Monday, February 22, 2016

Fashion Faux Pas

RHYS BOWEN:  I’ve been looking at my closet and planning what to wear for Left Coast Crime that is held this week in Phoenix. It’s going to be downright hot, according to the forecasts so those blazers and tailored slacks I had in mind might not work after all.  So I tried on a Southwestern style turquoise tunic with white pants…. And then I froze. Wait a minute. White pants? Before Memorial Day? What was I thinking.

Then I decided that the rules must be different if one lives in Arizona where it’s been over eighty for a couple of weeks. So am I allowed to break this fashion taboo? And then I started wondering whether other people still obey fashion rules or whether fashion rules have gone out of the window with what used to be fashion. Remember when we used to wait to see what Dior was doing with hemlines this spring? And full skirts? Straight sheaths? All instantly copied by the ready-to-wear houses and bought by the rest of us.
And the rules that went along with this. Handbag and shoes should match.  Certain colors should never be worn together. No black with brown. My mother used to say “Blue and green should never be seen.”  That’s a rule I broke long ago. I’ve always loved the look of certain blues with certain greens: peacock and emerald. Super!
Short boots would never have been worn with skirts until recently. Bare legs with skirts? Never!!!  I must be getting old because nothing that passes for fashion these days is something an ordinary person would wear. Would I ever pay hundreds of dollars for jeans with rips in them? I don’t think so. Most trendsetters look as if they’ve mugged a bag lady for her clothes. If I like something on Project Runway it’s instantly deemed too old and boring and the designer is sent home.
So I’m dying to know your feelings on fashion (or lack of it) Are there still rules that apply? Do you follow them? And most pressingly—can I wear white to Left Coast Crime this week?

HANK PHILLIPI RYAN: Of course. White to LCC? With pride. It's Arizona.
You can wear anything you want, whenever you want.
Now. Fashion-fashion? Is a different deal. No "beige" panty hose.  If you are covering your legs, tights. Otherwise,  bare legs. Yeesh. But I do it.
No baggy jeans. No sweats out of the house. Flip-flops only at the beach. My skirts and jackets don't ever match any more--no suits. "Matchy" anything is not fashion. There's a too-long  too-dowdy skirt--I know it when I see it. There's a too-short skirt--I know it when I see it.
Short boots with skirts are SO difficult. I have TRIED but I cannot pull it off.
I wear black with brown all the time. And black with navy. But I don't wear gold jewelry with black clothing. Shrugging. Unless it works.
My mother use to say "no colors not found in nature." She was adamantly opposed to cobalt blue and lavender. (I mean--separately. Or together. Whatever.)
And have you seen the "new" fashion-y shoes? Chunky boxy heels--straight out of the sixties. And the "new" "Prairie-boho"  look? Fringe and peasant blouses Been there, hated that.
I am boring when it comes to clothes, I really am. Jacket, skirt, tights, heels, pearls. So, I'm old.

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Ditto what Hank said, Rhys. Of course you can wear white. All year round. White jeans with boots even. How do I know these things, you may ask? Because I have a fashionista daughter. I don't know where she got this talent because it wasn't from me... She's always put together, trendy but not TOO trendy. She says it's not innate (I disagree) but that her sense of style is due to using Pinterest and organizing her outfits before work.

She Pins things for me, too, so I sort of know what's in and what's not, but that doesn't mean I can pull it off... And then you have to deal with the whole "age appropriate" thing. Ack!

Hank, I didn't know you weren't supposed to wear gold jewelry with black!!! That's a rule I never learned--not that it would matter much to me because I am allergic to gold.

I do, however, know that this year wearing different denims together (which used to be a huge fashion NO NO) is now IN. Who decides these things??

HALLIE EPHRON: Rhys, you look spectacular in white, a Phoenix is a different planet from where those rules were codified. Different denims are ok? Who knew!

In the old days, I remember the rules. No white or pastels or patent leather after Memorial Day. Now no one wears patent leather, ever, which probably means it's due for a comeback. Remember how we obsessed over having our purses match our shoes? These days I pretty much live in black year round. Even my bathing suit is black. I splurge on the occasional Eileen Fisher dress or jacket or pants when they're half-priced and haven't regretted a single purchase, though her asymmetrical hems (what a terrible idea) put me off last year.

I'm happy to see roomy trousers are back. Though I know perfectly well it's a ruse to get us to abandon our collections of leggings.

LUCY BURDETTE: In general I'm hopeless when it comes to fashion--this is because I value comfort so much more highly than looks. I end up wearing the same things over and over--Key West is casual, yes, but I am right there in yoga pants and t-shirts with the bottom-feeders:). My mother was the same way. She's wearing green checkered shorts, a white shirt, and Hushpuppies with white socks on in 75% of old photos. There is one small clothing store in Connecticut that can often help spiff me up for an appearance:).

Speaking of fringe...I saw a young woman wearing a short sheath-like dress the other day, but there was fringe hanging from mid thigh to mid calf--same fabric as the dress. I was dumbstruck.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I am also the beneficiary of fashion-forward daughters to give me advice (or at least not let me leave the house looking hopeless.) As I get older I find, like many of you, I default to a uniform that I know looks good, feels comfortable and keeps me warm (winter) or cool (summer.) Heavy turtleneck and a pashmina with jeans-style pants in cold weather. Bean boots, of course. Talbots sleeveless shirts, cotton cardies and crops in summer. I have a whole basket of flip-flops that get me from May through September. I still do no white after Labor Day, in part because it just looks WRONG in northern New England.

I was thinking about the way no one seems to wear pantyhose anymore. On one hand, it's a look that clearly only benefits the young, unless I'm the only middle-aged woman with scars, spots and uneven skin tone on her legs. On the other, when I think back to my days working in DC, when I HAD to wear pantyhose no matter the 85 degree-85 per cent humidity...! And always, always running them and having to pop into the drug store for a new pair. Remember when you had extra unopened pantyhose stashed in your desk, or your glove compartment, or your purse? I notice men never "

RHYS: The white jacket I'm wearing in the picture above was in a boutique in Santa Monica where Cara Black and I were browsing between events last spring (before Memorial Day)/ I loved it and was so tempted until I saw the price ($2500). Luckily it was one size too small but you can see my attraction to white, can't you? Perhaps it's my innate purity coming through? Or maybe not.

So, dear Readers, do you have fashion rules or wear what you like, when you like?


  1. Of course, Rhys, you absolutely should wear white to the conference in Phoenix. [And the jacket looks great!]

    I admit to having absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever and I certainly don't understand what passes for fashion at any given time, so I wear what I want when I want. Most of my wardrobe is black [and I imagine you'd be hard-pressed to find anything white in my closet].
    I like long skirts, long tops and sweaters, comfortable slacks, jeans without holes, and flat shoes.

    Purse matching my shoes? That's never going to happen. For years I hunted for a purse that I actually liked; now I have a small collection of vintage Lucite purses that I find quite acceptable, and I don't care if they match my shoes or not. The Fashion Police may not be happy with what I wear, but I'm comfortable . . . .

  2. White to the conference is perfectly okay-- the desert and the tropics have completely different rules to the rest of the country!

    As a disclaimer though, my favorite shoes right now are a pair of flowered combat boots that I've been known to wear with a chocolate brown skirt and black sweater and tights. So I may not be the best authority on what constitutes chic...

  3. Rhys, you always look great.

    I never know what to wear. In Massachusetts I always knew. It's very different out here in Arizona. I once had a neurologist here write in her case notes that I dressed "preppy," and she listed each item of clothing I had on (that she could see) as if that proved a point she was trying to make. I requested a copy of her clinical notes, because during the visit when I apparently dressed in a neurologically-unsound way, she asked my husband how he liked my being "all dressed up." He just looked at her, and on the way out the door he said, "I've never seen her wear a dirty white coat." I adore Steve.

  4. This is making me recall how much a duck out of water I felt, east coaster all in black at the Phoenix airport where pastels and brights ruled.

    Reine, Steve rocks.

    Joan: "Jeans without holes." Sounds like you do have a fashion sense to me.

  5. Jennifer, you need to be young (never mind the season) to gt away with flowered combat boots. At my age there's a thin line between cray-cray and iconoclastic.

  6. Black, black, black, black.... Did I mention black? Just went to the ballet -- all black, colorful scarf. Maybe some navy blue.... New York uniform for sure, although I do like to write in Winnie the Pooh or Malificent tee-shirts and yoga pants.


  7. Fashion rules exhaust me.

    Rhys - I agree with everyone. White in Arizona will be fine.

    I am addicted to white shirts. And I always, ALWAYS, fret about white linen shirts. Can I wear a white linen shirt while at Bouchercon which is in October, usually? September this year, but still same problem. EXCEPT, it's in New Orleans. Same deal as Rhys with LCC in Arizona maybe? Linen in September in NOLA is okay??

    The no hose thing has almost put me completely off dresses and I adore pretty little summer dresses. So, I just decide I do not give two flips that it might be too hot to some, I still pull on a pair of leggings in soft summer shades to wear under my dress and slip on a pair of cute summer shoes. I will continue wearing this until hose make a comeback.

    I've never been a fan of matching anything. It used to make my mom so crazy that my shoes and bag never matched (what a rebel I was, huh??). And I've always liked to mix not only colors (it's all about the right hues, I think), but patterns and textures. It's tricky, but fun, I think.

    I would love to think there's no clothing rules because of our age, but that's just, sadly, not so. I discovered it when I put on a cute cute cute little polka dot skirt and realized I looked like Minnie Mouse on her way to the old folks home. Like Hank says - it was wrong, I knew it when I saw it.

  8. I'm pretty much with Lucy. But now I want some flowered combat boots!

    I have a friend who wears white jeans all winter and they look great on her. Me, I'm not allowed to wear white. On me it's a magnet for spilled red wine or tomato sauce...

    And yes, Steve rocks.

  9. Yes black --somehow always works. And I must say I mourn the death of beige pantyhose, it is very difficult to accept that clammy white legs look good.
    When I am in airports I always shop the Passenger's outfits to see if there are any good possibilities. Yesterday I saw a young woman in a gray mini dress, with gray leggings, and gray clunky heeled short boots. And a tan Burberry short trench coat.
    He looked terrific, but then… She was also beautiful anyway. Which helps .
    I almost took a picture of the girl who was wearing UGGs slippers, though. That was not so great.

  10. She she she looked terrific--it's so annoying to do this on the phone!

  11. I've never much cared for the rules of fashion. Of course, as a man, there are less of them. But I likely manage to break them all at one time or another.

    My conference attire - with a very bright orange or deep green polo shit with blog logo embroidered on it and the opposite color pants - is hardly designed to blend in. I get both positive and negative feedback and neither really make me consider changing. I do what I want.

    Orange in general is my go-to color of choice - for everything. This began long ago when I realized that poor orange was never picked as a favorite color by anyone. Always one to cheer for the underdog, I just latched onto Mr. Orange and we have been buddies every since.

  12. Panty hose died with the invention of leg spray. But I wear tights all the time--red, green, blue, plaid. I have a pair of black tights with "energizing" feet. They feel fantastic.

    I decided a while back to be more bold about dressing. Now I have fun. But I agree on the long dowdy skirts. And, I don't care who you are, no one really looks good in skinny jeans (and that includes Kate Middleton) or Uggs. I love my Uggs, but I acknowledge their Uggliness.

  13. I stopped by to visit my 4-y-o granddaughter the other day. Here's what she was wearing: tights with horizontal orange and green stripes, a short "twirly" skirt, and a long-sleeved shirt with the messages--in sequins--"Laugh and Play Every Day." Aorable.

    And why can't we grown-ups have fashion fun like that? My default uniform is Eileen Fisher--always comfortable, occasionally nice-looking, but almost always grey or cream or black. How does such a look contribute to "laughing and playing every day"? A question I am pondering...Can we adults have more fun, even if we lose the sequins?


  14. Rhys, I think white in Arizona is fine.

    Deborah, I also have a "fashion forward" daughter who keeps me from looking to "frumpy." She says I'm young enough to still have an "edge," and shouldn't abandon myself to the "mom look" yet. She approved my wardrobe for Bouchercon last year in Raleigh. I suppose I should listen because she always gets scads of compliments on the way she looks. She went to a formal dance this weekend and said her dress was the hit of the event.

    At least, she gets scads of compliments from everyone except her father, who wants to see her in long skirts reminiscent of the 60s. Not only is she too short for that, it's not...current. My rule is that if the skirt/dress is at least as long as her school uniform skirt, I'm fine with it. And she's okay with that rule, too.

    Hose is out? Too bad. I can occasionally get away with no hose in the summer, with casual skirts, but for a formal occasion (such as if we went to the theater) I can't imagine going without hose. My daughter does all the time. If that makes me old fashioned, well, so be it.

    And I use the same purse all year long so matching to my shoes? You've got to be kidding.

  15. Susan, Hallie, I have felt like a fish out of water in New York. Here I am in pastels in a world of black and black. These days I keep a black outfit just for East Coast trips.

  16. Rhys, you always look great. Those who know me, know I will look rumpled no matter what I wear. I have conference/signing clothes and I have writing clothes. No skirts or dresses, so that solved the panty hose question years ago. Black doesn't work well for me, mostly because after one wearing it will have a permanent layer of cat fur on it, so like Rhys I prefer to go with bright colors, even in NYC. I've never been able to get scarves to look right, so I no longer try. Question: am I alone in wishing hats would come back in fashion?


  17. You know those capsule wardrobes, where you have 11 pieces that all go together? That's fine, as long as you only have one, narrow life. Personally, I need a going-out wardrobe, and a staying-in wardrobe, and a wardrobe for working out, which is of course different than the hot-weather gardening outfits vs. the cool-weather gardening outfits. Of which there need to be more than one, because I need to change them daily. It's exhausting, just keeping up with those issues, let alone traveling to different climates.

    Susan, you have to have an all-black wardrobe in NYC. It's a law, isn't it? And of course you need a pastel/brightly colored one, Rhys; you live in California and Arizona. And ne'er the twain shall meet. When I was traveling the country doing lectures I ended up with a black wool top in Clearwater. It was still winter at home, but it was already beastly hot in Florida and I was so uncomfortable, especially out in the sun.

    Now I'm trying to figure out what to wear for three weeks in Europe, while trying to limit my luggage to a carry-on and a big handbag. This should be interesting. Shoes are the hardest, for me, and I'm beginning to think fashion rules may get thrown out the window. Any tips?

  18. Rules, schmules! Who cares? Listen to Kaye, above, wear whatever you like--and if it's wrong on you, you'll know it by looking in the mirror. Wear hats! Wear hose! Wear whatever makes you feel beautiful, comfortable, powerful, peaceful....

  19. Jennifer, are your flowered boots by any chance Clark's? A couple of years ago when I was in London they brought out an anniversary pair of flowered desert boots. I wanted them so badly, but it was the old suitcase/weight thing so I didn't buy them. Now I regret it.

    I think clothes should be fun and comfortable. And although I do wear black, I love color so very seldom all black. And no Eileen Fisher, sorry. Black, gray, and brown. Ugh. Besides, I'm too short and would look like droopy bag lady.

    I for one was thrilled with the demise of flesh-colored panty hose. I always hated them and dreaded any outfit that required them. Bare legs or tights for me.

    And Rhys, I think I'm bringing white jeans to Phoenix, so we can wear white together!

  20. I've lived in AZ for over 20 years, but I grew up in New England and can not wear white shoes (pants are okay) before Memorial Day. I just can't - I think I'd have a seizure if I tried. LOL! You can take the girl out of CT but you can't take the CT out of the girl.

  21. karen in Ohio: Black flats! Or look at Arche or Ecco. Bon Voyage lucky you!

    Oh, Debs, the suitcase/weight dilemma. I am STILL regretting the boots I left behind in a shop in Italy. Sigh….

  22. That was really me, above. As you might have guessed… :-)

  23. Definitely white in AZ, or in Florida for that matter. What about So Cal, Hallie? Is white a calendar color there or a year rounder? I am an impossible fashion faux pas. I wear what I like, as long as it's comfortable and doesn't scare the horses. Have to have something on my feet though - under the shoes. Can't abide the feel of barefoot in shoes, always socks (for sneakers, tights, or -- unfashionably -- pantyhose!

  24. Oh, definitely, what Ramona says about leg spray. I, of the clammy white legs (year around!) adore it. So I'll be bringing it to Arizona. High fashion and formal settings aside, I think anything goes. I love socks; I'll wear socks with skirts (but this is Portland, might be more OK here than in other places). I'd take those floral combat boots too. :-)

    Gotta say though, packing for Arizona is proving a chore. I was hoping I'd be able to get away with my normal clothes (mostly black) except change out black tights and boots for black leggings and sandals. Doesn't look like that's going to work!

    I don't own white anything, come to think of it ...

  25. Rhys, I agree with all others in approving white for Left Coast. I would think white would pretty much be acceptable in Arizona and California and Florida all year round. And, Kaye, I adore white shirts, too. I think they're fine anywhere year round, but especially okay in New Orleans in September. Katie, your granddaughter's outfit sounds adorable, as does she! I love the look of short boots with skirts or dresses, but I feel like it's for those younger than I. While I hate pantyhose, I am even less a fan of bare legs for me.

    My style. Sorry, I just had a laughing fit. My approach to clothes is black is good, something that doesn't make me look like the fat lady singing, and something that is comfortable so I can enjoy whatever I'm doing. I do enjoy wearing quirky holiday items that delight my six-year-old granddaughter. And, I have fun wearing a holiday t-shirt and earrings, too. My daughter has a much better fashion sense than I do, but then she is thin and looks great in anything. She is also a master packer for trips, using the roll your clothes method and being a minimalist.

    What's funny is that when I was growing up, my father was the fashion plate. He adhered to rules of warm weather and cold weather attire, especially concerning his hats, which were wool or felt before Memorial Day and straw between Memorial Day and Labor Day. He bought his hats in Cincinnati and had them cleaned and blocked there, and he had suits made in Newport, KY at a tailor's. His shirts were sent to the cleaners, even though my mother could have surely ironed them fine, and he was picky about his ties. I was the only one who could pick one out for him to suit him. I guess he needed to look nice for his real estate business, but he went a bit beyond. My mother was too busy taking care of four kids and a husband to worry much about fashion. And, I think it's so funny that my easy-going, not-particularly-neat son has a real affection for suits and the accessories that accompany them. Could it be genetic? Hahaha!

  26. Kathy Reel, I bet your dad bought his hats at Batsakes. They're still making them here, too.

  27. Kaye, white linen shirts should work year round. Just layer. And N.O. is still hot in September, so you'll want your linen there. Trust me. I thought panty hose would be coming back in since Kate Middleton is required to wear them on her official duties. No bare legs for the royals!

  28. Somehow, I cut off the rest of my comment! I meant to say, I notice men never had a must-wear item that had to be replaced, at cost, ever week or two. Mandatory pantyhose was a like a tax on being a woman.

  29. Kait, weirdly Southern California is a bit first cousin to NYC and you can get away with wearing black black and black. And white in winter? Not so much unless it's velvet or wool.

  30. Allergic to gold? So sad. But it's not all that fashionable anymore, right? It's silver, silver, silver. Anyway, comfort & dependability & "tumble dry low."


  31. Kathy/Kaitlyn - a big ol' YES for hats! I love 'em and can't help myself. I treat myself to a new hat at an adorable shop in Asheville, NC every winter and look forward to that purchase.

    Pat D. - okeey doke! Thank you! White linen shirts will be going with me to B'con in NO. Thank you!

  32. I only wish I could get up to Phoenix for LCC. I wouldn't care what clothes I to wear, as I am now so limited in choice. Will it catch in my wheels? Will it keep me 20° warmer than the norm? Can I take a layer off, just in case I get hot, although I know I won't? How will I carry those little extras or pick up dropped books, or give my money to the clerk without Kendall? How could I go there alone and not look a mess?

  33. I love color, especially colorful tops, but usually tone them down with black,purple,navy or brown knit overshirts/jackets or cardigans. That's because I'm now "A woman of a certain age", as the French like to say. I mostly go for comfort these days. But as for white after Labor Day, the southern girl in me says nope. But...I hesitate to wear white anyway, since I'm such a klutz, and prone to spilling! (Anyone recall Carrie Bradshaw dissing Mr. B's young fiancee who could dare to wear white )I love hats, too, like Kaye, so I say go for it! Really, fashion is crazy, and ever-changing, so why should we be constricted to one style?! Just try to look decent and wear a big smile....and no one will care what you're wearing
    P.S. Pat is right on....It's often HOT in New Orleans, so dress for the weather! I don't know why, but linen makes me itch and sweat, not in a good glowing Southern lady way, lol.But do what's best for you, and remember lots of places here in the South are air-conditioned, so take a wrap of some sort for INSIDE!

  34. The rules are gone... just saw the new Vogue (566+ pages, a good hefty body-building tool) which reminds us once again "Wear whatever you want, whenever you want."
    If you feel stylin' in it, wear it, Flaunt it.