Monday, December 17, 2012

Maternity Wear

Now that I'm sitting waiting for baby to arrive, I'm thinking back over what ended up being my pregnancy style, although that might be somewhat of a euphemism. I bought just one item (a pair of gap skinny maternity jeans, one size too big as it happened) so everything ended up being rather ad hoc. For the summer, the loose dresses, often trapeze cut, that I already had in my wardrobe played the greatest role. Some were cheap (a linen gap dress from when they had the European limited edition collection, the Marni H&M frocks, an old Uniqlo collaboration dress and their plaid one from Philip Lim and a couple of oldies from Topshop and H&M), others not so much (several Mayle silk dresses, an Isabel Marant mainline frock, several Rachel Comey and Steven Alan dresses and the long sleeved Lyell linen dress with pin tucks and a Peter Pan collar).

While I was in England I was still small enough to get away with a skirt (teamed with loose blouses) but those were left at home as I realized maternity and skirts don't work. Instead, the gap jeans took on a bigger presence in my wardrobe even as they remained--and remain--slightly too big. In the fall, I wore them with flats, now with my increasingly battered Fiorentini & Baker boots that sadly need to be replaced.

Dresses continue to play a role, now with a couple of thick loose fit Lutz and Patmos sweaters or a thick cashmere cardigan from Club Monaco. Basically it's the sweaters with loose cut shirts from Steven Alan, Mayle, Madewell and the jeans/boots or a dress with the same sweaters and either boots and leggings or tights and often a cashmere hat and my Tocca navy swing coat. Surprisingly I realized that this hodgepodge has coalesced into something resembling a style.

Frustratingly I'm now finding other items that work for me even though I have just days left before I deliver, and wonder if I'll end up sticking with these pieces in the sure to be tiring days ahead. If I am fortunate enough to have another baby, I know I what to turn to. In the meantime, the thought of wearing skirts again is very appealing and I just hope the ones I have here are indeed going to fit. I have no idea what my body will be like after delivery and am very much living in the moment right now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Past Due

Yesterday was my due date. As scheduled, I went into NYU and taught my final class, met with a grad student, had office hours, saw a few other students, walked down to Soho and did what may be some of the very last window shopping I'll do in a while, and caught the subway home. It was a full day (10-6:30) and one that started with some anxiety--would this baby make his appearance in class or on a crowded subway? Early on, every pain and twinge seemed more significant than it turned out to be--I even wondered at one point if I was about to have my waters break. But as soon as I got home I started to relax---I was not going into labour in the classroom after all.

Instead, I'm now fighting exhaustion when I should be grading although there are precious few early papers to grade before that due date in the middle of next week.

Thanks to two of my amazing students, this baby has his first designer outfit (they wisely bought it for a 12 month old so he'll get more wear out of it). He has a beautiful Stella McCartney Kids sweater and matching knit pants. I am so lucky to teach such generous and kind people.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I'm officially 9 months pregnant (or 39 weeks and 4 days to be precise) and due in three days time. Other than the sheer surreal quality of being in this position, I am pretty certain that there is no way I'll be delivering this baby in the next week or so. That gut feeling was seconded by my doctor's considerably more professional opinion yesterday. Granted there is no way to tell for sure, but this baby seems small, healthy and happy where he is. I am happy to keep him there too--as I am still teaching and under the inevitable end of semester pressures and constraints, I haven't had the time I'd like to prepare fully for this new arrival, and I'd like him to be more comfortably over 7 lbs when he's born. Last week he was 6 lbs, 9 oz, which is fine but a lot below average and I worry about his low birth weight.

Granted I had nine months to prepare, but superstition and maybe caution prevented me from fully splurging on all those infant needs in case this dream ended in tragedy (and I still fear having nothing to bring home). I also want to be ecologically sound and not fall into too many consumerist traps (nice as so many baby items are, they grow fast and the money is perhaps best invested elsewhere in their future). As a result, I have no baby monitor (we live in an apt), no cot, no moses basket/bassinet, no nappy/diaper bag as I thought many of these could either wait or were unnecessary extravagances. It appears I may have been wrong on several fronts, based on advice from friends and family, so it looks like  I really will have to place some of those Babies R Us orders, keep my fingers crossed that they get here stat and that baby stays where he is evidently so comfortable until we at least get our pushchair (the kind with its own car seat as we live in a world where non-car owners like us still have to have them so we can get home from the hospital--part of me thinks hospitals should just rent them out but I can imagine that could get really complicated fast).

As for me, I selfishly want him to stay where he is. I dearly hope he'll have a sister in the not too distant future (plan is to try to wean him late summer so I can get on the expensive, stressful and generally yucky IVF/FET roundabout again), but I'm aware this might be it. And as tough as this pregnancy was for the first 6 or so months, the last trimester hasn't been that bad, even with gestational diabetes limiting my diet and making me hungry, crabby, hormonal, sad and frustrated for the first 6 weeks of very restrictive eating and regular finger prick blood sugar checks. As of yesterday, when I weighed in at the doctors 2 lbs lighter than the week before, I've put on 11 lbs--that is, 11 lbs on my post-IVF bloated body--of which around 7 lbs is the baby (then there's the placenta, extra blood, etc). But even as I feel like a beached whale who can't roll over in bed or get off the floor or couch, touch my toes properly, put on tights/leggings/jeans without some strange bending manoeuvres or fasten my shoes without contorting myself, I kind of want this pregnancy to go on a little longer to look after this boy, have him close (even when he kicks me under the ribcage or makes me short of breath) and experience this unique sensation just a little longer. I'm even slightly envious of those women who are in their first trimester as I know they will have this special time for months. So even with all the vomiting, the sickness and other difficulties I've encountered, I want to do this again. In all honesty, I'd start sooner but I need time for this baby and for my body to recover, be rested and ready to take on this hard work again.

I never thought I'd feel this way as this has not been an easy pregnancy--nausea, vomiting, major food aversions (basically I could only barely stomach scones, potatoes, fruit and homemade lemonade for about 15 weeks) dogged me from early April to late August. In conjunction with the exhaustion I was left wondering how people do this and work--or even survive. And, yes, the third trimester has been relatively easy but I assumed I'd want this to be over especially given my breathlessness, diabetes (which, might I add, is also expensive with supplies, doctor's appointments and the very limited and pricey food I have ended up eating) and the odd discomforts and pains that it brings with it. Granted being relatively small makes it easier to sleep and I am also intimidated by what will come next, but I do want to keep this baby this close for a little longer.

I also don't have a clue what I'll do--we'll do--when he arrives other than muddle through and work something out like every parent before us. I cannot believe that he will need the smallish pile of clothing we've already amassed, nor that he'll be sleeping in our room in a few weeks or maybe a few days. I have no idea what labour will feel like, if/when it will start, how far away I'll be from home and the pile of stuff that needs to go to the hospital with me (from cord blood kit to my shampoo--that bag is still not packed but the pile of stuff is getting bigger). Friends have teased me with the cliches of bad comedies, but part of me fears either waking up in agony at 3 am and not being able to get a car service to the hospital because I'm in labour and they don't want their seats ruined, or having my labour start in front of my class or on the subway with all my necessary stuff (especially the cord blood kit) back in my apt and Evan being unreachable. My amazing doctor will also be away next week so I just hope everything holds off until he is back. But that comes with a price--less time postpartum with this child before I return to teach in late January, and a near Christmas day birthday for the poor infant (I guess at this point, that's beyond completely unavoidable).

When I embarked on this journey too many years ago, I knew what I wanted and what I thought I'd get--a girl born in the summer. When I was a child, I had that gut feeling that I'd have girls and only girls. As I matured and learned the facts of reproduction (or at least the selected few they bothered to teach at my very strict all girls school, replete with their own ideological scare tactics), I discovered that women did not control the sex of their offspring. But somehow it was a shock to discover that this baby was not the girl we all thought she'd be (the sickness, the symptoms all conformed to what I already knew to be old wives tales about girl pregnancies), putting me in the process of further recalibrating what maternity and mothering might mean. I also did not want a child to be born close to Christmas--my grandfather and several very close friends were born around this time of year and all agreed it was far from ideal, especially as a child. And as someone whose birthday is as far away from Christmas as it's possible to get, I was always very pleased and proud of an achievement that was entirely not mine. At the moment, it seems a distinct possibility that he could be a Christmas baby, so I think I've already started the process of realizing that motherhood is not about careful planning, our desires, and long term wishes but something entirely new that requires constant adaptation and going with the flow while still providing the necessary nurturing, guidance and structure. I've been surprised at least twice--surprised that I was indeed pregnant, surprised that our baby was not the little girl whose names we'd begun to pick--and now I'll be surprised whenever he arrives and whomever he turns out to be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Settling In

The move is over although we are not yet fully unpacked (something to do, perhaps, with the 250 boxes many of them filled with books, dvds, records and cds as well as the massive amount of clothing we've managed to amass). Our kitchen is midway through its total renovation and we should be able to eat at home by the end of the week, while the closet is finally being customized with all its Container Store racks.

It's been pretty difficult living out of boxes the last few weeks. For one, I couldn't find most of the clothes I can fit into and had a bit of a meltdown on Thursday when I thought the bag containing them had gone missing. A bit more searching and digging recovered said bag, which I'd already unpacked, and I now think the clothes are in a plastic hamper, beneath too many boxes for me to lift safely on my own.

The fit is an issue because I've put on 14 lbs, which is good for someone who is nearly 9 months pregnant, but as I have a 42 inch plus waistline, I am living in my one pair of maternity jeans, the three pairs of leggings, big sweaters and a jersey dress that still fits. It's not exactly an enticing wardrobe and I really do have to find something better to teach in. The kitchen poses its own problems as I've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, so I'm living the most limited diet of salads, carrots, hummus, Greek yogurt, and take out grilled chicken and egg and cheese sandwiches (minus the bread). Even with a kitchen, my diet was limited by the need to restrict carbs. But it is all worthwhile.

Now that the end is in sight, I'm looking forward to dressing my body again, but for the moment, I'm only looking at sale clothing, things that don't need expensive dry cleaning and things that will make me feel good amidst sleep deprivation and the inevitable steep learning curve that lies ahead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I have been so good recently and have barely bought myself any clothes. But these are so tempting--not for me, however, but for my dear little Peeps. The problem is she's a relatively large cat and though she loves to be dressed up, we do have a lot of other responsibilities right now, not least with the new apartment.

But how can I resist my little girl in cool United Bamboo outfits? Yes--these are the originals from the cat calendar and I'm pretty certain they will sell out before I decide to bite the bullet and get something for Peeps.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Peeps wishes everybody a Happy Halloween. Having been fortunate enough to miss the worst of the storm, she dressed up in style.

I think she's the sweetest little thing I've ever seen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Day

With no mass transit and a supposedly record "Frankenstorm" on its way, we've been confined to the apartment today. Not knowing what would happen when (just like the media), I printed up lecture notes for later in the week and graded tests mindful that the power could go out at any minute. Preserving some battery power was essential so I've alternated between my laptop, iPad and phone to communicate with all those worried friends and family, keeping at least two charging at any time. If the power went out, I planned to use a laptop to watch movies and an iPad to read magazines or books (no light needed that way) and my phone to check news and important emails from work. It took Evan to remind me that I couldn't stream a movie from netflix or check email if the power went out as we'd lose internet as well.

For much of the day, I felt like a bit of a fraud--class was cancelled but it wasn't even raining and we didn't see much wind here either. Between work and instagramming the cats, I started feeling moderate levels of cabin fever but was grateful I wasn't experiencing anything worse.

As we're running out of boxes, I couldn't even pack for the imminent move, but at least some of the grading and course prep is complete for the end of the week. Hopefully, nothing major will happen and nobody will be hurt, but I'm very aware that this isn't over yet and a lot could change in the next few hours.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


We're selecting light fittings right now for the new place. Much as we have tried to balance style/cost/value (which has ended up in us making some expensive purchases), the lighting we like is really out of budget. We both agree that this pair from Restoration Hardware would be perfect but with their four figure price tags, we're just going to look elsewhere. To make matters worse, they are even more beautiful and substantial in real life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I just received an exciting email--my book has a cover and it is lovely. After all the work, this is the detail that finally makes everything seem real. It reminds me that I have to get the acknowledgments into the press this week--too many people need to be thanked and I don't want to overlook anybody. I am so glad the press did such a good job--their cover designer really came through for me and I appreciate all her work. I'd show a screen grab here but I'm not sure if I have the right to show it as yet.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


We're moving in a month and renovating our new place at the same time which is one of many reasons why I've been slow in blogging recently. Finding an apartment to buy wasn't that easy--the parameters were limited due to respective commutes, size needs, costs and preference for a prewar building. With little on the market, others were looking for the same thing as us. Fortunately, we got a big place in a well maintained building we liked, but it looked like it hadn't been decorated since 1972. So, we went for pretty much a gut rehab and the demolition is now pretty much completed (bathroom down to the studs, kitchen cabinets entirely removed, no baseboards left and the lighting/electrics almost entirely redone.

I'm amazed at how much work is involved. I knew we needed a new kitchen and bathroom (from floor to ceiling), that the place needed to be entirely repainted white (every room was a different colour, none of them nice), the floors refinished and the baseboards replaced. That's not minor work. Thankfully the contractor is great and our architect is really helpful. Even the little details--replacing all the light fixtures, deciding on medicine cabinets, storage, etc--can take a long while, but we want this all done in a month. Today was kitchen day--we worked on the drawings and selected cabinets--and hopefully all will be ordered next week. Meanwhile I have revisions due on a paper, the book files will soon arrive so I'll have to look over the copyediting, and there is teaching.

With all the distractions, clothes have not been on my mind of late. I've shopped my closet. I can't fit into much of what I have but I'm making do for the time being. When it gets cold, I'm going to have to do some tactical shopping. Just two more months to go.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


One of the fun things about the iPad is taking photos and not having to look for the camera cord, wait for the upload and then find out they are huge and you're clogging someone's mailbox. As an owner of a smartphone with a particularly crappy camera (I covet iPhones but can't and won't pay that kind of money monthly), I feel like I'm finally catching up with something others took for granted long ago.

I'm particularly fond of Instagram and, of late, have spent many happy minutes taking pictures of the kitties and sharing cat photos with other likeminded, cat-loving souls. Here are a few of my favourite images of the trio who share our home, life and love.

Here's Remy

I'm Blue

And this is dear little Peeps

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School

The semester has started again and I'm wondering where the time went. I have completed my book, attended a conference, spent a month in England, worked on two papers, started another book proposal but there is still too much more to do before I go back into the classroom. And counting down the weeks is always more depressing and seemingly futile in September when you are wishing away the sunny days and looking forward to the cold--something I can never do.

We have a few adventures ahead in the next few months too, including moving into a new apartment that we have to decorate and renovate first. Closing should be in the next two weeks and then we have to arrange permits, buy kitchen cupboards, bathroom fixtures and fittings, appliances, etc. It's overwhelming as we've never done it before and we have to complete it all by late October as we have another overwhelming arrival on its way.

I've also been very good about not buying clothes. Today I nearly snapped and bought a Tocca dress from last fall on Gilt. I waited, thinking if it was still there, maybe it was meant to be. But when you haven't spent money on clothes in a while, it's more difficult to complete the transaction. I had other reasons for demurring too--I didn't get the dress when it was the same price last January, partly because the fabric was really thick, partly because I feared it would attract cat fur, and Peeps has the very kind of fine, silky floof that would result in a tortoishell dress, not a black one.

I also had an epiphany--the large piece of cashmere that I've had in my drawers forever would make a perfect dress in a similar style. For the price of lining, a zip, thread and a hook and eye--and some time, muslin and paper--I can make almost the same dress, and even make a cotton version from the same pattern. I've got a lot of fabric stored and with the move, it's time to make some new cushion covers and possibly some curtains anyway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Every summer, including this one, I look for dresses to wear in the heat. I've realised over the years that they need to be made of cotton or linen (silk and synthetics stick to the skin and are uncomfortable in the humidity), have short sleeves to prevent sunburn and need to be loose fitting, or A line at the least. This year, it turned out, was the summer of waists--not just peplums, but dresses fitted tight to the waist with big skirts or slim fitting all the way. With nothing to buy, it was easier to be frugal, and so I am just about to complete that rarest of all years--a summer where I didn't buy a single new dress.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tocca Fall 2012

It's been a hectic month but now my book is in and hopefully needs no more revisions, I can turn my attention towards other matters.

I've been extremely frugal these last few months. Other than picking up some undies in Marks and Spencer, I didn't get any clothes while I was home, although I was tempted by a few pieces in COS and Topshop. Still, the idea of paying full price for fall 2012 clothes while it was still summer didn't grab me, and I left empty handed. I've found that the less I buy, the more difficult it is to make that next transaction. I have to say I'm pleased with myself.

I didn't even manage to buy any of the Tocca Spring collection on sale. Granted, it looks like the biggest discount was a paltry 30% and the sale merchandise has vanished from their website, so I don't think I missed out on too much. But if I was in the market for fall clothes right now, I think I'd be strongly tempted by their new collection. I love short box pleat skirts, print blouses, slim jackets and well designed knits as well as pretty dresses and it looks like Emma has produced a beautiful line this season along those ends--evidently inspired by English school uniforms (another weakness of mine). Fewer coats than usual, but that's as well as I'm well situated in that area. I do regret not getting her lovely oatmeal cardigan from last season but, along with coats, I'm not exactly struggling in that area.

All I can say is if I can fit into any of these by January when they go on sale, I'll probably pick up a few pieces.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lots Happening

I am about to go to bed--it's a shade after 9 pm and there is something immensely reassuring about retiring when the day is still bright. It reminds me of being a kid. As I'm in my childhood room (the bed was long replaced with at least two new ones), the feeling is doubled. So far, I've seen my college friends, travelled home, gone to a conference in Glasgow--which was a feat given that tracks were washed away and my train cancelled, so I got in at 2am rather than 2 pm-and made it back home. The conference was great--I didn't hear a bad paper, I met lovely people and it made it easy to overlook my exhaustion. I was a tad antisocial on Saturday night, though, taking to my room with dinner, strawberries and the Guardian and Mirror, before having an early night. Since then, I've seen old college friends and celebrated my niece's birthday today. I met my high school friends for coffee this morning (hot chocolate and an apricot croissant for me), then went swimming, which exhausted me and I suspect that's one reason why I'm so tired now. So far, I've had some rest. But I received an email two hours ago from my editor. I need to do a few more revisions for my book, this time courtesy of the series editor. The good news is the feedback is really positive. The bad--or somewhat stressful and difficult--is that they want the book to go into production next week so I have to complete them remotely--and I only have my iPad with me. So I'm hoping I can borrow my brother's MacBook and get most of the work done this weekend. I was asked to submit a proposal for another book series this weekend--admittedly a shorter one, a monograph really--so best to keep on a tight schedule, or so I'm telling myself. It will be worth it if I get everything done--three books, a monograph and a few new essays should hold me in good stead if I can do it all over the next year or two. I just hope my tiredness abates soon. There are a lot of thing I have to do in the next 5 months or so before something really big arrives. Apologies if this entry appears as one large paragraph. For some reason blogger doesn't seem to respect the formatting when I try to publish.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Off Home

Tomorrow morning, bright and very early, I leave for England. I'm spending a few days with close University friends and their beautiful children, heading (briefly) home then off to Scotland for a conference (I have to cut five pages out of my paper on the flight or somewhere else in transit). Then it's time to relax, enjoy being with family and friends, do some research, visit museums, and meet my new niece (and see my slightly older one at a big family celebration later in July). I'm home for almost a month and cannot wait. Alas, I don't enjoy the early mornings and I'm not a huge fan of American's international service (couldn't get onto the BA morning flight), but if I get home safely, preferably in an aisle seat, I will be super happy.

Next updates will be from elsewhere--unless I post another cat picture tonight...

And here's another one

When I post pictures of my cats, I usually favour Peeps. Blue is a total sweetheart and a beauty (or, rather, handsome boy) and here's a picture of him in all his glory. This little guy does not like to wear clothes but he does like dairy, pastries and catnip.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Girl

Images speak louder than words. Peeps likes her clothes.

IBKC Fundraiser

Sorry for the long, long silence. Much to report but I will get to all the news soon. In the meanwhile, I wanted to alert anybody who is interested to the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee Fundraiser for the cats and kittens at the Humane Society of Tacoma. You can read more about all the good that they are doing and be thrilled by the beautiful kittens and wonderful surprises involved in this really great event (it goes on for another 30 days). I donate every year in thanks for all the pleasure Laurie, her foster kittens and Charlene Butterbean give to the world and in support of all those other animals they help. If you are interested, head over to and squeal in delight at the new kittens working the telethon set...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back to work

I'm in that point in the semester where not all the papers are in and therefore grades can't be submitted. It's tempting to see this week as one where you can relax, catch up on house cleaning, perhaps take a day off to see a movie or window shop. But I'm increasingly aware that these days are precious and today started work--writing a paper proposal (and hopefully, soon, a chapter) on D.W. Griffith and Progressivism which has meant a day watching Biograph shorts and taking notes (at this point, 17 pages). Notes are not papers, of course, but it's funny how quickly my appetite for real work has returned after about 6 weeks of teaching/grading and little time to write or research. I hope to have the proposal in over the next couple of days, but in the meantime it is so good to work and I am just hoping that this energy stays with me and helps me to finish the chapter and article revisions that I'd like to have done by the end of May/very early June.


Last week, my four wonderful fashion tutorial students presented me with an amazing gift--four bottles of Chanel nail polish (Delight, Holiday, Black Pearl and Rose Exuberant). Translated these are a wonderful gold/pale bronze, orange, opalescent black/blue and fuchsia. I'm wearing the Delight now and it truly is one--it dries fast and looks like a professional manicure so a bottle actually works out as a pretty good deal.

On the way to a graduation event yesterday, I dug up an old Bloomingdale's gift card and inspired by this gift, I hit the Chanel counter and bought a bottle of Peridot--a limited edition shade from the fall (green/gold with a touch of blue) that has sold out in Bergdorfs and the city's Chanel boutiques. With five bottles I'm set but it was a nice treat that didn't actually come out of my bank account.

My new frugality is going relatively well--it's funny how the less you spend, the less you want. Even though I hope it doesn't have to last forever, it's amazing how cutting back really makes you question whether you need something or not and, in turn, makes you appreciate relatively small treats.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

End of the semester

Teaching is finally over for another semester and while this one went well, it has seemed longer than usual in some ways, and shorter than others. My fashion tutorial was one of its high spots--I taught four incredibly smart, wonderful young women who I'm delighted to say will be in my Media and Fashion class this fall. We finished our tutorial with the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibit last week which was really a great way to end such a perfect teaching experience.

I'm in that limbo now where I have a ton of grading to do very quickly, a few graduation events to attend and then its back to the chapter I left in March--it's a mess and needs to be turned around in three weeks. After that, I have a conference paper to write and then I head to England for a month for the conference and some family celebrations--including meeting my new niece, Molly! I booked the ticket today and am excited about the prospect of being home and seeing both of my nieces.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Under the Weather

I've not been feeling well for a while--I'm not abandoning the blog just fighting nausea and exhaustion. I'm hoping to feel well enough to blog about the Prada exhibit at the Met--I attended the member preview this week and it was pretty amazing. But until my energy returns I'll spend my time on the couch with the cats feeling sorry for myself while trying to write essay questions, lectures and all the other end of semester stuff that won't wait.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

APC Sample Sale

It's been a long and very strange semester. My book is in (and I'm now just waiting to hear from the board), I'm working on other projects and I've managed to fall behind on way too many things. I'm still trying to get through the email backlog and to make matters more complex, I've had a cold, stomach upset and picked up pretty much everything my students have had this semester. Add to that, I had my first real brush with identity theft when some unknown person stole my debit card number and used it to open an account. As I have my amazon account linked to my debit card, they sent me an alert, I called my bank and the card was canceled. The problem was timing. I was about to leave for a trip where I was spending one night in a hotel and was left with the cash I had and no way of getting any more (I have stopped using credit cards and cut up the ones I had). Net result, I had to pay for a hotel in cash, beg them to accept and eat Dunkin Donuts bagels as that was all I could afford to buy at the station. Not fun.

On another note, for the first time in weeks, I actually engaged with clothes and shopping this Friday. Not that my abstemious mindset has been unwelcome--I've been so busy I've barely thought about fashion other than in my academic work and teaching. My clothes encounters have largely involved picking a denim skirt and Steven Alan/Rag and Bone shirt each morning, grabbing a cardigan and my trusty blue Tocca coat and heading out to work--a result of early morning classes and long days that demanded practicality. My hypothyroid related weight gain has finally stalled but there's been no weight loss so a lot of my closet is effectively unwearable until I get back to a fighting weight. It's funny the difference 5-10lbs can make.

I did, however, go to the A.P.C. sample sale with my friend Emilie. She found a lot of good stuff, texted me, we met and I grabbed dress after dress, happily thinking these would work with tights, in the summer, in the spring and the autumn. At $50 a pop, I wondered how I could go wrong. Except I could. Forget the 5-10 lb weight gain. A.P.C. cuts do not accommodate frames with shoulders or wide backs so none of the dresses fit and I felt like a large beached whale as I struggled out of size L cotton dresses. Even worse, some had dropped waists with no zippers or fastenings beneath the small openings at the neck so the dresses wouldn't fit on any conventional human body. Now granted the stock was old (as you'd expect for the price)--probably 2008-09. But the sizing was insanely small and I don't think I was the only person struggling to get out of cotton dresses that were otherwise very me (a me with no shoulders or hips, that is). I have no idea who their fit model is but there's something very annoying about brands that make their size L fit a large size 6/small size 8. Indeed, it was enough to put me off shopping. I did get a green suede wallet for $30 but there were three dresses I really loved and would have adored if they had just been slightly wider in the shoulders/upper back and I would have worn them for years.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Small Pleasures

I just finished my tax return (and have to go into teach in 40 minutes), so at least I'm digging a little more out of that hole I mentioned yesterday. I'm still way behind on emails and my chapter, but little by little I'm coming up for air.

It looks like I should get a return this year. In the past, I tended to use tax returns for big treats but this year, I'm feeling quite different. I've got a lot of clothes and most of them don't see the light of day (a big clean out will happen as I get to the end of the semester when I intend to post stuff here and on Community Closet Sale). Very little appeals to me right now but in a good way--I'm thrilled by the taste of good cheap Thai at Ayada, fresh fruit and vegetables, good fresh bread, salmon, pastries, etc. I'm happy to play with a fluffy cat while watching a good movie (or good bad film) recorded from TCM and thrill at the company of friends and family. For a little splurge, a manicure and pedicure or maybe an investment in a bottle of Chanel nail polish suffices. I'm happy that the little things give me so much pleasure right now. Maybe it's a bad year for clothing, maybe I just have too many things I don't wear and it's affecting the way I shop, but I'm secretly hoping this non-covetous state hangs around for many more months.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Digging out of a big hole

My book may be in, but I'm now looking at the damage to other aspects of my life. Or rather, the backlog of issues I have to work through. To get the book out, I had to neglect other things: grading, writing assignments, email correspondence (personal and professional), my taxes, this blog, the gym. I'm teaching tomorrow and my students are not happy at waiting four weeks and won't wait for another week so I'm racing against the clock to finish both graduate and undergraduate grading (the grads are done but the undergrad class is not and it meets at 9 am). I teach 12 hours tomorrow and 8 on Tuesday but have to fit my taxes in sometime in between. I've sorted out the deductions, found my W2s and am ready to fire up turbo tax tomorrow night. As for the writing assignments, I finally put them up this weekend--two weeks late--complete with extensions. As for personal and professional correspondence, I'll have to start cracking that tomorrow. I am worried as I missed the acceptance deadline for a conference I go to in Scotland and am praying that they'll still let me present. I'm glad the book is in but such are the sacrifices we have to make in this profession. Now I hope I sent my editor the correct versions of each chapter.... And now back to work.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A little splurge

Even though the book is in, work doesn't stop. But as I was at Union Square today, I popped into Sephora after acupuncture to pick up the Pantone tangerine nail polishes. I loved the glitter so much and would have bought it alone (or maybe with one of the other oranges) but you have to get all four together. Not that it's a huge cost--I love orange nail polish. I'm also going to wear my orange Federica dress to Evan's niece's Bat Mitzvah in a couple of weeks so a splash of orange glitter on my nails is a lot cheaper than a new frock.

I've been heartily underwhelmed by so much of the clothes on offer this spring (there's some nice Rag and Bone pieces but I don't have to own them) and have bought very little other than the Marni for H&M pieces. So nail polish is a good, cheap and doable splurge. I'm also tempted by some of the Chanel colours (my students have an amazing blue and I love the yellow from last summer). The Thakoon line for Nars also looks great. I suppose it is a relief that I'm more interested in something relatively cheap like nails than expensive dresses, however.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's In!

About 30 minutes ago I submitted my introduction and first chapter to my book--I sent the other six chapters in on Sunday. For the first time in years, I don't have to work on *that* book. For the first time in over a month, I can spend some time on myself, with Evan and with friends. I've got another book to write but the insane deadline is over, allowing me to blog again and have something of a life--and to dress in something other than household variants of nighties, yoga pants and pajamas on non-teaching days.

Of course, I'm so far behind on grading that the rest of the week will be spent playing catch up--plus its advising time as the students are registering for next semester. But I am done! Even if I have to do more revisions, they won't be so substantial. I feel like I've accomplished something huge--especially considering how much of a mess Chapter 1 turned out to be. So tonight I'll celebrate by watching the sublime Revenge.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hanging In

I'm trying to get my book in to my publishers tomorrow, having missed the Friday deadline due to a trip out of town for Passover (Evan's family) and a chapter that has never been up to par. I'm doubting I'll get much sleep tonight, if any, but hopefully I'll be out of this fog/fug and back into life soon. I have another chapter to write and had to pass on the article but if I get these two accomplished by the end of the semester I'll be happy. The book HAS to be in tomorrow. And that trumps bed and dressing in anything other than my version of sweats right now (nightie, socks and sweater). I've not been to pilates in a month and am fat and out of shape but the book is priority #1 right now. I'll have to prep my grad class tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What a Week!

I had a great time at my conference, catching up with old friends and spending some quality time with my grad school friends Lisa and Shari, exploring Boston's Back Bay area and having successful meetings with publishers. My paper went down well and I made some good contacts, heard some great work and generally enjoyed the experience--complete with spring and summer like weather.

Of course I had a ton of work to do when I got back--and still do with the book deadline on Friday--but I also had to deal with debit card fraud. Someone tried to open an account with my debit card number on Tuesday so I had to cancel the card and have to monitor my financial transactions. It was a pain as I was out of town again and had no debit card so I had to pay for a hotel room in cash (which isn't something that's easy or desired these days) and worried that I'd run out of money before I could get my new card. I'm hugely afraid of identity theft and don't bank online, shred or keep every financial statement or receipt (and often shred and then soak the pieces of paper so they fade and turn to pulp--I'm that crazy) so I have no idea how my number got out. I wonder if someone in the hotel was less than scrupulous about some print out but that's something I can't control. It just goes to show--I've had friends who are far more cavalier than I am about these matters and have never had an issue with card fraud. Thanks to Amazon's quick action I'm hoping I won't have to deal with fraudulent transactions but the timing could not have been worse.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Boston Bound

Some of the work has been done. Conference paper and Powerpoint done, blog entry written. Fashion essay nowhere near written, book intro is a work in progress and the chapter is tabled for next month. If I get the book and maybe the fashion paper done I'll be fine. I'm meeting with two publishers (for books 2 and 3) at the conference and will be looking for back up publishers for the second lest things don't work out (I've spoken to Routledge and they are a possibility but I want a university press).

It's warm here and bizarrely warmer in Boston. I'll see 70s, 80s, 60s and 50s so packing light isn't an option (and I'm a light packer). I'm bringing the book too--hopefully I can do a reasonable amount of editing on Amtrak. I feel very much like I'm not taking advantage of the weather but other duties beckon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

I think I can truly say I may be the busiest I've ever been. Literally, everything is due at the same time--conference, book, conference paper and Powerpoint slides (just pictures from 1910s and 20s Photoplay and Motion Picture Classic at this point), article, chapter and post for a big time blog. And I have midterms. And it seems that April 1 or thereabouts is my deadline for everything. I'm literally allowing myself 2 days to write a paper and less than a week to read through and finish my book. I'll be in Boston for six of these days for a conference where I am meeting with two or three publishers. All great but at this point a week free would be great. My eyes are so tired from typing and reading that I can barely see. All this happens at a time when I'd ordinarily be incredibly busy. I'm just looking forward to post-tax deadline where I hope I can sneak a day or two of doing absolutely nothing.

Until then, here's Joan--both to share and as a reminder of where I am in my paper (at least fan magazine advice culture is a lot more fun to write about than Progressivism):

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


That word could apply to my workload--I'm finishing the (hopefully) final revisions to my book which is due in at the end of March, working on my conference paper that I present in a little under two weeks, working on the second chapter for the second book which is also due (or overdue) imminently and working on a paper that's due at a journal in two weeks time.

But I'm actually referring to Fashion Star, NBC's Project Runway come very-lately clone, a hot mess of a show that I watched while grading multiple choice tests this morning. It's maybe the classic example of why TV by committee doesn't work. You could hear the suits saying we need something for the men (so let's add random "dancers" in scanty, skanky outfits, motorcycles, fireworks and a display of models in Elle McPherson's underwear line, some shot from below as they climb stairs backstage). Then there's the its-a-reality-show-let's-borrow-from-American Idol line where we have a big blue stage (reminiscent of the AI finale but bigger) and a panel of bland suburban American friendly judges and a panel of industry experts, all overwhelmed by the kind of ridiculously loud music you hear in a teen store at the mall or a local gym. The designers came from stock reality show casting--older women, crazy minority, hard luck stories (as soon as I saw a photo of one designer's mother I knew she was dead), inspirations, struggles and lack of fashion training abounded, along with an air of delusion and a host of boring clothes that were sometimes too tired for Macy's. In this batshit crazy spectacle, there was virtually no emphasis on the actual sewing/cutting and for some reason 4 designers were just scrunched together near the end as though they'd run out of time and just thought that would do and, maybe, that we wouldn't notice.

Besides the fact that this show was ten times more loud and ten times more trashy than it needed to be, especially given the bland nature of the clothes on offer, there was also the futile effort to present it as live. Some of my students sometimes struggle with the concept of liveness in broadcasting, but I think this show would be a good teaching tool. Broadcasting is potentially live--it can transmit instantaneously and TV has its own presence because the image is constantly being formed and reformed on the screen. Fashion Star played to this sense of liveness--here are the cameras! the wires! the fuses! we're backstage! we're front stage! Then, of course, there's the premise of you can buy these clothes tomorrow--suggesting how contemporary, how now, all these looks might be. Obviously you can't make clothes overnight in large numbers, especially as it takes longer than that to ship the things from China or wherever else they are going for their cheap labour. But the show's tackiness and failure is also underwritten--as is its rather long and necessary lag between shooting and broadcast--by Jessica Simpson's seemingly pre-pregnant or at least early first trimester figure which advertises the nearly nine month gestation of these far from timely fashions.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I've moaned several times on this blog about my weight--my frustrations with it, my bafflement that my formerly skinny self somehow inflated itself to its current size and my struggles to lose the pounds. Of late it has been creeping up and seemingly nothing I do works. I put it down to difficulties in weight loss we all suffer (and I know that for some even diet and exercise does nothing and figured I was in that category). Of late I've been tired which I figured resulted from my work schedule. But then I started feeling really weak in Pilates and Zumba and unable to keep up (I was the person who was always pushing for more). Something was amiss, as you can see from the way my blog posts fell off. Turned out it was my thyroid levels which were falling.

I started on Synthroid two days ago. It's too early to feel the effects now but hopefully in a month I'll be back to normal. Thanks to my great doctor for noticing and ordering the right blood tests so we caught this early in the bud.


Apologies for the paucity of posts. I've been busy here as it is conference season and mid-terms--a bad combination.

I took a brief break today to have lunch and a stroll around Soho. My friend Emilie and I found ourselves outside the Kardashian boutique, Dash, and thought why not look inside. We were expecting tacky, of course--even if you'd never heard of the Kardashians, the mirror covered mannequins gave you ample warning of what was inside. That would be ugly and dated clothing (very lower Broadway with a man with a sandwich board trying to lure you inside for cut price D and G and miscellaneous no brand items), $10 water bottles, $4 pencils, assorted Kardashian products--from perfumes to Quik Trim--velour and mesh underwear and ranges of ugly jewelry and clothing. There are also security guards in there stopping you from taking photos. Hideous and baffling that they can sell enough to pay the rent in a prime Soho corner.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


There is a seller on ebay selling Marni for H&M already. No big deal *except* the seller in question admits that they do not yet own the items they are selling. No wonder people can't get hold of these items.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oscar Rant

This year's Academy Awards were the dullest I've ever seen. That says a lot, given that the show itself is usually turgid with the red carpet being perhaps the only reason to watch. Still, watch I do, even though this year I multitasked and searched through 1920s Photoplays during the show.

I'll perhaps post on the dismal state of Oscar Fashion later, if I can grab the time. But in the meantime, I was particularly incensed by one of the Academy's major omissions in a year when a neo-silent film was one of the big winners, leading them to play an ostensible and largely ill-informed "tribute" to Hollywood's past. During the in memoriam section, there was no mention of Barbara Kent, who died this fall. Granted, most people have not heard of her but they haven't heard of most of the technicians, screenwriters etc. who receive tributes (as they should).

Barbara Kent was the last surviving adult silent film leading lady. She died in October aged 103. While she wasn't one of the silent era's major stars, she had a decent, if relatively short, career from 1926-32, transitioning into the talkies with ease. But alas the Academy doesn't seem to have a historian on staff or even a film buff, or someone who knows how to use google. Colour me disgusted.

Collaboration Frustration

Most of this season's clothes are leaving me cold. I'm not feeling inspired by either my go-to designers or stores. Rachel Comey's move upmarket has coincided with the evaporation of much of her inspiration, style and whimsy. J Crew is looking as dull to me as it did years ago and I'm not finding much on blogs, NYC fashion week 2012 or in stores that whets my appetite.

There are exceptions. London Fashion week excited me and two recent/upcoming designer collaborations thrilled me. Alas, because of the nature of the collaboration beast (ebay vultures, limited stock, excessive hype) I'm likely to end up with nothing. The lines that have me fantasizing about some miracle are Marni for H&M (I want most of it, covet large portions of the line and can see it integrating into my wardrobe, enlivening what I have and being worn forever) and Mary Katrantzou for Topshop. The former has yet to launch but it's sadly predictable what will happen--long lines of people who sleep outside, grab everything and post it to ebay immediately for the price of real Marni. If only H&M would make more, release it, restock, they could stop this madness. There's still tons of grossly marked up former collaboration pieces on ebay going back to Stella McCartney and Karl Lagerfeld, so I have no doubts that the disgusting people who ruin it for everybody will be doing their damndest to spoil the collaboration again. It's interesting to speculate what proportion of these so highly desired collaboration pieces will never be worn as a result of this combination of greed and herd mentality.

As for Mary Katrantzou, I went to Topshop last week to see the dresses as I'd heard they were incredibly expensive--$400-$750 (no typo). Of course, I got the day wrong by a week. Not only did the line go on sale today, the dresses sold out in minutes even with a one per person limit. I'm not so much sad as left perplexed. Granted, these pieces were cheaper than her main line but clearly very few were made, and the price point seems insane given that the quality was reportedly not that good. I could get a $100 t-shirt but I'm not interested.

There's always the upcoming Karen Walker for Anthropologie but I'm probably better off saving what little disposable income I have this semester. Or losing weight to fit into the Jill Stuart resort dresses.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Even though I had Monday off for Presidents' Day, this week has been a little crazy. I've a conference coming up in three weeks and the paper is currently a bunch of ideas, a series of notes and some thoughts. I can write 10 pages relatively quickly but in that same time, I also have an article due (on 1910s fashion, Progressivism, recognition, female spectacle, agency and feminine filmic and costume literacy), a chapter due (for the second book--as requested by the press that I'm hoping to place it with)--this one on the femininity and the analytical mode--and I have to finish the hopefully revisions on my first book by the end of March (these aren't substantial but there's a couple of tricky issues to untangle in the intro). So, rather than blogging, this is some of what I've been looking at over the last few days. The books I've been reading and the notes I've taken have been a little less attractive than the world of 1920s fan magazines.

And this is what I watched tonight as part of my research for the chapter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The last few days seem to have been filled with odd misconnections, as one of my colleagues observed. Students have fallen sick, messages seem to have been waylaid and students have forgotten appointments and office hours. There was even a mess up with my medical insurance that meant one doctor's appointment became two on two consecutive days. Perhaps it was best that today was a day to regroup, to continue taking notes on the book I'm reading for this chapter and leave the more intricate work on writing until tomorrow. I have Monday off for Presidents' Day so that's a concerted ten day span to get the bulk of this chapter written. It has to be done before we get back into the real work of the semester, including the conference paper and essay I have to write.

Obviously, Valentine's Day was low key, given that I teach until 9.20 on Tuesdays. But it was sweet nonetheless, with Evan getting me a large box of Godiva truffles that I plan to eat sparingly to make the joy last longer. We'll be celebrating on Saturday night with organic Japanese in the Lower East Side.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Memory Lane

Yesterday I did something quite unusual. I took Saturday off and after my usual exercise classes, I went for a movie, coffee, a walk around Soho and then dinner. The movie was W.E.--preposterous, beautiful and heavily marked by Madonna's world view. I went with Ben and Brynn and await Ben's review as it will likely be spot on and well written as always. Despite all its flaws, it was incredibly useful as an example for at least two chapters of my book. Before the movie, we hit Billy's Bakery for treats--banana pudding for Ben, a red velvet cupcake for Brynn and chocolate marbled cheesecake for me--which we ate during the previews and opening act. Afterwards, we went to a cafe, postmortemed the movie and then headed our own ways.

As I was in Soho, I did a little window-shopping, which reminded me of weekends a decade ago where I'd hit up the same stores and plan what I'd buy in the sales. For the first time in a long while I went to Jill Stuart, a long ago favourite for her well made vintage-inspired dresses and blouses. I was surprised to find some beautiful resort dresses reminiscent of the 1940s that I'll try to buy on sale, along with a few lovely 1920s style dresses for spring (possibly a little too pastel for me but attractive nonetheless). The quality of the clothes and their designs made me wonder why this is a label too often overlooked, not widely carried by online boutiques and generally seen as very different from some of the independent designers like Lyell in its heyday. Certainly Stuart opts for more bright colours and girly fabrics and has at times gone overboard with embellishments but her vintage style day dresses, whether 1920s, 40s or 60s inspired, the craftsmanship of her line and her sometimes spot-on vintage style prints are certainly worth considering as options in a fairly limited market. I'm not interested in her more prom queen offerings or her cheap Jill line which has much of the charm of bridesmaid's dresses, but I'm certainly penciling Jill Stuart back on my list--but only on sale. I'm no longer able to afford or justify $400+ dresses. It's a shame so few of her garments make it to ebay and also a shame that her lookbooks favour a very girlish--juvenile?--aesthetic/styling but the dresses below otherwise have a great deal of potential.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Inexorable Move Upmarket or The Travails of the Middle

That this title could refer to the current economic climate is clearly not coincidental. My focus here, however, is the continuing transformation of the independent/contemporary market (or, I suppose, that sweet spot where they overlap). Specifically, I was reading the Fall 2012 Rachel Comey Fashion Week slideshow and commentary on this morning and was struck by two points--her renunciation of prints in favour of more upmarket or "incredibly lush fabrics," and secondly, Comey's own admission that she had "decided to grow the higher-end side of the brand a bit." Obviously, this statement is not without its own ambiguity--it leaves room for a lower- or middle-end side, and it begs the question of which side will be emphasized. My suspicion is that she's moving upmarket, possibly leaving some items (maybe shoes) at the same price point.

I remember looking at her price points for Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 and noticed a strong upward trajectory--dresses that looked a lot like ones from past seasons that had retailed in the $400s were now in the $600s, an increase near 50% in some cases--and from what I remember, her prices were even lower not so long ago. Given that some of these dresses use the same patterns as earlier seasons, I suspect this was not entirely an economic decision but a subtle rebrand. It's also not cheap to use prints--if you use your own prints like Comey, the costs are substantial and her use of US labour is to be commended. So there are, perhaps, reasons for her pricing to increase, but given her statement, I believe there's more involved in rethinking the brand in an economy where the middle--even the top end of the middle who can afford her dresses as is--are being squeezed. Don't get me wrong--I think $400-$500 for a dress is still very expensive and positions Comey's clothing for affluent consumers and those of us who scour sales/sample sales for pieces. But these are not the demographics for the higher end, a market that continues to do better than ever.

It makes economic sense I guess and may be necessary if you want to continue to have ethical production standards and use US labour (which could also be a selling point to higher-end consumers). But I suspect this is the slow creep further upmarket that other brands have displayed--from Miu Miu, Isabel Marant and A.P.C. to Mayle and Lyell, both of which registered notable and hefty increases in pricing in their last seasons.

It's a shame too as Comey's clothing is often well made, despite its sometimes simple lines, holds up well and is ethically made. I have several of her dresses, although I will be selling three of them that I don't wear, many pairs of her shoes and a pair of pants. In a climate where many of us have discussed the quality of clothing and the ethics of production, her line has been one of the few to withstand scrutiny and wear. But any further move upmarket will put her brand out of my reach, except on ebay and sites like Community Closet Sale and Laws of General Economy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I don't really wear t-shirts

But how can I resist these? Proceeds go to NYU's Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group and they feature three of my favourite cartoon characters. If I get one, the only issue would be which one? Part of me thinks Eric, but Randy and Butters are so close to my heart. I think the color and quality of the t-shirt will be the deciding factor. $35 each at Marc by Marc Jacobs stores and online.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hating Mass Market Collaborations

A few years ago (longer than I'd like to think) H&M announced their collaboration with Stella McCartney. I'd ignored the Karl Lagerfeld one (while I can admire his Chanel looks from afar, I was never impressed with his own label or for much of his work with Fendi). I may have been a bit green but the world was different then and so I decided to work an hour early that day and pop into one of the Broadway H&Ms around 9-10 am. Walking in, I saw nothing and asked the sales assistant where I could find the stock only to be told to look in the dressing rooms for what was left. I was very surprised that so much stock had sold in an hour as I remembered the Karl items hanging around for some time. I had my list (I remember a dress and the skinny pants were on it) and managed to find a silk camisole I'd liked (well made but I think I wore it once), a black silk skirt I wanted (but in a larger size, again well made) and a pair of wide legged pants that were more of an afterthought and, at the time, a size too large. Those pants are still wearing well and are incredible--now slightly tight (reminding me of the weight I need to lose), I have worn them every winter and they still look and feel expensive. The construction, fabric details, including covered buttons, remind me of far higher priced items. The quality of the items I saw were great but as the hoarders are still trying to off-load pieces on ebay, some still for inflated prices, one problem with collaborations remains strong.

Stella for H&M is one reason why I still hold out futile hope for collaborations--futile in terms of quality and in terms of accessibility (no reasonable shopper should be expected to stay up all night in the hopes that they are in the right time zone to get what they need online--Target I am looking at you--or spend the night camping outside stores to have a chance to buy as is now the case with H&M). It was not the only good collaboration that fruitlessly keeps my hopes high and frustrations higher for the few such partnerships that still interest me. When Phillip Lim collaborated with Uniqlo, I got up at the crack of dawn (younger and with less responsibilities then) and waited in line while all of us outside watched fashion insiders hanging out with the man himself, sipping champagne and eating canapes while they picked up freebies). At least it was a sunny early summer/late spring day, so waiting wasn't unpleasant. There was also a lot of stock, Lim himself and champagne and canapes for those of us in line. Again, the quality of the items was far superior to what's available today and the plaid dress I purchased is still holding up well as a summer regular--the linen dress was also great and still in good shape but it attracts a little too much cat fur for regular wearing (my mistake for getting the black). I paid less than $90 for both which counts as a great deal.

Another fabulous collaboration was the Gap's first with Roland Mouret. I got up super early as this was going to be very limited but as there was next to no press it was me, the Style Channel and about three other people waiting outside the Lex Ave store before it opened. One of those people was an ebay vulture who put her arm through an entire rack of dresses as I was looking for a S and told me to F*** off as she swept them all to the cashier and ran down the stairs with her bags. The staff were so nice--laughed at her and showed me the large stash of merchandise in the back of the store, replenished the racks, found me my dresses which fit well and shared the horror story with their colleagues. I got home, logged on ebay and there she was. As the stock was all drastically marked down within weeks I'm sure she sold very little and hopefully got what she deserved. I bought two dresses--one, alas, was a great style but scratchy and I was allergic to the wool heavy fabric so I didn't wear it. The other I still wear today and occasionally scout ebay for a second (my only regret was just getting one). It's held up like a dream and is a workhorse. But still a collaboration lured me to ignore my best instincts and buy something I should have left on the shelves. Nice as it was, this collaboration watered down Mouret's corseted style and origami folds, but I think the dress I got was ultimately far more wearable and more in keeping with my lifestyle. Gap collaborations were, in general, OK. Availability not too limited, website that didn't crash, returns easy to make and the quality was decent--but the restrictions (white shirts, khaki) really let them down. I bought the Thakoon petal dress and it's very nice and still holds up but how much better would it be in a Steven Alan style plaid or a darker, more wearable colour?

These collaborations are part of the problem, however, in that they make me believe that perhaps I'll luck out again, even as I know that the frenzy has increased as the quality has nosedived.

No surprise, Target is a particular offender here. Given the shoddy quality of the actual items (versus the glossy images in their ads/lookbook), they really should be able to make their stock in far larger quantities. I presume the Stella/H&M and even Mouret/Gap were decent quality because they may have been loss leaders to gain press (the old PR stunt) but Target's stuff is generally no better made than their routine offerings so limiting stock quantities is pure misguided PR that only feeds ebay hoarders (a vile phenomenon exemplifying one of the worst traits in our culture). I've only had two experiences with Target collabs--the Proenza Schouler pop up at Opening Ceremony where only the largest sizes were available after the fashion in-crowd shopped. I got a green striped long sleeved t which would have been great had I been able to get a smaller size and the palm tree dress which was also too big, an odd fit and disintegrated after I wore it once. I also purchased two Liberty of London pieces--one of which was canceled--getting a cotton nightie that was OK but only worth what I paid. Most of these collaborations are cheap and ugly but clearly popular as the Missoni demonstrated. I was interested in a couple of Jason Wu pieces but as their website launched the collection at 2 am EST and sold out immediately, like most on the East Coast there was no way I could get any of it. It's likely a blessing in disguise as I'm again falling for the advertised pieces not the real thing which is likely shoddily made in cheap fabrics.

After a parade of ugly collaborations (Versace, Cavalli) or overpriced poorly made cocktail dresses (Lanvin), the collaboration that is really guaranteed to frustrate me is the upcoming Marni for H&M. I love Marni and hope the quality here will aspire to Stella levels but it is all moot as there is no way I will (a) spend a night camping out to get it, (b) want to deal with aggressive shoppers who only want to take the stuff home and put it up on ebay for inflated prices and (c) refuse to support such scalpers.

Given the largely negative feedback these collaborations provoke--the shortage of supply created/made worse by the resellers, the disappointing quality, the anger amongst those who wanted items and sacrificed sleep and comfort to get nothing, the bad will they instill among the frustrated and, perhaps most significantly, the way they feed the cycle of consumer greed and desperation--I can't help hate them. I hate myself for falling victim to so much of their publicity, wasting time thinking about buying them, even as some of their earlier incarnations have been valuable assets in my closet.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mayle Emmanuelle Jacket for Sale

I've vowed to clean out my closets one item a week. So far, the Rachel Comey dress I posted last week is still available, but I'm adding to the list my Mayle Emmanuelle jacket from Jane's last fall collection (2008). I bought this as part of my Mayle collecting mania without thought for the fact I rarely, if ever, wear jackets. I feel the cold and usually opt for coats earlier than most and while fond of shorter coats, I don't wear jackets. So this is effectively unworn. I had someone ask about it last year and hung onto it for them but I'm putting it back out in the world. I'll take photos tonight and add to these, but, in the meantime here it is.

The jacket can be worn several ways and can have either a plain or a military look depending on how you do up the buttons or leave it open. It's a size 10 (runs a little small--good for an 8 or a small 10) wool gabardine--the same fabric as the Ludovine coat--and retailed for $755. I'm selling it for $225 including postage or best offer. If interested, email me at moya[dot]luckett[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Capsule Wardrobe

I realize this looks like I'm jumping on a bandwagon as many bloggers have recently posted about consumerism, quality and excessive spending on clothing--see here, here and here, for example. Last year I recognized that I couldn't carry on consuming clothing as before--I'd accumulated too much, at costs to the environment, our living space, my bank account, etc. While I pride myself on being a savvy shopper--not paying full price and waiting for sales, my discovery that I owned 85 sweaters and too many striped shirts was a wake up call. Investing in silk dresses when I live in a climate that's either too hot and humid or too cold to wear them doesn't make a huge amount of sense, so I've tried to build on what I wear a lot and avoid the dual ills of stockpiling and fantasy purchases. Still, I've not been that good--when things go bad, I buy. I'm also tempted against my better judgment by the Jason Wu for Target even though I well know that the pretty dresses in the promo shots will look cheap and scratchy in the flesh. But really what I need to do is stop, as the example below demonstrates. It's just that it's not that easy.

Whenever I go home to England, I travel light. I have had my baggage lost before and it's not fun. Also not fun--dragging heavy bags through airports, on public transport and across Britain. I usually carry a soft bodied bag that limits me to a few items and maybe one pair of shoes--in the winter, with heavy clothing, I can bring even less, especially when I'm also carrying Christmas presents. I do store a few things at home--I have underwear, nightwear, tights, a couple of dresses and a skirt or two. I think hard about packing--I wear heavy items (jeans, knits, shirts) to travel, and, if its winter, boots and a jacket or coat. I bring 2 or 3 dresses--generally one that can be dressed up, a cardigan, maybe 2, plain dark skirt and pants, maybe another skirt, a few tops--striped long sleeved ts, plaid shirt or 2 and a couple of more dressy tops. I may add another skirt, a few different color pairs of tights and, if it's winter, another couple of sweaters. Amazingly, I find I have more options with a few items. I never run out of ideas, I never find myself without anything to wear and it always looks like I have an extensive wardrobe. Back in NYC, I often struggle to find something to wear.

Maybe it's because the weather in England is more temperate that I don't need to worry about the same degree of temperature fluctuations--there's little chance of insane cold or blistering heat and humidity. But I think there is something to the less is more ethos, including the way it causes me to think about what I need to wear and how to put it together. Certainly, I bring some of my favourite items with me but there is more than that involved. I think the clutter distracts and prevents me from being able to see what I have.

So this year is a year to pare back. I still recognize I have the key problems of "investing" in those sale pieces I know I'll wear a lot, and often stockpiling those items (like J Crew cashmere boyfriend cardigans which really don't pill) in the even they will not be as affordable in future years as well as falling for some beautiful but perhaps unwearable/unnecessary items that capture my heart. I'm going to watch out for both weaknesses this year and marshal my willpower and discipline.

I set up Community Closet Sale partly for these reasons--I have lots of lovely clothing that I don't wear and maybe wore once or twice, if at all. I come back to the same favourites--three Rachel Comey dresses, my green plaid Rag and Bone Victorian blouse, my Lyell/Tocca blouses, my blue and white plaid Madewell shirt, my black Rag and Bone pants, my black Lyell box pleat skirt, my Earnest Sewn denim skirt and my cashmere J Crew/Club Monaco/Inhabit crew neck sweaters and boyfriend cardigans and my J Crew striped long sleeved tops. There are other pieces I wear a lot--and of course several of my Lyell (and Tocca) and Mayle coats get heavy wear--but not all of them. I'm also struck by how many of these items are several seasons or even several years old. Of course extreme weather (cold and hot) leads to major changes--the wide leg pants come out in the winter and the cotton dresses in the summer. But you get the point. This wardrobe itself is very much like the ones I bring home to England--not always the most exquisite items I own, but the ones I actually wear.

Searching the Vogue Archives

One of the major advantages of working at NYU is the library--even though books tend to be missing from the shelves, the digital resources and interlibrary loans are phenomenal. This week, one of my students in my fashion tutorial notified me that Bobst had subscribed to the mythical and expensive Vogue archives database. Given that I'm writing this book on femininity, the news was most welcome.

This morning and early afternoon, I poked around and performed some key word searches. The first thing I noticed was the class address--in the 1910s and 1920s, Vogue really was not aimed at a classless audience. Hollywood stars were barely mentioned and its features and fashion displayed not an upwardly mobile fantasy but revealed an exclusive address towards old money and class elites. I wasn't really surprised--although it meant there was little that I could find for my chapter--but on their own, these omissions reinforce my gut sense about the importance of movies, movie fan magazines (many of them also digitized online) and other forms of mass market publishing. With Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Norma Talmadge and others largely absent from the pages of Vogue--even from its journalism--I have better grounds to mount much of my argument, which in some ways relies on these class/cultural distinctions.

Other than that, the Vogue database is a feast for the eyes. Here are a few images (sadly none from in colour) that I thought I'd share before going back to work. The first shows styles from 1917, the second features an ad with amazing 1924 dresses.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Feline Fun

I take way too many pictures of my cats because they are beautiful and I love them. Here are some recent shots.

Peeps in a Piperlime box (from one of Evan's purchases)

Remy in the recycling.

Blue on Evan's desk

On Evan's lap

Going a little crazy

Celebrity Musings

Reading celebrity gossip is one of my not so secret pleasures--from British tabloids (preferably in print but by necessity too often online) to US Weekly and online sites like, I enjoy the soap opera narratives, laugh at the imagination of some of the scribes and parse the cultural discourses that capture so many readers, most of them women. It's more than convenient that I'm also able to fold this pleasure into my own profession--I teach courses on celebrity culture (more difficult than you'd imagine as the material could so easily devolve into gossip and students often have no interest in its history or theory) and am writing a book on celebrity (along with another on femininity in popular media).

If you believe, as I do, that celebrity coverage involves a culture's efforts to understand itself (a self-absorption that itself reveals much about our society) two recent stories suggest we're at some kind of cultural tipping point--the kind that pulls together my not unrelated interests in femininity and fame. First there was the story of Heather Locklear's breakdown, which, like her career, was reduced to the margins. Second, and more visible, was the narrative of Demi Moore's collapse. Both offered opportunities for bloggers, commenters and the press to excoriate these women for aging in a culture that either expects women approaching 50 to become invisible or to package themselves into some limited niche (the quirky fashionista like Carine Roitfeld or Sarah Jessica Parker, or the actress who doesn't care about how she looks, per Meryl Streep or Glen Close).  While it is purely coincidental that two women who not so long ago were being praised for their beauty, then their seemingly miraculous ability to shun the aging process are now being derided for their self-absorption while commenters crow on that they should be sent out to pasture, call them hags and lambast them for their narcissism (which clearly individualizes a broader social problem), the convergence of these stories speaks to far broader social issues.

Some of the literature on postfeminism (most notably Diane Negra's work) points to the time crisis within contemporary femininity--not just the idea that we are all swamped with competing pressures from work, family, technology and the care of the self, but rather the sense that women are increasingly compelled to do more in the brief period between their twenties and early-mid thirties. As she points out, youth has become not only commodified--ostensibly a blessing inasmuch as it is no longer the province of those in their 20s, but one that comes with its own sting. If youth is commodified, then there is a pressure to maintain it, and once those efforts start to fail or if the labour becomes too obvious, too extreme, then the woman is ridiculed, critiqued and scapegoated. Of course, her failure is our failure--if she ages, so can we, and that seemingly overnight change from an early 30-something beauty to a 40-something under pressure to maintain her effortlessly dewy looks might affect us all. Cameron Diaz is only the most recent celebrity to face these charges and she won't be the last.

It's easy to join these dots. It's also easy to opine that maybe these recent collapses might constitute a tipping point in a beauty and youth obsessed culture. Again, history suggests this will not be the case. Hollywood is littered with stories of fallen stars and starlets--this book makes sad and compelling bedtime reading. In the 1910s, Fannie Ward (pictured below) was praised not just for her acting but her youthful beauty--something she maintained with parafin injections and other experimental treatments--but even as the magazines wondered at how young she was for 40 when she appeared in The Cheat (DeMille, 1915), she was lying about her age and was actually 43. For the record, she does look really young and less plastic that today's stars. Significantly, she did not face the backlash seen today--even though she worked in an era where the 18 year old Lillian Gish decided to lie about her age when she started her career in 1912, knocking off three years that would remain missing until her death at 99. If there was ever a youth-conscious era in movies, it was the 1900s-1910 where rumours that film cameras could make babies look like old men proliferated--perhaps to mask the cultural standards and fears that really underpinned the social fascination with young women. 100 years later, I know see how insane these standards were. In 2012, it is evident that anybody born in 1993 is very young, that a starlet born in 1986 is not borderline middle age. Yet growing up reading about 1910s cinema (I was a very strange teenager), I took on that culture's values and was often staggered at the youthful appearance of a star like Marguerite Clark who was born in 1883, thinking how amazing it was that she could pass for a young woman or child in 1916's Snow White and a number of other successful films.

Historical digressions aside, the contemporary examples also came with some personal cultural aftershock. I've made no secret of my anger and frustration with my body and its inability to fit my own vision of what it should weigh and how it should look. As a very skinny child (my parents were often asked if I ate) and a very slim teenager and young adult, I didn't like the weight gain that the 30s brings. As someone who likes to eat, I've been torn--exercise and healthy eating haven't really led to any substantial weight loss and I can't diet--I know myself and I know it doesn't work. But these older stars--like Moore, several years my senior--seemed to have the magic secret. I assumed trainers, tiny portions of less appetising food (I really doubt she eats pad kaprow with vegetarian duck and sticky rice, or shredded potatoes and green peppers with spicy cumin fish, or salmon masala with garlic naan or vegetarian ham bahn mi). I suspected appetite suppressants and smoking. Maybe recreational drugs or adderall. But it turns out all of the above plus anorexia.

As a media scholar, I don't subscribe to the idea that we imitate what we see on screens or that we passively absorb what's around us--the processes are too complex and variable to be so easily dismissed. But I have realized that as I get marginally larger, the bodies I see get smaller. I do not for one minute want to be as skinny as Demi Moore--even on the teenage models I see around Union Square, that kind of weight is not attractive in real life. But there is something there--and it is sobering and perhaps relieving to recognize that such skinniness post-30 doesn't come naturally or easily.

On a personal level, though, I still believe I need to lose weight but my goal is only to fit into the clothes I wore a couple of years back (none of my jeans fit and I want that to change). But the issues around female visibility, aging and weight remain ones that I think should trouble us even as we celebrate beauty, glamour and the fun and diversity inherent within femininity.