Ever since an ill-fated family trip to England, during which my dad took six thousand pictures of one castle and his girlfriend packed her belongings in four non-wheeled duffel bags, my sister and I had been planning to take a trip together. Just the two of us.
That’s how we found ourselves in Palm Springs, which is a highly affordable destination in August; just be careful not to get a third-degree burn from your seatbelt. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we walked around the downtown shops very, very slowly.
Palm Springs was once a getaway for stars like Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball—a stylish crowd. Here’s a photo from an episode of I Love Lucy called “In Palm Springs,” guest starring Rock Hudson as himself. It might have been a soundstage, but Ethel’s halter dress (which reminds us that Ethel wasn’t the frumpster she was written as), Rock’s checked shirt and Lucy’s crazy SPF-1,000 getup are very real and very awesome.
These days Palm Springs is home to a lot of gays and old folks. A store called Marianne seemed to cater to both demographics. It was well stocked with bellbottom figure-skating pants, metallic prom dresses and some great polka-dot sweaters that would either make me look fun and funky or like my seventh grade Spanish teacher. I really wanted a rhinestone poodle necklace, but it was $86 marked down to $43. Instead I got two pairs of earrings from the $2 box. It’s a small miracle that the hoopy pair don’t have rhinestones on them.
On the way back to L.A. from Palm Springs, nestled between tree-less hills and a wind farm, are the Cabazon Outlets. Cathy wanted to shop for some work clothes, so I agreed to stop. In my mind I only buy clothes from thrift stores and boutiques that stock one-of-a-kind pieces made by local designers from recycled bicycle tires. In reality, I couldn’t wait to hit the outlets.
First stop: Ann Taylor. Very work-y. Cathy is a high school teacher, so she pretty much has to wear slacks and respectable lady-shirts if she doesn’t want kids to throw spitballs at her. But I work for an arts nonprofit in a two-person office. I don’t even wear shoes for much of the day.
Still, I found a gray A-line skirt ($12!) with tiny sparkles embedded in the fabric and some interesting pleats in the front that say, “I might spend the morning wadding up spitballs, but I could still meet a donor for lunch.”
At the Gap outlet, I found clothes that I will dress my future children in when I teach them about the Gay Agenda:
My little girl will look like such a bad-ass in this shirt. And maybe I’ll make my son wear that “too pretty to do homework” shirt that’s causing such an uproar.
At J. Crew, I was surprised to see lots of “Made in China” labels because aren’t the Obama women all about J. Crew? I decided I would start my only-buy-American campaign tomorrow when I found the perfect deconstructed, asymmetrical sweater. It looks a little droopy here, but when on a person it sort of makes you think of a preppy, knit motorcycle jacket.
In addition to giant versions of typical mall stores, the outlets sell brands I only know from magazines: Tory Burch, Marni, Prada, Jimmy Choo. I made Cathy stop in Marni so we could see how the other five percent lives.
“I’ve been to Barney’s Co-op,” I told her, “and it’s kind of like seeing a movie star on the street. Sure, she’s good-looking, but she’s also kind of short and…person-ish.”
I rescinded this thesis, however, as soon as I saw these shoes:
Unlike Jimmy Choo—whose window display fit my movie-star-up-close theory by featuring generic pointy pumps—these are both retro and sci fi. Like the new Tomrrowland, or the Electrolux vacuum cleaner we inherited from my grandmother.
Exhibit B in my case that Jimmy Choo Isn’t All That: these platform wedges from the mid-priced brand Aldo. I love the combination of textures—neutral-colored suede and out-all-night glitter.
When I told my girlfriend I was hoping to guest-blog for Ironing Board Collective—which is like this amazing window into my deep-down thoughts about fashion, if my thoughts were better articulated and accompanied by lots of pretty pictures—I speculated about what niche I might fill.
“Maybe they need someone to represent for not-that-cool?” I said hopefully.
But what I love about IBC is they make fashion democratic without dumbing it down. It’s like they’re the really savvy director who gets the aforementioned celebrity to star in some brilliant off-off-Broadway play. Which would make me the new-in-town character actor who is absurdly excited to have a speaking role.