Passport To Eclectic Charm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fashion loves a good travel tale. Global sources regularly pop up as inspiration for designers, whether the influence be India's fuchsia saris and bejeweled bracelets, the American Southwest's beading and fringe, or Africa's wax print fabrics and carved jewelry.

This year, though, designers drew inspiration from all of those -- and more. The result? A Gypsy-inspired explosion of worldly influences and a mishmash of patterns, colors, textures and layers.

"You can mix pieces and be inventive and find a weird pair of straw sandals in India and mix that with a Mexican peasant blouse or a pair of huarache sandals. And then mix that with a piece of cotton from Provence," says Julia Chaplin, whose new tome, "Gypset Style," explores gypsy/jet set culture. "And if you turned the cotton into a little miniskirt or you rope the sandals around gladiator-style, you're going to get a very contemporary look. It's not necessarily hippie at all, but it is referencing cultures -- and if the references are piled up in a cool way, then it's glamorous."

To nail the exotic, stylish wanderer look, watch for swirling paisleys, intricate embroidery, saturated, bright hues and floaty, gauzy silks. In the accessories department, try mixing metallics and stacking jangling bangles. Coat your lashes with ample jet-black mascara. And remember: Don't be shy. This look is meant to be theatrical, says Chaplin.

"It's almost a conversation about different places you've visited and things you've observed," she says. "Like a wearable travelogue."

-- Michelle Thomas

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