This week’s Tuesday Tip is early as that I will be out of town the majority of this week.
Just because it is on a mannequin or on the cover of a catalog does not mean it is stylish. I know this can be terribly confusing for those new into building a personal wardrobe. But like the news, you cannot accept everything as gospel. As there are three sides to every story, there are many views of current fashion.
I received a copy of the recent Newport News catalog in the mail. I usually toss this immediately. Newport News, Chadwicks, Boston Proper, Carabella, Venus and Spiegel are all lumped in the same pile in my mind. These are catalogs that are 90% full of the ugliest crap in the world. The other 10% is good simple basics at a low price, but simple basics that I am wary of. Will the rise be more Soccer Mom than Hot Mama? What is the fabric quality? Is the leg straight from the hip down, or the knee down resulting in a tacky tapered line? Needless to say, I have learned to simplify my life by tossing these catalogs and finding my low-priced staples at Target, Old Navy, The Gap and the sale racks at Ann Taylor.
Recently, I have seen items from the Newport News collection in my favorite fashion mags. This does not mean that their clothing is hip or great; it means that they sent free pieces to the editors in hops that it would fit a story and be displayed. However some of these items looked fairly cute. I was especially intrigued by a military-inspired long jacket in black velvet.
I flipped through the catalog and was assaulted by many current trends gone bad, yet some decent novelty pieces along with the basics. I ordered two shirts and a jacket and will let you readers know how these items work for me once they arrive. The bad fashion was so prevalent, I felt it necessary to comment on it.
1. Just because leggings are in style does not mean you should wear them. I know, I know I have stated this before but I cannot say it enough. When I went to the Newport News website, the first picture I saw was tall leggy women in turtleneck tunic sweaters and leggings. The company is offering a free pair of leggings with every tunic sweater. Wow, free! Who can pass up free? And that sweater looks cozy and will cover one’s ass quite nicely. Who can pass on that?
YOU. Please please please do NOT buy into this look as being fashionable or even flattering. Really look as these gorgeous models. Examine them in the rest of the website, the same women now in dresses, or suits. Compare the two looks. Do they look better in the dress or the tunic? Now think, if they look better and thinner and prettier in a dress than a turtleneck tunic, imagine how you will look in that sweater. Not that pretty of a picture, is it?
2. More isn’t better. This is another statement I make from time to time, but it holds true in this fall/winter season of luxe fabrics, Russian and military influences and leftover bohemian touches from summer. Even on the front cover of the catalog the model is wearing a frilly top that has the front ruffles AND the blouson sleeves with tweed pants that are not just tweed but have a black silken bow at the waist. On top of this she has chandelier earrings and long tendrils of blonde hair. A blouse that could possibly work on it’s own, a pair of pants with a bit too much detail, a pair of earrings that could look gorgeous with the right outfit, sexy hair… the whole combination is a busy, confusing and hot mess.
The inside page is even more exhausting. A leather jacket with a sheer blouse with a lace scarf and a denim skirt with lace insets and a rhinestone belt. Whew! I can just imagine the lace-up leather and suede boots in two-tone that she probably has on under this skirt. Then the next page. Faux fur stole? Cute! Faux fur stole with a faux cheetah print tunic, large braided hip belt and tinted jeans with hem detail? Frightening. How about the crocheted top and matching crocheted long skirt? I personally do not want to walk around looking like a living doily. And let’s not talk about the black and white overload outfit in the center.
If you have a fussy top, match it with simple trousers. This blouse with simple, classic tweed trousers, pearl studs and more simple hair would be lovely. The pants with a black turtleneck, black boots and a low sideswept ponytail could be chic and classy. The earrings with a simple crepe sheath and pumps would add flair and formality to a simple evening look. There should only be one focal point on an outfit or the viewer gets dizzy. Accent with a scarf, or a bold necklace, or a cool belt, or a patterned skirt or fun shoes. Not all of them at once.
3. Belts are not always best. IF you do not love your midsection, steer clear of wide waistbands on tunics and all these large belts. I believe men have decided that large hip belts hide our midsections. In actuality, these kind of details only draws attention to your tummy and hides any shape or wait definition you may currently have. A tall slim blonde in a calf-length unstructured jacket, leggings, tall boots and a hip belt may look cool and stylish in a new millennium Stevie Nicks sort of way, but I bet once she stands upright, removes her hand from her belt, she will look a bit disheveled and confusing. Few women can carry off the layers and ruffles of Stevie, or the belts associated with her look.
If you aren’t sure, keep it simple. No one will find a woman in basic trousers and a solid sweater to be a fashion victim or tacky. You may blend into the woodwork, but with some time honing your style, investing in creative accessories that show your personality, you will look stylish instead of scary (or Stevie).
4. Consider your shape. The catalog shows a lovely vertically-striped boatneck sweater in a dark chocolate shade. Smaller braided hip belt with a buckle to compliment the sweater (and actually fits, doesn’t sling down but sits right at the hip), a fringed brocade shawl tossed over one shoulder and a long tan tweed skirt. A very pretty concept… however if you are petite, a floor-length skirt will look more like a costume than work-appropriate attire. Same with a shawl on the shoulder. This woman is probably near 6’ tall and the shawl falls past her knees. Consider your height prior to purchasing. What may work on a tall lean blonde may not work on a curvy petite, or a long-waisted 5’7” gal with hips. A knee-length skirt and a large square scarf folded on an angle and secured at the shoulder with a brooch may be a better choice than a shawl and belt.
This being said, I have ordered two wrap-style cotton shirts in solid colors and a ¾ sleeved swing jacket in black velvet and hope they will look great. I just believe women should proceed with caution in stores and catalogs. That which is displayed may be harmful to your fashion health. Know your style and know your figure and dress for that first and foremost. And if you have the panache to carry off fringe and ruffles like Stevie Nicks, well I’d like to hear from you!