Friday, December 17, 2010


Some lucky folks are hitting the ski slopes this winter.  Often, regular skiwear is all you need from the time the lifts open through dinner at the Village.  However, other slopes require a little more wardrobe planning.  If you happen to be heading there, keep scrolling.

Bogner Sport Ski 2011
slope wear
A ski line enjoying a sudden wave of popularity right now is Moncler.  The French skiwear company originated in 1952 but became popular among young Italians in the '80s.  Most of us think of Moncler as synonymous with the puffy, down jacket.  (In the US, rap artists even made wearing the Sleeping Bag Look cool.)  In recent years, Moncler has collaborated with designer, Giambattista Valli, to create the Gamme Rouge collection.  

Now THIS is different (apres) ski wear!

How do you turn a sleeping bag into a couture item?

Moncler Duvet
Gamme Rouge Winter 2010

Moncler Duvet
Gamme Rouge Winter 2010
Valli seems to have figured that one out.  These might be so warm, toasty, and oh so fashionable, you forget to put your skis on.

Happy Holidays to you Stylish Ladies!

(I may not be able to blog until January)

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Every one is a-flap over Rodarte's gorgeous black swan costume ("Odile" to ballerinas) for Natalie Portman in her latest film, "Black Swan".

Natalie Portman in "Black Swan", costume by Rodarte

The costumes are beautiful  though they function more on the red carpet than in actual ballet.  Mila Kunis was quoted complaining of wardrobe malfunctions in these lovely tutus -- and they weren't even really dancing.

Real costumes have straps to keep things in place!
American Ballet Theater's Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella
in "Swan Lake"

Let's gloss over the fact that, yet again, there is a dance movie where non-dancers pretend to be graceful.   Instead, let us focus on what ballet costumes and couture have in common.  Rodarte isn't the only design label to get involved in ballet.  Jean Paul Gaultier, Isaac Mizrahi, Versace and Giorgio Armani are just a few others who have taken to ballet costume design.

It may surprise many to know that professional tutus can cost over $1,000 each.  In fact, when I needed a swan costume a few years back, I decided to see if I could do it for less with the help of a friend who is a bridal couture designer.

DIY Swan costume
photo by Lily Dong

Materials alone were staggering:

  • Delicate, expensive fabrics
  • High-quality tulle, beaded appliques and special materials like feathers (lots of them)
  • Pre-made plain bodice with boning and pancake tutu skirt was already over $200
  • Additional accents cost over $200 before labor!

beaded appliques and feathers on tulle
photo by Lily Dong
We cut and hand-sewed all these trims. Both of us toiled several hours a day over a few days.  Imagine the billing cost per hour of that at a couture house.

Now you begin to see what you are paying for.  Experienced cutters, designers, and hand finishing all add up.  In some couture ateliers, the fabric is individually hand-dyed or distressed (say, at Rodarte) before expert folding and tailoring techniques are applied.

But the finished product -- expressed with grace, line and true technique -- is well worth it.

Julie Kent of American Ballet Theater
as Odile in "Swan Lake"

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I am heading for family gatherings in the tropics this holiday.  Too bad I am not a member of the Jet Set that Resort Wear was originally designed to clothe.

Packing means practical clothes that accommodate city days and nights yet can be versatile enough for island jaunts.   Luggage constraints also call for serious wardrobe editing.  I have no choice.  Simplicity is the only way to go.

(Following 4 photos from Celine Resort 2011)

Day-to-night, city or trendy resort
For style inspiration, who better to do Simple and Minimal than Phoebe Philo for Celine?  What a genius -- making simplicity utterly fashionable again.  I dig through my closet for all things minimal.  (I don't find much.)

Versatile looks in their simplicity

Love this column gown!
Goes from city party to fancy resort dinner

Minimal style is only one variable.  Fabric choice is also key for versatility.  Knit or stretch blend fabrics combat wrinkles and high maintenance steaming or ironing.  

Though not minimalist, Vionnet has neutral, relaxed dresses in their Resort collection.  The sassy draping is hip for the city, yet, it is easy enough to throw into a weekend beach bag.  You can also find budget-friendly versions of this style.  (It's harder to get away with cheap Minimalism.)

Vionnet Resort 2011

I guess the Jet Setters from days of old had their own kind of simplicity too.

The original Jet Set
(from Frances McLaughlin-Gil, Conde Nast Archives)

If Minimalism is too much for you, a little rebellion doesn't hurt.  I'm still taking tough boots and a few prints with me.

Burberry Prorsum Winter 2010
Toughen up a pretty dress with black boots

Enjoy the holidays! 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I discovered a new designer while looking through a boutique in San Francisco.  (The boutique also has a sister shop in New York.)   It seems I am a little late in discovering Jasmine de Milo as several celebrities have already worn her designs.  Her aesthetic is simple and very sophisticated with an artistic twist.  Now that's a credo one can live by!

(All photos from the boutique, Elizabeth Charles)

Waist cut-outs plus a twist

This is a T-back dress, really cute from behind

Asymmetrical neckline
Very flattering, high waist trousers
These are some great looks for the after-6 pm holiday parties.  The last 2 looks can even go from office to office party on the same day.   The dark palette carries gravitas to the looks that guarantee you won't be ashamed in front of your boss, even if you've had an eggnog too many.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Budget fashionistas around the world are waiting to pounce on Lanvin's much-anticipated collection for H&M.

The whole collection will be available on Nov. 23rd.  Refer to the sneak peak I blogged about before:
Lanvin Collaboration with H&M

The unveiling is timed for the holiday season of parties too.  These are some pieces I might investigate if I make it in time to the stores.  (All photos from Lanvin for H&M)

Some of the outfits showcase Lanvin's expertise in folds and drape.

Lanvin-esque folds and draping on a skirt
Color block with a white top
Or look sleek with black on black

They also have bold selections in vibrant prints and animal patterns.  Adventurous spirits might be drawn to such items as the ones below:

Animal print shoes for the bold

Looks like Lanvin borrowed a bit of from Karl Lagerfeld's yeti-inspired Chanel winter collection here:
faux fur similar to
Chanel winter collection

Strangely enough, Lanvin has created 25 couture versions of the H&M collection.  The word is that they will be auctioned off online with proceeds benefiting UNICEF.  I wonder how they will justify the chasmic gap with H&M prices ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I'm packing up for Thanksgiving Week in Seattle.  The capital that gave us Grunge also happens to be grey and damp at this time of year.  So I dig through my closet for the easiest antidote:  COLOR!  

The biggest impact comes from the overcoat.  Updating the old overcoat is a cinch.  Hint: it's all about accessories.  Pack several knit scarves.  Also, suede, clog boots with tassels feel just right in Seattle.

Knit scarf: frilly/multi-colored/multi-textured
Any scarf can update an old coat

Another option:  a vintage wool coat acquires Style with a fur collar.  To avoid the time warp feeling, mix it with hip boots.  Or, you could really update it with a wide, brown, leather belt.  Go waist-to-waist with Michelle Obama.

Vintage coat gets Style from the  collar

I showed this ladylike coat last Easter.  I plan to winterize it with a nearly-black fur collar.

Change the look on
this Easter coat by adding a
nearly black, fox fur collar

What do I pack to wear underneath the coat?  Most likely sweater dresses (great for wrinkle-free packing) with black, cable knit tights like the look from Anthropologie I posted last week Transition Weather Looks:

Anthropologie, October 2010 catalog

That about fills up my suitcase.  Now to work on my books and magazines ...

Monday, November 8, 2010


One catalog or website I always look forward to perusing is Anthropologie's.  Every image is not just about clothes.  It tells some fascinating story.  Check out this moving catalog of Looks set somewhere in NYC: Anthropologie – October Outfits

For transition seasons, Anthropologie's mishmash layered style is perfect for managing uncertain weather.  (All photos from Anthropologie, November 2010 catalog)

Step 1: Add a big scarf and heavy boots to your summer dress.

Sometimes, a knit hat is all you need.

Step 2:  As the weather cools,  add thick tights.

Dark, patterned tights are a nice touch.  Note that this depends on the state of your legs.  Very scrawny legs look even thinner in dark tights, so skip this one.  If yours are on the heavy set side, stick to dark or vertically striped patterns.

Once in a while, we get a lovely Indian Summer and we can revert back to our gauzy dresses sans accoutrements.

Monday, November 1, 2010


We are finally into real Fall weather.  Time to put away the flimsy outfits and pull out the woollens.  By no means does this mean we turn gray and boring.

Occasionally, it is fun to be just on this side of quirky.

Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fall 2010
Let's look at how designers approach the more youthful, fashionably quirky crowd.  Sometimes it means a separate line.  Two playful lines are Miu Miu (by Miucca Prada) and Marc by Marc Jacobs.  Here are just some of their items for Fall, though I like a lot of their pieces from past seasons too.

Miu Miu, Fall 2010

Miu Miu, Fall 2010
Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fall 2010
The silhouettes are still classic.  However, the splashes of color, texture, and a big ruffle or bow here and there, add an element of fun surprise!  Also note the clunkier shoe -- rather than a dainty heel -- to add a quirky vibe.  Even the satchel handbags or the oversized hat play with the whole look's proportions.

So take your classic dresses for a spin to the less serious side with unexpected accessories.

*  All photos from runway shots.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


If you are tired of the standard black, witch costume, it may be time to go wildly colorful for Halloween.  Two artist inspirations came to mind: Frida Kahlo and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Kahlo, for her bold use of color especially on herself:

Frida Kahlo photo by Nickolas Muray
Frida Kahlo photo by Nickolas Muray
Toulouse-Lautrec for his subject matter -- the bohemian life of the Moulin Rouge with its "dangerous" women:

by Toulouse Lautrec 

by Toulouse Lautrec
Both use a color contrast to a black foil.  Kahlo's black hair, black eyebrows or black shawl stand out against the strong magenta flowers or a golden, yellow blouse.  Lautrec's ladies use more acid and garish colors.  We see a scarlet dress framed by details in a bile green or a blood orange can-can skirt.  Both offset black stockings or black hair.

Either way, there are no shy, pastel colors here.  We want vivid eye poppers.

So, enjoy playing with the Color Wheel.  For highest contrast, pick complementary colors at opposite ends of the Wheel.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


The latest buzz in designer-meets-fast-fashion collaborations is the upcoming Lanvin collection for H&M.  The looks become available on November 23rd.  Everything is currently top secret but the first teaser photo has been released:

Lanvin collaboration with H&M,  from H&M

Guess what?  It looks very Lanvin!  And I love the use of the grey-haired model.  Style knows no age.

Designer, Alber Elbaz, says he never wanted to compromise and go mass market.  However, the notion that H&M was actually going luxury excited him.

For the first time, I am also excited to check out H&M!  I often end up hoping for better quality fabrics and construction from their outfits.  However, the prices are certainly tempting for fast, trendy items.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I keep seeing articles on Retro Fashion bicycles these days.  Great follow up to our discussion on Urban Cycling Chic.

The NY Times just posted this new Linus bike:  Retro fashion bikes

Linus retro bike, photo from Linus

And Velorbis, the Danish maker of designer retro bikes, will soon be carried in San Francisco.

Studine Ladies' Bike, from Velorbis

Of course, one always has the option of getting a truly vintage bike from eBay or an estate sale.  That would tend to be my personal preference!

For those who like brand new things that look old, Marc Jacobs' Fall 2010 collection for Louis Vuitton was ideally Retro.  The ladylike looks would be perfect perched on top of the bikes ...

Louis Vuitton Fall 2010
Louis Vuitton Fall 2010
The long, full skirts give freedom with decorum for cycling legs.  

Again, let us thank the original Victorian ladies' cycling clubs for pushing women in this direction:

Ladies' section of the Leicester Rovers Bicycle Club, c 1900

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Halloween: the season of costumes and spooky parties.  Hmmm.  I want something bizarrely fantastic -- straight out of Victorian Gothic fiction.

Where do I turn for inspiration?  Naturally, to Tim Burton. The master of Gothic imagery in cinema has visualized it all for me.  Tim Burton's Magical Fashion.

Tim Burton-inspired, from Harpers Bazaar

Tim Burton-inspired, from Harpers Bazaar

Look to any incarnation of Johnny Depp in Burton's films - even something as juvenile as "Alice in Wonderland" or "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".  It's magically mad.

Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in Tim Burton's
"Alice in Wonderland"

Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) in
Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

Tim Burton's female characters are a Goth's heroines.  Remember Winona Ryder in "Beetlejuice"?

Winona Ryder in Tim Burton's

Even the White Queen has a deranged quality to her.

White Queen (Anne Hathaway) in
Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland"

So what are the elements of the Victorian Gothic look?  We're talking great-grandmother materials: heavy taffeta, velvet, lace, strings of crystal jewelry or silver works - in black or a dusky mauve.  Black leather lends a dangerous edge.  I'm thinking Edward Scissorhands.  Finally, your pasty face and dark, hollowed eyes will draw you right into Tim Burton's magical world.

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