Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Service of Fashion that’s Memorable, Comfortable and Makes You Look Good

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Last week I heard an interview with Vanessa Friedman, New York Times fashion director and chief fashion critic for the past 10 years [photo below, right]. Earlier that day I attended a member preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute show, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” Friedman spoke of clothes with memories—I have a closetful. She endorsed keeping and wearing favorites for a long time and mentioned that people look best in the clothes they are most comfortable wearing.

Vanessa Friedman, left. Photo by Nancie Steinberg

I thought about a young woman I saw decades ago at a trendy SoHo bistro. She was trapped in a super hip getup that fit neither her shape, face, posture, hairstyle or expression. It pained me to see her. She could not have felt comfortable in her getup.

I reached out to a bunch of friends asking if they might describe a favorite outfit or piece of clothing they now or once wore that looks or looked good on them because they are/were comfortable wearing it.

Tulip evening cloak, House of Worth, 1889, Met Museum, spring 2024 Costume Institute Show

Me first:

After visiting Bourges cathedral in France, Homer, who despised shopping, indulged me while I ducked into a typical tourist giftshop with its standard junky fare. In striking contrast, in an armoire in a backroom were four jackets breathtakingly constructed and finished. One of them [photos top, left and right] fit as though it was made for me. When I wore it, I felt dressed perfectly and received countless compliments for years. I still have it and haven’t worn it for a very long time. I don’t even know if it still fits.

These days my favorites are my Uniqlo puffy vests.

Poppy fascinator, Met Museum, spring 2024 Costume Institute Show

Francine R

I absolutely love the fleece pullovers from J Crew.  Half zipper can give you a cozy turtleneck. Zippered pockets. Can be worn in every weather, except hot, with layers. Washes wonderfully!

Bob G-

I really don’t think about clothes. If they fit right, then they are comfortable. 👖 jeans. I hate wearing suits, but I had to buy one for a wedding this summer.

ERB

I have been and continue to dress in layers way before they became “fashionable.”  Keep in mind that I don’t and never have given a holy hoot about prevailing fashions.  I dress to please myself.

RF

This is historic. I’ve had many pieces of clothing that fit that description. In the era when I got married, it was traditional for brides to change into what they called a “going away” outfit, before leaving a reception. (This is probably no longer a thing today.)

For that occasion, I wore a dress with a short jacket by then-popular designer Geoffrey Beene. The outfit was a lightweight navy wool. The dress was sleeveless and slightly Aline hitting at just below the knee. The jacket was lined in navy silk with white polka dots. The jacket had three buttons that were navy rimmed with white. I had an early spring wedding so the outfit was perfect for the season. 

And worn with a pair of Donald Pliner low heeled black patten leather pumps. And a black patten leather Chanel style bag. That suit/dress outfit was perfect for so many occasions that I wore it for years. 

EAM

While I’m WFH, leggings have become a staple in my wardrobe. I’m also a big fan of sweater sets which include a tank and a sweater or camisole and sweater.  Sneakers have also become a necessity esp when commuting, I have several pairs and adapt them to every outfit. I recommend black sneakers, white soles which have become versatile.

Jim Gordon

I have little concerns or thoughts about clothing. I buy stuff that I think looks alright, but not often, because I don’t have anything fancy or expensive. I like to look nice and that’s it. I almost never go shopping because my clothes last a long time. I wear dungarees most days and shorts in the summer. I dress mostly conservatively except for some political tee shirts. 

DK

I wear black trousers with assorted black tops (sweaters) & business jackets. Work attire that can be smart casual.

Do some of the clothes in your closet bring back memories? Do you agree that to look great in what you’ve chosen to wear you must feel comfortable? Can you identify a standout piece of clothing you had or have? Do some of the examples above resonate with you?

1930 wedding ensemble from Callot Soeurs by designer Pierre Gerber, finale, Met Museum, spring 2024 Costume Institute Show
 

Service of Fashion We Take from 16th Century England

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Flats much like ballet slippers. No smile even though she’s in a comfy housecoat

It’s remarkable how much we imitate the fashion of Tudor England, at least that was my impression after visiting the new exhibition “The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Who knew?

Fancy sneakers Tudor-style

I’ll start with the obvious, the expressions of those portrayed: There’s not a single smile on the walls. My friend Nancie Steinberg postulates that’s because they all had bad teeth. The impetus is different now, but most runway models and those featured in fashion spreads look like they are attending a beloved relative’s funeral after a long night of drinking. The cutting-edge fashions are not making any of them happy.

Next, I noticed the shoes. Peeking out from some of the women’s gowns is footwear reminiscent of sneakers. Nancie, who has attended a few recent weddings, told me that many brides wear sneakers under their gowns at some point. In any case, dressy flats are acceptable formal wear these days. I asked Google when women first wore high heels and learned the 16th century, (but I didn’t see any heels on females in the portraits).

Fashionable women today are also wearing ankle-length dresses for daywear. And speaking of dresses—men on the streets of Manhattan are sporting them along with tunics and exotic accessories much like some in the Tudor-period portraits.

I am a lover of tights. I saw some magnificent ones on men.

You can’t miss the alarmingly tiny waists on women. While we aren’t seeing this look [thank goodness], our skinny models could slip into any of the gowns with room to spare.

The exhibit will be at The Met until January 8, 2023.

We think we’re so innovative in the 21st century, yet here’s another instance of “plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.” Can you think of other examples? What fashions remind you of times long gone by?

Love those tights!

Service of Expectations III

Monday, December 27th, 2021

I wrote the first two in this series in 2012 (though I suspect there are many posts in which dashed expectations are at the core).


Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

In one I covered highlights of irritants identified in a customer service survey where rudeness, passing the buck, waiting too long for problem resolution and having to follow-up too often topped the list of complaints and disappointments. In the other I described a person who didn’t send a message that he was kept waiting for his doctor’s appointment for three hours. He refused to own a mobile phone and didn’t ask the receptionist to borrow hers. Friends expecting his visit that afternoon were frantic when he didn’t show and didn’t call–which they expected him to do.

In a recent Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes responded to Ally who asked “Why Doesn’t Anyone Put as Much Effort Into Secret Santa as I Do? A reader feels consistently disappointed by her family’s gift exchange.” In part of his response he wrote: “This is like shopping regularly for heirloom tomatoes at the hardware store. You will never find them there! Try to lower your expectations before the unwrapping begins. Consider the other ways your relatives show they care.”

How many viewers of Face the Nation expect to be able to walk in heels as high as the ones Margaret Brennan wears [photo above]? Here she was this Sunday interviewing Vice President Kamala Harris. Do you think she walks far in them? I was on a set before a client’s TV interview where the host slipped off Uggs boots and put on heels just before cameras rolled.

Some friends respond to emails and texts and expect others to as well–but they don’t or it takes them ages to do so. Others generously share their contacts but that favor is never returned. These situations generate feelings of disrespect.

I see signs in windows for “quick turnaround PCR tests” for Covid and understand that there will be laws to punish those who lie as there must be plenty of them. They promise results in a day when the reality is closer to five.

My advice for happiness: Drop expectations. Agree?


Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay 

Service of Social Media’s Power

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

 

Fantasy Explosion booth in Bryant Park

On Memorial Day I visited Urbanspace Market at Bryant Park with its art, collectibles, jewelry, clothing and food from NYC businesses. Bank of America sponsored the “Small Business Spotlight,” allowing minority-owned businesses with revenues of $1 million or less to display wares in rent-free booths. The event remains until June 20.

There was a long line of mostly 20-somethings outside only one booth: Fantasy Explosion. Most of the others were empty. I asked “why the line?” of an attractive young couple near the back of a line that was moving at the speed of a bike with two flat tires. Their answer: “Instagram.” The patience of all these hipsters was ironic because instant is more than most are willing to wait for much given the speed they are used to from their smart devices and food deliveries.

“I never had much hope of finding such a totem until last year,” wrote Jon Caramanica in The New York Times, “when I stumbled upon the Fantasy Explosion Instagram account, which was posting decades-old T-shirts from niche corners of the city — the type of shirts that are given away to people who complete a 5K, or to sanitation workers in the boroughs outside Manhattan, or which you can buy near tourist sites from street vendors.” This was his intro to “Shirts for Lifelong New Yorkers and Those Who Would Like to Pass for One,” with subhead: “Shops like Fantasy Explosion specialize in vernacular vintage, merchandise that conveys cachet and knowledge of the city.”

Caramanica reported that the 30 year old owner Kevin Fallon, originally from Rhode Island, has been in New York for six years. He wrote that the popular vintage shirts are available at an increasing number of stores and that manufacturers and high fashion designers have jumped on the trend. “These high-fashion versions of vernacular forms suggest that there is no obstacle to making the vernacular aesthetic a luxury proposition. But in a climate in which, say, vintage music shirts can command several hundred dollars, local vintage generally offers a more reasonable entry point; almost everything at Fantasy Explosion is under $50.” Note: Prices may have changed since 2019 when the article appeared.

“Wearing these garments is unusually revealing, as if you’re wearing a shirt with your own face on it. It starts conversations, and it’s a kind of recommendation engine,” he wrote.

I still have favorite T-shirts from Jefferson Vineyards in Monticello, Va., New Yorker Magazine, trips abroad and from years of Bard Music Festivals with signatures of featured composers. For space reasons I’ve have had to give too many away. And you?  Have you been inspired to attend an event or visit an exhibitor at a show because you read about it on social media?

Service of Second Hand Clothes: Good Enough to Give

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

I wrote about J. C.  Penney’s second hand clothes department in “Service of Second Hand Clothes: Thrift in Unexpected Places.” At Poshmark, his online business, Manish Chandra has added cachet to used clothing.

Chandra told Charity L. Scott in The Wall Street Journal: “We expect this to be a marquee year for secondhand items being gifted. I remember, a few years back, you might try to hide that you bought it on Poshmark. Today, it’s actually fun to say, ‘I bought it on Poshmark,’ and it’s something that people are even sharing shopping tips on.”

Scott reported: “Poshmark looks and behaves much like Instagram, incentivizing sellers to give and receive comments and ‘likes’ and allowing users to follow their favorite sellers. Similar to eBay, sellers take photos of their own items and sell them directly. Poshmark takes a 20% cut of many sales.”

The company added home goods to its offerings. In eight years, it says it paid “more than $2 billion in sale proceeds to its roughly seven million sellers.” Chandra said “Our mission is to empower anybody to become a retailer, [so] we want to keep the playing field super level.”

Chandra said “We think of Marie Kondo” [responsible for the trend to de-clutter] “as a specific moment in the evolution of reselling and re-commerce.” Kondo is the Japanese organizing consultant and author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” [2011].

Would you give a second hand item as a gift? Have you sold or bought something on Poshmark or any of its competitors such as Mercari, eBay, Etsy, Tradesy, Amazon or Wish? Do you browse and buy from thrift stores?

Service of Puzzling Popularity in Fashion, Architecture and Digital Aids

Monday, November 18th, 2019

The usefulness or wisdom of some popular products or devices baffles me. Here are a few examples:

Vested Interest

I like the look of vests and own some but not the quilted ones for use outdoors. Sure they look great but don’t people’s arms get cold when they wear them without an overcoat or jacket?

On a Tear

While I admire jeans that are worn from use over years–I have some myself that I wore for years to garden [when I had one] and to clean house. I’ve not seen one person who looks good in jeans with faux rips, tears and holes. They are obvious and sad.

Romantic Garden Elements

When I bought my house eons ago I thought a gazebo would be a wonderful addition to the pond surround and envisioned picnics and early evening meals there. An interior designer friend warned me that I’d never use it, would have to maintain the wood and that because of its design the weather would soon destroy it. I never bought one but still think some are stunning and romantic. They remind me of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies–didn’t they dance in and out of one?

Last summer I attended a luncheon party in a gazebo that was equipped with screens–an essential addition: We didn’t share our meal with one fly or mosquito. I still question the practicality of these elegant wood structures.

Where’s the Bus?

Passenger information display systems indicate the number of stops away a bus is [or the expected wait time]. They are terrific when they work: You can determine whether to wait at the express or local bus stop–they often are a block apart in NYC and you can miss a bus if you’re not waiting at the right spot. The information is handy in decision-making: Do I give up waiting and walk or take a taxi to get to an appointment on time?

The problem is they are unreliable and often don’t work: You don’t know when to rely on them. I took the photo below early one weekday morning. In fact, a limited/express Select bus showed up first–none appear on the screen. And while the nearest bus stop was in sight of where I stood, there were no other buses in view even though the digital sign indicated two locals were one stop away.

Are there popular clothing styles, architectural elements or transportation improvements that puzzle you and make you question why people buy them?

Service of Fur Clothing and Accessories: To Ban or Not

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Sales figures don’t lie. Suzanne Kapner reported that compared to the low in 2009 [reflecting recovery from the mini crash of 2008 no doubt?] fur sales more than doubled in 2018, reaching their “highest level in 17 years, according to Euromonitor International.” The all time high was in 1999.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “Bans on Fur threaten a Resurgence,” Kapner wrote that in spite of brands such as Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Gucci which no longer use fur and others, such as Coach, that won’t as of fall, others add it everywhere. “Once mainly used in coats, fur is now used to adorn everything from sneakers to pillows to purses. Sales at Canada Goose Holdings Inc., known for its down parkas trimmed in coyote fur, jumped 50% in the most recent quarter from a year ago. Macy’s Inc., which sells a number of fur products including mink coats and rabbit-fur keychains, has said fur sales are ‘fairly strong.’” Kapner noted fur lined gloves and loafers as well and don’t forget hats and scarves.

The impact of those who support the fur ban is powerful. The Federal Trade Commission, according to Kapner, “settled charges against Neiman Marcus and several other retailers that were accused of selling real fur labeled as fake.” Imagine that!

LA and San Francisco already have banned sales and New York City, California and New York State are considering doing so.

About New York City, CBS News reported yesterday: “The council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business licensing will consider the fur ban which would prohibit the sale of fur apparel in the city except for fur that is worn for religious reasons.” Fines would range from $500 to as much as $1,500.

WCBS Newsradio 880 morning show’s Wayne Cabot tweeted: “Notice two beavers on the official crest of NYC, which was built on fur and remains the USA’s fur capitol. A city council bill to ban sales has fur flying.” Reporter Alice Stockton-Rossini responded: “Thanks for the Beaver update! Not sure you can ban fur w/o banning leather and eating meat! Can we be humane to animals and still wear and eat them?”

CBS news: “Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.”

Kapner “‘Fake fur is made from petrochemicals and plastic, which is very harmful for the environment,’ said Nancy Daigneault, a vice president at the International Fur Federation, a trade group. ‘It will end up in a landfill and is not biodegradable. Real fur will decompose naturally.’”

Kapner added: “‘Virtually all legislatures that have banned fur—or are considering doing so—have exempted sheepskin,’ said Tom Garcia, the general counsel for Deckers Outdoors Corp., which owns Ugg. ‘They recognize that, unlike luxury furs, sheepskin is a byproduct of food like leather.’”

Back to CBS: “The furriers cast the argument in stark economic terms, pointing out that 98 percent of the industry business owners said they would move out of New York City if the ban were to go into effect…… costing New York City $3.3 billion in revenue in the next decade and leaving lots of empty storefronts.”

Should fur be banned in NYC and everywhere? If you own a fur coat or hat, will you continue to wear it if fur is banned in your city? What will furriers do to make a living? Will the public’s hunger for fur stay steady or be influenced by the bans? How will prices be impacted? If you’ve always wanted a fur coat and couldn’t afford one, will this be your chance to buy one or as contraband will they be even more expensive? Faux fur looks real: Won’t wearers be in danger of protester ire if they wear it?

Service of Vintage Handbag Styles that Don’t Work Today

Monday, February 25th, 2019

 

I’ve tossed a lot of things in my various and far too frequent moves but out of nostalgia I’ve kept a few of my mother’s handbags. I’ve not worn them because they are impractical and too small for all my stuff but they make me smile when I see them.

My real issue is with their short straps or handles. To carry them I need to use one hand that has other things to do like answer a phone, carry a bag of groceries or hold on to a subway railing when the steps are slippery. Unattached to me I envision leaving the bag behind in busses and cabs.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

That’s why I like long straps that hang from my shoulder or slip over my head and across my chest.

The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue that I passed last week celebrated the iconic handbag and some were reminiscent of my mothers’ in that they also sported short handles–much shorter than those on my mother’s bags. If I had a car and driver and the deep pockets required to pay for them and the handbags, I would be tempted because they are attractive.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

I’ve seen removable straps attached to small-handled bags that clip to metal loops on each end, but they ruin the bag’s silhouette and look awkward especially on a small bag.

Do you hold on to things you don’t use, even if space is at a premium, because you can’t let them go? Do you favor handbags with straps or are you comfortable with compact bags with short handles? Are there other vintage styles of clothing or accessories that you find best fit a previous lifestyle?

Service of a Once Iconic Brand That’s Lost Its Sex Appeal

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

A childhood neighbor used to tell me “You have to suffer to be beautiful.” In the day she was right. Women slept on giant rollers while now dryers whip hair styles into shape in minutes and fashions are also more relaxed. We’d never have dreamed of wearing sneakers or flip flops for any reason other than for gym class or to walk on the beach. Now both are the uniform of many in towns, cities and airports.

With obvious exceptions—facelifts for example which I’m told are very painful and make deep dents in pocketbooks too–comfort over vanity seems to have won in many of the best places. “Why Smart, Chic Women Are Abandoning High Heels [Forever],” wrote Chloe Malle recently in The Wall Street Journal.

Victoria’s Secret’s drooping bra business is the main reason L Brands’ stock is down 41 percent this year according to Elizabeth Winkler in the same paper. Bras represent 35 percent of their sales she reported. Customers are looking to the competition for “comfort and ease, not airbrushed fantasy,” she wrote. “In July, Victoria’s Secret’s semiannual sale was so weak the retailer was forced to extend it by two weeks and offer steeper discounts, leading analysts to declare the brand broken.

“Instead of $60 padded bras that sell male fantasies, women are opting for cheaper undergarments that prioritize their own comfort. Victoria’s Secret has tried to adapt with the times, ending its catalog, doubling down on sports bras and even releasing a collection of ‘bralettes’—bras without underwire and padding.”

Competition features different body types in its ads as compared to the Victoria’s Secret “traditional sex-infused marketing,” they wrote.

I wonder if the new team will adjust this image. The Christmas direct mail piece that landed in mailboxes this week [photos right and below left] featured the old Victoria’s Secret image and none of the sports bras and bralettes they claimed to have adopted. Clearly designed to inspire men to buy gifts and enjoy, it nevertheless ignored the reasons for the downturn in sales.

In a subsequent article in The Journal, Khadeeja Safdar and Maria Armental reported on additional moves the brand is taking to regain its momentum from adding a Tory Burch veteran/former president to run the lingerie division to halving its dividend.

Are you surprised that Victoria’s Secret was knocked off its pedestal in part by the drive for comfort? Do you shun uncomfortable clothes and shoes? Are you surprised by the trends for fashion conscious women identified by Journal reporters regarding flats over stilettos and less challenging underwear? Do you miss the formal days of yore?

Service of Admiration for a Modest & Successful Fashion Icon: Eileen Fisher

Monday, October 15th, 2018

I have always admired fashion designer Eileen Fisher for her simple silhouettes and comfortable clothes and over many years have mentioned to countless other designers the genius of her marketing strategy: In her ads she was the first that I can recall to feature models of all ages, often in one photo.

I didn’t know anything about Ms. Fisher until I read David Gelles’ article in The New York Times, “It Would Be Better Not to Call Eileen Fisher a Boss.” Her business approach is as smart and unusual as her using young, middle aged and old mannequins to show off her clothes and accessories. She sports the same hair color—white—as some of the women dressed in her fashions.

There’s no CEO at her company because of “Ms. Fisher’s belief that consensus is more important than urgency and that collaboration is more effective than hierarchy,” Gelles wrote. And her 30-something year old business is successful. Owned by Ms. Fisher and her employees, annual sales are around $500 million. “And at a moment when many consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality, sustainability and durability, the company’s longstanding values are deeply relevant.”

She lived in a chaotic household as a child with nobody telling the kids what to do so having a boss in her first job at Burger King at 15 was “kind of strange for me” she told Gelles. She said she had an authority problem.

“I wanted to create a place where people weren’t powering over people. Where people were kind and people were together and shared.”

In New York she started in interior design and when she went to Japan with her then Japanese partner and first saw the kimono she was “very intrigued by the way it moved…..I was fascinated by the idea that one design, one shape, could transcend time, and be made new just by different patterns and colors.” Her fashions revolve around eight basic pieces to which she adds or subtracts a few pieces every season. Her customers read The New York Times and The New Yorker, not Vogue.

She started her fashion company with $350 in the bank, going by subway, carrying the pieces she cut on the floor of her loft in garbage bags to a factory in Queens. She sold those clothes–$40,000 worth– at a boutique show.

“I think of myself as leading through the idea, trying to help people understand what I’m trying to do, or what the project is about, and engaging them. I always think about leading through listening. I was a designer, so I didn’t have preconceived ideas of how this business works.”

The company has a leadership group, a board and she’s founder and chairwoman of the board, “but that’s not really what I do.” She thinks “co-creation and collaboration absolutely can work in a big company.”

The company offers generous benefits, Gelles reported, and employees own much of it. Ms. Fisher says she knows that the sense of ownership works when she hears in a meeting, “don’t spend my money on that.” Ms Fisher thinks “corporations should have to share a minimum 10 percent of their profits with the people working. It’s not socialism, it’s good for business.”

Have you worked for an employer like this? Would you have fit in? Are you surprised at how successful this business is especially in the fashion world with a reputation for rough gruff souls and primadonnas galore?

 

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