Watch: The look of (500) Days of Summer

We just got back from watching Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer, a movie I've been waiting to see for a good five months.  Funny how one can look forward to a movie so much.  It has some of my favorite things all in one--Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, and the City of Los Angeles.  Webb, a first-time director, makes downtown LA look downright magical.  He brings out the LA I love even though I haven't actually visited a lot of the locations he used.  But that's a story for another blog post.

What I really want to talk about is the film's style and the yumdellishous clothes Zooey gets to wear throughout..  It reminded me how much I enjoyed costuming for theatrical productions.  Garry commented that this looked like a movie "made by hipsters, for hipsters."  It's kind of true, but it's still noteworthy.  Costume designer Hope Hanafin dresses Joe's character Tom in mostly Old Man Chic--sweater vests and puce-colored cardigans over a tie and button down shirt, funky corduroys, messenger bags.  Zooey's character Summer gets to wear a parade of 50s-inspired secretary blouses, ruffle-paneled dresses and flouncy high-waisted skirts.

I really like the individual pieces of clothing, especially the cool navy dress she wears in picture 6 above, but I think Hanafin may have overdid it with the period style--it veers into "old fashioned" more often than I'd like... I think part of what makes vintage clothing wearable is mixing it up with more modern elements. Accessories, something unexpected, like pairing it with modern jewelry, adds some freshness to vintage pieces and keeps a look grounded in the here-and-now.  Still, it was a very well done movie and lots of fun to watch all the outfits.

Update: Check out this exclusive MTV interview with Hope Hanafin on her vision for costuming (500) Days of Summer.

Another update: Found some bags that look a lot like the one Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries throughout the film.  Check them out here.

DIY (or not): Obi-style corset belt

I don't remember the name of the etsy seller who first turned me on to obi-style wrap belts (unfortunately, she is now inactive), but I clearly remember the belts themselves: neat lines, intricately patterned Japanese fabrics printed in blacks, browns, reds and golds with sakura all over them.  They seem very forgiving of all body types, as the wrap style allows you to adjust them for a very snug fit (and will hide multiple pooches).

They made such a stunning, dramatic statement that I wanted to buy one really badly before I realized: this should be one of the easiest projects for the beginning seamstress, one who, say, had a reliable machine and yards of brightly colored fabrics at her disposal, and was ready to move on from cushions and curtains (like me!).  Since then it's been on that vague, someday-I'll-get-to-it list of things to do.

I recently had another nudge in this direction when I came across an even more inventive version by desirapesta, which looks a bit more like a corset.  But no more difficult to make, I think, if one measures and cuts carefully.  Then I totally fell in love with the ones made out of leather at LedThread...they are so sleek, so brightly colored, and so gorgeous!

I decided I really want to make myself an obi-style corset belt or three... first using the batik fabric I picked up in Kuala Lumpur, and then maybe if I can get my hands on some scrap leather and a tougher needle for my sewing machine!  I'll keep you guys posted on the results.

For Men: Men of Capri

Fellas, hear me out.

Shorts are as natural to a guy's wardrobe as a basic white t-shirt.  There's absolutely no doubting that.  And shorts being the length that they are these days - shorts are practically capris already.  So why note consider adding a pair to your warm weather wardrobe arsenal?

Maybe for starters we can call them 3/4 length shorts.  Does that help?  Probably not that much because there's general fear amongst the male ranks for anything "fashion-y" - especially in the States.  But I will say that our brothers in Asia and Europe embrace these as a staple to their warm weather wardrobe and I've only recently started to incorporate them into my mine... and I must say that I genuninely like them.

Truth be told - I thought they were, for lack of a better word, "fruity" and would set me up for public humiliation so I never considered them.   Already called names for having floral print shirts, I was adverse to adding a pair of capri pants for fear of further name-calling. 

While shorts are comfortable, I fully recognize how shlumpy they make me feel when I wear them because they're generally pretty billowy and bulky (esepecially with the cargo pockets).   And they for sure don't pass for anything above casual - which further limits them in terms of occassion (although having an uber-lax dress code at work - I never feel quite right lounging around in shorts at the workplace).

So I saw a pair at the mall and figured that I'd give them a try just for the hell of it.    I was surprised immediately.  First of all - they have a much more flattering silhouette when compared to bulky shorts.  I'm not the tallest guy out there, and they are slimmer cut closer to the leg/butt  to so they don't look like you're borrowing you much taller, fatter brother's clothing.  The pair I tried on still had all the cargo stuff goin on (which is helpful to stuff wallet/keys/phone in various pockets)... and it looked great!  You can put a dress shirt on and a blazer and wear a pair of loafers without socks for a very "euro" but very comfortable and dressy look (especially for california standards).

For the brave - get a pair of stark white - it just looks clean and sharp.  A khaki pair always looks great.  Or if you're feeling cheap - you can take a pair of khakis and fold (or roll) them up like you'd fold up the sleeves of a dress shirt if you were getting hot.

So I have a few pairs of "manpris" now - a plaid-ish pair and a dark charcoal grey pair with pinstripes from H&M (they were $14.99 each!)   If you can't make the leap - a good pair of more tailored shorts that hit just around or above the knee are a much more versatile piece that I'd encourage all men to own.

The idea of the capri pant is funny - I fully admit that - but they seriously look better than shorts.  Give it a try at least before you judge - I have a feeling you too may be pleasantly surprised.

@jensmccabe Weekend Ensemble Challenge

Talk about working under pressure!  At about 1am I chanced across this note from jensmccabe on twitter:

@slimmette have ultimate challenge. Need weekend ensemble. Stat. Must be deliverable via overnight. Not too girly shirt; good w/jeans?

It was sent on 5/5 (mmyeah I rarely check twitter or FB) so I had quite a bit of time to make up.  I didn't even see the part where she said "not too girly shirt," plus I had no idea where she was going or the occasion.  So I guess this ensemble isn't going to be perfect.  Jen - next time leave a comment on Wearability and we'll get it right away!

Outfit 1: "Disjointed series No. 6" top from artlab. Rhombus earrings from polishedtwo. Kickass Report boots from

Outfit 2: Vintage secretary blouse from allencompany.  Tudor yellowheart earrings from orno. Red Tatiana T-strap heels from

Backups: Eyelet sample dress from makool. Kimono sleeve dress with pleated runner from lisarietz.

Handbag: I like this fun little Deena & Ozzy perforated satchel from

Whew--it doesn't even matter if Jen ends up wearing any of this, it was fun to put together =)  I'm going to bed now.

Barbara Cole for Anthropologie May 2009

It's funny how Anthropologie appeals to almost every woman out there in the way that it captures the imagination.  It's some very powerful brand management that communicates a single, cohesive idea: a well-lived and beautiful life.  Everything from the whimsical details (flowers and pearls on a cardigan?) to the lush weight of the fabrics to the jewel-box setup of of the stores works together to create this feeling of romance, creativity, and luxury.  And yes, I love their clothing--but can only afford to buy it on sale.

So whichever marketing manager came up with the idea of teaming with self-taught fine art photographer Barbara Cole ought to get a raise.  What a stroke of genius!  When the gorgeous May 2009 catalog landed in my mailbox, I was intrigued by how Cole's style brings the clothing to life.  And the cover looks almost like a painting, reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites, fairy tales, and the Lady of Shalott.  

I don't know a lot about the photographer herself, but I poked around her site a bit and found some more arresting images of dreamy water-color fabrics and burnished floating hair.

To see the "making of" video, visit Anthro's website.

Posted simultaneously to:

Fashion Friday: Skirts/Dresses with Pockets

Being the practical girl that I am, I think dresses and skirts with pockets are just brilliant.  I am certainly not the first girl to think this, and I hope I won't be the last.  

Pockets on skirts and dresses instantly take the edge off a piece of clothing, they have a way of making themselves incredibly useful, they make your handbag optional, and you look extra jaunty swinging down the street with your hands in them!

These examples prove that practicality need not be dowdy.  What's not to love?

  • Pockets on dresses used to be common, a thing of necessity.  At what point did someone decide to do away with pockets on dresses?

A Fashion Good Friday: The French say, "We're afraid NOT to wear black."

After a couple days of deep rumination, I think I've cracked the secret to French street style.  Oh yes, everyone knows French women pretty much invented chic, and that they live and breathe fashion the way ordinary human beings have to eat food just to survive.  Everyone knows they don't get fat. And everything they do, from walking down the street to buying bread to smoking a cigarette, oozes elegance.  

I'm no francophile--too biased after studying German for 5 years.  I mean, I enjoy croissants and duck confit as much as the next girl but I'll be darned if I think a French accent is sexy on anyone (except Vincent Perez, who probably isn't even French...right, he's Swiss-German and Spanish).  But I gotta admit, them Frenchies sure knows how to dress.

There are a number of articles, blogs, etc. out there devoted to that certain je ne sais quoi that makes Parisian street style so maddeningly alluring.  After going through reams of photos online, I think I've got it: the French wear a whole lot of black.  

When I announced this to Garry, he was unimpressed: "You mean like New Yorkers or interactive designers wear black?"

No. Yeah, New Yorkers (and Bostonians, and Londoners) wear a ton of black, but it's a serious black, with sharp edges and a no-nonsense kind of matter-of-course-ness.  It restrains rather than liberates.  No, the color black in France seems more essential, more necessary, like a lifeline or a child's security blanket.  It even becomes warm, playful and easy-going.  Interesting, non?

Of course there are other elements that seem to comprise the French style:
  • An "undone" or even underdone quality: One thing I notice is that American fashion is incredibly over-accessorized.  Just look at that recurring section in InStyle where they put together outfits that are supposed to go with different kinds of outings/occasions.  Bangles, earrings, necklaces, sunglasses, watches, etc etc etc.  Geez, man.
  • Ease: They never seem to think too hard about it.  With the exception of skinny jeans, they seem to prefer flowy and organic shapes comfortable enough to wear all day.
  • Proportion & fit:  Classic cuts, and everything judiciously edited, perfectly balanced, as if the outfit was grown on your body.
  • Color: Mostly neutral, ranging from black, tan, gray, navy, and hunter green.
  • Quality: Fine fabrics, well-shaped silhouettes, good stitching, lovely details.
  • Thinness: I was serious.  I don't think French women would look nearly as good if they were as fat as Americans.
  • Something unexpected: There is usually some small flourish that makes you look twice, either a pop of color or an interesting embellishment.
Essential elements
  • BangsYes, hair always looks perfectly mussed, left long and loose.  
  • Minimal makeup, perfect skin: Eyes are lined, smoky, or plain.  Lips nude or classic red.
  • Black tights: Seriously, it's like every woman in Paris owns about 5 pairs.
  • A luxurious handbag and/or a beautiful scarf: That's all the accessorizing they need.
  • Fantastic shoes: They really pay attention to shoes and use them to make a statement.
For more inspiration, check out this blog I'm newly in love with from Garance Dore, a French fashion photographer.  Miles and miles of impossibly chic and effortless-looking style.

Thanks to:

Amelie Rio stockings: A Love Story

I'm not really sure if it's infatuation or not, but I cannot stop thinking about a pair of stockings I saw in the window display at MaxMara today.  I know it sounds absurd, but please hear me out.

My family went to South Coast Plaza to check out the sales.  It was really just a chance to explore and walk into ridiculous stores like Valentino (the sales clerk there was super rude, like, "well the sale rack is over there"), or go into Burberry and try on this brown, gray, black, and blue monstrosity of a fur coat that originally cost $10,000 but I would not take if you gave it to me for free because it was so ugly.

I passed by the window of the MaxMara store and caught a brief glimpse of these beauties and thought, those look interesting.  I did not know anything about MaxMara or where it stood on the totem pole of Italian fashion houses.  I did not even know it was Italian.

I went straight to the clerk and asked for the stockings.  She got very excited and ushered me to the back room and plucked out a little package and placed it in my hands.  "That's the very last pair I've got!" she said, and I felt a little thrill run down my spine.  I flipped it over and my face fell.  They cost $70.  I mean, I was bracing myself for a high price, but this was crazy!  The most expensive tights I've ever seen up till now were $30.  I opened the package and pulled them over my hands--they were even more beautiful up close, made of some top-quality stuff, and I could see the full effect of the gorgeous diamond weave pattern.

I'd never seen tights like this in my life.  I didn't know stockings could be so lovely--they even had this sweet gray velvet ribbon trim at the top, a detail that was not lost on me.

I stood there in a store surrounded by 50% off items and had fallen for the one thing that was not on sale.  $70 is an absurd price to pay for a pair of glorified socks, I understand.

But when you think about it, $70 is a relatively modest price for a piece of pure, unadulterated luxury.  People spend much more than that on jewelry, coats, handbags, shoes, and on and on.  This is the one time I was not driven by practicality or necessity of any kind, but only by an appreciation for something that was beautiful and well-made, unique, distinctive, and difficult to find.  I figure, I do not buy expensive jewelry, or handbags over $50, and the one pair of boots I have cost $40 at freaking Shoe Pavilion!

I asked about the return policy--you may know of my bad habit of buying things up and then returning them weeks later when I decide not to keep them--the lady said, no returns on hosiery or perfume.  It was a moment of truth, a black-and-white choice, and I was at a complete impasse.  My mom was with me and looked almost as if she was going to let me buy them (with my own money of course), but then she started to talk me out of them.  What if they run, she said.  What kind of skirt are you going to wear with them.  Your calves are too fat.  You're going to abuse them, etc.  

But what really let me walk away today was thinking, I will try to find them online for a lower price.  Fat chance!  MaxMara doesn't even have a website.  And the only place to buy their hosiery online seems to be a bunch of UK retailers.  And it is certainly impossible to find this particular style/model.

Of course.  Meanwhile I have not been able to stop thinking about them since I walked out of the store.  So now I am seriously considering calling the MaxMara store tomorrow and asking them to hold the stockings until I can drive all the way down again and claim them as my own.

Annie: For 70 bucks they'd better be sprinkled with diamond dust! 
<after I sent her the picture>  
Annie: OK from what I can see they are the ribbon too...but if they are glorified socks...I cant say I'd have been able to fathom spending 70 for 'em.
Me:  I know
Annie:  But yes-- i can see why they'd haunt your thoughts...I once found these adorable amazing plaid ankle booties that buckled up by Betsey Johnson at Nordstrom Rack and R____ swore up and down that he could not let me get them, especially since they were $200.  But I dream about them all the time...cause they were so unique! and can't find them anywhere online
Annie: so--if your sock/tights are anything like those should totally just get them cause it'll KILL your subconscious
me:  i know!  i've let things like this go before.  You know what happens, is it'll eat me up and i'll lose a lot of sleep searching online for them.  And then i'll find like a deficient version of them (like the wrong color or a differenct size), and I'll get it and sometimes pay even more for it.
me: and then i'll regret it 
Annie:  oh yeah....especially if you know an HM knockoff will not suffice
me: even started looking at other luxury hosiery brands online, and nothing comes close
Annie: I even went back the next day and the booties were gone...Steph--these were the most ugly sounding kickass gorgeous shoes.  hehhee
me:  tragic love story.  
me: i wonder if it is morally wrong to lust after inanimate objects like this?
me:  there is no lack of gorgeous things in the world.  if I give in to this, when does it end?

Fashion Friday: Dresses of Plaid

Taking a cue from Annie's series of dresses, I thought I'd share the one trend that's really gotten under my skin--silk tartan gowns.  Not your usual frumpy plaid flannel stuff!  These offerings by Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen and others are cheeky, irreverent and unexpectedly gorgeous (I think).  I like how flowy they are in silk, and how the loud, distracting pattern doesn't quite mask the gorgeous structure of the dresses.  I wish I could make one for myself this holiday season.

Fashion Friday, 1 day late: The Look of 'Penelope'

I did a bit more digging into the movie--turns out the masterful cinematography in the movie was the work of the DP for Amelie after all, Michel Amathieu.  I'm proud I was able to spot it.

But what I was really interested in was the costume designer, Jill Taylor.  Turns out most of the pieces, though reminiscent of Anthropologie, were custom made, or at least custom embellished, for the movie.  I thought that was pretty cool--I assumed that most costume designers were just glorified shoppers, and I was hoping I could find out where they had bought that cool coat.  I went through and took screenshots of all the cool outfits Penelope gets to wear throughout the film.  This makes me want to get back into costuming--no money in it, but so much fun!