Weekly Roundup: Punchy Spring Neutrals

Two positive things are happening in retail at the moment. First, Madewell, Anthropologie, Banana Republic and Anne Taylor Loft are at last offering extended size ranges in their merchandise assortments. Second, we’re finally seeing below-the-knee dress and skirt lengths that aren’t ankle length maxis. It’s shaping up to be an even better season than I thought.

Here are some neutral items across a range of price points that worked well on my clients recently. Some items made it into my own wardrobe, and I’m delighted. All items are quietly interesting but north of simple because they pack a little extra punch through fabrication, embellishments, and clever design detailing.

  • Ann Taylor Ruffle Tweed Long Jacket: One of the best long Spring tweed jackets I've seen. It's flounced, but hangs off the body in an angular way. Works on a range of body types. Streamlined. It would have been mine in a light colour.
  • Banana Republic Eyelet Hem Couture Sweatshirt: Super cute and very soft opaque sweatshirt with adorable eyelet trim. Best on straight hips because the cut is not forgiving on the hem.
  • Burberry Dot & Giant Check Wool & Silk Gauze Scarf: The iconic wool-silk Burberry scarf is a timeless item - even with polka dots. I prefer the version with the red dots, which to me is still quite neutral.
  • Banana Republic Asymmetric Ruffle-Hem Pencil Skirt: A good skirt for both a straighter or curvier figure. Surprisingly flattering. Runs a size big. Looks fab matched with white, black, olive, toffee and red.
  • Ann Taylor Striped Pearlized Trim Blazer: An excellent striped KNIT blazer that looks extremely crisp. Very comfortable, polished and does not crease. I love the pearl buttons. The fit is fab on a larger bust and curvy body type. Runs a size big.
  • Boden Kristie Broderie Top: A quality item with a Modern Retro flavour. The lacy eyelet is soft and crisp. The blue fabric is chambray. The fit is fluid yet streamlined. Covered yet breezy. Best on a longer neck and smaller bust. This pretty little darling earned a place in my wardrobe and is magical with white cropped straight jeans. I tried the version in white but felt like Little Bo Peep. I vote blue.
  • Madewell Ainsley Chelsea Bootie: Extremely comfortable, ultra refined and very well made gold booties. Classic yet futuristic. The gold is subtle and not garish. Best on a low or regular volume foot with narrow ankles. At first I hesitated because the brogue detailing was too masculine for my style, but they ultimately earned a place in my wardrobe because the gold pops them back into "pretty" territory. I've worn them three times already and love them.
  • Halogen Short Trench Coat: A fab cropped trench coat for a warm climate. Super cute. Hangs open beautifully.
  • Ann Taylor Pearlized Flare Crop Pants: The pearl buttons on these navy cropped flares just about launched me into orbit. The pants fit a curvier body type quite well. Straighter figures should size down. Might run a size big. They are long and cannot be hemmed so order petite. Fabric is soft and substantial. Great drape.
  • Banana Republic Tweed Mock-Neck Sheath Dress: Fab dress for a straighter figure with a smaller bust and longer neck. Super cute with flats.
  • Halogen Teagen Sneaker: A flatform with a flexible rubber sole that bends as you stride. Best on higher volume feet.
  • Banana Republic Eyelet Maxi Dress: STUNNING high-low maxi dress that earned a place in my wardrobe. It looks like a designer piece and absolutely WOWED me. It's well made and 100% bra-friendly. The eyelet is soft, and comfortable. Flattering, tailored, dramatic and very pretty. Love the defined waist. The sleeves are much shorter in person. The hem cannot be shortened easily, so by all means order petite. It runs a little big, but not too bad. The length is about three inches longer on me than on the model. The bottom two tiers of the skirt are not lined which adds visual lightness to the style. I'll be wearing it with white flats and a denim jacket when I need a topper. The white eyelet is just as gorgeous. 100% cotton and machine washable too.
  • Madewell Brady Block Heel Bootie: Well made cut-out booties for higher volume feet. Comfortable, crisp and polished.
  • Catherine Catherine Malandrino Sloan Tie-Waist Dress: I haven't seen this dress in person yet, but it looks interesting. Streamlined and camouflages midsection lumpage and bumpage. Fun diagonal lines, and just enough length.
  • PAIGE Nellie Clean Front Culotte Jeans: I had high hopes that these white denim culottes would be stiff, crisp and substantial. They are soft, stretchy and drapey, which is not what I'm looking for - but my clients tend to like this type of denim so you might too. Very comfortable and roomy on the legs.
  • Club Monaco Matie Trench: Olive trench coats are rare, and this one is gorgeous. Well made, crisp and polished. Might run a little narrow.
  • Boden Rosabel Heels: A simple Mary Jane in a classic pattern makes a statement. Comfortable and great quality. Read the rave reviews.
  • Boden Classic Belt: A navy belt with brassy GOLD hardware is rare. I haven't seen this in person yet but it's on its way to me.
  • Banana Republic Soft Jersey Twist Top: A super soft less-than-basic tee with a knotted welt. Works on a range of body types. Read the rave reviews.
  • Banana Republic Soft Sustainable Modal Cross-Front Top: Silky to the touch and better than a basic tee. The diagonal lines on the hem add interest and structure. Great on its own or layered under a topper.
  • J.Crew Ruffle pencil skirt in 365 crepe: A ruffled tailored pencil skirt with length adds a playful touch to a work look. GREAT length.
  • Ann Taylor Stripe Tie Neck Blouse: A surprisingly flattering KNIT blouse that cleverly accentuates the waist while camouflaging muffin top. The drape of the fabric makes the elastic waist fall a whole lot better than this type of silhouette usually does. Great for high-waisted bottoms and travel. Crease-resistant. Available in solids.

Visit the collection page to see the items alongside my descriptions.

Ensemble: Dark With a Colourful Kick

I enjoy wearing black with dark blue, but add a bit of a kick so that the visual effect isn’t quite so dark. Of course, you may prefer to keep the combination dark and that works too. 

Last weekend, I pulled together a smart casual outfit that I thoroughly enjoyed. It combined dark blue cropped straight jeans with a black and cream turtleneck, an ink blue polka dot blazer, a chartreuse coat, citron bag, pom-pom, and cream high-tops. I swapped out the sneakers for cream boots in the evening when we went out to dinner. The chartreuse coat is a roomy cocoon silhouette that works well layered over a blazer. Here are the exact items from my wardrobe.

Combine black and dark blue in any way at all. The kick can be bright or subtle, or leave it out completely. The outfit on the left approximates my own outfit from last week. The kick came through in the cream and yellow additions. The other rendition was inspired by a client. Combine black bottoms with a navy top and black jacket. Add black, silver or pearl grey footwear. Add lots of chunky silver jewellery and a silver or grey bag. The scarf is optional.

Ensemble: Dark With a Colourful Kick

Link Love: Olympic Figure Skating Costumes

Designer Vera Wang, who used to be a figure skater herself, reflects on more than 20 years of designing Olympic figure skating costumes.

I also enjoyed this Racked article explaining everything that’s involved with making these costumes.

French figure skater Maé-Bérénice Méité received lots of comments because she wore a a bodysuit with pants for the ladies’ short event.

The Huffington Post looks back at “some of the best, boldest and most memorable men’s Olympic skating costumes through the years.”

Fab Links from Our Members

Many of us long to wear Spring clothes, but need to dress for Winter for at least a few more weeks. The Cat directs us to some tips from Brenda Kinsel that might help.

L’Abeille came across this very interesting read about how “department stores are basically the reason women were allowed in public.”

Firecracker was touched by this report on Carolina Herrera’s farewell show as designer of her clothing line. Wes Gordon is taking over as head designer.

L.L. Bean is tightening its generous return policy. Aquamarine says: “Of course it was abused, human nature being what it is, so I can’t say I blame them.”

Beth Ann would like to share this article about the styling of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in “Grace and Frankie. She adds: “The music used in the show is as good as the styling!”

Last but not least, our wonderful YLF’er Jane was featured on the website of Libby, a British clothing label that makes all their clothes in London. Doesn’t Jane look super stylish!


Punchy Spring Neutrals

An assortment of less than basic neutrals that are quietly interesting.

Read More

Spring Prep

It’s never to early to think about Spring fashion because it lifts our Winter spirits.

Read More

Dresses & Tops

A post-holiday assortment of dresses and tops.

Read More

Free People

A casual selection of items with a beachy and bohemian vibe.

Read More

Fall Items

Top picks this week range from plus size toppers to patterned socks.

Read More

COS Items

Some fab architectural COS pieces to add some arty avant-garde to your style.

Read More

A Guide to Clothing Alterations for Perfect Fit

I highly recommend having clothing altered to create perfect fit. A successful alteration makes the garment look proportional, balanced and flattering, and is well worth the expense. That said, the garments need to approach perfect fit in their unaltered state if alterations are to yield the best results. Sometimes sizing up or down will greatly improve the fit instead of fiddling with an alteration.

Some people believe that all clothing is alterable. After seeing far too many unsuccessful alteration attempts, I beg to differ. In many cases it’s best to abandon the idea of alterations and look for something else in a better fit.

Here’s a rundown of when I think items are worth the time, trouble and expense of an alteration.

Shortening LENGTHS

Sleeve lengths and garment lengths that need shortening are easy alterations when the items already have hems. Frayed hems are an easy at-home hack job. The shortening alteration is more expensive when garments are lined. Knitwear, or items with finished borders can usually not be hemmed, but you might be able to alter the length from the top of the garment. Sleeves or hems with zippers like moto jackets can be shortened at a price.

Reducing WIDTHS

It’s easy to reduce the width on a garment in the torso, legs or sleeves when it has simple side seams and you’re not touching the waistband or armholes. Altering is trickier when side seams have detailing like piping, pockets, ruching or tuxedo stripes, but not impossible. Again, lined garments are more pricey to alter.

I do not recommend trying to alter the shoulder width of a garment because the results are generally below par.

Narrowing ARMHOLES

Sleeveless garments with armholes that are too wide can sometimes be taken in at the side seams to reduce the size of the armholes. The shoulder seams can also be suppressed to decrease the size of the armhole.

I do not recommend trying to narrow the armholes of sleeved garments because the results are generally poor.


Bottoms that need waistband narrowing are a little tricky and pricey, but definitely worth it. It’s awful when bottoms fall down or when waistbands move around the body because they’re too wide. The waistbands on pants and jeans are usually altered at the back. The waistbands on skirts are generally narrowed at the side seams, or darts are sewn into the garment.


Necklines on tops and dresses are hard to narrow, but not impossible. Sometimes they can be taken in at the shoulder seams, or a button can be adjusted to make the fit tighter on the neck. Adding darts at the back of the garment can narrow a neckline too.


Side entry pockets that gape on pants and skirts can be sewn shut to create a smooth fit. Pocket linings that grin through the front of the garment can sometimes be removed to create the same smooth fit.


It’s easy to adjust the position of a button to create a better fit, especially on jackets and coats. You can also narrow the cuff of a shirt sleeve or blouse by adjusting the position of the buttons.

If you sew, you can do your own alterations. If not, you need to find a competent tailor. Some stores offer good alterations services, which is very handy.

I very seldom need to shorten an item of clothing, but I do need to narrow waistbands from time to time because of my slight sway back. If I want a snug fit at the back of a pair of jeans or pants that are high in the rise, I need to have the waistband taken in. Sometimes I reduce the width of dresses and skirts at the side seams. I also adjust the button positions on coats, jackets and cuffs to create a narrower fit. Occasionally if it’s doable, I narrow a neckline on a blouse with some darts.

Feel free to discuss your alterations experiences in the comments section. I’m happy to help you with your alterations challenges.

Weekly Roundup: Spring Prep

Fun Spring items are surfacing at retail, and especially online. I’m enjoying the resurgence of structure, tailoring, and dressiness, because it’s been a while since we’ve seen them make a fashion statement. There are LOTS of skirts and dresses, which is a nice change too. 

Here are items that were winners on my clients this week. Some of them earned a place in my wardrobe.

  • Boden Julieta Lace Dress: A WOW casual lace dress. A modern classic casual Summer frock WITH LENGTH that looks gorgeously fresh amidst a sea of unstructured minis. The lace is soft and the dress is lined. The tailoring is gorgeous. Party at the back. The length cannot be hemmed, but petite lengths are an option. Best on a longer and defined waist, but can work on a straighter body type. A little tricky on a larger bust and short waist. It's an awfully pretty dress that has earned a place in my wardrobe in pink. I intend to wear it CASUALLY with flats. I don't like the way it's been styled with dressy heels here. Runs a size big so I need to have mine altered to fit. (Stocks are already low).
  • Pilcro And The Letterpress | Anthropologie Pilcro Embroidered Mid-Rise Cropped Bootcut Jeans: These jeans look like casual patterned pants, and are awfully cute in a Modern Retro way. The washed denim does not look distressed. Polished! They will fit both a curvier and straighter body type because they mould to the body - but NOT in a jeggings type way. Fabric is thick creating a tailored look, so you feel like you're wearing jeans and not tights. A quality item that followed me home. I could not resist the pretty embroidered white daisies. I will need to have them altered at the back of the waist to fit perfectly.
  • Ann Taylor Plaid Pencil Skirt: A very comfortable and ultra soft pencil skirt that works on a range of body types.
  • Ann Taylor Double Breasted Tweed Jacket: A boxy Spring tweed blazer that works on a larger bust. Amazing white buttons.
  • MATISSE Half Moon Ankle Strap Loafer: Great backless ankle strap loafers for wider feet. Comfy and quite unique. They were too wide for me, but super cute on the foot.
  • SSUNG | Anthropologie Tenor Check Shirt Dress: A fab dress for a curvy body type like an hourglass or pretty pear. Excellent on a larger bust, and on-trend over a pair of skinnies or leggings.
  • Halogen Pocket Detail Stripe Tunic Top: The photo does not do the style of the shirt justice. It's well made and creates a nice avant-garde effect over slim bottoms. Lovely pinstripe. Weighty fabric.
  • Chino By Anthropologie | Anthropologie Relaxed Embroidered Chino Pants: Great chinos for a straight, boyish body with narrow thighs. Lilac gets my vote.
  • Anthropologie | Anthropologie Washed Wanderer Utility Pants: Great chinos for a curvy body type that need room on the thighs. You must sink the waistband lower onto the hips though. The mustard looks surprisingly fresh.
  • Anthropologie Embroidered Wanderer Utility Pants: Pretty embroidered chinos for both a slightly straighter or curvier body type.
  • Hispanitas Melanie Pointy Toe Pump: Very comfortable and well made teal floral pumps. Quality item.

Visit the collection page to see the items alongside my descriptions.