Fashion Fridays: The Basics, Feel

Welcome back to part 2 in our Fashion Fridays Basics series.  Last week we covered the ever critical “fit.” Today, we cover “feel,” or the quality of the clothes.

Most of us out there have budgetary constraints that prohibit us from buying high end custom clothing.  Or we want to do something more philanthropic with what we have rather than buy blouses that cost $300.

At the same time, if you have a career, and aren’t about to retire, you likely still want to present yourself as polished, confident and successful.

Quality clothes help achieve that goal.

However, there’s far more poorly made options on the market than the alternative.

This is another place where on-line shopping kills us.  I mentioned last week, if you are not willing to return the clothes (to the store or in the mail), then stop on-line shopping.  Because you end up with ill-fitting, poorly constructed outfits simply because you fail to return what doesn’t work well.  (At least, that’s how it works for me!)

What are things to look for to distinguish between well and cheaply made?

1.  Embellishments.  An embellished blouse or handbag can quickly make an outfit look high end or wretched depending on the quality of the material used.  This covers lace, sequins, buttons, snaps, zippers, buckles, really anything which shows.

I know you, looking at these two pictures, can tell me which item cost more.  So can everyone else who notices what you’re wearing or carrying.

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{The first one is a designer bag from Nordstrom’s – real leather and hand stitched with high end embellishments.  The second is a $40 bag from Charming Charlie’s – poor construction and metals that will turn quickly, already looking dinghy.}

2.  Stitching.  This is one I often forget, but look at the stitching on an item of clothing.  How is it sewn?  How does the material come together?  Is the thread frayed or the fabric uneven?

It’s hard to depict in photographs but easy enough to spot when hems are fraying or lose, zippers lay flat or bulge, and pleats/shoulder seams/layers fall well or poorly on your body.

3.  Fabric/Material.  We most often think of the fabric when we think of quality and it is the most critical component in our clothes.  There are some on trend items where this matters less, take for example an inexpensive scarf in a “hot” pattern, but some clothing items should warrant a higher price tag and beautiful fabric.  Think of your go-to interview or presentation suit, your regularly used trousers, white button down, black blazer and cocktail dress.  This not only goes for the feel of the material, but the color.  You can tell when the dye used renders a beautiful or harsh shade.

So how about you?  What are your tests for finding quality pieces?  What is your go to shopping spot for well made items at less than a budget breaking cost?

And join us next week as we explore what our style brings to the fashion basics!

Fashion Fridays: The Basics, Fit

I am having the darndest time this spring writing.  I write all these posts in my head, but when it comes time to put them down on the blog with links and formatting, well, I just go to bed instead.

So sorry ladies.

Generally, when I’m stuck, a series helps.  Today, I’m launching a four part Fashion Friday series on The Fashion Basics!  I am so excited.  It will also really help me as I need to edit what’s in my closet.  I’ll photograph it soon (one of my friends has offered to come help), but having the basics in mind will guide you both as you shop and as you pair down your closet.

Here they are, the Four Fs: Fit, Feel, Fresh and Fad.  Fit may be the most obvious, yet overlooked, basic – your clothes should fit you well.  Feel has to do with the quality of the clothes that you buy with “quality over quantity” as its cornerstone.  Fresh relates to how you bring a unique and distinct perspective to fashion.  And fad, the logical counterpoint to fresh, addresses when not to embrace a trend just because it’s considered fashionable.

Today we start with the most basic element:  FIT.

Your clothes should fit you.

This does not mean they are capable of being zipped or buttoned.

This does not mean that the numbers on the tag comport with the number you carry around in your head as “your size.”

Start with your undergarments.  Your body changes shapes and sizes and so should your underwear and bra.  Your daily clothes won’t hang well unless you start from a good base.  Go get fitted for a bra.  Buy panties in three sizes to see what fits.  In addition to having “pretty” undergarments for your spouse, invest in a few basic pieces which help clothes lay smoothly like t-shirt bras and underwear with anti-ride “tape” at the bottom.  You’ll immediately see a difference.

Next, experiment with different brands.  I am a notorious on-line shopper because time is short, but on-line shopping has contributed to mass ill-fitting clothes.  You think, oh, this is okay, it will work, because you don’t want to mess with returning it, but you wouldn’t have settled on it in store.

Go to a department store.  Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s, whatever you have in your area, and try clothes on.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a range of sizes.  Take a size smaller and larger size in addition to the one you normally wear to the fitting room.  You often won’t realize something is too big or too small until you see the alterative.  Sit down in it.  Move in it.

Does it cause pinch points?  Is the dress too short?  Does the shirt gap?  Can you see your panty line?  Does the fabric pull or balloon?  Look at belts, buttons, snaps, zips, and see how they hang and where they fall.  Do the trousers fall above your ankle or drag on the ground when you pair them with your shoes?  Do all blazer buttons button?  Where do the sleeves fall – too high or low?

If you have some atypical features like a super narrow waist or short arms, then find a good tailor.  Take recommendations from friends and neighbors.  Take a piece in and see if he does a good job.  If not, try the next one.  Tailoring is an inexpensive way to make sure your professional wardrobe looks custom.

Here’s some great examples of perfect fit in action:

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Experiment!  Have fun!  And find something you feel beautiful AND comfortable in.  Hope to see you next week.

Fashion Fridays: When It Doesn’t Matter

I love fashion.

I love talking to so many of you and helping solve fashion conundrums.

I also know I’ve been in and out here on Fashion Fridays this past month because of travel, but I’m coming back with a bunch of new ideas including a beginner series.

HOWEVER…

I’m also finding places and times not to worry one lick about fashion. 

When it comes to career, I believe that dressing professionally and smartly gives you an edge.

When it comes to date night with your love, I believe it’s important to show your man you love him enough to make an effort.

But sometimes we need to unplug from all the muss and fuss.

Sometimes we need to say it’s not important to impress anyone.

That was a lesson I learned this weekend.

We spent the weekend, mostly, poolside, and then had group dinners in the evening with the board and their families.  I had a fun conversation with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages as our daughters played.  As we got ready to head back to our rooms to get ready, conversation turned to attire.  I found myself saying, I’m not even washing my hair – I’m hopping in the shower, throwing my hair in a ponytail, and throwing on shorts.  I’m not trying to impress anyone. 

Can we discuss how liberating that statement is?

All too often, we’re really just trying to impress each other.

Maybe we could call a time out?  Especially on Saturdays?  A group of women at brunch is some of the fiercest fashion and make up I have ever experienced.  That doesn’t have anything to do with our job or our relationship.  The brunch fashion race is just about keeping up.

Now, I’m human.  And I was definitely one of the frumpiest looking chicks at dinner this weekend.  And I noticed.  Maybe even felt a little twinge of insecurity.  But then the kids bounded up with Mother’s Day art and messy kisses, and I remembered what really mattered.  Remembered my lack of make up or accessories never registered with these prizes.

These are the looks that don’t make it into Fashion Friday posts: NICU feedings and early morning baseball games and ponytailed late nights with friends and playing on the farm and laughing with coffee stains.

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bball4  real2 real1 real

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Now I’m always going to love me some fashion.  I believe it serves a very real professional purpose.  But let’s not let it hold us hostage.  Let’s not be scared of looking real and messy and going au naturale (this summer especially!) on occasion too.

Fashion Fridays: Steal this Look

I know I’m a little late today, but I’m finally back into town and have a freshly inspired Steal This Look!

The woman sporting my sophisticated inspiration was one of the leaders of the group I had meetings with, and boy did she carry herself like she led {I couldn’t snap a picture so you’re going to have to work with me}. 

Think mid-50s executive, striking short blonde bob, simple black sheath, bone-colored ribbed long sweater over sheath, stockings, high bone-colored patent heels, thick gold unadorned ring, and large gold pendant necklace hanging from a neutral beaded strand. 

She looked rich.  Elegant. Sophisticated.  Empowered.  And she carried every ounce of her power as she strode into the room.  Y’all, sometimes attitude is what takes the outfit over the top. 

But as I studied each of her pieces, none individually looked particularly expensive, so I think you could easily recreate this simple, sophisticated look on a budget. 

Here are my recommendations. 

1.  Base sheath: This simple sheath from the Limited is on sale for $64 and you could purchase it in navy or black for this ensemble.

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2.  Ribbed sweater jacket: I knew the ribbed cardigan would be the hardest item to find, particularly during the spring, and it was.  This will give you a flavor but ideally you’d have one in a light neutral with some ribbing and long enough to approach the hem of your sheath.

This creamy long number is stunning, but even on sale at Nordstrom’s it’s pricey.

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This is my favorite style, but the fabric is too casual and I wish it was longer.

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The ribbing on this sweater from Last Call is spot on, but it only comes in this charcoal color which is too dark to polish the look.

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3.  Pumps:  Shoes are always the easiest, and if you are willing to sport the patent look, this is the perfect number from DSW.

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4.  Accessories: Finally, for the necklace to top it all off, here’s a high end and low end price option. 

For a piece on the high-end, this chunky gold pendant from Nordstrom works perfectly.

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For $50 or less you can go simple or a little bolder (no beads v. beads!):

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So tell me, what are you sporting these days??  I’ve missed you and ready for new challenges!

Fashion Fridays: And the Gala Winner Is…

Y’all were so AWESOME to vote on all the gala dresses I suggested last time.  I got seriously candid feedback in the form of comments, Facebook remarks, emails, recommended links, etc.

It’s like having hundreds of sisters weigh in on what I should wear.  (This was great in this case – maybe not so great if I’d been trying to settle on a wedding dress.)

So……I did try on a couple of the ones I wrote about.  Plus numerous other dresses at Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s, and then I ordered more on line.

I didn’t like anything.

Out of sheer desperation, I wandered into a mall and walked by a Cache.  I don’t shop there but apparently they’re going out of business and they had mark downs!  At the back, were evening gowns.

I tried one wacky dress on because it caught my eye.  I left the store without buying it but thought about it for a whole week.  A floor length pleated blouson navy dress with oversized gold leaves was not what I had in mind’s eye.  But it felt so unique and it looked so lovely.

So a week later, I went back, and they STILL had my size and another 15% off.  A $300 dress I got for the bargain prize of $126!  Score.

The gala was tonight and was a lot of fun despite the fact that I was exhausted (I flew in straight from Montana, had a four hour flight delay in Denver, landed to rush hour thunderstorms, but we still made it to the event before 8  – whew!).  I went for Grecian goddess styling with long lean gold dangling earrings, hair pulled back (ponytail still damp from shower), smoky eyes, and gold strappy heeled sandals.  It wasn’t quite as formal of an event as I originally thought, so the beaded dresses would have been too much.  Here it is, and my cute date (thanks for your help!):

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