Friday, December 25, 2009

A festive roundup

-Worst fashion suggestion yet: Advising regular women to dress like models do on their time off. Bad advice why? Models are women a) who, if successful, have a stash of free designer clothes, and b) look good in everything, as looking good in everything is their job. The look that's apparently so-very-now, from the description and the photos, seems like what was once referred to as 'chic'; my disapproval is only of the purported inspiration.

This, however, is... something:

And as Scott Schuman, creator of the Sartorialist, the photo blog about street fashion, observed: “It’s the models’ authenticity that makes them so sexy and appealing. People want a look that’s real.”

-Worst advice ever: Is TPP really endorsing a site "recommending that women become 'holiday divas,' indulging in luxury and pampering rather than food"? It goes on: "Among the suggestions are Champagne bubble baths, spa treatments like facials and pedicures and bold, high-gloss red lipstick." Pedicures replace the need to eat how?

-Since I prefer eating food to bathing in expensive wine, I've been trying, post-orals, to come up with new ideas of things to cook. Winter recipes frustrate me for two reasons. One, I'm not entirely convinced I can get excited about kale, and the latest in winter recipes are all about making the most of one's CSA or the half-stand worth of farmers' market. Two, every recipe has the word "comforting" in it. I like some foods, not others, but find exactly none of any particular comfort, except insofar as it's comforting to know you're not about to starve. Is "comforting" a euphemism for "warm"? "Bland"? Because the recipes tend to be both of those. Clearly, the arrabiata-stirfry cycle shall continue uninterrupted.


Dana said...

"Comfort food" in all its stereotypical permutations of fat + starch + warm is delicious, even to this girl who grew up on Vietnamese food. I love mac and cheese (although my version has goat cheese and parmesan), roast chicken and mashed potatoes, chicken noodle soup, lasagna, chicken pot pies, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. Although the ultimate comfort food for me is of course my mom's pho.

Happy holidays! Also, TPP is the worst person ever. I would rather eat turkey and pie than get a pedicure.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Happy holidays to you too!

I agree that certain foods labeled 'comfort foods' are tasty (mac and cheese especially.) I guess the issue I have with the term is that I wouldn't personally use the word 'comforting' to describe my own reaction to any particular dish. I like some foods, dislike others, but find none a particular comfort. So when recipes toss in 'comfort', particularly to describe variants of vegetable mush, I'm a) not sure what's comfort food about these dishes, and b) thinking that 'comfort' perhaps is a euphemism for 'bland.'

TPP is fascinating in her own comments section, though - so defensive, in a way that's expected on personal blogs, but hers is, in theory, the NYT.

Matt said...

I've always hoped that "Champagne bath" was a metaphor or something, as even in cheap champagne it just seems dumb and unlikely to be wise or pleasant.

I've mostly seen people describe crap they liked as children as "comfort food"- Kraft mac and cheese, spagetti-o's and the like. Terrible, gross stuff. I assume it "comforts" them because it makes them think mom is feeding them. I agree that the idea is fairly dumb. The model post is dumb, too. I can't help but think that no jacket looks "mannish" when worn with a short skirt, leggings, and very high heals, even if it would look so in other contexts.

Petey said...

Worst fashion suggestion yet: Advising regular women to dress like models do on their time off. Bad advice why? Models are women a) who, if successful, have a stash of free designer clothes, and b) look good in everything, as looking good in everything is their job.

This is pretty odd misreading of the piece.

The piece notes that folks are finally starting to catch on to the idea that models look better on their days off than when they're working.

This is true.

The piece also notes that this bit of wisdom has application for non-models as well.

This is also true.

The theory has nothing to do with stashes of free designer clothes or the idea that models 'look good in everything'.

The theory does have to do with the idea that models tend to have better taste than the fashion industry's CW of what taste should be.

The analogy would be if you wandered into a Chinese restaurant in Elkart, Indiana near closing. As you were being served your General Tso's Chicken, you might notice the kitchen staff eating their Dry Sauteed String Beans that don't appear on the menu. The correct inference to draw is that the staff eats better on their own time than do their customers, for many of the same reasons that models look better on their days off than they do when they are modeling.

This ain't rocket science to begin with. And the By Ruth La Ferla piece lays it out nicely for those who weren't already aware of this bit of wisdom.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


There's no reason to believe models would have better fashion sense than anyone else. There are a limited number of girls/women in the entire world who fit this particular look, and they're gathered for fashion weeks and the like because they and only they look the part. They might come to know/care more about clothes from being in the business, but that's all - not quite the Chinese-restaurant analogy.

What did work in the article was the comparison between what fashion editors tell women to wear, and what they themselves go for. This part made sense, because we have good reason to believe fashion editors have particularly sharp taste in dress. Going straight to the source can work, especially because even if fashion editors are more modelesque than the average woman, they're still not uniformly 5'10" and 100 pounds.

Where the advice goes wrong, I'm saying, isn't that X that models wear off the runway doesn't look better than Y that they wear on the runway (sure, why not?), but rather that there's any advantage to seeking out what off-duty models wear, because they're paid to look good in everything. Masculine, disheveled looks that would make other women look frumpy are declared the height of fashion when spotted on models. If the fashion editors can pull the looks off, then, perhaps, there can be inspiration.

PG said...

Pedicures replace the need to eat how?

I think the idea is that a great deal of eating, particularly during the holidays, goes well past "need" to "want." I need to get a certain allotment of water, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber each day; I want to have fried catfish, pearl pudding, brandied eggnog and shrimp cocktail (just to sum up yesterday's indulgences).

TPP's idea seems to follow the same pattern of most dieting tips, which is to fake yourself out in some way: this time, by constraining your inclination to indulge (because it's the holidays/ because you're on vacation/ because you're stressed and deserve a pick-me-up) to non-food forms of consumption. I get what she's saying, even though I doubt the particular suggestions would work for me because those aren't things that please me enough to be good replacements for indulgent eating.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Agreed that TPP means overindulgence and not just eating. But the pedicure advice evokes that of earlier eras - such as, have a cigarette rather than a cookie. But in a way it's worse - it's saying that women should avoid excessive eating not only by finding an alternative activity (fair enough) but specifically by focusing on themselves as objects of desire. Rather than, 'don't stuff your face, read a book/watch a movie', it's 'nail polish.' It's not that beauty-related indulgences aren't pick-me-ups, but that they're a particular kind of pick-me-up - not just about making women feel good, but about making women feel not-bad, if that makes sense.

PG said...


t's saying that women should avoid excessive eating not only by finding an alternative activity (fair enough) but specifically by focusing on themselves as objects of desire.

That, I think, is a very good point, and articulates why her list of alternate indulgences didn't work for me (I was actually thinking when I wrote my comment that "read a long work of fiction" would be my way to ignore the siren call of pie). Other things can hit our pleasure spot and if some pleasures are better for our health than food would be, let's go for those. But you're exactly right that it's weird to have the pleasures she recommends so centered around not what directly and immediately feels good (foot massage, lovely; whacking at my toenail cuticles, not so much) but what looks good. It's really kind of nonsensical, since the whole reason one ends up (over) indulging is due to difficulty in delaying gratification. The benefits of the facial or pedicure or lipstick purchase take too long to be psychologically sound substitutes for piiie.