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Posts Tagged ‘looking good’

The armor of glamour

In aging, beauty, behavior, cities, culture, design, domestic life, Fashion, life, Style, women on October 17, 2012 at 3:38 am
Manolo Blahnik shoe (31 W 54th St - New York)

Manolo Blahnik shoe (31 W 54th St – New York) I wore Manolos on my wedding day, slingbacks like this. Divine! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have a chance to see the new film about legendary Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has To Travel, go!

You don’t have to care deeply about fashion or beauty to enjoy it, although for those of us who do, it’s a visual feast. Some of the people interviewed for this documentary include photographers Richard Avedon and David Bailey, 60′s model Veruschka, and designers Manolo Blahnik and Carolina Hererra.

Perhaps most fascinating are the brief glimpses of Vreeland-as-wife or mother. One of her two sons says, to camera, he wished almost anyone else had been his mother. Vreeland’s own mother called her ugly, so so much for maternal warmth!

Vreeland was what the French call jolie-laide, with broad, flat cheekbones, a high forehead and a personal style she honed to a very sharp edge.

She was very much self-invented, and her boldness came from a sort of social confidence that comes, to many women, from being well-married and well-employed. One interviewee recalls her sending roses to Alaska for a shoot. What Diana wanted, Diana usually got.

I spent four hours the other day sitting at Saks, at the mother ship on Fifth Avenue, to sell copies of my book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, which gave me a front-row seat to some of the nation’s wealthiest and best-dressed shoppers. It was interesting to watch how carefully some women put themselves together.

I grew up around two women who cared deeply about their appearance, their figures, their clothing and hair and jewelry. For my mother and stepmother, being beautiful, thin and well-dressed was terribly important, and they disdained women who didn’t share their values. My mother modeled for the Vancouver Sun as a newlywed in her early 20s and my step-mother had studied dance seriously.

Neither woman ever attended college, so their wit, smarts and style were essential to their success.

I still remember many of their clothes and jewelry, and very much wanted to have their female self-confidence. But I left my mother’s care at 14 and my stepmother was not someone eager to share her secrets. So I had to figure out this how-to-be-pretty thing on my own.

I was also bullied for two years in high school, called Doglin by a gang of boys, which severely dinged any desire to draw attention to my physical appearance. I was smart, verbally adept and confident, and that was what (and did) would carry me through the University of Toronto, filled with whip-smart men and women, in the late 1970s, a time when second-wave feminism was in full flush and women were a lot more concerned with being smart and listened to than decorative and appreciated for their physical beauty. Thank God!

But I’ve become much more interested in glamour as I age. After 40, it’s unwise to be quite so careless about your appearance — at least if you wish to be taken seriously by your professional peers, employers and competitors.

This is, clearly, influenced by region and industry. The sort of no-make-up asexual look favored in parts of New England, or the T-shirt and jeans schlubbiness of Silicon Valley, just looks weird and unsophisticated in places like Montreal and Paris, where defined personal style is (yay!) both expected and relished.  I lived in both cities in my 20s and 30s, which changed forever my sense of style — great accessories rule!

Details do matter — a high-cut armhole and a properly hemmed trouser, a silk pocket square, a highly polished boot, freshly-trimmed hair all send a powerful message. I thrive on visual beauty and, (beyond the hopelessly selfish and vain and the dreary label-whores), simply really enjoy a man or woman who has taken the time and thought to present an attractive appearance.

When I lived in rural New Hampshire, a man once chastised me (!) for my emerald green ankle high boots for mud season because…they were not black. I moved to New York within a few months after that dreadfully boring bit of bossiness.

I love glamour, and if I were rich, would stock up on clothes by Dries van Noten, The Row, Etro and Donna Karan, my favored mix of simple minimalism and lush bohemianism. Still mourning a pair of ruby red knee-high suede boots I tossed 20 years ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, do you arm yourself with elegance?

If not, why not?

Choos? Chuck Taylors? Doc Martens? What’s Your Style Tribe?

In behavior, business, culture, design, Fashion, Style, women, work on December 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm
Distinctive yellow stitching on Doc Martens shoes.

Docs! Image via Wikipedia

As we head into 2011 — and the publication of my second book, “Malled; My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, April 2011) — I’m seriously re-thinking how I dress, knowing media interviews and speaking events are soon to fill my calendar. As I wrote in the book, a memoir of selling clothing in a suburban mall, working with men and women 20 to 30 years younger whose looks were so different from my own reminded me weekly how differently we each choose to present ourselves to the wider world.

I typically go for classic, European-inflected choices: a few Hermes silk carres, brown suede Ferragamo loafers, triple-ply cashmere cardigans, gold or silver jewelry, leavened and quirked with bits of vintage, like sky blue suede gloves or a fab ’40s black mohair hat. (Thank heaven for my secret source consignment shops!)

I prefer navy, camel, gray and cream to black, New York’s official uniform. Prints? Not so much.

adore accessories. Especially when you’re on a tight budget, as I’ve been in recent years, mixing it up with fab, affordable accessories can keep you looking and feeling au courant.

My most consistent style signifier is a scarf or muffler, whether silver-shot ash gray ($38, Ann Taylor) or the four crinkled silk ones I bought years ago at Banana Republic (cream, brilliant pink, chocolate brown, ashes of roses.) I buy them long and wide enough that they also work as sashes or shawls. I have scarves of vintage Victorian paisley wool and embroidered silk and modern pieces like the looped circles of burgundy wool I bought from a Paris street vendor.

Once, desperate to finish off a black-tie outfit (Carolina Herrera-esque white cotton shirt and teal silk taffeta wide skirt), I fished out a silk net scarf, in bottle green, I’d bought decades earlier in the Paris flea market. Parfait!

I still have, somewhere, the black suede Doc Marten lace-ups I bought in a London flea market. They are super-comfortable, classic, indestructible. But I haven’t worn them in years. I was feeling snoozy and boring, so I recently took, for me, a huge style risk and snapped up a pair of taupe suede lace-up boots made by Seychelles, edgier than anything I’ve bought in years.

I love them! (And was amused indeed to see a recent photo of Lee Ann Rimes wearing the same boots. ) What a hoot! Especially since she’s young enough to be my daughter.

I liked the editor’s letter in the December issue of Elle:

If there’s anything that expresses individual style, it’s a woman’s accessories — shoes, bags, jewelry. Lots of it? Pared down? Heels with miniskirts? Or maybe the soon to be ubiquitous long flowy dresses — with Doc Martens?…How a woman puts together her accessories is a delicate and surprisingly communicative blend of taste, class (belonging or aspiration to), politics (nose ring, anyone?), career and mind-set. Most women don’ consider what they’re signifying when they jump into their 14-centimeter black YSL Tribute Sandals or sturdy low-heeled pumps as they’re running out the door in the morning, because all of those notion of class, etc. are baked into their choices in the first place.

When you present yourself to public view, what messages are you sending?

Men, Don’t Wear This!

In behavior, design, Fashion, men, women on October 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm
Image of me, larsinio wearing a Lacoste polo s...

So NOT this....Image via Wikipedia

Shallow? Moi?

Hell, yes.

And I am not alone in this respect. Two popular blogs, this one and this one, recently weighed on on the deeply important issue of things men wear that make women cringe and flee.

Writes Vanessa Lawrence:

An ill-fitting suit or an ugly pair of shoes or a Silicon Valley–worthy bag signifies not what bodily imperfection he might be hiding but who he is on a more cerebral and existential level. Artsy frame glasses: intelligent, sophisticated, well-educated. A Savile Row creation: exceptional taste, drinks his scotch neat, financially stable (or loaded). A perfectly rumpled button-down and Levi’s 501s: easygoing, likes a good beer, open-minded worldview.

With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that every woman has her own opposite-sex style dealbreaker, an instantly registered faux pas that inspires revulsion and, in some cases, fight-or-flight vital stats. I know one girl who shudders at the mere thought of a popped collar. And many ladies are self-described “shoe people,” keeping their gazes resolutely directed downward for flagrant footwear offenses. (Sandals of any kind, bulky orthopedic sneakers and cowboy boots come to mind.)

I was tickled to see that the sweetie brought home the latest version of GQs Style Guide, and we had a great time looking through it. I can’t say I’m too excited about the trend toward very tight-fitting men’s suits and I really dislike almost all hats on all men, including (sorry) caps.

Especially caps.

I feel lucky to be with a guy who enjoys dressing well and whose classic sartorial tastes — tattersall, cashmere, thick wool, a Barbour jacket — echo mine.

(I’m lucky, of course, he appreciates my style. Not every man would want a second date with a woman who wore a turtleneck sweater to their first date. But that’s me.)

I still recall exactly what the sweetie wore the night we first met. I liked all of it, from the vintage gray wool trenchcoat to (yes, definitely eccentric, but it worked) the red silk Buddhist prayer shawl worn as a muffler. As someone lucky enough to have grown up with a Dad who — still at 81 — is an extremely snappy dresser, I admit to having my male style-o-meter set early and high.

Good-looking clothes don’t have to cost a fortune. (Vintage shops and consignment shops carry much great stuff.)

They do need to be spotless, fit well and flatter your shape and complexion. I fell head over heels for my ex-husband when he was a penniless medical student, and still recall a thin white cotton shirt of his I liked.  I have a thing for white cotton on men. Few things are as hopelessly sexy as a pristine white man’s shirt.

Especially when you give it to us….

Don’ts:

Pleated pants.

Cuffed pants.

Pleated, cuffed pants.

Baggy-bottomed trousers of any description.

Too-tight trousers.

Square-toed shoes. Thick-soled black or white exercise shoes worn outside a gym. Ditto white athletic socks. Clogs, shoes with tassels, hiking boots.

Synthetics. Prints. T-shirts with logos. Anything with logos.

Baggy/striped golf shirts and polo shirts and all athletic clothing worn as default casual wear.

Do’s:

Lovely grooming. (Not the baby chick, too-much-product-in-your-hair thing.)

Well-fitted crisp cotton shirt, tucked in, ironed. Maybe even starched. Probably uses collar stays.

Leather shoes with leather soles, polished to a gleam. Heels with new(ish) lifts. Suede shoes well-brushed.

First-name acquaintance with  a tailor, barber and store clerk whose taste you trust.

A clear idea which colors and textures best complement your hair, eyes and skin color. Having the guts (if unsure, which is unlikely) to ask someone whose style you admire to help you with this.

Avoiding most trends for the innate elegance of simple, well-made garments. Think Cary Grant, not Bret Michaels.

Men, what do you hate to see on women?

Ladies, what’s a style dealbreaker for you?

Mirdles? Men Discover The Joys Of Shapewear

In Fashion, men on May 30, 2010 at 10:12 am
girdle

Image via Wikipedia

It had to happen — men and Spandex have become best buds thanks to ‘shapewear’, a tidy euphemism for girdles, corsets, anything you wear beneath your clothing that sucks you in, holds you tight and makes you look sleek, trim and smooth.

Until the moment of truth when it all has to come off. Reports today’s New York Times:

“We are selling them as quickly as Spanx can make them,” said Nickelson Wooster, the men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus, which was until recently the only department store carrying them. (This month Spanx for Men arrived in Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, and at Web sites like freshpair.com.) “Men may not be talking about it, but they’re buying it.”

Men’s “shapewear” is “the next big thing,” declared Michael Kleinmann, the president of Freshpair, which sells underwear to both sexes. Already, compression garments from brands like Equmen and Sculptees, to name two, have been selling briskly.

Eighteen months ago, when Freshpair got Equmen’s compression T-shirts, “we sold out,” Mr. Kleinmann said. Men’s torso-enhancing T-shirts are part of a revolution in men’s underwear that has been taking place over the last decade, he said. Another popular but hush-hush product is profile-enhancing underwear, which he called “the equivalent of a push-up bra” for men.

The success of Equmen, an Australian label, is one reason department stores and online retailers have been eagerly awaiting Spanx for Men. At Saks Fifth Avenue, Equmen has been sold for less than a year and has already become one of the store’s best-selling underwear, said Eric Jennings, vice president for men’s fashion at Saks.

Women who wear Spanx know the ins and outs of a garment that squooshes all the jiggly bits into a likeness of someone who actually hits the gym more than the remote. They do work magic, but try getting into one! Then…..try getting out again.

The dilemma, for those who are single and dating, is whether or not to wear Spanx on a date you think might end up with the removal of clothing for frisky purposes. A pretty bra, front-closing — cha-ching! A pretty bra, easily unhooked from the back with one hand, workable. Shapewear? Not so much. Even being seen in acres of flesh-colored nylon and its shimmering sausage effect — deeply unerotic.

It’s hard enough  to peel yourself out of this stuff, but someone else? Someone new, breathless at the very thought of the encounter to come….and now it’s wrestling with Lycra time.

Best to disappear for a few discreet minutes. Remember the moment when Bridget Jones is discovered wearing granny pants?

Pull Up Your Pants, Bro! British Man (Barely) Avoids Prosecution For Saggy Trousers

In Crime, Fashion, men on May 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

Moments like this, you think, good thing I live in “the land of the free” — a British man narrowly avoided getting an ASBO (anti-social behavior order) for wearing his pants so low you could see his ass. Pretty standard stuff (sorry to say) where I live; I saw a guy looking like this last week on the train.

From the Guardian’s comment page:

Ellis Drummond was last week spared an Asbo for “wearing trousers so low that the public are able to see his underwear” after a judge suggested it was contrary to his human rights. Here some of the Observer’s finest minds debate the implications for Britain’s sartorial standards.

Euan Ferguson

…an Asbo for stupidity.

Kevin McKenna

The wise ones also say that a man’s kingdom is his trousers. Where I grew up, some of us were so poor that wearing trousers that fitted one properly was a luxury. Therefore, I feel that to wear trousers in this way celebrates the poor working classes who often had no choice in the matter. I remember there was a lorry that came round each week full of discarded clothing from the Romanian middle classes. You were lucky if anything fitted. In Cameron’s New Britain, wearing your trousers halfway down your arse may be the only means of protest against the Bullingdon club influence on our life. Their use of braces to control the natural movement of trousers is redolent of Oxbridge privilege, a paradigm of social control. We must retain control of our trousers…

Euan

Remarkably restrained. I wondered how long before the money/class argument would be wrangled in. But that doesn’t hold, not unless you’re seeking to persuade us that the subtext of any gritty working-class mantra was, actually: “We were poor but we were stupid.” Euan Kev, I know you’re haunted by class: I remember you quoting some definition of a gentleman as “anyone who gets out of the bath to take a pee”. Brain-wise, think of this. The low-slung look derives from people in evil penitentiaries in America’s deep south who had their belts removed. They wanted nothing more than to, in random order, a) have a belt to keep their trousers up; b) live in a kinder place with a job, or benefits, and always chances; and c) not be in the electric chair the next morning. For someone with all of the good things above, to actually want, when there are so many good looks available – tweed, I say, always have; tweed and knitted ties – instead to dress as if he seriously wants to be a hot crying man in a dirtyard on the last day of his life? Actionably stupid. Criminally so. Asbo.

The whole idea of an Asbo is so fundamentally un-American — where you get to let it all hang out, whatever it is, most of the time. It’s always a little weird to those of us who grew up in more restrained, less individualism-obsessed societies.

The laws came in in 1998 and have been controversial since: they can be used against anyone over the age of 10 whose behavior is deemed offensive or damaging to larger society. (I blogged last year about a British couple whose sexual activity was so loud it won them an Asbo from their weary neighbors.)

I hate the baggy pants thing, but maybe that’s just my narrow, priggish point of view.

Seems we’ve got a million potential Asbos on this side of the pond: walking while staring into a phone or PDA, driving while texting, reallyloud cellphone conversations in enclosed (or not) spaces, people who leave gym equipment all gross and sweaty…

Does this “style” offend you as well?

Would you vote an Asbo for the uninvited sight of some guy’s ass?

Jessica Simpson Naked — Now That's Real News

In Media, women on April 7, 2010 at 9:29 am
Jessica Simpson always knows how to have a goo...

Image by thefuturistics via Flickr

Her face, people.

On the May cover of Marie-Claire. It’s Big News now if anyone even vaguely famous is willing to be photographed without make-up and re-touching.

Writes editor Joanna Coles:

“We were thrilled when she answered the call to appear on our May cover with no makeup and no digital fiddling, and we’re very proud of that. Now that everyone Photoshops their Facebook profiles, we’ve practically forgotten what ‘natural beauty’ really means. Jessica looks fabulous!”

And she does.

Natural, un-manipulated. What a concept.

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