Notorious NYCK
Earth Shattering Beauty, Style and Health News from a Neurotic New Yorker

Style Secrets of an Unlikely Fashionista

by Notorious NYCK August 20

When I was 26, I got a job at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), a.k.a. the fashion and beauty bible. It is the publication for learning what’s happening in the fashion, retail, and cosmetics industries. I’ve written before about how terminally uncool I’ve always been. So it may not surprise you that for the entire four years I worked there, I was petrified of getting dressed. The best I could do was adopt a  “uniform.” I figured that since I was meeting with cosmetics industry executives to report on sales and marketing strategies, I should wear a “business suit.”  So I trolled the “bridge” floor at Macy’s for Jones New York and Liz Claiborne pants suits. I did OK with the business executives but drew a lot of snarky looks and comments from the fashion world. It’s a tough crowd. In fact, when I had job interviews at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, both interviewers felt compelled to critique my suits ( navy cotton twill Esprit for the former and black linen Banana Republic for the latter).  I was told that a suit is only fashionable if it is made by Chanel, Prada, Armani or Yves Saint Laurent. And then, only if you “break up” the pieces.  These are not my rules. So please don’t shoot the messenger.

In 1996 at 30, I became beauty director at YM magazine. At last I could retire my suits and “have fun with fashion.” But once again, I was completely flummoxed on how to do it. Kilts and Doc Martens? Crazy.  So thank goodness for our fashion director, Rondi.  “Kagan,” she would yell down the hall after me. “Visible panty lines suck. Get a thong.”  A few hours later, several Calvin Klein versions would materialize on my desk. What Rondi lacked in tact, she made up for with her generosity. She convinced me to trade in pegged-leg pants for the more flattering and of-the-moment boot-cut styles and dressed me for two years. “I see you in a wrap Chambray top with that skirt,” she would proclaim, and then order me one from BCBG. Those were the days.

Unfortunately, Rondi and I lost touch some time ago, so once again it’s been on me to navigate this style stuff. Suffice to say I am not always successful-- as the clothes in my closet with the tags still attached attest. But I do have some new fashion gurus that have made life a little easier.  First up, there’s “What Not To Wear’s” Clinton Kelly and Stacey London who have completely re-defined “age and body-type-appropriate” fashion for me.  I also love Lucky magazine. To me, its editors are absolutely the clearest and least elitist about breaking down fashion trends by aesthetic, size, shape and price point. Lastly, there is Deborah  Koenigsberger, owner of the greatest boutique ever, Noir et Blanc…Bis on West 25th Street in New York City ( Deborah is the most stylish and one of the warmest and most giving women I know.  Everyone leaves her utterly chic and charming shop, no matter what their age or size, looking and feeling fabulous. She also runs the amazing Hearts of Gold Foundation to help women in shelters (

To spare you some of my personal agonies, here is a cheat sheet of the the best tips I’ve gleaned from my style posse:

If you have to sport a strapless bra with a top or dress and you wear over a B-cup bra, do not buy it
Nothing looks or feels worse than a strapless bra in an above-average size. First off, it never stays put. Secondly, it gives a really unflattering uni-boob effect. Lastly, strapless bras almost always create back fat and spillage on even the fittest of girls. The amazing woman who actually granted 32D me beautiful options in formal wear is Shoshanna Gruss nee Lonstein. Many of the dresses in her Shoshanna line ( have built-in boning and bras so you can safely and comfortably wear strapless and spaghetti-strapped styles.

Go Shorter with Straight Leg and Skinny Jeans
Unless they hit just above your ankle bone, or even a little higher, straighter pants will “bag” at your ankles and calves, giving you a bulky, stunted leg effect. And never underestimate the power of a belt to lift up sagging trousers and create a sleeker look.

The Wider the Leg, the Higher and Fatter the Heel
I have the worst feet ever so I live in flats, and I truly prefer a boot-cut leg to skinnies. But flairs with flats give new meaning to the word “frumpy,” especially if you’re petite. Wedge heels help anchor wider pants and make legs look longer and leaner. I love stilettos (even if they cripple me) but they drown under voluminous pants. So I reserve them for formal wear, pencil skirts and medium-legged trousers. And while this next statement may piss some people off, I’m just going to say it:  I abhor stilettos  with skinny jeans--probably because I’m still traumatized by that God-awful ‘90s “mall” trend of stirrup pants with pumps.

When in doubt, leave it out and unbutton an extra button:
Unless the shirt is shapeless (and then you may want to reconsider its purchase) or you work in a really corporate environment, everyone looks better when they don’t tuck their shirt into their pants or skirt. It just gives a trimmer line. And while I am not advocating exposing the “girls” to the world, unbuttoning a shirt a little more than I think is “proper” always looks hipper, sexier and more youthful than when I have an attack of modesty. In fact, I think Noir et Blanc’s Deborah has spent the last 13 years pulling my shirts out of my pants and opening the top three buttons. Lucky for me.

Loose, Shapeless Clothes are Never Slimming
Sloshing around in baggy clothes has always seemed the perfect solution to “fat” days. But trust me, wearing those ensembles don’t do anyone any favors. Ever. Everyone looks their best wearing clothes that fit. Period. If you do want to wear something loose and flowing, pair it with another piece that’s slim or add a belt to give your body shape and definition.

Colored or Printed Denim has to be Super Straight or Skinny 
I’m probably not the best person to ask about either of these trends, because, to be blunt: I don’t like them. It could be because neither one is especially flattering to my short, muscular legs. But personally, I just don’t find these pants to be all that chic. If you’re tall, leggy or slim, they can be ok. But here’s the thing: Bright colors and prints only work with straight or skinny jeans. If there’s too much fabric flapping around, Bozo and the pre-k set will want their pants back. Incidentally, I have no problem passing this trend by. In fact, foregoing an unflattering style, no matter how hot it is, is the best fashion advice I’ve ever received. Fur vest on my 4’11” busty bod? No thanks. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


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