Monday, 28 May 2012

Unintentional Matches

Unintended Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Matching

NICE                   NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY            NEED          NEW

NO THANKS: There was a time, when my mother went shopping for shoes and deliberately planned to also buy a matching handbag. The saying, "If the shoe fits, buy the matching handbag . . . (Unknown Author),  was her mantra. She told me of specialty shoe shops which displayed matching handbags and heels and for my mama, buying a pair of shoes meant buying a handbag - the two went together - you never came home with just one. We don't do that anymore. In fact, we abhor being too "matchy-matchy". 

In an April, 2011 post by Liz Jones from the UK Why French Ladies Never Match Their Shoes and Handbags , Jones refers to Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange. In her post she illustrates the very fashionable former model with a black croc-style handbag (de la Fressange advises to eliminate the croc-stamp from your handbag wardrobe) and black flats. Looks like a match to me, a colour match at the very least. The photo therefore contradicts two fashion guidelines made in de la Fressange's book. I would like to assert here that for the most part "matching" takes place unintentionally.

When one has fallen into a particular shopping style and clothing style, our favourite colours manifest into a wardrobe that quite unintentionally goes together. In the two cases presented in this post, there was no intent on deliberately matching bags and shoes, and for the most part they don't match exactly; it just happened! 

Here's a good example of Joelle Aidan's unintentional match. The bag is a Tod's "D bag" bought at Holt Renfrew (Calgary) in December 2011 during their winter clearance sale at 40% off. (I might add that even at 40% off the Tod's bag will run you around $1250.00 (Cdn).) Joelle adds, "I do have to say that I really love that bag.  I have found that the color with better quality leather has such a richness and depth, you just can't find that in lesser quality bags.  I have even had men compliment me on that bag."

The ballet flats are Tory Burch "Eddie ballet flat"  bought at the Tory Burch store in San Francisco, September 2011. Officially this does not constitute a match because the leathers are different, one patent, one smooth, but it does make a lovely coincidence.

I have experienced the unintentional match with the Ralph Lauren sale loafers and my Lancel bag. The Premier Flirt Lancel handbag was purchased in Paris in September, 2011 and the Ralph Lauren traditional loafers were purchased at The Bay in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at 70% off during an end-of-winter clearance (less than $35.00 Cdn). The bag has a croc-finish and the loafers are patent in the same tone, so again, not quite but NICE just the same. The Ralph Lauren loafers were purchased because of the price with no mind given to colour. I received the bag as a gift but it was a reciprocal gifting situation for a special occasion - I gave my husband a piece of art and he gave me a Lancel Premier Flirt bag and wallet. Obviously the "match" was unplanned.

In a very NOTE-WORTHY kind of way, it can be concluded that matching has become approximate and not so intentional.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Heels for Formal Attire

Formal Choices: Shoes

Closet Content Analysis: Shoes for Formal Attire

NICE                   NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY            NEED          NEW

Formal occasions call for a particular formality in shoes. What shoe should one wear? I say heels, no matter how tall you are; however there are lovely choices in a lower princess heel. I think it is quite fine to tower over those shorter than you, male or female, and I encourage that even though I am vertically challenged.

Nude sling-back peep toe Jimmy Choos, purchased May, 2011.
NICE: As long as the nude peep toe sling back is still in style, it can be worn with anything formal, no matter the colour. If it is patent leather, all the better. The shine adds to the glitz. These Jimmy Choos were purchased in May of 2011 and I still think they look NICE. 

Black Accessoire pump photo taken on my balcony window.

NICE 2: The black alternative, to my Jimmy Choos, are these sling back black Accessoire pumps that I bought in Romans, France in August of 2010. The strap and sides are suede and the main upper front is patent.

NO THANKS: I was at a Grade 12 graduation dinner about nine years ago and a spectacle that my husband noted initially, not me this time, was the shoes of one of the "dignitaries". She was a superintendent of the school district and was wearing a not-so-special outfit, certainly not evening or cocktail wear, and the shoes were . . . yes, just like the photo of the little girl's pink crocs . . . plastic clogs; I cannot remember the colour. I am not kidding. I couldn't believe it.
Pink crocs from a photo taken of a little girl on a bus in Berlin several years ago.
So here is this woman, making six figures and she's wearing plastic clogs to the dinner and exercises for a graduating class in a school district she represents. What was she thinking? (Perhaps someone could comment on this - what is a person thinking when they wear plastic clogs to a formal event?) 

Strappy silver sandals, around seven years old, but still wearable.
NOTE-WORTHY: But of course, a strappy sandal in any one of the metallics is always NICE and therefore NOTE-WORTHY. The strappy silver heels are about seven years old, but in fact, I believe they are still wearable to a formal event in 2012. However this photo illustrates the problem with too high of a heel. Your foot slips forward, leaving a gap at the back of the heel, and then the toes overextend the sole, as they have for this young woman.

Black beaded mules with a moderate heel, purchased in Spain a decade ago.

NEED: I need a pair similar to these black not-too-high-heeled mules. I have had this pair of black beaded heeled mules for a while now. I bought them in Spain back in 2003 - almost a decade ago. To me, they rise a little to high in the front, but I still wore them often. I think that they look NICE with an LBD but dancing is difficult. And as you see, by the worn out toe, they have seen their day - it's time to retire them. 

NEW: Nothing new, as long as I have my Jimmy Choos; I'm good to go to any formal event.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Degrees of Dress Formality

Formal Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Formal Attire

NICE                   NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY            NEED          NEW 

'Tis the season for proms, Grade 12 graduations, weddings (for mothers of the brides and grooms, guests, even bridesmaids), retirement parties and a multitude of other spring and summer "dress-up" occasions. This particular post will center on dressing for the more formal event.

It seems that whenever I sit down to write a post, I need to define the main concept before I begin to write. In this case, what is formal? Without taking the time to define fully, I immediately think gowns or "something special" cocktail length dresses; however . . . 

I have been to events where the invitation read black tie and there were women in "suits" that one would wear to work in an administrative or legal capacity. So is black tie the same as formal? I would say yes. However it is the man who has to be careful in this case; but for a woman, depending where you are, black tie may suggest only long gowns. Every city and region in every country in the world has their interpretation of black tie and formal and what is acceptable or unacceptable. In Canada, generally speaking, I find it just doesn't matter; there will always be those who will pay it no mind. Still the under-dressed patrons are never really inappropriately dressed and so are accepted without question. Never have I seen anyone made feel as if they were out of place. In fact, the ones who were dressed the part, were down-playing their own dress in order to make the under-dressed person feel comfortable. Now I must qualify what I just wrote - I have never been to a black tie event in say, Toronto or some government event in Ottawa, so I may be misinforming you.

On the other hand, a Canadian woman who was traveling "on business" related her discomfort with some of the comments made because she did not have the "appropriate long evening gown". Perhaps she was too sensitive. She appeared at the formal event in a cocktail length (just a touch below the knee) LBD, with fashionable jewelry (costume jewelry) to spice it up a notch. I have given that advice: the LBD, the perfect travel wardrobe go-to-dinner, the theatre or corporate event dress. She managed the evening but said that she would know better when told to "bring something for a formal event" the next time she was traveling. Event planners and those sending out the invitations should never assume that everyone knows the "dress protocol" of the hosting city or region. Describing the "dress protocol" is necessary, especially for the out-of-towners.

There are many derivations of formal, "black tie, white tie, ultra-formal, creative black tie, formal" - anything else?

NICE: As I related in the opening paragraphs, formal is interpreted in different ways in different places. To me, this red gown has just enough bling and I can envision it draping beautifully on the body. 

NO THANKS 1: These dresses are for the prom. If the last time you wore frou-frou was at your prom or Grade 12 graduation, that probably should be the last time. 

NOTE-WORTHY Aside: There's something cute and quirky about a shorter cocktail length dress for the teenage "prom". And really this is a once in a lifetime dress.

ANOTHER NO THANKS:  If these two went shopping together, one appeared to have made a more conservative choice. The less conservative dress (Yikes!) is for later, much later than one's sweet innocent prom year. Oh . . . how naive I am.
A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence; serving its purpose without obstructing the view.
- Sophia Loren

NO THANKS 3: This one still has too much frou-frou all in one place for me. In my opinion ruffles, bling and floral patterns need to be separated. At the same time I write this (remember the scales - I'm a Libra), I have seen this dress on a 40 something woman and she looked fabulous. Mind, she's probably one of those women who looks fabulous in anything she wears.
Elegance is a question of personality, more than one's clothing.
- Jean-Paul Gaultier

There are other dresses with beautiful strategically placed single ruffles, with sparkle and bling and that drape lusciously on a body; find one and avoid too much frou-frou. 

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.
- Plato (428 BC - 348 BC)

NOTEWORTHY: My formal evening cocktail-length dress is in Canada as I write this so I don't have a photograph but as you see, I have written it in the singular. I only have one such recent dress. I bought it impulsively prior to a fund-raising gala. I had lost weight and was hopelessly determined to buy something elegant with a little bling and I did. I wore it twice, for the gala and then for the upcoming New Year celebration. Those businesses that rent gowns make so much practical sense. The problem is, for most of us in that particular situation, we never think of practicality.

Frank Lyman dress
NEW: I purchased this v-neck and back striped cocktail length dress just before I came to France. What? Why would I buy in Canada when I was going to France? It was all in the timing. We were invited out to dinner just two days after arriving and I needed, rather wanted, something new in the category of the LBD.

Update: May 31, 2012 - I bought this dress at the end of April, 2012 for full price and I found a photo dated 2009 of this dress on a Google Image search. Sigh. If the link under the photo does not work and you want to see the dress on a professional model just search for Frank Lyman dresses and hit Images - it will take some scrolling down but it's there. Another sigh.

Back to the post . . . of course you will decide upon your frou frou tolerance but one more question needs to be addressed. What shoe should one wear? . . . my segueway into the next post.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Way We Dress: What is Chic?

The Way We Dress: What is Chic? What is French Chic?

We, in parts of the world other than France, are led to believe, but of course, you dress to go to the boucherie (the butcher) or the boulangerie (the baker) or the grocers in France. This may in fact be true, more so in Paris than in the country. "Look chic no matter where you are . . . the postal carrier might see you"; I have heard a variety of substitutions to this version. Mind you, today in my part of France, the postal carrier was wearing shorts and a jean jacket. If he had any kind of apparel with postal insignia, I didn't see it. I only know he was the postal carrier because of the letters he handed my husband as we came out of our house; but I digress. Perhaps the most famous "be dressed" version comes from the book Almost French (2004) by Australian author, Sarah Turnbull when her French husband asked where she was going dressed "like that" in her "gymnastic pantaloons". When she informs him that she is just going to pick up some bread, his response is that, "it is not nice for the baker". Basically, you dress to show respect for anyone who will see you out and about. One can only imagine who might see you? You owe it to them.

Having said that, it is interesting to note that, in the first two weeks of my stay here in France, I have noted more casual dress than ever before.  First the postal carrier and then two other situations particularly - the bank and the civic office where I had to pay my habitation tax. In both situations blue jeans were being worn by the staff who dealt with me directly. (Don't even try to use the argument about designer blue jeans - trust me, these were not designer jeans.) Here in France, where chic was born, I felt better dressed than the office staff taking my money. At the very least they could dress well when taking my money for annual taxes when I only live here part-time. I think they owe it to me. (This is written "tongue in cheek" - translation: not to be taken seriously.)

Harriet Welty Rochefort distinguishes La Parisienne from all other French women, in her Letter From Paris, March, 2002. "She is, of course, part myth. You only have to ride the metro or take the bus in Paris to conclude that this mythical Parisienne is not to be found everywhere." I like Rochefort's analysis of La Parisienne from a foreigner's perspective.

To elaborate on Rochefort's observation, the following two photographs were taken in Paris at the end of September, 2011. Now I love Paris and I love France; after all I have chosen to live here for a portion of time each year. However, other than Rochefort (2002), lately I have been reading information by non-French writers that in some ways misrepresents chic by suggesting only French women have it and it is unattainable by others. The Paris citizens in the photographs do not look any more chic than anyone else in any other part of the world looks when doing ordinary day to day business. Saying that, notice there are no "gymnastic pantaloons" in either photo.

If "comfortable casual" (see the April post) is what the world believes is the general state of dress in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and if that same world believes that the French state of dress epitomizes chic, there are alternate examples that can be used to debate both situations. True, North Americans in general think nothing of scooting off to buy a few things at the grocery store dressed in their sweats (AKA "gymnastic pantaloons" in this post); but it is no different in the French town where I live six months of the year. It's true, they do not wear sweats, but it is not chic either.

So what is my opinion of chic? If I equate chic with being well-dressed, there are well-dressed and poorly dressed individuals all over the world. But one then could ask, So is chic simply to be well-dressed? That question suggests another post. 

Stereotypes, whether negative or positive, can always be debated.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Shirts, Blouses & Tops

Various Choices

Closet Content Analysis: Shirts, Blouses and Tops

NICE                   NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY            NEED          NEW

In addition to t-shirts, blouses and shirts provide variation in the wardrobe. You can get away with owning three pairs of pants in black, white and camel and one pair of jeans as long as you have a nice variety of tops.

Anne Fontaine blouse purchased in 2007 (I think?)
NICE 1: I purchased an Anne Fontaine blouse on sale in Paris a while ago when I was 25 pounds heavier but it still rates as the best NICE shirt/blouse I have ever owned. I once read that if you ever have the opportunity to own an Anne Fontaine tailored shirt, you will never be happy with the quality and craftsmanship of others.  Even though it was a fitted blouse on my rounder body, it complemented my work suits perfectly.

Anne Fontaine blouse, white with black piping, under Armani Collezioni black stripe on black traditional suit jacket.

NICE 2: A light blue striped button-down shirt is a perfect summer vacation shirt. It can be worn over a white tank top and it looks crisp and clean. This photo was from when I was heavier but I can still wear the same light blue stripe shirt opened as a cover over a tank top.

--> My thoughts of what would look acceptable on a rounder body were misguided; I bought this thing thinking since it wasn’t form-fitting, it would look good on me. I was wrong. I bought it and then never wore it. Now that I am a Size 6 and this blouse was bought when I was a Size 12, what was I thinking with the little cap sleeve?

NOTE-WORTHY: The shirt isn't so special but it certainly was functional. It was a fitted zippered white shirt with 3/4 length sleeves that I bought in Rome. The story behind its purchase is NOTE-WORTHY. It was a hot May day when I saw the white shirt in the shop window. I was studying in Rome and that involved being in the Vatican offices. The shirt was perfect to tolerate the heat of Italian days and be covered up enough to be respectful and respectable. When I attempted to ask if I could try the shirt on, the sales clerk adamantly said, what I interpreted to be, "No! It's not possible." I hesitated and then asked again. At which time she motioned to show her my underarms. Yes, they were shaven and "clean" so she let me try on the shirt. Or so that is my interpretation of what happened the day I bought this shirt in Rome. The shirt has now made its way into the "cotton rag" bin I keep for my woodworker friend.
NEW: This is as "orange" as I am going this season. The 3/4 length sleeve makes this top perfect for me. No matter the size, it is a becoming length in the sleeve and in the body. This 60s retro top in orange, starfish (dark beige), white and black was purchased at a Winners in Vancouver in early spring, late winter. I've noticed that cowl necklines seem to make their way into my closet on a regular basis. I have a navy dress, a dark purple long-sleeved top, an ivory sleeveless top, and now this with a cowl neck. Even my NO THANKS top had a modified cowl neckline.

Photo Credit: Anne Fontaine; Photo Source: Chemise-Chemisier
NEED: Every woman needs a crisp button-down white shirt. I understand that there is an Anne Fontaine shop in Bordeaux at 9 place des grands hommes. Bordeaux is only 45 minutes away from where I am living for the next six months so if the shirt I envision is there, I will be getting it. There are shops all over the world and you can download the Anne Fontaine catalogue to find out where.

Button-down Shirt Buying Tips:

Short of having your shirts tailored specifically for you (lucky if you live in or visit the Far East), for the double D girls, buy what fits through the bustline and then have a tailor/seamstress take in the shoulders and the body. If you find a well-made button down shirt on sale and then have it tailored, you will be happy for a very long time.

For the girls who are less so favoured, stay away from a shirt with darts, if you don't fill out the darts. It just looks plain goofy when two pointy darts are sticking out from a body that doesn't have sticking-out parts.

Under the White Shirt:

If you are in a conservative work situation or are a conservative dresser, wear a skin-tone bra under your white shirts and blouses. Sometimes the stark whiteness of a bra brightens the outline through the white of the shirt, leaving you just as exposed as if you were wearing black under your white shirt. Take a look in the mirror, and "when in doubt, don't". For the Indie-fashionistas, disregard anything I say about bras.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Brides Shopping for the Dress

Bridal Dress Choices 

Closet Content Analysis: 
Shopping for the Dress

 NICE      NO THANKS      NOTE-WORTHY         NEED          NEW 

Brides are shopping. Whether a year in advance of the wedding or 3 months or if it's next weekend, brides are shopping. After having done the something blue post, I asked a few brides for their shopping for dresses stories. Ten buying tips emerged from the stories and I have inserted them as the stories unfold for you on this post. There are more practical-minded brides out there than the reality TV shows indicate. This post is going to be a long one.

The market for wedding dresses is more often than not led by emotion and aspiration rather than rational decisions and financial constraints. 
 - Claire Birks

The Canadian brides featured here are not in Claire Birks' category of emotional and irrational brides. LK chose to spend her "wedding" money on a house; Christina's story represents the practical budget-minded bride who maintained her sanity and remained within her budget, and Marjorie Jean S was at first fun-seeking but then turned very serious when she saw "the one". As far as spending goes, Christina spent half what she originally set out to do; and even though, I was an only daughter who always got what she wanted, I knew what my parents could afford and knew enough to save up and buy my own dress.

Christina, a recent bride, wrote, "I had looked at some magazines and done some online style searching before hand and ended up trying on some of those exact styles in the first store we went to. However, I had a discouraging start; the style did not suit me and the one that did … well, the price tag dictated my decision. I do remember that I found a sleek, lace dress that fit me almost to a tee off the rack. The price tag was $1,200.00 (Cdn) and I remember being torn. It was definitely on my wish list, but I knew I wanted to see more because after all - I didn’t want lace, right?" 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 1: Do some research before but be flexible when shopping. Needless to say, every bride has perused magazines or the internet before shopping. What you see in the glossy magazine layouts may not suit you.

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 2: Stay true to yourself and to the clothing style you feel most comfortable in.

I, on the other hand, wanted Alençon lace with a small amount of beading; although I did not have any preconceived shopping notions because I never thought I would find, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the dresses I saw in the American bridal magazines. I was wrong about Winnipeg. I took my mother with me and when she saw "the dress" in the shop window, she asked, "What about that one?" It was the first dress I tried on and the one I bought; although I did visit other stores and tried on a few more, just to make sure. At this point in my life, I don't remember any of the others. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 3: Trust your mother.

See MJS's shoes on my Something Blue post.  Photo by Leslie Porter.
When Marjorie Jean S went shopping, she was "with (her) mom just to look and get a feel for dresses at Jenny's Bridal in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) with no intention on buying until I had seen a lot of dresses at various stores.  After browsing and then trying on some hideous dresses in the "as is" sample section just for fun (Yes, I was one of those girls that had to try on seafoam green and pink dresses for a laugh) we were on our way out when I spotted a gorgeous dress hanging on a dressing room door.  It had just come in and models were getting fitted for an upcoming bridal fashion show.  I tried it on and purchased it immediately.  It was the first (serious) dress I tried on and I have no regrets purchasing it.  It was an a-line with lace overlay and a sweetheart neckline with a shorter train." 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 4: As a past sales associate in a high end ladies wear shop (that's what it was called back in the day) I could see the fun-seekers coming. The "let's try on some dresses for fun" shopper is like the "boy who called wolf too many times". Careful where you go and how many times you do the "fun" venture, you'll be spotted in an instant and perhaps not served as well as you might be otherwise. Good for Marjorie Jean S that she saw "the one" and knew it. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 5: As the brides on this post knew, when you see it, you will know it. Don't second guess yourself.

Christina considers herself "a very practical, simple person" and as she walked into the bridal boutique she kept reminding herself about her $800.00 (Cdn) budget. As she remarks about shopping within her budget, "Not an easy thing to accomplish in a city setting like Ottawa (Ontario, Canada). So, on a Saturday afternoon I had two appointments booked . . . and I only took one girlfriend with me because I knew she’d be honest in her opinions." 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 6: Take only one good shopping partner, whether it be a friend, your mother, a bridesmaid, your matron of honour; the relationship does not matter but the honesty does. If you can help it, do not go shopping with all your bridesmaids to shop for your dress and theirs on the same day.

LK, a not-so-recent bride in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada told me about her 1975 wedding. "My future husband and I were on a major budget as we were poor students and chose to buy a house with the wedding money our parents gave us to put on the reception. To save money, I wore my mother's dress from 1945.  We got married in 1975 .  . . so I guess I went "vintage".  The dress was quite lovely and fit me perfectly. I just had to hem it a couple of inches and get a slip made for it."

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 7: You do not have to buy new at all. There are many alternatives to buying an expensive wedding dress. Mothers, aunts, friends would all be thrilled to lend their dresses. In larger centres, you can rent wedding gowns. If someone I knew asked me to lend them my wedding dress, I would be honoured and thrilled.

Back to Christina . . . "I must have tried on a dozen dresses. . . The lady who was helping me during my appointment could see that I was getting a little discouraged. It was a long day, but she noted the details that I did like about certain dresses I had tried on and was conscious of my budget. So she told me she had an idea and needed me to be open minded.  A few minutes later, she came out from the other side of the boutique holding a purple, iridescent prom dress and said, trust me. I didn’t ask any questions and followed her into the change room. Once I was zipped up and looked in the mirror I was sold. I ran out of the dressing room and immediately told my friend: This is the one! The lace dress from the first store was history." 

Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 8: Trust the bridal sales associate. Brides are probably the most difficult dress-buying customer on the planet and good sales associates know how to please the bride. This is particularly NOTE-WORTHY and worth repeating, "she noted the details that I did like about certain dresses I had tried on and was conscious of my budget."

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 9: Take a look in other departments besides bridal if you are roadblocked in the bridal department.

Christina's purple prom dress: what a difference a colour makes! Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.
Christina's dress in the apple tree her grandfather planted.
Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.

I was lucky enough to get Christina's mom's story about the dress. She writes, "Christina emailed me photos of her in a beautiful purple prom dress, to which I reacted, "Oh my!" Then I read the message that the dress was being ordered in ivory white, to which I responded that her dress should be "white", to which she responded, "not to worry because wedding dress ivory is a white shade, just not a bright white". We were in Ottawa at the time she had her final fitting at the bridal salon. Everything made total sense then. I realized bridal ivory is indeed white and it looked amazing on her skin tone."

A NICE & NOTE-WORTHY Aside: Christina's maternal grandfather died five months before her wedding to Matt. The photo is significant for her because it was her grandfather who planted the apple tree when Christina was little.

Other brides I spoke with were looking for something other than the "strapless" style, which has been so predominant in all the bridal shops over the past five years. For them, their selections may be fewer but nonetheless beautiful and they were able to find what they wanted.

Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.
You cannot see the detail on Carly Blake's dress (from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada) in this photo but I was enamoured when I saw it. Even though, strapless gowns have been most popular over the past five years, this discreet neckline still made the bride ravishing. Although not anything like Kate Middleton's gown, I had the same NICE! reaction to this one. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 10: If you can't find what you want, don't give up and don't settle for "good enough".

I'll let Christina have the last word, "I know that there are many beautiful dresses out there and I know that we all have different tastes, styles and budgets. It would have been so easy to spend thousands, but I stuck to my character and do not regret my decision. I wore the dress for one day and by the end of the night it was dirty and tattered and now hangs in a closet (still dirty and tattered)". 

This topic deserves another post. You can email me,, with your bridal gown buying story. Then there's also the "trash dress" stories. So much to write about . . .

Monday, 7 May 2012

What is "Comfortable casual"?

Appropriate Casual Choices

Closet Content Analysis: 
What is comfortable casual?
NICE             NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something.
- James Laver

I made reference to comfortable casual in my "appropriate choices for work" post and have received several emails asking what that term means. I have my interpretation but I wanted to know what others thought and so here are the responses given to that question (a statistically unreliable sample, by the way): 
  • Dumpy. No, maybe one step above dumpy. (for my French friends - je pense - disgracieux)
  • It's not a style - it is a wardrobe choice for a weekend when you will be cleaning your place, watching movies or playing online games and eating popcorn.
  • Jeans, yoga pants - LuluLemon.
  • Casual pants jeans, cords, khaki and and a crew neck something such as t-shirt, sweater.
  • Less than business casual
  • The same as business casual.
  • You don't mean smart casual, do you?
  • Inappropriate in most situations.
  • Exactly what it says casual clothes that are comfortable - no tight anything - and sneakers. 
  • Big and comfortable, nothing fitted or close to the body.
There was little consensus and the answers ranged wildly from dumpy to business casual. Relative to my experience, my first reaction was to concur with the following statement about the comfortable casual label: It's not a style - it is a wardrobe choice for a weekend . . . Because labels are open to interpretation, perhaps we should do what C. Z. Guest, American fashion icon, said and that is to dress appropriately for the occasion. Relative to appropriateness, if a business encourages t-shirts and jeans or sweats, or at the very least tolerates comfortable casual then it is what it is, acceptable and appropriate for that business.

Insofar as a definition goes, there is no formal meaning to the term unless a significant number of people use the terminology and are in agreement with a similar meaning.

Find your own uniform.
- Tom Wolfe, American writer and journalist who adopted the white suit as his uniform

Those in the fashion and media industries dress more fashionably than teachers, teachers dress more casually than they did twenty years ago, computer games developers wear blue jeans and t-shirts, therefore, what's all the fuss about dressing appropriately anyway?

No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit.
- Frederick G. Banting

NOTE-WORTHY ASIDE: I really don't care if Dr. Frederick Banting ever wore a dress suit. I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for his ideas and so I have great respect for what he said although he may have overstated that "no one has ever had an idea  . . ."

For the most part, I would guess that clients and bosses tolerate comfortable casual over provocative or too sexy. Now the question begs to be asked . . . what is provocative or too sexy? For a man this might be that his jeans are too tight and that the outline of his genitals are showing and for a woman her sweater is too tight and there's too much cleavage showing or the skirt is uncomfortably short. The answer may lie in perception and the comfort level of the person with whom someone is working or doing business. So if a client is uncomfortable with comfortable casual or provocative, then he or she has to decide whether clothing matters as much as the quality of work; given that these two, quality of work and clothing choices have nothing to do with each other.

The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.
- Mark Twain

It is a conundrum. I suppose if you are uncomfortable with the dress of the employees in the company you are doing business with or with your colleagues, then it is incumbent upon you to inform administration. I have to admit when I have gone into a Canadian bank on casual Fridays in the summer and the tellers are in t-shirts and shorts, I'm a bit taken aback; although I've still done business with the bank. And it seems that every bank has its own interpretation of casual Fridays. If I feel that strongly about something, I should let them know and I haven't, so it obviously did not bother me that much.

Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will, in general, become of no more value than their dress.
-William Hazlitt (1819 in On the Clerical Character)

If you find this post imprecise, I blame my imprecise opinions on the fact that I am a Libra. I find it easy to acknowledge differing points of view and am a decent debater because I can assume a point of view that is opposite what I am thinking at any given time. Some might call it "sitting on the fence"; I just call it wanting balance, being a Libra.

I appreciate your emails but shared comments bring forth more interesting interaction.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Earrings: Favourites, Re-Constructions and Passé

Decorative Choices

Look at the earrings I've found . . . 
- from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) 

A Closet Content Analysis: Earrings

NICE             NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

I think the accessories look very modern and very exciting. These big earrings, these big hoops. I think the girls are sort of falling in love with...
- Ralph Lauren

Earrings are the most worn adornments, necklaces are second and bracelets come in third. That analysis is certainly logical and confirms my own number one jewelry wearing choice; although for me bracelets come in second and necklaces third.

For the spring and summer of 2012, it appears as if statement earrings are taking over statement necklaces in popularity. The problem there is weight, especially if you prefer precious metals and stones to faux. Many of us know a person or two who has ripped through the bottom of the ear owing to weighing down and overextending their pierced lobes. Old style clip-ons might be a safer choice when wearing weighty earrings but even then the clip spring has to be sturdy enough to manage the weight. I think I'll stick to the hoops with a statement necklace. 

Black rhinestone hoops: just enough bling to "pop" something black
NICE: Hoops of moderate to large circumference are my best NICE in the earring category. I have gold, silver, and be-jeweled (albeit none that are precious). I've lost my share of expensive earrings, some that were gifts, over the years and have the singletons left to prove it. 

Five strand chain drop earrings: re-makes from old button clip-ons

NOTE-WORTHY RE-CREATIONS: In the past, I have often wondered why women saved singleton earrings. I suppose there's always the hope that the lost one will be found or perhaps that somehow one might find another exact same pair and have a spare.

From that "wondering why" I began re-creating "new" pieces from the bits and baubles I had. While I was in Victoria, Canada, a friend asked me to remake a pair of beaded button clip-on earrings from the sixties (on the left). I salvaged the chain from other bits she had and created a pair of five chain drop pierced earrings using the beads (only the ear hooks were new). For those who like vintage, you are probably cringing; but now for her, those never-worn button earrings have become wearable. Of course, I would think this is a fabulous idea. 

Cuban black & burnished gold chain link drop with orange ceramic bead.

NOTE-WORTHY NEW-CREATIONS: The advantage of being a fashion jewelry maker is that I can make trendy pairs for the cost of materials. This pair of over-size links with an orange ceramic do-nut bead complement an orange top I bought in Vancouver.

Chain drop earrings featuring black Cuban and burnished gold oval links.

I have been inspired by David Yurman's chain link graduated drop earrings and have made a variety based on this inspiration using round, oval, and cuban/curve link chains. 

5 chain drop feather earrings, September, 2011

NO THANKS: How quickly a fad comes and goes. In the spring and summer of 2011, feather earrings were all the rage. I was fortunate enough to have a brother-in-law who ties flies (for fly fishing hooks). He had a collection of beautiful feathers and we made an arrangement. He got his cut, and by Christmas 2011 I had sold or given away all the feather earrings I made and now it's done. I only wore feather earrings two or three times. This  pair featuring a 5 strand drop of different lengths with the feathers touching the tops of my shoulders was one of my favourite pairs. 

NEED: I NEED to get a pair of 18 karat gold hoops fixed. The ear wire broke off one of the hoops and I don't have 18 karat findings. They have been sitting broken for a good while. What a waste. There's a piece of advice from this experience - if they can be fixed, fix them and wear them, for goodness sake. 

NEW: I'll update this post if I buy a pair of earrings at the market in Ste. Foy Le Grande (45 minutes from Bordeaux by motorway) this Saturday. I have never been here in May and so I am looking forward to see if the same vendors are here in the spring as in July and August. I know one thing for sure there are not as many British tourists here now as there are in the summer.  

Love the introductory line from an email I received, celebrating "national girlfriend and sister's week": I don't want to brag or make anyone jealous or anything, but I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school.