Luxe Or Less: Straw Clutches

Even though we should be looking ahead to fall, part of me is still stuck on summer and thinking of materials like straw and wicker for handbags. A straw clutch looks stylish with spring and summer outfits, and there's something about the materials and the shape that seems timeless. While browsing around Bluefly, I came across a Lambertson Truex version for $837 (on sale from from $1,395).

If you want the look but don't want to spend about the equivalent of a month's rent for a small handbag, try this version with black trim from Urban Outfitters for $14.99 (on sale from $30).

P.S. I actually have the Urban Outfitters one in white.
P.P.S. I think it's great.

Here's to Canadian Shopping!

Last week marked the eagerly anticipated opening of the first H&M ever in the Vancouver area. Excited shoppers lined up outside of Coquitlam Centre starting at 4 am; by the time noon struck and the doors opened, the line-up had more than 800 people. The ones at the front of the line practically ran inside as they zoomed in on the racks of clothes.

Because I had to work, I only heard about this on the 11 o'clock news the night of H&M's grand opening. However, seeing the feeding frenzy on the news hour made me think about how obsessive we Canadians can get over stores from abroad, especially stores that seem to be available everywhere but here. Call it "the grass is greener on the other side" syndrome, call it fashionista envy, or call it whatever you want. Many Canadian girls (myself included) look south of the border at Forever 21, Victoria's Secret, Anthropologie, Hollister, Target, and Mango, coveting the cheap chic these chains promise and wishing they'd hurry up and open a location in Vancouver. As a result, our proximity to Seattle makes cross-border shopping a popular guilty pleasure.

Nonetheless, we have a lot to be grateful for as Canadian shoppers, especially when it comes to chains that are distinctly Canadian and not really available or accessible on a grand scale outside of Canada.

Aldo shoes and accessories. I think Aldo is such a well-known standby in Canada that we take it for granted sometimes. For me it's always a fail-safe store if I want to find a pair of shoes or a handbag that knocks off the latest runway trend.

RW & Co. I've been in love with RW & Co. since I was 18. It's a fantastic place to get classic, high-quality clothing at surprisingly reasonable prices.

Jacob. Recently I bought a couple of clearance tops from Jacob. The fabric was an extremely soft cotton jersey, and the cut of both tops was very flattering. I don't shop at Jacob as often as I do at RW & Co. and sometimes even dismiss it as a store solely for office workers and young professionals who need workplace attire. Whenever I buy something here and wear it though, I'm surprised at how that piece instantly makes my entire outfit look more polished and how many compliments I get as a result.

La Senza. There's a pretty prevalent attitude above the 49th parallel that La Senza is basically the cheaper Canadian version of Victoria's Secret. I know because I used to feel this way. Then I read an interview with Rebecca Romijn in InStyle where she praised La Senza as a great source for cheap fun lingerie while she was in Canada filming X-Men. They had an unsolicited and wholeheartedly enthusiastic endorsement from Rebecca Romijn...that's gotta count for something, right?

There are probably a ton of other stores that are distinctly Canadian and worthy of mention here, but these are the ones that come to mind most readily for me as a source of good-quality but reasonably priced fashion.

Low-Budget Louboutin

I love how Nine West knocks off designer looks and offers them at more realistic prices, but I think they went a bit far with the Liatris shoe. The glimpse of red satin in the peep toe is very appealing. As for the shoe's silhouette and red sole...well, let's just say Nine West is bordering on copyright infringement.

Liatris shoe, Nine West, $135 Cdn.

Passion for Purple

Okay, forget the lame alliteration in the title for a moment (I've been doing that a lot lately). Isn't this coat lovely?

Kimchi & Blue Ruffle Collar Coat, Urban Outfitters, $140 (click the link for more views)

Wild About Wristlets

Last year I bought a brown fabric wristlet from Payless Shoes for $15 to use it as a small purse that could carry all the essentials (money, ID, phone, keys, lip gloss) when I wore a skirt or a dress for a night of clubbing. I've used it so much since then that the wristlet has turned out to be a smart yet inexpensive investment. It's neutral and versatile enough to go with anything, and its look echoes the sleekness of more expensive Coach versions. Plus the size is perfect: it's just big enough for the stuff I need to bring with me and nothing else, so I don't feel burdened like I would with a larger handbag. When I want to do some serious dancing or I have a drink in hand, I let the purse dangle off my arm so I have both hands free. I've been a big fan of these fun little bags ever since.

If you're looking for a signature piece, feel free to buy one in a fun colour. However, if you want a luxe-looking wristlet you'll use with many different outfits, go for one with neutral colours and details like metal hardware (buckles, zippers, studs, grommets), leather trim, signature fabrics, and mini pockets. Getting the look of a luxe wristlet doesn't mean you have to spend a lot, though; often a popular style from a high-end brand might be knocked off by such brands as Nine West, Aldo, or Payless.

Regardless of the price range you have in mind, choosing one that's the right size and shape is key. You want one that's just big enough to carry your stuff in but not so big that it feels uncomfortable. The other downside of a bigger wristlet is that it might hang awkwardly on your wrist and possibly clobber your date when you move your arm (not good!). When shopping, try putting your cell phone in the wristlet; as a girl it's often the biggest item you'll probably carry to a club and unless it's a Razr or some other extremely thin phone, you'll need to experiment just to make sure.

Bluefly Bargains: Little Black Dresses

Earlier this month I posted about the outrageous price of a certain Thomas Wylde sweater that I came across in Bluefly's blue sale. In my boredom and work-induced exhaustion I've been visiting Bluefly's blue sale pages more and perusing their sale items, sorting them by price, colour, clothing type, etc.

I've also noticed a lot of little black dresses in classic, simple designs that are flattering for most body types--all marked down drastically. LBDs are fantastic finds when you're shopping clearance sales because they're such solid investment pieces: trends may come and go, but an LBD is not going to be one of those clearance rack purchases you regret. In my experience, there are a couple of things to look for in an LBD that you'll wear for many special occasions to come:
  • The cut and drape of the fabric always flatter your figure and never make you feel fat.
  • You can comfortably wear a bra under the dress, or it has a built-in bra with adequate support.
  • The dress has universally flattering features such as sleeves (long or short), V-necks, cinched waists, and A-line skirts.
  • Strapless dresses are also very flattering if you have defined shoulders.

Alexa Admor mesh dress with thin belt, $100

Alexa Admor assymetrical hem dress, $73

Alexa Admor lace dress with ribbon sash, $85

BCBG flutter sleeve dress, $90

Design History spaghetti strap dress, $53

Fashionista ruched strapless jersey dress, $75

Fashionista V-neck ruched jersey dress, $75


To Bleach Or Not To Bleach?

I have a fairly new white cotton tank top I got only one or two months ago and wore about ten times, but the underarms were already going yellow from anti-perspirant stains. The tank top is still good and I didn't want to give up on it so easily, but I didn't know what to do with it since the washing instructions said "Use non-chlorine bleach."

I've tried non-chlorine bleach on white clothes before, and although it left the clothes sparkling white it did nothing for the yellow underarms. With this disappointing experience in mind, I decided that there was no help for it and I needed to use chlorine bleach, but I was still wary of bleaching the entire tank top. The cotton has a touch of spandex in its blend for stretch, and chlorine bleach can seriously weaken spandex, not to mention do a number on cotton. I needed targeted bleaching.

The solution to my problem came in the form of the Clorox Bleach Pen, which set me back about $4. The pen contains concentrated chlorine bleach foam and has a narrow tip and brush tip. You squeeze the pen to dispense the bleaching foam and you can use as much or as little as you need for targetted spot-bleaching. The brush tip lets you work the bleach into the fabric as well. I figured that since I was only bleaching the underarms and not the entire tank top, I was pretty safe.

So I bleached, and I was very pleased with the results. However, the experience left me wondering: Why does so much white cotton clothing today require non-chlorine bleach when chlorine bleach can be so effective?

One of the main reasons is that a lot of cotton tops today are made of a thinner, more delicate cotton than the polyester-cotton blends from several years ago. Consider the average tee from a trendy store; odds are it's almost transparent because it's meant to be layered over another tee or tank. Also, a lot of cottons today are blended cottons, which means they have other materials such as rayon, nylon, or spandex blended into the thread to make the material softer and stretchier and more comfortable. These materials and chlorine bleach definitely don't mix; if you do use chlorine bleach, the fabric could actually go yellow and brittle, losing its softness and elasticity.

I definitely wouldn't bleach my silky RW & Co. white cami, which is made of a nylon-rayon blend. But for cotton with a touch of stretch, the Clorox Bleach Pen can work wonders.

Tips for Clothing Care

Meg over at Faking Good Breeding recently posted an entry about taking care of shoes, clothing, and accessories and shared her Mr. Clean magic eraser epiphany with readers. I'm a big fan of her blog, and it was interesting to read some of her and her readers' tips for keeping things looking as good as possible. I contributed a comment to her comments section, but her blog post also inspired me to share some of my favourite tips for taking care of stuff I own.

Let jackets, coats, and sweaters air out. These items of clothing are usually worn on top of something and made of materials that might get distressed from overwashing. If I've worn a cardigan or blazer, I put it on a hanger when I get home and hang it on one of my dresser handles instead of stuffing it back in the closet right away or folding it up. That way any odours the material may have soaked up (food, cigarette smoke, etc.) have a chance to leave the fabric, and I don't have to wash them as much.

Use a real lint brush. I'm talking about a lint brush with a fabric pad that feels a bit like car upholstery. In my experience, these brushes are the best at picking up small bits of dust and lint and hair. Unlike lint brushes that use adhesives, the fabric-pad lint brushes don't lose their "stickiness" and can be used for years to come. The one I have comes from Daiso and was only $2.

Get a sweater shaver. Sweater shavers are like razors for your clothes. They remove unwanted pilling and fuzziness and instantly make your stuff look newer. I first found out about them when I was about fifteen, but it took another six years before I found one at London Drugs for about $15.

Find an effective leather cleaner. I have a pair of beige Nine West platform slides that I love to wear with dark jeans. Eventually, however, I started getting blue marks on my slides where the dye from my jeans rubbed off on the leather. I found an awesome leather shoe cleaner (again, $2 from Daiso...God I love that place!), dabbed some on a paper towel, and rubbed it into the leather. The blue came off after about two minutes.

Make a "clothes maintenance kit" for yourself. When I buy a new coat or blazer, there's usually a little baggie attached that contains spare buttons or matching yarn in case the piece of clothing has to be repaired later on. I keep all of those baggies in an old chocolate tin with my sweater shaver and some safety pins in case I need to do some quick upkeep. When I need sewing supplies, I borrow them from my mom, but if you put together a clothes maintenance kit for yourself, I highly recommend getting a small sewing kit and a pair of scissors from the dollar store as well.

Bringing Back Physical Activity

Unless you've been living under a rock, it's hard not to notice obesity is on the rise in North America. For the first time in history, this generation's children will have shorter life expectancies than their parents because of obesity-related illnesses. In Canada, the strain that obesity will pose to public health care is a source of concern. Politicians and organizations point their fingers at multiple culprits: fast food, parents who are too busy and stressed to cook nutritious meals for their children or monitor their kids' eating habits, the lack of safe outdoors spaces for urban kids to play in, etc.

In the middle of this blame game, many people argue for mandatory physical education from kindergarten to grade 12. They insist that kids today are too sedentary and mandatory phys ed throughout high school will combat hours spent in front of television screens, textbooks, and computer monitors. One of the most vocal and high-profile proponents in North America is Shaq, who now has his own reality show on ABC where he helps obese kids lose weight while lobbying for increased PE funding in public schools.

I personally abhor the idea of making high school PE mandatory for all students. What's more, I think that unless the curriculum changes drastically, mandatory high school PE will have the adverse effect of turning fairly sedentary, inactive kids off any sort of physical activity well into their adult lives. Allow me to explain based on personal experience, but first I'm going to define "physical activity" versus "sports."

"Physical activity" is anything that gets your heart pumping, your body sweating, and your physique in shape. Biking, walking, hiking, kayaking, dancing...these are all forms of recreational physical activity. I associate "sports" with playing on a team, tossing a ball around, competitiveness, and scoring points. It is sports, rather than physical activity, that form the core of most public school PE curricula.

My high school PE class rotated between sports units--softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, rugby--with several weeks for each. When we didn't play sports, we were made to run laps and do push-ups and sit-ups to assess our fitness level. Our school was lucky enough to have a swimming pool, so we had a swimming unit that lasted roughly a month as well. In between, the PE teachers tried their best to introduce us to other forms of physical activity, like a dance unit (run by a PE teacher who had no real dance training), but these were rare occasions that only marked the transition from one sport to another.

This was all fine and good if you enjoyed sports and running, but I really didn't. My hand-eye coordination was so deficient that any sort of throwing/catching was beyond me. What was worse, I discovered I was semi-ambidextrous when it came to anything I had to do with my hands. Although I'm right-handed, I dribbled a basketball, shot a lay-up, and threw a softball with my left hand. Every sport turned into a painful trial-and-error process as I tried to figure out which hand was more comfortable doing what. Yeesh. PE was basically an hour and twenty minutes of me staying out of the way as pushier girls lunged for the ball. I wasn't having fun at all.

In fact, PE disgusted me so much it planted the idea in my head that since I wasn't good at sports and it wasn't fun for me, I just wasn't a very physical person. It wasn't until third year university when I tried salsa dancing that I found a form of physical activity I really enjoyed. I wasn't playing a sport, but I was working up more of a sweat and enjoying myself more than I did when standing in the outfield and praying the batter would hit one far, far away from me. All of a sudden, physical activity was fun in a way it hadn't been since I ran around the playground screeching and playing frozen tag in elementary school.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've talked to many people who remember excelling academically in school and hating competitive sports and how sports-centric PE was, and feeling like they were the most uncoordinated klutzes in the world and becoming discouraged from physical activity. These people have since gone on to find recreational physical activities they really enjoy such as mountain biking, skiing, and yoga. They work out at the gym and go kayaking.

If educators want to teach kids to be physically active for life, they need to include more than just sports in PE curricula. Making PE mandatory across the board is only a partial solution. PE teachers must show the kids who don't enjoy sports that other forms of physical activity exist. If curricula don't become more diverse, kids who don't enjoy competitive sports will think they aren't meant to be physically active and that physical activity isn't fun, when in fact it's sports and not physical activity in general that they don't like. Let's teach kids to have fun while being physically active. They'll be better participants in PE and physically active outside of school, and in the end, isn't it the latter that we're aiming for?

Mild Male Chauvinism?

I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance that left me somewhat astonished. Although he's in a committed long-distance relationship, he openly flirts with other girls at work and admits to having a crush on one of them. He calls some of his closer female friends his "surrogate girlfriends" and constantly makes comments about which girl is a "cutie pie" and which girl he finds attractive.

"How do you reconcile being in a long-distance relationship with one girl and flirting with so many others?" I asked him. He thought about it for a bit, then gave me his answer (and I'm paraphrasing here): "I openly flirt, but I can't see myself cheating on my girlfriend. I made a commitment to be with her. Plus she's not the insecure type."

Whoa. Did anyone else notice the neat rhetorical twist behind his words that implicitly blames the girl for being upset over her boyfriend's flirtatious ways, i.e. he never had any wrongdoing in mind and if she gets upset it's because she has insecurity issues and it's not his fault for flirting with other girls? This guy is planning to go to law school, and if his courtroom speeches are anywhere near this smooth he has a great career ahead of him.

His response to my question rankled me, and it took another ten minutes and a cup of coffee for me to figure out exactly why it did. As intelligent as he is, this response was pretty chauvinistic and hypocritical in my opinion. From previous conversations with him, I know that he doesn't like feeling as though he's being neglected by his partner, and like he and the relationship they share aren't special to her. Alright, fair enough; a lot of people in relationships feel as though they're being taken for granted at some point. Yet here he is, spending tons of time with a girl who isn't his girlfriend and engaging in behaviour that diminishes the specialness of their bond.

Maybe this is just the "insecure girl" in me speaking, but when I'm with a guy, I want to feel well-loved and like I have a special, unique place in his life. I don't want to be anxiously looking over my shoulder all the time and worrying about my "replacement."

This conversation made me realize how lucky I was to be dating someone like Aldo in a long-distance scenario. Carrying on a long-distance relationship for a year and a half is hard enough. It would have been so much harder if I was constantly worried about him flirting with girls in bars and developing crushes left and right. What's more, the way he carried himself throughout the relationship has made me respect him more and want to remain friends with him.

Completely Overrated

I don't care if it's made of a silk/cashmere blend and has rhinestones all over its bedazzled back, paying $600 on sale for a brown sweater hoodie is just wrong. This Thomas Wylde sweater retails for $1,195, according to Bluefly, so it's a real "bargain" at 50% off. Yeah, right.

The sweater was one of zillions of items in Bluefly's semi-annual sale. They also have tons of gorgeous Vera Wang dresses on sale for roughly $150-200. Hmm 3 Vera Wangs or one sweater...that's a hard choice.

When to Say Goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you bid farewell to beloved pieces of clothing that are worn out. I spent a part of this weekend weeding out the tank tops and tees in my dresser which were in sad shape, then going to Metrotown and hitting the summer clearance racks for replacements. After going through my clothes and putting a stack of stuff away, I've come up with these guidelines for when to bid a tank or tee farewell:
  • The underarms of a white top have gone yellow from antiperspirant stains (gross, I know, but it happens), and the washing instructions say "No Bleach."
  • For black tops, the black has faded to a dark gray.
  • The tank or tee feels uncomfortably tight and clingy, especially after you've eaten.
  • The top has lost all shape after being worn about 1-2 times a week for the last 2 years and looks boxy when you put it on.
  • When you wear the top, you constantly feel as if it's too short or it's riding up.

Sterling End-of-Season Shoe Sale

End-of-season sales are wonderful things, especially when they're for spring and summer merchandise. You see, end-of-summer sales occur outrageously early around the end of July and throughout August so that stores can make room for fall arrivals. That means you can usually find good deals on sandals, tees and tanks, shorts, skirts, and dresses--things you can actually wear for another two months or so until the weather cools down for good.

These sales are the reason why I scored two pairs of great shoes for less than I would've paid for one pair at Sterling's "Buy one pair, get another pair 50% off" sale. The deal applied to all sale items, so these shoes had been marked down already. I had been eyeing the Steve Madden flats and dreaming of how chic they'd look paired with a nice black top and a pair of jeans or a skirt for quite some time. Zappos Canada has these shoes for $73.95 US at the moment, but they were $49.95 at Sterling. The best deal, however, was the pair of Kitson sneakers I found marked down from $100 to $50; with another 50% off they came to $25. Imagine, $25 for a pair of good-quality fun fashion sneakers from a hip LA brand, a pair of sneakers I would've happily paid full price for! I was ecstatic.

I was going to take pictures of the shoes and post them, but Zappos and Kitson did such a good job with multi-view shots that I just decided to link to them. Enjoy!

Office Attire, Workplace Etiquette

In an article for the Globe and Mail style section, Amy Verner discusses the inappropriateness of going braless or wearing tops that show bra straps in an office environment. Verner's article basically points out that going braless can result in embarassing and unwanted attention, and offers advice on covering up and finding alternatives to the standard bra (camisoles, nipple covers, etc.).

The article is part of an ongoing column called Suitable, and it drew the most attention of any article in the series to date with 143 comments posted by readers in response. My quick perusal of the comments that were posted puzzled and disappointed me. Most of the contributors interpreted going braless in the office as a freedom of expression issue ("Women should be able to dress their own bodies however they want") and railed against conservatism and prudishness, complaining about the hypocrisy of oversexualizing female bodies yet asking women to cover up in the workplace.

In my opinion, these readers missed the point entirely. Wearing a bra to work is not a negation of self-expression or a suppression of female empowerment; it's more like an expression of workplace etiquette in the way it complies to an accepted dress code. Office attire evolved as a way of defining appropriate, inoffensive clothing to wear in a close space where you come into contact with different personalities daily. In any office setting, there are people with various religions, political viewpoints, and aesthetic sensibilities; some individuals may have more conservative views and feel really uncomfortable with a coworker who goes braless or wears cleavage-baring tops. By adhering to a dress code and erring on the side of more conservative dress (or in this case, wearing a bra), employees show they are making an effort to make their coworkers feel more at ease.

That being said, I work in an office environment that has no dress code and often sees employees come to work in jeans and sneakers. I myself am grateful that I can dress up or dress down depending on how I feel, and that I don't have to don a suit and pantyhose or cram my feet into high heels every day. In this context, wearing a strappy tank top that shows bra straps is not a big deal when compared to doing the same in a workplace where suits are the norm. However, even with such a lenient dress code, there are still some unspoken "common sense" rules almost everybody adheres to, including wearing a bra and not wearing anything too revealing.

How to Repel Girls

If you as a guy cannot stand the female species and want cute girls to stay away from you when you go out, just do all of the stuff listed below. (Note: A guy I've bumped into while salsa dancing on two separate occasions has actually done all of the following on those two occasions. That's pretty impressive as far as girl-repelling goes.)
  • Within 15 seconds of introducing yourself, give the girl your entire life story about moving to a new town, your fancy new job, blah blah blah...
  • Within a minute of introducing yourself, brag about your material possessions ("Yeah, I just moved into a new condo") in a tone of voice that conveys a deep insecurity about yourself and an overwhelming desire to compensate for it.
  • Stick your foot in your mouth and say "You look tired" to the girl instead of complimenting her appearance.
  • Dance awkwardly while thinking you're hot stuff.
  • When you fail to lead the move you just tried to do, look at the girl, laugh, and say in a patronizing voice, "I guess you haven't learned that yet eh?"
  • Ignore the withering looks the girl keeps shooting at you and hang out at her side until she decides to leave.

Anthropologie - Not For Us?

Everyone I know who loves Anthropologie's clothes, accessories, and home furnishings is not so in love with their prices. The girl who first turned me onto Anthropologie waxed poetic about their merchandise the same way Homer Simpson drooled over a pink doughnut: "Anthropologie has sooo many nice things! Sooo expensive, but so nice! Sigh..." The friends whom I've told about Anthropologie have said the same. Daddy Likey, a blog that I'm a big fan of, has an extremely entertaining entry about the futility of finding a good deal on Anthropologie's sales racks. A quick perusal through their website will yield $250 sundresses, $400 shoes, $700 end tables...and these are in US dollars.

Why is Anthropologie so expensive? I did some quick Googling and found an interesting article on Wikipedia about the founding of Anthropologie. The CEO apparently wanted to create a more grown-up sister brand to the already hugely successful Urban Outfitters retail chain and retain consumers loyal to Urban Outfitters. Their ideal demographic was affluent, settled-down career women in their 30s and 40s, with an average income of $200,000 a year.

In other words, Anthropologie's intended for women much older than we are with an income that puts them in the top 5% of household incomes in North America. When you think about it that way, the crazy prices make a warped kind of sense: If an "average" person makes about $40,000 a year, which is one-fifth of the ideal Anthropologie customer's income, divide those prices by 5 and you instantly get prices that align with middle-class budgets much better.

The presumptuousness of catering to such a narrow demographic is astonishing given Anthropologie's widespread appeal. Their marketing strategy discriminates along lines of age (i.e. if you're young and paying off student loans, it's not for you) and class. It seems odd that even though I'm a fan of the unique detailing and tailored, polished look of Anthropologie's clothing, in reality their marketers have pigeonholed me into the Urban Outfitters demographic as a young consumer with a lower income, and thus a consumer of mass-manufactured cotton basics which look like they were designed and made without much thought going into them.

Their advertising campaigns and online catalogues also contradict Anthropologie's purported ideal demographic. A flip through any of their monthly online catalogues reveals models who look like they are in their early 20s and enjoying a young vibrant life rather than a settled one. The feel of the website and the merchandise suggest that you're browsing through the wardrobe of some hip, twentysomething girl with a job in a creative industry like fashion design or graphic arts, someone who shops in small boutiques and supports local designers and wears all the right clothes all the time. In short, they're selling the lifestyle of the demographic they're shunning.

This is, I suppose, part of Anthropologie's branding genius: They make the older career women feel young and hip and cool, while designing stuff that appeals to the aesthetic sensibilities of twentysomethings who aspire to make enough money to shop there more or less regularly. Until the day when I can justify shelling out $250 US for a cotton dress, though, I think I'll stick to RW & Co. for my fix of polished, detailed clothing with a good fit.

Summer Chic, Latin Girl Style

I have a soft spot for Latin American culture, so it's no surprise that I love the fun, girly, sexy vibe of Latin-girl style. In a season where we let ourselves go wardrobe-wise to be comfortable and to beat the heat, when shorts and T-shirts become the summer uniform du jour, Latin girl style challenges us to look stylish in warm weather and asserts that we can do it without breaking a sweat.

What defines Latin girl style exactly? When I say "Latin girl style," I mean the sexy yet sophisticated take on ultra-feminine hot-weather style. I think of Brazilian designer Carlos Miele and Rosa Cha swimwear. The halter tops, bright floral cotton sundresses, and dramatic jewelry in Vancouver's Rio Azul Latin Boutique on Granville and West Broadway come to mind. The designs at this year's Colombiamoda fashion show in Medellin, Colombia also epitomize what I think of as Latin girl style.

I still have a long way to go before I fully master the style my Mexican ex-boyfriend's sisters pull off so easily. In the meantime, however, I've figured out some of the essentials that can make any wardrobe caliente.

Bikinis. This is a staple of beaches near and far, and with good reason. As one of the aforementioned sisters pointed out, those trendy cut-out one-piece suits leave wicked tanlines. Plus when you're on a beach and it's close to 40 degrees, even a tankini can feel like too much clothing. Go for bright prints but avoid anything too neon.

Elaborate earrings. This is a great way of injecting Latin girl cool into your wardrobe without breaking the bank! Imagine how great they'll look with cotton tanks and jersey dresses. Look for earrings with plenty of detailing and organic materials like polished metals, semiprecious stones (polished or unpolished), shell, and wood, and avoid anything too plasticky or fake-looking.

Skirts and dresses. Shorts and capris have their moments, but the feminine charm of Latin girl style definitely calls for a skirt or sensational sundress. I personally love airy cottons and chiffons that move with you and flare out when you twirl. Avoid anything that looks too stiff or utilitarian like denim or cargo skirts. For sundresses, a halter neckline can heighten that "I just got off a plane from Sao Paolo" feeling.

Real sandals. Flip-flops, while fantastic for the beach, just don't cut it when you've got a gorgeous dress on and you're sipping mojitos at a night-time salsa party. Go for actual sandals with fun colours and details.

Immaculate whites. Whether it's a tank top, a pair of linen pants, or a sweet eyelet dress, whites should be sparkling and crisp.

Long flowing hair, glowing skin, and a sassy attitude. They instantly boost the Latin girl cool factor.


Archie Comics and Fashion Nostalgia

Capris, green and yellow, bold prints, girly dresses, ballet flats...this summer's best trends, or a summation of what was best about Betty and Veronica's outfits from vintage Archie comics? I've been diving into my old collection of comics for some escapism and nostalgia, and I have to say, Riverdale's girls are looking pretty fabulous circa 1950s. It was difficult to pick out examples of cute outfits because very few frames were head-to-toe shots, or they were quite small. Anyways, take a look and let me know what you think!

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