Fashion: A Battle of the Sexes

When it comes to fashion, as women, we like to follow trends, no matter how short-lived they may be. Modeling your ‘look’ to emulate a celebrity is also a familiar concept. Overall, our style is an outward reflection of our personality; we dress the way that we feel. For instance, if we’re feeling sexy, a pair of heels or even a hint of leopard print will inevitably be incorporated in our outfit somehow. But if we’re feeling dreadful, our attire may be a little less than desirable that day (i.e. sweatpants).

But what do men think about our fickle style picks or penchant for rocking the latest trend? After conducting a survey earlier this year for Examiner.com, inclusive of 50 men from all over the country (each from various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, ranging in age from 19 to 48), I learned the answer to that question and more.

Ultimately, I discovered that men and women are not on the same page when it comes to style. Just as women often hate the things men wear, men disagree with our choices as well. In reality, they’d prefer that we ditch the trendy apparel altogether and simply dress to impress them. That’s right, over 80% of respondents noted that their favorite outfit on a woman consisted of anything that accentuated the female figure; generously using words such as”‘fitted” and “tight.” Additionally, the male respondents insisted that we completely ditch a number of trendy items from our fashion repertoire, including color blocking ‘fits, cowboy boots and high waist pants. Other fashion duds mentioned included spandex leggings and baggy, camouflage pants. In other words, women can’t win unless we’re dressing provocatively — that is, according to men.

So, we’re embattled in this fashion conundrum.  Should we dress for comfort? Dress for style? Dress for men? I say to dress in a manner that makes you feel good. After all, if a guy can’t accept you and your _________ (insert noteworthy adjective here) style, then he’s just not that into you.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/jennifer-brix/fashion-a-battle-of-the-sexes/

Bling in the New Year…

The countdown begins! Whether it’s watching the acorn descend in downtown Raleigh or viewing the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort of your couch, the pressure is on to find a way to send 2011 off with a bang and ring in 2012. Add to that pressure, finding the perfect outfit! Last year was easy for me. I was already in Nashville to see the Tar Heels in bowl game action, so it was natural to stay and celebrate on the streets of Music City. My fanciest bejeweled premium denim, a fun polka dot top and Carolina electric blue boots had me dressed in Nashville city slicker style. The year before that a girlfriend and I escaped to Wrightsville Beach. I could have sported flip flops! Instead, it was dark wash skinny jeans and a fancy fuchsia ruffled top for dining out and toasting with friends. Nothing like waking up to the roar of the ocean and kicking off the New Year with sand between your toes! And what’s in store for this year? Well, I’ve got about 36 hours to figure it out, and I have a hunch that I’m not alone.

My motto for New Year’s Eve? Bring on the bling! This is the one night of the year where you can let yourself glow. Pull out the baubles and the sparkles and let it shine! You’ll feel better justifying the existence of all those buried treasures in your jewelry box. Feel the need for something new? Stores are filled with sequins and jewels and all things bling this holiday season. Check out the windows of boutiques around town for inspiration. Below is a trio of shimmer (all under $100) at East 54′s boutique Fabrik.

Does a last minute party invitation have you scouting for outfit options? First, it’s time to look through the closet of New Year’s past. Check the fancy section of your wardrobe and see what sparks your interest. If this is a different crowd than last year’s party then you can easily do a repeat outfit. (Can’t remember what you wore? Check your camera phone or Facebook for pictures.) A halter top that sparkles and fancy heels paired with dark dressy denim is a look that will work most anywhere. Going to a gala? A colorful cocktail dress (think jewel tones) or your staple LBD (Little Black Dress) is in order. And don’t forget to add the bling! As I’ve shared in articles past, if you’ve had no luck in your own closet and are tight on funds, don’t despair! Consignment stores, sale racks or your best friend’s closet could land you the perfect look at the perfect price.

Outerwear options are important on a cold winter’s night. A statement coat, one of this year’s top trends, is a must. If you have access to the matriarchal vintage fur, this is the perfect night to put it on for the party parade. The faux fur trimmed coat Santa brought or the gorgeous wool cape that was under the tree will keep you warm and stylish if you are on the streets at the stroke of midnight.

Cheers to a safe and stylish New Year no matter where you are or what you wear!

How will you bling in the New Year? Share your ideas for celebrating in style.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-fashion-plate/bling-in-the-new-year/

Uncommon Threads – A Common Connection

Several years ago my Mom, Pat Lopp, gave me the coolest black and crème skirt with a patch-work of panels in different fabrics sewn together….one corduroy, one polka dot, one toile, one swirls.  When I looked at the tag it said Uncommon Threads.  I thought, “What a creative designer!”  Fast forward a few years and Uncommon Threads becomes a common connection—Chapel Hill, in fact.  I’m researching a story for Chapel Hill Magazine and selecting items for their 2007 Holiday Gift Guide.  I fall in love with a funky black corduroy skirt with color block panels at the clothing boutique Wink inside Cameron’s at University Mall.  Its label says Uncommon Threads.  I think back to my closet and say, “Hey, I own one of these creations!”  I finally learn the line was created by Chapel Hill native Donna McMillan, sister of Cameron’s own Bridget McMillan Pemberton-Smith and Wendy McMillan Smith.   
I asked Bridget and Wendy what it was like growing up with an aspiring fashion designer.  “Donna was always making something creative with her sewing machine.  She often made us really cool clothes.  Also, I think her creativity really helped me to tap into my own creativity,” says Bridget.
The name alone helps explain what sets Uncommon Threads apart from other lines available at Wink.  “Donna’s skirts are really unique,” explains Bridget.  “People like the idea that they can buy one and be one of a very few persons with that same skirt.  Our customers love that they are made by a Chapel Hill native.  Several of our customers know Donna personally and the love that they can support a friend’s business.” 
Unique is right!  And that’s what personally draws me to her designs.  Here are a few examples.
   
Follow me from the cozy college town of Chapel Hill where Donna got her start to the quaint coastal village of Georgetown, SC where she now resides and creates.  Here is a peak into Donna’s design world via a recent Q&A with The Fashion Plate.
 
Give Chapelboro readers a history of Uncommon Thread’s evolution.
 
I’ve been sewing pretty much all my life; mostly for fun but also for profit. My decision to start Uncommon Threads came about from a combination of things: burn-out from a 20 year restaurant stint, mid-life crisis/awareness and encouragement from family, especially, Bridget and Wendy (sisters who run local favorite Cameron’s at University Mall). The internet has also been a huge inspiration. Living in this area made it difficult to buy fabric and supplies locally. The internet made finding what I wanted possible and fun. The business started by making skirts to sell at Wink, Cameron’s clothing boutique. There has been a lot of trial and error but the styles that seem to sell best are the original appliquéd designs, the panel skirts which incorporate recycled denim and simple basic skirts using fun fabric.

      

Describe your design space and inspirations for new creations.
 
I work at home where space once designated for dining or entertaining has been taken over by fabric, pins, measuring devices, patterns, etc. I have a room where most of my fabric is stored and where all the sewing and pressing is done. Most of the cutting is done on my dining room table. Regarding inspiration, sometimes it’s a piece of fabric that leads to envisioning a finished garment. Handbags and other accessories often have details that can be translated into an article of clothing. Current events and social trends have had great influence on some things. Recycling denim and men’s shirts has been done fairly frequently.
 
Color blocking is a big trend this fall. A lot of your skirts already incorporate this theme. How much do current trends influence your designs?
 
I have been a fan of color block designs for a long time. My dog appliqué skirts have done pretty well at Cameron’s. The most popular ones are probably those with a black silhouette of a particular dog breed on a bright background with a contrasting band at the hem. I’ve also added collars which provide an additional color to the mix. I’d like to come up with a new theme for fall! As far as design trends are concerned, I stay pretty basic. There are so many fun things out there and I love to see how people coordinate scarves, leggings and jewelry with my skirts. Women are so busy these days and my main goal is simply to have something that’s cute, comfortable, durable and easy to take care of.


Besides visiting your sisters at Wink inside Cameron’s where can fashionistas find your line?
 
Taylor’s in Pawleys Island, SC
Harbor Specialties in Beaufort, NC
www.donnaskirts.com This web address now takes you directly to my Facebook page where you can see all the latest things that are going on.
 
My all-time favorite skirt is one you designed for me when I was writing for Chapel Hill Magazine.  It oozes my personality with a patchwork of colorful polka dots on a chocolate brown corduroy background. (And you had never met or seen me!) Do clients have pieces commissioned?
 
A large chunk of my business lately has been custom sewing. The best way to contact me is probably through my Facebook page. People can look through the photo albums and see past projects to get ideas of the kind of things I’ve done.

        
 

Can you give us a glimpse into the future of Uncommon Threads?
 
Although I plan to concentrate on skirts, I’d like to try some casual dresses. There are so many nice knits available now. Many are eco-friendly such as rayon made from bamboo. I’ve been intimidated by knits but I think I’d like to give it a try.
 
Thanks to Donna for sharing her story and to Bridget and Wendy for helping to promote her unique design line in Chapel Hill!
 

Feel free to share your comments on local designers below and let us know if you own a favorite Uncommon Threads piece.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-fashion-plate/uncommon-threads-a-common-connection/

I Wanna Be a RepliKate

I know a lot of people in England think the Royals are obsolete. But I love them. Scratch that – I love Kate Middleton. Er, Duchess Catherine. Whatever.

She is transforming the style of the twentysomething for the better, and I love her for that. She’s idyllic but still relatable. And most of all- she is tasteful, sophisticated and always chic.

That’s the woman I want to dress like.

Her style is SO timeless that it’s almost a blank slate. Kate gives the modern twentysomething a classy template with which to work with. Her looks can be boho-ed up, bedazzled or casualized depending on your personal style. And budget.

New York Fashion Week agrees- keep an eye out for pieces that scream Middelton in stores. They’re everywhere. And it’s awesome! Nothing wrong with a twentysomething woman with sophistication.

Of course, not everyone can sport a 4389025 carat sapphire on their left hand or a Burberry trench coat. But that’s not all Kate wears- she shops at places like Zara that really aren’t too expensive. Comparable to Banana Republic, maybe.

Parents… who do you want your 15 year old to think about when she goes shopping? Kim Kardashian… or Duchess Catherine?

What do you think about Kate’s style?

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-twentysomething-brain/i-wanna-be-a-replikate/

Summer Fashion Trends in Full Force…

It’s hot out there! So cool off at the mall and take advantage of the sales that have started and will continue into August at area retailers. Here are five summer fashion trends in full force.  
 
Feathers – Fashion pays tribute to a Native American influence this season. Feathers faux and real have found their way onto just about everything—whether they’re dangling from your ears, adorning your shoes or attached to your mane in the form of a hair extension (A la Steven Tyler on American Idol this season). Peacock is my personal favorite. I found a dangling pair of peacock feather earrings at the beach this spring that make a perfect accent piece.
 
Maxi Dresses – Almost everyone can wear this long revival from the 60’s and 70’s.  They’re showing up from the beach to the streets at everything from charity fundraisers to poolside summer soirees.  I saw several fashionistas rocking colorful maxi dresses a few weeks ago at U-Mall’s Sweet Carolina concert series.  Maxi dresses come in a wide variety of fabrics, patterns, silhouettes and price points. Choose from bohemian loose to figure flaunting fitted. Add bangles, a long necklace and either flat sandals or wedges to complete the look.

Jumpsuits – Chanel your inner Farrah Fawcett with a long flowy jumpsuit or a short summer romper, also called a playsuit. Jumpsuits were enormously popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s and then again in the 1980’s as flying suits (I’m pretty sure the movie Top Gun influenced that name!). Word to the fashion-wise—not everyone can get away with this look. Fashion rules remind us that the closer the style a new jumpsuit is to one you may have worn in the 1980’s (or before), the more you should reassess the fad as a viable fashion for you.  Sometimes you have to know when to give in gracefully. However, if you’ve got the gams—rock it!
 
Nautical—I had to throw in a summer trend that men could embrace too! The nautical look is one that’s present to a degree every spring and summer.  This year its presence is on high alert. Examples are classic American boat shoes, double-breasted sometimes-sailor-looking blazers, the hue of blue in countless designers’ collections, boatneck/scoop necklines, and horizontal stripes.


Honeysuckle—This pinkish-red hue has been deemed the color of 2011. (Yes, there is a research entity called the Pantone Color Institute that makes these decisions!) You might be confused about the name as I was, because the honeysuckle flower can be shades of white or yellow. For me, honeysuckle evokes the sweet taste of that very rare heavenly delicacy called honeysuckle sorbet served up at Crook’s Corner a few weeks each spring. For others it’s a happy childhood olfactory memory—catching a whiff of the honeysuckle growing wild while riding bikes through the Lake Forest neighborhoods. I digress. Back to the pinkish-red shade which is a gorgeous summer color for dresses, jewelry, wraps and even lip gloss! Try a honeysuckle halter paired with a pair of white jeans or shorts for a hot summer look.

Beat the heat with these cool looks, and remember—summer’s not over yet!
 
These are a few of my summer fashion trend ideas….share yours below!
http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-fashion-plate/summer-fashion-trends-in-full-force/