Everyday Chic

for those of us who can't afford couture, but still seek to look gorgeous every day... strategies for investing in your wardrobe by maximizing its dollar-to-chic ratio

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Everyday Chic Moves to Papierdoll

About a month ago I joined the high-fashion eZine, Papierdoll, as the new ThriftyChick. It's been a fabulous experience working the the Papierdoll editors, and so we have jointly decided that I will join their blogging team and continue Everyday Chic on Papierblog.

I will be posting the same
type/style of content on Papierblog, complete with my " strategies for investing in your wardrobe by maximizing its dollar-to-chic ratio."

Besides my fashion advice and musings, the editor and senior writer for Papierdoll, Michelle and Tenisha, will also be posting on a variety of fashion-related topics. Also, there will be
many more daily sales alerts and other useful shopping hints and tips.

Don't forget to also check out ThriftyChick every day for the
Today's Pick, as well as shopping guides and chick picks! Oh, and by the way, I'll be posting under my real name: Ali.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Faux Handbag Update: Chloe, Balenciaga and the "Real Thing" Via a Sample Sale

This post is overdue, but my procrastination has led to a fortuitous conclusion, but you will have to read through to find out…

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Elizabeth, a reader, in response to my series on fake handbag shopping:

“really enjoyed your posts about fake designer handbags and canal street. I
found the site via google.
your post about fake balenciagas and chloe paddington bags on canal street
struck a nerve. I just bought an amazing office balenciaga in smoke grey on
thursday. this particular spot (a few stalls east of the old pearl
river entrance) has great knockoffs. definitely top of the line replicas.
the saleswoman knows it too. she suggested we buy the horrible faux
balenciagas next door (the place that sold them with the nameplate - you can
buy those with or without the plate) when I balked at $200. she also has the
balenciagas in the city size ($140) and clutches ($50). the great copies are
almost sold out. she also has the grade B knockoffs. there are still tons of
chloe paddington bags. really lovely leather and good locks.

my friend and I went back on monday to buy a city balenciaga for his mom.
she was almost sold out of the grade A knockoffs!
you should check out her store the next time you are back in nyc.”

Well, I was really excited about checking them out, and Elizabeth graciously provided details on the location of the stall (which I wont provide here but you can email me to get).

Alas, Elizabeth predicted correctly and by the time I made it over to Canal St in NYC, about four days later on a Sunday, all the good fakes were gone. No real leather or outstanding stitching greeted me, but rather a whole lot of B-grade pleather knockoffs that looked obviously fake to me, even from a distance. There were gaggles of women pouring over them nonetheless, many whom could never pull off even a real-looking faux Chloe or Balenciaga bag simply because of their other clothing (sorry, the truth is sometimes bitchy, and it’s not that you have to wear expensive clothes to be believable, but you do need to be well-coordinated, somewhat trendy/fashion-forward and wear it like you own the look).

The upside (perhaps) was that the Chloe/Balenciaga phenomenon was not limited to that stall, but permeated all of Canal St. They were lining the walls, swinging from hooks and being handled by onlookers all over the place. It was sort of depressing. Took the mystique out of the brands for me – when fakes become that overrepresented, owning one isn’t that special.

Maybe my tide of opinion is turning because I may have personally graduated from fake bags (at least, except for the occasional cheap thrill, like the $20 black clutch I’ve been hunting for). Yesterday, I found a bag at a sample sale in NYC that was truly splendid and is, perhaps, my handbag soul mate. Thus like a proud new mommy, I’m going to gloat with several pictures of my adorable new addition!

I actually was shopping for clothes at the sample sale (Back Fashion Cult, 37th between 8th and 9th Aves), but as I circled the loft, I kept coming back to it, and then back to it again. I’d pick it up and look at it, turned it around and around in my hands, admiring the stitching and leather. I put it back. I walked out of the store and pressed the button to call the elevator.

And then I found myself walking back into the store. Propelled by some force beyond my control. I immediately went for the bag, picked it up, looked it over one more time, and it was mine.

It’s real leather (oh how rich does it smell! I’ve been having people smell it all day), lined with a soft suede interior and is 100% original (at least in my corner of the world), made by Vimoda Paris. And the best part is that since it was at a sample sale (i.e. wholesale) price, I got it for a third of what it retails for (originally $300, I got it for $95).

What I love about it most is that while it is reminiscent of both Balenciaga and Chloe’s slouchy stressed leather and buckle-and-zippered-styles, it is original and fits my distinct personal style.

Sample sale hunting may have ruined me to Canal Street…the rush of finding the perfect deal is even greater when it comes packaged in real leather.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hip but Classic Alternatives: Cable Sweaters

Series Header:
You're a modern woman. You don't want to look like a clone of everyone else, but you want to buy clothing that you can wear for more than one season. You want to be fashion-forward, but you also want to have a certain classic-edge to your style. This series will focus on finding hip but classic alternatives to the typical, standard fashion fare.

Instead of...
I could not resist this picture of a model in Ralph Lauren - it encapsulates the stuffy preppiness of cable crewneck sweaters (that headband really completes the ensemble - like the frigid girl Selma Blair played in Legally Blonde).

I'm not dissing these sweaters comepltely, they are a classic winter staple and have penetrated culture beyond tea parties and country clubs. But there are so many more original variations of cable sweaters out there, and really, despite the array of colors that cable crewneck sweaters are featured in, who wants to look like everyone else?

Try One of These...

These variations of cable sweaters retain the classic composition of cable but are also fun and even flirtatious (cable sweaters can be fliratious?!). Cable is definitely evolving beyond its traditional "wellesley" thin ribbing to thicker, distinctive textures.

Mock Turtleneck Cable Sweater (top left, on sale $39, Victoria's Secret), Angora/wool off-the-shoulder cable sweater (top right, $78, Banana Republic) and Say What Cable Vest (right, $34, Nordstrom).

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hip but Classic Alternatives: Cardigans

You're a modern woman. You don't want to look like a clone of everyone else, but you want to buy clothing that you can wear for more than one season. You want to be fashion-forward, but you also want to have a certain classic-edge to your style. This series will focus on finding hip but classic alternatives to the typical, standard fashion fare.

Instead of This...

Leave the stifling button-up cardigans for Muffy to wear on her yacht. You are much too hip to be caught wearing one of these (or tying it across your shoulders, for the love of a preppy god), but you still need
something to cover up your bare shoulders at the office.

Try One of These...
Look for something that follows the classic cardigan style - an open sweater that clasps in the front - but with a variation reflects your individual style.
Plunged necklines are a winter wardrobe feature that is here to stay. A plunged neckline is perfect for a cardigan because it allows you to still show off whatever you are layering underneath, and gives the cardigan a more edgy look (and less stuffy than button-ups). These three cardigans looks like they could almost be wrap-sweaters, but remain cardigan-true by fastening securely in the front.

From left to right:
Free People One Button Cardigan (Nordstrom), Halogen Double Button Cardigan (Nordstrom) and Angora/wool shawl-collar cardigan (Banana Republic).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Winter Work Attire: Dress Pants

Banana Republic has some great winter dress pants that are perfect for wearing to the office or providing balance to a funky top or romantic blouse. They are reasonably priced for their quality, but if you can wait, they will almost assuredly go on sale (Banana is predictable like that). But if they do, you need to get them the first day of the sale, otherwise your size will be gone.

I prefer Banana's Martin fit, as its lower waist prevents the classic look from becoming stodgy.

These lightweight wool martins, $98 (right), are form-fitting in the waist but looser
throughout the leg, providing a flattering cut for your booty (they fit me perfectly). The wool blend isn't too thick- its textured to work with both chunky knits or soft jersey long-sleeve tops. The brown is so dark it's almost black, which makes it a great pallette for a warm-colored ensemble.

I featured these wool blend twill cuffed martins, $88 (left), in my post about grey pants, but I'm willing to repeat myself because these pants are so well tailored. The waistband, belt loops and cuffs add depth to the light color of the pants. They would go well with wintry pastels like light blue and pink, or in contrast to a black sweater.

The darker khaki color of these flannel wide-waist martins, $98 (right), is perfect for winter - dark enough to go with blacks and chocolate browns, and light enough to go with softer color tones. The thick fabric and wide waistband compliment their wool texture. Word of caution: These looked great on me when I tried them on, but the waistband was much too prominent on my shorter friend, overpowering her waist and visually cutting her in half (my friend is 5'2 and I'm 5'4 - 2 inches can make a difference!).

Best of... Stella McCartney Collection at H&M

Stella McCartney, one of the hottest designers in fashionand former head designer for fashion powerhouse Chloe and now her own line (launched under the Gucci group)has partnered with H&M to design a line of ready-to-wear clothing to be sold in its stores.*

The clothing (and accesories) line is being launched THIS THURSDAY Nov. 10, and will be sold in limited quantity and only in select H&M stores (H&M is not an online retailer), so you should check out the preview online and plan a trip to the store within the next few days.

Overall, the collection really reflects Stella’s couture line with its loose, free-flowing, ethereal style and sharp tailoring. What I love about McCartney’s collections are that they are so wearable—gorgeous but so seemingly effortless.

The collection is priced a little higher than normal H&M clothing, but much, much, much lower than Stella’s high-end line, and reasonably priced for high-quality clothes. So if you love her designs on the runway, its worth the splurge to have a little piece of Stella McCartney hanging in your closet (or, to be technical, on your body).

Best of the Collection
Stella has designed 40 items in all for the collection; here are my favorites (including the slouchy but elegant—again, effortless!—tulip dress,$99.90, above):

Jacket, $129; silk blouse, $59.90; denim pants, $69.90. These dark, muted tones are perfect for winter. I love the loose waisted blouse paired with the sharply tailored jacket and tapered pants. I don't know how those pants tied above the ankles would look on someone without stick-thin legs, I’ll have to drop by H&M for some journalistic investigative work to try them on.

Oversized trench, $129. This reinterpretation of the belted trench coat is quintessential Stella McCartney. The bubble effect makes it billowy and cutting edge. Its something I could imagine the Olsen twins wearing.

Tank top, $29.90. Again, this top is so roomy and yet form-fitting. And I am in love with this color—a splash of winter-appropriate vibrance under a blazer or jacket.

Knitted Blouson, $79.90; Satin Camisole, $34.90. This knitted blouson looks extra large and cozy thanks to the huge ribbed trim around the neck, waist and wrists. I’m not usually drawn to grey, but layered over this cream camisole, it would look great with dark jeans or black pants.

V-neck Sweater, $59.90. This deep v-neck sweater (in such a gorgeous sea green) would be great over a fitted camisole for work or by itself for the evening. So classic.

Worst of the Collection
Ughhh... These items really miss the mark:

Embroidered Silk Jacket, $149. This looks like something out of a grandmother’s closet, or something Bridget Jones would be forced to wear at one of her mother’s turkey curry buffets.

Satin All-in-One, $69.90. Perhaps suitable for the runway, I think this would look ridiculous on the street, especially if your body doesn't resemble a stick. I do like the metal pouch, $49.90.

*More reasons we love Stella:
She has a giving heart—she is active in many charities and even has a prominent link for charity involvement on her website.
She is an animal rights activist—she refuses to use fur and puts pressure on other designers to make fur-free fashions.
She is the daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't Be a Fashion Victim: Velour Tracksuits

Velour tracksuits are unequivocally out of style.

Stop wearing them.

Wearing one screams "I am from New Jersey".

They aren't even just one season from having gone out of style (in which case if you attachment issues, maybe it would be okay to wear it), but multiple years.

Please, stop wearing them. Instead, go for a Puma matching jacket and pants, like the Foundation collection, $51.99 for jacket and $34.99 for the pants on Amazon.

Or you could wear jeans and a blazer...

I mean, I don't know if velour
tracksuits were ever really acceptable in the high-end fashion world, seems to me that if a label has to put the word "couture" into its name, its just a wannabe (Juicy Couture made its name with velour tracksuits).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Get a Picture-Perfect Celebrity Haircut

Hairstylists are visual by nature—the profession dictates it—and thus presenting your stylist with a picture of a hairstyle you like, especially if it is something dramatically different from your current style, can ensure that you get the haircut you want (having a fabulous stylist cut your hair is essential too!).

When it comes to chopping your locks, who better to imitate than celebrities, who spend hundreds of dollars on the top stylists to get the hippest, most cutting-edge (haha, a pun!) ‘dos?

BeautyRiot is a database with loads of pictures of celebrity hairstyles – not those impractical updos for awards nights, but actual everyday styles – for all lengths and types of hair. You can browse according to length, style or a particular celeb – they even link you to similar cuts and styles.

When selecting a hairstyle, mimic a celebrity who shares your hair type and facial features. For example, I have a round, almost heart-shaped face and thick, semi-wavy (straight when I use my flat iron or blow-dry) dirty blond hair, so looking at pictures of Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson (despite my personal distaste for both) makes sense for me.

Make sure that when you are looking at pictures of celebrities that you are envisioning the haircut on you, not just seeing how well it looks on them. Imagine the same cut on your face with your bone structure.

If you find nothing that exactly matches what you want, bring in 2-3 pictures that illustrate the type of cut you want, and your hairstylist will hopefully understand what you are getting at, but remember, they are not mind readers, so describe what you want as much as you can.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why I Love... American Apparel

Madison Avenue loves American Apparel for its hip and edgy advertising campaign—a provocative, voyeuresque approach to displaying and selling basic clothing. I love American Apparel because what it proves with this avant-garde campaign is that basics do not have to be boring—they are essential to building an individualized personal style.

I also love American Apparel because it offers exactly what my wardrobe needs: high-quality basic clothing made in a sweatshop-free workplace (downtown LA). The concept is so simple, and yet so genius, because American Apparel does not take a standard, run-of-the-mill approach to basics—like its ad campaign, which uses its own employees as models for its clothing, it celebrates the necessary diversity in even basic clothing.

Chances are you have an American Apparel shirt or two in your closet already—they started as a wholesaler for t-shirt screenprinting (and still do so). I realized that I have several shirts from college events (those shirts they give away to entice you to dorm mixers) that are American Apparel — shirts that I still wear out and about, and haven't been thrown into the no man’s land of my gym clothes drawer.

American Apparel’s greatest strength is their range of basic tees—which come in a variety of styles and an extensive color palette. Perfect for layering or wearing on their own, there is something to meet everyone's personal style and needs. They know that basic does not mean homogeneous, as demonstrated below:

But AA is more than just tops—they offer everything from track jackets to panties to a t-shirt for your dog. And given my experience with Victoria's Secret panties, I might have to pick up a pair from AA and give them a test run.

You want your basics to last forever, and so it is worth the marginally extra outlay of cash to invest in high-quality, well-made basics.

Related: Businessweek article on American Apparel
Blog posts: Why I Love...Zara’s Retail Model
Keywords: affordable basic clothing, high quality basic clothes, retail store profiles