December 28, 2013

Dressing for the Occasion: New Year’s Eve Party

The new year is right around the corner, and for most people that means a New Year’s Eve party. Don’t just show up in your de rigueur ‘night out’ clothes. New Year’s Eve parties are the perfect excuse to go all out and count down to midnight in style.

Obviously if you are going to a super swanky event, black tie is probably a requirement. But what if you are hanging out at a bar or watching the countdown at a friend’s party? I like to take some of that classic black tie look and put a twist on it. Black tie inspired, if you will.

The shawl collar on this jacket is reminiscent of what you might find on a tux jacket, but the heavy grey wool and knit collar make it feel more rugged but still refined. Even though this isn’t a suit, the pants are close enough in shade and texture that it works. Throw on a crisp white shirt and you have a classic base on which to build your accessories.

Extra Tip : This shirt was a little too crisp. I normally don’t have my shirts starched at all, but for some reason the dry cleaner went a little crazy and decided this one really needed it. Don’t be afraid to give clear instructions about what you do and don’t want when you drop pieces off at the cleaner.

In another nod to formalwear, I opted for a bow tie. Rather than plain black though, I went with a lightly patterned option that played against the greys and blacks in the rest of my pieces. Another reason for the bow tie was that with the high button stance on the jacket, I wanted to make sure the shirt popped.

For the pocket square, it’s hard to go wrong with a simple silk piece. A stiffer material always feels more appropriate to me for more formal events, especially when the weather is cold. As for the tux scarf, it’s simple. It’s a fun accessory that there is rarely an appropriate occasion to wear it for. Not only is it stylish, but it is also classic, and goes the extra step to tying the look together.

With black tie, patent leather shoes would be the norm. The patent cap toe on these allows for the inspiration to come through without being overwhelming and the colored laces introduce just a bit of whimsy (it is a party after all!). Since the shoes are a statement themselves, I chose to keep the socks a little more classic. It was also really cold that day and cashmere seemed like a good idea.

Jacket by Ted Baker; Trousers by Fink Clothing; Shirt by Uniqlo;
Shoes by AllSaints; Bow tie by Liberty London; Tux scarf by Dior;
Pocket square by Salvatore Ferragamo; Socks by Tom Ford;
Laces by Allen Edmonds; Watch by Bulova

Extra Tip : Shoes with interesting details are always something to be on the lookout for because it’s the little things that can really set an outfit apart.

Personally, I would always prefer to be overdressed than not, so this look would suit me for pretty much any New Year’s Eve shindig that I might be attending. I think of it as an homage to decades past, when men wore suits on a daily basis and black tie was considered semi-formal attire. People say dress for the job you want, so why not dress for the kind of year you want?

Have a stylish new year!
- JJ

December 23, 2013

Style Feature: Season Mixing

One of the annoying things about living in a seasonal climate is that you need to have a seasonal wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean that your clothes need to be constrained by the seasons. Especially in a place like New York, home of the micro-apartment where people pay more for closets than cars, finding ways to make your clothes fit (and fit well) into multiple seasons can be a great boost to your wardrobe and a great way to break out of the expected. Colors, patterns, and fabrics are only limited by how you view their place in your closet.

1. Fabric

Madras is a quintessential summer fabric. It’s lightweight and breathable, but it’s not just for summer. Another characteristic of madras is that the colors are usually very vibrant and saturated – perfect for the fall and winter. The light weight also makes a great base layer when you’re doing a lot of indoor/outdoor shedding of layers.

Jacket and bag by AllSaints; Shirt and cords by
Gant Rugger; Boots by John Varvatos; Scarf by rag & bone;
Watch by Nautica; Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs

2. Color

Pastels are definitely a spring staple. But just because the weather got cold doesn’t mean that you have to retire them until Punxsutawney Phil pops his head out next year. Properly layered and mixed with the right pieces, your spring and summer colors can stay a year-round part of your wardrobe.

Sweater by rag & bone for Neiman Marcus & Target;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Pants by Topman; Boots by LL Bean;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Tie by Penguin; Sunglasses by
Marc by Marc Jacobs

3. Pattern

I think a key part of keeping your style fresh is making unexpected choices. I would have never thought to mix the blue/white stripe of seersucker with a waffle knit, but when I saw it together, it just seemed to make sense.

 Extra Tip : Don’t just take my word for it, Gant Rugger even has a line of ‘Fall Madras’ shirts.

Vest and shirt by Nautica; Henley by Gant by Michael
Bastian; Denim by PPD; Sneakers by AllSaints;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Watch by Bulova;
Gloves by Bloomingdales

Mixing pieces from different seasons not only adds some unexpected style to your look, it also lets you get more use out of your clothes. Don’t be afraid to take some chances with your style, regardless of what ‘rules’ you may have heard.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 16, 2013

Favorite Finds: Stylish Stocking Stuffers

It’s that time of year again, and if you have put off your holiday shopping like I have, don’t worry. There is still time to pick up some stylish stocking stuffers for the dapper man in your life (even if that man is yourself). As a feel good bonus, all of these gifts are made in the USA.

1. Faribault Woolen Mill Scarf

I have had my eye on this scarf for a while, but have not been able to sufficiently justify buying another scarf (I have a lot already). In operation since 1865, Faribault Woolen Mill makes great pieces at reasonable prices, proving that you can buy quality American-made goods without emptying your bank account. It is $55, 100% fluff loomed merino. This scarf measures 10” x 72” and is available in silver (pictured), olive, and charcoal (which is currently backordered). If their blanket that I have is any indication, this scarf should keep you warm for years to come.

2. Down South Tie Co. Bow Tie

A good bow tie is surprisingly hard to find, at least for me. What I like about this wool bow tie is the straight and slightly narrower cut. The grey worsted wool will go with just about anything and keep your look grounded in the season. For only $30, it’s a deal that’s hard to beat. Check it and Down South’s other bow tie options out here.

3. New York to Nashville Pocket Square

What caught my eye about New York to Nashville is the philosophy behind it. Their products are made from reclaimed and vintage fabric, which is kind of cool and gives your pocket square a built-in conversation starter. There are lots to choose from, I just found this one particularly festive. The pocket squares will run you $22.45, but they also offer cuff links and tie tacks for $25 and $15, respectively. Take a look at all New York to Nashville has to offer on their website.

4. Gaia Metal Studio Cufflinks

Last year I featured a tie bar from Gaia Metal Studio, and this time around I found some really cool cufflinks. Handmade from sterling silver and available in 5 finishes (dimpled pictured), these cufflinks make a unique gift that set your cuffs apart for only $58. Find them, along with some other really cool handworked metal gift options, here.

5. Skinnyfatties Tie Tailoring

This last one is a little unconventional, but just as thoughtful. Look, we all have some really nice ties that are just way too wide to wear in public (unless it is to an 80's costume party). It's only been in the last few years that designers have widely offered ties that weren't super wide, and quality ties don't come cheap. Rather than getting rid of that old 4" wide tie, for $34 you can send it to Skinnyfatties and have it slimmed down to the size of your choice (available in 1/4" increments from 2"-3"). Give your old tie new life this holiday season at their website.

The nice thing about accessories is that they can make wonderful gifts for everyone from a dear friend to a casual acquaintance. Buying from small businesses also lets your gift have double the impact by supporting the work of local artisans during the holiday season. What have been some of your favorite stocking stuffers?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

All photos courtesy of their respective companies.

December 10, 2013

DIY: Fall Scarf

I like scarves. A lot. I wear them basically year round, so I have quite a lot of them. The problem with that is that nice scarves don’t come cheap (unless you are buying cheap scarves, but that is another post) and sometimes I can’t always find the right one. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a scarf for the last year or so because I keep seeing fabrics and thinking how awesome they would be as a scarf so thought it would be perfect for my next DIY post.

Scarf made by me; Sweater by John Varvatos Star USA; Chinos and
boots by AllSaints; Shirt by Gant by Michael Bastian;
Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Gloves by Bloomingdales

Now obviously, most scarves are made to be scarves and are knit with borders, properly finished edges, and sometimes fringe at the ends. Since I don’t happen to have a loom in my apartment, I needed to figure out how to make a scarf from store bought fabric. As it turns out, given the right fabric, it’s a pretty simple process that can add a whole new dimension to your wardrobe.

Here’s what you need:
  •  Fabric of your choosing
  •  Rolled hem foot
  •  Thread
  •  Straight pins
  •  Tailor’s chalk (optional)
  •  Tailor’s rule or measuring tape
  •  Fabric shears
  •  Snips 

The first step is going to be picking your fabric. There are a lot of factors to consider when fabric shopping and all of them will impact how your scarf turns out. If you are unsure about size, the best thing to do is bring a scarf that you already own as a template to make sure that you buy enough fabric. Fabric bolts come in different widths (most commonly 45”, 54”, and 60”) so depending on what kind of scarf you are looking to make, you may be able to use this to your advantage.

For this scarf, I found a fabric I liked that happened to be on an 80” wide bolt, which was roughly the length that I wanted for my finished scarf. This was really lucky and I’ll get to why it was so helpful later. Since I made this scarf for the late fall, I chose a wool blend for warmth, but also versatility.

Once you have your fabric, it’s time to jump right in. By now you should know what the dimensions of your scarf will be, mine is 80” x 24”. Lay your material out, then measure and mark the pattern of your scarf. I suggest marking with straight pins as this will give you a very clear line to cut along, but you could also use tailor’s chalk as an alternative.

When you mark the width of your scarf, make sure you are measuring from
a straight edge. Usually the cut they make at the fabric store is not straight,
which will give you an asymmetrical scarf. 

Extra Tip : If your scarf has a large or non-repeating pattern, keep this in mind when marking your outline. Take notice of how the pattern of the fabric falls within the borders of your soon-to-be scarf.

Remember when I mentioned that it was really helpful that the width of the bolt was the length I wanted from my scarf? Here’s why. The sides of a bolt of fabric (the selvage) are finished during production, they have to be or else the whole thing would fray and unravel. Since I knew I wanted a relatively simple scarf without any fringe on the ends, I am able to utilize these finished edges. This means that I only have 2 sides to hem instead of 4.

Detail of the selvage from the sides of the fabric.

Now that you have a rough pattern for your scarf, go ahead and cut it out. Keep in mind that the larger your shears, the fewer cuts you will have to make, which gives you a cleaner edge. The heavier the shears, the easier they will cut through heavier fabrics. That’s why the guy where I get my scissors/shears sharpened always tries to sell me a pair of 11” shears that have to weigh at least 2 lbs.

It doesn't matter if your cut is 100% perfectly straight because the edge is
going to get rolled up in your hem.

The next step is to get hemming, but how you execute this is going to depend on the weight of your fabric. If the fabric is thin enough, you should be able to use the rolled hem foot on your sewing machine. Test this on some of your scrap just to make sure you are able to machine hem it cleanly. Also, if your fabric has any stretch to it, be sure not to pull too much on it as you are feeding it through the foot or you’ll end up with a puckered edge.

For more details on using a rolled hem foot, check out my DIY post on
making your own pocket square.

If your material is too thick to fit through the rolled hem foot or if you aren’t comfortable enough using the rolled hem foot on that much length (it can get tricky to keep a clean roll), you can always pin the roll by hand and then straight stitch. This will definitely take longer, but will get the job done just as well. If you do choose to try it this way, just make sure you’re keeping the amount you are rolling even, or you’ll end up without a straight edge. Fold the edge under, then holding that in place, fold again (thus trapping the raw edge inside your fold) and pin. Then, you would stitch this down using a regular machine foot set to a straight stitch.

Detail of the finished hem, prior to pressing.

My scarf fabric made it a little hard to show step-by-step detail clearly. For some pictorial instructions on executing the rolled hem, check out my DIY post on pocket squares. Once you finish the hem on all sides, give your new scarf a quick press to flatten the roll and you’re done! Wrap it up (or yourself up in it) and brave the elements in DIY style.

The finished product!

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 14, 2013

In Review: Gaultier at the Brooklyn Museum

More than two years ago the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts curated a multimedia exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk and it has been touring the world ever since. Such is the influence and popularity of the man often called ‘l’enfant terrible’ of fashion. After stops in places like Dallas, Madrid, Rotterdam, and London, this incredible exhibition has finally made its way back to America and the only East Coast stop happens to be in NYC (with some new additions not seen in other cities). But not where you might expect.

One of Gaultier's signature sailor looks.

The Brooklyn Museum has picked up the banner that the Met’s Costume Institute dropped with their last two (in my opinion) lackluster exhibitions and is flying it high by hosting this tour stop. What sets The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier apart is that it is less a retrospective and more of a creation in its own right. It spans the whole of Gaultier’s career to date and all of the aspects that it encompasses: film, television, photography, furniture design, music, fragrance, and, of course, fashion.

A leather sailor look.

In case you are unfamiliar with the enigma that is Jean Paul Gaultier, he has been designing for basically his entire life, as evidenced from his childhood teddy bear, Nana, on display complete with her cone bra. He began his career at Pierre Cardin in 1970 before launching his own women’s ready-to-wear line followed a few years later by a men’s line. One of the few design houses who actually produce true haute couture, Gaultier took it a step further by being one of the first and only to offer men’s as well as women’s haute couture. Following a six year stint at Hermès, he returned exclusively to his own lines in 2010.

Nana the bear atop one of Gaultier's travel wardrobes.

Before attending the exhibition, I was only moderately informed on Gaultier’s life and work. After leaving, I can’t understand how that was the case. The history, insight, and appreciation that is conveyed comes close to the experience that was Savage Beauty. Divided thematically into sections like The Boudoir, Punk Cancan, and Metropolis, this exhibition explores the breadth and mastery of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier.

Incredible corset dress.

The first thing that I have to mention is the animated mannequins, dozens of them. Sort of creepy, but also pretty damn cool. Videos of faces are projected onto some of the exhibition’s mannequins to bring them to life. Some sing or speak; others just silently stare back at you, blinking occasionally. The star of the show, literally and figuratively, is the mannequin of Gaultier himself who, in a very metatheatrical moment, welcomes you in French and English to his exhibit.

Gaultier himself, in mannequin form.

This theme of interactivity continues throughout, manifesting in various ways. There are ‘Making Connections’ plaques that tie in other items in the museum’s collection and encourage you to go search them out. At various points, there are questions posted on the wall with oak tags hanging below them, encouraging you to formulate your own opinion. Whether or not you choose to put pen to paper is irrelevant as the mere act of reading the question spurs thought and consideration.

How do you communicate your identity?

Even the info plaques themselves go beyond the typical rote of description, materials, collection, and year. Several of those accompanying the more intricate couture pieces contain a detail I haven’t seen before – the number of hours it took to produce the garment. Small though it may be, it felt to me to be a surprise hidden in plain sight for the diligent patron. I watched so many people walking through the exhibit casually looking at the garments, barely breaking stride.

Hand-beaded 'leopard skin' (above) and
accompanying plaque (below)

Reading the fact that it took hundreds of hours to produce a single dress (or even 1060 hours for one particularly extravagant hand-beaded gown) begs you to look closer, to examine the minutiae that you might have walked right past, to notice the hand stitching, the detail, the fragility of each garment. This additional information, also often paired with a relevant quote by Gaultier about his fashion philosophy, draws you into the exhibition and leaves you with a sense of knowing more than when you came.

Satin ribbon 3-D horn of plenty corset-style gown

Perhaps the most striking aspect though is the way in which the pieces that make up the exhibition are presented. Gaultier said, “I didn’t want the show to be something like a funeral, because for me, to be in a museum, it is for people who are dead. I am still alive!” In this he unequivocally succeeded. It is more of an overall feeling than anything that can be specifically enumerated, but walking through the show feels more like a contemporary art installation than a museum gallery. Dresses flow over the edges of their platforms, mannequins spin, and nothing is behind glass. Other than a few pieces that are positioned high up, everything is right there in front of you. Right there to examine, to appreciate, to experience.

Scene from the Metropolis section

One of my favorite things about how this exhibition was curated is the way that the looks have been assembled. Pieces from different collections exist harmoniously on the same mannequin. Haute couture mixed with ready-to-wear. A top from one decade with pants from another. Even men’s and women’s pieces styled seamlessly together to create a new statement.

Men's and women's ready-to-wear from four different
collections mixed seamlessly.

That last one has stuck with me. Gaultier’s vision and aesthetic is so clear and strong that a mannequin can be dressed in a combination of pieces from both genders and you would be hard pressed to single out which ones belonged where. But that is kind of the point. In Gaultier’s world, there is no gender to clothes. Gaultier said, “except for the medieval codpiece and the bra, garments have never had a gender.”

Every wardrobe needs a codpiece, right?

I am really not one to remember quotes, but this particular one embedded itself in my head. The way that Gaultier seamlessly blurs the line between gender and convention is truly inspiring. I’m not saying you should start shopping at Anthropologie or anything, but what I took from this quote is that you should always be true to your style. If you like a piece, it fits well, and it works with your sense of style, wear it.

This is my favorite look. Red tartan mohair riding outfit.
I would wear this all the time.

I could go into detail about the items featured, layout, and themes, but I don’t feel that it would do the show justice. This is something visceral that, like live theatre, must be experienced. If you can’t make it to the exhibition, the catalogue that accompanies it does a pretty good job of showcasing the work (which for $125 it better).

Sometimes the mannequins staring at you gets a little

Clearly I was impressed with The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. The fact that I have been able to have a critical conversation with others who have seen it speaks to that. What I have found to be even more impressive is the paths that those conversations take you down. Like Alice’s rabbit hole, Gaultier opens a new world that you didn’t know existed but can’t imagine being without.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs through February 23, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum. Admission for the special exhibition is $15, which includes general admission to the rest of the museum. The line to buy your ticket can get pretty long on the weekends (30-90 minutes) but the actual exhibit flows pretty freely. If you can swing it, weekdays would be the best time to go but keep in mind that the museum is only open Wednesday thru Sunday. Either way it is worth both the time and money and pictures are permitted (just keep the flash off).

One last amazing cage dress and parasol.

The exhibition is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Maison Jean Paul Gaultier, Paris and curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot of the MMFA. The Brooklyn presentation is coordinated by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum. 

November 6, 2013

Style Feature: Fall Pic(k)s

Fall is definitely my favorite season, and now that the weather has finally caught up with the calendar, it’s time to break out the layers. I wanted to share some looks that feature a few of my favorite pieces for fall and hopefully inspire some of your own.

1. Woolen Warmth

The reason I like fall so much is that it lets you mix the best parts of your wardrobe regardless of season. Chinos, silk scarf, wool vest, woven belt? Sure. Just remember to keep the colors complementary.

Extra Tip : An unstructured jacket can lend some casual style to an otherwise dressy outfit.

Jacket by AllSaints; Vest by Umit Benan; Chinos by
Gant Rugger; Shirt by Uniqlo; Shoes by Ted Baker;
Tie by Robert Godley; Scarf by Tallia; Belt by
Brooks Brothers; Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs

2. Live in Leather

Some days will inevitably be milder than others. That is why a good leather jacket is a quintessential part of any wardrobe. Throw it on over just about anything and you’re good to go.

Extra Tip : Great details can really make a piece stand out. Take the detail stitching under the jacket collar or the inner pant leg for example.

Leather jacket by AllSaints; Pants by Topman;
Shirt by Nautica; Boots by Timberland;
Scarf by rag & bone; Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs

3. Down for Anything

Sometimes you don’t know what the day holds, which is when layering is particularly useful. A full-zip mock neck paired with a ‘down’ vest gives you the versatility for just about anything. The zippers let you stay comfortable and the mock-neck lets you leave the scarf at home.

Extra Tip : Corduroy is the fall fabric in my book, but everyone always does the same colors. That’s why these dusty rose cord pants are one of my favs. Embrace the cord (just shun the wide wale).

Vest and sweater by Nautica; Cords by Gant Rugger;
Shirt by Psycho Bunny; Boots by John Varvatos;
Watch by Bulova; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen;
 Gloves (in pocket) by The Men's Store at Bloomingdales

Fall is a great time to have fun with your clothes. Utilize seasonal fabrics and colors in creative ways. Find new ways to wear out-of-season pieces. Most importantly, showcase your style.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

October 4, 2013

Dressing for the Occasion: Cocktail Attire

Last year I did a Style Etiquette post on Cocktail Attire and it has consistently been both the most popular post and the one that I get the most questions about. Navigating the ambiguity of cocktail attire can definitely be tough, so I thought a Dressing for the Occasion post was in order to give you some examples and help get your sartorial gears turning.

1. Patterned Suit

As I have said many times before, a suit is always appropriate. The nice thing about cocktail attire is that you can break out a suit that might not be appropriate for everything. 

My go-to is this charcoal windowpane check suit (though I’ve been looking for a good excuse to buy a light-grey Glen Plaid three-piece).

What I like about wearing a darker suit is that you can easily balance it with brighter, more saturated colors. In addition to the usual accessories, your socks are a great way to wear some color in a more subtle way.

Suit by PS by Paul Smith; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Shoes by Allen Edmonds; Tie by Robert Godley; Tie bar by Link Up;
Pocket square and socks by Psycho Bunny; Belt by Ted Baker

2. Chinos + Jacket

In my opinion, chinos with a jacket and tie is the most casual option that is acceptable if the occasion calls for cocktail attire (unless the situation is dire and you have limited options, in which case go with the best, well-fitting outfit you have).

The more casual the soirée, the more leeway you have with pattern, color, and accessories. Black satin and blue denim make this jacket the perfect balance for a cocktail party. Details like a vintage handkerchief as a pocket square and colored brogues are not only stylish, but great conversation fodder.

Jacket by C'N'C Costume National; Chinos by Gant Rugger;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Shoes by Ted Baker; Tie by Ben Sherman;
Tie bar by Link Up; Vintage ladies' handkerchief as pocket square;
Socks by Corgi; Belt by Brooks Brothers

3. Trousers + Jacket

If you are really unsure about what to wear to an event, but you know that a suit is not required, it’s hard to go wrong with trousers and a jacket. This pairing gives you the most options to express your style, though as a guest, it’s important to not stray too far outside the box.

A solid tie doesn’t have to be boring. Linen, cotton, and wool can all add a texture to keep even the most basic pieces interesting. Let your patterns, colors, and textures work together and play off each other for a polished, put-together look.

Jacket and shoes by Ted Baker; Trousers and pocket
square by Burberry; Shirt by Barneys New York;
Tie by Uniqlo; Tie bar by Link Up; Belt by Lacoste

Cocktail attire has become such a catch-all term that if you are wearing a shirt, tie, and trousers (that all fit you properly) you will probably be dressed better than at least a couple other people. That is all well and good, but why not strive for more? Wear a jacket (or even better, a suit), add some fun accessories, tie on an interesting pair of shoes, and most of all, wherever you are going, enjoy yourself!

Stay stylish,
- JJ