REMEMBER WHEN the end of August was the time to overhaul your wardrobe? Those days are long gone. Even though fall is my favorite time for new clothes, environmental awareness, fear of overflowing closets, along with sky-high prices on coveted items, have led me to think/shop strategically. With that in mind, I asked two local Pittsburgh shopping experts their advice on smart updates for the coming season.
Dina Sebastian-Valant may have been a psychology major at Duquesne University, but as an incurable clothing lover, she always dreamed of having a store. She opened the Dina Ellen boutique on Walnut Street in Shadyside 26 years ago and has been there since.
Skirts are back, and Sebastian-Valant is a fan of swishy, longish pleated ones that you can pair with a slouchy cashmere sweater, either long or short-sleeved. “An animal print looks fresh, maybe something checked or plaid, too,” she says. “A wide or skinny belt will update the blazer/jacket you already own; a scarf is an easy way to completely change an outfit.” Those trendy, over-the-knee boots may be better suited to 6-foot-tall, willowy models who can easily tuck their skinny jeans-clad super-trim legs into them. Says Sebastian-Valant,”It’s not a boot everyone can wear, nor can you wear it with everything. Alternatively, a bootie goes with dresses, jeans and pants. You can also get mileage out of a long cardigan. Pair it with jeans, a T-shirt and boots, and you have a nice, effortless look.”
Bear Brandegee, a Pittburgh-based style strategy coach with 20 years of experience in branding and marketing and training as an image consultant, recommends her clients look at Pantone’s color trends report for autumn (which includes a burgundy, forest green, a spicy brown and an avocado green). “Pick a color or two from the season that resonates with you. Find a piece in that color—a coat, a scarf, a jacket—that you’ll get a lot of wear out of and see how to work it into your wardrobe.”
“Shoes more than anything can give you a fresh look,” says Brandegee, who just bought a studded ankle cowboy boot that she wears for everything. But before buying, she says, “Go through your closet. Ruthless cleaning and paring down to the things you absolutely love will make getting dressed much more fun. Then create your favorite three outfits from what’s left. Buy a great boot, a great coat and one great accessory (a scarf in the color of the season, a statement necklace or a fabulous belt), and you should be good to go.” Brandegee is “very into colors and textures” and loves sweater tights with patterns. “But be aware that color on your legs can cut you up. Keep it monochromatic or tonal.”
LEFT: High-waisted, wide-leg pants, especially those with a polished plaid or check pattern, can refresh a wardrobe of too many black jeans. The drapey, buckle belt on Vince’s wool-blend Wide Leg Pants ($365, Nordstrom) is a nice detail. RIGHT: This Ribbed Mock Neck Top’s ($68, 525 America) updated silhouette (neckline, fitted, slightly above-the-elbow sleeves) takes it beyond the just-a-basic category. Pair with pants as well as with flowy skirts. It’s also available in charcoal, sand and black.
BELOW LEFT: Roping steer not required to wear the Frye Company’s Billy Stud Short boot ($368). Stylishly swagger when you wear them. ABOVE LEFT: Maison Boinet has been making belts since 1858, but the brand’s wide Nubuck Belt (also available in black, $135, Moda Operandi), made from leather treated to look like suede, is the perfect accessory to add some sass to your navy, charcoal or cream jacket. RIGHT: Ever since I set eyes on Bottega Veneta’s Pouch (starting at $2,400), I’ve been swooning over it. Zara’s Quilted Clutch has the same sort of look and squishy feel for $2,371 less. It would look smashing against all black or white. It also comes in écru.
LEFT: If this sweater had a Ralph Lauren label, it would be upwards of $500. Massimo Dutti’s lush burgundy 100% Cashmere Polo Sweater with a three-button henley placket is $199. Wear it in early fall with white cropped jeans, later on with a curvy knit skirt. RIGHT: When a cashmere T-shirt or turtleneck calls out for adornment, respond with a vintage-y etched coin medallion pendant hung from a chunky chain. Eliza Brinker and Eliza’s Sunshine and Lemonade Necklace is $118 at Shopbop.
LEFT: What I like about Anna Quan’s Cleo Ribbed Cotton Midi Skirt ($305, Net A Porter) is that it’s a knit (look mom, no wrinkles) and the elasticized waistband means you just pull it on. The ribbing and flared hem create a flattering swish. It also has a matching top. Tuck it in, and it looks like a dress. RIGHT: Designer Anine Bing’s Andy Bomber Jacket ($299, Shopbop) has an entirely new update on the classic with lightweight, plush quilt fabric, a collarless neckline, military green color and contrasting big pockets. Toss it over a skirt or a dress or T-shirt and jeans.
LEFT: Ease into fall from summer with J. Crew’s Textured Striped Pull-on Flare Sweater Skirt ($128, Nordstrom, limited size availability. Also at J. Crew). We’ve already mentioned our love of the pull-on skirt. Pair this one with a boxy T-shirt for the last days of summer. ABOVE RIGHT: Each Suzi Roher, one-of-a kind scarf is based on original art or photography that morphs into beautifully layered colors when worn. Says Dina Ellen’s Dina Sebastian-Valant, “Depending on how you fold it, you get a different color palette each time. A scarf is perfect for injecting a pop of color and/or adding print to a solid outfit.” Suzi Roher’s Paris Guy scarf ($325), a blend of modal and silk, is a montage of graffiti taken on the street while photographing in Paris. BELOW RIGHT: Says Bear Brandegee, “The look I find to be fun is a thick-soled boot with a high heel. It’s a hippy work boot look. Because of the sole, it’s a comfortable shoe to wear.” Tory Burch’s Miller Lug-Sole Booties are $458 at Neiman Marcus.