Catching up with shoe designer Tabitha Simmons

In the four years since establishing her eccentrically-English, namesake shoe line, Tabitha Simmons has earned quite a following.

Beyonce loves her striped “Dolly” espadrille lace-ups so much she posted photos of them on Tumblr, while the “Early” moto boots are a go-to for Miranda Kerr.

A model-turned-stylist and shoe designer, Simmons hails from Britain, where she actually got her start in the shoe business as a teenager, working Saturday afternoons at Oliver’s Shoes. Now she lives in New York City with her husband, fashion photographer Craig McDean, and their two sons.

In her adopted home, she has received much love from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, winning the 2012 Swarovski Award for Accessory Design, and being named a runner-up for the 2012 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, which also gave her the opportunity to create a capsule line of shoes with J. Crew. (Another high-low collaboration is in the pipeline, though it’s too soon to talk about it, she says.)

On the way home from Spring 2014 fashion month, during which Simmons styled the Tory Burch runway show in New York, the Dolce & Gabbana runway show in Milan, and showed her own collection in Paris, she stopped in L.A. for an event at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

There, she shared with customers her fall collection, inspired by English gardens, and her resort collection, which mixes preppy shirt stripes and Peruvian color and print.

We caught up with Simmons to chat about the English influences on her work, how many shoes she has in her closet, and the story behind the Alexa Chung flat.

When you started your shoe line, what were you not seeing out there that you wanted to see?

At the time, shoes had gotten really extreme. Platforms got higher and higher with as much as possible piled on them. Being a fashion stylist, I wanted shoes that were more timeless, a little quieter and seasonless. So it was really a response. And I still see people wear shoes of mine from the first season, which to me says they are doing their job, standing the test of time.

Do you think that it was the Alexander McQueen effect, shoes getting so extreme?

Maybe. His shoes were like pieces of art. I used to collect them.

How many do you have?

About 20 or 30 pairs of McQueen, including the ones from the robotic collection. I’d always be asking for the samples. I have about 400 pairs of shoes total.  But shoes always revitalize things. If I buy a new pair of shoes, my wardrobe all of a sudden becomes new again.

Was it a big learning curve to learn how to make shoes?

We’re coming up on four years since we started and I still feel like I’m at the kids table. It takes a long time to develop your lasts and your core, figuring out who you are and what you want to say.

One of the styles you’re known for is a Mary Jane in mixed men’s wear inspired tie silks.

For me, in terms of personal style, I always like something that’s a little men’s wear inspired, a white shirt or a men’s jacket with a very feminine dress, for example. I also always try to bring in English influences to my work, and all that tie silk is woven in England by a seventh-generation silk-weaving company called Stephen Walters and Sons.

Your flat moto boots, the “Early” boots, are another style that carries over from season to season. They kind of look like Beatle boots.

Yes. And we’ve tried to make them airport-friendly, so they have snaps underneath the buckles. I also have a Victorian collage boot with elastic behind the little buttons so they are easy to take off

Is comfort important?

It is the thing. Maybe it’s being a woman designer. There have been many times where I’ve just had to take my shoes off and kick them under the table. I’m a mother and I style, standing on set for 10-12 hours a day. But I still want fashion. If it’s not comfortable, I’m back in the factory.

The pointy-toed Alexa flat is something you’ve done several iterations of as well — in black-and-white leather, and now for fall, in red velvet. It’s kind of the anti-ballet flat, right?

Well, I heard the call for flat shoes. But everyone had a ballet flat out there in the market already. So I thought, ‘What can a little Tabitha say amidst all these ballet flats?’ And that’s when I went, ‘OK, we’ll do a flat point.’ I was wearing them on a shoot with Alexa Chung, and she said she liked them, so I named them after her and I hope she doesn’t mind!

You and your husband both work in fashion. Do you talk about work?

Not really. We get home, and we’ve got two boys demanding a lot of attention, so we don’t have that much time to vent. People are quite surprised about that.

Do you think you’d ever do men’s shoes?

Maybe eventually. I think my husband would love it. But bags would be something I would like to do first.

The Tabitha Simmons collection, which starts at $395, is available at Saks Fifth Avenue and other major department stores

Olivia Palermo Has Work and Weekend Styling Tips for Her Fall Fashion Favorites

Olivia Palermo has proved herself as one of the globe’s most sparkling street-style stars, and, as such, you turn to her for outfit ideas. The stylish New Yorker is sharing her current fall 2015 wish list with Vestiaire Collective and revealing tips for styling all her must-buys, offering up tips for casual events and the office. Get ready for a really fashionable season, ladies.

Over-the-knee boots
Palermo’s a big fan of the statement shoes with or without heels, calling them super versatile, and is quick to suggest ways to style them for work and play. “Wear them over a pair of skinnies with your favorite sweater for a low-key weekday look or under a tulip hem skirt and a silk blouse for work,” she suggestedKnee-length coats
The length is a practical one she loves since it adds some warmth but isn’t so bulky that you can’t add extra layers underneath. She suggests doing the timeless piece in a bright color that’ll add interest and layering as the weather dictates

Furry collar
Trust the street-style pro to find a piece that can be a statement maker and an everyday accessory. “Wear it over a black turtleneck or layer over a dress coat for instant warmth and a touch of elegance.”

Midi skirts
Palermo says the midi is chicest “in textured knits or laser-cut fabrics” and suggests trying the piece with both a chunky sweater and thigh-high boots or a sleek top and stilettos. For the latter look, she loves “a fitted boatneck top in a contrasting color.”

Basic sweaters
“Whether dressing up or down, a classic knit sweater is a basic that keeps on giving,” Palermo said, pointing out how it’s easily layered and worn with formal pieces or distressed skinnies. She’s a fan of turtlenecks too— they give “a bit more of a sophisticated look.”

The Latest Hairstyles for Heart Shaped Faces

If you have a heart shaped face, you’ll know that it can be a pain to find the right hairstyle to flatter your fabulous cheekbones and dainty chin! While these are great features to have, they do have special requirements when it comes to your hair. First of all, heart shaped faces have wide forehead areas and narrow chin areas, so that in itself takes some balancing—bangs are a heart’s best friend for this purpose alone! Hearts also need some volume and body around the narrow chin area too, so that’s something to keep in mind when you are looking for a new ‘do.
On the flipside, hearts can pull off almost as many hairstyles as an oval, so there is no shortage of styles to choose from. Take a look at these latest hairstyles for heart shaped faces to get some styling ideas going!

Tamera Mowry has the right hairstyle for her face shape here—a sleek and straight bob with a jagged cut fringe. This is a simple and sleek look that gives Tamera major style points while flattering her heart shaped face. The eye skimming jagged cut fringe camouflages her high forehead, while the blunt ends work well with her dainty chin area. Heart shaped faces look especially great in sleek, straight hair so get out those flat irons to style your ‘do!

Another sure-win for heart shaped faces are short and sassy ‘dos, like the one we see on Michelle Toussant here. Thanks to a heart shaped face’s strong cheekbones and chin, short hairstyles look spectacular and bring all of the focus to that great bone structure. Michelle’s ‘do has a tapered back, while the sides and top have longer layers that create tons of volume and texture. The wispy eye-skimming fringe is the cherry on top of this hairstyle!

Sofia Vergara looks stunning here in a long straight hairstyle that is ideal for a heart shaped face. Sofia’s ‘do is simple but it makes a statement. Her long caramel brown layers flatter her face shape and complexion nicely, and the centre part works great with her face shape. Not many face shapes can pull off the centre parts like hearts, so give this one a try!

Kiernan Shipka lets her heart shaped face shine with this simple wavy bob. Shoulder length ‘dos are great for this face shape and the soft waves add body and bounce where it’s needed most. Kiernan is also working the centre part here with fabulous results. This is an easy to manage hairstyle that is ideal for heart shaped faces, and can be worn straight or wavy for some nice versatility!

And finally, if you are a fan of long hair and have some natural texture in it, let it all hang loose like Jillian Rose Reed. This long layered style is simple and chic, but thanks to those waves, Jillian has a rock chick edge to her look. She has a slightly off-centre messy part which adds to this carefree look. If you have a heart shaped face and like to go for edgy, cool looks, try this one out!

The Little Black Dress

When we think of timeless pieces of a wardrobe, we usually think:  Simple.  Elegant.  Looks good on just about anyone… right?  An example of an accepted “timeless” piece is the long-revered little black dress.  Vague though its name, when the phrase is mentioned, most likely all women (and probably even men, for that matter) picture something similar: A simple, maybe-strapless-maybe-strappy, shortish, basic cocktail dress – in the color black, of course.  So what is it about the little black dress that makes it so timeless?

Before the 1920s, the color black was usually reserved for times of mourning (and was even considered indecent when worn for other reasons).  In the 1920s, the concept of wearing black began to change.  While it’s hard to imagine one person’s influence creating a veritable butterfly effect of stylistic timelessness; in the case of the little black dress, the most influential award goes to famous, French designer, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.  In 1926, Chanel published a picture of a sleek dress in American Vogue.  The dress was calf-length, super straight, super-simple – and, most importantly – black.  Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford,” comparing it to the famous Model T car as, like the Model T, the little black dress was simple and universalIt was one of the first clothing pieces accessible to women of all social classes. Vogue editors also predicted that the little black dress would become a “…uniform for all women of taste.”

Because of its elegance and affordability, the little black dress survived the Great Depression and continued to grow in popularity and timelessness through the twentieth century.  Still today, in the dawn of the new millennium, the little black dress is considered by many women to be an essential component of the wardrobe.  Fashion and style gurus even tout that every woman should own a simple, elegant black dress.  After all, it can be dressed-up or dressed-down to perfectly fit any occasion… right?

Not exactly. While probably anyone would admit that Audrey Hepburn or Jackie O. could make a burlap sap look great (or “sassy,” or “perfect,” or “timeless”…or any other adjectives that might be used to describe the little black dress), not everyone looks good in the same things.  Even the “timeless” little black dress, despite its strong history and cultural popularity as an essential wardrobe piece, shouldn’t hang in every closet.  Reasons?  For starters, not everyone wears (or even likes) the color black.  Some women may not feel comfortable in dresses at all; or – might love to wear dresses, but only if they can be pulled off with a favorite pair of Birkenstocks and a jean jacket thrown over it. Still others may not have the option to wear a little black dress for religious reasons.  Ultimately, while it’s true that the little black dress will be owned and worn by many, probably for years to come, women should give themselves permission to buck tradition if the little black dress isn’t for them.  The bigger take-away, perhaps (so as not to be too hard on the cute, little black dress, which is absolutely fabulous on anyone who owns one and loves it!) is that there probably shouldn’t be any one article of clothing considered “essential” for every woman.  Not even the little black dress.  – See more at:

Where can I find elegant evening dresses for women over 50?

Where can I find elegant evening dresses for women over 50?

This is a question I am often asked, especially now that the trend  in stores and on the red carpet seems to be for lower and lower  necklines and seemingly up to the waist ‘thigh’ splits.

I have found several from an online brand called Gorgeous Couture that fit the bill. They are stylish, elegant- and even those without sleeves are elegant rather than leaving you over exposed.  All four styles come in a variety of colours. I hope you like my choices!

This elegant full length black dress (available in several colours ) with a cowl neck and fabulous draping is a great dress for formal occasion. The cowl neckline creates the illusion of a longer neck, while the draping helps to minimise  tums and thickening waistlines. Cost £189

Very Grecian in style, the draping and ruching create a very feminine silhouette. The one shoulder detail offers a more sophisticated look than the traditional strapless dress. Available in 8 colours from A faux wrap maxi dress available in 4 colours. Fabulous! Cost £189Simple clean lines, , with a single split to the thigh. Very understated. Available in 6 colours.

Fashion puts men in a tight spot with pants that keep shrinking

Italy_Fashion_Etro-0bf23-kgXB--606x404@wp.comThis is the era of ever-shrinking men’s trousers — they are tailored and shorter, tighter and shrunken, too tight and too short. And even occasionally veering into: Pitbull, exactly how are you breathing in those high-­waisted white pants?

The look of menswear changes at a snail’s pace, and sometimes it takes years before a not-at-all outlandish idea trickles from the runways, which are now hosting the spring 2015 collections, to the mass market. But when a fashion idea finally reaches the vast middle ground, it tends to stay a while, putting down roots in the menswear landscape.

Thus we are deep in fashion’s equivalent of an old-growth forest — surrounded by men in aggressively tailored pants.

The ubiquity of this trend, even in offices far away from the expected crucibles of creativity, had an executive at a Maryland real estate development firm recently marveling, with some chagrin, that the men in her office were given to wearing particularly close-fitting trousers, which she described as “tight.” While that is a judgment call, it’s true that the cut of men’s pants — the more fashionable cut, that is — has gotten snugger, much snugger than what it was back when Giorgio Armani’s loose Italian tailoring defined power and President Bill Clinton was wearing roomy Donna Karan suits.

The modern suit, from Saint Laurent to J. Crew, now comes with narrow, flat-front trousers, falling straight without a break, sometimes cropped enough to reveal more than a smidgen of bare ankle. The jacket is single-breasted with a notched lapel. The proportions are particularly noticeable on red-carpet celebrities whose suits and tuxedos tend to be custom-tailored to the last millimeter, particularly if that suit is by designer Tom Ford and is worn by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Colin Firth or Bradley Cooper.

7 decades of men’s pants

Play Video1:24
Fashion trends for men’s pants have changed quite a bit over the years, from denim in the 1950s, to parachute pants in the 1980s, to skinny jeans today. Here’s a look at how men’s pants have evolved throughout the decades — good, bad and ugly. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

Cooper, by the way, caused a media fuss when he wore distractingly tight tuxedo pants to a White House state dinner. His self-described “crazy-town tight” trousers, he later explained, resulted from having packed on pounds for a film role. His was a fashion faux pas, not a fashion statement.

“A slim-fitting suit should skim the body, not hug it,” warns fashion expert Tim Gunn. “It’s not intended to be a wet suit!”

On the average man, the popular cut — done right — could most accurately be described as lean. The preference for this style crosses ethnicities and economics. It is embraced by 20-somethings, as well as men in their 50s.

But trim trousers have little mercy for beer bellies or two-fisted love handles.

“I started to get in shape in 2005, and the cut basically suited my frame,” says Matt Martinez, senior producer of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” as he explains his journey to the narrow silhouette. “I went shopping and I was looking at the same kind of clothes that I used to buy, and they were really balloony. I went looking for clothes that fit better. It was actually kind of hard to find really fitted clothes back then unless it was something bespoke.”

Martinez, 38, a fashion aficionado but also a frugal man, was ahead of the mainstream market. And he was not looking in the expensive designer realm. Had he wandered into the land of $3,000 suits, he would have found that Ford was one of the lead instigators in the tight tailoring movement during his time at Gucci in the early 2000s. And now, designing under his own name, he has little tolerance for surplus fabric. Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme also popularized razor-sharp cuts that could be worn only by men whose natural metabolism roared like an inferno or those who simply did not believe in food. Miuccia Prada pushed the trend along with her fondness for boyish models who were so wispy they looked as though they couldn’t bench press a sparrow. And Thom Browne chopped his Ivy League slacks at the ankle, further decreasing the amount of fabric dedicated to the average pair of trousers. Finally, the widespread popularity of skinny jeans meant that a host of young men were accustomed to pants that looked a lot like a pair of jeggings.

“I made the switch probably seven or eight years ago,” explains Bethesda-based real estate agent Gregg Zeiler, 52. “I started with Ralph Lauren — with his Black Label line. He made a flat-front [pair of pants] that sat on the hips, not at the waist.”

There was no fighting it. There was no point. Close-fitting pants were everywhere, and generally, they looked good.

“I think no matter what, a guy will always look good in tapered pants,” says stylist and GQ contributing editor Brian Coats. “But they shouldn’t be so tight everyone is looking at your jewels.”

Jimmy Fallon, host of “The Tonight Show,” has mocked such shrink-wrapped packaging, most recently with a tight-pants smackdown featuring Jennifer Lopez. “Everybody’s talking ’bout my tight pants,” Fallon chirped, as he gyrated in tiny white jeans. “Everybody’s looking at my tight pants.”

Fallon’s joke, however, was accompanied by a knowing nod and no small amount of fashion savvy. He “likes things pretty fitted,” says Coats, who works as his stylist. “He’s super into looking fit and cool and slim. And he realizes a slim fit will do that.” In “The Tonight Show’s” opening credits, for instance, Fallon is running through the streets of New York in a navy suit by Saint Laurent, where Slimane is now creative director.

“He’s super into fashion,” Coats says of Fallon, “but he doesn’t want to look like it.”

In that way, Fallon is like a lot of men. They don’t want to look like they’re trying too hard. Even Zeiler confirmed: “I try to look effortless.” The slim suit is a perfect trend, especially for Washington. It’s a way to signify stylishness without a lot of bells and whistles.

Men’s attitudes have changed as well, says Memsor Kamarake, stylist and former fashion director of Vibe magazine. Machismo is no longer about puffing oneself up and taking up as much physical space as possible. At one point, male models with 29-inch waists used to ask for 36-inch pants for Vibe photo shoots. In 2007, even fashion-savvy male models sneered at the arrival of leggings, Kamarake says. Now self-proclaimed fashion god Kanye West wears them with leather kilts.

For most men, it took some time to get comfortable with the narrower silhouette, for their eyes to adjust. Some guys continue to struggle with it. Coats will sometimes style athletes for GQ — average Joe types, not the fashion cognoscenti like Tyson Chandler or Dwyane Wade — and outfit them in slim-cut pants. A hovering manager will ring an alarm: You’re wearing skinny jeans!

Well, no, Coats explains. But for a lot of men, any silhouette that’s actually on speaking terms with their body is synonymous with one that’s tight.

As the mass market has embraced the leaner silhouette, uncomfortable extremes and just plain bad ideas have come to the fore. For example, there are those who go too far: Men who want their trousers taken in to the last binding inch; those who want a suit jacket with a waistline that fits like a corset.

And under the category of bad ideas: “There’s that weird hybrid that happened: a slim jean that sometimes sags. And you get this waddle” as you walk, Kamarake says.

Mostly though, slim has been good. It has flattered the average man’s physique. But now that this aerodynamic silhouette has been popularized, menswear is moving on. The runways in Europe have been proselytizing the merits of a boxier, looser fit. It’s roomier through the thigh, with a tapered leg and a cropped hem. Sometimes, it’s practically ninjalike.

But outside niche markets, loose remains a tough sell. “I think slim is just more flattering,” Martinez says. “I see double-breasted on the runway, too. And it gives me shivers in a bad, bad way. I don’t like the boxy look. I can’t see myself moving in that direction.”

Well, at least not now. Menswear moves slowly, but, like the rest of fashion, it does eventually move.

“It’ll change again and everyone will be wearing palazzo pants,” says Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barneys New York.

“And then we’ll be longing for the days of tight pants.