Thursday, August 28, 2008

Antik Batik: Mini Dress or Tunic?

Antik Batik Kika Tunique Mini Dress, $330 at Net-a-porter

Ever since skinny jeans were all the rage, I've loved the tunic/minidress and jeans look. And even though wide-legged jeans are hot now, skinny jeans will always have a special place in my heart...and wardrobe. This particular Antik Batik minidress is more like a funky, ethnic tunic that could be worn alone, with tights, or with skinny jeans (or, if you're really daring, with leather leggings). The high empire-waist cut also works well for expectant mothers--or those of us who want a little more wiggle room in our middles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Andrew Gn: Master of the Romantic Victorian Blouse

Despite the proliferation of romantic blouses (just check out Saks' website for some mediocre examples), the only ones that have really impressed me are Andrew Gn's. This fall, I plan on wearing plenty of romantic blouses and pencil skirts--and I need some that are appropriate (no backless ones, thank you), feminine but not too frilly (too many ruffles annoy me), and detailed without being tacky (only solid colors for me). I want all of Andrew Gn's perfectly chic, perfectly fabulous creations:

Example #1: The ruching on the sleeves is ingenious and adds texture to an otherwise simple shape:

Example #2: I love black blouses--they're so moody and unpredictable (not like white ones). The lantern sleeves on these are cuffed by slightly darker black bands.

Example #3: The perfect black blouse--conservative yet stylish, decorative yet solid-hued, textured and complex (note the fur finishes on the cuffs). I'm in love!

Anna Sui: Fall for Florals

Although I consider myself a "girly girl" (and am proud of it!), I only occasionally wear florals. (I have a few floral blouses.) And while I am not usually a huge Anna Sui fan (her bohemian style usually clashes with my more cosmopolitan look), this particular floral dress has me rethinking it all. Of course, I'd ditch the huge blue flower applique at the top of the dress (completely unnecessary) and hem the dress drastically so it falls at my knee instead of my ankle (I hate maxi-dresses). Instead of a slouchy brown fringe bag and Western boots, I'd pair this dress with a structured handbag and tall, sleek, patent-leather boots (like the burgundy wonders from Christian Louboutin). Now I have an excuse to buy those boots...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Myth of Effortless Dressing

Kate Moss is the queen of "effortless dressing."

The Italians call it sprezzatura. The French call it elan. Magazine editors call it "effortless dressing." Whatever you call it, stylish dressing does not come easy, but the somewhat herculean task is to make it seem that way. Any fashionista knows that stylish dressing is a craft that one hones after extensive experimentation. So how does one accomplish this?
1. Know what works for your body type. For example, I always look good in something belted, rather than a drop waist. As a result, I invest in decorative, expensive-looking belts. Knowing your own body type helps you avoid looking ridiculous, and it saves time from trying on trends that don't work for you.
2. Invest in quality items that you will wear over and over again. A cropped, neutral leather motorcycle jacket that fits you like a glove. Those killer jeans. That stand-out piece of jewelry. Instead of saving them for a special occasion, pull those items out frequently, because you know you look fabulous in them no matter how disheveled you feel.
3. Work on creating winning combinations. Find the silhouettes that work for you. (Jeans, jacket, decorative top. Cardigan and skirt. Dress and pumps. Repeat.) Experimentation first thing in the morning is what makes you look like you tried too hard, because chances are, that look is awkward.
4. Simplify, simplify, simplify your closet. Donate items you don't wear or that look awkward. I can't tell you how many times I've held onto an item that I can't figure out. Every time I experiment with it, I come to the same conclusion: it doesn't work for me. Organize your closet by type (jackets, skirts, dresses, etc.) and by dressiness (casual, work, occasion). A complicated closet lends itself to a complicated look.
5. Pay attention to your shoes. The wrong pair of shoes can ruin your entire look. Personally, I think flats look wrong with a pencil skirt, and high heels look wrong with a very short dress. Again, know what works with the combinations you've pre-established.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Christian Louboutin: Deja Vu Shopping

Christian Louboutin Tuba Passementrie Boots, $1,845 at Bergdorf Goodman

When I saw these boots, I immediately went ga-ga over them, and then I had to remind myself that I have a very similar pair--an old pair of tall black and brown Prada boots (from a couple of years ago) that share a similar passementrie design. Apparently, this kind of deja-vu shopping inflicts many of us frequent shoppers--we buy things we've already bought. Men do this all the time--they buy the same shirt or pair of shoes over and over again, but for women, the motivation is different. Instead of repurchasing items out of convenience (they fit, they work, etc.), we buy them out of a sense of safety, reassurance, and, yes, nostalgia. Whenever I wear those Prada boots, I get noticeable, envious glances. Sometimes, I get the "Where on earth did you get those?" response. But more than that, I love the look and comfort that accompany wearing them. So I suppose it is no wonder that I turned to these and yearned for that feeling again. My husband's theory about shopping is that we don't really want that item--we want the feeling we get when we have that item. For deja vu shoppers, embracing this truth will prevent you from cluttering your closet with unnecessary repeats.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nostalgic Dressing

During a recent visit to Club Monaco, I saw a black and white vertically-striped cropped jacket, and it immediately transported me back to the early 90s, when preppy dressing was "it" before people called it that. Unlike today, when teenagers know labels better than they do their grammatical clauses and cases, all we knew was J. Crew, the Gap, and Banana. Ah, times when J. Crew was considered couture. *SIGH.* Undoubtedly, there are certain items that irresistibly remind me of those years:

1. Safari t-shirts from Banana.
2. Shorts from Umbro.
3. Birkinstocks.
4. Laura Ashley dresses for Sundays and special occasions.
5. Jessica McClintock dresses for really special occasions.
6. Penny loafers. (With a penny in them, of course.)
7. "No Fear" t-shirts.

I wonder--what will my (future/non-existent) children consider to be nostalgic dressing when they're my age?

Model Spotting: Cecilia Mendez

Every now and then, I see a celebrity or model on the streets of New York. A few weeks ago, I saw Sasha Pivovarova and two of her friends on Pell Street (Chinatown, near Joe's Shanghai). I confess I get a little ga-ga over them, because to me, models are a breed of aliens. They certainly resemble humans, but their tall legginess, other-worldly thinness, and rarefied features are quite foreign to us common people. Today, I saw Cecilia Mendez on the 6 train, heading to Bleeker (no surprise there). She wore a very loose, almost raggedy, black and white checkered shirt over tan short shorts. Other than her alien physique, nothing (fashion-wise) stood out. In most of my "celeb spotting" moments, I generally find them to be quite ordinarily dressed, which tells us something. Perhaps they're sick and tired of looking glamorous all the time. Or maybe they're ordinary people who get "dressed up" to look the part from time to time. In any case, it made me appreciate humble dressing--which is something us common folk can forget to do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almost Perfect: Alice + Olivia Dress

Alice + Olivia Shawl Collar Dress, $440 at Net-a-porter
I can't tell you the countless times I've seen an item and fervently wished that I could have consulted the designer. I adore Oscar de la Renta's stingray bag (seen on Bag Snob), but the handle should have been bigger so I could fit my wrist through it in case my hands were preoccupied. I oohed and aahed over the purple ostrich clutch with brown crocodile trim by Bottega Veneta, but the damn closure was a real pain, forcing you to undo the buckle every time you open it. And now this dress, which has a large, retro shawl collar, a magnificent belt, and neutral color. But that damn asymmetrical hem! I'm not the "hoochie mama" type (never have been, never will be), which means that the only way I could wear this dress would be with black tights. A dress should be versatile, not restrictive. And like Goldilocks, I want my purchases to be "just right."

The Shoe Version of the Lightening Bolt

Miu Miu Lightening Bolt Heel Boots, $685 at Net-a-porter

I wonder if Miuccia Prada got inspiration from Jamaican runner Usain Bolt (AKA "Lightening Bolt"), who won the Men's 100 Meter race at the Olympics recently. Just look at these ferocious beauties. Not only are they a fierce 5 inches high (completely and utterly ridiculous, in my opinion), but the snakeskin trim and the jagged heel are meant to resemble lightening bolts (at least mythical ones, like Zeus's) on these sexy booties. Of course, running is out of the question with these babies, but at least you can force everyone around you to go slower as they stare in helpless awe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fendi: Cropped Trench Jacket

Fendi Jacquard Trench Jacket, pre-order for $1,600 at Saks

Even though it's only August, you can pre-order Fendi's Resort 2009 line, which usually surfaces early next year, now. While ordering something this early without the promise of speedy satisfaction may appeal to some, it is akin to torture for me. Look how perfect this jacket is--navy, cropped trench, belted, 3/4 sleeves, Fendi...Fendi is one designer that continues to churn out respectable, intriguing, and impeccably-cut designs for the unfussy but chic woman. I also love the versatility of this item--wear it as a jacket (on its own when it cools), or wear it as a blazer (under a heavy winter coat when it's frigid outside). I'd pair this chic jacket with a statement necklace (say, the lollipop-hued Burberry glass necklace) for some personality. But alas, I'll have to wait at least four months for this particular beauty.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Verdura Maltese Cuff

I know this sounds odd, but I dreamt about this cuff by Verdura last night. While this brand has been around for quite some time (Verdura's maltese cuffs are associated with Coco Chanel), it hasn't been on my radar until now.

With the proliferation of cuffs these days, you'd think I would have found one by now. The problem is my small wrist, which makes the cuff look ridiculous on it by comparison. Other than vintage cuffs, which are significantly narrower than modern-day ones, the only possibility is this stunning Verdura cuff--mainly because for 12k+, you can have one custom-made to your own wrist's specifications. *Sigh*

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why September Is A Truly Fashionable Month

Even though I dread the end of my precious summer (I adore sandals and frothy summer dresses!), I am looking forward to September for these reasons:

1. COSTUME JEWELRY REIGNS at Bergdorf Goodman: They're opening an entire section of their accessories wing to costume jewelry featured on the runways (hello, Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Vera Wang!!). I can hardly wait to festoon myself with jewels!

2. FASHION MONTH: Yes, it's only a week here in the Big Apple, but don't forget we have London, Milan, and Paris too. So it's technically a month-long event. Plus, I ADORE spring clothes.

3. BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING: Here's one reason to feel less guilty about your spending this month. We all need new fall/winter stuff!

4. THE ARRIVAL OF FALL GOODIES: We've been eyeing these items all spring and summer, but now we can actually wear them when the weather cools. Most stores will have their complete fall collection in by the end of September.

And...of course, for me, the arrival of another batch of doe-eyed students!

The Perfect Rain Boot

Tory Burch Leather/Rubber Rain Boot, $250 at Saks

Like many women, I own a pair of Wellies (tall olive green ones from J. Crew). And like many women, I only pull them out when it's torrential outside. These equestrian-inspired black and brown boots hardly look like rain boots--which is exactly why they're the perfect pair of rain boots. I can easily see myself wearing them with black skinny jeans all day long--rain or shine. Let's just hope they're as comfortable as they look...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Burberry Prorsum: Another Hit

Burberry Prorsum Sour Green Organza Dress, $5,995 at Neiman Marcus

It's quite unfortunate that this particular lovely is priced so ridiculously high, because for the rest of the season I'll be pining after it. I adore the divine workmanship that went into this delicately knotted silk, and the form-fitting shape is subtly sexy. But for $6k? That's a reach that exceeds my grasp.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Kind Of Shopper Are You?

During some isolated, non-intentional conversations with teenagers and adults, I began to explore the various shopping habits that exist. People love "type casting" when it comes to labeling their own personal preferences (I recently read an article about one's sleeping position as indicative of one's personality). I believe the same thing applies to shopping. What kind of shopper are you? In a completely non-scientific way, I present my findings:

1. The "Type A" Shopper: Always in a hurry, this shopper likes to be as efficient as possible when it comes to shopping. The rich ones hire personal shoppers to do the shopping for them; the more modest ones aggressively utilize the expertise of sales assistants. They tend to buy staples in bulk, shop at the same stores, and refuse to browse.

What Thumbelina Thinks: This person sees shopping as a means to an end; it is not the item the person wants so much as the point of the item (coverage of body parts, prestige, societal expectations). This person does not like change, variety, or surprise when it comes to dressing. Shopping is joyless and more of a chore. I recommend taking some time to aimlessly browse now and again--when one has time. Multi-task by bringing a friend along to make the experience more enjoyable.

2. The "Entourage" Shopper: This person avoids shopping alone, and instead seeks out the assistance of friends, significant others, or family members to approve or disapprove of their purchases. They try things on in front of said persons, and buy or boycott according to others' opinions.

What Thumbelina Thinks: This person needs to find his or her own style and a sense of self. While it never hurts to have friends accompany you and offer feedback, it's still important to use them as guides rather than as ultimate authorities. After all, YOU have to wear it, not them.

3. The "Lone Ranger": This person always shops alone. Like a cowboy seeking out his prey, this shopper avoids distractions like small talk to secure what s/he wants. Shopping could be as short as a stroll through the woods or as a long as a trek through the wilderness, but ultimately, it's the person's own opinions and timing that count.

What Thumbelina Thinks: This person has a strong sense of self, and s/he knows what s/he likes. While this method works most of the time, it helps to get some feedback once in a while. (Perhaps you didn't really need another pair of black boots.)

4. The "Virtual" Shopper: This shopper buys everything online or through catalogs, finding this method to be more efficient, private, and comfortable than venturing into the world.

What Thumbelina Thinks: While there are many benefits to shopping this way, one does not experience the tactile nature of shopping. It's important to try things on and to see them in person; it's also time-consuming to return items that disappoint and are a waste of materials (think of all of those unnecessary cardboard boxes). However, one can reach a happy medium. Narrow down items of interest, try them on at stores, and then buy online when the time suits. Make sure that you are able to return items without additional costs.

5. The "Thrifty" Shopper: This person lives for sales and congratulates him/herself for purchasing items at a discounted price. Always the bargain hunter, this person shops at outlets, thrift stores, and sample sales with the zeal of the early bird who MUST get the worm.

What Thumbelina Thinks: While the thrifty shopper definitely saves money, s/he can also waste money on discounted items that are unnecessary. The "sale" label does not automatically justify the purchase. Ask yourself if that item is truly worth its closet real estate space.

Jennifer Behr: Feather Headband

Jennifer Behr Wide Feather Headband, $158 at Saks

Recently, on an aimless visit to Barneys, I noticed a collection of feather headbands. Perhaps it was the chic woman trying them on or Sarah Jessica Parker's aplomb when wearing her feathered hat to the "Sex and the City" London premiere that drew my attention to the whimsical wildness of those mesmerizing adornments. A feather headband is probably the closest thing I'll ever get to wearing real feathers (the thought of spontaneous molting is enough to scare me off), and a touch of plumage adds individuality and spunk to an otherwise conservative outfit. Anyway, headbands are so Blair Waldorf--and I confess I love me some Gossip Girl.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Juicy Couture: Military Jacket

Juicy Couture Belted Jacket, $348 at Eluxury

As the weather has already shown signs of cooling, I begin to look to chic fall/winter jackets that require minimal coordination. This particular Juicy Couture military jacket (I've become more and more impressed with them recently) reminds me of Fendi this season, but without their scary prices. It's exactly the thing to wear over a dress, a skirt, jeans, or a crisp pair of pants. I can wear it for work or for play, as it looks both casual and elegant. And, best of all, I can wear it now in cool air-conditioned rooms or later when the air outside is even cooler.

Are You A Recessionista?

Recently, while I was reading an article in Bazaar magazine, I paid attention, for the first time, to a word that had been creeping up on us: "recessionista." I also noticed the unusual preponderance of lower-priced fashion goods featured in the magazine, a marked departure for this very high-end magazine (as most avid readers of fashion magazines have noted, there is a hierarchy among them with some focusing mainly on low-end goods, while others focus almost exclusively on high-end ones). What is a recessionista? Wordspy defines a recessionista as "a person who dresses stylishly on a tight budget."

The word is used endearingly for those of us hit by the recently gloomy bear market, but what's next? Depressionista? That's certainly how I feel these days about fashion's high cost. Now, I feel guilty when I buy anything full price. I rationalize, I reason, I fret. And yet the reality remains: high-end fashion has high-end prices.

Fashion Addict has recently written an article on "thrifting," the recessionista's solution to the fiscal crisis. My mother, always a stylish woman, resorts to thrifting--that "cheap thrill" we experience when snagging an inexpensive item dazzles us. But I'm equally dazzled when I see prices these days. $1,200 for a pair of shoes? $5,000 for an exotic handbag? $3,000 for a lace skirt?

This year, I'll turn to end of the season sales, high-end consignment and outlet stores (Woodbury Commons, here I come!), and a select few splurge-worthy "must have" items. But, in sooth, I've narrowed down my fall shopping list to a handful of items: a purple Fendi dress, a Fendi belt, a Prada lace skirt, and a Lanvin statement necklace. As always, I'd rather have a few remarkable items than a closet-full of unremarkable ones.

What about you--how are you dealing with the fashion crisis?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Second Chances: Versace's Surprisingly Adorable Fall Line

There are certain designers I completely ignore, mainly because their design aesthetic doesn't match mine. Versace is one such designer whose work conjures up images of shiny, skanky, skin-tight dresses. After seeing this particular dress in person at Bergdorf's, I must admit that I was shocked at my misplaced prejudice: this dress was not only gorgeously designed, but impeccably made. Perhaps I had been too rash after all. Here's another item that must eventually make its way to my closet this fall...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sporty Fashion: Miu Miu Goalie Skirt

Miu Miu Wool Cut-out Skirt, $835 at

I must confess: I am not a sporty gal. For most of high school, I was one of the "day gym queens," which simply meant that I was forced to take gym since I didn't join a team sport. The combination of the upcoming Olympics, the recent sports challenge on Project Runway, and Miuccia Prada's heavily sporty Miu Miu fall line has, however, made me a little more curious about the potential of successfully mixing fashion and sports--which, to me, have always been diametrically opposed. (I understood Daniel's frustration on the show. What's wrong with a cocktail dress for Olympians?) This particular skirt, with its soccer-net design, gives me hope: no spandex, polyester, or nylon, just a perfectly-shaped pencil skirt with some architectural details. I'm game--are you?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

McQueen's Fugly Joke

Alexander McQueen "God Save McQueen" Sweater, $890 at

Love him or hate him, one at least has to recognize Alexander McQueen for what he is: an iconoclast. This perversion of the commonly-heard chant of "God save the Queen" would be amusing if the sweater itself wasn't so hideous. I've never cared for sporty, horizontal stripes, and these particular colors conjure up images of flags--and there is nothing worse than a flag on a tee-shirt. (Okay. I exaggerate. World hunger and genocide are worse.) The looseness of the fit also makes me think of rugby sweats, but not the sexy, "I've-just-borrowed-this-from-my-hunky-boyfriend" kind of sweatshirt, but the dingy, "I've-just-found-this-in-the-recycling-bin-at-Paragon Sports" kind. I appreciated McQueen's tribute to royalty in his Fall 2008 line, but this quirky, tongue-in-cheek statement only reinforces its ironic message: God save him from making any more terribly ugly fashion jokes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tote'em: Banana Republic Tote

Banana Republic Wilshire Leather Tote in Mouse (also available in black), $230

While many ascribe their need to buy school supplies in August to years of conditioning, I can simply say that as a teacher, I am forced to do the yearly "back-to-school" shopping stint. One of the usual suspects is a large, durable, and chic tote bag. While I considered purchasing the now ubiquitous Yves Saint Laurent "Downtown" tote (it is beautiful), I ended up buying a white Bottega Veneta tri-compartment tote. (My husband cautioned against buying a white tote bag for work, but I didn't listen.) For those of us tired of the same old same old and sick of rising bag prices, the Banana Republic Wilshire tote is surprisingly chic: the hardware is aesthetically pleasing, the shape is simple but classic, and the color is neutral and perfect for fall. At $230, I can bang up this bag without a shred of guilt, which is what I feel every time I look at my poor, beat-up Bottega.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Purple Is The New Neutral

From Top: Tory Burch Zorra Jacquard Dress, $325; Christian Louboutin Pointy-toe Patent Boots, $1,195 at Saks; Richard Chai Fall 2008 Runway
Purple has exploded on the runways and in stores; in short, it is the new "it" color. While this proclamation may put off some who strive for originality in a cliched fashion society, let me persuade you to reconsider the virtues of this royal shade. It compliments a myriad of shades: gray, black, blue/navy, brown, pink, taupe, green, white. (Perhaps the only unfriendly pairings would be yellow and orange, but even then, it could be done for the most daring among us. Personally, I caution against it.) Purple also looks fantastic on all skin tones, is a deep enough shade for fall, and is, quite simply, a beautiful and versatile shade. Since my fortuitous purchase of my purple Burberry dress from last spring, I have been mad for purple, and with so many choices for fall, my only dilemma is choosing which items to buy.