Playlist: Etiquette

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PLAYLIST ETIQUETTE

In her instantly seminal book The Year of Magical Thinking, author Joan Didion relates her attempts, after the death of her husband, to “go to the literature” on grief. She found nothing much that was helpful, except from an unlikely source: Etiquette, by Emily Post. Though Etiquette has been updated over the years, it was Post’s 1922 original that Didion hailed as a masterpiece of matter-of-factness, and that manual has now been re-issued. Read Post not for her advice on debutantes, engaging though it is, but for her surprisingly modern dispensations on nothing less than the meaning of life: “If your community is to give you admiration and honor, it is merely necessary to be admirable and honorable,” reads one sample entry. “The more you put in, the more will be paid out to you. It is too trite to put on paper! But it is astonishing, isn’t it, how many people who are depositing nothing whatever, expect to be paid in admiration and respect?” Isn’t it, though?

Designer - Old School Made New: LYELL

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WASP style usually brings up a raft of Preppy Handbook connotations: Seersucker jackets and madras plaid shorts, striped ties and polo shirts with turned-up collars. Lyell designer Emma Fletcher, however, harks back to an earlier era of Seven Sisters and the Ivy League. Headquartered out of her eponymous shop in New York’s Nolita district, Australian native Fletcher makes clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in a movie adaptation of Catcher in the Rye. Tweed jackets, velvet shrugs, bias-cut dresses, tie-neck blouses and other bookish basics are modernized here and given an old-fashioned flourish therea nip to the pattern to update the silhouette, smocking and covered buttons for genuine vintage finish.

Beauty: Superpowder

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Once upon a time, powdering one’s nose meant putting powder on your nose, not into it. But don’t blame cocaine for the decline of an idiom. Long before Steve Rubell opened the doors to Studio 54, suntans and skincare had joined forces to render the noble face powder all but obsolete. The tan changed the paradigm of chic: Back when a sun-kissed face bespoke a day toiling in the fields, alabaster skin was the ideal. Not so much anymore, now that plebes work in cubicles while the rich jetset to St. Barts. We all aspire to that “healthy glow,” and to wit, improvements in skincare have made powder inessential. Once women are armed with cleansers, toners, exfoliaters, moisturizers, masks, peels, dermabrasions, and so on, there’s no blemish left for them to cover over. (In theory, at least.) What good is powder? Well, a fine translucent powder sets makeup to perfection, mattes a shiny complexion, and does not a thing else. It’s no multi-tasking, scientifically substantiated miracle worker, no lipstick that whitens your teeth, no hair-glossing serum that donates 10% of profits to indigenous rain forest tribes and aromatherapeutically boosts your pheremones. Powder is perfectly frivolous and Paul & Joe’s is most perfectly frivolous powder of all. With its pale pink, recherché case and cotton candy powder pouf, the Paul & Joe powder less makeup than objét, especially given that you probably have no need for it. It is, in other words, a luxury.

Icon: Queen Elizabeth II

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In a sure-to-be-unique accomplishment, actress Helen Mirren took home two Golden Globes this year, both of them for playing Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth I, Mirren’s role on TV, has long been red meat for actresses. The other Elizabeth that Mirren played last year, the currently-reigning Elizabeth II of the film The Queen, has been somewhat less celebrated. Yet Mirren, making her acceptance speech for win number two, offered that Globe voters had thrown their support behind Elizabeth herself, dowdy, fusty and cantankerous, rather than the glamorous actress privileged, briefly, to walk a mile in her sensible shoes. And Mirren is correct, to the degree that her performance in The Queen allowed viewers to re-examine the villains and victims of Buckingham. Diana was the presumptive martyr, hounded by tabloids unto death. But was it possible, perhaps, that dry old Elizabeth was the one really doing battle with the flashbulbs, not by driving faster to get away from them, but by asserting the need for decorum and restraint? Especially in the wake of Diana’s death, Queen Elizabeth was the last one trying nobly, if a little ham-fistedly to keep her finger in the dike. Spontaneous shrines carried the day, but now, nearly a decade on, her stiff upper lip is looking better than ever.

The Paris Review

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I am sorry to report that I am thinking about Paris Hilton. It’s hard to avoid thinking about Paris and as usual, when I think about Paris, when I submit to thinking about Paris, even though I really don’t want to think about Paris, I am thinking: Why?

Trend: Wayfaring Again

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All-black for Sienna. Mary-Kate’s been working a vintage white-framed pair. Sofia’s been wearing Marc Jacobs’ homage pair. Unofficially, the Wayfarer is back ⎯ and in the nearly 50 years since Audrey Hepburn made them glamorous in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the sunglasses have not lost their j’en sais quoi. As of this month, you can make the return of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer official. The brand toasted the re-launch of the original rock ‘n roll sunglasses with an appropriately rock ‘n roll fete at New York City’s Irving Plaza. Partiers such as Mischa Barton, Jimmy Fallon and Molly Sims took in a concert set by Eagles of Death Metal, perused a wall of photographs by legendary lensman Mick Rock, all featuring famous faces in the famous frames, and walked out with pairs of Wayfarers to call their own. Get ready to see them everywhere.

Playlist: Cold War Kids

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Gated neighborhoods. Prefab houses. Minivans and manicured lawns. Think you know all about the suburbs? Think again. Indie rockers Cold War Kids hail from that ur-suburbia, the SoCal Valley, but the jolting barroom dirges on debut LP Robbers & Cowards make a persuasive case that the suburbs are the new bohemia. Songs such as “Hang Me Up To Dry” are gritty like the city, mean and pretty, and the perfect soundtrack to an alcoholiday with the fam. You can go home again. You know why? Because you never left.

Designer Jump for Joy: Samantha Pleet

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Even as a child, I had a strong sense of personal style. There was the Wonder Woman year, for example, and the year of purple, and – triumph de la mode – the year I wore matching plaid skirt and vest sets. Do not ask. I have no idea.

Beauty: Nailed

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Once upon a time in my life, a manicure was a half-hour procedure that involved about ten minutes of coloring my fingernails with waterproof marker, and another twenty sitting a time out for getting red streaks all over the kitchen table. I always went for red, and I generally still do, even now that my DIY days are long gone. But what I have longed for all these years is a nail polish color that goes on the way that marker used to: Sheer and not-quite-red. Rescue Beauty finally delivered the goods, with its Chinoise polish. One coats ‘nostalgia-inducing; two coats’ sexy gleam will remind you that you are all grown up now. Be as bad as you want: No time outs.

Icon: Sunday Girl

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I think I was five. I know it was Sunday, because Sunday night was Muppet night, a big event in my house. It could have been a re-run, but for me, seeing Deborah Harry sing her Blondie hit One Way Or Another to a troupe of Muppet monsters was the beginning of something original: Cool. Cool is not a concept that comes quick to a kid; it is too abstract, too subjective and ephemeral, and up to that moment I had no idea that something so obscurely alluring existed in my cozy world. I didn’t have a name for it then, and even now, I find cool a hard thing to define. Maybe it was the slinky way she moved, or maybe it was the insouciant way she wore her slinky clothes. Maybe, perhaps, I discovered cool in her combination of silliness and self-possession: Look up her appearances on the freaky early 80s series TV Party, and she exudes nothing but grace, even when surrounded by a supporting cast more outré than Muppets, and even when she is delivering a lesson on the proper way to pogo. I caught that episode on DVD recently, and was dumbstruck by Debbie all over again. Whatever cool is, she will always personify it for me. And I still wish my hair looked like that.

Back to the Future

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The first clothes I ever loved were made for me by my mother. Jumpers, tunics, spin-out skirts that went horizontal when I twirled; much as I resented standing still for measurements in her room filled with patterns and fabrics, I gloried in having a personal couturier. If I wanted butterflies on everything one year, I had them. Life was good.

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