Category Archives: clothes

What Makes a Banana Republic?

I’ll be perfectly honest: I wouldn’t have read this Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed if it wasn’t the Most-Emailed story on the Times’ site as of early Monday afternoon and I hadn’t thought, “Boy, what exactly *is* a banana republic?”

According to Wikipedia, it is “a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique.”

Granted, politics are not my territory — that’s T’s turf — but I wonder: Why would a quasi-upscale clothing retailer choose to named itself after this?

The answer lies on the Gap. Inc. (Banana Republic’s parent) website: In 1983, Gap Inc. acquired Banana Republic, “then a two-store safari and traveling company.”

This description makes it sound a lot like the J. Peterman Company, which I did not actually realize was a real thing until right this second.

So I guess “banana” is supposed to equal “travel and adventure” rather than “political instability.” And, heck, I’ve never really thought about it until now, so I can’t get self-righteous about it. I just think it’s interesting.

I also kinda like this Embroidered Velvet Blazer…and the accompanying description instantly makes me think of Elaine Benes:

On the moors.

Hair blowing in the wind.

Perfectly.

(Remember, no humidity in dreams.)

You were enrobed in a long, velvet blazer, walking, walking, seemingly lost, but not afraid.

Almost as if you were there for a purpose.

And then… on the horizon, your purpose.

On a silver steed your Lochinvar coming to rescue you.

Turns out you’re beautifully adorned for the Duke of Aston’s holiday party where you’ll dine on venison, plum pudding, mincemeat pie, and fine medieval wine. Embroidered Velvet Blazer (No. 2889) is made from pure cotton velvet. Silver embroidered leafy pattern subtly beckons. Further eye-catchers: peaked lapel, two-button front closure, modified princess seams at front and back. Slightly padded shoulders for shaping. Center back vent. Mid-thigh length. Enough grace to attend any event in any century.

Perfect for looking resplendent while walking Arthur, your Scottish Deer Hound. Or wearing it with leggings and just going to party. Imported.

Women’s sizes: 2 through 18.

Color: Garnet with Silver Embroidery.

Image via *clairity*/Flickr

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Proverbial Cojones…

I can’t say I ever watched “Ugly Betty” with any regularity…which I suppose makes me partially to blame for the show’s demise. But I always found it reliably enjoyable if I happened to catch it.

And that’s precisely what happened the other night for the big finale…and…I thought it was really sweet and poignant and wrapped everything up perfectly…(although I’m not sure about that hint of a Betty-Daniel romance…)

A couple of years ago, I was shopping with my mom and aunt and cousin…and my cousin said I reminded her of Ugly Betty — which I’m pretty sure she meant in a nice way, although my mom sort of jokingly gave her a hard time about it. And I returned to work shortly thereafter and told some colleagues about it and one said, “Well…you *do* have a firm moral center.”

And, I mean, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that particular assessment…(Plus, I would be the most obnoxious person ever if I came online to tout my morality, wouldn’t I?) but I do feel — especially after “working” at various magazines — a certain affinity with Ms. Suarez. (I don’t have braces and a Guadalajara poncho…but there’s a certain shared black-sheep-ism, I think…)

And…the whole making-a-life-for-yourself theme hits close to home. (Plus, it’s New York. Plus, it’s a glossy.)

So…Spoiler Alert…

I’m really glad Betty went to London. And not just because I have a soft spot in my heart for all things English. I know how hard it is to make a big move on your own. (And I can’t even imagine how hard it would be if you had family nearby and had lived in ONE SINGLE PLACE your entire life…although I suppose that’s why it was so important that she actually made the big move.

So I watched Betty wave goodbye to her family and head to London alone…and knew *exactly* what she was feeling in the back of that car. I’ve made that precise move on my own. (In fact, I woke up that first day by myself in a foreign [albeit English-speaking] country and thought, “[Expletive!] What have I done??”) And it wasn’t even the first time I’d done something like that — two years prior, I’d moved to LA on my own…(and, subsequently, [obviously] I moved to New York by myself.) I guess I was always paranoid about missing out on some sort of life-changing experience and wanted to make sure I didn’t look back and wish I had done something I had avoided simply because it was too scary and didn’t want to leave the ol’ comfort zone. But, at the same time, those moves are really, really scary! (Which is also why I really liked Wilhelmina Slater’s “You’ve got big balls, Betty Suarez”-comment. [And Betty’s acknowledgment: “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me…”)

I also really liked the flash of just “Betty” at the end…a nice nod to her transformation. (Even though it perhaps takes *slightly* longer than four seasons to scale an actual, real life masthead…)

The universe hasn’t thrown any big, scary moves at me in a long time. And maybe it never will again. Maybe I’m meant to be in New York forever. I haven’t figured that out yet. And, while I like feeling like I have a home again, there’s still a certain appeal and excitement to starting over and discovering new things in a new place…but, as noted, nothing has presented itself yet, so…I guess I have to be patient until some big editor guy comes up to me and tells me that he’s starting a new publication and that I’d be perfect for it…

(PS: I knew Glee’s Emma looked familiar…but I only *just* made the connection that she was Henry’s rival love interest…)

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Goodbye, My Sweet Cardigan/Hat…

Spring is certainly here…(although, to be fair, I started this yesterday when it was more overtly here…). And while I am happy it has sprung, I’m a little sad to say goodbye to my winter clothes. Winter is a season far better-suited to hiding. I mean, if I wear a cardigan every day of my life in winter, no one asks questions. But that same cardigan in the spring/summer is not only mildly to intensely uncomfortable, but also turns me into Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give. (I remember she wrote a play about everything that happened with Jack in the end, but I don’t recall whether her clothes changed, too. But, if I was the gambling kind, I’d guess Nancy Meyers 86’ed the turtlenecks as some sort of homage to Diane’s transformation…)

And, I mean, I had this grand winter plan to reinvent myself and emerge in spring all svelte and wonderful. And yet I have this phobia of gyms (I don’t like people seeing me like that! Even though it’s supposed to be a good place to pick up, you know, babes, isn’t it?) and I am pretty sure I blogged about my epic failure in the Richard Simmons Experiment (although I did very much enjoy his introductory sequence at a Brooklyn nightclub…)…and so I thought I could compromise with this bike thing — which I could ride hidden away in my apartment and only my cat would be the wiser…but then my mother warned me not to buy anything until I had seen it in person, so I totally checked it out at Walmart in Tucson…but by the time I was ready to pull the proverbial trigger, it was sold out and I went back to square one. Plus, I am lazy and I like food. And now the year is practically halfway over and I haven’t done anything transformative at all (although, to be fair, I guess there’s no time like the present…)…but I still don’t think this will be the year I wear swimwear in public…unless it’s the old lady suit…and is that really progress? (Insert muumuu joke here.)

The other problem with it not being winter anymore (I say that instead of “spring,” because I don’t want to imply that I don’t like spring…I’m really happy to see the sun and everything! I will just miss the cardigan…) is that I’ve been all about hats this winter. (One of the fake gamblers said, “When does the hat come off?” The answer? “Spring.”) But…I don’t think I can get away with hat in spring/summer, can I? Which means I’m stuck with my stupid hair…and…the Cosmic Cosmetologist was totally right and I like it better longer…but…THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT…and it gets so bouffant…and I don’t know how to rein it in…which is why the hat was so great all winter. Otherwise, I just end up pulling it back…which sort of makes growing it out moot, doesn’t it? And it was completely wonderful after that Moroccan straightening treatment…but only for about two weeks. And it was WAY TOO EXPENSIVE for just two weeks of hair happiness.

I wish I could pull it back halfway with something like a Snooki poof — just not quite as tall. But my version was not even remotely attractive…and I actually just tried out this headband thing — that’s right, folks, I am reverting back to elementary school — but I’m not sure that’s really something appropriate for everyday use either. And so I am more or less stuck until next winter?

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The Halloween Postmortem

I had kind of a hard time deciding what to do for Halloween this year. One friend was going to see Paranormal Activity…but I knew that was out. (Heath Ledger‘s turn as The Joker scared me more than I care to admit…so something that legitimately bills itself as a film that will scare the pants off of you is simply not something I can handle.)

And, you know, I wouldn’t be completely averse to staying at home and handing out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters…except that this is my fourth Halloween in this apartment and I’ve haven’t had any little ones knock on my  door on any of the previous Halloweens. (Although I think there were some trick-or-treaters in the early afternoon yesterday…but I wasn’t expecting them and didn’t have any candy [I mean, really — me in a house with a bag of mini Snickers? I wouldn’t be able to fit back through my freakishly small door…] and so I had to pretend I wasn’t home…which makes me very much a Grinch, doesn’t it?)

One of my classmates had told me about a party on the Upper West Side…but that’s SO FAR AWAY and I hate the Subway on Halloween pretty much more than anything else…and there was another party in Midtown, but I wasn’t actually sure if it was the best idea to show my face there. So, like I said, I didn’t know what to do.

Then, on Friday morning, I was walking to the train and knew the Bartender wouldn’t be at his bar because it was so early…and so I allowed myself to glance over at it…which is sort of a rare treat as I don’t normally give myself this luxury when there’s any chance he *could* be there…as seeing him — even from afar — still makes me sad. But, when I looked over, instead of just seeing the bar stools where I spent so many hours when we were first getting to know each other, I *also* saw a stupid sign in the window announcing their big Halloween bash that was going to include a — wait for it — “Sexy Costume Contest.” With prizes. And this just bugged me to no end. I mean, come on — a HUGE proportion of ladyhood already uses Halloween as an excuse to get tarted up…so it’s sort of one of those things that goes without saying, right? (And, okay, okay — fine. If it had said, “Sexy Costume Contest…with All Male Revue!” perhaps I wouldn’t have found it quite as objectionable…and maybe would have even been intrigued…and so perhaps this makes me a huge hypocrite. But, at the same time, women have been objectified since the dawn of time, so I really don’t see anything wrong with evening the score a bit now.)

And his boss is quite possibly the worst person ever — seriously. If I gave you the name of this place and you Googled it and saw the reviews on Yelp, you would know that lots and lots of people complain about him. I’m not just harboring a grudge…and so I am absolutely certain that this stupid contest was *his* idea and I am sure that every woman who works there was specifically told to dress slutty that night and might very well have a good lawsuit on her hands…and I am also sure that my sweet, funny Bartender was very excited about the whole thing…and I just had visions of him in a sea of boobs…and it, too, made me sad. (Although my friend K pointed out that it would be “a sea of trashy boobs,” to which I replied, “That’s right! Mine are waaay classy…” and I guess I can begrudgingly admit it’s a pretty good way to look at it.) It also conjured up a pretty funny cartoon visual with his face in the middle of a bunch of boobs…like diagrams of cells in a biology class, just less detailed. (I was tempted to actually draw it for you guys but felt maybe that would be taking things a *little* too far.)

And, I mean, whatever. Any chick who goes out on October 31 dressed as a French maid or a slutty nurse or a police officer in hot pants named “Sergeant Sexy” is basically the Anti-Lisa and if that is what the Bartender wants, then, well, he and I never ever had a chance. (I don’t actually think that Sergeant Sexy *is* what he wants…as, despite his best efforts to convince the world otherwise, he really has a lot of substance to him…but I also don’t understand why he “can’t.” So. Questions for the ages, I suppose.)

But the whole reason I am beating this (very dead) horse is to explain that I had some options and I knew I should do *something* as it would be infinitely better than staying at home and watching TBS in my pajamas with an ever-present visual of the Bartender’s cartoon face being squished by an avalanche of cartoon boobs. But I also, as noted, could not think of a fate worse than riding the Subway on Halloween…especially all the way to the Upper West Side.

But…when I vacillated, my friend convinced me I was being stupid and I agreed to go.

My friend was dressing as Balloon Boy (I provided the box! Thanks, Zappos!) and said I could join her group and dress as a news reporter or something, but…I didn’t want to jump on that bandwagon, so I spent some time thinking about what I could come up with that I already had around the house…and I decided on a pregnant Pam from The Office.

I actually had a lot of fun putting my costume together — getting one of the books from The Finer Things Club and making those post-its with smiley faces on them and printing out a brochure for Niagara Falls…– and, in the end, I’m glad I went to the party. One of the hosts was dressed as Julia Child and there was a lot of good Halloween-themed food. (Although most of the guys there didn’t really know who Julia Child was, which I thought was weird…but then my friend’s husband said he didn’t really know who she was either…just that she was some sort of cook. So. I guess Julia is a girl thing.)

And I found I actually really like being pretend pregnant. And I got a little self-righteous about it — like, there was a woman on the train who had her stuff spread out EVERYWHERE and we rode that way for a few stops and then I sort of gave her a dirty look and she finally asked me if I wanted to sit down and I (sort of) haughtily told her I was getting off at the next stop. And a man at the party with an actual pregnant wife asked me when I was due…so I feel like I was convincing. (One friend said later that she was disappointed I did not pretend to go into labor.)

There was a man there dressed as “Super Drunk,” as in, like, a superhero but drunkenness was his superpower…and I said he looked like one of our professors and my friend said it was the meanest thing I have ever said. Later, Super Drunk asked if I was really pregnant and when I said, “No,” he said we could go into another room and change that.

And…this guy dressed as Cookie Monster was giving me the hairy eyeball all night, so I finally — with some help from my friend — positioned myself in the living room with the guys watching the Yankees game so he had to talk to me. Totally nice guy — name’s Doug; works as a copywriter; was in a writers’ group with one of the actual pregnant ladies; dressed as Cookie Monster because his nephew really likes him…and there was a guy there who looked a lot like *another* classmate and *his* wife told Cookie Monster that it looked like he was playing with his balls when he took off his head and was holding it by the eyeballs at waist-level.

And so Cookie Monster and I eventually left together, but only walked half a block and he said, “Okay — bye!” and that was it. Didn’t even walk a pretend pregnant lady to the train OR ask for her number…although I guess that’s for the best as there won’t be any waiting by the phone now. A few people on the train back asked if I was really pregnant…I guess maybe because I’d be the worst mom-to-be ever if I was coming back at 2:00 in the morning after a night of partying with my unborn child. And then a group of guys boarded around 14th Street and said, “YOU LOOK LIKE PAM!” and I said, “I am!” and we bonded for a few stops.

And, you know, when I was getting ready last night, I had all these fantasies in my head about walking by the Bartender’s bar…and, you know, sometimes his boss is out front and sees me and sometimes we acknowledge each other and sometimes we don’t…and so I was dreaming up this scenario in which he saw me walk by pregnant and ran in and said to the Bartender, “Squeaks got knocked up!” and then the Bartender wouldn’t really be able to appreciate the sea of boobs as he’d spend the whole night wondering if it was his. But, no. That didn’t happen. I didn’t even make it past the bar. Instead, I thought I saw him smoking out front and freaked out and ran across the street. Like, RAN. So much for emotional maturity. And it didn’t even turn out to be him after all.

I didn’t really care when I was walking *home* though. That’s another thing…I wasn’t really pregnant, but…I felt weird about drinking. Part of it was that I was sort of in character — like with that lady who made me mad on the train because she didn’t get up to give me her seat — but part of it was also because I was afraid people would judge me. And all of these worries lasted 5 or 10 minutes, tops…so I’m sure it was liquid courage that helped me walk by, stomach out and head held high. So maybe he saw me then. Although, then again, I was REALLY pregnant. And he’s a smart guy. And he probably knows there’s no way I got *that* pregnant in eight weeks. So…so much for my revenge plot, I guess.

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Idle Hands…

Everyone who is getting ready to start another work week tomorrow will hate me for this and they will have absolutely no sympathy for me — and I readily admit they have every right to feel that way — but…here’s the deal: I have way too much time on my hands.

And I know this is a dream scenario! This is what everyone who has to get up at 6:30 five days a week and crowd onto stuffy trains and halfheartedly sludge through 8-hour stints in proverbial cubicles dreams about…and instead of embracing all of this time that I have, I find it almost paralyzing in that these days of nothingness stretch on and on forever and I can theoretically look at the rest of my life and say, “Huh. I have nothing to do.”

And, in theory, it’s the exact opposite. It’s unending: There are countless jobs I *could* apply for and dozens of pitches I could send out and — most importantly! — a book proposal I keep swearing that I am about to finish…and yet there’s this strange thing that happened when I finished my copywriting project…even though the project didn’t take up *that* *much* time every day, it was at least something that I had to do in order to meet a deadline and something that was earning me some money…and it made me feel like I had some sort of purpose…and after that was said and done each day, I could embrace my freedom and go to (broken record) Trader Joe’s or the movies in the middle of the day while everyone else was at work and say, “This is nice! I am lucky!”

But without that project, I go to Trader Joe’s or I go to the movies…and I wonder whether I am actually living the life of a responsible adult…or if I am reverting back to some sort of woman-child. I mean, let’s face it — all that separates me from massive loserdom is that I don’t live with my parents. (Take away my Brooklyn apartment and you have yourself a cautionary tale…) Or, alternatively, I feel like if I had made *slightly* different life decisions thus far and had a husband and/or a child — some living being to take care of that didn’t, you know, meow — that my life would have some sort of purpose that it doesn’t right now.

Every day, I set my alarm and try to get up fairly early and tackle the day…and sometimes I do. But sometimes my alarm goes off and all I can think is, “I have nowhere to go today. It doesn’t matter if I get up. If I stayed in bed all day, no one would notice and it wouldn’t make any difference.” Those days are hard. And, of course, I *do* have to get up eventually…but then it’s late and I feel like a slob and it’s hard to get into a positive mindset and actually accomplish anything after that.

Many days, I feel like I’m just making up stuff to fill time: I want to get a long black cardigan; I’ve been meaning to see Where the Wild Things Are; I would like to make eggplant parmesan. These things at least get my out of my apartment…but they only take up one day. Then I have to worry about the next and the next and the next…and when I think of it like that, I can sort of feel myself sliding back into that not-so-good place that defined my summer when I wasn’t on the road. But. I’m trying to acknowledge what’s happening and maybe reverse the slide and get back to a happier spot a little sooner. For example: I won tickets to see Rock of Ages this week. I have to find a damn fax machine in order to get them…but I won tickets to Rock of Ages! I also need to overtly recognize that it really wouldn’t be better if I had a job I hate just because it’s a job. And…the ladies at the Luxury Spot are hooking me up with a makeover this week. So. Plenty to do.

The biggest thing hanging over my head these days: The book proposal. My glass-is-half-full way of looking at everything has been that the universe didn’t send me a full-time job because I’m really meant to write this book and that’s why I have all this damn time on my hands. And I’ve written a lot…but (broken record again), I need an editor to help me organize everything…and I feel like Dale Maharidge‘s advice to just contact agents who have represented authors who have written similar books is such a crapshoot. I mean, sure, maybe I’ll get lucky and one of them will be legitimately interested…but what if they aren’t? I have a list of maybe a dozen agents…and if I don’t hear back from any of them, I don’t really have a Plan B. I keep hoping that I am going to meet someone who hears about my idea and says, “Oh, man, my friend/significant other/parent/sibling/boss/neighbor is an agent! You guys should talk! I’ll make an introduction!”

And so…as sort of a means to this end, I recently wrote David Ellis Dickerson — author of House of Cards and the man behind the Greeting Card Emergency videos. I feel like he’s created a successful career for himself with words and I wanted to see if he had any advice for me about where to go from here. And he did. He sent me a lovely response about how I have an idea I can definitely sell, but I have to do the proposal just right…and as my chapter summaries alone weighed in at 15,000 words, I’m pretty sure that my proposal is not just right…and so for about a week, I was feeling like I couldn’t do anything else with it until I sat down with him and picked his brain. But…given that he just published a book, he’s obviously busy and so I think I may have to forge ahead on my own. And it’s just this huge psychological hurdle — this book is the one truly positive thing I have to cling to right now and it’s the one thing I’ve always known I’m supposed to do…but I don’t know what to do if I can’t find anyone to represent me. And so I think in part I have been stalling so I don’t have to actually answer the what-next question.

And I have Costa Rica coming up in two and a half weeks and there is SO MUCH planning to do…and even though I am a little stressed out about picking the wrong stuff to do or finding a horrible hotel or not being able to do much in the rainy season or finding ourselves the victims of bad roads, I am also super-excited about spending so much time with my oldest childhood friend and exploring a new part of the world. So. My to-do list for tomorrow will include making the final preparations for our trip…although I think I really like the Beaches, Rain Forests and Volcanoes Itinerary in my Costa Rica book…so Fodor’s may have done a lot of the heavy-lifting for me.

So, I mean, I guess it’s true that the grass is greener or that if everyone threw their problems into the middle of the room, we would all run back in and grab our own…which, though perhaps trite or jaded, is maybe not such a bad thing to remember. I don’t have a 10:00 editorial meeting tomorrow in which I have to pitch stories about operations and technology in retail asset management, but I *do* have a lot of things coming up. And those things, in the grand scheme of things, are probably better fits for me than customer relationship management software or 529 college savings plans. I just need to remember that.

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The Year of Leggings Lives On…

I should be upfront about this: this is a cheap ploy to beef up my fashion-writing portfolio.

And it’s going to be hard to come up with a food tie so this isn’t *completely* inappropriate and I don’t severely disappoint my loyal readers…, but we’ll try this on for — ahem — size: it’s been a rough couple of months (as noted). And since, you know, I tend to…feed a feeling…I am probably fatter than I have ever been. So…there we go: food.

Now the clothes:

Last year when I was in a similar funk, I declared 2008 the Year of Leggings. But I was nervous I was not the leggings type…as I really had not worn them since I was a skinny Minnie in elementary school…and so I bought a single pair at the Gap to see how I’d do. And then it turned out that I had actually stumbled upon the single greatest pair of leggings in the universe and I totally and completely fell in love with them.

These leggings were SO AMAZING for two reasons: 1) they were the perfect length! They fell sort of just below the knee without any clumping of excess material on the way down. (Women stopped me on the street to ask me where I got them — *that* is how absolutely perfect the length was…) And 2) the material was ideal — 93% cotton, 7% spandex. It was thin enough to breathe…but not transparent. And so…even if the long dress I wore over them was not enough to totally cover my (ever-increasing) behind, I didn’t have to worry about being rude and constantly readjusting myself to prevent the unthinkable. The leggings would protect me!

However — alas! — when I went *back* to the Gap to buy as many pairs as I could scoop up, I could not find them again. (Although I just looked on the Web site and I think I found them…which sort of negates this entire post. Except — WAIT! — the only size in stock is XXL…which means I was right and the post lives!)

And so my one pair got a lot of use. And when I got a hole in one leg, I actually got out a needle and thread and sewed it up. (Me! Sewing!) And then the hole got worse…but luckily I was at home by then and my mother had a sewing machine. But…eventually they were looking pretty sad. And I still wore them…I just had to be more careful with what I wore over them.

Eventually I started looking further afield for a new pair…and I bought one at Express…but they were totally transparent — more like pantyhose…and they quickly developed a run. No good.

Was it finally curtains for me and leggings?

I was beginning to think yes…but then last weekend, I was wandering around the city and saw that Express was having a sale and so I went back inside to see if I could find a pair of non-transparent leggings…and — holy cow — I did! I was a little worried they would be too thick…and they are not *quite* the perfect length — there is definitely some bagging around the knees…but they are super-comfy and you can’t see through them, so I am a happy camper. The Year of Leggings lives on!

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