Monday, October 10, 2005

Two Fashion Toughies

Our friend Mitzi writes: "I have a fashion question. Gaucho Pants, how do you feel about them? The first time I saw them I thought they were horrid and wrong in so many levels, but the more I look at them, the more appealing they seem. Are they actually cute, or am I just another fashion victim? Also, what's a good way to wear a pencil skirt? With boots? pumps? high-heeled sandals? With a button down shirt? a sweater?"

We love a challenge, M. We'll start with gauchos, which came from out of nowhere last season and are showing staying power for this season. The gaucho, at left, first made an appearance during the '70s, and like so many other fashions from years past, were resurrected for another go in the 21st century. Like Mitzi, we've seen gauchos and loved them, and we've seen them and were horrified. The gaucho is like a dare - wear me, but risk looking like a fool. So how do you do it right? First of all, if you're short, then this is probably not the article for you. Finding the right length for short legs is like trying to park a Buick between two SUVs - it'll be tough no matter what, and you may end up out of money for a mistake. And, like clamdiggers or capris, they just tend to exaggerate your shortness. If you do wear them, no matter your size, you pretty much have to wear some kind of heel or platform with them. I'm having a hard time explaining why, but I think you'll agree if you try it. You walk different in heels, your legs look different. In addition, as we've said before, baggy pants require a fitted top, and to complete the look, some chunky bohemian jewelry. Let's be real here, though. These are not for the fashion conservatives, they are for the fashion liberals. Don't, however, wear other '70s-inspired fashions, like your espadrilles, with these pants, because you will look like you got stuck in a wormhole and now you're forced to wear old fashions forever. Like leopard-prints and polka dots, one fashion format at a time.

Now that fall is coming, the gauchos can still come strong with a pair of knee-high boots and a blazer. As this lady at right has shown us, the fall can embrace the look as well. For the record, I don't appreciate the shoes - as one of our astute readers mentioned, webbed feet are for ducks (died when I read that, by the way). This is another thoughtful application of the opaque tights, by the way, which I've had the best luck finding at the Gap. All this stuff is available at Rampage. I think where people go wrong with this article of clothing is that they think they're comfy, so they're casual. They are not meant to be casual, however. That's why they make capris in sweatpants material. Gauchos are a dressier pant, so don't wear them with sneaks and a tee shirt. You will look sloppy because they are baggier than regular short pants. They can be great for work or a brunch, so don't be afraid to wear this pant with a little thoughtful application.

The pencil skirt, on the other hand, you almost can't do wrong. Again, this is meant to be dressier, so as long as you give it dressy attention, you'll look fantastic. Yes, pair it with a tucked-in button-down and a fancy belt for the sexy librarian look. Yes, pair it with a fitted, argyle sweater (layered with an untucked button-down, maybe?) for the naughty student look. With pumps you boost the vamp factor. With flats you get what I like to call the Rizzo effect. In Grease, Rizzo wore a pencil skirt, a fitted short-sleeved polo and flats, and if she didn't look hot! Flats channel the '60s, heels bring your look into this era. To be honest, there isn't much you could do to get the pencil skirt wrong, it's a very forgiving piece. The bottom line, as always, is to take a long look at yourself in the mirror and think to yourself - if I saw someone else wearing this, what would I say? Let your fashion conscience be your guide.