Ralph Lauren + the U.S. Olympic Team—It Doesn’t Get More American Than That

Noteworthy News
The 2010 Winter Olympics are just a few weeks away and part of the anticipation (at least for me) stems from having to wait to learn what designer Team USA will be wearing during the ceremonies. Well, the cat's out of the bag:

Ralph Lauren is outfitting the athletes.

It’s perfect, really, because Ralph Lauren is the epitome of all-American fashion, and what’s more all-American than the U.S. Olympic Team? Especially this year’s team. In addition to the fact that they’re representing the country in athletic competition, their classic good looks are so completely all-American that they could easily pass for R.L. models.

Another development in this year’s uniform is that it’ll be available to consumers. Not only can you purchase the same pieces the athletes will be wearing, but you can also create your own Team USA-inspired gear, should you be so inclined. Such items are available both on the website and in Ralph Lauren stores.

Rue La La Reaches Out

Speaking of online sale boutiques, Rue La La has halted their sales for 24 hours (they will resume tomorrow, Saturday, January 16) and encourages shoppers to instead put their money toward helping the victims of the Haitian earthquake by donating to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Effort. The following message was released to members via email and is posted on the Rue La La home page:

Tragedies such as this natural disaster certainly put things in perspective and it’s refreshing to see a site like Rue La La acknowledge it in this way.

For more ways to donate through fashion, check out this list posted by a fellow blogger.

Ready, Set, Sale: The Clock Starts…NOW

Frugal Fashion
Times are tough, money’s tight and the holidays didn’t help ease the tension between you and your checking account any. Worst of all, despite the parties being somewhat more spread out for now, there are still upcoming birthday dinners, dates and a hodge-podge of other social situations for which you’ll want to look your best (read: you’ll want a new outfit for sure).

Not to worry; for, although 2009 was a rough year in many ways, it did give rise to a handful of members-only bargain-shopping websites, particularly those of the timed-sale variety. Between the lot of them you can score apparel, shoes, accessories, house wares, novelty items and designer collections for men, women and children. Some sites even offer exclusive travel packages! What more could an economic-slump victim want? Here’s what you need to know:

Gilt Groupe (gilt.com). The most luxurious of the bunch, this site features collections from such labels as Missoni, Helmut Lang and Doo Ri. You’ll have to log in to the sale right when it starts for any shot at snagging your dream pieces, though—things fly outa here so fast it’ll make your head spin. Their sales also tend to be more current than some of the other sites’ sales. In other words, very little time seems to have passed since the items were in-season, such that the sales are still relevant when they hit gilt.com. Features include sections for men and juniors, as well as a travel site.

*TIP: Even if the site says the item you want is “unavailable” or “in another member’s cart” just keep clicking repeatedly on the “Buy Now” button. Each member can only hold something for 10 minutes before it goes back on the digital floor. So, you’ll have a chance at picking it out of the air while it’s in transit between some unfortunate slowpoke’s cart and the metaphorical display shelf. Trust me, I speak from experience. Plus, a customer service representative told me so.

HauteLook (hautelook.com). This site reminds me of T.J. Maxx or Marshalls in that you’ll find lots of recognizable, quality brands and are likely to get some good basics and random accent pieces, but, generally, it’s not exactly a gold mine. Once in a while, though, you’ll get hit with a Christian Louboutin or Decades Two (one of my favorite vintage vendors) sale and see stars, so stay on your toes. They also have sections for men, children and home, and boast the best beauty sales of the sites on this list.

Rue La La (ruelala.com). This site, too, is another hit-or-miss shopping experience. There are some really good finds mixed in, but you’ll have to search (i.e. read the “subject” line in your daily email alerts closely). Sometimes a men’s line or a travel package will be featured, but there are no specific sections for such items, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for those, too.

Ideeli (ideeli.com). You’ll find exciting collections here, but the prices are often noticeably less slashed than the prices featured on some of the other sites; you’ll have to determine what’s a reasonable asking price on a case-by-case basis. Their luggage sales stand out, however, as do their regular giveaway drawings—it’s the only site that offers anything free so frequently and you really can’t beat that!

*NOTE: Sale start times vary based on your membership “level.” The 2nd Row is the most basic level and is free. For a fee you can upgrade to the 1st Row and get access to sales earlier than 2nd Row members. You’ll also get access to some additional, exclusive 1st-row-only sales.

Billion Dollar Babes (billiondollarbabes.com). The coolest part about this female-focused site is that it hosts live, in-person sales, in addition to those that are online. There you can actually try stuff on before you buy it! Like Ideeli, you can opt to upgrade your membership. While $100 a year seems a bit steep, the VIP membership comes with a multitude of money-saving perks, including free U.S. shipping, advance entry into both online and “real world” sales, and a discount card that’s accepted at Billion Dollar Babes' partner locations (restaurants and hotels to come soon).

theOutnet (theoutnet.com). It is because of their Flash Sales that this site made the list. Their Pop-Up Sales are straightforward, limited-time sales and their periodic Giveaways are self-explanatory, but their designer Going Going Gone sales are a bit more unique: They work like the stock market, except instead of randomly going back up in price, the item will just be gone. As the clock ticks, the price of the item goes down. You can wait to buy until the price is right, but you won’t know how many Xs (purses, pairs of shoes, necklaces, etc.) are available, so if you wait too long, you may miss out.

If you have trouble becoming a member of any of these sites (some are by invitation only), simply email me and I’ll be happy to send you an invite. Louisa at Large readers must never be excluded!

Right On, Rodarte!

Frugal Fashion
I’m thrilled to announce that come this Sunday, December 20, the Rodarte for Target collection will be available nationwide. Rodarte, one of my favorite shabby-chic lines (think Mary Kate Olsen) can be credited with single-handedly bringing back grungewear, particularly such tattered sweaters as were popular circa 1992, though their price point always hit a little high for my taste.

Now, however, in teaming with Target, Rodarte allows us to stock up on copious amounts of lace, tulle and sequins without breaking the bank (lord knows it doesn’t take much these days, am I right?). Get a preview of the full line below, so you'll know what to make a run for on Sunday; Rodarte lovers and Target shoppers aren’t the type to let things hang around for long!

Hit the Nails on the Head

A woman’s nail polish shade is an intimate choice, as it can feel to her like a reflection of both her taste and personality. Some prefer soft pinks and neutral beiges. Others prefer striking blacks and deep purples (that typically look like striking blacks). Many fall somewhere in between, with a penchant for hues ranging from fire-engine reds to powder blues. Despite the varying color preferences women express, most can agree on one thing: less chipping equals a better polish.

Enter: Minx. The new-age polish alternative comes in the form of a film that is pressed on using heat, whose chemical-free, foil-like consistency prevents chipping (so your mani lasts a lot longer) and nail damage (so your nail beds last a lot longer). What’s more, since they come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including shiny silver and slithery snakeskin, Minx has something for everyone. Yes, even you, picky polish peruser—if it’s good enough for BeyoncĂ© and Blake, I do believe it’s good enough for you. To get your future on, stop by Entebello in Atlanta or visit minxnails.com for a list of salons in your area.

Congratulations to... Kevin Rabinowitz

Followers' Freebie Free-for-All
Kevin Rabinowitz, you are the winner of the very first Followers' Freebie Free-for-All, brought to you by Louisa at Large Presents: Fashion Files. Congratulations! And thank you for being a follower of my blog. To claim your stunning Kenneth Jay Lane bib necklace, please email me your shipping address by clicking here.

As my very stylish grandmother used to say, wear it in good health, or at least pass the sentiment along with the necklace to whomever you might gift it.

For the rest of my followers who didn’t win this time around: I’m sorry! Please stay tuned for more Freebie Free-for-Alls to come in the future, as well as the greatest gift Louisa at Large can give her readers: fashion savvy, of course!

Become a Follower and Win a Kenneth Jay Lane Bib Necklace!!

Followers' Freebie Free-for-All
Here’s the deal: I get a lot of hits on this humble blog o’ mine, but the number of public followers (see left) does not reflect it and I’d like it to. So, for those of you who need an ultimatum to stand up—or at least push a button—and say, “I like Louisa at Large,” I’m giving you one.

Click the button at the top left (hint: it says, “Follow”) to become a public follower of Louisa at Large between now and midnight EST on November 15 and you’ll be entered to win this gorgeous Kenneth Jay Lane bib necklace. Fellas, you can re-gift it. I won't be offended and you'll get mad props (yes, I said, "mad props") from the lucky lady on the receiving end of the deal.

Oh, and FYI, bib necklaces are very in right now. As is frugal fashion. And, since KJL designed this limited edition, sold-out item for Avon, it definitely qualifies as such and you know I’m on board. Plus, the necklace is FREE for the winner, and you can't get fashion more frugally than that.

What will this mean for your life from now on? Literally, nothing. The only thing that will happen is the latest Louisa at Large blog posts will show up in your Google Reader if you have a Google account and if you ever check your reader... Exactly. You’ve got nothing to lose, but a potential Kenneth Jay Lane necklace to gain.

So, go on. Push the button. Everybody’s doing it.

If you’re already one of my beloved followers, don’t worry; you’ll automatically be entered to win.

Drawing will take place at midnight on November 15 and winner will be announced in a blog post.

Fascist Fashion: Forever a Faux Pas

As fashion can be a strong form of expression, it is oftentimes associated with culture, counterculture, social commentary, even politics. The clothes we wear can act as windows into our belief systems, views and values, whether or not we are conscious of it when dressing daily. It tells our peers, to some degree, what we deem wrong and right, with whom we identify and what our professional goals are. Some expressions are less subtle than others—graphic tees, for instance, can be quite blatant, with clear-cut messages splashed across the wearer’s chest like bumper stickers on another’s station wagon.

Much like freedom of speech, we possess every right to wear what we want and garment companies likewise possess the right to produce whatever they want, thus making it easier for us to find and wear whatever loaded products might appeal to us. At a certain point, though, before wearing something one must ask, “Is this okay?” and, in the case of a particularly politically charged product created and sold by the popular everyman’s brand, ZARA, I feel that I speak for the masses (or, at least, I sincerely hope I do) when I say, “No, this is not okay.”

The previously Louisa-loved ZARA, with which I became smitten when residing above a certain store location in Madrid, has gone too far in decorating a boho-inspired tote with Nazi swastikas. Aside from the evident irony (the ideals that accompany the bohemian style are of peace-making and love-spreading, far from the superiority complex and genocide tactics of the Third Reich), the accessory is ridden with offensive concepts and an appalling amount of ignorance. It’s shocking enough that the Spanish company thought such a statement was acceptable, but are the brains behind ZARA so shortsighted that this was thought to be a good business decision? Obviously, the presence of swastikas isolates a giant sector of ZARA’s customer base (ZARA products have been historically popular in Israel), but, what’s more, the company may very well drive away an additional, less apparent population made up simply of rationally-thinking, value-driven individuals, religious beliefs aside.

Since the release of the bag (and the subsequent backlash against it), ZARA has said that the bag was outsourced to an external supplier and that the swastikas were not present at the time of selection. "Had the symbol been seen we would not have sourced that particular handbag," said ZARA spokesperson Susan Suett. ZARA has now withdrawn the bag from sales floors. Nevertheless, despite the claim that this particular misstep was a mistake, it is certainly not an isolated incident when it comes to seeming anti-Semitism from the brand: In an attempt to “respond” to tension in the Middle East, ZARA had previously removed the Israeli flag from the long list of international graphics displayed on their product labels (whenever a ZARA store opens in a new country, that country’s flag is added to the ZARA price tag). As if feigning disassociation would accomplish something productive…?

As far as this swastika situation being a supposed accident, you will, of course, have to form your own opinion, but I’m perfectly clear on mine. I urge all moral consumers to join me in taking a stand against this fascist fashion house: Boycott ZARA. Let them know that no amount of aesthetic can disguise what a symbol like the swastika represents; whether the tags remain on or are pulled off our garments, and whether or not there are visible swastikas on our totes, we will not be fooled into sporting the hateful, vile messages that the ZARA label now represents. I, for one, will not think twice about walking straight past all ZARA stores from here on out, as sad as it makes me to do so. And, while our individual gestures may seem small, in this case, the message sent by the clothes we do not wear will be exceptionally strong.

Fly Away Holmes

I’m not sure what, exactly, gave Katie Holmes the idea that she is qualified to and should be a designer. Maybe it’s her innate chic-ness. Maybe it’s her close friendship with Victoria Beckham. Association by proximity? Although, that same argument could be made for Ms. Beckham, as well. Either way, consistency is certainly not the bat with which Mrs. Tom Cruise has chosen to play ball, as the “plans” for her clothing line have been shuffled around in what’s known as The Ol’ Switcheroo, regardless of how great the designs themselves may turn out to be.

The former Dawson’s Creek star (as I still prefer to fondly remember her) was originally slated to do a collaborative line for Armani—a shocker in and of itself, as no fashion house of Armani’s stature has ever before joined with a non-professional designer in such a way. What’s more, the collection was going to be for toddlers. Yes, toddlers. All inspired by Katie’s own stylish daughter, Suri, of course. (Her—ehem, her-mother-on-her-behalf’s—style is, after all, inspiring toddlers across the world....) The line was, theoretically, going to have debuted in the spring of 2009, with a collection for “older children” to follow in the fall (now). This, in turn, would supposedly be succeeded by women’s clothing and handbag collections by fall 2010.

And yet, where are the Armani-clad toddlers, compliments of Katie?

Hence, The Ol’ Switcheroo. Instead of debuting her collection for the high-fashion fixture, the red carpet maven has seen spring 2009 come and go, and has had her reps announce (without mention of the aforesaid, uncompleted collection that seemed to mysteriously drop off the map) that she will be doing a line with her stylist, Jeanne Yang. According to Women’s Wear Daily, her new plans include a fall 2009 collection of “premium” women’s clothes, which will be sold at L.A.’s Maxfield, the West Coast equivalent of Barney’s or Bergdorf’s, and—what’s this?—a toddler collection inspired by Suri. I guess one thing did stay the same.

Low-end let-down

Frugal Fashion
Although there was much ado about Matthew Williamson’s new line for H&M, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. True, Williamson’s line seemed to hold more promise than most lower-end designer collaborations, but it still managed to come up short.

The potential lay in the design factor; as discussed previously, Williamson spared no creative juices when concocting the pieces, as each separate reflected the same great design quality as those he sent down the runway. Cut, color, even materials (silk was a primary construction component) were all of Collection caliber—or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, great designs and top-notch materials are futile if the product doesn’t fit properly, which is, regrettably, the case in this instance. Granted, Atlanta didn’t receive the full line (being a smaller market, they are only set to sell select items), so the critique only goes as far as those pieces. But if the Atlanta assortment is any indication, sales don’t bode well for the rest of the line, either. Low-hanging armholes stick out like strange wings if more than an A-cup is added to the equation; pants are cut so slim that sitting is restricted; bathing suit bottoms don’t flatter any behind over a size 0. On a positive note, though, the scarves and bags appear to work for everyone. Riiiiiight...

The limited Williamson variety at the Atlantic Station store was disappointment enough, but when even those few items weren’t cut correctly it only added insult to injury. Such excitement shot down with an unflattering fit. At least it’s clear now why H&M chose mannequins (as opposed to real, live models) on which to display the complete collection on their website.