Saturday, February 11, 2012

Friday, December 09, 2011

Wardrobe Mixology Revisited

Originally published July 2007; posted on blog Oct 2007.
Please keep in mind that I no longer own most of these clothes!! :)

One of the most frequent challenges facing my female clients, as well as one of the most popular questions I am asked, is how to make one's wardrobe more interesting.

For some women, clothes are simply utilitarian and serve a purely functional purpose. These may be the women who have way too many pairs of jeans or call black pants their most valuable fashion asset. Or they may simply be stuck in a style rut - never varying their standard look.
People always know what to expect from them - whether it's a twinset, T-shirt, or even fancy shoes. They may fear that they have become too boring and predictable.
If you're one of those women who routinely plays it safe, but feels uninteresting and knows she is missing out on something, it's time to add some fun to your wardrobe.
And if you're one of those who is routinely fabulous, there is a way to take your fabulosity to the next level.

I get a lot of comments about the way I dress. When women say, "I could never put that kind of an outfit together - how do you know it's all going to work together when you put it on?" My secrets? Start by only buying clothes you love. Dress in what expresses your mood.

And throw them a curve. 

Color and pattern not only communicate our feelings to the world, but they can also have an immediate effect on our own mood!

For more of my secrets for wearing patterns, click here.

Here's how to use this little guide:

We have our BASICS - our base garments. The vodka of our wardrobe. The pieces that can be construed as a little boring if we aren't careful.

But if we don't have these pieces, then our wardrobe has no solid foundation and we may end up looking like we have no clue about how to put an outfit together.

Next, add a SHOT. This is if you're a typically uninteresting dresser, or if you feel like you're missing something. Go for a quick shot of something unanticipated. A bright teal blouse. Red pumps. Zebra print bag.

And if you're a little more daring, throw in a TWIST of the truly unexpected (maybe even over the top) to the outfit. Something that says "WOW". An item that truly sings. A piece that no one saw coming, but makes people stand up, take notice, and tells them that you know exactly what you're doing, stylishly speaking.

Here are a few examples from my own closet:
BASICS - Gray jacket, black pants (boring!) SHOT - Bright red shirt
TWIST - Gold bag and leopard print shoes.
Cool colors and warm colors can go together beautifully.

BASICS - White denim jacket
SHOT - Here, the base garment is the shot - an orange T-shirt and cotton skirt
TWIST - Accessories! Both the necklace and bag had the same colors in them, so I simply pulled out the teal from both and selected patent teal slingbacks.
Casually elegant!
- Dark wash jeans

SHOT - Lemon yellow twinset
TWIST - Red ballet flats and red polka dot tote
Put this together in 2 minutes one day! Looked like I had actually put thought into it.

BASICS - White pants with black pinstripe
SHOT - Black patterned top, gold shoes
TWIST - The straw bag adds another layer to this outfit.
Playing with texture can be fun.

Here are 3 rules for adding color and pattern into your own wardrobe!

1. Have a color palette you shop within. When you find pieces like purses, shoes or necklaces that incorporate a lot of the colors you wear, buy them!

2. Buy items together. If you pick up a pair of great looking royal patent slides, pick up a top that matches them as well as a bracelet or necklace, perhaps. It's not the idea that you will wear all of these items at one time - don't be "matchy-matchy" - the idea is that you have the option to wear a couple of them at a time to look put together.

It does an amazing job of curing "I have nothing to wear" syndrome. Trust me on this.

I say this very seriously. There is a fine line between being enjoying color, pattern and accessories and being a fashion victim. 

Use the rule of two. Wear a maximum of two patterns. Repeat an accent color only twice. Two colors in your outfit gives you a better basis to add interesting accessories.
Of course, rules are meant to be broken, but having the basic knowledge will take your wardrobe to that next level, help you be more daring, and truly enjoy getting dressed and have fun with your clothes. 

Isn't that what it's all about?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Save the Endangered European Tailor!

I'm becoming an activist. I've identified a dying breed and I'm looking for ways to save it.

And by "I'm looking for ways" I don't mean me, per se, but I hope someone is doing something and I'll contribute money to the cause. 

Sadly, I believe tailoring is a dying trade. I'm often asked for referrals to tailors for alterations and all my usual standbys are advancing in age and becoming increasingly cranky as a result - and as you can probably figure out, cranky in Russian, Czech or Italian is every bit as bad as cranky in American English, but with far less words you can understand.

If they want to be annoyed with me for asking for a rush, that's one thing, but they lose my business and all my referral business if they are anything less than pleasant to my clients.

This has been happening all too often lately. They are cranky! I can only assume this is what happened to the dinosaurs before they died out. But unlike the dino population, tailors' skills and expertise are still needed in the modern world. It's not time for them to become fossil fuel or be dug up by archaeologists and placed in museums.

I was warned years ago that Old World European tailors - ones for whom creating bespoke clothing was a noble and sometimes highly lucrative career choice back in their homeland - were a rapidly-dying breed and as far as I'm aware, no one has been trained in large enough quantities and with enough skill and knowledge to take their place.

If you've ever been fitted by a really good tailor, you will not only find out what's "wrong" with your body (most European tailors are not only very skilled, but they also don't mince words), but also how to visually camouflage it so it isn't quite so obvious.

In between telling me Vladamir Putin is the head of the Russian mob and that Putin's mob kept burning down his clothing factories "back in Дніпропетровськ" (which translated in my brain as: "Whatever"/"Oh wait, he's speaking Borat. Borat is funny. *nervous laugh*), my tailor told me that I have a "hollow shoulder." A what? That's what I said. It was also diagnosed by two other tailors, so I know he's not crazy. (No idea about the Putin commentary though.) I still don't know quite what it means and I can't see it myself, but a slightly different shoulder pad shape in a jacket is always the prescription.

So maybe that explains Quasimodo.

Overcompensating "hollow shoulder" shoulder pad
Tailoring is an art form, but also about engineering. There's a big difference between that kind of expertise and what you get at someplace like an Alterations Express. Not to say there's anything bad about having a kwik-E-mart alternative when you need simple tailoring done fast, but there is a definite separation in skill level. In our ever-impatient society, there's room for both types. If a simple hem is needed, that's where I send people. If the darts on a blouse need to be taken in or if I need sleeves shortened (all too common for me), I'll only use a tailor.

I'm concerned about what will happen as these highly specialized tailors keep getting older and closing down their little shops. The youngest European tailors I know are in their mid-40's and work for big stores like Nordstrom and clothiers specializing in menswear.

Our clothes will not stop needing expert alterations. So where will we go?

A new (and hopefully less crabby) generation of tailors is needed. I really hope someone is working on that.

And I'll $upport your cause.

Monday, August 29, 2011

MENSWEAR FOR FALL? No freaking way!

I haven't looked at any fall trend previews yet. It's most likely because I hang onto the last vestiges of summer with the death grip of someone about to fall over a cliff. I'm the last to leave summer and the first to greet spring, which usually happens the second week of February like clockwork. As soon as the brighter, lighter clothes hit the stores, my brain tries to go on vacation.

I have to follow what's on trend each season because it's my job. I'm not a big trend follower personally because I pretty much know who I am style-wise and will only pick up on a trend if it fits in with my fashion personality.(This example of fashion personality is from a few years ago, but if you're unfamiliar with the concept, it's a good starting point.)

A huge pet peeve of mine is buying an item because it just happens to be in the store or it's trendy for a season. Haphazard purchases lead to "so many clothes and nothing to wear" syndrome - the bane of women, the men they seem to complain to, and wardrobe organizers everywhere. (Though, ironically, it's what keeps the huge fashion industry machine churning. Grrrr.)

So we all have to be careful to make smart purchases.

Having said that, if I hear that menswear is "in" for Fall 2011, I swear I will punch someone. Menswear is ALWAYS in for fall, just like bright colors are always trendy for spring. It's a no-brainer, but the fashion magazines need something to write about, so they tend to recycle the same "DUH" advice every year.

So why IS menswear a fall staple?

- It is associated with heavier fabrics, like flannel and tropical wool.

- Its purpose is to be layered.

- It tends to be dark - brown, camel, navy, tan and charcoal. Colors that seem as natural for fall as bright colors are in the summertime.

- Wider legs on menswear-inspired trousers can conceal knee-high boots or booties, especially for professional wear. Boots over jeans are fine for dressing casually, but a high boot over business casual pants isn't recommended.

Menswear styles are a great investment, especially if you wear business casual clothing to work.

Menswear is usually introduced with a few new tweaks every year. You want to make sure what you're buying is as timeless as possible. Here's what to watch out for:

- One year, a lot of pants were double-and triple-pleated, which are okay on tall, reed-thin models, but don't work so great on real world bodies. The same goes for high-waisted pants. Not the most universally-flattering. If a woman is even slightly curvy, they seem to turn her into a balloon. No fair!

- There was a year when double-breasted jackets and vests were in. I would always suggest single-breasted. Double-breasted garments can be like a funhouse mirror - and not the good kind that makes you look long and super-thin. Buyer beware.

Illustrating the funhouse mirror effect, we have Fat Albert and Weird Harold from his gang. Because it makes no sense whatsoever.

- Remember when trouser legs were extremely wide? 2005, perhaps? I happened upon a pair today in my closet. I've been hanging onto them for years. I've kept them around because they fit my fashion personality. I tend to like a little drama. But you have to know what body types they fit and the tricks to dressing around them (i.e., they're better if you have broad shoulders and you can't wear a bulky top or jacket with them or they will add visual poundage. Plus very high heels are a must if your height is short to medium. I'm even pushing the limits with my height, but I like 'em, so tough cookies.)


If we start paying attention to what the fashion pundits and magazines are telling us is in vogue season after season and if we know who we are fashion-wise, we will probably be able to build a wardrobe of classic, yet updated pieces, not spend a lot of cash, keep our closets from bursting at the seams, and always look and feels our best.

And that's all we really want, right ladies?

And if menswear isn't your thing? Eh, no big deal! Wear what makes you happy, comfy and what makes sense for YOU.

Unless it's white hi-top sneakers with cuffed jeans.

But then again, Fat Albert really isn't a paragon of fashion.

Dude, get out of my blog and go back to your junkyard.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

FREE LESSONS!!!! And a Lemur.

This is probably a huge "DUH" moment for most of the people who venture over to my little blog, but I'm surprised to know how many people don't know about this!

YouTube is NOT just for keyboard-playing cats! SERIOUSLY!!! (I know, right?!)

There are literally thousands and thousands of dollars in makeup and hair lessons on there. Totally free! 

A lot of people I know only end up on the site when a video goes viral. But if you look deeper, there's actually valuable information on there. And a LOT of it.

I've been lucky to have the opportunity to take a lot of makeup classes over the years, but most of what I know about styling my hair, I learned from YouTube. And being me, I'm always trolling for new makeup ideas. Sometimes I have my laptop open right next to me and I follow along with a hair or makeup tutorial as if I were taking a class.

Just search for what you need, and a whole world you never even knew you wanted will open up to you.

Like Keyboard Cat being watched by OMG Cat and a some kind of a LEMUR.

Yeah, I never knew I wanted to see that either.

Monday, August 08, 2011

So Long, Scarf Barf Bin!

Admittedly, I rarely wear scarves nowadays and I've only kept my favorites from the days when I used to wear them regularly. For the longest time, I have had scarves galore piled in a plastic bin because I've been looking for a solution which did not involve hanging them on hooks in my closet. I feel like the real estate on my closet walls is too precious for items I don't use often.

My "scarf barf bin" drove me nuts because I would just toss scarves in there haphazardly regardless of quality of materials, each individual scarf's tendency to wrinkle or warp, or the opportunity for them to actually be damaged. It was a mishmash of colors, lengths and seasons (summery light gauze, tangled with orange and black skulls-and-crossbones, for example), plus several of my dog's bandannas thrown in for good measure.

I've been so frustrated but have had no solution.

I found these metal rings at the craft store. They're exactly like binder rings from the office supply store, only larger. I bought the three inch variety to store my scarves. They are $0.77 for a pack of two. Not too shabby.

I decided to hang them from a skirt hanger for two reasons: 1) I want them to hang in my closet with the rest of my clothes so they are close by and will be seen and (hopefully) used, but won't take up valuable wall space on hooks or pegs; and 2) the clips on the crystal hanger will help keep the rings balanced.

Orange skulls & crossbones, second from right. See, I wasn't lying!

I also bought 2.5" rings for my necklaces, but that will be a work in progress for some time. I'm looking forward to showing them off one of these days! (And to being able to find the ones I want when I want them. It has been bead bedlam and choker chaos for too long!!!)

What wardrobe organization dilemmas have been bugging you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strawberry Blonde Firework?

What do you think of the newly blonde Katy Perry? 

She's a natural blonde. Can you tell?

I have a feeling that the makeup colors are exactly right for her natural coloring.
But in the real world, this shade of blonde is far too warm (golden/reddish)
for someone with her coloring.

I think she can get away with it for two reasons -
first, she has the best professionals doing her color (this would NOT be a
home coloring project!!) and second, her personality is whimsical and fun and she doesn't
adhere to convention. Ash blonde would be far less fun on her
and she wouldn't 'pop' on the red carpet.

I would have *literally* killed for this dress when I was 8.

(I think Katy is always adorable. She can't do much wrong in my book.)

A Quick & Cheap Fave

If I buy something over and over again, you know I love it. Otherwise, I will buy every product in that category until I find the one I love. Expensive? Yes, sometimes. Worth it? To me, oh yesss.

I have been buying the following product for over five years now. It just works. It removes my toughest waterproof mascara without irritating my sensitive little eyes.

Neutrogena Oil-Free 
Eye Makeup Remover

This comes in two layers, much like oily salad dressing. But unlike oily salad dressing, it is not delicious. So don't put it on your salad. But like salad dressing, be sure to shake it well and use a cotton ball or cotton pad to gently remove your mascara. Pretty simple. And usually under $6! I keep one upstairs and downstairs by the TV as well as in my travel makeup bag.

It works just as well, if not better, than more pricey products on the market and it's available pretty much anywhere. It doesn't require a special trip to Sephora or to the department store cosmetics counter. And this product works quickly. That's important because sometimes I'm in a race to remove my makeup before I fall asleep. Sometimes sleep wins :(

Keeping an extra bottle of this by the TV has definitely helped me remove my eye makeup before Zzzzzzz time.

Sometimes we branch out and buy products related to the ones we love because, hey, if this worked, its relatives should work too, right? Not always...

Neutrogena also makes an eye makeup remover lotion in a teal tube, which didn't work well at all and irritated my eyes quite badly. They also have a "one step" gentle cleanser in a pump bottle which matches the look of the oil-free eye makeup remover packaging. It was uncomfortably drying to my normally very oily skin and turned my mascara into a big nasty clump. One step? I think not. It was awful.