A Question Of Taste

Is taste subjective? Tim doesn't think so.


I hear myself saying in this episode that in this case, there seems to be a problem with taste. Taste is so terribly difficult to discuss, because it is a topic that is rife with biases and rules that do not transcend different societies and cultures very well. But I'm dancing around matters when I should merely be blunt: taste is not a politically correct subject, but without it, we would live in a world of god-only-knows-what hideous drivel. To develop taste, it requires the training of one's eye to the principles of form, proportion, harmony, and balance. Its underpinning is the Golden Mean, which means that it has a Western bias. (In fact, I don't believe that Asian cultures have words in their languages that pertain to the Western concept of taste.) Is taste subjective? Frankly, I don't believe that it is. I believe that it is what it is. And too much of it can be very boring, indeed. I'm reminded of the words of the ne plus ultra Diana Vreeland: "I adore good taste, and we all need a splash of bad taste; no taste is what I'm against." "Style" is another matter, but don't get me started.



Elena seems to have a fascination with her clothes that are all around memories. She seems, in fact, to treat articles of clothing as though they are her friends (even personifying them). I believe that we all project memories into items in our wardrobe with which we have strong associations: events, people, places. If these items are part of our daily lexicon of dressing (and are successful on us), then this is merely an enhancement to their place in our wardrobe. But if these items are stuck in the back of the closet and only meet the light of day for our quick embrace for a waft of nostalgia, then let them go. Furthermore, given the ephemeral nature of clothes, take a picture; it will last longer. A lot of the comments we receive to the show have been about finding a make-up artist. With precious few exceptions in my experience, one can get a make-up consultation wherever make-up is sold. While the consultation may be ad hoc at drug stores or pharmacies, for example, larger department stores usually have experts on staff. These individuals are equipped and experienced to give you a full consultation and make-up makeover. These individuals are also prepared to offer you advice on artists who can visit your home, especially for special events like weddings. Even I have sought advice about the types and proper application of concealers (and at my age I need all the concealing I can get...)


Let's turn our attention to the word "boxy" - which Elena uses to describe herself again and again. If we each stand naked in front of a mirror and take ourselves apart like a stack of blocks, we'll realize that we're composed of geometric shapes. Elena's perception of her boxiness derives from her torso; that is, she's fairly straight up and down whether being examined from the front, back, or either side. However, this can be mitigated by cinching the waist, for example, or opening up the shoulders, clavicle, and very top of the breasts. Elena was underscoring her boxiness by wearing styles and silhouettes that served to accentuate that feature. Don't do it! I knew that Jill Stuart would be our savior! I knew that Jill would understand Elena's sensibility, yet raise the bar by giving her a level of polish and sophistication that Elena hadn't experienced and desperately needed. What I wasn't prepared for was the perfect fit that she received right off the rack. Jill, we love you!


Let me say a few words about "letting go" of a wardrobe that size. Most, if not all things associated with fashion, involve the psyche. That means that when we speak about fashion, we're a mere hair shy of triggering a psychotic breakdown. It's true. You can't "let go," unless you're psychologically and viscerally prepared to do so. Your brain can tell you, "Get rid of it!" but unless your emotions agree, you're sunk. Veronica and I were resigned to letting Elena keep as much of her wardrobe as she desired, so imagine our elation and relief when she come to terms with letting it go. Frankly, she was even more elated and relieved than we. Hurray!

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Ask Gretta: Trenches and Wrap Dresses

Our style savvy source Gretta Monahan answers your fashion inquiries!

I just received a Burberry trench and it makes me look like Inspector Gadget. Do you advise having it altered? And to what length? Thank you for your time. Shazia

Hi Shazia,
I think a trench should be right to the knee. The look of a trench coat is classic, and Burberry is certainly the most classic trench you could own. Perhaps you are not a classic dresser by nature and feel a bit stuffy in a trench? I'm sure with a little tweaking of the proportions, you'll grow to love it and there are certainly ways to personalize the look. You could belt it with a different belt or use fun accessories like a great bag or killer boots to make this classic piece a part of your personal style. Good Luck!
XO, Gretta

Please speak about patterns vs. solids on a dress. I love the DVF wrap dress. What does a pattern convey vs. a solid? Do you have any guidelines for pattern size? Thank you! Hope to hear back. NP

Hi NP!
The wrap dress is an iconic piece of fashion because it's so versatile and can flatter just about any body type. I actually think a patterned DVF is more useful than a solid. I think patterns add more interest to the style and can conceal "problem areas" better than a solid, as often the jersey fabric the dresses are made of can cling — much more noticeable in a solid than a print. In terms of pattern size, a print that's not huge but not really small is ideal. I'd say that the majority of Diane Von Furstenberg prints are created with this in mind; the DVF wrap dress has been a wardrobe go-to for well over twenty years so, really, you could say the art has been perfected. Let your own eye be your guide; you're making the investment so try on what's available and see what looks best! I'm willing to bet one print will be a home run, so hit those fitting rooms!
XO, Gretta

I'm in the market for a mid-size 'investment' watch - I look better in gold but have platinum/diamond wedding bands. Are two-tone watches as classic as all stainless? I don't want to do all gold. Alexa

Hi Alexa!
I think that a two-tone style is actually more classic than all stainless. Even though your wedding bands are platinum, you also wear gold, so having both colors of metal would be more versatile for the different looks you'll want to wear the watch with. To me, it seems useless to invest in something that you won't wear all the time, particularly if it's a splurge that you're treating yourself to, so I think it makes sense to think both in terms of your everyday jewelry (wedding rings) as well as whatever trendier pieces you'll vary from look to look. Plus, mid-range stainless watches are a dime a dozen, so, if you're investing in a high end piece, I think that gold accents will also give the watch a more luxurious look.
XO, Gretta

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