Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Service of Antidotes to Decorating and Fashion Insecurities

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Alexandra & Michael Miller, Everyman Works, Brooklyn

Americans’ insecurities about decorating their homes is well documented. Google the subject: you’ll see. I know this first hand from interviewing retailers and interior designers over years, starting with a stint eons ago at Art & Antiques Magazine. Fine antique shop owners had a heck of a time fighting a fear of being different. For starters, people dread unsolicited feedback from friends and mothers-in-law, as in “Why did you choose THAT style, color or pattern?” on walls and upholstery to china. Frame shops thrive when called in to fill a new house with art because a homeowner doesn’t know where to start [and perhaps would like someone else to blame?]

Renee Weiss Chase, Cloth2Clay, Collingswood, N.J.

The good news: According to Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I maintain that there are those who bend over backwards to achieve a special look in their homes filled with visual surprises that they love—that are the decorative equivalent of a squeeze of lemon or lime to perfect a dish or drink. And these people are in luck: American-made decorative accents, photography, sculpture and furniture will be exhibited this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum at my client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn. [The Eastern Parkway subway stop is literally steps from the museum door and there’s a large parking lot.]

Lori Kaplan, NY jeweler

Does the same self-doubt apply to fashion? I’ve not studied the industry so I can rely only on my own experience and observations: A remarkable accent—scarf, jewelry, hat or jacket–on a classic ensemble brightens the wearer whose posture and expression beam with joy and confidence. Imagine giving such a bonus with your holiday presents this season. One Brooklyn Museum member, a loyal craft show visitor and successful business owner told me: “My whole wardrobe this year was from [last year’s] show. ”

Why do you think so many fear decorating their homes? Do you? What is one of your favorite fashion accessories? Where did you find it or was it a gift? Do you explore fine craft shows as a resource for unusual, handsome gifts and additions to your home and wardrobe?

 

Milliner Karen Morris, Minneapolis, Minn.

Catherine Joseph, C Joseph NY, Huntington

Furniture maker Bok Read, Media, Pa.

The Gift of Giving Back: Handmade Global Design at NY Now

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

 

Aid Through Trade “Coral Reef”

Charity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of NY Now, the former NY Gift Show. This August I visited a different section than in previous seasons: Handmade Global Design. Giving back was a recurring theme for many of these exhibitors. In some cases they donate money to charities; in others, through their efforts, lives of poverty and hopelessness are transformed by work, education and access to global markets.

Some were members of the Fair Trade Federation. It describes itself as “part of the global fair trade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty…by continually and significantly expanding the practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people.”

Meyelo’s Fynn Rucksack

I call out two of its some 50 members listed in the directory: Aid Through Trade, one of the Federation’s founding members, and Meyelo.

The original creator of the Roll-On® Bracelet made with glass beads, Aid Through Trade employs 200+ women from Nepal. Founded in 1993 by former Peace Corps volunteer Damian Jones, he recognized that women’s lives changed dramatically when they have an income.

As I passed by Meyelo’s booth, I heard one of the sales staff say to a customer, “Our for profit gives back to our nonprofit.” Eighty women from Kenya make bags, earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, scarves and sandals sold through Meyelo. On its website: “Every purchase provides our artisans with a source of fair trade income, support for their community, and a global platform for their work.….We work in community development with Maasai villages and provide access to education, water, farming co-ops and medical needs. We empower women, girls and their communities with sustainable programs.”

Bella Tunno’s Giraffe Pacifier Lovie

A striking poster caught my eye in the Bella Tunno booth filled with collections of children’s accessories. It touted: “You buy one product, we give one child a meal.” Founded by Michelle Tunno Buelow, the website reports that “A portion of every Bella Tunno product sold is donated to the Matt Tunno Make a Difference Memorial Fund.” To honor her brother Matt, Michelle Buelow’s fund supports drug and alcohol abuse education, prevention and rehabilitation and programs for at-risk children and teenagers.

Aid to Artisans

Aid to Artisans creates opportunities for low-income craftspeople and designers in East Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Central and South Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa “to build profitable businesses inspired by handmade traditions.” According to its website, it offers “access to new markets, business training, eco-effective processes and design innovation through a network of partners to promote sustainable growth and community well-being.” The artisans make a range of products from decorative pillows and children’s accessories to desk accessories, ceramic vases, shawls, jewelry, home furnishings and decorative pieces, glassware and ornaments.

“Comfort for a Cause,” is The Elephant Pants Company’s slogan. Founded in 2014, it donates 10 percent of its net profits to save elephants. “Thanks to you, $145,615 has been donated to charitable organizations dedicated to saving elephants,” it declares on its website, as a result of selling over 400,000 pairs of what it says are “The most comfortable pants that anybody had ever worn.”

For a company to combine help for impoverished foreign artisans or to donate a percentage of profits to charity is nothing new but it appears to be a successful approach given the numbers of companies doing it. Do you favor such products when you buy gifts and decorative pieces for your home?

The Elephant Pants Company’s harem pants

Service of Fashion in August 2017

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Photo: lipstickalley.com

A friend wrote: “You have to address the issue of the way we are dressing!!!!! I don’t know where to start!!! Women are the worst offenders I’m afraid.”

She follows fashion and always looks just-so.

 “Coincidentally,” she, continued, “Boston is addressing the way female broadcasters are forced to dress.” She mentioned Heather Unruh, a longtime lead newscaster on WCVB-TV who resigned last fall. Unruh talked to The Boston Globe’s Beth Teitell about “the pressures women feel about how they dress on TV.”

Heather Unruh Photo depauw.edu

Teitell asked: “Should a TV anchorwoman be required to dress for work in a cocktail dress? Or Stilettos? What about body-hugging tops?” In “For at least a decade, women broadcasters have been pushed to look sexier on-air,” Teitell quoted another newscaster who said “management at her station has told women to wear ‘tighter, smaller, shorter, more revealing clothes.’”

Teitell continued, “What you don’t see is that many times women have clothespins in the back to make [their clothes] tighter.” She wrote about broadcasters who didn’t want to put on what consultants selected; who cried about how they were pressured to dress; who were told to copy the sexier look of another anchor who “wore her skirts short and her tops unbuttoned” and one who was reprimanded for wearing blazers that were “too boxy.”

Grasswalkers

My friend went on: “Too much information prevails for everyone, but I want to see no more:

  • exposed behinds
  • gigantic ripples of jelly fat especially near views of underpants
  • décolletage causing women to spill out from center and SIDES of cutout or strapless concoctions
  • garments that threaten to fall off
  • leggings in outrageous patterns and colors that make even toothpick size legs seem gigantic
  • dizzying, horror prints
  • excess of assorted animal patterns together
  • infantile embroidery over patterns–(including Gucci)
  • overweight women tottering on super spikes that generally impede balance and are often inappropriate for the chosen moment. A ridiculous off-shoot of super spikes are grasswalkers–transparent platforms that protect spikes when the wearer walks on grass.” [Note: I think the grasswalker concept is ingenious!]

 

“And it’s not just women’s fashion,” she wrote:

  • men’s bare legs are everywhere
  • the sockless high water line of men’s ankles stare at us out of tie shoes
  • the sickening view of men’s undies or behinds peeking out of pants that are about to fall down
  • relatively sheer exercise shorts that are generally not attractive outside of the gym no matter what designers tout

This is all without touching on age appropriate fashion for either sex or work versus leisure. We have become both boring and repulsive in our tastelessness. I don’t mean that I think I am a paragon of style and taste, but I try to err on the side of discretion.

Even though traditional TV viewership is down in the first quarter—11.2% by millennials 25-34 and almost 5 percent by Gen Xers 35-49 according to marketingcharts.com–do you still think some women take their fashion cues from broadcasters squeezed into their attire or is the desperate attempt to drum up male viewership unrelated to style?

Is fashion out of kilter or is it that some men and women have lost their compass for what looks good on them?

What or who is influencing some to dress in such a sloppy way?

Kim Kardashian Photo: dmarge.com

Service of Dress Codes

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Photo: vimeo.com

Photo: vimeo.com

I’m late to the discussion of whether or not the United Airlines gate agent was right or wrong to refuse two teens’ entrance to a flight because they wore leggings that were considered inappropriate dress. Nevertheless I still wanted to chime in. I wrote about a similar subject last September referencing a radio talk show host’s wish that airline crews would be more assertive in refusing entrance to passengers who were dressed in clothing with offensive messages, in outlandish décolleté and the like.

Regarding leggings, I see people out in public in NYC who shouldn’t be wearing them anywhere but the gym. They are easy to maintain and less expensive than some fashion alternatives which no doubt accounts for their popularity.  But would you wear your bathing suit on the street if you were going to the Y for a swim?

One woman on the subway with an unusually beautiful face and hair had thighs the size of wine casks—I’ve rarely seen such huge limbs–and she proudly wore lycra leggings with no jacket or shirt to cover an inch of them. 

Photo flagship.com

Photo flagship.com

Back to the gate agent: The airline had rules that if you were a “pass rider,” as the evicted teens were, you were subject to a certain dress code because you were given a deep dish discount thanks to your friend or family relationship to an employee.

In this case, I side with the airline: If you accept their gift, they hold the cards. Pay full price and dress as you like.

Children in uniformMy siding with the airlines happens for a lot of reasons. First, I believe in rules: you break them at your own risk. Second, I wore a uniform for grades 1 through 12 and we were told we represent the school when dressed in identifiable clothes. Although it’s impossible to tell who paid what for the ticket they hold, and therefore who represents the airline, United presented a similar argument in designing its regulation.

The good news: With rules like United’s at least a fraction of the travelers will be required to exhibit some kind of respectability. Who wants to be subjected to the repulsive appearance of fellow passengers while confined in the space of a plane? We appreciate our freedoms but people can’t be trusted to use common sense. I can hear a chorus of “Who determines what is and isn’t appropriate anyway?” My response, arrogant though it may sound, “if you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” Do you agree?

freedom

Service of the Comfort of Vintage

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

La la Land movie poster

Whatever “vintage” means to you—if you’re 20, 1980s films, fashion and décor might describe it while if you’re 50, it could be all things 1950. For some there’s comfort and perhaps a soothing visual to live with a grandparent’s furnishings; for others, reminiscences shared with an uncle while watching Audrey Hepburn on Turner Classic Movies brings smiles.

I thought of this after seeing “La La Land,” a movie I enjoyed. The writer/director Damien Chazelle is 31 yet he picked the 1940s/1950s romantic musical genre for the setting of his story. He added zero pyrotechnics, violence or gore and none were missed. The film set a record at the Golden Globe Awards winning seven including recognition for best motion picture—musical or comedy—performance by an actor and actress, director, screenplay, original score and original song.

Elle.com ran a article about what’s in or out in fashion. Nikkitight jeans Ogunnaike reported we should “anticipate a shift toward contrast denim styles in vintage silhouettes.” [This look is in contrast to skin- tight jeans popular today.]

I’d saved a December, 2016 section of The Wall Street Journal‘s “Off Duty,” because of its cover story, “Presents with a Past,” that featured 50 nostalgic gifts “whose origins date back decades and beyond.” The subhead continued that the gifts will “conjure a simpler time when the holidays were lower-voltage, but just as bright.”

Sidney Garber bracelet

Sidney Garber bracelet

Speaking of voltage, most of the suggestions would burn a hole in most wallets. There was a gold bracelet by Sidney Garber reminiscent of flexible metal coils first popular in the 1930s for $12,200; a 3-day slumber party at a historic English country estate @ $15,600/night for 16; Prada’s jewel encrusted mules for $1,150; a $685 pair of retro headphones; a mink stole for $5,500 and a chauffer to drive you from Paris to Versailles in a period Citroen starting at $370.

I don’t spend that kind of money for the loved ones on my list. The Wall Street Journal editors chose a few things under $100 too. There was a box of Turkish delight [$35]; a rubber band-propelled toy car [$25]; an apron [$47]; a ‘70s popular fondue pot [$95]; traditional Belgian speculoos cookies [$20]; a Mickey Mouse wall clock featuring a 1930s style rodent [$65], and an Italian knit necktie [[$90].

The J. Peterman Company catalog seems to be going strong with its focus on vintage-inspired men and women’s fashion.

Have you noticed vintage influences creeping back more now than in recent years? Do you welcome them or consider them old fashioned and therefore not worthy of your attention? Do you think that in turbulent times people look back to what they recall or think may have been a calmer period?

 Belgian Speculoos cookies

Service of Buyer’s Remorse

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Photo: realsimple.com

Photo: realsimple.com

“The Lists Issue: Style and Fashion” page of last weekend’s Wall Street Journal’s “Off Duty” section asked five “stylish men” to report their “most regrettable purchase.” These included three pairs of a Clark shoes–all the same–that the owner tired of; a suede Ralph Lauren car coat with too much fringe; Nike sneakers with pink and purple accents bought online while under the influence of Ambien; a $450 umbrella from London enjoyed for 31 minutes before being left behind in a taxi and boots purchased on Piperlime, [it’s out of business now], with too thin soles discovered while walking five miles in a parade.

Too tight shoesShoes that hurt account for most of my mistakes along with a pasta maker I never had time to use so I eventually gave it away after dragging it, with good intentions, from home to home.

However, the one that stings the most and longest was a red dress I pleaded with my mother to buy when I was in eighth grade so I’d have something to wear at a Christmas party at school. We wore uniforms—except on Friday when we could dress in civilian clothes. My mother said, “You don’t like red and will never again wear this dress.” Nevertheless she bought it for me and I don’t think I ever did wear it again. When I think of it I still cringe at my selfishness.

What are some things you’ve regretted buying? Have you learned something from each experience or do you keep making the same mistakes?

 Girls red dress

Service of Wardrobe and Grooming: Planning Ahead for Women and Men

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Jane sanders

Last week I sent a note to winners attending the Christopher Awards this Thursday to ask them to look for me because I’d like to include them in a group photo that I’ll send media after the event.

It’s always a scramble to gather a good number of people by category–in this case authors of winning books–during the cocktail hour. I like as many as possible to share in the publicity opportunity. It’s awkward and disrespectful to tuck into a group of people happily talking, stare at a name on a badge, and turn away from someone because they aren’t the person you’re looking for so this year I also made myself a sheet with their publicity photos.

To help me find them, two of the women wrote back immediately describing the dress they were going toSarah palin wear—one bright pink; the other a green floral. Both my collaborator on the project, David Reich, and my husband laughed in wonderment that they knew so far in advance what they were going to wear. A third woman, after asking about the dress code, reported she’d wear a long skirt and dressy top.

I related to them: For one thing, I need to determine if what I plan to wear needs to be ironed by me or a dry cleaner. My hair stylist doesn’t work on Thursdays and no matter what I wear, if I’m not happy with how my hair looks, I could be in vintage Chanel and I wouldn’t be happy. However, the wonderful stylist, who understands these things, said she’d come in on Thursday for me.

And I’m wallpaper at this event.

Think of what it must be like for a woman running for office—or the spouse of a man who stands on countless stages in line of the camera’s eye. Men have a big advantage. They only need to decide on necktie color—blue or red—and to be sure the tie has no mayo stain.

Elizabeth warrenEverything about a woman is under scrutiny. You’ve never seen one wear the same favorite day after day, photo after photo. On the contrary, most on the national stage don’t wear the same jacket twice. Bad hair days are out. And makeup? Maybe D. Trump is concerned about the latter two but both are essential for women.

How far ahead do you plan your wardrobe for a special occasion as a guest at a wedding, graduation, baptism, or naming or as part of the team at a product launch, awards, client or fundraising event? Do you agree that most women have this disadvantage?

Hillary clinton

 

Service of Giving Up Trying

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Older woman Rolex

When I read Jennifer Weiner’s piece, “One Day We Can Stop Trying, Right?” in a recent Sunday New York Times “Review” section, I immediately thought of my friend Harriet. In her 80s, less than a week before her death, she went with her companion to Daffy’s, a now defunct discount fashion store, looking for pretty things to wear. I can hear Harriet calling down from heaven with an answer to the question in Weiner’s headline. We’d hear an ear-splitting “NO.”

Harriet always looked terrific, her hair just-so. I remember a striking cornflower blue sweater she wore on one of the last days I saw her. She was indomitable, for years traveling alone across country to meetings with a bag full of meds and a horrifying lineup of chronic conditions that might have kept most close to home. [I didn’t learn about her illnesses for years and only then when I went to the hospital with her in Boston when she fell and broke her arm.]

gray hair style 4Was Harriet trying to look young or to get the most out of her life? She always wanted to look good and enjoyed compliments about her wardrobe, which were well-deserved.

I felt that Ms. Weiner implied that because a woman wants to look good it means she wants to look young and given the examples she chose to illustrate her piece, weight has a lot, if not everything, to do with achieving the goal. [I think that some women of all shapes and sizes who “dress too young” look older than they are especially when it comes to décolleté evening dresses that reveal old wrinkly skin and saggy breasts, but this is off topic].

Gray hair style 3She also seemed to be critical when she wrote, “The truth, as any woman can tell you, is that there’s no place, no profession, nowhere that a woman’s looks don’t matter.” And she used as an example members of a London group called Overweight Haters Ltd, who handed out nasty cards about gluttony to overweight people on the Tube. I have friends who are not thin and always look grand. Think about the giant benefit of being zaftig: You don’t have wrinkles.

In one of two major examples, Weiner maligned Oprah for promoting Weight Watchers as its spokesperson. She argued that such diets don’t work because the weight loss doesn’t last and suggested what if instead of “investing in paid diets and microdermabrasion, we donated our dollars to worthy charities and gave our time to the food pantry or elementary school? What if we thought about adding things to our lives—new foods, new skills, new classes, new walking routes—instead of taking things away?” Rather than following the Weight Watchers slogan “Lose weight and gain so much more,” she suggested for the new year that we “look beyond the superficial and all resolve to make more of ourselves, not less.”

Three womenCan’t women do all this and look good at the same time whether or not they are thin?

She criticized Kyle Smith of The New York Post. He responded to Carrie Fisher’s plea to fans via tweets that they stop discussing whether or not she’d aged well since the last time they saw her almost 40 years ago as Princess Leia Organa in “Star Wars” when she was 19. [One would hope she’d aged….goodness me!] She’d lost weight for the new film and Weiner wrote that Smith posited Fisher should thank the studio for making her healthy. She verbally winced at the contention that thin equaled healthy.

Fashion designer Eileen Fisher and her daughter Sasha

Fashion designer Eileen Fisher and her daughter Sasha

If a woman wants to look her best, does that mean she wants to look young and must be thin? What about men? Don’t most want to look good? Is there a point at which a woman or a man in good health, with sufficient funds, should stop trying and say, “To heck with it, I can’t be bothered to clean myself up for any reason or occasion?” And doesn’t attitude play a part?

Older woman Lanvin

 

Service of Food Fashion

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Kale bin at Adams on Dec. 23, 2014

Kale bin at Adams on Dec. 23, 2014

 

I’ve covered this topic before but was inspired to write a reprise from a slightly different point of view.

I recently heard a gentleman farmer note that nobody bought beets from his stand beetsthis summer yet they were popular until then, yet, he said, he couldn’t refill fava bean bins fast enough. Have you made fava beans? They take forever to open. Where do these people find the time?

A few days later I passed what was left of the kale at Adams in Kingston, N.Y. on the eve of New Years eve. Next to healthy piles of eggplant, carrots, broccoli and nearby peppers mere scraps of individual branches remained. [I could understand why many stalks of attractive asparagus stood tall at $4.99/lb.]

Do you follow your taste buds or food trends? If you liked beets last year, why wouldn’t you like them this year? Is one website or TV cooking program wielding palpable influence on food choices? How do certain foods, like turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes keep their places no matter what?

typical thanksgiving dinner

Service of Nostalgia III

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Loehmann's

I haven’t covered this topic in quite a while and I hesitated doing so about this retail store that’s closing its doors because I’d dropped it as a must visit well over a dozen years ago when it became a shadow of itself. [Multiply me by millions of others and no doubt there’s the major reason it’s no longer in business.]

Navy blue sweaterAt one time and for years and years Loehmann’s was the place I depended on for my wardrobe. It was a store for people who love to shop, have an eye and lots of patience. This wasn’t the store to find a specific garment, such as a navy blue sweater or gray jacket. [Evening gowns were often an exception. In the day there usually was a perfect one at the right price but to be safe, you had to shop long before you needed it just in case you struck out.]

Some standout purchases: a spectacular raincoat and a magnificently tailored jacket better made than anything I owned–both with microscopic price tags. I tried on the jacket in spite of the marked size–far bigger than mine–and it fit perfectly. [It was such an incredible bargain that I kept the blue price tag in the jacket pocket for years because finding it there cheered me up.] Folks find great deals on line, but you can’t always tell quality—or lack of same–from a photo.

white blouseOne recognized challenge for Loehmann’s shoppers was that you’d buy slacks, a skirt or jacket and need a blouse to coordinate. Friends paid a fortune elsewhere. Not me: My budget taught me patience. Eventually I owned enough Loehmann’s odds and ends so I could create combinations that worked.

Audrey Hepburn BreakfastIn addition to evening gowns, the store was known for a great selection of winter coats. I predicted the death knell for the store in 1998 when I visited the Manhattan branch [for most of its successful life you had to hop a subway to Brooklyn or the Bronx], and there were only a handful of styles in any size–a first and a shock. You didn’t always find a coat you loved but you could count on a generous selection.

I have many Loehmann’s memories–the weirdo on the empty Bronx subway platform; Saturday evening jaunts that included a dash in to pick stuff to try on, a 5:30 church break to catch mass down the street and back again to vet the selections and the greasy spoon where we’d grab a bite before the store moved from Jerome Avenue–but enough about me.

As a lifelong discount shopper, long before such shopping was in fashion, I know that a store must meet its customers’ expectations while simultaneously keeping up with the times. Take Century 21. You can buy many of its bargains on line.

Can you predict the demise of a retail store or do you miss one that’s changed dramatically or that’s already gone?

Bonwit Teller

 

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