D.C. gets all spiffy for spring

Monday, March 31, 2008

I got way excited when I saw a few of these flower-fied street signs driving through Georgetown on Friday and now they're all over the internet. Pretty!

We are all just a bit tuckered out over here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

{Of course, Peeve and Commander Robot are always up for a long cuddly snooze. But I'm very ready to join them.}

Just a quick note to say hi (hi!) and also sorry to be a bit slow around here this week. I've been busy – a good busy, but busy nonetheless – and my Internet time is always the first thing that gets cut back. Things should return to normal next week (for starters, I've really got to show you the booty from my marathon thrifting trip this week!). But now, if you'll excuse me, there are some very pretty cherry blossoms that need to be oohed and ahhed over.

Bringing back the bonnet, so to speak

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We're not really church-goers, but I was happy to use Easter as a reason to get a little dressed up in some bright spring-y finery and head over to IHOP for a plate of pancakes. (Apparently, this was not an original idea. IHOP was packed! So we tried the Silver Diner. Also incredibly packed! Finally, fueled by some delicious Murky Coffee, we ended up with Big Breakfasts at McDonald's. Sad, true, but kind of fun and amusing too. Plus, there is not much that beats a buttery McDonald's biscuit.)

Anyway, I was just happy to have the chance to debut my self-made flower headpiece (fashioned from items found at the Spotlight craft store in Singapore), even if it was mostly to the other patrons at a random Arlington McDonalds. I also sported it all around our post-breakfast exploration of the Courthouse flea market, where it earned lots of compliments from various vendors, one of whom commended me on "bringing back the Easter bonnet."

The headpiece was a bigger hit than the thrifting (I left empty-handed after Mike convinced me that I did not want to pay $7 for an old red Viewmaster, even though I kind of did). I'm already thinking of where I might wear it next. Maybe to the Son Volt show next month? Seems like the perfect opportunity to rock some flowery headgear, quite literally.

If it's not big bows, it's big collars!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

{Er, you'd tell me if I was becoming way too predictable, right?}

It's no surprise that I instantly loved the collection of detailed yet simple spring coats from Montreal-based fashion line Soia & Kyo, found via Spray Glue. This Lotta-S asymmetrical trench ($265) is my absolute favorite. Clean lines, slightly quirky, pretty much perfect.

The Hills: One redeeming moment in the whole silly mess

Toward the conclusion of The Hills' premiere last night, my reaction was something along the lines of: I wasted an hour* of my night on this? {And, to be clear: I never, ever say things like that. I am, after all, a girl who actually owns her own copy of the Britney classic Crossroads and still watches every time it's on TV. Ditto for just about every teen movie ever made, including a slew that star Lindsay Lohan. And also that Mary Kate and Ashley chased-around-NYC-by-Eugene-Levy disaster. Okay, now I'm just embarrassing myself.}

In any case, I was about to call it all an overly contrived wash (well, except for those Crillon Ball debutante dresses; those were incredible) until Lauren leapt off her hairy Paris suitor's trusty Vespa and displayed the back of her coat as they awkwardly hugged goodbye.

And there was a *bow*. And it was **amazing**. And really, it saved the whole hour for me. Of course, I had to immediately break out the digital camera and the Tivo pause feature and try to snap it as best I could so we could gush together.

Plus, did you catch how the coat had such a great swingy shape? Oh no? Well then, it's your lucky day because I stopped my Tivo for that too.

*Well, actually, it was more like two hours wasted, since I also watched the old episodes they showed leading up to the premiere. Plus, I also recorded the Mariah Carey after-performance, which I haven't watched yet but I'm sure I will eventually succumb to, just because Mariah was so ridiculous during the pre-show interviews and I'm kinda curious. And so that's like another 20 minutes of silly fluff on top of everything else. Which is a teensy bit depressing. But, of course, I'll totally watch it again next week.

Couldn't help myself: Dwell for Target

Dwell Studio's Target adult and baby housewares collections have gotten some mixed reviews since they debuted, but I have to say that I totally love their new table linens collection. I jumped all over them in the Target store last week before I realized they were Dwell-designed -- really, that perfect robin's egg blue gets me every time! -- and probably would have bought the fun reversible table runner and/or the placemats if they matched my décor in any way whatsoever. (As it happens, they do not. And not even in a good cool-clashing kind of way. I know, I've given it a lot of thought.)

Instead, I settled for a set of the dishtowels and am considering the tablecloth too. Very purdy, and definitely not very pricey -- just how I like it.

Nothing says "Easter" like some quality thrifting!

Monday, March 24, 2008

I spent a good chunk of my weekend either working on an upcoming assignment or taking a work break at my friendly Northern Virginia thrift stores… and also taking a lot of wrong turns trying to drive to my friendly Northern Virginia thrift stores. How many times can one drive past the Lincoln Memorial before it gets a little old? I'm at about six times, and I still get a kick out of it, fortunately.

Anyway, I'll recap my vintage booty soon enough, but in the meantime, can I just say how I now have to carefully scour every thrift store's children's book section, in the hopes of finding a copy of Henri's Walk to Paris? It's illustrated by legendary graphic designer Saul Bass and the gorgeously colorful pages got seriously stuck in my head after I saw it on Design*Sponge earlier this month.

Sadly, no copies have yet to be miraculously discovered.

A little trip down memory lane…

Friday, March 21, 2008

Shelterrific featured some of the amazing personal collections of Abbey from Aesthetic Outburst and How Now Design, which made us very, very happy for two reasons: 1) We're glad we're not the only ones with growing amounts of lots of random collections. 2) How incredibly awesome is her assortment of those sweetly familiar Fisher Price moms?

Drawing inspiration

I recently had to do a work project that had me poring through about 10 leading bridal magazines… which is about 10 bridal magazines more than I'd ever read in my life. I'm not your typical frou-frou kind of wedding gal – I'm more likely to elope to Vegas, with a convertible, and an Elvis impersonator officiant, and a legitimate excuse to buy a gorgeous Prada dress – but even I was sucked in by the perfect prettiness featured in all those magazines.

My absolute favorite was Martha Stewart Weddings, featuring Martha's signature detailed gorgeousness, and I especially loved this dress feature they did for the Winter 2008 issue. Illustrator Mariko Jesse created these simple, stunning line drawings as the backdrops for a selection of dresses and accessories so delicately pretty that you couldn't help but love them, whether you've got a wedding in mind or not.

Of course, my favorite was that big bow-tied neck scarf, an idea that I'm planning on stealing to pair with my favorite 50s-inspired strapless tulle dress for my next big dressy function. Let's have another look, shall we?

{Additional thanks to d.Sharp for some of these images, saving me some serious scanning time.}

Yesterday's outfit recap

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So, what did people end up wearing to last night's Sartorialist event? Lots of cute stuff, actually. (Way to go, D.C.!) I saw some fun chunky heels, and great slouchy boots, and really well-tailored slim men's suits, and some very stylish dresses. Mike and I went by pretty early in the evening – in fact, we got over to 14th street a little bit too early and decided to do some window-shopping around the neighborhood, and kept passing Scott the Sartorialist strolling around himself, which was kind of funny/awkward. Anyway, we popped in to the Adamson, checked out the pics, sipped some wine, met adorable Spinach reader Shola (hi, Shola! so great to meet you!), and headed out as things started to get hot and sweaty in there. The evening ended with a trip to Whole Foods (ommmm… cheese samples) and curling up with a stack of foreign fashion mags sweetly passed along by Johanna. All in all, a nice finish to a yucky rainy day.

Oh, and what did *I* end up wearing? I'm still training my photographer, but I think you can get a pretty good sense of the outfit. (Also, Commander Robot seemed to like it.) Here we have: Amazing patchwork-y dress by Indian designer Zubair Kirmani, a long black cardigan by Calvin Klein, your basic opaque black tights, $3 Salvation Army slouchy brown boots (it was raining… no cuter footwear could be sacrificed) and a wristful of copper bangle bracelets from the night market in Bangkok. Oh, and a vintage khaki trench raincoat for the walk, with my oversized clear umbrella acquired from the drugstore in Tokyo during a sudden rainstorm. Yes, I did insist on carrying it back from Japan with me, no matter how awkward it was to lug a large umbrella along with all of my luggage. Which was, it should be said, quite awkward.

But back to the dress for a moment. It's one of my very favorite pieces ever – it has an incredible amount of detail {which, unfortunately, is a bit covered up by the sweater but it was chilly!} and it makes me feel great every time I wear it. Don't you love those special pieces that make you happy?

Go green

Mike just sent me this link to these seriously cute leaf magnets, by Richard Hutton for Gispen, which seem like an adorable way to add a little nature to your kitchen appliances, file cabinets or other unsightly large metal objects.

I love the simplicity of these, and my mind is already thinking of some DIY versions. I'd love to have a little more green in the house – we don't have any plants around because Commander Robot {um, that would be our cat} likes to eat them a liiiitttle too much for his own good.

Drum roll please…. The contest winners!

I'm actually kind of sad our first big contest has to end, because it means only two of you can win, and a whopping 91 of you have to leave this blog today empty-handed. Boooo. We wish we had enough bags and gloves for everyone! For your weddings, and proms, and convertible-driving and balloon chicken-walking (note to Justine: I'm still not sure what that means, but it sounds fun and made me laugh) and all the other lovely scenarios you suggested. They were all completely wonderful, so thank you for participating.

But, we do have two winners, done by random drawing! First, the Liz Saintsing gloves: They are off to Alexandra, in Moldova! (Yup, I had to look it up too, and it's in Eastern Europe. These are really going to be some well-traveled gloves!)

Her e-mailed entry was: "Oh, I can imagine wearing these with a golden sleeveless dress, electric blue/ turquoise high heels, and a simple choker with ruby stones. Or, alternatively, an electric blue/ turquoise closely fitting jumper, a high waisted white pencil skirt, and red shoes. OMG, I'm being too matchy-matchy. There are so many variations, though... I think they'd compliment many outfits."

Alexandra, you must rock these gloves all around Moldova, and send pictures. I'm kind of seriously enjoying the fact that Liz can now say she's *huge in Moldova*.

And now, the vintage bag: It's off to Miss Milki in Ireland! Her entry was: "This has been a difficult and much pondered decision...I'm absolutely in love with those gloves but can you believe I have the opposite problem to you...I'm fairly sure my tiny childlike hands will be lost inside those 'medium' sized gloves, so...

Bag please!!! It'd fit beautifully into my wardrobe. I'd carry it when wearing my black wool skirt, opaque tights and black patent slingbacks with my cute red sweater in the winter or with a gorgeous little 50s style summer dress for picnics in the park this summer."

Miss Milki, we will require some photos of the bag frolicking in the Irish countryside, or perhaps enjoying a pint of Guinness in your local pub.

In any case, thanks again to everyone for playing! And sit tight! We hope to have another fun contest very soon. Honestly, we will probably not be satisfied until everyone goes home with pretty things.

{Fireworks photo found here.}

Otherwise preoccupied

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things are going to be a tad quiet around here for the rest of the day. I've been up in Delaware for the past few days, doing some quality thrifting (naturally – plus a visit to Old Navy to scoop up a couple of those adorable preppy items we've been eyeing) and am heading back down to D.C. later today, by way of the Salvation Army and a Goodwill or three. See you tomorrow, when we'll be announcing the winner of the big giveaway (last call for entries!) and maybe even giving you a sneak peek of the new apartment, which is finally, finally not completely full of boxes and ready for public viewing.

In the meantime, isn't the Frank Horvat photo above the most beautiful thing ever? Via Soon Lee, via fotodecadent. There's a whole slew of Horvat's photos here, which are well worth a perusal. I am personally kind of in love with this dress:

In case you're looking for a new way to procrastinate...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is too good not to share: The new blog Photoshop Disasters chronicles various Photoshop gaffes from magazines and advertisements, like this snap from a Victoria's Secret catalog above. If they can keep it up, this might just be a leading candidate for Best. Blog. Ever!

{This one was a close second in the race for my favorite post so far.}

Rainbow brights

Just one more reason to get back up to New York very soon: Moma just opened a new exhibition called Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, an eye-popping collection of bright, bold works from contemporary artists that runs through May 12. (If NYC isn't on your current travel schedule, the exhibit website gives a comprehensive look at the selections for the show.) A few of the ones I can't wait to see up close and personal:

The Ellsworth Kelly, above.

Andy Warhol:

Jasper Johns:

Gerhard Richter:

It almost seems unfair to put these pictures here, in their computer-sized, web-resolution versions. Still, if these don't get you in the mood for spring's colorful clothes, I don't know what will.

Rings on her fingers…

I'm not much of a jewelry person. If I'm going to throw on a piece of jewelry, it's almost always a statement-making item, like a pile of chunky bangle bracelets (I think I've accumulated them from every city in Asia at this point) or extra-long ropes of glossy vintage beads or a funky sixties-style enamel flower pin. I just don't do delicate chain necklaces or elegant bracelets very well, and most of the time I forget to put on jewelry anyway, even if I'd been planning on it.

The one main exception for me is rings. Even the smallest, most delicate ring can pack such a powerful style punch and add that last finishing touch to a great outfit. I tend to keep a small bowl of a few of my favorite rings right near the front door, and try to reach for one whenever I'm coming or going. After recently suffering a few casualties to my collection -- a lost stone here, a cracked band there -- I've been thinking I need to add some new ones, and was thrilled to come across a few great options while clicking around Creature Comforts this morning.

First up, these fabulously quirky nature rings from etsy seller Soop. You can mix and match to make a little scene, or just wear one on its own to add the tiniest touch of color to a fun outfit. $12 each.

Then: Lenore Solmo hammered wood ring, $25. So chunky and natural – pretty much the perfect earthy, understated touch.

And! Kevia tri-color stackable rings, $118 for six. I know that stackable rings are pretty trendy, but these have a non-fussy feel that makes them stylish without being overly precious.

Etsy in particular is brimming with small jewelry designers, and if you have the time to poke around, you can really uncover some treasures. A quick search for "cocktail ring" turned up this glass and wire ring, $36, by CocoBijou. I love the simple yet unexpected shape of the stone and the detail of the multi-wire band.

And so, in summary: Yes, please!

O.K., D.C., here's your chance…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

D.C. does not have – how do we put this politely? – a very strong reputation for being cool and stylish. In fact, it's kind of a laughingstock, particularly in the fashion category, and is regularly subject to ridicule such as this recent headline from Jezebel:

That isn't to say some of the mocking isn't deserved. Walk down the street in D.C. on any given day, and you'll be subjected to a wide range of fashion don'ts, from frumpy suits to matronly heels to, yes, plenty of white sneakers with pantyhose and skirt suits (I like to think those people are devoting their time and energy to something bigger, like world hunger or the national debt). My friend Johanna, the fabulously stylish and talented writer behind recently retired D.C. style blog A Serious Job is No Excuse {which is sorely missed, though the archives are still a hilarious and helpful read the archives are down too, but i hope it's just temporary} built her entire blog empire on offering a tough-love approach to these fashion missteps along with helpful advice on how to correct them.

I think it may have worked. Since I've been back {I also lived here for most of 2003}, I've noticed a vast improvement. Silhouettes are fitted. Heels are rounded. Boots are slouchy. There's an unsettling amount of Uggs, but I suppose they're (marginally) better than square-toed orthopedic-ish heels. There are stores like Relish and Hu's Shoes and Meeps, offering items that could never be mistaken for Ann Taylor or (shudder) Chico's. The women of D.C. have slowly been upgrading their image, waiting for the time to show off all they've done.

Well, kids, I think this might be that moment.

As you know, the Sartorialist photo exhibit is coming to D.C. and they're having an open-to-the-public reception next Wednesday, March 19 from 6:30-8:30pm at Adamson Gallery. {Note: The NY launch of the same show was also open to the public, and it was so crowded, the line looped around the block and many people didn't get in and have the chance to show off their carefully selected outfits. Go early, maybe. Or go late. Or prepare for a bit of a wait and a crowd, just in case fashion followers start coming out of the woodwork here.}

In any case, the hot topic around these parts is "What are you wearing to the Sartorialist party?" Not that I think any of us are necessarily looking to go to the lengths needed to impress Mr. Schuman himself, but rather, this is a major fashion-y event in our own little, known-for-white-sneakers-and-pantyhose city, and finally – finally! – we have the chance to redeem ourselves. {And, yes, though I'm the new girl in town, I'm including myself in this crusade as well.}

So, what am I wearing? Hmmm, I don't know yet. (Though I do love any opportunity to dress up and go out, so I'm rather excited.) But you can bet your sweet potato that, no matter if I settle on dark skinny jeans or a wild vintage dress, it will (hopefully) be cute, fun and representative of the New D.C. Style. If I had to offer advice, I'd say: Don't stress too much about it, but don't wear your gym sneakers either. Or flipflops. Or anything your mom might also wear, unless your mom is incredibly stylish in a Helen Mirren-esque way. {Scratch that: I love Helen, but I don't want her wardrobe. Although this jacket is kind of cute.} If you're in serious doubt, go simple and chic. And if you've been waiting for the chance to break out that fabulous crazy-designer frock, well, this might be it! (Although I always say, go ahead and break it out for Saturday night drinks too. The bar scene here could use a dose of creativity and color.)

And, if we both manage to make it inside and you see me, come say hi! I not have been here long, but I love meeting new friends. And, who knows? Maybe the Sartorialist will ask to take our picture together.

The web is smaller than you think. Also: Capes!

A little while ago, I'd stumbled across a pic of this gorgeous Blanc de Chine high-necked pleated capelet from their recent F/W collection and instantly fell in love with it. It popped back into my head when I saw the outpouring of love over my own recent cape-wearing escapades (thank you!) and decided to see if I could track it down. Which led me to this very nice Fashiontribes post on Blanc de Chine and their recent Chinese influences. I was so distracted by the pretty cape photo, it took me a few minutes to realize they'd sourced some China photos for the post, and that some of those photos came from my photo blog (I don't mind; they gave me credit!). Small online world, isn't it?

Anyway, we digress. Capes (and capelets) = extreme love in these parts. Fingers crossed that I stumble upon this one on insane clearance somewhere.

Vintage signage

Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't you just love a fabulously retro sign? There are tons still in use around D.C., and I always find myself leaning out of taxi cab windows {as with the one above} to snap photos of them. Oh, those fonts! *Love.*

Contests! We've got contests!*

This has been a loooooong time coming, but there's a good back story, and it goes something like this: Several months ago, shortly before I left Singapore, I got a call from Bina, the lovely co-proprietor behind the fabulous Singapore bag and accessories shop Quintessential {now in a new Pacific Plaza location}. I stopped by there often -- both to drool and to check out their constant influx of cool new pieces for work purposes -- and it was there (if you remember) that I had first discovered fab San Francisco artist/designer Liz Saintsing, who creates instantly covetable, one-of-a-kind accessories by silkscreening gorgeously eye-catching graphics onto vintage bags, gloves and other finds.

Well, Bina had remembered my love for Liz and had managed to procure me an *amazing* pair of Liz's signature silk-screened vintage evening gloves, direct from the designer herself. I was absolutely floored. They are just perfect, a lightweight long glove in classic white with bold turquoise and red ostrich images printed on them. (One glove has a tiny, perfect blue chick on the inside arm as well.) They are also, completely and utterly heartbreakingly, too small for my big ole hands. I hemmed and hawed over what to do about that—just display them on my vanity? [er, if I owned a vanity?]; start hand exercises in hopes of one day squeezing into the gloves? -- but eventually, I realized that things as beautiful as these deserve to be worn, and -- with Liz's blessing -- have decided to offer them to one of you.

Now, we didn't want to have a contest limited to only small-handed people, so we're throwing in a second item so those of you with large hands like us have the chance to win something too. It's this lovely little vintage box purse with a translucent resin handle -- the perfect, 60s-Jackie O.-style cocktail party accessory. We unearthed it during one of our vintage excursions and would love to see it go to a good, retro-loving home.**

Okay, here is the most important part:
To enter the contest, you must:
(1.) Choose if you would like to be entered for the gloves or the bag. It's a difficult choice, I know, but go with your gut (and take into account the size of your hands. If I had to guess, I'd say the gloves were a medium.)
(2.) Tell us where/how you would wear the bag or the gloves. Be creative! (Although, if you're not feeling particularly creative, don't sweat it too much. We're not judging you on innovation; we'll actually just pick a name out of a hat.) This is purely for all our reading pleasure, but we'd also like to be sure they are going to a worthy home.
(3.) Tell us your name, age, and location. We're opening this up to international readers, and we will do our best to send the winning items to wherever you may be in the world. Unless you live somewhere like Zimbabwe, which might be prohibitively expensive, but I'm sure we'll work something out.
(4.) Sit back and wait and keep your fingers crossed. Good luck!

Here is a sample entry of our own, just so we're clear:
"Gloves, please.
I can't imagine anything more perfect that pairing these gloves with an Audrey-esque LBD, ropes and ropes of pearls, tiny black heels and a little pillbox hat and heading for proper cocktails at somewhere fabulously aged and retro, like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or the Mayflower in D.C. Naturally, I'd call everyone "lovey" and "dear" and "jeeves" and order plenty of extra olives with my very dirty vodka martini.
Betsy, 30, Washington, D.C."

Clear enough? It would be great if you could leave your entry in the comments – I know we'd all love to see! – or, if you'd prefer, by e-mail. We'll do the drawing in about a week. Good luck!

*I'd like to request that you sing this headline to the tune of the Flintstones, because every time I've thought about getting this together in the past few months, that is exactly what runs through my head.

**I'd also like to request that you only enter the contest to win these items for yourself (or, I suppose, gift to someone who will love them dearly), and not turn around and resell them on eBay or something. That kind of kills the spirit of things, you know?