So much of fashion is about getting the balance in a mix of pieces just right! It can be about colors, it can be about textures and it can be about formality. The last is one of my favorite themes to play with! I've been loving wearing skirts all through the humid weather, but this morning I needed to make a stop before heading into work which made a skirt an impossible choice. My original thought was go simple and, since I was picking up product, practical: jeans and tee. I chose a more refined knit tee with a slim silhouette instead of a super-relaxed, broken-in version. The pairing still had to be spiced up a bit, though, even for my casual office. Heels were my first choice. They immediately raise the bar of an outfit. I wanted something summery - I'm trying to make the most of this last, glorious month! - so I was leaning toward denim ankle strap wedges with a cork heel. A mirror check made me realize that even with the heels, the look was a little shy of coming off breezily pulled together. My next thought was “add a necklace!”. I have tons of them, but a fair few are heavy on the sparkle (what can I say? #ShinyObjects #Magpie) and that felt kind of extra with the casual vibe of my shoes. I wasn't keen on doing the 'contrasting color' vibe either, as I'd done that just last week and I like to change things up. Bracelets seemed like not enough, a jacket like a layer too many. I finally settled on a scarf knotted loosely at chest-height, first discarding a floral one as more pattern than I wanted, and then selecting a simple linen piece in a more pastel version of my tee color. I could have left things there, with the very color-blocked feel of having all blue denim below and purple on top, but I gravitate fiercely toward carrying color throughout an outfit, especially with un-complex two-tone stylings. I ended up swapping the denim cork heels for another touch of purple: patent leather pumps in a clean lilac hue. I love the dimension created by mixing shades of the same color family in this way! While not having quite the summer feeling of the denim ankle-straps, the pumps elevated the look a bit more, something I found appealing due to the casual nature of my scarf. (Had I gone with a more formal scarf (e.g. printed silk) I would likely have stayed with the denim shoes or leaned toward the lesser formality of light neutral espadrilles as a counterpoint. The layering of these subtly contrasting graduations of formality brings a lot more punch to what initially seems like a very basic look. The interplay between high and low – despite the differences being within a very few degrees of each other - conveys intention and prevents the ensemble from coming off haphazard, giving the look the je ne se quoi I always crave. It's so fascinating to me how slight alterations in the pieces selected affect the qualities of a look so greatly!
I tend to fall into a red, white and blue palette around Fourth of July; it just seems like the right way to pay tribute to the holiday. I had a plan to wear my new navy cotton skirt, but when I put it on, i hated the way the waist fit. So, basically, it fit fine when I first tried it on and it doesn't now. I'm convinced my body sometimes switches out parts in the night for a joke. Switching smoothly into plan number two (and skipping over the amazement that it even exists considering the desperate state of my current laundry pile), I reach for an 80's pleated denim skirt with a dropped waist, stolen from my Mom some years ago (sorry, Mom :)). Fabulous…with a few issues (naturally). I need to wear a longer top with it because 1: otherwise, the drop-waist gives it an odd bell shape and 2) I have to camouflage the fact that I leave the top button un-done because the waist is a pinch too small for me (waist issues seem to be the order of the day - *cue goofy waist/waste pun, like 'I'll be joining the Campaign To End Waist shortly'*). Happily the one *clean*, slim, blue cotton tee I have left in my life is of the longer variety. Unhappily, when paired with this skirt, it gives me a look that is a significantly less stylish version of this Audrey Hepburn's cleaning-lady vibe in How To Steal A Million. Of course, she was intended to look nondescript in that scene and my intention was to …not. Cue screeching halt. Basically, I need to tuck the tee in to define the waist but also leave it out for the reasons described above. After a few muffled curses, a glance at my phone to check the time, followed by eye-roll, a frantic/panicked closet search begins, guided by the crucial need for a higher visual waist. The answer? A belt over the tee, which creates a slight blouson/peplum effect. Totally game changing. I go from "WHAT am I wearing?" to "I like my outfit" (*heart eyes*). It's amazing what one right accessory can do! Add coordinating strappy heels and I'm off to hone my skills of Slightly Manic Traffic Navigation For the Excessively Late.
With spring comes new trends, new looks, new fashion! It’s super exciting and if you love fashion, it’s hard to step out of the cycle. Sometimes, though, circumstances are such that investments in new clothing just can’t be a priority. I was in that situation several years ago when I was very sick for a long period of time and unable to work a steady job. I just didn’t have the money to spend on fashion. One of the hardest things for me was the negativity that came from seeing things I loved and but couldn’t afford. If you’re in one of those economic periods, don’t succumb to the negativity – it’s the path to the dark side! ;) I found that instead, I needed to focus on what I did have and the things I could do. For example…
-Work with the classic pieces that are in your wardrobe. Separate out the iconic items you already own and think of it as creating a capsule collection. Pieces that never go out of style give you a solid base to work from when building looks.
-Use accessories to change up your look and keep an eye out for them in unexpected places (I ransacked my childhood dress-up jewelry box and found some surprisingly awesome pieces that worked really well). Excavate pieces you haven’t worn in awhile; an old item rediscovered can feel like something new and helps to keep you feeling creative.
-DIY where you can. I made a fun (and super simple!) pendant necklace from an old belt buckle and black cording by adding a couple of knots in appropriate places. It’s not fancy, but it’s unique and very personal. I get compliments on it every time I wear it.
-Keep your footwear clean and polished. Polish can cover scuffs and reinvigorate well-worn pairs. I found I always felt better wearing shoes that looked fresh and presentable – a lesson I’ve made use of even now that I’ve been back working for a few years.
-Treat yourself to some inexpensive new item now and again. Stick with pieces that are likely to have lower price points: tops, jewelry, scarves, shoes as opposed to investment items like overcoats or suits . Make it an “unbirthday” gift to yourself, or a treat for accomplishing something worthwhile (finishing a project, getting to the gym every day for a week, sending out ten resumes). It doesn’t have to cost a lot to have something new to enjoy that satisfies the desire for freshness and helps release that feeling of being trapped by not having a lot of money. Think of it as buying really well instead of being on a limited budget. Having a positive concept associated with what you’re doing makes it feel completely different than looking at it negatively.
-When you do that, have a spend-limit in mind and shop for new additions only in particular places, curated to help you stay within budget. I would only let myself look at sale items, nothing new. I would sort items by price and stop looking at anything over my spend-limit.
-Don’t give up on style – keep challenging yourself. If you have pieces you find difficult or rarely wear, try to find ways to make them work. I figured out so much about layering during this time in my life because I was so desperate for something different that I kept playing with pieces I never had time to figure out how to use before. Also, stop saving pieces for special occasions and work them into your wardrobe; it can feel like a massive option-expansion when they’re suddenly on the table. Toss a jacket over a formal dress and add boots to dress it down. Grab those gorgeous satin evening sandals and pair them with jeans. Also, be aware of your go-tos and consciously try something different. If you wear a lot of jewelry habitually, try going bauble-free. If you rarely wear it, try layering it up. Try color combinations you ordinarily wouldn’t – if you live in neutrals, create a look entirely without them. If you’re always all about color, try wearing monochromatic black. Also, try layering in unexpected ways: a sweater under a sleeveless dress, a cropped piece over something longer. Or, give your accessories new jobs: wear a scarf around your wrist or waist instead of at your neck, use a brooch as the closure for a cardigan or jacket.
-To help with all of that, keep yourself inspired. Don’t tune fashion out, but look for places that offer inspiration for using what you already have. Instead of retailer blogs or magazines that tend to be about the latest everything, look to fashion bloggers (insert shameless plug for Diva-Fierce here, if you choose :)…Sea of Shoes would be one of my top choices as well) and style icons. The right bloggers connect you to wearable, functional street fashion and the icons connect you to classic style.
Please don’t let a lack of funds make you feel like you can’t be stylish. Creativity, experimentation and a real love for and appreciation of fashion are all free! Keep trying things and having fun. Style isn’t about expenditure; it’s about what you put together and how you wear it; you can do that at any budget.
I received an important reminder this morning about the importance of styling -that it's not just what an outfit is comprised of but also the manner of the comprising that's important. The approach to the pieces is as critical as the pieces themselves in communicating a look and creating an impression. Along with what you choose, the way you put pieces together is an integral part of the essence of style. I had planned to wear a ruffled blouse and velvet blazer which I had not previously put together and when I got it all buttoned up and checked the mirror, I had that dreadful "uh-oh" feeling. It looked like a stuffy vintage tuxedo. Ugh. "Stiff Victorian gentleman" was so not the look I was going for. Drawing board - stat! First, I unbuttoned the blazer. That helped a lot. It loosened the vibe up and made it feel less masculine. Then I unbuttoned the top two buttons of the blouse. That was better yet, creating a much more relaxed connotation. Next, I added a simple belt and took out my bun, going with a half up-do instead, which was much softer. With these styling changes, the look metamorphosized into "chill, fancy femme". Phew. Because my typical time crunch made a whole new ensemble out of the question.
I needed similar tweaks with another recent look which paired a coffee chino blazer with a blue silk blouse. I had intended to wear the blouse with a full tuck and the jacket unbuttoned for the fancy/chill contrast, but the cut of the jacket made that look much too casual for the office meeting I was heading to. Buttoning the blazer was a huge improvement, but I missed the strong shot of color from the blouse. I ended up leaving the silk piece fully un-tucked, allowing the hem of the shirt to show below the jacket. That carried the color thought the look, as well as creating an artsy handkerchief-hem effect that appealed to my sartorial sense.
It’s so fascinating to me that the same items in different hands, or styled differently, can have totally distinct vibes, based on the way they are worn. Finding unique and interesting ways to place, layer and utilize items can even become the trademark of a style aesthetic. One of my favorite modern style icons, Jenna Lyons, is known for just that. She was constantly fully buttoning denim jackets to pair with with ball gowns, leaving shirt tails peeking from beneath blazers, flipping back blouse cuffs, tying belts and working the slouchy half-tuck. While surprising pairings and proportion plays are also crucial elements of her signature, her multitude of ways to express casual fanciness and polished chill were the exclamation points that made her style so infinitely enviable and accessible. For fun, I put Jenna’s looks side by side with another of my favorite fashion goddesses, Audrey Hepburn. I love both ladies’ style, but their looks could never be mistaken for one another, even when they’re wearing similar elements! :)
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.
As the new year begins, most of us have ideas of things we want to do differently, begin doing or stop doing. While I try to not get too many going at once (because…overwhelming!) I have a few in several genres, and a specific set that relate to fashion. First and foremost is to organize! As my life has gotten busier, I haven’t created patterns and processes that are easy and functional to go with it. Consequently, I feel like I’m constantly just keeping up, just making do or just on the edge of spinning out of control. There are clothes I know I have, but I can’t find or haven’t washed yet. Many days, I’m putting outfits together on the fly with what I can see, rather than really enjoying what I’m putting together and the creative outlet that that can be. I want to change that. I want to know where to find the pieces that will create the look that’s in my head. I want everything to be neater and not feel so cluttered. At the moment, I’m not precisely sure how, but I’m brainstorming on it because it needs to happen! And the sooner, the better. Another thing I want to do is get back to having a style budget. I used to set aside a certain dollar figure monthly to spend on clothing (including shoes and all accessories). Sometimes I spent on basics that needed replacing (hello, wool socks!) and sometimes it was a splurge (can you go on living without an Oscar de la Renta statement ring? Well, sure…but would you want to? ;)) If I didn’t spend the full amount, it rolled into next month’s budget. If I overspent, I deducted it from next month’s budget. I didn’t do that at all in 2017 and I realized I didn’t like it. I like the confidence of knowing how much I can spend and I love the idea of knowing that I definitely have x amount of money that I can spend. Even if it’s only $40, I know it’s right there waiting for whenever I find the perfect something in that price range. It also guides my shopping choices – do I look at this season’s brand new arrivals the instant they come out? Or do I limit myself to looking at sale pages or within a certain dollar range? Can I check out Alexander Birman seriously, or do I need to mainly be looking at Nine West and Zappos? I have found this to be a great technique when I need to keep my spending low – I just don’t look at anything above my budget. Then, if I can’t find it, I feel like “well, it just wasn’t out there/wasn’t available”, instead of “I found it, but I can’t afford it” – the former seems way more positive in my mind. I also want to get back to keeping a list of things I’m looking for and/or know I need. First, I’m better at spotting good buys on things if I have a note that I need to look for it. Second, if I can’t find things right away, I can forget I wanted them. The list is a great reminder and many times, there’s a synchronicity that happens when I review it again - I’ll see something I had forgotten I wanted but couldn’t find at the time. Then, when I go looking again, I run right into a piece that’s just right. And even if I’m not consciously looking for the specific things on my list, I’ve noticed I tend to find most of what I want if I’ve written it down somewhere. When I go back to check my list, I can cross off most of it as “found”. (Or sometimes "no longer needed" :)). And that’s it – my two goals! I’m a fan of keeping things simple, when possible :). What about you – do you have any style resolutions for this year?
The whole "no white after Labor Day" thing is a perpetual matter of debate in fashion circles. Can we? Can't we? Some like breaking the rule, some like maintaining the rule - it's a hot mess. I've read the whole theory that the "no white" rule came from snobby society ladies trying to distinguish between old money and new. It's a currently chic idea, but, personally, I feel that most clothing rules had some basis in practicality. White, because it reflects light, is one of the cooler colors (body temp-wise) to wear, making it perfect for summer. The same concept would make it somewhat less perfect for winters in fashion cultural centers like New York. I can't prove it, but I suspect that's at least part of the raison d'etre of the curtailing of white come fall. So, what about now, when we realizes that not everyone experiences frigid cold six months out of the year? And how to we reconcile modern notions of rules and their ridiculousness with the desire to pay homage to the caveats of yesteryear? Well there are a few zigzags you can take and a flagrant violation as well :). First, if you live in climates where the weather stays warm, you're free, in a practical sense, to make use of the chilling properties of white all year. Second, I consider the white blouse (not tees, mind you..real, true blouses. Wovens, not knits.) to be so iconic, so legendary that it defies all rules. While I'll put away white denim, white jackets and white shoes, I keep white blouses in easy reach all year long. Finally, if you want to circumvent the cake, but eat it too, I present to you my personal saving grace: winter white. For real. It's a thing. Basically, it's any shade of white that isn't the pure white to which the strictures apply. Ivory, eggshell, vanilla, oyster, pearl: every single one of these colors is 100% post-Labor-Day approved and you're free to indulge in them to your heart's content. Sweet, huh?
It's tragic, but it must be faced: into every fashionista's life, a little fail will fall. I had this idea for a pearl+jewels+denim look. I had it all planned out except for my top and figured I could handle that in the a.m. Except I was tired and overslept. And nothing I had clean seemed to fit what I wanted - what color makes both ivory pearls and colored jewels show up well? I need dark for the pearls, but light for jewels...gah! That being waaay too challenging to compute at 5:45 a.m, I went with ivory, which was meh. Oh, and then I spilled cardamom on it, so I had to button my jacket. So you could barely see it anyway. Reboot needed. Stat. Except I was late already so nevermind. Sometimes, despite the best laid plans, fashion doesn't happen. Style shuts off the alarm, crawls back into bed and tells you to Fendi off. What does a chic chick do in this sitch?
1. Roll with it. It might not be what you dreamed of, but you're prob not hideous either.
2. Change gears: have a back-up plan - or better yet, a mental catalogue of go-to, better-bff-than-diamonds insta-looks that you know work for you and that you can swap to.
3. Laugh. Make a face at the fashion divinities and tell 'em you hear them and you've got it. You *are* flawess. Just not 24/7/365. Sometimes, the stiletto hits a crack, the ankle twists and what was fabulous in your head ends up splattered across the sidewalk. C'est la vie. Literally. It's ok. It makes a great story to tell. Evidence above.
4. Try that amazing concept again another day.
And I will.
Show of hands: how many of you have dresses kicking around in the recesses of your closet from proms or weddings? Pieces that you love and don't particularly want to donate, but aren't really sure how to wear again? Been there! I am the queen of advocating appropriate fashion, but I'm also a practical gal who hates wearing clothes just once. The philosophical resolution of this conundrum is that sometimes, you have to make the appropriateness. You browse around for inspo and get creative. Why not? It's silly to leave gorge fashion gathering dust and if you love it, you should wear it! And it can be done in super-stylish ways ;)
Whether long, short, be-sequined or plain, sleeveless or sleeved, A-line or straight silhouette, you have options with almost any iteration. The key them is mixing in more casual pieces into your outfit to take the edge of the dress's formalty. Did you choose an all-over sequined or metallic piece? Give it a bit of a punk turn by topping it with a graphic or band tee. If it's boxy, enhance the waist of your look by knotting it at the dress's visual waist. Finish the look with something colorful and lighthearted, like bright espadrilles or pom-pom sandals. For cooler environments, top the outfit with a classic denim jacket. A simple gown needs little more than a cute cardi and coordinating flat sandals to transition into a day or casual evening look. Another option is a slightly cropped blouse- like this- that hits at your waist. Give a lace or tulle gown new life by adding a knotted tank in a coordinating color. If your gown has short sleeves, make sure the neckline is visible above the tank's neckline and that the shapes are similar - this will create the look of a casual vest, a super hot and modern styling. Add sneakers for a sporty vibe. Top with a baseball cap if desired, or a bomber for cool evenings (or arctic air conditioning ;)).
Recently, I started to wonder about the enduring inspirational power behind Carrie Bradshaw's fashion. The looks created by Patricia Field for Sarah Jessica Parker's character are literally still being discussed somewhere in fashion almost daily. That's a lot of staying power for a medium that moves at light speed. Carrie is kind of like the modern era's Holly Golightly: you might not want to actually be her, but hot dang, you want to dress like her - at least in some part of her wardrobe. So many of her looks seem fashion forward, even by today's standards - making her about a decade ahead of her time. The tulle skirt is practically synonymous with Carrie, with every know fashion blogger referencing her when they wear one. She made Manolo Blahnik a household name. With all of that, it's interesting that, while her aesthetic can be succinctly described - urban, quirky, chic - its difficult to box it into a single, or even several, genres. Carrie could do Parisian sophistication, uptown New York, downtown New York, artsy, princess-y, minimalist, sometimes downright silly. The variety of her influences may account for the perennial influence of her style. But I think that's only part of it. Even more than breadth of styles and variety, Carrie's sense of playfulness and true-to-self-ness comes through. As a character, she looooved (LOVED!) fashion and she had FUN with it. She was never afraid to experiment and nearly always included something off-beat, like the note you hear in a song that sounds wrong at first but eventually becomes the reason you love it and can't stop singing it. She was never afraid to mix odd elements (I mean, really - who wears a tank top with a tulle skirt anyway? But, then again, it works!), or pair designer pieces with economical ones (a philosophy espoused by Anna Wintour when she first took over Editor-in-Chiefship of Vogue). She tried menswear, but also wore ultra feminine pieces (the Paris Versace dress!). Her wardrobe felt real, like something collected over time by a lover of fashion, with a specific sense of things that appealed to her. Through it all runs a core of something that's easy to forget about fashion: with all the trends, with all the marathons to find the right piece, with all the periodic re-vamping that needs to take place, style is supposed to be personal and fun. It's not supposed to feel like taking a test everyday. It's supposed to be something that makes you smile. And Carrie's style did. Even her most sophisticated looks contained that one funky, over-the-top or off-kilter element, be it her standout shoes, a contrasting-genre belt or an over-the-top flower, that makes think "Huh?" at first and makes you remember it afterward, whether you grow to love it or hate it. That consistent "off" element was the heart and soul of the wrong that makes it right. It was the common thread that tied all of her varied genres together. And it was fun :). That playful, life-is-a-runway creativity more than anything else, is what continues to make her style so inspirational, and such an important reminder not to allow ennui to take over, to keep evolving, keep experimenting, keep being silly or daring or whatever adjective(s) suits you. Don't make a home in the ruts. Do things that feel like you, but aren't expected. Keep playing, keep dabbling and keep fashion fun.
Brie (Hi!) More re: me under About. I'm the moving spirit behind this little life-meets-fashion fairy tale world, the home of my non-wrestling-related style musings and loves.