What came first, the City Flat or the Tieks?

...More importantly, why exactly would I pay $130-$200 for 'designer' foldable ballet flats that look exactly like the ones I can get at The Gap for $39.50?  

Perhaps if I were determined to get a unique color, like turquoise or tangerine, or if I really wanted to have those nifty robins egg blue soles and the luxe gift bag, I'd go with the Tieks (pictured above).

But if I'm happy with basic black, metallic silver/gold, or red, then it seems the Gap's City Flat will do just fine.  That said, now that I'm working in the city and walking at least a mile or more every day, I love the idea of foldable flats that tuck into your purse or backpack, rather than the 80s working woman look of bright white tennis shoes + suit.  These flats, whether you prefer the high end or the mass-market, are so much more practical and modern!

UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Mario for this tip - there are two new UK companies, Rollasoles and Afterheels, that are selling these kinds of foldable, portable flats...but the genius twist is that the disposable flats are only GBP 5 and are dispensed from a vending machine!

For Men: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's messenger bag from 500 Days of Summer

Last year I posted about the excellent vintage-style fashion in one of the best romantic comedies of the past year, 500 Days of Summer.  We were especially taken by the "old man chic" worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's lovesick character, Tom.  Since we've gotten so much interest from that post, including a ton of questions about JGL's messenger bag in the movie, I thought I'd post a follow-up to let people know where they can buy the bag, or something very similar to it:

I'm close to certain that costume designer Hope Hanafin got Tom's canvas messenger bag from a vintage store, but that doesn't mean stylish men everywhere can't get the same look for a lot less than you'd expect.  Contrary to what people were saying on Yahoo Answers, Tom's bag was NOT from Ben Sherman.  More likely it was one of these vintage styles (I especially love the simple army medic shoulder bag from the Army Navy store - so classic, so practical, and so affordable!):

Dilemmas: Stuff I'd like to get from the General Economy

Been a long time since we did a "Dilemmas" post.  In this case it's not really a matter of choosing which one to get, but whether to get something at all - or get all of them :)

  • Oak NYC houndstooth scarf, $7
  • Frye Paige dark brown boots, $200
  • Rag & Bone top, $45
  • Free People sequined vest, $23
  • Random Japanese lace skirt, $30
  • Kookai striped sweater, $27
  • Anthro skirt, $45
  • Tulle pencil skirt, $20

Mayle retrospective - I thought her sample sale was coming up, but as it turns out, the sale already happened a year ago.

So it's kind of unclear whether Jane Mayle is really truly out of business for good, because the lease on her store's retail space was supposed to have ended in February, but the site is still functional, and when you visit it, it's still advertising this huge sample sale, to end all sample sales, which happened April 24-25.  Last year.  It's a weird time-warp feeling to flip through the lookbook and sigh wistfully at all the beautiful things I missed out on:

Whatever the ultimate fate of the brand, I wish I could have been there.  Her clean-cut yet easily romantic silhouettes is everything we ask for at Wearability.

For Men: Loungin' in comfort and style

When it comes to clothing, guys are pickier than you would think. But what we're looking for is not so much color and style per se, but more about comfort. Now that is a loaded term, so let me name three characteristics of comfortable clothing:

  • Low maintenance
  • High quality fabric that feels good next to the skin
  • A good fit, so you don't look sloppy
People assume that comfort is necessarily at odds with words like "stylish" or "fashionable," but that's not the case. It's possible to achieve both if you watch for fit, consider color, and commit to the "casual" look all the way from head to toe (if you don't go 100% casual, you end up looking messy).

I've been on a "loungin'" vibe lately and finally got around to take some shots around the house.  Great for hanging out on a Sunday afternoon, grooving to some lowkey music as you putter around the house.  Simple, understated, comfortable... it's loungin', baby!

Here are some of the style choices that's got me inspired to get dressed these days:
  • Colors: Muted earth tones (browns, beiges, seaweed-ish greens and greys) so you can mix and match easily.  
  • Hats: They embody 'ease' because you don't have to worry about doing your hair! I'm partial to straw fedoras because they hold their shape and don't get too hot when you wear them.  
  • Solid color long-sleeved tees: They are super comfortable and are so easy to layer (wear them by themselves or under short-sleeved tees, vests etc). Club Monaco has some long-sleeved shirts on sale and they are the most comfortable shirts I've ever owned. Alternative Apparel also has great comfortable and affordable stuff (Nordstrom Rack carries their stuff for cheap!)
  • Soft cardigans: Worn unbuttoned, over V-neck tees
  • Pulled-back beanies: Worn sloppily on the back of your head.  I don't know why this is so comfortable -- it looks kind of ridiculous I'll admit, but you get a pass because it's got this interesting balance of capturing some of the warmth from your head, but exposes your ears to let off some of the heat.  I've seen this in a few magazines so I can't claim credit for it, but it's so comfy!
  • Lightweight Hoodies - Spin-off of the long-sleeve T-shirt, with built-in "man caves."  Zip-up hoodies tend to be bulkier and have a more youthful, skater vibe (which is cool if that's the look you're going for).  
My two favorite looks (above): 
  1. Light grey cardigan (7 For All Mankind), white V-neck (good ol' Hanes), vintage striped scarf, dark grey shorts (River Island), grey sweater cap (H&M)
  2. Brown henley (Alternative), striped vest (Ted Baker), black straw fedora (Groovin), dark grey shorts (River Island - but you can substitute this with jeans, chinos, etc.)
Love it?  Hate it?  Leave a comment (and send in your own pics if you've got 'em!)

Could Camilla Staerk finally be finding her stride?

The thing about truly masterful designers (or artists in general) is that they continue to put out new things, play with new concepts and ideas, and yet you can tell almost immediately that it's their work.  There is a certain signature je ne sais quoi in what they produce that you recognize as uniquely theirs.  One might say this is how you tell an artist has come into his/her own and reached full artistic maturity.

I wasn't sure I could say the same of Camilla Staerk's early collections (she first landed on the fashion map almost 10 years ago).  They seemed a bit haphazard and scattered, meandering a bit, like a novice writer's narrative.  There were moments of sheer brilliance and offbeat moments that made you scratch your head a bit and wonder what she was thinking.

The last few collections though, seem a bit more focused, more purposeful and certain.  It's interesting I picked up on the writerly aspect of her work, as Interview Magazine described her work early last year as "dark, severe, literary, and modern." 

I don't know if I completely agree, because a lot of her pieces are also feminine, gentle, and fabled.  Hailing from Denmark, Staerk says she's deeply influenced by the mythology and stories of her home country, from the tragedy of Hamlet to the stark modern lines of Danish furniture-making.  At any rate she's someone I find interesting and will be following in the coming season.

(Gauchos + Boots)(Style + Comfort) = Suitable alternative to (Skinny Jeans + Boots)(Fat-Bottomed Girls)

I am not trying to be mean, here.  I'm just sayin' that while it's truly a great thing to be a fat-bottomed girl (as Queen sang about them), it's not always so awesome to "let it all hang out."  And that means PUT DOWN. THE. SKINNY. JEANS.  Good heavens!  Curvy girls and skinny jeans!  Being in possession of a few curves myself, I do not pretend I will ever look great in skinny jeans.  Or bikini bottoms and knee socks.

Instead, I offer to you a style-friendly, still-cold-weather alternative to that awful, ubiquitous (skinny jeans + boots) trend we're suffering right now, which will do you and the rest of society a favor by flattering those lovely curves of yours: Gauchos.  Plus boots!
Yes, you can still wear those kickass boots and keep your feet warm while the weather decides whether it's going to continue stinking or not. Amazing.
The term "gaucho" actually refers to a South American people who were sort of equivalent to the North American vaquero or cowboy.  They wore these heavy, loose-fitting pants thusly:

However, it's a bit unclear whether the modern gaucho pants were actually inspired by the native clothing of these South American herdsmen.  Gauchos as we know them were developed in the seventies as a more convenient, more comfortable, more wide-legged cross between the form-fitting capri pants of the sixties (as popularized by the incomparable Audrey Hepbern) and the bell-bottoms of the disco era.  The result was a fantastically practical yet stylish pant that could easily go from casual to dressy to office-appropriate.  And, best of all, the flared leg means its ideal for flattering ladies with hips and thighs (that is to say, something like 90% of normal women in the world).
That said, guachos are not the easiest articles of clothing to find, and even harder to find in the right length (if you're petite like me, they could end up looking like cropped trousers) or the right fabric (light linens for summer, heavier tweeds for winter).  I culled a few favorites to get you started.
And, couldn't help throwing in the Queen video for "Fat Bottomed Girls."  Enjoy!

Personal spring trend, "Shooties" or "shoe boots": Somewhere between an oxford and an ankle boot...

...lies a world of flat-ish, comfortable, and decidedly solid shoes that defy categorization. Some might call them flat ankle boots, though it's not quite accurate, because "ankle boot" should refer to something that actually covers your ankle. Maybe the Frye people got it right when they called it a "shootie" because that captures the neither-here-nor-there nature of such footwear. Or, as Garry quipped, sh'booties.

These shoes have been creeping into my consciousness through several other style blogs (jakandjil and thesartorialist), as well as girls selling vintage oxford/ankle boots on the laws of general economy.  And, of course, my recent acquisition of a pair of Cydwoq Vintage oxfords. Now, I have a full-blown shoe crush on my hands that needs consummation.  Some fine examples of the shoe boot/shootie phenomenon:
The only criteria that seems to tie this class of shoe-boots together are:
  • COMFORT.  You could walk in these shoes all day and still be happy as a clam.
  • Made out of high quality, structured leather
  • Low heel, less than 2 inches if possible
  • Super low  or non-existent shaft (exposed ankles preferable) with a no-fuss slip-on design
  • Cool details like buckles, ties, buttons and hand-tooling a plus
  • Decidedly mannish or androgynous in style.
These shooties tend to fall into one of two style categories - either the Western ankle boot or the embellished oxford.  Also, they seem to abound on vintage sites like Etsy (and sell for quite cheap, less than $50).  Which makes them both accessible and unique, as the unisex nature of these shoes means it takes a girl with some balls to pull them off!  

On that note, I am definitely l ooking forward to finding my perfect pair of oxford/western shoe boot/booties.  Here's the best of the rest:
P.S. If you have questions on where to find any of the boots shown above, please leave a comment or e-mail!

A philosophical question for fashionistas: At what point does gingham become buffalo plaid?

It was news to me when I discovered I'd been misusing the word 'plaid' (the actual cloth) when I really meant to say 'tartan' (the pattern).  In the same way, when you really think about it, most people use the terms 'gingham,' 'buffalo plaid' and even 'checks' interchangeably. They all sort of refer to this square-ish, plaid-ish pattern consisting of just two colors.  The only distinction I could make was that people seem to use 'gingham' when the pattern of squares is small, as with Dorothy's famous blue gingham dress, and buffalo plaid when the pattern is large, as in a flannel lumberjack's shirt.

Dictionaries and wikipedia are not much help; they say gingham is a type of cloth that's usually woven in a checked pattern, and buffalo plaid is simply defined as "a broad checkered plaid pattern usually of two colors."  Which is to say, they are practically the same thing.  And yet they're not!
But let's get down to the interesting stuff, which is the fact that this pattern, especially in black-and-white, has been popping up everywhere.  

I was only moved to blog about it when I saw the beautiful way designer Christopher Kane applied the pattern in his Spring 2010 collection. The cuts, the silhouettes, the drape of the fabric, they are all gorgeously and daringly executed.  But what really makes Kane's collection interesting to me is that he cut the fabric on a bias, so the pattern falls diagonally instead of up-and-down.  I've never seen buffalo plaid (or gingham, as most people are referring to Kane's dresses) so graceful, so ethereal.  It's an interesting juxtaposition of luxuriously delicate fabric and really down-to-earth practicality.  

Of course, I don't expect to afford the real thing so I went off in search of some suitable plaid/gingham dresses that could substitute.  Here's what I found, though I have to say only a couple of them even come close to Christopher Kane's frocks (Scottish designer Zoe Watt's Brass Label being one of them- discovered on fashion-stylist.net). Also included some fun accessories featuring the buffalo plaid pattern, from a blanket to slippers to an adorable dog vest.
Clothing: 1. Brass Label collection 2. 80spurple.com 3. Forever 21 4. ModCloth 5. Small Earth Vintage 6. Oasis 7. Philip Lim 8. Tambukiki on eBay 9. Urban Outfitters 10. Marks & Spencer 11. kensiegirl 12. American Eagle 13. Forever 21 14. Gap 15. Paul Smith 16. Hot Topic hoodie 17. PixieMarket coat 18. Plastic Island sweater cardigan
Accessories: 1. Old Navy umbrella2. Urban Outfitters throw blanket. 3-4. Aeropostale bikini top and bottom 5. Anthropologie bra 6. Etsy dog vest 7. Forever 21 hi-tops  8. Forever 21 slippers

Someone plz stop me from buying up the whole Coclico site.

I've been tracking this site for a while.  I was a bit confused at first about what, exactly, the Coclico folks did.  I have some to the conclusion that they not only design and make their own beautiful shoes, but they also are purveyors of a handful of other fine shoes.

I think the shoes speak for themselves: poetic structure, sumptuous materials, lovely little details.  And they look rather comfortable.  Only drawback?  They are NOT cheap.  But never fear, many styles are on sale now at www.shopcoclico.com.  I've got my eye on the esska mary-janes with the teal straps and the esska black boot.