Everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. But while most of us are just throwing on an old pair of faded Levi’s and t-shirt, only a select few would think to pair a $23 skinny white jean with a BCBG leather jacket, Forever 21 lace camisole, Manolo Blahnik gladiator sandals, and assorted silver and black bracelets.
Such is the gift of Los Angeles based Fashion Editor, blogger and TV fashion commentator, Sydne Summer. On the Style Network’s website, Mystyle.com, Sydne deconstructs star style, advises real women on how to cop runway and red carpet trends, and interviews style icons. Sydne’s own blog, ThinkThruFashion, provides how-to solutions, fashion and beauty tips, trend breakdowns and pictorial inspiration of clothes on real people.
Recently, I had the opportunity to pick Sydne’s brain and learn some tricks of the trade. If, like me, you’re looking to up your style ante – read on. Sydne’s taking us to fashion school…
SP: When did you first fall in love with fashion?
SS: I can’t pinpoint one exact moment because I have so many childhood memories that involved fashion. I grew up in the 80s and I used to stage photo shoots in my backyard dressed in neon shirts over biker shorts with my hair parted as far to the side as possible. During a family holiday one year, I think I was about seven, I made my younger cousin produce a fashion show while the adults were having cocktails. We made a royal mess in my grandmother’s closet trying on her silk printed tunics and piles of costume jewelry. Then I charged everyone a nickel so they could see us model our creations. And I don’t know when I was first given my dress-up chest but I don’t remember every not having it. Whenever I had a playdate we’d immediately dig in to the box of elbow length gloves, silk pajama gowns and rhinestone shoes and prance around thinking we were Claudia Schiffer.
SP: What was your first big break in fashion?
SS: In college I was interning for Boston Magazine Publications. My editor was planning an event for Elegant Weddings to shows Boston brides how to create a New England-style wedding. I had to research New England based brands and have them ship us samples to use during the event. My editor was really pleased by the assortment of clothing, jewelry and party favors I came up with. She then trusted me to handle bigger projects, which was a great learning experience.
SP: What does it take to succeed in fashion?
SS: To make it in fashion in general, I think you need to study. Not study in the sense of cramming for a law exam but studying everything and anything about fashion. During fashion week, if I can’t make it to the shows I spend hours and hours on Style.com, analyzing each piece and writing down what I like and don’t like about the collection. When I’m out to lunch at the farmers market, I study what people are wearing to observe what works and what doesn’t work on different body types. I’m constantly reading up about designers, pouring over every fashion magazine and just talking to regular people about what they think about the latest trends or what so-and-so was wearing. You just need to absorb everything around you and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the innate eye for style.
SP: What is your style philosophy?
SS: I think the most important thing is to dress for your body type. It doesn’t matter how much you love a trend. If it’s not right for you, you shouldn’t wear it. I have an hourglass shape, so even though I loved the dropped waists that were in style about two years ago I resisted. I knew they wouldn’t look good on me so I admired from afar as my more narrow shaped friends strutted around in the flapper style dresses.
I’m also big on mixing high and low, something I did way before Michelle Obama came along in her J. Crew and Lanvin combos. I splurge on shoes, two handbags a year and dresses I know I’ll wear season after season. Then I head to Forever 21 and stock up on all the trendy stuff I’m loving at that moment—but might get sick of in a few months.
SP: What is the most treasured item in your closet?
SS: My father passed away when I younger so on my 21st birthday my mother made a necklace using the diamond from her engagement ring my father gave her. She set it on a platinum strand with floating diamonds so it would be a present from both of them on my birthday.
SP: If you could spend the day with one fashion icon (living or deceased), who would it be and what would you do?
SS: I’d love to spend the day with Christian Dior. His New Look is perhaps one of my favorite fashions of all time. I’d spend a day with him in Paris and go to my favorite museum, Musee d’Orsay. Dior started in art before becoming a fashion icon. Then we would go to his house and he would create a dress for me that would make me look like Dita von Teese. We’d go out later in the evening and talk about his genius ideas over glasses of champagne.
SP: What makes a woman ‘stylish?’
SS: Confidence. I know everyone says this but that’s because it’s true. I think I started gaining this confidence after I stopped comparing myself to other people. I grew up in Miami then moved to Los Angeles as a teenager so I’ve always been around beautiful women with great style. But over the years, I developed my own style and once you start becoming comfortable with your body and your sense of fashion it shows in the way you carry yourself. People would rather look at a woman standing tall and smiling in a Kmart dress than a pouty girl sulking in the corner in couture.
SP: Who are some of your favorite designers of all time?
SS: Missoni for prints, Dolce & Gabbana when I want to feel sexy, Chanel for handbags that I can’t afford, Rebecca Taylor and Catherine Malandrino for feminine pieces and Jimmy Choo for classic shoes.
But as much as I love designer pieces, my favorite thing is to mix them with inexpensive finds. I do that in my blog on a daily basis. It’s fun to put an outfit together and have people guess which piece cost $300 and which cost $30. Their guesses are often incorrect, which just goes to show, you don’t need designer good to look good.
SP: Which trends will be big this summer?
SS: Rompers are huge, which I’m super excited about because I never bought one last summer and I’m a big fan of jumpsuits. Cutouts are popular on clothing and bathing suits. Also a big bathing suit trend is the one shoulder, which we know is extremely popular for dresses as well. Maxi dresses are everywhere, I especially like them paired with a bib necklace, another trend for spring and summer. As people get more tan, they’re going to start wearing one of the hottest colors this season: bright pink. And as we’ve seen on Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan, Victoria Beckham and just about every other celebrity, denim is distressed. Plus, the boyfriend jean is still going strong.
SP: Which trend(s) do you wish would die?
SS: I hate over-the-knee boots. I’ve seen maybe one person pull this look off: Diane Kruger in Tommy Hilfiger. But the majority of time, the thigh high boots just look like Pretty Woman, pre-Julia Roberts’ classy makeover. Then there is the harem pant that just won’t seem to go away. They’re still popular for summer, which means we’re going to see plenty more baggy crotches on the red carpet.
SP: Current handbag obsessions?
SS: I am absolutely obsessed with Valentino’s spring collection. Of course, I can’t afford even a fraction of any of the handbags but I could sit and stare at the floral masterpieces all day. They truly look like pieces of art. Just look at this one!
SP: Which celebrities would you love to style and why?
SS: Anne Hathaway. I love feminine, elegant pieces and I can’t think of any current star who looks better in them than Anne. Recently she’s tried to look edgy, wearing suits and leather but to me, she looks best as a classic beauty. But truthfully, I’d rather style women that really need help, rather than those that have Marc Jacobs on speed dial. I get more enjoyment out of helping a friend realize how amazing her body when she has the right clothing.
SP: Where are your favorite places to shop?
SS: I recently got in to the whole vintage thing and even if I don’t buy anything, I have a blast shopping at thrift stores. My favorite one in L.A. is Jet Rag. I got this 80s velvet dress, cut off the skirt and now it looks just like a Balmain top, shoulder pads and all. I can’t wait to wear it with jeans this fall. For trendy items, I always go to Forever 21. And for my splurges I wait until Saks has their huge sales and stock up on everything I’ve been coveting online.
SP: What tips do you have for women who want star style on a budget?
SS: Don’t try to copy a star from head to toe. If Beyonce is wearing Balmain and you try to find the exact same $11, 000 jacket for $11 you’ll just look like a cheaper version of Beyonce. In my blog, I always recommend to take inspiration from celebrity style instead of copying it. Figure out what you like about their style and find ways to make it your own. Earlier this year I really liked Cameron Diaz’s all-American look. But I didn’t try to find an exact replica of her striped Michael Kors dress. Instead I thought about what it was I liked about her style and kept that in mind when I went shopping. Things always look more expensive when they’re original—or at least when they’re styled in a creative way.
SP: Can you share some figure-slimming fashion tips?
1) Create the illusion of long legs by wearing shoes that match your skin color.
2) Show off your best feature. Mine is my waist, so I’m always cinching everything with belts. My friend has the hottest legs, so you’ll usually find her hiding her stomach with a billowy top and showing off her gams in a mini. My mother has amazing shoulders, so she always looks thinner when she wears a shell or halter.
3) Wear monochromatic outfits. If you wear all black, navy, brown, etc, it will create the illusion of a longer and leaner figure.
4) And if all else fails throw on some statement jewelry. If you have sparkly earrings or a unique necklace, nobody will notice you’re having a fat day.
SP: What are three fashion accessories every woman should own?
1) Black pumps: They add instant sex appeal and never go out of style.
2) A bright or metallic clutch: It makes sure a LBD isn’t boring and dresses up a pair of jeans.
3) A tan leather carryall: If I could only have one bag, it would be my cognac Foley + Corinna hobo. I can wear it with black, brown or navy and the more worn the leather gets, the better the bag looks.
SP: What products are staples in your makeup bag?
SS: Mascara is a must. It’s an instant pick me up when I haven’t slept. I switch on and off between L’Oreal Telescopic Mascara and Stila Convertible Mascara. For lips, I’ve been carrying around a tub of Rosebud Salve since my freshman year of college. But recently I’m addicted to C.O. Bigelow Mint Lip Tint Gloss. The coral has just a touch of color and the minty flavor is refreshing. I also need a bronzer. Whenever I’m laying out on the beach I always cover my face with a towel or wife beater. So my face obviously is just a tad lighter than my body. Bare Escentuals A Little Sun is great because it gives me a natural glow. I start on my cheekbones then lightly dust the rest of my face.
For more of Sydne’s fab fashion advice and commentary, visit mystyle.com and thinkthrufashion.com.