Archive for ‘Fashion Magic – Your Requests’

December 5, 2011

Gifts for the Fashion-Mad

Santa Baby

I am always told that I am impossible to shop for… firstly, because if I really want something, I buy it for myself (true), secondly that I have very expensive tastes (also true) and lastly I am quite picky (not…okay…yes, true).  I know those close to me think my wish list comes straight from the Eartha Kitt version of the song “Santa Baby” but that is not the case and I truly do have a hard time coming up with requests when asked!  But it’s genuinely not on purpose, it just sort of worked out that way. 

Lucky girl that I am, despite all the grumbling, my beloved Mr. Commando seems to nail it EVERY time. Now admittedly it is very hard to go wrong when you buy oh…say a Chanel wallet, a Valentino bag, or just about anything from Tiffany and Co., where Mr. Commando does rather well.  But he hasn’t always just opted for the expensive and obvious.  No, he has gotten pretty creative and thoughtful.  Last year he simply amazed me with the just-released Alexander McQueen tribute book.  Brilliant!  How did he know?  Well, clearly he hears more of my relentless fashion drivel than he generally lets on. 

Yes, shopping for a beloved fashionista can be a daunting task.  Buying actual clothes or accessories, unless you know them incredibly well, can be fraught with questions – will they like it? Is it really their style?  Will it fit?   Aaahhhh….so hard!!!  Then there is the whole budget question – clearly most of us can’t just spring for Louis Vuitton bags for everyone, or even a special someone.  This leads us inexorably to gift cards.  But while gift cards to favorite stores are always great and appreciated, for me they aren’t all that satisfying to give.  Surely I am a bit more creative than that!  I LOVE to give great presents that are truly about the recipient and will trigger a positive emotional response.  Gift cards don’t always do that, and they aren’t nearly as much fun to see opened as a pretty and intriguing package with a thoughtful gift inside.   

So here are a few gift ideas for those fashionistas in your life:

  • Goodies for their closets – sets of matching hangers or super luxurious ones for their special pieces.  Fancy shoe trees.  Cedar sachets.  Coordinating garment bags and sweater boxes.  These may seem mundane, but for the closet worshipper in your life these will be treasures.
  • Gift Certificates for an appointment with a personal stylist or a closet organizer
  • Good Books – There are tons of fashion-related reads out there.  Here are a few that I highly recommend:
    • Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Style – for the teen or tween in your world
    • Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style – a fabulous read
    • The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia
    • The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman – great favorites from the best fashion blogger/photographer of all time
    • Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion by Alan Flusser
    • Eccentric Glamour – Simon Doonan – a fun read, you can’t help but smile along
    • Freakin’ Fabulous by Clinton Kelly – more than just fashion, pure fun.
  • Great coffee table books – besides the nifty Alexander McQueen book, there are some other amazing fashion photography books including a comprehensive Chanel book, and best cover books from both Harper’s Baazar and Vogue.
  • Fashion Documentary DVDs for an inside look – my two favorites are Valentino – The Last Emperor and, of course, The September Issue
  • Fashion-related and just Fashionable Movies
    • The Devil Wears Prada
    • Funny Face
    • Coco Before Chanel
    • To Catch a Thief
  • Reality TV Series on DVD
    • Project Runway
    • What Not To Wear

Hopefully one or more of these will produce that much sought after “Oooohhhh”.  And of course, when all else fails, there are gift cards.  Repeat after me…Nordstrom, Saks and Neimans…Nord…

June 1, 2011

The Little White Dress

Little White Dresses

I recently got to take a favorite girl, my fiancé’s gorgeous daughter, out on a little shopping expedition.  The objective – find the perfect high school graduation dress.  She wanted something special but not too prommy and ideally something “not black” (her go-to dress color and mine!)  I wanted to find her something she really loved and felt fabulous in, just okay was simply not going to cut it on this adventure. 

This is harder than it sounds.  Graduation is one of those events that hits right in between pretty much everything – it’s a special event but not really evening wear appropriate, its typically pretty warm (especially under a graduation gown), and eighteen is an age that is not really teenager anymore but where too sophisticated or sexy doesn’t look quite right either. 

We looked at a whole bunch of dresses in a broad range of styles, types, prices.   A pass through the juniors’ department and boutiques turned up very skimpy, or not special enough, while the misses-oriented stores had better quality and substance but tended to be too frumpy or mature. 

Some dresses were okay, some truly tragic – but nothing was really hitting the right note until we found ourselves at White House/Black Market.  Here we found several terrific choices, but the hands-down winner was a vintage inspired halter style with a full A-line skirt that fits well and is jaw-droppingly flattering on her curvy figure.  She looks amazing in this dress, sophisticated and yet still fresh and young.  Best of all – this dress wasn’t black, but a glorious summery WHITE!        

She was understandably hesitant at first, white is definitely not a body-camouflaging color, nor is it a “blend into the background” color.    But when she put this white dress on it was a transforming moment.  She smiled, stood up a bit taller, pulled her shoulders back and stopped plucking at her perceived flaws.  The lovely young lady in front of me was a vision – a little bit sophisticated, a little romantic, a little fun and flirty, wholly a timeless beauty – think a young Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.  Ahhhhh……

I love the classic look of white and love that it can be versatile while still having a sense of “specialness”.  Better still, it can be dressy and casual at the same time, which is perfect for most summer events.  There are some really beautiful choices out there this season too!  Check out the selections I found for both regular and plus sizes.  I am especially in love with Anna Scholz’s cut out dress, very sixties retro girl!  Not feeling the sixties? Then maybe get your seventies goddess on in flowing jersey, or channel the fifties in crisp cotton or linen.

Sooo many great options and white makes a terrific background for great accessories too.  You can go with all white, playing off the textures of the dress, and it also looks stunning paired with silver or gold – perfect for that goddess vibe.  You can also pop it out with black or bold colored accents, or add interest with a bold print.  For graduation we found an adorable pair of espadrille sandals with a cheerful floral pattern that are really fun. 

Granted, white takes some self confidence to wear.  But it *can* be figure flattering.    And before you say it, no – you do NOT need a great tan.  In fact a white dress will give you a little color by contrast.  And if you aren’t sure about wearing white next to your face, add a scarf or necklace in a favorite color to reflect up to your face.   Don’t limit yourself – be bold and brave, maybe even a little flirty!  When it comes to wearing white there is only one rule – unless you are the bride, never wear white to a wedding.  Sorry, but no matter how great you look, no matter how much you want to this is one fashion rule that should never…ever…ever… be broken.   Beyond that, go forth and show off your own little white dress!

While the rest of us may not be eighteen any more, we too can have our own moments of summer loveliness.

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!

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! 

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