Here comes an unusual bride

An acquaintance was married last month and sent the link to her wedding pics. I was captivated by the photographers' site, which provides a window into dozens of stylish weddings.

Most weddings they sh
ot were classics: graceful brides in frothy dresses, matching bridesmaids, dapper grooms in formal wear.

Amid radiant newlyweds, one couple, Jenny and Lee, stood out. From his peacock-feather boutonniere to their noisemakers, these two were quirky.

I've cringed at some "creative" weddings (everyone in swimsuits on a beach, for example); this couple's seemed respectful of the occasion, yet whimsical.

I admired Je
nny's '40s ecru silk peplumed dress and veiled pillbox, an alternative to the extravagant bridal costume.

Her softly waved hair looked so easy and elegant. All brides are beautiful; Jenny
has style as well.

And the groom! Pale grey suit, softest blue bow tie, a lighthearted retro effect for an afternoon ceremony.

The father of the bride rarely pays for the wedding these days; only 17% foot the bill, compared to 44% a decade ago, according to a Wedding Inbox study. Since so many brides and grooms fund their own celebration (or their families share the cost), couples are rejecting one-wear wedding attire.

I wish Jenny and Lee a joyous future. A couple whose wedding features a reading from "Gift from the Sea" and "The Velveteen Rabbit", hula centerpieces and noisemakers seem to have a head start.

Photos: Joseph+Jaime Weddings

Bags: Lightened up

Leather bags: love the look, suffer under the weight.

I can no longer sling a leather shopper the size of a Mini Cooper over my shoulder and charge around all day. Leather bags have to be small. But mostly, I'm hunting for microfibers.

If you, too, are minding the weight of a big leather bag, here are some light options.

Groom Paris' MV 28 is a small leather bag (14 x 28 cm or 5.5 x 11 inches), that carries the essentials.

Available in a variety of delicious colours; shown, tilleuil. Price, 210 €; available from
Groom's online store.

Groom's microfibre bags are durable, washable and chic. Shown, the Clone, price, 113 €. The 53 x 30 cm (20 x 12 inches) bag has an outside zip pocket and an ingenious little pocket on the padded strap for your phone. Padded strap, best thing since the underwire bra.

Wear Mandarina Duck's Jaipur bag in the hand, over the shoulder, or wear cross-body. Measures 46 x 22 cm (18 x 8 inches), big enough to carry a book or magazine.

From Mandarina Duck's online store, price, $203 on sale. Available in blue, black, and a subtle grey evocatively called "marine".

Kate Spade's nylon Mae Hobo has a pyramid stud closure and chain-link and patent straps that lift it above functional. Size, 13 x 9 inches; price, $325 from Saks Fifth Avenue. And yes, metal feet!

Bree's Punch 49 messenger bag is made of an edgy glossed tarpaulin fabric, with a padded shoulder strap. Size, 38 x 28 cm (15 x 11 inches).

95,95  from Bree's online store. Bree bags wear well.

Lovers of ethnic textiles might choose a woven kilim shoulder bag with leather trim, $147 from Yurdan; many other styles available on the site.

Of course it's what's inside the bag, too. I'm toting one-third of what I used to hoist. A few more dreamy thoughts on the streetcar instead of reading a book, but far less neck strain.

And with good deep coat pockets, sometimes I can skip the bag entirely!

Judge Ned Fenlon, in memory of a great man and a good life

I said to my son Jules, "A close friend of your Gramps has died." He didn't bat an eye.

"Wait", I said, "Gramps was born in 1904." He began to catch on.

Judge Ned Fenlon, a Michigan legend, was almost 107 when he died on September 22, after a remarkable life of public service.

His obituary is here; but what I remember, aside from his professional achievements, is his bonhomie, the kindness of his beautiful brunette wife Jane and the particular, perhaps time-bound hospitality of their home.

In the '50s and '60s, on our block of Mitchell St., food and liquor were served in abundance by the Fenlons and similar neighbours. No one drank wine. If abstinent, you drank Coke (men) or Diet-Rite (women).  

Steaks draped over the edges of the dinner plate, accompanied by mashed potatoes, and for dessert, a homemade cherry pie floated down on the table. Despite meals that many today would avoid (or at least feel guilty eating), few of these Midweaterners died young; in a group of two dozen, at least four cracked 100.

At first I thought the secret might be physical labour, but though Dad and his cronies worked hard, they were usually at desks. Professional men of the time reviewed their files with an unfiltered Camel in hand more often than not.

The wives were at home. The gals dieted– cottage cheese was a staple– but men were largely exempt.

This crowd golfed, sailed the Great Lakes, shot skeet and afterwards, sat down with "a little something" and talked. If someone called, there was no way to leave a message, let alone pick it up while you were fishing. People called back.

They were vivid, forthright people who dressed for plane trips, church and dinner parties, sometimes flashily– check out Ned's slacks!

The women got chemical-loaded perms, wore perfume and furs, cooked with cream, butter and lard. Both sexes grudgingly accepted seatbelts; eventually, most gave up smoking.

If presented with the word "tofu", they would have guessed it was a Pacific island.
A gym was a place where prizefighters trained; a "cleanse" would suggest only a colonoscopy. A nut was created to be roasted, salted and served with a Manhattan.

I miss their unaplogetic claim to a good time, to which they felt entitled after the war. Their sacrifice was great, the lives lost keenly missed in our small community. Toasts were made in memory ("To Charlie, to Ike, bottoms up!"). Widows were looked after, parties held, new babies made. I was one.

He was the last man standing of my parent's circle. With his death, I've lost a filament holding me to that world, but I am still held in their embrace.

Pearls: Great whites for R.

My friend R. will celebrate two milestones in the same month: an increasingly-welcome (now that she's absorbed the shock) job loss and her 60th birthday. She's feeling relief, sadness, excitement... and she's ready for a change.

Time to mark these milestones with new pearls!
She'll be replacing a 5-6mm strand given years ago. (Note to men: Thinking of giving bitsy pearls in a status-brand box? She is not going to wear the box.) Did you know that for every 2mm of size increase, the size nearly doubles visually?

She has a budget–"$1000 tops"- and wants white, but beyond that said, "surprise me".
My mission: find appealing pearls that will not jeopardize her mortgage payment.

R.'s a blonde beauty with dazzling turquoise eyes. Fine-boned and slender, she's likely to wear the new pearls to her golf club and the office. Her style is "lady": elegant tailored jackets, heels with everything and an immaculate manicure.

A double-strand white
akoya bracelet with 14k clasp is R., and so versatile. I'd spring for the AAA quality so these 7 to 7.5 mm gems glow gloriously; price, $658 from Pearl Paradise.

R. vows her next job will entail less stress. Perhaps slightly casual pearls to match her lighter mood? This rope of lustrous freshwater 9mm off-round and 14mm coins is accented with gold rondels near the coins and, at 42 inches, will wrap several times around her neck. Price, $317 from Catherine Cardellini.

lso from Catherine Cardellini, in her Specials section, I found this 19-inch strand of large (10 to 11mm) white oval freshwater pearls strung on white silk and knotted. Yum. For only a few clams more than the price of soulless, shiny fakes (that's you, Talbot's), she could wear these charmers and have money left in her cookie jar. Price, $113. Cardinelli often strings her pieces with spacer beads, but I prefer the simplicity of knots.

A triple strand (17, 18 and 19 inches) is pearl plentitude, if you can take the weight. R.'s budget permits this freshwater triple of grade AA 8.5-9.5mms, $750 from Pearl Paradise. A classic statement piece for work or dressy casual– and at 60, a triple strand has the grandeur she would carry gracefully.

R. adores diamonds, so I want her to see this cultured pearl and diamond ring from
Beladora II, price, $695. It's glam and femmy, like her. And sometimes the best necklace is a ring!

An utterly simple and smart piece, this South Sea 12mm pearl pendant on a white (shown) or yellow gold chain will layer or look chic alone.

Price, $829 from
Pearls of Joy. Smaller sizes are available but for your 60th, splash out on the big pearl.

If R. admires the Tin Cup style, she could wear 12-14mm South Seas (AA grade) in a more casual (and affordable) way. This necklace is from The Pearl Outlet, and just fits under the budget at $995. I especially like that it's a generous seven (not five) pearls, uses heavy gold chain and is 18 inches.

White pearls have their own allure; look for character instead of stiff perfection. Allow the tiniest dent or ripple that shows these gems are organic; reject discoloured patches, rings or uneven nacre.

But most of all, whites need overtones (the slight tinge of rose, silver or (more rarely) green or gold on the surface), and good design to escape banality. (Shown, pearl with rose overtone.)

Dear R., whatever your choice, the birthday pearls will whisper that you are a treasure, along with your pearls.

Safe or Smokin' in black: Deneuve & Mirren

Catherine Deneuve is known as an exquisitely dressed woman. In recent years she bears the fleshiness of maturity, not as easy to dress at 66 as she once was. Sister, I can relate.

She wo
re this black dress to the Venice Film Festival premiere of "Potiche", her new film directed by François Ozon.

The voluminous draping makes her look bulky, the necklace is too conventional for the dress, the skirt clings between the thighs and hides her famous legs.

The side-view makes her look like a dowager in mourning; even
she does not look pleased.

For the Toronto Film Festival screening last week, she chose a palest taupe chiffon dress that recouped her image as an elegant, discriminating star.

The "Potiche" (the title means "trophy wife") poster cheekily presents Deneuve in a red track suit (has to be a first!) but the chartreuse coatdress she wore to the film's press conference recalls the pieces St Laurent created for her in the '70s:

The lessons? When Ms Deneuve wears black, she looks best in lighter colour near the face, like this white blouse worn with a black skirt in Venice.

And if the black is not well-tailored, the supposedly slimming colour makes her (and us) look bigger.

All-black is
harder to wear past 50, especially when one is a porcelain-skinned blonde. In "A Christmas Tale " she was costumed in rich taupe rather than the more demanding black. Those of us devoted to black might experiment with taupe, chocolate or navy.

Accessories are the mature black-wearer's saviour: she tames the harshness of black with a scarf near the face.

that to this shot of all-black: too safe even on one of the world's acclaimed beauties.

French movie stars love the LBD; here is Marion Cotillard in hers at TIFF.

Those of us the age of Cotillard's mother may benefit from rethinking our black, though we adore it still.

A page from Mirren's (black) book

As Helen Mirren shows at "The Debt's" premiere, mature women can rock their LBD.

A trim fit, jewelry with presence (pendant, significant jeweled earrings, bangles): just gorgeous.

Mirren's hair (newly white-blonde, artfully 'messy'), the silver and black bag and sexy peep-toes all transmit her trademark allure.

As I write this, in all-black, I have paused to add a few bracelets and a pendant. The black stays, with a few tweaks for the sake of time.

Pendants for Demi-pointe: Beyond the Bean

Demi-pointe wonders about buying a pendant:
"First, I am considering the Tiffany small bean necklace as an every day piece with round neck and v-neck "t-shirts" and dresses. I thought I remembered you made a suggestion regarding small pendants on silver chains as being a bit twee for the over 50 set... I am also thinking of the opposite look as in a long leather necklace with an edgy smallish pendant."

Dearest De
mi, think hard before buying any piece of jewelry typically given as a Sweet Sixteen, bat mitzvah or high-school graduation gift, and that is a frequent association: the Teen Bean. If a woman has a pretty little Bean from her past, she might give it to a young niece or attach it to a charm bracelet as a keepsake.

Original and interesting

If you desire a Tiffany piece, trade up to the Paloma Picasso Marrakesh pendant, womanly and graceful in silver on a black twist cord; price, $500.

Small pendants work as long as they aren't too bitsy for your build; if you fall for something tiny and you aren't, add more layers, such as a heavier-gauge chain.

A truly tiny pendant–such as a lone 4mm pearl–only flatters fine-boned women with swan necks. Even then, if the motif is girly (hearts, hugs and kisses), the effect is too junior.

Pyrrha, the Vancouver-based firm I've mentioned in my two posts on amulets, make sterling pendants that have a timeless quality, and they are not overexposed. On the web site, click Monograms to find this winged dove pendant, cast from an antique seal.

Price includes up to three initials engraved on the piece. Price, $210; includes an 18-inch cable chain.

Here's a Bean alternative: Etsy seller Elephantine offers a Thai origami bead just over a half-inch wide, on a silver chain (23 inches, but can be ordered any length); check photo showing it on a v-neck on the site.

I also see this layered with a string of pearls. Price, $38. (Thanks to commenter Veuve for her intro to this seller.)

I've been wearing pieces by Etsy seller Red Sofa since I met jeweler Joanna Szkiela at a local art show last summer. Her silver and bronze Roman Coin necklace is on my wish list thanks to its antique/modern feel. Three coins on a twenty-inch silver chain. Price, $75.

I also suggest gems as pendants, especially moonstones and pearls, which go with everything.

moonstone on a double-stranded silver and gold chain (included). Notice the detail around the 7/8-inch pendant: 18k wire wrapping and tiny squared silver beads. By Dana Kellin; price, $194 from Twist.

Check the pearl pendants at Kojima Company,
my favourite unusual pearl source. They have many varieties, some shown on a leather cord.

Choose a
superb pearl like this baroque Kasumi, $180 (now s/o but owner Sarah Canizzaro will send you photos of similar ones on request).

You said edgy?

What do you think of Etsy seller
Plante's trumpet shell with black pearl, Demi? Price, $100, pendant only, and available in various finishes.

Digby and Iona's Rakish Hand necklace ($320) is a 1 1/2 inch hand (wearing its own gold pinky ring set with a 1pt. diamond) on a sterling 28-inch chain. The folks at Catbird describes this piece as bad ass. Agreed.

You did not specify a budget, but if it hits four figures, Ileana Makri's Sea of Life charm in diamond and white gold, is a hip hit of glam. Hang from your own chain or silk cord. Price, $1,100 from Barneys. (I'm reluctant to show diamonds set in silver; precious stones are more vulnerable to loss set in soft metal.)

Perhaps an antique?

A 2-inch antique silver locket with blue enameling, monogrammed FZ, would hang from a long chain; antiques have more mystery than modern pieces. $295 from Etsy seller neederbug.

I wish you an adventure, Demi-pointe, looking for the piece that speaks to you. Good luck and please tell us what you choose!

The price of perfectionism

Adroit blogfriend Frugal Scholar recently raised the issue (or rock) of perfectionism in her post "Thrift Stores and the Lure of Perfectionism", in which she considers perfectionism and shopping.

I commented that
"... perfectionism, whether in shopping, work or choosing a mate, is a mug's game. One will never achieve it, nor feel content for long."

I began to t
hink about the perfectionists I've worked for. "Every one has been a woman", I thought, "and why is that?"

Underneath, these women were terrified; their o
bsessiveness was based on fear, fear of being discovered as an imposter, fear of being judged less than the ultimate, fear of losing what they'd gained. (If you've never worked for one, watch "The September Issue", the doc about Anna Wintour.)

One person's "just being thorough" is another's "perfectionism", but you know it when you see it. One of my friends jokes that for her husband, the words good and enough will never be spoken together.

A pinch of perfectionism can be terrific: the colleague who proofreads one more time (and catches your error), the friend who searches for the right shade of scarf for your new coat on her trip to Italy, the painter who fusses with your nicked walls till they look new.

This is what psychologists term
normal perfectionism. They care intensely, and we are the better for it.

Maladaptive perfectionism is the type that drives employees nuts: the nit-picky nervebag who drives her team to unachievable goals and rips them apart when they don't "meet expectations"– and they never can. Turned inward, perfectionists' damaging behaviour may include anorexia, compulsive spending, overexercising, endless cosmetic surgeries.

Rather than a perfectionism/indifference dichotomy, most of us live on a shifting
continuum of rigour, from "What the hey" at the low end of the scale through "just fine" in the middle to utter perfection at the high (and usually illusory) end.
I depend on colleagues or Le Duc to warn me when I veer toward the high end, where life feels fraught and people around me walk on eggshells.

But is perfection even possible, save for an initial moment of giddy endorsement? Dresses that I thought were perfect at first sight have, a short time later, looked only okay. Not to mention men.

Maladaptive perfectionists, like snobs, may
think they're doing the world a favour by raising standards for the general population. The two are cousins, because both have a deep desire to be or have the best, thus differentiating themselves. The locked-down perfectionist, like the snob, ends up isolated when others decamp, feeling that they can't measure up, or are set up to fail.

This post was distressingly easy to write: all I had to do was think of my mother, who was never satisfied, even as she climbed toward a great age. Her perfectionism diminished love, both received and given.

Sometimes I look at a meal I've cooked, a shirt I've ironed or a piece of writing and feel absolutely transgressive that I've decided
it's all right as it is, and I'm letting it go at that.

It is a necessary, liberating rebellion.

Leather that punches above its weight

Danier, the Canadian mall-based leather house, have always been hit and miss for me. The stores squash over-embellished, mainstream mall garments next to occasional impeccable items.

But this season they offer some undeniably elegant choices.
Someone took a holiday and returned chanelling Céline.

I found a small collection of such refinement and design quality that I a) pinched myself, and b) bought something.

A chat with the knowledgeable store manager revealed that the exceptional items are a test of the new Black Label line, available only in certain stores– and selling madly.

Here's one of the jewels, a fitted leather tee that's darted at the bust and waist, with a tiny side zip to ease at the hip (should you need it) and long-enough short sleeves, not the unkind cap. The front is melty Italian lambskin, the back a substantial techno knit. Price, $229. (Prices in $CDN, which is almost equal to $US).

The s
ame capsule collection includes a leather and knit sleeveless sheath (left, $299) and a sleek long-sleeved tee ($250) with leather front and back that extends to the upper bustline. At that provocative point, a barely-opaque mesh knit takes over to form a graceful neckline and is also used for the long sleeves, very Helmut Lang ($249).

These pieces are of a quality priced three times as much in Paris, which is why my GF Daniele heads straight to Danier for a leather pencil skirt when she visits.

There are other treasures, too: an espresso vegetable-tanned trench– shown at the top of the post– $699, soft yet substantial, well-cut and finished.

A luxurious fox-trimmed bomber, ($599), has a Thinsulate liner that makes it toasty, for a short jacket. Both the coat and jacket are sold on the web site.

But those Black Label lambskin tops and dress,
genius! I predict resounding success with this restrained, chic line. (And sell it online, please.)

Stores that carry the Black Label pieces include Toronto (Eaton Centre, Sherway, Yorkdale) Vancouver (Robson Street) and Montreal (Le Carrefour Laval); look for store contact info on the web site's Store Locator. You could also try the site's Help Centre, which provides customer service by phone and e-mail. The short-sleeve tee is style #111050003.

It's worth a little legwork to pick up one of those lambskin lovelies.