Fashion Goes High Tech

by Tracy James


Fashion has finally caught up to the new millennium's technological advancements, and society's obsession with electronic gadgets proposed to make our lives easier, bodies fitter, etc. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s now perfectly acceptable to walk around with a little activity monitor on your wrist, over your eyes, on your pant leg or, heck, even in your bra.

But for those who don't love the look of a rather un-stylish plastic doodad on your person, we’ve got good news: Fashion designers are getting in on the wearable technology game. Thank goodness we all don’t have to look like characters in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

 

DVF for Google Glass

DVF Made for Glass has officially arrived at net-a-porter.com and Google. Famous for her invention of the wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg is now wrapping faces in her very own Google Glass collection, which she recently featured as a runway model accessory. The five spectacle styles ($1,800 each) come with either clear or shaded frames. Along the same lines, there are rumors of a Google Glass/Warby Parker collaboration in 2015. 

Tory Burch for Fitbit 

If your step/sleep tracker doesn’t match your preppy-urban lifestyle, Tory Burch’s new collaboration with Fitbit can solve that. The hinged metal bracelet ($195) looks just like any of her other high-end brass cuffs, but this one secretly houses a Fitbit Flex ($100). There’s also a Flex-encasing pendant necklace ($175) and printed silicone tracking bracelet ($38), all available for pre-order now with shipping in early October.


Chic Tip

by Tracy James


I can't stand messing up pristine white towels with makeup, and yet I do every morning! So I'm loving this black hand towel made by The Turkish Towel Company for just this purpose. Spotted in upscale hotels & inns, I've ordered a set for myself. It will keep my other linens looking nice longer, and cut down on laundry as well! Also makes a unique - and useful! - gift. Order here: http://tinyurl.com/makeuptowel

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TREND WATCH

by Tracy James


There are plenty of fashion trends that I choose to skip each season, whether because of my age, size, shape, budget, lifestyle or just plain style sense. Often they are trends that the celebrity set choose to embrace. For example...this Spring, Mad Men's Elizabeth Moss appeared on the cover of New York Magazine wearing a pair of vintage denim overalls and nothing else, bringing to the forefront a trend that actually started on runways in 2013, but that has finally hit the mainstream Summer 2014. Sexy celebs like Alessandra Ambrosio, Julianne Hough and Diane Kruger have been stepping out in overalls and style magazines tout "Take this one-piece from practical to posh!" 

While I loved overalls as an 8-year-old and wanted to be a Girl Scout just so I could earn a pair of the kelly-green Liberty's (alas I was not willing to suffer through the brown pinafore years in order to get them), I have not been a fan since, and have never been on board with wearing them as an adult (yes, even if you're pregnant).  Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible to look good in overalls. (Full disclosure, I first wrote the word "chic" then deleted it and replaced it with "good.") But I mean, does it really say that much about the wearability of anything just because a Victoria's Secret Model looks hot in them? The fact is, most of us don't look like models or celebrities, so certain trends can be difficult to pull off stylishly. The idea of the average woman wearing overalls, frankly, concerns me greatly. Because for most, before you can say OshKosh B'Gosh, you're looking like The Farmer in the Dell or a Dexy's Midnight Runner. I work with everyday woman who have trouble pulling off skinny jeans, much less dungarees. This is truly a trend for the woman confident in her ability to pull it off. 

My point? Don't be a slave to fashion and feel you have to try every trend. However...think you've got what it takes to rock a pair of overalls? Then I'm all for you trying it. Fashion is experimental, after all, it's not a permanent mark - at the end of the day, you can take off that day's stab at style and try again the next.  

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Fashion Flicks

by Tracy James


All of your favorite shows are in summer hiatus and you've already binge watched the entire 2nd season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix, so it's the perfect time to stream some of the best fashion documentaries around. Start with these, my top 5 picks in the genre.

1. Unzipped (1995)

The fashion documentary that launched so many others, this film tracks Isaac Mizrahi at the top of his game as he plans his autumn/winter 1994 collection. With a real fly-on-the-wall feeling, this 20-year-old film has reached almost cult-like status thanks to appearances from Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss and Amber Valetta, to name but a few. Mizrahi's hilarious ranting will keep you laughing - I especially love his obsession over the movie Nanook of the North and his desire to see women "walking the dog in a head to toe beast-fut suit." If anything, watch to see how the fashion industry has changed over the last two decades.

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2. The September Issue (2009)

For anyone who has ever dreamed of working at a fashion publication, or even just those who are avid readers of them, this is a must-see. Often dubbed the real Devil Wears Prada, current Vogue editor Anna Wintour is a style icon and powerful business woman, in many ways "ruling the roost" of the fashion industry. The film offers insight into the inner workings of the fashion bible, American Vogue, and in particular what it takes to produce the largest issue of the year.

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3. Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)

My favorite of the list, I defy you not to fall a little bit in love with Italian designer Valentino and his partner of over 45 years in business and life, Giancarlo Giammetti, in this touching and insightful portrait of their life together. From reflecting on how they met as young men, their multiple, lavish homes (and pugs, who deserve their own movie), to preparing for Valentino's final Haute Couture show before retiring, this documentary covers all areas of designer's life and career. The dynamic between Valentino and Giancarlo is not only one of obvious trust and respect, but hilarious. Giancarlo is a straight shooter who does not hesitate to tell Valentino things like, "You look a bit too tan." Valentino himself is funny, with his dry sense of humor and flair for the dramatic: "An evening dress that reveals a woman's ankles when she is walking is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen." Overall, this film is like a love letter to the designer, following him as he pieces together a retrospective of his work.

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4. Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010)

Halston was arguably the first great American designer who could compete with the European fashion houses. He was the king of the 70's scene, along with Andy Warhol, Studio 54 and all of the era's trappings. But Halston's tragic decline was almost as swift as his ascent. Filmmaker Whitney Sudler-Smith (a socialite's son most recently seen on Bravo's reality show Southern Charm) went on a mission to find Halston's heritage, interviewing his former friends and muses, like Liza Minnelli, along the way.

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5. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's (2013)

Considered to be at the top of all American department stores and the scene of many an ultimate fashion fantasy (like Barbara Streisand's 1965 TV show segment, a medley filmed in the Fifth Avenue emporium). The Olsen twins, Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs are just a few of the many big fashion names interviewed in this documentary. From the process behind the spectacular Christmas window displays, to a closer look at the work of esteemed personal shopper Betty Halbriech, who has worked at the store for almost 40 years, audiences get a chance to peek behind the doors and into the reality of the fascinating inner workings and fabulous untold stories from Bergdorf Goodman's iconic history.

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For The Boys Part II: Collar Styles

by Tracy James


The general guideline is not to wear a collar that is the same shape as your face. Men with long, narrow faces should avoid long pointed collars. Men with a round face should avoid spread collars. However, keep in mind that many variations exist and these guidelines (notice I didn't say rules) do not apply to every man and every situation. The key is to find a collar style in which you are comfortable, is office and/or occasion appropriate and, of course, is in keeping with your style aesthetic. (Don't know your style aesthetic? You may need an advance lesson. See my Style Services page.)

First, let's talk about the parts of a collar:

1.  Collar Points - The tips of the collar.

2.  Collar Point Length – The distance from the Collar Points to where they meet the Collar Band.

3.  Collar Band - the piece of fabric that wraps around the neck.

4.  Collar Height - The height of a folded collar as it fits on the neck.

5.  Tie Space – The distance between the top of the folded collar parts when the shirt is buttoned.

6.  Spread – The distance between Collar Points.

Next, how to achieve proper fit: Check your neck! Some guys just buy their shirts in small, medium, or large. No wonder they don't fit well. You should know your measurements—neck size and arm length—and not just for the sake of it. These numbers are the key to making you look better. If your collar is so loose it hangs off your neck, or so tight it makes your face blush, you're stuck with it. So take action—get measured. And remember The One-Finger Rule: make sure you can comfortably fit one finger between the collar and your neck. If two fingers fit, the collar's too big.

Don't forget the details: The smallest weapons in your style arsenal are collar stays. They keep your collar standing at attention. Stays should come out before your shirts get laundered and go back in when the shirts return clean. Keep one set on your dresser and one in your Dopp kit.

And finally, the collars themselves

Next up...Cuffs. Stay tuned.


For the Boys

by Tracy James


On the newsstands and grocery aisle now is GQ’s Style Guide, always a great seasonal resource for men. It got me thinking about the style issues most frequently presented to me by my male clients, so I thought I would cover a few of those topics in a series of posts.

Part I: A History of the Dress Shirt

Many questions revolve around dress shirts - what collar/cuff is best for what occasion, who designs the best shirts, what fabric or pattern should I look for, etc. A majority of men in the US have never custom designed a dress shirt.  However, a century ago, all shirts were custom made to the customer's specifications. You would walk into a store like J.C. Penney, peruse fabrics, have measurements taken, and 6 weeks later, a shirt would show up made just for you.

Subsequently, retailers figured out they could save a lot of money by making large runs of limited patterns in a handful of pre-designed sizes.  Customers could walk into a store, get a decent approximate fit, and have instant gratification. This significantly dropped costs and, within a generation or two, most men had no idea that there was any other way to order shirts.

In fact, even the term “dress shirt,” which signifies a more formal pattern in contrast to a “sports shirt,” which is a more casual fabric and style, only became necessary with the rise of the t-shirt as everyday clothing.  Our great grandparents would have called a dress shirt nothing more than “a shirt.”

This created an interesting cultural split in society.  Those who had sufficient resources or the sartorial culture in their family continued to have their dress shirts custom designed, tailored, and made specifically for them.  Those who lacked these resources believed that shirts were something you bought off a rack from a local discount retailer.  Nowhere is this split more evident than if you walk into a shirt maker’s showroom floor with someone who doesn’t know the process.  I’ve heard several friends remark about great clothiers, “I stopped in once but didn’t see anything I liked, so I left.”....having no idea that for every one dress shirt on the showroom floor, there are 100x as many fabrics in the shirting fabric books. The clothing on the racks are mere samples for display purposes.

Up next...Collar & Cuff Styles.


Client Comment

by Tracy James


From a Mountain Brook mom:

Thought you'd like to hear the compliment I just received from 20 year old daughter "Mom, I was just looking for something to wear and your closet is so much better than before I left for college".  I told her to BACK AWAY SLOWLY HANDS IN THE AIR.

 

From a Louisiana busninessman:

I'm loving the new look.  Even felt comfortable going to a pool party with no undershirt or socks!  I want you to come back and continue to help me evolve my look.  The rest of these pleated pants have got to go!


Chic Quip

by Tracy James


“IT IS BOTH DELUSIONAL AND STUPID TO THINK THAT CLOTHES DON’T REALLY MATTER AND WE SHOULD ALL WEAR WHATEVER WE WANT. MOST PEOPLE DON’T TAKE CLOTHING SERIOUSLY ENOUGH, BUT WHETHER WE SHOULD OR NOT, CLOTHES DO TALK TO US AND WE MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON PEOPLE’S APPEARANCES.” - G. Bruce Boyer


Chic TV: Alice + Olivia on Revenge and Modern Family

by Tracy James


Great stylists think alike? One of my favorite dresses I selected for a client in early Spring (Feb) was the long floral silk "Triss" dress by alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet, which she wore to her brother's Rehearsal Dinner. Thus I was amused to see Revenge's Emily Thorne wearing the dress in an April episosde. Then, tonight, Haley wore the dress to Cam & Mitchell's wedding on the Modern Family season finale! Take a look a the picture to see the slightly different ways the dresses were styled for each character - see if you notice the slight alteration on Haley's dress.


Chic Images

by Tracy James


Often I find style inspiration in everyday life - whether the color of lush green trees or texture of sand on the beach. In Chic Images, I will share these inspirations with you. Here, examples of fashion throughout history, as viewed at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Marksburg Castle in Germany.

Top row & middle left, both Vermeer and Rembrandt included some of the elaborate ensembles of the time in their paintings. The rest of the pictures show actual clothing items on display in the Rijksmuseum, including, on the right, one of Yves Saint Laurent's classic shift dresses.

Top row & middle left, both Vermeer and Rembrandt included some of the elaborate ensembles of the time in their paintings. The rest of the pictures show actual clothing items on display in the Rijksmuseum, including, on the right, one of Yves Saint Laurent's classic shift dresses.

At top: intricate hair clips (waaaayyy before the Batman symbol was conceptualized); Middle row: before hipsters adopted them, Dutch shipyard workers donned knit toboggans. The rest of the photos show knight's armor throughout the ages, including the original gladiator sandal.

At top: intricate hair clips (waaaayyy before the Batman symbol was conceptualized); Middle row: before hipsters adopted them, Dutch shipyard workers donned knit toboggans. The rest of the photos show knight's armor throughout the ages, including the original gladiator sandal.


Chic Travel

by Tracy James


As promised, a report on my "11 Days in Europe in 1 (Carry On!) Suitcase." (OK, and I took a carry on bag for toiletries, etc. But still! I was so impressed with myself I even took a picture of my luggage in the trunk.) In the end, very pleased with what I took, and I'm proud to report I wore every single item I packed. XL Ziplock Bags allowed me to not only keep my suitcase organized, but flatten out the bulk.  

With the weather being in the low 40's in the morning and often getting up to the upper 60's in late afternoon, layers were crucial; I began each day with a jacket. Thanks to the scarves, I mixed and matched my outfits with 9 tops and 4 pair of pants. I toiled about what shoes to pack, as this petite gal has to have at least a bit of a heel, cobblestone streets or not! Indeed we did walk a ton (some days up to 10 miles according to the Fitbit!), and fortunately the shoes I chose did me right. My one pair of heels coordinated with all 3 dresses I took for dressier dinners.  

Here's the low down:

Clothing items packed:

Nikibiki Microfiber Tanks: nude, black, grey

2 Nikibiki Microfiber Second Skin Long Sleeve Tops: ivory, black

9 tops

3 dresses

4 pair skinny pants - 

  1. BCBG black 
  2. Lysee brown
  3. Lysee heather grey
  4. Seven for All Mankind Tan

3 pair shoes - 

  1. Bernie Mev Black “Lulia” wedges
  2. BC footwear tan clogs
  3. Via Spiga pewter strappy high heels

6 printed infinity scarves

2 lightweight jackets - 

  1. Laundry by Shelli Segal black 3/4 length water resistant hooded jacket
  2. Calvin Klein tan reversible (water resistant on one side) jacket with removable hood

1 Hammitt metallic crossbody bag 


Client Comment

by Tracy James


This morning's text from a mother-of-the-groom client for whom I have been helping dress for wedding events absolutely made my day!! "You would not believe how good I felt about my outfit Saturday. I have ALWAYS been so self conscious about how I look but your assistance has helped me feel so much better! I hope to keep working with you on the rest of my closet. Thank you sooo much."


Chic Travel

by Tracy James


I help many clients pack for trips, so it was truly a case of "the cobbler's children have no shoes" when I realized I had no clue what I was going to pack for MY upcoming 2 week trip to Europe. For one, I wear dresses and heels/tall wedges the majority of the time, not sensible walking shoes! Let me note that my travel companion, an airline pilot, has requested we carry on our bags, which limits me to one suitcase and a small duffle. So my quest has begun to become "perfectly packed" for this vacation! My first acquisitions? 6 infinity scarves to mix and match with my outfits in lieu of a lot of jewelry. Next, a crossbody bag in a great neutral, sized to hold basic necessities like my iPhone and passport. So I'm off to a decent start....stay tuned for more of "11 Days in Europe in one (Carry On) Suitcase."

Von Maur's 3 walls of scarves in the Junior Department, ranging in price from $8-$16.

Von Maur's 3 walls of scarves in the Junior Department, ranging in price from $8-$16.

Hammitt crossbody bag in a taupe with a slight metallic sheen. From Gus Mayer.  

Hammitt crossbody bag in a taupe with a slight metallic sheen. From Gus Mayer.
 


Internship Posting

by Tracy James


Seeking a Summer Intern, age 18 and up, to begin June 16th, ending August 15th. Weekly hours will vary, some weekend work required. Possible travel (expenses paid). Internship is unpaid, for course credit or experience only. Tasks to include assisting Tracy with clients (shopping & closet revamps), fashion editorials, on photo shoots, at style seminars and Fashion Camp (7/14-8/8). Fashion experience and writing skills preferred. If interested and for more information, please send an email to tracy@chicmadesimple.com with "Internship" in the subject line.

Look Grand for Less

by Tracy James


Each month I style and write a one-page editorial piece for The Outlet Shops of Grand River (OSGR) that appears in the first few pages of B-Metro Magazine. For the promotion, OSGR selects a lucky Birminghamian to receive a generous $250 gift card to spend however they need - we've had moms buy children's clothes and birthday gifts, career women buy office appropriate attire and aspiring fashionistas select the latest trends. So what a fun surprise and treat it was when OSGR gifted me the opportunity, challenging me to focus on the best Spring accessories. Check out my stylish loot!


Style Service: Sorority Rush Readiness

by Tracy James


One of my favorite tasks each summer is helping college bound girls prepare for Sorority Recruitment. In addition to selecting the right wardrobe and deciding what to wear on which day, I assist these rising freshmen ladies on proper footwear, accessorizing, and hair & makeup, as well as advice on what to carry from house to house (a Rush "emergency kit," if you will).  My goal for each and every girl I help guide through Rush is to make sure she is prepared and confident so she can let her true self shine! Email me at tracy@chicmadesimple.com to learn more or get on the schedule for a consultation.