Month: October 2011

Mars and Venus

If you’re not yet familiar with The Man Repeller, better change that. The concept behind the popular blog of the same name is now a trend for the masses, not just the fashion elite, if my September issue of People Stylewatch is anything to go by. The idea is simple: the “man repeller” look is based around “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex … [with items such as] harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs” (to borrow from the definition provided on the blog). More generally, now, the concept embraces the idea of dressing for oneself (and other style-savvy women) rather than to interest and attract men – whether or not doing so involves the dreaded jumpsuit, or something less aggressively “ugly”, like a circa-1991 plaid shirt.
The fundamental premise seems to be that women will tend to dress one way when their goal is to appeal to the opposite sex, versus when they are trying to impress one of their own (or their own inner fashionista). I suppose this goes hand in hand with the notion that your average male will not appreciate high fashion – designed, so the old chestnut says, by gay men, and therefore not focused on highlighting those physical attributes of women of which, according to conventional wisdom, the heterosexual male cannot get enough. Whether this is objectively true or not (and I’d point out that, for one thing, plenty of today’s leading designers are women), doesn’t matter; people tend to assume that it’s true. Sarah Jessica Parker – or, more accurately, her character on SATC, Carrie Bradshaw – is often toted as exhibit #1; women lusted after her (fictional) designer closet and her style mojo, and men scratched their heads trying to understand what the big deal was about.

But back to the present. “Man repeller fashion” is a ‘thing’ now, and apparently it’s “in”. It’s current “face” may well be Alexa Chung, whose quirky, off-beat style has had fashionistas raving for the last few seasons. 
I’m a big fan of dressing to please oneself, although I’m not entirely convinced that doing so is by definition mutually exclusive from dressing in a way that others – male, female, style gurus or style peons – might appreciate. But I was curious to put the underlying premise to a (not very scientific) test. If I were to put together an outfit that made ME feel stylish and confident, how might it be different from an outfit that my HUSBAND might pick out as a favourite of his? He was game, and so I let him loose in my closet, with instructions to put together a “look” representative of what he most appreciates seeing me wear. After clarifying that nudity was not acceptable for the blog, he asked for a few days to mull the challenge. I did the same – it’s surprisingly hard to decide what makes me feel MOST confident and stylish, when I’m still working on defining my personal style. 

On to the results. It may be a product of my new practicality-above-all-else outlook (and my current stay-at-home mom status), but I quickly came to the realization that my go-to outfit of choice these days is some variation on the basic jeans-top-cardi-heels combo. Nothing too revolutionary, but these days I’m leaving the good fight (for style) in other, more capable – and free – hands. However, I did not entirely abandon my old arsenal. For this particular outfit, I decided to take the advice I’ve dished out numerous times; I overcame my worries, and tucked in my top and belted that sucker. Rather than draw attention to problem areas, a belt (worn the right way) can be very flattering. Dark wash jeans are a casual wardrobe standard, and this pant-style cut is dressy while still comfortable.

I feel pretty darn good in this outfit – or as good as the mom of a feisty 3 month old can feel on an average day.

My husband, naturally, had other considerations in mind when picking out “his” outfit. After complaining that I had way too many clothes (duh!), making his task nigh-impossible, he eventually went back to an outfit I had worn a few years ago, which he apparently still remembers fondly to this day. His one specification was with regards to the footwear; he insisted that I wear the shoes he likes most, even though I tried to convince him that they didn’t really go with the outfit he had in mind. But … an experiment is an experiment, so here we are.

To be fair, I didn’t ask him to pick an everyday look for me, so he went for what he liked best, practical considerations aside. His choice isn’t all that surprising since, these days, he rarely gets to see me dressed up. To be fair, he also liked my outfit pick, as he generally does most of the things I wear. Which proves … that my husband is either very attuned to fashion (or my style at least), or that he is … a very supportive, not to say diplomatic, spouse.

Manicure of the week: Gondola

Released as part of Chanel’s fall 2009 collection, Gondola is a polish inspired by the beautiful city of Venice. A deep, plummy red with a subtly sparkly finish thanks to red and gold micro shimmer, it’s a gorgeous colour for fall. It really comes alive when the sun is shining. With sun being somewhat lacking these days, my camera flash will have to do.

Wine is a colour that doesn’t get a lot of notice, but it’s extremely flattering without being flashy. It pairs well with lots of colours, like navy, cobalt blue, camel and brown. Although I am not, as a rule, drawn to the red side of the colour spectrum, I’ve resolved to work on incorporating more of this shade into my closet. Here is my “inspired by” outfit, with a hat tip to Gondola.
Skirt, BCBG; turtleneck, Suzy Shier; tights, The Bay;
shoes, Ralph Lauren; necklace, H&M; hat, Nine West

The antique-looking locket necklace seemed like the perfect finishing touch, its little flash of green a nice complement to the fieriness of Gondola.

Happy Friday!!

Condo makeover

[In this guest post, our West coast correspondent, Cat, talks about the design decisions involved in her recent condo renovation. A first-time home-owner, she started with a blank slate, and ended up with a living space that truly reflects her style.]

Starting from scratch when re-designing one’s entire home can be daunting. But unless you’re willing to live in a bygone era indefinitely (or can afford a brand-new, gazillion-dollar apartment in Vancouver), a significant overhaul is often in order. To start with, I found it handy to have a “look book” to keep me on course, in terms of both design and budget; I chose rooms that I liked in magazines, then settled on designs that I felt I could replicate with the bigger furniture pieces that I already had and planned to keep. After that, if something I liked didn’t fit into that vision, I couldn’t have it.

Once you get down to the dirty work, the importance of prioritizing cannot be overstated. Pick the “unchangeables” – like floors, faucets, countertops, etc. – first, then worry about things like specific paint colours and decor.  Colour was a big part of the process, as I find it very powerful. I wanted to feel happy and peaceful in each room, and I wanted the rooms to be timeless (and durable) yet cozy. But I also wanted something bold for my very first home, since I’m still young and single – I figure that I have the rest of my life for neutrals. This meant that, while my paint colours are all sort-of in the same family of pastel-y mid-tones, there was really no “colour flow” from room to room. Instead, I tied the rooms together by using common decor themes and motifs – abstract florals, exotic pieces and pictures from my travels, and antique-y looking fixtures. I tried to abstain from trends as much as possible, although I’ll have to see how my wallpapered feature wall will stand the test of time. [The wallpaper pattern echoes the fabric pattern on my couch almost perfectly, so hopefully it will last a while!]

And also, perhaps most importantly, I used Stacey and Clinton’s advice, and bought the best furniture and decor pieces I could afford, to give the place longevity and (ideally) save money down the road.

On to the good stuff – the photos! Here are some “before” shots of my place. Pretty basic stuff.

The kitchen:

The bedroom:

The dining area:

And the rest of the living room:

And here are the “afters”. First up, my new – purple! – living room. I got some flack from friends for going with such a standout colour, but I think I managed to prove them wrong; your walls don’t have to be boring to be elegant, and jewel tones can give a room more personality than neutrals ever could. 

 The colour I picked for the living room is “Garden Flower” by Behr, but I had it matched at Benjamin Moore at 50% intensity. It’s always worthwhile to play around with the basic colours, to achieve your ideal shade. I also went with matte paint instead of eggshell, the traditional choice, for a couple of reasons. First, it doesn’t show flaws as much. [Ed: a key consideration for any do-it-yourself-ers.] Second, I noticed that when I used eggshell for the sample pots, the light reflected off the gloss and made all colours look grey. The matte version had the opposite effect, by absorbing the light and producing a more intense colour.  

Overall, I tried in excess of 20 samples while working on the condo to get all the colours right (and still ended up having to re-paint an entire room that came out looking awful). I decided that rather than layering on colour over colour, the best way to get an accurate representation of what each paint would end up looking like on the wall was to buy sheets of white poster board, paint them with 2 or 3 coats, and then tape them to different walls to see how each shade would look in every part of the room. I couldn’t believe how much a single colour could change! The green I chose looked soft and warm in the spare bedroom, and day-glo bright in the hallway. If it hadn’t all come from the same paint can, I would have thought that the store had mixed the wrong shade. [Ed: I can attest to this. The Tiffany-esque blue my husband and I chose for our basement looked almost “mint chocolate ice cream” green in the stairwell, and light blue elsewhere in the basement. It also changed tonality and intensity with changes in lighting (natural versus artificial). Cat’s approach is probably the best way to avoid any surprises once you’re ready to paint.]

And here is the bedroom after the renovations.

And, last but not least, the kitchen:

A friend has said that the overall effect of all the work is very “Home and Garden”, and I tend to agree – I think I need some more personal photos on the walls to make it a little less sterile. I think the living room wall above the sofa would benefit from a photo collage of my travels or something similar, although I’m terrible at putting that kind of thing together (and my dad will have a stroke when he sees all the holes pounded in the walls). I guess that’s why they say that home improvement is a process that never ends – there is always something more to be done.