Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Turn That Smile Upside Down

Moschino Cheap and Chic Face Print Tee-Shirt, $300 at

No, your eyes do not deceive you. This grotesque spray-paint tee shirt is an astounding $300--and while I usually smile at Moschino's luscious creations, I can only frown at this ridiculous garment, overpriced and underdesigned. I have never been a fan of the tee shirt--it only seems appropriate for car washes, working out, and other sweaty tasks, but this one in particular strikes me as particularly unattractive. The blurry image, the goofy smile, the gray cotton, the loose fit: all of it offends me to no end. This makes American Apparel look like Prada in comparison. At least their garments are reasonably priced and fitted.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Semantics of The Sale

While the word "sale" can easily refer to "any exchange of goods for money," it can also indicate the "reduction of prices," for which women often loose their noodles, so to speak, and their wallets. But in reality, now that sale season is upon us (check out Saks' sale), are we really aware of the dual meaning of the word?

Whether we spend fewer dollars or not on an item, the important realization to make is that we are making an exchange of some kind: dollars for a product. And in that shrewd estimation, we assent to the potential promise of dollars saved--if, of course, you follow these considerations:

1. Would you have spent full price on that item? In other words, do you really, truly, madly, deeply, desperately want that item? (As a wise friend has pointed out, it's really not about need--and to use that excuse would only be lying to oneself.)

2. Does that item truly deserve a place in your cabbined, cribbed, and confined closet?

3. Will this purchase add joy to your life?

If you cannot answer yes to all three questions, then I dare say that you are not really saving anything; in fact, you have been duped by the alluring word "sale." You have now adhered to the primary definition, when you mistakenly believed yourself adhering to the secondary definition. And this, ladies, is not a question of semantics.

Take, for example, me. I have been zealously eyeing these particular Prada pumps for some months now. During my rigorous search of saks' website, I happened upon another pair of floral flats. Cheaper, and cute. But I would never have bought them full price. I pass. Instead, I wait like a lioness for the kill, knowing full well that those dear Prada pumps will eventually be mine--if I am not distracted by the smaller prey that come my way. Of course, as you well know, I have bought items full price--as long as I know they are soon to sell out. Ultimately, shopping is somewhat of a gamble, but it is a matter of knowing how to play the game: If you wait too long, you've lost. But if you wait just long enough for the right item (and not the mediocre one), you've won--and actually and truly saved money in the process.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Trench Dress

From Left: Banana Republic Silk/linen Safari dress, $150 at; Burberry Belted Round Neck Dress, on sale for $537 (down from $895) at

Trench coats are eternally chic, and the trench dress is an even chicer option for the warmer months when coats are no longer necessary. These two affordable options are easy additions to any woman's wardrobe; one can wear them for work or play, and the belted silhouette is flattering and effortless. Switch the included belt for one of your own to customize the look, but don't mix trends (avoid gladiators with this look). Instead, opt for streamlined pumps or sandals with these, and for a bolder look, choose a yellow or purple handbag.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gap Design Editions: The White Shirt

From Left: Picot Button-Down Shirt and Bell-Sleeve Shirt, both $78 by Philip Lim, available at Gap stores and online

Those who know Philip Lim know that his blouses run in the $300s, so these Gap Design Editions blouses are a steal. I happened to stop by their Annex store (exclusively for the CFDA/Vogue editions) on Fifth Avenue and purchased the bell-sleeve one. While white blouses can be a pain to maintain (constant cleaning and ironing come to mind), they are effortlessly chic and bold; the sweet details on these soften the crisp formality of run-of-the-mill shirts, and the easy prices don't horrify your wallet. (Personally, I refuse to spend more than $100 on a white cotton shirt--I go through too many too quickly to spend a bundle on them.) Now those Chanel platforms would look great with that blouse...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Temptation of Chanel

Despite the fact that I have a panoply of silver shoes (snakeskin, tweed with pearls, satin, glitter, patent), I see these sky-high wonders from Chanel and wonder if I maybe do need another pair of silver shoes. My Prada fairy platforms have given me a taste of the height that attracts many women to high heels, and the architectural heels on these--which remind me of a city skyscraper--are a marvel to behold. And yet, I am reminded of my own dictum to evaluate needless consumerism, and so I am in a pregnant pause, sighing with the sigh of a young lover in love, and I sadly turn away, knowing that it is just a matter of time before I am lured in by another astonishing set of heels.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mad for Purple

Burberry Prorsum Mesh top cocktail dress, $2,850 at
Ever since a good friend bought a gorgeous handbag in the most stunning shade of purple, I am mad for all things purple. Not only does it go equally well with either black or brown, it also works as a neutral (it goes with blue, pink, red, green), conjures up images of royalty, and it happens to be one of the "it" colors for spring. Its various shades--eggplant, lilac, lavender, and violet--are feminine yet bold.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The White Shoe

Missoni Spring 2008

As I sit here wearing my white Prada wedges from last year, I cannot help but stare at these beauties from Missoni and think that these Prada wedges are getting lonely in my closet. Women generally purchase dark shoes with the mistaken belief that they "go with everything." In reality, no one shoe can be called upon for such a portentous responsibility. A white shoe is a spring staple that goes with all things light and floral, and the particular heft on these white ones anchors the ethereal nature of spring clothing. (A too flimsy white shoe lacks seriousness.) Nothing ruins a look more than a gloomy black shoe on a cheery floral dress. As I expand my shoe collection, I seek out the bright, the ornate, the colorful, and the new neutrals (metallic, white, pale blue)--and it doesn't hurt to have more than one pair of white sandals, especially if you're buying Missoni's.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Statement Necklace

Vera Wang Lavender Beaded Necklace, $165 at

While I am usually a "delicate necklace person," lately I've found myself increasingly gravitating towards the statement necklace, which easily transforms a basic top into a glamorous one, packs an extra punch of color, and eliminates the need for further accessories. Wear simple but sharply tailored separates--like a crisp white blouse and a black pencil skirt--for a glamorous day option.

Tacky Trend: Shorts Over Tights

Although Sienna Miller's fashion flub appeared in November, I have recently espied many a Downtowner in this look. At first, I simply shrugged it off as experimentation gone horribly wrong; then I began to suspiciously suspect its insidious popularity turning into a tacky trend. Although I mercilessly bashed leggings in a previous post, I am loathe to say that I would prefer leggings any day over this monstrosity. Not only does one look like a callgirl, the combination also emphasizes the largest portion of one's thighs, making it an extremely unflattering look. Short shorts should not be seen on anyone over the age of six, but to see grown women wearing short shorts over tights is beyond my comprehension.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Green Fashionista

Green used to represent envy, but with the current environmental craze, it has morphed into a trendy statement about one's concern for our earth. First came Anya Hindmarch's "I'm not a plastic bag," and then came the succession of poor imitiators keen on capitalizing on this green trend. But are green bags enough--or even worthwhile?

As a fashionista and as a modern-day consumer, I have found that the mass tizzy to acquire goods has reached intoxicating levels; we are expected to buy, buy, buy. And while I am not advocating senseless withdrawal on a limited "Earth" day--it is rather ridiculous, in my opinion, to do so only on one designated day--I am advocating a lifestyle alteration in how we see consumerism. I still buy things, but with a heightened awareness of the reason behind that purchase. It takes discipline to cut back on the unnecessary purchase of another dress or another piece of fruit; it takes understanding to consider how one's purchase affects her environment. In the spirit of "Earth Day," here are some suggestions to incorporate a truly fashionable view of the environment:

1. Recycle your clothing. Give unwanted clothing up for adoption; local Salvation Army stores, thrift stores, or churches gladly take items that no longer have a place in your life. Or donate these items to friends.

2. Beware of "eco" clothing that only makes you spend more. Choose instead to look in your own closet or to make use of existing bags that are neglected.

3. Reuse rags. Instead of throwing away that ripped camisole, use it as a rag.

4. Avoid purchasing mediocre clothing on sale. The "sale" lure is the most dangerous and causes us to consume without consideration.

5. Don't over clean garments. I've said it before, not only does it damage your clothing to over dry-clean anything, but the chemicals also damage the environment. If it is at all possible, choose an environmental dry cleaner or use cleaning agents that are friendly to the earth.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fashion Assumptions

As an unfortunate result of being a fashionista, I am often accosted by ignorant questions and comments from those who could care less about fashion. Unlike others, fashionistas display their interest outwardly, which makes them prone to criticism; however, as I am always quick to point out, just because you don't show your purchases outwardly, it doesn't mean that you don't make them. (Food, music, travel, you name it--people spend their money on something.) Here are common assumptions that plague the fashionable:

1. We are superficial.
2. We are loaded.
3. We are reckless about our money.
4. We spend all our free time shopping.
5. We don't care about our families.

These assumptions hit at the core of the speaker's insecurity, because ultimately, fashionistas make the unfashionable feel frumpy by comparison. While I refrain from making comments about others' style (if you want to know my opinion, you can ask me or read my blog), somehow others feel it acceptable to ask imposing questions, like "How much did you spend on that?" I would never ask anyone how much they spent on a vacation or on their extensive music collection; it simply is not my business to know that information; plus, it is tacky. And for those who are genuinely interested in fashion, they know that style is more much complex than a label or a price tag, and they know that there is history and culture behind their choice in a garment. Style is about self-expression, and true fashionistas are well-rounded individuals with interests in a variety of topics--fashion just happens to be one obvious one, out there for all to see and judge. It's just unfortunate that many feel that their insecurity gives them the right to make gauche comments.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Belted Wardrobe

Dear Thumbelina,

If you were going to come up with a belt wardrobe, what would it consist of? I am new to using belts as accessories (I have some basic fabric ones for pants) and am curious what would constitute a good starting point.


Unbelted But Not Unwilling

Dear Unbelted,

Start with these basics:

1. THE PLAIN BELT: Whether wide or skinny (that mostly depends on your preference and waist size; the wider the waist, the wider the belt), every fashionista needs a simple belt for patterned or embellished dresses (think contrast: the more complex the outfit, the simpler the belt choice should be).

Banana Republic Oval Nubuck Belt, $49 at

WCM Embossed Skinny Belt, $115.00 at

2. THE EMBELLISHED BELT: For simpler dresses, choose an embellished belt to add interest. Look for beading, studs, stones, or metallic detailing.

Bottega Veneta Intrecciato embellished belt, $600 at

Fendi Belt, Fall 2008

Chanel Belt, Fall 2008:

THE STATEMENT BELT: These belts are investment pieces that are often pricier than others because of the complex nature of the designs. Unusual and striking, these belts act like pieces of jewelry.

Fendi Multicolored Snakeskin Four-Stone Belt, $900.00 at
Burberry Prorsum Belt, Spring 2008:

THE TRIBAL BELT: Look for wood, raffia, horn, bamboo, or other ethnic finishes to perk up a dull outfit.
Airedelsur Leather Belt w/ Horn Closure, on sale for $146 at

Missoni Wood and Jewel Embellished Belt, $680 at

Best of luck with your new belt wardrobe!



Friday, April 18, 2008

In Full Bloom

Donna Karan Havana A-Lined Skirt, $4,800 at

In the summer months, I can hardly be seen wearing pants of any kind: I find them restricting and stifling. Skirts and dresses are not only breezier, but they provide generous coverage of larger parts (I am pear-shaped) while still accentuating the female form. Ones like this beauty from Donna Karan come with a wide waistband, which furthers highlights the waist without exposing one to scrutiny. I also happen to adore the delicate floral pattern on this skirt, which looks both tribal and modern at the same time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mergers and Acquisitions

Shopping is much like a business deal, in which some items merge with other garments in your wardrobe, and others simply are acquired. And while shopping can be a therapeutic experience, it can also be done with deliberate cunning--something my husband does with exceptional skill. He compares prices, he mulls over the pros and cons of such an acquisition, he mentally takes note of the risks versus rewards. For big-ticket items, women should be mindful of the product's value in their wardrobes: does the acquisition increase or decrease the worth of the closet? Can the item merge with others of equal, greater, or lesser value, all with the ease of a skilled socialite?

Take, for example, my Miu Miu Spring brocade jacket. I can wear it as a dress, a jacket over jeans, or as a coat over a dress. I can wear it as a light coat in the spring or as a jacket under my shearling coat in the winter. The color complexity--it is an amalgam of black, coral, and off white--allows me the freedom to wear it with any solid color in a corresponding hue. I could wear it to a wedding or to work.

Although the jacket was expensive, I consider it a worthy acquisition that will see repeated use season after season. Before you buy anything costly, consider these questions:

1. Can you dress it up and down?
2. Can you wear it with at least three other items in your current wardrobe?
3. Does it look seasonless? (Obviously, this won't apply to a fur coat. But if you can say yes to this, it's a bonus.)
4. Is it trend-proof? Can you see yourself wearing it as you get older?
5. Will you cherish it?

If you can answer yes to at least three of the above five questions, chances are that that piece is worth purchasing. Otherwise, as I've come to learn, it will only clutter your closet and eventually be discarded as a financially-draining deal gone wrong.

Cheap Chic: Anthropologie Raffia Belt

Anthropologie Grass Mountain Belt, $58 at

Raffia is all the rage right now, as it screams casual, earthy chic. This particular Anthropologie belt looks perfect with anything Donna Karan or Oscar de la Renta--and equally perfect with a casual dress or jeans. The wide style hides flaws, and the unexpected combination of gray and camel looks refreshingly modern. In this day and age, when a stellar belt will set you back quite a pretty penny (think Fendi or Burberry), this belt is a true value for both style and price.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ruching Never Looked Lovelier

From Left: Burberry Prorsum Ruched Georgette Dress, $3,395 and Silk Tulle Pleat Dress, $2,895 at

For years, I despised ruching--it always looked cheap to me. But in Christopher Bailey's masterful hands, it looks nothing short of elegant and exquisite. Both of these Burberry Prorsum dresses leave me breathless: the soft quality of the ruching creates a draping akin to those on Greek goddesses, and the fitted shapes are modern yet timeless. One could wear these dresses for day, night, and everything in between: wedding, work, tea, lunch, business event...If I weren't so concerned about the dismal state of the economy I'd be tempted to purchase one of these lovelies. Alas, they'll go unworn on this fashionista, but at least they won't be unsung.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How Young Is Too Young For Fashion?

3.1 Philip Lim Daffodil Shift Dress, $325 at

"Your children will be the best dressed kids on the block," a teenager once told me. I frowned, and jokingly said, "They'll be dressed in K-Mart clothes till they're fifteen." Even though I was only half-kidding, I have always felt very strongly about separating childhood from fashion. This is not to say that I don't gush like any normal woman when I see a cutely dressed baby (my friend told me about a baby boy dressed in a vest with corduroys and I melted). Nor does this mean that I wouldn't dress my future nonexistent children in well-coordinated outfits. It simply means that I question the effect of pushing fashion on the very young, who have not yet formed their own internal sense of self. For me, fashion is tied in with my identity and growth as a mature human being, and it's so much about choice, responsibility, and self-expression; but I am also aware of the potential dangers of materialism and selfishness in those too immature to handle it. I wouldn't want my children to base their self-worth on the label they're wearing, nor would I want them to base the value of their clothing on the price paid for them. While I do not judge those who do choose designer duds for their children--that is a choice, after all--I do ponder my future decisions as a mother, and ultimately, I will promote self-expression and responsibility rather than labels and status--even if it means that I disagree with their fashion aesthetic.

Embossed Exotics

Ann Taylor LOFT Python-Embossed Metal Frame Clutch, $39 at

Naturally, as a result of the exotic craze, I've been accosted by fake python and crocodile bags everywhere I turn. While I certainly understand the appeal--the cost is significantly lower--I find myself cringing whenever I see extremely poor renditions that resemble tattered netting rather than sleek snakeskin. It's akin to seeing fake designer handbags that don't even use accurate logos (the ersatz Louis Vuittons are notoriously bad); who is this person fooling but herself? If you cannot afford a genuine exotic, at least choose genuine leather (or fabric bags if you are vegan). It's far classier to choose that than appearing like the little fashionista that could.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back to Back

3.1 Philip Lim Ruffled Open-Back Dress, $675 at

Unfortunately, the backless trend is one that I won't be indulging in, despite my love for this sweet Philip Lim number (the bottom ruffles are as magnificent as those on a wedding cake). While some call into question my conservative side (this dress screams twenty-something), I simply admit that only those with stunning backs can wear something like this. Then there's the question of the relentless bra situation: does one go without, or purchase a stick-on type? While I don't shy away from the extravagant or the highly ornate, I do shy away from the complicated or the overtly revealing. How about you: would YOU wear this? If so, how?

The Soft Feminine Jacket

From Left: L.A.M.B. Peek-a-boo Blazer, $285 at; Wang Wei Silver Screen Jacket, on sale for $465 at

There's the hard, masculine jacket, which takes the form of a tuxedo jacket (dressed-up), a motorcycle jacket (dressed-down), or a suit jacket (work/day), but then there's the soft, feminine jacket, which takes the form of a belted jacket, a billowy, puff sleeved jacket, or a creative jacket, which incorporates an nontraditional detail (like the side buttons and extended collar on the L.A.M.B. jacket, seen above). In this unpredictable weather (it was 39 degrees this morning, but on Wednesday it's supposed to top 70 degrees), a chic feminine jacket is just the thing to provide warmth and fashion. The beauty of this look is that it can be paired with just about anything: jeans, a skirt, or a dress.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Skull and Bones

From Left: Vivienne Westwood Swarovski Crystal Bone Bracelet, $345; Alexander McQueen Silk Chiffon Skull Scarf, $205; both at

Apparently, the skull and bones motifs are like stubborn stains that won't come out, no matter what harsh cleaning agent you apply. While I understand that many still link both icons to rock-and-roll aesthetics, they are hardly cool. The constant reminder of death (and the stereotypical short lives of the rockers that sport them) is discomforting and too goth for my taste. You might as well wear a long black hooded robe and sport a scythe to match. There are enough reminders on TV of our short lives; let us leave fashion out of it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ROY G BIV Accessories

Let us celebrate the fashionable spectrum of color that has--yet again--burst onto our radar. For those who choose to wear only a splash of color, here are some of my top choices:

RED: Nancy Gonzales Shiny Crocodile Tote, $4,400 at A surprising complement to neutrals and perfect for everyday use.

ORANGE: Fendi B Belt, $345 at Surprisingly versatile, this orange belt will transform a basic khaki dress into something delightful.
YELLOW: Leopoldo Giordano Open Vamp Pump, $490 at These sunkissed beauties are less saturated, so they work as a neutral.

GREEN: Chie Mihara Canal T-Strap Open Toe Pump, $354 at The muted color of this green makes this perfect for everyday; plus, the unusual contours make these pumps unusual.

BLUE: Chloe Patent Leather Sandals, $595 at The low heels are comfortable, and the bright color works with jeans or a skirt.
INDIGO: Christian Louboutin Pleated Platform Pump, $875 at The delicate fabric on these dresses up anything.

VIOLET: Rupert Sanderson Hesler Leather Pumps, $575 at The low heel, the zingy color, and the peep toe design all make these winners, for day or night.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugg-ly

On my way to work this morning, I was astounded by the number of women wearing Uggs. The forecaster joyfully predicted a sunny 70 degrees here in the Big Apple, and yet these women were wearing Uggs. Now, despite my prejudice of them--I think they're ugg-ly--I do own a pair of Uggs for the express purpose of wearing them in freezing cold and slushy winter weather. (Hey, a fashionista's gotta be practical, too.) But in 70 degree weather? If comfort is what a woman wants, she has a multitude of options: flats, sneakers, wedges...But choosing a clunky snowman boot is beyond my comprehension. Ladies, please: the trend has long been passe. It's time to move on to a fresher shoe in the warmer months.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Clockwise From Top Left: Robert Rodriguez Ruffled Dress, $495 at; Alexander McQueen Wing Embroidered Dress, $8,435 at; Fendi Zay Metallic Platforms, $705 at; and Juicy Couture No Juicy Angel Cuff, $98 at

Wings are associated with flight and the divine, and for good reason: not only do they propel the owner high into the heavens, but they also suggest a power of perception given to those who can see "with a bird's eye view." These particular pieces are safer than the wings given to Dedalus and look far more stylish (although the McQueen dress may melt your savings account quite quickly). While this look may be best for those with a) equally daring personalities to match and b) slight frames, others may find more comfort in the costume piece and the caged sandals, which are a more playfully subversive statement about our tendency to cage that which longs to soar.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fashion in 3D

I apologize for being MIA yesterday, but my computer was throwing a temper tantrum and wouldn't work.

Even though I dismissed these Miu Miu python boots when I first saw them on the runway--I thought they were tacky and ugly--I couldn't help marvel at the intricate nature of these statement boots in person. The beautiful craftsmanship, the perfect skin, and the complex design left me somewhat breathless. And while these boots are not made for this fashionista's walking, they can be admired from afar with the appreciation of a neophyte in a museum. This just goes to show that fashion must be seen up close; flat images rarely do a work of art justice. Conversely, I marvel at some items online, but when I see them up close, I am gravely disappointed (as in the case of a certain MaxAzria resort dress I wanted). If you are one of the bold fashionistas who can pull these boots off with aplomb, they're an equally stunning $4,300 at

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Best Fall Accessories

BEST SHOES/BOOTIES: The extreme shoe trend of Spring continues well into Fall; these stunning shoe booties blow boring out of the water.

FROM LEFT: Giorgio Armani Watersnake Sandal, Manolo Blahnik Embroidered Satin Ankle Boot, Prada Leather Ankle Boot

BEST TALL BOOTS: The horizontal lines add a strong visual complement to the lean, vertical lines of these fabulous boots.
FROM LEFT: Alexandra Neel Platform Nikita Boot, Pierre Hardy Leather Cutout Boot, Miu Miu Leather Lace-up Boot

BEST HANDBAGS: Structured and exotic, these handbags play up simple shapes with unique details and gorgeous skins.

FROM LEFT: Balenciaga Crocodile Cherche-Midi handbag, Fendi Crocodile F3 handbag, Oscar de la Renta Shagreen Goya bag

Schlub Dressing

There's that "Sex and the City" episode when Samantha furiously spots a schlub in a tacky track suit sporting the red Hermes Birkin that she so covets. Recently, I too saw a similar schlub at Miu Miu with the Prada Fairy bag, and my friend exclaimed outrageously, "Now, what is that?!" I shrugged, and simply said, "Women who dress like that think they can get away with it because they have the newest 'it' bag. They think it excuses them." And yet my friend persisted: "Women like that don't dress for style; they dress for status."

And I realized that she was right: there are legions of women who mindlessly purchase 'it' items because fashion editors have praised them, not because they truly see the artistry or aesthetic value in that item. The sloppiness of thinking is what translates into the sloppiness of dressing. And while I cannot be excused from the concept of status dressing (after all, I do purchase designer things), I do not simply buy things for status with the mindlessness of a drone. For status without style is like an artist's signature without the art.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Limited Edition = Maximum Appeal

As I was innocently walking around in Soho the other day with a dear friend of mine, I happened to come across these "limited edition" Prada fairy platform sandals and innocently tried them on for fun. That sweet but damned salesgirl then told me, while I was admiring them on my feet, that they were a limited edition pair and that this particular shoe was the last one in my size. Since I had already lamented the exorbitant cost of the dress version, I knew that it would be the shoes or the fairies would have cruelly bid adieu. Even though I have correctly pointed out that the fairy dresses were poorly constructed, I have never been disappointed with Prada shoes, which dominate my shoe closet. I could not ignore that Mephistophelian voice that kept whispering insidiously, "limited edition." My girlfriend was also taken in by this voice, and she too bought a stunning handbag that was--you guessed it--limited edition. "In a couple of years, these shoes will be vintage," the salesgirl proclaimed. As any serious collector of fashion, I shamefully gave into my base impulses and bought the damn shoes. But I must say...they're fabulous.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Clothing Longevity How-Tos

As a society, we are obsessed with "maintaining" our youthful looks: we go to the gym (at least occasionally), we eat health-conscious foods (sometimes), we get Botox (those of us who are brave enough). But what about our clothes? A recent inquiry has confirmed my belief that we treat our clothes shabbily and shamefully. Many people believe that I am a rabid shopper, but the truth is I've carefully maintained my clothes over several years, and I still wear the same clothes my mother used to wear back in the 60s (people usually assume they're recent purchases). How, pray tell, can YOU maintain your frocks season after season?

1. This may be shocking, but it's the MOST IMPORTANT rule of all: Don't over-dry clean anything. Dry cleaning ruins clothing, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil. Only dry clean clothes that are actually stained. Most people mistakenly believe that it's necessary to clean something after one use. You should limit the dry cleaning to a couple times a season, and you'll be amazed how long that garment will actually last.

2. Wear "HOME CLOTHES" at home. I have a drawer full of tees, thermals, sweatpants, and a prized oversized terrycloth sweater that I throw on when I'm at home (I think I bought this comfortable but hideous sweater in high school). My mother taught me that when you get home, you should immediately change into these so-called "home clothes." Wearing your outside clothes will only wear them out faster.

3. In addition to changing your clothes upon immediate entrance into your home, carefully hang up your worn clothes in your closet, which prevents wrinkles and other additional stains. (Many people dry clean items that are wrinkled; if they just hung up their clothes, they could save themselves a lot of money.)

4. Sweaters must not be placed on the hanger like blouses; fold them and hang them on pants hangers or place them in a drawer (or any flat surface) to prevent stretching.

5. Clothes should not be cruelly smushed together in the closet. Allow some breathable room in between clothes. If you must smush, then position them on the hanger to prevent wrinkling (if you have several dress shirts, for example, align all of the sleeves on both sides, and fold the arms against the front so the sleeves don't wrinkle; the arms should look crossed across the front).

6. If you sweat a lot, wear light undershirts or camisoles to absorb the sweat. Having a barrier between yourself and your clothes ensures that the garment will last longer and will not seem "dirty" to you.

7. Keep clothing in a dark place. The same is true for your handbags, which should always be kept in the cloth bags they came in. Direct sunlight wears away clothing, so don't leave anything out by the window.

Trench Warfare

As per a recent inquiry about the essentials for a West Side gal (and considering my post about Uptown/Downtown styles, I don't want to leave out the West Side), I've included the always classy, modern, and functional trench coat. The sleek silhouette, the cinched-in waist, and the dramatic extras (buttons, a large collar) instantly glamorize and reflect the quiet style of a typical West Side gal. Here are my top four choices, separated by price points:

INEXPENSIVE: Mike & Chris Clarence Trench, $330 at The neutral gray shade compliments the bright yellows and oranges of the season, and the oversized buttons add interest to an inexpensive piece.

MID-RANGE: Adam Coated Trench coat, $495 at The glossy finish and the dramatic embellishments on the sleeves make this a winner.

EXPENSIVE: Burberry Acaster Cropped Trench, $1,250 at In Korea, "Burberry" means trench coat, and for good reason: Burberry is the "it" brand for trenches. This classic in a patent neutral will exude confidence and class.

INVESTMENT: Loro Piana 20k Storm System Trench, $1,995 at You pay for the waterproof and windproof technology as well as the gorgeous cherry red. A classic you will turn to time and time again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Caped Crusader

From Left: Miranda Bennett Silk Crepe de Chine Dress with Detachable Capelet, $428 at Albertine, NYC; Prada Spring 2008 Collection Runway Dress
Although I will always remain a devoted fan of the simple button-down cardigan, I find myself gravitating towards the whimsical and touching capelet, which demurely graces the tops of one's shoulders with quiet elegance. I have a number of spaghetti-strapped dresses that are too revealing for everyday, and a capelet resolves that dilemma; in addition, in the hot summer months to come, a cardigan may provide too much coverage. But more than the practical uses of the humble capelet, it also provides just the refreshing change I've been looking for without sacrificing functionality.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The 5th Floor

I apologize for the terrible quality of this image.

The Fifth Floor, of 5F as Bergdorf calls it, has been designated by department stores as the "contemporary" or lower-priced designer collections (an average dress runs from $350-$500, versus an average high-priced designer dress, from $1,500 to $3,000). For the last week, I have received relentless mailings from Barneys, Saks, and Bergdorf's, all parading the same basic goods from the same basic contemporary designers: 3.1 Philip Lim, Theory, Marc by Marc Jacobs, See by Chloe, etc. The appeal is obvious: one obtains relatively affordable designer clothes with the hot designer names, and celebrities have found themselves vacillating between the high high end and the medium high end in fashion to diversify their wardrobe. But beyond the brand name recognition, what does one really get?

While some contemporary designers offer true quality for the price--Philip Lim, Tracy Reese, and Rebecca Taylor come to mind--others offer nothing more than high-end basics that regurgitate trends at a remarkable speed and with zero creativity. Take, for example, the following two photos: the one on the left is a look from Dries Van Noten's Spring 2008 line, and the one on the right is a copycat look from See by Chloe, available at Saks for $445.

Other designers, like Theory, Vince, Splendid, and Juicy offer little more than Banana Republic, Zara, H&M, and Ann Taylor in both style and quality. I find myself increasingly bored with the poor merchandise on these expensive racks, and wonder why fashion fatigue has hit these 5th floor designers. The key to weathering the storm of ennui is to be patient and know that the placement of a designer on a particular floor does not justify the price tag; the design and craftsmanship are what does. I have been dazzled by both an inexpensive dress and an expensive one, and one needs to be critical of each and every possible piece with the exaction of a martinet.

On The Subway Platform

Lanvin Beige Satin Cone Heel, $995 at

Despite my extensive shoe collection, I do not own a pair of platforms. This doesn't mean that I haven't wanted one; every time I see a pair that is drool-worthy, I try them on, but I always feel clunky and circusy wearing them. Yesterday, I saw a fabulously-dressed woman on the subway wearing an impeccable trench with gold buttons, a dramatic gold-flecked scarf, and the most stunning deep mahogany platforms I've ever seen. Of course, I could not keep my eyes off those shoes. Instead of looking clunky, she looked tall, put-together, and elegant. With shoes, it's a matter of practice and understanding one's limit; and I am determined to incorporate a pair of platforms into my life--after I've walked around my apartment in them a few times.