Oh Red! What would the world be like without you?

Rug design w/red.  Ottoman Empire , Anatolia circa 1700
Rug design w/red. Ottoman Empire , Anatolia circa 1700

Santa Fe, New Mexico is now presenting an exhibit at their Museum of International Folk Art titled “The Red That Colored the World.”   This color is from a most unexpected source: the cochineal bug which was harvested from prickly pear cactus by the Aztecs and ground up with its eggs into a powder that can be used to produce pale pinks, vivid reds, deep burgundies and regal purples.

Classic Burberry red.
Classic Burberry red.

The exhibit traces the use of this unusual dye from as early as 600 to 1000 where it was used for body painting and on bold pottery designs up through present day. In the 1520’s Spanish invaders discovered the unusual pigment in the Mexico City marketplace and introduced it to Europe. Pigment from the inauspicious cochineal replaced other European sources of red dye and it became the second most important Spanish import after silver.

Popular red stripe.
Popular red stripe.

This red pigment soon became a favorite of famous painters to depict flesh tones, fabric and flowers. El Greco used it in his painting of Christ, “El Salvador” (1608-1614) and Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Gogh used the cochineal reds.

The costly pigment was used primarily by royalty, the clergy for exclusive liturgical vestments and the

For a sexy look!
For a sexy look!

wealthy. Spain, introduced the color to Japan where it was met with great enthusiasm. From there, newer, less expensive methods of producing the pigment have made it widely available but Mexico and Peru both continue to use the traditional method of production for those wishing to use the natural product.  

Fall's top accent color.
Fall’s top accent color.

This exhibit is only in Santa Fe through September 16 but check it out on the internet to get a better sense of this amazing history.

Shades of red are prominently featured in fall collections.   Find your shade and enjoy!

Images from Saks.

The Early Birds get the (worms) CLOTHES!

 

0400086979286_ASTL_247x329New fall clothes arriving in department stores may just provide the perfect opportunity for you to grab your favorite new look while supplies last. “Pre-fall” collections are arriving now and are sort of an easy transition into the full fall collections. Pre-fall clothing is usually less trendy and more classic—exactly what many shoppers want. The more trendy versions of what appeared on the runway will arrive later. Unfortunately for the customer, the pre-fall collections often sell out and will no longer be available.

This blog features some of the new pre-fall trends that you might want to add to your fall wardrobe.

Longer Culottes.  Saks
Longer Culottes. Saks

Culottes and wide-legged trousers complete the new high waist style. These fuller cuts just wouldn’t work with a lower waist cut. Culottes come and go in fashion but when they are “in” they offer a fun, updated look. Generally, culottes are not becoming to someone who does not have long legs but wide legged trousers really flatter the wider hips of a triangle.  These trouser can be perfect to give a longer leg look if they almost touch the floor.  Some of these trousers are being shown a few inches above the floor worn with boots.  It may be a style but visually stops the eye at the bottom of the trousers, making the leg appear that much shorter.

Add a classic skirt that you love. It could be leopard print, plaid, a bright color or neutral. The style, pencil or flair, should flatter your figure. This can become the go-to skirt for fall and winter. You should be able to top it with a variety of blouses, sweaters, or combinations to give huge versatility.

Subtle plaid wear-with-everything skirt.  Saks
Subtle plaid wear-with-everything skirt. Saks

A perfect go-everywhere dress will transition from daytime to evening. It can be worn with a jacket for a professional image, top with a sweater for more casual, or add scarves or jewelry to give an entirely different vibe.

Boots remain a huge fashion trend. The only problem is that they are expensive. I have selected a wear-with-everything , wear-everywhere pair with a wedge heel. These are quite dressy but not so high you can’t walk in them. They could be worn under wide-legged trousers, with culottes or dresses.

Versatile boot.  Saks
Versatile boot. Saks

Finally, I discovered this convertible long to short jacket that can go over most everything. The short version will be perfect with wide culottes or trousers or could be worn over something straight. The longer version adds a polished finish for straight skirts,

Creative long to short jacket.  Saks
Creative long to short jacket. Saks

trousers or dresses.

Summer purchases for fall are only successful if you need them and love them. The great fun of new clothes is how it makes you feel each time you put it on!  

 

A look at the style of icons within the fashion industry.

 

Anna Wintour at an event.
Anna Wintour at an event.

As we look toward fall, our thoughts turn to what do we need to update our fall wardrobe.   It is interesting to see the similar wardrobe habits of some Vogue executives.

Anna Wintour, executive in chief of American Vogue, is in a class by herself. In her position, she is in constant contact with designers and everyone in the fashion industry and has some responsibility to represent the industry showcased by her magazine. Her annual clothing budget is somewhere over six figures according to reliable sources. This may be why she keeps her hairstyle and sunglasses as her real signature. Certainly, her beautiful clothes do not always represent her style.

A quick look at two other Vogue executives, gives a completely different side of how

Emanuella Alt
Emanuella Alt

fashion executives define their own looks.   Emmanuella Alt, Editor in Chief of Vogue Paris has a simple style of her own as does Tonne Goodman, Vogue fashion director.   These ladies echo others who work in fashion all the time. After working with the collections for months, then watching these styles being snatched up by the public, most of these women avoid anything that resembles the latest new trend. They each have a basic “uniform” made up of approximately 10 pieces of neutral colored items that can be easily interchanged, and updated from season to season. Add a new favorite blazer, moving to an updated style of pant leg or adding a fun shoe may be all that is needed to freshen the look. Frequent travel is simple with such a basic, versatile wardrobe. This is similar to my basic wardrobe plan of 8 items from which you can make 27 outfits.

Emmanuella is six feet tall and Tonne is only slightly shorter. Both ladies can wear slender cut jeans thus making these items a staple in their wardrobes. To quote a stylist who works with celebrities, “..the key to making a signature look work year after year is to be consistent but not fall entirely into a rut. It’s funny, but you have to keep updating your uniform.”   Figuring out your uniform is perhaps the most difficult part. Most of these ladies work around a neutral palette – black, white, gray and navy. The challenge is to know who you

Tonne Goodman in typical attire.
Tonne Goodman in typical attire.

are, which styles work best for you and to know if you need more color accents.

I love the simplicity of having fewer basic pieces that can be worn in many combinations. Understanding yourself and how to best project your individual style is key. I could never work with a completely neutral palette. There has to be color!   Since most of us don’t work around fashion all of the time, we probably need some pieces with more style and creativity. Model and author Caroline de Maigret, recommends that you take time to evaluate your physical assets and weaknesses to help choose what are your favorites. Parisians are known for their “effortless look” but it takes a lot of effort to figure out who you are and what 10 items you want as the key components of your wardrobe! It is worth it!

Favorite Shopping Destination Letting You Down?

J. Crew
J. Crew

Most of us have a favorite place to shop. It is familiar. We know our way around. Most importantly, we know that what they offer will augment our present wardrobe with a new color or style but it will look like it belongs.   Then, something changes! When you shop, you discover “head-scratching styling, poor garment construction and fabric quality, and inconsistent sizing” to quote an article in the WSJ about J. Crew.E2417_KL2620_m

Women have had such brand loyalty with J. Crew that it has become exclusively where many shop. Michelle Obama catapulted the company into the headlines early in her tenure as First Lady. The clothes were classic and versatile without costing your entire paycheck.

J. Crew.
J. Crew.

They fit the needs for women in a more dressed down office environment. They were ideal for most women’s leisure activities.   Women who do not live near a town with a J. Crew store, rely on on-line catalogues knowing which size to order and assurance of the quality they will receive.

But lately, something has changed.   Ladies lamented that the sizing is no longer consistent resulting in the need to make frequent exchanges or to order the same item in different sizes in order to be sure one fits. One mail-order customer stated that she is simply buying less to avoid a huge charge on her credit card by ordering multiple sizes. Another customer lamented that more recent purchases do not hold up well, required repairs after being worn just a couple of times. Some customers are choosing to shop for their favorites on E-Bay or resale shops and avoiding new merchandise in the stores. Dissatisfied customers have resulted in the need to offer ongoing sales, prompting many to avoid full price and just wait until the next sale is offered.

Milly
Milly

Obviously this is a cause of alarm for the company but it may be an opportunity for those loyal customers.

ABS
ABS

We all like familiar. We don’t like surprises, especially when they are negative ones. In recent shopping excursions with clients, I have discovered new brands and great values.   Many newer brands offer fresh, creative styles and still have affordable prices. If your favorite brand has ”sameness” from season to season, maybe it is time to venture into the unknown. Wouldn’t it be fun to add some creativity to your style? No one is insulted by sincere compliments from friends or co-workers. Once you know which styles work with your body and your personality and you know your color palette, you can step outside the box with confidence! That’s turning lemons into lemonade!