Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dressing Green

Last week I came across a magazine devoted to "organic" living. The magazine had a couple of articles about how to reduce stress (people trying to live green must be under a lot of pressure these days). The magazine's tips for living green were limited to little more than compact fluorescent lightbulbs and resuable shopping bags. In fact, they had a page showing some of the bags you could buy, many of them costing over $100. I had the feeling that this magazine was aimed toward people who buy hybrid SUVs, use $125 organic face creams, and have determined that for them the cost of being green will come in dollars and not in changed lifestyle.

In a tiny sidebar, though, the magazine noted that wearing vintage clothing was another form of recycling and it listed some internet vintage clothing sites (the Xtabay can beat any of their prices with a stick, by the way). This got my attention.

Dressing green can bring to mind dull-colored fleece made from recycled soda bottles and ill-fitting organic cotton dresses that look more like medical scrubs than street wear. It doesn't have to be that way! Wearing vintage clothing is the perfect way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and show tremendous style.

Come into the Xtabay and we'll show you how to dress green the right way. We'll outfit you in a celadon silk 1960s cocktail dress with an empire waist or a sexy red 1970s halter dress or a playful Hawaiian shift. By the time you leave, believe me, no one will be calling you Nature Girl.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gigi Takes a Cruise, part two

Scroll down for part one of the story.

The next morning Gigi awoke early. Her poodle, Yves, jumped on the bed from his pink velvet cushion, and Gigi contentedly kissed him on the top of the head. Then she groaned as she remembered the night before. "Yves, you'll never believe it, but I promised the Captain that I'd fill in for the cruise director while she's quarantined!"

Gigi called for an extra large pot of coffee for herself and a dog bone for Yves then put on a red cotton sundress with sailboats on it and a 1970s sailboat pendant. Next she dialed the cruise director's room.

"Hello?" a tired voice answered. "Hello," Gigi said. "My name is Gigi, and I've volunteered to fill in for you the best that I can. How are you feeling, by the way?"

"Itchy," the cruise director said. "They didn't pack near enough calamine lotion on this boat. You'd think I would have been safe from chicken pox, what with so many senior citizens on board. But one of them had to bring her grandson. Anyway, enough complaining. How can I help you?"

"Well, do you have any activities planned for the trip? Maybe some advice?"

"Advice?" the cruise director started to laugh, then the laugh took a bitter edge. "See the ship's doctor for a prescription for Valium. I'll have the pursur drop off the rules for shuffleboard. Good luck!" She hung up abruptly.

Gigi spent the day wandering through the ship trying to mollify passengers. "Would you care for some reading?" she asked a group of elderly ladies. She had a stack of Vogue Italia and Paris Elle magazines in her arm. "What's that?" one of the ladies replied in disgust. "Don't you have any Modern Maturity? How about a knitting magazine or the fanzine for Murder She Wrote?"

Gigi saw a group of passengers clogging a large block of sun chairs by the pool. Some of them were rubbing their bellies and one or two swigged from glasses of Alka Seltzer. "Hello! Is everyone having a good time?" Gigi said.

"I'm so bored, all I do is visit the buffet. If I see one more deep-fried shrimp I'll hurl," a paunchy, balding gentleman said.

Gigi was discouraged. It seemed like no matter what she did she couldn't keep the passengers busy and happy. Just as she was getting ready to barricade herself in her room with a stack of old movies starring Edith Head-adorned women, she saw Maryann, the Texan woman from dinner the night before.

"How are you doing, darlin'? How's it going as the substitute cruise director" Maryann asked. "Not great," Gigi said. "I don't know what to do. I'm afraid they'll mutiny if I don't think of something to entertain them."

Maryann sighed, then said, "Wait a minute! I think I know just the ticket! Could we use the ship-to-shore phone?" Gigi and Maryann hurried to the bridge.

Later that evening, just as passengers were finishing dinner, the whirring clack-clack-clack of a helicopter descended over the ship. Within a few minutes, Glen Campbell strode into the dining room. Maryann rose to meet him and he hugged her. "Maryann," he said, "I was so happy to get your call. You know I'll do anything I can to help out. You must be Gigi," he said as he appreciatively eyed Gigi's full length red 1970s dress with its smart gold belt.

Across the dining room, passengers were dropping their forks and their jaws as they saw Glen Campbell, wearing a white, fringed cowboy vest and ostrich boots, take the stage. "Hello everyone! Is everyone having a good time?" he said as the passengers applauded wildly. He launched into Rhinestone Cowboy.

Gigi smiled at Maryann and the Captain. "Crisis averted," she said. "Maybe I'll be able to get a little vacation after all."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gigi Takes a Cruise, part one

Welcome to part one of Gigi Takes a Cruise. Make sure you stop by the Xtabay to see the window display matching the story. As always, everything Gigi wears in the story is for sale.

Gigi, with her poodle, Yves, in tow, walked up the ramp onto the Queen Coco cruise ship. It had been a long time since she'd had a vacation, and she was eager to settle on deck with a fat novel while the ship wended its way through the Virgin Islands. Groups of retirees surged onto the ship around her, some of the ladies cooing at Yves. Just ahead Gigi saw the Captain greeting passengers. The Captain was an old family friend and had been in the Navy with Gigi's father.

"Gigi! I'm so glad to see you. I've saved you a spot at the Captain's table for dinner. I hope you'll be able to join me," the Captain said as he reached down to scratch Yves's head. Gigi happily agreed and left him to find her room.

It was late in the afternoon when the ship set sail, so Gigi changed into a full length, blue-flowered Catalina gown cleverly made of swimsuit material. She clipped a silk flower into Yves's fur and found two empty chaise lounges near the pool. She sat in one and pulled out her book while Yves hopped into the other chaise. A waiter brought a glass of fresh mango juice for Gigi and bowl of water for the poodle. The ship glided stealthily over the ocean, and a cool breeze cut the afternoon's heat. "Isn't this nice, Yves? Finally we can relax."

Just then a fight broke out behind her at the shuffleboard court. "I told you! It's not your turn, it's mine!" Gigi heard an elderly lady shout. "You don't know what you're talking about, Mildred," another voice, this one a man's, said. "Just because you know how to play pinochle doesn't mean you know squat about shuffleboard."

One of the ship's staff calmed the couple down, but a minute later a dozen or so senior ladies in bathing suits--many with little skirts attached--milled around at the edge of pool. "Excuse me," one of the ladies said to Gigi, "Do you know when the water aerobics class starts? I thought it was supposed to be going by now." Gigi said she was sorry that she didn't know about the class, and she excused herself to go back to her room for a little peace and quiet.

That night for dinner Gigi was led to the Captain's table. The ship's doctor and a friendly couple from Texas were already seated. "My name is Maryann, and I must tell you that you look absolutely ravishing, darlin'," the Texan lady said. Gigi was wearing a hot pink chiffon dress with even hotter pink flowers in the print. She took off the bolero jacket that matched the dress and set her coral, patent leather clutch on the table next to her. A string of pink crystals glittered around her neck.

"Thank you! My name is Gigi. Where's the Captain? I was afraid I'd be late."

"Oh, he's been putting out fires all day, poor man," Maryann's husband said. "Something has gone wrong on this cruise. This is our 37th cruise and I've never seen such mayhem. Passengers are wandering all over, and no one seems to know what to do."

The Captain, looking flustered, hurried over to the table. "I'm sorry to make everyone wait, but it's been crazy around here. Every time I turn around people are getting into fights. They're bored and irritable and looking for trouble. One passenger even threw another passenger's walker overboard!"

"What's wrong?" Gigi asked.

"The cruise director has chicken pox and is quarantined! Oh, Gigi, can you help us?" the Captain asked. "Please?"

Come back next week to see if Gigi is able to calm the brewing mutiny...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gigi Goes to Paris, part two

Scroll down to read part one of Gigi Goes to Paris.

Later that afternoon, Louise took Gigi to the Opera Garnier, where Antonioni Stiletto was holed up in his dressing room. Gigi felt refreshed. She'd taken a hot bath and a short nap and her aunt's cook had made her a watercress salad and a perfectly poached egg with slices of baguette for lunch. Despite her new energy, Gigi wasn't sure how she was going to convince Stiletto to take the stage that evening.

The Bentley deposited Louise and Gigi in front of the Opera. They dodged the rush of shoppers hurrying to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and climbed the Opera's stairs. Inside, the Opera was quiet. The Chagall murals on the ceiling reflected pastel light. A directrice from the Opera came out to meet them, her heels clicking on the marble floors.

"Madame la Contesse, Mademoiselle," she said. "I'm so glad you're here! We're completely distraught. Stiletto still won't eat, and we had to have the understudy for the dress rehearsal. But if Stiletto doesn't go on, we must close the performance!"

"What can I do to help?" Gigi said.

"Perhaps you could take him a coffee and talk to him? Your aunt says you are very persuasive. You're our last hope," the directrice said as they walked back to the offices to fetch a Limoges saucer and espresso cup.

Gigi took the coffee back stage, then down a narrow hall, passing racks of elaborate costumes and a paster of paris horse in pieces. She knocked on the door marked "Stiletto". No one responded. She knocked again, this time louder.

"Avanti!" a voice inside the room said, and Gigi entered to find Stiletto stretched out on a chaise.

"Permesso," she said. "I brought you a coffee." Stiletto lived up to his name. Rather than filling the stereotype of the overfed, swarthy singer, like Pavarotti, Stiletto was thin with porcelain skin, almost angelic looking. Paradoxically, his voice was as full and true as any tenor who had graced the Opera Garnier's stage.

"I don't drink coffee. I don't drink anything. I don't eat anything, either. Why eat? One eats to live, and I do not wish to live anymore!" Stiletto said and sighed in anguish. Gigi noticed a few rumpled wrappers from the nearby McDonald's under his chaise.

"Signor Stiletto," Gigi said, "It brings me so much pain to see such an artist as you suffer."

"Yes, yes! I'm a suffering artist," Stiletto said. Gigi noticed that Stiletto seemed to be checking her out. She was surprised, since according to Paris Match Stiletto didn't play on her team, so to speak. Still, she did look pretty great. Gigi wore a 1940s black rayon dress with a sequined, netted neckline and a print of horses with curly pink and white plumes on their heads. Her shoes were silk with rose appliques at the toes. Suddenly she had an idea.

"Signor, I have a big favor to ask you. Your skin is so clear and smooth. I just wondered what my jacket would look like next to skin like yours. May I?" Gigi took her jacket, a 1960s faux fur with rhinestone buttons and held it next to his face. Stiletto caressed the fur.

"Perhaps if I put it on you would be able to see it more clearly?" he said. Without waiting for a response, he slid the jacket over his shoulders. Stiletto seemed to have more energy now. He posed in front of the mirror. "You might be curious about the necklaces, as well?" he said and absently grabbed the coffee, swallowing it in one gulp. Gigi smiled.

Later that night, after the show, Gigi made her way through expensively perfumed groups of opera goers dressed in shimmering satin gowns and ropes of diamonds. She heard bits of conversation about the performance--"Stiletto was amazing!" "A virtuoso! I've never heard Stiletto in finer form!"--and she found her aunt and uncle.

"Well done, Gigi," the conte said. "I don't know how you convinced Stiletto to sing, but he was marvelous."

Gigi fingered the edge of her neckline, feeling the area where her black, merry widow corset had been earlier in the day. It had fit Stiletto perfectly. "I guess all he needed was a little inspiration," she said.

Come back next week for a new story, and check out the store display to go with it! Also, all of Gigi's clothes are for sale at the Xtabay.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

GiGi Goes to Paris, part one

Welcome to the Xtabay's first serial story! Every two weeks we'll change the display in the store's window to match a story that we'll post on our blog at the same time. The first installment of the story will be posted when the display changes, and the concluding installment will come a week later.

Read on to find out the story behind Gigi's urgent trip to Paris...

When she heard the thwack of a letter in the mail slot, Gigi was arranging a vase of iris, roses, and peonies she'd just brought in from the garden. She tucked the last rose--a fragrant, mauve Mme. Isaac Perriere--in the vase and pulled a letter on fine blue airmail paper from where it landed just inside the door. She recognized the handwriting of her aunt, Louise de Robeneuve, who lived in Paris.

"Dear Gigi," the letter read, "You must come to Paris at once! There's no time to explain. A ticket is waiting for you at the airport. Kiss the dog for me, darling. Your loving aunt, Louise."

Gigi sighed. So like her aunt not to leave her time to plan. Still, if Aunt Louise needed her right away, chances were that something important was up. Gigi opened a suitcase on her bed. She'd just have time to pack, take her poodle, Yves, to a friend's house, and drive to the airport for the midnight flight to Paris.

What should she pack? Gigi's aunt and her uncle, the Conte de Robeneuve, lived the luxe life and would probably take her to Taillevent or to the opera, where the Conte was a patron. She pulled her 1960s white sequined dress with pink maribou trim and laid it on the bed, along with a robin's egg blue beaded tank and a pair of pink heels. She tossed her 1950s red silk chiffon into the suitcase and on second thought added a leopard print beret, a pink, ruffled neglige, and a black, merry widow corset. Whatever it was Aunt Louise had in mind, Gigi would be prepared.

The flight to Paris was tiring, but thanks to her aunt's thoughtful purchase of a first-class ticket, Gigi was able to let the hum of the airplane lull her for a few hour's sleep. The plane touched down at Charles de Gaulle just as Parisians were downing their morning cafes au lait and hustling for the metro. Gigi's aunt met her outside of customs and led her to a Bentley idling nearby.

"Oh, darling!" Louise said. "How was the flight? Was the coffee terrible? You look fabulous, cherie," she said, eyeing Gigi's crisp, pink raincoat and Schiaparelli scarf. Louise hugged Gigi, temporarily enveloping her in Chanel No. 5.

"I came as soon as I could, Aunt Louise," Gigi said. "Is everything all right? Is it the Conte? I hope nothing terrible has happened."

Louise leaned back into the Bentley's leather seat. "Oh la la!" she said. Louise was born in Nebraska, but she'd taken well to France. "You know that the opera is trËs important to the Conte." Gigi nodded. "Well, tonight is the opening of Don Giovanni, and the lead tenor, Antonioni Stiletto, refuses to go on! We've tried everything, but he sulks and won't eat and says that he's too depressed to take the stage! I thought sopranos were divas, but Stiletto--he takes the cake." Louise turned to Gigi, "Oh, Gigi, you've got to help us. I just know if anyone can talk sense into him, it's you."

Talk a depressed tenor into performing at the Opera Garnier! Could Gigi do it? For art? For her uncle's reputation? For all the evening gowns that were at that moment being pressed by scores of maids across Paris? She clutched her pink, patent leather purse tight and said, "I'll do what I can."

Find out what ails Antonioni Stiletto and whether Gigi saves opening night in next week's installment of Gigi Goes to Paris.