Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fashion in the Veneto

Italian women are very sexy. There is a confidence in their sexuality that many, most really, American women just don't possess. Often, when American women want to "look sexy" they either hit you over the head with it or it's too controlled–they don't take any chances. The Italian women I've seen the last couple days (in Verona, Treviso, Padova and Vincenza) dress. They must think about what they wear and calculate the impression it has on everyone else and they probably take their clothing choices into account no matter where they are going or what they are doing. Furthermore, it is not just young women I'm talking about. Middle-aged women are every bit in control of their sexuality and fashion as the young college students I saw in Padova. They're pushing the envelope on what might be appropriate, in a good way. An American woman might get a "double take" if she dawned that faux fur belted vest (I bought one)... but isn't that the point?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


"Lets visit a historical home!" My children head for the hills and ten times further. Before they had choices about what to do on vacation, I dragged them to many a golden-age mansion, and colonial era village. I love peeking into another age, the rich and famous of yesteryear. I'm sure my kids will appreciate it again someday soon (they better).

The Veneto region of Italy is chalk-full of villas open to the public. Yesterday on our way from Venice to Verona we visited Vill Pisani in Venezia. It has the distinction of being able to say, "Napoleon once slept here." No really, Bonaparte slept there, once, as in one time. He bought the Villa from the Pisani family, slept there once, and then gave it to his stepson. For the occasion of his slumber, he had a bed and bathroom specifically and grandly designed. The bathroom is of note because it is the only bathroom in the Villa of well over 100 rooms that has an en-suite bathroom, very progressive for the time. The bath itself is sunk into the floor.

I do think
the kids would have enjoyed this home. There is a grand garden with a maze that, no
kidding, you needed markers to navigate. At the very least, the kids could go crazy finding
their way out of the maze while Mom and Dad checked out the stable (Martha Stewart eat your heart out.) pictured right.

Just to update: Got my luggage, have a new BF, the editor of Travel Girl magazine, the weather is spec
tacular (This California girl loves that!) and I dined in a Veronese Villa last night (What don't some American men understand about "no jeans"). Check out the view from my window.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Venice, Without Clothes

It's ironic that I'm beginning day two in Venice without my luggage. I've created an entire blog about style and travel and so the what-to-pack, what-to-wear thing is probably way too important to me. Is this my comeuppance, a get over yourself, Cathie, message? Happily, I didn't wear a sweatsuit on the plane (as you know, I think they're the worst), but instead, very comfortable cashmere bellbottoms with matching sleeveless shell and shawl, all in black. The outfit worked fine last night at the Ristorante Gran Caffe Quadri where we were introduced to the dignitaries of the Italian Tourist Board who are hosting this Italian Travel Symposium of the Veneto region.

Venice is, and always will be, the one dressed up. She's the dowager of finery, style and romance. My lost luggage is a blip on her radar and for that matter, as I'm swooning over her beauty, lost luggage doesn't matter to me either.

The gondoliers in striped shirts, the waiter in white dress coat–now that's trade-style that could, and has been, rehashed by countless designers. Would they let me borrow their shirts, jackets? There is a Chanel store on the corner in the building of this hotel, Luna Hotel Baglioni, perhaps I should pop in for new blouse? But no, it's not about me...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Wilde" in Manhattan

Last night my husband I went to an art gallery and saw his own work! As I've mentioned before, he's an art director and photographer and a few of his graphic design pieces were at the gallery. Entitled, The Wilde Years: Four Decades of Shaping Visual Culture, the exhibition captures the professional work of commercial artists who have graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan during the 40-year tenure of Department Chair Richard Wilde. It is a energetic show chronicling exciting graphic design and advertising work. It runs until November 7th and is at SVA's Visual Arts Gallery, 601 West 26th Street. The space(s), on the 15th floor, has an adjoining outdoor terrace capturing a 180 degree view of downtown Manhattan. The weather, the view and the ultra cool arty crowd made for a real, "I love New York" evening.

Driving into the city to go meet Tom (Husband) at dusk from our home 15 miles north, I had one of those travel; stop, look and listen moments. I was on the West Side Highway and the sun was glistening on the Hudson, I drove past the Boat Basin at 79th Street, boats anchored, bobbed hello. Continuing past Trump Plaza to my left and Jersey's waterfront buildings across the water, I thought to myself even Trump's buildings look like something more than an upright shoe boxes tonight–I love where I live (okay there was no traffic and U2 was playing on the radio) but was a beautiful night in Manhattan and the city itself was pea-cocking. And I didn't have to take a long flight to experience it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looking Right from Morning to Night

Okay, there has been tons of stuff written about how to go from a morning to evening look without actually changing clothes. Weirdly, it's a subject that fascinates me. I'm going to Italy for GoNOMAD next week. It's a press trip hosted by the Italian Tourist Board. The itinerary looks delicious, both from a culinary and cultural prospective. It says "no jeans." Anyone who knows me will understand just how psyched I am about this mandate. Meanwhile, I imagine most of my fellow journalist traveling, groaning.

We'll be moving around a lot–Venice, Verona and Padova and we mostly will not be able to go back to the hotel to change into "evening attire." So here's my strategy: I clipped the article, Surviving a Grueling Work Day With Style, and I'm following it like the holy grail. The article, by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, is an interview with Nina Garcia who is both Marie Claire's Fashion Director and a judge on "Project Runway." The gist is to start with a layered outfit and "unpeel" as the day and evening wears on. Do the exact opposite with makeup–add more for night. The article is bursting with other tips and tricks and is worth archiving! Check it out.

If any of you have ideas about day to evening, or can share some how tos, post a comment. We all want to know!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Stylist and Her Backup - How to provide good clients great service

There are several ways I shop when styling a client. Often it is on my own or with an assistant. I usually purchase the clothes and bring them to the client for a fitting. The fitting could take place at their home, a photo studio, or a hotel. I have a long standing relationship with Studio Service at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and over the years I've done many fittings through this department.

Today I took a chance on Nordstrom. I called the Store Manager, Tracie Bolton at the Westchester Nordstom at the very last minute to ask for a VIP dressing room. She provided me with a very nice room within a half hour of my call, by the time we walked in the store they were ready for us. A large dressing room, with bottled water and security (to dump our pocketbooks) was at my disposal. My client was pleased. Clients are paying for my knowledge and expertise (mostly), but that's not all, it's critical that the store provides excellent service and plenty of wardrobe options as well–the store is my backup. I premeditate where I shop for clients and I am especially careful about where I take them if they choose to shop with me.

Nordstrom graciously and efficiently helped us. We went from department to department and were able to "pull merch." and bring everything back to the one dressing room. They sent shoes I requested up to the dressing room to build on an outfit. The tailor arrived immediately. We were offered additional beverages. And when it was time to make purchases, we were in a rush and they hustled. All these niceties make a difference.

My client purchased enough pieces to create between 10 and 15 fall outfits (in two and half hours). I wanted to push her towards all those rich carmel colors of this season; browns, creams, oatmeal, camel... I don't think she bought one thing in black! She got a fun, bright top and gold flats that she's wearing with awesome fitting jeans to a party Saturday in Manhattan. A little leopard silk blouse went beautifully with brown slacks or velvety cords, and a long cozy oatmeal sweater. We got the hook-up from Lafayette 148 in the way of an burnt orange Loro Piana short blazer with patch pockets. This went great with brown pants and cream tops...

And I could go on, but stylist, shrink and hair dresser...must keep clients/friends secrets!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Blouse of a Different Color

Last night I was at a dinner party and the same blouse I was wearing came into to the room on a very attractive blond. We both graciously complimented each other, laughed a little and then segued into pre-dinner conversation over wine, spreads and nuts... It was a lovely evening made particularly special by hosts that obviously enjoy entertaining and are good at it!

Sarah and I were wearing a J. Crew ruffle blouse. The funny thing was I decided to wear it because I had run into our hostess, Christie, at J. Crew and later received an invitation from her to dinner. I figured since J. Crew prompted the invite, I should wear the top. Maybe Christie had run into Sarah at J. Crew too? Anyway, as I was making my purchases that day, I was asking myself, "Is it a mistake to buy from this brand?" After several years they've re-entered my lexicon. I've been liking their catalog and ads and I had seen a couple pieces in client's closets that I've liked. BUT the stores are everywhere and while they push the envelope on color choices (Sarah's blouse was black, mine is cream) in various styles, their designs are safe with broad appeal. It's mass, in a good way, but still, lots of the same stock to a broad customer base.

J. Crew stands out in their styling. They make relatively standard designs look great in the way they put the merch. together. I've made a long time career out of styling so I understand its magic. The trouble is, a nice ruffle, silk, sleeveless blouse, worn differently, by a blond or brunette, is still the same blouse at the same dinner party.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Coco avant Chanel

If you hurry, you can still see the Coco Before Chanel movie that was released about a week ago. My friend, Nora, planned an "indulgent afternoon" which included seeing the Coco movie at the Paris Theater, located next door to Bergdorfs in The City (NY). We lunched at BG, Bergdorf's cafe. Central Park views, Hollywood meets Paris interiors (courtesy of Kelly Wearstler) were in keeping with our themes for the day–indulgent, fun and stylish.

The movie was beautifully shot, subtle and detailed. Of course, I've been thinking about Chanel designs since and how one might incorporate them into your wardrobe right now. I found this ad for White House, Black Market and I think is definitely is a doable Chanel solution.

Of course there is always the real thing... Thank you Karl. Minus the weird black and white eye makeup and Elizabethan collars (plus several thousand dollars) it might be a "timeless" addition to ones wardrobe...I'm not sure Coco would entirely embrace Karl's designs, however. According to the movie, she was a "no frills" gal.

Photos: White House/Black Market Advertisement, Harper's Bazaar, Runway Report, Special Issue