Sunday, December 16, 2007

Color Palette: Rust, Canary and Navy

It's common knowledge that I love navy and brown. But here's a little twist on those familiar favorites: rust brown, canary yellow and navy blue. Hello! Is this fresh or what? The yellow perks the others right up and the rust is a litle more studious and unexpected than the usual chocolate.

Then I saw these other two pieces which I think appeal largely because of their colors. (Though the silk fabric of the skirt is always nice and the sculptural gathers on the blouse are unique-good.)

Silk skirt and silk georgette top both by All Dressed Up. All three images from Lucky, January '08.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Flippy Skirts

Lately I've been really excited about flippy skirts, like these two. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I broke down and bought the Frye Engineer boots I was drooling over a couple of months back and have been wearing them constantly with nubby tights and short flared dresses and skirts. There's just something so practical and cozy, but still pretty, about the look, even more so when a sweater is also involved. (The boots were also first rate for shoveling out after yesterday's huge snowstorm.)

I like the two pictured skirts because despite their girlish shape, they still have a touch of elegance. The very large scale lace is fresh (and a nice change from the more common smaller scale patterns) and the wool blend has the look of raw silk, which is lavish and wonderfully tactile.

Now if only designers could get on board with the fit of these voluminous skirts. Even on the tiny sizes, the waists are always huge. Who wants something so giant that it barely stays up on the hips and constantly swivels around? The wool blend skirt looks like it might be a candidate for a well-anchored fit, but the lace one sadly appears to be a low-rider.

Lace-trimmed skirt by Binetti. Gray and white wool blend skirt by 3.1 Phillip Lim. Images from Lucky, January '08.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And The Winner Is...

At this time of year the glossies are full of features about party dresses and stores are brimming with evening frocks. This makes perfect sense given that the holiday season is upon us and people have more social functions to attend. Nevertheless, something about this once-a-year display saddens me. Pretty, sexy and flirty dresses shouldn't just be for the year's end. We should be glamming ourselves up and stepping out in all seasons! (Plus, if you adopt this mindset you'll always have enough of a stockpile that you can bide your time until the lovelies go on sale.)

Maybe because many people do wait until this time of year to buy an evening dress, the choices seem overwhelming. If you don't know your taste and style in formal evening clothing, then of course it will seem like buying a costume. When fantasies play themselves out at Halloween it's expected, but for real social engagements, the fantasy element looks a lot better when it's tempered to bear some relation to your actual day-to-day fashion sense. If your usual look is sleek and black, now's not the time to go all out with a voluminous shape and a bright print. One or the other if you need a change, I'd say.

So far, amid the abundance of options, my favorite dress is this one:

I've been obsessed with feathers since my trip to Vegas and the Rainbow Feather Company (*the* place for only-in-Vegas souvenirs). The feathers at the dress' neckline are charming and the large-scale lace print at the hem is pretty, but also grown-up. The dress articulates the right kind of fantasy, not because of the whopping $13,000 price tag, but because it's in keeping with my usual style: neutral colors, classic, body-conscious shapes, feminine and, when possible, opulent touches. I imagine it would make me feel the way any good cocktail dress does: like myself only better.

Dress by Yves Saint Laurent. Image from Harper's Bazaar, December '07.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Breaking the Rules

That old fashion dictum that you shouldn't wear more than one boldly-printed item per outfit is so deeply etched in my mind that I have a hard time questioning it. I'll happily wear the leopard print shoes, but not with a leopard print blouse. Despite the fact that I embrace mixed and layered prints in interior decorating, that attraction doesn't affect the way I dress. Until, perhaps, now.

I love the more-is-more aesthetic of this Gap ad. Even though the two striped items bear identical patterns (rather than ones that just use the same color palette), the outfit still works, coming across as playful, even joyous. It doesn't overwhelm because the rest of the outfit is completely tame, comprising the simplest shapes, textures and colors. All you focus on are the stripes, and without them, the clothes would be utterly bland. I also wonder whether the fact that the patterned pieces are at opposite ends of the body, with the plain fabric giving the eye a breather, keeps the prints from being too busy. I won't be racing out to Gap to buy these matching pieces, but I do intend to keep their styling idea in mind for future outfit inspiration.

Gap ad from Lucky, December '07.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Styling Idea: Scarf Under a Cardigan

Stick with me here but I found a terrific styling idea in a pretty unlikely place - the latest issue of "O". Here it is:

I love cardigans and am always on the lookout for new ways to wear them. I never would have thought of draping a scarf under a deep v-neck cardigan instead of wearing a cami or a tank. I'd be a little worried about how well the scarf would stay put as I moved around, put on and took off a coat, etc. but it's so interesting that I'm willing to give it a try. The belt looks like a useful anchor. Also, a scarf woven from textured thread would probably be a lot steadier than one in silk. I love how breezy and seemingly thrown-together a look this is, but at the same time, it's so flowing and elegant. Plus, it's an excuse to wear scarves more often.

I'm cracked up over the fact that the tip is from an article about how to conceal the skin on an aging neck! Though I'm a couple decades shy of having to worry about that, and though "O" isn't a magazine where one would expect to find fashion-forward tips, I'm certainly not above stealing this idea. Which just goes to support my larger belief that style inspiration can be found pretty much anywhere. Happy hunting!

Image from O, November '07.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Plunge-Backed Sweater

When temperatures drop sharply, as they have been in my corner of the world this past week, the inverse relation between literally feeling cozy and "looking hot" becomes increasingly frustrating. I'm intrigued by this sweater because of the potential it suggests for making the chunky knits that are so essential to staying warm in the winter a wee bit sexier. Its plunging v-shaped back, like that of the more familiar open-backed evening gown, suggests a glimpse of a part of the body that's usually concealed. The fact that the sweater is dark so that it contrasts with the pale, neutral-colored bodysuit underneath also references this idea.

I wonder whether a scoop-backed sweater would be even more effective if it had more of a draped "U" shape or whether that would require dialing back on the thickness of the wool to avoid making the whole thing too bulky. I'd like to see how a similar idea would play out in a slightly finer knit and I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for this kind of sweater in the shops.

Sweater by Just Cavalli. Image from Marie Claire, November '07.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Watercolor Stripes

I'm not a stripey kind of girl. Stripes have too much of an athletic connotation for the way I like to dress when I'm not working out or playing a sport. I do, however, love this striped top, and for a very simple reason: I adore anything that looks like it was painted with watercolors. I crave the softness of the hues and the way they blur and blend. Usually, and this instance is no exception, the fluid drape of chiffon communicates the feel of that sort of paint best. The loose cut and light and silky fabric look wonderfully comfortable. I like the wide scoop neckline, too, to show a little skin. I'd probably wear this top to gussy up a pair of jeans (or short shorts come summer, the exercise gods and my thighs willing).

Image from InStyle, November 2007.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Paisley Bikini

A good swimsuit can be hard to find. There are lots of reasons for this. A big one is that swimsuits don't give designers all that much room to manoeuvre. After all, the number of shapes and the type of fabric are fairly limited. With the exception of color and pattern, most swimsuits look pretty similar.

Then there's the issue of figure flattery. Of course you want something that's going to do what it can to distract from the parts of your body that aren't quite how you'd like them. My personal belief is that a bathing suit's ability to do this is entirely minimal. Sure, a large bust needs support and the rule that dark colors are minimizing still applies, but you're basically wearing 2 ounces of fabric. Ninety-five percent of your body is completely exposed and the rest is encased in the thinnest layer of spandex. You can run but you can't hide (besides, running and cellulite jiggle do not a happy combination make).

For these reasons, I absolutely cannot fathom spending a lot of money on a swimsuit. I usually buy them off-season and stash them until I'm next on a sunny beach. I look for styles that are going to be supportive and not dig in at any awkward places, but beyond that, I don't fret much about the cut of the suit. The biggest factor I look for is an interesting pattern or color. For a few years now, I've been buying bikini tops and bottoms at different times and from different places, and have had fun mixing and matching them. I gravitate towards the same colors and patterns as I would in other clothing - nothing garish and nothing completely plain (the all-black swimsuit is dull, dull, dull).

I really like this bikini from the November Harper's Bazaar:

The paisley is playful yet classic. The colors warm but subdued. And I like the subtle cross-over detailing on the top, too. The price is reasonable enough to consider buying even before it goes on sale.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nighty Night

With the slight exception of Elle, this month so far the fashion magazines have been a complete wash-out in terms of inspiring images. Lucky, Marie Claire, Fashion and even Vogue have all been unbelievably slim pickings. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Harper's Bazaar, which should be arriving any day now.

In the meantime, I've been looking at some of the photos from the past couple of months and found two that I haven't yet shared but which continue to impress. Both show loungewear, both are delicate and feminine, but one skews sexy and the other more cozy.

I'm loving cream and black as a color combination right now. So much more old-world than black and white, almost as though it has been faded by time but still with a crispness and a unisex appeal. The colors must be the only gender-neutral aspect of this negligee though. Everything else is so demurely sultry: the dress-like cut, the silk, ribbons and lace, the body-shaping underwire.

Still sexy, but more in a girl-next door vein, is this set:

Of course, it's made of cashmere, so it's soft as opposed to scratchy. I'm thrilled by the lavender color, which seems to have fallen from favor in recent seasons. I love the casually elegant shape of the top, which is loose but not shapeless, with flowing, on-trend sleeves. I'm also a big fan of the pointelle lace-inspired knit pattern on the panties.

It can be hard to justify investing in beautiful loungewear when there are so many gorgeous pieces of clothing that one can actually leave the house wearing. But then again, maybe true style is about what you wear (and do) even when no one's watching.

First image from Harper's Bazaar, October '07. Chemise by Guia La Bruna. Second image from Elle, October '07. Sleepwear by Huit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Prada Prints

Ignore the scowls on the models' faces and focus on the prints. Aren't they charming? It's been a while since we saw these kinds of florals: large-scale flowers, more realistically rendered than stylized, spread out widely across the fabric, leaving plenty of background for breathing space. The colors are fabulous, too. Rich plums, midnight blues and butter yellows instead of the girlish pastel pinks or garish cherry reds that one frequenly encounters with florals. It's also refreshing to see a variety of less commonly depicted flowers like fully blown poppies and mini carnations (or are they asters?) as a variation on the usual theme of roses, roses, roses. Here's hoping that Prada sparks a trend and that we see more of this kind of gutsy patterned fabric showing up on clothes in the next few seasons.

Images from Elle, November '07.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Styling Trick to Remember

I came across an idea I read in the October issue of Elle (which they've in turn borrowed from Marilyn Monroe) and unless I log it here, I'm afraid I'll forget it. It's for styling a cashmere cardigan: wearing it with just the top two buttons undone and without a blouse or cami underneath. I get so used to thinking of a cardigan as a jacket-y layer that it never crosses my mind to wear it as an incredibly soft, sensual, stand-alone shirt. I think this styling trick would be particularly fabulous for a casual evening out.

Minaudiere Magic

Most of the minaudieres out there just don't do it for me. They're too fussy, too flashy. This one's a stunner with a timeless quality and a traditional luxury that it would take a long time to tire of. Despite the fact that minaudieres are impractically tiny and rigid, sometimes their formal precision really is called for in place of a softer evening clutch.

The intricately molded metal on this piece reminds me of my favorite pieces of gold jewelry and I think it would pair beautifully with any carefully-worked gold jewelry. The black lining melts into the shadows and keeps the piece versatile enough for a range of color schemes.

Minaudiere by Yves St. Laurent. Image from Harper's Bazaar, October '07.

Perfect Restraint

As you can see, in this case, less is definitely more. The skirt and top seem to be the epitome of simplicity, but the effect is breathtaking and the look utterly classic. Let's begin with the fineness of the knit and the gorgeous drape of the skirt. It's neither voluminous, nor clingy, and projects complete ease, while suggesting the lines of the body. The knit detailing at the collar and sleeve cuffs is feminine without being frilly, womanly as opposed to girlish. Again, the long short sleeves and shawl neckline were born to flatter. The simple diamond studs are the perfect counterpart to the clothing: when something is so perfect, it doesn't need embellishment.

I wonder if this kind of matched knit skirt and top could usually be worn in place of a suit. Admittedly, the soft lines of knit fabric are instantly more casual, but the conservative silhouette and neutral matched color of top and skirt gesture in the direction of suiting. The look is quiet, polished and pulled-together, but with a gentle confidence that would only perhaps be out of place in the most formal and aggressive environment.

Image from Vogue, October '07.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feminine Winter Layers

These outfits, in an ad campaign for Italian design, totally blow me away. I've been trying to figure out how I want to incorporate more comfortable yet put-together, pale and feminine skirts and dresses into my day wardrobe this season, while layering enough to keep warm. These two images offer some solid ideas that I plan to steal.

First of all, notice that they both employ the 'skirt-over-a-skirt' trend that I noticed early last season and which, I'm surprised to say, I have not yet heard mentioned by a single fashion editor. I'm still loving the look. In both these outfits, the underskirt has a full shape and is made from a textured, solid-colored fabric that has a slight rigidity to it. On top of it, both models are wearing sweater-dresses that are similarly full on the bottom, with gathered waists and fitted bodices. The colors are also kept in the same family.

I like what's going on with hosiery and shoes in the second image as well. Let's leave aside the inherent goodness of the shoes, which are an interesting departure from the ubiquitous plain ballet flat and which, from the red soles, seem to be Louboutins. I love the idea of the lace-pattered knee highs but because knee highs carry a very young connotation, I would probably swap them out for thigh-highs or over-knees. I also like the way the color of the shoes repeat the color of the dress, but that of the socks offers some contrast, while staying in the same family. It keeps the look from seeming too deliberately matched, but keeps the colors quiet.

All in all, an excellent lesson in feminine winter layering.

Clothes by Romeo Gigli for Rebecca Brown. Images from Harper's Bazaar, October '07.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Long Gloves

Ever since the magazines started showing Fall/Winter fashions, I've been thinking about getting a new pair of long gloves, and now that we've had a few days in the 50s and 60s, the urge to bundle up in something cozy is even stronger. Then my October issue of Elle arrived yesterday (all my maggies seem to be arriving late the past couple of months...) and there was this picture in it:

I adore them! First of all, they're extra-long and look like they'd reach well up to one's elbows. Second, I love the mix of materials and the functionality of the places where they're used. You've got leather covering the hand, which would provide the most effective barrier against nipping wind. Then there's the huge, plush, dove grey-tinged fox trim at the wrists, which would peak out right at the edge of a coat's sleeves, making the coat appear luxuriously fur-trimmed. Finally, the length of the arm is snuggled in warm, soft, supple wool. This accessory covers a lot of bases, sort of an all-in-one arm-warmer/sweater/coat embellishment/glove. Plus the black color with loads of texture and hints of grey is just the thing to perk up a basic black wool coat that has been the go-to outwear staple for one season too many.

Gloves by Missoni. Image from Elle, October '07.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lean Fur Jacket

It's a really good thing that I don't own this jacket because if I did, I'd only ever take it off to bathe, and I'm not sure that it would survive the indignity of being slept in.

The jacket sums up one of the things I love about fashion: its ability to transform us by filling our lives with beauty and excitement, to momentarily transport us to a more glamorous time or place. Who wouldn't want a life in which they could wear something like this and look this elegant?

I love the long, luxurious trim at the collar and wrists, the lovely mix of dove and charcoal grey and the impossibly nipped in shape. I also adore the three quarter length sleeves which furnish the perfect excuse for long gloves, the epitome of chic.

The fact that the jacket is something that few people could imagine wearing only makes it more appealing to me. Yes, it's extremely "fancy"; yes, it's made unapologetically of controversial fur; and yes, you'd have to work to figure out the right occasions to wear it. But it seems to me that the inability to think of where to wear something so amazing is a failure of imagination and evidence of a willingness to settle for a life that's not racy and somewhat mysterious. Like most people, I'm a carnivore and a purchaser of leather goods, and I don't see wearing fur as being materially different from eating meat or wearing leather. Fur is incredibly warm, impossibly soft and has long connoted something I love - luxury - so let people think what they like.

Yes, if I could afford it, I'd buy the jacket and wear it to death. Fashion isn't just about clothing the body, after all, it's about living out one's dreams.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Vera Wang at Kohl's

I'm very excited about the new collection that Vera Wang is designing for Kohl's. I've marked my calendar accordingly for September 9th, the drop date, and plan to be at my nearest Kohl's first thing that morning. The fact that the prices aren't bargain basement cheap actually makes me more optimistic that the collection is going to be a strong one, since it hopefully means Vera Wang had some leeway in buying reasonable quality textiles and workmanship. I do wish there had been more or better magazine coverage, beyond the rather lackluster ad campaign in which anything that seems remotely interesting is photographed too close up to actually be able to get a sense of the item's details.

I did, however, come across this straightforward, eminently practical skirt in Blueprint:

It's supposed to be jersey, which should mean a close and comfortable fit, which is obviously key with a pencil skirt.

Then there's this blouse:

This is exactly the kind of delicate, feminine yet modern piece that attracts me to her style. Hopefully the wide, fairly bulky short sleeves would be flattering....

What do you think so far? Are you planning to hit up Kohl's for Simply Vera Wang?

First image from Blueprint, September/October '07. Second image from Vogue, September '07.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Vintage in Vogue

These vintage images are both from this month's Vogue and I thought I'd post them for their inspiration value.

The mood in this first photo is just so *pretty*. I can't tear my eyes away from that hat. Everyone is saying that hats are going to be huge this season and I, for one, hope that they are right. I've loved hats ever since childhood, when a kindly neighbor took me shopping for Easter bonnets with her, and let me try on as many as I wanted. A cloche is a fairly understated shape to wear, and an outdoors-only version in a cozy wool wouldn't seem eccentric. I haven't seen anything currently available that's as nice as this one, though. The delicate, bonnet-like gathers are incredible.

This second image, is obviously all about a vampy-sexy version of femininity. I'm coveting that fabulous coat, oversized lapels, wild zebra print and all.

Images from Vogue, September '07.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Clear Vision

Guess what I'm oogling in this Via Spiga ad?

The clear plastic umbrella.

Umbrellas are such a frustrating accessory. On the one hand, they're almost not an accessory at all, since they exist purely to serve a functional purpose. But on the other hand, if you're lugging one around with you, you want it to be stylish, or at least, not so glaringly unstylish as to detract from the rest of your look.

Manufacturers seem to have realized that there's room for more pizzazz in the umbrella department, but they always err on the side of the too printed, the too colorful, the too directional, the too flashy.

On the one hand when it comes to umbrellas, you want something beautiful, but on the other, you don't want anything absurdly eyecatching. An umbrella is no place to make a statement. Quietly alluring, it should also be cheap enough that if you forget it on a train or at a restaurant, you won't drive yourself half-mad with self-recriminations.

Lately I've defaulted to black, because I keep losing umbrellas and that's what has happened to be the least offensive option in the nearest store when a downpour starts and I realize that I'm umbrella-less. But for a while several years ago, I managed to hang on to a sturdy navy one, which was so completely neutral as not to clash with any possible look, and at least had the virtue of not being dull, ubiquitous black. But it still depresses me every time I reach for my bland black parapluie. As if the gloomy weather weren't downer enough, it's a constant reminder that I've tacitly conceded that this one part of my look doesn't matter.

All of which brings me to the umbrella in the Via Spiga ad. I have no idea whether it's actually sold by Via Spiga, or whether they're just using it as a prop. I'd want to check the price, the quality of the construction and the finish of the handle, as well as learn whether it's the kind of umbrella with a retractable handle that folds up small enough to put in a handbag (really, the only kind worth bothering with). I'm convinced that if Via Spiga doesn't sell one that meets all these requirements, it wouldn't be all that difficult to find.

So there it is, stumbled across in a single image: the answer to my umbrella woes! Not only will it flatter any look, it has moods of its own: ultra-slick/urban and nostalgic/child-like. The clear plastic is a genius solution to the problem of having something unique and infused with personality, but also something that blends beautifully with every color scheme and fashion mood and is likely to be affordably-priced as well. Now I just have to line one of these up before fall begins and the weather turns rainy.

Image from Vogue, September '07.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Head to Toe Black in Ad Campaigns

There are a couple of ad campaigns out right now that are making great use of head-to-toe black outfits. These first two images are in all the magazines right now because they're part of Gap's Fall '07 campaign:

I like this dress so much that when I first saw the ad a few weeks back, I went looking for the dress at my local Gap. It wasn't in stores then, but maybe it is by now. I'm craving a sweater dress this season, but nothing too trendy. For the past few seasons, because of the empire waist fad, it's been hard to find dresses that are fitted at the natural waist. (Shopping for summer dresses this year was such a challenge!) I think this Gap version is a simple, surely inexpensive way to work around the problem. It's so utterly basic that it could never hurt to have it on hand. At the same time, it has the potential to become a foundational favorite, depending on how it fits and the quality of the wool. I like the cap sleeves, which make it office- and winter-appropriate when topped with something long-sleeved. I think I'd be pretty quick to belt it, though it might look surprisingly good belt-free.

These next two pictures are from Moschino's Fall campaign:

Even though the first is an empire-waisted dress, I could see trying to work this item, since it doesn't scream "shapeless sack" or "maternity wear". I think what's helping it is the drape of the fabric, bubble hem and the gathering beneath the bust. There's a little more structure there than with the average empire-waist dress and the bare arms and decolletage would give some sense of the proportions of the body within. For me, it would likely remain an evening look, a way to refresh the silhouettes of my little black cocktail dresses.

Even better than the dress is the skirt and top combo in the second look. The blouse is just great: form-fitting, with delicate ruffles. I also like the textured fabric of the skirt and the overall shape.

I have a feeling that every August, after wearing pale colors all summer, I tend to look forward to the elegant simplicity of black. These images offer some nice ideas and inspiration for ways to wear the look this fall.

All images from Elle, September '07.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Knotted Belt

I like this unusual black and gold knotted belt. One of the magazines last month (Vogue? Harper's Bazaar?) ran a story about how 'in' black and gold are for fall. Well, I'm not sure about that...After all, did they ever go out? Gold accents seem perfectly classic and natural with basic black. For example, a straightforward black leather belt with a gold buckle is pretty standard.

What I like about this belt is that whereas it plays it safe in terms of color, it's flaunting an unusual knot at the front. I admire how structured and substantial the piece looks because of the knot's rigid sculpted contours and the width of the front part of the belt band. It's an accessory that could go a long way toward refreshing a simple black cocktail dress but I'd also try using it to define the waist of a hip-length black cardigan. Finally, I'd want to play up the gold trim by matching it with other gold accessories like gold shoes for evening, or gold jewelry at any hour.

Image from Lucky, September '07. Belt by Anna Vince.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blouses with Ruffles and Bows

Yesterday afternoon I found myself with some time to kill while I was near a magazine stand, so I decided to browse the titles in seach of a promising-looking issue of a magazine that I don't normally read. The pickings were slim, so I settled on "InStyle Makeovers", the special issue of Instyle that comes out each fall.

A little background: Several years ago I was an Instyle subscriber. I've always been bored stiff by the magazine's fixation on celebrities but their fashion section and especially their monthly feature showing complete outfits laid out, sans model, used to have a solid focus on classic, high quality basics. That was back in the era in which they published their book about choosing and styling a wardrobe. About three years ago, something at Instyle changed, and even the fashion picks became so cheap and trend-driven that I'd flip through an entire issue without finding a single item that inspired me. But for a time after the regular issues of Instyle lost their clearheaded fashion sense, the fall special issue would sometimes feature a few gems. Well, I'm sad to report that that last bastion has fallen.

After dutifully plowing through the issue yesterday, there were only three images that inspired excitement amid a sea of indifferent selections and outright horrors. All of them are blouses with ruffles or bows. Now from where I stand, as long as you keep it tasteful and grown-up, ruffles and bows on anything are pretty hard to knock. Here's what caught my eye:

I love the French maid suggestiveness of this blouse. The ribbon-like strips of black add crisp definition to the boxy, pleat-like ruffles. Add a tailored black skirt (or pants, if you must) and black or white accessories and you'd got an outfit. Making sure there's some texture or shine to at least one of the black components of the outfit would kick things up a notch. I'm thinking along the lines of a satin pencil skirt, velvet pumps, a suede or patent bag. Sometimes having a piece that lets you avoid having to think about what to wear trumps having a piece with loads of versatility.

While I think vests are impossibly mannish, I do like the pairing of the blouse and cardigan. The cardigan is sort of grandpa-ish, with its grey cowl neck, but the glam femininity of the silky blouse and outsize bow is a fun contrast that creates a nice balance of masculine and feminine, casual and elegant. The color combination is original but not flashy. You don't often see that shade of orange. The open neckline and long bow seem like they would be create a flattering vertical line, too. (Also notice the cardigan's carefully thought out ribbing that runs horizontally on the sleeves but vertically on the torso.)

I like both these gem-hued blouses (ignore the bobbly white one), though I'm not sure I'd be content merely to pair them with jeans, as the article counsels. I think the amethyst one would be better incorporated into a work wardrobe under a cardigan or blazer and that the deep purple one would be perfect with a structured A-line, or possibly an even more voluminously flared skirt. The latter blouse definitely needs some sharp, simple and slick partners to tone down all those bows up top, but its inverted box pleats and heavy silk are already taking it in the right direction.

All images from Instyle Makeovers, Fall '07. Black and white blouse by LiseLotte Westerlund. Cardigan by Velvet. Orange blouse by Miguelina. Amythest chiffon shell by Nanette Lepore. Deep purple top by Rebecca Taylor.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Large Structured Bags

On my recent trip to Alabama, I made a much-regretted impulse buy. The saleswomen were so nice, the store was about to close and the price was so reasonable. I talked myself into it and am living to regret it. The item? A cream/putty-colored handbag with substantial gold hardware. There's a lot to like about the bag, especially the fact that you can remove the long chain handle and carry it by a short handle, or else you can unfold it and carry it by cut-out handles. So it's actually like three bags in one. But unless I can find a way to incorporate it into my fall/winter wardrobe, it's going to lounge neglected at the bottom of my closet. What I was hoping for was a new summer handbag, but with all that gold, it seems too blingy for my day-time summer clothes and the color is too muddy for them as well.

The trauma of pulling the trigger too fast on a summer bag has led me to muse about fall bags. I'm hoping to chalk my recent mistake up to experience and redeem my handbag-purchasing track record with a solid pick for next season. Here are some of the day handbags I'm eyeing. I notice that they're all large and structured, with short-to-medium length handles.

I probably like this bag because I'm mildly obsessed with diamond patterns, a trait I first observed while choosing fabrics for my apartment. Personally I wouldn't get a lot of mileage out of graphic black and white, but I imagine that plenty of people would.

Love, love, love the unusual but still neutral color on this one. Subtle gold hardware keeps it understated, while the cute, rounded lines and shiny patent finish are playful and vaguely mod.

Now maybe *this* is the kind of summer bag I should have gone for. The ivory color might not work as well for fall, but I love the unusual texture and the way the handle straps are looped though the hardware. The texture and the casual looping remind me of grosgrain ribbon. I also like that the hardware is utterly discreet but the structure and material keep the bag from seeming cheap. Ah, Bottega Veneta, how tasteful thou art!

My favorite thing about this bag is the so-subtle-you'd-almost-miss-them bows. They aren't too prissy, either. I could see this bag traveling through all four seasons.

Eye-catching tapered and ladylike shape. I'm a sucker for textured skins and this rich burgundy has such a luscious, ultra-glossy finish.

First image from Self, August '07; bag by Lambertson Truex. Second image from Harper's Bazaar, August '07; bag by Yves Saint Laurent. Third image from Harper's Bazaar, August '07; bag by Bottega Veneta. Fourth image from Lucky, September '07; bag by MiuMiu. Fifth image from Lucky, September '07; bag by Cole Haan.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Short Boots", not "Booties"

Please don't call them 'booties'. Booties are what babies wear. They're 'short boots', even if it's a more unwieldy term.

I'm planning to buy a new pair this fall, since I've been wearing my bronze Donald J. Pliners for a couple of years now. I like all three of the above styles.

The type in the first photo will, I think, be a better long term investment, since an ankle height boot is classic. They're basic black, but jazzed up with strappy cut-outs which are somewhere between dominatrix and a cursive culicue. Between the strappiness and the heel shape there's something vaguely eighties about them, but I can live with that. The heel height looks nice and walkable too.

The two styles shown in the second photo are much trendier and therefore seem far more up-to-the-minute in comparison. They'd yield greater glory now but have less staying power, so choosing them is a question of being willing to accept the trade-off. I've always paired short boots exclusively with pants and tall boots exclusively with skirts and dresses. I just don't like the hipster look of short boots with a skirt. But these ultra-low boots are practically pumps, so they might force me to reconsider my short-boots-with-pants edict. In the abstract, I prefer the gathered look on the cream pair, but the black are a way to get the style with screaming it.

First image from InStyle, August '07. Black ankle boots by Alejandro Ingelmo. Second image from Vogue, August '07. Cream boots by Christian Louboutin. Black boots by Sergio Rossi.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Update: Christian Louboutin Knotted Heels

The Christian Louboutin knotted heels I wrote about a while back keep popping up, in assorted colors and materials, in all the August magazines. I'm not sure which version I like best, since they're pretty fabulous in any incarnation.

If I were choosing in a void I'd probably go with the rose satin mules, even though they look like they'd be the most difficult to walk in. (Why is it that the most tempting shoes are somehow also always the least comfortable?) I like the black pumps, but I think they're maybe a little too tame for such a great style; the retro knot and ladylike shape deserves something splashier. And while I love the suede of the berry-colored ones, but I think a great pair of shiny grey pumps would best balance versatility and style.

Given how hard it would be to decide, it's a good thing that choosing between them is a hypothetical question: those pricey ladies defintely don't fit my fall fashion budget. I bet that we'll see some knock-offs from Nine West or a similar line in the near future, though.

First image from Lucky, August '07. Second image from InStyle, August '07 . Third image from Harper's Bazaar, August '07.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trouser Jeans

When I opened my August issue of Lucky, I didn't even make it as far as the table of contents before coming across this ad for jeans. I've been looking for wide legged jeans for a while and finally surrendered to a pair I found on sale for $25 at Express a few weeks back. I actually like this pair more because these don't have front pockets and mine do.

A few years back I tried to completely phase jeans out of my wardrobe. I actually succeeded for a while, but eventually a pair or two crept back in. I'm okay with that and conceed that they have their place, but I still prefer jean styles that are as dressy as possible. Hence my infatuation with trouser jeans.

I love this pair for their dark wash, lean fit, and cute sailor pant-style side buttons. I think they'd be nicely curve-skimming on and forgiving for heavier thighs because they gradually flare towards the ankles. I'm curious about whether they have back pockets and would hope not, even though cagily-located back pockets do do wonders for the rear view.

Jeans by Adriano Goldschmied. Image from Lucky, August '08.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Raffia Clutch

I really like how understated this clutch is. Often they're are designed like flashy jewelry, with lots of embellishment and bright colors. There's nothing wrong with that, and glittery ones certainly have their place when an outfit needs perking up. But clutches like that practically shriek: "Here I am, out for a fancy evening!" Sometimes you really don't want to look like you've dolled yourself up in your finest for that rare night out. In fact, usually when I'm going out in the evening, I just need someplace daintier than a tote or a hobo to stash money, keys and a cell phone but the last thing I want is to carry something precious. I think this clutch would be great for those occasions. The color is neutral. The raffia is summery but finely woven enough to still be sleek. The silk ribbon adds a little prettiness and luxury. The one tiny detail I'd change would be to make the clasp were gold, instead of silver. Then I'd want to carry this clutch out every night, all summer.

Clutch by Franchi. Image from Lucky, August '08.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Obi-Wrapped Blouse

This extravagant obi-wrapped blouse further fuels the fire of my obsession with silk scarves worn as belts. The top itself is gorgeous. Really pretty soft colors, delicate fabric and a graceful neckline and drape to the sleeves.

I'm more interested, though, in the waist-cinching sash. The extra-long belt is terrific, wrapped around and around so many times that it almost becomes the main piece of clothing instead of simply an accessory, transforming the blouse into an underpinning. It get me wondering how many tops in my wardrobe could be rejuvenated with a similar, extremely wide swath of opulent fabric. Rich, dramatic, and oh so figure flattering.

Top by Foley. Image from Lucky, August, '08.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Update: White Blouse

I did it! I finally broke the Curse of the White Shirt and wore one out to dinner last night. I think that blogging about my poor, unworn white shirts several posts back finally made me focus on figuring out how to incorporate them into a feminine look.

The answer came in a blaze of inspiration: belt one with a silk scarf! So I hauled out my favorite rectangular scarf. It's a dreamy handpainted piece in watercolor-y shades of cream, soft orange and pale pink. On went the white shirt, on went a trusty beige pencil skirt, on went my strappy, ultra-high heeled, light pink, vaguely metallic Louboutins. The scarf turned out to be the perfect length and width to tie a chubby bow at my hip. With a substantial necklace of highly polished oval stone beads and my go-everywhere beige leather tote, I actually felt great in that white shirt. In the future I think I'll try styling it the same way, but with a more demure shoe, for business meetings.

Fashion problem solved! Now if only I didn't have a sudden, fierce craving for luxurious new silk scarves....

Friday, July 6, 2007

Flippy Tweed Skirt

I think this flippy tweed skirt would be a perfect addition to a fall wardrobe. The classic black and white tweed is a cinch to work into outfits. The flirty shape and length are what made it catch my eye, though. I love that Derek Lam chose a hefty material in order to give structure to the flared silhouette.

The thigh high stockings in the photo are cute, but a little school-girlish for my taste when paired with a twirly mini skirt. Instead, I'd wear the skirt with thick tights, tall boots. and something smooth and curve-hugging up top, like a thin, slightly glossy, silk knit.

Skirt by Derek Lam. Image from Harper's Bazaar, July '07.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bell-Shaped Coat

I know its summer and humid and almost inhuman to even be thinking about winter coats, but I had to post this picture. I have had an obsession with dove grey for winter and spent most of last winter endlessly combing the stores for pale grey clothing. I'm charmed by everything about this coat, including its color. The precisely cut and set sleeves, the huge but oddly graceful shape, and the wide and plush fur trim at the hem are all so appealing.

Coat by Versace. Image from Vogue, July '07.