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. 


Baubles & Pooches Event - My Top 10 Fave Accessories

by Tracy James


Last week I guest hosted a Stella & Dot event benefitting the Greater Birmingham Humane Society in memory of my beloved dog Rufus. After spending time styling clients in the jewelry, I was asked by several who could not attend to list my favorite pieces from the current collection. For for two more weeks you can shop the show online at http://www.stelladot.com/ts/wa816 and the profits will go to the GBHS.

Since a lot of you, like me, have attended or at least been invited to similar shows, I want to explain why this is different. As you can imagine, I have been approached by just about every social sales company to become a representative. Because I see it as a conflict of interest - wanting to remain neutral for my clients - I have always, and will continue to, say no.

Recently, upon a visit to Jerry La Suer's cool downtown loft (I was interviewing/shooting him as my September B-Metro Magazine Style Icon feature), I had the opportunity to peruse his display of Stella & Dot accessories (Jerry is a Senior Director and Founding Leader of the company). I've always liked Stella & Dot's pieces and been impressed with their trend representation and quality, but frankly, as I told Jerry, in the past I've found them to be priced higher than I want to spend for costume jewelry. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Stella & Dot has significantly lowered their price point (but, important to note, not their quality)! 

Knowing I have clients whose wardrobes could use some of these pieces, I asked Jerry how I could arrange for my clients to see the collection. He suggested I host a trunk show, and I told him no, I didn't want to do anything like that. Then Jerry made me an offer I couldn't refuse: how about I bring clients by his place for a viewing and he would in turn donate all of the profits from the sale to the charity of my choice. DONE!  My obvious charity of choice is the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, for a variety of reasons, including the support they showed me after the tragic death of my beloved dog Rufus, and continue to show as the resulting criminal trial is pending.

I figured if Jerry was donating his profits, I should donate my time. What resulted was a highly successful event! Many clients who couldn't attend asked for purchase recommendations in order to purchase online. So I thought I'd share my Top 10 favorite/most recommended pieces - it was difficult to choose only 10! As I mentioned, for another two weeks, you can shop the show online: http://www.stelladot.com/ts/wa816 and profits will go toward the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.

1) Engravables

Jerry introduced me to these months ago when he presented me with a necklace that reads "#CHIC" that I wear almost everyday. I love layering it with some of my other delicate necklaces. I also love the look of multiple charms - whether an engraved piece, birthstone, symbol, etc - as one pendant. A favorite is the numbers, reminiscent of the old NYC Plaza hotel numbers that appeared on the necks of fashionistas who were able to snag one after the hotel was remodeled and the room numbers sold as jewelry.

2) Reverie Chandeliers

A fabulous gold chandelier earring is a must-have in my wardrobe. Beacuse Stella & Dot jewlery endures so well, I bought these to replace all of the other versions I've bought that have turned or tarnished too quickly. I love the antique gold color and ethnic inspiration of this design.

3) Christna Link Bracelet 

One reason I love this bracelet in gold or silver is that, with it's detailing like hammered links, it could easily pass for fine jewelry. It looks great paired with a gold or silver or two-tone watch.

4) Rebel Pendant

OK, so everyone has this necklace...and by "everyone," I mean lots of celebrities. But that's because it's cool and oh-so easy to wear.The pendant is just the right length and weight to hold its own when worn alone.

5) Double Clutch

For my younger or trendy clients - in citrine perforated saffiano (see previous post) leather, this clutch offers a pop of color to any outfit. I've been obsessed with perforation lately - I love its modern vibe and textural interest.

6) Tansy Fringe Collar

Dramatic and intriguing, this bold statement necklace in lovely antique gold is a true conversation piece...one that can define an outfit, whether it be a cocktail dress or white t-shirt and jeans.

7) Strength & Inspire Bracelets

Clearly I'm a fan of purchases that benefit a good cause, and through October 100% of net proceeds of these bracelets benefit the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research and creating awareness of the importance of early detection. I also love jewlery that has personal meaning. On a much lighter note, Bama fans will love the elephant design!

8) Gitane Tassel Necklace 

Faceted metallic glass beads add sparkle to this rosary-style silver plated brass necklace. Removable tassel features two smoky quartz accent stones. S-hook closure allows for versatility in styling. Wear it doubled with S-hook with or without tassel, or wear it long or tripled without the S-hook.

9) The Kimberly Necklace 
There's something to be said about a piece of jewelry versatile enough to add an ethic chicness to a t-shirt and jeans as well as a unique elegance to a streamlined dress.

10) Petra Braided Bracelet

If you haven't figured it out already, I like versatility, especially when it comes to the ability to dress up or dress down a piece of jewelry. Wear this statement piece with boyfriend jeans and jacket with rolled up sleeves or with a sassy cocktail dress. A pair of diamond studs is all you need to complete either look.

Further investigate in detail or order any of these pieces at http://www.stelladot.com/ts/wa816.


Fall Happenings

by Tracy James


Despite the fact that the weather has yet to "snap," Labor Day has passed, which in the South means Fall has arrived, bringing with it school days, football and fashion. As the leaves change, we start thinking about switching out our closet for the season...and so begins my busiest season as a wardrobe stylist. Here's a bit about what I'm up to during these Fall months: 

Transitional Wardrobing

"Can I wear white jeans after Labor Day, and if so, how?"

"It's mid September but 90 degrees outside, what the heck do I wear?"

These are questions I receive on almost a daily basis early in the season. Popular services include shopping end-of-season sales to snag deals on a few transitional items or particularly fab Spring/Summer items that are such great finds they are worth buying now for next year. Many clients also like to "shop their own closet" for transitional outfits - I will put together combinations that are still temperature appropriate but depart from colors and ensembles that scream summer.

Closet Revamp

As cliche as it is, the analogy is true: a closet is like a garden, in need of constant pruning lest it become choked with weeds. The result is not being able to see the forest for the trees, so to speak - becoming so overwhelmed with the quantity of items in your closet that you not only lose track of what is even in there, but instead of taking the time to mix and match, you wear the same 4-5 "safe" outfits over and over again. The end of each season/beginning of the next is a great time for a Closet Revamp: we will inventory what you have in your closet and evaluate its contents, including your purchases over the past year. This will make it easier to create a "List of Needs" for the coming season, factoring in any missing wardrobe staples and taking current trends into consideration. These are items I can find for you on a shopping trip together, or for you to go it alone (often after a Revamp, these lists are shorter than one expected).

Fall Shopping 

Need a refresh? Want to add in current trends but are unsure which to chose or how to execute in a way that is age and lifestyle appropriate? Now that Fall styles are finally in stores (they arrive later in the South), I have been spending a lot of time shopping for clients. Over the years, I've found that the best way for my clients to get the most "bang for their buck" is to pre-pull - allowing me to edit selections, taking into consideration what he or she already has in her closet. It also permits me to introduce a few items to push clients out of their comfort zones. My favorite comment to hear is, "I would've never even pulled this off the rack but I love it!" Investing in the services of a professional to help you make the right style choices saves money in the long run, as you not only will end up with items that will mix and match with the rest of your wardrobe and endure through the seasons, but also you won't end up with items with tags still on them when Fall is over!

Wardrobing Sessions/Lookbooks

Once you have the right items in your closet, you owe it to yourself (and your wallet) to make the most out of these items. Some of my clients have no problem shopping for themselves, but limit their vision to only putting together pieces that were bought together. "Mannequin dressing," if you will. In order to have a closet that is focused on quality and not quantity, the ability to mix and match is imperative. During wardrobing sessions I will put together new combinations, complete with accessories and shoes. We can either take pictures for a printed out Lookbook, or, in this digital age, many have enjoyed an iPad album, with folders for different outfit occasions - for example: Work, Weekend, Date Night, etc. You'll feel like you have new clothes without even leaving your house! 

Tween & Teen Consulting

Whether we like it or not, we live in a first impression society, thus the clothes we chose to wear and the condition in which we keep our garments and ourselves send a message to the world. More than just style, but also modesty and grooming come into play, and this is a lesson better learned sooner than later. My 7 years of founding and teaching a Fashion Camp for girls aged 5-15 has given me a unique insight into the minds of these young ladies and the pressures - both peer and societal - that they face. Thanks to that experience combined with my passion for bolstering self esteem and confidence in girls starting at an early age, I have developed a niche  - and knack for, if I do say so myself - when it comes to relating to these girls and earning their trust. From helping girls make the best choices for their shape (which may be different from that of their friends), to mediating mom and daughter who can't seem to see eye to eye when shopping, to steering the new kid in school away from the goth look, to conducting a makeup and skincare lesson for rising 7th graders, to helping girls entering college prepare for sorority recruitment...the circumstances with which I've dealt run the gamut, and I find each so rewarding. I love helping girls embrace their own individuality and realize that style does not come at any particular price point, from a certain store, or in a specific size. Confidence is stylish at every age. 

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Saffiano Who?

by Tracy James


I recently posted an Instagram of a Saffiano leather weekender bag by hook + ALBERT, which begged the question for many, what exactly IS Saffiano leather?

Saffiano leather was first made in one of Italy’s most famous tanneries and was a signature and patent of Prada. Originally made from the highest quality calf leather, the name "Saffiano" comes from the cross-hatch print (a series of diagonal lines) pressed or stamped into wax that coats the leather. This treatment and distinctive markings render the leather resistant to stains and scratches, making it water repellent and easy to clean. Many high-end fashion houses use Saffiano leather for its many positive attributes.

Today the print is used on a wide range of leathers and PU coated splits. PU leather is leather created from the fibrous part of the hide left once the top-grain of the rawhide has been separated from the hide. An artificial layer applied to the surface of the split and is embossed with a leather grain. So although what we see is the same Saffiano print across all the current designer brands, what is actually underneath the surface could be no better than your cheap split leather with a surface coating simply printed with the cross hatch design “Saffiano Leather.” Therefore, make sure you know what you're paying for!


The Eyes Have It

by Tracy James


Last week I helped a client select eyeglasses and RX sunglasses (from the more than 3300 Schaeffer EyeWorks has available!) To some, frames this may seem like just another accessory, but keep in mind that this "accessory" is worn directly on your face and helps create the image that is the first impression you give someone, especially if they make eye contact upon meeting, as they should. (See the pop-culture inspired sunglasses chart at the end of this post as evidence of just how important what shades one chooses can be.)

As far as which frame for particular face shapes, all you really need to remember is "opposites attract." In other words, if you have a round face, avoid round frames and try square instead. If you have a square face, try oval frames. Hair and skin color also comes into play. You want to coordinate, accentuating undertones or highlights, but be careful not to match, which can wash you out.

Frames by SALT Optics

Frames by SALT Optics

When it comes to sunglasses, you can allow your aesthetic preferences dictate a bit more. My client, like me, likes a dark lens with a lot of surface area (covering above and below the eye, offering the added benefit of wrinkle prevention) and some peripheral coverage. So a Jackie O style frame with ever-so-slight wraparound fits this bill. 

Sunglasses by Robert Marc

Sunglasses by Robert Marc

If you have a classic style, consider wayfarers, which are versatile in that they can be dressed up or dressed down. On that note...guys, sporty frames like Revos or Maui Jims - especially with with cables attached - is not appropriate for suited or dressy casual looks. 

No matter what you choose, protect your peepers! They're the only ones you'll ever have!

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Fashion Goes High Tech

by Tracy James


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

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

 

DVF for Google Glass

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

Tory Burch for Fitbit 

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


Chic Tip

by Tracy James


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

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TREND WATCH

by Tracy James


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

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

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

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Fashion Flicks

by Tracy James


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

1. Unzipped (1995)

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

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2. The September Issue (2009)

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

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3. Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)

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

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4. Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010)

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

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

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

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For The Boys Part II: Collar Styles

by Tracy James


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

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

1.  Collar Points - The tips of the collar.

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

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

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

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

6.  Spread – The distance between Collar Points.

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

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

And finally, the collars themselves

Next up...Cuffs. Stay tuned.