Friday, January 16, 2015

My Tribute to Dolce and Gabbana -- in my Little Italy

This is my little tribute to Dolce and Gabbana's 2012 collection. I had a lot of fun studying their work and its campaign, developing an outfit to pay homage to it, and taking photos of that homage at my favourite Italian cafe. 

It all started with this shirt paired with this necklace. The two together immediately made me think of Dolce and Gabbana. 

Anyone who has seen The Devil Wears Prada remembers Streep's scathing monologue about how high fashion filters down to cheap lines produced for the mall market. I suppose this shirt is a case in point. I bought it at Reitman's in 2014 but I'll bet its designer was at least unconsciously influenced by Dolce and Gabbana's 2012 line.

Do you see what I mean? The black background, the large rose motif: my shirt is a distant cousin of this dress, however much Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana might object. (I do secretly hope that they'd actually like my outfit but who knows?)

(And, by the way, that guy smoking the cigar? He's a dead ringer for my first landlord in a neighbourhood called Little Italy 25 years ago. I still live in Little Italy and I think that's part of why the Dolce and Gabbanna campaign so tickles my fancy.)

So, I had the shirt, but it was these beads that pulled it all together. I have wanted a set of Murano, Fiorato (a.k.a. wedding cake) beads since forever. As the name suggests, they are Italian -- and they are beautiful. I found this necklace for a whopping $10 at a local thrift store. Individual Fiorato beads sell on Etsy for between $6 and $20, so I was pretty pleased with this steal of a deal.

I just love them.

My new necklace reminds me of a rosary, as seen in  Dolce and Gabbana's jewelry collections.

Add a little cleavage and you're good to go, D&G style.

Monica Bellucci style.

Charlotte style!

My earrings too were chosen to emulate Dolce and Gabbana's work.

Of course, their lines use gold, sapphires, rubies, and garnets, while I found my glass earrings in the garbage. But beauty is beauty and I'm happy with my earrings.

When I first saw this line, it was clear to me that their primary inspiration was Italian widows dressed in traditional, widow's black. When I first moved to Little Italy, all those years ago, I still often saw widows wearing all black: black tights or nylons, black shoes, black dresses, black cardigans, and black head scarves. I was not surprised when I saw that the 2012 line is sometimes called the Sicilian widow. 

You see the woman stirring her glass of tea?

Here, I am her.

Of course, being disabled, I can no longer wear all my marvellous heels, not if I actually have to, you know, function in any way. But I dug my little booties out of storage just to match some of the widow's weeds in the campaign.

And I even dug out my fantastic red and pink, Italian sling backs.

God I love them. God I miss them!

God how I miss high heels!

My outfits often don't feel quite right without them. The booties are so perfect for this outfit but I just can't move in them.

But, in keeping with the theme of the traditional Catholic widow, I can wear this great headscarf.

Maybe it's my Jewish roots showing, but I like the look of a nice headscarf. Not many of my friends agree with me. That won't stop me though, not when I'm in the mood.

Another thing I like about Dolce and Gabbana's campaign is their choice of the then 40-something (now fifty) Monica Bellucci as muse and model. She playing a character in the photo shoots: that of the sexy young widow. 

A few wrinkles and creases can be sexy. Yes? Yes!

I really like that Dolce and Gabbana's campaign is intergenerational. I've never been one to think my elders are dull. I've cultivated friendships with them all my life, even when I was a child.

And, yes, I do get fashion inspirations from them too. If you follow my blog, you've probably already figured that out. I like to call my style "Classy Grandma." 

Old people are not invisible to me. Mario and I both use mobility scooters and often commiserate about insurance companies, chronic pain, and life itself.

I've often heard the elderly complain that they have become invisible. That's just wrong! Just today, while I was riding my mobility scooter down the street, I saw an old lady being pushed in a wheelchair. I looked at her and gave her a big, "I'm disabled too" smile. She gave me a big, "Wow, you know I'm a real person" smile back. I didn't even look at the woman pushing the chair. It was a genuinely warm, happy moment.

Really, isn't that how life should be: the generations mixing together and learning from and teaching each other? I've always thought so.

Now that I'm a step mother, I have children in my life too and that's nice, even if it does mean that I know more about pop trends and, blech, pop songs than I really care to know. 

(Don't you think this particular photo is just begging for a caption and story?)

Tall Boots: Ecco; Shirt: Reitman's; Cardigan: boutique; Gloves: Warmen; Hair clip, earrings, black ring, bracelets, brooches, neclace, skirt, handbag, cape, booties, and skirt: vintage
Where does one go in Little Italy to find just such an intergenerational environment? Why, one's favourite Italian cafe, of course. So I bundled up in my cape and headed out for what I consider my café. 

I met Beau there. I proposed to Beau there. And I've written a lot of blog posts there.

As with the rest of my outfit, my cape too was in keeping with the D&G look.

You don't have to go far to see that my neighbourhood is the real, Italian deal ...

... though it's very hard to find any old architecture even vaguely reminiscent of Italy.

Still, the locals do their best. This mural is on the side wall of an amazing Italian bakery. I think this buxom baker would fit right in in the Dolce and Gabanna campaign, don't you?

In looking at their campaign ...

... it becomes much more clear to me just what the owners of "my" café were up to with their famous --- some might say infamous -- interior design.

They were, in part, going for the look of a piazza, like back home ...

... to give their patrons, as they say, "A Touch of Italy."

It even comes with us old fogies as fixtures out front, decorative but much used canes and all.

I live in a real neighbourhood, where shopkeepers and their patrons actually know each other, know each other's families, know each other's joys, pains, struggles, and victories.

Perhaps even more importantly for us coffee lovers, I live in a neighbourhood where I can walk into the cafe and say, "My usual," and Nick will know what I mean.

In these days of sprawling suburbs, box stores, and car culture, many think such neighbourhoods are things of the past. They're not.

Nick and his two brothers have been working at their father's cafe, and I've been coming to it, since we were all in our teens. Now Nick's own children sometimes pitch in on the weekends. Their are other such cafes -- and restaurants, and grocers, and cheese shops, etc. -- like this in my neighbourhood.

Each one has its loyal regulars.

I've known people to regularly drive in from the suburbs just to have an espresso in this admittedly, wonderfully, kitsch hang out. Yes, it's a bit of a stereotype of Italian life, but everyone enjoys it.

Yesterday, I said to my rabbi, "I should take you to my cafe for some great coffee." He said he didn't know the cafe. "Oh you've been there," I said. "It's the one with the cheesy Italian statues." Why yes, he said, yes, he had been there after all. I just knew it!

When created with playful respect, representations of stereotypes can be affectionate, not demeaning. Dolce and Gabbana, themselves Italian, clearly had fun with the stereotype of Italians as passionate, fiery, and emotional. 

I'm  not Italian, but I'm one of those fiery types myself, much to Beau's discomfort. Over time, he's learning to be okay with it.

The theory, I guess, is that, even with its upheavals, its ups and its downs, a passionate life is a life well and fully lived ...

... full of animation ...

... and emotion ...

... and beauty ...

... and companionship ...

... and humour ...

... all in the intergenerational fullness of life.

So get out there and have fun with it. Enjoy it.

Really, truly, enjoy it.

(I'm linking this up with Not Dead Yet's Visible Mondays, What I Wore Wednesdays, Random Wednesdays at Because Shanna Said So, and Hat Attack with the fabulous Style Crone.)


  1. Oh Charlotte! This post sings! I too am a passionate animated emotionally expressive being. I feel Italian inside. How wonderful to live in your neighbourhood!
    I miss the neighbourhood we had in Rotorua New Zealand, where the local shop knew your name, and the passionate and artistic Maori culture surrounded us.
    I come from PNG, well I was raised there, and they are also animated and full of life.
    My kids and my artistic creations keep the sad eyes away from our suburban door.
    I do love the doe eyed photo of you, and the one coming down the steps ready to issue instructions, and the ones conversing with the cafe patrons and owner.
    So nice to see your cheeky grin :-D xo Jazzy Jack

    1. I'm not sure which photo is "doe eyed" but it sounds nice.

      I do love my neighbourhood. I've lived her off and on, but mostly on, for 25 years. I'm a fixture, I guess. I am utterly and completely allergic to the suburbs. I start to get cranky the minute I enter one.

  2. Truly perfect and funny post! You are amazing!

  3. I enjoy your posts so much. You put a lot of work into them. I learns so much from reading your posts.


    1. Here's a secret... well, not really a secret: I'm a college teacher. Teaching is in my blood.

  4. (sereno353 from g+) :

    I'm so shy... I think you had been able to express your feelings and to transmit an italian mood better than many Italian persons!

  5. What an incredible post! I really hope Dolce & Gabbana discover it and hire you for their next ad campaign!

  6. Oh I enjoyed this post so much, Charlotte! Where to begin... so many things, as always. You look wonderful in your head scarf! In fact, you look so Italian here - perfectly Italian atmosphere, shots with your neighbors, I felt like I visited your Little Italy. I agree with you, when things are done with love and warmth, they magically turn from tacky/kitschy into homey, sincere, genuine, fun!

    Lovely outfit, these colors look great on you. Beautiful jewelry, as always. Beautiful post. xxx

    1. I don't think I can really pass as Italian but I did my best. Maybe some day you really will visit my Little Italy with me. We're almost neighbours -- sort of. I like these colours. It makes me think I should wear black more often.

  7. Beautiful, passionate and fun post. I enjoyed every photo and your expressive writing. Spectacular ensemble, embellished with scarf and then hat. Thank you for sharing your headwear and your beauty with Hat Attack!

    1. A compliment from you is a compliment indeed! Your style is always so wonderful; if you like mine, I'm a happy gal.

  8. Hi Charlotte. I am stopping by from Hat Attack link-up. I have been to Italy so many times. I love this country and people because they know how to enjoy the life. And you put me back to my nice memories. I love your Dolce Gabbana interpretation. I have had so much fun with your post.

    1. Fun was the goal with this one. I had lots of fun putting it together. I've never actually been to Italy so I'm glad I managed to evoke its spirit. I think living in Little Italy helped a lot.