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Tips and Tricks Tuesday (on Thursday): Layering

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment

With yesterday morning’s temperatures jacket-worthy, I knew it was time…time to get our layering on.  In the D.C. area, early fall means that  temperatures may start in the 60s in the morning, but rise into the 80s by afternoon. Because we are in that transitional period between hot and cold, I always like to talk about bringing some of those warm-weather pieces into cooler temps. There are tons of layering “tools” from scarves to jackets to cardigans to buttonups. But how do we put it all together without feeling like we’re stuffed in sausage casing of clothing?

Let’s start.

Layer #1: Base silhouette. The best place to begin  is with your base piece whether that is a dress, a blouse and trousers, or skirt and blouse. Keep that base silhouette simple and  thin because you are putting layers on top of it and if you start with something with bulk, you will end up looking, well, bulky. Since we are talking about bringing warm-weather pieces into cooler weather, I chose one of my favorite spring/summer dresses by Tucker that I’ve had for a few years.  It’s light and airy and has a bold, fun color with a great print.

If I’m being perfectly honest that really isn’t where I started. I have been jonesing to wear my ankle  boots from my Fall list. Plus, it’s always fun to put something  something sweet and feminine with something rugged.

Layer #2: A top.  I needed to give my dress sleeves for cooler weather. This can be a lace t-shirt, a buttonup shirt, a crewneck sweater, a cardigan sweater. Again, avoid anything bulky.  Another option could be a cotton buttonup shirt.  Here I have on a short-sleeve cashmere sweater from J. Crew (similar here) as well as a lace t-shirt from Anthropologie (similar here).

*Note: Select layers with different fabrics and textures so that they are all clearly separate and visible. For example, I would not have chosen a silk top because the dress is silk. Continue choosing different fabrics and textures for each layer.

Accessorize.  The two layers should now be a complete outfit, with accessories to finish. This is because at some point, you may be removing your other layers — remember we are in D.C. early fall. For this particular outfit, I needed  to tie the boots in with the rest of what I had going on so looked for some accessories  with an earthy tone — hence the leopard-print belt and bronze jewelry.

Layer #3: A vest. This could be sweater shell if your second layer was a cotton buttonup shirt, which isn’t as thick as the cashmere sweater tshirt I chose. I love the juxtaposition of the silk dress with the soft cashmere and then a boyish utility vest. Again, this outfit could stand on its own.

*Note: The vest I chose does have bulk. However, the fabric isn’t as heavy as a typical utility vest, which is why I  though it could work. Try a summer weight utility vest.  To err on the side of caution, select a classic vest, with no pockets, etc.,  made out of a cotton blend or denim. Avoid a vest that is a sweater material as your second-layer top is already a sweater.

Layer #4: Jacket/Blazer. This is your final layer and finishes your look. I chose a navy boyfriend-inspired blazer from Zara (similar here).

The Final Test: Can You Move? This is  very important because if you are walking around awkwardly feeling sweaty and robot-like, there is a problem. Remove a layer. The outfit still works minus the vest. And if you’re in an office setting? you probably wouldn’t do the vest and you’d sub the boots for a pair of pumps. I was comfortable and liked the mix of fabrics and styles so stuck with the vest. When it got warm later in the day, removed the blazer.

And, with the lace tee…

I also ended up surprising myself with all the options for that little red spring/summer dress just shopping my own closetI can tell you what. If you need to find me this fall, just look for the girl in the little red dress. Happy layering!

You Can Wear a Trashbag if You Carry This…

Marni Balloon Tote Bag

DC Style Factory Tip #321: Invest in a statement bag. If you’re going to spend oodles of money on something, make it an iconic purse. You can literally wear sweatpants with elastic around the ankles pulled up to your chest. If you leave your house with a Berkin…all is forgiven. Need some ideas? This is a pretty good list to start

Style Obsession: Ali McGraw

March 5, 2010 1 comment

So, there’s mine…how about yours? Who is your personal style icon?

A Taste of Fashion Week(s)

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time blogging about the various and sundry fashion weeks that have happened and are happening. I mean, Fall 2010? Here in D.C., we’re just praying the snow melts enough to make it to Spring.

Still, it’s nice to get a taste of what went on at Fashion Week New York, and what is going on in London. Some of my personal ready-to-wear favorites…

Alexander Wang

Although always exuding urban cool, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award winner’s clothing is usually pretty accessible to a wide range of ages. This time around, though, the Fall 2010 collection felt…young. Backpacks, knee-highs, midriffs? Am I back in college? Still, can’t deny the infectiousness of the Wang vibe.

Ah, to be a 20-something again…

Karen Walker

Photo courtesy of style.com

Karen Walker’s a little kooky. But, that’s why I heart her. The designer, who hails from Auckland, New Zealand, has always got some helter skelter story behind her collection. Whether it’s the glamour of a 1930s superheroine leading a double life,  the austerity of a Texas polygamist compound, or the high-neck frills of Edwardian children’s clothing, she always manages to make you scratch your head while simultaneously saying, “I need that.”

For her Fall 2010 collection,  it’s “Sound of Music meets Bob Dylan.”  She’s got skinny suits that look like they were made from curtains (don’t be afraid of the head-to-toe floral print; just imagine it broken up), a blue metallic dress with black piping that appears to be blooming (yes, blooming) right from the center; and shrunken menswear-inspired jackets paired with cropped trousers – decidedly tomboyish, but still chic.

The most wearable pieces in her collection are the day dresses, which you can imagine layering, pairing, mixing and matching through various seasons (important when you live in a four-season town like D.C.).

Rodarte

Photo courtest of style.com

Ok, so your average suburban mom is not going to be in the carpool lane sporting the randomness that is the sisters Mulleavy. But, the beauty in the how they put together strips of fabrics, twisted and cascading, with a skirt that looks like a woven placemat is what makes them so bewitching.

For Fall 2010, apparently a long drive from El Paso to Marfa, Texas, got them thinking they might like to explore their Mexican roots. From there, they became interested in the troubled border town of Ciudad Juárez; the “hazy, dreamlike quality of the landscape there; and the maquiladora workers going to the factory in the middle of the night.” And that, according to the designers, coalesced into this season’s collection built around the idea of sleepwalking.

Seriously.  I’m  so not kidding.

Part of me laughs increduously (the cynical part) and the other part (the romantic one) makes me love them even more. Plus those white dresses at the end really are…dreamy.

Shipley & Halmos

photo courtesy of Shipley & Halmos

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the our-clothes-tell-a-sumptious-story Rodarte collection is Shipley & Halmos. Sam Shipley and Brent Halmos, formerly of Trovata,  simply make clothes that girls want to wear: classics with a twist. For instance, their Fall 2010 collection features a silk ankle-length trench that has a drape-y and more youthful quality than the classic belted version.

And get this, the collection feels — gasp! — unpretentious and completely wearable in a variety of different ways.

My shopping cart is ready and I’ll take one of everything, please.

So, there you have it. Some of my favorite picks for Fall 2010. Some cool, some crazy and some just stuff you want to buy and wear over and over again.

For now, though, I’ll just tuck Fall 2010 safely away as my toes continue screaming to be liberated from wool socks and tights.  Sigh…

To Break or Not to Break?

Thom Brown suit. Photo courtesy of The Sartorialist.

Valet is doing its 31 days of tips and tricks for looking stylish while living well. Day one tackled a somewhat controversial topic for menswear: should your pant have a break or no? You need only glimpse some of the men’s fashion discussion boards to get a feel for how passionately guys feel about their breaks. (No break! What the heck is a medium break?!? Full breaks only!)

Valet suggests that the pant should have as little break as possible and even features a pair of cuffed trousers whose owner appears to have just received a red alert flood warning.

There were quite a few comments to the tip suggesting that the no-break policy was only for the fashion foolhardy. Ok, everyone, take a deep breath. This is what some of the experts have to say:

Nordstrom says classic cuts should brush the top of the shoe and modern looks can show up to an inch of ankle.

GQ’s Style Guy says for the traditional American natural-shoulder, center-vent full-cut suit (a.k.a. Ivy League or Madison Avenue style), no break is customary.

AskMen.com says that a medium break is ” quintessential businessman.”

Saks Fifth Avenue shows trousers that are straight through the leg and only “break” once above the shoe, no more than about an inch and a half.

J. Crew’s “Jack” says it’s more modern to let your hem graze the top of your shoes without any break. Still, there are plenty of men who prefer to go longer and that’s fine, too. (If you want your ankles—or socks—to be covered when you walk or stand, go with a longer length with a slight break.)

And, what does DC Style Factory say? The more streamlined your look the better. So, the less break you have in your trouser, the better. If the picture above gives you the heebee jeebies, fret not. It’s not flattering for most guys anyhow. Whether you are into slimmer cut, more cropped suits or a more traditional, fuller cut dress pant, we say that the bottom of the trouser that “kisses” the top of your shoe is universally flattering.

If this is causing more anxiety than entertaining food for thought, then we suggest consulting with a professional…tailor, that is. In the meantime, check in each day with Valet this month for a new tip that is sure to point you in the right direction for the new year.

Some New Year’s Fun

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

One of my favorite things about the time of year is annual roundup lists. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ Best Of Fashion List? And who doesn’t love weird fashion moments? The weirder the better, right? I was reminded today of my personal favorite bizarro moment of the year: Alexander McQueen’s lobster claw shoe, which was snatched up by Lady GaGa for her Bad Romance video, natch.

These shoes were a stroke of completely unwearable, mad genius.  My dream scenario is to see a Washingtonian rockin’ these ankle-breaking shoes. (It almost seems like not enough to call them “shoes.” Like they should be something more. Like Ultimate Fighter Foot Armour.) Can’t you see it now?  Pelosi + Sparkly Claw Feet = Bad Ass.

Anyhow, enjoy the rest of Refinery 29’s 2009 Craziest Fashion Moments list and feel free to  share some of your weirdest fashion moments of the year!

Stylish Gifts for Him

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Getting down to the wire and still need something special for your guy? Fear not. Local shops, boutiques and retailers have that special stocking stuffer just for him.


BRAND Collar stays ($40). Available at Caramel.

It’s true that they are invisible to the naked eye, but without them, he’s a flimsy mess. And why not have a little fun with them? These festive confetti-dotted set from London Badge and Button ($40) are available at Caramel. 1603 U Street, NW.

Sick of looking at him in those saggy-crotch jeans that he’s been

APC New Standard Denim.

wearing since, oh, about 1992? Ramp up his denim style with this must-have pair of A.P.C. New Standard Denim. You can’t go wrong with A.P.C.’s high-quality denim — one of the best out there for under $200. This pair can easily work for weekends with a t-shirt, hoodie, and combat boots, or dressed up for business casual with a stripe buttondown, charcoal blazer and dress boots. Available at For the Greater Good. 1781 Florida Ave., NW.

Eyre organic skin products available at The Grooming Lounge.

Australia’s Eyre organic grooming products are made from Ancient Artesian Spring Water. I wasn’t sure what that was, but it sounded really fancy. So we gave it a whirl and guess what? Made my husband’s face as smooth as a baby’s butt. That’s no easy feat when you’re part of the population that grows hair on your face and scrapes a razor across it every few days. If that doesn’t sell you, the line is  also free of harmful chemicals and genetic modification. Plus it isn’t tested on poor Fluffy before it hits your face. Beauty with a conscience; can’t beat that for the holidays.

The Daily Basics Kit ($54) gives your guy a little bit of everything: facial cleanser, shaving cream, travel bag and more. Available at the Grooming Lounge. 1745 L Street, NW.

Yes, ties are just about the most traditional, expected, un-creative, ho-hum gift you can

The Hill-Side chambray tie available at For the Greater Good.

get a guy. Before you go yawning, check out Hill-Side’s selvage chambray ties. Sourcing material from Japan’s denim mecca, Okayama, the line uses the finest vintage great American workwear fabric. In addition to chambray, the brand’s inaugural line also includes twill and tough waxed canvas.  Really want go out on a limb? They even do a camouflage print chino made from U.S. Military Woodland Camo. How’s that for an un-boring tie?

Available at For the Greater Good ($72 to $76). 1781 Florida Ave., NW.

For history buffs, consider these collectible vintage luggage tags.  The retro tags are from the “golden age” of travel — the 1940s to 1960s — when these labels were used by hotels, rail and airlines as advertising and identification. They were emblazoned on steamer trunks and suitcases and are, today, a piece of travel nostalgia. Available at RCKNDY ($99). 1515 U St., NW.

Air Afrique vintage travel tag available at RCKNDY

Finally, for your wine connoisseur, give him a taste of something local.  Black Ankle Vineyards —  owned by husband-and-wife team, Sarah O’Herron (one of D.C. Style Factory’s favorite clients!) and Ed Boyce — has been stirring up the local wine scene over the last year. The winery has taken home a number of awards, including the Maryland Governor’s Cup for its 2007 Crumbling Rock.

The vintage is a blend of traditional Bordeaux grapes: Carbernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  With its big, dark flavors, it “definitely is good guy’s wine,” O’Herron says.

The 2007 Crumbling Rock ($45)  is available at Zola Wine and Kitchen and other various locations throughout D.C. and Maryland.

So, this holiday season, no need hit up the mall or go on an online clicking frenzy, check out some of your local businesses for something special that is sure to put a grin on his face well into the new year.