Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Manolo Blahnik store a few minutes away from my flat in London.

  "I get inspired by dreams. Who cares about the rest?" -- Manolo Blahnik

London Street Fashion Preview

I've never lived in a city where people are so daring with fashion.  For me, it's liberating and exciting.  People have such verve with their clothes here, to just be themselves, to just have fun.  And everyday I'm inspired by it all.  Starting tomorrow, I'm going to chronicle some of the street fashion I see in London.  Until then, check out a cool video about the street fashion guru, The Sartorialist.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Flower vendor outside Liberty London

"The couple met nearly ten years ago, when -- love at first sight -- he spotted her in a Fulham Road pizzeria and sent her flowers purchased in haste from the nearest street vendor, to which he attached a note with just his first name and his phone number."  Vogue, 2008

Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Years Have Passed

My mom and me in London in 2005 at the Grenadier Pub with Congressman Mike Conaway, Congressman Jon Porter, and Congressman Ike Skelton.

After my mother's funeral, several people approached me and said they were surprised I hadn't given the eulogy, that they had liked my eulogy at my father's funeral, and that they would have liked to hear me speak.  I don't really remember how I responded.  Likely some nonsensical sputterings of "Oh, you know," and "Oh, thank you."

The thing of it is, I couldn't give the eulogy at my mother's funeral.  First, my father had been dying for some time, and I had been writing his eulogy in my head for a couple of weeks before he died.  And while I don't remember a time when my mom was not sick, I didn't see it -- her death -- coming.  Second, while I was quite close with both of my parents, I was close with my mother in a different way.  Consequently, I didn't know how to step back and string together words about her.  But two years have passed.

My mother was, first and foremost, an Oklahoman.  She was born and raised there, and supremely proud of her Oklahoma heritage.  Many of my childhood memories involve road trips -- just the two of us -- to Oklahoma.  On those trips she would teach me about the subtle beauty of the Flint Hills, the rich history of the Native Americans and the best shopping in Tulsa's Utica Square.  And she would tell me stories about how she and her father would go visit his oil wells every Saturday morning.

My mother was the finest writer I know.  She was an editor at the Washington Post and of Kansas City magazine, and she taught me everything I know about literature.  She taught me about the fatal flaw in Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, about Faulkner's brilliant Nobel Prize speech, and about the deceptive simplicity of Ivan Turgenev's novellas.  And she told me that all I ever needed to do was write one good paragraph.

But the thing I admired the most about my mother was her kind heart.  When I was young and would get mad at friends, my mom always would say, "Don't be angry with them, feel sad for them."  This advice was maddening for a kid in elementary school, but as I've grown older, I realize the wisdom of this advice more and more each day.

My mother showed her kindness in many other ways.  She created and orchestrated her church's literacy program for underprivileged youth, she wrote checks for a student's tuition at an urban core charter school, and when I stood in the receiving line at her funeral countless mothers came up to tell me a similar story about her.  They told me a story of how one of their children had been troubled, how they had worried about their troubled child, and how my mother always believed in the child nonetheless.

My mother's favorite story to tell about me had to do with a parent-teacher conference my parents attended when I was in elementary school.  In my family, a great deal of importance was placed on achievement and intelligence.  When my parents sat down to meet with one of my teachers, the teacher explained how I was, in fact, doing quite well in school, paused and then said, "But most importantly, Anne has a good heart."  If only my mother knew how much of that good heart I got from her.

I often hear people say that they wish they had said, "I love you," to a deceased loved one or that they had hugged that person before they died, or some such thing.  I don't have these wishes.  My only wish -- everyday -- is to be able to walk into my mother's office, sit by her desk, and for a couple of minutes -- just be with her.  I have made countless pleas, promises and negotiations with God for this to happen.  To no avail.

And so I remember the words my mother often said to me, "Be brave, Anne.  Be brave."

Friday, July 26, 2013

London Shop Decorations Celebrating Baby George

One of the delightful ways that London has been celebrating Prince George's birth is with shop decorations.  I've had so much fun walking around seeing the creative ways shops have decked out their windows.  Below are some of my favorites!
Above is my favorite department store, Liberty.  I love all the fun details such as, "Royally Excited," and "Best Grandma Eva!"
I happened upon Walton Street as I was walking through the Knightsbridge area.  Walton street is the loveliest little road full of interior design shops and baby stores.  Above is Blue Almonds!
I am in love with this stork carrying the little crown in Marie-Chantal's window on Walton Street! Marie-Chantal is the Crown Princess of Greece and the store is her eponymous children's clothing line.  

Tambour Beading with Hand & Lock at Kensington Palace

I've been spending a lot of time at Kensington Palace -- visiting fashion exhibits, touring Kensington Gardens and now I've taken a tambour beading class.  That's right, my friends.  Kensington Palace has arts and crafts time for adults.
Above you can see two examples of tambour beading.  Whenever you see beading on dresses or clothes of any kind, it almost always is tambour beading.  The beading on the Queen's dresses that I showed you yesterday on the blog and the beading on Jenny Packham's dresses are both tambour beading.
The class was taught by Hand & Lock embroiderers, which is basically the best hand embroidery company in the entire world.  Most other companies got their start by apprenticing at Hand & Lock.  Established in 1767, much of their business today consists of working with the fashion industry.  They did a recent Louis Vuitton collection, and they even do personal commissions for wedding dresses!
I adore sewing scissors.  So many of them have such unique and individualized designs.  One of my most treasured possessions is the pair of sewing scissors my mother gave me as I was getting more and more into needlepointing.
The tambour beading process essentially is just a crochet stitch, which sounds easy enough.  But add some fabric in between your stitches and it took me an entire hour to get the hang of it.  The good news is, once you do get the hang of it, it's pretty smooth sailing.
After spending the morning practicing our stitching, we, of course, had to break for tea. It wouldn't be London without one!
In the afternoon, we worked on our actual beaded design.  Here is the sketch on my fabric of what I would be beading.
Lots of different types of beads!
I actually found it much easier to do the stitching with the beads involved.  The beads have a way of anchoring the thread and helping tighten your stitches.  
Finished product by the ladies of Hand & Lock (I'm still working on mine)!  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Prince George of Cambridge

Over the past several weeks I have felt very fortunate to be able to live in London for a bit, but I have felt particularly so this week as the city has erupted in joy over the birth of Prince George of Cambridge.  It truly has been a neat experience to be here during this time.  

I love that Kate and William named their baby George in honor of the Queen's father.  I have long admired King George VI, even before The King's Speech debuted.  When I applied to William & Mary for college, I had to write an admissions essay about leadership and chose King George VI as my subject.  

I wrote then that, "He suffered from a terrible stutter, was painfully shy and did not even want to be king.  But he surpassed what was expected of him and courageously led his country during World War II.  George VI would not leave London during the war despite the obvious dangers that his stay posed. Buckingham Palace was, in fact, bombed several times.  George VI decided to risk his own safety and the security of his family and chose to remain in the capital.  By doing so, he endured many of the same hardships and perils that the rest of his countrymen endured. The king further strengthened his identification with the people by his frequent and often unannounced visits to munitions factories and bombed-out areas of England."

I also found it quite moving that Kate and William chose Louis as one of the baby's middle names.  Louis was the first name of Prince Charles' uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  Charles and his uncle were incredibly close, and Charles was devastated when Earl Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.  When William was born in 1982, Charles chose Louis as one of William's middle names -- displaying the deep admiration Charles had for his uncle.  William's choice of Louis for his own son surely shows William's affection and respect for his father.

Here's to many more celebratory moments over the next few months in London.

Fashion Rules - Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth

Honestly, I could spend all day staring at dresses that queens and princesses have worn. I basically did just that for an entire afternoon at Kensington Palace, which currently has an exhibit called, "Fashion Rules," featuring the fashion of Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth.  I have to admit that I have seen several exhibits of Princess Diana's dresses already -- two at Kensington Palace and one in Kansas City (hello, Royal fashion junkie.  Is there a 12 step program for that?), but this was the first time that I had the opportunity to see a large number of Queen Elizabeth's and Princess Margaret's dresses.
I was most taken with Queen Elizabeth's dresses.  Good Lord -- those nipped in waists, that incredibly detailed beading.  She wore the above dress for the opening of the New Zealand parliament in 1963.  Norman Hartnell designed the dress and created the out-of-control, exquisite beading.
Norman Hartnell also designed the above white and green dress that the Queen wore on a tour of Pakistan.  The dress was made in green and white because those were the national colors of Pakistan, and the front of the dress is plain so as to better show the Queen's insignia that she wore across her chest.  Notably, Hartnell was the first man in fashion to be knighted.
Well, who knew the Queen had a little Jackie O in her?  Queen Elizabeth wore the above coat to a celebration of her Silver Wedding Anniversary.  I love its timeless cut and shape.  
The above dress is quintessential, show-stopping Princess Margaret.  She was a true fashion icon of her day, taking chances in fashion and wearing it all beautifully.  Carl Toms designed this dress, which Princess Margaret famously wore at a party on the island of Mustique.
I adore this fur coat designed by Christian Dior for Princess Margaret.  It was absolutely sumptuous in person.  It reminded me of the short fur coat my father gave to my mother as a Christmas present one year.  Inside the coat, my mother's initials are sewn into the lining.  When I get married, I plan to have my new initials sewn into the lining as well.
Princess Diana wore the above dress designed by Zandra Rhodes for a royal visit to Japan in 1986.  Zandra Rhodes is a fashion cult hero in England, and people such as Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson apprenticed for her.  The light pink color of the dress was chosen to echo the pink of the Japanese cherry blossom.  One of the things I love about Royal dressing is how deliberate and thoughtful their fashion choices are -- almost always there is a nod to a host country by the choice of fashion designer or by the embellishments and details of the dress.
Catherine Walker created the above dress for Princess Diana to wear to a royal visit to Brazil in 1991.  Of its design Walker stated, "Shortly before this visit to Brazil, the national football team had lost to Argentina in the World Cup and the country was depressed about this disaster.  We received instructions that in view of these circumstances we should not design anything in green, yellow or blue, which were the official colors of the Brazil team, and definitely not in blue and white, which were the colors of the Argentinian football team."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Her [Donna Karan] sleep, however, is rarely unbroken.  Karan's husband of 17 years, sculptor Stephan Weiss, who designed the spa house with her, died of lung cancer last year.  "I've only had one true love," she says, her eyes still seeing his.  "He was it. He will always be it.  Luckily for me, his spirit is ingrained in this house, especially in the geometry of the design.  The glass panels, the stark right angles, the flat-screen TV discreetly hidden in the wall.  That's not me; that's Stephan.  He loved order and precision."

Weiss did not live to see the house finished, but if he had, Karan would have had to concede to being wrong about one major design element.  "I hate handrails -- they go against my aesthetic," she says.  "I'd rather see stairs float."  It took a skiing accident earlier this year -- which shattered her knee, requiring six months of therapy, a wheelchair and crutches -- to adjust her thinking.  "I have such regard for handrails now.  You have no idea," she says. "And every time I reach for them I think of Stephan's stubbornness and thank him."

-- InStyle Magazine, 2002

I Worship at the Altar of the Liberty Department Store

I live and die for Liberty Department Store.  Look, I admit that I'm mildly obsessed with Liberty.  Some may quibble with the term "mildly," but I feel that "mildly" is an appropriate qualifier there.  I am "completely" obsessed with Real Housewives.  I am "mildly" obsessed with Liberty.  In law school, I did, in fact, stalk the local Target waiting for the new Liberty collection, and I do own half a dozen Liberty scarves even though I don't really wear scarves.  Nonetheless, I'm sticking with "mildly."

Liberty is the best department store that God ever made.  They have a lovely spot to eat, an incredible fragrance department where you can create a signature scent, and their clothing selections are unique and pushing the envelope a bit.  Liberty also is known for their incredible fabric print collection, and so I've featured the two store departments that showcase this collection -- the Scarf Hall and the Haberdashery.  Behold the wonder that is Liberty!