Month: October 2010

A girl and a closet: Rachel

Next up in the BCRL style sessions line-up: Rachel.

Rachel has seen a fair bit of Canada; she was born in Montreal and grew up in northern Ontario, before moving here. By day, she works in a government office, but her real passion is the outdoors. She loves to hike and camp (and has the gorgeous photos to prove it). She also volunteers locally with the Red Cross and NextGen. 

When it came time to talk style, Rachel was not entirely sure of how to describe herself, although we were quickly able to establish a few things. Like me, Rachel prefers skirts over pants. She also has a deeply ingrained skepticism regarding belts and tucking in tops – a very common attitude, I might add. Knowing this, I came to our wardrobe consultation armed with a selection of belts, as well as other accessories I thought might spice up some outfits for Rachel and help her get a sense of what to look for when selecting her own accessories.

One of Rachel’s main goals for our session was to find ways to inject a bit more style (and colour) into her work wear, and to figure out how to wear pieces in more than just one way. Like many people, she tended to rely on various “uniforms” – outfits made up of pieces that she would always wear in the same way, time after time. This is an example of one such typical look:

Both the top and the skirt are, individually, perfectly nice, classic wardrobe staples. However, together they just … well, they’re just there. It’s a great outfit if you’re trying to blend in to your surroundings. Sometimes, though, it’s good to stand out and make people pay attention.

Bam!!

Did someone say “outstanding”? This is totally work-appropriate, totally flattering, totally not boring. Since it’s braided, this belt would not be my first pick for this look, being a little bit too casual, but it served as our pinch-hitter (and Rachel promised she would look into a permanent replacement soon). When you’re ready to start tucking in your tops, a belt really is the perfect accessory to make your outfit look “finished”, and it’s especially important for a modern take on the “power suit” (which, in today’s corporate culture, does not need to involve shoulder pads or severe suits).
The periwinkle top is a fantastic complement to Rachel’s complexion, and is a good backdrop for a statement necklace. Of course, some people will prefer smaller, more delicate jewelry, but there is no reason for anyone to be afraid of big pieces. They can turn up the pizazz factor on an outfit made up of simple, solid-colour pieces.
I know I’ve been beating this “tucking in” thing to death, so I wanted to give you a visual that hopefully explains why I always make such a big deal out of it. Believe me, I understand the fear; if there is one area about which almost every woman has reservations, it’s the tummy. Who wants to draw attention to it? But here’s the thing: often, when it comes to clothes, hiding something under a lot of fabric just emphasizes it more. The key is to know which pieces will allow you to tuck in without fear.

Still don’t believe me?

Now, the look on the left should be familiar to many – because I know you’ve worn it! I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s terrible – it’s not. But it can be so much better! Just look at the picture on the right; Rachel has “lost” about 10 pounds, and gained 3 inches of height, and all it took was a little bit of faith (to tuck in her camisole) and a belt.
Why does this work? Because we picked the right skirt. It’s a heavier material, meaning that it falls away from the body instead of hugging every outline. So, from the waist down, it lies flat and minds its own business – no unwanted tummy reveal.

But, listen, I am not fanatical. Not everything needs to be tucked in. A knit vest doesn’t, particularly when it’s exactly the right length. How cute is this?

This outfit has everything that Rachel used to avoid – colour and print and accessories. A long string of pearls like this is endlessly versatile; you can wear it down, knotted, or doubled up. In a pinch, you can probably wear it as a bracelet too. Synthetic pearls can be just as nice as the real thing, and Winners often has beautiful freshwater pearl sets at reasonable prices.
Here is a more casual version of the same outfit.

Technically, Rachel could wear this outfit without the jacket, but she still had some reservations about a tucked-in look minus the cover-up option, so we went with the more comfortable alternative. 
On the other hand, she had no problem at all with this outfit. And I’m not surprised – it looks awesome!

A vest+button down shirt +pencil skirt is a timeless combination that will never go out of style in an office setting, and never look anything but professional. Rachel could accessorize it with any number of necklace, shoe, and bag options, adding as much colour as she wants in the process.
Here is one example:

Bring back the pearls, add some dark pink pumps, a jacket and, voila: insta-kick-ass professional! The best part is that, if she switches out the skirt for a pair of dark wash jeans, she can easily wear this (with or without the pearls) on the weekend as well. Sunday brunch never looked this good!
The nice thing about a wardrobe full of simple pieces is that they are often endlessly versatile. Take this deep coral sweater: 

On the left, a cute, fun office outfit. Rachel can easily dress this up further with a necklace, bracelet or other accessories. On the right, a great evening outfit. Don’t be afraid of mixing different shades in the same colour family; here, the peek of red lace adds some zing to the coral sweater. The black necklace adds an “after 5” vibe to the outfit. With different accessories, the same pieces would work just as well for daytime. 
Last, but definitely not least, I did manage to convince Rachel to try one fully tucked-in look – with no jacket. How gorgeous does she look?

Ooh-la-la!

The take-home message: Rachel has quite a bit of colour in her wardrobe, so she only needs to start experimenting with it a bit more. Things she may want to consider on future shopping trips include prints, necklaces (those pearls!), a belt or two, a good pair of dress pants, a black cardigan, and perhaps some jackets.  

 Got a style question? Want your own style session or shopping trip with me? Contact me at bluecollarredlipstick@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Dreaming of November

OK, so my blog didn’t make it in the Lanvin for H&M contest, but that doesn’t mean I hold any grudges. I’m still super excited about the collection, set to debut on November 23, and in fact even more so now that I’ve seen the first glimpses of it. Check them out at Vogue UK.
All I can say is: I want!! Especially the multi-coloured rose print dress on the left in the first picture.  And those necklaces – oh my! The prices, if correct, are giving me some pause – it looks like the dresses will be well into the hundreds – but I am impressed with how well the Lanvin aesthetic is represented in these pieces. 
What do you think?

Friday wrap up

Sometimes, I fall in love with impossible clothes. We all do. You know, those things that are so lovely you simply have to have them, yet at the same time so hard to incorporate into your wardrobe. It’s even worse when those things are shoes. Few items of clothing truly stump me; it’s even rarer for that to happen with shoes … but when it does, I’m well and truly stumped.

These shoes fall into that category:

I bought these beauties about 4 years ago, and I love everything about them – the brocade-like material, the colours, the bling rosette. However, I’ve worn them less than a dozen times, because they are so fussy when it comes to matching. I’m not an unimaginative person, but black is the only thing I’ve found that comes close to standing up to the “big personality” of these shoes. 

Recently, I decided to give them another try; but this time, I took a slightly different approach. If you can’t top it, copy it.
Skirt, BCBG; turtleneck, Winners; belt, Club Monaco;
brooch, Avenue Clothing; shoes, Nine West.
I picked a modern silhouette (puffed sleeves and a paper-bag style skirt), and used accessories to reflect the rococo/frou-frou vibe of the shoes. It’s a simple look, but I think it kinda works.


Sadly, I still ended up in black. So, perhaps we should call this one a draw.