Before one of my summer breaks I worked at an elementary school where we were preparing our class for their graduation. The dress code was explicitly explained in a letter home and instructed all females attending to wear attractive frocks or skirts and blouses and all males to either wear suits or a nice button-down shirt and dress slacks. I was subbing in a Special Day Class (SDC) with about eight Kindergarten and first-grade students, and in addition to supervising them, the teacher and teacher’s assistants were required to dance in a choreographed performance of Ain’t No Stopping Us Nowcomplete with old school steps and hand gestures.
I wanted to look nice, but also be comfy in case I had to do something like arrange chairs before the ceremony, so I decided to meet the challenge by putting on my beige mini trench coat over my short black Calvin Klein dress. I then accessorized it with black knee-highs, black men’s lace-up shoes, dark Audrey Hepburn shades and a gold “Betsey” Betsey Johnson necklace. After school, while waiting at the bus stop, a man asked me if he could give me a compliment. When I told him he could, he said, “You have a very European way of dressing. You have a lot of style.” Tired from the long day, but elated by the kind words, I was happy my choice was the right one and elicited such a positive response.
Black and Beige Throughout the Week:
Start with a black dress as your canvas to play with throughout the week. You can also use a black skirt, pants or longer knee-length shorts.
*Black dress + nude hose + two-toned black or black and beige flats + beige or beige and black striped cardigan.
*Black dress + black tights+ black mid-heeled pumps.
*White sweater set + black pants + black and white hounds tooth or pinstriped blazer + black oxfords.
* White button-down shirt or blouse +black skirt + black cardigan + black tights + white flats.
*Black short-sleeved shirt + black pants + white cardigan from sweater set + oxfords.
I know you usually receive letters and Christmas lists from small children who want the latest toys, clothes and electronics, but I was hoping you’d make an exception in my case and consider my fashion wish list for 2020. Through my enclosed sketches and brainstorming tactics I hope my selections will charm and persuade you to make my Christmas a little more fashionable. For some strange reason I chose clothes and accessories reminiscent of American fashion designer Claire McCardell so my choices have a lovely feminine twist. My list includes:
A striped dress with a mid-calf hem, long sleeves and a nipped waist, that can be belted with either a wide patent leather, corset or chain belt. To give it a modern twist I plan to wear it with ankle boots, men’s lace-up shoes, sneakers, a denim jacket and an easy-going hat.
A blouse, with a large pussy bow, in a solid color or print. By combining this blouse with my jeans and khaki’s I feel it would give them a softness that’s both contemporary and romantic.
A “colorful satin pleated evening skirt” which can be paired wonderfully with a pullover sweater or cardigan, evening clutch and pretty jeweled flats or mid-heels.
Accessories: A red leather purse, striped tote and satin ballet flats. The reason I’d like these accessories is because they can add new life and freshness to my neutrals without overpowering them.
So I guess that’s it Santa…Thanks again and I appreciate your consideration and dedication during this holiday season. Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy the cookies and milk I left you by the Christmas tree.
Sometimes when I have to go somewhere that either causes me a lot of stress or I’m feeling unsure of myself I dress up in something fun. Earlier this month, when I had to go to a doctor’s appointment I was very nervous and also having a very bad hair day, but I still wanted to look good and pulled together. Pink is my favorite color so I started building the outfit I was going to wear with a mauve hat I’d just bought at Goodwill Industries Thrift Store, then I selected my pink, black and white floral jacket, black and white Michael Kors shirt, beige corduroy Katayone Adeli skirt, white and gold ankle socks and the beige Guess G logo sneakers I’d just bought at Ross.
I don’t remember now what inspired this look then but after thinking about it when I looked at the photos I took of myself in the mirror of the examining room at the hospital I believe I was inspired by a character in a book I was reading then called A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell. The woman’s name was Hanna Renstrom and she went through much of the story in a clueless haze that transformed her emotionally and psychologically. For some reason the mood of the story stuck with me as I coordinated this look because it matched my own at the time .
Tips On Building a Fun Outfit:
1) Start with your favorite color or pattern.
2) Decide on either an accessory or garment to start with (i.e., a hat, pin, dress, blouse or shirt)
3) Add other things that’re complimentary in style and color.
4) Try everything on in front of a full-length mirror and see if it work and is the look you’re going for.
WHERE I LOOK: “I’m not very wealthy, but I’m obsessed with looking good, so I shop at thrift stores that have consistently qualitative merchandise, off-price stores, chain stores and trendy shops. Even though I’ve been a regular at Ross for a long time now a little while ago I went to T.J. Maxx and found a really nice plastic chain necklace and a black pullover sweater by Cable and Gauge, so I’m thinking of becoming a regular there too.”
MAINTAINING A WARDROBE: “Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a bit from vintage clothes to second-hand finds and surplus store bargains so I have closets that’re bulging at the seams. When I get dressed to go out I usually coordinate something from my extensive selection that either tells a story or personifies how I feel at the moment.”
WHERE I SPLURGE: “Buying one thing that costs $20 is a luxury for me but if I really want something, and know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it, I’ll buy it. Recently I bought a black leather purse from http://www.amazon.com for about $70, a pair of Guess sneakers for $25.99 and a “Betsey” logo necklace for $24.99 from Ross so that was a splurge for me.”
While vintage clothes will always hold a special place in my heart, modern styles can be just as special when worn the right way. Anyone who’s ever taken a trip to the mall, or ridden the bus or subway, has seen examples of contemporary modes worn without regard for personal elan or decorum-leggings worn as pants and not layering items, pajamas and house shoes leaving the house without permission on unsuspecting owners, and short shorts replacing panties then paired with midriff tops to reveal flesh better well covered. To witness this type of “fashion” parade, on a daily basis, might make one become disheartened and push their own appearance to the back burner.
In my job as a fashion/feature writer I’ve often been confronted with the dilemma of how to wear today’s trends with the class and elegance of yesteryear, but still remain comfortable. Due to the difficulty in finding reliable style icons who consistently wear things as beautifully as Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant, the lack of sales help unless you go to the higher end stores, and the sky rocketing cost of clothing, I’m finding it harder to locate the styles I need to stay au courant without ending up in debt.
My most recent clothing journey involved finding a pair of reasonably priced “luxe track pants with stripes down each side in contrasting colors”. I first fell in love with them when I saw them in a fashion layout in Vogue last year, then I saw them again on German fashion editor Veronika Heilbrunner in the Winter Escape 2016 issue of Porter magazine. Louche, subtle and edgy they spoke to me, and I knew I had to have them, but not at the prices featured in Porter.
Luxe track pants and red, white and blue boho dress
I went online and looked them up on amazon.com, zara.com, target.com, and other stores like H&M, T.J. Maxx, Macy’s and Forever 21.The closest I came to finding them was a pair of Mossimo’s for around $20 at the Southgate Target store. Unfazed I knew I was going to be at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza the next day when I took my mother to see Rogue One for her birthday at the Rave movie theater. They have a Forever 21 in the mall, so after making two trips, one before the movie started and one after it ended, I found a pair in the p.j./lounge wear section for $15.90!
Jubilant, and vindicated once again despite our challenging fashion scene, I put them with my other Christmas gifts, and relaxed with a cup of tea and the current book I’m reading, Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. With 2017 coming up, and a whole new year of things to do, after my success with finding these pants I can add more adventures to my calendar knowing they’ll yield good finds.
While riding the bus home from my Adobe Photoshop class at Santa Monica College I saw an attractive Caucasian man, sitting in the seat opposite me, wearing a brown zippered sweater, beige pants, and brown ankle boots.
“I like your ankle boots,” I told him. Although he initially seemed shy and self-conscious he eventually told me, “They’re from a thrift store. I’m an artist so I can’t afford to spend a lot on my clothes.”
Wearing an off-white linen blazer I bought at Ticktocker Timeless Treasures awhile ago, a pink pullover sweater from the A New Day line at Target, and a pair of brown corduroy pants from Forever 21 I knew how he felt about trying to dress well on a budget, especially in Los Angeles. But with a little time and effort it can be done, regardless of your location, budget, age or size.
Inspiration for Today’s Outfit: Ease
Happy that the weather was getting warmer and the flowers were blooming, this outfit was also inspired by two new books I’d just bought at the book seller’s stand at Kaiser-Permanente, Magnolia Table: a collection of recipes for gathering by Joanna Gaines and You Can Draw, the two magazines I bought with an African-American on the cover, InStyle and GQ, my magazine subscriptions to California Apparel News, Victoria, US Weekly, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Fudge, and Vanity Fair, and my need for something soft and comfortable enough to wear in a long Saturday class.
Off-white blazer: Ticktocker Timeless Treasures
Pink Pullover Sweater: A New Day line at Target
Brown Corduroy Pants: Forever 21
White Sneakers: Ross Dress For Less
Wide though my influences were I learned that fashion, like art, can be inspired by anything around us.
While attending “San Francisco State University” I lived in the dorms, and when I first moved in I didn’t have all of my clothes, so I had to learn how to mix and match effectively to get through the week. Even though it was the early ‘80s, when I look back at the pieces I had to work with-a corduroy jumpsuit, a pair of tailored orange pants, a pair of jeans, a white button-down shirt, a white t-shirt, an orange “Fiorucci” long-sleeved shirt with a detachable white collar, a plaid wool wraparound shirt, a white v-necked pullover sweater, a burgundy pullover sweater, a red/white/ blue checked “Evan-Picone” miniskirt suit, an off-white polyester miniskirt, and a denim “Levi’s” jacket-I’m proud to say they’d work as well together today as they did back then.
Over the years, as I’ve added more clothes to my wardrobe, I’d forgotten how freeing a small selection could be until I started working on Zoom for “Leo Politi Elementary School” (LAUSD) during the pandemic. One day, when I was wondering how I was going to manage putting myself together for a week of Zoom classes and my online MA Fashion Journalism coursework at “Academy Of Art University”, I saw a series of Instagram posts by blogger Sarah Chuck where she coordinated a pair is secondhand lavender pants with various toppers.
Realizing what a perfect solution it was to my problem, I decided to take a page out of her book, and do the same with a pair of Sonia Rykiel jeans I bought awhile ago from a “LeRedoute” catalog. To give the looks my own personal stamp I used five different print tops that were either thrifted or purchased inexpensively at “Target” or “Ross Dress For Less”.
At the end of the week, I realized how stress-free this type of dressing was, and how efficient it allowed me to be during a hectic time.
Breakdown of Outfits:
Monday: Jeans + light-blue shirt-sleeved cardigan + print halter top + navy-blue tee
Tuesday: Jeans + black/beige Calvin Klein top
Wednesday: Jeans + blue print Calvin Klein top
Thursday: Jeans + peach short-sleeved cardigan + green/pink/white floral top
Friday: Jeans + light-blue and white polka-dotted shirt-sleeved top
Just because you’re stuck in the house during the Coronavirus Pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t practice working your look, mask or no mask. Since we’re all required to wear them now, I’ve found the easiest way to bear it is to turn it into a fashion statement and coordinate accordingly.
One of the most stylish group of face coverings I’ve found lately are made by artist/designer/hairstylist Allesa Willis (DJAllesaThaGoddess@gmail.com). Sister of Malik Willis of Malik Books in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (http://malikbooks.com), the great thing about her masks is the array of prints she uses.
Perfect for either a graphically gorgeous boho top from Thredup.com, an orange, black and white print tunic from H & M, or a gold wraparound short-sleeved blouse from Ross Dress For Less and a pair of Levi’s or black Dickies they’re the perfect counterpoint for one of her African style masks.
Okay, say you’re going stir crazy at home, and wondering what you can do to remain stylish, inspired, and up-to-date may I offer a list of suggestions:
Read a book, or two, or more…Right now I’m reading VOGUE: The Gown for my Fashion Book Lovers Group on goodreads.com, The Other End of The Line by Andrea Camilleri, for my Mystery Book Club at Mar Vista Library, A Death In Belmont by Sebastian Hunger and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
Update your resume and portfolio.
Read the newspaper. Now is a good time to get a Sunday subscription to great papers like the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times to make your week-ends more illuminating.
Move around. Whether you dance, exercise, clean the house or play with your cat, movement will keep you rejuvenated.
Do an art project, such as adult coloring or paint-by-numbers.
Finally, with 1,208 deaths of COVID-19 in California as of April 20 it pays to shelter in place, take care by wearing a mask when traveling outside the home and put your health first and foremost.
In the early 1980s, while I was attending SFSU as a Psychology major, I entered a particularly significant chapter in my life. Punk and New Wave were big then, and although I didn’t see a lot of African Americans sporting that aggressive and sometimes androgynous style, I gravitated towards it out of necessity.
For the majority of my last year at the school a stalker was making my life unbearable, causing me a lot of anxiety and eventually resulting in a return back home to Los Angeles. My look subsequently went from an ultra-girly ’80s imitation of Edie Sedgwick’s miniskirts and dresses, colored tights, pointy-toed vintage flats, 1960s go-go boots and heirloom vintage jewelry to a more masculine style of tight Levi’s, men’s pants, button-down shirts, vintage men’s blazers, sweaters and coats and high-topped Converse sneakers.
Due to the stress, from the experience, my hair also started falling out and my weight dropped to 110 pounds. I finally decided to solve my coif issues by cutting all of my hair off into a Grace Jones-esque cut. The bad news is the stalker forced me to leave a city and school I adored, but the good news is I transferred to CSULA where I changed my major to Fashion Merchandising, earned my BA, and became a professional fashion/feature writer.
I wish I could tell you that my experience with stalkers ended at SFSU, but following my graduation from CSULA, while working as a Circulation Page at Santa Monica’s Main Public Library I attracted a homeless stalker who caused me additional stress and grief. I finally took steps to legally stop him with restraining orders and regular police reports, then emerged stronger emotionally but permanently disabled with SLE Lupus. Still I was free and that’s all that mattered.
Throughout my trials with these two toxic individuals I was often told the way I dressed attracted others. Often imitated at SFSU, a day didn’t go by when one of my fellow students didn’t come up to me and ask me where I bought my clothes, ask to borrow something, or say I inspired them. San Francisco and Los Angeles had vastly different clothing scenes then, because stylish people abounded and strove to look unique and always wear something no one else either had or had discovered yet.
Today, especially in L.A. while I still loved dressing stylishly, the majority of people I see daily and work with as a Special Ed Instructional Assistant for LAUSD seem to lean towards conformity and hyper-sexuality in uniforms of all-black, skinny jeans and tight t-shirts and leggings with bra tops, tight skirts and sky-high heels.
Bringing Back the 1980s
Lately I’ve seen a reprisal of the ’80s look online, courtesy of model Kaia Gerber, and in Elle magazine. Feeling nostalgic, and a little motivated to inject some personality into two redone looks, I rewrote their visual scripts with color, print and texture. The first one, of Gerber, in a black leather shirt, black top and black joggers or sweatpants I re-did with a forest green trench coat from Forever 21, a pink pullover sweater from Target, and a pair of burgundy joggers from Fallas Stores. Her only spot of color, a pair of navy-blue Converse high-tops I replaced with a pair of multi-colored Harajuku Lovers high-tops. Comfortable and easy to move in, it was the perfect outfit for my doctor’s appointment at Kaiser-Permanente.
The second look, a variation on the Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shorts, white button-down shirt and black blazer, I re-did with a black and white pinstriped Norma Kamali blaze from the Goodwill Thrift Store on Crenshaw Blvd., a black and white striped button-down shirt and a pair of denim capris from Thredup.com. Dressy, but fun, it was just the ticket for my solo field trip to see Sting’s musical The Last Ship at the Ahmanson Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.
Priced at about $50 for each outfit, the best part of copying these two looks was I did it on a budget and I got to re-visit a time in my life when I wasn’t as empowered or wise as I am today. I’d like to think my openness to change and grow, despite adversity, had something to do with it.
Writing about fashion requires two things-a daily mental consumption of reading material (i.e., books, newspapers, internet articles, etc.,) and at least five minutes a day of free writing in a journal. The good thing about both of these rituals is they can be done anywhere-at the bus stop, on a break at work or in the waiting room at the hospital-with a minimum of effort and equipment. They’re also an excellent way to take a break from the online world of cell phones, computers and other devices and gain inspiration old school.
Since fashion is my passion I buy as many books from the genre that I can to include in my own personal library for research. Below is a list of the top ten books I recently bought and think should go in any fashion book lovers library.
Victoria Moore’s Fashion Book List:
Vogue, the gown, Jo Ellison
Guo Pei Couture Beyond (Exhibit at the Bowers Museum)
The Stylist, Rosie Nixon
Adorned In Dreams, Elizabeth Wilson
Fashion Brands, Mark Tungate
buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, Martin Lindstrom
Bonnie Cashin, Stephanie Lake
Basics Fashion Design STYLING, Jacqueline McAssey and Clark Buckley
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography (Exhibit at the Getty Museum)
Tonne Goodman: Point of View
Sadly the acquisition of these books will require persistent hunting, especially if you live in L.A., where the number of small independent bookstores are disappearing. Despite that I’ve given you a list of my favorite online and onsite places below.
Mar Vista Branch Library (They have excellent buys at their regular book sales), 12006 CA-187, L.A., CA. 90066, (310) 390-3454, http://www.lapl.org. Hours: Open Mondays and Wednesdays 10-8 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays 12-8 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays 9:30-5:30 pm.