Friday, November 28, 2008


There are people with you
Living in your houses
People from your childhood
Remember how you were...

You were always flying

--Judy Collins, "Houses"

Once upon a time, in a house that had a garden where a very large avocado tree grew, lived four sisters, Aubrey, Ashley, Amber, and Autumn. These young girls also had a much-adored baby brother, named James, but that's another story and shall be told another time.

Aubrey was the eldest, a bright girl with ready answers. Then came Ashley, who wanted to be an artist when she grew-up and meanwhile frustrated her mother by peeling bits of wallpaper off a wall in the living room for "art supplies." Amber was full of creativity and mischief, and in the mornings, she encouraged her sisters to tumble out of the bedroom window, still in their nightgowns, to dance in the garden for the new day. And then, there was Autumn, the "slightly smaller, more irritable fairy."

The expression originally comes from the autobiographical work by children's book illustrator Trina Schart Hyman; Self-Portrait tells of two imaginary fairies that the artist, as a girl, shared with her younger sister. And, it's interesting that we sisters remember this portion of the book somewhat differently than it appears and that both Amber and Autumn vie for the endearment of being called the "slightly smaller, more irritable fairy."

One day in the fall, the four sisters' father and mother told them that they would be going away on a long trip to Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. Then, their father said, "You may each bring only one bag."

"What will we do?" the girls exclaimed.

"Don't worry," said their mother, "we will manage."

So, in child-sized knapsacks went sweaters knit in purple fair isle designs, red- and white-striped tights, red wool sweaters with white reindeer patterns, a gray "drop waist" dress with a white collar for Ashley, a red corduroy jumpsuit for Autumn, and other basic items. Clothes managed, the sisters were prepared to have a wonderful time.

Remember when I was telling you about "optimistic fashion?" I realized that I didn't really define it and decided that it's looking your best because you're sure that, just around the corner, exciting things will happen. And, exciting things did happen!

Then, they were in Sweden, and their mother told them that they were to ride a ferry. The sisters thought that she meant "fairy" (they believed any sort of enchantment from this land across the sea) and onlookers couldn't help but be amused by the children's confusion.

But, as you can tell from the picture, the sisters enjoyed the ride, nevertheless.

"When are we going to see the fairy?"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oh, Alhambra!

It was on a recent Friday off from the library that I ventured to the little city of Alhambra to visit the Trina Turk Outlet Store, which also doubles as the company's design and production headquarters.

Trina Turk's website will tell you that the store's location is fittingly "minutes from Downtown Los Angeles," but I have my own reasons for waxing poetic about this San Gabriel Valley town: you see, my mother grew-up in Alhambra, and it was there that she was well-taught the art of garment-making in Ms. Kaboda's Home Economics class. (Alhambra is turning-out to be the fashion capitol that you never knew.) Furthermore, it's fantastic that Trina Turk chooses to fabricate her designs here, rather than outsourcing the work overseas.

The Trina Turk Outlet Store is located in the industrial area of Alhambra, so you can't tell much from the building's boxy gray exterior. But, once inside, a showroom displaying colorful and coordinated clothes greets you. There also are some distinctive accessory pieces--chunky wood bracelets and a newsboy cap in Dutch blue cotton, when I was there--which caught my eye.

Adjacent to the showroom is an area of racks full of clothes offered at even more reasonable prices. It's a very authentic experience, and men aren't allowed in this section for the women customers trying on different things. And, if you peer over a movable wall partitioning this section of the warehouse from the rest, you can see workers cutting dress pieces from fabric.

If you like the optimistic Los Angeles style of Trina Turk, you really should go.

Trina Turk Outlet Store
3025 West Mission Road
Alhambra, California 91803
(Entrance and parking in the back)

626-548-7768 ext. 25

Open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, noon to 6 p.m.
Also open the second Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

That Girl

(Picture from Trina Turk Online)

There are quite a few reasons to love this picture of Southern California native fashion designer, Trina Turk, not the least of which are her great light straw sun hat and orange-toned accessory accents, adding fun personality to her otherwise all-white ensemble. Trina Turk is carefree and stylish--at the same time!

Autumn will tell you, from her experience with the khaki-colored shift and other Trina Turk dresses, that these items are admirably well-made. The dresses are never bulky because they are tailored just so, and they feature the very nice detail of linings with lace at the hemlines. It's not really a surprise that Trina Turk likes thrift store shopping, because "you can learn a lot about how quality things are made." Many terrific seamstresses and dressers came out of the 1960s, and Trina Turk cites Mary Tyler Moore and Marlo Thomas as a couple of her early style influences.

Never heard of Marlo Thomas, the Marlo Thomas of the late-1960s television show "That Girl?" She looked somewhat like the young woman in the hat. Trina Turk's clothes have been described as "optimistic fashion," and on the show, Marlo Thomas wore cute outfit after cute outfit. And, she never walked--always ran--which could epitomize an optimistic person, always eager for what comes next.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

--e. e. cummings, "i carry your heart with me"

I miss UCLA, but I think that I spend more time talking about missing UCLA than I actually spend missing the place. Besides, I make as many visits back as possible. My friend Kuan was in town this past week, just returned from being abroad in Japan for a year. And, partly because he studied art, we decided to attend an artist lecture at the Hammer Museum.

Artist Amy Sillman spoke about her working process for abstract painting. Often, she sketches people from life, then putting the drawings away to work from memory. After several generations of drawings and paintings, the finished works are about form and color. The "people" seem architectural--very similar to buildings, in fact--and there may be only one or two of the original defining details. For instance, a woman's uniquely-shaped eye may remain, and its lasting existence creates prominent importance.

After the lecture, Kuan and I went for a dinner of Japanese food at a restaurant on Sawtelle Boulevard, one of Los Angeles' "Japanese districts." Many UCLA students would tell you that the location of the campus, near many L.A. cultural spots, lends to its specialness. Not long ago, I was again in the UCLA area, to see a Japanese film made in 1965 called "Kwaidan." Besides being delighted with the film's use of Japanese folklore stories and backgrounds with skies that appear to be painted by hand in striking colors, I was impressed with the unique theater on Fairfax Avenue. "The Cinefamily" also shows silent movies, but you don't have to be a film follower to enjoy this theater's cozy clubhouse feeling.

These pictures of my sister were taken during yet another visit back to the university, at a couple of the great brick buildings on campus. Noticing the outfit's contemporary art appeal, we also took our camera to the sculpture garden. One of the pictures that did not make it into this post is when I told Autumn to stand in front of the "praying mantis." Although the sculpture that I was referring to is not necessarily representative of that type of insect, Autumn knew which one I meant, which shows that she and I think alike.

Autumn's dress is by half-Japanese-descent designer, Trina Turk, whose website aptly describes her fashions:
Inspired by the multicultural mix, architecture, and landscape of Los Angeles and California, The Trina Turk Collection is full of the Season’s most casually sophisticated and 'must have' silhouettes. Trina’s philosophy is to create wearable, optimistic fashion that incorporates the best aspects of classic American sportswear.
To me, Autumn's clothes' modern design makes my sister's dark eyes and brows seem even more distinct.

One last anecdote: Autumn asked my brother lately, "Do you think that my arm muscles are getting bigger?" as she gave a demonstration flex. "Why?" I interjected, somewhat confused. Autumn explained that she's been carrying two heavy school bags across the length and breadth of the hilly Westwood campus.

UCLA students only get stronger, it seems.