Wednesday, February 29, 2012

High Heel Tips

In this past month I have given two talks on spring trends and how I will be wearing them. I bring my own wardrobe and share my opinions with other mothers. I have worn the same outfit to both groups, and have featured the outfit in my coloured denim post, it consists of the green J Brand jeans, white top, gold necklace and BCBG nude shoes. If I'm talking about spring trends I will become a walking billboard. What gets the biggest response? The shoes, not because of the fantastic shade of nude that just goes with everything, but because of the four inch heel. You see, when a mother of four wears heels that high (and is already six feet tall) there are bound to be questions. I love the questions because my answers seem to catch some people off guard. Why Heels? Because I look good in them and need the height. Do you wear heels with your children? Yes, but only for limited periods of time (you need to stay honest). Do you love heels? Anything that makes me look longer and leaner? Bring it!! Do you own lots of heels?  "What do you consider lots"?

My favourite question is "What is a comfortable high heel?", the answer is simple "THEY DO NOT EXIST". The question should be "What heels will inflict the least damage?" Let me expand on this, I can wear my high heels for two hours and I am still happy, anything over fours hours with movement and I find all high heels hurt. I love my Jimmy Choo, Prada, Boutique 9, BCBG, Enzo Angilini, Nine West, Tory Burch, Coach, Nine West and Aerosoles heels. They all look good, make me feel like I don't have four children but over longer periods of time none of them are comfortable. I know some in the blogosphere will say "I have really comfortable heels and I wear them all day and run marathons in them, blah, blah, blah." You are lying (or you could be 20), I love you but still. Now if you are not lying you probably can't feel your feet after a while and that is not comfortable, nor healthy. You can't run in heels (no matter what television or the movies say) nor should you.

High heels are also are bad for your, wearing heels forces your lower back into a position that puts pressure on the joints between your vertebrae. The higher the heel the more pressure on your back. Moreover, they may also affect your knees, putting pressure on the knee cap and joint, causing inflammation and pain. Not to mention what happens to your feet after constantly wearing heels, google Sara Jessica Parker, Victoria Beckham or even Oprah and their feet. That being said, I am not giving up wearing my heels. What I can do is try to minimize the pain and ugliness and here are some tips:
  • Make sure your shoes fit - The number one reason women feel pain or get blisters and abrasions is because their heels are not the right size. It doesn't matter how cute the shoes are, if they don't fit save your money. When you are trying on heels go at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest and this will help with fit and show how comfortable most are.
  • Know your foot shape and flexibility - Some pointy toe shoes have a very narrow foot boxes, if your foot is fuller just stay away, don't jam it in there. This will affect the shape of your foot that only surgery can correct. Not every foot is flexible enough to wear a four inch heel, try something shorter.
  • Learn to love a Platform - if possible chose a heel with a small platform under the toe. This will add height throughout the shoe rather than just in the heel and relieve the pressure you feel on the balls of your feet.
  • Break your heels in - don't wear a new pair of heels to a Croatian wedding and expect them to feel fabulous. Spend a few hours with them on around the house.
  • Give your feet a break - if you need to walk to work etc., wear a walking shoe and change into high heels on arrival. I do this, why waste my heel time getting there? If I am going to a Croatian wedding I have gotten smarter and bring a pair of flats in my purse that allows me to dance till they turn the lights on.
  • Throw out old shoes - as we age our feet change
  • Switch up your heels - stilettos are hot, but they are the most painful heel to wear. Make sure that you have some thicker heels to choose from
  • Spend some money - not all cheap shoes hurt and not all Louboutins are comfortable, however, you'll find that expensive high heels are made well and your feet will thank you.
  • Switch up your footwear - Wearing the same high heels will cause foot pain and blisters, switch it up. Change your shoes often, rotating between heels, flats and running shoes. Furthermore, switch up your heel height and give your body a break. What a great excuse to go shopping!
  • Pamper your feet - soak them, get your husband to massage them and just general care will make a difference.
Here is some shoe porn...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vomit Doesn't Go With Anything...

So one of my children is sick and I am sitting in my Lululemon yoga pants and a Lululemon warm up shirt writing this while they sleep. As the title would suggest fashion is taking a back seat today and function is king. When function is ruling my life I throw on my yoga pants or sweats, but these pants always look good on my bum  and crotch (God that word sounds crass). I discovered Lululemon back in 2002/2003 at their first Toronto location at Young & Eglinton. They had pants in LONG, and that's when they officially had me. When I came home with a $100 pair of work out pants my husband thought I was crazy, but then he saw my bum in them and we were good. Moreover, no camel toe. I wore my first pants through all four of my pregnancies and I always felt comfortable and good about myself in them.

I have been amassing my own Lululemon collection of sweats and yoga attire over these last ten years. I wear them to work out, doing chores in the house and outside, travelling and days like today when the kids are sick. They come in different rises, lengths, colours and fabrication. They really have something for everyone. I got my girlfriend Agnes from Germany, and Piritta from Finland hooked. They both resisted Lululemon because they did not do yoga, then they tried the pants on, it was over. The last time Agnes was in Canada she immediately went to Lululemon. Lululemon is available across the U.S. and is expanding to the United Kingdom. Spread the word ladies, even Oprah featured these pants on one of  her favourite things episodes.

When I love something I smother it until it's gasping for air, that's how I feel about my Lululemon pants.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Favourite Mall - The Somerset Collection

When most Torontonians think about a relatively close American shopping destination they'll think Buffalo, New York or Erie, Pennsylvania. I have never been to Erie so I cannot speak of the shopping but I have been to Buffalo (and surrounding areas that we will lump into one category here). The shopping is okay, they have Target and Anne Taylor and a large outlet mall that is always full of Canadians. My husband and I will pack up the kids every once in a while to go across the border and do some shopping, mostly around back to school time. However, when I want to do some real shopping and push myself to the point of exhaustion I will head over the border to Troy, Michigan and Somerset Collection. Of all the malls I've been to (malls in Japan, Chile, Croatia, New Jersey, New York State, Ontario, Chicago, Montreal and Calgary) it is by far my favourite.

As an aside, I am not going to debate if the deals are better etc. in the States. I think they are, NOBODY has a sale like the Americans. You can try and argue with me till you are blue in the face and you will not sway me. When you are heading to the U.S. do your homework on pricing. Unless something is on sale it is usually not cheaper in the U.S. once you factor in currency conversion and duty.

When I tell people that the suburbs of Detroit have some of the best shopping malls and selection they look at me like I'm on crack, yes crack. The suburban areas of Detroit have the headquarters of Chrysler, GM, Ford, K-Mart and Delphi. There are also numerous other companies that manufacture parts for the American big three. Things have been tough but people there are still fighting. Detroit also has a hockey team, basketball team, football team and baseball team. There is money there and there are shopping choices because of this. Troy is beautiful and safe, the biggest complaint about this city is it being "pretentious". Drive around Troy and you will understand why.

I am lucky because I still have family in Windsor and this gives me easy access to Michigan malls when I am in town and there is nothing better then Somerset. I LOVE Somerset because it is massive and has everything you can want in two seperate buildings attached by a skyway. The glass architecture allows for lots of natural lighting and the wide aisles give way to comfortable seating when you need to take a load off. Some of the stores I drool over and others I shop at. Whenever I need my Anne Taylor fix I get it, when I want to see the latest in Jimmy Choo I head to Saks. New York City has everything that is current, Somerset has more to offer then Yorkdale or even Yorkville. Then there is the service, staff usually go out of their way to help you find what you want. This keeps me coming back.

Sommerset does not have such favourites as Zara (none in Michigan) or H&M so there are some pieces missing but then again they have LOFT, Barney's, White House Black Market, Urban Outfitters, J Crew, Macy's, Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus. I could keep going on. There are other malls located close to Somerset so if you need something it is probably a car ride away (except for Zara). The food court is extensive and they have PF Chang's, Brio and the Capital Grille located in the mall. If none of those appeal to you a quick google search will find something for you appetite. Organizing a girls shopping weekend close by? Please try Sommerset. There are hotels right next to the mall and you can explore more then just Sommerset. This May I will be taking a group of girlfriends to my favourite Troy haunts. I know it won't disappoint! I have posted some pictures but to see what else is being offered click here

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What to Wear When Doing the Mundane

I've been asked what I wear on an average day. For stay-at-home moms our life is full of drop offs, pick ups, trips to the grocery store/Walmart/Costco and every so often a field trip with the kids to a museum, zoo or science centre. It's easy to be lulled into a sense of boredom and sweat pants. I am just as guilty as the next woman of throwing my hands up in the air and saying "why bother ?". Then I go out in public and I wish I had bothered, because I feel shleppy and look rundown and people look right through me. When I put a little effort into my appearance the green grocer wants to help me find the right produce and the stock boys find the item I can't. Even the women at the cash tell me how nice I look. Guess what? I like it. Say what you want it is nice to be noticed for something besides the poor (crazy) lady who has those four kids in five and a half years. I walk a little taller, smile a lot more and life seems fun and I do this for me because I deserve it. That's what we forget as mothers that we deserve that bit of time it takes to be us and to be seen.

Another person who will notice you is your husband. My husband jokes and asks me "What's his name?", and he knows the answer is Ivan (that's my husbands name, we don't know each other that well and you may be wondering). Men are visual creatures and they like to see their women looking pretty, hell I like to see their women looking pretty. My husband always says "Happy wife, Happy life" and he is right.

If you think about it (and you know that I do a lot of thinking about it) it is just as easy to put the good jeans on as it is the sweats. The ill fitting t-shirt should be replaced by a nice top because again it does not take any longer to throw it on. The question is "what do I wear when I am doing the mundane?". The answer is the fabulously simple with some accessories. There are some of us that just do not know what to wear, the whole process becomes frustrating, and that's okay. You just need a reference point and some time to shop and try clothes on. You HAVE TO try the clothes on, you can't just buy something because it says Medium and say Medium always fits. That is a lie! Once you know what will work the shopping will be less intimidating. Some of us will never find shopping fun but for all the effort you should see results.

My mom uniform is jeans, nice flats, a layering top and then a topper (blazer, cardigan, wrap, jacket etc). If you need a refresher check out my post on Four Fundamental Mom Pieces. Right now I am all about the blazer (thank you for this mild February). Blazers are great because they look dressy even if the top you are wearing is not. So when I come home and remove my blazer all I am wearing is jeans with a shirt/thin sweater and I am automatically kid appropriate (lots of time the jewellery comes off as well). Below are a series of photos of what I wore when I am doing the mundane (I have worn this outfit to go grocery shopping and Costco), a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) with my family and Muma Mary. I look like I've got it together, what the pictures don't show is that my youngest had a fit during this trip and tried to bite me numerous times, the kids kept complaining how hungry they were and how boring parts of the ROM was and my frustration with them at times (plus I was starving at one point too so I was cranky) basically life with kids.

Blazer: Smythe, Jeans: Paige, Sweater: Loehman's, Shoes: Cole Haan, Necklace: Hannah by Design.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Show Your Closet That You Care

When you look through my photos on this blog you will see that I use black velvet hangers. I used to buy wooden hangers from Ikea. The wooden hangers there were affordable and looked a lot better than plastic or wire. It gave my closet a uniform look that was visually pleasing. The problem with wooden hangers is that certain fabric and any article of clothing that has a thinner strap would fall off (that is why women's clothing has those plasticky straps inside many tops and dresses). This makes a big mess when everything is falling off and makes for frustration. Furthermore, wooden hangers are bulky and take lots of room in your closet so you cannot hang as many things as you need to, and all you are doing is trying to jam everything in it. So what started off as something that looked great now has ended up looking like my kids play area under the stairs in my basement. If you have limited space these hangers are not ideal.

So a few years ago I was at Costco (God I love Costco) and I saw this box of 50 black velvet hangers for less than $20. They are thin and claim that nothing will fall off these hangers! You can hang more clothing and your closet is tidy. I had to try them. If they didn't work I could bring them back and get a refund (another reason I love Costco). These hangers have changed the life of my closet, because they do exactly what they are supposed to. I have never had an issue of something falling off of them plus everything fits inside my closet!! My husband decided to go the way of the velvet hanger and I told my sisters about these hangers and Rosie has told me that they are indeed life changing.

I saw these hangers in Costco on Monday so they are back in stock. If you do not have a Costco card Winners and Walmart carry them as well. Winners and Walmart offer other colours besides black and Walmart has children's hangers in blue and pink (yes I did them in my kids closets as well).

I know that you will be thanking me when you switch to these hangers so you're welcome.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

White Top + Black Bottom = Waiter?

A white button down paired with black pants/skirt is so easy to wear but you can get mistaken for the wait staff. An easy way to break this look up is accessories. A nice belt will give your waist definition and also make the look more interesting. Black is easy, why not try a red belt or even an animal print. Wearing a thick belt will give your waist much more definition and will become the point of interest for the outfit. A thin belt will be a nice add on. Play with the belts you own and see what works. The reason I recommended a red belt is because it looks great with black and white and it helps break up the outfit with some visual interest. Orange is a very popular colour this season, if you do not want to purchase any orange clothing try an orange belt. It will make your outfit current.

If all you have is a black belt wear it to define your waist and play with some necklaces or even a scarf. The scarf could add your pop of colour. I like to add black pearls with this outfit. Pearls are classic, black pearls are a bit more fun and not overdone by everyone.

Here are a couple of pictures of me wearing black, white and python. It was during Christmas of 2011 and I wanted to wear an outfit that was easy but still fashionable. The blouse and skirt are from Cassis, the belt is from BCBG and the necklace is from George. Would you ask me to take your order?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Four of My Fundamental Mom Pieces

Whenever I am talking about wardrobe building the one question I am always asked is “what are the essentials”. I love/loathe this question. I love it because any wardrobe should be built with several fundamental pieces that we can dive from and start exploring our individual style. I loathe it because we are all different so my essentials will be different from yours. When I am dressing clients I need to know about their lifestyle. This gives me a better understanding of building a wardrobe that reflects that lifestyle, and also I want women to wear their clothes. Women who work in an office and those of us that stay at home will need different fundamentals.

So I will be exploring some of my favourite basics for moms out there. I will also expand on what are some great extras to have if you want to push some boundaries.

Every woman needs one. The most flattering jean is a mid rise, dark blue uniform wash, boot cut jean. Once you start playing with wash you get yourself in trouble. If you are thin then you can wear everything and you are lucky and most people are jealous (like me). Anyway, lots of jeans have the wash faded on the thighs, well this makes your thighs looks bigger. If you have lots of whiskering, you look bigger. My favourite jean, and one that seems to look great on most women, is Paige Denim Hidden Hills. The wash in this picture is called Twilight and it is perfect. I love the mid rise, it helps eliminate the dreaded muffin top. You can dress this jean up with a sequin top and go out for dinner with your partner or some friends, or throw on a t-shirt and pick your child up from school. I am six feet tall so I tend to only buy premium denim because they do not discriminate against amazons. Right now is a great time to buy denim because of all the sales.

If you already have a pair or boot cut jeans here are a couple of other options: A pair of skinny jeans with the same type of wash as stated above. Skinny jeans are not for everyone but if you love to wear boots they are the way to go. Or if you really want to let your inner fashion victim out try a pair of coloured denim. Red has become a staple but kelly green and bright pink are fun as well. These J-brand jeans are on sale for $99 at Aritzia. 

I have several blazers in different colours and I love them all. They just seem to make me look more chic, with the most classic and versatile being my black one from Long Tall Sally. Last night I wore that blazer, with jeans, black patent leather heels, and a python print top. They just look polished. I have purchased blazers from Cassis, Long Tall Sally, Banana Republic and Anthropologie. They are all fantastic and very flattering but no one does a blazer better than Smythe, you are also paying for that work of beauty made right here in Canada. If you own a black blazer and want to pick one up more think navy blue, especially for summer. Black can be harsh and blue just does better with colours like yellow, red or green. I went a big crazy when I bought a leopard print blazer, but I just love it!

Flat Shoes
I know that most of you want to die of boredom when I say flats but when you are carting around four kids flats are the way to go. I know you’ll tell me that Posh always wears heels, but then I’ll remind you that she has a whole army of people she employs to do the heavy lifting. So flats it is. I have several flats in different colours that I just rotate with my outfits. You cannot go wrong with basic black flats in a ballet or penny loafer style. I also have flats in several different colours because sometime a girl just needs some red or yellow or gold or nude in her life.

Black Patent Heels, Pointed or Almond Toe
The majority of women I know need at least one pair of heels in their wardrobe and black seems to be the staple colour. I prefer patent leather because if you have an evening function patent leather just seems dressier. Toe shape is a personal preference but either an almond or pointed toe elongate the foot and are a great staple. If you can find a great shoe with a platform take the platform it is more comfortable.

Now if you have the black heel I say buy a nude shoe. Nude shoes look better with most colours. I have a fantastic pink dress and the nude shoe is not going to be competing with that great colour. You will be looking at my dress first and then notice my great nude shoe.

Hope this helps.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Tall Day

I'm having an especially tall day. Let me start off by saying that I have always embraced my height (thanks mom and dad!!). I never slouched or tried to make myself look shorter, furthermore, I love high heels. Why should I hate shoes that make me look amazing plus make me even more intimidating to everyone around me? I am six feet tall and for the most part being tall is nothing but fantastic. There were a few things that I missed out on, for example, when I was in grade school, during class pictures, I only sat on the first row bench once. Why would this bother me? Because on picture day I put on my favourite dress and no one got to see it. I was in the back with all the boys (and a few of my tall sisters). I would have settled for the second row, but no. Moreover, tall girls are never considered cute, before all my petite girls start saying they hate being called cute, when you are younger and in the primary grades you always envied the cute little girls. The older grade girls always wanted to be partnered with the cute little girls. Then there is that whole awkward gawky stage, where I didn't know what do with my arms.

Anyway, going back to loving my height... I went shopping today and everything was too short, I'm talking pants, skirts and dresses, not to mention any top I put on. Tops can go wrong on the sleeve  and the mid-section, and they were hitting all the wrong spots. Then there were the shoes. When fashion buyers purchase shoes they only buy one (okay maybe two) size 10s that they expect all the tall girls (plus all the girls with big feet without the long torsoes) to fight over. So unless I purchase my size right when the season starts I am screwed. Just a side note: I love my shoes but boy are they HUGE, especially when shoes that are displayed in a store are a size 7 or 8.

The most frustrating part of having a tall day is the sales staff at every store you hit keeps telling you how long the pants are and they have to hem them because they are so long. Here's the thing, the average inseam is between 30 to 32 inches and I need at least a 34 inch inseam (not including when I want to wear heels). So when I do the math I am missing at least between 2 to 4 inches.

So I went home empty handed and commiserated about my Tall Day with my husband (he is six feet five inches so he gets it). He wasn't paying attention, something about being too busy with work so I am venting here. The reality is I have a pretty good wardrobe (and I didn't need anything) so I decided my pity party should be short lived and here are a few tips of where and what for all my tall girls (my petite and average friends can enjoy all these stores have to offer). They are Chic Mom approved.

  • Banana Republic - Pencil skirts, plus I just bought a maxi dress that was long enough
  • Holt Renfrew - shoes. If they don't have your size they will ship your size to their store with no strings attached. Plus they carry Paige Denim and I love Paige. Holt's started to carry some more affordable shoe lines that won't kill your budget and they have good sales.
  • Michael Kors - Dresses, they seem to hit me in the right place. The waist is where my waist is, and if the dresses are meant to be longer they hit me at the knee.
  • Cassis - Dresses, skirts, ankle length pants, tops are not too short
  • Puh-Nash - a private boutique located on Bloor St. (Toronto) that has a great owner who will help you find what you need and work with you to find your personal style
  • Carriage Trade - another amazing boutique located on Bloor St. that has some great pieces and a great staff that will keep an eye out for anything you need
Lastly, I do shop at Long Tall Sally. Their clothing is cut for tall people so everything is long enough, especially pajamas. Now I know that most of my tall girls are sleeping in short pants so google Long Tall Sally and order some pajamas, you can thank me later. LTS is hit or miss for me because some of the fabrics are not so flattering and the styles can be aging so please do not complain to me about that. I have also heard about a store called Long Legs (located in Oakville) and they also cater to the tall segment. I plan to visit this store soon.

Happy Tall Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Fashion Pet Peeves

We all have things that bother us. Some are universal, for example, people who do not turn off their cel phones during movies, theatre performances, church etc. We consider it rude and it annoys us. Other pet peeves are personal, things that bother us that may not be offensive to others. I have a few fashion pet peeves that I just cannot get over.

  1.        Leggings or footless tights (not sure which term to use) that are worn as pants. I HATE this look. This afternoon I saw a woman wearing leopard print tights with a black shirt that skimmed the top of her tights. Tights never look good in the crotch area so why are you showing that off? Tights are meant to be worn with a longer top, preferably a tunic. I know lots of 20 something or teen girls wear them as pants. It still looks bad, they can be excused because they are young and most have no clue. Anyone over the age of 25 should know better. The crotch area is offensive in tights but the bum is in no better shape. It looks so exposed and unattractive, I feel sorry for that bum. To be ridiculed and to be made to looks so unattractive. Just one more reason I hate this look, tights have elasticized waist bands, when has this ever looked good? I dare you to try and find where it works.
  2.      White socks with jeans/slacks/khakis and any shoe besides an athletic shoe. You are not Michael Jackson so please don’t channel the look. Not even Michael looked good rocking it.
  3.       Mom Jeans. I should not even have to explain why. If there is anyone who needs specifics I’ll write an entire entry on the singular piece of clothing that has given ALL mothers a bad name.

There are lots of other things that bother me but this will just have to do for now. Anything you think I missed?