Thursday, July 5, 2012

Turning 64 and gone fishing

Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame
So: turning 64 next week and what models do I have? Look no further, this is it. I already have the pearls and mart.

I considered other women of substance: Madeline Albright (cannot speak Czech, not enough brooches), Margaret Mead (a little austere), June Callwood (a saint, enough said).

But I settled on a fictional character, upon whom I can project qualities that support the glide into the milestone 65th year: verve, courage, glamour (relative to one's tastes), a tart tongue but a warm heart, and a firm grasp of the importance of fun. As Mame says, "Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"


What do you wear on your 64th?

"Hurry my tray, darling. Your auntie needs fuel."
Why spend the last birthday before Official Senior Status in anything that remotely looks like you'd stick an AARP card in the pocket?

I say, time for a caftan, retro refuge of the formerly svelte. My GF Vicky, who has a couple of years on me, has worn them for decades; she habitually receives dinner guests in canary silk splashed with a handpainted orchid or fuchsia-and-lime embroidered fine cotton, barefoot, wearing a huge emerald cocktail ring (and holding a huge cocktail). Then she serves an almighty cous-cous royale without obvious effort.

Vicky is house-buying Thailand now (talk about a Mame type!) and promises to send one, but, eager and facing 30+C temps here, I might order from East, the British merchant of Asian-influenced designs. I like the colours and price of this blue ikat, £35.



The silk ibis print by Mara Hoffman is splendid. Price, £292 at Matches. With a pair of light pants, striking enough for an afternoon wedding or evening dinner party.

 Pucci, at $1,113 beyond my means, but stunning:

Coming down to budget earth, I've always loved Anokhi's Indian prints, and this kaftan, not too sheer for a dinner table, in their signature fine cotton, is a strong candidate. (Price, $99 at Amazon.com)




À bientôt!

Many diversions beckon for July through August. I'll return to French immersion class, finally sift through a coin collection I inherited, and resurrect my Indonesian pork fondue recipe now that salt is not the demon we were told, and welcome many visitors.

Yes, a retro summer, during which the Passage will close. This is the last post until after Labour Day or sometime beyond.

I'll be thinking of you and anticipate your return. In the meantime, there are many delicious blogs to enjoy with your glass of pink lemonade or a nice restorative mojito.


Toodles, poodles!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wearing shawls: Indian women's ways

M. wrote to say, "Scarves aren't that frightening due to their manageable sizes, but shawls are another matter" and asked how to wear a large shawl, especially when working, driving a car, etc.


Rectangles: Eastern ease


In India, you will see women engaged in every kind of task in shawls and saris, without a problem. The key is to adapt the shawl to your activity. 

They don't create bows or boleros and rarely even tie the fabric. They simply fling one end of a long rectangle over the shoulder, as in the photo below. (Shown, Devotion striped cashmere shawl.)



You can also bring the other (hanging) end up and cross it over the shoulder too, so you have a cowl, useful in air-conditioned offices or restaurants. (Shown, fine wool jamavar.)



If you move move the piece right up to the neck before tossing the ends over the shoulder, you'll have an "arms free" drape, perfect for working on a keyboard. The textile is displayed from the back:




In warm weather, Indians hang both ends over the shoulder, making a soft U in front, so the shawl is worn like a pallu (the decorative, loose end of a sari), which leaves the arms unencumbered. (Shown, a rectangular fine cotton shawl, about 6 x 4 feet.)


Even a very large piece is manageable worn that way, as Devotion owner Carolyn Cowan shows in an elegant silk "Mustard Seed"shawl:




Square deal

Big squares are not as easy to work with and can tip into dowdiness when the scarf is folded into a triangle and the point worn at the middle of the back– so shift the point to the side. (See this post on "the point".)


If you want your arms free, move the point to the centre front, so the shawl drapes like a giant bandanna.

Another way to wear the large square is open, as shown here by blogger Katherine of Feather Factor in an Hermès shawl. (If it's breezy, borrow an Indian secret and pin it at the shoulder.)

Photo courtesy Feather Factor blog


Or you can fold it in the basic fold to form a rectangle (as narrow as you wish) with pointed ends, and wrap it once around the neck:

Photo courtesy Feather Factor blog

If you take the ends of the example above, cross them, wrap them around the neck and tie the ends in back, you'll have a generous muffler, good for a cool evening on a patio or boat.



A soft, sensual alternative to jackets and easy travelers, shawls will always fit. Though I've long seen them in business-casual settings and of course for leisure, I recently saw a woman in a jade green pashmina with embroidered borders in a formal business setting.

Hers was a treasure from the seller of exquisite shawls, Trehearne and Brar. Shown, a detail of one of their summer pieces in delphinium blue.


So, thank you for asking, M. Just choose a size that doesn't overwhelm you, and enjoy.   


PS. After writing, I found this terrific post, Wearing Scarves: Big Scarves, on the blog Aesthetic Alterations. Inspiring photos–and consistent advice to just 'toss them on'.