Archive | Style Matters

Swans of the Concrete Jungle

Money’s dear this year, which sounds like a Dorothy Parker stanza but is one of the myriad reasons I’m lucky to live in NYC—a miraculous place to live on the cheap if you’re resourceful. Yesterday with ten bucks in my pocket I ferried ($2.50) to the Metropolitan Museum—both Mets!—for one buckarino (1$) and entered an alternate dimension mostly pink and 100 percent fabulous: Camp:Notes on Fashion at 5th Avenue and Mrinalini Mukherjee’s Phenomenal Nature at the Breur; then the Chris Ofili show at David Swirner (free) and the nutty gallery that is Madison Ave designer window displays and designer rich-lady faces (free, at least for me).

Altogether it was a rarified world of wedding cake townhouses and mermaids with big cocks and tin-foil goddesses and licentious, lichen-ous trees. I even had enough left over for a pretzel with loads of mustard ($2) in Central Park, so lushly green that Edith Wharton would’ve found the terrain familiar. I felt what I always feel when prowling a NYC jungle not my own: joyfully restored, gratefully inspired.

The Patterns You Keep

Norris with her bossy little husband.

Lately I’ve been wearing Norris Church Mailer’s castoffs around town. In the final years of the last Mrs. Mailer’s life, I had a friend who was dating her youngest and most toothsome son. It was no surprise, since the two (three, really) looked an awful lot alike, and when cancer whittled down the former Ford model’s once-impressive figure, I ended up with some of her size 12s.

At the time they drowned me. I was still keeping up with the Joanses and working at a gossip magazine where the median size was 2. But I was loath to throw out Norris’ gorgeous time capsules of late-70s and early-80s swank: padded ultra-violet sweaters, studded oversized belts, striped silk blouses. Fingering the materials, I’d transport to hey-day Studio 54 and Elaine’s, where clear as day I could see her towering like a brick-house over her bossy little husband, shining the good-natured self-enchantment that made her such a gas to be around even when she was suffering.

Then in a rare bright spot of this dreadful spring, I realized her big bolts of glamour finally fit me. Rather than feeling like a paunchy, middle-aged failure, it was as if I’d grown into a woman I revered. Behold the power of the right second-hand piece.

I try not to write about what a terrible clotheshorse I am. It’s not a labels thing. I tend to look down on designer clothing, a residual of coming up in a town where the most flamboyantly wealthy people were also the blandest. What I dig are wildly individualized uniforms–projections of what and who a person is feeling on a given day. Audrey Hepburn on Acid! Space Crone Liberationist! Erma Bombeck Chic! Every outfit is a costume, an opportunity to radiate a unique frequency of light, and this requires an array of options that would appall a certain organizing guru whose surname starts with K and ends with O. As in uh-oh. Continue Reading →

Of Course I’m Green, I’m Growing*

Photo of me a sloppy second because I ate the salad pasta too quickly to capture it.

You can tell I’m at an impasse with my book because I’m writing to you my cooking and colors have gotten downright baroque, especially while I’m upstate, where the greens are so fresh they’re muddy. Any drive I take entails my pulling off the road to fetch fresh eggs and sun-warmed strawberries from a farmstand, treasures like a chartreuse tee and sky-blue bowl from a yard sale. So, uh, dinner tonight? What I call salad pasta–a bowl of penne and fresh herb pesto topped with peppery greens dressed with horseradish and ginger vinegar and chopped in with mint, chives, parsley, garlic scapes, strawberries (why not?) and, oy vey ist mir, smoked trout. It was pretty good but then again only strong flavors are registering to my still-sinusy sinuses. Ah, and my costume? The lady wore green–a kelly-green shawl K ferried back from his overseas adventure wrapped around a lime sarong from a street fair. As I said: baroque. But that’s the beauty of living and working alone. If you’re lucky, you can tailor to your exact specifications, which matter even when they don’t because attention is love, and love is how we grow. Really, it’s the only way.

*and other lost Erma Bombeck titles.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy