Archive for January, 2011

January 30, 2011

Resolution Solution #5 – Spend Wisely – Winter Wedding Outfits

Winter Wedding Parties

Recently a good friend posted a request for help.  The challenge – put together two outfits for an upcoming wedding; one for an ice-skating-cum-cocktail rehearsal party, the other for the wedding itself – an afternoon formal affair with an outdoor ceremony.  The kicker – the wedding is going to be held in Banff where it will be a chilly 40 degrees out.  The wedding party will include some political notables as well as family and is overall a pretty upscale crowd, so we want to keep the quality level high, keep it stylish and au courant yet a touch on the conservative side.  Ideally, we don’t want to kill her budget while we are at it.  This *is* a mission – she need these outfits to be a little bit of everything!

I have been shopping with and for my friend for a long time and I have her style dialed in.  She prefers classic lines but loves a touch of edginess and modernity.  She has a terrific figure and looks amazing in very body conscious styles but is now at an age where she wants to balance sexy with age appropriate, no hoochy-mama clothes, thank you very much!  She is a classic, cool, elegant beauty – think Grace Kelly – which can creep into the land of untouchable, so I like to see her in outfits that have a little bit of softness and fun to keep the approachability quotient up.

Her starting point – she has a beautiful fur-collared coat in black, some wonderfully bold heirloom quality pieces of jewelry, black leggings, terrific black pumps and gorgeous grey boots she can slip on for the ceremony if it’s just insanely cold out.  The rest we need to go get!

A preparatory on-line perusal of cocktail options resulted in a whole bunch of sleeveless, strapless, sparkly and too-short dresses – not quite the answer.  But sprinkled among them were some great possibilities.  After doing our homework we set off on an afternoon shopping expedition – and in a very short time hit upon some terrific options from Tadashi Shoji.  In chiffon and jersey, with on-trend body loving ruching, not too much décolletage, and with hems right above the knee these hit on the perfect blend of sexy day to evening chic and “I am sitting next to my ninety year old grandmother”.   As an added bonus – the jersey will pack like a dream!

Building around the dress is easy.  Start with a pair of sleek black pumps that can be worn bare-legged or with sheer black stockings if it’s cold out.  I love a pair of pumps like the ones shown, with a bit of a platform for both comfort and added style.  Jewelry needs to be kept simple, larger-scaled and bold so they don’t get lost next to the ruched background of the dress.   This terrific gold cuff and stunning cocktail ring are both great options and will add pop.  Earrings need to follow the line – simple, bold – like her diamond studs or diamond and gold hoops.

For the skating party we are going for a combination of skating sporty and cocktail party sparkly.  Her black leggings make a chic, flattering starting point.  Add a black tunic sweater with beading or sparkling embellishment so that it has a special occasion vibe.  Or, pair the leggings with a plain black turtleneck layered with an embellished cardigan or shrug – I loved this one for its combination of party sparkle and sporty appeal.  The sweaters allow for layering up or down a bit for warmth and will work well if she needs to add a jacket – black being the obvious choice.  Accessories stay simple and suitable for skating – everyday classic jewelry and cute, hair-style-friendly black fur ear muffs and black gloves if it’s chilly. 

So, how did this all wind up in addressing that last New Years Resolution?  First of all, any new pieces added will have lives after this wedding weekend and will extend my friend’s existing wardrobe.  The embellished sweater or shrug will be a great layering piece that can go with jeans, trousers or skirts for casual fun outings or even a date.  And, while the Tadashi dresses are not exactly in the fast-fashion realms of price tags, these dresses don’t scream “wedding” so they can be worn to other types of functions – from an office party to a cocktail function.  It will be easy to ramp them up or down with different shoes – imagine adding sexy strappy silver sandals and blingy earrings for a cocktail party.  All in all, she will be spending wisely.  Mission Accomplished!

Note: If you have an upcoming event and need ideas or have some other fashion question, I like a challenge and would LOVE  to help, just drop me a line! 

January 24, 2011

Resolution Solution #4, Part 2 – Time For The Guys To Take It Up A Notch

Today one of my employee’s appeared at work in a shirt and tie.  Now our office is decidedly not tie territory, but I appreciated his natty addition, and I will choose to ignore the jokes about possible interviewing.  I also thought it was terrifically well timed as I had the following post ready in the wings.  So Dan, this one is for you!

Boys have it a little bit easier when it comes to day to day fashion.  With the exception of the truly metro-sexual guys I know, most men have developed their own tried and true uniform.  Whether it’s suit-and-tie, khakis-and-button-down, or jeans-and-tee-shirts, it’s pretty much his standard look, day in and day out.  It varies only slightly with the seasons, there is a step down for more casual, and a step up for “fancy” but otherwise the uniform is essentially the same.  Its primary purpose is utilitarian rather than sartorial.

The uniform is generally fine, but even the most basic guys get a little bored or need a bit of a refresh once in a while.  So now is the time to take a look at yourselves, boys, and see if you need a little boost up. 

You can step it up a notch completely, like Dan did, by adding a tie to your button down shirt, or be a bit more subtle, switching out the every day tee for a nice polo shirt.  If you got new clothes for Christmas, perhaps it is a hint that someone thought you needed something new.  If so, now is the time to start wearing the new stuff…unless of course it is a reindeer sweater or some other holiday inspired gift, at which point we will all look away for a moment so you can put the sweater in the Goodwill box.      

If you already had a golf shirt, sweater or button down like the one you just received, consider this a well-timed opportunity or even a gentle hint that the old one needs to be replaced.  Now is the time to do a quick check of the closets and drawers and let go of those older, worn out, faded, too big or too small pieces.  If you simply can’t part with that freebie golf shirt from some office event perhaps its time to relegate it to the weekend-only end of the closet.  And if you have nice new jeans still in their packaging, its time to get them out into rotation. 

There is absolutely no reason to wander through life threadbare.  Check for clothes that need repairs – buttons replaced, threads trimmed, hems re-sewn, patches added – and get them fixed!  Don’t forget your accessories – toss those belts that are starting to crack or split, replace ratty shoelaces and give your shoes a polish. 

And lastly, stay on your barbering schedule, please.  I don’t know how to break this to you guys, but the scruffy, unshaven shaggy-haired look is sexy for precisely one day after the big football weekend or when you get back from the guys-only trip.  After that, you just look tired and like you need a bath and a shave. 

We love you just the way you are.  But we really love it when you look nice too!

January 20, 2011

Resolution Solution #4 – Taking It Up A Notch For A Winter Getaway

Snow Bunny Getaway

It’s time to hit the slopes…or at least the lodge!  This curvy California girl is packing for an upcoming ski getaway – what to wear? 

I fantasize about being that super chic Aspen or Zermatt woman from the James Bond movies.  Trim and sleek in white with a face-framing fur lined hood and glamorous Jackie-O sunglasses; uber-stylish but just simple and sporty enough to suggest real skiing.  Flash to après-ski drinks by a big lodge fireplace in a lush sweater and pants, with beautiful boots – casual perfection achieved through spending copious amounts of money and time.

The reality has been a last minute root around the back of the closet for “cold weather clothes” resulting in a look that was part mom-jean, part 14 year old boy, part REI outlet, and wholly unflattering.  A full weekend of uninspired ensembles – puffy outerwear, practical base garments, aged fleeces and bulky boots…cumbersome layers straggling après-ski in a drafty, crowded lodge with utilitarian furnishings and damp floors. 

Deciding I had had enough of this depressing crash from dream to reality I set off to create a capsule ski vacation wardrobe that is practical, totally functional, and makes me feel if not glamorous, at least more stylish than your average ice fisherman.  The look – that casual glamour of my dreams, of course!  The goal was not to go so over-glam that I looked ridiculous, but to get away from the “I give up” ensembles and look snazzy enough that I feel good about myself.  Just taking it up a notch!

Establishing a palette and planning around key pieces made it easier to co-ordinate and reuse pieces keeping purchasing down and packing simpler.   The palette was pretty easy to set – choices in ski wear for plus size women can be pretty limited, ski pant colors are like Model-Ts – you can get any color you want as long as it’s black!  But black turns out to be a pretty good bet as I wouldn’t give that dreamy white more than ten minutes before my backside found something icky, or hot chocolate got splashed on my chest.  To crisp up the basic black I added a pop of color with my layering pieces – bright pink, light lime and aqua.   Here are the key pieces – in all cases I still chose good quality and functional cold weather wear, just upped the fashion quotient a notch or two:

  • A Good Jacket – Needless to say, cold weather fashions tend to leave everyone looking a bit, well, fluffy.  This is even harder to avoid if you start with a curvy body.  Selecting a jacket that is well designed and uses good materials is your best bet as it will last for several years and look better in the long run.  I found a black parka with a nipped in and belted waist to give myself some shape and the high tech material kept bulkiness down.  Added bonus was the faux fur trim around the hood/collar to give a bit of glamour!
  • Ski Pants – I found a pair that flair just a tiny bit at the leg to balance my top out a bit and avoid the ice cream cone silhouette.  Again the high tech materials gave me a sleeker fit than the puffy stuff. These are still plenty warm and when it gets REALLY cold I add silk base layer bottoms.
  • Boots – Plenty of great choices here.  I found a pair in suede-like nubuck with a bit of faux fur trim.  Super warm, dry and functional, I can trudge around in snow and still wear them inside with other clothes.  This saves having to pack two pairs.
  • Layering Pieces – here is where I added color.  I selected items in light weight, non-bulky fabrics and again kept the cut on the trim/fitted side with princess seaming and curvy cuts to keep the “volume” to a minimum.
  • Base Layers – plain basic silks are still my favorite, although I also like using dri-fit tops too.  Again as fitted as is comfortable, in basic black and white.
  • Apres-ski wear – my go-to black denim trousers – legs wide enough to go over the boots, and a yummy black cashmere turtleneck.  Not awe-inspiringly fashion forward, but it looks quietly chic, works well with my parka, is warm and I can add a little bling if we are going out. 

Now for the fun part – accessories!!!  I adore accessories and winter time is no exception. Nothing kills a look more than an accident so its helmets and goggles on the slopes.  Off the slopes I love adding some fun with hats and gloves but do try to avoid looking like a twenty-year old snowboarder.  I coordinate my stuff so I feel a bit more pulled together and prefer to pick a hat in a flattering color since it’s next to my face.  For just running around town and going out at night I wear a pair of fur earmuffs so I don’t have severe hat head when I am indoors.  Add my trusty Chanel shield style sunglasses – sporty and glam, perfect!

I update bits of this capsule from year to year, and have to really expand it for big trips.  But the basics are essentially ready to roll whenever we are.   So now, as the not-so-glamorous basics of Mammoth’s Canyon Lodge will be in my immediate future, I will still get my stylish moments.

January 13, 2011

Resolution Solution #3 – Freshen Up Your Closet…Here’s Where to Start!

Freshen up your closet – Now while it would be cool if we could all take this to mean “go buy some new clothes”, what I was really thinking was about organizing what I already have and freshening up the overall closet itself.  Apparently I am not the only one with sprucing up closets on my mind, as I recently got the following query:

I have been trying to organize my closet, but I don’t know the best way to do it. I have heard that people organize by color, but does that mean you mix winter long sleeves with summer clothes and casual with dressy?  What about sweaters?  And what about work out clothes (some are nice ones that are intended for lounging and others are meant to sweat in).  I would appreciate any tips that you have.  My closet is driving me crazy. 

OOOOOoooohhhhh what a GREAT question!!!!   Being ever-so-slightly OCD and someone who LOVES organizing all things, most especially clothes, I could write a complete book on this subject.  But let’s start with overall organization of your closet. 

My approach is to set up your closet for total ease of use.  When you go into your closet you need to be able to quickly get what you are looking for and also see everything you forget you have and should get out.  You want to let your clothes have maximum utilization and you want them to talk to you and inspire you – if you can see them, you can wear them!

Organize your closet the way you think about dressing – you are usually looking for a specific type of item such as a pair of shoes, or you are getting dressed and are assembling an outfit.  When you are getting dressed you will be thinking….  I am doing X, the weather is Y, so… I want to start with this piece…now a bottom with it (type, color) or a top to go with it (type, color), shoes – type, color, accessories.  With that thought process in mind I organize closets by type of clothing, and then sub-categorize as needed to make the whole getting dressed activity easier.

An easy place to start is with the obvious focused-use categories.  Suggested categories you may have in this area:

  • Evening wear – garments that are ONLY appropriate for going out, like formal gowns and cocktail dresses
  • Serious Working Out – this is the stuff you mean to sweat in
  • Fancy Lounging – this is where nice lounging stuff lives (more on why this should have its own section in later posts!)
  • Coats and other outerwear that isn’t fitness related
  • Beach – Bathing suits and cover ups
  • Other special categories: In my friends’ closets this may include ski wear, sailing clothes, golf togs, and I even have a friend who is a professional musician and her orchestra clothes have their own section.

Put the items you use least in the areas of your closet that you get to least or is least accessible. 

Once the broad categories are organized then focus on the “for everything” clothes.  Sort these by type and then color.  I use big categories such as Tops and then sort them by sub category – l/s tees s/s tees, blouses, etc and THEN by color.  For folks who live in climates with definite seasons it works best to segregate the definitely cold weather items from the definitely warm weather pieces and put the off-season items in the less accessible section of your closet or store them elsewhere. The items that are used year-round stay put through the seasons.  

There is a whole art and approach to a really great closet set up, but establishing a good working system is the key.  An organized closet makes getting dressed so much easier and it feels simply terrific to open those doors and see everything neatly where it needs to be.  

More on Closet Love in future posts.

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