But first . . .


You can watch a movie with him this Thursday night, as described yesterday. (Click here.) But you’ll be in one of 400 movie theaters and he’ll be in a TV studio someplace.

Or you can pay $120,000 to buy a share of his stock and thus be invited to his annual meeting. (Click here.) But you’ll be in a stadium with him and thousands of others.

Or you can contribute a small fraction of that to the Obama Victory Fund and get your photo with him at a business roundtable discussion in Washington in a couple of weeks. Just me-mail me.

What does it say about Obama that the best-respected businessman in the world keeps doing fundraisers on his behalf? Especially when you consider that, up until this cycle, he has steered clear of the political nitty-gritty.

And now . . .

Proud Boyfriend Dept.

All about hoop skirts, from Sunday’s New York Times:

The Belle Curve

It’s a tricky thing, desire. Why do we want what we want? The 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal, for one, had no idea, concluding simply: ‘The heart has its reasons of which reason can know nothing.’ This principle governs not only love but fashion, which is also best defined as a perverse and willful denial of logic. Elizabethan starched ruffs? Sure! Psychedelic hot pants? Why not? Knee-high gladiator sandals? A bargain at $7,000. Ever since the first gladiators charged into the Coliseum with miniature metal beasties on their helmets, style has partaken more of caprice than of common sense.

But every now and then, a trend comes along whose sheer, unalloyed improbability startles even fashion’s strictest devotees. A case in point: the return this season of the amplified hip. From panniers at Louis Vuitton and Charles Nolan to crinolines at Alexander McQueen to peplums at Chanel, the fall/winter looks encourage women to channel PJ Harvey, who in ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ sang of her shapely charms: ‘I’ve been trying to show you over and over / Look at these, my child-bearing hips.’ Incongruous as it may seem in an industry better known as an enemy than as a friend of female curves, today’s designers are bringing back the hourglass shape in all its bulging, bottom-heavy splendor.

I should probably confess that by characterizing this vogue as a new high (or low) in the annals of fashion folly, I’m speaking as much from personal bias as from broad observation. When I was a child, a fading Southern belle named Sally conditioned me to decline caloric treats with the mantra ‘a minute on the lips, forever on the hips!’ So effective was Sally’s instruction that to this day I can’t contemplate, say, a large pepperoni pizza without first visualizing thick, cheesy slices affixed to my sacrum. (To me, ‘muffin-top’ likewise carries upsettingly literal associations.) In this light, the return of the hip should come as welcome news – and to look at the current collections, it does: they’re beautiful. Still, Rubens nudes are beautiful, too, and who wants to resemble them?

As the unchecked primacy of the pin-thin model attests, I’m scarcely alone in my fat phobia. Low-carb diets and liposuction are to today’s clotheshorse what bone-crushing corsets were to Scarlett O’Hara. Consequently, the wide-hipped silhouette may strike us as counterintuitive, if not downright undesirable. However, I’ve given this matter a lot of thought, and I can safely say that if you take the plunge, you won’t regret it. The hip, it turns out, has its reasons of which reason knows quite a lot.

Reason No. 1: Stop Traffic. At 18th-century Versailles, the panniered skirts of female court costume reached such vast widths that women had to enter rooms sideways. So great was the fear of getting stuck in doorways that young noblewomen trained for their first day at court with an exacting old gentleman who donned a ‘ridiculous, billowing skirt’ of his own to lead the tutorial, according to the memoirs of the Marquise de la Tour du Pin. But one woman’s challenge is another woman’s opportunity. Just imagine the figure you’ll cut wedging your way onto a crowded N train in your new McQueen tutu. ‘Stand clear of the closing doors, please!’ As the subway doors jam against your layers of stiffened tulle, all eyes will – I guarantee it – be on you. That’s what they call making an entrance.

Reason No. 2: Protect Your Personal Space. Because their skirts were so massive, the female grandees of the ancien régime required extra seats on either side while attending the opera. There is no reason why this shouldn’t work at the movies today: a chic updating of the coat-on-the-seat grab. But expanding your circumference by several meters can protect a girl in other ways, too. Wearers of the pannier and its 19th-century descendant, the crinoline, were often unable to reach the hands of the swains who clamored for their attention. I don’t know about you, but apart from my husband and my acupuncturist, there are very few people whose unsolicited touch I enjoy. Hoop skirt donned? Problem solved!

Reason No. 3: Skip the Gym. Obviously, if you gain weight in your hips (Sally?), then this is the look for you. When Charles Nolan strapped me into a sample pannier recently, I found to my joy that it hid a multitude of sins, including the steak I had just eaten for lunch. Under any other circumstances, hearing a designer tell his assistant, ‘I’ll need a tablecloth to cover all this’ wouldn’t do wonders for my self-esteem. But when he draped said tablecloth over my new, cagelike appendages, a miracle happened. Proportions shifted, my waist shrank, my chest grew… “Hot!” Nolan and I cried in tandem.  Such effortless transformation had me ready to swear off the gym for good — a decision I can further chalk up to the incompatibility of “hip improvers” (as the French aptly called them) and physical exercise.  In the 18th century, they were too cumbersome to wear on boating expeditions; a hundred years later, only women who traded them for bloomers could swim, fence and bicycle with the boys.  Barred from the StairMaster by my new Nolan, I’ll take fashion over fitness any day of the week.

Reason No. 4: Cool Off.  The hoop skirt’s genesis is shrouded in mystery, though historians trace it alternately to the bell-shaped gowns of ancient Crete and to the late-15th-century Spanish verdugado (“virtue guard,” which became the English farthingale).  Whatever its origins, the fashion historian Valerie Steele informs me, “it was not invented to hide a royal pregnancy.”  Between the fact that this claim has been made about both Queen Juana (15th-century Spain) and Empress Eugénie (19th-century France) and the fact that even barrel-size hips can’t fully disguise a baby bump, Steele’s comment rings true.  Just as unprovable, if more intuitively plausible, is the tale of two plump Parisiennes who, one sultry summer day in the 1720s or 1730s, decided to place hoops under their skirts to allow for greater air circulation around their thighs.  Fact or fiction, this is news you can use.  As we struggle with global warming, we all need a little more ventilation in our dress.  Isn’t it nice that we ladies now have such an elegant alternative to shorts?

Reason No. 5: Lie Back and Think of Darwin.  If yours is a straight-up-and-down figure like mine, you may have shared my alarm last year when a new scientific study revealed that women with hourglass figures tend to be more intelligent, bear smarter children and be more attractive to men.  Apparently, the flesh that gathers in the hips and derrière has a higher density of essential, brain-building acids than does fat concentrated elsewhere.  The result is greater brainpower of self and progeny and greater appeal to the opposite sex because, as one of the study’s authors observed, “it’s reproductively important.”  In other words, to modify Sigmund Freud’s famous dictum just a little, the waist-to-hip ratio is destiny.  Or, from a Darwinian perspective, Kate Winslet’s small waist and voluptuous hips trump Kate Moss’s beanpole physique.  But if nature has deprived you of an evolutionarily promising hip-to-waist ratio — research places the ideal somewhere between 0.6 and 0.7 — then this season’s clothes will allow you to fake it.  While the trick may not boost your or your children’s I.Q., it should at least nab you a few more free drinks at the bar.  Here again, the love/fashion analogy applies.  In both domains, a little fantasy — like a little folly — goes a very long way.


Seriously: What does it say about Barack Obama that the best-respected businessman in the world keeps doing fundraisers on his behalf?

So if you’d like to help, and to hear Warren Buffett – and if you are blessed with the ability to max out to the Obama campaign and the time to get to Washington the second week of September – just me-mail me.


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