How to Wear the New Beige

On the 2010 catwalks, it was a cavalcade of camel. (We’re not talking about the desert-dwelling creatures in the “Sex and the City” sequel.) Designers sent down outfit after outfit showcasing the versatility of the classic, desert-toned shade. Chloe presented an army of models swathed in caramel, while Stella McCartney made coffee-toned knitwear look effortlessly hip. It was goodbye black and hello butterscotch. 

For those who’ve relegated their camel trenches and cashmere sweaters to the donate -- or have a decade’s worth of camel clothes piled at the back of their wardrobes in favour of all things black, grey and greige -- this is good news. The only problem with camel is that it can be a tricky shade to wear. Wearing black and grey is the fashion equivalent of falling in love: easy. But wearing camel is more like the breakup chat: If it goes well it can be lovely, but done wrong, it’s a train wreck. 

Ray Costarella, the name and designer behind the label Aurelio Costarella, is a big fan of flouting convention. He often uses shades of camel and beige in his sought-after evening-wear collections, favoured by Rihanna, Dita Von Teese, Melissa George and Alexis Bledel. “I’m a fan of a head-to-toe neutral palette. Nothing is more stylish than camel tones for evening wear,” says Costarella. 

“I have been known to layer soft tonal shades of camel in silk chiffon gowns. Tone-on-tone beadwork and embroidery in neutral tones also work,” Costarella continues, alluding to the short gowns in his latest collection, which come in pale neutral shades and feature prettier-than-thou ruffles and detailing. “Think Armani, the master of a neutral palette,” says the designer. “What Armani does with neutral is nothing short of wondrous.” 

Costarella notes that the new neutral is a shade that can work with a pop of colour. “The beauty of a neutral tone is that it works so wonderfully with a flash of colour. Whether it be a bright tone or a similarly neutral hue, it makes for a beautiful relationship.”

This advice can also be applied in the beauty realm, where a scarlet lip can be the perfect accessory for a camel ensemble. At Yigal Azrouel’s autumn 2010 show, the palette was decidedly neutral, featuring a bronze complexion with an emphasis on the cheekbones. The eyes were softly defined in beige and brown tones, complemented by a subtle pop of coral colour on the lips. For this catwalk look, dramatic brows also took centre stage -- which during the daytime is a great way to add punch and focus to a camel ensemble. At night, amp up the glamour with red lipstick.

5 Fashion Accessories to Add to Your Closet

The fashionable pack is strutting out and about in the fall’s finest and hottest -- camel coats and capes, utilitarian jackets, fur anything, animal prints -- but how do you, fashion follower living in the warmer climes of Asia, salute the season without looking foolish? We’ve rounded up a list of instant fashion boosters that’ll let your wardrobe make that chic transition with ease.

Socks are already a big trend this season, and novelty socks will make an even stronger statement for spring 2011. In the meantime, add pizzazz to your summer sandal by wearing them with ankle socks rendered in a fun color (try mustard yellow, electric blue or lipstick red), or kitschy print (florals, leopard prints, dots, animals). Knee-high ribbed socks look great scrunched up over booties. You can also try a patterned or textured (think lace) knee or thigh-high sock with a schoolgirl mini and your trusty oxford flat for a flirty prep look.

Instead of going for a full-on uniform look, reference the trend more subtly by picking up military accessories. Cinch an easy trouser with a garrison or grommet-piston belt. Snap a few engraved pins onto the collar of your favorite button down or the chest of your tee. Top off a feminine dress with a jaunty army cap. For a really authentic feel, pick up these extras at a local army supply store.

Ribbon Ties
The feminine blouse is back, and it’s a great counterpoint to the utilitarian looks we’ve been seeing on the runways. But instead of buying it, why not try making it yourself? Button your favorite white button-down shirt then slip on a wide satin ribbon underneath the collar, making a loopy ribbon in front. Voila, instant tie neck blouse! Basic black is always a classic, but you can experiment with such other colors as dusty pink or navy blue, or even use textured lace ribbons in lace or dots.

Printed Laces
If you own a lace-up boot or oxford flat, why not replace the boring black or brown laces with a catchy colored or printed pair? Jazz up your pair with bright-red laces, or play around with printed laces in fun floral prints or cute stripes.

Leopard Accessories
The leopard print is big for fall and everyone from designers to fast fashion retailers has it on their selling floor. Don’t let the ferocious print scare you, though. Make it the highlight of a monochromatic outfit by using it as an accent. Take an all-black ensemble from dull to wow by anchoring it with a leopard wedge or bootie. Wrap an oversized leopard scarf around your neck to play up a plain top. You can even pull back your hair with a midsized leopard printed band for a cool do.

How to Stretch Your Summer Wardrobe Into Fall

The siren call of fall can bring out the urge to shop for a brand-new wardrobe. In these budget-conscious, carbon footprint-aware times, however, it's more important than ever to get the most bang for your buck. Recycling and reinventing hot-weather staples not only stretches your dollars, it expands your wardrobe without overfilling your closet. Even when the weather gets chilly, you can still flaunt your favorite sundresses and sandals.

Layer It

Simply add a few extra layers to your favorite summer pieces to create a whole new wardrobe. This is the key to transitioning from season to season, says Mar Yvette, a stylist based in Los Angeles. It's as effortless as throwing a cardigan over a silk tank. For this fall season, the fashion bibles are touting the anorak, which makes a great topper over a flirty dress. Of course, a tough leather jacket is classic rock 'n' roll sexy, and a sharp blazer always pulls together a look. 

Get the Basics: cardigan, tank, flirty dress, anorak, leather jacket, blazer             

Texturize It
Nothing says autumn like knits and nubby, cozy fabrics. Yet this is not the time to bulk up as if you're developing a thick coat and preparing to hibernate. Instead, keep sweaters lightweight; stick to thinly spun wools, cashmere and cotton. The soft knit you threw on to shield yourself against the movie theater’s blasting air conditioner can do double duty in cooler months.

Get the Basics: knits, cashmere sweater, wool sweater

Rethink It
Summer pieces can take on a new lease in fashion life if you remember that there's no such thing as "seasonally appropriate." Anything goes! Today, everyone knows that banishing your summer whites to the back of your closet is so old-school. A pair of white jeans or a sparkling white tank works just as well in cooler months. And while floral patterns are typically the hallmarks of spring, you can keep your flower power going strong in the fall too. Whether covered in bold petal prints or teensy blossoms, floral sundresses, maxi dresses, sweet blouses and flowing skirts are all viable in autumn -- as long as you pair them with pieces that balance them out for the season. Think sweaters, boots and jackets. And those bold, bright colors you wore in summer won't blind you if you temper them with more somber, seasonal blacks, browns, grays and navy blues. 

Get the Basics: sundress, maxi dress, blouse, skirt, brights, whites

Accessorize It
Yvette is a fan of pairing chic leather boots with summer skirts. Sandals and chunky wedges can literally carry you into fall, provided you first slip on a pair of textured hosiery. If you're too timid to try this open-toed look, start more subtly with your peep-toe pumps. Final step: Trade in July’s thin neck scarf for a more substantial wrap.  

Get the Basics: boots, sandals, tights, wrap

The Elegance of Leather and Lace

The best of fall fashion this year is whimsical, dramatic, flirtatious and delightfully unexpected. Designers have played with proportions, borrowed from menswear, and used luxurious lace to allow women to indulge their fashion fantasies elegantly.

Leather and Lace Fashions

Top designers are showing touches of leather and lace from top to bottom.

Skirts and dresses Short and flirty, skirts and dresses are combining the sexy leather and lace duo for the ultimate feminine look. If you have a playful personality, let it shine through with a flirty mini in a tulip or bubble shape, being shown by designers such as Dolce&Gabanna. The designer’s tulip-shaped tweed and lace skirt becomes almost scandalous -- in an adorable way -- when trimmed in black lace and cut into a cute mini.

Or, mimic the Louis Vuitton look, and pair a full and pale leather skirt with a dark lace blouse. This contrast of dark lace fabric combined with the fluidity of a leather skirt captures the mood of fall perfectly. This bold contrast of fabrics and colors can also be worn in a cocktail dress in show-stopping hues, such as red.

Jackets A good quality, fitted leather jacket is a worthwhile investment piece this season, as seen in Gucci’s line. Look for an elegantly tailored jacket that can be paired over slim trousers, shorts or even well-fitting jeans. To further feminize a leather jacket, look for collars and sleeves with full fur -- both real and faux. 

To stay warm without wearing a full jacket, look for capes with leather trim, as seen in Ferragamo’s line. Capes can be worn over a sporty luxe cable knit sweater and leather shorts. This sexy sportswoman look is perfect for the country club, the dacha or any type of country weekend.

Leather and Lace Accessories

Dramatic and feminine accessories are an easy way to update your look.

Boots The main fall essential is what you put on your feet. For day, try a strappy, tall motorcycle boot or short boot with buckles, which are both being shown by Christian Louboutin. Black riding boots, like those seen in Balenciaga’s line, are a sleek way to stay comfortable. For evening, try lace pumps or lace booties, as seen in Christian Dior and Valentino’s line.

Bags A simple leather bag can be used for almost any occasion, and will never go out of style. For day, sling a basic leather bag over the shoulder with a tailored pants suit. For night, it can complement a flirty mini.

Tights, Gloves and Scarves These fall and winter essentials are an inexpensive way to incorporate the trend into your wardrobe. Stock up on dark tights to match your short skirts and shorts. Lace stockings are a subtle and simple way to update your wardrobe. Gloves in leather and suede add polish to any ensemble. A beautiful silk or lace scarf at your neck will set off your face and look fabulous with a tailored jacket. A crisp white scarf will go with any outfit, while gold or other soft neutral will help flatter your skin tone.

Enjoy fall wrapped in the elegance and seduction of leather and lace.

Washington’s Style Closet

Megan Washington clearly remembers the first outfit she wore on stage. “It was a Flea costume (the insect, not the drummer from the Chili Peppers) that my mother made out of a black leotard, black stockings stuffed with newspaper and a black beanie.” She was just 6 years old.

Eleven years later, Washington discovered her love for making music. She studied composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, before relocating to Melbourne. It was here she began to define her sound, a lulling mix of indie, folk and country. Washington’s self-released debut EP “Clementine” won hearts on Triple J’s Unearthed promotion and a spot on last year’s Big Day Out bill. Her second EP, “How To Tame Lions,” and recently released full-length feature album, I Believe You, Liar, have helped cement her reputation as a musician and performer.

Her personal style came much earlier -- a childhood watching old MGM musicals. Today, Washington’s tour suitcase is packed full of emerging labels, tattered cardies and practical flats. Her style draws on influences as diverse as Audrey Hepburn, Anna Karina, Chloe Sevigny and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites.

“Lately, I’ve had Noella Thomson making stage outfits for me, which is really amazing. She's exceptionally talented,” says Washington. “For the 'How To Tame Lions' tour, she made me a black jumpsuit with a multi-coloured feather collar. I’ve also been wearing lots of prom dresses from UltraSuite, which are really durable and colourful.”

Who are your favourite designers to wear on stage?
All through our tour with Sia, I wore a black Tina Kalivas dress that I originally bought for the Arias, but didn't get to wear. So I wore it on that tour instead and basically ruined it with sweating and not taking care of it properly.

Do you dress differently in your down time?

Definitely. My friend Patrick calls me “the cat lady” because all I basically wear at home is tights and enormous jumpers from Vinnies. I have to get dressed up so often that when I don't need to, I usually wear the most comfortable and comforting thing, regardless of how ridiculous and weird it looks. 

Which pieces of clothing can't you live without?

I have this big knitted jumper cardigan, which is basically a giant circle with sleeves, so you can use the cowl neck as a huge hood. Whenever I get on a plane, I just pull the hood over my head -- like a blanket over a canary's cage -- and go to sleep. It can be a blanket, a jumper, a cardigan, a pillow -- we even stuff it in the kick drum when it's too resonant. I have one in black and one in grey, and they’re falling to pieces now because I’ve lived in them for about two years of touring.  

Which fashionable item can totally change your mood?

My Doc Martens, or really any flat boot. When I wear Docs, I feel very strong and balanced and capable.

So you’re a flats-only kind of lady?

I mostly wear flats, but that's more a question of necessity than style. I spend a lot of time lugging my 30-kilo keyboard in and out of cabs, planes and cars, so obviously heels aren't very practical. I have some great pairs of heels, but they haven't had much time out of my bedroom lately.

Any new clothing trends you just can't get into?

Open-toed boots. I just don't understand it.

Do you prefer dresses or separates?
Dresses, I suppose. I like the simplicity and versatility of them.

What will you wear when the weather turns warm?
Sunscreen! I have the exact complexion of a jellyfish, or a raw prawn, so sunscreen is an absolute necessity for me in summer.

Washington’s first album, I Believe You, Liar, is available now. Check for tour dates and more.