Archive for March, 2005

Ready Made Outfit: Preppy Rockstar | Men’s Edition

As promised, I present to you the Style Intelligence Report’s first foray into the Wide World of Men’s Fashion.

I bring to you the look of the season for men that’s nearest and dearest to my heart: the Preppy Rockstar.

The foundation of the look consists of a good quality jean and a casual-to semiformal top…or two. Pictured are American Eagle’s Eagle Stripe Pique Polo ($29.50), and Armani Exchange’s Boot Cut Jean ($105).

Stripe Pique Polo
Eagle Stripe Pique Polo ($29.50)
Photo Courtesy of American Eagle Outfitters.

Boot Cut Jean
Boot Cut Jean ($105).
Photo Courtesy of Armani Exchange.

Another, perhaps more sophisticated, shirt possibility is a woven, button-up shirt that has some extra style detailing. One of my current favorites: Kenneth Cole’s "Pieced and Love," ($110) shown below. The ribbon detailing provides an interesting counterpoint to the otherwise standard button-up shirt.

Ribbon-detailed Button-Up Shirt ($110).
Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cole.

To this basic foundation, add your jacket of choice. Two suggestions:

1. A Blazer: To mix things up a bit, try one in an unusual fabric. The blazer pictured below ($89 at Urban Outfitters), for example, is made of Velvet.

Velvet Blazer
Signature Blazer ($89)
Photo courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

2. A Biker or Motocross Jacket: Very attractive on a wide variety of body types. The Cotton Biker Jacket pictured below goes for $145 at Armani Exchange.

Cotton Biker Jacket
Cotton Biker Jacket ($149)
Photo courtesy of Armani Exchange.

All you have to do is add sunglasses and some attitude, and you’ll be ready to go!

Add comment March 31st, 2005

Ready Made Outfit: Out on the Town

Ditch your Sevens and obligatory chiffon-y/glittery/flowy and/or drapey tops. It’s time for a new look for casual evenings Out on the Town.

Texture is the key to transforming this outfit from basic to sophisticated.

Basic Formula = Layered Knits + Full Skirt

Kenneth Cole Layered Tanks
Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cole.

Try layered tanks in interesting knit textures, such as the gauzy example above ($119) from Kenneth Cole. Add in a skirt in a basic shape (A-line, Full, Straight, etc) in a quirky print or interesting texture. The example below from Lux ($49, Urban Outfitters) features smocking, topstitching, and a visually interesting print.

Lux Smocked Batik Skirt
Photo Courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

I encourage you to play around with this look. Do email with your variations!

Coming soon to a blog near you: Men’s Fashion, in the form of another edition of “Adapt this Look.” Stay tuned!

Add comment March 30th, 2005

Style Q&A: Showing your true colors

Q: I’m a classic dresser with pretty conservative tastes, but I want to move my wardrobe into more colorful territory. Help please!

A: Considering the wide range of color options out in the marketplace right now, there’s no better time to start adding color to your wardrobe. I see three color combinations as both flattering and fashion-forward this season. What’s more, they’re relatively easy to wear without being overwhelming.

  • Blue + Green: The nautical theme on the runways has manifested itself again—this time in color form. But don’t think of the high seas when choosing your ocean-inspired colors. Instead, imagine yourself on a beautiful tropical island, complete with crystal clear skies and a richly hued seascape. Try sky blue and sea green, as well as sky blue and lime green. Blue and green never looked so fresh.
Blue and Green at Kenneth Cole
“The Bottom Line” Silk Shirt ($79) and “That’s a Wrap” Silk Skirt ($99), both at Kenneth Cole.

  • White + ???: While the green and white combo was tennis inspired for Summer 04, it’s still around this year in more sophisticated permutations. Though the sporty outfits were definitely cute, I’m glad green and white have moved beyond the tennis court. Judging from retail store displays, green and white is here to stay for Spring/Summer 05—look for the color combination in stripe and colorblocking forms. Also hot: turquoise and white, and light blue and white. My prediction: as much as I love green and white, sky blue and white will dominate over the next two seasons.

Theory: Striped Shirt ($165), White Tank $45, Flared Pants, $195.
Find them at Neiman Marcus.

  • Pink + Grey: Pink has traditionally been paired with brown, a pretty color combination (especially when pairing a dusty rose pink with a chocolate brown) that got kind of tired by last autumn. The new It Pairing for pink? Move over brown, and make room for grey! I love a light heather grey with pretty much any pink hue, light or dark. FYI—My pile of pink tops from last summer pair especially well with the Sasha Shrunken Cable Cardigan from the “Stylish Sales” post. Try pairing that sweater with the camisole below for a fun spring look!
Pink at Guess
Eva Lace Trim Cami ($44) at Guess.

And for even more daring color combinations, feel free to try:

  • Orange + Yellow
  • Green + Yellow
  • Orange + Pink

Though I started this blog only last week, I already started to receive style questions by email. Thanks for being proactive—I applaud you! I plan to write a Style Q&A post each week—so feel free to email more questions to Hope to hear from You!

2 comments March 29th, 2005

What are we investing in?

Maybe it’s that I’m attending a finance class this week, but I’ve been doing some thinking about fashion and investing—specifically, the idea of investing in one’s wardrobe.

I’ve seen too many articles about buying Investment Pieces, such as the Hermes Birkin or Kelly bag. In these articles, overly simple cost per wear (CPW) calculations inevitably ensue:

If you wear your leather Birkin 250 times per year for 5 years, you can divide the initial $6500 cost and get a CPW of [$6500 / (250 x 5)] = $5.20.

At $5.20 per wear, the Birkin purchase appears to be comparable to the purchase of a cheap party bag you can get at Ross for $10.99 and wear only once or twice before it starts showing wear and tear. Indeed, that $10.99 bag, worn twice, earns you a CPW of $5.49—twenty nine cents higher than that of the Birkin.

Is it fair to say that the Birkin is a better value, using this simplistic calculation? I say, no.

The large capital outlay required to purchase the Birkin has an opportunity cost, not to mention the years long waitlist that you’d be required to endure to get the bag. The opportunity cost? In financial circles, opportunity cost is simply the worth of the most valuable alternative. Or in simpler terms, opportunity cost asks you to quantify the value of whatever else you would have otherwise done with the money. If you would have, for example, paid off school loans instead of buying the Birkin, the opportunity cost there would have to include the extra loan interest you now would have to pay. Not to mention the intangible cost of not having the peace of mind from being debt-free.

Furthermore, the simple amortization calculation also neglects to account for salvage value, or the amount of money you can get for the item once you’re done with it. Factoring in salvage value can significantly decrease CPW values, especially when the market for pre-owned items is hot, which is true in the case of Birkins. Just check eBay. A salvage value of $4000 for the aforementioned example Birkin would decrease the CPW to ($6500-$4000)/(250*5) = $2. Because Birkins are in such high demand and have such a long waitlist, it’s even possible for the salvage value to exceed the initial cost of the bag, resulting in a negative CPW—or an actually profitable investment.

For a back of the envelope calculation, this is all fine and good. But aren’t we missing something by only focusing on the numbers? I don’t believe that the majority of us stylephiles go shop, even for so-called Investment Pieces, because we believe they will make us money. In any case, most pieces would have a poor Return on Investment (ROI) that would likely lag that of competing investment options.

By focusing solely on the numbers, we’re missing what I believe to be the most important part of the equation: how does the item make you feel?

We’ve all heard the saying that “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Well, a very smart person once shared with me an amendment to that saying: “Money rarely buys happiness. So when you see an opportunity to buy happiness with your money, run out and take it!”

When I was fourteen, I fell in love with a beautiful 60s inspired cashmere-wool coat. With three oversized buttons and the perfect rounded collar, it truly channeled Audrey Hepburn’s classic tastes. And its three-quarters length and its delicate tailoring flattered my small figure and short stature perfectly. But at $500, it was far more than just a splurge. After all, at fourteen, I had no source of sustainable income, and child labor laws and my relative lack of skills prevented me from working. Long story short, I eventually did get the coat—after three long months of begging. I’m still, however, paying for the coat by my mother’s incessant nagging (e.g. “You spend too much money on clothes. You’re going to have to live at home when you’re forty just like George Costanza from Seinfeld.”). I also got cut off from buying clothes at sixteen.*

All nagging and clothing embargoes aside, I’m glad that I put my neck out on the line for the coat. I didn’t just love that coat, I Loved it. And it makes me so happy that I still wear it to this day.

So when you fall in love with a ridiculously extravagant item—or really any item that Calls to you, think of the Money-Happiness Amendment of 2005. If it makes you truly happy and won’t cause you financial ruin, I encourage you to take the plunge and invest in your own happiness. You’ll be glad you did.

* My reaction to the Clothing Embargo of 1999? I ended up working at the Macy’s at Stanford Shopping Center. The jean wall on the second floor of the Men’s store still haunts me. And to this day, I tidy up after other customers at the mall as I shop. Force of habit. I did, however, get complimented on my folding skills at Banana Republic last month!

2 comments March 28th, 2005

Stylish Sales: Two Versatile Sweaters

It’s raining in Northern California, which means….more time for Shopping!

Not to overload on A&F, my current guilty pleasure, but I spotted two great sweaters there…versatile and stylish, And on Sale! I’m a big fan of these two, having bought them over a month ago on covert trips to the mall post-work. I can honestly say that both made it to Wardrobe Foundation status, at least for this Spring!

The Sasha Shrunken Cable Cardigan is soft as can be, as it’s made of silk and angora. Its cropped length fits in perfectly with the silhouette of the season–think cropped blazers and voluminous pants and skirts a la my "It Items" post. The thin cable knit also gives an outfit wonderful texture. The only downside? Like any cute, fluffy animal, this sweater sheds. Not a lot, but just enough to be annoying.

Sasha Shrunken Cable Cardigan
Sasha Shrunken Cable Cardigan | Courtesy of A&F

As for the Ramona Full-Zip Sweater, it’s a semi-chunky sweater that does double duty, as it is perfectly functional and fashionable on both cold and warm days. The chunkiness is of enough texture and enough weight to be fashionable, yet it does not go overboard into the "this makes you look wider than you are" realm.


  • The versatile collar: you can leave it standing, or you can roll it down for a more casual look,
  • The two-way zipper: allows for the ultimate in adjustments, as you can zip up or down as much as you please, from both the top and the bottom,
  • The tiny front pockets: just a nice touch, and it adds visual interest to what might otherwise be a nondescript sweater, and
  • The contrast rib side panels: the larger rib allows for both textural interest and extra Stretch–which translates into a more accurate fit for you!
Ramona Full Zip Sweater
Ramona Full-Zip Sweater | Courtesy of A&F

Add comment March 27th, 2005

Trend Alert: Textured Embellishment

Seen while malling: a particularly interesting example (at least, for a mall-based chain store) illustrating the Textured Embellishment trend. I appreciate the abstractness of the tee, along with the unusual color combination: chocolate brown, teal, yellow brown, and off-white. The combination of the somewhat matte embroidery texture with the shiny metallic sequins drew me in. You can find the tee at Abercrombie & Fitch for $49.50.

Abstract Tee
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie and Fitch.

If you appreciate this trend as much as I do, keep an eye out for items with embellishments like glass and resin beads, pearls, etched patterns, ribbons, frayed and fringed yarns, and fabric cutouts, in addition to embroidery and sequins. To temper this trend for the workplace, look for items using embellishment sparingly—such as around the neckline or shirt hem. Or keep the embellishments in the same color family as the garment for a subtly stylish look. For a fun evening or weekend look, however, feel free to go all out!

Add comment March 24th, 2005

Four It Items for Spring 05

Many fashion editors publish lists of It Items…just check Lucky, InStyle and the like. What makes this one different, and why is this one worth your time?

I like to recognize that while some fashion obsessions come and go, other trends have more longevity. I present to you my four picks of the season. These are carefully selected items that I believe will last you beyond the warm days of this Spring and Summer. Stuff that you can wear for the foreseeable future without people thinking/saying, “that’s So Last Season.” Clothes that you can incorporate into your wardrobe and bring out next year, and the year after, guilt free!

So without further ado, I present to you…

The Cropped Jacket: I love cropped jackets in blazer form, bomber form, and motorcycle jacket form. And that’s not just because I’m petite and the cropped jacket flatters my proportions. Cropped jackets are Versatile. And I adore versatility. The cropped jacket works nicely with a full skirt (see below), for a modern take on the Dior New Look. It also looks great with a thin-cut cropped pant. However, the difference in volume proportions also makes the pairing of a cropped jacket with baggy pants visually appealing. However, unless you’re shaped like a model, be careful to not take the proportion play too far.

BCBG Cropped Jacket
BCBG Spring 05 | Courtesy of

What I like most about the cropped jacket, however, is its inherent affinity towards layering. You don’t have to pair the cropped jacket with a similarly proportioned top—it’s ok to have the shirt show from underneath this jacket. In fact, it’s more visually interesting. Think of this as a more sophisticated form of the tee shirt and tank top layering that Everybody and their Mother has been doing for the last year.

The White Tank: By itself, or layered, the white tank is a wardrobe staple that will be getting a lot more play this season. For a layered look that’s less Summer 04 and more Right Now, try layering tanks of different textures. I call this Layering, version 2.0. To get a more sophisticated look, for example, try pairing your plain jersey or baby rib tank from last summer with a new one that is more transparent and gauzy. Also remember that the cut of the tank is key—pick ones that flatter your neckline. Gently sloping scoopnecks are generally flattering, as are racerback tanks that show off your shoulderblades. Exaggerated racerback silhouettes are on my hotlist (coming soon to a sidebar near you!).

Narciso Rodriguez Tank
Narciso Rodriguez Spring 05* | Courtesy of

The Full Skirt: I just can’t get enough. Loved the full skirt last year, and still Love them now. They can camouflage heavy upper thighs, make your waist appear smaller (yay), and some will even skim over wide hips. My word of caution to you, however, lies in the length of the skirt. Have you ever noticed that some skirts make you look fabulous, and others make you look awkward—even if they’re of the same or a similar style and cut? Chances are, the difference lies in the skirt length.

Marc Jacobs Full Skirt
Marc Jacobs Spring 05 | Courtesy of

For most people, a skirt that ends at or right above the knee is of the most flattering length. Generally, if you can, avoid skirt lengths that hit mid calf—this tends to be more unflattering. To find Your Ideal Skirt Length, put on a long skirt that goes to your ankles. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, slowly raise the hemline of the skirt until you find the length that makes you think, “that looks great on me!” At that point, your legs will appear slimmer, and you’ll look and feel better proportioned. After this discovery, go out and hem your skirts of unflattering lengths to this Ideal Length. You’ll be glad you did it.

The Baggy Pant: The key here is to not go overboard. When I say baggy pants, I’m not talking about the pants a “cool” teenaged boy from the late 90s wore as he walked down the street with his pants sagging and boxers showing. Aigh. I’m talking about a more boyish, looser cut in a classic pant style. A nice wide legged pant is a clean interpretation of this trend, and one that is quite flattering—especially on women with a larger posterior. To mix things up a bit, you can even toss on some utility pockets. A rich, sophisticated cargo pant is not only Very of the Moment, but it also has wardrobe staple potential. But for the record, despite my affinity for baggy pants, I am not a fan of pleats. I feel that the traditional front pleats on pants are an unflattering way of allowing volume for movement in the pant. Let’s just leave it at that.

Balenciaga Baggy Pant
Balenciaga Spring 05 | Courtesy of

*I’m a great fan of Narciso Rodriguez’s work. I was actually in New York during Fashion Week last September for the Spring shows. Tried to get into Rodriguez’s show, but alas, it was packed full, standing room only for even invited guests. At least I made it into the tents.

Add comment March 23rd, 2005

Why are you reading this?

In the world of style, there’s just so much to follow. From one end, there are designer trends trickling down from the runway. At the other end of the spectrum, there are street trends bubbling their way up the fashion food chain. As a consumer, the trend information I ingest from fashion magazines, newspaper articles, television, store displays, and the like can be mind-boggling. To make things even more complex, this trend information can be downright contradictory at times. And more often than not, it doesn’t help me meet my daily challenge of find something good to wear in the morning. That is, an outfit that is:

  1. Flattering.
  2. Functional, and
  3. (My holy grail of fashion) Makes me feel better about myself and/or life as I go about my day. I call these Power Outfits.

As a designer and stylist, however, it’s part of my job to sort through the commotion to discern what’s important. In the color world, is green just a short-term trend, or is it here to stay? Is pink Really the new black? I think not, but I do appreciate the dusty rose hues we’ll be seeing more of come fall.

Or how does a fashion trend, say controlled volume (a Big Thing on the runways for Fall 05) translate into something a normal non-model would want to wear? There’s the runway-to-reality translation (e.g. de-exaggerate the details, keep the style message). But then there’s the secondary translation that is so often forgotten: translating that trend to your body type, or personal architecture.

The good news for you? I’ll sort through the buzz so you don’t have to.

The cool thing (and perhaps, to others, one of the most annoying things) about style is that it’s so subjective. One person may love the bohemian hobo look, for instance, and another equally style conscious person might find it lacking. The moral of the story? Diversity is good. Especially diversity in opinion. It keeps things interesting. After all, what would the world be like if everyone dressed alike? I cringe at the thought.

So use the comments form. Tell me about Your Power Outfit(s). Let’s talk about style.

Add comment March 22nd, 2005


March 2005
    Apr »

Posts by Month

Posts by Category