Tag Archives: what to wear?

What to Wear…When You’re Nervous?

It will probably surprise exactly no one to learn that I deal with anxiety over an event by planning my outfit. (Remember the first day of school?) Suffice to say, then, that I’ve been wondering what to wear tonight for weeks. In a couple hours at The New York Times, I’m going to stand up in front of a crowd that includes faculty and friends from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, as well as journalists like Barbara Walters and Charlie Rose (so apt at public speaking!!), and accept an award from the Dean of the school. I’m so excited for the honor, but after mining my closet and tormenting my friends all weekend, I still haven’t landed on an outfit.

I’m about to hop in the shower, where an assortment of dresses, jackets, skirts and shrugs hang, waiting for the wrinkles to fall out in the steam. (Now that Julie and Lina’s opening film revealed this strange setting, there’s no point in hiding it.)

The Dean might be happy to know I’ve taken a few minutes from this turmoil to work on my speech. Essentially, I’ll talk about CUNY being a place that gave me the confidence to stick with the material I believe in, and the tools to repackage it for the worldwide web. (See: Sweden.Closettour.) I’m hoping for an outfit that can remind me of the same. A solid piece, maybe made modern by an accessory or two, that still lets the story shine through. 

Hit the showers!

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Spring in Full Swing

It’s going to be a really busy week here at Closettour.

“Where, at Closettour?” You might ask, and you would not be wrong, since the office travels where I do, whether the San Juan Mountains, San Clemente or Sweden. But for the moment, when I’m not wondering what to wear from my closet in Williamsburg, I’ll most likely be here: the newly minted Center for Journalistic Innovation at CUNY.

This is where a few of us working with grants from Jeff Jarvis Entrepreneurial Journalism class will be working. As you can see, it’s still a place in progress (more computers to come), and I’ve been told I’ll be responsible for the layout, as the aesthetically inclined chick in this incubator.

File:Pink peeps.jpg

This is a very different role from my one at Edun, where I simply packed boxes and got out of the way when we moved our offices from SoHo to Tribeca. But here, it’s a wholly different crowd of co-workers. For the last several months, I’ve worked back-to-back with Joe Filippazzo and Tom Clark, who founded Knotebooks, an open-source site for physics lessons.

Yesterday Tom asked me whether I felt pressure to always dress the part of a person covering fashion. And yet, I could have asked him the very same question–see his tee-shirt below, which reads, “No, I will not fix your computer.” Incidentally, that was what I had just asked him to do. Who’s dressing the part now?

Actually we both are.

I happened to be wearing this little Loomstate vest, a favorite layering piece this time of year. On the subway a few days ago, I ran into Berrin Noorata, who I used to share that SoHo office with when Loomstate, Rogan and Edun were all under one roof. Berrin organizes the brand’s parties, and she told me not to miss the one to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow night. I will not, and you shouldn’t either. They even have a school bus for downtowners.

And speaking of Earth Day, it will be interesting to see what comes of the CEO Water Mandate Meeting, also happening this week, over at the United Nations. Henrik Lampa, H&M’s Environmental Supply Chain Manager, who I met in Stockholm, told me one of H&M’s main issues when it comes to water conservation is denim washing, and he’ll be looking at how the clever application of chemistry might reduce the water footprint of a pair of jeans. H&M has had their fair share of environmental missteps over the last few months, but there’s no denying that they apply some serious manpower (and money) to investigating how the fashion industry might leave a lighter footprint on the planet.

jeans H&M Shop Online

It’s a complicated relationship, and one I’ll explore further on a site I’m developing about sustainable style, based on material from Sweden. So, that’s what I’m working on between the lines of the blog here, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of it soon. Assuming I sustain until the end of the week, I’ll be styling pre-loved prom dresses for their new owners on Saturday morning–email operationfairydustnyc@yahoo.com if you’re interested in joining me–or you can always find me right here, wondering what to wear.

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Operation Fairy Dust

Is it just me, or is Jim Dwyer going through a fashion phase? First, it was H&M, then The New York Clothing Bank and in Sunday’s Metro section, The New York Times columnist highlighted Operation Fairy Dust, a program for distributing pre-loved prom dresses to girls in need. Dwyer referred to “the fancy dress: usually worn once for a few hours, then retired from active duty.”

How does Dwyer know? Does he have a closet-full of said dresses? I love the idea of Operation Fairy Dust, (and wonder if they still need volunteer personal shoppers) but had the columnist looked further, he might have found not all girls ferret away their formalwear when the dance is done.

You bet your bustle that as soon as the snow began to melt in high school, I was wondering what to wear to the prom.

Image from Wgirls.org

Senior year, my original plan had been to wear a dress that belonged to my friend Laura (or was it Molly?), who was a year ahead of me in school. It was an Uma-inspired slippery number, if memory serves. I think I was getting dressed in my mom’s bedroom. My hair was done, my makeup on; I pulled the dress  over my head and turned around to show my mom. Her face fell, and she pointed to a large spot on the front, like a water stain over the right thigh. The dress was periwinkle sand-washed silk–oh my, it’s coming back to me now–there was nothing that could be done. My mom drew in a deep breath, likely flashing back to the violent fashion crises that nearly kept me home several mornings in the second grade. 

But all was not lost. We had inspiration. It was 1999, and Gwyneth Paltrow had worn a silvery ball gown skirt and strapless top to the Golden Globes. I had a skirt like that. I even had a tube top, albeit a cotton spandex one. I put it on. It looked like cotton spandex. I think that by that point my date, Jimmy Kerley, might have actually been downstairs. Mom went into the closet for reinforcements (sound familiar?) and emerged with a black negligee. I was confused. I was scandalized. I was…relieved. I pulled it on over the tube top and tucked it into my skirt. Done!

There I am on the right. My friends Kate and Katie, in the middle, chose dresses that were not too prom-specific to be worn again. Jessica, on the left, was likely inspired by the same muse I was, and I bet either she or her older sister has worn at least one piece of that outfit again too. But, I’m sure we all have at least one one-night wonder that might be better off relegated to a cycle of rebirth at various proms, and it’s great that NYC has organizations like Operation Fairy Dust for those glamorous gowns. 

However, that silvery skirt is still hanging in my closet (next to the hand-me-down prom dress I wore Day 2 of Fashion Week) as I type, and I’m contemplating what I might be able to wear it with for spring. It could be cute with a grey tee shirt  and a jean jacket. I’m sure photographer and stylist Kristen Joy Watts will have an idea or two when she helps purge my closet this weekend. Maybe there’s still some fairy dust left in there. 

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Bags, Tags and Automobiles

This is my favorite purse. It’s by Jerome Dreyfuss. I got it in Paris four years ago, and to replace it at the designer’s new store in SoHo today would probably cost close to $800. Although it cost a little less then, it is still the most expensive accessory I’ve ever owned. (It was a different place and time, when I traveled to France for fabric shows, and designers subsidized my purchases so they could examine my choices.)

If you’re gasping at the price-tag, consider this: Most women in New York City do not drive cars. Sure, we ride the subway, but in many ways, our purses are our vehicles. They carry our valuables, they are with us everywhere we go and might be one of the first things someone notices about us (depressing, as it is with cars, however true).

image from Chicago Classic Cars

Therefore, like a car, bags must be reliable, comfortable, functional, and ideally, beautiful. But reliability is of utmost importance, lest you end up like Malika Ritchie, who I met during Fashion Week. Malika had traveled from Seattle to work dressing models backstage, and this was after the Karen Walker show, midway through her week:

I’ve had better luck with my Jerome Dreyfuss. I would estimate I carried it every day for the first two years I owned it, and then for the following two, gave it temporary breaks until occasions like Fashion Week or travel required the convenience and convertibility offered by the bag’s design details: the genius key-leash (long enough that you don’t need to detach them), the outer and inner pockets for passports and pens and the inner straps that let you gather it up small when it’s empty-ish, and expand it to hold a notebook when necessary.


That’s not a bad record, when you calculate the price per wear. But then just yesterday, as pictured above, a strap gave way. The bag didn’t come crashing down, no cell phones skipped down stairs. It happened quietly, the strap held strong by reinforcements and buckles until I could knot the end in a temporary fix.

I brought the bag to Sweden last week, where all my cameras, recorders, notebooks and cosmetics likely did it in. That’s also where I met Mike Schragger, at Stockholm’s Sustainable Fashion Academy. There, he proposed an interesting solution: leasing, rather than purchasing clothing. That way companies would be compelled to make their products more durable, since they would be responsible for the maintenance. He compared it to leasing a washing machine from Electrolux–a concept as foreign to a New York City girl as automobile ownership, but compelling nonetheless.

You might be thinking you already heard this idea, from Jennifer Hudson’s character in the Sex and the City movie.

But Schragger’s proposal sounds different–more like making a purchase from a company reliable for repairs and returns like Patagonia, rather than renting a patchwork Louis Vuitton until the trend passes. The benefit, of course, would be that rather than dropping $800 on a new bag (or $1800 in the Vuitton case), you could make smaller payments over the long-term, either working towards ownership, or returning it for a new ride when the time is right.

For the moment I’ll have to take of my own bag maintenance–although there is an updated model at Jerome Dreyfuss’ new downtown dealership I’d love to take for a test-drive.

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Stockholm Bound

It seems only yesterday I was wondering what to wear in Colorado. As I said,  wondering what to packessentially wondering what to wear in advance, in a foreign setting, is quite an extensive endeavor for me.

This week, my setting is about to get even more foreign. Tomorrow, I’m headed to Sweden!

I haven’t yet begun to pack. It’s not that I’m not excited. On the contrary, I’m sort of paralyzed with anticipation. I’ll be one third of a traveling trio that includes dear Erin Dixon of Dossier and Turner, who styled the magazine’s latest cover–a springtime stunner starring Daria Werbowy.


The purpose of this trip is not to sip aquavit, sweat in saunas, or scour modern design shops (though we just might do all those things), but rather to spend a few days with Swedish academics and fashion designers whose work is tied to the country’s admirable efforts in sustainable development. So of course, I am wondering what to wear. Financial Times editor Vanessa Friedman totally nailed the conundrum of packing of clothes for a trip to research sustainability and style when she wrote this article about wondering what to wear to a fashion conference in Copenhagen.  

image via Ffffound!

Although spring has sprung in New York, it looks like Stockholm is expecting light snow, so I’ll likely bring my jeans, sweaters and scarves. Truth be told, I’m tempted to just forget it all. It wouldn’t be the most sustainable solution, but then I would just have to go shopping in Stockholm.

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Beware the “I Wants” of March

I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but today’s Closet Case Study references a different time in March.  Yesterday brought the first whisper of spring weather to Manhattan, and the first inspiring catalog Anthropologie has released in ages to my mailbox. The heady combination left me climbing into bed last night with a serious case of what my sister would diagnose as the “I Wants.”

The catalog still had some of the less-than-special pieces (knit rayon-argh!) that have permeated the store over the last few years, but it also had a bit of that old “Dries for real girls” magic that made me love it years ago in California. I think the “I Wants” started when I saw a floral Brazilian bathing suit, pictured under an oversized white button down shirt.

Anthropologie, March 2010, page 5

Well, I know I’ve got a perfect boyfriend-style white oxford from Steven Alan’s sample sale, and surely I must have a great Brazilian bathing suit in the archives from my time there

Yours truly, happily home in Rio de Janeiro, 2002

I flipped a few more pages, and then I saw this skirt:

Anthropologie March 2010, Page 21

I turned down the corner of the page. And then I thought, don’t I have a plum-colored silk skirt with a bustle, that I bought years ago in St. Louis? I do. If only I could find it. I could wear it with some little vintage Hawaiian print blouse to similar effect. 

Do you see it in here? I don’t.  

Maybe it’s in the “Spring bins” stacked beside my bed. (One of those books, by the way, contains a clue to my next trip’s destination.)

Rather than getting out of bed to look for the purple skirt, I flipped a few more pages, and found this amazing accessory, aptly titled, the “Epic Headband.” 

Anthropologie March 2010, Page 21

But upon further online investigation, I’ve found it’s little more that a shantung scarf, cleverly tied. Surely I’ve got one of those in the archives–many of which came out a couple years ago in celebration of the Prada turban

Indeed, they’re somewhere in there.

So it would seem that shopping, even for cheap accessories–which I previously prescribed this time of year, is not the sustainable solution for my pre-spring “I Wants.” Loathe as I am to admit it, I’m afraid the answer lies in cleaning, so I can see those purple bustle skirts, brilliant Brazilian bathing suits and springtime scarves fit to be tied. (The boyfriend button-down, however, is not missing, as I wear it year-round.) The best way to do this is with a friend–and I have two who balance the needs quite nicely. Some might say my friend Nicolette suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but I say she’s an organizational savant. She made me hang up all my necklaces like this, and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say it changed my life–or at least the way I accessorize. Okay, my life. 

Kristen Joy Watts, on the other hand, who you may remember as a bit of a style savant, and has previously referred to my closet as Narnia (like the shop we love), will help set about unlocking its magic. Ideally, each will sit on my bed on a Saturday, and help me purge and reorganize my bins, drawers, wardrobes, boxes and closets, in exchange for a home-cooked meal and likely a cocktail or two. I can already hear how this will go.

Nicolette: “I can’t believe you ever wore that.” Kristen: “You should wear that tonight. With scrunchy socks.” (That, my dears, will be one hell of a Closet Case Study!)

So I’ve already got spring’s most important accessories–friends to help me mine for inspiration. Now my main “I Want” is centered around one wish: the weather to wear this stuff.

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The USA, Today

Although I was raised a Midwestern girl, until my recent 5-day trip to Colorado, I had spent almost no time in our country’s middle over the last several years. Recently, I got a little more than I bargained for at the Montrose, CO airport, so I went for a stroll outside. There, in a newspaper machine on the sidewalk: I saw this headline on USA Today:

“When the textile mill goes, so does a way of life.”

I found a dollar in change, and got the last copy from the dispenser. The story that followed traced massive job losses in Surry County, North Carolina, once a hub of the domestic textile industry.

Mount Airy, North Carolina

The story is a familiar one, of American manufacturing unable to compete with cheap goods from overseas, but reporter Paul Wiseman did a nice job of putting some faces on the story and looking towards the future. Some of that future, of course, is really bleak (BLS predicts the job market will lose 71,500 sewing machine operators between 2008 and 2018), but Wiseman managed to find a little bit of hope as well. He wrote about a government program called Trade Adjustment Assistance, that helps workers like Steve “Stump” Jenkins, who lost his job at Perry Manufacturing Mill in 2008, train for jobs in other fields. Jenkins chose law enforcement, his reasoning being that the police force couldn’t be displaced by foreign competition. He told the paper he loves his new job, but the fact remains he’s earning only $25,000 per year, less than a quarter of what he earned at Perry Manufacturing. Other workers are training in wine-making at Surry Community College, making use of land where fields of tobacco once grew.

I’ve sort of snubbed USA Today in the past (“Finches fight to death in blood sport” was, after all, the headline beside the one that caught my eye), in favor of fashion industry stories from The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But I’m glad I was stuck in Montrose for a moment, cause otherwise I might have missed this one.

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