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The Big Question: Luxury Tithe Edition

Ah luxury. It’s interesting how the definition changes.

Once upon a time, luxury for me meant a new Hermès or a call to my gal at Barneys in New York to get my hands on the latest and most exclusive Le Labo or Serge Lutens export.

Now luxury is toilet paper with anything resembling structural integrity.

Then vs. Now

 

Yet even in those heady days, I was still just a Career Girl in the newspaper industry.

What the dead tree biz lacked in job security it made up for in low wages, and my attempt to indulge in champagne tastes on a cava budget was not exactly effortless. Each glittering bottle of rarefied perfume, each instantly recognizable square orange box, represented weeks or months of sacrifices –most small, some large– in other parts of my life.

I call it my Luxury Tithe, a phrase I first heard from my friend Amy, author of the brilliant and sadly dormant Style Spy, as she diligently squirreled away a portion of her pay each week to save for a pair of Miu Miu sandals or a trip to her beloved Paris.

The eminently tithe-worthy Alexander McQueen Seasonal Satchel, click picture for link

I’m happier in Scotland than on the Seine and Miu Miu sandals rarely fit my feet (not that it matters since I refuse to support Miuccia Prada anyway after her fatty-firing opera stunt) but aside from the ideas of paying cash and not living beyond your means as just good sense, I had two reasons to start my own luxury tithe.

First, I knew my dream job –the real one, not the designated thigh oiler for Real Madrid (although if anyone’s hiring…)– has even less money in it than the newspaper industry, and believe me, very few things have less money in it than the newspaper industry.

I knew someday the reasonably well-paid party would end, and when it did I wanted to be able to walk away with an accessories wardrobe to last a lifetime and not a penny of credit card debt, which is exactly what I did.

Second, I wanted to learn the joys of living a discriminating life.

It’s painfully simple, but if something’s not extremely good, I don’t want it. I’d rather go without than have my fill of mediocrity or worse. It’s probably why I’ve lost so much weight in Mexico (well, you know, that and the cholera): Mangoes, fish and veggies are good here; pastry, meat and sweets are not, at least not to a palate that prefers butter to lard and thick ribeyes to thin strips of carne asada.

Television isn’t very good in America (it’s worse in Mexico) so I happily gave it a miss and the money I saved by not paying to have Real Housewives of a Culturally Declining Nation piped into Château Gâteau bought me a Paris-only bell jar of the shiveringly dry yet animalic Bois et Musc  (which smells exactly like my lynx coat after a post-prandial walk in the woods) and fuchsia Dolce and Gabbana heels in suede so buttery I want to spread it on toast.

Let’s turn this into a Big Question.

Right now my Luxury Tithe –pathetic as it may be– is dedicated to funding an exploratory trip to Buenos Aires to see whether the so-called Paris of Latin America is destined to be the next stop on the Miss Plumcake Expatriate World Tour.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know whether you have a Luxury Tithe. If so, what’s the desired result? If not, what’s your preferred method of acquiring what you want?

Fast Fashion and Adhesive Bras

I am not Forever 21’s target demographic, I don’t do cheap and cheerful fast fashion and I didn’t want to be 21 when I WAS 21, so being 21 in eternum is more Kafka than cool for me, but good on them for at least allowing fatties in their store. Yes, they have their plus sizes tucked way in the Corner of Shame next to the maternity gear, but hey, at least we’re encouraged to share the same air as the straight-sizers.

And yet –as perhaps I’ve mentioned for the mazillionth time– I’m about to spend a month on the beaches of Mexico, so I want easy, effortless dressing that won’t break my heart if they get ripped off me in a fit of hot hot Latin passion by some fiery young thing with dark, smoldering eyes, lips like two very naughty pillows and the lightest dusting of freckles across his taut, bronzed* …wait, where am I? Dorothy? Rose? Sophia? Where’s my cheesecake?

Anyway, I picked up this dress:

And yes, it’s styled for hell and the model, while pretty, is not a very good model but the bones of a good dress are there. It’s rayon (I like rayon for summer, not everyone does) and is partially lined. That was a pleasant surprise considering how many designers at higher price points still don’t bother to line their dresses.

It’s also an easy dress to posh up.

I added a nautical-themed Hermes scarf as a belt, another one in a coordinating color as a headband, a pair of handmade Christian Lacroix espadrilles and all of the sudden this $23 dress would be at home anywhere along the French Riviera.

This is why I always bang on about investing in accessories.

Yeah, the shoes and the two scarves clocked in at just about $400 each, but I’ll have them until I die and can wear the scarves in a million ways with a million outfits and one tactfully deployed luxe piece makes an outfit look rich, which an expensive dress with cheap accessories kills a look deader than a Kennedy hooker.

Oh, you’ll notice it’s got an open back.

One could, I suppose, just wear it with a regular bra if you don’t care about your bra straps showing, or toss on a cardi, which you’d want to do if you were going to wear it to work or dinner anyway, but I wanted to be able to wear it backless so I took a risk and picked up Sin Bra.

For the record I teeter between a 38 DD and DDD, depending on the bra. Good genes mean I don’t have any droop, but I’m still not keen on traipsing around unfettered. I love the Sin Bra.

Basically, for $10 you get 6 sets of film-thin surgical adhesive cut outs and “petals” which you use like so:

And they worked. It was light and secure and although it didn’t give me that Foam Cups of Impenetrable Doom look, it definitely gave me the support I needed without feeling weird or uncomfortable like the silicone cutlets do, plus they’re waterproof so you can wear them swimming.

I can’t say they’ll work for everyone, but they worked a mint for me. They get two thumbs (among other things) up from Miss Plumcake. If you have the need, go git you some.

 

 

 

*Nose, they’re on his nose

Review Revue + How To Wear: Wide Leg Pants

Do you ever just get an image stuck in your head and declare “THIS. THIS is what I want to be wearing right now, and I shall never know another moment of joy until my dream is realized!”?

Well that’s what happened with me when I saw this:

It was exactly, exactly the feel of what I wanted for my upcoming adventure as a mex-pat. Not the exact outfit per se, but the breezy early 1930’s sportswear feel so I searched and searched until I came upon these:

Silk and Linen Wide Leg Trousers

Fabrication:

70% silk, 30% linen, acetate lining. Obviously I would’ve preferred a silk lining, but we live in a broken and sinful world, so a girl can’t have everything. The silk/linen blend is lovely with an excellent drape and just a slight slub in the material. The lining isn’t bad either, a nice solid twill with good tailleur details you’d expect to find in a much more expensive piece.

Cut:

When they say wide leg, they MEAN wide leg.

In fact, I’d probably categorize them as true tailored palazzos. Stay with me, I know we’ve been burned by palazzos before.

Are there words that strike deeper fear in the hearts of the big-boned than “polyester georgette palazzo pants”?

I think not.

Still, these are very good, just perfect for the loose, 1930’s Biarritz meets Marisa Berenson style I want while I’m in Baja.

We’ve been due for a resurgence of pajama dressing for a while, what with the natural order of things (the 70’s coming back), the undying influence of Poiret and YSL and Karl Lagerfeld bringing back the old Sara and Gerald Murphy trope a few years ago for Spring 2008, which was brilliant but ahead of its time.

Plus it’s not like pants can get tighter, so there’s nothing new or interesting fashion-wise to “say” there. Even Hermes got in on the (slightly more tailored) act for its most recent ready to wear collection.

The cut is elegant and thoughtful. Whoever designed these trousers knows their stuff. The front pleats (stay with me now) are sewn down through the waist and stomach so you don’t get that gut-level poochiness one usually associates with front pleats.  Instead you get an elegant trimness through the waist and hips. There are side pockets and besoms in the back. Nothing too distracting, but it adds a great sportswear look.

Fit:

Long-legged girls, you’re in luck. On me these are entirely too long –I’m 6’3″ in 5″ heels and I’ll still need the taken up at least 2″ inches– so unless you’re half giraffe, you’ll probably need to get these hemmed.

The drape is excellent and although I would’ve liked a slightly higher, narrower waist, that could be user error since I’ve got a high, narrow (er, comparatively) waist to begin with and I really could have/should have gone down a size.

My experience with the plus size range in Spiegel is they run about a size small, so being a pear-shaped 18/20 I ordered a size 22W. I’d still err on the side of caution if your trunk comes with its own considerable collection of junk, but I don’t think you’d be led too far astray if you ordered true to size.

From the side they look like heaven. From the front it’s a little harder to get used to, but once you try them  on as part of an entire outfit instead of just “naked plus pants” it comes together beautifully.

How To Wear It:

One thing you want to remember with all dressing, but especially when you’re playing with dramatic proportions, is to stay balanced. If you’re wearing gorgeous billowy trousers, then your top needs to be slim and there needs to be some structure to it. Look at the American magazine and the Hermes still. 80 years apart, but still the same basic idea: wide, flowing pants require a slim, structured top and/or other elements to offset it.

I don’t have just a ton of experience wearing this silhouette, I don’t tend towards separates in the first place and palazzo pants can be a hard look to pull off in a way that looks chic before one is Of a Certain Age, especially if one is fatly, since fatties as a species have been done so grievously wrong by bad palazzo pants in the past.

Still, I’m determined to do loose, 1930’s Biarritz meets Marisa Berenson style while I’m in Mexico, just for my own enjoyment, so on with the show.

Current plans for deployment are with mile-high espadrilles –I’m going to be a foot and a half taller than everyone in the country anyway, might as well make it an even two– an absolute armful of thick lacquer bangles in solid brights (optional) and a scarf tied on the diagonal as a top which is surprisingly effective and flattering, covering all less-than-gracile parts of self, while putting my best features –my shoulders and neckline– on display, sans cleavage, with a cardi for modesty when I’m not on the beach or lounging at home.If you even have to ask if I’m going to be wearing a big hat I’m not angry, just disappointed. I thought we knew each other.

Parting Shots:

These are Very Good Pants Indeed, especially on sale for $29.99. It’s a lot of capital F Fashion payoff for a dead comfortable and effortless look that still has the whiff of “she took hours to look that effortless” about it, and who doesn’t love that?

You’ll probably want to give these a steam or let them hang for a while when you first get them, but after that, don’t worry too much about creases. Even though it reads more silk than linen, you still don’t want these to be pristine as crisp shirting. The key is easy, soft, a little rumpled and utterly, utterly fabulous. Kind of like me, actually.

What Miss Plumcake is…

Reading: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald Criminally under-appreciated, the Scottish fantasy author –arguably the first successful British fantasy author– influenced everyone from Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkein to C.S. Lewis, whose novel The Great Divorce features MacDonald as a character. Unfortunately, the man who served as Lewis Carroll’s mentor –fun fact: it was MacDonald who suggested Carroll submit his little book about a girl named Alice for publication– is virtually ignored. I’d read Lilith ages ago and grew up with Princess and the Goblin and Princess and the Curdie, but I’d missed At the Back of the North Wind until just recently. It’s Oliver Twist meets The Water-Babies, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Don’t miss it.

Watching: Casablanca I still don’t know if Elsa got on the plane, but I sure had a fun time watching it.

Hearing: Club Can’t Handle Me by Flo Rida feat. David Guetta What? Like fat white Episcopalian girls can’t like Flo Rida now? It’s a killer track! Also I would kill for his watch. ALSO also, I totally think he draws in his beard.

Smelling: Iris 39 from Le Labo I went on a little jaunt to Dallas on Saturday and Sunday to do a little shopping, see Andre and visit my brother who I’m beginning to suspect does not own any clothes without illustrated rhinocerosesses on them. The familial visit didn’t happen, the Andre visit was a train wreck, albeit a very poignant, elegant Alphonse Daudet/Guy de Maupassant-style train wreck, but the shopping, the shopping was good. Unlike Austin, Dallas has a proper Barney’s and proper Barney’s have proper fragrance counters, including Serge Lutens, Frederic Malle and Le Labo. I’m wearing Le Labo Iris 39 today and if you like your unflaggingly elegant iris with a little bit of filthy filthy sex, Iris 39 might be worth a go.
(more…)

‘Tis the Season for the Jackie O Wannabe

A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House by Oleg Cassini. Who doesn’t love Oleg Cassini? I could take or leave Jackie (she was at best the SECOND most interesting woman either of her husbands slept with. Marilyn Monroe and La Divina were hot messes, but fascinating ones) but getting the scoop from her then-controversial designer? Juicy.
Hermes Astrologie (Dies et Hore) foulard (as worn by Mrs Kennedy casting her vote in New York) I mean you can’t really go wrong with one of THE classic scarves of all time. I’m kind of bitter there’s only one left for sale right now, because I don’t have that particular design in my admittedly extensive collection and I’m just not sure I’m okay with that.

Jacqueline Kennedy Classic 3-Strand Simulated Pearl Necklace aka The John-John Pearls. I believe her original fake pearls were Kenneth Jay Lane but these are the currently licensed reproductions. You can’t go wrong with a triple-strand of pearls. They’re like the dry martinis of necklaces.
Ray-Ban Jackie Ohh II sunglasses I think we all know how I feel about oversized (emphasis on over) sunglasses but whatever.  If you’re going to do it at least do it with style.

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

‘Tis the Season for the Misunderstood Genius

Hermès Ulysses Refillable Notebook: Blue Jean Togo Leather, Palladium Hardware (if someone doesn’t get this for me for Christmas I will DIE)
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs (my journalistic hero)
The Complete Works of Gustav Mahler
Cross Classic Century Pen (excellent sale for Miss Plumcake’s preferred pen)

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

‘Tis the Season for The Classicist

Here we go, our first profile! The format will always stay the same but the profile and obviously the gifts will change daily. Fun!

Kenneth Jay Lane Award-Winning Earrings (on sale)

Hermès Black Box Calf 28cm Kelly Bag with Gold Hardware (pre-owned certified)

Chanel No 5 Parfum (free shipping using code HOLIDAY)

The Yale Shakespeare Complete Works

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

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