High Fashion Tempts Me Again With Ugly/Fabulous Quilt-Inspired Item

posted in: Confessions, Fashion 37
AGGGH! Emilio Pucci patchwork mules. Image: The Outnet.



Remember this coat that I coveted MOST DEARLY? Well, high fashion is back with a slightly-ugly-but-also-totally-amazing PATCHWORK SHOE. People, it’s Pucci. Pucci! Not Gucci: Pucci. The famed 70s designer who made the flamboyant, wacky, swirly-print scarves and the disco pantsuits? That’s Pucci. Gucci is like, ladies who lunch in the Gold Coast and have three cell phones for reasons no one should probably ask about.

These shoes. I mean, it’s really hard on me, seeing these shoes. Let’s examine pros and cons. Cons first, in hopes I will convince myself not to buy them immediately.


  1. Just … no. The term jolie-laide comes to mind. Jolie-laide is a French term which literally translates to “beautiful-ugly.” These shoes are beautiful-ugly, straight-up.
  2. Even with a 30-percent off code — given to me because I haven’t shopped at the site lately because I am seriously not in a position to shop right now — they are going to cost a cool $240. Which isn’t as much as the velvet Log Cabin coat (on which I realize I need to do a final update.) But still. That’s some bread and even though I have a new job, it’s still part-time. Technically.**
  3. I actually loathe the mule as a shoe style. In fact, I have an unofficial No-Mule Rule. My general position on “high” heels, which I wear almost exclusively, is that as long as the toe isn’t too narrow and the pitch isn’t too dramatic — by “the pitch,” I mean the slope of the shoe’s sole from heel to toe — heels aren’t uncomfortable. I’m not wearing stilettos; I’m wearing pumps, mostly. And these shoes make me feel good, as I mentioned yesterday. But the mule … Yuck. The mule’s pitch is usually very severe and what’s more, the heel is chunky by design. I have narrow ankles but wide, strong, Norwegian milkmaid calves, so a block heel is pretty bad for my stems, you dig? That these shoes are mules is a big con, here.
  4. And there are bows! No! Why the bows?? I don’t do bows!


  1. Oh, good God! There are quilt blocks on these shoes!
  2. Pucci!
  3. I just bought them. I JUST BOUGHT THEM!!! AAAGHHHH! MY ORDER NUMBER IS 2203ZO26F1801H!!!!

I am laughing and laughing right now … Oh, you guys. I clicked on the shoes again so I could describe them for you and meditate on the dumb things and what did it say? What did the little red dot say? “Just 1 Left!” Fie! Fie, you foul demons of online retail! Wretched algorithmic spawns of Satan! I wrend my garments! I wrend my high-fashion garments and I throw my stupid mule shoe at your screen! YOU GOT ME. YOU GOT ME AND MY CREDIT CARD YOU FIENDISH FASHION SUCCUBI! (Succubi? Hm. Spell-check didn’t flag it.)

These shoes are awful. And they’re so great. And there’s free shipping.

And free returns.

I’ll let you know.

Have a great day,


Sometimes Fancy Ain’t Fancy, Just Smart

posted in: Fashion 0
Woman's silk damask shoes with buckles; 1740-1750, London. Photo: Los Angeles Museum of Art.
Woman’s silk damask shoes with buckles; 1740-1750, London. Photo: Los Angeles Museum of Art.

All this talk of magazine closures and hemogoblins calls for lighter fare. It’s time for fashion.

Years ago, I dated a chap who did not own a pair of bluejeans. He was fancy. He wore suits and bowties and because I liked him so much, I decided to clean up my act. I was a scruffy, twenty-two year-old slam poet waitress, so I naturally lived in jeans and hoodies. This guy was charmed by me, but it was clear that I’d need a dress or two if I was gonna go out with him.

Embarking on this upgrade wasn’t easy; I was still on a waitress budget, so I got good at sourcing fake pearl earrings and designer dresses at secondhand shops. But it worked. I began to cut a fine figure, if I do say so. I kept refining it because I discovered was that when I dressed a little nicer, when my shoes were polished, life was kinda better. People smiled at me more. I walked a bit taller. This was not social climbing — no one was mistaking me for Brooke Astor — but it was confidence-building. I was hooked.

The dapper fellow dumpity-dump-dump dumped me and broke my heart, but I continued to work on fanciness. (Who needed that guy, anyway. Bow-ties? Seriously?) Not long after the breakup, I quit working as a coat check girl and a waitress and got several great writing jobs. Eventually, I could afford nicer clothes (take that, Mr. Fancy Pants!) and I learned the true secret to looking good in one’s clothes:

Buy nice stuff, never at full-boat retail, and get a good tailor.

Got a nice dress? Take it to a tailor. For a bit o’ cash, you can get that dress taken in a nip there, let out a bit here, and voila: you are now a smokin’ hot mama. Gentlemen’s suits can be shaved down a smidge or opened up a bit; suddenly a fellow who looked rather average before is now A Man of Consequence. Tailors vary in style and price, of course, but start humbly and get used to the process: you’ll come to love it. You know all the dry cleaning places with the signs that say, “Alterations”? That means they do alterations in there. The pantsuit you really love but never wear because the crotch is…well, it’s not good. That can be fixed, usually. Instead of buying a new outfit ($100+) you can be green, fancy, and look great for far less.

Cobblers are important, too. The high heels that look like the dog chewed them can be restored within a day or so. Twenty bucks at a shoe repair shop beats Zappos with a stick.

That is the fashion report. The body report is that I’m feeling better but worried that my body cannot absorb iron. A friend emailed me to share her own anemia trouble; she’s been battling acute anemia for several decades. I may be in for another odyssey; we shall see. Thank you to each and every kindly soul who sent encouragement. I can’t reply to all the comments but I see all of them.

Thank you. Now go into your closet and make a plan!


On Models In New York City.

posted in: Fashion, New York City 1
If a fashion magazine raises a barn in the woods and no one is there to photograph it, does it still shelter livestock?
If a fashion magazine raises a barn in the woods and no one is there to photograph it, does it still shelter livestock?

High-fashion runway models are strange-looking creatures, indeed.

I am not criticizing these women. They came out looking how they look and no one should be made to feel bad for how they look, even if some of us get taunted in school and some of us end up with Ford Modeling contracts worth millions, all by luck of the draw. No, I don’t wish to make anyone feel bad, but I see models around this town, frequently around Union Square (there must be an agency over there, the area is so thick with tall, bony women in platform boots and stocking caps) and I’m here to tell you: they are a kind of physical oddity. Spotting one is like spotting a cat with six toes or a parakeet with a second tail; you look, you look again, and as you walk away, you think, “Woah! Weird!”

My mailbox plops out Vogue to me each month. I don’t know why. I have never subscribed to Vogue. I like to think they send it to me because there’s some roster in the sky listing All The Editors In America and down in the “Q’s,” I’m there. Probably I accidentally clicked a “Gift With Purchase” when I made a dinner reservation or something and that’s why I get it. My feelings toward fashion magazines these days could best be described as cold, but sometimes I flip through Vogue, anyway. There on the pages are the women I see around town. (I’m not saying I run into Joan Smalls or Karlie Kloss at the store; I see who I think are probably models. They all buy bananas and sparkling water, by the way.)

To look dewy, lithe, and fierce in a picture means to be gangly, stick-like, and strikingly angular in real life. In order to have a leg that is deemed worthy of plastering on a billboard a half-mile wide in Soho, you need to have a leg that is about as big around as your six-year-old niece’s wrist, assuming your niece is small-boned and physically active. My point is that to look even somewhat normal in fashion pictures, you have to look abnormal in person. More than abnormal. What is more than abnormal? Hypoabnormal. Hyperabnormalis.

They look like aliens, okay?? I’ve been trying to avoid saying that, but they look like bizarre, insect-like aliens who wear mostly black and have expensive cell phones. Don’t believe the lies!

Take heart, ladies. I know the fashion spread voodoo. I, too, have looked at fashion spreads and thought, “Wow, she looks so good in that outfit; I must lose weight.” But you are not (and I am not) an insect alien. If either of us were, we would know it. And we would be working as models in New York. They have a secret society, I think, so we would’ve been contacted by now.

Just be happy you’re healthy, if you’re healthy. If you’re not, see a doctor. Make those biscuits from yesterday either way and then eat them.

**Note: The picture in today’s post is from Vogue Italia. They used the Amish people as inspiration for their shoot. I found this so ridiculous when I saw it, the rotation of the Earth slowed for a moment.

The Handbag Effect.

That's her.
That’s her.

In Nebraska, you get an extra scoop of ice cream at the ice cream shop just because you’re nice. That actually happened.

You can’t get a good piece of fish anywhere, but what’s wrong with you? You’re as landlocked as a person can get in the United States. Eat steak.

In Nebraska, you can visit the International Quilt Study Center — a.k.a. Valhalla for quilt geeks. You’ll receive a near-stately welcome and be rendered speechless when you enter the galleries. Perhaps for the first time in your life you will see quilts given the honor and solemn respect they deserve. This is way, way better than eating substandard fish or even well-ordered steak. Please go there.

And if you’re carrying a Celine handbag within state lines, you will be mobbed in Nebraska.

Look, these are things I know and I tell you because I care about you.

My mother and I stopped by an outlet mall on our way into town. Mom needed pantyhose. We figured at the outlet mall we could get out and stretch our legs, find a cup of coffee, get those hose. And so we exited for Nebraska Crossing, a sprawling, newly-constructed discount compound. I’m not a huge fan of outlet malls; the shopping experience always feels a bit like a mouthful of styrofoam. But it was a warm day and there was a Brooks Brothers store on the grounds, so I was game. I like Brooks Brothers shirts.

So Mom and I are going along and twice in two different shops, I was complimented on my handbag. I am currently toting around a rawther nice handbag, it’s true: it’s a Celine Phantom bag from last year. It’s oxblood-colored (strangely tempting to use the UK spelling there — “oxblood-coloured” — but I wouldn’t dare) and is not the mini-version of the Phantom that has been showing up lately. This beast is the full monty, the real deal, and it’s head-slappingly gorgeous, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am. The bag was a gift, and that’s a story for another day, when you and I have a quality Zinfandel and about an hour to kill at an airport bar.

My mother found her pantyhose and that was all we bought the whole time we were at Nebraska Crossing, but we looked around the place for well over an hour, enjoying being together and not working. The last store we popped into was the Michael Kors store. We walked in and were just about to walk out when a twinky young sales assistant approached me.

“Oooh, I love your bag,” he said, eyes fixed on the smooth leather. “It almost looks like Celine.”

“It is Celine,” I said with a smile.

My answer appeared to throw the young man into physical pain.

“NO!” he gasped. “Braden!!!”

A second twinky sales associate levitated over. Both of them were 90lbs soaking wet, both barely in their twenties. They flapped their hands and were jumping up and down, touching my handbag and clutching their chests.

“That is seriously Celine,” said the first young man, fingering the tiny logo at the top of the bag. “Seriously, seriously, seriously Celine.” He was almost in tears. He looked at his friend. “Phoebe Philo is life.”*

“Can I hold it??” the second one asked me.

Of course he could, I said, and I let the boys try out the bag. One of them joked that he was going to take off with it and made a little motion of turning and running, which was slightly less funny to me than it was to his friend.

Two other sales associates came over, both girls this time, both every bit as hysterical as their colleagues. I now had a veritable gallery of youth cooing and fluffernutting over my handbag. It was fun for a moment, but then a terrible wave of depression came over me. These kids cared too much about this. I darkened right there before them, though they didn’t know it. To be complimented is one thing; to be conspicuously gagged over for an object you happen to possess is another. It was intensely uncomfortable, being the carrier of such wanton material love.

But I took a breath and allowed it to run its course. Because I know what it’s like to grow up in the sticks and see an artifact From Beyond. When you have your sights on leaving cornfields for skyscrapers, it’s a big deal when a high-rise shimmers into view. You gotta inspect it, you gotta fuel your next year of high school with that image or experience. For some kids on the prairie, it’s music From Beyond that keeps them going. For others, it’s pictures of Istanbul or Belize. For others, it’s fashion. It’s Celine. And it’s not fair to judge a kid for the obsession, not fair to make his love small or light; to him, it’s entirely serious, possibly life-or-death serious.

We left, and my mom, who hadn’t seen the full freakout, said, “What was that all about?”

“Fashion,” I said, and we went to find the car.

*Phoebe Philo is the British designer at the helm of the house of Celine.

Hi-Low, No.

posted in: Art, Tips 0
Hi, low, or otherwise, it's just awful.
Oh, for heaven’s sake.

We’ve all made sartorial mistakes.

In case I should forget mine, there are plenty of pictures and videos of me that prove I’ve made misdirected fashion choices. I’m thinking of the belted baby doll dress in the second season of Quilty, the “are-those-cornrows?” hairstyle in the third season, the yellow nail polish on the first Love of Quilting series I un-officially co-hosted. These were all mistakes.

But we learn — not in spite of these misfires, but because of them — to internalize the truth: just because something is trendy does not mean you should wear it. Ballet flats give me piano legs. Cap sleeves cut me across the widest part of my arm. Most bluejeans add ten pounds to my frame. (Until very recently, when I actually found a great pair by accident, I had not owned a pair of bluejeans in over six years. There are other things one can put on one’s bottom half, you know.)

If you are sixteen, you can pretty much wear whatever you please as long as you can get out of the house before your mother throws her body against the door to keep you inside. But I have spotted the “hi-low” skirt trend and it is so bad, I don’t believe even a nymphy, achingly pretty sixteen-year-old could pull it off.

The hi-low skirt is a short skirt with a long, sheer skirt over it. What can the designers be thinking? It doesn’t make sense. It is not aesthetically harmonious. The short skirt is not cut in a remarkable way to begin with and then there’s this long, gauzy afterthought, this sheer mistake wafting all over the place. I think it makes a gal look like she’s fallen from a great height and has hit tree after tree on her way down, leaving ripped bits of her real skirt on the craggy branches. Now she’s just got one bit of dress left — a bit of dress and a slip underneath.


Oh, but I see it! I see the “hi-low” on the streets of Chicago. Not all over town, but some. And I look with wonder and I put on a black turtleneck. Turtleneck loves me, hi-low loves me not.