Fashion 101

  • Opinion
  • Sunday, 07 Sep 2008

In the interest of fashion literacy, our columnist answers some of the many questions she gets every week.

I’M interested to know how you became a fashion writer. What kind of courses/qualifications does one need to get into this line? And does your working life differ from a nine-to-five job? What do you do on your working days? – YAP

THAT’S a lot of questions! Well, I got into this line because, of course, I love fashion, and there happened to be an opening at StarMag, so here I am.

You don’t need specific qualifications to write about fashion, you just have to have a passion for it. Read as much as possible, keep an eye on what happens in the industry and take an interest in what goes into the making of fashion and the people behind it, as opposed to just knowing what’s in or out.

My work hours are pretty flexible; it depends on whether I have an assignment, an event to cover, or I’m staying in the office to write. The latter usually means fairly normal hours, but when there are events to cover, especially if they are held in the evening, the day can get quite long.

Sometimes, I have to do some reconnaissance work, which is fun, as this means taking to the streets to see what people are wearing and what the stores are carrying.

I don’t attend every single function or launch – that depends on my editor and my schedule – and sometimes I attend events just to network and to meet industry people.

While all this seems like fun, it can also mean long, hard hours. Far from living a glamorous life and doing nothing but looking at clothes and going to parties, most of the time I am in the office writing my five stories for the week! All right, maybe three....

I love bags and have a few in my collection. However, since most are expensive I have to select only the pieces I love the most.

Most bags in my collection come in neutral colours of black and different shades of brown except for a Louis Vuitton Epi Speedy in red.

Recently, I fell in love with Loewe Napa Aire and am thinking of getting one in dark brown. However, the ones in “unsafe” colours such as pink and metallic green really caught my eye. What do you think of these colours for bags? Do you think a working woman like me could carry it off? Can I use it for any occasion or daily use? I am an engineer in a consulting office.

Any advice on what to wear with the bag? – SARAH

It’s always safe to buy in neutral colours as you would get more use out of the item, but I am always of the opinion that if you fall in love with a bag that’s in an “unsafe” colour, well, if you adore it, why not?

And, of course, you can carry it off! Any woman can carry off anything if they do it with style!

I also believe that if you paid a lot of money for a bag, and you absolutely love it, you can take it to the market if you want.

As for what to wear with it, whatever you like! It’s not what you wear ... it’s the way you wear it.

My 22-year-old daughter is a tall 1.7m and pretty but she has big feet, size 9.5 or 10. She has problems buying shoes and has a phobia about even entering shoe shops as she is very self-conscious about her feet. Where could she buy larger shoes, or have them specially made? She is now working in an office and needs proper shoes/pumps. Please help! – JULIE

IF luxury brands are not within your budget, mass brands like Vincci do carry shoes up to size 10.

For custom made shoes, try Lewre, which has a bespoke range (outlets can be found in most shopping malls in KL), and Thomas Chan at Bangsar Shopping Center, KL.

And tell your daughter not to be self-conscious; a lot of beautiful women, including the supermodels and Hollywood actresses, wear shoes in that size.

If you could buy only one handbag, what would it be? And where can I buy a good branded handbag at a bargain? – ANNA

If I could buy only ONE bag? Oh dear ... this is very difficult to answer, because I am bag-mad, so choosing one is impossible. However, if money is no object, I would love an Hermes Birkin in Blue Jean with silver hardware.

As to where to buy branded bags at reasonable prices, your best bet would be to go to the country of origin (such as buying Chanel and Louis Vuitton in France) simply because it would be cheaper there. But, since we’re living in the real world, wait for sales or go to outlets such as the MO outlet (for the Melium brands) or the FJB warehouse (both located in Taman Shamelin Perkasa, KL).

Another choice is second hand stores, which I have mentioned before, where you’d find gently used bags.

MY dilemma seems trivial but I don’t know who else to turn to for advice. After having my baby, I haven’t had a lot of time to shop,and don’t really know what is in fashion. And my post-baby body is not good for my self-esteem. Can you help?– AZLEENA

Firstly, your dilemma is not a trivial one, as keeping up with seasonal trends is, frankly, exhausting and only for people who have time or an interest in fashion.

This season, some trends to look at are menswear-inspired slouchy pants, statement jewellery, wide belts, and one-shoulder dresses. Check seasonal trends online at fashion sites like

As for the post-baby body, it will take some time for you to regain your pre-baby shape, so in the meantime, I would suggest going for classics (white shirts, tailored pants, ballet pumps) because they won’t date you and can form the base of your wardrobe. Plus you would still have use for them later.

To update your look, add a few key seasonal items, and don’t forget costume jewellery, a great bag and shoes.

All of us mummies have gone what you are experiencing now, including the low self-esteem. But I can tell you with first-hand experience that given time, exercise and a healthy diet, you will regain your shape – or look even better, as some of us actually look better after pregnancy.

Keep a positive attitude and enjoy being a mum, as in your child’s eyes, you will always be perfect and that’s what matters most!

I’ll be in New York for Fashion Week when this comes out and will be talking about it in my next column, so keep a look out for it!

> Fashion lover and bag mad Dzireena Mahadzir lives by two rules: never pay retail and never explain. If you’d like to bring up a fashionable issue or ask some stylish questions, send an SoS to her e-mail

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