Mum’s Best Style Advice

Once a year I pay tribute to my late Mum, who taught me more about style than anyone else. She sowed my style seed, and was a fabulous shopping buddy. She wholeheartedly supported my extreme career change at age 21 when I moved away from psychology to study fashion, one of the best decisions of my life. I wish I could tell my Mum how instrumental she was in giving me the confidence and drive to switch my career focus and start again. Since I can’t do that, I’m sharing her fashion wisdom with you instead, and hope that she can feel my enormous gratitude on her big fluffy cloud in the sky. 

I’m taking you back to 1984 after we just moved to Cape Town, and I was fourteen years old. We were new to the country, learning our way around, and I was an impressionable teen who loved fashion. I wore a school uniform, which made wearing regular clothes all the more important and a rare event. What you wore and where you bought your clothes did not go unnoticed, especially as the new kid at school. I felt I had a lot to prove, and being perceived as having good fashion sense was important to me. 

On a beautifully sunny and warm Cape Town day during school vacation, I went grocery shopping with my Mum at a mini mall where there were a few fashion stores. Mum asked if I wanted to browse the stores after the groceries were done, to which I enthusiastically said yes please. Our first stop was a shop called Scotts. Initially I refused to enter and Mum asked why? I replied that my new friends told me that Scotts was uncool and old-fashioned. Cheap and nasty. I wanted to shop at the hip stores like Foschini, Truworths, Edgars, Smiley Blue, and LA Clothing, because then I’d look and feel fabulous too. 

At first Mama looked at me with a puzzled expression, and then she laughed gently. She said: “It’s not about where you shop, and how much money you spend — but about what you find and how you wear it. Let’s just have a quick look.”

So we went into Scotts, but my heart wasn’t in it. I adored my Mum, but my friends obviously knew better than she did about where to shop in this new city. At least, that’s what I thought. It wasn’t long before I spotted an amazing pair of high-waisted baggy white pants with light blue insets on the sale rack. Mum took the pants, gave them a once over with her discerning eye, approved, and told me to try them on. They were absolutely perfect.

Mum helped me match the pants with a cropped light blue and white striped top, and oversized white jacket with gigantic collar, the same light blue insets, and shoulder pads. I LOVED this look and forgot I was in the oh-so-forbidden Scotts. After we got the clothes, we went next door to get white perforated flat oxfords and white clip-on plastic earrings that put the finishing touch on the outfit. I was thrilled and very excited about this look.

I wore this outfit over and over, with great confidence and happiness. It garnered many a compliment from the very same friends who were dead set against shopping at Scotts. A few friends asked me where I got the outfit, and I said, Scotts! They gasped and didn’t believe me, and some tuned up their noses. That was fine because I felt like a million bucks. As Mum so rightly told me back then, it doesn’t matter where you buy your clothes. It’s about how well you assess the quality, colour, silhouette and fit, how well you put together the look, and how confident you are wearing it. Lesson learned at age 14 and I’ve been grateful ever since.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of my magical Scotts outfit. Instead I’m sharing a pic of Mum and infant me back when I was born in Hong Kong in 1970. My mum was glam, graceful, classic and polished despite the setting, task or activity. Crying babies, a postpartum body, a husband who worked long hours, and no sleep wasn’t going to prevent her from wearing earrings, make-up, styling her hair, and sporting elegant sleepwear.

Mama
 
Mama, it’s been 18 years since your passing, and words can’t express how much I love and miss you. You will forever be my stylish role model because you always knew best. In addition to your fabulous style sense, you had inner strength, a fiery persona, unconditional love for your family, immense love for animals, fearless courage, and sheer grit.

We at YLF wish you, your Mums, including Mums who are no longer with us, a happy and peaceful Mother’s Day.

Link Love: The Met Gala 2018

If you’re still catching up with what celebrities wore to this year’s Met Gala, have a look at W Magazine’s photo gallery.

The New York Times deconstructs the “fashion event of the year,” including how much it costs, and what you have to wear.

Ever wondered what it’s like for photographers who cover the Met Gala red carpet? Find out in this article from last year.

Fab Links from Our Members

Kari enjoyed reading that “data geekery plus customer satisfaction were used to innovate the personal style and shopping experience at Stitch Fix.”

Carla thought this story about a young designer who created a dress for this week’s Met Gala, was inspiring.

Jessikams found Alison’s post on how to wear black in Summer just plain useful, especially since she’s seeing a lot of black in the stores right now.

Kat appreciates the perspective on cultural appropriation displayed in this article, and wonders how others may view it.

Jenni NZ reports there’s a fashion controversy going on in New Zealand at the moment after an outspoken critic of off-shore manufacturing was found to be doing exactly that with her own brand (and mislabeling the products).

Ledonna N. loves Target’s matching family outfits.

This article about the travails of finding shoes when you have large feet hits close to home for L’Abeille.

She also found this piece on why heritage logos are back after having never left a worthwhile read.

Greenjeans thought this article about H&M and retail localization asks interesting questions about brick-and-mortar retail. Alternately, H&M’s sister company, COS, is apparently thriving.

Brooklyn really enjoyed this video on how to layer necklaces and pearls (including some tips for wearing brooches).

Fab Finds: Casual Wear & Classic Sandals

This week my top picks are simple casual wear and a pair of classic dressy sandals. I’m most excited about the extended sizes and colour options many more retailers are offering this year. Lets hope that trend gains momentum and is here to stay. 

1. Casual Striped Dresses

At long last, it’s been a much improved dress season. Clients who seldom find frocks are finding them by the handful thanks to longer length hems, sleeves, tailored fits, and a larger assortment of casual options. Relaxed striped dresses have been particularly good this year.

Special shout-outs to the first three dresses in the collection below:

  • J.Crew Striped knit maxi dress: My jaw dropped when I saw my tall size US10/12 client fit this dress. She looked stunning. The fabric and fit are SUBLIME. Extremely good tailoring and drape thanks to substantial fabric. Very forgiving of lumpage and bumpage. The high-low hemline makes all the difference to the maxi length. Size down. This client wears a Large, and sized down to a Medium. Runs big.
  • Vince Camuto Amalfi Side Ruched Stripe Body-Con Dress: Don’t let the body-con description put you off because the cut is forgiving and camouflaging. The neckline and armholes aren’t too low, and the diagonal hem does magical things to proportions. Fab length, and available in plus.
  • Boden Emily Jersey Dress: Gorgeous fabric with heft, fluid fit that isn’t too boxy, and a shorter length that isn’t too short. 100% cotton and machine washable. Impeccable quality and very girly.

2. Summer-Weight Scarves

The fabric of these Summer scarves is luxurious, soft, and gauzy, which you don’t see in the photos. The tassels and subtle border stripe on some of the colours are a fab finishing touch. They drape like a dream and add outfit interest. They add warmth, as well as keep you cool. I love wearing Spring and Summer scarves because they keep the sun off my neck in the sunny heat, and might be all the insulation I need on a mild day. The yellow followed me home, and I love it.

3. Naturalizer Tami Sandal

A classic strappy sandal that works well for a formal Summer occasion. The beauty of the style lies in the manageable heel height, cushioning foot bed, soft leather, versatile style, and very deep assortment of sizes across THREE widths. They are surprisingly bunion-friendly.

4. Pilcro Jeans

Pilcro jeans have impressed me this season. I bought two pairs for Spring and Summer: the embroidered high-rise cropped straights and the lemon jeans. Both became workhorses after I had them altered to fit on the waist and hips because of the high rise and my swayback. The quality is gorgeous. The fabric is substantial and they do not bag out. The fit is tailored, but not body-con. There is room on the thighs and calves, and the high rises are not excessive. Pilcro has impressed me more than premium denim that’s looking awfully “sausage-y” and stretchy at the moment. Pilcro has also been a win on my clients across a range of body types. They go up to a size 33, have petites, and run true to size or a size big.

5. Michael Stars Tees & Knitted Tops

Michael Stars tops straddle the line between fabulous and annoying. When they work, they are brilliant. The fabric is thick and all items are made in the US. A white Michael Stars tee is seldom too see-through. They also offer varied necklines, lengths, and silhouettes. The disappointing part is the small range of sizes. Michael Stars seldom offers more than two sizes, and sometimes offers one size. You have to take it one style at a time, and decide how you want the item to fit. For example, I’m fine wearing my Michael Stars tops on the fluid side of tailored despite the body-con fit on the models.

6. Gap and Loft Shorts

Whenever my clients need casual shorts that are not for hiking and the like, we head to the Gap and the Loft first. Season after season these retailers stock an assortment that suits a range of body types and sizes across patterns and solids. They might run big, so take a size down into the dressing room too. They are often on sale, and quite affordable.

Roundups

Assorted Items

An assortment of top picks from dresses and jeans, to tops and handbags.

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Tops & Toppers

An assortment of Spring items across a range of sizes and price points.

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Dresses, White Jeans, Tops & Toppers

An assortment of items for a range of body types.

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Assorted Items

There has been so much good stuff for Spring and Summer already, and it’s only March.

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Moody Patterns

Apart from the gingham dress at the end, these patterns are what I call “moody” because they are as happy and cheerful, as they are strict and heavy.

Read More

Punchy Spring Neutrals

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

Read More

Trend: Straw Bags

Straw bags are a classic that’s on trend and having its fashion moment, or what I call a “trendy classic.” Items like straw bags have a timeless and Modern Retro quality, which is what gives them their style longevity. But they become trendy when the fashion world puts them on a pedestal for a while. When the trend has passed, straw bags will continue to look fab, because they’re always in style. 

When a classic like a straw bag becomes a trendy mainstream item, it’s usually refreshed at retail in ways that make it appear new to the consumer. In this case, through a variety in assortment and a refreshed remix of the style in combination with other items.

1. A Varied Assortment

When an item is on trend we typically see a lot more variety in the assortment at retail. More sizes, colours, fabrics, trims and silhouettes add excitement and momentum to the trend. To see this in action, just feast your eyes on what straw bags look like this season in the collection below.

Zara
Raffia Minaudière Bag
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6
Zara
Raffia Basket
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1
Zara
Rigid Handle Tote Bag
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3
Zara
Raffia-look Tote Bag
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4
Boden
Pompom Beach Bag
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1
Boden
Pompom Beach Bag
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1
Zara
Wicker Handbag
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3
Shopbop
Mar Y Sol Ibiza Tote
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2

2. A Refreshed Remix

The modern approach to fashion encourages us to remix a classic in ways that look fresh and new. A straw bag is traditionally thought of as very casual and Summery, but these days we can take them beyond the beach, pool, park and farmer’s market. The right straw bag can be remixed with dressy frocks, jeans, pants, suits, leather jackets and boots. It can go to a swanky dinner or event. It can be business casual appropriate if it’s structured and polished. I’ll be talking about the versatility of the straw bag in an outfit formula post next week, so stay tuned.

Polo Ralph Lauren Lennox Raffia & Leather Clutch

Topshop Floral Tote Bag

I like straw bags, and usually have one in my bag capsule because of their Modern Retro integrity. I look for three things when selecting a straw bag:

  1. Soft straw that does not scratch.
  2. A fabric lining with pockets so that the contents of my bag are organized and not right up against the straw.
  3. A size and shape that isn’t too bulky or heavy.
Zappos
Hat Attack Bamboo Mini
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13

This year, I added a darling little casual straw bag to my swimwear capsule, keeping it small and casual for the beach. The straw is very soft and I love the bamboo handles. I’ll also wear it in non-beach settings with Summer dresses, a new casual lace skirt, white jeans, or patterned pants. Maybe I’ll throw in a cotton pom-pom too.

Floral Flair for Spring

A new outfit from Annette Hoeldrich of Lady of Style, whom we introduced to YLF in January 2015.

Annette dresses up smart casual trousers with a tailored white shirt. The soft fabric of the wide-legged trousers drapes beautifully, while the dark green floral print creates dramatic flair. Pairing more voluminous bottoms with a tailored top adds structure to the outfit. The knotted self-belt is a fab design detail that emphasizes our blogger’s waistline. White open-toed shoes peeking out from under the trousers bookend the button-down. An on-trend circular bag, silver arm candy and large hoop earrings complete this elegant Spring look.

Annette Hoeldrich - 1

Annette Hoeldrich - 2