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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!

Love Your Cashmere

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment
     I recently audited a client’s closet and as we were going through her sweaters, she pulled out a pile of cashmere, sighed and rolled her eyes. “I love my cashmere, but I just can’t believe I paid so much money to have them all start pilling. And they are all just from last season!”
     We’ve all been there. Plunking down a couple hundred dollars for that buttery soft cashmere sweater only to find that a few months later…pills, pills, pills. According to The Laundress, though, it’s not because there was something defective in the quality of the garment. “Pilling happens from wearing, not washing.  Pilling is not necessarily a sign of poor quality; it’s actually the cashmere naturally shedding.”
     There are an array of pill removers, sweater shavers, etc. out there. A good pill remover is key. I highly recommend The Laundress New York for J.Crew sweater comb.  If you really want to go hardcore on your sweaters, you can also literally give your sweaters the full spa treatment with a sweater stone and sweater comb (yes, you actually brush your sweaters).
     So no need to feel like Fluffy, your favorite cashmere cardigan, failed you. Simply give her a little TLC and she’ll be back…just like new.

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

Ultimate Guy’s Bag…That Also Works for Mommy?

March 1, 2010 2 comments

Kurtz backpack. Photo courtesy of Madly Bags.

It’s hard to find a bag that works for me professionally and personally. Some days I’m toting around binders, papers and measuring tape. Some days I’m hauling snacks, toys, and water bottles. I want something utilitarian and sturdy, but stylish and of lux quality. Timeless and classic, but youthful and fun.

Enter Madly Bags. The line of leather carryalls are the brainchild of real-life couple Melanie Dizon —  women’s shoe and bag designer extraordinaire (if you shopped at Circle Boutique, you likely remember her unforgettable line of purses, which I still carry to this day) — and Jake Quellman.

Yes, they’re for boys, but  that’s never stopped me before. Because they’re designed to “get better with age,” I can’t imagine a more perfect bag for both my professional days working with clients and mommy days running after a toddler and preschooler. As for design inspiration, think Coppola’s “Apocolypse Now,” which the duo channels for their second season together.

I am especially coveting the vegetable-tanned leather of the “Kurtz” backpack (above). Filipino tanners (the line is produced in the Phillipines where Dizon’s family hails from) produced the cracked leather straps using a local treating method. I can see the bag both with a tailored, professional look and with skinny jeans, boots,  and a toddler on one hip.

Guys, check out the cross-body bags and the sleek business bag that will house your laptop and day timer in style. Not available locally (but I can see them at For the Greater Good, hint-hint); at least not yet. They will soon be available online.

In the meantime pictures will have to suffice…enjoy.

Rock Me Amadeus

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Ruiz Necklace. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

Paula Mendoza’s jewelry is not for the faint of heart. In other words, no wallflowers need apply. With rings showcasing oversize raw semi-precious stones, necklaces of bold silk multi-layered rope chains and medallions, gold Cleopatra-worthy chandelier earrings that measure three-and-a-half inches long, we’re not talking sweet and dainty here.

“They are statements that are going to be conversation pieces everywhere they are worn,” Mendoza says. “They are for the woman that feels very comfortable about herself, and of course, loves fashion!”

Fusion earrings. Gold vermeil over sterling silver accented with labradorite stones. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

Since moving to the D.C. area four years ago, Mendoza has cultivated and refined her jewelry line,  making a name for herself locally and internationally. Today, she is sold at fine retailers across the country and overseas.

She credits her native Colombia as a major inspiration and sources many of her materials from the Latin American country.

“Seeing the power of each emerald’s green, one can’t but think about how to capture it in a jewel,” Mendoza says.

Her latest Cave of Wonders collection, however, was wholly inspired by a trip to Vietnam.

“I had taken a trip to Vietman last winter and I went to this beautiful place in Halong Bay that for me was the most powerful and inspirational place,” Mendoza says.”The Cave of Wonders cavern is amazing.”

Mendoza translated what she saw on that visit  into chandelier earrings of dripping gold stalactites, rings of claw-like gold stalagmites gripping raw precious and semiprecious stones, and web-like bangles of hammered silver suspending onyx stones.

Muso ring. Sterling silver coated wtih 24K gold vermeil ring with raw emerald stone. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

The baby of her collection? The Ruiz necklace, and it’s no suprise why. Three textured gold medallions cradling raw emeralds and diamonds clasped together in a what is almost an understatement to call a necklace.

Mendoza works with the finest materials, using semi-precious and precious stones. Her attention to detail and craftsmanship sets her apart from the pack, and this latest collection is no exception.

Although much of her inspiration comes from travel abroad, you can often find her in local D.C. haunts, looking for her next “big thing.”

Enredadera bangle. 24K gold over sterling silver with onyx stones. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

“I do find inspiration locally in coffee shops, museums and vintage stores,” Mendoza says. And, with a new Commander in Chief, she has found the city reinvigorated, and friendlier to its more fashion-driven and creative inhabitants.

“I absolutely find D.C. welcoming (to creativity), and even more so right now. Nothing is cooler than working in the same city as Obama!” she laughs. “A  lot of young people are moving to D.C., giving it energy.”

There’s no stopping Mendoza either. She has already launched, with a friend, a men’s cufflinks line. She also is working on a new collection, which she coyly says is “inspired by London,” and has two other jewelry projects in the works: a more commercial line and a more artistic line.

Andalucia earrings made of sterling silver coated with 24K gold matte finish. Photo courtesy of Paula Mendoza.

“I started doing it on the side, just in my free time, and then it became a full time job,” Mendoza says.” And of course I’m loving every minute of it.”

So are we, Paula, so are we.

Paula Mendoza jewelry is available online and  locally at Muleh on 14th Street in Washington, D.C. and Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase.

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!

Not Your Grandmother’s Scarf

December 4, 2009 1 comment

Local designer, Virginia Arrisueño, is doing what most people don’t think exists in a city filled with politicians, lobbyists and attorneys. She’s designing…fashion. And for her, there is no shortage of inspiration.

“A lot of the times I find inspiration in my everyday activities. For example, it can be during my jogs through Rock Creek Park, when I am out doing errands, or when I’m with my dog walking her in the evening,” says Arrisueño. “D.C. is beautiful … For me, there’s always something catching my attention when I’m out.”

Arrisueño – whose burgeoning line of stylish, high-quality knits, have found homes at much-loved hipster havens across the country like Brooklyn’s Alter and San Francisco’s Villains Vault, to L.A.’s celeb-friendly Hillary Rush (hello, Kate Moss shops there), to our very own Redeem on 14th Street – has managed to mesh beauty and functionality in her modern, sexy, but utterly wearable (and reasonably priced) line of scarves, hats, and gloves. (I’m personally coveting the the ladies glove and the spiral rope.)

Blending contemporary style with ethnic influences from her Peruvian heritage, she works with skilled artisans in Peru to create meticulously crafted pieces, subtle enough to be worn everyday, but with enough character and craftsmanship to make a statement.

Arrisueño received her BFA at the University of Maryland, where she focused almost exclusively on fiber art. Her creative talent and technical skills have been lauded through several awards including the Sadat Art for Peace Award, delivered by Nelson Mandela, and first prize in Viridian Artists, Inc.’s  national competition, juried by Robert Rosenblum who is curator at this little place called the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Arrisueño has also fine-tuned her artistic skill with stints at the Hirshhorn Museum and Numark Gallery in D.C. and Vertigo Gallery in London.

I caught up with Arrisueño, who was born in Morristown, New Jersey, this week just as she was working through a customs debacle on her latest shipment of goods.

When did you launch your first collection?

My first official collection of knit accessories was launched last Fall/Winter 2008. This current collection is my second one.

Why knits? Why scarves gloves, and hats?

When I started de*nada back in 2005, I was originally designing handbags and tees. Later, I started experimenting with knits, and just overall became obsessed with it. Since I studied fiber art in college,  I feel like the design process for knits comes to me a lot more organically than designing handbags, for example. I enjoy it more. And so for this year, I decided to focus entirely on knit accessories.

What materials do you use, primarily?

At this time, I primarily use a polyamide mix fiber. I like to describe it as a faux angora … it’s super soft, keeps you warm, and most importantly it’s animal-friendly.

How have you grown your collection each season?

Each season, I grow my collection by adding additional styles and colors taking into consideration my aesthetic and overall my brand’s vision.

Do you find it challenging to be in the fashion business in a government town?

No, I don’t feel like it’s challenging to be in the fashion business in a government town. Washington, DC is progressing in every aspect — especially D.C.’s community of artists and designers. People here are very supportive of the arts, and I am very excited to be living and working here in Washington, D.C.

What does the future hold for de*nada and for you?

For the future, I hope to expand my current collection to include a larger selection of women’s and men’s accessories for both Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons.  Plus, I want to return to designing handbags and venture into cut and sew the following year.

Did someone say handbags?? Where do we sign?

Virginia lives in D.C. with her fiancee, artist Kelly Towles and their dog, Mia.

Virginia Arrisueño