Monday, February 28, 2011

My Oscar Fashion Picks

I have yet to see the King's Speech--largely because snow and ice storms interrupted my dates with myself to see the film. Hopefully I'll be able to see it in theaters, but as I haven't seen all the major films, I'm not going to discuss the actual results, which have more to do with politics than merit. I am pleased Natalie Portman won best actress--love her, loved the film, and thought it was the best performance. Much as I liked Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, I thought it was more Ryan Gosling's film and his lack of a nomination was criminal. Back to politics rather than merit, I guess.

Anyway, it's all about the dresses anyway. While I thought the choices were a little conservative overall, these are my favorites in no particular order.

Maybe my favorite look of the night. I'm not entirely sure about the hair but the tea length and vintage feel of this dress are perfect. Usually I prefer a brighter color but this pale pink works so well with the 50s style and with her coloring.

This is a lovely dress and I always admire Cate Blanchett's style and bearing. She is a beautiful and talented woman who always pushes the envelope. I just have a minor criticism--the dress appears to be wearing her rather than the other way around--it may be because the color doesn't pop enough against her fair skin (and I say that as someone with very pale skin myself).

I was on the fence about this one. Love the dress and color but I am not a huge fan of halter necks, especially ones that squish cleavage. But the pop of purple won me over--I love those shoes against the orange background. And I am in awe of Jennifer Hudson's weight loss. OK so she has a huge team of professionals grooming her into shape but if she can lose that many pounds, I'm sure I can get back into shapen. Of course, I had to skip yoga this morning to get my work done so perhaps my point is moot.

 I just loved this on her. She's so beautiful and the color of this dress was so refreshing and unexpected. I love the detailing too. It shouldn't really work--it runs perilously close to being perhaps a bit too ornate and overworked and has a bit of a "Belle of the 90s" feel, but its Mae West elements are cut back and somehow it all came together.

Love her, love the color and the shape is perfect for a pregnant woman. I like the way the shoulders balance out her abdomen. Beautiful.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrity Scuttlebutt

I've taught my celebrity course several times now and each semester, the extra curricular activities of the stars provide us with more than enough fodder for classroom conversation. The art, of course, is to explore how such legal cases, public nudity, meltdowns and other tabloid fodder expand and intersect with the theories and histories under discussion. Of course, this needs a gentle guiding hand to ensure that we're not just entering into a mere gossip fest. One semester I taught the class as Britney divorced and started her gradual slide into notoriety along with Lindsay Lohan--most notably incarnated in the New York Post coverage of the duo, along with Paris Hilton, flashing themselves to the world.

Something that seemed so brazen then seems tame now, perhaps because of the actions that followed--I didn't teach the class during those months that Britney shaved her head and locked herself in a closet with her youngest son, nor while Paris, then Lindsay, were in jail/on parole/in Cannes not court because the latter "lost" her passport. Nor could I imagine the "F-you" manicure as suitable courtroom grooming, but times--or the respective players--were more innocent then. Or at least we imagined that to be the case.

                                                     Mary MacLane

As a media historian, I'm very aware that scandal is not new. In addition, I know that our fascination with celebrities has been as strong at earlier points in modern history--witness the fame of Lillian Russell, beauty and ghost syndicated columnist who was renowned more for her celebrity than her work as an actress. The rise of picture postcards and the ubiquity of the penny press were predicated upon a late nineteenth and early twentieth century audience's desire to read about the famous and their foibles. With mass literacy came an investment not in the titans of business and government (unless you were the press-seeking likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Edison) but in the showgirls, actresses, actors and models who emblematized the new leisure culture. As society changed, it turned inwards, examining itself and its most private moments as it made public the intimate lives of stars, many of them figures of little actual substance. Names like Mary MacLane are forgotten today but her revelations of her affairs with men and women scandalized and fascinated 1900s America--she may have been a 19 year old girl from Montana but soon she was a celebrity, not a fallen woman but the star of her own life story writ large in print, then on the screen. Like many such celebrities, she was consumed and then forgotten.

                                                    From my favourite comic, the almighty Viz
Indeed, the modern habit of the public engaging in microscopic self-examination via the consumption and judgment gossip/celebrity offer has had multiple incarnations--the simultaneous adulation/aura of the great Classical stars was always shadowed by other discourses--whether those about their ordinariness or their fall. Today, celebrity implosions are the more obvious media fodder but this has to be set against the uber-ordinariness embodied in the fascination with stars' families and pregnancies. Part of me wondered if marriage would be the new baby, given the inevitable onslaught of wedding coverage and the merchandising of C and W tat that would soon follow. But it seems that the baby still holds sway, something that will doubtless reach more insane proportions as the inevitable countdown to a royal baby gets underway in the press and online.

Returning to my original points, this week promises to be a doozy. Not only do we have the Oscars to discuss (or rather the investigation of stars, their dresses and the coverage of stars and their dresses in E!, gossip magazines and countless websites), and Lindsay's on-going court battles and courtroom outfit watch as we countdown to the possibility of more Lohan jail time. But we have a new shiny present from Santa, to borrow my dear friend Ben's words: Charlie Sheen. Now, granted Charlie isn't new to this. He's the same figure who, in less media-saturated, less celebrity obsessed times, shot his girlfriend in the arm, admitted to being a client of Heidi Fleiss, and even in recent months casually trashed a hotel room at the Plaza in one of his recent coke-and-porn star blowouts. But none of this was really huge news, and certainly didn't really capture the public interest in the same way as his recent verbal explosions. One of the obvious questions all this raises is about gender--if Lindsay's teeth were destroyed because of her coke habit (granted, this is something that may yet happen given that British actresses have lost their septums in the shower after excessive drug use), or if Britney had trashed a Motel 6 room, the chances are that we'd have been more shocked--or the magazines and websites and gossip shows would have expressed the outrage (and fascination) of the American public.

Certainly I think gender is relevant here--as seen in the American viewing public's casual acceptance of Charlie's naughtiness (as we'd call it in England) and the many chances he's been given. And as a gender scholar, there is plenty for me to discuss here. But I'm also interested in Charlie's methods of speaking to the public--or, to be more precise, his use of live media which have been central to this implosion. First he speaks to talk radio--something that obviously has to be live in a broadcast medium that still hones closest to this ontology. Then he turns to TMZ, part of the live, continuously updated feed that is the internet. Now he's appearing on Good Morning America and 20/20 this week. Now I know that these may not be entirely live (the live morning shows habitually record segments to play later). But his tactical use of liveness--or, as Jane Feuer put it in her seminal 1983 article, the ideology of live television--seems worthy of note and bespeaks of at least a new set of stratagems in our internet-gossip inflected era. Of note here Feuer actually discussed GMA as she outlined her theoretical argument (although I very much doubt Charlie is familiar with Jane's work). Another point of interest--Charlie and Lindsay seem to be conspicuously absent from the gossip weeklies. Perhaps their brand of fame is less advertiser friendly, but also, perhaps, their meltdowns and temperaments are more suited to a live medium with their continually updated scandals, precipitous falls from grace and their continual attempts to narrativize and update their own status, whether via twitter (for the younger Lohan) or the more traditional paths of radio, tv and Time Warner owned gossip websites in the case of Sheen?

Whatever happens, this week proves to be a good one for my class. I hope we can rise to the challenge--and the gifts--this week's celebrity scandals offer us.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I just spent a couple of productive hours going through my working bibliography for the next chapter (although maybe I should just finish the current chapter first?) and double checking on amazon. I love their used section--while shipping can be a little steep, there are often used/new items that are a steal. For example, I just got two silent film books (purely for pleasure--Baby Peggy's autobiography and a book she wrote on child stars), three books on femininity, visibility and mass culture (for said chapter on the female look at the female body) and a dvd (Girl 27--a documentary on a 1938 Hollywood cover-up/scandal that one of my students in Celebrity recommended yesterday). All are either new or in very good condition and the whole lot came to under $50.

The books I really want to read for pleasure are the reissued Michael G. Ankerich volumes, Broken Silence: Conversations with 23 Silent Film Stars and the companion book, The Sound of Silence: Conversations with 16 Film and Stage Personalities Who Bridged the Gap Between Silents and Talkies. At $35 each, I will probably have to get them one at a time. These books are part of a niche market, have small print runs, don't go on sale and their buyers don't sell them back so it's pay $35 or go without.

                                                     Olive Borden

                                                          Lucille Ricksen

                                                       Juanita Hansen

The former is more the must read--and will be a good follow up to Ankerich's excellent, Dangerous Curves above Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. I highly recommend this book--even if you've never heard of Olive Borden, Juanita Hansen or Lucille Ricksen (to name just three), their lives were fascinating, sometimes tragic and offer insight into the quick turn over that typified Hollywood in the teens and 20s. It's also a well written, intelligent, and well researched book--traits that are quite rare in this genre.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Near Miss

I teach until 10 p.m. on Thursdays and then am back on campus at 11 am for Friday's class. If I see students after class (as I did last night), the turn around can be pretty brutal. Even though I sleep well--despite Peeps's tendency to purr, mew, tap, walk on my head and generally be restless most nights--I did need a green tea this morning. I stopped in at a convenience store opposite the Waverley Building where I have class and was directed over to a stack of tea bags and a hot water dispenser--you make your own then pay.

As I was unfamiliar with the machine and probably a little groggy, I pushed it up to dispense water (noting that it seemed really hot) then pushed it back down to stop as I moved the cup away. The water continued pouring and I looked down and realized my hand and wrist were in the way--there was a somewhat surreal time lag where I noticed before moving.

Of course, there could have been a very unhappy ending but for some reason, my skin seemed to resist the boiling water. I calmly paid, walked over to class, told my students I had to run cold water over my wrist and had the miraculous fortune of not scalding my right hand and spending the morning in the emergency room. Instead, we discussed TV celebrity, watched an episode The Comeback (which polarized the class) and then somehow segued into celebrity scandals, courtesy, I think, of Charlie Sheen. Now I'm waiting to moderate at the grad student conference and barely bothered by the small sore patch on my previously bright red hand. I am lucky indeed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I Haven't Bought

This week, I haven't bought or even looked at anything. What with the Florida trip, teaching and a Joan Crawford triple bill Presidents Day with Ben and Brynn, I haven't really had much time to blog, look at clothing, or do anything else. The Paid, Possessed (1931) and Our Modern Maidens video screening was a bit of an indulgence (especially as it was followed by amazing Thai from Ayada and a guilty pleasure viewing of The Bachelor), but it was also work, background screenings for both the book and my Advanced Seminar in Media and Fashion.

That said, posting what I love, am on the fence about, or might otherwise have snagged, is proving to be a good exercise. In one of the first posts, I showed a Rachel Comey blouse that time has shown, I'd never wear. Similarly, the striped J. Crew sweater would have come in the mail, I'd have tried it on and then remembered I had it sometime in April, worn it once and moved on. The only pieces I still covet are the Comey boots and the Marant blouse. I can't have both--and maybe can't have either. Time will tell.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back in NYC

I spent the weekend in Tampa, FL--the reason for going was a Bar Mitzvah. It was lovely to be in the warm sun (although I wouldn't want to live there). Just this morning, I was standing by a pool in a sundress over a bikini. Now I'm in a sweater and wooly tights. We went to the aquarium and saw crocodiles, alligators, owls, quail, jelly fish and dragon fish, amongst others; ate way too much and swam in an outdoor pool. It's amazing how much you can do in just over a day and two nights although I am feeling a tad sleepy right now.

My Bar Mitzvah outfit was a bit ad hoc (as in I rushed home from Friday's class, rummaged through my closet and quickly packed a few dresses that seemed like they might work before we rushed out to catch our flight). It was a pretty ritzy affair (to put it mildly) but my Ignacia dress and silver glitter Miu Miu t-strap heels did the trick. And I didn't use it as an excuse to buy a new dress.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mmmm Doughnuts

Today was a busy, but sunny day. Although I rarely take a lunch break, I did today, meeting Ben for lunch and a special visit to the new Doughnut Plant in Chelsea. While I love the old one in the LES with its kind counter staff, this one is more convenient, although not as near NYU as it is to Ben's work.

He'd never been to the DP before and he was suitably impressed. I had coconut and passion fruit doughnuts (bringing home the coconut and a rose to share with Evan), he had a peanut butter and jelly and a rose to go. The rose even has edible rose petals on the top so it is super-pretty to boot. It was a nice way to mark a very premature spring-like day, amidst a whole lot of work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Should I?

I've liked these ankle boots all fall. Of course, they are both too pretty and too high to be worn in the typical winter weather, but there is something about them I like. I think they'd make my legs look long and work well with the dresses, skirts and pants I have.

There are just two problems: one, I've never tried them on and they are patent leather, which doesn't exactly stretch. I have wide feet--so will these fit? How can I know? They are Rachel Comey but they don't look like the typical Comey boot.

These boots (the same Mummer style in a different colorway) are another option. They don't appear to be patent leather so they may be more flexible. I like them but the others are in green and purple which are my colors of the moment... But still, the issue remains, would they fit?

Valentine's Day

As I teach until 9.30 p.m. Monday nights, we celebrated V-Day on Saturday. But we saved some yummy Whole Foods deserts and card/gift giving until the evening of the day itself. Evan is always great with Valentine's Day gifts and this year was no exception. I have an IOU for tickets for The Book of Mormon and dinner (plus a new album--either Sam Prekop, Laetitia Sadier or one of my other faves). I am a huge South Park fan and share their fascination with Mormonism. After reading Under the Banner of Heaven, I checked out so many books on the LDS from the NYU Library that I'm sure people would have thought that was my specialty--or, at the very least, assume I was working on some kind of research project. So I am very much looking forward to seeing the show (and having a good laugh) when it opens.

30 in 30

Despite picking up a cold (from my pilates class no less), I went into yoga (with my own mat to ensure I didn't spread the virus further) on Saturday to complete my 30 yoga classes in 30 days challenge. I am not sure I look any slimmer although I think I am stronger (it's tough to tell as some of my joints ache--first my left shoulder, now my right knee). I know my poses and posture are better and that pilates no longer leaves me with aches and pains for several days, so I am probably doing something better.

I get 30% off my next month's card, which is nice, but the pleasure comes in completing the challenge. I pushed myself and did it, despite a cold, work and the other interruptions and challenges that are part of everybody's life.

I also plan to do it again sometime soon but I think I'll give myself a month to catch up on all the other things I need to do--like writing this chapter and finishing my conference paper.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Weekend

Last weekend, Cindy came into town for a very quick and spur of the moment visit. It was wonderful! The weather even cooperated (no new snow and an almost spring-like 46 degree Sunday). We walked around Manhattan (possibly too much), window shopping and checking out consignment stores (virtually no Mayle at all). We ate splendid, if insanely spicy, Thai at Ayada, had cupcakes at the new Billy's Bakery on Elizabeth Street and had a great brunch at Eatery with Monica (although we probably ordered about 100% more food than we could possibly eat).

We were also highly restrained in our shopping. Cindy bought an amazing Suno dress from Opening Ceremony. I nearly bought some much needed skinny pants from Rag & Bone on 70% markdown. As they were one of the first things I tried on, I passed in case something else turned up that I coveted more. But when it comes down to it, I need dark skinny pants (these are charcoal gray). I have items I love that I simply cannot wear with much of what I have in my closet, other than jeans, and sometimes those don't even work. Some of the pretty long tops, like my Agnes Barley print Harumi and my purple Anton, really need black pants, and my wide-legged ones don't hit the mark. At 7 p.m., I decided I could justify this expense ($110 or so with tax) and realized that the pants in question are both well made and as flattering as I could find (it's not the pants fault that my butt and thighs are larger than I'd wish). We retraced our steps, only to find Rag & Bone had shut.

So I walked over there before acupuncture on Thursday and purchased them. I *did* buy something this week but I think they will become one of those closet stalwarts that allows me to wear more of what I have and thus spend less on new items. That's the idea and I am determined to stick with it. Here they are:

And here's how they look on the Rag & Bone model, who has the kind of narrow thighs that I will only have in my dreams. Despite my more flawed proportions, these are pretty flattering pants--and they are in a silk/lycra mix that seems pretty durable.

Things I didn't buy this week, #3

It's been a busy week and it flew by. I didn't see as much as I might normally because I was busy with work, yoga, pilates and then fighting a cold. But in those moments where I was wandering through Manhattan or flicking through e-commerce sites while sipping tea, I found more items that would have broken through my restraint in any other year. Here they are.

I do love bracelets. I've also got a soft spot for J. Crew costume jewelry--and I have a drawer full of the stuff now (albeit each piece still in a box, so my collection isn't that crazy--but it is bad enough). I wandered into J. Crew the other day to avoid the cold on my walk back to campus and this little bracelet caught my eye. It's one of their Lulu Frost collaborations. There was another I liked even more that isn't online so there is no image to borrow. It's around $100 or so with tax and likely won't go on sale anytime soon. It is beautiful and I know I have fantasies of how nice it would look with some of my dresses. But I've been this route before and have bracelets that are still unworn so unless it goes on major sale, it will have to be another item I love from afar. It has a museum-piece quality so I can just pretend that it isn't really available for sale. I do not need another bracelet and truth be told, I don't wear bracelets as often as I'd like--in the winter, they really don't work with sweaters, gloves and glacial cold.

I was also very, very sorely tempted by this Isabel Marant blouse. I love it, would wear it and think it is just lovely in all ways. But I'm also on a budget and it really resembles items I have (Mayle Clothilde and Anton blouses, Lyell polka dot blouse). So I'm postponing this one and think I will probably have to pass because of its cost. Other things are demanding my attention and I am not sure I can justify this beauty. But here it is:

Rachel Comey for Sale

These gems are from Caroline. If the shoes were in my size I would snap them up but they are just a little too large. If the skirt was a size bigger, I'd do the same--it is in one of my favorite Comey prints.

Caroline wore this skirt just once. It is a M and is in like new condition. She is asking $65.

The shoes are new, never worn and from this season:

They are just beautiful and reminiscent of the cult Barbaro boots with their amazing heel. These are a size 11. She is asking $150 or best offer.

Please contact Caroline with any questions/offers at complicatedskirt[at]gmail[dot]com

More Mayle, Comey and other designers coming very soon!

Mayle For Sale

The first item I'm listing is from Cindy. She is selling her very limited edition Sylvestre (from Ten Little Indians) in the beautiful Grey Gardens print. It is a size 4 (so in this style it will fit 4-6, even a small 8) and in immaculate condition.

Please contact Cindy at gutentier[at]gmail[dot]com if interested. She is asking around $375 for this rare and beautiful dress.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Clearing out my closet

Over the last few weeks I've been sorting out my clothing and realizing just how many items I own, many unworn, some still with tags. Realistically, I just don't have the time to wear them all. Some are really more suited to different climates so I'm going to have a spring clean purge. 

In the next few days, I'll be posting items for sale here and on ebay. Designers include Rachel Comey, Mayle and other favorites. Caroline is also parting with some of her Comey so watch this spot for updates and photos.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Things I Didn't Buy This Week, Part II

This has been the kind of week that wasn't conducive to massive spending--fantasy or real. When snow and ice limit your movements, dictate practical footwear and multiple layers, it is difficult to think about wearing anything but that small selection of warm winter layers.

Still, some items would have found their way to my apartment in a typical year due to their combination of massive markdowns, just right pricing and desirability. Here are some more of the pieces I very nearly bought. All were in my size--this isn't a fantasy of what I'd like in an ideal world but a very real slice of what I would have bought, nearly fell for, even put into my shopping cart before the vow of shopping chastity prevented me from pulling the trigger.

Creatures of Comfort, again. They had these lovely No. 6 sandals in my size for just over $110 plus taxes and shipping. I really love the color, can see these twinkling away on my feet in the summer or with thick knee/over the knee socks in the spring. I very nearly bought these last summer and still like them as much now as I did then. Why did I pass? I have the red t-strap No. 6 sandals and haven't worn them that much so I figured there is no need to get their sibling just yet. I have clogs, so I have to move on.

OK, I'm cheating now. This sweater was in my J. Crew shopping cart on the last day of the 40% off sale price promo. At just $25, it was a steal, especially as it had already caught my eye when it was new in store (the zipper and stripes plus its 1960s feel were very tempting indeed). But, I have 86 sweaters. It's lovely but it isn't thick or warm, so it resists layering and thus competes with the other items I don't wear as much as I should (silk blouses, thin sweaters) because we don't have enough of that temperate weather in NYC. If I was in London or Seattle, yes. But while I like this jumper very much, I couldn't layer it and couldn't justify it as #87, especially when a fair share of the knits I have don't get much wear, many for the same reason.

Another cheat in more ways than one--the one in my J. Crew cart was in a heather-tan color and was 40% off--a cashmere cardigan that I'd wear a lot, that cost less than $50. How could I resist? Usually I couldn't. I had all the pieces I wanted--including the green leather gloves that were tough to find and sold out in an instant. This sweater was lovely but while I'd certainly get more than my money's worth out of it, I have two new J. Crew cashmere cardis that I have yet to wear. The new pragmatist in me realized I'd have to give it a pass and so I let it go--and some other lucky shopper bought it instead.

Another cheat. Like the cardi above, this cashmere t-shirt was 40% off, in my basket, in my size. It was also in a different color (and I'm ashamed to say, I forget the shade, although I like this one a lot). I took it out because it is a t rather than a sweater. It would be a bottom layer not a top--I would perhaps get another round neck cashmere sweater in a medium weight knit as I do wear my Inhabit ones to death (and I patch them up too). But I know this is a style I've passed on before and for good reason--it will pill and won't be that much use. In taking it out of my basket, I went below the free shipping minimum (by a few dollars) and couldn't find anything else to get it back up--the small ticket items had all gone and I wasn't going to spend for the sake of it. Even though this was around $60--a month ago I'd say that was enough of a deal--it went, and with it the other items, green gloves first. I was actually quite pleased at my restraint--not frustrated as I would have been in the past. I think that's a positive sign.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Come on, Rodents!

Groundhogs are incredibly sweet--they make me smile with their chubby little bodies and pointy faces.

Both Punxsutawny Phil and the NYC groundhog evidently saw--or didn't see--their shadow, whichever one means spring is imminent. I don't really know how any human can discern an animal's perception but there you go (I'm also not about to debate whether these animals are aware of shadows or their relationship to self). But I do hope they are right--this winter has been long enough and I am mighty fed up with the cold, slush, snow, ice and the dirt it inevitably leaves behind. Much of our garbage is still on the streets, covered with somewhat thawing and very dirty snow--an attraction for rodents of another kind.

Snow and Ice

Today's ice storm prompted NYU's third campus-wide email of the week and half long semester reminding us that the campus would be open and that we should take care traveling in. There was also a fourth email last Thursday canceling all classes--a true rarity. Fortunately, I work from home today--a lot of work interspersed with some yoga. Alas, my plans to see a matinee of The King's Speech have been postponed until the weather improves--ice storms are not my thing.

By now, I'm fed up with being cold and wearing the same small range of clothes day after day. The Hunter wellies have proved to be a great purchase--I no longer stop at corners wondering if I can leap over puddles. Like a school girl, I can wade through and have even been tempted to jump. With socks, they are warm--with the linings warmer--and they do not leak. Only a few times in the most bitter cold have my feet felt chilly, but the alternate options of my old Wisconsin snow boots also fails as they are not waterproof and lead to even colder feet in the long term. I do feel liberated as I watch others crowd by the puddles and snow drifts they cannot pass, although it is also frustrating to be caught behind them as I try to catch a walk light or get where I am going in  reasonable time.

It seems a long while since I could wear something relatively attractive, however. Even with 86 sweaters, only a few hit that sweet spot of being warm enough to wear and light enough to layer--one simply doesn't suffice. And of course I'm tempted to get more but (a) they've all long sold out, (b) this weather surely will pass, and (c), I am trying to stop buying clothes or at the very least, really limit my consumption.