Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Sweat It!

While we may no longer be elbow deep in a recession, we are not out of the woods just yet. Many fashion magazines are still telling consumers to continue shopping their closets, and are featuring editorials chock full of merchandise from stores such as H&M or Forever 21. As an avid and long time subscriber to the high/low theory of style, this is not a foreign concept to me. Rather, I embrace the challenge of mixing lower-end pieces with discount designer goods to create my signature style. But while I openly accept the discount store as viable means of acquiring essential elements for my wardrobe, I still have yet to fully be on board the shop your closet bandwagon.

Attempting to analyze this hesitance, I can only attribute it to the fact that I do tend to wear the majority of what is hanging in my closet (well, what still fits), and I have been inventive enough to make the most of my options. So what can one do, you may ask.  Don't give up! A lot of people like the idea of doing a clothing swap with friends, but I went a step further: I went to my dad.

Quite simply: what is a staple of winter wardrobe wear? I happen to think it is the sweater dress.  It is cozy, comfy, and one easy step to looking effortlessly fashionable.  Very little outfit planning is required (let us not forget the lazy girl over here writing this blog). And if you think about it, a man's sweater is over-sized for us women, and therefore can serve as the perfect dress or tunic. Sure, proportion and size can be tricky: shoulder seams can droop, sleeves can drop, and the shape can be boxy.  But there is an easy solution: Roll up the sleeves, add a belt, and depending on the amount of extra fabric, you can have quite the avant-garde look! Trust me, when it comes to the versatility of the belt, I'm an expert.

So there you have it: when money issues are getting you down, and you are sure you have maximized all the possibilities that your closet is currently providing; just open your eyes and mind, and then open your father's closet! You will be surprised what an easy update an over-sized sweater can provide. Sometimes it is what is right in front of us that we never notice. Now that is what I call an exercise in an easy wardrobe makeover. I didn't even break a schvitz.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On St. Marks. Get Studs. Go.

To be perfectly honest, I wish I posted this a year ago, when it was most relevant to me. But I'm frequently lazy and forgetful, and now, perhaps this post may be past its prime. I prefer my blog to set standards of style rather than to follow them. If it didn’t, the title of "trendsetter" would be completely inaccurate, wouldn't it? I apologize for my tardy reporting and I hope you can forgive me for it.

If you buy magazines, read fashion blogs, walk down the street, or go in to a store, you are probably well aware that studs are huge this fall. Studded shoes, blazers, jewelry, belts; you name it, it has been punked. I would not be surprised if right this very moment, Sid and Nancy are rolling over in their graves. However, despite its fast track to fashion overkill, studs are a trend that I still totally dig. In fact, I've been into this 80s throwback since picking up the September 2008 issue of Elle magazine, and obsessing over Kate Lanphear and her masterful styling.

As strange as it sounds, it was a High School Musical cast spread that inspired me to attain the punk rock vibe. Being that Kate is consistently faithful to the origins of her look, the majority of the cuffs featured were available at Trash & Vaudeville, and at incredibly reasonable prices. Sure, I may have felt like a poseur walking into that store--as I am far from punk, rock, or goth--but there is nothing wrong with trying to reinvent your style, or at least giving it a swift kick in the ass. A little edge goes a long way.

While I am still drooling over and longing for two of Kate's signature bracelets: the Hermes Collier de Chien and the pyramid cuff I can only find similar in this Noir version, I have managed to stave off the desire to spend excessively by recreating her layered look with the Trash and Vaudeville cuffs ($10-$30) mixed with some Tiffany chains I've acquired over the years.

Remember: anyone can achieve their desired style with the right amount of determination and a little imagination. Moreover, it is worth every penny to mingle with the authentic punks to get the exact look that you want. Fashion is an experiment; not always aspirational or out of reach. In fact, sometimes it falls right into our price range. Now that deserves a gold medal in the Shopping Olympics.

Trash & Vaudeville is located at 4 St. Mark's Place (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sole Mates

I am just going to say it: I love my shoes.

As a single, 27 year old with no pets, or even plants; they are my children. And as any good parent, I take extremely good care of my babies: all 55 pairs of them (not including flip flops, sneakers, snow or rain boots of course!). And while shoes certainly are not children, they do require constant upkeep: the price you pay for a pair of shoes is not limited to the day you purchase them.

Sure, some people rely on the philosophy that you buy a pair of shoes and wear them until they are worn out, which is not a terrible thing to do if the shoes do not cost much to begin with. But, as I tend to find myself drawn towards more expensive footwear (at a discount of course!), I refuse to leave them to the elements unarmed. I spray all leather and suede with water repellent, I keep the "special" pairs confined to the office and locations to and from which I am taking a cab, and never hesitate to bring any pair to the doctor: otherwise known as the shoe repair.

No one should ever underestimate the importance of a good shoe guy. You wouldn't take your kids to any old dentist, ophthalmologist, or pediatrician, would you? Okay okay, I know, shoes are not children, but they are the closest things I have at the moment. And, like I will my kids, I spoil them. While many swear by the "Best Doctors" issue of New York magazine, it is "Best of New York" issue that is my bible, and I live by the gospel of Empire Shoe Repair. Located on Lexington Avenue between 71st and 72nd Streets, this tiny hole-in-the-wall takes all my old soles and restores them to their original luster.

Of course, the importance of a shoe repair goes far beyond what you may initially imagine. They do much better work than just putting on a new heel or a no-slip sole. They can stretch the toe box, fix nicks, recolor any part of the shoe, they even work on handbags and other leather goods. Ever have a belt that needs more holes? They do it for free. Need it to be shortened? Expect to spend around $10. Trust me, you do not know how good your shoes can look until they have been in the hands of a seasoned leather surgeon. Think of it as a face lift for your shoes, it shaves off years!

Everyone who knows me is aware that I have a weakness for incredible footwear. I tend to choose a new pair of designer shoes over many other things in life (food, activities, vacations). I am not condoning this behavior, as it is not especially helpful for my non existent savings account. But, if I am going to choose to invest my money in shoes, I do so wisely, and look for a good return: years of wear. To ensure my shoes look as new as the day I took them home, I must rely on "my shoe guy," as I so lovingly refer to him. He is my insurance, and I know my shoes are in good hands. Finding a good match for your soles is a much easier task than finding one for your soul. And while shoes can not call you on your birthday, they sure can take you out on the town. And trust me, you will look and feel fabulous.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trail Blazer

If you ask my parents, they would tell you it is pretty unbelievable that the girl who would not wear buttons as child is now addicted to blazers and jackets. I define addicted by the fact that in the last year alone, I have acquired five new blazers. It all started with a cute little bow jacket from Bloomingdale's. So adorable in fact, that even my mother bought one for herself. Of course, I had no idea what a slippery slope this purchase was to become.

I wore the jacket with everything - t-shirts and leggings, tank tops and skirts. It dressed up and preppied-out my most simple of outfits. It was a revelation: jackets were my new accessory. I could change any look just by putting one on. I was starting to slide down the slope, and it was a going to be long ride until I reached the bottom.

My next purchase of the year may be considered my most versatile and promising. While taking one of my weekly strolls around the neighborhood, I could not help but notice a half off sale sign in the window of an Upper East Side thrift store. A sucker for a good deal, I was compelled to venture inside. As I flipped through the rack of blazers, I came upon the perfect menswear jacket. In all honestly, I think in once belonged to a boy (not much shape in the waist area), but it fit perfectly. It was black with gold buttons, vintage Aquascutum, and only $20.

Once I started wearing my new blazer, I was even more in love with the idea of how it gave new twists to all my old clothes. Once a girl searching for the ideal over-sized cardigan (which, by the way, I purchased in the men's department at Daffy's), I was now the girl searching for even more perfect jackets and blazers.

After much magazine reading, blog surfing, and television watching, I decided I wanted a tuxedo jacket to add to my collection. I tried thrift stores, department stores, and discount stores, but found just what I wanted at Express. It was tuxedo style, long, had a fabulous leopard print lining, and was magically on sale. It dresses up my American Apparel t-shirts, and looks great with leggings and sky high heels. I love to cuff the sleeves, and pile on the punk rock accessories.

You would think by this time that my collection would have been complete. I had three new jackets, in addition to the four blazers I already had in my closet. Of course, if you know me and my tendency to shop too much, you would know that when it comes to my collections, complete is a word I cannot seem to grasp the definition of.

During my post X-Mas shopping, after I had already resolved to stop the madness and start saving, I spotted a wonderful, Balenciaga inspired blazer by Theory. It was completely Gossip Girl, Upper East Side fabulous, and I had to have it. It also was going to be about 75% off the original price. It is shorter, has the perfect stretch, white accents, and looks adorable even with jeans.

My final purchase was a month or so ago, and even in the midst of my no shopping resolution, was only $48 and almost 90% off the original price. It was one of those "I can't NOT buy it" situations, and I do not regret it. I think for a final item, it was the best way to go. It is sparkly, cropped, 3/4 sleeves and adds cocktail party panache to anything it touches. In a word: Love.

So there you have it: a year's worth of new jackets. Now, you might say that I spent a lot of money on blazers alone in 5 month period (yes, 5 jackets in 5 months, I know I know), but I like to think of it as an investment. Blazers and jackets are like cardigans, they can be mix and matched with any dress or shirt, jeans, dress pants, skirts, or leggings. I have managed to dress up many a t-shirt and leggings for work, or tank tops and jeans for a night out. I can be preppy, funky, classic, and even warmer, just by throwing on a different blazer.

The best part is: you don't have to spend a lot to get a great jacket. My purchases have ranged from $20-$100 and while they were either on sale or with a work discount, if you have a little patience and time to search, you too can get the right piece for a great price. It is all about the hunt, and I can definitely lead you to the right path.