Thursday, November 29, 2012

Project Dressing Well (on a budget!)

Goodbyes has two shops. The men's store and women's sale items are on side of the street, and the women's shop is across the street. 

Here's a new reality TV show idea, "Project Dressing Well." Give contestants a minimum amount of money and an event to attend and see who can pull together the best look for the least cost. If I were on that show, I'd hit a consignment shop first and top of my list would be Goodbyes on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.

The women's shop.

Last weekend, Matt and I observed Small Business Saturday by avoiding the Union Square holiday crush and instead we strolled beautiful, calm Sacramento Street. Our first stop: Goodbyes. They accepted most of the items I brought to consign, which included these boots. I hope they make someone very happy because they certainly didn't work for me. And what they didn't take, the woman was very sweet and apologetic, giving me the reason why for each. While I was consigning, Matt was perusing the men's shop and found two very nice shirts. One is a new, extremely soft fine-wale blue corduroy labeled "Bugatchi Uomo." These shirts normally sell for around $149, Matt paid $30. And he found a heavy linen teal green shirt for $13. I bought an elegant black satin Brooks Brothers blouse with french cuffs, like new, for $35. Goodbyes may not be the least expensive consignment shop, but if the item is in great condition, it's still a lot less expensive than retail. Consignment shopping can be a little hit and miss, but we usually find something. And the serendipity is fun, you never know what you'll find.

Four years ago, we were invited by our wonderful friends in Germany to their wedding. It was a two-week long celebration, culminating in a formal dinner and dance on the Rhine River. First thought: "What to wear?!!!" We headed straight to Goodbyes. Matt found this dashing Hugo Boss tuxedo and a YSL tuxedo shirt. And I found this elegant Ralph Lauren evening dress. The combined cost of both outfits? Around $300.

So, if you're a Bien Vestidista (or Vestidisto) and need some sparkle for a holiday party or simply want something new to wear and don't want to spend the big bucks, check out your local consignment shops. It's good for your look, your wallet and the environment.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Man Ray vs. Brad Pitt

I'm sure that by now, you've seen the newest ad campaign for Chanel No. 5 featuring Brad Pitt. It premiered about a month ago and parodies have been rife. If you haven't seen, or would like to see it again,  take a look at the thirty-second spot, I'd love to know what you think. My initial reaction was "This is odd, really odd." And then I tried to be open-minded to the "new creative." The point of advertising is to get your attention and having a man tout a woman's perfume is different, and having that man be Brad Pitt definitely gets attention. But I'm sticking with my original impression; the campaign is not compelling and it's confusing. Several people I spoke with thought Chanel was introducing a new men's fragrance. 

Instead of sexy, Brad looks squirmy and uncomfortable, one dimensional. He's more listless than passionate. The ad is black and white, with an overall grungy gray feel. Brad is standing in the corner of a gray room wearing a wrinkled shirt with the tail hanging out and his hands defensively in his pockets. So instead of me feeling intrigued, captivated and drawn in to the world of Chanel No. 5, I feel distanced. And I'm an easy mark. For the last thirty years I've always had a bottle or two of Chanel perfume, and I still get giddy over a new one.
I can imagine the ad agency was told to attract a younger audience, that Chanel No. 5 is no longer your grandmother's perfume. That's the problem with a classic: it's wonderful to be so recognizable and the Chanel No. 5 scent, bottle and name comprises one of the most iconic brands in the world. But how do you market to a new audience without compromising what makes it great? How do you stay true to the brand but tell the story in a new way? Millions and billions are spent consulting with brand experts to answer this question. But at minimum, you keep it interesting. Looking up, down, left and right, Brad delivers this soliloquy:

"It's not a journey. Every journey ends, be we go on. The world turns and we turn with it. Plans disappear and dreams take over. But wherever I go, there you are, my luck, my fate, my fortune. Chanel No. 5. Inevitable." 

Ho hum. Brad, is that a cliche in your pocket or are you just bored to see me?

A L'Heure de l'observatoire: Les amoureaux, painting by Man Ray, 1932-1934

About the same time that this campaign premiered, Matt and I went to the Legion of Honor to the Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism exhibit. Now there's a story of modern passion, romance, glamour, artfulness and rich, fascinating lives, all the qualities I associate with Chanel No. 5.  Man Ray was a chick magnet. The more I read about him, the more girlfriends I discover he had, from Paris to Los Angeles. And they all seemed to happily pose nude for his camera or paintbrush. Lee Miller was his love from 1929 to 1932 when they lived together in Paris. She left him and he was devastated. Man Ray did the above painting of Lee Miller's lips and wrote these words, wrought with passion:

"It is seven o'clock in the morning, before the hunger of the imagination is satisfied. The sun has not yet decided to rise or set -- but your mouth comes. It becomes two bodies separated by a horizon, slim, undulating, like the earth and the sky, like you and me and so like all microscopic objects, invisible to the eye. Lips of the sun, you draw me endlessly nearer, and in this instant before awakening, when I cast loose from my body -- I am weightless -- I meet you in the even light and empty space, and, my only reality, kiss you with all that is left of me: my own lips."

I read those words in a crowded museum on a Sunday afternoon and Man Ray's love and longing swept me up and carried me away to a world of romance. If you're going to use a man to sell perfume, give me one that leaves me wanting more! In this instance, a dead Man Ray has more life than a live Brad Pitt. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Viva La Catrina-tude

La Parroquia on Dia de Los Muertos with papel picado fluttering in the night breeze.

We're in San Miguel de Allende now, experiencing the week-long celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Day of the Dead is my favorite holiday and I usually honor it by building an altar at home and participating in the procession in San Francisco's Mission District on November 2.

So it's a dream come true for me to be in Mexico for the holiday. As you can imagine, the festivities are rich and beautiful here. On November 1 was the Concurso de Catrinas where hundreds of Catrinas and Catrines gathered in El Jardin, the center of town, to show off their Bien Vestido best.

Catrina and Catrine is the well-dressed society couple. Women have really taken to the image of Catrina, she is the embodiment of bold style with no fear about showing off her beauty and daring persona. Below are just a few of the hundreds that promenaded around El Jardin.

Her entire "wedding dress" was fashioned from the obituary pages. Fabulosa!

A beautifully attired but frightening Frida. 

A darling little Catrina. 

True Catrina-tude. 

A young El Catrine.  With that bow tie, he is muy Bien Vestido!

This is Amelia. Another adorable little Catrina. 

That's me on the left with my friend Elena. 

A very handsome couple.