Friday, December 18, 2009

Colour me charcoal? Oh God no, not with my skin tone!

So we’ve just come out of yet another winter wonderland of greys, charcoals and blacks. As “black appears to be the new black“ on the London Fashion Festival catwalk, the same frosty hues are likely be back on deck in 2010. Whilst certainly dramatic (albeit way over-used people) these colours usually leave most of us with sallow complexions in a state of envy, contempt and morbid frustration. Just as knowing your body shape is an essential skill for any aspiring stylette, so too is knowing your skin tone. This will enable you to identify what colours work best for you, and what will only make you look like big sick dark void in the middle of a rainstorm.

According to my fabulous friend, Sarah who recently participated in a colour course, most skin tones take on a seasonal hue. Seasonal as in temperature not as in exposure to sunlight. With the exception of a few lucky little stylettes aka fabulous Sarah, your skin tone will either be warm or cold and as such certain colours will either complement or kill. To ensure you are in the colour know, there are courses available to identify which colours best suit your skin tone. For those of you lucky to be living in Melbourne, the one offered at CAE is by far the most cost-effective at a bargain $99, but be quick as it is currently only offered a few times a year. As for the others I Googled, they are bit pricey. If you are like me and plus two and paying threw the nose for child-care, the chances of you forking over $300 for four hours of colour, are as likely as you nipping into the Louis Vuitton store on Collins Street and buying a day bag or two.

So, invest in a copy of Trinny & Susannah’s “What not to wear will change your life” for a bit of colour guidance, or do it the old fashion way…trial and error…preferably before you buy.

CHECK IT OUT: As always, there are exceptions to every rule, so don’t be scared to compromise when you find a knock-out number that looks so hot, no-one will notice your pallid complexion. Just don’t make it a habit.

HOT TIP: The next time your are in your favourite store and are unsure what colours best suit your complexion, hold the fabric up against your skin and have a good look. Your facial skin tone will give you the best indication of what works and what looks downright scary. But, make sure the fitting rooms are well lit and against a neutral background because a coloured wall or curtain and bad lighting can distort the results. Most stores discreetly position mirrors throughout the shop front, which are usually under better light. So set up camp and away you go. Be prepared to make a few mistakes along the way but don’t worry, that’s why they invented eBay.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to save $220 a month without even trying

No, this is not an advertising feature for the next big u-beaut savings scheme. Like I’d know anything about that! This is a tried and nearly true method to accommodate your next big fashion spend. Although I must warn you, if you are a coffee maker or manufacturer then this is probably not for you. So, there I was a couple of months ago enjoying a good coffee with DH - universal forum speak for “dear hubby” - about my need for a new pair of slacks for work. In an effort to provide a positive solution while still pointing out my insatiable desire to spend, DH suggested I give up coffee and instead put the money toward said trousers. I nearly choked on my regular decaf soy flat white, my coffee combination of choice and stared at him as though he had suggested that I give up shopping altogether. What did he mean give up coffee? Coffee is nothing, a small daily indulgence that was at best a teeny tiny kink in the monthly budget. It had got me through the first three years following BB1 - universal Milla speak for Beautiful Baby #1, and had been keeping me relatively sane six months post BB2. It was my upper in the morning and prevented me from crawling into a corner and falling asleep in the afternoon. Was he mad? After all, I am just your average, run-of-the-mill coffee drinker. Two a day on most days, sometimes one, very rarely three. At an average of $4.00 per coffee, it seemed inconsequential in the grand plan at the time of purchase. Then I started to do the sums.

$4.00 a coffee is $8.00 a day: $56 a week: $224.00 a month! Oh my god that is a new pair of shoes and a clutch from Wittner right there. He was right.

I decided to test this and drop my coffee intake to one cup a day. Using my theory of averages, I put the remaining $4.00 into a jar each evening. Within 4 weeks I had saved over $150 and paid off BB2’s glamour portrait collection I‘d commissioned on credit (!) the month before. Not only was I surprised at how quickly the dollars mounted up without even knowing it, but I was shocked and speechless when I realised there were days I didn’t drink coffee at all!!! I know, can you believe it.
So the next time you reach for that loyalty card, just remember. If you stopped drinking coffee and put $8.00 away every day and you did this for 12 months, then that gorgeous hot pink quilted chanel handbag could really be yours.

Super slim knickers, a good bra and away you go

Still on capsule collections. The best way to buy a CC is when you have a legitimate reason for a overhauling your wardrobe. And I do mean overhaul, not your regular pop to the shop for a new top kind of thing. No, I’m talking new job, first job, post baby. Even “nothing fits” is a good enough for me. This keeps you focused on the job at hand, and you are less likely to go wandering off into Adairs for a new set of sheets you do not need. Unless you are like me, a self-proclaimed shop-a-holic who does know the difference between need and want, but just chooses to ignore it. Capsule collections are also a fabulous way of maximizing value when you only have a limited amount to spend and are doing your best to avoid your credit card in case you catch something serious. Like the plague or worse…your husband finds out.
Here are my hot tips on buying your very own:

1. Establish your primary reason for your capsule spend (see above, we’ve already covered it). This will give you a good idea of which shops to hit and will help keep you focused. Really, how many times have you nipped out for a new suit for that next big meeting and come home with an evening dress? Or, is that just me?

2. Stick to a pre-determined number of items. Same benefits apply as above.

3. Try to buy at least half of your collection in one store to maximize your opportunity to coordinate your pieces. It also saves value shopping minutes and leaves you ample time for that decaf soy flat white you’ve been craving since breakfast.

4. Grab as many items as you can in one try-on frenzy. The more items, the greater ability you have to put together multiple outfits. Most stores only allow 5-6 items at a time, but are happy to hold your left-overs and bring them to you when you need them. Better yet, take a friend and share a booth.

5. Include belts and bling in that grab. They change the look of any outfit. Do not treat them as add-ons…treat them as essentials.

6. Take shoes with you - one high, one flat. Like belts and bling, shoes can change a casual item into a formal one and vice versa. This is particularly important when buying skirts and dresses, because unless you are shopping for the latest in bohemian hippy, skirts and dresses look weird without the right shoes. Socks and runners do not count.

7. Invest in a pair of super-slim magic knickers and wear them. These will change your life. Not necessarily your sex life, because they really aren’t that attractive in the boudoir, but they will help you get into that pair of size 12 jeans you‘ve been lusting after since June. Kmart sell bust-to-thigh magic knickers for under $20.00...they are comfortable and they work.

8. Before you shop, get your bra fitted and wear it. I'm big on this...fanatical almost, just ask my mum. A good fitting bra will make any women look great and feel fantastic and when you are trying on 9000 pieces of clothing…you need fantastic

9. Know you body shape. There is no point wasting all this time and effort on clothes that do not work for you.

And finally, always keep in the back of your mind which of the current items in your wardrobe can be integrated into your new collection. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN have too many pairs of jeans.

CHECK IT OUT: Did you know that pregnant women have been connoisseurs of the CC since clothes were in vogue without even knowing it. Really. The minimum amount of the clothes for the maximum amount of wear for a specific reason. Need I say any more.

Monday, December 7, 2009

24 outfits for under $300; I'd like to see that!

Took my fabulous young cousin Kate shopping a couple of weeks ago. She’s a great girl and I adore her, but her taste in clothing - Brady bunch tee-shirt anyone? - was clearly not from my side of the gene pool. Kate was only in town for a couple of days and desperate for a new wardrobe before she embarked on her first big career as a primary school teacher. Her wants were simple: to stretch her budget of a couple of hundred dollars give or take, as far as possible without compromising on style and value.


Now, we’ve all heard of the term “capsule collection” right? It’s been around for a while, but probably made all the more famous to us mere mortals when Stella McCartney caused a frenzy with her said collection in Target a couple of years ago. A capsule collection by my definition consists of a small number of items, usually 8-12 that can be inter-changed with other items to create a greater number of outfits. For Kate's CC, we took ourselves to DFO South Wharf and the Table Eight-Barkins clearance store - a small warehouse sized treasure-trove of discount priced everything of reasonable quality befitting a young, hip teacher. We had already brought a circle skirt in white, purple and grey, and contrasting singlet the day before, but it was half an hour later when we really hit pay-dirt:
Two knee-length pencil shirts (a summer tweed weave in chocolate, and a gold satin with paper-bag waist line*) / a dark lavender blouse with vertical ruffles down the front and side zip, and white short cap-sleeve shirt with grey pin-stripe and waist tie / one pair of grey cotton knee-length jodhpurs / one short-sleeve, grey jacket with middle button; and one black cinch belt.
To this we added a sleeveless jacket vest in cream with golden undertones, brown elastic cinch belt and some bling from Jacqui E. Plus a short faux leather biker jacket - also in grey - with ¾ length sleeves for good measure. We had triumphed in a way, neither of us had ever triumphed before. Twelve items (minus the bling) and over two dozen different outfits for a variety of occasions, and only one of them, the cinch belt, in black. Wicked!

CHECK IT OUT: Paper bag waist lines apply to very in, very now skirts, shorts and trousers that look as though they’ve been cinched in to create a paper bag gathered effect above the waist band. Not great for everyone, so try before you buy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Navy Blue and Black? Take it back!

I am absolutely appalled and outraged that anyone who calls themselves a fashion stylist would advocate that navy blue and black is one of today’s hottest fashion trends. No way, No how! I’m sorry people, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s navy blue and black…take it back! First of all, black is a non-colour and lacks depth. Therefore it lacks lights. So if you think that the all-black suit you have in your wardrobe is really that slimming, stand in front of the mirror for a moment longer and see what it really does to you. I can almost guarantee if you look long enough and hard enough, particularly at your good bits, it will do nothing. Put it together with navy blue and whatever light you think there is, will be sucked right out of you leaving those around you convinced you got dressed in the dark (and are still there). Second of all, navy blue and black are colours that do not look good on everyone particularly those of us with sallow skin and freckles. I am not kidding. It just washes us out and makes us look like a circus freak with pneumonia. Even when you add bling. So with that said, why on earth would you wear them together? If you absolutely must do blue and you love black, because let’s face it the vast majority of us do and you are desperate to put them together then opt for a French navy or royal blue contrast, preferably in satin and preferably with the black on the bottom half of your body. Unless it’s denim, then blue on the bottom is fine. But not with black, unless you have something to break it up in between, like a long-line singlet or belt. Sorry people but same rules apply. That’s just how it is.

P.S. Did you know that contrary to popular belief it is the style and cut of your clothes that make you appear slimmer and not necessarily the colour. Sure, an all-black outfit hides all those nasty bits but it also disguises all the good bits that give us shape. If you really, really, really must wear black (like me last Friday night because nothing else fit over these damned post-baby E cups), then wear it as a statement piece for a great night out with the girls. This little number is a very simple cross over dress purchased from Katies (yes Katies) over 6 years ago for $39.95! Belt from ebay at $9, and patent leather platforms from the Wittner clearance store at DFO Spencer Street, $30. Who says dressing up is expensive.

I love Alannah

Alannah Hill! Young country girl from Tasmania makes good in the big smoke with a unique blend of Strawberry Shortcake meets Jessica Rabbit. She is intensely popular with the younger set but does not dissuade the more mature connoisseur from her collection. That is, unless you are an E cup or above because Alannah Hill, says my fashion savvy, size-eight friend Megs, does not make clothes for women with boobs!
That was few years ago. At the time I was a fashion tragic; a try-hard trapped in a discount prison of variety store damnation trying desperately to get out. I had just attended my first AH fashion parade and fallen instantly in love. From draping velvet skirts to delicate silk camisoles and fitted cream-coloured jackets with candy apple trim, her garments conjured images of carefree young women dancing through fields with flowers in their hair. But, as my friend slipped effortlessly into an sleeveless lilac number with velvet trim and I grunted my way unsuccessfully into a crocheted pea-green frock with a plunging neckline, I realised she was right. Alannah Hill does not make clothes for woman with boobs! But what does she have against woman with boobs? And more importantly, why would she intentionally exclude those of us with more flesh that your average size-six supermodel from her realm of decadence and desire? I too wanted to dance through the meadows in floating fabric with flowers in my hair. Recently, I found myself standing among her latest collection, wondering whether her phobia of the well endowed female form transcended marriage, mortgage and childbirth. I was delighted to discover her designs were as fanciful as ever and challenged our usual staid, stable existence. Although many of her designs cater up to a size 14, I found little that would fit my post BB2 sized 12 figure. I did find some success in her collection of knits, particularly her oh so cute cardies. But do be a little cautious if you do decide to run out and buy a couple because her finish sometimes lets her down and her seams have been known to unravel. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, do not pull any loose threads and think twice before throwing your nice new cardigan into the front-loader with your three year olds’ pair of jeans!
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