No foolin'... my kind of treat.
[Paraiba Tourmaline & Diamond Ring, at Harry Winston]
Windowlicker is from the French for browsing: faire du lèche-vitrine.
Each year the Omaha Lit Fest includes an art show, relating to literary themes. This year was, "'Possessions: Literary characters and the things they carried.' This exhibit will feature artists’ interpretations of literary artifacts, in a variety of media—namely: the props, objects, fashions, food, and jewelry of famous literary characters. (Think Hester Prynn’s scarlet letter; Mrs. Dalloway’s flowers; Sherlock Holmes’ pipe; Willy Wonka’s golden ticket; Proust’s madeleines.)" Wanda Ewing, who has an illustration from her "Pin-Up Girls" series forthcoming in the December issue of the Paris Review, donated a print based on The Yellow Wallpaper. Other works included a sculpture of an artificial leg inspired by David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System, and a painting featuring the line "Down came the cascade," so crucial to The Gift of the Magi. I bought the pictured necklace, made by artist Amy Mather, inspired by a passage in One Hundred Years of Solitude: When it was opened by the giant, the chest gave off a glacial exhalation. Inside there was only an enormous, transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken into colored stars. Disconcerted, knowing that the children were waiting for an immediate explanation, Jose Arcadio Buendia ventured a murmur: "It's the largest diamond in the world." "No," the gypsy countered. "It's ice."
I joined India House this spring because I desperately wanted to move to London, and, being what it is, and overlooking a garden dedicated to the Queen, on Hanover Square, one of the few locations in what I like to think of as Old New York to retain its colonial nomenclature, it reminded me of something of what I missed. I have lunch there almost every day now, and am constantly joined by a rotating cast of clever, intriguing people (the subset of men who are willing to wear a jacket and tie to lunch tends to be rewarding: my companion yesterday is quite involved with horseracing, a subject I'll happily talk about for hours). Today I'm meeting Anne Landsman, whose brilliant novel, The Rowing Lesson, I publicized a few years ago, just before it went on to win both of South Africa's major literary prizes in a single summer. At present, so many people ask me to take them to lunch that I am never short of scintillating company –– I'm now moving into the holding court stage, where I put a table together (and if you ever want to go, just ask me, or visit the Blue Bar, open to the public at night). I do hope that some intellectual types join soon so that I may start my kind of book club. I'm also campaigning, gently, for a club table. There's always more to say.
Just back from a whirlwhind 36 hours in Boston, for the Grub Street benefit, which my publicity client, Tayari Jones was headlining, along with Anita Shreve and Gregory Maguire. I had lunch with Ladette Randolph, editor-in-chief of Ploughshares, and novelist in her own right, and was impressed by what's she doing. I left for the airport before dawn, and forgot my make-up bag, which led me to pop in to A Matter of Face, which seems to only traffic in the Platonic ideal. I came away with Blinc mascara, like nothing I've ever used, and Paula Dorf lipstick in "Legend." Since I was without a brush, I had my hair blown out on Newbury Street. Tayari and I met at the bar in the Harvard Club, where I was staying again, for champagne to start, and then went to the 'do, which was smashingly fun. I adore my clients, and watching them succeed and expand their reach is one of my life's truest pleasures. On my way out of the benefit, held in a gallery, I bought an eight-and-a-half foot tall Buddha. I knew it was mine.
Previously: On Wishes, & How to Get Yours.
Leaving first thing in the morning to fly up for lunch with Ladette Randolph, a friend from Nebraska, who's now the editor-in-chief of Ploughshares and author of A Sandhills Ballad, and attend the Grub Street benefit, headlined by Tayari Jones, Anita Shreve, and Gregory Maguire. Coming back Wednesday afternoon, and packing light: a book, a pair of heels and one gown. If I had more time, I'd make a meandering call upon two of my favorite representations of femininity and masculinity, respectively: Isabella Stewart Gardner, painted by Sargent with a strand of pearls roped twice around her waist, and said to have walked a lion on a leash, and Max Beckmann, whose 1927 Self-Portrait in Tuxedo I first saw in Paris, and was stunned when, years later, I encountered it again in Cambridge. I'd never have guessed.
After a lovely, and immensely productive, client lunch at the Mercer in SoHo, I found myself across the street from the Nespresso store, so I went in and came across the Miele model, with its "automatic rinse and cleaning programs," a.k.a. my go-to on why I got involved in this whole working-for-wages racket. All I want for Christmas is this, the racehorse named Black Caviar, a Chanelicopter, ten or twelve weeks of languor in the Brook Penthouse at Claridge's, custom-made boots and a diamond bib.
[Miele x Nespresso coffee machine, $2,500]
Windowlicker is from the French for browsing: faire du lèche-vitrine.
The swimming pool was the defining feature of the house where I grew up, at least from my perspective. It had a waterfall, with a hidden bench, that was magic to a child. We had daily chores cleaning it, so it was the center of life. One of our enormous St. Bernards jumped in on top of my brother, in a sweetly disastrous attempt to rescue him. My father wanted a black pool, finding the aesthetic far preferable, but my mother, rarely practical, claimed there'd be no way to know if we'd drowned. In fairness, I often slipped down the ladder at night, and swam by myself with the lights off. Two passages I've marked lately on the subject:
"August 1957, a villa in Cap-Ferrat. Elizabeth Taylor emerges from the swimming pool and approaches her movie-producer husband Mike Todd, who is holding a red leather box from Cartier. Inside: a ruby and diamond bib necklace that, as Taylor later recalled, 'glittered in the warm light,' along with matching earrings and bracelet, which she immediately slipped on. 'Since there was no mirror around, I had to look into the water. The jewelry was gorgeous, rippling red on blue like a painting. I put my arms around Mike's neck and pulled him into the pool after me. It was a perfect summer day and a day of perfect love.'"
–– Art + Auction, current issue
"If there was one thing Alice knew, it was how to make a lasting impression. The first time Charles Marsh saw her, she was stark naked, a pale, shimmering goddess rising unexpectedly from the mists of his Austin swimming pool. Marsh was then in his midforties and still made his home in the Texas capital, where he was a prince of the city and one of the most powerful men in the state with his string of fifty newspapers and a fortune that included oil wells and large tracts of real estate. He lived in the proverbial big house on the hill, an immense Tudor mansion in the exclusive district of Enfield, which had a commanding view of town and boasted one of the first private swimming pools in the area. With Leona, his wife of twenty years, and their three children away for an extended stay at their summer home on Cape Cod, he had been feeling bored and lonely and on a whim had decided to throw a party and open his home to Austin's elite. At two a.m. after the last of his many guests had said good night, Marsh had wandered back outside to enjoy a cigar in the early morning cool when, as he later recounted the episode to Ingersoll, he was stopped in his tracks by the sight of a bold young girl emerging from the water, 'her long blond hair flowing among her fresh young breasts.' Alice was not yet twenty. Intelligent and ambitious, she had fled the small Texas town of Marlin, where her father was the bank president, for the excitement of the capital city. She was working as a secretary in the state legislature and already had a long line of suitors when she entered Marsh's life in the summer of 1931. The morning after the pool escapade, a smitten Marsh reportedly rolled over in bed and announced to Alice, 'You are not for Austin, Texas, little girl.'" ––The Irregulars
I had a little bubbly at dinner –– it was champagne upon arrival –– and so I thought I'd tackle your fashion questions tonight.
This post was inspired by a conversation over cocktails last night, about where to find clothes in larger sizes. I don't shop much, because I am a size 14 or 16, and many stores stop at a 12, while most higher-end designers stop at an 8 or 10. So I spend a lot of time looking, and even less time buying, which suits me because I prefer to pay more for fewer, nicer things, as you know by now.
Further, I used to weigh quite a bit more, like, tons, and was quite the dashing heartbreaker, much more so than now, and I had a whole philosophy (about lending the appearance of deshabille) that really worked. When I decided to lose weight, it was solely for health (my knees hurt) reasons than those of self-worth or appeal.
My main point, however, and this will become more apparent as we continue, is to embrace who you are, wherever and whatever you are. I think the biggest mistake that curvy women make is when they try to embrace a style that is not becoming on them. There is a long list of things I simply do not wear, because they are not flattering: empire waists and turtlenecks are at the top.
Most of my clothes these days come from Talbots –– I bought a black satin strapless gown there last night –– Pendleton, J. Peterman and the occasional exquisite piece from Sally Cohen Vintage. I stick to the timeless, and I patronize places that stock my size. Dress Barn is also well-stocked in plus sizes, although the wheat to chaff ratio hardly favors the sifter. I also like to have ballgowns custom made in Chinatown now and then. The key thing is to know, really know, what suits you, and to avoid the rest. Shoes and handbags I splurge on, because they're the real deal, and that's when the serious glamour comes out to play. All of my furs are from thrift stores. I shop Estate Jewelry for sparkle, with my favorite Elizabeth Taylor quote in mind: "I'd like to see some rings and things, nothing over five thousand dollars."
Right now, I think I look best in dresses in a fitted style. When I was heavier, I looked for fine fabrics, and I embraced the drape of a good cape, and the comfort of jersey. Different things will suit you in different periods of your life. This is a good thing.
Not too long ago, a man well over six feet tall said to me, "you're tall, for a girl," which made me laugh. "How can you tell?" I replied. I am about 5'7", which does mean I have a few inches on most women. However, one of the reasons that I don't wear pants is that I don't feel like myself in them, but also: I don't feel like having them tailored, and that is because the relationship of my legs, proportionately to my body, is somewhat akin to that of a shrimp. This has made me realize the importance of size, and fit. Like, as in the case of larger sizes, what you do to accentuate your best features is going to make or break the look here. The key thing is not to try and wear anything that only looks right on a giraffe. Shorter-lengths (both in terms of skirt, cropped trousers and bracelet sleeves), rounded collars, smart suits, will all flatter you best. I avoid patterns. While I was very thin in high school, I shopped the Brooks Brothers' boys department to great effect. When I was in Osaka, I found a "Tall" boutique on a hidden floor in a department store, and correctly surmised that this was a socially-appropriate euphemism for "Medium." I bought two dresses that ended up being too short, and I don't do "tunics." A shirt is a shirt, a dress is a dress, leggings are not pants, Uggs are unspeakable. Classics endure for a reason. Start with them.
Whenever I feel that way, I go through each item and ask if, when I wear it, I feel like my best self. I give the rest to a charity that benefits a cause I believe in. This often lends a necessary spark. Keep the things that are truly well made; you may decide you love them again. Choose a muse as your beacon in the darkness between looks. Biographies are a good source. My favorite shepherdess in that regard of recent months would have to be Marella Agnelli. She keeps me from buying junk, and "settling."
Is there a way to look sharp while also wearing jeans?
Years ago, I was in the swimming pool one evening at a hotel in Palm Springs with a man who had me quite smitten at the time, and he asked me what I thought the ideal outfit was for a man. I said, "Oh, a suit, of course. Really tailored and well done." I asked him what he thought, for women, and he replied, "Jeans, a sweater and tennis shoes." "But, but," I stammered. "I don't even own any of those things." A few weeks later we met in Santa Cruz and I answered the door wearing a pair of Gap skinny jeans I had walked a few miles downtown to purchase. He looked at me quizzically: "What were you doing, fixing a fence?" I let him go, but I held on to them, and wore them over the winter. I think they looked best with an Eton crop, a sequin top, rain boots, and a fur coat. Although they did not last in my wardrobe as a staple, I can now see the appeal. The absolute key here, as in all things, is the fit and the condition. Try a few lines until you find one that flatters you and looks good. This is a question of time, rather than money. My sister swears by Old Navy. Too often people add casual layer upon layer to their jeans, until it looks sloppy, or try and do some weird dress-up thing by pairing them with a blazer. Both extremes are a mistake in my opinion. Go for a classic top and a simple boot, perhaps with brown accessories appropriate for the country. A little plaid, or a duffel coat, would give a basic outfit a preppy feel. I also like a simple black coat, cropped and sophisticated, without those big buttons and oversized details that are trendy but make everything look baby-ish, to elevate the vibe. In this instance, pair with black leather gloves and a smile.