Saturday, September 28, 2013

Laura Quinn, Working Girl Style


Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) is a fascinating style icon for the working girl.  Her controlled 1960's look mirrors her contained deameanor.  Always being overlooked for promotions over the Mad Men dressed males in her company, she retaliates by working harder and harder.

"Flawless" is a heist movie also starring Michael Caine.  It's not a caper or a fun romp though.  Laura Quinn, Oxford graduate, works at the London Diamond Company as a "manager".  But her business acumen outplays the men yet she silently watches as her ideas are acted upon and then promptly credited to her co-workers.  It's 1960's afterall, and working life is hard for brilliant women. 

Laura's dark grey and black tweed suits are fitted tightly to her body. She uses her accessories to soften the blow:  pearls, crystals, and yes, diamonds.  She is never not wearing her shiny black pumps and they clickety clack satisfactorily throughout the film.  Her long full coats contain her lithe body and show off her glossy flip hair style.  I loved her bright red fingernails and lipstick. 

Laura doesn't smile much - she is always the first one to the office and the last to leave.  We see many scenes of her coming and going carrying her fine black attaché case and her beautiful small framed handbags in snakeskin and shiny leathers.  My heart went out to her as she silently strategized her next move alone in her 1950's style apartment, quietly laying on an antique setee in her silk damask pajamas and cozy oversized brown mohair cardigan.  A tossed pashmina covering her feet.  Elegant quietude, even in brain-storming repose.

This is a stylistic movie that is beautifully filmed with shades of dove grey and pearl.  I loved Laura's hardworking stance, her fine mind.  Perhaps the diamonds are the third character in the film but they do not outshine the sparkling facets of the lonely, ladylike and beautifully feminine working girl, Laura Quinn.

Here is my pick for a modern day Laura Quinn working girl style icon:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

When the music stopped


My mother and father were high school sweethearts who married and had children young.  One benefit to having parents ten years younger than my friends' parents was that music always played at our house.  The large maple stereo cabinet was never closed, its mellow green light illuminating  the  bold numbers with the red needle pointed at the top forty station.  When the radio wasn’t on, my parents played albums that filled the bottom of the cabinet and overflowed to another one across the living room.  They loved show tunes from Camelot, Whistle Down the Wind and later, Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music.  They adored Motown and the Supremes "Stop in the Name of Love" played whenever they entertained friends on Saturday nights.  I remember when we all huddled in front of the small TV to watch The Beatles invade the Ed Sullivan Show, and a few days later, Dad came home with a 45 of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand".  In the mornings before school, my mother had the local AM radio station on and we heard easy listening singles such as "Moon River", "Strangers in the Night", and other 60’s tunes as we ate our cereal at the kitchen table. I knew Percy Faith, Herb Albert, and Henry Mancini.  It was the soundtrack of our family.

On an unforgettable Friday afternoon, a perfect crisp fall day, my second grade class was interrupted by Mrs. McCarthy, a teacher from across the hall.  I watched as Mrs. McCarthy motioned to my teacher, Mrs. Gadbeiso to come to the back of the classroom.  Behind a manila folder I saw Mrs. Gadbeiso's eyes fly wide open and then we were suddenly dismissed from school.  Mrs. Gadbeiso told us our president, John F. Kennedy, had been shot by a gunman and that we were to go home to be with our parents.  I don't know if we left in quiet orderliness or not but I do know my sister and I were accompanied by my older brother on the long walk home, a rare occurrence.  When we reached the top of our hill, we were met by my younger brother on his bicycle.  "Mommy's crying", he said solemnly. Together, we four, raced down the hill to our house where we found my mother sitting on the living room floor in front of the TV, dabbing at her eyes with a Kleenex.  She told us the president died and hugged us to her.   I remember that weekend was long and sad and instead of music from the stereo, the TV played on and on. We stayed in the living room for three days, visited occasionally by neighbors, our uncle, my grandparents.  Mom kept coffee percolating on the stove all weekend and Dad ran out for sandwiches and pizza.  We waited and waited for a sight of Mrs. Kennedy and her children to appear on the TV and when they did, my mother dabbed her eyes again and again.

There was no school on Monday and we watched the funeral procession and were awed by the sheer majesty of the ceremonies.  We were mesmerized by the symbolic rider-less horse, the back facing boot, and the  haunting and plaintive trumpeting of Taps. More friends and neighbors stopped by to drink coffee and talk.  I am not sure if my parents were so affected because JFK was a native son to our Boston, or if they liked him because he was young.  I never asked them if they were Democrats or if they approved of the way JFK ran our country.  I think perhaps, they simply felt that something horrific and inconceivable had happened - that such a shocking act of violence could infiltrate the wondrous, innocent, and hopeful world we lived in at that time.

The next week was Thanksgiving and I'm sure we had turkey and fixings, linen napkins and candles.  My grandmother brought pies and the percolator tapped tapped all day again.  But even now, none of us who remain, have forgotten that rapturously beautiful and tragic Friday and the unutterably sad weekend that followed.  And in our house, it was the one time the music stopped. 

 (N.B.  There have been many JFK films but a brief scene in Mermaids (Cher, Winona Rider), captures 11/22/1963 perfectly.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pretty Found

A few years ago I stopped reading most of the glossy fashion magazines.  I became bored to tears with celebrity covers as well as endless mini photos from the runway.  Also, it seemed as though the editorial content began to resemble advertisements.  One holdout, until now, has been Vogue.  When I bought my first copy 30 years ago, many women said "The clothing in Vogue can't be worn by real women".  But I quickly learned to read Vogue the way it was meant to be read:  for the "essence" of clothes, for trend spotting, and for the articles written by fashion editors who usually stay on point and write about clothes and style.  Some Vogue issues still bore me although Grace Coddington's layouts are interesting if she doesn't go too over the top. 

But recently I've discovered something nice.  Something pretty.  The British Harper's Bazaar is marvelous.  First,  it's printed in a small version which makes it tote-able and easy to hold - its diminutive size makes it a cozy read.  Also, Bazaar has Justine Picardie as editor-in-chief.  She is Coco Chanel's most premiere biographer and that makes her understand that women want pretty more than they want shock.  Also, Harper's Bazaar has always had literary ambitions which at one time was considered indispensable to a cultivated readership.  This month, the magazine delivered with a long-forgotten short story by Virginia Woolf, "Lapin and Lapinova".  It held my interest one entire lunch hour as I sat eating on a stonewall in the sun.  No joy-less lunch eating for me.

I'm also a sucker for any reference to a romantic painting that appears with modern lipsticks and shoes.  Just thumbing through the Brit Bazaar is a mini art or history lesson.  At the very least, one can soak in a little beauty.  Their almost monthly spin-off of Diana Vreeland's "Why Don't You..." columns inspire me even more than the book of Vreeland's actual columns. 

The magazine is a bit more expensive than the American version, and celebs still grace the covers but I'm loving it because, simply put, Pretty makes me happy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I had a recent memory of being at my grandmother’s on a cold winter day.  I was about 11.  She was in the kitchen doing her thing:  preparing vegetables, polishing a brass candlestick, making tea, whatever was required.  I wandered in and out of her realm doing my thing:  sewing, coloring, reading, knitting, whatever.  The snow was piled up outside from a storm the day before, music wafted from the hi-fi, my grandfather was in the city working and wouldn't be home for hours.  Still, we knew we belonged right there; we didn't need to step out anywhere.  There were no cheap goods to buy.  If Nana needed something new whether it was a simple dishtowel or a new dress, she would wait to buy the best she could or make one.  There was no frantic foraging for things.  We knew we had enough, and most of the time we used what was in the house.  If we needed to wrap a gift, we found the perfect thing, an old map and a scrap of ribbon from last year’s Easter basket, or a piece of colored tissue paper we found in a bottom drawer.  We were both neatly dressed even though we were indoors all day:  Nana in a pretty winter dress and an apron she made herself.  Me, in cute slacks and matching top my mother probably bought at Arthur's , the first local designer outlet where they had free popcorn for kids while moms sifted through Pierre Cardin dresses, Villager poorboys, or real leather shoes. We didn't have noisy tinny sounding video games and never watched TV until after dinner.  Most likely I was crafting something such as scrapbook made of felt pages Nana bought, using her discarded sparkly Christmas cards to fill the book.  The glue came from a small glass bottle with a rubber applicator you pushed down on, no fancy super stuff.  Her pinking shears created all the embellishment those cards needed.  No fancy stickers, do-dads, printed matting, etc.  For we were very discerning back then.   In whom we spent time with, what we wore, what we didn’t buy, and how we lived our days.

I use to be a personal assistant to a psychologist who worked at home, a very nice woman.  One day, she had a friend over.  I thought they would leave the house, go shopping or to see a movie and I would be alone to work.  Instead my boss and her friend picked flowers from the garden and together made a spring bouquet, baked bread and made soup from scratch (and shared), and then played the piano together.  They hung out.  Goofed off.  I was flummoxed:  why weren't they doing something?  But they were.  They were just being.

A friend recently told me about her joy in crocheting again.  She’s making an afghan for her second daughter who lives away.  It’s creamy white with a rose in each square, symbolic of a rose in winter for the snowy December day her girl was born.  It is amazing to my friend that the spell of her computer has been broken while she becomes reacquainted with her crochet hook.  For now, she's making a forever gift for a loved one instead of being “plugged in”.  It’s discernment with a loving purpose.
(credit: Jesse Wilcox Smith) 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Halcyon Days

In Greek mythology, Halcyon Days were the seven temperate winter days without storms that occurred when a lovely young wife transformed into a bird to reunite with her beloved husband who died.  Here in New England, we are in the midst of seven Halcyon days of lovely early fall weather.  I am sleeping “deep in the mattress” with cool breezes and deep dark nights to envelope me. 
In my reveries, I recounted some Halcyon Days from this summer which is now almost passed:  the party I hosted for my daughter’s engagement stands out, as does a long languid afternoon or two spent with my sister and mother.  We had two trips to The Ocean House for iced tea on the veranda, and last Friday night I had dinner with my best friends from high school.  Also, my first best friend and her mother visited for a day of laughter and memories.  These summer days didn’t pass in rows of seven but they are bright spots on summer’s tapestry.  There were some sad spots too:  another friend from high school who lives far away, lost her beautiful daughter Haley in a boating accident and my beau has been ill and hospitalized. 
No one can deny that the world is on the brink and so I dreamed about it a few weeks ago and had a calming vision.  Not one to put stock in such things, I did take with me the message “All will be well”.  And so in the spirit of that dispatch, I’ve come up with some Halcyon moments I experienced in the past and also some things I just like very much: 
  • My child running toward a gaggle of ducks and watching her glee as they take off in flight
  • The I-just-want-to-cry feeling when I see beautiful textiles, embroideries, or dresses
  • The happy feeling of nourishing someone with a delicious meal when I know they’ve had a rough time
  • Finding out I love honey and honey baths especially, which make me think of bees swarming a nest in the distance on a warm September afternoon
  • A once favorite perfume, rediscovered
  • Seeing a loved one’s face suddenly in an unexpected place, like my sister’s when she showed up at my office one day to take me to lunch
  • The lone female soprano whose voice sails high above the others during a choral performance
What are your Halcyon moments?  Have you got seven?