Category Archives: My Style

Holy Grails of Fashion: The Sweater Dress

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Do you have specific fashion covets?  And when I say specific, I mean you have a very clear vision of what this particular item looks like in terms of fabric, cut, colour, etc, in addition to how it looks on your body and how it makes you feel like the Queen of the world?  And trying to find this very specific sartorial piece in the real world is an ongoing mission of indefinite time, and you’re not going to quit until it materializes because you’re just obsessively determined like that? I call these the Holy Grails of Fashion.

One of my many Grails has been the Sweater Dress.  Conceptually to me, this item is the perfect solution to winter dressing; the fuzzy counterpart to the breezy summer dress.  It is easy to wear and immediately stylish – just throw it on over your head, add a touch of bling around the neck, pull on knee high boots, and you’re set.  They’re also incredibly comfortable, made of knit, jersey, or cotton with a touch of lycra, which move with you.  Now the tricky part and what has made it to Holy Grail status for me is the fit.  I have a naturally somewhat athletic figure, ie. not fashion model-boyish, which means the dress needs to cling to certain bits but not to others without adding too much overall bulk to the torso.  Ideally it should be body skimming and create an hourglass shape.  The neckline shouldn’t be too tight, but wider with a flattering shape to offset my wide face.

This specific dress has not been easy to find by any means.  Over many years, I’ve settled for various not-quite-it versions which didn’t elevate me to Queen status.  Instead, I would find myself a bit insecure and fidgety in them, constantly tugging here and there to try and re-direct the clingy areas.  But I’ve never given up and always beeline to them whenever I make my shopping rounds.

Aurora sweater dress-2

Photo by Lance Holroyd

On one of these rounds in early fall I was perusing Front & Co. on Main Street, my go to destination for retail therapy, when I came upon this charcoal grey Rachel Roy bias cut cotton/viscose blend dress.  I tried it on and voila, had the Holy Grail of Sweater Dresses finally been found?  Flattering wide neckline, check.  Body skimming without too much bulk, check.  Current and slightly edgy with an uneven hem, but basically timeless in style and colour, check.  Sexy and yet still appropriate for the office, yes.  And finally, at the $35 consignment price, it was a closer.  Praise be to the Fashion Gods!

I have worn this dress several times to work and felt like the Queen of the office…except for the fact that after a few 8-hour days of wear, the knit started to loosen up and not spring back to its original shape, causing it to look increasingly baggy.  I’m hoping that drycleaning will do the trick to bring back the shape; otherwise, there’s always a return to the quest for the Holy Grail…

Words by Aurora Chan

Photo by Lance Holroyd

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How I Became Obsessed with Wearing Black & White

Black & White Joe Fresh dress shirt

Joe Fresh polka-dot shirt ($29), Forever 21 dress shorts ($18), Joe Fresh tights ($6)

It started just over 5 years ago in New York City, when I was interning at a high-end design house. As part of my research project, I spent most of my time in department stores that we know their names better than we do the experience of shopping in them: Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, SAKS, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdales… Poor me, right? As much as I loved spending all that time studying retail real estate, it got very lonely at times. I loved being undercover, trying to capture how much merchandising space each designer had, on which floor, who they were placed next to, etc. But sometimes it just got weird when the sales associates started to treat you condescendingly, mock-asking whether you were going to try on something. Oh well, that’s retail for you. Apart from the larger department stores, I also frequented high-end independent boutiques. Some brought me into areas I would never have forayed to, and I was thankful for that. It was near my birthday when I stepped into a store that had previously carried our designer’s clothes but had dropped it recently. I decided to investigate, and it took me all the way up to the Upper East Side. I forget the name of the store, but I remember when I stepped in I wasn’t as intimidated as I did with most other boutiques. I was actually getting quite used to seeing Robert Rodriguez – oh, what a familiar name! There were lots more higher end labels, but I appreciated the nice “high-low” mix, if you can call it that.

Black & White Banana Republic striped dress

Banana Republic striped dress (on sale for $35), Joe Fresh hat ($12)

Then for the first time ever, I saw something I liked, could afford, and tried it on. It was a Park Vogel black & white striped top. Everything about it, I absolutely loved: the twisted straps, the v-neckline, the wide stripes, the A-line trapeze cut… It was only around $100, so I splurged. When I stepped out of the dressing room, the sales associate’s expression immediately changed. She told me how the shirt really suited my style; even as a mostly-cynic, I believe she truly meant what she had said. Or maybe I had just wanted to believe her that much. So that’s the story of my first black & white shirt, and 5  years later, I still love this style. Many times, I had questioned my style intuition and tried to get myself to try on neutral palettes other girls seemed to pull off so effortlessly. Why can’t I wear that pale pink skirt with a denim vest? Or try working with more neutrals? Actually after I bought that b&w striped top, I went to a Billion Dollar Babes sale and bought a Park Vogel tunic in army green. Where did that end up? Being consigned at Front & Co a year later.

Black & White Banana Republic silk-blend cardigan

Banana Republic striped cardigan (on sale for $22), RW&Co tee ($30), Aritzia crepe pants ($125)

I came to my senses when I read somewhere about singer Janelle Monae choosing to wear only black & white because it gives her freedom like a blank canvas (although she’s recently revealed it’s because she pays homage to her working-class parents who wore uniforms). Whatever reasons we have for wearing what we like, I feel that you can comment on my awesome style ;) or make fun of my predictable style or admire my consistency as much you want, but I’ve come to realize why I’m so attracted to these non-colours. Firstly, I’m a person of extremities who is either fully engaged 100%… or not. And I also feel the same way about black and white being like a blank canvas – you can do so much with so little. Lastly, it’s classic. I truly believe that we should be buying things because we love them and not for keeping up with the Kardashians. I bet I’ll still get compliments if I leave these items in my closet for 5 years. Now that black and white stripes seems to be carried in every store, I’m not about to buck this trend! I proudly admit that this year I’ve accumulated countless black and white items, whether it’s in the style of polka-dots, Azetc styling, stripes, or abstract designs, I’ve got it. And that’s how I became obsessed with wearing black and white.

Outtakes :)

Photos by Robert Sam

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The BE Skin Bar Experience

Aurora & I were treated to facials at the new Bare Essentials Skin Bar (aka BE Skin Bar) in downtown. Owner Amy Sahota worked on my skin while “skintender” Shantelle helped Aurora. The first thing we did upon arrival was to fill out an extensive survey not only about our skin but about our behaviours, actions, and goals. Some unexpected questions include: Rate your stress level; Do you have a tendency to redness; How much water do you consume weekly; and what are your skin care goals?

After the ladies got a good idea of how our skin is like, we were treated to the Vantini, BE’s signature target treatment that resurfaces, smoothes, and brightens skin. In the facial cocktail mix was hydroxy acids to lift away dead skin cells, lactic acids to stimulate cell renewal, and peptides to prevent aging. Amy suggests this to anyone who hasn’t gotten a facial in a while because it’s their deepest exfoliation treatment

During my 30 minute Vantini, Amy walked me through my skin type, what my daily skin regimen at home should be, and analyzed the 14 different zones on my face. She also gave me advice on parts of my skin with pigmentation, suggesting Dermologica’s Chromo White trx C12 Concentrate ($117.00) and Chromo White try Extreme C ($110.50). I loved how I had found a solution to my pigmentation, but decided that if I were to go through with this consistent regiment, I’d wait until fall.
When asked about her recommendation for Style by Fire readers to protect their skin from summer sun, Amy says the solution lies in hydration! If you’re interested in Dermologica products, this is her skin care tip: “On a clean, damp face, apply a few drops of Skin hydrating booster, then apply Age smart MultiVitamin Power Recovery Masque for 10-15 minutes (loaded with vitamins A C E and F) twice a week. Hydrated skin needs less make up too, perfect time saver.”
Photos by Aurora Chan
Words by Miranda Sam

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How to Get a Great Short Haircut from Your Stylist

March 2013 Haristyles

I honestly walked into Colour Box Salon asking my go-to stylist, Debbie, for a transitional cut to LONG hair. Guess I just wasn’t ready yet, because when she pulled up her Pinterest board of asymmetrical styles I immediately fell in love with one of the pictures. *sigh* Will I ever go long again?

For those of you even toying with the idea of short hair, I say GO FOR IT! It’s quite versatile. I rocked these 3 styles all within a month’s time. So I’m sure you can think of more. And for the ones who think they don’t have the “face” for a short look, I never thought I had a face for hats either, and I turned out to be wrong. Also, I didn’t think one of my friends could pull off thick framed glasses. I was wrong yet again.

Moral of the story is, you never know until you try. And seriously,  8 years ago people had apprehensions about wearing leggings (oh yes, dig deep in that fashion time capsule memory of yours), but now you can’t shock your mom with those skin tight leg coverings! In fact, she’s probably wearing them right now. So same with hair. If it wasn’t as big of a perceived “risk” way more women would be sporting the short.

My salon philosophy is that you’re best to leave the details to your stylist. You’re the CEO of your head, but your stylist is your VP of Creativity. It’s really rewarding giving him or her a general idea of what you expect and then let them do their thang! You won’t know what exactly you’ll get, but that’s part of the excitement of unchartered territory.

Of course, I’ve done this with completely new stylists before. Though if you’re apprehensive with a short cut to begin with, I’d recommend to get to know him or her for 1-2 cuts beforehand, and then give them the challenge of creating something new for you.

Trust me, as a creative myself, your stylist will want to work harder for you if they know you trust them.

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