Wristwatches: Go for Edgy Chic, But Mind the Edges

A certain style shows up periodically, an attempt to jazz up a wristwatch by adding bracelets to the same wrist. The idea shows up this season in the June-July 2013 issue of Lucky magazine, which promotes large statement wristwatches: “These oversize timepieces are as classic (and cool) as it gets.”

Lucky continues: “And there’s no need to wear a watch solo, either. Laddered with wooden bangles or friendship bracelets or even worn two at a time, it’s the perfect statement piece that never feels overpowering, adds just the right amount of sparkle and goes with seriously everything.”

Laddered with wooden bangles or friendship bracelets, which typically are made of soft woven materials, the combination is unlikely to be damaging to the watch. Piling one watch on top of another, however, presents quite a different potentiality for damage to both timepieces.

More on the “more is more” style appears in the photo top right, which bears the caption “Worn with chunky gold and leather bracelets, a classic watch feels edgier.” Notice that the leather bracelet is worn between the metal wristwatch and the chunky metal bracelet pictured, and acts as a bit of a buffer, although the metal hardware of the leather bracelet appears to be bumping into the watch. Any bangle bracelet is almost certainly going to bang against the watch as the bracelet slides up and down the arm.

Metal on metal is a bad idea. Metal can scratch metal as well as the glass face of the watch. The result: Damaged watch, damaged bracelet, and a resultant loss of chic.

A wristwatch combined with less potentially damaging wooden bangles or friendship bracelets is appropriate only for casual looks. A more sophisticated take on this style is the addition of a slender and lightweight link bracelet of gold or silver worn next to a medium or large wristwatch, adding just a bit of sass and sparkle in a pleasing proportion without the same potential for damaging either your jewelry or your timepiece.

What Is Office-Appropriate?

The May 2013 issue of People Style Watch contains an excellent guide to office style in a piece entitled “Tips for a New Job!  Follow this expert advice and you’ll always look office-appropriate–whether you’re just starting out or mid-career.”

The advice is spot-on, the kind of advice you would receive from a professional image consultant. The advice includes such recommendations as “make sure your clothes fit well” and “dress like it’s interview day.”  With photos of Dianna Agron, Mandy Moore and Pippa Middleton illustrating appropriate professional wear, the article is helpful to every woman who works in an office setting.

Contrast the People Style Watch advice with the following, which stopped me in my tracks. “Who Says You Can’t Wear Color to the Office?” asks the January 2013 issue of Lucky magazine, which continues: “Give the black and navy a rest and try these classic, work-appropriate looks in bright, bold, gorgeous colors.”

I shudder to think how many human resource directors need to counsel young women as a direct result of this remarkably bad advice suggesting that wearing stripes, sequins, friendship bracelets and neon nail polish together in starting combination is work-appropriate. It may be loads of fun on the weekend, but it reflects a complete lack of professionalism in an office environment. This is a look guaranteed to take one OFF the fast track to success.

Proportions and the Visually Saggy Bustline

One of the best ways to assess how a particular style may work for you is to see it on someone with similar proportions. My post today concerns the portion of your body from the top of your head to your waist.

Classic proportions are based upon the length, top to bottom, of your head. From the bottom of your head to your waist should measure two head-lengths for perfect classic proportions. If that length is shorter, you are “high-waisted” or “short-waisted”; if that length is longer, you are “long-waisted.”

The lovely model pictured in these photographs from the February 2013 issue of Lucky magazine is younger than my typical reader, to be sure, but she is a great example of a long-waisted figure. It appears that she is about two and one-half head lengths from the bottom of her chin to her waist. She looks great in printed pants with a scoop neck top and a jeans jacket, as she is tall and her entire frame is elongated. The long proportions of her legs balance her long-waisted figure.

But put the model in a strapless bustier, and she looks as though her breasts are sagging, much too low and close to her waist. Moreover, it appears the bustier is about to create a wardrobe malfunction of the most embarrassing kind. What further detracts from the look is that the bustier has a bit of a peplum which in this case extends the visual length of the model’s waist down even lower than it is. The look is thoroughly unflattering.

Here’s the same model wearing a garment designed with what is a high waist relative to her long-waisted figure, balancing out her proportions for an eye-pleasing effect. The multiple sheer layers of her ensemble provide horizontal lines that visually cut across the portions of her body that are proportionately long, making the entire ensemble harmonious.

If you are long-waisted, choose garments that do not visually lengthen your torso, and be mindful that a low-cut or strapless garment may make your bosom appear low on your body. Add interesting detail above your bustline to break up that proportionately long space. A statement necklace or double-wrapped scarf is a great accessory for you. It goes without saying that a good bra is essential. A saggy bustline is never a flattering look.

Coats Not Going to Great Lengths

Beautiful outerwear is part of the pleasure of fall/winter fashion, and this season brings a fresh crop of covet-worthy warm delights. Structured shapes with oversized shoulders, military looks, car coats,  leather coats, parkas, shawls and ponchos are among the plethora of choices. What is not so warm is some of the advice being parceled out as to the proper length for a coat when it is teamed up with a dress or skirt.

A generic question published in the September 2012 issue of Lucky: “What length trench coat is the best/most appropriate?” resulted in a lengthy answer seeking a definitive answer to the question of the “ideal skirt-to-trench-coat ratio” and found none. One fashion editor polled contributed an “it depends” answer, but then went on to suggest that “a little skirt peeking out is almost always cute, and if the two lengths match exactly, it’s great, but something super-short with something super-long could either be awful or really cute.” The photo presented with the Q&A in Lucky pictures a trench coat over a slightly longer silk dress.

If you’re reading my blog, you’re past the stage of wanting any effect that would be labeled “cute.” A dress hanging out below the hemline of a coat can look sloppy and second-hand shop, as if you can’t afford a proper coat.

The October 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping took a similar tack in its advice to readers: “And yes, it’s fine to have a skirt extend past your coat’s hem–it’s a more modern look than wearing a down-to-the-ground topper.” The skirt is from WD.NY.; the coat and pumps are from Nine West.

That advice begs the issue, however. There are all manner of great options that don’t require a down-to-the-ground topper. The same issue of Good Housekeeping highlights a cut-away wrap style coat that would be terrific with a longer skirt, avoiding the issue of hem length. The coat is from RD Style, styled with a turtleneck from Brooks Brothers and pants from Nicole by Nicole Miller. The coat to the right is from Guess, seen with a hot pink skirt from Darling peeking out.

The October 2012 issue of InStyle contains an extended feature on the season’s outerwear. Among the choices presented is this “ladylike” ensemble from the same issue of InStyle. A  pleated skirt from Agnes B. extends down below a Tracy Reese coat with faux fur collar. The level of refinement of the coat does not coordinate with the skirt; the colors are off (especially with the very attractive but mismatched chain bag from Mulberry); indeed, the coat doesn’t meet in the middle and appears to be too small. The styling misses in every way.

Contrast that look with the red topcoat from Maison Scotch pictured with a sweater from Suno and  skirt from Twenty 8 Twelve in the same issue of InStyle. This look works because there is enough of a length difference between the coat and skirt to make the effect look proportionately pleasing.

Be especially cautious about the interaction of coat and skirt hems if you are blessed with bountiful booty and if there is ANY resultant unevenness in your skirt hemline as a result. My first bit of advice is take the garment to a tailor to even out the hemline. If the skirt hemlines rises up in back, wearing a slightly shorter coat will give you a very peculiar effect.

If an uneven hem is not your issue, be aware that a coat shorter than a skirt creates a double set of horizontal lines across your body, which may cause you to look wider.

The ad from Boden from the October 2012 issue of Marie Claire, seen above, presents a perfect match of dress and coat. Getting the match that perfect isn’t practical if your wardrobe consists of skirts and dresses in a range of  lengths. However, it is always possible to choose a coat slightly longer than the skirt or dress with which it is to be worn, or to opt for a wrap that avoids the length issue.

 

Over-Accessorization: The Making of a Look Memorable for the Wrong Reasons

In my last post, I assessed an ensemble that combines a number of the season’s trends flawlessly, resulting in a comfortable, chic look.

Sampling the latest trends is fun, and more than that, it shows the world that you are current with what’s fresh in fashion. Choosing shoes and a bag that are reasonably current, and always necessarily in impeccable condition, is a credit to your personal and professional image. Adding jewelry and other accessories to an ensemble requires a sense of discretion and restraint. Today’s post presents an example of a look of over-accessorization, where that sense of discretion is lacking.

From the September 2012 issue of Lucky, here is a lovely $1200 lace dress from Burberry London accented with “whimsical accessories” piled on with no rhyme or reason. The elaborate collar from a silk top peeks out from the vee neckline of the dress, a necklace with a huge pendant in the shape of grapes accenting the center. A belt accented with an animal head visually clashes with the cluster of grapes above. To confuse the eye even more, a pair of elaborate and colorful cuffs completes the ensemble. The eye doesn’t know where to look. There is no coherence to the ensemble. This is a case of accessories turning the potential for a lovely look into the sad look of a fashion victim.

A silk top with an interesting collar from Maison Murasaki might be spectacular on its own, but worn under the dress gives it a prissy look and seems to turn it into a form-fitting choir robe or judge’s robe. Moreover, it bulks up the figure under the dress. Wear this type of layered look judiciously.

All of the other accessories – the necklace from Thea Grant, the cuffs from R.J. Graziano worn singly or as a pair, and the belt from Burberry Prorsum, are lovely on their own, but they do not work together cohesively. The animal head belt in particular is too casual a motif to do credit to the lace dress.

As between the pendant necklace and the cuffs, the necklace is the better choice for several reasons. It draws the eye up to the face. It has fine detail that complements the elaborate lace of the dress. And it does not present the potential for snagging the dress that might occur wearing a bracelet crafted of elaborate metalwork.

I do not subscribe to the old saw that, once dressed,  you should remove one accessory before leaving the house. In this case, however, I recommend removing at least three out of four. Imagine how stunning the dress would look on its own, accented with an elegant pair of earrings.