Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to Dress Like a Canadian Visiting New York

Last year when Hubby and I were planning our trip to France, I stressed over what to pack. What to wear in Paris? How to be chic, or at least pulled together, and yet comfortable? I read way too many articles on how to dress "like a Parisian." And then I fussed, and fumed, and shopped. And then I decided to stop sweating it and keep it simple. Good jeans. Good tees. A good jacket. A raincoat. Comfortable, but not ugly, shoes for walking. One pair of a dressier shoes. And a scarf. I'd dress like me, a middle-aged Canadian women, visiting Paris. C'est tout. Turns out that's how women in Paris dress anyway. 

So a few weeks ago when I began to plan my outfits to take to New York, I thought it would be a doddle. Fall, cool, but not cold = jeans, a coat sweater, long sleeved tees, a jacket. You know. Paris but a bit cooler... and by cool I mean temperature. I kept thinking about a line I read on the blog Une Femme d'un Certain Age. Sue said that the measure of an outfit for her is the question: "Would I wear this in Paris?" I loved that. And as I was trying on outfits that I actually had worn in Paris, I kept thinking "Well, if it was good enough to wear in Paris..." And so I planned and pre-packed happily. Until I read the New York weather forecast, and although it was wonderfully fall-ish in Ottawa, New York would be back in summer temperatures by the time we arrived. As hot as 28° Celsius. Crap. 

Times Square during the October heat wave October 2016.
Sleeveless in NYC. Elizabeth's shot of Times Square our first day in New York. 
Back to the drawing board. And back to the closet for me. I spent an afternoon trying on possible outfits. Making sure everything went with everything else. Trying desperately NOT to have to dig out my really summery clothes. Here's what I came up with. On the left... what I packed. Two blouses, two long-sleeved striped tees, my light summer Helmut Lang blazer. Cropped jeans, my new khaki jeans, my Veronica Beard navy cropped pants. Loafers. And my raincoat, not shown. I threw in a black, light weight, v-neck sweater at the last minute. On the right... what I wore on the plane. Veronica Beard navy jacket with a white tee underneath, high rise skinny jeans, sneakers. I had my navy scarf handy because my neck always gets cold on planes. 

what I packed, and what I wore on the plane to New York.

For day. I wore the blue Equipment shirt, my light cropped Veronica Beard pants, and my sneakers on the hottest day when we walked in midtown. The next day, also hot, I wore my ALC striped tee, and my Citizens of Humanity jeans, and sneakers. I wore this all over Paris, so figured it was good for walking all over downtown New York, Greenwich Village, Soho. And it was. The next day was a bit cooler, so I opted for my jeans and my Veronica Beard jacket with a light tee underneath. This looks warmer than it is because the hoodie is not a hoodie, just that narrow front part and a hood which zips out. I was glad that I brought an extra tee because, after two long sweaty days of walking, both the blouse and the striped tee were a little worse for wear.

Blue shirt by Equipment, navy Veronica Beard cropped pants. Stan Smith Adidas, bag by Holt Renfrew  ALC striped tee, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stan Smith Adidas, bag by Holt Renfrew   Veronica Beard jacket, Theory tee, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stan Smith Adidas

For eveningOn our first evening, I wore my white Massimo Dutti blouse and navy Veronica Beard pants with my Stuart Weitzman loafers. The Korean restaurant where we ate that night was quite hot... and very loud. Elizabeth and I were both glad that I asked if we could move tables... against a wall (quieter than in the middle of the floor) and right in front of the door (ah... those breezes.)

Massimo Dutti white shirt, Veronica Beard cropped pants, Stuart Weitzman loafers, bag by Holt Renfrew

On another evening I wore the Veronica Beard pants again, with the matching jacket, minus the hoodie insert, and this striped Alexander Wang tee. Mostly the jacket resided on the back of my chair... but I hate to be without a "completer piece." Thanks to Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear for the term.

Veronica Beard jacket and cropped pants, Alexander Wang tee, Stuart Weitzman loafers      Veronica Beard jacket and cropped pants, Alexander Wang tee, Stuart Weitzman loafer

I wore this outfit to dinner one night and to the theatre on our last night. My new khaki Massimo Dutti jeans, the black Helmut Lang jacket and, ironically, the black v-neck sweater that I threw in at the last minute. And my loafers, of course. These shoes have been real work horses in my closet. As you can probably tell by the number of times they appear on the blog. 

Helmut Lang jacket, Banana Republic sweater, Massimo Dutti jeans, Stuart Weitzman loafers, Holt Renfrew bag     Helmut Lang jacket, Banana Republic sweater, Massimo Dutti jeans, Stuart Weitzman loafers, Holt Renfrew bag
I took my light raincoat on the last night because rain had been forecast. But thankfully it held off until we arrived back at the hotel. And the mist in the air made for a great shot of the Empire State building... or half of it anyway.

New York City at night, Empire State Building half hidden in the mist
Elizabeth's shot of the Empire State Building as we made our way back to our hotel. 

I did absolutely no fashion research before my trip to New York. Besides looking at the weather forecast. So this morning, for fun, I Googled "how to dress like a New Yorker." Ha. So glad I did not read any of these articles before I left. Not that I would have paid any attention anyway. I mean, I learned my lesson with Paris. But according to these writers all New Yorkers wear black, black and more black. Sky high heels. Lots of leather. And really, really cuttingly edgy everything. Really? Of course it was way too hot for leather. But I don't think I saw a single woman in high heels as we tramped all over New York. Black ballet flats, however, were simply everywhere. Lots of ankle boots, some with bare legs. And dresses. Lots of really lovely day dresses. Of course many of the people we would have seen on the streets were just like us... visitors. Still, in Greenwich Village and Soho, you'd think we'd have seen at last a few of these edgier than edgy people. Still, I'm sure they're there somewhere.

I apologize if you were looking for something a bit more interesting in this post. But as I've said before on the blog, I gotta be me. And edgy I ain't. Or wildly creative like some bloggers my age. Just me. Not trying to dress like a New Yorker. Just trying to dress like me... a Canadian visiting New York. Trying to be polished and pulled together, and comfortable at the same time. Trying to look current, and NOT have to pack a giant suitcase for a four day trip. By the way Elizabeth and I both travelled with carry-on only. My first time doing that. Worked out fine. I even had room to pack a couple of new purchases. And despite my companion's prediction on our last shopping day... "You are so going to be checking your bag on the way home"... crammed it was, but definitely NOT checked. Oh, ye of little faith. 

By the way. This is one of my new purchases. A wool sweater from Prada... in a lovely green that goes perfectly with my khaki jeans from Massimo Dutti. Love this sweater, and the coat I bought. But I haven't had time to play around with them yet, to see what goes with what. Stay tuned. Post coming soon.     

Prada sweater, Massimo Dutti jeans, Stuart Weitzman loafers.

How about you folks? Do you try to change your style when you travel? Are you influenced by those articles on how to dress like... whatever? Anything else you want to get off your chest? Like Kelsey Grammar used to say on Frasier, one of my all time favourite shows: "Go ahead. I'm listening."

Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, and Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed as Lamb.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New York Stories. Well... Some of Them.

In a moment of beautiful serendipity, I sat down at my computer this morning, to start this post about my trip to New York. The shopping. The theatre. The art. And on CBC radio, Michael Enright began interviewing Ross King, discussing King's new book Mad Enchantment, about Claude Monet and his famous water lily paintings. Two of which I just saw... like... three days ago!  At Moma in New York. I love it when stuff like that happens, don't you? 

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's begin at the beginning. Elizabeth and Sue went to New York. On a plane. They stayed four nights, and saw and did many exciting things. These are their stories. And pictures, of course.

View from our plane as we approach New York
Glued to the window. Waiting for a view of the New York skyline.
Elizabeth and I have been planning this trip for a few months. Getting together to eat lunch and talk about what we wanted to see, and what we didn't give a toss about. Researching the best ways to travel and where to stay. Making lists of what we wanted to do. We decided to stay at the beautiful, historic Gregory Hotel on West 35th St. There was a bit of a glitch with our booking when we arrived on Monday. But that was solved, and the rate for our first night suitably reduced. I do admit to getting, ahem, a bit testy with the front desk clerk over that. But I calmed down and things were soon hunky dory. This is me, below, lounging on my bed in my Veronica Beard jacket.

Lounging in our room at the Gregory Hotel, NYC. Veronica Beard suit
Photo of me in our room at the Gregory courtesy of Elizabeth 
The Gregory is close to so much we wanted to see and do. So, for three and a half days we walked. And walked. The first afternoon and evening we found our bearings. Explored a few blocks in all directions from our hotel. Saw the first of many iconic landmarks. Ate Korean tapas at a nearby Korean Gastro Pub. Oh, yum. That was delicious. I even managed to use chopsticks without embarrassing myself. Thanks to my sister-in-law Yu Ling who taught me this skill many years ago.

View of the Empire State Building which was near the Gregory Hotel. NYC
The Empire State Building was quite near our hotel. 
The next two days we hoofed it all over midtown and downtown. Somewhat shell shocked, I will say, by the crowds and the sensory overload. As Elizabeth said, "Too much much-ness" Love that line. Times Square is definitely a far cry from Manotick on the Rideau, folks.

Times Square
Times Square ...  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
We spent a lovely afternoon at Moma, the Museum of Modern Art. Moma was on both our 'must do' lists. I love modern art, having been converted many years ago when I took my creative writing class on a field trip to the National Gallery here in Ottawa. I still smile at the memory of our "very cool" tour guide who kept me and 30+ initially bored and dismissive teenagers spellbound for over an hour. I don't pretend to always understand what I'm looking at. But I'm always willing to be enlightened. At Moma, the Matisse painting, below, began to unfold for me when I read the description. Ah, now I could see the flower pot on the balcony, the man in the round turban, seen from behind. Of course, we also saw lots of Picassos, stunning paintings by Andrew Wyeth, and those Monet water lilies that I mentioned above. And then after only two floors ... we were done. Arted out, so to speak. We'd leave the rest for another visit.

The Moroccans by Henri Matisse as seen at Moma in New York City

Text description of a Matisse painting at Moma in New York City

On our way back to the hotel from Moma we stopped for a quiet moment at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Beautiful. Then toured Uniqlo, a temple of a very different sort. So many sweaters; none of them suitable, as it turned out, for moi. We ended the afternoon at the New York Public Library. A gorgeous old building, and so wonderful that it belongs to the people of New York. The library... perfect end to a perfect day for an ex-English teacher and a retired editor, don't you think?

Saint Patrick's Cathedral and fast fashion retailer Uniqlo, both on Fifth Avenue, New York City
Two Fifth Ave temples: Saint Patrick's Cathedral and fast fashion giant Uniqlo
That night we were well able to handle a big meal, but not prepared to walk far to get it. So we dined in at Brendan's Bar and Grill attached to our hotel, part of the original "public rooms" of the Gregory back in its heyday. That's Elizabeth below. Hungry and footsore, but still smiling.

Dining at Brendan's Bar and Grill, West 35th St, New York City

Day two was largely dedicated to shopping. Now why doesn't that surprise you? Caffeinated and coiffed we left the hotel early, hoofed it down Broadway, and ate our breakfast in the square under the shadow of the iconic Flatiron building.

View of The Flatiron building, Broadway, New York City
New York's iconic Flatiron building erected in 1902
Then we pressed on, intent on shopping in Greenwich Village and Soho. We lost ourselves for a time among the "eighteen miles of books" in the Strand Bookstore. Experienced the strangely confusing decor at Prada on Broadway. Seriously, when we entered the store, the stairs looked as if they disappeared into thin air. We laughingly asked how to access the women's clothes, and a staff member chuckled and kindly explained. In fact everyone was lovely; which kind of surprised both of us. We had expected haughty indifference. I had a hard time choosing a sweater: burgundy or military green? I also had a hard time opening the sliding door of my dressing room. For a moment or two I was trapped inside four walls of mirrors with a video screen of Prada-clad models, their hair softly blowing in the breeze. Totally surreal, almost Ray Bradbury-esque. Then we lunched in Soho. And on our way back to our hotel, we detoured through Washington Square Park, Henry James country. Books and clothes and literary landmarks. Oh my. My Stan Smith sneakers were steaming from the miles of pavement we'd covered. 

Day three started with a visit to Macy's. I shopped, and tried on coats, and felt a little guilty as Elizabeth patiently held my purse. I found a fall coat that I loved, and which now resides in my closet. I'll tell you the tale about that in a fashion post soon. We stopped by Rockefeller Center to see the statue of Prometheus. And the ice skaters, of course. Not surprisingly the ice looked a little spongy after the recent heat wave. Then we purchased a take-out salad for supper and went back to the Gregory to put our feet up for a while. 

Shot of Prometheus and ice skaters at Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center, Prometheus and some skaters. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
We wanted to be fresh for our last night in New York. We had tickets for Beautiful:The Carole King Musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. It was marvelous. Especially for two people who were teenagers in the seventies. One of whom remembers her older sister buying King's Tapestry album back in the day. The songs from that record form part of the sound track of my early teen years. "So far away..." 

 In Times Square on our way to the Stephen Sondheim Theater, NYC
Elizabeth's photo of me in Times Square on our way to the theatre.
I grinned throughout the entire performance. And Elizabeth says I may have audibly "oh-ed" once or twice at the beginning of a particularly beloved song. It's hard to keep quiet when you hear the first strains of a song you've sung every word to, for so many years. During the encore number the entire audience got to their feet and sang along. Sigh. Brought a tear to my eye. 

Playbill for Beautiful: The Carole King Story, outside Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC

In another serendipitous moment, we discovered that the role of Carole King is now played by Canadian Chilina Kennedy, whom I saw in Evita at the Stratford Festival, and Elizabeth saw in Evangeline. Now how cool is that? 

New York at night
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth 
New York at night is beautiful. We wended our way back to the hotel, as a mist descended. That's the Empire State Building below. The top of it lost in the fog. Tomorrow the weather would change. And we'd head for home. 

The Empire State Building disappearing into the mist
Elizabeth's shot of the Empire State Building in the mist 
Our journey home was not without its drama. Extra long cab ride to the airport courtesy of construction and lots and lots of rain. Weather delay, as well as broken-down ground equipment and some guy who had to get off the plane minutes before we were to take off, all meant that our flight out of LaGuardia was delayed by almost two hours. This ate up (pun intended) the time between flights in Toronto when we should have been able to get supper. It also meant a mad and frantic dash for our flight to Ottawa. And I do mean mad. Leaping to the front of the loooong security line after clearing customs. This upon the advice of the West Jet operator whom Elizabeth phoned as we languished in the huge line ten minutes before our flight. Then the dash to the gate as our names were called. Red faced, hair no doubt standing on end (well, mine anyway), filing to the back of the plane (of course) under the baleful gaze of people who had been waiting in their seats, and were probably wondering who the two airheads were who couldn't get to their gate on time. Or at least that's what I imagined they were thinking. Then, starving, we were offered those disgusting granola bars... again. I hate those. But I inhaled it anyway, thinking that hopefully Hubby would have something good to eat at home. And, of course, he did. 

So. Elizabeth and Sue went to New York. These were their stories. Well, some of them. We've already started talking about next year. I hear that Sally Field will be playing Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Oh. I adore Tennessee Williams. I'd give anything to see that.

If you get a chance, you have to see Beautiful. I mean it. You'll love it. Have a listen.

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Monday, October 17, 2016

New York State of Mind

This post will be short and sweet. Short because I'm flying to New York City tomorrow with a girlfriend. And there are outfits to be tried on, ironed, packed... etc etc. And sweet because... well ... tomorrow I'm flying to New York City with a girlfriend. And I'm excited. It's my sixtieth birthday treat to myself. Albeit a few months late. But who cares? As my friend Elizabeth said when I asked her if she wanted to come along... "Autumn in New York. Sounds good to me."

New York City

We've had our flights and hotel booked for a while. What will we do when we get there? We've done our homework. We've lots of ideas, and recommendations, and we've narrowed down what we don't care about, and what we do. But as for making specific plans.... we've not made up our minds yet. We plan to walk a lot, and shop some. See a show, or maybe two. Visit some museums, we're not sure which ones yet. And other than that... eat, sip wine... and enjoy just being there. 

Just being there will be great. 

So, my friends. I'll be in touch in a few days. In the meantime. I am truly in a "New York State of Mind." 

Love this Billy Joel song.