Month: October 2010

An occasion for every dress – movies edition

I don’t know what it is about this look from Chloe’s Spring 2011 collection, but it seems like it would have an interesting story behind it. 

Where, I asked myself, might one wear a flowing chiffon skirt in the daytime? The answer could only be Paris. Who would wear it? I’m thinking a retired ballerina with an interesting back-story; maybe someone like Cate Blanchett’s character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (her again). You would need to be awfully tall to carry off this look, but my, oh my, how much fun it would be! That skirt is made for a spontaneous pirouette or two.

Speaking of runway looks that remind me of European cities, here is one from Celine’s Spring 2011 collection:

This one makes me think of Isabelle Huppert’s character in The Piano Teacher, minus the psychosexual drama. OK, maybe with a little bit of that too; it must be the severe, structural shirt paired with that decadent leather skirt. Periwinkle and chocolate brown – who knew? [As an aside, perhaps someone might be able to explain the last 20 minutes of that movie to me. I think I may have watched one too many Hollywood productions to grasp the nuances of Mittel-European drama.]
Moving southerly, geographically speaking, this look makes me think of a sexed-up Sound of Music … and I mean that it the best way possible.
Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2010 collection
Just imagine Colin Firth as the elder Von Trapp (anachronistic English accent included), and you’re half way there already. Love it!

A girl and a closet: Robyn

Here is another BCRL styling session story:

Robyn grew up in South Africa, and has been living in Edmonton since she was 14. She works for an environmental non-profit organization, and is passionate about environmental issues generally. She loves reading, spending time outdoors (biking and walking through the River Valley), and checking out the local farmers’ markets. She describes her current style as “simple and classic”, though she would like to explore a more bohemian (boho) vibe. Some of her favourite places to shop include Ricki’s, RW & Co., and Smartset.

One of Robyn’s goals for our session was to find new and trendy ways to wear a few pieces from her closet which she liked but didn’t find particularly versatile (or simply didn’t know what to do with). These included, in no particular order, a cap-sleeved tweed jacket, a black shrug, a pair of slouchy boots, a black pin-stripe skirt, and a colourful print blouse with tricky flutter sleeves. A disparate collection of pieces to start from … but all full of potential. We focused our attention on looks suitable for (1) Robyn’s work environment and (2) her weekend activities, and in particular outfits that could easily transition from one to the other. Having multi-functional clothes is a great time- and money-saving tip, especially for people who have to “dress up” a bit for work, but still want to go casual with their weekend attire – no need for two separate wardrobes!
Right from the start, Robyn told me that she prefers pants to skirts. Her go-to work outfit consists of her black dress pants paired with her black cardigan. Ironically, one of the things we quickly figured out was that neither her favourite pair of pants nor her black cardigan fit her quite right. More on the pants later. The problem with the cardigan was one I’ve run into a few times in the course of my style sessions – length. It was simply too long; instead of stopping around her hip bone area, the cardigan was two or three inches longer – enough to throw the proportions off. So, although a black cardigan is usually a key piece for mixing and matching outfits, I did not make much use of it in putting together Robyn’s looks. Instead, we added it to the list for future shopping trips.
First up, the jacket. Here’s a simple take on a work outfit:


Here, you can see the problem with Robyn’s pants. They simply drown her lower body! Robyn has a great figure, but these pants do nothing for it. It’s not just a question of size either; these pants are a little too wide all through the leg. Especially since Robyn prefers flats and lower heeled shoes, it’s important to wear more streamlined pants – not necessarily a skinny cut, but at least a boot-cut that doesn’t flare too much down the leg.
Leaving aside the fit of the pants, this is a great work outfit. The mustard colour looks amazing on Robyn, and it’s a great accent colour. The black vest helps to tie together the look, and adds warmth (through layering) for fall and winter. This outfit can easily transition to “after work” by switching out the pants and wearing jeans.
The jacket also works with a skirt.

Robyn wasn’t sure that this skirt was office-appropriate; she was worried it was too casual because of the print. No need to worry – the print is grounded by the other elements of the outfit here, including the more conservative jacket. If you are worried that a print might be too “loud”, anchor it with solid colours (black and a matching colour, as here).  In fact, the print adds “visual interest” to an outfit that might otherwise be too simple, if it were all solid colours. Since Robyn has a pair of opaque teal tights, she can easily transition this look well into fall, by adding them and switching the tank top for a black one (to avoid teal overload).
Next up, the pin-stripe skirt:

While the previous look was flattering on Robyn, this outfit takes it to the next level. She looks amazing in this high-waisted look! Don’t be afraid to pair a pin-stripe with a pattern (like the one on this shirt); they work together well. [Though sadly the details can’t be seen very well in this picture. Photographer’s apologies!] We actually faked the “high waist” on the skirt by using a wide belt cinched right above the skirt; this is particularly useful if you have a hard time finding high-waisted skirts that fit properly (which can be a challenge for curvy girls with small waists). A cardigan helps to tone down the “va-va-voom” quality of the look and make it office-appropriate. Because of the high waist here, Robyn’s cardigan, which is otherwise a little too long, is fine. Red shoes would be a great addition, but since Robyn does not have any currently, red accessories can substitute in a pinch.

Next up – the black shrug:

This actually ended up being one of the most versatile pieces in Robyn’s closet – hard to believe considering that she never wore it! This shrug works on her because (a) it’s the right length for her, and (b) it’s not too bulky. It also highlights Robyn’s fabulous hourglass curves … helped along, of course, by a belt. The key with belts that cinch at the waist is to place them on the narrowest part of your torso – which may or may not actually be your waist, depending on your body type. In this case, the belt also helps to give definition to this empire-waist top. 
Although we used a denim skirt for this look, the same shrug/top combination can easily be worn with either black dress pants, a black skirt or jeans. A great transitional outfit.
Here is another take on the shrug:

Now, I know what you are thinking: “But, Adina, isn’t the top too long? It’s hitting her around the thighs – isn’t that a bad thing?” The simple answer is no … and here’s why. First of all, Robyn is relatively tall (5′ 7), so she can pull off longer tops more easily than petites. Second, the longer length of the top is balanced by the shrug. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the belt is drawing the eye up. You will see what I mean with the next look. The red accessories add a great pop of colour against the blues and blacks of the outfit. Again, this outfit would easily work with black pants and even a form-fitting pencil skirt (though I would keep the skirt length at or above the knee, and avoid any A-line or other skirts with volume).

Here is the same look, a little more casual:

See, the belt is still keeping everything balanced, length-wise and volume-wise. Although this cardigan is more unstructured, the look is still streamlined. I love a pop of turquoise next to the midnight blue of the cardigan (which, by the way, is an extremely flattering colour for most people).
Just for fun, we switched out the top for a really casual – yet stylish – weekend look. The tank top (below) is worth pointing out because it’s pretty close to perfect for Robyn – the neckline looks beautiful on her (showing off those collarbones), the faux wrap effect is slimming, (and waist enhancing – no belts required!) and the length is absolutely right. 

Finally, it was time for the slouchy boots. They have a definite boho vibe, so we decided to explore a style that is a little bit more outside of Robyn’s current comfort zone. 
With that in mind, it was time to bring back the shrug (see, I told you it was versatile). We paired it with a top that Robyn had only recently purchased, which had a great flower print. Prints are probably the easiest way to go boho – just stay away from animal prints and anything remotely geometric. The only problem with this top was … what else … the length. Before you start thinking that I have some kind of obsession about length, check out the side-by-side comparison; the picture on the left is the original, while the one on the right displays my rudimentary Photoshop skills.

See what a difference 3 inches can make? Luckily, Robyn is quite handy with a sowing machine, and not averse to investing some time in tailoring. 

Another option is to tuck in the top.

This is essentially a more sophisticated version of the same outfit, which she can wear not only on weekends but also on casual Fridays at work. 
Here is another take on the slouchy boots. 

I like how the crochet-like material of this skirt  pairs with the boots and the braided belt – very boho. Here, the shrug ties it all together, but Robyn could also substitute a denim jacket (or even a leather jacket) as long as it’s cropped.
We loved the print top, so we decided to un-boho it for a different look. How is this for a style 180:

Very urban chic! Again, because of the belt and the shorter tank top underneath, the longer (but slim) cardigan doesn’t overwhelm Robyn’s frame. Love the olive colour!
But there was one more item on original our list  left to figure out – the print blouse with the tricky sleeves. The paisley-like pattern was perfect  boho material, and we took care of the problematic sleeves by adding a cardigan. A few more familiar pieces, and a turquoise and silver necklace to finish it all off – and voila! 

Sienna Miller, eat your heart out!!

A little pick me up

You know those days when it feels like everyone and their dog is engaged in a vast conspiracy against you? Those days suck. They’re not so much a procession of hours, as an unending collection of camel back-breaking straws. What everyone needs on days like that is a little pick-me-up.

After a number of frustrating days last week, I finally caved in to a little colour therapy – nail polish colour, to be exact. For the last few months, two colours in particular have been on my mind – a Deborah Lippman grey polish, and Chanel’s  “Paradoxal”. I’ve never tried purple nails before, but I was tempted like never before.

Still, even on a feel-bad day, my price ceiling for nail polish (which I don’t wear all that often) is much too low to accommodate  any Chanel-style therapy. Instead, I decided to head over to the drugstore to find an acceptable alternative –  an “over-the-counter” fix, as it were. And I found it in an Essie shade called “It’s Genius” ($9.99). It’s got more of a wine/mauve undertone than the “Paradoxal” (which is more of a plum purple), but I think that actually makes it easier to wear. Just like its pricier cousin, the Essie shade has a subtle shimmer, though it’s by no means gaudy. It almost has a look of velvet about it, which is a very “in” fabric this fall.

While I’m a big Essie fan, I should mention that Revlon has an almost identical shade (and costs a little less). So if anyone else is having a bad day, try a little therapy in the cosmetics aisle!