Friday, December 30, 2011

Santa rocked out, as always!

Whew! The last few months got away from me, blog-wise, but for very pleasant reasons - I had a great performing gig, was spending a lot of time with friends, & had plenty to do at my day job, including writing a bunch of blog posts for our soon-to-be launched, much-upgraded website. Since we're about to "ring" in 2012, I thought this might be a good time to post a pic of my major holiday haul.

I'd never heard of Iosselliani until Barneys sent me an email featuring this ring & several others. As you may know, I am a design snob, especially re: jewelry, & can't be bothered with most new baubles that are anywhere near my price range. My tastes tend to lie at either end of the spectrum - very classic or totally bizarre - & it's usually much easier for me to satisfy them with vintage sparkles. Most moderately-priced new jewelry is so "safe", aesthetically, that I find it visually offensive. I adore much of Tom Binns' & Delfina Delettrez' work, but due to their price points, must admire their most interesting pieces from afar. In a similar vein, this ring was outside of Santa's current budget when I first emailed it to him. Sigh.

Fast forward to mid-December, a 60% off sale, & more utterly shameless hint-dropping. Santa took the bait & this fabulous sterling-&-faux-gem rockpile made its way into my Christmas stocking. He was rewarded with a bottle of each of his favorite after-dinner tipples: port & single malt Scotch. Milk & cookies would hardly have been adequate!

I hope all of your holiday wishes came true & that 2012 will be a great year. Cheers!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vintage "Carmencita" dress, Chanel bag, Sesto Meucci heels

What a weekend! Last Saturday was J's birthday, & for once, I didn't have to work. I love what I do for a living, but this time of year tends to be busy & I often end up with gigs on J's birthday, our anniversary, or both. We decided to celebrate by making the weekend revolve around two of our favorite things: food & movies.

On Saturday afternoon, we saw "Contagion", which is brilliant & very scary because the plot line is so realistic. The characters are well-written & acted & there are several strong female roles, something one doesn't always get from mainstream Hollywood. Following the movie, we went home, changed into dressier attire, & headed to The Prime Rib, our favorite steakhouse, for dinner.

When we arrived at the restaurant, the manager came out to meet our car. How often does that happen? Okay, he's a great guy & we're Facebook friends, but really, J & I felt like movie stars! Once inside, we had delicious drinks (a rye Manhattan for J, a Champagne cocktail for me) before settling into our cozy table. There, J feasted on roasted tomato soup & the "split cut" of Prime Rib (despite its name, not a small steak!) while I tucked into a Caesar salad, followed by the most perfectly cooked piece of rockfish I have ever eaten. We shared a fabulous bottle of Chianti & two side dishes: green beans & tomatoes as well as mashed potatoes. Dessert was a slice of chocolate mousse pie, gratis because we were celebrating J's birthday, & of course I had to accompany my share of the sweet with a glass of Chartreuse. If the food sounds old-school, well, it is, & it's the sort of cuisine that's becoming increasingly hard to find on restaurant menus, especially high-end ones. Service was marvelous, as always; we left full, happy, & in my case, slightly tipsy.

J & I love all kinds of food, from fine dining to street-fair fare. We can both find dishes we love from almost any culture or region. When dining out, we just want to have a great experience, especially on a birthday, anniversary, or other "big night." Alas, many establishments fall short in at least one of the areas that matter to us on all occasions: food, wine list, atmosphere, & clientele. Gimmicky menus, bar food at crazy prices, & snobbish customers who are rude to the staff (& perhaps even to other diners!) are not for us. Fortunately, none of the above was in evidence on Saturday night.

One great meal deserves another, no? That was our line of thinking on Sunday, when we headed to Gertrude's, another favorite spot, for an amazing brunch. J had a mimosa & a garden omelet; I chose a "Dirty Gertie" (spicy Bloody Mary, garnished with a shrimp) & Eggs Gertrude (eggs Benedict, but with crab cakes instead of meat.) Naturally, we each had a cup of red crab soup to start - not doing so would have been unthinkable! Again, food, drinks, & service were superb.

We finished off our festive weekend by watching Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" on satellite TV. Missed this one in theaters; & what a shame - the special effects are marvelous & actually enhance the plot rather than being an excuse for lack of one. All of the performances are terrific, as is the script. Even on the small screen, not to be missed.

And now it's Monday & we're back to reality, but our anniversary is at the end of this month, so perhaps more weekend decadence awaits!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

NY skyline skirt detail

NY skyline skirt detail, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I just had to add a detail pic of today's find. Check out the Chrysler Building at top left!

NY skyline skirt

NY skyline skirt, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I can be a snob about antique/vintage reproductions. Many are dumbed-down in design & quality, usually with the excuse that they've been "updated", but it always looks to me as if the manufacturer just didn't want to put in the effort to make a good copy of the older item. When J & I stopped in our favorite antiques mall this afternoon, I found this skirt on a rack & gasped. I was sure it was "the real deal" - from the 50's - but in amazing condition. Was it dead stock? I looked inside the waistband for a tag & nearly fell over when I saw a label that read "twenty one". Yes, as in Forever Twenty-One, the mall store. I've found some cute things in there over the years, including an embroidered satin cocktail dress that some of my friends still insist is D&G, but this is the best retro-repro piece I've seen them produce. Even if this isn't a copy of an older garment, it's brilliant IMO; nothing ersatz about it. The fabric is nice, the colors & pattern are true to the era it's trying to evoke, & it's got enough of a sweep that I can definitely wear a crinoline under it. I have no idea when this skirt was in stores & our clothing dealer friends weren't in their booth today, so if you're after it for yourself, my advice would be to check F21's website & then eBay. Snagged this baby for $18 - a steal, even though it's several inches too large in the waist. I know a very good alterations lady, but I may have to belt this baby & wear her once before surrendering her to needle & thread.

Jet parure, probably mourning jewelry, circa 1860

More fabulously unaffordable goodies from last weekend's antiques show. This is probably the nicest complete parure of jet jewelry that I've ever seen. If I'd had $4500 to spare, it would have come home with me, but alas, we had to give it back to the dealer after he was kind enough to let me take a pic. J loves this sort of set, too, as much for the case (original & bearing the name of the Regent Street shop at which it was originally purchased) as for the contents. Every single piece in this group was in amazing condition, no mean feat given its age & the fact that many women wore mourning clothes & accessories for four years or more after the death of a spouse or child.

The aesthetic beauty of antiques is only part of their appeal, at least for me. I'm not interested in collecting for reasons of status, either. I love the social & cultural significance behind the objects, even when, as here, they were most likely purchased during less-than-happy times. I wonder how I would have dealt with wearing mourning? The nonconformist in me would have been appalled at being expected to wear only certain styles & colors due to societal expectations lest I be accused of not grieving sufficiently or having loose morals. Both men & women wore mourning attire during the Victorian era, but standards were stricter for women. The feminist in me bristles at that, as at many things, but I must admit I'm glad beautiful objects like these were created & that some have survived for us look at & ponder.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A diva can dream, can't she?

Last week was pretty weird. First we had an earthquake, then the entire eastern seaboard anxiously awaited the arrival of Hurricane Irene. I'm pleased to say J & I only lost power for about 30 minutes, & overnight at that. Many of our friends & colleagues weren't so lucky. Our sun porch roof also leaked a bit. but it's been known to do that in far smaller storms.

In the midst of Mother Nature's drama, I paid 3 visits to the Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair. I saw lots of friends, including some European dealers I only get to chat with once a year, & of course I had a chance to ogle all sorts of fabulous old stuff. At this point, our house is pretty well-stocked with furniture, china, glassware, etc, although you'll never catch me admitting that around J ("But we don't have *green* wineglasses yet, honey!") I'm still on a budget, too. So, the show was primarily a social event/learning opportunity for me, as it has been in some years past. I've been attending this temptation-packed show for over 15 years & have learned to set my budget before leaving the house. If there's nothing truly amazing in my price range, I leave empty-handed.

Enough maturity, sense, & good financial judgment for now. Time for a trip to Fantasyland. In this pic, I am wearing the most amazing necklace I have ever seen. I often go for elaborate designs - think Moderne pieces from the 1940's or delicate-but-not-cutesy Deco filigree - but here is photographic proof that simplicity need not be bland. Not if you have big enough rocks, anyway. I can't even remember the total carat weight, but yes, those are diamonds - big ones - all the way around my neck. They're set in gold topped with sterling silver, which was common practice before white gold & platinum came into use. The necklace dates from the Victorian era & I would love to know who has owned it over the years. It's obviously been lovingly cared for, & who wouldn't treat such a spectacular piece like the work of art it is? I hung out at this booth for a long, long time - two days in a row - just so I could enjoy the sensation of having all this gorgeousness around my neck. Okay, the fact that the dealer was hot & all of his merchandise was spectacular didn't hurt, either. I think he actually believed that J & I were going to buy this fabulous bit of bling, which is too hilarious for words given its price tag: $130,000, a/k/a more than we currently owe on our house. Yes, you read that correctly. Most reluctantly, we gave the necklace back to the jeweler.

I know there are people who love to moralize about expensive wearables, especially the kind that sparkle. "There are people starving", "No one NEEDS that sort of thing", blah blah blah. That's very true, but do most of us *need* our of-the-moment tech gadgets, super-duper coffee makers, pricey jeans, or "good" bags? Of course not. We buy them because we like them. If J & I had the wherewithal, this necklace would have been mine in a second. We don't. We never will. We're both perfectly okay with that. There's more to life than obsessing over material things you'll never be able to own. Cool stuff enhances life - a lot! - but it won't make up for being in a career you hate or a soul-crushing relationship just to have a certain amount of purchasing power. Leave that to the Joneses & enjoy your life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Deco Etc's booth at the 2011 Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

It's that time of year again. The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show is going on through Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center. I've been going to this show for over 15 years & jokingly (?) refer to it as a religious holiday. If you are even the least bit interested in antiques, regardless of period, & can get to this event, you must. All of the "usual" stuff is available: jewelry, handbags, china, silver, furniture, etc., but you can also find super-binoculars that came off of the Berlin Wall & a US Navy ship, an actual lobster cast in nickel, & other fabulous oddities. The dealers at this show tend to be fun people who really know their stuff, so it's easy to spend half an hour or more chatting at one booth.

I cruised the show for about four hours last night & didn't see half of it, even at a rapid pace, so am going back today & tomorrow (have to work Sunday, or I'd probably go then, too!) Favorite booths this far: Deco Etc., Frank's Specialties, Jo & Olly, Daniels Antiques, Deco 2 Midcentury, Bridges Over Time, & Jane Fletcher. And now, if you'll excuse me, I must get dressed & head for the show!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shabby Apple dress. This could be yours... or mine, hehe... free!

I'm half-Irish & I'm told I wear jewel tones very, very well, so you can imagine my reaction when I saw this gorgeous green dress on my friend's blog, Consume or Consumed. I'd never heard of this brand, Shabby Apple, but apparently their designs tend toward feminine/vintage-inspired styles. Uh, count me in!

So here's the deal. If you'd like to win this baby in your size, *free*, you need to be a subscriber of Consume or Consumed. You can gain extra entries (one possible entry per action) by doing the following:

Blog the giveaway with a link to the post.
Like Shabby Apple on Facebook.
Like Consume or Consume on Facebook.
Tweet the giveaway at jesspgh (with a link to the tweet.)

Here are some more contest deets, lovingly ripped off from Consume or Consumed:

The contest will close at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, September 1, 2011.

The winner will be chosen one week from today via drawing on to receive the Mariposa Grove dress which will ship directly from Shabby Apple. I will contact and announce the winner on Friday morning.

If you can't wait that long, Shabby Apple has offered an exclusive 10% off discount to readers of Consume or Consumed. Use coupon code consumeorconsumed10off (available and active until September 24th, 2011) at checkout. Have fun exploring the adorable women's dresses, little girl's dresses, and maternity dresses available on Shabby Apple's website!

Here's a link to the original contest on Consume or Consumed:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Outfit for train to NY, 8-12-11

I'll begin today's post with a quote - quite possibly the most brilliant fashion-related quote I've ever read: "A dash of eccentric glamour gives you the power to keep the wrong kind of men away." - Isabel Toledo

Isabel Toledo is a Cuban-American fashion designer who has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, among many others. I've admired Ms. Toledo's work for some time, & having stumbled across the above quote on Facebook this morning, I have a newfound respect for her attitude toward life & relationships as well.

As a society, we invest clothes & accessories with tremendous meaning. We're constantly told "what not to wear" in various situations - to job interviews, on special occasions, & especially when trying to attract a partner. In some ways, it seems, the mating game has even stricter rules of attire than the office. I can't count the number of how-to-dress-for-a-date articles I've skimmed online. Some are aimed at men, but the vast majority are directed toward women. According to pretty much every one of them, my personal style should be a one-way ticket to eternally single, crazy cat lady status. I wear intense lipstick (usually red or deep pink), I almost never don jeans, I have to wear glasses most of the time (okay, I'm pondering Lasik; not sure I could do contacts. I have two tattoos & sat through both inkings like a trouper, but the idea of sticking little things in my eyes every day makes me a bit queasy.) I wear vintage on a regular basis & have recently begun rebuilding my hat collection. To top off all of that, I'm 41 & short, but am I miserable & alone? Nope. I'm married to a hunk who adores my style & is a very natty, retro-fabulous dresser in his own right. According to those articles, the way I look should keep me right out of the workforce, too, but I've been at my current job for almost 18 years. Granted, I work for a nonprofit arts organization, but I have a great gig at which dressing pretty much as I please is but one of many perks.

I'm both fascinated & repelled by the messages popular culture sends about fashion. The one that makes me cringe most, however, is the myth of the woman who drastically changes her appearance to please a man. This one just won't die; it's been a theme in countless movies over the years ("Grease", "Rear Window", & "Pretty in Pink", to name only a few.) I have yet to see a single film in which a man gets a makeover to attract a woman or improve his current relationship.

Have I had guys try to make me over? Oh, yes. One particular incident stands out in my mind. Back in the early 90's, I was planning a trip to North Carolina to visit a guy I was in a long-distance relationship with. He was a corporate type, & just before my trip, he expressed a desire to buy me some polo shirts & khakis, explaining that he was concerned about me being "too warm" in my floaty, Natalie-Merchant-esque chiffon dresses (hey, I said it was the early 90's!) in the southern heat. More to the point: he didn't want his friends to see how I really dressed. Next, please.

Obviously, he wasn't the right guy for me. We didn't fit, not only in terms of fashion, but in many other ways (political & religious views, desire - or lack thereof - for children, etc.) He wasn't a bad guy - he helped me through one of the worst times in my life, & we did have a lot in common intellectually. We just weren't compatible for the long haul.

So, quirky girls (& guys) of the world, if you happen to read one of those makeover articles or get dire warnings about the damage your style will do to your life, consider the source & take it with a grain of salt. You may, in fact, be helping yourself to stay out of the wrong relationships, which gives you more time & energy for the right ones!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Deco green glass beads

Deco green glass beads, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

So here's what I bought on my summer vacation... well, one thing, anyway. J has been doing consulting work for a few weeks now, & while he's not raking it in, he is doing well enough that we were able to take a quick trip to New York last weekend. We snagged the cheapest possible Amtrak fares ($49pp each way) & also got a great deal on a room at the Hotel Belleclaire, which proved a great place to stay.

What can one do in 48 hours in Manahttan? How about cocktails, vintage shopping, dining, & 2 10-mile runs? That's what J & I did. We don't always go on such long runs on vacay, but J is training for the JFK 50-miler this fall & I love to eat, especially in New York, so decided it was in the best interests of my waistline to go the distance with him. We met up with several friends, some of whom we've known for years & one who I had previously only known through the internet, but who is even more fun in person.

I've picked up a few singing gigs recently, so I was able to do a little shopping, mostly at flea markets. I hadn't been to the Hell's Kitchen market in years, but a friend said it's a great place to shop for vintage clothing, & was she ever right! It seemed almost every vendor had at least a few clothes, & many were offering items at $10 each. My finds included two designer skirts (Louis Feraud & Ungaro, respectively), two dresses, & a fabulously full 1950's skirt - all for $65. We also visited the Garage flea market in Chelsea, which is apparently moving to an outdoor location soon. There, I got a gorgeous black straw hat for $35 & the necklace in this pic for $25. The latter was an astonishing deal; I usually see Deco glass bead strands priced at $75 & up. I couldn't resist stopping in the Chelsea location of Shoegasm & cruising their clearance rack. When they have a sale, they really have a sale! One pair of black velvet evening shoes, one of black leather peep-toe pumps, & $60-some later, we were out the door. We stuck our heads in the UWS Loehmann's - I can't stay away when there are "Italian Event" signs in the windows - & I fell in love, or at least in lust, with some D&G shoes & a Moschino cardigan that were out of my current financial reach even at deep discounts. Sigh. At least I found a Moschino umbrella for $17. I left the store delighted with my new bumbershoot & highly annoyed that the Loehmann's nearest our house (Timonium) has become so junky. I like to call it "Where Denim Goes to Die." Oh, for the days when I found DVF dresses there for as little as $20!

If you're headed to NY anytime soon, I highly recommend that you check out the Hotel Belleclaire, as well as the store & flea markets I've mentioned. Once you've worked up an appetite shopping, head for Bagel Boss, Eataly, or I Coppi. See why I ran 10 miles - twice - on vacay?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Victor Costa SATC2 dress

Victor Costa SATC2 dress, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

Yes, I did it. After a year of searching eBay & Google, I've tracked down the Victor Costa dress that Charlotte wears in the second SATC movie, & I've managed to do it at a price that fits my recessionista budget.

I don't usually buy clothes I've seen in films or on celebrities. Most "it" items have little or no appeal to me & I think many celebs should have their stylists publicly flogged. There are some famous ladies whose closets I'd happily raid, including Debi Mazar, Lulu Guinness, Diane von Furstenberg, Dita von Teese, & Sarah Jessica Parker, but I don't want to be a carbon copy of anyone. I can't think of any present-day films whose wardrobe departments I'd like to ransack, unless we go back a few years to "The Devil Wears Prada." Most contemporary flicks simply do a brilliant job of illustrating why I dress retro.

This dress, however, is not just any movie dress. It's pouffy, it's strapless, & it's by Victor Costa, my go-to label for vintage special occasion frocks. When I saw Kristin Davis wearing this dress in an SATC2 promo pic, I gasped. I knew who it had been designed by & set out to find it.

Needless to say, once the film came out, eBay sellers & other vintage clothing dealers saw an opportunity to make big money on this dress. I saw several examples of it online & for a while, the going price was well over $200. I do a bit of eBay & Etsy selling myself, so I can't say I wouldn't do exactly what those other sellers did, but I also couldn't shell out that kind of change for a semi-formal summer dress. Even we don't get gussied up as often in the warmer months as we do in the winter. So, I kept searching.

Finally, about a month ago, this popped up on eBay & the seller apparently didn't know it's a "movie dress." I got it for $22 + a few bucks for alterations (it was too big in the bodice.) I wore it to the symphony last night & got tons of compliments, both from friends & complete strangers.

A very late-to-the-party note on SATC2: I enjoyed it. I went with DC-area girlfriends, did some shopping after, & treated myself to the most enormous falafel sandwich in history before driving home (yum!) The movie is incredibly silly, but a feast for the eyes. I do wish more of it had taken place in NY, but it's good fun. I never watched the TV show until it was in syndication - J & I watch almost no TV - but I love the episodes I've seen. Apparently there's an SATC prequel in the works, using younger actresses to play the girls earlier in their NY lives, & I am less than excited about the prospect. The four actresses who starred in the show & the first two films embodied their characters so beautifully that I can't imagine anyone else doing them justice. Maybe I'm just old & crotchety, or maybe the later "Star Wars" movies (I saw the first two in that series & stayed away from the third like the plague) have put me off prequels for good. I think I'll stick to catching the occasional episode of the show, perhaps seeing the films again if they pop up on TV when I'm not busy, & wearing this amazing dress whenever the right event comes along.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Betsey Johnson dress, Michael Antonio shoes, Chanel bag

Hey, look, I have a bouquet growing out of my head. Actually, I'm standing in the lobby of the Belvedere Hotel, home of The Owl Bar, one of our favorite local watering holes. It's a gorgeous old room with a storied past - apparently, during Prohibition, the Owl was a notorious speakeasy. If the owl statue's eyes were blinking, patrons could imbibe without fear of getting busted. If the owl was staring straight ahead, that meant the feds weren't far away & a "wise old owl" would "say less & hear more", to paraphrase the bar's slogan from those days. Presumably, he or she would also need to get rid of the liquid "evidence" in a hurry. If the Owl's bartenders were as generous then as they are now, the resulting speed-tippling must have led to some interesting nights, not to mention mornings after!

I've been a Betsey Johnson fan since the 80's; found this dress at Loehmann's several years ago. I still peruse her stuff online & in stores, although not all of it fits my style (or, alas, my budget) at this point. Have Betsey's designs gotten younger, or am I just reluctantly admitting to getting older? I still wear lots of strapless dresses, pouffy skirts, & the occasional ruffle, but I don't always feel comfortable combining all of those things in one item or outfit, especially if there's a micro-mini or pastel color involved. There's a fine line between "still looks good enough to wear that" & the dreaded MDAL, or "mutton dressed as lamb."

Recently, I blasted a famous fashion house (okay, Prada) on a certain Very Popular Social Networking Site for releasing a scent that not only smells like candy, it's actually named after it. I know many people love sweet fragrances, but do we really need another foodie/gourmand spritz in the world? Prada's previous perfumes have been plenty sweet IMO, so much that they turn into hideous, sticky monsters on my skin. A true shame, as I am a fan of many of Prada's clothing & accessory designs & would love to express my admiration for the brand in a way I can actually afford, maybe without even snagging it on eBay. I can't even imagine what "Candy" would smell like on me. Perhaps a cake that's been left in a Baltimore trash can for about a week, in late July? *shudders*

My remarks provoked a most unexpected reaction: I got trolled. Really. I would have been fine with someone saying my ideas about fragrance are silly & old-school - that happens all the time, yawn - but some bozo took it upon himself to click on my profile pic & attack my fashion sense as... MDAL. Them's fightin' words, dude, but I didn't diss his wardrobe in retaliation, even though that would have been ridiculously easy. Who wears "muscle" shirts in 2011...? I refrained from commenting & simply blocked him, which apparently means we can't see each others' posts, etc. from now on. That's more than fine with me. What makes the incident even weirder is that this guy apparently thought the perfume sounded icky, too; he just needed to pick on a complete stranger (preferably a female?) online. Nice.

I see all sorts of similar negativity on the 'net, of course. Some people seem to truly believe inane slogans like "it's the internet, wear a helmet." Of course, they're the same ones to post all-caps rants or leave discussion boards in a huff the moment anyone dares question the veracity or wisdom of something they've posted. To me, a bully is a bully, online or IRL. If you can't treat others, including those who disagree with you, in a respectful manner, please step away from the keyboard, and don't expect the mods of any site to give you carte blanche to violate their TOS, no matter how frequently you've posted there. I love the internet, but it has a very ugly side, one that reflects & quite possibly even contributes to the decline in IRL civility.

Whew. Rant over. Now I'm off to put on whatever I damn well feel like wearing. Haters gonna hate. Have a great Saturday, all.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This kind of sums up the past week.

Along with J's job-hunting stress, financial worries,& summer cold issues (I've been fighting the nastiest warm-weather bug I can recall for over 3 weeks, & I think it's finally gone - whew) we had to deal with this mess when we got home on Thursday afternoon.

J & I are faithful recyclers. Every Thursday morning, he takes bags &/or boxes of recyclable items out to the alley behind our house & leaves them for pickup. It seems the workers responsible for carting away our recycling were in a bit of a rush this week, so when they spilled a good bit of what we'd set out, it was too much trouble to pick it up, & they left a huge mess for us to deal with. Grr. I've emailed our city council rep, who is fabulous, as well as the head of public works. I am doing my best not to be one of those Baltimore residents who bashes local government or says "What can you expect? It's the city..." every time something unpleasant affects them. This sort of thing happens everywhere; it's just very annoying when it happens to you.

There have been many negative stories about Baltimore in the news lately. Okay, there usually are. Crime grabs headlines. "If it bleeds, it leads." Don't get me started on the kinds of comments that crime-in-Baltimore stories generate online. I have to keep my reading of such nonsense to a minimum or I risk damage to my health, my computer, or both.

I'm not saying the media shouldn't keep the public informed, nor am I insensitive to the very real damage that crime does to our city & many others. Having been the victim of a violent crime myself, I know all too well how hard it is to recover, emotionally, after such an incident, & I was lucky enough not to be physically harmed. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to lose a loved one to street violence. Still, city-bashing really gets on my nerves, especially when it comes from people who have never lived here or think that Baltimore's problems (mainly crime & poverty) mean that when visiting, one can act like the trash that litters far too many of our public places. I've actually overheard suburbanites saying it's okay to get drunk & vomit all over Fell's Point, Federal Hill, etc. because "like, it's the city & like, no one CARES about the city." Uh, except those of us who call Baltimore home. Not all visitors are like this, of course, & we're glad to show our hometown off to anyone who wants to visit, provided that they treat the city with the same respect they would their own town or suburb. If you're going to come into town & act like a yahoo - destroying people's property, using the street as your bathroom, or just catcalling & making disgusting remarks to women, please stay home. J & I are skipping Artscape this weekend because we just don't want to deal with the drunken idiots who've made the event so unpleasant the past several years. Honfest seems to attract a more civil crowd, perhaps because it's a smaller event.

I used to trash-talk the suburbs on a regular basis, but as I've gotten older, I've come to see that they offer a lifestyle that suits many people. Much as J & I love it, city life isn't for everyone. We wish there were easy solutions to Baltimore's ills, but there aren't. We just do our best to stay safe & keep our little corner of the city clean.

Barbara Feinman hat, vintage maxi dress & bag, Lulu Guinness espies

There aren't a lot of holes in my wardrobe at this point, but I am a bit short on casual summer dresses. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of shorts. Most of the ones marketed to women fall into one of two categories: "Daisy Dukes" (barely enough fabric to cover the essentials - not a good look IMO even if you are 18 & a size 0, & I am neither) or "For When You've Given Up" (pleated, baggy, pouffy, & generally resembling khaki garbage bags.) Even when I see a reasonably stylish pair of Bermudas, I tend to shy away because the damn things never fit my body (just as longer pants usually don't) so I stay in my skirt-&-dress comfort zone. My office is pretty casual, but the clothes I wear to work still seem too businesslike for running errands & heading to the flea market in 90-degree heat, so I've been on the hunt for casual options that are a bit boho but don't scream "granola".

Enter this fabulous eBay find from a few weeks ago. I adore maxi dresses, but am so short that many of them overwhelm me or end up creating puddles of fabric on the floor. I also love "peasant" styles, especially anything that makes me feel like I should be singing Carmen when I wear it. This dress fits both bills & is incredibly comfortable as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Photo: Souris River Rising in North Dakota Forcing As Many as 10,000 to Evacuate | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video

Photo: Souris River Rising in North Dakota Forcing As Many as 10,000 to Evacuate | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video

Talk about a flood of emotions. Imagine the city or town you grew up in - the club your dad has golfed at for decades (& where you swam every summer as a kid,) the gas station your parents always filled their cars up at, the house you used to live in, etc. Now imagine that they're all under water, or likely to be.

I left Minot, North Dakota at age 19 because I wanted a life that I didn't feel was available there. After my graduation from the University of Iowa (& a year of frantic job-hunting) I landed in Baltimore, Maryland, a city I've proudly called home for nearly 18 years. My husband, J, & I never want to leave this area unless we're moving to an even larger city, perhaps one with palm trees, or maybe Europe. Still, that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell to see pictures of familiar places being destroyed. My parents' "new" house (the one they've lived in since I was 15, LOL) is on a hill, so they've been watching their sump pump closely, but will likely be spared. Some of my childhood friends still live in Minot, or have loved ones who do, & may face the loss of their homes, businesses, or both. One of my old boyfriends probably won't lose his home, but has been bailing out his basement for weeks (sometimes with the help of another of my old boyfriends... hey, it's a small town.)

Minot doesn't make the national news very often, & when it does, it's usually because of extreme weather. Then again, when Baltimore makes headlines, they tend to be crime-related. Ouch. There's more to both places than that, but you know the old saying about the news media - "If it bleeds, (or in this case, floods) it leads." I've been reading tons of online news stories about the flooding, both on local & regional TV stations' websites & from farther-flung sources. My parents were rather surprised to learn that the flooding catastrophe had made the NY Times. Some of the comments posted after the online stories have made me want to reach through the computer screen & shake people. There are those at various points on the political spectrum (ahem) who feel the need to turn everything into a platform for their own views, & much as I tend to agree with those who think global warming may have at least contributed to this crisis, I feel that we can wait to address that later; it's more important now to offer help to those affected, even if we only do so by sending good thoughts. Other posters wonder why we should care about people being turned out of such "ordinary" houses.... maybe because they are people's HOMES? I recall reading similar comments after Hurricane Katrina & feeling sick to my stomach. Same thing this time around, only worse; I have no connection to New Orleans.

One type of comment that I find hard to take in this case is "it's just stuff", directed to those who might lose their residences &/or places of business. Yes, I understand that people who say these things do so with good intentions. I just can't sit here in my nice, dry house, safe & sound, surrounded by my husband, our cats, & all of our belongings, & say such a thing. I'd feel too smug. Amazingly, one of my old friends made a remark along those lines on Facebook & he IS in danger of losing his business to the flood. Maybe he has an inner strength I wasn't given, or perhaps people just deal with adversity differently in order to stay sane.

Of course it's true that loved ones are more important than possessions. J & I have faced a couple of life-threatening situations of our own, namely a serious accident & later an armed carjacking. (I hope we're done with those sorts of drama.) Still, I'm reminded of friends of my first husband's, whose house was gutted by fire while they were on vacation. Not only were they spared injury or death, they are well-to-do & were able to live in their vacation home while their primary residence was being repaired, so they had it far better than many fire victims, to be sure. When they mourned belongings lost in the blaze, we never once heard them mention antiques, art, clothing, or furniture. What hurt them most was that prior to going away, they'd spent an evening looking at old pictures of their wedding, their kids growing up, family holidays. Had they taken time to put them away, the mementos might have been spared, but sitting where they were, every single one of those pictures was devoured by the flames. Sometimes it really does hurt most to lose the "little" things. Hearing their story, I cried a little & gave big thanks to my lucky stars. I'm feeling the same way toward those affected by this awful flooding. Good thoughts are all I can send them right now, but I'll keep 'em coming. Be safe, everyone.

Victor Costa "Commedia dell'arte" dress

Up, up & away... when I first found this vintage Victor Costa dress in a local thrift store, I called it the "Hot Air Balloon" dress because it has such pouffy sleeves. I also had a slight fear that it might make me look like said aircraft, but was so in love with the thing that I bought it anyway. Victor Costa dresses are beautifully constructed & with the exception of a long velvet gown that had to be chopped off at the bottom due to my short stature, I've never had to alter one. No wonder VC has been my go-to brand for special occasion dresses for years.

I recently wore this to opening night (er, day) of a play that my husband is in. The theater has a large Orthodox Jewish clientele, so all their shows are staged according to that culture's standards of modesty, which means that J has had to learn a few "new" (to him) rules of conduct during the rehearsal & performance process. One that's been rather difficult for him: no touching between unmarried (or otherwise very closely related) men & women. J & I are both huggers from way back, as are most secular theater people, but even innocently embracing a female co-star would be extremely inappropriate in this context, so he's contented himself with verbal congratulations. When in Rome, right? The show is great - brilliant script & wonderful cast - & has been a learning experience for both of us. I wore this dress to the show partly because I love it, but also due to a desire to be at least somewhat respectful of my environment. I have plenty of chances to wear sleeveless, spaghetti strap, & strapless things; didn't feel the need to stick a lot of skin (& some ink) in people's faces that day.

Which got me thinking, because I usually bristle at words like "modesty", so I went online & began researching Orthodox Judaism. I found a lot of very interesting information about the faith & its practices, especially on, a site created by Allison Josephs, who began to take an interest in Orthodox Judaism as a teenager. Ms. Josephs is a very talented & persuasive writer, & the videos on her site are hilarious. I can't say I agree with everything I read on her site, but I have issues with almost every faith due to my personal beliefs (childfree by choice, staunchly pro-gay rights... you get the idea.) That said, I have tremendous respect for the strength of her convictions & her willingness to live by them, even when it's not easy. Oh, & by the way, Orthodox Judaism has high standards of modesty for men as well as for women, both in dress & behavior. To me, that makes it quite different from certain other cultures (hello, mainstream America) in which women, or even very young girls, are expected to show lots of skin, but demonized if they actually express their physical desires, yet men can do as they please.

DIY Rhinestone Clamper Bracelet

On a recent trip to NYC, I went out for a run & spotted some fabulous KJL cuff bracelets in the window of a vintage store. Unfortunately, such pieces coast around $300, even on eBay (yes, I checked.) With J still between jobs, such an expenditure is not an option.

A couple of days after I got home, J & I needed to make a "mall run" & I decided to see if any of the stores had similar cuffs in stock, or perhaps something I could customize. I found a plain, hinged black plastic cuff bracelet on sale for $7 at NY & Co. Then I checked a few vintage stores for a broken pin or brooch that I could use as an ornament (I generally dislike altering old jewelry if it still "works") but found nothing suitable. I went through my jewelry armoire at home & came across a gorgeous old rhinestone brooch that I hadn't worn in ages because its pin back was glued on at the wrong angle, which made it impossible to get the piece to hang right on a jacket or dress. I pried the pin back off, got out the super glue, & went to work. I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Due per Due silk sundress - fabric detail

Ouch. I've been a bad, bad blogger. After I posted the sundress pic below, I realized I hadn't written a single word in my invisibleclotheshorse guise since 12/7/2010, a/k/a my birthday. Sorry! There were the holidays, & a show ("The Mikado") & there was also... wait for it... another layoff of Mr. Altocat. On 12/23/10. Really. Nice timing, no? Jobs are insanely scarce in his field these days, so it seems some employers feel quite free to get a great deal of quality work out of staff members, then dump them without warning.

So, I haven't been the most cheerful critter lately, & didn't want to infect the blogosphere with a series of rants about the alleged economic recovery being a load of bunk, people not appreciating hard work, etc. I've been doing enough of that in person. That said, I'm also trying to take better care of some things I've sorely neglected over the past three months, like reading (my book club is helping a lot with that!), cooking, the house, & yes, this blog.

Fashion always helps lift my spirits, but I can't spend like I used to. We have debts to pay off & are living on a drastically reduced income. I'm actually rather enjoying going back to my twentysomething ways of buying mostly vintage clothing. It's (usually) cheap, it's "green", & it seriously reduces the odds of my ever showing up at an event in the same dress another woman is wearing. I still browse in stores & look at "regular" shopping websites, & I've slipped a couple of times, but I'm doing pretty well in terms of not buying anything that isn't a replacement for a worn-out item & not using credit cards. I'm no paragon of financial virtue, & I probably never will be. I'd also be lying if I said I didn't pine for the income J & I had three years ago, before the economy tanked. We probably miss travel the most - used to visit New York & South Beach pretty frequently, went to Florence for my birthday in 2009, & were dreaming of more European destinations before our recent bad news. For now, we have to stay put, but at least we can do so in style.

Thrift score - Due per Due silk sundress, $4.

Spring is sprung in Baltimore. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, I noticed a few blossoms on trees during a morning run, & today, I awoke with a scratchy throat & slightly congested sinuses, which sent me into a bit of a panic until I realized that it's late March - pollen time!

I had the urge to go thrift shopping over the weekend, so I headed for the Value Village on Eastern Avenue, a store that has yielded some pretty amazing finds over the years, including a California Pottery "gypsy girl" figurine, a St. John skirt, & this dress. The brand is Due per Due, which I'm only vaguely familiar with, & since a Web search turned up their site, but with collections from 2008 listed as current, I fear they may be out of business. This is 100% silk, lined, & set me back all of $4. Not only that, the red shoes in the print are almost identical to the Faryl Robins I'm wearing in this picture! I always enjoy sundress weather, but I do hope we get a bit of spring (70 degrees, please, not 50 & not 90) first. If anyone has info on Due per Due, please post, & thanks!