Thursday, January 31, 2008

V for Vogue: The Necklaced Sheath

Rachel Roy Beaded Jacquard Sheath Dress, $1,045 at

Michael Kors Pebble Brocade Dress with Tiger's Eye beading, $2,395 at

Rachel Roy, Liz Shift Dress

While beading on a dress's neckline is nothing new, the built-in, v-shaped necklace on a sheath is vibrant and certainly in vogue. Designers have long recognized the modern woman's need for simplicity in dressing (hence the appeal of the one-stop dress), and the inclusion of a necklace on the dress eliminates the need for complementary jewelry, elevates the plainness of the shift, and accentuates the sensual fragility of the delicate collarbone. The contrast between the simple and the embellished is what makes this look also versatile for day or night.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Band-Aid + Bondage = Bandage

Herve Leger Aveline Bandage Dress, $1,560 at

A-list celebrities like Victoria Beckham have been flaunting the Bandage dress all over Hollywood; unfortunately, this mummy-like saran wrap is unflattering on everyone above a size 0. The tightness of the dress is reminiscent of the '80s (enough said on that decade; see my earlier post about leggings) and of a tawdry dominatrix in black leather. While the silhouette and color mitigate the harshness of those images, the dress nonetheless embalms rather than frees the modern woman. After all, men dressed women in tight clothes as a form of domination and control (think of corsets in Victorian England and teacup-sized shoes in China). While I certainly believe in form-fitting garb, I refuse to apply the band-aid as a kind of bondage.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Lipstick Jungle

Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Canvas Leopard Pump, $675 at

With Candace Bushnell's new series "Lipstick Jungle" airing soon, I thought it appropriate to address the fashion world's unrelenting obsession with all things furry. For most of my conservative fashion years, I have found myself cringing at the sight of women clad head-to-toe in leopard-, zebra-, and (the worst) cow-print/skin, and strutting around town as flamboyantly as a rooster does in his (tiny) kingdom. Unfortunately, size does matter here, for the larger the woman, the more ridiculous the effect; however, I have slowly grown to appreciate the sacrifice of our exotic animals and the (tempered) use of their skins to adorn their human counterparts. This Yves St. Laurent leopard pump tastefully incorporates just a touch of leopard in a similar palette of tan and black (thus using the skin as the basis of the shoe's design). A lighter pattern, as seen in this Rebecca Taylor dress, also dilutes the force of a larger size. While New York may indeed seem like a jungle, a touch of it pays homage to the look without taking the simile too literally.

Rebecca Taylor Cashmere Mini Dress, $355 at

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Attack of the Bowling Bag

Gucci Hysteria Python Bag, $3,990 at

There's a reason this bag is called the "hysteria" bag: I experience an "uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear" at the very sight of this monstrosity. But the misogynistic undertones (Freud associated this condition with the female genitalia) are reflected in the design of the bag itself: it resembles a monstrous womb with which to suck any unsuspecting male into its vortex (note the beetle-like gold eyes at the top that narrowly look down on its prey). As a proud member of the female sex, I find myself appalled by this bag and its name, which is not only atrocious in design but also horrifying in its message. Do women need to bowl over others in order to assert their identity or sense of style? Or must everything feminine be associated with raw "hysterical" emotion? The oversized craze not only pains the back but burdens the soul. Less is more.

See below another version of this monstrosity by Miu Miu, one of my favorite labels (how tragic. Note the actual size of this bag):

Miu Miu Large Vitello Vintage Tote, $1345 at Neiman Marcus.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why White Is Right

Robert Rodriguez, Seamed White Sheath for $408, Neiman Marcus

Although New Yorkers are known for their devotion to black, I have increasingly found myself gravitating towards the chic power of white. Pristine, sharp, and mesmerizing, white complements every hue (unlike black, which looks costumey next to orange and yellow and harsh next to pastels) and instantly looks rich and immaculate. Choose fabrics in a substantial weight to avoid the visible underwear problem, or layer sheer fabrics for a breezier look. White accessories are also chicer options for spring (ditch your heavy black handbag in the warmer months). Here is a selection of my favorite white accessories for spring:

Michael Kors, White Python and Gold Medal Clutch, $1395, Neiman Marcus

Nancy Gonzales, White Crocodile Clutch, $1250, Neiman Marcus

Fendi White/Black Textured Patent Leather Pump, $490, Neiman Marcus

Bottega Veneta, White Crocodile Luxanil Handbag

Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche Tote, $1895

Bottega Veneta, Woven Leather Wedges, $1,100 at Bottega Veneta Stores

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Elie Saab: Spring 2008 Couture

I, like many "normal" people, usually dismiss couture shows because I find that the clothes, though fascinating in a fantasy-like way, are generally hyperbolic, unwearable, and exclusive. Elie Saab's Spring 2008 Couture show, however, displayed wearable but extravagant clothes that every little princess dreams of donning at least once in her lifetime. The delicate and elusive balance between the wearable and the elaborate is often missed by designers who generally find themselves gravitating towards the theatrical as a way of asserting their "artiste" status. Saab's relative simplicity is what captures my childlike adoration because I can imagine its sparkling tulle floating on Manhattan streets with a carriage and prince in wild pursuit.

Find below: some additional and simply lovely looks: For Day:

Or night:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kenneth Jay Lane: Cheap Chic

Ever since I bought my first piece of rich Indian gold, anything less than 18k gold looks utterly cheap to me. While we all cannot afford the real deal (especially in this dismal economy), Kenneth Jay Lane, a regularly affordable jewelry designer, has created an elaborate and breaktaking necklace made of 22k gold plate and a single Swarovski crystal for only $90. The elaborate chain, the stunning emerald, and the short length all make this worthy for a night at the opera. Or I just may pair this beauty with jeans and a crisp white blouse. Available at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ferragamo: Sting Me

Stingrays, like eels, suffer from unfavorable reviews, despite the fact that pythons and crocodiles (both potentially dangerous creatures) are favored more highly for their skin. Ferragamo is just one of the designers who have been showcasing the beauty of the stingray skin: pebbled but smooth, sturdy and elegant, the stingray's skin is art itself. Ferragamo's entire spring bag line has me electrified from the artwork inherent not only in the skin (notice the white horizontal dots that pepper the surface) but also in the design (as obvious from my earlier posts, I am won over by the origami trend). VBH, Kara Ross, and R &Y Augousti (available at Barneys and Bergdorf's) have also been stung by the stingray, and their elegant designs are indicative of quality over brand name. I'm predicting that this exotic is the next big thing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Perplexed: The Post-It Problem

Akris, Spring 2008

3.1 Philip Lim, Spring 2008

Carrie Bradshaw had a thing against post-its, but I have a thing against post-its on dresses. Sad to say, two of my favorite designers, Akris and Philip Lim, have decided to experiment with this workplace essential. While I understand the textural appeal from an avant-garde standpoint, I cannot comprehend any modern woman wanting to wear a dress that looks like a maniacal stack of office supplies liable to blow away at the slightest sigh. The appearance of this look in moderation could appease me, but I predict that this brief experiment will tumble like a house of cards.

Greco-Roman: "Classic" Chic

The persistent popularity of the Greco-Roman influence in fashion and in movies comes from the elegance that this look exudes: the toga, the gladiator sandal, the tunic, and the asymmetrical goddess gown all encapsulate easy royal chic. While Balenciaga's gladiator sandal-boot mixes in the dominatrix look for an over-the-top interpretation of the trend, Alberta Ferretti's entire spring line and Philip Lim's easy jersey dresses are winning choices for day or night. Just be sure to avoid a head-to-toe Greco-Roman look that will make you look more costume than goddess.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lanvin: Hurrahs to the White Bag

The spotty appearance of white bags on the streets of New York indicates that there is some appreciation for the white bag, but I rarely find that it is done well. Usually, the white bags are large, clunky tote shapes, and worn carelessly, without a thought to the overall effect of it on the rest of the outfit. White bags need to be polished and complementary, and a careful combination of a crisp white bag (as in Lanvin's Hurrah Satchel shown above; $1950 at Barneys) with a light-colored outfit looks absolutely stunning. Choose a simple but classy shape (boxy rectangle, retro satchel, or streamlined clutch) in a saturated hue (cream, not off-white, or a white white, not a pale, washed-out white) with a quality skin (leather, exotic; not plastic, vinyl, polyester, or cotton). Wear white (either a splash or a huge portion) in your actual outfit, or choose colors that that would look best with a white rather than a black purse (examples: pale pink, dove gray, orange, yellow). Never wear this bag in the rain or snow, and always put it back in the cloth bag it came with when it is not in use. Hurrahs to the chic and ladylike white bag.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The End of the Logo Bag

Women in the 1990s embraced the logo bag as the visible mark of upper-class wealth; today, this same status symbol has become as commonplace as the $150-$200 Seven jeans that appear on the backsides of teens and women alike. Oddly enough, its wild success was the very cause of its lackluster appeal today; the proliferation of designer copies ("fakes") sold on every corner in Chinatown and on Fifth Avenue, the inability of many women to distinguish the fakes from the real (thus equating all logo bags with fakes), and the heavy push of the "it" bag status have all weakened the appeal. The fashion elite all swear by logoless bags that carry with them the dignity of "quiet luxury" and the personal knowledge that their genuine bags are far pricier than these very same logo bags (the Monogram Canvas Speedy 25 is currently priced at $595, far cheaper than a high-end bag today, which runs at an average $1,500). This very craving for the elite high-end bag has inevitably pushed the prices up, so that a typical Chanel tweed purse is now $2,500, $1,000 more than it was less than two years ago, and even the prized Hermes Birkin bag (roughly $7,000) is seen on nearly every wrist on Madison Avenue. Consider, however, the freedom that comes from this inevitable conclusion: once you abandon the logo, you are free to enjoy quality and personal taste.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Prep School Allure

As a prep school student, I was subjected to polyester-wool kilts, crisp white blouses, ribbed stockings, and penny loafers (with a shiny new penny in each shoe's fold). Both the wild success of Gossip Girl and this preppy look from Balenciaga's pre-Fall line remind me why this look has transcended the classroom into the fashionista's closet: the clean lines, the unfussy combinations, and the class implications (reinforced on every episode of Gossip Girl) highlight the privileges that are associated with prep schools. The looks are relatively simple to mimic, but they carry with them the trademarks of money: the Chanelesque jacket elevates the cost of the overall cheap jeans-and-white-shirt look, and the uniform suggests a world of connotations (Dead Poets' Society, A Separate Peace, horses, debutante balls). As Americans, we are resistant to the idea of class, but the popularity of the prep school look forces us to examine the inequalities that exist in our schools.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fashion Rut 101

We've all been there. The Winter Fashion Rut. Jeans, Uggs, Large Sweater. (Dark) Pants, (Black/Brown) Boots, Jacket/Shirt/Sweater. Repeat. In the cold winter months, women love their uniform, and they zealously stick to it, despite how uninspiring or dull their choices are.

In reality, designers themselves usually stick to a uniform. How many times can we see the chevron dress by Missoni? The jeweled layered dress by Vera Wang? Or the wild bohemian flower-child look by Anna Sui? Fashion fatigue hits even the fashionable. Solution: Choose several "uniforms" that flatter your figure, and rotate the combinations:

1. Equestrian/ Minimalist (think Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Jill Sander): A) Jodhpurs/skinny jeans, a white blouse, a fitted jacket, and tall riding boots look sleek; or B) Choose monochromatic colors, unembellished and easy jersey pieces, and simple silhouettes.

2. Delicate and Embellished Feminine (think Alberta Ferretti, Carolina Herrera, Lela Rose): A) A fitted dress with girly details (flowers, pastels, bows) and a cardigan/cropped jacket are a winning combination; OR B) Wear an A-lined skirt with a silk blouse.

3. Modern Architectural (think Narciso Rodriguez, Akris, Zac Posen): A) Wear a shift dress with clean, vertical lines; OR B) Suits with vertical stripes, two tones, geometric shapes (squares, triangles) are technically and visually fresh.

4. Exotic (think Rachel Roy, Proenza Schouler, Tory Burch, Vena Cava): A) Anything safari (khaki menswear) or tribal works; B) Rich Indian embellishments (jewels, beading, vivid hues) highlight basic shapes; C) Loose caftans and tunics work over stovepipe pants; OR D) Choose accessories and clothes with natural detailing (wood, coral, leaves, animal patterns).

5. Preppy/ Athletic (think Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas by Stella McCartney, Lacoste): A) Choose a navy/white/gold combination (nautical); B) Combine crisp shirts with tailored pants; OR C) Wear a polo shirt underneath a crew neck and a miniskirt.

6. Urban Warrior (think Burberry Prorsum, 3.1 Philip Lim, DKNY): A) Choose strong colors like black, white, and gray; B) Details include studs, ruching, leather, and fur; C) Belted jackets, tights, pencil skirts, and stiletto heels look fierce; D) Add a lush statement scarf and opera gloves.

7. Whimsical (think Chloe, Anna Sui, Miu Miu, Moschino): A) Pick polka dots; B) Mix disparate influences and eras; C) Wear a free-flowing and asymmetrical maxi dress with a long cardigan; OR D) Combine sheer layers in a similar palette.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dear Thumbelina: 60's Party

Dear Thumbelina,

I've been invited to a 60's-themed party, but I don't know what to wear. Please advise.



Dear Borninthe90s,

First consider who your style icons are. Take their best qualities, and adapt them to fit your modern lifestyle.

STYLE ICON #1: JACKIE KENNEDY ONASSIS: Choose a fitted A-line style, wear sleek gloves, and fake a bob. Other options include a boxy jacket with a pencil skirt and a pillbox hat. Dress: Elijah Swing Shift Mini Dress for $192.90 at

STYLE ICON #2: TWIGGY: Choose Mod-inspired pieces that are bright. Add large earrings, black tights, and a short wig. Dress: Paul and Joe Zipper Mod Dress for $288 at

STYLE ICON/DESIGNER: MARY QUANT: Designer of the miniskirt, Quant created clothes that are as wearable today as they were then. Add a fitted black tee and a striped element. Skirt: Robert Rodriguez Golden Bow Skirt for $275 at

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cuff 'Em: The Jewelry Item to Buy

Cuffs and bangles are the sophisticated way to add a splash of bohemian in a prim and proper spring season.

1. Elizabeth Cole, Set of 4 Bangles for $265 at The rich color of Indian gold can be had for an inexpensive price.

2. Celestina's Jade and Ebony Wood Cuff for $2,990 at Unusual with rich detailing, this cuff is perfect for a night out on the town.

3. Alexis Bittar: Small Deco Hinged Cuff for $165 at A shot of color and braille-like gold details add fun to an otherwise conservative outfit.

4. Kara Ross: Moonstone Cabochon and 18k Gold Cuff: Statement-making stones luxuriously show off a woman's wrist.

5. Isharya: Cubist Wood Cuff for $163 at net-a-porter: Let your inner art lover out safely with this architectural beauty.

Salvatore Ferragamo: Love is a Many Splendored Thing

This white Hardwick bag from Salvatore Ferragamo is love at first sight and successfully incorporates the origami and safari trends without appearing too crafty. The muted tones on the calfskin leather create an exotic effect (anaconda or ring lizard comes to mind), the kaleidoscope design is grown-up and polished, and the bag combines my two favorite colors, cream and taupe. If I hadn't recently bought a new taupe anaconda bag, this would be tops on my list of spring must-haves.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Best Spring Trends

These trends not only are winners for spring, but will be back season after season.

1. Origami: Not only are the designs meticulous and beautiful, but they are rich, artistic, and architectural.

2. Safari/Tribal: The Western taste for the exotic never seems to go out of style.

3. Sheer Layers: Wispy, feminine, and ethereal, these sheer layers reinforce our mystique as women.

4. '50s Decade/Belted Silhouettes: The '50s emphasized a woman's shape, mostly with belts, A-line skirts, and fitted tops.

5. Florals: Either English or Japanese, florals this season are lush, exaggerated, and fresh.