Friday, June 20, 2008

CSOTW - ElevenEleven Designs

Ok, once again I'm breaking from my extended serial on NYC to return to an old favorite... Friday's Cool Site of the Week.

This week is a new indie jewelry site called ElevenEleven Designs. The designer lives in Chicago and studied her craft with a jeweler who has been around for over 100 years. She took time off to pursue other ventures, but has returned to her first love. She's created a design she's coined "the birdnest". Once you view the site you'll see why. Bottom line is that the few items she has up already show real promise and somehow manage to combine elegance, trend, kitch and class - no easy feat.

I have one of her rings and have to say I get comments on it every time I wear it out and about. And from what she says, earrings and pendants won't be far behind. I look forward to both! And I imagine that I'll get to see them as soon as they debut... probably at our upcoming family reunion, since the designer is also my sister.

ElevenEleven Designs

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Me N The City: Part 12 – The End of a Dream

I looked out over the sea of fabric and people. How was I ever gonna find Sarah? As I wandered the Land of the Lost, I finally found her back by the suits. She had found an ADORABLE pin striped suit but much like me was concerned about whether or not it would fit. We both glanced across the store at the line for the fitting rooms and wordlessly eliminated that from our options. With a quick glance around, Sarah said to me “Ok, I am going to head over here into this corner and you are going to ‘look at’ clothes around me”. I blinked for a second but then got her vibe. So we headed over to the corner of the store where, fortunately for her, there were not many people milling around. Getting as wedged into the corner as she could, she began to shimmy out of her slacks. I stood in front of her with my back to the crowd, found a very large sweater and held it up in to “examine” it in detail.

As she pulled on the pants of the suit she was considering she started to laugh. “What?” I asked. She said “Well the security guards are going to get something to see in the cameras. I’m ‘Sysco’ right now.” Ummm what? Then I got it – the one hit wonder R&B singer with the bleached blonde hair. Anyone remember his big hit? Say it with me now…Thong Tha Thong Thong Thong. I had to laugh out loud. Here was Sarah, in a couture warehouse in NYC trying on pants out in the open while wearing a thong. This is why I love her!

But it was lucky that she did try them on - they didn’t fit. Now we were both bummed. She loved that suit – and I could see why… it was fabulous. Slowly our sky high expectations of our visit to Century 21 were being dashed on the rocks of frustration. I glanced at my watch – it was 4:30. We still had to hit the subway for a 20 min trip back to midtown and then we had dreamed of a refreshing nap before spending a ridiculous amount of time getting dressed and ready. I turned to Sarah and shared my concern… we weren’t going to get to peruse the kids, mens, or shoe section. Talk about crushing disappointment. We both decided to at least give it one more shot around the floor to hope against hope the perfect thing would jump right out at us.

It didn’t. After 20 more minutes I examined my finds as I headed to the checkout counter. I had my adorable quirky Save the Queen skirt, my amazing fashion-forward Vivienne Westwood Red Label suit, a couple pieces of cashmere I had grabbed along the way, my Ellen Tracy “fall back” dress, A cute “no-name” distressed t-shirt dress I happened upon, and my Dolce Dress… my sweet little Dolce dress. I stood off to the side of the store and looked over each piece one by one.

The skirt – while it was amazing and unique, it wasn’t something I could wear at work (too unique!) so while it was great, it wouldn’t get a lot of use and so for the price, it had to go back. I plunked it down on the nearest rack (let someone else search high and low for it). The Westwood suit – again an amazing piece of art, but for almost $400 could I justify something that may or may not fit? My reasonable brain took over and I knew I couldn’t face my husband if it ended up not working. Plunk. (cringe). The cashmere – considering you can get 100% cashmere at Old Navy now, did I really need these? I had a great navy Ralph Lauren private label cashmere wrap dress. That would get me by. Plunk. The distressed t-dress – ok it was $35, it was cute and by God I was keeping it. Score one. The Ellen Tracy dress – again, it was cheap at $75, it was cute, and every girl needs as many LBD’s (little black dresses) as she can afford. Score two. What’s left? The Dolce dress – what could I do? What should I do? What would Heidi do? Could I diet to a size 4? Maybe it would be my diet muse – that push I needed. Then I remembered that Karl Lagerfeld dress I had in my closet that I bought 4 years ago using this very same argument. It was a size 2 – I was a size 6 (at the time)… I figured I could do it. Its still sitting in my closet with its little tags hanging off the side, feeling unloved. I knew I had to let the dream die. I gave the dress a tiny little hug and then…. Plunk. (sob).

I hunted down Sarah once again and we both headed to the counter. I realized that I was walking away with a fancy version of a t-shirt from a designer I’d never heard of, and a dress that I could have bought back home in Iowa at our local department store. I was a couture failure. While my husband would be thrilled at the lack of financial output, I was crushed. This was supposed to be my finest hour and instead it turned into a colossal, frustrating, waste of time. What had I become?

We waited in line for our turn, rang up our purchases and at 5:00 headed back to the subway to return to the hotel. As we set foot in our hotel room with the air of two people returning from a funeral, we set the alarm on the bedside clock for 6:00, plopped down in the bed and drifted off to sleep hoping the nap would break the depressing karma of the day and that dinner at Butter would be everything we imagined and more…

… to be continued.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Me N The City: Part 11 – The Fabric Jungle

As I clung to my one little skirt, I set out to continue my needle-in-a-haystack search. I started in “dresses”. I found a really cute little black Ellen Tracy that was down from $180 to $75. But I could find that on a sale rack in my local department store back home. I grabbed it just in case since it was cute… maybe it would be an “add on” buy at the end of the day. Most of the rest of the dresses were pretty formal so I moved on in search of other items.

I gravitated toward the “European Couture” racks, giddy with anticipation. This would most likely be my mecca. Almost immediately I found an amazing lavender Vivienne Westwood Red Label suit… I checked the tag hoping against hope… it was my size! Well it was the European equivalent of my size…probably. I grabbed it up and hugged it to me. This was what I was here for. The skirt looked like it could be a little slender in the hips and the jacket was a little fashion forward even for me, but I was pretty sure I could make it work. I then checked the price. Amazing for what it was, the suit was marked down to $375.00. But that was still a fair amount to spend on something that I wasn’t sure about fit-wise (considering there was no way I was waiting 30 minutes for a fitting room). Especially something I wouldn’t be able to return. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind and continued on my quest.

I headed toward a rack marked Viktor and Rolf and delighted in just touching one of the amazing skirts. Even “marked down” they were still $1200 and I knew I’d never have anywhere to wear something that unique, but I let myself have the joy of simply holding one. As I placed it back on the rack, sighed happily and turned, it was then that I saw it… the Dolce & Gabbana dress I had come for. Of course I hadn’t known this ahead of time, but when I saw it I knew at once that was it – my trophy piece. The way you know the right man, the right wedding dress - I knew.

It was a beautiful cream, short-sleeved (slightly puffed), tailored, knee length dress with a low scoop neck all done in a beautiful twill. It was the perfect “wear anywhere” dress, from work to evenings out. And it was the kind of dress that would make a girl look the way she should. Even better, there were about four on the rack. I all but ran to grab my find lest someone else grab the very one I wanted… no, needed. I checked the price tag first – not any too worried actually. This dress was going home with me no matter the cost. Oh rapture – it was reasonable at $275.00! This was too good to be true. I glanced at the size of the one I was holding. It was the equivalent of an American size 2. That won’t work. No worry, there were three others on the rack. I checked the tag of the second – a size 4. Well we were going in the right direction. I checked the third tag. Another 2. Drat. Suddenly I realized we were down to one dress remaining. Saying a desperate prayer to the fashion gods, I took the tag in my hands and gently turned it over. Size 4. I blinked. It couldn’t be. They had to be wrong. Out of four dresses at least ONE had to be my size. Its just not fair.

Stunned, I stood there for a moment gathering my thoughts. Wisftully I grabbed one of the size 4’s and held it up to me – perhaps it was a generous 4. Yeahhhh nope. My hips were not compatible with those lines. Ok, I just had to think. Where there is a will there is a way. Think think think! Ok, I’ll just have to diet. That’s all. I can go down two dress sizes if I really try. And what better motivation? I can do it right!? Then that annoying little common sense voice nagged me from deep inside – I had only managed to go down one dress size in 10 weeks on Weight Watchers. At age 35 with a 1 year old at home there was little hope of ever being a size four again. But I just couldn’t give up. Maybe there was enough seam allowance to have it tailored. I grabbed the dress and held onto it – refusing to admit defeat. I heard the five-year-old inside of me saying “This is THE dress. I don’t want any other stinky dress. I want THIS dress!”

After an hour of picking through a fabric jungle trying to find “it” – not having any idea what “it” was – after dealing with cranky sales staff and even crankier patrons, after realizing that there was a good chance something wonderful may be out there somewhere that I would never find, and after finding my dream only to see it start to slowly unravel, my patience was wearing thin. Shifting my load from one arm to the other, I decided to go find Sarah. Maybe she had the skinny on some fabulous finds…

…to be continued.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Me N The City: Part 10 – Century 21 is Here

We finished up the last few crumbs of our cupcake, put on our game faces and headed out of the Stage Door Deli. This was no small matter. Our destination was straight ahead on the left. Century 21. We were both oddly quiet – a combination of being full to the brim and pondering visions of wonders that may behold us once inside the imposing huge double black doors. I wasn’t sure what to expect inside those hallowed halls. I had seen an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy where they went to a Century 21 once – it had a beautiful grand staircase right in the middle of the building and was rows and rows of beauty. As we opened the imposing heavy doors and our eyes adjusted to the florescence I realized … this was not that place.

Ok I dunno where they were in that episode of QEftSG, but it wasn’t here. This place was like a bit like a mule in a horse’s harness. The outside of the building was wonderful and beautiful. The inside was like JC Penny’s from the 70’s. Everything was beige – beige walls, worn beige carpets, dropped ceiling tiles, fluorescent light… not exactly couture. We discovered that women’s clothing was on the third floor and headed up the escalator (figuring we’d hit kids, mens and shoes as we headed back down). As more and more of the women’s floor came into view, the more I was a mish mash of sudden concern and yet excited awe. The giant floor was absolutely filled with racks upon racks of … everything. There were round racks, waterfall racks, straight racks, wall racks. On each rack - topped with a black and white paper print out saying things such as “European Couture” or “3.1 Phillip Lim” or “Cashmere” - was a packed explosion of color and fabric. I quickly realized that a lot of what was here were “one off” items – meaning: if it ain’t your size, you’re SOL. That also meant that it was almost overwhelming to think of clawing through rack after rack trying to find that just right piece in your just right size.

Second only to my awe at the sheer hodge podge of stuff around was my sudden sinking realization of what we’d have to face to even dig through said racks. People. Lots and lots of people. People who were apparently much more adept at this than we were. I just stood off to the side of the escalator for a moment and looked around. I saw women jockeying for position around racks. I saw women with arms full of items clinging to them with possessive gleams in their eyes, I heard voices speaking in every language imaginable calling to sisters, cousins, friends telling them to come look at some item or other, and at least once I saw women literally elbow each other out of the way to get to an item. I looked to my left and noticed the line for the one set of fitting rooms – it was at least 30 people long – no exaggeration and filled with a mix of women - young giddy girls, hollow eyed shock victims, and narrow eyed fighters. Wow. I’m not sure I’m up for this.

Though we started out together, Sarah and I quickly realized that if we were going to make any headway we’d have to divide and conquer. Of course being able to ever find each other again without the use of cell phones was in question, but these were trivialities – we had couture waiting for us to find it. I picked a tall, straight rack and started rummaging through it. Most of what I saw was horrid – but some things were delicious like the amazing Save the Queen skirt that was in my size (originally $490 down to $120)! I quickly pulled it out from the rack and clung to it. If I had noticed anything it was that if you even thought you may want something you’d better take it and hold onto it. I was halfway through the rack when I heard a woman’s voice behind me scoldingly say “You can’t be here”. I turned around to see the curly haired young woman with the sour look on her face and the nametag on her shirt. “I’m sorry?” I asked. She simply pelted me with “I have to work here!” Apparently this was the rack where they hung up items that needed to be sorted and put back out in their rightful places. This seemed like an odd exercise in futility from what I’d seen, and I certainly didn’t appreciate her tone, but rather than get into an altercation within the first 10 minutes of my arrival I simply looked at her, said nothing, and walked away.

Not a great start. But knowing what could be here, in this very store… my perfect, trophy dress or skirt or outfit was here somewhere waiting for me, I just had to find it… I shook off my frustration and set out to look for more…

… to be continued.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Me N The City: Part 9 – Ya'll Ready For This?

I’m no stranger to subway rides… I’ve been on plenty of them in Chicago and even D.C. But you always hear stories about NYC subways. Luckily for us, this ride was pretty uneventful and we even got a seat most of the way to our stop. There was no real worry about missing the stop we needed – it was the last one. So that was handy. We decided we’d hop off, find someplace to eat nearby and then find Century 21.

As the subway car rattled and jolted on, I studied the map of stops more out of curiosity/something to do than anything else. As I looked at our stop it finally hit me – the World Trade Center. We were going to Ground Zero. I don’t know how that really escaped me before, but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. I’ve never been one to want to visit sites such as these. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of cemeteries. If the person (or incident) is that important to me, I’d prefer to remember them as I want to – not as they ended up. I got that way as a result of attending the funeral of a lifelong friend when we were seniors in high school. The open casket images haunted me for months after.

When I was 13, we moved from my childhood home. A few months later, the new owner called to tell my parents we had some mail delivered there. I begged my mom to let me go with her so I could see the house one last time. She gently told me “I’d rather you remember the house the way it was when you knew it, not the way she has it now. It’s very changed and I think you’d be sad to see it that way.” I didn’t understand that at the time, but I do now. And she was right. Remembering is good – reliving is not.

But – there was no getting around it. The subway stop and the store were literally right across the street from the site. So as the subway slid to a jerky stop I took a breath, steeled myself and hopped off onto the platform. We emerged into the sunshine and the first thing we saw was a beautiful old church and churchyard – complete with huge trees - within a wrought iron fence. It looked so out of place and storybook compared with the bustling concrete and metal city around it. As we looked to the right however it was there, astounding in its absence, its void. Now of course, so many years later, all the photos, fliers, flags, and handwritten messages are gone. It actually looks much like any big-city construction site. There was a chain-link gate linking to a fence of plywood and more chain link. Sarah and I walked to the gate with the few other visitors and looked inside. I tried to decide if taking a photo would be ok. I wasn’t even sure what I would be taking a photo *of* really. There was nothing left that would indicate this is where arguably the largest US tragedy in history had occurred. But I felt compelled so I quietly slipped out my camera and snapped a photo with my lens through the chain link. After a few more quiet moments I had seen enough. I had enough time to quietly remember; I did not want to relive.

Sarah and I looked at each other and glanced around … across the street a few yards away was the Stage Door Deli. That sounded like lunch to me. We headed in and were treated to one of the largest menus I’ve ever seen in my life. Everything from a raw veggie bowl to a full lasagna dinner. We selected a couple of sandwiches, decided to split a yummy looking cupcake and settled down to refocus on our mission. We had seen the blazing red letters on the large stone building just a block away. Century 21. We were almost there…

…to be continued.