Field Notes || Myrtle

20/05/2013 § Leave a comment

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During my recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of visiting with Whitney Bickers, the proprietress of Myrtle, a delightful boutique snuggled on a corner of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.  Featuring independent female designers and an excellent selection of vintage clothing, as well as accessories, books and other assorted gifty items, this adorable little shop feels more like a clubhouse than mere retail experience, completely due to the amount of personal attention Whitney provides her customers.  Shopping at Myrtle is akin to spending a leisurely time with a trusted friend, trying out all sorts of interesting designers and original pieces you may have never heard of before — almost like your personal, inside track to style.

Whitney and Myrtle first appeared on my radar via mutual friends Samantha Pleet and Lizzie Garrett Mettler, and while it may have taken awhile for us to connect in the non-internet world, I’m so glad we did.  Aside from being one of the loveliest people ever (ever!), her path to opening Myrtle is certainly an inspiration.  While working in the entertainment industry on the production side, Whitney came to the realization that what she was really dreaming of was having a store of her own.  With no formal background in retail, but armed with some good advice, a tiny bit of luck and a whole lot of hard work, Whitney took a leap and opened in 2011.  In the years since, this one-woman show has continued to evolve, expanding to e-commerce and one of my very favorite Instagram feeds, where Whitney tries on new store arrivals in the massive mirror you can see above, giving internet fans of Myrtle an early head’s up at stock that hasn’t made it to the webstore just yet — but the best part is that you can tell how much fun she’s having.  And of course, when she wanted to turn the camera on me during our visit, I immediately insisted on a double mirror portrait of our own…

Myrtle

Myrtle
2213 Sunset Boulevard  || Los Angeles, CA 90026 || (213) 413-0004

Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a 1972 Ford Bronco?

17/04/2013 § 1 Comment

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Sometimes when you’re driving around in Los Angeles, you discover amazing things.  Most times you can’t stop to investigate and have to make a mental note to return, as you have to hurry onto this or that appointment or to finish the day’s errands — but this wasn’t one of those times.  As soon as I spied ASC Auto Repair (1816 Lincoln Blvd., Venice CA 90291, (310) 396-6341), I knew I would be stopping.  I mean, it isn’t every day that you get to go to classic Ford Bronco heaven.

After a chat with the owner, David, in which I tried to force him to pick a favorite model year to no avail — “I mean, they’re all nice, it just depends on what is on the inside!” — I was given free rein to poke around and take a few pictures.  For the most part, the technicians ignored me — much too busy, of course — but every now and then I would catch a proud look as I appreciated their handiwork.

Sidenote: if you’re feeling generous, I’ll take that pretty ’72 with the white stripes.

Postcards from Los Angeles

04/09/2012 § 1 Comment

Wanted to share a few of my Los Angeles moments before I head back to NYC,
as filtered through Instagram (quitecontinental).

Daughter of a Deb

25/07/2012 § 1 Comment

 

The idea that girls require guidance and education in order to become women — scratch that, to become proper ladies —  is the foundation of charm school.  You might recall we discussed this concept in February.  I talked about how I saw value in the model, girls and women coming together in the name of self-education and improvement, but I disagree with the emphasis most of these institutions placed on being pretty, perfect baking skills or being a good wife.  To hell with all that.  And so, that’s why I created the Quite Continental Charm School, a modern guide for modern women to create their most charming life.

And while I might have turned the concept of charm school on its head for my own purposes, I still remain fascinated by all the traditions that prepare and commemorate a girl’s transformation into a woman, like the Bat Mitzvah or the Quinceañera.  Growing up, I was none too interested in all of that Sweet Sixteen stuff, but I wasn’t able to completely escape the allure of the tradition.  Perhaps it’s because I am actually the daughter of a “deb.”

What’s a deb? Historically, American debutantes were girls who had reached the age of maturity and were newly eligible to be married.  As part of a formal — and usually quite lavish — ceremony the girls were presented to polite society (read: upper class) either singly or as part of a group, usually wearing some kind of fancy white ballgown.  Fast forwarding a few generations, the deb of my mother’s generation wasn’t primarily intent on catching a husband.  Her attentions were instead focused on making an excellent impression in her social circle (on her own behalf, as well as for her family), finding the perfect escort and wearing an amazing dress.  While traditions do vary regionally, most debutantes also perform some sort of charity work as part of the process as well.

So, as we might have discussed already, my mother was quite the social butterfly growing up.  When I was a young resident of Awkwardsville, living at the intersection of Braces Street and Glasses Avenue, I would often look at the pictures of my mom at one of the many photos of her at a prom or formal — from their sheer number, it would seem like that was all she did in high school — but it was the pictures of her at her cotillion, in that shining white dress, that would always stand out from all the others.  What I felt is hard to describe, but I loved them without having any desire to be a deb.  I left that to my sister, who seemed to enjoy it.  Naturally, to her cotillion I wore a black, backless gown and painted my nails with Chanel’s VampNaturally.  

So for a change, I asked my mom to talk a little about what it was like when she was a deb, to hear the story behind the pictures I love so much (which I promise to scan sometime soon):

“The debutante thing was very different in 1965.  You had to be invited to participate, and that produced a group of about 35.  In the spring we waited with baited breath to see if we were chosen.  Selection was based on family, character, and social standing.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be chosen because your grandparents were not in the “in” social scene.  But we were buddies with Alicia’s family (they were); and Alicia and I were best buds (but she had to drop out because she came down with mono).  I was a little younger than the rest of the debs (required age was 17 of a HS senior), but it was the crowd I hung out with (I was 16 and a junior).   Announcements were made and the formal tea was held; we wore hats and gloves and our best dresses to tea.  In the countdown to Thanksgiving weekend, we were required to attend etiquette classes,  We were also required to do a set amount of volunteer hours.  I was assigned to the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute at UCLA (NPI).  It was interesting.  I had to wear a candystriper-type uniform (like a pinafore).  I got to see the lab monkeys in their cages (that part was sad).  Then weekly rehearsals began around mid-Sept.  Mrs. Poole started us of with the waltz and curtsey.  After we had that down, they brought in the dads, and then the escorts.  The ball was held at the Ambassador Hotel in the Embassy Ballroom (where RFK was assassinated 3 years later).  I had a room upstairs where I dressed and some parents hung out after hours.  We had an all-night party as a group somewhere else.”

My mother’s debut was organized by the Los Angeles chapter of The Links, an international, non-profit volunteer service organization of women committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Link’s ball; the first was held at Ciro’s, a famous nightclub on the Sunset Strip, because hotel ballrooms were not available for minority social events in Los Angeles in 1952.  So you can imagine how happy I was, finding these pictures in the Life Archives.  While these debutantes in 1950 are 15 years earlier than my mother’s era, and a good fifty years earlier than my sister’s, there are constants: the puffy white dresses, the elbow-length gloves, the proud parents, the nervous escorts, the pomp and the circumstance.

The photos, shot by Cornell Capa for Life Magazine, capture Harlem’s very first large-scale “negro debutante cotillion,” organized by Mrs. Lillian Sharpe Hunter, a prominent social-event promoter.  If you would like to read the article — and there’s a great shot of the  Rockland Palace Ballroom where all 52 girls debuted in front of an audience of 4,700 that you must see! — you can find it here.

(Above, L-R) Debutantes Joan Greene, Carole Mc Kenzie, Marian Romain,
Lois Mc Laughlin and Marcia Miller posing in their dresses.

Debutante Marilyn Lowe wearing a dress made
from feathers during the debutante cotillion.

Patronly shriners, members of Brooklyn’s Eureka Temple No. 10,
who sponsored debutante Joanne Norris during the debutante cotillion.

Ushers holding seating lists during the debutante cotillion.

Girls waiting to go downstairs for the debutante cotillion.

Grand March is led by Mrs. Lillian Sharpe Hunter and the
guest of honor Grover Whalen for the debutante cotillion.

Matronly organizers and committee members
look on during the debutante cotillion.

Were you a deb too?  I would love to hear your story!

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Field Notes || Herb Ritts: L.A. Style at the Getty Center

30/04/2012 § 1 Comment

New York is a vertical city, and its skyscrapers are climbing ever higher (case in point, just today my next-door neighbor One World Trade claimed the title of tallest building in New York).  All that height, especially in the canyons of the Financial District or parts of Midtown, can feel a bit oppressive at times to someone like me, who grew up in one of the most horizontal cities in the world.  For comparison’s sake I could give you some facts and figures about square mileage and population — essentially: LA is larger, while NYC is more populous — but nowhere is this “horizontal-ness” illustrated better than from the observation pavilions of the Getty Center.

Known for its impressive views from the Pacific to Downtown, the Getty Center is one of the best places to take in the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles (if it happens to be a clear day).  Designed by Richard Meier, the Center also houses a large portion of the Getty art collection and has been the setting for a marriage proposal or two…thousand.

Familiar vistas aside, I also made the trip to the Center to catch the Herb Ritts retrospective, L.A. Style.  Best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and fashion editorials, equally impressive are Ritts’ nudes and his exploration of the concept of gender.  A compact exhibition, complete with large-scale prints, vintage magazines and a screening of his music videos (e.g., Janet Jackson’s Love Will Never Do (Without You), Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game), L.A. Style is an excellent collection of some Ritts’ most iconic images, taken in the 1980s and 90s.

Herb Ritts: L.A. Style at the Getty Center
April 3 – August 26, 2012

The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Open Tuesday – Sunday

The Grand Tour || The House Where Satchmo Played

29/04/2012 § 3 Comments

Most homes of a certain age in Los Angeles usually come with old Hollywood stories of former residents.  This Spanish beauty in Westwood, owned by good friends of mine, is no different.  Home to Spencer Tracy and his wife for a time, and host to an intimate concert by Louis Armstrong, this estate has a charmingly eccentric layout, complete with original tile work, exposed beams, hardwood floors, interesting built-ins and one of the only SoCal basements I am personally aware of.

A relatively recent purchase, the owners are still hard at work with renovations but I twisted some arms and was allowed to take a few photos of their progress thus far.  I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Field Notes || A Long Los Angeles Weekend

29/04/2012 § 3 Comments

As I mentioned last week, I scooted off to Los Angeles to surprise my family and enjoy a long weekend in my hometown.  Armed with an exceptionally affordable rental car that I had to fill with exceptionally expensive gas, I bopped around from Manhattan Beach to Porter Ranch, and from Santa Monica to Downtown.  And while I will admit that while I am on the East Coast I frequently have moments when I miss driving, a few minutes of sitting on the 405 definitely cured me of that for awhile…but it didn’t keep me from visiting some great places.

Breakfast at the counter at John O’Groats, a westside institution.
Don’t miss their biscuits.

Drinks at the Beverly Wilshire.

Manhattan Beach.

Where the car is king, you can’t help having so many good sightings…

A very foggy Sepulveda Pass.

An evening in Beachwood Canyon with Lizzie: dinner at Franklin & Company,
browsing at Counterpoint Records, peeking in the doors of the Villa Carlotta.

Cole’s, originators of the French Dip sandwich.

Bourbon drinks at Cole’s with Nick.

Breakfast at the Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

A very stylish makeover, courtesy of my nieces.

An excellent travel companion: Bag by The San Fernando Mercantile Company

All Dressed Up…in Los Angeles.

23/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Richard Gere adds Armani to the echelon of California style with its debut in American Gigolo (1980), which I recently revisited thanks to Lizzie’s suggestion.  A seminal moment in menswear, it marked the introduction of a new Italian aesthetic that became characteristic of the decade.

**Update 5/4/2012 — The blog Clothes on Film did a fantastic rundown of the costuming, which you can find here.

I especially love how the film captures the westside at that moment when the 1970s were turning to the 1980s, and watching a 30 year-old (and let’s face it, beautiful) Gere as he navigates the city as one of its “best boys.”  Other high points include the Blondie-infused soundtrack, Lauren Hutton, and the fact that Gere’s character lives in Westwood, which is where I lived before moving to New York.  

Portrait by Herb Ritts, 1980.
Part of “L.A. Style: Herb Ritts” at the Getty Center.  Details here.

Also: just a quick note to let you know I’m in Los Angeles for a few days!  I wanted to surprise my parents, and they read this thing, so I couldn’t mention it beforehand.  Happy to report my sneak attack was successful!

Hey, Red! {Jessica Chastain for Vogue Italia April 2012}

09/04/2012 § 1 Comment

Well, now.  I realize I haven’t posted about an editorial in almost three months.  Is it because my interest has been elsewhere?  Or perhaps because I just haven’t seen anything that has caught my eye?  In any event, I have actress Jessica Chastain and Vogue Italia to thank for reviving my love of the editorial with an amazing set of images that hearken back to classic Hollywood and were coincidentally shot in one of my very favorite places in Los Angeles: the Fred Harvey Restaurant in Union Station — an art deco masterpiece that has been closed since 1967.

You can see my photographs from my last visit here.

Chastain giving her best Hayworth…

Please believe me when I say I know I will be married here — and I am not at all like that about weddings.  Now all that’s left is to pin down the groom.

Details, details.

Photos by Michelangelo di Battista for Vogue Italia, via FGR.

Great Loves: Nellie and Coach Wooden

14/02/2012 § 3 Comments

After she passed away in 1985, Coach Wooden wrote his wife Nellie — his first, last and true love — a love letter every month.

Interviewer: How do you make love last in a marriage?
Coach: There’s only one way.  Truly truly truly love.  Most powerful thing there is.  It’s true, it’s true.  It must be true.

For more of my Great Loves posts, head here.

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