Monday, August 31, 2009

Final August Post

Today, I started teaching. It hardly seems that I had any time off--a colleague who taught summer school felt the same. Hopefully next summer, I'll get the full time off.

To mark the occasion, I wore Katia for the first time. The temps were only in the mid-70s so I was happy to break it out from the closet. It is the softest dress. I'm in love with the fabric and so happy to have it. The details and seaming are amazing. In my quieter moments, I looked down at my dress and smiled. All in all, not a bad start to the academic year.

I also have to note the brilliance of last night's Mad Men. I wish it was on every night for 2-3 hours.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Tomorrow, I start teaching (at this point 24 hours hence, I'll be finished with my first class and about to start the second). I've already lamented that I don't know where summer went--although I know it started late, both for me (summer school) and in terms of temperature (June rains and chills). But that doesn't mean school starts any later, alas.

Right now, I'm writing a paper proposal on female nudity in early feature films, circa 1914-17, and its relationship to art, allegory and the questions it raises about the treatment of femininity on film. I'm blogging as a break, to get my head together, and to try to work through some ideas to somehow make them clear enough that the proposal gets me onto a decent panel.

But I have to ask, who had the bright idea to make this due around the beginning of the academic year? Mid summer, late September, either would be better. I also have to proof read two syllabi by the time Mad Men is on tonight, ensure I have my lecture notes ready and ideally finish my third syllabi so I can finish typing in book corrections on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thinking about Fall

After scouring a few shops with Cindy yesterday, I really didn't see much worth buying. I did like APC's chain strap bag (still not going to get it), their Sparta sandals (but too expensive for now) and some of their sweaters and cardigans. But little else spoke to me, so I'm sitting tight right now and waiting for more Mayle.

We went to Beacon's Closet and Buffalo Exchange to sell some clothes. I went through my Salvation Army bags and pulled out the unworn items--cardigans and sweaters from Club Monaco, French Connection tops and skirts, Topshop tops that were too small, various H and M items and added a few higher quality items that I wasn't sure I'd be able to sell elsewhere--a Foley top that's too revealing for me, unflattering Rogan jeans, green Sigerson flats (I loved them but they didn't fit so I only wore them once), Jill Stuart shoes that didn't fit either. I was shocked that most were rejected, including a cute pleated black mini skirt that I'd wear if I was 10 lbs thinner. After collecting $45 from Beacons (for the shoes, Foley top, and the Club Monaco sweaters), we went to Buffalo Exchange, where I thought the rest would sell. I only sold an Alice Roi for Uniqlo jumper dress for $4.50. I had never worn it because it attracted Peeps' fine long fur as soon as I brought it into the house. So I donated the rest to the Salvation Army, and decided that selling clothes is a lot of effort for little reward. I asked why some items rejected--some were because of inventory issues (lots of people selling clothes right now and Buffalo Exchange, at least, wasn't really taking skirt), seasonal issues (more conservative than regular stores, fall for them means sleeves, knits and heavier fabrics, not color or design) and style--Buffalo Exchange only wants to the minute stuff, the kinds of things I wouldn't donate and likely wouldn't even buy.

Still, this meant I got a free gourmet ice cream, dinner at Lupe's, a movie and a few groceries in exchange for shoes I that don't fit and clothes I never wore. I'll also get a Salvation Army tax donation for the other garbage bag of new clothes I donated. I think I've given them about $1,000+ worth of clothing so far this month.

Something about seeing how little I got for these clothes made me rethink my ideas about clothing as investment. While I've already said this, it's not an investment just because it's cheap and/or on sale. I saw so many people trying to sell garbage bags full of clothing, most of which was rejected. Then we headed over to Barneys and Intermix's warehouse sales. In both cases, but particularly Intermix, the items were vile and will likely end up being taken to places like Beacon's and rejected. But it didn't stop people from buying them.

So, chastened and missing Mayle all the more, today I went into my closet, put on Kaori for the first time and, despite the heat, teamed it with Olympe (obviously I've had no chance to wear it yet). It looked so great--I think Olympe is definitely better with shorter skirts. While not a pairing for today, it reminded me to think about what I have close to home first. I hate the cliche of shopping your closet, but given the lack of options and the dubious quality of much Fall merchandise, I may do that. If the APC sweaters fit (I have problems with the brand for that reason), they may join my closet, but otherwise it's old Mayle all the way until it gets so cold I wear my stalwart Steven Alan/Earnest Sewn/cashmere sweaters winter uniform.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Fall Dress

Clothing should not be one of my priorities for fall. Books, babies, jobs are far more significant and, obviously, I'd rather be pregnant with a healthy baby more than anything right now.

But I cannot help myself. I have a fall wishlist, although most of it is unavailable. Right now, I'm seeking a Mayle Ikeliene dress, size 8, Mala size 10, Vanya in pink, ice blue or cobalt blue dalmatia, size 10. If you have one, or know somebody who wants to part with theirs, please let me know.

Otherwise, I do need shoes. I'm also interested in getting another pair of boots, and I'm always interested in more colored tights and interesting cardigans. As for basics, I'm always looking for a fitted black cashmere turtleneck sweater and a fitted round neck long sleeved black cashmere turtle neck to wear with box pleat black miniskirts (including my lovely Lyell silk one--so nice, I have two of them), fitted black pants, jeans, denim skirts (I could do with a new a-line one that's about 4 inches above the knees) and, in the depths of winter, wide leg pants.

Despite my efforts to economize, yesterday I started my fall shopping. I had no plans to buy anything but I checked the Gilt Filipa K sale (originally I was interested in their Malin and Goetz sale but the cleanser I wanted was bundled with a moisturiser with no SPF). I found the dress above and had to get it. It fits in with the kind of cosy but sleek basics I turn to in fall and will work so well with my new Fiorentini and Baker gray boots, my Chie Mihara ankle boots from last fall, my Olympe and Vera coats, colored tights and cardigans.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Scorecard

With the summer nearly over, school fast coming up on the horizon (as in next week), it's time for some major work. But as always, the start of another school year prompts a few reflections. The summer is over--am I nearer my goals? Teaching summer school, my move and my UK trip took up too much of the summer--I feel I really should still have two months left to write but I don't.

So what did I accomplish? The book is on its way--I'm rereading the whole thing but two chapters need substantial work (one I have to eviscerate and it would be chapter 1...). But the intro is nearly done and was a mess at the start of summer. I'll say 6/10. There is still a chance I can get this in before the start of the semester although I think mid-September is more likely.

Baby. Still, alas, not happening. A work in progress, yes. Acupuncture is helping--maybe not getting me pregnant but it's helping me cope with that better. This one I can't grade, which may be psychological progress in its own right. I do know I have to get back on track and make more appointments at Columbia so that I can get this one sorted out soon.

Femininity book. I contacted Rutgers UP. They want to see the proposal. That I pretty much have done, but I need to have a sample chapter too. That one has not been started. This is my project for the early fall. 4 out of 10 (a generous score--perhaps it should be lower)

Shopping. I think this is in control but I really want more Mayle. Trying hard to work on my reaction to not being pregnant which is buying more Mayle. Of course, this is largely because there is nothing out there in my size.

Gym/Weight/Fitness. Not so good. 0 out of 10. I have to rejoin the gym this month and buy some new shoes so I can fit into all my clothes.

So, I'm not that thrilled with my progress but this semester I will be organized and complete both books, get pregnant and get my weight and fitness under control. Those are the goals. Hopefully, reality will match my plan for once!

On a totally unrelated note, it seems that some of the ebay Mayle mania may be muting. I'm stunned nobody has bought the persimmon Federica--the price is fair and the dress is beautiful, even if it doesn't photograph as well. Of course, some of the other items were priced way too high (I don't care how much you want to, you can't get $180-200+ for a Mayle cami). I just wish those Filipa pants had been an 8. I doubt I can fit into the 6.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fletcher by Lyell for Urban Outfitters

Way back in January, Emma Fletcher told me she was designing a capsule line for Urban Outfitters, based on some of her older designs. According to U.O., this could build her line with younger consumers who would graduate into the real thing. Emma told me this deal would help her stay in business but obviously seemed unsure that she'd get these young consumers to buy her beautifully tailored wares. After a couple of recession-dogged seasons and her experience with Chicago's Jake--they screwed her by not paying for clothing received and then signed their company over to another one they also owned so they didn't have to cover the old companies debts--she needed something like this to stay in business.

While some bloggers praise these lines (instead of ripping off designers, they get to share in some of the profits, essential for small firms like Emma's), and others lament them as unnecessary dilutions of brands, the reality is without this kind of crossover, companies like Lyell may not be around to sell their fall 09 wares. The fact that U.O. is effectively providing profits for Emma and others may not be ideal, but that's the sad fact of life. After talking to Emma that day, I felt bad that I couldn't afford to get the berry print romper (the one I got on sale) there and then, but there was snow on the ground and Mayle still available at 242 Elizabeth. More time for Lyell, in other words, when the weather and clothing options changed.

Yesterday I had about 20 minutes to spare before acupuncture so I headed into Urban Outfitters to check out Fletcher by Lyell now that it is available in stores. I had been silent about this line as I didn't want to break trust or affect promotions but it seems to have slipped into stores relatively quietly. Besides, it's out now and up for critique. I knew in advance what would be available (and it isn't all out yet), so I was prepared to have some mixed feelings when I saw the clothing. Experience has taught me that you have to see the items in person--online photos don't tell you about fabrics, finishing or give any impression of how things look without good lighting and the kind of digital manipulation that makes cheap look good in pictures alone.

My report is based on the few items available on 14th St/6th Ave--the knitted dress, the tie front blouse, the new version of her Mike cardigan, the vest, silky dress and shorts. The tie front blouse comes in two fabrics--a cheap looking semi transparent black synthetic and a fake silk in the same pattern as the original silk crepe (that I have in ivory/black). It's exactly the same design as the original but obviously more cheaply made (Lyell's finishing is legendary). The pattern version is passable (although not as comfortable to wear, I imagine) but would be something I'd love if I was unable to buy the real thing. The black is not so effective--it looks cheap and flimsy. The silky dress seems to be a version of the Sara W dress from SS 08 but shorter and with a pleated skirt. I was underwhelmed. The detail on the bib is nice but the fabrics again let this down. Still, I imagine many girls will love it. The shorter length is a nice touch--I prefer this length and may get mine altered. The vest is pretty lightweight and very young (the original was heavy and hand knit) and I imagine it will fly off the shelves. The shorts are way too short (even for a teen) and the fabric is way too flimsy--more like underwear. That said, I imagine they'll sell out even if many parents are horrified when their daughters bring them home. The knit dress is OK--it's not a copy of any I remember but has Lyell's signature star detail at the neck. My main complaint was the color--I only saw it in gray and it was a drab shade. I'm sure they make it in black and imagine the details will be lost but I'd love to see it in another lighter color. The Mike cardigan was good: it comes in a black or petrol blue (I prefer the black). If Cindy, Monica, Julie or Loretta had been around, I'd have asked them how it looked on--I did try it but I wasn't really wearing the right thing (acupuncture skirt and t-shirt). Still, I'm really tempted. I just wonder if it will pill badly--although it doesn't look like it will.

So far, I thought Fletcher was OK--the knits surprisingly strong--a line mainly let down by too cheap fabrics (even UO use better for their own lines than they chose for the dresses, shorts and black blouse). Some of these designs are identical, but the pieces demonstrate that the design/pattern alone isn't enough. But this may be deliberate, a way to preserve the value of the originals. After all, Steven Alan's line suffers from the same problems and cotton shirting isn't expensive.

I did think about the impact on the original items. Certainly, I was a little peeved that I spent so much more for the tie front blouse that I will wear for years only to see it translated into a nearly identical fabric for so much less. That said, these tops will not flood the market forever and I will be wearing that blouse years later. Obviously, you have to consider how much this kind of brand dilution will hurt the original lines--how will consumers feel about spending $300-400 on a Lyell blouse if a cheaper version will be in UO in a year or six months? How does that affect sales? Do people spend this kind of money for distinction, quality, style or a mixture of all three? I know this isn't an easy question to answer. I don't want to wear the same as my students, but I also don't want to wear a scratchy cardigan or a creased, too shiny dress. That said, a few years ago, I didn't have that luxury. Grad students, undergrads and high school students don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on one item and I know I didn't notice these quality issues back when I was 20 or 25, even though some of my vintage items were of far higher quality than my topshop and Miss Selfridge finds. Then again, I like to think that the high street was better quality back then--maybe it was, maybe this is just nostalgia.

I wondered how I'd feel if Mayle had signed up for Jane for Urban Outfitters and reproduced cheap Elviras, Ikelienes, Vanyas, Izoldas, Ignatias, and Pinas. I tried to imagine a cheap shiny Federica sitting there next to a scratchy wool Odette. It wasn't a happy thought and I was surprised to find myself feeling this level of discomfort. It's not that I don't want others to enjoy these designs but my imagination showed me the cheap fabrics that would be chosen. And fabric choice is so central for the drape, feel and the overall beauty of these items.

That said, these things do get ripped off. The other day, a girl sat next to me on the subway wearing F21's notorious Florinda knock off in all its cheap shininess. Granted she probably had no idea what it was and just liked it. Even yesterday, I saw the knockoff monogram clogs that UO are still selling, so these things will happen regardless. Yes, I'd rather see true creativity in these stores and from their suppliers--and I'd love it if they hired young designers to express their vision--but pragmatically, I'd rather see Lyell and others stay in business and if that means signing these deals with UO, so be it. Besides, I may finally get that Mike cardi and the other peacoat if they are halfway decent--items I missed out on the first time round. And some of that money will go to Emma, who is a great and talented person who deserves more success and exposure.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It never ends

I've been moved just over a week now and am amazed at how much there still is to do/unpack/sell/give away. Things are beginning to return to something approaching normality but part of me wonders when the bags in the bedroom and the boxes in the living room will be cleared away.

I've so much writing I want to do that this is doubly frustrating. I don't think last week's heat wave helped, but I realize I need more storage and that's something I'm working on creating out of nowhere. Cubes, ottomans and storage benches all appeal to me but Evan insists that whatever we get is not self-assembly. The space is bigger, it's just that the storage options are fewer and I have yet to find ways to crush everything into corners.

My Mayle is all nicely packed away, however. With this week's cooler temps, I look forward to wearing some of my pretty summer dresses again. Evan's parents are meeting us for dinner tonight and I'm thinking what to wear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Closet Cleaning

Today, I bought a new closet to help accommodate all my clothing. This reinforced further how much I need to purge--not Mayle, but lots of other stuff. My camera broke the other day, so I'll borrow Evan's, take photos and post them here and on the General Economy blog. There are some lovely items that were just not me, some bargains I should have resisted and some things that I like but never turn to first. There's Marc, Rebecca Taylor, Jill Stuart, DVF and other contemporary and indie designers, all sizes 6-8. All have to go or else I'll be living in crumpled Mayle pulled out of carrier bags.

This move has taken forever. It's nearly two weeks since I started packing and I am still faced with bags and boxes. I had three large garbage bags filled with coat hangers alone, which tell their own story. I wish I'd just spent all this money on Mayle in the first place. My move has really brought home something I already knew--buy what you love, not the approximation of it. The things you adore really pass the test of time. I have spent a lot of money trying to balance style, economy and quality--most of it wasted. I hope these items can find homes where they are loved.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Loving Jemeen

When I first saw the pictures for Mayle's final collection, resort 08, I immediately wanted Jacinthe. Alas, I needed a 10 and I believe that was already spoken for, leaving smaller sizes that wouldn't accommodate my frame. I also fell for Melia, Zenith (which I also missed out on) and Mirabelle. Jemeen didn't seem so remarkable, and when I tried on the 8 in Barneys, I decided it was not for me as it seemed so big. Later, I tried on the 6 and changed my mind. Even then, I decided it was not a priority. Clearly I was not alone: Elise mentioned that there were lots left and I'd definitely find it at the sample sale.

Well, impatience took over. I craved more Mayle and bought Jemeen for $199 from Sebastians in Dallas. A few weeks later, there it was at the sample sale for $75, in black and white, in size 6. Making the most of it, I bought the ivory version (this time a size 8 as it seemed to run smaller).

Since then, I've realized what a great dress this is. I took the black and white to England and my Mum, who hates black dresses, loved it. Besides being comfortable, it is also durable as I found out yesterday. To escape the heat and get some work done (reviewing an article for a journal and finishing a syllabus), I retreated to Starbucks with Evan. At this point, my choice of drinks there is strongly curtailed. I'd have decaf coffee (allowed) but they only offer the disgusting Pikes Place. I am not allowed juices, I can't deal with hot tea in this weather and dislike it iced (I am English), I don't like the sugary frappaccino/shakes. So I had another calorie laden treat (the only one I like), the signature hot chocolate. Alas, the lid was not on straight (my fault) so I treated my Agnes bag and Jemeen to a good helping of my drink.

Memories of the damage water caused to Santa Teresa escaped me as I ran to the bathroom, stripped off my dress and washed the stain out with a little soap and a lot of cold water. It worked! There was no need for dry cleaning, no shrinkage or change to the fabric. While I'd never wash the entire dress, I have even more respect for this pretty little workhorse of a dress. It's great on 95 degree days and I think it will be amazing in the fall with black tights and a black cardigan. I also look forward to wearing its ivory sister with purple or black tights and an assortment of cardigans.

As we all know, it's sometimes the little dresses we overlook that become the backbone of our wardrobe. While I'm still looking out for that rare ivory paisley size 10 Jacinthe (or the lavender version) and a size 4-8 Zenith in black, I am very happy that I rethought Jemeen. And, no, I won't be selling either of mine. They are for keeps.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


With the assistance of some amazing and cheap movers (lonestar paul, highly recommended--email me if you ever need a good NYC mover), I have finally moved. The pile of clothing in the bedroom amuses Evan no end--some of it is in bags, some in boxes, some in garbage bags. I feel somewhat embarrassed, especially as virtually none of it is Mayle.

So, tonight with 2/3 of the boxes unpacked (books, dvds and some of my vintage magazines--mainly 1960s Playboys for my gender research), we're going to watch three episodes of Mad Men. The apt. looks like a library--no room for style with all these books. I'm wearing my Lyell berry print romper and Mayle wedges in ivory to regain some sense of myself after all the dust and hard labor. Thankfully yesterday wasn't boiling hot.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eleven boxes packed

I'm making progress but it is crushingly hot and humid, not the best weather to move. I collected about 30 boxes today from Rite Aid and from outside a Polish deli and sneaker store, but given that it has taken me 11 of the admittedly smaller boxes to pack my dvds and CDs, I'm not optimistic that I have enough of them. Blue is climbing over everything, I have 4 bookcases of books to pack. I threw out about 10 bags of stuff (many large) but I sense I have only scratched the surface. As for clothing, it's nearly all packed but how many Rebecca Taylor, Tibi, Marc, Jill Stuart pieces did I buy because they were cheaper than Mayle and then not wear them much. I have to sell some of it but I'm unsure if it is worth the effort. I'm now beginning to get to that point where the packed items take up far more room than they will when unpacked.

I have four bags of stuff for the Salvation Army too. I have no idea when I'll have the time to drop them off. It maybe after the move.

I went to acupuncture today and noticed that my amazing acupuncturist does something different each time. It's clearly a dynamic process and I noticed the herbs change too. I nearly fell asleep today and it started to hurt when the needles go in. This is good as it means the qi is stronger. I think she's a miracle worker because I'm calm amidst this storm. Somehow, I'm both energized and relaxed and finally understand what being grounded and centered feels like.

Evan has been in SF for a conference since Friday. I can't wait for him to get home.

Monday, August 10, 2009


No sooner did I get back than I had to start the process of packing. Since I moved to NYC 8 1/2 years ago (and it doesn't seem that long), I've had to downsize with each move. Funnily enough, when I was in Madison, Houston and Pittsburgh, it always seemed like I didn't have enough stuff. I left most of my furniture on the street in Pittsburgh the night before I moved (and, to my amusement, one piece was taken then returned, leaving telltale marks in the snow). Each move has required me to downsize further, although my wardrobe and book/dvd/magazine/research materials have grown. Still, I have to get rid of more now. Books are effectively sacrosanct. I wish I could jettison all paper but in there are immigration, tax, teaching evaluations and all manner of things that can't be thrown out but take up my precious little available storage. Every time I move, I have to shuffle through old letters and photos which only remind me how fast time passes and makes me regret that I couldn't have made better use of my life (also seeing how I look back then makes me feel old and faded).

Today, I've spent an hour already going through my closets. Not just for clothing to pack or throw out, but uncovering boxes of files that, alas, I have to keep. I'm now looking at items of clothing with nostalgic value. Do I pitch them (even if those old size 4s still curiously fit) or keep them? I've thrown out discolored tshirts and sheets that attract cat fur, but what to do with those clothes that are still viable but don't set my heart aflame? I'm already starting another bag for the Salvation army--Rogan jeans, Velvet jersey dresses and topshop blouses that are still good (way too good for the trash) but I know I won't wear them. I'm putting a ton of shoes on ebay or maybe I'll post them here--Marc Jacobs collection heels I never wore (and in both cases, never left the box), Prada shoes, Miu Miu--all things I forgot I owned, never wore and never will. All size 40, all on the small side--really more 39s. All legacies of my wishful thinking, my desire to wear shoes that really were too small for me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm back

What a great holiday! I had a blast with family and friends. I had very little computer access so I was able to distance myself from the travails of work and real life, although I did sporadically check ebay when I was at my parents' house. My mother had a great birthday. I made it to the beach, London, galleries, museums, parks, stately homes, kids' movies, saw friends, ate wonderful food (my acupuncturist would be pleased with the amount of organic fruit and veg and fresh fish I ate) and realized how much better English strawberries are than the ones we get here.

Photos will follow. No Mayle anywhere to be found in London, although I didn't devote my trip to looking. I did get a nice new All Saints dress that is very Vivienne Westwood. Observations on British style (at the moment, it's quite good and not like NYC fashion at all), food, history, V and A exhibits to follow. I had some fun times with my dear friend Sarah and befriended the wife of an illustrious British rock star (admittedly his music isn't to my taste--he's one of Yes--but his family are lovely).

Today I recover from getting in at 11.30 p.m. and head over to a gallery in LIC this afternoon to a friend's art opening. I'm going with Alyssa--we all went to grad school together--and I think he has no idea I'll be there so it promises to be fun.

Next week's agenda: finish the book and move to Queens. This has been a crazy summer.