Romance seems to be everywhere in February - the month is full of it. The joy inherent in romance can arise from nearly anything we savor, enjoy and invest our energy in. Because this is such a quiet moment for fashion – the lull before the spring storm – I often spend it reconnecting to my romance with fashion and the things that brought me to this place in my style journey. The foundation of that love is classic pieces – items that, like a great romance, transcend time, items that I can turn to and rely on over and over again, that always give me a thrill when I put them on, that have earned their place on the Need To Be In Every Wardrobe At Some Point list. Now is a great time to look for any you’re in need of as there are so many sales going on, ahead of the incoming spring crush. What’s better than picking up a piece you’ll wear for years at a fabulous discount? ;)
And what are the ones I love?
1. The LBD – Maybe no piece in the history of pieces has become as indelibly classic as the little black dress. You can make it fancy, make it less so. It works for work, it works for after work, it works for ‘just because you love it’. Look for a piece with a silhouette that flatters your body. It doesn’t have to be a sheath; A-line, empire, wrap and shift styles are just as timeless. This is not a place to look for the latest trends. Stick with minimalist pieces or items with details that transcend decades: boatneck instead of off-the-shoulder, lace details instead of cutouts. Skip sheer. Note: if your feeling about dresses is “not-even-if-I-was-unconscious”, substitute a black suit here, with classic minimal blazer and straight-leg (not too skinny, not too wide; the middle ground is your friend!) trouser. It will do similar duty.
2. The Trench (or Wool) Overcoat – The long, dramatic and functional style is having a moment right now, but it will be just as relevant in a few years or a few decades. It’s incredibly versatile, formal enough to slip over gowns for chilly holiday events, but simple enough in style and silhouette to toss over a hoodie for a little extra panache. Look for functional neutrals like black, gray, navy and beige, or classic patterns like tweed or Glen plaid. Avoid the deconstructed and strong-shouldered pieces that are currently ruling the runways and lean toward coats with classic details: a belt, a double breasted style, unique buttons, ruffles (as long as they’re subtle). Keep in mind that the longer lengths tend to give you the most options for pairings. Also, pay attention to the design and size of the collar, especially if you’re petite – an over-sized silhouette can be overwhelming for a small frame, so lean toward pieces with standard or smaller-scale details.
3. Pearls – It’s easy to think of diamonds as the classic jewel, but pearls supersede them in versatility. Not only are they beautiful, but they truly do it all, staying appropriate even in places where the sparkle and shine of crystal is over-the-top. That chameleon-like ability has made them beloved by stylish ladies from Chanel to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, not to mention any number of royals throughout history. Whether you choose subtle studs and a single strand or multitudes of opera-length necklaces (or both! :)), a few pearls should always reside in your jewelry box. After timeless design (avoid pieces that combine pearls with Lucite, for example) and quality (look for pieces on thread, not wire, that have knots between each pearl – this keeps the gems from shifting over time), the most important consideration in choosing pearls is scale. If you’re petite, stay with pieces made from pearls 8mm and below (6mm is a sweet spot, larger sizes will give you a bolder, more avant garde look). If you’re plus size, choose strands in the 10mm or above range (note: you can segue easily around this, though, by layering smaller-scale pieces to create greater effect). If you’re in the middle, 6-12mm pieces will do nicely.
I tend to forget about wearing dresses for non-fancy occasions in the winter…until this time in the season when I start to get really, extremely...ok *excruciatingly*!... bored with pants. With a couple of underlayers, non-pant pieces can be just as comfy and warm and they make such a refreshing alternative to suit pants, denim and leggings. The key is longer pieces that you can hide warm layers beneath. Leggings and thermal tights under long skirts and dresses are The. Best. Invention. I love the flowy, enchanted, 70’s vibe of this ruffle-trimmed maxi. And the glowing scarlet shade makes you feel warmer just looking at it, doesn’t it? Imagine actually wearing it! If you’re not into full-on intense color, never fear – just do it with accessories instead of the (a) main piece(s). I love wearing lace-accented pieces under v-necks; it adds an extra dimension to the dress, whether minimal or embellished, and it gives it a different feel than wearing it alone. Sleeveless pieces can work with this application too – just add a collared long-sleeved blouse underneath. Hint: dress down fancier neutrals by layering a flannel shirt below and get warmth and winterizing in one smooth choice. I love getting fancy dresses to do double duty via this kind of styling! PS if you don’t have a dress that works, you can achieve a similar look with a blouse and maxi skirt. Matching colors will give the look of a dress, but aren’t crucial to the styling’s success. Food for thought: if you happen to be using a blouse with lace or open-work, choosing a colored underlayer instead of a matching one is a stunning way to highlight the pattern. Add extra warmth and dress down the look by topping the ensemble with a jacket. The 70’s-referencing peacoat is a fab choice (I went with a faux fur version, but a wool piece works just as nicely). Alternatively, reach for a boxy jacket at hip length or slightly cropped. Again, faux fur works, but moto, military and aviator styles in nearly any fabric (velvet, corduroy, cotton, leather, even polished fleece or Sherpa pieces) will all do flawlessly. Got none of those? No prob –reach for a classic denim piece. Complete the styling with flat OTKs that act as one more warm layer (aside: knee-height and mid-calf boots are totally do-able as well!). Since we’re keeping this look on the not-too-fancy side, jewelry can be minimal – statement earrings or a ring, a tiny pendant…or none at all :). Happy styling!
So, since the various cute and furry rodents whose opinions were sought regarding the continuance of cold weather all seem to agree we’re not getting out the woods just yet, I’ve been busy creating a few more cozy options to have on standby. I’ve had this look in my head for awhile and this seems the time to get it out of my head :). Calling all you fashionistas who have a metallic sweater hanging around in the bowels of your closet: let’s give that baby some daylight, shall we? (If you are living sans metallic sweaters, consider a metallic button-down, a crushed velvet blouse or cami or a sequined piece here). Give the look some chill vibes by pairing it with cuffed boyfriend jeans (skinnies totally work too, so don’t stress over silhouette). Top the metallic with a long cardigan for extra warmth (and to pick up on that whole duster/long topper trend). I love the pairing of blush with pale blue denim, but really, it’s open season for color palettes with this look. Classic neutrals work (black and gold, navy and silver). Not-so-classic neutrals work (olive and gold, sage and silver). Brights work. So start with what ya got and go from there. Whatever denim style you choose, cuff it if it’s full- length and make sure it stops above where the boot shaft narrows, or above where your leg shows over the top of of the shaft. Tucking skinny jeans into mid-calf boots is totally an option as well (shoutout to slouch boots here, if ya got ‘em :)). My first thought for completing this look was gray suede ankle booties, but if you’re proud possessor of a pair of metallic silver ones, this would be a perfect spot to try out that trend. Don’t shy away from black boots as an option either. Tie the darker color in to the look by adding a short pendant or choker on a black satin or velvet cord. Metallic heels are a flawless choice as well. Feel free to add statement earrings (coordinate with your sweater or the metallic) or a selection of band rings if the spirit moves you. If a chunky knit scarf calls to you on your way out the door , heed it – cozy is a good thing! Cozy and stylish is an even better thing :), so rock that scarf-age. Happy cold-weather styling, loves!
For cool weather, there is no better material for staying comfy and cozy than down! The feather-filled toppers are my go-to for about six months out of every year, both for fashion and practical purposes. If the shell fabric is well-made, a down piece should last for years – I have a ten year old one that’s still serviceable, even though I really beat it up for most of its life by wearing it while working outdoors. My father has a truly venerable one with a shell made from stainless steel…just kidding – I have no idea what the outer fabric is, but it is TOUGH. The jacket looks new, other than a few stains and it’s older than I am! :) Whether you choose a sporty hip length jacket (I love having a bright color to add punch to cold-weather looks!) or a sleek longer silhouette, down is a fabulous topper to have at your disposal for easy, lightweight warmth and now is a great time to look for one because a number of places have pieces on end-of-season sales. It handles light rain and snow well too – it takes awhile for the water to soak through the down, so you can skip a rain coat if you’re not out in a downpour. Also, the higher the power fill, the warmer the piece will be (*caveat: "packable", and "ultralight" pieces will be thinner than standard down and not as warm, even at a higher power fill. For example, 800 Ultralight isn't as warm as 650 power fill in a standard/non-ultralight piece. I tned to always be cold and I find that 650-700 power fill keeps me toasty. With a thermal, sweatshirt and fleece below, I can be outside in 17 degree days for three or four hours and be fine. If you’re in the market for a down piece, here are a few of my faves:
1. The North Face Nuptse Jacket (Mine is in it's second year, going strong and warm as toast! Plus, the inner pocket is awesome :))
2. Lands End Women's Lightweight Down Jacket (good power-fill and fantastic colors)
3. L.L. Bean Ultrawarm Down Jacket
4. Lands End Convertible Down Jacket
5.Lands End Women's Down Jacket (Great price on this!)
6. Marmot Aruna Jacket (I also love this hooded version in lime green)
It took me a long time to realize how perfect skirts are for cold weather – I always thought of them as comfies for summer due to being way cooler (literally cooler, as opposed to “so cool” cooler) than pants. But lately, I figured out that they’re actually cold weather comfies too because you can layer leggings or tights underneath. Score! ;) Start with either of those that suits you and add an underlayer on top as well. Then grab whichever of your maxi skirts is calling to you at the moment: solids, graphic prints, florals – they all work. Most fabrics will too: knits, wool, lace and tulle = fab. The only ones you want to avoid are fabrics that are particularly warm-weather materials: crinkled pieces, seersucker, linen. Add a cropped sweater, or use a longer silhouette and blouson it. Finally, top it off with a jacket. Reach for something with a casual vibe –think a classic leather or denim piece, or a moto or military style. The relaxed feel is important to offset the fancier connotation of the skirt so you can complete the look with flat boots. Any pair with a shaft that’s higher than the skirt hem will work nicely. I especially love the secret fierceness (and partial extra layer! :)) of OTK boots. This concept can be applied to midi skirts as well. Consider pairing a denim or pleated piece with a body-skimming turtleneck for a chic 70’s-referencing look. (The same base layers described above can apply here too). Add an unexpected twist via an interesting belt: add leopard to a camel and denim look, black leather to a shimmering pleated satin piece or a bright contrasting color (echo it with statement earrings, a massive ring or your lip shade). Again, complete the look with boots (heeled is my preference with midi hems, but flats will work too), making sure that the shaft is higher than the skirt’s hem. For an extra layer of warmth, drape a wrap or long scarf around your neck (or toss it over one shoulder) and tuck it under the belt – it’s one of my favorite tricks for creating a super-warm outfit! Alternatively, skip the scarf and belt and throw on a faux fur jacket for a cozy and fun (and totally pet-able!) variation. Happy styling, loves!
One of my favorite ways to block out chilly weather is with down! It’s the warmest material I’ve ever found for outerwear and wonderfully lightweight. It’s the perfect topper to wear when you don’t want to do forty pieces below to feel warm. A short jacket has a sporty vibe. I love using one in a bright color; it’s a total mood-lifter! Try magenta, coral, warm blush, turquoise or lime over a neutral look. Use it in the same way you would a bomber and toss it over your outfit open, or wear it half-zipped. Play up the athleisure feel with track pants below and a chunky cropped sweater or refined sweatshirt. The crucial styling trick is to make sure you define your waist somehow, either via the cropped piece, a blouson silhouette or a half-tuck. Pair with bright sneakers, or elevate this casual look with pointy-toe ankle booties. So easy, so unconcernedly cool! Alternatively, go for a sleeker jacket silhouette: a parka or car-coat length piece. Many designs include princess seams or a self-belt for shape, which creates extra polish. Stay toasty but unencumbered below with a button-down tunic (plaids are fabulous this time of year! The multitude of colors creates so many possibilities for pairings) and leggings. Rock the shorter-layer-on-top look by adding a pullover sweater or sweatshirt above. You’re looking for a piece that hits anywhere between your natural waist and an inch or two above the tunic hem. Choose a coordinating color above (don’t be afraid to pull out one of the more obscure shades in the plaid) or use a bridge shade that’s between two of the colors in the plaid. For example, if your plaid is burgundy and blue, try a purple piece. If your tunic is a solid, add a(nother :)) bright shade. Experiment with it and have fun!). A laidback look like this is a great place to try exuberant color schemes because you don’t need the formality or sophistication neutral or dark tones provide. Complete the look with flat or low-heeled hiking boots (higher heels are fine too, just make sure the styling is a less formal type – hikers, moto, combat silhouettes). PS I’ve gone with neutral boots here, but if you have, say, burgundy velvet hikers or blue suede combat boots, def feel free to break those out :). Happy cozy styling!
In the winter, the gray days can make it easy to get bored and settle into a humdum routine of looks that are more comfortable than anything else. It’s so simple: grab a couple of black basics, stick them together and you’re good. But I also find that I feel better and happier when I have on a look that I really enjoy wearing…and there are plenty of ways to be both cute and cozy during the chilly weather!
One of my recent favorites is playing with bright colors – partly through the influence of Sea of Shoes :). Combining colors in a look is totally doable and Jane does it better than almost anyone. A less daunting approach is to go for a single-color-family compilation that incorporates different shades in the same genre. Blue is always the first color I think of because blue jeans instantly solve the “omg-I-don’t-really-have-that-many-colored-pants” conundrum. Red is a close second. What I love about this look is that you don’t have to worry about matching; if you get enough shades of blue together, the sheer numbers will allow for bridge hues that let everything blend. So, grab your favorite, comfiest pair of blue denim. Slim, wide, flared; silhouette matters not. This look is all about the color! If they’re a year or three old and are full length, no sweat: cuffed is all the rage right now, so just roll your own ;). If you’re craving extra warmth, add a pair of leggings below and cuff them to just a smidge shorter than your pants. Add a blue chunky sweater; oversize is fab, cropped is stellar. For warmth, I add a light but warm base layer. My favorite is the 200 weight Siren tee from Icebreaker, but a thermal Henley or even a basic cotton tee will do nicely. Next: footwear! Add a piece of statement jewelry for a shot of chic: statement earrings, a long pendant, a massive ring (or collection of slim ones!). Alternatively, toss a blue wrap over your shoulders or knot a scarf at your neck for visual interest and a little extra warmth. Finish with blue pointy pumps, or suede ankle booties (neutrals are a 100% acceptable alternative if you a colored-footwear-free atm). Let slim pants rest on the top of slim boots, or cuff them to just above the top of the shaft. Cuff wide or flared pants to one inch above the shaft for wider-style boots, or to just above or even with the narrowest part of the shaft of narrow boots. The key is to make sure there’s a defined slimmer area between the base of your jeans and your ankle, whether it is your bare ankle or boot-covered ankle :). Don’t forget about adding a blue bag, or blue leather glove (again, think neutrals if you don’t have blue pieces in that genre). I hope this inspires you to try all-blue-everything (or all any-color everything!) sometime soon :) Happy styling!
More cute and cozy looks coming up next!
I was very, very late to the Sea of Shoes party – it was one of the first style blogs on the scene, started by Jane Aldridge in 2007. I have only become a devotee recently, but I’m so glad I did! Jane is a fascinating content creator because she adores fashion, but doesn’t follow trends. The blog was originally created to document her love of vintage pieces and that premise holds true today, as she includes many vintage finds in her blogs. Amplifying that is her very creative, very versatile, very much from-the-heart fashion sense. She creates pairings no one else would and flows easily through a massive range of genres, from sweetly femme to menswear, eye-watering colors and prints to minimalism, modernity to Victoriana. Reading her blog is like taking a journey through style philosophies and you never know where it will lead. Ultimately, though, she always brings a fascinating perspective to the table, something that makes you see fashion for a different angle. And that is delightful!
Brie (Hi!) More re: me under About. I'm the moving spirit behind this little life-meets-fashion fairy tale world, a world of my non-wrestling-related style musings and loves.