London Fashion Week: Issa Fall 2012

Remember when I fell in love with that green pleated Issa dress back in December? It has become my favorite dress and since then I have really begun to appreciate the simple and classic silhouettes from Issa. Here are two of my favorite looks from London Fashion Week:

Happy Thursday!

Ashley

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5PFWM: Winter 2011/12

On November 22nd I wrote a post about the 5 Piece French Wardrobe Method (5PFWM) which is a way of building a quality wardrobe without being completely overwhelmed by choices. The whole theory is that every season you should pick five pieces you would like to invest in to build up your wardrobe. I think subscribing to this method is a huge Lifevestment simply because it forces you to concentrate on what your wardrobe needs and to find quality (not quantity) to fill the void.
 
Here are some pictures of my Fall 2011 5PFWM pieces. To re-cap, I added (1) a classic Anne Klein trench coat with single-breasted buttons, storm flaps and an a-line flair, (2) a black-and-white patterned wrap dress from Eliza J, (3) a velvet peplum blazer from Winter Kate, (4) a basic black sweater and (5) waterproof booties from Aquatalia (so in love with these boots)!
 

My Fall 2011 5PFWM loot

Trench Coat, Patterned Wrap Dress, Velvet Peplum Blazer

My absolute favorite addition from the fall season was my Aquatalia ‘Royal’ booties. They are so comfortable and the suede is so luxurious! They were a gift from Ian for Christmas and are the best investment shoe I own.
 
Aren’t they gorgeous (can you tell I am crushing on these boots)?
 

Aquatalia 'Royal' booties

They have a cute plaid interior (this photo doesn't do it justice)

Aquatalia makes a fabulous boot

These boots have me absolutely convinced (as if I wasn’t already) that wardrobe essentials will last so much longer if you invest in quality. A good mantra to remember is: Quality is always worth the price (though a high price isn’t always indicative of quality). I really tried to keep that in mind when picking my Winter wardrobe additions.
 

My Winter 2012 5PFWM includes:

1. An Alexander McQueen Silk Skull Scarf in Black/Blue. I have lusted after this scarf for a long time – to me it’s as versatile as a Burberry scarf. And the Black/Blue combination will work perfectly with jeans or a black suit.

McQueen Silk Skull Scarf

2. This fabulous Pleated Jersey Dress from Issa. I have always wanted a green dress and on my bucket list I did promise myself I would buy a nice designer dress with all my own money. Isn’t the cut so interesting? Plus this is dressy enough to wear to a party or wedding but the jersey fabric makes it easy to wear all-day at the office too. LOVE!

Issa's Pleated Jersey Dress, available at Net-A-Porter

3. A pair of well-tailored skinny jeans. J Brand makes the best for my body but I would suggest trying on a few brands before purchasing to make sure the fit is right (not one likes ‘wrinkly-knee’ skinny jeans).

J Brand Cigarette Leg Jeans

4. An L.K. Bennett Davina Dress is another investment piece which I have had my eye on for some time. I know this is my SECOND dress on a short list but a red dress is such a classic and L.K. Bennett really makes quality clothing. Plus the cut on the Davina is so flattering and timeless.

L.K. Bennett's Davina Dress in "Lipstick"

5. Cole Haan ‘Air Violet’ Patent Pumps in Black. These beautiful pumps actually contain Nike Air comfort technology which would make them extremely versatile and comfortable for all-day wear. Not to mention that black patent is such a wardrobe staple!
 

Cole Haan 'Air Violet' Patent Pump at Nordstroms

 What are you looking to add to your wardrobe this winter?

Ashley

Wardrobe Essentials: The Wrap Dress

Diane Von Furstenburg Wrap Dress

The wrap dress, introduced by Diane Von Furstenberg (love her!) in 1972, epitomizes the liberty women were embracing in the 70s and was a beautiful marriage of practicality and sensuality. Designed with a woman’s natural curves in mind, the wrap dress flatters every figure and comes in a variety of shades and patterns.

Wrap dresses have made a serious comeback since the late 90s. Remember how Kate Middleton‘s simple navy wrap dress instantly became one of the most famous dresses of the 21st century?

Kate Middleton's Issa Wrap Dress

Christina Applegate even sports one in ‘Anchorman‘:

Christina Applegate in Anchorman

Wrap dresses can transform any body (especially curvier bodies) with their belted waist creating a feminine hourglass shape. These dresses transition beautifully from day to evening and are incredibly comfortable not matter how long you wear them for (not to mention you’ll feel like a million bucks).

What to look for when buying a wrap dress

1. Fit. Be sure to find the right wrap dress for your body. Try it on before buying and critically examine how you look from all angles: does the wrap front sit alright along your bust? Is the hem straight? Is the wrap located at the smallest part of your waist? Wrap dresses are meant to be fitted but not be Saran wrap so make sure you have some wiggle-room.

Ruffle-Trim Wrap Dress from Forever 21

2. Variety. Wrap dresses add spice and color to any wardrobe. They come in hundreds of patterns (thank you Diane Von Furstenburg) and styles for every season. Use this wardrobe essential as an excuse to liven up your closet and live more colorfully. Many wrap dresses come with fun and interesting details such as ruffles and asymmetrical hem lines.

Karoo Spruce Cashmere Wrap Dress

3. Fabric. Cotton is the most traditional and versatile wrap dress fabric but silk can be a gorgeous evening alternative (if you’re willing to have it dry-cleaned). Wool or cashmere make wonderful winter fabric choices. Just be sure to choose something wrinkle-free (a wrinkle-free wrap dress is a perfect vacation staple).

4. Length (both dress-length and sleeve-length). Knee-length is the most traditional but I have seen some fantastic wrap maxi dresses recently. For sleeves long and 3/4 length are the classic lengths but for summer opt for a shorter-sleeve.

5. Color. Steer clear of having too many wrap dresses in neutrals. Wrap dresses are the easiest way to color your wardrobe – they come in almost every hue imaginable and are so versatile. A red wrap-dress would be perfect for the holidays and a pastel one would be perfect for spring and summer.

How to Wear a Wrap Dress

If you choose the right fit and fabric for your body, a wrap dress is the ultimate confidence booster (prepare to unconsciously stand straighter and smile more). Because they come in a vast array of colors, patterns and fabrics you can find one to suit almost every occasion – even Sunday afternoon grocery shopping. One easy way to take a wrap dress from day-to-night is by pairing it with a blazer during the day and then a shawl at night.

Ashley

P.s. The wrap dress silhouette translates well into other clothing staples such as sleek tops and coats so look for unique wrap details when investing in other wardrobe essentials. I found this fabulous wrap coat by DeNovo Style on Etsy:

DeNovo Style Wrap Coat

Life Upgrade – Illustrations by Kristina Hultkrantz

Confesstion: I love Etsy! I find the most creative homemade items there and I love supporting independent creative talent. Plus I am a huge fan of the Plaid Friday idea – a movement to get people to shop at indie stores on Black Friday.

If you haven’t found emmakisstina Illustrations by Kristina Hultkrantz then I am very excited to show you her AMAZING work which I stumbled upon on Etsy last week. Kristina does fabulously chic and fashionable illustrations with a quirky element:

But my favorite is her series ‘Whats in my bag’:

Coco Chanel

Kate Middleton

Audrey Hepburn

But my favorite has to be (for obvious canine-related reasons):

Wallis Simpson

I think these illustrations would be a brilliant holiday gift for the fashionista on your list (or the pug-loving-blogger *wink wink).

Ashley

P.s. Lifevesting’s product highlights are simply my personal product favorites and I have not been compensated in any way to do these.

Who’s Your [Style] Inspiration?

I was inspired to do this post after I saw Style Meganzine’s post on ‘Who’s Your Inspiration’: http://stylemeganzine.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/whos-your-inspiration/

In my ‘How to Build A Wardrobe’ post from Monday I mentioned that building a list like this can really help you ‘hone’ in on what you enjoy and what type of style really expresses who you are. So I’m following my own advice and building a list of women whose style I admire.

The thing I admire most in all the women below is how their personalities shown through their clothing – their clothing didn’t define them, it enhanced them.

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall – to me, she is the quintessential American woman – versatile, clever and chic with a small sinister side. She gave forties and fifties glamour an intelligent edge. Did I mention that she was also perfectly matched to her talented and suave husband, Humphrey Bogart?

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton – Despite being labelled at this year’s fashion icon, she has been criticized repeatedly recently for her ‘boring’ style. Someone really needs to notify Webster’s that ‘boring’ now means elegant, classic and well-tailored. Kate’s look is perfect for the modern woman – she sticks with flattering silhouettes and always wears the best accessory – her smile. I admire Kate – not many of us could be photographed and criticized with as much scrutiny as she is without a single bra strap falling out-of-place. Elegance, poise and composure will never go out of style.

... Grace Kelly

Image by x-ray delta one via Flickr

Grace Kelly – Grace was stylish and composed, inspiring an Hermes bag and snatching herself a prince. The first time I ever saw her on film was when I watched ‘Rear Window‘ and I literally couldn’t take my eyes off her. She carries herself beautifully and speaks with such distinction that a paper bag would look timelessly elegant on her.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana – Diana wasn’t afraid to take risks – remember when she used that choker the Queen gave her as a headband? And she always dressed up for the occasion wearing military and naval-inspired frocks for army functions and a chinese inspired hat when she visited China. And she always wanted her clothing to do more – she often sported clothing from some of her favorite charities and donated dresses for charity.

I admire so many different women for their unique style but I would have to say that these four women are the ones who materially influence my personal style. While I love the Olson twins and their bohemian threads, I must admit that most of their outfits would look ridiculous and out-of-place on me. I lean towards elegance and timelessness but in a relaxed and approachable way – I suppose that’s why so many royals made my list. I really enjoyed trying to narrow-down my style influencers, maybe I’ll do this type of list for other influencers in my life.

Who is on your style list?

How to Build a Wardrobe

glamorous granny

Image by zoetnet via Flickr

Confession: As much as I try to focus my attention away from materialism, I must admit that I really enjoy finding a high-quality item to make my life more stylish/easier/colorful, etc.

The key for me though is “high-quality”. I’m not a trendslave – when I spend my hard-earned cash I want it to be on something that I’ll use for years. I don’t care about being the first of my friends to own something, I care about owning things that help me… well, help me be me. In all aspects of my life I try to live by the following motto:

QUALITY VS. QUANTITY

When I made the transition from college to career my wardrobe was forced to evolve with me – those baggy jeans, over-sized hoodies and birkenstocks weren’t going to cut it in the draconian must-always-wear-nylons world of finance. The week after graduation I took the pitiful savings I had from my on-campus job and marched down to Nordstrom Rack, determined to buy my entire career wardrobe in one trip.

What… A… Mistake…

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And man did I learn that lesson the hard way with my wardrobe. In the spirit of honesty I have to admit that I have never been a ‘chic’ dresser – my past style offenses have been so bad that I’ve been inspired to write a ‘style don’ts’ post based on my ‘favorite’ outfits in high school. But despite past offenses, nothing was worse than what I tossed in my shopping cart that day – over-sized lilac sweaters, stiff white button-downs I couldn’t actually button, one-size-too-large-but-it-was-on-super-sale dresses and suits, an orange belt (to match with what? the lilac sweater?) and a single pair of cheap heels (which I promptly wore down and never bothered to have re-heeled). To make matters worse I dropped down a dress size in February and my already-too-big clothes looked even more clownish as I tried to ‘fix’ them by cinching my huge dresses with my orange belt…

Well, it’s true: experience is the best teacher. How will you ever know a ‘do’ if you don’t explore all the ‘don’ts’? So I’ve spent the last few months studying wardrobes and how to take care of them (so often over-looked). My sister was a big help – she’s the most stylish person I know with her model figure, blonde hair and her amazing ability of making anything look stylish (a la Marilyn Monroe). My mother, with her Kate Spade-esque love of fun, was also a huge influence in teaching me not to be afraid of color (though I still maintain that her best accessory is her infectious laugh). My grandmother showed me that you can be classic and fun at the same time with her unwrinkled silk blouses and overstated jewelry. Sadly even Kate Middleton influenced my evolving style with her knee-length day-to-night dresses and meticulous but understated accessories.

How to Build A Wardrobe

1. Never Go Shopping Without a Plan – I am terribly guilty of shopping with no real goal in mind. I “window shop” and see if something inspires me, often forgetting to assess what pieces my wardrobe needs and whether I’ll use what I buy. It’s important to keep a list of pieces you think your wardrobe needs and put blinders on yourself in the store – if you really need a chic blazer, ignore that pair of wedge booties. Unless it’s fabulously unique pieces you buy without pre-planning will be the first to go to Goodwill.

2. Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals – For YEARS I ignored this ‘rule’. I never had tank tops to layer my looks with, never bothered to have neutral sweaters or a great camel skirt. Then all of a sudden I decided to start playing around with “boringggggg” neutrals and discovered that they were a lot of fun and so easy to mix and match. I have a set of belts, hats, shawls, tank tops, shoes and purses in several different neutral palettes. My favorites right now are nude and camel accessories – they balance out a black work wardrobe wonderfully.

jackie o

Image by throw her in the water via Flickr

3. Build a list of style influencers – Style Meganzine inspired this tip with her ‘Who’s Your Inspiration?’ post last week. If you are going to build a wardrobe that reflects you then you’ll need to have a deep understanding of what you really like. Building a list of people whose style you admire can help you assess what you really enjoy and what you don’t. Love Jackie O? Invest in a fantastic trench coat, an oversized pair of sunglasses and a great faux pearl necklace.

4. Invest in a few key pieces you will always need – I believe in putting your money where it will go to the most use. Investing in pieces you will use for years is a smart move and will save you money in the end. Some fabulous pieces to invest your money in: a great tote for work/weekends, a chic but warm winter coat (unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate without winter!), a pair of diamond studs, the perfect black blazer, and the iconic little black dress.

5. Make at least three outfits in your head before buying – I just recently adopted this rule. When deciding whether to buy something really assess how it will work with other pieces in your wardrobe. You should be able to envision at least three outfits easily. If not, is the piece really worth your cash and [limited] closet space?

6. Be doubtful, prejudiced and meticulous – Really pick apart anything you’re planning on adding to your wardrobe. Will the piece need to be dry cleaned? Will it wrinkle easily? Could you easily take it on vacation? Is it made of good-quality fabric? Does it itch? Does it meet all your criteria? If not put it down and keep looking. My father always said if you wait just a little longer the perfect opening will come (he may have been talking about merging in traffic when I was learning to drive but the principle still applies).

7. Always try it ON – Every woman has a different body. Mass retailers make clothes that supposedly fit everyone but in reality fit only a small range of people. I can be anywhere from a size 4 at The Limited to a size 12 at Levi’s – don’t look at the size, look at the fit. And don’t be afraid to try on something that doesn’t look good on the hanger. Some of my favorite pieces were ones I didn’t really like on the hanger but tried on and loved how it looked on my body.

8. QUALITY – I saved the most important rule for last. I used to be obsessed with finding a good deal. Anytime I saw a cheap version of some designer piece I was lusting after I would snap it up, only to be disappointed when it would start deforming in the wash. Good quality clothing is key to wardrobe happiness. Remember, the more you wear something, the cheaper it is. The key to a long-lasting wardrobe is good quality so examine seams, clasps, buttons, fabrics, stitching and linings before buying. I’ve seen so many designer coats with cheap polyester lining it makes me sad. Unfortunately these days a high price tag does not necessarily mean high quality. I sometimes feel like Banana Republic and J. Crew take quality more seriously than the bigger luxury brands.

Always remember to assess what your use for the piece will be, not the price. Some of the more expensive pieces in my wardrobe are some of my most useless. In the next few weeks I’ll begin highlighting pieces I believe everyone woman should have in her [wardrobe] arsenal and what to look for when buying them based on my misadventures in the world of fashion.

What pieces do you think are crucial to a fabulous wardrobe?

Ashley

My Three Favorite Halloween Costumes for 2011

For any of you who are looking for a last-minute Halloween costume for this weekend I thought I would post the three costumes that I have been playing around with. All three are easy to put together at home, require a dress, some ingenuity and maybe a trip to the craft store. No sexy [insert occupation] costumes here!

My Goals For Any Halloween Costume:

1. It must be at least partly DIY (so much more fun)

2. I have to be able to reuse parts of the costume after Oct. 31st

3. The costume must be witty and fun to wear (or come with an accent)

4. No shiny polyester dresses! I want to wear real, breathable fabrics

1. Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton and the Crowds at the Order of ...

Image by liam_davies via Flickr

My nod to fad costumes (at lease I would get to rock a British accent). There have been many predictions about this costume being one of the most popular for 2011. SheFinds did an awesome write-up here on how to build the look. What I love about this costume idea is all my conservative, work-appropriate dresses can get a K-Mids make-over with a sapphire ring and maybe a big feather fascinator.

What You’ll Need:

1. Conservative dress (no minis here, you’re royalty now), preferably a wrap dress or something in a dark navy.

2. A sapphire ring (of course!)

3. Closed-toe heels (court heels)

4. Hair Bling (either a fascinator with feathers or a chic sparkly headband work)

2. Melanie Daniels from Hitchcock’s The Birds

The Birds (film)

Image via Wikipedia

I am DYING to do my own version of this costume! This costume is the perfect mix of 60s chic and Halloween gore. I would recommend buying an expendable dress from Goodwill for this costume, preferably in mint green but any shift dress with matching jacket will work.

What You’ll Need:

1. A vintage-style shift dress with matching jacket or cardigan (in mint green if possible)

2. A lady-like purse with top handle (an excuse to dive into this season’s lady-like bag fad!)

3. Craft-store crows and black birds. Black feather can also be glued to the gown and pinned in your hair. I would pin a few birds around the shoulders and then glue one to a headband and wear that.

4. Blonde bombshell wig – pull out your old Marilyn Monroe wig for this or just put your hair in curlers the night before to get a great 60s bob.

Some blood squirts and crazy teased hair will complete the look!

But my winner for Halloween this year is…

3. Miss Scarlet from Clue

Cover of "Clue"

Cover of Clue

I have a red satin dress from my company’s Holiday party last year which will work perfectly. I bought a hangman’s noose on Amazon and am going to carry a book around.

Miss Scarlet with the noose in the library… Case Closed!

Several of my friends and I are doing Clue together. I’m trying to talk the boyfriend into being Professor Plum! I also think Mrs. White is a fantastic costume (and I love love Madeline Kahn in the film version).

What You’ll Need:

1. A red dress (or something low-cut like in the film version)

2. A murder weapon (for ideas play Clue)

3. A location (carry around something that reveals the location you murder at – I am carrying around a book for the library but another easy one would be the conservatory, just put some leaves in your hair or dirt on your shoes)

Clue is great for group costumes and everything can be put together with clothes you already have. And just in case you missed Apollo’s Halloween costume, you can see it here.

What I Wore also did an amazing post on DIY Costumes.

What are your witty/off-the-beaten track costume ideas?

Ashley