Sunday, August 29, 2010

Binging and Purging


Valerie says: For many months now, when thinking of my closet, I've had this image in mind.

Here is a picture of my hall closet as of this morning. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Clothes are bulging out because they can’t hang flat. Although you can see all of the hangers, unless there are a few inches between each one, you can’t move them around, bringing this other image to mind.

And if some of them are bulging out in front, you can bet some are bulging out in back where you can’t see them. That’s my sign that there’s too much STUFF. I’ve been BINGING, and I need to PURGE. After several months of behaving very well, I behaved a little badly. It’s not my fault. (NoooOOOooo...)

For the most part, I don’t shop. Stuff finds me. A few weeks ago, I went to Sock Man on St. Mark’s Place to buy this Elvis / Warhol onesie for a new baby.

The salesman told me they also had the design in socks. So I bought Elvis socks and Marilyn socks. Wouldn’t you have done the same?

Two Saturdays ago I was at my chiropractor’s. It’s only a hop skip and jump to the flea market, I thought, so I stopped off there. But I had gone on the wrong day, and to ease my disappointment I walked a few blocks to a nearby thrift shop. I found nothing, so I started on my way home. Even going home is fraught, though. There were three other thrift shops on the way. At the first, I found this iconic scarf from Reiko Sudo's Nuno (flat in first photo, unfolded in second photo). The so-called origami scarf was made with a process (heat transfer printing, which causes the color difference you see) so revolutionary in the late '90s that it appears both in Structure and Surface, Contemporary Japanese Textiles – the catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1998 exhibition; and in Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now – Yoshiko Wada’s compendium of shibori. In the first photo, you can see the original tags, as well as the prices - $235 new from Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and $25 at the thrift shop. How could I say no?

At the same shop, I found this Dana Buchman jacket (also worn in last week’s blog). The colors reminded me of 1980s Issey Miyake. As I grow out of more and more of my clothes, it seemed easier (and smarter) to buy this for $20 than to retailor anything I own, or to starve myself down to my former weight. The fact that this jacket even fit me was a reason to rejoice.

A week later, much to my consternation, I was forced (forced, I tell you) to attend this season’s Issey Miyake sample sale. If I don’t attend, I fret that I missed something spectacular; if I do attend, I fret that I’ll spend money. This time, I came away with a black and gray polyester coat, which I’m going to try to wear as a dress (it’s very lightweight), and a spring green floor length crinkle dress. Here I am doing a clumsy imitation of Martha Graham. I’m SO curious to know where she got her ever-fabulous clothes, who designed them and who sewed them. Her clothes were as wonderful to see as her dances.

Everything at the sale was 80% off, but I can’t bring myself to commit the actual prices to print. (I’m sure you know the feeling.)

Recently I remarked to Jean that I was surprised to discover I had no red shoes for summer, so I started to keep my eye out for a pair. Reliable Arche, despite being in the midst of a sale, had nothing in my size or price range or style. Last week, following a trip uptown, I decided to walk home (testing my post-surgical foot), and passed by RIPE, a store that sells wonderful shoes I will never be able to wear. But you could have knocked me over with a feather when I discovered these flat red gladiator sandals by Nicole, on sale for $49. They felt great in the store, and are wide enough to accommodate my size 9.5 feet without looking like gunboats. Just within the past month I read that the gladiator look is OVER. Can you hear me laughing? I myself have been SO over for twenty years now (although I'm only now realizing it), how can it possibly matter to me if gladiators are only over this year?

And it never rains but it pours, so to speak. For years I’ve been searching for ankle length rain boots. Often I contemplated buying knee highs and cutting them off at the ankle, but I worried about getting them even, and about the distribution of weight. And I never liked or trusted those little slip-over-the-shoes things, so I held off.

Well, at Ripe I found these little rubber booties by Jeffrey Campbell. A tad expensive at $59, but who am I to argue? I’m not going to wait another ten years so I can get them or $39. They’re lightweight, flexible, and remind me of this pointillist painting by Paul Signac. I had occasion to use them in last week’s downpour, and I am a highly satisfied customer.

Campbell has a great sense of humor. Check out the cover of the box these boots come in. Campbell has used the iconic image from MGM’s Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, but appears to have skirted the copyright issue by obscuring their faces with his name. [Note to self: why are binging and singing spelled the same but pronounced differently?]

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The purged closet:
The purging half of the equation is infinitely more difficult than the binging half. Unless you merely put your hard gotten stuff in the trash, obstacles abound. First, of course, there is the emotional obstacle. It’s hard to say goodbye to stuff you’ve loved and spent money on. Then you have to decide what has to go and what gets to stay. Even if you can do that, not everyone likes to wear second hand things, not everyone will fit into your second hand things – size-wise or personality-wise, and even if someone wants your second hand coat, do you take it to them? Do they come to you? When are you both available? What if you want it out of the house TODAY, before you change your mind?

I think, to put yourself in a purging frame of mind, you have to drive away all thoughts of Jabba the Hutt, and instead direct your thoughts toward, say, Olive Oyl.

Generally, I fill a shopping bag or two and take everything to a thrift shop, where it can have a second life. I get them at a good price; I let them go at a good price. Recently, however, seeing what was available at the vintage shows, I thought ‘Wow – I should be able to pick up a few dollars for the things I let go of.’

In June, I called up my favorite high priced vintage shop and invited the owner over. I cleaned up my house for hours. I rearranged my closets, grouping all the ‘saleables’ in one easily accessible place and putting everything else wherever I had space. When the owner came over, he spent about an hour here, and bought two items: a 1980s huge fluffy white ribbed wool Issey Miyake belt with brown leather cinches (sorry – no picture) and a wonderful 1980s white cotton backless button down shirt with breast pockets from Complice, shown here in a photo from Christmas of 1997. His buying price was good, but if I’d hoped to clean out my closet, I was very much mistaken. He knew what he could sell, and that’s what he bought. Inauspicious beginning for an aspiring business person.

In July, I schlepped probably ten items by Yoshiki Hishinuma in two large bags to a consignment shop that specializes in avant garde costumes. To my surprise, the owner accepted only three items. He said that when the economy was good, he would have had no trouble selling any of them. Now, he said, he knew the unusual clothes would not sell. He chose four more conventional items, then ultimately rejected the fourth because it was green. He priced them well, but in two months’ time, only one item sold, and that in the first two weeks. In this photo, the top was accepted, but didn't sell. (The puckered velvet, hard to see here, was made with a highly innovative process.) The skirt, of wrinkled plastic over blue rayon (another innovative process), was rejected out of hand.

At the same time, I e mailed a dealer friend of mine. Rather than schlep more bags of stuff to my local thrift shop in the 90 degree weather in exchange for nothing more than a laughable tax deduction, I offered to sell everything to her for a song if she’d come and take it away. When, three weeks later, there’d been no response to that e mail or its follow-up, and with my closet bursting at the seams (pun unintended but welcome), I began filling the first bag.

Here’s what went into it:

1980s black and white cotton canvas dress by Alma. I bought this in 1992 for my first public talk, at the Seattle Art Museum. I had numerous slides of Japanese costumes, and didn’t want to be outshone by my slides. I could wear it then, standing. Last time I tried, I couldn’t even get it over my hips. I bought black canvas strips to use as insets at the side seams, but finally I couldn’t bear to alter it, and last week I sent it back out into the universe. It has a clevely hidden pocket where the two black lines collide. It was SO hard to give up.

Recent vintage Gaultier dress. I bought this for the wrong reason, and it came back to bite me. Even when I purchased it ($25!), earlier this year, I knew the clingy fabric wouldn’t flatter me. I had visions of selling it for a small profit, but I am clearly not made from the stuff of rag traders. Lesson learned. Buy because you love something. Not everything appreciates, and not everyone is born to sell.

Olive wool Flandre jacket. I bought this second hand in Japan on the streets of Harajuku for ¥1,000, or about $10, around 1990. I used to wear it with olive silk Ellen Tracy pants. Since the pants wore out, I haven’t been able to replace them, and now I’ve grown out of the jacket, which is tight at the arms and waist.

This white polyester jacket from H&M ($17.50 on sale) was one of my most disappointing purchases. Not only was it not waterproof (not their fault - they never claimed it was), it also came with a built-in steam bath. I love the material and the cut, but it did not serve the purpose I had in mind for it.

Another bad purchase. I bought this ($20?) black Dana Buchman linen jacket reluctantly, because I didn’t like the elastic at the waist, but I suddenly needed a short black jacket, because both of my old short black jackets (summer and winter) died at the same time. I think I’ve worn it once in a year (I just can’t get past that elastic), so it’s not paying its closet space rent. It’s a good jacket, just not for me.

I love this odd Ellen Tracy blouse, but since I can’t find any olive clothes to wear it with, it has sat forlorn and unworn in my closet for years. I’m releasing it in hopes that someone else will adore it. Once someone asked me to describe the design, and I called it ‘radioactive pond scum’. Ellen Tracy used to make clothes in the most wonderful prints, and I miss them terribly.

This is a Joan Vass wool knit suit ($40?). I now work in a building constructed in the 60s or early 70s, when energy was cheap and technology was primitive. Half of the building is hot (my half); the other half is cold. This wonderful suit is very warm, so I wear it only once or twice a year, and then really just to give it an airing. It’s bulky in my closet, so as much as I admire the suit, it simplifies my life to give it up.

I found this 1980s wool Krizia jacket at my favorite second hand shop around 1995 (ditto the Complice shirt above). The shop was on Lexington Avenue in the lower 60s, on the second floor. It was run by a Russian lady named Alla. Alla always had the best stuff at the best prices. There was always new stuff coming in, and I could do it all on my lunch hour. In the late ‘90s there was a mysterious fire, and all of Alla’s wonderful merchandise went up in smoke. Alla also disappeared, leaving no contact information. I’ve never found a store to replace hers. You can’t really tell, but the striations on the jacket are mint green. Some fifteen years after I bought it second hand, I have only given up the jacket now because I can no longer close the button.

I bought these black Marithe Francoise Girbaud pants in desperation, when suddenly all my black pants died and went to pants heaven at the same time. I like these very interesting pants, but my view of them changed irrevocably when I saw the very same pair on Jean. Jean bought hers in her size; I bought mine ($12?) in the size available at the thrift shop. Jean’s hug and flatter her shape; mine hang and bag on me. I find them cold in winter and warm in summer, so I sent them back to the universal pool of clothing to find a worthier wearer.

1950s faux painted skirt ($22). This fit me in 2004, when I bought it. I love the way the printed design appears to be painted. It looks like abstract art of the period. And I love the huge button-down pockets at the hips.

Two 1950s sundresses. I wish I had a better picture of the blue dress. It's simple but stunning. Several (five?) years ago, both of these fit me beautifully, and with a jacket over them, I could wear them to work. Now I can’t zip either one more than half way. Both have all sorts of little touches that I can’t go into here, but it’s easy to see that they were well made and carefully designed.

The white dress is printed with wonderful little black tea pots. (See the close-up photo of the knotted pocket.) The shoulders, unremarkable in the photo, drape beautifully on a body. I hate to part with these dresses, but they have no place in a size 12’s closet. The thing that would make me happiest would be to see them worn together on the street one day by two sweet young things who appreciate their style and can do them justice.

This Peggy Jennings short silk jacket never fit me, but I bought it because it was SO well priced, and because I was afraid someone who had no appreciation of its fine points would buy it and… well, who knows what they might have done with it? I love the material, the colors, the collar, the shape, the huge buttons on the cuffs, the silk lining. I knew I’d never be able to wear it. I think I just wanted to draw inspiration from it. It was delightful to see in my closet. I still hate to let go of it, and still worry that it will go to someone who doesn’t fully appreciate it. I sacrifice it most unwillingly.

I don't know why I didn't realize it when I purchased these Sonia Rykiel pants - I must have been desperate (they were $60!) - but the legs are much too long for me, and the hems were actually knitted into the fabric, so there was no way for me to shorten them. They drape beautifully, and have great pockets, so I really wish they had worked out.

If I had inherited a classic six apartment on my eighteenth birthday, I think I would have converted the sixth room to my clothes closet/fashion and textile archive. Except for what I’d worn to death, I would never have thrown anything away, and would have put it all in that sixth room to periodically review and reminisce, the way one does with old photographs. Isn’t this why we go to museums? To see things we love, but can’t have in our own homes? To get a glimpse of history? I think that’s why I’m constantly drawn to places like second hand shops. They’re small museums with free admission and constantly changing exhibitions.

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Jean says:
When Valerie mentioned her topic for this week's blog, she must have had a clue from my reaction that (blood draining from my face, a pained expression like I'm sucking lemons and endless deep sighs), like Queen Victoria, "we were not amused". I sucked it up and muttered something under my breath, through gritted teeth, like "I've got the binge part down to a science. It's the purge part I just can't quite get a handle on." Valerie was, shall we say, undeterred. Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. (Image by

Few words in the English language strike fear into the heart of a true hoarder than "purge"! it sounds like some medieval spa treatment like coffee enemas designed to separate a patron from his or her hard earned cash. In the words of Herman Melville's protagonist in Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street: "I'd rather not." (Image by flower.dust)

Like sports teams, this is my Bye Week. Because I fly to Savannah Sunday morning at the crack of dawn and the blog is never launched until late into the night on Sunday (or early morning on Monday), I am off the hook for personal photos and active participation. Like Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, I get to sit back and pontificate. That situation is, I fear, merely temporary. Soon, the other shoe will drop and I too shall have to "purge" something from my overflowing closet and storage boxes and record it for all the world to see. Probably more than one something too, I'll bet. But I'll worry about that tomorrow - or whatever the heck Scarlett O'Hara said. (Image by

Yo, yo, yo, check out my grill! This afternoon, I could not resist an indefensible splurge - er, binge: I plunked two quarters into an East Village vending machine for a set of plastic "Bling Teeth". Like crazy wild, my man. I blew another Fiddy Cent to buy one for Valerie. All of this hilarity for just one sawbuck. What a bargain. (Images by and

Who knows if or when they will surface in some future blog entry? Stay tuned. Of course, the true challenge will be for me to be able to locate one or both of them by the time I actually need them. As Valerie can attest, just as I have difficulty with the second phase of binge/purge, I have a similar issue with Phase Two of store/retrieve. (Image by

Bonus photo:

Valerie says: This is a Claire McCardell suit that I saw on my recent wander through the thrift shops. Thoughts of 'flipping' it, as they say, ran through my head, but I restrained myself from buying it. It's got to be a size 4 or so, and would never have fit me. Even if it did fit me, I still work on the warm side of my building, and would have boiled in this. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Oh, and full disclosure: the hall closet is still Jabba the Hutt, and needs to be worked on. (I'll think about that tomorrow.) The nearly empty Olive Oyl closet above is another closet, and as not really as empty as it appears in the photo. Yet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The $100 Challenge

Jean says:
This week, our Mission Impossible challenge was to come up with outfits that cost $100 or less -- that we would actually wear. Periodically, we vow to become more fiscally responsible. Then, hypothetically speaking, of course, one of us buys something like a $40 bar of soap (see ENDNOTE), and we're back to square one. That said, we're going to explore what one hundred dollars (aka greenbacks, smackers, bucks, dead presidents) can buy ... and what we look like wearing it! (Mission Impossible image by and Steve Phelps' image by

As the economic news continues to be dire, conspicuous consumption isn't even an option. Repeat after me, kiddies: One does NOT have to spend a lot of money to look good. A little creativity goes a long way. So, join us as we roll out a few options, some new and some vintage. Rules of engagement: For purposes of this exercise, we have chosen to define the parameters of an "outfit" to include clothing only; e.g, top (shirt, blouse, tunic, jacket) and bottom (skirt, pants) and/or dress, but not necessarily shoes, hats, eyeglasses or accessories, except where noted.

I purchased this suit (jacket and pants) by HANNAH.m in a consignment store in New London, New Hampshire. It is made in the USA of a crinkly fabric that is 65% hemp and 35% silk. Despite its deep charcoal color, it is lightweight and, due to its roominess, very cool and comfortable. The pants have curved pockets. Originally priced at $125, at 50% off, it was a great buy at $62.50. I'm wearing it with a big silver metal gumball necklace purchased earlier this summer in an East Village consignment store for $25.00. Total cost of the outfit: $87.50. In the photo, I've paired it with a black felt vintage hat (no label, gift from Kirsten Hawthorne), silver metal and marble vintage earrings from the Pier Antique Show (purchased about a year ago), and my Dansko clogs.

I spied the suit in the store on a visit at the beginning of my vacation in July and stopped back at the end of the week to see if it had been sold. Not only was it still on the rack, but the price had been slashed in half, so I tried it on. Voila. Fabulous. When I went to pay for it, the young girl at the register mentioned that the suit was from a client with eccentric taste. She then said something like "Everyone will be so glad to know you bought this. When we saw you around town, we thought you could carry it off." I chose to take the eccentric reference as a compliment.

Two weeks ago, I found this great shadow-striped 100% cotton hand washable dress with adjustable straps at a store called Steps on lower Broadway at Worth Street. I was in the market for a pair of footless black leggings when I wandered into the store known more for what I call "teen queen apparel" and was pleasantly surprised at my find. The gathers in the hem look like Roman shades. The price tag for this great little number by "mono reno" -- a whopping $36! It came with a short-sleeved knee-length cotton dress to wear underneath the slightly transparent, super light weight T-strapped dress that is perfect for the sweltering dog days of summer.

As you can see, instead of the short cotton dress as under-layer, I substituted a long, stretchy St. Vincent skirt ($30 at Century 21 a few seasons ago) and a v-neck stretchy nylon/lycra 3/4 sleeve top ($20, also from Century 21). Total price tag for the multi-layered outfit: $86.00! I love the inverted pleat in the back of the dress. I added my round straw Ignatius hat (purchased at the Philadelphia Craft Show last November), my charm necklace, my Dasko clogs, a vintage Elgin watch and bakelite and gold rings. I was wearing this outfit in last week's entry on watches.

Here I'm wearing a pair of Donna Karan silk and cotton cargo pants ($25 last summer from an East Village consignment shop), a Patagonia nylon and mesh fishing vest ($25 last summer from a Brooklyn vintage shop) and black mesh Adidas sneakers ($25 last summer from an Adidas outlet store). Although I am wearing a sllver-grey Armani short sleeve silk top (gift from Jodi Head) under the vest, I could have just as easily worn a white Hanes T-shirt. I'm also wearing a silver chain by Leonardo Kamhout (Brooklyn flea market) and black pith helmet (Southampton Surf Shop circa 1988). Grand total: $75!

Valerie, on the left of the above photo, adds: from head to toe I’m wearing an Issey Miyake Men’s hat dating back to about 1990, bought at a sample sale in Tokyo for about ¥5,000, or $50; blue sunglasses with a single black lens strip, purchased last month on St. Mark’s Place for $8; a black and blue horizontal striped silk jacket by Dana Buchman which serendipitously echoes the sunglasses, purchased last week at a thrift shop for $20; polyester pants by the interestingly named Tail, bought for $12 at a thrift shop; and blue Mary Janes by Land’s End, purchased on line last year for $29. (They’re now on sale for less than $15, and I highly recommend them – they’re VERY comfortable.) The hat puts me over the budget, but minus the hat the whole ensemble, which can be worn to work, cost $69. Hey, take off the sunglasses (which can’t be worn at work), and the outfit costs $61.

Veteran readers will recognize this suit from previous posts. It would be great to show different clothes in every blog, but we’re about living in the real world, and in the real world we wear the same clothes over and over again. (That said, if any retailers want to send us new and wonderful things to wear, we’re very open to that. Provided we can wear what we like and send back what we don’t.) From top to bottom: vintage (late '30s) white leather hat, $35 (or was it $45?); white linen Calvin Klein suit from a thrift shop (on a 50% off day) $27.50; man’s tee shirt from H&M, $25. The suit and shirt alone are $52.50, so the hat can be included and still be within the budget. The shoes, from Arche, blow the budget all by themselves, even on sale. If you click on the photo, you can see the Eiffel Tower ascending the Louis Vuitton building in the background. (My pose is an attempt to mimic its shape.)

After we set ourselves this challenge, I was surprised to discover that there’s nearly nothing in my closet that I bought at retail. So I include this because everything WAS purchased at retail. Starting at the top: a black straw bowler (not boater) by Makins, purchased at the former Sanger Harris in Dallas, Texas, around 1980. I seem to remember it was less than $20. This was one of the first hats I ever bought. The black and white striped cotton shirt was $12, and the mid-calf length black poufy skirt, a cotton/poly/elastane mix, was $50, both from H&M last year. These three pieces come in at $82. The Aerosole shoes were $49, on sale.

Jean's Bonus Outfit: To avoid disqualification on a technicality (outfit purchased outside the U.S. borders), I have moved this little number to a separate category. I picked up this outfit in June at a store called JACOB on Rue St. Catherine in Montreal. The pants are slightly harem shaped with large drapey pockets. The black and white striped tunic top has 3/4 sleeves held in place with a little button tab. Each item cost $35 Canadian and the eponymous name on the label is the store's. Since the exchange rate was practically even at the time, the outfit for all intents and purposes cost $70. I am standing in a tree pit in the East Village surrounded by one of the new wrought iron tree guards purchased and installed by my block association from proceeds from our semiannual flea market and block party held last May. (The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas support volunteerism.) I'm also wearing a 1950s plastic domino bangle bracelet, Ice Pirates watch, charm necklace and Dansko clogs. (Valerie giggles: Jean blooms where she's planted.)

Jean called her last outfit her bonus outfit because it was purchased outside the U.S. My bonus outfit is not day to day casual or work clothing – it’s evening wear. The top is an Issey Miyake polyester camisole that I got for $20 at a consignment shop. It looks like heavy-duty reinforced plastic wrap layered over aluminum foil. Hilarious! The skirt is actually a dress, but the top is very clingy, so I put the Issey over it because it hides the multitude of sins that clingy tops emphasize. The dress is actually one of two layers of a black silk Donna Karan dress. It’s hard to see here, but the dress is comprised of irregularly shaped panels that have been joined together by very lightweight‘bones’ to help the dress pouf out as if supported underneath by a crinoline. Both layers cost $40, so technically one might argue that one layer is $20, for a total of $40 for the ensemble. But even if you’re a stickler, and insist on including the cost of both layers, the outfit still comes in well under budget. (Gee, I should work for the U.S. government!) The orange suede Manolo Blahnik shoes were bought more than ten years ago at the late lamented dollar flea market on 26th Street for a mere $15. If I’d bought them from a vintage specialist, they probably would have run me $75, but the seller had a hodge podge of goods on his table, and seemed to just want to sell everything and go home. In any case, top, gown and shoes total $75.

Your mission, readers, is to send me (send US!) an invitation to a fab opening I can wear it to. (I have a $25 Thai silk wrap I can wear with it, to bring my total up to $100. But not in this sultry weather...)

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Jean says: For more than 25 years, I've looked forward to the last Sunday in August for the New York Times' special fall fashion magazine (now called "T"). It gives a great first glimpse of the newest trends, complete with photos and editorial analysis. Today's issue contains an unexpected bonus on page 166! It features an article by fellow downtowner, Vogue contributor and ex-Village Voice fashion scribe, Lynn Yeager. She penned an article hilariously titled "Garb Fest - New York's most exotic fashion creatures compare plumage".

Lynn chronicles her high tea at the Carlysle Hotel with four other fashion icons of a certain age, including our friend Tziporah Salamon who has appeared here on numerous occasions, most recently in our coverage of the Easter Parade on 4/4/10 ("In Your Easter Bonnet with All the Frills Upon It") and on 12/19/09 ("The Year In Review") as a guest at each of our 2009 birthday soirees and at St. John the Divine. Also featured with rara avis Iris Apfel and the ever-glorious Patricia Fox is none other than Suzanne Golden. Avid readers remember Suzanne's memorable appearance in our coverage of the Structural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) show wearing a fabulous Wearable Art necklace of her own design, a black and white graphic dress and her marvelous Comme des Garcons shoes. For a great photo of Suzanne and those shoes, see our 4/16/10 posting ("Samples from our Demographic: A Trip to SOFA"). Lynn Yeager's black and white striped top highlights her iconic red flapper bob and famous bee-stung lips.

Today is a double-header for Lynn: She also appears in Bill Cunninham's Evening House in photo 31 with Valerie Steele of FIT. We featured Lynn and a great photo that shows her striking haircut, makeup and style in our 2/7/10 posting ("Hair Raising Evening or A Siren's Tale"). All five of the ladies in the Times article look amazing and none of them look alike. (Valerie adds: and none of them look like they bought any of the latest fashions, or like they even care what the latest fashions are.) The photograph by Danielle Levitt says it all. Bravissime! Congratulations, ladies! We toast your beauty and your sense of style. Like the song says: "Rock on with your bad self!" (ok - SELVES) (Note to shoe designers everywhere: four of the five are wearing flat shoes! And the fifth is wearing low heels.)

Dear readers: click on the hyperlink above to view the article, and go to the right side of this blog to just click on our past postings listed above to see Lynn, Tziporah and Suzanne.

Downtown Foodie High Alert: Jean says: Marja Samsom, aka "the Dumpling Diva", is doing a guest chef stint on designated evenings at Alias Restaurant at 76 Clinton St. (corner of Rivington) on the Lower East Side. Valerie and I have reservations for her appearance tomorrow night for a $40 prix fixe dinner (salad, bento box and dessert). I'm intrigued by the chibitini cocktail named after her French bulldog, Chibi. For reservations and details on the next Dumpling Diva event, please call Alias at 212-505-5011 or go to Marja's website:

Just click on the following past Idiosyncratic Fashionistas' postings for the dish on and photos of The Dumpling Diva: 5/23/10 ("Got Milk?") about Milk Gallery art auction to benefit Stephen Petronio Dance Company with several shots of Marja including this one with Talking Head, David Byrne! She also pops up in our 12/19/09 blog ("The Year In Review") as my birthday party guest (along with Tziporah). Do check them out.

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New readers this week from Costa Rica, Peru and Algeria!

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Valerie says: Jean’s above-mentioned ‘hypothetical’ $40 soap is very real, and lies in wait for foolish buyers like me at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. (Click here to purchase your own.) Here’s the lowdown: to me, the soap, about six inches long and in the shape of a fish, is a miniaturized version of a jizai kagi -- ideally, a beautifully carved wooden counterweight used for Japanese cooking pots suspended over large hearths. Made from old-growth wood, and used until early in the 20th century, they were dense, heavy, and naturally lustrous. (The Museum's soap photo above was taken with way too much lighting. The real item is a vibrant medium dark red, and fairly dense, so you can't see the cord ends. I wish they had put the cord through the dorsal fin, not the mouth, to support my jizai kagi fantasy. [see photo below] As it is, it supports a fisherman’s fantasy.)

These days, jizai kagi go for several thousand dollars, and I’ll never be able to afford one. The one pictured here is not the best, but still very good. When I saw the soap at the Cooper Hewitt, I bought it as my consolation prize. It will never see water. It's currently still in its original box and bag, and won't come out until I'm over my shock at my own expenditure. This particular fish is a sea bream, which has auspicious connotations in Japan. The soap was probably cast from an old Japanese cake mold - one very much like this.