TREND: Bold and Beautiful

Despite overcast skies and an overcast mood during final exam week at Cornell, this Fashionista brought the sunshine all by herself. Her outfit was pretty simple: maxi dress, tote, sandals. But it is the colors and textures that make it so arresting… the rich texture of green alligator skin against the burnt-orange backdrop of her dress, the neon paracord bracelets, acrylic necklace, and peek of shiny patent slippers.

In the past few posts I have commented on bucking summer style staples – namely, florals and overly feminine looks. This is yet another example of a summer ensemble that keeps an edge to it, while staying simple.

As this is my last post for trend reports for this school year, I would like to note what I've found over the course of photographing Cornellians with style these past months. The most enjoyable part about photographing street style is engaging with the story of the person in the photos. Garments — wristwatches, scarves, boots — they are just stuff. But stuff is never just stuff. It is always imbued with a backstory and a future. The bracelet is from studying abroad in Ghana, the shoes were custom-made, this whole outfit is from my roommate's closet! As legendary street style photographer Bill Cunningham notes in the recent documentary about his life, "Beauty is for those who seek it." Only through this opportunity to roam around looking for unique styles on campus do I get to notice an art professor's innovative jeans, the way a boy paints his tae kwon do shoes, or a girl's surprising turban spotted across the computer lab. I get to seek beauty, make it my own, and share it. What a pleasure.

TREND: Natural Woman

In an earlier post, I applauded another Cornell Fashionista for her sleek, clean summer style. This Senior fashionista is similarly unfussy in her crisp black and white tube dress. But there is an appealing earthy-ness to her rich caramel leather jacket and the watercolor stripes on her dress. The dress is a cotton sundress from DKNY, while the gladiator sandals are from Reaction by Kenneth Cole. These are standard summer pieces that are easily buyable at various price points. But the real personality comes from her worn-in, well-loved leather jacket that she has had for ten years.

Recently I have been noticing the way that small touches can contribute to a cohesive look (frequently by accident!). In this case, the materials of her leather pouch from Coach and her glossy Blackberry set each other off perfectly, while her black nail polish with a shiny stripe down the middle recapitulates the stripes of her dress. Often these are unintentional touches, but an individual will always gravitate towards certain colors or textures that can end up complementing each other. For this fashionista, she keeps everything sleek and calm, with a kick of natural personality.

TREND: UnFashion

There is fashion — the whirlwind of media, models, and marketing that spins endlessly — and there is style. Fashion is a huge machine that is largely fueled by the mass production of uninspired garments. Fashion is an industry, a culture, a monster of its own continual reinvention. Somewhere within that world is a tiny spark that makes this all worthwhile. That little glimmer is style.

But style itself mocks the whole game. Because style, unlike fashion, is simple and enduring. It is about inspiration, panache, and poise. It is the intersection of humor and self-respect.

This young man sums it all up better than I can. He is a sophomore from New York City studying chemistry here at Cornell. His outfit is unremarkable to someone looking for fashion: cargo shorts, bright red polo shirt, slip-on sneakers, backpack. But if it’s style you are looking for, this is it.

Style is about successfully communicating personal thoughts into public sartorial displays. These shoes are a good example. These were his own Tae-Kwon-Do competition sneakers that he hand-painted with Asian motifs when he retired from the sport a few years back because of injury. He was hoping to commemorate his time learning martial arts by bringing his utilitarian footwear into everyday dressing. The silhouette could pass for Puma or similar track shoes, but the coloration is surprisingly bold and graphic, with a different color block from every angle.

His normal black backpack also reflects his quietly bold personal style, with a big white plush shark tucked in next to his leather Bible, both for good luck and wisdom. What I so appreciated about this Fashionisto was his unassuming, low-key approach to making strong little statements with his clothing. Again, he hits that point between self-respect and humor, bringing in playful touches here and there, but keeping everything appropriate for his body and lifestyle. This is not college fashion, this is college style.



TREND: The Fashionista Wears Prada

Among many funny lines in the surprisingly accurate film based on Vogue magazine, “The Devil Wears Prada”, there is a typical Miranda Priestly editrix moment over spring dressing. In a board meeting for the April issue one editor suggests shooting floral dresses to which Miranda responds, deadpan, “Florals? For spring? Ground breaking.”

Although Miranda is the merciless devil herself, she does have a point. It can be very refreshing to see a spring outfit that is clean and unfussy. So I was happy to spot this Fashionista in front of the performing arts center at Cornell, on her way to class in a crisp ensemble. This lithe junior was wearing high-waisted cotton shorts she picked up in London over spring break with a sheer black kimono knit from Forever 21. The outfit was accented by a neutral cinched belt by Tommy Hilfiger, caramel wooden wedges, sassy neon nails by China Glaze, and her matching black and white iPhone.

This look is a good example of dressing up shorts for a summer job or a Sunday brunch: keep the palette classic and the accessories formal for a non-beachy look. Add a long black cardigan or blazer for when the air-conditioning kicks in.

And as for Miranda Preistly’s derisive edicts, she would probably give at least a slight smile to this chic, fresh Fashionista.

TREND: Courting Spring

As warm weather arrives very slowly in upstate New York, Fashionistas around campus are dying to break out their sundresses and sandals. But the constant grey skies and thunderstorms have provided little opportunity for hints of spring dressing. This junior Fashionista, however, managed to wear a perfect spring outfit in this post, just layered up for the persistent breeze. Her draped hourglass eyelet dress from AllSaints would be beautiful worn barefoot on the beach when the sun comes back. 

But she was able to adapt the look to our persistent foul weather by adding a base layer of a textured Posted on Categories FashionTags , 1 Comment on TREND: Courting Spring

TREND: Venus in Blue Jeans

Around a college campus, there is no shortage of denim in the visual landscape. A lazy person’s staple, it is infrequently worn with panache. But as addressed in an earlier post, men can reinvent denim by pairing it with sharper pieces or referencing work wear. As for women, there are two approaches to wearing denim chicly.

The first idea seems obvious, but it is rarely done — treat navy denim as a color in the outfit. That is, think of your palette with a navy-blue base, as if you were wearing navy pants and working around that. Along these lines, I think of a polished older Argentinian diplomat I see at my local Starbucks in D.C. who wears jeans on the weekends with tobacco cowboy boots and a tobacco cocoon coat.

The second way to wear denim is to ignore its casual connotations. This freshman Fashionista took this task by pairing her basic blue jeans with a structured knit coat, an embroidered sheer blouse from Topshop over a T-shirt, an elegant leather belt, and a surprising 1940’s turban hat designed by Cornell sophomore Anu Lingala. The look is relaxed, but still turned out. It is in fact just a T-shirt and jeans, but it is styled on another level.


TREND: Dreaming in Color

As we drink down the last dregs of icy winter, here comes a reminder that Spring is nigh. This sophomore Fashionista was spotted walking by a construction site at Cornel lin a riot of color and print. She elegantly balanced her petite curves with a defined waist and a short skirt. From afar it looks as though she paired a simple cream blouse with a red floral skirt. But not so.

The top, which she bought in India, is a abloom and ablaze with all matter of flora, fauna, and Victoriana. There are even hidden toy soldiers in the mix, which are dear to her because her father deals toy soldiers for a living. There is also a story behind her skirt, which was originally an ankle-length gem from The Salvation Army that she converted into a flirty miniskirt, making the long hem into her tote bag. Similar ingenuity is found in her eccentric collection of bracelets, picked up on her travels and in NYC flea markets.

As we chatted about her new fashion projects, she pulled out a technicolor display of M&Ms perfectly matching the riot of parrots on her tote bag. Delicious and fun, this is head-to-toe style.

TREND: Pitti Please

Among the fashion tribes there are some definite "types". You have the Paris editor with her leather and messy hair, the London magpie, and the New York hipster wearing ironic denim and prints. But there is one recurring figure on the scene who has become very inspirational. He is the Italian bon vivant, and he has a uniform.

This Cornell senior was spotted on a sunny day embodying the Italian look, straight off the streets of Milan during the menswear fashion week, "Pitti Uomo". The look is a marriage of tradition and functionality. It begins with a classic dark blazer and slim jeans. For colder weather a sporty down vest is layered either above or beneath the blazer. The shoes are Clark's lace-ups that this Fashionisto says he bought only a few months ago but has worn every day in the Ithaca winter to burnish them to a rugged finish. His bag is similarly functional and rugged- a Filson duffel in rich tobacco. The finishing flourish is a plain white hankerchief folded flat in his blazer pocket — a nonchalant, non-fussy nod to tradition.

This look is about the best of everything, not in terms of the most trendy, but in terms of the most functional and best quality garments. It is relaxed, balancing classic style and sport in equal measure. Take it from this Fashionisto, style can be at its best when it is polished but ungarnished.

TREND: Take Flight

Spring takes a while to hatch from its egg up here in Ithaca, but today's fabulous weather hinted at the warmer seasons to come. This senior Policy Analysis major was spotted strolling to class on this crisp day wearing an M.C. Escher-inspired cream wool coat. It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of wearing all-black ensembles and boring functional pieces in the winter, but this Californian broke out and brought some sunshine to her winter look.

This Fashionista paired her rara avis coat with a black and white check scarf she picked up on the street in Paris. The clashing checks and houndstooth birds were integrated by their coordinating palette. For a hint of spring, she broke out a bright floral blouse beneath. In an earlier post I commented on “man-repelling” styles, and although this look combines three different strong prints, it maintains femininity in the cinched silhouette and flared skirt. Bold prints are everywhere this spring, from Stella McCartney's juicy citruses to Jil Sander's techno-printed florals.

Stave off late winter wardrobe restlessness by playing with bold colors and prints until the birds are back and the flowers are out.

TREND: Shape Shifter

In my fashion school critiques, there is one group of students that always gets picked on. They are repeatedly told to be innovative, but warned that their designs still can’t be commercially successful. They are told to pay greater attention to cut and fit, but admonished for creating silhouettes that are outlandish. They are the bold and the brave; they are the menswear designers, and I wish them the best of luck.

The menswear market rewards creativity, but only in subtle touches. This is partly because it is difficult for guys to pull off an interesting look that maintains a masculine quality. But this Cornell art professor pulls it off. He does so by keeping things simple in an all-black palette but adding interest in his silhouette.

The shape looks like a classic postman uniform: slight A-line wool coat, pants cut baggy at the knee, sturdy boots, and the slung messenger bag. It is really the cut of these G-Star jeans that makes this look unique, with that loose knee and slim calf. But unique doesn’t mean girly or fussy. This guy is burly and Scottish for God’s sake! So no Thom Browne crop-pants, Italian-guy capris, or circus slacks necessary to play this game. Just cut a simple shape, stick to it, and stand out.