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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All Hail the Return of Pantsuits

As Ingrid Schmidt wrote in the Image section of the September 11, 2015 Los Angeles Times, “A revival of women’s power suits may be a fashion bonus to emerge from this tumultuous presidential election season. With the potential of having the first female U.S. president, sharply tailored suiting somehow feels right right now in womenswear.”

0916 LA Times pantsuits USE REV

Hillary Clinton, a self-described “pantsuit aficionado” has a well-documented wardrobe of pantsuits in a rainbow of colors and textures, which she has favored since serving as Secretary of State. You’ll recall that her predecessor in that role, Madeleine Albright, had a similar uniform of tailored suiting with skirts in lieu of pants. For a professional woman, no look carries more authority than one topped with a tailored jacket. As Schmidt notes, celebrities including Beyonce, Rihanna, Rita Ora and Kirsten Stewart have also been photographed in suiting looks, proving that this professional woman’s staple has moved into the realm of fashion.

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Illustration:  “The Hillary Effect” documented in the September 2016 issue of Glamour.

Let’s consider some of the many reasons why pantsuits are such a wonderful option:

Footwear Choices:  Pants allow for comfortable low-heel shoes and give the wearer a long lean look without high heels. For someone on her feet a lot, this is no small benefit. I’ve written many times on the subject of “shoe sanity” —  the reasons to favor low-heel shoes.

Legwear Choices:  Hosiery, or rather, the fashion world’s view that hosiery is tacky, becomes a non-issue. Bare legs with a skirt suit or dress works well for women with shapely legs and excellent skin; not so well for everyone else. With pants, one may wear hosiery or bypass it. With appropriate low heel shoes, trouser socks too may be an option. A peek of hosiery at one’s ankles does not cause fashion followers to cringe.

Adaptability:  Having a removable jacket as part of one’s ensemble is a wonderful feature when one is moving in and out of different environments. Pants are warmer than skirts — a benefit when one is traveling on cold airplanes or sitting in cold offices, irrespective of the weather outside. And if the temperature is warm, a jacket can come off. As a bonus, the jacket from a pantsuit may mix with other wardrobe pieces, including skirts and dresses.

Accessories Change the Look: A small wardrobe of pantsuits combined with a wardrobe of blouses or tops plus scarves and jewelry create a multitude of looks. Color and pattern catch the eye. Tasteful jewelry adds authority and sophistication.

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Illustration: “The New Suit” with accessories featured in the September 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Figure Flattery: The long, lean monochromatic look of a pantsuit, well chosen, flatters every figure. Schmidt quotes celebrity stylist Kemal Harris: “Luckily, pant legs are definitely wider and waists are moving higher, which is great news because this drapey, flowing style is universally flattering.”

A well-tailored pantsuit is a worthwhile investment — authoritative in appearance and comfortable to wear. That’s something that every professional woman , whatever her political leanings, can support.

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The Forgotten Woman

If you’re reading this blog, you are almost certainly familiar with a national chain of boutiques dating back to the 1980s and ’90s that catered to full-figured women, by the name of The Forgotten Woman. The chain focused on designer and upscale clothing, and included designs by Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta, Adrienne Vittadini, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie. Sadly, the chain went out of business in 1999. Yet with a substantial portion of the adult female population wearing so-called plus-size fashions, you would think that this segment of the fashion industry would be thriving.

The good news is there seems to be fresh interest in catering to the full-figured woman. The less good news is that the target customer is decidedly younger than the typical customer of The Forgotten Women.

0716 LA Tiime plus size fashion REV

The Los Angeles Times published a piece on Sunday, June 19, 2016, entitled “Pluses and minuses: The fashion industry improves its variety of sizes, but still lags.”  Three young women  – Nadia Aboulhosn, Gabi Gregg, and Nicolette Mason – are touted for the “hundreds, if not thousands, of outfits detailed on their blogs and Instagram profiles . . . they shop, and so do their readers. Their combined reach to followers on Instagram alone is creeping up to a million. What’s more, the three multi-hyphenates (blogger-designer-model-creative strategist, among others) have been pushing the fashion industry forward when it comes to broadening the range of sizes offered as well as the general messaging from brands.”

The CEO of plus-size-focused fashion website Eloquii comments that the customer “is buying the trend-driven fashion items the minute they’re available–there is no hesitation. . . . Off the shoulder, ruffles, ’70s, chambray–if it’s a fashion trend, it’s selling and selling well.” Research firm NPD Group views full-figured teens as “reinvigorating the plus-size market.  Today’s young consumers know what they want and won’t settle for less.”

Ruffles and off-the-shoulder looks at popular price points (dresses under $59) are not what the successful mature full-figured woman wants to wear, yet the needs of this extensive and affluent group are being met by very few designers.

The Times reports: “The plus-size bloggers say there must be a larger representation of different plus-size women. ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done– and still not a lot of diversity in plus fashion, despite the fact that it’s a highly diverse market, in terms of race, financial means and location,’ says Mason. . . . ‘We now know it’s OK to be a white, well-proportioned curvy woman, but what about everyone else that’s part of this demographic?'” And, one might ask, what about the more mature woman?

To the designers out there who are committed to serving the plus-size market, and to designers thinking of expanding their size ranges, here’s something to consider:  If our next President is a woman who embraces the flattering long line look of a pantsuit as her signature look (and who reportedly receives fashion advice from Anna Wintour of Vogue  magazine), isn’t it time to emulate that look and to start designing flattering quality professional wear for the mature full-figured woman?

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Quirky Hairlines

The vast majority of us have faces with less than perfectly symmetrical features. This is not something that should by any means diminish one’s self-esteem. Look at the photos of individuals considered to be among the most beautiful, and you will notice slight discrepancies between the two sides of their faces. One eyebrow may be slightly higher or thicker; one eye slightly larger; one nostril bigger, one ear slightly higher than the other, and so on. These features add immeasurably to the appeal of those faces.

One aspect of asymmetry that isn’t usually on display for women is the hairline. Bangs and hairstyles that dip over the top of the face hide the hairline. When all the hair is pulled back into a ballerina-style bun, or, with the “half-up topknot” style currently in vogue, the hairline comes into prominent focus, sometime with surprising results. Needless to say, those who would look to analyze a face shapes with an unusual hairline face a conundrum.

0616 hairlines with half up hair June Style Watch REV

I was struck by this photo of actresses Lucy Hale and Diane Kruger, along with the singer Rita Ora, featured in the June 2016 issue of Style Watch. While Ora’s hairline is quite straight and symmetrical, the hairlines of Hale and Kruger have all manner of darling quirks.

I remember attending my first AICI (Association of Image Consultants International) conference, meeting an image consultant who showed me the extraordinarily quirky hairline she hid under a clever asymmetrical hairstyle. She worked with her cowlicks and the dips and peaks of her hairline to create something quite fresh and charming.

When one is blessed with a particularly haphazard hairline, there are two ways to proceed. The usual approach  is to disguise the hairline with a well-chosen hairstyle that works with the quirks. The second approach exposes the hairline and creates a bold statement — love me, love my quirky hairline.

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Comfort: The New Key to Chic Dressing

There’s an exciting movement afield, a theory of dressing embraced by fashion icons that works for every woman of every age. Going far beyond the incorporation of athletic wear into daytime dressing, the trend reflects a new recognition of the importance of comfort.

0416 comfort Vogue tomorrowland REV

The April 2016 issue of Vogue features the theme “Tomorrowland” and poses the question, “How will the future family live and dress”?  Vogue‘s prognostications include “ultracomfortable day chic.” Discussing the photo of model Joan Smalls wearing a Vetements shirtdress and Boss pants, Vogue comments:  “‘Unfussy’ isn’t a new ideal, but it has great currency. We all want to be, finally, liberated from physically constricting clothes–and sartorial foolishness. That’s why a loose top and lounge-y, laid back pants are the shape of things to come.”

0416 comfort Elle get punked new designers REV

“Get Punk’d” urges Alex Frank in the March 2016 issue of Elle magazine, spotlighting design labels Vetements, Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy: “This new establishment is turning fashion on its head at a time of upheaval in Paris–some would call it a crisis.” With the departure of Raf Simons at Christian Dior, Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Elle  notes: “into that void stepped a bunch of upstarts who have very new ideas about what is chic.” These designers “represent the dramatic, refined, thought-provoking end point of so many recent trends. . . . All these trends have been leading us toward this:  a uniform that’s as cool as it is comfortable, the zenith of cozy and casual to keep you looking unbothered in a twenty-first century spent in uncomfortable airport terminals and in line for the next available treadmill.”

The embrace of comfort as the key to chic dressing is not limited to those over 40, by any means.

0416 comfort Lauren Conrad in People Watch REV

The April 2016 issue of Style Watch includes a feature on 30-year-old actress and  “style guru” Lauren Conrad. Responding to a question as to her “perfect no-fail party outfit” she replied: “It definitely depends on the event, but I think it’s important to pick looks you’re comfortable in. After wearing something I couldn’t breathe in a few times, I just realized it’s not fun. Once in a while, you can suffer through the night in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, but overall you should wear clothes you feel good in.”

0416 comfort Zoe Kravitz in Mar HB shoes in NY REV

The March 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar  spends 24 hours in New York with 28-year-old singer and actress Zoe Kravitz. She states: “When I’m in New York, I walk everywhere or take the subway, so I’m not one to wear heels, because your day is completely ruined if you’re uncomfortable.” Her focus on comfort extends to her evening activities, too:  “I don’t necessarily dress up to go out at night unless I have to wear something more formal for an event. Again, I want to be comfortable, especially when I dance, so I don’t put on high heels. . . .”

The March 2016 issue of InStyle profiles 24-year-old actress Shailene Woodley. On the subject of personal style, Woodley states:  “My style is dominated by my desire to be comfortable. Like, I never want anything ever constricting my stomach. I don’t know how people wear jeans so often, because that band is just so tight!” InStyle continues: “When choosing outfits for red-carpet events, she says, it’ snot just about looking comfortable; it’s literally the nuts and bolts and straps and buttons of it all–being able to breathe, to walk, and to feel like herself.”

0416 comfort 031416 People Victoria Beckham flat hoes REV

At the same time, with maturity comes wisdom as to the benefits of being comfortable. Fashion icon Victoria Beckham, now 42,  is quoted in the March 14, 2016 issue of People magazine:  “I just can’t do heels any more. At least not when I’m working. I travel a lot. Clothes have to be simple and comfortable.”

Vogue stated it simply and accurately:  “We all want to be, finally, liberated form physically constricting clothes.” I’ m completely comfortable with that.

The Perfect Hemline

Whether or not you find her style too conservative or traditional for your liking, you will find that Kate Middleton’s fashion choices present lessons in flattering dressing.

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One immediately recognizable aspect of her style is the length of her hems. The montage of photos above, from Elle.com, notes: “Take a look at our visual above. You’ll see that Kate’s hemline is the same every. Single. Time.” and adds: “We can’t blame her, though:  It’s clearly the most flattering cut for her body.”

The hemline length she prefers exposes the full length of her legs below the knees and hits at the narrowest part of her leg. this length is universally flattering. She wears simple pumps that elongate the look of the legs, with heels that are not too high but still chic. A clutch purse keeps her necessities at hand but doesn’t weigh her down.

0316 elle hemlines mid calf and mini REV

Other hem lengths are in style this season, of course. Elle magazine features a mid-calf length skirt and a mini in it March 2016 issue. A mid-calf needs to be long enough so that it doesn’t hit at the widest part of the leg. It can create the illusion of a long, lean look. As for the mini, most women have a good sense if that’s an appropriate and flattering style for them. Although Kate Middleton no doubt could carry off either style, I don’t expect we’ll see her in either one.

How Not to Flatter High-Contrast Beauty

0116 high contrast fail Rooney Mara REV

The E! Entertainment “Fashion Police”weren’t kind to actress Rooney Mara relative to her choice of gown for the 2016 Golden Globes. Although stylist Brad Goreski defended the choice, noting that the dress was an iconic selection based upon a design from Alexander McQueen’s archives, the stylistic importance of the dress was visually outweighed by how unflattering it was on the actress.

Mara is a stunning beauty, reminding one perhaps of Audrey Hepburn. The contrast between her fair skin and dark hair gives her dramatic beauty that calls for equally dramatic fashion to spotlight it. The Alexander McQueen gown made her appear washed out and frankly a bit sad.

0116 high contrast Jan 16 InStyle Rooney Mara REV

Interestingly, Mara appears in the January 2016 issue of InStyle wearing another Alexander McQueen design in another pale neutral color, equally unflattering. Note the gown on actress Elle Fanning, whose photo appears next to Mara’s above. Fanning, a lovely blonde with much less contrast in hair and skin color, likely would have looked stunning in the McQueen dress, while Mara would have beautifully carried off the high-contrast black and white ruffled Emilio Pucci gown worn by Fanning.

In choosing a red carpet gown (or any look, for that matter), the flattering fit of the garment is paramount. Similarly important is the choice of color. Consider the level of contrast of your own personal colors in choosing a look. The more contrast between your hair and skin color, the more contrast in the colors of the garments you choose will be appealing on you.  If you are pale with light hair or have dark skin and dark hair, your level of contrast is low.  If you are either pale or dark in skin tone and have dark blonde or medium brown hair, your level of contrast is medium, calling for colors are neither end of the light/dark spectrum.

0116 high contrast fail Amanda Peet REV0116 high contrast Michaela Watkins bright pink REV

The 2016 Golden Globes present other examples of color choices on high-contrast beauties. The first pictures the beautiful actress Amanda Peet in an unflattering neutral gown.

Contrast that look with the effect of the vibrant dress on the lovely actress Michaela Watkins. That is a gown that spotlights her dramatic high-contrast beauty.

 

 

Not So Hot Under the Collars

Wide collar-style necklaces may have an aesthetic appeal, but they are notoriously difficult to wear, as recent fashion photographs confirm.

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior REV

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior CU REV

Actress Zoe Kravitz makes the best-dressed list in the November 2015 issue of InStyle. One of the photos pictures her at the Guggenheim International Gala Dinner wearing a white crop top and split skirt from Dior, accented with a thick pearl collar necklace with an enormous blue cabochon. The necklace separates her head from her body, almost making it appear to be pasted onto the photograph, just a tad larger than might be expected for such a slender frame. The unfortunate accessory distracts the eye and makes it look as though she has no neck.

1115 collar InStyle Hailee Steinfeld in Stella McCartney Jennifer Fisher neck cuff REV

Better  is this look, also pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle declared to be the “best dress” of the issue. Actress Hailee Steinfeld wears a Stella McCartney ensemble with flared pants and cape, again in solid white, accented with a wide Jennifer Fisher collar.  The actress has a slender neck, long enough to accommodate the necklace, and its plain design complements the sleek look of her ensemble. With the wide shoulders of the cape, her face appears to be in proportion to the rest of her body.

1115 collar story InStyle Drew Barrymore long neck Etro choker REV

The ideal neck length for any wide collar-style necklace is long, longer, longest. Actress Drew Barrymore, pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle, demonstrates how this might look. Indeed, she is pictured in a Dior dress and coat from The Row accessorized with a slender metal choker from Etro. This is a look that can accommodate much more of a statement piece on the actress’s neck.

1115 collar InStyle thin neck cuffs REV

For the vast majority of women with average or short necks, slender metal collars are a far better choice than a thick collar. The same issue of InStyle spotlights four examples of cuff-style collars that are narrow and have an opening in the front. The exposed skin on the neck is a look flattering to most everyone.

Black Pants That Fit: One Publication Gets It

In my July 2015 post “Bypassing the Cult of Denim,” I wrote:

“News flash, editors:  To many of your readers, denim is not all that. . . . for many successful career women and for most women of a certain age, denim is simply not an important part of our wardrobes.  * * *  Consider, editors:  Why not dedicate a similarly substantial number of pages of your magazines each autumn to finding the perfect pair of flattering black pants that can take a woman through the autumn and winter? That’s an item of clothing that women of every age and circumstance can embrace.”

I’m delighted to report that the November 2015 issue of Real Simple includes a six-page feature entitled “The Essential Pants Buying Guide” — “With help from experts, Real Simple updates–and uncomplicates–the wardrobe stalwart.” Whether your look is professional and polished, business casual, dressed up or dressed down, the magazine provides guidance in selecting pants. One great tip addressing the need for alterations:  “If the crotch doesn’t fit, walk away.”

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The feature includes one page dedicated to “Black pants that fit,” the magazine noting: “They’re fashion’s holy grail–at least for the Real Simple reader.”

Be sure to pick up the November 2015 issue of Real Simple. I hope we’ll see this discussion of “fashion’s holy grail” updated annually.