Crap and Couture, Notes From the Back Row

Saturday, August 1, 2015


No, I'm not talking about swimsuits and sandals. Yours truly in an never ending quest to bring you the latest fashion finds trekked to Ocean Grove, New Jersey (easy access via N.J transit). This charming resort town offers a wealth of quirky boutiques plus a fabulous ice cream parlor that should not be missed. 

Since I'm always on the hunt for vintage finds where ever I go, I made a bee line to a boutique called "FROM HEART TO HEARTH" at 62 A Main # 732-774-0269. The shop's warren of rooms are filled to the brim with affordable collectibles, from vintage 50's straw hats and purses to jewelry, figurines, books and toys, etc. I scooped up a delicately carved intaglio stick pin and vintage Avon perfume encased in a ceramic bottle in the form of an Elizabethan era doll. A lack of funds prevented me from doing more damage......besides black raspberry ice cream was calling me.

Just letting you know that if you get the chance......Ocean Grove will be hosting a flea market on September 8th.

Since there is more to life than shopping......maybe.....take a stroll on the boardwalk that runs from Asbury Park to Ocean Grove and beyond. If time permits be sure to splurge on dinner at the "MOONSTRUCK" restaurant.....reserve a table on the second floor porch and enjoy the views. For information go to 732-988-0123.

Enjoy yourself ........who just might run into Bruce Springsteen.

Until next time......C&C

Thursday, May 14, 2015

East Meets West

Yes, I know that you've seen a million images from the latest Met gala........including a lot of half naked badly dressed celebs.  But here's the thing, The Costume Institute's "China Through The LookingGlass" is a must see exhibition. I was in awe of the fashions both authentic Chinese and Western inspired.

Fashion Didn't Stop at the Great Wall!

Photo Credit:  M. McKenzie

In addition, the magnificent displays, film clips and background music combined to make this a must see and my favorite all time exhibit.

C&C'S Minions Created a GIF of Their Favorite Styles at the Exhibit

Photo Credit:  M. McKenzie

Here's a tip:  skip the gift shop offerings and head to Pearl RiverMart in Soho for the real deal at better prices.

The exhibition runs through August 16, 2015.

Until next time.....C&C

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


If you're like me you're probably tired of seeing the same old designer names over and over. Fortunately at a recent Macy's press event dubbed" Fashion Incubators" I found some interesting noteworthy young designers on the cusp of fashion stardom. Be sure to check out these following newcomers:

VICTORIA WRIGHT - her collection is composed of diverse textures, modern florals, whimsical silhouettes and vintage references. Her line is aimed at bohemian contemporary women. For more on this designer go to

Incubating a Bohemian Style - Victoria Wright


Photos Credit:  Melanie McKenzie

SHELBY STEINER - has an interesting, unique aesthetic (think Bjork, only more wearable). I flipped out over the white puff A-line skirt and sweatshirt.....very cool. Think of these as the high fashion version of bubble wrap. For more cool fashions go to

"Wearable Bjork," a Contradiction in Terms, 
But Shelby Steiner Proves It Can Be Done!

Photos Credit:  Melanie McKenzie

MINKEEBLUE - solves the problem familiar to many women, the stuffed to the gills overloaded handbag. MinkeeBlue handbags are fashionable and functional and eliminate the need to carry two or three bags. Each bag features a 2 in 1 adjustable compartment panel. This creates an upper and lower compartment when the panel is closed. For more on this must have collection go to
Who Carries Three Bags?  No One Carrying a Minkeeblue Bag


Photos Credit:  Melanie McKenzie

EVGENIA - her take on intimate apparel can compare with the best of La Perla. I loved everything from her vintage inspired silk charmeuse shell pink bias cut gown to the ocean blue floral half slip and camisole. This collection would be perfect for a fashionista's trousseau. For more info go to

Caution:  Evgenia's Incubating Lingerie Can Lead to Incubation


Photos Credit:  Melanie McKenzie

Until next time...HAPPY SPRING......C&C

Friday, February 20, 2015


Be sure to check out the exhibit at the Jewish Museum at 5th Avenue and 92nd street in New York, Helena Rubenstein: Beauty is Power. Her cosmetics empire spanned four continents . She became a global icon as well as a leader in art, fashion and philanthropy Rubenstein was arguably the first modern self-made woman magnate.

At the turn of the century the use of cosmetics was frowned upon by the middle class. Madame Rubinstein rejected this, producing and marketing the means for ordinary women to transform themselves. This exhibit gives viewers a glimpse into Helena Rubenstein's extraordinary life. Be sure to check it out before it closes on March 22, 2015.

Until next time C&C

Monday, February 2, 2015

Singing in the Rain

With the possible exception of Gene Kelly or the seriously depressed, does anyone really enjoy schlepping out on a cold depressing day? Since we can't control the weather why not come up with something to put a smile on our faces.

KNIRPS, a leading umbrella manufacturer has just come up with the perfect solution ....ta da!  Welcome to the world of" FLOYD" with their new FLOYD WET, a black umbrella with a white zebra pattern.   This umbrella is light weight in design and features a ring handle. 

"He was such an unassuming umbrella," said Floyd's neighbors.

Photo Credit:  Knirps USA

Here's the good part.....when the white zebra pattern gets wet the lines change into bright colors.

"But when it rained, he turned wild."

Photo Credit:  Knirps USA

How cool is that? At $39 retail this is something to sing about. For more info go to

Stay dry until next time, C&C.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Salvation Army Savior

Chanel? Dior? Dooney&Bourke? Vera Bradley? Burberry? Prada? Saint Laurent? Salvation Army? … Brand New Look, Designer Labels and Lots More At This Super Cool, One-Of A-Kind, Concept Boutique Outpost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

When most people think about the myriad of international Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores, there probably is nary a thought nor an kind of an idea about any of those stores being well-lit, open, airy; having clean, chic, eclectic interiors, not to mention showcasing exposed brick walls, carpeting, high-end, designer clothing, accessories, footwear, home furnishings, artwork, books, and so on and so forth.

Well, get ready to rethink what you ever might have thought about any Salvation Army Family Store, especially if you were (or still are) a shopper, and be prepared to be shocked, awed and blown away, because all of this good stuff is now available for everyone’s enjoyment; all under one very cool roof; within an experimental, Concept Boutique shop in the trendy 11222 zip code zone of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Back in late December 2014, The Salvation Army did something for the very first time; something so new and so different; something so radical and controversial, in terms of how it wanted to approach its retail business; broaden its growth, image, sales revenues. Obviously, the change made waves and drew headlines, not just because The Army had decided to completely shift its mentality and its retail gears; lifted the veil on its new M.O., but, more importantly, because The Army decided to put its money where its mouth is; i.e., launch a totally re-done, re-worked, refurbished, one-of-a-kind, never-been-done-before, intimate, jewel box of a shop, at 981 Manhattan Avenue, smack dab in the heart of trendy Greenpoint; dubbed “the new Williamsburg” by more than just a few of those well-placed, in the know scenesters.

Welcome to Salvation Couture!

According to Major Joe Irvine, the soft-spoken and erudite, 25 year Army veteran, who was born to Canadian parents, and now serves as Administrator, for the Brooklyn Adult Rehabilitation Centers, all funded by the Thrift Stores, the idea behind the overhaul and renovation of the 35-year-old, 2,500 square foot shop into the chic, hip, Boutique-style Concept shop, is simple and direct. “Time to throw away the rule books and let’s see what works. We have to be forward-thinking, creative retailers, in order to help our people. We have 135 beds in Brooklyn alone; everything is free; while we do not take children; we will take anyone and everyone who needs help.”

For Irvine, his wife, Major Lisa Irvine, and William Franklin, Store Supervisor, the question of timing for the change was right on target; tying into Greenpoint’s location, hipness quotient, huge growth and rapidly changing face, popularity and population. According to Irvine, the former store, housed in a Salvation Army-owned building, and much smaller than any of the Army’s other Thrift Stores, probably would have closed; “the building might have just been sold off”; had it not been for the new model, which currently represents a first on the East coast. He expects the model to spread.

From start to finish, the overhaul work, which was mostly done by the Major, his wife and a few other Army workers in tow, embraced swapping out the old look of dirty store, (chipped, peeling paint on walls; cracked floors; horribly cramped aisles, boring, cheap clothing, hung cheek to jowl on old, falling down racks, dim lighting, sullen, rude employees, et al.) with freshly painted and exposed brick walls, elegant carpeting, interesting and bright lighting; lots of covetable, high-end, modern and vintage, designer merchandise, housewares, home décor, etc.; all easily accessible, neatly and beautifully arranged and displayed, either on fine hangers or well-folded inside of antique wood armoires, or atop open chests, plump couches, leather chairs, living room and billiard tables, etc. Definitely, no more falling down and dirty steel racks in this place anymore. And, while the old awning outside the shop remains for now, Irvine says that this, too, will change, as the shop grows and progresses. Then, there are the fashion-y, welcoming “Store Attendants” - Shannon and Tyasia – who were specifically hired to constantly provide excellent customer service; understand and cater to the younger, hipper shopper in a warm, non-threatening way.

Greenpoint's SA
Williamsburg is Jealous

In order to uphold the store’s retooled aesthetic, workers now cull through the gazillions of Salvation Army donations and then, cherry-pick those special, high-end goods for women, men, kids — or, simply unique items that just seem to fit; everything is then priced to sell from a mere $9.99, upwards to hundreds of dollars. On the day this Editor visited, there were well-priced, standout items galore; a natty, Burberry herringbone overcoat ($74); lots of cool Fedoras and knitted hats, scarves, gloves, pair of quilted, vibrantly colored Vera Bradley overnight bags ($46, $38); a really sweet Dooney&Bourke wristlet, complete with signature heart fob keychain/charm ($11); assorted cashmere and wool jackets, pants, sweaters; hip T-shirts, trendy athleisure gear; and lots more. Interestingly, a neat, oversized, men’s vintage leather bomber jacket ($68) was instantly scooped up by a cool Japanese girl from Astoria, who said that she first heard about all of the changes in the shop from her boyfriend who lives in Greenpoint. 

 Clothes Picked for You, Not Before You!

Explaining the raison d’être for the turn-around, Irvine explains, “the store was horrible; had long served its purpose; sales were at an all-time low; a struggle, in order to make $500 a day; staff, merchandise; atmosphere; everything in this store needed to be re-tooled and reinvigorated. Overall, the store simply represented a disservice to The Salvation Army, as well as the international Thrift Stores. The time had come to do something new and different, while at the same time, we needed to bridge the gap; stay true to our standards of always meeting the human need without discrimination; race, color, creed, budget, while continually honoring the customer, the donor and the beneficiary of all of our programs.”

Something Different, Something Simple and
Everything Better!

When asked about the possibility of some long-time neighborhood residents and former shoppers, being unhappy about the new shop and its new look, upscale, designer offerings, higher price points, hipster clientele, et al., Irvine does not miss a beat when he says,” some people are going to like the shop; some will not like what they see here. There are always positives and negatives in life and in retail, but I do believe that through the growth, on-going sales, word of mouth, popularity, etc., all of this will help bridge the perception of the store catering to only the upper class, young hipster.” Looking ahead, Irvine is more than just a bit optimistic for the shop’s growth and success. “The approach seems to be working well; sales have already increased by 30% to 50%. I’d like to see us realize around $350,000 in sales for the period through December 2015.”

Maj. Joe Irvine's Rebranding
Thrust SA to the Fashionista Front! 
--not too bad for a Major--

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Death, Sex, Glamour and Allure Become The New Black

Well, the proof is in the pudding; the devil is in the details. and truth be told, the combination of sex, fashion, glamour and mourning have definitely become Electra. Now, all of this is really true and really 100% honest, due largely to the examples, stories, notes, and last but not least, all of the fantastical, albeit slightly monstrous, if you will, images, which are so deftly portrayed throughout The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute’s first Fall Exhibition in seven years - aptly titled, "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” - on view in The Anna Wintour Costume Center through February 1, 2015.

As more than just a mere few Victorians saw death, mourning and the clothing, accessories, et al., which went along with paying homage to the dearly departed of the period, women (and probably a few men, too) in mourning were seen as contradictory figures— objects of sympathy and pity, to be sure; but also, and more often, no doubt, many of these mourners were often-times viewed as highly mysterious, sexually charged, and explicitly appealing.

Obviously, with all of this going on, most Victorian women were well aware of the contradiction; to wit: "There is a charm and fascination in the manner and conversation of a widow which is known and appreciated by the other sex," wrote Martha Louise Rayne in her 1881 book Gems of Deportment and Hints on Etiquette.

Yet another example of this type of contradictory attitude can be notated in the following story: After being told the mourning clothes she wore for her brother looked becoming on her, a Tennessee teenager named Nannie Haskins, wrote in her diary in 1863: "Becomes the fiddlestick. What do I care whether it becomes me or not? I don't wear black because it becomes me . . . I wear mourning because it corresponds with my feelings."

The above quotes are included within the Exhibition, which basically favors quite a strong (often-times startling and off kilter) position , in terms of defining and showcasing the key nuances of Victorian and Edwardian Mourning Attire, not to mention how the extremely chaste. prim and proper women of this time were viewed and regarded as dark and forbidden sexual objets d’art, in both their mode of dress, as well as their mannerisms; as related to the mourning of loved ones who had passed on.

The Exhibition features some 30 ensembles, many of which are reportedly being seen for the very first time, “reveals the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.”

Further, the “Death Becomes Her …..” title plays on this inherent contradiction: Most of us see death as an unwelcome aspect of life, and yet there is something undeniably sensual, sexual, dark, mysterious, chic, glamorous, et al., about every aspect of mourning garb, albeit even for those Victorian and Edwardian women who may never even have had any thoughts of arousing these attitudes and feelings, but still may have been thrilled, titillated and, or aroused; perhaps even that much more womanly, by being seen and thought of by others in these ways, which were surely out of the norm for the period.

According to Harold Koda, (Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is curating the current Exhibition with Jessica Regan, Assistant Curator): “The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes. The veiled widow could elicit sympathy, as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Frankly, for this editor, this type of allure is not all that perverse, especially considering the fact that most people (not just the New York fashion show crowd) still believe that black is everything; always chic, super stylish; sensual; goes with everything, everywhere.

Modern clothing and the love of black notwithstanding, Victoriana, in general, is always mysterious and a bit scary. Long veils invite a look underneath (what becomes the woman most is an understatement here). The period’s version of modern-day bling is fetchingly understated, when formed of nearly weird, black-only jewels. And, what more can be said about the virtues of Victorian clothing, which while might appear excessively ornate to the modern eye, seems totally smooth and ultra-elegant, when rendered in the monochromatic palette of blackness. So, with all of this being said, and though far from today’s design schematic; digitally enhanced, airbrushed, et al., ideals of modern style and beauty, Victorian mourning wear has much to say and much to show, in terms of an extremely potent and a bit frightening, blend of death, sex, glamour, lust, and restrained, if not out and out, femininity.

What makes this stand-alone, thematic and chronologically organized Exhibition appear most unique and interesting is that all of the thirty ensembles—most adorned with gloves, hats, and jewelry – feature an array of eclectic mourning dress from 1815-1915, primarily from The Costume Institute’s Collection. “The calendar of bereavement evolution and cultural implications are illuminated through a range of women’s clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the latter introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve.”

In the first stark-white display area, a grouping of well-coiffed, white-haired, period mannequins, show the wardrobe. A small, second room, displays a luxurious selection of accessories (including a gorgeous black silk parasol), as well as pages from British and French fashion journals and satirical drawings from the famed illustrator of the period, Charles Dana Gibson. An apt part of the Exhibition centers on rather ghoulish, post-mortem photograph of a child, suitably covered by a black velvet drape, offering protection from bright lights. During Victorian times, photographing the dead was not unusual; especially in the case of children, where the after-death photograph was often the only image the family would ever have of the deceased. Perhaps the Victorian standards of dress and comportment as related to mourning definitely have fueled the love affair which virtually every modern-day designer around the world (not to mention how women and more than a few men) feel about black in general (not only related to paying respect to the dead). The act of mourning, grief, et al., specifically the wearing of black clothing, jewelry, accessories, et al., was and continues to remain today, something to be seen as paying respect to those who have left the world as we know to be, of course, but more importantly, the terminology of sexuality, sensuality, glamour, allure, mystery, depths of darkness, etc., continues to play on and on; transposing from those long-ago, Victorian and Edwardian times – “Elaborate standards of mourning set by royalty spread across class lines via fashion magazines,” according to Regan. Clearly, and for the many viewers of the current Costume Institute’s Exhibition, many of these ideas, attitudes, auras and feelings, continue to have a deep and long-lasting impact today.

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