Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Look who’s modeling Prabal Gurung for J.Crew in June’s Vogue U.S.!  My favorite Asian model, Liu Wen!  I love Liu’s bold red lip and understated, natural face.  To get this look, first apply all your regular face makeup (concealer, foundation, etc.).  Be sure to wear powder, as this is a matte look.  Don’t apply any bronzer, blush, eyeshadow or eyeliner.  Apply a little mascara on your lashes, but keep it natural.  Fill in your brows with a black brow pencil (MAC Eye Brows in Velvetone), don’t be afraid to be bold with it!

Top it all off with a beautiful, bold matte blood red lipstick (Nars Lipstick in Fire Down Below).

*Picture from Vogue U.S.

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The world’s eyes may be on U.S. President Barack Obama, but the eyes of the world of fashion are all tuned to his lovely wife Michelle.  Poised, intelligent, down-to-earth Michelle has stepped into the role of First Lady with tremendous grace, all while being a wonderful and attentive mother to her two young daughters.  Mrs. Obama has dazzled the world with her easy charm and impeccable style.

Michelle Obama doesn’t seem like a logical choice for a style translation (like, say, Rachel Bilson) because, well, at nearly the same height as her husband, there aren’t many Asian women with figures like hers.  However, I think Michelle’s style appeal goes much deeper than that.

I’ve long maintained that Michelle Obama isn’t a style icon in the same way as a Jackie Kennedy or a Princess Diana.  Jackie and Diana were fashion trail blazers, they made unique, sometimes risky, choices and really changed the way people dressed for their times.  Michelle is different.  She hasn’t shaken the fashion world and changed its landscape; she’s simply been impeccably well-dressed.

I think that Michelle Obama took her immense intelligence, the same one that made her an Ivy League-educated lawyer, and applied it to fashion.  She knows exactly what she likes and exactly what flatters her.  Her choices aren’t that of a fashion guru, but rather of a very smart woman who knows how to look good.  And she does it on a relatively normal budget, famously wearing a lot of accessible brands like The Gap and J. Crew.  That is why we can all learn from her.

Michelle has a formula for every fashion situation she’s in.  Then she keeps from looking mundane by varying colors, textures, and accessories.  Let’s take a look!

Scenario 1: Casual Lady

Whether she’s taking her daughters to school (accompanied by the secret service of course) or touring the Eiffel Tower or planting in her vegetable garden at the White House, Mrs. Obama always looks presentable.  And it’s no wonder why, as a public figure she understands that she’s always under scrutiny.  Now, the rest of us don’t necessarily need to always operate under those assumptions, but it never hurts to look well put together.

Michelle stays comfortable and ladylike by pairing nicely tailored pants with structured tops.  Tailored pants does not mean suit pants, but rather pants that have structure and fit well.  For example, Michelle wears jeans and khakis all the time, but they’re always perfectly fitted and the absolute perfect length for her.  If you think that’s because she has the body to find pants easily, think again!  She’s around 6 ft tall and by no means possessing a supermodel’s figure.  Her pants don’t fit because she’s lucky, they fit because she gets them tailored!

Michelle Obama likes to wear little jackets or her signature fitted cardigans over simple tees or comfortable feminine blouses to give her upper body structure and shape.  To add interest she might wear a scarf, a sparkly brooch, or simply bright colors!  She knows how to stand out in a good way.

To channel this style first make sure the pants you have already fit well.  If they don’t, take them to the tailor!  And remember, one pair of well-fitting jeans are worth five pairs of ill-fitting ones.  Make an investment of it and purchase a pair of high quality jeans, like J. Brand or my personal favorite Adriano Goldschmied, and spend the money to get them tailored.   You won’t regret it.  Also, remember that designer jeans don’t always have to come with a designer price tag.  Stores like Anthropologie often have them on sale for a fraction of the original price and you can often find good deals on designer jeans at outlet stores like Nordstrom Rack or Neiman Marcus Last Call.  Then try Obama favorites like The Gap or J. Crew for colorful cardigans, cute blouses, and shape-giving little jackets.  Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and department stores like Macy’s would also have good options.

Finish the look with a pair of kitten heels in a bright matching color!

Scenario 2: A Lady’s Lady

Mrs. Obama has many occasions where she must look every inch the lady, from when she’s meeting the UK’s Prime Minister to when she’s descending Air Force One to when she’s on the cover of a national magazine.  She’s put this look together so much she could probably do it in her sleep.

She always wears dresses or skirts in two figure-flattering cuts: the A-line or the pencil.  And when I say pencil I’m not talking slutty secretary, but rather a classic, very straight, pencil skirt.  On top, Obama keeps it consistent with pretty blouses, structured jackets, and her signature colorful cardigans.  For chillier days Michelle will often switch out her cardigan or little jacket for a long, knee-length coat.  Fun tip: accentuate  your waist and create an hour-glass figure by following Michelle Obama’s lead with a waist belt!

To channel this look, try the same stores as her first look or look into some of Obama’s favorite designers: Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, Ralph Lauren, Peter Som, and Michael Kors.  Complete this look with the same accessories as before, and kitten heels.  My favorite Michelle Obama accessories are always her brooches.  To find interesting brooches of your own look at vintage stores, specialized designers like Tom Binns, and your mothers/grandmother’s jewelry boxes!  Chances are, they still have a few from when brooches were the must-have lady like accessory!

Scenario 3: Elegant Lady

As First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has had more occasion than most of us to get full-out dressed up.  But she’s done it so well that, were an occasion to arise, I would channel her black tie style in a heartbeat.  Why?  Because she’s not a model or an actress or a celebrity.  She’s a normal, albeit incredibly talented and intelligent, woman whose husband happens to have one of the most high-profile jobs in the world.  She has a real woman’s body, and she’s learned to dress that body well.

Michele Obama always pics gowns with fitted, interesting tops and flowing skirts that begin at the lower part of her waist.  This style accentuates her hourglass shape and elongates her legs.  She makes sure that the skirt is flowy but not too poofy, so she doesn’t seem too large or too much like a little girl dressed up like a princess on Halloween.  Michelle also likes to highlight her nicely toned arms by wearing short-sleeved or sleeveless gowns.

Look for dresses in this shape at department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, or Saks Fifth Avenue, and at local boutiques.  Make sure to try on your gowns with the exact type of underwear you would wear on the day of your event.  Oftentimes, you might need specialized under clothes, like a shift with a built-in bra, to look your best in evening clothes.  If you love a gown but the fit is slightly off, see if you can alter the gown without damaging it.  Usually this isn’t a problem, but sometimes dresses made of very delicate materials or that have a lot of hand-made detail are hard to alter.

Finally, accessorize with jewels, a glossy up-do, and (if you really want to be glamourous) gloves!

Michelle Obama is truly a lady, one that I’m proud to call my First Lady.  She’s an admirable woman with admirable style.  Anyone can channel her looks with great success because she takes classic, tried-and-true outfits and makes them unique and personal by adding accessories and color!

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This is the first Style Translation post i’m writing and I’m very excited.  While we love finding inspiration in Asian celebrities, we certainly don’t think that inspiration should be limited.  I get the majority of my fashion inspiration from western celebrities.  The trick is to know what works for you and what doesn’t. 

For example, it’s pretty hard for any woman (let alone Asian women who tend to be shorter and more willowy than most Caucasian women) to channel the style of someone like Adriana Lima.  Why?  The woman is a Victoria Secret Supermodel!  She’s like a perfectly toned, outrageously generously proportioned amazon. To get Adriana Lima’s look you basically have to, well, look like Adriana Lima. 

But not to worry, there are tons of stylish celebrities that aren’t complete natural anomalies for us to emulate! 


Which brings us to one of my favorite stylish celebrities: Rachel Bilson.  You might remember her as Summer from the TV show The OC or the horrible action film Jumper or the even more horrible film New York, I love You.  Or you might simply recognize her as the cute brunette who’s always in magazines or the girl who’s in those Magnum Ice cream ads that are always on TV.  So …  her acting credentials aren’t exactly top notch, but she’s always dressed cute, right?


Bilson is also a perfect candidate for a Style Translation because she has an easily Asian-relateable figure.  Bilson is quite petite and, while she is slender, she’s not a skeleton.  She’s got hips like the rest of us. 

Bilson’s daytime style downtown chic with a little bit of California cool.  She wears a lot of Isabel Marant, Rag and Bone, Madewell.  She also loves to layer and is a perfect example of  how someone who more petite can layer.  She makes sure that when she adds layers she’s not adding bulk.  Rachel also loves to accessorize with scarves, hats, fabulous bags, and her signature Ray Ban wayfarer sunglasses.  During the day time she’s usually wearing either interesting flats (like strappy sandals) or cute, casual booties. Fun Tip: to elongate your legs, cuff your jeans by rolling the bottom up twice in 2 inch increments to show a bit of your ankles.  This creates the illusion that your legs are longer. 

For evening, Rachel might just add some sky high heels to a daytime look, add a bit of makeup, and be ready to go.  But, other times she likes to have a bit more fun with her outfits.  And I love it.  Rachel, though hardly possessing a model’s physique, is never afraid to take a fashion risk.  She makes unique, fashion forward choices that prove to anyone that you don’t have to be a model to be truly fashionable. 

Still, she always remembers what works for her.  She chooses looks that elongate her body and accentuate her legs, making sure to add heels for height.  And she continues to layer for interest, without added bulk. 

To imitate Rachel’s fun, casual style try to do the same!  If you’re wearing a sundress, throw a small, fitted denim jacket over it.  If you’re wearing jeans and a tee, add a blazer and a scarf.  If you’re wearing shorts and a blouse, add a fedora and some sunnies.  Try to add items without adding to your overall size.  This doesn’t mean though that everything has to be fitted.  In fact, Rachel wears lots of loose items.  The trick is to reign in the looseness with a structured item.  For example, below Rachel is wearing

a flowing maxi dress that you wouldn’t expect to work for someone so petite.  She makes it work by adding a fitted blazer on top that gives her a distinct shape and by choosing a maxi dress with a skirt that flows close to her body. 

For a night out, do you same but try and combine neutral items with pops of color.  For example, add a  brightly colored blazer to a nude dress (like Rachel does above) or throw a little black leather jacket or blazer over a patterned dress.  And don’t forget to add heels!  Nothing lengthens the body like actually adding height. 

Hopefully this was interesting and fun and you’re not motivated to try some of Rachel’s cool girl style!

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I’m very excited for this post because it’s the first time I’m delving into Bollywood fashion!  I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone and asked Meg for suggestions as to which Bollywood star I should look at.  She immediately, and without hesitation, said Sonam Kapoor (and linked me to her page on High Heel Confidential).  I was immediately quite impressed by Ms. Kapoor.  Sure, she’s had some not so great looks, but who hasn’t?  I love that she’s a risk-taker and that she, very obviously, loves fashion.

Sonam Kapoor wears a lot of one-of-a-kind couture gowns that are quite lovely, but ultimately un-replicable, so I decided to simply appreciate those looks from afar and concentrate on her less formal ensembles.  Kapoor had three ensembles that I was very impressed with, and, I’ve noticed by going through High Heel Confidential archives, that she goes back to often.  Obviously, she’s found somethings that work great for her and she’s smart enough to not let a good thing go!  So, we’re going to break down these looks and see if we can’t find a bit of Sonam Kapoor that works for us all!

Look # 1: “oh, oh, oh, she’s a lady!”

Sonam Kapoor is a lady, and you best remember that!  Kapoor loves to strut her stuff in fitted, ladylike ensembles like this beautifully fitted navy Burberry suit (below) or fitted Audrey Hepburn-like knee-length dresses.  She always choose unique cuts or colors to keep the classic look fresh and youthful.  The tailoring of the suit accentuates her svelte physique and shows of her long legs without being too risqué, while the small, ladylike peplum at the hem of her jacket gives her an extra bit of sexy curve.  Of all Kapoor’s looks, this is the one that any woman (or should I say lady?) can and should channel!  A well-fitting suit will flatter any figure and will never go out of style.

If you’re willing to put a dent in your budget, I’d definitely look at Burberry and St. John for beautifully made suits that will last you and your descendents several lifetimes. However, you do not have to break the bank to get a great suit.  I suggest looking at department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom because they’ll have a large selection of brands and sizes for a variety of prices.   For $200-$300 you’ll be able to find a lot of great options.  Remember to get your suit tailored.  There’s nothing worse than ain ill-fitting suit.  Spend $50 on tailoring and your $200 suit will look like it cost $1200.  Trust me.

To channel Kapoor’s specific Burberry look I picked out two suits from the Macy’s website.  A lovely light aqua suit by Tahari by ASL (right $240) and a wonderfully bright blue suit by Le Suit (left, $200).  Both are in unique, fresh colors perfect for work or a garden party and both have a subtle feminine detail at the waist.  Kapoor wore her Burberry suit buttoned up and without a blouse, which you could certainly do with these suits, but you could also pair them with a feminine blouse (Kapoor has done this on other occasions, like with this tweed Dior suit, just ignore the fishnets.  No lady should wear fishnets.  ever.)  You can find blouses anywhere from J. Crew to Ann Taylor to H&M.  They are a great way to get more outfits out of your suit!

Keep your jewelry to a minimum, maybe simple rings or a simple necklace, and choose mid height heels with pretty, feminine details like these Nordstrom BP Larissa Sandals ($59).

Look # 2: The Grecian Goddess

Sonam Kapoor loves to look like a goddess in draped dresses whether it’s for a red carpet event (Above, wearing Roberto Cavalli) or a more casual night out (Below, wearing Rachel Pally).  Kapoor has also worn various short versions of the goddess look, like this Manish Arora dress.  The elegant lines of these dresses accentuate her long, slender frame and the draping creates interest and curves on her body.  While I would recommend the longer gowns for taller individuals, I think the shorter versions would be flattering for many body types.

Kapoor’s Cavalli gown is couture and very hard to find, but you can find variations of her Rachel Pally dress at Shopbop, like this Shopbop exclusive Rachel Pally Grecian Dress ($238).  Pally doesn’t come cheap though.  For cheaper alternatives I would suggest stores like BCBG, The Limited, or Forever21.  To channel this look I chose, for the long look, the Crinkle Maxi Dress from Forever21 ($27.80) and, for the short look, the Draped Jersey V-Neck dress from BCBGeneration ($88).

Pair with bangles, hoop earrings, and other fun, slightly bohemian pieces.  For shoes pick metallic strappy sandals or heels.

Look #3: Cool Girl Chic

Kapoor has really cool eclectic street style.  I love her casual Fendi suit (above) or her even more casual airport attire (below).  She achieves many of her cool looks by combining menswear inspired pieces, like blazers and brogues, with casual staples, like tees and jeans. And she always adds extra oomph with a fabulous purse, like her Hermes Birkin and Ferragamo Sophia (above) and Balenciaga Moto Bag (below) and a pair of the ultimate cool girl shades – aviators.

To channel her cool girl vibe I’m going to first pull out my favorite basics.  My favorite jeans are Adriano Goldschmied, they’re perfect in fit and material for me and I have quite a few pairs.  If you’re into designer jeans, I’d urge you to check out AG jeans.   However, you needn’t run out and buy new jeans.  Simply pull out a pair of dark skinny jeans that you already own!  I’ll pull out my AG Stilt Cigarette Jeans in a very dark wash ($158).  Top off your jeans with a loose-fitting tee in black or white.  My favorite tank tops are all from H&M!

Now it’s time for some menswear!  Look at stores like Topshop, Urban outfitters, Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M for menswear inspired blazers and vests.  I’ve chosen a chic one button blazer from Uniqlo ($79) and paired it with Cooperative Canvas Cap-Toe Oxfords  from Urban Outfitters ($48).

This look is extremely versatile.  For summer, try a colorful blazer over shorts or a sundress and maybe add a fedora to block out the sun!  I’d complete this look with Ray Ban Classic Aviators ($139) in black, these are the original (and in my opinion best) aviators, and a nice, trendy bag.  For an on trend quality leather bag that won’t bankrupt you, I’d suggest Marc by Marc Jacobs.  I love everything Marc does and his diffusion line (Marc by Marc) is a great product for a nice price point.  The Marc by Marc Jacobs “Ozzie” Baby Aiden ($328) would be a great choice.  I particularly like it in bright plum, such a fun color!

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my exploration into Sonam Kapoor’s style.  She’s made some great sartorial choices that any woman could emulate with great results.  The most important thing, though, is to have fun with your clothes!  Sonam Kapoor obviously does, and that’s why she has such cool and interesting outfits!

*all pictures of Kapoor are from highheelconfidential.com. Thank you, HHC!

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Tina Chow was a famous model and fashion icon in the 1980’s.  Half German, Half Japanese, Chow was born in Ohio, spent her adolescence in Japan,  and started modeling in the late 60’s.  She moved to New York and soon became friends with many of the renowned artistic minds of that time, including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Manolo Blahnik, and Paloma Picasso.  She passed away in 1992 of AIDS, but her timeless style has lived on to inspire people to this day. 

She’s still very well known in the fashion world (French Vogue did a tribute to her a while back), but, unfortunately, she’s not very well known to your average Asian girl.  It’s a shame because I think she’s one of the most original, modern Asian beauties, seamlessly combining Asian and Western influences to create a style will forever be  her.  If you want to know more about her, I suggest google or, surprisingly, asking your parents!  My mother had a surprising amount of information on Chow. 

While Chow was famous for her collection of couture ensembles, vintage jewelry, and self-made designs I’m more interested in her everyday wear.  Plus, it would be silly for me to try to emulate her couture without … well couture.  It is said that Chow wore the same thing every day: a natural, clean-looking face, white tee or tank (known back then, as well as across the pond, as a “vest”), black Kenzo trousers, and a piece of statement jewelry.  She also kept her hair in a short, slicked back bob. 

Well, we might not all be blessed with Tina’s charming loveliness or her couture collection, but we can all channel her simple, elegant androgynous look! 

First we need a crew neck, loosely fitted white tee.  The more basic the better.  Now I’ve tried a lot of white tees in my day and honestly some of my favorites have been from places like Target or Meijer.  I get a 6 pack of men’s small tees.  Just make sure they’re the thick kind.  If that’s not for you the absolute best white tee I’ve ever had has been from Uniqlo, a Japanese brand that’s making a splash worldwide.  They’re collaboration line with Jil Sander, called +J, makes great tees and tanks. If you’re lucky enough to be close to a Uniqlo in the U.S., I highly recommend it.   

As for trousers, Tina wore Kenzo and in a shape that was more the 80’s and 90’s then now.  I would recommend a more modern take on the trouser – a cropped trouser!  My favorite is J. Crew’s Minnie pant in black stretch twill.  The material is very nice, stretchy but also thick and sturdy feeling.  I wear my Minnie’s all the time!  Other great options can be found at stores like The Gap and Zara.  I also definitely think you can channel Tina simply with black skinny jeans.  For shoes, try something menswear inspired like loafers or brogues.  I have a pair of Cole Haan “Air Penny Driver Mocassins” (they’re really just driving penny loafers, not actually moccasins) that are my favorite shoes ever.  They have Nike soles inside so they’re very comfy.  They’re not cheap, but the price isn’t ridiculous for the quality and classic style.  I’d recommend them for anyone.  For colder days, toss on a oversized cashmere cardigan or sweater in a solid color.  My tip for buying cashmere is getting it at the end of winter, when it goes on sale just stock up in classic shapes.  A simple cardigan or crew neck pullover is never going to go out of style. 

So far, it’s pretty easy right?

For makeup keep it simple.  Make your skin look nice and natural with whatever products you usually use.  Then use a black, smudgeable eyeliner and draw a line across your entire top eyelid.  Take your finger and smudge it slightly.  Then line part of the bottom of your eye, from the outside corner to about half way.  Smudge that too.  Curl your lashes and add a bit of mascara, but make sure there’s no clumping.  Use some a little bit of bronzer to accentuate your cheekbones, but be careful not to give yourself an all over california glow.  That might be a good look but it’s not Tina Chow.  Finally, for day try a clear lip gloss or simply a moisturized lip.  For night, try a nice matte red like Nars’ Dolce Vita.  If you have long hair, try pulling it back in a sleek low bun, if you have short hair keep it straight and sleek against your head. 

Finally, we come to her jewelry.  Tina had amazing jewelry, some of it self designed.  Not all of us are that lucky, but we’ll make do.  Tina was famous for her huge bangles and statement necklaces.  You can find these anywhere from a vintage store to Nordstroms to Forever21.  Just make sure they have some bang! 

Tina had so many inspiring looks, but the one I channel the most was the look she rocked every day.  Comfy, sophisticated, and appropriate for any occasion, Tina’s everyday look has also become mine. 

And she likes noodles, just like me!  Imagine that.

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Inspiration is key to establishing a distinctive personal style.  I like to call my inspirations my girl crushes.  Meet Liu Wen, Asian model extraordinaire and one of my current girl crushes.

Love her in this J. Crew ad.  She used to be oh so high fashion – which, don’t get me wrong, is awesome – but I like seeing her in high street ads too.  She’s proving that an Asian  model can be versatile, I mean she’s a Victoria’s Secret model for crying out loud!  I love this ad in particular because what she’s wearing really resonates with my personal aesthetic.  Annnnnd that’s a win for my girl crush choice!

(Picture from J. Crew Catalog)

But no one will ever replace Tina Chow as The Asian Style Icon for me.  Looking at her pictures, I still think to myself that she was one of the most special-seeming people I’ve ever seen.  Her personal style was exquisite.

oh Tina Chow.

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