Sunday, December 14, 2014


I may have reservations about brand loyalty, but I make an exception when it comes to shoes--sizing and comfort are so key and brand's own lasts often mean that their footwear either works or it doesn't. I've bought too many pairs in the past that remain pristine because they hurt my feet (some even end up unworn despite their beauty and style). On the other hand, I live in certain pairs from Fiorentini + Baker and Surface to Air to the point that some shoes, boots and sandals are practically decomposing. In many cases I would have purchased a second identical pair but could never find more than one. A pair of my favourite Surface to Air shoes were on ebay recently but they were one size too small (and went for $17). If they had been a size 40, I'd have been happy to pay ten times more, but I'm pretty certain I'll never find another pair. Today I bought another pair of Fiorentini + Baker ankle boots (the Eli in blue), not because my black pair of Chads are decomposing--quite the opposite as they are practically new--but because they were a good deal at 50% off (F+B don't go on sale often and usually you can't get much more than 25% off).

But there are two pairs of shoes out there that I may take a chance on. While reading the UK papers online not so long ago, I spied a pair that captivated me and looked like they could fill a huge gap in my  pretty small (wearable) shoe wardrobe. Of course, it wasn't that simple. The brand--Senso--may be affordable (i.e. shoes around $250-300), but they are Australian and the shoes I loved--and another pair I liked even more--are not available in the US although the brand can be bought here (the different seasons obviously play a role). So I've decided to risk it, but only after the holidays as I'll be travelling with Severin while Evan stays behind and mans the fort. I've never ordered anything from Australia and will probably start with the slightly cheaper pair, but I'll have to see what is still available and just hope that there is a pair of each for me. These shoes will give me the dressy but not so high options I need and will add value to my wardrobe, allowing me to wear some items that don't go with my boots and flats without (hopefully) crippling me or damaging my ability to keep up with Severin. They'll also add a different look that will give me some much needed versatility--that is, of course, if they fit comfortably.

First, the pair that first caught my eye--Qiana IV

And here the pair that I perhaps like even more--Quarry II--which may be dangerously low in stock already in my size. Dare I wait?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Against Brand Loyalty

My wardrobe tells a sad story of brand infatuation. When I was younger and had way less money my options were limited to vintage stores and the Top Shop and Miss Selfridge sales racks, cultivating a habit of waiting for markdowns that survives to this day. At that time, I aspired to the slightly higher priced High Street brands like Warehouse (once a brand with some style that featured a young and less androgynous Tilda Swinton in its advertising, not the ugly polyester that now fills its racks). My sorry story of brand loyalty started there, first with a lovely striped cotton 1930s style blouse and pleated skirt that I left behind at a friend's wedding when I changed into my bridesmaid's dress. By the time that my first real salary cheques allowed me to binge purchase in the late 1990s-early 2000s, the brand was turning sour and I knew it, but bought anyway, clouded by memories of prior glories as I chased earlier aspirations. A couple of years later, I'd donated the clothing and thought I had learned a lesson--not to trust high street brands.

A series of similar but milder infatuations followed. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Taylor, Jill Stuart--but none were exclusive and as I only bought on sale, I didn't end up with much excess. Amongst my buys were items I liked and wore, but a few gaudy dresses and ugly tops ended up in charity bags. Then I discovered Lyell, which actually was a pretty good, if--or perhaps because--it produced so few items. What little I didn't wear then, I sold. And while there are pieces I'm still hanging onto in the hopes that I can slim down enough to wear again, I know they can be sold if necessary, leaving me without too much of a loss. Lyell's craftsmanship, vintage style and lack of excessive adornment meant it didn't date badly and was appropriate for day to day life. The fact that it ran small also prevented me from buying as much as I'd have liked, limiting stupid purely brand-centred purchases (and, yes, there were a few). 

I'd loved Mayle from afar but when I could afford it on sale I made a few judicious purchases--shoes that I wore to death, coats that are still in regular rotation, a couple of workhorse dresses and blouses. If the brand hadn't closed and I hadn't gone crazy, perhaps all would have been fine. But the end of the label, for me and others, spurred a frenzy of inappropriate label-centred purchases, mainly of the dregs of the line but sometimes of beautiful pieces that didn't fit. Tops and dresses that pulled over shoulders and hips teamed with muddy olive silk dresses now rest in the back of my wardrobe, devoid of the crazy value they briefly possessed in those days of collective madness. I sadly recognised that some pieces would never fit and sold them but didn't cash the checks which lie in books to this day, as I know I have to finally email those friends and ask for something in return for the dresses I sold and never wore. Jane Mayle's depressing pop-ups with their poorly made and strangely designed clothes pretty much ended the brand's cult value and eroded my investments.

Post-Mayle, there were other brands that tempted me but seeming bad luck saved me from more stupid shopping. Rachel Comey--lovely dresses (including one of my favourite workhorses) but price hikes, erratic sizing and uncomfortable shoes made me cautious, leaving me with a few dresses from Gilt that never really fit and a sample sale buy that was disastrously small. A Detacher was always too pricey and hard to find, Suno looked great at first but odd sizings and strange materials caused me to pass after one purchase. Timo Weiland appealed but then looked too junior. I couldn't afford Mary Katrantzou even at Top Shop. Then there was the new Tocca, designed by Emma Fletcher, whose clothing ran typically very small and was barely available anywhere, especially in the size 10s that I needed.

My Mayle binges caused me to rethink. I filled wardrobe gaps with cheaper mass market brands. J Crew cashmere was pretty good (although it pilled) until they opted for a cheaper supplier and could be bought for a decent price on sale. Club Monaco had good cashmere, reliable skirts and trousers. I'd liked their clothing when I first moved to NYC as it played with trends creatively without ripping off more well known brands. Even though Zara are less than admirable in their production, labour practices and fabrics (and have tiny sizing), there were pieces there for me. As for Madewell, I exerted self-restraint as I'm trying to break the pattern of buying nondescript, ugly or inappropriate clothes just because the label and discounts are both right.

Two events really brought home the stupidity of my brand loyalty. First, the gradual rebrand of Club Monaco. The higher quality, more minimalist brand I liked started to change a couple of years ago--at first, it seemed, for the better. Their dresses started to improve--away from the workwear or party binary. Then the flagship on 5th Avenue closed for a redesign, away from its probably somewhat tired 1990s-early 2000s minimalism. While I love beaux arts and Victorian gingerbread, the reopened store seemed wrong. Beautiful but somewhat off. It reaffirmed what I had already gleaned from the pile of unremarkable reduced clothing in my bedroom--there was a new design team and their clothes were tacky. Overdesigned, over-embellished, with a much smaller fit (my old size 8s were bigger than the new 12s) and cheaper fabrics, chasing trends that didn't exist, these were not the clothes of yore. My habit of scouring their sales and outlet abruptly ended as I recognized what was in front of me, not my memories and imagination. 

The second epiphany occurred last week. I think I'd have said that Tocca was my favourite brand in my price range (even though it stretched those limits), but I now recognise that was another spell based around a couple of earlier collections and a couple of coats. I went to my third Tocca sample sale last week, hoping for some size 10s that were not small 6s in disguise. My hopes were briefly raised as I saw the size 10-12 rack stuffed with a variety of this season's coloured items--until I noticed it was the size 0s where the 10-12 rack used to be. 8, 10 and 12 were now together, except they have never made 12 in the Emma Fletcher era. There were about 3 or 4 pieces in a 10--a tiny jacket, a small shirt I'd seen in the last two sales (a size 4-6 in real sizes at best) and two heavy woolen sleeveless dresses. I did buy the coat I wanted in an 8, but after another rant about their sizes, I woke up. The coat wasn't that great and the fabric was a cheap wool that attracts threads, dust and hair. It didn't have set in sleeves. And why was I so upset about a brand that doesn't make clothes in my size and is barely sold anywhere that now uses cheaper fabrics and lesser craftsmanship? Why bother when they don't? I did get some nice cream and shower gel, and from now on, that's what I'll get from their sales--like most of their other shoppers.

On final reflection, the clothing I like and wear frequently comes a variety of brands. I never bought any more Joie items just because I liked one dress or  Rails items because I have a couple of nice shirts. I want to be more environmentally and economically responsible in my purchases and removing the blindness of brand loyalty is one important step on that journey. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


Fashion seems to have been in a bit of a rut for a while now, but as I've been in that rut known as over-tired mother with lots to do and no time for herself, the timing has been pretty good.

But the other day, I stumbled on the Italian brand Vivetta. I probably can't fit into anything they make and don't want to spend a ton on clothes that don't fit. It's not easy to find over here (nothing on ebay) and what little is on sale is in the tiniest sizes. so it will remain a fantasy for the moment. Here's some pieces I'd buy if I could afford it and fit into them.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Following Amanda's Example

Today is that rare day when I have work to do but enough time to do it and have an hour or two to myself (something I won't have for another couple of weeks at least as it's advising time for the spring semester). I've gone to our wonderful Thursday toddler jitterbug class with Severin (it may be one of the best hours of the week for both of us), booked doctors appointments (a wtf for me, vaccines for the boy), bought some fruit and veg, cuddled a cat and caught up on some email. Grading awaits, but I know the papers are good and I'll be able to get them done in time.

I was over at Amanda's fabulous blog, and as I'm also procrastinating and luxuriating in having this hour to myself, I thought I'd answer the same questions.

1. What are you wearing?
Rails shirt, Gap jeans, no socks.

2. Have you ever been in love?
Of course

3. Have you even gone through a horrible breakup?
Hopefully never again.

4. How tall are you?
5 ft. 9in.

5. How much do you weigh?
More than I want after having Severin. I'm making good progress and will hopefully be back on the right side of 150 lbs soon. 

6. Do you have tattoos?
One that's not as artful as I would have liked. Perhaps it's best not to do something on the spur of the moment to celebrate getting your Ph.D. But the memories almost make it worthwhile.

7. Do you have piercings?
Ears--two in one, one in the other (with one probably healing up due to laziness)

8. What is the ideal couple to you?
Mum and Dad. Nanna and Grandad.

9. Your favourite TV show?
Way too many--who doesn't love TV? A few favourites include The Avengers (Diana Rigg vintage), I'm Alan Partridge, Saxondale, Twin Peaks, Beverly Hills 90210, Bagpuss, Pipkins and Pogle's Wood. I'm also fond of Downton Abbey, The Bletchley Circle, Location, Location, Location, Grand Designs and a host of trash, including The Only Way Is Essex and Say Yes to the Dress.

10. Your favourite band?

11. Something you're missing?
Mum, Dad, friends from home, England, double cream, smoked haddock, proper chocolate.

12. Your favourite song?
I can't pick just one.

13. How old are you?
The wrong side of 35.  Inside, I think I'm about 32-33.

14. What's your astrological sign?

15. An essential quality for a boyfriend?
Can't be selfish.

16. Favourite Quote?
Last line of Middlemarch: "for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

17. Favourite Actor?
Presuming this means male, I'd say James Mason, Jimmy Stewart (for his work with Hitchcock), Claude Rains (because he's the man) and then there's probably a slew of others I can't remember,  I have even more favourite actresses...

18. Favourite Colour?

19. Do you listen to music at a low or high volume?
Medium. But I also really enjoy silence.

20. Where do you go when you are sad?
Somewhere safe, where I can be alone or cuddle the ones I love--human and feline. I'm a Cancer and I sometimes turn into a cat.
21. How long do you stay in the shower?
Too long. Ideally 20-30 minutes if I can. It's a great place to think.

22. How long does it take to get ready in the morning?
Five minutes--brush teeth, wash face, comb hair and get dressed. Unless you factor in having a shower and coffee.

23. Did you ever get in a fight?
Yes. I have brothers.

24. Something that seduces you in a man?
Kindness, sense of humour. 

25. The most repelling thing in a man?
Violence, aggression, selfishness--and bad hygiene. Smoking. Inability to earn a living and take responsibility for himself.

26. Why do you have a blog?
As a keepsake, to surprise myself in years to come. Because it's like a message in a bottle--you throw it out there and wonder what will happen and who (if anybody) will see it.

27. What are you afraid of?
Death and illness--my own, my family and friends. Anything happening to Severin. Never having another child.

28. The last thing that made you cry?
The thought of never having a daughter or another son.

29. The last time you said "I love you"?
To Severin about 30 minutes ago when he went out for pizza with his sitter.

30. What does your blog name mean?
Nothing. It's a stupid, crappy name because all the good ones had been used, mostly by people who then blogged once or twice. It's the result of desperation, throwing words together until I found something--anything--that hadn't been taken. It's terrible, embarrassing and I know it. I hate it.

31. The latest book you read?
Jason Priestley's autobiography (I still love Beverly Hills 90210).

32. What are you currently reading?
Both Michael Ankerich's Mae Murray: The Girl With the Bee-Stung Lips and Lon and Debra Davis, Francis X. Bushman: King of the Movies.

33. The latest TV series you watched?
Project Runway and True Tori (as mentioned, I really am a big Beverly Hills 90210 fan)

34. The last person you talked to?
Severin's babysitter's sister. The last sentient being I spoke to was Blue the cat.

35. Who did you last text with?
Evan, Lisa and Andrew.

36. Your favourite food?
Tom Kha Gai, wild salmon, good raspberries, good peaches, avocadoes, mum's chicken, mushroom and leek pie, and English or Belgian milk chocolate. And those amazing chocolate dipped fresh cream meringues that my grandmother used to get from Oelrichs.

37. Places you want to visit?
The pyramids, Florence, Paris, Berlin

38. The last place you visited?
Pittsburgh, PA. I was in a wedding.

39. Are you currently sweet on someone?
My baby boy.

40. The last person you kissed?

41. The last insult you were told?
I have no idea--but it probably came from the passive aggressive student I dealt with last week.

42. Your favourite candy flavour?
Don't have one. Unless it's chocolate

43. Do you play an instrument?
Clarinet and some piano.

44. Your favourite piece of jewelry? .
Tie between my grandmother's delicate rose gold watch and my rose gold S necklace with his date of birth on the back.

45. The last sport session you practiced?
Too long ago to know for sure, but it was probably pilates.

46. The latest song you sang?
Theme tune to Raa Raa, The Noisy Little Lion this morning

47. Your favourite catch phrase?
My grandmother's--"more haste, less speed."

48. Have you ever used it?
All the time, but only to myself.

49. Your last evening out?
Class of 2005 NYU MA reunion a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully there will be another one next year.

50. Who are you tagging?
Anybody who may be reading this. Which could be nobody.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rails shirts

Last week, I was meeting with a group of my favourite students, one of whom was wearing a beautiful plaid shirt. She told us to feel it--it was so soft and the fabric draped beautifully. She's the kind of girl who is unaware of her beauty--pretty much anything would look great on her--so I did not want to compare myself to her nor copy her style, but the shirt was nice and soft. It was by Rails, the LA-based company so favoured by west coast celebs. Usually, West Coast brands are not my style, but it is the season for checked shirts. When I got home, I found out that amazon had a few styles for 20% off, including one that was reduced. By the time all the discounts were applied, I got it for under half price ($61) with free shipping.

I'm now wearing it and it is soft and drapes so well that I'm tempted to get a second. I'm trying not to splurge on clothes this year--too many other expenses and important things to do--but if this one wears well, I may very likely buy a second, as long as I can get a discount.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Everlane Question

Many of my sweaters are beginning to look tired and it's that time of year again where my mind turns to winter dressing. I've been thinking about getting one of these Everlane cashmere crew necks, shown below, but before I bite, can anybody tell me about how soft they are, how likely they are to pill  and how they fit (too small, true to size)? I prefer fitted or fairly loose fitting sweaters and realise these are somewhere in between but don't want to get one that's too small to get that kind of fit. I'm presuming that too large wouldn't be an option. I'm a M in J Crew, a L in Madwell and around a 8-10, although these days more a 10. I also like the oversize ones, but I just don't do v-necks (if only they had a round neck). Thanks so much!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sleep Regression

Last time I posted, I was marvelling about Severin's sleep habits. Since then, everything has changed. He usually wakes up around 1 am, again at 2.45--both times ready to get up and play, and frustrated/angry with a mummy who won't let him have his way. He will then wake sometime around 5.30-6 am, ready to go. Some nights, I manage to get back to sleep, other times, I lay awake, roused at the wrong time in my sleep schedule. For the last few days, I've been running on four or so hours of sleep--five or six if I'm really lucky. Work has been heavy and I've just about managed to keep up with everything except some grading and email.

Sleep regressions occur with some regularity in a baby/toddler's first years of life, coinciding with periods of rapid development (crawling, walking, language acquisition). I'd noticed how Severin had really come on of late, interacting with us so much more, beginning to use language--no is his favourite word, one often used to comic effect and drawn out so that it has several more syllables and vowels, mama a close runner up. He frequently asks "what is this?" and boasts "I did it!" It's not surprising that a sleep regression is happening right now, except I always forget they exist and each time they recur, I'm stunned. I remember so much else but sleep problems are so difficult, you want to forget them. He went through one last year at this very time (crawling and pulling himself up to cruise around the furniture). With the clocks moving forward, it's going to be tough--as it was last year. I'm just hoping this passes as quickly as it has every other time. Maybe I'll even remember that sleep regressions occur next time his brain synapse development goes into overdrive.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turning a Corner?

On Saturday morning, Severin woke earlier than usual--5.17 am to be exact. I'm used to 6, resigned to the occasional 5.30 wakening and generally hope for 6.30, so this wasn't great but within the realm of normal. As I had a rare late night planned (a trip to the NYC Ballet to see their fashion programme), I decided to give him his bottle, leave him in his cot and see what happened. I'm usually in bed around 10-10:30 now so staying up till midnight was going to be a stretch even with a 6:30 am wake up call.

To my surprise, he went back to sleep until 7.40 am! I got home even later than planned on Saturday, fully expecting a brutal early morning. When I woke at 6.30, I only heard his faint snores--he woke at 8! I snoozed on and off--months of rising before daybreak are difficult to shake off. Today he woke at 7.30 (I stirred at 6.41).

I'm not expecting this to last but even if it lessens the chance of 4.45 am wakings after the clocks go forward, I'll be happy. And while I would really miss our early morning snuggles, I wouldn't mind having just a little more time in bed. It's way too early to adjust my routine (and I'd still happily go to bed with him at 8.30 on the nights I'm not in class), but these three mornings signify the changes that may be on the horizon.

That said, parenthood is about gains and losses. I love this increasingly independent, funny, joyous soul who is now able to communicate more, despite his boyish lateness with words. I'm having more fun with him than ever before. But I miss my little baby and regret that memories of his infancy are beginning to recede, despite those videos of his early days and weeks. I so want to experience all of this again, replete with knowledge that will help me savour it all with a better sense of how quickly it will all pass.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Farewell September

In some ways, this year is going fast. I can't believe we're 3/4 of the way through 2014, but I also feel like Severin has been mobile forever yet he wasn't able to walk on January 1. Time moves even more strangely when you have a child. Days can seem really long (because you are tired), weeks fly by because so much of your time is already committed (to the baby, to work, to getting all those other things done) and years move both quickly and slowly. I turned on my old work computer today--I had forgotten that I'd changed the wallpaper to a photo of baby Severin. It's not a compute I use often (it's old and obsolete so I bring in my laptop), but it was a pleasant surprise. It seemed like forever since he was that tiny (about 2 months old)--we've done and shared so much since then, and it almost seems like we didn't know each other quite so well back then.

Now the year is almost behind us, I have those usual thoughts about not accomplishing as much as I would have liked. I'm hoping to prove myself wrong and use those extra, cooler days to complete a couple more tasks, including the book proposal I've nearly finished and those articles that could be completed by the end of the year. With luck and even more hard work, I will be able to reflect on a productive 2014 in just three months time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What we're watching these days

Over the last 8 months or so, I've had to improve my time management skills. I used to be that person who'd follow a TV show to the bitter end, even those whose quality declined leaving me barely interested (I could, after all, multitask or send out emails while watching). Since Severin has been active and very mobile, that's changed. I used to think I was being a good media studies scholar as I completed show after show. Now I just don't have the time to spend on mediocre television. In fact, I watch very little now--some of it is for work (that doesn't mean it's quality TV--I watch TLC after all), a little for pleasure (I think I'm down to two or three shows now) and the rest is for children.

I'm careful about what Severin watches and how much TV he consumes. He would happily watch more than I allow, but he does get an hour or so early in the morning (6.30 am or so) and I sometimes get some very precious cuddle time. We basically watch CBeebies shows, sometimes live, but more often on youtube. He cycles through programmes, binging and then moving on, but his current favourites are Something Special with Mr. Tumble, Shaun the SheepRaa Raa the Noisy Little Lion, Small Potatoes and some of my childhood shows--the wonderful Bagpuss and The Herbs. He's also quite fond of Old Jack's Boat and Wibbly Pig.

I know this time will soon pass, that he will have other favourites, that he won't want mummy's cuddles so I'm enjoying every second. He even slept until nearly 8 am today, waking at his usual 6.30 for a bottle then settling back for a long nap. I stayed awake, holding him and worrying that he might be ill. He's fine, and it's likely just a one-off, but one day, he will sleep until 8 and it will be  a harbinger of a new sleep pattern, one where I may feel more rested but I won't have our precious early hours together.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some Autumn Picks: Part II

It's a lot easier to justify buying clothes for Severin. It's not just that he's a growing boy, but that he's guaranteed to look adorable in whatever he wears. I actually don't need to buy him that much this autumn as his spring clothes still fit. I learned the hard way that as sweet as one-pieces, rompers and even dungarees look, they only last for the shortest time. Just a half an inch growth renders them practically unwearable--the snaps snap open and the poor child is uncomfortable. Trousers and t-shirts can be worn a bit loose or a bit small (short trousers work as capris and then as shorts), especially when you get to the one year mark when their girth really doesn't change much. I've also been buying age 2-3 for a while and if something runs big, I'm really happy that we'll get even more wear out of it.

As for me, I've started to become very aware that clothes may look great on the model but not so nice on me, which makes shopping difficult. It's partly because of the post-pregnancy weight redistribution (I'm bigger on top, even if I'm the same from the waist and below) which also means I can't fit into many of my older clothes. It's not that much of a change in shape but I'm not used to dressing this way--skirts make me look big these days so it's really a return to the old pregnancy styles of dresses and jeans (I'm not pregnant, btw, even though I would love to be). I also feel invisible--not ugly, just unattractive--which relates to the tiredness and lack of me-time (hence sporadic blog posts), which leaves me with a grayish pallour and dull hair. I'm not complaining--I think this is a normal state of affairs for any mother of young children--and certainly I'd so much rather have Severin than lots of leisure. He is beyond joyous and I love him so much it actually hurts. I'm getting my work done, cooking, doing some cleaning and spending time with my dear, but that means I have almost no free time. That means no gym, no yoga, and despite what the media tell you, cutting out wheat and walking a lot with a pushchair doesn't get you skinny.

So, with that preamble, here's some of what I'm looking at/have purchased/fantasise about owing this season. In all likelihood, it will all look really dismal on me anyway, but I'm still imagining that I could look good again. If only I could lose 10 lbs and have glowing skin and hair again, I'd trade that for a few new dresses.

I'm still on my Madewell kick and have my eye on this shirt. I saw it in the store and the fabric is soft (like a fine, lightweight cotton flannel). I'm waiting for it to go on sale (and for the extra discounts they offer online) and hoping that I don't look like a plump middle-aged mum in a tent but rather something more stylish.

Alternatively, there's this dress in the same fabric. I've already got the same cut in the summer striped cotton and would probably size down in this (no need for as much fabric when it's cooler). It all depends on which looks less matronly on. Hopefully they do the shirt in another similar fabric (Madewell typically repeat their cuts) and I can get both--on sale.

I'm also curious about this cotton Madewell dress. It could be flattering, but equally, I could end up looking huge. Again, I'm more than happy to wait for a sale + coupon code.

I'm going to have to try these on, but if they are comfortable, I want to get these Oxfords. They come with (optional) laces.

I like this dress from Zara but will it like me? It's either going to be super flattering on hideous!

Monday, September 22, 2014

One More

From the first issue of Photo-Play Journal (not to be confused with the far better known Photoplay). I just love these graphics. It's nice to spend some time back in the mid 1910s again, this time for a different project. Writing the second book is so much less pressured--I feel I know what I'm doing and am happy to be doing it, even if I have to be more strategic with my time.

The second issue also had a pretty amazing masthead over its table of contents:

This vampire version further demonstrates their care and attention to style.

Of course, the cover art was also quite lovely.

Things You Find When Conducting Research

I'm deeply involved in researching and writing the next book, which is really fun and energising. I came across this ad (unrelated to my topic) which I had to share (from Picture-Play magazine, sometime in 1916).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Autumn Picks I: Severin

Here's the first of two posts on a few of the pieces I'm looking at for Severin and myself this autumn. I've included here some of the items I've already bought for him. I'm trying not to spend too much on my own clothing as I'm still feeling out of shape and tired (the only mothers of very active 20 month old boys who aren't are those who have infinite financial resources and endless help).

I've already mentioned how difficult it is to find nice clothes for young boys--and if it's hard when they are under one, it only gets worse as they grow. Severin is huge (off the scale for height and in the 80th percentile for weight--so tall and reasonably slender), wearing age 2-3 for the past few months which basically puts him in the last size for good toddler clothing (Boden, Frugi). We've already abandoned Baby Gap as their offerings for larger infants and toddlers suck. It's predominantly navy, black, grey and dull colours, macho or logo/slogan covered clothes and too many denim, canvas and other unyielding fabrics. At 20 months, his skin is still soft and his clothes should be too. I want bright colours, quirky styles, stripes, polka dots and stars, and, honestly, I'd like those options for a good few more years (retailers--wake up!). H&M basics does some really great striped t-shirts and long sleeved tops--cheap and in soft organic cotton. They go up to age 8 or so, which means I've got at least one affordable option as he grows. Curiously, their less basic line is worse in its styling, colour choices, fabrics and finish for a somewhat higher price. And Zara offers some nice pieces but the quality isn't as good and they are pretty overpriced.

Here are the H&M shirts I bought him (at just under $14 for three, they are a great deal--I wish they had them in my size).

H&M also do some nice bright coloured cotton trousers for older boys (yellow, purple, green, bright red) but those are for the future. Right now, I'm keeping him in his jersey shorts and trousers which have the added advantage of working well as shorts as he grows taller. My style inspiration for the future, older Severin comes from a 20-something Asian guy who was walking past our building wearing yellow narrow fit pants, rolled up to just above his ankle, a white Comme des Garçons Play long, loose fit t-shirt and a long, navy cardigan. The bright pants did it and I'm grateful that we crossed paths with such a stylish figure.

Most of my toddler picks are from Boden, which has become our staple Severin shop. We get a lot on sale. Although they don't allow you to double up their coupon codes with reduced merchandise, the codes sometimes get you clothing cheaper than on final markdown so we buy relatively often. As it's $50 minimun for free shipping, we opt for a mix of final sale and new items with coupon codes (this is the royal we, I realise, as I'm the one doing the shopping, not him). It's one of the few places where I find more items I want for him than I could ever afford to buy, and more than he'll actually need before he grows into the next size. Here are a few covets--and a couple of purchases.

What can I say? I want them all. The colours and appliques are so charming. And these are just three of a large list of similar items.

I've already bought him the shirt below--it's soft and it looks lovely on. Who can resist mummy and baby owls?

It will go perfectly with these trousers, all bought on sale. The darker ones are Mini Boden, and great for playtime at the park, but they lack the softness and style of the baby line.

Alas, the party will soon be over. When Severin grows out of baby Boden, then it's Mini Boden time which, alas, isn't so hot. The colours become more muted, the fabrics are not so soft and there is a definite strong masculinity that I would like to avoid until he makes it into High School at 11 (or even later if possible).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rest In Peace, Joan

A few years ago, Evan and I went to see Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I have to admit that, until then, I wasn't a fan. I didn't really know what she did other than red carpet commentary, and that she tended to work with her daughter. I was also familiar with the very 1980s images of her in ruffled Dynasty-style evening dresses and furs and had decided (on no evidence) that she was probably arch, unfunny and likely very irritating. I was wrong on all counts. After seeing the film, I realised why my friend Jane (with her own razor sharp wit and uniquely rude but loving demeanor) identified so closely with Joan Rivers, other than politically, of course. Another surprise in that film--that Joan was a Republican, something still unfathomable to me.

From that screening on, I became a fan. I watched Fashion Police every Friday before going to bed, watching with Jane, Ben, Evan (who couldn't tolerate the others but accepted Joan) or Margo in her living room in Clapham. Sometimes I'd save it for later and watch on my own. And many times, I'd call Jane (or think of her) when Joan was particularly outrageous. I'd marvel at how someone in their 80s could get ever younger, even as their face became more like that of a drag queen. On her, it worked.

She just seemed so young, so energetic and so witty and outrageous. It seems hard to believe that a small medical procedure could kill like that and so very sad. Words really fail me--we will miss you Joan. If Jane was in NYC, I know she'd try to gatecrash your funeral.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Madewell picks

Madewell has become my go-to store these days, surprisingly as I always found their clothes disappointing in person. I believe they have a new design team and I like what they're doing. Additionally, their clothes have the kind of ease (and washability) that works when you are running after a very active toddler. Here are a few pieces I'm likely to get if they are still in stock next time they have an extra percentage off.

It's cotton, a print, washable and has some interest around the collar. It also has pockets.

Not yet on sale, this one has mixed reviews but it's in cotton and has pockets. I'd definitely have to try it on as the other poncho dress they had looked ridiculous on, even in a size S (two sizes down).

This oversize lightweight linen cardigan is perfect--just what I need right now to cover my summer dresses when I take Severin out for a walk at 7 am or 6 pm. It's on sale but I need a promo to bite.

This one I own. It's so much nicer in person although it's more brown than orange-y red. I could wear it every day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall

Just the other day, I found a website listing the decreasing number of surviving Hollywood stars. I confess I was most interested in the few surviving figures from the silent screen--surprisingly a couple of (then) teenagers from the very late 1920s are still alive, although none reached any level of prominence. Lauren Bacall was on the list, but she wasn't the oldest and it wasn't a surprise (although I had no idea her near contemporary Lizabeth Scott was still with us). Just a teenager at the start of her career in the mid-1940s, she was one of the younger stars of the Classical era. Still working, tough, witty and in charge of all her faculties and still attractive, she appeared to be indestructible, a centenarian in the making despite her smoking habit.

Of course, she wasn't. On balance, I suppose a stroke at 89 is probably not the worst way to go but the loss of such an iconic figure is very sad. Besides losing such a talented figure who seemed like such a great woman, we've lost one of the few remaining links to Hollywood at its finest. I shouldn't say this as a film scholar, but the more I see of contemporary American film, the more my adolescent belief that the beginning of sound and the Paramount decrees severely diminished cinema seems less prejudicial and more accurate. (I now allow for the genius of much 1960s cinema and the work of later auteurs like Stanley Kubrick). Obviously, there are great films from every era--Joe Wright, Michael Winterbottom, Wong Kar Wai and Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Sofia Coppola are always interesting/brilliant but they aren't exactly of the mainstream, which used to be so strong.

I remember watching To Have and Have Not as an undergraduate. I was resentful that we had to study the stodgy Howard Hawks as an auteur not the more thrilling Langs of the year earlier, but he did bring Bacall to prominence and showcase her at her most beautiful. Watching that film, it's amazing that this was her first screen work--her presence is so strong and composed and she is utterly compelling. By the 1950s, she had taken on a more down-to-earth persona that was perhaps a little too mature for a 20-something, which was, perhaps, a reflection of 1950s fashions and feminine ideals. But at the end of the day, you can see why the men in The Cobweb, Written on the Wind and How To Marry a Millionaire might have favoured her characters over her more glamourous, flighty and/or neurotic costars.

Throughout her life, Bacall could act, was beautiful, mythical and bright, had a conscience, a brain and latterly showed us all how to age with style and grace. I'm glad she was with us so long but wish she could have survived just a little longer. Rest in well deserved peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Zara picks

I'm still at a stage where I can't contemplate spending a lot of money on clothes. We're well past the  infant messiness, but I want to be able to play without worries in clothing that's both easy and machine washable and I don't want to feel that anything can be destroyed by a messy toddler hand. Recently Severin grabbed the back of my new dress from & Other Stories with a chocolate covered hand but it was machine washable (and cheapish) so it didn't matter and the stain washed out. I suppose my priorities have changed--I still love clothes but I want to save for the boy and any sibling I hope he may have.

For the autumn/late summer, I like these pieces from Zara:

I like the colour, I like the fact that it's a print (better to disguise any spills) and while I know it's synthetic, I'm inclined to buy this one now. With a cardigan, tights and boots, it will take me into November.

It looks comfy, elegant and useful but as it is black (and I've got too many black dresses), I may pass. But still a nice option for the new semester. I like the fact it's really drapey, especially after having a child.

This one is lovely. That said, I'm annoyed as it's one of those Zara pieces I loved and would have probably paid full price (and it's a steep $129 for a synthetic) but they chose to only make it in S and M. Why on earth would they do that? If you are tall, like me, it doesn't take that much to need a L at Zara. What a stupid decision on their part.

Love the fabric and the style. The colours reminds me of discount Rachel Comey. It's from the junio TRF line so I'm not sure if it will fit or if it will look too cheap but I may order it anyway (returns are free).

Zara's knitwear is actually pretty decent and this cotton mix sweater looks like a perfect autumn option, pulled over either of the blue dresses above or worn with jeans.