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Top 5 picks at Mall title 4-99.gif (12161 bytes)

Written and illustrated by Kathryn Martinez
XOXO [Jump]
MaxStudio [Jump]
Banana Republic [Jump]
Gap [Jump]
Ann Taylor [Jump]
Salutations Fashion Finders! In preparation for the barrage of parties, festivities, and holiday cheer, I've scouted about town like a good little elf, made my holiday pick list, and checked it twice. Some are naughty, but some are nice, and hopefully all will still fit after all the eating, drinking and being merry we are about to do in the coming weeks!
XOXO has a lot of strong, bold, feminine pieces, as well as super-trendy, over-the-top choices that I've left off this list (like orange leather jackets and animal print coats).

The fist pick was chosen mainly because of my "Joan of Arc/medieval armor is cool" trip. This gold acetate and lurex top looks like chain mail, is slinky and a great party piece. $38.00.

I've paired it with an olive green, mid-calf length skirt with scalloped hem to tone down the flashiness of the gold top. The fabric is matte and is soft, due to the suede-like finish of the polyester/spandex fabric. Also comes in black or chocolate brown, $44.00.

Next, XOXO's black, long sleeve nylon shirt has a short strip of rhinestones starting at the point of the V-neck that reminds me of an aircraft runway (This shirt is for anyone wanting to flag down the mother ship at the stroke of midnight). However, the row of rhinestones are attached to a zipper that parts them, just like the Red Sea! $68.00.
This next dress is a very lush, very beautiful result of melding Indian and Chinese elements into one gorgeous dress. It's made of vibrant fuschia silk with flower embroidery down the middle. It zips up the back and has a slit in the back as well. $114.00.
Our final pick from XOXO is a black, semi-sheer polyester-spandex top with 3/4 sleeves, which are romanticized with ruffles at the cuffs. Again, a strong layering piece that adds some flounce to all the straight and simple silhouettes that have been associated with the "look of the millennium." Also comes in cream, $28.00.
MaxStudio offers high quality knitwear, and incorporates inventive elements in their designs. For the winter season, there is a great emphasis on deep rich colors, like purple and orange.

Our first Max item is this thin, black, mohair/nylon/acrylic sweater. There is a geometric design embroidered on the front with delicate silver thread, as if some magical spider was trying to solve some mad calculus problem. Overpriced at $198.00.

And these cotton/spandex, black denim stretch jeans from MaxStudio are great for family eating parties, because in addition to the front zipper, there are laces to be drawn at the back. This gives you a little extra after-dinner room that allows you to keep that top button closed! Plus, there are fun zippers that reach up all the way to the knees. $98.00.

Here's a perfect combination. This greenish-yellow silk/spandex/cashmere top is cut off at the bustline, a new silhouette possibility, which I feel is sorely lacking in fashion at the moment. $68.00.

It's shown over a silk/spandex cashmere purple sweater tube top that's amazing for its versatility. The layering possibilities are endless, and by now, you all must know how I love to layer! Under semi-sheer shirts, a sparkly button-down, over turtlenecks, or alone, itís just great. $68.00.


Finally, I have chosen this Helmut Lang "inspired" sweater with unattached elbows. The body of the sweater is dark gray, and the elbows are light gray. By wearing a bright long sleeve shirt underneath, one can accentuate the elbows, a part of the body seldom accentuated. Overpriced at $198.00.
Banana Republic

Our first item from BR is their knitted cashmere hood. I really like the idea of thinking of hoods as you would a hat or scarf. I mean, you're wearing a hood, but it's not attached to anything! I think that's pretty cool! (I'd imagine that this would look great with the purple tube top sweater from MaxStudio) It's a whole new world for the hood. Available in black, creamy white, gray, black, an icy blue white, and pumpkin orange. $60.00. 
Next we have this polyester-rayon fleece that brings to mind the Ewoks in winter. I think it's a comfortable piece for snuggling into the new year. Available in creamy white, an icy-blue white, dark blue-gray, light gray, and black. $58.00.
Now we're up to the mohair, merino wool, and nylon turtleneck sweater. It's got super long sleeves that make super amounts of folds on the arms, creating a wonderful draping effect. It is also loosely knitted, making it see-through and ready for layering. Comes in army green or midnight blue, $68.00.

The silk skirt is a great piece because it's a toned-down way of incorporating the big Fairy Princess ball gown trend for eveningwear this winter, without all the drama and the fairy dust. Available in light brown, and black with blue stitching trim. $128.00.

Our last BR item is for those of you who want to face the holiday party scene carrying as little as possible. This leather wallet/cell phone holster is great for a night out on the town. Like those safety wallets tourists hang around their necks and under their clothes, this version is great because it can be worn over your clothes; it can hold your credit card, ID and money, and zips it up safe and sound, while the cell phone holder keeps your phone convenient and ready for calling home, or whatever. I'd imagine this to be most convenient for going to clubs, so that you don't have to carry a bag, or ask your friend to hold your money for you while you're on the dance floor. $58.00. It's available in blue gray, black, or icy-blue-white leather with a black leather strap.
Gap:   I had a hard time finding evening/party gear at the Gap. I saw the same casually sporty items, and the same uniform work items. However, in the last couple of weeks, they have introduced a few more formal pieces, just in time for our holiday convenience.

Ah yes, here it is, the little black dress. The Gap rendition of this tried and true classic is a v-neck shift in acetate/rayon that is cut a bit loosely, for a bit of 1960's flare and much comfort. This pick also gets extra points for great after-holiday usability potential. $58.00.

Now, due to my intentional shortcut through the Baby Gap section of the particular Gap location I was in, I unintentionally came across this fun jagged rhinestone headband. It only costs $5.50, and puts the wearer instantly into party mode. Available in diamond rhinestone, pink rhinestone, or aqua rhinestone.

Our next pick is a wool, long-sleeve, hooded sweater. It's pretty basic, comes in black or light gray, and mixes well with more dressy bottoms. $56.00.

Speaking of which, here's a silvery-gray, sheer, polyester/nylon pleated skirt with silvery-gray lining. It's very delicate in a ballerina sort of way, but also avant-garde, in a Helmut Lang sort of way. With this skirt, the Gap has made some redemption of itself in this consumer's eye, and I've been watching them with a scrutinous eye for the past few monthsÖmaybe it's the Christmas spirit warming up the Scrooge in me. $58.00.

Our last Gap pick is what I like to call the B-dazzlin' holiday skirt. It's a black skirt made of a blend of polyester/acrylic/nylon/ spandex, and that "other" stuff that was in the pea coat that was featured last month. Now, the "other" stuff isn't what makes it B-dazzlin', rather it's the rhinestones that flurry down to the hem of the skirt. I guess you could also call this the "Silent Night skirt" (calm black background and bright starry rhinestones). Anyway, call it whatever you like, it'll still cost you $48.00!
Ann Taylor
Our first pick is this retro 1950's-inspired dress. It's got the whole poof and flower prom dress thing going on, but the shiny polyester/acetate fabric in maroon/black mixes in enough modernity to keep it from looking overly nostalgic, an important thing to keep in mind for the new year. $220.00.
Our next item is a snow-white, V-neck, merino wool/nylon knit sweater, with sequins sewn up and down the body and sleeves in neat little rows. The light-catching sequins work well with the texture of the merino wool and the looseness of the knitting, which makes the sweater slightly see-through, leaving great possibilities for layering on top of colored tanks, dresses, tees, what have you (my preference would be something orange). $98.00.
Next we have a 100% red sleeveless top in 100% merino wool. This top also has sequins, along with a smattering of little red beads. An undeniably festive pick, I'd say. $138.00.
Now we are moving on to Ann Taylor accessories, which I love. This white sequined silk scarf may be a bit too much with the white sequined sweater, but would be a great way to spiff up low key pieces that you already own, like a little black dress. $68.00.
Lastly we have this little bag in silver satin. From far away it looks like chain mail, and because I have this fixation with Joan of Arc and medieval armor, it caught my eye. It's shaped like a coin purse with satin straps attached to it, $58.00. Also available in black.
So make your choices, be naughty or nice, just remember to have a good time. See you next year!
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