Rich, Warm & Inviting Brown

The women’s fashion magazines tend to present a fashion trend as a fait accompli, usually without much explanation of the source of the trend.

1017 brown MC Oct made to mix shades for layering REV

Consider the resurgence of the color brown in fashion. “Layer with abandon in made-to-mix shades of brown” urges the October 2017 issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown MC Oct coffee break black w brown REV

And: “Perk up basic black with chocolate-brown pieces in luxe-feeling textures,” from the same issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown menswear InStyle Oct REV

Current women’s styles reflecting a menswear influence and the fine woolens and other fabrics typical of menswear are, no doubt, part of the reason for the renewed interest in hues of brown. The color features prominently in this fashion spread from the October 2017 issue of InStyle.

1017 brown Esquire Oct color story REV

The October 2017 issue of Esquire takes an analytical approach to its discussion of the new popularity of shade of brown. In an article titled “That ’70s Color,” Max Prince writes about the trend and theorizes an explanation for its current popularity. Prince considers not only autumnal looks in menswear for men, but also the embrace of the “warm, inviting shade” in vehicles, hotels and even the re-introduction of the classic brown uniform of the San Diego Padres. About vehicles, he writes: “Just this year, fresh metal from Mercedes-Benz, MBW, Infiniti, and Volvo all turned up dripping in umber. Porsche and Lincoln also added new browns this year, while Bentley’s current portfolio features a half-dozen riffs on the color.”

“Why now?” Prince responds:  “It’s anti-tech. Designers are fomenting insurrection against the monochromatic status quo. Consumers want something that’s the opposite of the gadgets that have infiltrated their lives.”

While “sonic blues, candy reds and radioactive yellows” accomplish a break out of the doldrums, “these are blunt, basic tools,” writes Prince. “Brown is richer. It’s smart without being obvious, bold without being ostentatious.”

Prince concludes that “pulling off brown, whether it’s a tux or a velvet sofa or a chronometer, requires a certain confidence. It’s still a relative niche (acquired tastes always are), but the subtext is deliciously subversive.”

And you thought browns were cool because they complemented and brought attention to your eyes or hair color. Perhaps you’ve had your colors done and have concluded that you are an “Autumn” who looks great in umber hues. In a world of stainless steel appliances and the perennial popularity of head-to-toe black fashions, brown can indeed be viewed as not only rich, warm and inviting, but also delightfully and “deliciously subversive.”

The Elegance of Tone-on-Tone Dressing

Last month in my blog I celebrated the exuberance of mixing prints and colors, a most creative means of self-expression. This month I celebrate the return of perhaps the most elegant means of self-expression through fashion: tone-on-tone dressing.

Many if not most women find wearing head-to-toe black, accented with nothing more than the warm or cool metal of jewelry, a sophisticated look. Mixing black pieces is easy to do, as the subtle variations in shades of black rarely read as a mismatch. Black-on-black is sometimes considered the epitome of city dressing.

Wearing another head-to-toe color is more challenging and decidedly more expensive, but the efforts and expense can be worthwhile. Two hues represent the pinnacle of tone-on-tone dressing this season:  camel, and wine or burgundy.

0917 InStyle Sept Max Mara camel suiting REV

The gentle hues of camel soften the look of menswear-inspired suiting in this look from Max Mara pictured in the September 2017 issue of InStyle.

0917 Bazaar Sept tone on tone camel Hermes REV

Extending the tone-on-tone dressing to outerwear heightens the sophisticated look of a camel-hued Hermes ensemble. The ensemble is given a modern twist with darker sandals worn with camel socks, pictured in the September 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

0917 Zoey Deutch in LA Mag 1017 Max Mara burgundy REV

The influence of street style is also seen in this styling of a wine-hued Max Mara look by actress Zoey Deutch in the October 2017 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

0917 Max Mara ad burgundy tone on tone REV

Elegant, cozy comfort in beautiful burgundy hues is captured in this seasonal ad from Max Mara.

0917 Bazaar extras wine country burgundy accessories REV

Lest you think it can be a challenge to go head-to-toe matchy-matchy, rest assured — it can be. However, as this spread from the September 2017 issue of Harper’s  Bazaar illustrates, the time to find matching accessories is now, while these colors are on-trend. From shoes, handbags and purses, to delightful burgundy-accented jewelry, a favorite color can be repeated and emphasized with even the smallest details of an ensemble. The end result will look expensive, sophisticated, and decidedly elegant.

Getting the Max from Maximalist Fashion

As stated in the September 2017 issue of InStyle magazine:  “The latest way to express yourself? However you damn well please.”

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Or put another way, also quoted in the magazine, picturing two over-the-top looks by Gucci, “Getting dressed has never been such a party.”

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The looks are conversation starters, to be sure, but keep in mind that the conversation will be largely about the clothes. Authentic personal expression should be the foundation for every such display of exuberant dress. If the look makes you feel joyful, go for it. That excitement will come through in those conversations the clothes start.

0817 maximalist animal prints InStyle 0917 REV

A variation on the theme utilizes animal prints as the main component of an ensemble. Eye-catching, to be sure, but the wearer can get lost in all those feline motifs. Be mindful that animal prints are a sexy motif and can easily overwhelm one’s personal style.

0817 prints overwhelming crewel 0817 InStyle REV

In a fashion spread celebrating the art of embroidered fashions in the August issue of InStyle, actress Camilla Belle remarks: “It might seem too busy or colorful at first, but somehow it just works.”

Trust your instincts. If you get lost in your ensemble so that it is wearing you, give that maximalist look a pass. On the other hand, if the exuberance of the ensemble makes you smile from ear to ear, go for it!  Don’t be afraid to break a few rules. Celebrate! Have fun with fashion.

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Jewelry of Flattering Scale

Almost every ensemble becomes more polished with the addition of tasteful jewelry –  jewelry that is not only cohesive with the ensemble itself — the garments, shoes, handbag and any other accessories — but also flattering to the person wearing it.

0717 Effy jewelry scale on model REV

I was struck by this ad from a high-end design house, which features an exquisite suite of ruby and diamond jewelry. The beautiful model wears two chunky rings, a tennis-style bracelet, and a pair of earrings.

The model has generously sized features — eyes, nose and mouth. Consider how the jewelry selections relate to her. While the other pieces of jewelry in the photo have plenty of presence, the earrings are quite delicate –  too delicate to be flattering to the woman, as lovely as they are. The slender linear design of the earrings has the effect of drawing attention to the model’s nose and making it appear relatively larger.

This effect could be easily remedied by having the model wear earrings of a design more akin to the chunky design of the rings. Changing the scale of the earrings would be more flattering to the woman.

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Inclusive-Size Lines: A Concept Whose Time Has Come (Yet Again)

A tiny blurb in the May 2017 issue of InStyle magazine announced: “Teresa Maccapani Missoni brings her family’s luxe Italian glamour to Eloquii for an inclusive-size line of feminine dresses and separates in a resort-ready palette of white and azure.” Eloquii.com is a fashion site for sizes 14 to 28, and Missoni is its first-ever designer collaboration.

0617 March Vogue Prabal Gurung for Lane Bryant Ashley Graham REV

Designer Prabal Gurung is also receiving a good amount of press for his new collection for Lane Bryant in sizes 14 to 28. The April 2017 issue of Glamour reports that Gurung collaborated with Lane Bryant after he had “no luck getting luxury department stores to sell his line as plus-sizes.” The March 2017 issue of Vogue also spotlighted the collection.

At the same time, in a feature in the April 2017 issue of Glamour, “Hey Stores: Where’s My Size?” writer Lauren Chan and four full-figure fashion bloggers shopped clothing stores in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, and found no plus-size clothing whatsoever at 41 of the 69 stores.

For many full-figured women, Salon Z at Saks Fifth Avenue (remember the campaign “Saks First”) truly was their go-to choice for professional wardrobe and special-event dressing. Now Salon Z exists on-line only.  Nordstrom’s plus-size focused Encore department at its spanking new store in the large mall near my home had only a pitiful couple of racks of dated sale merchandise in plus sizes when I visited. Despite the increase in demand for plus-size fashion, the demographic is being served more by specialty retailers and boutiques.

0617 June Glamour Nicolette Mason I Am Not an Hourglass REV

There’s an issue aside from sizes, too — full-figured women, like women of all sizes, come in a variety of shapes. “I Am Not a Hourglass” writes Nicolette Mason in the June 2017 issue of Glamour. Mason writes:

“It feel like every day there’s another body-positive headline in fashion–airbrush-free swimsuit campaigns, designer collaborations, New York Fashion Week’s record number of plus-size models–and while those stories represent major strides in size inclusion, there’s one thing that still bothers me:  Almost every time we see a woman above a size 14 in magazines, in advertisements, or on the runway, she’s a perfect hourglass shape.

“Think about the most famous plus-size models:  They have big busts and full hips, with snatched waists and thin arms and legs. Gorgeous–but also, newsflash! That is not how most plus-size women look. Hell, all you need to do is look around on the street to know that many of us are rounder in the ‘wrong’ places, with full faces and thicker limbs.  . . . How progressive is body positivity if we’re affirming only one plus-size body type?”

Mason explains that, despite fluctuations in her size between 12 and 16, she is larger on top with large breasts and smaller hips. She cites Eloquii, Universal Standard, and Los Angeles-based Zelie for She as lines that design for various types.

This is not new, by any means. For instance, plus-size model and image consultant Catherine Schuller introduced a line on one of the home shopping channels some years ago, with styles identified as being appropriate for various body shapes. With few exceptions, plus-size clothing lines do not provide guidance to consumers as to what pieces will flatter which shapes.

0617 July MC model Denise Bidot Big Girl in a Skinny World REV

Look at the regular column “Big Girl in a Skinny World” in Marie Claire magazine. In the July 2017 issue, which features plus-size model Denise Bidot, the column spotlights for her a Vivienne Westwood skirt with a horizontal print (up to size 14), a Stella McCartney dress (up to size 14), and, a choker from Eddie Borgo. The choker has an interior diameter of 4.25 inches. None of these items will fit the majority of “big girls.”

0617 Christian Siriano in People REV

One option, for those who can afford it, is to go custom. Designer Christian Siriano is quoted in the July 3, 2017 issue of People: “My goal is to hopefully change people’s perceptions of what’s beautiful and what women should wear. I include a diverse range of sizes, races and ages on the runway. An then, there’s the red carpet. I don’t go after the young, new It Girl. They’re fabulous, but what’s exciting to me is seeing someone different on the carpet looking amazing, like Danielle Brooks. . .  Honestly I just love that I get to help change people’s perceptions, and I’m proud of what we’re doing. But it took me 10 years to get here, and it will take another 50 years to have my position become a little bit more of the norm. That would be really exciting.”

I’m thrilled to see that some designers and retailers are once again attempting to serve the 67% of American women who wear a size 14 or above. Stay tuned.

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The Front-Button Gap

Front-button shirts and blouses are a wardrobe staple for many women. Like front-button dress shirts for men, the women’s garments present issues of fit that require thought and attention.

If the shirt has a collar and is to be worn fully buttoned, the fit of the collar around the neck is an important consideration. A collar too big will make the wearer look like a little boy wearing grown-up clothes that are too big for him (consider Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live for this effect); a collar too small will find itself straining around the neck or unbuttoned to provide some relief.

A second issue is the lay of the shirt down the front. Curvy women in particular may find it difficult to find shirts that do not gap around the bustline. Look for garments with shorter distances between buttons (i.e., more buttons) to minimize the extent of any gap; also look for placement of a button at the largest part of the bust (a design detail that is maddeningly difficult to find).

050017 oh no front-button gap blouse InStyle REV

While celebrity model Alexa Chung looks adorable channeling Diane Keaton in Annie Hall in a photos spread in the April 2017 issue of InStyle magazine, the clothing selected for her just doesn’t fit. The above photo exacerbates the front-button gap issue with a striped shirt, which pulls across her bust and displaces the stripes for a visually distracting effect.

Some shirts can be worn open over a tank or camisole like an overshirt, eliminating the front-button gap.

Another fix would be to add a scarf , tie or vest (the latter two choices, a la Annie Hall) to cover the front-button gap. This can be an effective way to salvage a blouse or shirt that is otherwise not wearable.

050017 oh no blouse w tie InStyle April REV

A second photo from the InStyle shoot pictures Chung in an ensemble that closely imitates a most iconic Annie Hall ensemble with a tie. But whereas Keaton’s costumes were fit to her body (check the shoulder seams in stills from the movie), here the shoulder seams of the shirt are too wide and the underarm seams of the shirt pull out from the vest, for a most unflattering effect. Add to that the pants that drag on the pavement, and this photo, like the one above, goes into my Oh No! file.

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Cross These Cross-Bodies Off Your List

Cross-body bags are one of my favorite accessories. A beautifully designed bag that appeals to my aesthetic, combined with a strap long enough to cross from one shoulder across my body to the level of the opposite hip, is my idea of a marvelous invention.  Especially wonderful for travel and for taking public transportation, such a bag allows me to keep my handbag safely in view while enabling me to unlock doors, carry packages, wheel suitcases, or do other things that need to be done without leaving my bag unattended.

0417 short cross boddy Fendi in 0317 Allure REV

A number of high-end designers this season seem to have designed so-called cross-body bags with short straps, showing the bags worn essentially as necklaces. The March 2017 issue of Allure features a model who wears a leather bag and strap by Fendi as if she is wearing a necklace, presumably to show off the workmanship on the strap.  The look works because the model has a small bust, with no curves to disrupt the line of the strap. The handbag emphasizes her boyish figure.

0417 short cross body Dior ad 0217 Vogue REV

A current ad for Dior emphasizes the androgynous effect of a cross-body with a wide strap. Although worn to the side, the bag strap has little length to accommodate curves.

0417 short cross body D&G ad 0417 Elle REV

As for this current ad for Dolce & Gabbana, showing a structured leather bag with strap worn as a necklace, my initial reaction was “ouch!” — that pointed edge of the bag seems to be hitting in a rather awkward spot on the curvaceous model.

Bags with shorter straps, such as the Dolce & Gabbana, can be worn as classic shoulder bags, draped over one shoulder, the bag falling to the side of the wearer. Wearing a bag in this fashion likely requires some adjustment from time to time to keep the bag strap up on the shoulder, and, since the bag can easily be slipped off, this style is much less secure for travel.

To find the perfect cross-body purse, do a bit of planning. Determine the ideal length of a strap for a cross-body bag that fits your body, and use this strap measurement when selecting a new bag. You can confidently cross the other “cross-bodies” off your list.

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The Brooch Is Back

There’s something special about a look when you can personalize it and make it uniquely your own. Whether professional wear suiting, bold graphic designs, military-inspired khaki, or pretty floral dresses are your cup of tea, a quick way to add pizzazz to your look is with a brooch. Stylists have been adding brooches to add interest to fashion photographs over the last several months, and this trend holds strong this spring.

0317 brooch Feb HB Harry Winston on Dolce & Gabbana polka dots REV

For instance, the February 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar has a 10-page spread devoted to bold, graphic prints, and adorns four of the black and white looks with brooches. Above, a bold polka dot dress from Dolce & Gabbana serves as the backdrop for a fabulous De Beers Diamond spray brooch.

0317 brooch Feb HB Lynn Ban brooc on Stella McCartney REV

In the same issue, a “message” dress, top, leggings and shoes by Stella McCartney receive added edge from earrings and a Maltese cross style brooch from Lynn Ban.

0317 brooch floral Feb MC REV

The February 2017 issue of Marie Claire features a selection of two-tone metal brooches from Buccellati in a feature focusing on retro floral prints.

0317 brooch styling Jan Elle REV

The January 2017 issue of Elle suggests that “Sparkly pins are more punk than prim when they veer off jackets and onto rocker tees.” The brooches spotlighted in the piece vary in price from a message brooch in rhinestones from BAN.DO at $10 to a $22,700 flower clip from Van Cleef & Arpels.

0317 brooch April Real Simple lapel CU REV

The April 2017 issue of Real Simple demonstrates how to wear a brooch on the lapel of a trench coat or jacket. In the photo above, a jacket from J. Crew is accented with a pin from White House Black Market.

0317 brooch Tiffany elephant Dec 16 MC REV

In the December 2016 issue of Marie Claire, models Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam, Fernanda Ly and Constance Jablonski demonstrate a variety of ways to wear a spectacular elephant head brooch from Tiffany & Co. The brooch, based upon an archival Jean Schlumberger design, was re-issued by Tiffany & Co. in support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, which raises awareness of the plight of those magnificent animals killed for their ivory tusks.

0317 brooch antique Dec-Jan HB REV

The December 2016/January 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar recommends in its selection of what to buy now, an antique brooch. Pictured is a lovely piece from Cartier, but all manner of exquisite budget-minded designs are readily available on eBay. Considering the extraordinary versatility and sheer delight of these lovely pieces of wearable art, whether fine or faux , I couldn’t agree more.

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Dressing for Respect

A pair of articles in the February 2017 issue of InStyle magazine spotlight the power of dressing purposefully. How one chooses to dress can send a message of inspiration, and can communicate a demand for respect.

In a thought-provoking article in the February 2017 issue of InStyle, Eric Wilson asks: “Can fashion be feminist? With their spring collections, designers clearly had power and politics on their minds as they created wardrobes for modern working women. As the world continues to change in unpredictable ways, however, that message of strength may be more important than ever.”

0217 Can Fashion Be Feminist REVPictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle, Kendall Jenner imagined as Rosie the Riveter, from campaigns from the Independent Journal Review and Rock the Vote, fall 2016.

Wilson writes that “we are entering a season in which clothing can play an unexpected role in how we communicate our viewpoints to the world. Wearing a pantsuit or a pussy-bow blouse suddenly becomes a political act, open to interpretation.” He continues: “The cause of feminism, in particular, benefits when fashion embraces the imagery of strong women, much as Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace have done in their recent collections, because clothing is, in a way, a universal language. And it is becoming less of a stigma for smart women to talk about fashion or embrace feminine clothing in the workplace rather than dress like men to get ahead.”

Tucker describes how designer Gaby Basora, the founder and creative director of Tucker, “often considers how specific items of clothing can be empowering, even if the sense of strength is only what we ascribe to it in our minds. ‘Ultimately, fashion can be a way to express things about yourself that are more meaningful than just a blouse,’ she says. ‘It’s fascinating how we create illusions.’” Basora, Wilson writes, “like to think about . . . a family friend who, as a successful educator with a taste for immaculate clothes, made a point of riding the bus to work every day so that young women might see her and begin to imagine having important jobs of their own.”

0217 Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Balmain poncho REV

Illustration:  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, pictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle wearing Balmain.

The February 2017 issue of InStyle  also contains a profile of supermodel and style icon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, calling her “The Chicest Lady at the Airport.” Writer Stephanie Trong writes that Huntington-Whitely as “emerged as the foremost trendsetter” of “airport style” and quotes the model: “People probably think I’m overdressed for the airport . . . [but] that’s just me–a great outfit is my armor. I feel confident and ready to face the world.”

Consider how Huntington-Whiteley is an “influencer,” someone whom others choose to emulate, just like the impeccably dressed educator on the bus.  Consider how fashion  can serve as armor, and how fashion can convey a message of strength — a message that commands respect.

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Recognizing Your Personal Design Aesthetic

Inspiration may strike anytime, anywhere. So too may recognition of styles or motifs that resonate on a deeply personal level.

I was struck by the common elements of the designs pictured in the February/March 2017 issue of Traditional Home magazine in its Curated column entitled “Style, With Love: This season’s hottest furniture signs off with X’s and O’s.”

0117 design aesthetics Traditional Home Feb Mar Xs Ox REV

Consider, for instance, this page of designs from the article: a chandelier of golden rings from Gabby; an X-base ottoman from A. Rudin; a side chair from Chaddock; an end table with asymmetrical “X” base by Jonathan Charles, and metal circles that playfully interlock on the “Nasir” objet from Made Goods. Studying this page gives me pause to consider which elements of which of the designs are my personal favorites and, taking it a step further, why they are my favorites.

As you look at the designs, consider:  Do you prefer a very structured, symmetrical look, or something more free-form and interpretative? Do you prefer a spare design or something that suggests abundance? Do you prefer visually light designs or those that make a more profound statement?

When it comes to personal style, what you find pleasing in home design may provide clues as to what you will find most pleasing to wear, and vice versa. Chandelier earrings may inspire you to look for a particular style of chandelier. Or perhaps a page of designs that incorporate X’s and O’s remind how charming it might be to wear these symbols of kisses and hugs, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches.

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