Saturday, October 04, 2008

Chunky not always a bad thing.

Well duh, Grant. What about soup? Ok, you make a valid point. But either you're new, or just really dense. This is a fashion blog: key word being "fashion." Man, some peoples' kids I tell ya. Now where was I?
The chucky sweater has returned from the brink of fashion oblivion and, like the Prodigal Son, has been welcomed back with open arms. Contrary to other areas, the only stipulation for something to be lumped into this category is that it has to be,... well... chunky. Usually done in a wider gauge knit, these sweaters/cardigans/vests harken of a lost era brimming with a rustic charm. Unlike their vintage relatives, these variants opt for a variety of choices instead of the previously favored crewneck. The shawl, cowl, and oversized collars have become the "belles of the ball" this time around, and the new necklines allow for a plethora of layering options. With this in mind, you should add some life to your wardrobe. Break free from your normal routine. What about a long sleeve polo under a shawl neck cardigan, or a graphic long sleeved tee under a v-neck cable sweater vest? A key style fact to remember when incorporating this item, though, is that your other pieces should be fitted. A bulky sweater with baggy pants just makes you look like a hobo.
Not only do these bulky relatives come in a surfiet of neck options, but they also are swimming in old-world color palates. For some reason a lot of these colors are female in gender, and love to go by the name "Heather." No wait! As it turns out, heather is a yarn or fabric color that is subtly flecked or mottled. Heathered gray seems to be the most popular color this year with every designer from Alice & Olivia to Zegna using it. Final verdict: when looking for this garment, try to find one in a cable knit. It looks great, and adds a little more texture to the ensemble.

Not Just Your Father's Coat

This trendy piece isn't the newest of items, but it is back "in vogue" again. I know you are waiting with bated breath, so I'll just tell you. It's the duffel coat. This coat is made from none other than duffel; a coarse, thick, woollen material. As with many other styles this season, this item originated in Europe and is a traditional British garment. One key defining feature of a duffel coat is that the front must be closed (at least in some part) by front toggle-fastenings which are commonly called "walrus teeth." These toggles were originally used to make the coat easy to fasten and unfasten while wearing gloves... sort of like fashionable velcro. Traditionally these coats were boxy, but the newer variants have a tailored feel and are easier to find for avant-garde women shoppers. Even the high fashion houses, like Dolce & Gabbana, have a rendition of this classic garment. Final verdict: if these coats are properly cared for, they can last many many years and be passed down from generation to generation. Think of it as a several-cycle fashion investment.

P.S. - If you can't figure it out, the female model is the one wearing the duffel coat.

Improve your Image NOW in 2 minutes or less!

Grant, what's an easy way to instantly improve my look without breaking the bank? Well, avid reader, I have an answer for you. Interestingly enough, your question has stumbled us into one of my top pet peeves: people that dress their body type incorrectly. Wait, that wasn't what I wanted to talk about. Now what did I... OH, Right! What I wanted to talk about was another one of my top irritations: poor posture.
Walking the streets of NYC, I've found that a person with good posture instantly catches my eye. In a society where women slouch their shoulders and men hunch in their chairs, it's no wonder that everyday poise is deteriorating. When I was younger, I used to hunch all the time. Every time I went to my grandparents' house, my grandfather would correct this youthful folly. He constantly told me that the way to instantly impress a lady was to carry yourself in a self-assured manner. This was best conveyed by keeping a straight back and owning a stride that was as graceful as it was commanding. If the idea of propper posture is foreign to you, I suggest watching fashion runway videos. While the models' steps are often overly emphasized, they have the basic concept down. After some practice you may find that the muscles in the middle of your back are sore. This pain is probably earned by the simple act of keeping your shoulders back. Think of this as your body slapping you in the head for letting it get to this point. Final verdict: with a little practice, you can start turning heads with little more than your gait.

The Ivy

Imagine the afternoon sun peeking out from behind the embrace of a downy white cloud crawling across the sky. The air is crisp and the occasional breeze dances across your exposed skin as you idly stroll down a back country road. The sound of your thoughts mix with the crunching of fallen leaves underneath your feet creating an organic, poetic melody.
Sounds wonderful, right? Of course it does; but not all of us can escape out into the spacious countryside. And when you can't escape, how can you pretend? Well, by wearing an ivy. Now some of you may be wondering what an ivy is, or why you would be wearing an English climbing plant. The ivy also goes by the common name of the "newsie cap". Ringing any bells? This flat cap originated as the headwarmer for the working class, but over the years has gained more of an upper class image. The wonderful thing about this versatile cap is that it creates a casual image while maintaining that sophisticated oneness. The ivy comes in many different fabrics and makes a great addition to any autumnal ensemble. Thrown with jeans, a vest, and an oxford it says, "I'm into relaxing, so let's meet at the pub for merriment and unique music." Combined with an overcoat and silk scarf it speaks volumes in a different direction. Final verdict: this English isle accessory should be a "must" for your closet... and like the Swiss Army knife, the possibilites are endless.

Sweet Prepster Batman!

Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique to create patterns with multiple colors. When you see attire done in this style you may instantly think of the 1970s and shag carpet. While this may be correct, it's about that time for things like this to make a comeback. BAM! Enter the Fair Isle sweater, vest, dress... you name it. This style is certainly not for everyone and you have to really own this look. A pair of horn-rimmed or dark-rimmed glasses certainly helps to complete this wearable flair. The fair isle, when worn correctly creates and air of sartorial confidence and quirky humor best garnished with bright smile. Remember that the pattern tend to be very busy, so the other pieces of your "get-up" should let the Fair Isle shine instead of battling for spotlight. I recommend prepping it up with a button-down shirt and some sort of a club tie. One other thing to remember is that it's best to stick to lighter weight fabrics and leave the thick, chunky sweaters for the fishermen. Keep it to the slim-cuts please. Final verdict: you may be able to find some wonderful vintage pieces at thrift stores, but if you're lazy there's always Ralph Lauren.


According to, Layering is defined as "the wearing of lightweight or unconstructed garments one upon the other, as to create a fashionable ensemble or to provide warmth without undue bulkiness or heaviness." Exactly. Basically all you are doing is putting on more than necessary for the sake of fashion, and you know what? I love it.
The key to good layering is to think about the necklines of what you are wearing. If you alter the necklines of what you are wearing you will be able to see the most of what you have on underneath. Most often, the dress shirt is the bottom layer (with the exception of a t-shirt if you want to show a crew neck collar). This creates the height around the neck area and with a dress shirt being buttoned up the middle it will fall to either side if not fastened. This then works wonders when worn under a v-neck sweater or a vest of some sort. To top it all off you can throw a blazer or jacket over it all and complete the rule of 3. This is a little rule I follow when layering during the Autumn/Winter fashion season. The rule basically states that a properly layered outfit must be at least 3 layers deep (and a tie can count as a layer).
The wonderful part about layering is that the last layer doesn't HAVE to be the longest or most visible. Let's take Mr. Model up on the right... I want to call him Ian. As you can see, Ian used the "puffer vest" as the last item but still creates that wonderful "bundled" look. Another thing you may notice in the pictures I have supplied is the glorious use of cold-weather accessories. While not a layering item, they dovetail perfectly with the look we are creating. Hats, gloves, and scarves can help to flush out the total ensemble or add a much needed splash of color to a drab outfit. This being said, keep in mind where your color "pops" are going to draw the human eye. Model number 1 (with her entire styling team) has done a perfect job of drawing your eyes instantly to the neckline and then secondly down to the hands. You wouldn't want someone to be staring at your shoes and then your belt-line, now would you? Final verdict: go to the closet and try stacking up your pieces in new and fresh ways to get that extra mile out of your "last season" gear.

Wish you went to Oxford? Yeah, me too.

Harvard, Oxford, Yale... what do all these have in common? Yep! I couldn't afford them. Oh wait, that wasn't the point I was trying to make. What was my point again?... Right! Collegiate style! You're so smart.
Trends come and go, but the style of the uber elite "old money" families seems to stay the same. Basically everything comes from the aristocratic style of the English countryside with the earth tones and bow ties all thrown together with a haphazard air of going out for a "quick jaunt." Honestly, who plays a friendly game of touch football in a bow tie, sweater vest, and $800 blazer? Oh, right... the uber elite.
Lately, this gorgeous style of sophistication and leisure has begun to creep into the trends of the season. You can see more and more items with crest patches and ornate stitching which bring you back to that "old world charm". If you had to pick one designer that seems to hit the nail on the head, who would you say? No silly, not Gucci... the correct answer is none other than the mastermind himself, Ralph Lauren. Recently, Ralph has started to open free-standing shops for their Ivy League casual line, Rugby. I absolutely love this line. It has the refinement of aristocracy with that half-cocked-tie casualness. It says, "Hey, I'm all about business and the finer things in life, but I dress for comfort and I'd love to sit outside and chat with you over hot cider." Ok, maybe it doesn't say all that, but it makes a distinct statement about the wearer. Final Verdict: start out with an item or two paired with structured pieces; it'll give you a whole new way to pull together your existing wardrobe.

Trim and Roll

Once again, here I come bringing my take on some up and coming styles with some frank and honest opinions. I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about 2 fall (and spring) trends that are sure to give your wardrobe that extra little "umph".
The first trend/fashion statement that I'd like to delve into is the re-emergence of "braces" (or for the lay person: "suspenders"). These come in many different colors, widths, and modes to fasten them to your clothing. As a general rule, braces that fasten with buttons are for more formal attire and ones that clip on are for your every day outfits. While getting buttons sewn into your favorite jeans may make you "original"... it'll also make you wonder what in the heck you were doing when you fast forward 2 years. A black thin pair of clip-on braces would make a great addition to any casual outfit (and that goes for you too ladies). For you fashion mavens out there, the Rag & Bone Spring '09 show was littered with these little trim accessories for both sexes and looked classic yet edgy. Fans of the tv show House M.D. may remember that the gorgeous "thirteen" (played by actress Olivia Wilde) sports these pant holder-uppers in several of the episodes. Final verdict: for a couple extra bucks you can add a million dollar bump to an already almost perfect outfit.
Secondly, lets tackle the ever-popular love of the shawl collar. Now the shawl collar has been around for quite some time, but lately it seems to be the cranberry of the fashion world... it gets with everything. The thing that I love about this neckline is that it tends to work with almost any build, so there's a pretty good chance that you'd look good in it. Lately my real interest in this collar is in the formal and cardigan departments. There have been some amazing tuxes out this season with the noble roll. The soft curve of the fabric around the neck is not as sharp as a peak or notch lapel and the height around the back helps to frame the shoulders. It also makes for a slightly different look that is still just as stunning. In the cardigan world it helps to add some flair for those that think a cardigan is too "old man". The heavier top section makes it chuncky enough to wear alone or you could just as easily throw it under a blazer for a "Harvard Athletic Club" look if you're into that kind of thing. Which I am. Just kidding. But seriously, I love it. A shawl collar is great for the guy (or girl) that is looking to minimize the size of their neck without appearing to do so. Final verdict: try one out... you might be surprised at how much you like it.

Fall Fashion Week

This weekend begins Fashion Week yet again in the Big Apple, which is a busy time full of A-list celebs, top rated models, and a peek into the styles for next season. While this is all great for the people that can actually get tickets, you almost stop and ask yourself; "what's the hurry?" Personally, I happen to LOVE fall fashion. Not only because of the rich earth tones and autumnal highlights, but because of everything it represents. The air is starting to cool and the leaves are beginning to change their colors and in the matter or weeks the scenery goes from 2-season-green to an explosion of reds, yellows, and oranges before the final bow into brown. Finally, I have a reason to layer up and enjoy the walk to work without sweating through my summer suit... and come on, who doesn't love a good glass of cider?
Now for the helpful tips in case you missed Fashion Week last spring. Here's what you should be looking for:
  • Vests, vests, vests... whether that be the sweater version, the suit style or outerwear
  • Tweeds but now in lighter fabric options so you don't burn up while inside
  • Surprisingly, fur trimmed items... although not all designers will have these
  • Collegiate styling. I mean, just look at Ralph Lauren's fall ad campaign! I love it!
  • For women: the bubble skirt is back. Last spring Max Azria had tons in his show
  • Also for women: the long sweater or sweater cardigan...
  • The 3 piece suit with pocket square. If you're going to go 3 piece, make sure you have the propper styling accessories. Check Brooks Brothers or Paul Stuart for great colors.
Hopefully these little tips will help you enjoy the beginnings of fall while looking simply "smashing".