Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How To Accessorize A Statement Piece, Or, We Can All Wear A Little Black Dress For New Year's Eve

Let us acknowledge. New Year's Eve, and the New Year that follows, will be a combination of things you can, and cannot, control. In some cases you will have planned everything, and your plans will materialize. Congratulations. In some cases, you will have planned nothing, and life will come at you like wind around a Manhattan street corner. Cold, large, and in your face. Most often, plans will be made, and shifted, and forgotten. Realized enough. Life is more than the attainment of goals.

You can, however, reign as queen of your Little Black Dress. Assuming sufficient financial resources and the absence of true emergencies, life rarely insists on our accessories. Maybe that's one of the enduring roles of style.

If I go out, I will be wearing my little black dress. As a Sturdy Gal, here's how I choose my accessories.
  1. Shoes in my closet that don't hurt my feet. They happen to be black Dolce & Gabbanas. Luck.
  2. A necklace of sentiment. I would remove this only for a serious fashion moment. Maybe one involving photo opportunities.
  3. Pearl earrings rather than diamond studs. I've been brought up to think too much matching is a sign of weak character.
  4. My Rolex Cellini man's watch. Because I love it and because I don't want to have to find reading glasses and pull out my pink-encased iPhone to see when the clock is about to strike twelve.
Why yes, those are shoes photographed in my brand new lightbox. I got the idea from Jan at Jan's Sushi Bar. A smart woman.

The book is "Wordy Shipmates." I got the recommendation from Meg at A Practical Wedding. Another smart woman.

As a Sturdy Gal, I will be quite happy in this getup. However, as a style analyst, I suck air in between my teeth and give a quick shake of my head to the left. The Grande Dame and Artsy Cousin would make other entrances. They are both quite clear on these key principles to Accessorizing A Statement Piece.
1. Assess the cumulative impact of surfaces.
2. Understand the roles of consistency and contrast.
My Narciso dress has got all kinds of stuff going on. It has seaming and a tight bodice and a sweetheart neckline. It has visual texture. My accessories, while perfectly appropriate, fail to collaborate. Fail to enhance the impact. Consider how our friends might approach this.

The Grande Dame would go all smooth on us. She will match if she wants to, goddamn it. (High WASPs say this in genteel exasperation.) Pearls around the neck. Very large round ones. Pearls at the ears. Encircled in diamonds because she can. Even a pearl bracelet. With 3 strands, the audacity of Too Many Pearls overturns any idea that matching is not the Done Thing. Worn with smooth, classic Louboutins that in their sheer lack of detail focus attention on the dress itself. Naked legs, waxed. (Sturdy Gals hate depilation.) Pale lips. Winged eyeliner. Perfume. Layer upon layer of smooth. Oh yeah, she's pulling out all the stops.

The Artsy Cousin would take it the other way. Texture everywhere. Wrapped and strapped booties. Textured stockings. No necklace at all, to contrast the decolletage with all that other, you know, texture. Delicate but irregular platinum bangles up and down the wrist for a global reference, modern locally-made earrings for the, you know, refer globally act locally thing. Would powder her skin and wear dark red lipstick. The current, you know, obsession with blood and the consumption thereof.

But the Sturdy Gal, despite her sartorial approximations, will have a good time. Once you hit 50, with any luck, a certain It Is What It Is peace descends. My shoes shouldn't be suede. They contribute either too much or not enough fuzz, given the knit dress. Oh well. My watch neither reinforces nor contrasts with my necklace. Oh well. My earrings aren't bold enough for Narciso. Oh well. The dress fulfills any social contract. Beyond that, we can, in fact, all do as we like.

I will be in the company of those I love. I will have happy feet. I will know what time it is. Sentiment, comfort, function. Oh, and a killer Little Black Dress.

It's possible there's a lesson for the New Year in all of this. If so, it hovers just beyond my grasp.

Happy New Year's Eve to all.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Monograms, Even When You're Not Sure What They Mean. And Unexpected Presents.

My mother gave my daughter the necklace above. Not for Christmas, mind you. Here's Christmas.

Theory "Sasha" Cupid Tribal Black Dress. Who thinks up these names? (I'm telling you. Wear this stuff when you are young and pay no mind to any flaws you think you've got. They are defeated by your sheer youth and, well, youth.)

Which looked so fabulous on, the morning of December 26th my mother emerged from her wing of the house holding something sparkly, and said, "Here darling. I never wear this. Would you like it?" Jaws dropped, just a little. "This would be so much more unusual than a long necklace."

Good moment for Mom's credo, "A simple thank you will suffice."

It's apparently from the family. My mother says those medallions spell out Martha. Hmm. Perhaps in code. We could make neither hide nor tail of the monogram. But we really didn't care.

My daughter works. In New Jersey. No socialite she. We're very, very thankful for health insurance. But this is my family and these are the artifacts.

Generosity in all its forms is at the top of my list of the Universal Good. Mom, thank you. Simply, thank you very much. Now if I can just get my daughter to take a lot of pictures of the wearing said necklace...

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

How To Survive A (Very Large) Family Christmas, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:10am

I hope everyone, celebrating or not, had a wonderful time yesterday. Let me now review time-honored principles of wonderfulness on Christmas, and other family gatherings.

1. Cook good food. In our case, roast chickens stuffed with lemons and rosemary, (or apples and onions), a rib-eye roast of grass-fed beef with Bearnaise sauce, sauteed kale with olive oil, chile peppers and vinegar, (or pancetta), roast potatoes, salad with home grown mandarins and avocados, and a spice cake with whipped cream, home grown Meyer lemon syrup, homemade caramel sauce, raspberries, and strawberries.

2. Sing songs. Here that meant Swedish Christmas carols alternating with Mariah Carey singalongs. My Mac on the linen-covered table under a crystal chandelier lit with candles. "All I Want For Christmas, Is You...Baby."

3. Drink just enough alcohol and not too much. This is cross-cultural and needs no explanation.

4. Spend some time in quiet together, after the chaos. We retired to the living room and sat, in companionable conversation, listening to YouTube video songs as requested by the group. Aretha Franklin at 14 singing gospel; Ray LaMontagne's, "Jolene."

5. Muster for good will to all. We were 16, from 5 different families, speaking 2 languages. With various histories of past happiness, past sadness, past arguments. Divorces, deaths, sorrows. But, precisely because we were so many people and were so aware of the possibility of misunderstandings (or worse, understandings of things shouldn't have been said), we focused on goodwill and kindness. It has not always been so.

(Oh, and it doesn't hurt when your mother, for no reason whatsoever, gives your daughter a necklace. From the family, although, "Not in the direct line." Originally for a little girl. 6 rose gold medallions the size of thumbnails, strung from a chain, spelling out a name in a diamond-covered, dangling, monogram. Teeny diamonds, but, still. I promise, I am very, very thankful for good fortune. Up in my little 3 bedroom house it's not so visible. Here at my mother's, well, it's a lot.)

6. Finally, luck. Luck beyond fortune. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes not. The same goes for families. This one was a good day for ours. I hope for yours as well. If this year was a miss, luckily, Christmas will be here again in 12 months for another try.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

From my Finger Paint iPhone app. With a little Photoshop. Because it's never too late to learn something new. Very, very, very best wishes to all.


Final Report On Dressing For Kindness

Mostly packed, mostly ready to go. Down to Santa Barbara to see my mother. My stepfather is Swedish. Those Scandinavians do a dang good job of Christmas. Tonight we will eat Julbord, the Swedish Christmas dinner, and the Swedes and Americans will josh each other about herring in all its guises. Swedes eat it many ways. Tomatoes, sour cream, dear me.

I will be posting during this holiday week. Ordinarily I might post 4-5 times, the next few days will probably be lighter, but I'll be here nonetheless.

One last thing I owe you before I get on the road. Remember when I said I would dress for a week thinking of other people's feelings? And most of you said something like, "Other people probably won't mind one way or the other?" Well, I did. And they didn't.

I wore my gold flats to Home Depot to get the Christmas tree. You know, to honor the tree guys? Turns out they really just cared whether or not I got in the way of their buzz saw. And whether I said thank you, smiled, and gave them a tip. (That said, some people do show off. Whether out of constant competition, or sheer boredom with their wealth, I don't know. Not necessary in the usual course of a day. No need to rub your good fortunes in others' faces.) It turns out I am only at risk of wearing my son's khakis too often. Yes. The horror. I haven't built a day-to-day wardrobe to replace my corporate uniform, and I am simply not going to pull out my wide-legged linen pants with a cashmere cardigan, Manolo flats, and gold panda coin necklace, every morning. However, there is something to be said for putting on pants made for a woman, a 50-year old one at that, before heading out to dinner. Showing a little respect.

The final result of my week of dressing kindly? New yoga pants. What did you think, that I was evolved or something? New Lululemon yoga pants. Some black Adidas, a white or black t-shirt, my black $25 Chechua parka purchased at a sporting goods store in China, and I'm unlikely to offend anyone around here. I'll even wear good jeans at restaurants. I promise.

Respect is good. So is getting out of the way of buzz saws. I reserve, however, the right to wear my son's khakis for the 5-hour drive to Santa Barbara. May the spirit of the season be with you.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The High WASP Christmas Tree And Its Friends.

High WASPs are, as my mother would say, big pills about Christmas trees. About all Christmas decorations, actually. No matter how evolved we fancy ourselves, come Christmas, we revert.

We don't believe Christmas decorations are decor. They are symbols. They are family. As such, to be revered, experienced for meaning, and rarely changed. Everything has to be highly traditional, as in, the way your grandmother did it, or completely kitsch*. As in the lit-up Santa I bought on West 14th Street in Manhattan that flashed red and played a digital version of Jingle Bells.

Christmas tree lights? Um, white. They can be shaped like pine cones if you like. Or little candles on branches. Colors? Um, red, green, gold, even silver, if you feel daring. Theme? Um, Christmas?

We put angels up even when we're not religious. Especially those from our grandmother's Austro-Hungarian 2nd husband. He didn't give us his family's court sword. Would have been tough to hang on a tree, no?

Ornaments? Anything you like. Just don't let them match. Stuff made by kids, by you, bought at the Stanford Shopping Center, bought the year you moved into your new house, bought the year you moved out. Fish. Fish are good. They are however, as my son once said to the great amusement of my best friend, dumb. From Gumps, home of the greatest traditional glass ornaments ever.

Other decorations? As long as you adhere to the principles above, anything goes. A creche? Sure. Hand-carved and from another culture, even better. Garlands of greenery? Sure, especially ones that smell good and are tied with plaid bows. Red and green plaid bows, goes without saying. Tiffany bowls full of ornaments on your table? Yes*. Again, have to be red, green, gold or, well, you get the picture. We apologize but we cannot countenance aqua at Christmas. Or lavender. Blue is OK and Hannukah is great and if you have a cultural holiday with a color association that falls around Christmas just let us know. We will support you and celebrate you. But Christmas is red and green and gold, and, well, you get the picture.

Want something new? 2010 appears to beg for resurgence and reemergence all around? Mix high and low. Handmade and mass market. Tell a story that reminds you of Christmas. Which to us means home. In this case, home, not house. Sometimes house decorations do make home. Clear? No? Like I said, we're kind of pills about Christmas. But good with making sure you have enough to drink. And enough light to read by. Me, I'm building a little imaginary Scandinavian village. Where elves live under the shade of pink glass tree-ish things. Happy Holidays to all. Don't mind us. Another glass of Scotch and we'll be quiet.

Chubby elf house handmade by even*cleveland, 2009. Glass tree, Target, 2007.

*Town and Country Mom does this too..
**For a peak experience in this approach, go to

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Monday, December 21, 2009

How To Find, Choose, Buy, And Understand Cashmere Sweaters. Goats Are Involved.

From Saks. Here.

"Good knitwear is like wearing a hug."

So says the Queen of Cashmere. Caron Slimak is the owner and head of a custom cashmere sweater business, Queen of Cashmere. Counts Saks among her retailers. And she has agreed to let us all in on the secrets of good cashmere. Because cashmere is complicated. Why does one sweater cost $79 and the other $550? Both are blue. Both have a label that says 100% cashmere. How can we tell if we are getting our money's worth, at $79 or $550? And once we've got the sweater, or coat, or pair of yoga pants (I know, decadent much?) how do we take care of them?

Et voila, Privilege interviews the Queen of Cashmere. Who turns out to be a working woman, like many of us. Queen, Princess, Duchess, we're all royalty in one way or another. Right?

Question: Who is the Cashmere Queen?

Answer: I'm a working woman. I've been married 26 years, and have a 16 year old son. My husband works with me. He was a commodities trader in the pits at the Chicago Board of Trade, then founded a startup. When I realized I could have this wonderful, even-keeled, responsible, smart person by my side, I conscripted him.

I have been making my living from cashmere sweaters for almost 12 years now. I started through direct sales of custom cashmere sweaters from another designer who recently went into bankruptcy. When I went out on my own, the idea of a monogrammed sweater haunted me. It needed to be done in a modern way so that it wouldn’t come across as a costume from Laverne and Shirley. Monograms are so personal and meaningful and if handled well, I knew that the sweaters would be popular. Queen of Cashmere has a very loyal customer base and one customer even ordered 25 identical black sweaters each with a different color monogram! 

We developed a system for monogramming using intarsia and it’s complicated. Really, I have only found one knitter who was willing to take on this type of production and do it well. I design the line to be modern but classic -- sweaters, pillows, and throws. Each sweater is produced for the customer in their color combination of choice, can be altered at the point of production, and delivered in 6 weeks. Using intarsia, the monogram is dropped big and modern onto the sweater sleeve at the shoulder. In the past, Queen of Cashmere has also created custom sweaters using yachting flags (for an America’s Cup contender), coats of arms and other forms of personalization.

Question: What is cashmere, exactly, and how does it get here?

Answer: All cashmere raw wool comes from some place cold in China. People have tried to raise cashmere goats in other areas of the world but the climate is nowhere near harsh enough nor the terrain rugged enough. They tried in South America and one woman tried in Chianti, Italy. The Italian now makes cashmere goat milk soap. It's almost like cashmere terroir. Different areas produce different grades of cashmere wool. The hands down best and the only one worth knitting with comes from China.

Once the wool is harvested, it is bid on by cashmere brokers and goes onto the world market. Understandably, China is starting to hold the best for themselves to feed their growing knitwear industry. Less is available on the open market. The best is fine micron, short (for the loft and softness but more about that later) fiber, white cashmere. You must realize that all Cashmere goats are not natural blondes. All cashmere has to be taken back to white and that chemical process diminishes the softness. 

Then spinners buy the raw wool. The best spinners for cashmere in the world are the Scots. Then the Italians, like Loro Piana. I buy from a Scottish mill. It's the water in Scotland. Terroir again. Just like Coors is made with mountain spring water. The softness and purity of the water in Scotland vs. China means that yarn spinners imbue their cashmere with softness, and the dyeing process produces more vibrant colors.

Question: When you are in the store, surveying the hordes of sweaters, what should you look for?

Answer: You are looking for some pretty subtle things. You will often hear about gauge, ply, loft, pilling, softness, and slickness. Some of these reflect quality and some don't. 

Gauge simply means, how many needles on the machine and thus stitches per inch. Run the hand behind the sweater and see if it has a loose open stitch. If you have lesser quality cashmere sweater, sometimes the knitter will loosen up on your gauge to get it to appear softer. The traditional Scottish product will be knit flat and tight. It’s made to do distance and will soften with years of wear. The Italians on the other hand like to knit a fluffy, sexy product. It will have an amazing handle (feel) on the selling floor and it’s a more delicate product. It’s the knitwear showdown of Sex Kitten vs. Sturdy Gal. On the other hand, some sweaters are knit out of gauge on purpose, to be a modern, cobwebby, boho-chic soft of sweater. It’s a look. In any event, there are markets for all of the products.

Ply really has nothing to do with quality. It has to do with cashmere content and the thickness of the sweater, which will affect the price. My sweaters are technically a one-ply sweater, but a double thickness yarn. Most consumers recognize them as a two ply weight. Then when you go to two "ends" of 2/28 it becomes a 4 ply and then 3 “ends” of yarn becomes 6 ply and so forth. Through this process the knitter changes machines and gauge so there are few needles per inch to accommodate the added bulk of the higher ply cashmere yarn. Ply is a matter of styling and type of sweater, NOT an indicator of quality. There are a lot of poorly constructed and milled sweaters using inferior yarn that have a high ply and cashmere content.

Loft means how plush it feels, how thick and bouncy. It’s all in the milling which is the final wash that each knitter puts the sweaters through after they are completed. Many knitters jealously guard their milling secrets. Again, the soft waters of Scotland have a lot to do with the feel of the end product. Lower quality producers will often cheat at milling by using a lot of fabric softener in the final rinse. If you want to tell the difference, rub the sweater between your fingers and then rub your fingers together. If your fingers feel slick you are feeling a lot of residual fabric softener. There is a big difference between slick and soft. Soft is clean, lofty and luxurious. Also, this is where the shorter fibers of the raw wool make a difference. The multiple ends of the shorter fibers “bloom” or lift from the yarn in the milling and create softness. It’s the opposite of what you look for in cotton fiber.

All cashmere will pill. It is a very delicate fiber so friction will make it pill. How much it pills and how those pills come off depends on the quality. With a better cashmere, the pills aren't going to be hung on their knots and, with minimal care the pills should come off easily and the remaining jersey should look good, never ratty, underneath.

Question: Some people recommend that you rub the sweater in the store between your fingers until it pills?

Answer: I’m still aghast someone actually said this! This isn't a good test. How long are you going to stand there in the store rubbing that sweater?

A final good test of yarn and knit quality is the evenness of the fabric of the sweater. Hold the sweater up to the light and look though it for uneven or thin patches. A good quality sweater should be consistently knit from a high quality consistent yarn. Thin patches are a sign you might want to leave the sweater where you found it for the next unsuspecting consumer.

Question: What do we get for $89? For $150? For $225? For $550? For $1200?

Answer: For $89 the sweater is usually shapeless, lacking design elements, for example, you will get not fully fashioned shoulder but a straight shoulder seam that doesn’t really lay flat instead. The yarn and how it's knit, not going to be anything special. The raw materials for top quality cashmere almost cost more than the retail price for this kind of sweater.

In the world of $225, you will get a nice sweater for the season. Maybe two. The $225 day-to-day sweater? I pick them up where I can. I have a sweater that I adore, it must be 20 years old, and it was my husband's and it has a really deep v-neck. It’s a Neiman Marcus private label -- when they still sourced from Scotland. Now, if you get two seasons out of a $225 you are doing really well. It won't be a workhorse like your TSE sweater. These $225 sweaters may not wash well, so you will have to dry clean. And dry cleaning fluid really should never touch cashmere, dries it out and makes it crispy over time.

For $450 - $675, you are going to get the top quality yarn, from top spinners, with top construction and nice design details. With sweaters over that you are paying for the designer's brand name.

Question: What about J. Crew?

Answer: J. Crew makes a great product. The knitter in China that makes for J. Crew has a great reputation and uses Loro Piana yarn. They do great things with design details and novelty sweaters. The Scottish products are still better, but it's hard to find Scottish sweaters with styling details like that. I like J. Crew's quality for the price but the fit is for a little young thing, with really high armholes.

Question: What are some good sources for top quality cashmere? 

Answer: Who is left? So many people have exited the top end business. For top quality, the Italian company Fedeli. They can be bought in the US. Trillion, in Palm Beach sells them. They're an Italian mill and everything is still all done by hand. For exquisite design and pure unadulterated luxury there is not much that can compare to Bruno Cuccinelli. The owner of the company took over and renovated a medieval town in Italy. Everyone who lives there works for the company. These are people whose entire lives are focused on the cashmere. Customers will pay $1200 -$2000 for some of the sweaters. Also Queen and Belle, a design team coming out of Scotland producing exceptionally high quality sweaters with modern, well designed styles.

Question: Once we buy cashmere, how do we take care of it?

Answer: All goes back to the raw product. A good piece of cashmere should never be dry-cleaned. But if you have a less than good piece, you need to do it anyway. If you own Woolite, throw it OUT! It leeches color right out of everything. Woolite is not "lite" and I believe in humane laundry. Woolite wages war on your clothes. Use baby detergent, Ivory Snow, Dreft even Kirkland Signature Environmentally Whatever Detergent.

So you can afford the better cashmere sweaters. Handwash but minimize the hazards by following these rules: Never ever agitate. (Also a good rule for life in general). Put the garment in the dryer for no more than 5 minutes to get the stitches distributed and aligned, finish drying it flat and touch up with a steam iron using a silicon pressing cloth, or layer of a sheet over. Block the sweater(press with steam lifting the iron in an up and down motion). Never use a back and forth ironing motion or it will ‘grow’ your cashmere and make it larger. Never use the iron directly on the neck or seams because it will glaze the cashmere. If you have a good sweater, follow these instructions and it should look new.

The proof is in the pudding and if you find a cashmere label that you like, stick with it. China is getting better and better at what they produce so I wouldn’t rule out Chinese made products entirely. If you find you have bought a sweater that doesn’t wear well, don't go there again. If you see a "made in Scotland" label, chances are it will serve you well for years.

*Note that no goods or remuneration have exchanged hands. But Caron is looking into ways for my TSE sweater to have new life.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is Mother Love An Anachronism? Or, Saturday Morning at 9:43am.

Son is home. Sleeping on sheets I washed a few days ago.

Despite the the joy that brings me, I am and have been for some time plagued by a thought. It's not inconsequential.

Is mother love out of date? Is the overwhelming love I feel for my children an anachronism? And worse, would we all be better off were I, and mothers like me, to wake up one day in a state of indifference? "Oh, yes, my children. Nice enough I suppose. A responsibility I shall not shirk. Now, where was I in my life?"

I understand that in a world of scarce resources and scary beasts we need mother love to keep our babies alive. The species wants to persist. I understand that even in a world of many resources, we need to love them fiercely if they are to survive the first year. They wake us up at night, nurse like little fiends, and throw everything we thought we knew in our faces. Good thing they're cute.

But what of the later years?

I'm almost certain that I now love my children more than they love me. This happened sometime in their late teens. Maybe sooner. Maybe I just didn't notice for a while.

The only mothers I know whose children love them fiercely are the crazy mothers. Those mothers who kept themselves just out of reach, like glass ornaments hung from a tree. Sparkling.

I love my children too much to play hard to get. I see their faces and I feel my heart beat faster. Like a teenage girl sighting that one boy across the cafeteria. I even try not to call them. You know, all cool and stuff. I fail. I don't want to leave the house in a flurry of fur and alcohol, call them from a nightclub laughing, change my plans and not come home for the holidays.

Let's pretend my feelings don't matter. Let's pretend my children's lives are enough for me. That I don't need their love beyond the dutiful. Let's just think about the kids.

Did I do right, loving them so much? Would they have been better off if I had been less devoted? Less head-over-heels? Now, I don't worry they are spoiled and therefore dependent. In fact, despite the hours I spend thinking about their course selection or making travel arrangements or worrying about love lives, they do not depend on me much. Sure, I get the calls for comfort, when something goes wrong. They consult me on areas where I have some expertise. But they have achieved a fair degree of independence. Every American mother's dream.

I only wonder, sometimes, and it makes me a little sad, if the very fact that I loved them so much means that they won't know what they had. Will they prefer to yearn in all manner of situations? Of course, paradoxically, if they have to suffer to appreciate me and people like me, I still can't wish them pain.

In mothering, we never know. We hope we can follow our hearts. And if our hearts are artifacts of another time and cave lions? We never know. At the end of the day, my rule is when I don't know the answer, I do what I want to do. In this case, most likely, that will mean breakfast burritos. Ham, cheese, potatoes, salsa.

Image: November 1990. They start fat. Get skinny. Cut their own bangs. Have small feet.


Friday, December 18, 2009

LPC On Christmas Presents for Les Dernier Moments at A Femme D'Un Certain Age

Good morning everyone. Today I am at A Femme D'Un Certain Age, along with Deja Pseu and Lily Lemontree. Exalted company, to be sure. We give you our thoughts on last minute presents for Christmas. Please join us there. S'il vous plait. I'm attempting to dredge up my vanishing French because A Femme lives in France. I know! How way cool is that! Read on when you arrive, because some of her posts feature illustrations of clothing she and a friend wear. Like this. Maybe even cooler than living in France.

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend. If you celebrate Christmas, and if you aren't done shopping, don't worry. I'm always last minute too. I believe there's a place in this world for all of us, even the procrastinators. Joyeux Noel et Bonnes Vacances!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Udaipur, Egrets, Trains. India, 1982

28 years ago I spent 3 months alone in India, writing an article on their film industry and being 25. I am posting the stories here once or twice every other week. For previous excerpts from this trip, start here. Then here. Then here. Or use the terribly helpful labels and click on "India."

Time to leave Bombay. I had interviewed directors and government officials. Spent an afternoon on set for the filming of a wedding scene. Learned what I could about Bollywood. To know it existed at all being fairly remarkable. I wrote in my journal,
...had begun to feel as though I owed something to the city, had begun to orient myself. Got tangled in the streets. I could feel myself getting anxious, setting standards, not doing well enough...I just had to say, 'Lisa, hold on. This is your first project ever, and you just want to write an article, not a learned tome on the subject. Do you have enough to write? Yes. Well then leave it at that and go have a good time.'
Even then I talked to myself in a voice that knew more than I did.

I hopped onto a train. That's the thing about travel. You don't have to make to do lists. You can make to go lists. Feeling worried? Go to the next place. The journey has its own trajectory, even when the traveler is lost in one way or another. You have the train window to frame what might otherwise cause fear.

Overnight to Udaipur. Marked with a yellow star on the map above. Sleeping compartment, in first class, with a bathroom down the corridor. I took a shower. Stood naked and wet watching rails go by under the toilet. Changed trains at Ratlam. I thought the air was filled with ash like Victorian London. Not that I knew anything about Victorian London, of course, but I had no idea what I was doing and any reference was better than none. I saw all the second class compartments, full of people in bright clothes, squatting at the doorway and looking out the windows.

People rode the tops of train cars. I felt puzzled, but as I was already in a state of perpetual shock, it didn't seem any stranger than anything else. I wrote,
As we rattled along, I listened to a devout Hindu, a supervisor on the board of education in Ajmer, tell me that if I would only, "read Gita, read it not once and throw away, but read it with faith and you will have good peace, true peace of heart." The train stopped. A woman had fallen off the train roof and been cut in two on the rails. After 20 minutes we moved. "She expired," the supervisor told me.
We stopped at Chittargarh. I saw a large dusty fort. One of many, as it turned out. The north of India has a lot of forts. This was my first.

I got back onto the train.

If I remember correctly, two young men struck up a conversation with me. Their names were Ashutosh Panchodia and Awadhesh Kanungo. They made me write that down. I followed them into a second class train car. Where sat 50 more young men, taking the train to New Delhi for university entrance exams. They were what was then called, "tribals," participating in a special program to allow villagers from tribal groups to enter the Indian meritocracy. These guys had never been to the city. Had never met a Westerner. Terribly curious. Even more polite.

In second class, the seats are wooden benches. With slats. At least they were then. Luggage stored on slatted wooden racks over your head. Sometimes people sat on the luggage racks, if the train was very crowded. Not that day. That day we all sat on the benches. And looked at each other. For the most part their English wasn't up to conversation and I did not speak Hindi, or their dialect. They asked me if I had seen Khajuraho, temples covered with statues of people in intimate positions. This question was, although I did not know it yet, to become a theme of these three months. They asked me how much my shoes cost. Another theme.

I have no idea what that white blotch is. Perhaps a manifestation of my shock?

We fell silent. Some time passed. I don't remember how much. We were almost to Udaipur. The young man just opposite me, who had been writing in a notebook for a while, looked up and told me he wanted to read something. "Miss Lisa," he said, "In the moonlight, you are a white marble statue." I think I said thank you. In those kinds of situations I tend to remember my manners and not much else.

I understand that class and gender and history converged at that moment in a way that completely overshadowed my particular experience. I was only a 25-year old girl, traveling, trying to prove my own courage and worth. I am glad that I treated those young men with respect. They were nothing to laugh at. The Indian education system has led the country to an important position in the world economy today. The role of women in society, in America as well as India, perhaps is not fully nor comfortably resolved. But if the story is just about me, in 1982, I remember trying to sit with my legs together, hands in my lap, balancing the desire to smile with the need to cast my eyes downward.

We must have arrived in Udaipur. That's what happens on trips. You get where you are going. I believe I was met at the train station. And driven through the town. Up a hill. To see the hotel. Udaipur Lake Palace. The irony is not lost on me.

But when you are dusty, tired, overwhelmed, and 25, irony is not the first thing on your mind. The hotel looked beautiful, sitting on the lake. Someone boated me over. Me and my blue duffle bag and knapsack. The only passenger, in a motor launch, piloted by a man in a turban.

The palace was, and is to this day, gorgeous. More marble than I had ever seen, then or since. Marble, by the way, feels just fantastic on your feet. And alternating between marble and carpet? Ecstatic. Being told by the front desk on check in, that they hoped I like my room because they wanted me to feel like a princess? Heavenly. Chicken korma eaten from linen with silver in candlelight? Delicious. Reading by a pool, on a lake, next to bougainvillea? Glorious.

I lay by the pool, and listened. Sounds carry so far across a lake. I could hear the people calling to each other on shore. I thought I could be in New Jersey, from the sounds. I wrote,
Ten egrets float by, cutting the air slowly as if it were butter. The sky is pinkening. The sun sets.
Inappropriate metaphors are the territory of the young. You can only know what you know. I knew that it would be unlikely, were this New Jersey, to see ten egrets flying in a line over a lake. Unlikely to be surrounded by marble.

They treated me like a princess. Yes. In that context I was some kind of princess. With a lot of traveling left to do. Under a sun that sometimes lit everything else I knew right out of my mind.

Udaipur. Overexposed, with dusty flecks. Not unlike the reality.

*All photos from slides. Why slides? Someone told me they were better. It has meant that I have barely looked at these images since I took them.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do You Fit High WASP Male Style Archetypes?

If High WASP women have Grandes Dames, Sturdy Gals, and Artsy Cousins as style archetypes, who then are their male counterparts? Let me pull these from unconscious memory, dinner the other night, and the works of Tom Wolfe, Richard Ford, and John Updike. Not a rational process.

First, and most commonly understood, is the Master Of The Universe. He channels our forefathers early urge to make it big. Doesn't care how much money was made then. Focused on now. He doesn't think much about style, in truth. Has a uniform. A uniform of dominance. Square jaw, intellect so sharp you bleed at its touch, attention span short. In fact, however, he is rare, among actual High WASPs. The required level of aggression hasn't, for the most part, survived years of genetic and social evolution. Or perhaps, with that level of intelligence, if you sit still for too long, questions crowd in like shrill goblins in a cave. Doubt is the enemy, a gray suit his friend.

Second, High WASP men have Artsy Cousins too. My brother somewhat among them. (Crossed with Master of the Universe in his case, but I digress.) And, having interviewed him on his clothes choices, it appears that Artsy Cousins, of the male variety, buy their clothes from Italian vendors who don't make women's clothes.* Who knew? Artsy Cousins fish, they show up at Burning Man with Art Bicycles, they open themselves to answers. Have hobbies. Involving nature, or something obscure, requiring gear. They play chess. And pretend it's not important.

Finally, The Professor. In reality. This is my father, seated. With signet ring. (esb, it took me forever, but here you go. A signet ring that doesn't bring Mickey Rourke to mind.) The Professor is known by his words - "as it were," "one might say," - his erudition, his slippers, the shapelessness of his sweaters. By his love for family, expressed or not. Oh, and his dog. Do not forget his dog.

Let me say now, disclaiming, I am no expert on men's style. Not modern, I leave that to secret forts. Not "trad," I leave that to Maxminimus, The Trad, and Toad. Wonderful writers all. I hope they might comment, or perhaps set me to rights. I write this because we like to be fair in my family. The boys should have their turn.

Men are mysterious beings. One day they are little boys with baby flesh and the next the Incredible Hulk bursts out of their being leaving mothers with shards of boy childhood outright breaking their hearts.

*Unless of course this is a West Coast mutation only.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Three Archetypal Ski Sweaters. Even If You Don't Ski.

I had dinner with my mother at my aunt's house this weekend. Upon walking into my aunt's kitchen, I couldn't help but notice her sweater. Yes, since you ask, we do enter through the kitchen. She has a mudroom. I love that moment, coming in from the rain, stomping on the floor, shaking the umbrella outside before you close the door. Warmth. But I digress.

I should point out, my aunt is the archetypal Sturdy Gal. Raised three boys. Computer-literate from way back. Hung her own wallpaper. And, to this day, has resisted any culture pressures to conform to the Northern California artsy way of dressing. Turtlenecks without apology.

She was wearing a sweater like this. Hers was 3/4 zip, but very similar. Aha! I thought. Sturdy Gal style. We deserve our icons just as much as Grandes Dames and Artsy Cousins do. The Annabelle. $184.
Comes in black for the urban Sturdy Gal. They do exist. Mostly in hiding. Cities remind us Sturdy Gals that cool is not our forte.

I dug further into the website. What do you know. Neve is broad-minded. Ski sweaters for the Grande Dame. Technically a jacket, I suppose. (Although not as grand as this ruffled navy number at Couture Carrie...). The Sophia. $273.

And for the Artsy Cousin. Would of course require some serious accessorizing, but I think the potential is there. I will have to ask my sister. Or DocP. The Finley. $129.
Now go dig that long underwear out of the Rubbermaid tub in the garage, or basement, or attic, and head to the mountains. It's snowing in the Sierras.

*I had never heard of Neve. No money or product has been exchanged. Although my aunt made some delicious short ribs.

** A post describing the three High WASP women fashion archetypes.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Morning at 6:29am

My mother is visiting. I picked her up at the airport yesterday. Difficulties.

My mother has resolutely refused to admit new technology into her life. She doesn't use a computer. She may still call refrigerators, "iceboxes." Most importantly, given air travel in the 21st century, no cellphone.

Imagine now that planes are severely delayed coming out of Santa Barbara. Two hours or more. Imagine flight changes. A daughter, due to pick her mother up at San Francisco Airport, checks the Internet and sees the delays. It's the 21st century, right? But can't reach her mother to confirm the schedule. No cellphone, right? The daughter plays it safe, assumes her mother is on an earlier plane, and sets off to begin circling the airport, waiting for her mother to emerge.

The mother thought she was being met inside. The daughter was sure the mother would come out. They were both wrong.

Now, the mother had, in fact, called her daughter's house, her other daughter's house, and her own house, leaving messages with new schedule information. Answering machines having made the list of sanctioned technology. She used the payphone at the Santa Barbara Airport. None of us were home. We were all out with our cellphone. The mother doesn't remember any cellphone numbers. Because cellphones, let us imagine, shouldn't exist.

But, because they do exist, nobody answers landlines at airports anymore. White courtesy phones, gone. (Why were they white?) Nobody, certainly not me, circling the airport for an hour or so, not knowing what flight my mother was on, nor whether she had arrived, can find even one person to talk to. A person who might look for a well-turned out 77-year old woman, standing alone, with her suitcase. A person who might find that woman, take her out to the curb, to wait. For the circling daughter.

I didn't mind circling. That's not the issue. I just hated the thought of my cheerful, elegant mother, waiting for an hour with no way to know, was I ever coming to get her?

When I finally got the calls from my sister and my mother's husband, both of whom came home to landlines at the same time to find my mother's voice messages, I left my car at the curb, grabbed my bag, ran inside, and raced frantically up and down through 6 baggage claims, hoping that the overly zealous airport security staff would turn a blind eye to my illegal parking. I found my small mother. She was well-dressed, as always. Her new traveling outfit, as she explained to me later. A dark knit tunic and pants. A cropped kimono style cashmere sweater in pistachio. Gold necklace and matching bracelet, modern, clean lines. Swedish gold earrings that look like models of buildings seen from the air. Comfortable shoes. Even Grandes Dames sometimes concede to their feet.

Her feet were fine. No hair out of place. But she was shaken.

I have vowed, silently and out loud, never to be the kind of person who mutters, in a cranky, querulous tone, "The world is going to hell in a hand-basket..." The grumbling woman. How then to avoid her? My mother has great style. Great attitude. She's more elegant on a bad day than most of us are at our best. Always cheerful. Continued contribution to society.

But she has chosen to avoid a new set of tools while the world's processes have evolved assuming those tools would be in place. It seemed like a small thing, originally. Why learn to use a computer? She didn't work in an office. Maybe *Not Grumbling* isn't quite enough.

Research has shown that learning is difficult as you age because short-term memory declines, along with patience and ability to tolerate frustration. That's where "hell in a hand-basket" comes from.

The world is going where we cannot. So we insult its voyage.

Aging is no different than living. It's tough to balance the desire to keep trying, to be brave and fly alone, against the need to learn new, boring, annoying stuff. Tough to know when to push on, in the self-help, be-all-you-can-be mode, and when to make peace, to accept limitations that won't yield even to optimism or style. Everything I say is true as I know it. I do not know if it matters.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Goodbye. To The Best Cashmere Sweater I Ever Had.

This is it. No doubt. The best cashmere sweater I ever had. Oh, the navy blue skinny rib turtleneck is nice. The Wilkes Bashford sky blue thick rib turtleneck is pretty, and unique. But this one was my friend.

Worn to the corporate wars for comfort. With a pair of navy blue pleated Armani trousers. Manolo ballet flats. Pearls in the ears and around the neck. Anything from white button downs to small white t-shirts underneath. In this guise, it's pale blue, almost golfish in its conservatism. It's always good to make people think of golf, in corporate life.

Worn on weekends for style. With a pair of flared Seven jeans. And those same flats. I am in the buy-shoes-you-love-and-wear-them-to-death camp. Sweaters too, apparently. In this mode, the pattern feels all Brat Pack, 1950's post-modern, ironic even. A little irony livens up the weekend.

Have taken it to the reweavers. Valiant attempt. One day, the poor little woolen just exploded. Holes in the elbow, under the arms. Cuffs frayed. Stains appeared all at once.

OK. I get it. Into the Goodwill bag. Still a very warm sweater. Still comfortable. Was always comfortable. (Have you ever seen cashmere so thick? Where can I find its mother? Sister? Brother? Was, after all, a men's piece in XS.) Should keep someone cozy in our Northern California version of winter. Besides, if I don't get it out of my drawer, I'm doomed to wear it again some day because it is, Just. Too. Soft.

*This was purchased sometime around the year 2000. Note the Made in China label. We didn't know what we didn't know.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

11 Terribly Suitable High WASP Presents. OK, OK, Gifts.

Presents. We like to call them presents. Do High WASPs give a certain kind of Christmas present? Is everything monogrammed, crystal, silver, or very, very old? Featuring horses? Greyhounds? Plaid?

Luckily, no. Mostly, like everyone, we want to give our friends and family things they might like to have. We ask each other, before Christmas, "What do you want?" "Well, what do YOU want" "What are you getting for Sister A?" "Do you think Brother-In-Law B will like this?" And, of course, what about Mom, Dad, Mom's husband, Dad's wife? Sometimes we give Hanukkah presents. Cultures do change. Thank goodness.

Our exchanges are pretty practical. Especially since the family fortune dwindled and the Dow Jones entered this long drought. Imagine an almost empty grain silo, wind whistling, chaff blowing. Please excuse the slight exaggeration. But the days when I gave friends silver Tiffany cigarette cases, plane tickets to London, and diamond earrings? Gone.

The point is to get somebody something they want, not something you want to give.

As it turns out, everyone, sometimes, does just want the best blue cashmere sweater, the most comfortable pair of slippers, or a good way to connect to the Internet. A femme's friend Robert agrees. Quirky, unique presents are sometimes more fun to read about than to receive. Here are my suggestions for things your friends and family might really want.

1. Alphabet earrings from Catbird $40 each earring
Catbird says these are their #1 seller. I'm not surprised. We High WASPs especially like words and letters. Not that we are in any way responsible for Catbird's success, of course. These could make a nice untraditional monogram, especially if you got that third hole pierced. I think I'd wear a "Y" in one ear, and an "N" in the other. Yes and No. Because that's how I feel about most everything.

2. Bracelet from Scosha $169
Our artsy cousin likes presents that remind her of the days of safaris, caravans, wild travel. String a little diamond on some silk fishing line and go to the opera.

3. Monogrammed necklace from Catbird $300
Because classics are classic for good reason. Beautiful. Unfortunately, this takes 3-5 weeks to produce. Oops. Know anyone with a January birthday? But this one can be had in 2 weeks for $240. Just enough time, if you like to live dangerously.

Bow created under Creative Commons license from cuttlefish's Flickr photostream.

4. Handmade Minimalist Wallet by Makr Carry Goods $65
Men are very particular about wallets. Some of them just want a place to stash a few cards, a license, and some cash. The coins of course will wind up in a mug under the telephone, on top of the TV, or denting your silver Tiffany's bowl. Love is worth it.

5. Blue Pearl Wedge Tote from scabbyrobot at etsy $88
How to get that click of yes for less. Love the soft, sophisticated blue leather. Hate her store name so much that I can barely stand to read sca....Nope.

6. More Men's Slippers Than You Know What To Do With. From LL Bean $49.95
A tradition. One year we gave my father 4 different pairs of slippers., thinking we were hysterically funny. Sheepskin-lined slippers. Delicious as chocolate chips in oatmeal cookies. Feet in love. Meaning of luxury.

7. Built By Wendy Black Fishnet Sweater $105 (reduced from $150)
We're apt to have a black sweater or two already. And still might ask for another come present time.

8. John W. Nordstrom Crewneck Cashmere Men's Sweater $155
Extremely high quality, very soft. My son says people pat him when he wears his. Always a good thing, patting. This sweater fills a very nice niche between Neiman Marcus, Tse, and Pringle high-end stuff, and Bloomingdale's $79 fuzzies that give up the ghost almost immediately. I'm picky about cashmere and I like it.

9. Something With Design Integrity From A Mall Store $34-$129
Rushing through the mall, realize you need to give someone a present, and still want to make it count. Pottery Barn has some design guy with no ego hidden back in Vermont, as I imagine him, turning out lovely, traditional house stuff. Particularly these picture frames. And leather chairs, of course.

10. Antiqued Mexican Retablo With Story $32.92 (I know, what's up with the $0.92?)
We like to give each other folk art. Probably the endless hunt for cultural authenticity. We also like to buy photographs from Peonies and Polaroids.

11. Novatel NiFi 2200 Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Modem (price incomprehensible*)
Yes. Well, since our family fortune exited, stage left, we do have to work. And work is always better with colleagues. My tech friends have done the research. They say that IF one of your team has a Verizon wireless access card, then he or she can use this device to enable the whole team to get online without dealing with annoying connectivity issues, T-Mobile Hot Spot fees, or hotel lobbies that insist you have to actually stay there in order to use their network. Hurrah for collaboration and no additional fees.

Et voila. Having given each other presents, we then like to play word games. The favorite is Fictionary. Played with a big real dictionary, slips of paper, and a ragtag assortment of pens. One year my son defined a word, I don't remember which one, as, "Human guts. Very siccuhtating." Another, more poetic fictitious definition, again for a word I don't remember, "Dust of the cave." Happy Holidays to you all.

*In the way pricing associated with data plans always is.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

When Budget Shoes Knock Your Socks Off

These are the Christian Sirianos I ordered from Payless. Now sold out, apparently. $29.99. A second pair half off. Free shipping. This kind of pricing is not common in my usual retail pursuits. So I had to wonder, were the shoes going to be, you know, OK?

Yes. They are. Fabric holds up in person. Heels, nice and shiny. Zipper, sufficiently substantial. Run a little big, which means my size 7 Ferragamos, size 7.5 Manolos feet are floating just a tad in the Siriano 7s. This made my daughter very happy, since the 7.5s I ordered as the second pair were released to accompany her on the holiday party trail Back East. (That's what we Californians call that side of the US.) I am confident that no one will look at my gold zippered feet and think, "Oh, poorly made shoes, darling. Tssk. Tssk. Tssk."

Lisa, one of our readers here, appears to agree, having bought not only the zipper flats, but similar heels. She sent me these accounts of her Siriano outings.
I'm just sending this email to let you in on (and thank you) my 'little secret': after your posting of the zipper shoes by Christian Siriano, I went to the Payless website - I loved those shoes!!! I bought the flats in gold and the other colorway AND the heels. Tonight I went to an Art Gallery opening and wore those heels. I must say that I HAD the best shoes in the joint. (I have two very dear friends who help me dress, and they chose those shoes first out of my ample shoe closet, and the rest of my outfit revolved around them - they are a recently married gay couple (GO IOWA!) and their taste is impeccable.) Anyway, THANK YOU, I never would have thought of Payless (I didn't have the heart to tell my stylists where they came from) and I have three pairs of the coolest shoes around. (Of course, this is not a big city and I kind of stand out in the shoe department anyway :) Louboutins tend to do that.)

...yesterday I went to an annual "Holiday Open House." deciding my ensemble (without my stylists!), I went with an all cream outfit and topped (bottomed?) it off with my gold zippered Christian (not Louboutin) shoes. This IS a crowd that takes their clothing VERY seriously and I can't begin to tell you the number of compliments I got on the shoes!!!!! I've got one more of these occasions to attend and have two more pairs of zippered shoes in my arsenal - OH THE FUN!!!!
You are very welcome, Lisa. May all our holidays be FUN:). And well-shod besides.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Morning at 9:17am

The hostess of the humble bungalow left the following much appreciated comment to my post about the Minimalist Luxury Credo.
"#5 is puzzling me. I am still digesting. How does one "make someone feel bad" about not being able to have something?
We have choices and why would someone "choose to feel bad" ?"
My 5th point in that credo being,
"Never make anyone else feel bad for what they can't have. Because, if you pare away everything unnecessary, courtesy has to make the cut."
Other commenters felt this ought to be point #1.

I have thought about it ever since.

Why? I call this blog Privilege. Not without understanding the ramifications. (The - dash is only an artifact of my inability to customize title spacing and something I would gladly eliminate.) I believe that privilege requires me to live in gratitude and appreciation. As you might imagine, I don't succeed anywhere near as often as I would like. No one could say that virtuous intent is my most salient characteristic.

Still. Fancy little black dresses. A generous present giver who affords them. In the wearing of fancy goods, maybe I ought to consider the feelings of those who see me. Those with soft hearts, that is. I cannot be the keeper of all the hearts of strangers. I cannot watch out for the hearts of those I'm fighting, as in the way of the corporate world. I will not watch out for the hearts of those trying to make amends for their own distress through dominance.

But I can watch out for the hearts of my friends, and my family, and those I would like to bring into that circle.

The same, in some ways, is true for physical attributes. Despite complaints and shopping protests, despite a few years of an eating disorder in my 20's, my weight is not a real problem. Partly a result of privilege. My family ate well for generations. My mother spent her real intellect and considerable time cooking so that my father's heart would be protected from high triglycerides. We ate stir-fried broccoli and parchment steamed fish for comfort food. Now, despite my lost job, I can afford to shop at Whole Foods. Privilege.

Sure, there's choice. Sure, I worked hard over the years. Sure, I keep eating broccoli, live modestly in some ways, and save for the things I care about. But, I feel deep in my heart, it's privilege.

I understand that others might feel differently. Use different parameters. I'm not making a blanket statement. Let no one take this as a condemnation of other thought systems.

But me, for this week, I'm trying something out. Every day I will get up, and consider what I wear in light of, "How will this make people feel?" Rather than how will I feel. Rather than how will I look. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, or self-improvement programs. Perhaps a first.

An experiment. And, in the way of experiments, who knows if there's anything to be learned?

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Minimalist Luxury Credo, Or, A Little Black Dress

In the beginning I thought minimalism meant pared-down design. Mies Van der Rohe chairs. The opposite of baroque, or ornate.

Or, the current indie frugality trend? Canning peaches, attaching toilet paper rolls to your walls as art*, reusing plastic bags.

But a few weeks ago I bought a very expensive little black dress, and I believe it was the most minimalist action I've taken in the last 5 years. Luxury isn't the antithesis of minimalism, unnecessary is.

Let's be clear. It wasn't a virtuous purchase. No self-denial involved. I love my dress. Made from a cashmere wool blend, and therefore not itchy, but even so, lined in the bodice. Sleeves. I no longer have the need or wish to show my upper arms. Knee length, applying similar principles to the legs. Structured, seamed, perfectly fitting. Narciso Rodriguez, for those who care, as I confess I do, about designers' bodies of work.

But it's not the aesthetic, the lack of ruffles, lace, sheer panels, nor the usefulness alone that makes me cry minimalism. I present the minimalist luxury credo, for your review.
  1. Be clear why you need what you plan to buy. For what uses? They must be multiple, or critical, i.e. many times, or one time so important it is nigh-historic. I will wear this little black dress, as I have two others in my life, for 5-10 years. With joy. Over and over and over again, each time feeling fantastic and honoring the occasion I celebrate.
  2. Be sure you have no happy way to do without. None. When I am called to dress up, if I feel I have nothing appropriate to wear, my upbringing calls in the ghosts and I become sad, anxious, and resentful. This may not be true for you. You will have your own ghosts and your own non-negotiable needs to either burn from your soul or make peace with. Which brings us to the next point.
  3. Understand the requirements of your heart and your circumstances point by point. Make sure you know what you want and that you have realistically assessed the likelihood that this purchase will answer your needs. I don't go to Burning Man. I can see, even now, the times and places I will wear my dress and I can feel looming anxiety dissipate.
  4. Do homework to understand price banding. Luxury does not relieve us of the responsibility to assess value. I had looked at J. Crew and found nothing, tried on Barney's New York private label version to no avail, and vintage clothing gives me the creeps. I am familiar with Rodriguez and his reputation for quality. I also knew, that though his dresses are expensive, I could afford the purchase. Or I would never have walked into the store to begin with. Minimalism means do not stir up undue desires that you cannot fulfill without consequence.
  5. Never make anyone else feel bad for what they can't have. Because, if you pare away everything unnecessary, courtesy has to make the cut.
(Because Little Black Dresses are as flexible in philosophy and meme as they are on the body. Hence the enduring appeal.)

*Also at kidchamp dot net.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

LPC Is At "Souris Mariage" Today, Redux

Today I am at Souris Mariage (In which Mouse gets hitched), to talk once again about wedding registries. This time, however, we're talking stuff. Plates and their friends, glasses, forks, spoons, and knives. With pictures. And more general silliness.