Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Playing with Color

I don't know about you, but early on my mother drilled into me certain rules about color. For instance, with a blue dress, wear blue or black shoes, or redheads can't wear red. Later, when she'd swallowed the "Color Me Beautiful" kool aid, she branded me an "autumn" and told me I needed to stick to orange, rust, green, and mustard.

In college, I learned black was cool, and wearing exuberant colors and prints was the sign of a rube. I purged my wardrobe of unsophisticated pastels. When I entered the working world with a plum job with the federal General Accounting Office (this is for real), I carefully constructed a wardrobe centered around navy blue, ivory, and camel for maximum practicality and professionalism. My accessories were gold tone. My pantyhose were Travel Buff. My personal style was nil.

This, my friends, was then. Now, I'm a free woman These days I mix plaids and florals with confidence and am never afraid to pin on some acid green rhinestones or tie a red scarf around my neck. I feel better, and I know I look better. All it took was a little playing with color. Here are a few of my discoveries:

Bend the "Seasons" Theory: I'm not going to tell you the whole "Color Me Beautiful" thing is a washout, because it's not. Certain people look best in certain colors, and that's a fact. But, if you think, for instance, that you look better in "warm" colors, like gold, and so had better not wear "cool" colors, like "blue", think again. Nothing wakes up a warm color better than a splash of a blue color.

For example, say you look good in gold. Imagine wearing a pale straw color, wool 1960s sheath dress. Now top it with a blue velvet bolero. Genius! You just created a tension that brings the whole outfit alive. Or, say you're wearing a chocolate brown (in other words, a "warm") cashmere sweater and matching brown pencil skirt. Add a bright red rhinestone brooch, and both items snap to attention. Sure, you could have added a gold brooch instead, and that would have been fine. But it would not have been as chic as the red rhinestone number. Every artist knows the trick of complementary colors.

Toss the old shoe color rules out the window: For some reason, there seem to be more rules about shoe colors than anything else. Well, forget about them. Let's think about a gorgeous 1940s navy blue suit. You might think you need a pair of navy blue shoes to go with it. That would work all right. Black shoes would be fine, too, if a little military. But imagine that blue suit with luggage brown shoes. Nice!

Most people think a black dress or skirt calls for black shoes. Not so! Try taupe shoes with a black dress. Very fresh, and your legs go on forever. If you're wearing all black, definitely wear a shoe with color. Say, satin green or mustard yellow. Also, when in doubt, wear gold shoes. Or maybe silver. If you feel they're too dressy, pair them with colored tights. It pays to have a pair of gold closed-toe sandals in your closet. You'll wear the heck out of them, I promise.

Forget about white shoes all together unless you're a five year old or a nurse. It's very hard to pull off a white pump. Face it, even brides should throw in the towel on that one.

Balance dull with bright: If you, like most of us, find yourself wearing a lot of black, brown, and other dull, neutral colors, toss in some bright. I understand that it's practical to buy a black or grey coat. Well, then, get yourself some lime green or pink gloves, preferably long ones to wear with bracelet sleeves. If you have stacks of neutral turtlenecks or Levis and white shirts or khaki anything, find some turquoise scarves, vivid red nail polish, or a canary yellow purse to wear with them. You love sky blue? Wear sky blue over-the-knee stockings with your black 1960s suit and Mary Janes. Add a dab of map green eyeliner and pink lipstick.

Vintage colors are hard to beat: Vintage clothing has some of the most remarkable colors, from the palest celery green to a true, lush puce, to every shade of red from cherry to scarlet.  The colors on vintage clothes turn heads, because people aren't used to seeing them in the sea of black, khaki, spruce green (only because we're in the Northwest), and chambray that floods the streets. I'm addicted to a special shade of peacock blue I've only seen on mid-century cashmere sweaters. The colors of vintage clothing are astounding. Wear them for some real style.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sui Generis

Not long ago I saw a photo of a party with Andy Warhol. (I searched and searched but couldn't find the image to show you, unfortunately.) The late 1960s photo showed Le Warhol flanked by women of the Edie Sedgwick persuasion: gamine, slender, clothed in Courreges-style dresses. One woman stood out. She, too, wore a straight-fitting mini dress, but her figure strained its lines. She was busty with a tiny waist and what my family doctor calls "baby machine" hips. In short, she was a 1950s goddess trapped in a 1960s photo. It just didn't work. She looked uncomfortable, ill flattered, and out of sorts.

Oh, how I understand. My voluptuous figure and out-of-time taste often sets me at odds, too. A few months ago I went to a party replete with hip women with long, straight hair and girlish figures. I'd selected a 1950s gold silk Suzie Wong style dress to wear, but I felt positively matronly in the sea of careless 1970s glasses and puffy vests. The only comfort I took was that they drank cheap wine and didn't seem to know the difference. As I walked back to my car in the cold night, I felt like such a loser. Too curvy, too feminine. Too old.

Then I thought of the Warhol photo, and my thoughts flashed to Sophia Loren. Now here was a curvy woman with a sexy, down-to-earth style all her own. She came of age in the late 1950s. But imagine her walking into a bar in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. She's wearing a simple black sheath dress that skims her figure and maybe a pair of dangling earrings. As she settles at the bar, she's surrounded by a sea of boyish beatniks redolent of Jean-Paul Sartre and French cigarettes. But she is Sophia Loren. She can't be a beatnik. She can only be what she is: shapely, alluring, warm, and sexy. Who could resist? Did she ever question her allure? Did she think she needed to be something different?

In the end, none of us can judge ourselves against anyone else. We are each sui generis: a gorgeous, individual, work of art shaped by our own bodies, experiences, and taste. Sure, it's so easy to pick up a magazine and put ourself down because we aren't Kate Moss or someone else. But who cares? Kate Moss isn't me, either. I can fill out a strapless evening gown like she'd only dream. I have the experience to walk into a party and talk about Petrarch's poetry or perfect farm-raised poached eggs for breakfast or the merits of mutts versus pedigreed dogs like Kate Moss could never do. I am one of a kind. I don't play her game--I'm a game all of my own.

At Xtabay Vintage, we want you to remember that. You are amazing as you are. We want you to be the best you you can be--not anyone else, no matter what cool blogs or magazines say. It's so nice to go somewhere where your style, your vision are paramount, even if you're still feeling around to find them. Welcome.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Playing Dress Up with Joanne...again...

I just can't seem to resist playing dress up with Joanne! This week I had her model a few of my favorite new arrivals. Behold the liquid grace of the Fabian Molina silk chiffon cocktail dress with the sequined bodice, or the quadruple tiered delight of the 50's Cahill of Beverly Hills wedding gown. Joanne's favorite is the patchwork 40's rayon dress from the 1970's....originally worn to The Rainbow Room in NYC. She loved it so much she just had to have it! I love the 50's linen op-arty Alice in Wonderland dress myself...too bad it's a size 6. Maybe when I lose that 20lbs...