Styling With Mel

An on-going Column Published in The Alternative Press.

Empowered!

I returned tonight to Dress for Success Morris County to share in its December monthly networking meeting (part two of the three-step process to help women in need pursue an independent life). DFSMC hosts this monthly meeting for the women, to have a chance to stay connected with friends (I was told that some have been coming for at least eight years) and to feel empowered to continue moving in a positive direction. It’s an evening that includes dinner, an informational keynote speaker and babysitting for their children. What I witnessed was an overwhelming outpouring of love and uplifting energy.

I arrived just in time to see the women finishing dinner and enjoying each others’ company. Everyone looked polished and professional, as they wore outfits that they had selected from their suiting and styling session with a DFSMC volunteer. But what was most noticeable were their genuine smiles being among friends and supporters. I met Simone, who told me that she had just landed a job and “felt like a queen!” To Simone, this job means freedom. “When I first came to Dress for Success Morris County I had no confidence. Now, I am full of confidence and this new job is power.” Similarly, Nancy described her remarkable transformation: “I had given up on myself and now, I feel like a professional again. By coming here – they give you anything you need – you get over your negative feelings and find your strength again.”

With a warm introduction, speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms took the floor; from the moment she spoke she made a connection with the audience. Ceylone’s message rang true for these women, all of whom like Simone and Nancy have had much to overcome: Believe in yourself. In Ceylone’s words, “We are women. By design we are fierce and fabulous! Confidence is powerful!” Perhaps Ceylone struck a cord with everyone when she told her own story; growing up in The Bronx in an environment filled more with drugs than dreams. She was forced to leave college early to work and help support her family. But she had strong parents who saw her potential and she herself began to dream big. It was then that she decided to hold her head high and change her thought process. By chance, she landed her first job in Alexander’s Department Store and later advanced to Macy’s as a makeup artist, all because of this belief in her dream and her unwillingness to give up. Today she is a national make-up artist and image consultant, performer, speaker, and former Mrs. New Jersey America (2011).

She was as if a spiritual leader, and the women reacted with applause and appreciation. There was something so moving about Ceylone’s message: first, believe in yourself and then, give yourself the best chance for success by dressing the part. When she finished, she answered makeup questions and provided makeup lessons.

I think we were all transformed tonight.

What do you think?

Lisa: A visionary …

Are we ready for warm weather already? Lisa Curran is the owner and creator of Lisa Curran Swim, founded in 1997. An entrepreneur in the truest sense with a passion for fashion to match, Lisa is always visualizing ten-steps ahead. Lisa was a young girl who practically lived in a swimsuit growing up on the beaches of Cape May, New Jersey, who later dreamed of making a difference as she would discover a void in the design of women’s swimwear.

I sat down with this extraordinary woman. Here is Lisa, in her own words:

I always loved fashion, since I was a little girl, but I was more interested in the artistic side of fashion. I’ve always been drawn to that, rather than owning something with a label …

I started as a student at FIT which was near the old Barney’s downtown (New York). On my lunch break, I loved checking out the windows at Barney’s. At that time, they featured small and up-and-coming designers …

It turns out that my first job was an assistant buyer for Barney’s. It was a special experience for me. Barney’s was still owned by the Pressman Family and there was an intimacy about it then; they were truly interested in promoting brands. After my time at Barney’s I became a buyer for Gucci, just six months after Rose Marie Bravo hired Tom Ford. It was an exciting time to be in fashion. I could easily have stayed there and I loved my job, and yet, I always wanted to do a swimwear line …

At that time, I was newly married and without children. I knew that this was my moment to make the leap: I couldn’t understand why the swimwear industry wouldn’t sell separate pieces, and I saw a huge void in the market. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and swimwear separates needed to reflect that. I left my secure position at Gucci and in 1997 I began Lisa Curran Swim. I soon discovered that my previous business experience helped me to better understand what to do and what not to do. I began by shipping to three-to-four stores, and soon caught the eye of Sports Illustrated and Elle Magazine. That is when my business started growing …

Today, I am a mother with three children. I have created two separate collections for Lisa Curran Swim: the world of bikini separates and one piece bathing suits for moms whose needs may be changing but still want to look and feel sexy. I have always used the highest quality fabrics and linings, and everything comes from Italy. No other swimsuit company is doing that. We also design our own prints. My customer knows what she is getting when she purchases a swimsuit from the Lisa Curran Swim collection …

I continue to push myself and strive for perfection in all that I do. I have a great team. It is a nice-size business and remains privately-owned. I love working and I always have my eye on the next challenge …” ~ Lisa Curran

We are so glad that you do, Lisa. On behalf of women everywhere, thank you for thinking of us when designing the one article of clothing that can make us feel the most vulnerable. We’re glad that the little girl on the beach grew up to see her dreams come true!

Lezli’s Thoughts on Fashion

Lezli Salz-Bradley is the owner of Willow St. Boutique located in both Summit and Morristown, New Jersey. Her boutiques reflect her creative and adventurous style and carry a variety of interesting designer choices. When you walk in there is always someone ready to help with informed styling options. I love Willow St. because it reminds me of my time as a child in Southern California; chic dressing yet with a casual and bohemian edge (and much like the Ann Taylor-of old that I remember as a seventh-grader, shopping with my mom). Unplugged, here are Lezli’s thoughts …

“My father brought fashion into our home at an early age; he owned several women’s clothing stores in Denver, Colorado. I have always felt that fashion is one’s self expression and my way of exploring my inner self, good or bad.

I knew that I always wanted to be my own boss and if I could incorporate my love of fashion it would be a win-win!

I love bringing new designers and new styles to our clients. I can visualize certain customers in particular colors and styles. I love introducing newness. It’s a sort of high when I find a designer that offers something original. I love to wow my customers!

One of the things I notice is that women are hesitant to try new things. That’s where my staff shines; getting them to be adventurous and make the outfit their own. I love it when I hear ‘I would never have tried that if you didn’t suggest it, and I was the hit of the party!’

I think clothing does affect our self-esteem; whether it is hiding a bulge here and there or just bringing a smile to someone’s face with a sparkling necklace or earring.”

~ Lezli

Excuse me while I run to Willow St. to find those great pants that Lezli is wearing! Is that pleather with velvet trim?

Heather: “Creating is the most fun …”

When I met Heather at MONDO today, she was polishing silver bracelets that she designed, in order to keep them from oxidizing. It is one of the many details that make the process of designing her own jewelry completely personal. Her love of jewelry began as a child, raiding her mother’s jewelry box. She was always fascinated by color and enjoyed accessorizing from an early age. As Heather got older, “the fun part of my morning was  selecting the jewelry pieces I would wear and taking time to do it.”

When I asked Heather, now a wife and mother of two young sons, how she turned her fun play time into a solid business, she told me that it started simply enough, after she had her second son and had a little more available time (just a little!). She began to create her own bracelets and necklaces, because “my eye naturally goes to my neck.” Women would come to her and ask her where she found her beautiful jewelry, and when she would tell them that she made it herself, many wanted to buy it right off her wrist and neck! Eventually, Heather realized it was time to make jewelry for others. She started her business in 2006 and began selling her pieces at small, local schools and church events. Now for the first time Heather has her own retail space at MONDO, a lovely space in downtown, Summit, New Jersey, and is selling directly to her customers. She feels fortunate to be selling locally because that keeps it personal. “I am happy to be selling as an individual on a smaller scale. I think about my customers; I remember what they bought previously and I like to keep the relationship with them consistent and intimate. I think they appreciate that, too.”

Heather sleeps with her sketchpad next to her bed, ready for an inspirational thought that can come at any time. When her children were younger, she would take them to the playground with the sketchpad; they would be enjoying the freedom of play and so would she. Although she likes the entire process of making jewelry, Heather says that creating is the most fun and challenging.

I like to think of Heather drawing in her sketchpad, capturing the color of the world go by. I might be wearing that very image!

The secret to success

Tucked away in the basement of the Madison Community House is a gem called Dress for Success Morris County. Don’t let its size fool you; its mission is noble and its depth is far-reaching. This New Jersey chapter is just one of 100 Dress for Success affiliates, and the impact of this global non-profit organization now reaches twelve countries. What is the mission of Dress for Success? “To promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” In other words, Dress for Success is here to assist women who have lived with severe hardship turn their lives around. Extraordinary.

I met with Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County. She said that the Dress for Success program is to “be there for women on their entire professional journey. It’s about helping women to regain their confidence. When they walk into the boutique they don’t see what we see – that they have so much to offer.” Stefanie also walked me through how the journey works as a three-step process:

Step One: The Suiting Program – A free-of-charge shopping experience where women are welcome to shop the boutique with the assistance of a volunteer personal shopper, and select attire that will earn them respect in the interview process. Each woman receives one hour of dedicated time and may choose one suit or business casual outfit, several separate pieces, two pairs of shoes, a handbag, two pieces of jewelry, and a coat and extras, including cosmetics, pantyhose, etc. Everything is donated from individuals and corporations and only top quality items are chosen for the boutiques.

Step Two: Monthly Networking Groups – An opportunity to network and be with other supportive women, including dinner (babysitting provided) with a keynote speaker.

Step Three – Career Center – One-on-one assistance in the areas of interview techniques, resume review, skill enhancement, job related internet searching and career coaching.

Beyond the shopping and the information and the coaching lies the magic behind Dress for Success: the transformation and building of self-esteem for women who need it most. Stefanie notes that you can actually see the the change: “When women come in to the boutique for the first time they are unsure and naturally wary.” Many have never had someone help them to feel their best selves. As a result of the personal attention they begin to believe in themselves and feel confident … the best part is that the kindness “comes full-circle; many women come back to mentor others and to help.”

Again, I say extraordinary! What do you think?

Danielle

Chiffon is my fabric of choice. It is luxurious, it never goes out of style, it always looks fresh and is forgiving.” ~ Danielle

I met Danielle, then the BP Manager of Nordstrom, a few years ago, before I spoke to the BP Fashion Board. (The BP Fashion Board at Nordstrom is a year-long internship for very lucky high school girls who are interested in fashion and want to learn about the inner workings of Nordstrom and the fashion world in general.) I have always loved Nordstrom, the friendly department store, and after meeting Danielle, I was excited to have a special contact on the inside.

Now a few years later, Danielle having just celebrated four years at Nordstrom this past July, was recently promoted to Manager of Collectors, and doing quite well. Promotions from within happen often at Nordstrom, voted #2 by Forbes as one of the happiest companies for young professionals. We sat down to talk about what led Danielle to Nordstrom, how her style has evolved since working there, and what girls and women want fashion to do for them …

Melissa: How did you find yourself working at Nordstrom?

Danielle: I applied to Nordstrom, Bloomingdales’s and Macy’s directly out of college. Nordstrom and Macy’s got back to me first and Nordstrom was willing to start me right away, while Macy’s wanted me to wait until December. I heard that you can get promoted within six months at Nordstrom, and not wanting to wait, I accepted a temporary position with them. I was soon working full-time and was promoted to Manager of BP* within the first year.

Melissa: Have you always been interested in fashion?

Danielle: I have always been interested in fashion. My Mom and my Aunts were so stylish. They took me shopping and introduced me to a world of beautiful things. My Grandmother lived in Brooklyn and when we would see her, we always checked out a special boutique called Clothes Horse. Seeing them being fabulous really changed me.

Melissa: Has your personal style evolved since working at Nordstrom?

Danielle: I am more brand conscious and I am more interested in clothing that lasts. That is why I love to wear chiffon blouses. I am tired of disposable clothing and I would rather spend money on the real thing with lasting quality than buy several things that fade in a minute.

Melissa: What do you notice about how fashion affects women?

Danielle: When I worked at BP, our Junior Destination Department*, I noticed that girls are more interested in finding a good look for the moment – a special occasion. They don’t linger but have an image in their heads of what they want. They are picky but determined. Women, on the other hand, want to feel confident and secure in their clothing choices; they want to make a statement with their fashion. And they are looking for a head-to-toe look. I see this in The Collectors Department, where the fitting room experience is essential.

Melissa: We will be returning to the fitting room for more with Danielle …

Shoe Fetish

Fetish: inanimate object worshiped as magic.

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks “shoes first” when getting dressed for the day. This summer, major department stores like Macy’s, Saks and Barney’s added square foot space to accommodate the growing interest in shoes, according to Bloomberg Businessweek (August 27). And growing interest leads to growing sales. Macy’s executive vice president, Muriel Gonzalez says, “We see a high degree of passion among our customers for shoes.”

I’m not sure why but I connect with my shoes. They complete the story of how I want to present myself for the day. That day starts with the big question, what am I going to wear?, followed by the next one, which shoes?! Now that we are transitioning seasons I am reminded to check my closet for shoes I already own before being lured into buying new ones. I know I will be surprised to find something I forgot I owned and will probably fall in love all over again …

Returning to Tel Aviv

American fashion is clean and reserved; Israeli fashion is always looking for the surprising twist.” ~Merav

Merav and her family moved to the New York area from Israel five years ago – they settled in New Jersey and we became neighbors. Now her family is returning to Tel Aviv and I am sad to see her go. Except that there is a silver lining for me: every so often we will be having a virtual coffee date and through Merav’s eyes I will be peaking into the world of Israeli fashion.

According to Merav Tel Aviv is a bustling, metropolitan city, much like New York. There is a youthful and creative vibe that fills the air and newly-graduated, young fashion designers are ready to make their mark and set the world on fire. “It’s not haute couture and not established,” says Merav, “but it is unique and filled with the unexpected.” Once a quarter, young designers show their wears at the Designers’ Market; in addition, many stores encourage Israeli designers by showcasing their designs. Hot designers, like Sigal Dekel and Frau Blau are trending on the scene – the newest craze? Shoe boutiques filled with exciting shoe designs, like Kobi Levy.

I’ll let Merav settle in and then we’ll talk more from Tel Aviv  …

Oh, Valentino!

Consignment shopping is the best – especially when you happen to hit a sale. If you don’t already have a tried and true high-end consignment shop near you, find one now!

Years ago I worked part-time at a local shop. It was a little dangerous for me. I was always first to spot the finds as they entered the store. It was also a life-changing experience because I learned a new way to add to my wardrobe and shop with distinction. What a thrill to find beautiful, often couture pieces that I would never be able to own at the original prices. As it happens, I’m not often impressed with labels and I love to mix high and low end fashion – it’s my favorite way to dress. But there is a reason that couture is what it is; generally speaking, the fabrics are exquisite and the fit is perfection. That’s what you are buying – quality and longevity. To be able to own a few noteworthy gems makes me feel special, too. And I know that if I care for and preserve them, they will be with me forever.

That is just what I did today. I bought my first (and perhaps my only) Valentino piece – a white, eyelet blazer! I bought it on sale, 50% off an already majorly-reduced price: a jacket that retails for over $1700. It’s in perfect condition and what can I say, but oh! oh! oh! Valentino!

And there is more … I found an edgy striped sleeveless COMME des GARCONS shirt, again 50% off. It’s fitted with an uneven hem giving it the feel of a peplum, a current fashion trend. Another benefit of consignment shopping is that not only can you find high-end designer names at much lower prices, but you also acquire unique pieces that you cannot find anywhere else. This is remarkable in today’s cookie-cutter shopping experience where it is virtually impossible to find variety and one-of-a-kind dressing. Here is a way for you to truly stand out while building a wardrobe.

My advice? Run, don’t walk to your nearest consignment shop. Go with my blessing!

It makes good scents

I start my day with a brief, silent meditation. Not a crazy, over-the-top meditation where I have to think too much about whether I am doing it right or not. I simply light my candle called Spa Therapy “Calming” and I try to think positive and grateful thoughts. Before I do anything else. Before I eat breakfast. Before I see my family. Before I even think about what I will wear for the day and put on my makeup. Because what I am learning is that working from the inside – out and tending to my inner voice affects everything else that happens to me during the day. Nothing, no matter what you put on your body, is more important than feeling good on the inside.

It makes good scents.

Am I stuck in the past?

I watched fashion stylist Lloyd Boston on a television show helping a woman update her look after losing 45 pounds. You may not know him but Lloyd Boston is a television host and regular stylist on The Today Show. He recently wrote a book called, “The Style Checklist,” and his fashion sense is on-target.

I’ve seen makeovers before but this one was different; what intrigued me is what Lloyd said about this woman’s mindset. He said that although she had already lost the weight, her head was still in the past. She didn’t see herself as she looked today. And when asked about the last time she changed her hairstyle her answer was … at twelve. He went on to say that he sees many women getting stuck in the past in some way, and not just with weight loss. Perhaps it is a particularly powerful decade where a woman attained a certain success, or perhaps it is about a look that worked especially well at one time. Whatever the reason, many of us have a difficult time moving forward and modernizing ourselves and I began to wonder …  am I stuck in the past too?

I certainly hold on to makeup partly because I am more comfortable with what is familiar, but also if I am honest, because I am daunted by the extensive makeup choices. I am more comfortable making fashion decisions but it makes me think that there are many more of us who are discouraged by today’s options. Is it possible that we are all just a little stuck?

It’s a cover up!

While getting ready for vacation I uncovered a summer fashion conspiracy: not only is it wrenching to find a swimsuit, it can be just as daunting (and expensive) to find a swimsuit cover up.  I went through the process recently and it was eye-opening and horrifying at the same time.

One trip to the department stores and you will find a variety of cover ups but their wearability is questionable. What am I talking about? Let’s start with the tunics and the wide butterfly arms – sometimes adorned with fake-jeweled appliques at the neckline. No, that is not for me. These cover ups would age me before my time and I would have to move to another part of the country to wear them. Next, how about designer cover ups? Chic? Yes. Wearable? Perhaps. But I learned the hard way that they can cost you more than the actual swimsuit. I found a charming DVF (Diane Von Furstenberg) cover up short with attached hood – so cute, I began to imagine the fun times I would have while wearing it. And then I checked the price: $260!

I was lucky when I found a beautiful Gottex swimsuit (my favorite designer). But finding a cover up? I was getting nowhere, fast.

Finally, I found what I was looking for at Marshall’s  – for me, a hit-or-miss, feast-or-famine kind of shopping experience. It is white gauze with gold stripes. I liked it for its simplicity and at $20 it was so well priced that it was almost worth the frenzy to find it. Several stores and some emotional damage later, I was ready for the beach … because it’s not just about the swimsuit, it’s also what you wear over it.

No question … it’s a cover up!

Aging gratefully

I celebrated a birthday this week and I am in a reflective mood. I turned 52 and appear to be keeping good company. Barbie is just a year older than I am. The ever-popular mini skirt (second most-sold skirt worldwide behind the A-line) turns 50 this year. And news on the fashion street is that the clothing company known for its youth inspired advertising, American Apparel, has hired a 60-year old woman in its new advertising campaign called “Advanced Basics.” Her name is Jacky and she has never modeled before. Like the famous Hollywood stories of unknown starlets snatched from ice cream parlors, she was spotted in a New York City restaurant for her youthful energy and spirit. How cool is that?

Age is what you make it. Feel young and you are young. Stay positive and you will live with joy and purpose. Embrace your age and the world will embrace it too – because getting older means getting better. I meditate on this every day.

Although I won’t be wearing a mini skirt any time soon, it is nice to know that we are both in this together, aging gratefully.

Mirrors and scales

A little secret: I haven’t owned a scale for years. The way I measure my weight is to try on clothes (usually my trusted jeans) and see how far I can button them. Every now and then I do actually weigh myself when I am at the doctor or have a reason to take my sons to the doctor. When this happens, I strip down as much as decently possible before I move the slide ruler. And this is why I don’t own a scale; I would weigh myself constantly and become obsessive about the whole process.

Mirrors are another story. I have to keep them in the house. They are a piece of furniture and I can’t do much without them or escape the fact that they are a necessity. But they, too, can lead to obsessive checking and re-checking. That is why I refuse to get the hideous magnifying mirror for my bathroom – I already see more than I care to! I don’t need anything else enlarged.

Mirrors and scales are a double-edged sword. Do we need them? Perhaps. As the saying goes, they’re just keeping it real, but in a harsh kind of way by forcing us to face ourselves with all of our imperfections. The real truth is this: they can’t measure the essence of who we are on the inside. There is no slide ruler or digital number for that.

One thing we can see in a mirror – our own smile shining brightly back at us. Next time you look in a mirror smile back and tell yourself how great you are. That is worth its weight in gold.

Why not wear it again … and again?

Many years ago, I bought an orange and white striped skirt from a new place called Anthropologie. At the time, I had never heard of the store but I loved the skirt because it was long and soft and fluid. I also liked the fit and I knew that I would wear it often. Not long after I found the skirt, I bought an orange Vince t-shirt. It was a match made in heaven. This pairing has become my go to favorite.

Yet the other day when I pulled it on for what seemed like the hundredth time, there was a moment when I hesitated and wondered if it was finally, too much. NOOO … the moment passed. Actually, if you love something, why not wear it again … and again? Our American culture encourages us to buy more and have more and yes, there is a time to do so, but when it comes to looking good, buying less means having more.

I visited with a childhood friend yesterday. She has been living in Paris for the last 28 years, and of course, I asked her about French fashion. She said that French women never like to look like they are trying too hard. They wear make-up but not so that it shows. They choose simple pieces and style them impeccably without much fuss. They never wear sneakers on the street. And they would rather spend money on a few favorite pieces and wear them well.

Let’s be French together and rejoice in wearing only the things we really love.

On trend versus trendy

There is a difference between fashion that is on trend and fashion that is trendy. The trick is to figure out which side you want to be on. I try to choose on trend because I find that when I choose trendy, I often make mistakes. Have you done the same?

Fashion that is on trend is about modernizing your looks, even the classics. Buying on trend these days, means adding certain pops of color to your wardrobe. Now that it is summer, for instance, bright colors are everywhere. Accessorizing an outfit by adding an orange or yellow tee or a colorful scarf with your neutral khakis is on trend. Choosing a new color for a manicure or pedicure is subtle yet very much on trend.

Fashion that is trendy, on the other hand, is buying something of-the-moment simply because it is of-the-moment, without really thinking about whether it works for you and your body type. This is when mistakes happen. Recently, I bought skinny light gray jeans and regretted the purchase as soon as I brought them home because really, who looks good in skinny light gray jeans? I wonder … even a six-foot model?! But I got caught up in the craze over skinny jeans and I wanted to be trendy. I have made so many other fashion mistakes because I went trendy – oversized earrings, full, billowy blouses that will never look right on me – I can’t even remember them all.

Hopefully, I am a little wiser at taking the best of the new and not overdoing it. I am off now to try a new shade for a pedicure – opaque orange. On trend but not over-the-top. And it’s a pedicure so it’s not a huge commitment; it can come off anytime.

Sweet 16

My son turned 16 yesterday, and although it is not customary to refer to a young man’s birthday as “sweet,” it is to me. Because he is sweet and I can’t believe that little baby with the big, red cheeks is now 16 years old, and a dashing young man.

In our 16 years together, we have never shared fashion tips or shopping sprees or hung out at the mall in search of an outfit. (Although I will tell you that he is the first to compliment me on my outfits! See? … Sweet!). He dislikes shopping so much that it is more about trial and error as I travel to stores on his behalf or purchase on-line, and cross my fingers hoping that:1) he likes the clothes I bought, and 2) they fit him. In his world of fashion it is more about function than anything else. He might prefer a certain name brand short or t-shirt, but in general he is a no-frills, no-nonsense dresser. You can see where I am going with this; we have very little in common when it comes to our expectations of fashion and our fashion choices.

Or do we? There is one thing we have in common. Shoes!! Boys covet their shoes! The other day my son reminded me that it was time for new sneakers – and fast. It occurred to me that one again, it is all about the shoes! We have all heard the stories of people anxiously awaiting (in some cases, actual rioting) the arrival of the latest Nike basketball shoes (Air Jordan XI and Foamposite One Galaxy, are examples). I can tell you as a mother that the prices for said shoes are astronomical and it doesn’t stop at one. Boys need several shoes: a pair for every day and additional pairs for separate sports. My son needed to update his basketball shoes each year. I remember how he especially loved his black LeBron James shoes.

So I suppose we do have something in common when it comes to fashion. That is reassuring, somehow.

Happy Birthday, Son! Would you like a new pair of shoes???

It doesn’t have to be a bikini …

… to be sexy. One-piece swimsuits are making a splash, and their alluring qualities can no longer be overlooked. Whether modern and sleek, or updated retro, there is a style for you and for your body type. In other words, you have options.

I have always preferred one-piece swimsuits, even when I was younger. Actually, I think I wore a bikini one summer during high school, and that was it. I love the support of one-piece swimsuits as well as the look of sleek sophistication. Now that I am older and am more sensitive about my body, I know that I will only wear a one-piece … ever.

My dilemma at the moment: summer is coming and it is time to get a new swimsuit. And the thought of shopping for one is daunting. My collection of three trusted suits has served me well and has lasted several summers. I have preserved them, cared for them, even rotated them, careful not to outwear them; yet they continue to age. I hesitate to enter a dressing room and face the fluorescent light.

My suits are all made by Gottex, an Israeli swimsuit company known for their luxurious fabrics and prints. They understand the female form and I love the extra support, especially in the stomach. I prefer suits with a higher leg to elongate the look. Gottex knows my body and I have stayed with them. Today, there are so many top quality and chic one-piece designs from which to choose, that perhaps I will broaden my scope, and can hopefully break in a new swimsuit in time for summer. I hope that you will join me, keeping in mind that sexy comes in a one-piece, too.

Bad hair days

The last few days have been tough. A build-up of heavy humidity resulting in: bad hair. To add insult to injury, I have just cut my hair and it will take a good week to feel like myself again.

Isn’t it too early in the season for so much humidity? What is a girl to do?

For starters, let’s take a deep breath. All will be well. These are crazy weather days and we have to try to adapt. Second, feel the love for yourself. Today is a new day and the forecasters say … gorgeous with low humidity.

Find the funny

My heel broke off my shoe today. It happened in the middle of my busy day, leaving me no immediate options. I couldn’t go home to change. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t go barefoot. The only thing I could do was to laugh and keep limping. How interesting, because earlier this week I dropped my phone into the bot of soup I had been preparing. Imagine – a phone buried inside a pot of boiling soup! What could I do? I felt like crying. Instead, I gave way to laughter, and that felt much better. Things happen and perhaps it was the universe’s way of reminding me to slow down. I cleaned it up and picked up some Chinese take-out.

Fashion mishaps occur all the time and catch us off guard and unprepared. A broken heel, a piece of paper caught on the bottom of a shoe, a slip peeking out from under a skirt (without realizing it)  – and I won’t even mention the even more embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions – they are commonplace. We end up looking silly. Despite that, it is what we do in that moment of embarrassment and mortification that reminds us of what we are made. Staying playful provides a healthy cushion in life.

My shoe is now in the hands of a trusted cobbler. I am home and the image of my broken heel is behind me. All is well. There was no harm done, only a few hours of hobbling. I think that is what it means to find the funny: to embrace the absurdity of a moment – even a fashion moment – with a sense of fun.

Don’t just shop – Q

My mother is responsible for introducing me to QVC, the home shopping channel on television. A few years ago I had no idea what QVC was. My induction started simply enough. My mother would call me from her home and describe an attractive piece of clothing on QVC, and then ask me if I thought it was worth buying. Eventually, after locating the QVC channel on my own television, I began to tune in to see what my mother saw. What I discovered was a very pleasant shopping experience: warm and friendly hosts offering a little bit of everything. These days, I often turn to QVC just to see what is on and sometimes, I go so far as to keep it on for company. For those of you who are familiar with QVC, you know what I mean. For those who are not, I will enlighten you.

Founded in 1986, QVC was one of the first brands to sell directly to you, the consumer. You can meet the designers as you shop for clothing and other lifestyle and household items from the comfort of home. Not only can you meet these designers, but you will also save travel time, and often save money. Or will you? After making several mistakes and returning numerous items (and paying delivery costs for returns), I don’t think I saved money. You can’t always tell how something will fit, and there is a good chance it will have to go back. Then, there is the question of whether you really need what you are buying or can afford it. But that is true wherever you shop.

After a few years of shopping at QVC, here is what I know: follow your favorites and stay with what works for you. My successful purchases have been jewelry; there are far fewer returns. I have some favorites. I love Joan Rivers’ jewelry, especially her affordable watches. I am partial to her signature bee pins and keep one in my jewelry box (Melissa means bumble bee in Greek). I also love the Jacqueline Kennedy collection, which replicates the jewelry that the First Lady wore during the Kennedy Presidency. When I wear a piece from this collection, I feel more connected to Jackie Kennedy, whom we all know as a larger-than-life style icon.

I notice that QVC is fast-becoming a popular destination for fashion designers. You can now find celebrities such as Isaak Mizrahi, Heidi Klum, and The Kardashians selling their brands on QVC. Additionally, QVC now highlights New York’s Fashion Week and upcoming seasonal trends. My excitement peaked a few years ago, when my favorite stylist turned fashion designer, Rachel Zoe, began selling her new collection – Luxe Rachel Zoe – on QVC. Seeing Rachel Zoe show off her designs and discussing the latest looks allows me to feel like a fashion insider.

QVC is fun and user-friendly. It has definitely become a part of my fashion experience. Proceed with caution and it can do the same for you.

What exactly is a trunk show?

And is a trunk show as exclusive as it sounds? I just saw an ad in The New York Times for an Alexander McQueen Trunk Show, Thursday, May 10 – previewing the Fall 2012 Collection. It certainly sounds off-limits to most of us. But guess what? It’s not.

Generally, the term trunk show means an opportunity for a designer to preview his/her current or future collection, usually at a retail location or special venue. Often, a designer will present a season ahead, before the line is made available to the public (as in the case of the Alexander McQueen event on May 10). April and May are traditional months for fall fashions; September and October are big months for spring fashions. Originally, trunk shows got their name because designers would transport their merchandise from the design studio to the store, literally in giant trunks with straps.

Here is what is appealing about a trunk show: it is personal and intimate and designed to be inclusive. With smaller events, you have an opportunity to meet the designer yourself (I am off to a trunk show tonight), and if not the designer, at the very least, you will meet a helpful representative and have a conversation. You can learn about the fashions and upcoming trends, months before full collections hit the stores. And you can explore without feeling pressure to buy.

Trunk shows are everywhere and they are not just for women; men’s clothiers also hold trunk show events. You can find high end designer trunk shows, entire shoe collection trunk shows, jewelry trunk shows, and popular among the bridal industry, bridal trunk shows. There is even the new virtual trunk show (hosting trunk shows on the Internet). Not so mysterious, they are available to us all. How can you find out about one? Check your favorite boutiques and department stores and let them know you want to be alerted to upcoming trunk shows.

Now you know this special fashion secret, you fashionista you!

Shop your closet first

There is magic when you shop your closet first. You have heard me talk about the excitement of finding old treasures as well as the necessity of cleaning out and purging. It is worth mentioning again. At the first signs of a new season, you will be tempted to run to the mall, local boutique or larger retailer, but before you do, take a moment to pause and shop your closet first. You will be happy that you did and your clothing budget will thank you. Remember this:

Everything old is new again. Here is my reality: I think I need a particular item, only to discover that I already own it. Perhaps it is the t-shirt that I bought at the end of last season and never wore (in which case, it isn’t old at all!). Perhaps it is the skirt that I bought for a special occasion and barely wore, and I now have an event for which it is perfectly suited. Or perhaps it is the pair of high-waisted black jeans that still fit and are actually back in style.

If you can’t reuse, then simply reduce. If you haven’t worn something in a few seasons, it is time to let it go. Do it. Just let it go. If it doesn’t fit you now or you are not comfortable with it, don’t wait for a time when you will be. That time never comes. Rather, clear the way for clothing that is comfortable and does fit. I have a pair of Dolce & Gabbana khaki slacks that I love; they are smart and casual and tailored. As much as I love them, however, they are way too small because I bought them at that freaky moment when I was much slimmer than I am now. Today, they don’t fit, and having them in my closet just makes me feel bad about myself. So why keep them?

If it is well-worn, it is time to let it go. Let go of whatever can’t be cleaned or repaired – especially true of handbags, but also true of just about anything. And don’t get me started with shoes. They are in a category all their own; we often keep them, even if they don’t fit properly or if they pinch at the toe, simply because they are beautiful.

Shop your coat closet. I found an old jean jacket (several years old) that I completely forgot I owned. You, too, may find perfectly-fashionable coats in your closet, too.

Your wardrobe is a living, breathing entity. It is a part of you, and it is beneficial to get close to it every now and then. Take stock of what you have, what works and what does not. Shop your closet first!

(I am off to my own closet – it is time to say good-bye to several things of my own!)

It is the little things

Today I gave myself an instant pick-me-up. I got rid of some gray hair! I use something called vegetable glaze, which is a non-chemical color alternative. I discovered that I am allergic to chemicals when my neck and back broke out in a raging rash. Combined with my WEN cleansing conditioner, See Styling with Mel, If not now … WEN?, the color lasts several months. The combination of the refreshing color boost and catch-up time with Isak, my stylist, did wonders for my morale.

Perhaps it isn’t adding color to your hair or eyebrows; perhaps it is a manicure or a pedicure, especially on a warm, sunny day. Perhaps it is a glossy, shimmery lipstick. Whatever it is, do something for yourself.

My other favorite little pick-me-ups are:

– Revlon Moon Drops Lipstick – Snowsilver Rose – with Chanel Gloss

– Chanel Illusion D’Ombre eyeshadow

– A mani/pedi for the color, yes, but mostly for the foot massage! I die for it!

– Flowers of all kinds – in my house and on my favorite handbag

There are many things in life that we can’t control or change. All the more reason to do what we can. Don’t sweat the big stuff. Enjoy the little things.

I have nothing to wear!

Let me set the scene. You are standing at your closet staring at your clothes. Just staring. At your clothes. Your mind goes blank. After several moments of drifting into a vacant stupor, you finally hear yourself say, “I have nothing to wear!” Tell me this hasn’t happened to you. Of course, this happens more as the seasons change. I have news: it is now full-on spring and weather conditions are all over the place – seasonably warm, unseasonably warm, cool, cold, sun, clouds, wind, rain – and this can only mean one thing … the season of closet staring has begun.

Actually, I think this particular dilemma is a girl-thing. Women need to feel connected to what they are wearing. For women, clothing is very personal; it is the closest thing to their bodies, their hearts and spirits. Men, however, don’t often get emotional about their clothing. In fact, I am sure there are conversations between men and women happening right now, which go something like this …

Woman: (staring into her closet) “I have nothing to wear today.”

Man: (walking by, peeking into same closet) “What are you talking about? You have lots of clothes.”

Woman: (incredulous) “No, you are not looking.”

Man: (more incredulous) “What do you mean I am not looking? I am looking at a closet full of clothes.”

Woman: “You don’t understand.”

Man: “I guess I don’t.”

familiar?

Don’t panic. Keep one or two key transition pieces at the ready. In the end, it is better to wear one singe, durable and well-loved item over and over, than wear several that are neither. Take a moment to go through your closet and create an out pile once and for all. If you haven’t worn something for at least a year, it should go. Perhaps having a paired-down closet will help cut down on your staring time.

Good luck!

Remembering Titanic

In a few days, April 14th will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I shudder as I think of it: 1500+ lives lost in the freezing water, the terror the victims must have felt before the ship sank, stories of an eerie, glassy calm that made the iceberg impossible to detect, not enough lifeboats for all the passengers and those that were used not filled to capacity, the bravery of the band who played until the very end, when sadly, they went down with the ship.

The world had recently celebrated the turn of the century, and with it, came new ideas, inventions and trends. World War I would start just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic – July 28th, 1914 – changing the world forever. Twentieth-century fashion was changing, too, and the trends would liberate women in new and unexpected ways. By the year 1914, ankles were seen, corsets were sliding down a few inches, tighter fitting “hobble” skirts were being worn, and the greatest accessory a woman could have was a small dog on her arm (the smaller the better), preferably the new breed called the Pekingese. “The smaller the dog the more valuable, best weight under eight pounds.” Vogue.

The twentieth-century introduced the motorcar, and it became necessary for women to travel lightly and efficiently. In just a few years, the fashion world would spin into the Roaring Twenties, creating even more freedom for women. On the horizon – shorter haircuts, trousers, empire waistlines and the eventual demise of the corset, and the rise of a more masculine look thanks in part to Coco Chanel, who created no-frills, easier dressing with a soft new fabric, called jersey. In addition, women would soon be able to purchase affordable, ready-made clothing in stores, or buy a sewing machine and make their own.

I will be thinking of the Titanic on Saturday. It was a significant moment in history, and in many ways, the end of an era.

Spring bonnets

Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd, and off at 59th, where, I assume it was going to Bloomingdale’s to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake – as almost all hats are.”  Kathleen Kelly, “You’ve Got Mail”

Hats and Butterflies. Both are sure signs that spring is here. I have a thing for hats; I am always trying them on when I find myself in a department store or boutique, and I imagine myself wearing one. Suddenly, a powerful feeling comes over me that I need to have that particular hat; that my life will be more exciting when I wear that hat. However, too often I have bought hats that sit in my closet, never to be worn in the outside, real world.

The other day I tried on a straw cowboy hat at Nordstrom. It was sitting there, lonely, just near the exit, waiting to be tried on. So I obliged. It was western and chic at the same time. In that moment, I was a cowboy … cowgirl … doing my cowboy thing. I looked, I thought, I pondered. But I knew that it would end up unworn, like all the other hats in my closet, and I reluctantly left the store.

I guess I love hats because they hold a promise of adventure. I think of Indiana Jones and his fedora (that hat has certainly been everywhere). I think of my favorite, cloche hats; they are both fashionable and mysterious and remind me of flappers and Coco Chanel. And I think of elegant parties and royalty. We all know that the British love their hats and fascinators. It was almost a year ago that we watched the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the many hats on parade. (see Styling with Mel, Hats off to the British!c, May 5, 2011).

Maybe this April I will find a hat that will not be a mistake but rather a perfect addition to an outfit. Maybe you will too. Adventure awaits us!

What is age-appropriate?

This is a question we ask ourselves. Recent events have led me to think about it. I thought about it as I found myself at the BP Department at Nordstrom’s, searching for a yellow blazer. For those of you who may not know, BP is the junior and young women’s department on the top floor at Nordstrom. (I love the styles and the prices are better, too!). I thought about it as I shopped with my friend at a local consignment shop, and we noticed that the clothing could fit her 10-year old daughter. I thought about it when I met with my young friends a few weeks ago (see below:Teen Talk). They were contemplating whether some teens were dressing too old for their age. And I thought about it as I read an article in Sunday’s New York Times, written by Cathy Horyn (a favorite writer, by the way). The article addressed women’s love of platform shoes. Her concern? Women of a certain age (like me) could seriously hurt themselves trying to navigate the height of this spring’s high-heeled platform trend. And so I am wondering … what is age-appropriate?

As we age, we still have the need to look and feel young. We don’t want to cross over into another, older phase before we are ready. But what does that mean exactly? And how subtle do the changes need to be before we alter our style? What happens, also, when we can no longer make those judgments ourselves and see the truth for what it is? Are we going to be stepping out he door wearing a huge Fashion Don’t band over our eyes?

And what about a young girl? If she is inclined to want to try the new fashion trends, what is “too grown up?”

I don’t have all the answers. I do know this: we are all trying to figure it out. In the meantime, I think it is possible to find a happy place in the middle when it comes to fashion. Don’t be afraid of color, a little height is good, skirts and dresses are meant for everyone, the right accessory will add glamor to any outfit, and finally … it is okay to have fun with fashion.

Jeans

Straight-leg. Boot cut. Skinny. Trouser. Jeggings. And now another name to pair with jeans: Acne. This Acne, however, is not those pesky red bumps on the skin, but a hip and trendy brand for jeans and other causal chic wear. The trend is very distressed, literally torn jeans and jean jackets. Even better, is the stylish torn jean skirt with exposed zipper. Love it! Imagine my surprise when I found the skirt on-line, only to discover that it was mostly sold out (and the jeans were no longer available).

As spring kicks in and we move to warmer weather, jeans and a tee is a solid go-to choice. I live in my jeans and wrote about the necessity of a good-fitting jean just last spring (Let’s talk jeans, March 31, 2011). I think the most important thing to remember about wearing jeans is this: they are meant to fit snug. Often we choose loose-fitting jeans because we think we will look slimmer, but we choose wrong. Baggy jeans just make us look and feel larger than we are. Find a well-fitting jean with a little give – spandex or lycra – keep any eye on where it hits your waist to make sure it matches your body type, and you are set.

Additionally, there are many fun shoes and sandals available this spring to complete your look. Flats are everywhere, and come in all colors and textures. I love the idea of wearing colorful espadrilles with jeans – I am searching for a pair myself. Wedges are my standard and favorites worn with my boot cut jeans. They give me the added height that I love and elongate my leg.

Of course, colored jeans are hot this spring, and you can find them everywhere. And basic black jeans are slimming and stylish and can be dressed up or dressed down. Perhaps you may be inspired to try a pair of classic white jeans for attitude and crispness. Paired with a striped shirt or sweater, or even a classic gingham check, there is no better way to welcome the new season than a white jean.

My choice? The classic blue jean. Whatever you decide for yourself, make sure you have one or two pairs of well-fitting, go-to jeans. You’ll be in style, and who knows – you may even be wishing for Acne!

Teen talk

I found my voice a year ago when I started writing Styling with Mel. And since that time, I have wanted to hear other voices and participate in other conversations. That is why I started writing a fashion blog in addition to my column. Today I met with four charming young women: Catie, Hannah, Rachel and Dana. Catie’s mom, Christine, joined us as well. They were open and forthcoming as we talked about fashion and how fashion affects their lives as middle school teenagers. I was impressed with how clearly they expressed themselves. Here is a part of our conversation …

Mel: How long do you remember being interested in fashion?

Rachel: Since first grade when I had pink cowboy boots which I wore every day

Dana: Some of my earliest words were, “No Daddy, these shoes!”

Hannah: Since 5th grade, and I am now a designer who specializes in rooms and interiors

Catie: Since middle school began

Mel: What does fashion do for your life and for your self-image?

Girls: Fashion is a good thing. When you wear nice clothes, it makes you feel better. And it tells the world how you feel about yourself. Being unique and having your own flare is important, also.

Mel: Is it different as a teenager? How so?

Catie: Yes it is.  As a teenager, it is time to make individual decisions and express your personal style. Mom is not selecting all of your clothes anymore.

Hannah: Sometimes, there is too much grown-up and inappropriate dressing as a teenager. I want to stay as young as I can for as long as I can.

Mel: If you were a grown woman, what would you say to your teenage self about fashion in the teenage years, that you may have forgotten with time?

Dana: Be patient with yourself and don’t be too quick to judge.

Catie: Remind yourself  that you are an individual and that you don’t have to look like everyone else. Don’t go overboard, but you can still be yourself.

And there was more, as we touched on topics such as school uniforms (pro or con?) and what will be worn at the upcoming 8th grade graduation. Our talk was jam-packed!

I thank Catie, Hannah, Rachel, Dana and Christine for sharing their thoughts with me and I look forward to continuing our conversation …

My mother, my muse

My mother is always there for me. Loving me, guiding and supporting me, and supporting my passion for fashion. She has a style all her own and she wears clothes beautifully. That style is simple and chic, and she has taught me that less is more. She loves soft clothes and good color, whether it is a trouser or a dress or her favorite thing to wear, a great sweater. I know, because as soon as I was old enough I started borrowing her clothes, and some never made their way back to her closet.

We are a mother-daughter pair who shop easily together. I remember having the most fun with her when I was in my young and mid-teens, in the mid-late 1970’s. There was a boutique attitude and a one-of-a-kind feeling toward dressing. I think my mom was having fun during that time too. We lived near Westport, Connecticut, and my mom loved to shop in a new, very hip store called Ann Taylor. I remember a few of her favorites: a red-plaid corduroy blazer with puffed shoulders by a young designer named Betsey Johnson (under the label Alley Cat), and a knit midi-skirt with patches of color that skimmed my mom’s long legs. She wore it with brown boots as I recall. I also remember lots of long necklaces and great belts. How I wish she (I) still had these masterpieces in her (my) closet!

It is harder now to find unique, non-mall style clothing. But we shop together anyway and I still love it. Of course shopping with my mom has always been more about hanging out with her and having lunch afterwards. As you know, I don’t really like to shop, which is tricky because I do love wearing stylish clothes.

My mother is my muse. She has led the way for me and I love her effortless style. But I think what I love most in my mother is her willingness to see me for who I am and let me express myself my way. True, she opened the door for me and introduced me to fashion, but she also allowed me to walk through the door on my own. What a wonderful thing for a parent to do.

Oscar worthy

When I wrote about the Oscars last year (And the Oscar goes to …) I ended by saying that it would be wonderful if they brought back Billy Crystal because he is the true Academy Award winner in my book. A reminder that wishes can be powerful! This year’s 84th Academy Awards was indeed hosted by Billy Crystal for the 9th time, and I think he did a mah-velous job! He was funny and gracious and warm without being mean-spirited or aloof, and it seemed as if everyone was having a good time. I have a childhood friend who fills seats at the theater, and she said this was the best time she had in years. This year’s ceremony touched me, because there were reminders of why we love the movies, including the auditorium set up to look like the old-fashioned movie houses, and the interviews during the show. There is nothing better than having an emotional and shared storytelling experience in a dark theater. For that time, we are not strangers.

I am in heaven because Oscar day celebrates my two passions – movies and fashion. There were a few actors who stood out this year. They are memorable because their look was complete – from the dress to the hair and makeup and the jewelry and accessory selection. They owned their look and wore it with confidence and grace. My favorite was Michelle Williams in a coral Louis Vuitton dress with soft peplum detail. I was so pleased that she lightened her hair since the Golden Globes, because the color was perfection. She also added her own touches, including a pink clutch and pink lipstick, which was darling set against the darker coral of the dress. Loved it! I also enjoyed seeing the actors from The Help: Viola Davis in a striking green Vera Wang gown carried off with her natural hair (Brava, Viola!), Octavia Spencer in a Tadashi Shoji gown which draped her figure beautifully, Jessica Chastain in a black and gold Alexander McQueen gown and her long red hair flowing like tresses from a Pre-Raphaelite picture, and Emma Stone in a bold Giambattista Valli  cerise-hue gown with bow. Some did not appreciate her choice because it was so similar to Nicole Kidman’s red Balenciaga gown of a few years ago, but if you look closely there were certainly differences, and a lot of time has passed since 2007. In addition, I think the color was beautiful on Emma, and she made the dress her own. Finally, I give a special nod to Gwyneth Paltrow, who looked elegant and sophisticated in a one-shoulder white gown designed by Tom Ford, with a matching floor-length cape. Her statuesque figure said it all. She kept everything minimal: soft makeup, sleek and simple pulled-back hair and just a few accessories. Uber chic.

There were, of course, fashion misses but I will leave that to Joan Rivers and the Fashion Police to address. I loved the evening and the glamor of it all. No, I won’t be giving up my tradition of watching The Academy Awards. I have too much fun.

We all need a little lift now and then

Recently, my mother wore a sweater with detachable shoulder pads. The sweater looked wonderful and it was not the first time that my mom has led the way, nor the last, I am sure. I knew that I wanted to own a pair too. Since then I have been searching in vain for shoulder pads, trying every department store and boutique. They were nowhere to be found until today. I googled shoulder pads and found them … where else? … Amazon.com.

If you have been around long enough to remember the ’80’s, then you will certainly remember shoulder pads and the impact they had on fashion. In fact, shoulder pads in the ’80’s had a life of their own, as if your shoulders could simply takeoff with arms attached and fly away! I guess it made sense then since hair at that time was also very big. The two needed to balance each other out. Today, however, shoulder pads have slimmed down just enough to add dimension, lift and support where needed. Of course shoulder pads are not always needed, and it is not necessary to wear them all the time. But when worn properly, adding shoulder pads to an outfit provides perfect proportion.

My order is on its way, and I cannot wait to try them with a few sweaters of my own. In addition, I have a dress that would look better with shoulder pads. But I am most excited to try them with my black blazer. It is a soft wool fabric, simple and unlined. However, because there is no lining there is also no shape. I thought my shoulders could carry it but I was wrong. Without pads everything is rounded and lacking definition. I am expecting that will change.

Shoulder pads are a simple addition to an article of clothing, yet one that packs a big punch. We women often feel as if we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Let us help ourselves by adding some cushion. Because we all need a little lift now and then.

An outsider’s view of New York Fashion Week and a valentine for Whitney

It is time again for New York’s Fashion Week. While most of us are dreaming of a glorious spring and awaiting the first signs of the new season, the fashion world is looking ahead to fall/winter 2012. Held biannually in September and February , New York is home to this exciting extravaganza of fashion trending. In September 2010 Fashion Week moved from Bryant Park, midtown, to Lincoln Center, uptown. I found myself there recently, taking in the sights and sounds. I remained outside on the promenade, but it was inspiring nevertheless to feel the splendor and imagine the thrill inside the tents. (I am not sure – are there still actual tents at Lincoln Center?).

What seems like something that is out of reach for most of us is actually attainable, if only in our attitude. A recent article in The New York Times Style Section, entitled Browsing, noted that although most of us don’t attend Fashion Week and we may not even know the designers’ names, we can pretend that we do. We can live and breathe Fashion Week by reflecting on our own wardrobe and styling ourselves in the most positive light. Start with a statement piece or a fabulous-colored accessory. Do you have a special coat, for instance, that is simple, elegant and fitted, or perhaps a handbag that elevates your look? Now is the time to wear it and be your most fashionable self.

Even Fern Mallis, who is widely credited as the creator of the New York Fashion Week and for uniting designers, editors, buyers and celebrities, is bringing her life directly to us, the masses, the industry outsiders. How? By launching her own jewelry line on QVC; combining her experiences in India and abroad and turning her inspirations into beautiful, select and affordable pieces. How excited I was to see her on QVC. It gave me hope that Fashion Week can be mine too.

And this is how I found myself in New York, at the promenade of Lincoln Center, with my single statement piece, an animal-printed handbag. I attended Fashion Week my own way. On the outside, being in.

p.s. today’s article is a Valentine to Whitney Houston, whom I love and will miss

Wu be gone

On Super Bowl Sunday I was up early, getting ready for the big game. First, I made sure that I had a hearty breakfast. Next, I did my morning exercises, and finally, I got dressed. I made sure that every plan was in place for success. And then I left … for Target.

Designer Jason Wu was launching his limited-edition collection on Sunday, February 5, and in a sense this was my own private Super Bowl. Mine and every other crazy fashionista! For those of you who may not know him, Jason Wu is a relatively new designer, who has been gaining popularity since his first full collection debuted in 2006. He is known for his elegant style and for pairing clean lines with feminine details. His designs are inspired by both Western and Eastern cultures, and that gives his clothing its unique look. For his Target collection, he said that he was inspired by French new wave cinema and the 1960’s vibe. Since this was the second time I would be experiencing a designer launch at Target (my first was September 13th’s Missoni madness), I knew where the pitfalls were and I was ready. Or so I thought. This time I arrived early. Last time I arrived after 9:30, and since the store opens at 8:00 by the time I walked in much had already been picked over and taken. I would not make that mistake again. This time I knew exactly where to find the collection. Last time I wasted valuable time looking for it throughout the store.

Sadly, everything I did to prepare was in vain. When Target said limited edition they really meant it. By the time I walked through the doors at 8:40, many of the clothing pieces were gone and the accessories were completely sold out. I was hoping to see some of Jason Wu’s stylish handbags. A bit dazed and confused, I selected a few soft and sleek silk-like tees and a charming blue trench coat with floral detail. I paid and left the store with high hopes. When I returned home I researched what was available for purchase on-line. It was then that I discovered that the few on-line items sold out almost immediately, and most of the in-store items were not available on-line. What did this mean specifically? If you didn’t find it in the store the first go round, you were out of luck. It was gone. Gone and gone.

While home I tried on both tees; loved one and did not love the other. When I tried on the trench coat I could see that it was almost right but a little too big. And I realized something else. I am not really a trench coat girl. I never have been. But I got caught up in the moment. Since I didn’t want to hang on to clothing that wasn’t right for me, I drove to Target a few hours later and returned one of the tees as well as the trench coat.

In the end I was reminded of two important fashion lessons. First, it is not worth it unless it fits you perfectly and you absolutely love it – no matter what the cost. Second, I do not enjoy this kind of shopping. Sure there is a rush. But it is also stressful. Often you end up buying something you almost like simply because it is there. And I think it brings out the worst in my fellow shoppers. A kind of hoarding accompanies this ‘catch-as-catch-can’ shopping spree; people holding on to there own items with a vengeance, people checking to see if you will hang on to yours, some to the point of following you around the store, and people waiting outside the dressing rooms in hopes of picking up your rejects. I think this will be the last time for me.

My Super Bowl game? It was a bit of an upset. On the bright side, I am the owner of a beautiful Jason Wu gray tee with lace print detail. I know I will wear it often and I am happy to add it to my Missoni collector’s items. And there is still the football to look forward to.  You know, that other Super Bowl.

9 thoughts on “Styling With Mel

  1. Pingback: What is age-appropriate? | speaking of fashion

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