Pages of fashion

Fashion magazines had gotten a bad rap for presenting impossible ideals of feminine form. I used to not be able to flip through one without feeling like a beast in comparison.

But in recent years, publishers have heard this criticism loud and clear and have become more inclusive, highlighting all forms, colours, ages and genders in their pages.

It’s time to start reading fashion magazines again.

I spent a few hours poring over glossies at the Okanagan Regional Library to compare editorial themes and content of various magazines.

Side note: You can browse the current month’s periodicals in any library branch and borrow past months just like books. Also, you can read online and download magazines with your library card. All for free, leaving more money to spend on style.


Vogue is arguably the grand dame of all fashion magazines with a history dating back to 1892; its famous editor, Anna Wintour, has been at the helm since 1988.

For those who don’t know who Wintour is, she carries the biggest cred in the fashion industry, as co-chair of the annual Met Gala and apparently the inspiration behind the evil boss in The Devil Wears Prada.

The first thing you’ll notice about Vogue is the ads. Pages upon pages of beautiful glossy premium designer images from Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent.

This magazine’s focus is not on fashion trends, but the designers and the industry.

Their photo shoots depict elaborate sets and sweeping drama, and clothing only the one per cent can afford. Most of it leaves me baffled, like a baggy moth-eaten sweater costing $2,200 US. 

In terms of editorial content, Vogue actually does a good job of featuring non-fashion-related women’s issues.
Best for the aspiring designer.


This glossy is all about celebrity. It features photos spreads and articles about super models, actors, and singers all showcasing the latest trends and red carpet looks.

It’s pretty light on words with a heavy focus on beauty products and fashion accessories. Their monthly “high/low” column gives suggestions for affordable versions of costly designer goods.

InStyle is the magazine most likely to introduce you to an up-and-coming new designer you’ve never heard of that will make you swoon.

Best for the celebrity-loving visual person.


Visually, Glamour looks similar to InStyle, but features much more accessible (aka cheaper) brands. There’s a lot less clothing and a lot more cosmetics and beauty products.

Editorially, Glamour is more well-rounded with women’s interest articles on health, relationships and sex. It’s all about self-help and self-care.

Best for those seeking both inner and outer inspiration.

Elle Canada:

As a Canada-based fashion magazine, the benefit of browsing this magazine is the location-relevant content. Ads feature Canadian companies, prices are in Canadian dollars, and famous Canucks are profiled.

Like Vogue, it has a focus on the fashion industry. So some of the looks and prices highlighted may leave you wondering, “hmmm, really?”

However, it was the only fashion magazine I noticed with a healthy dose of travel content, with articles on buzz worthy hotels and restaurants in Canada’s urban centres and abroad.

Best for the Canadian fashionista:

There are numerous other magazines geared toward specific demographics and interests that include fashion content.

Women “of a certain age” may enjoy More and O by Oprah, while Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan skew to the younger set.

Other Canada-based style magazines include Fashion and Flare:

Lifestyle-focused magazines such as Country Living, Essence, and Good Housekeeping always have some fashion articles, as do travel periodicals such as Conde Naste Traveller and Travel + Leisure.

Whatever your passion, there is a magazine to fuel it. And don’t forget you can enjoy all this content for free at the Okanagan Regional Library.


Your camping wardrobe

It’s an Okanagan summer tradition — hitting the open road, finding a secluded forest, and pitching your outdoor home for a spell of unplugged relaxation. 

Whether you are in a tent or RV, storage space is always limited, so what clothing to pack takes some planning. If you camp a lot, either as a weekend warrior or a snowbird, it is worth investing in special outdoor gear. 

Over the past four years, I’ve camped from four to 195 nights at a time and in every kind of weather. Here’s what I’ve learned about creating an ideal outdoor living wardrobe. 


These days you can buy ultralight quality base layers affordably from MEC, Costco, SportChek, Lululemon and many other clothing stores. Some use synthetic fibres while others are created with merino wool for warmth. 

I always carry at least one basic long sleeve top and a pair of leggings. They are great for hiking on cool days and can be used under other clothes on chilly nights. 

Instead of multiple jackets for every conceivable weather condition, I only use two — a mid-weight cotton hoodie and a thin, packable water-resistant jacket. Using base layers plus these two options in various combinations will cover any situation from a steamy downpour to high-elevation snow. 

Cut up a throw

Another comfy option for around the fire is to take a throw blanket and modify it into a shawl. 

I got a 70” x 40” woven Mexican rug, cut it along the horizontal axis up to the middle point and sewed up the raw seams to prevent it from unraveling. 

It makes a super cozy wrap when temperatures drop, and can still be used as a sleeping cover or picnic blanket when needed. 

Use this tactic with a cheap micro-fibre throw or a wool blanket. I’ve often thought a Hudson’s Bay blanket would look fabulous as a shawl. 

Beach pareo

This is the warm weather version of the above. A large cotton or silk chiffon scarf takes up no space in your packing and can be used in a multitude of ways, such as a sarong dress, skirt, or around the neck.

You need a rectangle at least 40” x 55” to use as a pareo. It can be difficult to find such large sizes in quality fabrics around Kelowna, so this is when I turn to the crafter’s marketplace Etsy.com

Bra-style bikini tops
If you are like me, you want to wear as little binding clothing as possible in the heat. Bikini tops are my go-to during a heat wave. 

Aerie in Orchard Park Mall makes bra-style bikini tops with built-in padding, criss-cross straps, and underwire if preferred. They offer the same support as a bra without feeling so constrictive. 

In basic black or white, I use them under loose tanks, breezy beach tunics, and strapless dresses. 

Gardening crocs

Seriously. I know they aren’t attractive, but they are the easiest things to slip on and off when getting into or out of your tent. 

Plus, they have more foot protection than flip-flops so you needn’t worry about stubbing your toe on a rock or getting burnt by an errant ember. 

One special-occasion outfit

If you will be camping for an extended period or your travels will take you to an urban centre, pack one outfit you can wear out. It’s not fun walking into a nice restaurant or around a downtown core in hiking gear. 

This outfit doesn’t have to take up a lot of space or be overly ornate. I have a black T-shirt dress and my arsenal of scarves to create a simple polished look, plus space-saving flats. 

Just ensure your special day out clothing is made of wrinkle-free fabric and coordinates with other items in your camping wardrobe. 

What not to wear

For every fashion “do," there is a “don’t."

You’ll see these kinds of negative lists all over the media and on every topic, and though I typically tend toward being positive, I’ve decided to share my style pet peeves.

As we enter the Okanagan summer, I’ve noticed the following transgressions all too frequently. Thus, my personal list of fashion “don’ts."

Visible bra straps: 

If your top has spaghetti straps, wear a strapless bra. If you’re wearing a racerback tank, use a racerback bra.

Maybe those with Victoria’s Secret think their undergarments are worth viewing. But no, just no.

Here’s a trick if you are wearing a top and don’t have an appropriate bra — use a bikini top. At least then people will assume you’re going to the beach instead of just being sloppy. 

And while we’re on the topic of lingerie....

Visible undergarments:

Unless you are Lady Gaga or Rihanna on your way to the Met Gala, the only appropriate undergarment for a sheer top is a nude bra or a bikini/sport bra.

If you are wearing a white T-shirt with a hot-pink bra underneath, we can see it. And we don’t need to.

Over layering your jewelry:

Arm parties, layered necklaces, and stacking rings have become all the rage. But that doesn’t mean that every appendage should be draped in baubles at the same time.

Keep it to one limb at once.

A bag that doesn’t suit your outfit:

A business suit with bedazzled patent pleather purse. A flowy bohemian dress with a structured tote. Using a huge packed hobo when going out for dinner in a nice sleek outfit.

These clashes make me cringe. Every woman should have a simple satchel, a work tote, a casual day bag, and a chic evening purse, and know when to carry what.

Yoga wear outside the studio:

Spandex tights were created specifically so people could practise stretches unencumbered by the limitations of traditional fabric.

Yes, they are incredibly comfortable. But that doesn’t mean you should wear them out and about. Two more demerit points if you wear them without a top that covers your bottom.


(Related to yoga wear above). No matter your size or shape, it is possible to find undergarments and clothes that don’t create unnecessary dents in your body. I’m sorry. Period.

Creatively dyed hair that is unkept:

I love when I see women of all age with funky Technicolor hair.

But I don’t understand why anyone would go through the expense and effort to dye their hair blue, white or pink, and then go out with it tangled, limp, or matted.

A last word:

If you’ve read this far, you may be offended, or you may feel vindicated. 

I’ve recently been watching The Crown on Netflix and understand women showing leg above the knee would have been scandalous 70 years ago. Style trends come and go.

We thankfully deal with fewer fashion dictates than in previous generations, but in my view this doesn’t equate to anything goes.


Save smart on eBay

I’m a huge advocate of online shopping, especially for finding good deals. One of the best places to do this is auction site eBay.

EBay was the first person-to-person selling site established on the web, founded in 1995, and is still the largest worldwide auction site. Many steals can be found as long you are aware of how eBay works and use caution.

I find eBay the best source for high end designer fashion at discounted prices. When shipping costs and potential for problems are factored in, there is no point using eBay for the same types of items you can find locally.

Fashion pieces you can find on eBay at discounted prices:

  • Designer, vintage and discontinued jewelry and watches - I bought a brand new Citizen watch from Canada-based eBay store estreetplazacanada for less than half of its $475 retail price.
  • Shoes — if you know your size and how particular designers fit, you can realize huge discounts on brand-name footwear. I snagged a pair of $200 Cole Haan flats for $35 from store apparelsave because of a minor flaw I was able to fix.
  • High end clothing and handbags — you can find both new (typically last season) and pre-loved items. To ensure fit, I’ve tried on clothing brands at a brick-and-mortar store first. Then, I’ve bought new dresses by designers such as Black Halo and Alexander McQueen from eBay, wore them to a few formal events, and sold to get half my money back.
  • Accessories, sunglasses, make-up and perfume — I made the mistake of falling in love with a very expensive Tom Ford scent, but luckily found sellers on eBay that sell trial sizes of it for pennies.

Tips and tricks I’ve learned from years on eBay:

  • If you want to snag an item on auction, set it to your watchlist and then be prepared to bid during the last minute. If the item is popular, you may notice other bidders upping the price in those final seconds. If you really want it, don’t bid in incremental pennies, but jump up to price you are willing to pay in the final 15 seconds.
  • Some items are not on auction, but at a set price called “Buy It Now”, or BIN for short. If you’re not willing to pay the BIN price, feel free to contact the seller and make an offer.
  • Always scrutinize shipping costs. Sometimes shipping outweighs any potential savings.
  • If you are concerned about additional duties, set your search to items within Canada only. This function is on the left column of search results.
  • Check if the vendor has their own independent online store. Some designer consigners such as YoogisCloset.com and AnnsFabulousFinds.com list on eBay to attract buyer,s but offer items at lower prices through their own websites as they don’t have to pay eBay fees.
  • While you do have to be very cautious of designer knock-offs (more on this below), note that lookalikes are not illegal as long as the item isn’t patented (not typical for fashion) or using a copyrighted image (such as Louis Vuitton’s “LV” canvas). I like to try one of these items to test a product before investing in the real thing. For example, I bought one of the many Cartier Love bracelet knock-offs (not a counterfeit but a similar style). After wearing it for a while, I found I didn’t like it and decided to not invest in a real one.
  • If you are looking for designer handbags, I’ve found many of the best sellers are based in Japan. They are often considerably less than sellers based in the U.S. and Europe, provide free shipping, and sometimes get past customs without additional duties. Note  this is no guarantee and you must always factor in duties when purchasing from another country.

How to buy on eBay safely:

  • The most important thing is to ensure you are buying from a reputable seller. Always check the seller’s feedback ratings. Don’t just look at star ratings; actually read the feedback, both positive and negative, from buyers on similar items. Bulk sellers may have thousands of ratings and an individual only a few. But if you see a high ticket item, such as an Hermes Birkin, at a ridiculously low price from a “0” feedback seller, steer clear.
  • Beware of knock-offs. Popular and expensive items such as designer bags and jewelry are commonly sold fake, complete with all markings and documentation. EBay does have policy against selling counterfeit products, but can’t catch everything. The maxim “if it’s too good to be true” applies to eBay.
  • Always ask the seller any questions you have. If they are slow to answer or simply don’t, avoid them.
  • Authenticate items. Educate yourself on what to look for in authentic goods. EBay has many articles on “how to spot a fake”. You can also use authentication services or post on online forums using the proper thread and format.
  • Always check the seller’s return policy. Even if the seller doesn’t accept returns, you are protected by eBay if the item you receive is not the item represented in the listing.
  • Use PayPal as your payment method for eBay purchases. PayPal and eBay are in partnership and using PayPal offers double protection should anything go wrong with the transaction.
  • If there is a problem, follow eBay’s dispute resolution process. Good sellers will always try to make it right and eBay will hold them to it.

What not to buy on eBay:

  • Bridal wear — there are simply too many horror stories of brides receiving ill-fitting, cheap gowns or not getting their dress in time for the wedding.
  • Unless you are an expert, don’t buy diamonds or other gemstones on eBay. The exception to this rule is authentic designer brands.
  • Don’t bother with heavy or large items, unless it’s worth it with shipping factored in.
  • Unless you are willing to pay a premium, don’t bother going to eBay for current limited edition items. For example, when Coach recently put out a special Minnie Mouse handbag collection, some sellers bought up much of the available stock and then posted sold-out items on eBay at a significant mark-up. It’s like the fashion version of scalped tickets.

Happy bidding! 

More Fashion File articles

About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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