Monday, August 30, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: 62nd Annual Emmy Awards Fashion

Last night, the 62nd Annual Emmy Awards aired and we definitely got a good fix of fashion.  While there were some disappointments (where were the fashion icons from Gossip Girl?) and some fashion train wrecks (if you can’t say something nice...), there was an awesome array of fashion at this years awards.
Claire Danes, who won Best Actress in a TV Movie for her portrayal of Temple Grandin, looked lovely in a champagne heavily beaded gown by  Armani Privé.  The gown had a quality about it that seemed to have been inspired by the famous Marilyn Monroe “Mr. President” gown by Jean Louis.  With her blonde tresses, this gown was a perfect fit.

There were so many gowns that I loved, but I have to give an all around thumbs up to the ladies from “Glee”.  Reflecting each one’s individuality and style, these women made fashion choices that were not only flattering, but also marked them for the winners that they are.
Winning the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Award, Jane Lynch looked fabulous in a purple taffeta one-shouldered gown by Ali Rahimi.  The statuesque actress was perfectly attired to accept the coveted award!

Jayma Mays was sexy, very put-together and elegant in a navy Burberry Porsum gown. Form fitting, this ruched strapless gown had a lot of movement with its cascade of ruffles at the bottom.

Looking ultra feminine in a tiered pink lace layered over black by Carolina Herrera, Dianna Agron graced the red carpet in style.  I loved the way the waist was emphasized with a black satin ribbon.

Event dressing for a plus sized woman can be a challenge, but Amber Riley proved that it can be done beautifully in a dress by Melissa Masse.  The Grecian inspired gown with a beaded waistline was a truly flattering look on this Glee star.

Bringing  a touch of fire to the group, Jenna Ushkowitz sizzled the Red Carpet in a scarlet Kevin Hall Gown. The halter gown with a slightly blousoned bodice was definitely a hit for the raven haired beauty.

But in my opinion, the biggest winner of all was Lea Michele. The sculpted strapless navy taffeta gown by Oscar de la Renta was stunning.  The spiraling cascade of ruffles gave the gown a dramatic edge that was an impressive show stopper.

My hat is off to these beautiful women and their incredible choices.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Not Quite Breakfast, Not Quite Lunch

It used to be that there was nothing finer than the ritual of Sunday Brunch.  A lazy Sunday morning doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, sipping a little coffee and then a leisurely stroll to meet up with friends at a favorite restaurant.  In my teens and early twenties, Sunday Brunch would be the gathering spot for all of my friends with as many as 15 of us at a table.  More likely than not, we had only just left each other around 4am after a night partying at Studio 54.  But that Sunday early afternoon meet up was an essential part of our social circle.
As I got older, Sunday Brunch was still an important part of the week, but it became confined to just a few close friends.  We would meet up and discuss our weeks and plan for the future week while noshing on traditional brunch fare.  For a while, Bubby’s in Tribeca became the preferred spot, my friend Janine always insisting on meeting there.  When John Jr. and Carolyn made it their spot, we continued to go despite the crowds.
Then, I started spending more time on the West Coast.  More specifically, in Orange County, CA.  Not having that tight circle of friends most certainly curtailed my brunch activity.  But even more so, the culture in the OC just doesn’t seem big on the whole brunch thing.  Quite honestly, I do not believe i have ever been to brunch here.  Sunday Brunch joined so many other things of my past that I look back on nostalgically and partake in only on visits back home to NY.  Until last weekend.
Having been invited to attend a gala dinner in Century City, I decided to spend the night in LA rather than driving back late at night after perhaps one too many glasses of wine at the after party.  Being in LA on Sunday, I decided to try out the Sunday Brunch at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.  I had heard a lot of raves about it and not only wanted to have a brunch experience again, but also wanted to weigh in on their concept of brunch.

The Peninsula Hotel has an old world elegance about it with its cobblestone driveway leading into a serene and luxurious lobby.  We cut through the Club Room Bar, a wood paneled and gentlemen’s club decorated refuge, and made our way to The Belvedere where Sunday Brunch was being served.  The very friendly hostess led us past the dessert bar at the entrance and into a comfy beautifully set semicircular booth in the corner and a live jazz ensemble played in the background at just the right volume to set the mood.  The waiter brought the Brunch Menus, filled our champagne glasses with Piper Heidsieck and the adventure began.

The waiter explained the prix fixe brunch menu to us: the appetizers listed on the menu would all be served family style to us and we only had to make a selection for the main course.  Choices made, we relaxed with our champagne and nibbled on items in the wonderfully varied bread basket.  The atmosphere, like the rest of the hotel is very relaxing and luxuriously appointed, perfect for this Sunday Brunch experience.

The main appetizers arrived on a tray in four glass dishes with the two remaining appetizers being served in a porcelain serving dish or individually to each guest. I partook in the Heirloom Tomato Salad with fresh mozzarella, baby greens, basil and aged basalmic, a pleasant start to my meal.  I followed this with the “Macaroni and Cheese”, a concoction of elbow macaroni with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, summer truffles and parmesan.  Creamy and flavorful, the pasta was perfectly al dente and the mushrooms and truffles amazing.  I was glad that it was an appetizer portion, as I could have easily consumed mass amounts of it.  My partner in crime started with freshly carved Peking Duck wrapped in Moo Shoo with scallions, cucumbers and Hoi Sin. A chef was on duty at a carving station for the express purpose of making these appetizers and they were so good, my companion had seconds.  Next he moved on to an herb crusted Ahi Tuna with fennel, cucumbers, oranges and a champagne vinaigrette.  Then it was on to a salad of Smoked Salmon with watercress, red onions, cumin roasted potatoes with a dill aioli.  The combination of flavors in both salads highlighted the freshness of the fish and created a refreshing entrance for what was to come.

A nice pause between courses, accented by free flowing champagne, and then we were on to the main course.  My companion had the “Kobe Style” Flat Iron Steak with a Yukon Purée, Bloomsdale Spinach, Cipollini Onions, Asparagus and Cabernet Jus.  He proclaimed that this was perhaps one of the best steaks he had ever had, cooked to the perfect temperature and insanely tender.  The Cabernet Jus reduction was a flavorful pairing for the beef as were the accompanying vegetables.  This guy is a tough critic so I took note that he was so impressed.

My main course was a little bit more eclectic.  As there was not a vegetarian choice among the entrées listed, I got creative and pulled together different items to create my own.  I must say that I was impressed that the staff not only didn’t blink at my request, but were extremely accommodating.  I had the “Croque Madame” from the menu, sans the country ham and the organic eggs (in essence, a hamless Croque Monsieur) paired with the vegetable selection from  their chicken entrée.  My version of the Croque Madame was made with Fontina cheese on Truffled Brioche.  The truffled brioche was light, buttery and had that slight hint of sweetness you expect from brioche.  I wasn’t sure how brioche would be for a Croque Monsieur, but it toasted up beautifully and its delicateness highlighted the slightly sharp Fontina Cheese. The side that I had chosen was a tasty mélange of fingerling potatoes, artichoke hearts, morel mushrooms with grilled romaine and lavender. I had not had morels in a long time and this dish reminded me why I used to love them.

Finally it was time for the dessert bar.  To be honest, by that point I was completely stuffed, but I had to give it a try.  I took a small sampling from the copious and tempting offering, just to see if they tasted as good as they looked. Yes, they did. :) Meanwhile, throughout the meal, our champagne glasses were kept full and the staff was friendly and attentive.

While I won't always have the opportunity to do brunch these days, this experience made me vow to carry on the tradition whenever I am in a locale that supports a brunch scene.  After all, these are the things that make you pause and reflect on how beautiful life can be.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch; Something Old, Something New........

Admittedly I am a technology baby.  I refuse to acknowledge that there was a time when we did not have personal computers and mobile smartphones.  Okay, I do acknowledge it, but grudgingly with the caveat that I have no clue how we survived!! I will be attending a wedding in just a few short weeks at a horse ranch in Colorado.  The bride almost gleefully informed me that the ranch was a technology free zone due to its location.  As I contemplate 3 1/2 days with out any reception on my iPhone, I quite literally start to have a panic attack!!
Interestingly, as much as I have embraced the computer world, there are still areas that I am just beginning to delve into.  Shopping on-line would be one of these areas.  Sure I primarily shop for books, CDs, DVDs, household things and gadgets on-line and have done so for quite some time. However, when it comes to fashion, I have pretty much always shopped for clothing in person; wanting to try them on, feel them, play.  I also love the hunt for cool new stores and finding them on my travels. But, often you are limited to virtual travel and sometimes what you are looking for is not where you are.  So, for fashion as well, I have begun to turn to the internet to find sites where you can have a wonderful shopping experience and find wonderful fashion. VagaBondNYC is one of those sites.

VagaBondNYC is an on-line shopping experience. Specializing in vintage clothing from the 60s-90s (but sometimes also venturing to earlier decades), this is a must go to site for hard to find and interesting pieces.  Rudi Gernreich, Geoffrey Beene, YSL, Alaia and even Giorgio Saint Angelo are but a very few that can be found at VagaBondNYC.
Unknown - 50's
Rudi Gernreich - 60's
Andrea Perini, a fashion industry stylist and editor, teamed up with Naveed Hussain to bring us not only vintage clothing, but a whole fashion experience.  Andrea and Naveed explain how they select the merchadise for their site:
“We don’t just simply label hunt - we research and pay importance to current and future relevance.  We have a very clear vision of what we like and do not like.  We aren’t here just to cater to the red carpet with pretty party frocks, and we try to steer clear of anything too trendy and too retro.  We hunt for all occasion pieces that have a specific identity and character to them.  We edit for pieces that will stand the test of time, for the designers that we admire and inspire us.”

They also photograph every piece on a live model, giving shoppers a visual  of the garment and also options of how they might wear it.  And, all measurements are given so that it isn’t just a guessing game if it will fit or not (a size Small in the 60’s is way different than a size Small today!!).
Yves Saint Laurent - 80's
Claude Montana - 80's
But what gives Vagabond the extra leading edge on their site is the layout of the site itself.  The site reads like a luxury magazine with beautifully photographed editorials that tell fashion stories and provide the shopper with a total visual experience.  Easy to navigate, each page has a special quality that draws you further and further into the story they are telling.

In the end, isn’t that what draws us all to fashion? The fantasy, the beauty, the story we want to hear and the story we want to tell.  For all of these qualities, VagaBondNYC delivers.
(There is also a link in my Shopping Tab)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World!

I have always said, “Give me a movie with beautiful fashion and I am content!”.  This philosophy has left me endlessly mesmerized by a multitude of films with just okay scripts.  But what they lack in script, they make up for in eye candy.  A good example of this would be the film “If A Man Answers”.  A Sandra Dee/Bobby Darren film that to most people would be forgettable.  I however bought the DVD as soon as it was released.  “Why?”, you might ask!!  The fashion and the atmosphere, of course.
I can pretty much watch any Sandra Dee movie over and over again.  She is always perfectly coiffed and wears the most divine clothes.  A few minutes into one of these films, I am transfixed to the screen and audible sighs are expressed frequently.  It is during these moments that I remember why I got involved in the fashion industry to begin with. I am sucked back in like an alcoholic who has been on the wagon and has just had a drink again for the first time.  Simply hopeless.
Imagine my delight when I could get a weekly fix of that fashion AND a script that is equally good. Yes, I discovered “Mad Men”!!  Still loving those brilliant ultra-feminine styles and still oooh and aaah over them, even on a TV show.  And it seems as if I am not the only one!!  “Mad Men” fashion seems to have infected quite a large part of the population, launching many a raid upon vintage stores across the country. Who wouldn’t want to look like January Jones?? I figured that it was only a matter of time before the current fashion industry would jump in on it.  Leave it to Marc Jacobs to take it on full force.  His Fall 2010 line for Louis Vuitton is quite simply luscious.  The line exudes the femininity and style that the early 60’s had, yet makes it modern and oh so right on target for today. I know that it is most likely a fleeting fad, but I’ll take it for as long as it lasts :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Men's Pick Fall 2010

The middle of August is upon us already!! As I have been perusing this Fall’s offerings and making my “Must Have” selections for women, it suddenly occurred to me that I have not made any “Must Have” picks for men yet.  This is clearly something that I must remedy.
As I think of Fall, my mind turns to that special crispness in the air and a certain smell that is hard to pinpoint.  It is a little bit the smell of dry leaves and a cool freshness mixed together that conjures up images of evenings before the fireplace and jumping back into the social season!
As I have been spending the last few Falls on the West Coast and overseas, my Fall/Winter wardrobe is definitely in need of sprucing up.  Especially since I plan to be spending more time at home in NY.
All of these musings lead me to my “Must Have” Men’s Fall 2010 pick.  The military jacket or coat.  This tailored masculine look is not only flattering, but it is also a lot of fun.  The attention to detail is definitely appealing: perfectly placed pockets, beautiful hardware, shoulder broadening epaulettes.  I am definitely loving this look for Fall.  So, the search for my fave of this look is on.

I am a sucker for a trench coat and trench coats are a popularized style that originated in the military.  Trench coats are timeless and a good wardrobe builder.  And who doesn’t look good in a trench?  But not your usual trench, I’m looking for a trench that functions as a Fall overcoat.  I turned to Burberry, the master of trench coats, and sure enough, they have a beautiful military inspired wool trench. Truly a beautiful coat, it also appeals to my practical side, as it is black and will never truly go out of style.

However, my playful side is thinking of also taking advantage of some of the more dramatic of this military trend.  Burberry is also offering an overcoat that is a little less subtle in its military reference.  I love the khaki color of this coat, the gold buttons, wide buttoned cuffs and large pocket flaps.  The Yum Factor of this coat definitely sucks me right in.

 On the runway, Burberry showed a beautiful collection of military inspired jackets and coats and so few of them made it to retail.  Quite disappointing. One in particular had a zipper at the waist so that you could unzip the lower half and turn it into a short cropped jacket.  Which got me to thinking.  Since I couldn’t get the 2 in 1 coat, perhaps I should also look into a short jacket.  Burberry has a great military themed short jacket in the khaki green that I am finding appealing.  With its Nehru collar and tightly spaced buttons, this jacket looks like it could just fit the bill.

If only choices were that easy!!  I have also found a great cropped jacket from McQ.  Like the Burberry trench, its military reference is a bit more subtle, but it is still a gorgeous jacket.  The boxy cropped fit would work perfectly for the seasons layered look and again like the trench it is timeless in its styling.
While I may have chosen the “Must Have” piece for Fall 2010 Men, I will still need to choose which  of these styles will win out. Will dramatic or classic win out?  It looks like I will have a hard time determining which one (or ones if I am lucky) to go with.  Wish me luck!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Sheath Loves Me Sheath Loves Me Not

Diligently, I have been sifting through the Fall Collections, looking for those must have pieces.  And what exactly are my criteria?  Number One is that it has to have what I call the Yum Factor.  If you look at it and your gut response is “Yum, I have to have that”, it passes.  Second, that it has to have an essence that conveys the look that seems right for this time.  As Chanel said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”.
And just what is happening this Fall?  The sheath dress.  Although they weren’t widely represented on the runway, they are showing up at retail big time.  Yes it is back and big this season and a must have for your wardrobe. I am a long time fan of Micheal Kors for his stylish and trendy collections that are also completely wearable.  And this Fall, Michael Kors is offering up several variations on the sheath dress, something for everyone!  You can go the classic route, the starlet route, the modern zipper accent route or mix it up with a print sheath.  With its sleek fit, these sheaths are perfect with cardigans, wraps and under a great Fall coat. Either way, the sheath is in this Fall!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: The Skinny on the Situation

Armani Collezioni
While some designers showed full leg pants for Fall (some of which were very flattering), the trend and clear winner seems to be towards the skinny pant, jean or legging.  This item goes onto my ‘must have” list for Fall 2010.
Somehow, it looks just right for this season!  A must have for this Fall’s layered look, the skinny look goes great with those bulky Fall sweaters, elongated baggy cardigans, luscious wraps, capes and wonderful new Fall jackets.  With all of the layering on top, the skinny pant helps to visually elongate the body and create a look that is cool and confident.

Burberry Brit

Behnaz Sarafpour

Weekend Max Mara



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ladies who Lunch: Cupcake Nation

The emergence of Cupcake Culture several years ago has led to a proliferation of them in the market place.  It seems like everyone and their mother is making cupcakes these days!!  As I am always watching my weight, I don’t consume a massive amount of cupcakes, but I am always in for trying a new one.  I have discovered a few that have become favorites, Babycakes being my recent passion.
Just when I thought that I had seen everything in the cupcake world, I am surprised to find new talent.  This talent comes in the form of Decorative Cupcakes and Cookies By Linda.  Last Saturday evening, I was at the launch party for ACT Today! for Military Families (Autism Cure & Treatment).  Dessert was served and the centerpiece of the selections was a display of cupcakes, decorated sugar cookies and lemon cookies.

The cupcakes took center stage with their delicate, almost fragile, icing and they were topped with a small flower, also made of icing.  Oftentimes, cupcakes that are visually beautiful do not necessarily deliver in the taste category and vice versa.  The flavor and texture of these cupcakes lived up to their artistic veneer: not overly sweet, light moist and melt in your mouth.  I tried the red velvet cupcake and was hooked.

Once I had satisfied the cupcake urge, I finally paid attention to the cookies.  The decorated sugar cookies were the first of the cookies that caught my attention.  Since this was a wine tasting event, the cookies were decorated with that theme.  Small cookies with white icing and topped with an icing medallion of a grape cluster vied for my attention with larger cookies in the shape of a cluster of grapes.  The icing on the larger cookie was executed perfectly and on top of that, Linda somehow managed to emboss the frosting with a subtle design.  Like the cupcakes, the sugar cookies deliver a just right combination of sweetness and flavor
Then there are the lemon cookies.  Not as showy as the cupcakes or sugar cookies, they are still pleasant to the eye and deliver incredibly on flavor.  Again, not overly sweet, these lemon cookies really are about a fresh lemon taste that wafts across your tongue and circulates around your mouth.  The texture is ever so crisp on the outside and airy, moist and slightly chewy in the center.  A perfect lemon cookie.

It is not very often that I am this impressed with cookies and cupcakes, so take note! These creations are little pieces of art and you almost hesitate to eat them since they are so beautiful.  Whether for an event or just for yourself, I would definitely give this emerging talent a try!!
Decorative Cookies and Cupcakes By Linda (located in Orange County, CA)