House of Cards

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

There's an Italian term that I love: Sprezzatura. In a loosely translated nutshell, it means calculated nonchalance. Isn't that so cool? It was coined by 16th century courtier & author, Baldassare Castiglione, in The Book of the Courtier, published in 1528. Castiglione describes sprezzatura as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it." In modern day terms, #IWokeUpLikeThis, but craftier and less obnoxious.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
House of Cards: Season Three became available on February 27, 2015 and Mr. Franzos and I are still working our way through it, savoring it. The story, the production quality, the breath-taking scenes of our nation's capital....the dichotomous and complex main couple, Frank and Claire Underwood...sigh. It's a writer's and cinematographer's dream. The world is positively captivated by the Underwoods. President Obama was even purported to say about Season 1, "The show is 100% accurate (about Washington D.C.), except for the education bill. It never would've passed that quickly." The words often used to describe the Underwoods vacillate between polar extremes. Sociopathic-Charismatic, Funny-Bone-chilling... I could go on and on about this Machiavellian duo, but let's focus on my Style Crush, Claire, played by actress Robin Wright.

Photo credit: Unknown

On season 1 & 2, Claire Underwood's wardrobe is made up of fitted dresses, pencil skirts and crisp oxford shirts; she means business. On season 3, there's been a subtle shift and a softer, slightly more feminine approach to dressing for her new role as First lady. Claire walks the very fine line between masculine and feminine and seems to have found that magical spot on the log where with one stroke, an axe will cleave it perfectly in two. She's got IT. She's got the sprezzatura.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Sprezzatura sounds great and looks even better, but Harry Berger, author of Sprezzatura and the Absence of Grace (2002), has another take on our word of the day. Berger says, sprezzatura is a "form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance." Whether they knew it or not, I believe Tom Broecker and Kemal Harris, (Robin Wright's costume designers) took some form of this into consideration when dressing Robin Wright's character.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
photo credit: Joshua Franzos
photo credit: Joshua Franzos
photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Claire's style is simple and elegant, but the web of deceit that she's at the center of is elaborate and sinister. Claire has poise, but in fleeting moments, her mask is lifted and we get a glimpse of the woman being crushed by the weight of her choices. In a classic nod to Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, Claire said to her husband, "Give him your heart. Cut it out and put it in his fucking hands." History has shown us, that Lady Macbeth had drive, but proved not to be heartless and morally bankrupt after all.

photo credit: unknown
Berger warns that the downside of sprezzatura is to deny one's true nature and to lose oneself to the facade. CAN you live if you cut your heart out? Not really...Not for very long anyway. Is Claire Underwood a sociopath? I really don't think so. But I haven't finished season 3, so I could be wrong. But this is of course, fiction and we like to live vicariously through our web-only villains and watch their inevitable demise. With a name like House of Cards, we aren't kidding ourselves by thinking Frank and Claire are going to ride off into the sunset.
If all you want is happiness say no. I'm not going to give you a couple of kids and count the days until retirement. I promise you freedom from that, I promise you'll never be bored. - Frank Underwood
We definitely aren't bored. Oh, Claire Underwood. We may not agree with your choices, but we love your style and the way you crackle with electricity on our screens as a multitude of dichotomous adjectives threatens to rend you apart before our eyes.You're going to be such a beautiful, blazing inferno.

What I wore:
Dress: All Saints
Bag: YSL
Watch: Gucci
Heels: Prada
Bracelets: Pico Design 
Earrings: inherited from the late Mrs. Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
Speaking of houses, though, I hope in our case, not ones made of cards. Mr. Franzos and I have some exciting new developments of our own. We bought a town house in the heart of Shadyside, which makes a total of three houses that we own. Yikes! Hopefully we will sell two of those three houses this spring and summer, but there is a long campaign of rolling up our shirt sleeves ahead of us and as such, this blog post will be our season finale of Mrs. Franzos Blog. I have some first lady duties to attend to, but I look forward to what we have in store for next season. Wish us luck!

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh,

Front Cover Cocktail Dress

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Photo Credits: John Altdorfer/Pittsburgh Tribune Review

I made it a few weeks back, practically larger than life, onto the cover of the Fanfare section of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It was exciting and embarrassing and frankly, a little surreal to see myself 12" in height, printed on newspaper.

Scandal star, Joshua Malina and myself. photo credit: David Bachman

I attended (and worked) a fundraiser for the incredible non-profit organizaiton that I work for and dressed the part with an amazing dress I bought at the NCJW Designer Days event. Designer Days is a Pittsburgh fall tradition. I go every year and meet up with my girlfriends for wine, gently used designer clothes and philanthropy. I score something awesome every year, like this gorgeous raspberry satin Dolce & Gabbana dress that I bought for $40! I spent less than $20 on getting it tailored to me, re-used my Prada wedding shoes, curled my hair and voila! I make a cover. 

My good friend, Amy Cohen. (She's the yang to my yin). Photo credit: David Bachman

But let's forget about fashion, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada for a second. Really, the most stylish things are larger than ourselves. I am speaking about philanthropy. I support my organization, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, because I see the good work they do everyday and I know how much they care about the community and their employees. I also support the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, not only because I go there everyday to write on my lunch break, but also because I believe in the accessibility of literacy and knowledge. What good causes and organizations do you support? Do you go to their fundraisers? What do you wear?

Your Bosom Friend From Pittsburgh,

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