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A blog about elevating your personal style
A few weeks ago over lunch, Ellen, my financial planner informed me that she’d just started wearing jeans again when I told her about my post on jeggings. El said that this was the first time she’s worn jeans in she can’t remember when. So pray-tell, what made her start wearing jeans again? Get this, my financial planner, is a singer in an 80′s cover band. Quiet as it’s kept, she did admit that she might be going through a slight mid-life crisis. But hey, we should all be so lucky to go through a mid-life crisis and be able to carry enough of a tune to front a band!
Anyway, she wore chinos to her first gig and her friends just about laughed her attire off of the stage. She said it never occured to her to wear jeans to a gig because she suffers from Mrs. Howell Syndrome (her phraseology, not mine, but one I may have to swipe!). Why had she eschewed the most versatile article of clothing there is? (Thank you very much Mr. Strauss!) Her answer? She suffers from Mrs. Howell Syndrome.
Let me refresh your recollection. Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell, Mrs. Thurston Bailey Howell, III, played with aplomb by Natalie Schafer, and her husband were two of the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The show’s premise was simple: the two-man crew of the charter boat S. S. Minnow took five passengers on a “three-hour tour”, they ran into a tropical storm and they were shipwrecked on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Even though she was stranded on a deserted island, Mrs. Howell managed to look put together (her pearls were always in place) and ready for a cocktail party or luncheon at a moment’s notice.
Still not exactly sure what Mrs. Howell Syndrome is? Let me put it like this, you might suffer from Mrs. Howell Syndrome if nine times out of ten your attire is nicer than that of most of the people at work, at a dinner party, at your nephew’s christening and the list goes on. As much as I’m loathe to admit it, I think I may suffer a tad-bit from Mrs. Howell Syndrome. I didn’t know there was a name for it until Ellen clued me in, but I have been accused of being overdressed on occassion. My husband is the one who usually points this out to me as we’re heading out the door:
Him: Do you think your outfit is a little over the top? We’re just going to X.
Me: No. I like my outfit. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for tonight.
Him: Ok, I’m just saying . . . You might want to put on a lower heel or something to tone it down a bit.
Me: No, I’m good. (Then of course I begin to question my choice once we’re in the cab when it’s too late to change!)
I’m fortunate, I live in New York. So, however over the top I might be, and I admit that there are some nights when I am definitely the Mrs. Howell in the crowd, there’s usually someone who’s right in line with me if not a few steps ahead.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with channeling your inner Mrs. Howell every now again. As Coco Chanel said, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous!” I couldn’t agree more.
I inherited my sense of style from my maternal grandmother, Mrs. Effie Hayes. She was one of those stylish church ladies who moved up North from the South eons ago. When she went “out” (which was not to be mistaken with just going to the grocery store or some other mundane task), she always wore bright red lipstick, a slip and/or camisole regardless of how warm it was outside and her sensible heels. At all times, she had a pressed hankie in her pocketbook that was nestled in the crook of her arm and some sort of hat stylishly cocked on her head. Women and men alike always talked about how stylish Mizz Hayes was.
My grandmother passed away almost 13 years ago, but she still holds a very dear spot in my heart and mind. When I came across this book, My Mother’s Clothes, by Jeanette Montgomery Barron, I was reminded of my grandmother and her stylish ways. The book is an homage to Ms. Barron’s mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. As her mother began to decline, Ms. Barron realized that the one way to bring the woman she knew back to her former self was to tag along as her mother went through her closet. So Ms. Barron, a photographer, catalogued the garments in her mother’s closet pictorially so that her mother could easily flip through and relive precious moments. The photographs in My Mother’s Clothes are beautiful and help to bring to mind the vibrancy of the woman who must have worn them.
While my grandmother (who maybe weighed 105 pounds soaking wet) was about far more than the clothes she wore, as I’m sure Ms. Barron’s mother was too, her commanding presence was always highlighted by the way she was dressed.
In case it’s not patently obvious, I heart accessories! (um, remember Brazil?) But, I especially LOVE jewelry. I believe more is more! Yes, there are times when you can have too much jewelry on, but it’s better to be adorned than to walk around half-dressed. Accessories can make or break an outfit. For those of you who find my theory suspect — add a necklace, bracelet or a pair of earrings and stand back as the compliments start flowing your way. If you are one of those people whose jewelry box has some empty compartments, here’s a list of 6 pieces of jewelry every woman should own courtesy of my stylist friend Monica Barnett to help jump-start your jewelry addiction.
I admit it, I have lots of jewelry (an addiction I come by naturally from the ladies on my mother’s side of the family). But, for the most part, I manage to wear a good portion of my growing collection. Storage, however, is becoming a problem. I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect jewelry box for years now. Part of the problem is space. There’s just never enough space in New York! But, the other part of the problem is finding something that will house my gems in a manner that will allow me to see what I have. This is fashion stylist Masha O’s jewelry box, a simple filing cabinet. Sheer genius. I need one in white.
[image from Refinery29]
Lena Horne died on Sunday, May 9th, at the age of 92. My first memory of Lena Horne is from The Muppet Show. As a child, I remember watching her on The Muppet Show and being awed by her presence – she seemed soooo nice and soooo beautifully elegant to me. I was too young to know that she was revered as a ground-breaking singer, actress and civil rights activist. Then, a few years later, she was Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz; the “urbanized” retelling of one of my favorite books, L. Frank Baum‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
By the time The Wiz came out, I was just old enough to realize that Lena Horne was someone special. Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Lena Horne’s career in show business began at the tender age of 16 as a chorus girl at The Cotton Club. In 1942, she became the first African-American to be put under contract by a major movie studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, after refusing to pass for a Latina. As beautiful as she was, she was resentful that she got parts because of the way she looked. The more I learned about her the more I was intrigued.
While movies helped to put her on the map, it was her singing and political activism that we’ll all remember her for. Well, that and her beauty; although, I’m not sure her looks are what she would want to be remembered for. Lena Horne’s outspokenness wrapped in her graceful presence helped to teach me a very valuable lesson - Beauty is only skin deep; what truly matters is who you are and what you are about.
Her life touched millions; she definitely touched mine as an awkward, gangly pre-teen with braces. When she was singing Believe in Yourself to Dorothy in The Wiz, I thought she was singing to me – telling me to believe in myself just as she believed in me. Thank you, Lena! Rest In Peace.
Colleen Mullaney, a.k.a. The Cocktail Diva, lives by this credo. Her latest book on libations, The Stylish Girl’s Guide to Fabulous Cocktails, is the perfect accompaniment to any celebration whether you’re throwing a swanky soiree, having a “girl’s night in” or hosting an intimate dinner party. With over 80 recipes, you’ll never be at a loss for what to serve when and to whom. Each chapter focuses on a different spirit; Colleen likens different spirits and their unique characteristics to different articles of clothing and their distinctive personalities. The evening gown of the cocktail world? Champagne. A great pair of jeans that will never let you down? Wine.
Now I must admit, I love a good cocktail. I am definitely a cocktail girl through and through. And just like Carrie, my cocktail adventure began with the advent of the Cosmopolitan. Over the course of time, my palate has changed a bit . . . Today my poison of choice is bourbon, but I’m a self-proclaimed mixologist and I swear, I can mix up just about anything your heart desires, including a mean mocktail! Even so, Colleen’s cocktail book has some amazing recipes that I will definitely be adding to my repertoire.
Believe it or not, the first known publication of a cocktail guide was in 1862. Almost 150 years later, The Stylish Girl’s Guide to Fabulous Cocktails carries on the tradition superbly. It’s a must-have for any hostess with the mostess!
So, although it’s Monday morning, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? Here’s to you – I’m raising my virtual Mint Julep – and all of those wonderful life moments you’ll be celebrating stylishly.
In Fashion News This Week . . . is a new post that will appear weekly on Possess Your STYLE to help keep you in the loop on the latest and greatest in the fashion world. Let me know what you think of it – I love to read your comments. And if you read an article that you think others should know about, please be sure to let me know and I’ll add it in my weekly round-up!
Believe it or not, I missed the first season of Sex and the City on HBO. I was living in New York and I guess I was so busy living my own version of Sex and the City that I was completely oblivious to the show. My friend Portia, who was living in Detroit at the time, convinced me to start watching the show. I watched the re-runs in the off-season, got caught up and became a devotee. I remember exactly where I was when I watched the final episode. The loose ends were tied up and although I was sad that the series was over, I was elated that Carrie and Big, a.k.a. John, finally ended up together.
Wouldn’t you know that as soon as I found something else to occupy my time on Sunday evenings, rumors of a movie sprouted. I was excited, but afraid to get my hopes up for fear of being disappointed. Nevertheless, I, like many of you, went to see Sex and the City -The Movie on opening day. I went with my friends Karla and Adrienne. We’d ordered our tickets in advance, but we weren’t prepared for the line at the theater. Our lack of planning meant that we were scattered throughout the theater sitting next to strangers. Own my own, I laughed, I cried and emphathsized with Carrie just like I did when watching Sex and the City at home on Sunday evenings. For the record, I LOVED the movie! The movie came out on a Friday and the three of us went back on Sunday to see it (although the theater was packed, we got there early enough to get 3 seats together). More laughter, tears and empathy. My friends and I related to the movie on a variety of levels. I know there’s a cohort of women who were disappointed in the movie’s story line, but being about the same age as the characters in the movie, the realistic portrayal of the complexities of relationships rang true for us.
Carrie got BIG on terms that worked for them. Charlotte took off her rose colored glasses and still found happiness. Samantha came back to reclaim herself and her city. And even Miranda began seize the day, slow down and smell the roses. Perfect ending. And then about a year ago, I heard a rumor that Sex and the City 2 was filming around the city. Then, the billboards with SJP in that fabulous white Halston Heritage dress were plastered all over the city. And now the count down is on . . . Sex and the City 2 opens in about 6 weeks on Thursday, June 3rd. Be there or be square! Gather your posse and get ready to be lulled back into that wonderful concrete jungle where dreams are made of . . .
I’m on my feet a lot. I run around the city meeting clients and I stroll the avenues looking for great finds and new trends; all of which involve a great deal of walking. I’ve been on a quest for comfortable yet good-looking shoes for about 3 years now. I discovered Kork-Ease wedge sandals about two years ago on a fine Spring day while shopping with a client. We were on 34th Street in a shoe store looking for shoes to match an evening gown she’d just purchased. It had been a long day. I was tired and my dogs were sho ’nuff barkin’. I looked up from my client’s feet and saw a suburban mom who was very well put together in a kind-of JCrew meets Martha Stewart kind of way. She had on these really cool patent leather kelly green wedge sandals. They looked sooooo comfortable! As I was wistfully eyeing her shoes, she made a beeline over to me with a pair of sparkly heels in hand to ask my opinion. Interestingly, I get that a lot. I wasn’t doing anything overtly “stylist-like”, I like to think that I look more stylish than most and one stylish person to another kind of karma was going on. Anyway, she showed me the shoes and a picture of her daughter’s prom dress. She wanted to know if I thought they’d work together. She’d made a great choice and I told her so.
Then, I pounced! I told her that I hoped her daughter knew how lucky she was to have a stylish mom she could trust to buy her prom shoes while she was off at soccer practice. And then, I went in for the kill (now, what you must understand about me is that I would have found out about those patent leather green wedges before that lady left the store if it killed me, client shopping trip or not – that knowledge was going to have long lasting benefits not only for me, but for many) and inquired about her sandals. She laughed and said, “They’re the most comfortable shoe I own. I have them in every color. They’re a re-issue from a sandal that was really popular when I was in my 20s called Korkeeze.” I filed the name in my mental rolodex and went back to my client.
A few days later, my husband and I were leaving dinner on our way to the theater when I saw a woman, my age this time, with what I knew had to be a pair of those Korkeeze sandals (I didn’t know the proper spelling at the time). I stopped and asked her about them, she swore they were the most comfortable shoes she’d ever owned. Clearly, I was brain dead after my client shopping excursion because although my feet were throbbing when I got home, I promptly forgot all about Googling those sandals! But, not this time. I got home, sat down at the computer and bought myself a pair of Ava’s in black patent leather. They arrived just in time for a weekend trip to Miami. I put them on and felt like I was walkin’ on sunshine. Soccer Mom was right, they were sooooo comfortable! And, they looked really cool in a hipster meets Palm Beach kind of way. The best part? They gave me a little height – I’m short with hips so I need a heel to help balance my proportions out – but at no cost to my comfort. Remember my stylish friend Mia? She saw me with my Ava’s on and promptly went out and bought a pair.
Believe it or not, Kork-Ease, is the original platform wedge sandal that all the hipsters were wearing back in the day. The first pair were created in Brooklyn in 1953 and they’re been immortalized in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Landmark Shoe Collection. An honor only bestowed to 25 styles of footwear. The best wedge known to womankind. I kid you not.
It’s been 80 degrees in New York this week – 80 degrees like in the middle of July , hot & sticky. Unbelievable, right? Then I learned that it was above 90 degrees in D.C. on Wednesday (actually, it hit 91 degrees in New York on Wednesday – no wonder it was so hot & sticky!). If we’re hitting these highs in April, who knows what’s going to happen when Summer really hits. But, as with all good things, the heat wave ends today and we’re back to normal Spring weather which if anything is consistently fickle (cool and rainy one day, sunshine and warm the next). I call this weird time of year The In-Between Time. I hated this time of year when I was practicing because it was so hard to know what to wear to work – it was cool when I left home in the am, hot in the middle of the day at lunchtime and the evenings were always a toss-up! I was invited by Corporette, a blog for overachieving chicks, to be a Guest Blogger and write about successfully navigating The In-Between Time earlier this week. So, if you’re looking for some tips to help you bridge the gap between your Winter and Spring wardrobes, check out my article and let me know what you think.
Interestingly, the next day I received an email from the folks at Lawshucks (you get it right? Law Shucks is a play on “Aw Shucks” – the long version of the tagline is “A self-deprecating look at life in, and after, BigLaw”- a play on “shucking” through the layers and getting at the core of biglaw) telling me that my article on Corporette inspired them to learn a bit more about me a la Google. Their research resulted in a lovely profile.
Thanks Corporette and Lawshucks!