Saturday, November 21, 2009

This article - post, musing - has been quite the long time coming, as has become apparent by all the different possibilities of introductions I find mysef faced with. Always the type of person who might try to pare complicated things down to their simplest form, but yet never the type to leave out any precious morsel of information or whathaveyou out, I'm going to, ahem, attempt to work in all three antidotes. Am I attempting to make too many points, in too brief an article? It's certainly possible. But it's also happening. The poor reader.

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 Anna Wintour may be accused of being outdated, but in what other true fashion publication can you find beautifully written articles about the NEA's new president, Rocco Landesman, one written by a war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.

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