Sunday, May 3, 2015

We Go to the Head of the Class

to talk to fashion and design students about style and aging ... 



































Regular readers may remember that Valerie flew to Toronto last October to participate in a panel discussion with other bloggers of a variety of sizes, ages, body types as part of Diversity Now - 2014 at Ryerson University convened by Dr. Ben Barry, Assistant Professor, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, School of Fashion, Faculty of Communication and Design.  (Jean was otherwise engaged, darn it!)

So earlier this week, Jean was thrilled at the opportunity to get into the act. We were both delighted to be invited by Dr. Barry to speak to a select group of students in his master's class at Parsons School of Art and Design History and Theory, The New School University here in Manhattan, where he is a Visiting Research Scholar in Fashion Studies. We showed up bright and early, "loaded for bear" as the saying goes.

One of the many references for Dr. Barry's class is Julia Twigg's 2013 book Fashion and Age, published by Bloomsbury Academic.

































Throughout history certain forms and styles of dress have been deemed appropriate - or more significantly, inappropriate - for people as they age. Older women in particular have long been subject to social pressure to tone down, to adopt self-effacing, covered-up styles. But, according to the author, increasingly there are signs of change, as older women aspire to younger, more mainstream styles and retailers realize the potential of the "grey market."

Additionally, according to Bloomsbury Publishing's website, Fashion and Age is the first study to systematically explore the links between clothing and age, drawing on fashion theory and cultural gerontology to examine the changing ways in which age is imagined, experienced and understood in modern culture through the medium of dress. Clothes lie between the body and its social expression, and the book explores the significance of embodiment in dress and in the cultural constitution of age.

As our readers know, we are most definitely NOT among those older women who "aspire to younger, more mainstream styles".  Rather, we are committed to pushing Seventh Avenue to recognize and cater to "women of a certain age".  Rather than change our outlook and adopt their designs meant for younger women, we are agitating for them to design for us -- older women with different needs and preferences.  It's quite simple, really: Madison Avenue and Seventh Avenue: Give us what we want, not what you want us to want. Just listen to us and women like us. We will tell you what we desire, staring with more choice. We advocate breaking down those current barriers and stereotypes.

Ben Barry is another strong, consistent voice espousing diversity and inclusion and inculcating that message into his classes.  A consummate academic, he has the history and theory down pat.  He also has the people skills to effectively convey the information to make people stop and take notice. His students are presented with the full spectrum of possibility, to weigh the unmet wants of the fastest growing segment of society against the politics of the fashion industry in particular and society in general.  They will have all of the data and information on which to make their own choices. We remain hopeful that they'll make the right decisions and that the next generation of fashion, art and design students will emerge with a new, broader perspective on the fashion and design business and on the full spectrum of its clients and customers.

Last time we looked, mainstream designers and manufacturers weren't producing articles of clothing for women who look like this:






















But we digress ... Back to Parsons:  Over the course of about ninety minutes, Ben posed a series of questions designed to elicit opinions and provoke thought.  For example,

What are your thoughts on aging and dressing?
How does age influence your dress choice?
Why do you think many women tone down their style as they age?

We two often think along similar lines, but we don't think alike, and offered different viewpoints.  The students, who represent a mix of disciplines in fashion, art and design, are in an accelerated program, attending classes from 9 - 12 every day for a few weeks.  At the conclusion of our discussion, Ben opened it up to the room for additional questions.  The students, impeccably turned out, were a diverse, articulate, engaging and thoughtful group. Talk about the new real-time classroom: One of the students texted our blog site to her mother, who in turn texted back questions for her daughter to ask us.  Real world feedback in real time!

As if we needed further affirmation that life as we know it is changing radically, one look at the restroom door at Parsons dispelled any doubt:



































We loved the opportunity to interact with students and open their eyes to issues that very likely their own mothers (or, ahem, grandmothers) may not have discussed with them.

If your design students would benefit from hearing the thoughts of older women on wearing clothes while old, and you would like to book our services, please contact us at mono.crone@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Crowning Glory - Orly, Five Years Later!


Way back in 2009, we told you the story of our friend Orly, then 55, and how she dealt with the loss of all her hair due to breast cancer treatment.  (If you missed that story, click here.)  She drew the line at drawing in eyebrows, and made baldness chic.  Here she is wearing long feather earrings and a bold fuschia scarf at the time of her treatment.

In February 2010, at the end of her treatment, she threw a Cancer Free party (which you can read about here).


































Some of you know that that's just the beginning of a very long recovery period.  Doctors say patients need to monitor their health for five years before they can begin to breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, nearly six years after she was diagnosed and underwent treatment, here's Orly today (a few days ago, actually), with a full head of lush and gorgeous hair.


















We asked Orly to say a few words.  She said:

"You can be beautiful with hair.
You can be beautiful without hair.
But not at the same time."  (Orly is not one to pass up an opportunity to joke.)
"In Hebrew, we have an expression: May you live till 120.
So now I'm half way there."

L'chaim, Orly.  You look GREAT!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Postscript

There is now a way to keep your hair during breast cancer treatment.  Read about cold cap therapy in this New York Times article.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mi Casa, Su Casa (Lever, that is)



































A couple of weeks ago, Valerie was at Green Flea, the best indoor/outdoor flea market in Manhattan, (100 West 77th St at Columbus Ave) and ran into artist Sue Kreitzman, who is in town from London.  Born in Brooklyn, Sue and her husband have lived on the other side of the pond for many years, but visit New York several times a year. Avid readers may remember Sue as one of the eponymous Fabulous Fashionistas in Sue Bourne's wonderful documentary.


































Fans of PBS' show "Mr. Selfridge", starring Jeremy Piven, will be thrilled to learn that Sue was recently selected to curate her own window at Selfridges & Co in London.  Click on the link for eye candy galore.

Anxious to reconnect, chew the fat and shoot the breeze (hmmm... what other colorful expressions suit the occasion?), we invited Sue to dinner at one of our favorite haunts, Casa Lever, which till now we have favored primarily for its wonderful cocktails.

Since Sue was also a food writer and author of 27 cookbooks and a broadcaster, the pressure was on to make sure the meal was up to par.  We needn't have worried. Casa Lever came through with flying colors.  In addition to its regular menu, Valerie discovered (only six months after the fact) that the restaurant also offers an incredibly delicious three course prix fixe weekend menu on Friday and Saturday evenings.

We usually photograph our drinks for you, but we were thrown off our usual routine by having a visitor to divert our attention.  So we'll just report that Sue had a Negroni, Jean had a pineapple margarita and Valerie had the Frida - with tequila, red pepper and ginger.

Okay, here we go, dipping our toes into food reporting.

While we were waiting for our drinks, the very attentive, friendly and knowledgeable wait staff brought us these gloriously colored little amuse bouches, which (if we remember correctly) featured caviar and mascarpone.

















Deep in conversation, we didn't photograph the appetizers either, but we have to tell you something about them.  Sue had something entitled "crispy organic egg", but the subtitle was much more interesting - "five mushrooms, five ways".  Jean had the salmon carpaccio and Valerie had the suprisingly large house salad.

For the main course, Sue loves beets, and ordered the riotously colored red beet tortelli,


















Jean had the daily risotto, which had shrimp that day,


















and Valerie had the seared Scottish salmon with leek sauce, lentils and salmon roe.


















In between bites of delectible, generous portions, we heard about Sue's latest and greatest Big Apple escapades.  Although she and Jean both loved Hal Prince's incredibly entertaining 1978 version of "On the 20th Century"with John Cullum, the inimitable Madeline Kahn, the peerless Imogene Coca, and the riveting Kevin Klein, Sue gave a very high rating to the current version running on the Great White Way with Kristen Chenowith and Peter Gallagher.  Click here to view and hear a montage of songs from the show.

In turn, we recommended she see Fashioning the Body - An Intimate History of the Silhouette at Bard Graduate Center Galleries through July 26, 2015 and Faking It: Originals, Copies and Counterfeits at the Museum at FIT which (sorry, readers) just closed yesterday (but you can read our summary of it here).

On to the amazing desserts!

We fell in love with Casa Lever because they have a wonderful cocktails, and their desserts were no less fun to savor.  The names alone filled us with anticipation.

Sue had the Affogato (that's drowned in Italian).   The menu simply says "vanilla gelato with espresso", but that's a perforated disc of dark chocolate that you see Sue about to pour her espresso through.  Isn't a picture worth a thousand words?






















Jean had a big imposing Tiramisu (Italian for pick me up) unlike any we've seen before,















and Valerie tried warm cheesecake with barbecued strawberries, strega liquer and rosemary milk chocolate sauce.  (Funny how we all chose something with chocolate in it.  You know chocolate has serotonin in it, right?  Wikipedia says serotonin "is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness."  Spot on!)


















It is true that time sure flies when you're having fun. All too soon, the evening was over. After promising to meet again to go to the Frida Kahlo show at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when she returns this summer, we bid Sue adieu and went out into the one and only balmy evening of that chilly late April week to head home.

What we're wearing:

Valerie is wearing: vintage blue straw hat labeled David M purchased on Etsy; abalone and silver earrings (probably 25 years old now); suit in Marimekko fabric by Skullz London from Ebay; hand spun wool scarf; shoes with a cool but unfortunately illegible logo.

Jean is wearing: a black straw Ignatius boater (from the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show; Tahari jacket; Calvin Klein slacks; lots of vintage bakelite bangles; Gudrun Sjoden cross-body bag; and Trippen boots from A-Uno.

Sue is wearing shoes by Fit Flops, which she raves about, not only because they're comfortable but because they are a fabulous polished red.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It Ain't Heavy - It's My Necklace

In which we finally get just a tad snarky



































So there we are, on any given day, out together or separately, minding our own business and wearing huge necklaces (so popular that they apparently have a name: statement necklaces), when someone comes along and says "I LOVE your necklace", which is a charming compliment.  Then he or she will wait two or three beats and follow it up with

"IS IT HEAVY???",

which is a stealthy way of clawing back the compliment.  As if they'd accidentally given us a hundred dollar bill when they only meant to give us a single.

What if it is heavy?  Does that make it less appealing?  Because, you know, we weren't asking you if you would like to wear it.  When you ask that question, and you force the wearer to defend his or her fashion choice, doesn't that make it a subtle but unmistakeable criticism?  Aren't you really saying "I would never have chosen that"?














What is the correct answer to that question?  How about this?  "Well, I'm guessing my necklace is a bit lighter than your head, and you seem to have no trouble holding that up." Or this? "Yes, but it's only for an hour or so.  My personal assistant brought it here in the limo, and after this event Fabio will take it home for me and put it away."

After the recent Easter Parade when we were on our way to The Modern for our traditional Easter cocktails, a woman carrying two small costumed dogs in the crook of her arm, and pushing a baby carriage loaded with additional small, costumed canines stopped Jean and asked the question. Jean, who was properly brought up, just smiled and nodded.  But what she really wanted to say was: "No. Are(n't) your dogs heavy?"


































The question can be applied to more than just necklaces. Not too long ago, we went to an event (more on that in the near future) where Valerie wore this space age minicrini by Chromat.


































Some people oohed and aahed and took pictures; some people politely looked away, and one woman asked "Is it comfortable?"  Valerie took the humorous approach, and said "Ask me again in an hour."  What she wanted to say was "Yes, it is. What about your girdle?  Is that comfortable?"  Really, readers, when we see a woman tottering around in three inch stilettos with tiny pointed toes, do you think we say "What gorgeous shoes.  Don't they hurt your feet?"

Another woman asked Valerie "Aren't you supposed to wear that UNDER the dress?"  Actually, although Valerie decided not to bring the battery pack attachment that evening, the minicrini is lined in LED lights, and lights up when the battery pack is on. So no, it's not supposed to be worn under the dress.  What would be the point of that?
Even Madonna wears her brassiere under her suit.



















And what business is it of yours anyway?  Didn't your mother tell you 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Manhattan Vintage Show: Your Source in the Fight Against Normcore























We had the pleasure of dining with Sue Kreitzman the other night (a story for another time), and she said she had only just heard the expression NORMCORE for the first time.  Normcore is a unisex fashion trend characterized by unpretentious, average-looking clothing. Egad!  We're always very flattered when people who stop us in the street admire the way we dress, and as a result of our conversation with Sue, we can finally articulate why we are so addicted to the Manhattan Vintage Show and flea markets in general: this is the best strategy against Normcore for those of us on a budget.

Below, photoessays of vintage clothing and accessories and of fellow vintage lovers in the neverending battle against personality-free clothing.

Starting out with some shoes that fill us with nostalgia for our youth...

First these bicolor platforms from Screaming Mimi's.














And these hilarious round toed polka dotted shoes in unexpected colors from The House of Findings.













And one more shoe-related picture before we move on to other wonderful things. Jean found this whimsical red plastic necklace with little Dutch clogs at Sheila Strong's Fools' Gold ... and had to have it. See how well it goes with the rest of her collection.






















Another Man's Treasure always has something that resonates with us.  Here, Mika shows two 80s pieces by Bonnie Boerer.  The left brings back memories of Patrick Kelly; the right reminds of us Yamamoto Kansai.


















These bold and unique earrings are from Town Peddlers from New Rochelle.



































Barbara Johnson showed a hand knit sweater by Hilary Smith.  What's great about the sweater is that Hilary used a flat yarn for the white ground and a fluffy yarn for the poodles.  Just figuring out how to do the poodles fills us with admiration for Hilary, but that she thought to use a contrasting yarn that makes the poodles look more poodle-y is just... well... she should get some kind of award for that.  (Actually, all the designers here should get some kind of award.  Some of them have.)





















Courreges was way ahead of his time in the 60s, and delighted in using common materials in unconventional ways.  At Lorry Polizzi's, we found this Courreges dress with vinyl embellishments.


































Regina of Vintage Le Monde had some fabulous jewelry.  The two huge silver cuffs were show stoppers.  Regina said they were worn by a woman who designed them to go with a dress she wore in the 1920s.  We thought they were Robert Lee Morris, but they predate him by almost fifty years.   Don't forget to look at the very modern necklace, bottom right, with the square in the half circle, or at the leather collar with dangling hammered spikes, or hiding toward the back left, the bracelet  circles that look like round books with their pages flung open.  (Double click for a better view.)














Karen McWharter's booth is always a treasure trove of truly unique and interesting jewelry and clothing that doesn't look like anyone else. This pristine handmade straw and cloth bag has such an interesting shape and is perfect for this time of year.





















Masaka Ogura of Mingei Japan designs her own fabrics and incorporates them into traditional kimonos and more modern shapes like this terrific top with fans.


































We stopped to chat with this nice lady and compared notes about favorite pieces and our mutual love of vintage.






















And of course we couldn't not show you some great Issey Miyake from andArchive.   This light and airy cotton really needs to be pinned against a wall for you to get its full impact, but probably the owner wouldn't like us doing that.  This suit dates back to about 1986 or 87, when Issey Miyake did a lot of designs based on Indian material and Indian weaving techniques.  The zigzags you see here are double ikat woven designs, not printed, so a lot of expertise went into the weaving before the material was even sewn.  Wish we could give you a better look at the fabulous ikat bottom that goes with it, too.  Just take our word that we wanna take this home, if only to pin it to our own wall and gape at it.



































In the same booth, we saw this amazing vintage Miyake jacket -- on the most beautiful vendor.






















The Style Vault from Washington, DC had a great collection of colorful handbags -- just the thing for spring.























This silver Spratling bee jewelry from Treasure Trove was truly striking.















Not everyone could carry off this stylish black and white feathered hat at Stacy LoAlbo's Incogneeto.





















And now, some members of the valiant Normcore resistance.

We can never show you enough of our man Dapper Dan, whom we've never seen wear anything that dates later than about 1960 (if that recent).  Dan should be a menswear stylist.


































You think he's done a great job?  You don't know the half of it.  Here's Dan's pocket hankie.  That corner square you see in the center peeking out at the top?  With the deep blue tip?  That square was pieced in separately to make sure the blue tip would sit exactly where it was supposed to.   It's exquisite, but it hides in plain sight.


















Here's Patti, a color trend consultant, wearing amazing blue glasses, and a fabulous hairstyle.






















Certain individuals who obviously do not want to look like everyone else can carry off the vintage look without looking forced. Case in point: This young woman (who actually lives across the street from Jean but whom we never seem to see except at this show) can really wear vintage and capture the aura of the era.


































This young woman also wears vintage with style and flair.



































Here are Jessie and Hannah.  The editors of this post truly regret that we did not capture the true very purple color of Hannah's vintage felt hat, or its wonderful clam-like folds.



































Amanda Dolan of Spark Pretty and her friend always manage to coordinate their outfits to perfection.  They were both wearing knockout Norma Kamali print dresses.


































Valerie tried on this terrific black sand-washed denim jacket at Spark Pretty.



































Yes, that's our card she's holding.  But don't look at that.  Look at her great glasses and hairstyle!






















Two more fellow shoppers...



































And another great hair style.























After the show, we stopped into Flute Gramercy on East 20th Street for a cocktail and to compare notes and catch up.


































Most of the cocktails feature champagne (but of course!) and are quite tasty. After a long and amusing chat, we decided to leave when the younger crowd (almost everybody is the younger crowd at our age) started taking over.  We knew because the noise level - and the volume of the music - began to creep up.  Till next time ...  think about and heed Sue Kreitzman's warning: "Beige will kill you!"