Monday, February 25, 2013

Brooch Baubles

(image taken from J. Crew)

Retail brands that have worked specifically and purposely to construct personalities of aesthetic curators and taste-makers, brands such as J. Crew and ModCloth, have relied heavily on vintage inspirations and have been instrumental in foraying bodacious designer costume jewelry looks into the wardrobes of the masses. Rhinestones, layers of beading, bright colors, juxtaposing textures, and emphatic statements have abounded in popular pieces from a plethora of retailers. As an avid shopper and style consumer who was taken in by the allure of unique and bold design in vintage costume designs at a young age, I, obviously, understand the appeal and the opportunity for mass marketing, even though I generally scoff at the price and at the inevitable ubiquity of the trend. So, while vintage-inspired style have become quite commonplace and accessible in mainstream stores, I continue to search and dig for those treasures a bit off the franchise-path at my favorite consignment and antique shops.

While I avoid laying down copious amounts of green for J. Crew jewelry, or the more enviable higher end designers such as Badgley Mischka or Van Cleef and Arpels, I am still guilty of mimicry and of permutation with my collection. I almost always layer necklaces, to play with adding dimension in color or texture, and I have regularly adapted brooches to couple as pendants we as well, but lately I have been incorporating pendants together to create a bawdier and more structural statement. My latest favorite combination is this gold and black koi fish brooch with this resplendent rhinestone sun, both strung onto a simple gold choker. A wonderful blend of incongruous and complementary, I have been wearing this beautiful monstrosity with black and white, black and cream color combinations, in simple and clean silhouettes. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Silk Snakeskin

Although snakeskin was a prominent trend, a bit more edgy and surreptitious than the generally pervasive leopard or zebra prints, this silk blouse was something I more or less stumbled upon and could not avoid. Snake scales tend to be loud and bold, a bit ominous as well, given the nearly universal human obsession with the serpent as both demon and as god, but with this particular amalgamation of simple neutrals, the effect is a bit more muted. With strong shoulder pads and a looser fit, there is an inevitable confidence and masculine-infused appeal.

Buttoning up nearly to the collar, I layered a pair of multi-strand vintage necklaces, one in gold links and the other large black beads and crystal beads alternating. Overall, though a bit bombastic, I liked the cacophony of texture.

Sunday afternoon soundtrack: the Pixies acoustic sessions

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Iconography: Anaïs Nin

(image taken from Scriblets)

(image taken from Style Destination)

(image taken from Hi Lo Brow)

(image taken from Tumblr)

(image taken from I Am Not A Gun)

Today, the unforgettable Anaïs Nin would have been one hundred-ten years old, an age that seems simultaneously impressive and yet irrelevant for a woman who, over the years, through her writing and her style and her aura, has become essentially timeless and mythic in proportions. While she is certainly a potent and beautiful writer, philosopher, and dreamer in her own right, invariably, I nearly always think of her in the context of her passionate and exhilarating and, depending on the direction of the moral compass, illicit relationship with Henry Miller, one of my favorite authors. Their letters to one another are some of the most beautiful works of art I have ever had the pleasure of encountering, unforgiving and unrelenting in the truth of visceral emotion, raw and yet completely contained and wielded, as only writers who are lovers can attain. When I indulge in their textual personalities, sacred and illusioned phantoms of the living, flesh personalities, I am overtaken with a desire to flee to Europe, a desire that is already inherently subcutaneous and rather easy to bring forth. Regrettably, I still have her acclaimed and intimate diaries on my impossibly long list of books I must read; a volume may be the perfect accompaniment as I head off to London next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Karen Walker, Call Me in 50 Years

For the past few weeks, Ari Seth Cohen's photographs from the latest Karen Walker sunglasses campaign have been permeating the digital waves and tickling the aesthetic nerves of our collective cultural consciousness. Visual verbatim from his personal project, Advanced Style, the advertising portraits are nevertheless fresh, inspired, classic, funky, and wonderfully beautiful. The theoretical and practical arguments for diversity in fashion advertising, with regard to shape and to ethnicity, as well as age, have been building and have been disseminating for quite a long time; a campaign such as this furthers the cause and creates more points of discussion, without oozing overt moralist pedantry, and also without being too obvious. While the many women featured are ostentatiously ornate, there is natural facility that comes forth; rather than appearing as though wearing costumes or specifically contrived for the purpose, the looks are natural and have purpose. I feel as though, in a moment of great luck, I would run into one of these lovely ladies, at a coffee shop, or while perusing scarves, and we would exchange a brief, cordial acknowledgment, perhaps a nod of the head and a smile.

I first started collecting and wearing vintage costume jewelry as a young, and admirably precocious, adolescent; while many of my peers sported pieces from popular stores like Limited Too or American Eagle, I had loud and bawdy clip-on earrings from the 1960s. Needless to say, I have always been drawn to the styles of women from other eras, and especially those with the confidence and positive energy to not merely be seen, but noticed and remembered. A kindred bond between us, perhaps, of refusal to blindingly accept the expected and the mainstream. For me, such strong women with fastidious style, and, more importantly, such acute and intimate senses of self, have long been an inspiration, and I am so thrilled to be seeing some further media attention to this effect. 

These two portraits in particular struck me; the women are stunning, and the style impeccable, but as I peered a bit closer, a bit longer, I realized the lure: each is wearing jewelry that I, too, currently own and love. The woman in the turquoise and silver palette dons a simple cream square ring, identical to one of mine, of what has, if I may, become my signature piece. A few months ago, I nearly broke and lost this piece forever; I was near tears at the time, and am indebted to the filmmaker for salvaging this simple but elegant favorite. Obviously, I own numerous pearl pieces, and I am pleased to see the second woman and I share identical earrings; I yearn for her matching ring. Normally, I perform the requisite sigh-groan routine when I discover some of my favorite personal styling tips are being commonly replicated; here, I feel honored and validated. To echo what has already been said by countless other women after gushing over these images, I am excited to age, to age gracefully, not necessarily in a cannot-wait sense, but in a life-is-perpetually-unfolding sense. On a related superficial note, I have a few decades to learn how to artfully tie a turban.

(images taken from It's Nice That) 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's Day Loot

Like most of my generation, I do not check my mailbox with the same attentive regularity that I check my inbox or my cell phone or any number of the various social media sites I frequent; in fact, since my mailbox resides all the way below me in the lobby of my building, where I rarely tread since I can enter and exit directly into my parking lot from my floor, I often neglect to check it for days. An embarrassing, probably irresponsible number of days. Like this past week or so. Since, other than a few bills that come towards the end of, or the beginning of the next, month, my mail consists of a mountain of unwanted Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons and a tome of equally unwanted letters from various local insurance agents, my routine usually works out quite fine for me.

This afternoon, deciding to clear out the advertising circulars and other flotsam, I was then pleasantly surprised to discover, hidden between coupons, three Valentines. While I feel badly that they sat unopened for a bit, realistically, I am thankful I extricated them from the insurance crap and opened them, still mostly in the vicinity of the holiday. The first was from Hartley, a dear friend from university, ever beautiful and bubbly and warm. Just the type of thoughtful gal who would send out cards for this day, one to remember friends and loved ones, near and far. After a too brief stint in the city following our graduation, she is now back up north, in the true upstate area of New York, in an incredibly bucolic and rustic town that, honestly, looks like so much fun, despite the five months of extreme cold. I continually talk about how much I want to joy-ride up there and pay a visit, go on a boat and drink beer, see the stars, and hopefully sometime later this spring, talk will become action.

The second was from lovely and sweet Katherine, sister of my spirit; in addition to her wonderfully thoughtful card, which brought a tear or two to my eye, she included a package of fun treats.

Growing up, despite numerous attempts with various kits, I never had a friendship bracelet; this orange braided piece that Katherine designed is a simple, elegant, and more mature variation, that still exudes the sentiment of a close, intertwining bond. In my mind, the two amber beads represent us. At my core, I am a total sap, soft like molasses.

Katherine also included this fragrant bar of lavender soap, handmade with olive oils and botanicals. This is exactly what my dry and depressed skin needs, after a harsh winter.

My mother and I have a wiener dog joke; what began as some silliness, following a local antiques fair, has now morphed into a palpable force. She used to be infamous for her infinite supply of monkey-themed cards, for any and every occasion, and now, for me, the wiener dog is the winner, triumphant and haughty. Inside: On Valentine's Day, Edna gave Jack her heart, Jack gave Edna his wiener. The puns never tire.

Last, but not least, the filmmaker killed two inside-joke-birds with one hilariously awesome stone: a wiener dog slide whistle. Appropriate, given my unavoidable love for those short and squat pups, and for my recent, often laughable, slide whistle impressions, usually in an effort to add some of my own home-brewed special sound effects to my life. Now, my shortcomings in mimicry can be forgotten, because I have the real deal; never mind that, as a close reading of the package indicates, this treasure is intended for toddlers, to foster fine motor skills and discernment of tone and pitch. This is fun for all ages, at least all who still harbor their childhood at heart.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Film Binge

For the next few days, streaming television and movie site Hulu will freely feature the entire Criterion Collection. Although it has been pleasantly, and unseasonably, warm and sunny lately, the notion of staying collapsed under a mountain of down blankets and watching French New Wave films until my eyes bleed out of my sockets sounds marvelous. Figuratively, naturally, though, all the time I do spend squinting at a glowing screen, not a completely unfathomable prospect. This evening, I will likely tackle Solaris, which has been on my list for entirely too long, and pair it with a glass or two of Argentian malbec; quite worldly.

(image taken from Nostalghia)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be Mine

Contrived and commercial though it is, a far cry from the original religious intent to venerate the celebrated holy saint, I still love this day, as a little reminder and celebration of those that are loved and important in your life. Whether the plans are cooking a duck and swilling deep red wine with my closest friends, or snuggling up in the comfort of the arms of the filmmaker, I enjoy the added reminder to say, I love you, and I am so happy and thankful to have you in my life. Happy Valentine's Day.

(image taken from La Blog De Sovena)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New York Fashion Week Lusting: Marc Jacobs Fall 2013

Pumps and handbags with an architectured structural pragmatism, clean but absolutely exquisite? Yes, please.

(image taken from The Sartorialist)

Kerouac in Khakis

The irony of this advertisement is intensely potent, though the creative strategy is rational and easy; needless to say, this campaign ran well after the death of the now revered beatnik writer, who passed from this world with nothing, not even a strong reputation, the likeness sold to the corporation by some desperate descendant. Despite being born and raised in one of the principal preppy dominions, Baltimore, I have never exclusively associated khaki slacks with the lacrosse-playing, summer-home-reveling prototype, a connection so many others forge. For me, there has of course been that uninspired look of a corporate drone, or that carefree rich kid of the creamy upper echelon of socioeconomic strata, but there is also a sort of sense of rugged adventure, one with more abandon than that traditional denim dungarees. A sort of escape; strangely, a sort of irreverence for pragmatism, simultaneous and contrary to the very pragmatism they are also connote. 

Romantic, without being disgustingly sentimental or too flagrantly overt, I would imagine this served the company well; Kerouac, like the khakis he dons here, is a familiar and recognized name, without being typical or mainstream. A sort of safe risk. Unfortunately, this artfully developed and marketed bode of confidence for the ever-classic khaki will not sway my dear filmmaker; fortunately, he is like Kerouac in that respect, refusing to fetter himself to commercial, mass produced expectations. I prefer that attitude, exuded in a subtle and untouchable exuberance in this photograph, something that, unlike the slacks, Gap cannot produce and cannot sell.   

(image taken from Open Culture)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ready for White Denim

After articulating my lament for my favorite black jeans yesterday, I wallowed in my melancholy by scrubbing my filthy bath tub; therapeutic and masochistic. This motif continued, as, after intermittently doing some ab and thigh exercises I discovered online, in between cycles of hosing down my shower with noxious and potentially transiently mind-altering chemicals, I decided to try on a few summer items, namely my white denim pants. The result was pleasantly surprising. The fit was not bad. Despite a decadent winter season and a recent gauntlet of work-related stress, generally two culprits of weight gain, I could wiggle my way in. Their length is ridiculous, and from necessity, they are more specifically my cropped white jeans, but, this was a misfortune that was evident when they were first removed from the plastic packaging. Ultimately, once my visceral and initial disappointment subsided,I decided cropped jeans, while being a bit suburban-mom, are quite versatile. My conclusions were thus: first, it may be worth the money to pay someone to scrub my shower for me; second, with just a few more repetitions of what are surely pathetic-looking attempts at following along with personal trainers, I can be mostly ready for warm temperatures. Feeling triumphant, a success, muscles tingling and shower sort of clean, I immediately ate some cheap chocolate. The ever titillating evenings of single professional young women. 

(image taken from The Pursuit Aesthetic)

Outfit for a Monday: Inspired by Italy

While shopping in Hamden in Baltimore over the Christmas break, I bought this men's silk scarf for myself for my birthday. Italian crafted, it was hidden under a pile of more typical floral handkerchiefs, a specimen simultaneously alluring and atypical for me. Cross-hatching pattern, slightly askew, reminiscent of a hazed checkerboard, of a bizarre collection of subway gratings, scattered with abandon. My collection of scarves, the ultimate wardrobe flourish, is extensive, but most are whimsical, nautical or hunting or lush roses; this one was, obviously, both more masculine and more edgy.

The deep oxblood and buttery cream staved my black tuxedo jacket and simple black dress from appearing too lugubrious. Between the tuxedo jacket and this scarf, I was a pair of velvet smoking flats away from embodying the fictional boy-billionaire Chuck Bass; my pseudo-wrap dress was hardly noticeable but crucial for a effect of a soft swish of a skirt. Overall, it was professional but faceted.

These black chandelier earrings are, surprisingly, contemporary; they were from my junior year high school prom dance. My dress that evening was also a deep, nearly blood, in an iridescent fabric; it was not my favorite, at the time, but in retrospect, it was much more fascinating than the sea of pastel trendy taffeta. Nearly since that night, of innocent sweat and some anxiety and bad music, these earrings have sat idle in my jewelry box. With the masculine features, they added some delicacy and a welcome glisten.

Oxblood patent leather pumps with a soft, rosebud accent completed the look.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rest in Peace: Black Denim

My favorite, and sole, pair of black denim finally succumbed the other week to an inevitable and fatal fate of friction, from my bodacious thighs. They were purchased on the cheap from the Gap, some online sale, and had a generally flimsy texture and almost leggings-like appearance, so, honestly, I should be thankful and surprised they endured as long as they did. Despite a cheap price, and mostly cheap quality, they actually looked fairly decent, and, as black jeans, literally went with everything. So, a mere few weeks before my next vacation to London, when black pants that are comfortable to run around and act silly in will be critical, this unfortunate event does put me in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, I could continue in my rut of Gap jeans, with their alluring low prices and unattractive fits, with enough wiggling, that can almost be made to work for me. On the other, I could take the risky and tantalizing and certainly expensive plunge into designer denim, likely to either discover my salvation, or be reminded once again of the burdens of some added pounds. On yet another, imagined, not yet existent hand, I could just pursue my cowboy fantasies and get an immortal pair of dungarees. 

(image taken from JC Report)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil Predictions

About a week ago, beloved rodent-weatherman Punxsutawney Phil failed to find his shadow as he emerged from his cozy den in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, purportedly portending an early spring. I, along with every other resident of the northeast, rejoiced. Apparently, this was a rather rare event; since entering the capricious predicament of attempting to predict the onset of warm temperatures, back in 1887, the little groundhog has called for an early spring only sixteen times. Mostly, the shadow stares him down, lurid and daunting, until he flees into the solace of his tiny hovel. 

Ironically, and fittingly, given the hilariously heated debates that ensue after each forecast, a few days later much of the east coast was slammed with a snow storm. Named Nemo, for reasons not entirely clear, other than the novelty of infusing weather elements with personified forces, to better hyperbolize and create unnecessary sensations. So, as of late, I have relied on intense layering, to protect from the mostly bitter temperatures, the gray skies, and the tempestuous winds. This wool sweater, with its warm shawl collar, has become a recent staple, never mind that it almost feels out of place so far from the wilderness or rustic cabins or rugged mountain trails. Snug, but still a bit loose, it is wonderful to throw on top of pretty much anything; lately, it has been a bunch of cowl or turtle necks.

With an array of neutrals, cream, taupe, gray, olive, and black, as well as a vibrant orange, this sweater pairs easily with many of my winter basics, namely my black leggings and all of my warm, tall boots. Although it was bordering on excessive borrowing from the L.L. Bean aesthetic, I could not resist throwing on a chambray blouse; maybe there is an outdoorsy girl stowed away deep within me after all. As I write, the filmmaker is graciously digging my car out from under Nemo's fury; so maybe not.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Percent Featured on BRIKA

I have gushed and boasted about the talents of my former roommate, forever friend, Katherine, before, and I will continue to do so, so long as I am blessed and fortunate to stay within her inspiring presence. Beautiful designs, with a partnering intelligent and strategic mind, she remains such an impressive stalwart in my life for her tenacity and her courage and her passion. Certainly, she enjoys crafting lovely things, but more so, she loves waking, fit to fight, and change the world around her. What started as a childhood hobby and continued as a mainstay in her evolution as a designer and taste-maker, jewelry, has now led to a special, invitation-based two-week sale on BRIKA.

For those living under a rock or in some other equally desolate circumstance, BRIKA is a new, curated shopping and lusting destination, specifically cultivated and edited to facilitate consumer relationships between the artisans and their customers. Essentially, think typical online shop, in the vein of Etsy, fused with more intimacy through a maker profile, featuring photographs and a brief interview with the specific designer. The business model is welcoming and elegant, and creatively synthesizes personality, as a physical boutique would, with digital presence and the accessibility of the online shopping world. I am proud of Katherine, for her perseverance and her risks in her pursuits, and for this latest accomplishment. If there is some extra cash burdening your wallet or your online bank account, I invite you to peruse the wares; nothing quite combats winter doldrums like a new piece of fun.

(image taken from BRIKA)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

(Still) Smells Like Team Spirit

Last Friday, for a client meeting with my extended franchise team, I maintained my loyal purple and black motif, to display my allegiances to my hometown team for the grand championship football game. A bold amethyst color and stylized scrunched sleeves, this Michael Kors blazer is a bit more youthful and trendy than most others I own, but still pairs nicely with some of my favorite professional separates. For the meeting, I wore the festive blazer over a creamily taupe and black color-blocked Calvin Klein shift dress. Manifesting the team colors directly in my work outfits certainly had no effect on the glorious victorious outcome of the Super Bowl game on Sunday evening, but, as the latest Budweiser campaign says, it is weird only if it does not work.

These costume earrings from the 1960s are adorned with large purple stones and some pearl bead detailing, an ideal blend of classic and funky design. Pieces from this era tend to be rather structural and geometric, and in many cases remind me more of a miniature sculpture than pieces of jewelry. I had my hair pulled back in a loosely taut braid, so the earrings were highlighted.

The city of Baltimore is hosting a large parade today to celebrate the team and their reign as champions. Although I no longer live there, I do have a fair amount of pride for Charm City, diverse, colorful, traditional, bizarre, dangerous, and ever evolving. Despite feeling a bit under the weather today, trying to fiercely ward off the onset of an inevitable winter cold, I wish I was down south, cheering in the familiar streets.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cardinal Sin

It was too late, before I realized my guilt: I purchased these shoes gleefully, wore them zealously, then regrettably discovered they are synthetic suede. I had fallen for their charming bows, that bright cherry red color, their bold simplicity and comfort, neglecting to read the critical fine print. What a fool. Sartorial gods, forgive me.

Smells Like Team Spirit

Jeweled purple is one of the shades that is probably most flattering with my skin tone and my chestnut brunette hair color, and pairs very easily with most of the neutrals that predominate my closet: brown, navy, white, cream, and charcoal. Naturally, purple and black are perfect complements, though perhaps I am a bit biased on that combination; born and raised in Baltimore, I am excited for the game tomorrow, even though I would be considered an absent-minded fan at best. 

This soft blouse is loose and billowy, with broad kimono-like sleeves, and a tie detail along the hip; I found it scattered among piles of bizarre florals and unattractive knits at a massive church sale, while still up at university, before classes had started. An ultimate experience in gleaning and hunting, the Ithaca church sales had incredible finds, for those willing to invest the effort. On this particular day, the last day of the sale, every item was priced at a dime. Its unusual draping and bold color have somehow always salvaged it from ending up in the donation pile, when I clean through my ranks. Last week, it served me well, after I once again pulled it from the bottom of a pile in my drawer, and I could flaunt my home team colors, pairing it with a deep charcoal and black polka dot wool pencil skirt.

This silver rhinestone bird brooch is not intended to be a raven; though I have dabbled and maintain a superficial interest in ornithology, mostly for behavioral study reasons, I always just think of this as generic songbird. For the purposes of this outfit, my mind transfigured the icon into a raven. Strands of long pearl beads wrapped around my neck, I affixed the brooch to a few of the necklaces, giving the appearance of a single piece of jewelry. Certainly a bit more oblique than wearing a purple and black jersey, my resourceful costuming efforts were no less passionate or zealous. Uniforms, off of the field, never appealed to me, no matter how much love and enthusiasm I harbor for my favorite teams. After wearing this, I decided that there is no reason team mascot symbology cannot be applied to jewelry more commonly, in something simultaneously subtle and attractive, but still festive. Sounds like a business plan, waiting to be written, with potential football, basketball, hockey, and baseball consumers.

These cut-out, peep-toe pumps in black and gray mirrored my pencil skirt well. They are exceedingly practical shoes, but, oddly, ones I rarely wear. Extensive wardrobe problems, I suppose; if the meme does not already exist, I should start it.