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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Last Saturday, I went to an event where I wanted to look serious, so I dug around in my closet for some suits from my (pre-2005) corporate days. First, I tried on a gray skirt suit by Luciano Barbera. I got it at Barneys when I was absolutely desperate for a summer-weight, investment-bank-appropriate suit. I’d been to a few other stores already and hadn’t found anything I liked. At Barneys, I didn’t see any suits at all, so I asked a saleswoman where I should look. She said, “We’re not showing suits this season.” WTF! Sometimes I hate women’s fashion. Can you imagine saying to men, “Oh, we’re not selling any suits right now”? No, men always have access to suits. Barneys was like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, except it was the Suit Nazi: “No suits for you!”

Finally, I found one suit. I got it but I never liked it. Now I like it less. Though it pains me to part with any clothes that still fit and haven’t been reduced to rags, this suit has to go. I have much sexier suits, so I can’t imagine wearing this frump-licious one again unless I was a defendant in a court case.

I wish MrB had told me that my hair was sticking up!

What Wendy Didn’t Wear
Suit: Luciano Barbera (pre-2005)
Shoes: Prada (pre-2005)
Jewelry: My own designs

If you need a blah suit for your job at a bank or The Wall Street Journal, check with Housing Works later this summer; that’s where this one will be.

The suit I eventually chose to wear last week was a corset-detailed Alexander McQueen. Too bad I didn’t get a shot of it before it got all rumpled.

What Wendy Actually Wore
Suit: Alexander McQueen (pre-2005)
Tank top: Versace (pre-2003)
Shoes: Michael Kors (2003 or 2004)
Sunglasses: Prada (2010)
Jewelry: My own designs

Years ago, while wearing this suit, I was browsing through Bergdorf Goodman on the hunt for more suits. What?! I needed to wear a suit every day! Anyway, another customer told me she loved my jacket. I thanked her. She asked to try it on. I said, “It’s not from the store. I own this suit.” She said, “Well, I’d like to try it on.” I said no, of course, and she bitched me out. The weirdest thing was that this was the second such incident that week. I’d been in another store trying on a dress. I announced to the saleswoman that I was getting it. The woman in the next dressing room, who had seen me trying the dress on, asked if she could try it on. I said, “I just decided to buy it.” She said, “I want to try it anyway.” I said no, so she called me a cunt. By the way, she was a size 44 and the dress was a 40. Don’t ask me to explain this shit. I still don’t understand it myself.

Going back to the first suit picture, I have no idea why I tried it on with those high-heeled loafer-style shoes, which I never wore with skirt suits. Maybe I had a premonition that I was about to see this page in Harper’s Bazaar.

It turns out that I have quite a collection of high-heeled loafers. I always liked them for work. I started out with two pairs of Tod’s — one in black and one in a deep red. I wore those out years ago. Here are the ones I have left. The Pradas seen above are at the top. Clockwise from those are brightly colored shoes from Castelbajac (2009), another pair of Tod’s (pre-2005) and studded Miu Mius (2010).

I’m going to send the Tod’s to Housing Works. They’re like the skirt suit — too stuffy for non-corporate life. I’m very into the Castelbajacs right now. I’ve worn jeans, a black t-shirt and the Castelbajacs nearly every day for the past two weeks. It doesn’t matter if I’m hanging out in a post office garage at 4 a.m. …

What Wendy Wore to Hang Out in a Garage
Tank top: Splendid
Jeans: Generic Girl by Acne (2008)
Shoes: Castelbajac
Bag: Louis Vuitton (2001)

… or watching Bill Cunningham New York, the excellent documentary about the New York Times’s street-style photographer, Bill Cunningham.

What Wendy Wore to the Movies
T-shirt: Michael Stars
Jeans: Same Acne jeans as above
Shoes: Castelbajac
Watch: Louis Vuitton (2005)
Rings: My own designs

Fact-wise, the documentary went over the same ground as The New Yorker’s 2009 profile of Cunningham, but it was wonderful to get the visuals and hear Bill’s voice.

I’ve said before that I admire Bill for his democratic approach to street style. Sure, he has his favorites, like Anna Wintour of Vogue, Patrick McDonald, and the freak who copied my outfit in the early ’90s (what IS it with people and my clothes?). But he also gets out there to shoot the St. Patrick’s Day parade and plenty of non-fashion-biz people. Bill is a real journalist to me, because he records trends regardless of his own opinion about the particular look. I value that more than those street-style blogs that are all about the aesthetic of the photographer, who, for example, might think that leggy 20-somethings wearing sleeveless fur vests, chunky shoes and head wraps are the only story going on.  As for the blogs devoted to nearly fetishistic shooting of models and editors outside fashion shows? I appreciate the ravishing photos. But that’s not reporting on fashion in general; it’s reporting on fashion insiders.  (One street-style blog that I really like is Advanced Style. Check it out.)

I dress pretty plainly most days, going about my business without a raincoat made of garbage bags or a tiny top hat or a nose-piercing or a dog wearing an identical outfit to mine. So it’s a huge thrill for me if Bill takes an interest in what I’m wearing. (He does love to see a vintage Ossie Clark dress.) Most of those photos don’t make it into the paper. He’s picky; you can see him working on his layouts in the documentary. But I’ve made it in four times, and each time I said it was the best day of my life and I’d never ask for anything again. Each time, I really believed that for 24 hours or so. Then I reverted to my normal state of dissatisfaction. Alas. Anyway, here are all four of my Cunningham photos.

From 1994. I'm the one in leopard.

From 2006. I'm on the lower right. Click to enlarge.

I'm No. 15 and MrB is No. 17. From 2008.

My friend Melissa and I, wearing Zang Toi gowns, with Zang Toi in 2009.

I definitely recommend seeing the documentary. It’s refreshing to see someone who thinks of fashion in an inclusive way. Style really is accessible to everyone, not just the people walking into fashion shows!

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47 Responses to “What Wendy Wore, Plus Thoughts on Bill Cunningham”

  1. stacy says:

    Who would DARE copy you?
    Of COURSE you are the one in leopard.
    I freaking LOVE your primary color shoes (nice pic. by the way… by the mail truck!).
    You look so FAB in that Zang dress.
    How FUNNY that Mr. B. is featured with Melissa!
    It must have been a lucky day since Nov. 25 is MY birthday! LOL
    GREAT post!!!!!!

  2. stacy says:

    I forgot one thing…. NO suits for you!!!

  3. Christy says:

    I watched the documentary twice in the theater, that is how much I liked it. I also cried twice, yup just like a big baby. There was something so melancholic about Bill; on one hand you’ve got this exuberant love of fashion and on the other hand you sense he is living a repressed life in order to dedicate his life to his craft.

  4. elena daciuk says:

    when i read your posts about your “corporate days” i swear i am re-living mine…i have such a hard time letting go of all my suits…even though i don’t wear them…i always think there will be an occasion for it…but seriously…how many do i need for that “one” occasion?

    love your loafer round-up pic… =) the studded miu miu…uh…love!

  5. You know Wendy I quite like the suit – but it badly needs a belt. It has a really nice 1940s line, but the waist just needs to come in more.

    I saw Bill Cunningham taking pictures at the Governor’s Island jazz picnic a few years ago on my only ever trip to New York, and it absolutely made my day. I’m looking forward to the doco x

    • WendyB says:

      My first thought was to have it taken in at the waist — I immediately started messing about with that. But then I thought … “why?” I have at least five other good spring/summer suits, and I only wear suits a few times a year now, so I figured why put effort into one I’d never love anyway. Maybe someone will get it at the thrift store and wear it with a belt!

  6. Vix says:

    Those coloured shoes are so gorgeous!
    I get random strangers asking to try on my jewellery or stroking my clothes, cheeky devils. xxx

  7. Blond Duck says:

    So cute! Love the heels!

  8. Never wanted this post to end … brilliant.

  9. Alice Olive says:

    I love this post. It’s chock-full of information and bits and pieces!

    What I can’t get over is that two women asked to try something of yours on, particularly the jacket that you owned. Um, what kind of animals are they? I really can’t get over that. (They shouldn’t get any suits or soup.)

  10. Sabine says:

    Well, the 2nd one is definitely much more you, and shoe-wise I’m having major JCC envy. They’re great! But how weird are these girls who try to try on your clothes???

  11. OMG, I covet your studded Miu Mius! Yes, out with the dowdy suits. I’ve looked back at some of mine and thought the same thing. It is amazing how much the cut and style of women’s suits and suit pants can change in just a few years. Your McQueen is fab. Classy, but not boring.

    I can’t BELIEVE the dressing room drama! That shizzz would NEVER happen in the south. And a woman called you the c-word? Lord, never, never. That’s one good thing about living down here in the boonies!

  12. Tina says:

    I need to see that doc! It’s on my list. But on another note, what is up with peeps demanding to try on what you are wearing/buying?!? That is SO weird.

    • WendyB says:

      I don’t know what that was about. It hasn’t happened lately. What happens now is TSA agents molesting my shoes in the bin at the airport.

  13. Sally says:

    I completely agree: Bill’s take is that of an observer, not an insider, and that makes it so much more compelling. I loved that documentary.

    Hey, care to swing by and weigh in on the question of “frumpy vs. retro”? It came up today in the comments, and your suit example seems perfect. Still fits, not in tatters, why is it frumpy and not retro?

  14. Amanda says:

    I definately liked you better in the suit you actually wore, but I was wondering about repurposing the first suit. Kind of getting it nipped and tucked as it were. Just a thought that popped into my head when I saw you in it. And I can understand people wanting to try on your clothes. You have a great sense of fashion and carry clothes so well.

    • WendyB says:

      I did consider getting it altered, and I would do so if I were still a frequent suit-wearer. But since I’m not, and I have other suits I prefer, it’s time to let #1 go!

  15. Vyque says:

    Bill Cunningham rocks! And feel free to donate clothes you no longer want my way!

  16. MJ says:

    I cannot believe those women got mad because they wanted to try on your clothes??! WTH??? Loving that jacket and those shoes are too cute!

    Definitely have to check out that documentary!

  17. Susan Tiner says:

    It does look like a banker’s suit.

    As for people wanting to touch or try on your clothes, it just seems like one more example of people having lost respect for boundaries.

    Thank you for the review of the documentary. I can’t wait to see it!

  18. Busty Satan says:

    Hot DAMN I love my anti-spam word. Or are we all getting “btchplz”?

    I really enjoyed the documentary and now have an inappropriate crush on Bill Cunningham. It inspired me to be bold with my clothes this week, which I have to think would please him.

    Would that Alexander McQueen have been too much for your corporate life? I’ve fallen in love with a Boss Black jacket that has a peplum at the back, almost like a riding jacket, but I’m headed to business school and considering it for interviews. I’m really not looking forward to toning down my style.

    • WendyB says:

      I did wear the McQueen in my corporate life. It was definitely pushing it a little but I felt like I was in a position to get away with it. Would love to see the peplum jacket!

  19. lisa says:

    I dragged Lawrence to BCNY and he was absolutely riveted by the end. Bill Cunningham’s passion for his work is so inspiring.

  20. Style Eyes says:

    I love your shoes and the suit that you wore. So funny how people want to try on what you had, perhaps a sort of compliment. I guess people always want what they can’t have!

  21. Rubiatonta says:

    I don’t own any suits, and I’m told that as an “academic” I don’t have to. (Really. Lisa at Privilege says I don’t.)

    However, I do own a jacket and a pair of pants in the same fabric and color, made by the same label. But I have no intention of wearing them together. Well, I did just the once a few weeks ago (long story) and was noodling around in a Nordstrom while so attired, when a salesperson came up and apologized because they didn’t have ANY suits for sale this year. Apparently my corporate drag had fooled her! I guess if I need a “real” suit some day, I’m going to be in big trouble.

  22. Marissa says:

    No wonder you’ve been wearing those multi-colored loafers every day. They are AWESOME! I always feel frumpy in suits, no matter what kind of suit it is, but the McQueen one looks great on you.

  23. melina bee says:

    I was just thinking the other day how men’s suits don’t really go in or out of fashion, do they? also it seems unfair that in men’s fashion there isn’t really an outfit deemed “too young” for men above a certain age. Am I just ignorant about men’s fashion or is this actually true?

  24. dana says:

    These sentences: “I value that more than those street-style blogs that are all about the aesthetic of the photographer, who, for example, might think that leggy 20-somethings wearing sleeveless fur vests, chunky shoes and head wraps are the only story going on. As for the blogs devoted to nearly fetishistic shooting of models and editors outside fashion shows? I appreciate the ravishing photos. But that’s not reporting on fashion in general; it’s reporting on fashion insiders.” – just scream “omission of hyperlinks!” Even though you’re a fashion insider, I love your take on it! Thanks for the eye candy and the giggles.

  25. Eli says:

    this post just blew my mind!

    Have yet to see the documentary, but really want to. Need to figure out where it’s playing!

    While I may not suffer from suit syndrome, I found myself wondering how much of my wardrobe was really me and for work. I hate dressing for work, but now I don’t even know what’s what anymore! While I don’t have to be as conservative as a suit, working in libraries has it’s modesty too. I like to push the limits but fear wardrobe malfunctions. I don’t know what’s what anymore.

  26. Terri says:

    those loafers you’re wearing are perfect with the simple jeans and tee.

    I am so impressed that Cunningham has snapped your pic not once, but multiple times…gushing in the midwest.

  27. Lyddiegal says:

    Ohh that poor stuffy corporate suit…
    I have never had anyone demand to try on something I’m wearing or was about to wear. Maybe think of it as a weird compliment? Nah… they were totally trying to steal your clothes.

    I’m glad you’ve gotten to have the best day of your life four times over, you lucky woman.

  28. Four Bill Cunningham photos! How impressive. For years I have eagerly awaited his photos in the Sunday Times, and come to find out you were THERE. No surprise!

  29. THE-LOUDMOUTH says:

    I died laughing at this post! I don’t even know where to start…

  30. mystyle says:

    Hi my dear-I adore seeing you in Ossie, definitely need more pictures please! The film sounds a must see too. Have a great weekend xx

  31. Lara says:

    yeah, that first suit is way too frumpy
    people are seriously insane
    Love those Castelbajacs!
    I love Advanced Style!
    Such and honor to be photographed by Cunningham just one time!

    okay, that is all!

  32. J’adore Bill Cunningham and can’t wait to see the documentary – I’m so impressed that he’s photographed you so many times. Wow, Wendy that’s fantastic! Love Advanced Style too – I was lucky enough to meet Ari when he was over in London last year, he’s gorgeous. Absolutely lovely.

  33. Sheila says:

    I adore those colourful shoes!

    How amazing to be featured – I would be walking on Cloud 9! Wendy, you’re truly inspiring. I love that you just wear whatever you want.

  34. tina m says:

    WendyB–you could wear a potato sack and would still look beautiful!

  35. Gillian says:

    The c-word?!? REALLY?!? That shits insane.

  36. The Styley says:

    Those Castelbajac shoes are awesome. My eyes immediately went to them when I saw your shoe photograph.

    I’m a huge Bill Cunningham fan. I love his democratic approach to fashion. It’s so great that he picked you so many times–and utterly right-on. I LOVE your dress in the 2006 picture.

  37. alixrose says:

    You are so right. The rolled up look with your shoes equals awesome.