If the racks at Zara (101 Fifth Avenue and other locations) are any indication, there'll be enough Velmas and Roxies to overflow the holding pen at the Cook County jail this New Year's Eve. The clear influence of Chicago's 1920s frocksa development we approve of heartilyis everywhere apparent in evening-clothes this party season: At Zara, beads drip in delicate rivulets from shifts ($165), while paillettes cling to minis ($79) and obscure the lines of halters ($79). Unfortunately, the downside of spangles, well-known to vintage wearers, is their propensity to shed: There's a veritable pool of shiny disks on the floor of the 57th Street Zara, and the garments themselves come with little plastic bags containing extra trim, a sure sign that there will soon be trouble in paradise.
Though Club Monaco (160 Fifth Avenue and other locations) does have a wonderful $199 skirt with black sequins worked in a chevron pattern (no extra sequins attachedyou're on your own), the store really excels in soberer interpretations of holiday cheer. Tom Ford-ish bustier dresses in pale lavender are structured with the kind of stitches once deployed on serious girdles; a pair of cargo pants in black velvet, for those galsand there are lots of themwho won't put on a skirt (and why should they?) sport sufficient pockets for the wearer to party purseless.
Club Monaco and Zara are funny placesthey seem cheap if you spend all your money on designer clothes, fairly pricey if you're on any kind of budget. Luckily, at Joyce Leslie (20 University Place) there's barely anything you can't afford no matter how broke you are. A tiny flaring polka dot skirt (pink on black) recalls the sartorial preferences of Minnie Mouse ($12.99); a pink and silver Lurex sweater ($19.99) and matching mini ($14.99) are slightly less Lolita-ish, depending on how low you unzip the top.
Those initials that are decorating everything from socks to handbags to toothpicks this season are at Joyce Leslie as well, with the picked out in shiny studs, enhancing long-sleeved T-shirts in a variety of color combos, included the coveted black on pink, for $12.99. (Is there any explanation, ever, for the vagaries of fashion? It's wonderful how things just seem to spring from the ether no matter how forcefully the fashion industry tries to shove its own ideas down our throats. Who would have thought Ugg boots, or chandelier earrings, or initials, would cause such a sensation?)
The sign at Payless Shoes (34 East 14th Street and other locations) says buy two, get one free, by which we assume they mean pairs, not shoes. In any case, we check to see if there are three pairs we would even consider and are pleasantly surprised by a trio of possibilities: black satin sandals with high thick heels, round toes, and a Ginger Rogers air ($16.99); a pair of brown heels brushed with gold that sport the unaccountably popular elongated-platypus squared toe ($16.99); and, closest to our hearts, flat ballet slippers, in black suede with a little strap that closes with a covered button for $14.99. (But then again, they'd be free if we got the other two pairs.)
At the newly opened Tongs Little Gift Shop (30 West 8th Street), a welcome addition to the neighborhood, the speciality is accessories that are not necessarily intended to last a lifetime, which doesn't mean they aren't pretty. A bracelet that presents small jewelled undulating flowers is $18; a pair of the aforementioned chandelier earrings are encrusted with faux garnets ($17); and there are even fake diamond initial pendants, complete with chain, for $10. Those handbags photo-printed with pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe that have swept through town recently (yet another trend) are available for $18 in a fashionable but annoying clutch style. (Ever spend the whole night with a clutch bag? Try it sometime.)
If none of the above quite captures your mood in these dark Bush days, you might consider an item that's on proud display in the window of Freaks Lounge (18 West 8th Street), a truly original post-punk shop whose stock has always amused us. The bag in question is black, costs $42, and is lettered all over with the F-word, as we used to call it in elementary school. Another possibility here is that goth classic, the coffin bag, done up as a tiny purse ($29) and meant to be attached to a belt. It may be morbid, but it's a whole lot comfier than a clutch.
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