Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Miu Miu Harlequin Shoes

Miu Miu Harlequin Shoes, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

After our Bergdorf browse-a-thon (see post below), J & I had a delicious lunch at 3 Guys on Madison Avenue, then decided to check out some of the consignment shops in that area. He had warmed to the looks of the floral-trimmed pumps as I walked around in them, but their price tag still put them in the "no way!" category, so he was only too happy to point out the lovelies in this picture... also by Miu Miu & $80 at La Boutique (1045 Madison Avenue.)

While I was trying these on, we spoke to a very nice couple, around our age & stylishly dressed. The wife sighed when she saw these & said "I could never get away with those where we live!" That came as a surprise; I'd assumed they were from New York, & said so, which made her laugh as she'd thought the same about us. Turns out they hailed from North Carolina - I'm not sure which city or town, but apparently it's one where high fashion doesn't go over well. I'm only too familiar with that, having grown up in a small town in the era of acid wash jeans & overpriced Benetton rugby shirts, but preferring to copy outfits from old movies or the pages of Vogue.

When I moved to the east coast, I assumed most people would be familiar with fashion, even if they didn't care much about it or dress unusually themselves, but I still get a fair amount of snark for the way I look, & sadly, much of the negativity comes from other women. Actually, it seems to be getting worse. Are we living in ultra-conservative times, aesthetically speaking (don't get me started on politics!) or is my age the main reason for the dirty looks & occasional not-too-nice comment? Are "women of a certain age" really supposed to relegate ourselves to boxy business suits, Crocs & polar fleece, or $400 jeans & way too much Botox? Sigh. That's too depressing to contemplate, especially since today is my 41st birthday. I'll just keep flying my retro freak flag high & remembering all the smiles & kind remarks I get when we go to New York.

The Ones That Got Away... For Now

Greetings, readers; long time, no post. My apologies, but this has been a rough year in the Altocat household. Over the summer, J was let go from his job with no warning, so we had three anxious months of job-hunting, & during that time, we lost our beautiful, sweet, 16-year-old boy cat, Winston. Things have improved; J is once again employed, & we've adopted another furbaby, Fabrizio, who is a giant, 7-year-old kitten & loves to chase his older sister, Carmen. It just took me a long time to feel like writing again.

Very few things will inspire me to type away like fabulous design, & the shoes in this picture are among the most insanely gorgeous things I've seen in ages. I had the privilege of trying them on at Bergdorf's shoe sale last weekend, & even though J's initial reaction was "I really don't like those!", I fell in love. My most comfortable pair of heels is by Miu Miu, so there's more going on here than looks & a label. Alas, even at 30% off, their price tag was far too steep for our current budget, so I had to leave them behind, but am asking friends to keep an eye out for a truly super sale. They are haunting me - I've never had an actual dream about footwear, but these might inspire one - so I had to share this picture (from the Bergdorf Goodman website) with you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anthro Chorus Girl Romper

Anthro Chorus Girl Romper, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I don't think I've owned a pair of shorts in two decades - not even for working out. Most of the shorts I see in stores fall into two categories - they're either of "Daisy Duke"-esque length & cut for 16-year-olds with thighs the same circumference as their ankles or they're so boxy & matronly that they may as well carry a tag which reads "For When You've Given Up". Even Bermudas are hard to rock if you're 5'3", which I am. So, even though I live in in area where summer temperatures frequently top 90 degrees & the humidity reaches steam room levels, I have stayed true to my sundresses & lightweight skirts.

Occasionally, I'd watch an old movie that featured Broadway dancers - "42nd Street" or one of the "Gold Diggers" films - & become insanely jealous of the cute little rompers some of the girls would have on in the rehearsal scenes. I'd wonder why on Earth no one made shorts outfits like that nowadays. Well, at least for the moment, they do. Anthropologie has had some darling rompers this year & there are plenty of vintage ones on eBay as well. (Check out the one I'm wearing in the post below.) One of my online friends very sweetly RAOKd me the romper I'm wearing in this pic - thanks again, V!

How long will this trend stay around? As with most trends, that's anyone's guess, but I hope rompers will be with us for at least a year or two, & even if they go "out", I may well continue to wear them. I firmly believe that "dressing casually" & "giving up" are not synonymous, & outfits like this one are excellent proof of that. Oh, & they're comfy, too. Do you have a romper you're loving this summer? If so, where's it from?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Biker Chick

Biker Chick, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

Talk about arriving in style! Okay, so I don't usually dress quite this well when I bike. I generally ride very early on weekend mornings, which means I leave the house in gym clothes & no makeup. I'm a tan-phobe, so I'd have to wear pretty serious SPF if I biked in the afternoon, & many drivers in this city are so completely clueless that I'd fear for my life if I tried to cycle in "real" traffic.

That said, I'm tempted to make my bike more than just a piece of workout equipment. I had to work early yesterday morning, all by myself, so I decided to try commuting on two wheels rather than four. (Since I was working solo, I felt free to arrive sweaty & disheveled, then "fix up" later.) I left the house 90 minutes before I was due at work; the ride, about seven miles, took just over one hour. Along the way, I encountered very few cars, but I did discover that there are more hills on my commute than I'd realized - whew! I loved the sense of connection that I suddenly had with the all-too-familiar streets & the buildings on them. All those cool houses I've admired for years looked even better with just air, not a car window, separating us.

So, did I ride home? Um... no. As I said, I'm a tan-phobe, & being of 100% Northern European ancestry, I can broil like a crab cake even with SPF 85. My husband picked me up after work; we put my bike in the back of his car & drove home. So much for being "green", but at least I got a good workout & had a very pleasant commute.

This morning, I went back to commuting by car, & as usual, the experience was pretty nasty. (How on Earth do some drivers manage to take up two full lanes with a Ford Focus...?) Even with a combustion engine at my disposal, I have to allow at least 30 minutes for my 7-mile drive to work, mostly due to stop lights & traffic. Once again, I considered leaving my car at home & biking to work on a regular basis, as two of my colleagues do. That's probably not realistic for me, but perhaps my husband & I can ride our bikes to local restaurants & summer festivals on weekend evenings. That way, we can burn off some of the food & wine we consume, connect with our hometown in a fun way, & save a little gas money. I don't agree with those who think that people who believe in climate change have to live "off the grid" to be true to their ideals; that's far too unrealistic. I feel that if we all made some small changes (& perhaps one or two big ones) the world would be much better off.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

DSQUARED2 Mummia sandals, $1650

Sometimes I think "new" fashion has lost its edge forever & everything I like is so retro, I might as well just buy the (usually cheaper) vintage version. Then someone proves me wrong. This time, it's DSQUARED2. A friend posted these on fashionism today & my jaw dropped. These babies won't be to everyone's taste, but they are very much to mine.

What? Ms. girly-retro herself likes spinal-cord-heeled shoes called Mummia? Okay, perhaps I have a bit of goth-kid left in me, or I want to channel Lady Gaga, or I just love beautiful, insanely high heels with a sense of humor. Wit is another thing I find lacking in many new designs, but DSQUARED2 has supplied it in ample quantity here. Other bone-heeled shoes in their fall collection have names like Frank N Furter & Rif Raf. Not all of the styles work IMO; the Mummias are definitely my faves, but I'm just thrilled that someone out there is making stuff like this. I can see a couple of my online friends rocking them with avant-garde dresses (perhaps by Comme des Garcons or Helmut Lang?) I'd pair them with a very simple dress in black or blood red; perhaps a full-skirted, rather innocent number, perhaps the tightest sheath I can find. Either way, at $1650, these lovelies are, alas, unlikely to find their way into my closet any time soon. That's a lot of bones. Sorry, couldn't resist!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Portion Control Fail Waiting to Happen

One of the best things about living in a metropolitan area is the variety of food that's available, not just in terms of restaurants & farmer's markets, but also in grocery stores. The Baltimore-Washington area is very culturally diverse &, as such, there are all manner of specialty grocers here. Looking for an Afro-Caribbean food store? Kosher? Indian? Halal? Latin American? Asian? You probably won't have any trouble finding those. If only there was a Scandinavian food store in which I could purchase lefse, but I digress.

This afternoon, I needed a few ingredients for an Asian cabbage salad, & even though mainstream grocers in these parts tend to carry such items, I decided it would be far more fun to venture over to Asia Food on York Road. I picked up the necessary items, then wandered around the store for a bit, enjoying both the central air conditioning, which our house lacks, & all of the delicious-looking food for sale. Spring rolls... gyoza... steamed buns... I wanted to fill my cart, especially with frozen items. Since our freezer is about the size of a shoebox, I went for a jar of kimchi, which can be kept in the fridge, and this little bag of goodies.

I told myself I'd only eat a few. Ha. They're spicy, they're crunchy, they're salty, & they contain seaweed. These little guys were almost gone by the time I got home! Fortunately, the entire bag only had 240 calories, less than many candy bars, & they were well worth eating a smaller dinner. I'll just make sure I have a seaweed-loving friend around to share the next bag.

Getting a dressing down

Getting a dressing down, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

Assuming you would wear this skirt, where would you wear it? The office? The beach? The symphony? A restaurant where dinner for two runs at least $150? Sadly, it seems many people these days would answer "all of the above". "Casual Friday" has become "Casual Everyday", or, for some folks, "Nearly Naked Everyday". Is it time to bring back dress codes? I say yes.

Old-fashioned? Bourgeois? Downright fascist? Perhaps I am, but I am also sick & tired of going to special events or high-end restaurants & seeing denim everywhere. I don't wear jeans often, it's true. The only t-shirts I wear as non-exercise attire have no writing on them & are so sleek that they could pass for leotards. I am also a theater person & a fashion addict. I know not everyone approaches clothes the way I do - as costume, something that's tremendous fun & a creative outlet. Many people have to deal with rigid dress codes in the workplace & just don't want to be bothered with such things on their personal time. I've heard all of this before & I do sympathize, but I don't understand thinking that the same clothes you'd don to cut the grass are fine for an evening on the town.

I am a regular poster on fashionism, a site that is obviously frequented by people who think & care about clothes more than the general population. Over the years, there have been numerous threads about the way people dress to go out these days, with many members saying they deplore seeing people in jeans & such at "special" events, others saying they think it's fine & do it themselves, & others wondering why anyone cares. Once, I even started a thread in which I stated that I'd like to get a group of people in tuxes & gowns to go out to a sporting event, & one member got so upset you'd think I'd insulted her personally, which wasn't my intention at all. My point was this: if it's okay to show up at the opera in denim, why not go to a baseball game in a ballgown & your best bling? To my mind, both outfits would look equally ridiculous, given their settings, yet one is now acceptable, one is not. I would not, & do not, comment if I see someone dressed far more casually than myself when we are out, yet many people do not do me the same courtesy.

I'm not suggesting we return to the days when "well-bred" women couldn't leave the house without a girdle, hose, gloves, full makeup, beauty-parlor hair, & a hat. Okay, I'm getting into hats lately, but I don't want them to be mandatory. I also don't think men should be required to wear a suit & tie at all times. It's well over 90 degrees & humid here today - there are times when certain kinds of clothing are just impractical! I just wish special occasions were a little more... special than they've become, at least from a sartorial standpoint. Dress up in your own, highly personal way, as my rocker-chic friend recently did at a wedding: LBD, black sequined beret, & killer jewelry.

It seems there is strong support for my view in the fashion industry. Okay, I exaggerate. There's one article that I know of & it's in the July issue of Vogue. According to Sally Singer, dressing down is dead & Balmain's $1,624 t-shirt was the final nail in the coffin. Later in the same issue, there's a photo shoot featuring Ewan MacGregor & Natalia Vodianova as a beautifully turned-out"Mad Men"-era couple. Will chic suddenly become "cool" for those of us who probably won't spend $1,624 on tees in an entire lifetime, much less in one shot? Will it once again be unseemly to show up at the office in flip-flops? At the very least, will those of us who enjoy dressing up (some of whom currently don't because they get too much grief if they do) feel a little less pressure not to do so? Time will tell. For the moment, thank you, Ms. Singer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Honfest, 6-13-2010

Honfest, 6-13-2010, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

Whew... I think I've finally recovered from last weekend! Two good friends got married on Saturday & the event was a wedding with a capital W. The ceremony was beautiful, both visually & in terms of the words that were spoken & the music that was sung. It didn't hurt that the choir loft held a truly amazing organist & singers, & there was no shortage of good voices among the congregation, either. The reception, held in a historic hotel that now houses condos, shops, & one of our favorite watering holes, was equally lovely. I did give J a couple of looks because he sneaked off to the bar to check the World Cup score a bit too often for my taste, but he wasn't the only one & he made up for it by taking me for several spins around the dance floor later.

The weekend's festivities didn't end there, however. On Sunday, we braved the steam bath that Baltimore can be any time between May & October to attend the Honfest, a street fair held annually in the city's Hampden neighborhood. We'd never been, even though that area is home to a number of stores & restaurants we frequent. The event is incredibly kitschy, all about celebrating Baltimore "hons" - working-class women with big beehive hairdos, cat-eyed glasses, & over-the-top wardrobes. I'm all about retro, but perhaps I'd harbored a fear that Honfest would be a disappointment, attended by the sort of people who think it's a "cute" event but disparage the city otherwise. Based on what we saw on Sunday, however, I was very wrong. Suburbanites & city dwellers of all races, ages & "types" - longtime Hampden residents, hipsters, families, couples, students, you name it - mingled happily. Given the weather, perhaps I should say we melted happily. There were booths offering all manner of old-school local delicacies (Ostrowski's sausages & The Laughing Crab's fried rockfish sandwiches, to name just two) and trendier fare (cupcakes) as well. I did a bit of vintage shopping & snagged a darling Monet charm bracelet for $18, a true score. We also stopped by local jewelry designer Martha Rotten's booth, which was fabulous, although she wasn't there at the time. Martha, if you're reading this, I still want to meet you! When we were about to keel over from the heat, we made our exit & attended our friend's son's high school graduation party in the suburbs, where things were only slightly less steamy.

Speaking of steamy, we loved the costume the stilt walker in this picture in this picture is wearing, & we found out she was handing out business cards for a local... toy store. It's called Sugar. Welcome to Baltimore, Hon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Delfina Delettrez

Delfina Delettrez Fendi, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

My name is Altocat & I am a blingaholic. I have loved jewelry since childhood & I was always begging my mother to let me wear her 50's rhinestone pieces, or, failing that, for money to buy others' old costume sparklers at garage sales. In those days (the mid-late 1970's) no one in the small-town midwest wore such things any more & I could pick up fabulous, dangly earrings & dramatic bracelets that would now fetch good money at an antiques show for a quarter, sometimes less. Sigh.

Once you're hooked on jewelry, it's pretty much impossible to stop loving the stuff, & my inner magpie is still alive & well. To this day, I wear tons of vintage pieces, from costume to fine. Actually, when we were dating, I told Mr. Altocat that I wasn't obsessed with stone size, but if he proposed, he'd better do so with a vintage ring in some form of white metal or the deal was off. He came up with a 1940's platinum & diamond ring (okay, I found it while shopping alone, but he loved the design & agreed to it) so I kept him.

I will freely admit to being a total design snob about new jewelry. Most of the "fine" pieces in my/our price range are utterly boring. I did succumb to the Tiffany key pendant trend this spring, but only after I found a very large sterling one that looks like it could be an actual house key. There is some fun, playful work being done in costume jewelry these days, however, even that tends to be too trend-conscious & imitative for me to plunk down my credit card unless it's by Kenneth Jay Lane or Lulu Guinness. When it comes to accessories, I'm not one to play it safe - I like big, odd-looking pieces, or smaller ones that you look at more closely & exclaim "That's a spider! Eeeew!"

Which brings me to this picture of Delfina Delettrez, heiress, member of the famed Fendi fashion family, & a truly brilliant jewelry designer in her own right. Mr. Altocat & I discovered her jewelry a while ago on a trip to South Beach & now it seems her work is in every fashion magazine I pick up. We wandered into Alchemist, a high-end shop on Lincoln Road, while killing time on our last day in town, & I admired some of the dresses they had for sale, but almost immediately headed over to the jewelry case. Nearly every piece was by Ms. Delettrez & I swooned over her sterling & enamel floral ring. made a bit memento-mori-ish by the inclusion of a tiny skull in the design, her flapper-length strand of cultured pearls spiked with a sterling silver fingertip every so often (the nails are all different colors & can be repainted if the owner is bored with her necklace's manicure) & the piece in this picture, a spectacular sterling silver bracelet in the shape of a spider. Upon opening the spider's back in locket fashion - well, perhaps in poison ring fashion - you discover that she is pregnant; her belly is loaded with cultured pearl "eggs". I tried the bracelet on & wore it around the shop for a while as we chatted with the sales associates, who couldn't have been nicer & admired my antique angel skin coral & diamond ring, an auction find - actually, an amazing score - from a decade ago. Alas, wonderful as they are, most of Delettrez' designs are way out of our price range at this time. The "Black Widow" bracelet pictured retails for $3800. I did manage to find a few of her pieces on Opening Ceremony's website for $190-470, but they don't pack quite the punch that this arachnid delivers.

Ever the bargain-huntress, I recently spotted Martha Rotten's pieces in a local store & they do have a similar creepy-but-very-well-made feel. Skulls, bugs, & eerie baby doll faces abound in Ms. Rotten's work, & prices start at around $38. If you don't live in Baltimore, you can view her work at http://martharotten.com/MarthaRotten/

Prince in a scene from "Purple Rain"

Ever watch a movie you haven't seen in over two decades & realize you still remember it almost word for word, shot for shot? That's what happened when my husband & I watched "Purple Rain" on DVD last Saturday night. I found myself singing along, too, until my husband, J, asked me to stop because he'd never seen the film & was hearing many of the songs for the first time.

I can't tell you how many times I saw this film when it first came out in 1984. I'm sure I caught it in the theater at least twice, & on cable... who knows? As for the soundtrack album, of course I had it, plus "Ice Cream Castle" by The Time & Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter". I am a huge Prince fan, especially of his mid-80's work; J is not. I did convince J to accompany me to one of Prince's live shows a few years ago, which helped him to appreciate the star's music more; it's just not his first-choice sound. When I asked him if we could watch "Purple Rain" last Saturday night, he wasn't terribly enthusiastic at first, but I asked him to please give it a chance, & he agreed. After a while, he found himself getting caught up in the film's story as well as the music. I was in heaven from beginning to end.

What is it about "Purple Rain"? Why does this film still resonate so with me (& with many others, judging from the comments on my Facebook page when I mentioned we'd watched it?) As one who wanted to move to the big city & make it as a performer, the story is the stuff of my youthful dreams, & the costumes are pure mid-80's ruffles-&-hair-gel-for-both-genders fabulous. The acting is fine, especially for a rock-&-roll picture, & the music... well, it's simply the best soundtrack ever. Ever! (Okay, the music in "Pulp Fiction" is great, too, but for me, nothing can top "Purple Rain".)

If it sounds like I'm on a rosy nostalgia trip here, maybe I am, but for many of us growing up in the upper midwest at that time, "Purple Rain" was more than a movie. It was a shout-out to the world that the part of America we lived in wasn't all bland, all the time. Same goes for the "Minneapolis Sound" - the music of Prince, The Time, Apollonia 6, Sheila E, Jimmy Jam, & others. Finally, people could see that Minnesota was capable of producing performers with a lot more edge than Garrison Keillor & that not everyone in that area speaks with a "Fargo" accent.

26 years after "Purple Rain" was released, I am living in an urban area, making a living in the arts, though alas, not as a rock star. I did manage to go dancing at First Avenue once in the early 90's (to a DJ playing the hot techno hits of the day) & had a blast. Two years ago, J & I drove past the club when we were in town for a family reunion, & my heart fluttered a little, just as it would have back in 1984. I still listen to Prince's music on a regular basis, hope to catch his live show again someday, & managed to see The Time perform at Artscape a couple of years ago. They sounded great, Morris Day was handsome as ever, & there was Jerome, holding his mirror. For that evening, all that had changed was that we were in Baltimore, many miles from First Avenue & Lake Minnetonka.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Life can change in an instant

I usually write about fashion & lifestyle topics here, but April 15th is a significant day in our house, & not just because taxes are due. Seven years ago today, I nearly lost my husband. Actually, he was my fiancee at the time; our wedding was set for October 31, 2003.

What happened? J is an architect & was standing on a 16-foot ladder, trying to get onto the roof of a building that his firm was renovating. It was unusually hot that day & the roof hatch was stuck; as he gave the hatch an especially hard push, the ladder came out from under him. Fortunately, someone was with him & called 911 immediately. The stairs were narrow & rickety, so the fire department had to remove him from the building via a fourth-floor window - downtown, at rush hour, no less. The ambulance immediately took him to Shock Trauma, not far from the site of the accident.

I knew nothing of this for several hours. When I got home from work, there were phone messages from his office & mine; people had been frantically trying to get a hold of me. I finally spoke with his firm's secretary & was told he'd been in an accident on the job site. The fact that he'd been taken to Shock Trauma made me (literally) sick to my stomach. As the name implies, you don't end up there unless you're in pretty bad shape. Because we weren't married yet, it took me a couple of hours to get the hospital's authorization to drive downtown & see J. All that time, I had no idea what had happened, only that it was very serious.

When I arrived at the hospital, J was on a gurney, naked except for a sheet. His clothes had been cut off at the accident scene. (Ever the smart alec, he informed me of his clothesless state with a smirk.) I stayed with him into the wee hours of the morning, only leaving the room when the hospital staff needed to x-ray him or (ugh) put his right leg in traction. The results of the x-rays were frightening: he'd fractured his right shoulder & broken the right side of his pelvis in five places, including the hip socket. J is a marathon runner who has qualified for Boston twice. When I asked one of the doctors when he'd be able to run again, she replied, "Run? Let's work on walking first." Hardly what I wanted to hear, and I was glad J was on so much morphine that he missed that comment. Eventually, we decided it was best for me to go home and get some sleep (something which was not going to come that night without the aid of a cocktail!)

J spent a week in the hospital. He could have been operated on within a day or two, but the hospital wanted the best orthopaedic surgeon on their staff to do the surgery, so we had to wait untill the weekend. It was a very long week. I paid no attention to visiting hours, staying far beyond those times, & am sure I made a few enemies on the hospital staff, but I was too worried about J to care. I brought him balloons, food, a plant, an Easter basket, magazines - anything I thought might cheer him up. At first, he was on too much morphine to read; he'd even nod off in the middle of a sentence, sleep for a few minutes, & pick up the conversation where he'd left off, providing both of us with some much-needed comic relief.

Finally, the surgery was done; Humpty Dumpty had been put back together again. The breaks had been very clean & J was in great health before the fall, so his prognosis was as good as it could be. A physical therapist began teaching him to bounce up & down a flight of stairs on his backside - an important skill, since he wouldn't be able to walk for 10 weeks - & he was sent home. Despite the stair-bouncing lessons, he spent his first few weeks at home in a rented hospital bed that took up a substantial portion of our living room. He received in-home physical therapy, spent a lot of time watching movies, & even did some work from home (talk about an odd reason to be telecommuting!) Luckily, he had excellent Worker's Compensation coverage through his firm; otherwise, this medical adventure would have cost us a quarter of a million dollars.

J was a model patient & made an amazing recovery. Our wedding went on as scheduled - we even performed in a play together the month before the Big Day - & he wasn't up to much running on our honeymoon, but snorkeling was fine. He was able to resume running marathons in 2004 & has since been in a few "ultra-running" events as well, including a 50-miler to celebrate his 50th birthday in 2008. The doctors warned him that he may eventually develop arthritis in his right hip, but so far, he's had no sign of that.

Awful as this whole ordeal was for us, we were very lucky. J could have been paralyzed or even killed in such a serious fall. As I mentioned before, we were well-insured, so we were spared the financial ruin that can accompany a medical catastrophe. We also had amazing support from our families, friends, & co-workers, for which we're grateful every day, not just on April 15th.

Oh, & I caught J on a stepladder in the kitchen this morning, which gave us both a good laugh. He has to climb a larger ladder in the show he's currently rehearsing. As long as there's no roof hatch involved, I guess I can deal with that... but I'll try not to think about it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

J. Peterman skirt, Lulu Guinness bag, BR outlet twin set, Ferragamo shoes

Last Friday evening, my husband & I were able to have our first outdoor meal of the year. After the insane amount of snow we had this past winter, dining al fresco was an extra-special treat! We went to b, a cute neighborhood bistro with amazing food. I celebrated by wearing the Ferragamo shoes we both fell in love with on our trip to Florence last December & carrying my new Lulu Guinness bag. The Ferragamos are reproductions of a vintage style originally created for Peggy Guggenheim. They're amazingly comfy & I plan to seek out more shoes by this brand, although my subsequent pairs - like the ones I purchased before splurging on these - will probably have to be clearance sale or secondhand finds!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gershwin Hotel lobby, NYC

gershwin hotel , originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

My husband & I are notorious NYC hotel-hoppers. We like to have a safe place to stash our stuff during the day, & lack of bedbugs is always a plus, but we're not in Manhattan to hang out in the hotel room, so we've been known to overlook many things (unbelievably tacky decor, hard beds, & lack of washcloths included) to snag a great rate. This past weekend, we scored big-time, because we managed to land a great deal at a place with style, great service, & a killer location on 27th street (just steps from some of the best vintage/antiques shopping I've ever found!) Unlike most hotels in this price range, the Gershwin isn't decorated in watery pastel shades & generic furniture. Paint colors here are vibrant & many of the furnishings appear to have been hand-selected at flea markets or really, really good yard sales. If we'd had some kitties to pet, we'd truly have been right at home.

Lulu Guinness large icon Jenny bag

Let's see, it has a black cat, a cameo, red roses, & all kinds of other girly stuff on it - yes, it was meant to be mine. I had actually been stalking this bag since last fall & was lucky enough to snag it for 70% off last weekend, both due to persistence & the great sales associates at Lulu's Bleecker Street shop. Now I have my eye on another Lulu bag, but isn't that always how these things go?

NYC umbrellas... well, former umbrellas... 3-14-10

How can you tell you love a place? For us, one way to know that is to visit in absolutely hideous weather & still manage to have a good time. After the nastiest winter we've had in years, & with other stresses consuming way too much of our time & energy, Mr. Altocat & I decided to spend last weekend in one of our favorite cities - New York! The weather was rainy & icky on Friday & even worse on Saturday (add even more rain & high winds, & you get the picture.) Things were clearer on Sunday, but it still rained a bit. Neither one of us is the type to stay in the hotel room & watch TV - we've walked around Manhattan in snow halfway up our calves before - so we put up our umbrellas (we "killed" two over the weekend; they ended up looking much like the ones in this picture) & ventured out. Our weekend was filled with performances (burlesque at the Slipper Room & "The Nose" at the Metropolitan Opera), great food (Zucca, I Coppi, & Bagel Boss), shopping (a Lulu Guinness bag for me, a vintage Armani coat for Mr. Altocat, & a big surprise - a Tiffany key pendant *from* him!), & friends, one old, one new. New York, we love you, and you are a magical place, even in awful weather.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Carolina Herrera skirt, Miu Miu shoes, Saks Sweater

Another opening, another show... my husband is playing Roscoe in a local production of "Follies" & this is what I wore on opening night (last Friday.) The cast lost a whole weekend of performances due to the ridiculous snowstorms we've had recently, so they'll only get to do the show 6 times, but audiences & reviews have been good. After schlepping around in "snow clothes" for a few days, it feels great to wear "real" outfits again!

I found this Carolina Herrera skirt at Century 21 in Manhattan. Even at a deep discount, it cost more than I usually spend on one item, but I adore it & get tons of compliments on it. The Saks sweater was a Christmas gift from one of my Fashionism friends (thanks again, C!) & the Miu Miu shoes were a Saks splurge a couple of years ago. They're surprisingly comfy & I love their over-the-top look. Other details: Betsey Johnson tights, New York & Company tank, vintage jewelry.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Manolo, how could you?

Manolo, how could you? , originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

Just when I thought the obsession with denim couldn't go any farther, or get any uglier, I've been proved wrong once again. If you're interested in these Manolo Blahnik "sneaker heels", they will set you back $785. That's more than my snakeskin & patent MB pumps (the only pair of Blahniks in my closet, which I scored at a deep discount two years ago) originally retailed for. Manolo has made pricey denim shoes before, in the form of blingy-buckled d'Orsay pumps & Chuck Taylor-type heels, but these are a new low in my opinion.

Many times, I have posted both here & on a couple of fashion chat boards how sick I am of seeing denim everywhere. It's not edgy any more, folks, it's boring. Jeans are casual wear. I say that as someone who owns a few pairs, but seldom wears them, although I will more than likely put on my Old Navy boyfriend jeans to go to our friends' Superbowl party this afternoon since we have over two feet of snow & will have to walk about a mile each way. Heck, I wore overalls all the time in the early 90's, in denim & various other fabrics. Artsy-girl-geek-chic, anyone? I really miss the dark blue matte-finish silk ones I bought from Tweeds & literally wore out. I just want to see a little more variety, especially since I often hear friends & acquaintances complain that they feel they HAVE to wear denim certain places because "that's what everyone else will be wearing".

Besides, these shoes are just plain hideous. Shame on you, Manolo Blahnik, & you, too, Neiman Marcus.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saddle shoes & *gasp* jeans

Saddle shoes & jeans, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I rarely wear jeans. In fact, I don denim so rarely that if I show up wearing it, my friends are likely to ask if I'm feeling all right. Why? First, I am short & have hips. About .00000000001% of the jeans on the market are cut to flatter people like me. It's usually much less work for me to just throw on a cute dress (or skirt & top) than it is to create a jeans outfit that isn't a one-way ticket to Matronlyland.

Secondly, I am heartily sick of seeing denim everywhere. Call me old-fashioned, elitist... hit me with your best epithet... jeans are casual wear. They are NOT meant to be seen at the opera, the symphony, high-end restaurants... you get the idea. They are also not meant to cost more than a mortgage payment, although I have seen some that do. +$1400. Really. In this economy, pair them with a $650 Alber Elbaz t-shirt & you can offend just about anyone, aesthetically & financially.

That said, I have been sufficiently intrigued by the recent "boyfriend jean" trend to purchase a pair (Old Navy, $34 IIRC.) If I lay off the dark chocolate, they're quite comfy & flattering. Paired with a fun cardigan & ancient tank from New York & Company, they make a nice weekend-bumming-around outfit. I really like them with my new Bass saddle shoes, too. The shoes are insanely comfy & I think they're keepers.

"1920's Lady Golfer" outfit

Saddle shoes & skirt, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

My first attempt at pairing saddle shoes with a skirt. I want to play around with different skirt lengths & maybe textured tights. I'm always on the lookout for shoes that are cute & funky enough to wear all day in NY, & I think these fit the bill!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bass Enfield Saddle Shoes (photo from Zappos.com)

Back in the saddle (shoes) again... actually, I've never owned a pair of these babies, but I just bought some on Zappos. com. I wore classic penny loafers all the time in the 80's & recently bought a black patent pair (also Bass.) I love them - they're perfect with jeans & I may try them with skirts, too. I love my heels, but sometimes my feet just need a break, & I love aesthetic variety, too. I'm all about great-looking retro styles, & if they're comfy, too, that's the icing on the cake. I'll let you know how these work out & post outfit pics if they're keepers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mary Sue Easter Eggs

Mary Sue Easter Eggs, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

What's on everyone's mind in January? How to pay off holiday bills? The beach? Getting rid of extra holiday poundage to look good at the beach? No, according to the folks at Giant food, it's... Easter candy! I was doing a bit of grocery shopping & having a text-message conversation with my friend L last week when I noticed that the Pikesville Giant already had Mary Sue Easter eggs out for sale. Mary Sue is a Baltimore-based candy company, in business since 1948, & they make the best chocolate Easter eggs in the world. No contest. I grew up eating Russell Stover Easter candy & have since expanded my palate by tasting many high-end chocolates, seasonal & otherwise, as the number of Maison du Chocolat charges on my credit card over the years will attest to. Still, for this Midwestern expat who was once married to a Baltimore native, nothing says "spring" like Mary Sue.

That said, I was still appalled at first... our daytime highs weren't going much above 30! Still, I couldn't resist going over to the shelf where the eggs were displayed to see if my favorite flavor, Triple Chocolate Meltdown, was there for the taking. Nope, only Pecan Nougat & Coconut Cream. I do like the latter, but can live without the former. (I rarely indulge in sweets that don't involve dark chocolate.) The whole time, I was texting L about this, rhapsodizing about the incredible yumminess that is to be found in Mary Sue Easter Eggs. L lives on the west coast & is Mary Sue-deprived, so I'll be sending her a care package as soon as I can get my bejeweled little hands on a Triple Chocolate Meltdown or two (or three or...) I'll probably buy some for myself too, to save them. After all, these babies are notorious for selling out well before Easter. Or, in my house, for getting eaten well before Easter, resulting in extra work at the gym & perhaps a few very light dinners to compensate for the chocolate calories.

So am I a seasonal sellout? A hopeless chocoholic? Both? That's open to interpretation. For now, I leave you with an old-school Mary Sue jingle, taught to me by my first husband, & sung to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's "I'm Called Little Buttercup":

Mary Sue Easter Eggs
Mary Sue Easter Eggs
People are making the switch
'Cause using pure butter
Makes Mary Sue better
And you've never had it so rich!

(Alternate last line a la 1950's schoolchildren: Now ain't that a son of a...)

Good night, chocolate lovers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jeweler's window, Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Being a lifelong jewelry addict, of course I made a beeline for the Ponte Vecchio on our first day in Firenze. I was a bit surprised to find that many of the stores offered rather pedestrian designs. Then again, I have been to a lot of gem shows, so my eye is probably a little jaded. I've looked at quite a few hoop earrings over the years. The price of gold was also quite high at the time, which didn't help matters. There were more exotic wares to be had, although many were far beyond my budget. Several shops featured absolutely spectacular antique gems (14,000 Euro Georgian-era diamond earrings, anyone? At this writing, that's about $20,043. Yes, I tried them on.) Further inspection proved that there are interesting, decently-priced gems to be found on the Ponte Vecchio, but one needs a bit of patience, and perhaps a gelato, to search for them.

Nescafe Machine in Firenze

I can't believe it's the 10th day of 2010 already. The holidays really got away from me this time. Our December trip to Italy may have had something to do with that - we spent a week in Florence (Firenze to the locals) in celebration of my 40th birthday. I had been there, but not for 20 years, and this was Mr. Clotheshorse's first trip to Europe. We fell in love with the city immediately. Florence has so many delights to offer: great art and architecture (much of it dating back several centuries,) amazing food and wine, a vibrant downtown shopping district frequented by locals as well as tourists, and lovely, friendly people. Even the vending machines have style, as evidenced by this photo I took at the Boboli Gardens. Firenze, we miss you already, and we'll be back.