29 May 2013

3 Tips to Make a Professional-Quality Pencil Skirt

Image: J.Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt
As personal stylists, Nat and I often recommend our clients buy pencil skirts off the rack and have them tailored to fit perfectly (if needed). But as a commercial stylist, knowing how to sew and fit iconic shapes is crucial to a seamless day of shooting. My love for this ultra-feminine silhouette is what led me to challenge myself with the task of making a pencil skirt. I tore an inspiration page out of my latest J.Crew catalog and thought, "This should be simple!"  And to be honest, it wasn't that hard. But I also realized the only way to make this skirt look professional is to focus on the details.  

Here are 3 Tips to Make a Professional-Quality Pencil Skirt:

  • Start with the best tools: I chose to use a durable cotton twill fabric from Mood Fabrics and a pattern from my vintage collection. Also, my mother once told me, "Protect your sewing shears with your life." Thus, I only use Gingher Sewing Shears that come with a holster and case.  

  • Don't neglect your notions: Pick thread and an invisible zipper that match the color of your fabric.  As a rule of thumb, invisible zippers are better for back closures. I know you may be tempted to add a splash of color, but I would advise you try and avoid drawing attention to your derriere. Save the color for your seam binding.

  • If the skirt doesn't fit, refit: When my skirt seemed to be more suited for Christina Hendricks a la Mad Men instead of Dorothy Dandridge a la Carmen Jones, I refitted the garment to my shape with pins and a little help from a friend. Patterns don't always make for a perfect fit, so don't feel bad if you have to repeat this step. Having a garment that is tailored to perfection is worth the extra time and effort. 

You can see the finished product at our recent French hen photo shoot here.

23 May 2013

Every Day w/ Ebony and Ivory

In keeping with the French theme, we want to share some of our recent favorite NYC French restaurants. So put on your stripes and beret and bon appetit!

Maison Harlem (341 St. Nicholas Avenue)
We haven't tried anything we don't like here. (And James has been many times!) Everything is well prepared and perfectly portioned. The atmosphere is so relaxed and easy that it feels like you are dining at home with friends.

James's favorites: Lobster risotto (a special not always on the menu) and PEI mussels mariniere
Nat's favorites: Tagliatelle carbonara and grilled salmon

Match 65 (29 East 65th Street)
James: This is a laid-back restaurant on the Upper Eastside with reasonably priced French fare. You can't go wrong with any of their seafood options. Make sure you go when "MooMoo" the maitre'd is there; he'll ensure your service is superb.

Favorites: Moules frites mariniere, fish and chips, and salmon provençale

Bacchus (409 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn)
Natalie: The atmosphere is rustic and cozy, and the food is even better. The moules frites are magnifique, and on Tuesdays you can sample each type when they are all-you-can-eat.

Favorites: Any of the moules frites and the skate fish entree
NYers, what are some of your favorite French restaurants in the city?

21 May 2013

Two-Ways Tuesday: Birds of a Feather

Sweater: J.Crew. James: Skirt: Made by James (similar here), Belt: J.Crew, Shoes: Kate Spade (similar here).  Nat: Button-Up: J.Crew, Denim: J Brand, Shoes: Cole Haan (similar here). 

What about this sweater inspired you to purchase it?
James: I love birds! My mother once told me people used to tease her for having such slender legs and would call her bird legs. So when I saw the sweater in the J.Crew catalog, I felt an instant connection. She lives in California, so when I wear it, I feel closer to her. 

Nat: I already loved this cut of J.Crew sweater (the Tippi Sweater), and I thought the French hen was too cute to pass up. In addition, I like to go minimal on accessories these days, and with a graphic like this, I don't need to do a lot of accessorizing to make a fashionable statement.

What are the different ways you can style this sweater?
James:  This sweater is uber versatile, but a pencil skirt and a great pair of heels is my glam go-to. As a New Yorker, I also need my looks to carry me through the day, so it's great to be able to wear this from the office to a dinner date with absolutely no fuss.

Nat: When I want to go "casual chic," this sweater is great layered with a button-up shirt in a subtle pattern. Also, aside from working out, I am not big on wearing sneakers, and these Cole Haan oxfords are incredibly comfortable while looking fashionable. Whether you are running errands,  traveling, or a mom-on-the-go, this look is a great way to merge comfort and fashion. 

Photo credit: Angie Harding

17 May 2013

Punk'd: Dressing for a Challenging Party Theme

We at Our Style File love a party with a great theme. But when we heard this year's Met exhibit and gala were celebrating punk fashion, we knew the Red Carpet looks were going to be a challenge. Sadly, there were few celebs that truly nailed the look. This posed the question: "If celebrities can't lead the way for party dressing, where can people turn?" To your favorite style experts (that would be us), of course!

Here is our easy recipe for Dressing for a Challenging Party Theme:

One part time and location suitability
One part event appropriateness
A dash of theme “nod”

Combine these elements, and you get a well-dressed partygoer!

Time and location suitability: Is it a day or evening event? Will it be held at a beach, a garden, a beautiful restaurant, etc.? If you don’t know anything about the specific venue, use the great tool of the Internet to do a little reconnaissance.
Event appropriateness: Is it a dinner, a birthday party, a gala? Typically an invite will indicate what type of dress (business casual, cocktail, black-tie, etc.) is appropriate. You can also take clues from the style of invite: Was it a formal invitation or a casual ecard?
Theme “nod”: You can easily acknowledge the theme through your hair and make-up, accessories, and/or dress color choices.

Here is an example of a Met Gala attendee who may have followed our recipe:

Katie Holmes’ Calvin Klein gown was perfect for an evening gala being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then she added her dash of punk with a smokey eye, sharp edged diamond earrings, and a shredded hem on her train. A little side boob didn’t hurt either! 

So if you are met with a similar fashion conundrum and the theme just isn’t your style, don’t fret! Just use our recipe. We don’t advise you overdo it nor do we advise you completely ignore the theme (like one very prominent attendee did at the Met Gala; you know who you are). Simply give a little nod while maintaining your personal style—lest you be punk’d.

Photo credit: Getty Images

14 May 2013

Two-Ways Tuesday: Art Deco Delight

Dress: Ted Baker. Nat: Shoes: La Scarpa, Earring: Kate Spade. James: Shoes: Report Signature, Earrings: Vintage.

 The Great Gatsby fever is in full swing, so we decided to give a nod to the Art Deco decade in our matching Ted Baker dresses.

What about this dress inspired you to purchase it?
Nat: As a personal shopper and stylist, I’m in stores a lot, so it has to be really special for an item to really stop me in my tracks. This Ted Baker dress did just that! I had been on the hunt without success for a great drop-waist dress that flattered my shape, and this one fit the bill perfectly. I am a neat hourglass, and a drop-waist dress in a knit like this drapes with my curves to help accentuate my shape, and the pattern angles in at the smallest part of my waist. In addition, it’s so comfortable and versatile for many occasions! 

James: When I saw the dress on Nat at her housewarming party, it literally spoke to me. I have never been one to buy a dress my friend already has, but the image of the metallic diamond patterns and sparkling pleats stayed with me for days. I knew I had to have it. Being that Nat and I have very different shapes (I’m shorter and bustier), I was doubtful the dress would look as good on me. But to my surprise, it did! Like Nat, when I tried it on, the diamonds hit me in all the right places and framed my shape in an equally flattering way. At that point, the purchase became a no-brainer.

How did you choose your shoes and accessories?
Nat: In my recent trip to Paris, my friends and I stopped in a cute little shoe store by our apartment, and I knew I had to have these shoes. I had needed a neutral dress shoe that wasn’t just another patent nude platform pump (how’s that for alliteration). The color goes with anything and the geometric details perfectly complement the dress's style and pattern.

James: I purchased these Report Signature shoes for a wedding and was originally drawn to them because they felt like a classic Mary Jane that also commanded attention. When paired with this dress, they convey my typical style preference: a modern take on a vintage look. I also have a mild obsession with vintage jewelry. The shoes and jewelry play off of the dress without detracting from it.

For what occasions have/will you wear this dress?
Nat: My dress made its debut for 30+ guests at my housewarming party last February. (I wore it then with black tights and basic black pumps.) It has also made an appearance at a Parisian dinner. I even had a client borrow it for a 1920s party. It’s always a hit!

James: I often like to "premiere" a great ensemble.  So I would say this dress is still awaiting a proper premiere like a Broadway play or a special date night.  However, I have worn this to a private bridal event and was paid a lovely compliment by Mark Ingram of Mark Ingram Atelier.  He raved about how it was a great day-to-evening dress, and I couldn't agree with him more.

For tips on how to pick out the perfect drop-waist dress for your body type, visit this previous post.  

Photo credit: Angie Harding

13 May 2013

London Calling: Day #1

After bidding adieu to Paris, we hopped on the Chunnel and headed to one of my favorite cities in the world: London! I did a study abroad there in college and have been a few times since, so it always has a soft spot in my heart.

High Tea at the Orangery
London greeted us with a rare 60+ degree day and sunny skies, which gave us the perfect Hyde Park backdrop as we enjoyed our teas, sandwiches, and desserts

sweater: j.crew, blouse: j.crew (similar here), denim: jbrand, shoes: cole haan (similar here)
Seeing "Baby" Harper
Though we Skype regularly, I was shocked to see how much this little gal has grown up since October. She's as cute as a button!
Fish and Chips and Fanta
Call me crazy, but I love British food! For our first dinner, we had to get a UK staple—fish and chips—at The Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Gardens. Also, it must be noted that British Fanta is on a completely different level than US Fanta. It's delicious, and you must try it if you go! 

08 May 2013

An American in Paris: Day #4

This was our last full day, so instead of rushing around like a mad fool, I decided to just take my time meandering and soaking in the last day Parisian life! With that, here are my highs:

Haute couture exhibit at the Hotel de Ville
It was a dream come true to see amazing fashion in the fashion capital of the world! A huge thanks to my friend Faith for cluing me in on the exhibit. It was incredible!

Hanging with the locals at Cafe St. Victor
Spending late afternoon hours sipping vin and eating cheese with friends was near the top of my Paris to-do list. A couple friends and I stumbled on Cafe St. Victor, where we had great conversation, lots of laughs,  and an awesome server, Francois, who was happy to practice his English on us.  I could really get used to the Parisian work-life balance!
 sweater: topshop (worn with ag coated denim and j.crew red flats)

Stuffing our faces with macarons
No explanation needed for this one. Luckily we walked A LOT on this trip, or I would have come home 10 lbs heavier!

06 May 2013

An American in Paris: Day #3

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
As you know, I'm a book nerd. An old bookstore is like a museum to me, so the Shakespeare and Company bookstore was a must-see.
 dress: madewell, shoes: j.crew (old)

Nighttime Eiffel Tower Photoshoot
We donned our fancy dinner duds and headed to Les Ombres for dinner with an Eiffel Tower view. Dinner was a bit pricey and wasn't the most delicious food we had (it was still tasty), but the view and ensuing photoshoot made it all worth it! As you can see, we had a great time!

dress: ted baker, jacket: zara, shoes: la scarpa (a paris purchase)

Notre Dame

02 May 2013

An American in Paris: Day #2

Strolling through Montmartre
I'm a sucker for cute winding streets, quaint restaurants, and, of course, a huge gorgeous basilica. 

outfit info: sweater: j.crew, button-up: j.crew, jeans: jbrand (my new favorite cut), shoes: cole haan (similar here)

 Lunch at La Maison Rose

 Sacre Coeur: Gorgeous!

 Homage to my homestate 

 Photo: Casey Matheny

Dinner at Les Papilles
This was my "birthday dinner," and I would recommend this place to anyone visiting. The chef goes to the market in the morning and picks out ingredients for his 4-course tasting menu.

 Doing the Charleston (more of this dress to come in a future post)
dress: ted baker

Dress photos: Casey Matheny

 Searching for Chanel in Marche aux Puces flea market
I came up unsuccessful. Apparently Chanel is just as expensive in France. But the market had a lot of other great treasures!

01 May 2013

An American in Paris: Day #1

I'm back from Paris and London. The trip was a dream come, and I can't wait to share the highlights! 

Every night as my 6 girlfriends and I ate dinner together, I had us play the "High-Low Game" in which we each shared our highs of the day and a low. In the name of blogpost brevity, I'll stick to this trend and list (and photo document, of course) my highs for each day! 

Day One Highs

1. Steak Frites dinner at Le Relais de l'Entrecote
I'm telling you, these steak frites were beyond anything I've ever had before—and I grew up in Indiana, the mecca of beef.
zara (similar here), blouse: madewell (old), coated denim: ag, pumps: nine west, necklace: rebecca minkoff

2. Reuniting with Casey at the Arc de Triomphe
I haven't seen my dear Casey since she moved away last October. It was so much fun spending the week with her!
sweater: alice + olivia, boots: cole haan, bag: cole haan

3. Our Paris Apartment
If ever you are going with a group of people to Europe, use AirBNB. For a great price, we had this beautiful 4 bedroom apartment in Champs-Elysees.
 And it was on this street. Gorgeous!