Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zac attac.

I've never been a fan of discount designer lines. They strike me as the epitome of buying something solely for the label attached. With the exception of Marc by Marc Jacobs (still not all that "discount") and a sprinkling of few-and-far-between successful capsule collections, I find that big-name designers usually balk when met with the inexpensive materials needed to produce at a lower price point. The result? A "designer" item that aims too high and ends up looking like just that: a cheap imitation of the real thing. The masses will buy it because it's Rodarte or whatever, but I think inexpensive clothing is best left to those who know how to handle it (H&M, Zara, Topshop). Creating discount fashion requires a simpler touch than most couturiers bring to the table.






Zac Posen for Target's GO International line is one glaring exception to the rule. These four dresses are divine - they manage to capture Zac's unique flavor without looking froufrou-y or over-the-top. I would kill for the black dress with the snaps - such a flattering shape, with just the right amount of edge - and the braided belt on the lilac floral slip dress is delightfully quirky. Zac was smart to work with prints; they typically take to bargain fabrics much better than solid colors.


This lipstick tank has been hailed as the signature piece of the collection. Talk about a chic graphic tee for summer. This would pair beautifully with jean shorts, a breezy cardigan and leopard flats for weekend, as well as a tiny skirt, leather jacket and lethal heels for a night out.


This leather jacket (in "Target red") is the most expensive piece in the collection, at just under $200. It's real leather - and looks nice enough in the photograph, I suppose - but I'm wary of buying anything that costs $200 at Target. I feel like it defeats the purpose of the collection. At that point, you'd be better off saving up a little while longer and springing for a leather jacket from a more reputable brand.

There are a few other aspects of the collection that awaken my inner skeptic - a series of gold lamé swimsuits, for one (leave those to American Apparel, Zac!) - but overall, I was pleasantly surprised by what Posen had to offer. Apparently, it's not cruel enough for him to simply be woefully unattainable gay eye candy. He has to go and make me want to shop at Target, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Nothing is ugly as long as it is alive." - Coco Chanel

Yesterday, a friend of mine who is almost aggressively uninterested in fashion told me that I had helped her realize the importance of material things.

My knee-jerk reaction was, of course, mortification. Glorious! Just what we all need in the current moral and economic climates: a nagging voice urging us to pay more mind to stuff. I knew she was justified in her observation - materialism is an unfortunate byproduct of aspirations in the fashion industry - but what was remarkable was that she seemed to have genuinely meant it to be a compliment.

I'm certainly a believer that people - family, friendships, relationships - are infinitely more vital to our happiness than any pair of Manolo Blahniks that can be purchased on sale. That being said, I do see a tangible value in investing in appearances. For me, getting dressed is not only a means of artistic expression, but also a measure of personal pride; when I walk around with unwashed hair and ratty gym clothes on (out of laziness, not when I'm actually on my way to the gym), I feel devalued in a way that has nothing to do with whether or not men (or women) find me attractive. Clothes have, for better or worse, the power that we have collectively ascribed to them: a power that makes visible a portion of our interior and, perhaps more importantly, gives voice to our self-concept. To ignore society's expectations of our relationship to clothing is foolish. To pass up the chance to create for yourself a world in which you truly look the way you feel is, to me, actually depressing.

I'm also a big believer in the way in which clothes come alive on a person. You can build the most heartbreakingly beautiful dress on God's green earth, but until it's worn by somebody who takes pure, unadulterated joy in its construction, it's worthless. It's like how a fragrance reacts uniquely with the hormones of each individual who spritzes it on - clothing must be loved by its owner to be lovable to others. I adore reading personal style blogs because nine times out of ten, it's the pieces I never would have looked twice at in a store that inspire me the most. The number of trends I've hated until I saw them on people who wore them not to be "fashionable," but because they genuinely loved the look! Anyone can buy an expensive, current wardrobe - but to have true style, clothing must be worn dynamically.

And then I thought of this recent photo shoot celebrating the 30th anniversary of Loewe's Amazona tote. The bag is simple, maybe even boring - but I was instantly struck by the life it brings to each of these photographs. It appears to be, in every frame, placed with a purpose; this is a purse that belongs to someone - a dreamer, a mother, a hermit, an intellectual - and because of that, it takes on a value that no manmade object can claim on its own.






Whatever your opinion of fashion - a crutch for those devoid of inner beauty or the greatest thing on the face of the planet - I urge you to broaden that definition. Because for materialistic me, things are important - but only because people make them so. Is it possibly to have an unhealthy obsession with earthly trappings? Absolutely. Are there those who judge the enjoyment of said trappings too harshly? Believe it. But the only way to recognize the value of style is to experience it to the fullest. Nothing is ugly as long as it is alive.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Building blocks.

So everyone in the blogosphere appears to be compiling top-ten lists of their can't-live-without-'em clothing and accessory items this week. It's interesting (and refreshing!) to see how the lists vary from author to author - we're always advised to stock up on the same hot-ticket staples (perfect jeans! LBD!), but what most style manuals fail to take into account is the effect of personal style on what defines the parameters of a "basic." I hate pants, so perfect jeans and well-cut work trousers would never garner a spot in my top ten; however; a ruffled silk dress and blue oxford shirt are two more nontraditional options that I find myself reaching for time and time again. Despite an unusual color or cut, these pieces have, indeed, become my closet's "basics" - and once you define yours, it's easy to see where you should invest your hard-earned cash (and makes those uncreative mornings about a thousand times easier).

Top Ten

1) Striped tee. I own three of these (black and white, yellow and white, and navy and cream) and find them to be incredibly comfortable and versatile. Nautical stripes are timeless, whether you're landlocked or on a boat, and this particular rendering is a chic European spin on the all-American t-shirt. Breton sweaters are lovely, but I prefer lightweight tees that can be worn in layers year-round (and find three-quarter sleeves to be the most flattering).

2) Riding boots. If your climate is even remotely chillier than tropical, you should own a pair of flat riding boots. They pair perfectly with dresses, leggings, jeans...even shorts in spring and early fall. Simultaneously athletic, bohemian, and classic, they are a true gift from the shoe gods.

3) Trench coat. What girl doesn't secretly want to embody even the slightest suggestion of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's? I prefer classic khaki, but I've seen beautiful renditions in every color, from periwinkle to punchy red. Waist-nipping, trend-proof and fabulously mysterious, the trench flatters literally everyone. Even better, it can be worn with nothing underneath for, uh...special occasions.

4) Aviators. Max Potter just walked into the coffee shop I'm at right now. She is wearing Ray-Ban aviators. 'Nuff said.

5) Two-tone men's watch. If you don't know by now that I'm obsessed with watches, you're either a first-time visitor or an Alzheimer's patient. Since I wear both gold and silver jewelry, I go for two-tone. And a men's watch looks fierce on a woman's wrist. Always has, always will.

6) Black high-waisted skirt. My shopping weakness. The item I will never be done buying. Seriously. I own, like, six; I could easily go shopping today and come home with an armful more. Of course there are variations - one is studded, one is leather, one is elegant and tulip-shaped, one is dangerously curve-hugging and reserved for when I need to pull out the big guns - but collecting black skirts of every silhouette and embellishment has become a sort of shopping sub-hobby.

7) CZ studs. Diamonds are a girl's best friend, but cubic zirconia is a broke college student's best friend. I'm not much of an earring person (I'd rather wear a big, colorful ring or a statement necklace), but I think bare ears (if pierced) look unfinished, so I usually default to these. A little sparkle above the neck makes for a more polished look without detracting from the rest of the ensemble.

8) Blue button-down. Crisp white shirts get all the praise, but I prefer pale blue - it's slightly off-kilter, doesn't show dirt, and is still neutral enough to wear with most other colors (my favorite combos being blue and gray and blue and peach). I like to roll the cuffs up to right above the elbow and wear it tucked into a high-waisted skirt, with skinny jeans and riding boots, or open over a dress in place of a cardigan.

9) Nude platform sandal. I refuse to buy shoes with spindly heels because I know I won't wear them, so when it comes to height, platforms are my best friend. A flesh-toned shade lengthens the leg line and can be worn with just about anything, day or night. These are by Prada, my favorite shoe designer/where all of my money will be going once I am employed full-time.

10) Flirty dress. I'm a sucker for anything silky and ruffled. A dress like this takes you from the the office (skinny belt and a cardigan) to a dinner date (strappy heels and loose hair) to drinks with girlfriends (stacked platforms and statement jewelry).

Runners-up: A quilted purse, a well-cut blazer, a yellow belt, a giant cocktail ring, and (sigh) perfect jeans (dark and skinny).

My basics are very revealing of my personal style: hyperfeminine, with a grounding in French classics (and ill-suited to cold climates) (FML). As all over the map as my outfits may be from day to day and season to season, these are the things I keep coming back to time and time again (and, quite honestly, the things I would wear every day if people wouldn't judge me for, you know, wearing the same thing every day). I'm all for experimentation, but it's always nice to have an understanding of what makes you tick deep down inside. Give it a few minutes of thought. The items you choose may surprise you.