31 July 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Pleated ruffle blouse by Rebecca Tayor

Since I don't (yet)

Frilly sleeve top by Sara Berman
$89.90 at nordstrom.com

Who the flip is in charge of this? (vol. II)

My take on these superlative lists - "best dressed," "hottest," "sexiest woman alive" - editors-in-chief oh-so-love to cobble together for their big, fat Fall issues are nothing more than a subjectively chosen "who's who" of the individuals with whom that particular periodical wanted to be associated even before the initial red team of "fashion-conscious judges from around the world" had been assembled. But despite my frustration at seeing some of the names in Vanity Fair's 68th annual "Best Dressed" list released earlier today, I can't get myself in too much of a huff, because frankly, there is no other way to do it; unlike home runs, Nielsen ratings and units sold, style and beauty cannot so easily be categorized, analyzed and ranked in the objective fashion the way most commodities can.

But as unscientific and incestuously biased as many of these lists' selection processes are, Vanity Fair took this idea of promoting certain women - as opposed to the clothes themselves - to an entirely new stratosphere of absurd.

Ivanka Trump is no doubt striking in the face and has achieved an in-her-own-rite kind of professional success, but better dressed than Penelope Cruz, Cate Blanchett, Sienna Miller, Kate Moss and Rachel Bilson? Come now.

And don't even get me started on Lady Obama's inclusion...

7. Bee Shaffer (daughter of Vogue's editrix, Anna Wintour)*

*ASJINE approved (not endorsed, mind you, but approved)

**Because it's a nice round number, I thought I'd share with you all that this post marks my 1,000th in 212 days of active blogging. I think that earns me another half-cupcake, yes?

Wedding vows and short shorts don't mix

I completely trust your sense of dress appropriateness…which brings me to this question: would something similar to this shorts-and-cropped-jacket combo be appropriate to wear to a wedding? I'm a huge fan of the slightly sexy/brattiness of dressy shorts but I'm unsure how appropriate they would be at a fairly traditional 3:00PM church ceremony and 5:00PM country club reception.

I don't need a more in-detail explanation of what you mean by "fairly traditional," I don't need to know whether you're considering ballet flats or stilettos, and honestly, I don't even need to know what your figure looks like, because regardless of your responses, the first word out of my mouth would remain a resounding "NO."

I'm not trying to be harsh or hyperbolic, but wearing shorts - booty, city, university or Bermuda - to even the most casual wedding ceremony runs contrary to every tenet of venue-appropriate dress I've tried to impart in the last seven months.

Though I avoid them at all costs for reasons relating to panic attacks, chills and sudden bouts of claustrophobia, I do know and accept the fact that weddings are occasions when the guests must not, out of respect for the bride, draw egregious attention to themselves. This means no wearing white, no excessive cleavage, no mini dresses, no discussion about how this is likely the last time you'll see your girlfriend in a social situation, no shotgunning beers at the reception to lament that fact and certainly no short shorts.

The outfit to which you linked me (pictured above) is adorable, especially that 3/4-sleeve bolero, but no matter how dressy or church-appropriate the above-the-waist components happen to be, those shorts will vitiate all your good effort in one fell three-inch-inseamed swoop. Yeah, they're blousy, yeah, they're pricey, and yeah, they're not that short, but still, at the end of the long, long "heartwarming" day, they're still too casual.

If you're not into skirts or dresses, but you're also on several late Summer, early Autumn wedding rosters, your only option is a pair of lightweight trousers. Were I you, I'd get that bolero, complement it with some high-waisted black trousers, a feminine, tuck-in-able ivory blouse and a pair of polished slingbacks. The best part of this ensemble, better even than the feeling you'll get slipping through the don't-look-better-than-the-bride loophole, is that all these components - the jacket, the pants, the top and the pumps - are versatile staples that can be worn again and again in not only formal but professional and casual venues as well.

Buy the shorts, too, but wear them with cute flats during the day or with heels later in the night. Just please, keep them away from the chapel.

30 July 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Medium zip crocodile top-handle satchel by Nancy Gonzales

Since I don't (yet)

Luxe II patent satchel by Elliott Lucca
$228 at endless.com

"Fashion is the most fakest, disgustingest thing out there"

Yeah, yeah, yeah, here's my one and only reminder to watch the show I came thisclose to being a part of.

But honestly, I'm over it.

New York is stupid, anyway. And so is fashion. And TV. And talking about New York, fashion and TV. I don't even know who cares about those kinds of things, because my friends and I certainly don't. We're substantive DC women concerned only with the influence O'Hanlon and Pollack's NYT Op-Ed might have on future U.S. policy and maybe, maaaybe if there's time, that whole West Bank misunderstanding and China/FDA squabble.

I would expound more on how much I totally don't care that these five "women" and this one dude got to live rent-free with salary in Manhattan all Summer working in the fashion PR, publishing and cosmetic industries, but you see, my timer just went off and those Funfetti cupcakes aren't going to frost themselves...

When black/white falls flat...twice

Two beautiful women with toned, healthy figures, both of whom went down the ASJINE-endorsed path of neutral, simple and elegant, but as you can see below, in a very not ASJINE-advised fashion.

As I've stated many a time on this site, dressing neutrally is neither a guaranteed pass into the ranks of the sophisticated nor does it grant the wearer immunity from a WTF critique.

On Jennifer Garner (here in vintage Balenciaga at The Bourne Ultimatum premiere), a woman with admittedly broad athletic shoulders, the first and last impression she makes is one of looking more mannish than Sydney-Bristow-sexy, namely because of the wide, high boatneck neckline. Compounding Jen's problems is the straight-up-and-down silhouette of the dress, which draws unnecessary attention to how curve-free she has become in recent years.

Were I she, I would have chosen a cut up-top that bared her clavicle or perhaps a touch of cleavage -- something that would remind us she's both athletic and feminine. On the bottom, I would have gone with a more voluminous silhouette, perhaps a tulip, bubble or even just a simple A-line. The straight-edge of the bodice transitioning into an away-from-the-body skirt would have provided Ms. Boy Hips with some womanly contours.

Onto Catherine (here in Michael Kors, exiting the "Live! with Regis & Kelly" set).

There are few women as stunning as she is and even fewer who, at almost 40, have a body that without regular exercise - her claim, not mine - look as simultaneously slim and curvy as hers.

But unfortunately, in this black tank sheath with white empire-waist cinch, Ms. Zeta Jones looks more dumpy and droopy than the younger, hotter half of Hollywood's most glamorous May-December couple. Clearly, the bra - if there even is one - is my first bone of contention; whether it's achieved through a separate undergarment or sturdy, built-in boning, that nursed-two-children bosom requires a minimum two to three inch hoist before leaving the house. Non-negotiable.

From this angle, it looks as if Catherine's has a bit of a paunch, which, if that's how she likes to roll, that's how she likes to roll. No judgment there. But if that is the case, and the roundness in her belly is not simply the result of a paparazzo's good luck in catching the actress in the throes of a deep exhale, the decision to situate a belt just below her DDs was not a figure-flattering one. Not only does the color and placement of the cinch enhance the stomach bulge below, but for heaven's sake, her heaving breasts are in a full-swing tumble over the top and sides of it as well. What looked tight and voluptuous just days before in fitted gold Hervé Léger, here looks soft, unsupported and dare I say, a bit amateurish.

Were I in her stylist's position, I would have first advised her to wear the proper underpinnings (including Spanx) and second, chosen a dress with both a showpiece neckline to draw attention upwards to her by far best asset - her face - and one that had a waist-level cinch to accentuate her curves. The rest of it, her hair, her simple jewelery, her understated five-digit crocodile bag, the self-satisfied smile -- all well done.

But flats, Catherine? Really?

The *perfect* blouse: a work in progress

Tuesday night, I found her.

Wednesday morning, I ordered her.

Thursday, all day, I waited for her.

Friday, after work, I received her.

A *perfect* short-and-sweet timetable for a *perfect* blouse, right?

Not quite.

As is obvious in the picture above and in the two below, the blouse, aesthetically speaking, is beautiful: the silk hearty, the pleating well constructed, the cap sleeves meticulously stitched, and the color, oh my god, forget about it -- gunmetal at its most gorgeous.

But despite all that good, there was the all-important issue of fit, an area in which my new Banana Republic dress shell most definitely did not excel.

Not only does the blouse run quite large - I'm almost exclusively a size "S," but as you can see here, I'm shapelessly swimming in extra fabric from the sleeves down - but it's also uncompromisingly boxy, a shape with which the slim pencil skirt, high-waisted or otherwise, is completely incompatible.

Whilst slow-baking shoreside on Saturday, I realized I have two choices, the first of which is to send the "return" label back to Banana Republic HQ, collect my $80.32, and continue on my quest to find another silk cap-sleeved pleat-neck blouse.

The second option, a much more involved option, is to use the "exchange" label, wait for my "XS" to arrive, evaluate the up-top fit, and assuming all drapes well from the shoulders to the chest, take the blouse to my trusty seamstress Alicia and have her craft a much more tailored, contoured shape.

In any other situation, with any other wardrobe component, I'd go with the former, but given how long I've been looking for an affordable version of this exact design and given that its gunmetal color exceeded my unreasonably high expectations, I decided to follow my instincts and opt for the latter.

Normally, I wouldn't include you so intimately in my do-I-keep-it-or-return-it? inner dialogue, but in light of how much interest this blouse generated last week, I thought I'd warn potential buyers to (1) order a size smaller than you normally wear and (2) be prepared to invest another $15-$25 in tailoring if you're planning to rock the slim-tuck.

Two more snaps of the *perfect* blouse fitting my frame far from perfectly:

27 July 2007

Goin' to the beach, y'all.

I know, I know, I'm taking off weekends lately like it's my job.

But at least this time my hiatus is not for some lame reason like running a race, visiting my family in Michigan or heading down South to see my newborn niece. No, this time I have a legitimate excuse for taking time off, and it involves remedying a fading Summer tan and two and a half day's worth of wearing nothing but a push-'em-up-and-out bikini top and trolling the shores of St. Michael's for a man in Halliburton-logo swim trunks.

Some dogs sniff out narcotics, some sense natural disasters and still others know when there's an illegal immigrant hiding around the corner -- mine, strangely enough, has a nose for all-powerful, apple-shaped Republicans.

Don't you, smunchkin-pie?

See you bright and early on Monday morning!

26 July 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Suede d'Orsay pumps by Brian Atwood

$625 at saks.com

Since I don't (yet)

Jape2 peep toe pumps by Nine West
$92.95 at zappos.com

The sidewalk-to-catwalk iMix

I'm a busy worker-bee today and thus unfortunately don't have the time to opine at length over the horrendous powder blue pencil skirt or the five-inch cherry-red faux patent leather slingbacks I saw on two separate but equally offensive women on my way back from lunch.

What I can do in lieu of critiquing this and railing against that, however, is finally post something I've been meaning to share with you all for some time now:

My *perfect* walk-to-Cosi-and-back iMix

Warning: these beats and suggestive lyrics will make you regret slipping off those heels before you stepped out of the office -- each one of these gems was made for fierce female strutting, not bowlegged, little girl flip-flip-flopping.

"Baby Did a Bad Thing" by Chris Isaak

"Downtown" by Peaches

"Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top

"Panama" by Van Halen

"The Girl's Attractive" by Diamond Nights

"Devil Inside" by INXS

And my shout-out to the mitten-state:

"Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes

The can't-wait-to-wear-it-to-work dress

I realize not all of you climb out of bed each morning giddy with Christmas-Eve-like excitement over which all-black ensemble you'll assemble for work.

Just like I'll never understand how my brother can find unadulterated joy in creating "elegant code," most of you probably can't relate to the all-over tingle I experience when I discover the outfit to which Monte has given his final approval is a never-before-worn permutation of this black pouf-sleeve satin-piped boatneck blouse with that black tri-acetate ultra-slim pencil skirt with those black 4.25-inch croc-embossed almond-toed pumps.

Honestly, an all-over tingle.

To many, all-black, regardless of the cuts, the of-interest detailing or the richness of the fabrics, is representative of a kind of fashion safety - conformity, even - that perpetuates all that is wrong and boring and too-conventional on DC's professional style scene.

Pish-posh to that, I say.

But instead of launching into another one of my there's-nothing-wrong-with-all-black analyses, this time I'll go another route and acknowledge what the vast majority of the public wants, which in the case of a can't-wait-to-wear-it-to-work dress is likely not a simple black bought-in-11th-grade Banana Republic sheath. No, some of you like prints, some of you like non-black neutrals like grey, brown, navy and ivory, and still others - individuals I enjoy looking at but with whom I share very little professional-style kinship - enjoy draping themselves in this thing called "color."

With all that in mind, here is a selection of non-black (grey doesn't count), office-appropriate** frocks assured to start your day off on an I-feel-beautiful note and that will no doubt earn you "Love the dress" compliments on your way into, at, and on your way home from the office:

Alexa dress by Sofira ($352 at couturecandy.com)
Abel print dress by DvF ($241.50 at pinkmascara.com)*
Houndstooth knit jersey dress ($138 at bananarepublic.com)
Silk Duppioni Melanie dress by Tory Burch ($375 at toryburch.com)
Jackie O. tweed dress by Black Halo ($308 at ronherman.com)
Shirt dress by Lewis Cho ($110 at activeendeavors.com)
Mock turtleneck dress by Cynthia Steffe ($265 at nordstrom.com)
Plum dress by Trina Turk ($248 at nordstrom.com)*
Puff-sleeve shirtdress ($118 at macys.com)
Papillon printed border dress ($124.50 at shopbop.com)
Drape front Dolman dress by Rachel Pally ($68.40 at shopbop.com) Polka-dot shirtdress by Catherine Malandrino ($425 at urbanchiconline.com)

*dresses your Editrix might consider

**office-appropriate for those who are not required to wear a suit everyday

25 July 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Volterra leather bomber by S.W.O.R.D.

$656 at shopbop.com

Since I don't (yet)

Cropped jacket by Sugar Lips

So few do it better

Her songs may not be in any of my workout mixes, her collection of men may furrow my brow, her casual style may be a bit too ghetto-fabulous for my sheltered taste, and her films - with the exclusion of Out of Sight - may not be among my quite low-standard 2,300+ DVDs, but if there is one thing I love about Jennifer Lopez, one thing this woman does better than anyone out there, famous or not, is that she consistently finds party dresses that both flatter her gorgeous but nonetheless tough-to-dress curves and that strike the perfect 50-50 split between sexy and elegant.

Though I'm not particularly fond of the pearl-adorned hemline, I'm gape-mouthed shocked at her square-toed pump selection (I mean, honestly, why, when you have access to these?), and as my girl K pointed out to me yesterday, the front of this dress could do with a wide center-pleat and a more structured bodice, the showstopping lantern-style neckline I so love complemented by a sheer, mesh overlay, a not-too-long-not-too-short hem tied together in an oh-so-seasonal ivory linen more than make up for these deficiencies.

Once again, J.Lo's out showin' the young ones how to get it done.

The *perfect* blouse FINALLY FOUND!

I thought the day might never come...

But here it is and in my favorite-for-Fall color, no less:

Silk pleated cap-sleeve top ($68 at bananarepublic.com)

And in case you need a memory jog, the blouse that started the quest:

What to do when the ladies are large

There are serious mixed messages in our society, specifically related to the female bust. While the rate of augmentations would suggest that larger breasts are becoming more common, the fashion industry does not seem to care! As a size 6, 5'5'', 34D/DD, professional female, I have spent hours trying to find clothes, work clothes in particular, that are cut to flatter my shape. With a larger chest, you risk button-gaping, too-short torso (when tucking in a shirt), and of course the cleavage issue-- none of which meet "professional" standards. Please don't get me started on suit jackets. Instead I've found a lot of things that make me look pregnant, require endless tailoring to add darts, etc. As much as I love looking good, I'm starting to settle into a boring fashion rut because I can't find anything flattering (that is also reasonably priced, pre-tailoring). Any suggestions? Thanks!

Though I only enjoy to a minor degree the frustration you've described, believe me when I say I have nothing but sympathy for you.

Well, that's not completely true.

You're 5'5", a size-6 and rock a 34D bosom -- professional clothing dilemma aside, you must know how fortunate you are that you get to look in the mirror every morning and see what most women - and men - would call the ideal female frame.

Now before I start in on work-appropriate, heaving-rack friendly, above-the-waist wardrobe components, I first encourage you to make sure your up-top underpinnings are the correct size and provide your girls with a sufficient amount of support. For those with a large C-cup and over, starting your day off with an ill-fitting bra can not only cause pain to the shoulders and lower back but more devastatingly, have you looking droopier, misshapen, dumpy, even (gasp) heavier than you really are.

If you're not sure if you have the right bra, I'd recommend heading over to the fine department store nearest you and hit up the nice woman in the "intimates" section with the tape measure around her neck. There's no pressure to buy that $84 Aubade t-shirt bra, but remember, for you larger-chested ladies, an inexpensive, thin-strapped demi-balconette with Chantilly trim is just not in your professional future. One of the few downsides of bigger breasts is that your day-to-day bras are not going to look as cute and strip-teasey as you might like. Please don't fight this.

Once you've locked-and-loaded the girls in a properly-fitting bra, let's discuss the kinds of tops you should avoid:

Anything with an empire-waist (you'll look bosomy and waist-less), a deep-plunge neckline (you might as well draw an arrow to your cleavage), and busy-in-front detailing (excessive ruffling, adornments, tuxedo-bibbing, or a billowy cowlneck will only add more volume to the area you're trying not to highlight) is off-limits. Additionally, anything emblazoned with a print that's made from a delicate, gauzy fabric (think single-ply cashmere or superfine merino wool) has to be left out, for the simple reason that design-distortion almost always occurs when a big chest meets thin, stretchy fabric.

With what does that leave you? Fewer options than most but let's not forget the second most important part of this equation -- your small waist.

The problem with trapeze/empire silhouettes on a frame like yours is that the only cling that takes place is the one at your chest, leaving everything from the bottom curve of your breast downward swimming under a tent of silk, linen, cotton or whatever fabric you happen to be wearing. The taut size-6 waist you've worked so hard to achieve will look to you and those around you two-to-four sizes bigger, depending on the thinness of the rest of your limbs (I've learned the neck, ankles and wrists are the most helpful predictors of a woman's overall shape).

So yes, once again, I advocate shirts, blouses, sweaters, shells and jackets that allow you to demonstrate in spite of your heavy chest you don't have a heavy mid-section.

I also propose simple necklines - scoop, square, boat, Mandarin, subtle-sweetheart, etc. - and incorporating your personal flair with accents farther away from your chest, an effect that can be achieved with a showpiece sleeve (think flutter, cap, tiered, or pouf) or unique hemline (think scalloped, piped or contrast-colored). I know the button-up shirt is every large-chested girl's worst enemy, but your only choices with this style are to either swear them off entirely or do as you mentioned in your question and visit your friendly tailor after purchasing the size that fits snugly, yet keyhole-free, across your girls. When it comes to button-ups - and for the most part, suit jackets as well - with proportions like yours, my dear, tailoring is the only option for a proper drape.

My last two cents are to go neutral up top (nothing says "look at me here!" like a bright color or wild print) and always opt for a slim, lower-rise fit from the waist-down. Were I you, I'd altogether avoid the wide-legged trousers, lampshade-shaped A-line skirts and high-waisted anything, because even if you stepped out at 5'9" in a pair of ASJINE wishlist 4-inchers, a large chest and a wide leg - and likewise, a large chest and a waistline hiked up to the ribcage - do not a size-6 look. The proof is in the pudding.

Here below are a few styles - a starting point, mind you, not an exhaustive list - I hope will satisfy both your inclination toward professional modesty and your desire not to look like the middle-aged secretary who gave up her quest to find a heavy-chest-flattering wardrobe two decades ago.


Ania blouse by Antonio Melani ($128 at dillards.com)
Center-button blouse by United Bamboo ($166 at activeendeavors.com)*
Silk puff-sleeve top by August ($58 at macys.com)
Frilly sleeve top by Sara Berman ($119.90 at nordstrom.com)
Silk charmeuse wrap-top by BCBG Max Azria ($178 at nordstrom.com)

*I love this blouse, but I would recommend you try to find something with a more severe, less gradual shoulder-to-waist taper (remember, these are starting points!)

24 July 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Pleated denim pant by Parameter

$215 at daszign.com

Since I don't (yet)

Key Largo denim trousers by Meli-Melo
$98.99 at bluefly.com

Not even Cindy could've gotten away with it

I have heard with firsthand authority from three very reliable sources on three staggered occasions - once in the late '80s, once in the mid-'90s and once last Summer - that Cindy Crawford, in person, is the most naturally beautiful celebrity on the block.

The first witness, a then-17 year old high school friend of my brother's, cited (not surprisingly) Cindy's slim, athletic physique as what first drew his attention and then, after closer inspection, dropped his jaw; the second witness, a man of more "seasoned" age and coincidentally the one responsible for my thankfully now-over 15 month binge on Rachael Yamagata music, Anne Sexton poetry and bags upon bags of Tropical Skittles, couldn't get over her skin, bone structure and "perfect posture"; the third, a girlfriend of like age and like taste in girl-crushes, was stopped-short by how effortlessly her clothes fit, both in drape and style ("I never really knew what 'Cindy Crawford style' looked like until I saw her, and then it just hit me over the head.").

Point is, from what I hear and from what I can tell in most every picture I've ever seen of her, Cindy is that rare-looking creature that no matter what she's wearing (or not wearing) elicits the "It looks good on her, but on anyone else..." reaction.

You know what I mean -- the boucle suit, the suspender jeans, the capri pants, those horrendous oxford bootie-heels that are supposed to be so in-vogue for Fall. None of these could do 99.9% of women justice but on someone like Cindy (or my delicious friend O, a picture of whom I wish I could show you) you might be able to eke out a "Yeeeeah, I guess I can see that working" rationalization.

Where is all this going?

Well, I finally saw something today as I returned from lunch at Panache (just off ConnAve by the ABC News building) that not even as-close-to-perfect-as-perfect-comes Cindy could have pulled off.

And it looked a little somethin' like this:

But think black pointy-toed, ankle-strap heels instead of boots and a boxy navy pinstripe blazer atop a denim button-up instead of an olive t-shirt.

As the ladies on GFY often say when there really isn't anything left to say...there are no words.

I'd go out with Eva, too

In case you hadn't heard, Jane, one of the small handful of wry, extraordinarily well-written, substantive-but-not-too-substantive fashion magazines has been "let go" by its parent company, Condé Nast.

I wasn't robbed by a shortened subscription or devastated because Jane was the magazine at the center of my if-I-could-have-any-job fantasy (that would be Marie Claire), but I am nonetheless heartbroken both because the writing was that good and for as long as I can remember, it - along with Lucky - served as my reliable, get-me-through-my-layover one-two punch.

With its subtle feminist message, salacious word-choices, generous mix of low, mid and high fashion promotion and the audacity with which its writers intruded upon celebrities' lives instead of simply recycling the tired "tell us how you became so fierce!" fare you find in every issue of People, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, Jane will no doubt go down in periodical history as the foul-mouthed tomboy of the fashion mag crew.

The hot foul-mouthed tomboy with a brain, ambition, glowing skin and a fantastic rack, that is.

Considering its reputation and penchant for being much more Betsey Johnson than Anna Wintour, it's only fitting that for its farewell issue, editor-in-chief Brandon Holley chose as her cover girl the saucy, "I work hard for my body and yeah, I like it" Cuban treat that is Eva Mendes.

Enjoy, and be sure to remember those three magic words...

Click. To. Enlarge.