Month: April 2011

Working with colour

Last week, InStyle ran a poll on its Facebook page asking people about their favourite ways to add colour to their outfits. As a lover of accessories (and colour), this got me thinking – what would I pick? Although I use everything from bags (natch) to jewelry to add oomph to my outfits, if I had to single out my go-to accessory it would have to be shoes. When it comes to accent colours, subtlety is not my style; I like making a statement, otherwise why bother? Unless you go big – really big – jewelry is a good complement, rather than a statement all on its own; it can pick up a colour theme you’ve got going on, but it can get lost in the mix if it’s the only colour you’re wearing. And while I looove bags, there are plenty of times in the course of my day when I’m not carrying one. Shoes, on the other hand, are always with me; they’re visible, but not in-your-face – so they’re the perfect vehicle for accent colour.
Having said that, I must emphasize that this is an entirely personal preference. Some people don’t have an extensive shoe collection, which means that, for them, footwear is strictly a utilitarian thing. Like scarves are for me, for example. I know someone who has a fabulous eye for accessorizing her outfits with scarves, and they’re always an organic part of what she wears (and look fantastic to boot). On the other hand, I always feel a bit self-conscious wearing scarves indoors as a style choice, as opposed to a practical consideration (i.e. how best to stay warm). Some people love “big” jewelry, which can supply a rainbow’s-worth of colour to any outfit; some people don’t wear any, or only very little. There is no right or wrong way to “do colour” when it comes to your wardrobe – it’s a question of comfort level. Here are some examples:
Shoes:

Belt
Bag
Jewelry

… And everything else

Thinking about ways to add accent colour also got me thinking about, well, colour. As the examples above show, almost any colour can work as an “accent”. [For a look at colour combinations, check out this post]. But, as some of you know well, I am particularly partial to one accent colour in particular. Yep, it’s red.

Red is a great complement to a lot of other colours – everything from navy to blue to purple to pink to olive/khaki. It’s simply a question of matching the right shades to each other. Red can be overwhelming on its own, especially in large quantities, so it’s often a colour that people shy away from altogether. In small doses, however, red can be not only elegant, but subtle. Nowhere is this more the case than when paired with black, grey and “neutrals” like camel, taupe or cream.


Your turn: what’s your favourite way to add colour (and what colour(s) do you love)? 

Of brides and cupcakes

Even if your residence happens to be in any way rock-adjacent, you have probably heard about a certain royal wedding that will be happening later this month. What better way to start the 2011 wedding season, no? Lots of people are, of course, a-flutter about the details of this latest fairy-tale wedding, not least of which being the bride’s attire. After all, it’s not every day that a woman becomes a princess, though a million or more little girls might have dreamt about it at one time or another – and they all want to know what the “chosen one” will wear for the real thing.
So, what will it be? I like Kate Middleton’s style (and she has a fabulous sense of how to dress her body type, which is admittedly an enviable one), but I have no clue as to what choice she’ll make for what will probably be the most-watched moment of her life. Will she go traditional? Modern? Pouffy? Sleek? She doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who would, under normal circumstances, go for anything over-the-top (volume- or embellishment-wise) … but, then again, she is getting married in Westminster Abbey – if that ain’t the grandest of grand venues, I don’t know what is. It’s hard to imagine how one might pull off “minimalism” in that setting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Middleton tried … and succeeded. 
It looks like 2011 will be the year of a few other big “celebrity” weddings; Reese Witherspoon got married a few weeks ago (in a pale pink Monique Lhuillier gown), and Natalie Portman is engaged. The latter is definitely something of a fashion-world darling, which makes speculation about her future bridal attire rather fun. Which designer will she pick? Will she go classic, or avant-garde? And who else might join her as a contender for best-dressed bride of 2011?
Time will tell. But wouldn’t it be fun to play celebrity stylist for a bit? While browsing some of the recent Fashion Week collections, I couldn’t help but single out a few dresses that, given the chance and the budget, I would do my best to talk someone into wearing.
First up, a gorgeous Monique Lhuillier gown from the fall 2011 collection. I know, it’s black. But imagine it in ivory. So pretty!
[By the way, did you know that the fabulously stylish Sarah Jessica Parker got married in a black dress? More recently, I read somewhere that she has since regretted her choice of wedding attire, but I think it’s pretty cool that she went with something so non-traditional.]

Next, a show-stopping fall 2011 Marchesa dress – perfect for living out one’s Scarlett O’Hara fantasies. [You know there’s a full-on crinoline under there.] I love the pale, dove gray colour, which would be an interesting colour choice for a modern bride. She’d have to love tulle though … a lot.

Speaking of non-traditional colours, this smoky violet Vera Wang gown is actually part of her 2011 bridal collection. I think it’s a beautiful colour, but it could also work in white or ivory. There is a dreamy, ethereal quality to this dress that fits that certain princess-bride ideal better than any number of ballgowns could. This is actually a dress I could see Natalie Portman wearing. What do you think?

Last, but not least, another black gown, this one from Oscar de la Renta. Truth be told, this is very close to what my own dream wedding dress would look like (though nothing like my actual wedding dress, more’s the pity), though I’d probably go with a traditional bridal colour. I love this silhouette, but it can definitely be tricky – on the wrong person, this could come very close to looking like a frou-frou cupcake. [I think a slightly longer torso could make all the difference.] Then again, some people might say that you can never go wrong with a cupcake … and I might not disagree. Even if when it’s not edible.


The never-ending story

I’ve been a collector as long as I can remember. It’s one of those quirks of character that can mystify those not ‘afflicted’ with it – though it must be said that collecting can be so highly idiosyncratic that even fellow collectors can sometimes be baffled by each others’ objects of desire. For me, it all started with stamps. As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of all those colourful miniature pictures from so many different exotic places. Every time I looked over my collection, I would feel like I was taking a trip around the world, one stamp at a time.
Later on, I started collecting magnets from different cities and places I travelled. [Seeing a pattern developing here?] My fridge door now resembles a very haphazard map of the world, and its fauna – I can’t resist a cute fur-ball or two.
In terms of volume and investment (both time and cost), my greatest collection by far is my home library. I’m a life-long bookworm, and although I’ve been a public library card carrier since my early teens, nothing compares to the thrill of adding a book to my own collection. And, I might add, nothing like the satisfaction of being able to pick up an old favourite to re-read any time of day or night the fancy strikes – just by walking into the next room. Considering my somewhat eclectic, wide-ranging reading tastes (particularly in foreign lit classics), it’s also been a great convenience since the end of my student life, and the easy access to the well-stocked university libraries.
When it comes to clothes, my collecting instincts (luckily) run in only one direction – bags. I like clothes, I like shoes, I like jewelry; but I love bags. A good bag is like a work of art to me: to be admired for its beauty, not just its practicality … though, as a savvy shopper, I always turn my mind to that consideration sooner or later. My bags are also chapters – to borrow a metaphor – in the story of my life, and evolution, in fashion. Care to join me on a trip down memory lane?
As my collector’s eye has matured (or my obsession grown, depending on how you look at it), I have gradually moved away from buying non-leather bags, mostly because they tend to fall apart much faster – a bad “investment” for someone who’s in it for the long-run, like me. I like to use my pieces, down to (and especially) the most prized, so they have to be able to stand up to my hectic lifestyle. [This is not a criticism, by any means, of anyone who chooses to avoid leather for ethical or other reasons.] My last remaining non-leather bag is a Nine West satchel I’m holding onto because of its gorgeous peacock colour; I don’t get a ton of wear out of it, but occasionally it’s just the right pop of colour an outfit needs. And I have to say that I have always been pleasantly impressed by the overall quality of Nine West bags; for a lower price-point, their quality is hard to beat.
Another bag that found its way into my collection  largely because  of its great colour is this Kate Spade handbag – a classic style that will never go out of fashion, jazzed up in apple-green. Its thick, pebbled leather is going to last a long, long time (and a great Kijiji bargain at $50, brand new with tags).
My first foray into designer handbag collecting started with Coach. Back in the spring of 2008, I went into a serious Coach-buying binge on eBay. This was before the WEM store opened its doors, and back when the local re-sale market was non-existent – I had no other options and bit the PayPal bullet. The first bag I ever bought (and you’d best believe me when I say I agonized over it) was a red monogram, classic flap handbag. Its price (somewhere in the region of $160) gave me the vapours at the time; it’s funny how one’s perspective can change, no?
Anyway, shortly thereafter, I acquired my then-dream bag: a chocolate colour Carly, much in vogue at the time. It was actually a birthday present – oh, sweet 28!

Around the same time, I also picked up a small, suede-trim canvas hobo whose main attraction was, what else, its colour: bright pink. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of its Pepto glory;  my taste for the monogramed Cs has significantly declined in recent years, and I’ve sold both of these erstwhile treasures. However, I am still a big fan of vintage (pre-2000s) leather Coach bags, and I’m actually looking to expand my collection in that line, which currently consists of two lovely pieces I picked up on eBay for next to nothing (under $20 each). These beauties are proof that quality does, indeed, last.

My current Coach collection is rounded off by a small leather tote, which currently serves as my “knock-around” black bag (another Kijiji find). I like that, save for its not-too-conspicuous tag, it doesn’t shout its pedigree, though it still has a certain classic, timeless style; you might say that it’s “anonymously” classy.
My next designer collection began at Winners, where I laid eyes on my first-ever Arcadia bag. I’m a sucker for vernis leather, and I fell in love at first sight with Arcadia’s classic, ladylike styles. This also coincided with my move towards bigger purses, where a structure style that holds its shape is a bonus. At one time, my Arcadia collection consisted of four pieces (black, grey, white and plum), but I recently down-graded … or up-graded, one might say (more on that later). From a practical perspective, I have yet to come across a more useful and versatile work bag than my grey Arcadia tote; it can fit my lunch, my office shoes, as well as an assortment of file folders, on top of the usual purse accoutrements, without any untoward squishiness. 
A more recent object of obsession is Marc Jacobs. It started with an impulse buy at Holt Renfrew (one of the few times I’ve paid full retail for a bag, helped in large part by a timely gift card): a small, logo-embossed Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag, which supplanted the brown Carly from my collection. The “one in, one out” approach is not something I strictly enforce when it comes to my handbags, but unless I have an emotional connection to a particular piece, I usually don’t keep two of the same colour, particularly if they are roughly the same size.

My first MbMJ acquisition was followed, a few months later, by a cream Marc Jacobs Courtney hobo (which you may remember), as well as a cashew-colour MbMJ Classic Q Groovee satchel – both versatile, practical bags that have been getting a lot of wear. I love MJ bags because of their soft, thick  leather, which feels so luxurious, no matter how casual the style. I’ve been carrying these two to work a lot lately; they’re extra roomy, and the colours accessorize really well with my office wear.


And last, but not least, we come to the “divas” of my handbag collection: the LVs. Let me say, first, that while I may be something of a label lover (though, by no means, a snob), I never buy bags simply because they happen to be expensive, or have a designer name attached. There are plenty of luxe handbags (Louis Vuitton included) that don’t incite my collector’s lust, or get a second glance. Moreover, by and large, I’m not a fan of overly branded styles, especially in-your-face monogrammed pieces. In that respect, Louis Vuitton is something of an exception. But every collector has to have a weakness, no?


My dream of owning LV has been a long-standing affair, which finally became a reality a little over a year ago, thanks in large part to the second-hand market. I’m not going to pretend that, when you’re dealing with the creme of the luxury crop, the prices aren’t still very high; but they are somewhat more affordable than retail (anywhere up to 70% off, if you’re very, very lucky). 
[And no, I’m not taking about those “authentic” LVs floating around for $200. The key, when shopping for a pre-owned designer item is to do your homework on the brand very, very thoroughly. Never buy fakes. If you ever have concerns in that respect, the folks over at the Purse Forum and CarolDiva offer free authentication services, which, as far as I know, not all LV boutiques will do.]

My first Louis Vuitton piece was a classic Speedy 30, with a twist – from the 2007 Dentelle collection, its monogram is covered by delicate silver lurex “lace”. I love the fact that it doesn’t scream “LV”.

To my great delight, this year I was finally able to get my hands on one of my “collector’s trifecta” of dream handbags – the vernis Alma. 

It joins my vernis Sarah wallet, which was another lucky find. [And, as an aside, a lesson in why it pays off to hold off on buying something until you’ve found the piece you absolutely love. Long story short, I spent about 6 months looking for the perfect replacement wallet, and came close to blowing my budget on various so-so items simply in desperation at never finding one I really liked. Boy, was I happy I’d held off on that when I finally came across the Sarah wallet, and was able to afford it without any guilt pangs!] And that is the extent of my collection – for now. While I have some definite ideas about how I would like my collection to grow (more on that another time), I’m in no rush to expand … still, should another good deal cross my path, well, a collector may be forgiven for yielding to temptation every now and then. 

Now, maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age, but I like to think that, some day, should I be lucky enough to have a granddaughter, she will be happy to inherit Nana’s collection. Of course, knowing the way the universe tends to work, she’ll be a total tomboy. But, hey – at least Nana had fun putting it together!

Your turn: ever been bit by the collecting bug?