October 30, 2011

Care and Maintenance: Silk

For Part 3 in my Care and Maintenance series I am covering silk, one of the trickiest fabrics to care for and one of the easiest to permanently stain. You may be tempted to avoid silk because of its difficulty, but it is one of the most versatile and luxurious fabrics, from ties, pocket squares, and scarves to jackets (or even pants!)—and not just for women.

The first thing to know about your silk garments is whether the silk has been washed, and is preshrunk. As a natural fiber, heat will cause the strands of silk woven together to tighten, thus shrinking your garment. When something is preshrunk, it means the fibers are already tightened before construction. This isn’t to say that it can’t shrink further, but it drastically limits the possibility of a substantial shrink, so be sure to only wash your preshrunk silk in cold water on the shortest gentle wash cycle and flat dry or tumble low.

I would also recommend that even if your silk piece says machine wash, that you consider hand washing. Hand washing will help it last longer and remain in better condition than the harshness of a machine.  If you do decide to machine wash, try using a lingerie bag, which will help protect the silk from damage that spinning in your washer can do. Also, never use bleach (color-safe or otherwise) on silk as it will irreparably deteriorate the delicate fibers.

Most silk is hand wash only, so if this is the case with your garments, make sure to be gentle when washing and use cool or room temperature water, never hot. Be sure not to twist or wring your garment as you wash it or it will lose its shape or stretch out. For detergent, I recommend using a gentle alkaline-free detergent or dish soap that does not contain oily ingredients like lanolin that will leave a residue on your clothes. You can also try adding a tablespoon or two of white vinegar to your wash water, which will help dissolve any residues from the garment. Be sure not to leave the fabric in water for too long either. To dry, you’ll want to wrap it in a towel and press to remove the water then leave the garment to dry flat. You do not want to hang dry your garment or the weight of the damp silk will stretch the fibers.

Silk can be labeled dry clean only for several reasons. Some cannot handle water, were not preshrunk during production, or were dyed without colorfast dye. For example, Dupioni silk, found in a lot of vintage pieces, cannot be exposed to water or it will water stain and alter its texture and sheen. As with all your clothing, be sure to read the care label carefully.

For all your silks, avoid long periods of direct sunlight or your garment will begin to fade. Alcohol will also damage silks, so don’t spray any perfumes, colognes, or hair products onto the clothing and let them dry on your body before putting on your silk.

When pressing silk, make sure to set your iron on a low setting or you will damage or fade the fabric. It is best to iron it while damp, but do not spray the silk itself with water or you could end up with water spots. You should also iron it from the reverse side of the fabric to prevent dulling.

An even better option is to use a steamer on your silk garment. Remember keep the steamer head from direct contact with the fabric or you risk damage. If you don’t have a steamer, hang your wrinkled silk piece in the bathroom while you take a shower. Close the door and let the steam from your hot water do the work for you. This is an especially handy trick for traveling and can be applied to many other fabrics as well. 

Silk can be a little intimidating, but if you take care of it properly it can take your style to new and unexpected places.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 23, 2011

Reader Question: Dressing for Fall


I just moved to Philadelphia and I’m not used to having seasons. Do you have any suggestions for jackets to get me through until winter? I usually dress a little more casual so I don’t usually wear blazers, but I want something more stylish than just a sweatshirt. Also, I just finished college so I don’t have much money to spend. Thanks for anything you can steer me towards.



Hi Mark,

Fall is actually one of my favorite seasons because I am more than a little obsessed with jackets and blazers (they take up a disproportionate chunk of my closets) and this is the best time of year for layering up. A lightweight duffel coat or shorter trench is always a good option, and the benefit of a trench is that it has the versatility to be dressed up or down depending on the situation. You could also go with a light-weight down vest. While not my style, they are very on trend right now and I know a lot of people who pull them off really well.

As far as recommendations, If you haven’t noticed already I am a huge fan of AllSaints Spitalfields. Their aesthetic is really cool, their pieces work really well together, and their prices are quite reasonable for the quality. If you are looking to test the water with sport jackets, they have some nicely tailored jackets that are also really casual because of the slight deconstruction and fabric treatments. I would recommend the Chase or Ballast jackets as a good place to start. If you aren’t quite ready for a sport jacket yet, the Loures and Quarrell jackets are good alternatives depending on which style strikes you. Both are cotton and have the style of a winter coat without the bulk.

Uniqlo also has some solid options – check out their double-breasted trench and wool hooded half coat. J Crew is another really great place for affordable style and they have more than I can list.

The best advice that I can give you is to shop around and try things on. You want to be able to layer a light sweater underneath your jacket, but you shouldn’t have too much extra room or you run the risk of looking sloppy. Good luck with your hunt for a jacket, and keep checking back because I have a post coming up in a few weeks on the Fall Jacket.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 19, 2011

Style Feature: The Weekend Bag

Sometimes we all need a weekend away to relax and unwind, but don’t get stuck dragging your suitcase around with you. Instead, invest in a nice weekend bag. Not only will it help you pack light, but you can look stylish en route to your getaway.

1. Leather

A leather weekend bag is a good first purchase. It will hold up to use and abuse, and there is such a wide range of prices and styles that you should have no problem finding the right bag for you.

Bag by Kenneth Cole New York; Shirt by J Crew; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boots by John Varvatos; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

2. Wool

Just like with the rest of your wardrobe, your bags can be seasonal too. As you can tell, I am a fan of the bowling-style bag. It is easy to carry and the rounded top lets me easily pack those last-minute extras.

Extra Tip : Coordinating your bag and shoes isn't just for women. By happy coincidence, these wool herringbone boat-style shoes almost perfectly match the wool herringbone of the bag.

Bag by Fossil; Sweater by John Varvatos Star USA; Denim by PPD;
Henley by AllSaints Spitalfields; Shoes by Original Penguin;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen

3. Garment Bag

Depending on where you are going and what you are doing, you may find that a garment bag fits your needs better. Not just for business trips, this bag will hold 8 hanging pieces, a pair of shoes, and all the accessories I need.

Extra Tip : While solid black is classic, why not make a statement by bringing some color into your garment bag?

Extra Tip II : Tumi has a recovery program where each product has a Tracer # that you register on their website and, if your lost item is found, Tumi will notify you and tell you how it can be recovered.

Bag by T-Tech by Tumi; Jacket by Alexander McQueen; Shirt by John Varvatos;
Chinos by Kenneth Cole New York; Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Scarf by Rag & Bone; Pocket Square by Dior; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

Remember when buying a bag (or anything for that matter) that while quality may cost you more upfront, in the long run it will save you money. Think of it as an investment.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 15, 2011

Style Feature: The Fall Scarf

One of my favorite accessories (and the one I probably have the most of) for the fall is a lightweight scarf. The versatility that they can provide to your wardrobe is hard to match. A scarf is not only stylish, but can be functional as well.

1. Cotton/Linen

As fall begins to hit us, breaking out a scarf with some hints of summer is a good way to start the transition into this season’s wardrobe.

Extra Tip : Different fabrics will cause a scarf to drape differently. This linen blend has a stiffer feel than some other materials, so it holds its form better than some of my other scarves.

Scarf by Rag & Bone; Shirt by J Crew; Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Shoes by Original Penguin; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen;
Watch by Bulova; Leather bracelets from thrift store;
Bag (on ground) by Marc by Marc Jacobs.

2. Cotton/Silk

This silk blend has a softer hand with a bit more luster than the linen blend. I usually like to pair this scarf with a suit or blazer as a more casual tux-style scarf. It is a nice little touch that, while it serves no real functional warming purpose, makes me feel more confident. And remember, when it comes to style, confidence is key.

Scarf by Z Zegna; Jacket by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt; Chinos by Kenneth Cole New York;
Boots by John Varvatos; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

3. Synthetic

There are so many varieties that you can find pretty much any weight, hand, and drape that you want (and often for a lot less money). Synthetic scarves are also great for those rainy fall days, because getting them damp is no problem like it is with silk (of course consult your care instructions as, like with any garment, this can vary).

Extra Tip : A scarf is a great way to throw some color into your ensemble. Personally, I prefer to keep my color palette a bit more muted in the fall than I would in the spring.

Scarf by Bloomingdale's; Henley by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Shirt by Vince; Denim by Guess; Boots by John Varvatos.

4. Wool

A lightweight wool scarf is great for those cold snaps that are bound to come with the onset of fall.

Extra Tip : Save the heavy wool for winter. This lighter wool is the perfect balance for those cool fall days.

Extra Tip II : The thick boot socks and corduroy shirt work with the weight of the wool to really bring this look into the colder weather. It is also practical (it was 49 degrees when we shot this look).

Scarf by John Varvatos; Corduroy shirt by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Denim by PPD; Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields; Socks by J Crew.

While scarves also come in many other fabrics and blends, these are some of my recommendations for the fall. Always remember that rules are made to be broken and there is no reason that you can’t break out a 100% silk scarf in the middle of November.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 10, 2011

Quick Tip: Breaking In Your Shoes

New shoes can be a blessing and a curse. The pain and hassle of breaking in leather shoes can quickly ruin the excitement that a nice new pair can bring you.

The first thing to be aware of is that if the shoes hurt when you try them on in the store, do NOT buy them. While some mild discomfort will go away as the leather stretches and molds to your feet, actual pain likely will not.

My advice on breaking in a new pair of shoes is to do it in small increments. Put on the shoes, wear them around the house for a few hours a day or out on short excursions. As soon as they start to hurt, take them off and repeat the next day. If you leave them on too long and the new stiff leather gives you blisters, you’ll have to wait for them to heal before you’ll be able to continue comfortably breaking them in. A couple hours a day will keep your feet happy and before you know it, your perfectly broken-in shoes will make you even happier.

There are a ton of options out there to make your shoe-wearing experience even better. Mole skin and mole foam are wonderful products, especially as you break in a new pair and are available at any drug store. Cutting a piece of either to cover a spot on the inside of your shoe that rubs is a great way to make the most out of your shoes as they soften. If you are one of those people whose feet are in-between sizes or you have narrower heels, another good option out there is heel grips. It prevents your heel from sliding around in the shoes, thus eliminating another opportunity for discomfort.

Also remember that your local cobbler is an often under-used resource. If you find that your leather shoes are a little snug in the width, a shoe repair shop is able to stretch them for you. It won’t give you a miracle, but it will make a difference. You can also have them rubbered, which will increase the life of your sole (especially if you live in a city like New York where walking is a requirement), or have heel taps added.

I’ll have more tips on making shoes last in a future post, so stay tuned.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 6, 2011

Style Feature: The Pocket Square

From plain white to a burst of color, the pocket square can be a simple little accessory to add that final touch to your outfit.

1. The Single Point Fold

The single point fold (along with its two, three, and four point cousins) is a way to keep the streamlined look of the straight fold while adding a little bit of flair.

Extra Tip : This fold works best with a stiffer silk or starched cotton square to keep the point up.

Pocket square by Thomas Pink; Vest by Ted Baker;
Shirt by Nigel Hall; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Tie by Alexander McQueen;
Belt by Fossil; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

2. The Straight Fold

The straight fold is definitely my favorite. It is simple, clean, and classic.

Extra Tip : I often use some of my more interesting cotton handkerchiefs as pocket squares, sometimes year round.

Extra Tip II : While you can stick with the traditional cotton or silk, try a lightweight wool or a cotton flannel for a nice seasonal touch. (More to come on making your own pocket squares in a future post)

Pocket square by Salvatore Ferragamo; Suit by Brooks Brothers;
Shirt by English Laundry; Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo; Tie by Burberry;
Tie bar by Kenneth Cole New York; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

3. The Puff

There are many ways to execute this fold, some more refined than others. This is my go-to fold when I’m in a hurry. Simply grab the center of the square, shake, stuff it in your pocket, and you’re good to go.

Extra Tip : A softer silk square works best, but a soft cotton square (or handkerchief) is a close second.

Pocket square by Giorgio Armani; Jacket by Ted Baker;
Shirt by John Varvatos; Denim by 7 for All Mankind;
Boots by John Varvatos; Scarf by Z Zegna;
Woven belt (women's) from a thrift store; Sunglasses by Prada.

There are many more ways to fold a pocket square, and dozens of variations on top of that. A simple google search will yield a bounty of step by step pictures and videos to help you find your favorite fold.

Stay stylish,
- JJ