Hunting and Gathering

All Dressed Up ….and EVERYWHERE To Go!

If there’s any season when casual America dresses up the most, it’s this holiday one. Whether it’s recession resentment, frugal fatigue or just lipstick luxury, we are a bit more willing to shop for a little something extra to make our spirits bright right now. And, it does seem this year, that there are more parties than ever, albeit trimmed and tight-budgeted. We just want to have FUN (remember that?)

And, it seems we want to do it in dresses. Every cheap and chic line and retailer is full of them. Some are terrific, but lots are not, and, as I’ve said before, the wrong bit of flash is trash, so don’t look like the store suckered you into something you shouldn’t even wish on your weird relatives you’ll have to put up with. Anyway – here are some knock-outs to festively close off the year most of us are glad to see go:

Mango has a  stunner of a cadet blue, white, silver and gunmetal striped

Mango's sequinned stunner

strapless sequinned dress that’ll look great from now through summer.  It’s chic, offbeat and festive in an unexpected way, and for $189.00, a style steal. For cold nights, add a beaded sweater – like a grey cashmere.

A very elegant take on New Year’s Eve is Mango’s draped jersey one shoulder black bustier dress that would be great on its own, but even more subtly sexy with an attached sheer black yoke that gives the dress an overall sheath shape.  It’s $99.00 and a great choice in this Michelle Obama-inspired age of understated glamour.

Mango's chic sheath

Next up is a stop at Club Monaco:  A great gold sequin tank dress makes a splash on it’s own (it’s short) or layered as a tunic over a black skirt, pants or leggings (even a turtleneck for very cold evenings).  It’s the perfect color gold and little else is needed in the way of accessories.  Sparkle your way into 2010.

Two very chic-simple options here at CM are the clear cerise red short sleeved silk tee dress that’s a great foil for a statement necklace or a bold stack of bangles with elbow length gloves for drama.  Another really terrific choice that’s not so obviously glam but has serious style is their midnight navy silk ruffled front  long sleeved dress.  Either one will signal you know your sartorial stuff.

But there’s a dress at Club Monaco will transport you out of your ordinary everyday look and into the New Year with one quick slip over the head.  It’s a charming cream pleated chiffon, sleeveless ruff-necked,  sashed full-skirted floaty dream of a dress that’ll appeal both to the romantic and the normally simple minimalist who wants a chic party look that’s different but not frilly-silly.  At $189.00, it’s got plenty of style miles from now into spring.

H&M has a black jersey gold-studded tank dress that’s just punky enough to carry the movement’s style signals, but not outlandish enough to get you noticed in the wrong way.  In the understated category, a YSL -inspired black silk long-sleeved smock dress makes you look totally glam to ring in 2010.

So, go grab one and look great!  Happy New Year!  Happy New Dress! Happy New You!!


At Retail:  When More Is Too Much

In my line of work, I get to go shopping a lot. But, that doesn’t mean I buy a lot.  In fact, I could have the smallest wardrobe of anyone I know. Really. (Maybe writing about the great stuff I find makes me feel like I already own the item, and I’m over it. Sad, but better for my wallet.)

But, it does mean I really know what’s out there right now. And what’s out there are  lots and lots of  bells and whistles:  sequins, beads, ruffles, embroidery, lame, lace, studs, jewels, pleats, drapes, twists and gathers — the whole teen/twenty-something pop star get-up gone mass market. Lindsey, Britney, Mary Kate and Ashley and a host of others started this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink/all-in-one-outfit idea, and retailers love it with its “more is more”, trash is cash, bling-y message. Seems you can’t pile on too much right now….

But, really, you can — do you want to look like the tree you put up for the jolly man in the red suit — complete with a flashing red lights that spell out “victim” ? Then, beware the glittery glut of extras that awaits you on every rack from high end department stores to discount chains. Every store, every line, is trying to be so hip it hurts.

Now, I’m all for being unconventional, and I  like juxtaposing surprising textures and ideas, but a few of these twists go a long way.  You could end up walking out of the store with the very bad idea you can’t go wrong with more, more, MORE…

So, ladies, please understand that too many “individual touches” look forced – like a third rate stylist got a hold of a first rate stylist’s original flash of sartorial brilliance and multiplied it. Doesn’t work like that.

A sequinned skirt can look great with a chunky turtleneck and boots for day, but would be questionable with a fake fur vest, lace blouse and leather leggings, no matter what time it was. A great beaded top can look amazing with jeans and a simple blazer, but add a draped lame skirt, faux Mongolian coat,and ripped “air conditioned” tights and you’ll look like nothing but “trying too hard”.

When basics weren’t selling any more. it seems retailers decided consumers only responded to the unusual, or individual-looking, piece.  So, everyone got on board — and I mean EVERYONE, thinking a sequined tank could fix the economy.

Well, it hasn’t yet — and until I see Barack and his economic advisors decked out in them at his next speech — spare my stylish eyeballs and wear only one piece of “specialness” at a time!  P-U-H-Leeeeeeze!