Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Goodbye Zombies

Call me old fashioned, but I like Halloween to be a fun, lighthearted children's holiday. I know there are those out there who love the bloody zombies, psycho haunted houses, and severed limb chainsaw stuff, but for me, Halloween is about carving pumpkins, finding a costume out of the old dress-up bin, and making caramel apples. I guess that's because I grew up anticipating the annual TV showing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, dressing up like a pirate, and trick or treating with my friends 'til our pillowcases were too full to carry.

When my kids were young, I loved that our elementary school had the traditional Halloween parade through the halls complete with class parties, glazed doughnuts, and a bean bag pumpkin toss. I'm all for keeping a little charm in Halloween.

A great way to get into the Halloween spirit with children is to read a seasonal story. So, leave the Zombies behind, get the apples, put on the caramels to melt, and read one of these favorites:

     Heckedy Peg - A great tale about a witch and the importance of obeying your mom!  Love the illustrations.

     Pumpkin Moonshine - Nobody does charming like Tasha Tudor - I wrote a bit about her incredible life and career here

Tasha Tudor’s first book, Pumpkin Moonshine, first published in 1938

     Hildilid's Night - A Caldecott winner and great story about overcoming fears.

     Stellaluna - The little bat who thought he was a bird. Kind of a retelling of the ugly duckling story. 

Have a fun, safe, and wonderful Halloween!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Donna Karan and Me

As I was finishing design school in the early eighties, women's fashion was all about menswear. Professional opportunities for women were more accessible than ever before. Films like Working Girl popularized the importance of 'dressing the part'. Reacting to this 'new high-power career woman', fashion for women mimicked the style for the professional man. Designers like Giorgio Armani, with his men's tailoring background, hit their strides. Styles were masculine - tailored suits, buttoned-up shirts, and of course the enormous shoulder pads. If, by some slight chance, your blouse didn't have shoulder pads sewn in, you added a pair of foam ones- even in your t-shirts. 

About this time, after great success and a Coty Award, designer Donna Karan left Anne Klein and started her own company. 

Donna Karan and Louis Dell'Ollio - design partners for Anne Klein, 1980
Getty Images

We both launched our first collections in 1985 - mine to a couple of hundred people in a vacant office space and hers to a slightly larger audience- but we shared similar philosophies - Easy to wear designs for real women.
Her show opened with the models wearing only black body suits and tights then progressively adding wrapped skirts, pull on pants, jackets, etc. -Showing the versatility and layering ability of her collection, Seven Easy Pieces. It was brilliant.

Karan's first collection, 1985 
photo credit WWD

I was very inspired by Donna Karan. Her idea to design 'Modern clothes for Modern people', resonated with me. I felt that women wanted to dress to feel beautiful, but didn't want to take all day doing it. 
After almost 30 years, I still feel that way. Early on I designed a few simple silhouettes that have remained staples of my collections for years, updating fabrics and lengths. I've kept the same philosophy of style and dare I say 'comfort'. Not all the way to 'I'm in my sweats' comfort, but the 'I feel put together and I'm not tugging or pulling on anything and I can actually sit down in this' kind of comfort. 

This season's version of my signature sarong skirt in black stretch lace with ivory lining.
Currently available in the Plein Air Shop

So, as she celebrates her 65th birthday this month I say, 
Donna Karan
Donna Karan, photo Ruven Afandor

Happy Birthday, Donna Karan! 
and thanks for the inspiration and confidence you sent my way to design 'woman to woman'.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Re Discover A Classic - The Dresser Scarf

As a child, one of my Saturday rituals was to clean off the clutter from the top of my dresser (and believe me, there was plenty of stuff on there), dust it, and change the dresser scarf - one of the many items that has gone by the wayside in our contemporary homes. These elongated, decorative textiles were a mainstay on most bureaus but sometime in the 70's they became thought of as 'old fashioned'. I'm not sure why, but they disappeared (except in our house) along with the 100% cotton shirts in the ironing basket. 

Recently, they made a comeback with the whole 'shabby chic' trend but I think they can be used with just about any decor if you choose the right cloth. You don't have to embrace the whole look, just add a little vintage element to your room. Simple white ones like this beauty on the left, look great in a more contemporary setting, adding a little interest while keeping a clean look. The more decorative, vintage embroidered ones, like those pictured on the right, create a little antique charm. 

Why use them? 

Well, I have two great reasons-
     1- They protect your wood. 
        (Setting a glass down on the fabric will help keep those nasty rings from ruining your table)
     2- Like all textiles, they add texture and warmth to a room. 

Just look at this beautiful handiwork:

You can find dresser scarves at estate sales, consignment shops, and even in our shop!  https://www.pleinairdesign.com

Depending on their condition, they may need a little cleaning so here are a few tips:
  • fill the sink halfway with warm water and about a teaspoon of mild soap. I like to use Ivory liquid. 
  • spot any stains with a paste of oxi cleaner mixed with water
  • place your cloths in and let them soak for about 1/2 hour

  • drain soapy water and fill again with clean, warm water
  • do this several times without wringing the cloth, press it gently against the side of the sink

  • when water is clear, the soap is out and your cloth is clean
  • gently lift it out of the water and roll it in a clean towel

  • let it dry flat on another clean, dry towel
  • iron any embroidery face down into a towel to keep the 3-D effect of the pattern at its best. most of these vintage cloths will be cotton or linen and can handle a cotton iron setting with steam

  • you may use starch if desired-starch always works best when the cloth is a little damp, absorbing into the fibers instead of just sitting on top, flaking off when heated

Of course, you don't have to save these beauties your dresser. They look great as a runner for the dining table,  set out with a yummy brunch on your buffet, or placed under a stack of coffee table books. Enjoy!

- Janet

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The 'Darwin' Garden

My mom describes her late fall garden as a Darwin Garden - survival of the fittest. We both love to work in the flower beds, but about this time, we are a bit tired and figure it's time for them to take care of themselves a bit. I love fall - watching the leaves turn red, gold, and orange, but each year these are what take me by surprise:

These beauties know how to survive! I have to tell you that roses are one of my favorite flowers any time of the year, (my birth flower, after all) but fall roses seem to be such a lovely close to one season and greeting to the next. After the high temperatures have passed and the garden gets to rest a bit, it seems like these blooms are giving a little 'thank you, for a great summer'. 

Most of the roses I enjoy are not really even mine. They were planted years ago by Grandma Hazel, the kind woman next door. (Also famous for her kid friendly 'toy drawer' and oatmeal cookies.) She passed away several years ago but her roses live on. The many bushes that line my driveway, bordering our yards, were chosen by her and her sweet husband, Edwin. Hazel sat on the step of my house teaching me how to prune and care for the bushes. We had a deal...She would teach, I would do the work, and cut whatever I wanted. I definitely came out the with the better end of that bargain, wouldn't you say? Her grandson and family live there now and kindly allow the terms of that agreement to continue, phew!

These rose hips below are spent blooms from climbing yellow roses that weren't picked. They are great for a fall arrangement and need to be cut now anyway or they will thwart new blooms in the spring.  To pick them now, use clean pruners and cut at an angle. (During the growing season, cut about 1/4" above a 5 leaf grouping to encourage more blooms -this goes for all rose bushes.)

If you live in a cold winter place like me, don't prune heavily until frosts are gone and temps begin to warm up. I'll give a review of what Grandma Hazel taught me on late winter pruning in a few months. Until then, just trim any long branches to keep them from snapping from the heavy snows and wait to do more.

For now, enjoy these Fall Presents from the Garden!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall Is Here!

As the season changes and temperatures drop, it's time to think about layering and accessories. Yay! One of my favorite ways to warm up my wardrobe is to add a scarf. Scarves are easy to use, take little money, and can quickly change the mood of your outfit. I especially love vintage scarves. The are affordable and I like the uniqueness and 'one of a kind' element they add to a look. There are many tutorials on tying scarves but most of them use large, modern ones. (links to a few sites I like are at the bottom)
 Here are a few suggestions for completing your look using vintage scarves:

The Audrey Hepburn -

Tie a small square just once around your neck and turn it a little off center. Isn't this a pretty ombre chiffon scarf, transitioning from umber to a warm yellow? Perfect for fall. Tying this way is a very 1950's-early 1960's way to sport a little color and bring attention to the face. It worked for Audrey...it will work for you.

Downton Abbey Chic with Deco Brooch -


This works best with a chiffon oblong.  Chiffon is sheer and light, doesn't create too much fullness, and was the fabric of choice in the 1920's. The brooch will help it stay in place and you can pin it through to your sweater if you want. Just be careful to use a pin that doesn't have too big of a stem as it may put a hole in your scarf. 

Flirty 50's Ponytail -

Always chic and a super easy way to tidy up that ponytail and add a burst of color or pattern. -Makes even the humblest pony look finished. Fold on the diagonal. You can tie a square knot and perhaps a little bobby pin to make sure your scarf doesn't slip off. This works with a small square, little larger square or even an oblong, depending on how much tail you want to hang down.

Elegant Side Brooch -

A large square folded on the diagonal or a long oblong will work for this. The 'earth tones' popular in the1970's are complemented with the vintage brooch (gold, of course) also from the era. This creates a pretty drape down the side and looks great for evening as well. 

Kerchief -

Fold a large square on the diagonal and then put it under your chin. Wrap the tails around your neck and tie them in a square knot in the front. I love the cowl effect this creates.

Euro Loop -

Who doesn't love this effortless way to wear an oblong? It works for both heavy and light weight scarves. Just fold in the center, creating a loop for the tails to go through. This even works well with the large pashminas we all love. 

Double-back Loop -

Like the Euro but put just one tail in then wrap the other tail around the loop once before pulling through. Adds a bit more complexity and fullness to the center - also holds together a bit better.

Purse Tie -

Scarves don't have to be just for your head or neck. Tie one on your handbag to add texture and color to  coordinate with your outfit.

'Annie Hall' Menswear Tie -

Just like a simple men't tie, this gives a finished look to a simple outfit. Keep the knot a bit loose to add enough fullness and softness. This would look so cute with a turtleneck, pencil skirt, and boots! Super 70's inspiration. Very 'groovy'. 

Headband - front knot or nape of the neck - 


This classic is great for either short or long hair. By tying it in the front, you create a little bow, under the hair in back makes for a smooth headband. Longer scarf ties can hang down the back. Secure with a bobby pin for extra stability.

Try one of these and you'll get hooked on scarves as easy, chic accessories.
All of the scarves and brooches shown are available in the Plein Air Boutique.

Use the url below or click above on the menu bar - Shop Plein Air Boutique

A couple of good contemporary scarf tutorials: