Tag Archives: fashion

I love Vera Wang

I used to think “elegant wedding gowns” when I heard the name of designer Vera Wang. And with good reason, because that’s what her design group is known for.

But after seeing the designer and her staff featured in the Wall Street Journal’s  weekly “Work Wear” column, I now think “great professional clothing.” They don’t just design it; they wear it.

The photos accompanying the article show Wang and her staff in beautiful tones of olive and beige worn with black basics — many of the fabrics interestingly textured knits, wools, heavy cottons, and mesh. In short, they were wearing classic mix-and-match elements that would make a great wardrobe for urban professionals of all ages.

Shoes: They’re Simple. No, they’re not.

Simple sneakersI’ve been looking for the past five years for great pair of fashion sneakers. Something I could wear with jeans and casual clothes — without leaving the impression that I’d been in the midst of cleaning my garage.

I didn’t want the puffy white marshmallow-type track shoes I associate with soccer moms at Jazzercise class.

But I found that a lot of the contemporary “retro” sneakers had even less arch support than the cheap canvas Keds they are suppose to evoke.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my favorite fashion blog, Fashion for Nerds, when I spotted the perfect pair of sneakers. The blog lists all the items shown in the photos, and the sharp black and white sneakers (with grey ribbon laces) were “Simple.”

Indeed, it was simple to find them. But I was horrified to discovered that the eco-conscious Santa Barbara, CA, company that made Simple sneakers closed recently and all that are left of these beautiful and comfortable fashion shoes are a few size 5s on Zappos.com.

Ebay to the rescue!

It took only three days on eBay for me to find Simple sneakers in my size (I held out for the black-and-white ones with the grey ribbon laces). They arrived, they fit, and I spent all last weekend racing around a convention in them. Yesterday I walked a few miles through town, and my feet felt great.

Yes, I’ll be hunting for a second pair of them.

Fashion trends: Winter 2011

I know that any appropriateness of the season’s fashion to the season’s weather is purely accidental, but this winter in Seattle the clothes actually make sense.

I attended a technology conference last month and stood in the registration line with two or three hundred professional women ranging in age from the mid 20s to the late 50s. I saw exactly three women wearing skirts and maybe two dozen  wearing shoes that were not boots. A few of the shoe wearers had some kind of flirty dressy shoes; the others were wearing urban-style athletic shoes.

The uniform was clearly boots and jeans.

Riding boots

Not only were boots ubiquitous, but most of them were low-heeled riding boots (ranging from English style riding boots to Frye/Harley style “engineer” boots). Talk about comfortable and attractive!

Skinny jeans

I’m rather sorry to say goodbye to boot-cut jeans, but there’s no question about it: skinny jeans are back, and there are styles that flatter even non-skinny people. More good news is that the show-the-crack hip huggers with rips all over them are  gone, replaced by a “just below the waist” contemporary fit jeans in dark denim — a look that works for most shapes and sizes.

Sweaters and scarves with complex personality

The relatively conservative boots and pants are set off by sweaters in interesting knits and colors — the chunky, bulky, complex knits are a departure from the figure hugging cashmere of recent seasons, and definitely look either handmade or handmade-like.

Long ethnic scarves are still the thing, but this year’s variation on the theme subtle. Instead of felted wool and nubbly brocades, the new materials are a bit limper, made of cotton/hemp gauze or rich wools with steampunkish paisley designs.

Sweater, scarf, skinny jeans (photo: Sundance Catalog)

Enjoy it!

So, enjoy a season of warm, comfortable boots, flattering jeans, and fun colorful sweaters and scarves. It may be years before we see anything this sensible again.

Sad to say, it took me nearly an hour to find an image of a woman wearing this style you see every day on the streets of Seattle. All of Nordstrom’s jeans were shown with stiletto “hooker” heels. Bleh. I had to go to the Sundance catalog to get something close to the Seattle look. So excuse the snow and the lack of a messenger bag!

Cup of Brown Joy

If you like tea or steampunk, you’ll like this Prof. Elemental video “Cup of Brown Joy,” beautifully presented on Vimeo (below). If not, you’ll just be confused.

You can downloaded Prof. Elemental’s album “The Indifference Engine” from iTunes. It has a jazzy remix of “Cup of Brown Joy,” plus “Fighting Trousers,” the soundtrack of a video of the same name that he made as a challenge another “chap hopper,” Mr. B. The Gentleman Rhymer.

It’s all explained here.

You can purchased the track to the original “Cup of Brown Joy” directly from Prof. Elemental’s site. He accepts PayPal, which he acknowledges with this email response:

“Thanks everso for your purchase. I promise that the proceeds will be spent on scones and fine hats.”

Elemental – Cup Of Brown Joy from Moog on Vimeo.

>Boo, hiss, Eddie Bauer

>I’m frittering away my weekend returning t-shirts to Eddie Bauer. The “petite” versions of two of their t-shirts reveal not just too much cleavage — they reveal my bra, all the way down to the band at the bottom.

No, these aren’t “layering” shirts, cut low for a tank top underneath. They look fine on the models in the catalog. The problem seems to be that Eddie Bauer thinks “petite” means shorter length at the bottom, not shorter proportions throughout. Bleh.
Fortunately, the Gap — not known for their modest cuts of clothing — has V-neck t-shirt in petites that don’t have this problem. I don’t find Gap clothes to be as durable as Eddie Bauer items, but at least I can wear them in public!

>The difference between indecent and charming

>80 years, apparently.

According to costume historian James Laver, there is a timeline of fashion. It dictates, among other things, that something considered “indecent” is usually 10 years before its time, while something “charming” is 70 years after its time (having passed through smart, dowdy, hideous, ridiculous, amusing, and quaint to get there).

I’d argue that the timeline is becoming accelerated. Fashions of the 1960s were back in for most of the first decade of the 21st century, having made it from “daring” and “smart” to “charming” in a mere 40 years.

Late-Victorian/Steampunk, however is right on schedule at about 120 years.

Thanks to Teresa at Making Light for pointing me to Laver’s timeline at Fashion-era.com.

>Paris fashion finds steampunk

>The article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal is titled “Paris Finds Its Comfort Zone,” but just take a look at the pictures and you’ll see that what it’s found is…steampunk.

Duster coats that wouldn’t look out of place on Sherlock Holmes; Alice in Wonderland “Mat Hatter” top hats in brown and burgundy; and lace blouses right out of a Goth girl’s closet?

You tell me.

>The knees have it

>No, this isn’t a post about fitness and knees. It’s a post about women’s fashion — specifically, pants.

I was standing in my walk-in closet this morning trying to figure out why a pair of Eddie Bauer corduroy pants I bought two years ago look great, and why a pair I bought four years ago (same corduroy, same size) look dorky.
They have the same fit at the waist and hips, and the hems are the same width. But the newer pair looks hip and trendy and the older pair — they’re not quite “mom jeans,” but definitely dumpy.

Finally I figured it out. It’s the knees.
Current fashion includes both skinny jeans (tight everywhere, including the ankles) and flared jeans (wide at the ankles). But both styles are slim at the knees. Older pants, which were straight from thigh down to ankle, now look like something you’d see on a gardener or someone cleaning out their basement.
Weird, but enlightening.
I packed the older pair away. The style will be back in two or three years and, somehow, they’ll look just right. And I’m not just being snarky: Last week I had people raving about a pair of flat black leather riding boots I was wearing with an A-line skirt. Where did I get them? Well, 10 years ago, the last time flat boots were in style, I bought them from Santana of Canada. I nearly took them to a consignment shop five years ago when pointy toed boots were the rage, and two years ago when strange-looking heels and rounded toes were the thing. Fortunately, I held on to them. My fashion secret is a large closet and two attics.

>Advanced style (do it yourself)

I’ve been looking for a retailer that carries mid-price, fairly aggressive fashion for women over 50.

Instead, I find a lot of dorky tailored and embroidered denim, relentlessly cheerful prints and patterns in ugly barn red (like this ghastly acryllic sweater from Clearwater Creek), and shiny, flimsy stretchy knits (Chico’s Travelers line). Most of it matches and coordinates, making it the kiss of death now that everyone under 40 is wearing “nothing matches” outfits.

My solution is to buy plain, natural fiber stuff from Eddie Bauer and Gap (they offer petite sizes and a variety of pant lengths) and mix it in with designer and vintage pieces I pick up at consignment shops and Seattle-area artisan seamstresses. I also look at Sundance catalog for ideas, though their clothes are not designed for short women.

I used to buy a lot from J. Jill. They’re known for incorporating up-to-the minute details (gathers, trims, buttons, raw seams, etc.) into classic styles, and they keep the pieces professional (no plunging V-necks, sheer fabrics, etc.). J. Jill is also known for using 50+ models with gray hair — a few years back, their iconic lead model was Cindy Joseph, profiled here in the new Experience Life magazine. Unfortunately for me, for the past few seasons J. Jill has been making much of their clothing in cream, beige, and pastels — a palette that just doesn’t work for my hair color and skin tone.

If you think the stores are slim pickings in terms of trendy “grown up” fashion, the websites for fashion for women over 40 or 50 are ghastly. Google the terms “fashion” and “older women” and you’ll find appallingly designed websites with pink backgrounds filled with patronizing “articles” that counsel you to dress in classic, dark colors, and cover up everything that might offend younger people (that would be your arms, legs, neck, feet, torso and “lank, thinning” hair). Think “burka.”

So I was thrilled to find Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style. It’s filled with photos of women and men from their 50s into their 90s wearing high fashion. Some of the women are sporting very colorful, eclectic vintage clothes; others are wearing more of the European natural-fiber look that I admire. You’ll see colorful knits, fabulous boots, sharp vests, and all sort of inspiring fashion items.

I’m going to be 55 next month. I hope I look as good as this or this at 60! (And check out this inspiring fashionista in the leather skirt. She’s is 82!)

>I never liked diets

And here’s one I really can’t handle: The Great American Apparel Diet.

The women who put together this blog have vowed not to buy any new clothes (excluding things like underwear) for a year. I’ll be curious to see how this turns out.