Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is enjoying their winter holidays.  Best wishes of the season to everyone!

I bought myself a little holiday present, which I hope to review when I use it for the first time.  I'm waiting to receive it in the mail - I ordered it from Ulta a few days ago.  It should get here around the end of the week.

Until then, be well, my readers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Fitting Topic: On Mom Jeans, Muffin Tops and Other Dressing Dilemmas

One of my young friends on LiveJournal had some confusion about what constitutes a well-fitting garment.  This seems to be a common problem among women.  Men probably have this dilemma, too, but men are usually able to get alterations made to their clothes when they purchase them, especially when it comes to suits and dress clothes.  Places like Mens Wearhouse make alterations when you purchase a garment.

Women are on their own.  It's not often a retailer will make alterations to women's garments as part of the purchase.  Women usually have to shoulder the expense of tailoring their own clothes to fit, if they are so inclined.

I read in numerous books about the importance of having your clothes altered to get the perfect fit.  A good tailor is essential.  Ask around among your friends and acquaintances and neighbors, to get a recommendation, or go to Yelp or Google to get a recommendation for a tailor in your neighborhood.  

So, here are some tips about fit and what a tailor  can and cannot do.

Starting from the top:

Tops:

  • Shoulders:  The shoulder of a jacket, shirt or blouse should not extend past the outer edge of your natural shoulder.  If it extends past that point, it can be altered, but be aware that it's a difficult alteration to do on a jacket, because of the padding in a jacket; likewise if the shoulder of a shirt or blouse is padded.
  • Sleeves:  It's important that sleeves fit correctly, because sleeves that are too wide can add weight to a person's frame.  Likewise, sleeves that are too narrow make a person look like as if they're bursting out of their clothes, like the Incredible Hulk!  Sleeves that are too short have a similar effect; sleeves that are too long make you look like your clothes have swallowed you up.  Coco Chanel was known to spend hours working to get a precise fit on the sleeves of her jackets.  A precisely fitted sleeve can make a big difference in a garment's appearance and the way it hangs on your frame.  The length of a full-length sleeve should come down to your wrist - just at the wrist, no longer, and no shorter.  It's relatively easy in most cases to correct the hem of a sleeve, unless there is decoration, embellishment, fancy cuffs or buttons or zippers.  I had a DKNYJeans jacket that had zippers at the wrists, and it was expensive to get the sleeves hemmed, and the zippers had to be cut down.  Something to be aware of when you purchase a garment and the sleeves are too long.  
  • Chest:  The buttons on a shirt or jacket or outerwear should not gap open.  If this happens, you need to go a size up in your tops, jackets and outerwear.  If there's a crease across your chest when you wear knit tops, this is a sign that your clothes are not fitting properly, and you need to wear a size larger.  If the shoulders of your garment extend past your natural shoulder line, with extra fabric under the arms, this is a sign that you need to buy a smaller size top.
  • Waist:  Sometimes the waist on a jacket or blouse can be too large.  On a blouse, this isn't such a terrible thing, depending on how one usually wears a shirt or blouse - tucked or untucked, and if one belts one's pants or skirts or not.  So with a shirt or blouse, one has a bit of wiggle room, unless the garment is too tight in the waist, in which case, you need to go a size up.  If the buttons at the waist of the shirt, blouse or jacket are gaping open, it's time to get a larger size.  
  • With jackets, the correct fit in the waist is important, since having a too-large waist can throw off the whole line of the jacket and make you appear larger than you are.  It's usually not too difficult to take in a jacket at the waist, so it would be worth it to have this alteration done by a tailor.  It improves the look of a garment, and the entire outfit.  

Bottoms:

  • Waist:  With pants, having a correctly-fitted waist is important, as well, because with a properly fitted waist, one can avoid the dreaded "tenting" problem - when extra fabric gathers around the lower portion of your tummy and makes you look bigger than you are.  Unfortunately, it can also make you look like a man, if you get my drift, and I don't know about you, but that's something I'd like to avoid.  If you're looking for a trim look to your tummy, it's good to avoid pleated pants.  Taking in the waist is a relatively easy alteration to make, and if you're handy with sewing, you can even do it yourself, if you can have somebody help you with the fitting. 
  • With skirts, having a correctly-fitted waist is important, because otherwise you're stuck with "wandering skirt syndrome," where, as you go through your day, your skirt shifts around until the side zipper is at the back, or the back zipper is at the side, and your seams are all in the wrong place.  This is also a relatively easy adjustment to make, and can be done at home if you can sew, and have help with the fitting.  
  • Hips:  One way you can tell if a skirt or dress is too tight is if you're experiencing the "shelvy-butt" phenomenon.  Does your skirt or dress ride up in the back, and is extra fabric gathered at the top of your derriere?  Then you need to go a size up.  If you are like me and Mother Nature blessed you with ample hips and booty, and a small waist, you need to get bottoms that fit your hips, and get the waist taken in.  If you have a larger waist than hips, then you need to get bottoms that fit your waist, otherwise you get the dreaded "muffin top."  In this case, my advice would be to go for a higher-rise pant, rather than a low-rise.  You don't have to go into "mom jeans" territory ... the top button at the waist of the pants should be about level with your own belly button.  
  • Skirt and Dress Hems:  With skirts and dresses, unless you have terrific legs and like to show them off by wearing minis, usually the "sweet spot" for a hem is at the knee.  The past few seasons, skirt hems seem to be allover the place - the midi, the mini, the maxi, at-the-knee ... anything goes.  Just check yourself out in a full-length mirror, or if you're like me, have your co-habitants check you out before you leave the house, to make sure that, wherever your hem lands, it's at a sweet spot ... a narrow part of the leg ... at the ankle, right below the calf, or at the knee.  If you have the guts to wear minis, my hat's off to you, and all I ask is that you do the public a service and keep the goods covered.  
  • Pant Hems:  Pant hems should break right across the top of the shoe.  You've probably heard this before, but it's a good idea, if you wear both heels and flats, to get pants hemmed for both heels and flats.  Decide what type of heel you will be wearing with a specific pair of pants, and get them hemmed accordingly.  Hemming is fairly easy to do, even with jeans.  There are online tutorials showing how to hem jeans so you can keep the classic "jean hem" intact.  Just make sure you get someone to do the pinning, or if you know the proper inseam, pin the hem to the appropriate length and hem the pants yourself.  
  • If you're going to take the pants to a tailor, remember to bring the shoes you will be wearing with the pants and wear them during the fitting, to get the best fit.  

You might wonder where I got all this information, and I'll be happy to tell you:  In addition to reading books about fashion over the years, and working in the fashion industry for 10 years, my mom used to sew many of my clothes when I was a youngster.   I took sewing in home economics in high school, so I learned to make little alterations, like taking in the waist and hemming pants, but I would never claim to be an expert.  

My mom was an expert!  From her, I learned what constitutes a well-made, well-fitting garment, and what to look for when I was shopping for clothes.  To this day, I hide out in the fitting room, examining the seams, buttons, zippers and fabric quality of any potential purchases before I buy.  I'm happy to say, in general, I very rarely have buyer's remorse when it comes to clothing purchases, because all my garments stand up to the test of time.  To my dismay, I usually grow out of garments before they wear out.  

Also, I have experienced many of the fitting dilemmas discussed in this post.  Shelvy-butt?  Guilty.  Gaping shirt buttons?  Guilty.  Too long jacket sleeves?  Guilty - but remedied by a trip to the tailor.  This just underscores the importance of letting go of garments that no longer fit, which I try to do regularly.  

If a garment can be saved by repairing it, or by some alterations, then it's usually worth the effort to take care of the problem, unless you a) really hate it; b) it's very cheaply made and won't stand the test of time.  In that case, it's usually not worth the effort and/or expense you would put into it to alter it.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Style Icons

Lauren Conrad had a blog post today about her favorite fashion icons.  This got me to thinking, of course, who are my fashion or style icons?

I would say I have many, but the Top Six are:  Bette Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Chow, Greta Garbo and Jackie Onassis and her sister, Lee Radziwill.

I love Bette Davis specifically in her "All About Eve" performance.  She plays a diva, a star of the stage, and she does it brilliantly.  I love the nipped-in waists of her dresses and suits in that film, and the structured silhouettes.  Beyond that, I love her temperamental, insecure, all-too-human portrayal of a woman at the top of her game, with the wannabes nipping at her heels.  True love and Bette emerge triumphant!  
Gwyneth Paltrow always looks radiant.  With her long blond hair and slim, erect figure, she always shines out from the crowd of celebrities, even when she wears neutrals.  In addition to that, I think she's a very talented actress and she takes roles that I find intriguing, such as her roles in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Possession," and "Sylvia."  She diversifies her talents as well, not being satisfied merely with acting:  She sings, she dances, and she's an excellent cook, in addition to being an author.  She is truly multi-talented!
Tina Chow, nee Bettina Lutz, died in 1992, from complications related to AIDS.  She became one of the first heterosexual women in the media to bear that distinction.  She was 41 years old.  However, in the short time she was alive, she influenced many artists, designers and photographers.  She had her own style, which bucked the trends of the 70's disco era, and the big hair and neon-bright  colors of the 80's.  Her usual work uniform was a pair of jodhpurs and a men's white high-quality cotton t-shirt, or a white t-shirt, black Kenzo pants, and a gray cashmere cardigan.  She designed her own jewelry line for Bergdorf Goodman (see photo above), using crystal and bamboo.  She wore her short black hair closely cropped and slicked back.  New York Magazine did an article on her some years back, titled, "Lost Angel."  It is unfortunate that her creative spark was extinguished too soon.  
Miss Greta Garbo, nee Greta Gustafson.  No one ever did menswear as well before or since.    Garbo had a quiet elegance that came across no matter what costumes she wore for her movies.  I don't think I need to explain her charms, do I?  The picture says it all.  
I love this photo of Lee Radziwill and Jackie Onassis at the market in Capri.  Both ladies were icons of style, and you can see their simple, casual elegance in this photo.  It's relaxed, but not sloppy; youthful, but not trendy.  Just classic, simple lines.  
All  of my style icons have a certain simplicity and austerity in their personal style.  This suits me.  You'll notice three of the photos are black and white - I favor neutrals over colors (except pink and blue, can't get enough of those!) and I dislike elaborate or fussy designs.  I know, this is very "white bread and mayonnaise" style, but I crave simplicity, structure and clean lines.  Probably because life is so unpredictable and complicated!

*I got the photos in this post from the Internet, specifically Google Images.  Copyright wasn't clear, so if you own the copyright to these photos and want me to take them down, just let me know and I'll comply.  If you wish to be credited, let me know that, too.  I respect copyright laws.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath - Staten Island Needs Help!

My trusty LL Bean flashlight and case, which we used in the bathroom to save the batteries.  It takes AA batteries, which turned out to be a good thing, because C's and D's were all sold out, and my friend Danny, who came over last week to check on us, just happened to have some extra AA's on him.  
Two candles, wooden kitchen matches, a snuffer, and a wick trimmer.  Witchy accouterments that came in handy during the power outage.  
I was going to do a blog post about how I made it through Hurricane Sandy, but one of my readers suggested that I also present links to resources for people who need help, and for people who want to help Staten Islanders in our time of need.  We truly are the "Forgotten Borough" of New York City, and I know I have readers from all around the world, so if you are in a position to help, please consider doing so.

We were without power for four days, which sounds like a long time, but there are people who haven't had power since the Monday before Hurricane Sandy hit, and they don't expect to have power anytime soon.

Here's how we've been surviving:

My consumption of Spam (and other canned food) has supplanted my consumption of fresh food, and those of you who are familiar with Monty Python will know this has led to much hilarity in our little home.  Our Intensive Case Manager had good news for us today, which was that Con Ed will reimburse people for food they lost due to power outages, if you present them with the receipt.  Since I spent almost $200 on groceries shortly before the storm, mostly on fresh food and perishable items, this will help tremendously.  As you will see, we had to throw away all of our perishable items.  
 Lots of canned food!

We have bread, butter and flour.  

 And not much else.  I have onions, Granny Smith apples and baby carrots, because they don't go bad quickly, but I lost the eggs, chicken broth and just about anything else that I could use to make a recipe.
Iced tea cooling down in the freezer - but nothing else.  
Water, water, everywhere!  But not much else.  
Mostly medication in the top shelf of the refrigerator door, prunes; more water, some butter and raisins; apples, oil and syrup.  The apples, raisins and water are good to go - not much I can do with the rest.
You may be wondering why I haven't gone shopping to restock yet - due to the gas shortage and problems with transportation and infrastructure, supermarkets were having trouble restocking their shelves after the storm, so I'm waiting until this Saturday to go shopping.  There isn't much available in the neighborhood, and I don't want to buy anything that went bad because of the storm that the store didn't discard.  Hey, it happens.
To add insult to injury, we had a Nor'easter yesterday and last night.  The photo above is what it looked like at dusk yesterday.  
Above and below: This is what it looked like this morning.  


So, as you can see from these pictures, life is pretty real here in the Big Apple.  My roommate went out today to the areas that were most affected by Hurricane Sandy: Midland Beach and Father Capodanno Blvd., and she said it was completely devastated.  The houses all along Fr. Cap have been completely demolished, and Midland Avenue was in bad shape, as well.  And that's just a small part of Staten Island.  And people are without heat and electricity in the cold weather.  

Here are some links to resources:  



Gov. Cuomo's Webpage for Post-Hurricane Resources - this webpage also has a link for donations.  




Be well and safe out there, everybody!  Once again, if you can help, please do so.  It doesn't have to be a huge amount; every little bit helps.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oh, Sandy Girl!

That's a song by Bruce Springsteen, who I hear is doing a benefit concert for his home state of New Jersey, which was very hard hit by, yes, Hurricane Sandy!

Personally I've never been through a storm of that magnitude, and I've been through some legendary storms (Blizzard of '96, anyone?).  I have to say, though, the majority of people have been friendly and neighborly as the city and Tri-State area work to get back to normal.

I'll do a report on how we weathered the storm, but alas I have no photos of what I wore!  I really didn't want the sight of me unwashed and wearing dirty old clothes to be immortalized on the Internet!

Here's a link to The Staten Island Advance (http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/11/staten_island_hurricane_sandy_1.html#incart_river
that has the latest updates on how things are progressing (or not) on Staten Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.