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.


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.)   


Chic Picks: Neutral Flats for Spring

by Tracy James


While I'm known for always wearing some sort of heel, most of my (less height challenged) clients prefer something more sensible. In the South, there is that span of time in between boot weather and sandal weather, otherwise known as Spring. What to wear before baring those pedicured toes? A ballet flat in a neutral nude or metallic is the most versatile, easily coordinating with the whites and colors Spring brings. When I was recently asked by a client to find online  some of my favorite options in this category (that take comfort into concern and will stay on her feet), I decided to share the wealth here. Click on picture for more information on each style. (Want a transitional style with a heel? Stay tuned!)   


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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