Ah, the denim jacket. Perfect dress up/dress down accessory and absolute wardrobe essential. And with all these fabulous options, there really is one for every body and every wardrobe.Read More
I don’t know about you, but I grew up excited at the prospect of ‘back to school’ clothes. Now that I live somewhere where we really don’t need fall clothes until late October, that same August/September shopping time frame no longer exists. But I still find my thoughts turning to fall around this time of year and retailers don’t disappoint.
Here's what designers showed on the runways for Fall/Winter 2018. I can't promise that I've covered everything, nor that I've chosen the best representations of the trends. I can say that like most runway shows, there was a mix between 'completely unwearable, I'm not even sure how that would translate to my life' styles and 'oooh, I want one of those!'. How many of these looks have filtered down to the stores we frequent AND how many of them are we willing to incorporate into our wardrobes? I’m not sure I want to revisit the 80’s with as much zeal as this, and I don’t know that I agree that hot pink is a good color for fall! (I’m good with it for our gray winters though – I have a hot pink boiled wool jacket that I wore a lot last winter.)
So without further ado, I present to you:
What Fashion Insiders Think We Will be Wearing for Fall 2018
1980’s (in all sorts of ways)
Folk Inspired Ensembles
Deconstructed suits (they needed reinvention since most of us don’t wear suits anymore!)
Although I might argue these are less de-constructed and more re-constructed!
Faux fur and shearling
Neon, especially as animal prints
Metallic (as in space age metallics, not supremely neutral shoes)
Classic plaid (think menswear, not highland fling)
Long, lean and white
As I reviewed the Fall/Winter 2018 looks that turned up at show after show, I was struck by how many of these we saw last year. Well any fall/winter season really. Wouldn’t you agree that ‘folksy’ looks and plaid make a regular appearance in the fall season? As does fur (faux or otherwise) and shearling, in some form or another. What’s perhaps different this year is how many on the list really speak to warmer weather in my mind. I’ll be keeping an eye on how these ‘trends’ play out in the wardrobes of real women like you and me, but I don’t see myself rushing out to find a neon animal print any time soon.
Unfortunately fashion has become a little like car design; there really isn’t anything truly new being conceived or produced, but things that are tweaked just enough for us to perceive them as new. Yes, the haute couture and high-end designer markets push the envelope more, but that style extremism rarely trickles down to the average shopper.
Perhaps the biggest changes will continue to be in the materials - more and more technology is being used to produce fabrics that do more and that can't be a bad thing. I’ve heard that warmer layers created with technical fabrics are being made by Yves St Laurent to be worn not just on the ski hill, but around town too. Now that’s a trend I can get behind!
Just for fun, and for bonus trend points, these runway styles that combine more than one of what seemed to be on trend for Fall/Winter 2018. Enjoy!
So I guess it’s up to us to create our own trends with what’s comfortable, flattering, and perhaps a little bit different than what we wore for the past few fall and winter seasons.
When you’ve had a chance to have a look at your closet and are sourcing pieces for your fall/winter wardrobe, share it with us in the comments. It might be fun to see how many things that we are buying actually meet the ‘official’ trend forecast from the designers!
All images in this post from Harpers Bazaar.
My love language is definitely quality time. Sure, I respond to words of affirmation too, but acts of service, physical touch and gifts are lower down on the list for me. Or so I thought before my Stitch Fix box arrived in the mail.
I wanted to try this style-as-a-subscription service primarily to evaluate it for you, dear reader. I mean, how much help can a remote stylist provide to someone who already has a pretty good eye for what suits her?
But that was before this unassuming box arrived in the mail.
Now I don’t know about you, but for as long as I’ve been receiving things via the postal service I’ve been excited about what the mailbox might contain every day. It’s disappointing for me when there is only a Chinese takeout menu to recycle. I even like seeing bills in there!
And now that we can order so many things online, I’m about as giddy as my kids when there is a box waiting on the front step. I don’t always remember what I’ve ordered, so that adds to the frisson.
But this box was a little different. Beginning with the stylish print on the inside of the box. And the beautifully presented items, almost like a gift. And the personalized note from a real stylist, plus suggestions on how to style the pieces she had chosen. Yes, Stitch Fix uses technology to underpin the entire service, but they also employ real people as stylists. I really felt like I was opening a surprise gift.
Because I had no idea what they had sent me.
I had filled out their quiz online that gives them some parameters in terms of style, occasion, price range and item types, and I had included a note about what I was most interested in receiving. In my case I had asked for unusual pieces that could upgrade my basics, or something like that. (A friend asked for date night items.) I was also very specific about asking for pieces that had a defined waist.
So How Did Stitch Fix Do?
I’ve had two ‘fixes’ as they call them, mostly because I wanted to see how they did with additional feedback. And surprisingly, to me anyway, I’ve kept pieces from both fixes. Neither one was 100% a hit, but they got it right enough, and made it so easy to send back the things that were a miss that I think I may have become a convert. To have new clothes surprise you at home every couple of months (you can choose every 2-3 weeks, monthly, every other month, or every 3 months) is a great pick-me-up whether you are stylishly challenged or not.
The first box contained a very nice basic black dress that I just didn’t need, a black and white striped jersey jacket that was just meh, a beautiful necklace that was totally my style, just not my colors (my fashion friend down the street took that one!), a very pretty top that did nothing for me either color-wise or style-wise and these very basic pants that were totally yawn inducing. I hate pants. Especially in the summer!
Except. Except this was the first pair of pants I have put on in YEARS that actually fit properly. And not just properly, they were actually flattering. So I’ve hung them up until the weather turns chilly again because frankly, part of the reason I hate pants is that I can never, and I mean never, find any that fit me.
Feedback Leads to Flattering
Their second effort was definitely more in line with my style, so clearly they do pay attention to your feedback. In fact, I was just on the Stitch Fix site to confirm some details for this post and they had a selection of dresses for me to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to in a very Tinder-like fashion, which I assume will be fed into an algorithm somewhere to assist my real stylist in choosing the next items they send me.
In the second fix they sent me a basic white shirt that is made more interesting by the ‘mixed media’ of its design; the front is a classic white shirt, but the back is a soft jersey material. It has cool cuffs too, but the best part is that it is fitted and it defines the waist that I have. This was a point I made a big deal out of after they sent me the first blousy top. Again, not something for a DC summer, but it’s hanging there waiting for the weather to turn.
There were some pretty silver earrings that were almost the same as a pair I already own and a subtly printed pair of blue pants that would have been great for casual wear had the price been casual as well. They seem to be getting it right at least some of the time, although the very pretty printed top in perfect colors was still one of those flowy things that just doesn’t work for someone with short legs, a bosom and a waist.
But the dress! This dress in the second fix was a total stunner. Absolutely nothing I needed, but so perfect in every way that I couldn’t not keep it. Which is kind of what their business model is based on. If you hate to shop, have trouble putting together outfits or just don’t have time to shop, Stitch Fix could be a godsend. If you’re like me and get excited by a little something new now and then, this is a pretty easy way to get it.
My friend Lisa posted this on Facebook after she received her first fix: "Tried Stitch Fix for the first time. Got my order today and I have to say I'm thrilled with the selection, quality, and price. This hit all my buttons - didn't have to take time to go to multiple stores; didn't have to try a bunch of stuff on that I wouldn't end up buying; didn't cheese out and just go to Dress Barn because it's close (and I always regret). I thought this would be a good way to get a quick infusion of clothes without becoming overwhelmed and stressed by going to the store."
Lisa loves that she doesn’t need to go shopping for things that just never work for her, but she also told me that she likes how Stitch Fix gets a lot of detail about your body type and has you continually refine that with the feedback after each fix.
Another friend, Rita Goodroe, has found Stitch Fix super valuable for that reason too. Here’s what she had to say: “I really love Stitch Fix. As a petite (4'11) plus size, it's hard for me to find clothes in the stores and online shopping is more miss than hit. What I enjoy is that Stitch Fix has access to clothes that fit my measurements from places I wouldn't even know about, or have access to, which allows me to diversify my wardrobe. Working with a stylist also helps to refine each delivery so that I'm keeping more and returning less which, truthfully, is what I want!”
And apparently a lot of people feel the same way. The company now has sales in excess of $1 billion and has also introduced a men’s and children’s service. I’m not sure this premise works for children’s clothes, but I think I could get behind this idea for men. I wonder if they have the sizes that will work for my 6’3” hubbie? He hates to shop, doesn’t really like to put outfits together, and doesn’t really have time to shop either. Hmmm . . .
Clearly the style-as-a-subscription service is here to stay. Stitch Fix has some competition in Front Door Fashion and Le Tote. Lisa also uses Front Door Fashion and has found their clothing a little more fashion forward, and slightly higher quality (with a slightly higher price tag) than Stitch Fix. They send her things that she wouldn’t have chosen herself, but that she loves.
Le Tote is a different business model – this is more of a clothing rental service, with your monthly subscription offering you access to outfits you choose to try out for a time. You can choose work, weekend or special occasion and the idea is that you wear them for as long as you like, then send them back. If you really love something, you can purchase it for 50% of the retail price.
So what’s my verdict? Definitely a hit. I care about how I present myself and I probably spend more time shopping for the right things than most women (primarily online now), but I love the surprise gift element of Stitch Fix. And if I really hated shopping and struggled to find clothes that fit and flattered me, I would certainly pay a premium for this service. And yet I’ve found the prices to be in line with what I would expect to pay in a store. Seems like a great way to stay stylish and it definitely saves time. So yes, a Stitch Fix in time does save nine!
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll have noticed that I like to support women and women-owned businesses whenever I can. And sometimes my love of style makes a happy connection with a woman-owned business (remember this post about crochet cover ups?)
Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to another one of these fascinating women, Victoria Kageni-Woodard, owner of Gusa by Victoria in York, Pennsylvania.
I first met Victoria at an event held by another female tour de force, Sherron Washington. As per the rules of the ‘Blu’ event, we were required to sit next to two other women whom we didn’t know. I was thrilled to be seated next to a fashion designer who creates garments that she sells in her own shop! Definitely someone I needed to get to know better.
My daughter and I headed north to Pennsylvania for a girls’ day out to visit Victoria’s shop. Accompanied by the soundtrack of number one hits from 1972 to 1994 that my music biz brother had made for my 40th birthday (I’m not sure where the second disc ended up . . .), we cruised up to York on a beautiful morning.
Victoria was graciously welcoming. Showing us around the converted row house (the name means ‘touch’ in Swahili, Victoria’s native Kenyan language) we found an eclectic space filled with all manner of hand-crafted clothing, accessories and home goods. Upstairs we found Victoria’s workroom, where she gave my daughter a quick lesson in using a serging machine, in another room her gigantic cutting table, and fronting West Philadelphia Street, her teaching room. For she teaches sewing classes for the community too.
I was first taken by the fact that Victoria is a legitimate fashion designer; a graduate of SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) who is making her unique designs to sell commercially. I’ve come to realize that what she is doing with Gusa is much, much more than that. York itself is undergoing a renaissance, driven by arts and culture and Victoria is a big contributor to that with her focus on African and African American heritage. She hosts regular music nights in the courtyard behind the shop, and she was very excited to tell me about the Gusa World Music Festival that she was organizing (June 15-16) that was advertised all over town.
But back to the clothes. Victoria comes from a long line of seamstresses, having learned initially from her grandmother in Kenya. She often crafts elaborate storyboards for a collection, only to find that the fabrics she obtains from mills are telling her to create something different. All the clothing at Gusa is made by Victoria herself, often with a tweaked commercial pattern, but sometimes directly from her mind’s eye.
And she does have fun with what she creates! I love this simple shirt dress ($97) made with an African inspired fabric that transforms it into something quite special. She also had some wonderful blue and white striped off the shoulder dresses that just looked so cool and carefree for summer.
Of course, the nice thing about hand-crafted items is the little details that make them different from what you find in the regular retail outlets. This simple white shirt ($57) was a superb example of that:
Victoria and I talked about being drawn to warmer colors, especially in the winter. For her it’s a memory of the Kenyan sun, for me it’s more a strategy for dealing with the gray wintry days. She finds that the fabrics she most often uses are warm, sunshine evoking colors like the ones in this tunic. I love the sleeve details!
Her customers are primarily women, from their early twenties right through to women confidently in middle years. And while she designs mostly for women, she does make some men’s shirts too. Nice way to get something original for your man.
Her best customers are older women who know what they want; usually a particular style, but comfort and easy maintenance too. And of course she can create unique pieces to a client’s specifications, for a very reasonable price. Prices for a unique design start from $60.
What I loved about Gusa was the way Victoria has created a cultural community supporting African and African American artists of all kinds. She stocks wonderful hand-crafted jewelry like this stunning statement piece ($75), pillows, this fabulous umbrella, continuously changing artwork and other interesting objets of African inspiration or origin.
Victoria is definitely embracing the business model that is emerging more and more now; not just profit-making, but contributing to the community and doing good too. What’s so inspirational to me is how she has crafted a business that reflects her in entirety; her creativity, her craft, her heritage and her connection to her community. Gusa is also a business that allows her to be a mother to her four teen and pre-teen children too; they’re all involved in one way or another.
So should you happen to be in York, PA for any reason, I highly recommend that you stop in. You never know what you might find that tickles your fancy and fits your shape. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to visit on a music night. And certainly if you are looking for something to be made to your specifications, it’s worth checking in with Victoria.
She’s working on a shopable website, but for now you can reach her on Instagram @gusabyvictoria or email:
Gusa by Victoria 252 West Philadelphia St, York, PA 17401
Do you remember when you could wear the cutest little shoes with no thought as to whether they would damage your feet? They just needed to complete the outfit, and chances are you could walk a fair distance in them anyway.
And then you realized that shoes you could actually walk in needed to be a lot more comfortable. Fast forward a few more years and you’ve likely discovered that accommodating all the callouses, corns and bunions you’ve accumulated over the years of wearing those cute little shoes mean many shoe styles are now completely off limits.
Which is all a very long way of saying that I now plan my outfits staring with my shoes and whatever activities I might be doing that day (read: how far I have to walk). Oh yes, and the temperature outside. Which does rather take the fun out of these fabulous finishing accessories!
I’ve come up with The Stylish Marketer’s Shoe Scale to help instantly determine whether those shoes you’ve been lusting after are really going to be able to take on what you need them to.
Hold on readers, this may become a go-to rating in the fashion mags and you’ll have seen it here first!
The Stylish Marketer’s Shoe Scale
Because let’s face it, most of the shoes we drool over start at a 6 on The Stylish Marketer’s Shoe Scale. Which means when it gets hot and sweaty in the summer and we actually have to use public transit we’re looking at the dreaded comfort shoe. Ack! (Cue scary theme music.)
To help you, dear readers, I’ve been doing some research on ‘comfort shoes’. Because I’m not ready to give up the fight just yet. There simply have to be shoes out there that can be both comfortable and cute, right?
Well, you may know I’m a big fan of Crocs summer shoes (and just to be clear, NEVER the Crocs clogs! those are hideous), but they aren’t really office appropriate. Over the years I’ve developed my own criteria of what works: heels two inches or less, leather (to accommodate swelling summer feet), straps that aren’t too narrow or too wide that can accommodate bunions, and for the icing on top, some color or other interesting detail.
And yet I still have days when all my shoes (except my running shoes) hurt my feet somewhere. Sigh.
A search on Zappos for comfort shoes yielded plenty of shoes between 0 and 4 on the scale, and a surprising number of 6’s (heels at 3 inches), but not much I’d actually like to wear.
Time to look at the brands known for comfort: Naot, Vionic, Mephisto, and Kuru. And surprisingly, I did find some interesting options at Naot and Vionic. And even more surprisingly, I found these at Hotter, a brand I’ve never seen before. Maybe not the sexiest ever, but they go with everything I’ve bought for spring and they fulfill my criteria as outlined above. I’d give these a good solid 4, even though I'm cringing a little as I do.
But the ‘comfort’ shoe bonanza was found at the aptly named Comfort One Shoes. They carry many of the brands listed above, but a huge range of others as well. I was surprised at how many were attractive and definitely twos and fours on my scale. Admittedly many were out of my wallet comfort range (I know, I know the cost per wear for shoes that last five years or more is pretty low, but I still can’t quite justify $350+ for a pair of sandals.) But look at how pretty they are!
I did find a pair of shoes that are going to work for my wardrobe for spring (ok, apparently it’s summer already so we’ll go with that!). They’re a definite 4 and maybe even a 2. More money than I would usually spend, but at this point I’m ok with that. I need at least one pair that I can wear downtown during the summer! Bonus - they're actually navy, which goes with my wardrobe.
So here are my top five picks for the cutest, walkable shoes for summer that will work for most offices:
The astute among you will have noted that there are in fact six shoes featured here. That's because while I'm a big fan of color and interesting embellishments, I do kind of like the tan and taupe version of the tomato red Sayonara sandal, bottom, right.
I can also confirm that the Dorking Babor shoes (top row, middle) look amazing on. My fashion friend purchased these last weekend and said that they certainly felt comfortable at the store.
And you'll also have noted that these sandals look nothing like what passes for sandals in most of the shoe world. I never did understand how you could walk around all day in shoes like these (right), and now that I'm rather closer to 50 than 40, I really don't get it. Which is a shame, because they are so gosh darn cute!
Have you found a great pair of office appropriate summer shoes you can walk in? Let us know!
I was recently thinking how the fashion industry is not really as inventive as the music industry. Sure there are regular new trends lasting approximately a decade in both, but fashion seems to be much more influenced by the past (sometimes even the recent past!) than music. Sometimes you’ll hear musical influences of other artists in music, but rarely do you hear ‘new’ music that harkens back to a previous era. Fashion is much more cyclical.
Having said that, fashion has been sliding along the comfort continuum for some time now; corsets moved to girdles and brassieres, and then to bras alone and now to sports bras without wires. Ok, sure, the shapewear market is alive and well, but no one would think to wear it on a daily basis. And frankly, I’m glad that I can support my girls without whalebone!
But this comfort shift has brought an accompanying casualization of style. No woman in the 1940’s, no make that even the 1960’s, would ever been seen out of her house without a hat and gloves, and certainly never in her pajamas. And yet I regularly see people in my neighborhood popping to the shop in their pajamas. But not nearly as often as I see athletic wear, or ‘athleisure wear’, for all occasions.
Originally designed to make for an easy transition from the gym to real life, the comfort and ease of athleisure wear has been adopted by huge swaths of the population for nearly every occasion. Deirdre Clemente, a professor of history at the University of Nevada who studies culture, describes athleisure as a "weird hybrid" of business casual and athletic wear, which has essentially created an entirely new category of clothing. Many of the clothes that people now consider work-appropriate incorporate sports-inspired materials, like spandex, Lycra, and other synthetic fibers. "People want less maintenance of their clothes," Clemente said. "Technology is such a pervasive part of our lives. To want it in our clothes is simply natural." (Business Insider 2/17)
Which is something I’ve been seeing in the pages of Vogue and the windows of Nordstrom for some time now. And it’s backed up by sales figures: It has been the lone star in a waning apparel industry, with an estimated market size of $44 billion in the US alone, according to research firm NPD Group. While the apparel sales, as a whole, increased 2% year-on-year in 2015, the rise in activewear sales was a whopping 16%. (Forbes 6/10/2016)
From left to right: Marine Serre dress in Vogue Jan 2018, Nordstrom window Feb 2017, No Ka 'Oi in Vogue Jan 2017, Versace dress in Vogue May 2017.
But what's more interesting to me as a fashion observer is how this trend has become ‘stylish’. Rihanna has an entire line for Puma done in collaboration with Fenty, the Italian fashion house famous for it’s fur. The Puma website describes the collection this way: "Beachy and badass, it’s a vibrant, unexpected mashup of high fashion, extreme sport and beachwear."
All images Fenty Puma by Rihanna.
But Rihanna doesn’t just throw on a pair of sweats, her athleisure wear is styled. She’s consciously chosen her look and is accessorizing her athleisure for high style impact. As Vogue puts it, “But don’t go thinking she’s running around in drabby sweats and sneakers—the singer’s take on athletic dressing is anything but unpolished.”
Kendall Jenner too. In her role as a brand ambassador for Adidias she puts her own spin on the athletic clothing and takes it into a league that is definitely not athletic wear. Note the tights with white heels and what can only be described as a tracksuit.
But it’s not for everyone. While I’m in favor of clothes that are comfortable and practical, my personal style veers more towards ‘elegant’ than ‘street’. And athleisure is both more ‘street’ and more casual than I like for myself. But I have a funny feeling that I am going to find myself on the wrong side of history on this one – my ten year old daughter refuses to even wear jeans, stating that they’re ‘uncomfortable’. Should anyone be surprised that the athleisure wear trend has filtered down to the teen and tween market?
What will be interesting is how this ‘trend’ shakes out as the new normal. Remember, there was a time when older folks didn’t wear denim, and it wasn’t all that long ago. Perhaps I’ll be spending my twilight years in athleisure wear, because let’s face it, comfort is pretty key when your mobility is compromised!