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Friday, February 24, 2012

Style Freak

'Fashion fades. Only style remains the same.' ~ Coco Chanel

Ok, lets say you’re bored with your wardrobe. Before you rush out to go shopping (next weeks blog is a few shopping tips, btw) it’s good to spend some time consciously defining your style. Figure out where what you love, what makes you look good, and what your lifestyle and budget dictates all meet. Take a few weeks or even months to discover what will make you happy every time you get dressed. It’s a worthwhile investment of your time that works equally well whether you’re a fashionista or a fashion disaster.  This really isn't about fashion either, this is about developing your own unique style.  Fashion is what changes on a regular, seasonal basis; style is your expression of yourself.  Style is how you interpret the current fashion; what you do with it. Or don't do with it. Whatever.

Start by going through magazines and such and pulling out images that strike your fancy- fashion, interior design, gardening- any magazines or books or other publications you have and are willing to mutilate. Or make color copies if budget allows or it’s a library item. Or print images from the internet. Examples of color, texture, line, concept, different eras of style, whatever it is that makes your visual motor run. You can also add swatches of fabric or paper- whatever objects you come across that you can possibly add that sparks your fancy. If it’s too big or bulky, take a photo or make a color copy of it.

Put a bulletin board on your wall and start arranging these images on the board in as artistic a way as you’d like. If you’re not interested in investing much in this project you can just tape them on a piece of cardstock taped to your wall, but it’s better to be able to rearrange things as you add to your board. This board should be in a place where you’ll see it on a daily basis and it’ll start to take shape as a coherent ‘concept’ as you fiddle with it over time. No need to spend too much time on this- just add images as you come across them.

You may find after some time that, for example, there's quite a lot of texture on your board; maybe this is something you never thought about before, but adding texture to your predominantly neutral color preferences would be easy. Maybe you notice that all over your board is a color you never thought about wearing, and it’s a good color for you too. Maybe you notice lots of images of beautiful rock formations- adding natural stone jewelry to your wardrobe suddenly seems enticing…you get the idea. You’ll probably find that surprising connections and themes may start to emerge.

If there are conceptual images on the board, take the time to determine what exactly it is about the concept that you like. Then play with ideas as to how to translate this into your wardrobe; via color, texture, design lines, accessories, maybe your haircut, etc. You may find literal translations or more abstracted translations. There’s no right or wrong here- the correct answer is whatever feels right to you- whatever 'rings your bells,' so to speak.

Having said that, I’m now probably going to contradict myself; be aware that just because something appeals to you doesn’t mean you can wear it. This board is for ideas, so there’s some leeway here, but it’s better to try to stay with what you know will look good on you. For example, a board full of colors you know are unflattering will only be confusing. It needs to be something that is either flattering to begin with or can be interpreted in a flattering way.  If it's not flattering but you MUST have it, then find a way to re-interpret it in a flattering way.

Also keep in mind that whatever style changes you’re moving towards you must be able to ‘pull off.’ You have to ‘own it.’ If you’ve never been one to follow the crowd then developing a stand out, very dramatic style will be comfortable for you. But if you don’t like a lot of attention then don’t try it. Trust me, you won’t like it. If your board is full of dramatic imagery and you’re not dramatic, define comfortable limits for yourself. This may involve some experimentation, so be willing to play.

Play is what it's all about.  After all, all the world's a stage…

Happy Dressing!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Tipping Is Allowed

"I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” ~ Oscar Wilde

This week’s blog is a tad long.  It’s all tips that I consider the bare bones basic, most general of tips applicable to everyone, and I think they should be kept together, hence the long blog.  I apologize in advance to anyone deeply offended at the thought of such verbose pomposity.  :−)


I consider this the most important tip of all; remember- in a way it’s all just smoke and mirrors.  For the most part you create the reality of how you’re perceived.  If you take care of yourself, dress with care and respect to your self-expression, not only will you be more attractive but also it’s self-perpetuating.  You see yourself in the mirror looking good and you feel better about your appearance and about yourself in general, then you’ll be more inclined to take better care of yourself, and so on.  See? As they say it’s not what you’ve got it’s what you do with what you’ve got. Not only will you create a better impression on others but also on yourself. Always take care of yourself and your appearance.


One tip I adore; if it’s too big, it makes you look bigger.  If it’s too small, it makes you look bigger. Life just ain’t fair.  This little gem is from ‘Plus Style’ by Suzan Nanfeldt, 1996, Plume/Penguin-  part of my treasured library of books about image.

Possibly the very best thing you’ll ever do for your personal image is to make sure your clothes fit properly.   If you wear a predominantly ‘casual’ wardrobe this may be a simpler goal to achieve- casual often means stretch, and clothes with stretch have an easier fit.  Anything tailored will need alteration if it doesn’t fit, period.  If needed and workable, go up a size and have it taken in where necessary.  If money is a serious consideration then buy less and figure alterations into your budget. If you’re only willing to do one thing for your image, make this it.  Oh- and the one single garment that might just look better a little bit tight on us girls- jeans.  Baggy jeans just aren’t sexy. And if they’re stretch, they’re even comfortable too.


Eliminate vpl-  (‘visible panty line.’)  If you WANT your backside to look bigger, or better yet, lumpy, just make sure you’re wearing underwear that shows its lines through your pants or skirt. Especially bikini underwear.  They’re the worst.  Not only a diagonal line across the middle of both your butt cheeks, but also a long, horizontal line (which accentuates width, not in a good way either) at your high hip.   Unless you can find undies that don’t show, and there are manufacturers that claim they make them, (I’ve never had success with this) then stick with a thong or wear a smoothing ‘foundation’ piece over your undies.  (If you decide to simply forgo undies altogether I don’t want to hear about it.  Simply TMI.)

Replace your undergarments as needed.  Nothing ruins an otherwise beautiful outfit faster than lumps and bulges springing out from ill-fitting or worn out undergarments.  If you have a lovely ‘rubanesque’ figure, you may want to consider looking into foundation garments designed to smooth your figure. No need to get a torture device, either- the goal isn’t to make yourself 2 sizes smaller, just smoother. Go up a few sizes if needed to get the most comfortable fit.  It won’t do you any good if it just sits in your drawer, so only get what you’ll wear.


Unless you’re dressing all in one color there will be places where one color meets another color in your outfit- such as where your top and your pants or skirt meet.  This is a ‘line break.’  Pay attention to where line breaks occur; make sure they're where you want to draw the eye.  If, for example, you have a pear shaped figure and you wear a ‘tunic’ style top that ends right at the widest spot on your hips, and you’re wearing a different color pant or skirt, you may be drawing unnecessary and/or unflattering attention to the width of your hips.  Better to tuck in the top so the line break occurs at your waist, accentuating a smaller waist, or wear all one color and keep the contrast in jewelry or other accessories.  Which brings me to my next tip…

Another universal, super easy trick is to wear one color from top to bottom, then add interest and contrast only around your face; jewelry, a scarf, lipstick, hair accessory, etc, drawing attention up to your face.

I almost always use this one myself in my work wardrobe: pick a color or neutral for your ‘base;’ black for example.  Start with a black skirt or pants, with black shoes and add a black top. Now add a different color jacket or cardigan. (Color on the outside.) The other option is to start with the same black skirt or pants and black shoes and add a black jacket or cardigan, then add a different color top under the jacket/cardigan. (Color on the inside.) With either option, along with your chosen ‘color’ you have the black from the very top of your outfit all the way to the bottom, which visually enhances the vertical giving you a very ‘sleek’ silhouette.  It’s a very sophisticated look.  If you really want to play this up, add black tights or sheer black stockings.

Lastly, always, always ALWAYS buy the very best that you can afford. If at all possible, never buy poorer quality than you already own.  If your budget is such that you simply can’t afford what you’d like, you might consider eBay, consignment shops or even thrift shops.  (I myself use all three of these options.) If you find something that you love in said consignment or thrift shop, and it’s new or nearly new, you’ll probably get it for a song and tailoring costs won’t seem like such a sacrifice. And if you decide later on that you don’t like it, you’ve not invested so much that your mistake hurts too badly.


Happy Dressing!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jolie Laide

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” ~Francis Bacon

Ugly and beautiful are subjective terms, meaning there is no measurable standard common to all; it’s influenced by personal opinion and preference.  Hence the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’  What you find beautiful I may find ugly, and vice versa- and we’re both right.

Last year I read a letter to an advice column that disturbed me- it still does.  A woman wrote in that she was ugly.  She said she knew this, and accepted it.  She said complete strangers would take it upon themselves to walk up to her and tell her how ugly she was.  I about fell out of my chair when I read that.  My guess is that someone told her she was ugly when she was little, and for the rest of her life she’d bought into the idea. This was, as my son’s second grade teacher says, a poor choice.  I for one believe we are entirely in the drivers seat on this one.

When all is said and done, how you choose to view yourself is what you present- if you tell yourself you’re unattractive you’re more likely to not groom or dress in a way that expresses confidence in yourself on any level. And that’s when you’ve created your reality- you’re not going to be attractive. This is a shame because then the world generally responds by giving you little attention and even less respect.

The French have a term I love; ‘Jolie Laide,’ which means “good-looking ugly woman : a woman who is attractive though not conventionally pretty.”  So what’s a person to do if they don’t feel ‘conventionally’ attractive? Well, first off stop telling yourself you aren’t attractive!  Beyond a certain point it’s all smoke and mirrors anyway.

It really is ALL in the presentation.  Start with the obvious basics- good diet, consistent exercise, and enough sleep. Keep your hair clean and get the best haircut you can afford, on schedule. Bathe daily and take care of your skin. Visit the dentist regularly. Keep your nails in good condition.  Wear the best clothing you can afford, and maintain your wardrobe properly.  It’s not that we don’t already know all this stuff, it’s a matter of making the conscious choice to do this whether or not you believe you’re attractive. In short, treat yourself as if you have value because, well, you do. This is the basis of ‘attractiveness’ no matter what you look like.

Next, focus on your good features and play them up. This might be where the ‘jolie laide’ concept kicks in.  This is where the smoke and mirrors comes in.  This is where it gets FUN.

Last weeks blog was about picking your best colors. With that info in mind, now pay attention to basic design lines- wear only the styles that flatter you. Stick with a few simple silhouettes and you can’t go wrong.  The rest is all about your personality- pick things that you love, in the colors and design lines that love you back.  Only wear things that express who you are and your sense of self respect.  Don’t be afraid to push the envelope, either.  Find creative, expressive ways to draw attention to what you’d like to highlight, and also creative and expressive ways to deal with what you don’t like.  It’s an incredibly chic expression of confidence- and very attractive, too- to see someone, ‘conventionally attractive’ or not, who is well groomed and carefully put together.  And it’s often far, far more interesting than just another pretty face…

Happy dressing!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Color, Glorious Color

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

If you’ve been around a while you may remember THE trendy image consulting fad from the 80’s- everyone had their ‘colors’ done, and found out what ‘season’ they were. With this diagnosis came a palette of colors suitable for you- a vast, and to my mind, overwhelming array to choose from.  I’m not really surprised at some of the feedback from my last blog- people get turned off to the whole concept of ‘wardrobe planning’ as just too much work. Choosing color for your wardrobe can indeed be simple and easy.  Here’s one simple way.

Step 1.) Determine your color family- warm or cool, and choose either muted or bright versions.

Step 2.) Narrow this down to your very best 4 or 5 colors.

Step 3.) Add up to 4 or so neutrals.

First, let’s say you know you look good in warm colors; and you’re also aware that bright colors are what bring your complexion to life.  That narrows it down considerably to say, 15 or 20 colors that are commonly found in fashion. Second, after eliminating any colors you don’t like, narrow what’s left down to the colors that really, really make you look your best- there should be at least 2, more likely 4 or 5.  Don’t just choose your favorite colors- the ones we are looking for here are the colors that make you look your best- not just colors that you are attracted to.  Save that for a featured wall in your home, cushions on your couch, your car, your twitter page…. Take your time with this- make sure you’re happy with your choices.

Now that you’ve finished the first two steps, let me tell you a little trick- most likely the colors that make you look your very best will look good together too.   This can expand your wardrobe considerably as it means that color wise at least, everything will work together. 

For the last step- neutrals; I literally don’t know anyone who doesn’t consider black a wardrobe staple, so we’ll use black as one of our neutrals. You might also pick white, or beige if white overwhelms you. Add a third if you’d like- just so long as it works with all the other colors.

You can choose to wear the universally chic all black, or, now that you’ve determined your best colors, all black with color accessories, or wear all black and white, or pick one of your best colors and wear that and 1 neutral, or 4 colors and 2 neutrals….the options are nearly endless- limited only by your budget and spirit for adventure.

If you carefully choose the colors and neutrals that you know make you look your best and stick with them you’ll find you’ll consistently look better, and can easily streamline your wardrobe, cut down on clothing costs and simplify your life in general.  What’s not to love?

Happy dressing!