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SHOPPING : YOUR STYLIST

Yup, they're strap happy

January 27, 2008|Erin Weinger | Times Staff Writer

Victoria BECKHAM dons a Dior pair on the cover of Elle this month, while Keira Knightley wears the same ones on the cover of Interview, and Kate Hudson sports them in the pages of January Vogue.

Suspenders, no longer simply a quirky hipster accessory, have gone legit.

It's pretty amazing for a look that barely scratched the spring catwalk's surface except at Dior, where suspenders accented Marlene Dietrich-inspired, full-legged trousers.

The truth is, suspenders came into their own by filtering up from the streets, not down from the runways. Last year, Mischa Barton wore them everywhere, along with DJ Samantha Ronson and modeling phenom Agyness Deyn (who might just be, thanks to her quirky and influential wardrobe, the next Kate Moss). Now that suspenders are receiving a more refined presentation, they're more likely to be found on the Sartorialist website than on Cobrasnake. But that doesn't mean that everyone who's reading Elle and Interview should attempt the temperamental look. For those willing to give the look a go, there are suspenders at every price point: H&M makes skinny ones in basic black and blue ($12.90), or you can spend all the way up to a brown leather pair by Robert Geller ($198).

Wardrobe stylist Ilaria Urbinati agrees. Having costumed Season 2 of "The L Word," she's no slouch at androgynous dress but cautions would-be wearers against errors that are likely to draw snickers from a crowd. "I've been wearing suspenders my entire life," she says. "But it's a hard look to pull off." We enlisted Urbinati's wisdom to make it easy.

Keep it light

Because suspenders make such a loud statement, Urbinati says that the surrounding outfit should stay sparse. "The simpler the better," she says. Celebrities usually overdo it. "It tends to look ridiculous because they're trying to be too sexy and serious. They don't understand that suspenders are simple and fun." Last spring, Fergie added a fedora, Wayfarer sunglasses and a scarf to her denim suspender ensemble, which created a look that belonged in trend rehab. For a summer appearance on MTV's "TRL," the singer again sported suspender overalls but lost the heavy accessories -- and the desperation that went with them.

Hip-hop not

"If you wear them with too many men's pieces, it's too costume-like." Urbinati advises suspender wearers to go easy on male accoutrements such as vests to avoid looking like Oliver Twist or Tom Sawyer. Another major faux pas is letting one or both straps hang down. "No. Unless you want to look like Marky Mark. [The look] can't be hip-hop; it's more Hedi Slimane and Dior."

How to avoid the worst dressed list

"All of my fashion friends started wearing them," Urbinati says (which is a good sign, given her chic inner circle). "I love them with high-waisted pants. Denim is the best way to go. And they look good with a T-shirt and a tuxedo blazer too." Slouchy dress pants are also a stylish way to inject the suspender with some old-school charm. But dress pants don't necessarily mean dressing up. "I don't love suspenders for anything fancy. They're fun and cheeky."

What about shoes?

Footwear can stump even seasoned style-makers when it comes to suspenders. "Unless you're super avant garde, forget the high-top Nikes. With suspenders, I usually like flats better than heels. But if you're doing a cool trouser, heels are fine." We vow not to mix our eco-friendly Air Jordans with suspenders.

What to bring to the register

Having picked up many pairs of suspenders at vintage stores and discount chains such as Forever 21, she suggests shoppers go for cheap or high-end. "It isn't worth it to do the in-between." And what is go-to style when it comes to elastic? "Skinny black ones. . . . Suspenders always feel cartoonish in colors."

Famous last words

Urbinati suggests that the look be left to women who don't resemble Pamela Anderson. She's blunt: "Boobs get in the way."

--

erin.weinger@latimes.com

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