Taking the sixth, with pearls on

The gracious Hostess of the humble bungalow has asked me to post the sixth blog image (ever, I guess) and in the spirit of the game, here it is, an image of pearls designed by Zara Scoville of Priceless Imperfection.

Zara works in "dirty" or non-white pearls; wearing one of her pieces is an ongoing dream.

What le heck, while we're in the Passage, let's look at some new pearls, pearls of infinite mood and various prices, and all genuine pearls.

Stacked Kamoka Tahitian keshi bracelet, price, $235 from Kojima Company. Lustrous natural gray and silver 5.5-7mm pearls with 14k yellow gold clasp. Organic yet polished.

Gurhan pearl drop earrings, price, $1,193 from Bergdorf Goodman. 15mm pearls, hammered silver and 24k gold.

Just about the perfect-with-everything earrings, and they look so

Harrison Morgan triple-strand blue chalcedony, pink freshwater pearl & sterling silver necklace, about 22 inches, price, $425 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

I see this on
Betty Draper, lending instant self-possession... then, a stolen kiss with Henry Francis. (Can he really be that courtly? We will find out in July.) Divine on a blonde or silver haired woman.

Then there are pearls for Patti Smith. TEM's four-row pearl collar with each strand a different type of pearl, which you can only sort of see in this shot. (From outside in, stick, round, oval and stacked keshi.) Price, $1,740 from Barneys.

Too bad they shot it on white, but check the site and zoom in– it's worth it!

Aesa Sadko necklace, grey pearl and brass cluster on an oxidized 20-inch silver chain. In a v-neck, oh yes. Price, $395 from Barneys.

Elegance in motion. Elsa Peretti 18k gold mesh and pearl earrings are light, malleable and alluring. 3.5 inches long, also available in a shorter, smaller size. $950 from Tiffany.

Birdsong, flowers, pearls! May your heart be light.

Stunned by sensational service

A short time ago, I took my GF Ruth's mother, Françoise, age 83, shopping. Ruth was on the beach in Cabo San Lucas with a daiquiri, I was in the mall/ant farm known as the Eaton Centre, with Mum, her walker, and a generous gift card from Ruth's partner. Françoise was hell-bent on new clothes.

She lives alone in a suburban apartment, without a car. Her daughter is devoted, but had not yet been able to mount the expedition– so I willingly volunteered.

But I chose a mall skewed toward the Mango/Bebe/LaSenza crowd. I mean, Banana Republic is 'older' there. We went because I thought we were looking for only a spring jacket, and the department store (The Bay) has a mammoth outerwear department.

Françoise struck it lucky at The Bay, immediately scoring a sharp cherry-red London Fog topper, 60% off. We visited Housewares to buy crystal beer glasses for GF's guy. Yay, done in under an hour!

I saw the exit ramp in sight, but this stop only
primed the pump for her; she had a second, previously undisclosed gift card tucked in her wallet. I then realized we'd be there for hours and mentally pictured the martini I'd have once I'd returned her safely home.

We trolled the mall; she wanted to stop at Laura, a popular-priced women's store that carries bright print shirts, career clothes, embellished sweaters, target market older than H&M but younger than Talbot's. My heart sank: I had a size 16 Petite biddy in tow, high on getting downtown, feeling flush. And I thought, there's
nothing here for her.

But I underestimated the
professionalism and determination of a young, motivated salesperson. Françoise told her, "I want a two-piece set", by which she meant a pantsuit, and lo, the girl found her three: a classic mid-gray wool, a salt and pepper tweed, and a refined, seasonless navy fine wool crepe. The navy, the most expensive, was by Louben, a Montreal company she knew from her seventy years spent there. And all on sale!

They brought me to a plush love seat, served us Perrier, fussed over her, offered next-day alterations. You would have thought I was Stacey freakin' London.

All three fit, given minor tucks. Françoise chose the navy crepe and added a string of faux gray pearls. Her choice outshone everything in the store.

She told the saleswomen (two others assembled to extend the gentle good will of affectionate nieces): "Isn't she WONDERFUL? Picked me UP! Made me LUNCH! Brought me HERE!" and insisted on buying me a strand too. She sailed out one ecstatic biddy, gift card exhausted.

I acquired my own strand of faux pearls (her gift), a first-hand experience of exceptional customer service (which
never happens to me), and yes, that evening, a restorative martini.

How did we get the red-carpet treatment? She's vivacious and voluble. Her limited mobility brought out their helpful side. (Sweating bullets hauling her bags, I elicited sympathy too.) We were in a quiet store. She obviously wanted to buy.

When I commented to Françoise that they had been incredibly helpful, she said, "Well, that's what they're paid to do." It struck me that I am simply so unaccustomed to service that I am astonished when I get it!

Endangered species: The tailored blouse

lagatta commented, "But as a very busty person with very small, sloping shoulders (an old-fashioned body type) I am very relieved that t-shirts of the more elegant type (silk, hemp, fine cotton) can sub for blouses. Blouses were a nightmare for me, even if too large they gaped and unlike the Queen I couldn't afford to have them made to fit."

Of all the obvious corner-cutting in women's wear, blouses have suffered the most.

Shirts have held, but the feminine yet tailored blouse has nearly vanished. ("Blouse" in English generally means a shirt without tails, worn by women, girls and historically, young boys.)

This is what you see most of the time: the Brooks Brothers linen shirt ($98) with placket sewn straight to the shirt collar.

I hun
t lapel-collared blouses, in notched, wing or shawl styles. (Shown, vintage blouse from etsy seller greatestfriend.)

Ann Roth costumed Meryl Streep in "Julie and Julia" in mostly lapeled blouses, including this wing version.

Nearly-extinct details

You'll also have a hard time finding more than one of these details on a blouse:
- Pleated or gathered yokes, front or back

- Bust darts

- Straight, well-finished slit-sided bottom (so you can wear the blouse tucked or untucked in a dressier manner than shirt tails)

- French cuffs

- Prints or stripes
that match at seams and pockets
- Chest pocket
- Mother-of-pearl or covered buttons
- Thin half-shoulder pads, to create a shoulder line even if yours slope

- French seams in blouses of sheer fabrics

If you yearn for detail plus precise fit, you'd best
be pattern-shopping.

rda #8503 (from Pattern.com) has lapels, front and back princess seams, shoulder and sleeve darts, watch pocket and a cheeky weskit tail.

That blouse involves serious tailoring. And you wonder why today's mass market blouses don't fit?

with definite busts might choose a wrap style like this Lafayette 148 lurex stripe ($140 on Overstock.com).

It offers some flexibility at the bustline, but the shoulder still has to fit.

If you sew or have found your dressmaker-angel, Burda #8497 from Sewing.com is your wrap-blouse number.

I tried to have a blouse made by a men's custom
shirtmaker here and got a blank stare.They cannot deal with bust darts and really aren't interested.

And look at this, worn by Barbara Dalton, 1959 Runner Up in Glamour Magazine’s Ten Girls with Taste survey: a wool jersey blouse with draped lapeled collar by Dorian Macksound, crepe scarf by Sally Gee.

Like lagatta, I too resort to knits, but long for chic blouses and hoard those I've found from French makers such as Anne Fontaine and Alain Figaret.

Once you've found one, your work is just beginning. Only good for one wear, each takes a good 20 minutes to press those darts and facings. But it's small price for a womanly, graceful garment.

Silver on Etsy: The ethereal and exotic

I spent hours trying to find exceptional jewelry on estsy.

Oh, there's loads for 20-somethings in Lululemon, and masses of chunky, lumpy beads. Lots of "repurposed" pieces that should never have been purposed to begin with. The strong point of many necklaces is their romantic name.
After hundreds of page views, I bookmarked two vendors. I could admire their designs on a 50+ women without thinking her daughter bought her something she wanted.

The ethereal: Plante's pearls

te makes naturalistic pieces that have just enough detail to enchant, but never overwhelm. The Black Rose earrings, $180 are shown in oxidized silver and pink pearl. Also available in polished silver and white pearl, and various custom options. She will also make them as dangles.

Her Eucalyptus Le
af ring with pearl, $95, is available in three color options: black patinated silver with white pearl (pictured), matte silver with black pearl, or copper/multicolor patinated silver with pink pearl.

The graceful Rococo pendant comes in a variety of finishes and stones, shown here in with matte silver and carnelian, $140.

I especially like her ability to offer various finishes and gem options, so if you're looking for something to coordinate with your silver, she can advise and send additional photos.

he exotic: Turkish delight

After hundreds of pages of austere studs and earnest bead work, I was transported by the funky offerings of FIGistanbul, a Turkish vendor whose amped-up tribal goods stood out amid a sea of sweetness.

I haven't worn one of these mamas, so can't attest to the weight and fabrication, but for the price of a couple of pizzas, I'd give it a try. (The vendor has 100% positive feedback.)

The 2-inch high Svetlana pendant, oxidized sterling silver with goldwash, red quartz and tiny clear and pink zirconias really kicks up its heels for $48, da?

Comes on a 20" (50cm) flexible titanium ribbon or hang it on your chain.

Bold An Uzbek silver and turquoise Bird ring, $100, reminds me of something left behind when the gypsy caravan moves on.

An origina
l gift, or just the thing to add interest to your bangles or chains.

Pastille earrings: a 3 1/4 inch (carnelian, pearl and turquoise give a 3 1/4-inch sweep of glamour for $75. Give them to anyone who will enjoy having her neck kissed.

Both artists offer strong pieces that flatter
women and sidestep, no sidedance, that earnest crafty look.

Have an Etsy jewelry find you'd like to share? Tell us!

He had it comin'

First, a little mood music (and slinky Fosse choreography) from "Chicago" as a prelude to my topic: women and vengeance.

All names have been changed.


Matty attended a conference out of town. When she came home, she found her longtime boyfriend asleep in their bed... with her best friend.

Matty grabbed a tube of Krazy Glue from the kitchen and used a good squirt to bond the part of his anatomy most involved in the indiscretion to his abdomen. It took a plastic surgeon and a urologist hours in surgery to return him to some semblance of normal. Matty was unrepentant in court and got a 2-year sentence, most of it served on probation. (She had not even a traffic ticket before this.) She told us, "It was worth it."


Olive's story dates back to the 1960s, when she was a housewife in the far suburbs. Her husband Al was often away on business, and treated himself to regular golfing and fishing trips with his buddies. At home with four small children, the isolation got to her. She felt insufficiently appreciated. Or something.

The family car was in her name. One day she drove that Caddy to the dealership, traded it for a beater from the back lot and with the difference, treated herself to a Blackglama mink, "just like Judy Garland's".

Her niece told me the story, and said she hoped she'd inherited Olive's spunk. Al said he did have it comin' and began to treat Olive with more respect. He bought the Cadillac back, she kept the mink.


Brenda was separated from her husband Pete when she had an opportunity, gained by sneaking into his apartment, to check the dating site replies on his computer.

She found the expected innocuous replies about favourite music and movies, let's have coffee. But she also found a file of correspondence with one women, an exchange far more intimate and graphic.

Brenda was devastated by the content, because some of the acts and preferences were exact references to their lovemaking over the years. She snapped when Pete's pet name for her was used for this other woman.

She opened his address book and sent this file to everyone: his clients, his friends, his mother.

When she told me several days later, I predicted that Pete would have her charged with a number of offenses, beginning with trespassing. He did not press charges, but divorced her.

She never showed a shred of remorse.

A family counselor told me that, in his experience, when a woman chose the revenge route, she rarely expressed regret. I'm not condoning violence or criminal acts, and would have begged Matty and Brenda not to do it, had I seen it coming. Olive? I could do it.

The "deadlier of the species" or just "enough is enough"?

Sotto voce style

I'm becoming ever quieter in my clothing.

Perhaps it reflects a time of life. "Fun" clothes might get a try-on but don't make it to the cash register.
I leave riotous colours and pattern-mixing to those who wear them joyfully.

Subtle colours–whether light or dark– endure; intensity tires.
But not all neutrals are pretty. Grey, everywhere this spring, can illuminate or drain.

Below, clothes I would (and in one case, did) buy. Above, pants and shell from Yeohlee's Spring '10 collection.

na Karan leather envelope jacket in whisper grey, $2,895 from Bergdorf Goodman. Palest grey washes out the face less than white.

J. Crew sepia Unagi tweed pencil skirt, $115. This rich shade is superb with black, navy, ecru, palest grey, and very hard to find.

Call it sepia, vicuna, cuivre, I adore this colour.

Happy Birthday, Dame Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, who turned 69 this month, designs some of the smartest clothes around for the money, mostly in navy and black.

For example: Viv
ienne Westwood navy wool-blend wide legged pants. It's the double inverted pleat down the front of the wide leg that suffuses me with pleasure. $445 from Net-a-porter.

I chose J. Crew's linen "sweatshirt" in mushroom, $70. The brown, which has a hint of red undertone, to wear with a black jersey skirt and multiple strands of pink, copper and green-gold pearls.

Lafayette 148 Mandarin Collar Jacket (price, $498 from their web site) in iridescent olive, a non-obvious neutral, a colour with depth and life.

Also available in plus sizes, and a matching ski
rt to make a suit.

Blue and white, skies and clouds. Vivienne Westwood again: an asymmetric blue-striped cotton dress, $445 from Net-a-porter.

The exceptions: Asian and Indian

I can embrace colour and pattern, but like it best in ethnic expressions. W
arm-weather holiday clothing is where colour comes naturally, patterns drop in for cocktails.

For a summer dinner party, I'd wear Diane von Furstenberg's Indian-influenced tunic, price, $200 from Net-a-porter.

Where did my unaccountable passion for Asian prints, like this Citron Santa Monica kimono jacket come from? Go figure.

A well-balanced border print: the way for the pattern-
shy to add interest.

The shawl, to replace a jacket for the coming months. So easy to tuck into a bag for travel. Shown, ivory and turquoise handloomed cotton ikat shawl, $25 from eBay seller fromsilkroad.

Last week's New York Times Style section reported that North American women are shopping again, celebrating the first signs of economic relief with big prints and colour. Whether nurtured by hot pink or navy, I'm all for a collective lift of mood!

I bought one of those Thai silk scarfs, in a soft blue-violet. Whooo, wild!

My colouring lesson

We have been driving about our city on weekends, snooping through open houses. Are we looking to move? Maybe, because we have a soon-to-be empty nest. But it's been nearly 25 years since we bought property.

I thought, let's find a cute bungalow or Victorian cottage, one floor for the coming years.

We toured magnificently-fluffed houses. Everyone, tutored by HGTV, puts out artful bowls of green apples, installs granite counter tops, unfurls crisp shower curtains. One untouched exception, a funky little place that smelled like a dank dishcloth, reminded us we don't have the grit for a gut reno.

There's nothing wrong with our house, except that one floor is now superfluous. The neighbourhood is vibrant, our elderly cat knows the sunspots on the floor, Le Duc's wisteria climbs, finally, as he wishes.

When I watch HGTV, I'm astonished by the renos people undertake strictly in order to sell. This seems like going through labour in order to get free coupons for baby gear.

Touring houses, I felt like a mark who sees the con but gets seduced anyway: vintage barkcloth drapes, cool! Look at that collection of flasks! These effects decamp along with the former owners.

A shrewd buyer ignores the art direction, notices the wonky window jams, the panel screwed onto the bedroom wall hiding... what?

I decided to stage our house and live in it: redecorate the tired bedrooms, put my shoes on racks, order fresh towels from Garnet Hill.

We spent a Saturday afternoon pouring sullenly over a ham-sized deck of paint (note: that word contains pain) chips. I dreaded making the decision.

Providentially, we met Canada's colour guru, Janice Lindsay, of Pink Colour and Design at a dinner party hosted by our friends Richard and Maria.

I booked a consultation; in under two hours, this consummate pro read us and developed sumptuous colour schemes for the most-in-need rooms.
What a worthwhile service, and a delight to witness an artist at work. We're confident, relaxed and eager to begin.

If you'd like to mine Janice Lindsay's colour mojo– from the science and psychology of colour through inspirational examples of decor– hunt down her gorgeous book, "All About Colour", published in 2008. One used copy is on sale on Amazon.ca; the book is sold out on Amazon.com and Indigo.ca. Hello, library! (Note: Amazon.com asks $250 for a copy. What? The list price is around $30.)

And click here to see Pittsburgh Paints' Coming Home Collection, chosen and described by Janice.

I can't wait for her eye on the rest of the house. But one or two rooms at a time. We're here for awhile.

Turquoise to robin's egg; Resources

Since I'm not the only one captivated by robin's egg-to-turquoise hues, I thought I'd offer some sources.

Brora call this luscious shade opal, but it looks like a pale-ish robin's egg to me, (with no green in it, Lisa). Excellent quality from a beloved Scottish maker. V-neck, £169. International shipping.

Pashminas Direct will make shaded pieces by order, like this turquoise ranging from pale to deeper hues, about £35 for a 75cm x 180cm shawl; send a request via Pashmina Direct's online store.

Turquoise ostrich tote, in good/very good used condition, lined in camel suede, $1,380 from Portero.

Talbot's piqué jacket in "Adriatic", web only. The brand I love to slam may have created a really solid winner. It even has a waistline.

And for $169.

Baccarat crystal Galet pendant, $230, available to US only from Neiman Marcus.

You can find Bacarrat jewelry at many other locations, such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and at Bacarrat boutiques worldwide.

Craig Taylor ruched cotton/nylon shirt, $155 from Neiman Marcus. I like how a turquoise shirt picks up either a black or white skirt; or if you're brave, red, orange, purple, pink...

Diane von Furstenberg Kula leather sandals, $245 from Net-a-porter. I like the graceful proportions and gold leather detailing, which takes this sandal from day to night.

I'm still looking for my robin's egg driving loafers!