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Encore fashion: Shopping vintage

14 Sep

Experiencing the thrill of the hunt combined with acquiring unique pieces, vintage shopping can be a fashion lover’s dream. It’s also an eco-friendly way to shop since merchandise is recycled from previous owners. And with the popularity of shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey, vintage shopping and historic clothing have seen a renewed interest from trendy audiences and savvy shoppers. So if you’re tired of seeing someone else wearing the same outfit you bought at a chain store, give consignment, thrift or vintage stores a try. Since previous eras valued handmade details and durability, a truly vintage high-end piece will tend to have better quality than something more contemporary.

Early 1920s costumes on Downton Abbey.

Early 1920s costumes on Downton Abbey.

In terms of secondhand shops, consignment stores are where the profit is split between the shop and the person who brought in the clothes to be sold. This differs from thrift stores where merchandise is donated and the profits go back towards the store or a charity. Consignment shops are typically where one would find higher-end labels since they’re picky about what items will sell. Vintage stores, on the other hand, usually sell merchandise with a sense of history and cultural significance — the clothes are timeless and reflect a specific fashion era.

When shopping at secondhand stores it’s important to keep in mind the condition of the item, quality of the piece and whether it can be worn as a classic staple or as a trend for the season. And when it comes to higher-end brands, verifying its authenticity is essential. It’s difficult to shop consignment or thrift with a specific item to look for, so always try to go in with an open mind.

Channel Mad Men with vintage nipped waist dresses.

Channel Mad Men with vintage nipped waist dresses.

Keep your eyes peeled for pieces that will fit well into your existing wardrobe and that can be easily tailored to fit. If an item doesn’t complement your personal style, it’ll run the risk of looking like a costume. A good way to start secondhand shopping would be to look for classic pieces with clean lines, quality materials and simple designs. Know what era works for you in terms of fit and style preference. Whether you’re more drawn towards the 1920s flapper period, 60s mod or 70s hippie look, you’ll get more mileage out of the purchase by ensuring the piece is wearable and fits in with your sense of style.

Your sizing may vary when shopping at secondhand stores. Sizing measurements can change over time and between different brands. So if an item catches your eye, try it on regardless of the number on the label. Tailoring can also be a very important part of the vintage shopping process. The right tailoring can turn a vintage frock from oversized and frumpy to looking like something high-end and custom made. However, not every piece can be altered, so take into consideration the fabric and structure of the garment. Cinching baggier tops or dresses with a belt can also do wonders to define the waist for a more flattering fit.

Mix a vintage blouse into your modern wardrobe.

Mix a vintage blouse into your modern wardrobe.

But before you head to the register, double check the item’s condition carefully. Look for any damage, stains, fading, missing details or loose embellishments. A quick way to check for areas of excessive wear is to hold the clothing up to the light.

There are tons of great vintage and consignment shops in Richmond, particular in the Steveston area. So take your time and browse with an open mind for pieces with potential. Items are one of a kind when shopping secondhand, so if a piece speaks to you, grab it before it’s gone!

[Article first appeared in the August 13 issue of Richmond Review.]

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Summer party looks

12 Aug

On humid summer days, even dressing up for an event can feel like a chore. But with some simple yet stylish party look ideas, getting ready will be easy breezy. Whether attending a garden party, barbecue or outdoor wedding, have a few outfit, hair and makeup looks in mind for quick, fuss-free ensembles.

A chic alternative to dresses this season are jumpsuits and rompers. One of this season’s hottest trends, the one-piece is a fun go-to party look. Characterized by a top attached to either pants or shorts, jumpsuits and rompers allow a streamlined, unbroken silhouette. It’ll also save you the hassle of determining which top goes with which bottoms.

Slip on a romper for an quick summer party look.

Slip on a romper for an quick summer party look.

For a more understated look, go for jumpsuits and rompers in solid colours. Solid colours will also make it easier to pair the garment with shoes, bags and jewelry. Belts are an especially good way to break up solid jumpsuits and define the waist. For a more dramatic look, patterned jumpsuits will ensure you stand out from the crowd. Jersey and linen fabrics also offer a casual vibe while silk and satins are better for nighttime or more formal events.

If you prefer shorts to beat the heat, try changing it up with patterned versions. They can easily pair with a solid blouse or tank in a complementary shade. Subtle patterns such as stripes and polka dots are a great way to venture into the trend while the fashion bold can rock colourful prints such as batik, animal or giant florals. The key to finding flattering patterned shorts is fit. Baggy patterned ones tend to enlarge your hips and make it appear like you’re wearing a short skirt rather than a pair of shorts with defined lines. Whatever the length of your shorts, go for a patterned pair that is fitted without adding bulk to your lower half.

Add some colour with patterned shorts.

Add some colour with patterned shorts.

Summer party outfits aren’t complete without fun accessories, makeup and hair. Since hot days call for easy to maintain hairstyles, waves are an excellent, romantic option. This season calls for carefree loose waves that don’t need to be overstyled. One of the simplest ways to get the look is through braiding damp hair. Once dried, tousle the hair a bit with your fingers. And since messy side braids are also popular this summer due to the athletic fashion trend, you can work a braid for the daytime and untie the plait for the evening, creating beachy waves.

Braids were the highlight of the Calla show.

Braids were the highlight of the Calla show.

As for party makeup, piling on heavy foundation is the last thing we want to do in warmer weather, so it’s no wonder that a sheer, natural face is in this season for a base. Makeup artists backstage at the fashion shows relied on dewy moisturizers and light coverage this season, letting bold colours on either the eyes or lips do the talking.

For a bright pop of colour on the lids, aqua colours such as shades of blue and green were popular on the runway. Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu, for example, incorporated turquoise shadows and cobalt blue liner to eyes of their models. Prefer a less dramatic alternative to try the trend? Switch out your black or brown eyeliner with navy.

If you want to play up your lips, the hottest hue this season veers toward orange lipsticks. Spotted at the Rag & Bone and Prabal Gurung shows, try an orange-red for a more natural shade. Matte fuchsia is also a big trend for those who stick to pink lip colours.

Whether you’re making a statement on your eyes or on your lips, finish off with some mascara and a touch of bronzer or blush for a healthy glow. Summer’s the season to incorporate wild colours and patterns into your outfits, so have fun with your party looks!

[Article first appeared in the July 16 issue of Richmond Review.]

Spring trends for men

20 May

 

Though men’s fashion trends may not be as varied as women’s, they can often overlap. Borrowed from the boys, the oxford dress shirt is one of womenswear’s biggest trends this season. Over on the menswear side, spring fashions take a hint from the stereotypically feminine floral prints, with dark flower patterns making a statement on the runways. Designer menswear collections can be a bit over the top for the average guy who prefers the casual combination of jeans and a tee, so the key to making trends wearable is to incorporate them in small and subtle ways. A great way to experiment with the latest trends is through accessories. For example, add a floral print tie to your dress shirt or use a silk scarf as a pocket square.

Sporty and floral trends at the Dries Van Noten show.

Sporty and floral trends at the Dries Van Noten show.

The floral trend was in full bloom at a number of the biggest menswear shows. A new and fashionable spin on the tacky Hawaiian tropical-print shirts, Prada presented big and bold floral tops in primary shades of red, blue and yellow. At Dries Van Noten, the designer made flowers his theme, printing dark floral patterns on everything from button-ups and blazers to pants. Gucci also exaggerated the floral trend, sending models down the runway rocking full floral-printed suits. For a less dramatic but still unexpected way to wear florals, switch out your usual button-up with a floral print dress shirt. The smaller the pattern, the more subdued the print is. For the fashion forward, try a large floral pattern as a statement piece.

Floral prints also tie in nicely with another menswear trend, the dandy. An inspiration for collections such as Dries Van Noten and Haider Ackermann, the dandy romanticizes an era where men donned full suits, silk scarves and played with lively combinations of colours and patterns. A bit flashy but always well-dressed, the dandy was represented by metallic three-piece suits at Dolce & Gabbana. For a more casual approach to dandyism, try a variation of the outfit spotted at Dsquared2. A patterned bomber jacket was paired with a classic dress shirt and white pants. The trick for the dandy trend is to complete the look with chic accessories, such as thick-framed glasses, a bright bag or neck scarf.

The Dsquared2 dandy.

The Dsquared2 dandy.

A hot trend this season, for both menswear and womenswear, is the athletic look. Designers all over were inspired by sports, even taking cues from cycling, surfing and skating culture. Alexander Wang showed off sporty ensembles complete with leather baseball caps and sneakers. To avoid looking like you’re just heading to the gym, try this trend by pairing a sporty piece with something dressier. It’s also a great way to tone down a more formal item in your closet. At Gucci, sporty anoraks were worn with sleek dress pants.

1950’s-inspired wide pant legs and double-breasted blazer at Michael Kors.

1950’s-inspired wide pant legs and double-breasted blazer at Michael Kors.

For those with an affinity towards a more vintage style there’s the 1950’s trend. Characterized by high waists, spread collars and pleated pants, 1950’s-inspired casual looks were presented at Bottega Veneta and Missoni. Michael Kors, inspired by the 1940’s and Cary Grant, put out a collection consisting of vintage looking high-waisted pants with full legs, double-breasted blazers and wide lapels. A more polished silhouette, the 1950’s trend is great for emphasizing the waistline.

Blue colour-blocking at Calvin Klein.

Blue colour-blocking at Calvin Klein.

As for colour, blue is the “it” shade of the season. Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani all displayed a wide range of blues in their collections. Inspired by the sea and sky, the creative director of Calvin Klein’s menswear line, Italo Zucchelli, showed a multitude of blue on blue ensembles. Colour-blocking with varying shades of blue were applied to sweaters, cardigans and jackets. One of the simpler trends to incorporate into the wardrobe, an easy look would be to pair blue jeans with a top of another blue shade.

Whatever your style, this season is sure to have a trend to suit your taste. Fashion trends are all about experimentation and going out of your comfort zone, so try a new look this spring!

[Article first appeared in the May 14 issue of Richmond Review.]

Revamp your wardrobe with spring trends

18 Mar

With snowfall earlier this month it still feels like we’re in the middle of winter, but this Thursday marks the first day of spring and fashion is already looking ahead to the warmer months. Transition into the new season by updating your wardrobe with some of spring’s best trends.

Winter was all about punk and grunge aesthetics, but set your distressed motorcycle leather jackets aside this season and go for a sporty bomber instead. One of spring’s biggest trends is the athletic look, so take a few style cues from the recent Olympic Games and incorporate sporty pieces into your attire. Satin varsity jackets were paired with metallic trainers at the Marc by Marc Jacobs show, while Balenciaga’s collection included track shorts, muscle tees and tanks. Even the usually glamorous Tom Ford added a few sporty elements to his collection, such as a loose leather net tank reminiscent of a basketball jersey. The key for wearing spring’s sporty trend is to find pieces with athletic silhouettes in unusual fabrics, such as leather, silk, neoprene and mesh.

Crop top trends and athletic looks at the DKNY show.

Crop top trends and athletic looks at the DKNY show.

If your style is less sporty and more dressy, then the metallic trend may better suit your taste. High shine dresses and metallic detailing were all the rage on the runway this season. Lustrous satin, lamé and brocade silks made up the majority of Lanvin’s spring collection. Proenza Schouler, on the other hand, presented a more subtle approach to metallics by adding silver and bronze strips to pleated maxi skirts. Don’t be afraid to break out the metallics for daytime. Try adding some shiny accents to your office wardrobe with metallic accessories such as belts, bags or jewelry.

Metallic detailing at Proenza Schouler.

Metallic detailing at Proenza Schouler.

Another huge trend for spring is the crop top. DKNY showcased sporty midriff-baring tops in pastel blue while Diane von Furstenberg paired her collection of bustier tops with printed knee-length skirts and pants. Over at Narciso Rodriguez, the crop top was more understated and showed only a hint of skin. For a simple and less daunting way to try the crop top trend, wear the top with high-waisted skirt or pants. It’ll limit the exposure of skin but still allow you to play with proportions.

One trend everyone can get into for spring is the oxford shirt. A true classic, collared button-ups graced the runways in a variety of styles and outfit combinations. Boyfriend-style dress shirts were worn over boxer shorts at Alexander Wang, while Christian Dior revealed a more feminine version of the button-up with an oxford shirtdress. Prabal Gurung modernized the silhouette of the shirt with structured sleeves, and paired it with minimalistic pencil skirts for a clean, clinical look. A wardrobe essential, the oxford shirt is a great layering piece for any style. Pair a crisp white dress shirt with a cardigan and pleated skirt for a preppy look, for example. Or go rocker chic by coupling an oversized button-up with leather leggings.

Seen at Alexander Wang, the dress shirt is spring’s must-have.

Seen at Alexander Wang, the dress shirt is spring’s must-have.

In terms of prints, pop art was a favourite among the designers. Inspired by art murals, Prada’s collection featured portraits of women on dresses, skirts and coats. It also revived colour-blocking for the season. The other collection that ignited the fashion as art trend is Chanel, with patterned fabrics resembling paint swatches. And, as usual, florals are back for spring. However, this season’s florals are less subtle and more of a statement piece. Marni created layers of textured petals for her ensembles and Mary Katrantzou also added a 3-D effect to her florals using embroidery and decoration.

Artistic flair at Chanel’s spring show.

Artistic flair at Chanel’s spring show.

As for texture, the trends this season are pleats, fringe and sheer fabric. Dries Van Noten’s spring show encompassed all three trends. The designer showcased ruffled and pleated metallic skirts, fringed tassel accents on embroidered tops, and veiled skirts with sheer fabric overlays.

Spring is great time to refresh your wardrobe, so have fun with fashion and try out a few trends this season.

[Article first appeared in the March 12 issue of Richmond Review.]

Finding the perfect jeans

17 Feb

No matter your personal style, jeans are a wardrobe essential. A great pair of denim can be dressed up with heels and a silk blouse, or dressed down with canvas sneakers and a graphic tee. Save for formal or business events, jeans can be worn to almost any occasion since dark rinse denim creates a polished look and can be thought of as an alternative to black pants. But because jeans come in such a variety of washes, cuts and brands, they can be difficult to shop for. One way to start jean shopping is to look for a style that would most flatter your body type.

Cuff your jeans to add some flair and show off your shoes.

Cuff your jeans to add some flair and show off your shoes.

If you’ve got an hourglass figure, go for a mid-rise that cuts higher in the back for more coverage. Solid colour wide-legged trouser jeans would complement your frame, but if you prefer a slimmer fit go for tapered legs instead of skinny jeans. The ankles of tapered jeans are less narrow than skinnies and offer more room in the thighs. Another trick is to roll the hem of the jeans to add width at the bottom and balance the hips.

For petite frames, skinny jeans and bootcuts work well to flatter and create proportion. Vertical fading down the front can help elongate the legs. Look for jean brands that offer shorter inseams so you can save a trip to the tailors. Straight figures can pull off most jeans styles and rinses, but for ones that flatter the most opt for slim fits. A comfortable alternative to jeans you can try are jeggings — they have high stretch content and usually come with faux front pockets to reduce bulk and create a super slimfit effect. Bootcut jeans can also work to add a curvier silhouette to straight shapes. If you’re on the taller end of the scale, try rocking flared denim to give proportion. Jeans faded from the thighs the knees can also help in breaking up the length.

Dark rinse jeans without any whiskering are perfect for dressing up.

Dark rinse jeans without any whiskering are perfect for dressing up.

For pear-shaped figures, avoid super tapered jeans. Instead, balance curvier hips with trouser style denim or low-rise flares. If you’re plus-size, dark rinse straight-leg jeans will create a slimming effect. Trouser cut denim will also enhance your figure. Check the rear pockets to make sure it’s flattering. Small back pockets can make backsides appear larger.

To hide tummies, pick a mid-rise jean so the waistband sits just below the belly button. Wide waistbands will also help flatten the stomach. Look for jeans with stretch so it’ll rest comfortably against the belly without squeezing. For those with a small waist, one of the problems you may encounter when sitting is gaping of the jeans at the back. Reduce gaping by finding jeans with a contoured waistband. Instead of one strip of fabric, this is where the band is cut on a curve and sewn together.

Change up your blue jean routine with a chic grey pair.

Change up your blue jean routine with a chic grey pair.

Take special care of your jeans to ensure your favourite pair of denim lasts as long as they can. Keep them clean, but avoid washing them too often in order to retain the colour of dark washes and prevent breakage of the fibres. It is recommended that for the initial washing, hand wash jeans inside out with a colour safe detergent like Woolite Extra Dark. Another option before your jeans go into a washing machine for the first time is to soak your denim in a solution of water and vinegar. The vinegar helps preserve the dye in jeans before the first wash. For raw denim, which takes a while to become broken-in, most brands would advise washing after six month to get the personalized fade.

The right pair of jeans can be a great confidence booster. So now that you have an idea of the type of jeans that can most flatter your figure, you’ll be well on your way to finding that perfect pair.

[Article first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of Richmond Review.]

Make your own fashion

22 Jan

Ever walk into a store, see an item of clothing and thought to yourself, “I could make that!”? With the rise of DIY tutorials online, putting a unique, handmade spin on your favourite apparel has never been easier. Start by going through your wardrobe and setting aside the items you never wear anymore, either because it’s out of trend or don’t fit quite right. These pieces are the perfect starting point for DIY fashion. Ideas such as adding lace, studs or cutouts are simple to execute and can completely revamp an old piece of clothing, turning it into something covetable.

Turn old jeans into a pair of perfectly distressed denim.

Turn old jeans into a pair of perfectly distressed denim.

An old pair of jeans, for example, can be given the rocker chic treatment by adding a distressed look. Best for light to medium washed jeans, it helps to have a visual of how distressed you want the final product to be. Start by searching for an image of a pair of worn-in jeans, and use it as a point of reference for the rest of the project. Create a distressed look by rubbing the denim with materials you can find around the house such as sandpaper, pumice stone, steel wool or a small grater. For a more worn-in look, use an X-Acto knife or seam ripper to loosen the white threads in the denim after the area is distressed.

Add a fancy twist to cut-offs with lace trim.

Add a fancy twist to cut-offs with lace trim.

Another DIY idea for jeans that fit well but are out of style, such as flares, is to turn them into shorts. Add a boho twist to cut-off shorts by sewing lace or broderie anglaise trimming to the hem. For an edgier look, keep the hem unfinished and stud the pockets. Studs and spikes are easy ways to personalize clothing and works for most types of fabric — all you need are a pack of studs and a tool, such as pliers, to secure the prongs. If you’re working with thin material, add another layer of fabric to the underside so the prong will have extra hold.

Personalize your kicks with DIY studs.

Personalize your kicks with DIY studs.

Studs also work well on blouse collars and are a great way to add some glam to an otherwise plain button-up shirt. Since fashion has been focusing on collars the past few seasons, there are trendy ideas for neckbands for all types of personal style. For a feminine 1960s look, try adding a Peter Pan collar to a basic crew neck shirt. One variation of a DIY Peter Pan collar uses a crochet doily to act as the rounded collars. Divide a lace doily in half and align them to fit the neckline. Fold the excess part of the doily over and sew along the neckline to secure the collar.

Use unwanted patterned shirts to make fun detachable collars.

Use unwanted patterned shirts to make fun detachable collars.

For a button-up shirt that no longer fits, try trimming off the neckband to make a detachable collar. Cut just below where the collar is sewn on so the collar will stay intact. Trim off any excess fabric or threads. Jazz up the collar by adding studs, metal collar tips, or even just a decorative brooch in the centre over the button. Now you have a detachable collar to wear over plain tees, sweaters or collarless blouses.

These are just a few simple ideas to get started. Once you’ve got some DIY fashion experience under your belt, you can continue on to more complicated projects such as screen printing, knitting or embroidering. The possibilities are endless in transforming just about any item in your closet — even changing the buttons on a coat can give it a new lease on life. So with a fresh year before us, make it one of your resolutions to complete a few DIY challenges and turn the clothes you avoid, into items you love wearing time after time.

[Article first appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of Richmond Review.]

Menswear trends for spring

24 Apr

Much like womenswear, the spring trend for men’s fashion is minimalism. Clean lines and toned down shades of neutrals, navy and olive were rampant at the spring and summer shows. Simple silhouettes were spotted on the runways of Raf Simons and Prada — basic suited ensembles cut with classic tailoring.

Prada Spring 2013 Menswear

Minimalism at Prada Men’s spring show

Another huge trend that is still going strong for both womenswear and menswear is the athletic look. Alexander Wang embraced the sporty side of minimalism by creating a spring collection of baseball caps and hoodies. Kenzo presented their most popular item of apparel — their tiger sweatshirt. Over at Louis Vuitton, outfits were inspired by water sports. Wetsuits and hooded anoraks that would fit right in on a boat were the standouts of their show. Baseball bomber jackets in bold metallic colours were showcased heavily on the runway at Burberry. But for a more daytime-friendly look, try a baseball bomber jacket in an earth-toned leather. It’ll go well with most outfits since it can be dressed up over a shirt and tie or casually worn over a graphic tee.

Add some street style with a baseball bomber jacket such as this one from G-Star.

Add some street style with a baseball bomber jacket such as this one from G-Star.

An item that should already be in every man’s wardrobe is the versatile polo. An essential for the warmer seasons, polos can work with a variety of styles. Pair one with shorts or khakis for a preppy look or go casual chic with a blazer over a polo and trousers. Both classic and on trend because of the polo’s sport association, the key is fit. Look for one that will provide a streamlined silhouette and avoid the oversized, boxy type that was all the rage in the 90s.

Stay stylishly cool in a coloured polo by Superdry.

Stay stylishly cool in a coloured polo by Superdry.

Fitting in with the minimalist trend is the sockless look. Appearing to go sockless in shoes from sneakers to loafers has become big over the years. Seen at the spring shows of Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name a few, the look has been featured in a number of fashion editorials in men’s magazines. To prevent odours from sweat, try no-show loafer socks and look for ones made of antimicrobial material.

Wear two trends at once by going sockless and sporty as seen at Louis Vuitton.

Wear two trends at once by going sockless and sporty as seen at Louis Vuitton.

More often than not, guys tend to play it safe in neutral coloured ensembles. Even the menswear runways were awash with shades of grey, navy and olive. But the warmer months are all about colour. Whether you’re clothes shopping for yourself or a boyfriend, avoid the basic black, white or grey version and go for the more vivid colours. Play around with hues of pastel or bold blocks of complementary shades. For an easy transition from a monotonous wardrobe, add a splash of colour to a neutral suit with a bright shirt.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate prints into your wardrobe as well. Florals may seem intimidating at first, so start with smaller doses such as a floral tie. Trendy prints that are easier to mix into menswear are camouflage and stripes. Dries Van Noten revived the camouflage print again for this season, while stripes were seen at Dolce & Gabbana and Jean Paul Gaultier. For something a little more unexpected, pair printed bottoms with a solid shirt. Neutral stripes usually look sharp when combined with a solid, bold colour. Try wearing a striped tee with coloured denim for a smart, casual look.

Bold stripes at Jean Paul Gaultier's spring presentation.

Bold stripes at Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring presentation.

Accessories are always an easy way to add some presence and update your wardrobe. Bags, ties, sunglasses, belts, hats, jewelry and watches are all great for showing off your personality and sense of style. Fashion trends are about experimentation so have fun with it whether you’re out shopping or choosing an outfit for the day. It can help set the tone for your confidence, attitude, and how others react around you.

[Article first appeared in the April 17 issue of Richmond Review.]