The Four Seasons of Vintage

Occasion Dressing

Dressed for a party in my 1970s polka dot and lurex dress

Dressed for a party in my 1970s polka dot and lurex dress

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, in the middle of the day, having run some errands, I returned home and inspected my closet. The clothes were carefully arranged: vintage silk blouses next to button-downs, hanging neatly alongside dresses, and then pants, blazers and coats. I stood calmly surveying my wardrobe and accepted the truth. I am guilty of compartmentalizing. The fact that I have this tendency didn’t much surprise or particularly upset me, as it came to my attention while I was visiting with my tailor. (I regularly pass by her studio to enjoy a chat on topics as wide ranging as the weather, fabrics, horses, fashion trends, and the perplexing nature of English grammar.) I am also self–aware enough to know that I prefer structure when it comes to fashion. As much as I don’t believe in the Dos and Don’ts lists that litter women’s magazines, corralling them into what to wear at different stages in their lives, I seem to be of the school of thought of an outfit for every occasion.

I have in my lexicon: the going to the YMCA to swim outfit, the hiking outfit, the Pilates outfit, the grocery store outfit. Then, there are work clothes, party clothes, and house clothes. I suppose this attitude towards dressing has as much to do with conservation as it does with a sense of appropriateness; after all, clothes are apt to last longer if worn sparingly. I’ve noticed that most people choose their outfit for the day based on their mood. Instead of remarking on the occasion, they pay attention to what they feel like wearing at any given time. While I factor in my frame of mind, more usually, the task at hand determines my selection.

Obligation to others is what I’m in pursuit of: if someone has taken the time to cook a dinner or to throw a party, I will  make the effort to dress appropriately. Even for something as sorrowful as a funeral, I keep in mind what that loved one appreciated in terms of style, and as a means of expressing my love, try to incorporate some element of it into my outfit. In today’s modern world, my call for an accountability of style will likely single me out as old fashioned, or just simply as a fantasist. Can wearing something nice and coordinated really make that much of a difference in the stark day to day? I have always supposed that dressing for the occasion is a way of enriching the communal experience. Of course, some may bristle at this idea and take it to mean I am in favor of blending in. But I have found dressing for the occasion is one of the easiest ways to connect with others while staying true to your personality. In this respect, whether getting fitted out for a party or a concert or a barbecue, occasion dressing serves to enhance the beauty of the experience for all.

And so, I compartmentalize, and never mistake my house clothes for party clothes.Unknown-4

 

 

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Weekend Style Inspiration

Pants

My favorite wardrobe staple through every season…

Jackie Onassis

Jackie Onassis

Lauren Hutton, 1975

Lauren Hutton, 1975

Geraldine Saglio, center; photo Tommy Ton

Geraldine Saglio, center; photo Tommy Ton

photo Tommy Ton

photo Tommy Ton

Elisa Nalin

Elisa Nalin

Viviana Volpicella

Viviana Volpicella

Tamu McPherson, via Vanessa Jackman

Tamu McPherson, via Vanessa Jackman

photo Tommy Ton

photo Tommy Ton

Vika Gazinskaya

Vika Gazinskaya

 

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Personal Style

Alexis

Alexis is a chic Los Angeles native who lives in Hermosa Beach and works as an automotive color and materials designer. She’s a cool blond with a mischievous streak and a penchant for beautiful Italian shoes. On a recent warm afternoon in Beverly Hills we met up over coffee to talk about style.

photo[3]What do you find glamorous?

I think places can be as glamorous as people; I find California beach towns like Carmel and Santa Barbara glamorous. There’s a laid back sensibility with an undercurrent of style. I think it’s a lot harder to pull off this kind of casual chic style than it is to put on a gown with a lot of jewels. Glamour for me comes down to originality and authenticity. And a great pair of gold earrings doesn’t hurt….

Who are your favorite designers?

Alexander McQueen and Giuseppe Zanotti

How would you describe your style?

Classic but relaxed, with a sense of humor.

What scent/perfume do you wear?

Santal Blush by Tom Ford and Acqua di Parma’s Mirto di Panerea

Is there anything in your wardrobe that you are purely emotionally attached to?

I have a Hermès alphabet scarf that means a lot to me. It was a thank you gift from my mom that I recently took with me to an important meeting. The scarf made me feel like she was there with me.

Who are your style icons?

Daphne Guinness, Diane Kruger, and Victoria Beckham

What have you learned about style over the years?

Comfort is king. If your clothes are wearing you, you’ll never be comfortable enough to share your best self with others.

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Weekend Style Inspiration

The Sweatshirt

I like sweatshirts that are a bit unexpected, with interesting details and patterns. They can be paired with a skirt, pants or jeans for a casual chic look. To play up the contrast between informal and dressy, you can accessorize with a great piece of jewelry or a ladylike bag.

Liu Wen; photo Harper's Bazaar

Liu Wen; photo Harper’s Bazaar

Julia Sarr Jamois; photo Harper's Bazaar

Julia Sarr Jamois; photo Harper’s Bazaar

photo Tommy Ton

photo Tommy Ton

Hanneli Mustaparta; photo Harper's Bazaar

Hanneli Mustaparta; photo Harper’s Bazaar

Grace; photo Tommy Ton

Grace Mahary; photo Tommy Ton

Costanza Pascolato; via Haute Pepper

Costanza Pascolato; via Haute Pepper

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Essays and Musings, Personal Style

Severe Deluxe

Greta Garbo, 1941; photo Clarence Sinclair Bull

Greta Garbo, 1955; photo George Hoyningen Huene

Greta Garbo, 1941; photo Clarence Sinclair Bull

Greta Garbo, 1941; photo Clarence Sinclair Bull

For some years now I have kept on my desk a postcard of the actress Greta Garbo. She rests her chin in one hand and her head in the other, as she gazes melancholically into the distance. On one wrist she wears a Verdura curb link bracelet watch, and on the other, the matching bracelet. After becoming well known among the Hollywood set, Verdura, a fine jewelry company, opened its doors in New York City in 1939. Although I appreciate the minimalism and elegance of Garbo’s jewelry, it is not the reason I have been attached to the photograph. One thing in particular attracts me to this image of the star: the impossibility of separating the Verdura bracelets from the woman. I’ve long held the illusion that the bracelets symbolize the wearer. The other afternoon, while doing some research, I discovered that the curb link bracelet watch had been an especial Garbo favorite. When it comes to style, I like constancy. And so it pleases me to know that Garbo wore the same watch during her lifetime, to the exclusion of other designer options.

Fashion today demands a compulsive turnover and an endless quantity. When the urge to go shopping gets the better of me, my favorite thing to search for is vintage fashion jewelry. But I’ve noticed that my appreciation for steadiness places me in an awkward position with the selling community. It brands me as both a good and a bad shopper. Good, in that I’m inclined to spend a bit more money for a piece of jewelry that is of high quality. Bad, because I don’t buy in volume. And although I frequent consignment stores and vintage expos, and look regularly on e-bay for necklaces and bracelets, I come up short with purchases each year. I marvel at this desire to experience the new while sticking with the familiar, and recognize there is an aspect of severity in my enjoyment of repetition, for I’m told it’s necessary to have variety in order to stave off a fashion rut. But I prefer to reach for the same dependable items: that favorite bracelet and necklace and watch.

When does a person consider selling or giving away certain pieces of jewelry? This past summer I spent weeks contemplating the question. Finally I determined, if it is the right piece, there is no expiration date. In recent months, I’ve wondered if my dependence on fashion jewelry has become an obsession. When deliberating over a purchase, I bear in mind how it will age on me. Will my desire for it extend into my advanced years, and will I wear it as convincingly in the future as in the present? It’s true that this sort of calculation drains some of the excitement from shopping, curtailing the deep pleasure derived from finding something you love. If I am obsessed, it is an obsession in which the end results matter most to me. I experience both a comfort and a luxury in putting on the same familiar objects over the years.

Like Garbo, who wore her bracelet watch as a type of amulet, I count on my fashion jewelry for strength. There it is seeing me through day-to-day obligations and trying moments. Once more, it is there to accompany me on the travels and adventures that lie ahead. And in donning again and again the pieces I’ve carefully collected, I’ll feel, as when beholding them for the first time, that spark of love at first sight.

1980s Yves Saint Laurent tortoise pendant necklace

1980s Yves Saint Laurent tortoise pendant necklace

1980s Chanel leather and gold cuff

1980s Chanel leather and gold cuff

Vintage Paco Rabanne cuff

Vintage Paco Rabanne cuff

Chanel turnlock necklace, 1995

Chanel turnlock necklace, 1995

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Weekend Style Inspiration

Fringe

Fringe is everywhere this season. It adds a playfulness to a formal look and texture to a basic outfit. All the women below were spotted in fringe during the Spring 2015 fashion weeks by Harpersbazaar.com. I’m still looking for the perfect fringe piece to add to my wardrobe.  Do you own any fringe?

Michelle Elie

Michelle Elie

hbz-pfw-ss2015-street-style-day8-10-sm

Joanna Hillman

Joanna Hillman

Miroslava Duma

Miroslava Duma

harpersbazaar

Harpers

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Essays and Musings, The Four Seasons of Vintage

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Bergdorf Goodman vintage hatbox

Bergdorf Goodman vintage hatbox

Hermès 2006 Jige clutch with box

2006 Hermès Jige clutch with box

1970s Gucci handbag with original box

1970s Gucci handbag with original box

I see in the news that California is the first state to ban plastic bags in retail stores, but I’m not disappointed. The end of plastic bags is in sight, making way for the underrated box. There’s an expectation when people go clothes shopping that the items they purchased, after having been neatly folded, and sometimes even wrapped in tissue paper, will be placed in a bag; yet few people expect a box for their efforts. Jewelry, of course, usually comes in its own box, but for other items, like gloves, hats, scarves and leather goods, I politely request a box. Once home, I recycle the bags, keeping some of the colorful tissue paper for packaging gifts, or for use as a liner in the many boxes I’ve accumulated. Lately customers are asked if they would like to wear the item out, thus dispensing with the need for any type of bag or a box. Shoppers have their own standards; some believe their new purchase to be so special other people will love it as much as they do. And so they hurry out to the street to experience the thrill of showing it off to the world. Then there are those shoppers, like myself, who want to savor the moment of buying something and look forward to the ritual of wrapping. The ceremoniousness of preparing an item for handing over to the new owner is as important to me as the item itself.

Over time, if you appreciate beautiful things and are at all sentimental, it’s inevitable that you will acquire keepsakes. One day about two months ago, I received a vintage bracelet in the mail. It arrived in its original I.Magnin box from an e-bay seller whose mother had purchased a great deal of fashion jewelry in the 1990s. She never wore the pieces, choosing to catalogue them instead, in their individual boxes. On a road trip three years ago, I bought a Bergdorf Goodman hatbox in Arroyo Grande. My husband and I had decided to drive up the coast with our dog for Labor Day weekend. On the way up Route 101, we stopped in at a large antiques warehouse where I spotted the hatbox. But as I was without a hat to put in the box, I resisted purchasing it. Throughout the long weekend, at the beach and at the vineyards, I kept thinking about the lavender box. On the drive back to Los Angeles, my husband, who knew better, insisted we stop in at the warehouse so that I could make the hatbox mine.

As I stand looking at the many boxes in my closet, I feel sure they are superior to bags. Boxes not only serve a practical purpose, protecting objects from light and dust, they are keepers of history. Each time I pull an item from its box, I can’t help but revisit under what circumstances it made its way into my home. What was the weather like? What city had I been in at the time, and who had I been with? The boxes I’ve obtained recall to me various stages in my life: significant birthdays, my wedding, my diagnosis with cancer, the loss of my hair during chemotherapy, anniversaries. More than anything else, I have come to depend on them as talismans of memory.

Some colorful boxes; Dominique Aurientis cuff, 1993 with I.Magnin box

Some colorful boxes; Dominique Aurientis cuff, 1993 with I.Magnin box

Bergdorf Goodman box for hats worn when I underwent chemotherapy in 2001-2002; Cartier wedding band box

Bergdorf Goodman box for hats worn when I underwent chemotherapy in 2001-2002; Cartier wedding band box

 

 

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