I admit it. Occasionally I shop in super trendy and VERY cheap junior stores. Last fall I picked up a $10 pair of grey jeans – not a word of a lie. They’re low rise skinnies that happened to be the perfect shade of grey. I wasn’t entirely sure how much wear I’d get out of grey jeans though and I figured at that price point I could afford to find out. The problem is that at that price point you can’t expect great quality and while the denim itself has lasted no problem, the hardware (zipper, snaps, etc.) certainly isn’t up to par. The biggest problem I had was that the zipper just didn’t stay up. It’s sewn in such a way that it can’t go all the way to the very top and, once I’d worn them a few months, it just wouldn’t stay up. So DIY quick fix time… I simply sewed the zipper shut. Junior skinnies have SO much stretch that pulling them up without undoing the zipper is no problem at all. And once the button is done up you can’t tell at all. As long as my button holds up I can keep wearing the jeans. 🙂
Check out this new book (just out this fall) “Where’s Karl” by Stacey Caldwell and Ajiri A. Aki (with illustrations by Michelle Baron). It’s a fun take on the famous “Where’s Waldo” books and a perfect stocking stuffer for your fashionista friends. I’ve picked it up and it’s a fun way to laze away a rainy hour by the fire. 🙂
Building a work wardrobe that really works for you is very important. The last thing you want to do each morning is face your closet and bitch about how you have nothing to wear. There’s nothing worse than being nervous about a big interview or a presentation and not having some reliable, tried and true outfits to boost your confidence. Ill-fitting, inappropriate or uncomfortable clothing can make you look unprofessional, make it hard to concentrate, and cause undue stress and a lack of confidence. Who needs that?
Like anything, developing a personal style and building a practical wardrobe requires some effort and a little time and attention each season. The first thing you need to do is go through your existing wardrobe. Pull out everything and try it ALL on. Anything that is too small, too big (I somehow never have that problem!!!) or in need of repair gets put aside. Next, assess the pieces that need to be repaired or that don’t fit. Will you actually ever get that repair done and can those pieces be tailored to fit? Will it cost a reasonable amount to get it done? If so, separate those items that make the cut. If you’re not sure and are unlikely to ever find out, it’s a no! Everything else goes into the garbage or charity / give away pile. Next assess each piece that’s left for appropriateness. Do these pieces work for your job. Are they dressy and professional enough. No matter where you work some rules apply for appropriate dressing. Most people agree that any boobs or too much thigh is inappropriate in a work environment. If it would work in a club you shouldn’t be wearing it to work. Most stylists will also tell you that tailored clothing give off a much more professional vibe than non-tailored clothing. Finally, hemlines are important. The safest length is no higher than just above your knee. Certainly, there is room for flexibility here based on your age and the environment you work in. The more creative the field, the trendier your clothes can be. The more conservative the field, the more you should stick with classic pieces such as tailored pants, sheath dresses, and jackets. The old adage “Dress for the job you want” is a good way to think about what’s appropriate for you. Looking at what your bosses wear is a good clue. Even in very casual work environments you should strive to look pulled together and competent. Jeans styled with a sweatshirt and sneakers should never cut it!
Once you’ve established what you already have it’s time to see what holes you need to fill by shopping. Every working woman should have a classic pair of trousers, a good day dress (I’m big on sheath or shirt dresses for work but A-line or fit and flare can also work), one knee-length skirt (pencil is sharpest but flared can work too), a good quality white button-down, one or two pretty blouses, a cardigan, a great jacket, a few coloured sweaters, a decent pair of classic pumps, a good quality purse, a good coat, good quality gloves, a nice pair of outdoor boots, a few scarves, and at least one decent piece of jewellery. It’s wise to pick a base colour (one or two is best) and to make sure you have your base pieces (pants, skirt, jacket) in that colour. Most people go for black but you can stand out by selecting charcoal grey, navy or even burgundy. Then select sweaters, blouses, and accessories in colours that coordinate together and with that base colour. If you follow the rule that everything should be wearable with a minimum of 3 other pieces in your closet you’ll soon have a very easy mix-and-match wardrobe at your disposal.
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(Notice that everything coordinates. I like edgy pearls as work jewellery because they are classic yet introduce some personality into your look. Select your day dress in a colour that makes you feel good. Just makes sure it’s really flattering and coordinates with your shoes and your jacket. Gloves, scarves and blouses are a great place to introduce more colour, pattern and texture.)
Next, it’s time to set a budget and hit the stores. Do not over-extend yourself to buy a work wardrobe. Instead, be realistic about what you can afford. If you’re starting from scratch don’t be afraid to shop retailers such as Reitman’s, Zara, or H&M to get you going. Each season, treat yourself to a quality key piece and upgrade as you go. Remember that it’s easier to pull off cheap pieces and have them look like quality if you stick to natural fibers and classic colours, and make sure that your clothes fit properly. A few dollars spent at the tailor’s can make a huge difference. That said, go as high-end as you can afford. Better quality brands usually mean better construction and better fabrics and, therefore, those pieces will wear better and last longer than cheaper ones.
Once you’ve established a total amount you’re comfortable with here’s how to break it down. 35-40% or so should be spent on basics (trousers, dress, jacket, button-down, pumps). 20-25% should be spent on trendier style statements. This season, I’d buy something in leather, a green or wine pencil skirt, culottes, a tie-neck blouse or a sleeveless jacket for example. Be sure to stick to the “match 3 items minimum” rule when choosing styles and colours. These items will keep your wardrobe feeling fresh and make you look current every season.
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(Note that every piece can be matched with at least 3 of the items above as well as with each other. These pieces are trendier and are not expected to last for season after season so shop cheaper retailers and feel free to add in pops of “in” colours, patterns and textures. If some of the seasonal trends really speak to you, particularly favour your body type, or are classic enough to last, then look for slightly more upper-end pieces in natural, or very good quality faux, fabrics.)
20-25% of your overall budget should be set aside for outerwear. A good coat as well as nice gloves and boots help you look pulled together at all times. You don’t need to choose black either. Pastels, bright colours, caramels or greys can make a great statement and make you stand out. To make your coat last for years stick to a very classic shape. That leaves 15-20% for accessories. These allow you to personalize your look so go for things that speak to you but avoid anything overly trendy. Choose sophisticated, feminine pieces if you’re more of a romantic or work in a conservative field; choose edgier statement pieces for a more creative environment.
Obviously, if you’re starting from zero, focus on the basics and the outerwear. Trendier pieces can wait ’til next season. In the seasons where you don’t need outerwear at all spend the extra money on classic pieces and accessories to help you build up your wardrobe more quickly.
If you have a job where you may need to attend evening work functions such as cocktail parties or dinner parties, you’ll need to invest in a good little black dress, an evening top and a good pair of evening shoes. Go for black as its timeless and easy to dress up or down with accessories. Choose classic styles and avoid any kind of trendy details (such as studs or fringe) as these will date your piece much too quickly. The goal here is to buy items that will last for years and that you can add to in each new season until you have a totally kick-ass work wardrobe!
(Note that than evening dress can be shorter or show more cleavage than day wear – even for work functions. Just don’t go short, tight, or low cut at the same time. The more fitted a dress is, the more covered it should be. Even for evening, don’t go shorter than a few inches above the knee.)
The only problem with this post is that if you follow these rules your clothes will last for years and will never look dated. That means that, eventually, you really will have that kickass wardrobe and you’ll be hard pressed to justify buying too much more new stuff. Then you’ll have to move to that “one in, one out” rule. But hey, that’s a problem for another day. Until then – happy wardrobe building! 🙂
Straight leg jeans are trendy again. Here’s the latest way to wear them to earn a few extra fashionista points according to “In Style”. Trim the front of your jeans a few inches (5 cm or so) shorter than the back. It will show off your booties in a whole new way! Leave the hem undone for a little distressed look or get it hemmed for a more finished look on darker rinse jeans. It’s an easy DIY project that adds a little extra style to a classic jeans look.
These are my jeans – which I’ve owned for at least 6 or 7 years and had given up wearing. The cut hem is surprisingly cool and gave my old jeans new life! 🙂
Gone are the days when Amazon and Indigo were for books only. Now my favourite book stores sell clothing and jewellery. Awesome!!! Both have sites that are easy to browse, both ship to Canada and both have very reasonable prices. I might actually get into online shopping – something I’ve resisted so far because it lacks the sensory experience that, for me, is such an important part of choosing clothing.
The Amazon.com site is very well curated – with trend highlights translated into pieces you can shop easily and quickly. There is a huge selection of coats by such well known brands as BCBG, Tahari, Calvin Klein, Hilfiger, Vince Camuto; a huge number of denims sorted by style (from brands such as 7 for All Mankind, Mavi, True Religion and Jessica Simpson); 65 pages of boots (I may be in heaven there!) – loads from Aldo, Stuart Weitzman, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Sperry, Vince Camuto or Lauren by Ralph Lauren; 54 pages of skirts, pages and pages of work out gear… It goes on and on. You might be eligible for free shipping (though in any case, Amazon shipping is reasonable and VERY efficient) and many items are eligible for free returns (be sure that you’re shopping on .ca if you’re in Canada though as the US site will not allow free returns from Canadian addresses). The Canadian site is almost as good and has a large selection of stock available. It’s a very good thing! (http://www.amazon.com and http://www.amazon.ca).
Indigo now has a nice collection of feminine gold and silver jewellery from designer Jenny Bird. The pieces are simple and delicate and very, very pretty. The prices are super reasonable – everything on the site right now is under $100. I can see doing some Christmas shopping here. The site is easy to browse and they claim to do free shipping on any order over $25.00. I have never actually had anything shipped but that sounds good to me! Get on their email list and they (like Amazon) will email you when new products come in. 🙂
Addendum: Check out your local Indigo store for really nice bags, backpacks, scarves and socks as well. I totally want the orange wrap and the grey reading socks they’re selling right now. Beautiful and very reasonably priced to boot. I know where I’m Christmas shopping this year!
I’m a huge denim fan. I’m lucky to work in a casual, creative field where denim is almost a uniform so I get a lot of wear out of all my denim pieces and, each season, I pick up the latest denim trend to mix in with the rest of my more classic work wardrobe. But this season it was tough. Designers showed weird lengths and weird shapes and none of it was really that good for my body type. I knew that distressed denim was hot, I knew cropped jeans were the newest thing, and I had seen a lot of tunics (which I usually love) – but none of it really spoke to me. Then I went to Montreal!
Somehow, the stores there managed to pull together looks using this season’s top trendy pieces (including the tunic and the cropped flares) that really inspired me. My favourite look was a cool take on a suit created with cropped flares and a tunic – both in thoroughly distressed denim. It shouldn’t have worked but it so did. For the first time I completely “got” the cropped flares and the tunic was perfect with them. I loved it! I could imagine both pieces in my wardrobe. I was flooded with ideas of what I could wear them with. Together of course, but I could also imagine the jeans with a tuxedo jacket and a tunic length white shirt or casually paired with a striped tee and keds, the tunic over a midi length skirt and pointy toed stilettos or tucked into a shorter mini skirt with over the knee boots for a cool layered look on the weekend. I hustled in, totally prepared to buy. I was sold.
Turns out if wasn’t as easy as dropping my credit card. First, I’m apparently not tall enough to buy cropped flares in the stores. The length is all wrong and I just look stupid. That hurt a little. Despite that, I was still keen to buy the tunic. It was beautiful – soft, the perfect shade of faded blue that looks like you’ve owned it forever, frayed hems, cropped sleeves. Gorgeous. And SO expensive. When it came right down to it I just couldn’t justify many hundreds of dollars for what is, essentially, a long denim shirt – especially since I knew there were tunics everywhere. So… my perfect outfit was not coming home. At least not from that store.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Time to get creative. In the spring I had embraced cropped jeans though mine were cuffed. I came home, undid the cuff, was thrilled to find it made the jeans long and wide enough, and immediately cropped them a little above my ankle. There’s just enough flare to work and they are perfectly in proportion. I left the hem unfinished and am actively encouraging it to fray. Pants – done! My own version of cropped flares for next to no money (the jeans were $25 at Marshall’s in the spring which is why I’d been willing to give them a try at all) and just a few minutes with a pair of scissors. But all the tunics I found were boring. They just didn’t say “fashion” and they all looked exactly the same. Once again I was uninspired until I found one at H&M that was in the right wash. Great colour with just a hint of distressing. Good length. Bad everything else; it was vanilla. But it was $30.00. So I picked it up and prepared to customize it myself.
First, I got rid of the finished hem on the sleeves and the bottom, then I trimmed the sleeves to 3/4 length. Most of the designer tunics on the runways had shorter sleeves (or no sleeves at all). I may actually decide to take the sleeves off mine entirely but I wasn’t prepared to go that far right off the bat so the 3/4 sleeves were a compromise. I’ll see how I like them and whether I would get more use of the tunic as a vest. If so, I’ll just cut the sleeves right off.
I don’t have a sewing machine so I spent $16 to get the tailor to put in a seam about 1 cm from the cut edge of both the sleeves and the bottom of the tunic to control the fraying.
Then I frayed the edges myself. It’s time consuming but really not difficult.
I made sure to fray right to the edge of the seam so that it pretty much disappears. Finally, I trimmed all the threads that were too long or looked messy because I wanted a neat, consistent hem.
Ta Da! This is more like it. It looks more expensive, more fashionista and less cookie cutter. Perfect.
Combined with my new cropped flares, lace up booties and a patterned clutch plus a bright red retro car coat to combat the morning chill it’s the perfect blend of fashion forward and comfy. All at a fraction of the price.
The moral of the story? You don’t have to wear the clothes the way they were manufactured or shown in the stores. Use what you see on the runways or in display windows as inspiration then modify, tailor, and distress to your heart’s content for a look that is totally your own.
This season you will fall in love with the sixties, the seventies, cropped pants, trouser suits, Mary Janes, thigh high boots, A-line skirts, fringe, orange and green, vintage jewellery, and prints. In fact, there’s so much choice that it’s almost overwhelming.
The stores are full of seventies retro look so be ready for flared jeans, culottes, tie-neck blouses and platform shoes. Fringe is everywhere.
Designers have also re-discovered the sixties in a big way so they were all about the A-line mini, square heeled Mary Janes or Chelsea boots, trouser suits in pretty pastels and psychedelic prints.
More practical minded designers showed utilitarian clothing in earth tones with shots of orange and you’ll find preppy collegiate looks everywhere. A striped navy and white sweaters over boyfriend jeans paired with loafers and a caramel cross-body bag is about as perfect a weekend look as you can hope to find. Mix in a printed scarf tied at the neck and you earn major fashionista points. Add in some fur and you’re right on trend.
Minimalism continues to be a big thing and designer sent beautifully tailored clothing paired with almost architectural jewellery pieces down the runway. Many showed knit dresses and midi skirts. This is a totally classic take on dressing where fit, fabric and details are everything. These pieces, therefore, tend to be expensive but are totally worth the investment as they’ll hold up to wear after wear for years to come.
Much less practical trends include costume dressing and creative boho. Designers went crazy for cartoon prints and funky shapes and sent everything from Big Foot sandals to pumped up graphic prints on shirts, dresses and purses down the runways this season.
They mixed three and four prints together to create funky, unique looks (nowhere in a more wearable way than at Chanel – below left) where really anything goes as long as it speaks to you. If ever there was a season to have fun with your clothes this has got to be it.
Finally, designers explored a new take on Victorian dressing with tons of romantic maxi dresses, frill, lace and vintage jewellery. But this is not your great-grandmother’s take on Victorian. Oh no! This is Victorian dressing with an edge. Think black leather, grommets, and black lace. It’s Victorian gone a little goth and a little steam punk.
So grab those granny boots out of storage and match them with a black leather pencil skirt for a totally on-trend look. There’s definitely something here for everyone! Go crazy! Happy shopping.
Spanx are an essential part of any woman’s wardrobe – at least when she’s over the age of 35 or so. They hold you in so bulges don’t show under sheath dresses, fitters trousers, and thin blouses and can make you look thinner than you really are. I buy mine in large because I don’t need to look smaller – I just want to feel a little tighter and sleeker. I love how they make my clothes fit. But I have to be honest – until now I have not liked how they look before I get dressed. But thankfully those days are ending with the introduction of their new lines. The new pieces include details such as sheer paneling and mesh inserts. Check out the Colorblock bodysuit or slip (both under $70.00) or try the Lust-Have teddy, their Haute Couture Sexy Sheer High Waisted Mid-Thigh Short or their Undi-tectable undies for underwear that is both practical and pretty sexy. Shop http://www.spanx.com/.
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Soon it will be time to think transitional dressing. Here are the 5 key pieces you want to invest in, and start wearing, right now:
Culottes or cropped pants – This is THE shape of the season. Culottes vary in length from just below the knee to just above the ankle and widen from the hips. They can be very full or be just a bit wider than straight legs. The fuller and longer you go, the more fashionista points you earn but the harder the pants are to wear. Cropped pants flare from the knee and tend to hit just above the ankle. These look coolest when paired with matching shrunken blazers or cropped tops for a very 60’s mod look. Either way, ignore the looks you’ll see in some magazines and wear these with heels (unless you are one of the lucky few who was born tall and thin – in which case pointy-toed lace up flats are awesome).
Denim or suede skirt – Choose an A-line one in a mini or knee length and go collegiate with a V-neck sweater layered over a plaid shirt (or a turtleneck layered under your shirt) and booties, or play up a sixties or seventies vibe with Chelsea booties or tie-neck blouses. You can also opt for a midi length for a cool retro look. The newest way to wear this length? With mid-rise boots (the ones that rise to your calves).
Long sleeveless blazer – Layer yours over tunics, dresses, or a shirt and flared trousers. It’s a perfect transitional piece and, when it gets colder, will layer easily under your coat.
Flared or straight leg denims – Flared jeans (when your jeans flare widely from the knee) are the more fashionista choice but they accentuate curves. Be sure to hem yours so they just skim the floor with your shoes on. Straight leg styles are probably easier to wear but can look boring so be sure yours fit perfectly. You’ll earn fashionista points for trimming the front part of the hem so it’s shorter than the back by 4 or 5 centimetres to show off your shoes or booties and make your jeans stand out.
Brooches – They’re back and a great way to personalize your work wear or your favourite denim jacket. But don’t wear just one and don’t even think about wearing it at the neck. Mix and match any number of brooches and group them on your lapel, the shoulder of a coat or jacket, or all over a wide collar for a funky, creative look.
I spent the weekend in Montreal recently and treated myself to a whole day of shopping. It was so inspiring… Not only has Montreal traditionally been on fashion’s cutting edge but girls there have a real flair for dressing – much like women do in France in fact. Window displays showed this season’s edgiest looks, seventies and sixties pieces were re-invented in ways that made them seem very now, and shop girls wore the trendiest pieces with absolute panache. I didn’t buy that much but I came back totally buzzed about this season’s potential. I fell in love with Zara – which I’ve never really been all that keen on before but the Rue Sainte-Catherine store is awesome. I had a blast at Simon’s where I toyed with the idea of an Elizabeth and James leather jacket as well as a Denis Gagnon structural neoprene skirt and super sharp black blazer but indulged in fun, comfy lingerie instead. I explored a shoe warehouse sale, found stunning designer booties at Winners on Sainte-Catherine, and marveled at how beautiful Ogilivie’s, the Rue Sainte-Catherine institution, is. I did come home with two pairs of shoes (because who can resist really?) and a stunning pair of blue suede culottes from Zara but my best buy was a great winter coat in flattering and practical teal. Love, love, love it. And LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Montreal. I now have tons of ideas for fall outfits, must-buy pieces, and new ways to mix and match this season’s top trends with the clothes I already have. Stay tuned for pics, ideas and my take on this season’s must haves. 🙂