Posts Categorized: tutorial

Reader Request: When to Cuff Jeans

cuffing jeans

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Reader Andrea e-mailed me this question:

I wondered if you would do a blog post about when and when not to cuff jeans. I think doing so would add a little something to my limited casual wardrobe. But I can’t figure out what where to use it. Or maybe it is to be done with a certain jean style. I feel like I’m missing something with this look.

I am late to the cuffing game myself, but have really enjoyed playing around with this styling trick over the past few months. One thing that I think makes cuffing tricky is that it looks great when it’s a little messy … but artfully messy can actually be harder to re-create than neat. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my own tinkerings:

Skinnies, straight-legs, or boyfriends

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You want the cuff to be fairly small and close to your ankle/calf, so anything that flares out toward the hem like a bootcut or has a wide leg like a trouser cut won’t work. Boyfriend jeans are cuffed more often than not, but you’ll notice that although the jean is loose-fitting the leg tapers and the cuff is fairly close.

Why we cuff

bad jeans cuffs

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Here are two cases in which I think cuffing would actually improve the overall look. Tucking even the skinniest of skinny jeans into ankle boots looks a bit odd, and can cause uncomfortable scrunching. Skinny jeans that haven’t been hemmed to ankle length will bunch and pool at the ankle – cuffing eliminates this problem.

Cuffs that aren’t quite right

cuffsthatdontwork

left | middleright

Now, listen: The Cuff Police don’t exist. If you can’t get your cuffs to fall just so, that’s completely fine. The likelihood of anyone doing a trend-focused ankle check is slim to none. But just in case you’ve been trying to cuff and can’t figure out what’s off, here are a couple of examples that don’t quite hit the mark.

To my eye, the pair on the left has been cuffed just a wee bit too high. You want to show the curve of your ankle, but don’t need to get up into calf territory. In the middle, the messiness of the cuff is fine but they look mighty bulky. This is an issue that I have with some of my jeans: Ideally you want the cuff to be narrow and relatively flat. This means that cuffing jeans hemmed long will backfire, and cuffing ankle-length jeans will work better. And on the right, you have a super tall cuff – this is a fringe trend now and may eventually become the norm. But it still looks a little funky to most folks.

Cuffs with ankle boots

ankle boots cuffed jeans

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NOW we’re talking. Personally, this is my favorite look for cuffing – with ankle boots or other ankle-height shoes. Let just a sliver of ankle peek out between where the cuff ends and the shoe begins. My ankles get weirdly cold, so I will sometimes do black booties, black/gray striped socks, and cuffed jeans. You want to see where the ankle curves in, but you can still see that with a close-fitting sock in the mix.

Cuffs with heels and flats

cuffed jeans with heels

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Cuffed jeans and pants can also look chic and fun with low-vamp shoes like pumps and or ballet flats. Again, remember to cuff just above where your ankle curves, no higher. This is especially important since you’re exposing more of the foot with a low vamp, and if your cuff is high it will give the impression of crops or floods. Cuffing with this style of shoe is helpful if you’ve got a pair of skinnies that pools at the ankle, as mentioned above.

Cuffs with sneakers

cuffed jeans with sneakers

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And finally, sneaks – a great match for cuffed jeans. Cuffing creates an instantly casual look, and sneakers are naturally casual so they play well together. In this case, I’d avoid socks. You want a bit of bare ankle peeking out between the high vamp of the shoe and the cuff of the jean. Slip-on sneakers work just as well.

So which shoe styles won’t work with cuffs? Mary Janes look awkward because between the vamp, strap, and cuff, your foot is cut into three pieces. Mules are a bit odd for similar reasons, especially heeled ones. And, of course, anything that reaches above the ankle like a tall boot won’t look quite right, though I’ve seen people experimenting with tall-shaft ankle boots tucked under cuffs.

Kind of a lot, right? Again, these are not rules, merely guidelines. And they’re MY guidelines, so you may hear completely different advice from other folks. In fact I sent Andrea to this post which has some overlap, but also shows a cuff that’s much wider than I’d wear or recommend. This styling trick is very fluid, so don’t be afraid to play. If you find that a higher or lower cuff looks better to your eye, go for it. If you like the look of a thicker cuff, go for that, too. Do whatever feels and looks best to you.

Anyone else playing around with cuffs these days? Where do you like yours to fall? Are you more apt to cuff skinnies, straight legs, or boyfriends? All of the above? Other tips to share?

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Reader Request: Modernizing the Denim Skirt

modernizing the denim skirt

Reader Courtney had this request:

For years, jeans skirts have been a wardrobe staple for me, always just above the knee, dark and pencil shaped. I have a pretty casual work environment, so they have been a 4 season staple. I wear them with t-shirts and flip-flops, with nice sweaters and heeled boots, and everything in between. My most recent one was due to be replaced a few months ago, and as I began looking for one I realized not only could I not find what I was looking for, no one is wearing them anymore! Most of my favorite fashion bloggers don’t wear them, nor do any of the stylish ladies I see on the street, and the only stores that carry them are frumpy looking to my eye. So I’m guessing that my wardrobe staple has fallen out of style. What do you recommend I replace it with, and how can I be more aware in the future of when a staple-for-me is becoming dowdy?

Several years ago I listed a denim jacket as one of my wardrobe staples and many readers raised eyebrows. But I stuck to my guns. Denim jackets have risen, fallen, and risen in popularity since back then and I’m sure they’ll continue to ride that roller coaster more or less forever. But I love them and will wear them throughout.

Denim skirts may not be trendy right now, but the kind that Courtney is describing – an unembellished, dark wash, pencil-style denim skirt – is something I think of as a “fluctuating staple.” The magazines aren’t touting it as the next big thing and that means it may not be readily available in mall stores everywhere, but it has classic design and versatility going for it. And that means it’s also got staying power. It will fall back into favor, and out of favor, and back in. I hope you’ll feel free to wear it throughout, if you love it and it suits your style.

I own the a-line denim skirt shown above – a Nic + Zoe skirt that is now sold out – and it took me an age to find it. Many full and a-line denim skirts are stiff, overly embellished, or costume-y so they are much harder to find in a classic dark wash and a cut that works with a variety of outfits instead of just casual/Western ones. Other denim skirts that don’t have classic design and versatility going for them? Denim maxis, distressed or heavily sanded, micro minis, and super light washes. If, like Courtney, you want a denim skirt that will look modern and classy for years to come, a dark wash pencil is the perfect choice. Dark wash a-line runs a close second.

Where can I buy a great denim skirt?

A few denim-focused mall brands like Gap will stock them in spring and summer, but they’ll be a little trickier to find in fall and winter. Here’s where I’d look right now:

  • Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ) – Definitely my top pick, as their skirts are high quality, classic in design, and available in a few petite and plus sizes. Also check for this brand at Macy’s, Zappos, and 6pm.
  • Boden – Nearly always in stock in a few styles, and virtually always classic, dark-wash.
  • Nordstrom – There will be an awful lot of very short, distressed, juniors-focused options, but some great classics, too. Nordstrom stocks denim skirts almost year-round.
  • Zappos and 6pm – A great resource as you’ll have a shot at past-season skirts from various brands.

What should I wear with it?

Naturally, the answer this question will vary depending on your personal style, figure flattery priorities, lifestyle, work and workplace, and place of residence. So consider these merely loose guidelines to be used as they best apply to you as an individual.

To dress up a dark wash denim skirt, try cardigans and pullover sweaters, printed blouses and button-front shirts, and knit tops. Super structured and traditionally conservative tops like blazers and solid button-fronts may clash somewhat with the laid-back vibe of a denim skirt. You can also go for edgy accents like leather jackets, chunky jewelry, or graphic tees. Anything that leans in a super Western direction – a chambray shirt or jacket, snap-front shirts, and even some ditsy florals – may edge you over into the costume-y direction if you don’t actually live out West. Which definitely can be fun, but won’t feel classic in most cases.

If your top is long, try tucking and belting. Shorter tops will look great untucked and may feel more natural with a denim skirt. If you’re doing a cardigan, try tucking and belting your inner layer. In terms of top shape, base your decisions on your skirt’s shape: A denim pencil skirt is just like any other pencil skirt – slim-fitting – which means you can do a looser top and still create balance within your outfit. A-lines have more natural volume, so a more fitted top will help show your figure’s true shape.

How about shoes?

Again, this will vary quite a bit depending on YOU, but aside from monster snowboots and gym shoes nearly anything can work. Heels can make a denim skirt feel sexy, low-top fashion sneaks (think Chuck Taylors) will look cool and funky, ballet flats will be classic, sandals will be wonderfully summery. Tall boots can be a bit tricky – especially cowgirl-style boots if you want to keep your look neutral – but they can work, too, especially in rich browns. Pick a shoe that works with your style and activity level.

Anyone else out there a fan of denim skirts? Do you favor pencil style, a-line, mini, something else altogether? How do you style yours? Any other tips you’d share with Courtney and the rest of us?

Images courtesy Zappos

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Dressing Tips for TV Appearances and Presentations

screenshot_wanchor

I’m a ham. Happy to admit it. I landed my first lead role in a play at the ripe old age of 10 and have been performing on stage ever since. I may have shifted from drama to music and now to television appearances and lectures, but it’s all performance-related and even after all these years I still get a little jittery every time I walk on stage.

So I know from personal experience how important it is to nail my look before the audience begins to applaud or the camera turns my way. I want to be totally focused on my message and avoid fidgeting and fussing with my outfit at all costs. And, of course, I want to look my best. Here are some guidelines I use so I always look my best before an audience.

For a television appearance

Some TV spots will be filmed on location or outside, others in a studio, so it can be difficult to generalize … but allow me to generalize anyway.

Do a touch more makeup than usual, but just a touch: Lights and cameras can be harsh on many complexions, but we are also living in an HD world, friends, so no need to apply with a trowel. I recommend using something to even out your complexion – be it foundation, BB/CC cream, or tinted moisturizer – as well as undereye concealer and powder to lighten and brighten. If you wear these daily, apply as usual and don’t add extra layers or a bunch of bronzer – better to look a little washed-out than overly made-up, in my opinion. Blush will prevent you from looking ill, so do include it. Sweep on a tiny bit more than usual, but make sure it’s well blended and not too streaky or obvious. Shadow, eyeliner, and mascara will make your eyes pop, but sticking to neutrals and smoky colors is wise since bright eye makeup can be distracting. Definitely add lip color but avoid super bright and super dark shades like firey reds and deep purples. Instead try pinks, berries, and dusty corals or anything that is just a bit brighter or darker than your natural lip color.

Clean lines read best: Anything with lots of ruffles, embellishment, or volume will likely look a bit messy. Blazers are better than cardigans, ponte is better than fluid jersey. Structured garments with clean lines will make you appear professional and pulled-together. (Also do your best to be wrinkle-free, but understand that you’ll be moving around and some creases are totally natural.)

Jewel tones are always a good idea: This palette works for virtually all skin tones from pale to dark brown and reads beautifully on camera. Jewel tones are rich without being bright and add color without being overbearing. And you can do multiple jewel tones in a single outfit! Find the shade that works best for your complexion, and wear it next to your face, ideally in a solid. If you want to add a neutral to the mix, go for gray.

Avoid small, regular patterns: Although issues with moiré are more common in still photography, tiny, regularly patterned clothing can be a little dizzying on-screen, especially in black and white. I generally prefer solids for television, but if you opt for a pattern, try for a medium-sized one and ideally one with blurred edges, a watercolor feel, or an abstract design. This creates a more natural overall look.

Black and white sparingly: Neither is particularly flattering for most complexions, and both can cause odd contrast issues with certain equipment. Black can work in a skirt or pant, but try for jewel tones and grays instead if you can.

Minimal accessories: Long, dangly earrings and clattering bangles can be very distracting, as can oversized scarves, wild hosiery, and piles of necklaces. Make one accessory your focal point and keep others to a minimum. Feel free to do a scarf or statement necklace, but pair with studs and a simple watch or bracelet. The fewer shiny objects and moving parts, the better.

For a large group presentation or seminar

Guidelines are mostly the same if you’re presenting to a live audience instead of speaking on-camera, but a few important differences to note:

Pattern in small doses: If you’re pacing back and forth on a large stage in front of dozens of people, an outfit that is mainly solids will be less distracting than one with gobs of prints. Patterned shoes or a scarf will work beautifully, as will a patterned blouse peeking out from a suit jacket. But now is not the time to show off your print-mixing prowess.

Bolder accessories can work: Don’t go overboard, but you can be a bit more adventurous than you would be on-camera, especially if your audience is both large and physically distanced from you. Statement necklaces are great and you can venture into cuff bracelets and larger earrings if you’re so inclined. Careful, though, that you don’t overdo the sparkly: If your accessories glint in the stage lights as you move, that can be irritating.

Be comfortable: You’re gonna be the main attraction for quite a while, so don’t wear a stiff, confining blazer or a dress that makes you self-conscious about your butt. Pick clothes and accessories that feel good. Anything that pulls, pinches, or subdivides won’t be flattering or comfortable, and anything fussy will just distract you.

For a small group presentation

With a smaller audience, more tweaks can be made, including:

Regular makeup: For TV and large groups, kick it up. If it’s just you and 6 colleagues in a conference room, regular makeup is fine.

Wear your favorite colors and patterns: Much looser guidelines with small groups, so feel free to be a bit more creative. However bear in mind that structure and clean lines will always help you look authoritative and that wearing a color that works with your complexion is always wise.

Do your nails: With a smaller audience, your hands will be visible as you gesture. Don’t feel like you need to get a professional manicure, but make sure your nails are neat and tidy. Either freshly polished or polish-free, clean, and trimmed.

Test your outfit noise level: Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings can all jingle. Some shoes squeak. Walk around the room once and make sure you aren’t making any distracting noises with your wearables.

For any professional appearance

Assemble and try on your outfit the night before: Dressing for a media appearance or presentation takes some serious planning and forethought so don’t leave it till the morning of. Pull the pieces together and try them on, down to shoes and accessories. Photograph the outfit if you’re not sure and get a second opinion. That way, once you’re on stage or on screen you can focus 100% on your performance and forget all about what you’re wearing.

Wear comfortable shoes: Doesn’t matter if you think you’ll be standing stock still the entire time. Foot discomfort can be incredibly distracting, so pick a pair you know will keep your toes happy.

My weekly TV spots require me to wear something related to the topic at hand, so I can’t always follow my own guidelines. For instance, in the screenshot above I’m in mint green because we were talking pastels. But you’ll notice I did simple but interesting accessories, clean lines, nothing jingly, and gray as my neutral. My makeup is simple but flattering, I opted for solids instead of patterns, and stuck with structured but comfortable clothing.

Presentations and media appearances are great for your resume and can be incredibly fun and exhilarating, but figuring out what to wear can feel stressful. Hopefully these guidelines will be helpful as you plan for future TV spots and seminars. And, of course, I’d love to hear additional tips from you presentation pros! What would you add? How do you dress for television, large group, and small group appearances?

This post first appeared on Corporette.

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