Month: February 2011

Awards season style pool: Oscar Nominees Luncheon

While not an awards show itself, the Oscar nominees luncheon is still something of a red carpet event, albeit one with a “relaxed” vibe. Since it offers our contenders another opportunity to distinguish themselves from the “pack”, I decided to include it in the style pool. As with the SAG Awards, we got only a partial line-up; this time around, since neither Mila Kunis nor Anne Hathaway are actually nominated, they did not attend. But let’s take a look at the ladies who were there. 

Natalie Portman confounds me again, this time in a rather droopy-sack Lanvin. I love the colour combination of the teal dress and the mauve shoes and clutch, but the fit and fabric of the dress don’t do her any favours. Still, I liked her hair, and Natalie looks as stunning as ever.

Nicole Kidman reverted to what’s become her typical look on the red carpet of late. If I’m going to be brutal for a moment, it’s a bit of a “granny” look, which really is a great disservice to Nicole. I like the idea of this YSL dress, including the  blood-orange colour, but I wish it was a wee bit shorter and less fussy – I’d go with either the pussy bow or the hemline flounce, but not both. No criticisms for the shoes, though – they’re gorgeous!

Amy Adams was the clear standout at this event for me, in a lovely dress by Valentino. She looks so fresh, and cute, and effortless. I’m not crazy about her gold-tone shoes – I wish they were a different colour (nude or red, perhaps) – but that’s a minor quibble. It goes without saying that I covet her hair, as well as her ability (as a fellow fair-skinned redhead) to wear white without looking like one of Dracula’s brides. Brava!
Poor Michelle Williams! Does her stylist not like her? Does her stylist think that she/he is working with an elderly church lady? To me, Michelle’s Chanel ensemble is, above all, an example of how the wrong proportions and lines can quickly turn an outfit into a two-part tragedy.
First, the waist of the skirt is sitting too high in proportion to her cleavage, which might still be salvageable were it not for the A-line style; it would look much better if it were a pencil skirt. Speaking of her cleavage, I’m not sure if it’s a question of lack of the (appropriate) foundation garment or that blouse doing some unkind things to her torso, but the effect is rather unfortunate. But there is still hope for the Oscars – I still think Michelle can surprise us all on the big night.

So, to recap, my hands-down fave this time around was Amy Adams, with Michelle Williams landing in the bottom spot again, just barely edging out Natalie Portman.

Your vote?

The challenge

A while back, one of my friends alerted me to an interesting post on Jezebel, which discussed the challenge posed by Six Items of Less – namely, to wear 6 items of clothing, and only those 6, for a month. This social experiment, if you want to call it that, requires participants to do exactly that; there are some exceptions to the count (including undergarments, work uniforms, work-out gear, outer wear, shoes and accessories) but otherwise you have to get creative. As some commenters  on Jezebel pointed out, this challenge is more feasible for some than others – living in a hot climate and working in a casual environment (or better yet, from home) certainly helps. Around here, not even counting my big parka, there would be plenty of occasions in a month like February when I would have to wear most, if not all, of my 6 items at once in order to stay marginally warm … not much fun any way you look at it.

Nevertheless, I’m not the type to pass up a challenge – at least, not when it involves clothes – so I decided to attempt a slightly modified version. Given my currently fast-expanding dimensions, a month-long project of this kind was not feasible for entirely practical reasons; a week, on the other hand, offered just the right amount of scope. I decided to allow myself 1 item per day – 7 in total – plus an extra (call it a cold weather bonus). As I was determined not to go with a too-monochromatic palette (for fear of being bored out of my skull for an entire week), the task of selecting my 8 items was difficult. Generally, the more interesting an item is – think an unusual colour, pattern or style – the more specific its matching requirements will be, which poses obvious problems when you’re working with a limited number of options. Additionally, interesting colours or patterns are more likely to be easily remembered, and I didn’t want my work colleague to wonder if I’d run out of laundry or had been involved in a tragic closet mishap. 

I also needed to pick items that would not only allow me to put together 5 office-appropriate outfits, but also 2 weekend looks (including one “evening out” outfit). Luckily, my workday evenings largely consist of reading or watching TV in my PJs, which did not place additional demands on my 8 piece wardrobe. In the end, here were my final selections:

1. black pants
2. jeans
3. black skirt
4. taupe cardigan
5. white tank top
6. black turtleneck
7. grey jacket
8. print jacket

I wasn’t absolutely thrilled with the selection – which  still ended up on the monochromatic side – but I managed to liven things up with shoes and accessories. And these were my outfits.

Monday (work)
Skirt (BCBG); jacket (Joe Fresh); tank (H&M);
shoes (Nine & Co.); belt (Holt Renfrew); earrings (Urban)
Tuesday (work)
 Cardigan (Old Navy); pants (Thyme Maternity); tank;
necklace (Banana Republic); shoes (Salvatore Ferragamo)

Wednesday (work)

Jacket (Anthropologie); skirt; belt (Banana Republic); turtleneck (Winners);
  shoes (Nine West); brooch (Avenue Clothing)

Thursday (work)
Jacket; pants; turtleneck; shoes (Liz Clairborne)
Friday (work)
Jeans (Thyme Maternity); turtleneck; scarf (Winners);
shoes (Stuart Weitzman); brooch (Iban)
Saturday (casual)
Jeans; tank top; cardigan; necklace (Banana Republic);
shoes (Nine West)

Saturday (evening)

Jeans; turtleneck; jacket

As for Sunday – back to PJs and some cozy couch-vegging!

So what did I get out of this experiment? It certainly made me think long and hard about the clothes I already have and how they work together. It made me get creative. It also made me bored. For me, dressing is an everyday creative endeavour; while this challenge did require me to be creative, it was a reductive sort of creativity – like trying to write a novel using only words that start with “p”. I missed my other clothes! I missed the excitement of being able to wear something completely different every day. I’m definitely an advocate for carefully editing a versatile wardrobe, but not necessarily to some arbitrary limit. Minimalism is fine, too, if that is one’s personal aesthetic (hint: it’s not mine) or in service to some social or ethical goal (which, as far as I can tell, is not the point of this challenge). But, for me, clothes should not simply be utilitarian – they should be fun too.

The colour playbook

Continuing the discussion of common style questions I’ve been asked over the last past six months, today let’s talk about colour. Colour can be intimidating to people, especially when they’re called upon to mix and match. Black is a default pairing, but there are few quicker ways to update one’s style than by foregoing the safety net and trying out more adventurous combinations.
For beginners, I highly recommend taking tips on colour matching from prints. After all, someone has already done the hard work for you – if you like a print, it means that the colours not only work together, but the pairing(s) also tickle your style fancy. And that’s an important consideration, because not everyone will like the same colour combinations. (or colours, period). Luckily, most colours can be ingeniously matched with any number of options so if, for example, you love orange but loathe turquoise, you won’t be stuck for choices (more on that later).

Here is an example. The print:

The lesson: that lavender and chartreuse (a pairing that might not have suggested itself to me otherwise) can look great together. Of course, it helps that I already had just those colours in my wardrobe.

This combination could also work if I replaced the print camisole with a top in a solid colour, like white; the print gives the outfit added visual interest, but it’s only a beginning – once you find a colour combination that works, it’s worth trying in a few different ways, even if it means abandoning your original inspiration. [And sometimes, a print is truly just inspiration; it doesn’t necessarily have to even be a piece of clothing. A favourite abstract painting or a photograph can be just the ticket.]

While I always encourage people to experiment away from black, when you are working with one really strong colour (or more), a little bit of black comes in handy in terms of “grounding” an outfit. Think accessories – a belt, shoes, bag, etc. If you have it in your closet, a softer neutral like cream  or camel can also do the job, provided that it’s a good match for the palette with which you’re working. 

For the truly adventurous, trying all-out colour – the wilder the combination, the better – will take you to the forefront of fashion this upcoming season. Unorthodox colour combinations showed up all over the runways for spring/summer 2011, Prada offering perhaps the most unorthodox of them all.

Prada – spring/summer 2011

Of course, I’m not suggesting that pairing yellow and green  is for everyone. [And that monkeys and bananas print … hmm.] If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, here are some options:

Traditional match: black, grey, navy
Non-traditional match: red
Accent colour: jade, turquoise

Audrey Tatou (Lanvin)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Prada) – note the jade necklace

Traditional match: black, grey, camel
Non-traditional match: aqua, purple
Accent colour: green

Prabal Gurung – spring/summer 2011

Kyra Sedgwick (Emilio Pucci) – note the earrings

Traditional match: white, navy, grey (black too strong)
Non-traditional match: blue, pink
Accent colour: purple (see SJP pic below)

DKNY – spring/summer 2011

Traditional match: black, brown
Non-traditional match: mustard yellow, orange
Accent colour: turquouise, chartreuse

Gucci – spring/summer 2011
Sarah Jessica Parker – note the shoes and earrings

Traditional match: white, navy, black (not in stripes)
Non-traditional match: lime green, lavender
Accent colour: aqua, purple

Diane von Furstenber – spring/summer 2011

Dior – spring/summer 2011 – note the embellishments

(Chocolate) Brown:
Traditional match: cream, camel, navy
Non-traditional match: periwinkle blue
Accent colour: black, mint green

Celine – spring/summer 2011

Diane von Furstenberg – spring/summer 2011

One tip for remembering easy colour combinations is to keep a colour wheel handy. 

Colours that directly face each other on the colour wheel are complementary (e.g. blue and orange). Similarly, look for triads – three colours evenly spaced on the wheel (e.g. green, orange and purple) – as these colours will also work well together; pick one as your main colour, and keep the other(s) as accents. 

Have a specific colour question? Leave it in the comments!