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Well it was certainly an unplanned hiatus from the ol’ blog, but a busy one at that.  One of the projects I took on in my absence was a break room makeover.  It played out like a show on HGTV: “two days!  Two hundred dollars!”  And only falling slightly over budget—$17 dollars to be exact—I would say the makeover was a success.

Now for the obligatory Before and After shots:

Before

Before

Proposed Design

After

After

After

After

After

If you would like to purchase some of the items seen in the revised break room for your own abode, I have included links and prices: faux leather futon, $129 (it was on sale for $117 when I got it–sorry!); floral rug, $19.99; floral pin board fabric, $7.99/yard; leopard and geometric pin board fabrics, $8.99/yard (only one available on the website.)  Everything else was either donated and/or re-purposed (except for the paint, of course.)

Now, with the fashion weeks being in full swing, do not expect another hiatus anytime soon!

Much love and good shoes,

e

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Achieving balance is one of the simplest ways to enhance an ensemble.  Let one element dominate a look while the others play supporting roles or, conversely, let the elements play in harmony.  I have compiled a list of my favorite elements to balance: Volume, Light and Dark, Brights, Shine, Pattern, Texture, the Statement Piece and Skin.  And since the Fall 2012 Couture season is upon us, I thought, what better way to demonstrate the principle of balance than haute couture?

A symmetrical display of Shine, Armani Prive Fall 2012.

An asymmetric use of Volume and Bright color, Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.

Before we begin, I will cover the two types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical.  When piecing together an outfit, I think of it as this: using an equal amount of each kind of piece (symmetrical) or utilizing the majority of one piece and only a pop of the other (asymmetrical.)  If you are lost already, do not worry, I will give plenty of examples for each and you will be a balancing master in no time.

This oversized coat is balanced by keeping the legs nearly bare, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.

This otherwise slim silhouette is given a hint of volume with an embellished skirt at the waist, Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.

Volume: The easiest way to balance, as it is often the most visually obvious.  Pair something slim or fitted with something flowy, poofy or bulky.  Symmetrical: Think ‘70s references with wide leg trousers and slim tops.  For a modern, casual take, try skinny jeans and a flowy, dolman sleeve tee.  Asymmetrical: A peplum extending from a fitted jacket, paired with a fitted pencil skirt adds interest to your office attire.

The Light and Dark are distributed equally in this ensemble, Bouchra Jarrar Couture Fall 2012.

The black is clearly dominant here, although the white bow is successful in making its own statement and therefore balancing the outfit in Light and Dark, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.

Light and Dark: Another fairly simple one, you may be doing it already without even knowing it.  Keep in mind, there is a greater chance of coordinating pieces if there is contrast; Light and Dark for instance.  So stop worrying about matching colors and start thinking about balancing Lights and Darks.  Symmetrical: When in doubt, go with dark jeans and a white tee, a classic.  A moody maroon chiffon blouse and cropped khakis will be on trend for fall.  Asymmetrical: Pairing your all-white, breezy summer ensemble with a black belt adds instant polish.

This look is well balanced between the black and Bright blue, Armani Prive Fall 2012.

Although the Bright orange does not dominate this coat’s surface area, its widespread, random placement makes it look as if it does, achieving visual balance, Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2012.

Brights: Akin to Lights and Darks in coordinating, Brights can be balanced with a neutral, or simply a more muted color.  Symmetrical: A color blocked shift dress, the bodice in lipstick red and the skirt in black, can work the office with a cardigan or go out at night with stilettos.  Asymmetrical: Adding bright cobalt pumps to your little black dress takes it to another level.

This dress restricts the embellishments to the bodice, an easy way to balance the Shine, Elie Saab Couture Fall 2012.

The long, all-black dress carries visual weight, but adding a little Shine at the neckline detracts from it, balancing the look and drawing the eye up, Armani Prive Fall 2012.

Shine: It is always fun to add Shine to your outfit but it is pertinent to also balance that sparkle.  Symmetrical: A sequin tank with tailored shorts is great for a night out.  Asymmetrical:  For allover Shine, go with an iridescent dress and pair it with nude shoes.  For the less adventurous, opt for a metallic accessory; silver flats, a rose gold clutch, a rhinestone headband, and of course you can always add sparkle with jewelry.

A patterned pant, balanced by a solid blouse, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.

Although the plaid is the dominate pattern, the stripes are a nice compliment since they share a color scheme and are of a varying scale, Chanel Couture Fall 2012

Pattern: Patterns can be balanced with solid colors, metallics, or even other patterns; there are so many options.  The key to balancing one pattern with another is to pair together patterns of differing scale—big patterns with little patterns.  It also helps to put patterns together that share one color or a color scheme.  And as a general rule, I try not to mix my animals.  Symmetrical: An ikat patterned skirt with a solid tee and metallic sandals creates a fresh summer ensemble.  A large-scale striped tee paired with a small-scale polka-dot print cropped skinny pant makes for spot-on pattern mixing.  Asymmetrical: Pairing a plaid scarf with a navy pea coat.  A leopard print wrap dress with some solid peep toes.

The Texture created by the center column of paillettes is offset by the flat surfaces on either side, Chanel Couture Fall 2012.

The plush corseted jumpsuit, chiffon blouse, and leather vest all meet to form a variety of textures in this outfit, and being one color, they harmonize beautifully, Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall 2012.

Texture: Texture does not always have to mean rough.  Soft and silky pieces have great texture, as well.  And when paired with rougher pieces, they are enhanced by the contrast.  Symmetrical: A chiffon blouse with tweed trousers creates perfect textural balance.  Asymmetrical: A straw tote adds dimension to your summer ensemble.

Any one of these pieces would make a beautiful Statement on their own: the Bright red jacket, the gold belt or gold pumps. But since the styling is kept to a minimum, this girl can rock all three at once. Christian Dior Couture Fall 2012.

So maybe we don’t all have a crystal headpiece to pull out on special occasions, but I am sure we all have a Statement necklace hidden away somewhere–but why wait for a special occasion? Throw it on over a tee and jeans, Maison Martin Margiela Couture Fall 2012.

Statement Piece: This one is so versatile, you will be able to take what you learned from balancing all the elements above and apply it to your Statement Piece—or pieces.  Symmetrical: Here is where it gets a little tricky.  Typically a Statement Piece is just that—one piece.  However, there are ways around it.  Keep your outfit neutral and space out your pieces, and you can probably get away with a couple pieces.  Try sporting a LBD with embellished shoes and some ridiculous earrings.  Asymmetrical: This is the easy part, pick one piece and rock it.  A chunky ring, a hunk of bangles, or some killer patent thigh highs—what will your Statement Piece be?

This girl knows how to work the deep V with some class. thanks to a little balance, Elie Saab Couture Fall 2012.

She may look all covered-up, but those asymmetrical cut-outs reveal a little more, Valentino Couture Fall 2012.

Skin: This one can be treated much like the Statement Piece.  It is perfectly acceptable to show/accentuate a little Skin, but please, one body part per outfit—shoulders, back, legs, breast, butt and midriff.  The chic factor of your ensemble will instantly skyrocket if you keep your Skin balance in check.  Basically, the balancing here is all in the visual tricks.  Symmetrical: Showing off shoulders in a strapless, to-the-knee A-line dress is a timeless choice for any formal occasion.  Baring legs in tailored shorts and pumps, while keeping covered up top in a crewneck tee and blazer is classic with an edge.  Asymmetrical: A one-shouldered maxi gives you asymmetrical exposure.  A long-sleeved, fitted gown with irregular cut-outs in the midriff adds interest and subtle sex appeal.

Instead of juggling your wardrobe, hopefully you are now balancing it with confidence.

Much love and good shoes,

e

*All images courtesy of Style.com

Lately I have been noticing, regardless of age or background, there are many people out there struggling with a common fashion faux pas: poor fit.  You would think this would be an easy question to overcome in the fitting room, “does this fit?”  And yet, so many people struggle with it when they squeeze into skinny jeans or button up a blazer.  But no more!  I am here to help with a few simple guidelines to apply to your next shopping trip.

Shoulder Seams: This is the first thing I look at to see if a top is fitting properly.  They are called shoulder seams because they should align with the shoulders—easy enough!  Take cues from these visual guides and your blouses and blazers will look super sharp.

The shoulder seams accentuate the great fit of this suit, Donna Karan Fall 2012

The shoulder seams accentuate the great fit of this suit, Donna Karan, Fall 2012

I do love a clearly defined shoulder seam, Valentino Fall2012

I do love a clearly defined shoulder seam, Valentino, Fall 2012

Torque No More: If you are noticing creases of fabric across your crotch and hips when you try on a skirt, dress, or pants, try going up a size.  There’s too much surface area and not enough fabric to stretch across it.  Finding the right size will also keep the garment from riding up or sliding down, if you have struggled with this problem in the past.

Side Note: Do not be embarrassed about going up a size—or even two.  Wearing what fits is what truly slims you.  Squeezing into clothes that do not fit is an unflattering look for any size or shape.  Besides, only you can see that number on the inside of your garment, so stop obsessing about it!

You know boning is helping her keep this one up!  Alexander McQueen Fall 2012

You know boning is helping her keep this one up! No tugging necessary. Alexander McQueen, Fall 2012

Finding True Straplessness: Tired of tugging at your strapless dresses?  I will tell you one secret to look for in your next strapless stunner that will set your arms free from the tugging tussle.  Any decent dressmaker knows that a well-constructed dress needs to hang from either the shoulders or the hips.  So when you are looking for a quality strapless, it needs boning on the inside to rest on your hips and not slide down your torso, causing a wardrobe malfunction.  I know we have all unzipped our share of strapless wonders to find all sorts of dressmaking ingenuity inside, but no amount of elastic or rubber banding can keep the tugging at bay.  Once you go boning—trust me—you will never go back.

A coat that's perfect for layering, Louis Vuitton Fall 2012

A coat that's perfect for layering, Louis Vuitton, Fall 2012

The Layering Factor: Consider the end use of the garment.  Will this pea coat star in your Fall/Winter rotation, snuggling up with chunky knits and cozy hoodies?  Then you should probably opt for one with a little wiggle room if you are trying it on with a thin white t-shirt.  On the other hand, say you are donning a slick motorcycle jacket over the same tee.  Go with the more formfitting size, if your intention is to use the jacket as a Spring/Summer piece, pairing it with flirty skirts or cutoff shorts.

I think we are off to an excellent start.  Now get out there and start building your fit wardrobe!

Much love and good shoes,

e

Images courtesy of Style.com

We can do better than this! Image courtesy of Gymboree.com

It is the proverbial question that we have all heard standing in the fitting room, waiting on a friend, (mother, lover, acquaintance—hey, I don’t judge,) “do these match?”  It is 2012; can we eliminate that phrase from our repertoire?  I know it is hard to break the habit of putting together matching outfits and accessories the way our mothers did for us, but that was at least twenty years ago—or longer.  So, sorry, but I am finally kicking mom out of your closet and your shopping trips.  Welcome to the world of contrasting.

Mix up your accessories: One simple thing you can do is stop matching your accessories.  Think of it as the gateway drug to contrasting.  Once you do this, your accessory options will multiply.  No more lugging those hot new turquoise pumps around the mall to find the perfect belt to match.  Gold or any jewel tone will look amazing with such a rich hue.  Plus, if all else fails there are always neutrals . . .

Neutrals: Another way to ease yourself off of matching and onto contrasting is to throw some neutrals into the mix.  Pair anything with a brown, black, white, gray or navy and you can never go wrong.  I also consider metallics neutrals, just make sure you are keeping the occasion in mind.  A little shine can go a long way.  Try a metallic flat or pump with your usual tee and jeans or work separates for an updated look.

Lookin' good, Mother Nature! Image courtesy of Carillon-beach.com

Think green: Take your contrast cues from nature.  If the color combination occurs naturally, say on a flower or in the ocean, you are good to go!  Mother Nature has great style, she will never fail you.  Pairing sea-foam sandals with an ivory strapless sheath and navy clutch?  Sounds like a day at the beach.

Brights: There is something about bright colors that make it acceptable to contrast them in ways we would not usually mix their more muted cousins.  Just keep it to one or two pieces per outfit and stay away from neon if you are over twenty and it is after 1989.  Bright red skinny jeans would look fantastic with a black and white striped tee and topped off with a bright blue scarf.

Color Wheel, Image courtesy of Paintdrawpaint.com

Know your color wheel: So your school cut funding for art classes?  No biggie, I will review anyway.  Analogous color schemes, with colors next to each other on the color wheel, are great for muted outfits.  Complementary color schemes, with colors opposite from each other on the color wheel, will make your outfit pop.  Carry a wheel around with you when you shop, if you have to.  Who cares if people stare, you will look amazing in your new duds.

Tory Burch, Spring 2012, Image courtesy of Style.com

Pattern mixing: If you have made it this far in the contrasting crash course, you deserve a special treat.  Pattern mixing is by far the most enjoyable—once you master it.  Take what you have learned from mixing your solids and now apply it to your patterns.  It can be done!  There are a few guidelines.  Stay away from like patterns in the same outfit, (stripe on stripe, plaid on plaid, etc.) unless there is a major size difference.  It helps to break them up with a solid neutral or bright in between if you are a little unsure about the pairing.  Feel free to pull the colors from the pattern itself.  Easy ways to start pattern mixing are with a floral blouse over neutral, muted plaid trousers; or with a printed scarf over a color blocked tee, jeans and bright crocodile flats (faux, if you wish.)

Now that we are all ready for a little contrasting, I am looking forward to a brighter and more patterned spring.  Happy contrasting!

Much love and good shoes,

e

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