Tag Archives: fashion

Lame Adventure 414: My Silver Lining

This is the door to my closet.

Keep out.

Keep out.

For three years I have had a canvas jacket in there that I purchased online from J. Crew Factory at a very deep discount. I don’t recall how deep the discount was, but the shipping and handling probably cost more than the coat. The coat was in a color that sang melodically to me: drab.

I thought that this coat would be the perfect spring-weight addition to compliment the rest of my drab-colored spring wardrobe. But, there was a catch: this coat was unlined. Nowhere in the description was it mentioned that this coat lacked lining. I considered returning it but I didn’t want to pay the return-shipping fee for a coat that was essentially a steal. J. Crew Factory purchases cannot be returned to J. Crew stores. The Factory stores are located in East God Knows Where. I otherwise liked the coat and it fit decently. I wore it once or twice, but it never felt quite right without a lining. I like linings. I like socks. I don’t wear shoes without socks. I like that extra layer of fabric between my being and the shoe or the garment. To sound like a demented take on a movie quote linings and sock complete me. For three years that unlined coat has been exiled behind my closet door. It was a source of reliable irritation on a hanger.

This year I am doing a Big Purge, a complete clean out of my apartment. This purge includes unloading all of the clothes I no longer wear. I looked in my closet and saw that unlined jacket. It was on the Big Purge list. I tried it on and it still fit well, even better now that I’ve shed Mini Me — ten and a half pounds of girth, leading to the rediscovery of my waistline. I knew that as long as that jacket would not have a lining, I would never wear it again, but then I had a light bulb.

Light bulb: Why not get it lined?

My friend Coco is a fashion expert. I asked her where I could find lining fabric:

Coco: B&J Fabrics on Seventh Avenue. They have everything.

Seventh Avenue runs through the heart of New York’s garment district. The stretch between 34th to 39th Streets is known as Fashion Avenue.

Bronze statue called "The Garment Worker" a relic to the era before  garments were made overseas.

Statue called “The Garment Worker” a worker who would today be found toiling overseas but not wearing a yarmulke.

B&J Fabrics is a family run business that’s been around since 1940. It’s located on the second floor at 525 Seventh Avenue.

Welcome.

Welcome.

While walking down this storied avenue I observed the Fashion Walk of Fame honoring many of the biggest names in the American fashion industry.

Calvin Klein and the toe of my sneaker.

Calvin Klein and the toe of my sneaker.

When I entered B&J’s, I stepped into a fabric wonderland. They’re a go-to source for designers, costumers, fashion students, homeowners and even the casual doofus on the hunt for lining. Their inventory is extraordinary. Here’s a glimpse:

Fabric everywhere.

Fabric everywhere!

Feathers!

Feathers!

Polka dots!

Polka dots!

Metallic brocade!

Metallic brocade!

Raw silk!

Raw silk!

Sequins!

Sequins!

Italian wool!

Italian wool!

Irish linen!

Irish linen!

Glow in the dark!

Glow in the dark!

Delicate and fluttery!

Delicate and fluttery!

Chainmail!

Chainmail!

Fortunately, I did not have to search from feathers to brocade to chainmail to find coat lining. All I had to do was ask one of their many helpful and vastly knowledgeable staff members for direction. Within ten minutes of entering the premises, I found exactly what I wanted, a silver paisley jacquard.

Linings!

Linings!

Five minutes later they cut two yards of fabric for my drab colored coat and I was on my way back uptown to the tailor’s.

This lining scored such a hit with the tailor, I was called and told I could have a twenty-five percent discount on the job — and it was finished three days early.

When I went to pick up my lined coat, the clerk at the tailor’s was thrilled to show it to me. He gushed enthusiastically about the  quality of B&J’s lining.

Clerk at Tailor’s: This coat before was so nothing, but now, now it’s like, “Wow!”

I smiled wanly at the combined compliment and insult.

Drab colored jacket at rest.

Drab colored nothing jacket at rest.

If I ever wear this jacket on a date, it is going to take all my power of self-control to resist turning it inside out.

Love my lining, love  me.

Love my lining, love me.

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Lame Adventure 216: Savage Waiting

Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed.  This past Sunday was the exhibit’s final day.  According to The New York Times:

“The exhibition attracted more than 650,000 visitors since it opened on May 4, and 15,000 on Saturday [August 6] alone. It is among the 10 most visited shows in the museum’s history, and the most popular special exhibition ever at the Costume Institute, which is housed at the museum.”

Two of my closest friends, Coco the Fashionista, and Ling the Graphics Designer, had already seen it.  They both gave it solid rave reviews.  The previous Thursday I emailed Milton that I was thinking about doing the unthinkable, forego my usual Sunday power sleeping, and rise at 7 am to get to the Met by 9 am, “Are you interested in joining me?”  Milton emailed me back, “I’d do it.”

We were well aware that going on the last day of the final weekend was an act of guaranteed masochism bordering on the certifiably insane, but it would also be a very only-in-New-York-thing-to-do since New Yorkers are veteran line waiters.  At this stage in our lives, I am certain that Milton and I have invested the equivalent of at least an entire year of our lives doing nothing more than waiting to enter films, plays, restaurants, exhibits, and standing at box office windows (refer to Lame Adventure 1 for the story of another epic wait).  Yet, we did not anticipate when we both arrived early – he at 8:40 and I at 8:45 (the Met opened the doors at 9:30), that the lines leading down from the front of the museum on the 79th Street side as well as the 83rd Street side would both be so monumentally long, reaching so deep inside Central Park, they nearly snaked through the Upper West Side and into the Hudson River.  Thousands upon thousands of other people had the same idea as Milton and me.  The lines continually grew longer as we inched forward.

Huddled masses not exactly enjoying a day in the park.

Inching closer to entry more than an hour later.

As we approached the home stretch of the line in the sweltering heat around 10 am, I noticed two young women toss water bottles into the trash and confer with each other.  Mind-reader me knew what they were thinking since I could smell the acrid stench of line crashers.  I gave them the hairy eyeball.  They got the message and did not attempt to weasel their way in front of us.  Instead, they cut right behind us in front of a clueless guy whose head was absorbed in his iPad.  I said loudly:

Me:  Great, future tax cheats of America right here.

Milton the Wise reasoned:  Pretty young girls can get away with this sort of thing, but if we or anyone we know tried to do it we’d all get killed.

Cheating duo up front.

Soaked in sweat, we finally entered the museum around 10:40 and purchased our tickets at 10:48 while staring at a sign declaring that the next phase in the wait would be 2 ½ hours.  We stared at that sign expressionless until Milton, who was now starving and getting cranky, groused:

Milton:  These fuckin’ clothes had better get up and spin.

For interim viewing pleasure the Met had us wait in long lines that snaked through galleries displaying ancient artifacts.  We were particularly fond of the Chinese sculptures from the 5th through 8th Centuries.  A guard told us that it was okay to photograph the permanent collection.  To help Milton take his mind off of his hunger, I handed him my camera and he snapped away.

In predominantly good company.

Crowd waiting patiently.

Impressive mural.

Appreciating sculpture while waiting.

I occupied my time working on solving the US debt crisis so we can regain our AAA rating.  I suggested to Milton:

Me: Maybe if we returned these artifacts to China, they’ll forgive some of our debt?

A tourist standing behind us asked Milton:

Tourist:  Are you from out of town?  You’re taking so many pictures.

Milton:  No.  We like taking pictures.

Milton relaxing.

Milton’s dream pasta bowl.

Next leg of epic journey.

Ha! Suckers that just got in!

Ha ha! Sucks to be us!

Ancient artifact conversation piece.

Ancient artifact conversation piece 2, or part of an ancient trend with who-knows-what function, possibly a kinda/sorta inspiration for the bong.

Just as we approached the sign that said we had 30 minutes to go before reaching the McQueen exhibit, we saw a sign warning us that there was no photography beyond that point.  Therefore, we did not photograph any of the impressive Auguste Rodin sculptures.  Our Tourist-friend bleated:

Tourist: Did you see that sign?  Put your camera away!

Milton:  We saw the sign.  We’ve put the camera away.

Milton’s stomach:  ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After enduring nearly four hours of waiting, we gained entry into the McQueen exhibit around 12:35 that afternoon.  The galleries were so densely packed with visitors it was impossible to see everything.  We did notice people taking photographs with their iPhones, and as much as we wanted to follow their lead, we didn’t.  Every so often a McQueen-weary guard would erupt:

Guard: No photography, please!  Put your camera away!

A number of visitors brought their youngsters.  How much can you see in a crowded gallery when you stand barely four feet tall?  A little girl tried to grab one of McQueen’s trademark Armadillo shaped shoes and Milton had to control his knee-jerk desire to lunge at her.

Look. Don’t touch!

He gasped:

Milton: Don’t!

The kid’s mom seemed indifferent to her daughter’s antics.  This exhibit should have been off-limits to small fry under age ten, but at least strollers were banned.   Overall, it was impressively assembled and what we did see of the clothes was in a word, brilliant.  Milton and I may be the two least stylish people we know, but we both recognized McQueen’s amazing artistry or as Milton observed, McQueen not only had the daring to go further than other designers, but he had the ability to do so and do it brilliantly.  I will never look at a feather* the same way again.

*Exception: stray pigeon feather littering the sidewalk.

He told stories with each of his collections and his imagination struck me as so vast.  How tragic that he was compelled to commit suicide at only 40.

Since we played by the Met’s rules and controlled our impulse to sneak photographs, click this link to see a video that the Met has online of the exhibit.

When we exited the Met an hour later, we saw that the lines were still miles long.

Missing sound effect: cash register clanging.

The museum extended their hours to midnight both days of this past weekend.  We were glad that we were able to see this show before it closed.  It was certainly unlike any other exhibit we’ve ever seen, and one truly worthy of a four hour wait and 5+ hours of standing.  Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator, deserves a shout out; he did a great job putting it together.

Lame Adventure 170: “Maahvalous!”

Last week Coco and I attended a preview screening of Bill Cunningham New York.  When my pal was in the third grade, she was assigned to write a Thanksgiving essay about what she was most thankful for.  Unlike her classmates that were thankful for their parents, grandparents and pets, Coco tossed her thanks to Macy’s because they carried Jordache jeans.  Fast forward twenty-odd years later to the present where this grown-up fashionista is so excited about attending this screening, she’s sprouted a rather eye-catching full beard resembling a maroon dyed raccoon.

Coco petting her Abraham Lincoln beard with a studded cashmere Michael Kors glove.

Bill Cunningham is a New York Times treasure, an intrepid man on the street photographer whose On the Street columns (and in recent years, videos) chronicling fashion trends and the New York social scene are reliable highlights of the Sunday Style section.  This is a film made with love, wit and deep respect for this reluctant star.  Directed by Richard Press and produced by his partner in work and marriage, Philip Gefter, this dynamic duo gives the audience an intimate glimpse into the life of an extremely gracious, painfully modest, very active and eternally optimistic artist as he approaches age eighty during the course of filming (Bill’s now 82).

A very private man by nature, even Bill’s closest friends and colleagues admit they know next to nothing about his personal life.  Some facts about Bill are obvious, such as his distinct patrician accent every time he utters his favorite word, “Maahvalous,” betraying that he was born and bred in Boston.  An unanswered question is raised asking if Bill is the product of wealth.  During the q&a Press said that Bill revealed to him that his father worked for the US Postal Service, but did not elaborate further so he had no way of knowing if pere Cunningham was a common letter carrier or the postmaster general.

Bill does possess a very strong philosophy about money that borders on contemptuous.  He refused to accept any payment for his photos published in Details magazine where he worked during two of the happiest years of his life.  He was allowed complete control and was in his bliss.  He reasons, “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.  That’s the key to the whole thing.” Fiercely independent, Bill shoots all of his photographs on film and he owns all of his negatives.  He is the last photographer on the Times staff that shoots film adamantly refusing to go digital.  The Times allows him what appears to be complete autonomy, as well as a bevy of assistants he drives crazy.

During the year Press and Gefter followed Bill, he was faced with having to vacate his bohemian utopia, a rent-controlled studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, where he has resided since the early fifties.  Bill’s room is a simple sliver of space (with no kitchen and a shared bath in the hallway) that’s cluttered with metal file cabinets packed with his thousands of negatives.  He sleeps on a narrow cot atop piles of magazines. His clothes hang on wire hangers on the cabinets’ drawer pulls.  His longtime neighbors include his colorful friend, 96-year-old portrait photographer Editta Sherman.  Hopefully, someone will soon film a documentary about her.

This apartment has clearly been the key to Bill’s unique degree of independence.  Very low overhead and paying next-to-nothing rent would be a godsend to all struggling artists and hack bloggers today if this dream option still existed in New York, but it doesn’t.  Therefore, if you’re not born into wealth, you fail to wed a rich spouse, and you’re not on the winning side of a pot of lottery ticket gold, try to find a day job that is not entirely soul-sucking, and when need be, a source of material.

Bill’s never had a life partner but in a very moving scene, he answers some blunt questions about his disciplined personal life.  He doesn’t own a TV, and claims he does not have the time to see films or go to the theater, but admits he does enjoy music.  He gets his fix when he attends church on Sunday.  He has no interest in fine dining and subsists on cheap deli sandwiches and take-out coffee.

As monastic as his private life is, Bill is possibly the hardest working, most inspired member of the Times staff as he navigates Manhattan on his thirtieth three speed bike.  The previous twenty-nine were all stolen, but he has an almost zen-like acceptance about that.  He is not a guy that sweats the small stuff.  The street is where he wants to be as he hunts for subjects.

Almost everywhere he goes, he’s welcomed warmly, but there is a hilarious moment when two identically dressed teens he photographs turn on him, curse him out and threaten to break his camera.  Instead of fleeing in fear from these angry kids more than sixty years his junior, he is entertained, giggling impishly as he pedals away.

A man who thrives on beauty, Bill has an expert eye for detecting trends.  From one of his favorite perches, the four corners of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, often outside Bergdorf Goodman, he waits with his camera poised for prey — anyone stylishly dressed.  The clothes he photographs need not be expensive.  What’s required for a snap from Bill is that a subject looks original.  He takes his photographs with an unabashed enthusiasm lithely chasing objects of his admiration as they cross the street, scampering for a better angle, and occasionally directing a subject.  He is a guy who is most in the zone when he is clutching his Nikon.  He even snaps shots while pedaling from one location to the next.

His work ethic is so dedicated that it borders on obsessive.  Bill’s typical day usually starts around 8:30 am and ends at midnight.  He is also a walking encyclopedia of fashion trends past.  Since he is disinterested in pop culture, and his main focus is clothes, he is equally indifferent to celebrity.  In Paris, during fashion week, photographers swarm fashion icon Catherine Deneuve as she enters her limousine.  Bill stands back with his Nikon at rest.  Later, he matter-of-factly explains that she wasn’t wearing anything interesting.  As he waits to enter another fashion show amongst a horde of press, a minion questions Bill who waits patiently wearing a bemused expression.  When her boss appears, he brushes past the youngster, and gives Bill instant access declaring, “He’s the most important man on earth.”

While in Paris, Bill receives a prestigious award, a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.  He seems to much prefer photographing the guests, but he does deliver an acceptance speech mostly in heavily American-accented French that he emotionally concludes in English, “If you look you can find beauty in everything.”

As Coco and I left the screening we marveled at Bill’s devotion to his craft and the overall purity of his spirit.  I vowed:

Me:  I’m going to further downsize my life!  I’ll completely commit myself to the written word!  I’ll be the Bill Cunningham of blogging!

Then, we hit a bar where I proceeded to drink my weight in sake.  I screwed off for the remainder of the week and did not publish another post until the following Friday.

Coco, had a more sober reaction:

Coco:  I’m going to hang out at 57th and Fifth every chance I get.

"We all get dressed for Bill," Anna Wintour. "But some way more than others," Lame Adventures Woman.

Bill Cunningham New York opens today for a two week run at the Film Forum in lower Manhattan, and will roll out in major cities nationally.