Finishing touches
By Catherine Berlin

Purses, jackets, scarves, perfumes, jewelry, more layers, yikes. Say goodbye to running out of the house in a simple little dress, fab sandals, a toss bag, and a bit of bling. Autumn means having to spend more time to pull it all together. Lucky for us, fall’s finishing touches can be found everywhere—from international to domestic accents, from area boutiques to mall anchor stores, museum shops, and the web. Here are a few suggestions on looks that will help get us into the mindset we’ll need for when November nudges us into full-blown layers and boots.

African Beaded Bag
Made by African refugees, these bags seem a force all their own, capturing attention and not letting go. So many looks work with a touch of African influence, especially where the color and texture are deep enough to go with the rest of our more rugged seasons. Everything Africa comes from Everything Elmwood, for about $170.

Sometimes it’s the straight line makes all the waves. This look from Organics does double work, too, by giving a leaner look to a curvier body—just be sure to add a heel for leg length. A stacked cowl under a long, simple sweater, matched with a wonderfully excessive flared pant leg—so sexy in a Cate-Blanchett-as-Katherine-Hepburn kind of way, and totally in this season without having to go floral, flowey, or block-mod. Organics is available at Lileo in Toronto; contact

Guess Bags
Magenta is a hot color this season, and Guess came up with many looks in shades of this beautiful color. Gives any black, gray, brown, or winter white outfit enough pop for an entrance, and makes it practically impossible for people like me to wonder, “Now, where did I put my purse?” Visit Guess at Walden Galleria and the Niagara Falls Prime Outlet.

Thin-Ice Watches
These are statement watches, with warm colors and even warmer one-of-a-kind charm. Thin Ice on Elmwood carries a series made from recycled metals with hand-painted faces that work a cross between Native American and steampunk. So fun to dress up around, these watches beg warm sweaters or thin silk turtlenecks as accompanying pieces. 719 Elmwood, 881-4321. From $240.

MY Oilcloth Handbags
Lightweight but substantial, trendy without being superficial, and able to survive whatever nature and a hectic schedule throws in your path, the MY Oilcloth is a hybrid bag—how all purses should be made from now on. In the smaller size, like the MY envelope or convertible (shown here) it’s perfect for errands, or even the bag you keep your must-haves in, even if the MY ends up in a larger purse. Comes in tote, satchel, and accessory sizes, distinctive patterns and colors, and inside pocket configurations for keys, bottles, books, and computers, with closures of zippers and leather. If you get a sense I’m impressed with this bag, you’d be spot on. Created by mothers-turned-entrepreneurs Michele Sommer and Yvette Yelardy, the bags are available at

White House Black Market
If you haven’t found the Chico’s sister-store yet, hurry to Orchard Park and explore. Everything in the shop is black and white (or a combination of the two) and bound to become a wardrobe staple—only not a staple in a boring way. This jacket, for example, looks like a simple gray number, but the wide, low, sloping collar, the detail and nip at the waist, and the shorter, almost-bell-sleeve quietly work to transform a basic gray suit top into something that can make a body look exciting. Many of the WHBM items are machine washable, a big help, and the lines run from delicate, hot dresses, to perfectly presentable sportswear. 4005 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park, 662-3508.

May 75 Jeans
Jeans are a way of life, so why choose between the sea of teen stuff and mom jeans? Made in L.A. from recycled Italian and Japanese denim, these jeans are a compliment magnet. Never mind the $178 price. You can find jeans at half the cost, but will likely get only half of these critical points: The back pockets are no-nonsense and unless your buttocks look like two half-grapefruits, this is how pockets need to look. The waistband is about two inches wide, and wider works to slim. The rise hits midway, which avoids (1) muffin-top overflow and (2) the superhero look. The zipper is short so it won’t bulk up when you sit down. The flare is wide and the hem visibly substantial, which together trims the hips and the thighs. If the style fits, this jean will be there for you, night or day. And what else, in all truth, can you say that about these days? The jeans can be seen at

Petunia Pickle Bottom
It’s a diaper bag and it looks this smashing. Do I really have to say anything else? Do a new mom a big favor and run to Room’s baby and toddler area and buy, buy, buy. (Oh, they have rough and tough alternative hip bags for dad, too.) 988 Elmwood, 886-3581.

Brighton Bags and Bangles
The college kids gave an audible coo when shown these two bags from Brighton. Separately, each gives a spot for cell phones, money, critical cards, and a gloss. Wear together and skip the big purse and focus primarily on a book bag and getting the body to class. The leather Kismet Mini hip bag has plenty of dividers to be efficient. The Soft-Hearted vintage-croco cell bag offers a side wallet and a place to clip keys. $68–$160. Visit Brighton at Walden Galleria.

Scents Sense
Recommending perfume is tough. Scent is so personal. But here’s a secret. I’m on the way out the door. I’ve forgotten to use perfume, deodorant, soap. I grab one of my tiny room-oil jars from the mantel and throw a few droplets on my neck. I’ve done this for years. Vmagique is my most recent find of oils that are actually designed to be perfume. Visit

Jone Steverson and Jack Georges
Eden native Jone Steverson designs scarves that get me touched wherever I travel. New York City, Milan, Walgreens: “Oooh,” they say. Paired with a Jack Georges Milano vertical computer wheeler in the matching green (designed to get down narrow airline aisles), the look passes one of my toughest litmus tests: a run through the streets of NYC, where I get note-taking side-glances in a city that has seen everything. Bags at Scarves available through the Etsy site (which is worth exploring if you are new to it), at, seller id joneonline.


Back to the Table of Contents

Back to Top