Schiaparelli & sound advice?

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The other week I read Shocking life-the autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli, and I’d like to return to it once more. As I noted on Instagram I felt there was some great stories in this book but the designer’s instance of referring to herself in the third person made it a less then thrilling read. I wish an editor had stepped in at some point.

On the next to last page there is a list of The twelve commandments for women. This does ring a bell, I vaguely remember a Swedish magazine or possibly a radioshow bringing them up at some point, but then again as they are well known what I have to say about them is probably old hat, but here they are. These commandments were written in the 50’s and based on her experiences as a couturier but how do they hold up?

1. Since most women don’t know themselves they should try to do so.

Agreed. Knowing yourself, what suits you and what you need are probably vital for putting together a useful closet.

2. A woman who buys an expensive dress and changes it,often with disastrous results, is extravagant and foolish.

This is still good advice. But there is a certain pleasure in being extravagant and foolish, and buying an expensive dress might get you qualified as that to begin with.

3. Most women (and men) are color-blind. They should ask for suggestions.

I don’t think she means actually color-blind but rather bad a knowing what colours suit them and which go well with one another. Asking for advice is a good strategy.

4. Remember-twenty per cent of women have inferiority complexes. Seventy per cent have illusions.

Really? I would say nowadays the numbers are reversed.

5. Ninety per cent are afraid of being conspicuous and of what people will say. So they buy a grey suit. They should dare to be different.

Supposedly by following commandment three that should be sorted. And a grey suit can be a good base for some wonderful accessories. I wouldn’t mind having a grey suit actually, mixing it up with some chartreuse blouses or a raspberry red t-shirt(long sleeves).

6. Women should listen and ask for competent criticism and advice.

This list isn’t well-written, this should come before number three and then the piece of advice after that should specify  “in particular when it comes to colour”. It’s all very anti-Chanel who’s palette was very much about neutrals. They were enemies of course, Coco once(allegedly) put Elsa in the pathway of a burning candle and she caught fire.

7. They should choose their clothes alone or in the company of a man.

I prefer shopping alone as if I’m out with someone else I will spend more time on helping them then looking for myself. And if women should ask for competent advice, can staff be trusted? Not everywhere, a well-chosen friend is probably better. Personal shoppers can be hired, might not be a bad idea for some.

8. They should never shop with another woman, who sometimes consciously and often unconsciously is apt to be jealous.

Disagree. I’m an excellent shopping partner, and I know other women who are as well. And the women you can’t shop with because of jealousy will probably be like that in other areas of your life too, and maybe that’s not a relationship to invest in or maybe have an honest talk.

9. They should buy little, and only of the best or the cheapest.

This actually sounds rather cool. Still valid. But remember that “fast-fashion” is cheap because the price doesn’t reflect the use of common resources and sub-standard working conditions and is in reality very costly for the environment. Go vintage or second-hand. Swap with friends.

10. Never fit the dress to the body, but train the body to fit the dress.

I’m all for women making time to exercise as it’s vital for a good health but don’t do it to fit into a dress. And in this day and age of prêt-a-porter the clothes are made for theoretical body types. I still have to get stuff fitted for a nice silhouette as I’m between sizes and losing more wight would not be the solution.

11. A woman should buy mostly in one place where she is known and respected, ad not rush around trying every fad.

This is good advice. Establishing a personal connection with sales staff with get you better service and advice.

12. And she should pay her bills.

Schiaparelli herself obviously had a problem because her customers didn’t always pay for the clothes in time and despite being a huge commercial success she wasn’t so financially. But always pay your bills, late fees is a waste of money.

-Suss

Bashō&Bourbon

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I’ve been reading Bashō again. This time it’s been a slim volume called On love and Barley.

Having been introduced to his work by a Penguin little black classic called Lips too chilled last year I found much I recognized in this, indeed the small volume draws from this. However I did also get a good introduction which taken together with that in A narrow road to the deep North and other travels sketches has taught me more about the man behind the haikus.

Born in 1644 Bashō bridges the gap, or indeed seems to be the conduit, between a time of stagnation for Japanese poetry and the Tokugawa-era which saw the blooming of culture.

His love of nature (his pen name comes from a tree), a lifelong curiosity and adherence to Zen buddism imbues his lines with an awe of nature but also act to point our eyes to what is important. He doesn’t have to spell it all out but rather makes the reader notice his or her surroundings. Haiku was an established form of verse but it was outdated and Bashō reinvigorated it by making the most of the rules and on occasion breaking them. Haiku with it’s limited space still allows for much experimentation. In the end he was a traditionalist and respectful of the limitations but I interpret it as he sometimes found that the art had precedence over convention, and thus mixed it up so to speak.

Speaking of mixing it up (I’m stretching it when I compare haikus to Old-fashioneds but bear with); The Old-fashioned has through the reinvigorated cocktail scene in general, and the TV-series Mad men in particular, again become very popular. Like haiku it’s defined by very simple rules but it’s  hard to make an outstanding one for that very reason.

The list of ingredients is short and to the point; bourbon,sugar cube, bitters and and orange zest. Possibly a cocktail cherry; I rather like them but the trend is to skip the fruit. I don’t know why. Then there is the difficult part; the mixing of said things.

I’ve heard more than one bartender say that they judge other bartenders on how they make them, it’s a test. And there is a difference I can tell you. That said, if making them at home-lower your expectations. But it’s also a good opportunity to break the rules.

One of my most tried examples of blasphemy is using single-malt whiskey instead of bourbon. Most bourbons are too bland and sweet for me and when making bar cabinet priorities the single-malt is of the utmost importance, I use it for all manner of cocktails.

I got the idea to use it also for Old fashioned from none other then Tony Conigliario, or to be precise, a visit to 69 Colebrook row which is one of the best bars in the world according to me. Having one was an epiphany. If guests want more of a standard version I use a blended whiskey (which also is of higher importance than bourbon in my book, and easier to find a good version of to be honest). Then I’m lazy and use a syrup instead of a sugar cube which means the stirring is is kept at a minimum, and is a good opportunity to add another dimension. Last but not least; there are other bitters than Angostura. In short; by playing around with the elements there is a good opportunity to make something that is familiar and yet original.

Baseline Old fashioned; yields one drink

0.5-1 cl of syrup

5 cl bourbon, blended whiskey or single-malt

2 dashes of bitters

for serving; tumbler full of ice

orange zest (or grapefruit or lemon; whatever works from the citrus family)

  1. Pour the sugar syrup into a stirring glass full of ice and begin to stir.
  2. Add half of the spirit and continue to stir.
  3. Add the rest of it and the bitters and stir some more.
  4. Strain into at the tumbler of ice and garnish with the citrus of your choice.

With this as the format there is no reason why you shouldn’t make a drink with mezcal, elderflower syrup and Scrappy’s black lemon bitters. It’s a variation on this theme that I haven’t tried but I probably should. As always; enjoy responsibly.

-Suss

End of winter- empties

In the last few weeks we have gone from winter (we had snow on May 10th) to summer (May 20th) and sometime around there I used up the last of several things that have gotten me through winter. I can’t stress this enough; I’m not a beauty or skincare blogger. But I have skin, and I care about it etc.

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  1. Vaseline intensive aloe sooth

One thing I’ve learned about having dry skin is that it’s not necessarily about the product, it’s about the routine. Better to buy a cheap but still reasonable bodylotion, and there are several on the market, and then make sure you use it everyday. This is one that I often find at the discount store and I’m very fond of it.

2. Almond oil

In addition to the lightweight bodylotion I go in with almond oil at times, the heavy artillery so to speak. This is available from Swedish pharmacies and is better then the Other stories body oil, but at a third of the price. The bottle isn’t as nice obviously. That is part of what you pay premium for. Or you can do like me and just hide things in the bathroom cabinet.

3. Vichy Aqualia Thermal

Love this pure and simple. It works very well for me as I have combination skin on my face and the difference between t-zone and cheeks is aggravated by harsh weather. Since this is so light weight I can basically put a bit extra on my cheeks to even out. Layering serum is probably wrong/blasphemy/idiotic but whatever. It works for me and I can adjust for the level of winter wonderland we have on any particular day.

4. Flagrant délice by Terry de Gunzburg

This lovely fig and almond scent is sweeter than what I usually like but as it is also quite discrete. I enjoy wearing it on cold days as it is a mood enhancer and almost like being wrapped in a cosy blanket.

5. Dry fast top coat by Seche Vite

I don’t wear nail polish that often, especially not in winter as the weather wrecks havoc with my nails. But if I do, I need a good fast drying top coat because otherwise it will smear as I’m impatient and will probably  put on mittens or gloves and ruin it otherwise. This is the best, with the notable exception of the spray on top coat that used to be available abroad. I suspect that it was an environmental hazard and probably a human one as well but I will tell you; for a while there I had some lovely colourful nails and not a smudge as far as the eye could see.

-Suss

Carbs&Chignons

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So the world is rejoicing that the French decided not to elect a right wing populist as president. Of course,always contrarian the french; electing a right wing leader is what everyone else is doing. So I guess the fascination with them will continue. The food,the style and the attitude. Paris, the city of lights, the undulating hills of Provence and the glamorous life in Nice; they are the object of our dreams and desires. How to get there without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Many a books have been written by the french, by people living in France and about the french themselves. And on a few occasions by the french about the french;  to explain to us mere mortals how they do it. I’ve read more then one of those books, and even when I open the book with the intention of not liking it and assume they are making fun of me, I still manage to find a few tips and tricks along the way.

Why french women don’t get fat supposedly got quite a buzz when it was published. I have the Swedish translation that I bought at a gift shop a few years back. And Giuliano is a bit full of herself, i.e. lives up to the myth of the french woman, but many of the recipes are good I have to admit. I don’t know how “valid” it still is. She advocates a life with carbs,and I agree, but many of the food fads continue to rage, get exchanged for new ones and obesity is still one of the biggest health problems in the world.  So maybe she sold a lot of books but her solutions probably mostly preached to the gospel. I don’t think she did intend to save the world however.

A book more recently published is How to be Parisian wherever you are-love style and bad habits written by a group of very chic french women. the kind that has an inherited Hermés bag, a cool piece of new Chanel and has perfected the art of messy hair. I would say that this book,also intended for the hapless non-french, doesn’t take itself to seriously. And it does involve some good recipes. If we are talking style ideals and role models I would say that this bunch isn’t all that bad. I’m obviously biased; I think french pharmacies are brilliant with their affordable skincare, love good food and have a had a penchant for striped tops since childhood. Also any excuse not to wash my hair to often,or brush it, will be used. They say it’s chic, I nod my head and wear my hair in a messy bun for the 19th day in a row. But it is a fun book to browse through. I liked it more then I thought I would.

One thing that the french has figured out is that older women aren’t a menace to society. Yes, they do love young women, the femme-infant has a place in the french heart, but there seems to be room for all women.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just thought I would mention these two books, that have in common that I gained more from them then I thought I would. The good thing about advice from a book about how to be french is that you can pick what you like and ignore the rest, which really is the best kind advice book. And I haven’t visited France since 2015 so aching to go back.

-Suss

 

George&Junkshops; 7 things to look out for

A junk shop is not to be confused with an antique shop. An antique shop is clean,its goods are attractively set out and priced at about double their value and once inside the shop you are usually bullied into buying something. A junk shop has  fine film of dust over the window,its stock may include anything that is not perishable and and its proprietor, who is usually asleep in a small room at the back, displays no eagerness to make a sale.

-George Orwell

I’ve quoted this passage from the essay Just Junk-but who could resist it by George Orwell before and I will again as I happen to think it’s very funny and it’s funny because it’s true. Everyone I know remembers how when I moved into this flat there was the oddest junk shop on the corner and it fit this description perfectly. We have all bought stuff there and some of it was very good, and possibly a bargain. The most memorable thing however were the long essays that the proprietor left in the window for passers by to read, explaining his worldview and what was wrong in society today.  A lovely bit of eccentricity that the neighborhood did gain from I think.

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Had I had this wonderful essay by Orwell then I would have bought more things probably; Orwell is a gem of a writer but also a seasoned shopper. Some of the things he tells us to look out for in the essay(included in The decline of the english murder)

  1. “Victorian brooches and lockets of agate or other semi-precious stones”; Orwell concedes that 5 out of 6 are ugly but the beautiful ones are worth the trouble. I will start looking immediately, this sounds like exactly the thing I like. Why don’t I have lockets of agate already ?(because I love jade that’s why)
  2. Papier-mâche snuffboxes with pictures painted on the lid; If I had a small collection of those my accessories would be well organized. I have those Muji thingies but they are not very sexy. Probably more practical but since I use the same pieces to death in periods (and then they are either on me or in my small Wedgwood dish) it’s not really something I need worry about.
  3. Scrap screens; He points out that the best were made in the 1880’s but these do not come cheaply anymore. I do agree that they are wonderful. An old friend bought one and used as a bed board, simply marvelous in that kind of minimalist Stockholm home that is de rigeur nowadays. And as Orwell points out; it is fun adding your own scraps if needed . I would like a screen in any case and I might just make my own with all the maps and other travel mementos I’ve gathered over the years.
  4. Glass paper weights with pictures at the bottom; Don’t buy the expensive ones from John Derian I implore you. Buy a 70’s one with the words “Bienvenue à Nice” at the bottom instead. You need a bit of kitsch, you really do.
  5. Old French sword-bayonets(to use as a fire poker); Pure genius.
  6. Keys to fit almost any lock; And if you don’t want to find a key to unlock a secret drawer in a chest (also bought in a junk shop), you can always turn them into art or accessories.
  7. “Indeed,I have often found that the cheapest way of buying a frame is to buy a picture and then throw away the picture”; This is very true but it should be added how many pictures that look a lot better when they are out of their frame. It absolutely used to be the case that people got very elaborate gilded frames for pictures and paintings so that other could clearly see that the it was something expensive that had been framed. That it ended up overshadowing the actual artwork seemed less of a problem. You might just get two for one with that.

-Suss

 

A supposedly fun thing I’ll probably try again

IMG_0224After having DFW on my TBR for ages, I finally got my hands on a copy but sadly I DNF and I ask myself;WTF?

But seriously; David Foster Wallace is one of those writers that is surrounded by an aura of intellect and profoundness. People talk about reading him like it’s a conquest. Well people speak about Proust the same way, like it’s major  achievement and that those that manage it are better people. Not so; we who have read Proust know that he isn’t that difficult, in fact very funny, and as life changing as it can be it doesn’t really make us morally superior, and I will never act like it does. In fact I’ve gone on and on, here,there and everywhere, about how Proust really is a jolly good fellow who isn’t difficult to read at all; he just has a different idea of how long a sentence should be( he was French; what do you expect?). But I digress, this was supposed to be about DFW and my failure to finish.

So simply put; I don’t fear Wallace, and I still don’t, because I’m not a complete idiot and he wasn’t the most intelligent man to ever walk the earth( which is either Stephan Hawking, who doesn’t actually walk but has a wheelchair, or whoever started putting sea salt in chocolate. Genius pure and simple). Point is I should be able to make sense of DFW. And I do. I’ve concluded that I started in the wrong end however.

The problem for me with this collection of essays, of which I read about half before I needed to return it to the library, was that so many of the didn’t feel relevant here and now. I will absolutely advocate reading his essays but maybe start with something else, or buy this book and read it very slowly.

The titel essay, about taking a cruise, was fun. And an essay about consumption of popular culture felt poignant. A fair few of his essays are published online but reading “Consider the lobster” on screen when so much happens in the footnotes for which I have to scroll cirka 8 years is insufferable. He loves footnotes, I love footnotes. But they don’t translate well to the online-format (hence my over use of parenthesis,”also” and semi-colons). But again that wasn’t the story her (although it is very much in the meandering vein of Wallace.)

Another dilemma I’m faced with is the scarcity of DFW at Stockholm libraries; he is in the catalogue but noted as “missing”. His books have probably been stolen, or read to they fell apart and no new copies have been bought. In addition, and I hate to admit this, maybe this is at the outer limits of my english, also because it’s american admittedly. I attempted Pynchon in english once; failed. I get more out of it in translation.

So the moral of the story is this; Wallace ins’t an enigma of a writer wrapped in a conundrum. Well worth reading but you might consider doing so in your native tongue.

Things mentioned in this post;

DFW=David Foster Wallace

DFW essays 

DNF=did not finish

TBR= To be read

WTF= what the f&/k

-Suss

7 rites of Spring

IMG_1467I’m a creature of habit when it comes to most things, and it should be noted that I take the change of the seasons very seriously. I’ve decided that it’s spring, irrespective of  the weather.

I may or may not have blogged about my spring-rituals before however I do know that I’ve brought up Rita Konig, of whom I’m a fan. I don’t know how old these tear sheets are but they are from British Vogue and they have on them a few tips from then Vogue columnist Konig about “how to spring clean your life”.  And very good advice it is; some of them I’ve integrated to my rite of spring, and then I’ve added a few of my own. This is what I did this weekend.

  1. Give the home a good going over including a washing of the windows. It doesn’t have to be the real deal; windex and an old newspaper is fine. But it makes the world of difference, especially for me as the living room has one HUGE window. I love the light it let’s through but it can be unforgiving if dirty.
  2. Change the scent of the home; out with the sweet and spicy candles, in with the fresh and floral. Predictable as I am I really love Baies from Diptyque this time of year but their Mimosa candle is also lovely.
  3. Get a new soap and handlotion for the bathroom. I have a fondness for Morrocan Tea from Other Stories; the lotion is very good and the scent is suitable for everyone.
  4. Wash all the wool sweaters; I use my cashmere all year round but try not to wash them unless they are actually dirty. A good airing will often do. A few times of year I do however make sure they are all properly hand washed and dried(rolled up in big bath towels).
  5. Get something new on the wall; rehanging paintings or just changing what is in the frames gives me something new to look at and has a bigger impact then you can imagine. I have these five old poster with a Japanese series of prints on that I plan to frame and hang; bought them at a flea market last summer. Did not have time this weekend though but soon, very soon.
  6. Clear out the bookshelves; Konig advises this but I’ve resisted. After the Kon Mari -method I feel otherwise. I’ve tried different strategies but clearing the bookshelves four times of year, making room for new books, seems the ultimate method for me.
  7. Get a new watch strap; this was a piece of advice from the Vogue article that I really took to heart and did for spring for a few years. I really loved having a colourful strap to set the tone. I had dark blue, purple for a period and also green; a racing green one year and a more minty shade another. I had completely forgotten about this since I no longer have a watch. It broke and I haven’t bought a new one. I should do that; I miss having one on my arm, and the opportunity for a dash of colour that it allows.

Things mentioned in this post;

Rita Konig

Baies from Diptyque

Moroccan tea from Other Stories

Kon Mari-method

-Suss