Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Color of the Year . . . Hmmmmm

I don't know how long the Pantone company has been choosing the color of the year.  I don't know why they do it or how they pick it.  All I know is that some years I'm happy with their choice and other years not so much. Their winner for 2014 falls in the not so much category.

From the Pantone press release:

“Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”

“An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”


Okay, now I see the problem.  An enchanting harmony of fuschia, purple and pink??  No wonder I get chicken skin every time I see it.  Pink, along with its variants, are non-starters for me. The perfect garment or pair of shoes could appear at my doorstep by magic and if they were pink I'd toss them in the donate bin.  Even as a little girl I eschewed pink.  As an adult, I truly believe I'd break out in hives if I put it on.  I'm certain that I'm not feminine enough to wear it. It's a girly-girl color and I'm not a girly-girl.

Mind you, on others I can find it quite fetching. 

(Image from Instagram)

I know I'm going to see this color everywhere this year.  From makeup to shoes to dresses, it's applied to anything you can imagine.

Apparently it will show up at lots of weddings.

As a confirmed pink-phobe, I'll be avoiding it.  What's your take on Pantone's color of the year? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dry Clean Only? Really? Are you sure?

We've covered the topic of care tags here.  Some of them are clear and easy to follow. Others, not so much.  One area that seems to create confusion is dry cleaning.  Prevailing wisdom is that "dry clean" on a tag means you can wash it or dry clean it, whereas "dry clean only" means you must dry clean.

I have some clothes that I send to the dry cleaner.  This is mostly because I know I can't press them properly or make them look decent after cleaning.  Things like suit jackets.  I regularly wash and iron silk shirts with no ill effect.  I wash cashmere, I wash merino wool, I wash linen. 

Still, I'm a little hesistant when I have a garment whose fabric content isn't quite as familiar as 100% silk or 100% wool.  Who knows how blends or fabrics like modal will respond to be tossed about in the washing machine?  I've normally followed that prevailing wisdom and sent anything with the dry clean only tag to the cleaners.  Being the rebel that I am, I decided to try home laundering just to see the result.  The experiment involved this dress:

I've had this Tibi dress for about a year and a half. I love it.  It's a viscose/poly/spandex blend with a care tag that clearly states DRY CLEAN ONLY.  Yes, it's in capital letters.  Scary.  Let's face it, it's a white dress and even though I take care when I wear it and don't spill my lunch in my lap, I can only wear it a few times before it needs to be cleaned. 
Throwing caution to the wind, I tossed it into my washer on the delicate cycle in cold, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.  The machine stopped. I opened the door and peered into the darkness.  Perhaps my beautiful white dress was ruined. Maybe it was 1/2 the size or maybe it was discolored.  Surely there was some reason for the frightening care tag.  Ah, no. It was fine.  It looked perfectly normal.  No ill effect whatsoever.  I laid it flat to dry and it didn't even need to be pressed. 
Obviously this success has gone straight to my head and I'll soon be stuffing everything I own into the washing machine.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Acrylic - fiber of the future or sent from Hades?

Way back in the 1940's, DuPont created the first acrylic fibers for use in fabrics.  They marketed it under the name Orlon.  It was considered a great step forward in fabric technology being practically indestructible. Once you dyed it, it remained colorfast. It was crease resistant and lightweight.  It was intended to mimic wool and early on was used in a variety of household applications like upholstery and carpeting.

It was inexpensive to manufacture and became a common part of the blend of textiles that went into making clothing.  It can be used to make tweed skirts, it gives them the nubby look.  Likewise it is often used in sweaters to get that lofty wool feel.  When spun and woven differently, it can be thinner and finer, seeming more like cotton or silk.  It's no longer manufactured in the US, though still widely available from suppliers in Mexico, India, and other countries. 

Sample of acrylic fabric

A Nina Ricci skirt, list price $1,200 - 20% acrylic

Tibi Anson skirt, $295 - 50% acrylic

Traditionally known as a cheap alternative to various natural fibers, it's been around in lower end garments for decades. I had plenty of garments made from acrylic as a kid, from sweaters to mittens to boot liners and socks.  Now even high end designers have been sneaking it in as part of a fabric blend. What's not to love, you ask?  Why am I even writing about it? 

As fake fibers go, it is among the worst, in my opinion.  It is prone to pilling, it has very little to no give, it has a rough texture that gets worse with laundering or dry cleaning, and it tends to lose its shape over time. The latter problem being rather odd given that acrylic is often used to help a garment achieve a certain shape. 

Acrylic yarn is cheap, as in inexpensive, yet many knitters and crocheters prefer not to work with it because it lacks softness and can be painful to work with given the lack of stretch.  It can irritate the skin of people with sensitivity or conditions such as excema.

It's awful. Period. Even if initially pleasing in a garment, after washing and wear it becomes very much like wearing a Brillo pad. 

In general I prefer clothing made from natural fibers - cotton, wool, silk, linen.  Some viscose, which is made from wood cellulose can be comfortable, such as modal.  I stay away from polyester, though it can be acceptable as part of a blend.  The relatively recent resurgence of acrylic in clothing seems to be a cost cutting measure that allows for greater profit. I steadfastly refuse to buy anything with acrylic in it. 

Off my soapbox.  Are there any no-buys in the world of fabrics for you? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Style Resolutions for 2014 - part three

The last part of the process, after determining what you want to do with your wardrobe and purging what doesn't work, is deciding what you need.  There may be holes that need filling, basics that have worn out or extras and accessories that will add personality. 

I've decided on a few things, some of which will get wear mainly in the spring and summer, and some that will span seasons.

First, a pair of cognac sandals. I have black sandals in a mid heel and a flat, as well as a dressy light grey sandal. These Via Spiga Fola2 sandals come in black and natural, the latter being the color I'm interested in.  They have gladiator details, a walkable heel and will work well with skirts, shorts and cropped pants.

Next on my list is a white pencil skirt.  The caveat is that it must be washable.  The perfect one is this Jonathan Simkhai knit pencil skirt, which unfortunately has sold out on Shopbop. I keep stalking hoping for a pop back. 

It's actually a cream and white blend, as you can see in the close up below.  Washable!  I must have it.
My wardrobe has a lot of black, grey, white, camel and navy.  Both the above items would work very well with what I already have.  Which is the whole point of building a wardrobe, no?
I've been thinking about a patterened jacket. Something to slip over all those neutrals that would work in the office and on weekends. I haven't quite found what I'm looking for yet.  Maybe something like this.
Last on my list (at least for now until I come up with something else to want!!) is a red handbag. I have a camel bag I use for day, a black bag that works well for weekend and errands, and a few good travel handbags that can tolerate being shoved under the airplane seat.  Red would punctuate all the neutrals I wear.  It also happens to be my favorite color, although I wear it very little.
What style?  A bucket bag?  A satchel?  I'm open at the moment.  Maybe something like this amazing vintage bag will find it's way to my closet.
What is on your list to add to your wardrobe in 2014?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Style Resolutions for 2014 part two

This is the resolution that might be hardest for more of us to implement - purge what doesn't work in our wardrobes, no matter how much we paid for it and how wonderful it is or was when we bought it.  I decided on a few simple criteria that each and every item has to meet in order for it to continue to live in my closet.

1.  Is it a neutral or does it play well with neutrals?
2.  Can it be worn for different occasions and in different ways?
3.  Is it in perfect condition and does it fit me perfectly?
4.  Do I love it?

Applying these rules made it fairly easy for me to part with a great many things.  For example, this beautiful silk Madewell blouse.  It meets criteria 1, 2 and 4, but alas the fit is off.  I've tried denying that for several years and worn it anyway.  I realize that it doesn't flatter me. 

Several J. Crew wool skirts were cut.  The ivory double serge wool pencil skirt, and the sapphire tweed wool pencil skirt are both in the consign bag.  Again, fit is the issue.  I've worn both skirts numerous times and finally came to the realization that all I do is fuss with them when I have them on. I'm never comfortable, and both have been tailored in attempt to obtain better fit.  Other J. Crew skirts survived, such as the mixed media, the interoffice and the pony skirt.
Price paid was not a factor in this decision making process.  A number of Diane Von Furstenberg dresses are out, including the red cotton Meeson dress and the black Phyllis suiting dress.  Once again, these are garments that I do not feel entirely comfortable in.  I am pulling on them or adjusting them all day long.
Shoes are harder for me to cull since I long ago got rid of anything that pinches, rubs or hurts in any way.  Every pair I own now fits, and each meet criteria 1, 2 and 3.  A few pairs that did not inspire love have found the bottom of the donate bag.  An example is the Via Spiga pumps pictured below. There is nothing wrong with them, they fit well, they're comfortable and they coordinate with many items in my wardrobe.  I simply do not reach for them. I don't love them.
After a long afternoon, the final tally of items purged is:
     5 dresses
     5 skirts
     4 pairs of pants
     3 jackets
     8 tops/shirts
     17 belts
     6 pairs of shoes
     9 piece of assorted jewelry
There may be more. 
Are you purging too?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Style Resolutions for 2014 part one

First resolution:  dress like a French woman. One wonders if they're all put together perfection when they step out their doors. The ones who get photographed certainly are.  What is the magic? Why do they always look exactly right?

To help us decode the method, let's take a look at a few of the oft-mentioned French style icons.

Ines de la Fressange is a former Chanel muse. She is rarely seen wearing dresses or skirts, is almost always in flats, and her outfits typically contain a mix of neutrals.

The darling of Paris street style, Garance Dore, doesn't stray too far from this formula. While occasionally pictured in skirts or heels, she stays true to neutrals and relaxed silhouettes.

My personal favorite Carine Roitfeld, might seem at first glance to be a very different animal.  She's quite a bit more fashion forward and is the most "dressed up" of the bunch. Look a bit more closely though, you'll see the same devotion to neutrals, the same attention to details.  While she is almost always in skirts and heels, as opposed to trousers and flats, she has that nonchalance that makes it seem she threw something on and went about her day.
Last but not least, the woman who might be considered the queen bee of French style, Emmanuelle Alt. She is the editor of French Vogue after all.  She has developed a uniform that seldom differs even from season to season.  She favors pants, skinny ones, heels that vary from kitten to sky high, unfussy tees and shirts, and jackets to finish the look.

What else do you notice about all these women?  Minimal make up, unfussy hair and few well chosen accessories. 

Is this a style we can emulate?  We're not fashion editors, after all.  Pick out the parts that appeal to you and apply them to your wardrobe. In my case that means sticking with lots of neutral basics that can be punctuated with color if I like, and a focus on accessories such as belts and scarves.  How much easier is it to get dressed in the morning when everything in your closet goes with everything else?  Perhaps French women have discovered that they can spend their time on other things when deciding what to wear for the day is a snap.

Style resolutions part two will be editing the closet. We can't dress like French women until we get the wardrobe monster under control!