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.


  1. Love the boys' blazer--very Donna Tartt (my literary idol). Got a plaid blazer myself this year: Over Thanksgiving I ordered what may have been the very last Colletion Campbell tartan blazer and finally received it after a nail-biting two weeks of both shipping and delivery days. Nearly "pre-war" J.Crew quality, everything but the cheap-@$$ buttons, which are hollow and rattle audibly during wear. I have a 2007 Lexington that is, erm, a little small these days, and am considering cannibalizing the buttons for the Campbell.

    After my trip to New York this fall I can't stop thinking about coming back and would love to see it during the holiday season. Merry Christmas to all!

    1. I had that plaid blazer home for a few tense days - couldn't bring myself to keep still another holiday outfit. However, I am keeping the plaid pants, they remind me of a pair I had in high school, when I wore them to look trustworthy on baby-sitting jobs.

      The next time you're in the city, visit Tender Buttons, great selection which sometimes includes "vintage" buttons. The help is grouchy and slow. Also visit, on the other side of town, M & J Trimming. The help is lovely and I always have trouble leaving because I'm afraid I overlooked something.

      Merry Christmas!

    2. Fred, I have heard of this M&J Trimmings in Holy Writ, by which I mean early 1990s Martha. Back in the days before e-commerce, my 1990s visits to NYC were filled with trips to only-in-New York specialty stores for rare items such as Shu Uemura eyelash curlers and mini melon ballers. Now it's all online.

      I haven't been to M&J but it sounds like a good stop for next time. And I won't wait so long before returning. (Looks online to see if 16-17 Met Opera schedule is up yet . . . )

    3. ah, Martha in those days... her great quality was that she made almost anything seem do-able.

      do let me know when you're heading this way again!

  2. Beautiful choices! I especially love that scarf!!!!

    1. Thanks, I think my best choice was to donate the coat. Somewhere out there is someone who'll give it the love it deserves.

  3. Wonderful piece! I was just in Rockefeller Center with son 2, and loved the simplicity of the Saks display. Of course, I always try to visit early on a Monday so that there is a clearer photographic field. Great picks and finds.
    IKWYM about MONEY. Although, in some cases giving MONEY might be preferable to paying some of the absurd prices for inferior pieces I have seen this season. When did $85.00 become an acceptable price for a hooded sweatshirt? (Which clearly I refused to pay : )
    I just updated my forlorn blog, and have 2 Fair Isle adjacent technique sweaters that I have had published in the last few months. Real Fair Isle can still be obtained from Scottish sites at relatively reasonable prices, but the traditional lambswool can be quite itchy.
    We are so fortunate that we can enjoy Christmas with loved ones this year, and don't have to wait until next year, or until a visa is approved, etc.
    Happy Holidays!

    1. Just peeked at the sweaters and other pieces on your latest blog entry, and one thing Is lovelier than the next.

      I give $ with the unspoken message of "We love you and trust you to use this for a good purpose that we may not even be aware of, and btw making your life a little easier counts as a good purpose."

      I just noticed that Target is giving 10% off on gift cards, TODAY ONLY, so maybe MONEY does get marked down occasionally.

  4. Love the suede shirt and that dress. I usually wear a 10 blazer so may need to try that trick; I have a BB boy buttondown that fits nicely. The Tippi sweater has a nice fit, I think; mine are a few years old now and holding up well

    I missed the discount on $ at target! I will get a couple of cards for my brood, one of whom can really use the $ and will not take any from us. She will get a grocery card, too.

    1. this F.I. Tippi has full-length sleeves and isn't very Tippi-like, but it goes with a lot of things and the construction seems decent.

      I forget why I opened a charge at Target, it was so long ago - probably because you got some percent off - but it's paid off. There's 5% off practically everything and they bombard you with news and offers, some of which are actually worth knowing about.


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