Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Maryl believes: In Stella McCartney’s Miracle Dress

Kate Winslet, 2011Venice Film Festival 

Would you believe there is a dress that takes you down two sizes, adds curves and firms up your tummy? No Spanx or Wonder Bra required; the magical fibers are already woven into the fabric itself. If there was such a dress, would you buy it? Well, there is and you can’t…at least for the moment. The dress is from Stella McCartney’s 2011 Winter Collection and is called the Octavia quickly renamed the Miracle Dress because of its magical powers. The unique stretch material and the panels of color that create an optical illusion are the “secret sauce.” It sold out immediately everywhere and at $1600 a pop a lot of us may not have been in line to begin with.

Dorothy Perkins                 DKNY, $345                         ASOS         

But the fashion industry is known for its knock offs and there’s a range to choose from with this design. Starting with Forever21, H&M and BeBe, each has their own take on the dress and at prices ranging from $23 to $69 to$125. DKNY has the color block idea down but not the svelte silhouette. There are a number of internet sites, mostly from the UK, that feature some interesting replicas, like Dorothy Perkins for less than $40 and their version has some elasticity.   ASOS, another fashion web site, has a close copy of a polyester dress marked down now to $52 but it appears to have no stretch. You get what you pay for though. You must be willing to sacrifice some of the look in exchange for the lower price.  However, the one knock off that most agree comes closest to the real thing is at Celeb Boutique. It’s got the color panels down right and enough elastane to tame all your bulges. I just ordered it so standby for a full report back.  

And the Miracle Dress isn’t just a fleeting trend as was seen in several Fall/Winter 2012 collections during New York Fashion Week earlier this month:

Phillip Lim                                               Victoria Beckham

Celeb Boutique
Over and above the miracle aspects of this dress, I wonder if it is the right look for a second lifer? Does it only belong on the Red Carpet or at music venues and night clubs?  Interesting enough when I was looking for the Stella McCartney dress and its  knockoffs online, there were only smaller sizes available. So does that mean that larger-sized women are really looking great in this dress and buying them up? Or is the dress just cut too small? Or like me is believing in miracle dresses worth the gamble and not a fantasy at all?

NOTE:  Be sure to check out this Sunday's NY Times Magazine profile of Stella McCartney.
Stella McCartney center crouching
And Stella's also in the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition speaking about her "The Meat Free Monday Cookbook."

Monday, February 27, 2012

2nd Look: Meryl Streep

                                                                                                             Vanity Fair
Meryl Streep won her third Academy Award last night for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."  She won 33   years ago for  "Kramer vs Kramer" and three years later for  "Sophie's Choice."  Upon accepting her most recent Oscar, Meryl beautifully expressed how much she cherished her husband, her makeup artist (J. Roy Helland won his first Oscar last night) and all her friends.  Her values work for us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Caryl encounters: The Greta Garbo of Poetry

I only found her after she had died. Then she chased after
me, popping up unexpectedly on Salon, and then aga
in in a recent  issue of the New York Review of Books. She didn’t come to wide attention until age 60 when she won the Nobel Prize for literature, the first female writer from Poland to do so.  Some called the shy, reclusive woman ‘the Greta Garbo of poetry'.  The notoriety paralyzed her from writing for two years; “the Stockholm syndrome", she dubbed it.
But then she began again. In a simple and accessible voice, she took on everyday topics :“chairs and sorrows, scissors, tenderness, transistors,violins, teacups, dams and quips”-- but in a profound way. I will tell you her name--Wislawa Szymborska--but it is hard to remember. Her poems, fewer than 400 in  her 88 years, however will haunt you.  She’s probably best known for "Cat in the Empty Apartment" but this is the poem that hooked me.

Hard Life With Memory 
   by Wislawa Szymborska

I’m a poor audience for my memory.
She wants me to attend her voice nonstop.
but I fidget, fuss,
listen and don’t,
step out, come back, then leave again.

She wants all my time and attention.
She’s no problem when I sleep,
The day’s a different matter, which upsets her.

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,
stirs up events both important and un-, 
turns my eyes to overlooked views,
peoples them with my dead.

In her stories I’m always younger,
Which is nice, but why always the same story.
Every mirror holds different news for me. 

She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.
And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,
weighty, but easily forgotten.
Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.
Then comforts me, it could be worse.

She wants me to live only for her and with her.
Ideally in a dark, locked room,
but my plans still feature today’s sun,
clouds in progress, ongoing roads.

At times I get fed up with her. 
I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.
Then she smiles at me with pity,
since she knows it would be the end of me too.

(Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw 
If you want to read more of Szymborska's work, you might like Here (cover shown above), her most recent collection which includes "Hard Life".  She worked (and smoked) to her final days;
she died in Krakow, Poland on February 1.  Her last words will be published in the coming months. I'll let you know if you want me to.  But first tell me: Do you like poetry? Would you like to read it occasionally at Second Lives Club? Will you share a favorite poem or poet with us now?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Maryl organizes: Her Closet and Her Mind

I did something about the clutter in my hallway closet. I took advantage of the January store promotions for container and shelving units and reorganized it. (Why January?....maybe something about stowing holiday decorations that prompts a redo of your whole storage space or about your renewed New Year’s resolutions?) I held out until the end of the month but then tired of stuff falling on me as I pulled out the vacuum cleaner. 

There was wasted space in this closet and after multiple trips back and forth to Target, Ikea and Bed Bath & Beyond (I guess all those promotions worked), I have six more shelves for overstocked groceries, bags and rags in their own receptacles, tools and mops within reach and the vacuum cleaner now slides out with ease. Martha Stewart Living or Real Simple won’t be doing a photo shoot here anytime soon but every time I walked by my closet this week I took a peek inside and smiled.

What is it about feeling organized that makes us better prepared to take on the world or at least our own chaotic agendas. I felt similar when I bought my first filing cabinet and even though my desk overflows with papers and post-it notes, they’re resorted into neat piles each morning before I sign in online. I know there’s a whole psychology behind being organized.   Psychology Today recently published a three-part series on the topic and if you’re the type that likes tips, there's a few here.   Uncluttered space means an uncluttered mind and a more simplified and efficient lifestyle. I suppose all that’s true but doing it just made me smile and for less than $75.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maryl stayed in; Caryl went out.

What did you do for Valentine's Day?

Maryl made a romantic dinner a deux for her husband and herself inspired by the New York Times dining section. The piece de resistance was dessert: dark-chocolate cherry ganache.


Caryl went to La Traviata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with friends. Nothing says Valentine's day like an opera about a fallen woman.

Should you want a taste of our evenings, sample the videos below:

Now tell us: did you stay home or go out?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maryl and Caryl wonder: Why Can't We Get Anything Done?

Is this you too? Bouncing from one task to another until the day is done and very little if anything has been accomplished? You start one project and then another one catches your attention (that might be easier or less tedious), so you move to that one and the whole sequence just keeps repeating itself. This behavior can be even more pronounced if you work at home or by yourself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Caryl remembers: Charla Krupp

Photo by Kristin Booker
Charla Krupp, popular author, magazine editor and commentator on fashion and beauty whose bestsellers included How Not to Look Old and How To Never Look Fat Again died in Manhattan last month of breast cancer. She was 58 but, according to the New York Times obituary, “looked the perennial 49.” That says something coming from The Old Gray Lady.

For several years, Charla and I worked together at InStyle Magazine. Our offices were on either side of then managing editor Martha Nelson’s, and, because Charla was the magazine’s Today Show contributing editor and because one of my responsibilities was to insure continuity between magazine and television content, we spent a good deal of time together. We were not close friends but we had a lot in common: we were from the Chicago area, we had gone to journalism school, we were magazine addicts, and we followed the advice from long-time Glamour editor Ruth Whitney to never underestimate the intelligence of the reader even if what she was reading was mostly fluff. Because Charla genuinely loved women and wanted to help them, she never would. And, though I preferred covering hard news to celebrity journalism, I never did either.

There was something else we had in common: we were both busty. Growing up I wished I had smaller breasts- a more boyish silhouette- but would never chance surgery. Charla, who didn’t favor cosmetic surgery (quoting fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, “Do you want to look 70? Get a face lift”) had had breast reduction as a young woman. I mention this seemingly obituary-unlikely fact for a reason: it is both revelatory and prophetic. From very early on, Charla believed in taking whatever steps you needed to make yourself attractive. Looking your best not only made you feel better but it was critical to “your personal and financial survival," she said. That philosophy got her in the door of the highly-competitive world of women’s magazines and eventually up the corporate ladder and onto the best seller-lists.

Charla’s colleagues and friends have enumerated her virtues in their remembrances; they said she was kind, generous, funny, fun, hard-working, driven, down-to-earth and “fabulously glam"--to quote current Glamour editor Cindi Leive who recalled Charla as the first person she knew to have highlights. I would add another attribute to the list: Charla was savvy. She was her own brand long before personal branding became a goal. With her trademark high-lighted hair, brightly-colored skirted suits (the rest of us were wearing black pants and jackets), and gold-inked, gold-embellished stationery (she was a master of the thank-you note) she set herself apart. Her savvy went farther than that, however. She could read the cultural winds and reduce them to sound bites, write cover lines and brilliant book titles. HOW NOT TO LOOK OLD: Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter and 10 Times Better. Who could have said it better?

Charla would never reveal her age, except to say she was over 40. It was her mission, she told Gayle King on Oprah radio in 2008: "I don’t think we should be asking women how old they are. Nothing good can come of it. It just pigeon holes women. I don’t want to contribute to sexism and ageism. We have to look out for ourselves in this youth-obsessed culture." In a job market like this, women over 40 are the first to go, she said. So she filled her books with tips on how to look younger (Have your eyebrows professionally arched. Brows are an instant face lift, she wrote) and truisms (Nothing ages you faster than yellow teeth). She showed readers five ways to "look thinner before dinner": start with a properly-fitted bra. (She wore shape wear every day). She understood the stuff she was suggesting dealt only with the top layer—she acknowledged she wasn’t talking about inner beauty but outer beauty. “I’m not suggesting changing your core—your values, your brains, your wit, the things that makes you different and unique.” Her mantra was looking good makes you feel better. “It gives you the confidence you need to exist in the world-- and to survive.”

Well, at least the first part is true.