Friday, March 27, 2009

Styling Mouse

Many of you know I used to work in fashion retail. Some of you remember my silver kit which had as many as 20 different colors of lipsticks in it. Fifteen years ago I was practically fresh out of college, was a store manager and sample fitter for a now defunct ladies' wear brand. Things like makeup, hair color, nailpolish, shoes and bags (and combinations thereof) mattered. Well, it was a business. I hadn't had chicken pox yet, had perfect skin and was the average Filipina size for our target market. I felt like I could run a marathon in high heels. Well, years later my career path diverged sharply into a direction where one could survive an entire trip to the mountains with just petroleum jelly and spf50 sunblock.

I miss it, and I don't miss it. If it wasn't for work I wouldn't be that much into fashion. Except I'm a girl, and there are things that eternally fascinate me (like beautifully made, stylish shoes) but I can live cheerfully without. I love shopping and can't resist bargains, though.

The last dress I wore to a major occasion (Jun and Jangky's beach wedding) looked like this:

and I only paid PhP1.8k versus something like PhP3.5k ready made and PhP 7k if custom-made. I found it by accident hanging behind another dress I thought I liked in the Greenhills tiangge, and rejoiced at the fact that I didn't have to iron it. I rolled it into a ball, threw it in my knapsack, and got on the plane. And I already had the zebra thongs and dangling earrings and the similarly colored agate bead bracelet and the false eyelashes to go with it. It was FUN.

Over the past year, I've been wearing more dresses and skirts. The silhouettes range from jersey wrap dresses (think Diane von Furstenberg) to Jackie Kennedy '60s sheath dresses to very feminine and very forgiving swingy A-line skirts. Great with high heels. Both TDM and my dad love seeing me look girly. It's an age-appropriate look that's classic, comfortable and easy to put together. And as times require some belt-tightening, I haven't bought anything new since then (that statement does not include books and fountain pens, which are essential to my happiness). Well, ok, I bought some purple suede strappy stack-heeled Nine West sandals at a Baguio City wagwagan for waaay less than what some would think. One needs a few quirky items to cheer oneself up with now and then.

Earlier I was chatting with my friend Raffy and while discussing watches and other accessories, he had me look at several style blogs. While some were interesting, I thoroughly enjoyed Sea of Shoes. It's by a 17-year-old Texan schoolgirl, who I find is artistic and has good taste for someone her age, not to mention the fashion budget of Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf or Serena van der Woodsen. And she has a cool mom, too. The blog has a sort of European sensibility. Kathy, on the other hand, pointed me towards Song of Style for fashion with a more Asian sensibility. The blogger is an Asian-American interior design student who can - and does - make her own evening wear. While long shirts worn as dresses don't really appeal to me, she manages to put together other edgy looks dictated by her own personality. I admire that. 'Ika nga nila, kering-keri.

Of course our real lives don't necessarily have to slavishly follow the lifestyles perpetuated in the style blogs we enjoy. It's vicarious, but it helps you define things you like (or, to make it easier, what you DON'T like). One thing Raffy and Kathy (they don't know each other) and I do agree on is that vintage, if it suits you, can be very good. In Raffy's case, vintage or retro-styled watches and accent pieces, and in Kathy's case, jewelry, dresses and retro-styled shoes. I happen to think vintage dress shapes suit my current figure. One site,, has a number of things I rather like and would actually wear: the Torch Song dress, the Mason Dixon, the Fashion Dictionary, American Bandstand, Wishing on a Star, The Australia, the Neo-Hippie (see dress pictured above), the Rock and Roll Dream dress, and the Everlasting Love. Ok, I actually found the site via, and that doesn't necessarily I mean I want to look like Dita von Teese.

On a parting note, check out this character's outfit from that excellent tv series Mad Men. I can imagine myself in the red dress (I have something similar), except, of course for the uh, conical underwear that make one's ta-tas look like nuclear warheads.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coco Avant Chanel

Finally! A movie about Coco Chanel is under production! Here's a poster shot from Warner Bros.:

It must be the season for French diva movies. First, Marion Cotillard wins an Academy Award for her role as singer Edith Piaf in La Mome (La Vie En Rose, after her most famous song). I must say, she earned it. The role was demanding, larger than life. If you haven't seen it, and you like a bit of history, and need that voyeuristic thrill that all readers of autobiographies thrive on, you must watch it. For best results, keep the original French audio with the English subtitles.

Now we have Audrey Tautou (as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel! Coco Avant Chanel chronicles her life before (avant) her transformation into a revolutionary fashion designer and style icon. Perhaps that latter part in itself deserves a separate movie. And if they do make one, let Audrey star in it too! I would be excited about that as well. Audrey also happens to be the new Face of Chanel No. 5, replacing Nicole Kidman. I rather like the idea of a Frenchwoman representing a French brand.

I mean, it was impossible to do a movie of the whole of Picasso's life, but it becomes more interesting from the point of view of of his companion, artist Francoise Gilot - mother of 80's jewelry designer Paloma Picasso of the famous red lipstick - in Surviving Picasso. It was based on her book, quite a fascinating read. Natascha McElhone got the Francoise character down pat. (OK, so Picasso was a Spanish diva, but he was a French resident.)

Click here (silent movie tribute) and here (official trailer, in French), and I'll see you at the theatres in a year or so. In the meantime, salut.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tweening-Up An Icon

Mothers rampaged after Nickelodeon and Mattel announced teaming up to produce a tween version of Dora, as a doll. People like Dora the way she is, an intrepid child explorer. I like her, I've watched enough Dora episodes with my 3yo niece Lilo, who has almost the exact same bowl-shaped haircut.

What's a tween anyway? A kid under 13 that's preparing to be a teenager, someone in between. At least that's how I remember Hilary Duff as Disney's Lizzie McGuire explaining her age group to her mother. Her mother didn't realize tween-hood was a huge niche market for Disney, Nickelodeon, Mattel and similar corporations. I got my first bra at age 11. Is that when it starts, tween-hood? Or does it start younger? I think it started when I belatedly realized that there were "It" things. I was utterly clueless about why one had to have an "It" thing. In our day everyone wore jeans and t-shirts and Adidas Hurricanes. I had a Barbie, a Miss America Barbie hand-me-down in fact, but Barbies were white, and I certainly did not want to BE Barbie. Barbie was just another doll I liked to make clothes for. It's like me not believing in Santa. There's no snow, there are no chimneys in Manila, and there are loving parents and godparents and God who knew whether I was naughty or nice.

What marked a girl's fashion mobility then was her owning (or not) anything produced by Sanrio. I was in that tomboyish stage and, at Grade 4, was suddenly horrified at having been left behind by the Sanrio merchandise bus that I cried for an entire afternoon wondering why my mom didn't think of my welfare enough to get me anything Sanrio. In reality my mom, a full-time biology professor, was as much in the dark then as Lizzie McGuire's mother. She did, however, realize that buying me a Little Twin Stars pencil case would help my social networking with other girls. (Later on, when I'd saved a bit from my allowance I got myself an apple green Tiny Poem passcase for my school ID. I was never the Hello Kitty fan.) Did it cure me of having to have an "It" thing? Well, adolescence was a rocky road to finding out one's true identity and beingness. My beingness today does not require an "It" thing.

What bothered me about tween-dom was the absolute lack of appropriate role models. Just a decade ago, a number of parents worried about their children thinking it was ok to want to look like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Of course as former Mickey Mouse Club members they needed to develop adult careers, but the pervasive media exposure made children believe that wearing too much makeup and dressing inappropriately for their age was acceptable. One time I was in Rockwell with friends from my former airsoft team, some of them new parents. A group of young expat girls passed us as we were having coffee. We were startled by the amount of mascara and lipstick that was on them. Jag was mortally offended by the thongs-and-butt-crack and let-it-all-hang-out-belly display over low-cut jeans. He works in media, and he knows what media considers "pretty". "NOT pretty!" he thundered. "They're not even physically fit! How dare they wear that excuse for fashion?" But do the tweens know that, or even care? Do their parents know that, or even care? (My friends care, and their daughters are pretty, intelligent, secure and well-adjusted. Well done, Jag & Imee, Mike & Kathy!)

What followed was an intense discussion about whether the parents would buy Barbie sandals with heels on them (a resounding NO). Would you let your children wear tube tops that, after an hour or so of rough play, turn into belts? Another resounding NO. If your child were morena, would you let them to wear fuschia/hot pink because that's what the Barbie colors are? Soft yellow, and soft pink, maybe. Would you give them Bratz dolls? What, and have them look like jailbait? NO, NO, NO!!! Some years later I became an aunt, and the discussions - and the answers - were still the same. Only now the Disney role models are Hannah Montana and the High School Musical kids. I don't know. Miley Cyrus sings well, but lately she's been having attitude issues and looks clearly anxious to move onto more "adult" activities. Vanessa Hudgens' nudity boo-boo puts her out of the tween role model race. Demi Lovato... now there's a talented young girl for you. I know that not every Disney girl can become Anne Hathaway, but then they are only children. Greedy managers, lax parents, uneven school experience, they're children without much of a childhood, really.

In the end, Dora will remain the Dora of the tv show. The tween Dora is supposed to be just a doll, meant to accompany their fans through tweenhood. From the published images, the tween Dora ain't so bad. Nickelodeon and Mattel employ a number of parents.

I personally would like to see children look like children, play like children, dress like children. I would like for them to enjoy their childhoods and not hurry up to look like someone they aren't ready to be, or someone they THINK they're supposed to be. I don't have children, but I don't want any child I love to be walking around in a mall mortally offending adults by looking as though her parents don't care about her, who might receive a comment like, "NOT pretty!" But I am not a parent, and parents do not own their children. The very best they can do is to be their children's best examples of how to conduct oneself in public.

A Dream of Green

It rained today, and I was glad. The city is clouded by a fine smog we're so used to that we scarcely remember it's there, and only remember when we see what we've cleaned out of our noses. The pavements and the glass windows of all the buildings bounce summer's UV rays all over, and that is why, my friends, I insist on arming myself with sunblock even when the clouds are out. We chill out in the malls, and hide behind the tinted glass in airconditioned comfort, not venturing out unless it's absolutely necessary.

Now I know why Greenbelt is named that way. Development and urbanization are everywhere, and we need green areas for balance. Thank goodness Ayala Land has kept this little oasis in Makati well-cared for. I was there, recently, to watch The Reader at Greenbelt 3, on a Sunday afternoon. After the movie Joy, Tristan and I parted ways temporarily to windowshop. On my way to National Bookstore I took my sweet time strolling. The landscaping is wonderful. Variegated bushes, tree ferns, palms, acacias, and best of all - layered groupings of beautiful, breathtaking bamboos. (I love bamboos. The bamboos in Ayala Center are uber special.) And small clean waterways, fountained reflecting pools and goldfish ponds (I wouldn't say koi, the fish are tiny and the ponds are too shallow).

The greenness took my mind off my worries, off the heat, made me forget the time. Joy and Tristan were peeved at me, but cooled their tempers near the Ayala Museum fountains. A little boy was crouching over the lip of a nearby pond, mesmerized, paying no heed to his mother, who was cautioning him not to fall in. He probably understands how I felt that day.

Two Decembers ago TDM and I went for a walk after a romantic dinner in Greenbelt 2, and he was startled to find that the ducks posing on the banks of the stream were real. He thought (he wasn't wearing glasses) they were something like Miami flamingo garden ornaments, until they moved. He then asked me, "Isn't this where the Aviary used to be?" I do think so, I remember having visited there a few times in high school. I wonder what happened to all the wildlife there. At any rate, I am happy that they kept the greenery. Last Christmas I took some balikbayan friends to Greenbelt 3 for coffee. They were astounded that there was a hidden micro-forest inside Makati, just two blocks away from their hotel! "But we couldn't even see the trees from the hotel... if you didn't bring us here we'd have no idea!" Despite the fact that the outdoor tables meant possibly breathing other people's secondhand smoke, we camped under a big acacia decked with fairy lights. They were ecstatic.

It seems too much of a pipe dream to expect Ortigas & Co. to create for the business district a safe and beautiful park. Ayala had a head start in Makati some 50 or so years ago. I might not live long enough to see such a park here, but who knows? One day, perhaps.

Here where I live, at least there are trees and a pool and and the noises of children playing. There are fallen leaves on the sidewalks. Of course it doesn't really compare to growing up in UP, amid the fruit trees, the acacias, and the wildflowers. At least, here, when it rains, I still get to smell that wet earth and bruised grass smell, which I love.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

During the Digital Blackout

There are times when I need to stay away from the pc. These are the times when I crave sunlight, and action, and the company of flesh and blood friends, which is basically on weekends.

You know the feeling when someone says calls a certain social networking site "Crackbook". You know that you are tweeting brain farts but can't help yourself, because it's just there. You get to a point when you feel you are just lurking among friends' plurks, and wonder... what are fans for, tools to get karma points? Do I even need fans? A good friend of mine has indicated that his Lenten sacrifice would be to give up social network sites while he meditates on what is really important.

So I tried to give up Plurk one weekend. (Now I like Plurk better than Twitter for functionality and settings options, but that's just my geekiness.) One weekend turned into something like ten days. When I returned and my karma points plummeted, I didn't feel a thing. Ok, maybe mild amusement. Of course my REAL friends missed me, we don't see each other that often, but the feeling that one MUST gain karma points disappeared.

If there's one thing online hard to give up, that would be email. I could stay away from the pc, but not the phone. Email still tells you what happens on Facebook, but you still have to log in to check the details of it. I have had to ignore friend requests many times because I am not really motivated to join Mob Wars or Elven or Vampire whatsits. Ok, once in a while I'll send Ice Cream or Fountain Pen gifts, and Pieces of Flair. But I think it's hard to stay away from the friends you found again, or the family members on the other side of the world. Those are the meaningful connections. "Meaningful" is the operative word.

If one day the unthinkable happened and the world was bereft of real-time digital connections, how would we fare? I have returned to writing real letters to people who appreciate them. It's something that you can open again and again, and enjoy.

Time away from the pc has also allowed me time to read new books. One is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, about a young boy and a mysterious book, in post-Civil War Barcelona. The other is The Rescue Artist, Edward Dolnick's nonfiction account of how an intrepid Scotland Yard art detective recovers Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream, stolen on the eve of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

10 Questions

1) How's the health situation?

Entering second month of daily thyroid medicine. Will have size of cyst checked soon.

2) What's on the needles?

I finished a prototype penholder with flap meant for a single fountain pen. It's in olive green worsted acrylic. Still haven't started the 2-pen holder. Still haven't planned a multi-pen wrap based on a pattern originally meant to hold a set of crochet hooks.

3) Last restaurant you dined at, not in your neighborhood?

Ying Ying tea house on the corner of Yuchengco and Dasmarinas Sts., in Binondo. Recommended: Oyster pancake Hong Kong-style. Flatter and crunchy on the sides. Good for 4, family-style sharing.

4) Last restaurant you dined at, in your neighborhood?

Pancake House Metrowalk, where I had a lovely breakfast date with TDM. Instead of Bacon Waffles I had the Cheese this time. Yummy, but Bacon is still my favorite.

5) Most recent writing activity?

Not counting work and emails, today I wrote 3 snail letters in various fountain pen ink colors, to Cathy, Richard and Lucia. I just realized orange ink is a yummy color, in a broad nib.

6) What are you currently watching?

I downloaded the BBC's gothic and more stylish version of Buffy, Hex, seasons 1 and 2 (2004). I watched it on AXN last year and find it's still enjoyable watching it over again. Alas, the series was not renewed. However it's made me a fan of young British actress Jemima Rooper, who plays the lesbian ghost roommate character who makes off-the-wall fly-on-the-wall comments for the benefit of us viewers. That's where I first saw Michael Fassbender, who plays Nephilim leader Azazeal (isn't it supposed to be spelled Azazael?) who is hell-bent on fathering a hybrid child on his generations of witch lovers, in order to let loose the 200 Nephilim upon the unsuspecting 21st century world. Fassbender was next seen in 300 as Stelios, the Spartan who takes a running leap at Xerxes with his spear. He is The Hotness.

Just before Hex I really enjoyed watching Anna Paquin as vampire lover Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood. In my opinion the show is BETTER than Twilight. Am looking for the Sookie Stackhouse books on which it is based. Too bad the series' second season will not air in the US until June. I rather liked the rednekkidness of the show. Yes, by that I mean lots of rednecks and lots of nekkidness. It gives you an insight into why you can't take Louisiana out of Britney Spears.

7) Where do I want to return?

Binondo, for a longer walking tour that lets me pass by Eng Bee Tin for hopia and machang and have my picture beside the church and the famous ube-colored firetruck.

Bataan, for quality time with TDM.

Bacolod, so I can spend more time with my cousins.

Boracay, to get a bit of happy sun, sand and surf.

Baguio, for nice leather bags from the UK (that's ukay-ukay to you).

Hmmm, those are all B's. Next I should go to Batangas and Bohol...

8) What are you excited about?

I will be attending a bookbinding workshop given by paper artist Loreto Apilado in May. Even though I don't know how much it is yet. That's three Saturdays.

9) What do you think about Octuplet Mom Nadya Suleman?

She is a menace to society, a burden to US taxpayers, and needs psychiatric treatment for being so selfish about wanting to bring children into the world to feed her own ego.

10) What is your advice to Rihanna?

It's a vicious cycle, sister. You think you don't want to throw away the time you invested on an immature insincere no-good bull-headed power-tripping [expletive] [derogatory noun]? You're only 21! You have nothing but time. There is absolutely no reason in the world why you should allow yourself to be treated like crap. Chris Brown does NOT deserve you. Chris Brown deserves to be IN JAIL.

When you work in the entertainment industry don't give me bull about how it's none of my business. If I see you on tv or listen to you or read about you and it's because you are a public figure, so it IS my business. Listen to Oprah.

Listen to Oprah. She's the best umbrella you could have in the business.