Archive for July, 2011

July 31, 2011

Tune Up! Part 2

Closet Love

In my last article I shared my three-step approach to a seasonal closet tune up.  I love how great I feel when I have fine-tuned my wardrobe and re-focused on the stuff that I like and that likes me.  But sometimes I find that my closet itself needs a little boost, too. All these lovely garments, shoes and accessories need to be happy in their homes. 

I am a big believer in investing, as the budget allows, in good hangers, bins, garment covers and other closet organizing items.  These tools will pay for themselves in the long run as they help you take care of your clothes so they last longer, they make it easier for you to use what you have, and an organized closet that looks nice, feels simply wonderful. 

Here are my go-to tips for keeping my favorites happily housed:

  • Avoid over crowding – this prevents clothes from getting squashed or lost – I love the flocked, slim hangers, they take up less space, are very strong and hold shape, and best of all things don’t slide off the hangers and onto the floor.    
  • Sweaters and delicate knits should NOT be on hangers – they stretch and get odd bagging at the shoulders from hangers.  Shelves or drawers are a much better place for these guys to live. 
  • Use shaped hangers for jackets and coats, especially those in softer fabrics and leather – it will help them keep their shape.   
  • Hang pants and skirts using proper hangers designed for the purpose so they won’t be bunched and creased. If the hanger sags or buckles its not the right hanger for the job!
  • Shoes and handbags are happiest on shelves – if they are on the floor they can end up getting scuffed and they collect dust bunnies.
  • If your snazzy shoes or bag came in a protective bag, use it!
  • Use boot-trees in your boots – they help them keep their shape and prevent the leather from creasing and cracking.
  • Keep hanging items that aren’t worn often, such as evening gowns or off-season suits and coats, in garment bags – I prefer the breathable cotton canvas ones.
  • If you have a dusty closet (mine is mysteriously so) – shoulder covers are a must-have for your darker colored hanging garments. 
  • Store accessories for ease of use – if you have them in a tangled jumble in a box or drawer you won’t use them as much and may miss some great looks.  There are some great hanging solutions for belts and scarves – I found “hangers” that have hooks for belts and loops for scarves.  You can also fold scarves into stacking divided trays. 

Lastly, at the risk of sounding like a crazed, aging actress, lose the wire hangers!  These puppies are not meant to hold clothing long-term, they start to buckle under the weight and all that money you spent on pressing will go out the window.  Many dry cleaners provide nifty hanger boxes to store the wire hangers, so you can move your clothes to their proper hangers and then recycle the wire monsters back to the dry cleaners – a much better solution all around.

Now is a terrific time to upgrade closet essentials as the back to college sales events are in full swing with closet related goodies like hangers and bins are ON SALE!   One of my favorite non-fashion retailers, The Container Store – a sort ofMeccafor us OCD-types, is having their Organized Home Sale right now.  The Container Store has essential closet items such as Huggable Hangers (my favorite), shoe racks, and other great clothing, accessory and jewelry storage options on sale.  Several clever solutions I found on sale: a hanging jewelry organizer called “The Little Black Dress”, an adjustable “adder” rod that you can use to add double hang space where you need it, and a rolling shoe rack.   

Needless to say, the marriage of my fashion and my organization obsessions cheerfully occupies a few of my hours on a regular basis.  And not everyone enjoys this like I do.  However, the results are sooooo worth it!  During the week, when I am tearing through my morning getting ready for the office everything is where I can see it and ready to roll with me.  You don’t have to be as super-organized as I am, but try a few of these ideas and see how they work for you, you may be pleasantly surprised!

July 28, 2011

Tuning Up! Part 1

While we patiently, or…well…not so patiently, wait for the summer heat to pass and fall fashion to really rev up, it is a great time to soak up a little AC and cast an eye to our closets and do a little tidying up – run through the wardrobe, determine what is needed, what needs to go and show everything a little love.

I do a closet tune-up before each new season – yes darlings that means I do this four times a year (at least!).  The tune-up helps me focus on what I am wearing and needing so I can create a plan before I am lured into a new fashion season and start shopping.    Here are some easy steps I use when I do my seasonal closet tune-up:

Step 1: The First Pass

Go through closets and drawers item by item identifying those items that no longer fit, require repair, are well past their prime, or that I just don’t wear.  I have a one-closet/all seasons approach so the don’t wear rules apply seasonally. 

I don’t spend a bunch of time debating on the first pass, just assess, decide and move on.   I also try to exercise a little tough self-love when I do the first pass.  Closet space and mindshare are valuable so the goal is to focus on what I really can wear and what I really like and feel good in.  So when a first pass is done that is what should be left on the shelves and hangers, these items can stay put for the moment, we will get back to them.

I create three piles for the stuff that isn’t staying:

  • Goodbye – Items I no longer wear, don’t really love, no longer fit or are well past their prime and MUST go.
  • Repair – Tailor, cobbler or DIY, this can’t be put off, clothes you can’t wear don’t do you any good.  Shoes and bags need love too so get them to the cobbler for new heel caps, innersoles, replaced buttons or broken straps.
  • I Like It But Don’t Wear It – you like them, they fit, but for whatever reason you aren’t wearing them.  These wardrobe orphans aren’t done yet so stay tuned.

Like many folks, I have a hard time parting with stuff so sometimes I create a fourth pile “I Can’t Say Goodbye, Yet”.   Here is where I put the clothes I am not really wearing but for whatever reason think I may later on.  These items aren’t doing me any good hanging in my closet and distracting me from what I can wear so they go into storage boxes.  Then, during tune-up I go through the boxes and I again ask myself if it is time to wear them or give them away.  I find that this holding time helps me let go…of my size 12 fantasies, of my size 26 back up plans, and all those pieces that I will never really wear again.  I have also given myself a limit of only two boxes so I am not storing tons of old stuff.

Step 2: Take Note

I take notes as I bag up the Goodbye items, listing things I need to replace or things that were mistakes I should learn from.  If white basic tees and shirts are stained or go-to shoes are looking unintentionally distressed they have to go, but definitely need to be replaced.  Heavy wear is also a sign that something was a winner and may be worth replacing.  Same goes for garments that are key pieces for other garments – you don’t want to create new orphans.  As for mistakes, well we all make them, but it’s better if we try not to repeat them!

Now that we have cleared the field, the real fun can begin. 

Step 3: The Edit

Now it’s time to go fashion editor on the “I Don’t Wear It” pile.  For each piece, I ask “Why am I not wearing this?”  Generally I find these are my wardrobe orphans, those items that I haven’t built into the right outfits or that somehow miss the mark.  I try things on, play with different pieces and generally see what I can do with them – belt the baggy sweater, layer something with something else, cuff something.  If I hit upon a great outfit I write it down and refer back to it when I need wardrobe inspiration.  If I am not getting any where with what I have, I imagine what the perfect outfit would be and jot down what I need to make that outfit.  If they aren’t quite right, can they be reinvented?  Altered to improve fit, perhaps the buttons changed or cuffs removed?  If I am still stumped, or the need list is going to be huge, then it is Goodbye time.    

So, now with items on their way to Goodwill, the tailor, the cobbler and the attic, and my lists freshly updated I can focus my attention on the good stuff.  A closet full of clothes that fit, I really like, and want to wear.  Time to show them some love.  More on those in my next article!

July 24, 2011

Helll-lllooohhh Handsome

I frequently bemoan the fact that, generally speaking, men’s fashion is much less complicated than women’s.  Guys can typically dial in a wardrobe into a few easy buckets – dressed up, office, going out, and bumming – and be set for everything.  However there are a few exceptions that really throw a curve ball.  One of the biggest of these is dressing for summer formal events – most notably weddings. 

Now weddings aren’t too difficult for men to look snazzy for when the weather is cool and a suit is the order of the day, but come July and August and it’s a whole different ball game.  First of all, in much of the country it’s going to be hot and in many places humid too, just for an added bonus.  Secondly, not all weddings are created equally – with themes and destinations the dress code starts moving around bewilderingly.  So while we women get to wear some casual to formal variation of light dresses and sandals, you handsome boys need to decode the invitation and do a little planning.  (insert gasps of horror from nearly every man I know)

Determining the dress code is the first order of the day – the best source is the bride, of course, a second choice would be to consult the groom, asking for not just what to wear but for a sketch of the location and ceremony, because “oh, just whatever” is not going to be sufficient guidance.  After getting the 411 from the groom you may still need to run what you have learned by a fashion or wedding-savvy woman for some translation.  

In all instances, casual to black-tie it is essential to remember this is a very special occasion and deserves to be recognized as such.  Which means everything you wear should be fresh, clean, well pressed or polished.  Don’t put off your outfit preparation until the day of the event – give yourself at least a week to make sure things are back from the cleaners, that garments still fit (I harbor a theory that tuxedos shrink a tad when they aren’t worn much ;)) and that you have all the odd bits in order such as cufflinks, shirt studs, and pocket squares.  If you have new shoes, wear them a few times before the event – leave the painful feet to the women, we are used to it.

Now armed with a better idea of what the dress code is, here is a quick line up from dressy to casual:

Black Tie – here it is very simple, go James Bond, or go home!  I have never seen a man who did not look smashing in a traditional tuxedo.  To stay timeless and traditional keep the details simple.  A single-breasted jacket, with grosgrain-silk-faced peak-lapels, paired with the classic black bow tie matching the lapel facings, a crisp and simple tuxedo shirt, and well polished black shoes is going to look right, every time.  If you want to get more zippy, add some pop to your cufflinks and shirt studs.  

Formal – a suit and tie are a must.  To warm-weatherize select a suit in very light weight tropical wool or go old-school glamour in linen.  For day you can also wear a lighter color – such as a medium grey, tan or even a lighter navy blue.  Ties are a must as are dress shoes in black (for dark colors or grey) or brown (for tans).    

Semi Formal/Dressy Casual – this is always the most confusing; when in doubt stick with a tropical weight suit, or a dark blazer and lighter slacks.   You can adjust the dressed-up quotient up or down with accessories – if you feel too dressed up in your summer suit, go without a tie, but add a pocket square, not dressy enough in your blazer, pick a snappy tie and add your wing tips.      

Very Casual/Beach – you can go casual/beachy ONLY if you are absolutely sure this is the expectation and then make sure what you wear still has a special event vibe.  Don’t just throw on your everyday Tommy Bahama Hawaiian print camp shirt and call it a day.  Instead select a shirt on the dressier side of the casual spectrum, perhaps in a silk or silk blend, ideally in a light to medium color.  Solids with a textural weave are great, prints can be good, but leave the loud colors at home.  Trousers can be in a linen or cotton blend but must have a crisp finish, not too soft or rumpled please.  If you are wearing a looser silhouetted shirt, avoid trousers that are to skinny or close fitting, you will look out of proportion.  

In all cases shirts should be light weight, well fitted, comfortable and breathable.  Don’t select a shirt in a fabric that is too thin, clingy or sheer.  You are going to get hot and perspire and your shirt needs to handle that well.  This is equally important if you are wearing a jacket; don’t “cheat” on the shirt – make sure it has long sleeves, is well pressed and looks well on its own.  After the ceremony if you know you will shed the jacket make sure you are wearing a shirt than can stand up alone. 

Don’t fret too much about getting hot and adjusting after the ceremony, pictures and toasts are over and the dancing begins.  Most men will.  Besides, a guy in a nice dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, tie loosened, sleeves rolled up can look quite good – and a tuxedo, shirt collar unbuttoned, bow tie dangling just so – yummy!

July 17, 2011

Happy Anniversary…Sale!

My Anniversary Picks

In my fashion calendar, July is, for the most part, pretty quiet.  Its sits squarely in the middle of no-man’s land between spring and fall, and it doesn’t have Christmas to break up the monotony like December has.  Add to that, it’s hot, really hot.  Heading to an air conditioned mall has some appeal, but when you get there?  Eh.  The spring and summer fashions have been out awhile and are losing their newness and glow, in fact the good stuff is gone and the sale racks are jammed with the detritus – tiny sizes, weird colors and pieces that don’t match.  Back to school is revving up so we are seeing the denim and early fall preview stuff rolling out – tough to get excited about in triple digit weather, but it’s there.   However, there *is* one not-to-be-missed fashion event in July – the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

What is so special about this sale?  Nordstrom puts a selection of Fall merchandise ON SALE!  New, not yet in the stores goodies that will be on sale for a few weeks and then will go back to their regular retail price.  I have loved this event since I was a teenager and worked there.  Back then I would use my house discount and earnings to snag the coolest penny loafers, Ralph Lauren polos, merino wool Fair Isles weaters and tiered corduroy skirts before any of my friends and long before school started.  Now I look forward to the catalog in the mail, schedule my preview appointments (to avoid the mob scene of the first open shopping day – in this sale you dare not wait or the good stuff is long gone) and keep my fingers crossed for terrific finds. 

Some years have been great, some….not so much.  The financial crisis clearly took the shine and excitement off the past few years’ events.  But this year it seems to be perking up a bit – a little more of that gloss that is peculiar to Nordstrom can be seen.  Always the definitive go-to for good quality basics, this year their tried and true basics and house brands have a few more posh name brand goodies next to them which definitely upped the OOOooohhhh factor this year.  

This year Nordys went big with Burberry; which makes this little Anglophile’s heart skip a beat.  The tweed and leather trimmed jacket above is to-die-for, comes in the tweedy grey or a stunning all black and is a really really good deal.  Additional Burberry goodies sprinkled through the sale include their traditional tan plaid in a wrap, tote and even a cute pair of rain boots.  They even have some terrific Burberry for the boys – suiting that is really stellar, and silk ties in several tonal versions of the Burryberry plaid – LOVE them.  (Mr. Commando is absolutely getting one of these little babies…)  The only disappointment on the Burberry front was that while nearly every other big name beauty brand did some sort of special for the Anniversary Sale, Burberry Beauty – my favorite – did not.  Sigh.     

There really are some amazing deals, this Piazza Sempione dress would be ridiculously expensive simplicity at it’s regular price but is a must have on sale.  And if you are looking for that single perfect designer black dress this may be your lucky day – there were several Lida Baday dresses that are usually in the $1000 range.  Other great deals can be found on the higher end of the I-must-have spectrum from Theory, Nanette Lepore,St. John, andLafayette148, as well as all the usual suspects in designer jeans land.  Other things that are well worth grabbing include great workout gear by The North Face, Nike- both Regular AND Plus (bless them), Zella and Puma. 

The accessories and bags weren’t nearly as exciting.  Beyond the plaid, there are some great tote/satchel bags and some very cool Rebecca Minkoff electronics accessories – clever and fun ways to protect your iPad or Kindle.  There are some good buys to be found in the jewelry section, again basics rule the day.  Shoes and boots, Nordstrom’s first claim to fame, were just okay.  The scene stealers – these leopard bedecked platform pumps from Calvin Klein, which are also available in several patent shades and a very sparkly gunmetal metallic. 

For the men in your life the suiting by Burberry, John Varvatos and the pricey Hickey Freeman are the best looking and the best deals.  Tons of great basics – this is dress shirt heaven – are also really well priced.  And there are some great looking and well priced finds from The North Face and Under Armour. 

The overall palette showed more black, and grey was pretty big – with a clearer, sharper grey than last year’s muddied palette.  This was a boon as the plus department had some great stuff this year and I scored the terrific cape coat above as well as a really chic black jacket in suede with leather insets.  Both are going to get some serious wear this fall and winter.  All in all a very satisfying start to the Fall fashion season.  So don’t miss it, you have until August 1, when all the goodies are either gone, or go back to full price.

PS – My biggest find of all was in their home section where you can get 25% off the Westin Heavenly bed – an amazing mattress featured at all Westin and W Hotels – we are indulging in one and I cannot wait to get it delivered.    

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