Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From Us, to You

"Out of all the words in the world, just two stick in your mind - thank you."

Weekly Feature #8

H is for... Handsomeness.

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder: but it must be admitted that there are certain strains of catch-all male attractiveness which are almost universally accepted as being generically "handsome." And just as style maven Dorothy Draper once wryly noted, "There are no unconscious Helens of Troy," there are no accidental Adonises, either. But for those of us who will never be mistaken for soap opera stars or Men's Health models, take heart: by and large, the best-dressed, most elegant men in the world have rarely been the conventionally best-looking.

The illusion of perfection: Archie Leach had a pudgy face, a bull neck, crooked teeth and bow legs; but as CARY GRANT, he worked hard to achieve almost unreal standards of male elegance.

We realized early on that, in order to be considered attractive, we would have to compete on a completely different level than the jocks or pretty boys. We didn't have the luxury of a rippled body or chiseled face to fall back on; instead, how we dressed, how we presented ourselves, and the style with which we did so, became our paramount consideration.

He may not have been drop dead gorgeous, but his style was impeccable; and FRED ASTAIRE still always got the girl.

So, perhaps you realize that your jawline isn't as rock-solid as John Gavin's, your chest not up to Guy Madison standards, and your stature nowhere near as imposing as Clint Walker's. The not-devastatingly-handsome male can either become a polished, elegant gentleman a la Fred Astaire, or he can even more easily take the road frequently traveled and become a designer-clad freak show (think Carson Kressley, Elton John, Steven Cojocaru, and their ilk). Tread carefully: a woman who overdresses can sometimes be forgiven; a man with delusions of sartorial splendor (and a blithe disregard for their figure flaws) is absolutely insufferable.

CARSON KRESSLEY: Don't let this happen to you.

There is, unfortunately, no textbook or checklist on how to acquire or cultivate individual style: you have to ruthlessly, honestly assess your own flaws and assets, and adjust accordingly. Since such assessment, reinvention, and application is entirely individual, we can only relay how we transformed ourselves from duckling to swan, and hope that you can apply some of the advice and principles we offer to suit your own needs.

  • We cut the fat. We will offer no diet tips or exercise hints here; as diet- and exercise-phobics, we frankly don't endorse a hard body as being something to kill yourselves acquiring (whereas we'd fight a deathmatch over, say, bespoke shoes). But it does go without saying that being physically fit and a reasonable weight makes it much easier to achieve an elegant appearance. Nearly a decade and a half ago, we lost over 80 lbs. in a conscious effort to achieve a more lithsome, and, it follows, more elegant carriage. Could we still be elegant if we hadn't? Certainly; robust Helena Rubenstein was every bit an equal for birdlike Coco Chanel in the chic department. The bottom line is, what makes you feel good about yourself? We felt more comfortable being slim, and so it was. Just as the once-ungainly Maria Callas plastered her kitchen with photographs of Audrey Hepburn as she dieted down to glamorous slimness, we envisioned the slender likes of Noel and Fred and felt they were more attainable ideals than, say, Sean Connery.

    NOEL COWARD may have often laid it on thick, but his physique was as trim as it could be.

  • We shaved it off. We hated our hair: it was fine, thin, and just laid lank and unresponsive unless it was ratted up like a teenage Jezebel. So we finally shaved it off, and have never looked back. Fortunately, the look suits us; it's definitely not for everyone, just as close-cropped hair makes some women look impossibly chic, and others simply mannish. Again, the principle here is to discover which style suits you, and stick with it. Hairstyles will date you and your photo albums quicker than any trendy costume can. If you look at 10-15 years worth of our photos, it's near-impossible to date them by an unfortunate shag, faux-hawk, or the like. Of course, a shaved head is simplicity taken to the extreme, but it goes without saying that a simple, classic hairstyle will hold you in good stead wherever you go, at any age, in any company, at any time.

    1999 - 2009: a decade of TJB.

  • We made peace with our shape - and friends with our tailor. As Joe E. Brown reassured Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot, "Nobody's perfect." Even after losing 80 lbs. and whittling our waistline to 29 inches, our lack of a V-shaped torso means that we nip our suit jackets and sport coats in at the waist, to create the illusion of broader shoulders and a defined waistline. Our practically non-existent backside created the necessity for wearing those jackets and sport coats, as well as having our trousers scrupulously tailored to not "sag" around the seat. Our relatively small stature (5'7") also makes us very aware of sleeve length, hem length, and ensuring that we do our best to create long visual lines, rather than "cutting ourselves in half," as it were. We try not to wear too many colors at one time, but play with shades, patterns and textures to keep things from being boring and monochromatic. And little things do mean a lot: matching the color of our socks to the color of our trousers makes our legs look longer, rather than chopped off at the ankles; keeping our jacket or sport coat buttoned shows off the illusion of a defined waistline and makes one look thinner in general.

    Little things mean some socks: TJB knows hose.

  • We developed a "look." You wouldn't, we hope, let your best friend buy something adorable and trendy which would, however, make them look absolutely hideous. Once you've mastered the art of maxmizing your assets and minimizing your flaws, you will never allow yourself to indulge in a trend just for the sake of it, unless it happens to suit you and your style, your signature look. The world's best-dressed men and women are rarely thought of as chameleons: Babe Paley, Gianni Agnelli, the Windsors - all are revered as style icons, and all displayed sustained consistency and timelessness in their dress. Even the outrageous and irreverent Iris Apfel remained remarkably consistent in her eclectic, eccentric look. We've learned what works and doesn't work for us; and any time when we've deviated too far from that template, it never quite works out, because the look may be cute, it may be of the moment, it may be entirely correct on a fashionable level - but it's not us.

    Consistency, thy name is Windsor: the Duke and Duchess in 1938 and circa 1968, respectively.

  • We accepted the fact that size does not matter. Not when it comes to our wardrobe, anyway. We'd rather have one or two impeccable outfits and wear them until they're threadbare, rather than have two dozen merely OK ensembles, or worse, a scattershot collection of disposable fashion and mismatched pieces. We've tailored our wardrobe to our lifestyle and those assets and flaws we've already identified. We buy the best we can afford, and plan ahead to ensure that as many pieces work in calibration with others in our wardrobe as possible.

    More calibrated timelessness: our vintage 1920's and 1930's wristwatches.

  • We lived, lived, lived! We firmly believe that it's impossible to be a truly elegant individual with a provincial point of view. Even if circumstances dictate that you remain an armchair traveler, one must have curiosity and interest in other people, places and cultures. It's all well and good to have, as we do, an insatiable appetite for clothes and dressing well. If that's where your interests begin and end, however, you'll be a vapid mannequin, and nothing more. We feel that the art of dressing well is, indeed, an art - and our love for it is an extention of our love of beauty and the arts in general. There is as much elegance and order in a well-designed building, a well-executed sculpture, a well-written phrase, a well-planned menu as there is in an impeccably-chosen outfit.

    We can honestly say that we've been considered by many, if not necessarily most, people as qualifying as "handsome" for most of our adult life, but it's a description that rests more on dint of hard work, serious self-examination and self-awareness than it does on "natural beauty." And although we more or less gave ourselves what could be termed a "makeover," what we've striven to achieve has nothing to do with silicone, makeup, or even designer labels: it has everything to do with confidence, empowerment and a willingness to accept ourselves as we are - and then accentuate our very best. There is something attractive and unique in all of us; the trick is to showcase those qualities, rather than burying them beneath tinsel, or allowing them to fade to grey in the background. Now, as we've said before: Go forth and be fabulous, darlings!

    Special thanks to MR. PEACOCK.

      Sunday, September 27, 2009

      And We Are Telling You...

      ...we're not going. (No, no, no, no way.)

      We're not so delusional to think that SSUWAT changes anyone's life, heals the sick, or resolves global issues; but we have been gratified to hear from people who truly do enjoy what we have to offer: frivolity, fun, glamour, and the occasional vintage penis. We have also been going through our own archives, and came to the immodest realization that when we're good, we're pretty damn good! In other words, we're the blog that we would love to stumble across, which is exactly what we set out to achieve from the start.

      Having said that, we admit that there have been recent moments when we've considered throwing in the towel (cheap Chinese embroidery - Peggy gave us these). Life, as you all surely know, has a way of intruding on fabulosity. But we're not waking up tomorrow morning (ha ha!) and finding that there's no comments there! We're going to soldier on and continue to showcase obscure starlets, retro musclemen, aging divas, and fabulous fashion - but not necessarily at the same pace as we've been doing for the last year and a half.

      As some of our darling friends and followers pointed out to us privately, we've been posting new entries, five or more at a clip, nearly every day since this blog's inception. When inspiration hits us, we get so excited, we want to share it immediately with all of you, so we will try to continue daily updates. This is a long-winded way of saying, however, that we may not, depending on outside circumstances. Posts may diminish to every other day; sometimes, a few times a week; but the bottom line is that we're sticking around because we truly do enjoy doing this. And we want to continue to do something that gives us (and, hopefully, you) pleasure.

      We rarely get soppy and sentimental here, but thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to follow this silly, frivolous little site. That you guys actually get what we're talking about, enjoy the people and things that we hold in esteem, and appreciate our putting them out there in the "blogosphere" surprises, delights and humbles us. So continue to watch this space, darlings: we may not be here as often as before, but push, strike or kill, we're not gonna leave ya - there's no way we will. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd...

      Saturday, September 26, 2009

      Hot Cop

      This doesn't really fit in with our glorious Gloria grouping, but as darling Muscato reminded us, it's Kent McCord's birthday today - and, as always, we just can't resist a yummy 1960's television cop. Oh, the temptation to give in to vulgar puns is strong (Putting the "12" in Adam-12? Policeman's balls? Copping a feel?), but our staunch good taste is stronger. You're welcome.

      September 26, 1942


      The Voices in Your Head

      This was our favorite song in the first grade; our others were Sheena Easton's "Morning Train," Melissa Manchester's "You Should Hear How She Talks About You," and Olivia Newton-John's "Physical," which should have given our mother a clue.

      Speaking of Livvy, she celebrates a birthday today. We've always liked her, and give her a lot of credit: she's survived Xanadu, Twist of Fate, and tons of cheesy 1980's videos:

      September 26, 1948

      The Voices in Her Head

      Swanson Sings! And Larry Olivier squirms.

      Black and White...

      ...and fabulous all over. The singularly most glamorous moment of our lives was lunching a table away from Ms. Vanderbilt and Dina Merrill; it was our little Answered Prayers moment.

      Life According to Gloria

      "Chic? It is absolutely innate. I was born with it. Chic cannot be taught."

      "I've never worn costume jewelry in my life. It's really very self-defeating. Why should a man buy a woman real jewelry when she wears false pieces?"

      "I do not follow fashion. I believe in consistency."

      "Elegance is in the brain just as well as in the body and in the soul. Jesus Christ is the only example of any one human having possessed all three at the same time."

      "I didn't make up all this legend stuff, somebody else did. I think everyone envisions me sitting at Alexandre's all day, picking out beautiful clothes from passing courtiers. My God, can you imagine the boredom."

      - Gloria Guinness, as quoted in The Power of Style by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins

      Putting on the Dog

      Gloria Grahame: she's just a girl who cain't say no to one more accessory.

      Thursday, September 24, 2009

      We're Busy...

      ...on the East Side of Town. (That's "where the people are always gay.")

      We'll be back with our regular updates soon, darlings!

      Wednesday, September 23, 2009

      Why Don't You... a sly trick on a style icon?

      This January 1963 Bazaar cover has been the source of controversy and speculation since it first hit newsstands nearly half a century ago. The cover model ("Dani") was rumored to have been made up to parody the legendary Diana Vreeland, who had recently defected from Bazaar to its arch rival, Vogue.

      Certainly, Dani was a marked switch from the remote, icy mannequins who usually graced the fashion magazine covers at the time: her near-camp, wry smile; decidedly "handsome" features; blue-black hair; and flamboyant cigarette holder make a good case indeed for an extravagant "in joke" perpetrated by Bazaar and photographer Richard Avedon. The ensuing cover made enough of an impact that even columnist Walter Winchell jumped into the fray. The mystery remains unsolved, but another clue lies further within the same issue's pages:

      This striking image appears in a fashion layout entitled "Carte Blanche Chic," a seven page spread in which two other models appear in all but this one photo. This chic lady makes just this one, prominent, full page appearance, and is noticeably older and styled quite differently from the other two models. She also bears more than a passing resemblance to Kay Thompson as"Maggie Prescott" in Funny Face (1957) - a character acknowledged as being based, at least in part, on Mrs. Vreeland.

      If she were aware of the joke, we'd like to think that Mrs. Vreeland took it with good humor, and also as a compliment to her singular, influential style. After all, to get one over on D.V. took - let's face it - pizazz.

      A Gentle Reminder...

      ...that the Fashion Police are judging your every move.

      The Sad Truth

      Being flawless can be isolating.

      Monday, September 21, 2009

      Have a Grand Week!

      We're positively determined to be fabulous this week. We know you will be, too!

      Grass Roots Campaign

      We're gunning to have the next Fabulon Board of Directors meeting held here.

      (From this utterly fabulous Flickr page!)

      Our Favorite Fruit

      Our favorite fruit, MC, was the first to correctly guess our last Mystery Guest: the relentlessly impersonated, yet thoroughly inimitable, Mae West. MC is already awash in prizes, but we'll allow Mae to toss his salad anyway:

      And, for cwilson284, here's a bonus treat (courtesy of the fabulous Allure blog):

      Thanks for playing, darlings!

      Misty Watered Colored Mem'ries

      We always looked forward to father-son weekends.

      Portrait of Joan