22 February 2015

Out of the Mouths of Babes OR How a 7-Year-Old Saw through Big Fashion

“Where does ‘DC Celine’ come from, Mama?”

She knows I have a website. She knows I sometimes write things about her, and that I sometimes ask her if I can share what she’s written or said on the site. She knows I write about fashion, that I read about fashion, and that I love fashion. The first time I took her to New York City, the Museum at FIT Daphne Guinness exhibit drew us there. Then in 2013, the Met’s Costume Institute produced the groundbreaking Impossible Conversations, in which Muiccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli discussed their inspirations and motivations - face to face. Decades apart.

While the question didn’t surprise me, it did take me by surprise - a kind of gentle joy of a surprise. I want my girl to be her own person, but I love that we share an interest, and that she’s curious enough, and has noticed enough, to ask about my writing.

So I explained DC Celine’s origin: that Celine, with Michael Kors at its venerated helm, was the first line I recognized without cue. There were no logos, no telltale camellias, no signature zigzag prints. I saw Rene Russo in one of my favorite movie roles, ballsy in her artistic investigation, and sheathed in contrast by supple voluptuousness. If you look carefully, you’ll see Kors’ aesthetic, almost a given, in classic trenches and turtlenecks. But for the French house, that all-American and commercial spirit he trots down his eponymous runways was gilded in the design equivalent of an Instagram filter: softened around the edges and richer than in real life.

Long story short, even after (love of my life) Pierce Brosnan had left the screen, I was still sitting in the worn theater seat, waiting for the credits to confirm my suspicion. I’m pretty sure I squealed when I saw I was right: Rene had stolen Pierce’s heart (and mind) in Celine.

You’ve got me. I didn’t quite give the Bean all that detail, but I did explain to her that the first time I recognized a fashion designer’s work, it was Celine. She seemed to understand, but I stretched for a way to illustrate it for her.

She knows Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs. She’s seen them in person, and she’s read about them (she appropriated the biography we bought at the exhibit, and won’t give it back to me to read). Inspired by Schiaparelli’s friend Dali and his surrealist compadres, her work is distinctive, to say the least. While popular, it wasn’t commercial. It didn’t survive, and went dark until just a few seasons ago, when the house relaunched as Schiaparelli.

Schiaparelli’s contemporary, though, is legendary. Even those outside the fashion world label Chanel jackets, fabric, and logos as “iconic.” For heaven’s sake, aliens probably recognize the double “C” - and maybe even its current guardian, Karl Lagerfeld. His persona is as carefully cultivated and shielded as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s own mysterious self.

I decided to try an experiment. I Googled “coco chanel designs,” clicked “images,” and showed the Bean the page of pictures. “Are any of these Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs?” I asked? She considered the mostly black and white images (by entering “coco chanel,” vice just “chanel,” it pulled - purposefully - designs from the house’s early years that would be from the same era as to Schiaparelli’s), a page full of drop waist dresses and the early versions of probably the most copied jacket in the world. After a while, she pointed out one of the few pictures of an evening gown, and one of the few with any womanly shape. “This one,” she said.
Google Images results for "coco chanel designs"

I told her who had designed the pieces on the page, simply saying that she was a designer at the same time as Schiaparelli. She’d never heard of Chanel. Then I pulled up another tab full of Schiaparelli’s designs. “What differences do you see?” I asked.
Google Images results for "elsa schiaparelli designs"

Again, she considered before she spoke (on an aside, can we just keep that quality? If she manages to maintain that ability to think before she speaks, she’ll be the most advanced adult around.).

“I would wear Schiaparelli now, but I wouldn’t wear Chanel now.”

In her 7 year old eyes, she saw the straight lines and ladylike deportment that make Chanel both so coveted and considered so “classic” as “old fashioned” and not of today. The almost outlandish artistic quality that might well have done Schiaparelli in, on the other hand, speak to the Bean. For a girl who claims black is her favorite color (not kidding, I told you she’s interested in fashion), the Schiaparelli’s nearly garish color pairings are modern; the black and white Chanel boucle is something a grandmother would wear.

The other day, I read a criticism that Karl Lagerfeld, for all the respect he has in the industry, hasn’t designed a single original thing in 8 years. As I read that, I thought of my 7 year old daughter. A child’s eye caught what legions of fashion admirers and even critics won’t dare to say: that, despite its place in cultural history, usefulness in the classic closet, and commercial viability (we have to assume that there will always be women buying boucle), we can’t just assume a Fashion House’s relevancy. Perhaps men in ponytails, no matter how chic their shades, should have stayed in the 90s.

On a completely unrelated note, this, my friends, is my 1000th post. When I started in December 2005, I had absolutely no idea I'd still be writing on this site 10 years later. I'll probably wax poetic about it at some point later this year, but suffice it to say, I'm grateful for the technology, the community, and the people who grant me the space to keep writing. When I hit 7 years, I wrote a little bit about it, but in the meantime, just THANK YOU.

19 February 2015

Britney Survived 2007

Ladies, the ladies I know have had it rough lately. Nothing terrible, just one thing after another. First, a bad morning, then an especially long commute. After that, a deadline missed (by someone else, which pushes back your deadline), complicated by a cold. Or the stomach flu.

A couple of us keep saying that 2015 is gonna be the year of change, and the year of Great Things. I may have said that myself lately, more than a few times. In the process, though, change hurts like a mofo.

So when I saw this mug in my Instagram feed this morning, I kinda just had to. And then I realized, well, how 'bout I share some of the love? We could all use a little strength, and if it comes with a little levity, all the better, and best if there's room for your favorite caffeine. Which there is. 15oz' worth.

So, my friends, if you'd like a shot at a mug, give me your best shot, share the best craptastic story you have from your own personal life so far in 2015 in the comments. It can be funny, serious, silly, or morbid. I have no strict rules, just that you have to share your story in the comments here on the blog (not on Facebook or my other social media channels) by 12:00am March 1, 2015. That gives you 2 more weeks, even, to come up with more soul crushing insanity. Then I'll peruse the stories and pick one, and post a winner on my Facebook page, as the easiest way to let folks know, and find a way to get it to you. (Hint, hint, follow me over there!)

Go on. Give it your best shot.

10 February 2015

Style Dilemma Solved: 10 Pieces, 10 Days

The Alexandria Stylebook team called for volunteers to join their “10 for 10” experiment: 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days. Accessories, shoes, and outerwear? Up to each participant how “hardcore” they wanted to be.

“I don’t have time. I don’t have clean clothes. I don’t like my clean clothes.”

Then I thought about it for a few seconds, without the excuses.

Truth of it is, I’m in a funk. The DayJob is demanding. The Beans have their own demands. Exercise and even eating well, which got me to my #healthyme goal a little over 2 years ago (first post in the series here, and all of them here), aren’t just in the back seat, they’re in the “way back.” I’m up 10-15 pounds from my fit, happy place, where I feel strong and sleek. My closet is full of clothes that fit the strong, sleek me much better than the now me, if at all. I have a few pieces that are more forgiving than others, and I rewear them. Over and over and over.

“So why not?” I thought. I do it anyway.

“But you don’t have time to pick out the 10 pieces,” my scaredy-cat self protested. I was up to the wall with deadlines as it started. I didn’t even know where in our house some of my “old reliable” pieces were hiding.

On that first Friday, though, I got out of bed, got the Beans ready, made my green smoothie, and got dressed. I thought carefully about what I would wear on that casual Friday that wasn’t completely casual (I had meetings).

That first Friday, I picked a simple black sweater (old, a v-neck version here), navy skinny “jeans” (old, but these would give a similar effect) a heathered blazer (similar), and riding boots (similar). I accessorized with a scarf (similar). I figured that I could rewear these three pieces with just about anything in my wardrobe. We’d see.

Saturday, we went skiing, so I “cheated” with cold weather workout wear. Then Sunday, even as I donned my church clothes, I was back to it. I added another piece (a pink shirt, old, but this army green would be a great option), but used the blazer and pants again, building to four.

As I've had most of these pieces in my closet forever, they're not available any longer, but Banana Republic always has a good grey trouser and pencil skirt, and I wore my Aerin booties from The Shoe Hive practically daily.

As the week progressed, I added a piece or two a day, until I was up to the ten. I opted to keep the outerwear, accessories, and footwear out of the count, though in the end, I wore a number of those pieces repeatedly. When it’s freezing cold, for example, I will only wear my one blue wool coat. My riding boots were a staple, and my sole pair (pun not at all intended) of black shoes - black suede booties - even garnered a “You’ve been wearing those shoes a lot,” from H.

I suppose I’m lucky. I work in two different offices, and had at least one day with meetings entirely outside of the office, so no one group of people saw me in the same clothes, even if I wore them 2 days in a row. (I do wonder if other people really would notice duplicate ensembles. Perhaps that’s another experiment.) As early as a couple of days in, I welcomed the limited choices. Not having to go through a full closet of things I didn’t want to or couldn’t wear every morning? The lack of choice felt like pure, comfortable luxury.

Capsule wardrobes are in. Stylists preach “quality over quantity.” Magazines publish article after article about the 5, 10, 15 basic pieces every woman needs to anchor her closet. I agree with all of them. While I love me a good Target find (and will “splurge” on a silly, fun piece like a Grinch Christmas sweater), for years I’ve considered possible new purchases as they fit both into my existing closet with other items and into my lifestyle. Yet somehow I ended up with a closet full of things I didn’t feel I could wear, and found myself freed by the 10 for 10 exercise.

Having 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days (if you can do the math, which I can’t, any longer, there are exponential combinations) was a relief. For where I am right now, having fewer - and carefully considered - choices let me focus on other things (like getting my makeup on daily, though washing my hair is another story) each morning. Looking back, this sort of closet should be a no-brainer for me. I’m the sort of person who can juggle a lot - as long as I maintain certain systems, like putting my purse, keys, and gloves in the exact same place every single time I come in the house. It makes perfect, logical, head-slapping sense that limiting my wardrobe choices when I’ve got a particularly full plate would work well.

Did I feel amazing in every combination? No, I didn’t. I did, however, feel polished and sleek. I felt considered, professional, and elegant. Even on weekends, when normally I’d err on the side of jeans and a T, I turned to my darker, dressier wash (albeit boyfriend) jeans and that original black sweater or one of two button downs I’d added within a few days. By the end of the 10 days, I also realized that I’d turned to menswear. I used a black skirt and a grey and black dress, but those button downs and jackets were straight up off a boy. My favorite ensemble, the one in which I felt the most kick-ass? Chalk that up to the the day when I channeled both Lauren Bacall and Lauren Hutton (and Kate Hepburn, my original trousers-wearing-idol) in a perfectly slouchy silky pink button down and tailored grey trousers.

I started the exercise as a bit of a lark. It became a tool to navigate a stressful time, and emerged as confirmation of my personal style. What I wore is what I love best - it’s what I feel best in, style-wise. In the end, you can take the girl out of...well, you can take the girl out of it, and give her boys’ clothes, but she’ll always add sparkly earrings and kick your ass while wearing red lips. At least this one will.

Would you do a “10 for 10?” What would be in your capsule? What would you consider as you selected pieces?

27 January 2015

Style Inspiration: Light in the Dead of (Romantic) Winter

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'm a Winter Girl. I'm the one disappointed at the measly dusting DC got from Juno. I'm the one happily digging out her hand-me-down fur hat on a bitter cold day. I'm the one looking forward to a cup of hot chocolate - while sitting outside at a café on that brilliantly sunny January afternoon.

But it hasn't been sunny, really, and January brings an onslaught for me at the DayJob. It's all I can do, some days, to keep my head above water (never mind wash my hair). Our annual weekend down tha shore over the Presidents' Day holiday couldn't feel farther away.

In between deadlines and dance class (the Bean's, not mine), though, I sneak a hungry peak at facebook and Instagram, following along with others' adventures - and their daily lives. I love seeing the normal, the regular, through others' lenses. I also love seeing the beautiful and striking. I've discovered a few new folks to follow recently, though, and thought I'd share. Maybe you'll find a little inspiration - style or otherwise - in their snaps of their worlds.

Kirsty Larmour's images of her family's travels are stunning. Breathtaking, even. For me, the aesthetic (how does she capture that light?) heightens the connection. I can only dream of taking my two Beans on the travels she and hers are experiencing. Of course, being based in Abu Dabi doesn't hurt. I discovered her just as they were traipsing through Armenia, H's - and therefore my Beans' - ancient homeland. And in case her Instagram account (@kirstylarmour) isn't enough for you, you can follow along on her blog, too. Image via her Instagram account.

I met Simon Alcantara before I knew his work. In the whirlwind of my first trip to New York Fashion Week, Jessica Quillin introduced us over lunch at Henri Bendel. But really, that isn't the important part. His Instagram account (@simonalcantara) is as delightful as he is - and as his work is elevating. Like Kirsty's travel's Simon's jewelry designs are aspirational for me. This silver and cotton (yes, cotton) creation from his Odyssey Collection was the first thing I saw online one dreary morning. It's stuck with me. Image via his Instagram account.

Ulyana Sergeenko's Instagram account (@ulyana_sergeenko_moscow), my newest guilty pleasure, is splattered with celeb sightings at her Moscow atelier. She is married to a billionaire, afterall, and is a couture client and couturier. But it's these deliberate shots (sometimes part of a film shoot, sometimes a photo shoot) that have me longing for this life gone by (or perhaps that never really existed). The feed captures a rich, velvety sense of the most decadent Russian salon you can imagine. Given I carry a copy of Anna Karenina around on every major move (both my years in Austria and Germany, college, group house, you get the picture), it's no wonder I'm drawn to these pictures. Image via her Instagram account.

I discovered Champagne Tarlant's Instagram account (@tarlant) after a World Champagne Day (yup, that's a day. for realz.). I suppose I have Polly Wiedmaier to thank for that (and her kind invitation to join her at Marcel's for a tasting a few years back). While I can't drink champagne every day (or can I?), I can certainly lose myself in the elegant mists floating over the French countryside and between the vines. I suppose my not-so-secret Romantic is showing. Image via their Instagram account.

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts? Where do you find online inspiration? I'd love to hear more.

And if you're on Instagram, and not following along with me, join me (@dcceline). It's a pretty real life. I hope there's a little beauty and fun in it.

15 January 2015

Shop in Style: Old Town Alexandria's Kiskadee Shop Renovation Sale This Weekend

You know how when you move, you get excited about cleaning out the stuff so you have less to move? And in that process, you find the gems you forgot you had in your closet?

Well, DC-area ladies, Kiskadee Shop is renovating their space starting next week - a fresh new look is coming - but you get to find the gems in their closet! Let's make the renovation easier on her by lightening her load!

Owner Sarah has let it slip that there's a massive sale starting this Saturday. This is your fair warning. It's going to be cold for a while yet in DC - we haven't even gotten close to Punxatawney Phil making is prediction, let alone having it come to fruition.

Need another cozy sweater - at 58-80% off? Done.

Race ya!

(Then meet you for a cuppa around the corner!)

What: Kiskadee's Renovation Sale - all fall & winter styles (there are some fun things for kids and the guys, too!) 50-80 % off

Where: 2205 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301

When: Saturday, January 17th - Saturday, January 24th

Why: Because if you snag a classic piece at these prices, you're doing right by your wallet and your wardobe

And if you need any more convincing, check out my girl Chelsea's feature on Alexandria Stylebook: Who's That Girl? All clothed in Kiskadee, she is.