Fab Tie-Front Tops

Tie-front tops are shirts, blouses and knitted tops with self-fabric belts or contrast belts that tie at the natural waist. Some retailers refer to them as tie tops, belted tops or wrap tops. Before the addition of a belt, fits are tailored, fluid or oversized. Regardless of the fit, once the belt is tied around the smallest part of the waist, a fabulous amount of structure is created. 

Tie-front tops are made of woven or knitted fabrics across all sorts of weights. Some tie-front tops are as sheer and delicate as a silk scarf, whereas others feel as substantial as a lightweight jacket. Lengths vary from hip length to tunics. Some are a little shorter than hip length, making them ideal to wear with skirts. The collection below showcases both dressy and casual tie-front tops for visual reference. 

Ann Taylor
Side Tie Top
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Top Pick
7
Zara
Striped Blouse Details
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Top Pick
2

Tie-front tops are a nice way to update a business casual or business formal wardrobe. They’re also fab with jeans for a smart casual vibe. The self-colour belt does a marvelous job of elongating AND defining the waist by accentuating vertical integrity. It also does wonders to shorten a long waist. 

The tie-front top is naturally suited to a taller, curvier figure with a defined and regular or long waist. I’ve also seen it work on short waists and petites with a smaller bust when the proportions and drape are dead right. If you’re apple shaped or carry a little extra on the midsection, you’ll find that some of the fluid styles with wider belts effectively conceal muffin top providing a relaxed tailored look. The silhouette can also add curvature to a rectangular figure or inverted triangle body type with a straight waist and hip. A short waist with a large bust on the other hand, is trickier to fit with a tie-front top because it creates “a block” or “a shelf” on the torso despite the cinching in at the waist. In this case a wide or V-neckline can break up the block and create a more streamlined silhouette. 

I’m welcoming the tie-front top with open arms because we desperately need a break from the slouch — or at least some alternatives to it. You know that retail has gone overboard with sloppy oversized fits when tailored items look fresh and new. I vote bring back the tailoring and amp up the polish. I want to give these tops a whirl, but prefer them sans topper so they’ll be high Summer items for me. How about you?

ESTNATION Belted Wrap Blouse

PROTAGONIST Cotton-poplin Tunic

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Weekly Roundup: Replenishing my Basics

Wardrobe Basics are not the same as Wardrobe Essentials. Basics are items like underpants, bras, camisoles, socks, shapewear, sleepwear, loungewear, hosiery and thermals. They require our attention about twice a year — once for hot weather and once for cold weather — because they’re an extremely important part of our wardrobe. They’re workhorses that are frequently laundered, so a high level of comfort and quality are expected from them. Please don’t forget about them!

I know it’s hard to spend money on wardrobe basics because they aren’t visible to the eye, somewhat boring, and sometimes quite the fit challenge. Skimping on the replenishment of basics so that we can spend money on the “fun stuff” is a common shopping strategy — especially when budgets are tight. I can feel this way too, although I LOVE lacy underwear and enjoy buying it. But I bite the bullet and get the rest of it done. 

I love to have a fresh set of knickers, bras, camies and lounge sets. I wear them daily so they should make me feel fabulous.

I’ve been replenishing my basics over the last few months, and the collection showcases the exact items that I’ve bought (some across a range of colours). Note: I wear loungewear like most people wear pajamas or robes, which is why it’s an integral part of my style. 

  • Hanky Panky 'Logo To Go' Boyshorts: My favourite panty of all time. ALLURING. They're awfully pretty and flattering, and above all extremely comfortable. No VPLs, and a very good fit on a straighter or curvier hip and thigh. I love the Modern Retro styling. I have a full, round bottom and the coverage is ample. I thought they were cotton for the longest time - but they're modal. FEELS like the very best cotton against your skin. I have many, many pairs in black, nude, red, animal print and navy. Launders like iron. Well worth the price.
  • Hanky Panky Heather Jersey Boyshorts: My second favourite panty of all time. They're rayon but feel like cotton. Very pretty, comfy, good fit on a straighter or curvier body type, and work well with the matching camisole. I have them in charcoal and blush.
  • Hanky Panky Classic Heather Jersey Camisole: My new favourite pretty camisole because the lace is LOVELY peaking through from under a neckline. The shape is flattering on most body types and the lace is super soft. Love the rayon fabric, that feels like cotton. Comes with matching boy shorts, which I like and wear too. Wears like iron, and does not shrink after tumble drying. I wish they came in more colours.
  • BP Stretch Camisole: I've been wearing this camisole for twelve years - replenishing when I need to - and love it. It's VERY comfortable, cotton-rich, fits well, and launders well. It does not shrink in the tumble dryer. The satin strap adds a subtle pretty touch. It runs small and the cut is narrow, so size up. Excellent price. I have many in black and white, and wear them daily. I feel naked without them.
  • Halogen Skinny Strap Tank (Regular & Petite): A camisole that is well suited to a curvy figure like a pear or hourglass because it doesn't ride up at the hips. Extra long and fab for tall gals. The slightly built-up strap is nice too. Read the rave reviews.
  • Nordstrom Lingerie 'Lazy Mornings' Lounge Pants: LOVE these lounge pants and bought two pairs. One in the grey stripe, and one in a blue stripe that they're selling in stores. SUPER soft and comfortable, and look good too. Flattering fit. They run TTS if you want them to fit like the model. I prefer them baggier and sized up. VERY long, and good for tall gals. Extra fun in the stripes.
  • Honeydew Intimates French Terry Lounge Pants: SUPER soft track pants in a fun shade of blue. It has a substantial drawstring that gives a nautical vibe. Works on most body types, but will be short on tall gals. Slouchy fit.
  • Brunette Girls Crop Lounge Sweatshirt: Very fun, good quality cropped sweatshirt to wear over lounge pants. Cozy and warm. I have another sweatshirt by this brand, and it has gone the distance. Very long sleeves so not for petites, unless you scrunch or fold the sleeves.
  • Simone Perele 'Delice 3D' Molded Underwire Demi Bra: This is the prettiest bra in my capsule because of the demi shape and contrast lace. Makes the boobs look perky and fabulous. It's very lightweight so you can barely feel you're wearing a bra. Best suited to a small and regular size bust, and creates a gorgeous shape on the bust. ALLURING. Runs small. I have several in nude and black.
  • Simone Perele 'Caresse' Underwire Plunge Bra: This bra runs TTS, and it's one that I wear when I want an extra smooth silhouette under form-fitting clothes. The wide strap and large coverage on the bust area is girdling, supportive and streamlining. Does not cling onto back fat. I have them in nude and black.
  • Gibson Twist Front Fleece Pullover: Extremely soft and flattering tee with twist front knot detailing. Streamlined, but not clingy. Well worth the praise in the reviews. I bought the blue to wear with my lounge bottoms in the Summertime. Runs big.
  • Halogen Bateau Neck Top (Regular & Petite): Best shaped T-shirt I've seen all year. Slimming but not clingy. Traditionally flattering. Soft, silky and substantial fabric. Works well for moderate muffin top and larger bust. Perfect on a long neck and small bust. Available in stripes and solids. Well worth the glowing reviews. I bought them in navy and the red stripe to wear with my lounge bottoms in the Summertime.
  • Nordstrom 3-Pack Sheer Knee Highs: I wear nude knee-highs with trousers and jeans in the Spring when it's too cold to go barefoot in loafers, booties, pumps and oxfords. These are my favourite because they are affordable, and you can choose a shade that works best with your skin tone. They launder well, and stay put most of the time, although sometimes I have to pull them up.

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

Travel Capsule for an Eight-Day Spring Trip

I’ll be heading out to the Netherlands over the weekend to see my dear 84-year old Dad. I’ll be on my own while Greg and Sam hold the fort back in Seattle. Including travel, it’s an eight-day trip, and this is what I’ve packed. 

A few things upfront before I delve into the details:

  • I’ll be visiting family, doing errands, eating out, going to appointments, and hanging out with my Dad in his home towns of Velp and Arnhem. These very quaint towns are on the east side of the Netherlands, and close to the German border. I can therefore keep my outfits casual, although I’ll have a few smart casual engagements too.
  • The weather will be milder than it was when I visited in January. A little rain with some sun and daytime temperatures of about 14 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) will be the norm, but colder in the morning and at night. I do a LOT of walking and take public transport when I visit my Dad, which means wearing the right footwear, scarves and outerwear so that I stay warm, comfortable and dry. 
  • I’ll be putting a suitcase in the hold because I like to have more dressing options than a carry-on can accommodate. I’ll also be bringing presents for family and doing a little shopping on my trip which requires extra space. 
  • I will NOT be doing laundry on the trip.
  • The capsule includes a dressier outfit that I will wear on one day — maybe two — and I’ve included it in the post. 
  • The capsule also includes the outfit that I will wear on both ten-hour flights. It’s the same outfit, and I’ve shown the components at the end of this post. 

The palette of the capsule smacks of Spring with its happy dose of brights, which keeps my spirits high. I’ve combined shades of white with shades of blue denim, tomato red, citron and a smattering of navy. I am an experienced traveller and packer and often travel with white wardrobe items. It sounds impractical but believe it or not, I’m able to keep them clean. It’s my superpower! 

The capsule is larger than usual because the weather is unpredictable at this time of year and I packed more tops just in case the weather is colder or warmer than expected. I also packed a dressier outfit (some of its items might not be mixed and matched with the rest of the capsule). I’ve tried on many outfit combinations from the capsule to make sure that they work AND that I like them. Although most of the tops can be combined with most of the bottoms, I’ll stick to the combinations that I like best. 

Here’s more detail on each part of the capsule. Note that basics like undies, camisoles, sleepwear, loungewear and knee-highs are not represented here. For the rest, these are the exact wardrobe items that I packed and will be wearing en route. 

Footwear

I build a travel capsule around my shoes because it’s extremely important to have happy feet when you’re walking around a city and using public transport. Once I knew which shoes I was taking, I planned the rest of the outfits to work with them. 

Two pairs of shoes are sufficient for the eight-day trip. I’ll wear my white and gold hi-tops most of the time because they’re good in the rain, and keep my feet warm. I’ll wear my white loafers for the smart casual engagements, and in some casual outfits. Both pairs are very comfortable, tried and tested, and go the distance. 

Bottoms

I’ve chosen an assortment of bottoms because I’m bored with wearing dark blue jeans. So there’s only one pair of dark blue jeans because they’re good to wear on the long flights. I’ll wear my light blue and white jeans most of the time, and throw in my gingham pants for dressier days. The jeans look good with either the hi-tops or loafers. The gingham pants look best with the loafers. 

Tops

I’ve packed seven tops across an assortment of thicknesses, although I’ll only be wearing the striped peplum knit top for the flights, so it’s essentially six tops. The cropped white pullover is for the dressy outfit only. I couldn’t decide whether I should take cashmere or blouses, so I packed both to be prepared for whichever way the weather wants to swing. I’ve packed brights, patterns and neutrals so that I don’t get bored with my look. 

Outerwear

Instead of bringing one wool peacoat, I decided to bring two lighter toppers that I can layer for different weather conditions. I packed a raincoat for the wind and drizzle, and a floral denim jacket that I can layer underneath the coat for warmth. I can also keep the denim jacket on indoors if it’s cold. And if it warms up more than expected, I can leave off the raincoat and wear the denim jacket. 

I do wear denim on denim, and lots of people in the Netherlands do too. The denim jacket looks particularly good with the gingham pants and white jeans, but just fine with the light blue and dark jeans. The embroidery on the denim AND my colourful scarves do a good job of breaking up the expanse of denim, as does my raincoat. 

Accessories

I’ve kept accessories minimally maximal. I’ll wear my green specs, gold watch, pearl bracelet, pearl ring and citron bag each day. Then I’ll choose between two Spring scarves that add bold high-contrast interest to every outfit, and pattern mix with the striped tops, floral denim jacket, and gingham pants. The scarves are also essential wind breakers when you walk in the Netherlands. I’ll wear the belt with my white boyfriend jeans, and my pearl necklace with most of the tops. YES, I will be wearing the pearl necklace and a scarf because I like the maximal vibe. 

I will also be travelling with an umbrella and a cashmere wrap. I’ve left the wrap out of the capsule because it will not be styled into these outfits. It’s loungewear and a cosy blanket for plane travel only. I’ll keep the umbrella in my bag just like I do in Seattle. 

Dressier Outfit

Here are the components of the dressier outfit, which is without pearl necklace because it doesn’t work with the mock turtleneck. I wore it out to dinner recently, and loved it, so I chose to pack it for my trip.  

Travel Outfit 

This is the exact outfit that I will wear on the flight out to Amsterdam on Sunday, and the flight back to Seattle next week. Layers, fabrics with stretch, and soft fabrics are cosy and insulating on long flights. A jacket, scarf and dressy bag also make my casual outfit look pulled together and polished. The coat is packed in my hand luggage, and I will wear it when I travel to my Dad from the airport with arranged transport, and need extra insulation. 

You can visit the collection page to see my travel capsule in its entirety. The picture below shows the items just before I started packing.

Travel Capsule

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Roundups

Replenishing my Basics

I’ve been replenishing wardrobe basics recently, and these are the items that work well for me.

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Spring Jackets

Swap out your Winter coat for a jacket as we move into a lovely mild Spring.

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Affordable Tops

An assortment of tops that won’t break the bank.

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Shoes in Wide & Narrow Widths

Comfortable and current footwear that’s available in wide, regular and narrow widths.

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Quality Pieces

These dressier and modern classic quality pieces are well worth a look.

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Comfy Office Shoes

An assortment of lovely office footwear that will be kind to your feet.

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10 Must Haves for Spring & Summer 2017

Fashion has become a complex melting pot of sartorial choices where almost anything goes as long as you add an intentionally trendy component to the outfit. I believe that stylish dressers have a noticeable element of “fashionable now” in their look, which means adding some degree of current fashion, however small. 

In line with the biggest trends for the year — Individualism and Maximalism —  here’s a shortlist of suggested “must haves” for the warm weather season that cut across all body types, ages, price points and lifestyles. As always, it’s a question of finding the renditions that work best for YOU.

1. Cropped Pants & Jeans

This is still the number one way to update your wardrobes if you like to wear trousers or jeans because we’re living in the era of the alluring ankle. Absolutely any current silhouette of dressy or casual cropped pant or jeans is good. Cropped skinnies and leggings, boyfriend jeans, chinos and cargos that are rolled at the hems, straight and flared crops, harem pants, joggers, cigarette pants, wide crops, culottes and tulip pants — take your pick. Silhouettes can be streamlined, relaxed through the leg, voluminous on the leg, or flare out at the hems. Waistbands can be pleated, paper-bagged, or high rise. Fabrics can be soft and drapey, or stiff and architectural. 

There is a version of cropped pants and jeans for everyone and for every occasion. Most styles look best cropped between two to four inches above the ankle bone. Any longer and they tend to look like regular bottoms that are too short. Make the silhouette look intentional. 

2. Ankle-Accentuating Footwear

Ankle-accentuating footwear goes hand in hand with cropped jeans or pants. Make sure you have the right footwear to wear with the look. Ankle strap sandals, wrapped footwear (footwear with ties that wrap around the ankle), or pumps with straps that are positioned on or above the ankle bone were made to wear with cropped pants and jeans. Ankle straps that criss-cross along or above the ankle, cage heeled sandals, and gladiators with ankle straps are another way to go. 

High-vamped footwear like loafers, oxfords, short-shaft booties, high-shaft booties, cut-out booties, sandal booties, slip-on sneakers, hi-tops, fashion sneakers, mules, slides, platforms, flatforms, and sneaker hybrids can also be great choices to wear with cropped pants. Their high vamps create a continuous visual line with the shorter length of the bottoms, which works well

By all means wear flat footwear with crops. There is no need to wear a heel, as long as the crops look an intentionally short length. 

3. Patterns & Pattern Mixing

‘Tis the season to enjoy pattern to the fullest — especially florals and stripes. Amp it up if you’re a pattern gal. Add some pattern if you’re a solids gal. Go bold if you prefer subtle patterns. Pattern mix if you’re a pattern fashionista. Push your pattern limit.  

4. Embellishment

Embroidered items are the embellished look of the season, but all sorts of bells and whistles are fab. Think fringe, pom poms, lace insets, badges, tassels, ladder lace, bows, beading, and raw denim hems. Go tonal or high contrast. Remix it with patterns and colours, if you dare.  

If embellished items aren’t your thing, add bells and whistles to your outfit with accessories like scarves, belts, jewellery, watches, hats, bold make-up, nail polish and rainbow hair. 

5. Complex Sleeves

Think beyond the simple set-in sleeve. Wear sleeves with volume and personality, like bell sleeves, lantern sleeves, balloon sleeves, and fluted sleeves. Sleeves that are gathered at the crown are fab, so are shirts with exaggerated cuffs. Cold shoulders are fun, as are tops with pleated shoulders, sleeves with cascading ruffles, and smocked sleeves. 

6. Tailored Pieces

The sea of fashionable slouch and oversized silhouettes should be tempered with items that are tailored and fit closer to the body. Also, wear items that define the curve of the bust, waist and hip because that looks FRESH. These items can be fit-and-flare dresses, sheath dresses, bootcut jeans, tailored skinnies or straight legs, fitted tops, tie front tops, peplum tops, pencil skirts, fluted skirts, tailored trousers, structured jackets and structured gilets. Or you can simply wear a roomy top tucked into tailored bottoms to showcase the waist. Remember that tailored fits are tighter than fluid fits, but not as tight as body-con fits. 

7. Modern Retro

Modern Retro means combining looks and vibes from past fashion eras with a good dose of Modern. You’ll find that the ‘70s and ‘90s are trending particularly strongly at the moment, but don’t let that hold you back. Think of adding a little or a lot of any fashion era to your look and make it your own. Personally I’m drawn to the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, but perhaps you’re drawn to the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s or ‘50s? Or to the Edwardian or Victorian eras. It’s all good, and all in good fun. 

8. Comfort Shoes

It’s unstylish to wear uncomfortable shoes. Full stop. Gone are the days when heels were the way to elevate your style. In fact it’s trendy to wear fashion sneakers with just about any outfit these days (Sporty Luxe for the win.) Supportive flats, low heels up to two inches, stable block heels, soft footbed sandals like Birkenstocks, and shoes with straps that stay on your feet like Mary Janes are all on trend. 

Remember that flat shoes needn’t be casual, and that dressy flats do exist. You can absolutely look professional or adequately dressed up in a dressy pair of flats for the office or an event. 

9. Non-Neutral Shoes & Bag 

We’ve been sporting neutral shoes for what seems like forever. I vote throw in a colour — any colour at all — and wear them with a bag in the same colour as an easy way to pull together an outfit. If you don’t like swapping out your bags, wear a scarf that picks up the colour of the shoes instead.  

10. Wild Cards

Add an item to your wardrobe that is atypical for your style persona, but that speaks to you in some way. This is an excellent way to evolve your style, making it feel extra refreshed for the season. Wild cards can be new colours or styles of clothing, footwear and accessories. Or a new way that you wear your hair, your make-up, or put together your outfits. 

AWAKE Ruffled Faux Leather CoatMOTHER The Insider Crop Distressed High-rise Flared Jeans

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Floral-print Leather Slip-on SneakersVICTORIA, VICTORIA BECKHAM Embroidered Denim Skirt

ROKSANDA Margot Crepe DressGUCCI Pussy-bow Printed Silk-twill Shirt

I’m all over these ways to refresh my own style. Flared cropped jeans have become wardrobe essentials in blue and white, and I have cropped flared trousers too. I’ve added a few bold florals and stripes to my wardrobe this year, as well as a pair of embroidered jeans. The patterned blouses have complex sleeves, which feels fresh for my style. I’ve been into ankle strap footwear, flat oxfords, flat booties and loafers for years. I’m loving my hi-top and low-top fashion sneakers and seldom wear heels. I added new red loafers to wear with an old red bag and I’m loving the combination. Again, it feels fresh for my style. I’m enjoying defining my waist with full-length flared jeans, high-rise wide crops, high-rise flared crops, sailor pants, and fairly fitted cropped knitwear. I’m smitten with Modern Retro silhouettes, wear pearls most days, and love a soft romantic flounce. 

Your turn. How does the must haves list look for your style?

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Spring & Summer Shopping Reminder

It might not feel like Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods, but at retail, Spring and Summer 2017 has been in full swing for a while. If you leave your Spring and Summer wardrobe refresh until warm June and July, you might fall short. By the time June rolls around in the northern hemisphere, stores are full of beach wear like shorts, T-shirts, skimpy tops, sandals and short sleeveless dresses. It’s slim pickings for almost everything else. 

If you plan to shop for the following items to refresh your wardrobes for Spring and Summer, try to get them before June. That way you’ll get the best assortment of sizes and styles:

  • Business casual and business formal clothing 
  • Lightweight jackets and toppers
  • Cardigans
  • Sleeved dresses
  • Sleeved tops 
  • Tops made of substantial fabrics
  • Crisp cotton knitwear
  • Crisp open-weave knitwear 
  • Dressy dresses
  • White jeans 
  • Casual pants that are “leg-covering” like linen joggers, tulip styles, breezy cotton wide leg pants, and chinos.
  • Swimwear

Years ago I learned this the hard way by taking clients shopping for a full style renewal in June and July – and coming home disappointed with the very small dent we made in their shopping list. I know better now and warn clients that we have to shop earlier in the year for the items that I’ve listed above.