Prada on dressing and older women

"Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones who look best are often a little wilder. Thinking about age all the time is the biggest prison women can make for themselves."
- Miuccia Prada 
Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's "Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibit

Discuss amongst yourselves... and comment, if you please.

A little wilder

If you agree, you might consider these garments. One woman's daring is another's demure, but here are some uncommon options.
Marni embroidered cotton sweater; price, $925.

Pink Hawaiian print silk tee by Lulu & Co, Liberty of London (in-store only), £170.

Ethno-print dress by Elena Miro (Women's sizes); price £157 at Navabi.

Azalea sequin pencil skirt (26" long) by J. Crew; price, $695.

Camilla Welton poplin Aurora jacket, price, $879 at FutureNotion.

 Chloe camel leather flats; price, $1,095 at netaporter.

Jil Sander lapis hummingbird skirt; price, $1,170 at netaporter.

Melissa Masse abstract-print maxi-dress (available in Women's sizes); price, $295 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

What is your favourite "a little wilder" piece?

Scrunchies and other "Should I stills"

If anyone hasn't seen the series of Hillary Tumblr Texts, it is here, and a hoot.

But back to scrunchies, the most divisive hair issue among women since Sinead shaved.

Cyndi Lauper, 2012
I don't have to make the fraught decision, but if I had another ten or twelve inches to hold back, a wad of elasticated fabric would not be my choice. Like leggings worn as pants, nameplate necklaces or one-shoulder tees, scrunchies shone when Girls Just Wan(ted) to Have Fun. We still wanna, but even Cyndi has changed her accessories.

I'll hear from devoted scrunchettes. Fine! I have my own affection for things not exactly à la mode: Blundstones, Hermès carrés, and (some have charged) pearls.

I propose, when we find ourselves clinging to dependable but perhaps passé items:

1. We are defensive about our style holdouts. Be curious about why, then, if this is your deep identity, just stop defending. No only-to-garden, no bad-hair-day; no not-in-public, just "Do Whatcha Wanna, hang on the cor-nah", as they say in New Orleans.

Tapering off
2. Break the habit. Put it away for 21 days; find an alternative. If it still exerts a magnetic pull after the three-week furlough, see #1.

To taper off: the rope ponytail holder; for a bigger departure, try a thick coated elastic, perhaps with a discreet accent like this tortoise model.

Cold turkey

3. Think of your style beacons; ask if they would wear it today. You are not imitating, just learning from stellar examples. Mine is Jane Birkin; I've seen her with chopsticks and small tortoise clips, no scrunchie. If the answer is "No, she wouldn't and I don't care", see #1.

4. Keep your friends out of it. Unless into a bottle of Pinot Noir, those who love you won't say "Give it up, honey", and if they blurt the truth once it's emptied, you'll write it off.

A woman at this level of public service is a target for micro-examination and projection, but I'll add my assessment: even if I didn't know who this was, I'd say Hillz looks of-the-moment in her glasses, soft black ensemble and bold jewelry. She can appear bland and stiff, but here, she's chic. Once again, the power of a good pair of bipartisan shades! 

And if she were wearing the same thing with a scrunchie, not so current.

Gaiety for spring

Gay does have another meaning, not to make a big thing of it. And spring is the time for gay clothes, pieces that seek the sun, ever warmer and more insistent on the back.

Here are some lighthearted delights on my wish list this spring. Just one item would lift my heart.

Dots et fleurs

Eric Bompard's silk polka-dot shirt (E95) will be perfect with navy pants, my denim pencil skirt, or even jeans. Pretty and polite; if you have good legs, wear it with shorts.

Keds. Gingham with fruit. Because the bohemian side loves a sunny summer day, when maybe you do not much of anything. (I tried them on; they run wide, and I'm a standard B.) Price, $45.


Gay, jaunty, chic; Stella's insouciance is MacCostly, but if I had a plump piggy-bank, I'd spring for it. (Deck-chair striped top, $1,165 from net-a-porter).

Boden Breton stripe top, in mint, £25. Or candy pink, or lilac, the fun colours. Jaunty in navy, too, but the ice-cream shades promise more hijinks.

Madras: An inherently happy fabric, not easy to wear unless you're quite thin, but anyone can carry a bag with a retro stripe. Price, $40 from Land's End.

Red rovers

Red shoes make you skip! First, a pair for touring, with padded insoles and an anatomic footbed: Acropedio's cherry "Rose" flats, $139 from Zappos.

Then, a flirty pair for dancing, Kate Spade's "Caelyn" suede wedge; price, $325 at Zappo's. Poppy on the toe, Prosecco at hand.

And a hat! 

Our mothers understood: You kept that coat, you bought a fabulous new hat.

Straw will strut soon as buds push forth. I covet Albertus Swanpoel's fedoras; his Cape Cod model is $380 at Barney's.

Frugal but flaunty: A vintage panama in a merry red stripe, size Medium, a mere $24 from etsy seller Hoogs. Imagine with your jeans, a light sweater, and spring in your step. 

Out of the closet

What will you bring out or buy? What lifts your heart, makes you yearn for tulips, find the first outdoor terrace, venture a sockless shoe?  

There is always one thing that shouts spring, and we'll let it, even if a pair of rain boots. 

Department of spring

An early spring here has made women buzz like bees to honey to the shop windows, and caught some merchants short-handed.

I hit three department stores, hoping to find what my mother used to call "a handful of clothes", a few pieces or an accessory to greet the season. Seeking the magic triangle of quality, style and a decent price, I avoided both the perilously pricey and the lumpy lower ends. 

The stores now display an abundant bouquet of dresses, many with floral themes, and much in silk, its waftiness appeals after winter wool. I loved Tahari's silk Ivy dress, $298, the charm in a placed print that differs in back:

I admired the wit in Tory Burch's Kamille deco-printed silk skirt ($325), with tromp-l'oeil gores. (At 21 inches, way too short for me.) You don't see this colourway: vibrant blue, chrome yellow, lavender and white; this stood out amid a sea of faded no-colours and navy.

Tahari's Tricia framed silk shirt ($198) was another pulse-quickener. It's quiet, but says something, and the silk is a supple midweight that doesn't feel like you're wearing a nightie.

I dithered. That shirt implies some upkeep and careful wear. Is that my life these days? Time for an allongé and a spin round accessories.

Aquitalia's Karma pump ($350): it's hard to find a black spring shoe, open yet closed, without a vertiginous heel. (It's also available in bone.) A perfect shoe that I could actually walk in.

I advocate the carrying of a seasonal bag; few effects jar like a bulky, heavy-looking bag with your crisp spring things. While the selection is good, it's wise to pounce.

I say Tory Buch's Robinson patent leather tote ($575) earns its price. The light neutral will work into fall (and even all year round, depending on where you live), the 16 x 12-inch size will hold a magazine or iPad, and patent leather wears and cleans well. It even has the endangered species of handbag features, brass feet. (Where did all the brass feet go, and aren't those hooks you're supposed to carry and hang your bag on, off a table, hideous?)

I'm also favouring the enforced discipline of a smaller bag like the Cole-Haan Sheila leather crossbody, 9 x 8 inches, either in punchy orange or a calm yellow-beige called "Sandalwood". And that's my problem: a budget means decisions; if this, not that.

I came home with my head full of silks, sightings and these luminous tulips. Spring on my table, if not on my back.

Poetry: Serene and soft clothes

Readers who like quiet, simple clothes of natural fibers and things not tortured by embellishment know about Poetry, a UK-based company who sit in the Eileen Fisher pew. Let's pause to hear the murmur of some lovely pieces.

I especially like the linen knits, such as the Stitch Detail sweater, below, and the many offerings in washable garment-dyed linen, linen jersey and linen/alpaca. Colours are muted but don't look too drab, and a few discreet abstract prints offer variety.

Sizing is up from UK 8 to UK 22 and UK24. This is the first time I've found a line that offers a range from medium to extra-large sizes rather than from extra small to maybe large!

Bottoms and dresses are offered in two lengths, but there are not separate Petite or Tall ranges.

Customers in the US will be redirected to the US site. (Goods are shipped from England but returns can be sent to a Florida address.) You'll pay shipping and if not in the UK, duty and the taxes levied by your country. But if you wish to cast a broader net, such is the mail-order world, and I am grateful for it.

If anyone wears Poetry, and can enlighten us about the quality and service, I'd appreciate hearing from you. 

Some examples from the spring line:

Linen knit tank, £65

Linen stitch detail sweater, £89
Hemp cotton short tee, £39
Garment dyed linen jeans, £79
Ramie maxi-skirt, £119

Printed linen jersey, £69

Linen jersey top, £49


The stacks of spring catalogs and websites beckon, and I seek a beacon amid the sea of stripes and flowers, chiffon and canvas. 

When faced with such bounty, I ask, What Would Jane Do? It is the Jane of today who inspires me, not the reedy muse of the '60s. The Birkin attitude, relaxed and unfussy, provides ballast against too much: too much embellishment, too much detail, too much much.

What Would Jane Do?

Mere et fille
1. Jane would never over-coif.

Her hair is always loose, touchable and not tarted up highlights that look like bad wallpaper.

2. Jane would apply a consistent point of view, and not dither, flou one day, Japanesey the next.

Birkin dresses as if she came from browsing in a bookstore. Her clothes look functional, comfortable and uncontrived. She skews to under-dressed, but notice that the belt on the photo is faced in pink leather. She knows that the wink delivers more than the shout.

3. Jane would not worry that a garment shows the aging bits.

There are evident signs of life on her 65-year-old neck:

Open collar, open face

and arms, which many women are terrified of exposing unless corded with muscle. But yes, Jane shows, and she smiles.

She shows her arms...

In fact, joy seems easily summoned, with its creases and exclamation marks:

...a gap-toothed smile

And character shows in her face, along with her years:

... and her journey

Suede with sable
4. Jane would wear beautiful pieces offhandedly.

That's a grey suede jacket trimmed in mink, worn over a thin cashmere tee. She wore this jacket (by Hermès) often in the last year, usually with jeans.

She adores that jacket, you can just tell. Why not wear it again and again?

In fact, it is difficult to date some photos of Birkin, because she repeats key items (cashmere tanks and tees, loose wool shirts; chunky knit jackets) or has nearly-identical versions.

4. Jane would wear black, not worrying that her St. Laurent le smoking is not this-very-instant trendy. Jane does not overthink or "tweak a classic", a phrase I've come to dread, as it usually results in messing with an impeccable design.

She would stand next to one of her talented daughters, Lou Doillon, and be proud.

Jane et Lou

A long sequined tank under a cardi; a shoe she can move in:

Birkin in black

6. Jane would wear colour, applied in unexpected combinations. She does not choose brights at her face.

At Hermès 2012 Fall Ready-to-Wear show in an aqua sweater over navy, with olive pants:

In the front row, bien sur!

On the red carpet in a caramel sweater that slips off the shoulder and a taxicab yellow skirt:

At the Venice Film Festival, 2011

A few tweaks

No one can be Jane but Jane, but anyone can borrow a few notions: pull on jeans, rake hands through hair, apply light makeup. Smile, wear your favourite things to tatters. Dress down when dressing up. But Jane pays attention; her style is gamine, not graceless. 

In Chucks

We differ in some ways: She wears little jewelery, maybe a thin bangle or chain with a small charm. She favours Converse Chuck Taylors, which make my feet sweat. Still, she is a model of a mature woman who looks entirely bien dan sa peau.

And her Birkin? I have zero; she has owned but four, serially, donating the first two to charity and auctioning the third last April on eBay to support Red Cross relief work in Japan. But the winner didn't get a pristine trophy for more than $160,000; the "beater Birkin" came with handles wound with worry beads, sides sporting stickers.

Jane's minou
"There's no fun in a bag if it's not kicked around", she says, "so that it looks as if the cat’s been sitting on it—and it usually has. The cat may even be in it!" 

(Photo of Jane's cat in her bag retrieved from the blog Christopher Niquet.)