Not my best ensemble but it’s just right for ARF.

Yesterday I completed my fourth and final shift of laundry duty at ARF. This is the first in a series of tasks that I, as a new volunteer at Animal Rescue Foundation, must learn and do before I’m allowed to work with the cats.

What does one wear to the laundry room at ARF? I chose a white ARF volunteer t-shirt with the recently retired logo. (The new one will be unveiled soon.) There is a dress code that states long pants and since I’m not a fan of jeans it was simple black stretch pants for me. PUMA sneakers made me happy for the comfort factor. Fanny Packs are the new It Bag and mine in black, which I picked up at the recent American Craft Council show was a convenient alternative to a handbag since there’s no place to store our stuff.

IMG_20160822_113612888_HDRMy partner in cleanliness, Marjorie sports the ARF Volunteer tee in lavender, which I think looks lovely with her chic bobbed hair.

Our outfits are really a uniform as everyone, the volunteers and staff who work directly with the animals, dresses in variations on this theme. Walking around the shelter in the proper attire, to me felt like I was part of the team. That’s what uniforms are all about!

It’s on to work at the ARF Thrift Store next.

an-expert-in-murderShe was tall, with attractive silver blonde hair which refused to be contained in its entirety by a plait, and she wore a suit which was sober only in its coloring; no part of the outfit had escaped little finishing-off touches and Penrose, who had never realized that black could be so expressive, searched in vain for a square inch of plain material; even the gloves on the table were attached to velvet flowers, while the hat, which was too big to go anywhere else but on the floor beside its keeper, was the most creative mourning attire that he had ever seen. What was most remarkable, though, was that Alice Simmons carried it off with a dignity and composure which few people achieved with straight lines and understated simplicity.

– From the novel An Expert in Murder: A Josephine Tey Mystery, by Nicola Upson.

I enjoy mysteries but good ones are very hard to find.  Ms. Upson, a former journalist, has written a series based on the real 1930s mystery writer Josephine Tey. Pretty well written and full of period details.

1c-jjpicart-paolosorrentijpg_1If you’re going into the fashion business today and want to be successful, you have to have money behind you … It’s not just about talent anymore. Ten years ago you had to have an idea; today it’s not enough. If you want to be global and have a viable business, you have to marry yourself to a group.

– Jean-Jacques Picart, fashion consultant.


This is true, if, that is, a designer wants to be a Celebrity Designer. Isabel Toledo didn’t and her business is doing just fine. There are plenty of others who are content to stay small and perhaps a bit under the radar. It’s hard but possible to be a successful fashion designer and NOT join forces with big conglomerates. Anyway, many who did are now getting out and complaining that it’s all too much – too many shows, too much pressure to create, not enough time.

On the flip side, from what I have read designers working for corporate brands are given pots of money and free rein to design whatever they like. Even outrageous clothes that don’t sell. As long as there is spectacle, marketing and brand name recognition the CEOs are happy. (The bucks come from handbag and perfume sales.) Still there is a demand for more and more product and that’s burning out everyone – designers, editors, and even consumers.

Perhaps fashion has become unfashionable. Time for a change.




imagesMy wardrobe is a sort of an endless topic of fascination for people watching my stories. ‘Why is she dressed like a crow?’ For my security. Wherever possible, and obviously Syria is an extreme situation because it is so dangerous, I really prefer and feel better about doing my job if I am not the focus of everybody’s attention. In Syria, you will see me almost always wearing an abaya and hijab. That’s primarily because I could be kidnapped if people knew that I was a Western journalist. But it’s also because nobody looks twice at me when I wear that, and there’s something extremely liberating about that.

– Clarissa Ward, American journalist, war correspondent for CNN.


B&P Gatsby picnic site

Last year Paula attended her first Gatsby Summer Afternoon for which she made her own period perfect outfit and assembled a dapper look for her husband.

Speaking of Gatsby Summer Afternoon, how’s the Art Deco ensemble coming along? Need some help?

Costumer Paula Dodd Aiello is your answer! With 50 years of experience sewing and designing Paula works magic creating head to toe looks for men, women, and children. She can start from scratch, with a pattern or without, or work with pieces to put together a period perfect Gatsby Summer Afternoon look. She can even repair or re-purpose a beloved vintage this or that. (Side note:  Paula remade a vintage silk blouse for me. It was a favorite of mine but fragile and beyond repair. She was able to recreate it and it’s become a staple in my wardrobe.)

Paula’s love of sewing began as a child making clothes for her Barbie. When in high school, she made all her mother’s dresses and later her son’s Halloween costumes. Eventually Paula began designing for theater productions, working in periods from Elizabethan to Victorian to modern. She can do it all!

Do you have an idea but not the sewing skills? Has your planned outfit gone amiss? (I can relate to that.) Need something for the kids?

Give Paula a ring. There’s just enough time!

Check out her website: http://sewbecoming.com/


imagesWe do not need the designer in the classic sense, for us, because I think that figure has become, except in some cases, a bit of a hindrance to projects.

– Diego Della Valle, President and CEO of Tod’s, an Italian leather goods brand.

Yes, this is the latest trend in corporate-run fashion brands.

For a bit of history: In the late 1980s corporations went on a shopping spree, recognizing the cache of faded fashion houses – Dior, Givenchy, Lanvin to name a few. Then they searched for up-and-coming designers. The modern approach and edgy looks of Alber Elbaz and Alexander McQueen for example, plus a big marketing budget, revitalized these fashion names and turned the houses into popular global brands. Once that goal was achieved (and designers began pushing back on the increasing demands made upon them) it seems the corporations have decided that “the designer” isn’t needed anymore. It can be done by inside managers and CEOs and perhaps a stable of creatives who keep it all going, minus any credit or the big bucks.

Well now, let’s see how that works out.



2016 Gatsby cover art - final

Image courtesy of the ADSC.

The Art Deco Society of California’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon is right around the corner Sunday, September 11, 2016. Time to start planning!

New to Gatsby Summer Afternoon? Well simply put, it’s THE period event of the year. Attendees arrive at Oakland’s Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate decked out in 20s to 40s attire and set up picnic sites using only vintage gear and vintage-style food. The afternoon includes a display of vintage cars, music by Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, dancing, croquet lessons, touring the Dunsmuir mansion, and contests for: Best Car, Best Costume, Best Charleston, Best Picnic Site.

This marks 32 years for the ADSC’s popular event and leading the way for us is Heather Ripley as the event chair. A member of ADSC since 2000, Heather says, ” … what I found with the ADSC was a very passionate group of people with a shared interest in keeping the Art Deco era alive. It felt like I was coming home.”

Part of keeping the Art Deco era alive is events like Gatsby Summer Afternoon, which is as close to time-travel as we can get.

Heather works at Larkin Street Youth Services where she is special events manager. Those work skills have proved handy – this is her fourth time up as chair of Gatsby Summer Afternoon but she’s quick to point out it’s a team effort with many volunteers helping her to make the magic of the day happen.

Heather and I recently had a Q&A via e-mail chatting all things Gatsby Summer Afternoon:

When was your first Gatsby Summer Afternoon and what stands out about that experience?

My first was in 2001, I believe. I went with my high school friend, Julie who came up from Southern California. She made her own dress and I got mine at Dress Barn, but we had the best time putting together our outfits and packing our simple picnic lunch. It was a glorious day and we were in heaven watching all the pretty people go by while lounging on our blanket on the lawn. We then handed out “It’s-It” ice cream sandwiches. That was our volunteer task. We had such a wonderful time and I’ve been “hooked” ever since.

How did you go about planning your outfit for the day?

I think I just looked at some fashion history books from the library. I was a theater major. In fact, Julie and I had both done some stage work and we both loved old movies, so it came somewhat naturally. I had a small collection of vintage items from my mom and I had loved going to antique and second hand stores to find interesting items for special occasions. A great way to learn about tips and tricks is at the How to Gatsby lecture.

Thanks, Heather. The How to Gatsby lecture is coming up on Sunday July 31st, 2pm at Bellevue Club in Oakland.

Speaking of tips, as a former picnic site winner what tips would you offer to a new or returning attendee?

First, don’t expect to be awarded your first year, it can take some time to collect pretty items. Be sure they are things you like and reflect you and your personality. The one thing we keep in mind with judging is to bestow the award to “classic” picnics that do not fall too strongly into the “theme” category – like western, gypsy, or circus. We tend to favor pure era picnics. Plus keep in mind it’s not just about the plates and linens if you are into winning, it’s also important to prepare appropriate food from the era and possibly dress in the same colors. And having a sense of humor and creativity does not hurt. Think about it, the judges have a very difficult time!

As a former and current picnic site judge, I agree that we sure do have a difficult time! But it’s also great fun to walk the grounds and meet so many interesting fellow Art Deco lovin’ people. 

at Gatsby 2007

Heather enjoying Gatsby Summer Afternoon in 2007.

Gatsby Summer Afternoon is a full day of activities and time goes by quickly, what would you say is a definite Not To Be Missed?

We do provide printed programs with the events of the day listed so you won’t miss anything. But I would say four things this year:

  1. If you have never done it you really should go on the house tour. They are free from 3-4pm in the beautiful mansion. It’s nice to get away from the sun and appreciate the collection of items lovingly displayed.
  2. This year we are hiring a “DJ” Tanoa “Samoa Boy” on the porch area of the mansion who will be playing vinyl records with songs from the 20s and 30s! We wanted the folks closer to the mansion, who typically cannot hear the stage entertainment, to have an enjoyable experience.
  3. Stop by Stookey’s Club Modern tent to refresh with an authentic cocktail and/or enjoy tastes of delicious wine at the Le Vin Winery tent.
  4. Finally, the day would not be complete without the lively Decobelles performance at 3:30. Be sure to line up early since it can be challenging to view.

Yep, the Decobelles are always a big hit and I would add don’t miss the crowning of 2016/2017 Miss Art Deco, which happens right after the Decobelles performance.

Thank you, Heather for this chat and for all you do putting Gatsby Summer Afternoon together.

Click here for tickets and more information about How to Gatsby and Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

We’ll see ya there!



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