Sunday, December 27, 2009

French Nautical Stripes -- How To Wear Them

Horizontal striped tops are everywhere. They have been featured in Marie Claire magazine, the Air France in flight magazine, and on many runways. I sat in church this evening and saw at least five young women wearing blue and white stripes. They varied in style, width of the stripe, and cut of the top. Each person added her own identity even while they embarrassed this trend. The most impressive was the woman who wore a horizontal striped tank top under a thin, chartreuse colored wrap. The color reminded me of Absinthe and nights in French port. Très chic!

Many of us are hesitant about wearing horizontal stripes. When I shop in the big girl sections of stores I question why so many designers think I want horizontal stripes around my tummy and hips. No, I don't think so. If you have large chest horizontal stripes can create a unique psychedelic effect.

Here are some tips for captaining this look:

  1. Keep it simple. Pair your striped top with simple pants or skirt. Don't be tempted to slip into sailor pants. Navy or black is the best choice to keep your look for being over done.

  2. Go wide or skinny. This is the amazing thing about this type of top. A pair of simple (see above) wide leg jeans or skinny jeans balances the look.

  3. Play with the stripes that work best on you. The stripes can vary from narrow to wide. You may love the wide stripes, but look better in the narrow stripes. If you are still unsure of wearing too many stripes just go for stripes on the sleeves.

  4. Layer the look. Wear a striped tank under a solid color cardigan. You can also wear the tank under a blazer.

I found a great striped cardigan from C.J. Banks. The stop part has strips while the bottom is solid blue. This moves the eye up from the hips and tummy area. It's marvelous for those of us who are looking for a way to wear this look.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Killing The Love Of Reading

As I mentioned in a previous post I despise censorship. I have spoken against restricting free speech for years. The hard censorship of White House staff attempting to marginalize a news network or the soft censorship of librarians and teachers who don't order books that they find personally objectionable, regardless of the merit of the work.

Often this soft censorship masquerades as academic rigor. In the name of wanting to challenge students schools and school systems will remove books or restrict books that they deem not worthy of students. Yet, often teachers and administrators kill the love of reading. I speak to adults each day that tell me how a teacher made them hate reading. How does this happen?

One way is this insistence that students read "the classics." Donald R. Gallo addresses this issue in his article How Classics Create An Aliterate Society. He relates the trouble he had struggling with the assigned readings that were alleged to be good for him. "Why was I supposed to care about a Puritan woman who got pregnant from having sex with a minister?....One of my former college students defined a classic this way: a classic is a book that 'requires a teacher figure out a glimmer of what it says.'" Is that what we want? Students who need to rely on a teacher to engage with literature?

Gallo isn't alone. Kelly Gallagher documents how teachers are murdering the love of reading in Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Before you despair, there are teachers that are trying to actively engage their students in books that present important concepts and will capture their interest. The problem is that parents and administrators often prevent these teachers from reaching this goal. They will challenge the books teachers select. This has recently happened in Montgomery County, Kentucky. The Lexington-Herald Reader reports:

In the Montgomery County school system some contemporary, young-adult novels have been used in conjunction with classical works like The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf in some sophomore and senior accelerated English classes. Some parents don't like it. The school superintendent has had the books removed from the classroom, although they are available in the library.

Let me reiterate a point made in the article. The YA books are being taught in conjunction with the classics. Some parents are shocked at the language and situations in the YA books. These parents obviously haven't read either The Canterbury Tales or Beowulf or only read enough to pass their own class assignments. These classics are full of sex and violence. One blogger commented that students shouldn't be exposed to such topics as rape. Well, that definitely leaves out The Canterbury Tales. The YA books in question went before a review committee that recommended the books remain as part of the class readings. Superintendent Freeman removed them anyway.

Some have argued that the Lexile level isn't high enough for these YA books to be included in a college prepatory class. Lexile levels are not the holy grail of reading. The daunting classic Crime and Punishment has a Lexile level of 850. One of the removed books, Chris Crutcher's Deadline, has a Lexile level of 880. Hmmmm, that argument doesn't seem to have merit.

What about literary themes? In Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson students read about personal identity, suicide, overcoming social adversity, and conquering obstacles through perseverance. It's not just a feel good read. Anderson's character Tyler Miller faces the not just choices about becoming a better person, but what he has to leave behind to become that person. Tyler is on a quest that teens can relate to personally and relate to other literature.

The question is ultimately, 'Why were these books removed from the classroom?' When students are lucky enough to have a teacher that is intelligent enough to connect contemporary YA literature with classics society wins. Dr. Freeman, please return the books.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Handmade Gifts

The holidays are quickly approaching. If you are looking or Christmas or Hanukkah gift that is unique visit one of my favorite sites for handmade gifts--Things Theological. The Calico Critters pins make great gifts for tween girls or adults who like fun fashion.

The Remembrance Ribbons are the best deal in town. A custom made gift for $3, including shipping! When I've needed something custom made for a friend with breast cancer I spoke with the artist, Jane Davis, and she worked with me to create something unique. Her St. Agatha icon was perfect. My son loved his Hercules icon that he received a few years ago.

I cannot recommend her highly enough.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Real Friends Tame The Animals

Real friends don't let you go out in head to toe animal print. This can be hard with the Safari look showing up on multiple runways. Animal prints were especially seen at the 2010 collections of Tory Burch, Valentino, and Chloé. How do you balance this fashion statement with real life and without looking like a joke?

Take a good friend shopping with you. The friend that will stop you from buying the cheetah print leggings. The friend that will whisper in your ear, "Less is more." Because with animal print it's about using bits and pieces as highlights. Add a pair of BCBG MAXAZRIA Stella flats to your outfit for a step into the wild side. You won't have to worry about becoming a trophy on the fashion wall of shame. One of my favorite items is a leopard print cardigan. I keep my tank and slacks in the same color palette so that print adds pop without making my patrons' eyes bug out.

Try a pair of earrings, a bracelet, or a scarf. With handbags you may want to think about a band of print rather than an all over design. Snake skin texture is marvelous. It can be done in fun colors. The Helena de Natalio Snake-Print Clutch adds exotic excitement to any outfit.

Animal prints can be our fashion friends if we play nice, don't over do it, and have a trusted friend that will pull us back from the shiny, sparkly, python dress.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ChicBuds For Audiophiles

I love to listen to audio books. Fortunately my library has a subscription to to NetLibrary that allows me to feed my habit for free. I download audiobooks to my IPod and listen to them everywhere. I listen to John Sandford while cooking dinner. I listen to Undead and Unwed while doing laundry. I listen to a Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery while at work. I listen to....well, you get the point.

The biggest problem that I had while wearing my ear buds was the cord getting caught in drawers or on door knobs. Then I discovered Chicbuds (Watermelon on White seen here). The retractable cords shorten so the cord doesn't get caught and pull out of my IPod. I have problems with other ear buds popping out of my ears, but these stay because they are designed for the smaller ears of women. They aren't merely functional, but also attractive. ChicBuds are detailed with Swarovski Crystals. You aren't just sporting ear buds, but "ear candie."

They are popular with ladies of all ages. My son gave a pair of ChicBuds to a friend as a high school graduation present. She loved them. It wasn't just a polite, "Oh, thank-you." I ran into her at the store where she was sporting her ChicBuds. If you have a niece or daughter that is dying to get her ears pierced, but isn't allowed to take that step this is good option. She can add style and color to ears while having ear buds that are with adjustable cords.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chic Scarves For Fall And Winter

If you want to add a splash of instant style to any outfit wrap a stylish scarf around your neck! My preference is for silk scarves with bright colors and bold patterns. Silk doesn't have the bulk of wool and don't look out of place indoors. They can also be worn with jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt or a classic black dress.

I have a huge collection of scarves that I've purchase around the world. My favorite source for silk scarves is SERRV International. SERRV is dedicated to eradicating poverty by providing opportunity and support to artisans around the world. One of my favorites is the Sukhi Scarf with its Bangla-inspired design. The bold colors add a punch of color. If you like the neon trend but aren't comfortable wearing large amounts of hot color this scarf is just right.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Marilyn Monroe Sighted In Milan

This fall Marilyn Monroe was sighted on the runways of Milan. Monroes face was imprinted on t-shirts and paired with skinny black pants. It was part of the Seduzioni Diamonds line by actress/designer Valeria Marini. Her Spring/Summer 2010 fashion collection, presented in Milan, September 23, 2009.

This was not the first time during the year that Marilyn appeared on the runway. In March her images were the center of the Dolce & Gabbana Fall/Winter collection. A few of the dresses have been seen on the red carpet. A few dresses featured Monroe's face on both the bodice and skirt. It's a lot of look for most people to pull off. The Dolce & Gabbana collection also has a Marilyn t-shirt.

This is not Marilyn Monroe's first appearance in Milan. Her image was part of Dolce & Gabbana's Spring/Summer 2007 collection. In 2006 in Los Angeles Valeria Marini featured a white "Marilyn Monroe" gown in silk satin. While it didn't feature images of Monroe you could easily see Monroe in the dress.

While Marilyn Monroe left this world over 40 years ago she still reigns as the icon of glamour and sex appeal. While you may not opt to have Marilyn on your clothes, let her inspire you to take full advantage of your spotlight moments.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'd Like To Buy The World A Bra

Well, perhaps not the world, but a few million women. I wrote about the politics of bras in an earlier post. This post is a shallower reflection.

Where I work I deal with the public every day. I often wonder why so many women bother to wear a bra at all. They do nothing that a bra is supposed to do. That's not surprising. It is speculated by the lingerie industry that 70-85% of women wear the wrong size bra. Why would women over look this major foundational garment? Women spend hundreds of dollars on a handbag every season, but won't bother to buy a good bra.

Many get hung up on sizing. Women are in denial about their cup size. Women would rather think of themselves as a B or C rather than admit that they are an A or a D. Even though they have gained weight, lost weight, or had children, changing the size of the band is an emotional event. The question to ask yourself is, "Is the number more important than looking good?"

Women need to be sized and buy new bras every year. You don't have to buy a $200 La Perla bra. The best bra for you may be inexpensive. To find the best bra you need to try on different styles and brands.

I had given up on wearing underwire bras because they were so uncomfortable. I hate having the wires poke into my armpits. After I saw myself on TV for the first of my monthly PR appearances I decided that I had to find a better bra. I searched and searched. I bought a few bras that felt okay in the store, but were horrible after an hour. On a trip to to New York I went to the Town Shop for a fitting. Amazingly I knew what size I should be wearing. The trick was finding the proper bra for my shape. I explained my problem to the fitter. Within 2 minutes she had brought me an underwire bra that was comfortable and pretty. Within 10 minutes I walked out with two bras that were just right.

I began searching on my own and found that for work I really like the Bali Concealers Underwire Bra. It is comfortable and supportive.

Once you find the right bra you will start noticing the problems around you. You'll want to be a good friend and take all the women in your life for a bra fitting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gucci's New Perfume Ad

Most perfume ads are irritating. With the plethora of celebrity frangrances we are bombarded with images of Brittany, Jay-Z, Gwen, and others living a fabulous lifestyle. Even the late Luciano Pavarotti had Pavarotti Donna and fragrances for men. This leaves those of us looking for our own frangrance statement on the wrong side of the velvet rope.

I was struck by the beauty of the new Gucci commercial for its frangrance Flora. It is beautiful. Tha commercial captures the rapturous feel of being in a field of flowers, breathing in the scent until you become one with the flowers. Chris Cunningham has created not just a commercial, but a work of art.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fashion Fascination - Giambattista Valli

Every now and then I find something that makes me wish I were 5'8" and skinny. I am in love with Valli's wrap shoulder jersey dress, hemmed with a peacock feather design. The Greek goddess look is given a modern makeover with this plum jersey dress. It doesn't look like a costume left over from Clash of the Titans. I know that I would feel like Hera, queen of the Gods in this dress.
Get a better view of the dress at LuisaViaRoma.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Gay Marriage - IMHO

I'm going to shock friends and family alike with my next statement. I'm NOT an opponent of gay marriage. Why? I believe in the Constitution. I believe in equal protection under the law. The issue of gay marriage is a civil one, not a religious one.

Perhaps that is colored by my personal experience. When my husband and I married over 27 years ago we first had to be married civilly and then were married in the Church. What? We were married in Belgium which, like much of Europe, requires a civil marriage take place before the religious marriage. They are two different issues addressed in two different places. The sacramental nature of our marriage wasn't negated or diminished by the civil marriage.

I know it would take a tidal wave of change, but imagine if in the US couples were required to be married civilly first. It would remove many of the religious issues that surround the discussion of gay marriage. It would reframe the question--Is it legal?

Yesterday I attempted to have a discussion about the issue with a professional colleague in another state. She feared that her state would follow the "far right" to ban marriage as was done in California. I tried to point out that it wasn't us crazy conservatives that put Prop 8 over the top.

The problem in California wasn't just the "far right," but the huge turnout of voters for President Obama that voted for Prop 8 (banning gay marriage). reported:

But for Golden State liberals, minority turnout was a mixed blessing. Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage, passed by about four percentage points. According to exit polls, Obama's African-American supporters helped put Proposition 8 over the top. That's the irony of Obama's victory: Had black turnout matched levels of previous elections, the vote on the gay-marriage ban—which trailed in the polls for much of the summer—would have been much closer. It might even have failed.

My colleague didn't want to discuss any of this. I was just "wrong." Why? It's easier to point to the evil conservatives than to discuss ways to ensure the government provides equal access to our civil institutions. Its easier than to admit the prejudice exists within our communities. Unless we can have honest discussions we won't be able to move forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Black and Gold for Fall & Winter

As I sat watching the amazing Girogio Armani Fall and Winter 2009 runway show (on FTV of course, not in person) I fell in love with a black and gold strapless dress. It is that perfect blend of lusterous black and luxurious gold that never dipped into over the top bling.

The black/gold looks of fall and winter are perfect for a holiday party or adding glow to a more casual outfit. I love this jacket from Coldwater Creek. Imagine it with a great pair of black trousers. If you shudder at the idea of heels pair it with jeans instead.

Assessories are a marvelous way to play with gold and black. This small cluth from Kenneth Cole is a great start. It's dark gold hues illuminate every evening look.

Sometimes you need something fun. Taryn Rose Women's Bonny Metallic Stud Flats are just the way to express this black gold fashion trend in your own personal style.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Politics of Bras

As someone growing up in the 60s and 70s I knew the bra had political messages. Women burned their bras literally and figuratively as a sign of their liberation. The bra has returned as a political , social, and religious issue. In Somalia women are being beaten in the streets for wearing bras. Reuters reports:

Residents said gunmen had been rounding up any woman seen with a firm bust and then had them publicly whipped by masked men. The women were then told to remove their bras and shake their breasts.

I immediately speculated on what type of man would do this in the name of religious and civil law. Men are also being whipped in the streets for shaving their beards, even if they are young men not yet able to grow a full beard.

Instead of bras discarded as a symbol of freedom their removal is now a sign of oppression.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paperback Swap My New Addiction

Paperback Swap is my new addiction. A great way to find homes for my old books and get hard to find books without paying for them. Recycling at its best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Controlling The News

The First Amendment is important to me. If you want to get me crazed just begin talking about banning books. The current attempt by White House staff to tell news networks that they shouldn't carry stories from Fox News is an example of government trying to stifle free speech. This is what the government should NOT do.

The focus on Fox News is silly. When we look at the Pew Research Center's evaluation of the 2008 Election Fox News did indeed come out "fair and balanced."

  • Positive Obama Stories 25%
  • Positive McCain Stories 22%
  • Negative Obama Stories 40%
  • Negative McCain Stories 40%
  • Positive Obama Stories 73%
  • Positive McCain Stories 10%
  • Negative Obama Stories 14%
  • Negative McCain Stories 43%
(all media added together - 2,412 stories from 48 outlets)
  • Positive Obama Stories 36%
  • Positive McCain Stories 14%
  • Negative Obama Stories 29%
  • Negative McCain Stories 57%
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton credited Fox with giving her the best coverage during the 2008 primaries. So, let's remember her words about the right to dissent:

Hillary Clinton Speech

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Midnight Lace

Fall designs have gone retro with nipped in waists and big shoulders of the 40s and 80s. Lace also turned up in many collections. Stella McCartney used lace in draped panels in several of her dresses as well as on sleeves and straps. Balenciaga showed a black lace bandeaux. The problem for the real world woman is how to incorporate lace without looking like a maiden aunt from Arsenic and Old Lace, an 80s Madonna-Wanna-Be, or that you are prepping for your street walking career.

Runway looks aren't ready-to-wear. They are designed to inspire, so take individual pieces and incorporate them into other looks. Small doses of strong looks work best for most of us. Lace is a perfect example. Add a black, lace clutch from Santi to add pizazz to your outfit.

There are dresses that are classy and womanly featuring black lace. The black lace sheath dress from Coldwater Creek is perfect for a dinner date, cocktail party, or evening at the theater. No one will mistake you for the usher. The darts give this dress an incredible shape. Just don't carry the clutch with it. Leave your huge bag at home. This dress calls for a clutch with clean lines.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Handbags For Fall 2009

Bold and Beautiful for Fall

Autumn handbags have a few things in common; rich, saturated colors, luxurious leathers, ample slouchy factor and enough room for your phone, Mp3 player, library book, etc. The rich shades of purple that are avaiable are amazing. This plum color is one of my favorites for fall. I love the soft suede feel of this Cole Haan bag. I confess that I bought this bag during the summer, ON CLEARANCE. I saw it and immediately thought, 'That's a perfect fall bag.' The styling is classic. The subtle brass studs are very much this season. This is the prime rule of getting a fashion bargain. Think outside the season!

All variations of purple can be see all over this fall. By choosing a deep, lush purple it will last more than one season. It can act as an accent color and translate from season to season depending on your clothing. A purple bag will look fresh and new now and through next year.

Passagiato Con Me

Let's take a passagiato* through fashion and current events. I love fashion, but am not a slave to labels. This blog was started after reading one more fashion magazine that marginalized conservatives. The attitude was that conservative women are stupid and we wear ugly clothes.

So, here I am carving out my own space. I'm not alone and am not in competition with the big magazines or other bloggers. In fact I invite you to visit the If you find other voices in the wilderness please share them with us.

Where am I politically? I've been a registered Independent since the 1980 election (you can guess my age from there) when I supported John B. Anderson. Why? He supported the Equal Rights Amendment. I used to describe myself as a 'Conservative Liberal' before the phrase moderate was bandied about. It was Bill Clinton that finally pushed me into my conservative identity.

I love clothes. I love the art of clothing. I don't have one specific style. You are just as likely to find me in a silk shirt as a rag sweater. If this blog speaks to you than in the words of my best TV boyfriend, Tim Gunn, let's "make it work."

*--The Italian tradition of passagiato where, after a leisurely meal, people walk in their Sunday best on the main street of their communities. So, I invite you to stroll with me (con me).