Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Luscious Lips for Fall

In Helena Frith Powell’s delightful book All You Need to Be Impossibly French, the pre-pubescent author meets Sophie, a Parisienne so impossibly chic that she is, so to speak, the word made flesh. Sophie tells her that all she really needs to be a Frenchwoman are two lipsticks and a lover. And one of those two lipsticks should be a luscious shade of red. This simple, straightforward statement puts the priorities of the Frenchwoman into perspective.

When Eurodisney (now known as Disneyland Paris) opened to the north of Paris in 1992, my friend, Sandrine, thought it might be fun to work there. Upon applying for a position, she was told that female employees were not permitted to wear red lipstick. Her choice was either pale pink or none at all. “Quelle horreur!”she responded and walked out on the spot, as did many more like her, until the Disney people finally came to their senses and changed the policy.

Some form of enhancement of lip color has been around since Cleopatra smeared a concoction mixed with iodine and poisonous mercury onto her lips to give her pucker a lethal punch.

The first modern lipstick in a metal tube, the product of a French chemist, was born in the 1920s and baptized “Rouge Baiser” or “Red Kiss.” And at about that same time in America, the Revson brothers created a new company and launched Revlon’s own line of luscious red lip colors followed a decade later by nail polish to match. While there is some question as to whether “Revlon Red” predated “Rouge Baiser,” there is no question about their effect. Suddenly, for the price of a tube of lipstick, any woman could look and feel like a Hollywood film star.

Fall is the perfect season to find your perfect shade of red. Overnight, cosmetics counters have gone from the bright pastels of summer to the golden russets and deep burgundies of fall, and somewhere within that range of rich colors is a red lipstick with your name on it. For those of you “d’un certain âge” or who have full or thin lips and have been told to avoid red altogether, I have only one word to say – “Nonsense.” Simply avoid dark, matte reds and opt for clear, more translucent reds that complement your skin tone. Cool skin tones look best in blue reds (think deep rose) while warm skin tones look best in yellow reds (think juicy tomato).

I found my perfect shade of red, “Poppy,” at the Laura Mercier counter, and every time I slip it on I think about impossibly chic Sophie and wonder if she is right. Are two lipsticks and a lover all a woman really needs? Probably not, but it’s a great place to start!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn in New York

Paris has my heart but New York has my soul. Outside my window the dogwood leaves have already turned to flame and will soon be swirling around my feet as the autumn breezes begin to stir. Something inside me is also beginning to stir.


Somewhere in the distance Old Blue Eyes is singing “Autumn in New York.”

“It’s autumn in New York. It’s good to live it again.”

Add caption
Source:  Autumn Cozy

And nobody wears the colors of autumn better than New York.

If you’re going to fall in love, this is the time and this is the place to do it, because this is the time of year when New Yorkers fall in love with their City all over again. You can feel that tingle in the air as they reconnect with each other over cocktails, romantic dinners for two and long walks in Central Park.

Ah! There’s nothing like sipping a cocktail in the Rainbow Room. In Paris, I have an apéritif before dinner. In New York, I have a cocktail. New Yorkers love their cocktails, and none captures the mystique of the Big Apple better than the cocktail that bears its name – the Manhattan.

Take some whiskey, sweet vermouth, add a dash of Angostura bitters, stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a Maraschino cherry. And if you can drink more than one and walk away in a straight line, there’s a role waiting for you on “Mad Men.”

Stories of who made the first Manhattan are part of the fabric of New York legends, but I know who made the best -- my mother’s Aunt Emily. A tall, elegant woman who worked in the fashion business, Emily smoked, drank and loved the company of men. They, in turn, loved her Manhattans. After Emily’s death, her sister, Annie, revealed the secret of Aunt Emily’s Killer Manhattans. She marinated the cherries in the whiskey and vermouth before serving.

“It’s autumn in New York. It’s good to live it again.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fashion Week in New York – A Few Quick Thoughts

September 17th, the day after the last of New York Fashion Week festivities, and I am sifting through materials about what was seen and heard and what the fashionistas think it all means. The ultimate arbiter of that meaning, of course, will be the consumer. By spring Fall Fashion Week hits and their variations will have passed from runway to store rack to the hanger in your closet. That’s my definition of a hit. The misses will either be forgotten or consigned to the backs of desperate fashion wannabees.

While the fashion industry traditionally wrinkles its collective nose when the discussion turns to the dreaded “w” word (“wearable”), more and more of them are getting the message. And the message is that most women lead complicated lives and want uncomplicated clothes with longevity, which means classic, versatile, high quality at a reasonable price. In short..........wearable! Is that too much to ask? Apparently, Donna Karan didn’t think so. DKNY was her response to this need in 1989 when she sent her DKNY line down the runway for the first time. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the fashion world took note.

In increasing numbers, high-end designers are developing secondary lines of wearable, affordable clothing and their visibility on the runway continues to grow. Last week in New York was no exception.

Known for his dramatic evening gowns, Zac Posen made the decision to showcase his secondary line, Z Spoke, last week on the runway in place of his main collection.

The Z Spoke line is a less expensive, casual line that features uncomplicated, easy-to-wear jersey knits and fun fabrics. T-shirts start at $80. Accessories will be added to the line shortly.

Mr. Posen will be showing his main collection in Paris where he can give full rein to his theatricality, no doubt before a more appreciative audience. You don’t go to a Paris show for a New York dose of reality; you go for that intoxicating whiff of Gallic drama.

Badgley Mischka decided to send both its couture collection and secondary line, Mark + James, down the runway together last week.

Co-designer Mark Badgley is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “It’s opened up a whole new world of customers.” Badgley Mischka’s traditional customer is “not just buying couture. She’s buying one couture piece and then four or five pieces from the lower-priced contemporary collection.”

From a business and marketing standpoint, it made perfect sense to combine the two lines in one show.

Although designers run the risk of cheapening their high-end lines in order to market their secondary lines, you will be seeing more of them willing to run that risk. If managed carefully, it will be a win-win situation for both designer and consumer. The former gets to increase his loyal following, while the latter gets to add something wearable to her wardrobe. Will the dreaded “w” word one day lose its stigma in the fashion world? What do you think?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Fashion Flash 2010 – Shoes!!

Having given my fall/winter handbags a good going over (see previous Post – “Fall Fashion Flash 2010 – Handbags”), my shoes are next on the program, which takes considerably more time, because I own many, many pairs. It’s not just that I adore them, which I do, I am obsessed with collecting them for a very practical reason. I wear a Cinderella-sized 4, which means that every time I find a pair of shoes in my size (Cue the heavenly chorus!!!), I am convinced that this is the last pair of shoes I will ever find in my size, so I buy them in every color. Does that sound a bit silly and paranoid, not to mention expensive? Allow me to explain.

In my lifetime, the foot size of the average woman has increased dramatically. My 5’8” Mother wore a size 6 ½ and was considered to be average. One day I will wake up and find the shoe industry no longer makes shoes in size 4, since there will probably be only two or three women left on the planet with feet that size. It is for that dark day that I have been preparing my shoe stash. You see? I am neither silly nor paranoid. I just like to be prepared. Some people stash canned goods in their basement in anticipation of a cataclysmic world event. I prefer to stash shoes.

So, what will I add to my stash this fall?

Without any doubt and with yet again a very significant nod to “Mad Men” and the 60s, the “it” shoe of this season is the kitten-heeled pump. The classic kitten-heeled pump from that era has a pointed toe and a slender heel of about 2” and nobody wore them more beautifully than Audrey Hepburn.

My first pair of heels looked exactly like the ones Audrey is wearing here in this shot from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Like your first kiss, you never forget your first pair of heels.

(l to r: Jimmy Choo $695; Prada $595)

For those of you who are loathe to totter about in stilettos, the kitten heel gives your foot and leg all the grace and elegance without any of the pain of its more vertiginous sister.

It goes with everything from your prim and proper A-line skirt to your sexiest skinny jeans. And when it comes to the LBD, well, other than a glass of champagne, it’s the perfect accessory.

You will be seeing lots of furry boots this fall and winter. Some are actually quite flattering.

The Ralph Lauren boots on the left look exactly like a pair my Mother wore in the 60s, although hers had a bit less fur.

The Thakoon boots on the right look more like a shoe with an ankle muff to me, but they are adorable nonetheless.

These are both hits in my book.

There are, of course, the inevitable misses…………….

My first words upon seeing these Chanel boots cannot be shared with you in a polite family forum such as this, no matter how much they made my husband laugh. Suffice it to say they had something to do with two large Pomeranians doing something rather rude to her legs.

Other than that, I have nothing to say about these boots, except that you will no doubt see them, or something similar, on the streets of New York this fall.

They will be worn by those who can carry them off and by those who cannot.

Thigh-high boots are big again in leather and in suede (l to r: Berardo, Jacobs, Hermès & Marant).

I find the suede boots much softer and more feminine than the leather thigh-highs, which have a vaguely dominatrix look about them…… unless of course that’s what you are going for.

Ideally, you should be at least 5’10”, 5’ of which is legs, and weigh about 100 lbs. if you want to wear these. For those of you who are not, you need to keep proportion in mind if you want to pull off this look.

Keep your tops tunic-top short and make sure some leg shows in between, whether or not you opt for colored/patterned tights. For chilly evenings, a long coat (mid-calf or longer) worn open or draped over your shoulders will add a bit of drama to the ensemble.

As for me, I will definitely be adding to my shoe stash this fall………..kitten heels in every color!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fall Fashion Flash 2010 - Handbags

Labor Day weekend is behind us, summer is officially over and New York is buzzing with activity. Fashion Week 2010 begins on Thursday. While I will keep an eye on the goings on in the Big Apple, I will use that time to give my own Fall/Winter wardrobe a good going over. Yes, I do, indeed, practice what I preach. I like to start with the fun stuff and then build slowly to a crescendo of activity as I move through my closet. The first thing I always look over are my handbags.

Our handbags get quite a beating. We overstuff them, we drop them on the floor and we expose them to the vagaries of the elements. And, yet, we truly love them, and our relationships with our favorite handbags last longer than most celebrity marriages.

We rarely go anywhere without them. In fact, it was the presence of a handbag and the absence of its owner that finally convinced Grace Kelly in Rear Window that Jimmy Stewart’s suspicions that his neighbor had killed his wife were probably correct. As she explained it, every woman has a favorite handbag and she never goes anywhere without it.

There does come a time in every relationship when we have to face the fact that our faithful handbag is now more shabby than chic and needs to go to its richly deserved reward.

Time to go shopping for a new one, and there’s no time like the present to see what’s on offer this fall.

No one seems to be sure when or even if this economic downturn will turn around, but according to the Wall Street Journal the handbag industry, top to bottom, is still doing very well, thank you very much. I told you we love our handbags.

Let me show you a few of my favorite fall finds.

The Tignanello Polish Pocket Convertible Satchel (Leather, 10" W x 9" H x 5-3/4" D) at Macy’s, comes in three colors, but this warm cognac speaks for itself without need of embellishment.

Its clean, classic lines make it the perfect go-anywhere, do-anything bag. And at $110.99, it’s a great price.

The Aegean Oversized Flap Clutch (Silk Shantung, 15” L x 9.5” H x 1” D with strap) at Couture Candy, in gorgeous Peacock is a little pricey at $228, but every girl needs a great clutch, n’est-ce pas?

With this bag in your beautifully manicured hands and a simple gold cuff on your wrist, you can command the room.

Speaking of wrist jewelry, this is Tiffany’s new Bracelet Bag (Satin, 8.25″W x 4.75″D x 4.75″H), shown here in their signature blue color. The handle doubles as a bracelet, hence the name.

It seems that Tiffany & Co. have seen the hand(bag)writing on the wall and have decided to become a serious player in the luxury handbag game.

This little gem will set you back $795. Will the Tiffany bag one day rival the Hermès bag? Only time will tell.

Which reminds me, did I ever tell you about how I got my Kelly Bag? No? Well, that’s a tale for another time. Stay tuned……