Friday, May 4, 2012

Classic on the Coast

You can never go wrong with classic pieces well assembled. 

Outfits such as this are so versatile.  With a discerning use of accessories you can nudge the overall flavor in any direction.  Here she uses them to lean towards the youthful, playful side.  Beautiful, and perfect for a day out on the coast.

Summer's coming!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Most Fashionable?

Thought this was interesting - I was born in the OC (10 minutes from Irvine), Lived most of my life in LA, and now currently live in NYC.

The keyword here is "fashionable".  Not "stylish".  This list is essentially based on money spent on clothes.

Remember, you don't need to spend a lot of money to be stylish.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Color Balance, Men's Edition

The suit, shirt, and tie are great.  Yawn.  The pocket square and silk cuff links playing off the tie to provide the punch?  Drool.

(Ok, not really Yawn.  The cut of the suit is irreprehensible.  The super-wide collar and the texture of the tie are fantastic.  I was just trying to add punch to my point.)

Another example.  Bonus points for the lapel pin.  And the construction of that blazer's shoulder is immaculate.

I usually don't like things being too matchy-matchy (in this case I mean the shirt, pocket square, and socks in the same exact color/pattern), but I'll still totally endorse this incarnation. 

Monday, April 23, 2012


We come into this world head first and go out feet first; in between, it is all a matter of balance.
~ Paul Boese

Paul Boese, a Dutch botanist of little repute but a great source for quotes (thanks Google), expressed a universal principle that is always relevant in style.  I expounded on it in a previous post as it applies to color, but it's just as important in choosing pieces that combine with each other.

Look at the example above.  Ripped jean shorts ("Jorts", if you like - though I only use that term when meant derogatively) with a heather gray blazer + crisp white button-down?  If you had told me without showing me you would have heard me snort some retort about jorts.  (sorry)

But as you can see above, it works.  And the key is in the scarf.  There's a hint of "business neck-tie" combining deliciously with the playful flair of the color, weight, and pattern.  The super-casual shorts on bottom is provided a counter point on top.  (The cut of the blouse - particularly those collar points - are subtly important as well.)  Balance.

How about men's style?  Let's consider one of the most abused high/low trends of the past several years:  pairing suits with sneakers. 

Done carefully, it can work beautifully.

Bam.  The playful punch of the shirt and tie (the hat helps, too) means that those socks and sneakers are not out of place.  Balance.  Another example:

Bam, works.  The horizontal-striped cardigan helps break the inherent formality of the suit, while the pocket square offers the casual counterpoint to the sneakers.  Balance.

But what about this one?

Here's one I would argue doesn't work.  While I love the elements, there's a lack of balance.  The feel of the top half is button-downed prep.  The tie is cleanly knotted, the pocket square is a clean flatly-folded square.  The belt looks like a finely braided brown leather.  Yes, the sleeves are a bit rolled up, but that's not enough for the SHOCKING PURE WHITE CANVAS SNEAKERS.  Sorry for the caps, but that's how my eyes feel when I see those shoes anchoring this ensemble.  Cover the shoes and the outfit is beautiful.  It's not a disaster by any means.  But as it is, it is unbalanced.

(I chose the above example because everything else works except for the balance.  There are no shortage of suit+sneaker disasters that you can find if so desired.  Rule of thumb:  don't wear Air Force Ones with a suit.  Just don't.)

Just to show you that I'm not hating on this collection, here's an example from the same:

Beautiful.  (Check out the link, there are a lot of wonderful looks.)

Successfully pulling off the high-low act is a bit of a tightrope.  Always keep your balance.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't be an Alien

Why doesn't this work?  (In my opinion.  You're always entitled to keep yours.)

One of the fundamentals of dress is that the overall shape should always be attractive.  Details and flourishes are important, but they won't help you in silhouette.  And even though you may not be appearing in an ipod ad, the overall shape of your outfit will have an overriding effect on the way you look.

So how does this outfit measure up?  Take a look:

Not a good look.  Unless you've really been working on your traps and triceps. 

I need to add that I'm reluctant to totally dump on this outfit.  It's bold and playful, which we can usually use a bit more of, generally speaking.  And it's a bit unfair to do the silhouette thing to a single pose and angle.  But looking at the original image (with details intact), I couldn't shake the feeling that it reminded me of something.  Then it dawned on me.

Good rule of thumb:  Don't remind people of the Alien.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Mix and Match Colors: a Masterclass.

While you may not want to be as daring with the colors as this beautiful lass is (Why not?  If you want to, go for it!), there's so much to learn about color matching from this outfit. 

Let's belabor the point, shall we?

Beginner Level:  (Warning:  Geek speak to follow.) 

Good outfit choices are good design choices.  The universal principles of design always apply in some way to clothing ensembles.  An important aspect of that is color, and the basic principle to keep in mind is the color wheel.  If this is new to you, check out this basic tutorial.  A basic summary would be:  colors that are opposite each other on the wheel are complementary.  This is not a social construct, this is a basic universal truth. 

If you're going to be mixing colors, pick one combination to be the dominant centerpiece.  Other colors can definitely contribute, but they should be supporting players.  In the example above, you can see that the blouse has an explosion of other colors:   red, blue, pink, etc.  The key is that none of those other colors ever get too big for its britches.

tl;dr  Purple + turquoise = :)

Intermediate Level: 

A great tactic is to distribute the color throughout your outfit.  Non-obvious hints of it here and there are great indicators of style know-how.  In the example above, the clothes obviously jive with eachother beautifully.  But do you see that her toe and fingernails partner the hat while her lips play with the pants?  Those little sprinkles of color really elevate the whole.

Women have a myriad of avenues with which to pursue this (accessories, makeup, nails, etc.)  What can men take from this?  (At least those men that refuse to paint their nails.)  Pay attention to details.  A well-chosen pair of colorful socks can really make you stand out from the crowd.

Expert Level:

Just like it's wise to choose one dominant color combination, it's also great to choose one or two great reference pieces to build on.  It's like making a great movie.  Two surefire ways of making a hit are having one big superstar actor to headline, or two stars with great chemistry.   In this case the star has be the blouse.  The blouse is the sun that the other pieces orbit around.  But it doesn't always have to be just one piece;  it could be a great top/bottom combo, a skirt/shoes combo, etc.  Identify what you want to carry the picture, and flesh out the production from there.

As always, good character and tight execution steal the show.

Let fly your colors!

Good Reads: Menswear

Leading Mannequins (GQ, April 2012)
A great behind-the-scenes look at how the Hollywood "It" boys get dressed. 

Spoiler alert:  Most of them don't have great fashion sense.

Asides:  Money begets money, and Ryan Gosling can do no wrong.


Come as You Are (The Morning News, April 2012)
A humorous consideration of the restrictions of men's fashion, framed by a discussion of drop-crotch pants.  There's a shoutout to amidst a foray into avant garde japanese style. 

Hidden moral:  If you think way too hard about something, you may lose yourself.  (Or find yourself.  Don't want to be too judgemental...)

Quote #1: Then there are the crazy, unapologetic drop-crotch pants where the drop is so great that the material hangs, billows, and drapes in between the legs in all sorts of unbecoming ways.

Quote #2:  There is a crucial difference between fashion and style. Fashion is the context that we live in, the trends that cycle in and out. It is the industry, the magazines, and the advertisements that form the dominant paradigm. Style is what we choose to do with it.

(Please don't take this as an endorsement of drop-crotch pants.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Biker Chic

This outfit is all about contrast.  High/Low.  Light/Dark.  Agressive/Demure.  Biker-Chick/Biker-Chic.  I love it/really love it.

A zoom-in on the details from toes to head offers up a schizophrenic smorgasbord.  Here's my thought process:

Ok... motorcycle boots... cuffed jeans, James Dean style.  This is one chick I don't want to mess wi- wait,  LV bag?  Skinny jeans?  Never mind, nothing more than a beginner's level high-low mix... oh but wait.  That's no beginner-level belt tuck right there... and man I do love that bracelet on her right wrist... But what's up with this grandma blouse?  Although it is fearlessly sheer... and that right there ain't no grandma bra!  Oh, the makeup... oh! the hair!  Ok, I take it back.  Level: expert.  And is there a box of Chesterfields rolled up in those sleeves?  I wouldn't be surprised...

The result?  So much more than just the sum of its parts.

One important thing to note is how important that hair is to the outfit.  Imagine if her hair had been a run-of-the-mill fall-to-the-shoulders look.  The whole outfit would have suffered.  The way it's styled here really makes the whole thing click.  It's a down-to-earth up-do, with a twist of Rockabilly Rebel.  It's not too tightly done, with strands and wisps free to artfully blow with the breeze.  (Not sure if that was on purpose - it was a bit windy here in NYC the past couple of days.  But let's say it was on purpose.)  Which is all gloriously captured through the lens by Mr. Schuman. (Does he still take all the sartorialist photos?  Let's say he does.)  The way he's angled her, the sunlight streaming through the chain-link fence (inspired choice of background, btw), perfectly highlights her hair.  (Do I have enough parentheses in this paragraph?  Let's add this one for good measure.)

Expertly choreographed contrast.  Game over, thanks for playing.

For the daring:
Bow Blouse
Motorcycle Boots

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Personal Style

I don't like the word "trendy".  I don't particularly like the word "fashionable".  I think what we should all strive for is style.  Our personal, not-anyone-else-but-my-own, style. 

It doesn't have to be outlandishly unique.  It doesn't mean we ignore the times and the trends.  But it does mean that we don't completely change the way we look every couple seasons, just for the sake of change.  It does mean that we're honest with ourselves about who we are.  And it does mean we recognize that, over time, our style becomes a reflection of who we are.

Let fly your colors.

(But not like this.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bottle up summer and put a cork in it

Why does this outfit work? 

Overridingly, it's season and weather appropriate (said begrudgingly from a potentially rainy NYC).  Yes, right now it's spring and yes, this outfit is defiantly summer.  But this is Miami - there's no difference.  Lesson #001:  Dress for location, dress for weather.  As she does.  Palm trees and sunlight provide the setting, her outfit provides the story. 

White dress, white shades, all white everything~... 
(Aside:  Monochromatic looks are not for amateurs.  As Jay-z attests, all black everything is the safest bet, but it's rare that such outfits aren't (a) boring, (b) trying too hard to make a statement, or (c) some combination of the two.)

Of course, this outfit really isn't all white everything.  We have the black carryall which provides a great backdrop for the rest to shine.  (Ladies, your bag IS part of your outfit, please keep that in mind.)  We have the cork soles on her shoes which of course contribute to the whole summer-on-the-beach feel. 

But here's the fulcrum on which this outfit teeters from vanilla to va-thrilla (sorry, that was terrible):  Those shoes with that tattoo!  S-S-S-S-SUPER COMBO!

Now, I'm a little ambivalent about tattoos.  Without delving too deep into the subject, tattoos - particularly prominent tattoos that, say, spread from your shoulder down to your forearm - are such a permanent accessory (in a manner of speaking).  It's like trying to dress yourself while having to carry the same exact bag every day.  You have to constantly either cover it or work with it. 

Well, in this case she doesn't work with it.  She works it.  The way the outfit highlights her tattoo is a total success.  And of course the key is her shoes.  They play off the ink while not chewing up the scenery.  If this were the Oscars those pumps would be a lock for Best Supporting Factor.  I'm not sure what those shoes are (closest I could find:  Stuart Weitzmann Corkswoon) but I like to imagine that they were pure white when she bought them and ended up like this after she went to town on them with a set of Magic Markers.  It's the romantic in me. 

Let fly your colors!

Dress like this for cheap:

Dress like this for cheaper: