Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Dreamed I went to Work in My Pajamas

Pajamas Louis Vuitton-style with matching helmet

Wait; that wasn't a dream. I did go to work in my pajamas. To the store. In public. Just the top. Well, I mean, I wore pants, just not pajama bottoms.

Yes, I have latched onto yet another trend that may quickly go the way of harem pants: the pajama top as street wear. My first thoughts were how silly and this must be Louis Vuitton's idea of a joke. But no joke, this. The look has been all over the runway. Among celebs sporting the pajama top have been the stunning Ryan Gosling, the lovely Scarlett Johansonn, and the always au courant Sofia Coppola.

From the top: Ryan, Scarlett, Sofia

I usually avoid trends unless they strike me as a great solution (footless tights vs white legs) or tickle my funny bone. The pajama top definitely falls in the second catagory. I certainly don't need to wear my pjs for lack of other clothing choices. I usually have enough time to get dressed in the AM, and I'm not so forgetful yet as to forget to get dressed. No, I did this on purpose.
My choice was a beautiful black silk pajama top trimmed in light beige. The top is cut fairly short and is boxy, but was definitely part of a sleep set (pants sold separately). Originally priced at $110 but went home with me for considerably less. I paired it with tapered-leg silk pants by Corey Lynn Calter in black with an abstracted floral pattern. I never could figure out what to wear with those pants and now see they were crying out for a pajama top. Shoes, of course, (flats) and a chunky choker necklace. It's imperative to accessorize if you try this look and have not a hint of bed-head.

So what was the reaction to my embrace of such fashionable nonsense? Some compliments from co-workers along the line of "no one could pull that off but you". I am going to consider that a compliment no matter what it may imply. One gentleman asked if I knew I was wearing my pajamas. He was being purposely snarky so I answered back that I might take a nap on my lunch break. With a smile of course. One customer, bless her heart, called out to me across the room. She wanted to know where did I get that top, and when we pulled one for her she bought it. Now that gal has tremendous style!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Buckle Up

One of the most underrated accessories in the entire lexicon is the belt. True, there was a time when my neighbor, a belt manufacturer, couldn't give them away. In fact, he did give a bunch of them away— to me. There were some beauties— massive, chunky, all-leather and costing more to buy than I would ever spend. Having a small waist to show off (and divert the eye from the large hips and the no bosom) I've always appreciated what the right belt can do.

No matter what your shape (pear, apple, tomato, banana or bunch of grapes) you can't go wrong by defining your waist. And a belt will put your waist where you want it. The smallest part of a woman's silhouette is her ribcage— the area between the bosom and the waist. Thusly the lovely boutique where I work tends to stock a number of dresses that are purposefully a tad short-waisted. Not only does that accentuate the smallest part, it lengthens the legs.

Word of caution: when a dress comes with its own belt consider the belt that was provided as only a place holder— a suggestion that, yes, you need a belt. Most belts (or sashes) included with dresses are flimsy little things and need to be replaced by something substantial with a little style.

Belt fashions come and go, but unlike apparel, a belt is a belt is a belt. Rarely will one date itself. If macrame belts suddenly come back in style, you could wear your macrame belt from the '70s and no one would be wiser. But let's really truly hope they do not.

If you have pants or a skirt with belt loops either wear a belt or remove the loops.

A man's necktie makes a cool, prepster-looking belt. Be certain you have not absconded with his favorite tie (every man has one no matter how much he may hate to wear it). Audrey Hepburn once famously wore the canvas strap from a case of wine as a belt. A silk scarf can be folded into a narrow shape and worn as a belt.

Proof that belts are truly art: I have a small but well-loved collection of souvenir beaded belts that spell out place names in the beading. I used to pick them up on travels around the country. Alas belts and the souvenir plates we used to buy and hang on the wall have been replaced by souvenir t-shirts and baseball caps. Ugh.
What goes on in Vegas comes home with me

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Turtle and the Neck

Audrey + turtleneck = perfection

What's this about turtlenecks being back in style? Would someone please tell me when they left? I thought the turtleneck (especially black) was a wardrobe staple. Come to think of it, I haven't actually worn a turtleneck for quite a few years, but I assumed that was because we now live in Texas, the land of "eternal summer" (it's barely making 60 now at high noon).

Suddenly the turtleneck has peeked out from its shell and is being worn by Those Who Know and shown by those who will influence our fashion choices in seasons to come. Designer Rachel Roy wore a sheer nude Stella McCartney turtleneck with a long black skirt to the CFDA awards and remarked that she "didn't always have to show a lot of skin, but what I do want to show all the time is a lot of brains. And the turtleneck is strong, elegant and smart."
Rachel Roy looking brainy

Why the appeal of the turtleneck? It puts the focus on your face. It creates a blank palette to show off a beautiful necklace or earrings. You can dress it up or dress it down. It feels good against your skin (if it's cashmere). And— yes— it whisks away a wrinkly neck.

The turtleneck harks back to the 19th century when it first appeared on college athletes' underwear. It was later co-opted by the military, adopted by beatniks in the '50s (as Audrey was trying to be in "Funny Face" pictured above) and replaced a shirt and tie under a man's suit jacket in the '60s. Pretty soon it was worn by everyone in the family and became as ubiquitous in winter as was the t-shirt in summer.

Leave it to today's designers to bring back the turtleneck with a little bite. Ikram Goldman, whose Chicago boutique is a Michelle Obama favorite, sees the turtleneck in a new light. "It hugs your body, your neck, your arms— it's like a mold. And that tightness on the neck is almost like bondage. What's not sexy about that?"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Who Speaks for Us?

Mary Portas is not sitting down on the job

Despite two months of steady blogging one thing is still gnawing at me. Who speaks for us? Where is that stylish guru who tells-it-like-it-is and is not about to see Baby put in a corner, even if Baby is rounding 50, 60 or 70?

Oh, yes, she's in England. I'm talking about Mary Portas who previously made an appearance here with her take on QVC shopping. Mary is to retail in Britain what Gordon Ramsay is to restaurants. She is known as Mary Queen of Shops for her ability to analyze why a retail operation is not working and re-tool it to fit the marketplace. She recently took the challenge to create her own shop in the venerable British department store House of Fraser for "grown-up style conscious women"— not girls or chicks. We're talking 40+. It might surprise Mary to know, since she's not there yet, that 60+ and 70+ are still sashaying fashion's byways as well.

Mary's philosophy is summarized in what she calls the Pret a Portas Checklist:
1) Avoid dressing like a teenager.
2) Edit your trends.
3) Work with your proportions.
4) Keep it low maintenance.
5) Don't buy crap.

May I suggest you cut-and-paste and access her website ( to read her style philosophy and take a gander at the goodies she has gathered in her House of Fraser sub-shop. There are basic pieces interpreted in interesting fabrics. Many of the dresses look to have some ease in the construction, and everything has a sleeve! She's not afraid of color or some pattern as well. The pieces look like they would play well with each other without being matchy-matchy. 
The collection also offers handbags, shoes, jewelry, hosiery, scarves, belts and a section of home, food and beauty products that Mary loves. Only a small portion of the clothes have a Mary Portas label, so think "curated" for her shop.

We in America are not being served. I have praised Chico's for hiring Diane Keaton (age 65) as their model/spokesperson this winter. The campaign works because she is more than just a token model. The ads, particularly on television, are a platform for her fashion philosophy as relates to Chico's and are both slick and believable. But she is not driving the company. On the other hand do you believe for one minute that Demi Moore (49) really shops at Ann Taylor and Julianne Moore (51) at Talbot's? They're attractive women, but we have no idea of their personal style beyond what we see on the red carpet (and that most likely styled by someone else).

I really hope someone with passion steps up to the plate. None of us are getting younger. One out of every nine Americans is over 50. Quick calculations mean 25% of American women are over 50. And some former baby boomer turns 50 every 8 seconds! 

Martha Stewart (70), were she not so busy cooking, gardening, crafting, entertaining, writing books and helming an empire could be our Mary. Think if Martha had decided that we were heading down Dowdy Lane and decided to do something about it fashion-wise. I think we all respond well to a little tough love when doled out by someone whose accomplishments we admire.  
Martha would tell us a thing or two

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Carbon Dating Your Look

There are three sure-fire, tell-tale age give-aways that can so easily slip through the cracks of your personal style:
1) Old style (not vintage chic) eyeglasses
2) A worn-looking handbag
3) Out of fashion shoes

It's easy to not see your eyeglasses. They tend to become part of you— too costly to buy in multiples or something you grudgingly need and would rather not think about. There are so many styles of glasses, you say, how could any look out of date? True there are cat's eye frames, big round frames, little round frames, even frameless frames— all considered au courant.
Carbon-dated glasses from the 70s
Strangely fashionable today

Eyeglass frames tend to undergo a sea change every four years. Of course you get your eyes examined more often than that, right? The only way to avoid this reassessment of one of your most obvious accessories is if you had adopted a unique look early on. The world may have caught up to you, Iris Apfel, but you hold the bragging rights.
Iris says, "The better to see you with"

I recently had to stop wearing my contacts. Bad enough the only glasses I had lying about were half the size of my face, my husband started calling me Uncle Junior after the character on "The Sopranos". I opted for a pair of small round tortoise shell and one that I hope evokes "sexy secretary". How, you may ask, does one choose frames when one can't see without glasses? Simple— take a picture. It's a wonder oculists don't offer this service, but that's why we have camera phones. Warning— even the Sears $99 Special may end up costing you $350. It's not the frames; it's the lenses.

Did you suspect Columbo gave the excuse that his worn-out trench coat had character because he was too lazy to buy a new one? It might have worked for Columbo, but it will not work for your handbag. You may have a wardrobe of purses but chances are you have one that is your daily friend. You know all its nooks and crannies and can thereby locate your keys in 2 seconds flat. You clean it out occasionally, really you do. But do you actually see it? Is the hardware tarnished, the leather scuffed, the edges mangled, threads hanging? Buying a new handbag is #3 on the Shopping Stress Scale, after jeans and bathing suits. The best time to find one is when you don't need it. But there comes a time when need is now.
If handbags could talk...

Shoes are a slippery slope as feet get older. Nothing says old like "sensible shoes". There are some stylish ones out there, and I give props to those who make the effort while insuring their comfort as they usually don't come cheap. If your feet are not the problem, it's still easy to fall into the trap of wearing outdated shoes for the sole (pun intended) reason that they are not worn out. Dressy or dress-up shoes that languish in your closet could go on forever would that they didn't also go out of style. Shoe trends are just as fickle as trends in apparel. Last year's round toe becomes this year's winkle picker. It's not just heel heights, it's heel shapes— thick, thin, curved, angled, etc. And vamps! High, low and in-between. By the way, how interesting that "vamp" can mean both the upper part of a shoe that covers the instep and a woman who uses sexual attraction to exploit men. Toe cleavage, anyone? 

I wonder how much we will all laugh in years to come at some of the silly shoes we are seeing today. I haven't fallen for them because, of course, I will fall in them.