Tag Archives: costumes

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.]

Stylish Halloween costumes

17 Oct

There’s only two more weeks left until Halloween, so if you’re a huge fan of the annual celebration chances are you already have your costume picked out and ready to go. But for those of us who are still unsure about what to dress up as, or decide last minute to head to a costume party, here are some stylish ideas that are easy to pull together from pieces that may be available in your wardrobe. For something you’ll only wear once, it’s simpler to avoid spending a fortune and just create a costume from items you already have. Halloween is a great way to express your interest in fashion by emulating chic characters from film and television, or even popular fashion designers.

January Jones as Betty in Mad Men.

January Jones as Betty in Mad Men.

Breaking Bad’s yellow hazmat suits will be popular this Halloween, but for a more stylish costume option dress up as one of the characters from AMC’s other critically acclaimed show, Mad Men. Whether you want to go as Betty, Joan, Peggy or Megan the key is to find a tailored outfit that looks inspired from the 1960s. For Betty, go for silhouettes with nipped waists and full skirts. Try printed silk blouses, petticoats, shirtwaist dresses and swing coats. Complete the perfectly polished Betty look with an elegant hairdo and red lipstick. To dress like Joan, wear a figure-hugging dress in a vibrant jewel-toned colour, or a sweater and pencil skirt set. Peggy’s working look went through many changes over the seasons, but you can’t go wrong with a 1960s inspired plaid and pleated skirt suit. As for Megan Draper, the most fashion forward on the show, a mod minidress should be the main part of the costume. Style with a dramatic winged eyeliner and a bouffant.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby.

Another fun period costume idea is 1920s attire seen recently in The Great Gatsby and Downton Abbey. To sparkle like Daisy Buchanan don a flapper dress, characterized by drop waists, slinky straps and art deco beading. Top off a short bob hairstyle with an ornate head band. As for Downton Abbey, channel Lady Mary and Lady Edith this Halloween with ankle-grazing empire waist dresses. Accessorize with hats, gloves, pearls and beaded shrugs in luxe fabrics. For a different spin on a Downton Abbey costume dress like one of the staff, such as the head housemaid Anna. Add a white collar to a plain, long-sleeved black dress and tie a long, white lace apron overtop. Finish the look with black tights and a white headpiece for the hair.

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.

For fashion designers, Karl Lagerfeld is probably the most notorious and easiest to copy. The head designer for Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld’s always poised in a black suit with vest over a tailored white shirt. The accessories are key for his look. Wear fingerless black leather gloves, a skinny black tie, black sunglasses, a long chain necklace, black belt and loafers. For the pièce de résistance wear a white wig pulled back into a ponytail.

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

If you’re looking for a costume that’s more timeless, reference fashionable cult classic movies such as Clueless, Annie Hall and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To dress like Cher Horowitz or Dionne Davenport, rock a tartan suit with matching mini skirt. For an alternate look try a plaid mini skirt and a white collared shirt under a sweater vest. Top off the ensembles with knee high socks and a beret. For another fun element, you can even include the Clueless vernacular as part of your costume by inserting the phrases “Whatever!” and “As if!” into your conversations.

Besties Cher and Dionne in Clueless.

Besties Cher and Dionne in Clueless.

To get Annie Hall’s menswear inspired look that is also a huge trend for this season, add  an oversized men’s vest and a long skirt or wide-leg trousers to your look. Accessorize with a bowler hat, boots and a tie. To dress up like Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn’s character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, all you need is a little black dress, chunky pearl necklace, elbow length black gloves and big sunglasses.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall.

Halloween is the perfect occasion to test an over-the-top style you wouldn’t normally wear, so have fun with it and experiment with dressing differently!

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

Walk, walk, fashion baby: The relationship between fashion and music

8 Mar

Whether it’s models dating musicians, designers creating costumes for band tours, or even singers turned fashion designers, music and fashion are intimately linked. A lyric from one of my favourite bands, Pulp, goes “If fashion is your trade, then when you’re naked I guess you must be unemployed, yeah?” Not only is it witty but I think it also demonstrates how the idea of fashion finds its way into music content. More examples of this two-way influence can be observed throughout the past.

Blue suede shoes

As rock ‘n’ roll popularity increased in the 1950s with acts such as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, styles also changed to correspond with the rebellious attitude of the period.

Movie characters such as Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause exemplified the transformation in style. Outfits incorporating black leather, casual t-shirts and jeans became the norm for the younger generation.

Marlon Brando in The Wild One

Fashion journalist Kate Mulvey said, “For the first time, nonconformity was shown by dressing down. Rebelling against prosperous society in the 1950s meant going a step down the socio-economic ladder, and wearing working class clothes to give authenticity to what they were trying to say. Young people didn’t want to identify with the straight laced, responsible attitudes of their fathers and so dressed like a youthful version of the working man.”

Ticket to ride

As the mod subculture hit its peak in the mid 1960s, British pop music was dominating the airwaves and teenagers were spending the majority of their money on records and clothes. Young men were greatly influenced by the hairstyles and outfits of The Beatles and the women were opting for shorter hemlines. The attention to Britain extended to London fashion designer Mary Quant – the creator of the mini-skirt.

Mary Quant (right) with models in her designs

“The excitement of London life was brilliantly conveyed by the new breed of street-wise fashion photographers like David Bailey and Terrence Donovan. They were at the centre of the London scene and were up to date on fashion trends and social changes, which they captured in their distinctive fashion photographs.” – Marc Kitchen-Smith, style author.

Hippies and glam rockers

As 1969 rolled around and the Woodstock music festival took over a farm in New York, the fashions had turned to colourful patterns, vests, peasant tops and full, long skirts. Musicians such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix took to the stage in hippie attire. And over the pond, Italian designer Emilio Pucci reinforced the trend of vivid patterns with his own trademark geometric print.

Guitarist Jimi Hendrix

With the development of glam rock in the early 1970s, fashion took a turn for the androgynous as musicians such as Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie took over the spotlight. The glam rock aesthetic mostly involved platform-soled boots, caberet-inspired styles and lots and lots of glitter and makeup.

David Bowie as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust


The late 1970s saw a revival of the leather jacket through the punk movement. Bands such as The Clash and The Ramones popularized trends of metal studs, Doc Martens, black leather jackets and bondage pants. Fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier also based their collections on punk culture. Former manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, also capitalized on the look by opening a shop catering to punk fashions.

London punk band The Clash

“Punks were anti-fashion motivated, and strived to create their own unique outfits, avoiding mainstream trends which were considered bourgeois, over-indulgent and bland. [But] fashion designers created their own punk-inspired collections, which ultimately became mainstream fashions themselves.” – Melissa Richards, fashion historian.

Check yo self before you wreck yo self

Hip-hop hit the mainstream in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, bringing along with it a rise in sportswear, baggy jeans, tracksuits and Timberland boots. Accessories such as heavy gold jewelry and baseball caps also corresponded with what hip-hop musicians were wearing. But I think the biggest influence hip-hop had on fashion was the through the popularity of sneakers.

A collection of kicks

“[Hip-hop musicians] even wore their trainers differently; street styled with laces undone and logoed tongues on show. All of this pushed the sports brands to further develop their styling to incorporate some of street style customizations into new products that featured fatter laces, higher tops and bolder logos.” – Emily Evans, fashion writer.

Dress up in you

As for my musical fashion icon, I’m partial to Alison Mosshart from The Kills and The Dead Weather. Her style may not be extraordinary but it mirrors my own casual outfits on days when I don’t feel like dressing up.

Alison Mosshart

Plus she’s bad-ass in this video with Jack White:

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ bedazzled jacket from the Zero video also still stands out in my mind.

Modern girls and old fashion men

The Strokes also had a big influence on my style. They came onto the scene in 2000, dressed in ratty Converse Chuck Taylors paired with skinny jeans – a combination I would emulate throughout my university years.

The Strokes showing off their footwear

I love how they change it up for their new music video, Under Cover of Darkness. Four of the band members play their latest single in suits while lead singer Julian Casablancas hangs around in a leather jacket getup until he changes for the last third of the video.