Fashionable New First Lady

 

We all love to meet new First Ladies and get a sense of their style.   However, many countries rarely give us a glimpse of their first ladies.  Maybe it has more to do with culture than style.  Has anyone ever seen Mrs. Putin?   Of course, it is rumored that he is trading in his wife for a beautiful, younger one.  Maybe this is why he has made a point of being photographed without a shirt, trying to show youth and virility.  But, I digress.

The wife of China’s new president, Xi Jinping seems to be breaking with tradition.  This beautiful lady, Peng Liyaun, is a popular singer, known throughout China.   Does Carla Bruni-Sarkozy come to mind?  The first lady’s nickname “The Peony Fairy,” has toned down her brightly colored gowns worn on stage to occasionally wearing military garb.  And, she has given up her stage career.  However, on the new leader’s first state visit to Russia, Peng Liyuan caused media buzz by wearing a stylish navy coat and stepping off the plane with her husband.  She was even shown briefly arm-in-arm with the president – a rare display of affection among communist leaders.

She never stopped smiling on the official visit, attracting widespread attention in China’s version of Twitter.  Just hours after pictures of Peng Liyaun wearing a navy coat were published, websites were offering the coat for sale at widely differing price points!

It seems that this new first lady’s style has made a hit with the Chinese people.   Whether it is because she has been familiar to them for the last 25 years as a celebrity or whether they are tired of having first ladies stand in the background, the population seems to have embraced this lady’s style.  “What elegance!”  “What a beauty” were among the praises lauded by the press.  Let’s hope this fairy doesn’t get her wings clipped!

 

Are You Ready for Spezzato?

Spezzato, which literally means broken in two, is the Italian name for mismatching jacket and trousers masterfully.  Where but Italy would men push the envelope with combinations considered so daring?  One would hardly find green trousers with a checked jacket in a window on Seville Row!  Nor would the traditional American navy blazer with khakis or jeans really qualify as spezzato.  No, Italian men seem to know just how to push the envelope and not look ridiculous.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Brunello Cucinelli stated, “Men are comfortable mixing fabrics and patterns in Italy, and they embrace this style in both casual and formal situations.”  Mr. Cucinelli often displays unstructured jacket with casual trousers in his own window displays.  To quote the article, Mr. Cucinelli “favors lighter, subtler tones; even the bold colors in his latest collection are speckled with beige or gray for what he describes a ‘dusty’ effect….We believe in wearing one bright color at a time, and complementing it with more neutral pieces.”  Alan See of the Armoury, a men’s shop in Hong Kong asserts that the suit is not necessarily needed in the modern workplace, opening up many possibilities with separates.

Gioanni Bianchi, product manager for another Italian men’s wear label, states that one should start with a well tailored jacket of fine quality fabric even though jackets used for the spezzato look are deconstructed, without the full lining and shoulder pads of traditional suits.  The article cautioned that it is preferable to let the jacket be the stabilizing element in this look, using brightly contrasting trousers to add the punch.

As you can see from the pictures, this look takes some finesse in choosing combinations that work together harmoniously.  The bad news is that It may take a year in Italy to learn how to “Spezzato” effectively.   Hmmm.  Not a bad idea.

Versailles -73

 

It’s 1973.  The magnificent chateau of Louis IV is falling into disrepair.  Unlike Americans, the French are not known for digging deep into their pockets for worthy causes.  What to do??

Fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert and Palace of Versailles curator, Gerald Van der Kemp had an epiphany.  They invited five top designers from France and five top designers from the United States to a runway competition at Versailles as a fund-raiser.  The inclusion of American designers also brought wealthy Americans and their checkbooks.

It was genius.  French designers dominated the fashion industry at the time and American designers were just starting to come into their own.  On the French side were Yves St. Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, and Emanuel Ungaro.  On the American list were Halston, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta.   The French designers considered the Americans “wannabes”.   Halson, having dressed Jackie Kennedy, was the only one with international name recognition.

Since this was a fundraiser, budgets were tight.  American designers had to share models, they traveled on a chartered plane and stayed in modest quarters close to Versailles, sharing rooms.

Amazingly, the Americans brought down the house with their presentation.  Runway shows were forever changed.  Black models took their place among the top models.  American designers took their place of importance among the elite designers and how new collections were presented were transformed.  And, yes, much needed money was raised to restore Versailles!

Versailles ’73 is a documentary directed and produced by Deborah Riley Draper.   It was greeted with rave reviews at the New York opening in conjunction with    fashion week.  Ms. Draper was awarded CNN Outstanding Documentary Award at the 2012 Martha’s Vineyard  African-American Film Festival a few weeks ago.

Versailles ’73 is filmed in New York, Paris and Versailles.  The many interviews Ms. Draper conducted truly capture the challenges and triumphs of the event.  I was delighted to be a part of the pre-launch screening party at the Mandarin Oriental last Tuesday.  Many of the original models, other celebrities as well as Cameron Silver who narrated were present.  Look for this film coming to Atlanta soon.  You won’t want to miss it!

Dress the Candidate

The primaries are in full swing and so is scrutiny of the candidates.  A few days ago I read an article criticizing candidates wearing blue jeans on the campaign trail.   The author asserted that no one over fifty should wear jeans.   It is a good thing that my daddy is no longer with us.  He was a cattle rancher and, although he was handsome in his suit and tie, jeans were his favorite attire until his death at age 93.

Not just jeans, but the article went on to assert that a dress shirt should never be worn without a tie!  I’m not sure what planet this author has been living on, but it certainly isn’t the planet I know.  What would Dmitry Medvedev and Tony Blair say about that?  They wore jeans, dress shirts with open collars and navy blazers to the White House.  I suggest this look for an upscale casual.

Ron Paul seems to be one candidate who adheres to the author’s criteria.   I’m sure a suit and tie has been Dr. Paul’s mode of dress all of his adult life; first in his medical practice followed by many years of serving in congress.

Rick Santorum seems to prefer wearing casual Dockers style trousers; a much more flattering style for him than jeans would be.  Now I would like to weigh in on the sweater vests that he is so fond of wearing.  If I were his image consultant, I would burn every one of them!   (Unfortunately, I have not heard my phone ringing on that front.)

Mitt Romney often wears jeans with dress shirts open at the neck.  The plaid and checked shirts he chooses are casual while giving a professional casual look.  I would prefer to see dark blue, pressed jeans but he can wear this look well.

Fortunately, Newt Gingrich has not been campaigning in casual attire.  With his girth, it would not be a pretty site!  He has wisely chosen dark suits with tie, which draws attention to his face and what he is saying rather than his waistline.

Even President Obama, who is always impeccably dressed, is often seen wearing a dress shirt without a tie when traveling across the country.

When a final candidate is chosen and the presidential race begins in earnest, image consultants will be hired and candidates will be packaged to project the proper image.  Although my choice will be guided by what the candidate stand for and how they will run the country, I will be among the first to comment on what they are wearing!

 

 

A Tip from Maggie!

Posted on August 22, 2012 by admin

!! News Flash !!

Don’t forget the Style Workshop in September 8! Sign up now while space is still available. We will discuss how to use color to your best advantage, which styles will be best for you and receive a personal style and color evaluation. Learn how a few key pieces can be transformed into multiple outfits. Bring in that “problem” piece for suggestions on how to make it work.
When: September 8, 2012, 2-4 PM
Where: 2734 Peachtree Road, B204, Atlanta, GA 30305.
Cost: $35.00
RSVP Beryl@StyleWithAplomb.com or 404-428-2527

 

MT with strength and power.
Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of England, used image consultants to guide her ascent from member of parliament to head of her party. Not only was Mrs. Thatcher the first woman to become Prime Minister, but she served an unprecedented three consecutive terms.

We just saw the movie, Iron Lady where they showed her initial encounter with her consultants. Voice lessons to help her speak more authoritatively, change of hairstyle and abandoning her ever-present hat were among the points of council. Looking back over historic photos, one notes that she also began to dress in more professional, powerful suits.

In Iron Lady, the costume designer masterfully captured the real life transition of Margaret Thatcher from an outspoken young woman into the powerful British Prime Minister. In her twenty years of public office, Ms. Thatcher’s styles and colors reflected her ascent to power and the various crises she faced while governing.

The young Margaret was shown in a soft blue, beautiful with her soft coloring but youthful and feminine. Upon her election to parliament, she was shown in deeper, more authoritative hues of blue.

Younger MT with hat.

Through her challenging years as Prime Minister, the blouses with soft bows were exchanged for more powerful suits. Muted shades of burgundy, tweeds, and purples all became a part of her power dressing. In real life photos, I found her in black, the ultimate authority color, softened by pearls.

Cool and warm skin tones do not change over the years but the depth of color we wear does change. Margaret Thatcher is a perfect example of someone growing in authority and confidence, thus the deeper shades of authority are more depictive of her new persona. 

 

In later years with muted colors.
We also change as we age. In a recent consultation with a lady who had beautiful salt and pepper gray hair, we found the muted colors much more complementary than deeper saturated or shaded colors she had previously worn with her very dark hair. As hair grays, our skin also becomes softer and we discover that our best colors now need to be softer.
Whether you want your business or career to grow or just want to be the most beautiful you can be, maybe Maggie was right. Call an image consultant!

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Olympic Uniforms

Did Ralph Lauren Blow it?  I have always admired Ralph Lauren and his incredible ability to read the public and provide great options that his customers will love.  They all seem to personify the American style.  But have you carefully looked at the Olympic uniforms?

Of course, there was the flack about having them manufactured in China.  One article I read said it would have added one billion dollars to the US economy.   That is with  “B”.  I have no idea if that is accurate or not but think about it.  Our US team proudly marches into the opening ceremony with “Made in China” tags.   That is sad.

The style of the uniforms is even more problematic.  This country is known for Stetsons, baseball caps, and golf caps just to name a few.   Berets?  When was the last time you encountered anyone in a beret?  Americans are known for blue jeans, khakis, shorts and workout clothes.   Double breasted navy blazers with white slacks looks more like a Swiss boarding school.  And what’s with the white shirt with the rounded collar?  That is certainly not a wardrobe staple.  Red, white and blue are about the only elements of these uniforms that say, “America”.  But, of course, other countries use those same colors.  These uniforms might better announce the entry of the French team in their blu, blanc, rouge.

Our athletes spend years in grueling practice preparing to go to these games.  They miss parties, vacations and other activities that are a part of most young people’s formative lives.   They will make us proud as we cheer them to medals and heroic efforts.  How much more effective it would have been had we chosen “Made in American” and styles that say “Here comes America”.

Academy Award Gowns

Although we usually watch the red carpet before the Academy Awards, my husband finds the event about as exciting as a root canal so you can imagine my delight when our house guest wanted to watch.  This gave me a chance to see the presenter’s gowns and take a second look at others.

This year’s gowns were some of the loveliest I have seen.  There were few disasters – well maybe Jennifer Lopez in her down to the naval plunging neckline causing a “wardrobe malfunction”.

I was struck by the lack of jewelry.  Did Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and Tiffany decided not to participate?   Maybe their insurance has skyrocketed.

Although there were many to choose from, I selected a few for comment.   Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen was one of the most ornate.  The gold beading complemented her red hair and made the black work.  I liked her hair down, the simple earrings and bracelet were all the bling she needed with the heavily beaded dress.

Octavia Spencer’s white beaded gown was beautiful.  A light color for a full-figured woman is usually not the best but this beading pattern drew your eye in as they converged just under her bust.  This showed off her curves while visually slimming.  I really like the sleeves covering the upper arm.  The only change I might have made would be to change the neckline to a slight “V”.  This would follow the beading pattern, and expose more neck area; a great feature for the full-figured lady.  Her simple earrings and one dramatic ring are all the jewelry this elegant dress needed.

Michelle Williams broke the neutral trend with her bright orange gown by Louis Vuitton.  The style was great for her but I thought the color was too strong.  Whether looking at her on television or in a photo, the dress takes center stage, so you see the dress first, then  the wearer.  Michelle is warm toned but I would have chosen a pretty peach tone so that her beauty was front and center.  Again, she wore only a diamond choker with a pin at the waist.  I would have added simple drop earrings to complement the choker.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s white sheath dress and white cape was the epitome of simple elegance.  It was reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy Onasis.  With the higher, asymmetric neckline, no jewelry was necessary but I would have added simple drop earrings.  What astonished me was that her hair appeared to have been forgotten.  You can just imagine the conversation amongst the team helping her get ready.  “You look fabulous!”  (pause)  “Oh my gosh!  We forgot your hair!”  “There isn’t time to style it.”  “Let’s just pull it back and let it hang.  Maybe nobody will notice.”

Have a special “Girl’s Night Out” a Style Party.   Invite 5-10 friends and we will assess individual color and body shape and offer suggestions in building the wardrobe that works for you.  $35 per person.  The hostess receives 1 hour toward a closet edit.  Call us at 404-428-2527 or Beryl@StyleWithAplomb.com.

Power Dressing: Ladies in Politics

Posted on August 11, 2011 by admin

I just read a fascinating book, Power Dressing by Robb Young. It covers women in politics, both past and present, around the globe. I had never seen a number of the women and knew very little about others. I want to share with you some of those I thought were the more interesting.

Of course there were those one would expect. Michelle Obama is commended for her habit of selecting unknown designers and helping them launch their careers. Sarah Palin was quoted as choosing Patagonia and North Face as her favorite designers. Hillary Clinton was pictured with six of the thirteen different hairstyles she wore while first lady. Just an aside, I do wish she would revisit some of them. Of course, we know the lovely Carla Bruni Sarkozy, first lady of France and Rania Al Abdullah, Queen Consort of Jordan. We also remember the classic style of Margaret Thatcher. Giorgio Armani praised Condoleezza Rice as having set the standard for others to follow in her choice of “quiet sophistication and elegance over showmanship”.

Samantha Cameron, wife of Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom brings a youthful charm to her position. She chooses not to wear suits but skillfully combines designer items with less expensive tops from Zara or H&M to show a fresh stylish presence. “She never looks like a politician’s wife,” states Lucy Yeomans, editor of Harper’s Bazaar UK while Christian Louboutin was quoted as saying, “She will definitely end up on the list of the most stylish first ladies.” Truly a breath of fresh air for England!

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is known for her boring pantsuits. They all have black slacks with varying shades of jackets, each exactly the same style. Her German designer Bettina Schoenbach’s brand motto is “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.” Author Young commented that her style (or lack thereof) may be a political asset. The dull outfits for which she has become famous demonstrate her consistency and prudence, qualities valued in German politics. Karl Lagerfeld summed it up this way; “She should perhaps wear a little less color and find someone who can tailor better trousers for her.” It is obvious that this head of state has much more important things on which to focus that fashion!

Chantal Biya, First Lady of Cameroon, is probably the most flamboyant first lady in the world. “Known as Africa’s most glamorous first lady, she looks like a lioness. She could carry a few cubs in that mane anyway.” Booth Moore, Fashion Critic for the Los Angeles Times. Biya has a wardrobe to make any socialite wife jealous. One observer stated that she had never seen her wear the same dress twice. Not necessarily a positive image for the first lady of a very poor country. Couple her dramatic appearance with her larger than life personality, Biya manages to dominate any gathering of first ladies.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina could very well be the fashionista wife of a wealthy businessman instead of president. She is confident in how she expresses her beauty, keeping her thick hair long and wearing heavy makeup. She chooses local Argentenian designers along with famous names such as Armani and Gucci. Fernandez de Kirchner does not slavishly follow fashion trends but sticks with her sexy shirt-dresses with fuller skirts and brightly colored stilettos. Having been in politics since 1989, she decided to run for president in 2007 to succeed her husband who had brought the country back from the brink of financial ruin. Obviously, her provocative style does not take away from the confidence the electorate has in her.

Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, consort and wife of the Emir of Qatar, is possibly the most glamorous first ladies in the Middle East. Anything but a retiring first lady, she is very involved in many civic projects at home and abroad. At home she wear the traditional black kaftans with her hair fully covered. However, when traveling, she chooses beautiful long dresses with a turban, pushed back to expose about an inch of hairline. Susan Sabet, chief editor of Middle Eastern fashion magazine, Pashion was quoted, “She has risen above the rest of the Middle Eastern style icons. The way she covers her hair with the turban, the beautiful couture gowns and, above all, the way she carries herself never fails to remind me of the eternally beautiful Grace Kelly.” 

Some of the more colorful prominent ladies I did not include were the porn star, elected to Italy’s Parliament a while back who continued her acting career during her government service. Then there was Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines who gained world-wide recognition for her extravagance including 3000 pair of shoes. And we need to mention Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom who could have been a candidate any day on What’s Not to Wear.

What does your style say about you? If you would like to discover your “signature style”, call us. That’s what we do! Then we guide you to build your own wardrobe to reflect the real you. Beryl@StyleWithAplomb.com or 404-428-2527.

Weekend at a French Chateau

Posted on June 29, 2011 by admin

Chateau

Ever spend a weekend in a French Chateau? Well, that’s what we just experienced and it certainly lived up to expectations.

We are involved with Agape France, a ministry group focusing on France. This year, our group was invited as guests of an American couple who own a beautiful chateau about an hours drive from Paris. The chateau was built in about 1100 and owned at one time by Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough. Winston Churchill among other dignitaries has been a guest.

At present, the grounds encompass some 180 acres and include numerous buildings for staff, meetings and recreation. Most of our rooms had bathrooms although neither plumbing nor electricity had been updated for many years. Thus, we were asked to use our hair dryers in the pool house, about a quarter of a mile from the chateau! There was also a caution about using too much toilet paper so as not to stop up the plumbing.

As you might imagine, each room was furnished with fresh flowers. Even the kitchen of the pool house had cute little pots with a single flower lining the hood over the stove.

Dinners for both evenings were not only a delight to the taste buds but to the eyes as well. Fresh local vegetables and fruits accompanied curried chicken the first evening and salmon the second evening. Desserts were typically French masterpieces that we could have found in a top Parisian restaurant.

We have all heard the hyperbole “once in a lifetime” but I think this truly fits the description.

Have a great Fourth of July!

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The Enduring Trench

Posted on March 8, 2011 by admin

As long as I can remember, the trench coat has been a staple in the fashion world for both men and women. The tan trench has always been the quintessential basic.

Ralph Lauren Trench Vest

In 1914, Thomas Burberry was commissioned by the British War Office to create a jacket that could be used by the military in the trenches. Burberry had an existing style – the “Tielocken” made from waterproof worsted cotton gabardine. A few style changes to better accommodate the soldiers’ needs, and the trench coat was born.

 

Diane Von Furstenberg
I’m sure Thomas Burberry would not believe his eyes if he were to see the myriad versions of his trench coat that have appeared in recent runway collections. Well-known designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren are joined by newer names such as Phillip Lim, and Thakoon among numerous others have their own version of the trench.

Stella McCartney Trench Cape

Evening coats in various iterations of the trench can be found in silk, metallic, and tweed. Short, long, traditional beige, print, ruffled or cape-style all occupy hanger space in stores this season. If you are thinking of adding one of these new versions of this well-loved classic to your spring wardrobe, be sure to allow plenty of time to shop. With as much variety as there is available, you will want to explore the many possibilities before making your final choice. (All trenches pictured can be found at Neiman Marcus.)

St. John Trench Jacket

Would your company or organization benefit from a presentation on how to wear new spring styles? We are booking luncheon, lunch and learn, and workshops now. We can tailor one just for your group. Contact Beryl at Beryl@StyleWithAplomb.com or call 404-467-0288.

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