The City

Combining architecture and color, Fernand Leger's The City (1919), depicts the vitality of a city, a city that is vibrant and interesting. This is a moment in place - specific and immediate -a portrait of our urban lives. 

The sun in spring flexes like a cat waking from a nap; in summer the cat stalks us, feral, fanged and fierce. You can only appreciate spring in South Texas only if you have been here in the searing heat of summer or the bleak depressing days of January and February. Morning chill gives way to silky warm afternoons.  On days like this, there is no disgrace in doing nothing.

Cambridge Satchel in vibrant colors!

Spring in San Antonio means color.
 The dark clothes that felt elegant and chic in November feel heavy and hot now.  I left the house the other morning in a crayon green skirt, an untucked white button-down shirt with rolled sleeves, a light jean jacket, and the  albarcas I bought last year in Madrid. I wore the same clothes to a casual Friday night party at a local art space except I changed out my diamond studs for gold dangly earrings, my man's watch for some bracelets, and pointy d'Orsay flats  for the espadrilles. I also wore the skirt with a filmy top, a chaos of pearls, heels, and a clutch to a benefit.  Spring is easy.

I like writers who are grounded in the city.
I don't care if the portrayal is flattering; it is the rootedness of it  that matters. I read about Orhan Pamuk's beloved Istanbul, Teju Cole's Manhattan, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Barcelona, Zada Smith's London. I was in love with Paris, or at least the idea of Paris long, long before I arrived because of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.

Spring in my city is when the banks of the San Antonio River south of town become a Pissarro landscape blanketed in Texas wildflowers. Everyone who owns or rents a bike is at Blue Star riding down the Mission Reach. San Antonio in the spring is a walk down Houston Street under an empty blue sky, baskets of red geraniums dangle from lampposts, following the same worn brick path that my Mexican great-grandparents, and grandparents and parents walked. Later in cloudless days, we will feel abandoned to a predatory sun, but now the light is soft and milky and the day luminous.  I sit at the black iron tables in front of Sips where I  drink a capaccino and watch the tourists. It is a wonderful thing to be rooted in a place, to feel utterly at home, to know you are where you are suppose to be.

And it is just as important to leave it as much as you can.

In my downtown neighborhood, trees are leafing, grass is greening, and there is new growth in  community vegetable gardens. My roses explode and the lavender bushes out in pale purple. In a couple of months all will be burned away, but right now it is alive and energetic

We eat outside on the front veranda, still cool enough for candles and listen to the serenades of Tejano, rap, and the occasional  booming opera from the parade of traffic on our busy city corner. 

We walk and bike everywhere. 

We sit in outdoor cafes and go to outdoor films and concerts sitting on blankets or fold up chairs.  People host porch parties and we sit on steps of old houses and drink tempranillos, our laughter floating out into the dark.
We no longer can bear to be indoors!


Channeling Chanel

Art critic John Russell once quoted his aunt's advice to a bored friend: “Go to the public library, sign up, and get yourself another life.” And what another life! It is a life in which I get to hobnob with the likes of Rosamond Bernier through her memoir Some of my Lives.

The memoir begins in the shallow end of the pool as Bernier recollects a childhood with such luminaries as Leonard Bernstien, Leopold Stokowski, and Aaron Copeland who visited her childhood home,  but the essays that come at the deep end are a wonder. Bernier writes about art in an immediate and informed and sensual way that must be the reason her talks at the Met were such a hit. 

But her February 1954 article “Listening to Chanel” for both the American and French issues of Vogue was the most fun. Chanel, a chic and bird-like Miss Haversham sitting bejeweled in a Paris apartment over her salon that remained unchanged since the war, was poised at 70 to make a comeback with her timeless and legendary style.

I like to imagine I’m in Chanel’s Parisian apartment  as she imparts advice that is just as relevant in 2014 as it was in 1954. 

A woman’s figure:
“”I want mannequins with bosoms and hips, with a real shape…they must have elegance....To diet and be underfed in order to lose weight – then one looks sad!  What difference do a few kilos make? To be good tempered and young in spirit is what counts.’”

“’An eccentric [fancy] dress doesn’t make an eccentric-a woman is just as dull in an eccentric dress if she is dull without it. ..Women’s clothes must be more glamorous, even Romanesque. Dresses are never gracious and flattering enough…What is Fashion? La mode est un meteir and not an art – it is a don and not du genie. We keep hearing this word genius-everything has genius-a handbag, a pair of shoes. I tell you there is no genie to this business but don and taste…A dress isn’t right if it is uncomfortable, if it doesn’t ‘walk’ properly. A dress must function or on n’y tient pasElegance in clothes means being able to move freely, to do anything with ease.’“

“'Real elegance means elegance in manners too…Yes elegance in living is very important.'”

How to Age Well
‘”Aging is a state of mind, one must keep enthusiasm and curiosity. I said to a twenty-five-year-old friend of mine, ‘My poor girl, how very old you are! She wasn’t interested in anything. Americans are are wrong to overestimate very young hirlgs-these are not the only beautiful women; for me, women become interesting after forty…
The most important things are health and joie de vivre.'"



Make it New!

 Dress Muse Picks Favorite Spring Trends
                                        The new coral lipsticks make my skin glow! I love how flattering the new round sunglasses are; I buy the inexpensive ones at Urban Outfitters or Need Supply because I manage to lose or crush them on a regular basis.

french striped tees are timeless


Old Navy
I like the new  silky knife-pleat skirts.  
I thrift a cute one and wear it with a white shirt (rolled sleeves, buttoned up), a french striped tee, or a boxy cotton pullover sweater. 

Really cute would be to add a military style vest.
 I also  wear a linen shift over this skirt and it looks adorable for Sunday dim sum with friends.  Make sure the skirt skims your body to avoid bulk.

 I finish this off with  d'Orsays, another favorite trend this Spring or a pair of Supergas for a super cute casual vibe. Or dare I say it: Birkinstocks?

I pull my hair into a topknot, push my bangs to the side, and I feel modern and easy.  A secret that a folklorico dancer friend once shared: "bun makers," a really easy way to create a full and polished bun without the long hair. I bought mine at the drug store.

 Check out Meagan Murphy at BookShop in  Oakland, on Refinery 29 (one of my favorite sites) I love her "library chic" and that she references Joni Mitchell and Elizabeth David. (seriously!) I think the store's site is cool: Where else could you buy "library perfume"? I'm wondering if I could style a "pop up" shop in my own city in one of the abandoned buildings? I'm inspired! Her blog, Evelyn + Dot is pretty.



Something Gold Stays

 A friend once said, "It isn't like I'm so into fashion, as much as I simply love beautiful things."  If we surround ourselves with beautiful things, why wouldn't we want to clothe our bodies in a way that makes us feel beautiful?  The solace of age is beauty: our own.

We enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art the last time we were in NYC, and I immediately want to make my way to the modern and contemporary art: I am addicted to the adrenaline of challenge, the rush as the mind's eye adjusts to something new but instead, I found myself in the room of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities. 

I stand in the hushed high-ceiling room, autumn light filtering through a nearby window framing one of the greatest cities of our time. I recognize what the poets called the eternal moment.

I peer through the glass casements at the ancient  Hellentistic jewelry, unable to move on.

The jewelry is astonishing, exquisite rings and necklaces and bracelets. The tiny sculptures are so strong and weighted delicately with itself. Architecture of the body: Adornment, the adored. A  recognition that beauty is consoling, the need for beauty exits.

I would wear this jewelry today. Thousands of years later I could wear it perhaps with the same joy and love of our physical selves that a woman would then. She would wear a linen chiton; I would wear a  linen sheath. We'd both wear the same sandals.

It isn’t about making an impression: it is about a love of beautiful, our beautiful selves.



Under a dull winter sky, we long for red. 
Oh Dress Muse, sing to me of red!

Sing to me of the reds of Matisse!  Oh especially of Henri Matisse.

"Paiphae, Chant de Minos (1944) is  a contemporary retelling of the myth of Pasephae and the Minoan bull by Henri de Montherlant. It is the story of the hapless Pasephae who, as a punishment to her husband by an angry god, gives birth to the half-bull half-human Minos.   "For each scene, Matisse selects a favorite phrase from de Motherlant's texts and interpreted it in several different ways. True to his style, the images respond not to the tale's tragedy but to universal themes of passion, feminine beauty and love." 

Rosamond Bernier, in her memoir, Some of my Lives, describes Matisse's struggle to create the balance and proportion required for the page:  
"What to do so that the heavy black lines used to illustrate the poem did not pull down the rather empty page of text? His solution was to make one margin surrounding both pages, and then to accentuate the text on each page by making the top letter red. He said when he had seen the first proofs, in which red had not been used, he found the result ‘a little funereal.’ The red made the balance he was seeking.”

That page, so perfectly composed and balanced and poignant and so...evocative is one of the most moving and beautiful things I've ever seen. That square of red is at once deeply spiritual and intensely physical.  

How can I not strive for that beauty in my own life?

It is about balance: dark and light, text and illustration, space and form.   It is energy and verve.

Red is longing. Red is desire.  Orhan Pamuk tells us, "Inside my body is a soul, a meaning, that all things were made of desire, touch, and love..."

I want to think on red things. It is early March and I am impatient for the next season, for objects of my desire: geraniums, and long bicycle rides, vegetable gardens, and outside suppers on warm evenings and  

all pleasures of Spring.

 January and February I become introspect and time becomes still. I read Proust. I wrap myself in layers of clothes and luxuriate in black and grays.  Despite my busy days, winter is a journey inward.

Then there is March and something shifts, stirring a discontent, signaling growth.

My dark clothes that seemed so elegant in November seem “funereal” now and the square of red, that small flag, signals to me that life changes, a different passion stirs.

Spring is coming!

And I can't wait to wear red leather sandals with white chinos.  Tomato toes in the summer sand.  A red handbag to ground an eyelet dress, much like a square of red on a soft white page.

Winter is still here, but just.