Monday, August 30, 2010

In a gloomy mood of late, I had been ruminating on life's many disappointments. But after checking out photographer Steven Hirsch's Courthouse Confessions, I remember that my problems are banal and rather vanilla in this rough-and-tumble town. Thankfully, nothing currently requires my appearance in court (pfui! pfui!). I'll take my bourgeois frustration with dead-end jobs and under-achievement over being locked up in the Tombs fighting for my shoes any day (pfui! pfui! pfui! kaynehora!).

Surprisingly, people are very chatty on their way to their court dates. Mr. Hirsch must be a sympathetic fellow, as people willingly open up about what they are going through. He transcribes what they said apparently without comment or editorial, as it says on the masthead, in their own words.

Most of the stories here are profoundly sad. Others have plenty of bravado and levity. Stories of being chased by over-weight, out-of-breath New York City cops, the rush of tagging the city for graffiti and street artists. Other stories are so confusing I wasn't sure who had done what to whom.

But many of the stories here show people who have a lot of problems and the court date is perhaps the least of them. Some glumly admit they made a bad decision. Most seem glad to have someone to listen to their side of the story; it is indeed a gift just to have someone to listen sometimes. Tragically, there are stories that demonstrate how the mental health system fails the people who need it most, like the gentle soul in the Superman costume who just wanted to save the sparrows. There is a lot of police harassment of street vendors, and use of excessive force. Many of these stories are great evidence for the utter uselessness of the war on drugs, and the prejudices of the whole system. Sadly, there are also random and horrible acts of violence. And after reading about how many people are carrying great big knives I will think twice about yelling at people on the subway for blocking the doors.

I have written a lot about what to wear in court. And while your lawyer might want you to show up in a suit, clearly it is sometimes better to come as you are.

Mr. Hirsch has another blog devoted to comings and goings at 100 Centre Street, the main court building, which handles high profile cases. Celebrity stalkers, scammers, mobsters and murderers who get their names in the paper. Looking at the photos there I wonder if weapons charges aren't used as publicity for Rap artists (is that what the kids call them today?). Mr. Hirsch also has some beautiful, yet unflattering photos at Street Creatures, and a blog devoted to street kids in Tompkins Square Park called Crustypunks.


And so, as an experiment, here is an outfit post.

I could not resist this jungle print, complete with leopards, monkeys and giraffes. There are some bold birds flitting through here as well. The flowers are puffy like clouds and threaten to overwhelm even the carnivores who lurk in them. The puff sleeves and the neon orange peter pan collar with matching orange buttons were selling points as well. Plus it is impossible to lose me in a crowd with colors this bright.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

According to the New York Times, young women are unconsciously referencing a 1990's sitcom with the current trend for floral prints. Seinfeld character, Elaine Benes ,has been declared a style icon. I've always been a fan of the ankle socks and spectators look. It sure is practical for hoofing it around town. This photo is owned by NBC and shows Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the apex of the sitcom's popularity. Note the hair poof; these are making a comeback. But then again, once the New York Times notes a trend, that means it is already over.

And I certainly am not seeing any long skirts around town.

The article goes on to implicate Chloe Sevigny, whose recent resort collection for Opening Ceremony is said to reference these floral prints and tough shoes favored in the 90's sitcom. However she maintains that she is entirely innocent of the television show, and that she does not own a TV. That's plausible, I suppose.

I actually saw her once at the Guggenheim at the big, mind-blowing Louise Bourgeois retrospective a couple of years ago. There was a massive line, so I spent about 45 minutes trying not to stare at her. She is even prettier in person and very petite. She was wearing a lovely dress that I was staring at before I quite realized who she was. She in turn was staring at my lemon fruit print dress and we traded a little smile. And then I realized, hey, how fun is that? My lemon dress just got a nod from a famous trend-setter. Yay, lemon dress. (But perhaps it is sad that I still remember that?)

Ms. Sevigny appeared to be a very attentive and compassionate listener to the friend she was with. But perhaps being a big ol' star means listening to your friends and not complaining about your own personal life in public where some muckraking journalist (or nobody with a blog) can hear it and write about it. I shudder to think how my public behavior would stand up to that sort of scrutiny. Rarely do I see famous people, though this town is lousy with them. But when I do, I try to leave them alone, attempt to give them some privacy. (Did I violate her privacy by sharing this anecdote?)

photo by Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Another one of these envy-inducing NYT articles with photo of someone's spacious sun-drenched apartment featured performance artist LuLu LoLo and her husband. They've even got a backyard with a miniature chapel. Ms. LoLo does an excellent job of wearing great things on her head. And I am very interested in seeing her performance work.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Lynn Yeager (in the center), one of my style icons, gathered some of my other style icons, Suzanne Golden, Patricia Fox, Iris Apfel and Tziporah Salamon, for tea at the Carlyle and a discussion of evolution of their fashion sense. You can read her article here. Alas there are no more photos, as each of these ladies is a marvel of inspiration. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Sadly, this article is simply not long enough for me. I wanted more, more!

I want to know where these ladies find the best treasures. Who does alterations for them? What were their greatest fashion failures and how did they turn them into successes? And so much more.

Ms. Yeager has some interesting questions. She asks the group if there is a time when style failed them. She writes: "I confess that there have been rare occasions — a business meeting, say, or a funeral — when I’ve looked at my wardrobe and thought, Why, this is a clown’s closet! Did the others ever face a similar dilemma?"

Ah, indeed I have, Ms. Yeager, though I did not realize it. I have donned what I considered to be perfectly appropriate attire, only to be hounded by school children hoping to follow me to the circus. I have arrived at business meetings only to realize that metallic green harem pants were undermining my credibility. And in these cases I have watched people's faces pucker in disdain. Oh yes, I have. What to do if this should happen? Well, goslings, there is a tunnel out of this mess: dazzle them with what you are saying. Trot out the upper echelons of your vocabulary, make eye-contact, and pretend that you feel confident. Of course this only works if you really know what you are talking about (I also have to resist the urge to over-enunciate like Julie Andrews when my back is to the wall). But a few times I've been able to pull it out of the fire this way. And it can be exciting to watch someone change their opinion of you as you speak.

A workplace can deform one's sense of style to be sure. An oncologist can't really wear a sun dress, and you should never see your lawyer's feet.

Ms. Yeager has great advice on this issue. With her extreme, Weimar Republic broken-porcelain-doll looks, Ms. Yeager says that in order to look sane when she's gotta go somewhere and be a journalist, she always carries a very expensive designer bag. Bags aren't really my thing, so to keep from looking insane, I wear pearls. After all, a woman in pearls is at least trying to be respectable. She may fail, but at least she is trying.

As I was not invited to tea with these ladies (an oversight, surely) so I ask you:

1. Who are your style icons?
2. What would you ask them?

I'd love to hear your responses.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No doubt you've seen it, goslings. New Dress A Day is the blog of Marisa Lynch, an amiable and energetic young woman who lives in Los Angeles and who has vowed to make something wearable from the sad-looking muu-muus and polyester secretary dresses that can be had for $1. And she plans to do this every day for a year. She has gotten some very far reaching press coverage today. While I am not thrilled that my favorite $1 Jet Rag parking lot sale was named-checked in the article (as I fear it being over-run), nonetheless Ms. Lynch is a hardworking and imaginative person whose efforts definitely warrant a look-see.

Ms. Lynch has impressive sewing skills , and her step-by-step photos of her sewing projects are very generous and informative. One can learn a lot here, and find inspiration. Ms. Lynch is tireless in her excavation of flawed frocks. She dyes dresses with bad stains, salvages trim, and turns sleeves into belts. At times she will edit a dress down to a blouse to wear with jeans, which is not really my style, but it is done and worn with aplomb.

Ms. Lynch is young, slim and photogenic with a soft, almost Pre-Raphaelite look to her. She can kinda wear anything and still look good. She smiles with genuine glee and makes no effort to look like a model, which makes her even more charming. I like that most of the completed outfit photos show her doing something worthwhile, like drinking lemonade or going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

As a person who has salvaged many a cheap and damaged dress, I must say I've never gone as far as Ms. Lynch. I cannot make clothing, but I can perform surgery on an existing garment (though sadly the patient doesn't always survive). But I've rarely done much besides alterations, taking in a waist or shortening a hem. I have a much less invasive stance on what can happen to a dress. I might remove sleeves or add a collar, but a 70's dress clearly remains a 70's dress. Ms. Lynch tends to update a dress, bringing it into line with current fashion, which I feel somewhat conflicted about. But it must be pointed out that Ms. Lynch is working with Capitalism's detritus, the recently outmoded (that is not outmoded enough to be back in fashion),the big-shouldered 80's monstrosities and massive muu-muus. It's not like she is taking the shears to a rayon 40's evening gowns (Maude forbid!). Nonetheless, I tend to respect the integrity of the garment. But perhaps I should ask myself: does a polyester dress really have integrity? Is there a reason it needs to be preserved as it is? Isn't wearable the goal, and shouldn't form follow function? I am definitely inspired to go home and make some old dresses fit better.

What do you think? What would you do or not do to a dress? Which of Ms. Lynch's projects could inspire you?

While Ms. Lynch's enthusiasm is infectious, and her tutorials valuable, nonetheless I must point out that I am fatigued by people doing something everyday for a year. It sounds like a plea for a book deal to me. I will not lump Ms. Lynch in this pile (But No Impact Man, I'm looking at you). It is an interesting point that endurance performance art, like the work of Tehching Hseih and Linda Montano, has crept into popular culture this way. Why do something everyday? Why only do it for one year? Why not do it forever? Or at least as long as you feel like it. And on the days you don't feel like it, why not play a banjolele or just simply sleep in? But perhaps Ms. Lynch could use a book deal? Why not?

Labels: , ,

Another lovely Flair of Miami Persian Print cotton dress. Available from Oldage on Etsy. I was sorely and painfully tempted to get this one myself. A truly spectacular print with a harpist, readers and blue tiles.

Go get it. It would look adorable on you.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When I was young and naive, I had a French lover. I also had a very beautiful wasp-waisted full-skirted winter coat that really suited me. Both the man and the coat were very attractive, and we all looked great walking along those cobblestoned streets together. I spent a lovely December in Paris, going to museums, eating delicious pastries and catching pneumonia. When it was clear to me that I needed to see a doctor, I asked my Frenchman to come with me, especially as I was not sure of the proper idiomatic French expression for "collapsed lung". To this my handsome Frenchman said: "Non, non, tu vas toute seule comme une grande." Which means: "No, no, you're going all by yourself like a grown-up." And with that he strode off, leaving me in the middle of the Place Vendome.

Since then the men in my life have been much more helpful than this retrograde Frenchman (who was promptly and deservedly abandoned). But nonetheless, I've found that wherever life takes me, (be it to the police station to identify my mugger in a line-up, my father's funeral, small claims court or oral surgery)I'm going there alone. And after you've done all that stuff by yourself (the French Health Care system is terrific, by the way, and totally free)it's really not a big deal to take yourself on vacation.

I am consistently shocked when I meet adult persons who would not even consider going to a movie alone. Are they really afraid they will be drugged and kidnapped while watching the film (and found 6 days later in the Wicklow Mountains, up a sycamore tree)? Or are their lives filled with so much togetherness that they never have the opportunity to go anywhere on their own? Such persons are completely mysterious to me.

I do miss that coat. I think of it wistfully sometimes.