Tools of the Trade

by Tracy James


One of the bits of advice I share with clients during consultations is about the tools and products I use to make being stylish and polished just a little easier. Here are the Top 4 Tools of the Trade:

1) Fabric shaver (Fave: Evercare's Giant Fabric Shaver, below)

Add life to your pilled sweaters with a fabric shaver. This gadget is instantly gratifying in that the attached container catches all of those nasty little fuzzballs. Most models come with a plastic guard which should be used when shaving more delicate knits like cashmere to prevent snagging. Tip: Don't think you can shave your sweater and head out the door. To get the most benefit, spend a minimum of 10 minutes running the shaver over the garment.

2) Seam ripper (Fave: Mighty Bright Lighted Seam Ripper, below)

Whether removing a price tag, label or vent stitch, avoid damaging your garment by having a seam ripper on hand. You'll end up finding a multitude of uses for this little tool. Tip: Invest just a few more dollars in a lighted, magnified version. Your eyes will thank you!

3) Wrinkle release spray (Fave: Downey Wrinkle Releaser, below)

This product actually works and has changed my life. After burning myself with an iron as a kid (ok, I was doing one of those faux stained glass craft projects, not ironing clothing), I pretty much swore off the chore. I have prepped entire photo shoots with this stuff, not to mention how great it is for travel! Simply spray the wrinkles, pull/tug taut and let dry, and voila! Wrinkles gone. Tip: Don't be afraid to saturate your garments. While I don't receommend for silk, I have had no problem using on cotton or synthetics.

4) Personal steamer (Fave: Jiffy ESTEAM Hand-Held Travel Steamer, below)

When stubborn wrinkles just won't relax with spray, the situation calls for a steamer. While I do own an industrial steamer, I find I don't want to dedicate the space required to keep it set up 24/7 nor do I have the patience for the heat-up time. Back in the days of Parisian being my biggest fashion event client, I was introduced to Jiffy Steamer’s ESTEAM,  the most powerful hand-held steamer on the market (3 times more power than most others), and the only one I would ever use. This simple-to-operate steamer is ideal for use at home, in the office or on the road. With a quick heat up time of less than 2 minutes, it will steam continuously for 15 minutes per filling. Tip: This steamer also works for upholstery. It has proven invaluable for my linen slipcovered furniture.

 


Chic to Be Pink: MAKE TIME FOR A MAMMOGRAM

by Tracy James


I've said it before and I'll say it again...being healthy is STYLISH. And I don't just mean wearing your cute organic cotton dress to shop at Whole Foods. I'm talking PREVENTION, folks. And why am I talking about it? Because it is CHIC and SIMPLE to be smart about your health.

THE 411

You already know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but did you know Brookwood Medical Center is hosting an all-day (as in 6AM to 10PM!) mammogram event on Thursday, October 22? With those hours, your excuses are really falling by the wayside (you know you were going to DVR How to Get Away with Murder anyway.) So call 205-802-6900 to get an appointment that fits into your schedule that day or evening. Parking is FREE, just bring your ticket for validation. 

THE FUN STUFF

There will be entertaining and informational activities going on throughout the event (no boring waiting room here): a fashion show, cooking demonstration, holiday makeup consultations, swag bags for all, breakfast/lunch/dinner served (hello?!?), and bra fittings by Belk/Wacoal. If you think that last offering sounds funny, consider this: 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. I see evidence of this all the time when working with clients, and a proper fitting is where we begin. Belk & Wacoal are partnering with BMS on this event, donating $4 to Susan G. Komen for every woman who participates in a complimentary fitting. (No purchase necessary.) I will be at the event from 9:45-12:45 with the B-Metro Magazine Live Blogging Team. Stop by then or Tweet/Facebook message me to tell me you got your mammogram earlier or later!

 

THE MEDICAL STUFF

No referral is needed for a mammogram screen.  Baseline mammograms are recommended at the age of 35 and annual mammogram screens are recommended annually at the age of 40. 3-D Mammograms will be offered as well. This technology helps doctors find breast cancer  earlier. All patients may upgrade to a 3-D mammogram for an additional $50.

Here's the clincher that made me decide to make time for a mammogram: do you know someone special to you who has been touched by breast cancer? What's the one thing you could do in their honor that would have the most impact? Yep, so do it. Make your appointment for 10/22.


Style by the Numbers

by Tracy James


1666: Year King Charles II of England copied French king Louis XIV by demanding that men in court wear waistcoats, trousers, and ties. Alas, creating the first "dress code." This is on my mind as I head out today to give a style seminar to a group of bankers on how to spruce up theirs.

Issuing a dress code was where the similarities to the French ended, as Charles specifically wanted to get away from "French fashions," placing out of favor the big wigs and red high heels popular at the time.

Instead, court would adopt what essentially became the three-piece suit: a long waistcoat to be worn with a knee-length coat and similar-length shirt (made of English wool, not French silk). The emphasis was on cloth and cut, not ruffles and accessories. One could argue that the English suiting tradition began here – concentrating on silhouette and quality of wool rather than colour or decoration. The outfit was finished off with a sash, stockings and buckled shoes. Over time the waistcoat became shorter and shorter, until by around 1790 it reached the length we recognize today. It has been sleeveless since the 1750s.


Splurge or Steal?

by Tracy James


Sometimes, after careful consideration, there are items we feel worth the investment. Sometimes we just want a quick fashion fix. The options are always there, so you decide!

Lanvin, $2,790:

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Steal, $24-$265:


How to Pack Like a (Chic) Pro

by Tracy James


Buffy York of The Style Gathering asked me to contribute to her fabulous blog, with some advice on how to reduce the stress of packing for summer trips (and avoid overpacking!), whether business or pleasure. So hop on over to The Style Gathering for my tips and tricks!

Packing Like a Pro - guest post on The Style Gathering

A "must-have" travel product mentioned in the article is wrinkle release spray. I use the Downy brand, but there are plenty of options out there, like for those who might prefer all-natural or fragrance-free.

Internship Posting

by Tracy James


Seeking a 1 month summer Intern (age 16 & up welcome) to begin Monday, July 6th, ending Friday, July 31. Weekly hours will vary, some weekend work may be required. 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 daily at Fashion Camp (7/9-7/31, 9am-2pm each day). Fashion experience and writing skills preferred but not required. If interested and for more information, please send an email to tracy@chicmadesimple.com with "Internship" in the subject line.


Bye-Bye Bags (undereye, that is)

by Tracy James


 

From Preparation H (gross) to green concealer (been there, done that), women have tried just about everything to tackle undereye circles and bags. I don't know about you, but I've never found anything that works. Well, my fellow bloggers and I were blown away tonight at the MD Wellness & Aesthetics Grand Re-Branding event to see in action Instantly Ageless, a powerful anti-wrinkle microcream that acts quickly and effectively to diminish the visible signs of aging. Peeps, I'm here to tell ya, this stuff actually works!! Lindsey Lutz of Life Lutzurious graciously volunteered her pretty peepers to the cause, and HELLO?!..look at her results!! The "After" picture was taken 2 minutes after the first - it looks like she has been photo-shopped under her eyes! 

Let me reiterate that the photo on the right is NOT retouched! That's Lindsey just 2 minutes after applying Instantly Ageless to her under-eye area.

Let me reiterate that the photo on the right is NOT retouched! That's Lindsey just 2 minutes after applying Instantly Ageless to her under-eye area.

Apparently the key ingredient is argireline: a peptide that works like Botox, without the needles. Here are the benefits claimed by Instantly Ageless, and I gotta say, none are BS! 

-VISIBLY DIMINISHES THE APPEARANCE OF FINE LINES & WRINKLES

-ERASES THE APPEARANCE OF DARK CIRCLES & PUFFINESS UNDER THE EYES

-MINIMIZES THE APPEARANCE OF PORES

-HELPS TO EVEN SKIN TEXTURE

-MATTES SKIN FOR A FLAWLESS FINISH

-RESTORES SKIN TO OPTIMUM APPEARANCE

Here's the bottom line: Instantly Ageless comes in a package of 50 applications, each of which lasts til you wash your face, and costs $75, which equals out to about $2.50 per day. Seems like a reasonable price to pay to get rid of some baggage! Swing by MD Wellness & Aethetics in Inverness Corners to pick up some and try for yourself!  


Printed Britches (How to Wear them & Not Look Like Wallpaper)

by Tracy James


"Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking." OK, so Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada had a point. But it wouldn't be spring if we weren't ditching our dark winter duds for bright prints. While florals (feminine to funky) certainly abound for spring/summer 2015, a variety of other patterns are splashing their way across garments this season. Of those garments, my hands-down favorites are the cute, semi-dressy shorts in stores now. (Full disclosure: I have a bit of a shorts addiction, owning no less than 20 pair.) Not comfortable in shorts? Not to worry...there are just as many super chic printed pants out there that offer the same advantages as the shorts: eye-catching style and fabulous comfort.

A print with a black background makes these shorts easily transition from day to nighttime wear. Feather print shorts and top from Fab’rik Homewood

A print with a black background makes these shorts easily transition from day to nighttime wear. Feather print shorts and top from Fab’rik Homewood

I love mixing prints and textures. This BCBG top and shorts combo at Belk at The Summit has a a bohemian vibe, but is also simple and polished. One quality I like about shorts is that they are unfussy.

I love mixing prints and textures. This BCBG top and shorts combo at Belk at The Summit has a a bohemian vibe, but is also simple and polished. One quality I like about shorts is that they are unfussy.

Palazzo pants are back! Resist the urge to go matchy-matchy, and instead, pair printed palazzos with a neutral top. And to keep proper proportions, select a fitted or slightly cropped top (as shown with the Flying Tomato boho hippie palazzo in magenta). Image credit: shopwsw.com

Palazzo pants are back! Resist the urge to go matchy-matchy, and instead, pair printed palazzos with a neutral top. And to keep proper proportions, select a fitted or slightly cropped top (as shown with the Flying Tomato boho hippie palazzo in magenta). Image credit: shopwsw.com

Shorts with pockets? Bonus!! Heels with shorts? If your gams are game, go for it. In keeping with the summery feel, stick to open-toe styles, like sandals and wedges. Animal print shorts and flowy crop top from Fab’rik Homewood.

Shorts with pockets? Bonus!! Heels with shorts? If your gams are game, go for it. In keeping with the summery feel, stick to open-toe styles, like sandals and wedges. Animal print shorts and flowy crop top from Fab’rik Homewood.

My affinity for printed shorts and pants is in part because I like fashion that defies predictability. When I work with clients who are style beginners, I initially teach them to "paint by the numbers," so to speak. Solid-colored wardrobe staple bottoms, paired with printed tops. But once they have that down, I offer tips and tricks to spice things up - how to mix patterns, create creative color combos, etc. Or, simply reversing the initial formula, and selecting printed bottoms and solid tops. There's something about boldly printed shorts and pants that seem slightly impractical and thus frivolously fun. As if to say, "Take THAT, boring black pants and khaki shorts!"

A great example of how to make printed britches office-appropriate: a slim-cut pant with a ladylike heel and something tailored on top. Remember, when it comes to pants length, ankle = yes! Cropped, never! Image credit: crushculdesac.com

A great example of how to make printed britches office-appropriate: a slim-cut pant with a ladylike heel and something tailored on top. Remember, when it comes to pants length, ankle = yes! Cropped, never! Image credit: crushculdesac.com

Don’t think this trend can only be worn by the younger gals. Paired with the right elements, it can be rocked by women of any age. Image credit: gurl.com

Don’t think this trend can only be worn by the younger gals. Paired with the right elements, it can be rocked by women of any age. Image credit: gurl.com

Flat-front shorts, like these from Trina Turk at Belk at The Summit, are usually the most flattering. Only choose shorts with pleats if you have a slim middle. Some mistakenly think pleats camouflage girth, when in fact they add volume.

Flat-front shorts, like these from Trina Turk at Belk at The Summit, are usually the most flattering. Only choose shorts with pleats if you have a slim middle. Some mistakenly think pleats camouflage girth, when in fact they add volume.

A question I often receive is, "Can women with pear-shaped figures wear print on the bottom?" The answer is YES. To borrow a phrase from my mentor stylist Tim Gunn, I am a "make it work" kind of girl. Dressing to flatter involves camouflaging those areas we aren't crazy about and highlighting our attributes, and while there are many tricks of the trade to achieve this, in most cases, keeping proportion in check is key. Therefore, if you are pear shaped, a slim ankle or track style printed pant, paired with a loose top may be a better bet than a loose, flowy palazzo pant. That said, I am a big fan of wearing what you love and makes you happy, so if you love the printed palazzo pants, wear 'em! Just pair with a shorter, more fitted top to avoid looking overwhelmed or tented.     

Funky, snake-print, palazzo pants from Fab’rik Homewood. What are palazzo pants anyway? Palazzos flare out evenly from the waist to the ankle, and are therefore different from bell bottoms, which are fitted until they flare out from the knee and also from gauchos, which only extend down to mid-calf length. Harem pants are yet another loose style, but they have a snug cuff around the ankles. $54 at fab’rik in Homewood

Funky, snake-print, palazzo pants from Fab’rik Homewood. What are palazzo pants anyway? Palazzos flare out evenly from the waist to the ankle, and are therefore different from bell bottoms, which are fitted until they flare out from the knee and also from gauchos, which only extend down to mid-calf length. Harem pants are yet another loose style, but they have a snug cuff around the ankles. $54 at fab’rik in Homewood

Track pants, just like the name implies, are simply gussied-up versions of what you wore to run cross country in junior high. They offer a bit more options for tops—wear tucked, untucked or half-tucked, loose or fitted. If you have wider hips or tummy trouble, you may want to pair with a blousy top that covers these areas. Fashion is all smoke and mirrors, my friends! Image credit: MichaelKors.com

Track pants, just like the name implies, are simply gussied-up versions of what you wore to run cross country in junior high. They offer a bit more options for tops—wear tucked, untucked or half-tucked, loose or fitted. If you have wider hips or tummy trouble, you may want to pair with a blousy top that covers these areas. Fashion is all smoke and mirrors, my friends! Image credit: MichaelKors.com

Easy breezy: these silk pants by Haute Hippie in a soft floral are in a silhouette many figures can wear. Image credit: luckyshops.com

Easy breezy: these silk pants by Haute Hippie in a soft floral are in a silhouette many figures can wear. Image credit: luckyshops.com

When it comes to shorts, many ask about proper length. Inseams range from 3" to full Bermuda, and your choice is a personal preference based on age, leg shape, etc. The 3" and 4" inseams are the most prevalent, but if you are more comfortable in a longer length, selecting a slim cut will keep the look current.

‘Tweens and teens can wear shorter, fitted styles. A high waist and demure top tempers the short length. Image credit: gurl.com

‘Tweens and teens can wear shorter, fitted styles. A high waist and demure top tempers the short length. Image credit: gurl.com

Remember your favorite Umbro shorts? These are the grown-up version, in cute prints on silly fabric with a comfy loose fit and drawstring or elastic waist (which, hopefully it goes without saying, is worn with an UNtucked top). Pictured: shorts by Dance & Marvel and TCEC, from Mia Moda

Remember your favorite Umbro shorts? These are the grown-up version, in cute prints on silly fabric with a comfy loose fit and drawstring or elastic waist (which, hopefully it goes without saying, is worn with an UNtucked top). Pictured: shorts by Dance & Marvel and TCEC, from Mia Moda

Simple, but chic, formula: printed short + solid-color tee. A half tuck works great with shorts, especially those with drawstrings. Image credit: lovely-pepa.com

Simple, but chic, formula: printed short + solid-color tee. A half tuck works great with shorts, especially those with drawstrings. Image credit: lovely-pepa.com

So pick the printed britches that speak to you - floral, abstract, graphic, painterly - there is an option for everyone. Find the one that best expresses your own personal style. 

Note: this article was originally published on 5/7/15 as a guest post for StyleBluerprint


Lilly Pulitzer & Milly Collaborations Arrive at Target & Kohl's

by Tracy James


Designer collaborations with discount stores have been all the rage for the past several years. The Lilly Pulitzer limited-edition collection for Target lands in stores early Sunday, April 19. Then on April 23, Kohl’s will debut MILLY for DesigNation, also a limited-time collection.

Target’s Lilly Pulitzer collection is huge - as in 250 pieces! - including apparel, accessories and shoes for both women and girls, along with outdoor entertaining décor, beach gear, travel accessories and home accents. Prices range from $2 to $150, with most less than $30. Some items will be sold online only, like plus-size clothing, a new and welcome offering for the brand. Along with scarves, sandals, totes and clutches, clothing choices include a palm print jumpsuit for $44; eyelet shorts, $26; palazzo pants, $28; and strapless maxi dresses, $34, and shift dresses, $38, in different prints. Check out the rather innovative webpage for the promotion, where you can "mingle" at a party of Pulitzer-decked guests via a 360 degree virtual tour. Check out the party and the Collection Lookbook here

Lilly Pulitzer, a Palm Beach hostess, founded the brand in 1959 after making print dresses to hide the juice stains that happened while working in her husband’s citrus grove juice stand. The dresses caught on with those in her social circle. Pulitzer died in 2013, but her iconic brand continues.

Kohl’s MILLY collection was inspired by designer Michelle Smith’s trip to Capri. Influenced by her Parisian training at Christian Dior Haute Couture, Louis Vuitton and Hermes, Smith is known for merging American sportswear with French style. 

The 71 pieces of women’s apparel feature stripes and florals, and  include conversational T-shirts, full skirts with sheer detail, feminine dresses, pencil skirts, shorts and jumpsuits in a chic but Prices range from $38 to less than $100. Browse the Milly for Kohl's offerings here.

Both collections are expected to be a hit, with sell outs in a short amount of time.

 


Spring Awakening

by Tracy James


One of my favorite aspects of Spring is designers bringing color to the fashion party. While the versatile neutrals of winter - black, grey, cream - are always comforting and classic, by the time warmer weather finally rolls around, my visual senses are ready to be reawakened! And Spring 2015 has not disappointed! Hues run the gamut from the softest blush pink to the boldest orange and cobalt. Shopping in Gus Mayer today, I loved seeing all of the shades of this season represented all over the store - in shoes, cosmetics, accessories and clothing. 

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Prints abound in a variety of ways - florals, abstracts, graphics, and painterly designs. Add a colorful handbag or jewelry piece for a fashion forward mix, or let your accessories pack all of the punch against a clean slate of head-to-toe white. When it comes to cosmetics, Chanel has a new collection of both delicates and bolds. I've officially traded in my vampy winter nail polish for more delicate and bright shades, so I want to try Paradisio, a super-soft icy green, and Desirio, a vibrant berry-licious pink. Sun-kissed hair and (faux) bronzed skin looks great complimented with a shimmery lip gloss. Kevin Aucoin's glosses have been a recent fave of celebs.

So now that I've got you making out your wish lists as I was today, here's some good news - Gus Mayer is offering TAX FREE shopping ALL DAY this Thursday, April 9, in conjunction with their Girl's Night Out event that evening, 4PM-8PM. In addition to the tax-free shopping, the event will feature a Style Bar showcasing the latest trends, a Color Lab at which you can discover the best way to freshen your look this Spring, and of course, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and prizes throughout the night. Come one, come all - it's April, peeps! Spring has officially arrived! 

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Calling all Fashion Campers!

by Tracy James


Registration is now OPEN for my 8th annual ORIGINAL Fashion Camp at Brookwood Village, THE day camp for budding fashionistas aged 5-13! With various date choices throughout July, visit the official page for information on this year's fun agendas and how to register. Don't miss the chance for your mini-fashionista to attend this confidence-building camp that launched all of the others!

Activities include:
□ the ever-popular "Accessories Game" at Claire's
□ how to care for & style your tresses at Belk Salon
□ how to match & coordinate clothing pieces
□ learning the proper names for various handbag styles, shoes, sunglasses and fabric patterns
□ a sit-down lunch with etiquette lesson
□ end of day runway show


When It Comes to Accessories, Don't Paint by the Numbers

by Tracy James


Just as I try to avoid being too "matchy-matchy," I've never been a fan of jewelry that comes as a set. This is just a personal preference, mind you, but there's something about the matching pieces that is too predictable for me…a bit too "paint by the numbers." There's no decision to be made, no creative hand to play. Alternately, when jewelry pieces are mixed, it creates a feeling that one is wearing collected pieces, thus making the overall look more interesting, and in my opinion, making the pieces themselves appear more expensive.

So I have been delighted by the trend that began several years ago of layering necklaces and stacking bracelets, as this truly presents the opportunity for custom accessorizing. This is a great example of a trend that can be interpreted in a way that fits your lifestyle, age and personal style. You can layer/stack traditional, preppy pieces or artsy/funky pieces, and everything in between. As designer Kate Spade said, "Accessories are what make an outfit just a little bit more YOU."

No where have I seen this on better display then at the recent Valentine's event at Diamonds Direct. The place was packed with individuals and couples from all walks of life, each coming in to find pieces that reflected their own personalities. The jewelry line highlighted for the evening, 
Gabriel & Co., had a variety of pieces that could be mixed and matched. (I know, because I created several custom combos!) From delicate gold necklaces that when layered give the effect of passed-down heirlooms, to hip silver shapes, some sprinkled with stones, that would make any fashionista swoon. Perhaps because I animatedly speak with my hands, and because the hands and wrists are such a visible and oft-noticed part of one's body, I am a big fan of bracelet stacks. I especially love a stack that tells a story… one bracelet a gift from a special someone, another a souvenir from a favorite destination, and so on. I have no problem mixing costume jewelry with fine pieces. (Gabriel & Co's simple, slim diamond cuff looked fab added to my own bracelets I wore to the event.) The point is to actually WEAR your jewelry - too many leave it in the safe, waiting for a special occasion! 

While watching the action at the event, it occurred to me that Diamonds Direct has truly tapped into the modern way of selling jewelry - offer gorgeous choices and let the customer customize. For it is those items that we feel reflect our personalities the best that we love the most.


ChicTip

by Tracy James


A client with a difficult-to-fit calf recently reported back a rave review on a pair of boots to which I had directed her, so I thought I should pass along my source!  When searching for tall boots, many of my clients have issues resulting from either skinny or wide calves. Because I know the styles and brands to look for, I can often find workable pair, but when that fails, I turn to DUO BOOTS. This UK based company handcrafts each season’s unique collection of boots in up to 21 calf sizes. In addition, they have recently added shoes and ankle boots in three width fittings: narrow, standard and wide. Sophisticated, made-to-measure style with a tailored fit. Prices are much more reasonable than you would expect, with free shipping worldwide. New customers receive 15% off.


Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards Style Recap

by Tracy James


The SAG Awards is the particular awards show that makes us non-actors a little envious of the esteemed club of which we are not a part. They do seem like a fun lot. Unlike at the Golden Globes, fortunately at this event, the "worst dressed" list is a little shorter. Opinions varied wildly among the style critics, with some listing the same dress among the Best that another media outlet deemed the Worst. Here's my humble opinion on the matter.

BEST DRESSED

1. Lupita Nyong'o in Elie Saab

What a gorgeous combination of color and print. I'm a big fan of print, and it's not super prevalent on the red carpet, so I get excited to see it worn successfully. This gown proves one doesn't have to show a ton of skin or curves to be dramatic. Another aspect of this style that I love is that hues and long sleeves is season appropriate for January, something that (understandably) in California and on the red carpet is overlooked.

What a gorgeous combination of color and print. I'm a big fan of print, and it's not super prevalent on the red carpet, so I get excited to see it worn successfully. This gown proves one doesn't have to show a ton of skin or curves to be dramatic. Another aspect of this style that I love is that hues and long sleeves is season appropriate for January, something that (understandably) in California and on the red carpet is overlooked.

2. Reese Witherspoon in custom Giorgio Armani and Tiffany & Co/Harry Winston jewels

Again the actress chose to go classic with her look, and again does so successfully. I would've liked to see some volume in the crown of her hair, making her ponytail look a little more special.

Again the actress chose to go classic with her look, and again does so successfully. I would've liked to see some volume in the crown of her hair, making her ponytail look a little more special.

3. Kaley Cuoco in Romona Kaveza gown and Forevermark jewels

A beautiful shade of red made this simply cut but perfectly fit gown a hit. That haircut is hard to pull off, but she does it with flying colors. My only complaint is the subtle but visible tan lines on her best. C'mon, Kaley, that's an amateur mistake! 

A beautiful shade of red made this simply cut but perfectly fit gown a hit. That haircut is hard to pull off, but she does it with flying colors. My only complaint is the subtle but visible tan lines on her best. C'mon, Kaley, that's an amateur mistake! 

4. Jennifer Anniston in Vintage Galliano 

Now THIS is what we expect from Jen...a glam but slightly bohemian look that shows off that fabulous body, sunkissed skin and beachy locks. Looking like a golden goddess in a gown covered in peacock-print beading from Galliano's Spring 1998 collection. She played up the plunging neckline with a long chain necklace by Amrit and earrings and a bracelet by Fred Leighton.

Now THIS is what we expect from Jen...a glam but slightly bohemian look that shows off that fabulous body, sunkissed skin and beachy locks. Looking like a golden goddess in a gown covered in peacock-print beading from Galliano's Spring 1998 collection. She played up the plunging neckline with a long chain necklace by Amrit and earrings and a bracelet by Fred Leighton.

5. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Monique Lhuillier

Yet again, this funny lady (who I adore in VEEP) is spot on, choosing a dress that is flattering, age appropriate for a 54-year-old and fits absolutely flawlessly. 

Yet again, this funny lady (who I adore in VEEP) is spot on, choosing a dress that is flattering, age appropriate for a 54-year-old and fits absolutely flawlessly. 

6. Paula Patton in Aiisha Ramadan gown and Kimberly McDonald jewels

The actresses' olive skin glows in this gorgeous white beaded-head-to-toe gown.

The actresses' olive skin glows in this gorgeous white beaded-head-to-toe gown.

7. Sophia Vergara in Donna Karen Atelier

In a gown that showed off her jaw-dropping figure, Vergara and hunky fiancé Joe Manganiello definitely took the prize for Best Looking Couple. And check out that engagement ring!

In a gown that showed off her jaw-dropping figure, Vergara and hunky fiancé Joe Manganiello definitely took the prize for Best Looking Couple. And check out that engagement ring!

8. Danielle Brooks in Christian Siriano

Props to young designer (and Project Runway winner) Christian Siriano for designing such a lovely and well-fitting dress for a plus-size woman, a category oft ignored in the fashion market. Add to that the right hairstyle and makeup and you have an example of what it looks like when all of the pieces come together. The best part of Brooks' look is her shining visible confidence.

Props to young designer (and Project Runway winner) Christian Siriano for designing such a lovely and well-fitting dress for a plus-size woman, a category oft ignored in the fashion market. Add to that the right hairstyle and makeup and you have an example of what it looks like when all of the pieces come together. The best part of Brooks' look is her shining visible confidence.

MOST IMPROVED 

Rosamund Pike in Dior Haute Couture dress and shoes

Compared to the Golden Globes surgical mask DIY disaster of a dress, this billowed hi-low frock featuring floral appliqué and a detailed train is a step up. Clearly the actress wants to stand out from the crowd on the red carpet, and - for better or worse - she achieved that in this dress. One could speculate that the desire to tent her figure stems from her giving birth less than 2 months ago, although knowing Hollywood, her stomach is probably as flat as ever. I do applaud her for keeping her shoes simple, showing off her pretty legs. Simply put, this is one of those dresses that I can't decide whether it pleases or disgusts me - either way, it was memorable, thus worth mentioning.

Compared to the Golden Globes surgical mask DIY disaster of a dress, this billowed hi-low frock featuring floral appliqué and a detailed train is a step up. Clearly the actress wants to stand out from the crowd on the red carpet, and - for better or worse - she achieved that in this dress. One could speculate that the desire to tent her figure stems from her giving birth less than 2 months ago, although knowing Hollywood, her stomach is probably as flat as ever. I do applaud her for keeping her shoes simple, showing off her pretty legs. Simply put, this is one of those dresses that I can't decide whether it pleases or disgusts me - either way, it was memorable, thus worth mentioning.

SAME SONG, SECOND VERSE 

Emma Stone in Dior

I didn't think Stone deserved being on the Worst list, as - like she did at the Golden Globes by wearing a black and silver jumpsuit with a train - I admire her effort to be edgy and different. But that's just the problem - this look has too similar of a feel to that look, thus making it not that different at all. I would have been more impressed to see Emma Stone in a colorful gown (like her 2011 Golden Globes peach Calvin Klein), which would've showed her ability to be a chameleon.

I didn't think Stone deserved being on the Worst list, as - like she did at the Golden Globes by wearing a black and silver jumpsuit with a train - I admire her effort to be edgy and different. But that's just the problem - this look has too similar of a feel to that look, thus making it not that different at all. I would have been more impressed to see Emma Stone in a colorful gown (like her 2011 Golden Globes peach Calvin Klein), which would've showed her ability to be a chameleon.

WORST DRESSED

1. Amanda Peet in J.Mendel

Yet again, Peet easily makes the Worst list. Please, Amanda, do your career a favor and fire your stylist.

Yet again, Peet easily makes the Worst list. Please, Amanda, do your career a favor and fire your stylist.

2. Naomi Watts in Balenciaga

In fairness, I am usually not a fan of off-the-shoulder silhouettes such as this one, even on a narrow frame like Watts'. But what really landed this dress on the Worst list for me was the tinsel-like edging on the neckline. For the record, I love her accessories. And the navy color. The tinsel just kills the look for me.

In fairness, I am usually not a fan of off-the-shoulder silhouettes such as this one, even on a narrow frame like Watts'. But what really landed this dress on the Worst list for me was the tinsel-like edging on the neckline. For the record, I love her accessories. And the navy color. The tinsel just kills the look for me.

3. Amy Ryan in Honor

This feels like an ensemble for a lawn party at Lilly Pulitzer's house, not a red carpet. Throw in the unflattering shape and - oh dear - white shoes with bows (???), and this look quickly goes down the tubes.

This feels like an ensemble for a lawn party at Lilly Pulitzer's house, not a red carpet. Throw in the unflattering shape and - oh dear - white shoes with bows (???), and this look quickly goes down the tubes.

4. Jared Leto in a black tuxedo a Louis Leeman loafers

Leto's look can be summed up in the same way as all of his other looks of late: "For the love of God, cut that hair and beard!" 

Leto's look can be summed up in the same way as all of his other looks of late: "For the love of God, cut that hair and beard!" 

5. Joan Collins in a sequined...something

First of all, Joan Collins is still alive? Second, this look is not convincing me of that.

First of all, Joan Collins is still alive? Second, this look is not convincing me of that.

FREAKY FRIDAY

Julie Bowen and Ariel Winter

As in the 1976 classic Jodie Foster flick, I wanted Julie Bowen and her Modern Family daughter Ariel Winter to switch places for the night. Bowen's sweet pastel floral appliqué Georges Hobeika Couture gown seemed much too juvenile for the 44-year-old, while 16-year-old Winter looked well beyond her years in a Zac Posen number, rockin' those curves and cleavage! To be fair, small-framed Bowen doesn't have near the figure to pull off Winter's dress, and Winter's full figure wouldn't look right in Bowen's dress...but nonetheless I would've liked to see both of them in something more age appropriate. 

As in the 1976 classic Jodie Foster flick, I wanted Julie Bowen and her Modern Family daughter Ariel Winter to switch places for the night. Bowen's sweet pastel floral appliqué Georges Hobeika Couture gown seemed much too juvenile for the 44-year-old, while 16-year-old Winter looked well beyond her years in a Zac Posen number, rockin' those curves and cleavage! To be fair, small-framed Bowen doesn't have near the figure to pull off Winter's dress, and Winter's full figure wouldn't look right in Bowen's dress...but nonetheless I would've liked to see both of them in something more age appropriate. 


Even Fashionistas Get the Blues

by Tracy James


As "wardrobe prepared" as I like to think I am, that does not immunize me from the occasional malfunction. Just yesterday I was expressing love for my "travel boots," my oh-so-comfy tall waxed leather Clarks (not the sexiest brand, but a guilty pleasure of more than one in the fashion biz) that have pounded the pavement of many a city, this week the streets of Chicago. Had I followed the advice I would have given a client, I would have had said boots preemptively repaired at the beginning of winter when I realized the zipper of one was a bit sticky. But instead, as I slipped on the right boot this morning...you got it, the zipper gave out. Unlike some wardrobe malfunctions that can be temporarily repaired with a bit of creative rigging, there was no fixing this baby. I always carry a few safety pins, which come in handy for a broken bra strap or snagged hem, but 2 pins wasn't going to do the trick here.

Because I like to pack light, the only other pair of shoes that traveled with me were my suede stiletto platform booties - perfect with a sweater dress and tights for dinner out, but not so much with my BCBG skinny pants and heavy Burberry sweater for a day during which I would surely log 16,000+ steps on my Jawbone...not to mention the risk of unsightly frostbite on my ankles.

So what's a girl ready to hit the streets of Chicago to do? I'm proud to report I solved my issue within 30 minutes, here's how:

1. After changing my brunch reservation via Open Table to give me a cushion of an additional 30 minutes, I Googled Clarks, finding there was one only 3 blocks away (the benefit of staying in a hotel on the Magnificent Mile).

2. I fastened my boot together with the 2 safety pins I had, not winning any beauty contests, but improvising enough to get me 3 blocks. (If only I had about 100+ more, I could've resurrected the vibe of Elizabeth Hurley's infamous 1994 Versace dress.) 

3. Walking out of the hotel, I telephoned Clarks to alert them of my dilemma, asking salesperson Jake to pull every similar black boot in my size (for travel boots, I always buy a 1/2 size larger to accommodate a full gel insert) and set aside for me.

4. Arriving at Clarks a mere 10 minutes later, Jake was still setting out options, but in looking at the styles already before me, my choice was clear. I had already decided my skilled cobbler back home could indeed replace my zipper, so I knew I didn't want to get a second pair exactly like them. Therefore, I eliminated those styles. As for the others: wedge boots - got 'em, laced boots - 'got em. The only style not represented in my closet were the moto mid-boots that were the first I spied among the choices. Add to that the durable lug sole and waxed leather finish, not to mention the 50% off price...sold!

5. After grabbing my gel insoles from my old boots and inserting them into the new (since my insoles were already molded to my foot, this took out any worry of having to "break in" the new boots), I popped the old boots into the box of the new boots and handed them to Jake, who was going to ship them back to Birmingham.

I was in the store barely more than 10 minutes, thus still made my brunch reservation in River North. Today was a day I was able to demonstrate my motto (borrowed from mentor Tim Gunn), "Make it work!"


Close to the Vest

by Tracy James


I love a good vest. All kinds - fur, puffer, leather, jersey, wool...all year round - over turtlenecks, with jeans, over dresses, with shorts, etc. This added element to an outfit can add interest, depth, color or texture and make an outfit appear more complete, more polished. Not only is a vest smart for us Southerners from a climate standpoint, but ultimately, it can be highly flattering. Who needs a better reason than that to try this garment? See the versatility of the vest in this picture gallery of some of my favorite picks currently in stores.

Theory "Zita" Leather Moto Vest, $895

Elie Tahari "Tonya" Vest, $348

Johnny Was Linen Vest, $64

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Elizabeth & James, $345

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Theory "Jala" Asymmetrical Ruffled Double-Breasted Vest, $375

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Rebecca Taylor Buff Leather Vest, $449

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Theory "Womira" Lofty Quilted Vest, $695

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Ambition Military Vest, $64

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Essentiel "Hillbilly Rothko" Faux Fur Vest. $288

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Escada "Meg" Vest, $555

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Rebecca Taylor Floral Leather Vest, $348

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St. Laurent Embellished Suede Gilet, $4790

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Haute Hippie, $395

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Ralph Lauren Polo Cotton Quilted Vest, $198

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Best & Worst of the 2015 GOLDEN GLOBES

by Tracy James


If I had one word to sum up the red-carpet looks from the 2015 Golden Globes Awards, it would be "underwhelmed." No celeb wow'ed me nor was a clear front runner for Best Dressed. Not sure what is going on with the Hollywood stylists this year. For what it's worth, here is this Southern stylist's take on the best and worst of the night:

BEST DRESSED (in no particular order) 

1. Sienna Miller in a Miu Miu gown and Tiffany & Co. jewelry

This embroidered gown achieves the popular “cut down to there” plunging neckline while remaining sweet and ladylike. I give it props for its uniqueness among the others of the night.

This embroidered gown achieves the popular “cut down to there” plunging neckline while remaining sweet and ladylike. I give it props for its uniqueness among the others of the night.

2. Taylor Schilling in a Ralph Lauren gown with Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and clutch

Apparently red is actually the new black.

Apparently red is actually the new black.

3. Emma Stone in a Lanvin jumpsuit

Daring and playful with fitting hair and makeup complimenting the look.

Daring and playful with fitting hair and makeup complimenting the look.

4. Salma Hayek in Alexander McQueen

Many thought she over-accessorized or looked too bridal, but I liked the departure from her usual va-va-voom vibe, and thought she looked fresh and 10 years younger.

Many thought she over-accessorized or looked too bridal, but I liked the departure from her usual va-va-voom vibe, and thought she looked fresh and 10 years younger.

5. Kate Hudson in an Atelier Versace gown and Forevermark jewels

Trying too hard? Ok, maybe...but when your bod can look like this, who cares. That said, I would have much preferred a less severe hairstyle; a messy bun would have been a nice contrast.

Trying too hard? Ok, maybe...but when your bod can look like this, who cares. That said, I would have much preferred a less severe hairstyle; a messy bun would have been a nice contrast.

6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Narcisco Rodriguez

Talk about aging gracefully! Julia has never looked better. THIS is how you make white look flattering (finally, someone with the right undergarments!)

Talk about aging gracefully! Julia has never looked better. THIS is how you make white look flattering (finally, someone with the right undergarments!)

7. Eddie Redmayne in Gucci

Dashing and dapper, the actor’s perfectly fitting satin edged velvet jacket is a standout.

Dashing and dapper, the actor’s perfectly fitting satin edged velvet jacket is a standout.

8. Reese Witherspoon in a Calvin Klein gown and Tiffany & Co. jewels 

Safe, yes, but her classic look is well executed. (And includes $1.5 million in jewels!)

Safe, yes, but her classic look is well executed. (And includes $1.5 million in jewels!)

9. Kate Beckinsale in an Elie Saab gown with a Rauwolf clutch and Bulgari jewels 

Love this look - from the sparkly yet neutral gown to the smoky jewels and dark nails.

Love this look - from the sparkly yet neutral gown to the smoky jewels and dark nails.

10. Jennifer Lopez in Zuhair Murad with Stuart Weitzman shoes

I hesitated putting JLo on the list because I’ve seen this over-the-top look from her before. However, this diva IS over-the-top, so the look is fitting and she does look amazing. Plus, she’s wearing one of my favorite red-carpet designers (see the runway version on right). So she made the cut. BUT...where was an on-set stylist when you needed one to fix the wardrobe malfunction going on around her cleavage? I’m glad she avoided a nip slip, but it looks like a painful poke.

I hesitated putting JLo on the list because I’ve seen this over-the-top look from her before. However, this diva IS over-the-top, so the look is fitting and she does look amazing. Plus, she’s wearing one of my favorite red-carpet designers (see the runway version on right). So she made the cut. BUT...where was an on-set stylist when you needed one to fix the wardrobe malfunction going on around her cleavage? I’m glad she avoided a nip slip, but it looks like a painful poke.

WORST DRESSED (in no particular order) 

1. Keira Knightley in Chanel 

I don’t care if she’s pregnant, there is no excuse for this god-awful frock. Leave the butterflies for the baby mobile.

I don’t care if she’s pregnant, there is no excuse for this god-awful frock. Leave the butterflies for the baby mobile.

2. Amanda Peet in J.Mendel

Blousy, frunpy, rumpled, BLAH. Why an attractive, fit woman would choose to put herself in this is beyond me.

Blousy, frunpy, rumpled, BLAH. Why an attractive, fit woman would choose to put herself in this is beyond me.

3. Lana delRay in Travilla

Priscilla Presley, meet The Little Mermaid.

Priscilla Presley, meet The Little Mermaid.

4. Ruth Wilson in Prada

I think I made that dress in Home Ec circa 1987.

I think I made that dress in Home Ec circa 1987.

5. Amal Clooney in a Dior gown and Harry Winston jewels

I am so happy that when ultimate bachelor Clooney finally chose a wife, he chose an intelligent, accomplished woman over mere arm candy. But I am not happy about this look. It's surprising that the woman who dresses so impeccably in her real life, would look like she's playing dress up on the red carpet. The bridesmaid-ish black gown seemed to overwhelm her slim frame, especially when combined with her hair loose and long (don't even get me started on the chunk of visible hair extensions from the rear view)...but the white gloves are what solidified her spot on this list for me. All of that said, I think Amal could've cared less about this party - with the intellectual and important work she does, it must've seemed downright silly.

I am so happy that when ultimate bachelor Clooney finally chose a wife, he chose an intelligent, accomplished woman over mere arm candy. But I am not happy about this look. It's surprising that the woman who dresses so impeccably in her real life, would look like she's playing dress up on the red carpet. The bridesmaid-ish black gown seemed to overwhelm her slim frame, especially when combined with her hair loose and long (don't even get me started on the chunk of visible hair extensions from the rear view)...but the white gloves are what solidified her spot on this list for me. All of that said, I think Amal could've cared less about this party - with the intellectual and important work she does, it must've seemed downright silly.

6) Kate Mara in Miu Miu

WTF is up with that belt?? Add to that the multiple stud earrings and cuffs in each ear, and she looks like she raided Forever 21.

WTF is up with that belt?? Add to that the multiple stud earrings and cuffs in each ear, and she looks like she raided Forever 21.

7. Jennifer Anniston in St. Laurent by Heidi Slimane and Neil Lane jewels 

OK, there were probably worse dresses, but Jen is on this list because she can and should do so much better. Here she looks like a soccer mom who picked up a Jessica McClintock at Macy's for her husband's office Christmas party.

OK, there were probably worse dresses, but Jen is on this list because she can and should do so much better. Here she looks like a soccer mom who picked up a Jessica McClintock at Macy's for her husband's office Christmas party.

8. Rosamund Pike in a Vera Wang gown and Fred Leighton jewelry

Who in the heck convinced her that this gown (with its bodice seemingly made of 2 surgical masks) fit properly?? This look is so bad, I honestly don't know what else to say.

Who in the heck convinced her that this gown (with its bodice seemingly made of 2 surgical masks) fit properly?? This look is so bad, I honestly don't know what else to say.

9. Lena Dunham in Zac Posen

Bad shoes, bad hair and an ill-fitting, oddly shaped dress. Ugh.

Bad shoes, bad hair and an ill-fitting, oddly shaped dress. Ugh.

10. Julianna Marguiles in Ulyana Sergenko dress and Bulgari jewels 

Love Julianna, LOVE The Good Wife. But I do not love this retro look with its tea length and dark shoes. If she borrowed Amal's white gloves, she could channel a 1950's cotillion.

Love Julianna, LOVE The Good Wife. But I do not love this retro look with its tea length and dark shoes. If she borrowed Amal's white gloves, she could channel a 1950's cotillion.

11. Robert Downey, Jr.

Johnny Depp didn't show up this year, so Downey clearly felt the need to fill his usual role of donning "quirky" menswear with disastrous results. Between the bell-bottom pants, overlong jacket cuffs, terrible accessories and grotesque beard...it’s all a big “don’t.” 

Johnny Depp didn't show up this year, so Downey clearly felt the need to fill his usual role of donning "quirky" menswear with disastrous results. Between the bell-bottom pants, overlong jacket cuffs, terrible accessories and grotesque beard...it’s all a big “don’t.” 

The "I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER!" List

During the show, my girlfriends with whom I have watched the show for at least 10 years and I serve as the ultimate fashion critics, voicing our displeasures and disbeliefs aloud. Many times, I lament over looks that could have been worlds better had just a few changes been made. Here are 2 examples from this year's collection:                                                                                                                  

1. Claire Danes in a Valentino gown and Lorraine Schwartz jewels

I want to like this ornate gown that brings to mind Frida Kahlo. Lose the matchy-matchy earrings and ring, cut out that mesh to reveal a sexier plunging neckline, and tighten up the bodice and skirt....then we might've had something special.

I want to like this ornate gown that brings to mind Frida Kahlo. Lose the matchy-matchy earrings and ring, cut out that mesh to reveal a sexier plunging neckline, and tighten up the bodice and skirt....then we might've had something special.

2. Katie Holmes in Marchesa

What was the deal with women foregoing jewelry? For those who choose to wear absolutely none at all, I can't help but believe they are attempting to make some sort of statement. But in Katie's case, because she does have on 2 random bangles, it looks like she just forgot her earrings and/or necklace, either or both of which this look desperately needed! Add some jewels, chop off that horsetail of a hair extension, and put a little color on her cheeks, and this lovely dress could've shone. 

What was the deal with women foregoing jewelry? For those who choose to wear absolutely none at all, I can't help but believe they are attempting to make some sort of statement. But in Katie's case, because she does have on 2 random bangles, it looks like she just forgot her earrings and/or necklace, either or both of which this look desperately needed! Add some jewels, chop off that horsetail of a hair extension, and put a little color on her cheeks, and this lovely dress could've shone.