#VacayChic

by Tracy James


I was recently asked to take part in a fun summer event at fab'rik Homewood, which was a treat since it is already a fave spot to take clients (and myself!) for casual, easy, on-trend, affordable pieces. 

I paired the Palm print Camden shorts, peach Delanie tank, and pink Sunny Lane shades with my wardrobe-staple Qupid shoes I got at fab'rik last year!

I paired the Palm print Camden shorts, peach Delanie tank, and pink Sunny Lane shades with my wardrobe-staple Qupid shoes I got at fab'rik last year!

For the #VacayChic afternoon affair, I got to put together a rack of my favorite vacation-worthy duds, including a few complete ensembles:

A denim skirt is a must-have of the season. This one features trend-right lace up detailing and a length that makes it a great shorts alternative. Paired with a summer-print top & flat sandal, you're vacay ready!

A denim skirt is a must-have of the season. This one features trend-right lace up detailing and a length that makes it a great shorts alternative. Paired with a summer-print top & flat sandal, you're vacay ready!

For interest & depth, I think outfits should have either a textured or printed element. I love this ladylike bouclé top paired with a pop of bold color, but it would look equally as good with white jeans for a sleek, monochromatic effect. Summer-staple nude sandals dress up the look.

For interest & depth, I think outfits should have either a textured or printed element. I love this ladylike bouclé top paired with a pop of bold color, but it would look equally as good with white jeans for a sleek, monochromatic effect. Summer-staple nude sandals dress up the look.

I love a wide leg pant for summer soirées or vacation evenings out. In classic black & white, these have an elegance that allows them to easily be dressed up or down, making them both chic & versatile!

I love a wide leg pant for summer soirées or vacation evenings out. In classic black & white, these have an elegance that allows them to easily be dressed up or down, making them both chic & versatile!

During my time in the store, I had the honor of helping a Homewood High School rising senior select some trendy yet comfortable duds that would also beat the summer heat, as well as a forty-something mom who wanted a fun outfit for a concert outing with friends. For my event outfit, I chose Jack by BB Dakota's blue and white flowy romper; everyone knows I love a good romper! And speaking of concert outings with friends, just a few days after the fab'rik event, it was my outfit of choice for the outdoor U2 concert in Tampa, and I felt perfectly attired!

Blue and white Jack by BB Dakota romper, again with my Quipid shoes - I told you they are a staple!

Blue and white Jack by BB Dakota romper, again with my Quipid shoes - I told you they are a staple!

Not only this open-back romper, but LOTS of my summer pieces require special undergarments, and fab'rik is my go-to source for them.

Hollywood Fashion Secret's Silicone Cover-Ups are a can't-live-without-'em product for me.

Hollywood Fashion Secret's Silicone Cover-Ups are a can't-live-without-'em product for me.

While I find denim a bit hot for summer days in Alabama, a pair or two always find their way into my suitcase when traveling, especially to cooler climates like Nantucket and Vail, and so I don't freeze on the plane! During these months I like to keep my color palette light to keep denim from looking too heavy. 

Ripped jeans continue to be on-trend, and I love pairing with something a bit more polished, like this fabulously light and airy Jack by BB Dakota Manuel Bomber, which can carry me right into fall!

Ripped jeans continue to be on-trend, and I love pairing with something a bit more polished, like this fabulously light and airy Jack by BB Dakota Manuel Bomber, which can carry me right into fall!

Thanks, fab'rik Homewood for having me as your guest stylist! See you again very soon!


How to Shop for a Swimsuit (without freaking out)

by Tracy James


Invest in one - or some - cute cover ups.

These days, if you’re wise, you’re not baking in the sun to perfect a tan. Long gone are the bronzing marathons of sundial-like rotating on space blankets, iodine and baby oil cocktails, and Malibu Barbie sporting tan lines. So you might as well cover it up. Especially when on vacation, I like a swimsuit cover-up that I can slip on and feel comfortable enough in to wear to lunch by the pool. Whether you want one to cover your arms, your legs, what-have-you…there is a style out there for everyone. Resist feeling obliged to match your swimsuit - a worthy coverup should hide your suit anyway.   

Left: Nanette Lepore Mozambique Cold-Shoulder Lace-Up Caftan ($168, Everything But Water) & Harvest Jewels Turquoise Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Center: Nanette Lepore Tanzania Tile Cover Up ($156, in stores soon) & Harvest Jewels Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Right: Trina Turk Algiers Tunic ($140, Everything But Water) 

Left: Nanette Lepore Mozambique Cold-Shoulder Lace-Up Caftan ($168, Everything But Water) & Harvest Jewels Turquoise Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Center: Nanette Lepore Tanzania Tile Cover Up ($156, in stores soon) & Harvest Jewels Necklace (Regina Jewelry & Treasures); Right: Trina Turk Algiers Tunic ($140, Everything But Water) 

Rethink the one-piece.

The one-piece swimsuits of today are not the swim team Speedos of old. In fact, one-pieces have made quite a comeback and are sexier than ever, with plunging necklines and strappy details accenting open backs. A variety of styles available allows one to highlight certain areas while camouflaging or distracting from others. In my opinion, prints are more flattering and more fun, and less likely to make you look like you are about to put on a cap and swim laps or break into a gymnastics routine.  

Trina Turk Tropic Escape V-Plunge One Piece ($148, Nordstrom)

Trina Turk Tropic Escape V-Plunge One Piece ($148, Nordstrom)

High-cut necks are universally flattering.

Don’t believe me? Go try one on. There is something about the eyes being drawn UP that compliments the figure. As a petite, I appreciate the fact that this visual trick elongates as well.  Whether in a bikini top, tankini or one-piece, this style offers support for busty women or the illusion of volume for smaller chests, and has the added benefit of offering sun protection to the décolletage, an area prone to both burn and damage. Just say no to crepey skin.

Nanette Lepore Mozambique Stargazer Top ($96) & Charmer Strappy-Side Bottom ($72), both from Everything But Water.

Nanette Lepore Mozambique Stargazer Top ($96) & Charmer Strappy-Side Bottom ($72), both from Everything But Water.

Rollover bikini bottoms are your friend.

Love handles? What love handles? Just like your favorite yoga pants, swim bottoms with a fabric rollover feature can hide a multitude of sins, allowing the wearer to adjust what to cover - the lower waist, the hips or both. Unlike bottoms with a single layer of fabric, the gentle rollover prevents the wearer’s stomach from doing the rolling over!

Nanette Lepore Damask Floral Dreamer Bottom ($84) & Vixen Top ($84), both from Belk.

Nanette Lepore Damask Floral Dreamer Bottom ($84) & Vixen Top ($84), both from Belk.

Consider a swimshirt.

When I flip through an Athleta catalog, I want to look like every one of the fit women on those pages. And while a swimshirt can’t give me a Crossfit bod or the ability to surf, it does make me feel like one of those women. Even if I don’t start a day in the sun with a swim shirt, I usually finish with one, once my skin has said “enough, already” to the rays. I keep both a long-sleeve and cap sleeve version, like the one pictured, in my beach bag at all times.

Pacifica UPF Tee 3.0 in Electric Fuchsia ($49), Capri Stripe Pura Bikini Top ($64) & Side Smocked Bottom ($49), S'well Water Bottle in Marrakech ($45), all from Athleta.

Pacifica UPF Tee 3.0 in Electric Fuchsia ($49), Capri Stripe Pura Bikini Top ($64) & Side Smocked Bottom ($49), S'well Water Bottle in Marrakech ($45), all from Athleta.

Tankinis don’t have to be matronly.

Tankinis have gotten a bad rap over the years, thanks to some god-awful versions out there. If this two-piece style is your jam, opt for a fun print and look for details like a strappy back to keep it from being too basic. As for the bottoms, NOT a skirt. NEVER a skirt. Save that look for the tennis court or gold course. If you want more coverage on your bottom half, opt instead for a hipster style, swim shorts, or ruched retro style bottom.

Trina Turk Pacific Paisley Halterkini Top ($100, Zappos) Tie-Side Hipster Bottom ($88, Everything But Water)

Trina Turk Pacific Paisley Halterkini Top ($100, Zappos) Tie-Side Hipster Bottom ($88, Everything But Water)

As published in B-Metro Magazine, June 2017

Photography by Chuck St. John
Model: Amanda M with Red Models


Splurge or Steal: Embellished Sneakers

by Tracy James


Embellished sneakers - whether emblazoned with kitschy patches or lush florals - are trending this Spring. Check out these luxury versions and their more budget-friendly alternatives.


Tools of the Trade

by Tracy James


Some of the tools I carry in my Stylist’s Kit are handy items that everyone should have in their personal arsenal. Below are my top recommendations, including my favorite brands of each and where to buy.

1) Personal Steamer

Jiffy Steamer E-Steam Personal Handheld Steamer, purchase here; Canvas bags by Fairhope-based MB Greene (Marguerite’s Conceits, $76 & $28). 

Jiffy Steamer E-Steam Personal Handheld Steamer, purchase here; Canvas bags by Fairhope-based MB Greene (Marguerite’s Conceits, $76 & $28). 

I discovered this little baby 20 years ago when I first began my career, assisting backstage at Parisian runway shows. Unlike the wimpy handheld steamers I had tried in the past, which seemed to spit more water than steam, at 120 volts the Jiffy E-Steam is the most powerful handheld steamer on the market. When Parisian corporate closed its doors (RIP), I was gifted the E-Steam I had used, and it ran steady and strong for 5 more years, right up until it was swiped from an event! (Clearly someone knew the jewel that it is.) Not to be deterred, this just gave me the opportunity to upgrade to a pink model. While I do own a full-size industrial steamer, its cumbersomeness makes it less than fun to cart around, so I find that I more often use my handheld, including for personal use at home and when traveling. The only difference in performance is that the handheld has to be refilled about every 15 minutes. Tip: Use distilled water to keep the minerals in tap water from gunking things up over the long run.

2) Wrinkle-Release Spray

Downy Wrinkle Releaser, purchase here; Jealous Tomato top ($50, Belk).

Downy Wrinkle Releaser, purchase here; Jealous Tomato top ($50, Belk).

Wrinkle-release spray will change your life. As a committed non-ironer, I rely on this stuff quite frequently. I first tried it out of necessity when styling a beach photo shoot without electrical outlet access. Soon after, a bottle of the Downy variety (the easiest to find, at Publix and online as listed in the caption) became a staple in not only my Stylist Kit but also my closet, laundry room and suitcase (it comes in travel size!). Tip for use: Don’t be afraid to saturate the fabric, unless pure silk (which I have not used it on). Spray the wrinkled area, then use both hands to pull taut. After a few tugs, let dry and be amazed as the wrinkles disappear! 

3) Seam Ripper

Seam ripper, purchase here; Harvest Jewels pave diamond bangles, ($1270 & $1750, Regina Jewelry & Treasures at Gus Mayer).

Seam ripper, purchase here; Harvest Jewels pave diamond bangles, ($1270 & $1750, Regina Jewelry & Treasures at Gus Mayer).

When I ask clients if they have a seam ripper, most of them respond with a look of bewilderment. A seam ripper is that thing you need to cut the thread on the vent of a new skirt or blazer or to remove the itchy or visible tag out of a garment. You know, the things you have used scissors for in the past but probably damaged the garment while using or as a result weren’t able to completely remove the tag, making that itchy situation worse? This is one of those tools you didn’t even know you needed then will wonder how you lived without. 

4) Specialty Stain Remover

Carbona Stain Devils, purchase here.

Carbona Stain Devils, purchase here.

I’m no Messy Marvin, but every once in a while a stain will show up on a clothing item that regular washing and even OxyClean will not deter. Desperate for a solution, I thankfully found Carbona’s Stain Devils, a line of stain removers specially formulated for different kinds of stains: dairy, oil, grass, ink and so on. Genuis! Publix has recently started carrying a few of the formulations, or go online (see link in caption) to buy a set so you will be ready to conquer any kind of stain!

5) Fabric Shaver

Evercare Fabric Shaver, purchase here.

Evercare Fabric Shaver, purchase here.

Ah, the dreaded clothes pilling. So what causes these ghastly little fuzz balls? Fabrics consist of either long fibers or short fibers and, generally, short fibers — like cotton — are more likely to pill. There are more tiny ends (as opposed to one long, continuous fiber, like silk) that can get tangled together and create pills, which usually happen when the fabric is rubbed or abraded somehow. Another factor is twist. In other words, how tightly the fibers are held together in the garment. The higher the twist, the firmer the feel of fabric. Pilling occurs on a lot of loose knits because there's more area for the abrasion to take place, and it's not as tightly twisted. One solution is to hand wash garments or machine wash inside out. Even then, pilling will occur, making a fabric shaver is a must. While manual options exit, as simple as a straight razor, my go-to is Evercare’s battery operated version, which includes a compartment in the handle that catches the fuzzballs you pick up. (Emptying this little bin is very gratifying indeed.) Also included is a plastic guard to put over the blade face when running over delicate garments like cashmere. Tip for use: Don’t think you can de-fuzz a garment right before wearing. Depending on the amount of pilling, a sweater can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of shaving to truly revive the look. So gather the culprits and camp out in front of the TV to shave away while you binge watch the latest show on Netflix.  

6) Lint Roller

F'lint Travel Lint Roller, purchase here; 7 for All Mankind The Ankle Skinny Jean in English Botanical Print, ($199, Belk).

F'lint Travel Lint Roller, purchase here; 7 for All Mankind The Ankle Skinny Jean in English Botanical Print, ($199, Belk).

If you have a pet, you are likely no stranger to a lint roller. Even without animals around, lint is an unfortunate given. I love the surface area my good ol’ 3M roller allows, but it is not conducive to carrying in ones purse, unless you want to pull out your lip gloss in the bathroom of a chic restaurant with your lint roller attached. F’lint is a cute, colorful, reusable, refillable, and more importantly, retractable lint roller. Keep one in your purse and car to keep your clothes looking kempt and polished.     


Happy St. Patty's Day!

by Tracy James


With all of those shamrocks surrounding you, let today offer some GREEN inspiration! (It's Pantone's Color of the Year, after all!)


What Lies Beneath*

by Tracy James


Photography by Chuck St. John
Model: Claire Valentine with Red Models
Makeup: Lita Sheri Peer
All garments from The Lingerie Shoppe in Mountain Brook Village

The origins of lingerie trace back to 3000 BC in Egypt, but the term - derived from the French word “linge” meaning “linen” - was not frequently used until the late 1850’s. Since then, this category of clothing has taken on many forms and functions, from those perhaps not as commonly known: to protect the body, to show piety, to indicate wealth…to those more associated with the delicate garments: to shape, to sleep, to seduce. I believe one of lingerie’s most powerful aspects is its ability to evoke a secret, inner glamour within the wearer that inspires women to feel even more beautiful in their clothes or state of leisure.

In Bloom by Jonquil chiffon racerback chemise ($48) & robe ($68)

In Bloom by Jonquil chiffon racerback chemise ($48) & robe ($68)

Hanky Panky boy short ($29); Mad Mac rose print mesh chemise ($92), made in Dallas and designed by women. 

Hanky Panky boy short ($29); Mad Mac rose print mesh chemise ($92), made in Dallas and designed by women. 

Lingerie is the maximum expression of a woman’s femininity.
— Dolce & Gabbana
Natori "Forbidden City" gown/robe set ($300)

Natori "Forbidden City" gown/robe set ($300)

Natori chemise ($160) & robe ($120); Jacques Levine bedroom shoe ($96)

Natori chemise ($160) & robe ($120); Jacques Levine bedroom shoe ($96)

Without proper foundations there can be no fashion.
— Christian Dior
Wacoal "Embrace Lace" bra ($50) & panty ($27); Oscar de la Renta flutter-sleeve wrap robe $58

Wacoal "Embrace Lace" bra ($50) & panty ($27); Oscar de la Renta flutter-sleeve wrap robe $58

* As published in B-Metro Magazine, February 2017.


New Year's Style Resolutions*

by Tracy James


Now that we’ve all finished holiday eating, drinking, and auld lang syning, it’s time to get busy working on that list of resolutions. Amid the pledges involving health and finances, how about including a few in the style category as well? Just as your doctor might suggest to cut down on carbs and your financial advisor to save for a rainy day, I consider it my duty as Birmingham’s wardrobe stylist to proffer a few resolution recommendations to keep our city chic and your life simpler! 

1) Shop smart.

First off, if you’re a sucker for sales, this is your month. Contrary to popular belief that Black Friday is the best day to find deals (spoiler alert: it’s not), January is actually the choice month for bargains. That said…and hear me when I say this…resist the urge to buy merely because of the discount. Sure, that designer feathered cape used to be $750 and is now $99, but do you live the kind of life that is going to frequently require donning a feathered cape? Do you have other items in your closet that coordinate with said cape? This is where people get into trouble—they buy an item because of the deep discount, then end up having to purchase four other items to go with it, or else don’t wear it at all and there it sits, gathering dust with tags still attached. Suddenly that “great buy” wasn’t such a deal after all. Ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase: Do I already own the correct items to make this garment into a complete outfit? Do I own something very similar and, if so, do I need a duplicate or am I willing to get rid of that item and replace it with this one? Can I think of an occasion to which I would wear this item? In addition, I advise always shopping with a list of wants and needs—shopping with a purpose, if you will—rather than aimless browsing.

2) Pay attention to proportion.

As I am oft known to say, “It’s only fashion, not rocket science.” And so is this simple formula: short tops with wider leg bottoms/long tops with skinny bottoms. The goal when dressing is to flatter, so keeping proper proportion in mind is key when putting together an outfit. Skinny jeans have had a monopoly in the jeans world for the past several years, and while there is certainly nothing unstylish about them, I grew weary of the silhouette. Therefore I have been thrilled to see the return of flare-leg jeans which has opened the door to wearing a fresh crop (pun intended) of shorter tops. Many of my clients have wondered why they weren’t wearing certain tops only to realize that they just didn’t have the right bottoms to make them work. To keep your wardrobe interesting, I encourage you to not be a one-hit wonder, with only one proportion in your closet. Mix it up!   

On left: DVF Yeva olive top ($328), Etro scarf ($485), Frame Sutherland flare jean ($209). On right: Equipment Signature blouse in Nature White Multi ($268) and Ondine sweater ($298), AG Super Skinny Midrise in Emerald velvet ($198). All from Saks Fifth Avenue.

On left: DVF Yeva olive top ($328), Etro scarf ($485), Frame Sutherland flare jean ($209). On right: Equipment Signature blouse in Nature White Multi ($268) and Ondine sweater ($298), AG Super Skinny Midrise in Emerald velvet ($198). All from Saks Fifth Avenue.

3) Visit your tailor—often.

Fit is everything. You can have on the most expensive designer garment, but if it isn’t tailored to your figure, don’t bother. By the same token, a less pricey garment can look like a million bucks if it fits like a glove. As I have said before in this column, very few of us fit “off the rack”—we’re taller, we’re shorter, we’re wider, we’re slimmer, we’re curved and concaved where the fit model was not. This is all to say: embrace alterations. I know it takes time and costs a little extra, but it is worth it! Not only will your clothing look better, but it will feel better too.

Luda at Saks marks the hem of a Black Halo Vision Quest dress, $390. Jimmy Choo Romy in Black Patent, $595.

Luda at Saks marks the hem of a Black Halo Vision Quest dress, $390. Jimmy Choo Romy in Black Patent, $595.

4) Upgrade your workout wear.

Goodness knows a lot of women like their active wear, so let’s make it nice, ladies! One of the benefits of exercise is improving mood, but there’s nothing inspiring about a shapeless tee and ratty gym shorts. With selections now available in premium fabrics, fun prints and every color under the sun, there is no excuse to be boring. And don’t forget the accoutrements needed for to/from the gym, like a stylish carryall, and post workout, like a jacket or wrap. Local fave resources for workout wear that kicks it up a notch include P2 Platinum Pilates at Lane Parke and Whole Foods in Mountain Brook (yes, really).

MZ Wallace Black Lacquer Large Metro Tote ($225), Spanx Perforated Panel Leggings ($98), Elie Tahari Sport Margie Jacket ($160, Loeffler Randall Logan Sneaker ($350). All from Saks Fifth Avenue.

MZ Wallace Black Lacquer Large Metro Tote ($225), Spanx Perforated Panel Leggings ($98), Elie Tahari Sport Margie Jacket ($160, Loeffler Randall Logan Sneaker ($350). All from Saks Fifth Avenue.

5) Upgrade your underwear.

Underwear is one of those clothing categories that becomes an afterthought for many because “no one sees it.” Well, you see it, and style begins with confidence in oneself. Underwear garments are often called “foundations” for a reason—these are where an outfit begins. Whether a lacy set that has you singing “I’m bringing sexy back,” or a high-tech shaping garment that makes clothing fit and feel sexier, let it not fall by the wayside. Your inner voice (and perhaps significant other) will thank you. Note: I know what you’re thinking…“what, no pictures?!” Stay tuned for a lingerie feature for February's Style Icon, just in time for Valentine’s. Consider yourself officially teased.

* As published in B-Metro Magazine, January 2017


Beautiful skin: Part II

by Tracy James


As I mentioned in a previous post, come Fall, I tend to focus on my skin more than I do in other months. So by Winter I've kicked that focus into full gear. Perhaps it's because the changing weather makes my eczema flare up a bit, requiring a little extra care… Perhaps it is that I am without a tan (faux or otherwise) to camouflage imperfections…. Or perhaps it's because with the layered clothing of cooler weather, my face feels on display. So I find these months an ideal time to indulge in skin care treatments, which I am realizing should be a year-round practice AND are surprisingly affordable enough to do so.  

Logo1.JPG

My most recent experience was at The Esthetic Loft in Homewood. As the name suggests, the space is a cozy walk-up off the main street in Homewood that houses the studio of Licensed Esthetician Dana Benson. With over 16 years esthetics experience (including working for top dermatologists and plastic surgeons in Birmingham, Kansas City and Atlanta), Dana holds a CIDESCO Diploma, one of the highest ranking certifications in the field of esthetics. Dana also happens to be beautiful. Call me superficial but I always find it reassuring when my facialist has gorgeous skin! Dana wisely said to me something I have discovered over time: "Skin care is like dieting. You have to invest time and effort; there is no miracle cure." Therefore her boutique-style services help one do just that, with the assistance of an expert.

The facial I received was customized to my skin. After looking at my skin under the lighted magnifier (always a slightly nerve-wracking experience...what's she thinking? am I beyond help??), Dana determined that my skin was dehydrated but not dry, with some patches of unevenness. Therefore she tailored my treatment accordingly, treating my skin to deep cleansing, massage, a light glycolic peel, and warming mask, using a variety of different products, which was nice, unlike places who are required to use only one product line. That said, I did leave with a bottle of their Glycolic Mud Cleanser, which I am loving! It is a gentle pH balanced facial cleanser recommended for non-sensitive, normal to dry and dry skin, containing the exfoliative properties of glycolic acid, volcanic mud, and the blend of natural active botanical extracts. 

Dana also utilized LED light therapy on my skin, for which I got to don a slightly scary looking mask. But hey, I will don just about anything for more beautiful skin! And the benefits of LED light therapy are impressive, including energizing the cells and stimulating collagen production. The result of my experience was skin that looked clear and fresh and felt tight yet soft and smooth.

In addition to skin care treatments, The Esthetic Loft also offers lash and brow services, which I plan to check out sooner than later. Lash services include a variety of extension options, for both extended and event wear. Seeing as how I covet Cara Delevingne brows, I am especially intrigued by the service called micro-embroidery (also referred to as "microblading"), during which Individual ‘hair strokes’ are carefully drawn on with vegan pigments using a feathering technique. This one-by-one stroke simulates the look of real eyebrows and is semi-permanent, lasting anywhere from 1-3 years. Yes, please!  

To recap, if you are looking for an esthetician who caters to your specific skin needs and combines old-school, tried and true techniques (extractions, facial massage, peels, etc) with the latest technology (microdermabrasion, LED light therapy), Dana Benson at The Esthetic Loft is an excellent choice. To make your decision to try even easier, they are now offering membership specials to make taking care of your skin affordable. 

 

 


Chic Picks: a fab floral collection

by Tracy James


Check out the pieces from this new floral collection by Phillip Lim 3.1 - ready to carry you from now through Spring.


Chic Picks: Flare Denim

by Tracy James


Having grown weary of the monopoly that skinny jeans have held on the denim world, I was relived when an alternate style - flare - rose to the surface. That said, as a petite person I eschewed the style, remembering my experience with bootcut jeans: once hemmed, my bootcut became a straight silhouette. I figured flares would end up as bootcut once altered, so resigned myself to admire the style on others but not in my own closet. Until, that is, I observed a not-so-tall client try on a high-waisted pair and "voila," her short legs were transformed to long. lean stalks, and more exciting, the flare shape remained even after I folded under the hems to mimic the necessary tailoring. Soon after, 3 pair of high-waisted flares (in low/moderate/high price points: Just Black olive/ Paige "Bell Canyon" blue/Free People black) entered my life, opening up a myriad of new outfit combinations, since I was now able to wear my shorter tops with denim, tops that were ill-proportioned for my skinny jeans.

Full disclosure, I wear my highest wedge booties with my flares, to lengthen my legs as much as possible. At only 5 '1 ", with both a booty and hips, I prize anything that slims and lengthens! The high waist was the key to making this style work for me. If you like the look of flare jeans, I recommend you start with the higher waisted offerings. I've personally tried on the following styles, deeming each stylish, flattering and comfy. (Color options, cords and yes even white!)

Chic Tip: Wondering where the hem of your flares should fall? This style is designed to make your legs took as long as possible, thus should be left as long as possible. Take a look online at celebs and fashionistas sporting the look, and you will see that they practically sweep the ground. If you're petite like me, this means wearing your tallest heels to the alterations shop when having them measured. If you're tall, seek out styles with the longest inseam, then select your shoes accordingly. Most likely you will find that a chunkier shoe - like a substantial wedge or platform bootie, is going to best balance the dramatic proportions of the flare.


Chic Picks: Fall/Winter Floral Blouses

by Tracy James


While we are used to seeing floral prints come Spring, they were a nice surprise on the Fall 2016 runways. There’s just something sexy about taking the femininity of a floral and painting it with the darker, sultrier shades that oft accompany cooler-weather fashion. I’ve always preferred my florals more mystérieuse than sweet, and this season many designers kicked minimalism to the curb by splashing these botanical prints all over dresses (which look great during cocktail hour), coats and more. The fashion adventurous are mixing their florals with other prints, like leopard (which, let’s face it, is now a classic). A blouse is a great way to add the print into your wardorbe (wear with jeans, a pencil skirt or trousers)...check out some of these options that are my favorites from around the Web.


Pantone's Palette: Fall 2016*

by Tracy James


Like a doctor who in casual conversation describes an aching arm as lateral epicondylitis as opposed to tennis elbow, we fashion industry folks like to throw around the Pantone colors like they are part of universal vernacular. So who is Pantone, and why do they get to decide the colors for the rest of the world? By their own definition, Pantone is “the world-renowned authority on color and provider of systems and technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries.”

1. Aurora Red

Banana Republic “Sloan” pant, $88 Eileen Fisher jacket, $378 (Belk) Alexander McQueen dress, $1,965 (Gus Mayer) Michael Kors “Marti” sandal, $125 (Belk) Mineral Fusion “Firery Lava” nail polish (Whole Foods) Maybelline “On Fire Red” lipstick (CVS)

Banana Republic “Sloan” pant, $88 Eileen Fisher jacket, $378 (Belk) Alexander McQueen dress, $1,965 (Gus Mayer) Michael Kors “Marti” sandal, $125 (Belk) Mineral Fusion “Firery Lava” nail polish (Whole Foods) Maybelline “On Fire Red” lipstick (CVS)

Powerful in the world of design, their seasonal hue forecasts are key for every company who designs physical products, from fashion designers and cosmetic companies to car manufacturers and graphic designers. In fact, Pantone has a hand in the color of roughly half of all garments sold in the U.S., according to NPD, a market research group.

2. Airy Blue

Kate Spade “Hemsley” bag, $358 (Belk) Free People sweater, $128 (Von Maur) Banana Republic top, $68 Banana Republic “Avery” pants, $88

Kate Spade “Hemsley” bag, $358 (Belk) Free People sweater, $128 (Von Maur) Banana Republic top, $68 Banana Republic “Avery” pants, $88

Pantone makes three major color announcements every year: The Color of the Year (between fall and December), Spring Fashion Report (around September), and Fall Fashion Report (around February). These color forecast announcements are purposely made well in advance so they can be used to create for the seasons in question. 

3. Dusty Cedar

BCBG shirtdress, $248 (Belk) Flying Monkey jeans, $62 (Von Maur) Free People suede jumper, $168 (Belk) Glamorous blouse, $52 (Von Maur) L’Oreal “Saucy Mauve” lipstick (CVS) Banana Republic sweater, $78 Michael Kors “Westley” mule, $165 (Belk)

BCBG shirtdress, $248 (Belk) Flying Monkey jeans, $62 (Von Maur) Free People suede jumper, $168 (Belk) Glamorous blouse, $52 (Von Maur) L’Oreal “Saucy Mauve” lipstick (CVS) Banana Republic sweater, $78 Michael Kors “Westley” mule, $165 (Belk)

How do they choose color trends? An international committee of 10 operates like a secret society, meeting twice a year in Europe at the invitation of Pantone to make selections. This diverse group of people travels the world observing average people in different countries, documenting attitudes towards life and politics, street fashion, and beauty trends. Gathering in an all-white room, these anonymous individuals each present their suggestions, and with sound reasoning and picture proof, then vote on the final colors. According to Pantone, “the purpose of the colors is not just to set a trend. There is so much psychology behind colors and color theory; the reports are meant to represent the zeitgeist of the entire world.”

4. Lush Meadow

Banana Republic blouse, $78 New Directions jewelry, $14 & $26 (Belk) Pacifica “Psychedelic Jungle” nail polish (Whole Foods) Monique Lhuillier, $595 (Gus Mayer) Banana Republic suede handbag, $158

Banana Republic blouse, $78 New Directions jewelry, $14 & $26 (Belk) Pacifica “Psychedelic Jungle” nail polish (Whole Foods) Monique Lhuillier, $595 (Gus Mayer) Banana Republic suede handbag, $158

John Crocco, creative director at Perry Ellis, says that if designers choose to follow the color forecasts, they will be a “part of what ultimately becomes the trend.” But when designers overlook or flat out ignore trends as they relate to design, they will eventually become irrelevant.

5. Riverside

BCBGeneration dress, $98 (Belk) Brahmin “Brinley” handbag, $375 (Belk) Hyfve jacket, $44 (Von Maur) Pacifica “1972 WPool Party” Nail Polish (Whole Foods) Lucky Brand “Eller” boot, $139 (Belk)

BCBGeneration dress, $98 (Belk) Brahmin “Brinley” handbag, $375 (Belk) Hyfve jacket, $44 (Von Maur) Pacifica “1972 WPool Party” Nail Polish (Whole Foods) Lucky Brand “Eller” boot, $139 (Belk)

This year, Pantone describes their fall palette as “…a unity of strength, confidence, and complexity. The desire for tranquility, strength, and optimism have inspired a palette that is led by the blue family. Along with anchoring earth tones, exuberant pops of vibrant colors also appear throughout the collections. Transcending gender, these unexpectedly vivacious colors in our Fall 2016 palette act as playful but structured departures from your more typical fall shades. Blue skies represent constancy as they are always above us. Grays give a feeling of stability, Red tones invite confidence and warmth, while the hot Pinkish Purples and Spicy Mustard Yellows suggest a touch of the exotic.” A perusal of Birmingham stores makes evident Pantone’s influence, as pictured this month. 

6. Spicy Mustard

Love Always sweater, $34 (Von Maur) Lulu infinity scarf, $22 (Von Maur) Lush blouse, $42 (Von Maur) OPI “I Just Can’t Cope Cabana” nail polish (CVS) Cesca shoulder bag, $38 (Von Maur) Tahari dress, $128 (Belk)

Love Always sweater, $34 (Von Maur) Lulu infinity scarf, $22 (Von Maur) Lush blouse, $42 (Von Maur) OPI “I Just Can’t Cope Cabana” nail polish (CVS) Cesca shoulder bag, $38 (Von Maur) Tahari dress, $128 (Belk)

7. Warm Taupe

Karen Kane jacket, $179 (Belk) Banana Republic dress, $138 BCBGeneration “Sawyer” Boot, $159 (Belk) Cover Girl “Toasted Almond” nail polish (CVS) L’Oreal “Silverstone” lipstick (CVS) Drew silk top, $225 (Gus Mayer)

Karen Kane jacket, $179 (Belk) Banana Republic dress, $138 BCBGeneration “Sawyer” Boot, $159 (Belk) Cover Girl “Toasted Almond” nail polish (CVS) L’Oreal “Silverstone” lipstick (CVS) Drew silk top, $225 (Gus Mayer)

8. Potter's Clay

Sanctuary sweater, $69 (Von Maur) Helmut Lang suede shirt jacket, $995 (Gus Mayer) L’Oreal “Ginger Spice” lipstick (CVS) One the Land skirt, $36 (Von Maur) Lucky Brand “Ysabel” bootie, $129 (Belk)

Sanctuary sweater, $69 (Von Maur) Helmut Lang suede shirt jacket, $995 (Gus Mayer) L’Oreal “Ginger Spice” lipstick (CVS) One the Land skirt, $36 (Von Maur) Lucky Brand “Ysabel” bootie, $129 (Belk)

9. Sharkskin

Banana Republic dress, $118 Metamorfosi pant, $415 (Gus Mayer) Stella McCartney sweater, $1,375 (Gus Mayer) Michael Kors “Keaton” slip-on sneaker, $125 (Belk) Steven hobo, $98 (Belk) *Mineral Fusion “Slate” nail polish (Whole Foods)

Banana Republic dress, $118 Metamorfosi pant, $415 (Gus Mayer) Stella McCartney sweater, $1,375 (Gus Mayer) Michael Kors “Keaton” slip-on sneaker, $125 (Belk) Steven hobo, $98 (Belk) *Mineral Fusion “Slate” nail polish (Whole Foods)

10. Bodacious 

Equipment blouse, $238 (Gus Mayer) Trina Turk dress, $328 (Belk) Banana Republic belt, $38 Kate Spade wristlet, $148 (Belk) Essie “Play Date” nail polish (CVS) Maybelline “Brazen Berry” lipstick (CVS)

Equipment blouse, $238 (Gus Mayer) Trina Turk dress, $328 (Belk) Banana Republic belt, $38 Kate Spade wristlet, $148 (Belk) Essie “Play Date” nail polish (CVS) Maybelline “Brazen Berry” lipstick (CVS)

 

* As published in B-Metro Magazine, October 2016


My Top 10 Stella & Dot Picks of the Season

by Tracy James


When "The Jewelry Guy" Jerry LaSuer, Alabama's first Stella & Dot stylist, asked me to pick my Top 10 favorite pieces from the accessory line's Fall 2016 collection, I was happy to oblige, as I am a fan myself. There is something for everyone on this favorites list - the fashionista, the traveler, the classic, the hip teen, etc. See something you like for yourself or as a gift, order via this link  before October 7 and a portion of sales will be donated to the Humane Society.

1) Marcell Collar Necklace

When wearing black clothing or shoes, I always like to pick up the hue in my accessories, which pulls a look together. This gold collar wrapped in genuine black leather is the perfect piece for that purpose.  

2) Hammered Wire Large Hoops

A favorite of many of my clients, these earrings can offer a "little something" to complement a minimalist look, but are delicate enough to be worn with layered or statement necklaces and not compete.

3) Gilded Path Ear Climbers

Prove your coolness factor to the teen in your life by gifting the hottest trend in earrings, these ear climbers in vintage gold and black pave. Or, add fashion-forward edge to your own wardrobe!

4) Getaway Bag in Black/Cream

The ideal bag for any traveler, this tote features a zipper that extends the bag 2 inches, allowing for vacation shopping. My world-traveling mom quickly snapped one of these up for herself. a great seal of approval!

5) Park Slope Leopard Scarf

A great way to add the print of the Fall 2016 season to any outfit.

6) Genevieve Tassel Necklace

I admit I've grown a little weary of the tassel trend, but this one feels different, perhaps because of its tribal look. Wear together with the beaded necklace that comes with it, or separate.

7) Ally Double Wrap and/or Terra Wrap

Per my explanation for #1 of liking black accessories to tie a look together, either (or both) of these pieces are great if you want that touch to be on your wrist.

8) Zoe Lariat Necklace

In gold or silver, this lariat is an example of one of Stella & Dot's "wear a hundred different ways" pieces that actually works.

9) Tiburon Necklace

Perhaps the best bang for your buck of the season, this is simply just a really pretty piece. (As with all of Stella & Dot pieces, it looks even better in person.)

10) Celine Wrap Bracelet in gold

A great gold bracelet that fits any wrist size, for stacking with your watch or other bracelets.


Fall Looks: Wear Now, Wear Later

by Tracy James


Wardrobe wise, living in the South has its pros and cons. On the one hand, summer heat lingers longer than most would like, confusing many on what the heck to wear when it’s almost October but still pushing 90 degrees outside. On the other hand, the lack of seasonal extremes allows for a more streamlined wardrobe, as many pieces can multitask their way through various temperatures. We’re Birminghamians, not Bostonians, so there’s no need for a closet full of woolens. Expand your existing clothing collection by learning how to adapt for different weather conditions, while staying seasonally appropriate and on-trend.

The Piece: Tunic Dress

Wear NOW: The warm caramel tones and inclusion of suede in this outfit keep it visually transitional but comfortable temperature-wise. Rachel Zoe silk dress ($495), Stuart Weitzman “Sunflower” sandal in Amaretto ($455), Rebecca Minkoff clutch ($245), all from Gus Mayer. World Market necklace ($24).

Wear LATER: For core warmth, layer a Coobie tank ($22) underneath the dress, and then pop on a Adrienne Landeau fur vest ($295). Finish the grey story with a Rebecca Minkoff handbag ($345) with Linda Richards fur pouf and Stuart Weitzman “Tieland” boots in Anthracite ($798). All from Gus Mayer.

The Piece: Silk Blouse

Wear NOW: Think it’s too late to wear shorts? Not when they are in a saturated color like this cobalt and a sturdy, lined construction. Equipment silk butterfly-print blouse ($258) and Pelle Moda “Kacey” suede sandal in Lemon ($145), Gus Mayer. J.Crew Factory shorts ($54.50); Banana Republic cuff ($48); Good Works trio bracelet ($30), Mia Moda in Vestavia. Earrings are the stylist’s own.

Wear LATER: When weather turns colder, layer the blouse under a cashmere sweater. Allowing the collar, cuffs, and tail to peek out keeps the look casual and modern. Kate Moss for Equipment sweater ($278) and Franco Sarto “Yogi” boot ($138), Gus Mayer. DL 1961 “Cindy” jean in Milk ($178), SOCA Homewood. (Think you can't wear white after Labor Day? Think again. First of all, this "Milk" shade is not bright white. Second, as I mentioned in a previous article but it bears repeating, in the old days, families had coal-burning furnaces in their homes. These heating systems emitted tiny bits of soot into the air, which would make light or white clothing appear grayed and dingy. So when the furnace was turned on – which in some parts of the country was around Labor Day – those particular clothing items were moved to the back of the closet. When It was time to turn the furnace off for the season, which was around Memorial Day at the latest, that clothing could come back out to play. Therefore, unless you’re still running a coal-burning furnace, in which case I think you might have more trouble with the EPA than the Fashion Police, you’re good to go wearing white anytime of year as long as it’s temperature appropriate.)

The Piece: Printed Sleeveless Top

Wear NOW: Iris Setlakwe top ($265), Tory Burch “Gemini Link” sandal in River Rock ($350) and “Zoey” saddle bag ($495), all from Gus Mayer. BCBG “Simone” skirt ($138), Saks Fifth Avenue. Stella & Dot tassel necklace ($79); LOFT stretch bracelets ($24.50); Ring from Argent Antiques in Homewood.

Wear LATER: The sleeveless top is perfect to layer under this Iris Setlakwe unlined faux suede (feels better than the real thing!) jacket. Keep the look from leaning too business by adding a trend or two, like these from past seasons that have decided to stay awhile – torn Frame jeans ($238) and fringed Sam Edelman boots ($150). All from Gus Mayer.


Beautiful Skin: Part I

by Tracy James


Come Fall, I tend to focus on my skin more than I do in other months. Perhaps it's because the changing weather makes my eczema flare up a bit, requiring a little extra care… Perhaps it is that I am without a tan (faux or otherwise) to camouflage imperfections….Or perhaps it's because with the layered clothing of cooler weather, my face feels on display. So over the next couple of months, I am going to try out and review different skincare treatment options. 

First I checked out the facial treatment available at Smart Skin Med Spa. You may know Smart Skin from their Homewood and Crestline locations, but now, conveniently for me, they have a location inside one of my favorite stores, Gus Mayer at The Summit. Tucked in the back of this luxury department store is a tranquil treatment room, equipped with the latest and greatest, cutting edge equipment skin care has to offer. Rachel, my knowledgable and lovely aesthetician, introduced me to 2 treatments that felt very high tech - colored lights and all! 

Apparently, the Vortex-Fusion® serum delivery system is what sets the HydraFacial apart from other procedures. The multi-step treatment cleanses, evenly exfoliates and extracts to remove impurities and dead skin cells while at the same time replenishing vital nutrients including Antioxidants, Peptides and Hyaluronic Acid. Thanks to the devices’ superior delivery system, these performing ingredients are able to more effectively reduce the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles for results you can see and feel instantly.

The HydraFacial is a non-laser skin resurfacing procedure that utilizes super-serums filled with antioxidants, peptides and hyaluronic acid to boost hydration, help address the signs of aging and protect skin from environmental leaving it recharged, renewed, and invigorated. In a nutshell, the procedure combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, and hydration resulting in better-looking skin. Apparently, the Vortex-Fusion® serum delivery system is what sets the HydraFacial apart from other procedures. The multi-step treatment cleanses, evenly exfoliates and extracts to remove impurities and dead skin cells while at the same time replenishing vital nutrients including Antioxidants, Peptides and Hyaluronic Acid. Thanks to the devices’ superior delivery system, these performing ingredients are able to more effectively reduce the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles for results you can see and feel instantly. Check out some of the photo results here.

Next came the Pro-Light Therapy, which is like a disco for your face. Red, Blue, and Amber lights are used in combination to combat aging, reduce redness, irritation and rosacea as well as killing acne-causing bacteria. I don't know how it does this, it's "SCIENCE!" (in my best Thomas Dolby impression voice) The primary goal of ProLight LED Light is the stimulation of new collagen, which visibly improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles without damage to the overlying epidermis. Plus you feel super fly while it's happening.

Finally, we moved on to SmartSkin's other popular offering, the Signature Ultrasound Elite Facial.  The entire procedure feels more ticklish than it does painful, with high-speed oscillations courtesy of ultrasound waves. First, exfoliation via light microdermabrasion is performed to remove the top layer of dirt, oil, and make-up; Second, ultrasound with LED lights and custom masque (a lifting and hydrating gel is applied to your face and neck that is much like the gel applied during sonograms) to completely empty oil ducts and shrink pores from the inside out, tighten, tone, and help with fine lines and wrinkles; and Third, an oxygen jet treatment to re-hydrate and preserve your skin for longer lasting results.  My aesthetician Rachel said, "The ultrasound skin-tightening device reaches deep under the skin, penetrating underneath the facial muscles." This treatment offers results like those of much more dramatic, invasive procedures, with none of the downtime.

Ultrasound treatment was recently featured on Entertainment Tonight as a way to combat aging and delay more invasive surgeries.

Ultrasound treatment was recently featured on Entertainment Tonight as a way to combat aging and delay more invasive surgeries.

My consensus of the whole experience? I admit I'm a sucker for anything high-tech when it comes to my skin - if great minds can come together to combat the aging process, I want to be a part of that. So while this treatment may not have had all of the soothing smells and bells of a regular spa, my skin felt tightened and hydrated when I left, like I had done something beneficial rather than just relax for an hour. Fortunately, SmartSkin offers monthly memberships so my skin can benefit from their expertise on a regular basis. 


Confessions of a Stylist: 5 Myths, Busted*

by Tracy James


One of the things I set out to do when beginning my career as a wardrobe stylist almost 16 years ago was to dispel the myth that a stylist was a luxury only afforded by celebrities or wealthy people. Thanks to stylist-to-the-stars Rachel Zoe, who has made a name for herself dressing A-list clients and having her own TV show, the general public now knows what the heck a wardrobe stylist is. However Zoe has not done much to promote the image of a stylist as accessible to all, as the majority of people don’t spend their lives walking red carpets. I wanted to be - and believe I have become - a “real world stylist," if you will: approachable, non-pretentious, and accomodating to clients from all walks of life. In my view, just as not everyone has a knack for decorating their home - so they call in an interior decorator, nor does everyone have a green thumb for making their yard bloom - so they employ a landscaper, so should those who lack the skills or desire to put together an appealing wardrobe be able to seek style assistance. In order to reach that audience, I have to continually banish assumptions. Here are the top 5 myths about stylists that I hear most often.   


Myth 1: Stylists only buy the most expensive brands.
“I’m sure you only wear designer clothing."

Even if I made Rachel Zoe money, I wouldn’t exclusively buy designer clothing. I am brand conscious in the sense that certain ones tend to fit my shape better than others, but I would never select an item solely based on the brand. And I loathe blatant logos. Take one walk down Rodeo Drive and you will see that money doesn’t buy taste. What matters more than how much you pay for your clothing is how you outfit pieces together. As my July Style Icon, fashion industry legend Arlene Goldstein, said, “It’s all in the mix.” Like Goldstein, in my closet you will find high and low end: Topshop next to Theory, H & M next to Helmut Lang and so on. What is fun for me is to observe designer looks, whether in magazines or on runways, and then reinterpret them for my own lifestyle, figure and budget.

My proportions certainly aren’t the same as Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrósio, nor is my pocketbook (her Gianvito Rossi sandals alone are $1,095), but that didn’t stop me from loving her summer street style. From my existing wardrobe, I pulled items to emulate the look, but make more sense for my lifestyle: Instead of a genuine suede mini skirt, faux suede shorts from Fabrik Homewood. American Rag jacket (Macy’s); Fabrik v-neck tank; Charming Charlie fringe bag; Stella & Dot stud earrings, aviator shades and long necklace; Banana Republic crystal cuff; Seiko watch (my late father’s); Charlotte Russe leopard wedges.

My proportions certainly aren’t the same as Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrósio, nor is my pocketbook (her Gianvito Rossi sandals alone are $1,095), but that didn’t stop me from loving her summer street style. From my existing wardrobe, I pulled items to emulate the look, but make more sense for my lifestyle: Instead of a genuine suede mini skirt, faux suede shorts from Fabrik Homewood. American Rag jacket (Macy’s); Fabrik v-neck tank; Charming Charlie fringe bag; Stella & Dot stud earrings, aviator shades and long necklace; Banana Republic crystal cuff; Seiko watch (my late father’s); Charlotte Russe leopard wedges.

When clients lament that they love but cannot afford designer duds, I encourage them to use those styles as inspiration to create their own "looks for less.” That said, as I’ve aged and feel less obliged to follow every fashion trend, I make an effort to choose quality over quantity. Tommy Hilfiger hit the nail on the head when he said, "Quality always wins. If you're wearing something of incredible quality it will outshine any trend, any fashion idea, and anything that's funky or groovy."

While I loved the 2-piece Tibi ensemble ($625) on the left, a midi length skirt isn’t flattering to my petite stature, and a strapless cropped top not practical for everyday wear. So I was delighted when I found a dress (in Petite sizing no less!) with a similar feel at the LOFT Outlet for $19. I wear it to beat the Alabama heat while running around town, therefore pair it with my comfortable Qupid wedges from Fabrik Homewood.

While I loved the 2-piece Tibi ensemble ($625) on the left, a midi length skirt isn’t flattering to my petite stature, and a strapless cropped top not practical for everyday wear. So I was delighted when I found a dress (in Petite sizing no less!) with a similar feel at the LOFT Outlet for $19. I wear it to beat the Alabama heat while running around town, therefore pair it with my comfortable Qupid wedges from Fabrik Homewood.


Myth 2: Stylists have no fit issues.
“You’re small so you look good in anything.”

At 5’1", I am below the national average of 5’4”, and shy runway stature by almost a foot. I’m pretty sure that my legs are the same length as Giselle Bundchen’s torso.

At 5’1” (if you round up, and I hope you will), I have my own fit challenges, so can easily relate to the myriad of style issues my clients report facing. I find that monochromatic dressing lengthens my petite frame, so I decided to try pattern from head to toe with this Free People jumpsuit. Stella & Dot cuff and earrings; Cordani sandals.

At 5’1” (if you round up, and I hope you will), I have my own fit challenges, so can easily relate to the myriad of style issues my clients report facing. I find that monochromatic dressing lengthens my petite frame, so I decided to try pattern from head to toe with this Free People jumpsuit. Stella & Dot cuff and earrings; Cordani sandals.

Some assume that just because I am small, I can wear anything. Consider that the average fit model (the bodies upon which clothing sizes are based) is 5’7” and a size 6. If that is your size, congratulations, you are in the tiny percentage of the population who can successfully wear off the rack. The rest of us have to take proportion into consideration, and either strategically mix our pieces, invest in alterations, or both. Proper fit is absolutely key to looking polished, but it doesn’t always come easy. From my mentor Tim Gunn I have borrowed the phrase, “Make it work!” Looking great is, after all, a bit of eye trickery. The idea is to camouflage those parts of our body we’re not crazy about, and accentuate those aspects we do like about ourselves. Have killer legs? Wear more skirts and shorts. Love your collarbone? Highlight it with boatneck tops. As a “super petite,” I find I am best flattered in hem lengths above my knee, shoes with at least 2 inches of heel, pants no shorter than my ankle bone, and sleeve lengths no longer than my wrist bone; and I avoid ruffles and bows lest I resemble the 12-year-old girl whose height I mirror.    


Myth 3: Stylists follow fashion rules.
“I bet you never make fashion faux-pas.”

In our current “anything goes” fashion world, what IS a fashion faux-pas these days anyway? Those who know me well know that I usually roll with the motto, “It is better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Rule following isn’t my strong suit. When advising clients, I might invoke guidelines, but I never use the word “rule.” In fact, in my typical wardrobe seminar for businesses, I have a whole segment based upon antiquated fashion rules now meant to be broken - like wearing white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day (see the addendum following this article) or avoiding color combinations like pink & red or black & navy. I’m not a proponent of limitations when it comes to creativity, especially when it comes to personal style. I must admit that when a new client tells me that according to her Color Me Beautiful chart circa 1996, she is a “Winter” and can only wear certain colors, I roll my eyes (but on the inside of course…most of the time). I’m a fan of wearing what makes you happy. Love yellow despite the fact it’s not on your color wheel? Wear it! Want to wear white in December? Go for it! Finding one’s personal style is achieved though channeling one’s authentic self, so avoid censorship.


Myth 4: Stylists never make fashion mistakes.
“I’m sure you never have buyers remorse."

Sometimes when I get undressed at the end of a day, I think, “Wow, that outfit was an epic fail. Thank goodness I never have to wear it again!” And therein lies the beauty: fashion is not permanent. If anything, it is a lifelong experiment. I give myself, and my clients, permission to constantly evolve. While I admit it is rare (thanks to years of experience), I do from time to time make fashion mistakes. And guess what? That doesn’t make me a bad person or stylist. Give yourself a break! Buying mistakes are all part of the learning process, whether you’ve stepped a bit too far out of your comfort zone with a particular garment or played it too safe and brought home something exactly like ten other things in your closet. Analyze your mistake so you can avoid making the same mistake twice, then move on. To keep your closet clutter free of such items, I recommend keeping nearby a bag for giveaways. If you put something on then take it off for whatever reason, into the bag it goes. When my bag fills up, I take it to my local charity bin. Comedienne Rita Rudner once joked, “The saleslady told me the dress looked better on. So I took it home and put it on and I wondered, ‘Looks better on what? On fire?'"  

Yes, even I make purchase mistakes. Like this Topshop vest bought in a Magnificent Mile shopping frenzy during a trip to Chicago. After trying it out in a few outfit combinations, I realized that, alas, it was not the couture lookalike I hoped it was. Moving on!

Yes, even I make purchase mistakes. Like this Topshop vest bought in a Magnificent Mile shopping frenzy during a trip to Chicago. After trying it out in a few outfit combinations, I realized that, alas, it was not the couture lookalike I hoped it was. Moving on!


Myth 5: Stylists are judgmental of the fashion choices of others.
“I didn’t know I’d run into you today; don’t look at what I’m wearing!”

I truly hate the fact that some people feel the need to greet me with a disclaimer: “Oh my gosh I just threw this on to run errands, you must think I look awful!” Actually, Suzy Q, I was thinking how nice it is to see you. Sigh. Contrary to the belief of some, I do not have a filter through which I see everyone with black bars over their eyes. (Also, see Myth #4.) If asked to critique, I can certainly shift into that mode and do so. Otherwise, I’m “off the clock,” so to speak. In a similar vein, I don’t expect my style to be your style. A prospective client once asked me, “How do I know you aren’t going to try to make me look just like you?” To which I retorted, “My style is MY style, you can’t have it! You’ve got your own and we will find it!” Part of my job is to help people find their best selves and learn how to communicate to the world that self through his or her style choices, even if those are choices I wouldn’t make for myself. 

*As published in B-Metro Magazine, August 2016.

Addendum: The Memorial Day to Labor Day Limitation on Wearing White is an Antiquated Notion

Here's why: in the old days, families had coal-burning furnaces in their homes. These heating systems emitted tiny bits of soot into the air, which would make light or white clothing appear grayed and dingy. So when the furnace was turned on - which in some parts of the country was around Labor Day - those particular clothing items were moved to the back of the closet. When It was time to turn the furnace off for the season, which was around Memorial Day at the latest, that clothing could come back out to play. Therefore, unless you're still running a coal-burning furnace, in which case I think you might have more trouble with the EPA than the Fashion Police, you're good to go wearing white anytime of year as long as it's temperature appropriate.

 

 

 

 


Chic Tip

by Tracy James


A wardrobe is like a garden that requires constant weeding. Don't let it get overgrown! I keep an empty bag in my closet for discards. When I put on a clothing item then take it off because I don't like the way it fits or looks, into the giveaway bag it goes. When the bag is full, I drop it off at the nearest charity bin, which in my case is the King's Home recepticle at Whole Foods Market Birmingham. ‪#‎reduce‬ ‪#‎reuse‬ ‪#‎recycle‬


What the heck is a Transition Shoe?

by Tracy James


It took 15 years of my being in the fashion industry for the mainstream to finally come up with a name for the type of footwear appropriate during that sometimes warm/sometimes cold period between the end of Winter and full-on Spring. A shoe to fill the style space between boots/booties and bare sandals. While I have been using the term "transition shoe" for a few seasons now, I admit to using other less-eloquent sounding descriptors, including, but not limited to, "in-between shoe," "like a bootie but not really," "more covered-up sandal," and "high-heeled gladiator." No matter what you call them, get yourself a pair to wear with your jeans and tops and even dresses. Here are some of my picks of the season. (Note: be sure to click the arrow to see all of the columns, they like to hide.)