2011 Oscars: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly

For starters, I loved everything Anne Hathaway wore throughout the evening. My fave of the bunch was her Lanvin tuxedo…and oh! those shoes.

There were enough girlie elements in play for this to work and not look like she hired a tailor to alter a man’s suit. I think she pulled it off beautifully.

She also looked fabulous in her Valentino archive, and while I like the red lipstick, I think the red nails were a bit much.

Natalie Portman was stunning in Rodarte, and the color was beautiful on her.

Amy Adams was majestic in L’Wren Scott, but I honestly would have ditched the $1.35 million in Cartier emeralds that competed with the dress.

Kudos to Helen Mirren and Oprah Winfrey for proving, once again, that you don’t have to be under 30 to look fabulous.

Moving in the opposite age direction, 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld was blushingly beautiful in Marchesa.

My votes for highly questionable taste go to:

Melissa Leo, wearing my nonna’s special-occasion tablecloth

Cate Blanchett, whose beads look like some sort of terrible skin growth

Hilary Swank, wearing what appears to be feathers that have been dragged through the street

Mandy Moore, whose stylist apparently thinks it works when you match fabric to skin

Helena Bonham-Carter, who is so bloody good at being crazily inappropriate HBC

The Little Black Dress

I will be attending an authors’ event in two weeks, and, as is my habit, I’ve been obsessing over what to wear. Business attire is encouraged, although event organizers have made it clear that attendees of this annual fundraiser often show up in cocktail dresses. The dilemma: do I risk getting too dressed up and possibly look like I’m trying too hard? Because I’m one of the authors—not a paying guests—is it better for me to knock it down a notch or two? The answers I’ve finally landed on are “no” and “yes”…in that order.

And so began my quest for the perfect little black dress. A woman can rarely go wrong with the LBD, since it has the advantage of being dressed up or down as an event dictates. Change the jewelry and shoes, and the look can go from meeting appropriate to night on the town.

I found these two on the Nordstrom Web site…both very similar and classic in design.

Donna Ricco Ruched Matte Jersey Sheath Dress

Adrianna Papell Pleated Jersey Sheath Dress

Since they’re not available in the store, I ordered them both.



That’s a little misleading. What I actually did was order them both in each of two sizes. (Thank you, Nordstrom, for having a don’t ask/don’t tell return policy.)

Before you dismiss me as a dimwit, I do have a rationale for purchasing four dresses with the intention of keeping only one.

Clearly, the dress needs to fit close to the body on the top half, yet shouldn’t be too terribly clingy on the bottom half if hips are an issue. Translation: there’s a very good possibility that the top of one size and the bottom of another may actually be just right, which is a common occurrence with a sheath and the primary reason why God made tailors.

If you care, I promise to report back. The dresses are due to arrive in about a week, at which time I will hold my own private little fashion show for my profoundly tolerant husband.

The Handbag’s Tale

A stylist once told me that when a customer walks into a high-end store, the first things the salespeople notice are watch, shoes, and handbag. Apparently, these three items determine your spending ability. While I don’t especially care what a clerk thinks I can or cannot afford, I agree that those accessories make a strong first impression. Since I’ve previously addressed the investment potential of a good watch and I’m always blogging about shoes, let’s move on to handbags.

When I first moved to LA, I decided that I needed a new purse. My first stop was the section of Wilshire Boulevard that runs parallel to Rodeo Drive…Barneys, Saks, and Neiman’s are all in that neighborhood. (Yes, I know I picked the priciest part of Beverly Hills in which to launch my search, but heck…I was new in town. I wanted to shop where the big girls shop.) Culture shock started to brew when I walked into Barneys and discovered there wasn’t a thing to be had for under a hefty four figures. $3800 for a handbag? For that price, it should automatically generate hundred-dollar bills when you’re not looking.

I moved on to Saks. After a considerable amount of searching and gasping at price tags, I finally found a marshmallow-soft leather hobo for $550. Steal! As I stood in line waiting to pay for it, I realized that the monthly rent on my just-off-Park-Avenue apartment on the Upper East Side of New York was precisely the same cost. Granted, that was in 1981, but still…

By the time it was my turn at the cash register, my heart was pounding and my guilt was building. It’s even possible that I might have been sweating. I took a deep breath and handed the saleswoman my credit card, rationalizations and justifications for my purchase swimming in my head.

“That will be $239.47,” she said.




Noting my perplexed (read: stoopit) expression, she politely told me that the bag was on sale. Relief flooded over me. I thanked her, took my purchase, and staggered outside. I felt as if I had just escaped unscathed from a war zone.

Things went steadily downhill after that. The longer I lived in LA, the more immune I became to insane price tags. While I wasn’t necessarily paying top dollar for everything I bought, I was no longer choking at the sight of $130 T-shirts or $4000 dresses. And then Christina came to visit.

Christina is a very dear friend who lives in Rochester, NY. She works part time at a fabulous shop there called A Different Point of View, and she’s singularly responsible for introducing me to the incredible designs of Sarah Pacini. Christina and I love to shop together, so it was only natural for me to take her to Barneys.

It started out safely enough. We both bought fragrances…not cheap, but not outrageous. And then it happened. While wandering through display after display of designer handbags, I saw it. A Balenciaga purse. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. I was smitten. Dazzled. Overcome with desire. I had to make it mine. The clerk conveniently informed me that if I opened up a Barneys charge account, I would automatically save 10 percent. 10 percent! That would cut the price by a whopping $……

Okay. I can’t go there. I’m not going to admit what I paid for it. But I was in love in a way I’d never been in love with an accessory before, and I was ready to take the plunge.

Now here’s the rub. For all it’s beauty—and it is truly gorgeous— it is the worst handbag I have ever owned. Within months, the leather looked as if it was desperate for a drink of water, and no amount of leather cream could slake it. Within a year, the shoulder strap was so worn that the leather had actually cracked and split in places. When I called Balenciaga to see if I could get a replacement strap, I was referred back to Barneys. When I contacted Barneys, the clerk laughed. “Balenciaga doesn’t make good on any of their products,” he said. “I’m sorry…we can’t help you either.”

At present, the bag is on the east coast being “evaluated” by a leather-repair expert to determine if anything can be done. Did I learn a lesson in the process? I’m not quite sure. I have to admit that I loved having such an elegant bag on my shoulder. I loved when strangers—okay, strangers who recognized the signature Balenciaga hardware—would comment on its beauty. But when it started to weather like something I might have picked up on sale at Walmart, the love started to dim.

I’m still trying to decide if the price I paid would have been worth it if I’d bought a different bag…by a different designer…by one that stands behind its product. Or maybe the truth lies in the above-mentioned hobo from Saks that still looks like a million bucks. A bargain—even at full price.

10 Basic Items Every Stylish Baby Boomer Should Own

Me? Opinionated? Well, maybe just a bit. I have very definitive ideas about what works and what doesn’t after a woman reaches a certain age, and I like to share them with my baby boomer sisters.

Following are ten items that I think every woman over 50 who cares about style should have in her wardrobe.

A black pencil skirt














A well-made pencil skirt works on just about every body type. The length can range anywhere from the top of the knee to mid-knee for the most universally flattering look. Team it with a blazer or long cardigan if you feel the need to camouflage your hips.

A pair of great-fitting jeans, even if you have to shop all day to find them














The AG “Stevie Ankle” is my favorite for spring. Slightly cropped, they look equally good with heels, flats, or a pair of bright-red Converse sneakers. If hips and rear are a problem, top them with a flowy tunic or a longer cardigan over a tank top. If you’re not the skinny-jeans type, choose a style that fits your body best: boot cut, straight leg, flared, wide leg. It seems that designers are offering every shape this season, so there’s no right or wrong style.

A tapered shirt













Not your husband’s or boyfriend’s shirt, this one is made just for you…smaller and streamlined. Tuck it into a pencil skirt or wear it untucked with a pair of jeans.

A long cardigan











Given the fact that I’ve touted the long cardi as the perfect solution to hide hips, tummy, and rear, I feel compelled to add it to my ten essentials. Choosing one in a bright color adds pop to black and grey.

Sexy, girlie pumps














Contrary to common belief, heels don’t have to be painful. These lovely peeptoes by Cole Haan have Nike Air technology, which makes them amazingly comfortable. No, you’re not going to run a half marathon in them, but you can walk—even dance!—without complaint. And just for the record, these are $100 off at Bloomingdale’s…today only.

A classic watch














Okay, this one isn’t cheap, but a watch is an investment. I bought a Tag Heuer very much like the one pictured here in 1996. I paid $1000 for it, and it’s now worth nearly three times that much.

A novelty watch


















If you’re not ready to spring for a four-figure watch—or if you want something fun for your more casual days—a novelty watch can make a great statement. This Marc by Marc Jacobs oversized watch works well even on a small wrist…once you’ve had several links removed. The masculine look of the large face is nicely balanced by the Swarovski crystals that circle the bezel.

Costume bling

There’s nothing better than a carefully chosen piece of jewelry to make an outfit. I wear a lot of black and grey, and a tastefully blingy necklace or bracelet can really make the look. Here are a few of my favorites:

ABS by Allen Schwartz chain necklace













RJ Graziano Waterfall necklace













Sergio Gutierrez Liquid Metal bracelet



















ABS by Allen Schwartz Stone Cluster bracelet













A great-fitting bra














Sam, my fabulous stylist friend from LA, always starts from underwear up when dressing his elegant clients. He swears a good bra can make all the difference…and any women who’s made the switch from a grabbed-off-the-rack bra to one that’s been properly fitted by a pro knows he’s right.

Spanx, or an equivalent slimmer














I don’t know of any woman who doesn’t have at least one of these in her wardrobe. It’s the go-to solution under dresses, skirts, and pants when you want to look as sleek as possible.

The Perfect T

It has always boggled my mind that an item of clothing as simple as a T-shirt can be such a difficult purchase: too baggy, too tight, too short, too long, sleeves hitting at the absolute wrong spot on the arm. The issue I run into more often than not is that the body will fit perfectly through the chest, but the narrow cut hugs the hips and turns even the sleekest pair of jeans into lumpy city.

Fortunately, Anthropologie’s A Bit Biased Tee solves that problem. The shape is slightly A-line, so the shirt skims over the button and fly on your favorite jeans. It’s cut slightly longer in the back, which is flattering and creates a bit of interest in an otherwise basic T. Best of all, it comes in a great assortment of bright colors. Overall, it’s a win-win for $38.