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.