29 August 2002
Targeted marketing

It's apparently impossible to keep track of every single nuance of popular, or for that matter unpopular, culture. A video producer from UC Davis was shopping at a Target store in Elk Grove, California when he happened upon a pair of shorts imprinted with the double-8 symbol embraced by neo-Nazis and other dumb Klux. He informed the store manager and passed the word on to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who turned up the heat. Target is now busily pulling all the pertinent merchandise off the racks.

It could have been worse. At least there weren't any lawsuits involved.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 AM)
Targeted marketing, too

What is this, Nazi Nostalgia Month? British sportswear manufacturer Umbro had the temerity to name a new shoe Zyklon Beige, which presumably was not any kind of nod to the Reich's gas chambers, but geez, are memories this short these days?

Umbro, of course, will be dropping the line, or at least its designation.

Now who's going to be the first to boycott Volkswagen?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:23 AM)
21 February 2003
She's a doll

Guys of a certain age and/or a certain mindset have no use for Barbie, except as part of a punchline. "But Daddy, she's so popular!" "Popular? How so? Every friend she has, you have to buy for her!" We don't really relate to Barbie: we pop open a Foster's and throw a couple of shrimp her way, and that's that.

So I'm naturally mystified when a Barbie Collectibles catalog shows up at my mailbox. I think, "Well, yeah, those old dolls with their period outfits, they probably bring a few bucks these days." But I don't throw it away, and after a couple of days I work up the nerve to see what all is being offered.

And holy mother of pearl, will you look at this stuff! Serene enough for Merchant-Ivory, hotter than Beyoncé, seemingly every conceivable fashion idiom of the last thousand years clings to that 39-21-40 shape. And while the cynical side of me thinks, "Yeah, this is a way to get someone to pay ninety-five bucks for a doll, fercrissake," I have a sneaking suspicion that outfitting a workaday Barbie for a seven-year-old girl probably isn't any less expensive.

Maybe I ought to get the Lady Camille. "Champagne-colored jacquard, lace-trimmed chiffon and strands of faux pearls envelope this dainty figure in the absolute splendor of [the Neoclassical] period of art." Okay, she just stands there. But she's got The Look, and I don't argue with The Look. Not now, not ever. I don't care if it's Mattel; it's swell.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 AM)
11 May 2003
Buck Floomberg

Actually, I don't know anybody by that name, but it gives me an opportunity to plug a T-shirt that is, shall we say, somewhat critical of the Mayor of the City of New York, and which incidentally can be had at The Store at NewYorkish.com.

(Via suck-my-big.org)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:40 PM)
24 May 2003
Not a brief commentary

Do you dare to wear...the Underwear of Love?

(Note: Typically for a Saturday morning, I am typing this while, um, unclad. Having read the above piece, I am now almost afraid to get dressed.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:25 AM)
In thrall to King Gillette

Over at Visionary Darkness, a fellow identified as "—RoG—" says that the razor industry is sticking it to us guys:

We've all seen the commercials for these high tech shavers like the "Mach 3 Turbo" where the guy shaves...perfectly with one swipe of the blade. It's so obvious that he doesn't have ANY whiskers to begin with (either he hasn't gone through puberty or he had a laser hair removal treatment), all they do is cover-up his face with shaving cream so that when he runs the razor through it, it looks as though he's getting an amazingly close shave.

And that ain't the half of it:

$17.00 for a pack of eight measly replacement razor cartridges? At that insane price, are you really gonna listen to the "indicator strip" and throw out your razor when THEY tell you to? Or are you going to REALLY get your money's worth out of each razor? I've been using the same razor for 6 months and the "indicator strip" fell off a long time ago.

For the record, the Schick Slim Twin, or whatever the hell it's called, lasts me about a month, and it costs less than a dollar apiece. But there is, of course, a far more effective solution, albeit one that would have never occurred to us because we are, after all, guys:

[S]tart using women's razors. Why? Because these cheap things are way sharper than the best men's razor. Think about it... these razors aren't made to shave a small area like a face, they're for shaving an entire LEG. Hell, TWO LEGS! Yeah, yeah, I know the whole "pink" thing isn't that appealing to most men, but if I can get a good shave for a decent price, I don't care if child labor slaves made 'em. And these things are very cheap in comparison: Pink "Daisy" Razors cost 5 bux a pack or less for TEN RAZORS!

This would seem to be the answer — the price is right, and if someone thinks I'm a wuss or if someone thinks I actually have a girlfriend, it's immaterial to me — but we're coming back to the original issue here: why should we believe any of the ad hype? Women in razor ads come off like Barbie with bendable knees; peach fuzz is a jungle by comparison. (She Who Is Not To Be Named once complained to the effect that substantial regrowth took place in the time it took to exit the bathroom, which strikes me as something of an exaggeration, although I would dearly love to research this matter further.)

I have just checked inventory, and I have seven Schick Slim Twins left. Remind me to take up this issue again around Christmas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:39 PM)
10 July 2003
Shin feigned

World War II demanded sacrifices from everyone — it was a world war, after all — and as irreplaceable materials were diverted to the war effort, we learned to do without. Silk and nylon stockings were a lot less essential than, say, parachutes, and they promptly disappeared from the shelves. Hosiery mills rushed out substitutes such as Kayser's "Victoray" rayons, which weren't particularly strong or especially popular; cosmetics firms brought out coverup makeup. (Truffaut's The Last Metro, set during the Occupation, contains a scene in which the latter is used to, um, interesting effect.)

Then the war ended and shortages were filled with actual supplies and this sort of stuff was forgotten. These days, even hosiery seems to be forgotten; fashion magazines are full of implausibly (and possibly artificially-enhanced) perfect bare legs, and in the real world, legs are less perfect but no less bare.

Enter the Japanese, with a product called Air Stocking. For around $12, you get twenty applications of a spray-on powder that supposedly does a fair imitation of the real thing. It's an enormous commercial success, and while I'd hesitate to speculate as to whether this product could be a hit in the States, Venomous Kate seems to like the idea, and as She Who Is Not To Be Named can — but probably won't — testify, I tend not to argue with women with legs to die for.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 PM)
31 July 2003
Razor burned

So we're gathered in the Hostility — er, Hospitality — Room, and one of the guys (not me) has gotten himself into a position where one pant leg is rolled up to about here, and one woman grumbles something to the effect that "Will you look at this? Doesn't even grow on him, and we have to fight with the razor every day. Is this fair?"

In an effort to create a diversion, I revealed my own sparse shin growth, thereby providing myself with an excuse to check out the collection of female gams on display, which ranged from not bad at all to jaw-droppingly incredible.

Of course, this complaint is far from uncommon. Meryl Yourish, who by all accounts has a fabulous set of stems herself, has gone so far as to call for genetic engineering; by proper tweakage of the human female genome, she hopes, women of the future will not have to contend with the tedious, occasionally painful, process of depilation. I, of course, endorse this plan, if only because I have to have something to live for.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:42 AM)
28 September 2003
Casting a glance askance

Fishnets.

They're back.

Of course, in some segments of the culture they never went away, but this fall they're just this side of ubiquitous; they've even shown up in an American Express print ad, fergoshsakes, and you can't get much more mainstream than Amex.

And if it's not due to Chicago, goths resurgent, or lingering love for Dr Frank N. Furter, what's the deal?

I may be quite alone among the world's skelophiles in this regard, but I have never, ever grasped the appeal of fishnets. I have been fortunate enough over the years to have met a small number of women with incredible legs, and not once have I found myself thinking, "Gee, I wonder what she'd look like if you overlaid a pattern of polygons upon her."

(Aside: This is probably the only context in which I'll ever be able to use the term "overlaid".)

Maybe someone else can explain this phenomenon to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 PM)
25 December 2003
A blanket you wear

Kimberly Swygert got one of these as a gift, and she says it's "the least erotic item of women's clothing that I've ever seen."

I dunno. I'm pretty sure it's at least a couple of head-turns more interesting than the traditional burqa, especially if it's draped over a Major Babe like Dr. Swygert.

But even clothing at the other extreme has its limitations, as James Lileks once noted:

Let us be frank about the purpose of lingerie.... It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time — and I am trying to be delicate about this — then it is not doing its job.

Beyond this, deponent saith not.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:38 PM)
10 January 2004
Fuel for the sole

Jennifer Alfano, in the February Harper's Bazaar:

The following statistic will either make you laugh with guilt-tinged understanding or cause you to think I am a victim of mass consumption. $23,159. It is not the sum left on my mortgage; it is the amount I have spent on shoes in the past eight years — not including sneakers, flip-flops (except one Hermès pair) or the dozens of shoes I've tired of and parted with.

Quite apart from the fact that twenty-three K would make a huge hole in my mountain of debt, this is a fairly startling number, if only because I don't think I've spent that much on all items of clothing combined in the thirty-two years I've had to buy my own.

Then again, sixteen pages away in the same issue, "Shoes of the Season" features six pair one supposedly must have, and having them will cost a total of $3510. What's worse, none of them, at least to my eyes, seem all that compelling; the best of the bunch, a rounded-throat pump from Prada, earns that status merely by having no blatantly hideous faults. (Manolo Blahnik is conspicuous in this group by his absence, and I didn't see any flip-flops, from Hermès or anyone else.)

This is, I suppose, one of those things I'm not supposed to understand, like the item I found today in the supermarket labeled "Free Range Chicken Broth". How the hell did they get it into the can?

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:39 PM)
24 March 2004
You must be this old to read this book

Harper's Bazaar has a recurring feature called "Fabulous at Every Age," which presents fashion and beauty tips for women from twentysomething to sixty and beyond who can afford the sort of stuff that's featured in Harper's Bazaar.

This time around, though, they're undercutting their own message. The April cover duly announces the "Fabulous..." content in large print, but behind that announcement is a gloriously lovely photo (by Patrick Demarchelier) of... Drew Barrymore?

Not to put the knock on Drew, who is fabulous in her own right — a woman with a past is almost always more appealing when you sense she has a future — but she's only twenty-nine. I assume they had the cover story in the can and needed to get it out there while it was still fresh, but I suspect that someone 39 or 49 with a sense of foreboding about that next birthday is not at all likely to be reassured by the presence of someone she thinks of as a kid.

By the way, in "Accessories for Every Age," women my age (which is just beyond 50) are encouraged to go for highly-decorated bags, the simplest and least-substantial shoes, and "major" diamonds.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 PM)
22 July 2004
Party dressing

Maureen Dowd makes it into the August Harper's Bazaar with an article titled "Democrats or Republicans: Who Dresses Best?"

I'm not inclined to draw any conclusions myself, but here are some pertinent quotes culled from the Dowd piece. From Stephanie Cutter, director of communications for the Kerry campaign:

With Democrats, you can get some stilettos, some Manolo Blahniks, things that are more Sex and the City. Republicans are more Friends.

I suspect Ann Coulter might disagree. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, sees it this way:

For liberals, it's socially acceptable to dress like libertines. Republican girls look better in such costumes because deep in their hearts they suspect that the look is a sin, a concession to the grossly oversexed culture that they spend their day jobs lamenting. What enhances their appearance is the eroticism of complicity.

Meanwhile, Robin Givhan, fashion editor of The Washington Post, sees convergence of a sort:

The stereotype has been that Republicans tend to go for the fur and big jewels and more obvious expressions of wealth, while Democrats tend to be less flashy and have a more Midwestern kind of reserve. But I don't think that really applies now that you look at Teresa [Heinz Kerry], the Queen of Chanel, and Laura [Bush], who wears Oscar de la Renta and looks practically nauseous when the subject of her clothes comes up.

Not to say that Mrs Bush is dowdy, as Dowd herself points out:

Laura Bush is a pretty woman who always dresses appropriately. It wouldn't suit her to be too glamorous or clothes obsessed; she's not a "look at me" type. She has an understated wardrobe, a sort of fetching Marian the Librarian look, that has become more stylish as she's gone along.

I'm not sure I understand "as she's gone along" — is the First Lady actually setting fashion trends? — but I can certainly understand the appeal of Marian the Librarian.

As for the pictures, well, they're here, along with my standard brand of half-baked (sometimes quarter-baked) interpretation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:27 PM)
12 August 2004
The Stepford waifs

If you're going to dress like this, you should probably not be in front of Lynn at the video store:

The first thing I noticed — the thing I would have very much preferred not to have noticed — was her sky blue, meant-to-be-seen underpants with hearts and the word "cutie" repeated around the waistband. Waistband isn't really an accurate term in this case because the top edge of the underwear was nowhere near the girl's waist. Over that garment — or perhaps I should say "below," as it was mostly below — she was wearing baggy, plaid pants that looked like men's pajama bottoms. These pajamas exposed the top two or three inches of the underwear, hanging precariously on her thin, straight hips as if by magic or perhaps they were sewn to the underwear. I don't know how else they could possibly have stayed up. To top it all off she had a thin white knit camisole and I thanked my lucky stars that I was behind her the whole time because I did not detect anything underneath, although, to judge by the rest of her, she probably didn't have anything to put in the appropriate topside undergarment if she had had one.

As far as this visible-underwear business goes, while I suppose I should appreciate a peek at something I have no reason to expect to see on a regular basis, there's still Lileks' Law of Lingerie, which I've invoked before:

It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time — and I am trying to be delicate about this — then it is not doing its job.

Some people simply ask too much of their underwear.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:02 AM)
18 August 2004
Is that a real poncho?

Or is that a Sears poncho?

After looking at the new stuff for fall in the rag mags, I'm inclined to think that fashion that isn't somewhere between absurd and abominable, be it from the Seventies or any other decade you can name, isn't really fashion at all. People with actual style tend to stick with it, year after year.

Come to think of it, that's what I do, and I have no discernible style whatsoever.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:57 AM)
3 September 2004
What is your major wardrobe malfunction?

From Heather and Jessica at Dancing Brave:

We're just sad to see Beyoncé wearing hot pants that make her legs look like tree trunks, because we like that she's curvy and we think she has major sexy potential, if only she'd lengthen her hemlines just a tad. We're sad to see people wearing stuff that looks horrible, simply because it has a particular label affixed to the inside. We're sad that little girls are going to look at Britney and think it's okay to wear a skirt that's dropping off your ass, exposing your underwear and your pubic tattoo. In essence, we're sad that naturally pretty people find ways to fug up what nature's given them.

Not that any of these people are likely to be sent to Style Court.

I mean, I like a bit of razzle-dazzle here and there, especially there, but any outfit that invites the question "What was this person thinking?" is by definition the wrong outfit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 AM)
21 September 2004
Put on your high-heeled sneakers

Dawn Eden doesn't have much nice to say about Sex and the City, and given her priorities in life, there's no reason she should.

Still, the former HBO series did have some impact on popular culture, to the extent that it's had some small but measurable effect on women's shoes, pushing them a notch or two in the direction of sheer frivolity. Not that I'm inclined to complain — I get to look, I don't have to wear — but the laws of physics sooner or later will overrule the demands of fashion.

Much later, if you're Syaffolee:

I wear running shoes approximately 99.9% of the time that I am wearing shoes.

There's a lot to be said for stability.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 AM)
16 December 2004
Sheer indifference

Over at Population Statistic, our old pal CT has been wrestling with a question he really doesn't care that much about: is hosiery obsolete?

"Since I'm not really a leg man," he says, "for me the point is moot. Do what you wanna do." Well, it's not even slightly moot for me, but I have to agree with him: do what you wanna do. Unless you're actually dating me, and I'm pretty sure you aren't, my tastes, or lack thereof, should play no role whatever in your wardrobe selection.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:53 PM)
27 February 2005
It's a bikini world

Time was when February, for sports fans, was a desolate, empty time. After football, before baseball — and long before college hoops became an industry unto itself — there wasn't much to talk about at the water cooler. (Well, yes, there used to be hockey, before its keepers decided that the take would be better if they expanded it to places where ice was something you dropped into your glass of tea, but that's another story entirely.) It was into this brief period of protracted boredom that Sports Illustrated introduced its first Swimsuit Issue. And it wasn't that big a deal, really: a pretty girl on the cover, and six pages of girls in relatively modest beachwear. But then, this was 1964.

Cut to this year's edition bounding across the newsstands, and there's a shark looking up at it. Eight years ago SI spun the swimsuits into a separate edition instead of having them share space with the basketball scores. Since then, the innovations have come fast and furious: suits painted on the models, 3-D photography (with glasses!), and, this year, actual die-cut trading cards. But on almost every page, including the smirking advertising pages, there's a definite air of "been there, done that."

This year's body-painting is actually better than last year's, with team jerseys brushed onto the young ladies, and I never grow tired of either trompe l'oeil or women without clothing, but it's time they integrated it into the rest of the (un)coverage, rather than give it its own section — the desired "Great Caesar's ghost, that woman is naked!" effect doesn't work so well if everyone in the next ten pages is likewise. And if we're going to have them skyclad, the prototype is in the same issue that introduced that body-paint section, which would be 1999; a later page shows Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (she's since had a Stamosectomy) with two suits, which are hanging, not on Rebecca, but on a makeshift clothesline.

Something else they tried this year was actual underwater photography. (Well, these are swimsuits, right?) This didn't come off well; the page with Michelle Lombardo with her beach ball looks like it was shot in a wind tunnel and then supplemented with Photoshopped "water highlights." The online photos seem to look better, perhaps for reasons of lower resolution.

No, I don't think I wasted my six bucks, but really, I'm thinking March Madness might be more entertaining. And frankly, I wonder when Swimsuit Illustrated is going to come out with an annual Sports issue.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 AM)
2 March 2005
Mild to go, before I sleep

I was flipping through the dial the other day for some reason, and I caught Florence Henderson hawking handbags on one of the shopping channels. Now past seventy, The Actress Formerly Known As Mrs. Brady is showing a few signs of being past seventy, but her hemlines, even today, remain right above her knees, which, assuming my trusty Sony Wega is giving me accurate information, I find to be very much justified.

Which is by way of saying that contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to push the envelope to get someone's attention, a position I think would be endorsed by Lileks:

Chris Rock at the Oscars. I was not offended. I did not go white as a Byrd weekend rally costume when he said naughty things. I've heard worse. I've said worse. I just think that the tone of public discourse should strive to angle up, rather than down. Others feel there's something liberating in the use of earthy, honest language. On one side, Donna Reed in a dress and pearls; on the other, a hoochie mama in a thong. I would suggest that the proper model is Donna Reed wearing a thong under the dress. Propriety in public, relaxed standards in the personal sphere.

Yeah, I know: Lenny Bruce. But Lenny got in your face for a few minutes and then disappeared back into the Village. Today it's considered a failure of the system if they're not in your face 24/7.

And you know, I don't feel at all put out at never having gotten to see June Cleaver's boob on national television.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
8 March 2005
Gimme the Delhi special

Andrea Harris is tempted to say "Hooray for Bollywood":

[A]s I was watching the videos (all culled from the huge pool of Bollywood musicals) it occurred to me that movies coming from a place where you aren't even allowed to kiss a girl, much less undress and go at it like pistons in the engine of a Pontiac Sunbird (that is being filmed under spotlights with zoom lenses to a "hot jazz" soundtrack) and where each shot of pretty dancing girls seems by law to also require regular shots of a staidly bopping turbanned and sari'ed grandpa and grandma watching from the side, are about a thousand times more erotic than the steamy, razor-shaved-to-slide-under-the-high-end-of-the-MPAA-rating-guide products of soulless Hollywood.

Rather a lot of participants in Hollywood love scenes appear to be inspired mostly by Brian Wilson's "Little Deuce Coupe": they're stroked and bored.

I guess I am saying we need more, not less, rules, because from where I am sitting grownup things like pleasures were both more exciting when they were hedged around with moats and dragons and armed guards, and were taken a lot more seriously before the era of Let It All Hang Out turned into Let Janet Hang Out Her Tit On Daytime TV.

Well, I'd say we could probably use some unwritten rules, the sort that don't wind up in court, the kind that used to govern our public conduct before the cultural arbiters came up with the idea of celebrating the deviant, the norms being tools of the patriarchy and all those other Bad Things.

One of the most fiercely erotic scenes I've ever seen on screen was in Silk Stockings, a 1957 remake of Ninotchka with Cyd Charisse as the stern lady Communist seduced by French finery and/or Fred Astaire. When she swaps out her sturdy socialist underwear for the silken delights of the City of Lights, you see scarcely any flesh at all, but then you don't have to: you know what she's feeling. Were they to film this today, they'd have the camera in so close you could see every digitally-retouched vein, with all the warmth of a speculum just out of the fridge.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big First Amendment fan, and where it says "Congress shall make no law," I'd like to think they mean it. But I'm weary of middle-school innuendo being passed off as actual examinations of human sexuality. There may indeed be folks for whom going at it like pistons in an engine is the highest form of expression, and I certainly wouldn't want them to be suppressed, but I can think of no reason why they should be celebrated either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
23 May 2005
Four-out-of-hand

Wearing a tie, report legions of guys, is uncomfortable: women should appreciate their pain, they argue, since it's very much like wearing pantyhose.

LilRed gives this the "Yeah, right" treatment:

When wearing a necktie in the scorching summer heat gives you a yeast infection, then I'll believe that a tie is just as uncomfortable as pantyhose.

So there.

Then again, I can think of no instance in my life where the presence of a tie has elicited a "Nice neck" response from women.

Oh, well. Pass the Windsorstat-7.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 AM)
29 July 2005
Oops, he wore it again

Joel over at LOOK@OKC makes this earnest plea to someone downtown:

If you are a straight man over forty (not a thirteen year old girl or a gay man), please don't wear a t-shirt with Britney Spears on it. Please. You might not know it but you've crossed that invisible line that lies between "guy in a t-shirt" and "guy people are afraid to let their children near." For the good of society please don't wear that shirt again.

I don't think it's quite as dramatic as all that — the guy with Mrs Federline's visage under his double chin could hardly look as frightening as these folks — but I must agree that it is the responsibility of all of us to avoid scaring children this way.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
13 August 2005
A fitting solution

Questions of aesthetics aside, it's probably easier for men than women when it comes to buying clothing: we specify a bunch of numbers and we get something that might actually fit, while they call off one number from a specified range and take their chances.

Not that I have any particular expertise in this realm, but I was able to comprehend Kathleen's proposal for changes in sizing for women:

While small busted women may fail to appreciate the difference, there?s an enormous body sizing difference between a woman who wears a 32DD and whose full bust measure is 38 than that of a woman who wears a 36B bra and also measures a full 38". The difference being minimally 40 if not 50 lbs of total body weight. In other words, not all inches are created equally; the blouse sized to fit a 38" chest has a much larger back than the woman wearing the DD cup needs; she needs extra inches up front, not in the back. Similarly, she doesn?t need the larger shoulders, upper arm girth or increased waist typically needed by the woman wearing a 36B bra. I realize that sizing blouses and dresses according to bra size won't solve the issues of height incorporation but further differentiations between short, average and tall could be made by those companies who have the infrastructure in their product development departments to manage these size ranges.

Considering that the "average" woman wears a 36C bra, weighs 144 lbs and is just under 5'4", I think sizing of this structure would make a dramatic difference in the fit of women's apparel.

(Aside: I think I know exactly one "average" woman.)

I seldom get into discussions of women's clothing with actual women, but once upon a time there was a young lady in the next office over who used to grumble about precisely this sort of issue. It didn't help that her particular dimensions were, um, inconsistent with the scale; I asked her once if there existed a Theory of Conservation of Sizes, and if it took someone shopping for swimsuits who wore a 6 top and an 8 bottom to cancel her out. (She gave me the "Are you out of your polyester-picking mind?" look I've seen so often before, but she was still smiling. I think.)

And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to try to pick a garment for myself based on a single number. My proportions, not surprisingly, are a tad askew: very few men six feet tall have a 28-inch inseam, and I have a spare tire, and not a compact spare at that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:25 PM)
17 August 2005
Look on my shoes, ye mighty, and puke

The Manolo, he normally has the most exquisite of tastes, but this is more than anyone should have to look at.

I can't help but think that this shoe would be massively improved by losing that cluster of petrified jelly beans around the vamp, and it might save a couple bucks off the $765 price. Lindsay Beyerstein suggests that Katherine Harris might own three pair of these, which strikes me as unlikely: nobody with vision correctable to the minimum acceptable for a driver's license would buy even two pair of these. (To make this look even bearable, you have to have legs that go on for days, presumably drawing the eyes away from the shoes. )

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:52 AM)
19 September 2005
It's gotta be the shoes

This particular pair of pumps spawned this amusing interchange:
Red pumps

Jan:   "Can you just imagine how gorgeous the gams on the woman who wears these?"

Angi:  "Yes, Gorgeous Gams, but I hope she's packing ibuprofen."

Which suggests a scenario: "Should I wear these?" "Oh, by all means. I'll carry the pill bottle."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:54 AM)
28 November 2005
Bazaar outcroppings

It's hard to imagine a magazine less relevant to my existence than Harper's Bazaar; it's aimed at (1) women (2) with a lot more money than I'll ever have (3) and the willingness to spend it on clothing, for Prada's sake.

So I just renewed it for another year, because, hey, it's about as realistic as those science-fiction magazines, and what's more, it's a whole lot cheaper. Besides, fashion is fascinating, and not just because the Bazaar version is hyperexpensive and presumably designed for women with the general contours of twelve-year-old boys; in some ways, you can read it as an informal poll of how things are going otherwise, as the Princess explains:

If there is any indication of the mood of the country, it is typically how the consumers feel: if there is a chance that they might be depressed, the mood at the mall will be sullen and low, with people crowding around the clearance racks instead of trying on bright formalwear and expensive shoes. Skirts get longer, colors get darker, and the salesclerks are rude and unforgiving. But today, shopping was pleasant for the first time in a few years. The colors on the Gap sweaters didn't fade into the background, people were conscious about saying "please," "thank you," and "excuse me," which is an oddity even inside Club Monaco. I have to take this as a positive indication.

And it's not just socioeconomic phenomena that are filtered through fashion. In the December issue, Maureen Dowd (of course) draws a bead on the unfortunate (according to feminist theory) fact that Looks Matter:

It's still a catch-22 for women. If you pay too much attention to fashion and looks, you may be deemed superficial; if you don't pay enough, you may be deemed sloppy.

And here she quotes a friend of hers in the D.C. establishment:

"I'm constantly asked by my male colleagues ... how much I spend on shoes and how many pairs I own. Do I ask them what they spent on their super-high-tech home-movie theaters? No. It makes me defensive."

I'm not even going to try to decide whether a $3000 HDTV is worth more or less than five pairs of Manolo Blahniks at $600 each.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
6 January 2006
Keeping instep

Nick Lachey says he used to walk around in Jessica Simpson's shoes.

Immediate reaction:

  • She obviously isn't a petite size 6B;
  • There's hope for Maureen Dowd yet.

Incidentally, shoes of identical length, if size X in a man's style, are size (X + 1.5) in a woman's style — at least, on the American scale.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:53 PM)
9 February 2006
Killer shoes

5-inch stilettoOkay, they're a little bit on the high side — a five-inch heel, which not everyone can pull off with aplomb — but one Dax Moy, a British "health and fitness chief," arguably the greatest title since one of those garage inventors said his 90-mpg carburetor had been vetted by a "physics colonel," as reported about twenty years ago in Car and Driver, asserts that shoes of this sort constitute a health hazard. I'm sure they're a hazard to my health — show me these underneath a spectacular pair of legs (I have some specific ones in mind, and I'm not going to get more specific than that) and I am guaranteed a case of eyestrain — but are they really that bad?

In a word, yes, says Moy:

The forward tilting of the pelvis allows the abdominal contents to spill forward, producing that "pooch" which many women have wrongly come to think of a "fat stomach." In doing so, they compress internal organs in a condition known as visceroptosis. It doesn't stop there — neck, back, shoulder pain, stress headaches and even premature hair loss can all ensue as a result of ignoring the way your body is designed to work.

A Guardian columnist points out another issue:

Plus, of course, it makes it very difficult to shag short men, thereby foolishly cutting your chances of impregnation against a wall.

And surely we wouldn't want that, would we?

(Via Matt Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
21 February 2006
Well, it is Illustrated

Thoughts on the 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:

  • That body-painting stuff, inaugurated way back in 1999, has spread from a feature article to actual ads: assuming I have identified them correctly (a lot to assume, considering), no fewer than three advertisers feature a young woman dressed largely or only in couture by Sherwin-Williams.

  • The trend of showing half the suit on, half the suit off — this requires a two-piece, of course — has advanced to showing half the suit on and nobody knows where the other half is. There's even one shot with no suit at all: Ana Beatriz Barrios is garnished with flowers, but she's not wearing a stitch. By comparison, Heidi Klum, who wears nothing but body paint and shoes throughout this issue, isn't out of line for Casual Friday.

  • At least Rick Reilly still gets the last page. (He's dressed, I assume.)

  • In most of these shots, the facial expressions — yes, I looked at them — tend toward the blank, with a sprinkling of "Try to look like you're having fun, even though it's four in the morning."

  • Most curious photo: page 152, which features Rebecca Romijn (she's had a Stamosectomy) and Elle MacPherson with the following wearables: one bikini bottom, one latex bracelet, one toe ring. (Neither is wearing all three.)

  • The "$30 million bikini," worn by Molly Sims over four pages, wasn't enough: they also threw in a ring ($4 million) and a pendant ($3.5 million). Coverage by all this brightwork is as minimal as you could hope for.

  • Some of the pictured swimsuits are comparatively inexpensive: under $100. Still, that's about a thousand bucks a square foot.

  • Only one convincing come-hither look in the whole package: Oluchi Onweagba, on page 126. On the other hand, if I could recognize come-hither looks when I saw them, I probably wouldn't have time to blog.*

* You wish.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:03 AM)
22 February 2006
Hem and haw

Lisa Armstrong, in the March Harper's Bazaar:

I've been searching to replicate the Perfect Dress. Partly because, in case you haven't noticed, the dress is this season's biggest news and partly because I've reached that point of self-knowledge at which all of us born between 1960 and 1980 need to arrive, preferably sooner than later: (1) Dresses don't have to be a sellout of all your (post)feminist principles or, heaven forbid, girly, and (2) there is in fact a happy path to tread between looking like an Olsen twin and looking like Marmee March from Little Women.

My immediate response was "Migod, I should hope so": one doesn't have to appear motherly to look grown-up. At least, one shouldn't. And that's a heck of a wide range, 1960 to 1980; under that strange half-your-age-plus-seven rule, I could theoretically be browsing sixty-five percent of that group.

Still, I have some ideas about the Perfect Dress: it might be, though it doesn't have to be, black; its hemline is neither too high nor too low; and it has the curious property of imparting to its wearer the feeling of being Helen, hell on wheels. (Any explanation beyond "Because it makes me look incredible" is superfluous.) If you own one such, I hope some day to see you in it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 AM)
2 March 2006
The thick edge of the wedge

Sort-of-actress/sort-of-singer Jessica Simpson now has a signature shoe line, mostly innocuous, though the "Anna" wedge strikes me as unusually hideous.

[Previous version of this paragraph deleted due to blatant inaccuracy.] Available in sizes 5 to 10; Simpson's official size is a 7½, which doesn't necessarily mean she has a built-in excuse not to be seen in these.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 PM)
17 April 2006
Gyring at Gimbels

'Twas brillig, and the slender legs (and some a tad less slender) walk up the sidewalks, and the sun catches a bit of bling: the ever-popular ankle bracelet.

And it occurs to me that sometimes they're on the left, sometimes they're on the right, and once in a while somebody's wearing two of them. Unable as I am to detect any particular pattern, I'm asking: is there a protocol to wearing these things? Does one side mean this, the other side that? (Perfunctory Googlage on the matter tends to turn up pages about a different, and less decorative, sort of bracelet altogether.)

No, I'm not trying to get a fix on any one person; I seek only Pure Knowledge, the sort that induces mimsiness out in the borogoves.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
28 May 2006
We got stubble! Right here in River City!

The National Organization of Social Crusaders Repulsed by Unshaven Faces seems to be a viral campaign by Gillette to push razors by threatening men with a scare right out of Aristophanes: either you shave, say the women, or we won't.

Immediate reactions:

  • Nice Photoshopping work.

  • The In Your Dreams, Stubble Boy film short is actually pretty, um, slick.

Lynn Harris at Salon's Broadsheet blog is not particularly impressed:

While bonus fur on a male (with the possible exception of the overblown business about back hair) is seen as "scratchy" at worst, on women it's a complete nightmare on Elm Street. Look, you can make your own decisions about grooming choices and what they "mean" — and about whether this doofy campaign is worth fussing over to begin with (I think it deserves maybe 300 words, which is right where I'm gonna stop) — but still. Can't say it ever helps to remind women (and the men who love/hate them, depending) that whatever their body does naturally is probably something they need to fix.

Which, in turn, reminds me of something the late Allan Sherman once said. In his later years, he grew a beard, and at least one woman demanded an explanation of why he would put such a horrid thing on his face. Sherman explained that it wasn't his idea, but God's, and after forty years or so of scraping it off every day and finding that God had replaced it the next morning, he had simply decided to let God have His way.

Aristophanes, of course, had something a trifle more drastic in mind, but no more so than this, really.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:37 PM)
30 May 2006
Cheezit, the fuzz

"Defoliating a Victory Garden sure works up an appetite." — George Tirebiter, Sr.

Sunday I brought up the possibility that women might suddenly decide that depilation isn't worth the bother.

In a wholly-unrelated survey, Treehugger is asking its female readers if they shave.

You might assume that because it's Treehugger, there is going to be a substantial percentage (though not, as of this writing, anywhere near a majority) that wouldn't dream of such a thing. And, for the same reason, there just about has to be a response like this:

Don't forget those of us who use heated tree-sap wax to remove our "unwanted" hair. Legs are left smooth and supple, and the wax is tossed into a "green bin" as part of the local recycling program. Though it hurts more, it does last longer — and there are no plastic razors or disposable blades to toss out.

Waste not, want not.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:39 PM)
29 June 2006
Blatant sandalmongering

The flap over flip-flops, says Eric Scheie, is a "tacit admission of a double standard":

On men, they're slovenly; on women, they're stylish. The difference lies not in the footwear, but in the difference between the sexes.

Of course, whether flip-flops are allowed and whether they're a good career move are two different issues.

Given the minimalist nature of some other shoes being sold these days, it's hard for me to get upset about flip-flops. I've often wondered if the objection is price-based: flip-flops tend to be at the cheap end of the scale, sometimes obviously so. Would there be complaints if they cost $500 instead of $5? (By the Arbiters of Corporate Taste, I mean; certainly the buyers would not be happy.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:41 PM)
19 July 2006
For the first time anywhere

I grumbled at some point that I'd never gotten a Victoria's Secret catalog in the mail, though I can't say I was horribly put out by this particular act of deprivation.

Inexplicably, one showed up yesterday in the mail, using a variation of the name I don't normally use for commerce — but have used for blog comments.

Or do they routinely address these to two initials, last name? I've never gotten one before now, so I'm not up on their procedures.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:13 AM)
17 August 2006
Stocking up

Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhans notes in Harper's Bazaar (September, the one that weighs eight or nine pounds):

The difference between fashion in Washington, D.C. and New York can be summed up in two words: panty hose. In New York, panty hose are an accessory that can be worn — or not — according to whim and weather. In D.C., panty hose are political.

Although I now live in Manhattan, for almost five years I lived in our nation's capital. I never wore panty hose in D.C. I made this decision based on personal comfort and my inability to get into a pair of sheer nude hose withour poking a hole through them. Years ago I mentioned my disdain for panty hose at a ladies' luncheon. My dining companions — each a power woman in her own field — gasped. A rebel was in their midst, and they were intrigued. Was I making a feminist statement of personal freedom? Was I snubbing my nose at personal propriety? Well, no, I just didn't like panty hose. "But don't you wear panty hose with your suits?" asked one woman. Did I dare admit I didn't wear those either? In a town filled with social secretaries and protocol specialists, flouting decorum is a serious matter.

Two thoughts:

  • I always thought it was one word: "pantyhose," except at JCPenney, which persisted in spelling it "pantihose" for many years.

  • Costa Tsiokos doesn't care one way or another.

I would, however, like to hear from some actual women on this matter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:29 PM)
21 August 2006
Sew what's old

A friend sent me this, and I have to admit it's kinda neat:

Past Patterns, one of the premiere pattern manufacturers of historical sewing patterns, covers Regency through 1930s fashions, engineered with historical accuracy, skill and come with detailed instructions and historical background. These patterns are suitable for novice through expert sewers. Highly recommended.

$60.50 Canadian will get you, for instance, a template for this:

Wedding Gown with Cathedral Train
Slight bustle created by metal stays in three rows from below the centre back waist to the knees, but can be eliminated without effect to the cathedral train which can be removed all together. This makes into a gorgeous gown. I have created this from ivory Duchess silk satin with antique (c.1860) lace for a client and found the pattern to be wonderful. Sizes 10-16 inclusive.

Only one thing perplexes me:

Weight: 971.00 gms

I've got to assume that this is the shipping weight for the pattern, because surely this gown weighs more than two pounds, doesn't it?

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:24 PM)
Snakes on a shoe

Christian Louboutin sandalE. M. Zanotti found this slithering through Neiman's, and not only are there snakes on the vamp, the heel is snakeskin. From Christian Louboutin, around $690. This reminds me of his "Palace" sandal, worn by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, which I suppose should serve as a reminder that there's seldom any need to reinvent the wheel. (Aside: Speaking of snakes, I have to give some sort of props to whoever it was who thought it might be amusing to drape a rubber snake across the auditorium door at Tinseltown this past weekend. Very amusing in a tacky sort of way, rather like the film I came to see.) This is a very nice shoe, though I can't imagine anyone I know actually wearing it, what with the four-inch heel and all. (Those whom I know who do like four-inch heels generally don't like snakes, even stylized ones made out of shiny metal.) And yes, I swiped E.M.'s title; this was a case where I knew I couldn't improve upon it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:04 PM)
This Archive continues here.
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any