Category Archives: Fashion

Weird… and Wonderful

It really wasn’t all that out-of-the-ordinary or strange, when you consider it in the pantheon of outfits I’ve worn over the years. A ceremonial Indian wedding coat, adorned with a few sequins and some sparkle, and some beadwork around the neck. A bright marigold-orange silk, paired with a loose pair of turquoise pants. I’d worn it to one of the Beaujolais events a few years back. On the rainy day we were traveling to Amsterdam to check out my brother’s new house, it seemed a fine choice.

Andy and I pulled up to the house, and I texted my brother to help us with the potted palm I’d brought to warm the place. We entered and were dutifully impressed by the results. My brother had worked hard on the house, and he and Landrie welcomed us in as the twins ran rambunctiously around.

We talked home decoration and I offered what little guidance I could. They had already done quite a bit, and the living and dining rooms were mostly complete. We sat for a drink before getting ready for dinner with our parents.

As we were leaving the kids looked at me and asked why I was dressed like this. “Like what?” I asked.

“In a dress,” one of them said. “It’s weird.”

For one brief moment it stung, just a little.

“Aww, you hurt Uncle Al’s feelings,” Andy explained gently as we went out into the rain. But by then there wasn’t much hurt left. This was how kids talked. I understood they didn’t mean anything by it.

I just hope the rest of the world will be as forgiving as me.

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Red Garters, Black Lace

This year’s costume for the Boo-jolais Vampire Ball was the vampier, slightly-more-sinister sister of last year’s lace ensemble. I usually don’t veer so close to something I’ve worn before, but this one seemed to take that one to a new extreme, with its full-six-hoop bottom and high-collar decadence. Its color palette was a complete shift as well. Next year I’ll conjure some head-spinning act that is truly outré. (Which in my case may very well be jeans and a t-shirt.)

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The Secret Life of Flowers X Fashion

“Normality is but a paved road. Comfortable to walk, yes, but no flowers grow on it…”

Baz Luhrmann has created the holiday promotional video for ERDEM X H&M’s new collaboration/collection, coming next month. This site is big on flowers, as am I, so this looks intriguing enough to get me back in the store. It’s not spring, so florals can be groundbreaking again. 

As for this collection, I’m intrigued and impressed, and I only hope H&M delivers something slightly above its average/poor quality for such an enterprise. There’s promise here, but not all flowers are as pretty as they appear in pictures. We shall see. 

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ~ Marcel Proust

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It’s All Coming Back: The Story of a Robe

THERE WERE NIGHTS WHEN THE WIND WAS SO COLD…
THAT MY BODY FROZE IN BED IF I JUST LISTENED TO IT RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW 
THERE WERE DAYS WHEN THE SUN WAS SO CRUEL 
THAT ALL THE TEARS TURNED TO DUST 
AND I JUST KNEW MY EYES WERE DRYING UP FOREVER
I FINISHED CRYING IN THE INSTANT THAT YOU LEFT 
AND I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE OR WHEN OR HOW 
AND I BANISHED EVERY MEMORY YOU AND I HAD EVER MADE…

It’s not all that outlandish for a robe to inspire me to like a song. There was a time when I’d do very bad things for the perfect robe. And finding the perfect robe would take many attempts (read: many purchases). It had to be just right – the exact degree of flamboyance, the measured amount of elegance, the slightest hint of decadence. If the robe was right, the rest of my life would fall into place.

It’s not merely the robe – it’s all the connotations that it invokes.

Comfort. Coziness. Safety. Glamour. Luxury. Contentment. Quiet.

The Golden Girls gathered around a cheesecake at the kitchen table.

Norma Desmond descending her staircase in a gorgeously-mad scene of devastated ruin.

Jennifer Tilly’s grating high-pitched squeals in a feathery pink extravaganza, telling of her thrilling, show-stopping numbers in a musical called ‘Leave A Specimen’.

And one of my favorites – the silk robe that Celine Dion wears in her 1996 video for ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’.

THERE WERE THOSE EMPTY THREATS AND HOLLOW LIES
AND WHENEVER YOU TRIED TO HURT ME
I JUST HURT YOU EVEN WORSE AND SO MUCH DEEPER
THERE WERE HOURS THAT JUST WENT ON FOR DAYS
WHEN ALONE AT LAST WE’D COUNT UP ALL THE CHANCES
THAT WERE LOST TO US FOREVER
BUT YOU WERE HISTORY WITH THE SLAMMING OF THE DOOR
AND I MADE MYSELF SO STRONG AGAIN SOMEHOW
AND I NEVER WASTED ANY OF MY TIME ON YOU SINCE THEN

A confession: I was never a big Dion fan. She annoyed the fuck out of me with her Adult Contemporary bullshit. (I still find ‘Because You Loved Me’ to be one of the most joyless exercises in listening that the hearing world has been cursed to endure, and don’t even get me started on ‘The Power of Love’, whose bombast simply wouldn’t stop.) But in the years since I’ve softened on such stuff, and Dion’s so kooky and good-humored about everything (her own over-the-top zaniness included) that I came around. And the robe she wears in this video went a long way toward changing my stance.

WHEN YOU TOUCH ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN YOU HOLD ME LIKE THAT
IT WAS GONE WITH THE WIND
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
THEN WE SEE WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

Drama. Intrigue. Devastation. Loss. And that’s all before she starts singing. In the aftermath, she haunts the house where her presumed love once lived, her only companion a robe that billows behind her in desolate beauty. At the time this song was released, I was about to fall in love again – a typical fall practice for me in those days. Everything was imbued with the import and passion of a person in their early twenties. I lived in a fantasy world; it was the only way I knew of to survive.

‘Evita’ was about to come out, and though my heart was pining away for the uninterested, I tried to focus on the Madonna movie, and on the drama of this video. The fantasy of a robe was an easy-to-accomplish escape. Like a heroine who lost her love in a tragic motorcycle crash, doomed to roam the hallways of a windy mansion, I walked from room to room (literally, as there were but two main rooms in the Boston condo) and felt the various fabrics fall and swirl about me.

By that point I had amassed a decent collection in various styles – silk and velvet, beaded and embellished, trimmed with feathers and fringe, tied with tassels and trinkets. They were a comfort, a balm on a troubled and restless heart. Just because I was alone didn’t mean I couldn’t do so in fabulous form. There is an exquisiteness to misery when it’s dressed just so. As the great Diana Vreeland once remarked, “Elegance is refusal.” Refusing to feel was a discipline I learned while draped in the softest silk, idly running my fingers across a faint damask pattern, absent-mindedly dragging a pool of velvet and feathers in my wake. If there was a martini within reaching distance, so much the better. Retreating into a frivolous fantasy was my way of finding warmth on cold October nights. Wrapped in a robe, I indulged in make-believe, and if you think you are fabulous for long enough, sometimes it comes true.

IF YOU FORGIVE ME ALL THIS
IF I FORGIVE YOU ALL THAT
WE FORGIVE AND FORGET
AND IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
WE SEE JUST WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

That fall I floated along the amber-hued floorboards of our Boston condo, robes fluttering behind me in dramatic recreation of this video. Life is more fun when you have to pretend, when the worry and want is for the sake of drama over any real emotional taxation and desire. Pretending was a form of protection – perhaps the ultimate for of protection – and the best way I knew to pretend was to put on a pretty robe, a steely mask, and the nonchalant attitude of aloofness that repelled all sorts of messy feelings.

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Rainbow Tie Magic

The best bow-tie statements are bold, crisp, and colorful. If you can muster the cadence of a rainbow in the design, so much the better. In a few days (October 11) we will be celebrating National Coming Out Day. In the event that you’re in need of an accessory with which to spread your LGBTQ spirit, check out these colorful Gay Pride Bow Ties – the perfect addition to an outfit of which one can truly be proud.

The best part of these is that part of the purchase goes toward a wonderful cause (each tie has its own non-profit organization to which part of the purchase goes). When you can add some pizzazz to your sartorial regime and help others out in the process then by all means you should proceed. These bow ties are a lovely addition to any wardrobe and come in handy at a multitude of events. A burst of color is never wrong, and a hint of rainbow can be a subtle treat if you’re looking to make a splash.

Using hand-woven silk from the United Kingdom and made in the United States in the state of Vermont, their creation is truly an international affair. The end results are works of unity and love, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s their official promo:

It does not matter if you are Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Intersex, Allies or whatever religious affiliation, it is important to know we need to coexist and respect each other. This is why we donate $5.00 for every bow tie sold. We want to unify people and make a difference in the world. That is why we are more than just a bow tie!

{Visit their site here to lend your support.}

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A Thigh-High Kinky Gala

Give me a gala theme, and I’ll rock it.

Even if it means practicing in heels for a week beforehand.

Such was the case with the Kinky Boots theme for the formal kick-off to Albany Pride weekend.

Hot pink high-heel thigh-high high-heel boots

Better than the boots were all the florals I had going on.

(Yes, I know. Florals. For spring. Groundbreaking.)

Big roses and bombastic peonies lined a coral-hued jacket, while a rose-adorned skirt puffed out behind me on a cloud of fuchsia tulle. The topper was a peachy fascinator – all netting and feathers and swirligigs (which is a term I just made up at this moment for whatever else sprouted from my head) – an absolute necessity for such an ensemble. The finishing touch that set it apart from doyenne extravagance – a super-short pair of dark denim cut-offs, because every outfit needs a twist or two.

I had a spare fascinator for Suzie because I’m me and she’s Suzie. If I can’t be counted on for a spare fascinator, my life has been in vain. It’s why we work so well together.

The night was magical – a perfect semi-formal kick-off to the start of pride. In this tumultuous year, we needed to make it feel like summer again.

Nobody does that better than Suzie. No one makes me laugh more over less, act foolish when I’m trying to be deadly serious, or reach back to some obscure childhood memory that brings me to more laughter.

There is also no one more ill-equipped and useless to help with high heels on a wet lawn. I mean, she just walked away and left me sinking there. And then she laughed about it. It wasn’t quite the submissive shrug she gave when they told her that her childhood poodle (Duchess) had met its demise beneath the wheels of a car, but you get the idea.

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A Kinky Pride Gala

Tonight’s the night!

The ‘Boots Are Kinky’ Pride Gala – the fabulous and formal kick-off to pride weekend – takes place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Albany this evening starting at 6 PM. Tickets can still be purchased here, or you can show up at the door and pay a bit more. Either way, you should donate to the cause – proceeds benefit the GLSEN New York Capital Region Chapter.

People have always turned it out for this event, and I love seeing what everyone does to fit the various themes they’ve had over the years. This time the ‘Kinky Boots‘ angle offers a wealth of possibilities, and I’ve been practicing my high-heel thigh-high strutting. For now, a few more sneak-peek hints of the “groundbreaking” florals I’ll be donning tonight, and you should definitely stop by to see the rest…

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The Time I Wore A Bromper

Listen. There are very few fads or trends that I haven’t slapped on my body over the years, and even those to come have probably already been draped across my frame in some way, shape or form. Case in point: the male romper. Man Romper. Bromper. Onesie. Jumpsuit. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve already done it. Circa 1994. Straight (so to speak) out of the International Male catalog (or maybe I’d moved on to Undergear by then). Regardless, been there, done that. [See photo.]

I happen to think it’s a perfectly fine look for pajamas or pool garb. Would I wear it in public at this point? Yes, but only in the abstract sense that I’ll wear just about anything in public. Should anyone do so? That’s not for me to say.

Yet despite the tons of hate being heaped upon this item of clothing, I don’t feel the same stomach-churning angst about it as I do about a pair of crocs or pleated khakis.

It does require a rather perfect body to pull off, however. The slightest paunch is going to be accentuated and framed, front and center. My tummy can’t take such scrutiny right now. But if you’ve got a washboard above your belly button, romp it up. I’m all for a ridiculous trend that you’ll regret in photos twenty years from now. [See also photo.]

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Another Look at Madonna at the Met

As predicted, my originally-unimpressed stance toward Madonna’s sartorial choices has softened and refined itself into one of gentle admiration. While I never hated it, I wasn’t instantly wowed, which is rare for a Madonna outfit. It’s sort of what happened last year, when it took a few viewings and a closer inspection to reveal the full glory of what was going on. In this instance, I was too quick to consider it a lesser rehash of one of her classic moments (in this case, the formidable get-up of her ‘American Life’ period). This is actually much softer than that, and her hair and makeup are flawless. I still think ill of the grill in her teeth (in certain photos this just reads as spinach), but her canteen was filled with a rosé, and that nifty fact makes up for all sorts of mis-steps in my mind. Created by Moschino, it’s better than this particular year, but in the end will likely filter down as one of the lackluster years. Still, Madonna in camouflage is better than no Madonna at all.

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Met Gala 2017

It’s an oft-made assumption that the biggest night of fashion is the Oscar Awards, but that’s simply not true. The first Monday in May, and the night of the Met Gala, actually holds that title. This is when people take risks, go completely wild, and usually make more of an impression on me than the relatively tame Oscars game. To that end, this is an evening of whimsical and daring enchantment for the fashion-lovers.

With its unexpectedly-tricky avant-garde theme (Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons) the Met Gala presented some sartorial challenges for most attendees, which is odd, because it’s such fertile ground for over-the-top architectural opportunities. Rihanna and Katy Perry came through, but everyone else fell a little flat, even Madonna. (Though hers is usually a grower, especially upon closer examination.) Anyway, here are some of the looks from the most fashionable night of the year.

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Academy Awards 2017

I’m not offering an opinion one way or another on the choice of Jimmy Kimmel as the host of the Oscars this year. It could go either way. Instead, I’ll try to keep my take on things strictly to fashion, speeches, and hopefully a couple of quirky gaffes which are usually the best parts of a live award ceremony. I’ll post some of what I’m hoping to live-Tweet here, but if you want all of them you’ll have to visit my Twitter feed. (I also have an Instagram account, which is a different kind of story altogether… one you’ll want to follow.) On with the really big show…

If the half-cape is coming back, I’m all for it.

Ooooh! Pharrell in Chanel! Finally, man jewelry lending some flash and distinction to the traditional tux. LOVE this.

Taraji Henson is classically elegant, and I want that diamond necklace.

Is it all about the dress slit this year? (Hey, how else can I work a slit into this website?)

Andrew Garfield is wearing a big-ass bow-tie and traditional tux. Handsome, yes. Boring, yes. And of course Ryan Seacrest has to ask about Andrew Garfield’s kiss with Ryan Reynolds. Why is he even pretending, Kathy Griffin?

Octavia Spencer – digging that shade of gray, and the feathers. Marchesa is elegance.

David Oyelowo – stunning tux. Always a joy to see someone move away from basic black.

Jessica Biel is resplendent in gold, trying to distract from Justin Timberlake’s questionable haircut. Thankfully, she succeeded. (He’s better nude anyway.)

Dakota Johnson – is there a ‘Camelot’ movie coming out soon?

Janelle Monae – everybody is going to hate it, but I freaking love it. This is the sort of dress one needs to see in person to truly appreciate. We must do so from a distance.

Samuel Jackson – mmm…. blue velvet tux. Normally I’m all about that step away from black, but I’m not sure about this one.

Dev Patel is making the white tux work.

Scarlett Johansson – not a fan of anything really. Not the hair, not the dress, not the belt. Not any of it.

Halle Berry said she wants short hair back now. Yeah. I would agree.

Emma Stone – fringe is not an easy thing to pull off, but she’s doing it.

Hailee Steinfeld – I think I love it.

Michelle Williams in Vuitton. Sweet. Plunging. Dull.

Nicole Kidman – bejeweled goddess in nude Armani Privé.

Ryan Gosling – frilly shirt! Yay! Still, way better shirtless.

American hero and national treasure Chris Evans is stunning in a blue tux. Truss très chic. (Almost as good as when he’s naked.)

Justin Timberlake and his ass just opened the show. I’ll update when/if someone of note happens…

Amy Adams – shining, shimmering, exquisite sculptural (and globular) beauty.

As for that twist ending… why can’t we do that with the election?!

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Leopard Classic

Certain patterns and styles are always in fashion, no matter what the year or trend. Leopard is one of them, and for quite some time I’ve been yearning for a leopard tote. To date I haven’t found one that meets all my requisites. They’re either one-sided, too expensive, or too dolled-up with unnecessary embellishments. The colors inherent to a traditional leopard pattern are warm enough that I find any sort of gold accent too much; leopard carries a richness that negates the need for any metallic luster. And so the search goes on…

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Special Guest Blog: Nick Vannello of Kilted Bros.

Any man who makes and markets kilts in this day and age is a fine and noble man for carrying out a beloved tradition. Put a racy yet artistic spin on things, add a celebration of all body types, and sprinkle in some fashion-inspired fairy dust, and you’ve got a gentleman hero who’s simply perfect as our next Special Guest Blog. My online pal Nick Vannello runs Kilted Bros., a delightful purveyor of the classic kilt. Far more than that, this Renaissance man has an artistic side that runs through his work, and an appreciation for other fashion icons that informs this amazing post. 

 

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF CODDINGTON: Special Guest Blog by Nick Vannello 

There is a serenity and satisfaction which comes from knowing one’s place.

When I was much younger it was important for me to be front and center. As a performer and presenter, my role was to be the center of attention and to lead with force. At that time I was trying to establish my place among the other 20-somethings. Forward and fiery, I could be found performing on stage, in print ads, and presenting workshops from coast-to-coast,  It was a rush knowing that I was headlining a tour and that people were coming specifically to see me and to hear what I had to say.

When I approached my mid-30’s my pace and position started to waver like a top running out of steam. Unsure of my footing and now being passed over for jobs by younger performers, it was harder to present myself with the same confidence that I did a decade earlier. Time and gravity were proving to be two foes with whom I would battle almost daily. I started finding employment behind the scenes. I choreographed for younger, more nimble dancers. Neophyte presenters would ask me to write their speeches because they did not have the experience I had. I became a copywriter instead of appearing in the local ads.

All of this work was semi-satisfying, but I felt like I was disappointing…..I don’t know….someone. I had trouble justifying working behind the scenes instead of being the style-maker.

When “The September Issue” was released in 2009, I was introduced to Grace Coddington, Vogue Magazine’s Creative Director. Like going to an optometrist who puts your world into focus with the flip of a lens, I realized that there were not only people behind the scenes like me, but they were often the more colorful and influential characters.

Grace was a model in the 1960’s. Her firery red hair and unusual look made her stand apart from other models. Due to facial reconstruction after a car accident, her career in fashion detoured. She allied with Anna Wintour and the two drove American Vogue to what has become the pinnacle of fashion magazines.

When you watch “The September Issue” you can not take your eyes off Coddington. She brought her years of experience and her passion for art with her to her job. She didn’t need to be a model; she was much more. The models weren’t moving fashion forward, Coddington was the catalyst and her models and photographers were her tools to change the fashion world.

There have always been style-makers behind the scenes. Coddington is in good company. Edith Head. Agnes DeMille. Bob Fosse. Edna Mode.

And that’s where I am. That’s who I am.


I own a men’s kilt company and our audience is largely gay. Photos of our kilts and models showing off those kilts are a big part of our image and our marketing.

You will rarely find me in front of the camera, even when we live broadcast our fashion shoots on Periscope. My body has gone soft, my teeth are not bright, and I am awkward in front of the lens. But despite those things, I know what people find attractive.

We pride ourselves that our models range in age, color, and body size. Real men wear kilts; real men should model our kilts. I won’t hire models to showcase my kilts; I employ my friends, local guys, and customers. Men in whom I see something special. I pay them in pizza and beer.

Using lights, simple direction, experience, laughter, and the camera lens, I transform a man you would pass on the street into an object of desire. I can not seem to apply that same magic to myself, but I can transform another man into an Apollo or Hercules.

That is how I find satisfaction in my art. I don’t have to be a god myself. I create gods.

{Check out Kilted Bros. online and at their Cleveland shop.}

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When Every Day is Halloween

It’s my day off.

I dress outlandishly for most of the year, so when the day of sanctioned outlandishness rolls around I like to tone things down.

There will be more than enough time to don costumes again, especially with the coming of the holiday season.

But in honor of Halloween, here’s something to tide over anyone who wants to see my ass in nonsensical garb.

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The Most Important Outfit of 2016

There is one event around which I plan a singular costume, and planning for it happens months, sometimes years, in advance. This year’s Boo-jolais Wine Celebration by the Alliance for Positive Health came early, and in the form of a costume party, which upped the ante and gave the event a whole new feel. For this one, I sought inspiration from Marie Antoinette, in somewhat stripped down fashion, with powder blue and silver filamented brocade, lace gloves, frilled bloomers, and free-swinging garters. Strings of pearls and sparkling rings were the only accessories needed, along with a pair of lace bows for my boots. A bottle of white spray hair-color hastened the going-gray process, and the mask from a recent trip to ‘Sleep No More’ completed the look.

Though I have a fondness for all the Beaujolais outfits I’ve worn over the years – from the pink pants and red cape ensemble to the green lucky charms jacket, from the Japanese silk kimono to the red-winged/red-haired devil – this one was definitely one of my favorites. Hey, we all have our preferences. And now we begin brainstorming ideas for next year…

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