Fashion and style are not the same thing: One is fickle; the other endures. Fashion means trend, and trends certainly should be incorporated into a woman’s style, much like adding a little seasonal decor to your home. The trick is to drape a few strands of what’s current over your wardrobe in a way that makes sense. While there once were hard-and-fast rules regarding what was age-appropriate for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, the experts and style-makers we talked to insist that these days, a woman’s own internal compass is her guide. A woman in her 20s may dive whole-hog into a particular makeup or clothing trend … whereas someone in her 50s may only dive half-hog or a quarter-hog into the same trend.
Katherine Walker Buxton, owner of the Nichols Hills women’s boutique Gretta Sloane, has a long history in the fashion industry. After college, she began work as an investment banker in San Francisco, and wore the requisite Brooks Brothers navy pantsuits and Nine West heels to work every day, but she knew in her bones she was supposed to be in fashion.
“My goal was to work for the Gap’s corporate office,” she says. “Granted, I’d never worked at a Gap store, but I knew. So I went to every career fair. I talked to everyone I could, and eventually I got a job interview, and then I got the job. I was the first person hired to work in Gap corporate who hadn’t worked in Gap retail. I was in merchandise planning, which is the financial side of buying, and I loved it.” On her last day as an investment banker, as she left her office, Buxton took off those sensible heels and threw them in the trash. The rest, as they say, is history.
Denim is a big part of her merchandise mix – although for winter, we need to think beyond the skinny jean. “Skinny jeans have become a staple. They’re a basic. Timeless. Never going away. We all have them in multiple colors, so for fall, it’s a great idea to update. High waists are still in, with a tiny, cropped flare, but it’s a small flare, almost a boot cut. You want these to highlight your footwear – booties are huge again this season and this jean is perfect for them,” Buxton says. The caveat? Only if you’re 5’5” or taller. The look doesn’t work as well on petite gals. “Smaller people are best in a skinny.”
Embellished denim also is trending, but think patched and (lightly) distressed, not bedazzled. “Distressed denim is still big, but you have to be careful,” Buxton says. “If it’s done badly and there are huge sections of fabric missing on the front of your leg, that’s going to look cheap. Holes in the knees and carefully placed fraying are what you want.”
Buxton also recommends, to the woman looking for a couple of key understated statement pieces, a simple bag that can be customized. “The mini bag is big – a small, hands-free bag. The difference is that now it’s about embellishment. Gucci is really driving that trend. The idea is that you buy a basic bag and then you add things like tassels, kind of like ‘bag jewelry,’ almost. Ampersand and Apostrophe is a line we carry that is perfect for this, and at a good price point, in the $400 to $600 range.”
Laura Nance, whose company Styled by Laura specializes in helping women shop their own closets, agrees that style and what a woman wears is now determined by the woman herself, not by external forces. Can I get an amen?
“I’m all about coming in and showing people how to reimagine things they already have and love,” Nance explains. “I started just doing closet purges for friends, to help them get rid of things. We’d have wine and hummus and they’d come away with new outfits. After about two years, someone said, ‘You should do this, you should start a company,’ and here I am. I love it, especially when I hear women say, ‘I would have never paired those,’ but they love it.”
One of Nance’s specialties is helping women find their signature style. It’s an art and a science. “We look at what a woman has and loves that’s already in her closet, and I encourage her to look at social media and get a feel for whose style she loves. We also look at lifestyle. I have a client who spends her summer at her lake house, so we stocked it with cute finds from Old Navy, so it’s no big deal if it only lasts one season, or lake life takes its toll.”
The biggest challenge Nance sees, and what makes getting dressed in the morning difficult for women, is the sheer volume of stuff. “People have too much. Millennials are better about not accumulating, but women more my age are still hanging onto that 10-year-old jacket that is never worn.” Another part of Nance’s career is accessories and jewelry – she’s a successful Stella & Dot director and stylist. “I’m big on versatile jewelry. Things that can be worn multiple ways, or layered.”
When Nance does need to fill in a few wardrobe holes for clients, she’s got her list of practical, versatile go-tos. “A good jean jacket, a camel blazer, a pair of J. Crew Pixie Pants, which look great on women from size 16 to size 2 – really and truly – a crisp white shirt and boots. Those are the pieces that can work in tons of ways.”
For the most part, she tries to stay local, opting for clothing from Balliets or Gretta Sloane, and shoes from Betsy King, A Shoe Boutique in the Paseo Arts District.
► It’s All About the Bootie
Betsy King, the woman, is a flurry of good-natured crankiness before she’s had her morning coffee, but two sips later, she’s sitting prettily on her pale blue velvet divan, looking for all the world like a starlet from another era, and dissecting cool weather shoe trends with the precision of a surgeon.
King opened her shop two years ago after working as a shoe buyer at Balliets for six years, followed by a smattering of event planning and other gigs. “I love shoes. My mom was a fashion design major and is now a potter, so fashion comes naturally for me.”
“Shoe trends tend to have a three- to five-year cycle. This fall and winter is a new cycle, which is all about texture, brocade, crushed velvet and embellishment like embroidery on suede,” King says. Gone are the fringe and pom-pons of the last few years, but the bootie still reigns supreme.
Standard winter colors will be in play, such as hunter, navy and Bordeaux, and King and Buxton both see blush or rose, which have been with us for a couple of seasons, bleeding into autumn and winter, as well. “The silhouettes are different this year,” King says. “It’s a block heel, and a little lower. I love a block heel for stability. Slides are big for fall. There are still stilettos, but also lots of shoes that are more comfortable. As women, we really dress for each other, not men, so why not be comfortable?”
► About Face
A woman’s face is as important to her overall style as are her shoes and clothing. Joy Robison, cosmetics buyer for OKC’s bastion of fashion, Balliets, is dedicated to keeping women on trend while remaining true to themselves.
“Everyone needs a go-to look that they can do almost without thinking about it, and a fun look,” she says. “It’s a good idea to refresh your beauty routine about three times a year. Women’s skin changes season to season and year to year. Even the way colors look on your skin, and the way perfumes smell, can change. It’s really important to recognize that our complexions are constantly changing.”
Cosmetics trends run a little bit behind apparel trends, so Robison will begin seeing fourth-quarter looks for a given year as late as August. For the end of 2017, she doesn’t see a seismic shift, rather a fine-tuning of trends that have been with us for a few years. This is great news, because for most women, looking current this season will mean tweaks, not overhauls.
“Looks coming forward are still about the brows. Brows have been important for several years now,” Robison says. “They are less geometric now, though, less dramatically dark and uniform. There’s a saying: Your eyebrows are sisters, not twins.” That means they are not perfectly symmetrical, and they are not made up of rectangular and triangular shapes. They are still defined, but not as densely pigmented. “Bobbi Brown has a great new waterproof brow tamer. It’s pigmented, and won’t budge.”
Blotted lips in berry shades are a perennial staple in any woman’s makeup arsenal, and the same holds true for 2017. “A blotted lip is not a stain, or a gloss or a matte. It’s softer.” Shy about wearing berries and reds? According to Robison, if you don’t like red, “You just haven’t found your shade. There is a red for every woman.”
Robison’s favorite reds run the gamut from blue- and purple-reds to hues with more earthy cues such as browns and oranges. “I love Hollywood by Laura Mercier and Cardinal by LaPrairie, which has a slight shimmer. There’s a fantastic orange-red shade of lip crayon by Surratt called P.O.C., which is perfect for game day.” Robison loves OSU football almost as much as she loves mascara, and that’s saying something.
Other cosmetics news for the holidays? Blessedly, contouring is going away. “Our cosmetics lines have never been that big on contouring, which is incredibly difficult to do well, but they are big on bronzing and highlighting. Highlighting is still very important this season.”
► Along Came Mary
Before Katherine, Laura, Betsy or Joy, there was Mary. Mary Chambless Bates is an Oklahoma City fashion icon, whether you know her name or not. Between her 30-year career as a buyer, and her hobby of owning sample dress shops, this woman shaped the way Oklahoma women approached fashion for decades.
Now in her mid-90s, dressed (always) in head-to-toe white, with close-cropped, perfectly coiffed almost white hair, coral lipstick and a prolific mix of bling, she sits at her kitchen counter telling the story of the fashion industry she helped forge in Oklahoma City.
In 1950, Bates made her first buying trip to Dallas, for Halliburton’s department store. She became a buyer, and she took to it like a duck to water. “I was working as a salesgirl, and Myron Silbert from the New York buying office would walk through the store and say, ‘What’s selling, girl?’ and I’d start pulling things and showing him. I’d tell him that such and such a dress is doing well, and so on, and he said he was going to make me a buyer. A year later, he went to see Mr. Halliburton and I was sent to New York on my first buying trip,” Bates remembers.
She went on to become a buyer for the venerable Street’s department stores, often making 10 trips to New York each year, four trips to California markets, a couple to Chicago and filling in with trips to Dallas. Ironically, she had moved to Street’s hoping to travel less – but she did ultimately become a vice president. “Mr. Teddy said to me, ‘You won’t have to travel as much, it will be easy, we only have four stores.’ So I went to work with him one day and he said, ‘I’ll meet you in New York, and we’ll discuss what we’re going to do.’ I had never even been in the store. When we got to New York, he said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. You buy what you think will sell, and I’ll talk to you when you get home.’ And he never questioned me or asked how much I’d spent.”
A career in fashion also brought Bates something she hadn’t expected: a husband. In 1978, she married Jack Bates, with whom she shared 20 years of marriage before his passing.
Prime Picks for Right Now
So what should be your takeaway from all this fashion consideration? Buxton, Robison and King share thoughts on of-the-moment picks you need this very second.
A really great jacket with an interesting shape is a perfect buy. It needs to be about hip length, and close-fitting, so that you can wear it without feeling like you’ve got your parka on indoors. Navy is great; a wool-cashmere blend would be fantastic.
“I am a mascara junkie. Three I would recommend right now are Laura Mercer’s Long Lash – it has a thin wand so you can get a good coat on every lash – also Smith and Cult Lash Dance in Radio Silence. It’s great for volume. Trish McEvoy’s mascara is on my list because it’s tubular and locks all of your layers in place. I love it because I don’t like waterproof mascara.” Yes, Robison layers all three.
She also recommends a metallic, smoldering eye. “Turn up the smolder, but go lighter for day. For evening, dark, smoldering metallics are perfect. Bobbi Brown has a gorgeous collection.”
“Shoes are an emotional thing. When we have a bad day, we don’t go try on jeans, we go for shoes. I’m in love with everything we have from Pour la Victoire right now. Beautiful, beautiful shoes. Unique, and a little obscure. The hard part is deciding which not to take home!”