July 30, 2014

why tan lines are in and topless is out

Does frolicking at the beach, splashing in the waves topless seems less innocent now than it was back in the 60's, 70's and 80's? Even in the 90's, despite being the decade of ostentation and narcisstic intent, still had an air of laisser faire and more importantly, sponteneity. Now, we're dealing with google glasses along with the millions of other gadgets with stealth recording capabilities. And that is just mega creepy. Frankly, I wouldn't care if someone took a picture of me bare-breasted on the beach. Okay. That's a lie. I would mind. I always minded as the thought of taking my bikini top off in public just plain frightened me. Uncomfortable, gauche, ill-at-ease. And that's not a good look. Except that one time in Adeje, Tenerife when I decided to be brave. (My cool and uninhibited Italian girlfriends may have had something to do with my change of heart for a day). And the guy I fancied showed up. So there I was, sitting by the pool, topless.  I felt very weird. And inhibited.

"So what did you have for breakfast this morning?" Giorgio kept up a steady flow of chatter as he sat down next to me. I kept being uncomfortable.

While that was my first and last attempt at playful bounciness, this month's summer edition in Elle France asks the question if the age of innocence has come to an end for all the rest of the cool Europeans and free thinkers who enjoy topless sunbathing.  The Guardian picks up on it and ponders on this topic as well. (Lucky for us we don't have to struggle through the French article) The question is not answered in any definitive way. "Health concerns, the 'pornified' perception of women and the rise of breast-affiliated activism".

So, unless we have a rebel yell painted across our bare breasts, we can't go topless? And if we still go topless without "Putin OUT!", are we 'hos? Sluts? Although really, after seeing Miley swinging on a wrecking ball and Rihanna pretty much naked at the Met ball, it seems hypocritical to worry about exposed breasts at the beach being associated with pornification.

Funnily enough, its the younger girls who aren't going topless on public beaches yet show no shyness on Instagram etc. Maybe they prefer the anonymity of social media? Or the remoteness of it? Untouchable? Being half naked in public life is still different than posing in front of your mirror.

So the beach-scape is changing. Freedom is changing. The age of innocence - for now, at least - has been suspended. Not everywhere of course. Germany is still one great big nudist colony at heart. Although I never was a fan of seeing dangling bits go swinging by while I'm trying to enjoy my summer read.

In the spirit of change, someone was considerate enough to declare tan lines cool, sexy, desirable. Go forth and tan. Grasp what little privacy we have left and hold it dear. Yay for tan lines!

images courtesy of elle.fr

July 11, 2014

to tan or not to tan

Nothing but scorn and a sniff of disgust for the girls who came back from summer holidays with a hint of tan lines. We, the palest girls at the ballet academy, had nothing but contempt for those who felt the need to expose their bodies to anything other than pain.

You see, the ideal ballet dancer was pale as alabaster, her hair as dark as a raven's wing, as petite as Tinkerbell.  And skinny. Obviously. Since the petite thing didn't apply to me (5'8"and counting) I had to double down on the pale, the midnight black hair, the skinny. Helpful I had a girl crush on Sherry from Chicago as inspiration. She was in a class above me, dyed her hair black and was a pale as a snow cone without the syrup topping. Skinny too. I was smitten and naturally had to emulate her in all things.

So, along comes a holiday in Kenya, on the beaches near Mombasa. Glaring white sand, glaring blue water. Hot and humid. What a nightmare. I was confronted with the concept of people actually traveling somewhere with the intention of allowing sun to not only touch their skin but to color it brown. I held out for three days. Dodging daylight was so tedious. On day four, around noon, capitulation was at hand. I did like to swim. Swimming was condoned as the only sport acceptable outside of ballet.

Looking in the tiny bathroom mirror next morning: Rocky. The 'after a fight with Apollo Creed shouting Adrian!' Rocky. Eyes swollen shut, skin (on the verge of purple) red and a weird crust around my hair line. Just when I gaining awareness of beach babes with smooth bronzed skin, sun-kissed noses, sun-streaked hair as an acceptable alternative to pale. My stacks of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire demonstrated this to be a possibility. I could see them with my own eyes spread out like golden croissants on the beach here and now. In a pickle couldn't begin to describe how I felt. More like coming out the wrong end of a meat grinder.

The moral of this story? Don't be a snob. Use lots of sunscreen. Wear a hat. And maybe expose that skin to the sun once in a while. It's healthy. You know, in small doses. California raisins are best in oatmeal cookies, not lying around at the beach.

Enjoy your summer lovelies. Sunscreen ahoy!

Sunscreens we like: 
  • Vichy Capital Soleil 50 SPF for the face (really the best I've tried so far. Protects and keeps it moisturized but not in a sticky sweaty way, in a keeps skin supple way) 
  • Lierac Sunific: Serum Starter Bronzage (prepares the skin for tanning; good to use a couple weeks before intensive exposure) 
  • Heliocare sun products: all are good
  • Eucerin Sun cremes: available in Austria, Germany, Switzerland. Cheap, organic, great
photo of very skinny girl courtesy of elle.fr (don't let skinny girls intimidate you please)

June 19, 2014

best sundresses for the working girl

"Cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. Highs today in the upper 80's"
Translated: hot and muggy.  So how to best dress without wilting into a limp biscuit on the way to work (stressed), during work (chilled), after work errands (sweaty and tired)?

Think crisp. Floppy flowy dresses and skirts are lovely for a stroll in the park on a weekend but not ideal for work.  Why a dress? Because if you're feeling frazzled, a bit chaotic, stressed, the second you slip on a dress, zip it up -  it pulls you together. The feel of the zipper closing automatically straightens the back. Shoulders down, neck long, stomach tucked in and off you go out into the world. It really does make a difference.

Here's what Jess Carnter-Morley has to say on the subject:

"Crispness – a certain humidity-defying starch – is the way to add glamour to summer clothes. Shirt collars, utilitarian in other contexts, are elevated in the midday sun to something much more aspirational. Think of Audrey Hepburn in her pert, short-sleeved shirt and knotted silk scarfin Roman Holiday, a look echoed by Gwyneth Paltrow's wardrobe in The Talented Mr Ripley. The best sundresses take a pinch of that 1950s, shirt-and-full-skirt formality, and transpose the look into a dress, which is cooler to wear and slower to crumple. Being neither too bare around the shoulders nor too short makes for a dress that is all the more versatile for being a bit smarter."

We agree. Everything Jess has to say on the subject is invaluable advice for the working girl. You don't want to be too short on the hemline nor too bare around the neckline. Crispness is the key with materials like stretch-cotton, matelassé cotton-blend, silk-twill, cotton-silk blends, jacquard and jerseys ideal for the job and keeping form until you kick off your shoes and flop onto the sofa with a sigh of relief in the evening. Not to forget: you'll want a sweater with you as most offices shiver with supermarket-like subzero temperatures. 

The Cashmere vs. cheap debate: Now, it's easy to say: get a cashmere sweater. We know they cost way more than those sweaters at H&M. We know. But. But, you can own cashmere for under $200 or euros. Believe me, you will notice the difference. Remember to store with lavender pouches. And keep it dry-cleaned. Moths prefer cashmere to H&M too!

Follow Lola Channing's board Working Girl on Pinterest.

Favorite online source for reasonably priced dress shopping: theoutnet.com  Great deals to be had on my favorite go-to-designer for eternally classic, well-made dresses, Jil Sander as well as tons of others. Another hot tip is COS, an anglo-Swedish label (parent company is H&M) and the place for an affordable working wardrobe. Ideal for those affine to a forward-thinking Scandinavian simplicity. 

Otherwise, go forth and shop at your favorite boutique. It pays to have a go-to boutique that sends you alerts when favorite items go on sale. We are advocates of live-shopping although, granted, in the summer, it's often hard to make a case for venturing out in the blazing heat during your lunch break. 

A suggestion: if you are on holidays somewhere in the south of France or in Italy, during your evening strolls through lavender-scented streets, wander into some of the boutiques. You'd be surprised what fantastic city wear some of these sea side boutiques have hidden inside. 

for the entire article in the Guardian summer dresses
photo courtesy of Sophie for Lola 

June 16, 2014

a work of art: Tilda Swinton

We have a Tilda and boyfriend Sandro Kopp sighting in New York City. Ms. Swinton is currently shooting a movie called "Trainwreck".  Her boyfriend is an 'artiste' (of course. Not sarcastic 'of course'. More of a 'well duh, how could he be anything else? Tilda wouldn't date a plumber. Plus he looks all artsy and carefully casually groomed to play the part). Points for the NIN* t-shirt. Surely, he wears it as a fan.

Ms. Swinton's style is selectively specific for the comfort factor while owning the avant garde. She's like a work of art really: the hair, the paleness, the angular face. Ageless. Her choice of comfort clothes offset those panes nicely. Some call her a style goddess. I call her a work of art. And we love you for it Ms. Swinton.

photos courtesy of zimbio.com
*NIN: Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor. Hurt. Cover by Johnny Cash. Maybe you don't need a footnote. But I did.