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.