May 20, 2012

Pure Jean-ious!

White Jeans

I recently heard a young and not fat lady say “no, no white jeans for me. They will make me look fat!” What?! You mean my favorite warm season go-to pant makes you look fat?? Really?! Au contraire, ma petit, this is soooo not the case. No my darlings, white pants, jeans in particular, have been getting a bad rap for too long. Women not only accuse them of making them “look fat” (NOT TRUE! ), but of being too transparent (not always true), and of being impractical because they get dirty so easily (well, okay they aren’t as easy as blue denim or black, I’ll give you that one…)

It is time for me to stand up for one of my favorite wardrobe essentials. I LOVE white jeans – they are one of those garments that it takes practically no effort to use to create a look that is super chic and can be really glamorous. First of all, they are white – my favorite summer neutral – it’s crisp, eye catching, always in style and a snap to work with. Every color and black looks great with white. Even women who don’t usually wear white next to their faces can rock a pair of white pants. And white jeans in lightweight denim are a terrific alternative to white pants in other materials like linen or poplin as they will stay looking crisp and unwrinkled far longer and are far more opaque.

So, how does one make white jeans work? Well first off you must embrace that they are going to get dirty and stained. They are going to be absolute magnets for every child with sticky fingers, as well as every hairy animal, dusty car and dirty chair in a fifty mile radius. Every grubby unwanted molecule in your vicinity will find its way to your jeans. This means that you will be stain treating, washing, and maybe even doing a little bleaching of these babies after every single wearing. So do NOT spend a mint on them. They are going to have a life expectancy of a single year, best case. And if you find yourself with an ideal pair that you simply love – buy two. You will thank me later.

Now to find the best pair for you. Firstly, keep in mind that lighter colors definitely stand out, so they can appear bigger than the same pant in darker colors, but looking big in clothing is far more about cut and fit than color. The bright white is going to make an unfortunate cut and fit far more apparent than a pair of jeans in dark wash denim. So you will need to select a cut that is the absolute most flattering cut for your figure – period. If you are round, this is not the time to try skinny jeans, and if you are short or have stubby legs forget cropped styles. Instead think leg line – keep it long. Think fit – not too snug, not too baggy, no bunching or bumps. And keep it spare on the derriere and in front with minimal embellishments, pockets, etc.

Women of a certain age or shape…and chicness, are going to look best in a wide leg or flare jean. Worn with a fab tunic or floaty embellished top, a figure flattering belt and some snappy/strappy espadrille platform sandals; topped with boho or glam accessories this look can go seriously retro 70’s or you can go sleek and simple, with clean-lined pieces for more timeless chic. For the truly young and hip a pair of boyfriend style jeans, layered tees and cute oxfords topped up with a fun hat will give a breezy, sporty vibe. And for those babes in their trendy twenties and thirties – mate up a pair of skinny white jeans with chunky, high-heeled sandals, and nearly any top from floaty
and long to fitted and sleek. Fab.

There are soooo many great ways to wear white jeans, they are just amazingly versatile. They can be retro, modern, sexy, sporty, romantic, you name it. And regardless of silhouette, I think white jeans are the ideal thing to pair with a blue denim jacket without looking like you are wearing a denim suit. They are also a snap to dress up for a summer evening out with an embellished top. And they are a terrific item to support this season’s brights and color block looks. The options are endless and so easy.

While it can be a bit difficult to overcome a long-held prejudice, and make a body image adjustment, it’s well worth making the effort. If you aren’t sure where to start, why not see if your favorite jeans come in white, and go from there? Come on, give it a try and join the glam girls. You know you can!

May 5, 2012

Let’s Skirt the Issue

Lets Skirt The Issue

The peplum has been around fashion for, well, nearly ever.  While it’s most notable glory days were in the Victorian era and in the 1940’s, it has never really left and recently has become on-trend once again.  Raf Simmons started it last spring at Jil Sander with his inspired add-on skirts and this season many designers have picked it up.

So, just what *is* a peplum – it is a short overskirt, added at the bottom of a jacket or blouse, or the top of a skirt, or a separate piece you wear like the Jil Sander version.  Originally a design element for functional purposes, they are now purely decorative.  Some are full, gathered and long, like true skirts while others are more of a flap-like embellishment. 

Now at first glance most women are going to say “why on earth would I add a second skirt that is going to emphasize my hips and midsection?!”  Well, they wouldn’t be completely wrong, many times adding volume to that portion of the body is not the best idea, but the right peplum can actually be magical – creating curves where there might not be any, emphasizing a waist, and even camouflaging a tummy now and then.  Not too shabby, huh? 

In my wanderings of the spring collections this year I found a few designers that really made the peplum work, and some that didn’t quite.  My favorites were the designers that veered just a few steps away from the traditional, structured flared peplum looks of the 1940s – a look I think of as “church lady” – without going super modern and architectural ala Yohji Yamamoto.

The best designs still have the elements of the traditional look but with a more modern twist.  Robert Rodriguez created a high-low effect on his olive shantung cocktail dress that somehow looked both classic and modern.  (BTW don’t you just  LOVE LOVE LOVE this color? Such a great option for evening).   Jason Wu went a bit wild and added feathers to this black peplum skirt.  This could have gone horribly wrong, but he kept the skirt proportion not too narrow and just a bit shorter than typical and when paired with the modern print top and the super skinny strapped shoes the overall effect looks fresh and playful while being wickedly chic.  Last but not least, Alexander McQueen showed quite a lot of skirted looks, but I really liked this top for its traditional vibe and its sort of goth twist on Victorian.  They showed it with a longer black pencil skirt but I thought it would look really awesome with some black pencil-cut suede or leather pants – nothing too over the top ( zippers, studs, or too shiny), but streamlined with a bit of edge to really play up the goth effect.

For day, the skirted jackets and tops of Burberry and Red Valentino really hit the mark; again the styling and details like the buttons and the mix of fabrics keep it fresh and modern feeling.  The navy top, where the peplum is short and the overall length is nearly cropped is especially cool – I thought it would look great truly cropped and paired with a full maxi skirt for some drama.  Marc Jacobs did a similar cut in jersey in what he called a “sweatshirt” that is really fun and sporty.  This was good, because most of Marc Jacobs peplums were a bit, well, weird.  He showed quite a few garments with odd flappy bits that looked randomly added.  This was especially awkward on his swimwear; bikinis are tough enough to wear, but with hip flaps – uh, yeah, NOOOOOO!!!!

I love the rich look and movement that a good peplum adds to an outfit, and I really love the way you can play with your shape and silhouette.  While there aren’t very many peplum options out there for plus sizes that really rocked my world (again, got some church lady looks going) I can create the same effect on oversized or too-floaty tunics.  I just got a super cute silk tunic/dress that was disappointingly tent-like when I tried it on – but belted over leggings or skinny jeans is fab – the peplum effect emphasizes the smallness of my waist while covering my tummy and bum a bit. 

So give the peplum a try. While I suggest steering clear of the stiff, too short, or too randomly attached versions, there are some great options available at all price points.  Pair a peplum up with a skinny pant or a pencil skirt.  Play with proportion and color, see what you can do with it.  Go ‘head, give it a whirl!

April 22, 2012

Eyes On You

Okay, I am going to lead this article off with a “snarky alert” – this is going to probably be one of my more…er…shall we say…critical, yes, lets say critical…posts.  But this one has been on my mind now for several days and I simply MUST say something. 

As I have discussed in other posts Mr. Commando and I have season tickets to the Los Angeles Clippers –a gold mine of people watching at its LA best…or worst…   Our seats are near the team bench where we get an up-close view of activities behind the scenes, management, media and even a good crop of A, B and C list celebrities.  Downside of this location is that I invariably hear that some co-worker or friend has seen us in the background of a basketball game on TV or we have found ourselves on the Jumbo-Tron – leading me to be inordinately paranoid about what I wear to games (even my fan gear) and extremely careful that I don’t get caught stuffing my face with a hot dog on national television.  We see some great stuff and some truly not great stuff, and after eleven years I pretty much thought I had seen it all.  Until this past week. 

Part way through the second quarter a trio of young women came giggling and teetering into the team guest seats directly in front of us.  This is not an unusual occurrence but these girls were decidedly a different sort from the agents, cousins, friends of players, etc we usually see.  Here is what they wore:

  • Girl number one was dressed in a very tight and very short tube dress in cobalt blue, with a cropped, studded and distressed denim jacket and a pair of super high platform sandals with faux-espadrille wedges that were clearly PVC.
  • Girl number two had on a pair of inexpertly cut-off jeans of extreme age – cut at an odd and unflattering angle, hole in the seat and ragged on the bottom which she topped with a white dress shirt tied at the waist.  On her feet super high (again) Mary Janes in black patent and metallic that were clearly intended for clubbing or a dressier outfit.
  • Girl number three wore a pair of very low rise stretch corduroy pants in grey, a cropped tank in magenta and a cropped faux leather and mesh paneled jacket in black.  Her crowning glory was a matching bra and thong set in bright neon coral.  And how do we know this?  Well the layered tops didn’t cover the bra and the pants showed her thong even when she was standing and tugging her pants up.  So you can well imagine what an expanse of exposed midriff and thong divided behind our row got to see when she sat down.  It was a jaw-dropping sight.  Yikes.

Each girl had a pretty face and a bootylicious figure, long extensions in de-rigueur spiral waves, big blingy hoop earrings, and oversized bags.  They were clearly going for distinct looks and they wanted to be SEEN.  But somehow each girl had managed to miss the mark in some way or another, each outfit was just a bit off.     

If their ensembles weren’t enough to garner some eyebrow raising attention, they behavior was frankly astonishing.  When they arrived they immediately pulled out their mobile phones and began posing and taking pictures of themselves.   Not awkward arm-stretched-out “lets all crowd together and say cheese” snaps, but full on posing – heads cocked, chins tilted, lips pouted, hair held coyly, cleavage arranged shots.  And not just one or two…no this went on through the remainder of the quarter and started again at the beginning of the second half.  When they weren’t doing their impromptu photo shoot they were standing up at odd intervals – as in not when the rest of us did, or they stayed standing after we all sat back down.  They caught the arena cameraman’s salacious eye so they did finally manage to get themselves on the JumboTron which resulted in even more ridiculous posing, but the director clearly didn’t love them as much and they were switched for something else pretty quickly.  They were disappointed.

These girls, their outfits and their antics were so hard to miss that I caught the girlfriend of a television personality sitting across the tunnel from us mocking them to her beau.  He eyed them with a LA-perfected appraising look as if to say “yep, they are kinda hot” and then joined in the pointing and laughing…”and kind of ridiculous”.  Mr. Commando and I could barely make eye contact with one another for fear of bursting out in full-on hilarity.   The woman sitting next to me, a fellow season ticket holder, confessed to me at half-time that the reality show “Basketball Wives” was one of her guilty pleasures and she identified these girls as definite “wannabes” right down to the earrings.  Then she went on to add that they would never make the grade – too obvious, too tacky, too “Jersey Shore”.  All around us were raised eyebrows, sniggers, comments.  But there they sat – clearly confident and pleased with themselves; blissfully unaware of making anything but a positive impression.   If it hadn’t been so funny and they hadn’t been so pleased, it would have been tragically sad.   

One of the great things about fashion is that it provides a wholly personal medium for expressing your own individuality every single day.  What you wear can be one of the most powerful non-verbal expressions of your mood, personality, interests, lifestyle and ambitions.  Even trend followers, while typically not being original are still expressing “hey, I am trendy” and folks that simply don’t care about fashion show just that – while also speaking volumes about themselves in terms of cleanliness, neatness, appropriateness, etc. 

These girls took this to a whole new level.  I can understand wanting to be sexy and be noticed, and many women young and old, myself included, have gone for and missed that mark from time to time.  I get that.  I also get that for some people that the reality show look is where they want to be and that not everyone has similar taste levels or budgets.  But to clearly work so hard at a certain look that you end up looking like you are telling the world “I want to sell myself on a street corner or practically anywhere” or when that expression goes from getting attention to being laughed at by a bunch of strangers – that I just don’t get.  Then you really need to rethink the plan.  No, really!

April 13, 2012

Fresh Off The Boat

Anchors Away!

Those of us who were children of the ‘80s all remember when Preppy reigned supreme.  And the ubiquitous Preppy outfit for both girls and guys was gently faded Levi 501’s, Ralph Lauren or Izod polo shirts – layered with collars flipped up, a coordinating sweater draped rakishly over your shoulders, Vaurnet or RayBan sunnies on your head, and on your feet –Sperry Top Sider boat shoes, no socks.  It was nearly a school uniform where I went to school.

This spring Preppy is back with bright/pastel pants, polka dots and stripes, semi-tailored layers, brass buttons, and most notable of all – the boat shoe.  But for us girls this is not the boat shoe of our misspent youth, indeed not.  Back in the day Top Siders– for men or women – were dark brown, oiled leather with a white flat sole.  I do recall someone sporting them in an obnoxious Kelly green at one point, but otherwise brown was it.  But not this time around.  No girls, not any more!

THE boat shoe – the Sperry Top Sider  – has reinvented itself and is clearly having some fun doing it.  Sperry is taking their go-to shoes and making them truly fashionable.  You can now get the traditional boat shoe styling but in a myriad of fun media – quilted or woven leather, suede, patent, fun canvas prints – super preppy plaids, tropical prints,  or bold leopard, metallic leather, sparkle – even sequins!  To further amp up their style “cred” they have partnered with fashion house Milly to create – Milly by Sperry.  Featuring super cute colors, prints and some great shoe styles – including a fab platform cum loafer that still sports a deck shoe vibe – these little guys are so kicky and amusing they scream “wear me!!!”.

Best of all, they are readily available at major retailers and online.  A quick scout of Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and the Sperry site itself yielded me with a bunch of fabulous choices for every mood and moment.  In the definitively preppy category I liked the Milly traditional versions in uber-on-trend coral or the fun tropical print.  For comfort the Angel Fish or Blue Fish styles reign with structure and support that is more like a running shoe; while they don’t come in the super fab media they still have some good colors and prints.  If you are looking for something a bit less traditional the Milly platform in the signature print is a standout, as is the fun leopard print wedge that really doesn’t look like it will say “Sperry Top Sider” on it.  If you are looking for a nautical vibe but don’t want a boat shoe the Milly wedge, which comes in several colors, is just the thing.  And last but not least my favorites – traditional boat shoe styles in silver sequins which would rock with jeans and the black or grey sparkle versions with the lacings in velvet – such a witty riff – both designs make me want to cuff my pants and wear a playful hat. 

While these boat shoes are great to make the most of the preppy trend or spice up a nautical look, I think I like their sense of irony even more.  How fun to have bright flowery, shiny silver or sparkly black deck shoes!  They are such a fashionable way to spice up traditional weekend or vacation wear. 

Bravo to Sperry!  They have done a great job of keeping up with the changing tastes of the marketplace while still delivering on their tradition with tried and true basics. Now myself, my family and countless sailors like us have who have worn many pairs of Top Siders over the years will suddenly be super-cool alongside the Fashionistas.  Check it out Dad – Sequins!!!!

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