Monday, December 22, 2008

Fashion Fast-Forward

Last week I met Sally Singer, Vogue writer and editor at a tea sponsored by Harvest for Home, a Princeton-based, non-profit organization that helps people get back into homes after a period of homelessness.

Sally graciously answered questions for over an hour and gave us a bird's eye view into her fashion editor's world.

"Fashion is part of the context of a life. It is one aspect of people's lives." Sally remarked that Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, uses fashion to tell stories in the photo shoots. If you take a look at the fashion spreads of Vogue, you can see that indeed the ingenue and the older man are off on a weekend sightseeing escapade...without the wife.

A number of women attending the tea had questions about necessities for their wardrobes. Sally answered them all with equal parts gravitas and light-heartedness. I have paraphrased the questions and her answers here.

Q. How do I determine what I should spend my money on this season?

A. The sales are going to be deeper after Christmas, so take advantage of it. There are always Couture prices, mid-level prices and lower end, mass-produced prices. Buy the look you feel you most identify with at the pricepoint you can afford. If you think that you are the kind of person who always looks great in a trench coat and boots, buy those 2 pieces. If you feel comfortable in pajamas, buy the pajama suit look for evening, and the pajama look for day, and wear it. If you know what you feel comfortable in, buy that and buy the best that you can afford. You will get lots of use out of these items.

Q. What kind of jacket should I have in my wardrobe?

A. The best jackets right now are based on the $3-4,000 Balmain jacket from a couple of years ago. Rick Owens has a great jacket at the $1,500 price point. J. Crew has excellent tailoring at a much lower price point. Also, take a look at the Olsen Twins' new line, "The Row," a brand carried at Barney's. It has many classic elements.

When looking to buy a jacket, make sure that the armholes are cut so that they are not too wide. A narrower armhole suggests better tailoring.

Q. What does every woman need in her wardrobe?

A. Apart from a good jacket,
A sheath dress. Think Audrey Hepburn.
Ballet Flats. Lanvin has a great pair, as do Alaia and Jimmy Choo.
Boots. Check out Christian Louboutin, Derek Lam for Tod's, Sigerson Morrison and Yves St. Laurent. Heel height depends on you.
Handbag. Python is going to be big this spring. Look at Proenza Schouler's men's type bags. Check out Alexander Wang for "hip." And Look at Dunlin in the $400 range.
Jeans. We are waiting for the next re-invention. Check out J Brand, they are often on-trend or setting the new trend.
Pencil Skirt and flouncy skirt, if that's you.
Big Cardigan, if that's you.

Q. What are some of the best places to shop, where the owners have really culled 'the looks' of the season?

A. Barney's. Nieman's. In Soho, Opening Ceremony, at Howard and Crosby Streets, and Kirna Zabete on Greene St.

Q. How do you determine if something is a trend, or is 'on trend?'

A. Trends emerge. They are the result of many people looking at the same items, using the same visual language and coming up with new ideas at approximately the same time. They are not choreographed events among designers.

Q. What did you think of Michelle Obama's outfit on the night of the acceptance speech in Grant Park? (You can see Michelle Obabma's on-camera outfits here. Image number 5 is the dress in question, which was designed by Narciso Rodriguez.)

A. It was great. She is more fashion forward than any of our previous first ladies. She must wear clothes that are made-in-America while in the public eye, and that is going to affect the choices that she makes.

Sally Singer travels the world. She attends the Paris, Milan, London, NY and LA fashion shows. She meets with older as well as up and coming designers to keep her readers in the know. She has an amazing view of the fashion industry and it was a pleasure to be privvy to it for an afternoon.

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