Month: November 2010

Mission possible

Last week I mentioned my current obsession with agate jewelry, and bemoaned my lack of success in finding any nice pieces locally. Well, wouldn’t you know it – Winners rose to the challenge once again. I found this lovely necklace hiding in the clearance display:

I like the boho vibe of the hammered links and the mix of different size and colour stones. [The large stone is actually a lighter honey brown than it appears in the photo.] And the price was unbeatable: $10. Love it!

A girl and a closet: Shanna

Shanna was born in Montreal, but moved out here when she was eight. She is a realtor, and enjoys golfing, traveling and salsa-dancing in her spare time. She also loves to shop, especially at the outlets in the U.S., though she is also a fan of Mexx, Jacob and Dynamite. Her love of shopping is readily apparent: Shanna is not only stylish, but her closet is one that can easily rival mine. A girl after my own heart! Shanna describes her style as “classic” and “straight-forward”. Her goal for our session was to develop a more polished, “put-together” approach to weekend dressing. In terms of her professional wardrobe, she knows exactly what she likes, what looks good and what works; but when it comes to her off-duty wardrobe, she tends to dress at the very casual end of the spectrum. Here is one typical look:

Right off the bat, Shanna told me that the key for her was comfort … and staying warm. She wanted to find a way to amp up the style of her weekend wear, without sacrificing comfort and practicality. A bonus would be to incorporate some of her work pieces into the mix, but again without going all the way to the “dressy” extreme.
So that’s what we set about doing. The basic approach was to take one work piece and build an outfit around it while minimizing its dressiness. In each case, we put together two looks: both appropriate for weekend activities, but one more casual (brunch, running errands, etc.) and one a little dressier (dinner, drinks, etc.).
The “preppy” option: dress shirt + cable knit sweater

More casual                                                                  Less casual

Why this works: a chunky cable-knit sweater has the  just the right casual vibe to “dress down” a collared shirt, and it’s the right weight too. A too-lightweight sweater can look bunchy on top of a shirt, plus it offers less warmth. To further enhance the casualness of the outfit, leave the shirt untucked.
A long, simple necklace is a great way to accessorize a weekend look, because it looks more casual than shorter pieces but has tons of style. The necklace we used here (a piece I picked up at Banana Republic without realizing just how useful it would turn out to be) is fantastic because it’s the right length (hits around the navel) and shape (small, round stones, no extra embellishments), and it’s also a great accent colour. The turquoise pairs well with lots of colours (including the navy and orchid pink in these outfits) and it manages to stand out in a discreet, not overpowering, way.

The “girly” option: print cami + solid-colour cardigan

More casual                                                                  Less casual

                  

Why this works: these print camisoles work really well with Shanna’s work suits, but they can also do double-duty on weekends. Just pair them with cardigans or sweater coats. The chunkier the knit of the sweater, the more casual the vibe. If, like Shanna, you find yourself frequently feeling cold (and who doesn’t in this climate), then layer a coloured tank top underneath the camisole. Again, this will also serve to “dress down” the outfit; for evening looks, it’s better to skip the tank top, or wear one with a lower neckline so that it doesn’t show. As before, a long necklace completes the look.

The “Gwyneth” option: blazer + T-shirt

More casual                                                                Less casual

Why this works: I call this the “Gwyneth” approach to weekend wear because Ms. Paltrow has practically made this look her off-duty uniform. A blazer, a print T-shirt, jeans … done! A good trick for transitioning a work blazer into the weekend is to push up the sleeves – it instantly transforms the look of the blazer from “business” to “fun”. You can also control the level of dressiness here through the choice of T-shirts. The one on the left has a more casual-looking print; the one on the right, by virtue of the print, the darker colours and the sparkles (which can’t be seen in the photo) is dressier. I’m a huge fan of crew-neck T-shirts – as long as they don’t look like they’re swallowing up your neck – but V-necks can work just as well, if they’re more to your taste. 
Another way to control the level of dressiness in an outfit is through fabric. Here are two outfits made up of very similar pieces, but with very different vibes.

Cotton is casual, even in a dressier print (above left); silk and other shinier fabrics are far less casual (above right). As I mentioned above, the same is true for longer versus shorter necklaces. A shiny patent belt and pointy stilettos complete the evening look. 
In addition to jazzing up her weekend wear, Shanna had one other request for me: helping her figure out how to wear her funky cut-out booties. Though she loved them, she always ended up wearing them with pants, which didn’t exactly show them off. As her goal was to do just that, I suggested that she pair them with a pencil skirt – I love the contrast between really funky and really classic pieces. Here are two ways that we accessorized the look.

For option #1, the slouchy cardigan echoes the slouchiness of the shoes, and the gun-metal grey echoes their “rocker” vibe. The silhouette is still streamlined, thanks to the slim pencil skirt and the waist-emphasizing belt of the cardigan. 

Option #2 is a slightly dressier take.

The sweater is less slouchy, but is a heavier knit which adds a little bit of extra volume on top. The belt adds definition to the waist and plays off the side buckles on the shoes. Fabulous!
Got a style question? Want your own style session or shopping trip with me? Contact me at bluecollarredlipstick@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Shopping alert

For all you savvy shoppers out there – cute faux patent leather ballerina flats are now $10 at Joe Fresh. They come in a variety of colours, including plum, navy, black and grey, as well as this perfect cherry red:
 
For an extra incentive, if you get them today, Superstore is giving twice the GST back (not sure if that’s on selected Joe items only, but the flats seem to be included in any case).
Get them before they’re gone!