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Category Archives: Style

Mama I’m A Pretty Girl

When the woman was asked why she covered her gorgeous freckled face in thick pancake make-up she replied; “I was teased about my freckles as a child.”  The woman is now in her forties.  Another woman when questioned about her militant avoidance of grooming and style, explained that no one ever complimented her until she was 9 years old.  She too was in her forties.  Habit, is habit.  We all have them, some are more charming than others.  Kissing the spouse before leaving the house?  Charming.  Leaving the bathroom door open and carrying on conversation, not so charming.  But enough about me.

The issue with behaviors that harken back to childhood is that they are rarely helpful in moving us forward.  That is not to say that our childhood and adolescence are not part of us, they are.  But I’m not sure we want to take our behavioral cues from our 9 year old selves.  The point of aging (and yes, I’m told there is a point) is that we presumably get a little smarter with each passing year.  We learn from our own mistakes and successes, we learn through our relationships with others, and we learn from witnessing life.  By the time we are in our late twenties we know what “I’ll call you” means and not to take a craigslist ad at face value.  Somewhere in our thirties we might discover that the operative term in “work friend” is “work” and we are all extremely expendable in the workplace.  We may also discover that we don’t in fact “have a type,” but goodness, love and laughter comes in all shapes and sizes.  In our forties, it is my fervent hope that we learn to block out all the internal criticism (well almost all.)  We see media for what it is; photo-shopped, laugh-tracked means to sell us something, and stop comparing ourselves to what we’re being shown.  We realize that we are never going to be as young as we are right this very moment.  We stop wasting another minute being stuck and silence the mental loop of childhood indignities.

Recently a friend shared a story with me.  During a work crisis, my friend kindly drove a colleague from the office.  During the trip the woman regaled my friend with stories of how her mother ruined her life.  In the dark of the car, held captive, he listened to tale after tale of maternal slights.  That colleague was in her late seventies.  Her entire life (thus far) has been dedicated to keeping that hurt alive.  If you believe that this life, the one you are in right at this moment, is the only one you get, I suggest not wasting another moment.  Choose happiness.  Grab it with both hands and don’t let go.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Style, Well-Being

 

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Divine* Style

Writings about etiquette can be entertaining.  Whether you use them for actual guidance or not, it is interesting to get a glimpse into other people’s perspective. There is a lovely mystique, as we don’t often witness the writer practicing what they preach.  My fantasy of Letitia Baldrige is that of a woman who has never faltered and never once regretted what she has or has not said.  Writings about personal style do not support that kind of fantasy however.  The market is such that one would be hard pressed to name a “style expert” who isn’t a brand onto themselves.  Therein lies the rub, eh?  The platform of expertise is a bit unstable when we can see you.  I find it difficult to take style advice from someone who considers white a color or wears denim work shirts as if they were Chanel jackets.  And for the record, monochromatic table settings or home decor is not a style it is an absence of creativity.

Is it any wonder then, that when I come across someone who dedicates himself to living artfully, I am besotted?  A writer who extols the virtue of written holiday greetings and shuns the gift card?  I’m yours.  A man who lives life out loud and strictly by his convictions?  Color me a fan.  So of course, I spent last night at the John Waters’ Christmas show.

Good taste or bad, Mr. Waters does it with intent.  Always immaculate and exuding a quiet sophisticated style, Mr. Waters takes center stage and talks in the manner he writes (or is it the other way around?)  He waxes poetic about his favorite holiday and fantasizes about the perfect Christmas presents (books and more books) and films.  I can’t possibly keep up with the cinematic references made by someone who got his start in 1960s underground.  But I can certainly admire the encyclopedia knowledge of outsider art.  What is far more captivating to me is the goodness and generosity of spirit which exude from a man steeped in style.  With little fanfare, for years he has been volunteering in prisons and recently a first-grade classroom. (And the parents gasp.)  He is legend for his friendship and support.

While it isn’t that much of a wonderment that an artist lives artfully, Mr. Waters is willing and able to share his skill with others.  Fan of his films or not, it is difficult to not embrace his authenticity.  In Mr. Waters’ world, style should be synonymous with self expression and etiquette is synonymous with decency.  I want to live in that world.

*Divine (1945-1988) star of Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble…

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Style

 

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Dressed In Holiday Cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.   There is so much festivity that only the Grinchiest of us can not find something to enjoy.  Sidewalks scented with cut evergreens, lobbies festooned in live floral and greenery, twinkling lights and flickering candles; it’s simply mood altering.  It is no wonder that holiday parties abound.  Whether your invitation has arrived on embossed linen stationery or as an email blast, the result is the same: what to wear?!

Special occasion dressing is at its core, creating the very best version of one’s self.  Holiday dressing is no different, but comes with a few (easily avoided) pitfalls.

Sparkle, shine, shimmer are the order of the day.  Fear not, a strategic approach will prevent you from looking like a female impersonator on a farewell tour.  If you are heading out to purchase a new tog, tread slowly and lightly.  There are party clothes being sold which are designed for a very small segment of the population.  It is an unfortunate fact of life, that on most of us a gold lame smoking jacket only conjures Liberace.  Head to toe glitz should be avoided at all cost.  With glam, a little goes a long way.  If you choose to bedazzle your torso, keep shoes, jewelry and bags in matte.  A sparkly top with a black pant or jeans can be paired with a more glitzy shoe.  Be careful with your jewelry however, or that sparkly top may start to resemble a tree topper.  It’s all about balance.  Just as you wouldn’t show excessive leg with decolletage, your sparkly mustn’t upstage your shine.  Be equally judicious with nail lacquer and hair accessories.  It is easy to get caught up in the occasion with results similar to a gingerbread house in the hands of a kid with a frosting bag.  All admonition aside, have fun.  This is a great time to take a small step outside one’s comfort zone.  Is there a jewel tone silk blouse in the back of your closet, yearning to breathe free?  Have you been ogling a pair of tuxedo pants?  Is there a shoe so impractical it should be outlawed?  Have at it!  “Tis the season.

For business parties (keeping in mind that “business” always trumps “party”) a workplace outfit can be easily festooned.  Slip on a sparkly or shiny pair of heels, perhaps a patent leather pump in a kicky color.  Stash your necessities in a pretty impractical clutch.  Choose one glitzy jewel (sparkly earrings OR necklace OR pin.)  Holiday parties are a great time to justify those vintage brooches.  You are ready for the office party where you will drink sparingly and be your most charming self, and do nothing to cause regret or employment uncertainty.

Because one should never assume, the following are ironclad Don’ts: Thou shall never adorn oneself with a theme sweater as it saddens Santa.  Thou shall never don a chapeau similar to that of Santa’s for that is an abomination.  Thou shall not reference reindeer in any manner; including the wearing of antlers.  I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.*   Happy Holidays!

* – Scarlett O’Hara

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Holiday, Style

 

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Sugar & Spice and Dressing for Vice

Mama Rose, Gypsy, Baby June

I have long ago accepted that clothing retailers consider children a very profitable market.  No longer are unwilling children dragged to a department store, up to the poorly lit, dismal fourth floor and forced into practical school clothes and durable outerwear.  Entire chain stores and boutiques are now available to cultivate pint-sized consumers.  One need only flip through an advert or catalog, or walk past a store, to discover that utility is the furthest thing from the “designers” mind.  Much of the apparel is trendy and costumey, not intended to last to the next season, let alone to the next sibling.

Yesterday, I walked through the GapKids section (remember when the Gap sold Lee and Levis?) due to a remodeling of the adult section (remember when “adult section” meant something else?)   I was somewhat prepared for the barrage of pink.  Only somewhat.  If I was a child today, I would be cross-dressing.  I have never enjoyed pink.  My mother tacked a pink bow on my head once (for a family function) and even the black & white photos from that day, prove I am not a “pink” gal.  Like most women in their early twenties, I made some mistakes.  One was in the form of a Perry Ellis sample sale double breasted silk coat dress, in pink.  In my pathetic defense, it was beautiful fabric, very well made and cost $10.  None of that prevented a co-worker from nicknaming me “Pepto.”  Pink has done me wrong.

But enough about me.  What I was not prepared for in the mass-marketing mecca for children’s hard earned money, was the Vegas/Burlesque line of apparel available for sizes 3-14.  One-third of the girl’s section was reserved for the merchandising of black sequined clothes.  There were little black sequined tops, dresses, skirts, shrugs (shrugs?!) and of course shoes.  I had to do a double-take AND pick up and investigate what appeared to be a pair of black sequined shorts in size 4.  I’m not sure I even understand sequined shorts for grown women.  To top it all off there were lovely fake fur white jackets, (a la Taxi Driver) for the little girl left out in the cold.  I suppose it goes without mention that there were no equivalent tarty clothes for the little boys.  Not a single Huggy Bear outfit in sight.  We all know that little girls are becoming more sexualized and objectified every day.  What I hadn’t entirely grasped, was that they are doing so at the hands of the adults who clothe them

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Childhood, Style

 

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Hello Gorgeous!

Rumor has it that October 19th is Love Your Body Day.  (Note: I would do some fact checking before assuming opposite side of the street parking has been suspended.)  While I’m not sure that schools and banks should close, I do applaud the occasion.  From what I read, see and hear (mostly by way of eavesdropping) this day is called for.  From tweens to seniors, there is a great deal of self war being waged.  We all have an off day, but there is something tragic about hating yourself every day.

I am a woman from a western culture, I am not impervious to the internalized merciless critic.  However, a couple of adult decades under my belt has pretty much muted that little voice.  Has my body gotten better with age?  I doubt it (if so, I could probably sell myself to science!)  To be utterly reductive, I think I’ve (finally) stopped comparing myself to avatars.

As soon as I was allowed, I became a devotee of ‘Teen magazine.  I poured over that magazine, not for fashion pointers, but for role models.  Like a Talmudic scholar, I wore those pages out trying to decipher the secrets.  Coming to adolescence with the zealot belief that life would be like an MGM musical, I desperately wanted to look the part.  ‘Teen magazine promised to be the most instructive.  I was self aware enough to know that Charlie’s Angels, and even Julie, the cruise director, were out of my reach.  But perhaps the fashion models, only a few years older than I, would hold the key.  The fifteen year old me, with a thin layer of baby fat, studied those photo-spreads like nobody’s business. I also, unfortunately, compared myself mercilessly to their perceived perfection.

I still find fashion magazines potentially instructive.  I now, however, understand the wonders of lighting, styling, airbrushing and photo-shopping.  (Hopefully, today’s young teens are much more media savvy than they used to be!)  All this is to say, that the first step to honoring “Love Your Body Day” is to stop comparing it to fiction.  The second step, is to stop comparing it to others.

“Others” being a version of your younger self, or the gal sitting next to you.  As far as the ravages of gravity and/or aging go, let me be the first to point out that you are never going to be as young as you are right now.  Don’t waste another moment bemoaning the fall of your bum.  Buy better pants if necessary.  (Truly, the virtue of good undergarments can not be stressed enough.)  And about that “perfect” gal sitting across from you?  She feels fat.

No one sees our perceived imperfections, they are far too interested in their own.  Whatever our shortcomings, we’re here aren’t we?  Isn’t that everything?  Life is too short to not treat everyday like a potential MGM musical.  Now as far as those off-days?  Change your inner critic’s voice to that of Irving Berlin’s: “Never saw you look quite so pretty before.*”

* Easter Parade

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Style, Well-Being

 

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