Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Whites

As the holiday weekend approaches, and prepsters and hispters alike reach for the white, I am reminded of the many fashionites still adhering to the archaic rules which relegate the neutral to the back of the closet for 75% of the year. Besides the total misconception about the relevancy of an entire color (despite what my first boss believes, neutrals are color too), this antiquated idea of saving white for the 12 weeks between summer holidays is tantamount to using good china only for company.

Many of life's greatest pleasures need to be indulged in daily. Now that we are settled in a new apartment (exactly 3 times the size of both apartments I've lived in during my 6 post-college years), I am trying to heed my own advice. I wore my white jeans to work this week, and unpacked the Wedgewood gifted to us 9 months ago at my bridal shower. Frozen Lean Cuisine after a 12 hour work day just tastes better eaten off of fine white china rimmed with delicate platinum. Similarly, a difficult day at the office (where even the customer service people at Pottery Barn who cant schedule your couch delivery are giving you grief) is eased by an outfit that makes you comfortable and stylish enough that, when your boss (who wears a lot of Prada) calls you in, your ensemble distracts her from the case of shoes you accidentally had overnighted to Florida instead of California.

Spend your weekend (and extra day off if you, unlike me, actually have one) doing something that makes you happy, wearing something that makes you smile. Break out the madras, the white, the Wedgwood. And the leggings can be packed away for now (or forever, preferably. Spandex is nobody's friend in humidity).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Filling in the Gap

A friend recently forwarded me this article on the perpetual folly that is the Gap. He, like me, was once an ally of the struggling chain, turning to the stalwart for all his cotton t-shirt needs. But despite the talent at its helm, and a decent denim collection this past fall, the brand cannot seem to get out of its own way.

The downward trend (in terms of both style and stock) is the culmination of several factors, all slowly sucking the life out of the American chain. When people think of the brand, the classic boy-next-door, adorned in plaid and khaki with a hooded sweatshirt for good measure, comes to mind. Rumple his hair, add a distressed messenger bag, and you have the window display for the past decade. But in an era where premium denim reigns supreme, and jean brands are as pricey as their names are pompous (Citizens of Humanity? Seven for All Mankind? Not all mankind can spend $300 on denim, nor does all of humanity really shop at Bloomingdales) the Gap has fallen into a rut.

And because it is the Gap, and not Banana Republic, is anyone willing to spend more than $58 on a cotton sweater? If you, like many, have found your beloved $10 white t misshapen and not fit for sleeping after a few washes, you're not alone. The catch 22 of sorts is trying to build a collection within a budget, and make it appear to exude quality, without actually upping production costs (Industry standard is a mark up, or profit margin, of about 72%-75%). You cant spend more making the clothes without raising retail, yet you can't raise retail without changing attitudes so that shoppers will shell out the extra $10-$20. So what is to be done? Though news of any retailer facing impending doom is saddening for me, there is a certain survival of the fittest and market competition at the heart of capitalism that I can't fight. While I hope to see Patrick Robinson live up to his infinite potential, I'd also settle for some quality cotton t's circa 1995.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dressing for the Ages

This weekend I attended my hubby's 10 year high school reunion at a ritzy Connecticut all boys boarding school with picturesque views and vineyard vines galore. Of course the hubs was no help when I asked what to pack for the Saturday evening cocktail reception and sit down dinner, so I packed my trusty black dress as well as a brighter, preppier option that ended up being the chosen one for the evening. (The 4 inch Michael Kors, however, proved an ill advised decision when faced with cobblestone.)

The festivities were attended by multiple generations, all celebrating a variety of reunion milestones. But the more salt than pepper hair and weathered smile lines were not the giveaway as to exactly which anniversary each group was celebrating. Rather it was the self-assigned dress codes that earmarked the decades.

A herd of long haired, rambunctious guys in wrinkled Nantucket reds, denim and Birkenstocks (which I didn't know were even still around) screamed class of '05 through swigs of bottled Bud Light. The class of '00 was slightly less rumpled, but ties and closed toe shoes were still scarce. The largest bunch of graduates were decked in full suits, ray bans, and accompanied by frosted blonde women with high neck lines, low heels, and a plethora of pashminas. The generation gap once you jump beyond the year 2000 is more vast than any other such valley. Is it purely age, or the style wisdom that comes with experience that causes men to replace Birkenstocks with Brooks Brothers? (I have to admit to owning a pair in college, but they have long since been donated, or burned, whichever got them out of my closet faster.) Though I am a New Yorker, I feel at home among the preppy, and can't help but smile at Nantucket red and madras (even in early May). I just wish the generations would get on the same page when it comes to sandals and cocktails- the two should not be in the same room (and yes, for this purpose, Bud Light is a cocktail).

Thursday, May 13, 2010


From my semester abroad in Australia, I know the potential of the often overlooked stateside brand, Esprit. After a wave of notoriety in the 90's the retailer seemed to have fallen asleep at the wheel. But the brand that appears quaint and homey (and homely?) with its summer dresses and cotton tops has 800 stores and is sold in 14,000 wholesale locations worldwide (and also licenses to several 3rd party vendors, which also interests me professionally). A 25% off dress event tugged my sleeve as I passed by the flat iron location, and was worth the detour.

Marie Claire describes Esprit's aesthetic as "perennial schoolgirl" and they're not wrong in their assertion. A new collection backed by model Daisy Lowe has promise for carving a touch of edge into the otherwise sweet brand. The edc line features leather, cropped vests, and an occasional stud along a seam. And the price is right in this still fragile economic abyss, with denim ranging from $59-$89, and outerwear hovering in the low $100 territory. In the spirit of not judging a book by its cover, don't be turned off by the junior-esqe feel to the website, take a stroll through one of the various Manhattan locations and have a look for yourself. (This jersey drape cardigan is a much more wallet friendly alternative to the pricier American Apparel varieties.)

Happy shopping

Monday, May 10, 2010

Karmic Style

Watching many hours of reality TV shows can sometimes rub off on us in unexpected ways. No matter what the Housewives (of New York, New Jersey, or any city in between) spend their ample time and funds on, it's never a good idea to emulate. It's like the thin, murky line between knock off and inspiration- take one step too far and you've become a clique.

Over the weekend, I got an email from a fan that turned a stressful day of packing into a sublime day of productivity. Not wanting to copy my fan's gesture with a similarly flattering email to a blog author I adore, I instead thought of another method of doing a good deed that might propel the spirit forward. With an impending move less than 2 weeks away, we decided to donate all of our furniture and made endless calls to arrange the feat. (You would be surprised how many thrift shops and organizations are not that happy to receive an apartment full of gently used furnishings. After 6 phone calls and declined offers, I was loosing my charitable spirit.) I then ransacked my closet for all wearable items that were 'interview appropriate' and handed them over to the Dress for Success effort at my office. (Buying a case of dog food and granola bars for the homeless man and his pet I pass on the way to work everyday doesn't count since that was pre-blog fan email, and therefore not in the new momentum of this idea. But that made me happy, which in turn reminded me of the episode of Friends where Phoebe proves all good deeds are inherently selfish. Which is true, no?)

Contrary to what I may think, telling someone that their pants are a size too small or that their white t-shirt with yellow armpit stains isn't really a good choice to impress the new boss doesn't count as a 'good deed', no matter how noble your intentions. I'm not sure I can ever turn off the voice that screams when I see leggings in the office, or stop the eyes that roll when I pass a faux Louis Vuitton bag with its telltale orange glued seams. But in an effort not to turn into the catty women I am fascinated by watching on Bravo, I shall try. (Luckily there won't be any cameras following me anytime soon to capture my progress, or lack thereof.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

After a particularly gut wrenching week during which I've reconsidered my chosen career, pictures of pretty things can do wonders for the spirit. I'm not a proponent of shopping to fill a void, or spending money to save your sanity, but there are times when a little retail therapy is a necessary prescription (so I told myself on the way home from work around 10pm last night when I was happy to find a few stores still open on 34th street, and managed to find a few moderately priced spring tops that eased my pain).

This month's Anthropologie catalog takes you back in time to an era when women dressed up to do the laundry and walk the dog. (There are times I think perhaps I could be happy leaving the work force and being a housewife, donning day dresses and cooking all afternoon, or moving to Vermont and making cheddar. But then my mother reminds me I'm lactose intolerant, and tells me I would last five minutes being home all day, and she is right about both.) This patchwork inspired catmint dress is a friendly nod to a simpler time. A friend recently mentioned being very into Free People lately, which reminded me of the brand's classic vintage spin and fresh prints for spring. Their website feels like the trip I took upstate to the Blue Grass Festival with my college friends the summer after graduation (to which I could have worn this tunic and fit in smashingly). A cowboy hat and calico dress can brghten anyone's day.

Happy shopping, and happier times for the weekend.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dressing Down=Downhill

A prime example of practicing what you preach occurred this week. After serving as maid of honor (technically 'matron, of honor' but that just sounds old) all weekend for my wonderful friend out east, I arrived home Sunday night thoroughly exhausted from 3 days of fun. When Monday morning rolled around (which, in retail, require being at my desk by 7:30 am) I had little energy for getting dressed. A peak outside revealed a day as gray as my mood, and as dark as my apartment with a still fast sleep husband. I settled on a casual oxford, slouchy boyfriend jeans and boat shoes, an ensemble that did not make me feel happy or put together for a Monday in the least. The muggy humidity from Sunday's heat wave hung in the air like dirty laundry and hit me in the face as I exited my apartment.

From there the day went downhill quickly. The train was 10 minutes late, and then ran at a physically painful speed which I could have out ran on foot, in stilettos. The main door to my office building was locked with a metal gate (a sure sign that it's too early to be there, no?) and I had to buzz the warehouse stock men to let me in through the truck entrance. My co-worker called in sick, and I had the pleasure of running twice the number of Monday reports. After compiling said reports frantically for the 10 am morning meeting, said meeting was canceled. When lunch time rolled around and I had already put in a 7 hour day, I discovered the Luna Bar I had banked on eating had been snatched by a coworker on Friday while I was out east for my friend's rehearsal. 6:00 mercifully arrived, at which time I bolted from the building and headed for the train. The day's reckoning was not yet complete as a gigantic body of water disguised as a shallow puddle swallowed the lower half of my leg on the corner adjacent from the train.

Today, though my alarm failed to go off and I thus slept through my morning workout, I was determined to stop another bad day in its tracks. I took the time to choose a skirt, sandals, silk tank and belt that put the spring back in my step (enough to avoid the lingering puddles). The ensemble elevated my mood and prevented an encore to Monday. Behold the power of the outfit.