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· Fashion Notes: Rebel Yell
· Culture Notes: Barefoot Contessa

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Fashion Notes: Rebel Yell
by The Kindly One


While flipping through a preview of Harper's Bazaar Fabulous at Every Age recently, I ran across an interesting point. Under the section for evening dressing, there was a picture of Lou Doillon as above, dressed for the Costume Institute Gala in 2008. Doillon's picture was used as an example of "rebel" dressing, and the accompanying soundbite urged readers to stay true to their style, even when dressing for night. This rang true for me. I know what it's like to try to dress for evening when all the styles for sale are ultra-feminine, super-girly, or just sexy-unto-skanky. It is hell. There is very little out there that is suitable for someone who doesn't want to dress like a cookie cutter image of a starlet, a porn star, or even a style blogger. Unlike regular people, who take their style inspirations from Sex and the City, starlets, and their morals and who only look upon Balenciaga and Givenchy as freaky aspirational wear (you know, the sane), I don't have the option of running to the store and finding something to wear. In order to stay true to my own look, I have to improvise and come up with something that is entirely my own. Though the eccentrics are small in number, we are not alone. Here are a few evening looks that I consider ideal.


I have loved this outfit on Daria Werbowy since I saw first saw it two or three years ago. She could have easily tarted up this Versace dress (it is not exactly quiet or modest). It's the addition of the jacket and the tights that take this from tacky to wearable, at least as defined by my scale of relativity. It's these personal touches that also transform this from a showstopper dress into an outfit. This outfit is an example of what can be done with evening wear and clothing in general - make it your own, add your own touch of what you think is right, and you look like an original, and it's this original approach that makes Daria stand out more in this dress than would JLo, Beyonce, and whoever else would place their more literal stamp on it.


This is another outfit burned into my brain. Worn to the 2000 Oscars, I was totally and completely taken with this Jean-Paul Gaultier look worn by Cate Blanchett. This is the ideal evening look for me: dramatic, minimal (just a plain black dress with a train), with jewelry acting as integral accessories to the look rather than show pieces in themselves. This look offers the showstopping, look-at-me qualities seen in other red carpet looks without the swagger of, say, a more blinged-out Versace number (see above). Despite the drama, the dress doesn't scream at you, and with the front kept plain, it still draws attention to the wearer rather than itself. I secretly hope to have an opportunity to wear this someday.


I can see how this Mary-Kate Olsen ensemble (front) could be considered obnoxious, but I get this on a very deep level. Nothing about this outfit goes together, not the black belt with the brown fur, not the transparency of the dress with the formality, and certainly not the hose with the wedge heel sandals. Somehow, though, where this would fall apart under other hands, these combinations seem to work together and flow under Mary-Kate's supervision. This is her specific vision of what she likes and how she thinks things go together, and it can be equally applied to both day and night. This is what separates the individual and particular from the merely pretty or conventional.

What I love most about this outfit, even more than the synthesis of its disparate Gothic elements, are the hose with the shoes. This is such a singularly eccentric element and looks so much like something I would wear myself.

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1/11/2010 [1]

Culture Notes: Barefoot Contessa
by The Kindly One


Barefoot Contessa speaks to that part of me that, in college, was enamored with all things American upper-middle class. At the time, I wanted to live expensively and well in Manhattan in what would essentially be an extended episode of the now-defunct The Isaac Mizrahi Show. Though not set in Manhattan, it is this rarefied experience of life that is explored in Barefoot Contessa, which follows Ina Garten as she pares down French cuisine and the best of American upper-middle class fare into recipes that can easily be reproduced at home. Set in the East Hamptons and Paris, this show follows the Food Network formula of luscious cinematagraphy, an easy, engaging pace, and friendly, informative host to invite viewers into the world of culinary arts. Barefoot Contessa is among my favorites of the Food Network lineup because Ina consistently features vegetarian dishes, truly pares down recipes to make them as simple and efficient as possible, and is a very warm, low-key host. She seems the type of person that, were you to attend her party, you'd leave feeling relaxed, warm, and well-fed.

Here's the thing about Barefoot Contessa: it can be really, really boring. The same things that make the show so comforting - Ina's laidback demeanor, the unhurried pace, the general lack of pretention - can also make it move at a glacial speed when Ina's preparing uninteresting dishes. So why keep watching? Because ultimately, the comfort the show offers doesn't come so much from the host or the food or the enjoyment of the show itself, but from it's secret subtext: money. This show is all about money, even moreso than most other Food Network offerings. Money is everywhere, from the fact that Ina owns residences in two exceedingly expensive locations to the warm, soft lighting to the expensively understated kitchen to the offerings themselves. As likeable as the show is, the best part of it is how its money smooths everything over. Ina's garden always looks immaculate, her guests have refined tastes, and everything runs smoothly and on time, therefore, no worries. It's really this idea of a world where money can buy time, peace, and a hassle-free existence that has me hooked on this show, just as when I previously wanted to live life as a guest on Isaac Mizrahi's show. Obviously, money cannot buy happiness or love, but it can make life considerably simpler. Having the money to afford the time and materials to invest in your hobbies, as well as in materials that consistently work well, must eliminate at least some of the hassles in life. Likewise, not having to worry about money and instead spending your time doing the things you want to do in life seems like a pretty fulfilling way to live. Of course, I couldn't tell you if that's how Ina Garten actually lives, and I am pretty sure Isaac Mizrahi doesn't get to enjoy that existence all the time. Still, it's nice to watch the illusion of it, and so I continue to watch Barefoot Contessa and wish I was in her kitchen, surrounded by gadgets I'd never use but still enjoy just for knowing that everything - in that kitchen, in that house, at my disposal - was there to make my life easier and more pleasureable.

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1/05/2010 [1]

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