Monday, October 15

Sportin' It

Cleveland sports are pretty hot right now. Every once in a blue moon, we loyal, yet somewhat jaded, Cleveland sports fans are thrown a bone and actually have a reason to stand up and cheer. Not that we haven't been cheering all along. Through countless defeats and spells of just plain old bad luck, Cleveland fans continue to represent season after season because, just in case the luck turns around, we want to be there to support our teams.

I remember cheering for the Browns and the Indians before I was old enough to even know why. I knew there was something special about the way these games brought my family together and ensured a sense of fun and camaraderie. Whatever those guys in the funny suits were doing, I liked it.

Twenty years later, I'm still a Cleveland fan and now know a little bit about what those guys are up to. And while their suits still look kinda funny, the options for women in terms of athletic attire have drastically improved. It seems the sports industry has finally come to the startling realization that women actually like sports. We play them, we watch them and we support them. But, just because we're hanging with the boys doesn't mean we want to look like them. Enormous sweatshirts and baggy jerseys just aren't going to cut it.

Actress Alyssa Milano, an avid L.A. Dodgers fan, came out with Touch, a line of women's Major League Baseball attire, earlier this year. Creating the line out of "necessity," Milano combines the comfort of traditional athletic gear with feminine fabrics like satin in colors other than pink. Perhaps most importantly, her line offers silhouettes that fit the contours of a women's body but still give us room to breathe.

Reebok has recently been pushing its new line of women's NFL apparel. The company's "Be a woman, be a fan" campaign reiterates the fact that women can be just as dedicated to a team or a player (Hello, Grady Sizemore!) as men. We just want to look good while yelling at the refs and scarfing down nachos.

Female athletes are also making the transition from strikingly androgynous to downright ladylike. Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams have made sweating look good by adding some style to their on-court wardrobes, as shown in the September issue of Vogue.

So, now that we finally have something to wear, step up to the plate and support your team. Go Tribe!

Sunday, October 14

Weightless Luxury

These days, 99 cents can get you a bottle of water, a 5-day rental of an old movie and maybe a cheeseburger off one of those value menus. Or as I recently experienced, 99 cents can get you a 100-percent cashmere Christian Dior scarf.

I stumbled upon it at a thrift store that I also happened to stumble upon during an afternoon of running errands. From the outside, it didn’t seem as if any notable treasures would be hiding inside. It didn’t have an interesting name, like Flower Child or Secret Past – two A-plus Cleveland-area vintage shops. It wasn’t even in a well-known area – Coventry? How did I even get here? But my thrift shopping addiction has me unable to leave any stone unturned, so I stopped to check it out.

Browsing through the racks I found a white JCrew cable-knit sweater – versatile and functional, but nothing to write home about – a wooden-handled purse with paisley embroidery – definitely a 1970s heirloom and, at $2.99, a must buy – and a pair of brown, barely worn Steve Madden stilettos on sale for $5.99.

Skimming though the scarves I saw much of the usual selection – unsightly stripes, fuzzy knits and the token sport’s team memorabilia. However, I was drawn to the unmistakable gleaming softness that can only be cashmere. I grasped the coal black scarf with my cat-like reflexes – like a sample sale, thrift shops only have one of everything – and could feel that my eyes did not deceive me. But it wasn’t just any cashmere scarf. This one had Mr. Dior’s stamp of approval. I clearly underestimated this store’s potential.

As the buzz from my find began to lessen, I was free to think about cashmere and its implications. The time and care put into making cashmere garments emits the feeling that each piece is special in its own right. The impossibly thin fibers – six times finer than human hair – make for virtually weightless luxury that simply can’t be made by machine. To this day, most cashmere garments are still made by hand, as they were in the 15th century. Anyone who wears cashmere tends to feel like a million bucks.

My mind then wandered to the scarf itself. Where did it come from and how did it wind up here? Who was the woman to own it prior to me? Maybe she was the lonely wife of a cold man, trapped in a loveless marriage, who found life in a man she hardly knew. The scarf was a gift from the secret lover, who she had to vow never to see again for fear of her husband finding out. Was the passionate attachment to the lost love too much for her to handle so she parted with the scarf – and the memories – in one foul swoop? Perhaps or perhaps not. I guess I'll never know.

Eager to make the scarf my own, I made my way to the counter. When I got there, I suddenly noticed that the item was missing its price tag. How much would I end up paying for a Christian Dior cashmere scarf in a place like this? “This scarf is missing its price tag,” I told the clerk as I approached the counter. “Oh, all scarves are 99 cents,” she replied.

Fabulous. I’ll take it.

Sunday, October 7

The Awful Truth

Why am I nervous? She’s a woman just like me. She’ll understand what I’m about to say. Or will she? She’s only the most powerful woman in fashion. Like she’s going to care what I have to say! But I’m also a dedicated reader of her magazine, so she has to care what I think right? Well, I guess we’ll see…

Thoughts raced through my mind as I waited for – and half dreaded – my meeting with Anna Wintour to begin. A woman of her status could squash me like a bug – ruin my entire fashion future – in a mere moment. Regardless, I had a bone to pick with her. Who does she think she is putting 18-year-old girls in couture dresses I couldn’t afford even if I saved a lifetime? Lately it seemed as if flipping though the latest Vogues was no longer as thrilling as it was discouraging. The models were getting younger and the styles more outlandish as the issues went by. I mean seriously, who would ever wear a string of baseball-sized pearls and cut their hair in the shape of a triangle? The inspiration I used to gain from studying my favorite magazine was no longer there. All I saw were pages of unattainable nonsense.

Coming to this realization was heartbreaking. Getting my monthly issue in the mail used to be a sunny morning after days of gray. A light at the end of the tunnel. A round of martinis on the house. But these days the articles seemed more and more over my head. I’ll never spend a weekend in the Hampton’s with my friend Elle McPherson. My 21st birthday party certainly wasn’t a week-long extravaganza that consumed the attention of my millionaire friends. And I’ll never have to worry about what having a “manny” will do to my family’s father-son relationship because I’ll have to raise my own children when that time comes. Just who exactly are the people these articles pertain to? Because I sure as hell don’t know any of them.

As a 20-something professional with a decent disposable income, I resent the fact that Vogue is no longer a magazine that makes me love, appreciate and buy fashion – it’s now a magazine that makes me feel bad about all of the fabulous things I’ll never have. “Pretentious elitism” is what my mother calls it. Is she right? Is that what the magazine has always been, or has something gone terribly awry?

Tuesday, October 2

Into the Great Wide Open

Watching Zac Posen’s Spring 2008 collection was like being on safari at the mercy of Mother Nature. Bold bursts of color on an otherwise neutral pallet made me want to set up camp and let the elements run their course.

The show started out with a soft rigidity perfect for exploring the plains. Belts cinched the waists of strict black jackets, pants and coat dresses while white, fluttery blouses with plunging necklines and ivory floor length ruffled skirts added an airy freedom. A belted khaki pantsuit was the epitome of a woman on the hunt for wild boar, while a belted khaki a-line skirt suit brought us back to the lodge. Intermixed were lightweight linen frocks a’la Meryl Streep after a long day in Out of Africa.

A model in a sheath strapless minidress appeared to be standing naked in a field of waving wheat, while another was armored in a vinyl charcoal gray and black patent coat equipped with pockets big enough to hold the necessary trekking gear. Coats and jackets with prominent clasps followed, worn over shirts with protective, Pilgrim-esque collars.

Then came the wildlife. A model in a floor-length ribbon wrapped gown resembled a zebra grazing down the runway, followed by plumage-puffed dresses strikingly similar to the perplexingly graceful ostrich.

Posen’s color busts were wild cries from the skies beginning with a pinwheel cocktail as yellow as the rising sun to a blazing red floor-length as hot as the midday desert. Meticulous touches of more spiral ribbons on a bronze gown reminiscent of a day’s-end glow emulated cascading rays over waves of grain. A one-shouldered column gown resembled a storm cloud engulfing the sky, shashed with pillowed fabric in deep blues, purples and grays. Perhaps the collection's most dramatic gown was silver like the desert’s rare, yet violent, rainstorm. A sprig of spiky feathers protruding off the shoulder was lightning, while the garment’s billowy bottom gathered and swayed like a gust of wind.

While the tendency to intermix bursts of color into a neutral pallet carried over from Posen’s Spring 2007 collection, he seemed to have a bit more fun this year. The playful looks of ’08 imply that Posen is sure enough in his visions to add an element of fantasy to his otherwise grownup collections. It also merits mention that his safari adventure gave us all the chance to escape to a simpler time when Mother Nature was the sole decider of our fates.

Saturday, September 22

Goin' All Out

I spent days, maybe even weeks, packing for my first trip to New York City. In a desperate attempt to disguise the fact that I'm from Ohio, I mixed and matched - and then remixed and matched - everything in my closet to create five days of city-worthy ensembles. After all my hard work, I left for the airport feeling great. I was ready to strut my stuff in my most daring pieces of clothing that I rarely have the chance to wear at home. I also left feeling quite proud of the fact that I had packed so meticulously and with such purpose that I didn't even have to check luggage.

At the end of sight-seeing Day 1, we were more than ready to wash the tourist off of us and get ready for our first night on the town. Dinner reservations at Pastis awaited us! I put on my new very favorite dress: an indigo Armani mini with a plunging neckline and rising hemline that left little to the imagination. With my 4-inch heels strapped on and clutch in hand, I was ready to go. But when we stepped outside our Midtown hotel, I suddenly stopped feeling fabulous and began to feel overdressed. Mixed among people in t-shirts and backpacks, jeans and shorts, tennis shoes and flip flops, I felt like a pink elephant in the middle of Times Square. I was shocked. I never expected to feel this way in the city where fashion rules - the one place in the world where I was prepared to go all out. I had to ask myself, where have all the well-dressed people gone?

Tuesday, September 18

The Find of the Century

When I woke up that glorious Saturday afternoon, it was raining. What could be glorious about a rainy afternoon in Northeast Ohio, you ask? It was glorious because, to me, there is no better way to spend a dreary afternoon than rummaging through the hidden treasures at my favorite thrift store. Not only is it the most economical way to shop, but it's the only type of shopping experience where you're sure never to unveil the same thing twice.

On this particular day, I really had nothing specific in mind to buy. Perhaps a vintage cashmere sweater, a funky scarf or maybe even a leopard-skin pillbox hat. But what I came across was more than I could have ever hoped for. More than my wildest dreams would ever even permit me to imagine.

When I entered the shoe department - which was subsequently the whole store, as thrift stores are usually in a humble state of disarray - they immediately caught my eye. Red. Bright red. Mary Jane's. With heels high enough to put me (almost) eye-to-eye with my 6-foot-tall boyfriend. The best part? They were Max Azria circa I'm not exactly sure when, but I can definitely see them being Jerry Hall's favorite shoes in 1989. The clincher? They cost $1.50. The upset? They are approximately one-half size too small. But, by god, I wear them anyway.

Because this find was scored in a musty thrift store in Cleveland rather than say, a speciality vintage store in New York City, my shopping story has a moral: fashion is everywhere. It's in our closets and on our minds, but most importantly, it's on our feet.