When Necklaces & Necklines Clash

Some garments are especially tricky to accessorize, as they are so full of eye-catching details that they demand the full attention of the eye. The drawstring neck of a hippie Boho-style dress from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane is such a garment.

On the cover of the April 2013 issue of Marie Claire magazine, actress Olivia Wilde wears this dress, the drawstrings tied loosely and the front of the dress open low. Despite all there is to see with this decidedly sexy dress, the stylists for the magazine chose to add two necklaces – a short pendant necklace from Eva Fehren that lays above the neckline of the dress, and a chain with a much larger starburst-shaped pendant from H. Stern.

The starburst pendant is lovely, but it extends several inches under the neckline of the dress and is hidden under the drawstrings. The placement of the pendant makes no sense. It distracts from the dress and yet itself is unable to be appreciated fully as it is half-hidden. And the dress needs no help drawing attention to Wilde’s figure.

The shorter necklace is lovely too, but it is simply too small to contribute any kind of visual impact to Wilde’s look.

When choosing a necklace, always give consideration to the neckline of the garment with which the necklace will be worn. If the neckline is particularly detailed and eye-catching, the best choice may well be to forego any type of necklace. A cocktail-size ring or a set of rings, the latter a popular choice this season, would be a superb substitution.

The Sound of Other Shoes Dropping

When Sarah Jessica Parker, well known and loved for her role as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, announces a new perspective relative to shoes, women might want to take heed. On ABC-TV’s The View last week, the panel discussed as one of its “hot topics” the news that Parker has announced she is giving up high heels – mostly. Fashion’s obsession with sky-high heels was compared to the ancient Chinese tradition of foot-binding, a disabling practice, long gone, that was thought to make women more attractive.

The hot topic stemmed from an interview published online by Net-a-Porter on March 7, 2013 and picked up by the Huffington Post.  Here’s the pertinent portion of the interview:

While Parker may have moved on from Carrie, at least for now, the role has left its mark on her – and on us. Seated in a small Italian restaurant in New York’s SoHo district, our neighbor stares at the petite actress, despite her casual attire of grey cotton blouse, jeans rolled at the hems and, yes, high heels. One expects nothing less, but Parker tells me extra inches are a rarity these days. “For ten or so years, I literally ran in heels. I worked 18-hour days and never took them off. I wore beautiful shoes, some better made than others, and never complained. But then I did I Don’t Know How She Does It, and I was very thoughtful about my whole wardrobe and said, you know, [Kate Reddy] could not afford really good footwear. So I got [lower priced] shoes and the bottoms weren’t leather, they were plastic, so I slipped a couple times, twisted my ankle. I went to a foot doctor and he said, ‘Your foot does things it shouldn’t be able to do. That bone there… You’ve created that bone. It doesn’t belong there.’ The moral of the story is, the chickens are coming home to roost. It’s sad, because my feet took me all over the world, but eventually they were like, ‘You know what, we are really tired, can you just stop – and don’t put cheap shoes on us?'”

 

The April 2013 issue of Glamour magazine reveals that Sarah Jessica Parker is far from alone in experiencing foot problems from footwear. In a Glamour poll of 1, 177 women, only 28 percent of the women polled reported that they had never had a “serious shoe-related injury” – and of the 72 percent that have experienced a serious shoe-related injury, 38% have “wiped out”; 43% have had heel or ankle pain; 32% have twisted or sprained an ankle; and 5% have fractured or broken a foot. No wonder over a majority of the women Glamour polled – 57% – reported that a one-  to two-inch heel “is plenty.”

Despite this evidence, there are articles like the one that appeared in the November 2012 issue of Marie Claire in which the writer asserts that she spent $1,200 to receive gel dermal fillers on the balls of her feet after she had been shamed by a friend at a wedding for taking off her 4-inch stilettos. The painful and expensive medical procedure allowed her to reduce her pain by a whopping one-third at the next event to which she wore the aforementioned stilettos.

 

The April 2013 issue of People Style Watch includes a full page of beautiful low-heel shoe options in its Spring Accessories Guide. Designers as high-end as Michael Kors, Sigerson Morrison, and Dolce & Gabbana provide chic low-heel options.

Take a stand against fashion’s ridiculous obsession with dangerous, foot-damaging footwear. It’s time to vote with your feet.

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.

 

Vogue Gets Real

If you’re one of the fashion magazine fans who has felt that Vogue magazine has little relevance to the real-life needs of the vast majority of women, you may be intrigued and delighted by a new feature that the magazine introduced with the August 2012 issue, “What to Wear Where.”

Here’s what the magazine says about the new content, calling the development “Keeping it Real”: “we introduce WHAT TO WEAR WHERE, a new monthly feature of practical solutions to those SPECIFIC SARTORIAL CHALLENGES we encounter in our WORK LIFE (slick envelope clutches and portfolio bags transport papers and iPads with EFFICIENT PANACHE) and our everyday family ménage.”

The first installment features six looks and  “six supersleek, superchic handbags” that “speak to how efficient and modern you can be,” whether you’re dealing with a job interview, television pitch, lunch with investors, or other work duties. Some of the looks shown are so fashion-forward as to be more appropriate for creative fields rather than conservative businesses, but none of the looks push the inappropriate overt sexiness that sidetracked Marie Claire magazine in its efforts to create an “@ Work” spin-off supplement.

Here’s a skirt look from Sacai worn with a leather bag from Derek Lam, pumps from Calvin Klein Collection, and a statement cuff bracelet from Abraxas Rex by Paris Kain. About the bag, Vogue states: “An earthy, neutral bag (no hardware, no nonsense) sends an elegant but warm message when you’re making the sales pitch. . . .”

A jacket and pants ensemble from Max Mara, worn with a calfskin bag from Emilio Pucci, a statement necklace from Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, and a pair of rings–a signet ring from Mannin Fine Jewelry and a Hoorsenbuhs ring from Barneys–create a blueprint for success, says Vogue:  “Akin to the scarlet power ties of the 1980s, royal-blue accessories today are a clear statement of confidence–just the right tone when you’re asking the CEO for a promotion.

These descriptions are spot-on, as if vetted by, if not actually written by, an image consultant. This is genuinely practical advice, the difference between pushing trends and helping women find fashions that meet their needs. I am eager to read more in coming months.

“Marie Claire @ Work” Still Not Grasping the Concept

The second edition of “Marie Claire @Work,” supplement to Marie Claire magazine, is out, showing a picture of actress Salma Hayek on the cover. Unlike actress Katie Holmes, who appeared on the cover of the first edition in a bathing suit, Hayek is dressed in a fashionable version of a suit. She looks spectacular in a cutaway jacket and  tight skirt from Alexander McQueen and “her own” low-cut vest that flaunts her cleavage.

The look is entirely appropriate for a mega-star known for her sex appeal. However, posing in a look that draws all eyes to her breasts and the rest of her extraordinary figure, she is not a role model of how to dress for women who want to succeed in the corporate world. There is a time to look breathtakingly sexy. While at work is not that time.

The “@ Work” supplement is a publication targeted to professional and other working women, self-described as “Your Get-Ahead Guide for Career, Style & Success.”  The rest of the “@ Work” supplement is a combination of good advice and some very misguided ideas. Among the features is a six-page spread entitled “Office Supplies” purporting to demonstrate: “Style investments inspired by yesteryear’s essentials” including “rings the size of paperweights.”

This photo from the ”@ Work” supplement demonstrates Marie Claire‘s idea of how a work look might be accessorized, putting together five wristwatches, a bracelet, and eight cocktail rings. The appropriateness of the styling has as much credence as the likelihood of finding the pictured powder blue manual typewriter at a place of business.

Another photo from the same feature shows an open-weave lace skirt accompanied by bracelets and rings that almost certainly would catch on the weave of the skirt. The peek-a-boo style of the skirt, as attractive as it is, presents another office no-no.

In choosing work wear, it’s important to consider the image one wants to convey. Overtly sexy fashion choices and an over-abundance of jewelry do not support a professional image. There are all manner of ways to adapt current fashions so as to look stylish and yet be office-appropriate in dress.

It’s time for fashion magazines that purport to provide style guidance to working women, to employ stylists –  or to engage image consultants – who have spent time in the corporate world outside the realm of fashion, and who can provide the magazines with a reality check.

 

Clueless as to What Works at Work

I was excited to see the brand new, recently published supplement to Marie Claire magazine, Marie Claire @ Work.”  This might provide a wonderful resource for my blog readers, I mused.

Alas, the first impression given off by the magazine supplement is one of cluelessness. Actress Katie Holmes is the cover model, not exactly the archetype of a working woman, although goodness knows, in-demand actresses with children and high-visibility celebrity husbands no doubt work very, very hard.

Holmes appears to wear a sleeveless garment, seemingly uncomfortably  crisscrossed over her breasts with gold metallic strapping that then fastens around her waist. What manner of professional work apparel is this?

A quick peek at the credits reveals that the garment is a belted swimsuit. Yes, a swimsuit. Belted. From Michael Kors. Something NO professional woman will be wearing to work unless, of course, she’s a swimsuit model.  (And hey, it’s not like Michael Kors doesn’t design all manner of beautiful looks perfectly appropriate for the professional woman at work. He does.) Articles about brilliant career women juggling their home lives and professional successes cannot make up for this inexplicable faux pas of a first impression.