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What to Wear to…

Life is a Celebration

The Christmas tree from The Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo by Johan Persson

I’m really quite excited about this festive season. And I’m not just talking about the champagne & oysters, mulled wine & all-day lunches, it’s totally about the party outfits as well!

Photo: The Christmas tree from The Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Credit: Johan Persson

Perhaps it’s because we are feeling the need to rally round and share some love and good cheer this year. In any case, as regular readers of this blog and fans of my Facebook page  will already know, I have always been an advocate of dressing up for any occasion. In my ever-so-humble opinion, the feel-good vibes for yourself – and, curiously, of those around you! – are well worth the extra time & effort. And for a trip to the theatre, the ballet or opera, or even just a live concert, there’s really no excuse!

But why stop at ‘special’ outings? You could also buck the trend and go all out with your ensemble for a weekday lunch or Sunday brunch. When everyone is expecting some variation of jeans, tee-shirts or little black dresses, it can be super fun to add more formal footwear, evening bags and other more traditionally ‘night time’ accessories and jewellery to a casual outfit.

Let’s face it, it’s the one time of the year when you can be the star of your own Christmas story and frock up with impunity! Who knows, you might like it & be emboldened to continue your performance throughout the rest of the year.

Now if you put the most celebratory season of them all with going to see a live performance of what is arguably the most Christmassy show around – The Nutcracker Ballet* – you can imagine how it has me super inspired!

Okay so it may be the performer in me but I am getting so many ideas for party outfit themes from the over the top costumes. There’s so many different looks to choose from that could perfectly channel your party moods.

Feeling flamboyant? Go with bold, vibrant colour

Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer (c) ROH - Bill Cooper 2012

Photo: Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer (c) ROH – Bill Cooper 2012

Wanting to sparkle & shine? Glitter, metallic threads and sequins are everywhere this season

The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, Artists of the Royal Ballet (as Snowflakes) The Royal Opera House 2009, Credit Johan Persson

Photo: The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, Artists of the Royal Ballet (as Snowflakes) The Royal Opera House 2009, Credit Johan Persson

Or perhaps you’d rather exude peace and calm amongst the mayhem? A dreamy, floaty dress sounds perfectly angelic to me.

THE NUTCRACKER ; Music by Tchaikovsky; Alexander Campbell (as The Nutcracker) and Francesca Hayward (as Clara) ; The Royal Ballet ; At the Royal Opera House, London, UK, 2013 ; Credit: Tristram Kenton / Royal Opera House / ArenaPAL

Photo: The Nutcracker; Alexander Campbell (as The Nutcracker) and Francesca Hayward (as Clara) ; The Royal Ballet ; At the Royal Opera House, London, UK, 2013; Credit: Tristram Kenton / Royal Opera House / ArenaPAL

And if you have a few events to go to, why not try them all?! I think it would be downright churlish not to.😉

THE NUTCRACKER; Music by Tchaikovsky; Lauren Cuthbertson (as The Sugar Plum Fairy); The Royal Ballet; At the Royal Opera House, London, UK, 2013 ; Credit: Tristram Kenton / Royal Opera House / ArenaPAL

Photo: The Nutcracker; Lauren Cuthbertson (as The Sugar Plum Fairy); The Royal Ballet; At the Royal Opera House, London, UK, 2013: Credit: Tristram Kenton / Royal Opera House / ArenaPAL

Happy festive styling!!!

*The Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker (score by Tchaikovsky) is showing during December and January at selected cinemas worldwide. For more information about live and recorded screenings you can visit the Royal Opera House website http://www.roh.org.uk/showings/the-nutcracker-live-2015 or Arts Alliance http://www.artsalliance.com/

Look 1, Look 2: Parisian Winter Style

Look 1, photo the style bar 2013

As one of my ex-pat galpals so astutely observed after 6 months living on the ruthlessly chic & eternally elegant ‘Rive Gauche’ of Paris, there are basically 2 looks going on for the Parisian woman about town this Autumn/Winter.

Look 1, photo dryzie 2013

Look 1. Take a pair of skinny jeans – black, grey or denim – throw on a blouse, t-shirt or cotton knit, wrap a scarf around your neck, and finish off your ensemble with a short coat or jacket. Ballet flats or boots – high heeled or flat, short or riding style – complete the look.

Look 1, photo dryzie 2013

Look 2. Instead of jeans, opt for a skirt or dress that finishes above the knee and has a full or a-line skirt. The same kind of top works here as well, although this time if you don’t want to the coat option you can go for a fitted jacket or leather biker style. The same boots or ballet flats go below but this time you need to decide on tights or bare legs & socks to balance out the exposed legs.

Look 1 & 2, photo dryzie 2013

In general colours should be kept fairly neutral – black, greys, navy & white – although a splash of colour is permitted in your choice of scarf & skirts are often small & delicate floral prints or spots.

Look 1 & 2, photo dryzie 2013

And then there’s the whole Parisian element of the ‘Oh, this? I just threw it together’ thing going on, which we all know is patently untrue – but who can help but love the way it’s done so effortlessly & yet is so studied at the same time?

Look 1 his & hers, photo the style bar 2013

Of course the only thing more fun than sitting on the terrace of a Left Bank café on a Sunday afternoon, observing these famous looks & admiring the best examples is the aperitif & hours of conversation – fashion or otherwise – that invariably go with it…

Look 1 his & hers, photo the style bar 2013

Long live Fashion Sunday!!

Sales Shopping 101

Sydney SalesThis list doesn’t just apply for those crazy sale times. It can also easily be consulted when embarking upon a shopping expedition on a busy day, or whenever you want to feel calm and unhurried and in the right mood for some fabulous purchases!

DO…wear separates. A top and pants or jeans are the most versatile for trying on with different items. A dress may be comfortable, but as soon as you see a top you want to try on you instantly saddle yourself with the problem of finding a pair of pants to try on with them. Needless to say this is not an easy task in this kind of rushed shopping atmosphere.

DO…wear a good bra and underpants. It makes a big difference when you get something home if you’ve tried it on with either no bra or an old stretched one. Plus when you strip off in the change room everything will look so much better in that mirror, essential for maintaining shopping morale.

DO…wear comfortable shoes. Choose ones that you can easily slip on and off without bending over constantly. How many times have we been shopping and had to undo the straps or buckles of sandals or boots over and over again, wobbling on one foot as people bump into us? ARRRGH!!

DO…wear small accessories. If you wear big dangly earrings or chunky necklaces you will be fabulous, but forever taking them off in every change room you enter. Apart from this annoying the bejesus out of you in no time at all, you run the risk of leaving them behind somewhere, which is most definitely not fabulous.

So now that you are ready to head out into the fray, think twice if any of these apply…

DON’T…go if you are in a hurry. You need to take your time. Even with a pre-prepared list it takes time to walk through the store, get stuck behind hordes of women scrabbling for their size with enormous handbags, locate the items you want, consider and dismiss the items you are being tempted to impulse buy, select your size and colour amongst the heap, and then go stand in the queue for the change room. You may even need to go back and try on another size – shop assistants usually don’t have time in the sales to go out and find it for you, so you will have to do it yourself. Then there’s the queue for the cashier…

DON’T…go on payday. Much better to wait until the end of the pay period and the rent is paid. Then you will have a much better perspective from which to make your decisions i.e. if I have no money left to pay for it how much do I really need it?

DON’T…go the day before your period. Speaking of periods, I don’t think I need to explain this one. Bad mood, plus bad body image equals bad choices. Bad idea.

DON’T…go shopping tipsy. Yes, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all got the slutty dress at the back of the wardrobe to prove it.

DON’T…go if you are hungry or just had a big meal. One will distract you and make you do rash things; the other will make you sluggish and suddenly half a size bigger.

And finally, remember to look after yourself and the environment…

  • Stop for breaks to sit, rest, and have a think about anything you aren’t sure about
  • Drink plenty of water – in your reusable water bottle!
  • Say no to a new carry bag in every shop (well, maybe just stick to the really nice ones)

See you in the line!

Rubi

Maxi Schmaxi

A lazy afternoon in a sun-drenched courtyard, the cosy temptation of a fireside pint after a long week’s work. The cooler months are not without their recreational advantages, but wondering what on earth you should wear to a bar in winter can sometimes be akin to mounting an expedition to higher altitudes. 

Not that the temperature heading south faster than you can say polar ice caps is any excuse to sacrifice your style to the gods of artic winds and morning frosts.

Take the approach that you are not so much covering up as adding layers of mystery. We all know that you can be sexy without showing much at all, but you will need to maintain shape and definition in your clothes to avoid going from fleshy to frumpy.

Winter brings a change in mood. Sun kissed breeziness gives way to a softer elegance. And putting away your maxi dress for another season does not mean you have to give the dress idea away altogether. Lighter weight dresses are still a lovely alternative if you just add a top or tee underneath, progressing to a skivvy or lightweight knit as the chill sets further in.

Knee length dresses as well as shorter tunics look great with boots, which are in turn ideal for standing around in at a busy hot spot on a Friday night. Long socks or tights are great with heels of a chunkier kind (a wooden heel, a high heeled loafer) or you could go for a stylish lace up or buckled Mary Jane.

(Hot Tip: Don’t wear socks that are too thick, as the combination of standing and heating will cause your feet to grow and your boots to shrink with each passing hour until you wish you had some trusty ugg boots somehow stuffed inside your holdall).

At the risk of sounding completely anal, it can pay to do a little research on the venue before you go. Bars and clubs can be well and truly overheated, making jumpers and knits too heavy an option. Even if you sit outdoors you could end up next to a brazier and regretting the choice of roll neck that has caused your face to go the colour of your pomegranate cosmopolitan.

In this type of situation layering is key, but in turn the key with layering is that it all goes together and doesn’t look like you just grabbed the emergency cardigan off the back of your chair on the way out the door. Shawls, cardigans, jackets, pretty much anything that you can take off once you get there and rug up with when you leave are your obvious solutions.

Ponchos or shrugs with jeans are a great weekend or casual option, providing coverage and room to breathe in one garment. Wear some coloured suede or patent shoes and take a dainty clutch and there will be no hint of the mariachi about you at all.

Just don’t sit too close to the band or you may find yourself taking requests…

Sitting Pretty

Not many people enjoy having their photo taken, with smiles forced and makeup faded. How many of us have gasped in horror at images of ourselves, wishing we had thought to sit up a little straighter or worn a different colour to the occasion in question.

But if you stop to think about it, that photo is just a frozen moment of how you really looked that day. If the sleeveless top you had on showed a little more of your pale arms than you are comfortable with or the pants accentuated a bulge you would rather keep hidden, it is more than likely that it was not the photographer or your pose that was the culprit, but your actual outfit.

Luckily, as with most things of a styling nature, with just a little forward thinking you can lessen the shock and increase the smiles the next time the photos are passed around. And if you happen to be on a group or family outing and have actually planned to have a few photos taken to commemorate the occasion (which in the digital age is becoming more and more likely) then that is even more reason to be prepared. The following may seem obvious, but how many times have you seen photos of yourself and wished you had thought of these things earlier?

  • Think about whether you are standing or sitting for the shot – don’t wear anything too tight as the lens will invariably zoom in on any lumps or bumps
  • Avoid wearing anything that exposes whatever you perceive to be your worst bits – in a photo there is nowhere for anything to hide
  • Colours should not overwhelm your skin tone – photos or no, this should be always be your aim
  • And if the shots are going to be in black and white then wear some different textures (knits, tweeds, lace for example) to break up the monotones – this is a little more specific but it is a good tip for general dressing anyway, as mixing fabrics adds a lot to an outfit, especially if you are wearing one overall colour tone

If you are having a more formal ie. planned photo session then these tips may come in handy as well:

  • If you are having shots outdoors or at the beach, then bringing games to play and swimmers to splash in will help everyone relax and forget about the camera
  • Kids look good in printed tees and hats to create some interest and introduce different shapes
  • For black and white photos dark or light colours work best; shades in skin-coloured and pastel tones are too washed out
  • And if you are in danger of getting dirty or wet on your photo shoot, bring a change of clothes for later, along with some extra layers in case of unexpected changes in temperatures

Now let the candid cameras roll!

Rubi*

*With special thanks to the style bar’s resident wedding and portrait photographer Kim Welinski from asterisk photography* for his invaluable input into what can make or break a photo session from the other side of the lens…

“When in Doubt…Wear Red”

Now that Christmas is out of the way, it’s time to start planning for the next big event on the calendar…New Year’s Eve…but what to wear?

That icon of American fashion design Bill Blass famously came up with the above mantra when advising women on what to wear in moments of indecison.

He maintained, quite rightly, that in a sea of black in a room of guests, a red or white outfit stands out from the crowd and makes a dramatic and stylish statement. Granted, his era was one of cocktail parties, cigarette holders and dry martinis, but his ethos remains a sound one.

He definitely had a soft spot for the vibrant hue, also remarking that “Red is the ultimate cure for sadness”. Now this would make it the ideal choice for a festive event such as NYE.

Too obvious for a Christmas function (not quite up there with holly earrings but a little too Nigella-perfect for my liking), the right shade of red or even a vibrant pink can be just the ticket to give the evening its essential zing. And having explored first-hand the energy giving properties that red can impart on the wearer in an earlier post entitled Mood Enhancers, I can safely say that it is an exciting choice to see in the new year with optimism and pizazz!

So why not go out on a limb a little and draw some attention to your fabulous self on this most celebratory of all nights; there’s no need to wait until the clock strikes midnight to start the year off in style!!

Rubi

The Party Faithful

Christmas drinks? Evening at the theatre? Having a special event to go to does not automatically mean you have to race out and buy a completely new outfit. The answer to your styling prayers may be a lot closer to home than you think…

So often we feel that the solution to our lack of time to plan an outfit, or the sinking feeling that nothing we have in our wardrobe is appropriate, is to spend this valuable time rushing around shopping for…well, we don’t actually know what. Most of the stories I hear involve vainly hoping that the perfect outfit set to transform the wearer into the life of the party will magically leap off the rack in the first five minutes of frantic searching.

This approach, not surprisingly, leads to more mistakes and wasted hours than fabulous outfits. If it is not the breath-taking price tag that still causes you to wince whenever you catch a glimpse of the (usually unworn and still tagged) garment in your wardrobe, it will be the unusual (read unwearable) colour that one found oneself talked into by the well meaning but clueless shop assistant.

This is not the time to be trying a completely new look. You want to feel comfortable and yourself at the function, not fidgeting and trying to check your reflection in something you are wearing for the first time. You want to be concentrating on coming up with witty repartee or enjoying the performance, not road testing a new strapless bra or pant shape, and especially if you are not sure if it is the right choice.

Remember that most of the people will never have seen you before in your going out clothes, so rarely do we get really dolled up these days. So it will hardly ever be a case of “Oh my God is she wearing that dress again?” going on behind your back. Believe me, they will be hard pressed to remember what they wore themselves the last time you saw each other. And anyway, if what you are wearing is one of your favourite killer outfits it will be more a case of them enviously admiring the way you always seem to look great and your ensembles so effortlessly put together.

So relax, take a deep breath and head towards your clothes rack. What do you always feel great in? What do people always pay you compliments on your outfit or appearance when you wear it? Do not go for comfortable in a covered up or frumpy way. Think more like your faithful party frocks (or statement making ties for the guys) that you know show off your best assets. Or it may even be a trusty pair of knockout earrings or sexy heels worn with a pants suit that makes you feel like a VIP guest.

But if you are really and truly bored with your party standbys, then use the opportunity to buy some new accessories. You can instantly pep up your outfit and revitalise that old black dress without having to buy a whole new look.

You will have the wonderful feeling that you are getting more mileage out of your existing wardrobe and not wasting your precious energies on unwanted (and unneeded) additions, and instead be free to use them to enjoy the event. Which is a far more worthy cause in my book.

Cheers

Rubi

Bar Belles

Going out to a bar or pub these days is a relatively easy dressing proposition as there is always a wide variety of dress codes in evidence, thereby making it pretty hard to look inappropriately turned out. Understandably however it can still be a little daunting to come up with your outfit if you are heading somewhere where there is as much attitude scattered throughout the room as the ubiquitous flat screen TVs.

Weekends in late spring and early summer I especially love, as this is when the inner city and suburban bars and pubs come alive with people heading out after their day of activity (or total inaction!) for drinks at sundown, before moving on to dinner or the movies, or indeed spending the night right where they are – after all, if the mood and the company is convivial, why mess with the perfect evening…

The air is alive with the remnants of suntan lotion, freshly showered and fragranced skin, and the clinking of ice in chilled down glasses. This is your ideal opportunity to pop on a new sundress, brush on a little bronzer, don a pair of leather thongs and some chunky bangles and make yourself feel fresh, sexy and glad to be alive! A cardigan or lightweight shawl is the foolproof way to make sure you don’t get caught by a sudden drop in evening temperature and at the same time top off this particular look.

If your outing is going to go on into the night, then black pants, shorts or jeans are the easiest of options for a little more dressiness. You can then be as adventurous or as simple as your mood dictates in terms of what you choose wear on your top half. Glittery singlets, halter necks, strapless, floaty or floral – they are all feminine alternatives that balance out the more practical bottom half of your outfit. A jacket makes it all sexy seriousness, and a cardi playful but practical.

Heels are now de rigeur with jeans and shorts as party attire – for daytime you can choose a more casual style like a raffia or a printed wedge; for evening anything you want really – metallic, suede, satin, brightly coloured leather or the glamorously glossy patent – it’s up to you!

The only word of warning is that you should think about whether you are going to be sitting or standing for the better part of the day or night, and indeed if there is going to be walking from one venue to another, and choose accordingly. Even with the best Party Feet  cushion inserts in your shoes there still comes a point where taking them off altogether is more tempting than keeping them on, but unless you are on the beach it is never a stylish look to have to adopt. There are plenty of cute flat and thong styles to choose from at the moment, and you can avoid this look becoming too casual by opting for something with a bit of sparkle or shine.

And whatever you choose, remember to feel comfortable, stand tall and wear your best smile. It will add a sparkle to your outfit that no amount of sewn-on sequins or eye-catching cleavage could ever match.

Happy bar-hopping!

Rubi

Some Enchanted Evening

In this world of ever increasing casualness when it comes to dressing, relaxing the rules to the point where people think it is actually okay to wear tracksuit pants to the supermarket (and I am not talking Juicy Couture velour here), the festive season is one of the only times of the year left to us when it is okay to get dressed up just for the hell of it and go out for the evening. So I think we should make the most of it.Evenings in the city you do tend to get a lot of the after work crowd in attendance, but with casual dress in most offices now there is a mix of suits and jeans. So you can usually get away with what you have worn to work (always good if you end up going out for an impromptu drink!), but if you take the time to plan a little as well, then you will find that the extra effort is guaranteed to make you fittingly turned out for the occasion, and therefore feeling more relaxed and therefore better prepared to enjoy yourself.

So often the problem with Casual Fridays is just that – you want to dress up more at the end of the week! But you can put together a great outfit with your jeans by adding a dressier top – then slip on a pair of heels (you don’t want to be standing up all night in the same pair of shoes you have had on all day) and be ready to go. Wedges are my personal favourite: the sheer impracticality of squeezing your tired and swollen feet into strappy stilettos and then possibly having to stand half the night means it is just not worth it. This way you have more support, and the advantage of choosing from an array of wedge heights if you find the higher versions too uncomfortable but want to swap those sensible pumps for something altogether more feminine and party friendly.

If the plan is for drinks at an up market bar, out for dinner or to a show, you can certainly have more fun and get a little dressed up. If you need to go straight from work you can keep the same skirt or pants but you will need to take another top with you. Evening fabrics are the perfect option here; tops or shifts in floaty chiffons, soft jerseys, sequins, metallics are all great, and don’t weigh too much when heading into work in the morning. These can then be swapped for the work top you have been running around in all day. Likewise your underwear as a matter of fact – an instant way to freshen up your outfit and help you overcome the fact that you don’t have time to pop home before heading out!

If you have been in a suit all day, then shedding your shirt or work top to reveal a coloured singlet or tank top underneath is even easier than changing your top. Adding coloured shoes or a bag that pick up on that colour gives you a simple but striking evening look. A dramatic ring, choker or pair of earrings can add the finishing touch and that extra element of polish.

Next time you get one of those offers from a dept store to go and pick up a free sample of the latest fragrance, get out there and take them up on it! Not only will you have a sample of the latest scent in town to test out before you buy, but it is amazing how often these little vials comes in handy as a little squirt as you leave the office (especially if going out unexpectedly). This gets around having a bottle of your favourite perfume with you to work  and then be left without it all weekend.

As much of a dampener on festive outfit planning as it can be, do think about the weather. As was so evident heading home after the festivities of the Melbourne Cup recently, there is nothing fascinating about having a wet clump of feathers and sparkles stuck to your bedraggled hairdo. Or wet and muddy sequined stilettos. Umbrellas come in great mini sizes that fit into almost any purse – and if it doesn’t fit that and some sort of scarf or covering in this unpredictable time of the year then it is too small!! There are times when looking good actually means not getting caught cold or wet or unprepared, and there are some fabulous larger sized clutch bags around that can fit all these parts of your arsenal in one place.

And lastly, be appropriate. There is unfortunately such a thing as too early in the day to wear a full blown party frock – outside of the event where not everyone is wearing the same sort of thing broad daylight is terribly unforgiving. Go to and from your venue in a cab, remember that the rest of the country is not dressed for a masquerade ball at 2pm in the afternoon, and hold your head as high as your sliding headgear will allow. And enjoy the party!

Rubi

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