Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celestial Style

Ancient white dwarf stars in the Milky Way galaxy and a celestial look from Dolce and Gabbana's 2011 fall ready-to-wear line.  One was captured by the Hubble space telescope and the other was not. 
I'm sorry to say I missed the much prophesied perigee moon on March 19th. On this night the moon's orbital position came closest to Earth (221,565 miles to be exact) right at the peak of its fullness and was supposed to appear 15% larger than an average full moon. I ran out of the house several times that evening, but skies over Ocean Beach remained stubbornly smothered in clouds. Oh well. Only two more decades til my next chance.
This is apparently how cool the perigee moon looked over Washington D.C. Photo by NASA. 
For posting's sake, let's imagine we all saw the giganto moon and were moved beyond words. Space isn't the easiest thing to wrap your brain around. We've seen dazzling images of nebulas and super novas, but these phenomena occur so, soooo far away and are so much grander than our own speck-of-dust planet they are almost unreal. It practically takes an act of enlightenment or meditation to grapple with the hugeness of it all. For example, take the Hubble photograph below...

This is the Bug Nebula. (Although NASA also likes to call it by its cute pet name, NGC 6302.) It's formed by a dying star cloaked in a blanket of hailstones... and is 4000 lightyears away! Cue brain explosion. Humans have a tough time with big picture things in general. (If we didn't, laws to control greenhouse gas emissions would get top priority, and companies would be sued for using styrofoam.) Due to this innate megalophobia suffered by our species, any attempt to foster an appreciation for the cosmos is an act worth applauding. Which is why I'm a big fan of Dolce and Gabbana and my Dad. (Bet  you didn't see that coming.)
I could wear the dress in the middle everyday. And how daring is Dolce and Gabbana... pushing both stars and designer fanny-packs in the same show?! Tres Ballsy.
I'm proud of Dolce for opting for a starry theme for their new fall collection. They, along with Armani in 2010 and the very creative Macedonian designer Risto Bimbiloski are brave enough to flaunt wearable, space-inspired looks beyond Trekkie pantsuits. (Not to say there is anything wrong with a well-tailored Star Fleet pantsuit -- especially when worn by 7 of 9. That reference is for you, geeks-who-also-read-fashion-blogs.)
Armani's 2010 fall couture collection was a game of "Spot the Moon."  Can you find the hidden crescents in each look? Well done! Gold star. 
Speaking of the moon, designer Risto Bimbiloski noted, "I just got a new telescope and I watch her from my window.  I think it's something that's kind of interconnecting everybody, and it's there all the time, so it's inevitable as an inspiration."
Ok, enough fashion. Are you ready for the shameless plug? I also mention my dad in this piece because if it were not for him I wouldn't have 90% of this aforementioned appreciation of the cosmos. Anyone who meets my dad easily recognizes him as a guy with a lot of interests and a lot of passion. He is especially fantastic at keeping his two greatest passions (aside from his beautiful family, of course) a very active part of his life -- namely, space and radio. Hence his self-written, directed and hosted weekly half hour show, Planetary Radio, which he's been producing for about 8 and a half years for the Planetary Society. Each week he checks in with Bill Nye the Science Guy as well as astronomers, engineers, astronauts and science fiction actors and authors to discuss what is going on in the world of space exploration. Give it a listen and feed your space IQ by clicking here! (I'd recommend the March 14th  show where he interviews a folk singer who writes about how the hugeness of space can put life in perspective.)

And now for the ultimate embodiment of space-meeting-style (or at least space-meeting-every-nerd's-lycra-fantasy), a certain lady cyborg... 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Visual Vitamin-C

Does anyone know this flower? My biologist husband knows every obscure California native plant down to their stamens and pistils, but none of the pretty ones at the Hillcrest Farmers' Market. Ooooo! Burrrrrn botanical community!

Rain is on its way to San Diego. Again. Which is why I'm dishing out a pre-emptive dose of visual vitamin-C. When the clouds arrive and you start to despair that summer is JUST NEVER GOING TO COME AND RESCUE US, think back on this post. We have to sit tight in our quadruply-layered thermal fleece zip-ups and know in our heart of hearts that these gray days are numbered. Stay steadfast California!! In the meantime, remember that studies (and last July's Real Simple magazine) show people's moods can be recharged simply by staring at a brightly colored photo. With that in mind, feel free to soak in the orangey brilliance of the following images.

Glowing bird-of-paradise in Encinitas. I spy some ants.
Deliciously-hued arm candy, brought to you by Proenza Schouler in their 2011 fall collection. Photo by Tommy Ton of the wondrous blog.
Sampling of some flowers and plants from our garden and a bird card. Cause birds are so hot right now.
From left to right: Prabal Gurung, Julien Macdonald and Gucci -- all are spring 2011 ready-to-wear collections.
Bouquet of extra sunny ranunculus (ranunculi?) at the Hillcrest Market.
One of the first poppies I saw this spring. The shoe that looks to be made out of phoenix is Dior, and the other is Sigerson Morrison.
And a blinking, whiskery nasturtium -- one of the hundreds currently peeking around in the yard.
Are you well saturated? Good. Bring it, rain!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Fashion Plays "The Glad Game"

Of course Pollyanna's happy! She gets to live in a mansion, and her rich aunt encourages shopping sprees!
Abe Lincoln (via Karl Malden as the minister from Pollyanna) once said, "If you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it." I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's wonderful book The Happiness Project recently and have been very struck by the simple realization that if you set yourself up to be happy and find beauty then you will. I don't mean turning your town's grumpy citizens into an all-out love-your-neighbor-fest (although who better to do that than cherub-faced Hayley Mills?), but by finding little joys in very small things you can sometimes scrounge up enough inspiration to turn a day around.

Gucci spring ready-to-wear, meet the chipping paint on my neighbor's garage. Chipping paint, meet Gucci.
A somewhat roundabout example is this new game where I photograph average things that remind me of an outfit or pattern. Instantly, peeling paint becomes mosaic ikat designs, and gross oil slicks become Proenza Schouler.  It's fun, and -- without delving further into the "Glad Game" analogy -- by applying my macro settings to the everyday, an extra bit of goodness is revealed.

Illusion dress from Proenza Schouler's 2010 spring ready-to-wear line and oil in a gutter. Ooooooo!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To Market, To Market!

Radishes in Hillcrest, my husband helping to display spearmint in Little Italy, and a pot of edibles, also in Lil' I.
One simple activity that brings me a lot of joy is visiting farmers' markets. The friendly hustle and bustle of people sampling new fruits and chatting with farmers about the difference between this kale and that, paninis being grilled, bouquets getting wrapped and dogs sniffing everything makes for a very heart-happy spectacle.

My greyhound, Ronan, is a big fan of the canine-friendly Ocean Beach street fair.
Giant proteas at the OB market. Me with my prized Thai basket-bag walking to the Hillcrest market this past Sunday.

San Diego is blessed with open-air markets in different neighborhoods every day of the week. (To see a schedule, click here.) I haven't been to them all -- there are 35 total -- but so far, my three favorites are Hillcrest on Sunday, Little Italy on Saturday and Ocean Beach on Wednesday. Read on for my scoring guides, as well as looks from three fashion queens whose unique styles best exemplify each market's atmosphere.

Hillcrest, for the hipster who likes to garden 'n gnosh 
With her arsenal of hipster-femme looks and a good eye for vintage, Rachel Bilson definitely belongs in Hillcrest. Incidentally, you can easily recreate all these outfits with pieces from Buffalo Exchange and Flashbacks -- both found in the 92103!
Hillcrest Market Pros: Terrific variety of ready-to-eat food including Saranya Thai (who catered our wedding), Greek gyros and falafel, Ethiopian meat dishes, French pastries, paninis, crepes, oyster shooters and lots of veggie and vegan options. There's a good selection of high-quality/low-price jewelry, accessories and body care products, that make for great birthday gifts. Fantastic people watching! Thanks to a thriving art scene and gay-friendly neighborhoods, Hillcrest is a mecca of creative fashion and liberal ideals.  Hence, a high vintage-dress-to-girl ratio and everyone brings their own canvas produce bags.

Hillcrest Market Cons: Parking can be difficult if you arrive during peak hours, and they don't allow dogs.

Little Italy, for the downtown gourmande
Rachel Zoe's sleek, lady-about-town looks fit well in the design-obsessed streets of Little Italy. (Plus, my blondie friend Aaryn lives there, and she has a hairstyle exactly like Zoe's.)
Little Italy Market Pros: More gourmet espresso carts than you can count and an overall heightened swank factor. Vendors have a good deal of space between them which makes the market less claustrophobic than others. Similar food selection as Hillcrest, but you'll also find a great fresh-made pasta booth featuring flavors like sun-dried tomato, pesto, lemongrass and mushroom. There's a good number of craft merchants selling fair-trade and eco-friendly goods including cloth satchels, Rwandan baskets and kitchenware from Seven Hopes United. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome.

Little Italy Market Cons: Lacks a little of the hippy ease other markets enjoy.

Ocean Beach, for the bohemian in need of a sage fix
With her palette of international prints and relaxed gypsy-chic vibe, Nicole Richie's boho style fits right in at the OB street fair. She may, however, want to roll around in a little patchouli before going.
OB Market Pros: Are you a lover of humanity? If you don't mind being extra close and personal with cheerful folks of the tattoo and dreadlocks variety then you're in the right place. This market is flipped inside out, so the vendors are all in Newport Avenue while shoppers snake shoulder-to-shoulder down the sidewalks on either side. Add in the fact that one out of every four people is towing either a dog or an instrument and you have yourself quite the party. There's more than a few incense and glass-blowing booths, and you'll have no problem stocking up on yerba mate tea, granola, fresh ceviche, feather earrings, hula hoops and "OB Pride" tank tops -- which of course come in dog sizes. Plus they have llama rides!!

OB Market Cons: Can be a tad overwhelming what with the cramped walkways and plumes of sage smoke. After a loop around the block I suggest you retire to the boardwalk and watch the waves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sugar and Grace and Everything Lace

The Ice Queen Cometh... summoned by Givenchy's Spring 2010 couture collection.
Well, my summer freak-out was a little premature as yesterday dipped back to the low 60s and was joined by matte gray skies and on and off showers. Foo. So if you can't beat 'em ("em," in this case, being Mother Nature -- the inherently unbeatable) join 'em. Hence a post celebrating winter, lacy snowflakes and everything frosty. (Haha! Like I, a born and bred Southern Californian knows what frost is. You jest.)

I saved these cafe doilies from destruction specifically to make into snowflakes.
As a matter of fact, last week it was so cold the rain turned to hail and nearly pulverized our tomatoes. It lasted for all of 11 minutes and looked something like this:

Needless to say the tomato plants survived. Now, flip over to the opposite coast where the elements are a little less benign but much more reminiscent of the Winter Wonderlands of yore. My good friend from high school, Brigid (or Brigitte, as we called her in French class), is a teacher and lives with her husband in New York City. Thankfully, Brigid is a season-lover, otherwise scenes like this one around her school's neighborhood would go unappreciated. Talk about "in the lane, snow is glistenin'!"

Not to be outdone by Madam Nature, fashion runways seem to have warmed to this delicately white aesthetic and showed off more than a few collections where ivories and lace played feature roles.

Above looks are all from Dolce and Gabbana's spring 2011 ready-to-wear collection.

Pretty, right?! One thing I like about these lace designs is that they use a material that's traditionally associated with Spanish widows and grandmas in a very fresh, hip, young way. Wear your hair down and pair with a piece of chunky turquoise jewelry and some flat, natural leather sandals and you've got one stunning spring outfit. (Of course you'd also have to stock up on bleach or invest in a good dry cleaner,  because these virginal whites are just begging for Tapatio stains.)

Alexander McQueen's new head designer, Sarah Burton, channeled more snow queen than springtime virgin in her fall 2011 ready-to-wear show in Paris. Billows of silk organza and tulle soften what might have otherwise been a pretty icy show, and intricately gathered patterns resemble a rich tapestry of goose down. Incidentally, the McQueen gowns serve as both priceless art pieces as well as sleeping bags built to rival the REI "polar pod". That's something for Tilda Swinton to add to her next Narnia contract. 

Alright winter, that's quite enough homage for you! Now make like a frozen banana and split!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ready to be Sun-Drenched

All hail the California gods! It topped 70 degrees today and it's still only early March! Woo hoo! Better shave my legs and starting packing jackets into the garage because it's almost SUNDRESS SEASON, the greatest time of the year. I've already been getting a hankering for some flowy 70s styles after seeing this little blue beauty at Anthropologie, aka The Most Magnificent Store in the World*.
The goddesses of Anthropologie have dubbed this the Chroma Reflections Maxi Dress. (It looks better on.)

That dress, plus the stripey, Mediterranean-hued frocks from Ferragamo's 2011 Resort show, plus the small stacks of Victoria's Secret swimsuit catalogues accumulating in our living room make me all-too-ready for summer to just start already.
Tasty looks from Massimiliano Giornetti's 2011 resort collection for Salvatore Ferragamo
Now, as much as I'd love to flounce around in Bougainvillea-painted silk gowns and leather espadrilles all through September (see below for Marc Jacobs dream outfits), my San Diego zip code dictates a nearly religious devotion to "casual dress." Which is wonderful if you plan on going to the beach (I AM!), but after a while, the daily uniform of tees, shorts and Toms gets a little uninspired.
A bouquet of Marc Jacobs Spring 2011 ready-to-wear gowns.
So this summer I vow to push a little farther in the glamour realm -- because until the day when I can teleport into the streets of Cinque Terre, it's the next best way to bring Italian panache to me!

Rest assured, I'll be whipping out my trusty Toms the moment my feet start to protest heels.
Image I sent in to the Toms online photo gallery... which they never flippin' posted. That's okay Toms! I still love you and your do-gooder hipster shoes!

* I've had serious fantasies of living in one of those stores. (Ala Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.) Imagine waking up in a sapling-inspired bed, no doubt adorned in antique lightbulbs or birch branches, or moss or something wonderful like that. You have plenty of great books to read as you sit upon embroidered chaise lounges. The air always smells of flowers and spice, and all your drawers are filled with white beans (Why? Because how else are you going to display your collection of international porcelain knobs?!). Not to mention you're surrounded by clothes crafted out of nothing less than angel tears.  Gah!
My dream bed waiting for me at Anthropologie.

The Nature of Things

Chanel Fall 2010 Couture and White Bottlebrush Bark

The days leading up to San Diego's most recent storm (this term is used very, very lightly considering most of the country has been covered in snow for 4 months) provided some fantastic light for taking photos.  I've been trying to get in the habit of keeping my camera on me, and like how much more aware I am of my surroundings with it in my hand. All of a sudden, everything seems snapshot-worthy -- a realization which usually results in way too many pictures of my dog. (Omigod! Look at how he's sleeping! He's never done that before! Take a picture!!) Yesterday, while walking said dog, I saw this terrific twisting white bottlebrush tree, and got some nice photos of the papery-thin, peeling bark. Now, however doubtful it may be that Karl Lagerfeld had Melaleuca quinquenervia in mind while designing Chanel's 2010 fall couture collection, I like imagining that some entry-level fashion illustrator had tree bark on the brain during the early sketch-stages of these dresses. In any case, it makes for a fun matching game and an awfully glamourous example of style imitating nature.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Grandma the Style Icon

A very early inspiration of mine (for fashion and many other things) was (still is!) my grandma. For as long as I can remember, excluding early morning hours when she’s in Jazzercise garb, she has been done up. Colorful scarves, long necklaces, big Jackie-O sunglasses and shoes -- wonderful, wonderful shoes.  My younger sister and I grew up going to our grandparents’ huge mountain home in Idyllwild where countless hours were spent in the woods, playing Indians and dragging fallen saplings down to the creek for a never-complete fort. We added water to ground-up charcoal to make black war paint and paddled down rapids in our “canoe” (actually a rickety old hammock).

Time not spent outdoors mashing up acorns and thinking of appropriate Indian names was spent in the upstairs master bedroom of the house, inside my grandmother’s closet. There, we had free reign to dress up in whatever we wished. (Amazing, and very trusting lady, right?) A floor-to-ceiling shelf packed with high-heeled shoes was stacked so high you needed a ladder to reach the top boxes.  Drawers were stuffed with silky lace slips – perfect damsel dresses. Belts, scarves, and even some fur jackets hung within reach, and costume jewelry was all at our disposal. Needless to say it was a wonderland -- the ultimate dress-up box. (And that’s saying something, considering the sizable collection of dress-up clothes I'd accumulated at home.)

My sister, grandma (in jade and pearls) and me at my wedding in 2009. Photo by Aaron Thompson.
My grandparents now live in Palm Desert, and although her closet has been downsized considerably, my grandma still appears in smartly styled outfits simply for the grand event of reading on the couch or walking the length of the weekend street fair with my grandpa.  Her feet – permanently arched from decades of high-heels – have never been without nail polish. She always notices my new watches and purses, and shares the story behind her Dooney and Bourke handbags with me like it’s a language only she and I speak.  My grandma knows what I’m still discovering, --that fashion is not a set of rules or a competition. It’s a way to make the everyday extraordinary and color your life the way you want to live it!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Inherently Styled

Fashion has always played a part in my life. Not to say that from birth I was all that interested in what was the new black or the new pointed toe or animal print. Staying ahead of the curve, vogue-wise, is rarely tantamount in my book.  What I find most thrilling about style is the way it boosts your personality and reflects the way you feel. Picking out your own clothes when you're little is probably the first true expression of self. You don't even need to be able to talk to express to your parents that you'd prefer the purple leotard over the blue one.  Case in point... When lego and Lincoln Log-loving Mom put my two-year-old self in corduroys before a trip to the park I looked in the mirror and immediately started to weep for a dress. (To her credit, my mother has never indulged nor fought against my stylistically princess tendencies.)

Getting dressed in the morning has always been about what I find fun and exciting to wear -- who will I become when I put on a specific combination of clothes? Am I a dark, sleek business ingenue, a fringed bohemian queen, a skirt-swishing tribute to true-waisted, floral-printed 50s womanhood, or a sun-faded, neon bikini-clad California sun-worshipper? Fashion has the power to invigorate my mood and self-confidence, and I have the strong inkling this is the role it plays in most men and women's lives.

See how happy I am?? It's because of the yellow Tibetan scarf and printed cotton pants. The fact I've just ordered a scoop of chocolate-hazelnut gelato at Chocolat also helps.
Finding inspiration for my fashion choices is almost as much fun as wearing the finished outfit. I am a great lover of people-watching and have pretty-much categorized each area of my city (San Diego) according to what kind of people-watching can be done in each neighborhood. I also love making collages of beautiful images I find in magazines -- mostly my two favorites, Elle and National Geographic. In a partial effort to cull my enormous magazine collection, I'm hoping this blog will be a good place to deposit my inspirations, favorite images and ideas in one place. That's about all it is for now. But who knows?