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[To wrap up the 902 Style Files, here’s a very special guest: the Hep Kitten herself! Thanks to all the guests who filled in for me during this hectic week. If you missed any of them, check out the rest of the East Coast Guest Posts.]

By Áine (aka “Racquel Valencia”)

“Fashionable is what one wears oneself, and unfashionable is what other people wear.”

I wonder if Oscar Wilde ever envisioned that one day some chick from the Maritimes would take one of his witty little barbs and turn it into a criticism of the cookie-cutter skinny jeans and scarves hipster set. But here we are, and, like Morrissey in “Cemetery Gates”, Wilde is on my side.

Personal style is just that–personal–and maybe that’s why it eludes so many people. Clothes not only shield us from the elements, but allow us to let a bit of ourselves shine through. And why would you want to look like anyone else, much less everyone else? Without further ado, let’s take a tour of my closet.

Like what you see?

Like what you see?

Like what you see, home slice? Lotta black in there. In fact, I think I maybe own half a dozen items that aren’t black, and two of them are dark gray. Why? Equal parts deep-rooted body insecurity, Johnny Cash homage and affinity for Bauhaus and Joy Division, I’d wager.

I’ve been called “Funeral Fun Barbie” by my friends, a designation that I’m never sure exactly how to take. I like black and black likes me, which brings me to Rule #1: KNOW THY BODY AND WHAT FLATTERS IT.

Guys, this goes for you, too. Un-pop that collar, mister. It never did no one no favours.

Black DressThis is possibly my favourite dress ever. If I thought I could get away with it, I would wear it every day. It’s black, it’s lacy, it’s just the right amount of goth and cheerleader…and it attracts kittens, as evidenced by the small white kitten in the foreground (hi, Salty Bob!). I spent more on it than I have on pretty much anything else in my wardrobe, but it’s been so worth it, especially considering how much I’ve worn it.

Remember: the most expensive thing in your wardrobe is the thing you never wear. I don’t care if it cost three dollars or three hundred. Same diff, really. Rule #2: IT’S WORTH SPENDING MONEY ON SOMETHING YOU LOVE.

[photo: kimono]

Let’s get real for a second: ninety-five percent of the time when I’m home, I’m not remotely dolled up. Hells no. Ask anyone (friends, roommates, family, milkman): I’m almost always in a kimono. No ratty bathrobe for this Hep Kitten, and as far as I’m concerned sweatpants = I’ve given up on life.

Hep Kitten

Hep Kitten

Who doesn’t love being lazy and slothful? But you can still look good doing it. Legend has it that, when she went to answer the door, Marilyn Monroe would just toss a sheet and some Chanel No. 5 on. While I’m not advocating public nudity, I think there’s something to be said for Rule #3: DON’T LET YOURSELF GO. NOT EVEN FOR THE CATS.

And now, for the most important part of all, the key to beauty, style, and ass-kicking hotness: a sense of humour. As much as I delight in the dark, there’s beauty on the other side, too. Hell, if I’m only going to have six items of clothing in a colour other than Death, I may as well go the whole hog:

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Yes, it’s a tight Kelly-green minidress that say “JAMAICA” on it. I bought it for two dollars at a Goodwill store. I swear that thing gets more infamous every day.

Some of the best fashion advice I ever got was from my friend Teddy, a curvy, husky-voiced Italian from Bloor/Ossington. Her two words changed how I look at myself both physically and emotionally, and make up Rule #4: OWN IT.

Whenever I was having a fat/ugly/emo day, Teddy would remind me to own it. If I screwed something up, she’d laugh and say “own it and fuhgeddaboudit!” I find myself repeating those words on a daily basis, and I swear I’ve gotten prettier in the past two years.

Own whatever it is you’re wearing. If it’s Feed Bag Friday, rock the shit out of that burlap dress! Suit-and-Tie Monday and you’re stuck in Paisleyville? Live it up, brother, and make that paisley wonder look as awesome as chains on T-Pain. I’ve seen Teddy rock everything from Timberlands with skirts, to sweats with heels and she always looks like she was born to do it.

Racquel

Priceless

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

That may very well be, Oscar, but the right attitude is priceless.

Racquel Valencia is the nom de plume of a North End chick with an inexplicable love of Top 40 hip-hop and a well-documented obsession with 1990’s teen heartthrobs and girly men. This is what she actually looks like. Visit her at Smell the Glove.

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[To me, no fashion & style week would be complete without a post about this next topic. That’s why I was happy to hear from this next blogger. Who hasn’t gone through a phase of style ennui where we stare into the depths of our closets and somehow realize we have “nothing to wear”? So, without further adieu, here’s Austin.]

By Austin Flaherty

Photo credit: natalie's new york from Flickr

Photo credit: natalie's new york from Flickr

I woke up this morning, got ready for the day and looked into my closet for something to wear, something different – maybe a shirt I forgot about or a sweater I got at Christmas; I sadly inspected the contents and nothing caught my eye. The two racks in my closet hold a gamut of black, faded black, dark grey t-shirts, some white collared shirts and several black zip-up and pull-over hoodies. The majority of what I wear is logo free, plain and solid colours. No patterns. The few logoed pieces I own are freebies, work related, or sponsored items I snagged through my paintball team. Nothing eye catching stands out. I decided on a worn pair of jeans and a zip up hoodie and entered my comfort zone.

It’s almost like I’m in a cartoon; I have very similar clothes that I rotate through weekly. My own style has become drab and routine; even I can see it at this point. I look at people’s styles for inspiration, yet I can’t find anything in the mainstream that interests me. On one hand it bothers me since it’s always the same clothes, on the other, I’m content to sit and code or watch a movie in my aging Dalhousie sweater.

Part of the problem is likely that I don’t shop for clothes often. Usually once a year for some new sneakers, maybe for a shirt if I’m going out on occasion, but never on a regular basis that I can say I see ‘new styles’. In fact I’m quite oblivious to style all together, I’m focused on what I “know” at this point and frankly it’s not a whole lot of anything. Shopping is just like going into my closet: I stick to places I know I might find another pair of jeans and cheap t-shirts. I scan the aisles and see nothing. I stumble through racks of clothes and am dismayed that I never find anything I like.

I pick out what I know and take no chances.

So where do I go from here? I’m comfortable with my choice in jeans and hoodies, but obviously I can’t live in them every day (especially in the summer!). Black hoodies and sunshine aren’t exactly a good pairing in my experience. Polo shirts? Button down shirts? SHORTS? I’m scared, but willing to try something different at this point.

I will make a pledge, right here and right now: I promise that I’ll find something to wear tomorrow that isn’t a black hoodie. The jeans might hang around for a bit longer.

Austin Flaherty is a Halifax native, the voice behind Rental Gamer, co-captain of the Tippinators Paintball Team and is currently battling with his lack of style. You can follow him online at Twitter.

[When I think style, I instantly think about my friend Suzanne. She’s new to the blogging world but those who follow the dog blog may remember her guest post “Tales of a Dog-Sitter.” Well, now she’s caught the blogging bug and has started up her own site called Just A Little Rouge. Here she is sharing some of the best kept secrets in Halifax’s fashion and furnishings world.]

By Suzanne Hickey

I am a proud Maritimer. Born in New Brunswick, lived in both PEI and NS as well, so there is no getting around it. But I moved away, fleeing to see what the rest of the country had to offer. And I loved almost every minute of it, but I always knew I’d move back here at some point. After all, it just feels like home to me. So, about 6 years ago I made Halifax home once again (I had lived here briefly before). So, yes, I am from the Maritimes, but I am also an East Coaster-er by choice.

I love this city. Do I think it has the potential to be a much, much better city? Hells ya. But that’s another blog altogether…

For now, let’s talk about style. I could get on my soap box about that one too. I believe one the sacrifices of living in a small city is that, well, it’s small. So, there isn’t the same kind of access to fabulous boutiques, high style furniture or accessories as any number of large cities. True. But, it still makes it’s way here, Halifax.

Let me introduce you to my little evolving neighbourhood. I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of re-gentrification and all those very real issues here (cue: soapbox). Let’s just say I bought a lovely home on my favorite street in Central Halifax. And one of my favorite strolls is along Agricola Street. Have you been lately?? You might be surprised what you’ll find. Grab and coffee and walk with me…

2797 Agricola Street

Our first stop on Agricola Street

Starting at the corner of Almond and Agricola, check out Finer Things & Curios (2797 Agricola Street). Quickly becoming one of my favorite places, I find myself stopping here often. And am always thrilled with my purchases – a vintage ’70s lamp, and antique locket, and beautiful sterling silver & moonstone antique ring. There is so much to look at here, be prepared to spend some quiet time letting your imagination run wild.

Traveling south, the next stop is Bellissimo! (2743 Agricola Street). Located in an old brick building, they have huge curb appeal. It’s very hard to walk by. Their slogan? “Decorative finds for beautiful living.” They deliver the goods.

Now, steady yourself and carefully run across the street to Army Navy Store (2660 Agricola St). This is a look at the grittier side. Their ad in the phone book says “New & used clothing and footwear. Hunting and Fishing supplies.” Huh? One look at the building and the always-interesting window display will give you an idea of what you are in for. You will be stared at with the slightly intimidating “you are not a regular, who are you and what are you doing here” look as you enter. Don’t let that stop you. Besides, this is the Maritimes, and relatively speaking, we are a pretty friendly bunch at heart. A little secret about this place is that they buy furniture from a couple of the local big hotels. Dig around…there are some really great deals to be had (and some strange things to see), if you’re looking for a furniture make-over project.

Next up is Norman Flynn Design (2698 Agricola Street). We’re not going to stop in today, but soak in the incredible lighting fixtures as we amble by. Also make note that here’s where to go to get Pratt & Lambert paint (can you say one coat, please?) and lots of great advice on your painting project. These guys have been featured all over the place, including in Enroute Magazine. They know their stuff.

Gus' Pub

Sound advice...

Time for a little break? All this discovery making you hungry? Here we have two great choices. Stay chic and pop into Fred – salon, gallery and café (2606 Agricola Street). While you are here, you may have to remind yourself that yes indeed, you are still in Halifax. Central Halifax, in fact. Option two is to dash back across the street and venture into Gus’ Pub (2605 Agricola St.) for a taste of the old-school neighbourhood. I can’t even fathom what they were thinking with the new paint job, but am trying to get past it.

Moving on to Statement (2534 Agricola Street) and immerse yourself in the upscale, trendy options available here. Ah…perhaps I could just move in for a while??

With a sigh, we are almost at the end of our stroll. But no shopping trip, window or otherwise, would be complete without a few clothing stores thrown in. Check out Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch (2383 Agricola St.). You will find lots of wonderful vintage clothes here and more than likely visit the change room. You may even get to meet the resident hound dogs, if you are lucky.

Pretty Things Boutique

This shop really lives up to it's name

Finally, take a left off Agricola St. onto Cunard, past the new condo building quickly taking shape, and stop into Pretty Things Boutique (5685 Cunard Street). Retro & rockabilly inspired fashions – fabulously feminine fashions inspired by the 1950’s and 1960’s. I bought my most favorite fancy dress here that I call “1950’s housewife does new year’s eve” and I’ve never felt so great or had so many compliments.

If you know me in real life, we’d pop around the corner to my place to have tea (or a glass of red) to review the fantastic finds of the day. Either way, you would have noticed that on our stroll we went by many other interesting places…cafes, bakeries, a local source market, art spaces and so much more nestled in between new and old.

I’m sure you’ll be back. And I look forward to seeing you one of these days in my ‘hood.

Suzanne is public relations/communications gal by trade who just opened a small staging & design company in Halifax. For more, check out Little Red.

[When I put out a call for guest blog submissions, my goal was to get a variety of East Coast perspectives on the topic of fashion & style. This next post certainly delivers a unique view on the subject. Please give a warm welcome to one of my fave local Twitterati, a man who will un-friend you on Facebook faster than you can click “send request.”]

By Joel Kelly

*Disclaimer: The advice you’re about to read was written by a man who went through a phase (he was a child at the time) of dressing like Ace Ventura, and was convinced (again, as a young child) that by dressing in black sweatpants and black sweaters he looked like Batman and would one day become him.*

The longest I’ve ever been able to force myself to abide by a dress code was about two months. I wore dress pants/khakis, and a button-up shirt. And dress shoes. You know, “business casual.” Which, of course, means, “clothes that make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious all day.”

The degradation started with simply switching to jeans, but tucking in the shirt. You know, balancing it all out.

Then the shirt came untucked.

Then the dress shoes became sneakers.

Other employees observed the slow and calculated descent into comfort. But more importantly they observed management’s complete disregard for my outright disobedience. It was as if the dress code never mattered in the first place. Never actually affected productivity. It was as if it had been instituted because someone suggested there should be more rules and why not make it about clothing?

So for my “902 Style Files” post, I’d like to talk to you about dressing for work in an office environment where everyone else dresses nicely, and like grownups.

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

1) Footwear. This is the most important bit in any outfit. They say that it’s the first thing women notice when looking at a man. They also say that women look at men, but I’ve had no firsthand knowledge of this so I’m utterly unconvinced. Anyway, the point is wear very, very comfortable footwear. You have to wear them all day, after all! So get yourself some OdorEaters insoles and toss on your rattiest sneakers. You’ll feel confident and comfortable all day. And if I ever got close enough to women to find out for sure (I get nervous and run the other way, typically) I’m pretty sure my bright blue shoes that are falling apart will turn some heads! (Direction of turn to be determined)

2) Jeans. Notice I didn’t says “pants,” or “bottoms.” This is non-negotiable. If you’re not wearing jeans don’t whine about not being comfortable: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Jeans = comfort. Except if you accidentally buy jeans with a button-fly at the Gap because you’re terrified of clothes-shopping and store clerks and dressing rooms and taking your pants off. If that happens (I have this friend who says it can happen and that you shouldn’t judge him!) then you’re in trouble and you’ll only wear them when your other jeans are dirty or something, or you can’t find them because they’re lost in the pile of dirty clothes and sadness somewhere on the carpet of your bedroom floor. Where was this going?

3) Shirts. I recommend plaid button-up shirts. Mostly because they’re timelessly classy. But they’re also like ten bucks at Wal-Mart.

4) Hoodies. These are basically your go-to sweater when you’re preparing for a long day at the office where your coworkers are likely dressed in expensive, “fashionable” clothes. I recommend hoodies with cute visual flairs like dinosaurs or yetis. Ladies love animals. The great part about hoodies are their ease of removal when you work in an office where the temperature is apparently dictated by some sort of fire lizard attempting to acclimate all the employees to its native volcano-clime. Of course, if you’re going to remove your hoodie, check your pits! Wearing a hoodie all day when it’s super hot can only compound the issue of being sweaty and gross (a common problem for almost everyone, and not just me), so make sure you’re good before you take it off. If not, keep that sucker on! It’ll help you sweat out your Tuesday morning hangover, too.

Well, I hope that helped. My name is Joel, by the way, and I’d like to be your friend.

Joel Kelly bills himself as a vegan nerd and marketing asshole. He works for a Halifax-based advertising agency where everyone dresses up for work. His blog about internet marketing can be found at Ingenioustries and you should follow him on Twitter.

[Welcome to another edition of East Coast Guest Posts. This week while I’m eyeball deep in work, some local bloggers will be talking about what I’m calling The 902 Style Files. I have to admit that I love shoes. While I’m not one of those women whose collection could rival that of Imelda Marcus, I do have my share of fancy footwear. Here we have a woman who’s serious about shoes and we can all take a few lessons from her expertise. Did you just tune out because you’re a guy? Well, focus, mister because it’s imperative that you go to point #7).]

By Sarah Semark

porcelaingirlc2b0-josie-grossie

Photo credit: Porcelaingirl° {josie-grossie} from Flickr

There’s something about a pair of heels. They’re instantly classy. They work with everything, they make your legs look great, and they can turn the scrubbiest ensemble into a kick-ass outfit. A beautiful pair of shoes is a magical creature that will transform you into a sophisticated lady-about-town, even when you’re just running out to the grocery store in your pyjamas and bedhead.

But when you live in a climate that changes every hour, and the sidewalks are almost always covered in ice (or snow, or rain, or some combination thereof), wearing heels can be hazardous to your health. As a girl who never wears flats and rarely suffers for it, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.

1. Calculated risk.

Using the table below, add the activity (a) to the conditions (c), then multiply by the amount of alcoholic drinks consumed (b is for booze).
Risk = b(a+c)

Activities
Walking: 1pt per km
Dancing: 2pts per half-hour
Attending a wedding, party, or social event: 1pt per hour
Kung fu: 50pts

Conditions
Ice: 10pts
Snow: 2pts
Grassy lawn: 1pt
Areas with decks, grates, or lots of stairs: 5pts
Rocky mountainsides: 30pts

If your risk value is over 20, you can be forgiven for wearing flats. If it’s over 10, perhaps it’s best to go with a practical, heavy-heeled boot. If it’s under ten, a lady can handle it.

2. Avoid hazardous materials.

Suede boots are for cowboys. Have you ever seen it rain in a cowboy movie? In a town where it rains every other day, I can’t understand why anyone would brave wearing suede boots.

Satin can be tricky. Mud and salt will cling to it, but can usually be washed successfully. Stick to darker colours.

Leather is good so long as you protect it. Vinyl will often survive more trips through the salt.

Patent is ideal–you can wear white patent shoes all winter and they’ll always look pristine. Generally speaking, the shinier the shoe, the less likely it is to stain.

3. Length isn’t as important as width.

A kitten heel may seem easier to walk in, but often isn’t. Kitten heels also lack the awesome traits that longer heels offer: making your legs look great, giving you a sexy walk, looking gorgeous.

Instead, look for a heel that’s wider and blockier. You’ll have more stability, and won’t be prone to falling into the cracks of a deck or sinking into the grass.

4. Put your toes away.

Wearing stockings with open-toed shoes is utterly unforgivable. You may be able to get away with a colourful pair of knee socks under a solid black peep-toe pump, but I’ve never tried it.

Stash your open-toed shoes during the snowy season, or be prepared to have very, very cold toes.

5. Keep your ear to the ground.

Or rather, your eyes. Years of walking barefoot has taught me to instinctively watch my footing everywhere I go. This doesn’t mean staring at the ground all the time, it means keeping an eye on it to see what’s coming up.

Venturing onto an icy sidewalk in a stiletto is like wandering through a minefield, and requires absolute vigilance.

6. Always have something sticky on hand.

I once broke my heel falling down a set of stairs at a party, and had to walk home in my fishnets. It was November. A little shoe goo may have made it a much less painful trip.

Quick tip: if the whole heel’s come off, coat the spikes & the heel itself with glue, then slide together. If the heel’s snapped, glue the two pieces back together, then secure by wrapping with tape–try clear packing tape or black hockey tape. Chewing gum can work if you’re desperate.

7. A gentleman is your best accessory.

Any gentleman worth his salt should be more than ready to offer you his arm as you walk. It’s rather like walking with an extra leg: he’ll offer support, stability, and emergency rescues when you hit a patch of ice.

I had a gentleman on hand the night I broke my heel, and he was kind enough to give me a piggyback ride all the way home. Bring one with you whenever you can.

As a final note, if you find heels just too excruciatingly painful, invest in a well-made pair. (Naturalizer tends to be comfortable and often has more stylish varieties.) Peruse the orthopedic section of the drugstore: “heel huggers” prevent your heels from slipping or blistering, and ball-of-foot cushions reduce foot pain.

And never be too shy to kick ’em off to get down on the dance floor.

Sarah can often be found wandering about in impractical footwear. In the winter, she wears stilettos, and in the summer, she goes barefoot. She makes pretty things for a living and one day hopes to make enough money to afford a pair of Louboutins. You can find her work at Triggers & Sparks.

Let’s be honest. Some of the boutiques in downtown Halifax (as in other cities) are intimidating. Online shops have been appealing to me lately because a) I don’t have a lot of free time and b) I want to look at my options on my own time without someone shadowing my every move.

An added benefit of shopping online is not having to deal with snobby shop girls. Having worked in clothing retail, at upscale locations like Hazelton Lanes in Toronto, I can make this statement without impunity. Granted, some of the clientèle were equally as snobby (please, don’t get me started). And really, if I’m going to be spending my money on anything, I don’t need to feel like I have to bring in my pedigree papers just to get through the front doors.

By DKNY

By DKNY

Back in December I discovered Bluefly which dubs itself “the ultimate hookup for the fashion obsessed.” Now, that’s not exactly me but I’d been searching for the perfect winter coat to replace an almost decade old one that I finally had to admit was outdated. So, here’s what I’ve got to say about the online shopping experience so far:

I caught a Boxing Day sale and was very excited to save a whopping 57% off retail value. Since it was my first order with them I found a promotional code that covered the shipping cost too. Then, recently there was a President’s Day sale at Bluefly and Cokebaby treated me to two tops and a dress as a Valentine’s gift (yes, I know, I’m a very lucky girl and he’s a very sweet boy). Both shipments arrived at my doorstep in under a week and were everything I was hoping for.

Even though we paid a fraction of the retail price, once the $30 shipping and then brokerage fees are factored in, the savings aren’t what you see at face value. At least not within Canada. You’re still getting good quality designer brands for about half the cost but I’m going to have to shop around to see if this is really the best value for my dollar. Not that I shop that much anyway but I like to feel that my dollar is going as far as it can for what I’m buying.

On a side note, an interesting tool they have on the site is an online shop assistant. If you’re ogling a piece of merchandise for too long a little pop-up box appears asking if you require assistance. For those who are intimidated by technology this is a very helpful tool. It’s also nice to know that if I ever have a question there’s help just a click away. Plus, unlike real shop girls she won’t judge me for slumming it in my regular clothes (or, more likely, my pyjamas).

Overall, I’m not totally convinced that smaller items are worth it unless you buy a number of items together. However, for big ticket pieces like my winter coat, I think for the quality it’s a bargain compared to what I might have paid otherwise.

Have you shopped for clothes online before? If so, what’s your experience been?

[Next week, as a special treat, I’ll be having fashion & style week on East Coast By Choice. A few lovely bloggers have agreed to post about their views on style (or lack thereof). Check back from March 2-6 to see what East Coasters have to say about the topic.]

Simon Pais-Thomas

Photo credit: Simon Pais-Thomas

In what seems like another life, I used to be quite the fashionista. During my early years of university I worked at a variety of retail clothing stores, from Le Chateau to Club Monaco to the Gap and finally Boutique Jacob. Because of my flare for style back then, I even got a gig as a merchandiser, a job that involved dressing up mannequins and display boards. It was like playing doll.

I became a clothes hog. Every paycheque went toward buying some new item to feed my addiction.

But eventually the reality of a career and life kicked in. No disrespect to the folks who make and earn a living as sales associates and retail store managers, but I needed to move on. I had to find “real work” where I could write and do the things that interested me most which meant no more beloved discounts (up to 50%!).

As the years went by, my wardrobe dwindled. I had to choose more carefully clothes that would outlast one season’s trends. Then, I decided to go back to school as a full-time mature student. There I fell into a wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts.

But it was worth it in the end. Though I may look shabby, today I’m in a dream job making good money to do what I love most: writing, reading, and interacting. It also means I’m finally back in the financial position to buy nice clothes.

Alas, here is my dilemma. I am now out of the fashion loop.

Since declaring I would not buy a fashion magazine because of the industry’s flagrant disregard for the environment, I have been mostly without a clue. There are days where I manage to look stylish but then there are other days where I feel that I may be a fashion train wreck.

In eight sleeps time, Cokebaby and I will be travelling to the south of France for our (belated due to conflicting schedules) 10 year anniversary. Coincidentally, we’ll be there in the middle of soldes d’hiver, a massive nationwide sale.

So my question is: what to buy?!

This is a fashion 911 emergency. Someone please save me.

Is there something fun that should be in every girl’s wardrobe for the upcoming season? And what about Cokebaby? Or Tofu (I’m assuming there will be dog boutiques)?

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