The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — What Would Joan Wear?

I have a mad, mad girl-crush on Elementary’s Joan Watson. Well, more specifically, I have a mad girl-crush on Joan Watson’s closet. I want every single thing in it. Joan herself? Meh. I mean, she is fearless and compassionate and smart and can hold her on against her arrogant-yet-vulnerable Sherlock. But would she and I be friends? Not sure. She hardly ever smiles. I’m afraid she’d find me frivolous. (She probably never devotes a whole evening to catching up with The Bachelor. With accompanying wine and chocolate-chip cookie dough.) And do you think she’s been a bit cranky lately? As their friendship deepens, seems as if she and Sherlock pick at each other and are impatient with each more than they used to be. Although that’s probably just my Southerness politely raising a hand and saying nicely, “You know, y’all could say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every once in a while. Wouldn’t hurt you.” (Also, does anybody ever clean 221b Baker Street? Their kitchen reminds me of the one in an almost-century-old house that tumblr_n0c33fwtZ61rgjdouo2_250friends and I rented in college: charmingly vintage teetering on big ol’ mess.) But back to Joan’s closet. I covet it. I want EVERYTHING Joan Watson wears. I fervently follow the blogs, Tumblr posts and Polyvore and Pinterest sets that follow her. Every week, I ponder her fashion choices: How does she make a red window-pane-tablecloth ruffly tiered dress paired with a big yellow handbag look so stylish? Is a black leather snakey-looking dress what all New Yorkers wear when chopping onions? And, most importantly, could I possible sneak the purchase of her $600 black ankle boots past my husband? (No, I could not.) The thing is, I can’t explain exactly why I like Joan’s wardrobe. I’m not a fan of her go-to colorblocking, I studiously avoid t-shirts with words and/or animals on them (I wore more than my quota in the tumblr_n0cl6zLL9J1rgjdouo2_250 (1)1980s) and some things I’d look ridiculous in (see “red window-pane-tablecloth ruffley tiered dress” above). But there’s something about the way she puts it all together that’s appealing. She’s strong, no-fuss, modern and confident — and her clothes say that. I want my clothes to say that, too. Unfortunately, my clothes usually say “This woman has too many cats and literally cannot hold her coffee.” But I’m getting there. I not only have several gray-tweed-knit-and-black-(fake)leather tops similar to this dress Joan wore recently (thank you, T.J. Maxx winter clearance racks!)  but I also have the EXACT SAME Brita filter pitcher Joan is pouring a glass of water from. Things are looking up.

Essentials for a Long Summer Weekend — in Mississippi

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Essentials for a Long Summer Weekend -- in Mississippi

You know you are deep in Southern territory when women driving open-air Jeeps keep an aerosol can of hairspray handy. Reminds me of the time many years ago when now-husband John Pitts called me from his office in Washington, D.C. “My ink pen exploded all over my shirt,” he said. “Any advice for getting it out?” I replied with the universal antidote: “Sure. Ask one of the women there if you can borrow their hairspray and then saturate and blot.” There was a pause and then laughter. “You forget,” he said, chuckling, “that this is not the South. I bet none of the women I work with even know what hairspray is.” Putting aside the argument that Washington IS, in fact, the South, it is true that hairspray — lots and lots of hairspray — is a Southern essential. Especially in Jeeps.

Slips

A story our friend and my husband’s co-worker Ginna Parsons posted on Facebook:

Just wanted to say what a chivalrous man John Pitts is. Today I got out of my car at work after lunch and had apparently pulled a “Julia Sugarbaker.” That’s right. The back of my skirt was tucked into my drawers. John followed me across the parking lot, caught up to me and quietly said, “Uh, Ginna, I think your skirt is kind of twisted there and it looks like a two-hand job. You might want to fix it before you get in the office.” Then he averted his eyes as I adjusted said skirt. Fortunately I was wearing a slip. As if that’s any consolation. That’s why they call him Mr. Pitts. Cathy, you’ve got yourself a good one!

I do have a good one. My husband, a sports editor at one of Mississippi’s best daily newspapers, can be sort of prickly, I think — it’s fair to say that most people approach him somewhat cautiously. But those who truly know him know he was raised right and that he ALWAYS goes out of his way to help anybody who needs it, even in a fashion crisis. Also: Years of watching women walk finally paid off for him. P.S. When Ginna put this on her Facebook timeline, I was amazed at the young ‘uns (and I’m talking women in their 30s here) who 1) did not recognize the “Julia Sugarbaker” reference and 2) do not own a slip. What is this world coming to when you have to explain who Julia Sugarbaker is or why sometimes you really need to wear a slip????

Style and Ethical Consumerism Lessons Learned from My Child

Back in the olden days, the natural order of things was parents passing wisdom and valuable lessons down to their children because parents were the ones who KNEW THINGS. But that was long ago — way back when you had to stay in one spot to talk on the telephone — and times have changed. Now, parents KNOW NOTHING and we depend on our children to keep us up-to-date. At least that’s how it works in my family. Older Daughter, for example, is the one who got me hooked on Pinterest, TOMS and an interesting book called “Hunger Games.” And recently Younger Daughter has introduced me to two new obsessions: Acure Facial Toners and Roma Boots.  I can’t even begin to tell you how good these products are — for you and for others. Acure uses organic and Fair Trade ingredients (as well as minimal and recyclable packaging) in its skin- and body-care lines, and this facial toner is seriously good stuff. I’ve got a bottle stashed at the office — the refreshing hydrating spray of wonderfulness is perfect when you need more than a brisk walk to the break room for gossip and coffee to revive you. And it smells oh-so-good! Roma Boots smell, good, too —  not only in that brand-new-shoe smell that makes you feel rich and prosperous but in that I’ve-done-something-good-for-someone-and-I-look-damn-cute-too sort of way. Roma Boots was started by a native of Romania, who was anguished to see Roma (or “gypsy”) children in the cold and wet streets without proper — or any — shoes. The company will donate a pair of boots plus school supplies to a child in need when you buy a pair of Roma’s all-weather lightweight, stylish and natural rubber-soled boots. That’s TWO people with dry feet for the price of one — a deal you cannot pass up.

September Sales Bring April Awesomeness

This is why I love shopping post-season clearance sales. These two spring/summer dresses? Total price — less than $30, which is less than I spend on a typical Starbucks order. Because you might as well pick up one of those oh-so-cute coffee mugs while you’re there. And some extra Via. But back to the dresses. Going by the original price tags, I would have spent about $200 on these. And of course, when I picture myself wearing these dresses, I also have long tanned legs and perfectly toned arms. And, if I’m fantasizing, might as well thrown in some soft and shiny hair. Sorry for the mental meanderings here — saving close to $200 makes me giddy.

Why I Should Never Write About Fashion

You know how you get dressed in the morning and you think you look perfect respectable and even nice but then somehow you get a glimpse of what you REALLY look like and It Is Not Good and you wonder “Why did I think I should wear that?” Yes. You know what I’m talking about. (Un)luckily, I got this opportunity recently when I covered a corporate cooking competition for a feature story for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Ala. It was a hot summery day outside but I knew it would be below freezing in the building where we’d be, so I dressed in layers — that’s me in the pink pants and white sweater, taking notes. (Also, if you wear a white jacket/sweater to a cooking thing, be prepared to answer such questions as “Excuse me, but where’s the milk?” and “Do you think we should saute or broil this?”) From the front (photo on the left), you can see that my outfit works okay. Not the most flattering, but okay. However, from a side view, you can see that I should have never left the house in this and should be condemned to watching extra reruns of “What Not To Wear.” This is what happens when you wear six layers of clothing — underwear, jeans, camisole, belt, top and white droopy sweater. Also, when you eat cupcakes for breakfast. But I mainly blame fashion.

Why You Shouldn’t Borrow A 6-Year-Old’s Wardrobe

You’ve seen those adorable little girls’ clothes made out of cheerful cotton prints. They’re everywhere, from upscale children’s boutiques to outdoor craft shows, and I love them. I love the contrasting patterns and the coordinating colors. I love the exuberance of swirling paisley and whimsical florals. I love the simplicity of form that let the fabrics shine. I love the ribbons and ruffles and the sweet girlishness of it all. And I’d often wondered, “Why aren’t there clothes like this for grownup women? I’d sure buy them!” Then I came across a booth in an antiques/gifts/clothing co-op that had both girls’ and women’s handmade clothing in this style and when I saw them side-by-side, I realized why adult women generally don’t dress like 6-year-old girls. It’s just too … too … cute. But I loved the aprons, and those easy breezy cotton skirts? Perfect for a summer shopping trip — possibly to somewhere that has real grownup clothes.