Top 10 Fashion Resolutions for the New Year

Now that the countdown to 2011 is over, it’s time to reassess your personal fashion style and to make a new list of fabulous things to come.

1. Try a Trend
Go ahead and be bold. “Try something new in doses,” suggests Naomi Lim, fashion designer and owner of the Tea & Sympathy label in Kuala Lumpur. Adds Pia Rojas, fashion and beauty editor of Good Housekeeping Philippines: “When I want to try a new trend, I just try it as an accessory instead of a whole outfit. That way, if I find that it doesn't suit me, I didn't waste too much money on it.” So go ahead, try an extra-chunky necklace, or wear multiple strands of bracelets with your basic black dress.

2. Say Goodbye to VPLs
Investing in good underwear is key to getting rid of visible panty lines (aka VPLs) once and for all. For the many women who find thongs uncomfortable, new seamless underwear and boy-shorts (in a silky fabric) also do the trick. In the same vein, a good-fitting bra should diminish the look of back-fat underneath tight clothing.

3. Ditch Old Fashion Rules
Go ahead, mix and match: Wear silver and gold together, wear sneakers with a frou-frou dress. “Liberate yourself against the conformity of what society deems beautiful and sexy,” says Lim. This includes wearing a style or outfit that you normally wouldn’t because it makes you look fat in certain areas. Your body shape may have already changed since you last tried it, so explore.

4. Color up!
While black is classic and universally flattering, a pop of color can be fun and exciting. Spring 2011’s palette of warm and muted tones like mustard yellow and burnt orange give you the option to gently ease into tints. When in doubt, Lim suggests four universal colors that flatter all skin tones: true red, Indian teal, eggplant purple and soft nude pink.

5. Get Fit and Fab
Thin may be in, but healthy is even better. Physical activity can be as simple as taking the stairs back to work on your lunch hour or taking up a friend’s offer to go to the mall for some window-shopping.

6. Care for Your Feet
Your peds strut those cute -- but sometimes painful -- Jimmy Choos and other sky-high stiletto picks. Reward all that hard work by giving your feet the TLC they deserve. Make it a regular habit to soak them in warm water that’s infused with sea salts or essential oils. Gently buff rough spots with a pumice stone or an extra-gritty nail file, massage in lotion and slip on soft socks to bed.

7. Do a New ’do
For the ultimate style-boost, try an entirely new haircut. It’s easy to get stuck in the same rut for fear of the newer styles not matching your face shape. But remember: If it doesn’t work out, your hair will grow back. And if you’re going for a drastic cut, such as a bob or a pixie, consider donating your old long locks to programs that provide wigs to cancer patients.

8. Go High and Low
“Luxury goods are a treat, but shouldn't be the center of your life,” says Lim. “What’s truly stylish is someone who is confident that her own initials are enough.” Make your own unique mark by mixing luxe pieces with cheap, chic finds.

9. Edit Your Closet
Rojas weeds out her closet every six months, systematically going about it by category: shoes, bags, pants, skirts, dresses and so forth. “What I haven't worn in a year, I give away. What I think of as I'll-wear-it-when-I'm-thin, I'll give away.” Rojas also recommends marking your beauty products’ dates-of-purchase so you know when to toss them out.

10. Enjoy fashion!
“Fashion should be fun!” shares Lim. “It's very easy to get too serious and competitive, but to quote Kenneth Cole, ‘To be aware is more important than what you wear.’” So, have fun, enjoy, make mistakes and improvise -- you can always make new style statements and write new fashion resolutions.

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Shopping Strategies for the Perfect Closet

Make 2011 the year you stop choosing quantity over quality and buying slightly different versions of the same outfit. Just follow these five strategies for getting the most chic from your shopping dollar, and you’ll never again have to lament, “My closet is stuffed, but I have nothing to wear!”

Strategy No. 1: Shop Your Closet
Taking inventory of your wardrobe will help you figure out what you actually need to add to your collection, says Los Angeles fashion stylist Mar Yvette, host of the “Citysearch Weekend Roundup” segment on the television show “Good Day LA.” Spend a few hours trying on those items you haven’t worn in a while. See how they look and how they make you feel, and figure out whether or not they coordinate with anything else in your closet. Be open to new combinations. The argyle cardigan you bought a decade ago in a preppy fervor may be just the thing to belt and wear over a sheath dress today. “Shopping for clothes without truly knowing what's already in your closet is like going grocery shopping on an empty stomach,” says Yvette. “You end up spending a whole lot of money on things you don’t need.”

Strategy No. 2: Streamline and Spread the Wealth
This will go against every shopping urge you have, says Yvette, but less is more. The goal is to build a wardrobe that lasts. You’ll save money in the long run if you buy fewer, better-quality (and therefore, more expensive) pieces rather than lots of cheaper items that are likely to fray or go out of style. Sure, you can get your trend fix with H&M’s disposable designer collections, but the bulk of your closet should be filled with quality pieces made from fabrics like cashmere, linen and wool that transcend time. Follow up on strategy No. 1 by pulling out any items you haven’t worn in a year. If they no longer fit and are beyond tailoring, wish them well and donate them to a charity organization.

Strategy No. 3: Build From the Basics
Whether your style is cutting-edge, classic or casual, these essentials are the building blocks of a functional wardrobe:

  • Black pants: They’re the most basic of the basics
  • Dark denim: Opt for a trouser cut
  • White button-down shirt: Designer Carolina Herrera lives in these
  • Sheath dress: It’s simultaneously sexy, classy and sassy
  • Cardigan: Throw over the sheath dress or pair with jeans or black pants
  • Two-piece suit: Mix and match the jacket and the skirt with all of the above

Strategy No. 4: Choose Double-duty Items
Carilyn Vaile, who designs easy-to-wear items for women on the go, recommends buying items that multitask. Questions to ask as you carefully vet pieces on the store rack: Can the tunic be worn as a minidress? Can the long waterfall jacket be belted and worn as a dress with tights and boots? “If an item can easily transform into other outfits, it keeps my interest,” says Vaile. “Not only will it stay in my wardrobe longer, it will be worn more often.”

Strategy No. 5: Shop the Sales With Caution
No doubt, some of the articles of clothing cluttering your closet still have sales tags hanging from them because you couldn’t pass up a bargain. But it’s not a bargain if you only bought that dress, sweater or pair of (slightly tight) boots because of the 90 percent markdown and never wear it. Before you purchase an item on sale, ask yourself: Would I still want this piece -- in this color, size and style -- if it weren’t marked down? If the answer is no, pass it up.

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How to Shop Vintage

When Sydneysider Beth Armstrong wore a black, high-necked embroidered cotton blouse to a party, her friends were surprised to hear that her Victorian-era top was close to 100 years old. Of course, her friends wanted one too -- and so Armstrong’s vintage business,, was born. “It gave me license to buy numerous beautiful pieces which otherwise seemed too extravagant or impractical,” says Armstrong.

Meanwhile, Alyce Moschini of Perth would return from her lunch break laden with op-shop treasures. It was when a co-worker suggested she start a blog that her online shop,, began to take shape. “To me, the attraction of vintage is the originality of the pieces you find. They all have a history and are a one-off piece that can’t be found in a store,” says Moschini.

We asked Armstrong and Moschini for tips on how to score a one-of-a-kind find when you’re shopping for vintage items.

Keep an Open Mind
“Look for good fabrics and vibrant patterns,” says Moschini. “Don’t let an amazing piece go because it looks a little large, has shoulder pads or the length is too long. These are all things that can be altered.” If that dress is missing a belt, Armstrong suggests checking the hem to make a belt out of the fabric. She also advises doing alterations straight away; otherwise “it will sit in your cupboard for years.”

Check Again
Inspect zippers, pockets, buttons and necklines, and make sure the material isn’t stained or torn. “Underarm stains are the worst; they can be impossible to shift,” says Armstrong. “Check also for major thinning and weakness of the fabric -- especially silk.”

Look Beyond the Rack
A secondhand store is a treasure trove beyond the clothing sections. “Go into the fabric and lace racks,” says Moschini. “Sometimes they have a gold mine of vintage fabrics you can whip into a long bohemian skirt.”

Take Care Immediately
As soon as she’s home, Moschini washes all her vintage finds in cold water and dries them flat. For any marks that need a little more attention, she uses a mild detergent to ease out stains. Armstrong cautions against leaving clothes with metal hooks and eyes to soak overnight, as they can leak rust and add new stains. “I learnt this the hard way,” she notes.

Feel the Glory
“When I felt I’ve had nothing to wear or couldn’t afford to buy a new dress, vintage clothing has bailed me out on numerous occasions,” says Armstrong. So go forth with confidence and rummage.

Share your best tips for op-shopping below

Sarah Blasko’s Style Closet

At the time of this interview, Sarah Blasko had a cold -- and a bad one, at that. “You’re lucky you can’t see me,” she snorted down the line from London, where she’s currently based. “I look a picture.”

Although she was feeling a little less than stellar, the Sydney singer/songwriter is still a style icon -- albeit an accidental one. Quirky, unique and almost endearingly awkward, Blasko has long favoured vintage 1940s dresses, classic silk shirts, lace-up shoes and half-boots, a style she says comes from “a lifetime of shopping in op-shops”. 

Right now, Blasko is perhaps Australia’s most prominent female performer. Success, she says, has been a “slow build” (a high school music teacher once told her she didn’t have a musical bone in her body), but that’s just the way she likes it. Her first album (The Overture and the Underscore) unleashed a promising-yet-unpolished talent while the second (What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have) showcased the oblique lyricism and simple arrangements that became her trademark. Her most recent album, the beautifully haunting As Day Follows Night, is perhaps her most personal and emotional release yet, with such themes as doomed love, anxiety and pervading doubts. “It definitely came from a dark place,” she says, “but I’m ready to brighten up a bit now.”

THE STYLE GLOSSY: Where do you like to shop?

SARAH BLASKO: Op-shops, markets and antique stores. I don’t really like new things at all.

TSG: Really?

SB: No. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. My parents were missionaries in Reunion (a French island in the Indian Ocean), and we moved to Sydney where they became heavily involved in church activities. A lot of my clothes were bought from secondhand stores because my parents couldn’t afford a lot of new clothes. Even now, I can’t bear to see things get wasted; it really bothers me. I do think my love of vintage clothes and furniture stems from that.

TSG: How does fashion fit into your life now?

SB: I’d say it’s a hobby for me. I’ve always loved going to secondhand shops and just picking through everything. I like to trawl through the shops in Newtown, Sydney. More recently, I’ve found better stuff when I’m on tour in the Australian countryside. I think I’ve already picked through all of the op-shops in the cities.

TSG: How has your own onstage style evolved?

SB: When I first started performing onstage, I would just wear exactly what I would wear off it: dresses, flat shoes and stuff I found in vintage stores. On the last two tours, I’ve had Noella Thomson, a designer from Melbourne, collaborate with me on my costumes. She’s incorporated things into my outfits that change throughout the set. It’s been incredibly interesting and fun to collaborate on that kind of stuff. I’ve been enjoying it.

TSG: How would you sum up your recent stage style?

SB: It’s escapist, I guess. That’s something I like to convey in both my style and music. That’s why I’ve always loved people like Bjork. The past few tours, I’ve definitely started taking more risks -- the outfits have become a little more outlandish and interesting.


TSG: Yes, tell us about the “magician” outfit you were sporting on your last tour.

SB: That was Noella Thomson again. That dress was done very quickly -- in a week and a half. We wanted to build a surprise into it, so Noella worked scarves into the breast pocket that I could pull out. It looked like a magic act.

TSG: She also designed that dress with the sleeves that popped open.

SB: Yeah, I think that was the first one she did for me. That was like some sort of kaleidoscope.

TSG: And your own style icon is?

SB: Oh, Kate Bush. Without a doubt.

Holiday Fashions for Every Occasion

Whether you’re wondering if you can sneak out of that office party early without the boss noticing or if you should bring your new beau to the family dinner where he’ll be roasted and grilled, you’ll stave off the season’s stress if you look as luminous as holiday lights when you do make your appearance.

Event: The work soiree
Holiday Fashion:
Cocktail couture
Seasonal Snafu to Avoid:
Too bare, too tight, too short -- too, too much!

Simplicity and grace are key when it comes to choosing an outfit that strikes the right note -- one that won’t have your co-workers sounding the alarm for the fashion police -- when you mix and mingle with your colleagues. Think simple and elegant. Whether the party takes place in the office corridor or at a swanky bar, the trick is in the transition. Rather than schlep an entirely different outfit into the office so you can morph like Cinderella when the clock strikes 5 p.m., break out the party-flavored accessories. A little black dress serves as the perfect canvas for oversized cocktail rings, chandelier earrings that glitter like tree ornaments, metallic heels and sparkly clutches containing your favorite nighttime (read: brightly colored) lipstick.

Event: The holiday ball
Holiday Fashion:
Classy couture
Seasonal Snafus to Avoid
: Cliched red or green floor-sweeping gowns, bridesmaid dresses

Nothing shouts holiday like a look-at-me red dress. For understated elegance, reach for texture married with unexpected color in a body-hugging silhouette. Lace is always lovely, and you can’t go wrong with classic black. But why not try a deep blue, purple or gold instead? These sumptuous hues are more festive and a celebratory break from your everyday wardrobe shades. You can amp up velvet by ditching the black for plum, navy or even white. Radiating white heat at a holiday party will cause the entire room to sparkle. For true holiday sizzle, however, break with tradition entirely. The trendy holiday color pairing of the moment is turquoise with white, or take a cue from designer Catherine Malandrino, who favors tropical orange and yellow.

Event: The family affair

Holiday Fashion: Kin couture
Seasonal Snafus to Avoid:
The reindeer sweater your aunt gave you last year for a holiday gift, casual bordering on “who cares?”

If you’re expecting the meal will play like a scene from Home for the Holidays, you might as well make sure you look your best -- the better to stave off backhanded compliments from relatives you only see once a year. If you can’t part with your favorite skinny jeans for the day, pair them with heels and a satin blouse or a sweater in sensuous cashmere. Another easy combo: a jewel-toned blouse and tailored trousers. You will have dressed up for the occasion without underdressing or overdressing.

Event: The DIY shindig
Holiday Fashion:
Comfort couture
Seasonal Snafus to Avoid:
Prepping the meal in your holiday outfit, toe-pinching shoes, indecorous decolletage

As the holiday hostess, you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible since you’ll spend much of the party running back and forth to check the oven and tend to your guests. Once you’ve prepared the food, change into your holiday look -- soft, wide-legged pants made from velour or any other drapey fabric, and a sleeveless blouse in gold, bronze or silver. Or, consider bohemian loungewear: a caftan dress befitting uberstylist Rachel Zoe cinched with a thick gleaming belt. You’ll look, to quote the fashionista, “bananas.”

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