Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Much Thanks!

Gorgeous and intelligent bloggers Wendy from Wendy Brandes Jewelry, Diabolina from My Super Sweet Fashion Diary, Nini from Nini's Style and Miss Cavendish have all been so kind to mention me in their stellar (and highly addictive) fashion blogs. I hardly go a single day without visiting their fabulous blogs.

Miss Cavendish has tagged me. Here are the guidelines:

1. Respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention; add a question of your own.
2. Tag eight other un-tagged people.

What is your current obsession? Leather jackets by Rick Owens.

Good coffee place? My favorite coffee of all time has to be from Kauai, Hawaii. Until my next visit, I'll have to settle for Starbucks.

Do you nap a lot? Yes, when I can. I love to sleep! (My husband calls me a bear because I like to hibernate.)

Who was the last person you hugged? My husband.

What are your pet peeves? Wet socks, toothpicks dangling from mouths, smelly people, and incompetence.

What was the last thing you bought? An Oscar de la Renta jacket and a Chloe jacket from a consignment store.

What are you listening to right now? Nothing. I don’t actively put on music—my husband does, so it’s usually Z100. But I did just watch Phantom on Broadway, so my mind is replaying the entire soundtrack.

What is your favourite weather? Sunny 75-80 degree weather.

What’s on your bedside table? Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father (it’s amazing).

Say something to the person/s who tagged you. I’d love to see an outfit of yours—one that you would teach in.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be? London.

Favorite vacation spot? Any major European city: Rome, Florence, Rome, etc.

Name the things you can’t live without. My dictionary, lotion and sunblock (I have very dry skin), belts, common sense, my wedding band, coffee and tea, intellectual discourse, and other people’s fashion blogs.

What would you like to have in your hands right now? A Rick Owens jacket, the black glossy Fendi dress from the spring 09 show (it’s absolutely heavenly), and a white snakeskin Miu Miu bag.

What is your favourite tea flavour? English Breakfast or something black and hearty. Actually my favorite Afghan restaurant in New York City (it’s called Bamiyan) makes the most exquisite cardamom and rose petal tea called Shir-Chay. I’d drink this forever if I could.

What would you like to get rid of? My innate pessimism, clutter, and incompetence.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? To the top of a pyramid in Egypt.

What did you want to become as a child? A writer.

What's your favorite brand of jeans? I don’t have a single favorite brand, but I do like Silence + Noise (from Urban Outfitters), Current/Elliot, Rock and Republic, and Citizens of Humanity.

What style trend is the hardest one for you to adopt? I have to say the harem pant look. I absolutely hate the saggy crotch look, but I did recently buy a jumpsuit that has that harem pant look without the saggy crotch.

Twitter or Facebook? I’ve never twittered, so I have to say Facebook.

I'm tagging Style Sophisticate (another fresh-faced blogger I adore), Mode Junkie (who is adorable and creative), The Little Fashion Treasury (always so sweet and has impeccable taste), and Brook & Lyn (whose edginess I try but fail to emulate).

What I Wore: Girly Florals

Sunglasses: Chanel
Applique Top: Lela Rose
Cashmere Cardigan: Gap
Belt: 3.1 Philip Lim
Leather and Passementerie Bag: Prada
Jeans: Silence + Noise
Platforms: YSL
Book: People Are Unappealing by Sara Barron

Sara Barron was the MC for The Moth's short story slam at The Bitter End last night. She was hilarious, so I bought her book. It doubles nicely as a disguise.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Weekend Outfit Problem

From W Magazine's article "Weekend Warriors"
A few months ago on a bright but bone-chilling winter Sunday, I remember catching a shocking glimpse of style maven Nina Garcia, best known for having been the Editor-at-Large at Elle Magazine and a scathing judge on Bravo's Project Runway, walking casually into the Fendi boutique on Fifth Avenue. It was not so much the fact that I had seen a celebronista that shocked me but that she was so unimpressively dressed: simple blue jeans (not ripped, studded, or ultra skinny) and a capacious plain sweater with no tell-tale designer distinctions enveloped her small frame. For a minute I thought that the look was a kind of disguise--for how could Nina Garcia, of all people, be so ordinarily dressed?
I eventually grasped that it was her version of casual weekend wear, a dilemma that has apparently haunted not only this humble blogger but also the glitterati that inhabit the sacred frames on Jak & Jil's and The Sartorialist's blogs and at W Magazine. Vanessa Lawrence's intriguing article "Weekend Warriors" in the latest edition of W Magazine--Drew Barrymore looks chicly disheveled on its cover--confronts their "dilemma: how to keep up appearances while giving their Yves Saint Laurent Tributes and Balenciaga sheaths a breather--if they choose to do so." She goes on to quote designer Shoshanna Gruss who put it quite accurately: "I feel like there are people who are so excited to not have to get dressed up in the downtime, and then I feel like there are fashion people who never stop." While we all may not own high-end designer duds, the same issue exists for all of us fashionistas out there: do we "dress up" for the weekend or "dress down"?
Personally, I confess that my weekend outfits tend to be simpler, more straightforward, and--I am not afraid to admit it--commonplace. Perhaps it's the "home clothes" influence of my upbringing, but when I get home, I immediately change into an oversized terry cardigan and yoga pants, and when the weekend rolls around, I choose the most uninspiring outfits as a kind of conditioned response to the date on the calendar. On the weekends, I like to lounge, to relax, to adopt a different fashion persona. Lately I've tried to get out of that automatic response by mixing things up a little, but when the weather has been as frigid as it has been this particular winter, a gal has limited options. It's usually the same trite combo: jeans and a cashmere sweater (or two).
Of course, a few added details can satisfy the fashionista and the shlub in us--and I daresay that most of us have a shlub in there somewhere, the shlub that loves eating ice-cream straight out of the container and who scares her boyfriend/husband/partner by wearing a green mud mask with her hair unflatteringly pulled back. Humbly I offer these suggestions:
1) When choosing simple clothes for the weekend, pay attention to fit and cleanliness. Simple clothes should never swallow you up (sorry, Nina--here I have to object to your look) or look dingy. Sweats and yoga pants should be reserved for the gym. On the other hand, this may be the time to try out that ripped denim trend, something that most of us professionals can't wear to work.
2) Add high-end accessories or the best ones you can afford to jazz up a look.
3) Vary your uniform so it's not so boring. (This one I need to follow myself!)
Option A: Distressed/skinny jeans with a sweater/cardigan/blazer (I love a cropped or boyfriend jacket right now)
Option B: A long tunic over leggings with low heels or flats (the tunic should fall mid-thigh; anything higher looks skanky, and anything lower looks dowdy)
Option C: A moto jacket over a simple jersey dress
Option D: A cropped jacket or denim jacket over black leather pants or a jumpsuit
Option E: A vest over a tee with shorts or jeans
Remember that the weekend is a great time to try out looks you normally don't wear and ones that allow you to experiment with a different persona.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What I Wore: Pale Pink Friday

Silk Blouse: Viktor & Rolf for H&M
Jeans: Rock and Republic
Flats: Chanel

It was a gorgeous 65 degrees in New York City--perfect for a day at the zoo and the park!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Canopy Verde: An Interview with the Eco-Friendly Bag Designer

Cassia Weekender, $279

Dandelion Duffle, $159

Willow Bowler, $199

About Canopy Verde's bags:
Canopy Verde was born in Fall 2008 with seven styles ranging from clutches to weekenders, all made of organic cotton and bamboo blend fabric, chrome-free leather, OEKO-TEX 100 certified dyes, and chemical free embroidery. “In creating Canopy Verde, I wanted to be very thoughtful about any component that was put into the bag as well as the construction methods, “she explains. “Special attention was paid to everything down to the lining and the dyeing process.”
The Founder Linda Wong, seen above


What makes your bags special?
We put a lot of thought into every detail to make sure that the collection combines style with an authentic eco-friendly philosophy. We use organic cotton for the main fabric, chrome free leather for the trim, recycled plastic for packaging, eco-friendly processes for the dyes, etc. So you can feel good about your purchase and look good at the same time!
What inspires you when you create your bags?
I love clean lines and whimsical touches. I'm a big fan of Danish design--I love chairs made by Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.
How would you describe your customer base?
I think the bags appeal to a wide range of women, particularly those who care about both form and function. The line also appeals to women who like the idea of buying something earth friendly, but don't want to sacrifice style.
Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in Taiwan and came to the States for college. My parents are in Hong Kong, my oldest brother is in Beijing, and my other brother is in Taipei. Because of my Chinese roots, I chose to source and manufacture my bags in China. It was pretty challenging finding certified suppliers in China, but there is definitely a growing market for eco-friendly fabrics. It was a long process of scouring the market for different suppliers and types of eco-friendly materials.
My background is not in design, but business. I went to Brown, then worked at Bain and Amex before going back to Columbia for my MBA. After that I decided I wanted to be involved in product and the creative side so I explored opportunities at Club Monaco and Fila, where I managed their accessories category for 3 years. (For Canopy Verde I do everything but the actual drawings and specs. I hired an experienced designer to bring my ideas to life.)
When did you launch your business?
I launched the business this fall, right around the time I gave birth! I had it all planned: I would launch the website two weeks before my expected delivery date. But little Will showed up a bit early. So I ended up working on my website during labor. I finally put my laptop away four hours after the contractions started and the pain became too distracting.
Thank you so much, Linda! You can go to her website at www.canopyverde.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(Con)Sign Up: A Fashionista's Guide to Consignment Shopping

Fashionistas know that it's always stylish to get a deal on designer duds--but in a recession, it's more important than ever. I visited three consignment stores--stores that buy goods from customers and resell them at a discounted price--on the Upper East Side to see what deals I could find. These three stores all boast stocking only designer items, and while they're certainly not "cheap" if you're used to shopping at Old Navy, they do sell top quality stuff at sample sale prices.

FIRST STOP: Michael's, The Consignment Shop For Women
Location: 1041 Madison Avenue (at 79th Street)
Overview: Michael's probably has the best selection of Chanel jackets (most averaging at 1k per jacket), a wide array of shoes (mostly proper pumps and such for working women), and even a wedding collection in the back.
The Highlights:

1. This Chanel jacket has a distressed quality that fits in with the current disheveled mood in fashion:

2. I purchased this Chloe blouse, which features pointy sleeves and ruffles:

3. This Oscar de la Renta dress was hard to pass up, but it was too big. The tribal detailing on this dress is right on trend with the au currant ethnic/exotic craze ($650):

4. I remember drooling over this Burberry Prorsum green silk dress the first time I saw it, but alas, at $2,500, it's still too steep for me:

SECOND STOP: Encore, the Premier Consignment Shop for Designer Clothing
Location: 1132 Madison Avenue (between 84th and 85th)
The Overview: Encore's clothing selection was quite conservative and lackluster; however, their bag selection was outstanding.

The Highlights:

1. I love the military detailing on this Chanel jacket ($850):

2. Their bag display:

The green crocodile Prada bag (seen below) costs a still-hefty $7,500. They also had a YSL patent drawstring bag for $700 and another top-handle YSL bag for $1,100:

3. A Chloe top with beading ($105):

Part of their shoe collection:

LAST STOP: La Boutique Resale
1045 Madison Avenue (at 80th); other locations include 803 Lexington Avenue (corner of 62nd) and 227 East 81st Street (between 2nd and 3rd)
The Overview: This place had the least appealing clothes, but they did have a handful of nice bags (they had three Louis Vuitton bags on display). Oddly enough, I did find two outstanding black jackets for about 85-90% off the retail price. According to the saleslady, both--including a white and black polka dot dress from Oscar de la Renta--were from the same lady. I have to say though that of all of the three shops, the saleslady at this one was by far the nicest.

My Finds:
1. This taffeta Oscar de la Renta jacket will go nicely with nearly everything from skirts, dresses, to jeans:

2. I love the military detailing on this Chloe jacket:

SOME HELPFUL TIPS about consignment shopping:

1. Know Prices. Some of the tags listed the retail price, but be sure to know how much things cost so you know you're getting a deal. Items that are more recent (i.e. from last season's collection) tend to cost more than older items (that's why that Burberry dress was so high). In the past, stores rarely went higher than 65-75% off; last season we saw ridiculously reduced sales (85-90% in some cases). While you're certainly getting a discount with consignment stores, keep in mind that many of the prices are like sample sale/end-of-the-season liquidation sale prices.
2. Inspect Your Items. These stores do not have a refund policy, so make sure each item's defect (if it exists) is something you can live with.
3. Get Calls. The saleslady at the last boutique told me that she'd call if that mystery woman brought in any more items. We're the same size and I like her style--chances are I'll want to buy her things again.
4. Frequently Visit. These stores get new merchandise in every day, and items come and go quickly. As one store window's display put it, "The treasure you see here today might not be here tomorrow."
5. Shop Shrewdly. Despite the caveat in the previous tip, don't fall into the lure to buy just because it's a consignment store. Apply the same rules of shopping that you normally use: Do you love it? Will you use it? Does it look amazing on you?

Monday, March 23, 2009

What I Wore: Rustic

Cashmere Jacket: Luca Luca
Corset Belt: YSL
Jeans: Levi's
Equestrian Boots with Passementerie Detailing: Prada
Anaconda Bag: Bottega Veneta
It's still quite cold here (25-45 degrees), hence the cashmere jacket. (Did you know that it snowed last Friday, the first day of spring?! I'm still so sad looking at all of my summer dresses hidden away in my closet.)
This is one of my favorite bags. (Bottega Veneta is a master with anything exotic.) Snakeskin is hot this summer, but I've loved it forever.

These boots are ancient, but I still adore them. I also have a black Prada bag that has passementerie detailing on the clasp. Something about passementerie reminds me of old world glamour.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What I Wore: Remix

Peplum Jacket: YSL
Dress: Luca Luca
Medallion Belt: Burberry Prorsum (click here to see a close-up of it)
Eel Boots: Devi Kroell

According to the celebrity rags and fashion mags, it's no longer gauche for celebrities to wear items over and over again. (I think one rag even said, "Even celebrities are affected by the recession" or something to that effect.) But for us common people, we've always done it.

This dress is what someone once dubbed the "Caroline Kennedy dress." Yes, it's uber-conservative, and I mostly use it as an all-purpose dress: it's great as a pencil skirt underneath a jacket (surprisingly enough, I don't own a black pencil skirt!), as a funeral dress, or as a layering piece.

P.S. Brook & Lyn--I'm not sure why the pictures have that yellow tint, but I'll try to investigate.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What I Wore: Hard and Soft

Silk Cardigan: Banana Republic
Dress: Max Azria
Chain Necklace: H&M
Stingray Belt: Luca Luca
Tights: Spanx
Platforms: YSL

As you've probably noticed, I'm not exactly a chains/ripped clothes/leather kind of girl, but I try incorporating those elements in a softer--dare I say "ladylike"--way. I usually pair this dress, which reminds me of a worn '70s rug, with a edgier belt, like my black and gold stud belt or my medallion belt. The necklace, however, was edgy enough for the look so I chose a softer belt.
On a different note, I'd like to know what you would like to see more of in this blog: editorials? more "What I Wore" segments? advice? trend reporting? I'd like to know what I can do to keep you coming back and commenting! Thanks and have a great evening!
*UPDATE: Thanks for all of your wonderful, constructive advice. I will try and see how I can best make these improvements!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What I Wore: Cut-Outs

Bell-sleeved Blouse (with sleeves pinned down): Zara
Chain Necklace: Urban Outfitters
Skirt: Zac Posen
Boots: Chanel
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I tried to convince my students that the skirt was green...they weren't buying it.
I planned on pinning down the voluminous sleeves with pins, but apparently I gave all of my good ones to my mother, thinking I'd never use them. I like the idea of using matching (or mismatching for a quirky look) pins as accents/fake decorative buttons on plain blouses.
The boots are actually 3 1/2" high, but oddly enough they look really low in the photo. After wearing 4" heel the other day, 3 1/2" didn't feel too high anymore. You can also barely tell from the photo, but the logo is quietly placed one inch above the end of the heel in a tiny gold swath.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What I Wore: Corseted and Caged

The same look, only with cuffed jeans:

Which look do you prefer?

Maroon Cashmere Sweater: Vince
Black Sweater: Club Monaco
Belt: YSL
Jeans: MiH
Sandal-Booties: Guiseppe Zanotti

I used my points on my Amex to purchase this belt, which features corseting details on the back (I apologize for not taking a photo of it):

And I finally took the plunge with the 4" shoes! While I wouldn't traipse around Manhattan with these, I'd have to say that the front part of the shoe (along the rim where the leather first hits my foot) created only a slight bother, and the heel height wasn't as bad as I had expected. I really didn't have any pain from the heel height.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On Fashion's Fetishized Use of All Things "Fierce"

Photo Credit: Jak & Jil

Alexander McQueen Fall 2009

Photo Credit: Jak & Jil Blog

Perhaps it was Christian Siriano's repetitive and catchy use of the word that started it. Or perhaps it was the oft-photographed fashion editors in various daily blogs wearing a copious amount of space-agey, mechanical, and fetishized shoes. Or perhaps it was the resurgence of all things Eighties and Nineties: exaggerated shoulders, DIY projects, shredding, distressing, studding, and bondage. In any case, fashion has a newfound obsession with all things "fierce."
According to the dictionary, the adjective "fierce" is associated with something menacing, savage, violent, and severe. The look certainly conveys all of this, but more: the shiny leather, the ripped clothing, and the multiple straps evoke a highly fetishized version of the female ready to engage in S&M, or, sexuality aside, it is reminiscent of the angry goth/punk ready to battle the establishment. Of course, these two versions are extremes of this emerging trend, and while women may only dabble in these personas, the reasons behind its appeal are more revealing than the sartorial items themselves.
With all of the gloom and doom that has been dominating the airwaves, it is hardly surprising that fashion has reflected this growing anger. We are constantly being told that our "recession" is nearing levels akin to the Great Depression, that jobs are at an all-time low, that shantytowns are starting to spring up in Middle America, that banks are no longer reliable, and that our houses, our livelihoods, and our retirement are being threatened. And apparently, this sentiment is also shared by designers. Sarah Mower eloquently noted that Alexander McQueen's recent collection was a backlash against the staid commercialism that bullies designers: "This is a designer who has drawn so much poetry out of the past, yet this time his backward look appeared to be in something like anger, defiance, or possibly gallows humor." While many designers felt browbeatened into creating conservative collections--after all, they're told that women in a recession want "sensible," "classic," "trend-proof clothes"--, many rebelled and voiced that rebellion with a barrage of fierce clothing fit for the urban warrior. In some paradoxical way, this look simultaneously speaks of weakness and strength, for the costume indicates that a threat exists (otherwise, why would the wearer don it?) and that the wearer is capable of challenging--and perhaps defeating--that threat.
Many of the fall trends that have emerged reflect the wearer's need for protection: thigh-high leather boots, fur, leather leggings, long black capes. One must feel psychologically protected in order to begin to have hope. It reminds me of something Arthur Miller wrote in his brilliant essay "Tragedy and the Common Man": "But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief--optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man. It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possible lead in our time--the heart and spirit of the average man." Miller's message, however ironic, enables us to embrace the fierceness we feel and wear, knowing that it ultimately points to the perseverance and hope that we have deep within.

Friday, March 13, 2009

4" Is The New 3"

Guiseppe Zanotti Crisscross Zip-Back Pump

Maison Martin Margiela Ovine Wedge Sandals

Not long ago, the highest heel height that a woman had to contend with was the now-paltry 3-inch heel. I remember the slight mental discomfort I had to confront when purchasing a pair that high and the mental discipline it took to habituate myself to the strain of walking all day in them. Now, those memories are almost ridiculous in light of the new trend in fashion: sky-high heel heights. Now, wherever I look, I can hardly find anything in the formerly-intimidating 3" heel; all of the above lust-worthy sandals are at least 4" and many even boast a crippling 5" or 6" heel height.
It is true that there are the brave bloggers and women out there who can actually walk miles in these shoes. I see and am in awe. But unfortunately, I am not one of them. It is the nature of my beloved city, but I am forced to walk--and walk. (I can't remember the last time I drove anywhere myself.) It is also the nature of my job that I am on my feet constantly, running from floor to floor or pacing to and fro in my classroom. Since I rarely go to the gym, walking is my form of exercise, which I always do rigorously. As a result of these factors, I am loathe to subject my heavily-relied upon feet to hours of fashionable torture.
However, as Yeats slyly reminded us, "a woman must labor to be beautiful." Or one must adapt to one's changing environment. Or perhaps a pair of shoes is too stunning to pass up--pain or no pain. I tell myself these things, and wonder if it is merely a mental impasse (rather than a physical one) that is causing this internal debate. Yes, the times they are a-changin', and it appears that I must change along with them. Thankfully, at least designers haven't given up the emancipating flat, which fits easily and neatly into my oversized bag, and which I can pull out when the hard, cracked, merciless streets of New York demand them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I Wore: Seasonal Confusion

Linen Jacket with Detachable Rabbit Fur Collar: Ya-Ya
Blouse: Lemon
Navy Jeans: MiH
Platform Sandals: YSL Tribute

The weather in NYC has been quite erratic. Last week, we went from a blizzard on Monday to 65 degree weather on Saturday; this week, the weather has ranged anywhere from 30 degrees to 55 degrees. I like the seasonal contradictions in this outfit: fur with linen, sandals with fur.

The YSL Tribute platforms in black have proven themselves indispensable; I figured a tan/brown sandal version would be, too. For some reason, the back straps were loose on my feet, so the saleslady at my local store kindly had extra holes punched in, solving the problem. I can't tell you how much I love these shoes!