Monday, August 31, 2009

Fall is in the air

Ahhhh, the soft breeze that gives birth to small, pleasing goose bumps on bare skin at 8:30am. The first glimpse of fall 2009 graced the city air today, and ushered in copious amount of cozy, cool weather fashions. What better way to celebrate a crisp, end of summer day than with another viewing of September Issue? This time I went with Rebecca, since I knew she would appreciate the film.

Of course no trip uptown is complete without a stop at Bloomingdales (home of my wedding registry, among other divine treasures). Inspired by the 70 degree day, I had to find a deliciously dense yet light as air scarf (a huge hit for fall, offered in various patterns, colors and price ranges for all). A few of my very favorites were simply too expensive for my impulsive urge to have one. This beautiful print is reminiscent of Missoni, and acts as a neutral against a bountiful selections of colored jackets. This muted arrangement of cream and taupe evokes animal print, another fall trend. But my very favorite, and winner of the ultimate prize of purchase, was this knit, which coordinates with many of my blazers (and most importantly was priced south of $100!).

A hopeful glance at the weather report revealed my fall bliss will be short lived, for the thermometer is supposed to rise to 80 again this weekend (rosy news for some, but not for fall fashion lunatics such as myself). But fret not, September is upon us!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The 'reel' September Issue

On a rainy Friday afternoon, I scoured the Internet for a theater in the city showing the A&E Documentary, September Issue. Appropriately, it was playing in Chelsea. Off I went, Fiance in tow (on one of his rare day off this summer.) 90 minutes of pure cinematic bliss.

The documentary opens with an intimate shot of Anna Wintour, sitting in her home answering questions into the camera. She tells us that people who take care in selecting the clothes they put on their bodies are no less intelligent than those who prefer ordinary pieces from 'Kmart.' (There really isn't any condescension when she says 'Kmart', rather she equates the brand with 'ordinary', as in the prevailing, everyday choice for millions of Americans.)

For those moviegoers anticipating a dramatic plot, replete with suspense, life lessons, and endless glamor, you may find disappointment. September Issue is a raw view inside the bowels of a worldwide entity. There is glamor (a plethora of sumptuous frocks, feathers, brocade) and there is heartbreak (the kind that afflicts Grace Coddington, creative director of Vogue, when her painstaking shots are repeatedly 'killed' by Anna). There were times I felt a chill (perhaps from Anna's icy gaze when head designer of Yves Saint Laurent informed her that he was feeling all neutral, no color for his fall collection) and times I felt inspired (to organize my abounding issues of Vogue, Elle, and Harper's into chronological stacks in a chic white-washed bookcase). We see Anna's humanity in several scenes, one with her teenage daughter (who feels fashion is 'funny' and has no intention of getting into the industry) and again with designer Thakoon, where she wished him well with his successful partnership with retail giant the Gap.

Anna is a savvy business woman, who knows what she wants, and knows how to create a magazine that millions of women will read. (I might suggest she steps down to the streets of Manhattan a tad more often to comprehend the true needs of the modern woman, and include more affordable designs in her pages.) Overall, I loved the experience offered by September issue. I will see it again with anyone who wants to go!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Doing my part

Always to be counted on in a shopping conundrum, when the situation involves a stranger I of course make no exception. While shopping in South Street Seaport yesterday afternoon, I obviously found my way into an Ann Taylor. (My newfangled awe of their fall 09 collection created by new head designer Lisa Axelson has not worn off yet.) After browsing the full price selections (I can't justify full price until I have that pesky little job nailed down), I finally found the sale section upstairs. Excited by the abundance of silk sleeves and ruffles that protruded from the racks in the distance, I quickly descended upon the vicinity.

While carefully thumbing through the hangers in my my size, another girl, a tad older than myself, approached the rack with some trepidation. She had a shopping companion in tow, but unfortunately, her chosen partner was of no help to the girl. "I don't know, could I really wear this? I mean, it's on sale for $49, from $145", the girl implored her friend as she held up a dolman sleeve, loose cut, silk patterned frock. The friend's blank stare grew into a skeptical frown, which then turned into a full out grimace. "I don't think so, its all...floppy," the unhelpful (and very mistaken) friend retorted with a curled lip and wrinkled nose. With a quick once over of the girl, I immediately assessed her ability to pull off the silk dress with ease. Seldom shy, I made eye contact with the girl. "I have that dress, it looks fabulous with a belt. Gives it shape so it's not so scary," I reassured her. She then asked me what type of belt. Always doing my part, I led her to the belt section where we chose an appropriately wide black belt with subtle buckle. The girl thanked me (her companion just stood a few feet behind us looking bored and useless) and made her way to the register. I don't even charge commission!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Personal touches are always in style

Another example of why I believe I should have been born perhaps in the earlier part of the 20th century (besides my passion for flapper dresses and mufflers) is my steadfast reliance and obsession with stationary. I can't think of a more personal, elegant, or sumptuous way to express your exclusive style than with beautiful paper products. My best friend Rebecca has always loved fine stationary, an adoration she was taught by her father who still writes her long, handwritten expressions (he writes in French, but us monolinguals can use plain English). It is a seasonal time to mention the beauty of stationary, since the end of summer often brings long weekends away with friends, hosting and being hosted.

A sometimes perplexing issue is what to bring as a give for your host. Though my experience is limited to finding a gift for my good friend's parents when they allow us to frequent their home in East Hampton, I have a whole plethora of gifts just waiting for deserving hosts (anyone want to be the first?) The classics are always a safe choice (bottle of wine, organic fruit basket, Godiva assortment) but old fashioned, personalized options are even better. Who wouldn't love a box of Kate Spade stationary? (Since being bought by Liz Claiborne in November of 2006, the brand has expanded its offerings yet retained the vintage feel that, for me, makes Kate Spade so compelling.) There are many note sets that are very affordable, though look much more expensive (they come in as many patterns as the new J.Crew cardigans, think leopard!). One of the most exciting parts of my wedding planning was choosing the invitations and the cocktail napkins. (Though I'm ecstatic about the ceremony, I really can't wait to have a glass of champagne served to me with the Crane monogrammed cocktail napkins I chose with painstaking detail. Priorities.)

After any event (interview, dinner party, housewarming) sending a handwritten thank you is a classic move that has transcended the more apathetic trends brought on by the Internet (and facebook) generation. I always have a package of personalized note cards on hand for the spontaneous dinner party (or job interview...although unfortunately none of the latter as of yet.) I'll have to start learning how to sign my new last name pretty soon!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Style never sleeps

I think we conceive our schemes of style from a very young age. I remember seeing my grandmother (even on the most mundane day when she wasn’t leaving the house) in a chic, loose knit, dolman sleeve top and fitted knit pants with ballet flats. My mother wore a silk kimono sleeve robe on those rare mornings when she was in the house past 7 am. When I was in charge of folding laundry (I had to earn my allowance in elementary school as to learn money does not grow on trees) I would carefully crease and smooth out her satin nightshirts.

It is from these women that I learned early on that personal style permeates all aspects of life. As I prepare to became a wife, I told my Fiance that I was giving up wearing his boxer shorts and old college t-shirts to bed, and was instead opting for conservative, yet cute, cotton blend nightgowns. The concept of ‘dressing for bed’ and pajamas dates back to the 1800’s and is hardly novel. But the increase in accessible lounge wear in the later 1900’s enables women everywhere to experience the luxury of always looking their best (even when home alone on the couch with a pint of low fat Ben and Jerry’s yogurt.) The conception that comfort equates with elastic waistbands and amorphous smocks is simply incorrect. A light, airy nightshirt is pure comfort and pure style in one neat package. So next time you reach for your significant other's t-shirt, opt instead for a feminine lounge piece and see how much better you feel. Style never sleeps!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A lesson in dressing

It's a Friday night, and my Fiance and I are at our local bar having our usual Friday evening cocktails after dinner. But I keep checking my watch. It's 8:45, and I'm dying to get the check. Why? Because I have to be home by 9 to watch Stacy and Clinton!

What better way to kick off the weekend then by tuning into channel 52 for an all new episode of TLC's What Not To Wear? The emotion at 8:59 on Fridays is similar to the anticipation the first week of August when the September issues are about to hit newsstands. Exhilaration. Giddiness.

Like an honest friend, Stacy and Clinton help one person each week transform themselves from dowdy and underwhelming to modern and inspiring. The witty hosts do not rely on demeaning criticism, but rather employ constructive critique with an abundance of humor. (Last week I heard Stacy tell a woman she looked like Archy Bunker in drag. Poetic, and so illustrative!) The price the student must pay in order to receive a $5,000 gift card for a new wardrobe is the complete disclosure of her current closet, and the subsequent disposal of all items. (Perhaps you are not familiar with the ultimate high that comes along with the seasonal closet purge, but it is something everyone should experience at least once a year. Trust me.)

The show is filled with the expected meltdowns that accompany a huge overhaul of one's personal style (nothing is more personal than style) but the focus remains on the clothes, the hair, and the makeup that make the person whole to the outside world. During final exams in law school while my classmates came dressed like dirty piles of unfolded laundry, I always dressed in skirts or slacks. You can't really feel confident if you allow your inner turmoil in trying times to spill to the outside facade that shows people what lies beneath. (I wish I had a camera at the New York Bar Exam, the atrocities I saw make one wonder how anyone becomes a licensed attorney these days.) So tune in Fridays for a lesson in dressing that can add a little fire to your style.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Insult to injury

This weekend I was finally able to get through the very last page of the very last September issue stacked on my coffee table. To my dismay, I did not feel the anticipated elation after completing Vogue. Instead I felt insulted, indignant and a tad outraged.

On page 394, I was initially happy to see a article titled "What Price Fashion?" However, after about 1 paragraph of the article I began my famous eye roll and muttered under my breath as my Fiance tried to watch CSPAN. He made the mistake of asking me what was wrong, at which point I told him at length and spared no detail.

When I say that I despise Vogue's alienation of the average woman from affordable fashion, I do not consider myself the average woman. I fully admit that I would spend my last dollar on a new cashmere sweater over a meal any day. I refer to women, like my mother, who run a household, raise children, are professionals, entertain, attend cocktail parties, have dinners at 4 star restaurants (5 star perhaps once a year or on their anniversary), savor a new pair of patent pumps, and light up when Chanel offers a free lipstick sample with purchase at Bloomingdales. When Vogue praises Lanvin for offering a $2,800 frock, and Jil Sander for displaying a $1,300 sheath I can hardly share their excitement. Vogue then goes on to declare with acclaim that cotton blouses were shown by Givenchy's Ricardo Tisci for "as little as $440." Such adoration for such offerings is ill-placed. When a designer can learn to offer items south of $500 (and I'm not talking about cotton items which should be south of $200) then maybe he can have some applause. I think there is a distinction between coveting a $2,500 Chanel iconic purse from childhood because your grandmother always carried hers, and hoping one day to be able to blow thousands for an average looking black dress simply because Vogue raves about it being sensible in tough economic times.Vogue is supposed to show woman the luxury of everyday life. Give us something to strive for that we can actually achieve. I don't think many woman can come home from a day at the office, monthly mortgage payments, sitter's fees, cable bill all lying on the kitchen table, and declare to herself and her husband that she's going to snag a $2,800 Lanvin dress because she feels shes worked hard this week, and Vogue says its a deal. A $158 cashmere J.Crew cardigan? Perhaps so.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cannot fool me

It seems that fakes have a way of popping up everywhere I go these days, as if taunting me.

On a pleasant Thursday afternoon, my best friend and I were shopping in a high end boutique on Long Island. More in the mood to browse than purchase, we chatted as we made our way around the small store. A saleswoman in her late 40's (early 50's with good night cream perhaps) locked her eyes on us once we rounded the final corner and headed for the jewelery counter. Noticing the ring display, I pointed to a faux-diamond eternity band and told my friend how much it resembled the Tiffany Swing band. (Though several of Tiffany's collections, such as Legacy, 1837, and Jazz, are registered trademarks, the Swing design is not registered, but clearly recognizable and clearly a Tiffany original creation). Upon closer inspection I could see the ring in the boutique not only resembled the Swing ring, but was an actual knock off of the ring, as evidenced by the description reading 'Tiffany ring' on the base of the display. "I see this is supposed to be the Tiffany design," I said to the saleswoman with a partial sneer. The woman then informed my friend and me that "this is my design, Tiffany copied me." The ill-informed woman began telling a tale about a trip to Canal Street (keep in mind the woman has no idea where we live, what we do or anything) and a fabulous discovery of new 'merchandise.'

Deciding it was about time to stop the charade of letting this pushy woman think she was selling us on her craft, I 'blew up her spot' as they say. Much to the woman's dismay, I told her I actually studied intellectual property law, specifically as it relates to fashion and design. I mentioned that I worked last summer on a case helping a small New York City designer defend against an infringement suit by a large international company. I then told her how truly sad it is when people think they can sell or make knock offs that are nothing more than a pale, poor, paltry imitation of another's creation. The woman looked like a dog with its tail between her legs, and being far too aggressive for such defeat, she merely swept a piece of errant hair that had crept over her cheek and dismissed me as some sort of snob. (Pot calling the kettle black? Who is the one who preaches Tiffany stole her design that she purchased on Canal Street?)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid-Week Shopping Spree

I've mentioned this before, but I am very much over the price of designer jeans. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment this occurred, but I can tell you my last purchase of such a pair was in August of 2008, with my trusted college roommate (and fellow Long Island born, current NYC resident) in tow.

Come fall, I always like to update my closet with a fresh pair of jeans, in whichever style I am currently obsessed with (I over use this word, yes.) This fall, as I perused the racks at Bloomingdales, Neimans, and National Jean I became increasingly disgusted and finally gave up. My longtime loves have left me high and dry. Like an old boyfriend, these faithful companions have disappointed and failed to deliver. $245 for a pair of jeans that I swear I already own from 4 years ago, updated with a mere pocket stitch? I do not think so.

The current range for a pair of Seven Jeans is $155 all the way up to $275, with the majority hovering around $198 (which of course amounts to a figure north of $200 when you add tax.) Enough is enough. Lucky for us, denim has been a focus for many affordable labels this fall. Gap has an entire campaign headed by designer Patrick Robinson that has been in the works for over a year. Ranging in price from $59 to $69 (and currently offering $20 off any denim purchase in store), these jeans are quite something. On a rare day off, my Fiance accompanied me to our local Gap where I tried on most of the styles and even convinced him to buy a new pair as well ($20 off! How could he resist?). The fits are great (though I found they ran a tad on the large side), and I am one picky denim consumer. Another great denim source for fall is Ann Taylor Loft. Offering styles in all the newest (and yet still classic) cuts at prices from $49 to $69, I could not resist a pair of these, which one me, come just to the top of my foot and look perfect with peep toe ankle booties. (Never to be outdone by the competition, Loft too is offering $20 off all denim for a limited time.)

J.Crew too has some great new pairs, but the price tags are a tad higher there. Prices hovering closer to $100 are still a nice alternative to the designer denim. At J.Crew, I recommend the Matchstick cut, which is straight but not skinny. (Skinny is not for everyone, so take a good, honest look in the mirror before taking the plunge and buying a pair.) Wait a few weeks, I am sure you can snag a pair for $59, which is how I've bought the 3 pairs in all shades of blue currently in my closet.

Do not let the astronomical denim price tags discourage you from finding a great new pair of jeans for fall. Fabulous finds are out there! Now if I can just get my Fiance to wear his new jeans instead of his usual uniform khakis, we're in business.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't hide the bottom line

Today's embarrassing fashion story features yours truly. Really, I shouldn't be embarrassed about this incident, but I succumb often to what I call 'empty store pressure' and find myself making a purchase out of pity rather than passion. At least today I found my limit.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the sight of a boutique around 10 or 11AM, before the day shoppers have finished their morning pilates and coffee. The aisles are as barren as Midtown Manhattan on a Sunday (which I happen to love as a Midtown resident, not so much as a temporary day shopper and life long fashion enthusiast). The sales people roam the floor, straighten the perfectly hung dresses, and pick invisible lint flecks off shirt hems. Their eyes devour the first brave shopper to enter the vacant vessel like hungry wolves (but really, can you blame them?). This phenomena is not just a product of the sullen economy, but certainly is exacerbated by the precarious financial climate. Always to be counted on to do my part in the name of fashion, I boldly opened the doors to one of my favorite city boutiques (favorite for their clothing, not their staff) at the arid hour of 10:30AM.

I made eye contact with all 3 saleswomen who spun to see who was gracing their desolate locality at this hour. I smiled politely, but with just enough curtness to signal I did not wish to engage their services but rather preferred to browse in peace. (There is an entire arena of such etiquette and furtive glances within the retail sphere, trust me.) I made my way down the first aisle, home to the day dresses and natural fiber tops. (This aisle also led seamlessly into the sale rack which is where I really wanted to shop.) Like heat lamps, I felt the saleswoman's eyes on my back. Midway down the aisle, I was struck by a gorgeous jade green frock with ruffle hem and draped neckline. I had to touch the sleeveless shift and determine the fabrication (ask my mother, I can do this within 2 seconds of tactile inspection.) A cotton cashmere blend. What I cannot determine by mere touch is price, and really, isn't that the second most important element of the decision to buy? I tried to surreptitiously search the garment using only my eyes for the corner of a price tag. No luck. I sighed and then reached into the garment behind the hanger to see if perhaps it was hidden there. Again, nothing. At this point, the tallest (and thinnest) of the 3 saleswomen approached me. "May I help you with something?" she asked from her position at least 2 feet above me. I smiled up, embarrassed to be the center of her attention, and to be fumbling with this seemingly expensive garment, and shook my head. The amazon seemed to become annoyed with my lack of stealth, and regarded me more quizzically. Then, softening her gaze, she rattled off how nicely the dress would fit, how she was sure I was a size 2, and how I would wear the dress 'with everything'. (I am never sold on a piece of clothing by what a salesperson tells me, I decide within the first 5 seconds if I am going to buy it or not.)

Mercy would not find me, and try as I might, I could not find the price tag. Under the pressure of the empty store, the amazon saleswoman's stare and the piercing eyes of the other unengaged employees, I declared to no one in particular "I'll take it." The amazon smiled, took the dress to the counter, and rang me up. Still unaware of what the dress cost, I passed my credit card over the counter. "That will be $455.89". As if slapped into alertness by a cold hand, I quickly snatched back my credit card, and stammered something about changing my mind. Head down, I half walked, half ran from the still destitute boutique. Why do they have to hide the price tag? My sympathy for retail in the current economy has its limits.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A formal affair, circa 2009

For many of my peers, the tiny black script at the bottom of a wedding invitation directing them that the event is 'black tie' creates anxiety, questions, and insecurity when the closet doors open. Those in my parents' generation regard black tie as a grand occasion, dictating the donning of tuxes and long, serious gowns. But with the decade that galvanizes individuality, and has made the paring of a v-neck Hanes t-shirt with skinny jeans the 'go to' ensemble for every event from grocery shopping to dining at Le Cirque, 'black tie' can hardly be as simple (or restrictive) as times past.
'Black tie' originated in 1860 as an alternative to the reigning dress code at the time, known as 'white tie', which was even more formal. But much has changed since 1860.
Even by conservative standards (both the pearl-wearing kind, as well as the political stance) black tie no longer requires long, floor grazing frocks for women. For men, the waters are slightly murkier. Ask 2 different men if black tie mandates a tux, and you will get 2 different answers. (Ask my father, and he will look at you as if you threw water in his face, after which he will mutter under his breath about modern women and the loss of tradition. He also might not let you into our wedding.) For men, the dress code certainly requires a suit and tie. Within that broad framework, there is much room for interpretation. But no matter how much you respect (or fear?) convention, black tie is really just another invitation to express your personal style, and to place your individual stamp on your look. (I personally would rather die than be under-dressed for any event, including a trip to Starbucks, and enjoy dressing up. Perhaps I should have been born in the 1920's when mufflers were all the rage and no one was seen in public without a petticoat. But that's just me.)

Besides signaling the inappropriateness of khakis, seersucker (sorry Paul), spandex mini-dresses, or madras cocktail numbers (sorry Eileen), black tie serves really only as the hosts' statement of event overtone. Feel free to play between the lines, that's where the best outfits are always born.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An unfortunate purchase

As much as I encourage people to wear what they like, I think there's a fine line between personal style and personal disaster. All clothing is not created equal.

An illustration of one such shopper who toed the line and unfortunately swan dived into the wrong side. A woman in her mid thirties held up a pair of gray leggings she retrieved from a rack at a store I won't name, and contemplated them about a foot in front of her face. I winced at the sight, without even considering her body type. I continued rummaging through the racks myself and picked a few tops for the fitting room. Once in line for a tiny room, I found myself directly behind the ill-fated shopper, clutching the gray leggings in her arms like a football. Inside my fluorescent lit box, nothing looked particularly becoming (as it rarely does in such lighting). I gathered my selections and exited the room (never leave your discarded pieces in the room!). To my surprise (and then immediate dismay) the misguided shopper was angling in the 3-way mirror like a proud turkey checking out all aspects of the vile leggings.

This is a rare occasion where the company of an honest shopping companion would come in handy. Such a friend could remind the poor woman that she is no longer in college, she is not dressing for a gym class, and she is not competing in a Lindsay Lohan lookalike contest. (The woman's size is not a factor in her ability to wear leggings, they don't look good on anyone, trust me. I bemoan the day leggings were made by a label other than Jockey.)

I could tell by the proud turkey's expression that she was pleased with the leggings, and into her 'yes' pile they went. What could I do? I am at least smart enough to know that no one really wants your opinion (usually this is true even when they ask.) Another tragedy in the dressing room and unfortunate purchase.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

September Issues

Christmas has arrived! That's right, Mid-August, when every magazine drops their gargantuan fall fashion issues on shelves worldwide. I clear hours in my days to sit at Starbucks and pour over every page of every issue that Santa (aka the postman) delivers to me. I do not subscribe to every magazine imaginable, over the years I have tailored my list to only my favorites (Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, In Style).

I collect September issues from years past and love to look back each season at the evolutions (and sometimes revolutions) that fashion undergoes. (My very favorite of the collection is Vogue's September 2004 issue, which contained a 50 page spread celebrating Ann Taylor's 50th anniversary, my very first piece of work in post-college life). I often find the advertisements as exciting as the runway shots and editorial content of the fall issues. A few of my favorites this season are the new Gap denim campaign ads (and $20 off coupon on p. 136 of Harper's Bazaar), and Ralph Lauren's collection ad, featuring an ethereal velvet off-shoulder top paired with contrastingly masculine wool trousers. These 2 spreads remind me of the true beauty of fall- the disparity of what we can run out and buy, and what we can long for with the insatiable desire of a 20-something living pay check to pay check.

Fall '09 promises an array of bright colors, heavy metal details, and skinny jeans (including classes aimed at helping women fit into them). And of course the fall veterans (tweed, refined wools, leather boots, newsboy caps) are omnipresent. An apparent response to the past months of economic downturn and consumer guilt, fall shows breaks of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Pick up your copies at newsstands today and give yourself a little Christmas!

It's a question of interpretation

Fashion, like law, is all about interpretation. Not many people have actually read the Constitution in its entirety (unfortunately, thanks to an entire year of Constitutional law class, I can nearly recite it). But I promise you that the words "right to privacy" are no where to be found. Yet this is one of most often cited constitutional protections (next freedom of speech). Judges have poured over every fine printed word of the Constitution and found rights through implication, interpretation, and precedent.

Legal study lends itself to style. The looks that trot down the runway each season can hardly be taken literally for most women. Take Houndstooth. Alexander McQueen is famous for outrageous silhouettes and artistic pieces, but taken literally, this fall '09 look doesn't quite work for a career woman. Modify the jacket, add solid tights, reduce the size of the pattern, and you have a modern but realistic interpretation of this trend. Prada's focus was more wearable. The House's 40's style suits and ladylike ensembles are a reminder of Prada's ability to dress many women (who, unlike me, can afford it). But again, the portrait collar suit jacket needs to be interpreted for the average woman. After gaining notoriety for dressing Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball, Jason Wu's fall collection has received more press than any of his prior compilations. Wu's looks have broad appeal, but still require individual interpretation to feel approachable.

If the Justices of the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution for us, who can we look to for interpretations of style? Many brands themselves take on this task and you need only shop the shelves along Madison Avenue to find accessible translations of the runway's big looks. I love the way the design team at J.Crew takes trends from the runways and works them into very wearable styles that can be plucked off the rack and donned at dinner the very same evening. Equally successful is the woman with a few new accessories and a good tailor. Like those wide leg trousers, but wish they were just not quite so wide leg? Bring them to your tailor, ask her to pinch in the leg seam slightly, being careful not to change the proportion of thigh to leg opening. Love that big, loose, grandpa cardigan in every store window, but don't want to look like an amorphous piece of ripe fruit? Throw on a belt for shape. (Again, my Mother will be thrilled). Whether you're researching a legal brief for your boss or trying to chose an outfit for the first day of school, keep in mind: it's all in the interpretation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wedding Style

My 3 least favorite questions when someone learns I'm getting married this fall: "Whose your band?", "Whose your florist?", and "Who are you wearing?". Names in the wedding world mean nothing to me. In most areas of my life, I decide on something I am in love with, then I look at the price, and finally at the label. Your personal style should shine through on your wedding day. Much to my Maid of Honor's chagrin, I shy away from those mores rooted in tradition which happen to survive to this day only due to fear of individuality or criticism (both equally terrifying for the average bride).

We chose Oheka Castle for the ceremony and reception because of the sheer awe we both felt the first time we walked into the library room. My Fiance, a history buff (and avid fan of CSPAN and BookTV, perhaps the only such fan you've ever known to exist), also loved the story behind Oheka. Being 'sold' on a wedding venue based on its ample supply of old books and oil paintings may seem odd, but I believe that's an instance of how the best decisions are made.

I have never heard of the designer of my wedding dress, which I found after trying on only a handful of gowns at the famous Kleinfelds from TLC's Say Yes To The Dress. (No link, since my Fiance regularly reads my blog, thanks honey). I'm pairing the sleek, simple, Grecian inspired dress with very 'non-bridal' silver shoes (either the sandals or the peep toes both currently in my closet, can't make up my mind just yet.) My hair will be worn in a low, simple bun that takes about 20 minutes to construct. (At my hair trial, the stylist was quite confused at my request for this look, and even more perplexed as to what she should do with the remaining 90 minutes leftover in our appointment slot.)

Our band and florist are are locals from my hometown. Our invitations came from the same store that made my invitations 20 years ago when I received my First Communion. My bridesmaids (3 girls I've known nearly 20 years) are wearing black, floor length gowns of their own choosing from any place they desire (Rebecca's happens to be from Paris, a score for her while teaching in France for the past 9 months). Matching dresses for 3 girls with completely different styles, silhouettes and spirits just doesn't vibe with me. (No offensive to any brides who have already chosen matching dresses, several of which I'll be sporting in the upcoming wedding season. I know how to be a loyal bridesmaid and will wear my dress with a smile.)

Six weeks from now, on September 26th, I will walk down the aisle to marry my favorite person in the world (besides my mother), looking exactly like myself (on the days I actually wear foundation and heels). That's my perfect wedding style.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Always dress your best

Its a pleasantly warm summer Saturday in the City. My Fiance and I are heading out for early dinner and drinks in the neighborhood. Because our building has not had any improvements since the 1960's, when we press the 'down' elevator button, it stops on its way up, without any indication of its direction, and we get in. Another famous eye roll as I feel the car head toward to penthouse, instead of toward the lobby.

On the 11th floor the doors open, and a shabbily dressed 20 something gets in. I of course cannot help but stare at her unbrushed hair, which hangs like dirty laundry around her shoulders, around which is draped a grungy sweatshirt. My eyes drop to her feet, where I see Teva sandals, complete with ankle straps fastened. I check my watch again to be sure that it is in fact 6:30pm on a Saturday night. To my surprise, a Merrill Lynch canvas tote hangs from her ill dressed arm. The elevator stops again, this time on the 9th floor. A well dressed woman in her 30's steps in. Glancing briefly at the sloppy 20 something, the well dressed woman's attention is caught by the Merrill Lynch tote. "Do you work at Merrill?", the well dressed woman asks, trying to conceal her disbelief. "Used to, I was actually laid off recently", the shabby girl replies, trying desperately to smooth the mass of greasy strands escaping from her scalp. The well dressed woman continues to eye the sloppy girl, and shuffles in her Hermes Birkin bag to retrieve a leather business card holder. She falteringly opens the case, and I can see that the black ink reads 'JP Morgan Chase' above smaller font detailing her contact info. (My Fiance and I are quietly standing in the back of the slow moving elevator.) As if she is literally thinking out loud, I read the well dressed woman's face as she holds the business cards, hesitates, then replaces the leather case into her Birkin. (Inner monologue of the woman: "Should I offer this poor thing my card and tell her to call me for an interview? I mean look at her, she looks like she hasn't seen soap in a week. Laid off or not, come on, this is just scary.) The door mercifully opens in the lobby and our awkward little foursome exists the stuffy elevator.

The poor girl dressed like an extra from a Nirvana video did not get the well dressed woman's business card that night. She probably (and hopefully) went back up to her apartment and burned her Tevas.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Finds

In a whirlwind of family and friend discount coupons, I've narrowed down my fall '09 favorites. After a busy week of wedding planning, my Fiance and I found time to shop the stores and came home with the BEST new finds. I think that buying fall clothes (combined with finding some amazing things on sale) is the single most exciting thing I can do. (Does that make me shallow? Jury is still out). A sampling of my favorites include these peep toe ankle booties (30% off with friends and family coupon, exhilarating!), a classic yet modern boyfriend blazer, this chunky necklace, a great dress for day or evening (30% off with friends and family coupon, again, exhilaration) and the absolute PERFECT cashmere cardigan in heather gray. I was also thrilled by snagging one of the last amazing Theory wide belts in my size, on sale, to wear with the aforementioned dress and cardigan.

A note about the absence of new jeans from the aforementioned items: I am OVER buying jeans that cost $200. I know from my days as an assistant buyer that all denim comes from basically 2 places in the world, all costing the same price to produce. Once the tag jumped out of the $170 range, I could no longer justify the price for another pair. (Not to mention there are currently 27 pairs in all my closets.) So I decided that my wardrobe did not need another pair of jeans for the fall (maturity in my post law school life?)

Another side note: You'll be happy to know that Tom broke out the green pants today, without any prodding from me!

If Tim can teach me about hyperlinks and pictures, perhaps I can easily post these images and you can understand fall shopping's inexplicable, yet madly intense power.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Legally Speaking

Because so many people ask me "what is fashion law?" after I tell them what I studied and where I worked during law school, I am inspired to write today's post. First a few basics.

Intellectual property (my area of concentration in law school) is the species of law that protects creative works of art. However, fashion falls into a large abyss between trademark and copyright law, where it doesn't quite receive the benefits of either. Trademark law protects brand identifiers, such as symbols, brand names, or other marks associated with a particular product. (Think Louis Vuitton's 'LV' monogram, 'Band aid', 'Xerox'). Its main function is to protect consumers from confusion in the market place, and guarantee that when you go to buy a Kleenex brand tissue, you get what you want. Registered trademarks carry the ® symbol, while marks followed by a ™ are asserting common law protection but are not federally registered. Copyright law on the other hand protects original works of authorship that have been reduced to a tangible form. (Think movies, musical arrangements, books). Copyright, notated by the famous (c), seeks to protect the author of the work, and maintain the integrity of creative industry.

So what about fashion? While some designers reap the benefits of trademark law when they use an actual symbol in their designs (again, think of Louis Vuitton's monogram collections), many collections do not feature an actual symbol or word that can be protected in this manner. (Despite the plethora of cheap, fake 'LV' monogrammed bags that hide like guilty villains in the depths of Canal Street, it is actually a federal crime to make and sell these knock offs. It is also a crime against fashion to be seen with one. Trust me, you're not fooling anyone.)

(A quick law school story illustrates the depths of my hatred for fake bags. My most upsetting law school experience came at an after class meeting with my Intellectual Property professor, who will remain nameless. While I was explaining my confusion about a certain aspect of patent law (really its all so dull you could die), I noticed my professor was staring intently at my classic Gucci bit bag. When I finally stopped talking, he hesitantly nodded toward my bag. "I must ask, about your it...", I think the look on my face at his mere suggestion of questionable authenticity stopped him dead in his tracks, and he quickly put his hands up in a defensive pose, and apologized profusely for even imagining that perhaps by bag was a dreaded knock off. While most law students tell fearful tales of cold calling and coming up empty when drilled on foot note 102 of a 60 page case, my moment of inner fury involved no such law-related narrative. But mine is much worse, most fashion lovers would agree.) But I digress.

Certain iconic styles that you'd be hard pressed to find a closet without, often originate with a designer whose name is never even associated with the item. For example, the ever popular wrap dress silhouette was first brought to life by Diane Von Furstenberg. Many women are unaware that their go-to piece for the office or weekend brunch was first created by DVF. As soon as the style hit the runways, it filtered down into the department stores, and then onto sketch pads of designers everywhere. Though DVF is credited among the fashion community for her inspirational design, she has no legal rights to it. If her wrap dress had been a novel or a musical work, DVF would receive money each and every time her dress was purchased, advertised, displayed, and marketed. A lot of passionate (and fashionable) lawyers spend their careers fighting for the designer's rights, and many other equally passionate (and often equally fashionable) lawyers fight in opposition. There should be something to offer to fashion besides the abyss it is currently forced into.

My own interest in trademark infringement is perhaps a bit more shallow. I truly despise fake bags, and I can smell them a mile away. (This is so true, that for my bridal shower my college friends got me a t-shirt that reads "I know your bag is fake" with a cartoon character. No joke.) I object to imitation, not the love of a discount. The thrill of snagging a $260 pair of Sevens for $120 on sale at Bloomingdales in your size is quite a rush. But crouching on your hands and knees in the back alleys of cramped crevasses along Canal Street to score a sad, putrid, amorphous lump of thread and canvas so that you can carry it around and hope to fool some passersby is just sacrilege. For the money, you could have a cute, nice, affordable little number from Nine West or a deeply discounted find from DSW. Why fake it?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

True 'Luxury'

First a side note: I am not into, nor good at technology. I do not know much about computers, I do not use 'Twitter' (and am not entirely sure what it actually is). Fancy fonts, URLs, and enhanced blog details are all beyond me. This blog is my first experience with the Internet outside of Facebook (and my friend from college set that account up for me when it first came out since I couldn't even do that much). I'm also bad at typing, capitalization, and punctuation (unless I'm writing a legal brief when I have the fear of God in me to get it perfect.)

Ok back to the present. It is sometimes funny to me when people, even friends of mine, assume my dream job would be working in some capacity for Prada, Burberry, Gucci, or the like. I think people often equate luxury goods with a sort of elusive and awe inspiring sense of desire. (Not that I don't desire luxury goods, in addition to an ample collection of Louis, Prada, and Dior bags, my Fiance has been told no less than 50 times that I want the classic black quilted iconic Chanel bag as soon as he can humanly afford to buy it for me.) But my idea of luxury is not necessarily synonymous with reverence.

I think a better word to describe my ideal fashion job would be accessibility. The ability to impact the clothing that my friends and family live their lives in seems like a greater achievement than landing a job at a luxury fashion house. Not too different from the legal sphere, where first year associates land coveted positions with prestigious law firms, yet spend little time doing actually 'law'. They are instead busied with the famous 'document review' and endless tasks which often have them asking themselves, "did I really need to go to law school to do this?" I've actually had friends leave the practice of law altogether after several years at such firms. (Then, of course, there is me, who on some days asks, "did I really need to go to law school to do this?", while I am watching Bravo, reading Vogue, and trying to decide what kind of job I could stand doing everyday.)

My ideal job would probably be at a company where the average woman shops, or at a magazine that every woman reads. (That law degree could come in handy!) I still recognize the pieces I had a hand in bringing to the floor while working as an assistant buyer after college. My Fiance politely smiles as if he cares every time I squeal at the sight of Ann Taylor top, name the print and then the season, retail price, and average units sales for the item. (And I'll remind you this job was from 2004-2006, a testament to my fabulous memory, for fashion anyway.) Catering to celebrity is certainly glamorous, but catering to people who wear your clothes, love your clothes, and get out bed in the morning feeling good about themselves because of your clothes, is true luxury.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reality Check

Amongst many scary silhouettes that trot down the catwalk at Fall fashion shows around the world are always a few feasible styles that the average person can actually wear. For the upcoming season, I have found a few looks that I'll be recommending to my favorite style seeks, such as my fashionable mother and always well-threaded friend Rebecca.

Fashion magazines and style reporters urge that the "cocoon coat" and "bondage boots" are among the must haves of the season. I beg to differ. I don't know a single woman that can walk into her office in a pair of thigh high, skin tight leather boots or a coat shaped like an oblong, badly over-ripened pear. Recommendations such as these scare away the fashion faint of heart, and for good reason.

On a brighter note, there are many looks that can not only be worn by a woman who has a job as, say, a lawyer or a marketing manager, but also by a young college student, a retired professional, or a lady of leisure hoping to find a new job. (Those not employed as circus performers who might wear the above mentioned bondage boots on a typical day). Some of these crowd-pleasers include plaid and tartan pieces. Note: no need to do this head to toe, take the key pieces you like and mix with solid basics to ground the outfit and make you feel comfortable and not like a bag piper. Ruffle details are also universally wearable, and slightly reminiscent of Shakespeare in a 2009 way. Who doesn't love to throw on a waist defining belt and show that under those layers, there is a waist? My mother will love that trend, since she has been trying to belt over everything from a silk dress to a busy wool cardigan since I was 10 (sometimes successfully, other times not so much.) Be careful with the width of the belt, as my friend Rebecca likes to say, you don't want to put a string on a ham. That should provide the appropriate visual of what a too-skinny belt can do to a full figure. Stick to medium width belts, worn at your natural waist (which may be hard to find if you're a 20-something who has been wearing seven jeans for life and has been trained to think your 'waist' is somewhere around the band of your low rise hanky pankies). The natural waist is around your belly button, and this general area is where the belt looks best.

But the rule is always the same: if you like it, wear it. (Yes, that includes the above mentioned cocoon coats and bondage boots- who am I to tell you what you like?)

Can I Pull This Off?

My very first post is inspired by my wonderful Fiance, Tom, and a pair of green pants. My favorite question that people often ask me is, "can I pull this off?" 'This' usually refers to a brightly colored dress, skinny jeans, knee-high boots, or something else fairly mundane, yet terrifying for the average person. On a recent trip to shop the sale racks at J.Crew, I lead my Fiance to the dressing room with a pair of bright green pants from the summer sale rack. "Green?" he asks with a look of confusion, yet intrigue. I tell him to just try them on. Of course he ends up getting them after some prodding, because deep down he is the preppiest person I have ever seen living in New York City. So the green pants go in the closet, with plans to wear them the following weekend on the day of my bridal shower. The following weekend arrives, and Tom happily puts the green pants on. He takes a look at himself in the mirror, and hesitates. He is worried about wearing his green pants to greet my friends at family at my shower. He worries he looks "flashy." He asks if he can really pull them off. With an eye roll (for which I am famous) I tell him to change into whatever he wants to wear, because if hes not comfortable, then the entire outfit will be ruined. So Tom reluctantly changes out of his new green pants and into his uniform of stone colored khakis and a button down. So the green pants hang sadly in the closet, waiting for the day that Tom realized he can 'pull them off'.

The art of this elusive ability to wear an outfit, any outfit, with confidence is really quite easy. It takes 1) a mirror, and 2) an outfit. Do not rely on the opinions of others, because others are not wearing the outfit, you are. Do not ask 'how do I look?', because that's why you have the mirror. Unlike a friend, the mirror will not lie to save your feelings. If you feel 'flashy' like Tom in his green pants, take the outfit off, or else you will spend the day sitting with your shoulders hunched, using your hair to cover portions of your face, and nervously fidgeting with any object that is placed in front of you. The true 'art' of the 'pull off' is to like what you see in the mirror. That's it! I will not talk Tom into another pair of green pants.