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Category: Fashion

Partisan Ties? Obama’s Ottawa Visit

[ 0 ] February 20, 2009

It seems people are anxious to read the tea leaves wondering how Obama will fare over the next four-to-eight years and whether U.S/Canada relations will improve under the new administration.  Canadians are also nervous about their own (minority) government which is likely headed for yet another election.

The media coverage of Obama’s first presidential visit to Canada was at times, amusing, especially when tv journalists asked pressing questions like ‘Why didn’t Obama call the Prime Minister by his first name?’ or ‘I am told President Obama is enjoying a beaver tail at the local market’ (that’s a fried pastry, btw).

All that overanalizing and giddy reporting encouraged me to look for my own useless clues:  I settled on their ties.

President Obama and PM Harper in Ottawa Feb.19, 2009 (photo: PMO)

President Obama and PM Harper in Ottawa Feb.19, 2009 (photo: PMO)

Throughout the U.S. election, then-senator Barack Obama appeared to make symbolic overtures to conservative voters by wearing Republican red ties.  Michelle Obama even wore a bright red dress on election night (although that dress was not tv friendly).  Now, it seems Obama has gone back to blue.  He proudly dons his party’s colors while riding a wave of optimism during the honeymoon phase of his administration.

Analyzing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tie is, like the man, a bit more complicated.  In Canada, party colors are reversed with the Conservatives owning blue.  I couldn’t help but wonder what was behind Harper’s choice of red tie with a few diagonal blue stripes.  Was he taking a page out of Obama’s election handbook employing the age-old strategy of befriend thy enemy by wearing their (Liberal) party colors?  Perhaps that little splash of blue on his tie was Harper’s way of assuaging Conservative fears that he is acquiescing to too many Liberal demands?

I can’t wait for the next presidential visit.  Hopefully President Obama will bring the First Lady giving us even more opportunities to overanalize.

Punk Rocks Again Thanks to Marc Jacobs

[ 0 ] February 18, 2009

All eyes were on “Master Marc” and the man, clad in a black kilt and combat boots did not disappoint.  His Fall 2009 collection is fab-u-lous… a bit of something for everyone so long as you are not a wallflower.

A tanned, toned Marc Jacobs debuts his Fall 2009 collection during NY Fashion week.

A tanned, toned Marc Jacobs debuts his Fall 2009 collection during NY Fashion week.

I have to admit I was not too impressed by NY Fashion Week until this show.  Jacobs’ ode to the era of 1980s punk rock is right on time. Check out these shoulder pads below.

Sharp shoulder alert: Wear safety goggles when passing by.

Sharp shoulder alert: Wear safety goggles when passing by.

The collection rocks.  My personal favorites include: an aerodynamic gold bustier – remember that show “The V”…

Bold, striking bustier

Bold, striking bustier

The collection seemed to have a bit of everything: fun and spontaneity courtesy of neon-colored coats and sensuality too – sexy, suede thigh-high boots.

A sexy, wearable look for Fall 2009

A sexy, wearable look for Fall 2009

This collection makes me want to go through my old record collection (yes, records).  Doesn’t the model (in black and white) resemble Siouxsie (sans the Banshees) or Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders?

Punk meets glamour.

Punk meets glamour.

If you’re ready to make a statement, this collection is for you.  It’s Judy Jetson-meets-Pat Benatar…punk rock pretties.  The perfect prototype to battle the mood of economic doom and gloom, no?

Menswear: Dressing Well During A Recession

[ 1 ] January 29, 2009

The current economic malaise sure has taken a bite out of consumer confidence.  People are worried especially when, on a daily basis, they are bombarded with news about job cuts, stock market downturns and company shutdowns.  When stalwart companies like Microsoft announce layoffs, well, you know these are turbulent times.

Unfortunately, this has turned the job market into a super-competitive arena where it is not good enough to be qualified for a job: Headhunters and prospective employers judge you on everything, including personal grooming.  Is that unfair?  Perhaps, but until you are in a position where you call the shots, it is best to work within the existing parameters.

Quite a few women have been writing in, requesting advice about helping the men in their lives dress during these economic times particularly if they are job hunting.

Most of the (heterosexual) men I know do not appreciate the art of shopping, let alone wait for a sale.  When they need it, they buy it.  Simple as that.  No fooling around.  That usually entails buying at regular price and often paying too much because you did not or (could not) spend time comparing prices.  This approach is fine if money is not an issue and you have a large stash of disposable cash.  Even then, it is tough for a man to justify spending money on things he might deem frivilous.

Here are some tips on how to dress well and on a budget during a recession.

Spend Money on a Good Suit

A classic dark suit is simple yet sophisticated.

A classic dark suit is simple yet sophisticated.

A well-tailored suit is a man’s best friend.  It hides flaws, accentuates positive attributes and provides solid structure.  In North America, the single-breasted suit with two or three buttons down the front is most common and quite flattering.  For the pants, only choose cuffs if you are tall since it will shorten the look of your leg.  Unless you have the budget to buy more than one suit purchase a conservative (read: not trendy) one that will not go out of style next year.

Your first stop should be at a store that specializes in men’s clothing.  In Canada, it would be Harry Rosen or Holt Renfrew’s men’s department.  Yes, their clothing can be expensive but you can get great advice even if you do not buy anything (and feel no obligation to do so).  Too often, men wear suits that are too big or the fabric is of poor quality.  Let a qualified salesperson guide you in the right direction.  They may even tell you about an upcoming sale.  While it would be nice to get a good suit on sale, do not count on it.  Expect to pay a bit more for a well-made suit.

Get Crisp, White Dress Shirts

A fitted shirt is a great choice for a slim build.

A fitted shirt is a great choice for a slim build.

A crisp, white dress shirt says you are solid, dependable and conservative – attributes you want to advertise during tough economic times.  As with the suit, men often wear shirts that are too big for their build.  Slim men should avoid shirts with pleats.  They do not need the extra fabric especially under a fitted suit.  Choose a collar that flatters the shape of your face:  A spread collar will enhance a long, slender face while a pointed collar will elongate a wide (cherubic!) face.  Keep the cuff links in your drawer for now as they may seem rather pretentious and gauche.

Smooth Silk Ties

This is where you can have fun and show some personality.  You can score a deal too which is great since you should have at least ten good ties in your closet to get you through the week and tide you over while some are at the cleaners.

If the suit and shirt are conservative, show some personality with your tie.

If the suit and shirt are conservative, show some personality with your tie.

In Toronto, a good place for deals on well-made silk ties is Holt Renfrew Last Call.  The merchandise will be from a previous season but that should not deter you.  Only a true fashion expert would notice and even then, who cares.  You really cannot go wrong here especially if the suit and dress shirt are fairly conservative.  As you gain knowledge and expertise in the art of dressing you will be able to play with shirt patterns and colors too, but for now, play it safe.

Matching Socks, Please

Whether they match your pants or shoes, just make sure they color-coordinate with something!  This may seem like a minor point but it will not go unnoticed by the person sitting across from you, particularly if it is a woman.  While you will not earn points for matching, you will lose in a big way if an effort is not made here.  Big no-no’s:  White or no socks.


Instead of dark loafers, wear tan-colored shoes with an olive or brown suit.

Instead of dark loafers, wear tan-colored shoes with an olive or brown suit.

Unlike women, men seem to think the fewer pairs, the better.  You may not need a closet full of shoes but you should have more than one pair.  Oxford shoes are popular – for good reason.  They can be worn practically all year and flatter most suit styles.  Just remember if you wear slim, fitted pants the shoes should also be light and sleek.  Save the bulkier shoes for baggier pants.  If you are investing in a good pair of shoes you should also get a reputable cobbler to stitch rubber soles onto the sole.  It will preserve them.

If you have some cash to spare (money you saved buying ties on sale!) add a pair of light brown or tan-colored leather shoes to your wardrobe.  Shown right, these shoes are enormously flattering with an olive or brown suit.  The look is sophisticated, sharp and will definitely set you apart from the rest.

Happy shopping and good luck scoring the job of your dreams.

Michelle Obama: Perfection in Winter White

[ 0 ] January 21, 2009

Michelle Obama seemed ethereal on the night of the inauguration:  A modern-day princess who dazzled her people and Prince Charming/President.

Obamas attend Homes States Ball, Jan. 20, 2009 (Photo: Huffington Post).

Obamas attend Home States Ball, Jan. 20, 2009 (Photo: Huffington Post).

The First Lady proved winter white is remarkable when designed properly (read: doesn’t look like a wedding dress).  She also demonstrated, once again, that she is a stylish force to be reckoned with, further whetting the appetite of the American fashion industry.

Obama made a terrific turn from the elegant but subdued daytime ensemble worn during the swearing-in ceremony and parade.  In what has become her trademark, she looked beyond established Fifth Avenue designers choosing a full-length, empire waist gown made by Taiwan-born, Manhattan-based designer Jason Wu.  The 26-year-old is highly regarded by the fashionable set.  Obama’s choice will likely catapult him into fashion stardom, much like Narciso Rodriguez (Wu’s former boss) after he designed the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s wedding dress.  Yet another link to the legendary Kennedy clan.

The Jason Wu-designed gown shows off Michelle Obama's toned arms (AP Photo/Pablo Monsavais)

The Jason Wu-designed gown shows off Michelle Obama's toned arms (AP Photo)

The expectations were quite high for the First Lady.  She had to deliver glamor without appearing ostentatious in light of the current economic malaise affecting Americans and people around the world.  Obama.  Delivered.  Perfectly.  The one-shoulder Grecian-inspired gown showed off her toned arms (seems those early morning workouts paid off).  The cream color was an interesting, albeit surprising choice given her preference for jewel tones.  The desire to surprise is something she shares with her husband.  Earlier in the day, the couple unexpectedly jumped out of their Cadillac limousine (aka The Beast) during the Inauguration Parade to greet the crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Michelle Obama's hottest accessory - after the President, of course (AP Photo).

Michelle Obama's showstopping cocktail ring (AP Photo).

As for the jewelry, Obama made exquisite choices which further accentuated the ethereal look of her soft, flowing gown.  She wore a showstopping, oversized cocktail ring on her right hand.  The ring was so large she had to remove her wedding ring.  Nice problem to have…

Michelle Obama's Indian-inspired bangles (Getty Images Photo)

The ethereal look is complete with a cluster of Indian-inspired bangles (Getty Images).

Her look was complete with beautiful diamond drop earrings and Indian-inspired fine bangles, likely made of white gold.

For a woman who maintains she has no intention of becoming a fashion icon, Michelle Obama is proving to be quite the tease for trendsetters and followers.

Jill Biden: The Other White House Hottie

[ 1 ] January 20, 2009
Joe & Jill Biden at the Neighborhood Ball, Jan.20, 2009 (AP Photo)

Joe & Jill Biden at the Neighborhood Ball, Jan.20, 2009 (AP Photo)

While all eyes were on First Lady Michelle Obama during the inauguration ceremony, Jill Biden dressed-to-impress too.  She made it clear she is not playing second fiddle when it comes to style.  The Second Lady was absolutely radiant all day and night.  She made a brilliant choice for the evening with a poppy-red strapless chiffon evening gown designed by Reem Acra, a Hollywood favorite.  Biden clearly understands that red is a stand-out color for her.  It compliments her vibrant, high-spirited personality.  This woman is clearly comfortable in her own skin, unencumbered by her age or status.  At 57-years-old, Biden still maintains a youthful vivaciousness and dresses in a manner that belies her age without crossing the line.

Jill Biden’s choice for the daytime inauguration ceremony was wonderful too.  She wore a bright red coat (and knee-high black boots) helping her stand out amongst the ubiquitous black coats sweeping across Capitol Hill.  Her bold, yet elegant and age-appropriate fashion choices sent a strong message to the fashion world, who will no doubt pay more attention to her.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden arrive for the Inauguration ceremony, Jan.20, 2009

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden arrive for the inauguration ceremony, Jan.20, 2009 (AP photo).

I would give an honorable mention to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  She was elegance personified in a mauve ensemble accessorized with a string of large, pink and purple-hued Tahitian pearls.

This was truly an historic moment in world history.  As far as fashionistas are concerned these ladies rose to the occasion.  The White House now boasts a bevy of smart, attractive women who can play the part of muse for the fashion industry.  Michelle Obama made a subdued, elegant choice with her sunny yellow coat and dress, designed by Cuban-American Isabel Toledo.  I must admit, I expected more glamour from the First Lady who made a rather conservative choice, perhaps due to the current economic crisis?  Daughters Sasha and Malia were stunning and adorable (an interesting combination) in their bright J. Crew coats.

Michelle Obama: Inauguration Dress Ideas

[ 0 ] January 18, 2009
The store that carried this dress reported a sharp spike in sales after Obama wore it on a television talk show.

The store that carried this dress reported a sharp spike in sales after Obama wore it on a television talk show.

Not since the original fashionista, Jackie Kennedy, have people looked to the White House for style inspiration.  And inspire she does.  While Michelle Obama has stated repeatedly that fashion is not her primary focus, she has quickly become the industry’s top muse, a sacred pedestal usually reserved for high-profile starlets and supermodels.  It is no wonder, since the woman wears clothes exceptionally well thanks to her tall, svelte figure – big booty notwithstanding!  Like Obama, the fashion industry is walking tall as she gives American designers a much-needed profile boost.

Designers are hovering around the soon-to-be First Lady, anxious to dress her for Inauguration night.  Will she choose haute couture or ready-to-wear?  Given the current (dismal) state of the economy, she will likely opt for the latter or find a clever middle ground – perhaps a cost-conscious label that whips up a First Lady special?  She has already demonstrated a penchant for up-and-coming designers like Thakoon and off-the rack items such as the $148.00 dress, shown right, by Donna Ricco.

Women’s Wear Daily is also having fun with this, asking dozens of designers to sketch what they envision the First Lady wearing on Inauguration night.  Most of Obama’s favorite designers, including Thakoon, have declined WWD’s request likely because they are top contenders who need to keep their ideas under wraps (no pun intended).

A svelte suggestion by Carolina Herrera

A svelte suggestion by Carolina Herrera

A red-hot idea from Monique Lhuillier

A red-hot idea from Monique Lhuillier

While Obama is expected to wear American on Inauguration night (as she should) she may very well embrace international design too, especially when accompanying the President on foreign missions.

A casual chic outfit from Pink Tartan - perfect for a meeting with our PM's wife - without the headscarf!

A casual chic outfit from Pink Tartan's S/S 2009 collection.

Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a diplomatic choice during her first state visit to the UK, wearing outfits from French design house Christian Dior – their head designer, John Galliano is British.

When Michelle Obama accompanies the President on his first official visit to Canada, I would like to see her dressed by a young, innovative Canadian label such as Pink Tartan.  Its designs may be described as preppy chic with an elegant, sophisticated twist, tailor-made for the First Lady.  The outfit shown to the right would be perfect for a one-on-one meeting with our Prime Minister’s wife (without the headscarf, of course).

Michelle Obama is in the enviable position of choosing from a vast array of Inauguration dress ideas.  She can pretty much wear anything and pull it off with grace, elegance and her own brand of sophistication.  Whatever she decides, it is sure to represent the epitome of classic American chic.

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