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Posts Tagged ‘being stylish’

Choos? Chuck Taylors? Doc Martens? What’s Your Style Tribe?

In behavior, business, culture, design, Fashion, Style, women, work on December 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm
Distinctive yellow stitching on Doc Martens shoes.

Docs! Image via Wikipedia

As we head into 2011 — and the publication of my second book, “Malled; My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, April 2011) — I’m seriously re-thinking how I dress, knowing media interviews and speaking events are soon to fill my calendar. As I wrote in the book, a memoir of selling clothing in a suburban mall, working with men and women 20 to 30 years younger whose looks were so different from my own reminded me weekly how differently we each choose to present ourselves to the wider world.

I typically go for classic, European-inflected choices: a few Hermes silk carres, brown suede Ferragamo loafers, triple-ply cashmere cardigans, gold or silver jewelry, leavened and quirked with bits of vintage, like sky blue suede gloves or a fab ’40s black mohair hat. (Thank heaven for my secret source consignment shops!)

I prefer navy, camel, gray and cream to black, New York’s official uniform. Prints? Not so much.

adore accessories. Especially when you’re on a tight budget, as I’ve been in recent years, mixing it up with fab, affordable accessories can keep you looking and feeling au courant.

My most consistent style signifier is a scarf or muffler, whether silver-shot ash gray ($38, Ann Taylor) or the four crinkled silk ones I bought years ago at Banana Republic (cream, brilliant pink, chocolate brown, ashes of roses.) I buy them long and wide enough that they also work as sashes or shawls. I have scarves of vintage Victorian paisley wool and embroidered silk and modern pieces like the looped circles of burgundy wool I bought from a Paris street vendor.

Once, desperate to finish off a black-tie outfit (Carolina Herrera-esque white cotton shirt and teal silk taffeta wide skirt), I fished out a silk net scarf, in bottle green, I’d bought decades earlier in the Paris flea market. Parfait!

I still have, somewhere, the black suede Doc Marten lace-ups I bought in a London flea market. They are super-comfortable, classic, indestructible. But I haven’t worn them in years. I was feeling snoozy and boring, so I recently took, for me, a huge style risk and snapped up a pair of taupe suede lace-up boots made by Seychelles, edgier than anything I’ve bought in years.

I love them! (And was amused indeed to see a recent photo of Lee Ann Rimes wearing the same boots. ) What a hoot! Especially since she’s young enough to be my daughter.

I liked the editor’s letter in the December issue of Elle:

If there’s anything that expresses individual style, it’s a woman’s accessories — shoes, bags, jewelry. Lots of it? Pared down? Heels with miniskirts? Or maybe the soon to be ubiquitous long flowy dresses — with Doc Martens?…How a woman puts together her accessories is a delicate and surprisingly communicative blend of taste, class (belonging or aspiration to), politics (nose ring, anyone?), career and mind-set. Most women don’ consider what they’re signifying when they jump into their 14-centimeter black YSL Tribute Sandals or sturdy low-heeled pumps as they’re running out the door in the morning, because all of those notion of class, etc. are baked into their choices in the first place.

When you present yourself to public view, what messages are you sending?

Men, Don’t Wear This!

In behavior, design, Fashion, men, women on October 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm
Image of me, larsinio wearing a Lacoste polo s...

So NOT this....Image via Wikipedia

Shallow? Moi?

Hell, yes.

And I am not alone in this respect. Two popular blogs, this one and this one, recently weighed on on the deeply important issue of things men wear that make women cringe and flee.

Writes Vanessa Lawrence:

An ill-fitting suit or an ugly pair of shoes or a Silicon Valley–worthy bag signifies not what bodily imperfection he might be hiding but who he is on a more cerebral and existential level. Artsy frame glasses: intelligent, sophisticated, well-educated. A Savile Row creation: exceptional taste, drinks his scotch neat, financially stable (or loaded). A perfectly rumpled button-down and Levi’s 501s: easygoing, likes a good beer, open-minded worldview.

With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that every woman has her own opposite-sex style dealbreaker, an instantly registered faux pas that inspires revulsion and, in some cases, fight-or-flight vital stats. I know one girl who shudders at the mere thought of a popped collar. And many ladies are self-described “shoe people,” keeping their gazes resolutely directed downward for flagrant footwear offenses. (Sandals of any kind, bulky orthopedic sneakers and cowboy boots come to mind.)

I was tickled to see that the sweetie brought home the latest version of GQs Style Guide, and we had a great time looking through it. I can’t say I’m too excited about the trend toward very tight-fitting men’s suits and I really dislike almost all hats on all men, including (sorry) caps.

Especially caps.

I feel lucky to be with a guy who enjoys dressing well and whose classic sartorial tastes — tattersall, cashmere, thick wool, a Barbour jacket — echo mine.

(I’m lucky, of course, he appreciates my style. Not every man would want a second date with a woman who wore a turtleneck sweater to their first date. But that’s me.)

I still recall exactly what the sweetie wore the night we first met. I liked all of it, from the vintage gray wool trenchcoat to (yes, definitely eccentric, but it worked) the red silk Buddhist prayer shawl worn as a muffler. As someone lucky enough to have grown up with a Dad who — still at 81 — is an extremely snappy dresser, I admit to having my male style-o-meter set early and high.

Good-looking clothes don’t have to cost a fortune. (Vintage shops and consignment shops carry much great stuff.)

They do need to be spotless, fit well and flatter your shape and complexion. I fell head over heels for my ex-husband when he was a penniless medical student, and still recall a thin white cotton shirt of his I liked.  I have a thing for white cotton on men. Few things are as hopelessly sexy as a pristine white man’s shirt.

Especially when you give it to us….

Don’ts:

Pleated pants.

Cuffed pants.

Pleated, cuffed pants.

Baggy-bottomed trousers of any description.

Too-tight trousers.

Square-toed shoes. Thick-soled black or white exercise shoes worn outside a gym. Ditto white athletic socks. Clogs, shoes with tassels, hiking boots.

Synthetics. Prints. T-shirts with logos. Anything with logos.

Baggy/striped golf shirts and polo shirts and all athletic clothing worn as default casual wear.

Do’s:

Lovely grooming. (Not the baby chick, too-much-product-in-your-hair thing.)

Well-fitted crisp cotton shirt, tucked in, ironed. Maybe even starched. Probably uses collar stays.

Leather shoes with leather soles, polished to a gleam. Heels with new(ish) lifts. Suede shoes well-brushed.

First-name acquaintance with  a tailor, barber and store clerk whose taste you trust.

A clear idea which colors and textures best complement your hair, eyes and skin color. Having the guts (if unsure, which is unlikely) to ask someone whose style you admire to help you with this.

Avoiding most trends for the innate elegance of simple, well-made garments. Think Cary Grant, not Bret Michaels.

Men, what do you hate to see on women?

Ladies, what’s a style dealbreaker for you?

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