Saturday, June 29, 2013

This is really a biggie - the woman with loose threads dangling about, run-down heels, just a generally ill cared-for appearance, will never be one of my Chic Sightings.  You may not have money, you may not have access to the world's most amazing assortment of clothes, but you can always be clean, tidy, and well-maintained. Anything less just doesn't cut it!

By elegance, I don't mean decked out for the opera in the most expensive, high-fashion swank garments available.  To me, elegance is a reflection of clarity and simplicity.  I always feel a bit twitchy when I'm confronted with too many ruffles, studs, grommets, and other gee-gaws on fast fashion.  Pile on a couple of busy prints, and I'm getting a migraine.  Sleek, simple, elegant, with the focus on the person rather than on the garments and accessories.

And by fit I don't really look for someone who could finish a marathon - I'm thinking more of the way garments fit.  In our current world of "buy it, wear it three times, toss it", the idea of the alteration seems to be forgotten.  But the truly Chic Sightings I see never have dragging pant legs, or sleeves drooping down over the hands, or any of the other more elusive, but unmistakable signs that a garment needs the attentions of a skilled tailor.  Perfectly fitted clothes are an art, the people who help us get our clothes that way are artists, and we thus are walking works of art when our clothes fit us  perfectly.

Friday, June 28, 2013

White shirts are an absolute classic, right?  Everybody should own one.  Everybody should pull it out and wear it whenever they're in doubt about what to wear.  Uhhhh - I don't quite agree. Yes, there are times and places where a white shirt is the most appropriate choice - a conservative job interview, for example.  But many of us, on a day to day basis, might be better flattered to wear tops that are closer in color to our pants or skirts -  if not a solid color, then a darker background.  See what you think...

Belovedest and I saw this woman a couple of days ago, and he asked me why she seemed  so out of proportion - the woman in question is actually tall and thin.  Her white tee shirt looked fresh and bright, but it did cut her proportions in an unfortunate way. The outfit on the right would have been more flattering, although it might require some deft accessorizing near her face to make the black not seem harsh.  There can be no question that the white tee shirt is easier to wear...
all clothes - L.L.Bean
Job interviews pretty much require a white shirt or blouse, for some industries, but once you have the job, consider getting another blouse to tone with the colors of your suit.  While many of us couldn't wear this shade of beige successfully, the ideal holds true for suits in any color.
all clothes - L.L.Bean
 The outfit on the left is perfectly lovely, and with the right scarf or jewelry could be beautiful.  But the outfit on the right flows visually more easily, and gives you a bit less of a sense of being chopped at the waist.
all clothes - L.L.Bean
 The general idea even holds true  for printed and patterned garments - a darker background that is close in color to your shorts, pants or skirt is worth considering.
all clothes - L.L.Bean

Although this doesn't explain to us how to make these tops cooler in hot weather, or more flattering to our complexions...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Vivienne Files is not dead - they've only been moved back to their old URL.  

Due to circumstances that only someone MUCH more computer-savvy than me could explain, the site has died.  Gone kaput. Vanished.  Google ate it, and Google will NOT spit it back up for me.

So I can be found at  

I'm so sorry.  If I knew who to yell at, I would be screaming myself hoarse right now...


p.s.  Make sure you scroll down and see today's "real" post about all of the Chic Sightings of white in Chicago, in the heat of summer...

As soon as the weather warms up, white clothes are a common choice, even in Chicago. I personally would be more likely to go out naked than to wear white - especially a white dress, but I admire many of these choices. They bring a freshness to summer, and color to the streets.

And note that there are, indeed, a pair of leggings in the mix here.  Worn, modestly, with a tunic that covers all of the anatomically graphic bits...

white dresses with pink and purple accessories
Pink cardigan – L.K.Bennett, Earrings-Shanny Alon,  White pique dress- Damsel in a dress,  Pink ballet flats-Ras, White sheathDorothy PerkinsPurple belt – Ralph Lauren, Purple tote – Lacambra,  Purple jacquard sandals – Missoni

white skirt with a blue plaid shirt, and white pants with a blue dotted top
Wrap shirt – Mango, Blue sandals – Maison Martin Margiela 22,  Denim skirt – Gerard Darel,  Tote bag – TSM, Pearl earrings – Blue Nile,  Dotted tee shirt – Armani Jeans,  White linen pants- EastGreen flats- Nine West

white shorts with dark blue shirt, and white pants with orange printed tunic
Denim shirt – Cycle,  Bracelet – YooLa, White shorts – J.Crew, Denim flats- Steven Sawyer,  Silk tunic – Paul & Joe,  Earrings- Finn, White leggings- John Lewis,  Canvas flats – Keds

white skirt with green paisley top, white jeans with red and white striped sweater
Paisley polo – Etro, Gold hoop earrings – Blue NileWhite linen skirt- J. Crew,  Sandals – Franco Sarto, White jeans – J. Crew,  Striped top – Marc Jacobs, Canvas shoes- Keds, Tote bag – Lands’ End

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Someone asked for taupe....  I hadn't intended to post another packing capsule quite so soon, but when I started browsing through dresses and saw this one, I sort of fell into this whole assortment of clothing.  This would be ideal for the early spring events that make you want to wear pastels, but that really still REQUIRE that you wear something rather warm.

peach and taupe dress with jacket and dressy accessories
Rose quartz earrings – Nikki BakerBag – A. F. VandervorstDress Paule KaCoat- Jil Sander, Taupe pumpsKristin Michaels

Yes, this is the second day in a row that this lace-trimmed scarf is shown - I think it's both amazingly beautiful and quite versatile.  I can't imagine anything that you might wear from this travel wardrobe that wouldn't look just a tiny bit nicer with this somewhere.

taupe travel outfit cardigan and pants with a floral blouse
Cardigan – Eric Bompard,  Blouse – L’Autre Chose, Watch – Movado, Pants- Gardeur,  Loafers- MunroScarf – futabaya,  SuitcaseTumi

And yes, there are a couple more tops in here from Eric Bompard.  If you really love a color that tends to be difficult to find, you should stock up when someone has it in production.  During those long dry spells when nobody's making the right shade of taupe, you can just save your money, and when you see the perfect color, you can go just a wee bit nuts!
taupe six pack for a dressy long weekend

Sweater – Eric BompardJeans – Acne,   Bracelet – Elena Estaun,  Dress – Brunello Cucinelli,  Flats – Gabor,  Piping blouse – Eric Bompard,  Skirt – Donna Karan,   
Lace blouse – Joie, Scarf – Faliero Sarto

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I get tons of questions about how to pack for various special occasions - weddings, graduations, etc. To me, this sounds like the perfect time to break out a really wonderful dress.  Nothing flouncy or bright or conspicuous - that wouldn't be comfortable, at least for me.  But something with an amazing cut, in luxurious fabric... Coupled with a drop-dead spectacular coat...

In fact, the whole trip could be an excuse to pick up a handful of the most beautiful garments: a wonderful sweater, along with the perfect jeans, another more casual but still exquisite dress, and a show-stopping skirt, along with a couple of blouses.

While grey might not be your cup of tea, many of us could travel a long, long time with just this limited assortment of garments.  And of course I'm going to revisit this basic travel idea in a variety of colors - that's just the way I am!  What color would YOU like to see?

grey column dress with a gorgeous coat and silver dressy accessories
Silver and diamond earrings- Georg Jensen, silver cuff bracelet - Michael Lando Design,  grey bag - Torula, Grey dress - Max Mara, coat - Burberry Prorsum, suede pumps - Ferragamo

grey cardigan and pants travel outfit with grey print blouse
Cardigan - Peter Jensen, blouse - Rebecca Taylor, watch - Cartier, pants - Sportmax, loafers - Bottega Veneta, scarf - futubaba, suitcase - Rimowa
grey six pack for a dressy long weekend
sweater - Rag and Bone, jeans - Acne, dress - MaxMara, wrap top - MaxMara, skirt - Prabal Gurung, scarf - AllSaints, black blouse - Valentino

Monday, June 24, 2013

Navy and green summer outfits - some for quite warm weather, and others that I saw in the more spring-like transitional coolness a couple of week ago.  All of them were fresh, pretty, and stood out in the crowd.
navy and green outfits with a dress or a skirt
striped scarf - Brooks Brothers, navy dress - Equipment, green sandals - Franco Sarto, green cardigan - Paul Smith, scarf  - Christopher Kane, navy pleated skirt - Nina Ricci, green pumps - Angel Alarcon
navy and green casual outfits with shorts or a tennis skirt
tank top - M Missoni, bag - Medusa, shorts - L.L.Bean, sandals - Zara, green agate earrings - Toosis, polo shirt - L.L.Bean, printed shorts - Stella McCartney, driving moccasins - Lands' End

navy outfit with green accessories, and a navy and green striped shirt green tennies green ballet flats
green tank top - L.L.Bean, navy cardigan - L.L.Bean, jade ring- Monica Vinader, jeans - L.L.Bean, ballet flats - Fitzwell, striped top - DKNY, blue pants - Hobbs, silver and green bracelet - Monica Vinader, trainers - Phillipe Model
navy and white outfit with green accessories
baseball sweater - J. Crew. pants - J. Crew, bag - Ina Kent, shoes - Keds, navy sweater - J. Crew, scarf - Hermes, navy skirt - J. Crew, green ballet flats - J. Crew
I don't know if anybody noticed, but if you liked the way these colors looks,replicated a few of these outfits in your own wardrobe, and were a little bit rigorous in  sticking to one shade of green, you'd have a pretty nifty capsule wardrobe, or a pretty organized suitcase full of clothes:
navy and green travel or capsule wardrobe

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A is for Appropriate in the ABC's of Chic Sightings

Lots of people ask me how I choose a Chic Sighting - and I don't really do any choosing - they just happen!  But I've devoted a lot of thought to what makes (or breaks) a Chic Sighting, and in my typically orderly fashion, I've tried to assign my observations to an alphabetic analysis.

First are foremost, you have to be appropriately dressed for your environment, both physically (the weather), and socially (no strapless dresses at rugby matches).  No matter how stunning your little dress and sandals might be, if it's SNOWING and you're just wearing a dress and sandals, you are not a Chic Sighting.

B is for Balanced in the ABC's of Chic Sightings

Balance is an elusive concept, but the absence of balance seems to show either dubious taste, or a lack of planning.  Suede boots with shorts are a common offender here.  Sometimes mixing seasons in an outfit can work brilliantly - Parisiennes wearing winter sweaters over their summer dresses seemed to be effortlessly attractive - but for us mere mortals, it's a tricky maneuver.

You can also throw an outfit out of balance by trying to combine two basically incompatible moods - athletic shoes with a business suit, or a sundress with a blazer over it.   This seems to happen when we try to get more mileage out of a favorite garment than is really possible.  I often see women trying to wear very casual summer dresses to their office - the addition of a grey wool blazer to a pastel sundress is not going to succeed.
C is for Comfortable in the ABC's of Chic Sightings

You've got to be comfortable - nobody limping or hobbling along in ridiculous shoes is going to be a Chic Sighting.  This is not to say that you should wear sweat clothes or yoga pants everywhere - that's taking the comfort goal WAAAAAAY too far. (and I do see huge volumes of very casual clothing every day - do NOT wear your pajamas outside of your home, please) Shoes in which you can walk, undergarment straps that don't have to be constantly adjusted, and skirts that don't need incessant tugging to remain modest are all obvious disqualifiers from the concept of the Chic Sighting.

Friday, June 21, 2013

There were lots of black dresses on the streets of Chicago yesterday, and lots of all-black outfits. But a few really stood out from the crowd by virtual of their carefully chosen metallic accessories. From the young lady in the spikey necklace and woven flats to the executive with her Ferragamo shoes and bag, (and great silver sunglasses), black and silver caught the eye.

two black dresses with silver metallic accessories
necklace - Jennifer Loiselle (similar here), tee shirt dress - Yves Saint Laurent (similar here), woven flats - Sigerson Morrison (similar here), sunglasses - Karen Walker (similar here), shirtdress - McQ (similar here), handbag - Ferragamo (similar here), flats - Ferragamo (similar here)

The first woman I saw who really got me noticing the all-black outfits with metallics was wearing a simple sleeveless top with shorts, but her accessories really elevated what might have been a very stark outfit. Right behind her was a lovely person in a sleeveless dress with gold flower jewelry - uncluttered, but very charming.

black shorts outfit and black dress with gold accessories
sleeveless blouse - DKNY (similar here), gold belt - J. Crew, shorts - Marc Jacobs (similar here), sandals - J. Crew (similar here), dress- Karen Millen (similar here), flower earrings and bracelet - Karen Millen (similar here), sandals - Lola Cruz (similar here)

In the Loop, I saw a couple of young students who were both carrying on the black with metallic theme. The young lady with the silver headband looked very sharp, and the teenager in the simple black dress had carefully coordinated her chain-trimmed sandals with her chain-handled bag.

black tank and jeans with silver casual accessories and black dress with gold chain accessories
silver beaded headband - Target (similar here), tank - AllSaints (similar here), backpack - Eastpak x Nicomede Talavera (similar here), jeans - AllSaints (similar here), athletic shoes - Keds (similar here), dress - Tess Giberson (similar here), earrings - YooLa (similar here), bag - J. Crew (similar here), chain-trimmed sandals - AWear (similar here)

I think my favorite look was a simple black tee shirt with sheer sleeves, black capris, silver-trimmed flats, and a pair of silver cuff bracelets. Talk about something I would wear in a heartbeat! A breezy linen dress got snazzed up quite a bit with black and silver espadrilles,and a silver grocery bag...

black tee and pants with silver cuffs and ballet flats and black dress with silver espadrilles and tote
tee shirt - Dorothy Perkins (similar here), bracelets - Julia Tuton (similar here), capris - Dorothy Perkins (similar here), ballet flats - Tods (similar here), linen dress - L.L.Bean (similar here), espadrilles - Prism (similar here), tote bag - Aysha Malbershtein (similar here)


PS - For more color inspiration, check out the latest Pantone Color Planner and other documents in the Planning Documents section of the website.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Scorned as Timber Beloved of the Sky
Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky, by Emily Carr

So very simple.  Tall, austere, lean, yet radiant. Vertical is balanced with the striations of the sky. Soft, cloudy, stormy around the edges, luminous throughout.  A lifetime of personal style inspiration could easily come from this...

A stunning dress, with simple earrings, pumps, and a structured bag.  A casual tee shirt dress, with shoes and a necklace that echo the sky in our inspirational painting.

sleek elegant solid colored dresses with silver accessories
earrings - Peggy Li, dress - Anne Valerie Hash, bag - Nine West, pumps - Stuart Weitzman
rope necklace - Alienina, tee shirt dress - T by Alexander Wang, espadrilles - Castaner

A cloudy grey coat, with soft suede boots and a stormy sky scarf, or a lacy dress with some dark accents, a soft and flowing wrap, and skylit shoes.  Even the earrings are lacy!

grey coat and grey dress inspired by Scorned as timber, Beloved of the Sky
coat - MaxMara, scarf - Kirsten Gilder, suede boots - Aldo, earrings- YooLa, dress - Whistles,
 cashmere cape - Closed, pumps - Stuart Weitzman

Another sleek dress with simple silvery accessories, or maybe a sweatshirt, soft corduroy jeans, suede booties, and another scarf with all the colors of the sky...

slate blue dress and grey sweater and pants
earrings - Georg Jensen, dress - Carven, grey clutch - Torula, pumps - Manolo Blahnik,
 scarf - Antagoniste, sweatshirt - Theory, corduroy jeans - Marc Jacobs
suede short boots - Modcloth

The most casual of outfits still reflects the nuanced greys, and the subtle stripes...  Hints of lavender paired with white are a warm weather possibility.

two outfits in grey white and soft blue based on Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky by Emily Carr
cardigan jacket - 194T, cropped jeans - Jacob Cohen, tee shirt -Giorgio Armani
grey tote -  Liebeskind, canvas shoes - Vans, earrings - YooLa, dress - Marta Ferri, cardigan -  
Nic and Zoe, sandals - Zara

NORDSTROM - Shop Women's Fall Coats under $200                     

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I experienced a sunscreen breakdown while we were in Toronto; I believe one of my temperature irregularities is to blame - too much blotting of the radiant visage lead to loss of sunscreen, and now I'm sporting some freckles.  While cute, they are indeed a sign of sun damage...
Goorin straw hat Bogart style
hat from Goorin

So when we walked past Goorin, it seemed obvious that I'd best hasten in there and get myself a good sunhat.  The above lovely critter is now sitting on my desk.  The fact that it has Bogart in the name is just a bonus (I adore Humphrey...); it's a great hat, fits perfectly, and shades me exactly as I needed.

a version of my new tee shirt, from the wonderful Preloved

The weather in Toronto was a bit warmer than we had been promised by the weather "forecasters", and so when we saw the Preloved store, I knew I had a good excuse to stop in.  Preloved makes new clothes from old clothes - a simple concept, but not something that just anybody could make work.  Yes, all of the clothes have a somewhat "patchworky" element to them - you couldn't necessarily build an entire wardrobe here  - but they have a deft hand for combining patterns, and the actual construction and execution of the garments is superlative.  The shirt that I bought has a yoke of a black and cream large leafy pattern,and the lower bodice is in a black and cream geometric print.  I saw, I adored, I bought, I wore to dinner that night.

One of the most delightful things about Toronto -overall - is the way in which the neighborhoods just seamlessly flow into each other.  A ten minute walk from the financial district, where we were staying, can land you smack in the middle of Chinatown.  (a really BIG Chinatown - bigger than New York's, I would hazard a guess).   Five minutes from there, you can find yourself surrounded by tattoo parlors, head shops, and Tibetan import stores - very San Francisco 40 years ago.  Bookstores abound (there are only THREE bookstores in downtown Chicago now - none on Michigan Avenue). And most of all, although it's really not "in your face" - Toronto felt safe.  On a weekend that saw 36 shootings in one night in Chicago, Toronto had NO shootings while we were there.  None. Not one.  Zero.  We walked both to and from the rugby match we attended - a very LONG walk - and felt safe every second.  It was delightful.

Dining?  La Carnita, on College Street, for some of the best tacos on the planet.  Yes, we were the 2 oldest people there.  Someone had to be.  Service was excellent, food was amazing, and people watching was fascinating.
La Carnita taco restaurant Toronto Ontario Canada
You could so easily walk right past La Carnita, but that would be a big mistake!

We ate breakfast twice at Le Petit Dejeuner, on East King Street.  It's a small, unassuming store-front that looks like it maybe was once a bar?  But you can't miss it on weekends - the line of people waiting for one of their exquisite Belgian waffles is a sign that you're at the  right place. Again, the service was excellent, the food was great, and the restaurant was full of interesting and amazing people.  How I wish I had one of their lattes beside me right now...
Le Petit Dejeuner restaurant Toronto Ontario Canada
Tucked in a fascinating furniture and design store neighborhood just east of the Financial District, Le Petit Dejeuner is also within close walking distance of the St. Lawrence Food Market.  If you're a food market fan, get thee hence...

Our last evening in Toronto, we had dinner at Patria - a tapa style restaurant that is tucked away, behind the normal street frontages, in a lovely, dark and cool space with some completely unique design elements.  The large back wall is black wire mesh, which has been "cross-stitched" with something like colored raffia.  I've never seen such a thing - it was beautiful...
interior of Patria tapas restaurant Toronto Ontario Canada

The food here was a combination of traditional Spanish tapas prepared perfectly, as well as some more innovative dishes inspired by traditional Spanish ingredients.  Belovedest and I shared a half-dozen "plates" and a carafe of wine, but we did NOT share our desserts (even the best marriage can be challenged by the sharing of churros and cajeta!).  And I'm just suggesting - if someone offers you a date stuffed with machengo cheese, wrapped in bacon, and grilled - accept.  In Toronto, I would put myself in the hands of my wait-staff, and let them choose for me...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

View from the Toronto Hilton Hotel Ontario Canada
The view from room 3110, the Toronto Hilton
We're back!  And Toronto was wonderful - what a great, vibrant, busy, diverse city.  We will definitely go back, and I have much more to share with you about this trip.

But I received a lot of questions about how I packed - so I've got snapshots of the process!

Tumi Riggs carry-on bag

The bag - empty.  Those are my ghastly workout shoes next to the bag, so you can see how small the bag actually is.  This is the Tumi Riggs carry-on - no wheels.  I didn't even realized that they MADE one with wheels...  Maybe Tumi should give me one of those, eh?
Tumi Riggs carry-on bag partially packed

There's about 30% of my packing capacity already -  my shoes "bumpered" on the sides of my bag, and my pajamas rolled up and slid in between the shoes.  Since these shoes are pretty rigid, I stuffed them full of socks and underwear.  If they had been a bit squishier, I would have just smashed the uppers down pretty flat.

The inside of shoes is a great place to pack the charger for your cell phone...

Tumi Riggs carry-on bag partially packed

Unlike a more normal vacation, this one required jeans and a rugby jersey, both of which are quite bulky, but happily almost impossible to wrinkle. So I folded them both snugly, and tucked them into the bottom of my bag, next to my athletic shoes.  The bottom layer of my tote is now more or less flat, and completely full.
pile of folded garments ready to pack
The rest of my clothes were just a wee bitty stack of folded garments - compared to the jeans and jersey, EVERYTHING else I took was indeed a smaller parcel.  These garments, once I carefully folded them, sat right into the top of my bag.

fully packed Tumi Riggs carry-on bag
The scarf on top is one of those crinkly silk guys that you just twist and twist and twist and twist....  no worries about it getting wrinkled.  And I think you can see that I've got quite a bit of space still in the top of my bag, so when we decide on the return trip that we don't need to wear our jackets, I could easily pack mine and not have to worry about carrying it.
Tumi Riggs carry-on bag and Tumi diaper bag

The bag on the right is 10 years old - it's what I carry for a briefcase.  It was originally designed to be a diaper bag (no, I don't have children), but the straps are the perfect length to carry either over the shoulder or at my side, the little side pocket (you can see it's unzipped here) is perfect for passport and boarding passes, and the elastic "bottle pockets" on each end of the bag are a handy place to stash my fan, or a bottle of water, or my watch and bracelets when I'm going through security...

Was I happy with what I packed?  Not entirely. The weather was a little bit warmer than the weather forecasts and promised, so I did buy a FABULOUS tee shirt (more on the shopping later!) which I wore rather than my sheer linen sweater, when we went out to dinner the last evening we were there.  Overall, I think I should have trusted my instincts about how warm it would be, rather than believing the weather prognosticators...

But was I happy?  Oh, yes.  Absolutely.  Positively.  Completely.  

More about Toronto soon...

And a question - I have a real longing to put together some outfits with a painting as the reference point - the "Start With Art" that I've done in the past.  What's your favorite painting?