Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: The Halloween Surprise

Just a few photos today, while we pick up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and look for something to smile about.

Above, a few days before the storm, Valerie and Jean merrily try on their Halloween costumes.

When New York got word that the hurricane was approaching from the south, and would run smack into a winter storm coming from the west, the government went into high gear. By Friday (the storm didn't hit till Monday), everyone was being warned that the all the train and bus systems would be shut down, electricity might be shut down, plumbing might not function, and we should lay in several days of food supplies. Out on Fifth Avenue on Sunday, Jean saw that Bergdorf Goodman, whose lavish windows we have photographed for you in the past, had boarded up its windows as a precaution. Most of the stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, had closed by 5 PM.

Juicy Couture didn't board up its windows, but like many other shops on Fifth Avenue, stacked sandbags in its entrance. Fendi drew its plush curtains, and Camper papered up some of its windows, so in case the windows broke, the broken glass would be prevented from traveling too far inside the shops. Saks was also boarded up.

Everyone had their own way of dealing with the storm. Here's how a local nail salon handled it.

The Apple Store, which is completely underground, also had sandbags. This was taken the day after Sandy. In all the destruction, it was good to see a bit of humor.

The subways and tunnels took the brunt of the storm, inundated, in some cases to the ceiling, with water. There were reports of serious flooding on low-lying streets, but much of the visible city looked undamaged as early as the next day. Downed trees, however, were everywhere. Above, a bit of history is torn away. This long closed (2004) restaurant was the site of tiny Lutece, one of the most celebrated French restaurants in the city. It is said that Vladimir Horowitz dined here every day on filet of sole. Jacqueline Onassis was known to eat here; Woody Allen wooed Mia Farrow here. After it closed, the building fell into neglect.

If you look carefully, you can see that the tree actually grew up, around, and into the metal gate. When the storm took the tree down, the tree took its gate down. New York has few trees, and can't afford to lose any of them.

Moving from the old to the nouveau riche, perhaps one of the most stunning post-storm sights is this limp crane. An area of two blocks in each direction has been evacuated while engineers decide how to deal with this. Even in its incomplete state, someone purchased a $20 million dollar condominium in this building.

Valerie on the FDR Drive, acting out playing in traffic. Usually thronging with cars, the Drive, known to flood in some low-lying stretches, was totally closed down before and after the storm.

We just had to show you - this is another pair of costumes we considered. We took them out for a spin one day to see what kind of reaction we would get. The dog walker we hired to complete the costume wanted an extra $200 to appear in the picture, so we cropped him out. Extra points if you noticed (without being told) the synchronized walking thing we're doing. For the total look, we put our specs away, and are wearing contacts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The IFs Go Back to College

LIM College, which specializes in fashion merchandising, recently held a two-day seminar called "Fashion: Now and Then". LIM College is strategically located only a few blocks away from Bergdorf’s, Saks, Giorgio Armani, Abercromie & Fitch, Zara’s, Banana Republic, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, so its lucky students have amazing access to the heart of New York's fashion industry.

LIM College ("where business meets fashion") has several campuses around Manhattan. The event was held at the original site in a beautiful turn of the century townhouse on East 53rd Street.  This is one of two gargoyles who greet visitors at the door.

Last Saturday afternoon, we attended a panel discussion at LIM College entitled "Fashion: Then and Now" by our blogger friends Ari Seth Cohen from Advanced Style and Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, the mother and daughter creators of StyleLikeU along with Xavier Aaronson from BabesAtTheMuseum. Together, they demonstrate how blogs cover a broad range of topics and demographics and are becoming forces to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.

We are lucky enough to be featured in the eponymous Advanced Style and StyleLikeU books, both published by powerHouse books.  Our inside joke is that we now have to get into Babes at the Museum before Xavier Aaronson publishes his own book.

Lisa Ryan (with the microphone) organized this year's and last year's two-day events and helped book the various panels and speakers. Left to right: Xavier Aaronson, Ari Seth Cohen, Lily Mandelbaum and Elisa Goodkind.

Because he was asked to do a book signing after the panel discussion, Ari invited some of us featured in the book to come and do a brief (and totally informal) turn for the audience to end the program. We came dressed for the occasion (of course), and then enjoyed a sumptuous spread of bubbly and hors d'ouvres. Elisa and Lily had a signing earlier in the day.

Taking part in the festivities are some faces you might recognize.

First, artists Elke Kuhn (in her own design) and Charlotte Thorp.

Jewelry merchandiser Yael Cohen and Tziporah Salamon.

Ilona Royce Smithkin in leopard spots.

Christina Viera, Xavier Aaronson, Jean and Valerie.

Artists Richard Cramer and Carol Markel, with Carol in one of the marvelous felt helmets and two wooden gum-ball necklaces she makes herself, as well as a Tsumori Chisato dress that she recently featured in her blog Femme et Fleur.

Don't you just love this chic couple? Carola frequently appears in Ari's blog. Her dapper escort's name is Aaron.

Mother and daughter. Mom is visiting from Germany, to help her graduating daughter move back home.

Sandra Ley, Librarian from Pima County Community College in Tucson, Arizona, and Valerie. A large part of the symposium focused on fashion and textile libraries and archives.

Eric Lee and Ari.

Debra Rapoport and Elke Kuhn book-end DeeDee who was visiting from out of town.

Joyce Carpati and Carol Markel.

Jean, Valerie and Debra.

Jane Folds in her signature heart-shaped glasses.

Virginia Millington, Manager of Recording and Archive for StoryCorps (who had spoken on an earlier panel at the event), and her mother who was visiting from Virginia.

Ari and Joyce.

Here we are, out on the street after the event, before we headed home.

What we're wearing:
Valerie is wearing a vintage crownless black straw and velvet hat labeled Thurm (part of label is sewn under, so it might be Thurman???), onyx and silver brooch, H&M bustier, vintage Gianni Versace jacket, pocket hanky cut from Warhol/Marilyn sock, vintage Krizia pants, high heeled sneakers by Chinese Laundry.

Jean is wearing an Amy Downs turban from A-Uno, black and white polka dot pants from Heydari, Kyodan jacket, Underground creepers from Trash and Vaudeville, vintage bakelite and plastic bangles and rings, and resin black and white ball necklace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We're in a Van She Music Video!

We are absolutely thrilled to be in the music video for Van She's latest album called "Idea of Happiness". One of our favorite songs from the album -- "Jamaica" -- is the background song for our video.

Van She is an Australian Electro-pop group founded a decade ago in 2002. They just appeared in New York earlier this month and are currently on tour promoting their new album.

Click below to see us in action!

Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style and videographer Lina Plioplyte collaborated on our video as the first of a series for the band on the idea of happiness. It is now on Youtube and we hope it goes viral!  We love this picture (below) that Jean snapped of Lina and Ari that evening.  They had both just gotten back from a whirlwind trip to LA and were totally jet-lagged.  The light was just magical and the weather was incredibly comfortable after the heat wave had broken and the temperature and humidity dropped dramatically.  It was like all the planets had aligned and the universe was tilted in our favor.

On August 4th, Ari posted an Advanced Style blog entry with photos of us which he so aptly titled "Graphic Fashion".  He was very cagey and didn't let the cat out of the bag about the true nature of the shoot. On October 12th, he announced the video's release in a second Advanced Style posting titled "Van She x Advanced Style X Idiosyncratic Fashionistas".

The photos we took in front of the John Chamberlin sculptures outside the Seagram's Building in August make much more sense now that the video has been released. We posted about our outing at the Seagram's building in our own mid-August posting called "When Blogs Collide".

And there you probably thought we didn't have any musical talent!

Who knows what mischief we'll get into next? Stick around, kiddies! Who said blondes have more fun?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Way You Wear Your Hat

If we had a dollar for every woman who has ever complimented us on our hats and then said "Hats just don't look good on me" or "I just can't wear hats", we could both retire now. Comfortably. Saying hats don't look good on you - with the implicit understanding that is the reason why you'll never wear hats - is like saying Herve Leger's bandage dresses don't look good on you, so you'll never wear a dress. (Felt cloche helmets by artist Carol Markel.)

Neither of us suffers from cocklaphobia (fear of hats). Quite the contrary, we look for excuses (as if we needed any) to wear hats.

Did you try on a pillbox hat in 1960? You didn't look first lady-like, so you gave up ever wearing hats?

Or maybe you, like a million other young women (and like us), tried the Carly Simon floppy hat look in 1972. And when it didn't do for you what it obviously did for Carly, you thought you simply were not a hat person? (Jean got a bigger, floppier black felt version for her 20th birthday in 1970 and rocked it with her suede maxi-coat and long straight hair. Valerie got a brown one from her boyfriend in '72, and discovered brown does not suit her.)

For several years, we have wanted to do a posting showing several people wearing the same hat, to show how differently that single hat 'performs' on different people. You can imagine our difficulty in finding volunteers. So, when The Style Crone and The Forest City Fashionista came to town, we asked if they would help us create this post, and were absolutely delighted when they agreed!

Ideally, it would have been wonderful if we could each have worn an outfit to coordinate with each hat, but the logistics were too daunting and the results would have been too distracting. While we would have liked to take one full frontal and one profile head shot,  The SC and FCF were just visiting and had more important ways to spend their limited time here. So we established some very simple ground rules:

1. Every participant brings two hats of her own choosing and wears black, so as not to clash with the hats.
2. Photos are face-forward pose only. (But with two takes, in case anyone closes her eyes - or loses her earring - at the wrong moment.)
3. Like musical chairs, we move, but the hats don't. Each participant is photographed in the first of her two hats and then moves one seat to her left, a total of three times, so each person tries on each hat once.
4.  Repeat the process with the second hat.

Since each participant wore each hat the way she thought it looked best on her, you'll see that some hats were worn backward, sideways, high on the forehead, or low, tilted forward or back, angled a little or a lot.

So now, without further ado, here are the results.

 In this photo, we all wear our own hats. Left to right: Judith wears a feather hat in shades of teal by Eurona, from Fabulous Fanny's ('60s?), Valerie wears a blue and beige Italian straw hat ('40 - '50?), Shelley wears a red PVC newsboy's cap (age indeterminate), and Jean wears an unbleached straw hat by Ignatius (circa 2011).  Remember to click on the photo if you'd like to enlarge it.

Here's what happened when we moved one seat over while the hats stayed where they were:

And the next rotation:

And finally, this photo documents completion of the full rotation of the first round of hats:

While the first round of hats were warmish weather hats, the second round of chapeaux were cool weather hats. Again, in the first photo we're all wearing our own hats. Left to right: Shelley wears a black wool felt and satin hat with attached hatpin labeled "Eaton's Designer Collection" (probably '40s). Judith wears a forest green velour hat by Mr John from Cobblestones Vintage ('60s?). Jean wears a black hand-felted hat from Hut Up (21st century), and Valerie wears an olive green hat from Ginza Vogue Japan (late '80s).

As before, we all moved one chair to the left (ours, not yours).

Here's the next rotation:

And with this last of the series, everyone has again had a chance to wear each hat. After all our hard work, we thought it a good idea to reward ourselves with a bottle of chilled bubbly and girl talk.

Test Results:
The results, as you can see, are different for each of us!

So to all our friends out there who don't think you can wear a hat, we contend that you just haven't found the right hat.  Here are some of our helpful tips.

1. Try a training hat! Start with a black beret and experiment with it. Try tucking most or all your hair inside. (Image -

Try leaving your hair out, tilting it to one side, putting a big pin on the front.  Almost anyone can wear a beret. If you don't like it, it's a very small investment, and you can give it to a timid friend when you graduate to $400 Stephen Jones hats. Here, Nina Foch rocks her beret. (Image -

Warning. This may make you want to revolutionize your wardrobe.

2. Get an elastic hat band, because if your hat falls off your head, you'll get frustrated and give up. (If you don't have one conveniently tucked away in your purse, buy a $1 plastic mask, and take the elastic off that.) Carefully insert the hat elastic inside the crown where you don't have to make holes in the hat itself. The grosgrain sweatband is a good place for that.

3. Stick to simple, single colors at first. Don't buy a polka hat yet. If you never wear it, you'll blame the hat. Or us. (Image -

4. Consider your hairstyle. Carly Simon could not have worn a beehive with her floppy hat. If your hairstyle is flexible, you can wear a greater variety of hat shapes. Also consider whether you have straight or curly hair. That changes things too.

5. Remember your hat color should work well with your hair color. (Don't look so surprised! The same is true of your dress!) Of course, some hair colors present more of a challenge than others... (Katy Perry image by

One of the great advantages of grey hair is that it looks great against black. Valerie wore this vintage black straw number for her birthday celebration last summer at Bar Pleiades at the Surrey Hotel.

6. The right hat shape can make you look taller and slimmer, so try on different shapes to see what flatters you. Lady Gaga loves hats and wears the most amazing headgear.  She wore this silver inter-galactic number to the Grammys. But you don't have to go to quite such lengths to look great. (Image -

This pink hat gives Gaga height without bulk. (

When all else fails, give it the horn! (

7. Most materials make great hats, so don't worry about that. Just be aware that different materials are good for different purposes. The more structured fabrics and styles - like a fedora, a pillbox or a bowler - may appear more formal than the softer shapes, like a turban. (Image -

Valerie chose this black straw toy hat to complement her black structured but semi-transparent voile jacket for brunch at All's Well on Bedford Street in Brooklyn.

If you wear structured clothes like suits, a structured hat may look more appropriate.

If you wear flowing, deconstructed knits or lots of vintage clothing, less structured headwear may work better for you.

Jean paired this simple knit turban from Urban Outfitters with a vintage Norma Kamali leopard jumpsuit for an outing at Pravda on Lafayette Street.

For those of you who would like to try to wear hats, we hope we've given you some good ideas and the necessary encouragement. Now go ye forth, and wear hats!!!

Any questions? Just refer to any of our postings!

(And thanks to the marvelous Gershwin brothers, who gave us our title.)