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Kitty sweaters, purple lips & combat boots: Fall Fashion 2012 Guide!

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Fall Fashion 2012 Style Guide

Oh man. It’s almost here. I can smell it in the air (it’s crushed leaves, fresh photocopies and hairspray). That’s right, it’s BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!! And the best thing about back to school time is back to school fashion — even if you’ve been out of school for two years and have zero budget for new clothes. But with a little creativity, perfect September weather and a yearning for fresh starts, nothing’s impossible (except for all the things that are — but fashion is not that complicated).

So now it’s time for experimental wardrobe therapy with Forest Friend’s Fall Fashion Guide! First, we’ll scope the best trends, build a color palette and find some inspiration. Then, we can figure out how to copy the coolest looks, knock off the best pieces and find what we need in in the thrift store or our own closets!

Part I: The Fashion Week Rundown

Since designers show their fall collections in the winter, the internet is full of fall fashion guides, best-of slideshows and shopping guides by the time fall actually rolls around. This is a good place to start if you’re looking for synthesis, but it can also be depressing if you don’t have a bajillion dollars to spend on new clothes, or if you don’t look like a willowy Latvian fourteen-year-old. So you have to use your imagination to translate the shapes, colors and fabrics you see on the runway into principles that you can copy and adapt.

Best tools

Go to to see look-by-look images of every fashion show. Check online at major fashion magazines (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle) to see which trends they’ve earmarked. But there’s no need to obey their decrees — the best thing about fashion is that you can pick out the elements that excite you and wear them your own way.

Forest Friend’s Favourite Shows

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs is my favourite show every season — always awesome, always wearable and always translatable. This fall, the designer showed some 1990s punk/dork inspiration (think Daria) with flat, Doc Martens-esque boots worn with slouchy socks and paired with feminine looks: pleated skirts, patterned dresses, button-down blouses and boxy handbags. Outerwear was masculine, military-style pea coats and marching band hats. Beauty played up the same kind of contrast, with bright lips and glasses. No frou-frou or excess here: utilitarianism and simplicity reigned even in the feminine touches. The show, like many others this season, picked up on the zeitgeist of economic austerity and political uncertainty.

NOTE: Now, if you’re new to the world of high fashion and the irony of thousand-dollar frocks inspired by frugality or poverty strikes you particularly hard, don’t worry, you’ve got your head screwed on right. It’s stupid and kind of offensive. That’s why I never counsel anyone actually to buy into these overpriced shenanigans. But you can use fashion for your own purposes and subvert that irony by sewing your own pieces inspired by expensive designers, or spending a few bucks at a thrift store to replicate your favourite looks. 

At Rochas we have more looks inspired by economic disaster, with conservative, depression era silhouettes made with luxe  fabrics and beautiful, Klimt-like geometric patterns. Beauty featured very dark lips in an aubergine shade that I loooove (MAC has a great lipstick in a dark purple called CYBER).
Burberry Prorsum was kind of boring, but I do really like the critter embroidery on sweaters — and it’s everywhere this season — but are we not sick of owls yet? I prefer this cat sweater from Opening Ceremony.

Opening Ceremony kitty sweater

Band of Outsiders had a southwest dustbowl thing going on, featuring ponchos, utilitarian boots with socks (love) and  flowing skirts of lightweight materials, offering a great lesson to anyone with actual economic problems: summer dresses are year-round dresses with a pair of tights and a big sweater.
Opening Ceremony was full of texture — patterned knits, quilted fabrics, tweed, wool, leather, silk, embroidery, crochet, fur, metallic, appliqué — everything.
Moschino Cheap & Chic was a great lesson in using what you’ve already got to make new looks. Each girl looked like she put on a mish mash of stuff she found in her closet: the silhouettes were prim and sixties-inspired but with awesome, insane combinations of colour and texture and jewelry. The looks were topped by messy beehives, my favourite hairstyle of the season.
Creatures of the Wind also featured the buttoned up, prim silhouettes with mixes of patterns, textures and layers, demonstrating that restraint in one department (shape) permits excess in another (colour/pattern). The accessories, hats and flat shoes, had a menswear edge.

Moschino Cheap & Chic

Top trends

  • Masculine footwear and accessories with feminine silhouettes
  • Mid-calf or over the knee socks with heels, boots, flats, everything
  • Sweaters worn with heavy necklaces, belts, luxe collars and embroidered with kitschy images
  • Wool and fur hats worn with everything
  • Gold as a highlight color
  • Eastern European traditional detailing: embroidery, appliqué, folk patterns
  • Mixing bold patterns, prints and textures
  • Oversized military-style coats
  • Makeup: bold lips, cat eyes
  • Hair: Messy, undone looks

Colours: black, slate, tomato red, chartreuse, powder pink, ash grey, mint green, East Berlin yellow, burgundy, deep aubergine

The Bottom Line

The basic idea this season is to wear a mix of rustic and street styles, a combination of traditionally feminine and traditionally masculine, ie. buffalo check lumberjack coat with a prim skirt and blouse, or a sundress with a wool sweater, slouchy socks and Doc Martens. Now, my bias is always toward aggressive contrast, bold looks and comfy layers, but there were plenty of other looks this season that are worth trying out, so you don’t have to take my word for it!

Stay tuned for Part II: The Uncloseting, where we’ll learn the following things:

  • How to make the best use of the clothes you already have in your closet
  • How to re-style your jewelry collection
  • What shapes and pieces to look for at the thrift store
  • Which simple pieces you can sew
  • What to buy if you only have $30
  • How to do the coolest, easiest hair and makeup

For more inspiration, check out my Fall Fashion 2012 Pinterest board, where I’m cataloguing everything great about this season’s style.

Manage Your Wardrobe with Paper Dolls

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(and, like, getting rid of things maybe)

I have a problem with buying too many clothes. I don’t mean I have a shopping addiction — although if I lived in a place where the height of sophisticated style wasn’t the Gap, I might. What I mean is that I have a problem buying super cheap, hilarious second-hand clothes, just because they’re super cheap and hilarious. Like a $3 Northern Getaway t-shirt with airbrushed kittens on it. Or a $6 one-piece jumpsuit pattered with tiny ice-cream cones. Or everything that’s velvet. Stupid, stupid stuff. (To be fair, though, I’ve been wearing that jumpsuit for three years).

I wear everything at least a few times and some of my favourite, long-worn pieces have been cheap, ridiculous impulse buys at one point (I’m looking at you, rust-coloured mohair sweater with velvet buttons!). And when I’m done with them I just put them in a bag and donate them right back to the Salvation Army. (Really, I’m renting clothes from them. I should totally just be able to pay a flat monthly rate, like Netflix.)

So how do you manage your wardrobe so that mornings are sane, you’re able to own the things that you love, and find and wear the things that you own?

1. Minimalism.
Sometimes I like to try and convince myself that I want to be a minimalist and I get rid of lots and lots of stuff and just keep the tried-and-true pieces that I’ve worn for years. But then I realize that I’ve been wearing these clothes for years and I am so bored. It works for some people: Mr. Forest Friend has had many of his clothes since high school. But he hates clothes, and if they didn’t get dirty and stinky and worn out, he’d prefer to wear the same outfit until he died in it.

Blogger Emily Wall edited her wardrobe down to one rack and found the process and the result utterly liberating. (If being a minimalist meant trading all my trash for her rack of exquisite pieces, then put me in a white room with a Philip Glass soundtrack.) There are also lots of blog-based projects that challenge readers to pare down their wardrobes to a certain number of pieces for a set period of time. But I think the key to living with a minimalist wardrobe is a desire to embrace a classic style, which is something I have yet to get into. Maybe it’ll happen when I turn 30? Or when I spawn younglings whose antics rob me of sartorial energy for anything but straight-legged jeans and ballet flats? But for now I’ll stick with my blue and pink striped turtleneck and you can shove your camel trench coat up your professionally-groomed butt.

2. Organization
For someone who considers rompers and fur hats to be wardrobe staples, creative organization is necessary. Remember Cher’s closet in the film Clueless, how she has a computer program that puts outfits together and gives her a virtual preview of what it would look like on her? That’s basically what I made this weekend. It’s a little less fancy and it was a lot more work, but essentially it’s a paper doll of me along with an array of clothes that I actually own.

Okay, maybe it’s a little narcissistic to make a paper doll of yourself. But it’s a really fun way to play with your clothes and put together outfits without making a giant mess (the giant mess comes later when I actually get dressed) — especially when it’s been winter forever and everything you own seems boring.

If you want to make your own digital paper doll, here’s how:
a. Draw a picture of yourself in your underwear! Trace it in black pen.
b. Lay some tracing paper over the picture of yourself and draw clothes to fit the outline of your body.
c. Scan your drawings.
d. In a photo editing program like Photoshop, select and copy each piece of clothing out of the white background of the paper you drew them on, and paste into a new file with a transparent background. That way, you can layer the clothing over your doll without taking the whole white page with you.
e. Add colour with the paint bucket tool and details with the paintbrush.
f. Make outfits!

3. Live in Sweden…
Because then you can take advantage of Lånegarderoben — clothes libraries! I AM NOT KIDDING THIS ACTUALLY EXISTS. At this Lånegarderoben (literally “loan closet” — use your Google Translate to read the posts), you pay SEK 600 (about $90 Canadian) for six months and you can borrow up to three of their beautiful designer items for a maximum of three months. This is perfect for people with short fashion attention spans, meagre wallets and tiny closets. Why do I need another reason to move to Scandinavia? Why do people even live in places that aren’t Scandinavia? (And why wouldn’t this work in Canada? Answer: the small percentage of Canadians who are really interested in fashion is mostly made up of people who can afford to buy their own beautiful designer clothing, and do so. Everyone else gets their clothes at the Sally Ann, the mall or Canadian Tire. Mostly Canadian Tire. Actually, that might not be a bad idea for a post: “Fishnets Made Out of Fish Nets: Sartorial Adventures in Canadian Tire.”)

Being A Spy

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The best thing about the post-007 spy is the paperwork. Maybe it’s just because I’m a stationery junkie or an indoor girl, but I appreciate that the le Carré school of learned, papered spycraft, rather than that of Broccoli’s PPK-toting slickster, has been adopted by the writers and producers of today’s espionage dramas. Spies in films like last year’s excellent remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy don’t wave weapons about, consort with supermodels or bust out gadgets that probably cost the GDP of a small country to produce. They are instead quiet, deliberate men in sensible hats who follow paper trails, do a lot of driving and know how to ask the right questions. The late lamented AMC series Rubicon, which takes place inside a fictional intelligence agency, got it spot on as well — the analysts are handed literally piles of documents, printouts, files and envelopes to sort through each morning, and people hardly ever leave the building. (I’m pretty sure it was cancelled because there weren’t “enuf exploshuns.”)

But a continual disappointment to me is the lack of female counterparts to my favourite leading male spies. I’m not sure even James Bond has a female counterpart (Lara Croft? Evelyn Salt? Whoever she is, she’s probably played by Angelina Jolie). And Judy Dench may be M, but she certainly doesn’t see any action. Showtime’s Homeland has Carrie Matheson, but she’s rather unhinged and irritating — hardly a match for the likes of George Smiley. Can we get a spy drama featuring a seasoned female actor playing the implacable, brilliant loner type that we spy enthusiasts enjoy so much? How about Tilda Swinton? Or Helen Mirren? I’d watch the crap out of that.

Until then, I suppose we have to fantasize about the quintessential female spy, how she would behave and live, what she would look like and what the tone of the world around her would be. Against the bleak backdrop of the Cold War in Europe, our heroine would begin in the British service under files, stacks, reams of paper intel and slowly weave together a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows and trusts (and necessitates a trip into the Eastern Bloc). Her appearance will unravel into attractive unkemptness as the drama builds. The climax will involve a battle of wits rather than sexual innuendo and perhaps the merest flash of a pistol rather than a nipple. And she will most certainly require the following equipment:


Being A Spy

(I put this image together on Polyvore — lots of fun.)

1. A gun. Our heroine does not carry this with her all the time. That is impractical. It is in her desk at the office and may be packed into her valise on the train to East Berlin — with silencer, of course.

This is a Walther-PPK, à la 007, which is all business. Or for your own uses you could consider a less deadly toy ray gun, or a gun made out of soap.

2. A typewriter. There is nothing less acceptable in the Bureau than reports that do not follow protocol. Our heroine has a standard-issue model at the office, but something more exciting — a souvenir from her studies in Italy, perhaps? — at home.

In picture: I think this is an Hermès 3000 mini typewriter. On Etsy: Beautiful orange vintage Olivetti typewriter.

3. A camera. A two-foot zoom lens is hardly useful for remaining incognito. A “tourist” camera is much better for photographing state secrets.

In picture: Fuji Finepix. On Etsy: Vintage German-made Zeiss Ikon camera.

4. A hat. Our heroine does not remain behind a desk for the entirety of the drama. She will need to tail suspects through back streets and alleyways undetected, with her red hair tucked up into a fedora and her freckles hidden behind her sunglasses.

In picture: Rag & Bone navy fedora. On Etsy: Classic fedora in unexpected forest green. 

5. A comfortable chair. Long, late hours poring over white paper documents smuggled from the deepest recesses of the Bureau’s library necessitates black coffee, good scotch and an elegant, ergonomic chair.

In picture: Ettore Sottsass armchair. On Etsy: Amazing Japanese office chair. 

6. A pen. A decent fountain pen never leaves her scrambling for a pencil when she needs to take down a license plate at a moment’s notice.

In picture: Insanely expensive Visconti pen. On Etsy: Very cool red vintage Arnold pen.

7. A trench coat. Since our first act is set in Britain, our heroine will of course be caught in the rain at least once. The trench is a stylish, practical, multipurpose item that, much like the hat, will protect her from the elements and help her to blend into a crowd.

In picture: A beautiful Burberry Prorsum trench that costs more than 3 months’ rent. On Etsy: Classic 1970s trench. 

8. Glasses. Morgan’s (which I’ve just decided is the name of our heroine) bookish tendencies and attention to detail are what got her recruited to the Bureau in the first place. She’s useless without her glasses.

In picture: Super cool Opening Ceremony sunglasses (I would totally switch the tinted lenses with prescription ones). On Etsy: 1970s cateye glasses.

9. A bag. A graduation present — and more than a month’s salary — from her working-class parents. Perfect for everyday use but can serve as an overnighter in case she suspects her flat is being watched.

In picture: Rochas overnight bag. On Etsy: Leather vintage briefcase.

10. A watch. Spies are people of habit. As they themselves undermine the stability of the world around them, they take comfort in quotidian ritual — and Morgan is quick to recognize such patterns in others.

In picture: Surprisingly affordable Urban Outfitters watch. On Etsy: Soviet-made watch

11. Comfortable shoes. Durable, hardworking but elegant shoes are useful to a lady spy who knows how to take advantage of being underestimated.

In picture: House of Fraser Mary Janes. On Etsy: 1970s Oxford pumps.

12. A wedding band. Morgan has never had much time for play, but she knows that married people are more easily trusting, and keeps a gold band in an inside pocket.

On Etsy: Gold wedding bands. 

13. File folders. As the threat appears to edge closer and closer to home, Morgan needs to collect documented evidence to leave behind in case of her demise. What better place to hide something than in plain sight?

On Etsy: Vintage office supplies.

14. A notebook. A good spy never writes down anything damning. But coded notes may prove necessary to build a pattern or to communicate with a reticent source.

In picture: Muji notebook.

15. A clean pair of sensible underwear. As the tension and uncertainty mount, Morgan must be constantly on the move — and a lacy thong has no place in the working wardrobe of a busy spy.

In picture: Sensible Shimera underwear.

Cheap, Fun and Ethical: Treasure hunting second-hand clothes

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Nova Scotia is a rural province with a small city centre and a declining youth population outside of Halifax. Know what that means? Awesome second-hand loot for everyone! (Image: Best winter hat ever, via Value Village. I’m told it’s made out of bear.)

10 Rules for Successful Thrifting: 

1. Leave the downtown core. Most of the people that frequent the Salvation Armies outside the city (read: not hipsters) aren’t picking out the stuff you want.

2. Prepare and take your time. Come fed and watered, check the bus schedules and don’t plan to be home in time to catch Judge Judy. Combing every dusty crevice of the Value Village can be time-consuming, but you’re guaranteed some treasure if you make the effort.

3. Go in the mornings or afternoons on weekdays. Weekends aren’t worth the crowds or the disappointments.

4. Look everywhere. Accessories bins, men’s clothes, electronics and children’s wear are worth checking out even if you’re not in the market for bow ties, aren’t a man, don’t need a new clock radio or are an adult.

5. Know what kind of shop you’re in. “Vintage” is selected and curated second-hand stuff. You might be able to find the same things at VV or the Sally Ann, but you’re going to need time and stamina (sometimes months and serious re-focusing exercises). If you’re looking for something particular, visit a vintage shop like Elsie’s, Dress In Time or Lost & Found.

6. Keep an open mind. If you’re fixated on a particular item you’re trying to find, you’ll be blind to all the other nuggets you come across.

7. Only bring friends who are committed! Dead weight will just slow you down on your way to the top (of a bin of unsorted clothes)!

8. Never not buy anything. If you don’t know if you’ll use it or wear it, buy it and sell it. If it’s too big but too awesome to leave behind, get it anyway. You can make clothes smaller but you can’t make them bigger, and when you come back it will be gone. Then you’ll see your worst enemy wearing it with a belt and you’ll feel like an idiot.

9. Don’t go to VV in October. Everyone in HRM will be there getting a costume. (If you don’t heed my advice and go to VV in October, check the second-hand costume rack. Sometimes they save crazy things throughout the year — like marching band uniforms — and put them all out for Halloween.)

10. And for pete’s sake, don’t go with someone the same size as you! You’ll fight over things and come away with only half the loot.

Therewith I impart my wisdom. I also maintain a public Google map for the best second-hand and vintage spots in Nova Scotia. Check it out for locations and reviews of shops in Halifax and around the province. Road trip soon? Don’t mind if I do!

View Best Secondhand in Nova Scotia in a larger map

Pre-Fall, the best season of them all

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My favourite season is not summer. Nor is it fall, the only really palatable time of year at this end of the country. It’s pre-fall, a season that exists only in the minds of fashion designers and was invented by marketing departments to try and squeeze more money out of rich people who actually buy new clothes every season.

“Pre-Fall” as a fashion season has only been around for a few years — the pre-fall archive on goes back only to 2008, a year in which only about 30 of the biggest designers showed pre-fall lines. This year has three times as many designers presenting collections. A pre-fall collection is small, usually between 15 and 30 looks, and is sometimes described as an “appetizer” for the designer’s fall show, which is held in February or March.

As Vanessa Friedman points out in an article on Financial Times, “pre-fall” is a bit of a misnomer, since we all know that, at least in the northern hemisphere, summer comes before fall. She also writes that pre-fall collections are the domain of obsessive fashion types and celebrities who need something new to wear to the Oscars. But in terms of content and use, pre-fall might as well be called “Canadian Spring/Summer,” directed towards us sad-sacks in the land where the boundary between winter and summer is arbitrary, ill-defined and sometimes non-existent.

With the sandals and miniskirts of spring/summer collections about six months away from practical application — an application which itself lasts only a month and a half — “pre-fall” collections are often perfectly tailored towards a Canadian spring. The delightful — and, above all, seasonally reasonable — combinations that designers favour in pre-fall shows suit the alternatively and uncontrollably snowy/rainy/muddy/frigid conditions that plague Atlantic Canada between March and July. Boots and trench coats and short skirts! Sweaters and shorts! Fur and wool and leather and chiffon! It’s an eclectic’s paradise.

It’s clear that I bear a deep-seated resentment towards spring/summer collections. Sometimes I take on the challenge of adapting these ridiculously unseasonable outfits to the thermometer, sometimes I ignore them out of spite engendered by the weather and my bank account. Either way, pre-fall renders spring/summer collections irrelevant in my excitement for the fall shows, which are often much more interesting (mostly because I love layers and strong colours and I don’t live in a tropical country). Besides, most Canadians I know don’t have different clothes for summer — we just wear less of the same ones we wore in the winter.

And as a tonic for surviving three more months of winter, the pre-fall season can’t be beat. I know it seems as though it takes a leap of wild imagination to take inspiration from expertly hand-crafted pieces of expensive fabric draped onto statuesque teenage genetic anomalies and apply it to my own drearily familiar wardrobe and decidedly un-statuesque frame, but that’s what so fun about fashion. Getting a look at the freshest ideas from the greatest minds in fashion — Colours! Patterns! Silhouettes! Fabric combinations! — is always just what the doctor ordered to wake up my imagination from its winter boot-, coat- and mitten-enduced coma. So thank you, pre-fall. You’re the only season I can count on to show up just in time.

(Image shows looks from Rochas, Pre-Fall 2012 via

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