When it comes to winter dressing, apply a second coat

IMGP9752IMGP9756I think it will be a snowy winter. Typically, as temps start to dip, we put on our warmest, bulkiest jacket/coat, leaving us feeling a little like the Michelin Man. There is another alternative and new fashion trend: applying a second coat. Here is how it works – start with a fitted jacket first and then add a second, heavier jacket on top. I have seen a moto (motorcycle jacket) worn under a fuller peacoat work really well. It’s a new way of layering and working with proportion and at the same time, bundling up without looking too bulky. Continue reading

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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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Shop your closet first …

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I want to put on the clothes and let them do their job … you shouldn’t have to work too hard for clothes.” Kim, fashion stylist

How well do you know your clothes? When was the last time you checked what was in your closet? I thought I knew my clothes and I thought I knew what was in my closet. I am often telling people to shop their closets first before heading to the store to make a new purchase. But what did I really know about my own closet? It turns out, not as much as I thought, and today was the moment when I put my money where my mouth is! My new friend, Kim, a professional stylist with Style for Hire, a company co-founded by Stacy London and Cindy McLaughlin, came to my house where we spent a few hours editing my clothing and performing a closet audit.

I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. First, I worried about how I was dressed. Would Kim think I was dressed appropriately for a closet audit? What is appropriate anyway? (in turns out that it didn’t matter because I was dressing and undressing the entire time!) And what would happen if Kim removed clothing to which I was still attached? I had too many questions, but fortunately for me, Kim was delightful and warm and funny and kept the mood light, which really helped. What also helped was that she knew what she was doing. Here is what we did: we pulled out everything in my closet and Kim looked it over. And if it was a ‘no go’ I said a quick good bye and didn’t look back. If it was a ‘yes,’ I tried it on. But here is where the magic came … Kim showed me surprising and unexpected ways to wear my own clothes. She styled everything with a twist and by the end of my time with her I had new outfits and was seeing my clothing in a completely new light. It was exhausting and draining and uplifting and fulfilling and emotional at the same time. Kim took pictures too, so that I could recreate the looks on my own. Continue reading

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Tailor-made

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A good tailor is a fashion essential
Photo credit: Google Images

I need to find a good tailor. There is a basic fashion truth: the right color and a good fit cannot be overlooked. Even a beautiful outfit will miss the mark if it doesn’t fit you properly. When you find a good tailor, one with skill and expertise, you will have found a fashion partner for life! For a reasonable fee, a tailor’s attention to detail will give life to almost-right pieces and add confidence. Watch things like: the length of arm sleeves on shirts and jackets, the length of trousers and slacks, and a well-defined shoulder and waistline. These elements are critical when it comes to a good fit and proper proportion. I notice that when we feel a little heavier, we tend to choose clothes one-size up from our regular size. This is a mistake because the clothing makes us look larger than we actually are. A fitted look is much more slimming.

I am off to find a good tailor. Do you have one in your arsenal?

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Proportion

One of the basics of dressing that is often overlooked is the concept of proportion. Basic, because it’s all about the fit. Where something fits – how long or how short – is fundamental and can alter your entire look for better or worse. For example, a t-shirt is one of my favorite summer go to’s because it is entirely flattering. But even a fabulous tee fails to do its job if worn improperly. Too long and it wrinkles in the middle and will emphasize your stomach or worse, your rear end. Too short and it doesn’t cover enough. Additionally, the height of your shoes are monumental when it comes to proportion control and it’s worth the effort to see how your heels stabilize and literally ground your outfit.

I think it’s best to trust your instincts when it comes to proportion. Feel balanced and you probably are. And if something doesn’t feel right, give it another look.

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