Was This My Fault? Or, A Review Of Two Books, “Hope and Other Luxuries,” and “Elena Vanishing”


As occasionally happens, I have a book to review.

In fact, two books. One, written by a mother, Clare B. Dunkle, an author of young adult fantasy. The other, written by Claire and her adult daughter, Elena. Both recount the years of Elena’s anorexia.

Clare’s book is called, ” Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother’s Life with a Daughter’s Anorexia.” Elena’s, ” Elena Vanishing: A Memoir.”

It’s tricky to review these books because there are two stories to keep straight. Clare’s is long. Anorexia is a painful disease, its sufferers hard to like. But I find myself compelled to try because, although they were a challenging read, I couldn’t put them down. There’s more in there than just eating disorders.

We begin with the Dunkle family in Germany. In particular, with Elena and her sister’s school experience. At this point, the girls are in their early teens, if I remember. (I took no notes, I didn’t want the distraction.) Both stories tell of Elena’s encounters with doctors, Clare’s fights with insurance companies, and Elena’s admittance to residential treatment centers. Both chronicle the persistent downward spiral of anorexia.

But we are reading neither tragedy, “Oh, so sad, the waste of a young life,” nor suspense, “Is it now that she dies?” You know all along the story has a happy ending. There’s a picture of Elena, healthy, on the back flap of her book. You read for something else.

Five Reasons To Read “Hope and Other Luxuries” And “Elena Vanishing”

  1. You are a mother with an adult daughter, and you think about your relationship.
  2. You wonder, to this day, how much responsibility to take for how your kids turn out.
  3. You are fascinated by the question of narrator truth. These books offer two viewpoints, and yet they were both written at least in part by the mother. Some questions are never resolved.
  4. You are interested in the impact of voice in autobiographies. Clare Dunkle’s uncomplicated language, her simple plot-telling, in a reverse twist, creates a ghostly sense of something untold. As does the background knowledge that she writes fantasy fiction for a living.
  5. And finally, optionally, you have a family member with an eating disorder or an addiction.

Although never articulated as such, I found the real narrative engine for these books to be the question, “Was this my fault? Our fault?” Something every mother has asked herself, at least once.

Early in the book, we read a statement, never fully attributed, that while childhood anorexia is caused by the family, the later-onset variety is provoked by an external event. Elena experiences a candidate external event – revealed reasonable early in the book but I’ll keep it a mystery here – that could have gotten all this going.

And yet.

You finish the book wanting to ask more questions.

Three Unasked And Unanswered Questions

  1. Elena’s older sister has an episode of self-harming before Elena’s issues begin, runs away from home, meets a man, has a child, and then moves back home and gets married. This story isn’t told from her point of view. Would her thoughts have provided more detail, more insight?
  2. The father’s temper is mentioned but never described. Was it out of bounds?
  3. How much did the apparently poor doctoring matter, in the face of Elena’s lies?

But you understand that these questions drive you to the brink of the historical abyss of Blame The Mother. This sets up a compelling dynamic inside the reader that’s the primary reason to read the book. We ask ourselves, why is it so hard to take the story at face value? What is the right course, to question or to accept?

This is something I ask myself about my own children. When is it better for them that I take responsibility for their beings? When is it better that I believe them now to be autonomous units, making their own choices, in a world of peers, significant others, and colleagues? Motherhood doesn’t come with performance reviews, there are no double-blind studies to give us hard data.

In the end, whether Clare was complicit in Elena’s anorexia or not may matter less than the opportunity to participate in  the simple but complicated, open but mysterious, maternal self-questioning. I’m thinking of reading The Hollow Kingdom next. And I’m very, very glad Elena is OK.


Note: Ginee Seo, the editor from Chronicle Books, contacted me about sending the books for a review. I’d like to thank her for getting in touch. She noted that I’d written about my brief young adult experience with bulemia, and that she was a fellow Princeton alumna. Hard to turn down, that. As always, our agreement was that I would review only if I felt I had something to say, and that I would say only what I thought. If you do get a hold of  them, make sure to read Clare’s first. It will be easier to remember her timeline while reading Elena’s version, than to remember Elena’s while reading Clare.


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A DIY Project For Really Lazy People With A Sense Of Humor Who Like Beauty

It’s hard for me to finish projects that involve working with my hands. Because, impatient. Because, bad small motor skills. But perseverance, humor, and community work miracles. Anyone remember the “I want gold leaf for Christmas” idea? No reason you should. How about “I am dreaming of fuchsias?”

Oh how the stars align.

Here we have a garden variety clay pot. I almost said “terracotta,” but apparently it might be “earthenware.” So much terminology.


And here we have one “Speedball Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit.” It sat in my closet for 7 months, but never escaped the mental to-do list. Perseverance.


The gold leaf comes in several sheets, interleaved between orange pieces of tissue in a sort of pad. The kit itself comes with glue, sealant, but no brush. Since I now use this to apply tinted moisturizer, or foundation, I nonchalantly sacrificed the tool below to the cause. Would Coco approve? Let’s say yes.


I thought I’d need tweezers to hold the gold leaf, which, to cover an intricate trivet, I might. But I was just gilding one stripe, and I wanted an imperfect look.

Which I got. Here’s how it looked after the first go-round.


I brushed the glue on about 6 inches at a time, starting with a smaller stretch as a test. Turns out fingers make make a great tool for tearing off pieces of gold leaf, despite all breezy fluttering. Also for smudging said pieces onto the glue.

The whole process, gold leaf adhering to my fingers, foundation brush repurposed, my own ineptitude, made me laugh so hard I’m surprised I didn’t knock the pot over.


Turns out the materials are forgiving, you can keep smudging gold leaf until it looks OK.

The contrast of gilt and error.


One unforeseen result, a gold-flecked patio.


It swept up pretty easily. I kind of wanted to gold leaf something else immediately. I’m thinking lampshades.

But it’s fuchsia time!

And so to Annie’s Annuals, an East Bay tradition, about which I knew nothing until @ElizabethJSays (on Twitter) introduced me to @Fuchsiarius, and he in turn introduced me to Annie’s.



Oh this place! It’s huge. The planted displays!


It was difficult not to lose focus, not to start imagining multiple acres with multiple beds, a staff of gardeners and undergardeners. But I came home with, yes, a fuchsia.


Tiny aristocrats. This one is called Mrs. McDowell. Originally thought to be fuchsia gall mite resistant, in fact it is not fully so, but I risked all for the big blossoms. Reader, I planted it.


Along with three coleus, something called a Black-Eyed Susan but not the East Coast sort, and two heuchera with brownish-reddish-purplish foliage.

Although I imagine elegant hues of purple set off by impudent orange-yellow, the plantings don’t look like much at the moment. For now I’m hiding the gold stripe behind other pots, so as to keep it from overwhelming the companion vegetation.


And we wait. Gardening teaches patience, gold leaf forgives what it must. A small bit of fancy in my back yard.


By the way, for real fuchsia doings, take a look at @Fuchsiarius’s blog, Fuchsias In The City.

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“Finternships” Could Make Use Of So Much Knowledge Capital, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:03am

It’s possible I have too much time on my hands.

That’s quite an image. I see my hands, on the keyboard. Are they weighed down? No. I have time enough, just time enough.

But I do have more capacity than I’m using. It’s been two years since I retired. In that time, I’ve been a newlywed, I’ve decorated my house, I’ve tended my garden. I’ve gotten sick, and lain on the sofa, despondent and barely moving. That was not fun.

Recovered, I look around at everything both in place and in motion and I understand that I can do more. 58 feels youngish, even the kind of 58 that’s almost 59. I imagine heads nodding.

We’ve talked here about possibilities, volunteering, writing a book, and so on. Those threads are spinning. Someone also suggested going back to school. I loved college, and feel no need to repeat the liberal arts, but there is one skill that interests me, from my work life. Software design, i.e. interface design and user research. There are courses I could enroll in, if I chose, and maybe work I could take on, subsequently.


What if, in addition to internships, we had “finternships?”

See, in the corporate world, we take a fairly linear view of success. One becomes CEO, or CTO, at ages that vary depending on the size of the company. Other paths are assumed to be a weaker, failed version of the heroic course. As a result, if you’ve been a vice president – albeit of small organizations in my case – for over a decade, it can be hard to go back into the work force as an individual contributor.

I imagine in other areas — science, academia, medicine, law, politics — one faces a similar issue?

But what if we formalized the process for those at the end of their careers, just as we are doing, increasingly, for those at the beginning? What if we institutionalized something where people who topped out could step away honorably and into another, lower role? Perhaps with retraining?

A “finternship.” Or as academia does, emeritus. I imagine a meeting, in which someone leans over to ask in their colleague’s ear, “Who’s that?” and she answers, “Oh, that’s our fintern.”

After all, so many baby boomers are booming into later life. And even if we tire of the politics of upper management, or the travel, or the long hours, we know a lot. Many of us are consulting, or changing careers, but always unofficially, with no articulated space in the corporate story.

Heroic mythology requires both the king and the magician. In 2015, let’s say a queen and witch. The magic people are traditionally quite old. They may no longer saddle up, no longer carry a spear, but without their counsel one loses the war.

In a pinch they’ll even cast spells.

Hey, it’s just a thought.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Taking Steps Towards Ethical Luxury, With A Merida Rug Certified By GoodWeave

My children are grown. They don’t live here any more. Of course, now that I understand their capacity to thrive in the wild, I want them back. Ah well, let’s make lemonade.

As we have discussed, I’m turning my son’s room into a workroom, albeit one with a piece of furniture that looks suspiciously like a bed. My daughter’s space, on the other hand, will become the Guest Room, capital G, capital R.

But first we had to sort through two and a half decades of detritus. Beloved detritus. We brought both my kids home last month, with the express intention of clearing out.


“OK, Mom,” said my daughter the morning after she arrived, “Let’s go kick me out of your house.” I sputtered to answer, she replied, “I’m joking, Mom.”

We kept a lot. Beverly Bear, the dancer and the pith helmet. The photos and the figurines. As I said when I finally thought of a good response, “I’m happy to keep your treasured memories. But not your trash.” Every now and then I come up with a pretty bon mot.

Decluttered, we were ready for the first tenant. A rug.

Grand Tournai from Merida Studio

You see, I’d been in email discussion with a reader, Linda Pakravan of Access Design Group, for a while. (You can see her blog, here.) She’d been sending me gentle and constant reminders about sourcing rugs certified by GoodWeave. I’ll let the site speak.

“The handmade carpet industry exploits nearly 250,000 children. GoodWeave is helping to combat this problem and transform the rug industry by certifying child-labor-free rugs and by providing education and opportunities to rescued and at-risk children. The GoodWeave certification is implemented by GoodWeave International.”

In shining recognition of the group’s work, their head, Kailash Satyarthi, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, I would love to support their cause.

But it is difficult for the individual consumer to “shop” GoodWeave. Which is why Linda’s help was so useful. She suggested I look at rugs from a Massachusetts company called Merida. Not only GoodWeave certified, but committed to revitalizing the Fall River textile industry. Their portfolio is beautiful.

I was intrigued, charmed, and happy to be following up on my commitment to make the blog support these values. I want to align a love of luxury I cannot relinquish with my belief that humankind can get better if we just try.

Ethical luxury.

Here are the other samples Linda sent. Lots of jute, sisal, wool, linen. Perfect for an imaginary Sonoma house.


Here’s the Grand Tournai I chose. In Vanilla. Look at those long, long channels.


Shadows fall across it like private art.


It’s wool and sisal – soft and textured, both. Comfortable for bare feet, and for sitting. I’ve already tested it with toddlers, thumbs up. The full subtle impact registers in person.


The room itself, right now, looks fairly pitiable. So much to do. I’m after the same didn’t-work-too-hard, decorated-from-a-lived-life, imperfect-but-thoughtful look as in the rest of my house. But, I also want to live up to the elegance of the rug.

What would I like to reuse, if possible? For one, I am sentimentally and aesthetically attached to this duvet cover. Yes, I know it’s just a glorified sheet. Love’s unreasonable.


I’d also like to keep a table from my grandmother’s house. I’ve been told it was built in the 1930s, as a reproduction of 19th century furniture. Sounds about right, Grandmama spent the ’30s as well-resourced wife to a Springfield, MA business owner. She liked a little glamor.


And this Pottery Barn dresser, because I have no interest in buying more furniture than necessary. Drawers are handy. Surfaces are useful for displaying mementos we just can’t throw away.


And no way are we dumping Beverly Bear, her Rabbit cousin, or a hand-painted chest that was always used for dressup clothes. Ah the ice skating costumes and suit jackets. Kimonos and scarves. Spangles upon spangles upon spangles. But I digress.


None of this goes together automatically. But we’re resourceful at midlife, are we not?

I’m thinking I’ll use window coverings, another side table, an upholstered chaise longue, and lamp shades as unifying elements. I imagine cream windows, a matching side table, a vivid print for the chaise, and red or turquoise shades. But, I imagine a lot of things.

I’ve realized I like to use rugs as a starting point. For the workroom, it was this Harlequin from Annie Selke. For the guest room, I knew I wanted simple and white-ish. I’d considered this, from Serena & Lily. But now the Grand Tournai is on the real floor. GoodWeaves is, as they say, in the house.

I’m living with it to see what ideas evolve, passing the door every day, and imagining.

Let’s open the virtual floor to you. I learn from your thinking, even it takes a very different slant than mine.


Affiliate link to Serena & Lily only may generate commissions. No compensation from Access Design Studios or Merida received.

What Would It Take To Wear This Out Of The House?

You may remember I proposed a hypothetical 4th of July outfit, here.

Somewhere around 7 o’clock the night of the actual 4th I grabbed my youngest sister, and said, “Oh, hey, would you mind taking a picture for me?”

So she did. We were down at my mother’s, in Santa Barbara. All the siblings, the grandchildren, some step-siblings. Crowded, awesome.

Long-Untrammeled-Gray-Hair Fourth

I love this UNIQLO tee with its Stephen Sprouse print. Not remotely figure-flattering but hey, Art! The boyfriend khakis are 100% cotton from J. Crew, and extremely comfortable, while the JORD watch has been one of my most successful accessories ever.

Havaianas, my Havaianas.

But I wouldn’t leave the house so attired. I’d change it up, slightly.

Add a jacket? No, we’d cross into Too Much Cloth.

Chandelier earrings? No, the print is as much vivid as I like in one outfit. I’m wearing pearl studs.

Heels? Decidedly no. Fie on Jenna Lyons.

Here we go.

Street Certifying Extreme Casual

  1. Take a flat or a curling iron to my air-dried hair, for either sleekness or a few intentional waves. Optional, but preferred.
  2. Put on red lipgloss. Probably “Medieval,” from Lipstick Queen. Still the best “red” I’ve found.
  3. Cuff a little higher.
  4. Finally, and here’s the key, add a non-neon chunky shoe.

The tee is dark and long, with a vivid stripe of print. The pants, voluminous. Shoes have to balance the visual impact. The Havaianas are too strappy, that orange too neon against the umber in the tee.

Birkenstocks-Arizonas On Patio


Gray suede Birkenstock Arizonas are my choice, at the moment. Which I had been wearing that night, until I started cooking. Suede is a poor material for the kitchen.

Extreme casual style requires impunity. You have to believe in your clothes, in your right to wear baggy pants and show your arms.  And you’ve got to hew to an aesthetic far more disciplined than your get up.

(For anyone who follows me on Twitter, I know I just said something about feet and the Internet but I didn’t mean I wasn’t guilty myself;). Feet. We all have them.)

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The Simple Structure Of A Day, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:53am

This is going to be an embarrassing post.

Retirement isn’t straightforward. At least not for everyone.

When I first stopped working I asked myself, “Am I doing the right things? I cleared obstacles. Two years later I ask, “Am I doing what I’m doing the right way?”

Working, your days are structured. Get up and go, every morning. Retired, you ask yourself, “And what to do today?” You always have to ask again, “And next?”

This is hard on project people. We can’t treat our unstructured lives as a single timeline, or we launch only at death. Nor can we organize each day around multiple small projects, switching costs are too high. We have to prepare and contextualize, even for errands. So we fall back on a To Do list. The tyranny of yellow pads.

Eventually, even that list comes to feel too stressful. I struggle with balancing each day’s need to matter — to accomplish, to serve — with the earned right to do as I please. If I have the privilege of retiring, I ought to both contribute and enjoy myself. How? How to organize a life with very few constraints? I never knew this would require thought. Turns out anxiety is not caused by To Do’s alone.

Over the past several months I’ve been sick enough to be bed-ridden. Or at least sofa-ridden. I didn’t talk about it here, because, well, I didn’t. I’m better now. The reason I bring it up is because I lived without a To Do list — excepting blog posts — for the first time in my life.

To my surprise, this was not blissful. I found myself in pigeon-lever land, pressing for dose after dose of endorphins, delivered by food, shopping, alcohol, and highly compelling units of digital narrative. Also known as “television.”

Recovered, I understand that a project person needs a process. A well-constructed operating model for A Day in the Life.

I’m a little embarrassed that this knowledge feels important. Here’s my new plan.

Mornings are for Sitting, Thinking And Writing. Blog posts, emails, or bill paying, doesn’t matter. I’m in front of a computer. At 6am, or sometimes 7, I wake up, eat a small breakfast, and head for my corner of the sofa.

It’s important that the computer work ends before I get too hungry. Why? I used to keep going ’til noon, then eat a big lunch, then have to lie down, which of course meant watching television. Once the television – or streaming video – comes on, the day enters a cocoon period which is impossible to exit before the inner clock allows.


Now I get off the computer earlier, by 10:00 or 11, have a small snack, and start Moving Around. This means working out, or doing errands, or finally cleaning the shower tile. Have I ever told you how much I hate housework? But I can manage a few hours a week, as long as I get to pick the task spontaneously.

Then I fall sighing into Lunch And Lounge. Unconditional permission. These days I’m watching HBO’s Getting On, (having finished the 3rd season of Rita on Netflix), and reading the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Deep lounging.

Time passes. My metabolism slows to a crawl, hitting the nadir of its day. I breathe. A clock ticks somewhere.

And then I get up and start Making Dinner, happily. Peacefully.

My husband comes home, we eat, he works, I read, watch more digital narrative, maybe clean up, maybe do something I didn’t take care of during the day. But my husband is with me, so the anxiety of What To Do subsides.

This structuring of a day seems so trivial. I know. I know. But I find it’s given me the space to revisit the earlier question, “Am I doing the things that matter?”

I’m pretty sure I’m Lunching and Lounging correctly. Ha. Want TV recommendations? I’m your Gal.

Do I Write And Think about the right things? The question of the blog as a platform for values belongs here, as does the mix of entertaining vs. analytical posts, and the won’t-go-away thought of writing a book. Am I Moving About enough and in the right places? The idea of volunteering at a local school belongs here, as does taking more walks.

In essence, organizing my days so as to think very little about what to do next may clear space to consider a longer timespan. How to make it mean as much as possible. By which I mean my life.

I had a similar chunk of time when I was young, a small inheritance in the bank, no commitments, when I could have done anything. Did I sit quietly and think clearly? Nope. I thrashed about the world.

I believe this small understanding could only come now, at almost 60. So I do not regret not having known it earlier.

Materfamilias and Mardel are also thinking about retired days, if that’s of interest. Have a wonderful weekend, one and all.

The Sale At J. Crew Just Got Really Good

Note to my dear email subscribers: Would you like me to send out extra emails the day of sales like this one? i.e. noteworthy? Please let me know in the comments, otherwise I’ll stick to weekly digests. Thank you as always for reading.


I have long since admitted to myself that if I could shop at one and only one sole-branded retailer (we’re not talking department stores or multi-designer sites), it’d have to be J. Crew. I know they’ve gotten a little wacky lately but if you look, they still do that mix of color and classic and insouciance we have known and loved so well for so long.

There’s a heckuva sale going on right now – you can take 30%-40% more off the sale prices shown below, with the code GOSHOPPING.

See what you think. I should probably get another of those blue Vintage Cotton V-Neck Tees. I wore mine right out.

Those are only a few of the classic things that caught my eye. If you’re in the mood for just a little wacky, however, there’s this.


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Object of Desire: One Fuchsia In A Pot

Fuchsias. First of all, notice the spelling. Fuch-See-Ya. Even though it’s pronounced Fyusha. One of the most frequently misspelled words in the English language.

Second, nod to Aussie blogger extraordinaire, Faux Fuchsia. I appreciate her consistent authenticity and her authentic consistency.

Third, and the project for today, think about planting the actual plant. Oh, wait, pause for a lovely moment to admire their grace. The anthropomorphic silhouette.

Fuchsia by Mark Robinson

I’m looking to refurbish the corner below, its inhabitants long since withered or repatriated to more hospitable climes. Ms. Bougainvillea needed more sun than I’ve got in this corner, off to my sister. Mr. Delphinium (tripartite leaves peeking out below purple basil in the lower right hand pot) found a happy home with my stepmother.


For the moment,  I’ve stuck my Auspicious Pinwheel in a container of expiring violas, next to some orange kalanchoe, and called it a day. Not the best showing.


And the big pot sits sad and lonely.


The bad news is fuchsias spawn clubs, like roses and orchids. The by-laws, instructions, and language of species clubs seem designed to frighten. Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Pinkly Enter Here! But keep your chin up, and do a little research, you’ll find as usual that plants aren’t all or nothing.

Get a couple of things right with plants, you can get a lot of things wrong.

The good news is, since I’m planting in a container, and in a climate pretty close to the preferred habitat,

“Fuchsias are happiest with temperatures between 55-80°F, though there are some heat-tolerant cultivars that will keep their blooms up to 90°F. Fuchsias thrive in humidity, so if you live in a dry climate, you may have to mist your fuchsias to keep them sufficiently moist.”

I get to ignore 90% of the admonitions found on sites like this one. I can return to admiring the previously remarked upon grace.

Bright Fuchsia by Tristan Martin

On to planting.

I have the pot and my gloves (I love these, all garish and whatnot). I understand potting soil (advanced level, that). I did just break my trowel the other day and am tempted by this fancy copper one, but I’ll probably default to the basic.

However, purchasing an actual fuchsia turns out to be a little complicated Did you know about fuchsia gall mites? Me neither. A nerdy gardening moment.

Mites can be addressed with neem oil, the only pest control (besides my fingers) I use. Still, my local nurseries are having trouble with their supply chain. I try to avoid the big box stores, and their systemic pesticides. Who wants to invite a toxic plant to their backyard, like a wicked ballet dancer, razors in her shoes? And it’s late to order online. My fuchsia may remain imaginary for a while.

But I want it to be purple. Feng shui says so, (the pots sit in my “wealth” corner) and these agree.

Hardy Fuchsia Deltas Sarah by Mike Atkinson

I admit, part of my interest is driven by the California drought. I can water a container with the shower warm-up bucket. One makes do for beauty.

Back to admiring grace.

Fuchsia by Duncan Harris


Photo credits

Container photos, me
Mark Robinson
Tristan Martin
Mike Atkinson
Duncan Harris

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Aging Out Of Shorts, And Into A Long, Navy, MaxMara Dress

This post is sponsored by Halsbrook. Retailer particulière to the Grande Dame in all of us.


The photo above, although I didn’t know it at the time, signaled the end of my street shorts days. I’ve aged out.

It’s not that I hate my knees, or worry about shocking my neighbors. But, to be blunt, I find the texture of my skin now argues for more coverage. Long shorts then unbalance my preferred modern/classic, masculine/feminine aesthetic.

Now, giving up shorts in Northern California is not so hard. We can mostly make do with jeans. But there are always two hot summer weeks when you want to wear as little as possible. I have found myself wearing this ancient dress – and thinking, “Could I find another such?”


In choosing an outfit from Halsbrook, as part of their sponsorship, I happened on a long shift from MaxMara, the designers of my beloved camel coat and pale blue peacoat, and cheered. (The dress has now sold out, but I found other options, further on.)

The fabric is a cotton weave with subtle luster and linen-like hand.


Loose, floaty, but disciplined by a strategic pleat or two. And, it’s navy. Tailored just enough to avoid that paper bag impression.

I should confess that the Italian size 6 needs some alterations — too-tight shoulders. I’ll have the sides let out for more room across the back. What you can’t see here is the few unzipped inches. Ah well, glamor is as glamor does.


Worn minimally with white Birkenstocks and pearls for suburban errands. Hair back. The Sturdy Gal allows one floaty piece per outfit, any more and heaven knows what dogs we’ll loose.


Smallish people do well to let architectural clothing speak for itself. Someone 5’10” could add a cuff to good advantage.

For the evenings when fog rolls in — not all the way to my little suburb’s skies but close enough to cool us indirectly — I need a scarf. From Bindya, also courtesy of Halsbrook. The site offers many in the cashmere/silk blend I found with Etro and keep acquiring from other makers.


While Halsbrook styles their clothes with classic Grande Damery, in fact they excel in the polished, nay soigné, casual for all of us. I’d say they have a special love for Italian designers – Piazza Sempione, MaxMara, Alberta Ferretti. With one or two small tweaks you can wear their dresses with an Artsy and minimal elegance. A little black number for summers in the city.


The Grande Dame adds a large necklace and a colored clutch to heeled sandals. We might choose black mesh espadrilles, a raffia tote and small black pearl earrings.

In the suburbs, an ‘S MaxMara pastel shift – with rose-gold thong Birkenstocks? Although the dress looks short on the model, it’s 36 inches, which would hit me right at mid-knee. There’s one size 6 left, on sale.


Or this gray polo, by Amina Rubinacci, a designer new to me. Maybe even worn with fashion-forward ugly black sandals. Feels very Milan to me, although, to be sure, Imaginary Milan.


The Cousin is her own work of art. The Gal endorses comfort and simplicity. The Dame, well, she’d add heels and a clutch, but she approves. And perhaps, inside, jettisons a rule or two. We look Italy for license.


Affiliate links may produce commissions. Dress and scarf pictured c/o Halsbrook.

Happy 4th Of July

Fourth of July Picnic, Rogers, Arkansas via Missouri State Archives

Fourth of July Picnic, Rogers, Arkansas. c. 1904

A Very Happy 21st Century 4th To You And Yours!


I’ll be taking my quarterly blog break, see you back here the week of July 12th. May summer treat you well.