Thursday, February 18, 2010

RETURN TO GLAM

I have a confession: I've spent the last year and a half wearing stretchy moisture-wicking pants made from petroleum...accompanied by matching tops and jackets...please don't judge me. Taking a hiatus from fashion, I focused on yoga, fitness, and dance. Can't really wear Sergio Rossi strappy sandals while you're doing squat thrusts or practicing Virabhadrasana III. And though I had become one of those women who wore overpriced head-to-toe gym outfits, fancied by MILF suburbanites the northeast over, I never forgot about style. The right hoop earrings to channel that Venus-Serena flair, a jaunty cap, sparkly running sneakers (yes, they were for running, I swear!), my signature perfume...I still embraced individuality and glamour.
But I missed the heels. I missed the sequins, the clutches, my vintage Studio 54 faux-fur . I'm back for the glamour baby. And luckily, I've had plenty occasions to play dress up this season!
One of the more recent events, a wedding with a creative dress code. Everything from cocktail to formal was accepted. I opted for a flirty little party dress and finished off with sexy albeit quirky accessories. First came the heels. Silver strappy stilettos I had bought for a NYE's bash two years ago and only wore once. Score! Next, I noticed the cut of the dress begged for my waist to be emphasized, so a belt was in order. Although I was able to shop my closet for the footwear, I did not possess the right item for my middle. Luckily, wide black belts are still a la mode, so I snagged a basic but well-constructed one from Michael Kors. On sale. Guaranteed to amp up the rest of my wardrobe, too. And because I saved a few bucks on the belt, I decided to spring for a final touch, the piece de resistance: the hat.
I've always wanted to attend a wedding in England just so I would have an ex
cuse to shop for a fabulous hat. But why wait? I don't know anyone over there anyway. (Yet. Prince Henry is still on the market, right?)
I popped into my favorite cheap-o depot for funky-fab accessories: Forever 21. Say what you will about 'Fast Fashion'. It gets the job done. More than that, they usually carry items in limited quantities, so you often feel as if you've scored a one-of-a-kind piece. My one-of-a-kind-find was a little black topper, adorned with feathers and netting. A hair comb on the underside hooked right into my pixie cut. Yes. Soooo hot. And so me. Subtle jewelry was the finishing touch; vintage sparkly 'bow' earrings , a single bangle.
My ensemble was a huge hit at the reception. (Of course I had a completely different outfit for the ceremony, held several hours earlier). Among the sea of safe LBDs and long flowing gowns, I brought a celebratory energy with me. Drinking champagne next to the gal in the crazy little hat meant you were going to have some fun! And the Bride, a dear friend, was appreciative of the extra effort. By looking festive, she felt even more fabulous (who doesn't like knowing that they surround themselves with
amazing and fabulous people?)

But enough about me, let's talk about you!
If you're looking for something to take your ensemble to the next level, but aren't feeling too adventurous, there are still plenty of options. For example, the bib necklace really spruces up an LBD. And there's one for every budget. You can stick with metals or go on a limb and choose one with colorful stones, lace, or beading. A whimsical little bag will always garner attention, especially if it sparkles, and designers are getting more creative these days with embellished footwear (check out Prada, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Versace. These pace-setting designers are playing with fabrics, jewels, PVC, wood, tassles...and there are plenty of wallet friendly versions, too!) If you're looking for a headpiece, I might recommend a festive headband or hair comb, or several glittery bobby pins found at your local drugstore. Or a miniature top hat set
atop a satin headband. If the occasion, and the personality, calls for it, bust out the hot glue gun and add any of the following trimmings: feathers, jewels, ribbon, sequined appliques...anything goes!
Or go against the conventional look of evening wear and get edgy like Fashion PR Rep Eleanor Lembo: an evening dress worn with a beautiful thin scarf and tall suede boots.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be comfortable, but have some fun! Take advantage of having an opportunity to play dress-up, to get festive, to take chances!
First rule of thumb: Opposites attract. Pair simple with elaborate and vice-versa. Fancy dress and simple jewelry. Plain but perfectly tailored party frock - rock the accessories.
Second rule of thumb: rules are suggestions, feel free to disregard. I decided black sequined cigarette pants, a white sequined boyfriend blazer, and a sequined clutch were perfect for a fancy night out with friends. When you exude confidence, you know you hit the right note!

NEXT BLOG: The savvy fashionista's urban uniform!

Monday, April 7, 2008

WEAR EVERYTHING IN YOUR WARDROBE

You do it, even I, a major fashionista, does it, everybody does it. When we’re on the go, or when we don’t want to think twice about what to wear, we tend to grab the same thing…again and again…and again. I have several “go-to” outfits that usually revolve around my trusty custard-coloured boots from Cannes, dark boot-cut denims, Petite Bateau tanks and little cardigans.

While I think it’s a great idea to keep these options on hand, I found I was neglecting all the other beautiful pieces in my wardrobe. They would be items I absolutely had to have, but as it turned out they were harder to match with what I already had in my closet. Or so I thought.

Take my wine-coloured hand-crocheted tunic by La Rok. It felt so gorgeous against my skin, and it had a hood, which made it extra groovy! I thought it would look great with my skinny jeans and a black tank top underneath. Perhaps it was the cut, I don’t know, but it did not look as good as I’d imagined. Drat. Still, I wasn’t going to return it. I got it on sale!

One day, I decided I had to wear it, no matter what. It took a few tries, but I found, once I stopped trying to match it perfectly, once I made bold choices, unexpected choices, the tunic got it’s vindication. I threw it over a shorter tunic in a beautiful deep ocean blue with fringe coming down the front (see said tunic in the above picture while I’m candle shopping, paired with a unique cardigan). It looked great with both my black leggings and my stone-washed denims with…what else? My trusty Cannes boots! I switched out the blue fringe tunic for a dusty pink tank top with a unicorn and rose print on it. I think I got this top from Marshalls. Soooo didn’t go together, but that’s what made it work. Another unexpected combination: layering the hooded tunic over my zebra print bikini with metallic wedges. More bang for the buck, baby! Yeah!

So, say you have a piece like this in your closet. Something you love but never get around to wearing. Pull out a piece you always wear, whether it be those stacked heel boots or your favorite trousers or cardie. Now, instead of looking for what matches your unique piece, try experimenting with items you think would never work. Colour wise, shape wise, texture wise…you might be surprised.

While cleaning out my closet (which you should do regularly, so as not to have wardrobe build-up) I found a ton of great costume jewelry I have collected over the years. Fun, glittery, and impractical. My favourite was a pair of sparkly earrings that looked like they should’ve been worn by Gloria Gaynor…in concert. I thought how I could make these an everyday item. I usually wear a pair of simple hoops, in either silver or gold. I decided to give these fabulous earrings a try, allowing them to be the focal point with a vintage rocker tee, slim dark denims, and platform boots. The result was amazing. Slightly punk. No need to wait for a fancy occasion to pull off dressy jewelry!

Playing with your closet is not high-maintenance. Playing with your closet encourages you to be an individual, to have STYLE! Besides, who wants to hop on the subway and see five other girls wearing her outfit? Instead of wearing that Abercrombie tee with jeans, slip on your gauzy caftan that you use as a cover-up at the beach! Add a low-slung belt and you’ve just become your own stylist!

A note on boudoir
: Lingerie actually is wearable outside the bedroom. It’s innovative even. But it must follow certain rules. Sheer slips and babydolls must be layered, and it’s best when they’re printed or have embroidery, appliqu├ęs, etc. Try it over a slim tank top with trousers or denims. If worn with the former, pair with a cardigan for chilly nights. With the latter, a chic blazer adds a certain moxie.

Often, girlfriends, co-workers and even strangers (true story) ask me for advice on how to wear certain items in their wardrobe. Here, I offer up a few suggestions:

1.
The trouser short. Yes, this is an item for the bold and brave, but not necessarily the super-model skinny. I think girls with muscular and toned quads look great in these, as do Bettie Page-ish pin-up…pins. The trick is to not be too sexy with these, which rules out itsy-bitsy tank tops. Try a kimono style blouse that skims over the hips, a fitted belted short-sleeve jacket that hits you at the hips, or layer a button up with a vest and blazer-style jacket. Appropriate footwear: boots (ranging from ankle to knee-high, but please, NOT thigh-high) or with classy pumps. You can get creative with tights or go bare-legged. If you do the latter, use a lotion (like Nivea) that has a bit of a gleam to it. If you have long thin legs, and are really tall (I am so jealous of you!) you can pull off the trouser short with a whispy babydoll top in floaty chiffon, a little seasonless jacket, and embellished flat sandals.

2.
A cropped swing jacket in a shockingly bright colour. The shape of a cropped swing jacket can seem harder to pull off than your average hoodie. And bright colours take a bit more consideration. I suggest all-black for the rest of your outfit: a black top, black trouser shorts with metallic threading, a big black leather bag, big black sunglasses, and metallic gladiator heels or black knee-high boots with a thick heel. The swing jacket will also look great over a plain jersey dress.

3.
The mini skirt. Please don’t wear this with kitten heels or flats. Or Uggs. I really do think it looks terrible, even if your legs are skinnier than an Olsen twin’s forearm. And stilettos (even those in boot form) are a big NO-NO. The mini skirt looks really chic when paired with tights or boot socks and knee-high boots with either a sturdy stacked or fabulous flat heel. I suppose a denim mini is acceptable with flip flops at the beach, but that look really is redundant. Opt for a jersey sundress in a fun colour instead.

Moral of the story: Play, discover, have fun and don’t wear the same stuff all the time for a look that is completely YOU!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

BLACK AND WHITE


Every spring, I look forward to stepping out in pastel skirts, neutral peep-toe slingbacks, everything floral, gingham, and seersucker. It always feels so fresh to give my black wool military coat a break, don a light trench and reveal the perfect spring outfit underneath.
This spring is different. I want none of that. I don’t want to look like a budding crocus or pretty petal. This spring I crave black and white. It’s so crisp, so unexpected, so Parisienne. My perfect spring accessoire? My patent leather peep-toe spectator mary janes…oooh-la-la!
Not that I’m
afraid of color. I imagine the spectators will look brilliant with red, novel with sunny yellow, saucy with hot pink, smart with orange. The wonderful thing about black and white is that you can pair it with any color and look dashing or just stick with the two, and no one will be able to argue how chic and polished you look.
This look also gives you the opportunity to experiment with your jewelry. Perhaps pile on the gold chains? Showcase the enormous ethnic beaded bracelet you got at a flea market. Put your hair up and artfully pin brooches in it. Have fun! Black and white is the perfect canvas to add on quirky little extras!

A few of my favo
rite B&W’s:
1. A herringbone fedora, which I like to wear with either my very colorful herringbone leather bag by Dooney & Burke, OR with black boot socks that have white stars printed on them.

2. A black ruffled baby doll dress printed with tiny white hearts with a lace under-lay, paired with a red and white polka-dot belt, and red patent leather heels, OR with tights, Marc Jacobs ‘mary jane’ boots, and a white fitted, belted short sleeve jacket.
3. A little black jersey dress with a princess-sleeved white trench coat, worn with pretty flats, or groovy Wellies.
4. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies from the ‘30s.

To play with this look, start with the basics: pants, button ups, tanks, cardies, a trench or fitted jacket, pencil skirt, sheath dress. White trousers look great with a vintage black rock n roll tee, while a black sheath dress a la Audrey Hepburn is classic Hollywood with a white belted trench coat.
Don’t forget about accessories! A black and white polka-dotted headband, pinstripe suspenders, Lucite jewelry, your handbag…the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

BORROW FROM YOUR BOYFRIEND'S CLOSET

I stood in my closet, in my oversized button-down shirt, pondering what to wear. I was going out for a glass of wine at my friend’s restaurant, so the occasion called for something comfortable, yet also chic and pulled-together. It was one of those moments where I was rifling through tons of fabulous pieces, but felt as if I had nothing to wear.

The hardest part of it was, my boyfriend had just bought me the sexiest pair of boots I had ever seen: knee high Elie Tahari, 4 inch covered heel, black cherry patent leather, with silver hardwear, total babe boots, and I was dying to wear them! Okay, I thought, perhaps they’re a bit too fabulous to go to a bistro on a Wednesday night, but what the heck. So I reached for them, but everything that went with my boots was too dressy, too fussy, too inappropriate. Arghhh. I could pull on a pair of my favorite Seven’s, but that would just cover the gloriousness of the boot. A satin baby doll dress? Nah, I wasn’t in the mood. I was getting frustrated. Couldn’t I just wear my oversized button-down and call it a night? Wait a minute!

I wandered to my boyfriend’s side of the closet (a small neglected corner, as I have hoarded the rest of the space), and leafed through his shirts. Aha, perfect. A simple black button-down. Roll the sleeves up, roll ‘em down, roll ‘em back up. (Flashback to 1994, my grunge days, when I would steal dad’s plaid flannels to wear with baby tees and overalls…ugh…shudder…) Pair it
with…a pair of tailored gray pinstripe shorts with pockets. Yeah, that’ll do.

I was comfortable, I was stylin’, I was smokin’, and when I arrived at my friend’s restaurant, I was told that I looked like a rock star. Awesome. Later my boyfriend, Michael, met me, and remarked how sexy I looked in his clothes.

Weeks later, we were to meet my family for dim sum. I had just bought a pink patterned tie for Michael, and for some reason, I was longing to wear it. He quickly taught me how to do a simple knot (wrap around twice, come up behind and over, pull through the loop). I decided to pair the cherry-tree pink tie with a fitted purple striped button down with French cuffs (with the top button left undone; this is how Harry Potter did it in the
movie), and dark pinstripe denims. Next came on my trusty boots from Cannes, and my antique-white leather trench coat. This outfit was so cool.

My family is not really into fashion, but they couldn’t help remarking on my outfit. I explained to them, “I wanted to wear a sort-of Harry Potter school uniform, only, you know, more gay.” My 4’9 Chinese mother giggled. Michael said, “That’s my baby.” How lucky I am to be with a man who not only appreciates my style but also allows me to steal his clothes!

Moral of the story: Masculine plus Feminine equals HOT!

Ways to do the Masculine-Femme look:
1. Pair a sheer blouse (especially ones with a floral or geometric print) with a fitted vest. Trousers or jeans work well, or go for a pencil skirt in a satiny material with tights and spectator or tweed pumps. Mix up the textures and fabrics.
2. Buy a men’s button-down shirt, belt it and wear as a mini-dress. Cowboy boots or platform mary janes would look super cool. Add a hobo bag for boho chic.
3. A cute baby doll dress can get roughed up with a pair of hard-core Frye harness boots. Think Betsey Johnson meets James Dean.