Thursday, January 22, 2015

The World is Our Oyster, Well, Sort Of ...

We're in Oyster Magazine!  Follow the link to the article: "Understanding The Saturn Return: Wise Words from the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas ... Astrology IRL's Morgan Rehbock Speaks to the Daring Duo".

Following are the additional shots by photographer Christine Hahn that accompany the article from the photo shoot we did last July at a studio at Brooklyn Navy Yard along with the Dumpling Diva herself, Marja Samsom.  The unexpected, added treat:  hats by Heidi Lee and cages by Chromat!!! (Swoon.)

Stay tuned for Sunday's post with behind-the scenes shots of us AND the wonderful team that made it all happen: set art by Max Wittert; hair by Isaac Davidson; make-up by Ingeborg.  And ...  the most amazing part:  shots of Jean without glasses!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


But fun has a louder and more seductive voice.

For several years now we've done a Wednesday post, regular as clockwork, dutiful, responsible, trustworthy bloggers that we are.  But tonight fun beckoned us.  It called us with a siren's song that bewitched us, and drowned out the solemn call of duty.

So let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we blog.  (Not tonight.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Balaclavas - No, Not Baklava!

Warning: For those of you who are looking for a posting on Greek desserts, you'll be sorely disappointed. We're showing off our wonderful, colorful, fanciful balaclavas from Diesel!

To tell you this story, we have to go back to October, 2013, when Valerie saw this mannequin in Fendi's window.  We are advocates for faux fur, so this was off limits to us, but Valerie definitely coveted the look.

Fast forward to September, 2014, when Valerie saw this in Diesel's display window.  There it was again, but this time in a faux fur mohawk, and with a sense of humor to boot.  The reflections made it impossible to photograph well, but you get the idea.

There was a red one with pom poms too, but that one was absolutely impossible to photograph without all sorts of visual static, so this one, in the color of real fur, would have to do.  Valerie inquired inside, and was told that the hats would be available for sale after Fashion Week.  She went back after Fashion Week, and was told they'd be available after Thanksgiving, as a gift, with a major purchase.  She went back after Thanksgiving, they were gone, and no one knew anything.

But we have our sources, and just last week, Valerie managed to score exactly the pair of hats we wanted.  Couldn't wait to show you!

The fascinating history of balaclavas (because we knew you'd ask): The name comes from the Battle of Balaclava, fought during the Crimean war. In 1854, the Russians were fighting the British and the French at Balaclava, to protect its naval port on the Black Sea. Handmade balaclavas were sent to British troops to protect them against the bitter cold weather.

Balaclavas are popular in winter sports because they protect the face from the wind and maintain warmth. In addition to downhill skiers, snow boarders and snowmobilers, Formula-1 race car drivers also wear them, but not to keep warm.  The drivers wear flame retardant balaclavas under their crash helmets (and similarly treated long johns) to protect them in fiery crashes. To replace fluids lost during the 2-hour races, drivers sip liquids through tubes through the mask. This shot of F-1 driver Nico Rosberg donning his balaclava illustrates the point.

Football players often wear them under their helmets to keep warm in winter. Even baseball players wear them, as this photo of Chicago Cubs Alberto Gonzalez and Starlin Castro shows -- for a game played in Chicago on April 11, 2013!  (Note the diverse styling: to show the mouth?  Or not to show the mouth?)

And of course, Ninja warriors in their traditional hooded masks or balaclavas are familiar images thanks to video games.

Now, back to our story!  For those of you who don't know, Jean adores hats with ears and Valerie abhors about 90% of them. So it was especially satisfying to Jean that Valerie got her this particular hat which does reference a certain female rodent cartoon character who hangs out with a male counterpart in the Disneysphere!

It is, however, difficult to look like a sophisticated and knowledgeable woman of the world when wearing a hat with big red faux fur pom poms which move when you do (sort of like a strip tease dancer's tassles, or so we've been told!).

And here is Valerie, wearing a huge blue mohawk that at certain angles gives her a distinctly Marge Simpson air!  (Valerie scoffs:  That's Jean's take on it, 'cause she's concentrating on the color.  I say it's the blue haired little old lady version of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver.  Those of you our age will remember LOTS of little old ladies with blue hair.  Those of you who are half our age will say 'huh?'  But yes, back when we were young and many older women felt uncomfortable with gray hair, for some reason they thought a blue tint would mask the gray.  [To that, we say 'huh?']  Anyway, this is the updated little old lady with blue hair look.)

Readers, we wanted to take photos of these hilarious hats with appropriate outdoor backdrops for you today, but if you have been watching the weather, you know it rained ALL DAY in New York City.  How could we take these out in the rain???!!!  But,  as you can see, we had a little fun with them indoors.  Here's Jean having fun (channeling her inner Leigh Bowery!):

And Valerie having fun:

For comparison purposes, Jean got us some real life Ninja balaclavas. (Jean says: Here's where living in Manhattan is a definite bonus.  I just went from one outdoor vendor to another on St. Mark's Place and compared a variety of Ninja paraphernalia and picked up two of the cheapest, lightest weight, stretchable ones!) Probably to protect the wearer's identity and to better disguise oneself in darkness, they only have an opening for the eyes.

While they may be the cat's meow in certain martial arts circles, you can, however, immediately see that these present certain serious lifestyle drawbacks for a couple of fashionistas of a certain age. The absolute worst is - how in heaven's name can you be expected to drink your cocktails while wearing one of these thingamajigs?  Another serious flaw is - how do wear your earrings?  Valerie managed to clip her blue polka-dot clip-ons to her balaclava, but move your head just an inch in either direction, and you're courting disaster.  Jean had more luck with her pierced earrings, hooking the wires through the balaclava knit. One must careful, however, to avoid entangling the earring and ripping a hole in the balaclava.  That could throw quite a monkey wrench in your styling decisons.

Hope you enjoy reading this half as much as we enjoyed making it!  Ciao, dahlings.  Til next time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Why is Johnny wide-eyed with astonishment?

Why is Mary Lou exultant?

Both of them are suffering from forms of dementia, and both of them are reacting to hearing their favorite music on iPods that they were given as part of a program to improve their mental health.  That's Dan Cohen, whose goal is to get customized iPods to people living in nursing homes across the United States, sitting with Mary Lou, above.

We would like to encourage all our readers to watch ALIVE INSIDE, a documentary by Michael Rossato-Bennett, about Dan's quest to convince nursing homes to give their patients music therapy through iPods.  Throughout the film, the viewer sees the highly positive effects of music on people suffering from dementia and Alzheimers disease.  You might know someone who could benefit from it.

[Below is our usual miniaturized version, because we're technosaurs and still don't understand our own format.  To see the full sized version, click here.]

Currently, five million people in the United States suffer from some form of dementia, and ten million people care for them.  With the elder population growing, the film points out, these numbers are bound to grow, and medication as the only treatment is not only not acceptable, it tends to isolate the patient rather than draw him or her back into the social circle.  "What we're spending on drugs that mostly don't work dwarfs what it would take to deliver personal music to every nursing home resident in America", says Dr. Bill Thomas (who also advocates for visiting animals, which have been shown to animate patients).

Oliver Sacks (our favorite neurologist, and author of, among other books, Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), interviewed for the movie, states that "Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain" - including sight, hearing, emotions and physical coordination - "than any other stimulus."  "For patients with Alzheimers", he explains "it has to be music which has a meaning for them, and is correlated with memory and feeling."  Music therapy works where other therapies might not, he says, because "the parts of the brain which are involved in remembering and responding to music are not affected too much in Alzheimers disease or other dementias." (Patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons also benefit from music therapy.)

Alive Inside records multiple instances of patients as they react to having the headphones placed on their heads and can hear music they are known to love.  One patient is Henry, who is introduced to viewers in a mostly unresponsive state, with his head down in his chair.  Here is Henry listening to gospel music:

The power of music should come as no surprise. Each of us has probably experienced our own autonomic trips down memory lane when a certain tune came on the radio (or really reaching back -- when it played on the juke box!) and we were transported to another place and time and remembered all kinds of things about a certain person, place or time that we thought were long forgotten. That this approach taps into feelings and emotions as well as memories and elicits responses in these patients is truly remarkable and life enhancing. It is so simple really ... and simply wonderful.

Another interviewee on Alive Inside is the ever inspired and inspiring Bobby McFerrin, shown in a clip taken at The World Science Festival demonstrating in his own inimitable way how everyone has an innate understanding of music.

Soooo much more we could tell you, but why don't you just watch the film? It's 77 minutes long.  There are a few spots in the above You Tube version where the sound gets cut out, but that's good, really - maybe that's all the encouragement you'll need to buy a copy of the DVD to support the iPod program. And if you'd like to learn more about Dan Cohen's program, click this link to Music and Memory.  If you are moved by the documentary, you might want to donate an old iPod, purchase a new iPod (we did!), or even buy thirty tunes, for Dan's program.   Here's how.  (Or you can volunteer!)

Johnny had tears in his eyes after Dan gave him his iPod.  And he'd been dancing in his wheel chair.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hats of Winter!

Below freezing temperatures in New York City continue to pose a huge challenge to appear fashionable while avoiding frostbite!  We took a trip down memory lane to bring you photos from previous years of our attempts to meet -- and conquer -- the challenge.  You be the judge of that!

In February 2013, we tried on black and white sunglasses in Sunset Boulevard's booth at a vintage show, while wearing black and white hats, Jean in an Ignatius fleece and Valerie in a white felt hat from Strawberry, reconfigured from an Afghani-style hat. The added felt pyramid pin in the center is by Danielle Gori-Montanelli.

We rang in 2012 in front of the tree in Rockefeller Center in red and black hats, Jean in a black turban by Maria del Greco to which she added a black and white bakelite domino pin.  Valerie's red wool hat is by Parkhurst.

In November 2011, we went to the holiday market in Union Square in grey and black hats, Valerie in another Afghani-style hat and Danielle Gori-Montanelli's felt pin (pull that hat up a bit, Valerie!) and Jean in an Amy Downs black turban to which she added a square vintage bakelite pin made of black and off-white cubes.

A December 2012 champagne toast on the balcony with then-manager David Calle at Ralph Lauren on Madison Avenue was deliciously glamourous but chilly! Valerie wore a black and white polka dot fake fur hat by Brigitte NYC while Jean wore her black Maria del Greco hat with a different bakelite pin with black balls carved to show white underneath.

We were definitely working a black and white thing at the Pier Show in November 2013.  Jean is wearing an Amy Downs black felted wool conical hat with a shark tooth design down one side. Valerie is wearing a vintage Schiaparelli, with a small black felt arrow at the back.  (Schiap imbued everything with her great surrealist sense of humor.)

At FIT's Daphne Guinness show in November 2011, Jean wore a mustard yellow knit turban from Urban Outfitters.

At the Black Dress show at Pratt Gallery in March 2014, Jean wore a grey and white Tibetan felt conical hat...

…and Valerie wore a military style vintage black felt hat.

At the Philadelphia Museum's Collab exhibit in March 2012, Jean opted for her vintage black Stetson bowler with a an oval black and white felt pin by Danielle Gori-Montanelli.

It was quite chilly on the plaza at Lincoln Center at last February's Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.  Jean wore a black wool circular-stitched Ignatius hat.  Valerie added a huge black feather spray that had lost its original hat to a conical black feather hat.

In December 2012, we posed just down the street from the Metropolitan Museum in our colorful felt helmets by Carol Markel.

For the National Hat Day party thrown by Off-Broadway Boutique last January, Valerie took a black felt bag with a blue spiral, turned it upside down and wore it as a hat, while Jean wore a vintage black felt Maeve Carr for Donna Karan hat.

One of our favorite haunts for vintage hats and clothing is the Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Back in October 2011, Jean wore an Amy Downs turban and Valerie wore a black wool beret with a three dimensional spiral felted into it.

Last January, Jean was having fun at the expense of the lion sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She stuck her Museum proof-of-admission sticker to a vintage cicada pin attached to her Maria del Greco hat.

Valerie in the lobby of the Asia Society after we attended a lecture by Korean designer and artist Chunghie Lee in March 2013, wearing a vintage shearling hat with a label stating that it was made by a toy company.

We took the train to Cold Spring, New York in November 2012 to celebrate Jean's birthday and prowl the rows of vintage shops on its main street. Jean opted for her red, white and black Ignatius. Valerie found a hilarious vintage pressed felt beehive hat to go with her vintage coat and gloves.

Here we are at a party at Marmalade Vintage on Spring Street in February 2012.  Jean wore her Ignatius fleece hat, and Valerie wore a vintage Schiaparelli bucket hat in velour and velvet.

Jean wore her Ignatius hat with stem to photographer Rose Hartman's December 2011 book signing at Rizzoli.

Valerie calls this shearling hat, seen here on Bond Street in January 2012, her life saver.

At an Asia Society event, we met the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Italian Circus.  As we went through our photos to pull together this cold-weather headgear post, certain patterns emerged. It became very obvious that Jean opts to cover her ears as much as possible in cold weather and goes to the same select few very warm hats.  Valerie on the other hand, only needs to cover the top of her head.  (And some only need to cover their ears, so ear muffs work for them.  But not for us!)

Valerie's funnel hat (wide open at the top) probably dates to 1940, but the polka dot ribbon, added to contrast with the striped dress and jacket, dates to 2014.   That's Warren of Another Man's Treasure, who wears his hat to show off his fabulous hair.

Jean wore a black and white felt helmet with vintage bakelite and plastic buttons by Carol Markel for our recent Fashion Decode photo shoot.

Valerie is wearing a yet-to-be-seen-in-public black and white fleece hat from Ignatius, whose long tail she wrapped around the crown (as suggested by the maker) to make a turban.

For a recent Sunday brunch just before the temperatures tumbled so precipitously, Jean wore a leopard print Ignatius cocktail hat with plastic claws.  Valerie's hat is unlabeled, but is most likely an '80s copy of a '50s hat.

At the l.a. Eyeworks sale last year, Jean wore a black taffeta and net origami hat from Amy Downs (so named because it folds flat in a suitcase!). Valerie wore another life-saver hat - vintage Persian lamb. We're both wearing l.a.Eyeworks glasses.

And ending on a note of millinary solidarity, at The march 2014 Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion with our friend Xtine, Valerie wore the same funnel hat as pictured earlier, this time with a large red pin swapped out for the polka dot ribbon. Jean wore a black and beige knit Amy Downs turban.

Here's to "giving good hat" (to borrow and rephrase an expression from our friend Judith, The Style Crone)!