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Brooklyn Gal

Skip Shopbop and Shop Esther’s Winning Collection

Esther Perbandt, Making the Cut runner-up and Berlin-based designer

We don’t know about you, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal tore through Amazon’s reality fashion series Making the Cut, eagerly awaiting the weekly Friday drop of two new episodes until, alas, the premiere season came to close.

For the uninitiated, think Project Runway with a million dollar prize and a fresh spin on the moving parts, from the multiple locations (New York, Paris, Tokyo) to the esteemed panel of judges (including the outspoken Naomi Campbell, never one to sugarcoat her feelings, and early on, French editor and icon, Carine Roitfeld) to the 12 designers (a global array of mostly experienced talent). Hosted, of course, by Project Runway veterans, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. The premise: to find the next major fashion brand (as opposed to the next big fashion designer).

The season ended with (spoiler alert) LA entrepreneur Jonny Cota winning the grand prize, and our favorite contestant, Berlin designer, Esther Perbandt, an ardent fan of the color black, winning second place. Bummer. In our book, Esther was the winner. In fact, she had it all: Talent, vision, a calm sense of self-assurance and a viable marketing plan (one of the storylines in a late-season episode). Oh, and a super-cool take on black clothing, from her fabrics and silhouettes to her distinctive aesthetic.

So why aren’t we knocked out by Perbandt’s new Amazon collection, now available at Shopbop, Amazon’s fashion offshoot?

Nearly every week, the MTC judges would remark on the salability of black clothing, remarking that black pieces just didn’t present well online. Could that be the reason why this collection seems to lack oomph? Um, no. Could it be the high price tags, rather aspirational for a local Berlin designer? Um, no again. From the Brooklyn Gal‘s perspective, Perbandt’s Shopbop pieces are just not unique enough to warrant an outlay of hundreds of dollars, no matter how deep your pockets. Dare we say, her design prowess has been dumbed down?

That, of course, was not the case on Making the Cut. Every week, Perbandt delivered something interesting, something modern, something we wanted to wear out in the world (one day, anyway). But not these Shopbop pieces. They seem to belong to another designer entirely.

Fortunately, all is not lost. We recently discovered Esther Perbandt’s online shop, the one where she sells her distinctive designs, not the Amazon-ified line available to the masses. Now we just need to pony up the bucks, oh, and the place (!) to wear her amazing creations.

 

Kiss that Wish List Goodbye

Give it up for this fluid crepe midi skirt from Ganni.

Every season, we here at the Brooklyn Gal curate wish lists comprised of our favorite new fashions. It’s our way of keeping tabs on all of the standout pieces that take our breath away. True, we’ll never own most of these treasured items, nevertheless, we continue to browse YOOX and Net-a-Porter and Italist, among other online shopping destinations, shaping and honing our lists as winter turns to spring, and spring to summer. And sometimes we actually buy one of those coveted items, more often than not wearing it for an eternity!

Given the current pandemic, our wish list habit has almost come to a screeching halt. Sure. we continue to browse, but earmarking those must-haves for wish lists? Well, it seems a bit pointless. Yes, strange as it may sound, we can live without those to-die-for pieces. After all, where would we wear, say, our new jumpsuit or our summer-perfect poplin sundress? To the park, for our daily stroll? To the grocery store, where we swoop in and out as fast as we can, hoping to avoid anyone and everyone? Sigh.

It may sound petty and frivolous, but we long for a world where we can not only build our wish lists, but actually click and purchase, if so desired. Even that familiar act has become fraught given the closures of warehouses and nonessential businesses. Oh, and the guilt (how could we treat ourselves now?)

One day soon, this will be but a bad dream. We’ll go online, peruse our wish lists, find that perfect outfit, and actually wear it out to dinner, preferably to one of our treasured restaurants, say, Via Carota or Rucola.

But that day is still far off in the future. So for the duration, we’ll slip into our jeans and our workout clothes, lace up our well-worn sneakers, and get on with it.

 

Bye Bye Bird-ie

Local boutique closes shop

With the world turned upside down right now, retail is obviously having a tough time, especially the indie boutiques where we here at the Brooklyn Gal draw much of our style inspiration.

The other day, while out taking a mental health walk, we noticed that the Park Slope branch of longtime trendsetter Bird was all papered up, with a lovely good-bye note plastered on the window. Luckily, this offshoot is the only casualty; Bird’s other shops in Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Williamsburg are poised to reopen (at least to our knowledge) post-Corona, while the online store is still humming along.

In some ways, it’s the end of an era. But isn’t everything these days?

We must admit that Bird’s closing makes us a bit nostalgic. Many years ago, when its first branch opened in its former location, on Seventh Avenue, in the South Slope, Bird was truly a revelation. At last, a Brooklyn boutique stocked with indie designers, cool clothes that you weren’t likely to see anywhere, especially department stores. The vibe was friendly yet hip, the staff super helpful. And the selection made our hearts go pitter-pat—this, we realized, was what fashion dreams were made of. Even then, the prices were aspirational, meaning that we lusted more than purchased, but never mind: Bird, way back when, raised the style bar, especially for the neighborhood.

Lately, we’ve looked to Bird for that fashion shot in the arm, but it hasn’t totally delivered. While the selection doesn’t always wow, with many of the items too boxy (looking at you, Black Crane), pricey or just not us, we still remain loyal to this Brooklyn outfit. After all, one of these days, when the Brooklyn Gal can actually walk through the doors, we know that we’ll be swept off our feet by some must-have dress or jumpsuit from Alex Mill, Ganni, Mara Hoffman, Rachel Comey, or some amazing new designer we’ve never, ever heard of.

It’s in the cards, just like spring.

 

Princess Margaret and Your Horoscope

The stars didn’t always align for HRH the Princess Margaret

If not for Princess Margaret, you might have no daily horoscope to refer to, no sign to consult, no astrological love match to ponder, no traits to attest to, no affinity with the stars whatsoever. What, then, did the temperamental younger sister of Queen Elizabeth have to do with your star sign? We here at the Brooklyn Gal are here to tell you.

According to Craig Brown‘s 2018 biography, Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, it was John Gordon, the editor of the UK newspaper, the Sunday Express, who hit on the notion. Gordon requested that a famous astrologer and occult figure named Cheiro make predictions about the life that lay ahead for the princess, born on August 21, 1930. With Cheiro unavailable, his assistant, R.H. Naylor, rose to the occasion, predicting that Her Royal Highness would lead “an eventful life.” (How’s that for an understatement?) A later forecast, about an endangered British aircraft, proved to be true, and Naylor’s reputation as a prognosticator was sealed.

Gordon, ever the visionary, then asked Naylor to write a weekly column for all Sunday Express readers, royal and otherwise, based on their birthdays. The astrologer wasn’t about to come up with 365 forecasts; instead, he decided to divide the sun’s 360-degree transit into twelve zones, each covering thirty degrees. How then to name them? Naylor looked to the celestial constellations for inspiration and eureka! came up with predictions for each of the twelve birth signs. Lo and behold, the modern horoscope and the first sun sign astrologer came into existence!

If not for the noble Leo, Princess Margaret, who shared her zodiac sign with the likes of Count Basie, King William IV and Kenny Rogers, among zillions of others, there might not be a Virgo, Gemini, so on and so forth, among us.

 

Brooklyn Gal is Back

Kick up your heels! The Brooklyn Gal is back in town!

Okay, it’s been a dog’s age since the Brooklyn Gal last posted. We could blame it on corporate ennui. We could say that we’ve been hard at work on our novel, a blockbuster sure to sell like hotcakes. We could come up a zillion reasons why we’ve been so darned distracted, but really, who cares? The Brooklyn Gal is back, so stay tuned!

 

Closet Conundrum

Ode to Iris, who wears anything and everything, sometimes all at once!

We all know how bad fast fashion is for the environment. We here at the Brooklyn Gal rarely give in to those feel-good urges and when we do, we can’t help but mentally flog ourselves for being so darned weak. No landfill wardrobe for us, thank you very much!

But what about those other indulgences, those high-priced items that we’ve “invested” in, certain, without a shred of doubt, that we’ll get our money’s worth thanks to a lifetime of wear? We’ve convinced ourselves that spending too many greens is a sure-fire guarantee that we’ll love it until the end of eternity. How could it be otherwise?

But what happens when a forever piece loses its charm or, heaven forbid, falls apart? The reasonable person would cart it off to a fabulous secondhand home like Consignment on Atlantic Avenue or sell it to a likeminded fashion fan on eBay. A logical solution, for sure, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal are not inclined to let go of our prized possessions so easily. After all, how many times have we regretted giving away that amazing wool dress, the one with the gold and turquoise accents, or those vintage plaid pants that fit us like a glove?

And so we pack those investment babies away and bury them deep in our closet. Perhaps one day we’ll gaze upon them with fresh eyes and voila! our beloved garments will enjoy a second or third life.

Unless, of course, the moths get there first!

 

Old New York, New York

Just the other day, the Brooklyn Gal met a friend at The Bar Room at Temple Court, the glamorous watering hole inside The Beekman hotel in Lower Manhattan. We sidled up to the long sweeping bar, settled into the luxe bottle-green cushioned barstools and soaked up the old-timey atmosphere. An eerie portrait of Edgar Allan Poe stared at us from across the room—eek!—and as we quickly turned away, the soaring nine-story atrium, outfitted with Victorian-era wrought iron railings, caught our eye. Up, up, up, we gazed, awed by the intricate details. By the time our handcrafted cocktails arrived, served in vintage-y barware, but of course, we felt as if we had entered a gilt-edged time tunnel. Hello, Old New York.

Once we started traveling down retro road, well, there was no stopping us. We found ourselves thinking of all the glorious buildings around town that truly embody centuries past, from the Park Avenue Armory, a gorgeous Gilded Age beauty, to the Stockholm export, Fotografiska, a stunning new photography museum, set in a meticulously renovated Renaissance Revival building. And then our minds wandered closer to home: to the majestic Brooklyn Public Library, a neighborhood fixture since 1896, and to our beloved Montauk Club, a private club since 1889, designed by the illustrious Francis H. Kimball, where the Brooklyn Gal got married.

We could wax nostalgic about every Old New York building that captures our imagination, but alas, that would take an eternity.

 

At Home With Vintage

Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight

Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight

 

It’s been a while since the last issue of Vintage graced the stands of indie bookstores and museum shops, but now, at long last, the wait is over. Yes, the quatrième issue of Vintage Magazine is finally available, in all of its gorgeous, gutsy glory.

For the uninitiated, Vintage is the brainchild of Ivy Baer Sherman, a visionary editrix who strives to capture the spirit of Fleur Cowles’ groundbreaking Flair (published 1950-51) with her own revolutionary print (yes, paper!) publication. Sherman has most certainly achieved that goal, creating a vividly vibrant, magical magazine that salutes the past while embracing contemporary times, covering everything from food and fashion to travel and culture under the umbrella of one cohesive theme. What sets Vintage even further apart from the magazine pack: graphics, photographs, illustrations, typography and tactile effects that truly elevate the reading experience to another dimension.

The fourth issue spotlights design and architecture and once again Sherman has honed her multi-faceted theme with an artist’s eye. Read Chip Kidd’s homage to vintage linoleum, experience a pop-up tour of design team Robert and Cortney Novogratz’s own home or enter the world of influential interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, courtesy of curator Barbara Lippert. You may even read a story contributed by none other than, ahem, the Brooklyn Gal. (Yup, looks like we are a bit guilty of self-promotion, but believe us, this is definitely an issue suitable for framing.)

For more info on the quatrième issue go to Vintage Magazine.

 

Wardrobe Wonders

You never know where that perfect wardrobe addition may be hiding!

Most people probably don’t obsess over nearly every clothing purchase, but we here at the Brooklyn Gal have been known to over-think even the most off-the-cuff pick-me-ups.

Sure, once in a blue moon we give in to the Yoox urge or snap up a must-have or two at cheapy cheap joints like H&M, but we don’t buy on the fly or on impulse as readily as others seem to. Still, with a new season around the corner and our inbox overstuffed with sale notices and bargain offers, it’s hard to resist what seems so natural: buy a shirt there, boots here, all for a song, end of fashion story.

And yet, we hesitate, largely because we are wary of winding up with a closet full of nothing. The goal, after all, is build a working wardrobe, not to just accumulate random pieces.

A stack of clothes, whether bargain-priced or investment-worthy, gets women nowhere, but a wardrobe, well, it kind of makes us feel like we’re in control of our style destinies, like we’re dressing our aspirational selves.

All of this talk about fabulous wardrobes makes us wax nostalgic about one of our favorite dream boutiques in Brooklyn, which sad to say, closed shop several years ago. Back in the early aughts (hate this word!) when it was known as Butter, we used to slip in for a dose of cool, rarely buying, unless it was sale time. Most of the merch was geared towards that discriminating trendsetter with limitless funds, but every once in while we managed to score a gem or two.

One day our inner demons put the kibosh on a dress we really wanted. It was perfect but we had no real need for it. As we stood before the mirror, the owner told us that when you fall in love with a special item you need to buy it, because it won’t come back around again. It could have been her standard sales pitch, but we’ve come to realize that she was totally right. Sometimes when we’re on the fence about a special find, an item sure to be a bonafide wardrobe-changer, we can still hear her preaching those wise words of retail wisdom.

Would that black beauty of a dress still be a workhorse in our wardrobe today, more than a decade later? Chances are good, but alas, we’ll never know.

 

Let it Snow

For years and years we here at the Brooklyn Gal have always considered Vogue to be the fashion victor, far surpassing its glossy competitor Harper’s Bazaar in every way. But now that we’ve read A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, Penelope Rowlands’ 2005 biography of the legendary editor, we see Hearst’s style bible in an entirely different light. During Snow‘s reign at HB, from 1934 to 1958, it seems that every chic woman of intellect actually turned to Bazaar, hungry for the scoop on the Paris collections and the latest fiction of the day, written by literary lions like Truman Capote. A powerhouse and prognosticator, Snow was the editrix who delivered all of this and so much more. Blessed with sheer talent and uncanny instincts, she was unstoppable, setting her trained eye on a target and never saying no until she got what she wanted.

If the Devil wore Prada, well, the Irish Snow wore Mainbocher, before bridging into Balenciaga with wardrobe changes to Chanel in between. Diana Vreeland’s quirky style, quotable quotes and indelible imprint may be far better known by fashion worshippers today, but in her time Snow, Bazaar‘s  tough, highly influential and oftentimes pickled editor, ruled the roost. Her list of discoveries — yes, Vreeland, along with Avedon, Balenciaga and Pucci — reads like a who’s who of fashion hitmakers, while her work ethic, career first, family second, was more akin to today’s world than hers and not especially laudable in those days.  She had her flaws, for sure, but she also had a vision.

Books, plays and museum exhibits have all placed D.V. on a pedestal and she will never be forgotten. Perhaps there’s room for another mover and shaker on your e-reader. We think the time has come for a Snow revival.