Antonia Prebble’s Style Closet

For the past six years, Antonia Prebble inhabited the character of Loretta West, a bolshy, morally corrupt teenager turned bombshell (and brothel owner), in New Zealand’s best-loved series “Outrageous Fortune.” Now that the show’s finished, the Wellingtonian’s treading the boards in Christchurch, playing Berliner Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”

The two characters couldn’t be more different -- much like the pieces in Prebble’s wardrobe. Her sartorial choices run the gamut, from trackies and T-shirts to glamour-puss frocks.

On days off, she’s likely to be dressed down. “I’ve been acting professionally since I was 12, and I’m so used to getting up and wearing a costume all day, it’s habit to not have to worry about what I’m putting on,” explains the 26-year-old. “I like just wearing what’s comfortable. You spend so much time being primped and prodded that it’s nice to be casual and fuss-free.”

But she relishes a chance to dress up too. “I’m hardly ever middle-of-the-road. When I focus on what I’m wearing, I like things that are quite put together. I like a look that’s from a certain era: I love the ’20s; I’m a huge fan of the ’80s. I’m drawn to beautiful garments that are more formal: flapper dresses and jumpsuits. I like to wear these with bright lipstick.”

Do you remember the first costume you ever wore?

It was for a play when I was 7 or 8 years old, a rep theatre production called “The Magical Kingdom of Thingamajig.” I was a thingamajig and I wore a tunic with big spots on it.

Does a costume help you get into a role?

Yes, the costume definitely helps. Costume and makeup is so significant. What we wear says so much about who we are and how we move. I just adore the dresses I get to wear as Sally Bowles. The clothes she wears are beautiful.

Loretta West, your character in “Outrageous Fortune,” had a very specific ’40s look. Did that come from you?
No. We are such different characters. I’ve got cardigans and pencil skirts, but I wouldn’t wear them as she does. I put more of a personal stamp on my outfits, and my taste is more varied. Loretta follows the rules of the ’40s in the shapes that she wears. But, the wardrobe designer and I did collaborate on her look. Loretta was such a fan of her grandmother that we thought she’d emulate her rather than women in fashion magazines.

Do you like to shop?

I’m not great at buying basics. I’ve got lots of pieces I have had for years in my wardrobe. I like so many New Zealand designers: Kate Sylvester, Sera Lilly. I adore Cybele -- I just love the beautiful fabrics, and the designs are timeless. And Miss Crabb I really like.

Any upcoming trends you can’t wait to wear?

I’m not a huge follower of trends. I always have a specific idea of what I like and what I don’t like, which changes over time, but I never actively seek to wear what is trendy. For the last six months, I’ve been getting into high-waist, wide-leg pants. They’re slouchy, but sophisticated at the same time. However, at the moment I feel totally out of touch with any trends whatsoever. I’ve been absorbed in 1930s Berlin for the past three months, so I have no idea what is going on in the present day!

What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?

As funny as it might sound, my favourite item is a dress that I’ve never even worn. It belonged to my great-grandmother, so it is over 100 years old. We found it a few years ago when we were cleaning out my grandmother’s house. Amazingly, it fits me perfectly and is still in really good condition. It’s a long-sleeved, dark gray dress with doming around the wrists, a high collar and two silk panels down the front that open up like butterfly wings. They shimmer and move as you walk. The craftsmanship is just exquisite.

What’s in your handbag when it comes to beauty products?

Sun cream! It’s the only product you can guarantee I’ll have on at all times. I am really pale and really careful about wearing it. And I love red lipstick. I think it is so elegant and really elevates an outfit.

Fashions for the Changing Seasons

Rebecca Taylor knows plenty about the seasons. As the designer behind her eponymous label, she’s in charge of churning out nine different collections each calendar year, all timed to what the weather’s doing. To do so, she works months -- sometimes years -- ahead to determine what will be de rigueur by the time her feminine, whimsical designs hit stores in 70 countries.

In New York, where Taylor has lived and worked for almost 20 years, the Kiwi designer is about to debut her spring 2011 collection. It’s “inspired by the Charlie girl from the ’70s,” she says. “My favourite pieces are a scarlet dot chiffon skirt and a nude leather jacket with scalloping.”

Taylor admits that dressing as the weather changes can be tricky, but she’s now used to it after living so long in a city with four very distinct seasons. Here are her tips on how to dress as we see out summer and welcome in autumn.

Layer

Leave the house dressed in things you can take off or add, depending on the temperature. “I love layers of silk and cashmere,” says Taylor. “We always have whisper-weight cashmere pieces that are great for layering. And this year for spring, we made a really feminine version of a trench. It’s the perfect in-between-seasons jacket.”

Relish the Change

It’s not easy to forfeit jandals for jerseys, but Taylor says it helps to pull out old faves you haven’t seen since last winter. “It’s always a little sad to say goodbye to my tiered Liberty skirt,” she confesses. “But it’s nice to say hello to my favourite Citizens of Humanity jeans. And I always look forward to wearing tights again. I’ve never been a big fan of nude legs -- mine in particular -- so it’s always a relief when I can crawl back into my Wolford silk cashmere tights.

Splash out on Classics

If you shop the trends, Taylor says, you’ll be stuck with clothes that only get worn for a few months, so instead shop for classic pieces that won’t date. “Spend more on quality, such as a well-made coat. You are going to wear it every day, so it’s important that it’s smart,” explains Taylor.

Accessorise!

Brighten up wardrobe staples with new accessories -- shoes, scarves, hats -- and makeup. “I am a big fan of new lip and nail colours each season,” Taylor admits. “I switched to bright pink and fuchsia for autumn this year because it really lifted my camel coat.”

Get out of the House

Just because the temperature’s dropping, it doesn’t mean you should stay in. Get out and make the most of your environs, Taylor says. Now, you can do so in style!

Brighten up Your Winter Style

Our closets -- full of camel, charcoal, black and navy -- can seem downright oppressive during this third month of winter. But with spring style arriving in stores already, it’s the perfect time to refresh your wardrobe with accent pieces that promise to be relevant all year long.

By shopping with future color trends in mind, your spring purchases can pair with today’s neutrals or next fall’s deep palette. Spring’s silvery gray, dusty pink, lavender and coral-rose mix with upcoming fall shades of purpled wine, coffee brown, loden green and inky navy.

Spring style collections also feature some traditional fall colors, such as brown, russet and dark blue-greens that will remain important for fall, says color consultant Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. So hold on to those gray sweaters, camel jackets and charcoal pants. They can work with spring’s cropped jackets, fresh prints and vivid leather belts and bags.

Below, color and fashion experts give the lowdown on how to beat the winter style blahs with color.

1. Banish Black -- for a Bit
“The little black dress doesn’t have to be black anymore,” says celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, author of The Shopping Diet. “Get some spice in your life. Try that dress in brown, plum, burgundy or green. It does the same things as black does. You can still dress it up or down, and it makes you look slim.”

2. Update a Classic With a Bold Color
This spring, designers at all price levels are offering the sporty-but-classic anorak. Its drawstring hood, zippers and snaps help chase away the wind and rain, but in new colors such as yellow, coral, red and turquoise, they’re great antidotes to drab days.

3. Sweeten Your Look With Honeysuckle
Pantone picked the reddish-pink hue as the defining color of 2011, so you can expect to see the uplifting shade in everything from evening wear to key chains. New York designers Nanette Lepore, Peter Som and Badgley Mischka employed this pink for dainty day and evening dresses, but you can expect to see it in cosmetics, sportswear and accessories. It’s a wonderful complement to brown, gray and green.

4. Incorporate Color on Bad-weather Days
Rain boots, umbrellas, scarves, gloves and hats not only are more fun to wear in vivid colors, but they can help spur experimentation with your daywear. Start with bright accessories, and you’ll be able to easily make the transition from black to bold in your staple pieces too.

5. Spin the Color Wheel
There’s nothing like a fresh color-combination to perk up your basics. Bloch has been pairing unusual tones with browns, including warm reds, soft pinks, baby blues, deep purple, forest green and pristine white. While the days are still dark, you can warm up neutrals with such combinations as gray worn with camel, butterscotch or marine blue. Going forward, black and white reappear in spring prints with jolts of cobalt. Designer Lela Rose paired teal with black for spring, but the blue-green works wonders to freshen winter’s black and brown too.

6. New Shoe Hues
Whether you’re wearing a sensible gray sheath dress or a black suit, you don’t have to play it safe with black shoes. “The days of matchy-matchy are gone,” says Bloch. “More and more in Hollywood, actresses are throwing on some random-color shoes.” Designers are following their example this spring and fall, even adding animal prints to the mix. On the runway, Valentino paired strappy turquoise sandals with a jaguar-print coat, while Giambattista Valli showed patterned tights and jaguar-print ankle boots with black and deep-olive cocktail dresses.

Workwear Rules for Style Success

This season’s corporate catwalks couldn’t be further removed from the aggressive power-dressing of old, as softer silhouettes replace the ubiquitous sharp shoulder.

The secretary in all her femme fatale glory is workwear’s new muse, with tweed skirt suits, pussy bow blouses and platform loafers stealing the show.

With this look in mind, follow these new rules for instant boardroom style success:

Do

  • Invest in a seasonal capsule wardrobe, which you can rotate on a weekly basis. It should include at least: one suit jacket/blazer; two skirts (preferably pencil or skater); one shift dress; one pair of wide-leg trousers (the strides du jour); a pair of tailored shorts (they look sleek with opaques); and three to four interchangeable blouses.
  • Experiment with textures and colours. A cropped bouclé or tweed jacket will jazz up a cheap pair of black trousers, while a burnt-orange blouse will brighten up a navy skirt suit.
  • Accessorize sparingly. There’s no place for multiple rings and heavy gold chains in the office. Opt for one statement ring, dual-purpose gems -- like a bracelet watch -- and a pair of fuss-free stud earrings to be taken seriously.
  • Spend time putting a look together the night before. A well thought-out ensemble reveals a lot about the individual. Not only does it say you take pride in your appearance, but it’s also transferable to your work ethic. And it’ll ensure you clock in on time too!
  • Splurge on bags. Designers have taken a vested interest in boardroom accessories. Louis Vuitton’s iPad cases offer the epitome of corporate chic while Mulberry’s plush patent Daria MacBook sleeve doubles up as a cute clutch to take you seamlessly from desk to drinks.
  • Make time for grooming. A daily blow-dry may be beyond your budget, but washed hair and clean, buffed nails are a must.

Don’t

  • Wear stained shirts, laddered tights, scuffed shoes or chipped nail polish. Your first impression should look like you mean business.
  • Confuse off-duty attire with workwear. Low-cut tops, miniskirts and 8-inch heels should be reserved for play and should never see the strip lighting of your workplace.
  • Compromise on style. The office is the perfect arena to hone your style. Take a look at the runway collections and translate them into your working wardrobe. Remember, select your trends wisely. Give aviator jackets and heeled hiker boots a miss but snap up ’40s-inspired mid-length shifts and matchy-matchy gloves, shoes and bags.
  • Become complacent. Fit flops and ballet pumps make essential commuting footwear, but resist the temptation to wear them all day. Keep a pair of heels in your bottom drawer at all times so you’re not caught out by a last-minute pitch.
  • Overdo your makeup. Heavy eyeliner and glitter shadow will kill the corporate shark illusion and make you the laughingstock of the office. Instead, aim for polished skin, defined eyes and add a slick of matte red lipstick if you’re feeling brave.
  • Rock up to work in the same clothes as the day before. Leave the telltale walk of shame to the weekends if you really must.

Look Stunning for Date Night

Whether you’re prepping for a hot first date or getting decked out for Valentine’s Day with the hubby, finding your fashion and beauty mojo is just a matter of sound style strategy, paired with timeless hair and makeup tips.

The Ultimate Date-night Outfit
For an eye-catching yet not-too-revealing look, Kabbie Rodriguez, associate fashion editor of OK! Magazine Philippines, recommends a long-sleeved black mini dress paired with heeled booties, a cocktail ring, and a cute clutch. Rodriguez, who has styled local and international stars like Charice Pempengco, Mylene Dizon and Jennylyn Mercado, advocates “the right fit and mastering proportions” when dressing up. For example, if you’re wearing something revealing up top, anchor the look with something long and flowy at the bottom, or layer a chic jacket over it.

The same holds true for makeup: If donning a smoky eye, balance it out with a nude lip. And, if wearing red lipstick, temper the sizzling shade with barely-there eye makeup.

The Ultimate Date-night Makeup
“The ultimate date-night makeup should be sexy but understated,” says makeup artist Barbi Chan, who has worked with celebrities Heart Evangelista, KC Concepcion, and Andi Eigenmann. For those who want to experiment with an edgier look, Chan recommends going for darker or stronger lip shades. “Lipsticks are easier to apply and to experiment with than eye shadows, and it’s amazing how different shades of lipsticks can completely change your vibe and image!” Standout shades to try are reddish plum, blue-based red, or fuschia-berry-pink.

 Another way to rev up one’s look is to play with a new hairstyle. “Whenever I am bored and need to update my look, I cut my bangs,” says Chan.

First Date Style
“First dates are more of the getting-to-know-you stage, so accessorize at a minimum,” advises Rodriguez. “You’d want your date to focus on you, and not on those huge chandelier earrings or that heavy bib necklace resting on your chest.” Since too much bling can be distracting, Rodriguez recommends subtle accessories like pearl earrings (which go with almost everything), paired with other classic wardrobe picks.

Long-term Charm
Whereas first dates require a little restraint and elegant simplicity, the opposite holds true for couples who have been dating for years. “Feel free to experiment!” urges Rodriguez. “If you’ve never worn cocktail rings or stacked various bangles before, it’s time to give them a try! Surprise your partner with something new, and he’ll surely be thrilled to see a different side of you. Just don’t overdo it -- one statement piece is enough and will definitely go a long way.”

Managing Your Assets
In the same vein as paying attention to proportion, “Every woman should know how to manage their assets -- bust, legs, flat abs, slender arms -- and be able to flaunt them without crossing the line between sexy and slutty,” advises Rodriguez. “Keep in mind that you just need to highlight one asset at a time. If you feel like you have all the goods, that’s something your date should look forward to on your second and third, and many dates to come.”

For busty femmes, try sweetheart-cut tops and dresses. And for those who have long and lean legs, try a long-sleeved mini dress (like the one mentioned above). One-shoulder dresses look great on those with slender arms, while full skirts perfectly accentuate small waistlines.

As for footwear, go for heels. “They’re sexy, chic and improve your posture. Just make sure you can actually walk in them,” says Rodriguez.

Confidence is Key
Most importantly, always take into account your innate style and personality. “When going out on a date, two important things a woman should have are self-confidence and the ability to laugh at herself when things don't go the way they’re planned,” says Chan. “Yes, it’s important to look good -- for yourself and for your partner -- but the main objective of date night is to have fun. Your personality is the most powerful and stylish weapon you have.”

Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy