books, art, culture, and other things I love

Category: fashion

On the catwalk.

Every time I hear that phrase, I hear this Right Said Fred song in my head. Anyone else?

Well, NY Fashion Week is upon us! Dare I say, if it were not the first week of classes, I would be barreling down to NYC to visit my friend J. so we could try to score tickets to some events where I could maybe catch a glimpse of my two style idols: Jenna Lyons and Giovanna Battaglia.

Photo via Harper's Bazaar.

My style idols! In another life, I would have both of their closets! (Photo via Harper’s Bazaar.)

But alas, students and syllabi await. I do have a style-related book to recommend, however–Amanda BrooksI ♥ Your Style. How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style. Though released in 2009, this book is anything but old news.

Brooks (former Creative Director of Tuleh and a longtime fashion insider) gives thoughtful and useful suggestions for how to mix things up, while still staying in one’s comfort zone. And her advice is not too basic–she talks about proportions and fabrics with the authority of someone who knows her subject. It is smart writing about fashion.

The worlds of fashion and the bookminded need not be divided–for further discussion on this topic, see my piece from today’s Cognoscenti on the other Elements of Style.


Friday Culture Watch: What to Read, Listen, Make, and Do.

To Read
Vogue readers, rejoice! The September Issue has dropped. So you may not have time or energy for much else this weekend.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

But in case you do, be sure to read the New York Times Magazine‘s feature on Sarah Burton by Andrew O’Hagan, “The Genius Next Door.” Burton is the head designer for Alexander McQueen who finished the annual collection after his untimely death three years ago. She also designed one of the most photographed dresses of the recent past: the wedding gown of The Duchess of Cambridge. In the cutthroat world of high fashion, Burton is seen as somewhat of an anomaly–a genuinely nice person. In fact, when the interviewer asks her who she would name as her hero, she gives the following response: “I think my dad is my hero,” she said. “He works so hard, and he never lies. He believes in family. He’s always been totally fair. And he treats everybody in the family equally.” 

To Listen
Lenny Kravitz (otherwise known as the Hunger Games‘ Cinna) still has it. Though his new album won’t be released in its entirety until late September, three songs from the forthcoming Strut have been released. (PS: How is he 50 years old?)
Listen to the audio of the album’s title song here:

To Make
Try a Pimm’s Cup. Wimbledon may be weeks behind us and summer is waning, but there are still plenty of warm sunsets where you can enjoy the classic British cocktail featured at the premier annual tennis contest. It is said that over 80,000 pints are sold to spectators at Wimbledon each year! Invented in the 1840s by James Pimm at the Oyster Bar in London, this drink is refreshing and light–this is the perfect drink to sip while enjoying civilized conversation.

Photo credit: Whitneyinchicago.

Photo credit: Whitneyinchicago.

If you’ve never tried Pimm’s No. 1, it is hard to describe. It is gin-based, but it has an herbal flavor. The recipe is top-secret (supposedly only 6 people know the formula!) but when combined with mixers, it has a lovely taste that is neither sweet nor too heavy. The standard recipe for a Pimm’s Cup is appended below (note: the cucumber garnish and lots of ice are key), but you can play around with the mixers to get the proportion that you like. I like mine with a bit of lemonade and ginger ale.

Pimm’s Cup Cocktail Recipe

Servings: 1
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins


  • 2 oz Pimms No. 1
  • 3 oz lemonade
  • cucumber slice for garnish
  • lemon wedge / lime wedge / mint / apple slice / orange slice, for garnish (optional)


1. Fill a Collins glass with ice.
2. Pour the Pimms No. 1 into the glass with the lemonade and stir and shake together.
3. Top off the mixture with club soda or if you prefer a sweeter cocktail, top off with Sprite or lemon-lime soda. Stir lightly but do not shake.
4. Garnish with a few slices of cucumber, lemon wedge and a few sprigs of mint (optional). Be sure to garnish with lots of fruit (apples, oranges, lemons) to bring out the fruit flavor from Pimms No. 1.

To Do
Catalog your home library. Years ago I bought some software at the NYPL called “Home Library System” or something similar. Of course it was an impulse buy of $100 (I blame it on the aura of the NYPL) and I never used it because the task seemed too daunting. Looking at my bookshelves the other day, I was thinking that it might be time to come up with *some* sort of organizational system as I spent more than an hour the other day looking for a T.S. Eliot book so I could find a particular poem. Now if I had just had a “poetry” section, this would have been easy.

Apartment Therapy has some good suggestions for organizing book collections–here and here. A few years ago, organizing books by color was a very designery thing to do–but I tend to think that organizing by genre would be more useful. And I am interested in trying out this software from Delicious Library. 

Photo credit:  Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times.

Photo credit: Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times.

Have a fabulous weekend!

A Monogram Monograph.

A literary monogram is the kind of crossword puzzle solution that calls for an author’s initials. The most famous literary monogram is probably TSE–for poet T.S. Eliot, with RLS–for Robert Louis Stevenson, as a close second. There are also others I have come across (no pun intended) in crossword puzzles over the years, like EBB, GBS, EAP, EBW, RWE. Clues are sometimes leading–e.g. “Treasure Island author”–but are sometimes a bit more generic e.g. “19th c. adventure writer” for RLS. As much as I love the literary monogram in my puzzle solving, I also have a particular affinity for the monogram in daily life.

Despite the recent trend toward mass-market personalization (like this)–itself an oxymoron–monograms actually have quite a storied history. Cynthia Brumback’s 2013 book, The Art of the Monogram, introduces the reader to the backstory of monograms dating back to Charlemagne alongside beautiful images of these graphics.

Historically speaking, a true monogram is made from the overlapping of various letters or graphic accents to form one symbol–however, most people today refer to cyphers (a series of initials–i.e. TSE) as monograms as well.

German painter Albrecht Dürer's (1471-1528) iconic monogram.

German painter Albrecht Dürer’s (1471-1528) iconic monogram.

Whether you call them monograms or cyphers, I am fond of them! Especially on linens and tote bags.

A sign of a problem, or a mark of a true New Englander? :)

A sign of a problem, or a mark of a true New Englander? 🙂

There's more where these came from...

A monogram Instagram! There’s more where these came from…

This short video, “The Secret Language of Monogramming,” about monograms and clothing featuring style writer Glenn O’Brien and other fashion insiders is terrific. 

What are your thoughts on monogramming as a practice? Are there any things you would (or wouldn’t) monogram?