Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ten Out-Dated Items of Women’s Clothing Which Are Nonetheless Charming.

Although women may pay attention to fashion, they do so at a loss to their personal style. How often do you see a woman who looks like she could have just stepped out of a window of a shop? This kind of dressing might not be easy, nor is it inexpensive (when one has to replace one’s wardrobe every season it gets pricey), but it is, in fact, boring. Dull as the doldrums.

Personal style is as important as good manners when you are presenting yourself to the public. You want to be remembered in a good way, not for being poorly dressed.

Creating one’s own personal style is a life-long process, and what works for other people might not work so well for you. Look at people who you see as stylish. Study the way they (or their stylist) put their look together. You will notice, after paying attention for a while, that the details will be what take an outfit from hum-drum to smashing.

So, how do you find those little details that make you stand out from a crowd? Where should you look for them? My suggestion: look to the past. There are several items that can be incorporated into all but the most hyper-modern of wardrobes that will lend you a bit of charm, grace and elegance. And (not most importantly, but certainly important), they will make you memorable!

1. Cat’s eye glasses

Have to wear glasses? Embrace them! Cat’s eye glasses (with rhinestones, without, it doesn’t really matter) on a modern woman look refreshingly innocent. Pair them with all-black if you must, but better yet pair them with everything. If you think they look nerdy, perhaps you’re missing the point. They make you look interesting and will make men want to order you a Manhattan.

I currently don’t own a pair, but am on the lookout for an antique pair that I can take to have re-lensed. I do have a pair of cat’s eye sunglasses, however, and I can tell you that they not only get noticed, they also get complimented rather heavily.

2. Scarves

It used to be that a well-dressed lady never went anywhere without a scarf. These days you might be hard-pressed to see one on the street. Scarves are for more than just keeping your neck warm – they add visual interest and texture to an outfit. Youth League and the Spies have recently written about them here (with an excellent bunch of pictures to give you some ideas on the scarf possibilities).

While I am a fan of the muffler, scarves aren’t just for keeping your neck warm in winter. Consider the possibilities and actually look at scarves the next time you’re out shopping. A bonus: when riding your bicycle and wearing a scarf, the way it flutters behind you is completely bewitching.

3. Gloves

Another item of clothing abandoned last century is the glove as accessory. They’re for more than just practical purposes! Again, it’s that little piece of visual interest that will make you memorable.

If you do decide that a pair of gloves is for you (I would recommend a short, white pair for summer, so fresh with a dress!), there are some basic dos and don’ts (yes, this is an etiquette lesson) to keep in mind when wearing them in public:

While wearing gloves, don’t: eat, drink or smoke; play cards; apply makeup; wear jewelry over them (with the exception of bracelets); make a habit of carrying your gloves – they should be an integral part of your look; wear short gloves to a formal occasion.

While wearing gloves, do leave them on: as a mark of respect in a place of worship; when shopping, visiting, driving; at garden parties or outdoor receptions; at formal occasions; at the time of arrival at a luncheon or dinner party; in a receiving line; while dancing at a formal party; at a cocktail party until the drinks and hors d’oeuvres are passed, then remove one (the one from the hand in which you will be holding your drink or snack).

When arriving at an informal party or luncheon, leave your gloves with your coat.

4. Floral nightgowns

Between Victoria’s Secret and lad’s mags, you’d think that the only lingerie women were allowed to wear to bed would be binding and polyester. Allow me to remind you of the cotton floral nightgown.

A dream in the summer and cozy in the winter (if made from flannel), there is definitely an innocence associated with the cotton nightgown.

Take a look around next time you are at a lingerie store (The Bay and Sears are also good bets). They’re at the back (not a big draw to get people through the doors). Choose a style that you feel reflects you. Just get one for now. Try it. You might like it. And your significant other might discover that sweet is just as sexy as sexy.

While definitely not daywear, if you were to throw on a pair of Wellingtons to go out and grab the paper on a damp summer morning and the neighbour saw you, you wouldn’t be ashamed.

5. Hats

Bring back the hat! Hats are flattering, practical and pretty. They make a great accessory that people forget – you got dressed all the way up to your neck, why not take it farther? I currently own four hats: a straw fedora (which is my most frequent choice at the moment), a cowboy hat, a baseball hat and a beret (for the cooler months). And yes, I am looking to expand my collection.

Next time you’re out (preferably while you’re looking at scarves), try on a few hats. And try shapes that you might not have considered before! There’s more to life than a baseball cap.

Bonus points: wearing a hat pin.

6. Capes

We’re not talking about voluminous capes that are popular with the 20-and-under goth set. We’re talking about the cape that fits close to the body, almost like a jacket. Shorter length, slits for your arms. It’s the perfect amount of warmth for those days that aren’t too cold, where you might need a jacket but you also might not.

Capes are one of those things that you just can’t buy new. Vintage shops like Vintage Vixen are a good path to take, or if you are crafty at all (and I hope that you are) you could try your hand at making one. The Vintage Vogue collection should steer you in the right direction.

Wear it a lot. Make it a signature look.

7. Tortoiseshell

While the Hawksbill turtle (from which tortoiseshell comes) is sadly on the endangered list, there are some great imitation items on the market that bear this pattern and look just as good. If you can find a real piece vintage, I say go for it. Regardless on where it comes from, it’s classic, classy and just looks great.

8. Spectator pumps

John Lobb claims to have invented them. Coco Chanel made them famous. You can make them fabulous.

During certain periods, spectator pumps were considered very high fashion. Although they have fallen out of favour, they have returned to the fashion forefront with the resurgence in popularity of retro/rockabilly/swing styles. This spells good news for you, as you won’t have to hunt for a pair at a vintage store (there is something inherently ick to some people about wearing used shoes).

Find yourself a pair. Wear them with a pencil skirt and a body-conscious sweater. The steno pool’s got nothing on you.

9. Argyle

Better yet, pair your pencil skirt and spectators with a white dress shirt and an argyle vest. Sexy secretary. Meow.

Argyle is said to be derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell, but is a mark of class and distinction.

Argyle socks (to the knee, please) are a cute weekend look with low-profile sneakers and a denim skirt.

10. Circle skirts

On the subject of skirts – the circle skirt is one of the most memorable silhouettes of the 1950s. From Christian Dior's New Look to poodle skirts, an end to wartime rationing led to a certain romanticism and luxury of a wide-sweeping skirt.

If you think skirts are just too darn uncomfortable to wear, I challenge you to try on a circle skirt. You can do anything in it that you can in pants (except, maybe, handstands, and that only depends on your level of modesty), and the swing of it as you strut down the street is sure to catch the eye.


I’m not saying you should go out and immeadiately purchase everything on this list. But it might give you something to think about the next time you go shopping. Be distinct. Be you. Be beautiful. Be memorable.

Stand out in a sea of cut-outs.


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