It’s a perfectly draped Pucci scarf, the subtle pairing of Chanel ballet flats with flawless white jeans, and an understated vintage Cartier timepiece peeking out from beneath a cuffed sleeve. It is the ability to master an on-trend look, like a motorcycle jacket layered over an ultra-feminine chiffon mini dress, in a simple and unique way. And above all, it’s making it look easy – accidental, if you will. French women are seemingly born with this elegance, this “je ne sais quoi” along with few gifted American gals – you know the ones; they’re effortlessly chic, abnormally confident and induce a feeling of total inadequacy in all they encounter.
For me, merely passing one of these women on the street leads to an onslaught of self loathing. For the rest of the walk home I am consumed with my imperfections. My outfit is suddenly a complete disaster (what was I thinking?!), not to mention that my face too narrow, my thighs are too wide (why can’t my legs look like that in skinny jeans?), my blonde too blonde and my makeup too gaudy (was she even wearing makeup? No one can look like that naturally…can they?). By the time I reach my front door I’ve resolved to cut processed sugar from my diet, consult a plastic surgeon about this nose of mine and invest in fabulous accessories (everything would look better with an Hermes belt). The Chic Girl’s “je ne sais quoi” goes beyond good looks and a killer wardrobe. It’s a intrinsic quality – how else could she strut around town in sky high pumps and harem pants with such ease, or know instinctively when to belt it? These elegant women exude an aura of self assurance, frequently interpreted by moi as perfection. The unattainable kind of perfection that I will never be good enough to achieve.
It is the Chic Girl who brings out my insecurities, while for some it’s the Skinny Girl, the Popular Girl, the Talented Girl, the Rich Girl; the list goes on. Are these girls really perfect, or can we only see in them what we find most conspicuously absent in ourselves? Their envy-inducing quality must be more than skin deep, for the even most beautiful woman in the world would go unnoticed if she walked slumped over and devoid of confidence. The woman who makes your head turn is the one who enters the room as if she owns it, regardless of her style, beauty or wealth. It is the individual who takes pride in her uniqueness and celebrates her foibles that we are drawn to; unfortunately, when a woman’s uniqueness aligns with our weakness we are threatened.
There is no fast solution. Even the highest pair of Louboutin’s won’t imbue you with true “Je ne sais quoi”. It can only be achieved through total love and acceptance of ourselves – back fat and all. So, the next time I run into a dazzling Chic Girl and feel the self destructive comparisons rising to the surface, I will shift my attention to admire her fabulous posture and striking direct eye contact instead of focusing on how much better my life would be if I had the diamond encrusted Yurman necklace dangling from her neck. Instead of resenting her, maybe I can learn something from her. After all, I’m still just a work in progress.
Like many women embarrassed by their enormous purse, I frequently joke that within my bag’s cavernous walls, I keep “my life.”
This statement proved more accurate than ridiculous yesterday when I unexpectedly found myself caught in a rainstorm downtown. As the drops began to fall, I hopefully plunged my hand into the dark abyss of my well worn Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM bag and withdrew an adorable cheetah print umbrella that, frankly, I forgot I had! Slipping my new Tory Burch leather flats into the safety of the bag, I put on the pair of ratty flip flops I keep stored for rain and high heel emergencies. Sprinting through the downpour I scrapped my toe on a piece of jagged sidewalk. I ducked into a nearby Starbucks to tend to the wound with a band aid and individual-sized packet of bacitracin kept for just such an instance. After quickly touching up my badly running makeup with some totable beauty essentials, I exited into the storm and crossed over to my street. Withdrawing my building key from a small side zip inside my bag, I entered the lobby only to run into a former work acquaintance. Casually extracting a business card and extra resume I keep filed in my bag (just in case), I headed upstairs to my apartment.
Once there, I pondered the bag’s amazing dexterity. In addition to the usually contents–two hairbrushes, five individually wrapped extra contact lenses, ten assorted lip glosses ranging from YSL to Chapstick, my checkbook, three mechanical pencils (I wouldn’t dare store a pen for fear of ink explosion), a doggie doo doo bag, a pack of tissues, a checkbook, a travel sized deodorant, four rubber bands, a toothbrush, a bottle of ibuprofen, a tube of hand cream, two tampons, two pairs of sunglasses (giant, crystal encrusted Chanel’s for formal affairs and funky, Ray Band Wayfarers for more hip events), half a dozen assorted business cards, two half full bottles of water, an iPhone charger, a can of pepper spray, a Kate Spade makeup case so full it that will barely zip shut and two bobby pins–the bag provides something else… An oversized bag endows the owner with a sense of safety and preparedness. Like a rabbit being pulled from a magician’s top hat, whatever is needed at the moment of crisis seems to magically appear from deep within the chaotic mess of the purse. The inconvenience of the bag’s mammoth girth and backbreaking mass are nothing in light of an oversized bag’s mysterious prowess. No chic clutch or sleek shoulder bag can compare.
The red imprints the Neverfull’s slender straps leave embedded in my shoulder don’t seem so bad now when I consider that the bag is hanging with the weight of, well, my life. So the next time my boyfriend points to the elephant hanging from my arm and asks, irritated, if it is “really necessary for you to bring that bag out” I will confidentially inform him that it is. After all, we never know if today is the day we are attacked by pirates or bitten by poisonous snakes. And if it is, we are prepared.
As with most visits to Sephora, my April trip to the Union Square store ended with a glossy black and white bag stuffed with neatly wrapped beauty products I didn’t know I needed.
Of my shiny new purchases, the standout item has proven to be Lancôme’s new Oscillating Mascara. Lancôme boasts that the wand oscillates 7000 times per minute, enabling it to coat each lash with 360 degrees of mascara. Skeptical that a brush could wiggle itself over my lashes with more skill than my bare hand, I indulged my curiosity and purchased the brand new product.
PROS: Naturally gorgeous lashes! After a couple tries, I got the hang of applying mascara with a vibrating wand and was thrilled with my lashes. My best results came from starting at the lash root and slowly wiggling the wand back and forth horizontally up to the tip, while holding the vibration power button. My lashes were noticeably long, thick, and perfectly separated. The results were so natural, that I was told numerous times how “lucky” I was to have such long lashes!
CONS: Poor Power Button Design. High Price Point. The button that activates the oscilattions is on the outside of the wand and sensitive to pressure. It would frequently turn itself on inside my purse or when crammed inside my makeup bag, wasting the batteries and creating a curious vibrating sound. At around $34, the mascara was even pricier than my longtime favorite, Chanel’s $30 Inimitable Mascara, and about $10-15 more expensive than the average mascara in Sephora. Adding to the expense is having to buy a new mascara every time the battery dies. Although frustrating, the batteries 2-3 month lifespan does align with the suggested mascara expiration date – Holding onto mascara longer than 60-90 days allows harmful bacteria to grow in the product, which can cause infection and harm your eyes.
TIP: Regardless of your coloring, I recommend choosing the blackest black color available. This creates a classically feminine aesthetic and the most dramatically lush lashes.
Charleston Fashion Week concluded Saturday with the presentation of the three Emerging Designer finalists’ collections. It was the undisputed highlight of the week, which is saying a lot after Tuesday’s auspicious start.
First up was Russian transplant Alena Fede, who explained to the audience in her pre recorded video clip that she strove to create a unique collection with a big city feel. The show was an edgy mix of whips and pearls. Angry looking models with dramatic, smoky eyes took to the runway with hair pulling shrieks and whip tossing turns. Standout pieces included two early looks – a sideless top with a high-waisted skirt and a plunging neckline halter dress. These feminine frocks were infused with a dark and unexpected eroticism that artfully opposed the soft ruffles and delicate fabric. The show quickly turned towards an overt bondage theme, which was played out through a confused mix of Victorian influenced blouses and the hard sexuality of Madonna’s erotica years. While I applaud the boldness of the runway show, the clothes lacked the beauty and originality to make the theme come off as fresh. Conspicuously overused was a heavy, blue fabric; featured in everything from dresses to overalls, it was caught somewhere between a denim and a tapestry. Despite the criticisms, Fede proved her burgeoning talent in her innovative tulle work – my favorite being a black, spaghetti strap mini dress, belted at the waist with a transparent bubble skirt full of white tulle. The result was a skirt that floated ethereally around the model’s waist like a cloud trapped within a black net. Also commendable were Fede’s tulle collars: imposing three dimensional constructions of starched fabric that recalled both a punk’s spiked dog collar and the Elizabethan Ruff.
Next, North Carolina native Lindsay Carter presented Troubadour, a collection that charmingly combined Latin, pirate, and rock ‘n roll influences. Models disguised as punk rock goddesses set the tone, styled with tall faux hawks, Ray Band Wayfarer sunglasses and ample leather accessories. The story was told in mostly black with pops of neon yellow, electric blue and metallic silver. Flirty, strapless mini dresses were revised with bubble hems and ruffled skirts. Rock ‘n roll details renewed familiar shapes; a row of silver spikes defined each shoulder and outlined the pockets of a black mini tunic dress. The power of Carter’s collection was in the thought out details and accents, such as colorful arm warmers, exposed zippers, and metal hardware. The collection featured consistently outstanding jackets – from a glossy black boyfriend blazer paired with high-waisted cream colored satin shorts, to the perfectly oversized outerwear jacket fastened with two simple, diamond shaped novelty buttons. The Troubadour collection channeled the backstage edginess of LaRok and revised-vintage aesthetic of Elizabeth & James. The runway show concluded with an of-the-moment plaid flannel shirtdress and a sexy silver mini dress, perfect for a night at CBGB’s!
Even before celebrity guest judge Cynthia Rowley made the announcement, the results of the Emerging Designer competition were clear – Marysia Reeves, a Polish native who came to Charleston by way of LA, was the winner. The collection was beachy, sexy and fun – the embodiment of Charleston – and the runway show played out like a contemporary Gidget’s “coming of age” story. The Sun kissed models wore their hair up in high bow tie shaped buns and sported soft, natural makeup. The first model stepped out in an asymmetrical bubblegum pink mini dress with a ruched yellow side zip that opened up to reveal a matching pink one-piece swimsuit underneath – the audience gasped in approval. Reeves showcased her uncanny ability for endowing the girliest of embellishments with a sporty, surfer-girl aesthetic while keeping the look unmistakably feminine. Playful ruffles mimicked waves across bodices while tutu’s adorned swimsuits without a hint of absurdity. Even a strapless, harem pant romper in ballet-slipper-pink managed to be sexy, not silly. Reeves played with texture in an extremely wearable way. For example a pale mint mini dress featured a panel of off white semi-circular chiffon ruffles down the front. Halfway through the show the aesthetic became more modern with peach, red, and bright yellow tones. A futuristic tunic dress featured architectural shoulder detailing. Fun prints emerged, studs began embellishing bows and pinks became more vivid. The collection was an outstanding finish to a dazzling week high fashion in the Low Country!
Wednesday through Thursday night of CFW did not disappoint! Theatrical runway shows put together by local boutiques demonstrated on-trend looks using merchandise from their stores, showcasing Charleston’s growing wealth of high end shopping options and proving that the low country consumers appreciate high fashion.
Allison Gilchrist of Pearl put together a fun show that gracefully glided through the decades; from hourglass figures and the flowing mid-calf skirts of the fifties, to updated hippie prints and the dramatically high-waisted pants of the seventies, to the reborn harem pants of today. Gilchrist has an eye for the next big thing, as proven by her discovery of the young Jason Wu – a designer she has been carrying long before Ms. Obama brought him into the limelight. Pearl’s runway show allowed the audience a glimpse into fashion’s future as reinterpreted from the past.
Going against the grain of preppy prints and country club chic presented by boutiques like Summerville’s Teal, Stacy Smallwood of Hampden Clothing featured a gritty downtown aesthetic replete with green lipped models sporting sharply askew tousled buns high on their heads. The look was fun, unexpected and reminiscent of Punk ballerina’s. All of the looks were complicated, well thought out and elaborately executed.
The standouts from the midweek shows included a creative collaboration between Saks Fifth Avenue and local accessory designer Mary Norton and a runway spectacular by West Ashley’s I Heart. For the Saks Fifth Avenue/Mary Norton show, models strutted down the runway clad in Saks styled outfits and Mary Norton bags and shoes. Trailing close behind each gal was a pair of chiseled male models in tailored European suits. Each man carried a silver platter – on one tray balanced the shoes the model wore and on the other was the handbag. The setup was fabulously engaging, and a brilliant of way of showcasing the shoes and bags! I Heart took the idea of runway show to a whole new level, elevating fashion from art to entertainment with a full-blown Bond Girl theme. Models wielded guns and channeled Bond’s infamous femme fatales from their seductive hair and makeup to their formfitting getups.
Can’t wait to see what Saturday’s Emerging Designer Competition Finale brings!
“The future of fashion” boomed from the sound system seconds before the first model took to the runway, brazenly announcing the start of the third annual Charleston Fashion Week.The hotly anticipated event took place under the tents in downtown’s Marion Square Park, South Carolina’s version of Bryant Park, with the presentation of six collections by the semi-finalists of the Emerging Designer Competition.Open to designers living in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, the competition gave the South a chance to showcase it’s talent and validate itself as a burgeoning fashion capital.The models emerged from behind a futuristic façade of colorful and rhythmically flashing LED lights.On one side of the stage a DJ Spun upbeat music to which the models bounced down the runway. Several bars were set up around the tent to serve cocktails, wine and champagne, creating an audience that grew increasingly enthusiastic through the evening. I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of both the garments and the models. True to its earlier boasting, Charleston proved that it is indeed the future of fashion!
North Carolina’s Amanda deLeon’s opened the night with her Spring 2009 collection.The designer’s story was based in tranquil earth tones with occasional pops of vivid blue and the models slicked back ponytails created an air of icy sophistication. The collection of mostly dresses, modernized classical bodies through architectural embellishments; it was the alien love child of Vera Wang and Narsisco Rodriguez. Each piece seemed to toy with the feminine form through three-dimensional details; such as a black, asymmetrical, A-line dress reshaped by a neckline of contrasting gold that continued the diagonal line from beneath the model’s right arm, out over her left shoulder tapering off at chin height.Another outstanding piece was a sexy low-cut, drop back halter dress that’s otherwise fitted skirt jutted out at the top of the leg where a hoop was sewn inside to accentuate the hips and buttocks. It was haute couture on Mars! I loved the use of hard, masculine lines to exaggerate feminine curves.
The show notes described the collection as inspired by the sensation of being underwater and the garments captures the mystery and calm of deep ocean submersion.Most literally translated through bright lacquered blue fabric used primarily in several skin tight pieces, blue was also used to accent otherwise subdued looks; for example, A gray silk drop waist dress with a short bubble hemmed skirt was reinvigorated by the fabric that looked almost slimy as it rose of the garment and wrapped, eel-like, around the collar and down the back of the dress into a low, V-neck back.A black short short was paired with a sleeveless boat neck blouse that looked as if it was made from a quilted down comforter – think Norma Kamali’s sleeping bag coat’s of the 80’s in blouse form.The blouse was cinched at the waist with a thick black belt and fanned out at the bottom, as if an exotic sea anemone opening up underwater.
DeLeon’s background in architecture was can be seen in her ability to shape materials – She is a pro at transforming soft fabrics into stiff shapes hard materials into round, soft shapes.Her collection is rich with sharp angles and three dimensional details. My favorite garment, and one of the more wearable pieces, was a sleeveless, form-fitting aqua colored asymmetrical mini dress with what appeared to be strands of fishing line wrapping around the bare shoulder to shape a sleeve.The lovely, classically draped sleeve shaped with an ultra contemporary material created a delightful juxtaposition.
A strong presentation from Amanda deLeon and wonderful start to the night!
Article by Maggie Winterfeldt & Photos by Chris Clark
….Check back often as I will update the blog with reviews of the other semi-finalists’ collections throughout the day!