How I got into Vogue Italia

What time is it? It's time I looked in to say Hi! and share another of my shaggy dog stories! Also, I want you all to share in a tiny moment of glory but I have no idea how much longer the links will work.

As you might recall, I didn’t get very far with my own business, but in the process of trying I did get quite a lot better at pattern cutting. So, after a season of health issues and career uncertainty, and needing to get into a more positive routine, I persuaded my friend over at ByBrown to take me on part time. I started there at the beginning of the year and so far it’s all been good.

Surprisingly for a small brand, (but less so for the quality of the product - I am a long time fan) ByBrown was scouted by Vogue Italia to feature as one of their Next Green Talents. I always appreciated Melanie's approach to quality and sustainability, which you can read about in her own words if you can scroll past the eye candy. 

Anyway. This last month I’ve been helping out with the featured collection, which was built around a series of hand-printed fabrics developed by Marnix Postma (that’s him with the tattoos). I’ve been working mainly on pattern development and other technical details, but I also had some input on the final styling, which went something like this.

Among the collection were some digital prints derived from an original artwork, in stretch knit and cotton velvet. The lightweight knit was made up into some gorgeous body wear and it came out beautifully. On the other hand, the velvet proved harder to tame. With time was running out and no wearable garments it looked like it was heading for the reject pile. I saw its potential and was pretty sure it could be rescued.

And so, on Friday afternoon, less than 48 hours before the shoot, I draped a pair of culottes. If you make clothes yourself and you’ve worked with large scale prints, you can probably see what I was up against. Everything depends on placement and proportion - a wrong tuck and the whole design collapses. Too long and you’re wearing curtain material. But with a bit of luck you might find a sweet spot where it all falls into place.

See, this is the kind of “fast fashion” I can get behind. It’s nothing like the brand’s technical sportswear, where products can be months in development, it’s just a very simple design to showcase a striking fabric. But I wasn’t expecting these culottes, made more or less for the fun of it, to make it past the house stylist, let alone onto the Vogue Italia website.

And yes, those are my YLF-endorsed Ann D’s. I loaned them for the shoot.

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Fashionably late to the YLF ball?

I’m in a bind. I’ve been faffing about trying to decide what to wear for far too long and I’m late. Now my fairy godmother’s arrived and she’s the kind of bad witch they burned at the stake back in the day. She dresses Grace Jones, Bjork and Roisin Murphy. She thinks Tilda Swinton is a bit tame and Solange should get out of her comfort zone. She doesn’t exactly do Red Carpet.

I really wanted some Comme de Garçons but she nixed that, said it was daywear and gave me this Alexander McQueen corset instead. I put it on and no kidding, it was like being trussed up like a turkey. I couldn’t sit down. 

Then she pulled out this vintage Margiela cape made from human hair. No, it’ll freak people out I told her, this is YLF not some Japanese horror movie, and anyway what if it catches on the furniture?

Next she showed me something by an up and coming Korean designer but it wasn’t even a dress. I said it wasn’t that kind of party and if I wore that everyone would be too embarrassed to speak to me. 

Then she found this one dress from Iris van Herpen. It might work, but I think it looks like a poofy snowflake and I told her so. Fine, she said, then it’s perfect. That’s exactly what you are.

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Personal vintage: yay or nay?

I’ve been cautiously welcoming the return of the flare these last few seasons, but I’d like to exhaust my closet before buying anything new. I’m now thinking of resurrecting this pair, which have been languishing in a box for years. They date back to around about the turn of the millennium, when I bought them from a local atelier who were making them to order. I wore them a few times before they became a roaring success for the woman who made them and suddenly there were duplicates in different colour ways walking around my neighbourhood. I hated that but I still liked the pants, so I put them away.

Now, I have no problem wearing vintage in general, but the problem with digging out something form my past like this is that it comes with all kinds of baggage, and it can be hard to dissociate it from previous reference points. I don’t think I’ve ever kept hold of something for this long without returning to it and I’m not even sure why I still have them when just about everything else from that era is long gone. I’m also struggling to uncouple them in my head from the late ‘90s fashion culture that produced them.

But I like them dammit! Yes, I like these pants and I’m willing to give them another go. I’m looking to London's Goodhood for urban baggy inspiration, as well as the colourful, dressy palazzo styles that are around right now. 

Obviously, I need to know, what do you guys think. Are they fun and a bit Fenty, or obviously dated? More to the point though, is there any personal vintage lurking somewhere in your storage? I’m not sure if I should be delighted or ashamed that I want to wear these again…

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Dressing for my fantasy life

Ladies, Boho Trinity has brought along some friends and she’d like to introduce them…

Yukiko Kato spends her days running around pixellated Neo Tokyo collecting materiel, slaughtering mutants and eating first aid kits. Sometimes she thinks there must be more to life than this, but then she doesn’t know she’s a character in a computer game, poor thing.

Antoinette Wolfsbane runs the youth LGBTQ drop-in centre on Diagon Alley. A former Slytherin head of house, some doubt her suitability as mentor for vulnerable wizarding teens. Few, however, deny her bravery as a sleeper agent in the battle against He Who Shall Not Be Named. (She has no trouble naming him, but mention Bellatrix Lestrange and she’ll most likely hex you.)

Tatiana SmithKline Beecham owns the last independent record shop in Soho, through which she launders cash for the Russian mafiya. Refuses to believe the neighbourhood has shot its bolt and that Shoreditch is now the place to be. Once played Hugh Grant’s quirky flatmate in a Richard Curtis rom com nobody can remember. Voted Leave.

Ellen Roberta Doolittle is one of an unknown number of women to have held the title of Dread Pirate Roberts, a position she inherited from Inigo Montoya when he left to join the CIA. Her favourite pillaging destination is the Cornish coast, where she enjoys drinking scrumpy, looting tin mines and stalking Ross Poldark.

I think I just bought a magic coat. This is far too easy. kkards, what was that about workhorses?

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Styling the new acquisition

Since I began the year with the goal of being somewhat more mindful of my shopping, it’s probably fitting that I should end it vindicated with an outstanding example of my failure to follow through. Some things find an immediate place in the wardrobe, but the best ones can take you to the next level. The moment I put this on, it was all over bar the haggling. This is me at my very best and my very worst - as Agent Smith would say, that’s the sound of inevitability.

I am very much in love with this number. It is classic, distinctive and slightly exotic. It is gorgeous leather, beautifully made and a fabulous fit. It packs some serious attitude and has the potential to be a real heavy hitter. It’s by no means a departure for me and in some respects it’s a consolidation: I think the reason I fell for it so hard is that a clean A-line with a round neck and a bit of structure is just about the most flattering thing I could possibly wear.

However, fashion being what it is, these things don’t often turn up, so there’s not much like this in my wardrobe, and it’s far harder to style than I was expecting. There’s something about it that falls so far outside the contemporary fashion vernacular that it’s almost an anachronism. Where exactly does this style come from, or more to the point, when? To put it another way, this piece is not fashion-forward in any way shape or form. If anything, it’s fashion-sideways.

The trick, then, is to integrate it into my style in a way that feels contemporary while honouring its syncretic provenance. Taking a leaf out of Old Chic’s book, I decided it was best to be true to myself rather than trying make it look Fashionable, while avoiding a slippery slope into SF/Gothic pastiche.

It turns out this is harder than it looks, in which case Boho Trinity could be a massive false positive. A better descriptor is probably Fetish Anna Wintour, and if you’ve been paying attention you might just remember why this is painfully close to home. Zipped up, it has a formal severity which I like very much, and it really comes into its own layered over voluminous midi skirts. Luckily, I have quite a few of these and not enough ways to wear them, so this seems like a winning formula.

What do you guys think? Am I missing a trick here, or is this a good enough jumping off point? Shown here with this year’s default hat - I’m due a trip to the salon and my hair is a fright.

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Holiday capsule - help!!

So I'm off to Morocco for a couple of weeks as of tomorrow and I haven't been as good about planning my packing as I'd like to be. It's not a major disaster, but I'm taking some risks and I have the feeling I'm carrying too much. Also, the colour palette is all over the map.

The capsule involves a few decisions which take me somewhat out of my comfort zone, but this is my first trip to North Africa and I'd like to be dressed for both the climate and the culture. 

What do you guys think? Am I carrying too much for two weeks? Or have I forgotten something?

Controversial outfit move:
Dresses layered over pants and t-shirts. It's versatile and it fits with the local mores (I like a good pun, me) but it does involve more pieces than I would usually pack. 

5 dresses:

Wax print sack dress, red/navy
White shirt dress, long sleeved
White shirt dress, sleeveless
Draped tunic, blue/grey
T-dress, black w/metallic print

5 pairs pants:
Hiking pants, grey
Skinny chinos, navy
Track pants, navy
Wide leg lounge pants, black
Silk pyjamas, yellow floral

9 T-shirts
2 plain white
2 plain black
4 long sleeved 
1 woollen base layer

3 pairs shoes:
Lightweight (sort-of) desert boots
Sneakers
Sandals
Controversial footwear move:
Sandals are a very old pair of fancy Birkenstocks, which will be worn with statement socks. I think I can get away with it and I can't be doing with blisters. Or I could nix this and sub in an extra pair of sneakers.

Outerwear
Lightweight performance jacket, aqua
Quilted lightweight down jacket, chartreuse
Lightweight bomber, black.
I'm wondering if I need a lightweight fleece or hoodie here as well?

Accessories:
3 shawls
2 headscarves
2 baseball caps
Beanie
Sunglasses
I'll be experimenting with different head coverings during the trip. I'm no stranger to hats, but it's been a while since I tried a head wrap and I doubt if I'll graduate to a hijab. Will have to see how it goes.

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When the stars align… ETA scroll down for pics!

Forgive me if this becomes a rambling shaggy dog story but I think there must be a moral in here somewhere. Something about synchronicity and shopping strategies? I don’t know yet.

For a long time (coming on ten years now) I’ve had this rule about buying shoes: only two pairs a year, but make sure they’re really good ones. I’ve rarely stuck to the letter of the law but it’s served me very well in spirit and by now I’m very happy with my little shoe farm.

The downside is that this has made me a shameless shoe snob, and being so very fussy about footwear means I don’t always know what I want. How could I when I haven’t found it yet? For instance, it took me several years to track down last year’s OTK boots, and when I decided this year that I wanted to wear skirts more and should probably consider another pair, of course I found myself looking at duplicates of boots I already had. What would be the point of that? So I decided: OK. I really don’t need more boots. I can make do with what I have.

Meanwhile, for ages a friend had been goading me to visit our local TK (that’s TJ to you) Maxx. We don’t have many of these here in NL and they tend to be in remote locations. We spent weeks trying to align our respective agendas so as to make this excursion happen.

We finally met on a glorious autumn afternoon. We had lunch on the terrace. I ran through my mental shopping list - more socks, loungewear for Mr Edge - but I wasn’t expecting to find much and I swore blind I wasn’t going to buy anything if I did. We made our way to our destination.

Now, I’ve talked here in the past about the mind tricks I use to keep myself from shopping indiscriminately. As usual, I’d dressed up nicely for the occasion to keep temptation at bay, but I’d made one fatal error and I didn’t realise until it was too late. I was wearing my wide legged jeans.

And I’m not kidding, I spotted them as soon as I walked through the door. I’ve no idea how this works, but sometimes I get this laser focus. They weren’t even in my line of sight, but they were the first thing I saw. This shouldn’t happen, but somehow it keeps happening and I can’t believe my luck.

Margiela MM6, priced right down. White, high shaft, a chunky block heel, too cute to pass over. Of course. Finally. This is how I’m supposed to wear cropped flares. Cuff them just so and I’m in business.

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How NOT to wear etc

From last year. I even got away with it last week. None of you noticed, or perhaps you were too polite to say.

I have every intention of repeating this horrifying faux pas as often as possible this season. 

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Style Lab Redux: Colour & Texture

A while ago, I typed myself as a Winter. Amazingly useful as this knowledge has been, it’s obvious to me that there’s more to optimising colour effects than simply knowing whether they suit you in theory. While working through my seasonal refresher, it finally became clear where this was heading. Please join me while I quack-science the hell out of a seemingly straightforward problem. Warning: it’s long.

Colouring: Winter - cool, medium to high contrast.

My colour story so far: http://youlookfab.com/welookfa.....ght-winter

I’ve been wearing a Winter palette for a while and by now I can tell the difference. I definitely look better in these colours, and the down jacket in #1 finally cliched it for the Deep end of the spectrum. Bright but far from luminous, I can’t quite manage a zinging neon but this particular shade of citron is a surprising success. I had no idea.

My ultimate objective in identifying this colour family has been to work out how to hack it. Is it possible to wear colours that don’t suit me, and if so, how?

Outside the Winter palettes, there are indeed a few colours I probably shouldn’t be wearing, and yes, they make me look pretty grim in the wrong light, but it’s not as simple as that. It seems to me that interaction of different colours is every bit as important as the colours themselves. A lot depends on fabric texture, luminosity, and how they combine. For instance, the almost-neon orange of my favourite beanie works very well as an accent on high-contrast black and white looks, in spite of being warmer than perhaps is good for me.

Core Neutrals: Black, white, navy blue.

Secondary neutrals: charcoal, pale grey, purple, cognac

Brights: True red, shocking pink, icy pastels, metallic silver, cobalt, citron. Preferably cool, but anything at just the right level of intensity or saturation can do the trick. There seems to be a sweet spot.

Problem colours: Moss green, dark lime, olive, army green, beige, dark reds, salmon pink, taupe. Shades of grey are a problem - good at the ends of the spectrum, troublesome in the middle.

Styling Priorities: colour contrast and depth.

I’ve found that applying a few Kibbe principles alongside the colour theory can make a world of difference. I know exactly what this means aesthetically but I still can’t quite explain it without using words like yin and yang.

Kibbe type: Soft dramatic/flamboyant natural. Strong vertical lines and bold proportions are key.

Fabric  Surface texture can have a huge impact. Outlines should be bold and well-defined.

  • Reflective: metallics, pleather, sateen
  • Matte: scuba knit, technical fabric, poplin, polyester
  • Plush: velvet, melton, faux fur, cashmere, mohair, shearling

Grooming: Hairstyle, eyewear and lip colour establish the overall aesthetic. The rest of the package had better match up.

Troubleshooting

With the exceptions in the first row, these outfits are all about wearing colours that I don’t believe particularly suit me but I’m committed to wearing anyway. Hence, you might think these are not some of my best looks. Please feel free to tell me so - that’s what this exercise is for.


1-5 High shine, bright accents

This approach feels the most authentic and the easiest to wear. Works very well as a day to day style. I like the combination of timeless classic and urban glam - Acid Sport, all grown up.

Difficulty level: easy

#2-3 The dark red and olive featured here are closer to the Autumn palette but they mix well with black when combined with different textures. Plush fleece and glossy leather add depth and shine.

#4-5 Black and white can easily become boring, so I’ve become more adventurous lately in mixing it up with different colours and textures. I’m particularly pleased with the sequin decals on this old +J jacket. 3D skinny knit from Uniqlo U, vintage white plissé skirt.


6-10 Depth, contrast, graphic details

A good reference point for my boho shadow style, this draws heavily from the Deep Autumn palette. I’m beginning to think I have two divergent wardrobes.

Difficulty level: medium

#6-7 Mr Edge chose this autumn-coloured wrap so I have to wear it. Luckily, there’s enough depth in the red and grey for it to work. Spot the difference: lip colour and high-contrast graphic details elevate the look.

#8 This self-made wax print dress was one of my favourite looks from the summer, but these really aren’t my colours. It works because of the strong vertical silhouette, bold proportions and the graphic precision the print.

#9 Same thing applies to the vintage Kenzo, which I adore. Timeless tailoring and an excellent fit go a long way to compensate for too-warm colours. Corrected with a layer of citron and a shiny black support act.

#10 This Vibskov grandpa cardigan is more complicated. The bold black trim give the warmer colours and marled texture a boost. The B/W print on the tee emphasises the vertical lines.


11-15 Taming soft colours with brightness and depth

A few particularly good pieces from the Summer palette found their way in and hung around. They seem well balanced by Spring brightness and Winter depth, but this theory needs work.

Difficulty level: advanced

#11 I’ve struggled with this vintage skirt from Dries van Noten in the past and now I understand why. I like it with this cerise blouse from Zara but will probably save this look for next spring, along with 12.

#12 This Pleats Please scarf is another of Mr Edge’s choices. I doubt I’d have picked these colours out for myself, but they’re just bright enough and they play nicely with both black and white. I’m still learning how to tie it.

#13 This striped jersey dress is another problem child. Across YLF eyebrows are being raised and heads shaken but let me tell you there’s some advanced colour theory going on here. I may come back to this look for research purposes.

#14-15 I love this jumper and I will wear it regardless, even crumpled from storage as seen here. Doubt if the necklace helps much but the soft colours fail reasonably gracefully thanks to the long silhouette and the metallic sheen in the skirt.

That’s I’m telling myself anyway, because when all else fails I will suck it up. I’ll probably wear this over Christmas, to overeat and be cozy.

Conclusions

SCA is consistent with my knowledge of other theories of colour and it seems to hold up in practice. However, it’s not an exact science and there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre. I love the brightness, depth and contrast of the Winter palettes and they seem to like me too. I’m not getting any younger and I think optimising the colours will be a great way to keep the look going. If I want to make the most of a range of colours I’ll need to master some of the above principles. Hair, eyewear and lip colour are key to this, the rest can follow along.

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Seasonal refresher WIW

I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. I’ve had some health problems this summer and spent way too much of it in my pyjamas. In my defence, they were very nice pyjamas, but not really worth talking about on a fashion forum.

Hence I’ve been caught somewhat on the back foot by the changing weather. I usually enjoy dressing for the transitional season, but there’s always a week or so when I don’t quite know what to reach for, even more so when I haven’t been getting out much. This is when I have to trust my instincts, falling back on some established formulae as well as testing out some new styles.

The budget had a hammering earlier in the year (prescription sunglasses and a new handbag) so not much room to splurge but I did manage to add a few inexpensive essentials and I’m finding new ways with existing items and a slightly different hairstyle.

So here’s a preview of the new direction, which doesn’t stray terribly far from the old one, but it’s feeling sharper in some areas, softer and more refined in others, but still quite unfinished in places.

Old favourites: mannish looks

Random thought: Suz and skylurker both mentioned elsewhere that dressy menswear felt more “feminine” to them. I feel the opposite - these two looks are a case in point. Interesting how that plays out.

1. An old blazer from Jil Sander +J for Uniqlo, still my high water mark for mass market designer collaborations. It’s a great fit but the mossy green is not my best colour. I’m liking this year’s embellishment trends so I added some sequin appliqué. As for the outfit, I loved it on the day, but looking at it now I’m cringing at such an obvious throwback. This is pure 1980’s Camden Town, and I know this because I was there. I’m regressing, clearly.

2. I love this grandpa cardigan from Henrik Vibskov. I’ve had it ages and it’s impossible to style without looking sloppy but I don’t care. It’s reasonably flop-proof over a black and white printed tee, but I don’t think I’ve ever done better than Edvard Munch.


New acquisitions: lady looks.

Random thought: last year’s Style Lab exercises helped me focus more sharply on what my closet really needs, and how to shop for updates. The skirt in particular is a great addition, because it’s got me reaching for my other skirts too. I fully expect to wear skirts more this winter.

3. I went for a skirt and bag from the JW Anderson + Uniqlo collection. Both are pulling their weight, both are great for the price, (as good as +J? Dunno.) Here with last year’s boots and a leather/wool sweatshirt I made ages ago.

4. This black scuba knit tee with pastel shoulder insets from &OtherStories is one of the most useful things I’ve bought this year. Great for my body shape, goes with everything. I wish I’d bought two of them. The skirt, boots and fleece (Uniqlo again, haha! Are you seeing a pattern here?) have been around a while.


Vintage treasures: my boho shadow

Random thought: this is my personal danger zone. The risk of keeping a large wardrobe as a working resource is that it can very easily turn into a museum. I have some outstanding pieces here which I love dearly but are irrelevant as fashion items in any given year. My instinct is always to hold onto them until the moment they’re wearable again, but I can’t always wait for that to arrive.

5. I love this ’80’s vintage Kenzo jacket and I’ve worn it quite a lot. This is a prototype look for the coming season, layered over a lightweight down jacket. I’d like to wear it again this year but probably not like this. I think I can make it work one way or another. Maybe with a full midi skirt?

6. Granny takes a trip indeed, I had a major Westwood moment in my pyjama bottoms (see if you can guess where I bought them) with the pirate boots and Anglomania blouse. Two more pieces I love and enjoyed in the moment but should probably bench for now.

What are your thoughts? Your honest feedback is most appreciated.

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