Archive for the ‘fashion’ Category


I’ve been feeling for some time now, over these past couple of Really Cold Winters, so like the 1970s winters of my childhood, that I need a winter hat.

I used to wear hats, usually toboggans, all winter – well, for one thing, my mother pretty much insisted on it.  By the time I was in high school, though, I was a) worried about my hair and b) not very cold without a hat.  Our winters had become much less cold, as well.  So I eschewed hats.  I went through a (ridiculous) Earmuff Phase in college, during which I think I had three pairs of them – a white faux-fur pair, a maroon pair to match my knit gloves, and a fuzzy teal pair.   But earmuffs don’t keep your actual head warm, either.  I’m not even discussing their fashion, um, wrongness.

In my late 20s, I did sometimes want a covering for my head that wouldn’t ruin my hair, and bought one of those hood-scarf thingies to wear with my good long wool coat.  But it’s acrylic knit, and it’s pilly and decrepit now, and, to be honest, cheesy.  I expressed displeasure.

So Bookworm crocheted me one out of some bulky blue-and-green marled yarn, as a Christmas present.  It’s super warm, and the color makes my eyes look pretty.  It also makes me look like one of the dwarves from The Hobbit, which is not an especially good look if you are short and plump, as I am.

And then, last week, there was a picture all over Yahoo! of Queen Elizabeth II leaving St. Mary’s Church in Sandringham after Christmas services, wearing a fur hat.  Immediately, I wanted one.

A fur hat! I exclaimed to myself, and considered the possibilities.  It wouldn’t squash my hair.  It would be warm.  It wouldn’t look like a toboggan hat, or a beret – which always seems to give me the effect of a toad looking out from under a toadstool – or a Mad Bomber hat.  And hats are stylishly quirky these days; not everyone wears them.  I am not stylish, but I am happy as a lark being quirky, so there you go.  I am also well aware that Queen Eliz is not known for being fashionable, and emulating her attire is an iffy proposition.  I just don’t care: I like that hat.

So I went to eBay.  They have tons of women’s vintage winter hats, did you know?  Crocheted, knit, felt, fur, faux fur, wool, velvet, with veils, with feathers… the contents of Great-Aunt Mildred’s closets are displayed for all to see there on eBay, stuff made in a time when they knew what they were doing: hand-stitched linings, smooth seams, everything built to last.

I thought faux fur or wool at first, unsure that I really wanted to wear real fur and definitely not up for confrontation with paint-flinging animal rights activists.  But I live in Hunting Central.  People who spend their weekends in tree stands or duck blinds tend not to be affronted by other people wearing fur.  And I certainly wouldn’t buy a new fur item, but the idea of wearing such an item made before I was born doesn’t bother me.  Contradictory?  Maybe.  What are we supposed to do with all those old fur coats, give them proper burial?  Burn them?  I’m all for banning the continued manufacture and import of fur; unlike leather, fur is not a byproduct of food.  I do feel that with vintage fur, throwing it away would be even more of a insult to the animals that were killed to provide it.

And so I bought a vintage fur hat for $20, a third of which cost was shipping – a bargain, if you ask me, a rescue of somebody’s past, and maybe even a rescue of mine: I have a photo of my grandmother wearing just such a hat, sometime in the 1960s, with a green tweed suit and ecru gloves.  The hat hasn’t arrived yet.  But yesterday, The CEO asked me what I’d like as a birthday gift, and I told him.  “A vintage fur hat.  Oh, and a small bottle of Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, whenever the website opens up again.”

He looked at me, nonplussed.  “A fur hat? Where am I going to get such a thing?”  Then he blinked.  “Where are you going to wear such a thing?”

“Oh,” I said.  “I think I’ll manage.”

Feel free to share your stand on fur, but please keep it civil so I don’t have to shut down comments.

Image of Queen Elizabeth in fur hat from Huffington Post.  There’s no official confirmation that her hat and cuffs were real fur, though they certainly look like it to me.  Accompanying the Queen was her daughter-in-law Camilla, who was also wearing a fur hat.  Camilla’s hat, which seems to be mink, was apparently made from a coat belonging to her grandmother.  The Huffington Post article contains a poll on attitudes toward fur; at the moment, the poll seems to be running like this:

FINE:  38%        OFFENSIVE: 45%        LESS OFFENSIVE if vtg/repurposed: 17%

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After my Fashion Rant of a few weeks ago, I started getting interested in clothes and styles again – I’ve run across a few fashion blogs and informational sites I like, and will post links to them soon.  Going along with the whole Finding Clothes That Suit Me deal is finding them in the right C O L O R S.

Remember the Color Me Beautiful book from the 80s?  I had one, you (or your mother, depending on how old you are) had one, everyone had one.  I loved the idea that there were colors that suited me, that made me look great. 

I was pretty sure which season I was, too.  Pretty sure.  I mean, I knew I was not a Winter like my grandmother, and not an Autumn like my mother and sister, and two of my aunts.  I knew there was a reason that the sage green dress my mother kept trying to buy me was awful on me and stunning on my redheaded sister.   Both silver and gold look fine on me, neither one being noticeably better.  And my dark blonde hair is really neither warm nor cool, although when I have colored it from time to time, I’ve found that “Light Ash Brown” is an utter disaster and “Dark Golden Blonde” is only marginally better.  “Medium Neutral Blonde” looks like my teenage hair color.

The Spring palette seemed the most right.  At one point, I lived off the printed color swatches of “my season,” attempting everything on the page.  I couldn’t figure out, though, why certain colors that were supposed to be for me didn’t work – and why certain other colors, which didn’t seem to be in my swatches, did.  And I wondered why my favorite tops, the ones that happened to be in “my colors,” looked so great with black pants, when black was not supposed to harmonize with my colors.

Huh.  Go figure.  I mean, I was a Spring.  I should be wearing Golden Yellow, Pale Violet, and Peach.  But they never worked.  The paler colors in my palette, and the yellower ones, made me look like I was recovering from a particularly enervating surgical intervention.  (Trust me, I’ve had two cesarean sections and one gallbladder removal, and the aftermath was fairly hellish on my complexion.)

Ivory looked great.  So did Turquoise, Aqua, and Teal.  So did Watermelon, Bright Warm Pink, Tomato Red, Deep Coral, and Light Rust.  So did Spring Green, Camel, Deep Periwinkle, and Bright Navy. 

Turns out there have been some tweaks to the old four-seasons model: one new scheme has six seasons, and one has twelve.  The twelve-season model seems to make the most sense to me, since it starts with the four basic seasons and then further divides them into three sections, like this:

Clear Winter          Deep Winter          Cool Winter

Clear Spring           Light Spring           Warm Spring

Soft Summer         Light Summer        Cool Summer

Soft Autumn          Deep Autumn        Warm Autumn

After reading descriptions, it appears that I’m a Clear Spring, with hair and skin tones more neutral than warm (but more warm than cool).  It’s no wonder that the Golden Yellow and Pale Peach looked so awful on me – they’re Warm Spring and Light Spring colors, respectively.  And Clear Springs can add Black to their swatch list!  I still don’t want it near my face, but the fact is that it looks great with the rest of my swatches, so I don’t have to drive myself crazy finding the right shade of camel or tan…

Which is horribly difficult, by the way, since Spring colors are among the toughest to find in commercial fashion.  Camel is supposedly hot right now, but I haven’t found any garment I want in that shade yet.  I’d love a nice wool skirt… sigh.

It’s funny how these seasons run in families, or maybe it’s not so surprising.  As I mentioned before, my mother and sister are both Warm Autumns, and both my dad and brother are Springs too (Dad’s a Light Spring and Little Bro’s a Warm Spring – the boy can rock a bright olive green polo like nobody’s business).  And in my own family, The CEO and Gaze are Light Summers who look smashing in pale blue oxford shirts, while Bookworm, strawberry blonde like her uncle, is a Warm Spring, and Taz has exactly my own coloring.

It might be even funnier – or sadder – when seasonal colors clash within a family.  For example, my mother’s mother, who lived with my parents from the time I was six months old until she died (I was 38), was a Cool Winter, at home in gray and magenta and bright red.  Family story: there wasn’t much money in that family when my mother was growing up, and for Christmas her senior year of high school, all Mom wanted was a new winter coat.  My grandmother – working two jobs as a single mother, and taking care of her own elderly parents – laid away the prettiest coat she could find at the nice clothing store downtown, and paid it off in nickels and dimes and crumpled dollar bills, a little at a time.  She brought it home in a box, wrapped it up, put it under the tree.

Now, you have to understand a few other things here too: Sarah Lou, my grandmother, was always a big Gift Person.  Loved to make them, buy them, give them, get them, talk about them, show them off… any gift, big or small, expensive or not.  Was crushed if you didn’t like the gift she gave you. (She could come up with some real weirdies, too – my sister and I both got transistor radios shaped like cheeseburgers once as Christmas gifts, and once she gave Taz and Gaze leopard-print blankets.  The afghans she crocheted herself were much more popular.)  Furthermore, Sarah Lou was a Frills-n-Ruffles person: buttons, sequins, feathers, godets, jabots, faux jewels, lace, the more the better.  Remember the Juicy Couture Couture-Couture bottle? She’d have loved it.  While my mother, Ann, is a Tailored person: plain, streamlined, pearls-and-sheath-dresses and the like suit her style.

So.  Christmas morning, 1957.  Picture it: Sarah Lou sitting on the couch in her robe and slippers, atwitter with excitement as Ann picks up the box with the prettiest winter coat in the world in it.  Ann hoping for a winter coat and thinking brown wool would be nice.  The box is opened to reveal… a deep royal purple velvet coat, with lavish passementerie trim and diamante buttons.  Sarah Lou, smiling, clapping hands, says, ” Isn’t it beautiful?”  Ann, recognizing how much labor it had taken to purchase that coat, but miserable and trying not to cry, “Oh, Mother…”

The first coat Ann picked out for herself, with proceeds from her post-college teaching job, was a very plain, single-breasted, olive-green wool tweed with fabric-covered buttons.  She wore it for years.  Sarah Lou got that purple coat back, and she wore it for years.  I have vivid memories of them going to church together, side by side, purple velvet and olive tweed.

Colors matter, don’t they?  You bet they do.   

Here are some links to color analysis sites:

Color Me Beautiful, the original Carole Jackson format

Flow Seasonal Analysis (12 seasons)

Pretty Your World (more 12-season Flow)

A Woman for All Seasons (6 seasons)

I may, if I have time, come back and post examples of the colors I’m talking about.  It may be futile, though, since monitors don’t show colors very accurately.  (Witness the “deep rose” cashmere sweater my Autumn sister bought online at Old Navy last year, checking the online swatch against her wrist and deeming it to be more of a “rosy brick” color, one she could wear.  It turned out to be a deep blue-pink, a Soft Summer color that aged my sister a good twenty years all on its own.  The sweater looks great on The CEO’s mom, who is, you guessed it, a Soft Summer, comfortable in dusty pink, blue-grey and burgundy.)

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Remember my Fashion Blog Rant the other day?  Well, I’ve been doing some digging around, and there’s a whole world of fashion blogging out there, my friends!  It’s all new to me.

First the good news:  not all the fashion bloggers are snarky Mean Girls.  In fact, the ones that are tend to be young and very, very focused on trends.  I’ve run across several that I enjoyed and that I’ll be revisiting, and I’ll add them to a sidebar soon.  The ones I really like are mostly, like perfume bloggers, Doing it for Fun, with an eye to assisting people who need a little help (uh, that would be me).   

The bad news: the Young Snarky Trendy ones are the ones that show up on Yahoo! Shine and other fashion-mag-type sites.  It took lots of sifting for me to find bloggers who are genuinely interested in helping readers develop their own sense of style, based on lifestyle, budget, body type and coloring.   Some of the sites recommended by commenters here were helpful to me, and some were more focused on What’s Hot/What’s Not – which is definitely not my area of interest.  (If What’s Hot is already your interest, there’s nothing for you to see here, move along… and by the way, I envy you,  just a teensy weensy bit.) I’ll be adding some of my favorites to a sidebar soon. 

Which brings me to another point that I’ve been mulling over for some time: people come into the Fragrance Kingdom from several different directions.  Some people want to recreate the past in some small way, whether it’s their own personal past or just a period of time that interests them.  For some people, it’s a matter of completing their grooming – they want a nice smell to spray on, the way they look for a great haircut or a terrific body lotion.  For some people, fragrance is a way of experiencing art, in the same way one experiences Schoenfeld or Kandinsky or, say, Christian Lacroix’ showy red evening gown here at left.  And for some few, it’s a fascinating intersection of chemistry, business, and psychology.

I look around at my fellow perfume bloggers – those of us nutty enough about the stuff to want to write about it – and I can generally divide us into two camps: those of us who are primarily interested in fashion and beauty as well as scent, and those of us who are more interested in music, art, and literature.  I’m not saying, mind you, that there’s no overlap.  Of course there’s overlap.  There are probably perfume bloggers who are just as interested in DiorShow mascara as in a gallery showing of Sofia Minson’s work (her “Messenger” here at right),  just as excited by the Alexandre Vauthier winter couture collection as by a new Margaret Atwood novel.

I’m not one of them.  Undoubtedly, my world would be bigger if I were one of those people… of course, it would be bigger still if I ever got to read every novel, see every piece of art or sculpture or architecture, hear every piece of music that I wanted.  I feel that I don’t have enough mental space, or enough free time, to go slashing round Macy’s (look, some of us don’t even have a Sephora or an Ulta or a Saks to complain about, okay?) looking for The Best Eyeliner Ever, or The Perfect Pair of Boots.  I’d rather be listening to a performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.  Or, to be honest, reading Treasure Island to my kids. 

You pays your money and you takes your choice.  If it sounds like I’m dismissing the validity of interest in fashion, I’m not.  Really.  It just hasn’t been what I’ve chosen in my own life.

And how did I get sucked into Perfumista-hood?  Well, it started with Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose, which I bought and wore and loved for several months after a period of lean financial times and babies at home.  From there, I started investigating the Coco Mademoiselle that my sister had asked for as a Christmas gift, and ran across Now Smell This… and when I started intentionally smelling fragrances, a wildly new area of my brain lit up, emotional and richly sensuous, and I wanted to go and live in it.  Mostly I just visit – but it pushed me back into writing fiction, after a hiatus of nearly 16 years.  Worth it, I say, even if I never publish.

But this new interest in fashion, I think, I hope, will take me in a direction of simplicity.  Ditch the stuff that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t flatter, that didn’t survive the 56th washing, that for whatever reason just doesn’t work.  Stick with fewer classic well-made basics in colors I like, even if they’re expensive, and accent with a few new, inexpensive things each season (and those big silk scarves I love)… well, it sounds simpler, anyway.   Simple is good.  I can buy into paring down the things that don’t matter as much to me as my weekly choral group, or NaNoWriMo.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing some of my experiences as time goes on.  Meanwhile, if you’d like to share how you got interested in perfume, I’d love to hear.

Incidentally, most of these links are informational only.  I think that only one of them leads to a place where you could actually buy something (the DiorShow, of course), and it’s not a recommendation because a) $24 for a mascara seems ludicrous to me and b) I haven’t even tried it.  Top image is from Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, lower one from Artfind.

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Please tell me why…

… if you know, why are fashion bloggers so snarly and disdainful?

Are they like that in their private lives?

Do they go about their everyday business sneering at those of us who are perfectly happy in black contour-waist trousers and princess-seam blouses?

Just wondering.  I never watch award shows, but I am a sucker for those “On the Red Carpet” photo albums on Yahoo.  It never fails, though – I’ll find some dress that I think is interesting and attractive, and the blogger will call it “pedestrian.”  I’ll see some classic hairstyle that makes the actress wearing it look grownup and glamorous, and the blogger will call it “crunchy” or “dull.”  Or I’ll see some frou-frou garment of hideosity, like this dress that’s hung on the frame of the cute-as-a-button and very-talented Emily Deschanel:

And the blogger will give the look an A and say it “makes waves.”  Also that her hairdo is “bangin’.”  Say whuuhhh?   Okay, okay, I like the skirt.  But the bodice looks like Wilma Flintstone’s dress made of shredded tissue paper.  Not to mention that you can barely see Emily’s pretty eyes under that hairstyle, which, incidentally, I sported for several unfashionable grade-school years.

So then I got sucked into investigating several fashion blogs (some of which I discovered linked to some of my favorite perfume blogs)… and I’m appalled.  I’d be the first to admit that my tastes are, ahem, conservative – and for conservative, feel free to substitute boring, pedestrian, predictable, or bourgeois.  But I wouldn’t be caught dead in the outfits these people pull together and then post pictures of themselves wearing!  And I look at these photos and think, “This person has the nerve to dismiss [for example] the classic Chanel jacket?” 

Is it a requirement for fashion blogging to be disdainful?  Is the only way to distinguish yourself to make fun of other people? Do these people bring up fashion-averse children – or, more likely, do these people ridicule those who are so un-self-aware as to have children and thus spend their money on baby sleepers rather than Balenciaga? 

Luckily, I live in the boonies, where as long as I’m decently covered,  no one really cares what I’m wearing.

Photo of Emily Deschanel at the Oscars from Yahoo.  I’m certainly not making any money from it, by the way.

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