Month: September 2010

Inspiration: Gwyneth Paltrow

A reader wrote in:
“I love Gwyneth Paltrow’s style … especially her casual chic outfits involving blazers. Any suggestions for how to go about reproducing some of these looks in real life?”
I have to agree – Ms. Paltrow does do casual chic very well. You don’t see her running errands in sweatpants, but you also don’t get the feeling that she dresses for these occasions like someone angling for coverage in People Stylewatch (cough, Jessica Alba, cough). In fact, she has a bit of a “uniform” going on – certain key pieces that she evidently feels are comfortable enough to be practical, yet still stylish enough to keep her well out of any “worst dressed” lists. Let’s analyze the evidence, shall we?

As our reader noted, Ms. Paltrow does love her tailored blazers. This is a great piece for dressing up casual ensembles. You will see that she very often pairs blazers with jeans, cargo or boyfriend-style pants. GP is one of those lucky folks who can wear anything, anyhow, but generally the baggier the pants, the more structured and streamlined the blazer; conversely, a less tailored boyfriend jacket looks best paired with skinny jeans.

The next key element is the top – almost always a plain T-shirt. Ms. Paltrow doesn’t do a lot of embellishments for daytime. This is good news for anyone trying to replicate these looks. However, the simpler the elements of a look, the more things like cut and fit matter in terms of getting a stylish result. There is nothing distracting the eye from the lines of your clothes, so you will want those lines to be sharp.
The final key element is the shoe. Here is where you can be as creative as you like. Ms. Paltrow has worn her signature blazer look with everything from riding boots to flats to sky-high heels. Let your preferences and lifestyle dictate your choice of footwear. Generally, heels are definitely more “evening” than flats, but that is not to say that they are not a perfectly appropriate choice for daytime as well.
In terms of colour, Ms. Paltrow sticks close to neutrals – black, grey, brown, white, camel, khaki, blue (denim) – while occasionally using accessories for a splash of colour (love that fuchsia bag!). You can stay true to her minimalist aesthetic by going with solid colours – no patterns – and picking not more than 3 different one per outfit. [Different shades of the same colour don’t count.] I’m really into pink at the moment, especially as an accent colour, so my take on Ms. Paltrow’s style is both a reflection of my current obsession and something of an homage to one of her least successful red carpet forays ever – who can forget the pink Ralph Lauren confection she wore to the Oscars in 1999?
Meanwhile, these jeans ($30 at American Eagle!) are more of a tribute to GP’s recent Vogue spread – and this distressed pair of light-wash jeans. [Also from AE, though GP is either wearing them 3 sizes too big in a boyfriend style, or it’s a different version from mine entirely.] A super light wash is not for everyone (and certainly not for my thighs), but grey is great option. I’m really happy with this particular pair because it doesn’t have a ton of fade, and the denim is soft – very comfy. It’s my first ever pair of distressed jeans, and I’m in love.

Where to find boyfriend-style blazers: Club Monaco ($159-249); Jacob ($159.99); Jeanne Beker’s Edit line ($150, at The Bay); American Eagle ($59.99).

Interested in a celebrity’s style and want to find out how to adapt it for yourself? Send in your nominations to

Opinion poll

On Friday, I’m heading out to the kind of event that’s guaranteed to make anyone second-guess their sartorial choices. It’s the five-year reunion of my university graduating class. It’s a pretty casual affair – appetizers and beers at our old faculty – but any time you get a roomful of professionals together, you never know what the dress code is going to call for. The key is to be neither too casual nor over-dressed, but still look cool in a completely unselfconscious kind of way. A tall order? No doubt. 

I decided to take a page out of Cameron Diaz’s book – the girl knows how to do red carpet-ready casual like nobody else. What better inspiration? I loved this look from the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards:

The distressed jeans might be a liiittle bit too much for a get-together with former classmates (although I will definitely try this look with my fave new American Eagle ripped skinny jeans for a date night), but the rest of it is bang on. My own polka dot top has a smaller pattern, but I think it could still work.

On the other hand, Cameron Diaz is also (justly) famous for her legs. And why not when they go on for miles?

Although my gams don’t go quite as far, I’m not afraid to pull out a mini every now and then.

So, what do you think … which look should I bust out on Friday? Have your say in the comments!

Style math

Yesterday, I wrote about style; today I’m going to write about putting it all together.

Some people have a knack for throwing outfits together – look at Kate Moss. For most of us, it takes time and practice to develop an “eye” for putting together a look. One of the key elements of that is understanding proportions. Harmony of proportions is one of the most important aspects of a flattering outfit.

Perhaps the simplest principle of proportion is to balance your halves. If you’ve got volume on top (say, a chunky knit, boxy jacket or babydoll top), the bottom should generally be streamlined (a pencil skirt, straight or skinny cut pant, etc.) – and vice versa.



And yes:

The same principle generally applies when it comes to showing skin – the more bare skin is visible on top, the less should be visible on the bottom. Unless you’re Blake Lively, who has never met a mini skirt/ plunging neckline combo she didn’t like.

A bit much:

Much better:

Also works:

Another principle of proportions concerns lengths. I recall that Tim Gunn, on his sadly now-defunct (?) show Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, discussed the idea of thinking of the body as being made up of thirds: head to waist (or hips, depending on how long your torso is); waist to knees; and knees to feet. A good way to ensure that you never look stumpified is to make sure that the lengths of your clothes respect the rule of thirds. For someone with a short torso (high waist), that might mean wearing a jacket that cuts to the hips, which will visually elongate the upper third of the body, placing it in proportion with the bottom two thirds. Conversely, someone with proportionally shorter legs might try wearing a cropped jacket and high waisted skirt that ends at the knees. Of course, the rule of thirds isn’t an inflexible rule (there is no such thing in fashion) – it shouldn’t necessarily stop you from wearing mid-calf skirts or cropped pants, for example. Although it might explain why these lengths can be tricky for people. [What to do if you do want to wear them, but are afraid you might look stumpified? Compensate the visual loss of length in the legs by wearing high heels; another option is to pair mid-calf skirts with cropped jackets or tops in order to draw the eye upwards.]

It also pays to be careful about embellishments – avoid having them placed on areas or parts of the body which you don’t necessarily want to emphasize (or where you don’t want attention to be drawn). For example, someone with already broad shoulders probably doesn’t need shoulder pads or puffed sleeves. Unless you’re Joan Crawford, who wanted to draw attention away from her hips.  Similarly, unless you want all eyes to be drawn straight to your cleavage, an open, jeweled neckline is probably not the best idea. At the same time, embellishments can often also add extra volume – not always a good thing. The placement of pockets, especially can be tricky; I tend to stay away from pants with pockets cut diagonally on the hip because they will almost always gape and add an inch or two where I don’t need it. A blouse with big ruffles down the front may not be the best friend of someone with a generous bust.

Proportions are also important when it comes to jewelry. No one should be afraid of “big” jewelry … though piling it all on at the same time should probably be reserved for extra special occasions. Having said that, jewelry should not compete with the rest of your outfit – it should complement it. If, for example, you’re wearing a bright patterned blouse, your necklace should borrow from the colour scheme of the blouse (though you can think of silver and gold as “neutrals” when it comes to jewelry). If your blouse has a bow or ruffles on it, your necklace can be a little more discreet – or you can forgo a necklace altogether in favour of earrings. A statement necklace paired with big, dangly earrings is strictly an evening look; for day time, pick one or the other, and pair with more subtle pieces. For many years, I avoided wearing earrings, other than plain studs, whenever I wore my glasses. While this works, it’s not mandatory. Longer earrings can work with glasses, though it’s best if the earrings don’t have a complicated design (e.g. mid-sized hoops work better than sparkly chandelier earrings). 

A whole lotta look:

Much better:
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