Tag Archives: fashion

Barefoot Vogue

I read my first Vogue when I was 7. I was at Dick’s market on West 10th, just up from the intersection of Alma and 10th Avenue. Dick’s served as our family corner store for decades; there was a big customer base just from our household, never mind our friends. I was often sent down with a note to pick up a pack of Player’s Light or soda for G & T’s. I was always happy to take on any nicotine or mixer requests and made myself handy and willing to take people’s cash. Inevitably, they would tell me to ‘keep a little for myself’ and so the ‘chore’ became a shopping trip.

Dick’s had uneven floorboards that could give you deep slivers so you had to pad gently along on the balls of your feet in summertime. It was a  long, narrow building and the smell of Chinese cooking floated out towards the front of the store and mixed with old sugar, dust, and exhaust from the street. There was a shelf for magazines above where the candy was so inevitably you looked up and had a glance. Ours was a family where reading trumped manners so it wouldn’t be unusual for several of my brothers to stand around reading and not buying, but Dick never seemed to get too chuffed about it. It was a little shameful–I’d seen Doyle’s stop mid-sentence to read something and never return to the conversation.  So, I always knew that if I took too long on my cigarette run, I could tell my brother I had ‘started reading something’ and likely be forgiven.

On this particular day, Dick was in the back and the store was empty, the only sound was the hum of the deep freeze pumping away to stay cool in the heat.  I counted out 5 little sweet banana candies which my brother said were so gross and stale but I liked the way I could keep one dissolving slowly in my mouth nearly all the way home. Then a word in red caught my eye above me: it was Vogue. I took it down and started to thumb through it. I don’t remember how long I was there but I heard Dick start laughing behind me suddenly and I threw the magazine up on the shelf and turned to hand over the note, the money, and the bananas. He said, “That isn’t for you! No! Not for you yet, not reading this stuff!” I smiled, like, oops, you’re right but I knew he was wrong. Dead wrong. That magazine was exactly for me. In fact, it was the only exact me thing in my entire world. With maybe the exception of my charm bracelet from Paris my mom and dad had given me.

I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was soon after that I cobbled together enough to buy my first Vogue. I’ve bought every month since. It was such an odd pairing, the pack of Player’s Light for my brother and me holding a Vogue but there was nothing like sneaking off and escaping into the September issue while the sounds of my house faded and Diana Vreeland and Pucci surfaced up and took me to Milan and New York. It became like a last line of defence for me throughout my life: If I couldn’t afford a Vogue then I may as well just pack it in.

This September is the biggest issue yet. They say that every year. They (namely Anna Wintour) literally have rolled out the same campaign since well, I’m not going to tell, it will age me. This year the lovely Lady Gaga is on the cover. I’m sitting down with it now so don’t call, I’m somewhere between Balmain and Chanel.


Filed under Memoir

Naked, Vulnerability, Genes: Meow

Recently, I was posing for a photographer with my long-time friend Sarah Petrescu who was producing her last Fashion column for her newspaper before a year-long sabbatical. (I have a special place in my heart for Sarah as she knew me when I had a baby in my arms reading poetry on the Sunshine Coast many, many years ago and we bonded as writers then).  I was flattered she asked but more so touched that I would be in her last fashion piece for a long while. When I arrived at Bernstein and Gold, likely my favourite store in Victoria, I of course fell instantly in love with their entire fall collection. But I was working, not shopping and had a few dresses to try on for the shoot; one was a gorgeous silk light-as-air dress in white with a little geometric pattern and two sexy little bows on the hip and shoulder and the other was a clingy, hip-hugging, very flattering Diane Von Furstenburg in deep burgundy. The women collectively decided that was ‘the one’. It felt fan-effing fabulous on and I desperately lusted after it as soon I wriggled into it’s tight little contours. Diane Von Furstenburg is a woman who designs for real women–professional women–and this dress would go the mile and a half on any business meeting followed by dinner and even a midnight tryst in a martini bar. It had legs.

When we arrived for the shoot, to my surprise, the other models looked like they had not yet graduated high school. A sort of panic started when I imagined our pictures side by side in the newspaper but then I looked down at the dress and went fuck it and played that Bif Naked song in my head, ‘I love myself today!’. While a few of the models were being shot, I stood and chatted with a young male model who my first words to were: ‘You need to go model for Abercrombie and Fitch‘. He said he doesn’t like to be photographed. I said, ‘Get over it’.

I seriously don’t understand when people are genetically given a lottery that they don’t see it. I don’t think I’ve seen such an attractive man in years. I counseled him on other brands he could easily work for with his particular looks, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan. He had that all-American east coast look and in his fall sweater, with a high-collar, he looked like he should be heading to the Kennedy compound for the weekend.

It was a hot day and I was in a hot dress so I suggested to him we go do shooters of Tequila next door at the Mexican restaurant and then maybe some Corona’s? I was completely kidding, just horsing around, but, to my surprise he was game. (We did not drink on set, just for the record, though he was game for post-shoot cocktails). Now, here’s the thing all men above 30 that I can share with you: the reason there are ‘Cougars’ is, in a large part, because of our hormones, but more so it is because as a woman gets older, she gets more….to the point. She wants what she wants and doesn’t like to negotiate about it and younger men are, well, more game for the most part. I could be wrong–I’m open to anyone who wants to argue this point, because I have enough stories to fill a library on this subject.

This morning I was reading The Daily Love’s post by Mastin Kipp (who is a sexy enlightened beast), Vulnerability is Strength, and I was struck by this quote, because it describes what I am getting at much better than I am attempting to do:

“Instead of trying to change yourself to please others and then taking rejection as a sign that something is wrong with you, let’s step into our authentic power and allow ourselves to be ourselves with no apologies.”

Yes. Bravo. As I walked down Pandora towards the lens going click, click, click, with lines of cars idling beside me, windows open, I had a moment of oh god, this is really kind of embarassing, then my friend Sarah told me to wiggle my hips more and look to my right. I smiled, and as I did I met the eyes of  more than a few drivers who smiled right back at me. In that moment, letting my hips do their thing, I guess I had stepped into my ‘authentic power…with no apologies’.

Post shoot note: Thanks Sarah for the experience. We’ll miss your daily writing for us here in YYJ, but I cannot wait to see what you’ll write from your journeys this year.


Filed under Dating, Humour

Chanel No. 5

The bathroom on the main floor of the house I grew up in was not a place you lingered. Because outside the door, someone inevitably was waiting, tapping their foot, rapping impatiently on the door, rattling the knob, then threatening to come in. With up to 13 people eating, arguing, watching television, talking on the phone, fighting, and all manner of sneaky plans being hatched in the hallway, no peace could be had in that main floor bathroom. But clearly I had something inside me that fortified my small uniquely feminine soul –relative to the male population of my home–long enough to more than linger, but camp out in that bathroom. During Christmas dinner.

Now, Christmas dinner at our house was an event that most people would assume was a mass gathering of some kind of tribe that has lost their hearing and had living tape worms inside them so no one noticed for quite a while that I was in the bathroom and not in fact returning to the dinner table. I suppose someone finally succumbed to the cherry fizz pop and found they couldn’t get me out of there. I remember people calling to me through the door. I also remember someone cutting the glass out of the top of the door and coming through. Clearly, I had boundaries that weren’t understood by others in my tribe.

Undeterred by my rescue and subsequent punishment, I continued to lock the door of the bathroom so that I could, without admonishment from a brother about ‘snooping’, go to the tiny little wooden cupboard where on two tiny little squares of shelf lived my mother’s entire beauty regime: 1 bottle of Chanel No. 5. 1 bottle of Oil of Olay.

This was the one space where male ended, however briefly, and female emerged in a 4 inch square of heaven. I would cradle that Chanel bottle in my hands, rolling it over and over, reading the tiny print on the back, Paris, Paris, Paris, this came from Paris! And the elegant, stark font in black, so simple, so perfect, so otherworldly.

Bang, bang, bang on the door. I jump out of my skin. How long had I been in there?

When kicked out the bathroom I would head right across the hall to my mom’s closet where there were two little drawers inside the closet at the very top full of jewelry and scarves. Most of them I realized were appropriate for the CWA–Catholic Women’s League–but there was one item I knew for sure made me sing ‘One of these things is not like the other’. It was a scarf bigger than me. I could wrap it around me sarong-like and imagine myself in a limousine nodding ever so slightly to the driver to go. The borders were a rich red and on the inside was the most fairytale collection of autumn leaves and acorns twisted together to create a vision of an Austrian fall festival. In the corner, in curling, graceful letters read: Christian Dior.

I made up a story that my father was given the scarf in Paris during the war and when he met my mother at a dance gave it to her as he had fallen in love the moment she handed him her dance card. As I grew up, I sometimes forgot this was not remotely how the story went (my father was shot down in Italy, nowhere near Paris, perfume, or designers).

When I was an adult I took the scarf to a dry cleaner and he gave it back to me in shredded tatters. I stood and cried. Of course he wouldn’t know about the shelf, or the closet, or the dream world that I lived in that had no resemblance to the actual world I inhabited. How could he know that he’d destroyed my talisman? While some may say fashion is superficial, I suspect they’re also people who don’t like theatre or opera or great art. For me, an enduring comfort in my life is in knowing Chanel No. 5 will never go out of style and that my mother, with her 9 sons, and sensible church shoes, clearly knew this as well.


Filed under Memoir

Why I won’t be disappointed in New York

Some people go to Church....others read Vogue.

I’m going to New York and all anyone can say is: You might be disappointed. Maybe because when I talk about my trip I look like a one of the short folks in Wizard of Oz when Glinda arrives, fairy dust coating my eyes, with visions of lunching with Carrie and shopping with  Hepburn at Tiffany’s. I know what they’re thinking given my childlike demeanor but no amount of sober reality will deter my experience from being amazing. Here’s why:

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When I was around 6 or maybe 7, my dad had a heart attack while he sat across from me at the kitchen table. Luckily, my Uncle Murray was there and took him to the hospital along with my mom. For some unknown reason, my house was not in fact full of a 100 people and I snuck into the den perhaps in part to escape the afternoon’s tragic turn of events and turned the television on. I entered a world called Breakfast at Tiffany’s and in no small way I very likely have never come back from that fabulous place discovered on that eerily quiet afternoon.
  2. Vogue. I bought my first Vogue at around this same time, and have devoured approximately 45,000 fashion shoots in New York and know full well that Paris may be where the couture is, but the Queen of Fashion, Anna Wintour, lives in New York as well as her creative genius, Tonne Goodman. Both are up in those Vogue offices dreaming of the next issue and I’ll be thrilled to be in their storied world however briefly.
  3. Art. Lots of art. Street art. Ancient art. Fashion art. Dance arts. Theatre arts. Architecture. Some of the greatest art in the world. Humbled and joyous will be a mix of what I’ll feel I’m sure.
  4. Central Park. How can you go through life never having kissed in Central Park?
  5. The Plaza. C’mon, do I need to explain this one? I grew up in a crib that was then made to resemble a bed, with ice on the inside of my bedroom windows, and linoleum floors so ugly my toes curled up in disgust.

I won’t be disappointed.

I will love, love, love New York and fingers crossed I even have the wherewithal to leave the promised land after I arrive.


Filed under Humour