Fashion Books: A Fashion Writer’s Best Friend

Victoria Moore’s Library

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.

Victoria Moore’s Library

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:

Make Do And Mend
Book: the Gown
Vogue: the Gown
  • 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.

Victoria Moore’s Library

On-site and On-line Fashion Book Resources:

  • Goodwill Thrift Stores, http://www.goodwillsocal.org and http://www.goodwillbooks.com.
  • National Council of Jewish Women Council Thrift Shops, http://www.ncjwla.org.
  • Sideshow Books (Used Bookstore), 1639 LaCienega Blvd., L.A., CA. 90035 (310) 428-4631, http://www.sideshowbookstore.com. Hours: Open from 12-7:30 pm Tuesday-Sunday.
  • Malik Books (African-American Bookstore), 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Ste. 245, L.A., CA. 90008 (323) 389-8040, http://www.malikbooks.com.
  • Arcana: Books on the Arts (Great Sale Books), 8675 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA. 90232, (310) 458-1499, http://www.arcanabooks.com.
  • LACMA Store (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., CA. 90036, (323) 857-6146, http://www.thelacmastore.org.
  • The FIDM Store (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising), 919 S. Grand Ave., L.A., CA. 90015, (213) 624-1200, Ext. 4144, http://www.thefidmstore.com. Hours: Open Monday-Friday: 8-4:30 pm.
  • The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., L.A., CA. 90013, (213) 488-0599, http://www.lastbookstorela.com.
  • 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.
  • amazon.com (www.amazon.com)
  • abebooks (www.abebooks.com)
  • Dover Publications (www.doverpublications.com)

The Hunt for the Perfect Black Skirt

I wanted to clarify my reason for writing about the beautiful black skirt I bought at H & M in the light of their current troubles over the blatantly racist sweatshirt that’s been recalled by their company. I’m an African-American fashion/feature writer, in a field that doesn’t have a lot of representation from my culture, so I’ve faced my share of racism. Instead of refusing to wear or buy their clothing I want to show them, and others in the industry, the real face of their customers to further educate them about who we are and what we really represent and look like. For me, the only way to confront racism is head-on with unflinching assertiveness. If they learn from this and become a better, more inclusive company, the effort was worth it.

The Ultimate Separate: The Black Skirt

In 1979, when my mother bought a gorgeous black skirt suit by BIS for my high school graduation from Westchester High School from Bullock’s Wilshire black skirts were easily accessible.

But when I wanted to buy the retro boho multi-tiered black skirt from H & M, a couple of years ago, that was featured in a Vogue editorial ad it was a trial. Why?

It couldn’t have been the price, since my BIS suit was $300 and this skirt $19.99. It couldn’t have been the style, since both have classic silhouettes.

Recently, when I bought a stunning green, brown and white vintage 1970s maxi dress from etsy.com for $40, from a dealer in Poland, instead of at my local Goodwill Thrift Store I realized what it was.

Despite the plethora of fashion bloggers, journalists, stores and websites promoting excellent designs and killer buys, the consumer isn’t receiving the message. There seems to be a big disconnect. The clothes that need to be worn as representatives of intelligence and good taste languish un-bought while inexpensive, passe trends are displayed briefly, then discarded on random bus benches and trash cluttered streets.

Anyone who’s paying attention knows by now that needless sartorial waste is a no-no the fashion industry’s trying to correct. Of course we have other problems to deal with besides finding the perfect black skirt, such as the closing of over 130 LAUSD school libraries, homelessness, and the sad reality that L.A. is now the second worst dressed city in the country, and 44th in education. But if a woman does make the decision to purchase one it can solve her immediate wardrobe problems by becoming a reliable staple item that will never let her down. Paired with a crisp white shirt it can take her to work and dinner with a change of shoes and layered over leggings it can easily be worn for dance class.

Looking Back to the 1940s

Edna Woolman Chase (1914-1951) editor of American Vogue in 1942 really understood the magic of a black skirt. “They are as great a standby as a black sweater,” she wrote in the article Skirt Story. Meant to purchased as an “investment piece” it served the same purpose then as it does today by being versatile and long lasting. Compared to trendier fare, ubiquitously worn by everyone who has a pulse, it has the flexibility of hamburger without undue flash.

Blessedly, all-black is no longer as pervasively popular as it once was, making room for the black skirt to make a come back as part of an ensemble that can include a floral print blouse, funky statement tee and vintage embroidered cardigan sweater for work 9-5. After 5, that same blouse and cardigan can be accented with a multi-strand necklace for a fancy dinner date or concert.

For retailers, who mistakenly thought “corporate dress or all-black” would help their sales staff increase their sales and customer service skills with a uniform instead of individual style, the black skirt would help them teach their female employees how to coordinate their work attire appropriately, easily and inexpensively. Since a major component of fashion retail is based on helping consumers buy items for their wardrobe the sales staff that reflects an attractive appearance, from their own imagination, is more qualified to improve a company’s image than a conformist who wears a uniform.

A Wardrobe of Black Skirts

A Wardrobe of Black Skirts Collage

In between my Undergrad years, at CSULA, to my Grad years, at Academy of Art University online, I’ve collected 15 black skirts that have steadfastly helped me look pulled together whenever I wear them. For my day job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant for LAUSD at Leo Politi Elementary School in Koreatown, I’ve regularly worn the long black skirt I bought at Ross Dress For Less with either a cool tee from snorgtees.com or a lightweight pullover sweater from Forever 21, my beige trench coat from amazon.com and a pair of sneakers. Comfortable as a pair of jeans, it’s perfect for my long walks to and from the bus stop, before and after work, and a long six hour shift in the classroom.

I’m just as well prepared for my off-duty social life, with a vintage velour bubble skirt I bought at my favorite Goodwill Thrift Store, and a retro self-belt taffeta one I bought at Ross Dress For Less. Combined with a lovely vintage top and pearls they’re an evening stand out.

The Perfect Black Skirt for Today

“There are few women who can wear every type of skirt,” wrote Christian Dior in The Little Dictionary of Fashion. Personally, I’ve found that to be true of every garment, and despite my thin frame, I still have to work hard to find the right clothes for my budget, lifestyle and body.

Caught between my obligation to always “dress and represent”, as a requirement for AAU, and a need to be comfortable at LPES I wanted to find another black skirt to fit both worlds. My hunt officially started after I’d bought a pair of black sneakers from H & M online. They were too big so I had to exchange them at their store in the Westfield Century City mall. I thought while I was up there, I’d buy the black boho multi-tiered skirt I saw in the Vogue ad.

Everything was going great-they had a pair of black sneakers in my size and the blue and white/floral shirt I’d had my eye on was on the Sale rack. Then when I showed the cashier the ad and asked about the skirt things got shaky.

“I’m not sure we have any left,” she said. “If we do it’s a Petite.”

“May I see it please? I’d like to try it on anyway,” I said.

She asked another clerk, who was working on the floor to see if they had any more, and if they did, to bring it to me. When he found it, he carried it to me, holding it with the delicacy of an Egyptian artifact. He then repeated what the cashier said, “It’s the last one and it’s a Petite.”

“Are you planning on stocking any more soon?, I asked. “No,” he said. “We’re lucky we have this one, because as soon as it was featured in the magazine ad it shot off the racks. Editorial items always sell out quickly.”

“Okay, I understand that, but why was this particular skirt so popular?,” I asked.

“It looks good on almost every body type and it’s versatile enough to be worn with a tucked in or loose fitting top,” he answered.

“Well, I usually wear a Medium, but you never know with sizing, so I’ll try it on and see if it fits,” I said, taking the skirt from him, and heading for the fitting room.

Doubtful, and holding my breath in anticipation, I slipped it on then exhaled with relief when it fit perfectly.

It’s been more than a year since I bought this skirt, and although I haven’t worn it yet, I know its timeless silhouette makes it a worthwhile addition to my collection.

Fashion Coordination Tips for Black Skirts (2019):

  • Work: Power Separates The Easy Way (Pair a mid-calf A-line black skirt with a white button-down shirt, striped short-sleeved Breton shirt, or plain crewneck pullover sweater, then top with a mini trench coat and accessorize with a structured bag, colorful scarf, shades, and ballet flats or sneakers.)
  • Casual: Fun, Fun, Fun Days (Pair a long straight black skirt with a t-shirt then top with a cotton, army or denim jacket and accessorize with sneakers or sandals, shades, a baseball cap or bucket hat.
  • Formal Evening: Swanky Times (Pair a mid-length retro full black skirt with a sequined shirt and decorative cardigan or bolero jacket and accessorize with black decorative pantyhose, pointy-toed flats, a turban and clutch bag.

Images Cited:

  1. Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons, Japanese Designer. Sweater and skirt, 1984.(Berg Fashion Library)
  2. Bernhard Willhelm. Black with multicolored diamond design sweater, headpiece and skirt, 2002-2003. (Berg Fashion Library)
  3. Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons, Japanese Designer. Black ensemble. “Linen blend jacket in the style of a man’s 19th-century tailcoat; wool skirt resembling a deconstructed trenchcoat.” Spring/Summer, 2016.

Works Cited:

  1. Woolman Chase, Edna. Fashion: Skirt Story. Vogue; New York, Vol. 99, Iss. 11 (Jun 1, 1942).
  2. Dior, Christian. The Little Dictionary Of Fashion, Abrams, 2007.

Black and White: A Personal Significance

"Black and white always looks modern, whatever that means."--Karl Lagerfeld

black and white nature flowers close up view
Photo by Jack Hawley on Pexels.com

The color combination of black and white has always had special meaning for me. Racially its existence has defined most of my life as an African-American female, educated then employed first in a predominately Caucasian environment then a resegregated Hispanic one. Yet even among my own race the duality of my interests, and confusion about my lack of conformity, has forced me to carve out my own niche.

On one hand, I love soul food, am a great dancer, and a sharp dresser, but on the other hand, I’m equally passionate about books, writing, art, and antiques. Within this ridiculous quagmire, a sartorial rage bubbles beneath the surface whenever I’m confronted with racial issues causing frustration and confusion. To bring perspective and mental order back into my life I reach for the simple clarifying palette of black and white.

Classic dark shades and white and black tote bag from H&M

For the Spring/Summer 2018 season, the combo reigned again and even showed up online on Forever 21‘s website. Faux Mod styles looked graphically delightful and caused me to add the following to my wishlist for fall: 1) a black and white Gingham Cabby Hat ($12.90), (2) a Houndstooth Boxy Crop Top ($12.90), (3) a Striped Ribbed Mock Neck Tee ($10.90) and (4) a pair of Gingham Cropped Pants ($19.90). Fresh, young, but also versatile, they reminded me of Swinging London and ’80s New Wave.

IMG_6231
Stripes are always fun, and always in.

Black-vs.-White

“Black and white clothing is an age-old signal of servitude and humility,” wrote Jess Cartner-Morley in How to dress black and white (The Guardian, Fri. 19 April 2013). Traditionally worn by waiters, waitresses, priests, and nuns, it was my choice too as a salesperson during my brief stint with The Limited at the Century City Plaza in the 1980s.

Openly racist, I was told the first day, by the manager not to be offended if the White customers didn’t want me to touch their clothing because I’m Black. “Oh I understand,” I told her with a smile, letting her think I’d let it go. Inwardly seething, every time I helped a customer who was clearly prejudiced, I waited until she paid for her selection at the counter and touched everything. I even held them up to her saying, “You have great taste. This really suits you.”

Regardless, my black and white wardrobe then was far from subservient, and with a little updating, could easily be worn today. It consisted of five pieces: a straight white mini skirt, a straight black mini skirt, a white t-shirt, a pair of black cotton pants and a black shirt dress. Now, besides keeping the white tee the same, I’d replace the minis with an A-line tiered skirt and the straight pants with palazzos.

In 2015, black and white inspired designers again to go bold with “Op Art Stripes,” “Chessboards” and “not for the shy mixed prints.” Since black is defined as “evil” and white as “the color of maximum lightness” in dictionaries like Merriam Webster’s Pocket Dictionary it’s comforting to also know the Taoist Yin/Yang design is the culmination of these opposing elements.

 

cropped-20171021_095236-collage.jpg

Pearls on a hanger

Flipping the Trope

An outdated trope that’s equated black with negativity and white with positivity can easily be flipped when they’re used to symbolize the opposite. Earlier this year, a freshman student at Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy (LAUSD) chose to wear full Ku Klux Klan regalia to school for his final History project on racism. The white color, of the offensive clothing, subverted it from a shade of “purity, innocence, and brightness” into one of “confusion, emptiness, and isolation.” Like the character Don Fanucci in The Godfather, whose white suit represented pure evil, this student’s display also signified provocation.

When photographer Peter Lindbergh and fashion editor Grace Coddington, shot the layout Light Brigade for the March 2015 American Vogue the choice to use an all-Black cast of models in white garments, ala Picnic At Hanging Rock, was brilliantly inclusive. Back in 1975, when the film was directed by Peter Weir, and in 1900 when the actual crime occurred, you’d rarely see Blacks portrayed with such beauty in a magazine or film. By subverting the definitions of black and white, Lindbergh, Coddington and the models, Malaika Firth, Leila Nda, Imaan Hammam, Tami Williams, and Kai Newman, rewrote the trope for a new generation.

Black and whtie checked top (1)

Victoria Moore in vintage black and white wool top

Black has it all,” said Coco Chanel. “White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”

Is Color Important?

“Research on the psychology of color consistently demonstrates that colors evoke emotional, behavioral and physical responses,” writes Carole Kanchier in What the Colour You’re Wearing Says About You (07/13/2012, Huffington Post). On a Sunday, during the last week of my Mad About Musicals online class, I wanted to do it up a big and take a personal field trip to the Cinemark Promenade Theater at Howard Hughes Parkway to see West Side Story. Inspired by the racial theme of the movie, and my own conflicted thoughts about the Klan sporting student at Harbor Teacher Prep, I chose a black and white outfit that aptly expressed my inner turmoil.

Black and white outfit, black and white jacket, shirt and black pants (1)

Black and white outfit

Starting with the black and white houndstooth coat I’d bought at Forever 21 for the Shen-Yun dance concert I’d seen this Spring, I then added a black and white checked Who What Wear shirt I’d just bought at Target, a pair of wide-legged pants from T.J. Maxx, a rhinestone necklace from Fallas and a red, black and white Hello Kitty bag from Pink Memories. More distinctive, and clear-cut than my Shen-Yun outfit-a long black and white swirl print dress from Ross, black leggings, black and silver print Ked’s and a black and white African necklace-it nonetheless reflected my mood.

Black, white and unicorn print purse by Betsey Johnson from Ross (1)

Betsey Johnson unicorn print purse

Classing It Up for Fall 2018 on a Budget

After doing preliminary research, in various top fashion magazines and online, I went to my local mall and shopped for Fall. First I went to T.J. Maxx and bought a pair of black and white glen plaid stretch pants, with a yellow stripe detail, for $14.99, and a gray and white striped button-down shirt for $10.00, then I went to Forever 21 and bought a black and white houndstooth scarf for $5.90,  a five-pack set of black and white socks, and a pink crystal ring for color.

While this version of black and white is more sophisticated and retro than my previous incarnations, it’s still classic enough to be coordinated with my other pieces, and earn a place in my wardrobe and growing collection.

“Pearls were the perfect accessory for the little black dress,” wrote Debbie Sessions in 1950s Pearl Jewelry.

 

adult attractive autumn beads
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fun Ways to Wear Black and White

  1. White button-down shirt + black pants + black ballet flats + black purse.
  2. Black dress + black and white cardigan + black tights + white and beige pointy-toed flats + white vintage Chanel purse.
  3. Black and white print blazer or coat + white top + white capris.
  4. White lacy dress + black leggings + black Ked’s + straw hat.
  5. Black and white houndstooth coat + black floral dress + ankle boots.

“Stylist’s Tip: Punctuate a graphic look with bold red extras.”–Harper’s Bazaar “Check Please”

References/Resources List:

  1. Forever 21 (Forever 21)
  2. Morley, Jess-Cartner. How to dress in black and white, Fri. 19 April 2013, How to dress in black and white
  3. Kanchier, Carole. What the Colour You’re Wearing Says About You, updated 07/31/2012, What the Colour You’re Wearing Says About You
  4. Lindbergh, Peter and Coddington, Grace. Light Brigade, American Vogue, March 2015.

Five Ways to Wear Vintage Jeans

      two hanged blue stonewash and blue jeansPhoto by Mica Asato on Pexels.com

There are so many brands and styles of jeans on the market you could spend a whole year trying them on. Despite my fondness for the Mossimo jeans I bought this Spring at Target, the white skinny jeans from Ross, and the Blue Desire Midrise with the distressed hems from T.J. Maxx, my all time favorite type are pre-owned and vintage. Soft, worn in and characteristically inexpensive their main attribute is timelessness.

Paired with a feminine Ralph Lauren blouse they’re “shabby but chic” or with a pristine white tee and menswear blazer, they’re ’80s street. In homage to one of my prized separates, today’s post is all about how to coordinate them five different ways.

Look of the Day-Blues
Look of the Day-Blues

Mixing It Up with Florals and Stripes

Painter’s jeans are considered serious work pants when worn with a flannel shirt and steel-toed boots, but they can also be playful when worn with a blue floral jacket and a navy-blue and white Breton (sailor top). Perfect for a quick jaunt to your neighborhood Farmer’s Market or local art gallery, museum or used bookstore they’re tidy and chic.

Farmer’s Market: Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Farmer’s Market, every Saturday 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.,seela.org 3650 W. MLK Jr. Blvd., L.A., CA. 90008, 323-290-6636).

The Museum of African-American Art: Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Macy’s 3rd Floor, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd., Thursday-Sunday:12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.,maaala.org). Please call about exhibits and special events.

The Whole 9 Gallery: 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA. 90232, 310-836-4600. Please call for more information about hours, exhibits and special events. thewhole9gallery.com.

Casual distressed jeans errand outfit (10)
Casual neighborhood errands: White cardie over a  tee and distressed Levi’s. Access. with white cotton hat, shades, tweedy socks and suede sandals.

Cool Errand Gear

Distressed and faded Levi’s can still be stylish and versatile when mixed with a vintage white cardigan, statement belt, and shades. The patina and wear of both items also give them a modern elegance. Slip this outfit on when running out to McDonald’s for a quick lunch, bank for much-needed funds or the cleaners with your suit for a job fair. Comfortable enough to be laid-back, but not so sloppy you’ll have to hide behind a nearby bush if you run into an old boyfriend, the structured lines of the jeans and sweater prevent it from being slovenly.

Four Ways To Wear Vintage Jeans Collage
Vintage jeans are so versatile you can dress them up or down depending on your mood and the occasion.

Baggy Hip-Hop Swag

Loose, baggy jeans add an extra saucy edge when coordinated with an oversized white Ralph Lauren shirt, vintage Levi’s jacket, and suede sandals. Then accessorized with a vintage red, white and black print vintage 1940’s doo-rag and oversized shades, it exudes a feminine allure to an ensemble comfy enough for a morning matinee at the Cinemark, artsy afternoon at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) or craft and school supply haul at the Dollar Tree,  JoAnne’s or Michael’s.

Blue denim and pink
Pink wraparound cardie over a pink tee and distressed jeans. I wore this outfit to run errands at “Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza”.

Distressed But Louche

If you buy a naturally worn and paint splattered pair of jeans from Timeless Treasures or another local thrift store, you can always dress them up with a knock-off Chanel-esque blazer to give them that high-low appeal that’ll take you to school and studying at the library afterwards, or dress them down with a grey retro Aerosmith tee from Ross, for a personal field trip to a Saturday yard sale. Brimming with lively backstories, if you’re lucky enough to find ones this authentic and beloved, they may soon accompany you on your own adventures, and collect tales picked up along the way, for the next owner to ponder over.

Peach blouse with vintage jeans (2)
Victoria Moore in a vintage peach tie-front blouse, vintage Levi’s and straw hat.

Streamlined Blue

Sometimes it’s not just nice to comingle prints and patterns, but layers too. A cropped cardigan can be very smart when placed over a striped blue and white blouse then accented with a navy-blue and white polka-dotted scarf tie and cuffed vintage Levi’s. If you work somewhere semi-casual, arduous, yet with exposure to the public in a school or library this combo is just right for long shifts and hard physical tasks that would render nicer duds torn and tattered in minutes.

As you can see, the ways to coordinate vintage jeans are as varied as the occasions they can be worn too. With a little ingenuity and self-analysis, you can easily include them in your wardrobe and use them to add uniqueness and classical styling any time you need to.

The True Story of Jeans

1) “What textile are they made from?”

They are made out of a material called “denim”. Its name comes from the French term “Serge de Nimes” where they originated in Nimes, France.

2) “How is denim created?”

Denim is created from the weft of the “cotton twill” which goes beneath the warp “threads” before they’re woven together. To get the distinctive blue and white shade of traditional jeans, the warp is “dyed indigo” while the weft is left white.

3) “When were jeans first invented and by whom?”

Jeans were first invented in 1873, by Jacob W. Davis a Reno, Nevada-based tailor and Bavarian native, “businessman/entrepreneur” Levi Strauss.

4) “Which group first wore “blue jeans” and why?”

Cowboys and miners were the first groups to wear “blue jeans. They wore them because they were sturdy and held up well over time.

5) “How did they become so popular with the mainstream?”

James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) made them popular and okay for anti-establishment males to adopt them as an alternative garment that signified youthful rebellion and allegiance to a sub-culture separate from their 9-5 fathers. Marilyn Monroe in the 1961 film The Misfits did the same for females.

References Cited

      1. historyofjeans.comHistory of Jeans and Denim
      2. historyofjeans-making/how-jeans-are-made
      3. www.racked.com/2015/2/27/8116465/the-complete-history-of-blue-jeans-from-miners-to-marilyn-monroe, Wright, Jennifer. The Complete History of Blue Jeans, From Miners to Marilyn Monroe

girl jeans kid loneliness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 Places to Buy Vintage Jeans in Los Angeles, CA.

    1. Goodwill Southern California Store and Donation Center, Culver Junction, 3340, 8950 Venice Blvd., L.A., CA. 90034, 310-845-9327. Hours: Sunday (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), Monday through Saturday (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.), www.goodwillsocal.org. Online store (www.shopgoodwill.org), Ann Taylor Loft, Tommy Hilfiger, Lucky Brand, etc., (Under $50).
    2. Etsy.com, Levi’s vintage jeans (Various prices, under $100), www.etsy.com
    3. Timeless Treasures Thrift Shop, 9441 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA. 90232, 310-559-8338. Hours: Tuesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
    4. Out of the Closet Thrift Store, 8224 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA., 90046, 323-848-9760. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Christmas Chic: Who Said Holiday Clothes Have to Be Tacky?

Christmas Outfit Collage

Evolution of an Outfit

If I could’ve asked for any pre-Christmas present from Santa Claus, this year, I would’ve asked for a stylist to help me coordinate my holiday gear. Two years ago I bought a pair of red and white fleece lined Christmas leggings from Ross so I knew that part of my outfit was taken care of.

Now all I needed was a top or sweater, and accessories, to complete it. Believe me there’s no shortage of kitschy tops to choose from, including tees at Albertson’s and fluffy pullovers at Fallas. My challenge, however, was to choose something fun and classy enough to warrant its cost and timeless enough to earn its place in my closet.

After going back to Ross again, hoping luck would strike twice, when it didn’t I headed to Fallas. Unimpressed with their joyous offerings, I finally went to Target. and found the perfect sweater to match my leggings and join my small collection of holiday clothing. Emblazoned with an adorable pug in a red Christmas hat, my Bah Humpug sweater helped me pull off a vibrant ensemble that lightened my mood and earned a lot of compliments.

While a stylist would’ve made this process easier, learning how to create an evolving thematic look with a strong subject matter, was the best Christmas gift I could’ve ever received.

Below is my Christmas gift to you, a descriptive list of the various ways I coordinated my holiday outfits over the past three years and some tips on how you can create your own outfit. If you want to see what my ensembles look like check out the collage above.

Keepin’ It Classy for Christmas:

Where Did You Get Those Cool Christmas Pants?

  • Date: December 2015
  • Place: Beethoven Elementary School
  • Outfit Breakdown: Black leather motorcycle jacket + hand-knit white floral cardigan over a white blouse + red and white print Christmas leggings.

Miss Moore, Miss Moore Is That Your Coat?

  • Date: December 2016
  • Place: Baldwin Hills Elementary School
  • Outfit Breakdown: Red vinyl coat + light blue pullover sweater over a blue and white striped button-down shirt and red and white print Christmas leggings.

You Look Very Festive Today!

  • Date: December 2017
  • Place: Leo Politi Elementary School
  • Outfit Breakdown: Green corduroy pea coat + black pug Christmas sweater+ red and white checked button-down shirt, patriotic cat scarf and red and white print Christmas leggings.

The Christmas Sweater Goes Back Into the Closet Until Next Year After This 

  • Date: December 2017
  • Outfit Breakdown: Beige corduroy blazer over white button-down shirt + cream long dress and pug Christmas sweater.

How to Create a Fashionable Christmas Outfit:

  1. Look for Christmas clothes in styles and prints you’d wear the rest of the year instead of disposable, inexpensive garments you’ll be tempted to dispose of easily.
  2. Pair your items with classics, like button-down shirts, nice pants or a simple skirt, then further accessorize with colorful scarves, jewelry or other accents that have holiday prints.
  3. Decide on a color scheme, ahead of time (i.e., red, white, green and black) and work around that as you would any other outfit you would wear for work or a special occasion.

Inexpensive Doesn’t Have to Mean Cheap

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker yesterday about inexpensive clothing. I told her my instructor, for my FSH 619 class Developments and Current Debates in Fashion at Academy of Art University, asked if we’d seen any changes in fast-fashion recently? When I told her, I’d said, “Yes,” and pointed out the new day from Target plaid jacket and blue and white striped shirt dress I was wearing while stating it was a real bargain, she flew into a thinly veiled rage.

“People in this area, of Koreatown, would rather buy as many pants and tops as they can at Ross, then spend more money on one thing that might be “longer lasting” at Target, she said. “Besides their clothes are too expensive.”

Laughing I told her that I didn’t blame them because the skinny jeans, Harajuku Lovers sneakers I was wearing and the Betsey Johnson purse I carried that day were all bought at Ross over two years ago. It’s true that I’ve been mistaken as an extremely wealthy fashionista because I know my way around an outfit, and I always try to upgrade whatever I wear to emulate a Vogue, Porter, Nylon, Elle or Marie Claire layout, but my ultimate goal is to find quality items at a great price with great style.

Still reeling, from both the derision of my outfit and later a compliment about it from a woman on the bus home, I took my trash out the next day and saw a sordid display of discarded garments. On the one end of this issue, I was insulted for treating my fast-fashion with pride while this unknown culprit was applauded for being “poor”. Which one is right? The consumer who thinks about tomorrow or the person who could care less.

As this drama goes on, with both sides fighting for position, the only resolution I see is to realize we have a longer way to go to get back where we should be.20171110_163741-COLLAGE-1.jpg

A Real L.A. Girl

Starting My Day

 It was Saturday morning, and I had to get dressed for the Manga Drawing 101 class I was taking at Santa Monica College but I faced two obstacles-the heat and my ensuing listlessness. Sweating profusely, but still determined to look smart and cool for the long bus ride there, I knew I’d have to wear something visually refreshing and comfortable. To get into an energetic mindset I decided to shake up my routine and carry my art supplies in the yellow and white seashell decorated tote I’d bought at Council Thrift Shop instead of the white L.L. Bean I usually carried. My next step, selecting an outfit in colors that would compliment my bag.

Going to my hall closet I examined the stacks of folded garments when a yellow and orange floral vintage jacket I used to wear while attending CSULA as a Fashion Merchandising student caught my eye. It was one of my favorite vintage finds from Daniel Freeman Thrift Auxillary. Sometimes worn with a white tee and white denim bermudas, in the mid-’80s, this time I experimented with color and scale and paired it with a green and yellow polka-dotted 1960’s mini dress I got from Ticktocker Timeless Treasures and a pair of knee-length denim cut-offs. To bring out the white in the bag, I accessorized with a pair of white framed over-sized shades from Style X-Press and a white Guess purse, brown Frye knock-off ankle boots and pearl and gold jewelry.

A Memorable Encounter

   Later, dripping and overheated I waited at my second bus stop hoping I wouldn’t have to wait too long. I noticed a petite woman, with long dark hair, staring at me so I smiled and said “Hi.” She told me she liked my shades and I told her about buying them with the cool black beret style hat for the field trip I went on to Palms Middle School with the fifth graders I was assigned to as a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Palms Elementary School (LAUSD). After talking for a while about the state of fashion in Los Angeles today, she asked if she could take my picture. Sadly she told me despite being in the city such a short while, I was the only one she’d photographed.

“You’re the best dressed person I’ve seen here,”she said. “You represent the type of person I thought I’d see everywhere when I came from England.”

The fact that she mentioned the lack of style, and individuality in the way people dressed on the street, compared to her country resonated profoundly with me because as a fashion/feature writer I have the same opinion. I did tell her that there is hope, however, in the vintage clothing scene and at new shopping spots like The Platform in Culver City, California, but I also had to let her know that before a predominant attitude towards conformity and overdone casualness became prevalent L.A. was poised to become a major destination for design. Where we are now has not only caused the loss of industry jobs it’s also lowered our aesthetic image, making us look disadvantaged and out of it. It’s not a case of money, or even extreme poverty, it’s more a lack of pride, self-expression and awareness.

Throughout the day I marveled at this profound encounter, and felt better than I had in years that my appearance was being appreciated and praised by a knowledgeable and kind individual, instead of being insulted and bullied, by those who won’t take the time to put forth the effort I do whenever I go out. As we move into the future, with the lessons of retail failures on our minds, I know the potential is there to embrace the uniqueness we used to uphold and bring back our glorious and stylish past.