Friday, August 27, 2010

Models are so skinny, but they have nice hair

For an old Carolina Herrera runway show, Orlando Pita created beautiful twists and chignons accented by lengths of seed beads. I've been playing around with this look for a while, and am determined to wear it out of my apartment, to a semi-formal wedding this weekend.

I recall reading that Pita custom-made the haircessories, but that they were remarkably similar to the cheap glass tubules you can find at any craft store. To Michael's I went, buyings two shades, gold and copper, which will hopefully blend into my ginger without looking like bad brassy highlights.

Cost of becoming a model to have Pita do your hair (ie: lipo, drug habit, etc...) $18,500
Cost of seed beads $12
One afternoon of bathroom mirror practice $0
Total Savings $18,488

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

True North Strong & Stylish: The Bay Blanket Coat

I just had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver's Hudson's Bay Store on busker-lined Granville St. Had it not been for that pesky HST, this could've done some serious damage. As it was, I mostly wandered around enjoying creative marketing and display cases that would make Simon Doonan (creative helm of Barney's) proud. Witness below the elegant arrangement of upcycled Bay Blankets coats amidst canoes, furs, and other assorted stereotypes.
Each was reimagined by a notable Canadian designer (10 designs in all).
(left: Comrags)
(below, from left: Lida Baday, Pink Tartan, Jeremy Laing, Smythe)

The Smythe hooded swing coat was available for a steep $695 at the Vancouver store during the 2010 Olympics. I understand it sold out quickly. I do hope that this obvious commercial viability gives the company impetus to once again produce Bay Blanket Coats; I have been trying to find a vintage version on eBay for my Mom's Hanukkah present since 2005, to no avail.

My holiday shopping aside, it's definitely time for our nation to embrace the Point Blanket as the integral piece of our history and cultural identity it is. Remember doing fur-trade dioramas and War of 1812 essays in Grade 5 Social Studies? The Hudson's Bay Blanket is an icon of Canadiana. Or at least, it should be.

If America was built by men wearing Levi's Dungarees (forgetting the disenfranchised Chinese who constructed the all-important railroad), then the True North equivalent is the seminal Hudson's Bay Point Blanket (forgetting the rich tradition of the indigenous peoples who braved the climate sans woolen coats).

Not familiar with the Hudson's Bay Point Blanket? Please feel free to Wiki That Shit.

Family Matters for The Fresh Prince

I grew up with 'peasant vision', the 3 fuzzy channels that radiate to the rural outposts. My sister and I would rush off the bus just in time to catch the "bah-da-da-daaa" theme song of Family Matters, and then would stick around for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at 4:00.

Lately I've been having strange crossover dreams between the two laugh-track-laden sitcoms. Chalk this up to the recent press junket appearances of the Smith-Pinkett clan to promote Karate Kid 2.0. That is one in your face, capital 'F' family. I've been witnessing this extravaganza of Smithyness on Go Fug Yourself and thinking about how Willow and Jaden will look back on these stylist-approved getups just like us plebs get nauseously nostalgic over our bad grade-school bangs and matchy-matchy Christmas sweaters.

I suppose everyone's first stylist is mommy dearest, who is soon replaced by a mob of tittering mean girls somewhere near Junior High. Some ladies then transform into true trendy little trollops, taking cues from the frat boy whistles of college.
Nurture, can be a sad tale. We are conditioned to forget our parents' sage advice (re: tight, low-cut, mini). It is dispensed early and often, but can be disregarded simply because of the embarrassing unhipness of the source:

DAD: "well, you don't want to look like 10 lb.s of sausage in a 5 lb. bag!"
DAD: "those pants are so tight I could see a pimple on yer arse."
DAD: "you're not leaving this house til you find the other half of that skirt!"
MOM: "you're beautiful and perfect and I love you."
Eventually, a gal tempers a lifetime of social cues and What Not to Wear episodes with glorious, self-actualizing Nature. The most fashionable women I know are comfortable in their skin, freeing them up to be adventurous and lighthearted, clothes-wise. The can evolve their style, pay homage, and above all... satirize. People who don't take themselves too seriously (read: their self-esteem doesn't teeter on aesthetic appearance alone) just look better. If you don't believe me, visit Calgary during Stampede week. Some people wear the requisite plaid shirt, and for others... it wears them. The difference is night and day obvious, and all about self-confidence.

So, wear your vintage concert T's and the jeans you bought at 14 (if you can still fit in 'em please don't gloat). Buy new pieces for the life you have/want/deserve. Mix them all together. Taste is the comfortable middle ground between the dichotomous N's - between the extremes of Nurture and Nature.

Mom'll still think you're beautiful.
Dad'll still think your skirt's too short.
You definitely are, and it probably is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chloe Sevigny, she's got legs

This post is filed under 'Costumes to Cop', a label I devised to allow me to gush about my favorite movies on a style blog. Although Leonard Maltin I am not, I am cinematically omnivorous - I'll watch anything and everything. Like most people, I derive equal enjoyment from watching stars on and off the silver/small screen. The last thing Rachel Bilson did that held my attention was a 2-episode guest spot on Chuck, yet she seems to be everywhere... and damn, that gal has style.

So, celebs are wearing costumes (Well, if the average Jane Q. Public is seeing photographic or telegraphic representations of them, then they probably are.) Whether they are plugging their latest book, scandal, or just their own branded selves, keep in mind they are selling you something (A touch of sympathy would go out to those whose bodies are as good as billboards and relentlessly photographed, if they weren't so egregiously overcompensated. As Dirt's Lucy Spiller would say, "when you put on the red clown nose you expect people to point and laugh".)

Chloe Sevigny pulls off a tough look in HBO's Big Love; she's the wife in full-on Prairie Dress, complete with bouffant/braid updos and liberty-print floral maxi skirts. I imagine this transformation to be no easy feat (recalling my sister's Hutterite Halloween costume a few years back). A favorite episode was S4E8 in which she modernized her look to please husband Bill. This involved glossy Veronica Lake waves, a micro-mini, and a Clinique counter's worth of makeup. BAM! She looked startlingly like she does when posing for the paparazzi in 'real life'. This got me thinking about the tremendous about of time and effort (read: paid professional assistance) these gals are getting. Ensembles are artfully constructed and recorded, whether by a camera crew packed with beer-bellied teamsters and studio reps or by enterprising paps willing to follow young starlets as they grab Starbucks or walk their tiny dogs.
To be fair, Ms. Sevigny seems to be less manufactured and manicured than most. I loved her latest collaboration with Opening Ceremony (see: good little article about the megastore in Sept's Elle, the one with Her Right Toothiness Ms. Roberts on the cover). The capsule collection felt like ordering a sampling platter at a too-pricey-for-you restaurant - a worthy splurge on the chef's greatest hits. Much like Kate Moss's Topshop duds before, the garments seemed like things the actress would actually be seen in: washed leather, vintagey blazers, anything crotchtastically short, and booties so fierce they moved from gladiator to Olympian God status. For yet another contrived celeb/designer collaboration, it seemed awfully authentic. And isn't that why we buy branded goods instead of the generic, to get a little scrap of the dream. To feel a bit like Chloe, if only until laundry day.

The Great Wall Of Necklaces

I don't have pierced ears, so I overcompensate with statement necklaces and scarves. I often scour for found objects I can repurpose as neckpieces a la 30 Rock's glorious Liz Lemon:

Edie Falco: "I like your necklace."

Tina Fey: "Oh, it's actually a rape whistle but the whistle part fell off and I liked how it looked [pause] so [pause] I kept it."

Some of my favorites 'scarves' once lived as tablecloths (pick up great textiles in Chinatown or from Indian importers), pima cotton T-shirts or metal mesh that I've cut into strips (very Whiting and Davis circa 1972).

Here's a smattering of 'necklaces' that hang on my bedroom wall. I'm pretty big on what I call Sartorial Decorial (definition: the decorating of one's living space with objects designed to be, and which occasionally are, worn on one's person). Those are foam blocks from a dollar store tacked to the wall with pushpins anchoring the necklaces. For those NOT afraid of having to spackel your apartment when your lease is up, try real nails and spray-painted bulletin boards.

Ghost World

Teenage dirtbags: ScarJo and Thora Birch in 2001's movie adaptation of the popular graphic novel Ghost World.

I'm really pleased that The Big Bang Theory has found an audience, and was thrilled by Jim "Dr. Sheldon Cooper" Parson's recent Emmy win (my second favorite acceptance speech, after Tom Hanks' 15 second summation of Just War Theory). Basically, geek chic is back. Not since the Urkel days has nerd-lovin' been so hip. I have an astigmatism (yep, I wore the eyepatch as a tyke and glasses ever since), so I'm all over that like Ed Hardy T-shirts on a Jersey Shore episode. Bring on the bookish cardigans, sexy-librarian chignons, tartan minis, and clashing prints. Bonus points for mixing in graphic T's denoting favorite indie rock bands, comic book characters, or Communist icons.

At right & below is hip-to-be-square designer Luella Bartley's perennial mashup of schoolgirl cool. She was one of the first designers to collaborate with big box store Target, and the collection looked like a pragmatic precursor to the Gossip Girl wardrobe trailer. It was all bright colours, preppy shapes, and brit-punk accessories. Since then, she's retained the peter-pan collars but muted her once technicolor palette.

So, if you do your browsing on PubMed instead of YouTube and your fashion plate is more MTV Daria than Daria Werbowy, grab that inner nerd and shove her outward, for all the drooling unread of the world to see. As the girls of Ghost World would say, "accentuate the negative". It'll be so bad it's good.

Proust's Madeleine (or What To Wear When You Have Nothing To Wear)

I spend a lot of time standing in front of my closet in the buck.

For someone who chronically oversleeps, this is problematic.

There are those mornings where I actually contemplate calling in sick because I CANNOT put together an entire outfit and look in the mirror for more than 10 seconds without hating it/myself/the world. My flaky friend tells me I am a textbook indecisive Libra. I think I just have too many clothes.

A great tip, courtesy of Daddy Likey's book, Closet Confidential, is to have an all-purpose, ready to wear outfit stashed at the back of your closet for just such an emergency. Wise.

I have also found the following technique to be helpful; I call it Proust's Madeleine. For those of you unfamiliar with the reference and in the mood for some lengthy literary self-flagellation, try Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past or just Wiki That Shit. The entire novel results from the sensory experience, and the involuntary memories triggered therefrom, of tasting a madeleine cookie dipped in tea (very butterfly effect).

On those tryingest mornings I now pick out one item, one fantastic garment or accessory I had lusted to purchase and since been meaning to wear. This item, this glorious find, this madeleine... this is what I will wear, come hell or high-waist trousers! Everything else that it is paired with simply flows from it, as mere commentary.

Yesterday I tasted the madeleine sponginess of a truly standout skirt, and once it was zipped firmly in place I felt the pressure wane. From there it was the simple task of adding garnish, like wrapping the little white tabs of paper doll clothes around the naked bits.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fascinatin' Rhythm

I'm on my way to an out-of-town wedding tomorrow. It's a light summer as I only have three total, and none of them mine. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of the questions that came to mind tonight while standing, motionless, for 52 minutes in front of my double closet...

-who will be there and what have I not been 'seen in' by said attendees? (mental rundown of recent social events and corresponding evidence in the form of Facebook photos, etc.)

-how many layers of Spanx would make this jersey dress wearable? (follow-up: is the Spanx to Degrees Celsius ratio within normal human tolerance?)

-is this DVF wrap sufficiently low-cut to offend anyone during the daytime ceremonies? (follow-up: what is the demographic makeup of the guest list? [ie: number of buttoned up old biddies compared to frat boys friends still suffering severe Peter Pan Syndrome])

-does an invite that says "field wedding" imply the need for galoshes and one's own toilet paper roll, for when the porta-potty supply inevitably dwindles? We're gunna need a bigger bag.

-how badly will Westjet scrunch, bruise, and otherwise maim my favorite corset belt in transit? (follow-up: if I stay up late tonight with a hammer and screwdriver will I be able to punch an extra set of holes past the factory-made notches to allow for buffet binging and excessive drinking?)

It is the antithesis of the get-up-and-go rumpled chic that is my wheelhouse. Wedding attire is the ultimate in planned dressing, like a formulaic crime caper. The protagonist first fantasizes, then conceptualizes the scheme into a realm of tenuous reality, assembles a team, and ultimately executes the precise plan. I could have stood in front of that closet for hours, vacillating between self-effacing nay saying and self-aggrandizing affirmations (sample internal monologue: "I have arm waddle, but I DO look good in purple!")
Now, I get a terrific sense of satisfaction by travelling lightly. I aim to be a study in simple sophistication, well-edited elegance. My suitcase must be clown-car-like, from which I produce an endless stream of elegant combinations for the duration of the trip.

What eventually saved my evening, and a lot of suitcase space to boot... the fascinator. A simple, wrinkle-resistant cocktail frock is elevated with just a few feathers and a little netting, perched rakishly en tete. It's cool and unconventional (see also: statement necklaces, colored stockings, opera gloves, armfuls of bangles). The fascinator packs a lotta style for one's buck (in this case buck = squishing in suitcase, schlepping on planes and trains, wearing ALL bloody DAY from the "I do"s to the chicken dance).

Ridin' Bitch

Elise Overland ($1255-$3265)

Mall-shopping (which I rarely do - too many 'tweens), Phoenix & I noticed there's a real biker babe vibe happening right now. Leather banding, studs, lace-up sides, and zippers abound. I suppose it's a 'trend' since these design elements are seeping into businesswear and formalwear, far from their road-rash roots.

Coming from a biking family, I am much more comfortable with the whole 'fierce bitch' look, right down to the shit-kicking Frye harness boots. Phoenix, a somewhat unEasy Rider, will be trying to offset her picks with floral sundresses and demure heels. Wise, tempering the masculine with the overtly sexy/feminine a la Blake Lively on February's Esquire cover.

Robert Rodriguez's banded mini

In fashion as in watersliding, I favour a head-on approach. So don't dabble. Invest in an actual (read: functional) leather motorcycle jacket and style it anywhere along the Vespa --> Harley spectrum. Then wait for your your Steve McQueen or Bud Ekins to swing by.

Marlon Brando and Jimmy Dean popularized the Schott Perfecto in the mid 1950's. RIP boys.

The Good, The Plaid, and The Ugly

Bona fide prairie gals, like myself, were wearing plaid long before Ashley & Mary-Kate 'Bag Lady Chic' Olsen were churning it out under their lesser label Elizabeth & James (Eponymously, the two other siblings. See also, fancy-pants classics from their line The Row). But I did purchase a 3/4 sleeve blazer and two button-downs, purely to research the intriguing detailing that nips in the small of the back...

Oh, wait. It's just buttons. Or sometimes a zipper. Cute, but not MSRP $225 cute. While ruminating one night on these sartorial splurges, I roused from a fitful sleep... epiphany! I would transform my father's fugly old workshirts, now so fashionably thin and threadbare, into button-backed wonders. Suck it, Michelle Tanner.

Elizabeth & James Style LW081-223M $225.00-

Father's old work shirt $0.00-

Three loose buttons $0.20=

Total Savings $224.80

Power Animal Presents

I have two good friends, The Turtle and The Phoenix. They sound like a duo from Aesop's rejection pile, don't they? The codenames derive from a lengthy, somewhat inebriated discussion we had this summer about our 'power animals'. Typically way too new-agey for a skeptic like me. But after getting asked, "if you were a cheese what cheese would it be & why?" in a recent job interview... well, I've had to relax my standards on what constitutes an insightful or revealing line of inquiry. BTW, blue cheese.

Tory Burch turtle-print bow blouse

I would love to do a series of power animal gifts for my friends who are in on the joke (shout-outs to Cougar, Gazelle, & Rabbit) like this adorable rhinestone clamper bracelet that was a recent Near Miss on eBay - #120607083955. Vintage clampers (1950's-70's) are typically well-crafted, with strong hinges and decent weight/heft. Kitsch quotient is superhigh, although so is the likelihood of snagging those bunny ears on a beloved blouse. Also, haphazardly stabbing strangers on Public Transit with lupine accessories is a no-no.

My Best Friend's Wedding/Nailpolish

I have really ugly feet. From teenage years en pointe (and Dad's genes). I always paint my toenails red. They told me to blog.

Two of my bestest, childhood friends tied the knot on New Year's 2010. Even this gal's cynical heart grew two sizes, Grinch-style, listening to the nuptials and watching them shuffle slowly around the Lions Club dancefloor. They are romantic fable, beshert, meant to be.

He's an engineer, Turtle. She's a library scientist, Phoenix. Years ago, during what will someday be nonchalantly referred to as 'the dark time', Phoenix gave me the best gift I have ever received (step aside, birth mother... "life" now ranks #2). This present - unsolicited, apt, simple. OPI's ruby red nailpolish entitled "I'm Not Really A Waitress".

I continued to slog away at bars and restaurants for the remainder of my seven years of University education, addicted to both the easy-$$$ and the nightly J Lohr Cab Sav. Although the food service industry is home to raucous staff parties, softball tourneys, and deep delicious discounts it wasn't what I wanted to DO with my life. I'm sure there's some irony to be found in my equally lukewarm feelings re: academic pursuits said waitressing funded. (To summate, I'm not really a waitress. Ditto for both my degrees - scientist and lawyer). Also, the big three-O is a grade school bully down a narrow hallway... lurking, taunting, waiting to strike.

Lately my frustration seemed to be swelling, no doubt fueled by masochistic consumption of inspirational TedTalks and tired self-helpisms ("do what you love and you'll never work again!" Oh, well OK then. Wonder which flavor of cat food I'd prefer?) The trailer for Eat Pray Love came on yesterday, and I felt like reaching through the screen and strangling Julia Roberts skinny, self-actualized neck.

But then,

I looked down at my toenails...

constant and crimson.