Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer Style Note - Beach Cover-Ups

Living in a coastal town that becomes resort-like each summer, means that the beach cover-up is a standard wardrobe staple.  There are shops that carry nothing but clothing to wear over a swim suit and the local TJ Maxx dedicates prime retail real estate to such "toppers" from April to August.

My dream cover-up was at Nordstrom last year for only $189.  It was merely an inverted table cloth with a hole at the top for one's head.  I loved the feminine scrolled lace that connected to create the arms and the crisp batiste cotton.  But in the end, not only would I not spend my hard-earned retirement money on a scrap of material, I couldn't stop thinking about my grandmother's lace tablecloth whenever I looked at it on my online wishlist.

Instead, I found a very nice light-weight and simple white tunic that doesn't require ironing (who irons beach cover-ups?).  But if you want to find something really pretty and girly, there are plenty of cover-ups to choose from.  Seen this season:

Drop-dead black lace sheath with bell sleeves

Mini-dress in watery turquoise print

White tunic with embroidered gold medallions

Maxi-dress in gyrating red stripes


When I was a teenager on Cape Cod, we simply pulled our brothers' football shirts over our swim suits. Cover-ups today are a whole new food group.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Style Note - Dresses

Summer sun dresses were staples in my wardrobe as a child.  Many were made by my grandmother who was a skilled seamstress.  Rick-rack, daisy chain trims, pretty buttons, and deep hems were some of the lovely features of those dresses.  And because I am a twin, Nana made two of each!

I still remember some of my little-girl dresses:  a white pique with a hem-full of bright flowers and verdant ferns, a soft sorbet seersucker in creamsicle.  My mother had excellent taste.  She knew that there is nothing prettier than a little girl in a sweet summer frock.  I knew that too, when I ordered a pink and grey Liberty print sundress from the iconic London clothier for my daughter.  It cost a pretty penny but it is lovingly and carefully stored in tissue paper and boxed alongside her Christening dress awaiting potential future inhabitants.

For years, I never wore summer dresses.  I simply couldn't find many styles I liked.  But the last few seasons there has been a plethora of selections and I have been able to amass a new little collection. One of my favorites is a periwinkle blue number with coral blooms in crisp cotton broadcloth.  The ease of pulling on a perfect summer dress cannot be underestimated on a torrid summer day.  Of course, I no longer wear the traditional sundress but there are dresses out there for women of a certain age too.  And if one doesn't want to show off arms, a fitted coordinating cardigan over a sundress can be very '50's elegant and tres charmant!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer Style Note - Straw Handbags

Every mother who dropped her child off at our town's lake for morning swim lessons had a straw or rattan handbag balancing on the passenger seat of the family station wagon.   Even if mom's summer consisted of nothing more than carpooling, making endless batches of potato salad, and refereeing fights over the pool floats, a neutral woven tote beckoned seaside adventures with whispering beach grasses and lapping waves on sandy shores.

Woven raffia and straw make a fairly durable summer purse especially if it includes leather straps and handles.  Many of yesterday's straw bags were embellished with cherry bunches for additional whimsy and charm.  Some straw handbags from the late 1960's were glazed and painted navy or white for nautical-esque appeal.  They were also made with brass or metal hardware and were as impervious as a good leather bag.

I don't pretend to be an expert on straw bags but I am certain there must be collectors and dealers who have written about the evolution of the basket to handbag.  I do know that at the height of summer, when I get out my straw handbag, I suddenly feel more relaxed and beachy.  Today there are a multitude of styles including designer versions.  A few years ago, I bought a Michael Kors rendition that included heavy gold-plated chain handles that made the bag so cumbersome, I called it "my appliance".  It felt like a toaster oven with a handle.  It was just simply too big a commitment for summer so I was lucky to find a rattan "Kelly Bag" style with a black patent leather strap.  Occasionally, a piece of the straw will come undone at the bottom but I reattach with glue and my bag goes merrily on its way, looking carefree and chic.  For dressing up, I tie a colorful chiffon kerchief around the handle to match my skirt or top.  

As your summer evolves, look for straw totes at farmer's markets and boutiques.  The bespoke Nantucket lightship basket purse is always an option for a few hundred dollars but there are many less costly adaptations if you want a petite basket bag for evening.  A black linen shift looks elegantly chic with a small woven bag.

Our mothers knew that straw handbags could certainly venture beyond the seashore.  They looked just right in the middle of a suburban backyard summer too!


My grandmother with my sister and I.  I believe those are cherries on her rattan tote.

Christmas gift (Nantucket lighthouse basket-inspired).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Style Note - Head Scarves

A pretty way to add summer elan to an outfit, is to don a head scarf.  For Saturday errands, I will often wear a tropical-colored head scarf to add pizzazz to an otherwise plain pair of khaki shorts and solid t-shirt. On humid days, the scarf keeps wispy hair out of my lip gloss and lends a polished look to cool casual clothes. Knowing my hair is tied down makes me feel less sticky and hot and scarves keep that frightful fried and frizzy, too-long-at-the-beach look at bay.

Trailing scarf ends picked up by soft summer breezes look so feminine especially if your head scarf is in an appealing pastel print in chiffon.  If hair is too short or the scarves too slippery, try one with an attached hidden headband.  Tuck the ends under before you whip them off to one side to tie in a floppy bow.  Some of the newer head scarves can be found in good accessories departments where you will see them with pieces of elastic to hold them down or pre-bowed for ease in slipping on.

Here's more inspiration for this quintessential summer look:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rosie's Choice

The little tree I sit under at lunch each day provides me with shade and a welcoming perch - my "spot" has has a wooden bench that is a cool summer oasis in my busy work day.  I often get lost in a few book chapters or some lilting music.  But I no longer feel safe under my tree and although there is no obvious threat, I just don't feel sure of anything anymore.

Even my most optimistic and cheery friends are feeling blue these days.  It seems that everyone is down an octave or two on the happiness scale.  How can they not be?  Our phones bleep nearly everyday with horrific things and despair knows no bounds.  Yet, the world only pauses a moment and is off and running again, yanking us right behind it.

I've been thinking about how I can continue to live with serenity in troubled times of fear.  I believe if I am serene and calm then I can be a beacon for others.  If I feel anxious I can still act as if I am composed because scientists have proven that once you get the body moving, the mind follows.  That's a fact.

Having peace of mind when the news is horrible has been done before:  consider Rosie the Riveter and the women of the Homefront.  They too, lived with fear and after all, WWII was a global war.  They worked hard, creating Victory Gardens and going to work to make the goods and services they hoped would bring their men home sooner.  Rosie the Riveter really was rosy and also a little workhorse.  They dug in their heels and tarried in dirt and factories.  They painted bedrooms and fixed faucets.  They opened up their homes and fed friends and family.

I believe Rosie the Riveter had a choice - she didn't have to step up to the plate - she chose to.  Working hard, staying busy, helping others was more than the best she could do.  Rosie saw it as duty, to herself and others...come what may.

So let's make a choice just like Rosie did.  Let's choose to be compassionate and hard-working. Every day. Let's preserver despite the bleating phone messages.   And when we can, we'll break the day with a rest on a bench under a fearless tree.  Because we at least deserve that.


PS:  I bet our Rosie's above are wearing red lipstick too - Victory Red!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July .... and Carol

Summer brings many joys like ice cream and the Fourth of July.  This year more than ever, it seems that American women dressed very patriotically. The political and social reasons can be explored at more intellectual blogs than this one (although it could just be J. Crew) - I only know I was charmed by the stars and stripes and the red, white and blue in shorts, tops, and espadrilles.  And most of it was worn tastefully with touches of whimsy.

My pretty and chic friend Carol, a Deborah Kerr lookalike, reminds me of our model above.  Today she had on an attractive short-sleeved sweater, thickly striped in red and white that didn't hide the fact that it was our nation's birth (it also didn't hide her tiny waist).  I'm always interested to see what Carol is wearing because of all my friends, Carol's taste in clothing most closely aligns with mine.  

I love my sweet and soft-spoken friend very much.  She appears delicate but is strong...and I am in awe of her.  She recently obtained her college degree after eight grueling years of part-time school while holding down a full-time job.  She raised a son alone.  And she is a breast cancer survivor.  She is also the friend that does my taxes, makes me go to yoga class on Saturday morning when I'ld rather stay in bed, and visits any family members who happen to be in the hospital.  And two days ago, she told me she is moving.  To Florida.

Carol is leaving New England for a great new job and to be close to her now-grown son.  I understand (really, I do!) and I am happy for her because she is finally getting that fresh start she has been ripe for since losing her job.  But behind my smile, I am crying.  I will miss her terribly.  Beside the Fourth of July, Carol has long graced my Christmas tree, shown up for coffee and dessert every Easter, attended my daughter's graduations and wedding.  And it is Carol to whom I turn when I need a co-pilot to drive to the mall with to return something on a weeknight, need a friend to have a bite to eat with...or need a friend to just chat with about lipstick and eyebrow pencils.  She is a wonderful, wonderful caring pal.

So just for tonight, I beg you not to tell me the world is small...and that there is email, texting, and Skype. Pray don't say I will have a warm place to vacation in winter and please have a care and don't remind me that she will come home from time to time.  Saturday yoga won't be the same and neither will Christmas Eve around the tree or Easter Sunday for that matter.

And somehow, I just know that next Fourth of July will have a little less sis-boom-bah too.


(Carol...all my love and good wishes go with you dear friend!)