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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall into Fashion!

My much adored son and I arrived home one afternoon last week at the same moment, just in time to collect the fresh mail in our overflowing box.  While I opened the front door I asked him to grab it and he did remarking “ Whoa. What the heck is this?” 

How to teach a 15 yr old boy
about FASHION! 
He was referring to the September issue of Marie Claire Magazine, the only fashion magazine I continue to subscribe to. I told him it was the September issue of a fashion magazine -- as if that would be sufficient explanation for the over 400 page treatise he was hoisting into the house. 

“Well, what does that mean?” he asked. 

“Well, every Fall is the new fashion season! ” I inadequately snapped back, as though he should understand these things.  I mean, didn’t he have some of his mother’s DNA? Didn’t he just automatically know that Fall equals Fashion?

It’s not that I am a slave to fashion. It’s not that spend thousands of dollars on clothes but I do appreciate the art of fashion design, the changing and revolving looks, and most particularly, the richness and drape of a beautiful fabric. I love just looking at clothes.

Adorable Betsy

My favorite toy growing up was my Betsy McCall Paper Doll kit, which included a simple translucent light box on which you could trace around a 12 inch paper doll of Betsy and design outfits for every occasion.  I filled three shoeboxes with my designs. I loved creating plaids.  I loved drawing hats. The shoes and boots my paper doll wore were nothing short of magical.  There were hundreds of dresses and sweaters and coats and hats in those little boxes.

Betsy, the paper doll originated in the 
back pages of McCalls Magazine, a staple in our little family household in the late 50’s.  It touched on fashion and home d├ęcor and even included recipes, designed for the modern housewife of the time, a creature and publication type that has all but disappeared but for Betty Draper and friends.  McCalls was beautiful and a true precursor to the priestess Martha of Stewart. My mother and I loved it in it’s heyday, and it was treated with reverence in our home. I made my first angel food cake and cupcakes from their glossy pages.  
In the early 1970’s, when our family home was gone in the aftermath of  divorce, I wasn’t there, I'd been living in Pittsburgh for two years and the only thing I asked my mother about were the shoe boxes with my precious fashion designs, stored in the linen closet in the upstairs hallway. She didn’t remember anything about them. They had been discarded, along with my childhood, unprotected in my absence.    

In between the simple bliss of McCall’s and the dissolution of all that was, Peg Bracken’s I hate to Cook book appeared on the kitchen counter.  It’s attitude and sensibility much more reflective of the times and terrors of raising a big family --as ours had become. If you are not familiar with it, you can pick up the 50th Anniversary Edition on Amazon.  It is a book that might be found in both the humor and cookbook section of Barnes & Noble. 

Deliciously Funny! 

Some of my favorite chapters include:
The Leftover -- Or Every family needs a dog
Potluck Suppers -- Or how to bring the water for the lemonade
Last Minute Suppers -- Or this is your life
Household hints -- Or what to do when your churn paddle sticks

 The recipes themselves are entertainingly named and written including Skid Row Stroganoff, Sweep Steak and Stayabed Stew, as in -- put all these ingredients together in a pot, turn on the light, and climb back into bed.

Peg Bracken was even the spokesperson for the modern new Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables brand (who better?) appearing in commercials through the early 1970s.

I will just include the first few sentences of the introduction to show you just how far from the McCalls attitude our household had slipped:

“ Some women, it is said, like to cook. This book is not for them. This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking.  This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a long day. “

The forward closes with:
 “These recipes have not been tested by experts. That is why they are valuable. Experts in their sunny spotless test kitchens can make anything taste good. But even WE can make these taste good.”

And so it goes….
The world of magazines has become as narrow cast as our television channels.  Marie Claire, in particular, has created a niche I appreciate, incorporating the true spirited fun of fashion (i.e. wearing a fantastic $250 shirt with just as fabulous $35 jeans) as well as objectively evaluating the products we assiduously apply to our faces and bodies to brighten our beauty.
Michael, Heidi and Nina -- the tastemakers
(As an aside -- I’m also a big fan of their cable television partner, Project Runway, and my husband and I just love trying to predict whom der Mistress Heidi will tell to hit the highway at the end of each episode. “Jawohl, you’re out!”  She's very strict! )

So I decided that it was time for a little beauty education for the boy.
What better quintessential tool of fashion to use than the ubiquitous scent strips that are the olfactory component of Fall’s fashion pronouncements?

The September issue contained four full-page two-sided samples: Juicy Couture, Calvin Klein, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana.  All were promoting their signature fragrances. I pulled each out of the magazine and laid them out on the coffee table.  I decided I would show him, pointing out in my particular Pop Culturally kind-of-way, what techniques were being employed to sell the scent and then ask for his 15 year old just-beginning-to-look-at-girls evaluation.  Three were open-the-fold and rub on the wrist versions and one was a peel-off fragrance-sample-underneath version.  I have learned that the peel-offs are much better ways of actually delivering as-close-to-real product samples via print media, but are more expensive.  

So, in alphabetical order, our team reviews:

Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein’s habit is to proclaim his fragrances, rather than simply introducing them; presented with such definitive names as Eternity, Obsession, Crave, and Truth.  All of these names possess such an authoritative finality that they just stop me in my tracks  --- from purchasing them. His latest is no different -- Beauty. (As if!)  

Klein uses as his spokesmodel, the pale impossibly toffy-blonde actress Diane Kruger of National Treasure and Inglorious Basterds fame.  She appears with a come hither stare, in a full body shot wearing a simple white silk sheath, limbo lit with the obligatory product shot on the reverse side.

After applying the sample to my wrist, my son sniffed and said it reminded him of Chinese food.  It reminded me of Nasturtiums, those brightly hued peppery flowers that I occasionally throw from my garden into my salads.  

I should note that we did recheck our first impressions, giving each fragrance time to breathe. We gave it two thumbs down and I didn’t even go into the name thing with my son, this was a scent assessment.  Beauty was not a beauty.

Dolce & Gabbana   
Dolce & Gabanna uses Spokesmodel Actress and blond Scarlett Johansson (muse to Woody Allen, tragically wonderful in Lost in Translation, completely lovely in Girl with a Pearl Earring and wife to one of my son’s actor heroes, Ryan Reynolds, because of his superhero role status) to promote their fragrance; Rose the One. 

Photographed relaxing waist up to camera, with slightly messy hair, lips open, all aglow in a rose golden hue; she is draped leaning forward to the camera with her lingerie strap just slipping off of her shoulder. The photo is much more sexually provocative than Calvin’s image. The obligatory close up product shot is on the reverse with the scent strip.  There is simple packaging like Calvin.

Again applied, this time to my son’s wrist, we both note a sweet bright flowery fragrance, with notes of lily of the valley, peony, and rose.  It’s very nice and light but it’s not my style. My son really likes it and says he’d like to taste it and he also thinks Scarlett is really swell too. 

Juicy Couture      
Juicy Couture the brand always makes me shake my head in wonderment.  
It all seems so “Real Housewives” kind of wear and I never saw the appeal of a velveteen track outfit with a huge satin logo. But they made the brand  work and frankly I was always a tad too old for their look anyway.  

Juicy Couture presents their latest (originally launched in 2009), called Couture Couture, for those double fashion divas I suppose, with a metrosexual (possibly) male star spangled figure in the background and a very pretty brunette with a stylish updo wearing a black one shoulder silk dress with a short toile skirt and pursing the deepest reddest lips imaginable in the foreground. The decorative bottle of Couture Couture is oversized and placed in her arm as one might pose with an oversized Oscar. The image is graffiti strewn and there is a lift-to-smell plastic tab over the ornate bottle. 

On the reverse, the same model appears posed looking wistfully on the marble ledge of the fireplace in front of a rococo mirror in a space with tall narrow windows along the wall while across the room, a man dressed formally, including a top hat and tux and wearing stilts under his dress pants, points to the superimposed image of the obligatory product shot.  If you can make any sense of that description, thank you. 

This sample is completely different. It has a rich musky deeper scent. It smells expensive and sexy. There is vanilla, sandalwood and honeysuckle in the scent. This is the only fragrance garnering two big thumbs up from the test panel.  This would make me want to sample the fragrance in person but I’m probably too old to wear it.  This is a brand that knows it’s demographic.

Prada is pushing Infusion D’Iris this season, a fragrance originally launched in 2007. A generic high fashion never-seen-the-sun model with smudged eyes is tipping toward the camera, with lips open enough to show the gap in her front teeth.  Her nude barely-there buffed nails are just touching the rectangular oversized bottle with the obligatory close up product shot on the reverse. 

My son says baby powder.  I think Iris, perhaps something orangey with a touch of frankincense. He doesn’t like it and says it smells like it would hurt if it got in your eyes. Hmm. Two thumbs down for Prada.  

This all said, I do love fragrance but I am extremely loyal to my own, Boucheron, which I have been using since it was introduced in 1988.  It is considered an oriental/spicy fragrance with sandalwood, orange and vanilla notes.  Both my husband and son love it as well.  I don’t see any need to make a change at the moment, but it really was fun playing scent strip fashion with my 15 year old.  Fashion knows no gender.  

1 comment:

  1. I love the way you write. I wish I had your gift. Once I get past the feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, I love reading your blog. Guess what? I have been wearing Boucheron for years. Judi gave me my first bottle! No matter where I am people are always telling me how good I smell. Unfortunately I have no sense of smell so I figure that as long as they keep saying it...I'll keep wearing it!