I really don’t know much about men’s clothes. My husband buys his own and pretty much dresses himself without any help from me — that’s what getting married for the first time at age 47 does to you. Oh, he will occasionally ask fashion questions, but they’re usually along the lines of “Do you think you can sew this button back on?” and “Do I have any more black socks?” So I’m clueless about men’s style. But I’m easily impressed, and this gorgeous display of lavender and blue dress shirts and ties at Dillard’s in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, grabbed my attention this past week. I just wanted to touch all that soft and rich-looking fabric and play around with putting this shirt with that tie or maybe using that one over there. And I got a tiny bit jealous that men can wear what essentially are silky scarves every day. On the other hand, we women usually look better in a dress, so there you go.
Old Venice Pizza Co. in Tupelo, Mississippi, has turned into one of our go-to places for a good and quick lunch. Dear Husband will say, “I’m thinking pizza,” and we’ll head on out to hit the pizza/hot food/salad bar buffet, washed down with draft Blue Moon — and grab a nice melty soft cookie on the way out. (Thank you to whoever puts the cookies on a tiered server up high, under the buffet’s warming lights. Genius!) Thumbs-up all the way around. But you know a restaurant’s ladies’ room is just as important as the menu and the service — to me, anyway. And Old Venice in Tupelo passes inspection. I especially like the way the graceful branches of the dried flower arrangement echoed the intricate swirls of the wall decor. Probably whoever figured out the warm-cookie thing took care of this detail, too. And usually I manage to keep myself out of the shot but I wanted you to see my favorite purse. Younger Daughter gave it to me for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago, and I carry it practically every day from April through August. I love this purse! I can cram everything I need in it and it never gets full. It’s comfortable, and I get compliments on it all the time. In fact, one time in Mufreesboro, Tennessee, I left my husband to do some business while I wandered around the square, shopping and browsing trying to support the local economy. When he tried to follow me several minutes later, he correctly identified a store that seemed to be one I’d be interested in — who could resist those adorable sundresses in the window? — and went in inquiring about his wife. “Oh, she was the one with the cute green purse, right?” said the sales clerk. Right! Clean pretty bathrooms and cute green purses — what else does a woman need? Oh, yes — good pizza. Go to http://www.oldvenice.com/ to learn more.
I had a 24-hour run of very weird things happen to me — well, weird in my world, at least. Some of this may be slightly gross, so you have been warned. First, I lost my underwear. What happened was that I was visiting Older Daughter and I was taking a shower in 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s bathroom. I brought clean clothes in and took off my pajamas and underwear and then when I got out of the shower and got dressed in my clean clothes and gathered up my already-worn clothes, I could not find my underwear. Anywhere. Completely disappeared. I looked in all the towels and under the rugs, but nada. I even wondered if they’d gotten tangled up in the clean clothes — cargo capris and a T-shirt — I’d just put on but they didn’t seem to be there anywhere. (Notice how I’m trying to avoid the use of the word “underpants” since I am a good Southern girl and we just don’t use language like that out loud in mixed company.) My son-in-law gives my 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable his bath in that bathroom and I really didn’t want either of them to find my missing … well, you know, but a thorough search turned up nothing. So I sort of forgot about the mystery and went on about the day — playing outside, going out for lunch, meeting and greeting — until a few hours later when I returned to the bathroom. And as I was leaving, I felt something soft skitter down my leg and there on the floor was the missing article of clothing. It apparently had gotten tangled up in my pants and had only then worked its way down. Very strange. And what I want to know is: Has this happened to anybody else? Is there an epidemic of underwear falling out of people’s pants legs? Do I need to be on the lookout for this?
And the weirdness only continued: The next day I was late for a hair appointment but the salon was closed when I got there so I left to run more errands and then the stylist got there after all and thought I was late but I came back and we were each glad we hadn’t given in to our impulses to leave scathing voice mails. So I got in the chair and she started cutting and all of a sudden she asked me if I had any old pantyhose. (Yes, even when it’s 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity, we Southern women will still wear pantyhose.) Turns out hair salons are collecting the hair that usually ends up on the floor and sending it to the Gulf for use in buoys that will soak up some of the oil spill. And also collecting pantyhose to put the hair in. The stylist and I debated the merits of used versus new pantyhose for oil-soaking-up and didn’t reach any conclusion. But my hair did contribute to the cause.
Then I needed lunch but my favorite downtown lunch place turned out apparently not to be my favorite since it had closed two weeks ago and I didn’t even know. So then I craved a veggie burger from Burger King but the nearest BK had a note on the door saying its broiler was broken although they could still fry anything you wanted. Add in road work and detours everywhere. So there you go.
But all was well this morning because my weekly column in the Florence, Alabama, TimesDaily ran next to a story about “Sex and the City” fashion so my column and photo is right next to a the headline that reads ”Fabulous at any age.” Yes, ma’am. I’ll take any adjacent and reflected glory I can get.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi, it’s hot already. Summer definitely is here, and that means pared-down style — the simpler, the better. That’s why it’s good to have treasures like this sundress in your closet. I bought this in Birmingham I think about three years ago for around $150 and it’s one of the best buys I’ve ever made. This has turned into my go-to summer dress from May through September. I wear it everywhere for everything and I never get tired of it. “Why?” you ask. (You did. I could hear you.) “What’s so special about this dress?” Let me tell you. For one thing, it’s lightweight and comfortable, yet not so flimsy as to be transparent if I forget to wear a slip (you know we Southern women will not give up our slips.) It’s the perfect length — not so short as to make sitting down problematic but not too long as to look dowdy. Also, the straps are wide enough to cover bra straps but narrow enough to keep it in the sundress category. Plus, this fit is so flattering. With its shirred cummerbund-like empire waistline, it’s what Stacy and Clinton continually preach on “What Not To Wear” — have the emphasis at your narrowest part and let the skirt flow from there. And this dress is one of the most versatile things I own. The print isn’t so large as to be overwhelming yet it’s enough to camouflage spills. And I get a lot of spills because I wear this dress constantly. (Also: I’m a slob.) But the print almost qualifies this dress as a neutral, and as a neutral it’s easy to mix things up with a change of accessories. I’ve worn this dress with flats and heels, with big clunky jewelry and simple earrings, with blazers and sweaters. I’ve punched it up with yellow, green or blue accessories as well as white and black. I’ve worn it to casual cookouts and to fancy weddings, to graduations and baby showers, to church and out to eat. I love this dress! And your assignment is to go out and find one, too — and then let me know where it is so I can get another one.
Sometimes I truthfully do not understand fashion. Looking at this photo, you probably would think that this is a rack of leftover curtain fabric that somebody found in the back of an upholstery shop that closed in 1987 and had not been touched since then … sort of like an ugly-fabric time capsule. But, no. This is a rack of for-sale-now-get-’em-while-they’re-hot leggings at a teen-friendly mall store whose name I will not reveal because I like their cheap jewelry and I don’t want to have to put on dark glasses to shop there — but think along the lines of “Sue 21.” I promise you I had dresses made out of some of this fabric back when we also wore stirrup pants and big oversized sweatshirts with appliqued puppy dogs. Not pretty. I know that girls wear these with denim minis and look adorable, but I still have a hard time reconciling bad floral prints with high style. I can’t figure out if teenagers are wearing these ironically or if they really think these are cute or if they’re just happy to find something to wear for $9.99. Or maybe all of the above?
And while you’re pondering the future of leggings, think about TV, too. Seems to me that there are some really good shows on now — shows that combine comedy with intelligence and real life. Well, at least more real life than we’re used to on sitcoms. Modern Family, Cougar Town, Community, Parks and Rec — they all are on my list of favorites, and I bet they’re on yours too. Read my weekly newspaper column on the state of TV sitcoms at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100507/ARTICLES/5075004 and let me know what you think.
Back when I was a high-powered member of the media elite fulltime hack for my town’s daily newspaper, I had no qualms about squandering my paycheck on things such as $75 necklaces and $150 pair of shoes. And, actually, I still do that but I definitely have qualms … that my husband will find out. And, actually again, when I was a single mom of two daughters and eyeing every penny, I didn’t shop anywhere more expensive than the T.J. Maxx clearance rack. But when I got married six years ago and my household income practically tripled, I discovered the joys of shopping Just For Fun. However, now that my dear husband agreed I could leave the newsroom and be a poor struggling work-from-home freelance writer and we’re back to a one-regular-paycheck-family, I’m back to being conscious of what goes out versus what comes in. And all that is a long way around to say that when Younger Daughter and I found these adorable necklaces at Rue 21 in the mall, I scooped them up — and did a happy dance at checkout when I discovered they were all half-price, meaning that my delight at an estimated total of about $30 for all three was proportionally heightened when it turned out I only had to pay less than $15. I immediately put on the long one with the dragonfly and got three compliments on it before I’d even reached my car. They are big and colorful and cheerfully clanky and are just perfect for brightening up my usual T-shirt and jeans. Rue 21 is one of those youth-centric mall stores filled with throwaway fashion-of-the-moment — or so I thought until I went in and really paid attention. I believe I spied a sweater there that I’d seen on one of my most stylish grownup friends, so between that and my jewelry find, I’m adding Rue 21 to my rotation of stores-to-check-because-you-never-know-what-you-might-find. You’re welcome. http://www.rue21.com/
Okay, Easter’s over, and if you didn’t get your spring cleaning done already, don’t panic. There’s still time. Step No. 1? Declutter! Get all that junk out of your house. I promise that you’ll feel as if you put your house on a diet — it will feel that much lighter and sleeker. And the best way to declutter? A yard sale. Look, it’s win-win. You clean house, you make some money, you help the economy by offering folks some bargains and you further the cause of reduce-reuse-recycle. What’s not to like? Oh, yes: The hard and boring work of putting a yard sale together. But you’re in luck, because I talked to some yard-sale veterans who passed along some no-fail yard-sale tips for a newspaper article I wrote on how to have a successful yard sale. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025007 and get ready to have the best yard-sale ever.
And while you’re at the TimesDaily Web site, read my weekly column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025004, where you’ll discover the question that goes with this answer: “If your veins showing through the rip are as dark as the denim.” I promise you, this is fashion advice you will not get in Vogue.
Did you ever think about all the things you know and take for granted that somebody else might think is the most incredible idea ever? For instance, a friend of mine and her husband are hydroponic farmers. Twice a week (soon to be three-times-a-week, by the way, for all local fans of Jack O’Lantern Farms in Florence, Alabama), they host a market to sell their produce and other fresh and yummy food items. Recently they started selling Higher Ground coffee, and they offer samples of a different flavor at every market. One day my friend said she had made too much coffee for the market and hated to dump it all out. I said, “Just make coffee ice cubes.” Turns out she’d never heard of that, but I do it whenever I have leftover coffee — and it does happen! Just pour the extra elixir of life coffee into ice cube trays and freeze. When the cubes are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag. You can use them to cool a too-hot cup without watering it down. Or put them in smoothies or cold and/or frozen coffee drinks. Anyway, my friend thought that was genius, and it got me wondering about all those little tips we have tucked away that we never think to share. Here are two more of mine that maybe you’ve never considered:
1) Keep a pair of inexpensive utility scissors (not your good sewing scissors) plus some airtight-sealable plastic sandwich and quart bags in your bathroom. When you think you’ve gotten everything out of your tubes of lotions and creams and gels, cut them open and you’ll be amazed at what’s left. You can get several days’ use out of something you thought was empty. Just be sure to keep the cut tube pieces in an airtight plastic bag so the product doesn’t go all yucky.
2) Before you put your boots away for spring – and I’m talking your good leather boots here — take them to a shoe-repair shop for thorough cleaning and any repairs. Don’t be shy. Load up your car with every pair of boots you’ve got and take them all over. It may take a while to get them back and you might think it’s a bit pricey (or maybe that’s just my local shoe shop), but I promise you the bill will be less than a pair of new boots and you’ll extend the life of your favorite pairs by several seasons. Besides, you need a shoe shop on your side for those footwear emergencies that always seem to happen at the worse possible time.
My third tip? Never put a roll of damp paper towels over a light bulb to dry out. But probably you already knew that.
My friend Susan has a consignment store in Sheffield, Alabama, that’s full of treasures you just want to take home with you. Susan also has hired a new part-time employee with a wonderful creative eye for display and a stylish flair for vintage fashion. Okay, that employee is my Younger Daughter, but still! Susan and YD make a great team and visiting Upscale Resale is like browsing through a fun and funky antiques shop . I love the way YD has put together these retro looks with coordinating gloves, hats and handbags. Makes me feel all Jackie-O and Audrey Hepburn. I just missed the white-glove era but I (barely) can remember my mother tucking a pair, along with a floral cotton handkerchief, into her purse as she’d get ready for church on Sunday mornings. I think I remember that, anyway. I’ll have to ask her if she ever wore or took gloves to church when I was little or if I have completely and totally made that up – which is entirely possible. What I am sure of, however, is that a pair of white gloves is the perfect accessory for this lovely plum-colored spring suit with the pleated skirt and gorgeously tailored jacket. I can just see this at church on Easter Sunday, can’t you? Upscale Resale is at 2613 North Jackson Highway in Sheffield. Phone number is 256.381.7773. It’s open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to vintage clothing and jewelry, there is furniture, art work, home decor, glassware, books, holiday items and all sorts of things. You’ll love it!