when you get right down to it, it is about looks. But, as I wrote the other day, I think it is, or can be, so much more than that and that really is when you get to the difference between style and fashion, I think. As Yves Saint Laurent said, too, "Fashion fades. Style is eternal."
And to possess style I think is to possess an inner quality of beauty. This is not to say that giving should be viewed lightly, or as trendy, but simply that it is a beautiful thing to care for others. And it is something I want to work on being better at for the rest of my life. Life can be heartbreaking.
This season I am particularly reminded of this by an e-mail my mom sent me yesterday, which she received from some of my father's aunts and uncles. They have a friend whose five-year-old son is dying of cancer and doesn't expect to see this Christmas. But what he has asked for is Christmas cards, and no sad or get well cards.
Children never fail to amaze me - I think they have the most incredible way of revealing truth and strength and love - and this little boy, Noah, has simply stunned me. I find myself at a rare loss for words. So please, should you read this, send Noah a Christmas card. Make it funny, make him smile, make him laugh.
Send to: Noah Biorkman
11411 Fountain View Circle
South Lyon, Michigan 48178
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The first: ah Vogue. Its arrival in my mailbox yesterday, following my delicious morning pampering my nails and hair at the salon (I had gift cards and was well overdue!), combined with the appearance of the sun to temper the coolness of near-winter on the back of my neck (newly exposed by my Kate Moss-inspired "shattered bob"), well, it was enough to make my day. My weekend even. Anna Wintour may be accused of being outdated, but in what other true fashion publication can you find beautifully written articles about the NEA's new president, Rocco Landesman, one written by a war correspondent who spent three and a half months of her pregnancy on the job in Afghanistan, a head-on piece by Shiva Rose about losing the means to a fabulous wardrobe and dressing for who you want to be, and a touching and revealing memorial of Irving Penn, all juxtaposed with stunning high end fashion? Vanity Fair is marvelous reading, but lacks such high doses of couture, W is fab of course - and so fabulously big! - and I've read many a fascinating article in the fashion-splashed pages of Elle, but, well, there really is just something about Vogue. It's a true testament I think that in order to be truly chic, you must also possess grace, wit, and a passion for the world and for the many different facets of life. And as Carrie Bradshaw (loosely) said, "When I first moved to the city, I would buy Vogue instead of food, because I just felt it nourished me more."
And thumbing throught the glossy pages always causes me to glance towards my closet and wonder at the cunning conundrum of Quality vs. Quantity.
There are those of us in life who are lucky enough they can have both, but currently, anyways, I'm not on of those. Ah the life of a struggling young twenty-something. Character building at it's best, I think, optimistically. But it's also in quiet moments like these that I sit back and appraise my overstuffed closet, and the items in it that are rarely worn. The Thakoon (okay, by Target) bold and bright draped skirt that is perhaps too wrong for my body type but that I couldn't walk away from. The gray, crystalled drop-neck mini-dress that I brought back from Dublin that I rarely find the opportunity to wear, and till haven't quite figured out what to wear underneath. The trendy tops I loved but wore too much, and are quietly resting until I can, if ever, find something new to do with them.
And then there are the sad, discarded items - many a pretty shoe - that simply need some loving, some tailoring, some repairing before they can be shown off again. Take the pairs of boots and shoes I picked up from my shoe repairman yesterday. The poor things had been left at his shop for months (I had overestimated my budget). And as he went over his damage control with me, he glossed over the faux-python snub-toed pumps (another Target buy) that needed their heel tips replaced and then sang sweetly about the new soles on my classic Frye boots. "You'll have these for a very long time," he said. I thanked him and excitedly told him the well-adored pair had been my mother's in the seventies. And he remembered me telling him that, months back, when I briefly stopped by to drop them off. Imagine that! A, the man obvously has a superb memory, but b, those are boots that are both quality and impression making.
Well, then I was spending a sunny Saturday morning taking fly-fishing lessons from my papa, and listening to him wax on about the new boots and waders we'd have to get me; he then looked down at his own classic L.L. Bean boots and said, you know, I think I've had these since college. And this struck up a conversation about a particularly intriguing article in The New York Times about the revival, among hipsters, of Victorian dress - and hobbies. Waistcoats, derbies even top hats and bustles, but also the denim and flannel that was the uniform of the Victorian working man. All of which, combined with a concern for all things local and also, with reviving the economy, have a sparked a new interest in classic All-American clothing companies such as L.L. Bean, Brooks Brothers, Woolrich, and Sperry's Topsiders. Quality classic clothes which are timelessly stylish and have the potential to last you a lifetime.
The argument can also be made in the vein of luxury items such as, say, the Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag. Or the Hermes Kelly bag. My Speedy was passed on to me by my mother which I in turn will pass on to my daughter. The initial sticker shock is now nothing when you consider its longevity and all the uses to be had from it. The stitching on the straps has been repaired once in their lifetime. The leather is still beautiful. And there's a sense of connection with my mother that I have through wearing and using it, with all my daily necessities packed in its lovely entrails, just as she did. Much like the treasured costume jewelry from my grandmother, and great-grandmother. Worn with care, they're a reminder of my matriarchs' own youth, beauty and style, and of an age when everything was made to last.
And all of this harkens back to the midst of October when, besot by a beast of a stomach flu, I was lying feverishly in bed for days, trying to do the most entertaining yet low-energy activity I could think of - watch movies, books were too soporific - without falling asleep. And the movies of my choice were Sabrina, A River Runs Through It, Casablanca, Memoirs of a Geisha. And while I barely made it through these, I remember being struck by the clothes, and struck by the beauty of having but a few stunning, well-made pieces to make up your wardrobe. What a statement. A few well-chosen articles of clothing and accessories to express your personal sense of style with. Audrey Hepburn's black Givenchy dresses in Breakfast at Tiffany's. And all you had to do to accomplish the look of her lifetime, she famously said, was get a pair of slim black pants and big sunglasses. Is it possible in this day and age, in this age of excess and reformed excess, in this world in which celebrities are revered for never wearing the same thing twice, to do such a thing? I wondered.
Austereness is, aside from sculpted futuristic looks, decidedly not in the trend forecasts. The forties may be experiencing a revival, as well as Mad Men-inspired lady-like looks, but the eighties and all their excess are also very back. And, well, I kind of love it. I adore being able to go from simple and sophisticated to piled on necklaces and layers, but this is also the birthright of a twenty-something. Experimentation is key in your twenties and should you never leave a fashion-stone unturned. And therein, for my purposes, lies my solution. If you are, as Shiva Rose says, constantly in your twenties dressing for who you want to be, in that moment, someday, you will be dressing as who you want to be because you are who you want to be. The art of dressing wears, pardon the pun, many hats. As I write this article, tip tapping away on a dreary Saturday morning, I wear my glasses. Why? Because I haven't yet reached the point of wanting to put in my contacts, true, but also because I imagine they make me look more writerly. Pure imagination? Perhaps. But by dressing for one of the persons I want to be - a writer - I have adorned a costume that helps me get into character and by doing this, I am stepping up my motivation and working, and thus one step closer to accomplishing my goals.
Someday I want to be a woman who has nary a useless or unworn item in her wardrobe, who makes thoughtful, elegant purchasing decisions for herself and others, who wears simple, well-made, and beautiful things with touches of embellishment, and who can keep her car from looking as though she's been livng in it. I'm on my way there - I can now wear white (more often than not) without spilling or staining. I can keep a planner and accomplish the items on my to-do list. But I also want to wear a floral, be-ribboned hippie headress with my blazers and my favorite flats are a bright neon yellow pair with oversized buckles. I want to shop at Forever 21. Someday, I want to be a woman who is understated, simple, elegant and chic and lives beautifully in this way in all aspects of her life.
But the someday is key. Some day, after all, could be today, but not tomorrow. Someday, is a long time from right now.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
MINX Nails - those glam, foiled, femme fatale manicures - are now, FINALLY to be found in Kansas City
Stories and Dreamz Salon and Spa
Manicurist: Gillian JohnsonE: firstname.lastname@example.org
A: 411 SW Ward Rd, Lees Summit 64081
Salon Oasis and Day SpaA: 8504 N Church Rd, KCMO 64157
Gina SilvioE: email@example.com
A: 6802 N Holmes, Gladstone 64118
New Reflections SalonE: MDeeSmith@kc.rr.com
A: 809 S Clairborne Rd, Olathe 66062
The Polished NailE: firstname.lastname@example.org
A: 205 S Main, Ottawa 66067
That last one I threw in for the Lawrence/Topeka area. For other salon locations, looks, and more information, visit the salon site at http://www.minxnails.com.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
It's been quite a frugalista year, I must admit. Even shopping at Forever 21 can sometimes feel like a splurge (well, really, how can you leave that place without at least 15 items?). And my poor hair has also been feeling the pinch as well, I'm afraid. It hasn't been cut or properly deep-conditioned since, well, May. And only recently did I realize what a very, very long time that is. It has been only made more apparent by the plentiful split-ends I'm finding, the switch to cheap conditioner which fails to temporarily fix - and hide from me, and the world - my dry curls, and the length of my bangs, which are no longer bangs, but are now at my chin (which I actually don't hate, to be honest). And then there was that moment the other morning, when I was sitting down in front of my mirror in my bedroom, straightening my hair, and the glorious sunlight shining in my window revealed that my carpet is also carpeted in blonde hair (also revealing that it's been too long since I last vacuumed - ha!). Yes, friends, when my hair starts shedding like crazy, it's definitely past due-time for a haircut.
So, I broke down and called my stylist - fabulous Dani, at Bijiin in Prairie Village -and I'm all set for a morning appointment in two weeks, which I absolutely cannot wait for! I add a Keratin treatment to my cuts, which has the effect of me constantly touching my hair, and approaching people and telling them to touch my hair. Lucky friends. It is so soft - c'est ce souple. And, despite wrestling with wistful thoughts of growing my hair out long, I'm gonna reach for the Kate Moss shaggy bob cut I had done back in May because I love love loved it, and my stylist won a forever customer in that one cut (though not exactly the most frequent one. She may not even remember me . . .). She's amazing. And this time, I'm going to pay really really close attention to her as she's styling it. Maybe even have someone record it on video.
But I know when I get there in two weeks, she'll sit me down in the chair, drape the lovely black smock over me, and pull my hair around my shoulders and ask me, "Now you just want the cut today? No highlights to help blend in that new growth?"
And my answer is going to be, once again, a resounding, "No, thank you." Oh, my hair color.
I was born a platinum blonde. And I stayed that way for most of my life, thank you very much, but my hair did gradually darken and is now, naturally, a rather dark blonde. In the summer, of course, when I manage to get lots of sun, my hair highlights quite beautifully and when I'm coloring my hair, I like to mimic that, because, let's face it, I'm a real person now with a job and I no longer have the luxury of lounging about, languishing in the sun all day. It's tragic, really.
But, every now and then I go through an existential crisis about being a true blonde and nearly a year ago, I tried to solve this by enlisting a friend to help do a full dye-job on my hair. It wasn't the first time, but, I think - unless I ever fully conquer my need to be blonde and go truly brunette - it will be the last. It's taken some time, but this lovely dye job is now lovely-ly faded, somewhat brassy - though thanks to a beauty school friend, I've enlisted the help of purple shampoo and I think it's helped - and also two-tone. Noticeably so.
Well. After discovering Garance Doré's site via Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, GOOP, it appears that I am trés chic et trés french. I mean, I always suspected and truth be told, I really dig my faded hair somewhat often, but it never helps to have some reassurance, no? Follow the link above to her blog - a Sartorialist-like fashion site (her boyfriend is actually the Sartorialist!) - and discover her tale of her chic friend Daphné and her own faded, two-tone hair. And actually, her cut is quite like the cut I'm going to be getting, though hers is a little shaggier. Merci beacoup, Garance et Daphné!
It will be hard not to see my hair through the winter doldrums without some sunny highlights - and if I'm feeling particularly weak, like I often am when I'm already spending lotsa money, I might break down and get just a few "tennis highlights." But, thanks to this new discovery, I think I might be able to keep the purse strings tied tight!
*I don't know what my deal is about needing to be blonde. Especially because I sometimes feel like Elle Woods in that nobody takes me seriously. In fact, before I actually started working in a pre-school, people would ask me my major (English) and automatically say, so you'll be a kindergarten teacher? I don't know why I found this so insulting because I truly love what I do, and it is important, but it was rather like whenever I would say I want to write and people's natural response was, oh, children's books? I can write seriously as well, thank you! And then there was that time I was in an interview for a marketing job, fresh off my marketing internship with the Symphony, and the guy actually looked at me and said, oh, English major? So you want to teach kindergarten? No, dude, I'm in this interview because I want this job. Don't know why I even bothered to stay after that . . .
Anyways, I think it's because being blonde is just me. Brunette hair may look pretty, and it would be a fresh change, but, well, it's not me and I think I know that. If one of my best friends point blank said she just couldn't see it, well, that says something, right?!
**Also, whenever I figure out again how the heck I added those sites to that nifty little blogroller thing, I'll add Garance's and Gwyneth's blogs, along with several others. I really am trying! I need to call the Geek Squad I think.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Dapper Don Draper may have proved himself to be a slimy, albeit complex and roguish, figure of a husband and man, but man, doesn't he look good doing it? It's almost painful to watch such a handsomely chiseled, All-American lookin' man become even more charming, more good looking, when wrapped up in a well-cut, well-made suit, with cuff links, trim shoes, coat, and hat to boot. Then again, it's kind of wonderful. And those other men at Sterling Cooper don't look so bad themselves either. 'Specially that equally slippery character, Roger Sterling.
Well, modern man of style, don't get your skinny tie in a twist, because classic-maker Brooks Brothers has once again proved their relativity by creating a limited make Mad Men Edition Suit, in their 1818 Fitzgerald line. Re-tooled for tastes of 2009, the suit is slim of fit and featuring "period details" such as hacking pockets ("a hip-level flap pocket that is slanted or cut on an angle. Traditionally found on a Hacking or riding jacket, or suggestive of tailored clothing from the British sartorial tradition."), narrow lapels, side vents, and comes in a "static" grey-sharkskin fabric. The suit is all American made and created by the show's award-winning costume designer, Janie Bryant (and here's a little shout-out to my dad's little hometown of Cleveland, TN: Miss Janie Bryant, LA roommate of my cousin Emma Jane's niece, is originally of Cleveland, TN. Small-town girl makes it big, you might even say, and score one more for Tennessee girls!).
May I take this opportunity to encourage all you would-be mad men and style makers to hurry up and do your shopping, this suiting is Limited Edition, retailing at $998.00, and only in stock while supplies last. I'll even make it easy for you, find the look here: Find the suit here: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Merchant_Id=1&Section_Id=575&Product_Id=1431762&Parent_Id=418&default_color=GREY&sort_by=§ioncolor=§ionsize=#. And if that doesn't work, simply go to www.brooksbrothers.com, click on suits, 1818 line, Fitzgerald line, and Exclusive Mad Men Edition Suit. That should find you in the right place.
A thing of beauty, ain't it?
And while you're on the site, check out Black Fleece, the line by Thom Browne, CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year and Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award finalist. Browne is Brooks Brothers' first guest designer, and has pulled from Golden Fleece classics to create new silhouettes which still ring true with the BB identity. It may seem unheard of for a traditional menswear company to pair up with the man who strongly tried to bring about uber-cropped, skinny trousers for men, but trust me, it hits a mark.
- ▼ November (5)