My guide to the new season (women)

Spring/summer 2015 heralds a few big change in shapes and silhouettes, which may look a little scary at first glance. Here’s my quick overview of the new season and how to navigate the options…

  1. Flared jeans are back. Yes, it’s true. If you’re not sure, try them in dark or black denim with platform heels or wedges.   Higher waisted flared jeans create a surprisingly flattering silhouette and are a fantastic day-to-evening option. And if they don’t suit you, don’t wear them. Simple.
  1. Denim (including flares) is everywhere. But it’s not just limited to jeans. If jeans aren’t your thing, or you want to explore other options, check out the plethora of denim shirts arriving in shops now – these are great with a leather skirt, by the way. Denim dresses, boilersuits and A-line denim skirts (see M&S’s version, featured in Vogue) also abound, as a key part of the…..
  1. ….1970s trend. The ‘Me’ decade is back with a vengeance, not only influencing denim shapes, but also through prints, luxe languid blouses, suede jackets and fringing. Fringing adorns everything – be careful here unless you want to look like a cowgirl – keep it limited to one item or accessory
  1. Cropped trousers/culottes are also big (and big in volume). It’s a distinct move away from slim and tailored, which has been with us for a while. This is a tricky look to pull off, unless you’re blessed with height (which I am not). If you’re wearing volume on the bottom half, keep it streamlined on top.

Things to hang on to:

  • leather – leather bikers, skirts and leggings are still with us, and great for chilly March/April weather
  • sports luxe – the sweatshirt and cuffed sweatpant vibe is still going strong. Don’t be afraid to dress them up with heels and a clutch
  • skinny jeans – they aren’t disappearing yet
  • anything white. A big colour for spring/summer

I’ve said this before: do not follow trends for trends’ sake. If something doesn’t suit you, you will look ridiculous wearing it. And if you’re unsure of a particular colour or trend (e.g. fringing), inject it into one or two accessories first. Most of all, wear whatever you choose with confidence and a smile.

 

Bon anniversaire, M de Givenchy

Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy is 88 years old today.  Givenchy is from aristocratic stock (as you can tell).  Early in his career, Givenchy designed for both Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, working alongside the then-unknown Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior.  He then worked for Elsa Schiaparelli from 1947-51, before founding his own House of Givenchy in 1952.

Givenchy is perhaps best known, however, for designing much of Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe both on and off screen.  He met Audrey in 1953, when she was about to start filming ‘Sabrina’. Legend has it that he was expecting Katharine Hepburn when they met, but of course Audrey arrived in  her signature look of t-shirt, capri trousers and ballet flats.  The resulting friendship and collaboration would last 40 years, designing clothes for Audrey in not only Sabrina, but also Funny Face, Love in the AfternoonBreakfast at Tiffany’s and How to Steal a Million.

Audrey said of Givenchy in 1956: “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.”

Givenchy sold his business stop LVMH in 1988 and retired in 1995.  He would be succeeded by Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Julien MacDonald and today, Riccardo Tisci.

Look sharp, gentlemen !

This is an edited version of my column in Platinum Business Magazine, January 2015

Designer Pierre Cardin once said, ‘I can go all over the world with just three outfits: a blue blazer and grey flannel pants, a grey flannel suit, and black tie.’  All are, of course, variations on the suit, which became the ubiquitous ‘uniform’ for many men in the twentieth century.

The suit as we know it today began to take shape at the end of the 19th century, when riding jackets and waistcoats became shorter to accommodate city dressing, and darker colours began to dominate.  By the end of the 1930s, the three-piece suit (jacket, trousers and waistcoat) had become the accepted daily wear of office workers in Britain.  This hasn’t altered much, and remains the basis of the modern suit.

The twenty first century is arguably more casual, and this relaxed approach has crept into suit wearing too.  So many men wear badly fitting, scruffy suits – I’m sure Mr Cardin would despair.  This is ironic, given the fact that men take more care about how they look and recognise that their clothes are a vital aspect of their ‘brand’.

Let’s get back to looking sharp, gentlemen.  In this article, I am going to remind you what to consider when buying a suit, the key elements and the most common mistakes. My aim isn’t to encourage you to instantly revamp your wardrobe, but inspire you to invest in it.

Cut, cloth and colour

The cut is the basic pattern regarded as the standard by tailors and manufacturers.  It is better to buy a well cut suit in a lesser fabric than vice versa. Above all, the cut should look ‘natural’, allowing movement and suiting your measurements.

A medium weight cloth (12-13 ounces) is sensible for a suit you can wear most of the year.  A tailor will advise choosing a cloth as heavy as you can bear as it hangs better, but keep your personal preferences and purpose in mind.  Wool is by far the best cloth for suits.  The ‘super number’, as in ‘super 150’, denotes the fineness of the individual fibres (much like the thread count in sheets).

Many men choose traditional colours: blues and greys.   Think of building your suit wardrobe – start with the basics in block (plain) colour then move on to different textures and patterns.

Common mistakes

The most common mistake is poor fit, with many men opting for jackets and trousers that are too big.  Is this because our obsession with ‘comfort’ has crept into our psyches to such an extent that everyone automatically goes up a size or two?  Know your true size, and stick to it!  Remember the tailor’s mantra: balance and harmony are the keys to a well-fitting suit that allows the wearer to look ‘natural’.

Keep in mind that a good wardrobe (with the suit as a central element) is built over a number of years – a bit like decorating your house or building your business.  It is a personal process and should result in a style that is uniquely yours.

What’s underneath is important.

This piece appears in February’s Brighton Style Magazine (www.brightonstylemag.com)

This week, we’ll see the annual stampede of men rushing out to buy flowers, chocolates, or even underwear for their partners for Valentine’s Day.  Many of these men have no idea of their beloved’s size, preferred colour or shape !   Neither, in some cases, do the women. About 70% of British women are wearing the wrong size bra.  Why is our attitude to underwear so slapdash and uncaring ?

French women, on the other hand, know that beautiful, supportive, well-fitting underwear is vital, as it creates a foundation for the overall look.  As Nic, owner of Brighton boutique She Said (see below) explained to me, ‘French women view lingerie as part of being a woman, and girls are taken to be fitted at an early age.’  We tend to take the opposite approach: beautiful underwear is only for ‘special occasions’ and not considered integral to our style.  Not so.

Some women dream of the perfect lingerie drawer, with matching sets of bras, knickers and chemises.  But it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right basics before buying fun or sexy pieces that may not be suitable for everyday wear.  Here are three golden rules to get you started:

  1. get a bra fitting regularly, and have several sizes.  Brands and shapes do vary, and your body changes throughout the month
  2. your basics should include the following bras: nude, black, strapless/convertible
  3. and please, hand or delicate wash (in a net bag) only ! Believe me, they’ll last much longer

As a newcomer to Brighton I am frequently delighted by the lovely independent boutiques that abound in our city.  When you are ready to invest in some fun, sexy (but not trashy) pieces, check these out (and tell your partner):

  • She Said – this is the place to go if you’re after something unusual or a little racier.  They stock an amazing selection of designer lingerie (including suspenders, camisoles and corsets) as well as burlesque wear and toys for the more adventurous
  • Lavender Room:  pretty gift shop and boutique that stocks colourful Princesse Tam Tam bra and knicker sets, and delicate Eberjey chemises
  • Another discovery is Ayten Gasson.  Ayten Roberts creates beautiful silk lingerie made in the UK, designed in her Brighton studio

Now go and tell your man…

She Said, now at 32 Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AD

Lavender Room, 16 Bond Street, Brighton BN1 1RD

Ayten Gasson – available online at http://www.aytengasson.com

Who’s your style inspiration?

January’s Red Magazine contained a lovely interview with Claudia Winkelman, talking about family, ‘Strictly’ and of course her quirky style.  She revealed that she has been channeling Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, since she was about 18.  Hence the fringe and eyeliner.

I felt the same way about Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders way back in 1978, and my ‘grown up’ casual look has evolved accordingly.  It now centres on skinny dark or coated jeans, ankle boots and silver jewellery.  And black eyeliner.  But sadly I can’t wear a fringe.

Claudia’s words got me thinking about style icons and who inspires us.  Whistles are doing a series on their website on style icons including the inimitable Charlotte Rampling (click on ‘Journal’ and scroll down).  My personal favourites (besides Chrissie) are Edie Sedgwick and 1970s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  And the BFI are launching a season dedicated to the legendary Katharine Hepburn, the Oscar winning actress who had a groundbreaking and completely individual style.

Who has inspired your look ?

@redmagdaily   @thisiswhistles