Review Category : Laura’s Fashion Files

Time to tackle fall fashion

By Laura Trask

Fall fashion is to me what football season is to so many in our college-driven, sportsafreakish world — the signal to a softer, gentler season with all the excitement of game day.  Fashion fans can get just as pumped up to find out who and what will define their winning season. We root just as hard for our favorite designers, in hopes that they will have created some good gear for us to sport for the next six months.

Emerald green is a hot color this fall.

Emerald green is a hot color this fall.

It is always important to remember that behind every successful game there are rules and guidelines (do’s and don’ts) to help us not only choose garments that flatter our figures, but also to help us make choices that play well within our budgets.

The first seasonal trend this fall seasonal is … Opposites Attract.

These combinations took a bit of getting used to for me because the opposites in this scenario are the simplest of pairings: black and white. The hard part being that the white in this duo is not winter white or ivory but pure, stark, summery white. When it is paired with black and fall/winter fabrics (my favorite being leather), this white for winter thing works. Don’t feel like you have to put away your white denim from this summer. But don’t pair them with your flouncy spring pieces. Instead, do choose weather appropriate staples such as chunky knits and jackets. I especially like all the white textured, furry accents that make sense for autumn and winter, and make for very cozy nights.

When going for color this year … Do remember emerald green.

I was so excited when I saw that emerald green was chosen as the top color of glammed up fashion for 2013 and was spotted all over the runways. One reason I love this color is that it looks good on everyone and is such a sophisticated, grown-up way of getting away from black. Don’t ignore how great emerald green can look when paired with other jewel tones, such as garnet, amethyst and sapphire. Do look for different ways to incorporate this shade into your wardrobe. A beautiful bag or high heels in this hue is like an exclamation point on your ensemble!

Do embrace classic prints. 

By fall, we are sick of floral and kaleidoscope prints from spring. You will notice, however, that the florals have unfortunately not gone away, but have just been supersized into behemoth caricatures of their warmer weather selves — not my favorite for fall. One trend I am a huge fan of is houndstooth, which has been brought back as the outstanding leader of the fall classic patterns. Don’t shy away from this usually male identified fashion choice, since another fall trend this year is a more tailored cut, not just in suits but dresses, skirts, etc. Do remember houndstooth when you want to lend a chic, professional touch to your outfit.

Do pick and choose which of these fall fashion trends is right for you. Don’t think that you have to spend a fortune to update your wardrobe. Remember to play smart when you are playing the fashion game, but do play to win!

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Spring fashion in the Lowcountry is in full bloom

By Laura Trask

Spring in the Lowcountry is in full bloom! You can feel a burst of new energy as we shed winter coats, boots, scarves and start to look for a fresh new look to usher us into this glorious season.

Every year Friends of Caroline Hospice puts on a fashion show and luncheon that gives the local boutiques an opportunity to share what they are most excited about in the coming spring fashions. In a year where it seems anything goes — from black and whites to technicolor, minimalist cool to maximalist fun — it should be a show that finds something that’s a must-have for everyone!

Wedding dress designed by Caroline Baker of Maude Couture, who will be at the Friends of Caroline Hospice Fashion Show on April 24.

Wedding dress designed by Caroline Baker of Maude Couture, who will be at the Friends of Caroline Hospice Fashion Show on April 24.

One returning treat in store for this year’s show is our own local-girl-turned-designer, Caroline Baker, who will be creating a dress especially for this wonderful event. Caroline, who learned to sew from her grandmother, for whom she named her business (Maude Couture), graduated from New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Millinery, but has become known for her custom eco-couture gowns, an interest that grew out of a childhood spent in the Lowcountry and all its natural beauty. Dramatic silhouettes are paired with earth friendly elements creating unique, natural luxury. Designing wedding dresses has become Caroline’s passion and she finds great joy and an enjoyable challenge in “upcycling” vintage gowns!

So make sure you come support this wonderful organization celebrating its 10th year of bringing friends, fun and fashion together in a feel good way.

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And the ‘best dressed’ Oscar goes to …

By Laura Trask

Screen Gods. That is how we view those who make their way down the Red Carpet on Oscar night. Like so many aspects of our culture, the origin of the Red Carpet dates back to ancient Greece and the age old struggle between mortals and the Gods. In a play by Aeschylus written in 458 BC, a red carpet is rolled out for King Agamemnon by his wife Clytaemnestra after returning victoriously from battle. Agamemnon, knowing that only the Gods are allowed such a luxury, refuses the grandiose gesture, which of course angers the queen and ultimately ends in tragedy — much like the fate that befalls the poor starlet who wears the wrong dress with the wrong shoes with the wrong jewelry only to meet her fate in tomorrow’s tabloids.

The Red Carpets of today, which are rolled out in Hollywood for award show season are definitely no less drama-filled with all of us mere mortals anticipating the arrival of our favorite stars with the ever present question in our minds: what and who will they be wearing?

The relationship between celebrity and fashion is an important one to both the designers and the stars. One of the greatest coups for a fashion house is to dress an Oscar winner, a feat that launched designer Elle Saab from virtual obscurity to instant star when Halle Berry wore his creation the year she won best actress. She was the first African American woman to win the award, which made the win even more historic.

Stars went out in a shimmer rather than a blaze of glory at this year’s Oscars. Yes, there were a few in dark colored gowns and some in unforgivable shades — Jane Fonda for one was not going to be missed in her neon yellow nighttime soap opera number! Peach, gray and white dominated the color trend as was best demonstrated by the Dior Couture gown worn by Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence. She owned her queen of everything status and looked like a true princess, even with her enthusiastic trip on the stairs when heading up to claim her Oscar … ball gowns and stilettos often don’t get along.

Some in this category were misses, such as Anne Hathaway, Best Supporting Actress, who added a diamond choker to her cream-colored Prada halter top gown. Although the necklace was stunning, the dress and the necklace seemed in competition for the viewers’ attention. The other problem was the ill-fitting top portion of the dress. The breast pleats were distracting and again took away from the whole effect. The actress reportedly choose the dress only three hours before the show, which may account for some of these styling missteps.

Jessica Chastain wore a shimmering peachy Armani Prive gown and added Veronica Lake waves to her hair and bold red lips which took this ethereal look and sexed it up!

The ever-versatile strapless, mermaid shape was one of the top trends of the evening in a variety of colors and materials. Although a seemingly easy choice to highlight one curves, this shape is not always the most flattering on just any body type.

Helen Hunt shocked reporters when she revealed that her dress came from H&M, not typically a designer you hear mentioned by a superstar when they are walking the red carpet — not to mentioned someone who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Be sure H&M will be launching a new evening gown division in the future.

All in all, the gowns and the actors stayed pretty safe this year, which makes one wonder: Did the CBS memo prior to the Grammy’s calling for artists to step up their game and keep their privates private in an attempt to “keep the airwaves free of obscenities and nudity” have an effect on red carpet decorum?! Regardless of the reason, hopefully next year there will be some fashion risks taken and some new daring designers’ careers made!

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Come Election Day, who will be First in Fashion?

By Laura Trask

In a few short days, we will be focused on the election and who will be leading our country for the next four years. After the long campaign trail has come to an end and the votes are all counted and decision 2012 is made, we can retreat to our non-partisan corners, sit back and relax and focus on something a bit more entertaining … like what and who the first lady (new or incumbent) will be wearing. Not just that one Cinderella moment, at the inaugural ball, but what her fashion identity will be and the impact that she will have.  It’s clear that past first ladies have always had a strong influence on how women of this country have dressed.

So looking back on the past 223 years, just when and with whom did this fashion and the first lady affair begin? Who were the standouts and the who were the forget-abouts? Of course, every first lady has brought her own sense of style to the White House, some having more of an impact on fashion and quite often on politics than others, whether they were aware of it at the time or not.

Starting with the first First Lady Martha Washington, who showed her patriotic American pride from the get-go wearing “homespun” clothing instead of British designers, which, considering we had just won the Revolutionary War, was simply not an option. She became the first to champion the cause “Wear American,”  a concept that is as important today as it obviously was in the beginning.

Dolley Madison

Not far behind Martha Washington was Dolley Madison who by all accounts was the first fashionista of the White House. Dolley, who started out as the official White House hostess for Thomas Jefferson, dressed in smart Empire-waisted dresses which gave way to lots of cleavage. This style oddly enough was a throw back to the monarchy, which seems in direct conflict with Martha’s agenda. But the monarchy was still a symbol of legitimate power and Dolley knew that dressing as the monarchy did gave the country the confidence that we would hold as a nation, which was exactly what the public wanted and needed at the time. Dolley also was known for wearing turbans embellished with birds of paradise feathers, proving she had her own trailblazing style. She was so beloved that she would become a very tough act for the next first ladies to follow!

In a group of 46 power-packing women, there is bound to be one who gets a bit carried away with her shopping privileges, or putting it in today’s psychological vernacular, is a shopaholic!! I was surprised to find that the first lady of overspending was Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln would take a private rail car to New York and go on shopping sprees with unlimited credit given to her by the department store.  This was in very bad taste considering the Civil War was going on and her countrymen were dying on battlefields in record numbers. Her shopping did not go unreported and caused her husband great embarrassment. By her own admission, Mary spent $27,000 when Abe’s annual salary was only $25,000.  And just like anything we do to excess, there are consequences to pay, and sadly Mary got hers when her husband died and she was left with severe debt. She hosted the “Mrs. Lincoln’s Second-Hand Clothing Sale”, which was a flop. Lesson learned: beware the retail therapy!

First lady fashion-watching became a national pastime with Jackie Kennedy and the advent of color television. Her fresh, uncluttered elegance — which she drew from French designer Givenchy and then had copied by American designer Cassini — started a retail movement so strong that it continues to this day.  The pill box hat might be hard to pull off at girls’ night

Jackie Kennedy in her inaugural ball gown.

out, but we are still wearing Capri style pants and sheath dresses. Her influence was enormous and has proven timeless.

Nancy Reagan brought her Hollywood style to the White House and was ready to reign! Nancy had that 80’s glammed up thing going on — lots of ruffles. She loved to party, throwing 55 state dinners, each requiring its own designer gown (and being a former actress, she was always camera ready: hair and makeup, check!) Nancy will always be associated with the color red, I believe there is even a shade named in her honor.

By the time Michelle Obama came on the scene as first lady, fashion had been on a bit of a hiatus. Michelle brought it back with her youthful, feminine touches.

No matter who wins on Tuesday, the world will be watching to see who and what she will be wearing, and what new trends she might set … but history will decide whether she is a standout or a forget-about!

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Sisters by design

By Laura Trask

Sisters, thrown together at birth with often little more in common than their biological parents and the environment that they provide, can, if they overcome their differences, become the strongest allies. Having made it through the family dramas and sibling rivalry, why not use the complex bonds of sisterhood to collaborate in business? Since sisters grow up practicing their creativity on each

New fall collection from the Gordon sisters’ label, Chloe comme Parris.

other, sharing clothes and giving each other fashion advice, it is no wonder that many sister-businesses take form in the area of design.
On a recent trip to Nova Scotia I met the Gordon sisters who design under the label Chloe comme Parris. I so enjoyed meeting and talking with these bright young things (Chloe is 24 and Parris a mere 22) and getting in on all the excitement of their blossoming career.
At Toronto’s Fashion Week, Chloe comme Parris was the one to watch, coming up with a collection that took the 1920’s and stood it on its ear with feminine pieces that had a bad girl edge to them — think muted florals and hardware. Pleated garments were also an important aspect of the collection These pieces were hand sewn, some taking three days to complete. Fur was the other soft edge finishing out the look with fur shrugs and vests.
There is always a young Goth-y radicalization to Chloe and Parris’s design. These two sisters, who put a lot of thought into researching and defining what their season will be (this is only their third), seem to  balance each other perfectly. Chloe heads the clothing design and Parris designs the jewelry and hardware. It’s the melding of these two elements that seems to create the wonderful simpatico of their collection.  But, as the sisters point out, it was being raised in the world of their artist mother that gives them the singular vision that is required when two people are trying to reach a common goal. Here is where we see that being family can make all the difference in the ease and honesty of a partnership and ultimately gives the Gordon sisters their shared design sensibility.

What other designing sisters are doing for fall 2012:

Rodarte, the established and celebrated  label, is designed by sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy who took the fall runways by storm! This season it seems the sisters have broadened their scope. A 1940s influence could be seen in the tailoring of suits, shapely coats, utilitarian shearlings, cabled sweater

Reese Witherspoon wears Rodarte

and cargo pants, which seemed in direct contrast to the ultra-artistic and elaborate detailing on which the label was established. The sisters certainly put their own sophisticated flair on a major fall trend — embelishments that have turned up in every designer’s collection in all shapes and sizes, from the very tiniest of sequins to behemoth-sized jewels. These beautiful accents not only add a luxuriousness to the garments they adorn but no doubt add some weight. The show was so full of Hollywood A-listers, that many joked it was the pre-Oscar show! So I would be on the lookout for stars wearing Rodarte come award season!
The Olson twins, whom we have practically watched since birth often not knowing which was which, have two fashion labels to their credit with very contrasting focuses. Elizabeth and James, the pair’s more reasonably priced line named for the twin’s other siblings. It has a youthful, girly spirit and showed the most important silhouette of this fall season … the peplum, which by definition is a short, full flounce on a garment’s waist! So much fun

Peplum is fall’s fun silhouette.

to wear!
The Row, the twins’ higher brow — and higher price tag — label, was its predictable beautifully tailored serious self! Lots of beautiful leather in camel colors and all very body conscious, with hem lines and tailoring that often had surprising twists and turns, making these pieces a unique addition to any wardrobe.
Sisterhood does not come easy but is a condition that must be worked at. As the Gordon sisters have often expressed in interviews, it is by being family that they have the confidence and security of knowing that they have each other’s back. And in the cutthroat world of fashion, that is priceless!

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After you say ‘yes’ … It’s all about the dress

By Laura Trask
The rituals that shape weddings of today: the venue, the flowers, the cake, right down to the choosing of the mate were not part of the process historically. And as with every tradition that has evolved over thousands of years there have been some improvements! In the beginning, marriages were arranged by the families of the two betrothed to ensure prosperity, protection and procreation.  I can assure you in the days of  “marriage by capture” no one was thinking about what they were going to wear! So when did fashion become such an integral element in the joining of two people? Well,  like every great storybook ending, it starts with The Dress.
More elaborate wedding celebrations started with nobility and the higher classes. Brides were expected to dress in a manner befitting their social status, not necessarily representing themselves but their families. Right down to the amount of material a wedding dress contained which reflected on the bride’s social standing and was a clear

An example of a 16th century wedding dress.

indication to all those in attendance of the families wealth. The concept of more is more was especially apparent when it came to the wedding dresses of royal princesses during the 15th and 16th centuries when the way to show a kingdom’s power was through rich costly fabrics such as velvet, damask silk, satin and fur.  Forget the “virginal” white wedding dress we know today; these royals showed their wealth through the use of expensive dyes and to that end their dresses were red, purple and true black which were extremely difficult to acquire. But when a royal wanted to show everyone who had the biggest, whoppingist tiara they held nothing back and went so far as to encrust their wedding gowns with precious gems; diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls. In some cases so thickly bejeweled that the fabric beneath was not to be seen and in the case of Margaret of Flanders the result was so heavy that she had to be carried into the church! Talk about being queen for the day!
So when did the white wedding dress prevail and  begin its rule of the matrimonial runway? Well, like every great trend that we have seen over the last century and a half, it started with a photograph and a love story. When Queen Victoria married her cousin, Albert, in a white wedding dress in 1840, the wedding being highly publicized resonated with brides everywhere and sealed the deal for white to win out as the number one choice for brides. When Victoria was merely trying to incorporate some prized lace into her dress which in the end dictated the color … white.
Today’s bride is unique in that the dress she chooses for her big day is a true representation of who she is and is also a way of sharing this piece of her self with all those in attendance. However, with so many options out there, so much money at stake and the anxiety of all eyes being on you, the decision can be an overwhelming and an intimidating one to make. Thank goodness we modern girls have Vera Wang! Her very name conjures up images of a sophisticated glamorous bride! She is the genius designer who has single handedly modernized all aspects of wedding and bridal wear, especially the dress. Bringing it from an outdated busy look to a more modern, chic and elegant design.

Helana, a dress in Vera Wang's current wedding dress collection

Vera Wang has a long history in fashion working at Vogue magazine as an editor for 17 years leaving only when she did not get the job as editor-in-chief. But as every turn of events that are meant to be, Vera went on to design with Ralph Lauren and then opened her own design salon at the Carlyle Hotel in 1990. That’s a surprisingly short time to become the reigning queen of everything wedding.
So what would Vera say if she were advising a new bride on choosing The One? And I am referring of course to the dress — not the guy! First and foremost, choose a style that you are comfortable in, because as we all know being comfortable translates into confidence. Remember also to consider that the dress has to work with all other tonal elements of the ceremony. Is it a first marriage? Second marriage? What is the age of the bride? Is the marriage in a church? Or a wedding chapel in Vegas?! All these thing elements must work together with the dress in order for there to be a natural flow and harmony. The last piece of advice that Vera gives out is try on as many dresses as you can and as many style. She feels confident that a bride will know when she has found her perfect dress. Or maybe it’s the perfect dress that finds you — just like he did. Either way, it will feel like a match made in heaven!
P.S. Check out Weddings, a new app where you can find all of Vera’s wedding knowledge. The app is free through February and beginning March 1st it will cost $9.99…so get it today!

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Fashion & the “It” Girl

By Laura Trask

“How will we get our fashion and style in the new year? Who will wow us? Who will inspire us? Will it be a hot new designer? An entertainer?” These were the questions I was asking myself. I was trying to think of ways we could distract and entertain ourselves while trying to hang on to our new years resolutions!

I ran across an article on fashion’s latest ‘It’ girl. This is the girl who gets front row seats at all the runway shows. The girl who has designers literally delivering the latest fashions (often inspired by her) in stacks to her front door. The girl who gets the iconic title of “Muse”. The question is how do you get such a gig? Who do you have to know? What planet must you hail from? Do you create ‘It’ or does ‘It’ create you?

Well, the ‘It’ girl phenomenon is certainly not  a new one nor is it one that is exclusive to the most notably beautiful women of the moment. As late 19th century English poet and author Rudyard Kipling wrote in his short story Mrs. Bathhurt: “It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily—it’s just It”

The girl that all fashion insiders are following at the moment (and I mean literally chasing down the streets of Manhattan) is Shala Monroque. What I find so fascinating about Miss Monroque is—unlike the majority of past ‘It’ girls who seem to have tipped over the edge of human to superhuman and who’ve had a more obvious springboard (typically as either a model, actress or socialite)—this 32 year-old native of St. Lucia seems to have created a frenetic buzz out of the ether. She has come on the scene with a sharp, startling force and yet has a very Holly Golightly affability.

Shala arrived in New York at age 20 and began her journey from virtual obscurity to style icon starting with a job as a photo assistant and leap-frogging over the next 12 years to hostess in some of the hippest downtown restaurants in Manhattan. But Shala found her love of fashion when her aunt, who was a dresser at designer fashion shows, took her to a Jean Paul Gaultier party and she felt immediately in her element.

Over the years Shala’s unique style and ability to mix flea market finds with the few  designer pieces she could afford  made her stand out and made influential fashionistas take notice. She started getting invited to fashion shows and in 2010 she had her defining moment at the Prada show in Paris.

Shala got everyone’s attention in a flouncy black and green banana print skirt straight off the runway. The designer, Miuccia Prada was thrilled to see a young woman who so encapsulated the spirit of her designs and quickly appointed Shala as her fashion consultant at large and resident “Muse,” which translates as a carte blanche entree into everything high fashion—lucky girl!

Shala joins an elite group of past ‘It’ girls that are not to be forgotten starting with Clara Bow, the original ‘It’ girl. A flapper era actress who plays a girl in a silent film called ‘It’. Others who seem to have possessed the essence of innate style are Babe Paley, Edie Sedgwick and Chloe Sevigny. Chloe often garners media attention for her outrageous fashion combinations. Smart ‘It’ girls are using their popularity to catapult themselves into stardom by becoming camera hosts, writers, bloggers etc. The possibilities are endless. When defining this effortless magnetism, Elinor Glyn the author of the 1927 film ‘It’ sums it up beautifully: “She must be entirely unselfconscious…indifferent to the effect she is producing. Self-consciousness destroys ‘It’ immediately.”

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Fall: Time to turn up the volume

By Laura Trask

It is easy to see why Vogue’s September Issue is the most important fashion magazine of the year. Loaded down with fall fashion, this edition (all 758 pages) weighs in at a whopping 4 lbs., 6 oz., just carrying it around can get you in shape! But besides Vogue, I loved sifting through the fall issues of Elle, W and Bazaar. My husband got so nervous he hid all my credit cards. This was a fairly Herculean effort considering that fall is the most important fashion season of the year and all the magazines are as thick as phone books.
The first look that caught my attentions was one I will call the “Romantics” These beautifully tailored pieces offer a mix of delicate fabrics, such as chiffon and lace, which work together to achieve the ultra
feminine look. However, this look can get a bit artsy-fartsy when the designer go overboard with some of their creations. I don’t know about you, but I personally find macrame not to be the most flattering of materials, not even on a hanging plant. But lace,  when combined with other sheer fabrics, can be both innocent and alluring. The best example of getting the romantic look right would be Vogue’s spread of cover girl Kate Moss’ recent fairytale wedding.
At the other end of the spectrum is “high wattage” color blocks. This trend not only features bold color but also does not shy away from super sizing. Pieces often are modernistic or boxy, assuring that you will not be missed; however they can make you appear larger and are not good at hiding flaws. Make sure you use the color and it does not use you.
Another way color is shown this season is through prints. Now, these are not the florals from the spring collection, they are more geometrical — so chaotic in fact that the prints have prints and they are on everything: sweaters, pants, skirts, evening wear and the once again
popular maxi-coats shown like mad this season. If you are one of those women who geometric prints overwhelm you because of your fair complexion or delicate features, then the best way to carry off a print might be in a skirt or pair of slacks or an accessory. These magazines claim that there is no wrong way to mix  and match these prints, but  your mirror may disagree.
Fashion Bulletin: Missoni, the Italian fashion house that practically invented prints, is selling for a limited time (September 13 through October 22) at Target, so get on down there and take advantage of this fashion high on the down low.

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Bikini Dos and Don’ts


Just in time for Water Festival

By Laura Trask

Louis Reard's 1st bikini revealed at public pool in Paris 1946

Nothing says summer in Beaufort like boats, beer and bikinis, and with the 56th Annual Beaufort Water Festival upon us (and since this is a fashion column), we had better focus on the wardrobe staple of the three B’s — the Bikini! 

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SCAD welcomes two fashion giants

By Laura Trask

Cape Wearing Andre Leon Talley

We all know that Savannah College of Art and Design is on par with some of the finest internationally recognized art schools, but this Lowcountry girl did not realize how prestigious the fashion design school at SCAD is. The student fashion show, which showcases the work of the top graduating seniors, is considered one of the premier student fashion shows in the country.

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