Monday, April 28, 2014

Ode to the Trench Coat

Ode to the trench coat 

April showers bring May flowers and when singing in the rain the go to cover-up is the trench coat.  Developed by Burberry or Aquascutum, depending on who you ask, this wardrobe staple began its famous history in trenches across the pond draping the shoulders of British officers ( ).  With pockets for maps and other necessities, detachable linings, and a waterproof construction this jacket is too practical and versatile to be quashed with a treaty and peacetime.  The trench coat, in a variety of reinventions, has invaded every shore and enjoys more play in fashion, and day-to-day life than it ever did in battle (thankfully). 


Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Humphrey Bogart
The trench literally keeps you warm and dry while figuratively keeping you cool.  Humphrey Bogart wore one, so did Dick Tracey. Cool, calm, and business like.  The trench attended breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn while Gerald Ford zipped a bullet proof lining into his tan, classic trench.  Many a superhero hides a costume under this garment, Gene Gray, Gambit, and the Punisher come to mind.  In black leather, the trench casts an ominous tone for villains, or a cool low-key persona hiding Neo in the shadows of the matrix.  The trench is somewhat mysterious yet practical, and always crisp.

Twiggy in mod blue trench
Over the years the trench has been reinvented in fashion in many different ways.  It was mod in the 1960s.  Helmet Newton paired it with heels for a sexy look in the 1970s.  Every decade remakes it, details perfected for the feeling of the day.  It has been short, long, pleated, classic and colorful.  It has had shoulder pads, bows, and all kinds of button shapes.  Double rows of buttons and pointed collars are characteristics but not required.  Vintage, new, or revisited in reference, the trench is a staple to stay. (Great slide show:

With a chill in the air, and the risk of a shower around every corner, this wardrobe and historical staple has seemed the perfect item to grab from my closet.  Over the years, I feel lucky to have accumulated a variety of trench like options.  They never fail to leave me feeling versatile, invincible, and a little provocative.  

BB Dakota
Forecaster International

Old Navy
 How do you reinvent yourself and the trench?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Diana, a celebration

DIANA, a celebration is currently on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center through August 17th 2014.  This sparkling exhibit has travelled the globe to allow Diana’s admirers an up close glimpse of her life in all its facets.  Cincinnati is the final stop on this worldwide tour.  At the tour’s conclusion all of its contents will be returned to William and Harry.  The display provides a well-balanced look at the life and work of Diana Spencer princess of whales. 

You often hear of Diana’s beauty, compassion, fragility, and her ability to relate to everyone.  All of these aspects are reiterated in the exhibit.  For me, the impressive takeaway however was about versatility.  It takes a remarkable woman to be able to balance an outward softness of a mother, strength of a humanitarian and political figure, sparkle of a crowd favorite, and the sophistication of a princess.  She not only achieves this balance, but also was able to accomplish it in a way that seems entirely genuine.  To me it is that versatility that makes Diana a role model and icon.

The exhibit starts by exploring the lineage that brought Diana to her royal life. “The Spencer women” gives a view of her family genealogy and the legacy Diana chose to continue with her work.  Coming from a long line of strong women, Diana’s family is woven through history. A number of familiar names known for their socialite abilities to impress through entertainment, and those that impressed with their philanthropy precede Diana in her family tree.  Diana is remembered philanthropically with her ancestors.

Georgiana Cavendish may be familiar as the Duchess of Devonshire.  She was celebrated for her beauty, style, political activism, support of women’s suffrage, and allegedly notorious adventures.  She was immortalized in paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and later by Hollywood with the movie “the Duchess.”  She was also born Georgiana Spencer and contributed not only to the impressive Spencer public expectation but also to the family heirloom jewelry collection.  Georgiana is just one notable name in a full family tree. 

Riviere necklace
picture from
Seeing personal heirlooms passed through generations is a treat.  ‘The Spencer women” gives insight into Diana’s family as well as presents some of the family jewels in sparkling splendor.  Here too is a note to versatility.  The beauty of Diana’s stunning crown is a combination of two previously crafted jewelry pieces.  Apparently, this combination and reworking is a common practice in the royal jewelry vault.  One item, a Riviere necklace originally belonging to Georgiana Spencer, is constructed so that every diamond, all hanging diamond pendants, and several large pearl drops are all detachable.  One portion of the necklace can be worn as a bracelet.  Reworking, reinventing, and repeating great things in new ways is not a new trend but one that Diana carries on with grace.

The next portion of the exhibit is dedicated to presenting an intimate view of Diana’s childhood and formative years.  It includes home movies, mementoes’, personal journals, report cards, animal figurine collections, dance shoes, photos, and many other personal items.  These small details are touching.  It is an unusual view of Diana as a girl and a lady.  Diana’s softness comes through in the bubbly handwriting, and the chipped animal statuettes, in the details. 

Diana is relatable as a girl and young woman, and yet you see all of the extra attention that goes into raising a Lady.  The details of her childhood could be similar to many.  Then as she grows older she goes to finishing school.  It is this point in the exhibit where you start to see the differences in upbringing.  With bound books to track seating charts and details of hosted social events, to programs scrawled with what was worn and who was met in the margins, every Lady must take care of the details.  Training to be a nanny or a kindergarten teacher in school, and at the same time training for a life more formal.

Following Diana’s upbringing is a review of the royal courtship and marriage.  Looking smitten in tartan and the 1980s, this section focuses on the official timeline and keeps things positive.  A room of pictures and letters is followed by Diana’s famous wedding dress.  Puffy sleeves, special lace, a family heirloom tiara, and one very impressive train fill the room.  The details and handwork exhibited in the famous dress and shoes are impressive.  The royal wedding plays and it is a reminder of a romantic time. 

Princess Diana wearing her favorite: pink
meeting with Sri Chinmoy,
Kensington Palace, May 21st 1997
Next is a room lined with many of the dresses famous in images of Diana.  This could also double as a review of the fashion of the 1980s and early 1990s as the styles of the time are distinctly present.  Each ensemble is accompanied by a description of how it was chosen, how it was worn, and how accessories were added to wear the outfit again in a fresh way.  Some ensembles are accompanied by descriptions of how Diana chose them or felt while wearing them.  The evolution of Diana is illustrated in her fashion.

A room dedicated to the causes she found so important is inspiring.  Through videos, writings and itineraries you see the dedication and compassion for the suffering.  You see the Princess bring light to challenging issues and to the faces of those she met and consoled.  Diana is described as shy but she overcame this challenge and shined in some of the most difficult situations.  Diana finds her voice and passion in embracing those often cast off. 

The exhibit transitions to the tragic conclusion of her life.  A floor to ceiling case is stacked with books of letters to Diana and her family.  Chills ensue at the illustration of how many lives she touched.  The final public statement from Diana’s brother papers a wall.  Rose petals carpet the floor, and a video of her funeral procession plays on screen as “Good bye English Rose” pays tribute musically over the scene.  Diana’s life is cut short, but her memory lives on.

Concluding the exhibit is a call to action.  Additional information about Diana’s causes lay in wait for action  to be carried on by inspired exhibitioners. 

The Cincinnati Museum Center is also featuring a companion exhibit Daughters of the Queen City.  This exhibit brings light to the local history of women that have dedicated their lives to philanthropy.  Photos, local periodicals, brief and lively descriptions of contributions, and the occasional wedding dress provide a view of all aspects of these dedicated women’s’ lives.  The companion exhibit also concludes with an opportunity to participate with additional information on how to be involved and an artistic station to encourage young involvement.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ode to scent

I want to be intoxicated by your scent.  With each inhalation, I want to be further entranced. I want to breath you in deeply and for each breath to feel new.  I want to be taken back to relive memories of experiences and times I am not yet ready to give up. I want to smell you on my pillow.  To wrap my body in sheets in which you linger.  I want to live in a cloud of you…

This is how I choose a scent.  Not by a name or a famous figurehead but by the feelings and memories a fragrance evokes.  By the way it makes me feel wearing it. 

For me, the length of each scent affair varies based on my mood.  Some last for a short period of time, perhaps not completing a bottle.  Others will last longer, two refills or more.  Then I change.  The power the scent held over me is gone.  I like to leave a small bit in the bottle to sniff and remember fondly the way my life, the way I, was when I wore it.

My current obsession is Versace Bright Crystal.  Its scent first captured me from the pages of a magazine.  With each subsequent sampling, each time I reach to toss my hair pulling my wrist near my nose, it locks me in tighter.  It is described as being,

            A mixture of Donatella Versace’s favorite floral fragrances…a fresh, sensual blend of
              refreshing chilled yuzu and pomegranate mingled with soothing blossoms of peony,          
              magnolia, and lotus flower, warmed with notes of musk and amber.
              Notes: Iced Accord, Yazu, Pomegranate, Peony, Magnolia, Lotus Flower,               
              Acajou, Vegetal Amber, Musk.
              Style: Sheer. Sensual. Luminous.

All of those things sound lovely and while I don’t know what yuzu or acajou are exactly, I could believe it is a mixture of all of these favorites.  For me it is fresh and new, clean and exciting, and yet there are warm undertones that wrap me in memories of travel.  I recall flower markets, museums, and late nights arm-in-arm on cobblestone streets.  Travel companions bringing both adventure and protection.  This involvement with Bright Crystal is new and exciting, familiar, and captivating.

Yves Saint Laurent Parisienne, for several bottles, has been my go to fragrance. 

            The essence of a woman who is incredibly free—she is not from Paris, but Paris
              adopts her. She knows how to love, how to live. Parisienne is the fragrance of ultra
              femininity and sensuality, built with notes of blackberry, damask rose, and
              sandalwood. The grand floral with a woody structure is luminous even in its mystery.

I like to think Paris would adopt me but this description is an afterthought.  It was the sweetness, addictive like a blackberry cobbler, which attracted me.  The gentle rose notes that remind me of my grandmother’s dressing table and how proper ladies should smell.  The light sweetness in a spritz of Parisienne has always been invigorating.  Applying it late in the day made me feel refreshed and awake.  It still pleases me but seems to lack the depth, perhaps the musk, to match my current sultry tone.   Who knows, I may return to Parisienne in the future.

There was a brief tryst with Ralph Lauren’s Notorious. 

            This glamorous and provocative fragrance was created for a woman who commands
              attention. The intrigue and mystery of a heroine from a’ film noir’ are captured in this
              blend of deep black currant, decadent chocolate, and sensual patchouli musk.               

Filled with so many delights.  It was beguiling but such power was overwhelming for a daily dose.  It was attractive in its decadence, but lacking the needed lightness to match my current mood.  There is not much playfulness in a rendevous with Notorious.

A short enrapture with Lanvin’s Eclat de Arpege filled a spring and summer. 

            Lanvin Arpège, a feminine masterpiece created in 1927, named for its similarity to an
              arpeggio—a cascade of successive notes. Éclat d’Arpège, drawing inspiration from the
              original, reflects the spontaneity of a modern woman.

              Notes: lemon leaves, lilac, osmanthus, peach blossom, peony, wisteria, tea,  
              cedarwood, amber, musks.

A season and smell that is notable in its bright adventure.  Light and pleasant, a good time, yet I have few words.  With so many accents, perhaps I have few words because I cannot seem to pronounce them.  Perhaps comments about this time are better kept silent.  Eclat de Arpege’s classic lightness, with few words, continues to stand the test of time.

While cleaning I recently encountered an old lotion scented with Davidoff’s cool water in the back of my closet. 
            Embrace the aromatic blend of refreshing, yet powerful, aquatic notes. A swell of
              lavender gives way to a sweeping wave of menthe. Wade into the scent of
              sandalwood as the aroma of an iris bubbles to the surface, breaking into a flow of
              musk. Flood the senses with the intense force of the iconic composition—a mystical
              alchemy arising from the sea.             

Oh to be taken back in time with such a memorable scent.  For some to the sea, I was transported to the teenage angst I felt during the years it was my signature.  During that time I maintained a sportier aesthetic, followed more than led, and felt slightly unsure.  The lotion made me feel a little unsettled as I put it to use, eager to return to my more sultry and complex current scent selections. 

A more comfortable flashback ensued in using the remnants of a lotion scented with Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker. 

            Sarah Jessica Parker blends a scent of pure innocence with the exotic nature of a
              precious oil and the sophistication of a fine perfume. Lavender, orchid and amber
              mingle with apple martini, paper whites and musk. The result, Sarah Jessica Parker's
              casual glamour fashioned into a fragrance.

I felt confident and unsatisfied remembering my first years in the workforce.  This time in my life was full of potential.  I was self-assured and hungry.  I remember slinky lingerie tops and colorful broaches popular at the time. Sparkling late night dancing and unrequited love seasoned the moment.  Lovely, like Notorious, does well on cool evenings to cloak and warm the body.  Lovely provided a lovely foray down memory lane.

In search of a simpler time I once spent an hour trying to find a new scent that wafted past and reminded me of my mother dressing for an evening out.  She wore Liz Claibourn, something no longer made.  It came in a red triangle.  I never found the current scent that caused this recollection.  Perhaps it was a combination of a few, or a memory of the time so vivid it smelled real.  The closest I came to finding this elusive smell was its description,

            Signature Liz Claiborne perfume was released in 1986 in a floral rhythm.  It captures
              with carnation, lily, freesia, mandarin, marigold, green notes, bergamot and peach at
              the top, followed by a floral wave of jasmine, narcissus, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac,
              tuberose, lily-of-the-valley and violet at the heart. Base notes include warm
              sandalwood, amber, oakmoss and musk. The bottle is Pierre Dinand’s creation.”            

Many words but still incapable of completing the memory.  Some times can only be remembered.

The power of scent is strong and different for each person.  Pheromones of the wearer transform each scent into a signature that can be used to identify and bond.  While scents can be common and familiar to all, when attached to emotions and experiences, the same scent can have a completely different effect for each person.  This strength is primal and important.

I want to live times going forward in a swirling cloud of deliciousness that lingers and expresses my power.  I want to catch a whiff in the future and remember how I feel today.   Scent transcends time and place, enraptures and inspires, helps to escape and recover.  The possibilities are endless.