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Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Telling a fashionista not to watch the Oscars is like asking George Clooney to remarry — it’s never going to happen. Like haute couture runway shows, the Oscar red carpet presents our dreams as reality: countless layers of chiffon, Lloyds of London-insured jewelry, designer handbags raining like manna from heaven and, let’s not forget, all eyes on you.

The addictive component of the Oscars, however, lies in the fact that walking the red carpet in a mind-blowing gown is not precluded by height, body type, color or any other physical barrier. This differs from runway shows where petite women like myself will never walk, no matter how many times we insist the height discrepancy is solely due to a faulty feet-to-meters converter (come on — haven’t we ALL used that as an excuse?!).

In the truest sense of the American dream, talent — and lots of schmoozing — is the cultural commodity that can make you a star. Of course, in this modern technological century, talent is more than ever an equal opportunity inspirer. Every fashionista can tweet, blog, style spot and be street chic! Moreover, in today’s global fashion market, Marchesa dresses are only a click away via Net-a-Porter and Rent the Runway, while H&M and Zara give us designer quality at friendly prices.

Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie and Emma Stone? Darlings, they’re yesterday’s stars — you are today’s headliner. And what better way to shout it from the rooftops, than by making the proper fashion entrance at your own Oscar Party?

There are two proverbial fashion yellow brick roads to travel at your Oscar fete: taking inspiration from the classic gold statue or contextualizing the style choice within the greater film nomination context.

The first is obvious. We’ve all seen those glistening gold gowns. In fact, we might all have one in our closet. Peek-a-boo mesh, lace fabrics, feathers and even lame have made their metallic appearance on the red carpet this season. Go for the gold in a flirty short dress, or rock an ankle length A-line skirt for a magical touch.

Even more appealing, however, is the huge roaring 20s Parisian theme which has pervaded this years’ films. “The Artist,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Hugo” all speak to this era and the Spring 2012 Fashion Week picked up on the beads, art deco and flapper silhouettes in the air. Take a look at Salma Hayek’s geometric bustier on her black Golden Globes Gucci dress for a point of reference (Francois Pinault, I hope you appreciate what a lucky man you are).

Reinterpret this look by placing it on a modern silhouette — fringe is also a definite option. Pick a monochrome dress and pair it with a sparkly sweater. The key to this style, like the art deco artistic movement, is linear symmetry. Think of the top of the Chrysler Building — alternating diamond shapes in shimmering silver. Who could resist that? Keep the shimmer coming in your accessories. Sparkly flats give that grounded, urban Parisienne feel. A vintage beaded bag can pull your whole look together.

While bold colors are in this season, this look works best with soft pastels and nudes. Would Bérénice Bejo have looked as elegant, arresting and ethereal in “The Artist” if she weren’t in black and white? The icons of those early Hollywood years of glamour knew what they were doing. Let’s show Mr. DeMille that we women of the 21st century are also ready for our modern close up.

Contact Felicia Caponigri at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.  


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Thursday, February 16, 2012

This fashionista first fell in love with all things Brazilian upon discovering a little restaurant-club in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, Favela Chic. Memories made with best friends to the rhythm of “Magalenha” amplified the already strong impact the Brazilian mystique exerts on us all. The breezy natural beauty of the Brazilian fashion aesthetic captures our style senses.

Thankfully seniorRio de Janeiro native Tatiana Spragins let us in on the secret.

FbyF: So, Tati, tell us about the fashion aesthetic in Brazil.

TS: Well, first of all Brazil is a large country with many different regions, and therefore, different styles. Sao Paolo, for example, is like New York, many more suits and businesswear. I’ll speak to the aesthetic of Rio where I grew up. Carioca (a person from Rio) fashion reflects the hot temperature of Rio, with bright, vibrant colors and organic fabrics like linen and cotton, and sandals. Patterns are extremely popular. Certain stores market their own for strong brand recognition. Patterns take the place of logos in Carioca fashion, acting as a status symbol. The key is to look natural, with not too much makeup, and flowing hair. A pair of well cut jeans with a flowing, loose, bright top. It’s very basic. Carioca fashion is as much about how you wear it as what you wear. Taking care of yourself is important.

FbyF: What do you think of the Brazilian fashion mystique?

TS: Actually I think it’s quite funny, this obsession with Brazilian beauty. I think it’s natural — that a beauty that is different has a wow factor. It does deserve attention, but to us it’s not that exotic.  I’ve always been very aware of the reality of the stereotype.

The thing about fashion in Brazil, too, is that the middle class is a new phenomenon, and to retain a sense of status, people don’t mix high and low fashion, like you see in the States. Services in Brazil are cheap, products are expensive, so the cost of clothes is also much higher, naturally.  

FbyF: Growing up and then coming to Notre Dame, how was your fashion aesthetic formed and then changed?

TS: Well, at about 16 or 17 I really fell into the Carioca style with my friends. Going to the beach so much, you wear something that can translate easily from there to a restaurant to the mall. I don’t think Brazilian fashion is so different from fashion at ND in that it’s casual, and you don’t really try to stick out or be flashy. But I distinctly remember getting a Lewis Hall t-shirt as a freshman, and cutting it up immediately, making the neckline lower, cropping it at the waist, to make it fit better, not knowing we were going to wear these shirts for the whole week. I looked different.

Also, I find there’s less of an impetus here to dress for class. There’s a fashion divide — either you try too hard or not at all. In Brazil, everyone makes an effort.

I’ve adapted to ND naturally by buying most of my winter clothes in the States, UGGs and fleece for instance. There are some conditions, like the weather, whose affect [on your style] you can’t control. But when summer comes, out come my Carioca dresses. My Brazilian style has become stronger. I miss what I can’t find here in the States. And of course, when I’m in New York, where they really express personal style, I take my true [Brazilian] fashion aesthetic out of the closet.

And on that note, darlings, let the Carioca style summit begin!


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Thursday, February 9, 2012


Oh, Valentine’s Day. The holiday when everything is coming up roses, lovers are passionately embracing and romance is in the air.

Or, the day when you wear all black, celebrate your single fabulosity with multiple cosmopolitans and find yourself crashing a celebrity party to outrageously flirt with an actor who’s clearly the right vintage for you (a fashionista never tells).

What does this day even mean? Why are we so intent on validating our inner emotional life with outward tokens of affection from others? Why not instead personally celebrate the precious vulnerability inherent in the courage to take those emotional risks in the first place?

Because that’s really what love is all about — embracing the vulnerability inherent to gambling with your heart. Embracing fashion is a stop on the road to the acceptance of vulnerability. 

Every time you pick out an ensemble or a new accessory, whether you try an adventurous trend or not, you are embracing your own vulnerabilities and taking the risk to prove beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder. It resides within yourself. You are the true token of affection. You are the real Valentine.

The card variety is lovely, but nothing compares to you. You’ve taken the risks, you’ve fought the passionate battles and you know the hidden secrets of your heart that can’t be boiled down to a nice turn of a phrase.

Now, the only task left is to find an outfit that visually communicates this strength in vulnerability to your audience, so that they too never underestimate the power of you. Ladies, let’s do it — in red.

Red has for centuries been the color of passion, seduction and love. However, did you know that it originally came into fashion in the 17th century thanks to King Louis the XIV and his pride in his gorgeous legs?

Apparently the man thought he was quite a dish, so he dyed his high heels scarlet (and they say only women are fashion obsessed).

The color was even more prized due to the rarity of the Mexican bug that produced it, the cochineal. As the centuries progressed, red became associated with the provocative and the dangerous (no surprise Mary Magdalene is always depicted in scarlet).

However, anyone who has watched Bette Davis defy the power of debutante white in “Jezebel” knows that no matter what perception red is associated with in any culture, it always gives its wearer power. It proclaims a fearless commitment to stand out in the face of any vulnerability.

To work red, make the occasion your starting point. For a formal event, go floor length with a red gown and add black accessories. 

A concert requires a more otherworldly feel, so invest in a full skirt with peek-a-boo lace. Dancing on the town? Nothing says flirty and fabulous like a red and black mesh dress. The color wheel of red can be quite specific.

The best color for you resides within conventional wisdoms for red lipstick. For pale skin tones, try blue-based reds.

Orange-based reds make the more tan among us radiant, while deep skin tones are absolutely delectable in berry reds.

In the words of Cary Grant to Katharine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story,” “You’re fascinated, Red. You’re far and away your favorite person in the world.”

Yes, Cary, in red, we are. 

Contact Felicia Caponigri at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fashion, as we true enthusiasts know, is universal. It crosses seemingly impenetrable boundaries.

Likewise, here at Notre Dame, we are lucky enough to belong to a student body with representatives from every part of the international scene.

With this spirit in mind, how can we not combine the forces of fashion and student perspective for a greater good?

I interviewed our first fashion ambassador Yitong Zheng, a senior and a proud young Chinese woman.

Commenting on the differences between American and Chinese fashion, and sharing style notes, Yitong opens our eyes to the cool Chinese fashion aesthetic and the global fashion forces at work on our very own campus.

FbyF: So, Yitong, what were your style influences growing up in China?

YZ: Well, high school is generally when you start developing your own style. At boarding school for five days a week you hang out with your friends, read a lot of fashion magazines and start to cultivate that “daredevil” sense of young fashion.

You move away from the more conservative generation of your parents’ style, and in China there’s a lot of Western style influence, so we definitely adapt that as well.

FbyF: What do you think is unique to Chinese Fashion?

YZ: There’s a huge sense of “dressing neutral,” and androgyny in Chinese fashion. Men have a more feminine aesthetic, girls dress very boyish. This is definitely not something, especially for men, that you would see here on campus and in the States.

Likewise, there is a “cuteness,” meaning absorbing different influences from all over Asia into a young anime, naive and happy aesthetic.

You can see this in the many colorful and character-driven accessories that a range of Chinese women embrace, from teenagers to early 30-year-olds.

Also, the use of parasols is indicative of a different sense of beauty. Here in the States, tan means beautiful, in China, a lighter, paler skin tone is the most desirable.

FbyF: What was the most surprising fashion impression you had when you arrived at Notre Dame for your freshman year?

YZ: I was so surprised by how casually people dress to go to class, and then how dressed up they would get to go out to evening events, almost as if they were changing into a different person.  

In China, you never wear sweatpants out of the house. After a 16 hour flight back to China the summer after my freshman year, I got off the plane in sweatpants and my mother asked me how I could wear those in public.

The private and public spheres are much more delineated. In China, students get more dressed up for class, but they dress down for evening events.

FbyF: So have you changed your overall Fashion since being at Notre Dame?

YZ: Yes, I’m more concerned about my formal wear when I’m in China. And I’m more casual to go to class at Notre Dame and overall. Also, before, I would wear much more anime items like in China, but now I wear them less.

FbyF: Have you noticed a general change in the dress of other students from China?  

YZ: Yes, I think overall the fashion is more Americanized, but we still bring the animated, fun quality of China style into our everyday aesthetic.

Contact Felicia Caponigri at

[email protected]

    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.