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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Secret to the Orgasmic Ensemble

"Clothes without accessories is like sex without orgasm." ~ Robert Lee Morris

I found this quote and simply had to write my blog around it. Can you blame me?

And it's true- to not utilize all that accessories offer is to miss out on a frivolous, self indulgent and yet important opportunity for self expression, not to mention wardrobe expansion. They often create the 'personality' of the ensemble. Accessories are also a language totally unto themselves. The same outfit can be made to transmit a completely different message dependent totally on the accessories. They often broadcast what you value- at least visually- status, creativity, sensuality, etc; so be conscious of what yours are saying about you.  The accessories you choose and how you put them together is where your self expression comes in.  And it doesn't have to cost a lot either.  If you're willing to wait, hunt and perhaps haggle, you'll eventually find what you need, even if it wasn't what you were expecting.  Having a limitless budget makes this a faster and easier process of course, but a limited budget can lead you down a more interesting path.

Take for example, the classic Little Black Dress- or LBD if you prefer.  To my way of thinking, beyond it's amazing practicality it's fame is the result of it's fabulous versatility- using accessories, of course.  When in a suitable fabric this same chic little dress can go to the farmers market with a pair of flat sandals and a hat, to a business meeting with pumps and a jacket, or to a dressy evening with strappy heels, bling and an evening bag. This is one reason the LBD is a great piece to take when traveling, btw. 

Accessories afford you big budget leeway, too.  You can buy a few simple, low key pieces of clothing (LBD from above, for example) and 'work' different looks with key accessories that steal the show.  If the clothes are simple enough they won't be 'memorable,' and neither you nor others will readily tire of them. If you take this route you should consider investing in the best quality clothing you can afford and make sure the lines are 'classic' enough so you'll be able to wear them for as long as possible.  That way you'll be able to develop a 'wardrobe' of accessories for different areas of life or different moods or whims- casual, business, party, arty- whatever. This is a potentially less expensive way to add lots of self expression to your wardrobe.

If you should happen to be in the process of transitioning from one style to another, or just developing a style for the first time, you can start with accessories- keep the clothing you have that will work with your new style, and add accessories in the new style as you find and can afford them. Also if you're not sure of a style you can test it out in accessories- say you're interested in developing your secret 'inner bohemian' side- you can test the waters with an inexpensive purse and/or jewelry.  Then if you wind up hating it you can scurry back to the safety of your beloved 'status' image without much damage to your bank account.

If you have or are planning to develop a more flamboyant style then accessories can really create additional dimension.  You can work things based solely on color, texture or 'meaning,' etc. You can mix totally different 'messages.' You can go in any direction you can dream up- just remember to work with colors and design lines that are flattering, and wear what makes you happy, and what you feel confident with. 

Keep in mind that things not traditionally considered as accessories can become one; for example a well maintained Louise Brooks bob or a vibrant shade of red lipstick worn every day.  The fact that you wear a certain style of earring every day. This sort of thing is what you might call a 'signature' look- something that you become 'known' by because you're pretty much always seen with it . Such a strong statement is going to function as an accessory and other accessories worn with it will 'react' to it- they'll either go with it or potentially 'clash' with it. 

I'm thinking the opening quote may become my benchmark to judge the success or failure of a given outfit; 'Is it orgasmic, or merely faking?'

Happy Dressing!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Derrière Delusions

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”~ Steve Maraboli

Ah, the dreaded 'does this make my butt look big' question. So much anxiety. So much worry.  So much wanting to change body proportions that cannot (at least not without mucho $$$) be changed. You can lose/gain weight, but for the most part your proportions- how your various parts relate to each other- remains essentially the same.  And so many bizarre wardrobe decisions based on this anxiety rather than a realistic assessment of what will look best on us.  Instead we just find clothes to cover the backside and then don't think about it anymore because the whole thing just makes us so unhappy. We go into the delusional state where we think that if no one can see it it somehow looks better.

Ok, first of all, lets get some perspective on this.  You need to make peace with this whole thing- you need to make peace with your backside, your thighs, your belly, your bust- all of it.   I guarantee others don't look at any of it nearly as critically as you do. If you're the type to look in the mirror and have a derogatory thought or feeling when you see a part of your body you don't feel good about realize that the imagined ideal that you're comparing yourself to doesn't actually exist. Not even the models in the ads we're bombarded with look like that. And besides, being hypercritical of your body won't motivate you to work out better, eat better, sleep better, or anything else: it'll only make you feel bad and drain your energy. So it serves NO PURPOSE. Only say and think positive things about your body. Every time a negative thought creeps in, consciously follow it with a positive one. Then, when you do work out it'll be more pleasant and you may have more energy. You may feel less anxiety. You may feel more confident. Any improvement is a gain, and it's totally free to boot. Bottom line- (sorry) you have a body, it gets you through life- love it and treat it well. Don't say nasty things to it.  As pointed out earlier it serves no purpose and after all, it really doesn't deserve that. Louise L. Hay is a fabulous resource for positive self talk- you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

So, have we properly disposed of the scary and counterproductive tapes we play in our head about our perception that our body is less than perfect?  Please?  Can we move on to the fun part??

Now down to what it's really all about- proportions.  There's a trick to this; if you have an hourglass or pear shape, whatever your size, place the emphasis below the waist on the vertical lines- from the waist or just above the hips straight down to the hemline or feet. Avoid having a horizontal line- a 'line break'- the hem of a blouse, jacket, sweater, etc., right at the middle of your hips, below your bottom, or anywhere in between. If it's a fitted top, like a sweater or other knit, and it's the same color as the bottom, then most likely this will not visually 'read' as a line break, or horizontal line.  The goal is to have the eye see an uninterrupted line from the waist or high hip (just below the waist) straight down to the skirt hem or feet if you're in pants.  This visually elongates your legs, and makes your backside 'blend' nicely with your proportions.

If you're very tall with long legs, or you have a short torso compared with your legs you can most likely cover your behind, have the line break at the widest point of your hips or below your backside, and the proportions may well be good. If your behind is on the larger side though you'll have to be careful- don't wear bulky things that add too much width around the widest part of your body (hips) or you'll make yourself look bigger than you are, and that could throw off the proportions. 

If you have more average length legs and/or torso and you wear things that stop at your lower hip or completely cover your behind you're probably going to make your torso and hips look wider and make your legs look shorter.  Not always, but most of the time. If it's say, a 'tunic' style top or a t-shirt and has no defined waist, and you do have a defined waist, then you've also just visually added inches around your middle.  If the top is a different color than your pants or skirt, then you've also added a 'line break' at what could be a wider point in your body, drawing attention to it, rather than to your smaller waist, or a pretty neckline, or pretty shoes, or whatever else you can dream up. 

Whether your short or tall, thin or voluptuous, if you wear pants make sure they fit nicely- that's half the battle right there.  If you simply can't find jeans that you feel you look good in, try custom jeans or simply forgo jeans.  If you don't look great in pants then think about going mostly with skirts. It's the job of the clothes to make you look good and serve as a form of self expression.  That's what you're paying for.  :-)

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

That Clever, Sexy Mutton

"Dressing is a way of life." ~Yves Saint Laurent
Self expression is arguably the most important principle I focus on in my business. I have a great deal of respect for it, and think it's more important than most realize. I think it's important to consciously 'dress to express.' (Sorry. Couldn't resist that.) It's one small opportunity in life to make yourself happy.  When we make ourselves happy it can be contagious, and that's a wonderful thing for everyone in your life. It's a little bit of self-affirmation, self-love. And when you feed your soul you have more to offer the world at large.

If you want to dress in the latest fads, I believe there's usually a way to make it work no matter your age or size or circumstances.  If you're set on being a sexpot, more power to you.  There's ways to do that too, again, whatever your age, size or circumstances.

It can be very disconcerting to see someone dressed in an 'inappropriate' way. This usually happens with 'young' faddish or sexy clothes. So the question is what makes it disconcerting, inappropriate? There's a strange effect that can happen when one wears 'youthful' clothing in the wrong way- you can actually wind up looking older or worse because you highlight your age, size or whatever the issue is, rather than working with or disguising it. Not to mention the risk of looking like a caricature of yourself; that would be the 'you're old enough to know better'  effect. Clearly this is not good, nor the goal of self expression.

Age Before Beauty...

First lets look at the person who loves the new and novel- the one who wants to dress in the latest fashions/fads.

When you're 18 it's just easier to dress. You can get away with just about anything because your body is at it's peak of perfection, your skin has a lovely glow to it, and no one expects you to 'know better.'  This is the time to enjoy being a kid. And at that age it's kinda cute, anyway.  Unfortunately, 'faddish' outfits generally start to look too 'young' past the age of…well…18.  But, as always, there are ways to do it without making a fool of yourself, if I may be so blunt. 

If your ensemble is for the most part understated and sophisticated you can often add a faddish element in and have it work at any age.  For example- say you MUST have the latest silly, chunky shoes in neon colors.  All the 12 yr old models in the fashion mags are wearing them with short-shorts, micro-minis and wild colored body suits (that would get you arrested at any age if you wore it on a city street.) You know you look good in tunic style tops and your best skirt hem length is mid calf- so you wear a tunic top over said fitted, midcalf length skirt, both the same color- one that relates to the shoes but is still 'understated' in comparison. Let the shoes be the only 'fad' item you indulge in with this outfit- keep other accessories fairly understated, and related in color also. Or use the same color scheme and make it pants and a top in the same color, again with simple, sophisticated lines. Rather than shoes it can be a crazy purse, jacket, hat- whatever. Just so long as the rest of the outfit is sophisticated, and preferably 'timeless,' on trend or classic.  Use your judgement to decide if your credibility is on the line if the 'faddish' garment in question is just too silly- maybe it would give you just as much satisfaction to have it hanging on your wall…

Mutton Dressed as Lamb... 

It's a sexy outfit, just not on her.  Why?   Well, as for the fad-lover, what looks fine when we're 18 does so because well, as pointed out earlier when you're 18 your body is probably at the peak of it's perfection, so showing lots of skin is more likely to be ok. Credibility is also not yet an issue. As we get older the issue of credibility does creep in- if you show too much skin it can distract from the 'all' that you are. As we get farther from the perceived ideal of physical perfection whether by age, size or other issues, whether or not this looks good often becomes all about how much actual skin you're showing. Things just aren't where they used to be, either. In short, what will now look as beautiful as ever by candlelight may not stand the test of harsh, midday sun.  Or fluorescent office lighting.  This may also true of our more voluptuous sexpot, at whatever age- again, it's about how much actual skin you show.

There's a very, very easy way to navigate this particular little minefield; show shape, not skin.  Show all- and I mean ALL the shape you want. After all, it's mostly the 'idea' of sexy that's sexy, if you know what I mean. Often what's more important is what you don't show, only hint at. If you know your best colors, and your best design lines- in other words, what colors make you look healthy and what clothing styles 'balance' your proportions, then you should have a very easy time of this- pick fitted clothing that shows only the prettiest skin you've got- and shows your shape everywhere else. If you're more voluptuous you may benefit by considering shape wear underneath to make that shape look as smooth as possible, and as good as possible, and possibly create some illusions where you'd like.  But be sure to pick a size that's comfortable enough to wear the entire time- or I promise you won't wear it. Knits are an inevitable part of fitted, sexy clothes- unless your body is absolutely perfect, avoid cheap knits like the plague. Even a "perfect" body (however you'd define that) can look worse in cheap knits. Invest in the best quality you can afford.  Aside from fitted clothes, possibly the most important aspect of the sexpot look is your hair.  Gleaming, shiny, healthy hair is sexy, whatever the length. I said in an earlier post how important it is to get the best haircut you can afford on a regular basis; this is even more important if you're going for 'sexy.'  Make sure to have your color done on a regular basis, deep condition every week if you need to, etc.  This is where you'll probably spend a good portion of your 'grooming' budget. It's more important than jewelry, accessories, etc. Except shoes…shoes are very important here to, but that's a whole other blog…

Oh, I do love shoes…getting distracted now...

Happy Dressing!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cruising Fashion for Style

'For me, clothes are kind of character; I don't follow fashion or understand trends.' ~ Meryl Streep

It could be said that fashion is now like fine art; not really a part of the mundane, every-day world. Never in it's history has 'high' fashion (by that I mean $$$$) been intended for the 'average' woman, but now much of what sashays down the runway is for all intents and purposes, unwearable.  Fascinating to look at, but not what you'd wear to run to the corner store to grab a quart of milk. And if you showed up to work in it you'd be laughed out of the office. It used to be the case that fashion, when it was designed for more functional use, dictated very specific 'rules' each season- hems were exactly here this season, shoulder pads were in/out this season, such and such was THE color for the season, and so on.  If your hemlines were wrong, you stood out like a sore thumb. Now the runway show is about showcasing and establishing the artistic vision of the designer.  For the rest of us there are fads - they come and go within a season, and are quite often just plain silly- and trends, which are more subtle, and stick around for a while, and of course the classics, which never go out of fashion and are sometimes influenced by trends. 

Aside from freeing up the designer to more fully express themselves artistically, these changes are also good because it means what you and I will find for retail sale is more driven by what the consumer will pay for, not by the 'dictates' of this seasons fashions. That means we have more opportunity to find what we need to build a wardrobe that reflects our own personal style.

Technically speaking, to follow fashion or imitate someone's 'look' is not 'style' in the truest sense of the word.  Style is having the courage to do what pleases you rather than following said fashion or person.  It means not 'following' anything but what rings your bells. It's when your priority is on what makes you happy rather than what others will think of you.  In other words, it takes confidence to express your style. And yes, everyone has style, but not everyone is conscious of their style.

I will say that there are those who's personal style is to follow fashion. This approach is a style in and of itself because it is different than the person who slavishly follows fashion because they're afraid not to, or has simply never even thought of developing their own stye.  This person has the same level of confidence as the one who is totally immersed in their own style; they just choose to play with fashion. This is a person who simply cannot resist fashion and enjoys the thrill of the newest and latest and the fun of making it work on them- because they also know what does and doesn't work on them. One has to be willing to keep up on the latest to play this game, and have a budget that can sustain it. 

If you don't already have a clearly defined style of your own and you read my blog 'Style Freak,' 2/24, you might be on the path to developing your style; if so here is one way to look at what's out there for sale.  When something comes into 'fashion,' be it a fad or a trend, and you like it and it likes you back, in other words the design lines are flattering and it works with your style, decide if it would fit into your wardrobe, how important it is to your wardrobe, and how much of a part of your wardrobe you want it to be.  If it really works for you, now's the time to SHOP.  A word of caution- make sure this thing that's now being sold everywhere is not too 'fad-ish-' make sure it has enough 'classic' or 'on trend' elements to it that it will still look good when it goes 'out.' If it's more of a 'trend' item than a 'fad' item you're on safer ground. Or search for more 'classic' versions of the fad/trend- they'll usually be out there. It gets a bit tricky here, because it ends up being a judgment call.  An example…

A few years ago kitten heels were in style.  I hate kitten heels.  No, that's not strong enough- I LOATH kitten heels.  They look AWFUL on me. They make me look…..matronly.  They're just downright dumpy on me.  And they don't reflect my style at all.  But it seemed like that was all that was out there for quite a while.  Ugh. Needless to say, I didn't buy shoes during that period.  Then a few years ago- joy! Oh, heaven!! Platform stilettos came back…with a vengeance.  I didn't know how long it would last, so I bought up every pair that made sense for me.   (I now have to be very creative as to shoe storage.  Am considering a shelf in a tiny area above my closet, or a '1 in/1 out' rule. I love shoes, so I'm thinking the shelf will win.)  But I was careful to stay within my 'style' and go for a either a more timeless 'vintage' or 'classic' style rather than 'faddish' version- because I know my legs and my proportions look better with a higher heel and a platform I knew I'd wear them until I wore them out.   And it's true- I wear my platform stilettos every single day. Except on my motorcycle.  That's a modest 2" non-stiletto/non-platform heel. Sometimes a girl just needs to be practical.  ;-)

The moral of this little story is to pay attention to fads and trends; see how they might work for you, and shop while the shopping is good.  When what you hate is 'in,' save your money for better times.

Happy Dressing!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lust and the Art of Zen Shopping

'I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.' ~Tammy Faye Bakker

I don't have a fashion background. My degree is in Fine Arts and Painting, so my emphasis is on line, color, aesthetics and self expression rather than the hot spots where you're likely to find the latest 'it' thing at a rock bottom price. In fact, I'm pretty clueless as to what the latest 'it' thing would be.  I'm aware of basic trends, some fads and fashions, but that's where my knowledge of fashion ends.  My focus is on finding shapes and colors that will always flatter you and your proportions so that as fashions come and go you'll know what to embrace and what to avoid like the plague. What I do comes before you bring in the element of fashion.  When it comes to shopping, I apply some of the same principles.


Firstly a few general rules.  (I do love rules.)

1. Never buy anything that isn't one of your colors, period. There's no excuse to wear a color that's not great on you- there's just too much choice out there to justify wearing a bad color.  Get a good color, or get it in black, or have it dyed a good color or black. (Make sure the fabric is one that will take dye.) Never, ever wear an unflattering color. 

2. Don't look at the price first.  Decide if you like it, THEN look at  the price.  You may find you like the $60 jacket better than the $480 one.  (No, really. It does happen.)  Only buy what you love and what loves you back.

3. Do NOT buy it just because it's on sale. (Mom.) If you loved it before you saw the price, and the color, design lines, and general aesthetics of the garment love you back, then fabulous- you've scored. If it's a 'meh' on any of those variables, walk away. Fast. I don't care that it's 70% off.  It's 70% off for a reason. (Mom.)

And here's a suggestion rather than a rule, designed to expand your awareness and define and refine your standards (and to some degree spoil you for shopping at less expensive stores): Even if you have no money to spend, even if you really can't afford to shop anywhere but Goodwill and even then only once a month, go to higher-end stores.  Go as if you're actually shopping, find what you need, and try it on.  Note the fit, the cut, the quality of fabric and construction. Some things just aren't worth the money, some are. You'll quickly learn the difference. Oh- and if you're an impulse buyer I suggest you leave cash and credit cards at home.  If you REALLY REALLY REALLY love an item but just can't afford it, then write down the brand and the particular style or item number if there is one. Then give it your very best shot.  Look for it on eBay, google it, tell the sales associate that you want this item but have to wait until it goes on sale and see if they can estimate if and when that might be…the worst that will happen is that you don't get it, but who knows- maybe you'll find it on sale on eBay, or you'll  find some store via Google that's going out of business and is selling it for 70% off. This exercise will also help you learn to identify better quality items at consignment or thrift shops, should you shop there. Hopefully you'll become a bit of a snob about quality and fit.

Zen Shopping

When you walk into a retail store, whether it's Walmart or a 'By Appointment Only' shop on Rodeo Drive, know what it is you want and what your budget is; walk in with a plan and stick to it. Be it a plan for your entire wardrobe or just for one event, this helps prevent aimless, distracted shopping/money wasting.  Now, before you ever even take anything off the rack comes the real work.  When you zero in on what you're looking for, quickly scan the colors first; remember- if you stick with your carefully chosen 4 or 5 best colors and 2 or 3 neutrals you'll look your best and you know your wardrobe will always work together. (See 'Color, Glorious Color' 2/3/2012.) If you don't see it in any of your colors, move on.  If you do, next look at design lines.  If they aren't great, can they be altered? Do you like the garment enough that it'd be worth it? If not, move on. If it's got good lines or might be worth alteration, then look at the price. Finally, if that's agreeable, pick it up off the rack and go try it on. Oh- and take a couple of sizes in the dressing room to potentially save yourself a second trip. Sizing has become just an abstract concept these days, so place no importance on the number on the tag. Fit is what counts.

For successful thrift/consignment store shopping the rules change a little because they don't get new stock in on a seasonal basis with your choice of sizes and colors.  The approach is different. Be willing to go on a regular basis, knowing that most of the time you won't find anything, but dig energetically anyway and eventually you may be rewarded.  One day you'll walk in and just that day they'll have put out what appears to be an entire wardrobe owned by someone EXACTLY your size…and among many treasures, there's that ____ you've been unsuccessfully looking for the last year and had budgeted for $200, and here it is nearly new, for $20….exactly the right color, too…This is how I wound up with a brand new Bob Mackie beaded evening gown for $45.  Of course you'll still need to put each garment through the same line of questions as you would in the retail store before ever trying it on. In the end, if you have a winner, it'll probably be for next to nothing. Score!!

Shopping on eBay has it's own requirements as well.  First, before ever seriously considering buying, look at the sellers rating.  If it's lower than you'd like, read the feedback; the ones who gave the seller a bad rating will explain why, and you can proceed from there.  Also you can't try the item on pre-purchase, and some sellers don't accept returns. This is where I get picky about fit- for me to buy on eBay (or online in general) it needs to be adjustable, or stretch, or I need to know it's something I can successfully have altered.  Often the seller will list measurements, but my experience is that often these are misleading or just plain wrong.  This makes eBay more risky.  I say go with a seller who has a high rating (good reputation) and happily accepts returns.  

On a somewhat indelicate note: before bringing any used item that has cloth in it into your home, clean it or have it cleaned.  One doesn't wish to risk bringing in any tiny, unwelcome critters that are reluctant to leave. Over the past few years bedbugs have reappeared here in the States.

Be willing to make some mistakes.  Know that even though you've carefully determined your colors, laboriously clarified your best design lines and painstakingly defined your style, you will still make mistakes.  There it sits.  It fits all the criteria- it's one of your colors, the lines are perfect, it decidedly reflects your style, you may have even spent a pretty penny on it, yet you've had it for eons and you never wear it.  Maybe there's some element or variable that you were unaware of when you got it- you didn't' know then that you don't like this fabric, or it's a print that is ultimately unappealing to you, you can only wear it with shoes that you hate…whatever.  In the end it doesn't matter why- if you don't wear it don't reward it with space in your closet or dresser.  Sell it on eBay, give it to goodwill, give it to a friend; just give it up and make space to go out and find other things that you may fall in love with that will love you back.

One last word on the issue of budget- keep in mind the cost per wearing formula; total cost of the garment ÷ how many times you'll wear it = cost per wearing.  Example: you buy a beautiful, basic black skirt for $120, you have it for 3 years and wear it approx. 2.5 x per week = $0.92 per wearing.  You've also bought a cute $20 sweater which you'll wear 3 times and will then throw away because it 'pills,' which means it cost $6.66 per wearing…..not so cheap after all.  Spend wisely. When you buy quality you usually end up saving.

Happy Dressing!