Tag Archives: style

“How To Dress”: 10 Essential Clothing Items All Women Should Own

PART ONE

I have been such a slacker on my book, “Project Dreamcatcher” and the “How To Dress” series. I am so sorry, you guys! My computer had to be reloaded from scratch with all of our data and photos and movies (thank the LORD we backed everything up) because of the Hard Drive Fiasco of 2013 and that took ages – all last week.

(And the reloading isn’t done yet, but at least now I can work on my Mac while the reloading occurs. Although weird things like right clicking don’t work. And Internet access is really iffy (because of the backing up) and WordPress keeps shutting down. Best intentions, excuse flapjacks, blah, yadda. Basically, I’m a YUTZ. BTW, can we bring back that word? I love it so.)

Kathy had some really useful questions for the “How to Dress” feature. I wanted to tackle her meatiest query, because I think it’s a great place for any woman to start when she’s building (or rebuilding) her wardrobe. And that question is:

What are the 5-10 essential clothing items all women should own?

Obviously, seasons, locations and dress codes will vary from country to country. (And even state to state, in the US.)

Here are my picks.

1. A Great Coat

I see a fantastic coat as an investment piece. Even if you wear a coat a few times a year or only when you travel somewhere cold, YOU WILL NEED A COAT IN YOUR LIFE. Obviously, for those in snowy areas, this is an easy investment to make as you will wear one every day in some months, and probably own quite a few in your lifetime.

Here are some classic styles that aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

THE CAMEL COAT

camel-coat-scarf-400

I bought one of these many years ago before moving to London. I wore it so often I’ve replaced the lining. This model, by Max Mara, doesn’t add bulk because it’s lambs wool. It’s handsome and won’t be going out of style, well, pretty much ever.

THE PEA COAT

4-4-2011-2-07-19-pm

Originally worn by sailors and Navy personnel, the Pea Coat is a durable and versatile garment that is ideal for fall or spring, when the temperature is chilly, but not arctic. There are many different lengths and colors that you can chose, depending on body type and your style. I always choose ones that end mid-thigh to balance my hips and emphasize my long legs. Ones cropped at the waist or just ending at the thigh would be great for apple shapes or petites. The above model is by Lands End.

THE TRENCHCOAT

emma-watson-wearing-burberry-trench-coat

The Classic, the Ultimate in rain gear. I’ve always wanted a Burberry, like the one above, but I’ve never had the scratch. I love London Fog as an alternative brand. My dad has a London Fog trenchcoat and a Burberry umbrella. He looks so dapper when it rains!

A note on coats: coats are one of the best items you can buy vintage. Check out estate sales, in particular. The 1940s-early 1960s were a time when many women owned beautifully made coats with the kind of craftmanship we don’t see today except with very pricey brands. At estate sales, you can pick up gorgeous Princess Coats (also A GREAT COAT) in the $30 range sometimes. Also? Check out your grandma or (if you are lucky) great-grandma’s closet.

2. An Excellent Pair of Jeans

rby-levis-double-button-wide-leg-jeans-amazon-lgn

Is there a more obsessed-about item of clothing? I think not. We all think about how we look in jeans, we all shop for jeans, we all wonder what to wear with jeans and how to pair jeans on Casual Friday. The list goes on and on and on.

Obviously, there is a huge variation in styles of jeans: skinny jeans, flared jeans, high-rise jeans and overalls (two trends from the 90s, back again). There’s all sorts of denim washes and jeans with holes are back, too.

A superior pair of jeans should fit well, make you feel good, and be versatile, taking you from Casual Friday to Date Night. I think we ALL have many pairs of jeans, but a truly fabulous pair of jeans? That is a truly special item. Here’s what I recommend to find your pair:

Try on a variety of jeans. See which style and brand fits the best for you, whether it’s Skinny, Curvy, Diva, etc. I would argue that a dark rinse denim is best for most situations. (A light denim rinse is pretty casual.) Next: have your jeans tailored for you. Yes, tailored. Take them in at the the waist if they’re too big there but fit everywhere else (common), hem the bottoms if they are too long.

Note about length! My SPECIAL pair of jeans? I exclusively wear them with heels. (Heeled half-boots or wedges or stilettos.) They are longer than any of my other jeans, which I wear with sneakers, moccassins or flats.

If you are petite and or/have slim hips: J. Crew and Rag & Bone should work well for you. Those with curves? Old Navy is the best for pears, I’ve found. Joe’s Jeans is good, too, for all around curves. Hourglasses: you lucky dogs will do well with 7 for All Mankind, classic Levi’s (like the ones above).

3. Little Black Dress

25272634_001_b

Yes, that old cliche.

Here’s the thing: we all go to special events. Cocktail parties, weddings, baptisms, Bar Mitvahs, etc. Who wants to deal with the cost and effort of buying a new dress each time? Not me.

Here’s where my little Black dress comes in. Mine is a Bebe number from a while back, before they went full Kardashian. (Ew.) It’s A-line, knee-length, with a halter top. I probably tried on 40 dresses before finding this one. I can pair it with statement jewelry, nude Prada basket heels, a hat, a delicate clutch, belt it: the list is endless with possibilities. I can wear it in the summer with pink sandals, I can wear it in the winter with a coat. It is one seriously freaking versatile item.

Things to keep in mind when shopping for a LBD: it should be made of the best fabric you can afford, it should be lined, and it should make you feel like Holly Golightly. Without the trips to the powder room, of course.

Above, Anthropologie.

4. A Crisp, Clean Button-Down White Shirt

miroslava-duma-ostwald-helgason-3

This one is tricky. I know a lot of us who have any kind of cleavage dread button down shirts. And rightly so. However, a great white button-down is one of those classic items that can be paired in so many ways.

For example, a white button-down with jeans and a great blazer? Such a simple but stunning look. A white button-down with a black pencil skirt and a jean jacket? So Chic. A white button-down can be a truly magical garment.

I have yet to find a new one, because since I had the twins? I went from a B to a D even though my weight stayed the same, so everything else fits right. But this is my goal for fall.

Here’s where sizing gets TRICKY. There’s nothing worse than gaping buttons around the bust. Am I right? You CAN avoid this: buy bigger and get the shirt tailored and brought in at the waist (again with the tailoring!) or, you can wear the white shirt open, layered over a tank top or camisole. This would look gorgeous with layered pearls or sweet, funky gold necklaces. I used to also wear dresses OVER mine, like the picture of Miroslava Duma, above.

You can go with a classic purveyor like Brooks Brothers, or the Gap or even Talbots. (They did a makeover recently and they aren’t just for your bridge-playing grandma any more.)

5. The Pencil Skirt

Jcrew pencil skirt

I made mention of this piece of clothing already. I never, ever thought a pear shape like me would look good in a pencil skirt. BUT, with the right cut and fit, I honestly think anyone can find the right one. I did. AGAIN with the versatility: it’s a beautiful item you can pair endlessly with your wardrobe. Wear with a funky Anthro or Boden top. Dress it down with a jean jacket and cute T-shirt.

I actually have two of these: one is black, one is tan. I wear them both a lot. I had them both tailored at the waist because I bought them to fit my hips.

Above: J. Crew

So, that’s Part One! What do you think? Do you agree (so far?) Do you hate any of these? Love them? Any tips for buying these items? What am I missing?

7 Comments

Filed under personal style

London Fashion

IMG_1429

Marni storefront, London

First of all, thank you all so much for your well wishes when I was so ill in Berlin. I was literally crying alone in my horrible little hostel room with a fever and the chills and then I heard the ping of messages received and so many of you reassured me that my issues weren’t silly. Thank you. It felt good that I wasn’t alone even though I felt so geographically isolated.

I felt horrible during the entirety of my stay in Berlin. I felt terrible during my flight to London. But something about the familiarity of London provided a feeling of peace and energy and creativity. It always has. It’s the place that feels more like home than even where I live and was born.

I love wandering the streets of Chelsea and Battersea and Knightsbridge and imagining my favorite authors and characters within the confines of such. Around the corner was where Sherlock Holmes chased some nefarious villan, or where Mr. Darcy hunted down Wickham and made him marry Lydia. Or passing Charing Cross Road, I get a chill of excitement that Harry followed Hagrid and entered the magical world of wizards and witches nearby. Supposedly.

What I wore walking around:

IMG_1410

Black peacoat: Gap, super old. Scarf: street vendor, Paris. Striped shirt: Old Navy. Mint cords: Old Navy. Bag: Prada.

But I also like to observe the real and present among the same streets. Usually, I like to observe what people are wearing. I remember in 2003 I noticed that many people were wearing ballet flats and skinny jeans. Two years later, those both became ubiquitous in the U.S. This time I noticed that the fashions were remarkably similar to what’s going on here: chambray shirts, stripes, top knots, red lipstick, oxfords, brogues. I was pretty disappointed.

The upside of this was the clothes I brought were actually somewhat on trend, which was a relief because I actually got to attend some glamorous affairs. My favorite thing, ever. It was overly exciting for me šŸ™‚

Right now there is an exhibit in London at the V&A that all of my friends recommended I see: “David Bowie is” which lived up to the hype. First of all, I wasn’t a huge fan of his, and was surprised how many great songs he has. (I didn’t know “Heroes” or “Under Pressure” was his work.) He is a huge influence on Radiohead (my favorite band ever), Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton (SWINTON!) and Muse. The neatest part of the exhibit was demonstrations of how he engages in the creative process. For example, he employed a guy in Silicon Valley to create a program which amalgamates news headlines into phrases he can then use as prompts to write songs. Cool stuff. He also has wide-ranging intellectual influences like Brecht, the Weimar Republic, the dawning of the space age and NASA.

The exhibit made a big deal about this performance of David Bowie in 1972, for “Starman”: it supposedly blew people’s minds with its weird costumes, personas and androgynous style. Honestly, it seems pretty tame to me, but, whatever.

Anyway, I recommend checking it out for those nearby or visiting. Here’s what I wore:

IMG_1413

Dress: Old Navy. Cropped jean jacket: Target. Necklace: Banana Republic. Flats: Old Navy. Purse: Prada.

Later that night I went to two (TWO!) gallery openings. I was extremely nervous because I was going to be around my friend’s very glamorous crowd. I decided to take a risk and wear my jumpsuit. Jumpsuits have a bad reputation, but I felt pretty good in it. Sort of 70s, sort of Bowie.

IMG_1350

Stars and moons jumpsuit: Anthropologie. Necklace: Banana Republic.

The super glamorous crowd (in there, somewhere is Graham Norton):

IMG_1441

I also broke down and bought the twins some Burberry at Harrods. I know, such a cliche. My daughter was horrified at the colors: “Mommy, brown? REALLY?! Coco would NEVER.”

Well, I always knew she was a fashionista…

Are there any cities or places that make you feel more at home than even where you live?

13 Comments

Filed under personal style

Fall Fashion Vision Board: Hollywood Edition

Cher Horowitz: “What’s up, Daddy?”
Mel Horowitz: “What the hell is that?!”
Cher Horowitz: “A dress.”
Mel Horowitiz: “Says who?”
Cher Horowitz: “Calvin Klein.”
Clueless

I like my Fall Fashion Vision Board, much more conveniently located on Pinterest and not taped and plastered to my closet wall, like my vision walls of yore. But now that November is here and more dressy (and chilly) events are approaching, I’d like to add some classic Hollywood images to inspire upcoming November events.

Once upon a time, I had a salmon mohair sweater with embedded Swarovski crystals. I bought it at Joseph in London and unfortunately it didn’t make the move back to the US. I love the Hollywood heritage of the mohair sweater, an item that bestows innocence yet glamor. Think Betty Elms in Mullholland Dr.

I would love to have a sweater like this to be warm, yet look glamorous at a Thanksgiving dinner. Longer though, a little less snug and with a cute pencil skirt.

I have my eye on this vintage mohair sweater in butterscotch. I may consider sewing on Swarovski crystals for that extra glam look.

***

We’re getting into the colder weather around here. Coats are tough: some can impart excess bulkiness.

One particularly chic coat suitable for the very city I live near was this gorgeous white coat with the black gloves and turtleneck, from Vertigo. Not super smart for a mom of two pre-schoolers, but gorgeous none the less.

This Valentino coat from the 90s has a similar feel.

***

Aw, plaid, and CHER! One of my beloved characters of the 90s. I so wanted her computer which picked out her adorable, fierce and super short outfits. (But NEVER anything from Judy’s!)

I love a good plaid skirt, and fall is the best time to wear one.

Here’s a cute and more appropriate skirt length than Cher’s. Vintage Burberry: in fact, I think my mom bought this skirt on her honeymoon in London.

Are there any outfits or styles you love from the movies? Which ones would you love to try?

4 Comments

Filed under movies, My Favorite Things

Halloween Costume Party

I love Halloween. I love the scary movies (that I watch covering my ears), I love trick-or-treating with the kids, I love dressing up.

Last year, Darcy and I dressed as Mrs. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega. Before the ahem, later scenes.

Our version:

I LOVE wigs. I don’t have the guts to cut my hair short or dye it, but wigs allow me to experiment with styles. I even cut and style wigs to make them resemble the character or look I’m going for.

The kids have very specific ideas of what they want to be.

Last year, my daughter wanted to be a unicorn. I had to hunt high and low, until I found her costume at Pottery Barn Kids marked down to $20 a few days before the 31st. (Procrastination pays off?) Jack wanted to be a pirate and he especially wanted that iconoclastic pirate tricorne with the skulls and crossbones.

This year, my costume is inspired by vintage 20s style: Darcy’s family preserved some beautiful things from the 1920s and I found a few of them in the great closet reorg. (Clothes and jewelry.) If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the test run for a school party. (Also, are you on Instagram? Follow me and I’d love to follow you! I’m 2manyfish2fry)

Here are some images inspiring my costume, from the period also inspiring my daughter’s budding hobby as a fashion designer: she is now making clothing (using fabric tape and with me controlling the scissors!). I think I’m going to order her some of my favorite toys of yore (now only on eBay): Fashion Plates.

Zelda Fitzgerald. Tragic 20s heroine, who may have written more of F. Scott’s books than anyone is aware of.

SWOON. If you are looking for eye candy and love clothes, the movie Coco & Igor, about Chanel’s affair with the composer Igor Stravinsky is a must-see. The costumes are so chic and pitch perfect. A fashion lover’s dream.

I loved the dark red lips and nails of the period. The makeup was very dramatic and skillfully applied.

Here’s a preview: more photos to come…

Do you like Halloween? What’s your favorite costume you ever wore? What are you going to be this year?

9 Comments

Filed under personal style

How To Dress: Color

Last week I shared how a personal shopper taught me a lot about proportion. Another thing she helped me with was what colors I should wear. Not all shades of the rainbow look good on me. There are some colors that generally work well with my skin tone, usually tomato reds (not blue-red tones), corals, hot pinks (tricky), mid-purples. Some neutrals are OK too: light grey, black, tan, denim blue, cream. (Yes, I consider these all neutrals. YMMV.)

But the best tip she gave me was: before you even try something on, hold it up to your face and see if it makes you look pale, sallow, or, best case scenario, it brightens your skin making you look healthy.

Some colors are surprising: yellow is unpredictable. The color chartreuse? Looks good on me! RANDOM. You’ll see an outfit featuring chartreuse below. Chiffon yellow makes me look like I’ve caught diphtheria.

My shopper also taught me to pair colors with a base or neutral color. To ground an outfit, you can have one base color. (Not a hard and fast rule, though: lots of good stylists avoid this.) Even though dark brown doesn’t look great right next to my skin, it does look fine as pants. Same with olive (also a base). If you are super skinny, you could get away with wearing white pants or a white skirt. But that doesn’t work for my proportions: darker colors are generally better for my bottom half to balance out my wide hips. Usually. Colored skinny jeans, if paired properly, are almost universally flattering. That’s why they’re so popular.

Then there are the seasons to take into account. I do like to wear the oranges, yellows, rusts and the multi-colored comfy sweaters during October and November.

Here’s this week’s outfits with an eye on color:

Chartreuse and grey generally pair well, and that’s true in design too. Purple, grey and chartreuse are fantabulous all together. In an ideal world, those would be the colors of my living room. I found this peacoat (I LOVE peacoats!) and the color oddly worked with my skin tone. I had no idea what to wear it with until I found this sweater, from the same store. Another tip: it’s easier to pair colors at a store with a collection that matches all together. Peacoat: Old Navy, 2009. Sweater: Old Navy, 2009. Grey cords: Banana Republic, 2010. Boots: Born, 2009.

Back when I was using my personal shopper, she pulled this sweater coat for me: it was marked down to $180 from $990. I thought she was crazy. She convinced me that not only was this a classic American style (the blanket coat), but she also knew it would balance out my proportions. I wore it to death in London. It’s warm, cute, and feels like a bathrobe, shows NO stains, yet I always get a million compliments on it. One of my greatest purchases, ever. Sweater Coat: Ralph Lauren, 2000. Turtleneck, INC (gift). Necklace, Lucky Brand 2012. Peach cords: Old Navy, new. Boots: Payless, new.

This outfit’s pretty boring. It was cold and rainy, and miserable. I just wanted to be comfortable. I figured the Vermillion boots added enough of a punch to brighten me up. I love those boots. Grey sweater: Old Navy, 2010. Grey turtleneck: Walmart, 2011. Leggings: H&M, 2010. Boots, Hunter, new.

The weather perked up a bit and I thought it was warm enough to wear this. Yeah, no. I was freezing. But I felt cute. The sweater is that tomato red color that works so well for me. Denim shirtdress: Old Navy, 2012. Sweater: Gap, new. Shoes, Tahari, 2012.

If there was a date night. Black and beige are good neutrals for me, and outfits can be composed entirely of neutrals, as Coco Chanel spent her life proving. Faux fur coat: Michael Kors, gift. Shirt, Lauren, gift. Skirt, Banana Republic, 2006. Bow belt: Anthropologie, gift. Spectator heels: Aerosoles, 2006.

What colors look good on you? Do you wear colors that don’t suit you because you like them anyway? What’s your favorite color to wear?

11 Comments

Filed under My Favorite Things