Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Number Five: Menswear Prints and Patterns

In The One Hundred, Nina Garcia gives several examples of many articles of clothing that women have stolen from men, and ended up doing much better. The tuxedo jacket, trousers, wristwatches, crisp wbite button-down shirts... women have been taking men's clothes for a very long time.

I don't always like men's clothes, but I do love their patterns and prints. I have one shirt in particular, with a very feminine mock wrap silhouette, a deep V neck, and adorable cap sleeves. The twist is that it's in a bold plaid, that looks like it was taken right off of a kilt and reworked into a top that's just as easy to dress up as it is to dress down.

There are plenty of ways to try a little bit of androgyny in your look... a houndstooth scarf, a plaid heel, or a pinstripe hat would add to the look. Fortunately, you can go a little more extreme with this look as well, by mixing a pair of pinstripe pants with a checkered shirt. My only tip to avoiding the grunge look of the early 90s would be to make sure that everything is in the same color family. If you have a pair of black-and-white pinstripe pants and a black-and-white checkered shirt, you can go nuts on the scale of each pattern, and never look like a crazy person.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trends I Can Do Without: The Skinny Jean

I absolutely hate skinny jeans.

I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure they would make a skeleton look like it had a big ass. And not the good kind of big ass either. Any pair of pants that tapers down at the leg makes you look like a less-exaggerated version of one of those hippos from Fantasia. You know, wide at the hips and itty-bitty at the ankles. Yikes.

An addendum to the skinny jean issue is the whole skinny-jeans-tucked-into-boots trend. A boot that gracefully allows a bare or pantyhosed leg to emerge is beautiful. A boot that is wrapped around a pair of jeans is stump city. Ugh.

I don't know why anyone would wear a pair of pants that are that deliberately unflattering, and I REALLY don't know why anyone would want to look short and thick. Those of us that are short and thick (*raises hand*) have enough issues without having to hunt up jeans that look passable.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Katrina's Note

There are some fabrics and materials in fashion that I honestly do not feel are ethical to use to decorate our bodies.

When I was working for a certain vegan cosmetics line, I heard on my first day a line that will stay with me forever. "Orangutans do not need to die so you can have friggin' lather."

She was right. I honestly don't feel that interesting primates need to die so your soap can bubble up more efficiently. Cleanliness can come with less-lathery soaps, without much net difference to cleanliness or soap's antibacterial properties.

I feel the same way about fashion. I think coral jewelry is pretty, as well as a fur collar, but generally, both of these materials require the death of the living organism that used to inhabit either the pretty jewel or the fluffy skin. Fabulous fakes do exist, and if you absolutely have to have something made out of genuine coral or real fur, go vintage.

However, it is important to note that this does not extend to leather, in my mind.

That might have sounded hypocritical, but think about it for a moment. Coral is harvested for jewelry, and foxes are killed for their coats, but cows are not killed for their skins. They are killed for their meat, and leather is a byproduct of the beef industry. They are already there, so I don't find it morally objectionable to utilize them.

This is, however, just my opinion.

Number Four: Bright Winter Coat

As I live in the Chicago area, a good winter coat is a necessary wardrobe stable. Otherwise, nobody would leave the house from November to March (or sometimes from September to May!), which puts quite the damper on life in general.

Most of the time, when I see winter coats, they're an array of black, brown, gray, navy, and tan. Neutrals are nice, but they get a bit... blah.

Why not a bright, bold color? It helps you stand out in the crowds, and they're much more cheery to put on than something on the drab side. Right now, my winter coat is a vivid blueberry, almost the same shade as the sky. It makes me smile when I catch a glimpse of myself in it, just because it's such a cheery color.

Of course, when I say a "bright winter coat," I don't mean a big puffy ski parka. Unless you are actually skiing, or live in a climate where serious outerwear is seriously necessary, a classic silhouette in wool, leather, (faux) fur, or even certain synthetics is always much more polished-looking than something you'd see in the Winter Olympics.

Choose a color you love, in a material that works well, and you'll always look and feel amazing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Number Three: The Shirtdress

I have much, much love for the noble shirtdress.

They are effortless to throw on, look clean and crisp, and they come in all sorts of silhouettes, fabrics, colors, and styles. They can be embroidered, printed, solid, sequined, or plain. Depending on the silhouette, they can flatter all shapes and sizes.

I have two favorite shirtdresses right now... one is a Thakoon for Target with a nearly full skirt and 3/4 sleeves, and a Kenneth Cole sleeveless dress in a simple black. They go well with patterned or solid tights, leggings, even jeans, and only require a couple of fun accessories to make an outfit. Depending on how they're accessorized, I can go from a quick trip to the grocery store to a job interview to a fabulous night out, only by changing a shoe, a belt, and a necklace. Easy.

The best thing about the shirtdress? The shirtdress' charm is not in its versatility, or its availability, or its nearly universal appeal, but in the sheer comfort factor. If you did your shopping right, you can look totally polished with a minimum of effort.

Where to find: You can get them at just about every single store, everywhere. I am not joking.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Number Two: The Statement Shoe

You can make a bold fashion statement with just about anything. You can do it with a wild dress, an intricate pair of pants, a huge necklace, or a crazy scarf.

I personally prefer a Statement Heel. They go with jeans and a simple jersey top, a relatively plain dress, or even a work appropriate sweater and trousers. It's a hint of who you are, a subtle message about the person beneath the clothes. They are fun and fierce, and a way to literally walk taller.

My personal favorites are Steve Madden's Bombb (a pair inspired by Balenciaga's Lego shoes), Jeffrey Campbell's Michelle (unicorn shoes!) and a pair of perforated sneaker-wedges from Michael by Michael Kors. I have a pair of Statement Heels for every mood, and I love them for a simple way to finish off an otherwise "meh" outfit.

If you go for a pair of Statement Heels, don't go overboard on the rest of the outfit. Keep the rest of the clothes simple, and don't go overboard on the accessories, lest you look costumey. Costumes are great, but not for every day.

Where to find:,,,,,,,, Steve Madden stores, finer shoe retailers.

* With the Statement Heel, not many stores carry them. it's one of the sad ways of the world, where shelf space is at a premium, and there are too few women bold enough to go for the Statement Heel. However, with Internet shelf space being virtually unlimited, this gives stores the ability to carry something that is a bit too out-there for the general public, but perfectly fabulous. If you go the online shopping route, double and triple-check the return policy and make SURE you know your size!

Number One: The Teeny Wristlet

Our cell phones, smartphones, and PDAs have become indispensible in this life. In order to Google the right answer to a bar argument, or to call your boss to let him know you won't be coming in while you're sifting through the chaff to find the treasures in an Express box sale, or to update your Facebook status in the backseat of a car, we need our phones to be available to us at all times.

Unfortunately, most of the belt clips, pouches, and other accessories do not work for a female. They were mostly made for men, who are generally rather straight. For a curved body, a belt clip is a teeny nightmare. Try to find the right place on your pants to put a clip with a phone on it. I dare you. In my experience, they either dig into the curves, leaving large angry red marks, wobble precariously as my hips swing into a walk, interfere with the line of my shirt, or fall right off. Useless. The alternative is to stick the phone into the yawning chasm of my gigantic purse, and hope that I can hear it, feel it, or find it when an important call or text comes through. This has failed me more times than I can count.

After years of searching, both for a solution and for my phone amid my wallet, keys, sunglasses, cat toys (they put them in there, I have nothing to do with it) and cosmetics, I finally found it. Use a certifiably teeny wristlet (4" by 6" or smaller) and attach it to your pants. If you're wearing a dress, or an outfit without a waistband or belt, you can use a longer chain, and use it as a very tiny cell phone shoulder bag.

Wristlets are cuter than most cell phone accessories (generally made from clunky black plastic or black leather), widely available at all price points (the adorable pewter and metallic purple wristlet with a wee pocket that I'm currently using was $6.99 at Target), and make much more sense than a bulky, hard-to-release belt clip. They fall below the waistline, and don't interfere with your clothing, and you can easily coordinate them with your outfits. Also, a teeny wristlet doubles nicely as an evening or night-out bag, where you don't feel like toting around all of your worldly possessions. For the craftier among us, they're also relatively easy to whip together in an afternoon, depending on how you construct them.

Where to find:

For the bargain: Target, Old Navy, discount stores
For the luxe: Coach, Dooney and Bourke, Louis Vuitton

Friday, November 6, 2009


Nina Garcia writes in her books, "Style is a deeply personal expression of who you are, and every time you dress, you are asserting part of yourself." Even though she published a list of her style pillars, that she keeps going back to over and over, that she loves and makes her feel classic.

But she also writes that the very essence of style is individuality. Her one hundred might not be the same one hundred that another woman would keep going back to. And while I love her book, and her writing style, I realized while I was reading it, a lot of her One Hundred did not work for me. My complexion does not work for a Little White Dress, and I'm not a big fan of fur or coral, or even moccasins. I also don't feel the need to have several different winter coats, or a collection of Statement Necklaces to make my Little Black Dress look different.

Nina Garcia's The One Hundred made me think about my own personal style, how I present myself, and what makes me feel classic, gorgeous, and stylish. She made me examine what works well on me, and to carefully edit what was in my own closet.

And so, I present my own personal One Hundred, as a sort of style odyssey, a journey through the worlds of fashion, clothing, and what's available in my size.