Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Good Wife Style: Margulies, Baranski and Punjabi

I stopped watching THE GOOD WIFE a couple seasons ago, to be truthful. It was really because I saw the looming love affair between Alicia and Will becoming "real," and I just did not want to deal with the coming duplicity, conflict and all-too-familiar baggage that goes with a love triangle in such a series, where there is a lot of smoke, some heat and no real fire... or change.

That said, from the very beginning I loved the commitment of the producers to this show--centered around a smart, hard-working woman--and the fashion style that went along.

Of course, it must be horribly unpleasant to have the weekly task of dressing Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski and Archie Punjabi, three of the most unattractive and style-deprived women in modern America. I pity the costumers, wardrobe personnel and dressers... not.

One of the reasons I admire the style here is that, for once, the stylists and costume designers get it right for professional women. Baranski's Diane Lockhart is a woman who is intelligent, wealthy and stylish, able to use her personal style as a tool in her arsenal as a high-end lawyer, the senior partner leading a small but very successful firm. Margulies's character has moved a long distance in four seasons: she started as the SAHM who returns to the legal profession (as a litigator/associate) when her husband, a state's attorney, goes to jail, but in season 4 she becomes a partner in Baranski's firm. Punjabi plays Kalinda Sharma, an investigator who works solely for that same firm; she and Margulies are friends, but Sharma's character is not a lawyer.

Although all three women are attractive, there is no emphasis on sexy female bodies, no cleavage, no embarassingly tight skirts in court, no childish junior-girl fashion. Instead, all three women convincingly play "professionals."

I've always liked Margulies, ever since E.R., but here she is actually carrying the show (with superb support throughout). Her style is suits and separates, mostly skirts--with polish and class. The colors run from black and gray to wine, scarlet, royal blue and beige-y tones. Her accessories are nice but modest (almost no jewelry, for example), her hair is simply done, and her make-up adult.

Baranski of course has a dancer's body, a long and lean but curvy silhouette. Her character wears suits, too, obviously high-end designers, very luxe. Her accessories as "da bomb," ranging from pearls and Hermes bags to real stones set in gold and statement pieces. The best thing about Baranski is that she wears the clothes and accessories, not the other way around. Her hair, too, is simple and her make-up excellent. The colors run from charcoal to purples and blues, to beiges and creams.

Punjabi is shorter than the other two, probably petite. She wears leather--a lot of leather jackets, wide leather belts and a kick-ass pair of leather boots--contrasted with soft knits and wools, jeans, and very few accessories. Her clothes are edgier, sexier, tighter--but she still looks professional. Like a private eye, not a pole dancer. Her colors are darker, too.

The men in the show are equally well-tailored, wearing suits, ties and shirts. But it is the women who provide the real class and style for this show.

The great part is that this style is not out of reach, even when it is clear that the costumers aim at haute couture business wear. It is more about fabric, color and texture, plus the careful accessorizing, skirt lengths, excellent tailoring/fit and (frankly) superb support garments, hose and underwear.

On the red carpet, of course, they are all three enviably gorgeous.

My favorite character, of course, is Eli Gold, as played by Alan Cumming.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gifting/Giving away

I should add to today's post that while I bought new (thrifted) things over the weekend, I also tossed an equal number of items in my Goodwill bin, ready to drop off, and took four scarves to school today, to give away.

It was a win-win. I put five items in my bin, took four scarves in... and three young ladies got new wardrobe items. One of my girls wrapped up her scarf and tied it on immediately, as it was a great match for her Monday dress.

Thrifting Weekend

On Friday and Saturday I went thrifting, looking for some items to fill in gaps in my spring/summer wardrobe, especially for London.

Friday: I went to Buffalo Exchange and used one of the two credit cards I'd acquired by selling excess clothing. I bought a denim jacket ($8) and black&white polka dot dress ($15), each of which fits perfectly. The demin jacket was one piece I was determined to find, and the cost was $0 because I used the card.

Denim Jacket similar to this one

Polka Dot Dress just like this one

Saturday: I went out to a strip with several thrifts where I had never been. At the first one, I bought two coats, a blue 3/4 jacket in a particularly lovely shade ($4.98) and a silver tissue coat that is nothing like my usual fare ($6.98).

Blue Jacket similar to this one, in this exact color

Silver Coat similar, but softer in its lines

At the second shop, I bought a small gold-framed mirror to hand by the front door ($7) and a basket the perfect size for the monthly magazines/catalogs ($5).

At the third, I found a paisley cardigan ($7), a black&white tweed linen jacket ($6.50) and a Willi Smith skirt ($8).

Similar, but waist-length and without buttons

Tissue-weight linen, with center closure

Full skirt, black with fuschia and white floral pattern

The good news is that each piece will not only go well with most of the others, but will mix into the basic black/white/blue/rust scheme of my summer clothes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Howdy, Spring!

Here in the Big D, it is past spring. Those cool, clear, crisp days are gone, replaced by muggy, hot days... already. A little breeze, a lot of green, some rain.

In the past two weeks, I've produced my annual playwriting festival, complete with seven plays; co-planned my summer in London, teaching another history/theatre/performance course, including details about travel, coursework and packing; cleaned my house and done another round of Goodwill (brewing a third round, as I write); and bought a new mattress and box spring, to be delivered... tomorrow.

Old mattress set: taken away and disposed of.

My new mattress set!

New mattress set: put in place and sheeted up and... sigh. That's a happy sigh, by the way.

I cannot wait.

BTW: buying a mattress set was just like buying a car. My salesguy was a car salesman, basically, which is not really a compliment. I had done my homework, had two coupons (for discount and free delivery) and got a great salesprice. I bought a $2600 mattress for $1200, with free delivery. Another... happy sigh.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Good news, Bad news... April Fool's Day

This was a weekend full of errands, and the week ahead is full of commitments.

Good news: I replaced my spare (and an old tire with a HUGE hole) with a new tire... for a decent price, in less than an hour on Saturday morning that I spent reading in a sunny waiting room. Bonus: I turned down a free yet totally ugly baseball hat.

Good news: made a HUGE drop-off at Goodwill.

Good news: donated excess pantry goods, cosmetics and toiletries to students. Free stuff! Out of my house and into theirs. Score!

Bad news: pollen count and blooming trees make for allegens floating into my sinus passages in mad amounts.

Bad news: I must take my new/old car into the Honda dealer to replace all power brake hoses.

Good news: I will get reimbursed for the $450.00 I paid out in 9.12 for replacing only one hose, due to same recall. Huzzah! And the replacement hoses will be replaced for free! Double Huzzah!

Bad news: my nights will be full of students' plays through Sunday... no time to myself, or for class prep or grading or anything else... wait--is that bad?

Bad news: I've got one extra class and two meetings this week on top of all I'm doing...

Good news: I'm getting paid for the extra lecture. Oh, and I'm showing a movie in one class on Thursday...

Good news: I returned 3 out of 4 items ordered from a catalog to the store in town (no mailing charges), and found 3 better items, using a coupon to save mailing costs again. A pretty equal trade, but I am coming out of it with more useful, better-looking items.

The best news is that I found a clothing steamer. Yes: "found" one. I had been thinking about buying one to use instead of an ironing board, but couldn't really justify the expense. However, one of my fellow tenants who was moving put his out on the curb. I took it home, washed it out with vinegar and green cleaner, and tried it out last night. Great news: it works, and steamed the wrinkles out of four shirts in practically no time. I found the model online and it has mixed reviews... which might be why it was out on the curb. I'll see how long I can make it work. But it was free!

Friday, March 29, 2013

If I were in Paris... Friday, March 29, 2013

The weather in Paris today is 47 degrees and rainy... not the best weather for a flaneur or flaneuse, enjoying the streets or views of Paris.

In which case, let's consider indoor entertainments near each other.

Starting in the 4th arrondissement, there is an exhibition at th Hotel de Ville, Paris Haute Couture, celebrating Paris fashion and including key examples from the collection of the Musee Galliera. This free exhibition is open from 10 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday.

A short walk from there along Rue du Rivoli is the Louvre, which right now has some really interesting special exhibitions.

For example, through June the museum is celebrating the opening of its new exhibition rooms for Islamic Arts. In connection with this, through June 8, is an exhibition on Walid Raad, a Lebanese installation artist. Here is a video of the exhibition.

And of course, a rainy, chilly day might be the perfect day to fully explore the Louvre, on a week outside the tourist season. On a day like this, one could wander through the museum and really enjoy the paintings, sculptures and rooms full of decorative arts, precious items and history.

Another short walk down Rue du Rivoli is the Musee des Arts decoratifs, which has an exhibition on Fashioning Fashion: Two Centuries of Fashion 1700-1915. This show runs until April 14 and includes changing styles from France, Italy and England.

What else can you do in this area of the tightly-knit 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th arrondissements?
  • You can wander the Tuileries Gardens.
  • You can have hot chocolate at Angelina.
  • You can eat and shop at the Louvre Carrousel.
  • You can visit the bookstores at the Louvre, the Musee des Arts decoratifs and the Comedie Francaise.
  • You can stroll the Palais Royal gardens.
  • You can stroll up to the Opera Garnier and tour that gorgeous building, as well as their current exhibition.
  • You

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is the Value/Cost of a T-shirt?

Funny, true story: this past Sunday, I was relaxing at home when the plumber showed up.

I knew he was coming, and I had already been out, to breakfast and the grocery store, but when I arrived home after errands I changed into a worn t-shirt and flannel pj pants and socks to clean house, put away groceries, read the paper, and watch TV.

And by "worn," I mean shapeless and day-old, plus no support underneath. And by "flannel pj pants," I mean... you get it, same day-old.

The plumber showed up fifteen minutes early and caught me in that get-up... and I couldn't change out.

Then, I had to go out into the apartment courtyard to tell my neighbors on either side that the water was turned off--in pj flannels, sloppy old tshirt, and slippers--and chat with a third neighbor who wondered what was going on. Oh, and go back over to the neighbors once the water was turned back on. And I was embarrassed my neighbors saw me like that.

Much like this...

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Mostly, we think no one will notice. I think, I'll just run into the grocery store, grab the cheese and head back to the car. No one (I know) will see me.

The truth is lots of people see us, but more importantly we project how we feel about ourselves right out into public. It's okay if strangers see us like this... it's okay if people who know/like us see us like this... it's okay if we feel this way about ourselves. People will still like us/find us attractive/look beyond the surface because beauty is more than skin deep.

Part of my response to myself was simply a kind of slap upside the head: I knew he was coming and I knew I'd be embarrassed if anyone saw me in that sloppy outfit... but I put off changing. And I got caught. (Lazy.)

Part of my response to myself was to assess--for real--how embarrassed I was and how sloppy my at-home attire had become. I do tend to slip out of work gear to what I call "soft clothes," yoga pants or sweat pants, a t-shirt or chambray shirt, and barefeet with slippers at the ready. But, lately, it's been all about the flannel pjs and really worn t-shirt, more of a "nap/sleep" gear than a comfy "do work around the house" gear. And, after all, no one will see (judge) me.

Except myself.

While I don't want to wear formal clothes at home, I need to discard the shapeless, frayed, stained, torn and lifeless sweats, flannels, and t-shirts that have become a comfy staple. Why? Because they feel sloppy. They look sloppy. They project an attitude of carelessness and laziness I realize I take on when I wear them (see above). I have plenty of well-fitting, clean, attractive t-shirts: I am not against t-shirts as a category. I have good yoga pants and sweatpants: I can discard the pj bottoms that are five years old and feel so comfortable I do nothing in them but sleep or lounge or nap or procrastinate.

This is where clothes can affect my attitude about myself and how I spend my time. When I want to focus, I don't really want to find myself in a tatty, stretched-out t-shirt and pants duo, because I want to get to work. Being "too comfy" is different from being casual. I don't want to feel as if I project a "giving up" about my age, shape, attractiveness--which is exactly what I think those kind of clothes say. If I wouldn't wear them in front of people, why wear them for myself?

I feel another Goodwill bundle coming on. Or more cleaning rags.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Simple and frugal: Lemony Chicken Scaloppine

This is another meal that is easy to plan and cook with only a few ingredients, most of which I keep in my pantry. It is a quick and delicious meal from the cookbook The Pleasure of Cooking for One by Judith Jones.

Originally, this is pork scaloppine, made with pork tenderloin. I changed this up to chicken, because it is simple to use boneless chicken breasts for this particular recipe. Substitute 1 breast for 1-2 people, or 2 breasts for 2-4 meals, depending on your appetite and whether you combine this with a salad, vegetable side dish and a light dessert. It is in fact a wonderful low carb/high protein meal with a fresh and delicious flavor.

Last night I cooked this is a slightly different way, again adjusting for in-house ingredients. I was out of fresh lemons, so substituted blood oranges for the sliced fruit and the juice. I added one orange for each breast (I'm looking at 3 meals). But I was also pointed in this direction by a bottle of blood orange infused olive oil I bought a little while ago, that I substituted for the plain olive oil. This added only another layer of the orange flavor, and mostly cooked off.

In addition, I sprinkled a 1/2 to 1 tsp. of cumin over the cooking chicken to off-set the sweeter flavor of the blood orange.

The final product was just as delicious as the original, but with a new flavor. I could also have used navel oranges and plain olive oil as a third choice. Tangy and bright, this left me with several options for this dish I have used several times to wow guests. So simple, so quick to make, this is a crowd-pleaser. Again, something you can quickly whip up from pantry ingredients, inexpensively.

This recipe alone is a reason for having a couple of shallots in-house.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Opportunity for Project 333

Starting April 1, 2013, you can take the Project 333 microcourse for only $15.

Here is the link.

Clean out your closet, define your personal style, make your life easier and more pleasant, save money, make money (by selling/donating your castoffs). Gain space and breathing room.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dench... Dame Judi Dench

Some days I picture Judi and myself sitting in an English garden full of roses, snapdragons and heather, drinking tea and chatting about girlfriend things. BFFs.

I ask her about Daniel and Pierce, she asks me about Jean-Baptiste and Louis, and we laugh and roll our eyes about the various men in our lives.

At five pm, we change to G&Ts. With slices of fresh lime. And a nice curry.

One of the reasons I think this could happen is because Dench has always been a smart, stylish woman who laughs a lot and thinks a lot. She chose a flattering and sophisticated hairstyle early on. As she aged and her body shape changed, she adopted a distinctive and elegant clothing style.

I love her in the role of M. Her style as the head of MI-5, as a woman in charge of her own world and in competition with belligerent and bellicose men (mostly politicians and military leaders), she is distinctive. A role model. A sexy Madeleine Albright with cleavage and the royal glare of Elizabeth I.

And, BTW, I do think she and James had a fling a while back. You could go with the Brosnan-Bond or the Craig-Bond, no matter: it happened.

Oh, yessssss.

Judi's style: She focuses on her eyes, which are remarkable, and adopted a striking hairstyle long ago. Kept it, through brunette to graying salt-and-pepper to white. Her sea-green eyes are indeed remarkable and she uses make-up to focus on those and her cheekbones (smile!).

In clothing, she is a winter-based palette, and -- again, early on, adopted a consistent use of white blouses with open collars, solid color dress-and-coat ensembles or jacket-and skirt ensembles (not suits), and dark, textured fabrics. Black, grays, and browns (see above). Whites and pale turquoises. Fantastic jewelry that includes chokers, collars and closely-fitting necklaces as well as small, well-shaped earrings. In real metals and diamonds.

She also focuses attention on her cleavage and throat, despite having the same aging of her skin in that area that most women have. Judi apparently doesn't care.

What she hides: her ankles, her waist, her height.