Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow--and thunder--in October

It was a good job we went to a small Halloween party (or, more correctly, gathering) last night. I dressed up in a blonde fright wig as Dina Lohan, Ben went as my daughter, Lindsay and Evan couldn't find a pink bow tie so he didn't go as Ron Donald from Party Down. The looks we got on the subway were quite interesting, at times scary, but the dressing up was a lot of fun.

Today, however, is a different matter. Snow storms, downed trees, stories about possible power outages and Jackson Heights storm damage on NY1. It's a day to stay in, write and watch Sister Wives episodes for the paper I'm trying to finish up.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Winter/Fall Wardrobe Updates, Part 4: Vintage Print Dress

I've also added a few print dresses in different but simple styles to my closet. Some are from ebay or various blogs/friends, but one is from my Pittsburgh trip.

Other than friends, one of the few things about Pittsburgh I love is Eons vintage clothing store in the Shadyside neighbourhood (on Elsworth Avenue). They don't have a website, alas. It's run by Richard who knows more about vintage clothing than practically anybody and he finds the most amazing pieces. When I was in there last week, there were skirts from the 1880s, beautiful 1950s party dresses, 1940s tea dresses, 1950s/1960s deadstock cotton shirtwaisters and 1920s beaded gowns all in excellent shape. Some pieces are mint, some can't be as fabric does degrade, but everything in Eons is dry cleaned (no aged smell on your dress/coat/blouse/skirt) and in the best possible condition. It's also super-reasonable--I got Jane a beautiful and ornate 1950s frame handbag in Italian leather in mint shape for $30.

Of course, vintage clothing tends to run small, so there was a lot that I just had to look at and reluctantly leave. But I did walk out with a black and pale pink tulip print rayon 1940s dress with incredible buttons that fit me perfectly. Pictures to follow, but, trust me, this 3/4 sleeve beauty was a great find--and just $45.

Winter/Fall Wardrobe Updates, Part 3: The Gap

I realize I'm looking awfully like a mall girl/boring shopper here, but, trust me, this is not the direction in which I'm going.

I've got a lot of non-basic pieces that I love--perhaps too many. Sometimes you need a good but simple skirt or pair of pants so you can wear that interesting blouse or showcase a pair of offbeat shoes. I'm usually good on numbers 1 and 3, but limited on number 2.

I was in the Gap recently to replenish some activewear (I get leggings, tops, sports bras there as they work out well for me and are usually on some kind of promo). While in there, I saw some skinny pants and a box pleated miniskirt (my favourite kind of skirt) and decided they looked interesting. But they weren't on promo and this is the Gap where everything ultimately goes on sale, or can be had with an online/email coupon. I didn't have the time to try them on either so I passed. But the germ of an idea had been set.

Sure enough, over Columbus Day, the Gap had an online and store sale and I received an email. After acupuncture, I tried on the pants and the skirt. Both were surprisingly nice and flattering and, more to the point, they also filled key wardrobe holes. I do have misgivings about the Gap and their labour practices, but I'm also aware that so many of the pricier brands aren't much better. I'll admit to ethical qualms here that remain, but that's a topic for another day.

I got the skirt. It was the same price in stores and online and the immediate gratification element blinded me to the reality of shipping charges that I'd now have to pay on the pants which were substantially cheaper online. It fits well, is lined (even though the fabric is not the best quality, it's not that bad) and has pockets. It would be better if the pleats went all the way round, rather than just the front, but that's what happens when stores try to cut costs. But it's so versatile that I'm happy to have it in my closet. Like crew neck cashmere sweaters, box pleat above the knee skirts aren't that easy to find for some strange reason. Here's the image from their website:

I also decided to get their skinny pants (or really skinny/ultra skinny/whatever) which were just under $30 with the promo. I decided to buy just one pair and swallow shipping (a resolution I'm applying to all stores rather than just buy things I don't need to save shipping--a false economy unless I really want all the items). They fit well and are really flattering. Again, I'd prefer a better fabric as these attract more cat hair than I'd like, but they will be a great supplement to my Rag and Bone pants and make those pair last longer. Here, again, is the website image:

Lesson--don't entirely ignore the Gap. Don't obsess over it either, but look in there occasionally for some wardrobe basics.

Winter/Fall Wardrobe Updates, Part 2: Leggings

I have a three year old niece (who is totally adorable). Like many other little girls her age, she wears leggings under dresses, tunics, skirts and looks stylish, pretty, quirky and warm. She's also ready for any adventures that might come her way--and as she is a very energetic, smart and strong-willed young lady, she has adventures galore.

I've long admired her cohort for the way they wear leggings--as opposed to some adults out there who think that semi-sheer footless tights are pants. I've worn leggings as a tights substitute in cold weather for years (or rather, layered them over tights, then layered socks, boots and dresses/skirts over them), but I stuck to black.

Inspiration for a change came from a somewhat unlikely source, J. Crew's Fall 2011 preview, where a pair of rust/navy striped leggings were paired with a dress. Like my niece and so many 3-year olds, these leggings had visual interest, looked warm and delightfully offbeat. I wear bright coloured tights and sometimes add patterned pairs, so I decided these leggings would be added to my closet this fall. I adjusted this plan slightly when I discovered said leggings cost $80. I demurred further when I saw them in person--with no stretch, they looked like pajamas.

But the desire to have striped leggings (preferably in some kind of red-rust/navy combo) persisted. Ironically, I found the solution at a great price--and in far better fabric (a proper leggings cotton spandex) at the J. Crew factory site. At a shade under $15 each, I got the red/blue (alas in a large which is a little big as the Medium had sold out) and the navy/white. These work with patterned Rachel Comey dresses and with little box pleat skirts and boots. And they are warm enough for the early cold now coming our way.

Winter/Fall Wardrobe Updates, Part 1: Sweaters

For the first year in ages, I've kept a list of what I need and what I don't as I update my closet for the season. For the first time ever, I'm also in the process of sorting out items to post on the new blog as I bring in the new and cycle out the old. This process has also taught me about some of my weaknesses when it comes to buying new clothes.

I tend to have somewhat of a magpie eye--it's not the glittery items that get me going but pieces that speak to me for some reason or other. I don't follow trends inordinately. Some items are always going to be a no for me, regardless of how hot they are--anything hippie (ponchos, fringe), western wear, safari (something that always spells lack of designer inspiration to me), Russian and tartan (ditto, unless you are Alexander McQueen) and longer skirts. But there are those pieces every so often that I think look impressive on others--friends, models, on the printed/digital page--and I decide they'll pep up my wardrobe. Only they don't get worn and I go back to the same pieces. I am also not the greatest accessoriser and I do fall into certain style patterns that lead me back to specific pieces each season.

All this makes me sound frightfully boring, I know. But I often find myself crunched for time and needing to get dressed in weather appropriate outfits relatively quickly. Instead of randomly acquiring pretty pieces, I've concentrated on replacing and supplementing items that get heavy use and are on their last legs (if nothing else, the supplements might eke a little more life out of these favourites). In the fall/winter, I wear a lot of crew neck cashmere sweaters and boyfriend cardigans. Both are surprisingly tough to find in good colours--why so many v-necks I wonder?--and at a reasonable price so those were my top priority this season. I have two Inhabit sweaters that I've almost worn to death and those are probably two of the most important staples in my cold weather wardrobe, so replacements/supplements were my top priority.

Fortunately, J. Crew ran several promos this fall, with two even overlapping. I invested in these pieces which I think will go a long way towards helping with my fall/winter wear.

I picked up this cashmere cardigan in both this color above and in a bottle green. It's super soft, doesn't look like it will pill much and is slouchy without being shapeless. I'm not always up for duplicates but I could get more of these and wear them for years or until they disintegrate. At a shade over $110 each, I think that's a decent investment.

I also found a cashmere crew neck with nice detailing (love the buttons on the shoulders and the slight yoke) on double promo, making it about 40% off. I got this in navy which will be incredibly versatile. Again it's nice and soft and will make its debut this cold weekend (snow in October seems wrong, but there you go).

Ironically, all three were J. Crew catalogue/online exclusives. I usually think of that label as being synonymous with dull and boring. Maybe I am getting older, but these seem to be classics in the best sense--items I'll wear again and again without looking dull and frumpy.

More of my fall finds to follow.


Sorry about the paucity of posts this month. The combination of teaching/grading/writing/letters of recommendation, a nasty virus and an out of town trip left me exhausted and scraping for time to get even the essential work done. This blog was one casuality. I'm not out of the woods yet but I am taking an hour to clean up and watch a bit of TV so this seemed like a good time to write.

Last weekend, I was in Pittsburgh for a dear friend's wedding to her beautiful girlfriend. If you know me, it's no secret that Pittsburgh is not my favorite place in the world. I lived there for a while and felt suffocated, buried alive, and out of sorts, so I don't go back often. But this visit reminded me that while Pittsburgh and me do not mix (I even felt some of that emotional suffocation as a visitor), the friends I made there were first-rate--which I already knew but it felt good to have it confirmed. The lovely Gina who I actually met in NYC met me at the airport and we spent the remainder of Thursday afternoon and evening together. I stayed with my dear pals, Jane and Kathie, and spent Friday with the girls and their beautiful cats, Nigel and Eloise, and then Saturday was the wedding and time to catch up with the irrepressible John and Patrick who I dearly missed. The ceremony was beautiful--held at the Phipps Conservatory, a glorious collection of indoor and outdoor botanical gardens--and the brides were so beautiful that John and I cried. The reception was amazing with some of the best speeches I've ever heard and so much warmth and love in the air, not to mention incredible food and drink.

I returned to NYC exhausted, pleased to be back and grateful to have such wonderful friends who will always be in my life.

Community Closet Sale

The new blog seems to be up and running successfully--I've sold virtually everything I posted and had some great sale experiences. If anybody wants an invitation, please leave me a comment. The more buyers and sellers the better.

I'll be posting some more pieces soon from Mayle, Rachel Comey, Jill Stuart and others.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cats in NYC desperately needing homes--including kittens

I'm not on facebook and cannot adopt a fourth cat but if you are in NYC and are thinking about a cat, these poor babies, including kittens, are going to be killed if not adopted soon. I can't even look as I'm so sad about it, but please pass this along so that they can find homes. If you can't adopt, at least share the facebook link or post it on your blog/twitter to help them get homes not the death penalty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I was looking forward to this week. NYU has no classes on Monday and Tuesday (Columbus Day and a university wide holiday respectively) so rather than preparing classes over the weekend and teaching, I was free to write. Even better, a sunny warm weather forecast promised further inspiration and comfort.

Alas, the world had other plans for me. I developed a cold on Thursday which seemed to be passing by Sunday but yesterday evening the headache that had grabbed me all Saturday transpired to be something other than the sinus-related headache that comes in a cold's wake. Indeed, the achy knees suggested something more systematic.

So, yes, I got sick on the nicest week of August. But I have got some work done. I think I may have finished the proposal and sample chapter (once I copy over a few minor edits from my paper copy to the Word files). And I've started the work of carving a paper out of the sample chapter that I hope I will be able to submit to a journal sometime next week.

EDIT: It's October, not August which just (a) testifies to how lovely the weather has been over the last few days and (b) shows how much I don't want it to be this late in the year!

Monday, October 10, 2011


As I sit here working, two delightful cats (Blue and Remy) are eating an early dinner. I can hear the delicate stereo of two cats lapping up their soft chicken Wellness as I edit down this chapter (and hope that tonight will be the night that it's finished).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mayle Danya Dress and Loden Jeanne Bag for Sale

I've just posted my Mayle Danya dress and loden green Jeanne bag on the Community Closet Sale blog. If you are interested, please email me or leave a comment. Dress is $175 and bag $250 OBO--both include domestic/Canadian shipping.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs RIP

Steve Jobs accomplishments would have been staggering had he lived to be 100 and enjoyed the greatest of health. But considering he suffered from what may be the worst form of cancer, they are mind blowing. Clearly I'm just preaching to the choir in acknowledging that he changed the world--in many ways for the better. It's just so very sad.

I type this on my MacBook Pro, I read about his death on my iPod Touch. I've been a Mac user since System 7 came out--the revolutionary OS that allowed you to use two programs at a time--and was so happy to have a speedy Classic II with a large 40 MB hard drive... I'd still have that computer if I hadn't left it in my office back in Pittsburgh (something I regret so much). I put a sticker on it--a pig that changed into a guinea pig--and loved it so much. But then I went to colour macs, then the clamshell iBook in orange, which I still have, having learned my lesson about keeping Macs where possible. I've had a blue iMac (which I had to jettison because of space issues), a PowerMac which I keep as a back up, a green iPod Mini, the classic iPod and soon, I hope, the iPad. I can chart my adult life via my Macs, their size, colour, capacity, etc. Never have I once considered going for a PC. In my office I enjoy my big screen iMac--all classics of design and function.

My brothers used to laugh at me for using a Mac, mistaking its elegance and simplicity for something more amateurish. Now one of them regrets turning down a MacBook Pro for a Sony laptop and is asking his boss for the Mac while begging his wife to let him buy a MacBook Pro for home. Both he and my older brother now own iPad IIs and iPhones so I'm no longer in a Mac desert.

Thank you, Steve. I admire your vision, hard work and bravery more than I can say in a small blog post. Rest in much deserved peace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Recent Acquisition

I've been really good recently--but I do have a list of needs that aren't pure wants. Obviously in the west, in post-industrial capitalism, it's tough to say that any of us really need anything--we could darn (I actually do this), repair and rewear. Still, by current western middle-class standards, these are needs--or at least needs-ish.

I may have a lot of cardigans (but these are in all weights) but I'm not so rich when it comes to sweaters. I'm not a huge fan of v-necks, preferring round or crew necks, and those aren't easy to find which always baffles me. During the winter, autumn and early spring, I've been living in two round neck Inhabit cashmere sweaters that I got at their sample sale in around 2008. They are basics--one is black, one is brown, both midweight. If you know me, you know these sweaters. Alas this year may be their last as they've started to show signs of losing their guts--I've darned holes and even taken to wearing one inside out (like Steven Alan shirts, they play with seams so this isn't as strange as it might sound). Sadly, it looks like they will soon lose their shape. I need to replace them, and supplement them with other similar woolies.

Last week, J. Crew had 30% off sale items, so I invested in this one after trying the navy, full-price version on in the store (no sale stock there). It fit and wasn't as short or boxy as the one in the online picture. It was soft, in a lovely green (one of my favourite colours) so I think it was a good investment. Here it is:

Busy, Busy

It's been a solid few weeks of work, hence my limited blogging. So far, I'm keeping to my plans and writing for two days a week, even though it has been a little slow going at times. I'm hoping this week to finish the book proposal for number 2, and then the plan is to write the proposal and sample chapter for number 3 (on Celebrity). It should be doable--before Christmas I'd like to have three book contracts and that's motivating me to keep going. I've also realized the second half of my sample chapter for book 2 could be a stand-alone article so I may tinker with that as I start the proposal for Celebrity.

I have to say I haven't been so excited about my work since grad school days. Now I just need the time to write rather than prepare classes, which takes far longer than teaching them!