Archive for May, 2011

May 22, 2011

Fairy Godmothering

Ever since I was sixteen and made my sister a dress for the Winter Formal, I have been a bit of a Fairy Godmother.  Need your corsage attached? – here, let me.   A great outfit for a house dance? hmmm…try this!  A way to make your low-cut dress not so revealing? Got it!  Funky makeup for your Halloween look?  No problem!

I have come up with everything from a tinfoil Viking hat with golden braids for my mother’s Helga costume to a papier-mâché Madonna-boobs bustier for a (guy) friend to designing and making nearly every costume my nieces have ever worn – we have covered the spectrum from kittens to “fashionable” ghosts and zombie cheerleaders in the last nine years. 

Beyond costuming I have done quite a bit of styling for my friends and family.  In my sorority days when a house dance rolled around my room was always a buzz of dressing, hair styling and make up.  In my bridesmaid years I had a “wedding kit” at the ready stocked with sewing essentials, spare panty hose, clear nail polish, hair spray, etc… all ready to roll.  And when the girl buddies start prepping for a big get-away weekend my email and BlackBerry are full of pictures, questions, and ideas.

I love doing this, it’s fun and creative and I love the whirl of excitement when a group is getting ready for an event.  I love challenging myself to get each person’s look just right.  I haven’t managed to turn a pumpkin and mice into a carriage and horses, but I have come up with some pretty imaginative looks and creative solutions to “fashion emergencies”.       

This week I headed over to my sister’s to help her, her mother-in-law, and friend prep for an upcoming ball.  On the agenda was completing the final touches for their looks – jewelry, shoes, and other accessories.  I arrived with a tote loaded down with evening bags and my rather extensive collection of evening-appropriate costume jewelry.  I inherited a generous portion of two grandmothers’ sparkly costume jewelry collections and have added quite a few pieces of my own so there are some really awesome pieces that do need to see the light of day more often and this is a great opportunity. 

First we added the finishing touches to a refined and elegant look for a mature goddess.  Her dress of cadet blue had a silver overlay in semi-oriental floral pattern so we kept her accessories in with that vibe and kept them simple.  A plain, smooth, silver butter-soft leather clutch from Tiffany was just right.  For jewelry a pair of earrings that dangled with tiers of crystals in a vaguely pagoda style – perfection! 

Next – something sultry, glamorous and very old Hollywood.  The tall and slender young lady in question had selected a gorgeous navy satin gown with a deep vee and narrow straps with a dramatically tied back.  The gown already had a rhinestone embellishment at the décolletage so we continued that theme with dramatic rhinestone earrings in a dangling celtic cross shape, and a CZ tennis bracelet.  She had found embellished silver sandals and as finishing touch, my sister’s equally sparkly rhinestone bag.  This would have been a whole lotta bling and waaaayyyyy too much if the dress wasn’t a long fluid expanse of smooth navy and if the individual sparkly pieces hadn’t been of moderate scale.  A single additional anything would have been overkill.

My sister posed the greatest challenge – she had gotten a lovely long skirt in shimmering gilded celadon that simply begged for gold and bronze.  After looking at several options for tops the  favorite was a simply cut tee covered in fish scale sequins in gold and bronze.  Super sophisticated and dramatic, the top really brought out her gorgeous deep brown eyes, shiny hair, and amazing skin (my little sister has it ALL going when it comes to looks – imagine Audrey Hepburn blended with Sandra Bullock – WOW!!)  

The challenge, like me she prefers silver so most of what we already had in the way of accessories on hand were silver, white and black.  The one super cool exception, our mother’s enormous smoky topaz solitaire cocktail ring set in gold.  My sister has never really had the perfect outfit for it before– so this was a huge “AH HA” and was this ring’s MOMENT!!!  Otherwise stumped by what we had on hand and short on time to round up our other girl-buddies’ goodies, she will need to hit the shops once last time before the ball.  Her mission is to get strappy sandals in gold (just like the three pairs we already had in silver, of course), a simple gold clutch (ditto), and some dangly gold and topaz earrings.  So another mission complete, three women ready to hit the town in high style.

Swapping jewelry, accessories, and (if you are very lucky and don’t have dinky feet like me) shoes, with friends is a great way to pool resources for a special event and give everyone a special look without having to buy *everything* every time.  While special occasion dresses tend to be too memorable to swap, especially when your friends all attend the same events and take lots of pictures, most accessories are not.  I also find “pooling” gets a bit more mileage out of those jazzy pieces that otherwise don’t really get much wear.  It makes me happy to see my favorite rhinestones out on the town instead of sulking in their jewelry box.  Best of all, you get to pool ideas as well – you never know what your friends may think up for you.          

So next time a big event rolls around, consider pooling *your* resources or call on your own Fairy Godmother.  Or…you can always call me!  Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

May 14, 2011

Nifty Knits – Rachel Pally

 

Thinking Pink with Rachel Pally

A few years back contemporary designer Rachel Pally debuted her plus size line, Rachel Pally White Label, with Nordstrom.  Being Posh-Plus, I was seriously excited about this line – these were not frumpy dumpy token designs, but were riffs on her main collection.  Regularly worn by stars such as Angelina Jolie, Rachel Pally has quite a following and to see these designs translated for the plus size market was beyond exciting.  High-end, elegantly draping, super soft jersey with enough body to be flattering – the mini collection had several tops and dresses, including some fab maxis, and a drapey palazzo pant – DIVINE! 

I had known and vicariously enjoyed the Rachel Pally designs via the media.  One particular piece – a gorgeous halter top in black – was a particular obsession; I spent weeks tracking it down for one of my friends because I knew it would be absolutely perfect for her.  And it was!  The demure band neck in front tied behind into a soft and sexy bow that draped down the completely open back, with a similar tie at the bottom.  Soft, simple and simply devastating on!

This *is* jersey – so it is pretty body conscious, especially in the regular line.  However, I think the collections have done a good job of striking a balance between demure and sexy, much like that halter top.  Both lines include body hugging numbers and short skirts alongside more forgiving tunics and empire cuts.  Better still, this is one designer that seems to still produce an occasional dress with actual sleeves!  There are a few key designs – such as her awesome caftan – that are offered most seasons, introduced in new colors and a bold print or two, and then new items are added each season.   Her plus size line has expanded and is now carried at Bloomingdales and Nordstrom and, even better, her own website – yay!   

While many of her short dresses appear more along the lines of a mini, I have found that most of the pieces do tend to be cut long.  I have seen several tunics shown as both a top and a dress.  The dresses and pants usually require significant hemming for all but the truly tall; on the upside most of the knits are unfinished hems so it is a snap to have things shortened. 

One of the greatest things about her pieces is that they are terrific canvases to build a look around.  Beyond the obvious Grecian influences, they lend themselves to bohemian, beachy, urban, and even edgy looks.  In fact, the Rachel Pally website is currently accessorizing with the brand’s own grommet adorned tan desert belt.  Not necessarily what I would have thought to pair with a short goddess draped dress, but interesting nonetheless.

I was especially inspired by this pink dress this season– offered at Shop Bop in regular sizes and at Bloomingdales for plus sizes.  This is a terrific “canvas” piece that could be glammed up enough for a special occasion, or kept more casual with boho accessories for a “patio evening”.   You can do so much – it is the perfect backdrop for a special stand-out shoe or bag and you can add metallics or pop another bright color or a pattern with it – so fun!

Now, these goodies are definitely not priced in the fast fashion range – maxi dresses start at $200 for regular sizes and about $260 for the plus size equivalent.  But finding comparable quality at lower price points is tough – even tried and true brands like Nordstrom’s private labels have gone to less expensive and lower quality knits.  Which is unfortuante as, let’s face it, few things are as unflattering as cheap knit fabrics, they cling to everything and have the irritating habit of being unexpectedly transparent.  (Just how is it possible to *create* more cellulite? Really?!)  I can’t tell you how many times I have found a cute garment only to be disappointed when I put it on.  But not so with these pieces.  The fabrics and cuts are really good, and the quality is great.  I am still wearing all of my pieces, including those from that first season back in 2007,  no small accomplishment for jersey! 

So, if you are ready to join the Hollywood gliterati and rock some truly better contemporary knitwear, definitely check Rachel Pally out.

PS – If you live in the Los Angeles area there are Rachel Pally warehouse sales events from time to time – I haven’t had a chance to check one out yet, but will let you know how they are when I do 😉

May 8, 2011

Hatitudes

Hattitude

With all of the media coverage of the Royal Wedding and the Kentucky Derby I have been enjoying a spectacle of hats these past two weeks.  From the wild to the wildly fabulous it has been a terrific show.  While many laughed at the outrageous Philip Treacy fascinators atop the heads of celebrities and royals, and mocked the traditional millinery, I watch in rapt interest and appreciation. 

I loved them all – the frumpy, the fantastic, the simply bizarre.  Perhaps it’s connected to my love of things retro and vintage, but I think it is more than that.  I love that hats are a terrific medium of self expression and individuality.  From the bizarre to the beautiful – each woman and her hat had something to say and their hat choices said something about them.  Trendy, traditional, sweet, edgy, ironic, silly – they might all be wearing uber-conservative, and in some cases downright dowdy, ensembles but their headgear certainly said “Princess”, “Model”, “Celebrity”, “Fashionista” and “Queen”. 

Hats convey “specialness” in their artistry and form.  Even Mr. Commando began to see my point, after sitting through twenty minutes of my manic fast forwarding through all the coverage saved on our DVR (I do love the DVR) he commented that they may be pretty weird, but some are truly ART!

In bygone eras women would never dream of going out without a hat.  They would usually have only a few but would refresh them and change them – making each very personal.   Each a representation of their own preferences, tastes and lives.

I am often disappointed that wearing hats for everyday is no longer in fashion, and the occasions to wear them are few – especially out here on the West Coast.  Opportunities tend to be limited to showers, weddings, funerals, and tea parties, with the occasional inauguration or coronation thrown in.  In the OC we don’t even get to use a cold winter as a chance for fun headgear.  No, our “millinery” tends to be sunhats, visors, and whatever the latest starlets are wearing – boring and overdone straw fedoras and cowboy hats, military or trucker caps – no art, no beauty, just….blah. 

A few years ago Photographer Michael Cunningham and Journalist Craig Marberry wrote a book entitled Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats.  It quoted someone as saying that “…for some black women they would no more consider attending church naked than attending church without wearing a hat.”  Bravo!!   Somehow I can’t quite see that catching on at our local churches though, too bad.   

My hat tastes have had many inspirations; mainly vintage, of course.  I remember my aunt and grandmother showing me old pictures of them wearing their snazzy hats.   I have also been inspired by many great hat moments in the movies – from My Fair Lady to nearly everything from the thirties and forties, to Four Weddings and a Funeral.  My favorite is a riding hat worn by Rosamund Pike’s character Lady Harriet Cumnor in Wives and Daughters – it might have been the mid-eighteen hundreds, but that hat was soooo elegant and dashing.   

My actual hat wardrobe is quite small – a great black chiffon enrobed straw ala Breakfast at Tiffany, a faux-fur tam that is soooo glamorous and quite warm, a wide brimmed sun hat for the boat.  However, my fantasy hat wardrobe has a little bit of everything – an embellished beret, a crisp cloche, an architectural fascinator, and a floral one.  I have even found a velvet, feather trimmed fedora that is quite chic.  And at the top of the list  – my very own version of Lady Harriet’s riding hat – with a bold tall flower and a tiny veil – sublime.

I am hoping when the Duchess of Cambridge visits California in July she will bring along some of her fabulous Philip Treacy’s and set a new trend.  Meanwhile, I am on the hunt for a chance to wear something fabulous so I am on a mission to get my friends together for a Del Mar expedition or just a tea party – we may not have made it to the Kentucky Derby but we can enjoy the traditional Derby hats – dramatic wide brims, pretty colors and enormous flowers – divine! 

May 3, 2011

Reinvention Inspiration

Reinvention Inspiration

 As a true fashion addict I pour over the glossies, the blogs, and the stores looking at what is new from my favorite designers and what new designers are doing.  The best of what I see I clip and put on my Inspiration Boards for myself or someone else.  Clearly I am not trotting off to Valentino every week, but here is where I look for inspiration and ideas to translate into my every day clothes. 

Some designers and pieces come and go on my board, others are eternal.  I admire the art and artistry that can be seen in the latest riffs from my favorite designers – that blend of signature look and new ideas.  And I love the excitement of discovering a new designer.  Even better is when, every blue moon or two, an old faithful or a faded star gets a new kick.  A new, sometimes rebellious eye comes along and takes the existing look of a famous house and gives it a breath of fresh air.  The best of these keep what has made that name great, but give it new relevance and timeliness.  Think Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga or Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.

The latest reinvention is what is coming from designer Raf Simmons at Jil Sander.  And it is truly amazing.  So much so that I, and clearly many fashion editors, have been inspired by the Spring 2011 line. 

Jil Sander is a design house made famous in the eighties for sleek, minimalist, impeccably simple yet sumptuous clothes.  When I hear the name I envision suits in strikingly simple silhouettes that play with volume and proportion, perfect cashmere sweaters, architectural shoes and bags all in a neutral palette of black, navy, grey and taupe.  But now, under Simmons deft hands come the familiar clean-lined silhouettes but in the most glorious and vibrant color. 

The feel is still Jil Sander and is clear in the play of volume and sleekness with pairings of simple tees with full soft-tailored pants and long skirts, layered jackets, swing-backed and a-line dresses and tops.  But those familiar lines become new when done with a fresh eye in emerald, cobalt, tangerine and the most delicious pink.  I adore this pink – kind of watermelon, kind of coral, and totally gorgeous.  Added to the mix are a few pops of bold and fun florals and a glossy looking awning stripe in silk.   And the best part, there is much of this reinvention that will translate really well to every-day-people fashion

The accessories are still very true to the original design esthetic with just a hint of a twist.  Bags and shoes getting pops of color, or done in the awning stripe or floral prints.  My top choices: a pair of traditional oxfords shoes in cream with wild pink soles, pointy ballet flats in the floral print, and a slouchy bag in a cobalt and blue stripe.  Too fun! 

The one wild card piece that I sort of wondered at, at first, but then started to love is the funky peplum thingy.  I like the look and line of a peplum and I thought this number was intriguing when paired with a matching long skirt in pink; but then I saw it in the cobalt paired with a black and white tailored outfit – Awesome!  Weird? Possibly, but it still looks amazing. 

Now while I am not off to find a puffy peplum to top my white pants, I am definitely on the hunt for some fun colors, and maybe a cool maxi skirt.  And I am definitely taking a cue from Raf Simmons – eyeing my wardrobe to see how I can take my quintessential “me” pieces and make them new.   Hmmm….black tee shirt, white linen palazzos and a cobalt blue silk sash belt…hmmm…maybe…just maybe…      

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