Archive for August, 2011

August 25, 2011

Navy Anew!

Go Navy!
This year I have rediscovered an old favorite, the color Navy.  Why “rediscover”?  Well, somewhere over the past ten years or so I had eschewed the traditional, preppy color in favor of black.  Navy is a great neutral and is super versatile, no question.  However, while I absolutely love the classics, and nothing is as classic as navy, most garments I had been seeing in navy were starting to get, well, just the tiniest bit dowdy. Think LL Bean with boxy jackets, pleated pants and crew neck sweaters, all great basics but not great fashion.  As the snazzy suiting looks of the nineties – cropped jacket suits, vest suits, pinstripes (such great stuff….I really miss it) drifted away into the office casual looks of the naughties so went my navy clothes.  Sure every resort season and spring you got some great nautical looks popped with red or tarted up with brass buttons, but all in all it was pretty dull and not up to my fashionista standards. 
Then along came a cool, dramatic and stylish way to wear navy – with black!  Once a big fashion “Don’t”, this combination started to show up on the runways of great classic designers such as Calvin Klein and Donna Karan and edgier designers like Thakoon, Marc Jacobs and Derek Lam.  The first runway look that inspired me was a dramatic super-dark navy trench coat in cashmere with black patent accents, topping a black high-necked sweater, navy tweed shorts and black tights and high boots.   It was such a take-charge look.  It screamed “I am a fashion insider” and yet, a quick glance at each piece led the viewer to the realization – hey, I have those sorts of pieces, I can do this look!!!    The challenge was to figure out just the right mix, there needs to be some texture, a touch of shine, some specialness to make this work.My first navy and black winner outfit started with an impulse buy.  I had bought a long shirtwaist tunic in white from Saks with great seaming that opened out into the skirt of the tunic this top was soooo flattering and fit perfectly.  I was so in love with the cut, and the fact that it was on a killer discount, that I also grabbed it in darkest navy blue.  At 75% off it was sort of a no-brainer grab, and I had an outfit in mind…here was my navy and black building block.  I paired it with black leggings (a cool pair with nifty riding details), black suede ankle boots, a wide black suede belt and a black necklace and ta-dah!!  The black accessories add some texture in the suede and some shine with the beads adds visual interest and contrasts really well against the dark navy blue.  The detail in the pants also helped keep this look more fashion forward.  I love this outfit, it is very chic and I get tons of complements on it.

Buoyed by this first success I found myself drawn to other navy opportunities.  An embellished cotton tunic fromLafayette148 with dark silver and anthracite beading gives a nod to the navy and black combination and great texture and shine.  I simply adore this piece, it’s great for day to evening and special occasions without being too evening-y and it’s a kick to accessorize – shiny silver or deeper pewter both work really well.  I also have a cardigan from Tahari, navy with black grosgrain ribbon trim is a terrific basic, though I have to be a bit careful with this little number as it can turn super frumpy on me, I have to keep some edge on it, pairing it with bolder pieces like wide-legged pants and a pair of heeled spectator oxfords.    

The trick to keeping navy super chic is to find pieces that keep the color fresh and fashion-forward with unexpected shapes, details or usage.   I like to find a way to play a riff on a classic by changing up the shapes, selecting special textures or adding other visual interest – mixing media, adding shine or unexpected details.  This fall the designers are making it really easy and fun.  Navy and navy and black are in full force with plenty of terrific options. 

I am especially fond of using the richness of suede or even corduroy, like these flared numbers, to enhance the depth of the color – I thought theLot78 suede moto jacket and YSL high waisted a-line skirt were both amazing choices.  Soooo luxe.  I also thought the Emma Cook shift dress in leather was sensational – black would have seemed so obvious while navy gives a sly wink.  The Alice + Olivia sequin tunic plays the same way – it would seem passé in black, but is a little fresher in dark blue and it brings in some sparkle. 

On the shape shifting front I thought that the nearly asymmetrical hem of the theysken’s theory skirt was fun and I LOVED the exaggerated silhouette of Temperly London wool cardigan.  Without the ruffles at the shoulders this would be a really boring Grampa Cardi found everywhere.  But changing up the silhouette while still keeping it’s Grampa-esque origins makes it fun and clever. 

As for black and navy combos – I am totally in love with Miu Miu’s bootie and the Pierre Hardy shoulder bag. With its glint of black patent trim and the luxe of suede that bag mixes all the best elements.  This sweater dress, another terrific Emma Cook piece, plays on both the texture and color front and is a single step into mixing black and navy – just add black tights and killer booties and you are done!  If you are looking to be a bit more daring, these Bally shorts are simply fab.  I know I know, I thought the same thing.  But then I saw them paired with black tights and trim booties, a crisp white shirt and a trim, cropped black jacket and I totally got it…they are super flattering and look sensational. 

So there you have it…out of the frumpy closet and onto the fashion catwalk – gooooo Navy!!!!

August 11, 2011

The Right *Stuff*

The Right Stuff - Hiking Gear

In a few days my best friends depart for what I lovingly refer to as the “hike from hell” – they are hiking to the summit of Mt.Whitney- the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states.  22 miles long with an elevation gain of 6,400 feet, this hike can be done in a couple of days OR you can go completely gonzo like my beloved friends and do it in a single day.  This bit of insanity requires terrific physical fitness, months of training, and a very serious dose of masochism.  It also, as they have discovered, requires really good gear. 

While my general fitness level and crummy knees made the big hikes a no-go, I gamely joined for some of the easy stuff and jumped into the planning – poring over maps, discussing training schedules, and, of course, shopping for gear.  So what does hiking have to do with fashion?  How complicated can it be?  Obviously you need some really good boots, but beyond that, just pop on your baggy old jeans and a cotton tee, pack a windbreaker and you are good to go, right?  Uh….no….  Not once you start hiking for miles, sweat pouring out, elevation changes taking you through micro-climates with sun, rain and snow, and temperatures going from 90 degrees to 45 and back to 90 in a few hours.  As the weeks of training hikes rolled along the advantages that good technical hiking gear offer quickly became evident.  Even the guys came around, albeit more slowly, to this reality.

And so began the nearly weekly visits to REI, as folks fine tuned what worked and didn’t work for them.  Now these folks are no strangers to good quality fitness gear – these are my partners in crime for ski gear and work out clothes.  We are long-time denizens of Road Runner Sports, Sports Chalet and REI.  With wardrobes of Nike, Under Armour,Patagonia, The North Face, and other go-to fitness brands, we manage to look pretty great in our workout togs, and ski gear while addressing all the practical requirements of whichever sport we are doing.  But hard-core hiking brought this to a whole new level!  

This went well beyond the endless quest for the right boots and discovering the benefits of trekking poles.   Top to bottom, every garment needs to be highly functional, light weight, and above all, comfortable.  Sun protection is really critical, especially at higher altitudes.  Layers are the order of the day, providing protection from the elements…cold, wet and sun, but they can’t be bulky or heavy– a backpack with a hydration system isn’t all that roomy, especially once you fill it with all the other essentials and keeping pack weight down is key.

So what is there beyond great boots?  Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up:

1) Socks – everyone has their various likes and dislikes – long vs. short, fit, weight, but above all really good hiking socks are a must, in either wool or a blend – moisture wicking is key to keeping feet happy.

2) Bottoms – some folks prefer shorts, some pants but everyone appreciates true hiking features like vents, gussets and offset seams to prevent chaffing.  And wicking fabric can be a big plus.  With the changeable weather of high altitudes you can really learn to like those ever-so-geeky convertible pants where you zip off the legs to create shorts.  Geeky?  Yes.  Fashionable? Not So Much.  Practical? Oh yeah.

3) Tops –Designed-for-hiking tops offered the best solutions, again offset side panels help eliminate chafe, as do raglan sleeves and single-piece shoulder panels that merge out of the way of packs shoulder straps.  Also great are the usual fitness tanks and tees in technical fabrics with good wicking properties.  There are even some terrific options with UV protection.  Mr. Commando swears by his Under Armour T-shirts in a synthetic fabric that keeps him cool and dry.  My own favorites are a short sleeve top and a coordinating zippy top to layer over for chilly mornings, both in a fitness specific fabric.

4) Weather Layers – here it depends on need, foremost for everyone is a lightweight rain jacket with true water-resistant features like sealed seams, long back panels, contoured hood, and vents with zippers that let you control temperature while staying dry.  For cold weather I am a big fan of the Patagonia “Nano Puff” jackets and vests – they are insanely light, stuff into their own little carry pouch and happen to be super cute too!   

5) Gloves – it gets cold up there – one weekend hike in May was so cold folks couldn’t undo zippers or tie their own shoes – so a pair of super lightweight but warm gloves are a good thing to have in the pack.  I am also at an age where my hands are starting to look a bit worn so I liked the “sun gloves” idea to cut down on sun exposure and slow the arrival of hereditary age spots on my hands. 

6) Hats – Again its all about sun protection.  My ever-so-cool girl buddies wear their baseball caps.  Mr. Commando, the soul of practicality, wears his army issue Boony hat.  Me, well I hate to admit this, but my giant sun phobia has driven me to a Boony hat of my own – albeit NOT olive cammo!  Mine is a white and grey number that keeps the sun off my face and neck, and stays cool in the sun.  I look like a complete dork but it is admittedly functional.   

All in all, geeky solutions not withstanding, I found a lot of good looking hiking clothes in cool and fun colors, with some great functional features, and all pretty comfy too.  None of it is exactly high fashion, but everyone looks like they know what they are doing and they all now have the “right stuff” to do it.  Did I ever expect to see my best friends in convertible pants?  Uh, no.  But I don’t imagine they expected to see me in a Boony hat, either! 

Good luck and safe travels dear friends, I will be thinking of you every step of the way!!!!

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