Happy Birthday Coco Chanel

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, born August 19, 1883, remains one of the most influential couturiers in women’s fashion.   Perhaps the loss of her mother and abandonment by her father drove her to make the most of her life.

Coco’s nickname was established when she was a cabaret singer. It was also there that she met the first of her wealthy lovers. Her background would never have allowed them to marry her but their influence and funding were invaluable in helping her succeed.  Coco loved comfortable clothes that accommodated her active life.   She often raided her boyfriend’s closet and adapted his clothes to a style of her own providing the comfortable attire she loved. Her first venture was a hat shop in Paris financed by her wealthy boyfriend at the time.

The First World War brought occupation of Paris so Coco followed the multitude of wealthy Parisians who escaped to the north of France. There she began creating more casual clothes and clients loved them.

The war contributed greatly to women accepting the more casual and comfortable designs Coco made. Men had to go to war and women began going to work in the factories. Certainly factory work could not be done in the styles of the day. Chanel’s more casual, comfortable designs were ideal for the working girl. By the end of the war, they were widely accepted throughout the fashion world and Chanel was on her way.

Her areas of influence in fashion are too numerous to mention but an article I recently read, chose five of her favorite quotes that I thought an appropriate tribute to this fashion trailblazer.

  1. Always wear lipstick! Preferable red. “If you’re sad, if you’re disappointed in love, put on your makeup, give yourself some beauty care, put on lipstick, and attack.”
  2. Have a Signature Scent!A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” Coco believed that everyone needed a signature scent to make a lasting impression.   Chanel No. 5 was launched in 1921 and reportedly sells a bottle every 30 seconds. She may have been right!
  3. Embrace Your Individuality. Chanel followed this rule personally by pioneering the concept that if a woman looks comfortable , she will feel comfortable. She can be herself. Chanel stated it this way: “In order to be irreplaceable, you must be different.”
  4. Choose the right shade. Color is one of the most important aspects in showing you off at your best. Whether choosing the color for your dress or the perfect shade for your make-up Chanel’s philosophy was, “The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.”
  5. Aging Gracefully. “At 20, your face has been given to you by nature; at 30, your face has been fashioned for life; but at 50, it is up to you to deserve it.” Embrace the changes that occur as you age. Take care of your skin and enjoy the beauty of a more mature you.


Sneak a Peek


Hip attention.
Hip attention.

Peek-a-boo clothing has become mainstream.    We are all familiar with the frontal exposure—sometimes entering X rated zones! Recently designers have been exploring more unexpected cut-out areas. Little peeks of the midriff, side of the waist and in the back.   Anything unexpected adds drama to a garment and these sneak peeks certainly do—usually in a tasteful way.   Our challenge is to show them off to their best advantage–while flattering us.0400091788367_247x329

I tried on a garment a year or two ago with a side cutout done in a sheer fabric. The design was quite nice, adding an interesting element. Unfortunately, my mature waist is not that of a 20-year old and the cutout revealed an unattractive bulge instead of a charming peek at a slim waist. Oh well! I did nothing for the garment and it surely didn’t do anything for me!

0400090605781_ASTL_247x329One key component to make these peeks work– choosing the right bra.  Straps are not intended to be visible. I think yoga clothing has sort of lowered the bar with allowing a bra to show. Many yoga outfits have a nice support bra that can be worn alone for practice or covered by a top with a deep plunge in the back revealing the yoga bra top. In this case, the bra is intended to be worn when performing yoga while the top adds a bit more cover.  Great idea for yoga but not for street wear.

Versatile changeable straps
Versatile changeable straps

Lingerie manufacturers are creating a variety of bras that offer proper support while hiding discreetly behind the dress when cut-outs are used. One of the most versatile bras is the one with straps that change strap configurations. When crossed, they are hidden when worn with deeply cut armholes.  No need for constantly pushing the straps back under a high armhole as it has slipped into a comfortable spot. (Remember that undergarments are called that for a reason. They are to be worn “under” and unseen.) I have never tried the invisible bra but it seems to work.

Invisible bra
Invisible bra

Literature that I have read suggests that the self-stick will last for about 50 wearings.   Victoria Secret seems to have a very wide range of attractive bras or you probably have your own favorite shop.

Add a little drama and wear the new cut-out look with Aplomb!  No undies visible!

Final Mark-downs! Choose the Best!


If you loved the idea of resale shopping, let’s look at a more traditional way to add new pieces to your wardrobe at a fraction of the original cost. Shopping final seasonal markdowns! My favorite store for shopping final sales is Saks for several reasons.

0400089343457_247x329First, Saks carries a wide selection of good quality clothing. They have the high-end designers on the top floor—Armani, Escada, Chanel and dozens more with new designers and less expensive labels on the bottom floor. I have come to prefer the bottom floor.   Along with more traditional labels like Eileen Fisher, one can find Hugo Boss, Elie Tahari and Peserico, a new Italian label which has become one of my all-time favorites. I discovered this label a few years ago when I found a dress by Peserico while consignment shopping with Cyndi. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Saks is now carrying the label. The best part of this label is that the pants actually fit me! When you find a label with styles you love and the clothes fit, you have just hit a home run!

Secondly, Saks has the best sales that I have found. At the very end of the season, they mark down a final time resulting in generally a 75% saving. If the store does not have your size in something that you love, it is often available at another store. I have found dresses that were originally in the $400 range for about $100. Unlike some stores that bring in lower quality merchandise for a final sale, I have never found anything on the sale rack that is not a familiar label carried by Saks.0400087723684_247x329

As I mentioned, pants are a real problem for me so I was thrilled to find some casual pants that fit! I found a pair of capris and two pair of walking shorts that have become my go-to casual wear. One trick I learned the hard way is to always take a critical back view when trying something on. This is especially true with pants. I have experienced coming home with a new treasure only to examine the back view and find that it pulls where it should not and cannot be corrected. Good fit needs to include all angles and a treasure is not a treasure if it doesn’t fit.

Oddly enough, this end of summer sale included some sweaters. I found a very French looking striped sweater to breathe new life into my fall/winter look. I also was able to add a couple of blouses so that some past season treasures can now be retired. I wear the Ellie Tahari with my new taupe and white capris but I tuck in the bottom. It is a cute look with the bottom ruffle just covering the waistband. The other top will even take me into fall and winter because of the sleeves.

Each of the items I added can be worn with a variety of things I already have and will either replace something that is getting tired or add variety. Each item is a very good quality so can be an active part of my wardrobe for the next few years.

0400088301013_247x329It may be too late to take advantage of this season’s sales but you can keep some of these ideas in mind when next season’s sales start. Choose main staples from higher quality labels and add trendy, one-season items from less expensive stores. This will give you fresh, fun clothes and keep your budget in check!