What Would Audrey Do?

The Pamela Keogh book What Would Audrey Do? is a nifty little guide to incorporating the elements of Audrey Hepburn’s style and life into our own.

It’s a short book that can be read in one or two days.I plan on installing it as an e-book. Audrey Hepburn was a bright light in the firmament of talent in the world.

Later in life she was an ambassador for UNICEF who traveled to Somalia to champion giving aid to that ravaged country. Hepburn was the first actress to do this kind of humanitarian work.

She survived living in Holland in WWII by eating tulip bulbs and making pesto with grass. Living in famine she got down to 90 pounds at one point.

What Would Audrey Do? is my new favorite reference book.

It’s said in the book that a lot of women describe themselves as “very Audrey” in homage to this style icon. I wouldn’t go so far. Why not be your own inimitable self not a copycat of another woman?

All women can be as remarkable as Audrey and as unforgettable. This involves sticking to the clothes that are in our style, wearing makeup that suits our coloring, and acting with grace towards others.

Audrey Hepburn was quoted elsewhere:

“You have two hands. One for helping yourself. One for helping others.”

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Girl in a Band

I finished reading Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band in five hours over the course of one day.

It’s a brilliant book, evocative of a time and place I was accidentally a part of. Kim Gordon and I have certain things in common:

Our sun sign is Taurus (I was delighted to see her wearing a Taurus tee shirt on the book cover.)

I played Sonic Youth on the radio when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s. Kim Gordon recorded this radio station promo: “Listen to WSIA, 88.9 FM because WSIA pushes Sonic Youth.”

I accompanied a fellow DJ to the apartment at 84 Eldridge Street to interview Julie Cafritz who was in the band Pussy Galore for an article in a fanzine my friend was starting. We were disc jockeys together at the college radio station.

Like Kim Gordon, I was a middle-class white chick who leaned to the left of the dial and wanted to escape her ordinary upbringing. Years later I lived the artist’s life in the City that had always enchanted me. Like Kim I’m an artist as well as a writer.

I loved Girl in a Band.

Since this is a review of the book, I want to quote one sentence that’s the selling point for buying the memoir or installing it as an e-book on your device.

Kim is quoted:

“Still, I’ve always believed–still do–that the radical is more interesting when it looks benign and ordinary on the outside.”

In my own memoir, Left of the Dial, I talk about riding the subway and wondering what the woman seated across from you in a Calvin Klein suit is like on the inside.

I ran with a counterculture crowd in college yet it was the music that connected me to them not the drugs. I loved life too much to want to spiral out of control.

My other connection to Kim Gordon is unusual. Her brother Keller was diagnosed with schizophrenia long after his parents reluctantly got him help after years of doing nothing as his personality continued to unravel. My mother got me help within 24 hours and I’ve been in remission 23 years now. With a change of circumstance, I could’ve been Keller and he could’ve been me. Keller now lives in a residence and Kim flies out a couple times a year to visit him.

I played the Sonic Youth song “Schizophrenia” on the radio. I played their anthem “Cotton Crown” on the radio. I was able to do what the lyrics to “Cotton Crown” suggested: I took control of the chemistry, and I manifested the mystery.

Girl in a Band is a brave book. Kim Gordon is in her sixties now. I own a number of Sonic Youth CDs and every so often I play one of them when the mood strikes me.

Grazie Kim for telling your story with honesty and courage. Cheers to the next chapter in the story of your life.

Stuff a White Chic(k) DOESN’T Like

Apparently there’s a book titled Stuff White People Like or something like that. The title might have been taken from a blog.

I had no interest in reading the book because I go left when everyone else goes right. I live my life left of the dial. I’m the creative oddball in a family of Republicans.

The stupidity coming out of some people’s mouths makes no sense to me. Ignorance and narrow-mindedness come from all quarters. I don’t understand this psychobabble still in evidence in 2015.

What passes for normal in society I don’t think is normal. The ongoing hate is not normal. The perpetual violence is not normal.

This is a long and winding intro to what I really wanted to talk about: stuff I don’t like coming from the pages of women’s magazines.

The May 2015 issue of Lucky magazine features an all-white clothes fashion spread.

You will not catch me wearing head-to-toe white. I reluctantly bought a pair of white wedge sandals with a band like high heel mules. Are those shoes called mules? Anyhow: they arrived at my apartment and they looked cheap. I could not believe how cheap they looked.

The Lucky fashion spread featured tacky white clothes. I don’t care if they’re designer and cost a mint: I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. I do not want to risk looking like an escapee from an asylum. Or like a doctor in an asylum wearing a white lab coat.

Circa 1993 I wore all white on a first date. I met the guy through a personal ad in New York Press: the precursor to online dating. Big mistake. I wound up paying for dinner. Take a tip from me: wear white on a date only if it’s a button-down shirt with the top buttons undone to reveal a camisole underneath with a short denim skirt or other short skirt.

White is not a color for clothing choices that ever looks more expensive than it is. Leave that honor to black clothes. Black clothes are instantly more fashion-forward.

Clinton Kelly in his book Oh No She Didn’t: 100 Fashion Mistakes Women Make derided women who wear white [Boca] sandals. Apparently women residing in Boca Raton make the mistake of wearing a certain kind of white sandal with a square heel that announces they’re from Boca.

I was wearing head-to-toe black long before other women took to doing this. All through college in the 1980s, the only outfits I wore were black.

I also don’t eat blanc mange / white food because it’s not healthful food. Except for string cheese and cauliflower I grant you that.

White just isn’t right in so many ways.

Life In Color

This is for the ladies: a review of Life in Color by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo.

This team are the Visual Therapy luxury brand consultants and stylists whose assistants offer image consulting to women.

The beauty of this singular book is that it contains the StyleType quiz and the ColorType quiz so that you can determine your StyleType among the five and your ColorType among the four.

The StyleTypes are classic, whimsical, bohemian, chic, and avant-garde. The ColorTypes are sun, moon, earth, and star.

The quizzes are eerily accurate. The ColorTypes are an improved version of the ColorMeBeautiful four seasons of color theory.

Best: at the end of the book are swatches of colors you can use when you go shopping. For each StyleType, the authors list the retail stores you can shop at to be in synch with your style.

I recommend Life in Color as the number-one image book of its kind. Certain colors like coral and turquoise are listed as universal colors for all women.

By the way, I’m a Chic Star. The quizzes are foolproof. The best parts of the book are the lists of the retail stores suitable for your StyleType and the color swatches.

The book also details the best makeup shades for each ColorType.

This is not a matter of world peace yet I have no doubt that this matters in its own way.

Why confine yourself to black or other drab colors?

Life in Color: the way to go.

Old Schmatte Blues

A person who is paying good money for an item of clothing should not have to accept defective quality.

I bought 3 P XS (2-4) Lands End tee shirts two weeks ago. One tee shirt was labeled P XS and it was obviously a regular size L because it was huge.

As soon as I e-mailed Lands End via their website contact form I received a response: they had shipped out a replacement that I would receive within 5 days. Five days later the tee shirt arrived in the correct fit.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Lands End.

The interesting thing is years ago my mother found me a Lands End fleece jacket marked a 10 and it was obviously a 6 because it fit me.

This isn’t as untenable as the Liz Claiborne coat I bought two weeks ago too. It was reduced from its in-season selling price of $200. I didn’t realize until I was at the tailor’s having the sleeves hemmed that the right sleeve top where the sleeve meets the shoulder is puffed up. The left sleeve lies flat at the shoulder.

A Liz Claiborne coat should not have this manufacturing flaw. It is obvious and odd to me yet I’m going to keep the coat since it cost only $92 after tax. Yet still. You’re paying good money for a coat it should be perfect.

The thing is that the factory workers should be paid more to encourage the correct sewing of an item. I’d gladly pay $200 for the Liz Claiborne coat if it was free of manufacturing flaws.

Our manufacturing jobs were sent overseas. If this trend of poor quality continues I might try to buy more American-born clothes that were created here and sewn here.

I realize this is not a matter of world peace. I realize that a ton of Americans are going hungry or are homeless. I just find it interesting that these poor quality items Made in China or elsewhere are winding up on our shores.

The Lands End tee shirts, interestingly, were Made in Jordan. No kidding.

I will end here and return in the future with another retail mishap that is not funny. You can laugh at a sizing mistake. You can laugh at a puffed sleeve. Other things: not so fast.

I’ll Drink To That

Betty Halbreich is an institution.

She’s 86 and has been the manager of Solutions, Bergdorf Goodman’s personal shopper service, for over 30 years. She hasn’t exercised a day in her life yet lives to be 86. Betty pounded the floors at Bergdorf’s all these years, snatching up hangers of clothes in her arms that are amazingly muscular because she’s carried clothes in them for 30 years.

I’ll Drink to That is Halbreich’s memoir: A Life in Fashion, with a Twist.

On the front cover, she wears a gray wool cape without holes for the arms. She wears dark lipstick and her carriage reminds me of a goldfinch, like the bird memorialized in Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch.

More than that, the cape Betty wears reminds me of a fashionable straitjacket. Halbreich spent six months in Payne Whitney after her marriage flamed out. The other patients told he she didn’t belong there because she was dressed in fashion and looked elegant even while locked on a ward.

The cape she wears and its symbolism to me also remind me of a dancer I saw perform in the Martha Graham dance piece “Lamentation.” The dancer wore some kind of dress that might have been spandex and she was locked inside the dress and moving around as if she was trying to get out of the dress.

Betty Halbreich’s true gift to the world and to the women she serves is that she can coordinate outfits that make us look divine. This is a gift like any other gift. Some of us were given the gift of language and writing. Others were given the gift of athletic ability. Every human being living on earth has gifts to use to better themselves and others in the world.

Betty’s gift was to uplift women and bring us joy through how we fashion ourselves in our clothes.

I recommend reading this book because it offers a rare glimpse into-yes-A Life in Fashion, with a Twist.

I will return in here over the weekend with a rant about the sorry state of fashion today.

Betty at the end of her book was right: fashion isn’t what it used to be. Designers are out of touch with the needs of ordinary women. And finding high-quality, right-fitting clothes at a decent price is near impossible today.

Rock on, Betty.