Sole sense: making the case against stiletto heels

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Maybe 2016 will be the year when women say “enough is enough” to mega high heels. As a stylist, I’m the first person to appreciate the aesthetics of heels as they add height and enhance the shapeliness of a woman’s legs. Heels vs. flats also instantaneously dress up any outfit.

Since the mid 90’s however, I’ve watched as heel heights grew from three to as high as six inches. Every time I see a lady teetering awkwardly on her stilettos, I ask myself why she would subject herself to such torture. My only explanation is that many women have bought into the fashion industry driven hype that a five-inch high heel, like a glass slipper, magically transforms them. Christian Louboutin, author of the quote, “High heels are pleasure with pain”, also has this to say about their allure:”The higher the better. It’s more about an attitude. Higher heels empower women in a way.”

The myriad health risks associated with consistent high heel use are well documented. A 2013 Women’s Health Magazine article “What Happens To Your Body When You Wear Heels” explains that wearing a four-inch heel puts 30% more pressure on the front of the foot, thus stressing these bones and nerves as well as tightening the Achilles and adjoining tendons of the ankle. The article goes on to list the other unfortunate body parts victimized by consistent high heel use, such as knees, hips, and lower backs.

To all you stiletto wearing diehards, I invite you to step into some of this year’s high heel alternatives, such as block heels and sleek pumps. Who knows? You may like the way your feet feel and your legs look in these shoe styles. Having lived through decades of shoe trends and advised clients for years on their wardrobes, I can honestly say that moderate heel heights win the prize for both elegance and sexiness.

Sole Sense: 2016 Shoe Trends

J.Crew kitten heel shoes
$370 – jcrew.com

Black shoes
riverisland.se

Kate spade shoes
katespade.com

Talbots shoes
talbots.com

Three vest trends and how to wear them

Monday, November 30th, 2015

The menswear trend in women’s fashion is all the rage this season. Ask any classic or chic dresser and they will tell you that they prefer wearing timeless pieces that epitomize simplicity and sartorial excellence. Nothing spells sophistication like flared trousers and a silk blouse, paired with either a beautifully tailored single or double breasted jacket.

Those who gravitate to menswear-inspired styles also appreciate the power of a great vest. A lifelong vest lover myself, I routinely scour sales racks and online sites for this “third piece”. In the mid 90’s I bought a hip length black suede vest trimmed in black leather at Nordstrom Rack. From a cost per wear perspective, this purchase stands as the best investment I ever made. My collection also includes a full-length faux fur vest by Betsey Johnson. A cozy and fun companion, it looks smashing with jeans and a tunic top or over a coat to provide an extra layer of protection from the elements. I found my latest acquisition on EBay, a chocolate brown suede and leather Cache vest with zippered pockets. What a score.

Why am I such a devotee of this accessory? Simply, vests elevate an outfit’s style quotient by adding visual interest and a seamless presence. Wear a puffer vest on the weekends running errands or a long sweater vest to work with an interesting top and you will always look pulled together. Why not wear an eye-catching vest to one of your holiday gatherings, as long as it isn’t of the Christmas theme variety!

Three  trending menswear vests

RED Valentino striped shirt
$550 – redvalentino.com

Polo Ralph Lauren vest
$195 – stylebop.com

Topshop vest
nordstrom.com

Theory wide leg pants
$390 – net-a-porter.com

NYDJ denim legging
$210 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Aerosoles brown shoes
bloomingdales.com

Fall shoe essentials

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Last week I set out on a mission with one of my clients to replenish her shoe collection. Since she had enough work shoes, we spent our time looking for boots, flats, and active wear shoes. It took us a total of two hours at two stores to find just the shoes she needed for a well-rounded shoe wardrobe.

Studies show that women own about nineteen pairs of shoes at any given time, and they also purchase seven new pairs each year. There are those with an Imelda Marcus mindset that need to accumulate more and more shoes. I once knew someone who had an entire extra closet built to house all of her acquisitions. On the other hand, one of my minimalist friends does fine with five pairs of shoes. Although the right amount and type of shoes to own depends on both the lifestyle and the diversity of a person’s wardrobe, here is my list of top ten fall shoe essentials:

1. One pair of neutral equestrian style tall boots;
2. One pair of short flat boots/booties;
3. One pair of short booties/shooties with medium to high heel;
4. One pair of modern loafer or driving moccasin style shoe;
5. One pair of neutral ballet type flat;
6. One pair of special occasion shoes;
7. One slip of rubber sole casual wear shoe – Keds, Toms, Vans, or the equivalent;
8. One pair of heeled pumps;
9. One pair of rain or water repellant boots;
10. One wildcard – a just for fun shoe. Mine is a Michael Kors silver studded black and white oxford.

Does your shoe wardrobe resemble this list? What would you add to or delete from this list?

Shoe Essentials

Charlotte Olympia flat shoes
$660 – forzieri.com

Frye boots
backcountry.com

Frye ankle booties
nordstrom.com

Kate Spade slip on shoes
couture.zappos.com

Tod’s slip on shoes
$420 – net-a-porter.com

Chloé ballet flat
shop-hers.com

Report suede boots
nordstrom.com

Top Guy knee boots
nordstromrack.com

Ballerina shoes
gojane.com

simple shoe prints
openclipart.org

Three big fall fashion trends

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Fall is the time for hoodies and hot cocoa. It is the season for sweaters, spiced apple cider, and long walks through Falls Park. When early mornings and evenings turn chilly here in Greenville, SC, folks dress in layers and start wearing colors that mirror nature’s changing landscape. Those in the fashion know are wearing these latest three exciting trends:

Tunics: This versatile separate flatters a range of body types and ages. Tunics with asymmetrical hems as well as lace or sheer borders remain hugely popular this fall. What looks more pulled together than a tunic paired with leggings and a striking third piece, like a moto jacket or a swing cardigan?

Ponchos: The roots of this one piece armless blanket-style wrap date back to the ancient indigenous cultures of South America. The appeal of the poncho as both a protective rain garment and fashion statement has endured through the ages. Many of the Aztec patterned and fringe-hemmed ponchos of today resemble the iconic original garment from the Americas as well as ones from the 1970’s. Contemporary designers, taking the poncho to new fashion heights, have added fur and leather accents and used feather light cashmere and exotic tapestry-like materials.

Sweaters: Re-creations of this cold weather clothing essential appear in many forms this season. Oversized cardigans with high-low hems and fine gauge maxi sweater dusters make perfect autumnal layering pieces. Speaking of oversized, the trending style in cropped and long pullovers is extra roomy. Cowl necks and turtlenecks are back big time as are chunky cable and Fair Isle knit sweaters.

If you need some inspiration about how to liven up your fall wardrobe, this visual shows you which pieces instantaneously do the trick.

What is your favorite “go to” fall look?

Fall Sweaters

Wallis fringe top
wallisfashion.com

Oasis long sleeve shirt
$58 – johnlewis.com

French Connection pull on pants
$185 – frenchconnection.com

Rag & bone black jeans
$330 – net-a-porter.com

Short boots
shein.com

Red purse
romwe.com

Warehouse crossbody handbag
$38 – warehouse.co.uk

DesignSix drop earrings
$10 – asos.com

Red hat
$15 – newlook.com

Heart sticker
$5.98 – zazzle.co.uk

How to dress an Emerald or rectangular body type

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

I received my styling training from a Seattle-based organization called The DRES System. The company’s founder, Margaret Spencer, believes that “everyone possesses their own unique beauty and authentic style”. It’s our job to bring out that beauty for the world to see.” I use DRES System’s body type designations because they promote the notion that each woman is as unique as a precious gemstone: Diamond (hourglass), Emerald (rectangular), Sapphire (triangle), and Ruby (inverted triangle).

Emeralds come in all sizes and are the most common figure type. Tune into any televised women’s track or soccer event and you will see your share of them in action. As most women age, they become Emeralds because their waists expand. Because Emeralds’ shoulders and hips are balanced and their arms and legs are usually well proportioned, creating an illusion of a smaller waist is the secret to dressing them. Maintaining the balance between the shoulders and hips and playing up the waist creates curves in all the right places. An Emerald’s best wardrobe companions are fit and flare dresses, peplums, open front jackets, and flare leg pants. Layering dark colors over light, strategic color placement at the waist, and wearing varying shades of one color palette also sculpt this body type. Boxy tops and formless shift dresses, on the other hand, produce the opposite effect.

Emeralds will surely sparkle in these outfits.

Rockin looks for rectangular body types

Badgley mischka dress
$250 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Topshop white v neck shirt
$67 – nordstrom.com

Uniqlo shirts top
$7.63 – uniqlo.com

Vanessa Bruno long sleeve jacket
$270 – thecorner.com

MANGO long brown jacket
$185 – johnlewis.com

Dolce&Gabbana brown dress pants
$355 – farfetch.com

Amanda Marcucci long beaded necklace
$345 – wolfandbadger.com

Michael kors earrings
bloomingdales.com

Jules Smith necklace
renttherunway.com

White wash your wardrobe

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Whether you follow fashion tradition about when to wear white or allow the weather to dictate your color choices, fashionistas everywhere agree that now is the time for white. Besides the fact that white keeps you cooler in hot weather and always looks fresh, this enduringly popular color is having its day in the sun. Models sporting white from head to toe grace the pages of leading fashion magazines. Linen pants, white lace dresses, white satchels, and white Birkenstocks are among this season’s trending items.

Whites definitely take a beating. Not only are they dirt magnets, but unexplained stains invariably magically appear on white clothes. I always examine my whites closely each year at the beginning of spring. Sadly, this season I parted with my favorite pair of white Adriano Goldschmied jeans because they had started to turn yellow, an affliction common to whites. This was a blow since they lasted me four summers and fit like a dream. I replaced them with light-weight BCBG skinny jeans which actually suit Greenville summers better than my treasured AG’s. I also bought a paper thin white tee-shirt and a white cotton cropped eyelet sleeveless blouse from the Gap, which I plan to wear with my summer pants. For the past few summers I’ve searched for that perfect white summer dress but haven’t found it yet.

This might be an ideal time to purge your closet of worn out whites since stores are well stocked with white clothes and accessories. Buying a few key white pieces also instantly updates any wardrobe. Sales already abound in spite of the fact that summer’s official start date is still weeks away. If shopping is in your future, please let me know if you come across any amazing white dresses during your travels.

White Wash

Alice You white shirt
$24 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Banana Republic wide-leg pants
bananarepublic.gap.com

Birkenstock white shoes
$91 – thehut.com

Marc by marc jacobs bag
barneyswarehouse.com

Spring 2015 fashion trends

Friday, March 27th, 2015

After this winter’s prolonged stay, South Carolina women from the Lowcountry to the Upstate are ready to break out their sundresses and sandals. The word variety sums up this spring’s fashion trends. Bohemian dressers welcome the return of fringe, maxi skirts, and peasant blouses. Classic types have their eyes on shirtwaist dresses, whereas fashion trendsetters probably already own moto style jackets and sneakers.

Could you see yourself wearing any of these trends?

Denim on Denim

Hallhuber top
$105 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Topshop paisley print pants
$60 – topshop.com

Yves Saint Laurent clothing
$1,410 – farfetch.com

How to stay on track to achieve your new year’s resolutions

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Believe it or not the new year is already 38 days old. Time races by; days run into weeks and before you know it February will fade from memory. If you’ve read my blog postings lately, you know that I made a few resolutions for 2015 that I’m serious about achieving. I committed to getting in shape after an injury wreaked havoc with my fitness level. I also vowed to further streamline my wardrobe and stock up on casual and activewear wardrobe basics.

Experts advise that regular check-ins help keep us on track to achieving our goals. These check-ins provide us an opportunity to honestly assess our progress and also fine tune our strategies for success. Today I listened to the experts and paused to consider how well I’m doing. This exercise yielded positive results. I tweaked my fitness regimen to include daily stretching exercises and longer aerobic workouts. I also collected additional clothes to donate and consign, and made a list of items to purchase for spring.

If you’ve commited to enhancing your style in 2015, then check out “Ten steps to a stellar style” in 2015″, which appears in the January issue of Palmetto Parent. In this article I offer tips for advancing your style, such as adding two new trends to your wardrobe and breaking up black with touches of color. Trending colors for spring include soft shades such as aquamarine and yellow. Sports inspired clothing and colorful suede pieces rank high on the list of top spring trends.

Have you put style on the back burner so far this year in spite of your desire to look more polished and put together? Don’t despair. The path to success includes setbacks, and taking little style steps each day could lead to transformative image changes. How about spending some time this week in your closet to help you decide what you need for spring? This will ready you to shop during Presidents’ Day weekend for new wardrobe basics, like the ones featured in this set.

Casual spring wardrobe essentials

NIC ZOE cuff shirt
nicandzoe.com

Tulchan blue floral cardigan
$75 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Topshop short sleeve tee
$25 – topshop.com

Joseph pants
$225 – farfetch.com

L K Bennett pleated midi skirt
$140 – johnlewis.com

What to wear to keep the cold out

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Last night as I watched newscasters report on storm Juno while being pelleted by snow, I felt very grateful that I now live in Greenville, South Carolina. Winters are extremely mild here, but we still wake up to frosty mornings. If you live in an area that gives you a dose of winter, it’s crucial to know how to dress for the cold. In a nutshell, the cardinal rules of winter dressing include strategic coverage and use of smart layering techniques.

When temperatures dip, I get out my Winter Silks. If you haven’t heard of Wintersilks undergarments, they are the best invention since sliced bread. For those of us in the South who avoid buying heavy sweaters and wool slacks, Wintersilks easily make our lightweight clothing cold weather appropriate.

I’m also a big fan of turtlenecks. I have a long neck and when it gets cold, my entire body feels cold. On the other hand, plenty of people find turtlenecks confining and prefer to wrap scarves around their necks and call it a day. I’m a turtleneck snob. They have to be made of thin gauge cashmere or a wool blend so that they fit nicely under crew neck sweaters, blouses and cardigans. I love my Uniqlo, Vince and Kate Spade Saturday turtlenecks the best.

Cold weather wardrobe guidelines also emphasize keeping your hands and head covered. Contrary to popular opinion, scientists now believe you only lose about 7 to 10 percent of your body heat through your head. This is great news for me since I am still searching for the perfect winter hat that is stylish and doesn’t give me an instant headache. When I find it, I’ll certainly blog about my discovery. It goes without saying that wearing the right footwear in winter is essential for safety and warmth. If trekking through snow and slush is in your winter forecast, make sure you invest in boots that are lined and waterproof, as opposed to just water resistant. Not all socks are created equal either. Wool socks, like the Smartwool brand, do the best job of keeping your feet toasty.

My thoughts go out to all of the folks who are enduring Juno. Keep the faith and stay safe and warm.

Keeping the Cold Out

Michael Kors long sweater
marissacollections.com

ONLY black top
$22 – only.com

Elie Tahari coat
saksoff5th.com

Equipment black pants
$445 – net-a-porter.com

Inverni clothing
$310 – farfetch.com

Whistles wedge booties
$250 – johnlewis.com

Slouch beanie
$100 – black.co.uk

A new year a new you

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

My New Year’s Eve celebration ritual always includes watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper readying the crowds for the ball drop in Times Square. I never tire of Kathy’s zany unpredictability and Anderson’s adorable giggle. As I observed last night’s revelry I reflected on the passing of one year and the beginning of another. It wasn’t until 2014 that I made my first new year’s resolution. Last year I vowed to get rid of things I didn’t want or need. In fact I blogged about this milestone in my life last January in a piece entitled “Three steps to a streamlined closet.” A year later I am happy to report that I kept my promise to own a pared-down wardrobe and an uncluttered house.

Spurred on by last year’s success, I decided to take another stab at resolutions by joining the ranks of those who commit to getting in shape. Since this resolution always makes the top ten list of resolutions most commonly broken, I admit that it is a risky choice.

Rather than focus on the likelihood of failure, I choose to think confident thoughts. Four months ago my 92 pound labrador ran head on into me and fractured my tibia. The injury that I sustained required surgery and put me on crutches until just a few weeks ago. Thanks to physical therapy and daily rehabilitative exercises, I am now walking and mending well. However, as my surgeon and therapist stressed, full recovery takes one year and requires faithfulness to a demanding exercise regimen. Considering the ramifications of not following doctor’s orders makes me even more determined to do the work. Because I am a former dancer, athlete and exercise instructor, I also abhor the feeling of not being in peak condition.

So what does all this have to do with style? My own therapeutic process has helped me realize the similarity between fitness and style principles. Like fitness, style involves setting goals, creating a step by step plan to reach them, and putting in the time it takes to experience results. Having the right mindset is also a key to positive change. Throughout the month of January, I will chronicle my fitness journey and also explore the style-fitness connection on my blog and Facebook postings. I would love for you to join me in these discussions and share how you are progressing with your resolutions.

Until my next posting, I leave you with this affirmation: “I am a warrior”. I now repeat this daily, especially when I’m pushing myself beyond the limits of what I think is possible.