Best Olympic Outfit Ever. Period.

The reviews are in on Team USA’s Sochi Opening Ceremony outfits designed by Ralph Lauren: not good. But wait! At least they were made in America this time (the 2012 outfits were outsourced to China). Not that the 2012 outfits, also designed by Ralph Lauren, received better reviews. One Time Magazine reporter put it: “the outfits are downright ugly and an embarrassment to U.S. Olympians.” When it comes to 2014, I say judge for yourself:

I mean, the sketch doesn’t seem so bad, something just seems to have gone wrong in executing the vision. In fairness, we can’t expect  our athletes to look all dapper and chic. It is winter, and it is Russia. And, if Valdimir Putin had designed them, Team USA would almost certainly be going shirtless. Wool cardigans > bare chest.

But then again, maybe Putin is onto something, as the wool cardigans likely won’t even be necessary. Sochi may be the least winter-y part of all Russia. I’m sure you’ve heard about the palm trees

Okay, enough disparaging Mr. Lauren and his commendable effort at originality using just three colors. Instead, let’s take a look at his competition. First, the Norwegian curling team:

norway1

These guys have got a sense of humor. It’s one of those “it’s so bad its funny” sort of get-ups. The purpose is to be attention grabbing. And I mean, it’s curling – you have to get the girls somehow.

Unfortunately for the Norwegians, they’ve got nothing on the Mexicans. That’s right, Mexico is sliding in with perhaps this year’s most awesome get-up ever: the Mariachi ski onesie.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is not a joke. This is for real, and it should give you a reason to watch the Olympics, even if you’re one of those people who claims not to like them.

Want more? Here is a gallery of the best and worst Olympic outfits of 2012.

Finally, even though Team USA looks like they’re going to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, we shouldn’t hold that against them. In fact, get yourself some red, white and blue swag and cheer on the USA. I prefer beanies. #BeatChina

Gold Obsessed

This week’s WSJ Magazine featured model Andreea Diaconu in Mexico sporting some of spring’s “gauzy fabrics and clean lines” including linen, silk and cotton blends. The most compelling item of the entire shoot, however, had nothing to do with fabric and everything to do with brass and gold. Jennifer Fisher brass and gold to be exact. The nearly omnipresent choker ($200-$375) and chains ($400-$3,400) show the power of thoughtful accessorizing. While the Dries van Noten sheer top, Chanel robe and Ralph Lauren jumpsuit are exquisite in their own right, it is the brass and gold jewelry that give them the “wow factor.”

 

Now that I’m obsessed with this look – and have an upcoming trip to Mexico planned myself – how can I get it without paying Jennifer Fisher prices? (No offense Jennifer, I’m just not there yet). Answer: Etsy.

As always, Etsy has some great options, especially in the jewelry department. And luckily, many of the jewelers on the site use brass as a base for their products. Brass on its own is a very sturdy product, but gold-dipped brass has some staying power too (and when it starts to look a little worn, you can just get it dipped in gold again). Without further ado, here are some options for you: choker ($20) and chain ($48). Here is another chain option ($40). And just for fun, here’s another beautiful layering option.

So get inspired by Andreea Diaconu and start looking to spring. This cold has to end soon.

Fashionably Well Read

What do fashion and reading have in common? Answer: The more you read, the better your vocabulary to describe fashion. So, now that I’ve clearly converted any non-readers, here is a list of must reads for 2014. None are new, but what they have in common is the powerful themes of following your heart, believing in yourself, and working hard. Themes that translate quite nicely into the real world.

TheAlchemist The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho is a beautifully written fable about following your heart to fulfill your dreams. If you’re not doing exactly what you love in life, this book will encourage you to re-examine it. It has been published in 45 languages in 120 countries for a reason. Best part? It’s more like a pamphlet than a book, so it’ll only take a couple of hours to read.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “This charming, simple and well-written allegory tells of a boy, Santiago, who has the imagination and courage to follow his “Personal Legend.” Santiago finds fairy godfathers at many turns who help him learn to keep up his courage, and to read omens and his own heart. The book’s inspirational message follow your heart and do your own thing is oblique enough to allow readers to interpret it in any way they choose, with whatever degree and form of spirituality one adheres to: ‘To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.’”

180px-PrideAndPrejudiceTitlePagePride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen is a classic because its protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, is a character that enterprising, headstrong and adventurous women everywhere can identify with, in any generation. Especially in the 21st Century, where women have freedoms not known previously, Elizabeth proves a particularly great role model. She has a rebellious spirit, but she respects herself and treasures her family, traits today’s women should seek to emulate.

If you’ve seen the movie(s) great, but I highly recommend a read of the book. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice once, twice or thrice, check out her other novels, such as Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. If you’ve read up all of Jane’s novels, try Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

the-pillars-of-the-earth-coverThe Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett is an epic tome of a book. The first in a two-part series, in fact. The second part, World Without End, is equally wonderful. Here is a quick synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly: “Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists.”

But, it is so much more than that. It’s a story of persistence, fighting for survival and building something bigger than yourself. It is a beautiful story that comes alive on the pages and plunges you into the mundane struggles of these every-day men and women. The characters inspire us to be better, strive harder and be thankful for what we have.

the_sun_also_rises_hemingwayThe Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway is a vibrant, transporting novel that paints a colorful picture of life in the post World War I era. If you’re having flashbacks to Old Man and the Sea and high school-required reading, take a deep breath. This Hemingway book is right up your alley, that is, if your alley includes copious amounts of booze, adventure and rabble rousing.

Amazon describes it well: “The story follows the flamboyant Brett [Ashley] and the hapless Jake [Barnes] as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.”

If you’re looking for one more resolution to add to the list, add reading.

The Wonders of Layering

Three day weekends, who doesn’t love them? Sleeping in, boozy brunches, perhaps a road trip … In this case, a road trip to Pittsburgh, PA. Despite the flack from haters criticizing Pittsburgh, it is a charming city. It is also cold. D.C.’s balmy 32 degrees dropped to 14 by the time the first of Pittsburgh’s over 400 bridges came into view. However, thanks to weather apps, one can prepare for such extremes early.

So, how can you still look stylish in such miserable weather? Layering. As a native Californian, layering for actual utility is a recent phenomenon, but Dolce Vita’s Mula Sweater has opened my eyes to its wonders.

A mish-mash of polyester, acrylic and wool, this is a good mid-layer that fits great under a jacket (in my case, THE Jacket). Note that it has a hood to help keep the wind away without entirely ruining your hair. I wore this with a pair of black Helmut Lang leggings (similar here, although I didn’t pay full price for them) and felt as cozy as possible, considering the cold. The best part about a sweater like this is it’s multi-seasonal. It works for layering in the winter, but can be a stand alone in the spring and fall. Highly recommend.

THE Jacket

There is one jacket out there for every woman that can maker her swoon. A jacket that is classic yet edgy, practical yet trendy, versatile yet chic. For me, that jacket is The Barbour Axle Jacket. It is warm for the cold D.C. winters. It is waxed to shun the rain. It is designed to make its wearer look trim and put together. And, most importantly, it’s perfect for motorcycle riding, which, let me be clear, involves me as a passenger. When I first began this new hobby, I looked like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story.” Only worse. Layered long-sleeve shirts and an old (and I mean old (circa 2005)) Abercrombie jacket were my go-tos. Now, I’m not one to look down upon function, but with this jacket, I can be functional and stylish at the same time. So, what jacket makes you swoon?

A New Discovery

Note to self: Do not go into Barneys CO-OP after a three-hour lunch with as many glasses of wine, you will undoubtedly make yet another discovery that cannot be passed up.

However, considering I am just as giddy with my discovery today as I was the day of the Pinot Noir lunch,  I clearly make good decisions in all mental states (insert pat on back).

This particular discovery was IOSSELLIANI.

IOSSELLIANI was born in Rome in 1997 with the meeting of designers Roberta Paolucci and Paolo Giacomelli. According to the website, the two are “strongly influenced by Italian classic jewelry … [and] combine their love for vivid materials crafted  into modern shapes with the enormous heritage of tradition. Traditional icons, classic ornaments and modern symbols are then bravely read and translated into a new perception of  details, creating a transversal, contemporary jewelry.”

This description is 100 percent accurate. I was transfixed with the visionary shapes, colors, designs and attention to detail contained in the necklace that caught my eye.

This is the kind of necklace that can transform an entire outfit.  The black J. Crew shift dress I wear all the time has now become a perfect frame for this showstopper. And that jeans + white t-shirt combo just got a face-lift.

While I am not in a place where  Paolucci and Giacomell will be sending me a Christmas card thanking me for my loyal business, I am more than thrilled just to be acquainted with their creations.

And when there is a sale, as there was at CO-OP when I was co-opted by this beauty, their jewelry does hover in the investment range.

When Ugly Clothes Are Acceptable

There are a few occasions in life when ugly clothes are not only acceptable, but encouraged. Let’s be clear: this is not often and should pretty much end when “Spirit Week” in high school comes to a close. But there is one annual festive occasion where ugly attire is considered a plus: the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

The worst part is that there are people out there who actually wear these in real life, and if you are one of them, I am not sorry for calling you out on it. Put it in your costume box and bring it out once per year, for a theme party, and nothing else. Think of it as doing your part to make this world a little bit better.

This year, I attempted to talk my friends into a black tie cocktail party. Only because I have the most amazing dress (see Vintage Finds) that I am dying to wear, but unfortunately, having such a selfish motive seldom brings fulfillment, so my friend Confetti’s Tacky Xmas Sweater party won out.

Not one to wallow too long in defeat, I quickly embraced the ugly theme, although not nearly as much as my friends Confetti, Firebolt and Lightning, each of whom went above and beyond the call to festive. Lightning swaddled herself in battery-powered Christmas lights, Firebolt knitted her own sweater and Confetti not only provided me with a matching sweater, she even crafted a jingle bell belt (which she thankfully forgot).

And my favorite part about this was that when we all went out later that night in fully tacky Christmas attire – we helped others get into the Christmas spirit. There were several people who saw us and promptly put on the ugly sweaters they had brought but were previously too embarrassed to wear. Now that’s inspiration.