Monday, April 29, 2013

Winter is Coming

Joined by throngs of other weary first-world workers, hungry for entertainment and for some shreds of human truth in an alternate reality, some place resembling our world in color and light and shape, but entirely different, I spend my Sunday evenings devouring the latest Game of Thrones. While I am certainly not one of those fans to emulate the pseudo-medieval ethereal gowns and stark flowing robes, looking like I stumbled off some knight's horse, I do admire the brilliant, and beautiful, costuming. Political intrigue, historical allusion, and intricate morally ambiguous characters make the show worth the attention and the acclaim; wonderful wardrobes are a bonus. The female characters, especially, are so strong and fascinating, generally the fabric draped around them is the least interesting facet.

Long skirts and layers of capes are not my style, but the bold, heavy metal detailing of much of the jewelry certainly is; just like the battles and the political arguments, the jewelry borrows from reality, from stories of now partly forgotten human cultures. These deep green and bronze earrings remind me of something Daenerys Targaryen would wear, perhaps when she returns to Westoros, triumphant and vengeful and wise, a hybrid of tenacity and harsh elegance. A sort of wild sophistication. I found this pair amid an array of junk in a small shop in Ithaca; they had lain dormant there for some time, and have been sitting in my jewelry box, idle, as well. Spring may be here, in this world, but in other fantasies, winter is coming, so these may be worn more, like amulets, protecting.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rambling Pearls

Sometimes it feels as though change surges forward, in a profound cascade, overwhelming and incredible; nearly always, though, the forces behind change start as some microcosm, droplets, small beads of something building and gathering momentum. Constant pressure of those smaller bits, until some catalyst, real or imagined, pushes an event. So, though it can be perceived as stagnation, there is something there, latent, underlying, shaping and priming. It is frightening and beautiful. And so it manifests, as a cascade, or as some mounting stalagmite, slowing growing tall and grand.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Cleaning Creative Spaces

With the spring thaw, windows are opened, winter dust shaken off, and closets and wardrobes are passed through a discerning sieve; the annual clean. For me, while my clothing certainly needs to be sifted through, older pieces assessed again, what I would really like to achieve is a clean, open space for writing. Stacks of papers, old files, towers of books generally collect around my desk area, my dining table, my bureaus. Any flat surface becomes a magnet for detritus. E. B. White is usually most frequently lauded for his Elements of Style, essential dogma for many contemporary writers. Peeking into his typical writing space, austere but warm, it is unsurprising that he was able to coalesce such simply profound advice for other authors. I do not live in the bucolic countryside and, unfortunately, I do not possess a typewriter, tool explicitly and only for writing, without distractions or indulgences. Nonetheless, I hope to be able to adopt some of this tranquility, for focus.

(image taken from BuzzFeed)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ruby Red Slippers

Tapping the heels three times does not send me home, but, still, I adore red shoes, their bold simplicity and their effusion of cultural connotations, positive and negative. As a friend from South Africa used to chuckle and tease, a former client and colleague, red shoes can be the mobile signal for a good time, at least for her back home; here, old Hollywood sweetheart Judy Garland will always be my first association. Amid a week of tension, the desire to click, once, twice, three times, and to be magically whisked away, transported home, not necessarily my childhood home, but some idea of it, more nostalgic and more fanciful, is so very strong. Someplace safe, warm, comforting.

Last night, thick black storm clouds stampeded across the sky, a herd of horses surpassing the blank gray field; it was beautiful and frightening. I left my window open to watch the violence in the sky, the black clouds illuminating in a bright clash of white light at irregular intervals, followed by low growls. When I was a little girl, during the spring storms, I would sit in front of a large picture window in our family room, and silently watch the fury.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Outfit for a Tuesday: Mad Men Revival

After an agonizingly long hiatus, television's famed program has returned, so, in the spirit of silly theme dressing, I decorated myself in 1960s office staples: the pencil skirt, the fitted sweater, and the silk scarf. Cinching my waist with just enough tension to enforce a strict ballerina-inspired posture, one that would make even my mother proud after her years of reminding me to stand straight and proud, I could not help but feel powerful and confident strolling through the office aisles, not unlike one of my favorite characters and sartorial inspirations, Joan Holloway. Sadly, my full day toiling in the office yesterday did not end with some whiskey on the rocks or an impromptu martini, but, likely, it was all the more productive.

While I typically stay true to more classic black and white or cream and black houndstooth patterns, something about the deep emerald and the rich blue was enticing, the colors of some faraway and fantastical forest. Green shades generally do not flatter my skin tone, so, when I have the opportunity to wear a jewel-toned emerald, without shame or reproach, I seize it.

In true 1960s fashion, my scarf, wrapped almost as a soft necklace, perfectly complements the color scheme of my skirt and sweater; more modern, the two bold patterns, seemingly jarring, are united in their chromatic palette. I found this incredible scarf, which weaves seamlessly well with so much of my wardrobe, given my recent addiction to anything navy or cream.

True integrity to my Madison Avenue advertising adventures homage, I wore lucite accessories. These large earrings were in dis-repair for a number of weeks, and I finally took the initiative and my nearest bottle of tacky glue to fix them. Similar to television, and really all forms of photographic media, the clear convex shape distorts reality, contorts images that could be there, or maybe once were there, and captures something else entirely, reminiscent perhaps, but its own beast.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Iconography: Lilly Pulitzer

While I am neither a Southern sorority belle who wastes my afternoons with rich mint juleps at the horse races nor an intoxicated lady of a bygone era who leisurely lunches with her closest friends as well as enemies, toes slightly stained with white sands from the beaches of North Hampton, I have always admired the brazen and cheerful sensibilities of Lilly Pulitzer. Like those archetypes, made more notorious and recognizable for their identical costumes of tropical greens and pinks, her designs were sweet and charming, elegant enough, and never demure. At times seemingly juvenile and pedestrian, or at least superficially so, for me, instead, the exude an air of whim, and in some cases, a sort of devil-may-care exuberance in the face of taste and refinery. The bright neons and outlandish tesselating pelicans and flamingos have never been quite my style, but I do love the perpetual lazy summer life of decadence and daiquiris that the quintessential dresses seem to promote. Today, swathed in prototypical black, I give pause; she will be missed.

(images taken from Pinterest)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lucite Heels, Encore

For those who were born and raised in a generation where jellies sandals were a plastic force to truly be reckoned with, the continued and evolving popularity of lucite adorned sandals and pumps is expected; frankly, a wane in the trend and the drooling lust that it incites would be disappointing. This season, the much lauded and  repeatedly showcased purported trends are what I could consider classic staples: lucite accessories, shoes included, and elegantly combining black with white for a composition in contrasts. I both recognize and admit, though, that most do not greedily collect fine plastics and harbor arcane knowledge about their histories and production; for those, lucite is a novelty. For others, more of an aesthetic way of life. 

The simple and sophisticated design of these Diane von Furstenberg heeled sandals could make me cry. Pale, pale turquoise is not the color I would inherently choose, for myself, but it is just so ephemeral in touch, it mirrors the clear heel, and just works.

(images taken from Zappos)

Unconventonal Easter Basket

Walking now, and beginning to gnaw on mouth-shapes that will one day became first real words, then language, then a personal voice, my niece is no longer a baby; she is a little girl, a little person. Although bigger, and becoming adventurous with food, she is still not quite old enough for the traditional Easter basket, the cacophony of chocolate eggs and cream eggs and such. Lately, she has been captivated by accessories, by long stranded necklaces and by soft scarves. I have so many of these things, bits of costume jewelry and vintage silk scarves that have been cast aside, as I, too, age and evolve. So, for the holiday, I wrapped a few of my once favorite necklaces, beads like bright jelly beans, wincing, a bit nostalgic, but excited to give some joy. And see the necklaces worn once more. 

Outfit for a Thursday: Cocktail Classic

This blouse is one of those rare gems, a find that is so completely random and happenstance, it is only discovered by not searching at all. Back in the autumn, I skipped work one day to go apple picking with the filmmaker, and as we drove home from the farms west of my town, we stumbled on a handmade sign for an estate sale, the letters tall and clear, scrawled in black marker. Erected high on a hill, the house was a once proud Victorian, allowed to age and steep into the wooded background of the land. Within its bowels, there was a strange collection of the lives of others scattered throughout the various floors: odd hardcover books, used kitchen utensils, and an array of junk from some office desk. At the top floor of the house, in some forlorn attic room, I found this silk blouse on chrome rack, amidst some stacks of withering magazines, rife with coupons for canned green beans and advertisements for talcum powder.

Checkered across the fabric are various cocktail glasses and tumblers, filled with pale pastel libations and garnishes, adorned with traditional names and the classic recipes. These days, in most neighborhoods, a true Old Fashioned is impossible to find. Some of my favorites, notably the Bronx and the Gibson, are missing. The entire motif reminds me of a delicious spoken word record that the filmmaker shared with me, called Here's How to Mix Them featuring Maurice Dreicer.

For such a wild and boozy print, I threw a plain gray deep v-neck sweater on and wore a pleated front skirt, also in a simple gray.

Some silver rhinestones are the perfect garnish.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Casual Friday: Vintage Wool and Chambray

This cream and navy checkered wool jacket was a discovery amongst the folds of a forest of fabrics, polyester dresses and silk scarves and thick blazers, in the back of a corner vintage shop at the base of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. Despite the volumes of pieces in this cluttered shop, tucked away between hair braiding salons and the type of butcher stores where whole skinned cows hung in the window, swinging like meat pendulums, and the general sensory overload of the streets, my eye was captured by the golden yellow trim and the smooth, dimpled golden buttons. The waist-grazing cut, the classic wool, the nautical color scheme, seemed such a sharp juxtaposition to the flavors of Rue Poulet, spices from far away, uncooked pink chicken, fried flour, wafts of caustic hair spray, ready to set the air ablaze, with a single strike of a red-headed match.

Unfortunately, and all too commonly, after making my almost impulse purchase of this jacket and transporting it back to the east coast, I realized the wool glistened with an acute perfume, a mingling of lived experiences and wardrobe stagnation. I did a bit of research, and tried a simple home remedy: soaking the item in a basin of warm water with a cup or so of white wine vinegar added, then allowing it to air dry. Incredulous at first, I was pleasantly surprised when the trick worked.


For our day of denim in the office, I paired my Parisian flair with a simple and comfortable chambray shirt dress, another apt juxtaposition. 

An emulation of the taut braids, adroitly woven with nimble fingers with painted nails, these golden earrings wrap, tangible metal electron orbital shells, silent and no longer moving.

More Black, More White

My penchant for pairing competing patterns has nearly grown dull and tired, in the Truman Capote black and white; an inappropriate, or perhaps just poor, segue. Product of age, of a cynical defensive veneer for a slightly less than satisfying professional environment, I find myself dull and tired, when thrust in those parties, exposed to former circles that roll back and overlap with mine once more. Whether distance, or disinterest, or distaste, I find myself mentally silent, unwilling or unable to connect and converse with groups of individuals who had, at some point, been my peers, with varying levels of intimacy and familiarity. Like wild animals posturing, abiding by some deeply evolved organismic contract, we each nod and bob, make some blunt exclamatory jabs. Much of the meat of the content of these canned conversations is gleaned from carefully manicured digital portraits. Shamefully, much of this is likely a shaken self-confidence; from my own internal head space, others glide through, graceful and elegant, or unrelentingly hapless and happy. 

Feeling like I am floating idly in a predetermined current, my tedium and my insecurities at the party gave me pause, produced this reflection. It is not so terribly pessimistic. Mechanic and route though each play is, the artifice of acquaintance and catching up, I do enjoy it, simple and superficial, a glimpse into a past that has now morphed into something else entirely in my memory, a melding of reality and fabrication. It also helps me to appreciate those truly strong, truly significant relationships in my life, those that I have invested time and energy and emotion to nurture. So, when the music is loud, the wine is poured, it is comforting to realize, to truly know where my friends are.

Polka Dot Petticoat

Layering a sweater with a blouse, or blouse with a blazer, is a fairly banal affair, though effective; layering a skirt with a wrap dress requires a bit more innovation and technical skill for a proper execution, as well as more daring. This silk cream and black polka dot skirt is fun and carefree, but dangles awkwardly, lackadaisically below the knee. Underneath this plain black cotton wrap dress, I was able to wear the skirt higher on my waist, tenuously fastened or at least held steady by the taut wrap. A few inches of patterned fringe beneath the dress created a soft volume and movement to a staid staple.

To accompany my pioneer frontier meets modern metropolitan look of possibly dubious layers, my favorite golden tumbleweed earrings, from Paris. I can hardly believe that it has been an entire year since I was there, Paris in April, a Paris gray and large and constantly unfolding in nuances and intricacies. Isolated among throngs of strangers, I felt a peace and a fury of kinetic tension while there, a sort of nervous energy that, for me, comes with exploring a new city alone, sometimes uncertain of how the sights, sounds, tastes will interact with me. With no expectation, or obligation, with friends or acquaintances, with any other soul, traveling alone is a sort of release and a relief, but also a time when corners of self arise and demand to be confronted, those parts that can be suppressed or ignored when properly distracted with typical, mundane work and play. Amidst my poetry and my paperbacks of Henry Miller and Gaston Bachelard, I was forced to spend time with solely myself. April in Paris.