Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dashing Eccentric Designs Spotted At New York Fashion Week!

 By coincidence Mr. E traveled back to 'the old country' to visit family during New York's recent Fashion Week extravaganza. His outrageously gorgeous sister took his picture at the universe's style omphalos - the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week sponsorship banner. And most delightfully, Mr. E sports a shirt of his own design, constructed by myself. I had no idea we would be so spectacularly represented at this pinnacle of world fashion events!

Mr. E, as you can see, did not neglect visiting the major cultural monuments, of which there are so many along the eastern seaboard. I tended towards housefau-type duties while the man of the house pursued more intellectually inclined activities.  Here you see a typical outfit from that week, whilst i attempt to look pulled together as temperatures climb ever higher.

Another of the slouch fly front skirts, in a very nicely stretchy black denim, another Butterick 4985 iteration, my trusty Aerosoles, slacking on the patio sweeping apparently, and ......... could this be? Whu - let us look a wee bit closer......

Yes, that would indeed be a vintage Coach bag. In a case of truly jaw-dropping generosity, i received two beautiful new pocketbooks from a wonderful blog reader during Mr. E's vacation (say the word and you will be outed, you who knows who you are!). This is one. I have enjoyed Coach items (generally from afar!) over the decades, but have never had one of their purses. Mom did for years, a classic unlined leather one. My vintage leather belt has done yeoman's service in my wardrobe. Coach scarves are beautiful, the workmanship in each piece impeccable.  However, the overly logo-ed fabric bags, while gorgeous, never spoke to me, and the 'classic leather' purses were a wee bit Puritan for my tastes. My favorite Coach bags were, and remain, from the brief period when Coach started to branch out into more stylish bags, and before they started using a lot of the logo fabric.

The precise period, in fact, from which a * certain someone * chose a bag to send my way. I have to tell you it still leaves me a little flummoxed how this happened, but very delighted and thankful! It is one of those incidents which make you feel that there is much more to life behind the scenes than we generally let on. And that particular individuals have a gift for opening the door of the mundane to let you take a peek beyond.

Fashion Week was a memorable one in many many ways here at Eccentric HQ. Here's hoping that you all make many wonderful memories this fall as well!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Turn My Back On Blogging?

 Never!!  You know me, i'm always just trying to come up with a snazzy/controversial post title. Life continues quite busy, here you see some of the fruits of my efforts.

The jacket i made from a vintage Anne Klein for Vogue Pattern of a cotton/spandex sateen. It has a very soft hand and is nicely stretchy-comfy!  The highlight of the design is the wonderful seaming on the back, so i decided to use topstitching thread for the first time to show off this feature. I should have gone with a darker thread so it would be more visible, but after all this work i'm not going to rip out and re do!

I like how the front makes a little hourglass shape against the darker tee.  On this jacket I challenged myself to finish off the inside cleanly - it came out quite nicely! I also added pockets under the front peplums, closing them with a thin strip of velcro. I feel this jacket could still use a little pop of something - i may add trim over some of the seams, or studs, and of course the button situation is still up in the air.

I love the way this outfit feels very me and has a certain utilitarian feel even though the individual pieces are quite clean and spare. I drafted the skirt inspired by Hot Patterns Slouchy Fly Front Skirt. It's made of a fantastic olive drab slubby stretch woven (which would make a divine moto or 'jean style' jacket). Plus it's only $9 a yard! I've also made up this pattern (with the slit in back and the hem straightened) in a black stretch denim. I like the curvy shape and relaxed feel.

Here's a better look at the detail on the back.  I have a whole bushel of outfit photos to share with you - i better get cracking!  Hope you are all having a fun fall, and not overly horrendously hectic!!

Jacket, skirt: self made
Tee: Target Merona Ultimate Tee (two years old and still in primo shape!)
Sandals: Aerosoles
Belt: Betsey Johnson
Bracelet: Justina Leigh on etsy

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why I Love Angie's Jeans

 This is my grandfather, mom's dad to be precise. He's finishing an uphill motorcycle race sometime in the 1930's. My Grandpa Boliver didn't just participate in this sport, back then when they raced against the clock, he was US National Champion. For decades this picture has been something of a family crest for us. Of course i love the rugged look of his gear - by now the genesis of my style choices should be ridiculously obvious.

But i don't honor my ancestors just because of a 'cool' look. All of my ancestors had to struggle against terrific odds - poverty, no parents, lack of education, casual and governmental discrimination. But they made it through so i could be here and have the many benefits i enjoy today. They also pursued their own dreams - Grandpa Boliver became a national champion, worked in the pits in the Indianapolis 500 races, and became a stellar auto mechanic. He, as well as all of my grandparents, spent a lot of time in the California wild, camping for weeks out in the Sierra mountains. Growing up, my parents took us kids out camping at least four or five times a year every year, from the mountains to the foothills to the coast.

My father's father was also a renowned auto mechanic with a love of natural California and a daring streak (in his sixties he scared a bear off grilling steaks with a rolled up newspaper, clad only in his boxers) . His wife, my grandma, is still going strong and living in her own place at the age of 99. Both she and my mom's mom sewed clothes for the family - i come by that very naturally! My father's mom would ask him which shirts looked good to him down at the local department store (which was too rich for their blood). She'd then go down and check out said shirt, stop by the fabric store for supplies, go home and whip it up. Mom's mom loved to make vibrant, extravagant costumes for mom, who is not such an exciting dresser. Grandmas' huge sombrero, decorated with the major exports of all the South American countries, turned out amazing but i think mom felt uncomfortable with all that attention in grade school.....

I come from a long line of people who love this land, who may not have had tremendous material resources but still put their own unique stamp on the world. Angie's jeans remind me of my grandparents because of the jodphur cut - but even more because the cut of those pants, the person wearing them no matter what others may say, tell us something about the true individual inside.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It Turns Out It's All True!

 What they say about accessories, that is. I tossed on this dress and jacket a week ago to cope with a fairly hot day. The dress is a sundress, with just straps at the shoulders, and the jacket fabric is quite thin, providing sun protection without additional heat. For my morning walk i wore my flat riding booties (great for walking as well!) and a little hat. I ended up with a 'Depression-era country farm girl makes a little extra cash by moonlighting as a private detective in town' look - a vintage feel with a dash of kookiness.

When i got home i washed my hair, kicked off my shoes and jacket. When it was time to go grocery shopping, i decided on my nude sandals, along with the same jacket. This second look is much more up to date, almost 'Smart Casual' to use Angie's term.

The idea of using one rather 'clean', solid color dress (usually black) as a background to express various fashion personalities through prudent deployment of accessories is a hoary old canard. Many suspect it's not even true. But i was very struck by the difference a hat and different shoes made in this outfit.  Especially as this look is hardly equivalent to a 'little black dress' (plaid, big buttons, turn back cuffs and a studded belt, for goodness sake!).

I have to say that after this experience, concerning the power of accessories i'm convinced!  (time to go shoe-shopping.....)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual

Photo courtesy of Wardrobe Oxygen

 In trying to organize my thoughts about this post,one thought kept popping into my head: "I just hope i can get these ideas across somehow....." With that encouraging beginning, let's jump in, shall we?

After reading the comments to my last post, i want to point out that i never found out 'which style type i am' by reading Emily Cho. I'd take the mutiple choice tests and end up with scores all over the place. Fortunately, 'finding your style personality' isn't the only thing for which Emily Cho's image types are useful.

I used to find my self constantly battling two situations. In one i would dress as expected for the situation, which would make me feel like i was wearing a costume. I'd feel awkward and distracted, like i was undermining myself by being so fake. So next i'd try 'the opposite approach' and dress strictly according to my own aesthetic lights, in which case i'd stick out like a sore thumb and other people would be distracted from me by my appearance. Which would also make me feel like i was undermining myself.

Photo courtesy of RAGS Against The MACHINE
  Terri's Sporty Casual take on blue and yellow uses bright and clear shades of those colors, matte textures, knit fabrics, looser fit and casual accessories.

By understanding Emily Cho's image types i had a better grasp of what other people expected to see in various situations. I was able to choose the characteristics i loved from the various image types - colors, silhouettes, cuts, details, items of clothing - and combine them in outfits that i loved wearing, that felt like me, and that didn't alarm the populace at large. I gave up trying to 'find my type' and instead found out what i loved in each type, what that said about me, and what i wanted to say with those elements. As a bonus, i really increased my range of style expression.

So, may i suggest that you set aside 'finding out what you are' as read the rest of this series, and think about what you want to say with your look.

Emily Cho's six essential image types fall into three pairs - Romantic Feminine and Sexy Alluring, Exotic Dramatic and Arty Offbeat, and Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual. The two types within each pair have certain relationships to each other, and these relationships help you to expand your range once you know which type(s) you naturally feel most comfortable in wearing. Today we'll tackle Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual in order to demonstrate how you can use the pairs to expand your style range.

Photo courtesy of Wardrobe Oxygen
 Allie shows how to do stripes Classic Elegant style. Perfect fit, shiny, tailored accessories, and a silky fire engine red skirt demonstrate that classic is far from boring!

Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen has graciously agreed to let me use her work day outfit photos to illustrate Classic Elegant style, while Terri of RAGS Against The MACHINE is providing our Sporty Casual examples.  The first thing to notice is that Allie wears many fabulous Sporty Casual looks, while Terri creates lovely Classic Elegant ensembles. Ms. Cho's types may be viewed as a person's 'style', but they also (and more so) describe a particular archetypal image - a pure idea of a certain woman, how she dresses, what she is doing, her personality, education, profession, etc. It is completely possible to 'put on' and 'take off' these 'personas' with a change of outfit, hair, and makeup. Both Allie and Terri do a great job of wearing Classic Elegant when it suits their activities (as a professional, as a college teacher) and 'dressing down' to Sporty Casual when on vacation, out at a club, etc.

This reflects the similarities between Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual. Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual styles both favor clean lines, classic pieces (pencil skirts, button down shirts, khakis, penny loafers, pumps, trench coats), solid colors, simple silhouettes, neutrals and primary colors, simple accessories in traditional cuts and materials. Both types favor classic, simple hair in a natural color and texture, as well as minimal, flattering makeup. No green hair or purple glitter eyeshadow for these types!

They also differ in certain respects. Classic Elegant favors sumptuous fabrics like wools, silks, linens. Pure Classic Elegant is also a stickler for perfect fit and quality construction, and will gladly pay more to get that quality. Classic Elegant is not afraid of the 'Dry Clean Only' label, whereas you'll be hard put to find one of these in the pure Sporty Casual wardrobe ('it's not practical'). Classic Elegant is Ann Taylor, Sporty Casual is Land's End.

Photo courtesy of RAGS Against The MACHINE
Terri's Sporty Casual take on stripes shows how casual looks can have tons of style and flattery power..Relaxed fit, knit fabric, and matte texture brown leather accessories keep the look pulled together without being fussy.

From the social aspect or how each type is perceived by people around them, Classic Elegant is seen as 'the boss', as wealthier, educated, formal, authoritative, someone who you should listen to, 'in charge' of themselves and others, capable of mental work, appropriate for business settings, someone who commands respect and honors social norms.  Sporty Casual is seen as (obviously!) more casual, more practical and down to earth, approachable, a 'hands on worker', friendly, easy to talk to, appropriate for family and social settings, 'good with children'.

Again, i'd like to emphasize that these are stereotypes, that may or may not have anything to do with the person inside the clothes. At the same time, people do make judgements based on how a person presents themselves, and if you feel like people misjudge you, that you are wearing a costume when you're dressed up or dressed down, or can't figure out how to dress for your life roles and still feel like you, thinking through some of these concepts can be helpful in resolving these conundrums.

For example, many Sporty Casual ladies aspire to promotion at work. Or need to make a presentation to the city council. Or want to walk their daughter down the aisle at her wedding. The first two situations call for a more authoritative, formal, 'alpha female' who commands respect. The third calls for a formal persona, who also commands respect and honors societal norms and familial bonds. These qualities are projected by the Classic Elegant image type.

Photo courtesy of Wardrobe Oxygen
Classic lesson in how to dress up a basic black dress. Allie adds black patent heeled sandals and a glitzy bracelet to 'dress things up' for a professional vibe while the leather-raffia belt shows off her waist and lends an unexpected 'summery' vibe. Subtle makeup and great hair add polish to this look.

Conversely, a Classic Elegant lady may want to make a good start with the other parents in her son's play group. Or she has volunteered to cook weenies for her daughter's soccer team fundraiser. Or she finally has some vacation time and actually wants to relax.  These situations call for an approachable, down to earth, friendly, and practical (hello weenie splatter!) approach to dressing - the essence of Sporty Casual.

The 'ickiness' of these mis-matches between your image and the situation comes in two flavors - you either dress like you 'should' and feel awkward and distracted by your costume, or you dress like yourself and feel like everyone's staring at you because you stick out like a sore thumb. Neither approach is satisfactory.

Now, as it happens, the Arty Offbeat image type is also seen as friendly, approachable, and practical....but it shares far fewer aesthetic and practical qualities with Classic Elegant than Sporty Casual does. A Classic Elegant woman can ease into a Sporty Casual look by determining the key elements that her style has in common with the Sporty Casual type and building her casual look from there.

Photo courtesy of RAGS Against The MACHINE
Here Terri shows how Sporty Casual can start to merge into Classic Elegant. The matte knit fabric, clean face and natural hair and white tee are all Sporty Casual basics. But the breezy scarf and red leather accessories (more often found in Casual Elegant's bag of tricks) add polish to the look and kick up fashion quotient.

Let's say the Classic Elegant lady feels comfortable in her work uniform of woolen straight skirt, silk crepe shell, cashmere cardigan, pumps and pearls (strand and studs), all in dove greys and camels. She could trade the wool skirt for the same shape in khaki colored cotton, replace the silk shell with a nice quality white cotton tee (classic piece in classic color, so she can make the leap), and a cotton blend cardigan in the same silhouette as her beloved cashmere. To emphasize the 'friendly and approachable' vibe she could pick a cardi in a nice bright yellow or blue. Loafers or driving mocs are casual but 'classic' enough that a person used to always looking perfectly polished won't experience the mortification of wearing running shoes while not actually running. Pearl studs are great for casual looks, nice neat and out of the way - if they're kind of big, just say they're costume ;)

Ideally, by comparing and contrasting her Classic Elegant look with known Sporty Casual interpretations, the Classic Elegant trending type can dress more appropriately for casual occasions while still feeling 'herself'. This can involve using the same pieces but in different ways (as with the pearl studs) or it can be done by carrying through certain style characteristics such as color, silhouette, or outfit formulas (skirt + short sleeve knit + cardigan) while changing up details, pattern/color or fabric. The Sporty Casual type can 'dress up' without feeling like an impostor by using the same method and raiding the Classic Elegant's closet for inspiration and ideas. Again, the mere thought of going from Sporty Casual to Exotic Dramatic (think Frida Kahlo) would give the Sporty Casuals i know an aneurysm! With Classic Elegant, the silhouettes, the way you put looks together, the accessories and color are much more understandable.

Photo courtesy of RAGS Against The MACHINE
 A more classic Sporty Casual take on dress-dressing. Take off the cap and flip flops and add the scarf, belt and pumps from the outfit above and Terri will find herself in Sexy Alluring territory - it's the power of red! DH will be pleased.

Choosing elements from varying image types and blending them into a total look also allows you to present many different sides of yourself at once. I especially enjoy looking at dressing myself from this perspective - i feel it clues people in to who they're dealing with. I also feel that i'm coming across as more of a 'whole person' when i dress with these ideas in mind. Sheila of Ephemera is the past mistress of this pursuit.

I'd also like to point out that Allie and Terri show that even though both Classic Elegant and Sporty Casual are typically thought of as safe, boring, predictable, and unflattering - that isn't so at all! These two image types are the most popular in the US and it's possible to see truly uninspiring interpretations of them all over the country. These two ladies blow those ideas out of the water, not only that but they show you don't have to be sixteen years old, six feet tall and size zero with a fat wallet to do it, either. Check 'em out!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's You! Looking, Working, Feeling Terrific 24 Hours a Day!

Sporty jacket and denim skirt fabric....romantic embroidery and lace on the cami-top.....classic, sexy strappy sandals......clean and dramatic silhouette, all put together in an offbeat manner. Emily Cho's ideas helped me learn to express all of these sides of myself in ways that are true to who i am, where i live, and what i do.

Today's post title is a mash-up of a couple of Emily Cho's book titles. Loyal readers will already have a grasp of why i love Ms. Cho's philosophy - she very much emphasizes the importance and opportunity of fully expressing your personal style through all aspects of your life. I only had one book of Ms. Cho's, It's You! Looking Terrific Whatever Your Type, published in the 1980's.  The plentiful, very well done illustrations became dated over the years, but the insight into building a wardrobe and especially understanding and developing your own style never went out of date.

There's a ton of style advice out there on the web. I find that the vast bulk of it falls into a few categories: how to find/express your aesthetic tastes, how to flatter your face and figure, how to make current trends work for you, how to put together stylish outfits, how to use accessories, and shopping tips. Much less popular but still available is advice on how to build a wardrobe suited to your particular needs, dressing for your professional life, and dressing from certain practical angles (Angie's Mom On The Go looks, for example).

Emily Cho approaches style and clothing from these angles, but her focus lies elsewhere. She discusses style and clothing from the perspective of society, your 'audience', social occasions, and the community at large. In other words, you don't just get dressed to shield yourself from the elements or strictly to express your aesthetic creativity. You dress in order to tell the world, and particular people in your life, who you are.

This may well sound stereotypical, and it is. This type of categorizing and pre-judging happens in our society, for good or ill. Emily Cho's system provides one way to become conscious of this stereotyping so that you can make a decision about how you want to participate in it. For me, working with Ms. Cho's ideas helped me to make my peace with all of this and dress in a way that feels honest to me while not undermining my own goals or creating needless strife with family, co-workers, etc.

At your workplace your dress tells your boss if you are hard working, dependable, and ripe for promotion. At your sister's first baby shower your dress tells her how you feel about her and if you're willing to put your rivalry aside to support her at this time. How you dress to meet your boyfriend's parents for the first time lets them know if you're 'the one' or if you're too flighty, slutty, or bohemian to be 'wife material'.

equestrian boots add a touch of the dramatic for my am walk
I'm sure all of you have vivid mental pictures of 'Do' and 'Don't' looks for each of the above situations. The trouble comes when your goal is to impress the boss, but your free spirit feels like you're wearing a straight jacket in 'corpodress'. Or when your tomboy self feels like a clumsy impostor in a managerial-grade suit (even though the fabric and cut are so lovely......). The beauty of Emily Cho is that she shows you an honest way to wade through all this mess and contradictory signals.  You start by recognizing in which 'essential image type' your heart lies. Then you experiment with how to expand your range through the casual, formal, pure, and creative expressions of this type. Part of this involves understanding the relations between the image types. Finally, you expand your range through all the types to see how you, individually, can express your own truth about every image type. At this point you have developed the flexibility to dress for all the occasions and situations in your life, and have confidence that your audience feels respected and generally 'gets' you.

I'll close out today's post by naming the six type: Classic Elegant, Sporty Casual, Romantic Feminine, Sexy Alluring, Exotic Dramatic, and Arty Offbeat.  Chances are excellent those of you who've never heard of Emily Cho before already have a good idea about who and what make up these up, discussion of these types and how they relate to one another.

Some Links About Emily Cho:

Great take on Ms. Cho and 'Seventies Adult Style' in Peculiar Beauty

Short blurb on image consultants in 1986 L.A.Times

TIME Magazine on Looking Good in 1985

Emily Cho's books on Amazon