Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Building Blocks

Block and white and color all over

Who knew getting dressed could be this much fun? Color blocking is my new favorite dressing game, and it's so easy even the color blind can do it. Suddenly all those rules about what color goes with what don't seem to apply. For me today that meant a navy silk kimono jacket, magenta knife-pleated skirt, chartreuse cami, and apricot leather belt.

Here are some tips for having your own block party:

> You can easily block all brights, all pastels or all neutrals. Mixing block families is trickier.

> Your goal is not to reinvent the rainbow— three blocks minimum but four should be enough.

> Black and white are not colors in this game. Black and white and a color is not color blocking.

> The most successful color blocking looks random and unexpected. Good old red, white and blue is not really "it".

> Shades of a color is not color blocking. You have to spin all over the color wheel.

> Adding a print adds about 40 years to this look. But stripes seem to work.

> You can tiptoe into color blocking by having an accessory (shoes, bag, belt, tights) in color.

> Keep jewelry to a minimum. You don't want to look too perfectly refined. Think tousled hair with an evening gown.

> As with everything fashion, wear it as if you own it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Little Things Mean a Lot

Shopping with Coco in your pocket would be nice

Oh to step into a store and walk out fully clothed head to toe in the most ravishing, perfect outfit. Well, it ain't gonna happen. A) We tend to buy pieces piece-meal, hoping the bits will come together and B) there is rarely such a thing as 100% perfect right off the selling floor.

I've mentioned before how important is a little nip and tuck at the tailor. The shoulders, nape of the neck, under the arms. We are all different creatures, and unless you are Anna Sui's house model, you may have to consider altering that Anna Sui dress. Your salesperson should be able to advise you what alterations are reasonable. Anything involving a zipper is not, and taking in is a heck of a lot easier than letting out. But let's face it— much of our shopping is of the self-service variety. The days of a little chanteuse to advise are long gone. So you are stuck with having to consult your tailor to determine the feasibility of making it work. But if it can... do it without regret.

There are a few situations that we have a tendency to let pass. They are, however, really important. So hold your nose and take your medicine:

1) Hem your pants to the right length. That means making a decision what shoes you will wear with what pants. Especially jeans. You just can't wear the same jeans with flats that you would wear with boots. Since we wear jeans a lot you may indeed need multiple pairs. I know what you're thinking: It was hard enough to find one pair that fit, now I need two??? Skinny pants need to be hemmed right to the ankle with no break. Bootlegs can have a little break. Flares or wide legs should just miss hitting the ground. You can wear your skinnys cropped, but unless you are supermodel height your legs will look stubbier.

2) Change the buttons. Manufacturers have to cut corners, and buttons are the first to go. I have seen the cheapest buttons on even the most beautiful shirts and blouses. Bonus points if they are self covered; don't change them. But seriously consider trading off the ugly plastic for some real mother of pearl or a less doodad-looking button if that's what you've been given.

3) Hem the sleeves. I know, I know. It's so easy to just turn them under. You've spent $200+ for a blazer, and you won't fork over another $20 to have sleeves hemmed to the right length? Seriously, I think doing this is the mark of a grown-up.

4) Replace the belt. Another cost-cutting trick: give the consumer a dreadful cheap bit of plastic for a belt and call it a day. Leather is expensive. Belts cost real money. But they last forever! And you can't say that about everything.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's Fun to be Brad

Brad: so far so good

If you only know Brad Goreski as Rachel Zoe's sweet but somewhat beleagured assistant on two seasons of her oh-so-addictive Bravo reality show, his just published autobiography ("Born to be Brad— My Life and Style, So Far") may not be on your radar.

If on the other hand you got to know him on this year's "It's a Brad Brad World", also on Bravo, you too may have been charmed as was I. More than showing Brad as every girl's dream of a best friend, the tv show revealed a young man who bloomed slowly, worked hard, was luckily in the right place at the right time and —most important— was smart enough to hear opportunity knocking and brave enough to rip open the door.

"Born to be Brad" is a quick, mostly happy read. Because we know Brad is now well on his way to a successful career in his dream-come-true vocation, we can make it through his childhood of "being different" in a small Canadian town. Fortunately Brad had family (and at least one teacher) to encourage him. His grandmother bought him Barbie dolls (that his father trashed), and he sewed costumes in the basement with his mother. It took a while to make it through drug, alcohol and bad fashion addictions. At 34 he's been sober for ten years and is a strong proponent of "one day at a time". He writes with gratitude, humility and good humor.

Now how could this also be a fashion book, you ask? Well, it is. If there's one thing Brad insists is the secret to looking good, it's to value yourself. You're worth it, and money has little to do with that. In parts labeled "Listen", "Look" and "Leap" and chapters such as "Playing dress up isn't just for kids" and "You are the new black", Brad dispenses fashion advice of the sort we can never hear enough:

"Comfortable doesn't mean lazy."
"Your bathing suit is not an outfit."
"It's called winter white for a reason."
"Step outside of your comfort zone and don't get locked in a uniform."

There are books to read, videos to rent, artists to know, a playlist to mend a broken heart— even a pie recipe. I particularly liked his 10 tips on how to be a good assistant. Because one doesn't start at the top.