Saturday, January 29, 2011

Style Guidepost

Standing in a store like Xtabay, heaped with choices from elegant alligator bags and shapely 1940s suits to chic 1980s blouses and frilly 1950s prom gowns, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. What is your style? What really suits your personality? Will you end up buying something you truly love--on your best friend? If you have a few minutes and a pen and paper, we might be able to help.

What you need is a style guidepost, a few words to summarize your style and point you to items that dovetail with your style and personality. Here is how you do it:

First, make a list of adjectives that appeal to you. Go wild and include anything vaguely interesting. To get started, you might consider: glamorous, folksy, gothic, 18th century, saucy, sensual, elegant, composed, baroque, passionate, rock 'n roll, crazy, vibrant, bohemian, film noir, and serene. Think about geography for adjectives, too: French, British, Chinese, Mexican, Moon (why not?), Russian, Rio, Transylvanian, seaside, and Hollywood. Think of more. What interests you? Where do you dream of vacationing? If you could live in any time, any culture, when or where would it be? What do you enjoy reading about?

Now come up with a list of nouns. Femme fatale, gypsy, seductress, librarian, sailor, loner, Grace Kelly, waif, Amazon, rock star, astronaut, princess, warrior, heroine--these will get you started. Keep going. List al least a dozen nouns.

Finally, combine the adjectives with the nouns and see what you come up with. I bet you'll find something that will inspire your style. Rock n' roll librarian, folksy Grace Kelly, Hollywood librarian, Bohemian femme fatale, outer space seductress, film noir gypsy. Mix it up. The possibilities stretch as far as your imagination.

Eventually you'll end up with a combination, or even a few, that intrigue you. Don't forget them--they may be the nut of your style.

~ Angie

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dressing Carrie Brownstein


It's not everyday that I get to dress someone famous. Let alone a famous person going to a red carpet premiere in New York City. So you can imagine I was pretty psyched when Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein came into Xtabay looking for something to wear to the New York premiere of her new show.  At first I was a little intimated but after hearing that this was her favorite vintage shop in Portland, my confidence started to come back. I tried to get an idea of what she wanted. Carrie is kind of a tomboy and was wearing black jeans, black hoody and kind of a plaid flannel-ish shirt. She looked very Portland- minus an awkwardly silk screened bird on her hoody. We decided to glam up her look a little bit, not over the top but just classic, timeless movie star kind of glam.
Carrie is tiny. A perfect size 2. Aren't famous people always tiny? What's up with that? Anyway....
I put her in a fabulous 1950's black silk crepe cocktail dress with deep v-neck and back. Then we searched for shoes.....luckily we just happened to have the perfect size 7 black 70's italian heels with metallic red and gold ankle straps . I didn't want to complicate the neckline of the dress so I opted that she wear just a bracelet and earrings.  I grabbed a chunky 50's Laguna crystal bracelet and v shaped gold tone rhinestone earrings. Ta-da! She looked like a million bucks. Thanks Carrie for choosing Xtabay as your personal stylist for the day---fortunately for me her regular stylist was hungover:)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Resolution: A Wardrobe for Life

A few months ago, Cathy Horyn wrote in The New York Times about going around with Nan Kempner to the fashion shows. (For those of you who don't know, Nan Kempner was a whippet-thin socialite with a world-class couture wardrobe and a great sense of humor.) In Horyn's article, she said spending time with Kempner made her realize Kempner didn't shop like a lot of us do, grabbing something cute and tossing it in the basket. When she shopped, she was adding to a lifetime wardrobe.

Nan's closet, a small portion of the jacket section.
What does this mean, really? I think it means thinking of your wardrobe as a whole rather than as a motley assemblage of sweaters and cocktail dresses. I think it means creating a wardrobe that has the right clothing to serve your life--clothes for work, meeting up with friends, mucking in the garden, lounging in front of an old movie on the couch--and replacing or updating as needed, always aware of where clothes can do double duty. I think it means choosing clothing that suits your style and body (which means knowing your style and body, of course.) It also means thinking of quality when you buy, and maintaining the clothing you have.

The first step, then, is to take stock of the sort of clothing your life requires, and see if your existing wardrobe is thin--or overly abundant--in any of the areas. For instance, I work part time in an office. Four days a week I need to wear something suitably professional for a nonprofit organization. My solution is vintage skirts, cashmere sweaters, and 1940s jackets. I also work freelance at home. Here, too, skirts and sweaters are good, and for late night writing sessions I like dressing gowns with leggings and cardigans for warmth. My wardrobe has an o.k. selection of these.


But if you looked in my closet you'd think I was a hostess at a casino in Monte Carlo. It's chock-a-block vintage cocktail dresses in there. Same with the jewelry box. I have enough rhinestones to bedazzle an elephant. Clearly I need to put the brakes on buying cocktail dresses and think more practically. I also have way too many coats. And a few (cough, cough) purses.

The next step is to see that your wardrobe hews to a consistent style. "Wait a minute!" You may be saying. "You can't pin me down like that! I'm like Walt Whitman--I contain multitudes!" O.K., my literary friend, I don't mean that you always have to dress always in black and white or as a glamour puss or whatever. I mean that your clothing should reflect your personality.

Think of ChloƩ Sevigny. Whatever you think of her style, as diverse as it is it's clearly her own. You could probably pick up a shirt and say whether she'd wear it or not. Do your friends say that about you? Could they walk into Xtabay and pick a dress that they say "looks like you"? Style may come to some people early and easily, but a lot of us spend years experimenting with different styles of clothing until we find a look that feels both comfortable and exciting. I find as I watch old movies and see people on the street, I'm constantly refining my style (sadly, the non-cocktail dress part of my wardrobe seems to involve a lot of plaid.)

To build a lifetime wardrobe, you also need to know what works with your body. The two largest categories of female bodies are (1) not much of a waist; and (2) a definite waist (and hips and breasts.) Often the "not much of a waist" women are long-waisted, too. These women look fabulous in 1930s and 1960s cuts with slightly higher or even empire waistlines. The "waisted" women often have shapely hips to manage and look great in 1940s and 1950s clothing. The bottomline is that you have to try a lot of different shapes and colors to find what works best on you. Come into Xtabay, and you'll get great help identifying your best skirt lengths, necklines, colors, and silhouettes.

Nan's sweater collection.
Finally, you--like me--may need to sort through your closet and get rid of clothing that doesn't fit into your wardrobe. I know you've heard it before, but if you don't wear something or don't feel comfortable in it, pass it on. I just got rid of a fabulous Lilli Ann cream mohair coat with mink trim, but it didn't look as good on me as most of my other coats. It shouldn't be languishing in my closet when it can go out on the town on someone else's body.

Unlike Nan Kempner, we may not leave wardrobes worthy of being donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when we die. But we can save money, feel confident in our clothes, and know we have something in the closet for just about every situation just by thinking of our clothing as part of a whole wardrobe. A living, evolving wardrobe for life.

~ Angie

Monday, January 3, 2011

Now that the party's over....check out what I have on ETSY!




1940's I.Miller platform wedding shoes. In a nice wide size 8 !

Luscious tissue weight silk dress by renowned 50's designer Mollie Parnes. 

Coveted 1960's cherry cardigan.

amazing 1950's lucite box purse by Rialto. Perfect for a bride!

A Pucci jersey dress for your pleasure.

Perfect for the bride that want's something iconic and glamorous, the Rudi Gernreich metallic gown.

Click on our Etsy link at the side of the page, for further details on these beautiful items.