Archive for the 'What I’m buying' Category

Confidence tip: polish up your style for summer and beyond

There are a lot of navy and other shades of blue in this summer’s collections and this will continue into winter and next summer.  With these colours, the bright red nail polish that was very popular last summer looks a bit dated now – apart from when you’re on vacation.

A lot of people seem to be wearing grey and browny-grey shades of nail polish, but to me these look a bit too flat.

My favourite to go with this season’s colours is Merino Cool by Essie as it has a bit of life to it and still a modern tone. It is also a nice alternative to red when you’re wearing black.


I’m loving La Perla again

Last week, I wrote about the effects of gravity on our bodies and the importance of ensuring that bras are worn properly.

It got me thinking about my own lingerie.  Lingerie is not something I cover often as we don’t sell it at Wardrobe; but putting on really pretty underwear makes most women feel good.

I have found that it is difficult to find lingerie for women of a certain age and a certain size which is made from the kinds of fabric that makes for lovely lingerie.

As a loyal devotee of La Perla for many years, I was disappointed when some years ago I found I was no longer able to find things from them that would fit women of a certain age.

However, I was delighted this week when out looking for summer lingerie and feeling in need of a change from the more everyday styles, to see that they have come back to designing for more than just young pert boobs. 

La Perla has always used interesting and good quality fabrics for their garments which are not heavy and are very feminine. So finding a few styles available in up to a size E and with a fuller cut is good news.

Obviously, that’s not going to be of much use if your bust is bigger than this. For women with larger busts, I wrote this post (   a while back with lots of additional confidence tips for the bigger bust.


A call to arms

We’re getting to the time of the year when we would like wear clothes which show our arms; and this worries a lot of women. So here’s a slightly unusual product recommendation.

Rene Guinot’s Liftenseur Bust Cream, while meant (obviously) for firming up the bust can also be used to great effect on your upper arms.  It is quite an expensive way to deal with this problem, but I find it works quickly and effectively.  It’s only a short summer, so it’s worth the investment.


The economics of larger sizes

I’ve had a number of people asking me about why it can be difficult to find clothes made for larger women.  Here is one I received by email (thank you Marilynn):

Since you work with very competent Italian houses, are they accommodating the plumper woman by offering (or grading to) larger sleeve circumference for a larger bicep?  Or larger bosoms and/or waistlines?  Or, for that matter, are they cutting for any shape other than the hour-glass?  Those women who aren’t hour-glass are the ones finding the most problems.

There is a simple answer to this question – and it has nothing to do with any infatuation with model shaped women. It has everything to do with simple economics.

As regular readers will know, high quality clothes are expensive for two reasons – the cut and the cloth (and you can add marketing costs if you want to include the big brands in the definition).

So, the bigger the size, the more cloth that has to be used – and it is generally not acceptable to charge different prices for different sizes despite the fact that a size 20 can sometimes use up to twice as much cloth as a size 10. Also, a design needs to be modified when it gets to over size 14 and again after size 18, thereby increasing the cost of the cut. So, many houses find it uneconomical to cater for larger sizes.

Anyone who is not a standard size – and most of us, even if we’re quite thin, are not standard – needs to buy better (and typically more expensive for the reasons above) clothes if they want them to fit properly.  It is simply more accentuated for larger sizes.

So, what to do?

There are companies that start at a larger size so that their economics are built around this.  But they tend not to be designer-led, so the clothes are often not that stylish – and not in wonderful fabrics.

From Wardrobe’s point of view, having just as many customers who are size 14 and over as who are size 8 and 10, I have to be very knowledgeable in my selection when buying as our customers of this size are stylish women who do not want to be penalised because they are more shapely.

One reason that our own designer collection at Wardrobe has worked so well is that we’ve been able to integrate the things we’ve learned on the shop floor with the needs of our clients and persuade a couple of other designers to re-grade to accommodate larger sizes.

Generally, however, for larger sizes – especially plump arms – you’re more likely to find stylish options from German manufacturers who are often more generous in the cut than the Italians. But even there the options are limited.

So the bottom line, excuse the pun, is you get what you pay for no matter what size you are.


Here comes summer – how to buy dresses

One of the best things about fashion in recent years is the resurgence of dresses (and I’m talking here about upmarket tailored ones that you can wear in the office or in the evening, rather than the short, frilly varieties available on the high street).  And it’s a trend that has continued this Summer.

Quite apart from anything else, dresses are easy as you don’t need to worry about putting a top under them – but because of this, they need to fit properly – the cut, as well as the cloth, has to be exactly right.

Here’s what to look out for:

I’ve written recently that lengths of dresses and skirts – unless you’re very young – are to the knee (or even tapered and just below). This is a bit longer than in recent seasons and, now that I’m back from buying trips for next season, I can tell you it will continue into the Autumn/Winter season.

Interesting necklines feature strongly and I personally will always try to buy dresses with back zips as it involves less creasing and a lot less effort when putting them on.


A little tip with dresses with straight skirts is to always look from the side view as sometimes women with a flatter bottom may need an adjustment involving lifting the back of the dress at waist level which will improve the overall appearance.

Remember to make sure there is a triple mirror available so you can see the back of you and ensure the fit is perfect.

Although the magazines are showing bright colours, I think it’s really short sighted at times like this to invest in brightly coloured clothes that will be dead in six months – colour, particularly bright colour is the most fleeting of fashion trends. However, you might want to invest in a bright coloured handbag, cardigan or shirt/top to get the feeling of the season in a way that complements your own longer term style.

There are varieties of muted colours around (blues, greens and even summer greys) that flatter most women so much more than the flashy ones.

Also, if you want a bit more colour, there are some geometric prints around, but be careful they don’t look too girly.


Age has to be an issue with colour – if you really want the brights, save them for the beach as most of our continental peers do.

Aside from dresses, jackets remain tailored – and will continue to do so into Autumn/Winter with a lot of detailing (often tone on tone) and the last vestiges of bling barely visible.

Chunky necklaces and bangles are still strong this season – I’ve found some very beautiful leather necklaces which look a little bit different. Belts feature quite strongly this season as an accessory to the dress. Finding a good quality buckle is very important, which is why I’ve developed a close collaboration with one of the best Italian belt manufacturers to ensure that we can always provide simple but high quality buckles that complement our dresses.



Truly Made in Italy certification… a truly fantastic innovation

It is a well-known fact amongst buyers that even if a garment has Made in Italy in it and is from the most marketed Italian fashion houses, it is often stretching the truth. They may have had the buttons or a finishing done in Italy but in fact the garment could have been actually made in Romania, Turkey, Morocco or elsewhere.

Those manufacturers who truly do make their clothes in Italy have, for many years, tried to find ways to get their message across.  Now, because more and more buyers are becoming aware of the issue and are still being asked to pay high prices for the merchandise, one knitwear company that I’ve worked with for a very long time has decided to do something positive about it.

Lorena Antoniazzi, one of a group of Italian perfectionists who have been in the ‘truly made in Italy’ business for many years, has developed a system which enables the traceability of its merchandise and gives it Italian Textile Fashion (ITF) certification as Truly Made in Italy.

The patent-pending system, which is due to go live on the company’s website in the coming weeks, involves a waterproof microchip being inserted in the labels of its clothes with an associated barcode which enables the purchaser to trace all of the stages of production via the website.  (If  you’ve bought one of their garments from Wardrobe in recent weeks, you will have seen the label with the barcode – and the microchip is in the label.)

The company is hoping that the initiative will help buyers understand the quality, and value the professionalism, of every stage of production by Italian craftsmen.  You can read more about it here:  And I hope you’ll being seeing much more about it in the press in the coming months as others come on board.

I think this is a fantastic and far-sighted initiative – and I’m really pleased that it’s one of our suppliers that is leading the way.  We have always taken great pains to ensure that everything we buy is truly made in Italy – and for Sfera we know it is because we manage the production directly.  But this innovation can only be good for those of us who prefer to buy clothes based on quality and craftsmanship rather than on brand name alone.


Camel: a clarification… and some counsel

Since I last posted – about the lack of camel in this winters collections – I’ve been taking a good look at the September issues of many of the UK and US fashion magazines and, to my surprise, most have got some kind of feature that seems to be falling over camel as a key colour this season.

As I buyer, this surprised me, not just because camel was so prominent in West End shops last year, but also because there is not that much camel around at the top end of  the market this year. 

And in fact, much of what is described as camel actually isn’t camel at all. It seems quite often to be used as a shorthand for a variety of neutrals (one of which is the yellowy camel). But the dominant neutrals this winter – and those which flatter a north European skin in winter are those with a hint of grey rather than yellow.

I think you should be quite careful about buying camel colour clothes – for some people it does work very well, but in general camel, because it is VERY classic, can really age you unless it is accessorised very carefully.  Certainly putting it with brown risks looking boringly classic.

Camel is also used by designers not used to creating modern classics – precisely because it is associated with classic.  But I believe that in 2010, if you are going to use camel it needs to be designed and cut superbly in a soft fabric (to avoid it looking too flat) or it will very quickly date you.

At Wardrobe, in a very good start to the season, the most successful colours have been various shades of grey (of which there are many) and other neutrals which have a predominance of a blush tone to them – but the yellowy ones have not even been requested.


Camel? That ship (of the desert) has sailed

I was really surprised to see in a national press fashion page this week that “camel” is back. True, camel had a bit of a revival last season, but things have moved on.

This season, instead of the yellowy tones of camel and similar colours, we’re seeing more pinky and grey tones.  There are some wonderful blush coloured wools and cashmeres and all kinds of shades of grey. You’ll even find boots and shoes in grey.

Alongside these there are varying shades of “grape” from deep raisin to powdery amethyst – and a touch of winter red.

Check out the new season Wardrobe website where there are lots of examples of these wonderful winter colours from our collection.

Other trends to look out for this season are dresses that are curvy and sophisticated in style; jackets that have gone shorter, so that suits have taken on a slightly different silhouette; and the appearance of hats as a more visible everyday accessory.

And not a camel in sight.


Italian style may just be re-finding its heritage and soul

I have bitched and moaned for several years about how the Italian style scene, increasingly dominated by big brand names, had moved away from its heritage, chasing fashion and bling, and increasingly manufacturing outside Italy.

It has made it hard for us to find the kind of clothes that we know our customers want; and it led to us launching the Sfera collection to – very successfully – fill the void.

However, I’m very happy to see that there is a real sign that some of the names that didn’t sell out to the big brands are increasingly allowing their soul to start to show through again.


Italy seems to be returning to what it was always known for – fine fabrics, fine tailoring, with that special edginess in the cut; and this season a lot of research and time has been put into the fabrics, the trimmings and the general design of the garment.

There is also a really optimistic feel to their collections for next season (which I’ve been buying over the past weeks) because they were returning to what they knew best. 

Most reassuringly, they tell me that the change is driven by demand.  Women are, they say, fed up with cheap and cheaply made clothes – they know they don’t look good in them; and now – above all – they want to feel good and look fabulous. 


Even the magazines are being educated that it’s not just about clothes for 20 year olds any more. There have been a number of articles recently suggesting that big brands are passé – that women don’t want disposable branded clothes anymore – that they are increasingly buying just one or two really good pieces each season.

So what can you expect for the coming season?

The look is simple and minimal but the cut isn’t – the experience of the designers that we stock have really used all their expertise in putting together clothes that are quite special – an extra dart here – an extra seam there that makes the garment fit superbly.


There are lots of lovely luxury fabrics and an interesting colour palette which focuses a lot around greys, browns and grape colours, all of which, unless they are in good fabrics, can look hard against skin; but once you put them in the more luxurious fabrics they become really glamourous.  I’ve honestly never heard so many ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s as from Stylists at Wardrobe as they’ve opened boxes as stock has come in over the past few weeks.

What’s also interesting is that the styles span the generations – we’re finding that 30 year old and 50 year olds can wear same things, just differently accessorised. I see this as a sign of true luxury in the clothes.

I really hope the trend continues so we’re not the only people doing it.


Why luxury is the new exclusivity

I’ve been having trouble with a word this week.

It’s an important word for women who want to put together their own individual, confident style.

It’s a word which has become, if not devalued, then at least confused in recent years.

And that confusion is arguably a big contributor to changes in the industry which have made it increasingly difficult for people to develop an individual style.

The word is ‘exclusive’.

Not so very long ago, exclusivity in high fashion was valued as a combination of high quality (luxury fabric and beautiful cut) and a (usually) associated limited availability – reducing the chance that you’d look the same as someone else whether during the day or in the evening.  That generally came at a price which not everyone could afford.

So exclusivity was a combination of quality, scarcity and price.

It seems to me that as high fashion has become owned by a few big companies who control most of the big names (now called brands) in fashion, this has become less true.  Many of the top fashion houses are copied immediately the fashion shows are over and in some cases you’d be hard pressed to know if it was D&G or Debenhams – especially as so many of the high street emporiums are using designer names for their products (Jimmy Choo at H&M being among the latest of them).

Even at the top end, most brands today are trading on their brand names; lowering their spend on fabrics.  Escalating marketing spends mean they cut corners on the cloth and the cut/design.

And they’re not even scarce.  The big brands, which understandably are more financially- than style-oriented, make such high volume of what they produce that their clothes are no longer exclusive, just expensive.

So how does someone wanting to create their own individual style – exclusive to them – go about it.

Exclusivity is something that can’t be copied cheaply. And what makes a garment impossible to copy is a fantastic cut and top quality fabrics. Immediately you put on a well cut garment you can tell the difference immediately and you only need to touch the fabric.

I believe that the new exclusivity is where you can see the luxury of the garment without an over-marketed logo or symbol.

Brands do perform one useful role: they give people a sense of security – even if they can’t tell whether it’s a good garment, at least other people will see from the logo that it wasn’t cheap.

But even that is wearing thin now. At a recent event I ran for alumni of London Business School, members of the audience were saying that they bought logos because it gave them confidence – but also that they were aware that they weren’t getting value for money…

… which brings me to a post for the next week: why you need to find a “professional friend” to help you buy high quality and good value clothes.