We've moved! We are now at genmaicha.tumblr.com.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Los Angeles Noir

I have always been fascinated by police, private investigators, and the dark underworlds of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Maybe I just love the 1940s, the World War II angst of the troubled, hard-drinking male detectives who maybe had survivor's guilt, or carried scars of previous battles. I love their plucky female sidekicks, usually the girl-journalists, whose tight little sweaters and sharp wits usually win over the dogged detective...unless he's already head over heels for the requisite femme fatale. See? I even have a copy of Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op sitting on my bureau right now, waiting for me to finish, um, this other book about crime.

I'd like to think that if I could travel back in time, I would go back to 1940s Los Angeles--the Black Dahlia murder, the Hollywood glamour, the slim suits, the birdcage veils--and I came close, a few months ago. My friend Courtney and I took a roadtrip down from San Francisco (after an epic trip to the ill-fated Tonga Room, and a little roller derby) all the way to LA via Highway 1. We made a point of mapping out all of the LA landmarks we wanted to hit, and the majority of our list was historical: we ate at Musso and Frank Grill (disappointing), Bob's Big Boy (awesome), we took a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, drove up to the Ennis House, drank cocktails and had tacos in Los Feliz, drove around Silver Lake with jaws dropped, and generally soaked in the fabulous architecture. As badly as I wanted to Dita von Teese it up and dress like a 1940s vixen, it was all shlumpy jeans and t-shirts for us for that magical week. So, to inspire you but mostly myself, I've created a little slideshow of film noir goodies:

The hardboiled film noir detective world of Los Angeles, circa 1925-1950, is the subject of an upcoming coffee table photography book by Catherine Corman. Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City documents the very real Los Angeles that Raymond Chandler based his noir fiction on, and creates an iconic vision of the mystery and beauty of Chandler's time in LA.
Raymond Chandler may have imagined his hardboiled city around these architectural landmarks, but the noir-ish effects of Los Angeles are still intoxicating. I left thinking that sure, I could live there, but the city of broken dreams is a fairly apt description, don't you think? All those people coming to look for fame and fortune in Hollywood, only to end up as Pilates instructors and waiters...in Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler's time, they were the fallen women and low-life gangsters of Hollywood.

Los Angeles will, I hope, preserve what's left of its glorious, dark, dirty, fabulous noir history. There's just an air in the city that fills me loathing yet draws me back again--obviously, I have no Hollywood dreams, my tastes run more along the lines of driving up Laurel Canyon ogling the amazing houses. (I may have driven around the neighborhood in Studio City where Lee Pace apparently lives, with no luck on that front...we went and had onion rings instead of befriending that adorable man and living happily ever after.) Los Angeles is blinding in its rapid turnover of lost souls, the pervasive wannabe culture with the rare glimpses of the real, everything is fleeting and tenuous at best. I expected to feel nervous and fat in Hollywood, but I found myself to be much more grounded and self-confident than the people I met there. It's easy to imagine the girls who flocked to LA in the 1940s, looking for love and fame on the silver screen. I wish I could capture that spark of history's hopes and dreams in a bottle and wear it as a perfume--it would smell of sunlight, honeysuckle, the sea, and shadows. It's the scent of a city full of people convinced they are on their way to something better.

I just couldn't help myself but to make a little Polyvore palette to inspire myself--I love all of those pulp novel covers. In terms of 20th century fashion history, you could make a case that American fashion was never so politically driven as in the 1940s. Women gave up their silks for nylon and rayon to support the war effort, cut down the shape of their dresses and separates to ration fabric and notions (thus was born the huge-skirted 1950s New Look as recovery), and went to work looking as smart as their husbands, brothers, and fathers. It was a era of advancement for women, strength, and struggle. We still have a lot to learn from America's past, in fact and fiction, it's worth the dignity of preservation and value.

For now, I want to go back to LA and put together my own (driving) tour of Ms. Corman's Raymond Chandler sites--check out her website above for Daylight Noir, where she's paired black and white photographs with snippets of classic Chandler.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shiseido in the Shade

Honestly, I don't know how many posts I'm going to get out of my sunburns (now tan and/or peeling).

But I will say that I managed to avoid getting my face sunburned at all, through beach time, floating-on-a-floatie time, and being ON A BOAT.

I'd purchased the Shiseido Extra-Smooth Sun Protection Cream back in May or so, when I figured I'd be spending more time out by the pool this summer. (Not so much.) I also picked up the Sun Protection Eye Cream because I've been looking for an SPF eye cream for a while. But I hadn't taken the jump into switching over -- I've spent most of my summer inside, and the weekend days when I could have been out by the pool, I was generally running around downtown.

Generally when I travel, I do take things I haven't incorporated into my daily routine (read: things I bought but hadn't tried yet) so I don't have to deal with packing my regular stuff after I use it in the morning. It's like having an extra toothbrush or toothpaste just for travel, so I can finish packing the night before, still brush my teeth in the morning, and not have to wedge in a wet toothbrush. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I threw the Shiseido sunscreen in the travel bag for my sun protectin' needz. I knew I wanted a good facial sunscreen, one that's stronger than my daily 15, and waterproof wouldn't hurt either. It doesn't smell like your standard sunscreen, which is nice, and it absorbs easily and lasts all day, even through a sixteen mile bike ride (argh) and riding around on an inner tube. While my back and thighs got crispy, I didn't burn on my face at all.

So I guess I've found my summer sunscreen for my face -- waterproof and super-effective. The hunt for the body sunscreen, though, appears to still be on... Any recommendations there?

image from sephora.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Tiffany's Alternative

When Jeanne and I returned from our respective vacations, we got right on Gchat Monday morning to spill about the various adventures we had by land and by lake. I came back from Denver thinking Colorado was much too casual for me with slight altitude sickness, and Jeanne came back sunburned from a week on the beach in Tahoe. One gem of a story was when Jeanne was handed a set of beautiful silver bracelets to hold while a family friend went wakeboarding. The bracelets, of course, were lovely, and made by Tiffany & Co.:

They're delicate and ladylike, we love the aquamarine and it's certainly not a fuddy-duddy old tennis bracelet. Of course, our first instinct is to run straight off to Etsy for alternatives!

Sueanne Shirzay's Olivia Pearl and Aquamarine Bracelet is a steal at $42, and has so much more personality than the Tiffany version. Talk about a perfect seaside bracelet, I love the tapered coin pearls.

Going gold, JulieBsJewels has gold wire-wrapped Swarovski aquamarine crystal cuff bracelet that is just too delicate and lovely. It reminds me of the ancient Roman jewelry you see in museums--simple and elegant.

Jewelsbykat makes the substantial Raindrop bracelet for those of us who look silly wearing teensy thin bracelets (me). For a more hardcore yet understated look, you can wear the double chain with pearls on the top of your wrist so the larger faceted rounds just peek out when you move or walk.

SamanthaJeanDesigns has a similar cross between the chunky jewels and understated silver chain bracelet in her Morgan bracelet. I love how raw-yet-polished the aquamarine globes look.

While none of these are perfect matches for the Elsa Peretti piece, I always prefer to support small independent artists and jewelrymakers when I do make big-ticket purchases. Often, the prices are better, the quality is handmade from the heart, and it's not the same ol' silver bracelet every other girl has! Although we sure wouldn't mind some Don Draper-ish gentleman coming home with a Tiffany box for us someday...we might even settle for the eminently huggable Harry Crane.

What do you do when you get that "I HAVE TO HAVE IT" feeling? Do you set your heart on that one thing, or do you go for the acceptable alternative?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Can this coat be made over?

Yes, I am back from vacation! And yes, I am already thinking about fall. I know it's not even Labor Day yet, and I'm still going to squish some more beach time in, but I'm already thinking about coats and boots and such. (Mostly how I don't need any more coats or boots.)

If you remember from, oh, February, I mentioned I really liked the coats from Luella's Fall/Winter collection. And, as I was thinking about my fall coats, it happened upon me that I do have a coat that could be turned into a Luella-esque coat that I'd wear more often. (Shop your closet!)

I bought this particular piece from Jennine of the coveted before she moved to Europe, and I believe I've worn it a grand total of once. The duster-y length is a little difficult for me to wear (I also have another coat of this length), which is why I'm thinking of shortening it up.

Pictures beloooow:

As you can see, it hits me at about mid-shin (the top of my calf, in the back); I'd like to take it up to mid-thigh, but I'm worried that because it's such a fitted coat (versus a looser one) through the waist, then flares out, that it'll look funny if it gets shortened up. It's seamed through the torso, not darted, so it can't really be taken out in the back to make the silhouette looser.

Plus, as an added complication, there are the big flapped pockets on the front -- the bottom of the pocket is a few inches below my fingers in the front photo. They'll have to be removed or altered if I have the coat shortened.

I also think I'd like to take off the big cuffs on the sleeves -- they don't need to be three-quarter length, but maybe just hitting me at the wristbone.

So, in short, here's what I think I'd like to have done:

- Shorten the length from mid-shin to mid-thigh
- Remove/alter current pockets
- Alter sleeve cuffs

I've already started looking at tailors on Yelp, but I honestly have never had to take something in for major surgery before (I've had a pair of pants hemmed -- that's it), so I'm not even sure where to begin. Is this really something that can be done with a good tailor? (I'm sure it is.) There are plenty of cleaners who do alterations around, but I really want someone who understands what I want and will make it happen with little drama and low costs.

Does anyone have a good tailor in San Francisco they recommend? Do you have any suggestions on how to find a good one? And do you think my alterations are reasonable, or will they look funny and ruin a perfectly nice coat? (A good tailor will be able to tell me if I'm being unreasonable, right?) I'm more than a little in the dark here, so your recommendations are totally welcomed!

images from periodicstyle.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm on a lake!

I'm officially on vacation! (I really wanted/asked for a laptop-free vacation -- I fulfilled my part, by not bringing *my* laptop but my parents brought theirs and here I am, sitting on "Big George's Network". Sorry, Big George. This is the only time I'll be swiping your wifi, I swear.)

I'm at the lovely Lake Tahoe, yearly vacation site of my youth, up in the Sierra Nevada. So far so good, but here are a couple of highlights:

- I got sunburned (again). This is what happens when you go outside! The sun! I did not bring the Birdy's Botanicals hydration lotion, so I've got a giant bottle of aloe the color of blue raspberry jello.

- I was told, in the car, that we would be going bicycling (and possibly hiking). I, planning for a week of beach time, beach time, and beach time, brought four pairs of sandals. Needless to say, there was some quick work of "where can we find basic sneakers??" done, and I came away with a pair of Vans oxfords from a board shop. ("If they sell snowboards, they have to have Vans!")

- I have not been eaten by a bear. (Yet.) Always a plus.

- I forgot that high altitude makes chip bags puff up and tubed beauty products squirt everywhere. (!!) Ladies in places like Denver, how do you deal?

- I spent easily a couple of hours on a boat and didn't even realize -- I'M ON A BOAT:

I'm about to head out to the beach, and I probably won't be checking in again until after I'm back from the mountains, but until then, have a great week!

image from the_tahoe_guy on flickr

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright!

As we've mentioned before, we could not be more excited about Baby, the Stars Shine Bright's imminent U.S. flagship store opening in San Francisco. In fact, since they are recruiting salesgirls right now, I am tempted to apply myself...as if my current full-time job doesn't keep me busy enough already? Jeanne and I adore the BTSSB website, poring over it on a regular basis almost as much as we delve into the lovely pages of Etsy.

Why do we have such a deep and unabiding love for the Gothic Lolita/Sweet Lolita subculture? I (Karen) find it fascinating as a subculture reinterpreting Japanese femininity and the idea of privilege, luxury, Western fashion, fashion history, and the stark contrast--or blurred line--between girlhood and womanhood. Of course, loads of bows, eyelet, strawberries, miniature top hats, Victorian bustles, petticoats, a misinterpreted Nabokov reference, and rocking-horse shoes don't hurt. We love it because it is an amalgamation of beauty and girlhood as seen through the eyes of modern Japan. The return to a Victorian aesthetic reminds me of my brief fame via Erin's post on her blog, A Dress A Day, about Meiji-era Japanese fashion. (I felt so famous! Can you believe that was two years ago?) I came THIS close to writing my undergraduate thesis in Japanese literature and film on the Lolita subculture, mostly based on the works of Novala Takemoto and the film Shimotsuma Monogatari, or Kamikaze Girls.

There has, in the meantime, been a lot of work on Japanese literature and anthropology on Japanese girlhood and femininity--see the academic work of Eve Zimmerman, Anne Allison, and Jennifer Robertson for reference. Via the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology and the Society for Linguistic Anthropology comes this short, nine-minute film from sociolinguist Isaac Gagne. This is your basic visual overview of the Gothic and Sweet Lolita subculture:

(I find the part at 6:25 on hair color particularly interesting, considering the number of Lolita girls I have seen with hair color and style similar to mine: brown, big straight bangs, curls everywhere.)

So, to share our love of the subculture with you and celebrate the imminent grand opening of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright San Francisco, Jeanne and I dove into our favorite fashion medium: Polyvore. Below, we have a sugar-sweet spread of more practical applications of Elegant, Gothic, and Sweet Lolita style.

Jeanne: The focal point here is the pink BTSSB platform Mary Janes with the criss-cross straps. My challenge was to incorporate a thorough girly, princess style of shoe with items from my regular ol' workaday wardrobe.
bssb - pink shoes
bssb - pink shoes - by msjeanneb on Polyvore.com
I kept the blouses tight in the bodice and the skirts slimmer, but in keeping with the Gothic Lolita general shape and look. At its most basic, this screams, "CHECK OUT MY TOTALLY SWEET SHOES!"

Karen: Since officially becoming a corporate drone this past year, I've gone in spurts and starts trying to incorporate a more Sweet/Gothic Lolita vibe in my office clothing. Thus, I present two sets:

Let's go clockwise from the top right. Besides Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, Victorian Maiden is another of my favorite EGL brands--I spent many a hot summer afternoon exploring Laforet Harajuku's basement level, admiring and learning about all of the new brands coming out. This dress I would wear to work in a heartbeat, although people would ask me if I was headed to my pretty-pretty-princess birthday party...isn't that the goal, though?
Next, the ruffle blouse+full skirt combo is a more bohemian take on the darker Sweet Lolita look. A small flower pattern, a few modern/streamlined touches make this country-boho-Lolita acceptable for daily consumption.
Top right, much more conservative with the surprise in the bow necklace and classic Lolita pinked-edge patent-leather bow platform Mary Janes. I love the side-ruffle skirt, it's a bit of Spanish/flamenco flair!
Bottom right is closest to what I wear to work, in all seriousness. I wish I owned that skirt. It's a touch of ruffle, a little pinstripe, just one or two bows, in muted neutrals--only you have to know that secretly, in your heart, you are a crazy hardcore Elegant Gothic Lolita.
Our last EGL for the office look is a throwback to the original Nabokovian Lolita as interpreted through both films: Kubrick AND Lyne. You may recall the classic 1962 film poster with Sue Lyon wearing the big, heart-shaped sunglasses, or Dominique Swain's gamin mischievousness in the 1997 version. This is made for running around in flats, kicking your shoes off and playing with the folds of your skirt in the duller moments of the workday. If I could dress like this on weekends and look effortless, I absolutely would!

The second set,

Shows more versatility and an open interpretation of the EGL influences. You know we love the bow headbands a la Blair Waldorf, and we HAVE to give our girl Lynleigh at Sweet Rococo a big, juicy shout-out for her fabulous work on Sweet Lolita outfits and accessories. For my birthday last month, I went a little crazy buying fascinators and decorated hairclips to "cuten up" this new haircut, thus the whole top assortment of feathers, roses, bows, and flowers. LOVE IT ALL. These are understated enough to wear all day, or add upon leaving work for the wild nights out you all probably have without us.
On the left, I returned to a more classical Victorian menswear look, the patent spectators, the stovepipe leg slacks, the wide lace collar--a touch of whimsy and delicate nostalgia for the post-machine age.
The middle outfit is what I imagine Anthropologie would do to Gothic Lolita if it were to appropriate my favorite fashion craze completely. Add some impossibly high heels, crazy chunky jewelry, and oversized pattern, that's the Anthro-lita.
On the right is our last look, a structured Mod Lolita who may have lost her innocence and purity, but you'd better believe she is all business.

What do you think? Can you successfully incorporate a subculture or ethnic style into a largely homogenized "office" wardrobe without people thinking you're a complete loon? We'll see you in San Francisco Japantown for regular doses of EGL style and our favorite Japanese pop culture trends! Be on the lookout for more Japanese runway styles here soon.

The Would-Be Bag Lady

See, this is why we can't have nice things.

I realized early last week that the little grey fringe purse I bought in January was finally giving up the ghost -- it was ripping at the strap and if I wasn't quick to retire it, there could have been an upset. To say the least. Plus, honestly, as much as I liked it, it had its issues where the indigo from my jeans was rubbing off onto it (bogus!) within a week of buying it, the "leather" was wearing away, etc. etc.

Then, when you take into consideration that lead has been found in non-leather bags from places like H&M, Macys, Forever 21, Target, etc... Yeah, I've been saying for months that I need to buy a "grown-up lady bag".

But here's the other issue: I am not very gentle with my things. And so while I'll coo and pet a soft real-leather bag, the price tag will make me stop because a. yikes price tag and b. yikes price tag for something I will likely beat to hell. I can't do suede anything due to the fact that I am often out in the weather, patent isn't so hot either, it can't be too small (can't fit anything) or too big (if I can fit everything, I will TAKE and CARRY everything), and so forth.

So, here are the requirements for a bag that I'd like to have:

- Preferably an across-the-body strap, so it doesn't fall off my shoulder. A shoulder bag will sometimes slip.
- Basic enough that I can wear it anywhere (granted, I am currently toting around a bright turquoise bag, and also have a cobalt blue and a black-and-red striped bag, so it doesn't need to be *subtle*, necessarily)
- can hold an iPhone, my giant sunglasses case, my wallet, my keys, my transit pass holder, ten bajillion lip balms, innumerable wadded up receipts, pens, a pocket mirror, my camera/Flip, and a Moleskine. It should not be able to fit my skates as I will certainly attempt to stuff them in there if there's even a possibility they will fit.
- does not contain a black hole wherein my keys/transit pass holder/wallet/iPhone disappear into whenever I open up my bag in search of said item
- quality enough that it lasts throughout my abuse, but not uber-expensive
- not covered in visible logos -- I'd be willing to consider name brand stuff, but I'm not big on letters and monograms all over my person.

I met up with L. over the weekend, and she was toting around the very cute Andes Day Bag by Hideo Wakamatsu. It would definitely suit my purposes and fill many of my requirements, but it seems almost too... something. I want to say "casual", because it's kind of like a messenger bag. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not 100% what I'm looking for.

Karen and I have been sighing over the Proenza Schouler PS1 bags since j'adore couture's love letter in November, but I absolutely cannot make it happen financially. So it's something I just keep somewhere in the hazy back of my mind as a "oh, if only". (That said, if I did get it, I would NEVER BUY ANOTHER PURSE AGAIN.)

I am considering Longchamp, but more the leather type versus the nylon Le Pliage, as there are no interior pockets in the Le Pliage and thus everything would be in one jumble and I couldn't ever find anything in there. I think the whole Longchamp 4x4 line is very much along the lines of what I like, but it's something I'd probably need to see in person. And still, ouch on the price tag, but investment piece and so on and so forth.

Naturally, I could just dive into Etsy, but I just don't know where to start there, and, well, I know I can find adorable bags a-go-go, but just not the sort I'm looking for right now. It's something to think about too. Obviously I'm not making any decisions today (or tomorrow, or this week), but it's, again, somewhere in the hazy back of my mind. I'm not looking for an It Bag, I'm looking for *my* bag.

What are the qualifications for a great bag for you? Have you found it? Do you have any recommendations for places I should be looking or brands I should be checking out?

images from hideowakamatsu.com, barneys.com, longchamp.com

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Science Fair for July 26th-August 2nd

I cannot BELIEVE it's August already. What a crazy month July was, we've barely had time to blog about anything! Jeanne just came back from BlogHer '09 in Chicago, I'm off to Denver in a week for vacation, it's summer and we have been CRAZY BUSY. I just got home from a local pub quiz with my friend E., where a guy who looked like a short/fat John Travolta was all over us. Last night, I trekked up to the city (that would be San Francisco, darlings) to see one of my all-time favorite, much-beloved bands, Stellastarr* play at Slim's with Wild Light and Mason Proper. Stellastarr*, as ALWAYS--this is now my sixth, possibly seventh time seeing them play live--was INTENSE and TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME.

-Stellastarr*'s lead guitarist/backup vocalist Michael Jurin is far away one of the most innovative, talented guitarists I have seen in my life. Check out his work in the background of Christian Siriano's Fall 2009 collection: In one of his more remarkable performances, Michael uses a shot glass as a slide on his electric guitar in every performance of Moongirl. I first saw this happen in their show a million years ago at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in probably...2003? It never fails to be completely jaw-dropping and pristine. I can wholeheartedly recommend Stellastarr*'s new album, "Civilized," since I've been listening to it nonstop for the last three weeks. Recommended if you like late Joy Division, early Talking Heads, and HIGH INTENSITY.

-Heads up SF Bay ladies, the Bay Area Derby Girls (or BAD Girls, as we know and love them) are holding tryouts for flat-track roller derby rookies on August 30th in Oakland. Jeanne will be there with quad skates and helmet on! Down in my 'hood, the Silicon Valley Roller Girls have recruitment sessions far, far away in October, but I am terrible/awesome and looking at skates already. Think we can do it?

-I have a disgusting, shameful habit. I have to do it at least once every day. I do it at work, I do it at home, I do it on the sly, I talk about it openly. I am afraid of what I might become if I stop. It's...Tastespotting. I LOVE IT. This week, Smitten Kitchen's sour cherry slab pie caught our eye. Yes, that is in actual fact a GIANT POP-TART. I could eat that whole thing in a single sitting. To the kitchen for me!

-Another guilty pleasure of mine is looking at impossibly expensive real estate online. It's the voyeurism of it, I think, that gets me--I like to see how other people live, or at least how interior designers/stagers want people to aspire to. This week, I dove headfirst into Christie's Great Estates, where you would be surprised to see the sheer volume of famous and architecturally important properties they have listed. For example: the Pickfair Estate, built by none other than Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The Frank Lloyd Wright=designed Ennis Brown House, which I have touched after my tour of the Hollyhock House. You may recognize it from Blade Runner and Black Rain--it's not open to the public, but I just want to let everyone know that I will be winning the lottery to the tune of oh, I don't know, $20 million, then buying the Ennis House, restoring it, and promptly resting on my laurels while throwing crazy Eyes Wide Shut-style parties in my new house.

-We already Tumbled this, but good god...have you SEEN Luxirare's floating lollipop-pies??! Are they not to die for?

-This week, the UK Times Online ran first, 101 Uses for A Man, and in response, 101 Uses for A Woman. What do you think? It's all very war of the sexes, to my mind. Tongue in cheek, though, obviously.

-Big props for us this week via a link from none other than the HuffPo! It's like Arianna Huffington is right in my house, watching me blog. CRAZY.

Have a great week, everyone! Anyone have must-see (or must-shop) tips in Denver? I've got a schedule somewhat full of eating, drinking, and outdoorsiness with friends and family. I am SO READY for a vacation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails