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