Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hello Sailor!

Tuesday was apparently International Lipstick Day, a decidedly frivolous commemoration of commercial beauty products and a celebration that shares the calendar honor with International Tiger Day, notably more worthwhile as the aims appear to be raising awareness and protection funds for this beautiful species. I accidentally observed Lipstick Day, joined by countless other unknowing women surely, when I haphazardly slapped some red tint on my lips after work. Joining a friend at a fiction reading in the East Village, I wanted to add some color, some flare to my classic blue jeans and white tee shirt combination. Adding a layer of lipstick after a long day of grueling cubicle work is my default approach to attacking, to shedding the work blues, before hitting the town, even for a super casual event. Usually, by the end of the day, I feel a little disheveled, and a pigment-pop peps me up.

For my birthday this year, my sister Elizabeth surprised me with an incredible present: a tube of Hello Sailor lipstick from Lipstick Queen. As a belated and purposeful homage to International Lipstick Day, I cannot selflessly and shamelessly promote this product enough: the package design is cheeky and sleek, the lipstick endurance is admirable, and the versatility of the shade is incredible. The potent blue of the case and the pigment is a bit misleading; this is not a high school goth-pop shade, rather, the lipstick produces a soft, subtle sheen, accenting the natural pigments of the lips. In my case, the deep rose pink of my curved puckers is embellished; the look is glamorous, but utterly effortless. It is a wonderful ruse, pretending to the world that I naturally wake this way. At 25$ a tube, Hello Sailor sets the wallet back a bit more than my typical adored pharmacy brands, but is well worth the indulgence. 

(image taken from Fashion Monitor)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gold Chunky Heels

Subway grates, uneven pavement, spilled soda, discarded chicken bones, melted ice cream cones, bits of flotsam trash, blown from receptacles, resplendent with plastic refuse, lay in wait, traps, to soil shoes. Maneuvering through the city sidewalks, dodging in and out of these slick and sickly landmines can be tricky, requiring dexterity and resilience, especially if one is to maintain a quick urban pace. While I am certainly impressed, and sometimes both confused and bemused, at the women who can strut around in their stilettos, without toppling, victim to the wilds of the concrete jungle. Since moving here and relying on walking as one of my key modes of transportation, my penchant for any heels above an inch or two has dwindled, approached and nearly collided with that zero-tolerance asymptote. Occasionally, though, I find a pair of shoes with a steeper incline that still fit my standards for comfort and practicality, standards that are admittedly a bit vague and wavering at times, and standards that often cede to aesthetics, forever omnipotent and dominant. 

These brown and gold sandal-pump hybrids from Kelsi Dagger are a prime example of shoes that offer an attractive edgy vibe, but do not veer too far from the realm of comfort, thus do not incite fear for pinched toes, aching arches, or rolled ankles. Partly due to living a bipedal life, usually on the go, partly due to working in a more lackadaisical casual environment, throwing on the same few black flats is easy. To combat this lazy, automatic response, I have been digging into my closet for my wedges, my pumps, the pairs that integrate style and ease. To embellish the summery side of these dual purpose shoes, I coupled them with a white and yellow full floral dress, feigning as a skirt, with a light and almost sheer golden metallic short-sleeved sweater on top.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pink Stripes and Cocktail Ring

Stripes certainly run rampant in my wardrobe, though, predominantly in various typical neutral tones: cream, black, navy, white, gray. There is the occasional red stripe, unrelated to the beverage, amid the sea of classics, but, generally, that is about as saucy as it gets. As I grow older, and in some respects, my style choices become more refined, or restrained, depending on the perspective, I tend to rely and be attracted to those neutrals, those timeless creams, blacks, grays, with the occasional and more impactful infusion of sharp color. Diversity, variety, while maintaining a sense of an identifiable personal look, is something I have tried to hone; in addition, particularly working in a more reserved leaning industry, I also teeter between the cautious and the risky. Moderation is usually a challenge for me, but, a few years of dressing for the office has taught me the art of balance.

So, despite the penchant for my typical cream paired with black or navy stripes, earlier this summer, rather uncharacteristically, this pink, orange, black, and white pattern screamed for my attention. Orange was never a particular interest of mine; lately, though, between the brash branding of my office and it being my niece's absolute favorite, orange has pierced its way into my aesthetic subconscious. Typically, orange makes a splash as an accessory, often against an all white canvas. Paired with a lipstick pink, two brights vying for attention, the coupling could be overwhelming. With this dress, a cheap and cheerful sale find online, I found the chromatic optimism charming. For much of the long, dreadful winter, black clothing seemed like the only practical solution, the only palette to really mirror and absorb, and in a way, shield from the drudgery. This summer has been, thankfully, wonderfully and remarkably pleasant, warm and muggy as this climate dictates but not yet ungodly oppressive. Celebrating the sun with pink and orange is only appropriate.

To pair with my against the grain orange and pink stripes, I wore a large, bodacious pink cocktail ring, a find from my days scouring the consignment shops of northern New Jersey. Gilded peony petals devouring pale pink crystals; this ring is a pair of plucked flowers dipped in soft metal. Daring, but still delicate. I wear rings everyday, and like my stripes, lately, I am generally wearing the classics, which, in my jewelry box, are a vintage diamond engagement ring and a ruby ring both from my  maternal great-grandmother and an amethyst ring from my paternal grandmother. Big rings have always been my weakness, and while I do not wear them nearly as regularly as I have in the past, I still love them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Montreal Jazz Festival

Last week, I jaunted over the northern border, into Quebec, for the opening weekend of the International Jazz Festival in Montreal. My younger brother is about to move across the country, to Texas, for his first real job; we traveled together, our first trip as adult siblings. Air hot and heavy, a fierce but pleasant sun, in a city renowned for its abominable ice, snow, and sleet, its underground commercial fortresses designed to help citizens avoid the biting winds, the people were out and scattered like an army of foraging ants, bustling, energized by the heat.  After a much too hurried June, I easily fell in love with the hybrid city, a beautiful cross between North American familiarity, in a known climate and terrain, and French romanticism and languish. That European pace, nonchalant and dismissive, with the pretension stripped, a sort of lazy friendliness permeating. Setting up base in hip but understated Mile End, we discovered the ideal local brewery beer hole, some delicious food and coffee, and a ton of envy-inducing art deco furniture window shopping. Everywhere we strolled, street art murals appeared along the crevices of alleys, on large swaths of building, intricate and bold and beautiful, obviously commissioned or at least condoned by the city. Joined by throngs of locals and tourists alike, we crowded into neighborhood cafes to watch the top World Cup games. Barely breathing, Adam and I took anxious sips of beer on an outdoor patio for the Brazil-Chile shoot out; we crashed the area, already crowded, just sidled up and saw the big screen. Thankfully, the waiter forgave our trespassing and served us, rather than pushing us to move along the walk way. 

Along with an epic portion of poutine and the unique brews of Dieu Du Ciel, seeing Diana Krall perform live, the evening clear and bright, was a trip highlight. She played many songs from her latest tour, but also covered three of my absolute favorite musicians: Fats Waller, Tom Waits, and Neil Young. For her encore, she was joined by husband Elvis Costello and they performed a couple of songs from The Band. Classical cool.

It was my first time to Montreal, and the temperatures startled me a bit. Initially, I felt a bit ill prepared, but my suitcase of slowing maxi dresses and my trusted leather booties proved to be perfection, especially when garnished generously with various necklaces and large earrings. To battle with the setting sun at the outdoor music stages, I wore some of my favorite vintage sunglasses, a subdued cat-eye shape of blonde tortoise shell, snagged from a small outdoor market in east London. While enjoying tunes led by trumpeter Alexis Baro, I snapped an off-kilter portrait, adorned with some coral lipstick and some cascading turquoise beads, despite the waning oppressive heat. I love throwing on some simple pharmacy lipstick to add some flair, but sometimes, in practice, it becomes cumbersome, namely while trying to eat ice cream cones and sweating from cheap beer and the sun. The contrast between the sharp coral and the milky turquoise made the hassle mostly worthwhile. My black sleeveless maxi was plain and comfortable; the gold, turquoise, and coral accents sent it into a higher echelon of sleek.

I hope to return to this so close, but just far away enough city soon; next time, provided I am not in a group of Anglophiles, I can dust off my French.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Outfit for a Thursday: Silver Stacks

When I was young and first began wearing jewelry, I refused to don any gold metal; in my ignorance and general myopia, I associated gold with old, mature women, namely my mother, grandmother, and various great-aunts, and insisted on silver. My first pieces of jewelry that I wore fervently and religiously were a silver spoon ring, gifted to me by my mother, a relic from her own childhood in Cincinnati, and a long dream catcher necklace. The dream catcher, a cheap replica of Native American aesthetics that was popular in that moment, broke, likely while romping around and climbing like a monkey on my wooden playground. My spoon ring, which fascinated me, with its intricacies and its age, its history, its lineage, its relation to my mother as a little girl, someone foreign and amazing to me, thankfully garnered more respect and care. I was vigilant about its safety. It was the only item in my wardrobe, clothing or accessory, that really carried meaning and that I protected. Despite my reckless and boisterous tomboy proclivities, my various misadventures, I never lost it. I continue to wear it today; it is on my left-hand ring finger now, as I type.

Eventually, during my later school years, I came around to gold tones, reconciled my initial dismissal, and wore silver less and less. Now, gold metals prevail in my jewelry boxes, so I often overlook my first love, silver. Last week, I proverbially dusted off these two silver cuff bracelets, both from my adolescence, and layered them with a newer sparkling rhinestone piece. The turquoise cuff is another heritage piece from my mother, a trinket discovered on a trip to Greece in her early twenties. While this beautiful and delicate bracelet has shamefully sat sallow in recent times, I am unwilling to relinquish the piece to my mother, who occasionally asks about its whereabouts. Sneaky.

The white with black paint splatters tee shirt was a recent purchase from Uniqlo. After some wine and some World Cup unwinding with a colleague, we trekked over to peruse the affordable wares. Lately, I am not drawn to graphics on my basic tee shirts, they often seem juvenile and are a look that I have mostly evolved beyond. The MoMA-inspired designs of the current Uniqlo line offer a more refined and visually compelling alternative to some of the typical large, popular-image tees that are also floating around. For whatever reason, probably the intense 1990s aesthetic revival that is permeating fashion at the moment, those over-sized tees emblazoned with cartoon characters, like the Tasmanian Devil and Tweety Bird, have resurfaced. Still goofy, and since I am no longer in elementary school, I can easily abstain. This paint design is whimsical, but mature. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Birkenstock Bounty

Some of the most beautiful and most hilariously frustrating aspects of fashion and particular, au courant style trends is the revivalism, the cyclic come-back, the oscillation conversion from aesthetically displeasing and laughable to obviously inherently cool and chic. With technology and media platforms that allow for and encourage instantaneous reporting, that dispel that lag time between designer conception, runway presentation, and mass commercial replication and consumption, the sort of omnipresence of particular trends is all the more palpable. The past few seasons, the paragon of both omnipotence in the digital style editorial world and the eek-to-sleek metamorphosis has been the white Birkenstock sandal. They are everywhere, flaunted by fawning fashionistas on nearly every blog, on a meticulous and calculated clockwork schedule. The mighty and oft-capricious pendulum has swung; once a snickering style, now, one apparently to envy for and lust after. Naturally, as with so many trends these days, or at least so it seems, for the Birkenstock moment, we can thank the boldness and the cavalier attitude of the Olsen twins, about four years ago.

While I appreciate that there are not set, firm standards of attractiveness, of what can or should be in, and that any style or form or brand, even those previously laughed and scoffed at, can emerge from the flames as a brilliant sartorial-phoenix, what I find aggravating is the promotional portion. That style-makers across media seem to band together in this flagrantly contrived and predictable manner to peddle trends, while rational from a business-perspective, always incites a heavy sigh. Where is the creativity, the individuality? At the least, I would propose those in power at least stagger the slew of blind endorsements for the brand or the look. Rather than a behemoth barrage of bravado for the once mocked Birkenstock, the brand bragging could be interspersed with another all too common topic in the blog realm, the deliciousness of the not-so-novel avocado toast.

Certainly I am cranky and cynical, especially at the moment as my head pounds from the maddening pressure of florescent lights flickering in my office, but I think I am justified in ranting and in wanting a little variety, a little creativity in a purported creative field. 

(image taken from Birkenstock)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Swimsuit Scramble

Earlier this week, rather spontaneously and abruptly, it came to my attention that I no longer own any proper bathing suits. Towards the end of last season, upon realizing in a separate moment of lucidity that most of my swimsuit repertoire was dismally dated and dingy, I tossed them. Wearing them infrequently, my neutral-toned one-pieces had served me well for a number of years; they were classically cut and simultaneously chic and comfortable. One, in a deep chocolate brown, survives, in a drawer, along with my black bikini, for which I currently lack the appropriate abdominal muscles. Now, I find myself marching steadfast into June and into summer season, having already passed that optimum and narrow window of ideal swimsuit selection in the retail world. 

Being both busty and young, thus, generally, not wanting to look like a matronly retiree who is about to spend the rest of her life baking underneath a Florida sun in her floral suit with a built-in skirt, swimsuit shopping has always posed a unique challenge. When I was growing up, tall, strong build, the suit solution always came easily, since I swam competitively. My racing suit was perfect for the pool and bouncing into the crashing waves at the beach. A tomboy, all I cared was that it fit and I was covered; I wanted to be able to maneuver, glide like a porpoise. Now, I want fit, I want comfort, but I want to look sexy too and avoid that dowdy, post-menopause territory. Thankfully, recent trends have revived some retro flair: the one-piece again prevails, with a multitude of attractive cuts, colors, and patterns. Hopefully, my neglect and procrastination does not mean I missed out on all the good picks; it usually feels as though for seasonal items, like swimsuits and winter coats, locusts have descended and devoured anything worth having, leaving a barren field for the rest of us. This weekend, I will attempt to make some time for a swimsuit scavenge, fingers crossed that it is not in vain.

(image taken from Slate)