Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bracelets: Is dash worth the cash?

(This post was accidentally published in progress, and what I have to say is so earth-shattering that I'm reposting the complete version.)

Having a moment: the 5-pointed star motif, and if you avoid pattern, you can wear it as jewelry.


Givenchy silver-tone "Stars" leather bracelet, £320 at Liberty. Now, would you buy? Oh, be quiet, Christine! Yes, it is chic, but it's a very pricey bauble. While I don't think stars will date (they're billions of years old already), those are 'silver tone', in other words, good old pot metal, on a nice leather band, for (converted to $US) about $520, plus tax and for many buyers, shipping. 

Is it good value? No, but there is the frisson of wearing the latest killer accessory. If I were in the right mood, with an enabling supportive girlfriend in tow, after lunch with the glass of wine I never have at lunch, I might spring for it, and then, being me, regret the impulse.

Why? Because there will be an H&M version on the rack by Christmas, but even more because I could have bought square studs on soft camel for $46 from dasanda and have my rocker chick sated for less than the tax on the Givenchy.



If I had to have those stars, I could get this custom-made in my choice of colour and the perfect size from London-based EFXCustomwear, for about $60; it's also available as single, narrower band:




Or for about half the price I could leather-wrap my wrist in six Tahitian pearls ($313 from PerlaMundi): 



If tempted to open my wallet wide, it would be to rock this Henri Bendel sterling silver and snakeskin piece from Beladora; price, $495, and of far higher quality than the 'silver tone' studs.


I reflexively steer clear of new designer jewelry sold in retail shops, much as I'd admire that Givenchy piece on someone. 

And who designs Givenchy jewelry these days? Not jeweler James Taffin de Givenchy, the designer's nephew, who scuffled with NYC police in a traffic incident last week, resulting in charges.  Let's confine our bad girl behaviour to a little wrist candy, so we don't have to spend our savings on making bail!




 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scarves: Fox hunting

I partial to certain animals—foxes and owls—so I fell hard, I mean shuddering-waves-of-longing-hard for this:

An Emma Shipley Odin scarf: Arctic foxes with winged helmets and feet! Frightfully expensive (£355) but idiosyncratic and beautiful.  

Yikes, that is about $640 in $CDN (for a 55 inch by 78 inch rectangle), plus shipping and those ghastly customs duties, for modal, aka rayon. A high-end rayon, but still, The Scarf Is Too Damn High, girls. 

A reader e-mailed me in early summer about an Etro scarf she was eying with a similar price point to the Odin, and I said the same thing: rayon should not ring in above a good weight silk.

I found a designer, FineArtSilk, on Etsy who has a category for scarves featuring foxes and owls. Soul sister! What do you think of Foxes on Gray?




Price is $75 plus shipping, and it is 100% silk. It has a naive charm but is not a natural fit with my wardrobe.

Closer to my palette is the scene of naughty foxes on Karen Mabon's 35-in. "Midnight Feast" silk square (also from Liberty), with an unusual teal, tomato, grey and black colourway and offbeat theme; the price, £110, is not crazy.
 


Hermès, "Chasse au Bois" features a pretty fox; I found a classic carré on eBay for around $US295. No question, I would wear it.





The medieval, costly Odin is out; the hand-painted owls probably too artsy-crafty, the midnight munchers tempting, and I have abiding affection for the quality and refined palette of Hermès—but wearing that means many others stay in the drawer. What to do?

In the meantime, at a corner vintage shop, I picked up a small Pucci-esque silk square, in new condition, for $10. No foxes, but a lively little tweakette.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stepping into snow

Yesterday was the first snowfall in the city. The day also brought another gift: my friend Connie gave me a Fitbit! My goal is 10,000 steps a day, which is paltry compared to the avid walker Connie, who logs multiples of that—but it's a start. She sent me a Flex, the wristband model, in swimming-pool aqua.

Overcome with enthusiasm, I headed out, malgré les temps.



Special of the Day: wet snow, with seconds on the house!



The waiter asked, "Are you taking photos for your girlfriends?" Yes!


I had to watch every step!






 Few cyclists braved the streets; more than one walked a bike:


 Ah, the glee of the first snowball fight!


The walk lifted my spirits, as walks will. I was charmed by this window display: a tutu of evergreen-and-gold boughs, a bodice of sheet music. This is the window of the local boutique, Fripe Fabrique; what an eye for design!



WIW note: That's a Golightly Cashmere watch cap on my head, and I can't think of a more practical luxury for frigid climes. (Golightly also make a feather-weight watch cap, as well as other styles, and the hats are available in a range of sizes.) 

The colours are magnificent, the weight substantial, and the watch cap model is deep enough to pull down over your delicate ear lobes. It was a stretch to buy it some years ago, but it's been worth every penny. 

A reader sent a note to say how happy she was with hers, so I wanted to be sure, as the temperature drops, to mention it again. 

I've signed on for "the magic of 10,000 steps", just in time for holiday goodies and the seductive sloth-induction of our long, dark winters. When I came home, a a chirpy Fitbit shoutout and a badge were waiting! Ho, it knows what I'm doing. (You can control just how much it knows, somewhat.)  

So is the little sensor naughty or nice? If I can maintain my goal weight over the winter, I'll be a convert—maybe even as devoted as Connie, or David Sedaris, who wrote a very funny piece about his obsession here

If there are FitBitters reading, please say hey. How are you doing?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Recommended: "How Many Roads?"

I spent an afternoon immersed in Jonathan Sa'addah's just-released book of photographs, "How Many Roads?" I began in daylight and was so engrossed that darkness fell before I turned the last page—like the era itself, as it moved from Woodstock to Watergate.

Those of you properly old enough to be in the Passage will immediately identify the opening phrase from one of the most-performed songs of the era, Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", but the title also evokes the building of the Interstate expressway that displaced New England farms and rural communities, and the 'roads' sought by many youths of the '60s to early '70s—the period documented by the book's ninety-one photographs.

In 120 gorgeously-printed pages, images of fury, tenderness, hope, and the occasional guffaw (if you've ever lived through a VW van's engine fire) evoke more than nostalgia; I wondered, What has remained of that hunger for change? And there is love, too: luminous children, unself-conscious rural beauties, a burnished stove's facade. 

Jonathan Sa'addah and Beth Adams at the book launch

The book is enriched by several essays; Beth Adams, artist and writer of the blog The Cassandra Pages (and also Jonathan Sa'addah's wife), has contributed a richly descriptive memoir, and I appreciated Hoyt Alverson's timeline; after forty-some years, I no longer recalled the exact sequence of landmark events.

At that time, several hundred miles to the west, I lived through similar demonstrations, homesteads and songs, but my enthusiasm for this book is not strictly time-bound. The photographs witness the ardor of youth in any era, and the trying, exhilarating responsibility of citizenship, regardless of one's country. 

"How Many Roads?" is an important documentary work, and at the same time, an artistic pleasure. You can order it here, in soft or hardcover editions, including one with a signed print. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Predictive shopping: Getting you where you live

In an article, "Shopping Made Psychic" (New York Times, August 21, 2014) by Cass R. Sunstein describes a mode of shopping made new by technology.

Using the "Book of the Month" analogy, Sunstein asks if the time has come, to revive the model where you receive goods or services which you have not chosen, based on an algorithm of your habits: picture Amazon sending you the books you'd buy anyway. That's called predictive shopping. The goods are returnable and (I assume, the article doesn't say) there would be no shipping charge either way if you did not accept an order.

He undertook survey research and found, in summary, that up to 1/3 of  all respondents would welcome such a service, especially for staples, which might even be monitored remotely so the vendor knows when you're running low. 

As you'd expect, the acceptance rate rose when buyers could opt in to such a program, and was far more popular among youth, with an up to 40% approval rating for the idea of receiving regular, recurring deliveries initiated by a selected vendor.

Sunstein writes, "It suggests the possibility that among younger people, enthusiasm is growing for predictive shopping, especially for routine goods where shopping is an annoyance and a distraction. For such goods, predictive shopping promises to be liberating..."



Just send a pair yearly!
I also see elders as a market. Since my wardrobe is 85% predictable, a vendor could send me two pairs of jeans every fall, with advance notice and suggestions of complementary items (sweetened by a discount) I might add to the shipment. 

Once begun, why stop? I'm only going to get older. I think of my mother's friends in their 70s and 80s, still keenly interested in clothes, but unable to make the rounds of stores or even cope with repeated trips to the change room. 

Those Depression-era women would have been suspicious of unbidden purchases, but my generation, softened by internet shopping, are ripe for the plucking. Just like credit cards, predictive shopping is a consumption-enabler par excellence. 

Could you say no?
I wondered, Could I turn away a prettily-packed box I didn't order? It would feel almost rude, like refusing a hostess who's just served whipped cream on my berries.
(Photo courtesy of issabellathecat, who blogs about her spectacular quilts.)

Big data has already come a-courting; the path has been laid via flash sales, "members-only" sites like Groupon, the "other shoppers bought" feature on Amazon, and those creepy ads that pop up when you're booking a plane ticket—for the very shoes you were ogling on Net-a-porter.

Caveat (pre)emptor.






Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Country Mouse stylist's picks

A commenter on another blog commented, "I'm finding it difficult to buy my "everyday" (retirement in rural village) clothes. I need practical things and somehow they all seem just too basic to get excited about, even though they are well-coordinated."

I posted a brief reply, but wanted to expand my thoughts here. 

My rural-village-living friend Gaye works part time as a costume designer in the film industry. At home in rural Ontario, she wears clothes that lift her out of the generic, country-mouse look yet fit the practical requirements of small-town life. Most can also be worn while working.

She is a classic dresser, loves scavenging in thrifts and consignment, and always looks like she spent a great deal more than she did.

Here are several "Gaye pieces":

J. Peterman Long Snowflake Sweater; price, $198. (Gaye would definitely belt it.)

Nordic sweater coat


She wears cords, but in non-standard colours like mallard blue or sequoia (shown) as well as the neutrals. (Shown: Talbot's straight leg cords, $70 and often on sale.) She would wear that with a basic turtle or crewneck...

Nonstandard coloured cords

... and add a scarf, choosing a size that works indoors as well as out; old houses are drafty. She is an Anglophile and, if she didn't take a leftover from a shoot, might choose this Brora Fair Isle scarf in plum:


Brora scarf


Gaye also wears skirts in the country; one of her favourites is a decades-old Anne Klein leather a-line she found in a secondhand shop, paired with thick tights and boots. Here is a "Gaye skirt": Brora's fine check tweed midi, price, £169:


Brora tweed skirt


Gaye knows how to mix high and low. She likes the versatility of vests and adds one under a light coat or field jacket to add a colour zhuzh. (Shown, Land's End down vest, about $60). She would also wear it with the skirt, over a gray or cream turtleneck. Working with hues is way more interesting than exact coordination.

LE down vest

She spends time driving, and doesn't want to haul shoes here and there. She and I wear Blundstones: tough, perfect for all but the tallest drifts, and kick on/off. Gaye's are "Crazy Horse Brown", and she slips sheepskin insoles into them.
Blunnies

 If she must swap, she tucks a pair of ballet flats in her bag.

Gaye said a coat she can wash is her ideal; she can't always get to a dry cleaner. Patagonia's Vosque 3-in-1 parka ($469) fits the bill: a zip-out liner, a waterproof outer shell, a hood, a versatile grey colour with its kick of violet shell, a shaped, feminine fit—and washable.  

(She finds this a good price. On set, wardrobe people spend their working hours in coats and will spend nearly anything to be able to work in them.)
Patagonia Vosque parka
I also notice that she throws unabashadely romantic pieces into the mix; her clothes are not all no-nonsense country classics. So on a summer's night when she served us dinner outdoors under a grove of trees, she  wore a pair of loose pants and a top similar to J. Peterman's "Nadya's Tunic":
  


Blue sapphire ring
Finally, Gaye wears jewelry, nearly always gold gypsy hoop earrings, and a whopping sapphire that was an engagement ring from a former marriage, now reset. Just because she's in the country, she does not leave the good pieces in her drawer. 

No such gems in your past? Not to worry; a ring like Jamie Joseph's blue sapphire cabuchon (13mm x 14mm) provides the punch.

And she carries a big, vintage doctor's satchel found in Edinburgh, but here is a similar one on Etsy:

Call the doctor!

A retired villager need not scamper about in dull clothes; she just has to cast her net a bit wider. And, Gaye would add, stay interested not so much in trends as in the joy of colour and the pleasure of good fabrics made into well-constructed pieces.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November: Coated in colour

At the market, in rich late afternoon light, I saw that women were applying colour in their outerwear, as if to postpone the wave of winter black. The same palette I admired in pots of mums showed up in coats; les Montréalaises style their outerwear superbly. Why not, in a city where winter will last five months?



The shiny finish on her fuchsia jacket popped that pink:


  
Another pink coat; and notice her glasses frames!



I loved her combination of an oatmeal coat, deep burgundy scarf and mauve hat:



Pumpkin jacket, taupe scarf and wristwarmers, a cream hat: so pretty!




Black and grey, yes, but not so basic when showing up as a "fur"! Accessorized with an Aran-knit beanie and big café au lait scarf:



But there is also charm in coordination; she matched her periwinkle topper to her socks. A colour I would not think to wear in November—and how appealing! 



Returning home, I opened my closet to a sea of dark and now wish I had a coloured winter coat, a lemon drop for the soul.

Trying to avoid wool, though, as the odd moth is still in attendance.