Fashion Rule #1: It’s the fit, the fit, the fit!

IMGP9724I found these pants at Gambita, the company exclusive to the petite woman (5’4″ and under) created by Caroline Misan Alvo. I am a bit over 5’4″ but the pants were perfect and my eyes flew open when I tried them on and I was reminded of the most important rule of fashion: it’s the fit, the fit, the fit! There was something wildly different about the way these pants fit me; everything hit where it was supposed to – the inseam, the knees, the length – the proportion was flawless. Why is that so important? Because I think many of us are walking around wearing the wrong sizes and in turn, feeling bad about ourselves. Wearing the wrong size can make us feel larger than we actually are. Continue reading

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Maestra Sarta (Master Seamstress)

The maestra sarta

Josephine’s mother, maestra sarta

Josephine’s mother was a maestra sarta, a master seamstress, which was and still is a highly respected and honorable profession in Italy, where she was born. This is the story of Josephine’s mother and the gift she gave two generations of women …

My mom was born in a small town in Italy in 1931. She loved school and hoped to continue her education, but when she finished the 8th grade her family needed her at home to help out. It was the early 1940s, the country was at war, supplies were scarce, and my mother was the oldest of five children. Her mom was not well. She was needed: she sewed shirts, using parts of older shirts to fix newer ones, washed clothes by hand, and ironed for hours so that her younger siblings and extended family had the proper clothing to continue attending school or work. Her family was refined and tried to maintain a normal life despite food shortages and the other casualties of war. My mom remembers that her uncle, a shoemaker, made her high-heeled shoes out of a leather bag and wood. Growing up, I was often told about those shoes; my mom received many compliments when she wore the shoes with a dress she had made.

As the war ended and her younger siblings continued their schooling, my mom had to figure out what to do. She felt that she was too old to start high school and she was still helping out at home. Her dad offered to pay for her to apprentice with a master tailor. She would learn how to design clothing and cut a pattern and sew. This was a very respected profession in those days since many people had their clothes made for them. There weren’t any malls in Italy where people could shop for mass-produced clothing. Since most women of her generation lived with their parents or their husbands and never worked, my grandfather was rather progressive. My mom continued her training in fits and starts, as she also helped at home. She made clothing for her extended family and friends but never worked for a company or opened her own business. In spite of the hardships she faced she remained faithful to her passion: she loved the latest fashions, followed fashion in magazines and imitated the styles of the time, adapting to her conservative culture when needed. Continue reading

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Denim: Day Five

Day Five: Gap jeans with rag & bone/knit sweater

Day Five: Gap jeans with rag & bone/knit sweater

1970s’ fashion – Huarache sandals, Huckapoo shirts or simple sweaters and high-waist, wide-leg jeans. Really wide-leg jeans, preferably with a crease down the front. This is how I dressed in 7th, 8th and 9th grades (and probably beyond) when I was first discovering the importance of jeans to my wardrobe. So it seems only fitting that I should conclude my Five Days of Denim recreating this look etched in my memory. I bought these jeans two years ago at the Gap: they are Gap 1969. The minute I saw them I knew they were just like the jeans from my young adulthood and I wanted to go back to that time, the 1970s. So I did. It is the crease in the center that does it.

With a high-waist and very wide-leg jean wearing a shoe with a bit of heel is important as is keeping your top simple. The pants are doing a lot of the work so you want to keep the rest of your look less fussy because less is always more! I chose this rag & bone sweater because it is casual and hits just at the top of the jeans.

Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? What is your story of this quintessential American fashion favorite? I would love to know!

All five days of denim photos by Alexandra

 

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Kevyn

Prada

Prada

Kevyn is a VIP/Personal Shopper for Prada. Scouted by Prada eleven years ago, he is a treasure-trove of talent and information and is well-respected and trusted among his clients. We spoke today about style and why finding your own personal fashion formula is essential to understanding what to wear

MKG: Can you describe the kind of customer you enjoy working with?

Kevyn: “I like working with a client who is sure of himself – someone who is willing to be altered and trusts me. Most people don’t know how to dress and someone may take advantage of that and tell them they look wonderful in something when they don’t. I don’t work that way. I want the person to feel confident in what s/he is wearing because I want her/him to come back. I have worked with some difficult people but I am able to earn their trust and the second time they come in, they love me! Continue reading

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Considered online swimsuit shopping??

My Lisa Curran Swim One-Piece - "Clare"

My Lisa Curran Swim Clare One-Piece

Shopping for a swimsuit is a tricky business. The thought of stripping down and exposing yourself to the harsh lights that laugh at your every dimple is daunting, to say the least. Perhaps that’s why I have hung on to my tried-and-true swimsuits for a few years, even when they are clearly past their prime, preserving them and treating them with great care so that I can avoid the process just one more year. But all the gentle care in the world can’t change the fact that I need a new swimsuit – and fast, because the weather is warming up quickly. Isn’t there another way to shop? …

The answer is: yes! You can shop for a swimsuit online. I have never considered online swimsuit shopping; like many other women I simply braved those harsh fluorescent department store lights and small, cramped dressing rooms – hoping for the best. But this time I wanted to try something different and the thought of shopping in the comfort of my own home was enticing. I also wanted something specific: a swimsuit from the Lisa Curran Swim collection. I met Lisa last fall when I interviewed her and was inspired not only by her personal story but also by her desire to design the highest quality swimwear for women of all shapes and sizes … Continue reading

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Carolina: “It’s not just me!’

Caroline Misan Alvo

Carolina Misan Alvo

Carolina Misan Alvo is a woman with a mission: to create a movement for petite women to feel better about their size and themselves while giving them a chance to shop for fashion-forward clothing, specifically designed for the petite woman. The name of Carolina’s business is Gambita, which means literally “little shrimp” in Spanish: it was a nickname her husband gave to her as a joke. At 4’9″ herself Carolina had heard every short joke but when it came time to name her business “Gambita was original.”

Launched in January 2013, Gambita is just a few months old. But I feel that women will respond enthusiastically. Here is Carolina’s story …

I was born in The United States but have had an international upbringing. Born to Brazilian parents, I lived in Ecuador for two years, Mexico City for nine years, and then my parents and I settled in the suburbs of New York City (Westchester). From my early college experience and career choices I have been interested in international relations and development. Before launching Gambita I worked for VisionSpring, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable eyeglasses in the developing world … Continue reading

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Styling petite

Clothes from my closet - a floral print a-line skirt with neutral pumps

Clothes from my closet – a floral print a-line skirt with neutral pumps

I’m 5/4.5. There was a short period when I reached my full height at thirteen and I thought that I wouldn’t stop growing. But I did. Bottom line: I’m petite. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I can and cannot wear and what trends will never work for me. In general terms, I think I do best when I keep it simple and uncluttered.

Some tips that work for me:

– keep pants fitted and flat. When Kim came for my closet audit, she recommended that I have a tailor remove the inner pockets of several of my pants and sew them up. It created a more fitted and flattering leg.

– choose a-line dresses and skirts. Skirts with tucked-in shirts and sweaters is a flattering shape and most often I look for knee-length or just above-the-knee. Skirts for petite women are better if they hit at your natural waist … Continue reading

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Cindy’s style story …

Cindy and Stacy when they launched Style for Hire

Cindy and Stacy, launching Style for Hire

One remarkable day five years ago, Cindy McLaughlin and her friend, well-known stylist Stacy London, realized they had a great idea: to help regular people on regular budgets feel good about their clothes, their bodies and themselves. That was the day that Style for Hire, a network of top personal stylists handpicked by Stacy, was born. Cindy is not only the Co-founder of Style for Hire, but she is also its original client. I asked Cindy about her own style story …

MKG: Have you always been in the fashion industry?

CMI’ve been in the industry since 2000 – which, by now feels a bit like ‘always.’ Prior, I worked at a consulting firm doing banking technology research + consulting, and before that I was in the Peace Corps digging latrines and wells in Congo. Either of those jobs is as far as you can get from fashion, really.

MKG: Tell me where you were emotionally in 2008 when you called Stacy London to help you with your wardrobe?

CMI was schlubby. I was a restless stay-at-home mom of two young kids wishing I had something more intellectually fulfilling. I couldn’t muster the energy to apply for a job, though, because I didn’t fit into any one my work-appropriate clothes to wear for interviews (much less to the job if I got it.) One of the more inane reasons not to work, but if you’ve ever tried to navigate a day of shopping at Bloomingdale’s, exhausted and solo with a toddler and an infant, you’ll know what I mean.

MKG: What did you experience as you began to recapture yourself?

CM: Here’s what happened: Stacy took me shopping for a couple of hours. She made a bunch of clothing recommendations and they were spot on. Every single piece she helped me find was well within my (limited) budget and still lives in my closet 5 years later. And it was fun! I felt like I had a moment for myself that I hadn’t had in months. Then the result: I simply looked MUCH better. With that, I was inspired to make more incremental improvements. My posture improved, I bothered to brush my hair and put on a touch of makeup and I grew excited to get out there and be a part of the adult world again. That’s all the internal stuff, and then I started getting compliments from friends and family and noticed by strangers. It’s impossible not to feel more cheerful and open and even more powerful when people are smiling at you and telling you all day how great you are. Maybe years of psychotherapy could get you there too, but a couple of hours of intense retail therapy is more my speed.

MKG: Tell me about the moment when you and Stacy decided to start Style for Hire? What was your goal?

CM: We were having wine on my porch after the fact, talking about the unexpected psychological impact of feeling good about your style, and it hit us like a ton of bricks. The mission was – and remains – to help our clients look great, and save them time and money in the process. Of course, there’s only one Stacy and a whole world of clients, so we had to figure how to scale to include the best personal stylists in the country.

MKG: How is the company changing since you started?

CM: Nothing at all has changed about the mission; it’s still at the core of everything we do. Reading our client’s testimonials keeps us inspired and reminds us everyday that we’re still on the right track. Of course, some of the tactics have shifted over the years. We’re ramping up the frequency of our workshops (the vetting and training ground for all new stylists) to be able to extend the service to more people; we’re offering our stylists lots more in the way of ongoing information and training directly from Stacy and we’re helping to connect our stylists to each other. It’s exciting to watch our stylists become friends and bond as colleagues within a community rather than competitors. We’re always focusing on how technology can be used to help our stylists and clients interact more effectively.

MKG: Can you explain the role of a professional stylist? How do you select the stylists?

CM: A professional stylist earns a living by helping others build flexible, functional wardrobes. Generally speaking, this means the following:

1. Making sure the garments in the closet are all wearable, visible and clean/mended/tailored. Those that don’t work are sent to charity or consignment so that the client can milk the value of what s/he already owns.

2. Making sure that as many outfits as possible are made out of what’s already in the closet. This can save clients a tremendous amount of time and money as they look at old garments with fresh new eyes.

3. Making sure that any additions to the wardrobe make more outfits (so you’ll never have an ‘orphan’ garment that doesn’t go with anything else) and that money is invested wisely. All our stylists use ‘cost-per-wear’ as the metric for investment. It’s how a businessperson evaluates assets. It’s OK to spend more on something you’ll use everyday, but you’ll want to be careful for things that are only good for a few occasions/year or even a single wear (Bridesmaids – listen up!).

Stacy handpicks our stylists after a rigorous process in which we view their resume + portfolio, gather client testimonials, interview them 1:1, and spend two very intense days in a challenge-based workshop getting to know them. What’s great about the network is that our stylists help us find other top-tier stylists because they now trust that we’ve brought the best stylists out there. It’s a virtuous circle. We also take on newer stylists who have great talent but who lack experience, train them, and help mentor them through their career.

MKG: What is your favorite thing to hear from a client?

CM: I love variations on the phrases, ‘you’ve changed my life,’ and ‘I’m shocked at how powerful this was!’ I hear both all the time, I’ve felt them both myself, and I know them to be true. I get inspiring emails every day from clients – most recently a woman whose daughter got styled as part of a Make-a-Wish program. That reminded that what may on the surface to be a bit superfluous or indulgent can be incredibly deep and a source of great joy.

MKG: Finally, have your feelings about your personal style changed since starting Style for Hire? And … do you ever get a little closet touch-up from time to time?

CM: Yes on both counts! I see one of our stylists periodically and know a lot more about how to dress my own body. I’ve sat through a whole mess of Stacy’s workshops by now, so I know the theory of ‘science of styling’ cold. I also have more fun with fashion. I like to take more risks now and I’m more comfortable with my choices. Literally comfortable, too. This spring I love wearing sweatpants or leggings, a slouchy sweater and booties, as long as they’re flattering and kind of edgy. (It’s possible I’ll get a raised eyebrow from Stacy for this …).

 

 

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Prom: Now/Samantha …

Samantha's original dress choices

Samantha’s original dress choices  – black and silver vintage and mint green contemporary

Samantha's second choice/second dress - strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha’s second choice/second dress – strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha is a junior in high school and she is my friend Karen’s daughter. I have known her for her entire life. In fact, I have known her since she was in her mother’s womb. After speaking with Samantha today I find it hard to believe that she is the same age that her mom and I were when we met. Here is Samantha on prepping for the prom …

I will be going to two proms this year: my boyfriend’s school prom is this Thursday and my school prom is May 17th. Almost from the minute I was invited, I started to feel pressure to find a dress, about two months ago. I began my search at the malls but found nothing and then searched on-line and didn’t find anything there either. Fortunately, I finally discovered two dresses at a local consignment shop, each for under $50! I know some girls who are spending up to $600 for just one dress, so two for $100 is quite a find for me. One is a mint green, contemporary style; the other is a black and silver vintage dress. They both fit well which is important to me. I needed to make a few slight adjustments to the mint green and I took it to a tailor. I have a pair of silver shoes that are a fine back up but I am hoping to find another pair before the proms. Recently, I wasn’t as sure about the black dress (I think because I’m not as comfortable wearing black in the spring). My boyfriend took me to the mall where I found a deep purple strapless dress with silver embellishment. I love it! I used gift cards to purchase the dress, so again, I was lucky …

I did feel pressure to purchase two dresses, partly because of the pictures that we will be taking, but mostly because my friends will be wearing two dresses. If they were wearing one dress for both of their proms I would probably do the same …

I decided to post my dresses to a Facebook page made for my school that exhibits every girls’ dresses. But I didn’t do the same for my boyfriend’s school. I found out that someone else will be wearing my dress at his prom but I’m okay with that because there will be many people. I will be getting a mani-pedi this week as well as having a spray-tan. I had an appointment to do my hair professionally at a salon but I think I will do it myself and save the money …

I think the biggest differences between going to the prom then, when you and my mom went, and today, are: the dresses are more outrageously priced, the preparation for the prom is more intense, and there is much more pressure from your friends to prepare in a certain way …

I am excited to go to the prom. Right now, though, I am thinking more about the preparation than the actual prom. I think that many girls feel the way I do and enjoy the preparation more than anything else.” ~ Samantha

I think that Samantha shows us that pressure from friends continues to be a big deal in high school. And no one should underestimate the power of the image in today’s world.

What do you think?

to be continued …

 

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The amazing blazer!

My go-to blazers - love them!

My amazing blazers!

You say blazer, I say jacket…tomato … tomAto! A jacket is the gorgeous gift wrap for your outfit … Nothing provides the illusion of an hourglass as quickly as a jacket … Also, you are conveying professionalism without sacrificing the edginess … A jacket enhances the integrity of any outfit … It’s the quickest way to clean up your act, sister!” ~ Kim, professional stylist

Spring is here and it’s the season of the blazer. Actually, every season is the season of the blazer. I’ve mentioned the importance of having a solid go-to blazer before, but somehow this spring, thanks to help from my new friend Kim I am changing the way I utilize my blazers. In other words I am wearing them with everything! They do so much more than help with a morning/evening chill; blazers provide opportunities to add color and give definition and structure that says professional and pulled together. Pair a blazer with your jeans or a soft dress for a relaxed and casual look, or with a slim black or neutral pant for work. Any and all combinations are divine!

The amazing blazer = the amazing you!

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