Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Top Ten

In the wake of Irene and the shadow of evacuation, I got to thinking. With all of the stuff that we acquire, what would we take with us? Does the answer to this questions offer evidence that what we keep is not necessary, and that what we would take would be our essentials?

I have always been fascinated with those who lead "the simple life," but putting that into practice, particularly with my wardrobe, has been quite the challenge. Specifically, if we were to take the essential contents of the wardrobe what would we pack?

It would seem that those classics we have heard so much about would be the top items on our list. You know the ones of which I speak of blazer, khakis, white button down, LBD, etc. Although these are the items I am supposed to need and want for my perfect wardrobe when I consider being stranded on a desert island or needing to immediately evacuate, these are not the items I would grab. My top ten items are my classics, those things my wardrobe could not live without.

This is meant to be an interactive post so please contribute. Tell the world what your top wardrobe items and links are welcome!

My Top Ten
1. Flare Jeans

Nothing compares to a great pair of jeans. Dressed up, dressed down, skinny, wide, dark light, ripped, or patched, this is everyone's wardrobe staple and with good reason! It always looks good. With or without the 70s trend, I have always favored the wider leg. It lends a figurative and literal flare to any outfit.

2. Platform Wedges

With any great outfit you need great shoes. When I want to feel my best I need height and comfort and platform wedges provide both. They look good with my dresses, pants, jeans, shorts, and skirts.

3. Cream Cashmere Cowlneck Sweater

Clean, classic, and sophisticated, this sweater makes me feel comfortable and warm. The thin knit keeps me from looking like the Marshmallow Puff Man, and I can easily layer without cutting off my circulation. This is a universal piece that works with almost everything in my wardrobe from the knit skirt to jean cutoffs.

4. Concha Belt

I have always been a lover of the specialty piece. The belt can be that piece. Even if your entire wardrobe is composed of, what I like to call blank canvas pieces (those that go with everything anytime anywhere), adding a spectacular belt will make every outfit stand out. Mine is the concha! I was lucky enough to buy mine when I worked for Ralph Lauren. Even though a decade has passed since my purchase, my concha is still in regular rotation.

5. Leather Jacket

Whether you go real or faux, you will never go wrong with this piece. This was my first luxe item in my wardrobe, straight from the runway. No matter what else I wear, putting this on makes it all look good.

6. Caramel Riding Boots

This is my fall and winter staple. I loathe flats, which I consider to be the training wheels of shoes, but this flat boot is the stylish answer to a comfortable shoe.

7. Cream Sheath
My little black dress is the cream sheath. I can wear this anywhere and not fade into the sea of dark fabrics. The seasonless material is as wearable in the summer as the winter. Just by changing my accessories, I can take this dress from desk to disco.

8. Gold Bangles

This is a no brainer in the jewelry department.  Another item that goes with everything for any occasion. You know those items you used to wear that appear in old pics and horrify you? These will never be those items. Wear one or twenty, wear together or with other pieces.

9. Golden Mama Bear Necklace

There are those items that you buy "just cuz" and then there are those you buy to mark a special occasion, milestone, or accomplishment. Every time you look at the piece you are reminded of that particular time in your life and you realize how far you have come, how far you still need to go, or how to get back to that place. My bear necklace is that piece.

10. Light Pink Sequin Dress

Organizers and stylists always tell us to rid the closet of those items that have not been worn in six months or a year....but there are somethings that are only needed for very special occasions, and those occasions may only come about once a year or once in a lifetime. As long as your closet is not filled with these items, you are given a free pass to keep them. I wore my seashell pink dress for my rehearsal dinner and the next time I wear it may be on my fiftieth wedding anniversary, but it will forever remain in my closet!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Clothing Consciousness

Most of us acquire our clothing without much thought. Yes, we may examine whether we like the color, fit, and style, but when those questions are answered affirmatively we buy. Consciousness rarely makes it into the dressing room. Awareness is an important part of our psychological health, but we may limit it to our meditative or relaxation practices rather than allow it to permeate throughout our day. Shopping for clothing can be an exercise in consciousness, and frankly should be! Here are some tips for raising your consciousness during clothing consumption. Remember to be mindful without judgment, this awareness may or may not change your purchase, but at minimum will make you think a little deeper.

Cost: In a world of conspicuous consumption, plummeting stocks, housing foreclosures, job loss, and inflated prices, examining the cost of our purchase has become a necessity rather than an afterthought. Consider your resources before you consider your purchase. Do you actually have the money, in liquid funds, to buy? If you have the money, is this money what is left over after you pay for the necessities? If you can easily afford the item, do you still need to spend the money on that item? That extra money may be put to better use for activities promoting emotional growth, such as a family vacation, hobby or interest, dinner party with friends, animal in a shelter, or favorite charity.

Maker: When buying, think about who your buying from and for what demand are you supplying. Consider who is making your design, manufacturing your product, distributing, marketing, and assembling. Do these individuals honor their employees with respect, fair treatment, and sufficient pay? Do they create a product using green practices? Do they support appropriate messages about children, teens, and adults? Do they promote a global view of beauty, including age, body shape, and color? Are they working to fit your lifestyle or must you fit the lifestyle they deem acceptable? If you are upset by the answers to these questions but still must have the item, look for something similar elsewhere, such as a vintage shop, different store, or savvy seamstress. Trust me, most ideas are not original!

Source: It is simply not enough to consider who your product came from but what it came from. Is your item composed of animal, plant, or synthetic materials? Did the animal endure maltreatment during its life or death? Would you treat your pet this way? Why not, what's the difference? Would you still buy if you saw the animal bludgeoned, skinned alive, or crying out? Not sure? There are plenty of pictures and videos available. My fur buying days ended when I saw a video of the Chinese fur trade. Watching a raccoon being slammed against the ground, staring at the camera with a bloody face and broken bones while waiting to be skinned, hung up by his toes, squirming while being skinned alive, and left in a heap using the last of his strength to lift his head to watch other raccoons share his fate will make anyone question the necessity of fur. If you can't live without it, consider fur from a second hand store or amazing faux fur options.

If not animal based, was the means of acquiring the plant source destructive to people or the environment? Were the synthetic fibers made in an unhealthy manner? Were the acquiring practices wasteful? Are there better alternatives for these materials? Are the ornamentation items, such as clasps, buttons, and decorative objects "friendly"? These questions may lead to some disturbing answers, but you still have a right and obligation to know!

Need: Even after you have considered all of the questions above, the final question you must ask yourself is "Do you need the item?" Will this item add to your look, your life? Or will it clutter your space, your mind? Will it make your life easier or more complicated? Buying the item takes internal and external resources and so do alterations, storage, coordination, and outfit formulation. Even if you don't need the item but still want it, consider the motivations for want. Is your want stemming from insecurity, inadequacy, boredom, loneliness, need for distraction, or addiction to acquiring? Who knew that buying an outfit could get this deep!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finding You

We've all heard the expression "She's got the look, " and we know that the woman with the "look" has an intangible quality that makes her special. The most important component of the woman who's got the look is an identifiable look! Her external appearance is distinct enough that an article of clothing or accessory can be deemed "so her." In a sea of carbon copies, trend junkies, and amotivational dressers, finding an interesting look, your signature look, can set you apart from the prefab crowd.

Finding your look requires more than just an examination of the clothing you like or don't like. Finding your look requires an internal examination, something we often recoil from for fear of what we might find. Rather than dressing from the outside in, dress from the inside out. Let the internal world seep through to the external. Use your clothes as an extension of who you are. Here's an easy exercise:

1. Write down 5-10 words that would describe you (internal qualities only!).
2. Based on these descriptors, what might a person wear who has these qualities?
3. Examine the contents of your wardrobe. Do they match who you are?
4. If not, rework the outside to match the inside...and be fearless!

Here are some famous examples of those who are not afraid to let the "you" shine through:

Iris Apfel: Interior designer, HSN jewelry maven, museum installation inspiration, and style icon

Karl Lagerfeld: Fashion designer, Chanel's creative director, and diet guru

Daphne Guinness: Heiress, haute couture collector, armor obsessed, and "International Best Dressed"

Andre Leon Tally: Vogue editor, first family's fashion consultant, author, and America's Next Top Model judge

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Age Issue

It is that time of year, my darlings. Vogue has just released their annual age issue featuring Sarah Jessica Parker. As part of their message, we are told to embrace our age, seek comfort in our own skin, and  fully develop all that we already are. Unfortunately, the eleven other issues we have during the year will spotlight young models, actresses, and socialites. One wonders if a broader range of ages were featured in the pages of the magazine, would an age issue even be necessary? Of course Vogue is not the only magazine to have an age issue, or fail to include women of all ages in the other issues, but at least an attempt has been made.

So as older women are desexualized and deemed irrelevant for all things fashionable, young girls are inappropriately sexualized.  Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau is the ten-year-old-face of French Vogue and subject of the latest age controversy. Her pouty face, covered in loads of makeup, sits atop a small frame clothed in a deep-v silk blouse. Hailed as the next Brigette Bardot, who was known as a what? A sex symbol! Yes, that's right...let's compare a prepubescent girl, who does not even have the emotional language to navigate this situation and all the reprecussions of it, to an international  subject of male fantasy. This isa  prime example of "what were they thinking?"

Now, if we take these two scenarios throw them together and mix them up, what do we get? The message is quite clear, when you are young you must look older and when are older you must look younger (or you will be discarded). The only remedy for this message is to act your age. If you want to maintain your sanity, no compromise should exist. When you are caught in a battle with your daughter during the back-to-school madness over a mini skirt and tight top, say "no." When you look longingly at the sugary pink ensemble you once wore in college, say "no." Fighting against where you are on the life timeline is a losing battle. When you cave to the unrealistic standards set forth for you, the nagging discontent you feel is worsened by the grasping for an age you will never be or are not supposed to be just yet. Mindfulness practices are a primary component in many psychological healing techniques. When you are mindful, you have an increased awareness AND acceptance of where you are. Use this practice when examining your aging process. Grace and peace comes with an awareness  and acceptance. Yes, you are forty AND you can rock a sheath. Yes, you are a little girl, AND you can wear  a princess dress.

The ever stylish, Carmen Dell'Orefice

Getting older doesn't mean giving up!

Obama girls...always appropriate

Thylane growing up too fast!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Summer Classic

We are bombarded with the next latest and greatest pieces on the runway with a force and frequency of a semi automatic. In a sea of color, pattern, form, and fit, becoming the next victim of a trend is as difficult as...well..dodging a bullet! When we hear what is "in" or "hot" and then we look at the meager contents of our own closet, the temptation to belong to the hip crowd can be a sensible option for us. The trends can make us feel that not only are our closets not enough, but we are not enough. If we dress like those in this exciting, fashionable, and glamourous world we must also have all of the qualities of fabulousness just through our clothing choices.

Summer seems to be the most tempting time to follow the trends, as weather does not impede travel to exotic locales, social events increase with a lighter work schedule, and clothing is often less expensive and therefore more accessible. Do not buy into the hype...or the items that go along with it! Stick with the classics, and you will always be in style, not to mention avoid the horrifying experience of seeing yourself in pictures looking completely dated a few years down the road.

Classics are those items that no mater the age or body type of the wearer, occasion, or moment in a span of time, alway look good.  Here's what to buy this summer and every summer:

With a spirit of sport and adventure, this American classic is here to stay!

Chanel accessories
Eva Mendes does it right
Leighton Meester's uptown nautical look
Made famous by YSL and Veruschka, this look can be effortlessly taken from the jungle to the street. One of the most versatile for the summer that can easily be used in the spring and fall.

The Safari Suit
Safari on the runway
The original from YSL

No one needs to know that you never left your house this summer, and with this look no one ever will. Using elements of traditional dress, from the souks of Marrakech to the temple of Ta Prohm in Cambodia, in your wardrobe are a must for the summer.

Angie Harmon exotic
Easy accessories
Underwood on the red carpet

White Hot
This look is not for the faint of heart, stain stick is a must, but nothing beats the heat than an all white ensemble.

Cooling off in white
Elegance from the Sartorialist 

Beach chic
Garden Party
From watercolor pastels to neon Lilly prints, flora and fauna from the spring can easily transition to the summer.

Miss Lilly herself
The most famous of floral accessories
Florals that can be worn spring, summer, and fall

Easy and breezy, this popular look taken from the 60s and 70s, brings the laissez-faire look to your summer style.
Camilla Belle rocks it
Upscale boho
Sienna Miller,  the ultimate boho fashionista