Category Archives: designer 101

falling for: marc by marc jacobs

It’s been a considerable amount of time since I really fell hard for a Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. In years past, the collection has become a bit too juvenile for my taste – though I love the aesthetic, it’s time to admit that I’m no longer 19.

But this fall’s collection is just a touch more grown-up, a bit more refined, and I’m smitten.

The genius of the whole collection, in addition to being adorable, is that it’s incredibly cohesive. Each and every one of those pieces could be mixed-and-matched to dazzling effect – the warm caramels with the vivid emerald green and a hint of tomato red to keep the whole thing from being too serious. In a perfect world, the entire collection would be mine…but if nothing else, those two bags and maybe the color-blocked cardigan definitely deserve a prime spot in my closet.

Check out the entire runway collection here, or skip the middle man and shop it right here.

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designer 101: lk bennett

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a die-hard Anglophile. High tea, the Parliamentary system, Alexa Chung…I love it all. But I especially love the fashion (hello, Burberry and Alexander McQueen!). Fortunately for us mere mortals, Brit style goes far beyond runway-only fare. There are a bevy of special, yet accessible, brands based in the UK that we get no part of here in the States. Fortunately, one of my favorites has changed all that.

LK Bennett is getting loads of attention lately for being a favorite brand of a certain Duchess of Cambridge (she wears their shoes almost daily), but my fascination began long before that. This brand, a long-time favorite in the UK, is one of my top picks for impeccable cuts, classic and timeless styles, and some of the most divine shoes you’ll find anywhere.

lk bennett

Clockwise from top left: Tina dress, $360; Rhian Jacket, $475; Cordua blouse, $215; Christa dress, $315; Helen Coat, $555; Greek Shoe Leopard, $280; Sledge Patent leather heels, $280; Bank Shoes, $360.

Fortunately for my obsession, LK Bennett is hopping the pond, and is now available in the States. I couldn’t be happier! Their pieces just have a way of making you instantly look and feel two inches taller and ten pounds lighter – I don’t know how they do it. They add curves where there were none, nip and tuck like nothing else – the tailoring truly is a wonder to behold.

If you buy nothing else this season (the horror!), update your standard-issue black dress with LB’s signature “Tina” dress (far left, above). I put it on, and honestly, had no idea where all of those racy curves appeared from. I think they must have arrived with the dress. This beauty brings the “little black dress” myth to reality. There is literally no way you could help but feel amazing wearing it. The body-conscious silhouette reminds me of something from Victoria Beckham’s line, but the strategic ruching and pleating does what years of dieting hasn’t: works wonders to make your body look simply astounding.

And, okay, while you’re at it, you should get a pair of shoes. There’s a reason these shoes are beloved by everyone’s favorite new royal. They are as beautifully made as any of my hyper-expensive shoes, though considerably less pricey (though by no means a steal, I realize). The construction and attention to detail are flawless, the fit is impeccable – everything from their classic platform pump to the party-only stiletto, are perfection.

Buying from these UK brands I so adore can be tricky, unless you want to pay an astronomical international shipping fee. But, I’m never one to let anything stand in the way of fashion. So, I have solutions! First, LK Bennett has a few pieces available at Nordstrom (including that amazing Tina dress) – doesn’t get much easier than that.

See anything you can’t live without?

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designer 101: j.mclaughlin

Even on my hippest day, the truth is that I’m still hopelessly preppy. Particularly when warm weather hits, I suddenly envision myself summering (and yes, using “summering” as a verb) in the Hamptons, strolling the streets in chic tunics, shirt dresses, and maybe even the occasional piece of seersucker.

The Hamptons might be a bit of a pipe dream, but my preppy fantasy came true when I found J.McLaughlin. This site is an absolute dream when it comes to uptown summer style. Tunics, simple sundresses, stylish shirtdresses, clean and simple totes – all in gorgeously bright shades and patterns that are spot-on perfect for summer.

Since I’m always wary of recommending new brands to you unless I have firsthand knowledge of their fabulousness, I asked J.McLaughlin if I could try out their classic Gilchrist shirt dress, and they were kind enough to agree. Ladies – it is simply the best shirt dress I’ve found, bar none.

Those of us with curves? Yep this one fits! Miraculously and perfectly, without bunching or straining at the buttons when you sit. And it’s so very comfortable! The secret is that, while it looks like a classic broadcloth cotton, it’s actually a nylon/spandex blend. Which means, in addition to gorgeous drape and no wrinkles…stretch! It’s good, friends. In fact, it’s put me off every other shirt dress in my closet. Fortunately, they come out with this style in new prints every season, so I can start stocking up.  Sizing tip: I do suggest trusting their measurements. I went up a size based on their charts, and it was the right call.

Based on my love of their shirt dress, it’s no surprise that I have serious affection for most of their other dresses…most notably this dip-dyed linen dress, which might be the prettiest thing I’ve seen this summer.

But the summer goodness doesn’t stop with their dresses. Their line of accessories is pitch-perfect in so many ways. At least half of my summer is always spent searching for the perfect tote. My favorite piece is their monogrammed Aken tote – preppy overload in the best possible way. It’s a stylish step up from the ubiquitous LLBean boat tote, with a nubby linen fabric and chic leather straps, but every bit as functional. I’ve been looking for a tote exactly like this for years – when I finally found it at J.McLaughlin, it was like all my years of detective work had finally paid off.

It looks like they’re having a pretty fabulous summer sale right now as well, with deals on that pretty shirt dress and their adorable striped Sea Shore Tunic, which is probably the next “must” on my list.

What do you see that you can’t live without?

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designer 101: souchi

{Editor’s Note: I just got the loveliest comment from souchi’s owner, Suzi – and it contains deal-getting information, so I had to  share!

thank you for such a great write up! it really means a lot to me after almost 15 years of knitting/designing souchi. so, here is a tip to your readers, contact the stores for sale merchandise because we often have ‘in store super sales’ like 50% off THE SALE PRICE (that is a STEAL!), and you can join our souchi fan page on facebook where we announce special steals. we want to eliminate the need for cheap sweaters whenever possible.

fyi, now thru june 11 if your readers purchase on my website they can receive 20% off the entire site (INCLUDING THE SALE) by using code: sitewidesale20% at the checkout.

Thanks, Suzi!}

It’s always sweater season for me, I don’t care what the weather has to say. So, I was ridiculously excited to hear that a shop I love here in Portland has expanded its reach. Not only has cashmere superstar souchi opened a second location in Basalt, Colorado, but they have a fantastic new online destination! That means their extremely luxe, infinitely covetable looks are finally accessible to all of you.

Well, relatively…they’re still heartily in the “worthy splurge” category, but you know how I feel about splurging on cashmere. There’s just nothing in the world like a truly great cashmere sweater, and souchi makes some of the best there are. Each light-as-air sweater (seriously, you can wear these on all but the hottest of summer days) is loomed and finished by hand, with a hand-written label sewn in to tell you exactly who made yours. It’s luxe to the maximum degree, and I’m obsessed.

While you’re browsing, be sure to check out a few of their other lines – most everything they carry is on my favorites list, from Sonia Rykiel to Page Sargisson. And if you love their styles but not the price tags, be sure to check the sale section…nothing’s what you might call a steal, but the discount does take a lot of their pieces from utterly unattainable to almost possible. I’ll take it!

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line to love: augden new york

Even though I’m still hoping for spring, I can never resist the lure of a cozy sweater.  Augden is a new designer on my radar, and their goods just launched online!  I’ve been anxious to share – they’re the perfect piece for a weekend throw-on, and would be ideal in any spring vacation suitcase, don’t you agree?

I’m just crazy for these designs – they feel so special and carefully crafted.  I love the bright colors in the Navajo-inspired cardigans, and that fisherman’s sweater is such a unique take on a timeless style.  Can’t you just see yourself wearing it with cuffed jean shorts on a beach somewhere, without a care in the world?

You can buy a few of their pieces on their website (be sure to check out the “Shop Gossip Girl” link to see that yummy wrap cardigan, above, which was featured…well, you know), or on Calypso St. Barth, a perennial favorite of mine.  Pricing is a little steep, mostly in the $300-400 range.  But these pieces are so special, I could definitely see myself taking the plunge.

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friday finds: the bold and the beautiful

i’ve decided to ignore the constant drizzle (and, ahem, yesterday’s hail?!) in my rainy city.  i’m springing forward, darn it, and i don’t care what the weather has to say about it.  this week’s list of friday finds is nothing if not bold, bright and full of spring color.

if this “pretty in prints” compact from clinique doesn’t bring out the sunshine, i don’t know what will.  they teamed up with milly to design a palette that’s pitch-perfect for spring.  the compact is etched with a classic milly pattern, and inside, you’ll find nothing but classic, useful shades of eyeshadow and blush to see you through the entire summer.  plus, that pretty drawstring pouch makes this even more fun to throw into your beach bag.  i’ll be using each and every shade until it runs dry – a bold claim from a girl who has never finished an eyeshadow in her life.

shopbop is always just hellbent on taking my money, and they’ve launched a couple of new treats this week to do just that.  first up is their new “ONE by” boutique, which features one (and only one!) signature or special piece from designers off the beaten path.  i’ll admit, most of it is more fashion-forward than i am. but i do love the thrill of having something from a designer no one else has heard of.  and it makes for excellent window-shopping.

also, their spring collection of tucker by gaby basora arrived this week, and it’s all just so lovely, i’m speechless.  all i can say is that i want nothing more than to spend every single day of spring in these bold, bright silks.

i know we just talked shoes yesterday, but i can’t resist showing you these stunning suede loafers by kubyan.  they caught my eye in the march marie claire, and i haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.  i’ve been wanting a pair of driving loafers that successfully walked the line between classic and tongue-in-cheek, and suddenly, here they are. now to come up with the $300 i’d need to make them mine.  fortunately, they’re made by hand, by single mothers in colombia who need work.  so really, it would be wrong of me not to buy them, right?

while i was in seattle last week, i took a moment to check out the go international designer collective reprise happening at target.  they did a great job of bringing back the best styles, and the timing couldn’t be better, what with wedding season on the horizon.  after trying on every several styles, and crying a bit over how short the black floral tucker dress was (it’s so lovely!), i left with this colorblocked shift from thakoon.  colorblocking will be everywhere for summer, and this is an easy style with infinite potential.

that’s it for this week, friends. i hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead of you!  i’ll be celebrating a little engagement-versary with the hubs, so hopefully some wining and dining will be involved, as well as a considerable amount of R&R.  i hope you have something equally lovely planned.

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test case: myskins lingerie

(a little warning:  we’re going to talk bras now, and there are pictures.  so maybe that makes this NSFW, if your boss is a prude…)

with summer fast approaching, invisible underpinnings are going to suddenly go from an ideal to an absolute necessity.  i don’t know about you, but i’m a little past the point in my life at which i want my black bra visible under the thin, tissue-weight tees i’ll be sporting all summer.

but “invisible” is fraught with trouble, too.  i don’t much care for spanx (i know i’m in the minority here), and most other base pieces designed to disappear are utterly unattractive.  plus, “nude” usually means some version of a pinkish peach shade that doesn’t actually match anyone’s skin that i know.

but imagine.  just imagine a company that not only makes them pretty, but also makes them functional.  oh, and they can actually match your skin tone!  this might just be the coolest concept in bras since the push-up.

Picture 8

the company is myskins, and when they gave me the chance to test out their line, i jumped at it (of course!).  they’ll mail you a color chart (or you can just print one online, as i did) to check your skin tone against their options.  pick a color, order your normal size in any of their 3 styles (i found the bras ran very true to size, but size up on the bottoms), and before you know it, a bra perfectly matched t your skin will appear at your door.

myskins sent me the t-shirt bra to test out, and i will say it managed to vanish under even my tissue-iest of tissue tees.  it was really comfy, matched my skin almost perfectly and gave just the right amount of oomph.  the wavy edges confused me at first, but they do a great job of making the seams disappear.  i was also a little worried about the padding levels (yes, i’m easily traumatized), but they were, as goldilocks would say, just right.

full disclosure: i also tried the girl shorts and, while i had high hopes, i wasn’t quite as in love with those.  but i’d chalk that up to the fact that i never end up loving seamless bottoms (can we stop saying “panty,” please?), which tend to move around too much.  and well, i’m just a cotton kind of girl at heart.  that said, sometimes comfort has to take an, um, back seat…and i’m a staunch opponent of the VPL, so i’m willing to suffer a bit for fashion.

ultimately, these are just about my favorite new “every day” bra – i’m planning to order at least one more any day now.  at $48 each, the pricing compares with most of my other bras, and the fit and function are definitely superior.  if nothing else, they’ve saved me the trauma of the lingerie dressing room, and i’ll take that deal any day.

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local love: jewelry by shelli markee

i completely forgot to tell you all about the beautiful earrings i found a few weeks back at una, one of my favorite portland shops.  i fell for them instantly – the simplicity, delicacy, and hand-forged details – and something told me i was going to love everything the designer had to offer.

i was right.  i ran right home, checked out shelli markee‘s website, and fell hard for her style.  it’s all very simple but striking, architectural and line-based – as if she took the most elaborate designs out there, and reduced them to their simplest elements.  oh, and the prices are excellent (nearly everything is under $100)

i chose the simplest style, her drop earring (left).  i love that it feels like i took a teensy step toward hip with these, but it’s not a scary step.  i wear them all the time, and am already plotting my next pick from her collection (i’m thinking it will be the silver studs below).

if you love them too, you can order any style from the very sweet owner of una, miss giovanna, at unashop at yahoo dot com, who has assured me she’ll be glad to take any and all orders for shelli markee’s designs.  i’m sure you could also order from shelli herself (who, by the way is wonderful, and was happy to take the time to refinish my earrings for free after i foolishly doused them in tarn-x).

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