Sunday, April 22, 2018

How I Got a New Couch with an Angry Email


Sit down and let me tell you the tale of my proudest accomplishment — fighting for and getting a free sofa from West Elm.

Our story begins back in the fall of 2014. I was so young and naive, I managed to convince myself the beautiful Peggy sofa from West Elm was a wise investment for my very first sofa purchase. It was beautiful nubby gray, with deep seats and my favorite Mad Men-loving detail: tufted upholstery. I figured we'd have it for a very, very long time. I sincerely loved it.



And then we lost the first button. Of many. It turns out unless you perch very lightly, you will inevitably loosen the buttons of the seat cushions. Apparently, tufted seat cushions are basically doomed to fail. I can kick myself for thinking it would work out, but what can I say? I'm an optimist.

After we lost the first two buttons, I reached out to West Elm to see what our options might be and they sent a button replacement kit. It came with incredibly complex instructions, a wooden dowel and extra buttons/thread. It required two people and even then, the force of trying to push the dowel through the thick cushion snapped the wood in half. That probably should have been a sign that this might be more trouble than it's worth. But still, I felt like this is what you sign up for when you buy a tufted sofa!


Until February 2017, when this article appeared on The Awl and went truly viral. It turned out many, many people who purchased the Peggy had experienced the same button loss, pilling fabric and even worse — collapsing legs! Multiple friends forwarded the article to me, saying, "Isn't this your couch?" Um yes...yes it is.

Although we hadn't experienced anything as traumatic as full collapse, we had lost several buttons, observed some loss of shape in the cushions and had pilling fabric. All only three years after buying the sofa! I decided to call the hotline West Elm set up for Peggy owners to see what we could get for our troubles. I ended up talking to a service rep who made it seem that, in the grand scale of bad Peggy problems, ours paled in comparison. She promised they would continue to send button repair kits when necessary. I can only attribute my agreement to Stockholm Syndrome. Somehow, I felt I deserved this pain.


Months passed. When we lost yet more buttons last summer, I decided to reach out again to West Elm for a button replacement kit. I received the response: "We no longer are offering button replacement kits, because the couch has been discontinued. We can offer you 30% off a new sofa."



Um, exsqueeze me???? I literally forwarded the email to my husband with the note, "THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW." And thus began a five-month odyssey to get a new sofa and pay as little as possible.

If I ever win another writing award, it might be for my diatribe email to West Elm customer service, in which I managed to use the word "recompense," hyperlink coverage of the couch's deficiencies and attach a screengrab of prior communications. I basically said I should be entitled to the same refund offered to other owners of the Peggy, especially considering I couldn't possibly sell the couch and expect to get a decent amount of money. Let's just say there's Jimmy Stewart's speech at the end of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and then there was my email to West Elm.

Within 30 minutes I had my answer: West Elm was going to issue me a credit worth nearly $1,200 AND 30% off the purchase once I ordered a replacement sofa. VICTORY!!!!



Ultimately we ordered the Drake, a kissing cousin of the Peggy, but with more durable fabric, firmer cushions and most importantly, no tufted seats. It had to be made to order, so we waited nearly 12 weeks for it to arrive. The delivery men showed up early on Friday and I've spent the weekend making an Amber-sized dent on one side and generally basking in the glow of a hard-won battle.


And that, my friends, is how I managed to upgrade my sofa with an email. Do you need any corporate complaints filed? I seem to have found my calling.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Fashion Review: Oscars 2018

What a weird, weird year for the Oscars. It felt in many ways like a do-si-do, two steps forward for women and minorities and representation and five steps back through honoring roles and actors who have skewed far from those ideals. The same was true for the fashion! For every look that was daring, exciting or breathtaking, there was one that was uninspired or blah. God bless those who live in the best and worst dressed categories, for they understand we're here to be entertained.

BEST DRESSED


Just when I thought I couldn't be more in love with Gal Gadot, she sashays down the red carpet in a silver beaded fringe Givenchy gown paired with a truly breathtaking lavalier necklace. Her classic updo and red lip were the finishing touches to a truly perfect look for Oscar night.


Allison Janney looked positively regal in her crimson Reem Acra gown that manages to make a medieval silhouette look modern. If you dress like this, you shouldn't just take home a statue; you should get a sceptre, a crown and a fur-lined cape.


Nicole Kidman is the Babe Ruth of Oscars, I swear. She has perfected and refined the art of Oscar dressing over the years in a way that inspires awe and may very well merit a museum exhibition. This dramatic, glamorous, old couture gown by Armani Prive is both surprising and classic, and she wears it like she was born in it.


I thought Saoirse Ronan struck just the right tone with her pretty pink Gwyneth at the Oscars-meets-Audrey in Funny Face gown by Calvin Klein by Appointment. Like Nicole's gown, it harkens back to the glory days of 1950's couture but looks supremely modern with her blunt bob and fresh face. It manages to sartorially express her position right now: a modern ingenue with a special talent for period pieces and disappearing into roles.


Of all the glorious nude sparkly gowns, Gina Rodriguez's Zuhair Murad was the prettiest. It brought drama, is absolutely timeless and when she moved on stage, she looked like she was walking on a cloud. I always think she's so beautiful but this was a LOOK-AT-ME-AND-CAST-ME-AS-THE-LEAD-IN-YOUR-MOVIE fashion choice.


That look you rock when your ex and his brother both have to RSVP "not attending" because of bad behavior and you just landed a promising new role in a comedy produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner and you're here to remind us that the woman whose IMDB lists roles as diverse as Alias and 13 Going on 30 and Dallas Buyers Club IS NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH.

Jennifer Garner has never, ever looked better than in this cobalt Versace with the most perfect sapphire and diamond Piaget earrings. Hot mama, indeed.


My all-time favorite Oscar look may very well be Michelle Williams canary yellow gown in 2006, and I just have a soft spot for anyone who dares it and sticks the landing. Greta Gerwig looked like a luminous silent film star in her Rodarte gown, perfectly accessorized with a red lip and a dangly diamond necklace.


On an evening when it seemed half the attendees wore white or red, I enjoyed Margot Robbie's white Chanel the most. I will always be a sucker for an Edwardian silhouette like this, and once you throw in shimmery draped sleeves, I'm bowled over. She looked modern and romantic, but also a little restrained — like she's saving the big guns for when her victory is almost guaranteed.


Is this arguably the best our queen Meryl Streep has ever looked at the Oscars? It's pretty high up there. This red is divine, the cut is flattering and she looks comfortable. You can't see them well in this pic, but she also had some really great gold earrings that made the whole look very modern.


Kelly Marie Tran spent most of Star Wars buried under a not-great haircut and a mechanic's jumpsuit, so this va va va voom Jenny Packham gown was the perfect choice to show directors she's ready to star as the love interest or boss bitch in their next films.


Only Zendaya could don a Hershey's brown friar's robe that resembles a curtain falling off a rod and look like an edgy high fashion priestess from the future. Kudos to her for even seeing potential in this Giambattista Valli dress when it hung on a stylist's rack, trying it on and going, "Oh yeah, I can rock the hell out of this."


I will sincerely miss the unabashed joy of the Timothee Chalamet/Armie Hammer road show, but at least they went out with a bang wearing head-to-toe white Berluti and red velvet Armani, respectively. They both look hot and sultry.


Holland, Tom Holland. The Spider-Man actor looked so debonair in his double-breasted Hermes suit cut within an inch of his life that I assume this serves as his audition for the next Bond.

GOOD


Representing Wakanda, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira looked like the royalty they are. Lupita's Versace gown is mesmerizing and looked spectacular on camera, while Danai looks fit to play a First Lady or a princess in her crystal pink Gabriela Hearst gown.


I want to like Jennifer Lawrence's bad girl Dior ensemble, but it did feel a little SAG Awards for the Oscars. I love the detail of the sequins on the lower layer of the skirt, and normally I don't object to sexy tousled hair, but all of it combined with heavy makeup and the countless shots of her wielding a full glass of white wine made it seem a little more like she was at a high school reunion than the Oscars.


I love, love, love this sparkly white angelic Atelier Versace look on Mary J. Blige. I almost included it in my "best" list, but the reality is that there were MANY white, drapey column dresses and they can't all be the best. But for her, this might be a personal best.


 I love Viola in Barbie pink Michael Kors. She looked vibrant and playful and sexy. My only quibbles were the seams around the bust line, which we found distracting, and the matchy-matchy purse.


Helen Mirren is #goals. This blue-gray Reem Acra gown is cut to perfection and accessorized so well. She really can do no wrong.


Speaking of older broads who are looking better than I'll look ever in my life — Jane Fonda looks like some kind of evil fallen angel in this Balmain and I'm digging it. I do not love her hair being blown so high off her forehead, but her enviable decolletage almost makes up for it.


Betty Gabriel, of "Get Out," looked so beautiful in this teal Tony Ward gown with a beautiful cut.  It's a notice-me dress, for sure. She just glows here, and it's a great cap to an all-around fantastic awards season for her.


And this is how you make sure people learn your name. I'd never heard of Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver), but popping out in citron Ralph Lauren with a sporty, sexy cut was a very shrewd move on her part. If you've got that body and that complexion, you are one of the five people who can rock this shade with confidence.


I unabashedly love Tiffany Haddish's unabashed #sheready confidence, and it was in full display in her gorgeous outfit inspired by her father's native Eritrea. The gown is called a zuria, topped with a cape called a kaba. She looks like an Eritrean princess ready for her close-up.


This hot pink-and-peach Schiaparelli dress was on my short-list of favorite potential Oscars dresses, so I was excited to see it on Samara Weaving, a star of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." It's pretty, but a little edgy and makes me excited to see what she'll wear next.


Allison Williams wore a very pretty nude Armani Prive, paired with perfect hair and makeup. But, I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. This is a move straight out of the newbie Oscar playbook and I thought she was a little more adventurous than this.


Listen, this Christian Siriano gown is far from my favorite print or color story, but I love what he does to make women feel confident and Whoopi looked so happy and glowing in her ladylike gown, swishing the skirt up and down the red carpet.

MEH


I could almost be swayed to drop Taraji P. Henson into my "good" column in this goth-girl Vera Wang, but I just am not in love. I feel like it's a sartorial interpretation of the phrase "smoke and mirrors" — it has enough I like to distract me from what I don't like but when I really think about it, I'm not sure it works. I'm not sold on these armbands that are like windsocks for her arm. I'm not sold on such a high slit paired with a plunging neckline AND side cutouts. But, I'll admit the overall effect isn't terrible.


Sandra Bullock looks beautiful and hot, but I just couldn't get excited about this gold-and-black Louis Vuitton gown. It somehow manages to look very rich and very Married to the Mob. It's not my favorite look for her, but it isn't bad really. It's just not POW.


My girl Elisabeth Moss spent the better part of the last decade wearing just-ok nude gowns with cuts that made her look short and squat. And then in the past year, she suddenly got her sartorial game on point and I was so happy to see her venture away from that safe zone. So you can imagine how I was a little disappointed to see this kinda ho-hum (while still obviously very classy) Christian Dior that smushed her boobs into pancakes.


Lesley Manville starred "Phantom Thread," a movie about a talented couturier, so I was hoping for something a little more dramatic. I like the color and the shredding detail on the fabric is interesting, but I'm not sold on the asymmetrical sleeves. I think it would work better either as a one-shoulder gown, strapless or with the neckline going straight across.


I like the confidence of rocking a gold velvet blazer, but Daniel Kaluuya's pants looked so uncomfortable! Every picture of him on the red carpet looks like he desperately needs to pee and he can't believe his mom made him wear this.


This gold and black brocade gown is not my favorite gown I've ever seen, but it's arguably my favorite gown I've ever seen on Frances McDormand. I also deeply appreciated her message to the fellow women nominated, so it gave me warm and tender feelings toward her. 

BEST-WORST


The best-worst category is reserved for people whose outfits are truly cray-cray, but delightfully so. Audra Day served us Marie Antoinette realness in a beautifully draped floral Zac Posen gown accented with a high pony covered in mini fabric roses and bows. It was nuts, but kudos to her for at least having fun with it.


Director Dee Rees wore a fairly cuckoo white frock coat over cropped wide pleated pants and stiletto platform black dress oxfords, but her face is like, "TRY ME, I FEEL FLY" and she has me convinced.

WORST DRESSED


I never thought I'd be dropping Emma Stone onto my worst-dressed list, but here we are. Let's be clear, this shapeless red satin blazer, cinched with a hot pink bow, is a perfectly fine outfit for an appearance on The Tonight Show or a press junket. But it is so event-inappropriate and such a missed opportunity. Even if she wanted to wear a suit, this Louis Vuitton is still not that well-fitting or exciting. The shoes are even boring! I admire the effort, but not the execution.


Salma Hayek is married to a man whose company owns several luxury labels, including Gucci, and yet she routinely wears some seriously questionable fashions, like she only gets to pick from the scrap pile. This Gucci just has a few too many things going on. I really enjoy the sparkly drapey gems at the neckline and I think the cut is actually quite good. But that sparkle combined with sequins AND ruffles is so much for my simple eyes to handle. It's couture for magpies with no attention spans.


I worship Adam Rippon and let's be real, I should not be surprised he showed up as Leather Daddy Astaire in this Jeremy Scott ensemble. But I cannot endorse. He's too pretty to not be wearing something like Tom Holland's double-breasted suit in something like royal blue velvet or some fantastic satin.


Kelly Ripa looks like the queen of a small Georgia town's Watermelon Festival in this Christian Siriano gown. I appreciate she stepped outside her comfort zone, but the effect is just so Lily Pulitzer Mean Girl Couture. This is what I expect Regina George to wear.


Chelsea Perretti's gown really isn't the worst thing ever, but the wrinkling at the bustline lacks polish, and the color doesn't feel like the best choice for her. I think an ice blue would have made her eyes pop. I also feel like the overall effect would work better if her make-up artist had done berry-toned lips and a rosier blush to bring it all together. It feels a little "I have this Urban Outfitters curtain from college...think you can do something with this?"


Paz Vega's cherry blossom print gown is sitting right there on the line of interesting avant-garde and wiggidy-wack. I'm not sure how you could functionally wear this dress and use your arms, but it's a kind of interesting idea. Pairing such a big cherry blossom print with windowpane plaid is also a stretch for formal wear. Would it work better with a smaller print? I dunno. It feels like a stab at fashion elite that missed the mark.


Diane Warren is a worst-dressed hall of famer and her Liza-joins-Tom Petty's The Heartbreakers look by Saint Laurent is no exception. She manages to somehow look like a suburban mom trying to be cool but coming off completely unthreatening and a large part of it is the fit. The whole ensemble looks a little baggy, the sleeves are way too long and the round toe boots are exceedingly not cute.


God bless St. Vincent and her commitment to wackiness. I'm not even mad at how insane this Saint Laurent outfit is -- it's like a fashion interpretation of Elvira's aura. From the fascinator to the deflated black airbag sleeve to the widow's peak hemline to the bow that may also be an armband, this is a hall-of-fame effort in cuckoo Oscar's dressing. At least it's not boring!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What I Would Wear to the Oscars 2018

My Super Bowl (known to others as the Oscars) is today and in the pre-gaming spirit, I have continued my tradition of imagining what I might don if I were one of the lucky few who gets to dress like a princess for a night and finish with In N Out in bed. Here's some fantasy outfits for the big night!

If I Were: A Nominee's Date


Being a nominee's date is arguably the best gig in town. No pressure, just perks. I imagine someone like Leslie Bibb, an actress in her own right, who will be capping a season of smooching her love Sam Rockwell on the red carpet. As a date, you want to look good in all the pictures but also not like you think the show's about you. This simple, sexy Giambattista Valli in a deep shade of plum does the trick. It shows skin in a surprising spot and moves like a dream.


I'd pair the dress with these fun, swingy ruby tassel earrings that complement the color of the gown.

If I Were: A Nominee for a Non-Acting Award


They may not be dominating the headlines, but female cinematographers, directors and producers deserve a touch of glamour, too! If I were in their position, I might consider this timeless, yet memorable, floral gown by Schiaparelli. It would look great in pictures, but is still a little understated for those who aren't used to the spotlight.


If I'm a non-acting nominee who doesn't mind having a little fun and being a little sexy, then I might opt for a pair of sassy snake earrings like these.

If I Were: An Ingenue Presenting an Award


The Oscars can be a fantastic opportunity for an impromptu job interview if you're an ingenue selected to present an award. You get great screentime to introduce yourself to the power movers in the room and the audience at home. Needless to say, it's good to show up looking fantastic, memorable, stylish and intriguing. I imagine someone like Allison Williams, who stars in Best Picture nominee "Get Out," donning something like this Ralph & Russo gown. It's got all the pretty princess vibes you'd expect for the Oscars, but with the surprising sexy detail of shimmying fringe.


I'd pair the delicate pink dress with delicate pink morganite-and-pearl earrings like these, an unexpected gem that demands a second look.

If I Were: A Female Director


If I'm a female director who's an actress in her own right (ahem, Greta Gerwig), I want to convey how serious I am about creating my own content while reminding everybody that, yeah, I'm interested in acting, too. This Badgley Mischka gown sort of toes the line between modern, serious, playful and elegant. I'd want a strong red lip just to let everyone know who's boss.


For luck, I might bring along the women who came before me in the form of antique rose-cut diamond earrings like these. 


If I Were: A Supporting Actress Nominee Not Likely to Win


If I'm lucky enough to be nominated for an acting Oscar but almost 100% guaranteed not to win, I'm going to seize the moment to win some red carpet attention in a bright color with a romantic, flowy cut. If I'm lucky enough to be the divine Mary J. Blige and know I can truly knock people's socks off with a surprising color, then I'm going with this gorgeous Ralph & Russo gown.


Since the neckline is already so beautiful, I'd keep jewelry to a minimum and just pair it with simple studs and a whopper of a diamond bracelet like this curlicue Austrian one.

If I Were: An Actress Nominee Not Likely to Win


Sometimes you have a year where the Best Actress category is so stacked with talent that some truly deserving performances are just doomed to come in second or third place. I would not be surprised if Frances McDormand takes home the little gold man, so Saiorse Ronan and Margot Robbie will have to comfort themselves by being among the best dressed. I'm sure they're up to the task.

I'd love to see one of them — I'm picturing Saiorse — don a dramatic silhouette like this Alexis Mabille Couture gown. It's got a dash of New Look 1950's Dior glamour and still looks modern and surprising.

I'd pair the gown with stunnas like these yellow diamonds and a romantic updo, or maybe even faux wavy bob. 


I'm also in love with the Cinderella of the 21st century vibes of this Jenny Packham gown. It's extremely modern and extremely romantic at the same time, and I think a girl like Margot Robbie could make it look like some easy thing she pulled off the floor.

I'd complement the futuristic blues with some antique sapphires and diamonds — all the better to show off blue eyes!

If I Were: The Obvious Pick for Best Supporting Actress


If I'm going to glide up the stairs and across the stage, I want a dress that will make me look like a glamazon while doing it. This gray Jenny Packham gown would do the trick. It's timeless, and since the likely winner could be Allison Janney, I pictured a column with some romantic details. She loves silhouettes like this that only serve to emphasize how damn tall she is!


Since so many of the pictures would be of me giddily clutching my new best friend Oscar, I'd add some bling front and center with this tourmaline and diamond ring.

If I Were: The Best Actress Favorite


The reality is that the Best Actress Oscar may very well be Frances McDormand's to lose, and she'll probably be wearing something incredibly boring and very comfortable. So, in this scenario, we'll just pretend the winner would be someone who wants to seize the moment to be the most EXTRA a person could be. This Zuhair Murad gown is for a ballsy actress who's like, "when else can I dress like Ginger Rogers' angel in heaven?"

Since the dress already has quite a lot going on, I'd just keep the accessories to a minimum and maybe accent an updo with a pretty brooch, like this antique wing brooch from 1900

Now that I've made my picks, I can't wait to see what really lands on the red carpet. I'm always hoping at least one person takes my breath away.