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#overdressed4life

Matchy-Matchy

Like Esther in the novel The Bell Jar and perhaps author Sylvia Plath too, I’m also impressed with the idea of matching handbag dress/skirt/anything. Although, I know it’s a little too “put together” these days, that does not stop me.

I have two skirts with matching handbags that I made myself. One I made last year with a matching mask as well. I like the “matchy-matchy” look because it’s unexpected and the repetition of pattern and color appeals to me.

The first matchy-matchy that caught my eye was way back when I was maybe four-years-old; my mother had a summer outfit – a red and white gingham dress and a light blue coat with the same gingham fabric lining. I remember that outfit so well and the matching part has inspired me ever since.

How about other matches? My sis-in-law made for me a matching cap and cross-body bag (thanks, Lori). I have a beautiful bespoke outfit – 1920s style coat with a matching skirt and a blouse that matches the lining of the coat.

There are many ways to match: hat with handbag, handbag with shoes, dress with lining of coat, hat with jacket. How about socks with scarf? OK, now I’m getting silly.

Matchy-matchy gets a bad rap as does any look that’s too put together because being fashionable is supposed to also be effortless. Hmm, how does that work?

Sylvia Plath

Her college was so fashion conscious, she said, that all the girls had pocketbook covers made out of the same material as their dresses, so each time they changed their clothes they had a matching pocketbook. This kind of detail impressed me. It suggested a whole life of marvelous, elaborate decadence that attracted me like a magnet.

Esther Greenwood – fictional character from The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (1932-1963).

I imagine many of ODFL readers are familiar with this book. Published in 1963 under a pseudonym, The Bell Jar is the fictionalized story of Ms. Plath’s time in early 1950s New York City where she worked as one of the guest editors of Mademoiselle magazine, although, in the book the magazine name was changed along with the names of central characters. Known for her poetry, this was Ms. Plath’s only novel. She died in 1963 of suicide.

Check back tomorrow for more on matching accessories.

Photo: Harper’s Bazaar

I’d like to eradicate the categories of menswear and womenswear. Fluidity offers an alternate way of being, crossing and merging masculine and feminine.

Harris Reed, British/American gender-fluid fashion designer.

This quote is from a brief article in Harper’s Bazaar, November 2020.

Mr. Reed is a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London. In addition to designing for his own clothing line, he has worked for Gucci, and he created the unique looks for British pop star Harry Styles’ photos in Vogue magazine.

The Intruder by Gabriel Metsu, circa 1660.

Dishevelment

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction:

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthrals the crimson stomacher:

A cuff neglectfull, and thereby

Ribbands to flow confusedly:

A winning wave (deserving note)

In the tempestuous petticoat:

A careless shoe-string, in whose tie

I see a wild civility:

Do more bewitch me than when Art

Is too precise in every part.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), English poet and cleric.

I found this poem in a book by fashion writer Tobi Tobias, Obsessed by Dress (Beacon Press). This great little book is a collection of quotes all about clothing and fashion from ancient times to modern day.

Last week I dressed in some of my vintage favorites and headed over to Shadelands Ranch Museum in Walnut Creek to see their current exhibit: Fashion Through the Years.

Graduation dress.

Shadelands Ranch Museum is the Colonial Revival house built by Hiram Penniman in 1903 and now it’s home to the Walnut Creek Historical Society. The “ranch” was actually a fruit and nut farm owned and run by Mr. Penniman who had previously lived in Oakland with his wife and children. The story goes that to entice his wife, Carrie, to move to the boonies known as Walnut Creek, he built this grand two-story house. This is just the beginning of the Penniman/Shadelands story, but visitors can take the house tour and hear the whole tale from knowledgeable docents.

Edwardian day dress.

During the pandemic, the museum was closed but staff took advantage of the quiet time by going through all the stuff the museum had accumulated over the years, including donations of clothing. It soon became obvious that an exhibit of these frocks was in order.

On now through August 31, 2021 Fashion Through the Years displays in every room of the house fashions from the Victorian era to the 1980s as well as accessories such as handbags, gloves, and jewelry; all of it donated to the museum by generous local residents. The displays are such that we can get up close to study the fabrics and construction, although of course no touching!

Cotton ensemble with lace detail.

Among my favorites is an Edwardian day dress, a white cotton ensemble with lace detailing, and a lovely graduation dress from the early 1900s. There is much to see in the exhibit and more to learn about Shadelands Ranch Museum. I highly recommend this to ODFL locals looking for a summer excursion close to home. (Masks are required.)

Shadelands Ranch Museum is located at 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek and is open Wednesdays and Sundays, 1-4; sometimes they’re closed for special events. Check the website.

Image: Harper’s Bazaar.

I always wanted one. For me the Birkin bag was the ultimate luxury item, and I knew I would never get bored of it. I convinced myself that I really needed one and thought I would eventually pass it on to my daughter.

Suzanne Koller, Austrian born stylist and fashion director of M Le Magazine du Monde.

This is a quote from an article in Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021.

In 1984 fashion model and singer Jane Birkin was on a flight from Paris to London when her basket bag flopped over, spilling its contents on the floor. The gentleman sitting next to Ms. Birkin, Jean-Louis Dumas, at the time the executive chairman of Hermès, noticed and he and his seatmate had a chat about the difficulties of finding a handbag large enough to carry all that the busy model and mother needed on any given day. Mr. Dumas immediately started sketching and voila, the Birkin bag was born.

Hermès asked if they could name the bag after Ms. Birkin and she agreed. Apparently she receives an annual royalty for the use of her name and she donates that money to charity.

Made of sturdy leather, the Birkin is a constructed carryall bag in rectangular shape with a flap. Its simplicity and versatility is its signature.

It takes Hermès craftspeople 15 to 20 hours to make each Birkin bag and every bag is made by one person. Add the design process (the design has slightly altered over the years), cutting and dyeing the leather, and we’re talking two years from prototype to finished product. Some Birkins are custom made with particular leathers and hardware. It takes time but quality always does. And the Birkin gives back, in that it will stand the test of time in style and wear. It’s an investment piece meant not to sit in the closet but to use every day. Some people use it as their gym bag, others throw groceries into their Birkin.

The Berkin can cost upwards of $15,000 and there’s a waiting list. If you’re not a celebrity, it’s a long wait. But that’s all part of the Birkin mojo.

Everyone wants to wear a dress right now. They want to be pretty.

Camille Wright, owner of Style Consortium – an apparel showroom.

Simple, comfortable, and cute. Change into a kitten heel shoe or a sandal and go from running errands to Sunday brunch. Photo by Nugroho Wahyu on Pexels.com

Ms. Wright is speaking about what we’re wearing as we ease out of our houses and back into the world. I think what we want is to be comfortable while still looking good. Dresses are one answer to that. They’re an instant upgrade and they can be easy to wear. Plus they are the cool choice for hot temps.

Perfect for an afternoon stroll in the park, a museum visit, birthday party. Photo by Hu1ea3i Nguyu1ec5n on Pexels.com

Also, dresses offer a lot a variety in silhouette and fabric. Just slip it on and the dress does all the style work. Add accessories or not, it’s that simple.

A nice choice for the job. Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Dresses for weekends = easy. Dresses for work? Tricky. Tailored separates seem to be more appropriate for professional situations. But here is where fabric, color, and pattern choice make the difference. Light fabrics and floral prints are better for weekends, while solid colors and jersey fabrics are good choices for work. Top with a tailored jacket and become instantly office ready.

Pearls go with everything and can go anywhere. They’re not too much and not too little but everything you’d ask for in a piece of jewelry.

Cindy Marshall, retired antique jewelry dealer and my mother.

Mom comes out with these little gems every so often. We were chatting on the phone and I mentioned that I’d been wearing her pearl bracelet that she had passed on to me years ago. I hadn’t worn it much, saving it for special occasions until my recent pull toward pearls inspired me to wear this bracelet every day, just because I like it.

It seems I’m not the only person drawn to pearls lately. Fashion designer Marc Jacobs told Harper’s Bazaar that after years of wanting, he finally bought himself a strand of pearls for Christmas last year. He says that the pearls are like a good luck charm and bring him joy during the pandemic. I recently interviewed a jeweler about trends and pearls are on the list. She told me that young women, influenced by the young British royals, are buying pearls.

I suspect that women are also inspired by another fan of pearls – Vice President Kamala Harris, who has made pearls her signature. Single strands, double strands, layered, mixed with gold and even diamonds, Vice President Harris loves her pearls. (I love that fact that she sports her pearls with her other favorite accessory – Converse sneakers.)

I agree with my mother that pearls are now an every day choice that go with everything. I like pearls with t-shirts. Or layers of pearls peeking out from underneath a blouse. Or a long strand on a lightweight sweater. Pearls are fun to play with and they don’t have to be real; faux pearls can be as lovely and lustrous as the real thing. And by the way, pearl is the birthstone for June.

It’s not about rejecting fashion, but rather about valuing the fashion you have.

Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic at the New York Times.

Official White House portrait of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Photo: Cheriss May.

This quote is from an article Ms. Friedman wrote for the NYT about the fashions our First Lady Dr. Jill Biden chose to wear during President Biden’s recent visit to the UK for the G7 summit.

Dr. Biden shopped her closet and sported several outfits she’d worn before, perhaps sending a message of fashion sustainability, “reduce, recycle, reuse.” And love, which was actually spelled out on the back of her jacket. Ms. Friedman goes on to comment that Dr. Biden’s style is informal and “friendly.”

I think Dr. Biden’s style is in keeping with other First Ladies such as Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton: nondescript and appropriate. It’s not showy nor is it dowdy. There’s is some thought and care put into it but it doesn’t overshadow anything. I don’t think Dr. Biden is all that interested in fashion, but she always looks presentable.

Back to the sustainability message – since the fashion industry is among the biggest polluters, sustainability is going to be key as we move deeper into climate change hell. What’s stylish is what we already own and isn’t further hurting the planet.

I get dressed every day. I always have. I know there are many people who wear workout clothes. I do not wear these things. People have looked terrible for a very long time. I’ve said it for decades, and everyone gets furious at me. Men in shorts, I think that’s bad. I wear jeans every day in the house. I’m a surprisingly formal person. I eat at the table. I set the table every time I eat. I do this even if I’m eating an apple. I have tons of friends, especially people who live alone, who often eat in their bedrooms. I would never do that. Ever.

Fran Lebowitz, American author, public speaker.

I love Fran Lebowitz! She makes me laugh. I saw her for the first time many years ago speaking on television. In her bone dry delivery she ripped Californians to shreds for our extreme no smoking policies. I’m a Californian, I hate smoking, and I support our policies/laws, but Ms. Lebowitz had me in stitches laughing. Her pacing, delivery, quality of voice, and unapologetic manner are a magical combination for humor. What’s more, she’s not even working it; seemingly that’s just the way she is.

She has a signature look that I also appreciate. Pretty much for the last 50 years she has donned jeans, an Oxford shirt, a blazer, custom made wingtip cowboy boots, and in the winter a big overcoat. She buys quality, often bespoke, classic pieces and sticks with what works for her.

As for her quote today, I completely agree with everything she says:

  1. Men in shorts is not a good thing. (Men in sandals is worse.)
  2. People dress poorly.
  3. I also set the table every day for every meal.

Click here to read an interview Elle magazine did with Ms. Lebowitz in 2015. (Once again she had me in stitches.)