Monday, September 25, 2006

Your daughter wouldn't be caught dead in these shoes.

But that doesn't keep me from wanting them. They're in my shopping cart at Arthur Beren's.

I love Arthur Beren. LOVE IT. They stock shoes in hard-to-find sizes. If you wear a tiny size or a narrow size or a size 11, you will love this place. My friends who wear narrow widths are always whining about not being able to find shoes that fit. Well, I wear a C-width, when I can get it, which isn't often. And mostly, wide-width shoes are sold at places like PayLess. And they're made of pleather. Which, I guess, befits my lumpen proletariat feet. But three words: No, no, no!

So ... Arthur Beren. With a very, very nice selection of shoes. Some of which are even fashionable (check out the boots!)

But that's not what I'm about today. Today I need replacements for beloved shoes that are getting worn out. And I need shoes for when I'm singing, which unfortunately, means low, sturdy heels that I can stand in for long, long periods of time. And wear with pants or skirts. And in black, with black hose or black pants, to go with my choir robe. Not exciting.

These, My Girl by Stuart Weizmann fit the bill:


Or these, which are so classic and old-ladyish that my gorge rises a bit: Salvatore Ferragamo's Lillaz in black. Perfect with a choir robe. (Or to wear when I'm robbing a bank. My God, they look respectable! Maybe I'd better skip them.)


And then these, for knocking around in when I'm wearing jeans but want something a little sleeker than old skool Pumas or my beloved clogs, Ferragamo's Trim in brown calf:


And then, because I'm not always wearing flats or low-heeled shoes, I also need something a little dressy, but not ridiculously glamorous. For those occasions, Stuart Weizmann's Stretch Limo.


And these. I really need these. The ultimate ladylike dress shoe, the classic slim-heeled slingback with a slim heel and a closed toe. Nothing is more irreproachable, yet--dare I say it--sexier. For those occasions, Calligarius' Balux in black/black.


OK, I need to get this off my chest. I'm not crazy about the beige/black combination. In fact, I kind of hate it. I don't care if Chanel popularized it long ago, or that Rene Mancini, my favorite shoe designer of all time, originated it. I don't like the combination of beige and black. Beige and brown, yes. Gray and black, yes. But warm colors combined with cold colors do not look good to my eye. In fact, they look like ass. (Like a black thong on a beige ass, to be exact.)

Finally, Stuart Weizmann's sumptuous and elegant Clara in black peau de soie with a three-inch heel--lovely, lovely, lovely, even if the more tasteful and discerning fetishists will love it, too:


I think I need to decide between the two low-heeled choir lady shoes. Because I don't want to waste perfectly good purple suede platform peep-toed ankle-strap money on two pairs of choir lady shoes. I may be a middle-aged choir lady with a wardrobe full of clothes from the Talbot's, but I have my limits.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Elvis Costello was right.

It's a black and white world. At least, as regards men's formal wear.

Check out my hot new idea for men's fashion: bracelets that will say WWFW? Meaning, of course, "What would Fred wear?" I see it in platinum or white gold. Maybe yellow gold. OK, if we must, rubber. Black and white rubber.

None of which would Fred Astaire have been caught dead wearing. But he did look natty, especially in white tie:

You know, as in the song: "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails." You know what I'm talking about, right? Well, just try to get the proper equipment for your husband when you're heading out to opening night at the opera, followed by the opera ball, and it's white tie.

First we needed to buy a suit. Pal Joke sent me the url to an eBay auction. It was from a rental place that was liquidating inventory. The suit was a buy-it-now auction for $139, with another $15 for shipping. Quel bargain! The fellow who owned the store emailed asking for measurements, height, weight, etc., etc., and I have to say, the thing fits beautifully. Now, I don't know the suit's fabric is, nor do I want to. It might be bad news. I'm pretty sure it's wool ... but it's not lovely, soft, drapey wool. It doesn't have the drape of the Brooks Brothers suits ... but they cost $1,200.

So the suit was taken care of. But then there was the whole question of the accessories. Now, you'd think with Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and Paul Stuart all within a short walk of my apartment, I'd be sitting pretty, but unfortunately, getting my hands on the right accessories was a lot harder than it should have been. I've decided to write it all up so that that you, too, (or your spouse) can look snazzy in white tie.

The short version is that you will do a lot better at chain stores that have branches in the Deep South. Brooks Brothers has branches in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina, both cities where full-dress balls occur with some frequency. Therefore, Brooks Brothers is in a position to special-order stuff from stores that stock it. Ralph Lauren and Paul Stuart are not in the same position.

We are located in Chicago, so we had to deal with a north-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line lack of civilization. What follows is the story of where we got what we needed.

1. The white cotton pique shirt, preferably with a stiffly-starched detachable collar. Brooks Brothers is the only store that carries one. And the Chicago store had it out back, not out front where you could see it. They also don't sell it on their website. My salesman, Terry Higgins, special-ordered one for me. $225.

2. A white cotton pique bow tie. Brooks Brothers had one for $45, but it was one of those pre-tied monstrosities. (Excuse me, but What The Fornicate? Does this make any sense at all? Wouldn't somebody who was popping for full-on white tie want a tie that ... well ... ties?) I found the right kind of tie at Ralph Lauren's Chicago flagship. Pure and simple, no hooks to size the thing; you have to make it work by knotting it well. And it costs $95. (BTW, Ben Silver has a nice page of instructions for tying bow ties.)

3. A white cotton pique waistcoat/weskit/vest. This is worn instead of a cummerbund, to cover the top of the pants. My salesman at Ralph Lauren told me that they get these things in in December. The salesman at Paul Stuart didn't know what I was talking about, and tried to sell me one of those brightly patterned Four Weddings and a Funeral numbers. No, no, no! Once again, Brooks Brothers is the only store that carries it. It was special-ordered for me for $175.

4. Studs. You can't wear your yellow gold and onyx studs with white tie. You must wear mother-of-pearl or silver; otherwise you break up the lovely expanse of whiteness. I bought my husband a set of sterling studs and cufflinks from the vintagey looking jewelry case at Ralph Lauren. They were $560 marked down to $160. Otherwise, I'd have ordered these convertible studs for $275 from Brooks Brothers:

5. Shoes. OK, you might, like my husband, have made do with normal black (polished, please) dress lace-ups for black tie events, but honestly, if you're going out looking like Stokowski, and you've popped for the shirt, studs, tie, and the non-Four Weddings waistcoat, you need the right shoes. Do not worry that you will look fey. Anyone who finds your shoes funny isn't going to a white-tie occasion, anyway, so his or her opinion doesn't matter.

These shoes are correct:

These are (surprise, surprise) from Brooks Brothers. You can get the same shoe, but in black kid (which in my opinon is preferable) at Ralph Lauren, but, once again, only during the holiday season.

Brooks Brothers also sells those patent leather lace-ups that make you look as if you--at best-- play bass fiddle player with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at worst, like someone who rents his shoes. Go ahead and buy them if you must, but they are, to my way of thinking, a hideous compromise.

I sent my husband out to buy his own shoes--aren't I nice?--and Brooks Brothers didn't have any in his size. So he came home with a pair from Salvatore Ferragamo. They are patent leather slip ons with grosgrain trim, but no bows. Another compromise, I suppose, but they don't look rented. In fact, they look nice. Neither pimpy nor fey. And he said the important thing for him was that the shoes be something he'd only wear at night, with dress clothes. (By George, I think he's got it!)

6. It doesn't stop there. There is the matter of your socks. Dress shoes like those pictured above are cut rather low in the vamp, so you need to be wearing the right socks, which are black and don't have ribs. These are the right socks, courtesy of Brooks Brothers.

7. It goes on and on. You really need a black silk top hat, and you can get a silk opera hat at Ascot Top Hats. For a stick, I suggest you try an antiques store, or Ascot Top Hats. For gloves, which really are necessary with white tie, you're on your own. I bought the last pair available at the Fell Company in Winnetka. Thank goodness the Opera Ball is in September, so we didn't need to get a cloak, as I have no idea where to find one that wouldn't make my husband look like Mandrake the Magician. Or the Phantom of the Opera. Or an escapee from a Renaissance Faire. You can get linen handkerchiefs, three for $40, at Brooks Brothers, and Ascot Top Hats has nice instructions on how to fold them nicely for an ultra-natty finishing touch.

A Shout-out to my Shorties: Smirnoff's Prepsta Guide

You may have seen the video, but you really need to read the handbook, too.

And remember to leave a comment. In cursive!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Linda Anderson in black and white

Today we'll all experience Poppy's new-found lust for black and white damask in the guise of a catalog review. Yay!

It's not often I see something new in the catalogs that piling up this time of year. What with targeting marketing and customer lists being swapped around all the time, every catalog I get reminds me of another one.

So at first the Linda Anderson catalog struck me as just another gift/decorative accessories/ladies' casual clothing and jewelry emporium. Along the lines of the Sundance catalog, except not as western. Or like Charles Keith ... but not as Southern. Then it sort of reminded me of Ballard Designs.

The truth is, Linda Anderson carries a lot of unique merchandise that is vaguely reminiscent of other things I like. That sounds like faint praise, but it isn't. For example, these bookends remind me of Ballard Designs. They look sort of 1920s, and sort of Frenchily-ooh-la-la, if you know what I mean.

Adorable bathing beauty bookends that would be perfect for my black-and-white kitchen--so handy for holding up my cookbooks--plus they would remind me not to eat any of the goodies I cooked for fear of POPPING OUT OF MY BATHING SUIT--except the website told me they were out of stock. And maybe they're a little kitchsy, anyway.

And it isn't often that I see a double page spread that makes me think "ooh, I want those. And that. And that." But this did it:

There were some other lovely black and white damask home accents in the catalog, but I couldn't find them on-line. Which means I can't show them to you. Which is annoying.

It's bad when things are out of stock. And it's worse when the catalog and the website appear to exist in parallel universes. Note to retailers: If you have a print catalog and a website, we expect to find more merchandise on the website, not less.

I rate the Linda Anderson catalog "F" for frustrating.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Waverly's Metro Line at Target

I'm in love.

So stylish! So chic! So Audrey Hepburn-in-Breakfast at Tiffany's!

But it's too late. I'm already married. I'm committed to a different color scheme.

(Anyway, I was looking for kitchen curtains in the same stripe as that neckroll. And they didn't have any.)

But oh, that black and white bedding! Swoon!

Check it out here.