Falling in Love with the ’40s

I’ve been inspired by the 1940’s and apparently I’m not alone.  I came across this window at a Max Mara store in Piacenza last month and was so taken with the image that I had to snap a photo.  The close-fitting but flattering shapes, the colors and textures drew me in.

Window of Max Mara in Piacenza, Italy

As soon as I came home I made a beeline for TJ Maxx to mine the racks for similar shapes.  TJ Maxx may not have the Prada, Dior and Gucci I was surrounded by at outlets in Italy, but I can shop at TJ Maxx and still pay my mortgage.  Priorities, you know.

Anyway, I found this red, wool pencil skirt.  A soft, cotton, sleeveless blouse with rosette appliqués is the perfect silhouette to pair with the skirt.  Finished with platform, red Michael Kors maryjanes, I think I managed to pay homage to the era without looking as if I’m in costume.

The tailoring, fit and jewel-toned colors of the 1940’s are going to figure prominently in my fall/winter wardrobe.

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The DSquared Fashion Show

Hi, folks.  I apologize for being so lackadaisical about updating the blog.  After I arrived home from my (incredible!) trip to Italy last weekend, I came down with some sort of heinous infection.  I’ve been coughing, sneezing, sleeping and sipping hot toddies all week.  Trust me, it was better that I didn’t blog under those conditions.

Now I’m on the upswing, if not quite 100%, and I owe you a recap of the DSquared fashion show during Milan Fashion Week last week.

We arrived by scooter and I’m deeply ashamed I don’t have a picture of me perched on the back of Harlow’s scooter wearing my 5-inch heels.  We planned to get someone to snap a photo but it never happened.  My bad.

Back to the show.  DSquared is a line designed by identical twin brothers Dean and Dan Caten, Canadians whose design house is in Milan.   The Catens are renowned for their stage shows and, I have to tell you, as refined, understated and sophisticated as Missoni was, DSquared was its polar opposite.  The music was pounding, the tent, stage and runway were black and it was super intense.

From my perspective, the target demographic seems to be 20-year-old socialites.  The skirts and shorts were of the micro variety, i.e. we watched a lot of buttcheeks make their way down the runway.  And layers upon layers of chains.  But paired with those cheeks and chains were sharp, white button-down blouses and exquisitely-tailored, PINK, brocade blazers.  Price issue aside, I could see my somewhat longer in the tooth self wearing those blouses and jackets.

My iPhone was not capable of taking focused photos of the fast-moving runway but I snapped a few pics of the gathered fabulousness before and after the show to share.

The crowd in anticipation of the show

The press corp stationed at the end of the runway

An Italian celebrity explaining to the press that she chose a bright yellow dress because the day was overcast but she felt like smiling. Her metallic pink shoes made me smile.

Harlow outside the show wearing a funky little hat made of corn husks. Very 40s. Very chic.

Me, also outside the show, wearing all black and hoping I look as if I belong there.

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Missoni…finally

It was about a year ago that Missoni designed a line of goods for Target. I wrote of my excitement about owning a small piece from the venerable Italian design house. Alas, a nationwide horde of e-Bay aficionados wiped out Target’s inventory before I could get to the store after work on launch day. I also wrote about my disappointment and sincere hope that none of those killjoys made any money off their “ill-gotten gains”.

Well, Sunday afternoon I had the chance to see the Missoni spring/summer 2013 collection in person.

I’ve never been to a major fashion week runway show so I felt like a kid on her first trip to FAO Schwartz! My eyes tried, but surely failed, to take in every detail. First, there was the traffic jam of cars and limos full of attendees trying to get to the show. We parked a few blocks away so avoided the worst of it.

Next was the scrum (a rugby term, but it’s accurate) of people waiting to get in. Beefy bodyguards made sure everyone entering had invitations in our hot little hands and we were surrounded on all sides by varying degrees of fabulousness.

Once on the grounds, we stood taking iPhone photos like a couple of tourists. I didn’t care – these people will probably never see me again so I couldn’t be bothered about how gauche I might’ve appeared. In other words, I was a photo-snapping fool. And I was very excited to see a fashion legend: Hamish Bowles, Vogue editor-at-large, waiting along with the rest of us.

Inside we found a good vantage point in a standing section and waited for the show to begin. The thumping soundtrack started and a parade of stick-thin models strutted down the catwalk wearing the Missoni spring/summer line. The line was beautiful, ethereal, fun, sexy. And over in about 8 minutes. I might be overestimating.

Next up: D-Squared!

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Italian Vintage (Not Wine)!

After falling in love with a Comme des Garçons jacket at an outlet store then realizing the dollar equivalent was almost my entire shopping budget, I quickly made a strategic shopping decision: focus on accessories.

In Milan I purchased a few very interesting, unique pieces of jewelry, all of which I’ll wear often. But it’s my flea market finds that I’m most excited about. I was having lunch with Harlow and Sylvia in Pianello, a tiny dot on the map south of Milan, and, afterward, we perused the weekend flea market.

Harlow first spotted a vintage, chocolate brown, reptile skin purse with a gold, chain shoulder strap and substantial gold clasp. Probably 1950’s or 1960’s. It’s in excellent condition – no frayed edges or corners, the metal isn’t worn, the inside pocket’s zipper is intact and it’s very clean. I’ve been tucking the chain inside and wearing it as a clutch, a shape which is having a moment this fall/winter. Harlow negotiated on my behalf and got €10 knocked off the price. Definite score. By the way, this vendor, Gloria di Simoni also sells bespoke purses.

Then, at the other end of the market, my dear Harlow spied a ridiculously beautiful wrap.

This vendor claimed it’s cashmere, though it’s most likely a cashmere/wool blend. And, yes, that’s mink along the edges. It’s so Doris Day in every movie she made with Rock Hudson. The vendor told us she bought a Gucci bag from someone and found this wrap inside. “Maybe it’s even Gucci, too.” Nice try, but doubtful. In fact, I suspect it’s a very well handmade piece. It is the most gorgeous wrap in the history of gorgeous wraps. Fact. Harlow whispered that the stated price was probably fair, but she still felt certain there was room for negotiation. She and Sylvia launched into a double-team effort to reduce the price. When all was said and done, my “team” reduced the price by €20.

These incredible finds together would’ve cost €600-700 in a Milanese boutique. I paid a tiny fraction of that, which will only add to the enjoyment I get from wearing them.

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Stile Italiano (Italian Style)

While I’ve been on vacation in Italy I’ve wrestled with what to focus on for this week’s post. There’s been so much to see, mull over and write about!

But what’s most influenced me this week is Italian style. Not fashion, of which there is MUCH, but style.

My friend, Harlow, and I were talking about Italian style yesterday on our boutique crawl (like a pub crawl but with less booze and greater expense). We Austinites like to think of ourselves as “laid back” in terms of style. And while that’s certainly accurate, it could also less generously be called sloppy, careless, lacking. Not that I would ever apply any of these adjectives to my friends and neighbors.

On the other hand, when Italians are in the public sphere they’re going to look their best. Just now, an electrician came to the house to investigate a little issue and he was in designer jeans. That’s commitment, folks.

In my not-so-humble opinion, people here have an impressive sense of style. Harlow, who has lived in Italy for well over a decade, sees Italians as more conservative compared to, say, the French. But from my “laid back” perspective the effortless yet stylish way they put themselves together is a refreshing change from what I generally see at home.

I snapped a couple of pics while out and about to illustrate my point. In one photo, an older woman is wearing a fairly conservative blue blouse. Chanel, I think. Worn with a navy or black skirt and pumps, it would be part of a very conservative, predictable ensemble. Instead? She’s wearing it with white jeans and tall black boots. To me, she is the opposite of conservative and predictable. Her style is classic and timeless without being prim and proper.

In the other photo, another, also older, woman is wearing an on-trend long cardigan. If she’d worn it with loose-fitting trousers and loafers, she would be the epitome of prim and proper. But she’s wearing slim-fitting trousers, flat sandals, black sunnies, and a scarf tied at her neck. Her style is sophisticated and chic.

These ladies might be nonnas but there’s certainly nothing granny-ish about their style.

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Vacation Time (aka What Am I Gonna Pack?!)

[This is the first post I've written on my iPhone - please excuse any typos!]

So, in just over a week, I’m off to spend time in Italy. Don’t hate. Yes, it’s a vacation and I intend to take full advantage of this break from “real life”, but I will also be snapping and posting photos of interesting fashion and style I find on the streets of Milan, an assignment that should be easier to accomplish than falling off a pair of six-inch heels.

However, right now I’m consumed with what to pack! I actually, briefly, considered using only a carry-on bag so I wouldn’t have to hassle with checking baggage. But, my shoes alone make that an incredibly stupid idea. Now that I’m over that moment of insanity and resigned to hanging out at the baggage carousel, I’ve decided on a selection of mix-and-match neutrals and colorful accessories. I’ll pack my classic, black trench coat, a cocktail dress, a couple of swimsuits and a cover-up in case we decide to hit a beach and I should be prepared for whatever adventures await. Unless those adventures take place at the baggage carousel, in which case I’m hosed.

But if you have other suggestions, I’m all ears…as long as you don’t suggest limiting my traveling shoe selection, which would just be crazy.

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Fear of Fashion Failure

There’s a snarky little voice inside all our heads that helpfully informs and reminds us what we cannot do.

I still remember the time that voice spoke so loudly I’d swear an actual person was attached to it.  It was during my first half marathon and it was saying “You can’t finish this race.  Let’s stop at 8 or 9.  Yeah, let’s stop at 8.  Surely, someone will come get you.”

I didn’t listen then and I make every effort not to listen to it when it says anything else because that “helpful” little voice is a liar.  Always.  Every time.  Without fail.

This year I wanted to push myself a little.  I made – and met – athletic goals and even managed to score a couple of medals along the way.  I made – and am meeting – some fashion goals, too.  I usually don’t wear bold prints but I’ve rocked some bold prints.  I usually don’t wear bright colors and I’ve been ALL OVER that trend.  That little voice said I was a fashion minimalist and that prints and bright colors weren’t “me”.  The voice is bulls**t.

So when it says “Oh, you can’t pull off (fill in the blank)!”  Don’t listen to it.  Don’t let fear of fashion failure keep you from experimenting with something new.  Try it.  Even if you only in the safety of a store’s dressing room…or your bedroom.  Yes, maybe you’ll strike out.  As a wise woman I spoke to recently said “So what?!” But don’t let that snarky little voice tell you what you cannot do.

Because there’s another possible outcome: maybe you’ll knock it (and that voice!) out of the park.   And that, my friends, is worth the risk of failure.

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