Sunday, August 31, 2008

underwear, not outerwear

I love that tourists support America's economy. Their listless spending on souvenirs, hotels, rental cars, airline tickets, and entertainment while here brings a virtually endless supply of jobs and revenue. But their fashion sense (or more importantly, the LACK THEREOF) simply kills me. Case in point: I went shopping today in Orlando. And the world's favorite tourist destination didn't disappoint, especially in terms of people watching. I saw more people wearing tank tops and undershirts. WHY?! I understand that the weather is hot and humid. This is no excuse to wear ratty undershirts and wife beaters. It's tacky, tasteless, and trashy. The weather is equally hot and humid in Rome, yet the Italians always err in the side of fashion and style no matter the conditions outside.

And speaking of tacky, tasteless, and trashy, I am so over Angelina Jolie. I understand she's enjoyable to look at, and she might have made a few decent movies, but her pretentiously unpretentious personality and attitude is so repulsive. I'm not sure if she's trying to adopt a child from each continent, but her crusade to save the world is sad. I can't believe the people at St. John featured her in their campaigns. St. John's knits are incredibly beautiful, classic, and desired across multi generations, and the fact they've chosen Jolie is quite the opposite from their customer base.

Underwear is meant to be worn UNDER garments. After all, you wouldn't wear a coat underneath a dress shirt, or pants underneath your bathing suit. Remember, when traveling, dress smart. You represent your country, your family, and yourself no matter where you are.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the upper crest

One of my favorite aspects of fashion is the nostalgia it evokes. Big round sunglasses will always be Jackie O. Platinum hair will always be Marilyn. One glove will always belong to Michael Jackson. Diamonds will always be Liz Taylor's friends. And Zsa Zsa's.

This is the year of the prep. For men, great repp stripe ties in your favorite school colors are the perfect way to evoke some nostalgia in your everyday wares. While a crest used to be reserved only for well heeled families, stuffy aristocrats, and a select group of educational institutions, now a crest also can evoke a rye sense of humor, almost a little tongue-in-cheek sarcasm from the playboy type of the 70s. Beautiful crests and insignias accentuate outerwear, oxfords, polos, and ties. Designers like Ralph Lauren, Nicholas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Moncler, and even Nike are embellishing their creations with crests.

So join the upper crest. Think style without being stuffy. Think exciting without being overly expensive. Think aspiring and not annoying. Just don't think too hard. The upper crest is founded with an air of confidence and nonchalance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

fashion that makes a difference

My life is full of paradoxes. I like barely cooked steak, and I love burnt toast. I live in a warm climate, and I love winter clothes. I like conserving energy, and I love big SUVs. I like saving money and investing, and I love shopping. And I like making a difference.

Fashion forward campaigns and companies are what I love right now. Product Red (RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver to ultimately combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. Companies like The Gap, Motorola, American Express, Apple, Dell, Converse, and Giorgio Armani design specific products in their ranges that promote awareness. A percentage of the profits are given to The Global Fund. The fund helps women and children affected by the deadly virus.

Branch Home is a wonderful store that stocks eco-friendly, very fashion forward accessories and products. My favorite item is a tote bag made from recycled sailboat sails. You know I love bags - tote bags, messenger bags, attache cases, luggage - you name it. I love bags. And Arbor Sports makes some of the most fun, original belts and tshirts from environmentally friendly and organic materials.

I love that Ikea encourages customers to bring their own reusable bags, even charging customers who don't bring their own. Many grocery stores throughout Europe follow the same procedure. Save the environment (and money too!) by bringing your own bags to reuse.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good fur coat and leather shoes, but organic bamboo, recycled sails, and biodegradable bowls, cups, and plates definitely make me happy. You don't have to go crazy when it comes to fashion. I'm not asking you to hug trees, stop wearing deodorant, or fashion your wardrobe from cardboard boxes and duct tape. But I am asking you to be responsible. If you can buy something that makes a difference, be the change. It'll bring a whole new meaning the next time you "go change your clothes".

Monday, August 25, 2008

Samples! Get your (almost-like-free) samples!

Samples. We all love them. Whether it's a sip of an unknown wine, a taste of the chef's new creation, or just a taste of the newest cracker at your local grocer, we always feel a little more cutting edge, a little more ahead, and a little more exclusive. Enter: the sample sale.

Each season, designers produce many items that will never hit the market. Well, not really at least. These items may be one- or two-of-a-kind. Dresses. Pants. Shirts. Sweaters. Coats. Accessories. You name it. Every category is sampled. Some sample sales may happen in designers' show rooms, especially in New York, LA, London, and Paris. If you're not so fortunate to live in one of these fashion capitols, you still may sample the goods! Some samples are sold online. Some samples may be sent to local discounters. My brother found a sample shirt from a well known designer at a local discount store (Marshall's I believe) in Florida. You never know where the samples may appear.

But when you find samples, GET EXCITED! For the majority who will never own something couture or custom made, this is as close as it comes. Items are incredibly limited in availability, often utilize new techniques in construction, and are made with incredible design and detail. When you see samples, you HAVE to try the items on, as the sizing is usually either not labeled, or isn't quite right. At one sample sale in LA, items were just thrown in boxes, and ravenous customers were literally stripping down to their nothings and frantically trying on the sample creations right public eye. Very entertaining.

So if you're into cutting edge designs from your favorite designers that are incredibly exclusive and even more affordable, think sample sales. After all, it's the only way you'll ever get almost-like-free clothes!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's in your pocket?

Stylish. Suave. Svelte. Swanky. As corporate America seems to be more casual and less formal, a little attention to detail will take you a long way. Enter: the pocket square. But you can't just stuff any fabric into your lapel pocket - there are many suggestions for making this look happen well.

1. Never match your tie and pocket square. This is absolutely tacky. A rule of thumb - only one piece may have a bold pattern or color. For example, if you're wearing Burberry's iconic nova check tie, you would accessorize with a solid pocket square. Choose a color that's featured in the tie, like khaki, red, white, or black.

2. As a general guide, try to match the pocket square to the color of your shirt. When in doubt: a white pocket square is always a classic.

3. Stick to linen or cotton fabrics. Fashion for me at it's basic existence is function. While the look is aesthetically pleasing, you should be able to offer the pocket square to your lady (or any lady, for that matter) who may need to dry her tears. Or in case you need to blow your nose (at a last resort, of course). Silk pocket squares seem to frumpy and fussy to me.

4. Keep the fold simple. Try folding it into a rectangle or square shape, with the exposed edge straight across. Pocket squares add a touch of flair and flash - they're not to mimic boutonnieres or corsages.

5. You might not need a square at all. Better tailors and designers often line the pocket with beautiful silk material, that in a flash can be pulled out for a splash of spice.

6. For a more casual look, forego the tie all together. Unbutton the top two buttons of your shirt, and include a more exciting pocket square. (The only time I'll wear a silk pocket square is if I'm utilizing the "no tie" look.) Hermes makes beautiful, intricately designed pocket squares. As does Etro and Pucci. Now that we've got the pocket square sorted out, let's move on to what you should and should not keep in your pockets while wearing a suit.

Remember: less is more. Your designer and/or tailor put a lot of thought into the silhouette of your suit. So don't ruin it with bulging pockets. Here's what to pack, and how.

1. If you're in the city and utilize public transportation, all you'll need is a house key. No other keys should be with you. You won't be going to the office, checking the mail, visiting your vacation home(s), or driving the car. Leave all those keys at home. They are unneeded.

2. If you're paying cash, carry your bills in a money clip. Limit number of bills to 5-10. Carrying a wad of money isn't safe, and doesn't make you look good either. In fact, it can be viewed as ostentatious and pretentious.

3. I absolutely love slim wallets. Small ID type wallets or card cases are best. You don't need more than 2 cards (I keep my debit card - it doubles as an ATM card, and is a good back-up in case AmEx isn't accepted), my driver's license, and my insurance card (accidents happen). That's it. When I go out, I also put my house key in the wallet too, for safe keeping. Leave behind old receipts, frequent shopper cards, membership cards, and any other mindless banter.

4. Speaking of membership cards and such. I love a bargain. I have many loyalty programs. Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards, Hertz Five Star Gold, CostCo, video store, CVS extra care...the list goes on and on and on. I keep a small, discrete list about the size of a credit card, with all of my fidelity program names and ID numbers. This way you're always prepared, and not lugging around a dozen or so cards. Maximum buying power with minimal space.

5. Only carry a few business cards. You shouldn't be randomly soliciting anyway, but having a few cards keeps you prepared for any impromptu business meeting or networking.

Your small wallet or card case will fit easily in your pants pocket or jacket pocket. The thin size will keep the garment's natural silhouette. After all, there should only be one bulge in your pants - and it shouldn't be your wallet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Metals aren't just for Olympic champions

This fall and winter, metallics will be back again. Not just bronze, silver, and gold, but copper, gunmetal, platinum, and pewter, too. Use metallics for accessories like belts, handbags, and shoes. Prevent monotony with monotone looks by incorporating metallics within your hue range. It's all about texture; metallics provide a visual depth like none other. Instead of little girl glitter, it's like big girl glam. And the same goes for men's fashion too - step out of the box with metallic leather goods, accessories, and fabrics. A silver satin tie makes a dramatic statement when paired with a black suit and black shirt. A bronze leather belt turns ordinary khaki pants into an extraordinary event. Newly appointed Creative Director Kris Van Assche made did Dior Homme proud for his winter collection, with a beautiful metallic gray puffer coat, brilliant metallic blue skinny tie, and metallic stripe sneakers. (Just be careful not to overdo the metallics, as you don't want to favor the Tinman from Wizard of Oz!).

And speaking of metallics, my favorite toothpaste (Marvis) makes the perfect unexpected gift. We all need/use toothpaste, and this is no ordinary paste. With delicious flavors like aquamint (my favorite), gingermint, and jasminemint, the vintage packaging and presentation add the perfect wit and whimsical touch to such a mundane, ordinary task. You can buy online, or visit your local anthropologie to pick up a tube or two or ten. Now you can brush in style!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

without opening the mouth, the suit bespoke

Men's suiting has reached an all new high. Double breasted, peak lapels, two button, tuxedo - the possibilities seem endless. And with a growing list of available stockists, nearly every town in America now offers a retailer carrying the classic men's staple. Add in the huge well of online shopping, and the fashion waters flow like never before.

There are several options when buying a suit. Of course, you can always buy simply "off the rack", meaning you literally buy a pre-designed, pre-made suit. There's nothing wrong with this at all. I have some great suits from J. Crew, J. Press, Brooks Brothers, and Theory that were off the rack. Hopefully, if you're buying suits off the rack, you're also taking them immediately to your tailor. Having the slightest alterations and customizations to the garment will fit and look so much better!

Next, you can opt for a "made-to-measure" suit. This option gives you much more choice and freedom in the final product. Typically, you'll pick through several fabric swatches, which will then be applied to a basic template or pattern. Depending on the retailer, any number of measurements of your body will be taken, and applied to the pattern during creation. After a few weeks, your suit will be made to your measurements and specifications. No tailoring needed.

Finally, there is the bespoke suit. The term "bespoke" originated in the 17th century. During that time, tailors actually stock piled many, many different types of fabric. When you'd visit to order a suit, you literally would select the fabric you wanted. After the yards of fabric were selected, they would "be spoken for". Today, bespoke suits often require more than 20 different measurements of your body. Once you identify what type of suit you desire, and what purpose it will serve, your tailor will create a custom pattern, based on your likes and measurements. Each suit is completely hand made, with the finest care and detail.

To be well dressed does not require a collection of bespoke suits (though it is divine to dream!). No matter your budget, take care of your clothing. Keep items clean, laundered, and wrinkle free. Your fashion and style should speak gentleman, glamorous, and gracious, rather than screaming delusional, desperate, and downright tacky.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moncler, mon amour!

Fashion is forward. From designers thinking creatively for 6-8 seasons ahead of our current calendar season, to buyers anticipating what their clients will demand, the entire industry deals in the future. And personally, I love being over the next best thing before you even know what's hot. Some things, however, will always remain in demand, no matter the season, the style, or the trend.

I know it's hard to think about winter wear when it's blazing hot outside, but I must tell you about my favorite cold weather essential. In 1952, Rene Ramillion and Andre Vincent invested 8 million francs and created the illustrious Moncler, short for the Monastier de Clermont near Grenoble. Moncler's iconic ski wear has been rigorously tested, from being the official outfitter of the French Olympic ski team in 1968, to worldwide expeditions.

The designs appear to be simple, but the construction and technology is anything but ordinary. Colors are classic, with most fabrics giving a beautiful sheen. And the discrete, iconic Moncler patch is like icing on the cake. I have a wonderful goose-down vest in navy blue that is so versatile. Whether it's paired with denim and a long sleeved tshirt, or wool flannel pants, an oxford, and cashmere sweater, you always look like you've just jetted to Milano or Paris for some winter fun.

Buying off-season can save beaucoup d'argent. Plan now. After all, fashion is forward, and you don't want to get left behind!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

chambrizzle my nizzle!

Summers in the American state of Florida are incredibly hot and humid. With temperatures often in the mid 90F/30C range, you must dress appropriately for the searing, sticky heat. With that said, my favorite summer shirts are either lightweight linen or cool chambray.

High quality linen is very expensive. It is grown from the flax plant, which is very temperamental and tricky to grow. The fibres are hand-plucked from the stocks of the flax plant. This is a very tedious task, requiring much time and effort. Originally, linen was reserved only for royalty. Linen of higher qualities will not have the "slubs" or knots/bumps woven in the fabric. The fabric is naturally resistant to dirty, naturally moth-resistant, and wicks water away from the skin. Don't fold linen - hang it up so you don't break the fibres (this also will prevent additional wrinkles).

Chambray is a soft, lightweight fabric for the searing summer as well. The fabric is usually made of cotton, and is formed using a tight, plain weave with 2 colors of yarn - most notably white and blue, resulting in a slight lustre and lightly faded appearance. The fabric originated in Northern France in the town of Cambrai, where they first used the fabric to made sunbonnets.

J. Crew makes a fabulous vintage chambray work shirt. Neiman Marcus stocks beautiful chambray linens. The great Italian designer Roberto Cavalli makes the sexiest chambray pants and skirts for women, but doesn't feature them all too often - so keep an eye out for the prize.

No matter where you live, inclement weather is bound to find come your away. So dress for success. Dress for the weather. And dress well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fashion Rocks!

Peanut butter and jelly. Sonny and Cher. Gabbana and Dolce. Popcorn and movies. Fashion and music. Some things just naturally fit together. Fashion Rocks, a celebration of the love affair between music and fashion, is celebrating it's 5th anniversary. The event will be live September 5th at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall, but won't are on CBS until Tuesday, September 9th, at 9PM. Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, Fergie, Duffy, and so many more. Various fashion designers will be in attendance, but we all know that one thing designers love to be is unpredictable, so no one really knows who from the fashion world will grace us with their presence. And best of all, proceeds benefit the cancer initiative Stand Up 2 Cancer.

So in honor of the event, I want to share my favorite fashion/music products. I can't imagine life without my Product Red iPod video. So tiny. So user friendly. So durable. When on the go, I pair it with Bang and Olufsen's earphones. But when I'm at home, I listen to my iPod on the greatest little device ever. A few years ago, my Mother bought me the Portable Audio Laboratory from Tivoli Audio. The simplistic design, amazing durability, and long-lasting internal battery allow for hours of play. Clear. Crisp. Loud. Just how music should be.

I love music. And I love fashion. I love how they compliment each other. Music heals. Music inspires. Music sets the tone. And fashion rocks. So the next time you want to get energized, fashionable, glamorous, happy, or inspired, put on your favorite outfit and pump up the jams.

Friday, August 15, 2008

All good things come to an end...

…but some good things end sooner than they should. I shouldn’t be upset. Afterall, it’s just stuff. But yesterday, it was a big deal. Let me explain. Just a few weeks ago I shared my excitement for the new Prada phone. I was so happy to have it. And yesterday, the phone malfunctioned. Permanently.

It wasn’t getting as good of a signal as I thought the phone should have, so I called AT&T. A long story short, I was instructed to visit my local AT&T store to get a new SIM card installed. Well, five SIM cards later, the phone wasn’t recognizing any SIM cards. It wasn’t receiving any signals. It wasn’t able to dial or receive calls. I was so upset. Something I wanted for so long, just ended so quickly. After some begging and pleading, the good people at American Express are refunding my money. I'll have to wait 4-10 business days after they receive the broken phone. So, as soon as I get my money back, I’ll be buying a different phone. I’ve learned many lessons, and I’m happy to share them with you as well.

1) It’s just stuff. Life has too many important events, people, and places to get upset over simple items. No matter how fashionable they may be.

2) Electronics companies and Fashion icons don’t mix. Sony makes great televisions. Just because they’ve mastered the art of the plasma doesn’t automatically make them fabulous ateliers. I should have known. Even with the help of electronics giant LG, Miuccia Prada knows as much about electronics as I know about building automitive engines.

3) Remaining calm and kind in times of frustration and stress can open the door to making you happier than you could have ever expected or hoped for. Like American Express refunding my money and saving the day.

So, less than 3 weeks into my love affair with the Prada phone, I’m moving on. If something seems too good to be true, it must be. But no matter what phone I may have, fashion will always be calling.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

tall toes and naked necks?

This fall season will be about the total package. Tailored, trim silhouettes. Attention to detail, especially in color hue and fabric texture. Flawless hair and skin. A dazzling smile. And the perfect accessory. Whether you are casual shabby chic or dressed to the nth degree in red-carpet-glam, women accentuate each look with the perfect heels. These heels create an illusion - they add height, and lift and emphasize tone in all the right areas. The higher, the better.

Some trends transcend gender boundaries - accentuation of the neck. For men, neckwear and an array of collars will take you from nobody to somebody. Ties in satin, silk, and wool. Scarves in cashmere, linen, and wool. And from traditional collars to the most innovative in design, shirts will show the neck like never before. This look is just as important for women. You'll see many scarves, and even borrow some looks from the men's formal wear, and will all finish off the most elegant, fashion forward looks.

From the neck to the heels, remember to check silhouette and structure. After all, Coco Chanel said it best, "Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportions."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

do you rock the high-low?

It seems like every spring season is highlighted by famous designers mixing and matching "updated" pieces from their previous winter collection with their current spring collection. This fall, I definitely think the "high-low" will be rocked like never before. The "high-low" is a mix-and-match look characteristic of having something that's expensive and something that's inexpensive. Or something couture with something very common. For example, this fall you might have Theory gray wool trousers that you pair with a ringspun gray long sleeve tshirt from J. Crew. Or your favorite Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress with a matching cardigan from the most shabby chic retailer, Target.

The point is that the look should be put together well, have consistency and flow, and compliment each other. Your wares need not be expensive to look good. We have all seen haute couture that looks like it costs $5. Remember, stick with flattering fits. And a well dressed person never talks about how much things cost. That's so last season.

And I leave you with a wonderful quote from my favorite Christian Dior - Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You better shop around!

Smokey Robinson and The Miracles' 1960 MoTown Hit "You Better Shop Around" couldn't be a more fitting soundtrack for today's entry. With a little bit of research and patience, shopping around can save you a bundle on your next purchase. Companies often will run promotions on their corporate website, but not in the actual store. Others will have a promotion in the store, but not online or through the catalogue. However, if you ask, most stores will honor the online promotions or deals. Case in point - I just left J. Crew with a women's Madras patchwork blazer (to be a gift), a vintage pique polo shirt (for me), and a wonderful cotton zip sweat jacket - all for just $27,00, when their original prices totalled right at $250,00. While still a bargain, these same items would have cost nearly 100,00 online, excluding shipping, tax, and the hassle of not immediately trying the items on or having that instant gratification that shopping so often brings!

More often than not, companies now are slashing prices almost immediately after showcasing their newest wares. If you can resist the initial urge to purchase, waiting even just a week or so can result in substantial savings. And as much as I love shopping and having the next best thing before you know about, I love even more saving money and getting a bargain! So the next time you're in the market for something new, take your hint from Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and remember you better shop around!

Monday, August 11, 2008

un cadeau pour vous - a gift for you

I must confess. Today's entry shall serve two purposes. First, to educate and suggest you on some wonderful gift suggestions for those fashion-forward favorites in your life. Secondly, my birthday is just about 7 weeks away, and I know you might need a little assistance in the recommendation department. Alas, I present to you the perfect presents.

1. iTunes gift cards. Now, normally I'm not so keen on giving presents with attached monetary values. I think it's cheap, cheeky, and insincere. With that being said, fashion and music consistently go hand-in-hand. As do audio books, movies, and television series. Plus, the added freedom in tailoring this gift by the recipient is virtually limitless. And you can never run out of quality entertainment with the iPod.

2. Dior Homme Sport fragrance. It's brand new. And judging by the descriptions online, it shall smell absolutely glorious. Not to mention, Jude Law is in the advertisements, and he's one of my favorite actors and fashion icons. Dior Homme always pushes the fashion envelope, and rarely disappoints.

3. The Sonicare Electric Toothbrush by Philips. Everyone who's anyone in fashion knows that a great smile is the best accessory to any ensemble. High tech. Light. Travel friend. Perfect for the jet-setter in your life.

4. American design Icon Ralph Lauren is the official clothier of Team USA in Beijing's summer Olympic games. His classic pieces in red, white, and blue couldn't be more patriotic. And I'm definitely a fan. Especially of his Olympic Games Ribbon Belt, and his Slim Custom-Fit Beijing polo in white. Even though the games are just 16 days long, his collection is classic, incredibly well tailored, and timeless.

5. David Yurman makes the most beautiful, masculine cross pendant necklace. Cast in sterling silver and yellow gold, the piece can be worn every day, is small in stature, but huge in impact. Discrete and immensely tasteful. Indicative of my personal religious views.

6. Cole Haan's Tobago Thong (flip flops) for men are amazingly comfortable, fashionably, and highly enjoyable. The bottom soles are innovative Nike technology that mimics the natural movement of a bare foot. Online, they're only featured in brown or orange, but I know I tried on a black pair in the store. And I know this is hard to believe, but I actually do not currently own a pair of black sandals. So that would be swell.

7. Marvis makes the most delicious toothpaste ever. Their aquamint's secret ingredient must be crack. It makes me want to brush my teeth much more than the recommendation of my dental professional. Stocked locally in the USA at Anthropologie. And worth every penny. All 1,000 of them.

8. I have long been under the impression that wireless mobilephone accessories are repulsive and ridiculous. But that was before I used a jawbone. I still would only use it while cooking or driving. The sound is crystal clear for both users, is discrete in size, and very easy to use.

9. A Leica Digital Camera. The iconic German camera maker has made classic cameras of the utmost technical skill for many, many years. Not only do they capture stunning images, but the camera itself is very beautiful. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and you know I've got a lot to say!

As you can see, there are always great gift suggestions for those fabulous people in your life. No matter the budge or occasion, be creative. Be innovative. And be thoughtful. When giving gifts, remember that you're giving because you want to, not because you have to. Obligatory gifts are so last season. Presents should be bought with the receiver in mind, and reflect your own personality and sense of style. If you run out of ideas and possibilities, there are always priceless art, endangered wild animals, private islands, and hired help to consider! And in case you're wondering, only 40 shopping days left until my celebration begins!

Friday, August 8, 2008

a comfortable luxury

My family has many, many close friends, who blur the line between "friends" and "family" quite well. I'm blessed to have so many "extended family members" who encourage me, entertain me, guide me, and support me. One family in particular has really shaped my life. They have exposed me to incredible art, culture, fashion, food, and style. Most importantly, they are the true meaning of "comfortable luxury". No matter how many times I may visit their house, you instantly feel an air of luxury, but without the typically expected haste or stuffiness. Nothing is off limits, everything is impeccably clean and ordered, yet you never feel uncomfortable. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Whether gazing at an incredible collection of art, drinking delicious wine and enjoying savory foods, or just relaxing and visiting, you know you're in a different place. A place of safety. A place of inspiration. A place you want to be.

There is a phenomenal campaign called "look good, feel better". In short, it's designed to provide beauty and cosmetic tips to those battling cancer. It's premise focuses on the sheer fact that when you look good, you feel better. After taking care of my Mom while she was terminally ill with cancer, I found a new respect for this program. But it also helped me realize another ideal - when you feel good, you look better. And that is so very true.

Think again. When you feel good, you look better. So treat yourself. I know the economy isn't going as well as we'd hoped. Money might be tight. But live a little. Treat yourself. Enjoy some comfortable luxury with these suggestions:

1. Pack an overnight bag. You're going on a "stay-cation". Leave your laptop, mobilephone, pager, blackberry, blueberry, and any other electronic communication device at home. Check in to your favorite local hotel. And don't tell a soul. Relax. Order room service. Watch a movie. Read a book. Drink lots of wine. Stay up late, and sleep in. And don't leave until it's time to check out of the hotel and check in with reality.

2. Make your favorite cocktail. At 4 PM. Take a long shower. And enjoy your cocktail while you lazily relax. In the shower. (Caution - only one cocktail is allowed. I don't want anyone drowning, flooding the bathroom, or injuring themselves!)

3. As it gets cooler outside, go for a run. But ditch your raggedy old college t-shirts, and opt for something more luxurious and stylish. Like a cashmere sweater. (Better cashmere can be hand washed at home. I rinse mine in the sink, and lay them flat to air dry.)

4. Purchase multiple David Yurman bracelets. Keep them for yourself. And wear them all at the same time. Especially to unexpected places, like the grocery store.

5. Upgrade your fragrances. Colognes and perfumes definitely expire. Throw away your old fragrances, and replace them with new ones. I like to buy smaller bottles. (This is easier for travel, and allows for more rotation without spoilage.)

6. And speaking of upgrades. Throw away all of your underwear. It's time you treat yourself the right way. If you're going to be well dressed and have impeccable taste, you can't neglect the garments closest to you. Wearing designer clothes and cheap underwear would be like wearing a Canali suit with shoes from Payless. It just shouldn't happen. Ever.

And the most important aspect of living a comfortable luxury, is to never, ever, be rude to others. You don't want to make people feel uncomfortable. We never know what others are dealing with in their personal lives. So be gracious. Be kind. And of course, be in style.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

tried and true, the new tradition

I know the economy is not well. Money is tighter for everyone. One easy way to update your wardrobe, without spending a small fortune, is by reinventing what you already have. Just employ your local (expert) tailor. Designer Martin Margiela isn't known for his creation of new trends; he expertly tailors classic designs and presents them refined, refreshed. And you can do the same.

This fall, coats and jackets are perfectly polished. Have your tailor reshape or resize your blazers and suit jackets. Strong lines show class and confidence. Think visible darting. (A dart is type of stitching that creates a curve in the fabric and allows the fabric to drape well, conforming to the shape of the body. The darts in a garment are what make the garment fit.) Consider shortening your trench coat, so it falls right at the knee.

And don't forget your pants either. Have the legs on suit pants taken in. You don't want them to be so tight that the fabric bunches (like Dior Homme's skinny jeans), but you also don't want them baggy (like a suit off-the-rack at your local discount retailer). Even consider trouser cut denim. A well-dressed man is dressed well all the time, not just during the work week.

Some trends come and go, but others remain unchanged. Black tie will always require a black tie. That's been the staple dress for formal occasions since the 1500s as dictated by Spain's Phillip II. Think elegance. Think sophistication. Think understatement.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

the perfect fit is just an arm's reach away

There are many fashion blunders and tragedies. For men, I think there's nothing worse than wearing ill-fitting clothing. Today we'll focus on shirt sleeves. If you've never had the excitement and luxury of having shirts custom made for you, I highly recommend it. But for the majority who buy shirts off-the-rack, it's incredibly important to know your proper size.

Measure your neck. Wrap the measuring tape around your neck. Start at the Adam's Apple so you don't forget where you started. Make sure there's no slack, but that the tape is not too tight either. This measurement will be your actual neck size. Add half an inch to the actual size to get your proper shirt neck size.

Measure your arms. Before you can measure, I recommend you assume the following position. While standing up (and with a shirt on), place your arm as though you were standing with your hand casually in your pocket (your arm should be slightly bent). Now, begin measuring at the back of the middle of the neck, follow this point to the edge of your shoulder where the stitching on the shirt is. Remember this number. Now continue measuring from the stitching (where you stopped measuring the neck-to-shoulder portion) all the way down to the wrist bone. Be sure to follow the natural curvature of the arm. Be sure not to measure too high or too low on the wrist. Add both numbers (the length of the neck-to-shoulder portion, and the length of the shoulder-to-wrist portion). As a general rule, I add an inch to this number.

Now, when you wear a shirt that fits well, about 1/2 an inch of shirt cuff should be visible when you wear a jacket. This is optimal for "standard" cuffs. If you've got French cuffs with links, or are wearing a barrel cuff, you will want to show a little more cuff.

Follow these easy steps, and you'll never be mistaken for the guy from the mail room, an intern wearing his dad's clothes, or a schmuck from down the street. And remember, it's always a good idea to dress like your boss. Or your boss's boss. If nothing else, you'll look the part. And the perfect fit is just an arm's reach away.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

think Minimal Accessories for Maximum Statement

I love accessories. From braided bracelets to dreamy diamonds, from vintage velvet hair accessories and exquisite estate jewelery, I love them all. I've worn 2 bracelets on my left hand for almost 2 years now. One, an off-white braided sailor type bracelet reminiscent of the 60s and 70s that only gets better with time. Intertwined with the sailor bracelet is a very small beaded bracelet with a tiny black cross in the middle. I wear them to represent my Father (who served in the US Navy for a couple decades), and my Mother (a devout Catholic who died from cancer about a year and a half ago). I think I got the braided bracelet at J.Crew for about $5,00. The cross bracelet in platinum couldn't be from a more opposite side of the fashion world, as it was acquired at the Giorgio Armani flagship boutique in Roma. And it was definitely special, as I bought it the day before we saw Pope John Paul II. It has since been blessed by Pope Benedict as well.

I wear my 2 bracelets every day, and don't take them off. They have accessorized everything from swim trunks on the Mediterranean Sea, to the most formal black tie events. When I'm nostalgic or feeling down, I imagine the wrapped bracelets as my parents themselves, supporting me, encouraging me. These 2 bracelets mean so much to me. I can't even begin to tell you. When accessories and fashion have meaning, their simple added touch can bring so much life and worth to a look. Your great-Aunt's sterling silver hair clip. Your Grandfather's watch. Or the friendship bracelet your first girlfriend made for you in 2nd grade. These accessories need not be expensive. When they mean something, they are priceless. Just remember, the trick with accessories is to not go overboard. You don't want to be that girl with rings on every finger. Or that guy who looks like he just raided Walter Mercado's closet. Think minimal accessories for maximum statement.

Monday, August 4, 2008

texture: the new black.

This fall, it seems like all the bigger/better designers and fashion houses are following through and bringing us many monochromatic looks. Uniforms of solid blue, khaki, gray, and black seem to dominate the runways and showrooms. When you bring this look to your fall wardrobe, be sure to focus on the most important elements - cut and texture.

For both men and women - tailor, tailor, tailor. Pants should sit comfortably, without excess fabric. When pants are tailored properly, you should have just enough space to tuck in your shirt, and you should never have to wear a belt or braces. The same for shirts - whether casual t's, polos, or the more formal button-downs, your shirt should hug your body - not too loose, and definitely not too tight.

Now - texture. One of my favorite looks, especially when colors/hues are monochromatic, is called "degrede". The French term describes transition from one to another. For example, a great degrede look I love in the fall is to wear slate gray wool flannel dress pants (thicker fabric) with a gray chambray (thin, light fabric) button down shirt.

At Dior, I fell in love with a beautiful wool suit - it had fantastic kimono sleeves and was incredibly well draped, but my most favorite part was that the fabric in the skirt was treated with acid - so it looked like lace at the bottom of the skirt. The transition in textures - from very thick, diaphanous wool, to very sheer, translucent at the bottom of the skirt, is a perfect example of degrede. Remember, you want to have some variation from top to bottom, especially when wearing the same colors.

Now, on an unrelated note. I am incredibly excited to share a quick story. Over the weekend, I took one of my fraternity brothers to the mall. Now, to appreciate and understand my excitement, you must understand that this individual isn't exactly the most fashion forward, nor would he strike you as a fashion icon, let alone even slightly fashion savvy. However, after a relatively quick trip to the mall, I must say - I am very impressed. His fashion sense seems very unadulterated. Unlike many people who pretend to be into fashion or who helplessly try to be fashion forward, he genuinely follows his own sense of style. He likes comfort, quality, and utility. He might not necessarily know why he likes something, but he definitely knows what he likes. Classic colors, flattering fits, and the perfect textures, he seems to be right on point. Now of course, there are a few things he could work on; but then again, we all need a little assistance and guidance from time to time. Overall, I'm most excited that he wanted to go shopping with me, and will genuinely appreciate the time we spent together for a very long time.