A couple of days ago (January 6 to be exact), I went out to my car and had the SHOCK of my new year: I had to scrape frost off my car's windshield! Imagine that? I guess it's time to drag out the ol' "Field Guide to Winter Fashion."
Grandma's advice on cell phonesAn updated entry from the back of the rack!
When is texting appropriate? When isn’t it? How should one use hashtags while tweeting? And, under what circumstances may you “unfriend” someone on Facebook?
At this moment in history, everyone has an opinion on etiquette in technology. Preferences on the smaller details vary, but most users agree that the bottom line guideline for our digital interactions stem directly from the time-tested, common-sense, person-centered values which inspire good manners.
So, I decided to turn to my very well-mannered Grandma Brown for her take on the whole topic. Below is her advice on manners for our digital world, specifically regarding the use of the cell phone. (Yes, Grandma Brown hasn’t been with us for a little under 20 years, but work with me here.)
Me: Hello Grandma Brown. How are you feeling these days?
GB: Very well Mary Catherine. What is that little black thing on the table next to your elbow which is also on the table? Yes, that. My stars! It’s lighting up! Is that a portable television set?
Me: It’s a portable telephone Grandma.
GB: Why is your husband’s face lighting it up? Oh dear, that's frightening. And where’s the cord? You can’t have a telephone without the cord…God bless America, is that xylophone music?
Me: It’s ringing. I can ignore it right now and call Robert later.
GB: Well I hope so. I thought you wanted to speak to me about Digits in Etiquette. I have directions here for manicures…
Me: That’s “digital etiquette” and I certainly will put this phone away while I speak to you. My first question is about cell phones.
GB: Phones for prisons?
Me: No, this portable phone is called a cell phone, or “smart” phone?
GB: Oh dear. I didn’t know other phones were stupid.
Me: Let’s say that I have something really serious to tell someone but I am nervous about telling her face to face. What’s the next best way to speak to her?
GB: Write a letter.
Me: Oh yes, I forgot about that option. Well, suppose that my three choices are 1.) calling her on the phone, 2.) texting her, or 3.) emailing her. Which would be best?
GB: Do you live near her?
Me: Yes. Let’s say she lives right here in this neighborhood.
GB: My stars! Why would you waste 15 cents on postage for an F-mail when you can see her in person? And what’s wrong with US mail anyway? Has it come to that? Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never recognize this place anymore.
Me: Grandma, email and texting are forms of writing. Just not on paper. You can do both from your smart phone.***
Next week: Real help from Grandma regarding other issues in a world without FDR.
Recently, I wrote about a general lack of elegance in our times, but I'd like to propose that this phenom is really just an offshoot of something bigger, scarier, and much more horrendous: The rarely discussed but still very-much-feared lack of excitement for anything worth excitement.
Yes, it is the rarely discussed but still very-much-feared lack of excitement for anything, really.
We might look excited all the time, what with our selfies and hashtags and pithy memes. But let another twenty-four hours pass by and the selfies are scorned, the hashtags bump other newer and unrelated slogans, and the memes complain about the very things they praised yesterday. We are bored. We are bored and we've forgotten how to lift ourselves up out of the lazy haze of ghastly boredom.
Yes, there are deeper things from which to draw inspiration and find meaning and purpose for life. This is a fashion blog so I won't get into those truly great things.
On the other hand, since this is a fashion blog, I can bring up the very promising field of "enclothed cognition." Remember that? It's the idea that once you fake it with the "right clothes," you'll make it big time. Dress smartly and you'll be smart. Dress beautifully, and you'll be beautiful. This isn't just a lowly fashion writer's convenient theory; it's science talking here!
See where I'm headed? If you want a little excitement, dress in an exciting way. In other words, dress up!
This season (Christmas, New Years, My January Birthday) provides many pressures to feel thrilled. (But why can't I get excited for the twenty-fourth time of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," appreciate the reindeer accessories of passing minivans, or - even more radically - drag myself out for the New Year's Party?) All this pressure to be excited can make one, um, unexcited.
It's ho-hum humbug and that's a sad fact.
So, let's counter this pitiful state of affairs. Let's put on that red lipstick and shiny angel brooch for the children's play. Let's get the dag-gone-dangliest earrings we can find for the choral concert. Let's wear that fake fur vest over a gypsy skirt to church services. And, most certainly, let us wear the glitteriest, girliest, most glamorous gown to the New Year's Party.
I say YES to the dress and down with boring. Look exciting and you'll be excited (and perhaps exciting too!)
Now, with that in mind, happy hunting...
Fairy Godmother Creation
Years ago, a magazine editor advised me against including the word “elegance” anywhere in the name of a fashion consulting company I was starting. She added that although she herself valued the idea of elegance, the word would kill any chances with a young market because of its outdated and stuffy connotations.
I suspected that she was correct about this, although I had heard my brothers refer to cars as “elegant” and the word still had an association with luxury items such as jewelry or custom-built homes. And, come to think of it, young women still used the word when they admired movie stars or exceptionally well-made dresses. So I did what any idealistic fashion enthusiast would do: I ignored her advice and unabashedly applied the word to several of my projects.
I really have no idea as to whether or not the word harmed the marketing of the business, but that’s a thing now long in the past. These days, however, I have come to notice that perhaps the word “elegance” is not only anachronistic when used in the marketing of women’s fashion and fashion related items, but so also is the concept of elegance as any kind of reference point for anything in any young woman’s life.
Or is it?
I make this depressing statement because of the significant shift which seems to have happened in the world of women’s street fashion. On the one hand, today’s design for women’s fashion (and, for that matter, men’s fashion, architecture, home décor, and even graphics) is uncluttered, sleek, and mildly upbeat due mainly to the guiding aesthetic of a healthy and athletic body that’s ready to exercise – or perhaps dance – at any moment. It’s sophisticated at its best and willing to have a little fun with pops of whimsy and imagination.
Street applications, however, lose something in the migration from board to the commute on the bus. Sleek becomes ill-fitting and lumpy (picture leggings in all their glory, tight pieces stretched across not-so-athletic bodies, and shabby knits for traditionally structured items), uncluttered becomes lazy (think minimal attention to anything besides comfort), and mildly upbeat is reduced to funny graphics and sassy one-liners on t shirts.
As with technology and many of the habits surrounding the way we eat, work, play, and travel, function trumps form and convenience is the gauge for all things. Somehow elegance is simply lost in the shuffle.
Word meanings change over time. I get that. I also get that fashion – by definition – is a highly mercurial thing, subject to change with the seasons or the zeitgeist of the times. In fact, fashion also changes to distinguish itself from fashions which have passed; it sort of raises the bar for everyone to stop what they are doing, adjust direction, and reach higher for something newer and more relevant.
So if the idea of elegance also implied rigidity, snobbery, or pantyhose with lines down the back of the calves, then of course it’s gone completely out of style and would be the kiss of death in any marketing campaign among the young, the middle aged, or even today’s seniors (now, by the way, the Baby Boomers who threw the word around in the eighties to make up for everything they had done in the sixties and seventies). Certainly, misconceptions about its true value and place in women’s lives fed Simone de Beaviour’s assertion that “elegance is bondage.”
A modern lover of elegance will tell you that, of course, it has nothing to do with any of those nasty, elitist things, and that it’s all about the tone or spirit of an experience. It’s a sort of transcendence of what is ordinarily expected. So a jet plane is an elegant thing because it doesn’t just clunker through the clouds, but soars dramatically above them. A flower arrangement is an elegant experience because it doesn’t just poke from the ground as expected. It poses in defiance of a doomed fate, gracing a place which wouldn’t ordinarily include its kind.
In fashion, one could think of elegance as the ambient lighting at a dinner party. Sure, it’s not completely necessary like dishes and cutlery and food might be; but something is missing without it. A special something is lacking in the experience.
Then again, the ambient lighting might function as a cover for what is lacking at the table (or hide the blotches on the stemware) in much the same way that our grandmothers viewed a hat as a cover for whatever could be lacking on the head. Now, we might consider this same grandmother elegant if she covers every other part of her body. In this way, her clothing works as a sort of ambient lighting, obscuring the view of an aging body that just can’t compete in our era of youth and athleticism. It’s what inspired Co Co Chanel to insist that “A woman’s unhappiness is to rely on her youth” because “youth must be replaced by mystery.” (Or, at least it inspired the person who said it to her.)
So is it that simple? Is elegance just a sort of veil for the decaying body?
Often it is. But at its best that’s not the intent. The driving aesthetic of elegance is the uplifting (think soaring above) consideration for things far beyond merely practical purposes. If “mystery” (as in Co Co’s meaning) is a result, then it is one of the lesser results; a sort of accidental byproduct. It’s what Audrey Hepburn meant by “Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.”
So really, elegance is simply the affirmation that life is worth our efforts to keep in check the despotism of function. Every day life needs that extra special something, that ambient lighting, or transcendence above our material world. And no, this extra something cannot be reduced to the mere practical because, as the art and beauty prophet Roger Scruton observed, “Put usefulness first, and you lose it; put beauty first, and what you do will be useful forever.” We need beauty even in the most mundane of activities so that even a material solution must please the soul or we will eventually abandon it.
Of course, elegance takes work. And time. That’s perhaps the real reason it’s abandoned. Between all our choosing and buying and rushing and monitoring of screens, we simply haven’t the time or the energy.
But that, as you may have guessed by this time, is what makes it so much more precious. If we return to the bus to view our shabby friends and also happen to notice the woman sitting beside her, we might see that this new arrival has taken the extra time on her appearance and moves with the grace of one who knows what she’s about. We
delight in the scene the same way we delight at the flower which defies its doom in a place not quite used to its kind.
So is the idea of elegance simply outdated? I suspect that it may have waned a bit, maybe to the point of near extinction. But watch. Just as we notice that the special something we need as humans is missing, we will long to abandon the purely utilitarian. We will rediscover elegance and over time – maybe even overnight – it just might be the next big thing.
Time to check the stock pile of gifts. We go to the back of the rack to remember the basics of wardrobe building...
There's a great excitement once the pumpkin spice lattes and the woolly sweaters appear in stores. In fact, you can get kind of carried away with the crisp thrill of it all.
Keep it real for you by following the four steps below:
While I was in Junior High School I kept a notebook of all the fashion images I could clip from the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards Catalogs. It was sort of a primitive Pinterest account that ended in a carefully archived stack of about a half dozen of these notebooks.
The real high of this hobby came for me once the thick fall edition hit the front stoop:
So cool: a blazer over a turtle neck coordinated with a jaunty felt hat.
I still get that feeling of endless, breathless, awesome possibilities.
I suppose it's the current migration of the waistband upward, or the call for a more flared pant opening, or the ethnic pattern on everything from ponchos to bags that's got me strolling down memory lane.
But Fall 2015 looks aren't artifacts. They're fresh and accessible:
A blazer over a turtleneck in a monochromatic combination. It's about time.
The Poncho: An elegant and ageless update
Texture and print lead the looks so that nothing is boring this season.
And it can be quite folkloric.
And yes, the turtle neck is back.
(And so is the chunky sweater.)
Jeans with a flared leg and a mid rise waistband:
Especially for dress pants or suit trousers:
Coats just don't puff like they used to.
Plenty of bootie...
And fringe isn't so fringe anymore:
My favorite shoe is the girlie Oxford.
So much of this season's look is a smart mix and match of color, texture, and theme. I can imagine all the endless, breathless, awesome possibilities.
Maybe it's because I'm sitting on my back patio so much these days
(avoiding any kind of inside work like laundry, paying the bills, or
writing my materials for fall fashion) that the flowers have finally
gotten to my head.
But isn't it almost as sweet to see the same sort of happiness in a flowy maxi dress, breezy skirt,or blousy tunic top? And even if you haven't a single streak of Romance in you, you might be able to find something to capture this floral zeitgeist. I for one will cry when it all comes to an end. Well, one mustn't borrow angst from the future. Pick your flowers here:
Another Eliza J (Nordstrom)
The palazzo pant has made a major comeback this season. Sometimes, I think of the Bionic Woman, my hero from childhood:
(5 and up: Really? This toy can only be appreciated by those of sophisticated taste. That's obviously 9 and up.)
I'm not sure many join me in my enthusiasm for the palazzo which brings back these specific memories. So, below is a nice example of how the pant can work tastefully for today's sophisticated woman:
The palazzo is supposed to be breezy, a hint of a skirt with the feel of nearly nothing at all. A light weight fabric is critical, and the print makes or breaks the effect.
Makes (Printed lines are good. Just wear a shirt.)
A favorite of mine:
When trying on the palazzo, check its flow when walking as well. There shouldn't be a whole bunch of shifting and tilting and twisting. Think breezy.
So, what about the related "jumpsuit" or "pantsuit" that's jumping into our sartorial consciousness? Well, the same rules apply. (And with an added bonus...)
Print and pattern pieces are everywhere this spring: Floral tops, striped maxi dresses, leopard print pumps, gingham check, ethnic patterned bags, and watercolor dresses. It sure is pretty, but if you have the kind of fashion personality that can't handle this kind of sartorial conspicuousness, then you just might have a harder time at the mall.
Thankfully, the basics are there as well. Grays and taupes serve as base building neutrals, and even soft blue is used in a clever neutral way to accent any combination of colors. (Try it closer to an aqua hue and pair it with red; you'll have an exciting complementary color combination!)
Accessories pop out all over, but the big news is the small bag, especially the clutch and the lady like "Channel" style quilted purse. Totes and satchels are still around aplenty, but they are smaller and far from plain old winter-black.
See my take on this year's "Garden of Delights" on the homepage at Spring 2015: Get the Hotsheet and download it for your reference.
Last week there was an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times (Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves) regarding the evil cycle of beauty fixation campaigns for the average woman out there. (I've always taken “average” as meaning "one who is generally more fixated on saving her child's new shirt from a conspicuous mustard stain than on [insert body part here.]".)
The complaint is that now, in addition to the worry about perky breasts and flat tummies and silky hair, Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition has raised the bar (or, er, lowered it) by launching us into the new era of “hairless bikini gaps," or, to talk dirty, the mons pubis.
Okay okay, I’m just as befuddled as the author. But for a real treat of a read, try the Telegraph's Bikini Bridge Hoax: How the Internet Ate Itself and see that the female imagination has no bounds.
On the other hand, I can remember the 1990s Washington Post piece on nipple enhancement as the new, go-to accessory for women. Where did all that “go to” anyway? See? I’m guessing that the average woman, upon hearing that her nipples should be perky enough to be seen through her top, actually rolls her eyes and then applies treatment to the aforementioned mustard stain.
Unfortunately, it is true that we women can fall into any kind of self-loathing-body-fixated-vortex-of-pity for any period of time at any time in our lives. Well, we women here in countries with lots of food, shelter, and TV.
Even I (as in the "I" who runs a fashion blog) have my own little body part fixation: My hands. It's a complicated, love-hate relationship which I've kept secret for all these years. .
If you’ve read It’s So You then you know this. (So, uh, I guess it's really no secret.) You might also know that I continually recommend the use of rubber gloves; a sort of prophylactic to prevent repulsive and witchy fingers. (I’ll get to that controversial subject later.)
Might it be that I am simply mourning the nearing loss of my forties? In fact, just yesterday, my girlfriend Mary Anne and I were chit-chatting about how some changes due to age seem to elicit curious responses from our offspring. “Why is it,” one of us said, “that when [the adult daughter] sees me struggling with my reading glasses, she giggles, ‘Mom, you are so funneee!’” (I purposely neglect to mention which one of us said this or the same daughter might again say, “Mom, you are so funneee!” and we don’t really need that right now.)
Anyway, it’s true that I might be just a tad more sensitive these days regarding changes related to age. After all, not only have my joints been aching in this cold, but I just adopted a cute little CPAP (breathing therapy) machine to cuddle up with me and my husband in bed. (Yup. Insert that word prophylactic right here.)
But as you may also know, I have spent the last ten months attempting to sell a house (clean, fix up, paint, etc.), set up a new house (clean, arrange, paint, etc.) and homeschool my children (teach, clean, paint, etc.).
Yeah, big changes. It’s not the most glamorous life right now and I’m ashamed to tell you that for the first time in, oh, say, about ten months, I have at last painted my nails. And applied hand lotion.
Pitiful, I know.
So, where are the rubber work gloves? After all, I do preach about them continually and there are currently some pretty stylish ones out there in the wide world of fashion accessories, sans perky nipples.
That's right: No where. Not on my person, nor under my kitchen sink, nor in my stylish handbag. There is some sort of mental block with me in this regard. I get all the way to the cleaning supply aisle at the Fairfax Wegman’s, peruse the colors, note the reasonable prices, and then simply… walk away.
Let’s just speculate that my hands may be the one feature of my physical self that seems to be okay to neglect. (Well that and the bikini gap, bridge, dam, or any other feat of engineering.) These big hands with their dryness and absurd muscularity are my badges of honor. With these very same hands I wiped snotty noses, soothed little heads, cleaned toilets (not in this order), prepared meals (usually with some sort of scalding), and, more recently, I use them to exclaim dismay and disgust at any given wayward adolescent at any given time.
So, while I dye my hair, soothe the laugh lines, and moisturize my lips, I’ll just use my hands as my trophies. A sort of in-your-face-damn-right-I-don't-read-Cosmo non verbal message to the world.
Just when I get a free Sunday afternoon alone with a lengthy to-do list and new bottle of nail polish, I’ll polish the nails, ignore the list, and pretend I never wrote this blog entry. By evening, I'm waving my pretty fingernails around, pointing them out to my husband, my children, the neighbors.
And really, after all, isn't exclaiming dismay and disgust to your loved ones so much more stylish with polished nails? See? (I told you it's complicated.)
Yes, splendid. But first, some background on my credentials in the area of cold weather fashion:
The rumors are true. I have left Wisconsin. I've left the Polar Vortices and the sausage and the beer. I've left cold so cold that I was compelled to remind my friends on Facebook until they offered me money to stop posting.
So, where am I now?
Those rumors are true as well. I'm back where I began in the Washington DC Metro area. (No, really. This is where I was born and raised.)
And after six months of bouncing around between the outside and the inside of the Virginia side of the Beltway, I'm safely ensconced in a place called Springfield, Virginia.
And I really like it.
Except that it might seem that I longer have the creds to talk about black ice and frostbite. I no longer hold any authority on topics such as "poly or down?" or "how to rock a long john." How in the world might I rile up my friends on Facebook and what sort of story will make my mother feel sorry for me?
Someone in Milwaukee once asked me if it ever got cold in Washington. "Do they get snow there?" she asked. "Do they ever enjoy scarves and gloves and thermal underwear?"
Well, I'm here to tell you that indeed we do. We need it all come about January. And, just as our boots get ripe with stink, we can kick them aside for some Wellingtons come about late February. (It's beautiful, really.)
"And what," a client might ask, "are you to do about your famous 'wardrobe of coats' now that you are in the tropics?
Oh, I'm so on that wardrobe. There's no need to abandon the only real fun about winter; the hope of the cold; the benefits of living so far away from the equator. It may be a gloriously shorter season, but I'm ready.
So bring on the cold!
And looking splendid in a coat.
Below is the ISY Guide for how to do it.
Adopt an everyday-run-out-the-door-kind-of-coat (The kind that looks fabulous without your having to think about it.) Ensure that your handbag can rest where you like it (on your shoulder?) and resist the placing of bulky thinks like keys or Barbies in your side and front pockets.
(Larry Levine) Yes, blue. And why not?
For serious cold:
Accessorize with a neutral scarf (maybe gray and black animal print?) and you have an every day winner.
(Michael Kors) Or red. The zippers are what gives this one some swag.
(Nieman Marcus) A cape is always classy. Pair with a clutch or a wristlet and you'll look like a movie star.
Or, maybe not so dressy.
How about a puffer coat? Only if you choose wisely. The puffier the coat, the puffier you. (Nordstrom)
Note: If you choose a neutral for the color of your coat, accessorize with a glorious color for scarves and gloves.
The diagonal lines mitigate the puffiness and the light blue adds a soft touch.
And finally...the awesome cashmere coat:
(LANVIN) Hey! It might cost as much as a semester at Northern Virginia Community College, but one can dream.
As a free-spirited and (usually) unwashed child, I always looked forward to summer because I could run around in my little Levi cut offs, oversized tanks, and dirty bare feet. By the end of the summer, my clothes would be suitable only as rags for floor washing or furniture polishing.
Now, although the spirit has changed (it's a little cleaner now), the demands for my fashion have shifted radically: Long rides in an over-air conditioned car, unfortunate bouts of gardening around noon, and hours of labor over a computer, a stove, and a prolific laundry table. Of course, here, right now, in 2014 there are plenty of breezy, casual, and fun options for a woman who might still loose the shoes.
1. The Maxi skirt. It's just so easy. Below is a maternity option (might as well use horizontal stripes) and an idea for the rest of us. (Why add extra volume with those stripes? Go for diagonal or vertical lines or a plain solid.)
And yes, the maxi dress is even easier.
It makes me feel so Fantasy-Island-ish.
2. You just knew it had to happen: The "it-looks-like-a-maxi-skirt-but-it's-pants!" option. Although I have to use a shaper under mine, it's a great option for almost any event.
3. The hippy shirt. This friend works over jeans or shorts and is perfect for a worry free life without sucking it all in.
4. The high/low sheer shirt - over a cami, of course. This is better for me because some "hippy shirts" look like maternity wear on me.
Pair with some skinny to-the-ankle jeans or cute shorts.
5. I recommend only one sandal this summer: (Because, after all, my feet are closer to fifty than they are to five.)
Bouncy, flexible, and heavenly (Flexx Brand)
I'm going to love this summer!
I have the best job in the world. I really do. One day I could be digging through a closet with a new client and the very next I’m speaking to a crowd of professionals in a four star hotel. In the morning I might be writing at my desk in my fuzzy slippers (and lipstick, of course), but by the afternoon I’m training an office of financial planners on the intricacies of corporate dining etiquette.
So, I’ve worked with many women. I know that I hit the one thousand mark by the late nineties, and by the time my book came out, I lost count of the number of fabulous people I’d met. I suppose this means that I can make observations on the attitudes of women toward fashion, shopping, and – most especially – body image.
First, it is definitely true to say that as a sex we are awfully hard on ourselves. For some twisted reason, moms are tougher on themselves than anyone else. I say that it’s twisted because moms, of all people, are living the full meaning of their bodies. They have birthed, nurtured, and maybe even have fed another human being or two (or five or ten). A healthy, well-functioning, mom’s body is not a little toothpick of flesh. It can’t be. What toddler would want to snuggle up against hard surfaces with poky protrusions?
And yet, so many of us are discouraged; maybe even disgusted. Our bellies and thighs and hips and the area under our upper arms are the topics of our discussions continuously. We’re bombarded with rigid and often ridiculous examples of the female form by our media, challenged to wear cheap tubes of material in imitation of these examples, and then told that, once past our sexual prime, there really is no point to pursuing any example anyway. Well, that’s dismal.
But is it really like that for everyone? You’d think that we all see things this way by what’s trending on our screens.
Remember how I mentioned knowing a few thousand women? Well, this also qualifies me to make a sweeping generalization regarding the two types of women out there: (Pardon the reductionism, but work with me here.) 1. The woman who whines, and, 2. The Beauty.
The whiner is focused on her body. She loses sleep over its changes and constantly asks, “Am I fat?” She’s a real party pooper at girlfriend gatherings and she’s a danger to the fragile psyche of her adolescent daughter. Sometimes, she doesn’t whine aloud, but ensures that everyone sees how hard she’s working to get her “hot” body.
The other kind of woman is past it all. She’s so busy with her life that she hasn’t time to study her undressed image in the mirror the way she did when she was fourteen and wondering if her breasts were perky enough. She throws back her shoulder, holds her head high, and carries whatever figure she has with a sense of purpose. Then, she lives out her purpose.
You might guess that most of my clients are whiners and that they contact me because they want to look thinner, sexier, and younger in their clothes.
But that guess is way off the mark. The vast majority of my clients contact me because they understand the value of their physical presentation and want it to serve their lives; not the other way around. A client of mine, generally, might be at the start of a career, headed toward retirement, at home with young children, or doing everything all at once. She also, generally, is an inspiration to me.
Not uncommonly, I can see how, even with twenty or thirty extra pounds on her frame, a woman can be confident because she derives her sense of self worth from who she is. This is the greatest way to beauty possible. In fact, little tooth picks of people do not exude beauty (and warmth, approachability, or even expertise) if it’s evident that their sense of self and the meaning and purpose of their lives are somehow derived from how they adhere to the current thinking that “if there is less of me, I’m better.”
No. As an experienced consultant who has worked with enough women to be qualified to give out advice, I say the following: Live knowing that every inch of you is beautiful. Indeed, you are a beauty. Now go dress like you know it.
Another polar vortex? I guess the last one wasn't enough and we will come out the other side tougher, stronger people.
Or, maybe we'll be broken by this, we'll see.
Either way, you might as well face this thing with style. Embrace the snow. Smile at the negative numbers. And laugh in the face of the wind chill.
Or at least try these ideas:
1. Wear an extra layer of clothing close to your skin. It can be Cuddl Duds (or any kind of thermal underwear), thick tights, or even just panty hose.
Good investment In a pinch, DIY
2. Find an awesome hat. Hat head can be treated in one of the following ways:
- Just never remove your hat.
- Put your hair up once you remove your hat.
- Wear your hat head like you mean it. ("This is the current look children.")
Yes, absolutely This still bothers me.
3. Maintain a colorful collection of scarves. If you have cool coloring, wear a fabulous cobalt on Monday, a glorious purple on Tuesday, happy red on Wednesday, pure white on Thursday, and some sort of leopard print on Friday.
Yes It depends.
4. Get a pair of wool mittens. Mittens provide greater warmth than gloves. Get the cool kind with the finger flaps.
5. Check the back of your closet for that long lost coat that might just keep you warmer. No, not the Packers jacket. No, not the hunting coat. It must help you feel beautiful.
I find that fur makes me feel beautiful. I know it's not politically correct to wear fur, but just think about all those little minks who gave their lives for your warmth. Don't let that go to waste. And don't worry too much about being unfair to the mink. If you met one in person, he'd probably bite you anyway. Bump into a gang of them in a dark alley, and they'd probably eat you.
Avoid eye contact.
6. Footwear is tricky business in this area. Wear your snow boots too often and you'll start to feel schleppy. On the other hand, wear a cute little peep-toe flat, and you'll get frostbite on your pinky toe.
Go for a happy medium. Wear your snow boots for your commute but bring along your snazzy shoes for the office. If you're in and out of buildings in any given day, go for durable pair of equestrian, cowboy, or Doc Martins. In this way, winter won't get as tiring as fast for you.
A good way to freak out your mother.
Polar vortex you say? I say bring it on!
Suppose your adolescent daughter informs you of the following wish list for Christmas: Hot pink platform stilettos, a statement piercing, and tickets to see a band whose name includes the phrase"spitting zombies."
Then you, as if suddenly infused with that allusive parental wisdom which comes only during that span of time which begins right after the second cup of coffee but ends immediately after the first glass of wine, heroically resist the urge to respond with "you'll break your neck in those floozie shoes," or "I'll pierce your head if you even THINK about it," or "spitting-zombies-snowball's- chance-in-hell!" and simply answer with:
That's nice dear. Here's what I want for Christmas.
Okay okay, that's not the Christmas spirit. The Christmas spirit is about giving and not necessarily getting. I get that. But you are still technically back to square one: Finding gifts your [daughter, husband, sister, mom, dad, teacher] will cherish and maybe even use.
Just breathe easy because you are still riding that wave of parental wisdom and know deep down inside that your daughter doesn't want spitting zombies. She wants one of the gifts below! (And so do a lot of other people on your list!)
1. The book, A Year of Good Manners, by Margery Sinclair with original artwork by Jan Polk. This hardbound keepsake is the perfect place to record birthdays, anniversaries and any other date that's important in the family's life. I sure wish I'd had this before I'd forgotten my Granny's birthday. See
2. An absolutely adorable bag by Mary Alison. Handmade, colorful, and practical. They'll add a bit of style to your everyday look. See http://www.etsy.com/search?q=mary%20alison%20handbags&view_type=gallery&ship_to=US
3. A clever solution to carrying your stuff when you just don't want to carry much at all: Quivvers, a cross body carrier, perfect for a cell phone, money, or a credit card. See it at http://www.quivvers.com/. Great for guys and gals of any age!
There she is...the very stylish inventor of Quivvers, Amy Barnum - with hers.
4. A subscription to Verily Magazine! This is a must for young women because it is the one truly good alternative to magazines which repeat the same old mush. See it here: http://verilymag.com/
5. An item from the Little Random Boutique. Now this was a nice surprise! Random little things for those sensitive souls who appreciate unique items with special meaning - and the idea that 100% of sales go directly to benefit an orphanage in Kenya. Beautiful pieces at http://www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRandomBoutique.
Artwork made into jewelry
6. Sister Edna's Creations of jewelry. These are stunning pieces which will satisfy the pickiest of divas. Proceeds go to the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care, Milwaukee. Purchase at http://www.sisterednascreations.org/
7. A facial or a makeover with a trusted brand. In Milwaukee. It would be Tracy Kabara with Mary Kay or Renee Hitt of Merl Norman.
Find Tracy (my dear friend in Milwaukee) at http://www.marykay.com/tkabara/en-US/Pages/default.aspx?lcov=1.
On the west side of town, at Brookfield Square, find Renee Hitt at http://www.mnsalonbrookfield.com/#!__about-us/renee-hitt01.
8. The book, Provocative Manners. A fun read through common sense in stye and in relationships. See it at http://provocativemanners.blogspot.com/
9. A sweet hat for the little one on the list from My Kids Lids by Katie Segel. Gosh these are sweet! Check them out at http://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?q=my%20kids%20lids&order=most_relevant&view_type=gallery&ship_to=US&ref=auto2&explicit_scope=1
10. It's So You! by yours truly! It makes a great gift for just about any woman of any age. See it here:http://www.isyfashion.com/gallery.html
I'm so excited by these ideas that I've forgotten all about those terrible spitting zombies.
Having tons of clothes is not really an asset. Sometimes it's a serious liability. The real secret to style is the ability to creatively mix and accessorize the pieces we love. It might only be a few, but that makes it all the more fun! See what I mean...
That's right: Shop in your closet before you head off to the mall. Only your closet has the distinction of bearing items which you had once deemed fit to buy.
Okay, when you pull yourself together after a good chuckle, reconsider the statement once again. You see, it's true. It may seem hopeless as you stand there in your unmentionables, peering into the abyss and wondering how to begin, but know that deep inside a few sweet finds await their rediscovery.
So go in there. Be brave. And if you can find just 9 items such as the ones below, you just might be able to piece together a month of ensembles for work and play.
Now that I've convinced you that your handbag is a dear treasure not to be taken for granted, it's time to learn how to choose and handle this dear treasure.
Let's begin with a disturbing example of what not to choose:
(An armadillo spreads leprosy anyway.)
A fanny pack is NOT a handbag. (Of course, if I were forced to wear one on pain of death, it would be this one.)
Then there is the disturbing and expensive example of what not to choose:
Yes, there are some terrible sartorial crimes being committed - every day - in handbag choice. But not here at ISYFashion.
I begin with price. Below is a handy guide:
A reliable bag for professional life: Rarely under $50 (unless it's secondhand or on deep discount) and rarely over $150. Never spend more than $150 unless it's made of high quality, durable materials such as leather or silk. If you are dressing on a business to business-executive level, put the investment into your briefcase (a good one generally starts at $150).
When to go over $150? There are some truly well-made bags that are worth the $200 or even $400 price tag. You can tell by the hard-working closures, smooth working zippers, supple leather, strong lining, and reinforced straps. At this price, you should love the bag and demand hard work from it. Do not, however, go into this price range if you are only seeking the logo-thrill of one-upping your peers. After all, there is the age old rule of "someone-out-there spent-more-than-you-on-her bag:"
"Look at all my'c's'...it only cost me $274 on sale."
"Sure thing c-girl; I got L's and V's for $3400."
(No, I will not hairy-eyeball you if your well-made, expensive handbag happens to have a logo. It happens sometimes.)
Now, onto your handbag philosophy. How do you see your handbag?
1. The loyal friend - You have a single handbag. You choose one bag for the entire season and bring it to work and to play. Guidelines:
- Your bag must be made of high quality materials. In fact, you can justify a higher price.
- Choose a neutral if your wardrobe (including your coat wardrobe) is made up mostly of color. Choose a color (a nice zest of color) if your wardrobe (including your coat wardrobe) is made up mostly of neutrals.
- Ensure that the bag fits over the shoulders of your bulkiest outer coat.
- Inspect the bag every evening to pull out bulky items or clean up messes.
- Check out T.J. Maxx, most department stores, and on line sites such as Zappos or Ebags.
- Opt for a dressy clutch for special occasions, especially formal ones. Your day bag will understand and won't be jealous. Maybe she needs the break anyway.
- Love the bag.
2. The Staff of Personal Assistants - You enjoy having several bags, each for a different purpose: business, business casual, weekends, and dressy occasions.
- The bag which you use the most should be made of high quality materials and designed to last. The bag you use the least can be the "instant-update" (cheap) bag, as long as it doesn't scream "cheap" (no painted metals, no glued-on bling, no loose fringe).
- Ensure that a bag for a certain purpose fits over the largest outer coat worn for that purchase. (The weekend bag should fit over your weekend parka's shoulders.)
- You might be the kind of woman who enjoys a clutch or a hand-held, lady-like purse. It's the summit of style, but avoid placing it on tables or floors (especially dinner tables after bathroom floors).
- Consider color coordination with your wardrobes. You probably desire color in your bags, just remember to avoid hot pinks, baby blues, and lime greens in the winter.Go for primary colors, muted tones, or traditional neutrals.
- Check out second hand venues, boutiques(especially while traveling), Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, most department stores, and on line sites such as Zappos, Amazon, Ebay or Ebags.
- Develop a system for switching handbags. The best system I've seen is to keep a minimal number of items in your main purse (phone, wallet, cosmetic bag) so that you only have three things to transfer to other bags. You can even keep a basket beside your bags (to dump and therefore clean out) the bag. In this way, you don't miss anything in a transfer.
- Stock each bag you own with tissues, extra change, and you-know-whats.
- Love your bags. Thank them occasionally.
3. The Harem - You change bags with practically every outfit. I get it. (Others might not but I do.) Just keep in mind the following:
- Don't compromise on taste. Keep it professional when it needs to be and classy all the time.
- Any bag you don't use, pass on to someone else. Bags can get lonely.
- Read all of the above. You need to. Really.
Now on to a preview of some current bags, all approved by ISYFashion Laboratories. (Or, things I might wish to carry.)
Anyone who has ever heard me speak about clothing (or shopping or economics or world events or philosophy) has heard me also expound upon the glories of the handbag.
(A Hermes bag that is so expensive, I'm embarrassed for my fellow bag lovers to tell you about it. Let's just say that it costs a little more than what a U.S. Senator made in 2012.)
Oh yeah, I can get the topic into almost any conversation.
That's because the purse or handbag or "pocketbook" (hubby says that) is so endlessly fascinating. First, as an appendage to any ensemble, it's an extra burst of shape and color and gives something for the shoulder, forearm, hand, or fingers to do.
Second, it's actually rather symbolic of modern female freedom. I mean the real kind of freedom: The ability to leave the house, enter public spaces, or actually need things while traveling. These are freedoms we didn't enjoy in quite the way men did for so many centuries. Fashion historians are pretty much in agreement that, yes, women had the reticule or a skirt pocket to keep keys and sewing projects stashed, but the shoulder bag is a convenience enjoyed by women only in recent times.
Yes, I know, the shoulder bag is something which came with the strains of women working to fill the labor shortages during both World Wars, but can't you just imagine what the average woman's thought when she first slid her arm through a cross-body or messenger or a long-handled tote?
"Why look at this! My hand is free! I can hold railings on stairs and pull my two year old back from the candy aisle!"
And finally, there's the whole deep-dark-private-what's-in-that-thing? mystique. Most of us know to never - I mean NEVER - go into another woman's purse without her permission. It's private, like the inside of her clothing, and contains whatever she darn well pleases. After all, there are no rules about what to carry in a handbag.
I remember my very first real handbag (as opposed to a Holly Hobby felt tote or a margarine tub reticule my babysitter crocheted me). My mother bought me a burgundy and tan canvas satchel to go with my burgundy and gray uniform (Elizabeth Seton High School, Bladensburg, MD, 1980 - asked to leave so I didn't make it to 1984). Poor mom. She had high hopes for me, and the purse symbolized not just her hopes, but it was a sort of rite of passage; a member's card to an exclusive club called "woman."
I loved that bag. But I can't decide if its capacity for organization and reliability actually helped me with my undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, or just distracted me during math class and doomed me to a life-long love affair with two-handled bags with deep pockets. To my delight, I found that I could place money in the left pocket, lip gloss in the right one, and another certain necessity in the deep, dark zippered compartment hidden toward the bottom. Oh the glories of one's own personally arranged, private, and very off-limits space!
So, how many handbags have I owned since then? Well, if I don't want to count, I don't have to. (I don't think I could anyway, actually.) Rather, I remember the more remarkable ones like the "New Wave" color-blocked envelope clutch I carried to public high school (Getting "asked to leave" a private school has its upside), or the olive messenger bag I carried through college, or the black leather croc-embossed bag I got with my gift certificate to Marshall Fields.
And how many bags do I own now? I think the question should be more like, "What bags do I carry now?" One at a time, of course.
And how does a woman logically choose a bag?
Well, those will be the topics of my next blog so you'll just have to hang on 'til then. Until next week (that's the goal, anyway) I leave you with the following tour through this season of handbags: (Something for everyone; All from Zappos.)
Anuschka - No need for hands-free in order to pull your toddler away from the candy aisle. She'll be enamored by this and won't want to leave your side.