Posts filed under 'How To'

Q&A: How to Add Some Spice to a Closet full of Classics

Q:  I’ve been reading your site forever and have come to a conclusion: My wardrobe is BORING. I thought I was going for the  "classic" look but I dress like a banker… and I’m not!  I have a lot of plain slacks that I  pair with plain "safe" sweaters. (The husband and I went dancing last night and I wore pinstripe slacks and a white sweater- yawn!)  What can I do to jazz me up a bit? I’d like to look a bit more flirty and feminine.

Here’s three easy ways to add some pizazz to your wardrobe and look more flirty and feminine:

Get Creative with Layering by Mixing Casual and Formal Pieces
Get Creative with Layering by Mixing Casual and Formal PiecesYou don’t have to pair casual tops with casual bottoms and formal tops with formal bottoms.  Part of the fun of creating an outfit is mixing and matching items that are casual and formal–and for that matter, cheap chic with more expensive pieces.

Take, for example, this casual black and white racerback knit top, whose All-American style would pair perfectly with a pair of dark blue jeans.  Nix the jeans, and instead pair it with a gorgeously elegant black skirt.  I love how the formality of the skirt elevates the look of the simple black and white striped top.

Play with Color

Play with ColorThe easiest way to add more pizazz to your plain tops and bottoms is to inject a shot of color into your wardrobe.  How do you do this?  (1) Figure out what colors look the best on you.  (You can do this in an afternoon at the mall by trying on lots of different colors and taking note of which ones make you look radiant–and which ones make you look washed out.)  (2) Expand your wardrobe to include the colors that look great on you. 

You don’t have to buy a bunch of color all at once.  Building a wardrobe is like breaking in a new pair of heels–it’s best done in small steps.  Add a few pieces a season, and your wardrobe will evolve with your ever changing sense of personal style.

If you’re hesitant about large splashes of color, you can try out color by layering it under more neutral colors, as seen in the outfit at right.

Anchor your Wardrobe with Statement Pieces
Cotton Cashmere Primrose CardiganStatement pieces are, by definition, meant to turn heads.  Maybe it’s your favorite slinky sweater, maybe it’s the dress that fits you to a T, maybe it’s your goes-with-everything satchel bag.  These are the pieces that you can always count on to anchor an outfit.  You only need a few of these statement pieces in your closet to start, but you can also never have enough of them. 

For your classic style, try classics-with-a-twist.  Instead of the plain white sweater, try one in bright yellow (which would be lovely with your menswear slacks).  Or instead of plain flat-front pants, try a pair of navy blue sailor pants (which would look great with your white sweaters).

Pictured: Outfits from Club Monaco Collection and Cotton Cashmere Primrose Cardigan | $98 at J Crew.

Have a great tip about adding pizazz to a classic wardrobe? Share it with us in the comments!

8 comments May 20th, 2008

Men’s Q&A: How to Build a Casual Preppy Wardrobe

Q:  I’m in a fashion plateau. I’m a college sophomore looking to expand my wardrobe. I find myself wearing a solid colored polo, cargo shorts and a pair of vans slip-ons or low athletic style sneakers every day. I would really like to try and diversify my wardrobe without ditching my polos. I want a more mature look but still a bit preppy.

Casual Preppy Wardrobe
Clockwise from top left: Patrik Ervell Linen Pink Check Buttondown ($264 at South Willard), Michael Bastian photo from The Sartorialist, Save Khaki Pants from GQ, Cardigan Sweatshirt ($157 at Oak).

A: You’re in luck–you don’t need to spend a lot in order to look more mature.  In fact, you can often replicate a designer look at generic prices.  To me, the spirit of “young but mature” rests in taking staples of a man’s wardrobe and putting a contemporary twist on them.  The most common outfit you will see that captures this spirit is the classic t-shirt under the blazer look.  You may also see some guys pushing up the sleeves on blazers.  As for your specific question…

Classic Fit Lightweight Chino from J CrewPants: Ditch the cargo pants.  Those bulky pockets are just a bit too high school.  Instead, try some well-cut khakis in a lighter color.  They’re worth the investment.  I would look into a designer called Save Khaki; I like their cut and casualness. If you’re in New York, you can go to their boutique; otherwise you can find them at online at Barney’s Co-op, Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman.  And if its prep you want, look no further than a pair of Nantucket Reds; these classics are the very definition of East coast prep.  You can also try Ralph Lauren or J. Crew, which always has some good chinos (and of course, their classic chambray shirt).  Or, if you want something new, you can explore Gant’s Rugger line.  And while we’re on the subject of pants, don’t be afraid to try jeans that aren’t blue.  Grey jeans look great.
Nantucket Red ShortsShorts: For those hot days, look into some clean cut Bermuda shorts; they’re like cargo pants without the bulky pockets.  Nantucket Reds can be pretty stylish, as seen on Michael Bastian (pictured top right). Also check out what Banana Republic has to offer.  Style tip?  Properly fitting shorts do not fall below the knee.

Fitted Gingham Checked Shirt at GapTops: You can stick to polo shirts, but I have a feeling that if you look around, every 3rd guy will be sporting a polo.  How to differentiate yourself from these other guys?  Look for polos that deviate from the common styles and brands.  Try investing in some interesting buttondowns; they’ll come in handy for dates too.  Solids and stripes are always a safe bet, but if you feel like being bold, try some checks or plaid.  Whatever you do, leave the collar down; a polo with a popped color isn’t preppy, it’s pretentious.

Common Projects Achilles Low Top Sneaker at JakeShoes: Don’t bash yourself too hard about wearing slip on Vans; they’re actually coming back in style.  Also, classics such as Jack Purcells probably won’t go out of style any time soon, so don’t worry about wearing sneakers every now and then.  You can find some alternatively preppy shoes without breaking the bank though: try some Sperry Top-Sider or L.L. Bean boat shoes.

Blazers/Suits: Also, now that you’re in college, it’s time to look into blazers and possibly a suit if you don’t have one.  You’ll definitely need a well-cut suit for your job interview, so it’s only a matter of time.  For about $500, you can get some pretty good suits at Banana Republic.

Regardless of what you buy, please make sure that whatever clothes you do buy actually fit you properly.  Bagginess is for kids, not a mature guy like you.

Have a great tip about building a preppy casual wardrobe?  Share it with us in the comments!

Classic Fit Lightweight Chino | $69.50 at J. Crew, Nantucket Red Shorts | $52.50 at Nantucket Reds, Fitted Gingham Checked Shirt | $39.50 at Gap, and Common Projects Achilles Low Top Sneaker | $295 at Jake.

4 comments May 7th, 2008

How to Accessorize a Little Black Dress

Feeling the love for this set?  Here’s more information about it.

Every woman has a Little Black Dress…or two, or ten.  And they’re great as a go-to outfit for cocktails, dinner parties, and other evening events.  But how many times do you really get to wear your LBD?  If you’re anything like us, it’s not very often.  So let’s get some extra mileage out of our LBDs during the daytime with some clever accessorizing.  Here’s how to accessorize a LBD:

Why does this outfit work?

Visual Interest through Pattern: Both the gingham scarf and the newsprint belt add visual texture to the LBD.  And since the two patterns are in the same color scheme, they complement one another rather than compete with one another.

A Splash of Bright Color: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy–and all black and white and no color can make for a dull outfit.  So we added a splash of bright color for a jolt of energy.  We love bright green as a fresh foil for black and white–but any bright color will do.  Try royal purple for a distinctly elegant look.

A Touch of Mystery: Finish off the outfit with a pair of oversized shades.  The air of mystery the sunglasses creates is a secret ingredient for standout style.

How do you accessorize your Little Black Dress (LBD)? Share your style tips with us in the comments!

13 comments May 6th, 2008

How to Wear a Blazer with a Casual Shirt

Feeling the love for this set?  Here’s more information about it.

How do you wear a blazer with a casual shirt?  Match the informality of your shirt–be it a polo, henley or t-shirt–to your jacket.  Choose a unstructured jacket in a casual cotton instead of your traditional wool. 

You could always try the plain t-shirt under the blazer (or layered tees), but you can take the outfit up a notch by layering a fitted polo shirt over a t-shirt.  Bonus points for a brightly colored tee–we love the splash of color this creates at the neckline. 

Finish the outfit off with a casual belt (woven, not leather) and a pair of stylish sneakers.

Have a great tip about how to wear a blazer with a casual shirt? Share it with us in the comments!

Add comment April 29th, 2008

Fashion over Fifty: Five Style Tips

Feeling the love for this spread?  Here’s more information about it.

Think Modern Classics

Aging doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice style–and it doesn’t force you into matronly looks.  The same rules of figure flattery still apply, so don’t fill your closet with shapeless tops and dresses.  Even though you’re more mature, you’re encouraged to keep current with (some) trends–but you’ll wear them differently.  While you may have gotten away with that nautical inspired minidress in your 20s–and those high-waisted sailor pants in your 30s, a better way to interpret the seafaring trend in your 50s would be through a well-cut navy blue structured jacket and white wide-leg pants.

Invest in Quality
Buy fewer pieces, but purchase better quality ones.  These quality items will not only hold up better over time, but they’ll also drape more beautifully on your figure.  You don’t have to spend a million to feel like a million dollars, but you have to know what brands fit you. 

Camouflage Strategically
You know what parts of your body you want to reveal and which parts you want to keep covered up.  Dress accordingly.  Rule of thumb?  Pick one area of your body to highlight, and construct your outfit around it.  So if you have a great pair of legs, highlight them with a knee-length skirt and a killer pair of shoes.  Or if you’re blessed with a gorgeous face, frame it with an oversized collar. 

Play with Color
Since the styles you’re wearing will tend to be simpler (modern classics), you have more room to play with color.  Basic black is safe, but blood orange or cobalt blue are so much more fun!  Monochromatic looks are often figure flattering, so why not choose a more interesting color?  We dare you.

Add Statement Accessories
When it comes to a great bag or a wonderful scarf, it doesn’t matter whether you’re twenty five or fifty five.  A single statement accessory, such as a pair of dramatic oversized sunglasses, can turn a plain outfit into something special–and is so much more stylish than a quieter accessory (e.g. a string of pearls). 

Have a great tip about fashion over fifty? Share it with us in the comments!

10 comments April 17th, 2008

How to Determine the Quality of a Suit

How do you know if the suit you want is worth its hefty price tag? While there are a lot of things that go into a great suit, there are two quick tests you can do on the showroom floor to help you determine the quality of the suit.

Anthony Peak Wool SuitWrinkle Test: A quick way to test the quality of the wool from the suit is to grab the cuff of a pant leg and firmly squeeze.  That’s right: I’m telling you to purposely try to wrinkle the wool.  If, after a minute or so, the wool remains wrinkled after you release the pant leg, we recommend you move on to a better quality wool suit.

This wrinkle test becomes important after a day at the office, during which you sit at your desk, elbows – and jacket – bent.  To all of the investment bankers out there: You may have stayed at the office overnight, but you don’t have to look like it.  Get a suit that passes the wrinkle test. Disclaimer: If you just throw your suit on your bedroom floor, even the best ones will become wrinkled.

Canvas Test: Between the exterior cloth and the lining of the jacket, every proper suit has a layer of cloth called a canvas.  High quality suits will have this canvas hand-sewn into the jacket.  Lesser quality jackets use a process called fusing, in which the lining is, essentially, glued to the jacket.  The canvas is entirely hidden, and you cannot see it unless you literally rip the jacket open.  Some designers will tell you that there are new innovations in fusing that make the fused jacket just as good as hand-stitched ones, but I’m not entirely sure if I believe them.  A jacket with a canvas will fit better, especially across the chest.  Plus, the canvas also gives the lapel its roll.  

How to tell if your jacket has a canvas?  Find the part of the jacket in between two button holes.  Gently pinch the two sides (exterior and interior sides) apart.  If you can feel a third layer in between, there’s a canvas.  If you can’t, the jacket is fused.  Style tip: Price doesn’t equal quality, so don’t assume that every expensive blazer has a canvas.  I recently saw a $1,300 blazer in Barney’s that failed the canvas test.

Pictured: Anthony Peak Wool Suit | $1795 at Ralph Lauren.

3 comments April 2nd, 2008

Ready Made Outfit: Youthful Looks with a Vest

Q:  I just got a black fitted vest/waistcoat and I’m not sure how to integrate it with the rest of my wardrobe. I’m still a college student and I don’t want to necessarily look like I’m heading towards the office or anything. Is there a way I can wear this more formal piece while still looking young and casual?

Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.

by Tamiko Kelly, Fashion Expert and Style Maven at Margarite Elaine

Traditionally a men’s wardrobe staple, the fitted vest (aka the waistcoat) has migrated over to women’s wardrobes. This trend has been popularized over the last few seasons, and it still has a cult-like following. With this set, we wanted to show you how to give a young, hip/funky edge to a wardrobe staple.

The vest look on the left is based on a neutral palette.  The result is at once sophisticated and youthful, right down to the silver-grey ankle boots.  The vest look on the right, on the other hand, is all about personality.  Note the use of color in this outfit: the reddish-purple color on the shirt is echoed in the shoes, clutch, and earrings.

Have a great tip about what to wear with a vest? Share it with us in the comments!

3 comments March 20th, 2008

Q&A: How to Find a Signature Scent

Q:  I will be turning 30 in April and have decided to celebrate by finding a signature scent to wear for the next decade. I do think perfume can add something special, but… a lot of places are becoming scent free, and I don’t want something that’s either overpowering or girly. How do I choose a scent, and is it considered rude to wear perfume these days?

Annick Goutal\'s Petite Cherie Perfumeby Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: At thirty, you should be looking for a complex and sophisticated perfume that reflects your personality and life experience.  Select a perfume that speaks to your own unique personality—and one that doesn’t overwhelm you. 

When selecting a perfume, consider your climate.  Some scents are too heavy for the summer, and others are too light for the winter.    Beyond that, we can’t tell you which perfume to choose—choosing a scent is very personal as each perfume has a different chemical reaction (and thus, a different scent) on each individual.  Like we said in our article on cologne last week, we recommend experimenting by (1) finding scents that appeal to your senses, and then (2) seeing how the scent smells on your skin.  One trick for clearing your nose from all the different scents (cleansing the palate, so to speak) is to carry coffee beans with you.  Sniffing coffee beans will clear your nose from the scent of the previous perfume.

Coco by Chanel PerfumeGreat classics are usually a good place to begin, so try Robert Piquet’s Fracas, Chanel No. 5 or Coco by Chanel.  For a non-overpowering, non-girly scent, you may also want to try the lush tuberose scent of Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle.  A couple of my personal favorites are Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie (which has pear and peach notes) and Jil Sander #4 (which is a little spicy). 

As for your last question, it’s not rude to wear perfume–it’s rude to wear too much of it.  Rule of thumb?  If you’re riding in an elevator, your fellow passengers should only smell a trace of the perfume.  Try a dab here and a dab there–or spray the scent into the air and walk through it.

Have a great tip about how to pick a perfume  Or would you like to share your favorite scents? Share it with us in the comments!

Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal (left) and Coco by Chanel (right).

5 comments March 13th, 2008

Q&A: How to Create a Modern Look with Pearls

Q:  I have been hearing rumors about how pearls are coming back. Do you have any recommendations for how to make them look modern?

Modern Pearl Jewelry

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A:  Pearls are a true classic—while their popularity has waxed and waned over the seasons, they have never gone out of style.  It’s no surprise that they’re gaining in popularity now, given the movement towards more ladylike fashion (though they work with almost any outfit, from a casual sweater and jeans to a formal business suit).  Plus, pearls are universally flattering—you can find pearls to complement any complexion. 

That said, the single strand necklace that your Grandmother wore can look dated.  For a fresh, modern look with pearls, here are three tips:
(1) Invest in jewelry that combines pearls with other stones, such as a cluster earring combining pearls with  aquamarine or amethyst.  Should you have a strand of family pearls, you could restring them, adding crystals or other jewels to the necklace, to make them more modern. 
(2) Try Nontraditional Pearls: Baroque pearls are less pristine in appearance, yet they are beautiful in their imperfection.  Added bonus?  Baroque pearls often come in beautiful colors from pinks to golds to purples.  We also love the look of coin pearls, which are characterized by their flat, coin-like shape.
(3) Do as Coco Chanel did: Wear your classic pearl necklace with an assortment of other necklaces to add dimension to their appearance. 

Looking for some basic information on pearls?  For a primer on pearls, Omiru recommends Blue Nile’s Guide to Pearls.

Have a great tip about how to create a modern look with pearls?  Share it with us in the comments!

Pictured, from left:
Snowdrops and Leaves Asymmetrical Necklace | $56 at t8designs (Etsy), Birds Nest Earrings | $32 at starrydesigns (Etsy), Anita Earrings | $16 at Golden Stiletto (Etsy).

4 comments March 6th, 2008

Q&A: Aftershave and Cologne 101

Q:  How do I pick out an aftershave or cologne for myself? What is the difference between the two? How much is too much, and how do I figure out how much to wear?

Men\'s Fragrance - Polo Ralph Lauren, Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme, Rochas Man

A: Even though aftershave and cologne can smell the same, they’re two very different products.  Aftershave is meant to condition the skin after shaving, so while it is scented, it contains conditioners to heal your skin after a close shave.  Cologne, on the other hand, is purely for fragrance.  As such, cologne has a much stronger, longer-lasting scent than aftershave.

How much is too much?  While you can splash your face with aftershave, your coworkers will be able to smell you from across the office if you do so with cologne.  Cologne is best applied in small quantities—a dab here and a dab there is enough.

Picking a scent is really a personal process.  We would recommend going scent “window shopping” first to familiarize yourself with the variety of scents out there.    Spray the fragrance on the paper cards provided at the store—that way, you’ll be able to distinguish between the colognes.  (Plus, you’ll keep your wrists and arms scent-free.)  Give your nose a break in between sniffing each fragrance.  And take your time—the process of elimination to find the perfect scent doesn’t need to be done in a day.  

Once you get down to the top three to five fragrances, you’ll need to actually try them on.  Everybody has different personal chemistry, so a fragrance smells different on different people.  Your perfect fragrance will be one whose smell you love—but one that also works for your personal chemistry.

Have a great tip about how to pick a fragrance?  Or would you like to share your favorite scents? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

Polo Ralph Lauren Eau de Toilette | $47.50+ at Sephora, Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme | $40+ at Sephora, Rochas Eau de Toilette Spray | $44 at Sephora.

9 comments March 4th, 2008

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