Don’t Be a Frumpy, Frigid Fashion Shut-in: Savvy Style Advice for Nearly Nuclear Winters

Happy Xmas to the League of the Painfully Hip!

I have been incredibly humbled by the excess of love bestowed on Painfully Hip by you and by local publications, so imagine the thrill I enjoyed when the News and Review asked me to oversee the writing and styling of an entire winter fashion article!

How do I feel? I’m in print! Legit would be a good word for it. I’m totally legit now and here are some dark, blurry behind-the-scenes photos to prove it:

I was giddy as hell to be allowed to devise outfits from a huge pile of amazing designer clothes and flashy vintage accessories. I was really lucky to have such talent at my disposal.

Anyway, here’s the final result:

Don’t be a frumpy, frigid fashion shut-in
Savvy style advice for nearly nuclear winters

By Amber Mortensen

Winter in Sacramento has its own bleak aesthetic: cold, naked, grim. But don’t let that influence what you wear.

The chilly season is neither long nor frigid enough to phone it in when getting dressed. Warm clothes don’t have to be synonymous with frumpy coats or mass-produced sweaters; dressing up should be about putting a sway in your swagger and making a tedious, chilly day more stimulating.

Conveniently, local designers Jamaica Cole, Lindsay Campbell, and sisters Laura and Becky Carter are at your disposal. These artists not only provided the styles for SN&R’s winter fashion shoot (see photo, right), but they also can help slough off a few winter humbugs with the fashionable fruits of their labor.

All four designers will be part of a seasonal fashion showcase, Church of Satin’s Nostos Algos, on December 28, in Midtown. Expect lively creations, like embroidered corduroy jumpers and print tops from Campbell, quirky organic-cotton cigarette pants from the Carters and Cole’s collection of fanciful frocks inspired by the brothers Grimm. You’d have to be Scrooge himself to not be cheered by such spectacles, so imagine the glow you’ll feel when you take their advice and start dressing like you mean it.

Sure, the economy is cockamamie, corporations are evil and the environment’s screwed. But this isn’t the apocalypse. Try harder. Keep reading.

Remember: Winter days seem short, but they’re still 24-hours long.

Any fashion addict will agree that the genius of dressing for the cold is that you can wear more clothes, smashing summer’s styling possibilities out of the park. That said, please bear in mind: A well-considered ensemble is greater than the sum of its parts. Confused?

Campbell, designer of fashion line Linden Simone, can help. She understands separates, and while you might have a difficult time choosing just a few pieces from Campbell’s prolific collection, her combinations work: asymmetrical, ’60s-inspired coats; chic, high-waisted skirts; ruffled blouses composed of quaint vintage fabrics. Why clutch onto that soulless parka of yesteryear when you could knock off socks with something like Campbell’s colorful, intricate bouclé cape with contrast stitching? Or her flattering tweed, three-quarter-sleeved coat with peacoat buttons and ruffled Peter Pan collar?

That’s right: Never underestimate the power of layering.

Do as your grandparents did during the Depression: Reuse, buy vintage, don layers and wool, put a feather in your cap, be creative with your dough.

Keep warm with luxurious, breathable fabrics and soft, chunky weaves. Grab an impish knit cloche (perhaps by the peerless Amy Hemmens of Naik Fur) and a flattering, classic coat, then hit the streets.

The coat is, of course, the most visible winter garment, so consider an organic wool confection with blithe details, like oversized buttons and a funnel collar, from Velvet Leaf. Velvet Leaf’s Laura and Becky use only certified organic wool, silk and cotton, and each piece is flawlessly finished with unadulterated skill to boot. Even more, their promise to use only sustainable, eco-conscious, fair-trade fabrics makes for guilt-free shopping.

Check out Velvet Leaf’s brand-spanking-new Midtown store and their handpicked selection of on-trend vintage.

Take a hint.

Is it possible to still be inspired in spite of the grim global forecast?

Yes. And let designer Jamaica Cole, of Sapphire Cordial, be your muse. Cole’s influences vary from nature and architecture to dark Grimms’ Fairy Tales illustrations. Her current collection is titled “Briars”; she describes the motif as “Rapunzel’s prince falling into the briars and having his eyes scratched out by thorns.”

As provocative as that sounds, Cole’s line is actually alluring and quite feminine, embellished only with a touch of the macabre. She rarely uses patterns and finds that her favorite pieces are born of happy accidents. One such beloved design is a palatial three-quarter-sleeved coat with lux flourishes, like vintage doilies on each sleeve.

During the photo shoot, Cole beamed when we merged said couture jacket with Velvet Leaf’s high-waisted boyfriend jeans, made with organic denim; Campbell’s ruffled print top; and a decorative vintage belt. It seems that Cole’s goal is to have the fashion-minded looking forward each year to January wind’s familiar bite—until, of course, the polar ice caps dissolve and winter is no longer.

But, hopefully, that’s a long way away. Until then, make every day count: Lift frozen spirits by wearing what you love, not trends as dictated by the seasons, glossy magazines or, god forbid, propriety. Got it? If not …

Suck it up.

This winter’s not so bad. Go ahead, wear white after Labor Day or purple suede ankle boots on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon if it helps clear the cobwebs. There are enough rules in the world; there’s no need to feel stifled when choosing an outfit on a frigid morning.

Now’s the season to boycott archaic fashion-industry notions of monochromatic, dark shades and colors. Bring it on with bijou declarations: purple, teal, crimson and rust. While you’re at it, why not throw that default polar fleece and Uggs combo to the moths this year?

Although a lovingly hatched, locally designed, certifiably sweatshop-free outfit may not have the power to change the world, it’s fully within the realm of possibilities that it could, at the very least, make your day. So …

Shop for handmade fashions by local designers.

Buying locally from Sacramento boutiques like Atelier (1617 16th Street) is one of the best ways to help your city’s economy: It is good for the environment, shuns corporations that use exploitative labor and supports local designers. But more importantly, nobody knows Sacramento winter-survival skills better than Sacramentans themselves. Atelier is a co-op where local artists sell handmade and vintage togs, and 15 different designers’ works can be found there. So by shopping at Atelier, you’re supporting Sacramento’s budding fashion scene while scoring one-of-a-kind wares—for an average price of about $25. After that, pop into independently owned Bows and Arrows (1712 L Street) for some vintage statement accessories like decorative belts, ankle boots and chunky jewels, and you’ll be all set for a celebratory winter.

The north wind may be blowing, but you’re precisely as hot as you feel.

winter fashion 2008

Clockwise from top left:
On Alice Irwin: bouclé cape by Linden Simone, purple Jamie dress by Velvet Leaf, black knit cloche by Naik Fur.

On Cheri Clark: vintage ankle boots from Velvet Leaf, black ruffle sweater and lace jumper by Sapphire Cordial, cream knit cloche by Naik Fur.
On Jillian Oliver: Emelie dress by Velvet Leaf, coat by Linden Simone, red knit cloche by Naik Fur.
On Liz Liles: three-quarter-sleeved coat by Sapphire Cordial, print top by Linden Simone, high-waisted boyfriend jeans by Velvet Leaf, cream knit hat by Naik Fur.

Check out designers Laura and Becky Carter’s new store, Velvet Leaf, online and at 1115 H Street.

Shoes and accessories are vintage.
Hair and makeup by Ariana Garcia and Tessa Matsis of Strands Salon and Spa (3271 Folsom Boulevard).

Styling by Amber Mortensen


Special thanks to Lindsay Hoff and Rory Toolan (who gave me one of these amazing Naik Fur cloches for Xmas! Glee!)

Lovely Jamaica of Sapphire Cordial is letting me model her confections at this show which you REALLY mustn’t miss:

Nostos Algos Church of Satin Winter Fashion Showcase, featuring designers Velvet Leaf, Ingrid Fur, Sapphire Cordial, Linden Simone, Van der Neer; musicians Dusty Brown, Sister Crayon, DJ Shaun Slaughter; and host Steve Vanoni. Sunday, December 28, 7:30 p.m., at California Stage, 2509 R Street; $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets available at Atelier and Bows and Arrows.