Monday, March 30, 2009

The Shape of Spring

AP Photo/Dan and Corina Lecca--Peter Som Collection Spring/Summer 2009

Spring is here! At least, that’s how blooming forsythias and 75-degree weather feels to most of us. With all of the new change that accompanies a new season, why not also embrace the fabulous new shapes in fashion? If you are stuck inside all day, yearning to feel the sunlight but forced to concentrate on your work, some slight wardrobe adjustments can help satisfy until 5:00 rolls around.

A diagonal neckline is an intriguing, subtle way to show off a sexy, normally covered body part, and it beats too much cleavage! Look for one-shouldered tanks, long-sleeved shirts, and dresses. Also, this trend is incorporated in a variety of styles, so you’re sure to find a one-shouldered shirt or dress that fits your lifestyle and personality—mini and sporty for a more casual occasion, and long, flowing, and Grecian for instant elegance.
One-shouldered dresses can be belted, and a short, fun one-shouldered dress can look more leisurely worn with a pair of skinny jeans and flats. Be sure you own a supportive strapless bra to wear with your one-shouldered top—exposed bra straps always look tacky. Also, avoid short-chained necklaces. If you want to wear a necklace, opt for one with a longer chain so as not to distract from the unique neckline.

Full Skirts:
Full mini skirts are all the rage! Pleated skirts, a-line skirts, tiered skirts, ruffle skirts, tulip skirts—each variety offers its own details. Their voluptuous shapes are flattering to most sizes. Pair a full skirt with a fitted top to highlight your waistline and further define your top and bottoms halves. Full skirts look great paired with tights or socks and bare legs, too. One tip—if you are fuller figured, shy away from constricting pleated skirts and search for a more complimentary one with ruffles or tiers. Also, the full-bottom trend is not confined to skirts alone—look for funky dress shapes that incorporate a larger bottom, but make sure that the size is still balanced by a smaller top-half.

Flowing Pants:
Loose-fitting, slouchy pants in soft fabrics capture the lighthearted feeling of springtime. Harem pants, full-length wide-leg pants, and cropped pants all come in comfortable fabrics like cotton and linen. Drawstrings often replace belt-loops and buckles—a nice break from everyday jeans. These soft pants can get dangerous—watch out not to pair them with a super-simple top or cheapy rubber flip-flops. You don’t want to look like you’re attending a pajama party! Sporty heels look more sophisticated, embellished tops more professional. If you need a quick cover-up, throw on a boxy, oversized boyfriend blazer, and you will still look hip from head to toe.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Designer Digs at Minimum Wage Prices

photo by Mike Yoder

I am a college student stuck in the mindset of a middle-class woman (who may occasionally hide the credit card bills from her husband because of a few minor—but necessary—dents at Barney’s New York). As my father would say, “Caitlin, you have to live within your means. Don’t be such a yuppie-swine.”

While I wait around for my money-tree to bloom, nation-wide outlets provide some relief for my fashion woes:
High-end design teams are being commissioned to create store-specific lines at affordable prices. If you can’t afford Harrod’s—let alone the high-speed internet required to look at their web-page—perhaps a $30 skirt will suffice.
Check out some of my favorite cheap-chic, go-to spots—meanwhile, if anyone knows a premium fertilizer that promotes green-growth (preferably Benjamins), do clue me in a-sap!

Target’s Design For-All line-up has always impressed me, and recently even their clothing section has turned heads and made pages of major fashion magazines. Go International’s spring collection features funky zippered dresses and minis. Soon, a London-born designer whose collections I have lusted over for ages—Alexander McQueen—will invade the aisles with his trendy jumpsuits and slinky skinny jeans. And—keep it on the DL ladies—later on Tracy Feith’s vintage-inspired, California-girl dresses, blouses, and bloomer shorts will be available on the cheap at Tar-je. Trust me, you don’t want to miss the easy, surfer attitude these frocks bring out.

Payless has always been near and dear to my heart. This I attribute to countless summer shoes and the employment of several close friends. And Lela-Rose, one of several designers with new footwear out at Payless (whose high-end designs were featured front and center at Bryant Park during Fashion Week). Lela-Rose has cute clutches, pumps, and platforms at Payless this spring.

Kohl’s and Vera Wang has done wonders for America’s workplace—and evening place, and dinner place and such-and-such place for that matter. Simply Vera is Vera Wang’s ever-expanding collection sold at Kohl’s stores nationwide. Vera Wang works to flatter the female form, and her classic black chiffon fabrics, wrap dresses, and loose brushstroke tops offer instant sophistication. Both the price and the style are no-brainers.

Urban Outfitters:
Urban Outfitters has a plethora of pieces—mostly lines by more funky, youthful designers who also have high-end fashion lines. A few of my current favs:
Charlotte Ronson’s party-girl dresses and tulip-shaped minis, Paul and Joe Sister’s all-over ruffles and never-ending plaid, Betsey Johnson’s floral bikinis and flouncy dresses, and always Miss Sixty’s jeans and pumps.

The Gap:
The Gap always has a hard-working design team, but furthermore, I love that they seek out up-and-coming, fresh design students for inspiration and ideas that truly speak for my generation. For example, The Gap employed Rhode Island School of Design students to embellish their colorful, everyday cardigans for the spring. Beads, lace, ruffles, prints, patterns—each wearable cardi is unique, and who knows…in the future, you could have an old sweater of a famous designer right in your closet!

Designer clothing can also be found off-chance at vintage boutiques and online. Frequently, vintage designer clothing can be bought at splurge-worthy costs—just watch out for internet deals and knock-offs!

Worker Bee Wear

photo by Nick Krug

Whether you are interviewing for a job or maintaining your current position—the right attire can be detrimental. Here’s the buzz on spring office wear:

The Right Fit:
First things first—wear clothing that fits you now. Although it can be tempting after winter to buy your spring clothing ‘just a little too tight’—because it’s going to fit once you work off that winter layer—don’t do it. If anything, buy only the basics until you’ve reached your normal size. Just remember, two sizes too big looks sloppy, two sizes too small looks slinky.

Personalizing the Drone:
Two-piece suits, dress-shirts, and khaki is depressing, I agree. So, c’mon folks—wouldn’t your boss want you to think outside the box?
Add a color splash with a fun scarf, earrings (nothing too club or too patchouli), bright pumps, old broaches, bold (appropriate) lipstick, or a shimmering watch. Incorporate your favorite new fashion trends in a befitting manner; for example, pick blouses with spring’s bright floral prints and geometric patterns. Even some more exotic fashions, like animal-print on your watchband or dress-socks, can be included if it is proper and in moderation. Try out a skinny-trouser or high-cut slack. These little details do not go unnoticed and make dressing for work every day more fresh and fun. If your job allows, the clothing you pick for work should allow an easy transition into after-work attire—say for cocktail hour or dinner at a restaurant with vibe. Work wear does not have to be unfashionable or unrecognizable of timely styles and trends.

Other Hints and Tips:
-Although spring’s warm weather calls for lighter clothing, this does not mean more revealing tops and skirts are appropriate. Instead, acknowledge spring’s arrival with a sophisticated fashion approach—explore new fabrics and blends or different clothing cuts. Try a full, high-waist skirt or look for a vintage work-suit in a color that has regained popularity.
-If you get normally get chilly, think beyond your normal blazer—bright cardigans with personalized buttons, printed scarves, and two-piece tops (try a camisole and a short-sleeved sweater set).
-Don’t forget the finishing touches! In line for an interview, you will undoubtedly look fabulous in your crisp, tailored outfit and confident smile—but what about that old ratty bag! Whether your school bag has taken a beating, or your old work briefcase broke and is now permanently replaced by a re-usable, cotton grocery sack…no, no, no! You cannot even look-the-part with an everyday prop that’s inappropriate. Invest in a quality purse or briefcase. Why spend so much time on your ensemble if it is to be thrown off by a silly bag?

Resort Travel: Packing tips and tricks

photo from Cynthia Rowley Resort 2009 Collection

Finally! Sunshine and warmer days are upon us—at least for that one golden week in March: Spring Break. Whether you have vacation time or not, planning a fun holiday wardrobe can make the week something to look forward to, even right here at home. Why shouldn’t you dress a bit exotic for your desk-job in downtown Lawrence?
So, the biggest tip (and simultaneously my most hypocritical advice yet): Pack light!

Choose black:
Black basics are easily mixed and matched, and they always look worldly and elegant. If you pack a pair of black trousers or shorts, a black camisole, and a black skirt, other colorful pieces can be thrown on for a splash of color. Bring a bright cardigan—choose a monochromatic hue, a geometric print, or a vibrant floral pattern to stand out. Also, either pack your favorite chunky necklace or scarf or pick one up on a shopping excursion. By planning to purchase something wearable, it doubles as a functional souvenir and wardrobe staple, so hopefully you’ll kill all desires of buying those cheap, “Make love in Maui” and “The beer’s better in Belize” awful, tacky tourist shirts. Just don’t bank on finding something completely necessary, such as the perfect fitting swimsuit or a simple flowing black dress with pockets and halter straps and sequins and it has to be reversible and machine washable! Finding specific items in foreign areas is tricky, so be prepared with a back up.

Shoes, Shades, Hats, and Hair:
Think of all the possible activities in which you may partake, and make a list. Hopefully, you have activity-appropriate shoes in a minimum number—for example, one pair of exercise shoes (or comfortable walking shoes), one pair of casual shoes (flip-flops, flats, boat shoes, or boots, depending on your location), and a pair of dress shoes. But really folks, let’s be honest! 3 PAIRS OF SHOES FOR A WHOLE WEEK? Yeah, right!
Pack two pair of cheap sunglasses, unless you have a knack for keeping track of your Ray Bans. If possible, try to go natural with your hair for a week. It will be a solstice for your locks and a time-saver. Bring a few products that you have tried out previously to create wave, volume, or shine without dryers, straighteners, and irons. Wear your hair in a loose braid or a high, slick ponytail. When all else fails, a sunhat looks perfect at the beach!

Wear outfits you have worn previously so you don’t encounter a fashion disaster.
If you’ll be on the beach or in a pool, pack a comfortable swimming suit; wear with confidence.
Pack versatile, spring tops: old shapes feel new again because the weather has inhibited wear—sleeveless tunics, loose tops, halters, tube-tops, one-shoulder tanks, ruffles, paisley patterns, and pinstripes.
Bring a large tote bag that can hold the day’s necessities. Pack this in your suitcase, fold it flat, and it will practically take up no room at all.
Look at resort-lines for 2009 to get ideas. Embrace the laid-back, loose-fitted feel of the garments.

Fashion Week 2

photo by Jason Szenes/EPA

This is my second segment on New York Fashion Week! Read on for thoughts on highlighted design collections and ways to incorporate their style into your own wardrobe!

Tuesday, Feb. 17
Day Shows: Badgley Mischka, Rodarte, Derek Lam, Diesel
Night Shows: Halston, Max Azria, Baby Phat, Narciso Rodriguez

Max Azria:
The high-end fashion line Max Azria has been a showstopper since it’s creation three years ago. I mean, I suppose we couldn’t expect less from the passionate fashion duo; Max and Lubov Azria do more than their fair share in the realm of fashion—along with their namesake line, the Azria design team is behind looks for BCBG and Herve Leger. Still somehow, they always have fresh ideas.
For Fall 2009’s closet, MA is texture. Clothing made of lace, suede, heavy felt, and flowing mesh materials were mixed and matched and plentiful, accompanied by sharp, geometric leather jackets to maintain structure. To fit into the MA’s runway line-up, mix up the cuts of your clothing, not just the texture. Try new, loose-fit bodysuits and uneven hem-lengths (mini-skirt front hem, floor-length back hem was one unexpected, but successful look). Look for zippers on everything from leggings and pumps to leather jackets and vests. One favorite color featured in MA fall line—a goldenrod yellow.

Wednesday, Feb. 18
Day Shows: Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta
Night Shows: Marchesa, Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler

Every piece in Anna Sui’s runway collection is fabulously flattering, unique but not unnecessarily flamboyant, and completely wearable—even in Lawrence, Kansas.
Anna Sui mixes and matches her pieces, creating a hot, rockabilly style. She places patterns and hues successfully side-by-side by sticking to a core fabric or color group. Anna Sui’s fall line looks fun to wear, and it seems to cross over into several decades. Younger girls can liven up the already frilly, funky patterned outfits with bright hats and boots (for example, her model walked in a deep-purple, knee-high boot), and those afraid of “dressing too youthfully” will be safe in the versatile ensembles worn with a more neutral jacket or trouser addition.

Thursday, Feb. 19
Day Shows: Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Isaac Mizrahi, Calvin Klein
Night Shows: Zac Posen

Zac Posen—How does he do it? The designer makes sheer dresses look warm and shapeless, completely modest coats desirable. His tailoring is impeccable, and each piece of his runway collection seems perfectly structured. Zac Posen’s Fall 2009 color palette is subtle (not to say it is lacking color). His 30s style dresses, grey and lavender paisley frocks, short and long ruffled baroque hemlines—it all seems to just belong.
To get in on some of Posen’s old-school Hollywood glamour, search for two-piece outfits—same pattern, same fabric. Add a modern edge with funky cufflinks, hair barrettes, and bold make-up.
Also—check out the patterned coats in Posen’s collection. With coats like those, you may just sweat through dinner, claiming you run cold, just to wear the fun colors and designs a bit more.

Friday, Feb. 20
Day Shows: Project Runway, Ralph Lauren

If you follow Project Runway and are still sulking about the absence of Season Six, check out the three secret designers and their runway debut at Bryant Park. Admittedly, putting No Names on a catwalk where, oh…Oscar de la Renta, Armani, Proenza Schouler…Big Whigs…have been is a bit cruel. Despite the designers’ efforts, there is still some learning to be had. The designer’s all have apparent talent—Designer 1 incorporates endless new cuts into the collection, Designer 2 has a ruffle knack, and Designer 3 hones in on big city, versatile black fashion pieces. Perhaps—if the show’s network battle ever ceases—perhaps we will get to watch the sewing stars uncovered.

Fashion Week 1

photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

I set my sights on New York City, where Spring Fashion Week ended Friday. Today and next week, I’ll offer my take on the trends and versatile looks from America’s hottest designers.

Friday, Feb. 13
Day shows: Heart Truth/Red Dress, Jason Wu, Charlotte Ronson, BCBG
Night shows: Rag & Bone, Nicole Miller

Charlotte Ronson:
Although Charlotte Ronson’s collection is anything but couture, I do love her incredibly wearable style. Ronson’s Fall 2009 collection is all about rock and roll, stonewash, and grunge. To hone her style, mix florals with studded belts and biker jackets or worn-out plaids with leather leggings. Just when I thought I was sick of the plaid invasion, she designed a diverse ensemble with an old pattern that truly keeps on keeping on.
Final notes—over-the-knee, badass, studded boots truly can be worn with anything: fancy frocks turn edgy, skinny jeans become more pronounced.
Interesting twist: her one-shouldered shirt complete with a shoulder pad grabs attention—power 80s on one side, sleek and sexy sophisticate on the other.

Nicole Miller:
Nicole Miller’s show screamed New York City. She is known for her flattering, structured dresses in monochromatic, timeless colors like black, grey, red, and blue; however, Miller stepped up her design by adding unique textures, patterns, and details to her garments. Geometric patterns filled the fronts of mini-dresses, and a modern-bondage look came through on her black dresses with deep red, crisscross shoulder straps. Pieces designed by Nicole Miller span age groups; an 18 year old could wear one of her funky dresses, along with a hot 38 year-old mom. Her designs for Fall 2009 have little need for accessorizing—most of her black hemlines look fabulous with a pair of dark stockings and bold heels.
Interesting twist—Miller added a more natural, yet still graphic pattern to her collection. She utilized spider-web designs on her blouses and skirts which added detail and youth.

Saturday, Feb. 14
Day shows: Lacoste, Adam Lippes, Barbie
Night shows: Alexander Wang, Verrier

When Barbie turns 50, Ken lays down the big bucks, while she breaks in her custom-dyed, pink Christian Louboutins—on the runway at Bryant Park, where else?
Mattel, Mercedes-Benz, and nearly every hot designer in town contributed to this show. 50 models showed off a Barbie-wardrobe, clothing from decades back to years in the future. The key to their success? Mixing the old with the new—and no slacking on the details! Up-and-coming designers created Barbie’s looks, as well as more established designers like Michael Kors and Alexander Wang. I have always supported a wardrobe with a wide range of clothing pieces—despite their diversities and their different generations, when assembled they created an ensemble that is just so.
Last but not least? Make-up and fabulous hair. Each Barbie model had unique style—a turban or Bettie Page bangs, make-up mastered by Charlotte Tilbury, and individual, stand-out details (think feathered eyebrows!). Plus everyone knows, no Barbie is complete without her Ken—although, if all else fails, at least she has her Louboutins…

Alexander Wang:
Alexander Wang’s Fall 2009 collection is hot, plain and simple. His wardrobe staple? Super-sleek black leggings. Most pieces in his collection were little black dresses, black blazers, black tops—but with pazazz. Pieces held the female form, yet included details: draped fabric, studded shoulders, cut outs, and unique sleeves. Everything is beautifully tailored. Pieces could easily be layered with his broad-shouldered jackets and of course, his black leggings, short or long.

Sunday, Feb. 15
Day Shows: Lela Rose, DKNY, Herve Leger, Diane Von Furstenberg
Night shows: Erin Fetherston, Miss Sixty

Lela Rose:
Lela Rose has an amazing ability to create substantial pieces of clothing, yet they are never cumbersome and always ladylike. Rose’s fall collection feels whimsical and airy—her soft color palette pleases the eye, and her collection features feminine pieces in green, blue-grey, purple, and gold (for a hint of shimmer). Rose also mixed her soft tulles with much different fabrics, like tweed, to add more texture to an outfit.
Another great element about Lela Rose’s collection? Her models wore pumps from her Payless Shoe Source collection. A little high-end design for a more affordable price!

Miss Sixty:
To wear Miss Sixty, a lot of confidence is required. The Fall 2009 offerings are bold, perfect for those with a quirky style or a daredevil attitude: 80s acid wash jeans, printed leggings, and jacket patterns that resemble magazine ads sewn together—but that’s not all—faux fur, leopard print jersey, and corset-belts came all jumbled on top! Despite these wild ensembles and their visual effect as a whole, when worn sparingly Miss Sixty’s fall pieces may be just the right medicine to complete an utterly boring outfit. Lesson learned? Don’t destroy your unique wardrobe finds by wearing them all at once—resulting in a horrible outfit entirely—rather, read the disclaimer: Use Miss Sixty sparingly.

Monday, Feb. 16
Day Shows: Carolina Herrera, Jill Stuart, Donna Karan, Betsey Johnson
Night Shows: Cynthia Rowley, Tahari, William Rast, Marc Jacobs

Jill Stuart:
The concept of strong women—capable and female—truly inspired Jill Stuart’s 2009 Fall Collection. The classic combination of black and white worn by models at the beginning of her show almost seemed to set boundaries—as if to say, ‘Ladies, here is your forever outfit, but right now you can play.’ Models then wore dresses and color, flowers and lace, leather jackets and sweaters. Jill Stuart’s collection is an excellent example of eclecticism, individuality, and personal style. Some of the outfits worn on the runway were transferred to street-wear by the simple addition of a more downtown blazer or a great pair of boots.

William Rast:
Justin Timberlake, Trace Ayala, and Macella and Johan Lindeberg all pooled together for the Fall 2009 William Rast collection; still, with all those creative minds, the show was received as a bit of a dud. At first, as I looked through the slideshow I thought, “cute,” and okay, “wearable,” and then…”boring.” But—I did recognize the importance of owning some time-tested, always-in-style, key wardrobe pieces that usually save you from fashion disasters—they certainly saved William Rast. For example, for men, a great plaid shirt and a leather jacket fits in and stands out almost everywhere.
Too much? 80s Shoulder- pads in everything—even t-shirts!
Shhh: I must admit, I was sweet on the fringe denim mini skirts, worn just right with an American flag t-shirt.