Archive for the 'Fashion' Category

Why I Bother

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I know parents who have given up on all sorts of things once they had a child. Movies, books, writing, restaurants, even clothing and makeup. All these things matter to me, though, so I make time for them by not doing other things. Clothing and makeup might seem trivial or superficial compared to the others, but I haven’t given up on those, either. Much of my time as a mother is spent on the physical needs of my toddler and baby. Time for my physical needs helps at least a little. I sometimes wonder, when I’m running late, if it’s worth it that I have makeup or accessories on, or that my outfit fits and matches. My preparation is an oasis of autonomy among the negotiations and acrobatics required to get the kids out the door.

Jeans: The Eternal Dilemma

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

A friend commented after we returned from a recent get-together, “Wow, there was a lot of inappropriate back fat.” It was a statement, not a judgment. Not only did I agree, but I was also a likely exhibitor. Full-time caring for small children means a lot of bending, squatting and other contortions. And while the current cut of pants may be more flattering than those of the past, it’s not at all forgiving in the coverage arena. Plumber’s butt isn’t so much a risk as a certainty to be minimized by strategically placing one’s back out of sight.

The current trend in jeans is low rise and straight leg or boot cut. A wider cut at the bottom, instead of a tapered one, is almost universally flattering. The low rise gives, but the low rise also takes away. The low rise provides less of a surface area for the bum, so it gives the illusion that the bum is smaller. In the front, it makes the pelvic area look normally sized, rather than something that goes halfway up one’s torso. But what gets added in flattering illusion gets paid for with practical problems. Since the jeans sit below the waist, they fall down more easily since they’re starting at a wider point. Also, they start lower, so there’s less room to fall.

Annoyed by this conundrum, I delved into my closet last night and unearthed the several pairs of Levi’s 560s for juniors that I have been meaning to sell on Ebay for ages. They’re no longer made, because they’re high waisted and tapered leg–anathema to the current fashion vernacular. But I tried them on, and not only do they fit, they give great coverage. The leg isn’t aggressively tapered. They lack spandex, so they don’t give like most jeans these days so, but that also means they don’t cling to every lump of cellulite.

So for now I’m giving these old jeans a try. I’ll see if the freedom from worry about flashing back fat trumps my insecurity about looking large-bummed with tiny ankles.

More on the Project Runway 3 finale

Friday, October 20th, 2006

I should be doing any number of things other than surfing the web reading about the finale. Baby Guppy naps, and Drake is reading to himself in his room, though whether it’s real reading or memorization, I can’t say.

But back to PR3. Here are a few good links:

Blogging Project Runway
The Fug Girls on the finale
EW interviews with the final four

Did anyone else get dressed up to watch the finale? One of my group, A., did a dead-on Jeffrey look, with a black skull T-shirt, rhinestone sunglasses, exaggerated brows, eye-liner neck tattoo, and even a crotch chain.

I dressed Laura-esquely in a DVF wrap dress with no bra for the plunging neckline, and white fishnet stockings, which were weirdly fascinating to the 3yo boys.

Our hostess, K., put on an Uli-ish floral, floaty dress but woke her baby girl when she changed into it, so much crying ensued in the name of fashion.

Finally, another friend A. dressed up a basket with beads, in an homage to crazy Vincent. (Read the Tim Gunn part of the EW article to confirm Vincent’s craziness.)

Project Runway 3, Finale part 2

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Right up front, Tim Gunn publicly absolved Jeffrey of cheating, thereby balancing the public accusation from last episode, and not prolonging the somewhat artificial suspense. The group I watch with was split. Some of us thought he didn’t cheat and Laura was venting her jealousy. Others thought he had too much opportunity to cheat. I felt somewhere in the middle. Maybe he did cheat, maybe not, but Laura’s behavior could have been better. She was, though, gracious in the face of the announcement.

Uli’s support of Jeffrey raised her further in my esteem, and I was happy to see her collection do so well. Michael, who seemed such a cinch to win mid-season, didn’t learn anything from the last challenge. His collection was full of variations on his last, losing design. Hindsight makes me wonder if he shouldn’t have been eliminated. Laura’s collection was no surprise–perfectly tailored formal outfits in neutrals. She said the collection is about dressing well, but I think her disdain of casual wear isn’t the strength she believes it to be. Uli’s collection showed a much larger range than the patterned flowing dresses she favored so often during the season. She learned from the last challenge, and it showed in a variety of wearable, fashionable looks. Jeffrey, too, learned to pay attention to his strengths. Of the final four, he had the most daring looks, and it was because of this that the judges awarded him the win.

I know many viewers were disgusted with Jeffrey as a person, and therefore didn’t want him to win. I think it’s facile to believe we can like or not like the people on these shows based on a heavily edited version of reality. Personality aside, I think he did the most interesting designs over the course of the season, and his collection was a strong finish.

Project Runway 3, Finale Part 1

Friday, October 13th, 2006

I’m not sure I have much to add beyond what Manolo the Shoe-Blogger has written about the first half of the season three finale. Laura seems to be stirring up trouble out of jealousy and a desire to win, Jeffrey is acting shifty, while Michael and Uli should be minding their own beeswax, not backing Laura up. Jeffrey and Laura’s stuff looks the best. Uli’s looks the same as it always has, barring her recent win. And Michael, who I was certain would win, seems to be buckling under the pressure. The previews made it look like Jeffrey was going to be eliminated because of Laura’s accusations of cheating. Therefore, I suspect it won’t happen. Generally, they merely hint at things that will happen. Strong telegraphing usually means a red herring or surprise reversal. It feels like a disappointing end to this third season.

Project Runway 3, Episode 12 Reunion Show

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

The reunion show confirmed many things for me about this season of Project Runway. Robert was funny. Bradley was strange. Alison was kindly. Kayne was charming. Keith was a liar, whose claims were about as believable as his nose. Laura thinks dressing up is a virtue.

And Vincent lives in a separate reality from the rest of us.

Project Runway Season 3, episode 11

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Apologies for the inconsistent posting. I hope to have things back on track soonish.

Episode 11 of Project Runway was both a surprise, and a letdown. The judges did not eliminate a designer, so the four remaining–Michael, Laura, Jeffrey and Uli–would all prepare for fashion week. I had picked Uli to lose, since she kept doing the same loose, flowy patterned dress each week. Instead, the other three choked. Jeffrey went so overboard trying to prove he was romantic that he did something boring and demure. Laura did the exact same thing she always does. Michael didn’t recognize that sexy, sensual and sultry all mean largely the same thing, and his evening gown flopped. I found the judges comments on him odd, though, since they kept saying he was clearly a sportswear designer, when they’ve praised his gowns nearly every time. Uli pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. She was about to do another loose flow-y dress, but correctly realized it would look like a “kitchen dress.” Instead, she changed course for something short, fitted, and daring. I think the judges had probably planned to eliminate her, but when her dress was clearly superior to the others, they couldn’t do anything but award her the win, and let the others stay on the merits of their past work. All four prepared collections, and all four seem to be all over the place with their designs, so I don’t think the winner or losers are so obvious after this episode.

As always, I checked out Manolo the Shoe Blogger’s thoughts, and was amused and impressed.

Project Runway 3 Episode 10: The Zombie Episode!

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

In which Angela and Vincent are brought back from elimination to make everyone else more anxious. I thought the producers might do something like this, but I talked about it with the group I watch with, I didn’t write about it here. So you can mock me mercilessly and not believe, but I won’t pretend I came up with the idea myself–I loved and remembered it from when The Morning News did it during their Tournament of Books.

The results of PR3’s Zombie Round paralleled that of The Morning News: the former losers were still eliminated. I was surprised that Angela and Vincent didn’t try harder. Both their outfits were not near their best. It’s the people who listen to both Tim Gunn and the judges who do well. Tim told Michael his dress was see through, then Michael used his extra fabric to line the dress. Good listening, Michael! (Can you tell what stage of toddler development we’re in at our house?)

Laura spent the episode exhausted and in tears. She realized, and was worried by, her lack of a previous win. I know many viewers think she’s heartless, but I suspect, as with Jeffrey, that a lot of her surface brashness is just that: surface. Her comment from a few weeks ago, when she admitted she was pregnant again and said she’d just throw the kid on the pile, sounded more like an attempt to cover trepidation with humor than true indifference. Her comments to Angela belittling the win that enabled her to return were tough, but fair. Angela’s win was a team effort. Laura was part of that team, and the final outfit had more of Laura’s aesthetic than Angela’s, as did the Angela’s Audrey Hepburn dress the following week. Angela was at her best when she designed like Laura.

While I agree that Laura’s dress was the best of the bunch, I’m not sure I agreed with the judge’s comments that it was MUCH younger than what she normally did, or that it wasn’t designed for her. That dress, with its empire waist, would have made a stunning maternity dress if she’d put a little give in the belly. Michael’s was elegant and a departure from his usual hip-hop twist, but what was with his model? She looked ready to fall over. Jeffrey and Uli were chastised for doing their same things. And Kayne, poor Kayne, who tried to do something classier, listened to the good advice of Michael, but couldn’t get far enough away from his penchant for glitz and drama. He was a good sport, though, as he was during the recycling challenge. He knew he’d misstepped, and he admitted it. I admire that openness and honesty, even while I agree it was time for him to go. Kayne, goodbye and good luck.

There are four designers left, and I think it’s become a battle for who will be second to Michael. Last week, I felt certain that Laura would be the next eliminated after Kayne; now I think it could be Uli, or even Jeffrey. But I’m going to predict Uli. She is either not listening to the judges, or not able to deviate from her flowing patterned styles. Both Laura and Jeffrey seem more able to adapt to the judges’ advice to do something different.

Check out the kind folks at Blogging Project Runway, who have lots of fun things to read about the episode.

Project Runway 3, Week 9

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Our viewing group was unanimous: we were thrilled to see the delusional Vincent go. We cringed when he fawned over Catherine Malandrino. We flinched when he cursed at Jeffrey, who (for a change) wasn’t even doing anything obnoxious. We groaned when he said his design “made him hot,” and averted our eyes at the sight of him in a tank top. Laura had it right when she said he was obsessed with his pattern, and professed to want feedback, but really wanted compliments. None were forthcoming, though. Tim Gunn scolded him for his wanton use of glue. Malandrino’s response was merely “No” over and over. Michael Kors snorted that his model was effectively topless. Richard Tyler was horrified by the floral “thing” on the back of the dress. (Then again, wasn’t he the designer of one of those dreadful suits Diane Keaton wore to an awards show within the past few years?) Laura was called to task for her plain dress; it looked old and done. Kayne was taken to task for his over-the-top top. Michael was taken to task for his weird bodice details. And Uli didn’t win because while hers was good, Jeffrey’s was great. He did something bright, fun and daring. Uli’s was none of these things. Manolo the Shoe Blogger astutely notes that several of the designers design for themselves and fit it for the models.

I predict that Kayne will be next out, and Laura after him. Their designs are getting worse, while Jeffrey’s are getting sharper. I think Michael is a shoo-in to win, and that Uli and Jeffrey will join him for the final three.

State Fair trip #2: Sock Monkey Couture

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

As usual, one trip to the Minnesota State Fair wasn’t enough for me. My second trip was with a friend, and without kids. I was positively giddy with freedom. We visited the craft barn to see the baking, knitting and quilts; the fine arts building to see the painting, photography, and children’s book art from the Kerlan Collection; and the agriculture building to see the orchid displays. Everything was fun to see, but perhaps nothing more than the freakish whimsy of the Sock Monkey dresses, 1 and 2.

I was pleasantly reminded that the fair is not _just_ about food. Even though we live in the city, I’m suburban in my food focus at the fair, according to this article on Slate. My friend introduced me to a new favorite: corn fritters with honey butter (outside the Food Building). I also had lemonade, fried cheese curds, Thai sausage on a stick in puff pastry, 1919 root beer, a frozen mocha on a stick, mini cinnamon rolls, and mini donuts. Going once with the family and once with a friend felt like just enough State Fair time. As with blush, I suspect “just enough” is probably the perfect amount.

Project Runway Season 3, Episode 8: Justice is Served

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

For this week’s episode, the designers were challenged to make an outfit for an international jetsetter. The twist? The jetsetters were they! One would think that designing an outfit for her/him self wouldn’t be hard, but Crazy Vincent and Ditzy Angela had a lot of trouble. Kayne didn’t, but he should have. I agreed with the this week’s judges exactly (thumbnails of the outfits at the Bravo site): Jeffrey as winner; Michael as almost winner; Laura, Ulli, and Vincent allowed to stay; Kayne as almost loser; and Angela sent home. Yes, Jeffrey was being a confrontational jerk. But Angela let him get to her, and it sent her already wildly uneven talent into a tailspin.

Angela’s outfit made me think that it was Laura’s tailoring influence that not only helped win the Macy’s INC challenge from Episode 4, but that spilled over into Angela’s lovely Audrey Hepburn dress for the following episode. Her outfit looked like something from the junior department at Macy’s–way too many “fleurchons.”She said again and again that she wasn’t a jet setter; her outfit was certainly more Ohio than international.

Jeffrey’s meanness did not prevent him from making an outfit that fit the challenge and himself perfectly, and reminded us that his almost win (and perhaps undeserved loss) from “Waste Not, Want Not” was not a fluke, despite the ugliness of the dress he made for Angela’s mom last episode. Don’t get me wrong. I agree he’s being an ass, though I don’t despise him as much or as hilariously as Midwestgrrl, but I still thought this outfit and the recycled dress were spot on.

Michael Knight revealed he’d worked as a model. He is so talented and seems to be such a decent guy I feel bad noting that he has terrible teeth. Perhaps if he wins this thing, which he seems on track to do, he’ll take care of his mom, and then find a good dentist.

Laura now looks pregnant, and I have to wonder how a 42 year old woman in her first trimester (likely exhausted and nauseated) will shoulder the early mornings and long hours. If it were me, I’d certainly cave, but she’s clearly made of sterner stuff. Her biscuit-colored dress, while lovely, and more flow-y than what she has done before, made her look a little monochrome with all that pale skin. And, as she noted, 4 inch heels aren’t ideal for jet setting.

Vincent played it safe and got lucky. Kayne didn’t play it safe, but got lucky anyway. The judges sent him a clear message that his stuff is tacky, and he better shape up if he wants to stick around. As Manolo the Shoe Blogger notes, the problem wasn’t that he looked like Elvis, it’s that he looked like cheap Elvis.

The judges warned Ulli that they want to see if she can do something different from her usual flowing mix of patterns. I’d thought her a shoo-in for the final three, but now I have my doubts. Before this episode, I thought it would be Michael, Ulli, and Kayne. Now I’m wondering if it could be Michael, Laura, and Jeffrey. In any case, I don’t think Vincent is going to last much longer.

Project Runway 3, episode 7: Right Loser, Wrong Winner

Friday, August 25th, 2006

The designers were challenged to make something for the everyday woman, and their mothers or sisters were brought in. The designers, though, had to pick someone else’s relative as their model, and did it in one of those horrid selection events where one person ends up picked last, like the worst grade-school gym class ever. With family came revelations: Laura is pregnant with #6; Jeffrey is a recovering alcoholic according to his mother, but was a street-living junkie by his own admission (kind of a chasm of James-Frey-ish ambiguity between the two, no?); and Kayne was really fat as a kid.

Manolo the Shoe Blogger loved Joan Kors as a guest judge, and reminds fans to visit the Blogging Project Runway site. The gals at Everybody Loves Saturday Night were universally hating Jeffrey.

Vincent won. While the judges lauded the fit, I thought the fit neither great nor flattering, though Vincent’s design was attractive and age-appropriate. Uli’s outfit was both beautiful and better suited to her model, Kayne’s mother.

Robert was eliminated, finally. Tattoo Neck Jeffrey came awfully close, and his interactions with poor Ohio Angela’s mom were hard to watch. I thought they kind of ganged up on him, though, by asking her what she felt without him there, and asking her the only open-ended question at the end. It also became clear that at least some of his attitude stems from insecurity and defensiveness, not innate mean-spiritedness. Some might argue convincingly that Jeffrey’s was as bad as Robert’s. Both were unfortunate, but Jeffrey at least tried to infuse some style. Angela was also called onto the loser’s carpet. Her all-over-the-place talent was on the down side for this show. She should have done a variation on her chic, structured Audrey Hepburn design of two weeks ago. Instead, she committed the same fringe faux pas as departed Bradley for a shapeless black outfit that did Laura’s mom no favors.

A question from our audience: why didn’t the designers with the lusher models show some cleavage?

Favorite moment: when Vincent says there’s something European about Uli’s mom’s style. Vincent, she’s FROM Europe. Vincent seems to exist in a separate reality from the rest of us, doesn’t he?

Project Runway 3, Week 6

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Reality television should come with a warning label. I’ve managed to avoid it almost entirely, then a friend who loves Project Runway started inviting people over. Now I’m hooked. Healthy? Probably not. Entertaining? Hell, yeah.

The group I watch with has nicknames for many of the designers: Blondie (Alison), Square Head (Robert), Meth Man (Bradley), Tattoo Neck (Steven), Ohio (Angela), Basket Hat (Vincent). In the short time I’ve been watching, I see a disturbing mini trend, and it’s not about fashion. In Season 3, episode 4, “Reap What You Sew”, the designers were divided into teams to create a look for Macy’s owned brand, INC. Bonnie’s and Robert’s designs were the two worst. Robert’s had an ugly jacket, a shapeless top, and a skirt with a back slit unwearably high. Bonnie’s also had a jacket, though not as bad as Robert’s, over a cowl neck, and pants that the judge Nina sneered looked cheap. Bonnie was criticized for not being fashion forward enough, and she was cut. I thought Robert’s outfit was much worse–ugly, mismatched, and poorly made. The implication is it’s better to wear a jumbled attempt at fashion than a more conservative ensemble.

On last night’s episode, “Waste Not, Want Not”, Alison and Vincent’s designs were voted the two worst. The judges noted that the model could not walk in Vincent’s dress, and wondered why he hadn’t made it a mini dress. But the vitriol heaped on Alison seemed far greater than she deserved. Her constructed paper dress wasn’t great, but its unforgiveable sin was that it didn’t flatter the model. “She looks like a plus model,” Heidi Klum spit out. Michael Kors said he couldn’t believe a woman designer would do such a thing. So while Vincent was merely chastised, Alison was sent home. The implication is it’s better to wear something ugly in which you can’t move than wear something not ugly that isn’t slimming.

In both episodes, the male designer made the uglier, less wearable outfit. Yet the female designer was voted out. While it would be foolish to criticize a fashion show for valuing style over substance, I didn’t see style in either Robert’s jacket outfit, or Vincent’s weird art dress. Maybe they’re favoring the men designers over the women. More likely, though, they’re favoring stronger personalities over weaker ones, as noted by Manolo the Shoeblogger.

Then again, that wouldn’t explain the choice of the winning design, though. For the second week in a row, supposedly nice guy Michael Knight’s design won. While it was good, and won the coveted comment of “I’d wear that” from the judges, our group thought bellicose Tattoo Neck Steven’s design had the most style and substance.

Return of the Big Bag

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Once Drake turned two, I needed a diaper bag less and less. I enjoyed my return to a normal purse with one or two kid essentials tucked inside. With a new baby, though, came the need for a diaper bag once again. The chaos factor for babies is less about behavior, and more about physical realities. Babies need diapers, wipes, burp cloths, changes of clothes and distracting toys. Toddlers still need these things on an occasional basis, but not nearly as often or as immediately as do babies.

With Drake, G. Grod and I used a Timbuk2 messenger bag. After two years of diaper duty, it was the worse for wear. I debated what type of bag to get as a replacement. Another messenger? An actual diaper bag? A purse that was roomy enough to hold diaper-like essentials?

I came to similar conclusions as I did years ago. Actual diaper bags charged a premium for things like usefulness and fashion. They were very expensive because they were very specialized, with things like a built-in changing pad and insulated sections for bottles. See an example here. I found the special sections not very helpful. Either I could buy them cheaper and include them in any bag I wanted (the changing pad) or I never needed it (insulated section.) Plus, once you were done with babyhood, you’d be done with the bag.

I found opposite issues with subsituting a conventional purse for a diaper bag. See example here. Most bags were just not sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse that a diaper bag has to endure, and the fashionable ones were expensive enough to warrant more careful treatment.

So I returned to my middle ground of a messenger bag, though this time I opted for the more ergonomically correct backpack, since it distributes weight across both shoulders. It’s sturdy, it’s not ugly, it’s reasonably priced, and it will be useful once Guppy moves into toddlerhood when we can once again, and finally, give up the big bag. And I can always opt for using one of my existing purses in those rare instances in which I need a bag that’s fashionable and fabulous, rather than utilitarian.

The Best-Ever Bargain

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

The topic comes from Carnival of the Couture, a project of Manolo the Shoe-Blogger. Each week fashion-minded bloggers respond to new topics. This week is hosted by The Bargain Queen. I haven’t participated before, but this week’s question was so easy to answer that I had to respond:

What is your best-ever bargain? Where did you find it, how much was it and why is it your favourite?

My best ever bargain was my wedding gown. I found it among the regular dresses at a Filene’s Basement in St. David’s, PA. (Not THE Filene’s Basement in Boston, MA, but one of the TJ Maxx-ish outposts.) The Filene’s price tag read $200, but the original was still attached. The dress came from Holt Renfrew, a Canadian department store. The original price was $1195.

It was a beautiful dress of celadon silk taffeta, with an empire waist, and a long-sleeved illusion bodice embroidered with sequins and pearls. I had been looking for a slightly unconventional gown for some time, but couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on what I’d found in bridal shops. Also, most of the colored bridal gowns were blue, pink, or champagne. I’d never yet found green, which suits me because I’m a redhead.

I took the gown into the dressing room, tried it on, then went out to the three-way mirror. Another woman there looked on.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “But where would you wear it?”

“My wedding,” I smiled back, somewhat dazed.

As I removed the dress in the dressing room, I looked for the tag. The designer used his name and last initial. They were the same as those of my fiance.

I took the dress to the register. The clerk said they were running a promotion. She offered me a scratch card for the chance to win an additional percentage off. I scratched off 20%, so my $200 dress only cost $160, and there was no sales tax.

I sped home and called my parents, friends and sisters. “You’ll never believe this!” I crowed. “I found a beautiful, unique dress, the designer has the same name and last initial as my fiance, and it only cost $160!”

It was truly the best-ever bargain.

Post-Baby Clothes

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

After I had my first child, I had to buy a bunch of new clothes because nothing fit. I was a size or two bigger, thicker in the waist, and larger in the chest due to nursing. Once I started exercising again, those post-partum clothes eventually became too big. But I saved them, figuring I’d need them again after Guppy was born.

Lo and behold, they were now too small. I am two or three sizes larger, with an even thicker waist. What to do? Revert to wearing maternity clothes? While I’ve done that a few times, some other things have worked.

Once I determine something doesn’t fit, I take it off the hanger, so I don’t try it and get depressed again when it doesn’t fit. Skirts with unstructured waists fit, since they can sit a bit higher than they used to. The only pants that fit have Lycra, and not even all those still work. The best tops are one that cover the waistband and don’t ride up.

I found a few inexpensive items at Old Navy and Target that should help until I can either buy for my new shape or exercise my way back toward my old stuff. (I’m not holding my breath for the latter.) I won’t win any fashion-forward awards, but I hope to avoid plumber’s butt and other behind-the-back, wince-inducing faux pas.

Old Navy Just Below Waist Jeans
Old Navy At Waist Jeans (online, but no longer in store)
Old Navy Tiny Fit Tees (tight but longer length)
Old Navy Long Layering Tank
Target Mossimo tank
Target Mossimo tee

What’s Going On

Friday, September 9th, 2005

I am currently obsessing about the Entertainment Weekly TV preview issue and why the heck I haven’t been able to get a copy yet. I’ve considered getting a subscription so I can stop this annual haunting of the newstands, but the Minneapolis post office can be slow, and it IS only this one issue that I crave.

I am currently paranoid about listeria. It is the one food poisoning that can cross the placenta, and in the past few weeks I’ve been laughing in the face of danger, consuming lunch meat, blue cheese, unpasteurized honey. I figured, hey, it’s rare and I’ll know if I get it within 48 hours. Apparently it can take WEEKS to manifest, and while rare it is usually deadly to the fetus. So I’m regretting my blithe, “this is my second pregnancy; no need to be paranoid like the first” attitude, and will be paranoid for the next month, at least.

I am currently fretting about pants. My regular pants and skirts don’t fit in the waist. Maternity wear looks as if I’m playing dress up. I’m in that awkward stage, which I hope I grow out of soon.

I am currently looking forward to watching TV tonight. My husband G. Grod and I call it “Sci-Fi Friday.” After Drake goes to bed we watch the Tivo’d Firefly then Battlestar Galactica, which has gotten crazy good.

I am currently between books, having just finished two whoppingly good ones, Francine Prose’s A Changed Man and Muriel Sparks’s The Driver’s Seat. Haven’t committed to the next book yet. Candidates include Other Electricities by Ander Monson, Tricked graphic novel by Alex Robinson, and The Skin Chairs by Barbara Comyns.

I am currently feeling a bit better from the cold, and a strange but not uncommon-for-me home-economy resolve has surfaced, which is to clear out the fridge, the freezer and the pantry of the stuff that’s been sitting around for weeks or longer and use it up. I have a LOT of rhubarb, though. And I don’t even like rhubarb.

Shaking a Stick at Shopping Magazines

Friday, August 5th, 2005

It’s taken me some time, but I’ve finally managed to work my way through at least one issue of each of the shopping magazines: the original, Lucky; spinoff #1 Cargo for men; copycat #1 Shop, Etc.; and spinoff #2 Domino for home.

Years ago a friend told me Lucky was a great magazine. I scoffed. The shopping magazine? Then I checked it out, apologized and became a subscriber. Lucky is one of the most successful magazine launches in recent years. It positions its editors as in-the-know girlfriends, dispensing advice on how to dress and what products–classic and new–to try. Lucky is a great magazine for ideas, and it features a wide range of items, from drugstores to exclusive boutiques. The production quality is high with accessible layouts, and good photography, models, writing, and paper stock. Editor-in-Chief Kim France and Creative Director Andrew Linnett are alumni of the late, lamented Sassy, to which Lucky is a much more worthy heir than is the celebrity-suck-up Jane.

I picked up a few copies of Cargo to get fashion ideas for my husband, who tends to be somewhat sartorially challenged. Cargo, though, gave me a headache. It was too bright, too busy, and it’s pitched to a young, metrosexual consumer.

Shop, Etc. has tried to copy Lucky’s success. I found its first issue to be like a low-rent version of Lucky–poorer photography, cheaper paper, fewer models to save on costs, and clumsy attempts to write Lucky-like copy. A subsequent issue themed “everything under $100″ got my attention, but then annoyed me when I spotted the $100+ Mason Pearson hairbrush. I noticed from the letters column that readers seemed to believe it was a shopping magazine for more average lives and budgets, but I’m not sure that’s intended. It may be a response to the cheaper price and production value of the magazine. Aside from the under $100 issue, it features a wide range of items and costs. I found nothing in Shop, Etc. that Lucky doesn’t do better or that I felt Lucky lacked.

Finally, the newest entry, Domino, is like Lucky for the home. The premier issue did all the same things as does Lucky, but didn’t strike a chord with me. I found some of the items in the ads more compelling than the stuff in the features. Maybe it’s that I’m not a DIY-er, so I’m not the target, but I found the mini sections that Lucky has on home items to be sufficient. This full-length magazine was just too much for me.

Interesting, also, was that Cargo, Shop, Etc., and Domino were all difficult to find. Lucky is available up front at Target. The others I had to go to a bookstore to find, and even then, I had to go to more than one bookstore. At the end of my experiment, I’ve found I’m loyal to Lucky. One shopping magazine is enough for me, if not for the magazine industry.

Hail, Manolo

Friday, June 10th, 2005

If you are not yet reading Manolo’s Shoe Blog, perhaps one of today’s entries will convince you of its super-fantasticity. Manolo the author, who is not Manolo Blahnik (called “Manolo the Maestro” on the blog), is not a fan of Karl Lagerfeld.

Here is the fat, happy-but-crazy Karl Lagerfeld, smiling at us like the Sergant Schultz from the Hogan’s Heroes, wanting nothing more than the bratwurst and the pastries, and perhaps to destroy the House of Chanel with his clothing designs.

Obviously, this picture it is from before the Lagerfeld he made is infamous pact with El Diablo.

Now, the question for the Manolo, it is should the Faust/Lagerfeld be pitied, or despised?

Manolo’s Shoe Blog covers shoes, fashion, celebrity, and more. It is all written in a stylized pidgin-y voice, with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s funny, sharp, clever, and occasionally bitchy. Best of all, it has a heart. I read the Manolo daily.

College, 15 years later

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

I went to my first college reunion over the weekend, the fifteenth. I went not so much to catch up with anyone I’d lost touch with, but rather because the several friends I do keep up with were all going to be there, one with her husband and family. When one lives far away, as I do in MN, it’s important to try to get the most out of trips across country.

The night before my flight found me rustling through my closet for pieces that fit and were seasonal, then trying to put together outfits around them. The weather was hot and humid. This was not conducive to either a calm mind, or fitting into tight jeans or skirts. There was much frustrated hopping up and down. Finally I managed to put together four outfits that seemed as if they’d match both the weather and the events I’d be attending. I tucked in the tight jeans, too, just in case I got a last minute reprieve. And I packed a whopping four pairs of shoes, in addition to the one that I’d be wearing. Usually, I wear a pair and pack another. For packing in general, I try to take a bare minimum. Often I end up having under packed, though that’s never been problematic, just rather boring for me to wear the same things over and again. For my reunion, though, the rules were different.

I was fortunate to spend the night before the reunion with my sister Ruthie. I tried on my four outfits for her, all of which she approved. She confirmed that the jeans were too tight so they moved to the bottom of my suitcase. We found another smashing outfit in her closet, though, one that went with an existing pair of shoes. Additionally, we combed through her jewelry and handbags to accessorize all five outfits.

I felt somewhat ashamed of myself for obsessing so much over my appearance. If I was going to see my friends, why did it matter what I wore and how I looked? What did I have to prove, and to whom?

At the reunion, my time was my own–my spouse G. Grod and toddler Drake were at my in-laws. I had luxurious stretches of time to spend with my friends. We tried on each other’s clothes, and talked about our husbands and children. We traded makeup tips and birth stories. We tried to recall who we’d kissed in our younger days, then were shocked to see many of them balding and portly, very different from their 18-year-old selves. Each night I limped into our hotel after a night in lovely heels. My friends and I joked about fashion before function, but my blistered, aching feet told another tale by Sunday. I had fun, though, dressing up for the first time in a long time, and not worrying about having Drake smear up a dry-clean-only outfit (those few that I own) or tug at and break my jewelry.

I realize now that it wasn’t those boys that I kissed, or even the girls I was envious of back then, that I was trying to impress by dressing well. I was trying to give my college self, a chubby, drunk, depressed girl, the happy ending she so desperately wanted.

The first time I took a writing class, I read the following quote by Joan Didion, and it hit me with almost physical force. It still has power, almost ten years later, as I discovered when I read it recently at Mental Multivitamin.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.

– Joan Didion in Slouching towards Bethlehem

I’m a late bloomer. It takes me a long while to get my act together and figure things out. This weekend was good, making new connections with old friends. But I also reconnected with my old self, who wasn’t very happy in college. I think she would be pleased if she could have seen the life we’re living now.