The Fitting Room Chronicles: Wearing a Turtleneck (Like Marilyn Monroe)

We still may be in the middle of crisp fall here in New York City, but occasionally, that sudden frost of winter gives an unwelcoming preview of what’s to come. Such is life here on the east coast.

Turtlenecks. They’re perfect for keeping warm and cozy. But they’re called turtlenecks for a reason.

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This is Lulu, my red-eared slider. He looks great in a turtleneck, of course. But this isn’t a look for everyone. Trust me on this.

I remember past winters where my neck disappeared in a too-chunky turtleneck my mother found in some shop somewhere, and all you saw was a floating head. Yeah…no.

Luckily, there is still a way to stay warm this winter with a turtleneck and not look like, well, a turtle. A prime example? Marilyn Monroe.

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Alright, I know the woman could make a potato sack look tres chic, but this blonde bombshell (and my absolute favorite old Hollywood star) made turtlenecks look seductive. According to lomography.com:

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On the Spring of 1953, Alfred Eisenstaedt paid Marilyn Monroe a visit in her Beverly Hills home to do a portrait shoot for a LIFE Magazine assignment. “Eisie,” as he was known by his friends and colleagues, photographed the 26-year-old Hollywood star in her patio; she was stunning even in her simple black turtleneck top and white pants (checkered pants in some photographs). It was certainly not a glamor-filled photoshoot yet the intimately casual portraits Eisenstaedt took — both in color and black and white — became some of his best known work, as well as Monroe’s most sought after photographs to this day. 

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Inspired by Marilyn Monroe, I found this turtleneck sweater dress in H&M and I felt both warm and fabulous. No floating head to be found here!

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How can Marilyn Monroe inspire you to wear a turtleneck? Here are some of my tips:

  • Marilyn was a fan of wearing tight-fitting clothes to enhance her figure. Based on the photos above, we can tell that her black turtleneck was also body-hugging. Try to stay true to your size and avoid anything too over-sized. Those can be comfortable yes, but they can also add unwanted weight and fluff.
  • You can honestly never go wrong with black. It’s a slimming shade, works for day or night, and you can easily jazz up this color with the right accessories. I went for gray to spice up my wardrobe, which works just as well.
  • Red lipstick. This is the easiest way to add glamour to your wardrobe and honey, there are hundreds of red shades to choose from. Have fun and try on some different reds. Believe me, there’s a red for everyone, including you. Marilyn reportedly used a mixture of different red lipsticks to create a color she liked best. She also was a fan of coral shades. And if you really want to go super glam, cat eyes do wonders. Remember, the turtleneck is drawing all eyes to your face.
  • Again, think about your curves. Marilyn opted for hip-hugging pants to further accentuate her shape – nothing baggy to be found here. Since I’m not big on pants, I made sure my sweater dress wasn’t bulky and was true to my size. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing a massive sock.
  • Seriously, go to the fitting room. When I first saw this turtleneck dress, I was very hesitant. But when I tried it on, I felt great. Don’t be afraid to try on different looks, especially those that you normally wouldn’t go for. You might just surprise yourself. Even Marilyn experimented with different types of turtlenecks:
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By John Vachon filming “River of No Return.”

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How will you be rocking a turtleneck this season?

The Fitting Room Chronicles: My Little Pinup Girl

I’ve always had a great love affair with pinup art. So when the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York City’s SoHo was hosting an exhibit titled, “The Great American Pinup,” you know I was attending.

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“Waisted Effort” by Gil Elvgren, 1950
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“Reclining Red Head in Green Dress with Chocolates” by Peter Driben

What an awe-inspiring view!

According to the gallery:

The AK Collection features nearly every major pin-up artist including an outstanding selection of oils by Gil Elvgren, watercolors by Alberto Vargas, and pastels by Rolf Armstrong. The 49-piece collection contains many rare oversized pin-ups that include compositions of the ‘girl next door’ to scenes that verge on fantasy. An avid car collector, AK acquired many artworks that feature cars prominently. With this unique collection available to the public once again, Louis K. Meisel Gallery intends to redistribute the works to new collectors interested in the history and nostalgia associated with The Great American Pin-Up.

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“No More Runs” by Harry Edman, 1950
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“I’ve Been Spotted” by Gil Elvgren, 1949
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“Bow Spirit” by Gil Elvgren, 1960

I managed to photograph some of my favorites while I was there. You may even recognize some of these iconic pieces.

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“Out You Go (Me and My Shadow)” by Joyce Ballantyne, 1955
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“Red Head with Black Negligee” by Edward Runci, 1947

Inspired, I was lucky enough to find this dress during a thrifting adventure, reminding me of what a 1950s dame would wear for a casual day.

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And its rich, deep sky blue would surely put artists to work, don’t you think?

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What makes you feel like a pinup girl?

And just in case you’re interested, I actually wrote an article a while back on female pinup artists you should know about!

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Falling for Carmen Miranda

When it comes to fall in New York City, girls think about rocking their finest black, oxblood, and burgundy styles – you know, everything dark and heavy. And trust me, I’m all for that. With all the holidays coming up (candy, pie, and champagne, oh my!), I need to go to the dark side with clothes to camouflage that pooch waving hello.

But sometimes? I just want to throw myself on a pile of palm leaves, not fall foliage.

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When I found this transparent tropical ensemble for less than 20 bucks, two words came to mind: Carmen Miranda.

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Anyone who’s into old Hollywood, thrifting, or just pop culture in general knows a thing or two about “the lady in the tutti frutti hat.”

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Carmen MIranda in THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943), directed by Busby Berkeley.

The woman made an entire career out of wearing crop tops in banana-hue, headdresses overflowing with plastic fruit, and frilly skirts designed for the samba. And let’s be real here, Carmen made the look completely hers for technicolor films.

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Carmen even reportedly said this: I have never followed what people say it is ‘fashionable’. I think that a woman must wear what fits her. That is why I created a style appropriated to my type and my artistical genre.

Now that’s my kind of girl.

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So for this fall, yes, I’m going to flaunt my black, oxblood, and burgundy. However, I’m also going to show off some flower power, towering palm trees, and even a parrot or two straight from the tropics (print-wise of course). It will be fun way to stand out among a sea of autumnal uniforms and reminisce about past sizzling summers.

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The only thing that should brighten up those dreary days that quickly transition into night? You. And personally, I would heat things up even more by carrying a pumpkin spice latte on one hand. Sure, this dress is pretty, but baby, it’s cold outside.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

When I was growing up, I thought Elvira was the coolest undead broad around. She was wickedly funny, had a Ronnie Spector beehive for days, and let’s be real, the woman has a seriously banging body.

What’s not to love about this sinfully seductive ghoul?

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Several years ago, I had the ah-mazing opportunity to interview Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the iconic pinup. Everything about it was kept top secret, and rightfully so. As you can imagine, there would be some mass hysteria among her growing fans if anyone knew her of her whereabouts. However, Cassandra was one of the most sweetest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend an evening with. We spoke about her encounters with Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and the memoir that I kept begging her to write and publish.

It was truly one of my favorite interviews of all time.

The ageless Cassandra Peterson
The ageless Cassandra Peterson

So when I found this slinky black dress during one of my thrifting adventures, I fell in love. I mean, just look at it. I could easily be a macabre mistress. All I needed was the hair (which I could easily achieve if I wake up and don’t brush my hair/slather on coconut oil/empty out my hairspray), and pat on some Manic Panic Virgin White Powder from my teenage goth years.

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For about $12 bucks I believe, this dress was as va-va-voom as it could possibly get. And would you believe it was from the very modern Madonna for Macy’s collection? I wasn’t going to take it home with me, because really, when will I ever have a moment to wear this? But friends thought I was crazy for leaving this behind. I went to the thrift shop the following day and sure enough, it was still on the hanger, waiting for me.

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I have yet to rock it, but with Halloween approaching, it could be my own take on the Elvira costume. And the lady herself sells plenty of accessories to make your Halloween devilishly delightful. The sleeves aren’t certainly the same as the real thing, but let’s just say the other assets work. And with Elvira’s fabulous hair, people will get the picture.

How will you be daring this Halloween?

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Stevie Nicks

I will never be Stevie Nicks. No one could be Stevie Nicks except Stevie Nicks herself. She is a blonde witchy love goddess who must be worshipped and adored. This fellow Stephanie isn’t worthy.

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I had an amazing opportunity to check out a Stevie Nicks photo exhibition in SoHo, and to say that I was inspired would be an understatement. These are what you call SELFIES. Bow down.

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There are many ways to pay tribute to this iconic artist with your wardrobe. A bohemian white lace dress, loads of fringe, a crimson velvet gown with ruffled sleeves, wide-legged pants – anything that a spellbinding 1970s singer would wear really.

But in my case, I decided to go with bat sleeves.

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I’m not usually a fan of velvet, as everything tends to stick and the fuzzy texture drives me insane, but I felt like an enchantress in this simple black body-hugging velvet dress with sheer bat sleeves. I was compelled to twirl, cast spells, and sing “Edge of Seventeen,” one of my favorite songs since childhood.

But  you know what else we could use for a Stevie Nicks party? A crimson 1970s silk dress with a cape.

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Stevie also happens to be a fan of red hot dresses too.

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With the cool, crisp fall season upon us, and Halloween around the corner, now is the time to sprinkle some Stevie Nicks magic to your wardrobe. Who wouldn’t want to dress up like a legend, and feel warm with all of those layers?

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The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Louise Brooks

When many think of flappers from the “Roaring ’20s,” images like these come to mind:

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Joan Crawford
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Clara Bow
Clara Bow
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck

And of course, there are 1920 fashion guides, like this one, to help:

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But one overlooked garment from the famous era is the kimono. And really, what’s not to love about this comfortable, silky loungewear that instantly adds glamour to your home? The kimono was also big during this era as it was looser, easy to wear, and functional. The 1996 book, “The Kimono Inspiration: Art and Art-To-Wear in America” gives a lot of wonderful insight about the traditional Japanese piece and its impact in the United States over the years.

One silent screen star who made the kimono one of her signature looks was Louise Brooks. Apparently, it was her thing, along with a carefully cut bob.

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During one of my thrifting adventures, I found this bold red kimono. While it’s more on the wiggle side, eliminating that loose comfort one would expect from a more traditional kimono, I felt ready for my close-up.

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Loungewear? Pul-eeze. This baby was meant to be worn out. I will need to work on my tip-toe walking, as modern steps won’t do in this gown, but that’s just another workout that comes with fashion.

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It sure beats those usual flapper getups that every Gatsby-obsessed dame goes head over heels for. And don’t get me wrong, I adore those waist-drop dresses too, but sometimes you just have to stand out. And who wouldn’t want to learn a thing or two from the “Kansas Cleopatra?”

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I can’t wait to rock this dress for a special occasion. Hopefully all those gin cocktails from past dinners and soirees haven’t caught up to me yet. How tragic would it be if my big ol’ butt couldn’t squeeze into this again?!

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Jean Harlow

Back when I was in high school, I had the brilliant idea of shaving my once Frida Kahlo-thick eyebrows and pencil them in dangerously thin to channel 1930s screen siren Jean Harlow.

We all make mistakes.

These eyebrows are made for Jean, not Stephanie.
These eyebrows are made for Jean, not Stephanie.

While my eyebrows haven’t grown the same since then, I still don’t mind channeling this fellow piscean. So when I found this 1930s wine-hued gown, I was in complete awe. Best of all? It fit like a glove.

Working it, 1930s style.
Working it, 1930s style.

For some reason, I felt this is a dress that Jean Harlow would appreciate. It hugs the body to a T, yet its delicate winged sleeves create a dramatic flair made fit for the big screen. And for a 1930s piece, it was in near perfect condition. I have to be super careful with the sleeves, as its fine lace can easily get damage, but it’s still in my closet, waiting for a special occasion. I just hope it still fits!

No pencil-thin eyebrows are required to rock this dress.
No pencil-thin eyebrows are required to rock this dress.

These days, I’m looking forward to channeling Jean Harlow, couture-wise. The blonde bombshell was a total babe, and extremely funny to boot. Make use of that Netflix account and watch all her screwball comedies. You won’t regret it.

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Who have you been channeling lately to enhance your personal style?

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