Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mens style - smart casual - max style, min effort.

I was having a think about men's smart casual dress and how to define it. Well that was too hard, so instead I decided to resort to pictures of what I see as the three main kinds of relaxed smart casual dress (SCD).

The three kinds of SCD are easy to capture based on the upper body garment.

1. With a jacket
2. With a knit or cardigan
3. With a shirt often untucked


Without a doubt, a look with a jacket is the smartest of the three looks.

A jacket adds presence and says I care about my look enough to add a final layer.

Dress the look down with a more casual style of jacket or a leather (or even a denim jacket).

TIP: If you're wearing jeans with a denim jacket, make sure the shades/washes of denim are different - otherwise you'll look too matchy matchy.

Dont forget that jackets can be unlined fine cotton with no shoulder pads - very relaxed, not stuffy & smart. Jude Law's grey version (top 2nd from the right, above) is a great example.

Knit or cardigan:

No longer reserved for grandpa, this look tends to be a moneyed look. 

Knits look super classy as long as they are looked after

This means:

#1: Removing pilling either by hand or by one of those little battery operated devices.

#2: Drying & storing them flat so they dont loose their shape.

#3: Protecting from moths & silverfish while in storage especially the wools and cashmeres. For some reason the critters have very good taste and will attack these best fibres.

#4: Dark cottons need to be washed gently in tepid water and not left to dry in the sun. Nevertheless, they will lose their colour and once this happens, its bye bye cotton sweater.

#5: Wools and cashmeres should be washed in tepid water with either shampoo or wool wash.

#6: Knits must never be wrung - just gently squeezed dry.

Use the gym

Knits require a fit body as they leave little to the imagination.


If layering (very cool), like brad Pitt above, always put the finer knit underneath & the heavier knit on top. 

Want to project an air of nonchalance? 

Throw a sweater  over the shoulders of your jacket, like David Beckham has done here...... 

Shirt, often untucked:

Definitely the most casual of the looks but you can vary the level of sophistication using a number of techniques:

#1: Checked shirts are generally more casual than plain shirts.

#2: A sneaker is more casual than a smart leather shoe.

#3: Jeans are more casual than chinos which are more casual than pants. But dark jeans are dressier than light coloured washes.

Unfortunately most men have weight around their tummy and tucking in a shirt into their pants, with a smart belt is too much to ask for.

TIP: Leaving the shirt open (with a sweater or tee underneath) is even more casual, but helps to hide any tummy bulk by providing two vertical lines over the tummy (being the shirt edges).

Which of these three looks does your man typically wear for smart casual affairs?

Today's style tip: You love black, but does it love YOU?

Most of us love black (or the equivalent - like navy, chocolate, bottle green, charcoal).

Its slimming, sophisticated & stylish.

I am not telling you anything you dont already know! 

But do you know black (or any dark colour) near your face is very detrimental to your complexion?


3 reasons:

1. It creates dark shadows in lines & wrinkles.

2. As we age, our colouring softens and dark colours near the face create a harsh effect.

3. Even when we are young, half the population is quite fair (think the typical freckled red head & the peaches & cream blonde) - dark colours like black are way too harsh for these complexions.

So what do we do to gain the slimming effect of black but to eliminate the detrimental effect near our face?


#1: Dont wear high collars which cover up your decolletage.

#2: Ditto boat necks, turtle necks, crew necks.


Check out the box of three dresses on the right of the above photo. 

Sometimes you CAN wear black up high - when the pattern or fabric or style creates a distraction from the black.

On the right side, in the box, the polka dots create a terrific distraction. So too does the halter neck with the exposed shoulders. The shirt dress on the right uses both the tricks of unbuttoned shirt & halter style.


#1: Wear vee necks or scoop necks to show some decolletage.

#2: Unbutton the first few buttons of your black shirt to show some decolletage.

#3: Wear a peter pan collar in a white which creates light & movement near your face.

#4: Wear a white shirt on top & a black skirt/pants.

TIP: Always make sure the shade of white you are wearing is the right shade for your complexion -  whether its stark white, off white, cream or pearl. If you dont do this, the whole impact of the white near your face is negated.

#5: Add sparkly or colourful jewellery or pearls around your neckline.  Please make sure the pearls are the right shade of white.

#6: If you have a short neckline, doubly heed this advice.

#7: Substitute other dark colours for black (navy, charcoal, bottle green etc). They will give you the elegant slimming effect, but will be less harsh to your lovely face. 

My experience:

I have always had a love affair with black & navy. But in my mid 30s I noticed it was not in love with me. That's when I started to modify my necklines & wear more white near my face.

Is this something you have experienced?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Today's Style Choice: Which style is more YOU?

Warning: This post contains images from the AW 2013 collections. For you southern hemisphere girls, that NEXT winter. The fast fashion retailers like Zara & Topshop are already manufacturing "inspired" versions based on these collections. In the mean time, shop your closet & see if you have anything similar. Whatever you do, hang onto it - now is not the time to sell it on ebay.

Back to the post.....

I have been posting a daily style choice on my Facebook page, for over a month now and I am thrilled with the comments and reader interaction I am receiving from it.

My intentions with the daily style choice were originally three fold.

Intention #1. To make you aware of the different styles (or looks) that clothing and accessories can invoke. Eg: Boho, dramatic, romantic, natural, ecclectic etc.

Intention #2. To make you more aware of your own preferred style. In fact, in most cases, women have a mixture of two preferred styles.

Intention #3. By being more aware of what is your style preference & what ISN'T your style preference, you will make wiser shopping decisions. 

Wiser shopping decisions mean your purchases will sit within your preferred style preference and will co-ordinate with each other and save you money in the long term.

If there is anything else you want from the daily style choice, please let me know.

However, as per usual though, I am still thinking of ways to make the daily style choice better, or more useful for you!

What I have noticed sometimes is that alot of readers love to notice the detail of the photos and reject photos which dont have every element to their liking even though the overall style projection of the photo may in fact be "their thing". 

So for example, if I compare a green boho maxi with a more tailored red dress, someone who hates red but is tailored & structured will pick the green boho dress over the red structured dress. In reality though, their wardrobe isnt boho at all. So in that case, I failed in my intention #2 and I may well have confused the reader with respect to intention #3. Fail, Val, fail!

So - I have a new plan going forward.

Instead of comparing one photo with another, I will try to show you a number of garments in each style choice. That way the emphasis will be on the overall style of the photos, rather than small details in any one garment.

Here is the first comparison under the new plan.

Autumn Winter 2013

This is Autumn Winter 2013 for French design house Nina Ricci (top) and Belgium designer Dries Van Noten (bottom).

Nina Ricci's collection has a romantic nostalgic slant, almost like something from granny's attic.

Dries Van Noten has a dramatic and exotic collection with large prints & strong contrasting colours.

Which of these styles would be closer to the contents of your wardrobe?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's Style Tip: Do you have a "signature piece"?

A fashion icon is typically someone who is comfortable with their style and the image they project.

Have a think about the style icons you see in the press. Have you noticed that alot of them have a "signature piece" and wear it again & again. They are known for it. It's their thing.

A signature piece is something you reach for again & again - it's you and you love it and incorporate it into your look constantly.

Typically it is jewellery or accessories, but it can be a hairstyle, particular clothing, even a favourite colour.

Think - 

Anna Wintour's bob
Blair Waldorf's headbands
Carrie Bradshaw's "Carrie" necklace
Elle MacPherson's long wavy locks & stacked high-low bracelets
Ellen De Generes' sneakers
Jennifer Aniston's long hair (& the Aniston hair cut from the early Friends days)
Holly Golightly's pearls
Carolina Herrera's white shirts
Barbara Bush's three strand pearl choker
Michelle Obama's single chunky pearl choker

Get the drift?

Do you have a signature piece?

It may be a favourite colour, a pair of sunglasses, a retro way of dressing (Mad Men?), a bracelet or cuff, a necklace or earrings or a gazillion other items.

The funny thing about signature pieces is that aren't usually found by you - a signature piece is usually something that finds YOU!

Today's Style Tip: Read this before you buy anything ever again

I want you to do me a favour.

If you are interested in value for money and longevity in your clothes & accessories, please never ever, ever buy anything again unless you can tick off all the following criteria:

1. Does it fit and flatter by body, not just the body I wish I had?

2. For any of the parts near the face, does the colour flatter my complexion?

3. Am I dying to put it on NOW?

4. Would someone who sees me on the street think, "She looks great!"

5. Will I want to wear this next month, next season, next year.

No exceptions, ever.

Buy for the life you have, when you dont need the item, so that its ready for when the occasion arises.

If you have an event coming up & you truly desperately need to buy something that doesnt satisfy all the above criteria, STOP. DON'T DO IT. 

Your fall back position? Always plan ahead in case the stores have things which dont suit you (which will be the case most of the time) - get it altered, borrow or shop your closet. Yes, it may take time & effort, but it sure beats a wardrobe of clothes which dont make you look your best.

Today's Style Tip: The power of alterations


If your clothes dont have good fit, then you dont have style. Period.

Sleeves need to be at the right length. Shoulder seams at the right place. 
Back vents shouldnt be sticking out from your body. 
Pant pockets shouldnt be mistaken for elephant ears. 
Skirts and pants should have ease that allows a finger to be inserted comfortably between the fabric and your body.
Blouse buttons shouldnt be doing peek-a-boo.
Seams shouldnt be rippling or straining.
Buttons should be attached securely and not missing.
Do I need to go on?

Please dont get hung up on sizes.

Always take your size into the change room, but also take one size up & one size down. 

Then relax. Clothes aren't meant to fit perfectly off the rack. After all everyone who is a size 14 has a different body shape - there is no way all size 14 people can fit into the off the rack size 14. And everyone who is a size 16 has a different body shape - there is no way all size 16 people can fit into the off the rack size 16. Get it?

The simple solution is to buy pieces that fit the largest part of your body and have them altered for the smaller parts of your body.

And dont balk at the price.

By paying a little extra to have your clothes fit your body means you'll wear them more often because you end up feeling better about how you look in them. Hence cost per wear (CPW) reduces.

How to find a good alterations place?

Go to the better stores in your city & ask who they use.

When trying out an alterations place, give them something small to do, like a hem or sleeve before you trust them with your Chanel suit.

Need recommendations within Australia? 

Just ask me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today's Style Tip: Never wear white to a wedding unless you're the bride

A few weeks ago I watched two movies at home each of which featured a quote by Marianne Williamson from her book, A Return to Love. 

The movies were Coach Carter and Invictus.
Both movies were about getting the best out of people by leading by example and doing your utmost with integrity and honesty.

The quote from these movies was:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

In case you're wondering, this quote has been incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inagural address. 

So what's this got to do with fashion? shopping? style?


This post is about the rule: Never wear white to a wedding.

The rule comes from a belief that guests should not detract from the bride by turning up in white.

Girls, every time you have a wedding to attend, do you adhere to this rule?

I certainly dont & I dont think you should either.

Here are four reasons to break this rule, always:

1. This rule is SO outdated, dont you think? Seriously, if Kate Middleton saw fit to put her whole bridal party in white, surely the guests can turn up in white if they please?

Kim K's short lived wedding followed suit as well....

2. After all, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not  to be? 

3. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. 

4. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Know thyself and look your best at all times. 

Dont play down your appearance so that someone else can look better. You are not responsible for another person's look, ever. 

I am not suggesting you turn up as a wedding guest in a white dress equivalent to a wedding dress - that would be inappropriate, but not for the reason that it would take away from the bride per se. It would be inappropriate simply because it would breach the wedding guest dress code and would disrespect the hosts in general. But a wedding guest, a white dress that doesnt scream "I am the bride" is totally appropriate in this day & age. 

Do you agree?

Finally, YOU are only responsible for your own look. See yourself in the best light at all times & make the best of what you have. Always.

Today's Style Tip: Shopping & the art of refusal

Style is not about having loads of money to buy loads of clothes. 

Sure, a deep wallet can help and it can certainly be fun to have, but it can also confuse.

I know many women who open up their wardrobe every morning and despair - too may things, too many choices and too many orphan clothes - clothes that dont go with anything else in their closet and spend more time on the rack than on their back.

Outcome: Confusion & frustration.

It doesnt help that stores these days are so desperate to make IMMEDIATE SALES, that sales assistants (SAs) dont think about having a long term relationship with you - all they want to do is make that sale today & they dont care about building a RELATIONSHIP with a customer.  

What I'd prefer is if they tried to sell me things that flattered me, things that I would be happy with long term, so that I would return again & again to buy more things that truly looked good on me. 

I'd like an SA to focus on our long term RELATIONSHIP by making sure I was happy with everything I bought and not one who heaped me with compliments and false praise so that I would buy more. 

Unless you shop at the high end of the market, you are unlikely to find this. Even at the high end, so many of those stores are used to selling to tourists, that frequently, even they dont focus on the long term RELATIONSHIP.

Since you are unlikely to find this type of environment, you need to figure out what you want & follow your own way. To do this, you need to build the muscle which knows how to say NO. Saying "NO" is essential because it allows you to be yourself - it allows no one else to interfere with your plan.

Dont forget - the SA is not your friend, no matter how friendly she pretends to be. She is there to flatter you and to sell - because the better she does that, the more generous you will be with your wallet.

So starting NOW, say NO to any SA who offers you something you dont want.

Say NO to the personal shopper who is working with a particular store (& whose suggestions are independent of her paycheck).

Say NO to any personal shopper who is making you feel uncomfortable (ie: pushy), even in the slightest.

Say NO to any personal shopper who claims they can build your wardrobe in one or two shopping sessions. Like anything good, it takes time & quite a few seasons to do this.

Say NO to any offer of alcohol while you are shopping.

Say NO to sale stock that is too tight, the wrong colour or the wrong look for you - no matter how inexpensive it is. If your gut feeling says "no" or you are umming & ahhhing, then say NO.

Say NO to the "buy 2 get 1 free" offer when you only need 1.

Say NO, even if they only got 1 in of each size.

Say NO even if "they are selling fast".

Say NO to up-selling - NO, I dont need the shoe cleaner with these shoes - NO, I dont need the necklace with the top - NO, I dont need to see the cute clutch that will work with that top. 

Saying NO, makes you feel strong. It empowers you - it makes you in control of your shopping trip.

Instead of having a gazillion ordinary things taking up space in your closet, leave room for the things you ADORE and sold themselves to you without any persuasive SA's assistance.

If you arent sure, then WALK AWAY NOW. It'll be there tomorrow and the next day. Sleep on it. You'll know if its a winner only if you literally cant sleep that night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today's Style Tip: The best dress ever

When I saw Karlie Kloss wearing this Calvin Klein number at a Chanel dinner in Tribeca back in April, I filed it in my memory bank because I new there would be a time to showcase it on the blog.

This dress is timeless.

Also, believe it or not, its A line shape works for real people (but with a couple of adjustments to take into account that we are not teenage super models like Karlie). 

Firstly, lower the hem - generally the most flattering length is at or just above the knee.

Second, make it a darker colour (pale colours white especially in satin (which reflects light) can be very unforgiving). Darker doesnt necessarily mean black. It can be navy, chocolate, burgendy, charcoal, even forest green. Nothing too loud & garish.

Thirdly, if you have an ample bosom, bring the neckline down to a scoop shape.

Fourthly, if you dont like your arms, have it made with an elbow length sleeve.

You will have it forever and you'll keep reaching for it again & again.

Its simplicity means no-one is going to remember it as the dress you wore last time.

Its simplicity means you can jazz it up with accessories to make it different every time - brooch, statement earrings, collar, shrug,  statement necklace etc.

I wouldnt put a belt with it - it would just ruin the line.

Oh & did I tell you, that the A line will hide all manner of sins and will work for voluptuous or petite ladies too?

& it reminds me of this one....

Jacki Onassis circa late 60s

and this one.....

Jean Shrimpton, at the Melbourne Cup in 1965

Too easy, yes?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Today's Style Tip: Is SIDE BOOB ever appropriate?

James Laver (1899–1975),author, art historian and museum curator summarised the fashion cycles and our attitude to fashion over time with the following brilliant analysis:

Indecent = 10 years before its time 
Shameless = 5 years before its time 
OutrĂ© (Daring) = 1 year before its time 
Smart = 'Current Fashion' 
Dowdy = 1 year after its time 
Hideous = 10 years after its time 
Ridiculous = 20 years after its time 
Amusing = 30 years after its time 
Quaint = 50 years after its time 
Charming = 70 years after its time 
Romantic = 100 years after its time 
Beautiful = 150 years after its time

In my opinion, SIDE BOOB is well before its time. 

So, in 2012, side boob is never appropriate, whether its deliberate or accidental.

I dont care how expensive the dress, I dont care whether the designer told you that's the way to wear it, either the whole thing is see through, or none of it is. End. Of. Story.

It may become appropriate down the track, but ATM, no, no, no.

Do you agree? or am I being old fashioned?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Today's Style Tip: Today is Big Arm Day.

We are going to run through some quick tips about the types of clothing that flatters big arms as well as the type of clothing that big arms should stay away from.

Tops - avoid:

Cap sleeves - the diagonal of the sleeve sits at the fleshiest part of the arm & makes it look, well, fleshier.

Sleeveless tops & sleeveless straight dresses

Halterneck tops - too bare and hence expose the fleshy arms too much

Puffy short sleeve shirts - no, no, no.

Spaghetti straps - no, no, no.

Boob tube style tops or dresses - no, no, no.

Tops - go for:

3/4 length sleeves which create a smooth line down your arm.

Long sleeves, just make sure they arent super tight as that will emphasis the fleshy bits.

From left to right, Octavia's sleeves get less and less flattering.
At left the 3/4 sleeve is terrific. In the middle, the short sleeve is great....but notice how the cap sleeve on the right just looks the worst of all three gowns for Octavia? As for Keira, a strapless type dress on skinny arms, just doesnt look great - too much exposed skinny flesh.

Cuffs on long sleeve shirts that arent too tight. Anything that isnt tight creates the illusion of extra room underneath. Great rule!

Bell cuffs or fluted sleeves on a long sleeve (or 3/4 sleeve) shirt or dress - these draw the eye down from the fleshy part of your upper arm, balance the upper arm out and create a slimming line (kinda like boot leg jeans for chunky thighs).

A puff at the shoulder seam on a long sleeve shirt

Medium to large prints on your upper body - these detract from the fleshy upper arm.


When your arms are exposed, avoid chunky bangles (even if you are big boned). The reason is because the chunkiness will hide the slimmest part of your arm - the wrist. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chanel cardis - found!

A few months ago, I posted this photo in the Celebrities album and everyone drooled over the Chanel cardi.

I promised to keep an eye out for (decent quality) replicas.

Today I found some.

Navy wool with cream trim & gold buttons, By Malene Birger.

& the reverse colourway - 

The buttons are lovely & heavy - not tin-y.
The cuff button are fully functional, so you can undo them to roll up the sleeves and give the cardi a casual edge.

Both these were at Christensen Copenhagen at Westfield Sydney.

Interested? Give them a call -  (02) 9232 2277

I also posted some photos last week from Forever New. They had a cardi which had a Chanel twang about it.

This one is acrylic and a lower price point. It has 3/4 sleeves and its not a bad copy.

You can find this at any Forever New store. There was also a light grey version with pink trim. 

I'd love to know if any of these appeal to you. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nina Proudman loves a long skinny scarf from David Jones

If you are interested in Nina Proudman style scarves that are:

* available locally, 
* available NOW & 
* you can play with them in store so you can make a more confident decision on whether they suit you ........

- then go no further than two brands which I found in the David Jones stores.

#1: The Two Mrs Grenvilles

#2: Lettuce (Your Scarf. Your Scene.)

The Two Mrs Grenvilles does plain coloured  long soft scarves every season. These are very Nina like.
I have seen them in many colours - but this was what was left at Castle Hill a few days ago. 

Normally $30, now reduced to $20.

Another view.

Lettuce scarves in vibrant florals $40

More Lettuce scarves - in particular, the three on the left with the small prints are  really boho, due to their  varying size flowers. See the close up pictures below.

Remember Nina in her butterfly (Zara) scarf?

Well, David Jones has butterfly scarves too!

The crinkly effect adds to the boho feeling.

I spent time sorting through the reduced tables & found quite alot of scarves which are bohemian florals, plain crinklies. 

Everything on these tables was $20 - $30.

The magenta one twisted into a long piece is the same as The Two Mrs Grenvilles scarves in the first couple of photos - that's how they arrive before people try them on.

More scarves I folded for my photographing pleasure. Notice the  salmony one  with the paw prints in the centre?  very Nina like colours. 

The folded scarf has gorgeous soft tones - if you have Nina colouring, it would be perfect.

Oh and these paisleys were at Sportscraft  - very boho, very Nina.

Finally, I couldnt find The Two Mrs Grenvilles web site (go figure! if you can find it, please let me know)

However I did find the Lettuce site.

Interesting thing is only one of the Lettuce scarves I saw in store was on the site...shows you how fast collection move these days - maybe you now get a gist of why we can never find Nina's clothes b/c filming is done 6-12 months before the show is screened.

On the Lettuce site, go & check out scarves:

Boho story - Boho Button 
Boho story - Boho Frill
Juju story - Sunset
Juju story - Summer Flutter
Juju story - Creme Freiche

Do you think they too are Nina like? I do!