I'm back, but first things first: as Ellie dwindles I think of her

I'm sure many of you have visited Ellie's blog, havesomedecorum.blogspot.com - I've been following her battle with ALS. Ellie pulls no punches, holds very little back, is no saintly invalid suffering in martyred silence, but rather, along with good and loving moments, shares frustration, impatience, irritation, rage - ok, she's a real person.

Ellie has made me ask:

 Would I react as she has if I had an inevitably fatal disease? I think so. 

Would I have her desperate courage? I hope so. 

Will I think of her, pray for her, in the days to come? Oh, yes.

                                                       so, with thanks to e.e.cummings,

this is for Ellie:

inbox insanity gets an early start - statement pieces on the move

OK, dollings, I need to know: with what does one wear the Statement Piggy? Would it be overkill to "pair" it with a Statement Necklace? just wondering.

And if I "pair" the Piggy with a pair of Statement Earrings, am I still "pairing," since by definition there are only two things or people in a pair?

I've already solved the First Hilarious Mystery, which is what kind of statement does a Statement Piggy make? That one was easy -- oink. Your thoughts on the remaining mysteries are welcome!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

thoughts for the day and the next day

this charming and realistic card is available through basbleu.com 

And the following charming and realistic quote is from Joan Rivers:

A man can sleep around, no questions asked, 
but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes
 she's a tramp. 

And if that hasn't cheered you up,
Thank you all for reading and commenting and being kind, funny, well-dressed friends.

Happy 2016!

some Christmas shopping, with an afterthought or two

A patron saint of shopping hasn't been designated yet, but I'm waiting. I've identified two patron saints of merchants, Saint Nicholas - no surprise there - and delightfully, especially for all the little ones who are wishing for a puppy or a kitten under their trees, Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Anthony, the Finder of the Missing, doesn't seem to be associated with merchandising, which is a pity given all the profits that have vanished of late. Anyway, here are a couple of shots of Rockefeller Center, conveniently located between my doctor's office and Saint Patrick's Cathedral. And directly across from Saks Fifth Avenue, as it happens, but the Saks decorations this year are drawing mobs of people with phones, cameras, sticks, lights, tripods! 

The present-receiving generation in our family has moved on to life situations where the most thoughtful gift is Money. The convenience factor of Money is fine, but you can't turn a last-minute markdown into a dramatically wonderful dream-fulfilling present if you're giving Money. Money doesn't get marked down, at least not at the retail level.  And so I leave the agonizing computations and the Family Algorithms of Equalization like do we factor in the library fines from 3rd grade as a past gift -- I leave all of this fretting and balancing to Himself. He owes me for all the elbows I took at Toys R Us, all the parking spaces I waited for, all the lines I stood in...

And yet I love the secular materialistic bustle in the streets, the self-conscious denominationally neutral displays and decorations, and the triumphant carrying home of shopping bags. Coming back from the bank across the street, with its jar of mints and extra-special cookies for good customers, doesn't do it. Here are some shots of the interior of Bloomingdale's, which this year is helping its ceilings live up to their potential.

 The ground-floor ceiling extravaganza is best seen from the elevators. Outside, the window displays have a theme which I think was meant to be the 5 senses in seasonally related multi-media.

So, the things that were going to family (besides the $) were sent and have been received and hidden. But I still went for a seasonal wander, and - this may astound you - I bought a few things that just happened to fit me. The year-end markdowns started even earlier this year, and so did I.

Lauren Ralph Lauren suede workshirt. The suede is light enough that the garment can in fact be worn as a shirt, I like it with dark jeans or denim skirt, and with black silk tailored pants. Obviously, this shouldn't be worn while cooking (entertaining) or trying to amuse small children or frisky animals. Thank you for the considerate early email, Lord and Taylor, and for the great reductions and promos.
The by now famous J.Crew two-tiered Italian wool dress. Reviews of this have been joyful. I stalked reductions and pop-backs, and now own it in two colors. Still popping back, and I add my little voice to those of the happy reviewers. Great dress.

What to do with that coat. Coat drives began early this year, and the J.Crew double-cloth black wool trench was my first donation. I'm hoping it will keep someone warm if this winter ever turns to winter, and the cut of the coat is such that it could be perfect for a pregnant lady whose luck hasn't been terrific this year.

J.Crew boys' Ludlow Plaid Blazer. I ordered this in a boys' size 14 and the fit was excellent, especially if I left the bottom button open. It looked like a perfect jacket for winter wear. The construction showed care and attention to detail. I wound up not keeping this, and I can't remember why. Oh, right, I already have a few "holiday-ish"jackets. I do recommend trying the boys' department for classics which have not yet been beaded or sequinned. For reference, I like a size 10 women's blazer, and I was fine with a boys' size 14. Note for future reference, the merch I like in the Ralph Lauren boys' departments (all lines) is somewhat more generously cut.
The great Fair Isle sweater smackdown.  I perspire at the very thought of how many Fair Isle sweaters I tried on, in different weights and blends - veritable chemical cocktails in yarn form, I was afraid I might start to emit an eerie greenish glow. The result, for all-around comfort, with a visible but not garish design, was the J.Crew Tippi Merino Wool Fair Isle Sweater in the gray colorway. The Fair Isle design developed as a way to create a sweater that was 3 or 4 layers thick, for wear in cold countries. The yarns of the different colors are carried along on the inside of the garment when not actually participating in the decorative pattern. Thus, my winning sweater is merino and has a classic but not overwhelming design. The merino yarn keeps the sweater light enough to be worn under a coat or jacket without causing make-up meltdown. Second place went to the men's wool fair isle sweater with a background misnamed "Holly." The color was a definite blue with green overtones. The yarn was described as "wool." Huh. I'd call it "itchy." I liked the color combination, however. I also tried on the merino Tippi in the pinkish color, it did nothing for me. I passed by the heavier yarns and innovative arrangements of design  since my life is not going to include skiing this winter. Nor, probably, if these crazy spring-like temperatures continue, will yours.

 Here's a close-up of the winner:

Here is a large wool scarf that I grabbed at the J.Crew Collection Store. I haven't seen it on the website yet. I loved the colors, the fabric is thick but lightweight, and - what can I say? It's a nice scarf. 

It just occurred to me that the scarf may in fact have made it to the website but the colors got distorted by sloppy photography or willful monitors.

I also zoomed through Banana Republic and came home with two flannel shirts, which they were giving away. Almost. Very nicely made, 100% cotton, described as "our famous soft wash" which as best I can tell means real flannel, not that slippery thin stuff. The black-and-white is self-explanatory, the other is dark green with navy and black.

The next few days will be devoted to getting ready for Christmas dinner. We have just done a little work on the apartment, with a wonderful crew of Polish carpenters, Mexican painters, and Chinese stone men. Everyone worked carefully and professionally, didn't get in each other's way, and they finished on time so that one of the Polish guys could get home for what sounds like a much more elaborate Christmas feast than I could ever organize. The rest of the crew can't go home, for if they do, they won't be able to come back. I thank them for their good work, and I wish them the love and company of their families for next Christmas. Meanwhile I have to find all the things that I put away when I was clearing the decks for the project. It's the obverse of the hunt for hidden presents that once kept me and Sis occupied during late Decembers past.

Do you need an entourage? or does your purse need an entourage?

So much has been written about developing a personal style, developing a sense of style, identifying one's style, and related burning issues, that I hesitated even to start this post.

And then last night, as still another necessary something tumbled from my handbag, I realized that a whole style-related topic has remained undiscussed. But not for much longer. Here goes.

A woman who looks like she's worried about her makeup or her underpinnings, or like she's in pain or neglected, does not look stylish. How to deal with life's little troubles while away from one's own bathroom/ mirror/ computer and such? You dig into your bag and find a product, a safety pin, some change, some chocolate... .
I recgnize that for everyday life, obviously, I need a bag - wallet, Metrocard, charge cards (in their own wallet, always kept separate from the one with the money and IDs), lipstick, gloss or balm, mirror, comb, hanky, small pack of Kleenex, keys, iPhone, charger. Let's call this the First Bag, and the contents the First Bag's Contents. I have a number of bags of varying capacities and degrees of dressiness or casual-ness. They get to take turns being First Bag. Too often, however, the First Bag needs an Assistant Bag for the overflow and the things that are too big for the First Bag, or are "back-ups" in case I get stuck somewhere and need a change of shoes or a scarf or a wipe or medication or a rainhat - whatever. Plus the Assistant Bag can hold any small packages that accrete during the day so that I can smile with environmental virtue at check-out as I decline the offer of a bag. In real life, that last is a fantasy, I need shopping bags. I ask for a shopping bag if one's not offered. I can't imagine the size an Assistant Bag would have to be to deal with dry cleaning, shoe repair, tailoring, and the like. It would need its own assistant. And I would need a Bag Bearer. This leads to a mention of the temps and contract-workers of the bag world - paper shopping bags. So let me try to limit this discussion to whether or not one's First Bag needs an assistant and what qualities that assistant should have. I refuse to give houseroom to a bag that requires its own entourage, but I can accept that a busy bag needs help on a busy day.
The need for an Assistant Bag is most obvious in the case of events at which one must look good and look put-together for a protracted period of time. Weddings and funerals come immediately to mind, even if one is not in the wedding party or directly connected to the guest of honor. I've been to a few where the wedding party is dismissed as "cute young girls, the one at the left could lose a few pounds," and the sharpest comments are reserved for discussion of the looks and outfits of one's fellow guests. Don't back away in horror, I've sat and listened at the Cousins' Table myself. Nevertheless, who wants to walk into the cocktail hour with a cute satin clutch and a paper shopping bag, no matter how fashionable the store? And don't tell me you'll use a fancy party bag, you'll just look like you waited till the last minute to deal with the gift and when someone peeks and the ostensible gift turns out to be your other shoes and some headache remedy, at least one of you may feel awkward. As for slipping out of one's shoes while waiting to Pay Respects, well...

A proper Assistant Bag can hold your shoes, a change of tights if you like, a larger brush, a hair product or two, the program from the ceremony if you want to hang on to it... you get the picture. And because the Assistant Bag doesn't contain money or ID, you can check it with impunity, assuming that your good shoes are at the bottom in an unmarked shoe bag. Assuming the coat-check is located where you can get to it quickly if need be, that is.

Even a day of tedious errands, shopping/returning, quick lunch, a fast check-in to see if - as Prince Charles famously said to Tim Piggott-Smith -  there's any work going, will no doubt trigger wishes for a Useful Article that couldn't fit into the smart cross-body: the crushable hat, the compact umbrella, the eye drops, the thing you promised Cousin Liz you'd drop off. This is where you stash a Velcro roller or two, in plastic bag, naturally, on a damp and windy day.

Some time ago, I came up with the Heavy While Empty Test. I believe I was considering buying something called the Biennial Satchel. This is the test: if I can't lift, shoulder, and walk around with an empty pocketbook, I put it down and walk away. It won't get lighter with my stuff in it. This is now doubly relevant, because we're dealing with the woman who needs two bags.

Selecting an Assistant Bag.  An assistant bag shouldn't have a lot of hardware, this does not serve the purpose of being the Assistant Bag and adds weight to no purpose.

An Assistant Bag may coordinate in style and color with your outfit, or with its First Bag, but never with both at the same time. It should never, ever match. In fact, the best look for an Assistant Bag is a tailored shape and an independent color. The color should not attract attention. An Assistant Bag should strive to communicate that ordinarily its owner (me)(or you) doesn't have to drag all this stuff around, we have People. But today for some reason, we're short a Peep or two and so we just happened to grab this bag, which is not as devoted as a besotted young man or as ambitious as a younger colleague, but has the advantage of not needing to be fed while out.

The relationship among First Bag, Assistant Bag and briefcase is, shall we say, fraught. Clearly on any given day at least one will have to stay home. It's like scissors, paper, stone. Briefcase gets to come along unless we're going to the beach or going hiking or riding. And quite possibly the First Bag's Contents will have to be dumped into the Assistant Bag, kind of a field promotion, to get you through a day of active duty. The Briefcase should never be seen in the company of a large First Bag nor in that of a backpack. Going out with an Assistant Bag and a backpack does not suggest anything favorable about one's state of life or organizational ability. A First Bag does not associate with backpacks. Look in the mirror: do you see a woman who has at least some idea of where she's going, or do you see someone who hung on to a capacious diaper bag with lots of pockets and room for snacks long after her children started middle school?

Well, any further discussion of bags and bag hierarchies will lead to the discussion of whether the stylish woman should have a Bag Butler to manage all this for her, and I just mentioned this to Himself, who never gives odds on whether or not I'm serious, and he told me we don't need another person to tip at Christmas.

So - back to style. Again, I've read too many comments about how the truly stylish even get dressed to take out the garbage. Please. Unless you think that government agents are checking out your trash, this is not something to worry about in a Free Country. Get a life.
I never cared what kind of inadvertent impression I was making on an unsuspecting public. If I chose to create an impression (look, look, here comes someone you should hire!), I got it together. Running out for milk - waste of time.

Then I learned these implacable truths:

If you look a wreck, even if you look a wreck in a good cause because you just jumped into a pool to rescue the neighbor's puppy, THAT IS THE DAY you will run into an old boyfriend who has Done Well. If the fates are really feeling malicious, he'll be accompanied by his parents who never liked you anyway and his well-groomed twin children.

If you are looking perfect for no reason other than the sheer selfish pleasure of knowing that you look perfect - bring it on, Fates, I'm ready! - BEWARE! THAT IS THE DAY that an old boyfriend who has Not Done Well will greet you loudly in the presence of others and (a) ask to borrow money, (b) ask to borrow your car, (c) ask if you'd like to give him one last good memory before he enters rehab, (d) all of the foregoing. And all in a loud voice.

So watch out for free-floating style questions and underemployed entourages, and remember to floss.