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Brooklyn Gal

Wardrobe Wonders

Most people probably don’t obsess over nearly every clothing purchase, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal have been known to over-think even the most off-the-cuff pick-me-ups. Sure, once in a blue moon we give in to the Gilt-y urge or snap up a must-have or two at cheapy cheap joints like Joe Fresh, but we don’t buy on the fly or on impulse as readily as others seem to. Still, with fall around the corner and our inbox overstuffed with sale notices and bargain offers, it’s hard to resist what seems so natural: buy a shirt there, boots here, all for a song, end of fashion story. And yet, we hesitate, largely because we are wary of winding up with a closet full of nothing.

All of this comes to mind because of a quote we came across in The New York Time’s Style Section about boutiques doing bang-up business online. While talking about her loyalty to a cool-sounding Seattle boutique Totokaelo, a Web customer in the piece stated that the store’s owner helped her “build a wardrobe as opposed to buying clothes.”

Bingo! We can totally relate. A stack of clothes, whether bargain-priced or investment-worthy, gets women nowhere, but a wardrobe, well, it kind of makes us feel like we’re in control of our style destinies, like we’re dressing our aspirational selves.

And it made us remember one of our favorite dream boutiques in Brooklyn, which sad to say, recently closed shop. Years ago, when it was known as Butter, we used to slip in for a dose of cool, rarely buying, unless it was sale time. Most of the merch was geared towards that urbane woman with limitless funds, but every once in while we scored a gem or two.

One day our inner demons put the kibosh on a dress we really wanted. It was perfect but we had no real need for it. As we stood before the mirror, the owner told us when you fall in love with a special item you need to buy it, because it won’t come back around again. And she was right. Sometimes when we’re on the fence about some closet-changer or another, we can still hear her preaching those wise words of retail wisdom.

Would that black beauty of a dress still be a workhorse in our wardrobe today, nearly a decade later? It’s hard to say. After all, we’re still trying to build one, garment-by-garment, and season-by-season…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let it Snow

For years and years we here at the Brooklyn Gal have always considered Vogue to be the fashion victor, far surpassing its glossy competitor Harper’s Bazaar in every way. But now that we’ve read A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, Penelope Rowlands’ 2005 biography of the legendary editor, we see Hearst’s style bible in an entirely different light. During Snow‘s reign at HB, from 1934 to 1958, it seems that every chic woman of intellect actually turned to Bazaar, hungry for the scoop on the Paris collections and the latest fiction of the day, written by literary lions like Truman Capote. A powerhouse and prognosticator, Snow was the editrix who delivered all of this and so much more. Blessed with sheer talent and uncanny instincts, she was unstoppable, setting her trained eye on a target and never saying no until she got what she wanted.

If the Devil wore Prada, well, the Irish Snow wore Mainbocher, before bridging into Balenciaga with wardrobe changes to Chanel in between. Diana Vreeland’s quirky style, quotable quotes and indelible imprint may be far better known by fashion worshippers today, but in her time Snow, Bazaar‘s  tough, highly influential and oftentimes pickled editor, ruled the roost. Her list of discoveries — yes, Vreeland, along with Avedon, Balenciaga and Pucci — reads like a who’s who of fashion hitmakers, while her work ethic, career first, family second, was more akin to today’s world than hers and not especially laudable in those days.  She had her flaws, for sure, but she also had a vision.

Books, plays and museum exhibits have all placed D.V. on a pedestal and she will never be forgotten. Perhaps there’s room for another mover and shaker on your e-reader. We think the time has come for a Snow revival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Side of Coco

As every style-obsessed woman knows, 2011 was the year of the Chanel biography. Having seen the fashion films Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou as the adorable singer/hatmaker/couturière on the rise, we here at the Brooklyn Gal couldn’t resist jumping on the Coco bandwagon yet again.


At the moment we’re about halfway through Lisa Chaney’s Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life, which seems to grow more intriguing by the chapter. Should we still find ourselves curious about the designer’s dark side, including her alleged Nazi sympathies (quelle horreur how could it be so?), we may even dip our toe into Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie or Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan.

Or perhaps we will just revisit yet another Chanel homage, a lovely novel by Gioia Diliberto
called The Collection about Isabelle Varlet, a wide-eyed seamstress from a tiny town in France who moves to Paris and takes a job in the atelier of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Blending historical facts with a compelling story, much as she did with her page-turner I Am Madame X, Diliberto takes us on a ride back to the world of high fashion after World War I.  Weaving together characters both real and imagined, she paints a portrait of Mademoiselle Coco that’s ultimately flattering and one of Jean Patou, that’s far less so.  Though a work of fiction, we happen to think it’s essential reading for any fan of fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Iris

There are countless reasons why we here at the Brooklyn Gal adore the European e-commerce site YOOX. For starters, the merchandise mix is unlike that of any other online store, ranging from cult Japanese labels to luxe, ever-unobtainable Italian goods with stratospheric prices. The sweet spot, of course, is the staggering selection of discounted goods, particularly the footwear from boldface and little-known labels, most of which hail from fashion lands abroad. (We have been known to troll the site on many a night in hot pursuit of that killer pair of top-quality, infinitely stylish, well-priced boots sure to work with every item of clothing in our closets. Should such a miracle occur, you may be the first to know…)

But, we digress. The new reason why we love this site is its current editorial and e-commerce homage to interior designer and self-professed clotheshorse Iris Apfel, aptly titled called An Iris Lovefest. Fashionistas have put this wealthy, wildly attired octogenarian on a pedestal for years, and no wonder: all hail the expressive, snowy-haired New Yorker as a style icon unlike any other, a glamorously-garbed wisp renowned for her super-sized specs, more-is-more fashion philosophy and irrepressible joie de vivre. Whatever it is that Iris is drinking, we want a sip; her eye for color and willingness to experiment not only keeps her forever young, it gives rise to creative inspiration for women of all ages.

And so, YOOX gives Iris her due in its New YOOXER magazine, with a photo tribute by Bruce Weber and bon mots from a select group of designers, filmmakers, bloggers and fashion personalities attesting to her fabulous flair and influence. There’s a commercial component, too, of course: an irreverent mélange of merch ready to purchase, ranging from Iris’s own wardrobe selections to items that celebrate her singular vision, including colorful, zany jewelry and imited-edition keepers made with rare and vintage materials.

The YOOX sale may be short-lived, but there is no doubt in our minds that Iris Apfel’s spirit will live on for generations to come.

 

 

Fashion on Fifth

For the past few weeks we’ve made detours to Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets just to peer in the window of Cozbi and check on its progress. To date all we saw were the vague signs of a Park Slope boutique unfolding, namely, a papered-up glass window and the moniker Cozbi stenciled on the front, with the alluring promise of ‘homemade goodness.’

We had heard of Cozbi, of course and knew that the designer behind it, Cozbi A. Cabrera, also ran a cute shop in Carroll Gardens where she sold her Brooklyn-made women’s frocks, children’s clothing and handmade dolls. We always meant to visit her original shop but somehow never made it during business hours.

On a whim we just took another stroll to Fifth and behold: plenty of progress! The window, now unsheathed, features eyelet dress and other summery temptations and beyond, racks of colorful cottony clothing and boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Our guess is that the Slope opening is just days, maybe moments away so we won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to explore Cozbi’s lovely designs firsthand.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

 

 

 

 

 

Brooch, the Subject

First things first: we here at the Brooklyn Gal are not necessarily fans of Dita Von Teese, though we do admire her retro moxie, alabaster skin and ink-black tresses. Still, the other day, while we were working out at the gym, we couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of divine Dita on the silent TV screen above.

Ms. DVT sat daintily on the edge of the couch, chatting to her host, Ms. Wendy Williams. With the sound turned down, we had no clue what this striptease star was saying, but, never mind, it did not matter one teensy bit because, hello, her gigantic flower-shaped brooch, all glitzy and rhinestone-y (or, dare we say, diamond-encrusted?) radiating against her reddish-pink-clad chest, seemed to do all of the talking.

We happen to own a few pretty pins from way back when, scooped up at flea markets and such, but believe us, we’ve never seen anything quite as head-turning as Dita’s glamorous piece of festoonery.

As it turned out, that little episode was a repeat show from May and Dita, her hair coiffed like a calendar girl from back in the day, her nails and lips painted a rich ruby red, with high-heels to match, was giving Wendy an earful about her love for 1940s lingerie and how she got her start in the va-va-voom business.

We were intrigued. A little bit more research revealed that this vintage vixen does indeed have a penchant for such glittery chestal ornaments from back in the day — her fulsome flower was no fluke. We have to confess, in her own particular way, Ms. DVT is a class act: this girl knows how to turn up the shine factor.

So, do we smell a brooch trend in the air? Well, not exactly. After all, no one else can play pin-up like a true burlesque queen.

 

 

 

Vintage Magazine| Troisième Issue| The Eyes Have It: A Purview of Optical Wear by Randi Gollin


A snippet of my eyewear story from the just-published third issue of Vintage Magazine

Serious student, man of mystery — few accessories offer as many possibilities for transformation as that perfect pair of eyeglasses…

Would fans even recognize Woody Allen without his chunky glasses? Would Elvis Costello have made such a new wave splash without those thick black Buddy Holly-esque zyl frames? Would Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido character have been as irresistible to his 8 1/2 harem sans the sunglasses? And what about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? Are any of her other first-lady or Ari-era accoutrements as emulated as those oversized Jackie O. shades?

Eyewear can be such a stamp of the wearer’s personality—famous face or not—that it’s hard to imagine a time when they were more medicinal than fashionable. And yet, during the Industrial Revolution of the mid-1800s, when glasses became less cost-prohibitive, opticians oftentimes took the liberty of filling a patient’s prescription and choosing the patient’s functional frame too—a departure from the 1700s when decorative eyewear was considered yet another form of modish expression.

The early twentieth century brought eye-opening choices aplenty, with long-handled lorgnettes or dainty monocles with silk cords for the style-conscious lady, and gold-framed monocles or tortoise-shell pince-nez styles for sir. Nevertheless, these attempts at nearsighted glamour were oftentimes met with ridicule: staunch traditionalists derided wearers for detracting from their beauty or—heavens!— reveling in their infirmity.

Providentially, some of those iconoclasts who bucked the tide triumphed, including, most famously, silent-film star Harold Lloyd, a comic contemporary of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Lloyd began wearing lens-less horn-rim frames in 1917 as a prop and used them to define his “Glasses” character, one of his most successful screen personas, said to be one of the inspirations for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. And his spectacles even sparked a craze among fans.

To read more, purchase Vintage Magazine! Go to www.vintagezine.com for more details.

 

Lady of the Desert

We recently came across a story by Claudia Roth Pierpont about the Victorian adventuress Freya Stark in the special April 18 travel issue of The New Yorker and we must admit, it we have not stopped thinking about this extraordinary woman ever since.

How is it possible that we knew nearly nothing about the Dame (yes, she held that lofty title) who lived such an extraordinary life and died at age 100 in 1993?

Born to bohemian parents in England in 1893 and raised in Italy by her mother and her mother’s paramour, an impoverished Italian count, Stark was one of the first Westerners to travel to many parts of the Middle East and she wrote about her escapades in 24 travel books and autobiographies, not to mention eight volumes of letters from the 1930’s to the 1980’s.

We were not only captivated by her wit, charm and incredible accomplishments — we were also taken by her obvious style. This intrepid nomad, who suffered a horrendous factory accident as a child that ripped off her right ear camouflaged her damaged side with marvelous hats and imaginative hairstyles. But even such a catastrophe could not keep her down. Stark was apparently a fearless, idealistic woman whose spirit knew no bounds. We can just imagine her tying on a fabulous bonnet, perhaps donning a utilitarian outfit in pristine white to guard against the sun, and riding her camel across the desert.

We here at the Brooklyn Gal plan to dive into one of her extraordinary tales, straight away, starting with her first book, The Valleys of the Assassins. Thankfully many have recently been reissued.

 

Put ‘Em On a Pedestal

Is it weird to have a fashion icon? Or maybe two?

Lately when we peruse the racks at our favorite boutiques in Brooklyn and beyond we find ourselves thinking about key looks perfected by women with stellar style.

With her smoky eyes and fearless French flair, Carine Roitfeld, the iconic former editor of French Vogue (who just signed on to style Barneys New York’s fall 2011 ad campaign and the Madison Avenue flagship’s windows) is, of course, a given. But we’re also taken with the ineffably cool carriage of the character Karen Van Der Beek (British beauty Natascha McElhone) in the Showtime series Californication.

Yes, she’s a Cali girl, on screen, that is, but we believe that Karen’s trademark ensembles — rocking blazer, tough-yet-chic blouse or T-shirt, perfect-fitting slim-cut jeans — easily translate to the East Coast, most specifically, Brooklyn! Her on-again off-again romance with scoundrel Hank Moody (David Duchovny) may be complicated yet her style is anything but.

So, a nod to Showtime’s Karen, and oui, Carine from the Brooklyn Gal. We will never ever look like either of these gorgeous women, or, for that matter, ever try to mimic their look down to the letter, but damn, we do admit, they certainly inspire us.

 

Funky, Funky – Yet Chic!

Spring fever has hit! We here at the Brooklyn Gal have been busy window shopping at some of our favorite Brooklyn boutiques, searching for stylish, quasi-budget friendly finds to pine for. What have we found? Well, it looks like hippiesh cloth handbags are definitely having their fashion moment. And we want in!

Whether  you opt for a colorful beauty like the madcap patchwork leather-strapped fair-trade tote at Diana Kane, the recycled, organically dyed ikat JadeTRIBE hobo trimmed with bohemian shell-flecked fringe at Kaight or the Thomas IV canteen handbag made from ethnic materials and luscious leather at Bird, you’re certain to add a much-needed bright spot to your wardrobe.

We think they’re the perfect spring-fling addition – especially if you tend to dress in an all-black urban uniform six days out of seven (we’re just sayin’…)