Category Archives: Style

Snapshot: Bruges

This is our favorite day of the trip. We dock in Ghent, which I would love to see but alas there isn’t enough time to thoroughly explore both cities, and we want to do justice to beautiful Bruges.

Bruges is a fascinating combination of old and new, from its medieval buildings and churches, tree-lined canals and peaceful courtyards, to its many delectable restaurants, chocolate shops and other modern offerings.

Chocolate tools!

We begin with a stroll through the convent originally established in 1245 as a béguinage. This was a community of religious laywomen who lived and worked together, following the prioress’s rules, but did not take vows: a remarkable opportunity at that time for unmarried women to be (relatively) socially and financially independent. Today, Benedictine nuns call this lovely complex of 16th-18th century houses and gardens home.

We stroll through narrow streets to the expansive main plaza, where horse-drawn carriages await eager tourists such as ourselves. It’s still too early for lunch so off we go for a tour led by our horse Gina. Our driver warns us that Gina can display a bit of a temper if we get too close, so we stay safely tucked in the back while she clip-clops through town.

Other visitors have the same idea

Earlier, we’ve serendipitously stumbled upon the Delvaux boutique, which is enticing to me and tolerated by my long-suffering husband. I spy, and purchase, a silk scarf with Delvaux’s famous Magritte-inspired designs, which goes perfectly with one of my favorite bags, the Tempête.

We see many people taking advantage of the sunny weather to float along the canals but we continue our wanderings until it’s time to return to the ship and rejoin new friends for cocktails and dinner.

One of the most-photographed sites, we’re told

Fake It ‘Til You Make It (wardrobe edition)

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

A quick refresher on how to add or subtract pounds/kilos visually

COLOR

Light colors make you look larger. Darker colors make you look smaller. Use them to call attention to areas you want to highlight or minimize.

SHAPE

Garments that are boxy and shapeless add weight, though we tend to hope they disguise extra pounds. Longer lengths, such as a jacket that falls below the hips, elongate your silhouette.

FIT

Avoid squeezing into anything too tight. One size up will be more comfortable as well as more flattering. If you want to add curves this principle still applies; too-tight clothing will only emphasize your shape.

FABRIC

It’s no surprise that thick, bulky fabrics (I’m looking at you, teddy bear coats!) add literal inches.

DESIGN

Single-breasted jackets have less fabric around the mid-section than double-breasted ones do. And the additional buttons on a double-breasted style call attention to the bust and belly, especially if they’re metallic.

VERTICAL vs HORIZONTAL

Vertical lines elongate; horizontals widen. This is not just about actual stripes; a contrast-color belt creates a horizontal, as does an outfit with multiple hem lengths. If you love horizontal stripes, as I do, add a long solid-color cardigan to minimize the pattern and create a vertical line.

For the leanest look, stay within one color palette (including shoes) and add visual interest and/or color with jewelry or a scarf near the face.

French Fashion Update

While at FSH, a sales associate showed this to multiple customers

Happy weekend, everyone! I’m so delinquent in posting but here are some quick style observations from our recent trip to Paris and Bordeaux.

  • Almost everyone wears scarves, all nonchalantly slung about the neck
  • Patterned tights, no opaques
  • Ankle boots are popular, especially worn with short skirts (if you’re young, that is)
  • The Right Bank of Paris seemed to be mobbed with frenzied shoppers. Is this due to being sprung from the pandemic jail and finally being able to travel? Many post-pandemic events requiring new wardrobes? A lack of interest in museums, restaurants or architecture?
  • Black, black and more black. Except for head-to-toe camel. Or grey.
  • For that casual, old-money look, a battered Kelly looks far more chic than the brand new version
  • Big Birkins still look like suitcases
  • Lots of hats, e.g. cloches, but not berets.
  • Jewelry: The look is several delicate chains layered together. Women of every age wear multiple rings — especially on the second and fourth fingers. No big diamonds or other flashy pieces — the French prefer understatement

As some of you may know, I am a sucker for almost anything Hermès. Though I was dismayed by the crazy mob of shoppers at the Rue Faubourg flagship: Nearly every woman was sporting either a Birkin or a Kelly and it seemed to be the necessary accessory to get anyone to pay attention to you. Although the sales assistants have explained that production of the most in-demand styles is down due to Covid so that “nothing” is available, I did spot one woman purchasing both a Constance and a Kelly, with a stack of boxes suggesting that she was just getting started.

I did buy a lipstick.

Luckily, there is the secondary market. And if you already have more than enough bags and baubles, the following item is available online at Ann’s Fabulous Finds for a very reasonable $5,500. Surely this will be snapped up ASAP!

Yes, a designer hard hat.

Meanwhile, the flagship Chanel still boasts the original staircase, which is worth a visit even if you’re not shopping.

To P or not to P…

(That’s P as in “pantyhose”). Our daughter B posed this question recently and I had to resort to the Internet for advice.

My impression is that pantyhose in any way, shape, or form are considered frumpy and outdated. However, once one attains a certain age, splotchiness, or belly size, they can be more flattering than going au naturel. Also, consider the effect of goosebumps in cold weather.

No less an authority than Chanel is showing fishnet hose, a compromise I like. But first, here’s definitive advice from the NY Times fashion pages.

Does Anyone Wear Pantyhose Anymore?

Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of The New York Times, takes reader questions. This is from 2/26/2021.


Pantyhose — or stockings or nylons or tights, which are not exactly the same things but are often used interchangeably — are one of those items of dress that seems innocuous and unimportant, but is actually a giant generational, occupational and cultural lightning rod. For women of a certain age, they are simply a part of girding yourself for the world; for others, they are a symbol of old-fashioned female repression and outmoded gender rules.

They’re not exactly a girdle or a crinoline, but they are a descendant of that genetic line: undergarments foisted on women to cover their bodies and make them “acceptable” to outsiders. They also, of course, help keep your legs warm and maybe prevent skirts from clinging, but that’s the trade-off.

Indeed, if you ever want to start a lively discussion during a lull in a dinner party, bring up the question of pantyhose. Even when they are invisible or skin-tone, no one is neutral on the subject.

Simply consider, if you will, the case of Megan Markle. Just after her wedding, when she was still a sign of change within the royal family and hopes were high for modernization, she appeared with her new in-laws at Prince Charles’s 70th birthday party in an ivory dress, matching hat and pale hose! The internet freaked out, with numerous viewers seeing in the tights a sign that she was being stifled, just as her legs were stifled.

Indeed, there were lots of rumors that tights were royal protocol, in part because the Duchess of Cambridge, like her grandmother-in-law, always wears them. Yet a few months after the tights appearance, Ms. Markle put an end to the talk, attending a charity performance in a tuxedo minidress and … no hose! Revolution, cheered the watching hordes.

Whatever the truth of the royal issue, the import was pretty clear: Stockings are not modern.

This fall into disrepute has probably been hastened by the pandemic, since pantyhose are not exactly a necessary part of one’s wardrobe when working from home. And indeed, even before remote work became a reality for many of us, most offices had abandoned the requirement (spoken or not) for pantyhose at work.

The exception being flight attendants. For many of them, pantyhose are still part of the uniform — see Kaley Cuoco in “The Flight Attendant” on HBO Max — in part because the compression in some pairs helps with circulation at altitude.

That said, designers love to reinvent and reassess previously rejected garments, so right on cue stockings have been on the rise in a variety of collections. Virginie Viard put sheer polka-dot versions on her runway for fall 2020; they were there at Saint Laurent in lace; and this week Kim Jones showed a sheer black pair at his Fendi show.

All of which means: It’s up to you. But understand what messages the outside world may read into your choice.

If you do choose to go with the hose, some brands to consider include Hipstick and Commando, both favorites of the Hollywood crowd. (Yes, there is a lot of hosiery on the red carpet.) Nubian Skin offers a variety of shades that actually work for the actual variety of skins. For a splurge, there’s Wolford, which is the Duchess of Cambridge’s go-to brand. Finally, on the more affordable end of the scale, there is Hanes, which is a top-seller on Amazon.

And know this: The sheer nylons and tights segment of the global hosiery market is predicted to grow by 2.1 percent over the next seven years. So whatever the politics, pantyhose are not going away.

Chanel-Cruise
Chanel Cruise 2022. Images from PurseBlog.com

COVID-19 Spending and Saving

Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.

Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”) 

Spending more

  • Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
  • Whole Foods delivery in the early months
  • Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
  • TV streaming services
  • Zoom membership
  • Books
  • Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
  • Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
  • Cute socks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy

Saving more

  • Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
  • Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
  • Pedicures – My toes are not worth dying for
  • Restaurants
  • New clothes – to go where, exactly?
  • Travel
  • Cultural events/theatre/opera tix
  • Massages and facials (see pedicure)

Yep, things are definitely tirving these days.

photo of inverted woman on wooden chair

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

 

 

 

What is Luxury Today?

I’ve just finished reading an excellent blog post about the recent hikes in luxury prices, which has gotten me thinking about fashion in general and what’s even relevant anymore.

There’s nothing like a few months of quarantine to make fashion seem entirely superfluous. Where are we going, and who are we going to see anyway?  Layer on the implicit showing off that accompanies an expensive purchase, and it’s even more ridiculous when our thoughts are on slightly bigger issues, such as survival.

Good health: that’s the true luxury. But I digress.

At the same time, though, fashion has long had a role in creating optimism and cheering us up: Note the exuberance of Dior’s New Look after World War II when women couldn’t wait to get back into pretty clothes again. Even if it’s an illusion, it’s comforting to put on an outfit that makes you feel life is returning to normal.

The disconnect for me lies with hugely expensive items.  If nothing else, the pandemic has forced people to think about what matters to us: the health and safety of people we love. Recent features on how celebrities are “coping” with isolation in their multi-million-dollar, multi-thousand-square-foot bunkers have met with ridicule and pushback. Showing off anyone’s net worth seems particularly tasteless these days.

So, I’m wondering: Are you shopping at all? Planning to shop? Clearing out your wardrobe to keep only the stuff you love? Saving up for a special item? Or none of the above?

pink and orange textile

Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

 

Stack, Scramble and Roll

I sing this song every January: it’s time to clean out, throw away, and straighten up my closet. A well-organized wardrobe is a joy forever — or at least for a couple of months until it becomes an unholy mess again.

Part of the exercise is deciding how best to arrange what’s left.  There are several schools of thought on this scintillating topic.

STACK

IMG-1698

This works best for shelves, so you can see what color shirts or sweaters you have. I find it less useful in drawers because I always have to dig through to find what I want — inevitably it’s on the bottom.

SCRAMBLE

When you hang everything, it can easily become a jumble of colors, lengths, and items.  One school of thought is to organize everything by color, a system in which all black items — jackets, pants, skirts, tops — would be grouped together.

It seems to me that it would be harder to find something specific; have you tried this approach?  My compromise is to hang similar items together, arranged by color.

ROLL

Although I often pack this way when traveling, it never occurred to me to roll things at home. Miraculously, items DO take up less space in the drawer, and now I can see what I have.  Works wonders for socks, underwear, t-shirts and jeans.

CODA

As a native New Yorker, it’s no surprise that most of my clothes are black, grey, and navy regardless of where I live, with a few pieces in the offwhite/tan/khaki range tossed in. This probably explains why my occasional wild foray outside the neutral zone is often unsuccessful. Note to self: do not buy bright colors, however appealing. You’ll always reach for something else.

Keeping things neat is a constant work in progress. How about you?  Is your closet beautifully organized, a hot mess, or somewhere in between?

 

 

 

 

 

Good News Monday: Sustainable Shopping Made Easy

News to me, at least: mega e-tailer Net-a-Porter is highlighting beauty and fashion products created with a sustainable future in mind.

From natural skincare to organically sourced materials, items in the NET SUSTAIN collection meet at least one of eight key attributes that align with the fashion and beauty industries’ goals for positive impact on human, animal, and environmental welfare.

Of course, not shopping — or shopping vintage and pre-owned items — would be even better, but sometimes the heart just wants what it wants.

woman holding card while operating silver laptop

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

 

Regifting: Taboo or To Do?

“‘Tis the day after Christmas, and all through the land,

Folks are regifting the gifts they can’t stand…”

tabby cat lying under christmas tree with gifts

Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

An article in the Wall Street Journal argues that regifting is a perfectly acceptable practice and preferable to throwing away something the giftee doesn’t want or need.

(Reprinted here because the link forces you to subscribe in order to read the whole piece. I hate that.)

From the Wall Street Journal

A recipient wants items A and B (say, a hat and gloves) yet receives items C and D (say, a scarf and mittens). Another recipient wants C and D, yet receives A and B. The solution seems simple: The two recipients can simply pass along the gifts they received to each other.

The psychology, however, is more complex. People in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour, for instance, used such words as guilty, lazy, thoughtless and disrespectful in describing their feelings about regifting. Popular culture casts it as taboo, as well. An entire episode of “Seinfeld” highlights the stigma attached to giving away presents meant for ourselves.

Getting stuck with gifts we do not want is no small problem. Consider that the National Retail Federation calculated that the average holiday-season shopper in the U.S. last year spent more than $1,000 on gifts. In a survey across 14 countries in Europe, meanwhile, 1 in 7 said they were unhappy with what they received for Christmas, yet more than half simply kept the gifts.

Why can’t more gifts be passed along to people who appreciate them?

Our research with Francis J. Flynn, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, suggests the shame associated with regifting is largely unwarranted. Indeed, our research consistently tells us that people overestimate the negative consequences.

Next, we tried to shed light on just how serious the perceived offense is. We asked two groups—again, givers and regifters—to compare regifting a hypothetical wristwatch with throwing it in the trash. For the original givers, regifting the watch was a much less offensive act than trashing it. The regifters, however, wrongly assumed that the givers would find both equally offensive. The results were the same when regifting presents that the recipients didn’t like much.

Finally, given that the feared offense looks more imagined than real, we turned our attention to how people might be encouraged to break this taboo.

For this part of our research, we invited to our lab at Stanford people who had recently received presents, and divided the people into two groups. When we gave the first group an opportunity to regift that present, 9% did so.

When we gave the second group the same opportunity, we added that it was “National Regifting Day,” a real event that happens each year on the Thursday before Christmas. It wasn’t really National Regifting Day, but the group didn’t know that: 30% of them agreed to regift.

Everyone has received bad gifts in their lives, and we generally accept that we will receive more in the future. Yet for some (mathematically impossible) reason, we believe that we give only good gifts.

Our research offers a simple solution to the problem of unwanted gifts. This holiday season, consider regifting, and encourage recipients of your gifts to do the same if what you gave them isn’t quite what they hoped for.

Dr. Adams is an assistant professor at the University of Virginia. Dr. Norton is a professor at Harvard Business School. Email them at reports@wsj.com.