Sunday, August 31, 2014

How Great Is Getting Old Going to Be?

We passed a huge sign in a window on 42nd Street that posed a provocative question.

Just click on the video for Valerie's answer:

Ditto for Jean's response to the question:

(As usual, being as yet unreformed technosaurs, our videos are smallish to fit the Blogspot format as we understand it [which is to say not at all], but if you want to see these videos splashed all across your screen, click here for the first one and here for the second.  And don't forget to hit the little four cornered icon at the bottom right of the video.)

On a recent Saturday afternoon, in the unseasonably, wonderfully cool summer weather (sunny, temps in the low 80's, low humidity), to answer "How great is getting old going to be for you?", we strolled to Bryant Park to take advantage of a New York City tradition - the carousel! Luckily, our timing was great. Both the lines and the waits were short.  And, we didn't have to elbow any small children out of our way (always bad form).

The first time we rode, we got on together, but realized that that sort of limited the kinds of pictures we could take (see below).  Plus, having ridden on the horses all through our childhoods, in our dotage we wanted to bide our time and get the animals of our choice.  So we rethought our strategy, and decided one person would ride at a time, so the other could take photographs - and videos! - from a better perspective.

Valerie chose the Cat for one of her rides.  (After a look at these pictures, Valerie realized that old TV hands knew what they were talking about when they said don't wear complicated prints on TV, and never wear red.  The prints get pixillated, and red adds several sizes to you.  If you're going for trick photography, we advise going for colors that camouflage, rather than exaggerate.  Oh well.  What was that proverb?  Get old and learn?  No wait, live and learn.)

Jean preferred the Rabbit.  She had to wait for it (a child beat her to it the first time.)  But now that we're old, we know that the good stuff is worth waiting for.  Jean said the Rabbit reminded her of Alice in Wonderland.  Sooo worth the wait.

Carousel amusement rides feature seats for riders on a rotating circular platform.  Although some may have benches, "seats" are traditionally rows of wooden horses or other animals mounted on poles.  Many of the horses and animals move up and down by gears to simulate galloping, accompanied by looped circus music.  Although the most common animals are horses, they may include a diverse variety such as pigs, zebras and tigers.  In our case, it was a cat, a rabbit and a frog in the outer row, with multiple equine mounts on the inner row.

Valerie switched horses midstream, so to speak, hopping off the Cat and opting for the Rabbit on one of her spins.  (As a child, Valerie would have eschewed the rabbit because you can't really ride a rabbit.  Young Valerie's opinion on the prospect of riding the Rabbit would have been: "That's silly."  Old Valerie still thinks riding the Rabbit is silly, and that's why she went for it.)

Ever the optimist, Jean kept selecting the Rabbit as her noble steed, hoping Johnny Depp would show up in his Mad Hatter outfit and reprise his memorable role.

Here, Jean seems to be channeling her inner Helena Bonham Carter.

For reference, here is Ms. HBC as the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland.

Valerie tries her hand at trick riding on the Cat.  Happily, as you can see, we were not the only adults riding the carousel.  We were, however, the only adults not accompanied by children.  Some of the music that accompanied the rides was wonderfully nostalgic.  On our videos, you can hear that old standard, the calliope, but at other times we heard Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier -- who predate even us!  Sacre bleu!

Yup.  Get old.  Fear less.  Live longer.  We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Can Still Do the Slide

First, a little eye candy appetizer.  At left, Valerie, unlike most of our politicians, doesn't mind clearly delineating the platform(s) she stands on.  At right, Jean brings new meaning to the old expression about wearing army boots.

But we digress (already!)

For the main course, two videos:

As usual, because we are technosaurs, we don't know how to fit the full sized video on the screen, so that's a miniaturized version to fit the blogspot frame. To see the video in all its full sized glory, click here. (Don't forget to click on the little box icon in the bottom right hand corner - just beneath the time line - that makes the video full screen size.)

And now the second video:

As before, for the full sized video, in technicolor, cinemascope and stereoscopic sound, click here.

And we'd like to point out that throughout the videos our hats and dresses stay in place, and afterwards we could easily have gone to a luncheon at the Plaza Hotel. Well - that's if we'd been invited, of course.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Amarcord: The Remembrance of Clothing Past

Last Friday evening, we celebrated the coming of the weekend in an unusual way at Amarcord Vintage Fashion in Soho. An invitation to a party in one of our favorite vintage clothing stores with some of our favorite people is already a treat. Add the temptations of bubbly, a 20% discount on purchases and a free gift, and how could a girl (or an old broad) ever say no?

As we entered, Valerie stopped in front of the iconic mural that graces the front of the store.

Monkey see, monkey do! Jean strikes a pose in the same great spot. If it works, don't fix it.

The Soho store has a treasure trove of clothing and shoes and accessories for men and women spanning decades. Discovering the jewels scattered all about is part of the fun. This beautiful delicately beaded evening bag sits next to a parfum flacon in the glass cabinet on the wall behind the cash register.

Emma, whom we first met working the Amarcord booth at a Manhattan Vintage Show, sports a chic Borsalino fedora, effortlessly making a style statement and showing us all how young women can wear hats too, without looking costumey.  (That she is smart and gorgeous and has the most amazing skin doesn't hurt.  And note the red lipstick, please.)

Eclectic doesn't begin to describe Amarcord's contents. In the men's section, below a Campagnolo bicycling cap, was an antique red metal truck. Having watched endless episodes of American Pickers' "rusty gold" finds, Jean thought this one was terrifically collectible.  Check out the wide whitewall tires!

Below, Valerie sits next to our delightful camera-shy hostess, Patti, while showing off a vintage jacket by Asiatica. Years ago, Valerie met Asiatica's founders, Fifi White and Elizabeth Wilson, at a Tokyo flea market where they were buying antique textiles to make into some of the most inspired and inspiring designs Valerie has ever seen. All had to be made in accordance with the vintage fabric, which gave the designers some very interesting challenges leading to very creative solutions.  Fifi and Elizabeth traveled all over Asia and brought back remarkable finds to make into stunning one-of-a-kind clothes.  The jacket seen here is made from a casual pre-war kimono.  When we were at the site of last Wednesday's post, we met a lady wearing a very interesting Asiatica jacket.  (We know 'cause we liked it so much we asked her the brand name.  We're so nosy!)  She was visiting New York with her granddaughter and a friend who were interning for the summer in the city, and asked to photograph us.

Colin and his boyfriend stopped by to check out this arrow head shaped ring (left hand, middle finger). Friday was the night it finally went home with them!

When Jean first met Colin (right) on Emma's birthday at Big Bar, he was wearing a black and white striped Comme des Garcons shirt that he had paired with a pair of black and white striped shorts he'd made that day. His attention to detail was amazing, matching the width and spacing of the stripes so the two garments blended seamlessly. Jean is devastated that this photo turned out so dark (even after Photoshopping it) because you can't see the black neoprene-like shorts he'd designed and made. Unfortunately, you also can't see the detail in his partner's dark tie-dyed jumpsuit. Luckily, you can see Colin's red patent leather shoes and his friend's black CdG Mary Janes.

Speaking of red shoes, check out this red leather John Fluevog number. Very cool.

The other customers and staff were enjoying the evening as much as we were. The tall, gorgeous lady on the right was getting ready for a vacation in Jamaica.

Did we mention the adorable and friendly staff?

Valerie found this interesting print skirt whose pattern seems to be taken from Plains Indians' ledger art.

Here's a close-up, upside down, so you can see it better.

You've probably seen ledger art.  Here's an example from the Montana State University Billings Library Barstow Collection, entitled Battle Between Crow and Sioux Warriors:

Amarcord's selections range from evening wear to dresses, slacks and blazers, and even bathing suits. Jean took a liking to this polka dotted maillot.  Being realistic, she left it behind, but she wasn't able to resist everything.  (More on that another time.)

At Jean and Emma's behest, Valerie tried on a black cotton 1980's Joan Crawford style blazer that fit her well and looked very Thierry Mugler or Claude Montana or Jean Paul Gaultier.     Having just given away a couple of black jackets that showed promise but never quite delivered, Valerie splurged big time (for her, that is), and took home one that did.

Once the marvelous bubbly kicked in (that's redundant, of course - bubbly is always marvelous) and Jean started getting a little too interested in a catcher's mask, we figured it was time to call it a night. So we strolled a few blocks north to indulge in our new favorite treat: Van Leeuwen artisanal ice cream.  Yet another form of heaven, all in one evening.

Since Amarcord sponsors these events nearly monthly, local readers keep your eyes open for the next one. We can't wait.

Did curiosity get the better of you?  Did any of you say to yourselves 'hey, I wonder what Amarcord means'?  If you say 'No, I figured it was named after the movie', well, yes, you're right about that, but why is it named after the movie?  Wikipedia says: The film's title is a Romagnol neologism for "I remember".  How's that for the perfect name for a vintage store?

And about last Wednesday's question: if you guessed Rockefeller Center, like our commenters Susan D and Forest City Fashionista, YOU'RE RIGHT!  That's a Jeff Koons topiary, called Split Rocker.  Click here for Artnet's commentary, as well as a video on Split Rocker.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where in the World Are We?

No rocking chairs for us (yet!). We'll take a rocking horse anytime. Quick, where in the world are we? See if you can guess. The answer this Sunday.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Celebration of Hats - by Iva Ksenevich

Fate conspires in the strangest ways to bring hats to us.  And wonderful adventures to accompany the hats.

You might remember that way back in March we went to a "do" at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan (see our posting here).  We didn't tell you then, but we were stopped by a gorgeous woman named Zlata, who complimented us on our hats, and, with the magic of her smart phone, showed us photo upon photo of hats made by her sister Iva in Moscow.  Good thing we wear glasses, which kept our eyes from popping too far out of their sockets.  Zlata said her sister would be coming to the U.S. in July, and asked if we would like to meet Iva and maybe do something with her hats.  Of course we said Da.

Four months later, Iva came to town with nearly her entire collection and we found ourselves in Zlata's apartment, in a frenzy of hat wearing (scroll down to see that).  It all went so well that Iva invited us to model three hats each for her website, and booked tres sympa (very cool) photographer Francois Charlier to memorialize the event.  Did we mention that Iva and Zlata were two-thirds of a set of triplets?  And we had the wonderful fortune to meet Alisa, the third member of the triumvirate.

Iva's millinery philosophy includes the concept and illusion of "motion" -- through textured, layered, sweeping fabrics, textiles and designs. Mix in a healthy color sense and a sense of wonder and et voila! That's Iva in the center.  We're each wearing one of her hand made creations.

To give you a taste of what you'll see on the website, we've included just a few shots from the shoot.  These were all taken at the periphery of Little Italy, and the tourists had as much fun watching, and taking their own photos, as we did voguing around in Iva's chapeaux.  (Iva and Francois were very patient with the interruptions.)  The opening photo is also from the shoot.  (In case you didn't guess.)

Can you tell how much fun we were having?

That's some of the finished product.  Let us show you some of the many hats Iva brought from Moscow, that we got to try on at Zlata's apartment.

Here's Valerie in the hat Jean is wearing in the opening photo.  The colorful, layered geometric lines and suede-like texture in this sophisticated grey hat create a much more interesting landscape than a simple toque.

At the end of the evening of frenzied try-ons, Iva kindly offered us each one of a selection of her confections.  This is the one Jean took home.

The hat Valerie is wearing in the opening photo is the one she took home.  In the opening photo, it reads grey and black with brown and black feathers. But as Jean illustrates below, from the other side and back, the hat most definitely reads bright red. Iva's ability to create this sense of surprise is one of the most endearing qualities of her designs.

The white plastic splash looks like one of those old National Geographic mid-air stop-frame photographic images of of spilled milk splashing, a true embodiment of Philip Treacy's devotion to motion.   It's actually a piece of plastic that she shredded and melted.  (Valerie wears this in the third shoot photo above.)  The simple design on a black velvet headband is at once amusing and arresting.

Iva called this her fish net hat.  The net, paired here with a small red disk, is actually made of metal and very sturdy.   Iva delights in using surprising and mundane materials and transforming them into things of beauty.  She wore it beautifully and the color complimented her grey dress.

Here are the three of us, this time with Jean wearing the fishnet hat.

One of the most interesting results of this entire exercise was our realization that hats we never thought would look good on us surprised us by being imminently wearable and attractive. It was a lesson that we have to continue to go outside our comfort zone. Case in point, the hat Iva is wearing in the big photo of the three of us in front of the purple pink painted wall looked terrific on Valerie too.

That the same hat would look so great on all three of us was a great revelation.

Another of Eva's hats used a striped, pleated double disk design.

And here it is, seen from the other side.

Iva designed this feathered crown so that women with long hair could secure it to the nape of the neck for a royal look.

Jean tried it two different ways.

Valerie's style, tilted more to the front, looked very 1950s Norell/Norman Parkinson.  Iva told us that she sterilized the feathers, which she'd found, before creating the hat.  We hadn't thought to ask, but once you think of it, it's comforting to know.

This purple cone shaped hat with colorful accents was a killer look.

Valerie wears the purple hat in the opposite direction, for a completely different effect.  Iva blew us away when she told us she had only taken two millinery classes, neither one more than two weeks long!

This tall feathered hat could be worn forwards or backwards, displaying more -- or less -- red. It is incredibly dramatic. And lord knows, we love drama!

Of course, we'd have to remove such a tall hat if we were to have gotten into a taxi (speaking from past experience).  But as we've often said, one must suffer for one's art...

This red and pink floral velveteen hat has a short brim. Jean was extremely hesitant to try it but once she did, she loved it.

Valerie tried wearing it back to front, for a sort of flower-power/Nehru effect.

This brown hat, which resembled either a bird in flight or an exotic flower, could also be worn forward or backward, tilted to one side or the other. Each angle showed different colors and textures.  Here's one way:

And here's another:

We both fell in love with this creation. and wound up calling it the manta ray hat, but we could just as easily have called it the bat hat or the stealth bomber hat.   Jean is wearing it in our second photo.  Here it is on Valerie.

Below is a closeup of this amazingly constructed hat, about which Jean has actually had dreams!

And here it is upside down.  Each of Iva's hats has her label in it. Notice how the golden oval is hand stitched?  Iva described spending quite a lot of time on each of her works, making sure she gets the details exactly the way she wants them.

We wanted to end this post with the most dramatic, evocative piece in Iva's collection. We called this "The Miss Haversham" hat.  Not sure the Dickens anti-hero was an appropriate choice for the name, but we were thinking along the lines of a very proper English woman of a certain age, a certain social class and a certain time period.  Jean is wearing this in the fourth photo above (paired with her antique silk folding children's parasol).  Valerie takes it out for a spin below.

But you really must see it from behind as well.

The serendipity involved in this connection makes our heads spin.  That our trip to the Classic Car Club of Manhattan event in honor of Luca Forgeois (a local boy from Long Island who aspires to be a Formula1 driver) was the genesis is icing on the cake.

Needless to say, we are both thrilled with our Iva Ksenevich hats but also more thrilled to have connected with such a talented, artistic milliner.

(For your future reference, the Russian word for hat is shapkah.)