Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chic Sightings: Variations on a Sweater Theme

Yesterday's double posting was, in fact, a mistake on my part - the pattern mixing post was supposed to be this morning's post.  But I'm having well-documented issues with Blogger, and they chose to give you the gift of two posts yesterday; who am I to argue?

So today I thought I'd share a small post with a few quick observations I made in New York. 

 First, most women in New York are NOT amazingly beautiful and well-dressed.  They might be slimmer than the national average, but that might just be because one walks a lot in New York. (and if you take the subway, you climb a LOT of stairs...)

Secondly, pretty much the entire city wears black coats.  Maybe grey.  Possibly denim...  It's a dark, dark, DARK crowd.  I think my next winter coat might be some astonishingly bright color, just to break up the monotony.

Third, scarves are becoming much more common.  Not at the levels of Parisian ubiquity, but most women were wearing a scarf, and even a few men.  When most of the men are wearing scarves, we will have achieved a Paris level of scarfiness!

I noticed a couple of themes that were frequently repeated in women's outfits.  The first was the Fair Isle sweater with a bright or light scarf:

Yellow and grey – Viyella, scarves – Halogen, navy and hot pink – Superdry, blue black and white – Sister by Sibling

This was invariably worn with black or grey trousers, or jeans.  Serious boots were the order of the day on almost every woman except the most silly and reckless.

And I saw a lot of striped sweaters, worn with patterned scarves - dots, animal prints, or more stripes.  This is certainly not unexpected, giving the amount of pattern mixing that was being advertised everywhere.  As long as the colors worked well together, these ensembles were very attractive and innovative.  Again, the bottom half was simple, warm, and solid-colored.

Black and white turtleneck – Mango, dotted scarf – Manila Grace, zipped cardigan – Isabel Marant Etoile, leopard scarf – Valentino Garavani, blue grey crewneck – Proenza Schouler, striped scarf – Denis Colomb


  1. I love the new look of the blog.

    Even though I wouldn't wear some of those colors, I want evey one of the Halogen scarves because they would look so pretty all stacked up in my closet. I guess I'm really craving spring and color.

  2. I have also noticed the number of black coats in NYC. I've also noticed how striking it is when you see someone in a beautiful coat in burgundy or other rich hue. I just bought a coat on end-of-season sale, and what did I buy?
    Grey!!! Oh well, I'll wear some great scarves with it.

  3. Love the first set of sweaters/scarves. What a great way to have color AND warmth in the dead cold of winter. Pattern scarf on striped sweater seems like a safe way to stick a toe into the pool of pattern mixing. At least it feels safe (read: doable) to me.

  4. Here in Toronto I've also noted a sea of dark coloured winter coats, rather gloomy on the subway every day. And not that many patterned or coloured scarves to break the monotony. Oh well I'm doing my bit with an Indian wool scarf in rich vibrant colours! I think my next coat may be a purple or blue - not navy, something more electric.

    I like your new layout, it's easier to jump around n.

  5. The last time I was in Paris it rained a lot and everyone wore a black raincoat! I felt very obtrusive in my slate blue.

  6. I agree with you on the winter coats: although I currently have a lined khaki trench, my all-time favorite winter coat was a full-length cherry red wool. I wore it until the seams gave out. Made the Midwestern winters so much more bearable for me. My next winter coat will be one of my favorite accent colors.

  7. Thank you for this blog. I read it daily and enjoy it!

  8. Do the blog problems include a total reformatting of the page? Or is that by design? Or is it just me? I have been out of the loop for a few days and when I came back it looked completely different in format (reassuringly normal in terms of content, quality, joy of reading, etc, though!!). Did I miss something?

    1. Nope - I just had to backtrack to a more basic layout - I was losing lots of content and having all sorts of weird issues. I HATE that I keep changing things like this!

  9. I am chortling. When I decided to take a transfer to Europe, my boss (a woman) said, "Oh, and you'll learn all about scarves!"
    Sadly, I rarely wear them, 15+ years later.
    I would like to ask about accessories. I had a Furla bag that served me well. The only place in the WORLD (and I had a passport that had extra pages, such were my travels) where someone tried to snatch my bag was in Barcelona. However, it was a Furla that I'd bought in Lyon, and, not wanting to spend my weekend trying to replace my passport I was determined not to let go, so the thief dragged me down the street and the trusty Furla didn't tear. Post-Christmas (I have a special Christmas-season bag my best friend sent me) I got out the Furla, carefully packed in a cotton bag in a closet. Well, the cotton stuck to the bag, and despite many washings with delicate soap, it looks truly awful. So I went to buy a new bag. However, I no longer am employed in the same place nor, more importantly, at the same salary. So Furla and its ilk are out. I looked at some others (Michael Kors has been discovered in my corner of France), but finally bought a pleather bag in the right dimensions (the smallest possible that will accommodate my iPod, not a centimeter more). Hours later, buyer's remorse. Part of me thinks it's a bad idea to spend a ton on accessories like bags and belts that get badly worn and look trashy (even the Furla had lost some leather on the edges and had a serious fray problem). Part of me thinks that €500 for a bag that lasts 15 years is a good investment and I should do it again. Please, Janice, give us a decree on this. Part of me feels that €50 for a bag for 2-3 years is a good deal. Part of me feels like I should have bit the bullet and shelled out the €150 minimum for a decent leather bag and kept it perhaps longer. ????
    PS: See Garance Dore's blog with a bunch of FLAT SHOES!!!!

    1. The hardest question EVER: how much to spend on handbags? Invest, indulge, be frugal, be madcap?

      I think you've got to go with your gut on this one - if you had buyer's remorse, take that bag back, and think seriously about what you didn't like. The quality? The... pleatheriness of it?

      I personally don't change bags very often, so mine has to be very simple, super neutral, and work-horse durable. Right now, I'm carrying an almost brand new Tumi cross-body bag in nylon that was chosen specifically with an eye to attending a huge sporting event in Paris - I wanted something that was hands free and boringly inconspicuous. This bag holds a ton, lays flat against my side, and will probably last the rest of my life, seriously. For $160, I feel like I was well-served. When I'm through with my travels, I'll switch back to a leather shoulder bag, and those two bag should keep me for the foreseeable future.

      If anybody has a sure-fire formula for how to handle this bag price dilemma, chime in!

    2. I think that it's important that a travel bag have a secure zipper, be crossbody, look inconspicuous-- and be attractive and versatile but not too expensive. (Thieves know brands). The only time I, myself, ever had a purse stolen (in Genoa, in a church!) it was a Furla!

    3. Thanks, Janice and Gail.
      The one I want is the Céline Classic Box Bag, or rather something similar at a price less than $3,400. Not fussy, not too big, with a cross-body strap as advised by my physical therapist.
      What I got is the Baya by San Marina (, which resembles another Céline bag, the Luggage Tote. Oh heck, I'm going to keep it and use it. Even my husband thought it was real leather. It's the right size and has nice pockets so it's easy to find little things. Considering how germ-laden and abused bags get, I think I'm shifting more toward a cheaper one that I replace every few years, rather than a lifetime treasure.
      The size was based on my iPad (a full, not mini). San Marina did have a bag with a padded zipper pocket designed for iPads, but it was just a tad too schlumpy for me. I like stiff, straight lines. I'm schlumpy enough on my own!

  10. I'm both a scarf wearer and a pattern mixer. I find that the easiest way to mix patterns is, as you've mentioned, between a scarf and sweater. However, it's also easy to mix a skirt and top. I happen to be in love with the floral meets stripes look. Wearing a striped Breton style top with a floral skirt is an adorable look. You can also mix leopard with a number of other patterns. The keys to me are:

    1) Keep the patterns in the tonal or color family. A stripe in the blue family can look great when paired with a floral that picks up on that same color. It's less about matching the precise shade than it is the overall presence of that color or tone. For example, it is tough to match a pastel stripe with a bright floral. But a navy striped top can look gorgeous with a paisley, floral or calico print that has an element of navy in it.

    2) Keep the prints of different sizes. If you have a thicker stripe, then you might like to use a smaller floral. If you have a petite leopard print, it can look adorable with a larger checked skirt or top that is in the same color family.

    It really is fun once you begin to mix. And it doesn't have to be every day. I'd hate to be known as "the wacky middle school teacher who never matches". But, it's a nice way to shake up your routine, and it's also fun, if you have a particular love for a color palette, to wear pieces together you wouldn't normally pair together. Ultimately, you just have to feel comfortable.

  11. I can so relate to your comment about the black coats Janice! A while back I was in the market for a new black wool coat and was beginning the process of gentle looking. One day we were visiting Chicago on a blustery, frigid winter day. We were having lunch at a restaurant in an upscale area and I was enjoying my window seat view. I was watching the people scurry by and noticed the coats - black, black and then there was black. There was a somber and dreary sameness. That was when I made my decision - no practical black coat! I ended up purchasing a gorgeous orangy-red wool coat that never fails to bring compliments. It is happy and vibrant. Take that you Midwestern winter!

  12. Regarding black coats, even in the south of France they're ubiquitous! I sometimes feel like I'm entering a sea of black when I cross the Cours Mirabeau when the light changes, and am engulfed with black mostly-puffer coats on both men and women!

  13. This is the Montréal look too, though I like to think we trump NYC on scarves- many here are the size of baby blankets! In snow and slush, dark bottoms and serious boots are the only way to keep your wardrobe and your balance intact. (Snow,once salted, becomes slush and the chemicals cause a dark slurry that will never come out of light pants.)