Friday, July 24, 2009

Boutique or Bargain?

I was in a boutique today and saw the most spectacular dress on a dress form- it was a beautiful emerald green irridescent chiffon, with an asymmetrical shoulder with beautiful beadwork and... you know what? I'll never be able to describe it adequately, so here's a picture: Spectacular, right? Of course, upon closer inspection, the dress turned out to be a Badgley Mischka selling for $695.00. Yes, the decimal point IS in the right place. Since my budget allows mostly for dresses is the $6.95 range, you can imagine my sticker shock. And this dress was in Lancaster, PA! Crazy, huh? I want to know who in Lancaster, PA is spending 700 smackers on a cocktail dress! And where are they going in it? Honestly! But I digress... the point is, as fun as it is to wear a real designer dress that is perfectly tailored and spectacular in its craftsmanship, few of us can afford to do it ever, much less on a regular basis. So for you, my faithful readers, I offer you the budget versions of some seriously pricey designer duds. I'm sure your wallets will thank me.

First, a Michael Kors pink strapless sheath, selling at Saks for nearly $1600.00. And yes, it's pre-order only. The pink ditty next to it? Sells for $14.50 at Forever 21. No joke.

Maybe you're the type who likes prints. This sleeveless David Meister print dress sells for a mere $388.00, but you can have the Forever 21 counterpart for $24.80 if you like.

I love a good ombre dress and this first one certainly doesn't disappoint. I would hope not for just over $300 at SALE price. I think I even like the Forever 21 version a little more and it's nearly 1/10 the cost at $36 (full price).

Honestly, this post could go on forever, but I think you get the idea. Some of my favorite discount stores are TJ Maxx and Marshalls because they have designer clothes heavily discounted, so you might even stumble across the real thing! Also, depending on where you live, you could try SYMS. There are HUGE bargains to be had there. But remember, when it comes to a beautiful designer dress, first determine exactly what it is that you like about it and then see if you can find those qualities in a less expensive version. Chances are, you can. Also, lots of designers are working with stores like Target to create ready-to-wear lines that are very afforable. In the meantime, if anyone sees a knock-off of that Badgley Mischka, let me know!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shop It To Me!

Isn't this dress fabulous?
And what about these shoes? They are SO fun!
Don't you love this Michael Kors bag? So chic!
What do all of these things have in common? They were all delivered to my email inbox at HUGE markdown prices- we're talking more than 50% off- by And the best part is that I chose which designers clothing, shoes and accessories would be included in these emails. It's like having my own personal internet shopper! Not only does Shop It To Me allow ME to select which designers discounts I want to hear about, but it also lets ME choose the frequency of the emails I receive, even going so far as to let ME choose which day or days the emails arrive. It's fabulous. AND free! No joke! I've been receiving their emails for a few months now and I have to say, I love it. Even if I don't buy anything for a while, it's nice to see what kind of deals are out there. I love it!

Style Phrase-ology

It's easy to be intimidated by the fashion industry- there are so many designers, constantly changing trends and styles, a plethora of terms to know- it can be difficult! Over the next few weeks, I'll be publishing posts similar to this one in order to cover some of the most common fashion terms. Isn't crazy that there are too many to cover at once? Today, the focus is on terms related to the shape of a garment.

A-line: A skirt shape that is narrow at the top and flares out to the hem, thus creating a shape that resembles the letter "A."

Bateau neck: Also called a boat neck, this high neckline runs straight across the front and back.

Bell sleeve: A sleeve that gradually widens from the shoulder, creating the shape of a bell.

Bias cut: Fabric that is cut on the bias is cut at an angle to the weave of the fibers. This causes the fabric to drape differently than it would if it were cut straight, generally creating a more figure-hugging garment.

Boot cut: A style generally reserved for jeans, boot cut refers to fitted jeans with a slight flare at the bottom of the leg that allows for a tall boot. Flared and bell-bottom jeans are far more exaggerated in their shape.

Cap sleeve: A small sleeve that falls just barely past the shoulder "capping" the top of the arm.

Circle skirt: A skirt that is cut literally in a circle. If you were to lay it out flat, the skirt would form a circle with a much smaller circle in the middle for the waist. Because of the cut, the skirt is voluminous, but lacks gathering at the waist as is often common with full skirts.

Dolman sleeve: A sleeve that is cut from the bodice of a garment that narrows at the wrist. Also referred to as a "batwing sleeve."

Double breasted: A style of jacket in which the front sides overlap each other with a double row of buttons or closures. Very boxy looking and often difficult to pull off. Pea coats are a popular double-breasted jacket.

Dropped waist: A dress or top with a waistline that falls below the natural waist, used to elongate the torso.

Empire: A waistline that starts just below the bust. Very flattering on nearly any body type, but it especially makes the most of a small bust.

Fishtail gown: A dress that is fitted through the bodice down to the knee, then flares outward dramatically in the shape of a fishtail. Also known as a mermaid, trumpet or fit-and-flare.

Halter neck: A neckline that wraps around the back of the neck, often creating a backless, or low back.

Handkerchief: A hemline that falls at angles, creating points rather than a smooth line.

Pencil skirt: A fitted skirt that tapers to the knee.

Pleats: A sewing technique in which the fabric is folded and then stitched at the top, creating more volume. Box pleats are the type generally used on traditional cheerleader skirts, while knife pleats are all folded in the same direction. Pintucks are extremely narrow pleats that are stitched down the length of the fold.

Princess seams: Vertical seams that run along the front and back of a garment, creating a narrow line and taking the shape of the garment in towards the body.

Ruching: When fabric is gathered together and secured in place. It's often a very flattering detail on gowns and dresses, but ruching details can appear almost anywhere.

Scoop neck: A low, U-shaped or rounded neckline.

Shift: A dress with a simple, straight cut.

Split neck: A scoop or rounded neckline that has a center cut-out that forms a small "V."

Square neck: Exactly what it sounds like, this neckline forms the shape of a square.

Straight: Skirts or pants that fall vertically from the hip- no taper or flare.

Sweetheart neck: This graceful neckline forms the shape of the top of a heart over the bust.

Trumpet sleeve: Similar to a bell sleeve, but the flare begins at the elbow and flares out dramatically like the bell of a trumpet.

Tulip skirt: A skirt with fullness at the waist that tapers in at the knee, like the shape of an inverted tulip flower.

Tunic: A top or dress in a boxy shape that has no darts to create shape.

V-neck: Once again, this one looks exactly as you would suspect- the neckline forms the shape of a "V."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's a wrap

Today we celebrate an iconic style: the wrap dress. I wore a faux-wrap to work today, so perhaps that's why it's on my mind. I'm sure few women today are aware that Diane von Furstenburg is the woman responsible for making it a truly iconic item. In the early 70's she introduced a knit wrap dress in bright colors and prints popular at the time.

An example of her invention is still on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The wrap dress is wonderful because it never goes out of style and it looks good on nearly any body type. All you have to do is find the one that works best for you. My "faux-wrap" today was a basic black nylon jersey, but I'd be comfortable in a print as well. The sleeves hit my elbow and the skirt falls just below my knee. I love the simplicity and versatility of the dress, plus it's incredibly comfortable. It's been more than 30 years since the dress pictured above was in fashion, but DVF's wrap dresses today are not at all dated.
This eyelet version has a vintage feel, but the light fabric, short sleeves and the full skirt feels more like a throwback to the 50's.
This bright print has wonderful 70's details- the shorter skirt, the bell detail in the sleeves- and yet it's still very modern.

I love the way the fabric of this one evokes the feeling of a shirt-dress while the ruffle detail on the neckline and sleeves adds a more feminine touch.

Honestly, DVF's wrap dresses come in too many fabric choices to list them all here, but it would be well worth your time to find the one that works best for you and then add it to your wardrobe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Top Ten for Men

As you know, I currently live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I am frequently horrified by some of the fashion disasters I see. One that's prevalent down here that truly makes me cringe is a guy in a sleeveless "muscle" shirt or tank top. I have one word: Ew. I understand that type of shirt at the gym, but that is the ONLY time it is acceptable. I decided to put together a few Do's and Don'ts for the guys out there. Feel free to ask a question in the comments if any of these are confusing to you.

Top Ten Don'ts:
10.) DON'T wear a Cosby sweater. Ever. Even if you are trying to be ironic.
9.) DON'T wear pleated pants.
8.) DON'T wear denim shirts. (Unless you work on a ranch.) Also, DON'T wear a denim jacket with jeans.
7.) DON'T expose your underwear.
6.) DON'T wear white socks unless you're at the gym.
5.) DON'T pop your collar.
4.) DON'T wear a parka with a blazer. Get an overcoat, guys.
3.) DON'T be afraid to accessorize. It's not just for women, you know.
2.) DON'T wear plaid flannel shirts. (Unless you're a lumberjack.)
1.) DON'T wear ill-fitting clothes.

Top Ten Do's:
10.) DO wear a cashmere sweater.
9.) DO invest in a nice, well-tailored or made-to-measure suit.
8.) DO wear colors. Pink's the new black, gentlemen! :-)
7.) DO carry a briefcase, NOT a backpack. You are a grown-up after all.
6.) DO sport a turtleneck, but make sure it's knit, not jersey.
5.) DO buy new underwear frequently. As soon as undergarments start to show wear, it's time for them to go.
4.) DO try your clothes on before you buy them.
3.) DO get a nice haircut. And manscape. A mullet, a ponytail or a unibrow can ruin your whole look.
2.)DO take care of your clothes. Follow the instructions on the label. They are there for a reason.
1.) DO listen to a woman's opinion about your clothing more than you do a man's.

I hope this is helpful to all you guys out there. As I mentioned above, feel free to post a question in the comments of this post and I'll be happy to answer them.

Shoesday Tuesday

I mentioned yesterday that I'm addicted to accessories, particularly shoes. I did not lie. To me, shoes are a fun way to add color and visual interest to my wardrobe. I walk taller in a great pair of shoes, and not only in the heels, although those help with my 5'4" stature! Shoes are magical to just about any woman. I love to watch that makeover show What Not to Wear and I especially love how so many of the women on that show will perk up in a shoe store or shoe department. A woman might be overwhelmed and frustrated trying to find pants, tops, dresses, etc. but send her to a shoe store and suddenly that credit card is burning a hole in her pocket! She's rejuvenated and excited. What is it about shoes that does that to us?

Recently, I was shopping in a department store where I had a 25% off coupon. I saw these shoes and I fell in LOVE:

I wish you could feel how soft the leather is. It's red patent, but it's the smoothest, softest patent leather I've ever encountered. The shoes are Steve Madden and they were available in several neutrals such as black and tan, but the ruby red is what spoke to me. I couldn't help myself- I tried them on. Isn't that always the kiss of death for our bank accounts? What about shoes makes it so hard to walk away? Once they were on my feet, I fell deeper in love, but I had already decided that they were too expensive. Then I remembered my coupon. The saleslady who had pulled my size was not around, presumably helping another customer. Another gentlemen was at the register and I asked how much they would be with my coupon.

"The coupon doesn't include shoes. Read the fine print."

Curses! Foiled by the fine print! But at this point, I was so deeply in love, I was considering getting them anyway! Such is the power of a beautiful shoe. I was helpless to the draw of it. My original saleslady returned and she saw the look in my eye.

"They look amazing on you!"

"I know- they're fantastic! However, your coworker says that my 25% off coupon doesn't apply to shoes," I caught her eye, "but something tells me that you're going to give me the discount anyway, right?"

A pause. I held my breath. "Sure. Why not? You love them."

"Sold! Ring 'em up!" And with that, they were mine.

She'll always be my fairy godmother of shoes. It makes me understand why Dorothy was willing to risk life and limb to get to the wizard in her ruby slippers, the most famous shoes in the world. Did you know that in the original novel, the magic slippers are actually silver? When the movie was made, technicolor was a new technology and the producers decided that red would have more visual impact than silver. Well, duh!

What's the story behind your favorite pair of shoes? Were they an unexpected bargain, like mine? Or a splurge you'll never regret? Maybe they're a pair from your childhood or a special event. I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Accessories Anonymous

My name is Renée and I'm addicted to accessories. Is there a support group for people like me? In all honestly, I don't think it's a bad thing. After all, accessories are the key to completing an outfit and to showing your personality through clothing. Even if you work in the most conservative office with an archaic dress code, accessories are the key to style freedom! The most boring suit can be jazzed up in a heartbeat with the right accessory. I'm most addicted to pins and shoes, but I also really love earrings, scarves and handbags.

Pins and broaches seem to be gradually becoming my "signature" accessory. I especially love antique and vintage pins in enamel finishes- the colors are so bright and fun. I also love pins with lots of crystals that sparkle and of course, anything floral. Some of my favorite pins are fabric flower pins that I got at Ann Taylor SUPER discounted for $3 each. Obviously, accessories don't have to be expensive for me to fall in love, but I'm afraid that lately I seem to have more expensive taste. Today I went "antique-ing" with a friend of mine and fell in love with SO many beautiful antique and vintage pins. Too bad most were too expensive for my bank account! I wish I had my camera with me to share them ALL with you! I honestly could have spent the ENTIRE day just staring at all of the gorgeous pins. So many were gorgeous crystal broaches in amazing settings. The first antique shop we went to was preparing for an auction and they had what seemed like dozens of beautiful cameos. I decided today that a cameo is going to be my next investment piece. I admit, it will be difficult to pull it off, since they are very dated-looking. The key to incorporating something so old-fashioned is to make sure you pair it with something else very modern. I fell in love with a robins-egg-blue cameo pendant that will be going up for auction on later next month and I'm SO tempted to bid on it. I'd never seen a cameo in such an interesting color before - it's such a special piece. Had it been for sale, I probably would have bought it then and there. Instead, I made note of the auction date and moved on to the next antique store. I fell in love with an absolutely stunning pin that I will have to photograph and post on here because it is simply too amazing to describe. I promise I'll photograph all my favorite pins to show you and I'll make sure to include the new pin.

In the meantime, leave a comment to tell me about YOUR favorite accessories. What do you love about them? Where did you get them? What makes them so special to you? Anything you want to tell me about them, I'd love to hear.

Staying Dry in Style

I'm leaving at the end of the week to take a vacation "up north" in New England. My family still lives in New Hampshire and we're going to spend a couple of weeks in Maine not far from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I'm really looking forward to the vacation, but I'm a little nervous about the weather. According to my mom, last month it rained 26 out of 30 days up there! Talk about dreary and dismal! I'm praying for good weather while we're in Maine, but I'm not stupid- I'm bringing an umbrella. There's one that I borrow from work a lot- it was a rejected prop and I absolutely love it. It's the size of a golf umbrella, but made of clear plastic and trimmed in white. In my opinion, it's a perfect umbrella and big enough for two people to comfortably stay dry. I don't use it when walking through a crowded downtown area because I think the size gets in the way, but other than that, I absolutely love it. I think I love it so much because of the dramatic nature of its size. It adds a touch of whimsy to my day- I feel a little like a cartoon character carrying it in the rain, especially if I have my Tiffany blue galoshes on as well. Even without the galoshes, it's a fun accessory that I never expected to enjoy so much. For the longest time, and umbrella was nothing more than a functional object, but once I discovered the big, clear golf umbrella, my whole perspective changed. I'd recommend adding a whimsical umbrella to your life- you'll be amazed at how much it lifts your spirits on a cloudy, wet day.

Here are a few that might spark your interest all available at
First, the "Big Flower" a personal favoriteHow about the "Aqua Clear Polka Dot?"For the adventurous lady, here's a mini umbrella, the "Cheetah." This one is (another) personal favorite, the "Peacock."Maybe you don't want to make a statement to the world, but rather keep the whimsy to yourself. This umbrella offers YOU a touch of levity while showing the people around you a simple black canopy. The "Sky Umbrella."
Even if these are a little too eye-catching for your taste, sometimes just a pop of color is enough to add a little cheer to a rainy day. Bright red is an easy color to find, as is royal blue. If you're adventurous you might consider sunshine yellow (for a little irony) or kelly green. There are dozens of websites just like this one that can help you pay homage to your favorite city or artist through your umbrella choice. The sky's the limit (pun intended) when it comes to staying dry.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hat trick

Hats are such a fun accessory to have in your wardrobe. They can finish off an outfit in a stylish way, PLUS they're really practical in any season. In the fall and winter they can keep you warm and they shade your face from the sun all year long. Stop thinking of hats as your solution to a bad hair day and start thinking of hats as the route to a good style day. First, a couple of hats to try:

Newsboy caps:
These hats are ADORABLE!!! Almost anyone can pull one off. And they come in an endless array of fabric and colors (which is part of the reason why just about anyone can pull them off). The one pictured here is houndstooth, but they're also available in leather, cotton, corduroy, knit, crochet, wool, canvas, linen, denim, velvet, tweed, fleece, suede, chenille, herringbone, houndstooth, vinyl, satin, sequin, striped, polka-dotted, plaid, floral, glittered, patchwork, metallic, checkered, neon, pastel, etc. Need I go on? There are an infinite number of variations you can find with the fabric, print, color, volume, brim size, etc. First, find the shape and brim that work best for your face, and then stock up on a variety. When topping off an outfit, make sure your hat goes with your outfit, but does not match your outfit. In other words, if you're wearing a brown tweed blazer, top it off with say... a leather cap. Contrast between cap and outfit is a good thing. Similar caps include the Ivy cap, and the painter's cap (also known as a jeep style army cap).
Fedoras can be much harder to pull off than newsboy caps. For starters, finding the right fedora can be a lot more difficult even though the options are generally far fewer than that of the newsboy cap. Women and men alike should stick with a narrow brim, or risk looking like Al Capone or Indiana Jones. A fedora can dress up a pair of jeans in a snap, so give it a whirl! Straw fedoras are best in the summer while wool or felt works better in the cooler months. Women can get away with a contrasting fedora more easily than a guy can, especially if it's wool or felt. In the case for most men, keep the fedora in line with the color of your outfit. If it's mostly black, then wear a black fedora, but don't feel too constricted- any shade of grey will also look nice. If you wear mostly brown, then the same rule applies- any shade of brown to go with your clothing. Not match. Go. For women, it's a good idea to cock the hat to one side and men and women should mold the brim to frame your face in the most flattering way.

A beret can be difficult to pull off, especially for men. In fact, unless you're the type of guy who likes to feel like a French poet or a part of some militia, I'd say you should avoid berets all together. Women are allotted more freedom, and there are more options for women as well. Wool, felt, knit and crochet, to name a few. In addition, a beret can have a youthful effect on an older woman and a maturing effect on a youngster. It also suggests a bit of whimsy and lightheartedness. As for how to wear it, some like to cock the beret off to one side like in the picture, or wear it set back on the back of your head. NEVER wear it straight on the top/center of your head- that's just silly! And make sure it's not too floppy or you'll look like you're on your way to the Renaissance Faire. I love a wool beret in the winter as a ski-cap alternative and loosely crocheted berets are chic in the spring and fall and add a touch of visual interest to just about any outfit.


Visors and ball caps:
Unless you are on an athletic field or in the stands watching a game, please avoid both visors and ball caps. For men, a ballcap is perfectly fine for a casual outing like a cookout, but ladies trust me when I tell you it is doing you NO favors. You're better off with a newsboy or painter's cap if you're doing something active, or a wide-brim straw hat if you need coverage.
Cowboy hats:
Are you at the rodeo? Running a cattle drive to the ranch? Driving a tractor? On stage with Garth Brooks? If the answer is no, then please don't wear a cowboy hat.

Wide brim:
It's one thing if you're on the beach in a classy wide-brim straw hat and Jackie O. sunglasses. It's another if it's embellished or rolled brim. The former will make you look like Mayim Bialik a.k.a. "Blossom" and the latter will make you look like Debbie Gibson. Not Deborah. Debbie.
Here is an acceptable wide brim hat:
Keep in mind that the size of this hat will not work for everyone while others can have one with a brim inches wider than this and still pull it off. As a general rule of thumb, the brim shouldn't extend too far beyond your shoulders unless you're attending the Kentucky Derby.

In closing, if you're uncomfortable in a hat, you're not going to look good in it because you don't feel good. You may have to try on a hundred hats before you find the one that works for you. Don't let that deter you- try them on anyway. Once you have a hat you love, you'll realize it was all worth it.

Fancy label or Knock-off?

I recently read the hysterical book Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello and it got me thinking about fancy labels and knock-offs. I admit, my salary doesn't allow for many expensive purchases, but even if it did, I really don't understand the concept of spending thousands of dollars on a single pair of jeans or hundreds on a pair of boxer shorts. And yes, there ARE boxers that expensive. In Tonello's memoir, the boxers in the Hermes store were $295. If you check Hermes' website today, they're $340. No joke. In the book, Tonello recalls his experience buying and re-selling all things Hermes on ebay, starting with scarves and eventually working his way to the mystical Birkin bag.

In my closet I have one real Coach handbag bought significantly reduced at a Coach outlet store and one real Michael Kors bag that was a very generous Christmas gift from a good friend. In addition to those, I own several knock-offs: a Prada, several Chanel, a Dolce & Gabbana and a Louis Vuitton. Buying those bags was actually a lot more fun than buying my Coach despite their "made in China" inside tags. A couple were picked out of a cardboard box down a side street in New York City, others were from the not-so-fabled "back rooms" of Canal Street, also in New York. If you've never bought a knock-off under questionable circumstances, you should try it- it's a lot of fun. There is NO knock-off Birkin back room in existence as far as I know- only the real thing, and I have to wonder why. Because I'll be honest, if I saw one in a cardboard box or in a sketchy backroom, I'd buy one. It would have to be a pretty color, though. In fact, I own a bag that is almost identical in shape and size to a Birkin. If the knock-off wasn't in good shape, and a color and size I liked, I'd pass on it without a second thought. And if money were no object, I'd probably still go for the fake over the real thing simply because I can't fathom the idea of spending thousands (and I'm not talking 3 or 4, more like 30 or 40) on a handbag. I can barely fathom spending $40,000 on a car at this point in my life. Even that seems excessive.

ebay store currently has three Birkins listed at $80,000! What is it about the Birkin that stirs women up into such a frenzy? I've never seen one in person, only pictures- do they have some mystical quality that inexplicably draws women to them, sort of like a handbag pheromone? I admit they are nice-looking bags, even when they're not made of some brightly tinted crocodile skin, and I'm sure the Hermes "waiting list" only adds to their allure. I suppose to some collectors, they are just another form of artwork and I get that, I really do, but if I was going to drop that kind of cash on artwork, I'm not sure it would be something that doesn't hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal. I agree that great fashion designers ARE artists and their designs SHOULD be compared to famous paintings and sculptures. I don't think that Birkin bags are so spectacularly beautiful that the people who purchase them would place them in the same league as the Mona Lisa or the David. I really do believe they are a coveted status symbol and not a whole lot more.

Hermes silk scarves, on the other hand, are very artistic and unlike the Birkin, there are hundreds of designs to choose from, making them very collectible. However, if I ever stumbled across a genuine Hermes scarf at a bargain price, it's unlikely I would buy it. While I can acknowledge the designs are beautiful, they just aren't my style. Something about the symmetry, or maybe it's the actual designs themselves, but they just don't speak to me. Even with my knock-off handbags that are currently tucked away in my closet, there is one thing I can say about all of them- I like how they look. Not a single one was bought purely because of it's label, but rather because I liked the shape, the "leather," the color, the hardware, the way it functioned. One or more of these qualities was what really led me to the purchase. And yes, it's fun to get the admiring looks as I walk down the street with one of them. My point is that as long as the style of the bag suits you, it doesn't matter whether its label is real or not. You should never buy anything simply for the label, but if you find a designer whose work really works for you and your bank account can handle the purchase, then it's up to you whether or not you think the price is worth it. If it is, buy it and make no apologies. After all, it's art, right?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Incorporating Trends

Do you ever see the "new" trends in a fashion magazine or on TV and wonder how to work it into your wardrobe? I do- all the time. The problem for me is that my body is NOTHING like the models and celebrities who look fabulous no matter what they put on. I'm short, with a belly, big thighs and chest and... well that's all the flaws I'm willing to post on the Internet for now. Anyway, I think that a lot of people hear a fashion buzz word at the same time they see the garment as it is on the runway and they think it's the only way that trend will work. Not true! The key to ANY trend is making it work for you.

For starters, decide why you want to incorporate this new trend into your wardrobe. Is it because you really like it and think it will look good on you? Or are you just trying to emulate a famous fashionista?Is it because your favorite designer has made it the centerpiece of their newest collection? Figure out your motivation and if it isn't a good one, move on. Just because your favorite Gossip Girl wore it doesn't mean you should. Be brutally honest with yourself.

Next, figure out what you like about the trend- what about it is speaking to you? If you can't pinpoint it, move on until you can. Wardrobe choices are exactly that- choices. They shouldn't be random or unfounded. I'm not saying you need to write a thesis on the garment- just figure out what you like. It could be something simple: the shape, color, texture, etc. Once again- honesty is key.

Now that you've decided you like a trend for the right reasons and determined that it can work on your body, then onward! Incorporating trends into your life can be harder and require more thought that incorporating a new boyfriend or girlfriend. You only wish I were joking.

I mentioned earlier my body type is less than ideal for fashion trends. I still do my best to work in the ones I like. For example, volume was hip a few seasons ago- it still is, really. Remember
Christian Siriano from Season 4 of Project Runway? His final collection was loaded with gorgeous, voluminous pieces. Even the thinnest of supermodels and celebrities would have difficulty pulling off some of his couture. But sometimes you fall in love with a designer. It happens. You can't help who you love, right? To make it work on my body, I purchased pieces with strategically placed volume as opposed to all-over-volume. One piece with a little extra fabric was all I needed to participate in the trend. A bold ruffle down the center of a fitted top, or large sleeves on an otherwise basic dress. To help balance the look, I made certain to wear the tallest heels I could handle- added height makes all the difference as I didn't want to look weighted down from the extra volume.

What about trendy prints? Animal prints go in and out of fashion so frequently, it's tough to keep track. If you add the print in small doses, you'll still be part of the trend, but you won't have to be over the top. If leopard is the "it" fabric of the hour, don't waste your money on a floor-length gown, or a trench coat in it. Instead, invest in a scarf, a bag, a pair of shoes, a belt- something small can still pack a big punch especially when it's in a unique print. This rule can apply to super hot "of the moment" colors. Just because the latest style magazine says that lime-green is the new navy blue doesn't mean you have to max out your credit card on everything available in it. A single punch of color in the form a scarf tied to your handbag or around your waist, a bold set of earrings or a chunky bangle bracelet, a cocktail ring or a pair of ballet flats- any of these will do the trick. The key is finding which one works best with your personality. I'm an earring and shoe fan, myself. Also scarves. Scarves are amazing and there are about a million ways to use them.

Another way to make a trend work is to pair it with something classic- dark wash jeans, little black dresses, t-shirts, oxford style shirts, blazers, etc. If you try wearing too many trends at once, you'll just look foolish. Nobody wants to look foolish!

No matter what the trend, there is a way to work it into your wardrobe, so don't give up! But also, try not to get too attached to a trend. It'll be out in a matter of months- that's why they're called trends, right?

Seersucker- it's the new black!

OK, so the title is a bit cheeky, but I really do love me some seersucker. And while it's a great summer fabric for both men & women alike, this post is for the men. I'd hate to alienate any male readers by focusing entirely on dresses and heels. After all, I'm here to help any and all with their fashion and style dilemmas, regardless of gender. So here it is, boys: my summer must-have piece for the stylish guy: A seersucker suit.

For those who don't know, seersucker is a cotton-based fabric that is incredibly breathable, making it a perfect summer fabric. Also, since it has a slightly bunched look to it, it's not stuffy or too formal. The most common color available is the blue and white, but plain white is also fairly readily available. If you know where to look you can find seersucker in pink, yellow, green, peach, black, beige, and many others, but for the purposes of this blog, I'll speak in terms of the two most common options- blue or white. "Why on earth do I need a light cotton suit in some weird fabric?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you. It's an incredibly versatile set of items to own- whether you wear the suit as a whole, or break up the pieces to create different outfits, it will always be a winner from May to September, and even in the winter months depending on where you live. New Orleans? For sure! Miami? Go for it! The Caribbean? Absolutely! Boston. Sorry, only in the summer up there as well as most places north of the Mason Dixon Line. But even as a summer-only suit option, it's worth the investment.

The most important thing when selecting any article of clothing, but especially a suit, is the fit. Choose a cut that flatters your body type. Under no circumstances should ANY man under 6-feet wear a double-breasted jacket. Fortunately, most seersucker suit options are single-breasted, so it most likely won't be an issue, but consider yourself warned. The number of buttons and the length of the jacket is determined by your height and body frame, as is the cut of the pants. Flat-front only, please! Two- piece is fine, three-piece is better. You have more options with a three-piece suit, although they can be a lot more difficult to find. If you're purchasing a made-to-measure suit, ask if they can add a vest.
Now let's discuss how to complete the outfit starting with the suit. A simple white oxford is a classic way to go, but for the more adventurous lad, consider a nice summer color such as blue or yellow, or whatever looks nice with your skin tone. Add a bold tie, loosely tied for a more casual effect and voila! Fabulous! Another option is to wear a colored polo shirt with your suit. Check out these gents:

With ties, the sky's the limit and I'll be honest, the same can be said of the other accessories. Many people ask, "What is the appropriate shoe and belt choice with a seersucker suit?" and the answer is, "Whatever looks good!" It's true- you can wear black shoes, white shoes, red shoes, pink shoes- whatever you are comfortable in (with the exception of athletic shoes). Some even like to pair the suit with a nice pair of leather sandals (not flip-flops), loafers or boat shoes. Depending on your age, you can even get away with a pair of white low-top Chuck Taylors (20-somethings only, please). For belts, anything from white, black or brown leather to grosgrain ribbon or canvas in any color of the rainbow.

Now that you know how to put together the whole suit, let's discuss each as a separate. The pants on their own are a wonderful alternative to khakis. Pair them with a grosgrain belt, loafers and a polo shirt. If it's chilly, add a denim jacket. If you want a suit look without looking matchy-matchy, then top the outfit with a white linen or brushed cotton blazer. The reverse is true for the seersucker jacket paired with jeans or white pants. Nothing says "Weekend at the Cape" like white pants and a seersucker jacket. The jeans make it a little edgier, so go with what works for your personality.

Earlier I mentioned the idea of having a 3-piece seersucker suit. This isn't so much to wear all together, but to split up the pieces for another stylish look:
Some may think of seersucker as a striped fabric and while that is definitely true in a literal sense, you shouldn't think of seersucker as a printed fabric. In other words, just because it's a "stripe" doesn't mean you can't pair it with stripes or other prints. Because the "stripe" is so fine, the seersucker garment actually acts as a neutral and we all know what that means- you can pair it with nearly anything. The possibilities are endless, really. So what are you waiting for? Go out and get your suit before the summer's over! Brooks Brothers is probably the most notable seersucker suit vendor, but you could also try Ralph Lauren (cha-ching), J. Crew (separates, but the prices are great) to any number of custom and made-to-measure shops like Suit Yourself. Or just Google it and find what works for you! Good luck and happy seersucker seeking!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Fashion Show vs. Project Runway

I think it's time to discuss the big, pink elephant in the room. Everyone knows about the nasty lawsuits regarding Project Runway's move to the Lifetime network from Bravo. There's no point rehashing all the gruesome details. When I saw the previews for Bravo's replacement of P.R., The Fashion Show, I admit I was intrigued. Bravo does some seriously good competition reality TV. Top Chef alone is worth buying into the network. Don't even get me started on Top Chef Masters. I have one word: brilliant. As for fashion competition, I knew my loyalties would always lie with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (after all, he did once tell me that I am a fabulous designer, just before he and a handful of other fashion moguls rejected me from Season 5 of Project Runway- it was a great day). As for Heidi, she made being German fashionable. But as much as I love my Klum and my Gunn, I had to at least give The Fashion Show a shot. So I watched the pilot. I could think of one word to describe it: stark. The set, the cast, the hosts- there was nothing exuberant about the show. I felt as though it had no life to it. I knew in the first five minutes that it could never come close to Project Runway. Let me break it down for you:

The Hosts:
Kelli vs. Heidi: To me there is no contest here. Heidi Klum has a long, distinguished modeling career that is still just as hot as ever. Kelli sang back-up for Beyonce and "sat front row to many fashion shows over the last eight years." Yes, that is a direct quote from the pilot episode. When introducing the host/judges, that is how Kelli explained her credentials. Sad, I know. I felt as though Kelli was given catch phrases to use in each episode and they were just terrible. "So-and-so, you are still in this competition, but you are hanging by a thread." It just doesn't have the same impact as Heidi's "Auf Wiedersehen."

Isaac vs. Tim: Once again, no contest. I was actualy really surprised by how terrible Isaac is. He's no stranger to television, but something about his performance in this show fell flat. His catch phrases, "We're just not buying it" and "Buh-bye darling" were so forced and insincere. Tim Gunn's "Carry on" and "Make it work" became catch phrases because they were genuine, not contrived. Finally, Tim Gunn puts Isaac to shame where wardrobe is concerned. There was never a moment when Tim wasn't the epitome of distinguished and sophisticated. Despite being a fabulous designer, Isaac couldn't seem to dress himself all that well for the show. He looked nice some of the time- mostly at the runway show, but so often his outfits seemed ill-fitting and sloppy. I found it very unsettling.

The Cast:
Project Runway: I'll admit that season five (Bravo's last) of Project Runway had one of the worst casts of the show's run. However, they were still far better than this first season of The Fashion Show. On Project Runway, we saw a real progression from seasons one through five. The designers got better and more talented with each season, peaking (in my opinion) with season four. There was always a nice mix of perspective and experience- designers with a vintage approach, others almost futuristic in their fabrications, some fresh out of fashion school, others with established boutiques and clientele. Even more importantly where television is concerned is the fact that their personalities were as varied as their educations and backgrounds. There was always someone that you loved to hate, another who tugged at your heartstrings, one who was incredibly cocky, but talented enough to back it up, a bad boy who cries in the end, the girl next door, and the out-there-innovator who no one really understands. But the bottom line was that they made for a diverse mix who, no matter their background, were a VERY talented bunch.

The Fashion Show: I think the biggest issue with the cast of the Fashion Show is that so many were not all that talented. I'm not saying they couldn't sew (although some of them couldn't), but rather that there wasn't a single one who seemed to have anything new or innovative to show us. Until Anna's "cup dress," I felt as though every week I was seeing boring, lifeless, re-hashed designs that completely lacked inspiration and exuberance. Even Anna's "pleating detail" on her Coco Chanel homage was starkly reminiscent of LeeAnn's "wave" concept from the finale of P.R. Season five. Also, this season felt as though the producers were trying to cast personality over talent. Not good personality, but rather strange, eccentric personality that they think will make for good TV. What we ended up with is a bunch of talentless weirdos who we hate, but not in the good "love to hate them" way. We just plain hated them.

The Set:
Project Runway: The workroom is bright and clean and 2 walls are lined with dress forms- one with losing designs, one with winning designs. It's a nice reminder of episodes past. The runway is clearly in a studio, but the lighting is bright and focused. The set is simple and provides a neutral backdrop that allows the designs to shine while still feeling rich. I love the white back-lit screen that shows each design in silhouette before it appears on the runway. It's dramatic, and effective.

The Fashion Show: The workroom is fine, but we never really get a great sense of how it's set up. My real issue with the set on this show is both the runway itself and the "dungeon" where the designers prepare their models. And I do mean "dungeon." The designers clamber down steep steps into a gray, dismal space and await their models who are upstairs somewhere in hair and make-up. I never once got the impression that the designers were involved in the hair and make-up process, which seems so important to me, but I digress. Finally, the entire set in the dungeon and on the runway is all in this hideous slate-grey. The harsh lines of the triangular "runway" are bizarre and only contribute to the starkness of it all. That is the word that continually comes to mind: stark.

The Format:
Project Runway: I love how Heidi introduces the designers to their challenge and then doesn't see them again until the elimination. Tim Gunn is their mentor and therefore NOT a judge. He discusses this in his blog and explains that with all the time he spends discussing their designs and coaching them along, it really wouldn't be fair for him to then judge the designs as well. Also, with P.R., the producers give the viewers enough explanation- of the challenge, the guest judge, the budget, the twists, etc. but they don't overload us. Also, because P.R. is a contest not only for the designers, but for the models as well, we as an audience become more emotionally invested. Speaking of emotionally invested, I think it's great how Tim Gunn visits each of the finalists in their own space and learns not only about their collection, but about their family, friends and environment. It also preps us for the final runway show so we feel like we understand completely what we're seeing.

The Fashion Show: I think the format falls short in two ways that almost seem contradictory. First, they try to cram too much into an episode. Much like Top Chef Quick-fire, the contestants are given a mini-challenge to start each episode which results in a significant advantage for the winner. After the mini-challenge, they are given their elimination challenge. Second, I don't think we as viewers are given enough information about the elimination challenge, the designers' processes (especially where hair, make-up and accessories are concerned) and budgets are rarely mentioned, if at all. The show instead focuses on the designers' catty "interviews" where they mostly criticize each others' work and extoll their own designs as the most amazing we'll ever see. Overall, it just feels awkward from start to finish. Finally, there is never an opportunity (not that I want one) to become truly emotionally invested in these designers. Because we aren't given enough information on their challenges and processes, we don't feel a strong connection to begin with. Also, our only insight into the finalists collections is the brief sentence or two when Isaac questions them about how they worked on their collections. I don't even think a reunion special would have helped, but it would have been better than nothing.

Honestly, I could go on and on, comparing and contrasting every detail of both shows, but I think I've made my point.. Project Runway: You're in. The Fashion Show: Auf Wiedersehen.

Who's your style icon?

I'm starting to get a little bit sick of EVERY vaguely fashionable celebrity being labeled a "style icon" or a "fashion icon." I'm sorry, but the Olsen twins are NOT style icons. Suri Holmes is NOT a style icon. (Although, she is pretty adorable.) It used to be that style and fashion icons were the people who created the new fashions and style ideas. These days, it seems like every reasonably well-dressed actress or pop musician is being slapped with that label, when the reality is that they all have stylists who choose 99% of their attire for them. When I think of a style icon, I think of Coco Chanel, Elsa Shiaparelli, Givenchy, YSL, Jackie O., even Audrey Hepburn before I think of present day celebutantes. Granted, many actresses, musicians, heiresses, etc. are venturing into the fashion industry, creating their own lines of clothing and accessories, but I guess in my opinion, the terms "style icon" and "fashion icon" are being tossed around quite a bit lately. It seems every recognizable name who tries their hand at fashion design is suddenly an "icon." I think that for the everyday woman trying to decide who to emulate in her own day-to-day attire decisions it can be a little daunting. I suppose the flip-side of that is that we all have SO many choices that no matter what your preference, you're bound to find someone who speaks to your sensibilities.

Let me break it down for you.

Are you the type who is willing to take risks with fashion? Are you edgy and unafraid of the avante-garde? Do you think of your clothing as a form of wearable art? Your style icon is
Victoria Beckham. She is a serious risk-taker when it comes to fashion, but she pulls it off flawlessly.

But maybe you're not a real risk-taker. Do you prefer clean, crisp outfits in classic silhouettes to match your girl-next-door perfectly coiffed hair and flawless make-up? Is your look polished without being stuffy? Maybe you like a little bit of a vintage feel to your clothes. Your style icon is
Reese Witherspoon. On the red carpet, she channels old Hollywood glamour with a modern take, and out on the street, she keeps it basic, but chic.

For some, classic is too passe. Are you the type who loves to stand out in the crowd? Not in the edgy sense, but in the over-the-top-glamazon kind of way. Are you obsessed with luxury? Can't live without your bling?
Beyonce is your girl. Maybe it's the diva in her, but Beyonce knows how to make a statement and that statement is, "I look like I dropped a million bucks on my hair & make-up alone. Don't even ask about the dress."

Let's be honest, not everyone wants to dress like it's red-carpet coverage. Maybe you prefer an effortless, relaxed style, even for a big evening event. You refuse to be a slave to fashion, yet somehow you always look put-together in your own unique way. You've got boho-chic down just like
Kate Hudson. Whether it's simple flats with your jeans, or flowy tops and a pair of sunglasses, you're stylish, but comfortable.

Of course, these are just a few options, but hopefully they'll point you in the right direction. And if there isn't a single person out there who feels like they can live up to your idea of a style icon, then just be your own! More on that at a later date!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I have to admit, I absolutely LOVE that feeling when I see something so beautiful, so stunning, so unexpected, it takes my breath away. I remember the first time I saw this dress was at a home decor store, of all places. It was one of those moments when I was literally stunned- my jaw dropped, my heart pounded and I couldn't get over the beauty of what I was seeing. It's more than just the beautiful silhouette, and of course the amazing fabrication to create the butterfly wings- it's a dress that is truly magical. Even looking at it now as I type this blog, I'm completely in awe of it. Type "butterfly dress" into google and you'll not only see this amazing creation, but also any number of silly-looking costume-y outfits. Not a single one compares. Even though this dress takes the concept to the limit, it works flawlessly. Designed by Luly Yang, a Seattle-based couture designer, it's probably her best known work. If you have the time to visit her site and watch some of her fashion shows, it will be time well spent. She is a designer who truly understands drama. As for the home decor store- well, apparently an artist was inspired to use the dress in his artwork. So, no, this is not a vintage cover of Couture magazine. Here's the dress displayed in Yang's Seattle shop:

Have you ever seen anything so stunning? It is at this very moment making my heart race.

What's your new black?

"It's the new black!"

"Pink's the new black!"

"Orange is the new pink!"

"Blue is the new red!"

"Red is the new neutral!"

The phrase has certainly become cliche and laughable over the years, but ultimately the idea remains the same. It's all about inspiration and freshness. The fashion industry is one that changes too quickly for most people to keep up, so why not pick your own "new black?" The idea is that black is a staple, a go-to option that works in almost any situation. (Which is why some of those variations are so laughable- "Pink is the new black?" Maybe for Elle Woods, but not for the masses.) Black is versatile and looks good on everyone. And if you look good, you feel good, right? But for me, it's all about style. That's a good one- "Style is the new black." Style is about your own perspective- it's taking "the new black" or whatever is trendy and "it" right now and adding your own spin on it. Or ignoring the trends completely because they just aren't "you." It's a bit of flair in the form of an accessory, or the way you tie your scarf, a vintage piece, or a new way of using something from the past. Trends will come and go. There will always be "a new black." So find what inspires you and make that YOUR new black.
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