Sunday, February 26, 2012

Celeb Street Chic – Getting It Right

Whether stepping in front of the camera or out onto the street, in the good old days of Hollywood glam, the Studios made sure that their Stars always looked perfectly put together

Except for Red Carpet events, today’s celebrities and those who are just famous for being famous are pretty much on their own, with predictable results.

Without the proper guidance, many of them just don’t have a clue about style and how to put themselves together.

Many………..but not all. Some of them definitely do get it right.

It doesn’t get more right than this. Actress Ali Larter, a New Jersey native I hasten to add proudly, has put together a fabulous street chic outfit in neutral tones.

This whole look is about layers and texture. The loose Tee has a silky feel to it and its rounded hem peaks out from a cropped blazer. That fitted jacket in grey tweed gives the entire outfit structure and classic sophistication.

The skin-tight leather pants and sexy stilettos add a dash of je ne sais quoi, and we all know quoi when we see it, don’t we, Ladies?

Ditto for the studded neutral bag which adds a bit of rocker edge.

And, is that a little pop of red peaking out of her handbag? Perhaps a scarf she threw in at the last minute in case the weather should turn nippy. What a great touch.

Except for a bracelet (which could be a watch), the entire outfit is unembellished, and its clean lines just epitomize the best of casual street chic.

At first glance you might be tempted dismiss Katie Holmes’ look here as a bit too casual…on the verge of sloppy.

But, give it a second look and you’ll see that it has a sweet, simple charm all its own.

Again, the look is about neutrals and texture. The over-sized, bulky knit sweater over a pair of skin-tight jeans and suede boots, all in neutral shades, create a perfect balance for her small frame.

The eye goes immediately to the over-sized, bright red bag which crosses her body on the diagonal, visually breaking up the bulk of the sweater.

Not only are there no embellishments, but Katie has pulled her hair up into a sweet and simple chignon, and, unless I’m very much mistaken, there appears to be not a hint of makeup on that classically beautiful face.

I think she looks adorable.

I just love this outfit on Jessica Alba.

The whole thing has a vintage feel to it until you get to the shoes.

The mid-calf floral dress is pure 60s. I had one just like it……actually, I think I had quite a few……….it was the “it” dress of its time.

The print on the dress is in warm tones, but she has chosen to top it off with an interesting scarf duo – one in a warm tone which picks up one of the shades in the dress, and the other in a cool tone.

The addition of that outer scarf in a cool tone, what appears to be a pale grey or pewter, is an interesting choice as the color contrast makes the whole outfit pop.

And then there are those adorable wedge booties in a warm neutral whose color does not compete for attention with the dress. They don’t need to. They create their own style buzz by kicking the whole outfit up several notches from retro to modern.

Just look at her face. When a woman touches her hair like that, she is telling the world that she looks fabulous and she knows it.

And, of course, how could we get through our fashion day without a Pippa sighting??!!

Do I even need to explain why she has become such a fashion icon?

Again, an artful mix of texture and neutral colors until you come to the coat.

Just look at this great double-breasted, 60s-inspired coat in fire engine red!

There must have been something special in the water at the Middleton home when Kate and Pippa were growing up to have produced two such stylish young women.

While lamenting the loss of the good old days of Hollywood glam, I have high hopes for the future, particularly with the Middleton sisters leading the way to a new era of style and glam that young women everywhere can emulate and then make their own.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New York Fashion Week – Setting the World on Fire?

Saturday, February 11th, midway through New York Fashion Week, I am sitting in the Grand Tier of the Metropolitan Opera watching the world come to an end.

In the final moments of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, the last opera of his epic masterpiece, “The Ring Cycle,” the world is set ablaze by a woman who has loved, lost and taken her revenge.

But, there is sooo much more to the story of the warrior Valkyrie, Brünnhilde, and her hero, Siegfried.

Betrayed by the man she loves and complicit in his murder, after lighting Siegfried’s funeral pyre, Brünnhilde mounts her winged stallion Grane and rides into the flames to perish with the man she loves. The flames of their love set the world ablaze destroying it completely. The effect of that final scene never fails to set my soul on fire.

Not far from where I was sitting, the runway shows were falling far short of setting the fashion world on fire. This year’s Fashion Week in New York was dubbed “derivative” by some and sneered at as a “snoozer” by others, meaning there were no avant-garde breakout trends to set the hearts of the fashion cognoscenti on fire. With a few exceptions, most of the fashions being shown for fall 2012 were dismissed as tired and traditional. Some went so far as to use the dreaded “W” word ----wearable. Eeeke!! This, of course, was music to my ears.

So, have we nothing interesting to look forward to this fall?

Well, fur and leather will be back, and opera (over-the-elbow) gloves, a personal favorite of mine, adorned the slender arms of quite a few runway models last week.

Nothing makes a woman look more graceful and feminine than a pair of long gloves. These elegant beauties are from Diane von Furstenberg.

And the hot color for fall will be oxblood. This is a wonderfully understated color that works well for cool and warm color palettes alike.

A deep maroon with a tinge of reddish-brown, oxblood can stand on its own as an accent color or work equally well as a neutral upon which to build a great outfit.

These Derek Lam leather trousers in oxblood are paired with a neutral sleeveless top and a fur neck wrap in a warm hue of deep beige.

You don’t have to be a stick figure model to pull off this look.

Nanette Lepore featured these metallic oxford-style shoes.

Aren’t they just fabulous?

Male-inspired footgear has been quite the rage for the last few years and appears to be a continuing trend for fall.

I have a great pair of saddle colored oxford ties with a 2” stacked heel which have become my absolute favorite run-around-town shoes.

And my black, patent-leather loafers with thick crepe soles are absolutely perfect for an afternoon of antiquing.

So, maybe this year’s fall fashions won’t set the world on fire. That’s fine with me. When it comes to setting the world on fire, no one can hold a candle, or should I say a torch, to Brünnhilde.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Finding a Helipad for Helicopter Parents

After decades of keeping my terrible secret, I have finally found the courage to come clean and admit the awful truth…..I am not now, nor have I ever been, particularly interested in babies.

While other women oooohed and aaaahed and were eager to hold and cuddle them, when some beaming Mother dumped one in my lap, I couldn’t wait to return it. Generally wet at both ends, I found them squidgy and squirmy, and they always left permanent marks on my clothes.

I did, however, find them interesting and sometimes amusing when they began to develop personalities at the toddler stage.

But, somewhere along the line, probably around the time American mothers began to devour how-to books with the word “parenting” in them, the relationship between mother and child became totally reinvented, and the whole toddler phase quickly lost its charm for me as well.

Newly enlightened mothers seemed convinced that the simple act of passing through the birth canal endowed these squidgy little beings with wisdom beyond their years or, in this case, wisdom beyond their months.

These mothers were convinced that baby was born knowing what was best for him/her – when and what to eat, when to go to bed, when to be potty trained, etc. And to thwart any of his/her desires was to risk psychological damage that might be irreversible.

A friend of mine refused to put her little girl to bed until the child told her she was ready. “She knows when she’s ready to go to bed,” my friend insisted. Have you ever seen a three-year-old tug on her mother’s skirt and say, “Mother dear, I do believe I am feeling rather sleepy at the moment; I think it is time for me to retire for the evening?” Neither have I.

As a result, every night the poor little thing would wander around exhausted, bumping into walls and furniture until she finally collapsed in a heap wherever she happened to be; at which point, my friend would pick her up, undress her, and put her to bed. Two hours later the frightened child would wake up to find herself alone in a dark room and scream in terror. This was a nightly ritual I witnessed on many occasions.

Although born and raised in the US, my French parents raised my brother and me very much à la française, and while much has changed in France, not all of it for the better, child rearing has hardly changed at all. By and large, French children are still raised the same way I was several generations ago. It worked then and it still works now, as American writer Pamela Druckerman found out to her surprise when she moved to France 10 years ago and began having children of her own.

Following a brief, frustrating visit to a restaurant with her husband and toddler, during which the little girl upset salt shakers, ripped open sugar packets, screamed to get out of her high chair and had to be physically restrained from trashing the establishment, Ms. Druckerman could not help but notice the difference between her out-of-control child and the well-behaved French children around her as they and their families enjoyed leisurely four-course dinners. Not only were the adults able to enjoy actual adult conversations uninterrupted, but the children were actually eating the same food as their parents and actually enjoying it.

On the other hand, she and her husband had had to bolt down their dinners and beat a hasty retreat before her little girl did any more damage.

Fascinated, she decided to find out what she was doing wrong and what French mothers were doing right.

The result is Bringing Up Bébé, a delightful and insightful exploration of the differing “parenting” styles of French and American moms.

Much of what she discovers about the French method of child rearing has to do with a structured routine, setting boundaries or the cadre (frame), saying non, non, non and meaning it and giving the child enough alone time so that he can learn how to amuse himself, developing his creativity.

While the American helicopter mom hovers anxiously over her child in an effort to keep him constantly stimulated, the French mom takes a more relaxed attitude, knowing that over-stimulation is not healthy and boredom does not necessarily lead to self-destructive behavior.

Ms. Druckerman readily admits that the numerous cultural and societal support systems in place in France contribute to the success of parenting à la française. If Ms. Druckerman decides one day to repatriate with her now three children to the United States, it will be interesting to see if she can successfully transplant the French parenting style to her American way of life as my parents did many years ago.

Hmmmm…..sounds like a great idea for her next book??!!