Sunday, November 30, 2008

EXPERIENCE: The Day the Accessory Died

Flashback to the last week of August: School commences, and Queen Bee Karen Bakke, associate professor and coordinator of the fashion design department, offers an introduction to her accessories class. About 30 females, myself included, fill up her classroom on the third floor of Shaffer. We brainstorm and ponder a question: What is an accessory?

The dictionary defines an accessory as “an object or device not essential in itself but adding to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else.” For some, Coach sunglasses and Tiffany charms classify as favorite accessories. Other people find themselves in shoe fetishes and endless handbag collections. I found and lost my ultimate accessory on my trek home to Medway, Mass. for Thanksgiving.

This past Monday, I decelerated onto the Herkimer-Little Falls rest area off of I-90. The brakes locked, the shift froze, the wheel failed to complete a full circle. Halt. A sign reads: History Happened Here. With 165,738 miles on the odometer, the family heirloom kicked it as my 1991 Volvo 240 experienced Rigamortis.

As I sat in my dead car, I remembered all the times my mother loaded the car with baskets of my shoes for the annual road trip to Syracuse, the times I applied my make-up in the rear view mirror while driving to work, the times my sister changed into her gym clothes in the backseat, and at that moment I realized how much my car represented an extension of my identity. Just like a good accessory. After all, our culture provides examples every day that cars exist as the ultimate accessory (think of Hollywood stars stepping out of Prius sedans at the Academy Awards or rappers rolling up to the club in Escalades with spinning rims).

When Jim the highway mechanic ushered my automobile onto the tow truck, I recognized my boxy sedan as classic, timeless, a collector's item. Cream in color, it matched every outfit worn since I began driving at age 16. The car's adaptability to the evolution of fashion proved its greatest feat. As a tribute to my love lost, a car irreplaceable, I suggest the Top Five Fads in Fashion during its lifetime.

5. Pleather and Platforms (circa Spice Girls)

4. Uggs

3. Nirvana Grunge: the androgynous flannel shirt

2. The scrunchy

1. “I’m coming out”: exposing the belly button through piercings, low-rise pants, and cut-off tanks

RIP VOLVO 1991-2008

OBSESSION: I Think I'm Turning Japanese

International street style has always been an obsession of mine. In my spare time I find myself scrolling through the pages of Facehunter, the Sartorialist and, salivating at the unique appropriation of clothing. So you can imagine I was stoked when I saw Philomena Keets, author of Tokyo Look book, would be giving a lecture at my abroad school; London College of Fashion. Living in London I already bore witnessed a mélange of gritty street fashion, but learning about Tokyo meant a new style infatuation.

Keets, a tall British anthologist with pin straight blonde hair, blew my mind when she told my class she received her PHD in Tokyo street style. She describes her thesis project as roaming the street of Tokyo with photographer Yuri Manabe capturing the stylish and spectacular looks that define Japanese youth. Her pictures showed chipper teens wearing Gucci and construction gear, with hair all colors of the rainbow. At first looks these boys and girls seemed like they got dressed in the dark, but on closer inspection, and with the help of Keets research, I came to find that their looks represent various Japanese subcultures. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Cosplay, meaning costume play, is a performance art where players dress themselves in elaborate costumes and make up and act out the role of their favorite anime or manga characters. Player usually dress and act at Cosplay conventions, but some dedicated few consider it a life style and dress and act like a character.

Gyaru Gal go for the bling. This look evolved from hip hop, but Gyaru gal’s differ from the classic American R& B style. A gyaru girl has a dark tan, long curled locks in shades of blonde, brunette or pink, sparkling ‘Lame’ make-up and some high platform shoes. Gyaru girls have been known to wear platform shoes with a 10 centimeter heels! Gyaru girls swarm the Shibuya district for hot tight ensembles and photo ops.

Elegant Gothic Lolita, my personal favorite. These darling girls adorn themselves in lace infused baby doll dresses to create an Alice in wonderland meets French maid look. The EGL look captures the Victorian era with peter pan collared blouses and crinoline puffed skirts. Mixing childlike looks with adult sensuality, Gothic Lolitas create a look that would tempt Humbert Humbert.

To some involvement and dedication of the Cosplayer and Gothic Lolitas may seem superficial and narcissistic. But to me it represented creativity and a much needed break from the norm. Keets describes walking through the Yoyogi park as entering a fantasy world where anime characters came to life. The lecture fuel my fascination with international looks and inspired me to adds some Lolita hints to my own wardrobe.

CRUSH: Glittery Eye Rescue

New Years Eve produces a lot of pressure and possibility: the right beaux, the right look, the right venue, and the hope that this year’s countdown to midnight might be different than all those past, failed celebrations. A shiny new cocktail dress hangs from your closet door, and a glittery eye-shadow palette sits on your bathroom counter, eagerly awaiting its first use. But therein lies the rub: You know that as soon as you hit the dance floor, the shadow will be gone as fast as you can say 2009. Every girl with glittery aspirations faces this dilemma, but luckily Benefit Cosmetics provides the answer. For years I’ve sworn by the company’s F.Y…eye! product, an eye primer that costs $22, and a product that saved me from creasy eyelid syndrome on the most crucial of party nights. For a crease-free evening, evenly apply the apricot-colored primer over your lids with the fingertips before adding eye-shadow. Glamour, after all, shouldn’t stop after the first hour of fun.

OBSESSION: Bananas For Bilson

In a post-Thanksgiving turkey coma, I found myself in zombie Google mode, eyes glazed as I searched through image-galleries galore of chic celebs with the most sought-after style. The typical fashion A-list paraded by: Li-Lo, Sienna, Kate Moss, MK&A. After 200-plus pictures in to a Rachel Bilson image gallery, I couldn’t stop the click addiction. Each new ensemble was just as cute—if not cuter—than the one before. The petite brunette hooked me.

What distinguishes the 27-year-old actress’ style is that her look avoids reliance on one stand-out trendy item or an “it” accessory. In fact, while analyzing Bilson’s ensembles, I realized that my attention avoided flitting toward singular items. Rather, her ability to throw it all together fueled her chic appeal. Whether walking the dog or walking the red carpet, she created looks that exuded effortless and carefree cool.

Bilson found stardom as Summer Roberts on the teen drama The OC. Although she remains in the early stages of her film career, her fashion sense reflects that of a leading lady. She pairs classic and feminine staples with boho accents, and she knows how to mix designer and vintage pieces together for a look that isn’t straight off the runway. 

Bilson’s celebrity pics taught me this: By using basic pieces as the foundation of an outfit and pairing those basics with unique accessories and layers of staple items, anyone can exude stylish, carefree cool. You don’t need to own the latest “it” bag or trend of the moment to be the subject of fashion envy. Take a cue from Bilson and layer classic items with a printed scarf, fedora, well-fitted blazer, leather boots, or an oversized bag or chain-link quilted purse. And never, ever leave the sunglasses at home.

For more adorable Bilson ensembles visit:

HOW TO: Bangin'

Gloss through any magazine and you will see tons of celebs such as Kate Moss and Rachel Bilson rocking some sweet bangs. Whether razor-straight or feathery side swipes, bangs are back. But before you schedule a saloon appointment to achieve some sultry strands, consider doing it yourself. Cutting your bangs involves just a scissors, comb, mirror, and a little bit of confidence. Consider these bangs-cutting tips from my trusted hairdress, Ji Han at Accent on Beaute, in Philadelphia.

1. Ji suggests beginning with dray hair styled as you normally wear it. Before you start snipping, measure from your hairline to your scalp to find a good part that works with your face. For side swipe bangs, make sure your part is more off center. If you have curly hair, avoid super short bangs, so as not to be confused with a Brett Micheal’s groupie.

2. Now that you have figured out you part and your length, add a ½ inch to create a little room for mistakes. For scissors Ji suggests thinning shears such as Krystal Thinning Shears (7.99 at Run a fine-tooth comb through your hair, separating your bangs and holding the strands evenly through your fingers. For side swipe bangs, angle your fingers so that it becomes longer at the sides. Do not cut straight across, but cut at a forty-five degree angle to give the bangs some feathering.

3. Uneven cutting works will with feathery bangs, but if you want the straight-across mod look, more attention is required. Comb the hair straight in front of your face and start cutting at the center and move to the side to secure an all-around even look

OBSESSION: Ellis Island

Imagine it: you’re at the annual CFDA awards and your name is called. The year is 1986. You already have eight COTY awards under your belt and you’re a designer who once sent the Princeton cheerleaders down the catwalk and skipped down the runway after your own shows.

While you should bound up to the podium and bellow, “I’m the queen of the world,” you wobble forth, unsteadily, balancing on the arm of an assistant. You sit atop a worldwide empire that (even today) rakes in more than $850 million annually, but you can barely walk. In less than six months, you’ll be dead.

On June 2, 1986, WWD ran an obit that began: “Perry Ellis, who built a multifaceted fashion empire with a young and spirited approach to casual sportswear, was one of America's most important designers. His death at the age of 46 marked the end of a design career that lasted just over 10 years, but that left an indelible stamp on this country's fashion industry.” To put it more simply, Perry Ellis was major.

But he didn’t start out that way. Ellis was born in a small Virginia town to middle-class parents. After a six-month stint in the Coast Guard, he landed in Manhattan in the early 60s, earning his master’s in retailing at New York University.

His own home life was a bit less straightforward. He has a daughter, Tyler Alexandra Gallagher Ellis, with Maude and Mary Tyler Moore writer Barbara Gallagher. He also cavorted with his lead menswear model, almost 20 years his junior. This was back in that heady, Judith Krantz-era in fashion when one could have a family and male model, and no one questioned it.

Things soon settled down for Ellis. In 1978, he launched his own fashion house, which women loved for the smart yet casual looks (we've pictured three classics: the peacoat, the causual khaki and the perfectly hideous Christmas sweater). Two years later he shacked up with attorney Laughlin Barker, who by 1981 was president of Perry Ellis International. Their Upper West Side townhouse fetched 5.7 million the year after they both died.

That same year, Ellis was given another, posthumous honor by the CFDA, who launched the Perry Ellis Award, going to Daryl K. for womenswear and Gene Meyer for mens. More recent winners include Zac Posen and Proenza Schouler.

And while he’s remembered annually by the CFDA with this endowment, it’s also important to remember Ellis on World AIDS Day, along with his many colleagues lost to the disease. Perry Ellis: a designer who could not draw, but knew how to represent.

HOW TO: Rock Sienna’s Braids

Leave that lust for Hollywood hairstyles behind. You can create Sienna Miller’s braided updo with these simple steps.

1. Wash your hair either the morning of or the night before you want to wear this sexy updo. The natural oils in your hair help create the look and hold the hair in the place.

2. Pull the hair back into a low messy bun and use bobby pins (whichever color suit your hair) to secure the bun.

3. Purchase one of Braidies Thick Braided Headbands, available for $10 at
Insider tip: measure around the perimeter of your head to see what length braid to buy.

4. Set the braid in place by using bobby pins to connect the braid to your scalp.

5. Loosely pull out stray strands on the sides of your head to give your hairstyle a more laid back feel.

PROFILE: Nada Between Me and My Keffiyeh

Think about your last shopping spree and how much you spent. Unless you’re a real housewife of Atlanta, you’re probably not keeping up with Mustafa Mohammed. The 28-year-old engineering and computer science grad details a recent trip Lebanon. “I blew four grand in 10 days,” he admits sheepishly, “I probably spent $25,000 this year on clothes.”

When sharing his fashion influences, he names his sister, who loves 70s and 80s vintage clothing and used to wear short skirts on the streets of Baghdad. I’m surprised, but Mohammed explains that in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Iraqi was very liberal. “Women wore short skirts,” he says, “It was like any other Western country.”

Medical care necessitated a six-year relocation to London in the 80s after Mohammed drank bleach as a toddler. “I wanted to be Michael Jackson,” he jokes. But his family returned to Baghdad where his sister continued working leather minis until about 1990. That’s when his native land became less fashion forward. “I can’t carry a bag,” he says, “after 2003, no rings or bracelets.”

Asked for a key designer, Mohammed rolls out an exhaustive list. “I love the vintage you can find in New York City,” he says, “vintage Gucci, Versace and Dior.” I’m almost onto the next question, but he holds up his hand. “I like Prada for suits, Vuitton for wallets, Versace and D&G for belts,” he continues, “for jeans I like Diesel and Robin’s Jean. And I like Mason and Ben Sherman for shoes.”

Ben Sherman? Isn’t that where shavs shop to dress up their East End blokes? “The have great shoes,” he replies, “you should check them out.” But he’s not finished. “I like Bottega for bags and Tumi for more formal ones. I just bought a gorgeous Tumi bag for about $400. Oh, and I like Josef Aboud for scarves.”

He’s ready to move onto gloves, but I want to know what he thinks of Jerk magazine, which recently ran an opinion piece on the politics behind the keffiyeh, a traditional Middle-Eastern cotton headdress that The Independent called “a symbol of Islamic militancy.” Arafat wore one, and Rachel Ray and Ricky Martin also got into hot water for theirs.

“The keffiyeh has nothing to do with Palestine,” he begins, “it is part of the traditional dress of many Arab countries in the Persian Gulf: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon.” He has keffiyehs in several colors he used to wear to high school. He pauses, then asks, “The P.L.O wears pants, too, should we stop wearing pants?”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

CRUSH: Magic Wand

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother transformed her from a lowly maid into the picture-perfect princess with the help of mice, pumpkins, and a little magic. Everything from the gossamer ball gown to the flowing ringlets and delicate glass slippers became classic fairytale style. Unfortunately, this day and age seems a little short on Fairy Godmothers and pixie dust. While ball gowns and glass slippers fell out of fashion, Cinderella’s romantic ringlet curls still possess stylish charm.

Without a Fairy Godmother’s help, however, we need our own magic wand: Hot Tools Professional Spring Curling Iron, the number one selling brand of styling tools in the professional industry according to the company’s website is the secret weapon behind many celebrity hair styles such as Sienna Miller’s tousled waves. The iron ($35) packs 85 watts of power and offers 10 different heat settings. The 24K gold plated barrel’s patented pulse technology heats the iron up in 60 seconds, and it maintains an even heat. Four times more powerful than a standard curling iron, this tool reaches 428 degrees Fahrenheit and ranges in barrel sizes from 3/8 inch to 2 inches.

Now if only finding a prince were this easy.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Your to-do list makes Santa’s accounting of the naughty and nice look like a post-it. But despite all you need to do, there’s one thing on your checklist you won’t want to neglect: The search for the perfect holiday frock. To find one that stands out from the rest, take a lacey cue from recent runway shows where the charming detail appeared as a sexy addition to the classic LBD (little black dress). Red-carpet fashionistas such as Blake Lively and Thandie Newton love the sexy trend as well. The biggest challenge with lace: It’s easy to look dowdy in the Victorian era fabric. So make sure to find a dress that’s youthful and accents your figure, so you’ll look modern, not matronly under the mistletoe.

(From left to right: Christopher Kane, Stella McCartney, Collette Dinnigan)

Start your search with these hot finds:

Left: This strapless sweetheart dress is sexy, yet still appropriate for an office party or family gathering. The stretchy material hugs your curves in all the right places.
Nicole Miller, $385, available at

Center: The sequined neckline adds a splash of glam to this feminine frock. For more coverage, pair this ¾ length sleeved tunic with leggings and structural heels.
Bloomingdale’s, $168, available at

Right: This lacey, tiered number is flirty and perfect for dancing the night away, and the low backline shows just enough skin to keep your man’s attention on you.
Express, $128.00, available at

REVIEW: Bigfoot Mystery Revealed

The mid-80s gem Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by The Smiths blared in my head. Nightmarish visions of John Waters’ Baltimore Footstomper (pictured in action, below left) haunted me. Somehow my right foot had somehow grown an entire shoe size.

This is more common than one would think. Podiatrist Arlene Hoffman says up to 60% of the population has mismatched feet. And my tootsies were now what “shoe swappers” would dub a 14/13 (the right shoe is always listed first, although in 80 percent of cases, the left foot’s bigger), but there was hope. The internet was rife with shoe swaps. Consider this:
While this website sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss, it’s much more practical. Maybe a bit too practical. Selections ran the gamut from running shoes to Birkenstocks. Let’s just say the “sensible” shoe set will be happy here. The Naturalizer “Prissy” pump was the only shoe we could find with an actual heel, but at $24.99 for each shoe, the pricing was competitive with other sites and often times even as much at $15 cheaper. Plus, shipping’s free.

This is another site the Birkenstock set will love. Just wondering, are lesbians predisposed or just preoccupied with what was once dubbed “happy feet” by comedian Steve Martin? (There’s even an entire section on women’s golf shoes, need we say more?) But the clog section is fun, albeit a little expensive with clogs just south of $100. Still, with both a giraffe and hot pink plaid pair, you can’t say it ain’t fun. Not so fun? This site will only cough up free shipping if you spend $75 or more, but returns are free and easy.

This site is kind of annoying. It requires a login and is more search-based than scrolling through pages of tiny thumbnail shoes (and really, is there anything closer to heaven than that?). This is the mother of all shoe swap sites and really created the market. So if you have a specific shoe in mind, you might want to take advantage of its search capability. A few of our searches turned up lots of Steve Madden and Kenneth Cole, but only one pair of Manolos. Then again, we are a size 14/13. Mens!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SNAPS: Standing Ovation

SU alumna Munyiva Munguti flaunts her personal style with bright pops of color and bold accessories at the Creations Dance Company's Annual Show.

HOW TO: Gifts That Keep On Ribbing

Mike Albo is fashion. The evidence: his day-off floppy hat of choice at left, his “Critical Shopper” column in The New York Times or the following from the “Ejaculations” section of “I don't change my clothes, I change yours.”

Albo’s comic novel, The Underminer, introduced the concept of the “frenemy.” The New York Times called it “passive aggression as an art form.” Albo subtitled his book: “The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life.” Without further ado, The Underminer is back to destroy your holidays with his top three insult gifts:

The Entire Biore Product Line
“Hey, I know you have this whole ‘rage against the machine’ scruffy look going on but sometimes poor hygiene is just masking a deeper pain. I just want you to know that you deserve love just like anyone else. I just worry about you.”

Renee Fleming Perfume
“We’ve all been saying how great and relieved we are that you have been wearing fragrance. But don’t get all crazy and soak yourself in cologne like you did with Drakkar in High School! Ha!”

Buttock Enhancers
“You look great! I didn't realize BCBG made velvet pants in a 14. Online orders, right? They look great on you! As a trend consultant for LVMH I have been so busy working on fashion concepts for 2011 that I almost forgot that you and other calendar-based consumers are only just now getting a look at the Fall 2008 season!”

photo credit: Blaise Allyson Kearsley

REVIEW: Olsen Fabulosity

Teen queens no more. Television, movies, accessories, clothing, and now a book. You name it, it resides on the Olsen’s resumes. Lately, their book, Influence, has been stealing the spotlight. But lets talk clothes.

The twins launched The Row in 2007. This line radiates simplicity but in the Olsen’s oh-so boho-chic manner. Knits make up much of the line with some leather and fur mixed in. If you still need a fabulous outfit for the holiday season, try the velvet Backless Gown in Fir (original price $1,500, sale price $899, The mermaid hem trailing across the floor provides the perfect drama for a Christmas Eve or New Years extravaganza. Paired with the lamb-shearling Tennebaum Coat, the gown becomes a luxurious scene-stealer (original price $3,750, sale price $2,249, But if you want to keep it casual this holiday season, The Row also features a number of more informal knits, such as the long-sleeved Crowneck Tee in Grey ($350, Worn with the super tight and sleek Davies Jean ($345,, even the most laid-back person looks sophisticated.

If you possess budget boundaries, but you still want to radiate Olsen fabulosity, don’t worry. Launched shortly after The Row, the Elizabeth and James line (named after the Olsen’s younger sister and older brother), features sportswear that incorporates both feminine and masculine details to create a unique look for slightly less. The Kimberly Silk Blouse in golden, features a tie-up neck and large bell sleeves ($275, Wear it with jeans or leggings and heels. Try the Aurora Dress in amethyst ($475, This extremely short pleated dress shows off those legs at any holiday party. Or opt for a fashion standard: the Pleated Pencil Skirt in ebony ($275, Whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong with an item the Olsen name.

HOW TO: Princess from the Past

They say fashion never fades. And, with the reemergence of looks from the Romantic Period in England that statement remains true. Lace, ruffles, bows, and puff sleeves soften an ensemble and transform your into a princess from the past in no time. Follow these steps to channel your inner Bronte.
1. Start with a top that boasts plenty of ruffles but also allows you to show off those great curves (Chiffon Ruffle Blouse in Black and Cream, $22.80,
2. Next up — that oh-so sleek high waist pencil skirt (Milano High Waist Pencil Skirt, $17.80,
3. Pick pumps that mimic the ruffles on your blouse (Ruffles Black Satin, original price $99.95, sale price $69.99,
4. Ramp up the style by adding a patent-leather clutch that adds chic elegance (Bflora Quilted Cork Clutch, $48,
5. Lastly, add a few wavy curls to your hair, some powder for porcelain-looking skin, and red lipstick and just watch the Heathcliff's line up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

HOW TO: Better Black Celebration Tips

Jennifer Melnick Carota styles herself a new-age, gifting guru. So who better to ring up before "Black Friday" - the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest retail day of the year - to give us her holiday shopping survival guide? The Pennsylvania native combined her expertise as a licensed mental-health counselor and reformed shopaholic and "The Gift Therapist" was born. And because she's down with Salty, our readers can snatch a free download that she calls the "Cliff Notes" version of her latest book Giveology .

Consider her tips for the best Black Friday:

1. Prepare for Invasion. Jennifer suggests you organize before you shop. "Clean out your wallet to include only the cash, credit cards and photo identification needed to make your purchases," she says. "Creating a separate shopping wallet is a simple way to keep everything organized throughout the holiday shopping season."

2. Keep It Real. Identity theft ranks high on her list. "Play it safe," she cautions. "Keep a detailed list of the plastic in your shopping wallet and store them in a safe place at your home. Include card name, account number and customer service phone number. If your wallet disappears, quick access to this info is invaluable."

3. Don't Run on Empty. Just because you head to the mall at 4 a.m., don't skip on breakfast and bring extra fuel. "Pack a snack," she instructs. "During a long day of shopping, keep you blood glucose balanced by nibbling on granola or homemade trail mix. They'll boost your stamina, mood and budget."

4. Dress You Up. That isn't just early Madonna for the Gift Therapist. "You are on a mission," she states, "dress accordingly. Minimize primping and wear comfortable clothes and sneakers. Leave your bulky coat in the car and rely on a fleece pull-over for the parking lot. You can tie it around your waist later and still have two hands to manage all of your shopping bags."

5. The Mission's Mantra. And it wouldn't be Black Friday without a Satanic backwards message. "Shop backward," Jennifer suggests. "Buy small gifts, then big. Hit the clearance racks first. Challenge yourself to come in under budget." And remember, kids, it's a jungle out there, but when that shopping list is all crossed off, you can always crash out on The Gift Therapist's couch.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TRIPLE THREAT: All That Glitters

As the snow falls and the light disappears, it’s easy for a girl to lose her twinkle. But take your inspiration from those lights adorning fraternity houses, sparkly wrapping paper that lines store shelves, and the way the snow reflects the smallest glimmer. You also can get your shine thanks to parade of sequins on this season’s holiday fashion. When planning your winter wardrobe, consider these glittery items that revive any dull winter wardrobe. These glistening pieces also provide an instant mood adjustment.

Consider these looks:

1)Chevron Sequins Top – Charlotte Russe; $20
2)Sequin Sprinkle Dress – Forever 21; $28
3)Silence & Noise Menswear Vest – Urban Outfitters; $78

4)Sequined Converse – Nordstrom; $82
5)Serena Mini – Delias; $38