Lost style: The traveling suit

I rarely see women 50+ in matched skirt suits, even in the canyons of the financial district. The Hillary pant suit, or blazer-and-pants (unmatched) prevails, a no-nonsense 'uniform' in the nether-world between business casual and formal.

But there is nothing as chic as a variation on the skirt suit- one that's all but lost, like the veiled hat- the
traveling suit.

Here's a 70s Dior version, a skirt and a 7/8 length coat.
This is what you wore for a train or plane trip, or a day shopping in the city. My mother wore hers with an alligator bag and matching shoes. Underneath, a dressmaker blouse or fine cashmere sweater.

An aside: those women knew a 3/4 from a 7/8 coat and cared.

You can occasionally find this ensemble in shops like Aquascutum, where the suit is really a raincoat with a matching skirt.

I hope to adopt this look when I'm truly elderly (and pine for one perfect traveling suit now). Certainly a more pleasing option than the track suit with windbreaker or puff parka worn with running shoes, the senior default outfit around here.

Jewelry lust: Carnelian-set cuffs

These late-19th century silver cuffs, set with carnelians, are from the Pasarel web site, which sells the work of Billy Shmerling Sender.

They speak of mystery, spices and perhaps a long-ago wedding.

A gift to yourself, or feel free to forward to that special someone who might appreciate some inspiration. Price is $1260 for the pair, which I don't have to tell you is eminently reasonable.

Setting your sights on new specs

As we sail forward in our years, new glasses are not only a visual but aesthetic essential.

Keeping eyewear up to date is easy and relatively cheap on the sunglasses front (if yours are non-prescription) but a major spend for prescription reading glasses.

Dad was an opthamologist who issued dire warnings about drugstore readers.

If I
did buy them, though, I'd head for Amy Sacks, the designer who'd has taken the generic reader from drone to delicious. The adorable olive Katarina (among other colours) is on sale for $60, your choice of magnification.

My local optician bought a pair of Amy's and put in her own prescription lenses, a shrewd move. Where are y
ou going to find hip frames for that price?

Another way to save is to use an online supplier like

You can either choose the frame you know you want, or order some to try on, then return them for free, indicating your pick. The free return offer is good for one round, so order your "maybes" in one batch.

You can talk with them if you want to discuss lens options. Prices are very good, and you can return or exchange on many lenses.

Their Jean Lafont frames ($425) appeal: they're not too severe and boxy, and the brown-turquoise combo is fresh and fairly wearable.

My current (or as I'm beginning to think of them, "old") glasses are Lafonts; they've bounced in my bag and been worn hard for years.

Maybe a mo
re classic tortoise shell? The Oliver People Bridget looks charming-nerdy and at $185 on sale, a good buy.

Two more ways to save on frames:

1. Flea markets, either real or "FleaBay", sell frames. Many are vintage-enough to be cool again, like these Cazals with rhinestones, for $50 (current listing). You still have to put your lenses in, but you're saving on the frames.

2. If you are traveling to a developing country, take your prescription and have your glasses made up there. You will find name brands or acceptable knock offs in urban centers. A friend had three prescription pairs made up in India for less than $50 each.

Lends a whole new meaning to "seeing the world"!

Around the world in one skirt

Are you trekking, hiking, fishing, camping or just on the road this summer with limited laundry access?

When my GF Joan and I visited India, we each brought a Macabi skirt, perhaps the most ingenious garment I've owned.

The skirt's longest-possible length (available in 32, 36 or 38-i
nch options) met the requirements for touring cultural sites, and by using durable snaps placed on side seams, the skirt rose to knee-length option for less-conservative locales.

Extra-deep pockets, one with a zipper, secured our valuables far more comfortably than a money belt. This feature alone earned its price.

Visit the Macabi site to see how one skirt converts to a long and knee-length skirt, pants (dhoti style) and shorts.

Joan chose charcoal gray; mine (shown in photo above) was a fern green (since discontinued).

Worn in its longest mode, it's a classic gathered skirt with pockets- not exciting, but acceptable travel wear, and the farther off the beaten path you're going, the more you'll favour function over fashion.

Snapping it shorter g
ives a hipper, vaguely Rick Owens look; Joan wore hers with a tank (when we were at a oceanfront resort), and looked au courant. You can also play around with one side snapped up, one side low, which looks cool too.

They traveled, washed and airdried like a dream, thanks to the light, supple microfiber. Too hot for the 100F-plus temperature/100% humidity of Goa, but fine for Delhi's mid-80's.

Macabis aren't winter wear (though could go through fall with silk or thermal long johns). They're ideal for 12-hour flights, hopping on and off buses, browsing markets or exploring anywhere except the chic corners of world-class cities, where you'd look a bit 'adventure travel' in one.

Terrific service from the site, and an extensive size range. At $80, excellent value, and they even pack into their own pocket.

Some women buy two and that's all they wear!

Retro summer charm: Bamboo

Sometimes I can get a real retro jewelery buzz going. Maybe it's the Pink Martini I'm listening to as I post in a peaceful, cool house, while my family's away.

Schlumberger, Seaman Schepps, old Tiffany: I grew up with my mother's friends wearing their matching earring-and-necklace sets. Of course, I became a rebellious beads-and-patchouli-hippie and now I'd kill for just one piece.

I've always loved a bamboo motif, and I had no idea the Pussycat Dolls, Hilary Duff and hip-hop babes were into this look. Never mind. I don't want the dooknockers, just 2 inch or so hoops: the original 70's CZ Guest look.

High end:
Dominique Cohen, an LA based designer who also makes piled-on chains and studded ankhs that scream Star.

Price for her delicate, classic 18k hoops, far left, $1500, from Neiman Marcus' web site.

The venerable Kenneth Jay Lane has made a career of copying this Socialite look so well that actual socialites buy his stuff. At a modest $62 (near left), you'll have money left for a nice restorative Grasshopper.

Bamboo also translates
into bangles well.

I was charmed by this set of three enamel bangles on eBay, now at $15 (but a day left). Go ahead and bid, search "3pc trio- Bamboo Enamel".

Worn with a white shirt, they're a timeless summer twist on a beloved theme.

Rant: Aveda Educator, mean girl

I go to the Aveda Institute here for my haircolour. I've loved the place: great product applied by skilled students under their Educator's supervision, for a third of the price of a 'name' salon.

Today I went there, drew the same student I had last month, but a new Educator.
Educator informed me my roots would be touched up but she would not have the student apply colour through the ends (usually the last 5 or 10 minutes) because "your ends will accumulate too much colour. You can't do this every time."

I replied (calmly, civilly) that I would indeed like the ends done as a) I am red, it's fade-prone, b) in summer the sun lifts the colour more, and c) with short hair, I have the ends trimmed every 8 weeks.

(Note: I have been having my hair gooped for over 20 years and not once has a colourist not refreshed the ends. A fresh glowy red is one of the little pleasures of life.)

"Fine", she hissed, turned on her heel, did not appear (as the other Educators have) to check progress, and billed me $10 more than the preceding eight visits. When I asked her why, she said, "We used another tube of colour."

OK, I said, but the other Educators combed the colour through using one tube, what was different this time? "I can't speak for
them", she said coldly. I said, "If you are adding a cost, I would like to be informed first." She repeated her "can't speak for the others" line so I said, "I understand your point of view, thank you" and left. We were in one of those pointless loops.

Now call me sensitive-wensitive (as we say in our family) but I found this woman as arrogant and defensive as I've ever seen. If I were making an inference, I'd say she was getting even. But who knows?

I have a letter to the Director of Education ready to send, giving appreciation where due (everyone I've met in the past 8 months) describing this incident, and requesting that upcharges be discussed with the client first.

I stopped short at naming her. But I have a hunch she already stands out.

What bugs me? Not the $10. Not even her need to be right. It was her hostility when I made my request.

Will I send it? I'm sleeping on it.

UPDATE: Thanks to your reminders to be diplomatic, sent a short letter emphasizing the usual marvelous service, did not name the Educator, and mentioned only her behaviour, not my inferences about her character or intentions.

When you is all about me

Last Sunday's New York Times contains Jan Hoffman's article about narcissism, a label applied to everyone from Britney Spears to Hillary Clinton these days.

In "Here's Looking at Me", psychiatrists warn against an imprudent diagnosis; they say an accurate assessment can only be determined after many sessions. (Apparently the psychiatrist who testified at Christie Brinkley's divorce trial was qualified to do so when he applied the term to Peter Cook.)

The disorder is characterized by "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), a need for admiration and a lack of empathy", arrogance, and sense of entitlement. True narcissists are startled when their spouses say they are miserable.

It's a trendy label, the current buzzword for being a jerk.

One of my women friends told me about attending a posh charity dinner, seated at a table with two Mr. Bigs. She is a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company, a poised, extroverted and intelligent woman. She told me that
not once did either man inquire about her work or interests. She spent the entire dinner witnessing a mine's-bigger-than-yours recitation of competing self-importance.

She could have interjected- she holds her own in meetings world-wide- but decided she wasn't interested in claiming any space; she just wanted out of there.

This is common behaviour in the business world, and not confined to males (but I see it among them more frequently). Perhaps the competitiveness, a Type A personality and testosterone overload form a Bermuda Triangle of obnoxiousness.

Or maybe modern parenting made that child a little king or queen, heedless of altruistic or communitarian values.

Here's a replay of a current conversation with one of my female clients:

Client: Hi! What's new with you?
Me: Hmm. Since I saw you. my mother died; she was 99...

Client: (Cutting me off): My Granny died too! She died in Hawaii- you remember, she moved there with my brother? I had to go there on a day's notice and you know what? When I got there, no one could agree on what kind of funeral, and we sat around her condo for days trying to decide, and my brother kept taking off to the beach..." (goes on and on).

The two seconds of superficial condolence that acknowledge a loss never happened.

The MDs quoted in the Times article say narcissism is difficult to treat, progress is slow and frustrating. The best cure, of course, is prevention: emotional nurture and love in childhood.

I scan myself for those self-involved behaviours, and hope to differentiate between a healthy ego (and it's byproduct, self-esteem) and overweening self-importance.

But enough about me: and you?

The Women of Mad Men

Le Duc went off for the weekend to visit his parental nest, so I rented Season One of the series Mad Men and gorged- delicious!

Like the Todd Haynes film "Far From Heaven", the production is steeped in an era I recall vividly:
circle pins, white gloves, baby-dolls, and every man at work in a dark suit.

January Jones' Betty Draper, the protagonist's wife, is a debutante/Grace Kelly beauty, softened angles of blonde perfection. Tapered wool pants, cabled cardigan, peignoirs, everything just so.

Cristina Hendricks plays bad wise girl Joanie with glee, all shake-it till-you-break-it bottom and red beehive, skin-tight sweaters, sprayed-on skirts. Hendricks said in an interview, "I don't think the 1960s were the most flattering time for women, but if you know how to work it, then it can be."

Every episode's a style time-capsule, with actresses in bullet bras, shirtwaists, twin sets and the kind of girdle that made you wait to go to the bathroom, because tugging it on and off was sweat-popping work.

Watch and notice, with very rare exceptions, how physically confined women were by their clothes. I read that the actresses had to be coached in how to move, as they had grown up without the foundation garments that changed how they sat, walked, even breathed.

The suburban homemakers in the show spend major time in rollers and pin curls. You were either on display or in preparation. The undercurrent of anxiety is palpable: being pleasing enough, thin enough, and "what do you want for dinner, dear?"

Mad Men depicts a time when racism, sexism, anti-semitism and homophobia were features of everyday life (at least inside this fictitious Madison Avenue ad agency). Forty-eight years ago, what a difference- not only in what was said, but in how people reacted. If you wonder where all the people went who talked this way, it's clear from the show: they died from smoking.

Michael Kors apparently loves Mad Men and is creating looks that channel early-60s ladies.

What women don't want

The slash-to-60% and more sales have hit the department stores, and one could compile a What Not to Wear guide based on what's piled on the racks. In this city, that would be

1. Blouses:
- Smock or empire tops, especially in fake Pucci-type prints. They looked tired by spring, and now are positively embalmed.
- Sleeveless blouses, especially white. I think that's because they look unfinis
hed, compared to those with at least 3/4 sleeves.
- Very sheer. Bridge designers tried them bowed, tunic'd, even pleated and it looks like every last one is on triple markdown. Women knew they'd have to wear a camisole under them, but when it's so sticky, do you want another layer?

2. Skirts and dresses:
- Wrap dresses: a case of hanger death, with poked up shoulders and saggy waist ties.

- Long, full skirts: after the ubiquitous peasant-skirt-summer two years ago, no one wants lower-calf length, tiered skirts but apparently buyers thought so.
- The colour gray: so hard to get right in a fabric. For me it has to be deep anthracite or the palest nacreous gray like the inside of an oyster shell. Sad grays abound even in a decent bridge line like Anne Klein; the only luminous ones I've seen are from Miyake and Vuitton.

3. Pants/
knee-length cigarette Bermuda apparently flattered 1% of the toothpick-proportioned women who might wear them.

4. Shoes:
- 4-inch platform wedges: you can find them sulking on the sale racks at every price point; this may be because we're a subway

Fall items are slipping in, requir
ing huge signs that say NEW ARRIVALS because there's so much unsold summer stock.

You read it here: an extravaganza of eggplant, maroon, purple. Not a colourway I'm thrilled to buy.

Hairdresser of dreams, where art thou?

Hair is deep with women. I face an appointment with a new hairdresser with more trepidation than a mammogram.

Could I slide this letter under the door, before my first appointment?

Dear Hairdresser:

I'm coming in today, and would be delighted to have three parts of you working on my behalf.

First, your extraordinary eye. Your eye will see me: my proportions, preferences, aesthetic- and then choose an
effortlessly chic style. I will look current but not weird, and can replicate this at home.

Just yesterday, I read a hairdresser's comment that, "I have to get you, and I only have 15 seconds." Why fifteen? Take your time.

Next, your skilled hands: the cut will deliver the vision. I've had hairdressers describe exactly what needs to be done, but not deliver.

(My hair is ringlet-curly; badly cut, I look like Harpo Marx.)

Finally, your heart: kindness, or at least tact.

(Found a style in a magazine. My former hairdresser agreed it was great, and asked for a bit more hair to work with: "Next time, I'll give you this style; leave the magazine with me." When I returned 6 weeks later, he said, "Oh! I just had the most gorgeous young girl in here, and guess which style she picked! Yours! She looked incredible!" Now, I don't need to be the only woman in the world with this style, but his remark took the charm off it.)

In return, I'll be on time, grateful, supportive, loyal, and happily pay and tip.


In about four hours I return to a former hairdresser. B., who has all three qualities but was inconsistent on the "hands" side. I'm returning because when I approached a woman at my health club who had a terrific cut (and curly hair like me) and asked her who did it, it was B.! We'll see.

Last shawl before fall

As the evening cooled at my recent party, I offered a stack of shawls and noticed how eagerly my guests accepted and enjoyed these light, graceful wraps.

"I brought a jacket, but I want to wear this", R. declared, choosing an apple green and rose jamavar.

I was a shawl short of a full stack. Trolling the Novica site, this tangerine paisley piece from Sandeep Malhorta cast a spell. I could see it in my deep drawer, ready for a chilly friend, or draped over my office chair.

Click and it's begun a trackable FedEx journey from Delhi. For an instant, I dreamed of traveling to that city of spice and light, chaos and colour to retrieve it myself.

Like Deja Pseu, I'm now on a purchase moratorium before our October trip to Paris. Once the shawl arrives, austerity reigns chez D.

Thanks to sumptuous b'day gifts from friends and le Duc (photos to come), I'm surrounded by treasures and will spend many months savouring these delights.

There's nothing I need, yet the shoe sale siren beckons, "They'll cost so much more next spring!"

My friend S. controls her urge for attachment by soliciting donations of unwanted quality clothes from friends, re-selling them to other acquaintances, and donating the cash to one of her causes. I so appreciate this approach.

UdeMan: Paul Newman

Few men supply the operational definition of virility like Paul Newman: male beauty without surliness or self-absorption. Newman has held a stage for over forty years, performing drama and comedy with grace and power.

He's also famous for his blue eyes, for creating
Newman's Own dressings (his successful philanthropic venture), auto racing and marrying Joanne Woodward.

Recent photos show Newman, now 83, looking gaunt and ill, but I wanted to celebrate his gifts with photos of this classically handsome man in his prime.

My favourite films of his are The Hustler, Sweet Bird of Youth, Sometimes a Great Notion and the best buddy movie
of all time, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, with Robert Redford.

When the idea came up, I said, 'Are you crazy? Stick my face on the label of salad dressing?'

And then, of course, we got the whole idea of exploitation and how circular it is. Why not, really, go to the fullest length, and the silliest length, in exploiting yourself and turn the proceeds back to the community?"

- Paul Newman

The instructive Inès: How not to look like a tourist

This photo of the French fashion icon (and recent Légion d' honneur recipient) Inès de la Fressange was featured on The Sartorialist blog. Lagerfeld's muse and a designer herself, she is often a reference point for French chic but was born and reared in Argentina.

Those of us who wonder, "Why do I look like a tourist when I'm in France?" need
only observe.

Here's your decision point: look like a tourist, so what- or adopt a more local attitude. That's your call, and if you yearn for the latter, Inès obliges with a few lessons.

Of course you'd think, "I can't take white pants, they'd be ruined after one lunch" and you'd be right. So roll three pairs together in your bag and check out the nearest cleaner. You get a break during the other seasons- everyone's in black- but in summer, tough tourist noogies, cherie!

There are other touches to borrow more easily: an eccentrically-cut jacket that will go with everything, a stack of Indian bangles, only $5 for twelve from

If a jacket's too warm, look for a top like this by Isabel Marant, miles more polished than a tee.

For sunglasses: high end is essential (as with the bag). The quality is visible from across the street. You might be tempted to 'leave the good ones at home' which is precisely what creates the tourista look.

ale season's here, you can pick up great summer sunglasses for a song. I found designer brands (from Fendi to Marc Jacobs) on sale at Winners, for $50-$90, at least a 75% reduction.

Inès favours flats with pants, perhaps Tod's sandals like those shown above, never running shoes or those running-shoe-hybrids, like these Privos, gaaah.

If you want to walk for miles, compromise and at least change them for lunch or dinner in a restaurant. A pair of ballerinas or fine sandals tuck inside a bag.

Note the easy, almost messy hair. I spot so many
North American women who spend time (a lot of time, when they could be strolling by the Seine in beautiful morning light) obviously doing the hot rollers, flat iron, supercoif thing.This is not hairdressing, it's taxidermy.

Hair should look like someone (Mathieu Almaric?) could run his fingers through it.

Mlle. de la Fressange celebrates her 51st birthday next month. The last truc is to relax and smile like that!

Giving at both ends of life

One of my friends in the picture in the last post returned from Dublin two years ago, after living there for more than 20 years, to take care of her parents, both over 90.

Her father, prone to frequent falls, moved into a retirement home; she visits daily. L. and her mother live in the family home.

Her mother, P., is 95, clear-minded and still eager to engage the world. (She can legally drive, but it's fraught.) They head to country inns, theatre festivals, visit P.'s beloved Algonquin Park, where she canoed at 92, nourished by the familiar natural beauty.

They have always deeply enjoyed one another's company and have little of the reflexive friction so many of my friends feel (and I had) towards one's mother.

(Years ago another friend turned up at my door with her tiny, furious mother in tow. She'd spent the morning trying to buy her a winter coat. "YOU take her", she hissed. After a restorative lunch (with martinis) in the department store dining room, we found a chic cobalt blue topper that she loved. She was sweet as churned honey with me, as I expected.)

L. is single, childless (which simplified her return), incandescently intelligent, wildly funny, and a fearless straight-shooter. Doesn't complain about the friends, work, cottage and world she put on hold to return.

She will say she misses them, and expects to once again spend time in own home. But for now she's assuaging her mother's loneliness and boredom, and listening to her father's stories.

Every woman friend is dealing with elder care- either her own parents, in-laws, or extended family, some with L.'s grace and goodwill, others with resignation, resentment, worry.

Years ago many of us were consumed with childcare, exhausted and anxious about how we were shaping those little lives.

Now we are at a bedside again, combing hair, urging someone to eat, visiting a doctor, but it's so different at the other end of life. I felt far more emotional turbulence in the last years with my mother, flaring irritation and tenderness intertwined.

When our children are small we look at the stars with them and think, what will your future bring? We look at the stars with our very old parents and think, I hope there is a heaven for you, whatever form it takes.

A girl thing

The party in my garden, on a sunny, almost-cool Friday evening was a magical, memorable, uproarious gathering of cherished women friends. (I'm third from right, back row.)

To echo the North African menu, each guest's place was set with a Moroccan jeweled box. A heart-shaped note inside described the qualities I most appreciated in her.

Son Jules, bartender/sous chef for the evening, said to his father: "It's nice, but guys would never do that; it's totally a girl thing, telling them."

He thought it was also a
girl thing to serve fruit salad for dessert, but then to follow that with a luscious, lavish platter of chocolates. But you know women: eat the healthy fruit, then be tempted.

Magnolia Romana: First great gift

Technically this is the second great gift, but the first, from my friend "sjcyogi" will wait till I take a photo.

Chosen by my son, Jules (above), Magnolia Romana, a heady, intense potion from Eau d'Italie that evokes the scent of the garden of the Villa Borghese in Rome.

I love that he ventured to the perfume boutique, Noor, and chose carefully.

He's had a "nose" since he was tiny- we used to see him smell his food avidly, little nose twitching like it had a life of his own, over his baby food.
He never lost this facility.

He and Etienne, his twin brother, presented their gift early at our family party on the boys' birthday, Wednesday evening. (Our birthdays are three days apart. Bad enough luck sharing with your twin, let alone your mother!)

We booked a table at the SkyYard of The Drake Hotel, a sexy rooftop patio, had rounds of mojitos. Those of us working the next day called it a night early. The one with the day off set out for further celebration and was spotted rolling in at 7 am., ah youth!

Grammar rant: There is nothing wrong with 'me'

Just returned from my health club, where I do penance on a treadmill for my love of chocolate and chicken with the skin on.

The manager posted a sign advising women that the locker rooms will be undergoing renovation for two months, "and if you have any questions, please contact myself."

Why do so many writers use "myself" instead of the first-case objective pronoun "me"?

Myself, a r
eflexive pronoun, refers back to the subject of the sentence. Correct usage is, for example, "I painted my nails myself."

Some writers think, "If I use 'I' as the subject, I should then use 'myself' if I am also the object . You would not write, "I would like you to call myself before midnight."
This doesn't sound right to the ear, and people instinctively avoid it.

Without the "I" to guide them, they will write, "Neither Susan nor myself would ever wear a thong."

The reflexive pronouns may also fill an emphatic role: "I wouldn't eat her cooking myself, but you go ahead!"

I'm ranting not because you don't know this; I'm recruiting all writers, all people who love language.

I corrected that that notice, and I'd like some company. Please go forth and tell your colleagues that, when used as the object of a sentence, there's nothing wrong with 'me'.

Ice nine

Irresistible ice cream, my dietary downfall, blissful treat. Like Mae West said about sex, "Even when it's bad, it's good."

Nine notable choices in this City of Creams:

1. Cheap thrill:
St. Clair Farms, a no-frills factory outlet on the east side, sells cones the size of a kid's head for two bucks. You would think no one could handle a
double, but all kinds of people walk out trying to manage a top-heavy pint in a bursting cone. Flavour: Maple Walnut

2. Local hero:
Ed's Real Scoop, in the neighbourhood next to mine, makes high end product in tiny storefront teeming with strollers. Flavour: Sweet Cream

3. Downtown guy:
Greg's was the first boutique ice cream store and his Green Tea is one of the abiding pleasures of life. Others are crazy for his Roasted Marshmallow, which tastes exactly like sitting around a campfire.

4. Tiny perfect cones:
Solerfino serves golfball sized scoops of dense
gelato for a steep $4 a scoop, which somewhat controls indulgence. Belgian Chocolate with Bitter Orange is an intense, decadent exemplar.

5. Dove bar:
La Paloma in the Italian neighbourhood is a vast gelateria with offbeat flavours like Pear Parmesan and a rare Pure Pistachio. We buy a three-flavour tray to bring to dinner parties and watch friends dip in for thirds.

6. Dutch Dreams:
The name of a kitschy, sticky parlour in a Jamacian/italian part of Toronto that cabbies call "Rasta-Pasta". Towering sundaes with zeppelins of real whipped cream and ever
y garnish going. A week-long meal replacement in one dish. My pick: Coffee ice cream with hot fudge.

7. Do You Want Ice Cream with that DVD?
The local art movie rental stocks a freezer case sto
cked with eight tubs of straight-ahead fresh flavours. I'll have a cup of Almond Pistachio to go.

Excursion Treat:
I grew up loving frozen custard, which is to Dairy Queen what Barneys is to Sears. Sinking ecstatically into the real deal means a drive across the border to upstate New York, but thank god I can't get the eggy, unctuous richness locally. Distance controls me a bit.

9. Right Here Right Now:
The corner store stocks Drumsticks, caram
el or chocolate variety, with that little last-bite nugget at the bottom... killer.

Simon says: Three routes to eccentric

I love things ethnic and deco; if I adopt Simon Doonan's typology in his new book, Eccentric Glamour, I'm a Gypsy, likely of the Euro-Glam phylum, with a touch of Hollywood. He calls this "a great look for the chunky, glamourous eccentric."

Ouch, I resemble that chunky-funky label.
Pictured, the epitome of senior Euro-Glam gypsy, Contessa Marta Marzotto, in a sable-trimmed coat- Madonna!

If I'm dressing to please myself, this is my skew, but more low-key
- after all I'm a Canadian of more modest means. Raccon's a stretch, never mind sable.

Doonan makes his point: bland conformity of the In Style school does not serve to develop an identity, and results in the cloney-bony Rachel Zoe look.

Doonan says the second of his three Style types, the Socialite, "with its carefully crafted cocktail of minimal eccentricity and designer fashion (Valentino, Escada, Chanel) is the only style for the professional woman."

I work with women in full-sleeve tattoos and vintage, in Rick Owens, in Talbots twin sets, and each considers herself as professional as her Hugo Boss-suited banker sister. Socialite is safe; I wear it for my haute-corporate gigs. A uniform that establishes status, Socialite can sometimes stifle- at it's worst, an overdone, ostentatious security blanket.

Existentialists, the third of the Glamorous Eccentric types, are minimal, architectural and intellectual or gamine/garcon charming minus the romanticism of the Gypsy.

Doonan's style-typing can read as cliched (Audrey Hepburn is a Gamine Existentialist) and oddly out-of-it: Amy Winehouse is classed as an Existentialist of the Ghoul subtype. Where were you in the 60s, Simon? Amy is simply channeling Ronnie Spector, who may have once married a Ghoul but is not one herself.

Doonan breaks a heel stomping on Ho attire, a crime against the aesthetic environment. But any woman who can read his indictment without moving her lips will know exactly how dressing like a pole dancer is likely to be read, and choose accordingly.

You can pretty much get the book, minus the photos, in
this online Elle feature. I hope Doonan, after this salvo at bland and safe, returns to his great gift: the creation of fabulous windows and displays for Barney's.

You want eccentric today? Check out the two lovely Casady sisters known as CocoRosie, musicians bending every idea about clothes and makeup, while they perform their affecting folk-influenced songs.

You wear it well

Inspired by materfamilias' touching and observant post pondering whether her beloved dress-leggings-cardi ensemble might be too young for her, I've been thinking about what you have the right to wear at 50+.

Le Duc says "When a woman grows older she has the right to wear things she could not before."

One might wear the items below at 25 or 30, but they have a different effect on a mature woman.

1. Decolleté
Not the tarty old trout look, but the discreet flash of a lace bra.
European women know how to do this (see Catherine Deneuve at left); North American women seem to handle cleavage by thinking "Full-out Ho, here I go!"

A beautiful jacket with a lower-cut shell, or a tailored blouse
with one more button undone is the right of the older woman.

2. Hats
A che
etah cloche, a taupe felt bowler, a wide-brimmed straw with a scarf tied as a band. What looks costumey when younger looks (with the right proportioned clothing) striking when older.

3. Fur
I'm ta
lking real, if you are willing, because a "fun fur" on a 70 year old woman will not work unless she is Iris Apfel.

Several years ago I saw a woman that age wearing an impeccable knee-length mahogany mink coat, low walking shoes and
a ruby red beret. This offhand combination was fantastic; I imprinted it in memory to someday duplicate. Same goes for a fine bag in an (unendangered) exotic skin.

4. Jewelry with presence
My friend Jeri told me about a family wedding she attended, all the matriarchs in their d
iamond rivieres or huge dinner rings.

Her 80 year old aunt wore a damask cocktail suit accessorised with a Schlumberger Bird brooch th
e size of a turkey egg.

The piece shown is French jet and diamante, from Heritage Jewellery Company.

5. Dres
sed Up
This is m
ore an attitude than actual pieces; it's forgoing dress-down when appearing in public or accepting an invitation to someone's home- preferring to be what the French call "sortable".

When my 50+ friend L. came to a dinner party in running shoes and a dress over jeans, I thought, there is a time to dress like a grown woman instead of a grad student, and by 50, the time has long come.

To every dress, there is a season

Probably 30% of the clothes in a typical 'better' department store are ageless: the well-cut trouser and cashmere tee, for example. These classics, in the best quality I can afford, are the foundation. Then I look for twists, updates, amusing details, but not too-junior trends.

Though classic, I avoid menswear; me
ns'-styled jackets make me look like an usher. The preppy young-guy look no longer charms: high crew-neck tees, polo, rugby or button-down shirts, bermuda shorts.

Skull-printed anything, things prefaced with "baby" (tees, pearls, blue), madras, Juicy trac
k suits, smocks, neon colours, bitsy jewelry (much as I like Ten Thousand Things, I need One Big Thing), running shoes for anywhere but the gym, banana clips, and 98% of all denim- over for me.

You can guess I'm not a Charla Krupp fan; I think she looks plastic and hard. Compare to Ellen Burstyn, below, age 76.