HB Weighs In

Been a while, right?  But I’m inspired again.  And two young filmmakers from the University of Vermont have featured me in their short film on fashion called “Here and There.”  Check it out.  And don’t skip the credits at the end.

Like Schwarzenegger, I’LL BE BACK.

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Baby Take a Bow


I was at the opera recently and at the very end, on cue, our heroine collapsed and the curtain came in.   No, no, not the soprano onstage.  Me!  Yes, me with the severe vasovagal syncope.  As you may or may not know, it is traditional in the opera for the director of the production to bow opening night and in my rush to get backstage to take my curtain call at Pittsburgh Opera’s “La Boheme,” I slipped and fell in the house.  Rising quickly, thinking I was fine and just a little woozy, I made my way backstage and was standing in the wings waiting for my big moment.  I remember moving over to the proscenium wall to brace myself against some dizziness and next thing I know, I wake up on the floor with my legs over my head.  Apparently, my co-director, a former medic in the Israeli army (lucky for me, you say), saw the birdies circling over my head and lowered me to the floor, lifting my legs in the process.  Lucky, you say?  When I opened my eyes and my dress was over my head, all I could think of was THANK GOD I’M NOT WEARING CONTROL TOP!

My purpose here is not to elicit your sympathy or concern for my arterial health (though I do appreciate it and I’m fine, thank you very much) but to point out what our mothers stressed back when we were learning to drive: BE SURE TO WEAR NICE UNDERWEAR, since you never know who is going to see it!  Personally, I am somewhat obsessed with this.  I can’t wear a bra and panties that don’t match, or at the very least, coordinate.  JZ says it tells you a lot about who I am and I would say it borders on the pathological except that my friend, the Broadway actor, Judy Blazer, I was delighted to discover, feels the same way.  We belong to a club of two called The Panty Patrol.  Now I grant you that we are the extreme, but every woman, as well as you men out there, should give serious consideration to the condition of your underpants.  Especially as we get older, more weird stuff happens, no?  And since we can’t prevent all the indignities of unexpected accidents, why not at least try to prevent some of the humiliation? 

Undies aren’t meant to last forever or even more than a couple of seasons.  Got a favorite brand?  Stock up and dole them out a couple pair at a time as they wear out.  You don’t need to spend a lot of dough.  Target (I know, I know, my favorite…) has a really nice line called Gilligan and O’Malley.  Their mesh lace hipster is really comfortable, no VPL*, comes in great colors (I prefer the “Mochachino”) and is only five dollars.  Five dollars!  Gap is another great place to pick up unmentionables-that-are-here-being-mentioned.  They make great bras that are very reasonable, especially if you take advantage of the thirty or forty percent off often offered on line.  And with their free shipping/free returns policy you can be assured of the right fit in the comfort of your boudoir.  Want a real treat?  Go to Saks Fifth Avenue and ask the lingerie salesperson to do a bra fitting.  She’ll bring you the correct size, (chances are you are not currently wearing it) in an array of styles that may be pricey, but you’ll feel like an opera star.

As for the aforementioned pantyhose, obviously, if you’re wearing knits, control top is the way to go.  Calvin Klein makes my favorite, the Infinite Sheer.  Look for the denier number on the back of the package.  The lower the number, the sheerer the hose, i.e. a forty would be opaque, a twelve, very sheer.  Their Infinite Sheer is a seven denier and they’re practically invisible.  I apply some hand cream before I put them on to avoid snags. 

If you’re not wearing a knit skirt you can wear the control just on top with a long leg look with Nordstrom’s new French Cut, or Donna Karan’s The Nudes, or Hue’s So Sexy French Lace Sheers.  BareNecessities.com is a great site with lots of brands and styles that offers discounts.  Nordstrom’s private label is made by a big-time hosiery company and offers a price break when you buy three pair at a time.

But PLEASE, no reinforced toe.  Ever.  And if you’re wearing open toed shoes or sandals, forget the hose.  Buy some tan-in-a-can instead.  But’s that’s a whole other blog.  Meantime, let’s drink to lovely lingerie! 

Bottoms up!

*Visible Panty Line







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And the Oscar Goes To…


Did you watch the Academy Awards?  I did.  Starting with the red carpet at 7pm because, let’s face it; the main reason to watch the Oscars is to see what everyone is wearing and how they look.  I thought this year was especially attractive.  There weren’t, in my opinion, any real disasters as in years past (Cher, Bjork, Celine Dion – the backwards suit, come to mind).  In fact I thought it was a display of considerable class and restraint.  Simple, yet elegant, nothing to outré.  Of course, quite a few fashionistas were absent.  I didn’t see Nicole Kidman or Renee Zellweger.  I missed J. Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow.  No Johnny Depp, who can usually be counted on to not only look weird, but as if he hasn’t bathed in a week.  Too harsh?

Yes, I thought over all, the celebs were well turned out and if you tuned in you were treated to some very bee-yoooo-teeee-ful looks.  I’m gratified that the younger among our movie stars are showing some taste and sensibility.  It’s encouraging.  Not so true of the older set.  Why is it, when some film stars get to a certain age (or uncertain, as they would no doubt prefer) they forget how to appear in front of a camera?  Or maybe they just don’t care.  Hard to tell.  Why is it some insist on hanging on to a look they should have given up back when Johnny Carson was host?  Plastic surgery can only do so much.  Now I’m not saying that every face lift is a bad lift.  I think one can have work done and still maintain some facial integrity.  But did you see poor Kim Novak?  She used to be so beautiful.  She used to have a face.  Her mouth was pulled so far horizontally she looked like she was created by Jim Henson.  Goldie Hawn (whom I LOVE, btw)?  What is she thinking?  Wear some sleeves.  Cut your hair, girl, and stop trying to look like a twenty year old.  As Rob Reiner told her character in “First Wives Club,” “Another face lift and you’ll be able to blink your lips.” And Liza?  I can’t even go there.

But there were some mature women who looked beautiful, radiant, elegant, and most importantly, age appropriate.  So here are my nominees for Best Achievement in Aging:

Glenn Close – I’ll say right up front that some of the fashion police didn’t like her ensemble.  She wore a black Zac Posen fishtail gown with a little shrug-type jacket.  Eonline.com complained that she should have ditched the jacket, but she knew what she was doing.  She was keeping her upper arms under wraps and I thought she looked great.  Plus, her hair, her make-up, all very natural but stylish, said confidence and sophistication.  Gorgeous, IMHO.

Meryl Streep – I once had the pleasure of waiting on Meryl in the specialty department store where I was a buyer, and by her own admission, she doesn’t have much style sense.  Often she’s appeared at the Oscars looking like she threw on her Aunt Edna’s discarded evening gown and put her hair in a banana clip.  Not so, this time.  First off, her luminescent, porcelain, clearly unaltered face glowed with her hair neatly pulled back.  She wore small earrings and left her glasses at home and she appeared Madonna-like (the religious one) in a simple Lanvin black skirt and cream off-the-shoulder top.  I thought she looked stunning.

June Squibb – This woman, who played Bruce Dern’s nagging and outspoken wife in the nominated film, “Nebraska” is eighty-four years old and she totally rocked the red carpet in an emerald green Tadashi Shoji gown which was one piece but had the look of a dress and fitted jacket.  Again, with long sleeves.  You can bet this woman hasn’t had a thing lifted but with her white hair and red lips she conveyed style and sass.  I should look that good at seventy, never mind eighty.

Bette Midler – I thought she looked fabulous in her short-sleeved Reem Acra, red and white floral gown.  The fit was fantastic and she just wore simple earrings, her hair in its usual semi-retro, blonde curls.  Very unfussy and totally flattering.   She looked like, well, herself!

And finally, Sally Field – She’s been the butt of Oscar jokes since her “You like me” speech at her best actress win for “Norma Rae” but for someone who seemed to need our approval years ago, she stepped out at age sixty-seven with grace and confidence in a beautifully embellished but simple, short-sleeved, black Randi Rahm gown.  If that girl has had work done, you’d never know it.  Gidget grew up gracefully.

In my opinion they’re all winners, and it just goes to show that like Oscar, with some suitable style, you’re golden.


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Dinner is Served


So like everyone else, I spent Sunday evening watching the final episode of season four of “Downton Abbey” and here’s what I don’t understand; with the American public so obsessed with the manners of the British aristocracy of a past century, why am I seeing such appalling table manners everywhere?  In almost every episode the Downtonians are seen at a fully laid table, eating and conversing, using an array of implements, linen and serving pieces.  We’re glued to our sets as Lord and Lady Grantham, Mary, Edith and Mr. Branson come down to dinner in formal dress.  We watch as footmen serve to the left and clear from the right.  (In case you’re wondering, it’s because, assuming you are right handed, it’s easier to serve oneself from a dish offered on the left).  But HAVE YOU BEEN IN A RESTAURANT LATELY?  Honestly, I’m feeling like the Dowager Countess in my despair at the lack of simple manners.  The world was a cruel place then, as now, but a little refinement could make it seem a bit more pleasant.  With just a little etiquette we could bring Highclere Castle to iHop.

When I was growing up it was still the era of the family dinner table.  Granted, due to my mother’s practically Edwardian Scottish upbringing, ours was, perhaps, a bit more formal than most.  But I can tell you, it has stood me in good stead.  “No uncooked joints on the table,” she would say in her Mrs. Hughes brogue.  I know how to eat soup politely.  I know which fork to use.  I know what to do with my napkin (and blowing my nose isn’t among the options).   I was actually at dinner not long ago in a fine restaurant with a forty-something man who blew his nose in a linen napkin, balled it up and then threw it on the floor.  You heard me.

I don’t wish to be called Miss or Ma’am but do I really need to be called “guy”?  You guys.  This from someone invariably much younger than myself who would get a bigger tip by simply saying “May I take your order?”  And in my family we were taught to speak softly in public places, be it a restaurant, a train or plane, a hotel corridor.  Our conversation was never to intrude on other diners, travelers or guests.  I don’t know about you, but I find that half the time I can’t even hear my dinner companion because the people at the next table are shouting at the top of their lungs.  The other night I actually was treated to the excruciatingly vivid details of someone’s surgery.  This, as I’m about to order my meal.  And don’t even get me started on the smart phone use.  Can you imagine everyone sitting down to the table at Downton and then pulling out their smart phones?  Of course not.  We’d miss all that pithy dialogue.  And isn’t that what sit-down meals are about?  If it’s only the food, we might as well just pull up to a trough.  And based on the way I’ve seen parents whip out the ol’ iPhone and plop it in front of their children, instead of making a restaurant experience a teaching moment, it won’t be long before that’s what we’ll be doing.  Why waste time with that cumbersome cutlery when you can just stick your head in a bucket?

I know, I know, I positively get the vapors about this, but young ladies, especially!  Do you aspire to being a drill sergeant?  If not then there is no reason to be talking at an earsplitting volume while you are sharing a meal with your Lord Gillingham.  A little mystery is more desirable.  Make him lean in.  And men, do you need to put your foot up on that extra chair at the table.  Does anyone really want your shoe that much closer to her dinner plate?

Of course I realize that the world is a much more casual place now, and I’m all for it, believe me.  I’ve no desire to go back to the days of repressed feminism and repressive corsets.  But good manners are really just about being courteous to others, and not just the others with whom you are acquainted.  Sure, everyone has the right to do as he or she pleases, but wouldn’t the world be a good place if everyone considered the quality of someone else’s life?  It’d be very good, M’Lady.


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Looking Cool While Staying Warm

Honestly, I thought Polar Vortex was a tenor from Eastern Europe.  Not until I saw the news last night, explaining the frigid temperatures that have gripped the country this week, did I realize it was a weather front visiting us like a late-date Santa, from the North Pole.  Today I’m feeling downright tropical because it’s heated up to a balmy 8.  I mean, I grew up in Schenectady but still!  Until I moved to central Vermont, fleece was a word I uttered once every seventeen years and usually in a nursery rhyme.  Now it’s part of my daily conversation.

But I’m finding after seven years of living here that it’s possible to embrace my inner Eskimo and dress chicly while fighting off frostbite.  And if your warm wardrobe isn’t complete, now is a good time to supplement it as most retailers are offering big after-Christmas discounts.

A few things I’ve discovered, well, actually two: long underwear top and long underwear bottom.  However, unlike the bulky, itchy things my mother made me wear as a kid, there are plenty of very thin but very warm options.  Winter Silks has a great line of lightweight long underwear that can really make a difference and they’re having a 60% off sale right now.  I also really love Hot Chillys, available on Amazon, and I’ve had good luck at Loehmann’s, when I can get to one, with higher-end-for-less-money silk long johns that have lasted me for years.  These garments are critical not only for staying warm once you’ve stepped away from the fire, but for preventing the itching of…

Heavy sweaters.  Now is a great time to buy.  Lots of sales, coupons and good deals from Banana Republic, J.Crew, Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman Marcus, you name it.  Look for the cashmeres that are left over from Christmas.  Some great buys there and if that’s not enough, check out retailmenot.com which offers discount codes for many, many retail sites.

Because I happen to have bad circulation in my fingers and toes I’ve taken to wearing cashmere socks which sounds like a big luxury but is really pretty cost effective.  They’re warm enough for wearing with boots, but thin enough for shoes and they feel divine.  By January, prices have dropped and a couple pairs of these babies will keep your tootsies toasty.  If you wash them on the delicate cycle and hang to dry they’ll last forever.  For the fingers, I’ve found that mittens are the only thing that works for me.  These days many are made with glove linings and a mitten top that you can flip back when you need to use your digits.  The “Thinsulate” ones I got at Farm-Way, a local purveyor that is just what it sounds like, have special stitching on the fingertips so you can use an iPhone or iPad without removing your gloves.  Totally cool.

Outerwear?  Get down.  I don’t mean like “get funky.”  I mean, if you want to be warm, get down.  Not all down is alike, mind you.  If you look on the inside label you’ll see the percentage of down and the percentage of feathers.  More down means more warmth, so look for something like 80% down and 20% feathers.  I recommend a jacket that covers your fanny.  It’ll be warmer and it’ll look chic with a pair of skinny pants and boots.  You don’t have to spend a fortune but if you find a jacket you like and you see little feathers coming through the outer fabric, as Tanta Julia would say, fuhgget it.

Keep your feet warm with some Gortex or other weatherproof boots.  For stylish bootwear I really like Stuart Weitzman.  An investment, no question, but I’ve worn the same ones for nine years and they still look great, are warm and waterproof, so if you amortize the cost over that many years, they’re a bargain.  Aquatalia, same deal.  I store them in the off season stuffed with paper in an old pillowcase.  They are well worth the money to keep those feet cozy while looking cool.  And let’s face it; you can’t be chic if your teeth are chattering.

Don’t want to wear a hat?  I know just what you mean.  Five minutes in a hat and there’s so much static I could start a blender just by rubbing my head.  Get a pair of earmuffs.  Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) makes some great ones that go “behind the head” so there’s none of that nasty hat hair.  Mine are actually the Men’s version.  Makes no difference as the size is adjustable.   A nice colorful scarf (the rest of my outfit is black of course), a pair of shades and you are ready to brave the elements.

Lookin’ cool!







January 9, 2014 · 8:44 am

Size Matters

I know you think I’ve dropped off the face of blogdom.  But I’ve merely been temporarily lost in the crush of pre-holiday shopping.  Now that Thanksgiving has become a retail day and every store is offering the deep discounts one used to see only AFTER December twenty-fifth, it’s a jungle out there.  I just returned from a couple of days in Manhattan and the stores and streets were so crowded you could pass out and not fall down.

Not that I need any clothes mind you, but it’s always fun to look and I have a particular pair of pants (black, of course) that I like and I thought I would pick up a second pair.  Since I know the size of the ones I already own you’d think it would be easy, but when shopping for a garment, any garment, one cannot assume the size you own is the size you’ll wear.  And this has nothing to do with holiday eating, (pass me those Christmas cookies).  It’s because the matter of size is simply that it doesn’t matter.  Not anymore anyway.

I remember my mother wore a size 10.  But she was a little woman and when I try on her cocktail dresses from the fifties and sixties, I can barely zip them up, and I’m a size 0 or 2!  Don’t take my word for it.  Check out any vintage store.  You’ll rarely see a 2 or a 4 in anything prior to 1970 unless it’s in the kiddie section and then the next size up will be 6X.  As our population has gotten larger, the sizes have gotten smaller.  Or larger, depending on how you look at it.  I can remember when a 2 didn’t even exist.  Maybe I’d wear a 3 from the Junior department, but a 2 in Misses?  Forget it.  Now there’s 0 and 00.  Why?   Because people are bigger and what used to be a 14 would now have to be a 32, and who is going to want to shop for a 32, particularly higher end shoppers who are paying a lot of money?  Retailers, and particularly designers, know this, so over the years they’ve gradually vanity-sized down their garments so that what once was a 12 is now a 4.  Besides, a single digit looks stylish on the label.  You think I’m making this up?  I haven’t even put the bourbon in my eggnog.

Here’s something I learned in the business when I was buying for a chain of stores.  Let’s say a certain retailer places an order with a vendor for a dress.  They might order one 2, four 6’s, four 8’s, 2 10’s, and so on, depending on the average size of their clientele.  But if the vendor doesn’t happen to have four 6’s on hand and wants to get the order out on time (there can be a penalty for shipping late) they’ll switch the label in say, a 10, and ship it as a 6.  Haven’t you ever looked through a sales rack and said, Holy cow, that dress says size 4 but it’s big enough to fit my Aunt Edna.  Wassup?  It’s gotten marked down because every time a size 4 comes along and tries it on, she looks like a circus tent with sleeves.

Same with items that are a set, like a swim suit or a jacket and pants.  That’s what happened to my friend, Teri, when she ordered a pair of pajamas on line.  The top was tiny and the bottom could have fit us both.  At the same time.

Which is why you can score some good bargains at the sales rack simply by holding the garment up and eyeballing the size, regardless of what the label says.  Take the time to try it on and if it doesn’t fit, try not to get hung up on the size printed on the label.  Because ultimately size doesn’t matter.




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Less Strapless

Part of my Sunday ritual is to sit at the breakfast table and read our local paper.  This, before I start in on my all day ritual reading of the New York Times.  But for a quick perusal through our community news I generally start with the most important section, the wedding announcements, and I’m invariably astounded by the bridal gown choices.  I don’t mean to say that on that all important day every woman shouldn’t have her dream dress, her idea of glamour and grace.  But really, isn’t anyone advising here?  I KNOW that strapless is very popular these days, but this is not a look that everyone can wear.  Seriously.  While all things fifties and sixties have become enormously popular, the population that wore such outfits looked quite different than the betrothed of today.  And don’t even get me started on the brides over fifty.  Ladies, that strapless ship has sailed.

First off, while women back in the day of those Mad Men were often curvier, there was not the, shall we say, prevalence of zaftig-ness that we are seeing now.  Strapless is NOT for everyone.  You know what I’m talking about.  I’ve seen more spillage on the social page than from the Exxon Valdez.  And secondly, back then women wore undergarments, a word currently in such disuse as to be practically Shakespearean.  The strap is your friend.  Embraceth the strap.

Now I’m not talking about those skinny loops that are hanging on the inside of your dress’s armpits.  Those are not straps.  I say this because I have actually seen someone who is usually very well dressed, wear these over her shoulders.  Those silly strings that look like very skinny ribbons are for hanging up your frock.  But you are going to cut them off before the first wearing because, M’Lord knows, you do not want one of them poking out the minute you start the Hokey Pokey.  And you won’t need them anyway because after you wear your dress and have it dry cleaned, you’re going to store it in a box (if it’s a wedding gown) or hang it on a skirt hanger that has those padded clips so that the bodice keeps its shape and doesn’t look like a Shar Pei the next time you put it on.  Get what I mean?

But I digress.  As I said, every bride wants the dress of her dreams and of course she, or he for that matter, should have it.  It’s worth considering though, that if you are publishing a wedding photo in the paper, chances are it will only be from the waist up and you want to look like you’re wearing more than just skin.  Face it, not everyone has the upper body for strapless and this is not tragic.  There are so many beautiful looks, sleeved and sleeveless, that will flatter and allure, not to mention stay up without the benefit of double-sided tape.

Look at Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.  She channeled Grace Kelly in her beautifully retro-ish, long-sleeved wedding dress.  And if anyone has the stems for strapless, she certainly does.  I’ve no doubt that besides style, comfort figured into her decision.  A wedding can be a LONG event, even without a coach ride and balcony waving from Buckingham Palace.  The last thing any princess needs on her special day is to be worrying about her dress gravitating south.  And really, it’s so unattractive to be hoisting and adjusting every five minutes.  Wouldn’t you rather be dancing?  Or watching the jousting match?

Three-quarter sleeves are a nice choice that flatter most shapes and look elegant.  That said, no matter what the sleeve or lack thereof, the proper undergarment (forsooth) is ESSENTIAL.  A long line backless bra will make everything hang and look better and this goes for any black-tie-attire gown, cocktail dress, what have you.  First off, it creates a seamless line from bosom to waist without any nasty bra-straps or fastening visible across the back and secondly, it preserves the shape and integrity of the bodice fabric, just the way a slip does with your skirt (See “Going Undercover”).  And these bras are not that difficult to find.  The best and cheapest (!) is made by “Carnival” and at $38 it’s a bargain.  It comes in Ivory, White, Nude and Black and it’ll last forever if you wash it in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle and hang it to dry.  I have every color.  Of course you can pay more for such an item, but why?  And even with the proper bra, not everybody needs to go strapless.  What was that 16th century lady’s name?  Greensleeves?  The chick was on to something.







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