Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to age: become exquisite or eccentric?

To me, there mainly seems to be two types of old ladies. The first one is prim and proper in a tweed suit with gloves, stockings, pearls, thick-heeled loafers and a little chic hat on top of her bluish pin curls. In high temperatures, she might forgo the suit for a plissé just-below-the-knee skirt with a silk blouse and a Hermès-style scarf. This is how I remember the one of my two Grandmothers whom I got the chance to know before she passed. And more importantly, this is what I would love to look like when my age finally forbids me to dress in cage heels and mini dresses - if that ever happens?!

The lady look is not as easy to pull off as it might seem - the imaginary line between elegant and chic on the one hand, and drab and shapeless on the other, never seemed so fine! While material and fit may indeed always make or break any outfit, they are extra critical in the case of minimalistic, figure hugging tweed or bouclé suits (pictured right: classic Chanel; left: vintage 60s Dior). A mature look like this one leaves little to no room for fun or crazy accessories (unless you actually are a crazy lady - more on this below) to compensate for a too nipped-in waist, a lost button or an unflattering slit -- once the simplicity is gone, the elegance is, as well. And unlike many other styles, you cannot really shop a believable version of ladylike chic at H&M, Zara or Forever 21! Below: stylish captures of Carmel Snow (with Diana Vreeland) and Coco Chanel:

..... evening looks on Babe Paley and Grace Vanderbilt, both of whom always got it right:

... and some really frumpy looks on Pat Nixon and Nancy Reagan. Sorry to be disrespectful, but Mrs Kennedy aside, I have yet to see an American first lady, whose sense of fashion I approve of.

The real life, down-trodden version of the suit lady: two New York seniors on the downtown M15, whose non-stop babbling made my ears seriously sore. A parrot would have seemed quiet and soft-spoken in comparison.

As for that second kind of old lady, there are all those crazy, eccentric originals who seem to never leave their house without donning mismatched animal print, DIY henna hair, strange headwear, feather boas at all occasions, ragged furs, not one lapdog but three or more, color combos that hurt your eyes, more bling than a [insert low-class New York suburb of choice] trophy wife after a shopping spree on 47th & 6th.... somewhat well represented below by Betsey Johnson, Viv Westwood, Patricia Field and Isabella Blow:

... and some glitter-lovin' old New York ladies, in the Lower East Side projects and Hell's Kitchen, respectively.

Indeed, these women (along with many others, who have not yet unknowingly stepped in front of my iPhone street-stalker lens) are the living proof that regardless of which style you preferred during your prime, aging will not automatically conduce you to develop a penchant for suits, tucked scarves and preppy loafers. Fair enough - I put an end to my own crazy phase long ago, when I was still young enough to file any sartorial experiments under "fashion risk taking", rather than "eccentric lady garb"... and I have already started saving for the Chanel, Dior and Carolina Herrera, that I plan on wearing once I reach granny age!

That said, I will never cease to be immensely fascinated by the extreme and the eccentric. Yesterday evening when I walked home from Silvercup Studios (yes my darlings.... all over the bridge from LIC and down to the East Village - I have the blisters today to prove it), I suddenly found myself in front of the most lovely, tacky vintage (I think?) boutique on 58th Street and 1st Avenue, footsteps from the Queensborough bridge. The window display was beautifully dressed, effortlessly balancing the thin line between delicate and kitsch, carrying everything a crazy lady could possibly ask for: glitter, gold and epaulettes... cat-eye spectacles... wide-brimmed, befeathered Isabella-worthy hats.... in-your-face prints... fake fur... plumes! For about a minute, I was completely thrown off and mesmerized. I forgot about 30 Rock, the studded royal blue one-shoulder dress with a long sleeve that I could not decide whether I liked or not, the possible fat content of the sandwich I had grabbed in crafty.... but was instead lingering in front of the window, taking in the jewelry, millinery and plumage, conjuring up one image after the other in my head, of the women whom I imagined must be regulars at the store.

As I crossed 57th Street a couple of minutes later, I spotted an old woman wearing a fox stole with spotty patches of missing fur, a heavy load of gold chains, too much lipstick in a shade much too dark, and a head of unkempt, self-dyed red hair. But for once, instead of fidgeting around with my phone to get a grainy paparazzo shot for my fashion faux pas photo collection (yes, I have one... I know, I suck!), I chose to just give her a glance of admiration as I passed by. How could I not?!

Today, on the other hand, I regret being so dreamy and soft-hearted - she would have looked great on my blog!

What about you? Does your mom have a closet of Park Avenue fashion that you will inherit one of these days, have you started a Chanel savings account, or do you just plan on going crazy with plumes, leopard and multi-layers of plastic necklaces as you grow old? Let's hear it. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday afternoon: Lilly Pulitzer

What is a better way to spend your Sunday than to kick around leaves in Central Park, sip hot cocoa at a sidewalk café, take pictures of the fall foliage - and dress in Lilly Pulitzer?

My absence from Blogspot during the last couple of days is all a result of too much work, too many cocktail nights with friends, too many hours logged in the gym to make up for said nights out, too many bad excuses. And today the weather is simply too beautiful to watch from my desk by the window - i. e. where I usually write my blogs.

I bought this Lilly crochet piece in one of my favorite consignment shops last summer, and wore it sporadically throughout the fall and winter. After donning it at an audition as Angelina J's photo double, and getting the job (not to to mention losing it after a couple of weeks, reason being we are not similar enough), I truly believe it possesses some kind of super power and that good things will happen if I just wear it a little more often. A girl can dream, right?

Central Park is waiting. Hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stylish staples: building a functional wardrobe

In my black & white post last week, I was harping at staffers at lifestyle (and some fashion) magazines, who love to provide us with lists of wardrobe staples that everyone "should" own. Am I the only one who usually rolls my eyes at those lists? Maybe such unsolicited advice is useful for clueless women who don't have their personal style down yet and might need a little help picking out some basics that work on almost all occasions - but please, can the rest of us get a break from these tedious staple lists?! Clearly, your needs depend heavily on your work situation, personality and taste, and a basic wardrobe consisting of "a classic black suit with interchangeable skirt and pants, a crisp white shirt, a classic LBD, a single breasted black or camel coat, another white tailored shirt", etc, etc, is not necessarily the optimal choice for all of us. No offense to anyone who relies on these staples, but I for one know those pieces would most likely remain forgotten in the back of my closet collecting dust, were I to invest in them. And yes, I am technically in the age range where suits and tailored shirts are appropriate daywear... it's just that I have neither the need for nor the interest in wearing them.

As I took a peek into my closet to figure out exactly what would be my staples, interestingly enough I realized that while my favorite styles span everything from prim and proper in bouclé or jersey, to flowy, romantic bohemian in lace, clogs and braids, to Eastern Euro gold-digger in fur and precious metals, the wardrobe staples I use to create each and every one of these very different looks tend to follow a much-predictable, never-changing pattern. My beloved bouclé, knits and faux fur materials are present in almost every outfit I put together, be it a preppy, hippie or a sultry one. The nautical stripe, oversize scarf and chunky hardware necklace or handbag strap seem to get a lot of play as well. And if my imagination fails me, I always reach for a romper or minidress, as they seem to never do me wrong.

This leads me to believe that everyone's wardrobe should be built not around a number of universal must-have items, particularly not those chosen by know-it-all fashion editors, but rather on a variable and versatile collection of your own favorite materials, shapes, prints/colors, shoe styles and accessories. In the case of my own wardrobe, styles and trends come and go, but there are a couple of important constants that I tend to always rely on for putting together outfits that are current, yet personal - regardless of season and current fashion musts. Let's find out which they are!


1) Crochet and knitwear. My closet currently holds 10 crochet frocks and 7 non-crocheted knit dresses, as well as a crochet halter top with a matching pencil skirt (let's not even mention the plethora of knitted cardigans, sweaters, wraps and scarves). Some of these are sundresses, while others are more suitable for fall/winter season. And yes, I use all of them on a regular basis - currently with opaque black, white or bright-hued tights, layered necklaces, patent flats or thigh-high boots, and a biker jacket. My latest addition, from Mink on 11th & 1st, is pictured to the left. Right: SS10 look at Missoni - note that I usually like them shorter, though!

2) Faux fur. With so many beautiful fakes out there, why would you want to wear real animals? I currently own seven (faux, all of them) fur coats and jackets, five fur- or feather trimmed ones, one fur vest and one fur wrap - styles and colors ranging from vintage shearling to long haired swing coat, in silver, tan, black, white and chocolate chinchilla. As tacky as it sounds, I am crazy about the fur/ gold/ oversize shades glam look and try to alternate it frequently with my GG cutesy flats/miniskirt/blazer combos on the one hand, and my boho/hippie-luxe getups on the other. Always keep people guessing! Right: AW08 skunk look at Jaeger London.


3) Jumpsuits. Yes, they are a lot of work getting in and out of, especially when layered during the winter season. But no pain, no gain, right? I love them equally in silk, jersey and denim, and I have a penchant for pairing them with cage heels and any kind of chunky hardware jewelry - regardless of whether it is in style or not. Needless to say, I guess I got lucky this season! Right: SS09 look at Akris.

4) Jeans. I am obsessed with jeans - I don't even own regular pants, with the exception of a black skinny pair that only look good with rainboots (!) and a white bootcut pair that my boyfriend is frequently trying to get to see me in more often (without much luck, to his dismay). I believe the secret behind denim being such a relied-on staple of so many a wardrobe is its impressive versatility and amazing potential for being dressed up or down. What other garment could as easily take you through a day of brunch and shopping (or work - for some of us!), followed by a trip to the stables for a cuddling session with your horsie or a walk in the woodsier parts of Central Park? Left: Dorothea Barth Jorgensen in a SS10 denim look at Acne. I don't care much for the oversize blazer, but the gold plates, the gold plates....!

5) Minidresses. Who said they had to be knitted? Welcome to my closet! I tend to break out my minis and micros on a more regular basis during winter season, reason being I enjoy showing off some leg, but at the same time dread exposing too much skin... could there possibly be anything more tacky for a day look? Opaque tights usually solve this problem just fine for me. Further, as counter-intuitive as this may sound, I usually wear minis with over-the-knee boots for exactly the same reason. While to some this combo may come off as too provocative or risqué, to me the boot works wonderfully as a cover-up that tones down the flirtatiousness of the dress. Right: Hervé Léger SS10 runway look.

Prints and colors:

6) Stripes. My go-to pattern on dresses, T-shirts, socks, knitted scarves and sweaters. I have a strong preference for the classic black and white nautical stripe, but as long as the fit and the material is alright, I'd say pretty much anything goes. Right: Audrey Tatou in Coco Avant Chanel, sporting one of Coco's signature looks.

7) Printed T-shirts. Oh no, I just admitted it! You didn't think I dress up in Prada to take the pup to the dog run or for standing on line at Trader Joe's, right? I have a big, big collection of tees for those low maintenance days when I am too lazy to put together any outfits other than denim cutoffs or skinnies with something cotton-y on top. Most of them are band T-shirts or finds off of those endless UO racks, but I do get fancy once in a while with some Anna Sui or The Row. Left: representing my 'hood. Right: Lanvin wishlist item.

Shoes and accessories.

8) Boots. Flat suede, equestrian, over-the-knee, fringe, stiletto - I always find an excuse to wear boots, even in the summer. Not that I don't try to give my booties and ballet flats the same amount of love, but any kind of boot just seems to flatter my legs more. And how can you argue with that? Right: Kate Moss in thigh-high: definitely one of my go-to looks, except I prefer my denim dark.

9) Scarves. Do I need to explain myself? Just take a look again at Kate!

10) Statement jewelry. I always love a chunky necklace or a dangling, eye-catching pair of earrings! I used to be all about feathers, chandeliers and even pony hair pieces hanging from my earlobes, while using all other kinds of jewelry very sparingly, often wearing nothing more than a thin gold chain with a pointe shoes pendant around my neck - sometimes a single cocktail ring if I was in the mood. This fall, however, I seem to favor necklaces, bangles and cuffs over big earrings. I have worn the same pearl studs for weeks without a single thought of changing them up, while I am constantly switching around between different hardware around my neck and on my wrists. How can you not, considering all the options out there this season? Also, as we all know, buying (and even splurging on) jewelry is a convenient way to deal with shopping cravings when on a recession budget... enough said. Street fairs and art street markets offer excellent opportunities for finding unique pieces without breaking the bank. I almost bought a couple of bracelets at the Madison Square Market (pictured right) yesterday evening on my way home from work, but came to my senses at the last minute. For those of you (in NY) who have not exceeded this month's shopping budget already, do check out this event! Left above: SS09 look at Giambattista Valli.

And last but not least.... what about you? Any interesting staples or principles for building a functional wardrobe that you would like to share? Don't be shy! ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Kreativ Blogger Award

Today's entry is a slightly different one. I will return to my "signature" posting style soon enough, to the extent that I have one, and was just sitting here penning an entry in my head... but then I discovered in the comments to my last post that I have been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award by BrideChic (which means I need to follow up with a response)! Thank you so much, Amy!

The rules for the Award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people may not know.
5.Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

I usually hate talking about myself (yes, really!), but I will make an exception. Here goes:

1) I love horses. This is me and Bingo in Brooklyn:

2) Working with other models intimidates me. They always seem taller, skinnier and prettier than I am. Below: Karin and me at the Plaza.

3) I love naps. Even more when I'm accompanied by my puppy.

4) I never order food when I'm out with friends - just drinks. Below: Margaritas at Yuca.

5) I don't like wearing makeup - mascara and lipgloss is all I usually put on. Below: getting it done more thoroughly for work.

6) This (see below) used to be one of my part-time jobs.

7) I make about half of my income working background or standing in on movies and TV shows. It basically means I get to eat and socialize with friends on the clock... but I know, it's kind of lame. Below: my thigh (!) on "Rescue Me" last winter.

Now for the nominations. I read a lot of blogs and I love them all... I really don't like singling seven of them out and I am not sure who has or has not received this award in the past. I might just have to break the rules and skip this step.

May I instead take the opportunity to thank everyone who is consistently reading and making comments on my blog?! When I started writing at the end of August, I would not even in my wildest imagination have expected the kind of response I have been getting from all of you. Thank you so much, again!

XOXOXOX, especially to my boyfriend who took pic 1 and 3. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Personal style: the coloresque post

When I was about 15 or so, getting a color analysis was all the rage among girls at my school. Let alone these "consultations" were usually done by suburban part-time shopgirls who had taken an online weekend class on the subject and whose fashion know-how could have been summarized on a fingernail at best. Me and my friends were new to dabbling in personal style and not only did we feel painfully unsure of our natural color schemes, but out of massive insecurity, we also actually figured that becoming aware of them would save us from at least some of the most obvious fashion faux pas. Hence, having a color analysis done by a "pro" seemed like an excellent, helpful idea.

Being extremely pale skinned, and not in the milky, porcelain kind of way, but rather a translucent, bluish junkie type, I was strongly advised by the color consultant to steer clear of brights, jewel tones and even black. Supposedly, "my" colors were pastels such as peachy orange, mint and powder pink. Not at all being down with this palette at the time, I was immediately calling BS. How could you possibly be better off wearing a color that you dislike and that makes you feel uncomfortable, rather than one of your favorite hues? On the way home, I dumped my personal color chart in the nearest garbage can and decided to keep adding red, turquoise and purple to my black and white basics, regardless of what this online graduate had tried to teach me. If you cannot experiment with crazy colors and shapes as a teenager, then when are you supposed to?

Over the years I learned that anyone can wear almost any color - it is all about finding the right place and proportions for it, not mixing too many colors into the same outfit, and sometimes even about having the moxie to pull it off! While head-to-toe brights are flattering only on a lucky few, most of us can certainly get away with, and even benefit from, breaking up an otherwise conventional ensemble by mixing black or gray separates with colored options. For those who will not part with their signature black and white, and feel content adding only a splash of bright, accessories in your color of choice make for a great alternative.

As for myself, I tend to favor a muted palette for separates, while when it comes to accessories, I
am all about brights! I wore red tights with my black and white outfits long before Blair Waldorf hit the screen, and have carried handbags over the years in all shades from lemon yellow to fire engine red to royal blue. However, I am unfortunately a little print-shy unless the design is Tibi or DVF. Moreover, I would never, ever wear brights close to my face.... I am now realizing maybe that color consultant's advice was not 100% lost on me, after all?! Someone, please take me to Pucci for a brain wash!

Below are some current (most of them) examples of color at its best. Photos above: Natalia Vodianova in Comme des Garcons for Vogue Korea, storefronts at American Apparel and Juicy Couture, dresses from Jeremy Scott and Lisa Perry, crazy technicolor lady on 12th Street.

Caroline Trentini for Vogue, Lara Stone for Bazaar, Raquel Zimmermann for W.

... Natalia Vodianova as Red Riding Hood for Vogue.

.... D&G fall '09 campaign, Regina @ Marilyn for Tush Magazine.

.... Siri Tollerod for Vogue Italia.

Preppy. Cecilia Mendez for Marie Claire, fall '09 campaigns at Payless, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and United Colors of Benetton.

Cute/whimsy. Emina Cunmulaj and Cecilia Mendez for Marie-Claire.

.... Liya Kebede for Vogue, fall '09 campaigns at Volcom and Coach.

.... Swatch fall '09 campaign, Sasha P for Vogue Nippon.

Hot/sexy. Amber Valletta for... wherever I saw this, Raquel Zimmermann for W.

..... Raquel Zimmermann for W, Bebe fall '09 ad.

..... Valentino fall '09 ad, Kate Moss for Vogue Paris.

..... GUESS and Versace fall '09 campaigns.

Tailored. In color: Raquel Zimmermann for W.

.... Camilla Belle in vintage Dior for Marie Claire, Tiiu Kuik for ELLE Sweden, fall '09 campaigns at Blumarine, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Trussardi.

.... Chanel boucle runway look, Katie Fogarty and Kendra Spears in Bazaar, Masha Novolesova in Vogue Russia.

Prints. Fall '09 campaigns at Etro and Blumarine.

..... Steven Meisel's 2007 "Vogue Patterns" editorial.

Accessories. Siri Tollerod for Bazaar (image 1-2), Raquel Zimmermann for W (image 3-6).

What about you, dear readers? Are you a multicolor junkie, monochromate, printophile.... or do you stick with black and white, adding a little color here and there whenever the need arises? And how many of you mix hot pink and red on a regular basis? I did yesterday, and I believe my color consultant would have fainted, had she seen me saunter down the street - pale faced and all....

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