Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lessons on Style

I recently started a massive closet cleaning after reading 2 books:
  • Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott 
  • Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline
Both books discuss the American consumer's lack of style and insatiable desire for cheap clothing and accessories. Lessons from Madame Chic also addresses the Parisian style of living with less, not only in your home, but what you consume, wear and share...quality over quantity. Frankly neither book is edited all that well but they do make their points and the authors inspired me get my closets in order.

Here are a few lessons learned from "Madame Chic", the very stylish woman that the author lived with while studying in Paris:
  • Always Use The Best Things You Have. Do you own beautiful china and crystal wine glasses? Is there a room in your house reserved for guests only? Are you sleeping in grubby sweatpants and a 20 year old t-shirt? I loved this chapter, it reminded me that the beautiful things I own should be seen and used. So I went a bit nuts and cleaned out every closet in my house, every shelf and every drawer. I had bags of items for donation...old t-shirts from college, sweatshirts, hoodies (ugliest piece of clothing anyone can wear), jeans that had seen better days, shorts (I'm over 40, shorts are ridiculous at my age), old coats, anything ripped or frayed and anything that was of poor quality from a big box store like H&M or TJ Maxx. I also donated boxes of reusable water bottles, unused dishes, odd things I'd saved from my past. And those beautiful items I had in drawers and closets, I am now wearing and using everyday.
  • Liberate Yourself With the 10 Item Wardrobe. This really got me reevaluating what I own and how I shop. As I was fanatically purging my clothes I realized that on a daily basis I wear my quality pieces over and over. Everything else, mostly old comfort clothes, were taking up space in drawers and never worn, so I donated them. The author discusses how Parisians have a limited wardrobe, due to their love of quality and style and their lifestyle, there are no large walk in closets in small Paris apartments. So what is a 10 item closet? Think in 3's for the seasons: winter: 3 sweaters, 3 blouses, 1 good wool skirt, 1 pair of high quality trousers, 1 pair of dark jeans, 1 long sleeve shirt. The 10 list does not include items such as a wool coat, a trench coat, a good blazer, little black dress, shoes etc. One of the best things about having a large vintage clothing collection, the pieces I own and buy are of great quality and style and are meant to last.
  • Other: entertain well, get involved in the arts, walk everywhere, get rid of clutter.
 Pic of my first 3 huge bags of clothes going to Goodwill after a frenzied closet cleaning.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The Saturday after Thanksgiving Paul and I awoke as the sky was starting to fill with light and walked to the beach. In 42 years I had never seen the sunrise so we grabbed the camera and headed out to watch it rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I have of course been up before the sun and spent nights without ever going to bed, but I've never sat and watched the sun rise over the horizon. We arrived at the beach where families with children, seniors with dogs and couples were also waiting for the sun. It's nearly impossible to describe the exact moment when the sun first appears on the minute the sky is soft shades of pink and blue and then you blink and the sliver appears, the most vibrant color, like fire. It grew brighter as it changed from a sliver to an orb and the brightness increased until you couldn't look directly at it. It is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Our trip to Florida was an experience of light. The evening before we woke to see the sunrise we attended an oyster roast at the home of a friend of Paul's family. The house was set on a point overlooking the water, the home itself was built in a southern low country style around large oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and lush palm trees. The party was outdoors and lit only by the lights in the pool and the light that spilled out of the open doors and window in the main house and the pool house. On the boat deck was a table where our hosts would spill the oysters they were roasting on the shore. Guests were free to shuck their own oysters, indulge and toss the shells back into the sea. As an oyster lover, these were obviously the freshest I've ever had.

If you haven't experienced watching the sun rise over the Ocean or eaten oysters in the dark, I highly recommend both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving with those you love. I am on my way to Florida to enjoy the holiday with Paul and members of his family, a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner, watching some college football, a delicious oyster roast and hopefully beautiful sunsets on the Atlantic Ocean. Wherever you are, whoever you share the day with, enjoy.

What I am Thankful for This Month
  • My son being home, healthy and happy
  • True Love
  • A warm cuddly beagle on a cold morning
  • Earl Grey tea with vanilla soymilk
  • Good health
  • Flannel sheets
  • Mittens
  • Family
  • My vintage home
  • Sparkles
  • The library 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Now-The Incomparable Lauren Bacall

I recently watched a wonderful interview with the legendary actress Lauren Bacall. Interviewed by Robert Osborne on TCM's Private Screenings she discusses everything from meeting Humphrey Bogart on the set of her first movie (one of my favorite films, To Have and Have Not), her long career on stage in NYC and her amazing memories of Hollywood legends such as Frank Sinatra (her boyfriend after Bogart), Kirk Douglas, Harry Truman, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, John Wayne and others.

In the late 1980's I found a copy of Lauren Bacall's 1978 autobiography, By Myself on a bookshelf at my high school boyfriend's house. His Mom had introduced me to some classic old films during weekends at their family's cabin in Wisconsin and when I found the book she told me to read it and then watch all of Lauren Bacall's movies. I read the book and fell in love with Bacall, with Bogart and with old Hollywood.

In the early 1990's shortly after the birth of my son, Bacall was on a book tour for her 2nd autobiography, Now. My son slept in my arms for hours while I waited in a small bookstore near Chicago to meet Bacall and have her sign my book. I'll never forget the first moment I saw her in person, she was about 70 years old and had aged beautifully with her striking cheekbones still prominent. She was dressed all in black with gold bracelets lining her wrists and gold rings on most of her fingers. She asked me my name in her deep smoky voice and signed my book while she asked about my son who was still sleeping in my arms. She was kind enough to sign both of my books including the tattered 1978 copy of her first autobiography that I still had and have reread so many times.

In the years since she's had a career resurgence in the Barbara Streisand movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and more recently in movies with Nicole Kidman. Leave it to Bacall to have a fascinating career of over 60 years that began in a movie with Bogart when she was only 19 years old (To Have and Have Not), included a leading role with Marilyn Monroe (How To Marry a Millionaire), starred in a movie where she played one of the first lesbians seen in film (Young Man With A Horn), and continued on stage where she established herself on Broadway (winning 2 Tony awards) and she is still making movies today. Even with a legendary career, it's Bacall's personal life that is the stuff of fairytales...true love, tragic loss, single motherhood, triumph and sass. There is no one like her but every time I wear a vintage dress, faux furs or long gloves I feel a little bit like Bacall in the 50's and that's cool.