Saturday 1st November 2014
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It started innocently enough

splendid shop

It always does. Just a quick trip to the sunglass shop on Spring Street for a small repair, then straight back home to work. But then there was the Splendid store just steps away. And even though I have walked past the Splendid store dozens of times and never been the least bit tempted to go in, lately, and on more than one occasion, I’ve been surprised—because I always thought their stuff was kind of junior—to learn that a top I’ve admired is theirs. They’re not the cheapest t-shirts out there, but they’re also not crazy pricey, and I have a crazy pricey t-shirt habit I’m trying to break. A visit felt like the fiscally responsible thing to do.

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I wasn’t in the door a minute before I fell for this vintage circle whisper tee: the shape—blousy in both the front and back—is A-1 perfect junk-camouflage material, and looks like it could have come from Helmut Lang or somewhere else where it would have cost a good 30 percent more. In general I’m a fan of all of the tees in Splendid’s Vintage Whisper line: most really soft t-shirts these days turn out to have some sort of synthetic in them, but these are 100% cotton, super-thin, and so nice next to your skin.

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Right next store stood Sam Edelman. Much like Splendid, a store that has tempted me never. But they actually make some pretty cute shoes at really good prices, and recently I’ve been curious to see if the quality is there and they might be worth covering. If I can rationalize anything in the name of this blog, it’s pretty much a go, so I popped in.  It was summer sandal central inside, and I was drawn to these cork flip flops, dead ringers for this pair from French brand K-Jacques but way, way, way cheaper. I had actually coveted the K-Jacques versions, but had wondered if a flip flop wouldn’t be horribly uncomfortable when executed on a big old cork heel. Happily, I discovered, it is not.  They’re cheap enough to buy in multiple shades—and come in quite a few—but I stuck with just the gold.

madewell store

And now it really was time to get on home. Just a quick little foray to Saturdays Surf for my first iced cappuccino of the season and out. But in order to get there, I had to pass Madewell on Broome Street and Broadway, and even though I don’t inevitably buy something every time I visit Madewell, I can always find something to want. I gave myself a pass and went in. By now I knew I was getting a post out of this, and editorially speaking, three is always better than two.

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Madewell’s got a partnership going with Austin retailer JM Drygoods; they sell the best Mexican embroidered clothes, and have a—and I hate using this word, but it really applies here—small and quite thoughtfully curated selection of other items, from chairs to soaps to candles, and you kind of want one of everything. At Madewell they’ve focused mostly on Mexican tops and dresses, and after a good deal of obsessing, I finally settled on this Oxaca Caftan. I am quite sure it shall get stained—dramatically and soon, and likely by my own hand. But for now it is perfect. As was that iced cappuccino.

Posted on May 7th, 2014 31 Comments

Into the fray

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My new local Sephora  is on a particularly frenetic block of Lower Broadway in Soho, and it’s never not mobbed. Because of this, I have taken to leaving to the last minute my visits to stock up on essentials. So last Friday, when I discovered that my Josie Maran Argan Oil was down to its last few precious drops, I steeled myself for the journey.

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True to form, the place was in deep lunacy mode when I arrived. I soldiered through the crowds to the Josie Maran area, procured my oil, did a quick scan of the shelf to see if there was anything new, and found this: Argan Infinity Lip and Cheek Creamy Oil. While the notion of oil on your lips might at first seem rather ick, the stuff actually feels really light and much less gloppy than gloss (alas, on the cheeks, I found it a touch heavy).  I bought a tube in a shade called Always Cherry, which is actually as pink as it is red, and pleasantly sheer.

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Until I was 40 or so, my makeup routine consisted of taking a quick mascara swipe at my lashes before I ran out the door. These days, mascara application is but one of several steps in my maquillage, and it is always accompanied by eyeliner. I mess around with new ones from time to time, but always return to YSL Eyeliner Effect Faux Cils Shocking, because instead of a brush, which can be so challenging for the unsteady-of-hand, it has an actual felt tip, and is therefore much more difficult to mess up. One tube lasts for an unsanitarily long time, and I was well overdue to pick up a new one, so into the basket it went.

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Lately, in the interest of saving time, I have graduated (or regressed) from eyebrow pencils to Gimme Brow from Benefit. It’s actually a gel packed with microfibers that help create the illusion of a fuller  brow, and it comes with the eensiest little applicator you’ve ever seen, and it is simple, simple to get right.

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Then it was off to Zara across the street, because if there’s one Lower Broadway store that is more insane than Sephora it is Zara, and I suppose I figured that since I’d already gotten my head into the right place for Lower Broadway crazy, I might as well go for it. I saw some cute stuff—and as usual, found their selection of  jackets and coats to be superior to anything else in the store; they’re just of a higher quality—and then I spied this little baby and just about died. It’s kind of Isabel Marant-ish, but reminds me even more of Dries Van Noten, who does such great things with ethnic beading and embroidery. And it’s got everything I dream of in that type of piece: strong, graphic patterns, a tight, bright color palette, and a clean, minimal cut. I grabbed one in a size medium, made for the nearest mirror, whipped off my coat and slipped the jacket on (my policy at Zara is to avoid the dressing room experience at all costs). It looked fantastic, but felt tight in the shoulders. I asked a nearby sales associate if they had any larger sizes, and she responded that it only came in small and medium. Under any other circumstances, this would inspire my righteous indignation—any retailer who makes a garment in just two sizes isn’t thinking right about the American market. But I was so obsessed with this jacket that all I could wonder was whether it might be worth it to give up a considerable amount of range of motion in order to wear it every once in a while. I didn’t buy it, but had a feeling I’d be back.

saturdays

There were other stores I might have checked off my Lower Broadway list—Uniqlo, H&M, even the mini-Bloomingdale’s—but this seemed like a good moment to quit. So I cut over to Crosby Street, one block east of Broadway and largely untrodden by the Sohotic masses. There are some great, non-chain-y stores on Crosby—beauty emporium MiN New York,  jeweler Jill Platner, designer Tess Giberson. All tempting, but I just kept walking, until I came almost to the end (technically, the beginning) of the street, where you can find the menswear and surf shop Saturdays Surf. I visit a few times a week, because they brew cappuccinos that taste just like Italy, have a staff of uniformly attractive young men, and let me bring in the dog. There’s also a courtyard out back for enjoying your coffee, and a young hipster DJ who is almost invariably playing the Doobie Brothers (ironically? I’ll never know).  Some days I’ll linger, but today I got my cappuccino to go and kept on moving. Visions of that crazy perfect jacket dancing in my head.

Posted on April 21st, 2014 21 Comments

Shopping for pretend: the new Kirna Zabete store

Kirna-Zabete

I go way back with the ladies of Kirna Zabete: Beth Buccini and I worked at New York magazine together in the 90s, and I met her partner Sarah Easley the summer the store was gearing up to open 14 years ago. The two of them remind me very much of this 1964 Vogue photo of interior designers Mica Ertegun and Chessy Rayner: two chic women of exactly one mind. Except where Ertegun and Rayner were all clean, minimal lines, Easley and Buccini are a nonstop mad tea party of brights, prints, and as many accessories as their outfits will bear. It is not an exaggeration to observe that on any given day, between the two of them, their outfits have got every shade on the color wheel represented. I love them for this.

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It is very easy to spend a great deal of money very fast at their new, behemoth store on Broome street. Like for instance, I’m loving the black, red and white on this Japanese-style floral print from Thakoon.

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And I’m dying for this  leopard print and polka dot fantasia.

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I almost can’t even bear to look at this blanket jacket, I love it so much.

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A complicated shape to pull off, to be sure. But I love the pink-on-red tweed, and the leather trim drives me mad with desire.

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With tights, boots, and a sweater, this would be aces.

Posted on August 6th, 2013 8 Comments

Ladies day out

selima soho

Tribeca Mom and I had a date on Saturday—she was family-free for the weekend and itching for a walkabout, and I was happy to oblige. We enjoyed  a little Mexican-Peruvian Brunch, and then it was off to Selima Optique on Broome Street. In a city full of chic alternatives to your usual mall brand opticians, Selima may be the chicest choice of all. They’ve got a surpassingly cool in-house line, a nice selection from other designers, and the kind of efficient and straight-up friendly service that keeps a person coming back. Which, as somebody with light sensitivity issues and a more-is-by-all-means-more outlook regarding the acquisition of new sunglasses, I do. Frequently.

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To that point: what do you think of my new Ray Ban Clubmasters? I’ve wanted some forever, but the classic Clubmaster shape looks crazy on me. These are squarer, which somehow renders them softer and more flattering. Definitely less hipster than the original, but then again, so am I.

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Here they are close up. Cuteness, no?

jerome dreyfussbag

Tribeca Mom had a substantial American Express gift card burning a hole in her pocket, so we hit the Jerome Dreyfuss store on Broome Street—as excellent a spot as any for a splurge that’ll cost you nothing. Dreyfuss is Isabel Marant’s husband, and his bags work a similarly Frenchy-understated fashion insidery angle. I own one, a small grey leather number that makes any outfit I pair it with just a tiny bit cooler, and would die for another. But today was not about me. Tribeca Mom got this, and it is perfection: big enough to carry papers, but chic enough to bring along to dinner or a nice lunch, and made of the lightest leather. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Posted on July 28th, 2013 9 Comments

On love and chain stores

banana

In retail, as in romance, you are in love until you are not. Often, it’s tough to get at what went wrong; whether they changed, or it was you, or if it was just time. What is there to do? You accept, and you move on. Such was the fate of my relationship with Banana Republic. The last good time I recall—and I’m not just saying this in order to extend my cute love metaphor—was practically Elysian. I’m guessing the year was 2003, because I was wearing a camisole, blazer, and jeans that day, and I was very big on that particular combo in 2003.* I was browsing the Banana at The Grove in LA, doing my homework for a meeting I had the next day at Gap/Banana/Old Navy HQ in San Francisco.  The store itself was bright and brilliant with color; the merchandising was spot-on, and most everything on the racks felt not just wearable—which BR so often is—but on-trend and really genuinely cool, too. When I spoke with the company’s CEO the next day, in the type of meeting where one is expected to discuss one’s own brand for a while and then praise one’s host’s brand at great length, I got to mean every word I said. It was a rare treat.

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And then: nothing. Until Saturday, when the siren song of this yellow beaded tee beckoned from the window of a Banana Republic near my home and I was drawn in to take a closer look. It’s part of a collaboration with Milly, and is somehow chicer and slouchier in real life than as shown here, and because it was just $45, I made it my own immediately.

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I also quite like this tunic: the print is great, and the colors are just slightly unexpected. Also: those are rather excellent elephant shorts she is wearing on the bottom, but they are both itsy-short and sold out.

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But this elephant print scarf isn’t.

 

*The fact that I remember what I was wearing but not the year is a whole other story. Another day.

Posted on June 12th, 2013 24 Comments

When no means probably

castor & p

Image via Shopikon

Most of my favorite indie boutiques are located at a safe distance from my home—to visit Bird, a trek out to Brooklyn is required, and to splurge at Blue Tree, I must travel all the way up to Carnegie Hill. But Castor & Pollux is not five minutes away from my front door, beckoning daily, dangerously. I want pretty much everything that proprietress Kerilynn Palmer stocks—hand beaded Alice Park tunics, diaphanous Gary Graham dresses, gauzy tops by Alasdair—and have a very tough time leaving the store without a shopping bag in hand. So I try and limit my visits, and when I do go to tell myself I’m just there for inspiration, repeating silently to myself just looking, just looking.

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Alas, this almost never works, and especially not if Kerilynn is around, because we always get to chatting, and the longer I linger, the more I try on. It’s too bad that C&P’s website doesn’t feature more of the clothes they stock, because then you could get a better sense of all of its many and varied temptations. For that reason, you must be sure to put it on your Must To Visit list when you come to the city. Meanwhile, you can shop the gorgeous jewelry line that’s been created just for the store: I love the graceful but substantial shape of this bracelet, which is available with pretty birthstones too.

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And these malachite studs slay me.

Posted on June 6th, 2013 2 Comments

Our lady of the Lower East Side

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Andrea and me at a book party in 2008. In Los Angeles, a city that we have shopped the hell out of

My longtime friend (and sometime co-conspirator) Andrea Linett is an ideal shopping companion. She has endless stamina, is famously amusing, and has a great eye not only for what’s worth buying, but—perhaps more importantly—what’s worth leaving behind. We don’t get to see each other nearly as often as back when we were running a magazine together, but we still talk and text all the time. And have shopping excursions when we can,  occasionally running into former co-workers, who always look mildly shocked to see we’re still at it. On Sunday, Andrea and I made a date to visit Gargyle, a boutique way deep down on the Lower East Side that I’d never visited—and that shockingly, given that this is so much her turf that some neighborhood shopkeepers once nicknamed her The Mayor of Ludlow Street, neither had Andrea.

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Gargyle is is a wee little store, but it is packed with wonder: flowy Mes Demoiselles dresses; sexy lace blouses from Lover that I would totally wear even though I am not a sexy lace blouse person;  their own rather beautiful line of bags; and more. I wasn’t sure how Andrea would feel about these snake print embossed leather platforms, but she thought they were as awesome as I did, so of course I not only bought them but wore them out of the store.  I am about a million per cent sure that at least one of you is going to insist they are awful and the very soul of clunk, but I am here to tell you that when you put them on, they are magic.

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I do love a leopard print, but rarely on a bag: as with shoes, it almost invariably ends up looking cheap. This Wood Wood tote is a glorious exception, thanks to the excellent washed-out grey and black print.

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Right down the street from Gargyle is Project No. 8, a spare, clean design store that displays its wares pristinely and thoughtfully, giving the art gallery treatment to, well, the same stuff that pretty much all of these places carry. Waxed canvas totes? Check. Artisanal soap from Brooklyn? Check. Hand-tooled wallets? Check. Apartamento magazine?  Present and accounted for.

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Of course I am generalizing horribly. There’s plenty of beautiful stuff at Project No. 8, and it’s all quite carefully chosen, and this crystal bee tumbler is maybe one of the best things ever.

maryam nassir

Then we moved along to Maryam Nassir Zadeh, a store I absolutely love even though I have never bought a thing there. The clothes are all expensive and esoteric, with shapes that are frequently complicated and far easier to pull off the closer you are to six feet tall.

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For instance, I would not attempt this, but it is a wonder to behold.

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My favorite thing at Maryam Nassir Zadeh are the shoes. I can’t even bear to look at these Robert Clergerie platforms.

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And check out the heel on these gold Rochas slingbacks!

Posted on May 15th, 2013 29 Comments

The actual real thing

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Did you ever have your heart broken by a man who went on to date somebody new almost immediately? Causing you to spiral into endless, obsessive speculation on how beautiful, sexy and probably just all around superior to you she must be? And then maybe one night you ran into them together at a party, and she was pretty but no knockout, and you definitely had nicer legs—and suddenly you were cured? That’s not entirely unlike* how I felt upon visiting the new Iro store the other day.

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I’ve probably coveted more Iro jackets than any other brand’s over the last year or so. They come in perfect dress-me-up, dress-me-down silhouettes—from close-cropped to slouchy, but elegant no matter what the shape. And their prints manage to fuse ethnic with something decidedly more grown-up and Chanel-informed. I think it’s safe to say that many of you know my taste well enough by now to recognize how up my alley this is.

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This nubby moto-inspired number would go straight into serious rotation in my wardrobe as well. But unfortunately, everything Iro costs more than it should, thanks in large part to the fact that Iro is French and the exchange rate is crap. I was pretty sure a visit to their new boutique wouldn’t offer up much more than a nice generous helping of frustration. And so it did, but for another reason entirely. The store, in a move that seems increasingly common and that I am not at all down with, displayed on its racks precisely one of each item they carried—fine if you’re a jewelry or shoe store, but somewhat off-putting if what you’re pushing is apparel. Worse—and as if to scream I defy you to shop here—almost everything on those racks was a size 0 (their equivalent of a 2) with a few size 1 pieces (an Iro 4) thrown in for good measure. Apparently Iro plans to extend their US presence in short order to 20 US stores. New Yorkers may put up with that brand of snotty, but I can’t see the rest of the country doing it.

zara perfection

I could have asked for a few things in my size, but I resented having to. So I did the only thing that felt right—walked to Zara.  Where I found this lightweight moto jacket that rang in at a mere $99 and is very Frenchy/ethnic, and so comfortable you could positively nap in it.

 

 

*This analogy seems increasingly imperfect the longer I consider it. But I’ve also grown fond of it, so it stays.

Posted on April 10th, 2013 29 Comments

Getting a move on

abingdonsquare

The West Village is as lovely a neighborhood as one could hope to inhabit, and I never stop feeling grateful to live here. And yet, any part of town can become tedious if one spends enough time there, and this turns out to be particularly true for those of us whose commute is precisely as long as it takes to locate where we last put the laptop. So occasionally a person just has to get out of Dodge—no matter how charming and livable Dodge may be.  Today, the temperature was on the verge of breaking 50, and the sun wasn’t not out, so I slid on my most walkable boots, put the dog on his leash and hit the sidewalk.

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Bleecker Street stretches from Bank Street (practically my doorstep) all the way to the Bowery, and for this reason functions somewhat as my personal I-95 for walkabouts—winding as it does south and east through several downtown neighborhoods, with opportunities to exit at many alluring shopping destinations along the way. From Bank until West 10th on Bleecker it’s wall-to-wall big-name stores—Maje and Diptyque and Coach and Fresh and about eleventy million more. But cross that border and you start hitting a few neighborhood stalwarts—places that have been around since the street was lined with dusty and expensive antique stores (which feels like a lifetime ago but was actually—amazingly—only about ten years).  The fantastic floral studio Ovando is one of those places, and I popped in to pick something out for a very dear friend who’s recuperating from  surgery.

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I got her a little something like this. It felt like the kind of arrangement that would go a long way toward brightening up a drab hospital room.

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But I was not un-tempted to get her one of these orchid-in-a-box numbers, which are what Ovando’s more well-known for. People in the media send each other flowers reflexively and for the most un-sentimental  reasons. As a magazine editor, you learn early on that the beautiful arrangement the mailroom guy just placed  on your desk is nine times out of ten going to be from an acne cream publicist looking for coverage, and not your future boyfriend—or even new best friend. After a while it kind of dulled the gesture of its romance. I always swooned, though, when the flowers were from Ovando.

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It was raining when I walked out of the store. Because it’s spring, and New York, and of course. So I popped into the first shoe repair I saw and bought a nice basic black Totes—something I mention only because it occurs to me that those of you who visit from out of town should always know to look for the nearest shoe repair store if you get caught in a downpour. They’re everywhere, and they all sell decent umbrellas, not the cheapo $5 ones you get on the street that will not last the day.

blown glass side table

I wanted to check out some home stores—my hunt for the perfect side table marches on—and popped in to Matter, where I wish to spend a great deal of money just as soon as I come into a sizable fortune. This blown glass side table is so transcendent I think I could get all trance-y just staring at it.

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And this steel and rawhide console makes no sense at all, but I need it.

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I am dying for one of these excellently weird-ass trays. And am also beginning to realize I’m a tray-hoarder, which seems like an odd choice.

stardominoes

Would this domino set not make a lovely gift? With those those excellent stars?

Clic Bookstore & Gallery

After Matter, I popped briefly into Clic Bookstore and Gallery, the most recent venture by Christianne Celle, who created a mini lifestyle-and-fashion rich hippie revolution when she founded Calypso—and went on to make  a crazy fortune when she sold it a few years back. The space itself is an funny boutique/gallery/bookstore hybrid—there are ongoing art exhibits, and an assortment of appealing tribal/hipster jewelry and clothing lines. But books really are at the heart of what this place is about.

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There are lots of rare editions by the kind of photographers that fashion people like to get  inspired by, like William Eggleston and Nan Goldin. And lots of titles that people like me can look at and then kick ourselves for letting slip through our hands—like that first edition Annie Leibovitz book with Meryl Streep on the cover, which I gave away, having decided it wasn’t sufficiently punk rock or something. And which is now selling for $320.

 

Posted on March 29th, 2013 6 Comments

Nowhere to hide

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Every year, it’s the same thing: at some point in March, I catch a glimpse of myself in a particularly honest mirror somewhere, and have a moment of clarity. I’ll pledge that the life of High Sloth I’ve been leading all winter must stop, and the (comparatively) more rigorous, healthy life I lead the rest of the year must begin again immediately. And that is usually that. At the moment, however, it’s taking a little time for things to click in—time that is only allowing my extra winter layer of chunk to grow just that much chunkier. And the only way to make it stop, I realized today, is to get drastic. And so I’ve set a rule: no more clothing purchases until I like the way I look again. Now it’s got to be all about leafy greens, getting to the gym, and taking the dog out for studiously long, brisk walks—stupid freezing cold or not. Yesterday, we took off for the Meatpacking district.

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A girl trying not to shop could make better-informed  choices than strolling around the Meatpacking. But I didn’t think a little inspiration could do me any harm, and how was I to know that there was a new Rag & Bone store on 13th Street? An especially lovely one too, with its own  Jack’s coffee bar, which I am so all in favor of, and will definitely be back for. Here’s yet another jacket in that sweatery fabric Rag & Bone always makes jackets in: I’m nuts for the leather detailing, as well as the unexpected speckles of green and pink.

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Rag & Bone can always be relied upon for a nice selection of really flattering tops that are both forgivingly cut and chic, which are two things that do not often occur in the same garment. This slinky tee with sheer panels flows so prettily. All you need is the right cami.

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I would look so uncool in an army jacket, but that doesn’t keep me from being obsessed with them.  And this one—with that clean cut and unexpected, but somehow totally right, button collar—is just tremendous.

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And look at this: it’s early, but we’ve already got our print of the week:

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Wee motorcycles!

vincescarf

Then it was off to Washington Street and Vince, because I’d seen this tunic in the window a while back, and thought it might be nice to wear with leggings, the way I like to do with dresses that are too short for me to consider them dresses anymore. Normally I might find a handkerchief print like this a bit much, but the very subdued color palette makes it OK.

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This top is so boilerplate me that I can’t believe it hasn’t been in my closet for years already.

warbyparker

Post-Vince, I popped over to the Warby Parker eyewear store on Washington Street, where they were serving Colombe Coffee at the door (I am so loving this trend), because I remembered hearing that Williamsburg jewelry boutique Catbird was going to have a store-in-store there over the weekend. Turns out I missed them by a day, but no matter: it got me in the door, which is something I’ve been meaning to do, but half avoiding, for a while. It’s hard to be anti-Warby Parker, what with their socially progressive ethos and for-the-people prices.  And yet they just seem to try so hard in a very certain kind of way: their brand is named after Jack Kerouac characters, for instance. And then there’s this, which truly nothing can forgive.

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Still, they make a lovely product.  This pair of sunglasses is called the Winston, but I call it the Angus McCain, because they’re like the ones worn by a very nefarious character on my favorite underappreciated BBC  drama (and here I am saying that Warby Parker is trying too hard).

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I always surprise myself by liking those sunglasses Audrey Hepburn wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, because I so severely lack the Audrey Hepburn chip. And I kind of like these too, because they remind me of them, only lots lighter.

Posted on March 18th, 2013 15 Comments