Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spring Gems

Art deco is not just for wall art and mod boutique hotels. Some of spring's hottest jewelry revels in the art deco period in culture with all the charm and reverie of a 1930's cocktail frolic.

J.Crew does costume like few other middle market brands. Anthropologie also never fails to offer something that makes me think for a split second about buying. (I have a hard time paying full price for such items after working in the industry with discounts and knowledge of just how steep the margin mark-up is on such items. You'd be shocked.) And really, some remind me of creations I'd amass at the local bead store when I was in middle school, or craft fairs at summer camp.

But I may just have to break down and buy a new statement necklace for spring. With nothing but jeans and a white cotton t, one of these shiners can make an entire outfit. And how effortless and chic to thrown on a $5 Hanes with a $200 deco piece and head out for some $20 cocktails? How very Miley Cyrus (according to this month's Harpers).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fashion Mis-steps

Ever sit on the subway looking at someone and think, 'I can't believe she is wearing that in public?' (I obviously think this often, among even less polite cogitations). Today on the way to work, I tried to focus on finally finishing the February issue of Elle, but my attention was relentlessly caught by the tragedy of the day. A middle aged woman stood in the center of the car with purple leather Doc Martins (that were probably considered 'edgy' when she wore them in the 90's), a plaid coat seemingly from Forever21, and a large red wool hat, from which oozed mounds of Medusa-like hair strands that hadn't likely been washed since the 15th.

I would have chalked her ensemble up to not enough lithium (or too much maybe), but for the last component: a JP Morgan monogrammed tote bag. Interesting. And her reading selection? The Wall Street Journal. I am all for dressing outside of the box for corporate jobs, but my idea of this usually includes cardigans and silk, ruffled blouses. After I got off the subway at my stop and surveyed a crowd of gray wool coat clad robots boarding the train, I actually smiled at the woman's rainbow bright affinity. We can all use some color in our days after all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Toes First

Does anyone else get antsy for Spring when the stores roll out their sandal displays in January? At work this week I found myself drooling over several spring models and trying desperately to squeeze my size 7 foot into sample size 6 toe-bearing styles. Though seemingly impractical to offer sandals in the middle of winter, retail results indicate the contrary. People love bare footwear and will buy it no matter what the forecast.

Perhaps the explanation for our shoe shopping is similar to the psychological phenomenon behind emotional- when our spirits dive, we crave Ben and Jerry's by the pint or pizza by the pie. Cold weather spurs the desire for escape and fuels a furry of denial. When our bank accounts might not quite support a Caribbean getaway, a pair of brightly colored peep toes or strappy sandals may have to suffice. (I actually bought the pair above for a super deep discount at Nine last week, and love them so much I watched TV in them after our friendly UPS delivery man dropped them off at my door a few nights ago. Practical? No. Deeply satisfying? Indeed.) Snatch yourself a pair of sandals when you feel blue, and anticipate warmer, brighter times to come.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Borrowing from the Boys

There is something effortlessly chic and mysteriously enchanting about menswear for women. I have yet to see an image of a girl sporting her best masculine pieces looking anything other than dapper. (My personal favorite from my ample collection of preppy, menswear-esqe pieces is a pair of black and white lace-up oxfords. No matter what I pair them with, I feel instantly cooler with them on my feet, until I trip on perfectly even cement and lose that fleeting illusion of composure).

Elle's creative director, Joe Zee, showed several young woman how to borrow their boyfriend's various wardrobing items for inspiring and fresh updates to what already hung in their closets, without having to leave their homes. Though I loved this idea, I tried to put his suggestions to work in my hubby's closet (cramped with Brooks Brothers gingham and J.Crew tweed) and managed to create looks more akin to homeless hobo than chic bohemian. What Mr. Zee fails to mention is that literal 'borrowing' from your male companion only works if he, like you, is 5'4 and weighs 108 pounds. Though I tower over my husband in a pair of Weitzman heels, he is still taller than my 64 inches, and his waist (happily) outsizes mine. When I draped his gray cashmere button front cardigan vest excitedly over a slim white button down and eagerly hopped to the mirror for a glimpse, my enthusiasm wilted like overcooked basil. I could have been a prepubescent playing dress up, but not a working girl coyly borrowing her husband's stylish clothing.

I appreciate the effort to make menswear accessible, but I'd stick to women's cut flannels and 'boyfriend' style women's jeans from the Loft.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Packing for Success

People often say that you can learn all you need to know about someone by looking inside their purse. While I'm not sure that's entirely true, there is definitely a lot to be said about a person by the contents (not to mention style/brand/color) of their tote. So for my very first day of work tomorrow, no less than three hours were spent packing, unpacking, and repacking three separate bag options. I finally landed on my stalwart, the roomy black Prada shoulder tote with plentiful inner pockets.

But what to pack? Since I have no idea if I'll get my own space (cube, desk, corner with stool) I can't be presumptuous and arrive with an arsenal of personal pictures, my own stapler (which I actually kept from my last job because its so amazing) and magazine tears for daily style inspiration. I need to stick to the bare essentials for day #1. So limited by modesty and the trusty seams of my Prada, I think I've managed to stock myself with the necessities. This includes a pair of black patent Weitzman pumps (I will walk to and from in equally cute Geox flats to avoid tripping and falling before I step into the door), wallet, makeup bag stuffed with 2 shades of nude Trish McEvoy lipstick and plenty of Clean&Clear oil blotting sheets, mini umbrella for unpredictable January weather, eco-friendly stainless steel water bottle, and a Luna Bar for lunch (let's be serious, I'll be so nervous all day that I doubt I'll have the stomach for anything other than 2 Imodium tablets). Assuming day #1 goes off without a hitch, I already have a small tote packed for the next day with the aforementioned personal items for desk decor.

I always picture taking a spill and various levels of new co-workers getting a good look at all items in said Prada. I think I'd be okay should my natural proclivities toward maladroitness kick in.

What's in your daily work tote?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Blues and Boots

I was so traumatized by the new lawyers orientation program I had to attend last week that I am not quite over it just yet. Beyond the castigating clothing choices I had to stare at for 2 hours, the content of the program itself was also troubling. A veteran lawyer spoke to us about his own struggle with substance abuse, and reported that lawyers have 2 times the depression rate of the normal population. Understandably, chronic exposure to dark colored poly-blend day in and day out would sink anybodies spirits, but double the publics rate of depression? I found this stat stammering.

My friend forwarded me this Times article earlier in the week listing 50 small things to do to make ourselves happier. I think perhaps law firms should pass out copies of this article and make it mandatory reading this weekend (maybe even allow the associates a billable hour for reading it to encourage actual participation).

I have one more addition to the list for increasing pleasure in the gray months of winter. When you head outside in turbulent weather, sport a pair of cute waterproof boots that make you feel less like the Michelin Tire Man, and more like a cute, well-dressed professional. (Girls, Uggs are not waterproof so there is no argument for these in a snow storm.) Whether you like the brightly colored, critter adorned variety of rain boots, or prefer the unobtrusive, chameleon sort that could pass for actual dress boots, there is a pair for everyone. (I am a bit of a nerd, and when I first bought my Burberry rain boots several years ago, I wished for rainy days so I could trot to work through puddles in my new checked novelties.) It is a small expense that will pay off by lifting your mood when you peak out the window and see wet streets and cloudy skies.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deals and Steals

Since I am now among the employed, I decided it was time to shop for some work clothes. My office is very casual, so I have free reign to sport my favorite styles (straight jeans, blazers, heels and colorful silk tanks). Over the past few days I have managed to get the items pictured above for less than $20 each, and I felt the need to share my news with people who might appreciate that accomplishment more than my husband.

I admittedly have an obsession with silk tops and jeans, and, objectively speaking, probably don't need anymore. But I am rarely objective with my wardrobe, so I don't plan to start now. The tops (left to right) are from Anthropologie, Banana, and J.Crew. The Jeans too are from Banana, and were marked down to $18.98 from $89.50 (another example of why I vow not to buy another pair of Sevens, Citizens, or any other pair of jeans north of $200 ever again). Each top was originally priced between $59 and $109, and all were marked down with additional percentages off that resulted in a purchase price below the $20 mark. I know lunch salads that cost more than that (today I had a Luna Bar for lunch to prove my point). So my already bursting closet is now home to a few more pops of colorful silk that will pair under slim blazers and cashmere cardigans for now, and be worn solo once the temperature rises by spring. Happy deal shopping!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mid-Week Shopping Spree

Though the past few weeks have felt like a scene from Ice Age, spring fashions are upon us. One item I can't see getting through the next season without buying is the shirt dress. Like all things, there are offerings in the stratosphere of price, as well as pocket-friendly zones, and every point in between.

Wish list dresses for me are mainly from Phoebe Philo's new collection for Celine, including this khaki number for around $2,000. Philo does nude in a fresh way for spring, and makes very sleek, simple silhouettes that women want to wear (but can't always afford).

Middle market shirt dresses are still a tad out of reach for me at the moment, a week before beginning my fabulous new job. This Marc by Marc Jacobs chambray option is young and easy to wear with a belt. I love Kate Spade for everything from adorable pencil cases to cashmere sweaters. Her telltale vintage charm is evident in this sweet shirt dress as well as this patterned number. These may be feasible in another few weeks!

The mainstream stores have done a great job adapting the high end runway styles to accessible, market friendly versions. Banana Republic has been making the iconic khaki shirt dress for as long as I have been old enough to dress myself. The 2010 model in chambray is just as classic yet modern as ever (and priced just under $100!). Gap too has a cute option for only $54.50. Urban Outfitters offers a teal take on the classic that can go day to evening. As soon as that first check clears direct deposit, I'll be in the stores!

Monday, January 11, 2010

White Monday

No better way to start the week than by getting your wedding pictures in hard copy, or by getting sworn in the to the New York State Bar after years of agony. (My husband was also thrilled to start his Monday with wind of a rumor that his Yankee idol, Derek Jeter, is supposedly getting married next November at our venue, Oheka Castle. Just a rumor for now, but I'll let him have his moment of joy).

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spring Review

Now that most of the February issues have hit newsstands, and retailers have nearly finished clearing their holiday merchandise to make room for pastels and short sleeves, spring in the fashion world has seemingly arrived, despite the dusting of snow currently glaring at me from outside my apartment window. (I have also finally landed a post-law school job at a fashion company, so the unemployment thaw has certainly begun.)

But what does such spring awakening look like for 2010? Groundbreaking? Irreverent? Compelling? I hardly think so. (The fact that I'm a fall fashion junkie only colors my pessimistic view of spring offerings slightly.) Nautical stripes and sailor accents by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton are always pleasing, but not new. Nudes and flesh tones from Celine and Donna Karan are soft and wearable, but expected for spring (and frankly, I think Banana Republic's iconic khaki-hue collections are just as nice and much more affordable). The sight of florals from Roberto Cavalli and Alexander McQueen are certainly harder than those from Peter Som (which are pretty), but they bring to mind that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep is presented with the idea of featuring flowered details for the Spring issue, to which she responds with her telltale sarcasm, "Florals for spring? Groundbreaking." (I should mention I dislike the lingerie as outerwear look popping up everywhere. This perpetuates the pajama look, and even though the corset tops and bra-lets may cost hundreds and be from La Perla or Cavalli, there's a time and place. And its not 1 o'clock in the afternoon at Starbucks, or a meeting in the office.)

Perhaps I react this way only as a result of the extreme emphasis the fashion industry places on 'newness'. If you truly stop and think about the evolution of fashion in the past decade, few popular concepts are really 'new' (skinny jeans are from the 80's, flannel shirts for women and edgy, chunky boots are from the 90's, sequins, mini skirts, and bohemian-chic dresses are from the 70's, shift dresses are from the 50's, fringe details are from the 20's, etc). If you set aside the revolutionary standards set by many critics and evaluate the collections solely in terms of inspiration, affect, and, most importantly ask, does it make you want to wear it? you may find a different result. So wearing that personal style hat, I find much of the spring collections hitting the racks as we speak to be fresh, light, airy, and a sign of better times to come as the mercury (and the balance in my checking account) eventually rises in the months ahead.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lawyering, 101

At my first attorney's meeting today downtown at the New York County Lawyer's Association, I decided it was the perfect time to buck the 'suit only' norm and find a suitable substitute (haha). I stood in front of my closet for no less then 15 minutes last night, trying to find the perfect mix of professional and fashionable, with enough coverage for another 20 degree day in a slue of plummeting temperatures. I landed on a black, high-waisted Ann Taylor pencil skirt, black opaque tights, a french blue dress shirt from J.Crew, a wide Prada belt with gold embellished buckle, and black patent spectator pumps.

I shouldn't have worried for a moment about my outfit, because upon arrival at the meeting, a quick scan of the mostly 20-something new lawyers in the room revealed few had run a comb through their hair let alone merchandised an appropriate ensemble for the occasion. With the exception of a tall guy seated to my right decked out in a charcoal Hugo Boss suit and Cole Haan loafers, I couldn't find a single person doing justice to my new profession. Skirts clung to legs with the telltale Velcro-like static that only cheap polyester can truly create, jackets pulled at arm holes and puckered along closures, and shoes were scuffed beyond recognizability (which was probably better than revealing the dregs of where they may actually have been purchased).

Rather than stocking up on 2 cheap suits from JCPenny, go to Ann Taylor or J.Crew and buy whatever suit happens to be on sale. (That is how I accumulated the 3 suits I own, which are reserved only for occasions that explicitly require an actual suit, such as being sworn in to the New York bar on Monday.) A well made suit will actually make you look and feel slimmer. Instead of stocking up on multiple pairs of work shoes at Payless, buy just one pair of basic black pumps on sale at Bloomingdales, who cares if they are last season? A well made, quality black pump is a black pump. Plus, when a good shoes gets worn, the shoe repair man can actually fix it. If the shoes are cheap, there is little that can be done to save it once it goes and you will end up spending more money on yet another pair of uglies. (This happened to me repeatedly in college when my $30 bar shoes would need new soles, and the repair man would look down at me and tell me there was nothing he could do.) One more lawyer's event next Monday should provide more fuel for my fashion fire.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Jersey Effect

Over the holiday, I had the good fortune to catch an MTV marathon of their new show, Jersey Shore. I had only seen bits and pieces before last week, but now I have seen every episode in Italian-shaming detail. I find it addictive, shameful, licentious, and gratifying all in one 60 minute little package.

Beyond the confines of the television, the show actually reaches out into the world and evokes a range of passionate responses in many different people. I myself am Italian, but am not easily offended, and I enjoy laughing at a Muscle Milk drinking, fake tanning, over juiced cad as much as anyone else. (My college friends and I actually rented a summer house on the notorious Jersey Shore several years ago, and it was every bit as gel-tastic as it seems on TV. When we get together for a night out its rare for that summer not to come up in conversation at least once every 20 minutes.) Some groups have spoken out against the stereotypes and the perpetuation of a negative image of New Jersey culture. I think anyone knows that stereotypes are born from truth, and by that same token, the entire state does not call themselves by nicknames such as 'the Situation' or refer to themselves in the third person.

The very night after watching hours of Jersey drama, my husband and I went to Smith and Wollsenky, our favorite NYC steak house, for drinks at the bar. It was a holiday weekend full of tourists after all, so what we found there shouldn't have been as shocking as I initially found it. Seated front and center was a foursome of late 20-somethings, girls decked in faux leather jackets, Snookie-style 'poofs' on their heads, clunky black boots, and way too much eyeliner; guys wearing nearly identical Harley Davidson t-shirts with angel wings printed on the back. My husband kept asking me not to stare, but who could resist? As if their attire wasn't bad enough, one of the guys leaned over and asked the bartender to watch their drinks while they 'went out for a cig' no less than 3 times in the 45 minutes we watched them sit there. Before they left they also complained about the tunnel traffic, parking, and how early they would have to get up the next day to get an appointment at the tanning salon since 'everybody would be there' at the end of a holiday week.

Don't be angry when a show portrays a side of your culture that makes you cringe, just laugh. And watch the Jersey Shore.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Post-Holiday Shopping Success

After many weeks of preparation (shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping) the holidays are in the rear-view mirror, and people have gotten started on their new year's resolutions (although I couldn't think of a resolution that I might actually keep so I'm still searching for one). A quick lap down Madison Ave this weekend revealed that the stores were not hit quite as hard as expected, and, according to reports, they actually did better than the previous holiday season. Though this might disappoint the many who have become trained to shop only with 40% off entire purchase at Ann Taylor, an additional 20% off sale at J.Crew, or those nifty coupons at Banana Republic, it excites those of us hoping to make a career in fashion.

My husband and I decided to spend some coveted gift cards this weekend, and headed to our usual starting line for such adventures: Madison and 45th. J.Crew had a weak sale section, and a delicious black Lady coat that was unfortunately misplaced in the sale section which caused a moment of fleeting excitement. Next at Brooks Brothers we had the score of the day. A table of ties marked 40% tempted us from the entrance, and as soon as we landed at the crowded display among a sea of tourists and older gentlemen in their plaid newsboy caps, I snatched a yellow and navy striped tie. My husband turned to the price tag knowing that, like all Brooks Brothers ties, it would read $75. To our surprise, the tag said $52.50. Thinking this was too good to be true we hurried to the register to buy the jewel-toned treasure. Sure enough, the snippy saleswoman (who was a prime example of why we only shop the mens section at Brooks Brothers, in her mid calf length plaid skirt and thick, ugly sweater with matching socks) informed us that the price after sale was $45. Always to be counted on to be assertive when shopping, I pointed out the tag read $52.50, and then it was 40% off of that price. She lowered her head to us, and informed us that "this is a $75 tie." That might be well and true, I retorted (in just as snippy a tone), but I pointed to the printed price tag. (Any shopper should know that regardless of what a true price is, a store is obligated to give you the marked price, no matter whose mistake it is.) With an eye roll that rivaled mine in delivery, the saleswoman fetched her manager, and sure enough, we got the tie for a whopping $31.50. The hubby will be donning his new steal in court tomorrow, thanks to me, for a big oral argument in front of the appellate division.

Today I am lending a fashion eye to a friend to aid him in buying some new suits at Hugo Boss uptown, for his impending legal career upon completion of his LLM this spring. One of these days I will be charging for such services!