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My name is Melissa Kaplan Guarino. Welcome to Turning Fashion Inside Out! I believe there is a connection between fashion and self-esteem and I am interested in understanding that relationship. Tell me … What is your story?

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Fashion, Function, and Faux Fur

My blue and white faux fur coat has fast become my winter wardrobe staple. Not only because of its bold pops of color, but also because it keeps me warm beyond belief in these sub-zero temperatures. I took it out for a Sunday stroll, and paired it with this backpack-style bag for added texture and because I like combining the stripes and circles! Fashion, function, and faux – all of my essentials for a Happy New Year!

Coat, J Crew/Net a Porter; handbag, Diane von Furstenberg; boots, Laurence Dacade Paris; sunglasses, Maui Jim

 

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This Old Hat Makes a Comeback

Photo by Kira Ross

I love wearing hats. I have always loved wearing hats. I am the person who can’t pass through a department store without checking out the hats and accessories first. Always tempted to buy a new one, and I often do – especially cozy, winter hats. You can imagine my utter surprise when I found this one-of-a-kind hat, forgotten in the very back of my coat closet. This brown knit hat is at least 30 years old – I remember the moment I first found it at Loehmann’s – I knew it was too special to pass up.

But somewhere along the way I forgot about it. I traded it in for newer versions and more modern styles. It was gone so long that I never even knew how much I missed it! But I did miss it and now that I rediscovered it, I haven’t stopped wearing it. I was reminded again of a very important rule of fashion: before buying something new, shop your closet first.

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Fashion Turmoil for 2018 as Phoebe Philo Exits Céline


Phoebe Philo’s Céline
CreditPhotograph by Karim Sadli. Styled by Joe McKenna.

Just before the holiday, Phoebe Philo, artistic director of Céline, announced that she is leaving the house. A replacement was not named at the time, leaving turmoil heading into 2018 and the New Year. This is significant fashion news; Phoebe Philo’s 10 years as artistic director at Céline redefined what women aspire to wear, with her minimalist aesthetic, clean lines, and tonal color palette gaining traction with critics and consumers. She stripped away the fuss in fashion and what remained were the clothes, powerful in their simplicity. Philo inspired a new kind of power dressing; a quiet way of making a statement, where the clothes do not overpower but reveal how women really want to see themselves – sophisticated and knowledgeable. There is a Céline uniform: large, slouchy trousers; a collarless shirt; flats; a tuxedo jacket — preferably in navy, black or cream. Quite simply, Philo transformed Céline into her own image and gave the brand a new relevance.

The news of Philo’s departure comes at a time when other fashion houses are in transition. We will have to see what 2018 holds for Céline and for the fashion industry.

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The Life Of My Gucci Loafers

When I bought these classic Gucci loafers at Gabrielle’s slice of heaven, The Collective, I was touched by their story: the original and only owner was the the great Aunt of the consignor, and she had worn and cared for these beloved shoes for years. The chance to own a pair of authentic Gucci loafers, such a chic contemporary shoe, was beyond exciting, but the truth is that I bought them for their story. To own a pair of shoes that had been so well loved and cared for was the real gift. Gabrielle told me that the label was an older one that she had not seen; gold “Gucci made in Italy” stamp with gold metal “Gucci” plate and crest shield. My research of this label and stamp dates it back to the 1950s!

So what life had these shoes lived before me? Where did they go? Whom did they see? Were they city shoes? Did they go to the theater? Casual lunches? Did they follow the  Jackie Kennedy-trends in the 1950s and 1960s? Were they part of the feminist movement of the 1970s? Where did they go in the 1980s? Were they worn with full shoulder pads and wild hair? They must have survived the grunge movement of the 1990s because they are still here! There was certainly much life lived in their 60+ years!

And now they are mine; they have a chance to live on in my life. I will love them, wear them as often as I can, and take them to as many places as possible. I will preserve them in their original state and tuck them in at night in their dust covers. And someday, when I have finished my turn owning them, I hope that someone will take them into her life and keep their story going. There is magic having something so special – loving it and making it a part of your life while it is in your possession – all the while knowing that you are only one part of the full story of a beloved piece of clothing.

Photos by Serena Chmelar; shot on location at The Mall at Short Hills

 

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Have Fun Experimenting with Fashion

Photo by Alexandra

Preparing myself for the coldest temperatures of the season, I decided to experiment before stepping out the door. The result – wearing two jackets in-tandem; I paired my leather Diesel jacket underneath my black pea-coat (which is living its second life with me, a precious hand-me-down my mother purchased at Loehmann’s, who wore it for years before giving it to me). On their own, each would not have been warm enough. Together, the jackets gave me the extra warmth I needed to brace against the snow and wind.

Nothing is more fun than experimenting with your clothes. Trying new styles, playing with textures and fabrics, and staying open to new ideas and concepts helps make old clothes feel new again. And adds life to well-loved pieces. There is nothing that says you have to wear the same thing over and over, the same exact way. The most creative stylists aren’t afraid to experiment and consistently look at new ways to put clothes together. I want to dress like that. I don’t want to follow any set rules when it comes to fashion – I would rather make up my own rules as I go along.

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Finding My Mother’s Skates

Photo: Lauren Hagerstrom

Not long ago I discovered my mother’s ice skates hidden behind sweaters in my closet. It was a sentimental moment for me that brought me back to the time I learned how to skate – with these very skates. My mother grew up in The Bronx, a native New Yorker. She remembers owning these skates in her early 20’s and taking them to Wollman Rink in the heart of Central Park. I remember that I was also in my early 20’s when I tried them on for the first time. I remember wrapping my ankles in heavy socks to keep myself from wobbling (I think someone had recommended that), and then experimenting as I tried to stand up without falling. There was, of course, much falling, but I will never forget the sheer joy of finally getting myself up on the ice. Sheer. Joy. I remember skating around and around and around the rink for what seemed like hours.

Shoes, or in this case – skates – carry memories. They tell the story of our lives. Finding my mother’s skates, something that she had worn and loved, gave my story more meaning. I am waiting for it to warm up, but I am ready to bring out my mother’s skates once again!

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What Did I do to Ring in The New Year …

Courtesy: Town Shop, NYC

… purchase a new bra! It may surprise you but it was the best gift I could give myself. It had been a year since I bought a bra and it was time. You know that feeling when your clothes don’t look as flattering as they should and you are not sure why? Or the moment when you just don’t feel as stylish as you would like? When that happens, it is best to start first from the inside and work your way out. And just like a surprise visit from an old friend, I found myself in my old NYC neighborhood, staring at Town Shop, established in 1888 and perhaps the most famous lingerie shop in New York – and where I first learned about the importance of the right-fitting bra. A bra may seem like a subtle change but it is as vital as any element when shopping for clothes. We tend not to think about it but nothing does more for your look than wearing the right bra. I walked in to find Eddy – one of their extremely knowledgeable fitters, who spent time with me determining my size and fit.

Eddy helped me find a bra and explained to me what every woman should know: “Bras are a necessity; they are not an option. Women will spend money on shoes and handbags, but neglect to invest in their bras and undergarments. They go to Target and K-Mart to save money, but don’t have the right fit.” Here are some tips for buying a bra:

– replace your bra after a year

– if possible, have someone help you with the fitting. You need someone to measure you; not just for your cup size but also for your ribcage circumference. A fitter also knows which bras are made for which body type

– try on a bra with your top. This is crucial because you want to see how the bra looks with your clothes (you want to like the look!)

– invest in a good bra. Don’t just go the fast, cheap route

I left Eddy and I could feel myself standing taller with my shoulders back and the best posture that I have had in a long time. Good posture is key to generating a positive self esteem and confidence from the inside out. I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year. Please do it for yourself, too! Happy New Gear!

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Carol Burnett, Bob Mackie … and Me

Photo, Lauren Hagerstrom

For me, as a young kid wanting to be a designer, nobody had more fun than I did doing that kind of a show, a weekly show, like that. Where we could be glamorous one moment, horrible the next. It was just crazy. It was crazy and I loved it.‘ ~ Bob Mackie

To be on the Carol Burnett Show wearing a Bob Mackie gown that was all wall-to-wall sequins, and the sequins were done in copper; it was just extraordinary. I thought it was a spectacular gown.” ~ Rita Moreno

This week I watched the Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special and the memories and the laughter came flooding back. I had a love affair with Carol Burnett and especially with her variety show, which ran for 11 years, from 1967 – 1978. I would watch the show religiously every weekend – for the sketches, the laughter, the camaraderie among the cast, and … for the costumes. Bob Mackie was the costume designer for the Carol Burnett Show and for other shows at that time, including The Sonny and Cher Show. For Carol Burnett, Mackie designed not only Burnett’s costumes, he designed the entire show’s costumes – every costume, every week; from the costumes for the dancers, to the secondary actors, to the lead actors. Every sketch, every scene – Mackie designed them all. My favorite of his creations was Mrs. Wiggins, the ditzy secretary to Mr. Tudball. And perhaps Mackie’s most memorable costume? Carol Burnett dressed in velvet drapery for the Went With the Wind sketch. Says Bob Mackie – when Burnett came down the stairs and the audience saw her for the first time: “I never heard laughter like that in my life … it just made people laugh and it still does. Every time I talk to anybody, they bring up this silly curtain-rod outfit with the velvet drapes attached to it .. it will be on my tombstone one day.”

Bob Mackie was a gifted designer and I loved seeing it all! Carol Burnett, Bob Mackie … and me. Continue reading

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Revisiting The World of Downton Abbey

A new Downton Abbey Exhibition has opened in New York and something was clear to me during my visit this week: I have missed this extraordinary show! Revisiting the world of Downton Abbey; the exquisite house with all its rooms – both upper and lower levels – and the beloved characters whom I had come to love, with their engaging story lines, was thrilling to me. I have been drawn to the costumes and costume design of Downton Abbey, and have written about it on TFIO, but it was actually seeing the fashions up close that brought my fascination to life. The hats, the gloves, the dresses, the evening gowns, the tuxedos, the jackets, and the jewelry were all integral to the storytelling. But there were two specific costumes that were everything: the red scalloped dress worn by Lady Mary Crawley, when she and Matthew are together on that snowy evening as he gets down on bended knee and proposes to her, and the harem pants with which Lady Sybil Crawley shocks her family. Seeing these two costumes brought me back to those quintessential Downton Abbey moments.

Downton Abbey’s costume designer, Susannah Buxton, was able to tell the story of the times in these costumes. In creating Lady Mary’s engagement dress, Buxton looked to the period designs of Parisian design house Lanvin. The beading gives definition and pop to the scalloped edges, which otherwise might disappear in front of the camera in the dark snowy scene. For Lady Sybil, who represents change and a shift in the social order for her aristocratic family, she disarms them by showing up to formal dinner wearing harem pants. Buxton chose the Ballet Russes-inspired silk trousers as a way to tell Sybil’s story of rebellion and independence.
The fashions of the times displayed at the Downton Abbey Exhibition are so worth seeing!

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LOVE and Happy Holidays!

The world is brighter and love and magic are in the air. I am grateful for your support and for these conversations and connections that inspire me and fill me with joy. Happy Holidays and Love to You and to the World! xx Melissa

… and to the kind out-of-towners who took this picture of me (wearing my Santa hat!) – thank you!

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