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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dmitry Sholohkov - Winner or Recount?

So Christopher Palu mentioned he was going to ask for a recount when Dmitry Sholohkov won Project Runway Season 10. I don't think it was sour grapes, but I hope he realizes that impeccable construction and unique creations go a long way. I don't think his collection was bad, I just think Dmitry's was better.

The dress to the right was the highlight moment of the show, and looks well-made, expensive and truly unique. This is a dress that doesn't look like it's going to fall apart, and although unique, has enough classic elements to ensure it won't go out of style anytime in the next decade.

I do confess, the dress above right is for a very specific fashionista, and not for anyone who is unsure of their personal style. It takes confidence to wear a bold pattern combined with fringe and the sheer fabric highlighting the midsection.

Dmitry introduced his collection stating it came from his love of architecture and clean lines. In the above left image, his vision was spot on. That's a dress that is visually stunning, and with the right accessories, can go anywhere.

I love this yellow dress on the right! The embellishment on the shoulders adds to the architectural detail on the collar and at the waist. This is a nice dress to go out in. Demure enough to go anywhere and edgy enough to make a statement. That's what we want to be, right? Comfortable and memorable...

Having looked at all the collections, there were pieces I liked from each. Melissa created a spectacular black and white jacket (on the left), and was easily a contender for the win. The judge's comments were that she designed for herself, and I am particularly impressed with the fact that she learned to sew two years ago. And she used leather as her primary material throughout her entire collection, which is quite impressive. Her whole collection was black and white, and the highlight moment was the blood orange/tangerine/red dress with the stand up collar. I hope to see more from her in the future!

Fabio was the brief departure from black and color. His use of color evoked a very spring-like and resort feel, and it was refreshing to see a lot of color walk down the runway. A nice relaxed look for a relaxed lifestyle.

I loved the statement dress at the end of Christopher's show. There were some nice pieces in his collection, and I do think he's a good designer and very creative.  The blue jacket in particular was interesting and fun.

What do you think? Which collection do you like best? Recount, anyone, or did the best designer win?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boots and Bags!

One of the many fashion questions I have gotten this season is about boots and bags, so I thought we could chat about it today.

What kind of boot do I look for this season and how do I decide which boot is best for me and my lifestyle?

Start in your closet and see what you already have. If you are a pant wearer, than opt for either a shoe boot or mid-calf style. If you like to wear leggings or jeggings go for a boot that is mid calf or western style. If you prefer dresses or skirts then select a boot that comes to either mid calf or below the knee. Above the knee boots look best with leggings, tights and dresses or some really skinny jeans.

What color do I go with - black or brown?

Both colors are equally versatile, but it is optimal to have one pair of black and one pair of brown boots, in different styles of course.

Do I look for leather or suede, embellishments, hardware or fringe?

If you are not an avid collector of boots (I have one client that prefers boots to shoes, and have come across several clients through the years that collect shoes of all kinds) then I recommend to bite the bullet and invest in one good pair of boots in a classic style that will last you for years to come. Personally, that is the way I like to roll. Purchase less, but better quality. If you tend to get tired of things easily and, no, I am not talking about your spouse or boyfriends, just clothing items, then spend less money and buy a few moderate priced boots of lesser quality and plan to pitch at the end of the season. Important to note here that boots made of pleather or plastic crack and do not allow your feet to breathe.

How do I decide on a handbag this season?

If we are talking about an everyday handbag, give thought to what kind of straps or handles you prefer. Over the shoulder, one strap or two, cross body or shorter, two handles, held on the wrist or by hand. This is purely a comfort call. Think about what you will also really need to put in your bag, or the little things that end up in your bag on a regular basis. Do you keep limited contents in your purses or do you prefer to have everything, including items from the kitchen sink. I literally once had a client that carried silverware and napkins in her bag.

Do I choose a color for my new bag or must I stay with black or brown?

If you are ever going to make a statement an accessory this is the time. Certain colors this season are equally neutral like greys, maroons and dark blues. I would even go as far to commit to a texture. There is something about a fabulous bag that can make the rest of your boring outfit pop. Not that you would ever wear a boring outfit, right? Just remember a great bag makes everything look more interesting.

Now you are armed to begin the boot and bag hunt. Tread slowly until you find exactly what you need. It is certainly out there for the picking.

Happy shopping!

Boots and Bags!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clean Closets and Inspiration

These past few months have taught me a lot about myself and the cloth I am made of. I have always enjoyed being a part of something that helps others. In recent months I have hitched my wagon and styling talents to the organization Dress for Success.

Dress for Success Triangle, founded in 2008, promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women succeed in work and in life. The founder of the Triangle chapter is Pat Nathan, a delightful and extremely articulate beautiful woman who I met about six or years ago. She purchased a certificate that I had donated to another organization for a closet consult at a fundraiser. As we talked during her consult, she shared that she had just begun developing Dress for Success in Durham, at the lower level office space of Northgate Mall. She saw a need and felt as though with her business background and ties to the community she could help women who needed it. Turns out that she, along with many volunteers, have made a difference in many lives - the women she helps and their families.

In chatting with her through the years, I always offered to help in whatever capacity was needed. Recently, she's been taking me up on my offer, and I am motivated and inspired by the women she helps. Last month I worked with three women from various backgrounds and selected a work appropriate outfit, a wardrobe basic and lastly, clothing that made them feel good. Not a tough challenge after hearing each of their stories of wanting more for themselves and their children. Whatever difficult, sad or tragic background they may have had, they were all eager to move forward to a better life and place.

After spending time with the women and dressing them with outfits given to them by Dress for Success, we prepared for the event at a board member's home the following week. The purpose of the evening was to gather a group of working and non-working women and offer them a glimpse of what Dress for Success was all about. The group of 25 gathered and then Pat made the introductions to talk about what Dress for Success does. I then proceeded to interview the three women to share their stories, hopes and future dreams. I have to say it was one of the most moving evenings I have had in a long time. I also brought fall fashions attendees should add to their closet while encouraging the guests to do their own closet clean out and to donate pants, shirts, dresses, jackets, coats, shoes and accessories they no longer wore or need to Dress for Success.

Last week I had an opportunity to be a part of a member-guest event at Treybourn Country Club in Durham doing something very similar for Dress for Success. I again talked about fall fashions, but how to do that fall closet clean out and what to donate. I met the new Marketing Director of Northgate Mall and I spoke to her about starting one of the first personal shopping programs at that mall in November of 1994. The mall offered my shopping services for anyone spending $100 or more. I remember it being a lot of fun and a wonderful opportunity to get to know the Durham community. Being based out of Raleigh, I just didn't get to Durham as much as I may have wanted to. I can't say that holds true now. I spend a lot of time at Smitten Boutique shopping for clients. So many things in our lives come full circle. Reconnecting with Northgate Mall and my continued work with Dress for Success keeps me so true to myself and my values. It is working and helping others that is so gratifying! I hope you all will either call me or begin your own closet consult and donate your clothing to a worthy program in our area. I promise the feeling is contagious and will only make your morning lifestyle dressing that much easier. Call if I can help, as fall is finally here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Statement Coat

I've written about statement pieces before, and this fall has such a wonderful group of coats that can easily stand on their own as a statement piece and I wanted to share with you. Look for coats that have details or come in colors that are not the traditional color or shape. And remember that if the coat is silk or other lightweight material, check before buying that there is something substantial between the outer fabric and the lining to keep you warm enough for your climate. We can't have you all freezing in the name of fashion!

The first coat is probably more a fall coat, or a winter coat for warmer climates, like places it never snows. The Donegal knit coat has a beautiful drape, no buttons so you can wear it in a more free flowing form, and oversized collar. Absolutely beautiful!

The second coat I'd like to bring to your attention is also a knit. The Hart jacket is somewhere between comfortable knit sweater and edgy warmth. The leather accents are what make this a statement coat, and again, if you're living in a somewhat warmer climate, this is a great winter coat!

Moving on from knitwear...I've seen a lot of copies of this online, and read about quite a few people taking this image to a tailor to make a copy, or trying to make it themselves. Should I insert a cautionary statement here? Something like, if you haven't been sewing for several years, you might not want to try this at home? The original was made by Alexander McQueen, and is breathtaking. It's sort of an equestrian coat, but with added flare and layers in the back. You'll definitely make a statement wearing something like this!

Next coat of the day - a London jacket. This coat has muliple textures (how's that for making a statement?) and looks reptilian. This coat looks like it has dimension, and is in a neutral color so should work with a lot of clothes in anyone's wardrobe. Important here is to remember to watch the texture mixes. Statement coats don't have to have a unique feature and be a non-neutral color, they can be one or both. Just remember when shopping it should meet the requirements of both your climate and your lifestyle.

Big this year with a lot of clothing are ruffles for adults. This coat embraces ruffles using a tie closure and a bright color. Even if ruffles aren't quite your normal style, we're looking for a statement piece here, and I'd encourage you to try on a coat in a cut or color you wouldn't normally wear. After you get over laughing at yourself for finding and trying on a coat that might look like something you would never, ever wear, take a look around and see if you can find a coat that has a unique collar, fabric or hem. Or just a different look than what you are comfortable with. Then try it on...and take a picture. If you look at the picture for a week or so, and you start thinking you should have purchased the coat because it looks good on you, you may have found your statement coat!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Does Plus Size Shopping Frustrate You?

In the past, women that were plus size struggled to find clothing that would enable them to dress and feel their best. Designers were not catering to the plus size shoppers and consumers had very little selection. As a stylist, it was equally challenging for me to service clients. I obviously am resourceful, but ten years ago the challenge was on! It seemed like the only options had no basis in anything other than covering up. As we've moved forward with fashion, designers, and more importantly retailers, discovered the market of plus size fashion. It made things easier, but what if you are comfortable the way you are and want to find something beyond what the retail stores carry? 

Recently I was at Charlotte International Fashion Week and had an opportunity to visit with a friend who owns a plus size boutique called Scarlet Plus. I met him last year, and we had a long discussion about the state of the plus size market, and what he envisioned as the future of plus size fashion. My friend, and the owner of Scarlet Plus, is Todd Albaum. He offers many fashion lines and what he refers to as "item pieces" in the store. He has a few wardrobe basics, but mostly what I refer to as "statement pieces" that are worn with basics to offer the look of a well dressed, updated person. 

Todd carries many lines made in America and complements them with Canadian lines. He also works with a jeweler who provides customers with one of a kind statement necklaces and earrings that would make most women green with envy. I was certainly one of those women as I perused the very creative and intricately woven beaded jewels and gemstones. One of Todd's primary loves (besides working with the clients) is designing customer pieces. He offers an array of fabric and custom designs - from jackets to dresses of all sizes and shapes. Over the past six years of being in the business, he has seen a steady increase in women who desire to have a garment made to their exact wants and needs. Who wouldn't want a designer designing a dress for you? Todd is providing a great custom solution to women who can't find what they want in retail stores.

Todd has a great website with several of his custom pieces shown as well as looks that he carries in the store. What impressed me the most is something relatively new he offers on his site. The program is called Fashion101 Plus. It is an online service that plus size women can join for $7.95 a month and receive tips, advice and a variety of handpicked fashion from several online retailers based upon your shape. Todd also provides on online monthly video discussing tips, concerns, and providing style advice. Todd has established himself as the go to guy and guru for plus size women and really enjoys working with women of all shapes and sizes.

As for me, Todd is a great guy who genuinely cares about his customers, and all I have to say is kudos to him!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Moving On Up?

What does it say when you get a second phone call in six years to do a reality tv show? When 'Wife Swap' was big on tv, I got a phone call from an LA producer wanting me and my family to participate. As a stylist I would travel to who knows where and swap with another wife in their home. Wow, for a brief second I was like, I wanna do this and they are offering to pay me $10K+ for my time and trouble. Not to mention the drama and the headache. That is a lot of money for me to live in someone else's home and live their life for two weeks. Could someone else do my job as well as I do, or would I have to cancel my clients during that time period. Which of my clients would want to be filmed with a potential crazy woman who may be color blind or not know the meaning of age appropriate clothing? 

The producer pursued me with a follow up email trying to entice me to do it. If you could have been a fly on the wall to see the reaction from my husband and daughter, at the time a high school junior. Even my dog Skip sensed her space would be invaded. I began to think about another woman living upstairs in our guest bedroom and somehow thinking she would parent my daughter and tell my spouse what to do and how high to jump. Hmm, for $10K, I would have gladly split it with the family. I expect my older son Scott would have made an appearance to get in on the act. No can do they shouted! I'm not sure I could have traveled to someone's home and lived in unchartered territory. Eeekkk! Sadly, I said no thank you. Could you imagine, though? What a wild ride that would have been.

Recently, I got another email from a producer in LA that wanted the next Rachel Zoe wanna-be from the South. Well, now we are talking! I don't think I could be as harsh as Rachel, but I certainly could show my own personality and fashion flair. For those that have worked with me, they would say that my facial expressions would either make me shine or put me in the dog house with many. I love it when I see clients gleaming  in the mirror and know I have done my magic. I think I am equally, if not more excited, than the client. 

So I am reading this email and the producer asks for a return phone call, so I call Jeannie and ask her to sit in on the phone call. It was a preliminary interview, and there were a lot of questions. All of them fun to answer: am I a stationary or moving stylist, who are typically my clients, do I travel a lot, and lastly, how old am I. Do I have to answer the age question? I am not a good liar but this year was a big birthday. 

After our 15 minute back and forth dialogue with Jeannie piping in and sometimes laughing at my responses, the producer concluded that they will be in touch if they are interested. Wait... did I forget to mention anything? I covered my love of fashion, my athletics, Emmy award winning client (Rhiannon Giddens), my book that is coming out, and yes, I am interested. She asked if I had an assistant or crew. I had to think about that for a nanosecond. I don't have an entourage or anything, but yeah, I have my support staff, hair make up, a few young interns when needed, and yes, Jeannie, who has zero interest in being on camera, but is willing to help. I haven't heard back yet, so maybe they were looking for a younger version? or the tv studios didn't like the pilot. Who knows. I can tell you with tv and pitching projects, there are a lot of people out there working very hard who don't make it. 

But how wild is it that my name has come up again?!?!? Too fun to even think about beyond tonight. Although....the next step would be a trip out to LA. A shopaholics dream!

So from my closet to yours, Savvy Suzanne is on the move and laughing all the way!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Designs and Designers - How to Work With What You Have

When we're little, most parents tell us we can do anything, and be anything. For some, that path is clear, and others not so much. Most of the clothing and jewelry designers I know are very creative people, and they love what they do, although I have found a great many of them who have done a variety of work before finally realizing they have to have a creative outlet and discovering that design is what they love. They have to love what they do - it's not like everyone wakes up one day, designs a shredded or bedazzled t-shirt and sells it to Saks or Nordstrom so they can sell it for $200. That's a rare occurrence, and is the reason shows like Project Runway are so successful.

I read an article today about a designer whose entire line disappeared on the way to Paris Fashion Week, and it made me think of all the hard work and creativeness he put into his line only to have it disappear. And it's not like he can just run out and get another one, he has to create and sew another one. I hope he still has his patterns...

You might be asking why I think this is sad - if he's showing at Paris Fashion Week, he must be somebody already, right? I've seen so many different designers, on lots of different runways, and I know that to get where he is now is not easy or inexpensive. And then there's that creativity aspect. Most designers start in the big houses, working in design or manufacturing and putting in long hours learning the business and the operational aspects of what it takes to start a design house of their own, all the while drawing and sketching, and working on their aesthetic. Not everyone can do it, and I've seen a lot of garments and jewelry that look great, like they would stand up to repeated cleaning and wear, and some that have loose or hanging threads, clasps that don't work or loose stones.

When you come across items you like, take into consideration that construction issues are easily fixed by a good tailor or jeweler. Most jewelry stores can fix clasps, loose stones, and any other issue a piece of jewelry might have, including adding or removing length so it hangs properly on you and complements your neckline. Tailors can strengthen a seam, or make construction adjustments so your garment looks like the designer envisioned on their sketch pad. Some jewelers and tailors will make a copy from an image or a picture, but like the designer whose line disappeared, re-creating the designs never quite meets the expectations or tweaks of the originals, and sometimes it's more fun to work with what you have in front of you to get what you want.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall Fashion Must Have's

This season is full of surprise and compromise! Lots of choices for style and fit. After you have evaluated your wardrobe, hit the stores and check out the following to round out your fall wardrobe.

Look for a silk button front blouse. If you don't want to deal with the cost of dry cleaning, opt for a polyester blend fabric instead. This season's button front blouse is soft and has a drape. Shop for small floral, animal or reptile, solid, bib front or a center line vertical stripe. This blouse looks best paired with a sleek dress pant or skinny jeans. Try wearing a layered necklace or statement piece in the neckline of the blouse.
LOVE Moschino: WSK5800
Chunky, chunky knits! Knits this season vary from thinner to the thickest of weave and pattern. There are many options - sleeveless to three quarter sleeves to hip or ankle length cardigans. Whether you prefer short or long, choose a knit that is versatile enough to wear with pants, skirts and dresses. Knits are wonderful to layer not only for warmth, but to transition short sleeve items into fall and winter.

Vivienne Westwood RED Label: S26AA0042 S41108 095
Seek out a statement coat this season. Choose from leather or wool; short, knee or calf length. Make your mark with a fabulous color or silhouette. Opt for something other than black and look for a coat with fine lines and hardware detail in soft greys, taupes, winter white or dark jewel tones. Make sure your selection is something you can wear with most everything in your lifestyle wardrobe.You'll want to wear it for many years to come.

My vote for shoe of the season is a flat boot. Simple in style and comfortable to boot! Yes, that was a shoe pun. Whether you decide upon black, brown or camel, a good leather boot will only look and wear better over time. Buy the best quality your pocketbook will allow.

Find that last key item that will make everything else in your wardrobe come together. That "it" item for fall this year is a fabulous leather bag. Find a bag that works most for your every day lifestyle. It has to be functional for everyday, and some choices are a tote, sachel or hobo. Set a budget and begin the hunt. Stores, online and brick and mortar, are offering great deals to entice shoppers to make that "it" purchase this fall. I've seen some really nice high end bags on sale this year!

Happy shopping and be sure and send me your favorite purchase for fall!
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