Thursday, December 31, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Losing A Well Worn Loved One

Rebecca Taylor bomber jacket

The Premise: On the cusp of a new year it's become de rigueur to identify which fashion trends are beginning to surface, which are peaking, and which are long past their expiration date. Nothing against a good trend however I've recently begun thinking about the concept of "items which define you;" those that become closet mainstays because they make a statement, span the seasons and somehow rise above the vagaries of fashion. The type of item I am referring to would probably be considered a twist on a classic. Oftentimes those who know you associate the item with you and, in fact, you associate it with yourself. It's especially winning when a particular fashion treasure occupies that sweet spot between being your "go-to" security totem while still packing a potent style punch.

The Hypothesis: I would venture to guess that many people have such an item, without even realizing it. Perhaps you take yours for granted--as Joni Mitchell sang "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." On last week's "family vacation" (an oxymoron to be sure!) my daughter's magical Rebecca Taylor jacket went AWOL. Spoiler Alert: it was not the first time-- this is the Mata Hari of jackets.

The Plot Unfolds: I heard the woeful but not totally unexpected tale of its demise at a post mortem Sunday morning brunch. As tragic as it was comic, the story came tumbling out right after I asked why my 22-year-old daughter was currently sporting a wrist brace but before I noticed her cracked iPhone screen.

Foreshadowing: I specifically remembered asking why the leopard printed wool and leather sleeved bomber jacket was even part of her ensemble on a balmy Miami night as she departed the hotel.

The Plot Thickens: The past evening had had "everything" a la SNL's Stefon.As best as can be reconstructed, highlights included: a local bar, a hot new nightclub, a wipe out in said nightclub (hence the smashed phone and sprained wrist), a Walgreens trip (to purchase the wrist stabilizer), a return to the scene of the crime (the club) after the wrist was secured, a walk on the beach as the sun was rising, as well as myriad cab rides. The potential for losing the long treasured article of clothing were countless. The most likely scenario: it was lost in the club and stolen.

The Back Story: This jacket was purchased about five years ago when my daughter was a college sophomore. She fell madly in love with it in Bloomingdales and while I hesitated; it was ridiculously expensive especially considering what happens to one's college wardrobe (lost, stolen, ruined etc.) I relented, purchasing it at full price while figuring I would be able to get it price adjusted during the next sale.

The Irony: When I spied it on sale several weeks later ( at a fraction of the original cost, I purchased another one in order to get the price adjustment on the first one. I returned the second one (hindsight is 20/20), later kicking myself for not keeping it as back up.

The International Incident: While studying abroad in Paris her junior year, my daughter took an October weekend trip to Bordeaux. Running late for her flight due to a Metro mix up, the bag containing the jacket was inexplicably detained going through the scanner.Assured that after the additional screening the bag would be brought to the gate she was told to run ahead to catch the departing flight. She made it but the bag didn't. Although she spent hours filing a police report and attempting to track down the bag, at least a month passed with no word. Air France told us that it had most likely been stolen. They would not take responsibility since the bag was not in their possession but under the jurisdiction of the French TSA. In desperation I ordered a replacement jacket, the only one available on eBay at the time, despite the fact that it was one size smaller than the original.

The Fairy Tale Ending: In late November my daughter got a call to come to the Paris police station. They had located the wayward bag. Amazingly, it was intact with all of its contents. Best of all the jacket was back! It was nothing short of a Thanksgiving miracle! The substitute jacket, unsurprisingly was a bit skimpy. Even though she owns several leather jackets, this particular jacket continued to be a wardrobe favorite worn over and over for the next two years-- until now.

Deja Vu All Over Again; Circa This Week: Heartbroken, we turned again to eBay and were shocked and delighted to find the original desired size NWT (new with tags) at close to 90 percent price discount. It is on its way and I truly hope that this is the end of the jacket saga, once and for all.

Tom Ford Nikita Cat Eye Sunglasses

The Corollary: This story reminded me of a friend that I've long ago lost contact with. She and I worked retail together in the early '80s. The quintessential fearless "cool girl," she drove a vintage jeep while driving all the boys crazy. Her outfits were often just thrown together without much regard she did have one essential accessory: black cat eye Colors in Optics sunglasses. It was a long running joke that she would set aside a portion of her wages each week in order to afford the many replacement pairs after repeated pairs went missing.

Alexander McQueen skull scarf

The Takeaway: At first I didn't think I had a signature item. I have worn the same John Hardy bracelets for years (my daughter wears the same silver Elsa Peretti bone cuff since high school) but we are talking about fashion items here not jewelry. Eventually I realized that I do have a trademark of sorts. Often as I run out the door I grab a nearly decade-old Alexander McQueen black and white skull scarf-- the first of its kind I ever purchased. I have since purchased the scarf in a few other color combos however the original one in monochromatic tones is still my favorite. And yes, just in case they stop making them (mine is in danger of becoming threadbare), I own a backup.

- Laurel Marcus

Sunday, December 20, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Fashion Insiders Swarm for Bee Motif Treasures

Gucci Bees illustration

Got apiphobia? Then you might want to step away from the Gucci. No, apiphobia is not a fear of paying too much for a once-traditional-then-sexy-now-quirky Italian design house luxury brand item – it is the fear of bees; a currently prevalent leitmotif thanks to Gucci designer Alessandro Michele’s revamped line. Needless to say, Michele is hardly the only one using the honeybee for fashion, jewelry and accessories, he is just one of the more recent to get in on this “buzzy” iconographic staple.

Napoleon and the bee motif

The bee, as an emblem, can be traced all the way back to Napoleon Bonaparte. A general of Corsican descent, Napoleon sought to legitimatize himself by appearing as a French emperor, thus requiring a crest or “trademark.” He decided to adapt the bee; of course, centuries before the famous Muhammad Ali line “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” however it indicated that this his was no “fly by night” reign. Like the bee, he may not have been large but he was in charge for about 20 years! See:

Alexis Bittar flower & bee pin

Since then, bees have become a part of popular iconography along with flora and have been used throughout for jewelry both high and low. From Dolce & Gabbana with their bee and crown logo, to Alexis Bittar with his resin jewelry, to Alexander McQueen with his skull & bee have employed the image of this polarizing creature.

Kiki McDonough bee bracelet

Why do we fear the bee when it is an important part of our ecosystem? Well, of course there’s the aforementioned sting, generally caused by its more vicious cousin, the wasp. The much misunderstood and maligned honeybee doesn’t sting unless provoked (think Big Sean’s “I Don’t F With You”) or if their hive is disturbed (can’t you see they’re busy making honey in there)! The bee should actually be afraid of the human as we are now responsible for eradicating bees at an alarming rate to possible tragic ecological results.

Joan Rivers bee pins

The late Joan Rivers was a huge bee fan who sold her numerous iterations of highly decorative and ornate bee pins on QVC for years where they continue to be available. She often remarked on the fact that bees defy science with a body too big and wings too small to be aerodynamic, yet somehow they fly. She loved the symbolism of these insects; one of being able to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds, and used the bee as a parable for her own success. As we all know, she even named her daughter Melissa -- Greek for honeybee. Interestingly, an alternate word for apiphobia is Melissophobia which sounds like something that the current co-hosts on Fashion Police (whoever they may be this week) are probably quite familiar with. Ha!

Erwin Pearl bee pin 

Most recently, the jewelry design company Erwin Pearl, has created a line in conjunction with the New York Botanical Garden and yep, you guessed it!  One of their featured items is a gold bumblebee pin which was recently given out as a party favor during their promotional event last week.  ICYMI they are also available on the NYBG website .

Gucci embroidered bees

At the recent NYBG Winter Wonderland Ball I noticed fashion designer Victor de Souza wearing a sparkly mint green suit with the new logo of Gucci, the well known red and green stripes plus a gold embroidered bee smack dab in the center, which appeared near the cuff of the jacket sleeve. Last week at a luncheon DeSouza wore one of the gold bee pins on his black jacket lamenting the fact that he would have liked a whole cluster of them to pin together – very appropriate since he also wore a black flower as a bolo tie.

So whether you’re a Queen Bee, a Wannabee or a busy bee finishing up your holiday shopping, it’s safe to predict that the bee trend will “stick” around into the new year… no Epi-pen necessary.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Gift Books for Young Readers

Dozi The Alligator Finds A Family by Daniel Boris,
Illustrated by Nicola Sammarco

Author Daniel Boris based Dozi The Alligator on a comic strip that he had previously created called Hoxwinder Hall.  In 2010, Hoxwinder Hall became a top five finalist in the Washington Post's America's Next Great Cartoonist contest, thanks to the votes of Washington Post readers.

Daniel Boris: The premise of my comic was that a little boy brings a baby alligator home with him after a family vacation to Florida. Since alligators are the single iconic animal indigenous to Florida, it just seemed natural. The name “Dozi” is the word “Izod” spelled backward.

My book tells one of the oldest stories that live in all of us; going on an adventure, taking those first few steps towards the greater world and finding answers to your questions. You see–Dozi the alligator lives in a swamp in Florida. His world is small and he’s just a little guy. But far away, just over the horizon is a beautiful castle that lights up each night with color. Dozi is fascinated by the wonder of it all. One day Dozi goes from daydreaming to exploring and he’s out in the world. It’s a huge confusing place but he’s ready to do more than watch. The message for kids is to always be curious of the world in which we live.

I initially thought that I would both write AND illustrate the book myself, but ultimately, I made the decision to sort of pull a Walt Disney. What I mean by that is that Walt Disney was a decent artist himself, but also smart enough to not let his own ego get in the way of having his ideas brought to life by more capable artists. For me, the single most important thing was the idea of Dozi the Alligator. The concept and story. I wanted to introduce Dozi to kids everywhere and since I wanted Dozi to also be visually appealing, I knew that I needed a specific illustration style to bring him to life in the way that I envisioned. I eventually found Nicola Sammarco. I reached out to him through e-mail, introduced myself, told him about my project, and asked if he was interested in being my Illustrator. He said “yes”, and we started working on illustrations for my book several weeks later. I’m extremely proud of the artwork we created for this book. Nicola’s artwork perfectly captures the essence of my characters!

The Attack of the Giant Stink Bugs: The Adventures of Ru-lan
by Larry Bennett, Illustrated by  Basia Tov

The Ru-lan series takes place in a fairytale world in which the forces of good are at odds with the forces of evil. Ru-lan is a kind, compassionate individual who consistently remains at peace with himself. For his kindness and compassion he is ultimately rewarded. In addition to teaching these fundamental values, the series also introduces the reader to various aspects of Chinese culture. Illustrator Basia Tov sought to conceptualize these ancient Chinese influences in choosing the style and medium of her illustrations.

Basia Tov: The choice of medium and style for this project is tightly linked to the theme and setting of the books. My goal was to enrich the young reader's aesthetic experience by translating some of the ancient Chinese art sensibilities into a modern child-centric version. The watercolors, the painted fans, the embroideries had significant influence on the style I had developed for this series of books. The inspiration is evident in simplification of the figures and the patterned rendering of the landscapes. There is a lot of geometry and abstract designs in my treatment of mountains, rocks, trees…

Regarding the medium, I felt the watercolor style would further carry over the character of my inspiration into my work. Yet, I decided to use Copic markers to achieve it instead of paints. The markers in many ways give the same effect as the watercolor paints with their brush tips and excellent color blending. The advantage of using the markers is the consistency of color that can be easily and efficiently preserved throughout the multiple books. I also used colored pencils for rendering finer details.

Pug on Wheels by Linda Simon,
Illustrated by Jay Jacoby

Avid pug lover and author, Linda Simon, was inspired to write this tale of the adoption of a physically challenged dog, by a real life pug, named Sadie,that enjoyed life to the age of fifteen in spite of her disabilities.  She adheres to the belief that “if it isn’t a pug, it’s just a dog.”

Linda Simon: Sadie served as an inspiration to all those who knew her and I have always wanted to share her story. The objective is twofold: One is to make children aware of the homeless dog crisis and to learn although the adoption of a puppy is often the first choice just as much love and fun comes with a physically challenged dog. Second, Josh, the young boy in the story learns acceptance of a situation he initially perceives as different. He soon realizes Sadie is no different from any other dog. Josh learns about adoption, compassion, responsibility and caregiving through his love of a little homeless pug.

The relationship that evolves between Josh and Sadie teaches Josh qualities he will apply to life in general.  Sadie and Josh make it a fun way to absorb how love and kindness play a role in the encouragement and self worth of dogs and humans.

Sadie also has the power to reach out to children in wheelchairs proving nothing sets them apart as being different. Seeing the world through the soft eyes of a pug proves all
things are equal and possible.

Dinosaurs Living in My Hair! By Jayne M. Rose-Vallee,
Illustrated by Anni Matsick

Jayne M. Rose-Vallee makes her debut as a children’s book author with this tale of whimsical rhymes about a curly haired six year old whose mother jokingly tells her she must have dinosaurs living in her hair. Through the book and the accompanying product line, Rose-Vallee hopes to encourage children “to embrace their hair's individual beauty whether it is straight, curly, thick or thin.”

Jayne M. Rose-Vallee: This story is inspired by my daughter, Lauren Danielle. As a child, she had a tumble of lovely blonde curls that she never wanted me to comb. So I told her that there must be 'dinosaurs living in there' and she just smiled and took it in her stride. If you teach your children to embrace their natural beauty at an early age they will surely, like my daughter Lauren, blossom into wonderful and confident adults.

When the second and third book in the series are published, their broader appeal and subject matter, will increase the target audience and allow continued growth for the "Dinosaurs Living In My Hair!" movement.

For young adult readers:

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Harper Lee's recently published novel, Go Set a Watchman (the name derives from a biblical passage), is a manuscript that was unknown for 58 years until it came to light this year. The book has stirred quite a bit of controversy.  Is it the sequel to Lee's first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, or is it just a first draft of that timeless classic? In a comparison of the two novels you will indeed find that they share quite a few passages nearly word for word. However, regardless of the controversy, Lee's self-described "race novel" is a worthy read. We find the main character, Jean Louise (Scout) Finch in her twenties, having moved away to New York City. She returns to the fictional Maycomb, Alabama for her annual two week visit with her family. The events of To Kill a Mockingbird are actively referenced, but ultimately this story is less about action and dramatic events and more about soul searching.

For more Better Bets visit:

In the Market Report

A Woman On a ‘Mission’

Jean Shafiroff, Zang Toi & Chiu-Ti Jansen
Photos: Marilyn Kirschner

In what has become somewhat of a holiday tradition (well, for the last three years anyway), the tireless philanthropist and social fixture Jean Shafiroff hosted a lovely and festive holiday lunch yesterday at the iconic New York watering hole, Michael’s Restaurant on west 55th street (how does she manage to do it all???) Taking over the far right side of the restaurant in the back (with its windows overlooking a garden bedecked with a Christmas tree), she told me this is her largest luncheon thus far (it had been 24 people and this time, there were 40). It’s also the first time she hired a professional photographer to record it all (Patrick McMullan’s Owen Hoffman).

Michael's festive atmosphere

There were four beautifully set round tables and their close proximity made it feel quite intimate. The eclectic mix of people included fashion designers Zang Toi and Victor de Souza; fellow philanthropists CeCe Black and Barbara Tober; publicist R. Couri Hay; acclaimed dermatologist Judith Hellman, MD, PLLC; Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, founder, president, and creative director of the jewelry firm bearing his name; Ben Widdicome the editor; George Gurley, a contributing writer for The New York Observer and Vanity Fair; Chiu- Ti Jansen, publisher, writer, and supporter of the arts; Allison Minton, a columnist for New York Social Diary; and pretty much all of us at The Look On Line (publisher Ernest Schmatolla, contributing writers Laurel Marcus and Lieba Nesis, and moi). FYI, Ms. Minton, whose ‘beat’ is accessories (she admitted that she was “obsessed” by them at an early age), was a table mate, and she was instantly drawn to Laurel’s amazing David Webb bijoux (her enviable earrings, necklace, bracelets, rings belonged to her late stepmother), and my statement making (if not quite as precious) brooch: the humongous vintage Larry Vrba piece comprised of clusters of simulated pearls, pink rhinestone crystals, and marbleized green leaf stones was made to resemble a bunch of grapes.

Elsie McCabe Thompson

Naturally, since the setting was Michael’s, the food and wine was nothing short of superb. On the menu: Tuscan kale Caesar salad, pan seared salmon with French lentils and fennel slaw, followed by a desert comprised of Michael’s holiday perfect cookies. In between courses, Jean gave a little toast, wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and taking the time to speak about her passion, the New York City Mission Society (, which has the distinction of being the oldest charity in New York City and changes the lives of many of the thousands of under served children it serves. She also introduced its Executive Director, Elsie McCabe Thompson, who stood up to say a few words. The luncheon was a private event, not funded by the Mission, and a donation in honor of her guests will be made to the New York City Mission Society.

Her involvement dates back to 2012 when she was asked to co-chair their bicentennial Gala which was held on 12/12/12 at the Pierre Hotel. In 2013, she was one of 3 honorees at their Annual Gala and received the Dina Merrill Award for Public Service.  Last year she joined their board and served as the chairwoman of the April 1, 2014 Annual Gala and she hosts events for them.

Jean Shafiroff and George Gurley

Jean sits on numerous boards and believes strongly that we all have an obligation to help those in need. She personifies the notion: “For whom much is given, much is required” and she always does so looking perfectly put together and flawlessly groomed. Known for her voluminous ball gowns as much as her philanthropy, she is a lover and follower of fashion, but has her own particular style. Yesterday, she wore the iconic Courreges vinyl jacket in hot pink which she paired with a black turtleneck, chartreuse skirt and matching pumps. It had Palm Beach written all over it, which was rather fitting, if not coincidental, given the fact that she and her husband Martin, are headed to the iconic Florida resort destination for a well-deserved rest, right after Christmas.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, December 12, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

NYBG Winter Wonderland Ball Warmly Celebrates the Season

All photos Laurel Marcus
(Click images for full size views)

Question: What did the coat check attendant at the New York Botanical Garden Winter Wonderland Ball have in common with the Maytag repairman? Answer: Neither one was needed last night. As a result of  the balmy early fall-ish weather we're currently enjoying, most guests did not bother with coats.

Jennifer Wright, Daniel Kibblesmith

Of the three times I've attended this event -- the crowning glory of the fall social calendar aka the last hurrah before everyone heads off to their second, third or fourth homes in beach or ski locales-- this time was the most surreal as the only snow to be seen was the fake kind placed in the corners of the dinner tent.

Interestingly, this may have been the most "fashion-y" of the three times I've attended with so many designer/muse duos bringing their "A" game. Whatever was lacking in holiday appropriate weather (and believe me I'm not complaining!) was more than made up for with the beauty of the scenery and the glorious and creative fashions.

Selita Ebanks

I love that both men and women really seem to make an effort for this ball, which has a suggested color scheme of black and winter white every year. Indeed there are many who follow the "dress code" and probably just as many who go all peacock coexisting peacefully in one venue.

Georgina Bloomberg

The event which raises money for children's educational programs at the Gardens was sponsored this year by Herve Leger, HFZ Capitol Group, Van Cleef & Arpels with additional support from Glamour Magazine. Several women donned Leger long bandage dresses including Georgina Bloomberg, an event chair, in a gold metallic iteration.

Maggie Norris, Nicole DiCocco, Joy Marks

A striking threesome posing by the 3-D holiday train tableau was designer Maggie Norris wearing one of her signature military styles in long form along with Joy Marks in an eye-catching "Marie Antoinette meets Little Bo-Peep" get-up including a floral headpiece avec l'oiseau yet missing a shepherd's crook. I'm suddenly having flashbacks to the Sex and The City Movie scene when Big stands Carrie up at their wedding. Afterwards she realizes she may have gotten "carried away" (ha)scaring him with the over the top wedding accoutrements . "I put a bird on my head!" she admits.

Left: Alexandra Lebenthal

Anyway, back at the Ball they are joined by Nicole DiCocco in a white vintage "wedding gown" as she says her father called it, paired with a stunning fur and fabric bolero jacket. When she found the gown in a store in Palm Beach it needed absolutely no alterations. She quips that she's all set should a marriage be in her future.

Dr. Susan Krysiewicz, Kim Hicks

Also in furry winter white were the dynamic duo of Dr. Susan Krysiewicz and her designer friend Kim Hicks. These two always come dressed to impress at the NYBG events as I realized that we often feature them. Hicks designed both of their fabulous white fluffy outfits and Dr. Susan stopped to show me her ivory mink pompom heels. Although she is a physician IRL (not just playing one on TV --wink) in her off time she is a bona fide fashionista who really enjoys getting dressed up for an event such as this. Designer Kim mentions that she's currently working on adding creative and colorful furs-- she sources the pricey pelts in Paris (say that three times fast)-- into her line.

Jean Shafiroff in a Victor de Souza gown

Of course no social event of this magnitude would be complete without Philanthropist Jean Shafiroff who, although she is on the petite side, can always be guaranteed to have the biggest dress in the room. This one needs its own zip code! Accompanying both the dress and Ms. Shafiroff is its designer Victor de Souza, in a fetching metallic mint green suit,

Victor de Souza speaking with Alexandra Lebenthal

Jean somehow commandeers this magnificent Gone With the Wind frock to front and center as if she wears huge ballgowns every night--oh, that's right-- she does. VdS has outdone himself in this masterpiece which he worked on in stages. It didn't get "inflated" until the last minute--somewhere there's an entirely empty crinoline factory. Ms. Shafiroff who is working on a book about philanthropy to be published in February tells me that she is channeling Audrey Hepburn with the length of her white gloves which stop at the elbow rather than above it. Ok, maybe with the gloves but that dress is as far from a simple LBD as you can get!

Ana Arsov, Jasmina Denner & Nicole DiCocco

The crowd is a mix of well-heeled (and obviously well clothed) Millennials as well as those not quite Old Guard but certainly aged enough to be their aunties, uncles or dare I say it, moms and dads.
"Although technically it's not, this really is a fashion event" remarks Ms. Shafiroff as dinner is called.
As I walk towards the exit, I overhear a man in a black and white patterned dinner jacket telling what must be a couple of "event newbies" that once you attend the Winter Wonderland Ball, you will be always come back. A well put testament to how even sans the-Yule-like weather, this event retains its charm.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Decoding the Mystical Listicle

Chances are that if you're a reader of any kind of magazine or internet content you've come across the seemingly friendly but possibly deadly listicle. A portmanteau of "list" and "article" (not related to a male body part) these annoying little bugaboos have become an industry-wide epidemic. Glance at any or all of the covers of women's fashion magazines and you will see them in their glory bearing titles from the innocuous: "165 Best Beauty Buys," or "20 Most Googled Style Questions Answered" to the slightly more insistent: "89 Brilliant Ways to Step Up Your Style," "The 11 Nail Polishes You Need to Try This Winter" "10 Fresh Ways to Spring Clean" to the downright offensive albeit hilarious:: "5 Ways to Get What You Want Under the Tree & In Love" or "27 Amazing Reasons It's Great to Be A Woman" (did Caitlyn Jenner write that one? ha). Some are truly cringe worthy as in "52 Holy S*it Sex Moves." By the time I got to "382 Shoes That Scream Buy Me" I felt more than a little violated.

Of course this is not really anything new; lists are in our DNA. When it comes right down to it, what are The Ten Commandments but a list. Centuries later phenomena such as Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, Forbes and Fortune's 500 lists, and People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People have just signaled a downward continuance of the trend.

And those lists were popular and begot more bite sized lists like People's 25 Most Intriguing. Time Magazine broke it down still further to "7 Things the Most Interesting People All Have in Common." There's even a book by well renowned Italian novelist, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher and literary critic Umberto Eco called "The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay " which is basically a very high-brow compilation of lists.

Naturally all bets were off once the internet seized on this arena. It wasn't long before writers and editors decided to spawn devil children: listicles were at once popular and easy to produce. What's more they could tie advertising to them known as "click bait" and score on all fronts. Entire websites sprung up (I won't name any names here but to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, we all "know it when we see it") solely for the dubious purpose of seeing how many clicks they could get, how little unique content/effort they could put forth and how many ads they could link to.

This in turn set up the situation that one is now likely to encounter online which could be termed "49 Stupid Things I Compiled 5 Minutes Ago Under a Loose Heading To Make it Seem Like I have Something Original to Say." Apparently there have been studies indicating that there's a science to using the most appealing numbers (10, 15, 21 or 25 are goodies) with odd or prime numbers statistically receiving the most clicks. Indeed the whole concept is driven by an overload of info in the modern age; our fast pace and collective ADD sparking the need for easily digestible content. It's been stated that readers enjoy knowing how long an article is before investing their valuable time, hence the act of assigning a number to the covered points or featured products is tantamount. Some sites have gone a step further with search engine optimization, meaning that their "writers" deliberately attempt to use words that rank higher on Google and other search engines; a concept at once fascinating and propagandizing.

Since I know nothing whatsoever of the actual "art" of writing a listicle having never done so, and have no idea what the optimal words are, I thought it would be fun to brainstorm or suggest titles since that is what initially draws you into their spider's web.

Apropos to the holiday season I propose: "Ho-Ho-Ho or No-No-No--15 Ways You're Unintentionally Slut Shaming Your Bestie" Along that same thread: "12 Holiday Sweaters Guaranteed Not to Get You Laid"

For 2016: "61 Style Resolutions Only Rihanna Could Nail" Or maybe "7 Things That You Never Want to Find at the Bottom of Your Handbag" (Obvious choices would be a Popsicle or a rodent)

For the celebrity obsessed: "5 Pop Stars Who Actually Sing Live " (although I bet that's been done if there are that many).

"21 Actors Interviewed on Location: 3 of Them Totally Knew Where They Were."

For the art enthusiast: "35 Most Iconic Fashion Photos Taken In or Around Kidney Shaped Swimming Pools" or "11 Superfluous Mentions of Art at Art Basel"

Lastly, a meta example: "9 Randomly Invented Listicle Titles That Are Almost as Absurd as Real Ones"

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

"Younger", But Wiser...

Nico Tortorella, Hilary Duff, Sutton Foster, Miriam Shor,
and Debi Mazar (Cast of Younger)

"Am I willing to lose my dignity, wisdom and self respect for another chance at my twenties?" Liza Miller (played by Broadway star Sutton Foster) a 40-year-old divorced New Jersey housewife and mother to an 18-year-old daughter, asks her best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar of "Entourage") on the first episode of TV Land's "Younger." "Yes" says Maggie, who is already planning her friend's makeover. "Yes, you are."

Debi Mazar (Maggie) Gives Sutton Foster (Liza) a Younger look

The premise is that in order to jump start/reignite a career in book publishing begun 15 years earlier and abandoned for stay at home motherhood, Liza turns back the clock to her 26th year and a double life, apparently fooling a boss, co-worker and boy toy in the process. I vaguely remember hearing of this Darren Star ("Sex and The City") produced show in its debut last spring yet didn't view it/become addicted until I happened to catch a recent marathon; binge watching half of the 30 minute 12-episode series on TV while mainlining the last six commercial-free online (a much preferable experience).

Liza (Sutton Foster) in Younger

The second season will premiere January 13 with an hour-long episode so there's still time to catch up on the first. I realized the irony in that, one of my other favorite series "Jane By Design" which ran on ABC Family in 2012 for only one season (I was crushed when it was not renewed) actually featured the converse of this plot: a teenage girl in high school pretending that she was in her twenties in order to land a job in a fashion design house. "Jane By Design" had several parallels to the "Younger" story line including one person (a male friend from childhood) who was in on the age deception from the start and covered for Jane just as Maggie does for Liza.

Hilary Duff (Kelsey), Sutton Foster (Liza), Debi Mazar (Maggie)

"Younger" which is based on the 2005 book by Pamela Redmond Satran, is not "The Carrie Diaries" ie a younger version of "Sex and the City." Instead it is a fun and entertaining romp through the NYC that includes Brooklyn with its hipsters vs. the "old timers" such as Maggie, who bought her art studio/loft apartment when rents were cheaper than in Manhattan. After Liza's gambling and cheating husband (the irony is that he leaves her for a younger woman) over-mortgages the NJ house, Liza is forced to sell. She moves in with lesbian artist Maggie (a "friend who is a girl") and also her partner in crime/ keeper of the age deception secret/lie.

Kelsey (Duff) and Liza (Sutton) at the Office

Other cast members include Kelsey Peters (Hilary Duff) as Liza's millennial co-worker, Diana "Trout Pout" Trout (Miriam Shor) as Liza's head of publicity boss, and Liza's young love interest Josh (Nico Tortorella).  The ensemble work well together although one must suspend disbelief to think that book smart, Dartmouth educated Liza would have much in common with unschooled tattoo artist Josh than an obvious physical attraction (incidentally the word "cougar" was unbelievably never uttered in the whole first season).

What IS said makes for some pretty funny observations between Gen X and Millennial experiences in everything from personal grooming (or lack thereof) of the bikini area, to new food (Korean Bibimbap from a truck), workouts (Crossfit , Krav Maga), email providers (bye to AOL, hello to Gmail), to text-speak (K instead of OK). Naturally a large part of Liza's job revolves around being social media savvy. Upon learning that she is expected to Tweet as a modern day Jane Austen, Liza asks Bing "how do I open a Twitter account?) Somehow, only guest star Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) seems to realize that Liza is a pretender to the under 30 throne and quietly warns her that her hands are a "dead giveaway." Actually, the hand thing is a recurrent joke.

Patricia Field on set of Younger

Costume Designer Patricia Field (also of SATC fame) is responsible for Liza's wardrobe transformation from suburban housewife to publishing assistant. Apparently upon hearing that she was being given this task, she thought "I'm not a magician." Luckily when she met Foster she said it wasn't hard to make her believable as a 20 something through wardrobe. Field, who just announced that she's closing her Bowery store, an institution for underground types for 50 years, citing health concerns and a desire to pursue other opportunities, is not known for her costuming subtlety. Here she tends to overdo the Brooklyn hipster look for this part IMO.

Hilary Duff with Pat Field

The thinking behind Liza's wardrobe, according to Pat Field, is that, if Liza were a real person, she would be borrowing items from her daughter's closet as well as shopping in thrift stores as she doesn't have a lot of money to spend on clothing. In the show she tends to wear a lot of "non-outfits" mixing patterns and prints with loose pullover sweaters, plaid shirts tied around her waist, army boots and berets (perhaps as a nod to a hipster version of Mary Tyler Moore). The effect ends up looking a bit disheveled in a collegiate, Free People, Boho, "I just picked this up off the floor" way which I find slightly disturbing. I keep waiting for "Trout Pout" to tell Liza to clean up her act in every episode.

One Noteable Exception to Liza's  Inexpensive Wardrobe
 The Sold Out Burberry Cape

By contrast, Junior Editor Kelsey (also 26) looks much more professional, toned-down and put together. She wears age appropriate yet fashionable work clothes including blazers and short skirts along with natural looking makeup as opposed to Liza whose makeup seems wrong -- noticeably blue or green eye shadow and bright pink lipstick is more befitting a real housewife. What's missing is some of the drama shown in "Jane By Design" as Jane was always rushing around having to change her "look" between school and work whereas that has rarely happened with Liza (other than a quick change of letting her hair down or removing a jacket) in" Younger."

Perhaps the character with the most aggressive wardrobe is boss Diana who buys herself a Judith Lieber bag in one episode and poses with it for an online dating service profile photo to an inauspicious outcome. Her "Devil Wears Prada-type" character is always in an eye-catching print or embellished dress accessorized by an over-the-top costume-y statement necklace which makes her a bit of a caricature of a book or fashion editor. When Kelsey declares that its pathetic that Diana who is 43 lies about her age claiming that she's 41, Liza recovers quickly agreeing that it is "Totes pathetic. #PATHETIC!" demonstrating that she is down with the lingo.

The entire concept of ageism is played nicely by the ensemble cast with Liza occasionally "mothering" the Millennials, making a too-old reference, and identifying with her generational boss. Some critics have complained that 40 year olds are not really that clueless and naive of popular culture today (Liza doesn't know who Lena Dunham is; asks if IRL is in Queens) especially since she has a teenage daughter (albeit one studying in India) but I would say that many of these foibles are exaggerated for a laugh.

Naturally, there is an age appropriate love interest for Liza, an executive who lurks in the publishing house wings; a story line that I'm willing to bet will become more important in Season Two, creating more controversy since Liza's divorced boss "Trout Pout" is avidly pursuing (read: throwing herself) at him.

To watch full episodes of Season 1:

- Laurel Marcus