Friday, September 9, 2011

Falling for Fashion - Autumn 2012

I didn't take any photos of falling leaves last autumn. Here's a skyline instead.

Fall is the one time of year I get really excited about fashion and new trends. I think it was because my mom always bought the big, thick September issue of Vogue before we'd all go back-to-school shopping. Maybe it's the return of the cool weather and the planning for the long, dark winter ahead, or just the fact that many of us are starting anew in scholastic pursuits that makes autumn the most alluring fashion season of them all.

Possibly it's because of the temperature range; a comfortable high of 17 degrees C and cool mornings and evenings means that you can wear tweed, knitted sweaters and wool again without overheating. In the winter, it's all about bundling up under a great overcoat, and you don't get to see much . . . I suppose spring would be the other ideal season temperature-wise, but I just can never seem to get very excited for it. Not like I do for fall.

Fall always, always has plum or berry-colours featured, presumably representing the harvest season (I suppose that's how 'pumpkin' and those rich amber, mustards and browns factor in as well). At least during my lifetime, it almost always has involved tweeds and plaids, too. Admittedly, plum and plaid aren't my favourite combinations, and yet every year I get excited when I see their return (go figure!).

Sunset on the seawall last October.

Being broke, I don't really feel like getting the September Vogue this year. It's huge, I read through it (i.e. flip the pages) once, maybe twice, and then I don't throw it away right away because I invested money in it, and it's a great big hefty thing that should have more 'use' in it than a few flip-throughs before it hits the recycling bin. What a dilemma.

So now I just go online and see what the stores have on offer instead. Or I watch TV - Joe Fresh and H&M have been all over the networks with their ads (liking the music, not sure I like the Joe outfits presented). I used to try to find fall 'trend' reports, but they all seem slightly contradictory and in the end I am never really that inspired anyway.

This year, I'm doing the Green, Broke & Living in Kits Fall Fashion 2012 Shopping Guide. No, I haven't been to a single designer's show this year. And no, I have yet to consult Vogue. I'm just making this stuff up as I go along! So be forewarned - you might end up looking like a poor grad student from the relaxed West Coast instead of whatever they've got Gisele put in (which could be a burlap sack and she'd still knock your socks off! Boy, if we could only pick how we wanted to look...!).

Here's my advice for those of you on shoestring budgets looking to round out a killer fall wardrobe:

Find a fashion campaign that you like the look of and rip it off. 

You can go big and try to knock off the Holt Renfrew lookbook (wasn't overly thrilled with this one), BCBG MaxAzria (love this place - hit up the sale rack!), or Anthropologie (I love this store! And I do really like this fall campaign, too). These stores, featuring designer looks will be more difficult to fake. You might need to buy a few key pieces and round it out with cheaper secondary components. Still, it's good for inspiration purposes, if nothing else. Michael Kors is always nice (at least I think so), though unattainable for someone on my budget.

You can go easier on yourself and copy Nordstrom's, or Le Chateau's, or Mexx's. Don't forget Plenty (though not my fav), Kensie (a local brand, very nice, carried in several Kits boutiques as well as online), Club Monaco, and the usual mall fare like RW&Co., Gap, Zara, Urban Outfitters, etc.

I also like to check out a few British and European shops, just to see what's on the horizon / not available in North America: Monsoon, TopShop, Printemps.

But for me, I don't want to do all that much work, and although I have to say that Joe Fresh's TV commercials (aside from having good music) didn't turn me on much, H&M's fall lookbook did:

After much copying & pasting, I made a collage of outfits I'd like to get.

And it's gone again - oh no! Well, this is from last week, and I really liked the 'autumn collection'. I suppose it doesn't really matter, because, as usual, H&M was a terrible mess, completely unstructured, and stuffed full of grabby people. I only found one of the above pieces in the end (the blazer, which I bought).

So I went to Joe to flesh out my wardrobe instead, which was also a bit of a gong show, but at least you can find what you're looking for, provided it isn't sold out in your size (like all the pants I wanted, argh!).

Steps to ripping off a campaign you like:

1. Identify which pieces are KEY. There will probably be a few that you just can't get around, such as a floral printed blouse or a grey woolie sweater. In the case above (and in other campaigns I've seen elsewhere), a tweed blazer with elbow patches is where it's at. I invested $70 in one from H&M, which will likely function as my go-to fall coat. Everything else I figured I could find easily enough elsewhere. I really needed that blazer to be well-tailored and fit me, otherwise I'd have a go at rustling up a vintage one. I cringe at the thought of reconstructing a blazer, so vintage wasn't my first choice. Maybe if I was an accomplished seamstress...maybe.
Footwear often falls into the "key piece" category. I needed booties, which I didn't have last year either.

2. SHOP YOUR CLOSET. This step must be done very early on, or I guarantee you you'll forget about something you have already that could fit the bill. This not only saves money, it can also help you put together an outfit that doesn't look exactly like everyone else's who also went to the same store! (Same as with vintage, but we'll get there in a minute).

Expand to read my closet's contents...

I also took all of my winter clothes out of storage and put away spring clothes and any summer clothes that aren't going to easily transition into fall (particularly those which clash with the autumn spectrum!).

Pre-existing articles - my plum legwarmers are going to come in handy!

3. Make a list of component pieces - deconstruct that look-book to the bones! For the above example, I made a list and cross-referenced it with articles of clothing I already owned. It resulted in this shopping list:

Blazer (tweed, preferably camel)
Skinny medium brown leather belt (long)
Floral-on-white-background scarf
Charcoal woolie tights
Heather woolie tights
Plain white button-up shirt
Blue pinstripe button-up shirt
Floral print long-sleeved blouse
Navy button-up shirt
V-neck sweater
Dark grey knit sweater (normal neckline)
Plaid skirt

Some of these things I sort of cheated on to cross off - I never did find a good floral-on-white-rose-type-patterned scarf, but I did find a shirred and ruched tube-top dress in the same print that I figure I can wear in the warmer weather, then pull down to my hips and make it a floral skirt (which I don't already own).
It should also be mentioned that NO ONE is selling grey woolie tights yet. If you come across them, I want to know! The cheaper, the better! Please comment and let me know if you find 'em for under $20 (under $10 would be awesome)!

4. SHOP MY SISTER'S CLOSET and other vintage/thrift shops. I'm going to burden you with some basic rules for vintage shopping. If you're already experienced with thrifting, please skip ahead. But just to be safe, have a glance over my recommendations:

  • Don't buy anything you can't wash ( in extreme cases you can break this rule, but try not to).
  • Don't buy anything that's cheaply made - it's like buying a used car; the mileage adds up, and the more miles, the more likely it's going to go kaput. Make sure there's plenty of mileage left. If it's fuzzed up or balled up, or if the stitching's coming out, or it's label tells you it's cheaply made, reconsider.
  • You can still get ripped off at vintage shops. Especially consignment stores, which will adjust the price of the item based on the label/name. For starters, it might be a knock-off illegally using the designer name (in which case, it's probably not well made. Check those seams, and how that label is sewn on! That can be a dead giveaway of really poor craftsmanship). Alternatively, you can also get ripped off (but only by a dollar or two) at the Salvation Army thrift stores. This is much less diabolical (and probably completely accidental) because it really falls under point two (Don't buy anything that's cheaply made) - all ladies' blouses might go for a set price of $5.99, for example. One shirt might be worth that or more, where another is worth much less for the mileage you can get from it (both in terms of structural rigidity and trends). Be wise about what you're sinking your cash into - how long can you expect to wear the garment? Years? Weeks? Spend accordingly.
  • Buy it for fit. Unless you're an extremely gifted seamstress (not me!), walk away from fabulous pieces that just aren't your shape or size. It's a bit of a heartbreak, but that's the price you pay for thrifting. If you can't bear to let it go, put it on hold and bring in a smaller/larger friend to see if it's their style. Be prepared to sadly walk away (and live to thrift another day!). Persistence is paramount in scoring great vintage finds - you have to make a habit of sifting through racks whenever you have the time.
  • Go for classics. Now I have to admit that this is a taste-dependent point. Classics are things like white button-up shirts (unlikely to find a crisp, clean one in vintage), navy turtlenecks that don't have any era-specific styling like shoulder-pads or obnoxious spangles, plain old blue jeans that fit you well, pencil skirts, cable knit sweaters, plaid kilts hitting at the knee, tweed pants, etc. Neutral tones (beige, brown, navy, muted blues, blacks, greys, whites and ivories) are usually safe bets since they almost never completely go out of style. Plum, berry and aubergine comes in style virtually every autumn, as does plaid (or so it seems to me). These are all safe bets. But bright colours will come and go, odd shapes (crop-tops, shoulder-pads, 3/4 length sleeves, capris) as well, and if the 70s are big this year (which they are, apparently), they may not be next year. Oh, and don't assume everything from the 70s or another era is suddenly desirable - every decade had it's crazy and regrettable trends. Think classic shapes (A-line, shift dresses, etc.) and fabrics and you should be alright.
  • Buy what you love. Here's the cop-out bullet point that can override all the others. If you TRULY love that garment, go for it. But you might want to put it on hold and see how you feel in the morning. If you're still just as excited, go for it! Can't put it on hold? Can you pay a deposit on it? I'm sure they'll put in on hold if you offer to leave them $5 whether you buy it (in which case, $5 off the price) or not (in which case, they get $5 and you lose it). I would never recommend wasting money in this way, but if the item you want costs $60, you might end up saving yourself $55 when you realise that the bright pink zootsuit isn't going to be worn often enough to justify the purchase.
All from vintage shops: My Sister's Closet, Turnabout, and somewhere in Victoria
Club Monaco merino sweater, mint condition - $8.99 at the Salvation Army thrift shop.
American Eagle mint condition (though not terribly well-made) ankle booties to complete the trend - $24.99, also at the Salvation Army thrift shop, 4th & Cypress.

5. Summer Clearance Racks.  Be very careful not to buy anything that you can't wear into November - the cheap prices always sucker us in! Be on the look out for things you can layer, i.e. long sleeved t-shirts in oatmeal or mustard yellow, jumpers/vests you could wear over a light, long-sleeved sweater, long-sleeved floral blouses that you can wear under something else, long floral skirts that you can wear tights under, and ankle booties with CLOSED TOES. Note that the sandals and peep-toed shoes will be on sale - don't buy those. There are deals to be had, but they are few and far between. BRING YOUR SHOPPING LIST from step #3 with you and don't be tempted to buy something you won't be able to wear two weeks from now. I can almost guarantee you that whatever it is will seem a lot less exciting to you by next summer, so save your cash! Look for long sleeves and fall colours and keep to the list!

6. Start your permutations! Alright, a little bit of geeky math humour there, but I'm just being factorial! (Groan). With your component pieces, how many other outfits can you make? Now here's where we come across the distinction between mathematics and art - not all bottoms are going to 'work' with all tops, so although it's a possibility to pair your plaid shirt with your floral skirt and striped scarf, you may wish to give that particular combination a miss (then again, you might not!).

Thanks Ash for the awesome moss green hand-knit gloves!
I bought that handmade purse at a Victoria street market. I love the craziness of it.
Yeah, it crocheted that cowl! While tutoring! Fast pattern!

This, despite the math references, is actually the fun part. I like to take photos and blog about it, but maybe you are normal and just want to lay the outfits out on the bed. I still recommend taking photos - you can just load them up on your computer and have a virtual fall closet. Heck, you could upload all of your clothes and mix 'n' match potential outfits. That's just way too much work for me (however, I do fantasize about such a system on mornings when I seriously can't be bothered and would just wear my sweatpants to work if I could).

Pre-existing Sari Bari Bag, and vintage merino sweater and boots

Ah, my lovely Sari Bari bag comes in handy yet again! What a great colour. Check out Sari Bari here, or read more about this fabulous company from my previous blog post. Buy a truly one-of-a-kind bag!

That's it for today! Hope it gives you some inspiration to build a wicked fall wardrobe:
  1. Cheaply
  2. Easily
  3. from pre-existing clothing
  4. and ethically/environmentally - My Sister's Closet and the Salvation Army stores are both!

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