What’s Important 2014—Mid-year Review

As always, good food was important.  Here's a plum claufoutis I baked the other day.

As always, good food was important. Here’s a plum claufoutis I baked the other day.

Closer up, even better

Closer up, even better

As the New Year turned for 2014, I wrote a post on what felt important to me—more than a list of resolutions, it designated what mattered to me as we entered 2014.

As the second half of the year swept in, I’ve wondered how much that list has guided my actions and choices.  Some of them feel strongly influential even now, but others have been bulldozed over by unforeseen transformations in private and business life.

This is the first of two more-meditative posts. I’m going through a roller-coaster of transformation right now professionally.  Day to day and month to month, I’m being pushed to grow, expand, and otherwise transform.  This is exciting, as well as unsettling.  So I find myself wanting to look back to see what, if all or any, apply.  That’s the task for today.

We really do change, and often a lot more quickly than one-year cycles foster.

A lazy Sunday: sleep until naturally waking, a walk in the Park, watching soccer with friends, and having beautiful people over for dinner.  Isabel Marant embroidered jeans + Zadig & Voltaire embroidered blouse + tote

A lazy Sunday: sleep until naturally waking, a walk in the Park, watching soccer with friends, and having beautiful people over for dinner. Isabel Marant embroidered jeans + Zadig & Voltaire embroidered blouse + Hermès Market Bag

Let’s see.  What did I write all those months ago?

Sleep is important to me.  Hallelujah.  I’ve done better in this area in 2014.  Or, let’s rephrase: I’ve learned how to be less sleepy.  I often have double the coffee plus green tea.  I try once a week to really sleep, either going to bed early or sleeping “until I want to get up,” as I tell MP.  When I do this, it throws off my whole day, but it also feels like vacation, so that’s nice.  Upshot: To sleep a full night feels like a vacation.  Sigh.

Exercise is more important to me.  This I’ve been good about.  Now that I’m heading to Central Park most mornings (this is why sleep doesn’t fully happen), I do about 7-8 miles of fast walking.  Door to door, we’re talking about some time.  I haven’t kept up with yoga or weights, and my ideal working out time would be 3 hours every day so to include them.  That would make me happy.  That would bring me peace.  Every single body is different (as is the maniacal release of frustration/angst/creative stewing/etc.), but as I grow older and more sedentary, this time just keeps me connected to me.  Funny enough, this means most of my time out in the city is spent in exercise gear and sneakers.  Go figure.

This Dalvy in Rouge H makes my heart flutter every time I pull it out

This Dalvy in Rouge H makes my heart flutter every time I pull it out; it got approving strokes and comments at H (of course).

Heading out to meet two friends, one a fellow H-fanatic (S!).  Note the espadrilles: love.

Heading out to meet two friends a couple weeks ago, one a fellow H-fanatic (S!). Note the espadrilles: love.

Soft skin and hair are important to me.  I’ve had one hell of a spring and summer on this front, but at least I’ve been dealing with it.  After long, long months of work with my dermatologist, here’s the thing: I have extremely sensitive skin set off by anything anymore.  Through the patch test, we discovered a set of allergies, but one that likely don’t have much to do with what’s going on (gold sodium thiosulfate—which in addition to comprising gold jewelry, also comprises a lot of photographic chemicals I work with).  My face isn’t the whole problem; I buy tubes of hydrocortisone for other parts of my body.  He’s decided I’m the most extreme outlier of sensitivity that he’s seen in decades of practice and cosmetic industry research.  I don’t wear any makeup at all (I break this for networking, etc.), I wash with only water, and baking soda is my best friend (shampoo, toothpaste).  All this will likely pass (my pores need a break to stop reacting to everything).  Guess what?  My skin and hair are soft now.  Removing silicones was a good thing.

Chacott's display of Freed's of London's ballet flat . . . I've been visiting the store this past week.  :)

Chacott’s display of Freed’s of London’s ballet flat . . . I’ve been visiting the store this past week. :)

Footwear is important me.  Oh happiness!  I love my summer shoes now.  Winter is easy—boots are fab.  But for summer, I’m in love with cheap espadrilles and the reasonably priced Freed’s of London ballet flats.  I just bought my second and third pair of their ballerinas (pink and black).  I now walk without worry.  Thick padding of moleskin helps.  Let me invent a new hashtag: #mostdelicatefeetonearth

Beautiful separates are important to a balanced wardrobe.  Done.  I no longer have a uniform; I open the wardrobe and play.  Yes, this feels incredible—a wholly new approach to dressing that’s simply fun.  Mixing and matching also makes it easier to dress for a range of events and activities in the city, no matter the weather, the compatriots, or the purpose.

My task now for the rest of 2014 is to strategize the fullest use possible of all these pieces.  How easy it is to rely on favorite combinations… like those H&M tussar silk pants with whatever white shirt is still clean…

La Perla bras from the spring sample sale

La Perla bras from the spring sample sale

Beautiful foundational garments and lingerie are important to me.  You have no idea—I now need two extra sets of boobs so I can use it all.  I am set.  The French are right—starting off the day by choosing which beautiful pair of undergarments to slip into changes how you view and experience your body.

A favorite Hermès scarf: the mousseline GM in rouge vif of Carré Kantha.

A favorite Hermès scarf: the mousseline GM in rouge vif of Carré Kantha.

The Carré Kantha with two other now-long-time favorite scarves: La Danse in black and in blue

The Carré Kantha with two other now-long-time favorite scarves: La Danse in black and in blue

Playing with and celebrating the beautiful handbags, jewelry, and silks already in the cupboards is important to me.  That sounds good, but let’s look more closely at that.  I wrote: 2013 was a grandly luxurious year in the accessories department.  I can slow down.  I can savor.  For a while, this played out truthfully. And even now, after a grand expansion of everyday bags and crystal jewelry (my Baccarat and Lalique SA is the little devil on my shoulder), this is true.  I play, enjoy, and as far as bags go, have a hard time seeing any “holes.”

That said, the indulgences keep piling up, literally.

A Vanessa Bruno dress I pulled out for an H meet-up with H lovers.  Pico, H Cheche cotton/silk shawl, and Lalique necklace tagged along.  Again, Note the espadrilles.

A Vanessa Bruno dress I pulled out for an H meet-up with H lovers last weekend. This is one of my favorite dresses. Also wearing: Barenia Pico, H Cheche cotton/silk shawl (with golden and silver H’s embroidered throughout), and Lalique necklace tagged along. Again, Note the espadrilles.

List-making is important to me.  For example: The Enough List.

Cue roaring laughter.  Let me revise: The Enough List for now.  I’ve been good at acquiring no new dresses.  Recently I said no new clothes until I see Uniqlo’s collaboration with Inès for fall, and I stayed with that until yesterday in the West Village when it appeared: a beautiful navy mid-length skirt with perfectly tailored high waist, classic in proportions but with fresh detailing.  The sales associates even convinced me to order up a similar style skirt in black with white stripes down the side.  To be fair, these were two pieces I was studiously looking for and despaired to find.

The results of shopping with H-loving friends...

The results of shopping with H-loving friends…

I have finally succumbed.  Both the Maxi Twilly and the cashmere/silk shawls have entered my wardrobe.  And there's still F/W 2015 to come...

I have finally succumbed. Both the Maxi Twilly and the cashmere/silk shawls have entered my wardrobe. And there’s still F/W 2015 to come…

But the second half of 2014 is going to be All About The Scarf.  I’ve had a running head start this past month, and Hermès FW 2014-2015 is going to crush any last resistance whimpering, Enough…savor...  To that end, I’ve happily made a friend at Bergdorf’s, as I worry about missing out at Hermès proper.  This Hermès season is the best since 2008, IMHO.

Discipline is important to me.  Discipline has been a good thing to think about, and it might have organized my year so far more than anything else.  I’ve been disciplining my body through both diet and exercise—nothing restrictive, just far more fruits and veggies, and oatmeal has become my favorite breakfast dish.  Also, I’ve been disciplining my mind and general work ethic by accepting not only more work than ever before but also studying and strategizing growth into new service sectors.  But more on that in the second of these posts…

A Sunday treat of lavender and rose/lychee/champagne macarons

A Sunday treat of lavender and rose/lychee/champagne macarons

So what about new observations?  What’s important now that didn’t command my attention in January?

This is surprising to me.  My business mentoring, developing, and launching authors is important to me.  For the past few years, I’ve been announcing as a resolution: I’ll work less.  This never, ever happens, so I didn’t even say it aloud this year.  Eleven years ago, I started my work and, then, business as a way to be creative and make money while pursuing the much poorer work of being an artist.  I didn’t realize I’d started a career.  This summer, I embraced it.  My business is one of the absolute most important things in my life.  It is not only a way to be financially strong or to work creatively with imaginative people (both of which are incredible on their own) but also a way to push myself creatively, artistically, and professionally.  I’m developing new services for authors, networking with professional women, locating mentors, and attending workshops to push skills.

What about you?  Have you had an opportunity lately to reflect on your 2014 plans and reflections?  Has life or serendipity been pulling you onto other paths?

What’s important to you right now?

Posted in Aesthetic Life, Meditations, Wardrobe Update

Grail Search—Part Three (Arabesques)

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl in a copper shot with purple

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl in a copper shot with purple

If you don’t know, my handle on the Purse Forum is arabesques.  Because of that, a few people think I once studied or performed ballet (arabesques is a standard move with the ballet repertoire).  The inspiration for the handle actually came from another art form: the decorative arts, wherein the arabesque denotes an ornamental design of scrolling, intertwined lines often of foliage and flowers.  This was a design tradition I knew quite well because of my first full-time job during college—a designer of Oriental carpets.

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—closer

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—closer

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—look at that lovely soft detailing

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—look at that lovely soft detailing

I learned early in my Hermès collecting of the Arabesques scarf design.  I don’t know much about it, just that I see it all the time in the 90cm twill.  It’s an über classic design, often sporting gold scrolling work and the strong blue, red, green, and burgundy colors.  Sometimes I see it in a hot pink that sets my pulse racing, but an über classic scarf is a hard thing to pull off.  So when Jan at Its-All-Goode landed this gem of a change ant mousseline GM, I was captivated.

It took a while to finally decide—changeants are notoriously difficult to capture in pictures.  Would it even look decent on me?  I have neutral coloring, so both warm and cool colors can work, but every bronze/copper scarf I’ve tried on at H has gotten a no-no-no shake from MP and friends.  But I talked to Jan (who is amazing, as I’ve written before), and I took the plunge.  When it arrived, I was overjoyed.

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—center, laid out

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—center, laid out

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the flowers radiating from the center

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the flowers radiating from the center

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the title element

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the title element

This is a simple scarf, almost delicate even.  I find that the mousse rendition matches the arabesque pattern very well.  There’s something often fragile about a European arabesque, as if we’re attracted to the light and heat and sharp contrast of the Middle Eastern and Indian sun—but at the same, we’re the delicate flowers that fare none too well away from the north.  The Hermès design is an interesting combination because the floral elements seem decidedly wispy but the arabesque elements are quite formal.  In a twill, these two design registers tend to fight, but in this mousseline they blend together effortlessly.

Like with Au Fil de la Soie, mousseline GMs of Arabesques are rare to pop up.  I’m glad I waited—and glad, too, of Jan’s expertise when communicating with her.  As the fall/winter 2014 scarves roll into the stores, they get a lot of scarf collectors’ attention.  But sometimes, the old is siren.  It proves that beautiful things entrance for years to come.

How was your weekend; did you enjoy the beautiful cooler weather?

Posted in Hermès, Scarves

Summer black

Anne Fontaine black linen shift dress with J Crew straw tote

Anne Fontaine black linen shift dress with J Crew straw tote and espadrilles

While my wardrobe is increasingly made up of whites and light colors, black remains a summer staple.  In New York, how could it be otherwise.  Today let me share some of my favorite light-weight black summer looks.

First up, an Anne Fontaine shift dress.  This is what I wore when photographed by Bill Cunningham recently—wearing the Mythiques Phoenix pareo as a shawl to shield arms from the sun.  The Phoenix grabs all eyes  . . .

Talk about light.  This linen dress is pure air.  When I have to be out all day in the heat, like when heading to an open-air bar to watch a World Cup game, this is what I put on.  When paired with a straw bag and espadrilles, I can make believe I’m heading to the beach.  Better yet, add some crystal and silver, and I could be heading to a Riviera beach.  Fabulous.

More summer black . . . Uniqlo linen shirt with Agnès B. striped full skirt, Hermès Jigé clutch, and K Jaques sandals

More summer black . . . Uniqlo linen shirt with Agnès B. striped full skirt, Hermès Jigé clutch, and K Jaques sandals

Next—here’s a favorite and oft-repeated outfits of summer: a striped full skirt (with pockets!) and masculine linen shirt.  The skirt is from the très française label Agnès B that I love but can rarely find something to work (I’m nowhere near the measurements of their mannequins).  I was thrilled to find this striped full skirt as it immediately put me in mind of summers in Haute Normandy along the sea.  Only in Normandy, you’d need a thick sweater since summers are never really warm . . .

A softer black . . . DvF silk pink/black print blouse and Uniqlo boyfriend jeans

A softer black . . . DvF silk pink/black print blouse and Uniqlo boyfriend jeans with J Crew espadrilles

And last, a stay-at-home editing outfit during a long day of work.  Sometimes, it’s important to dress half-way nice just for you.  My boyfriend jeans from Uniqlo are much used, though mainly just for walks around Central Park when no one cares what anyone wears.  When I put them on for the day, I always feel the urge to balance them with a true blouse.  This halter style from DvF is my favorite of these dressier pieces.  Soft, soft, soft is this silk.  I love how the shape emphasizes a strong shoulder.

*

As you can see from these looks, black can be a great choice even in the hot depths of summer.  It all depends on the fabric and cut, and linen and canvas espadrilles especially are never-fail choices.  I don’t often wear all black when sitting around at home because my cat would leave me speckled with all her hair (she refuses to sit anywhere but on me).  But when heading out, a few light-weight black choices can easily take one from park to rooftop bar and from Madison Ave shopping to a music event in Harlem.

Do you wear black in summer?

Posted in Daily Vestment

Grail Search—Part Two (Au Fil de la Soie)

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie in a bright summer yellow

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie in a bright summer yellow

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, more detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, more detail

The route of silk . . . showing all the classic Annie Faivre aesthetic detailing

The route of silk . . . showing all the classic detailing of Annie Faivre’s aesthetic 

One of the most entrancing things about Hermès scarves is how their subject material speaks so specifically to our particular interests and passions.  Annie Favre, one of Hermès most celebrated scarf artists, has a habit of hitting all my little and big fascinations, from the Ballet Russes to Marionettes to Eastern Gardens.  I once had a rather nice collection of Annie Faivre 90cm classic twills, but when the format proved not me, I didn’t want them languishing in my drawers.

That didn’t mean I’d gone off her designs.  The intricacy and the narrative quality continue to entrance.  She plays with Assyrian stylization that quickly leads me back to dreamy afternoons in Berlin’s Pergamon among the Ishtar Gates and its guardians.  One scarf in particular has haunted my footsteps—her interpretation of the journey of silk, Au Fil de la Soie.  Produced for a 1995 collection (I believe), it was reissued in a late-90s large mousseline format.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this mousseline version to finally turn up at my usual haunts.  There is so little information about the issue that specific color ways have been impossible to research, so I let one go by a couple years ago.  A few weeks ago I realized how fortunate it was I’d incorporated so much white, cream, ivory and blush pink into my wardrobe.  When this yellow version appeared, it fit right in.

Since receiving it, its joyful brightness quickly has made it a favorite summer scarf.  It’s like sitting under a lemony sun and sipping rose water.  This scarf just makes me happy, and I have to say—the best part of these warm-weather sartorial experiments is about taking things lightly.

Now, where’s the best gelato/ice cream in the city?  I’m thinking Ladurée.  Adventure soon.

What’s your happiest accessory?

Posted in Hermès, Scarves

Beat the Heat—Styling Thoughts

Fourth of July, from the rooftop, waiting for fireworks . . .

Fourth of July, from the rooftop, waiting for fireworks . . .

Looking south toward downtown

Looking south toward downtown

4th of July ensemble: Zara lace top, Ines de la Fressange x Uniqlo navy pants with red drawstring, and red Castaner espadrilles

4th of July ensemble: Zara lace top, Ines de la Fressange x Uniqlo navy pants with red drawstring, J Crew straw bag, and red Castaner espadrilles

Close up of the Zara top

Close up of the Zara top

It is starting to be HOT out there, people.

I do very poorly in hot weather.  I grow overheated in temperatures as low as 76F, so when the temperature dial hits mid to upper 80s—or, gasp, the 90s—ouch.

Last summer after arriving in NYC, I quickly realized my summer wardrobe wasn’t working.  Striped St. James cotton t-shirts, skinnies jeans, and white Anne Fontaine tops might work well enough in Oklahoma when using air-conditioning 24/7 and never walking anywhere, but it didn’t work in NYC.  New York is sticky hot, too, which means you really don’t want much hitting the skin.  Since I was realizing this only late in the season, there was nothing to do but promise to fix the problem come this summer.

My solution: lace and eyelet tops + espadrilles.

And another Zara top!  I love these lace things . . . nothing is better in the summer.

And another Zara top! I love these lace things . . . nothing is better in the summer.

Ines de la Fressange pinstriped black pants + Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Lalique cuff and J Crew tote

Ines de la Fressange pinstriped black pants + Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Lalique cuff + Baccarat pendant + J Crew tote

That combo worked so well, I wore it AGAIN two days later. :)

That combo worked so well, I wore it AGAIN. :)  I added a fancy Lalique necklace and K St. Jacques gold sandals

Ever since the H&M Consciousness Exclusive collection, I’ve been adding lace top to my wardrobe as the summer solution.  First came the Zadig et Voltaire sample sale eyelet finds, one sleeveless and one cap-sleeved; I wear them every week.  Then came the start of the Zara sale, at which I grabbed a few lace-y tops.  Fast forward a week and a half, and I went back and grabbed more.

The Zara lace tops from this seasons sale

The Zara lace tops from this seasons sale

The Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Ann Taylor eyelet skirt

The Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Ann Taylor eyelet skirt

Why get so many?  Because add a little Cosabella bandeau bra, et voilà!  Instant cool comfort.  As in, the most fabulous hot and humid summer solution.  Yes, I’m showing skin . . . but once the humid heat hits, no one cares.

But if finding hot-weather tops was imperative this summer, finding hot-weather shoes was even more so.  My feet were in pain last summer.  Everything chaffed.  Everything tore up my feet.  I began to worry my feet could no longer stand up to city walking—when city walking is the activity I love best.  Then about two months or so ago, I tried something completely new: espadrilles.  Specifically: the cheap, cheap ones from J Crew.

My summer shoes: J Crew espadrilles, J Crew ballerinas,  K St Jacques sandals, Freed's of London ballerinas, and Castaner espadrilles wedges

My summer shoes: J Crew espadrilles, J Crew ballerinas, K St Jacques sandals, Freed’s of London ballerinas, and Castaner espadrilles wedges

I just get happy looking at this sunny collection

I just get happy looking at this sunny collection.  My feet are even happier.

The espadrilles are heavenly . . . the ballerinas still need a bit of breaking in.

The espadrilles are heavenly . . . the J Crew ballerinas still need a bit of breaking in.

I promised myself I would spare no expense to find comfortable summer shoes this year.  Little did I know to go cheap would be the best solution.  Aside from divinely soft Freed’s of London red ballerinas, my foot saviors have been the cheap as chips cotton espadrilles constantly on sale at J Crew.  The K St. Jacques sandals are also quite, quite comfortable on the stickiest of days, though my knees hurt like the dickens by the time I get home.  The Castaner wedges are good for short ventures, but I prefer flats anymore.

So—the summer heat solution seems to be: cheap as chips lace top + cheap as chips espadrilles.  What then about a bag?  Cheap as chips works there too:

J Crew woven basket tote

J Crew woven basket tote

A straw bucket bag is a classic summer staple, and this is a sturdy choice.  I can lug laptops (yes plural) and books to meetings, or a towel and pillow to the rooftop deck.  Occasionally J Crew offers a discount on them, so I encourage keeping a look-out.

 

What tips do you have for summer styling?

Posted in Daily Vestment, Vestiary