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Real is Beautiful

When we observe the world around us, what hits you in the solar plexus and makes you groan in pleasure because of its beauty?   Real things.  Objects or systems or sounds that are what they are to the core.

The difference between real and plastic is the difference between the feeling you have after a steak dinner and a bowl full of candy.   The candy might feel brighter to your tongue for a moment, but it does not satisfy.

Why do we pursue “beauty” for ourselves that is as artificial as a bowl full of jelly beans?

Sometimes it’s for a trend.

Sometimes it’s because we don’t believe in ourselves.

But it’s never as good as taking our natural resources and making them the best that they can be.

Photo Credit: Woodland Creek Furniture

Driftwood might not be flawless… but in the hands of an artist, it can be breathtaking.

The first step in becoming truly beautiful is to accept ourselves, our raw material, and surrender ourselves to the hand of the Master Craftsman to be shaped, polished, and made new.

Beauty is real.  Accept no substitutes.

 

 

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Physical Perfection – for a Price

I tend to put off visiting my hairdresser, as I may be the only woman in the world that doesn’t enjoy the process.   However, when I’m there, he has some interesting magazines in the waiting room.  One of those magazines is a plastic surgery magazine.   Enlightening!

What I learned this week was that there is a thing called a “thigh lift”.   It’s not just the skin removal/tightening that is done for folks who lose a whole lot of weight, it involves resculpting the fat and a host of other fun stuff.  Oh – you can also get injections that will fill in your cellulite (for a few years).  So – if you wanted your legs to look perfect, you could have that… for a price.

You can have any number of improvements for a price.   While I’m not totally opposed to plastic surgery, I think that it’s important for those of us who aren’t 1%ers to remember that the impossibly beautiful rich people are impossibly beautiful because they have resources *that we don’t*.    How were these improvements marketed?  As the solution when diet and exercise have done all that they can.   You’re not even supposed to indulge in this stuff until you’re at goal weight – it messes up the result if you continue to lose!

So spend your hours at the gym – I sure do – but remember that you’re investing in health, not perfection.   Eat good food – it will help you live longer and enjoy your life.   Try to get to a healthy weight – it makes a difference to your body.  Wear pretty clothes and do something nice with your hair and take care of your skin… but don’t stress.  This should never be about stress.

Celebrities are literally paid to look great.  That’s their job.  When you look at a celebrity and start comparing yourself – STOP.  Just stop.  There IS a village that makes that look possible:  coach, nutritionist, chef, assistant, maid, nanny, dentist, dermatologist, plastic surgeon, masseuse, aesthetician, makeup artist, personal stylist, tailor, photographer, and finally… photo editor.    You can’t be all those people and still go to work, take care of your kids, be a decent wife, and remember to keep up with your correspondence.

This site is devoted to making you be the best you that you can, and helping you find out who you are so you can get there.   I have zero interest in pursuing the impossible for myself, and I have less than zero interest in putting those expectations on my clients.

Love your body and take care of it.   That’s all.

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Fabric Quality: Good vs. Great

Some interesting comments on the last post … much appreciated!

One of the things that affects what we consider good vs. great fabric is simply whether or not we’ve experienced “great”.   That’s becoming very rare these days, as the first frontier for savings in garment manufacture is fabric quality.    Most of what we see at the mall isn’t even “good” – it’s somewhere between adequate and terrible.

How do you find “great” fabric?   Well, if you have access to a top-tier fabric store (unfortunately unlikely unless you live in a major metro area) you can trot off to the aisles and see what $30/yd fabric (or $50 or $100) looks and feels like.   That’s how I know the difference!   I had been shopping online (good fabric) or at my local fabric chains (adequate fabric) and then I hit Mood.     I got an education that day… I hadn’t seen great fabrics in decades.   Do I know all tricks to picking a good fabric?  Yes, I do – I learned them at my mother’s knee, back when fabric stores sold something other than quilting cotton and fun fleece.  But I hadn’t seen “great” in so long that I’d forgotten what a pleasure it was to simply be in its presence.  (I get a little misty in a good fabric store).  One of the measures of a great fabric is it’s hand-feel.  How to explain that online?   You’ll know it when you feel it… likewise, the subtleties of color from highest-quality yarns are easily seen by the naked eye – but can I show them on a computer screen?  No.

The commenter who mentioned breed of sheep was entirely correct.   Goats, camels, the other camelids (aka alpaca, vicuna) all produce fiber of varying quality.   I have a cashmere (goat) sweater from my father that’s older than I am.  It laughs quietly at the thinner, cheaper cashmere sweaters that cycle in and out of my sweater drawer – it’s three times as thick, softer, still has good stretch-return, and the color is deeper.   I’ll probably end up giving it to one of my kids – well, at least I will if it continues to get worn as seldom as a thick wool sweater in SoCal does… :p

As for rayon- yes, some rayons are quite good.   They’re soft, they drape well.  I hear great things about bamboo rayon (which is not generally sold as rayon, although that’s what it is – the cellulose is derived from bamboo).   I am skeptical about rayon lasting as well as silk or cotton, and am likewise skeptical that they can stand up to the new silk/cotton blends that I’m seeing more and more often of late.   Durability is one of the hallmarks of quality, and in my experience, rayon eventually becomes brittle with age.   I will happily give an excellent rayon a place in the “good” fabric rolls, but it will need to prove itself to make it to “great”.  (You’ve noted by now that it’s hard work to get to “good” around here).

The point of finding great fabric is not merely that if you can acquire it, it will serve you well for years.   It might be completely out of your price-point – it would be out of mine if I didn’t sew, and even so, I’ve only invested in just enough Harris tweed for a *vest*.   The point is that you then raise your standards and see what fabric can be.   Our standards have been dropped over the decades to a place where we shrug at poly-cotton knit that you can see through and accept polyester blouses of a quality that feel like sandpaper.  Ignorance is NOT bliss.

I hope this helped – or at least made you think.

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Quality: Fabric

“Buy the best that you can afford”

We hear this advice all the time in the fashion world, but what does it mean?  Does it mean that we should spend as much money per garment as we can afford to spend?   Does it mean that we should pick only certain well-known names – or labels – rather than unknowns?

NO.

It means buy the best quality that you can afford!

But… what is quality?

The first component of a quality garment is its fabric.   I am an unapologetic fabric snob – I am all about the natural fibers.   Cotton, linen, silk, and wool are much nicer than anything made out of an ex-dinosaur.

But there’s more to good fabric than just picking “natural” over synthetic.   Once upon a time, I too thought that wool was nasty scratchy stuff – because I’d only ever felt the cheap stuff.   I was so wrong.   When I first touched the good stuff, I wanted to run right out and apologize to the nearest sheep.    Likewise, I used to think that all cotton shirting was the same – hah!   Send for a swatch of Italian shirting-weight cotton, and try to tell me that it feels like what you got from the mall.  Just try…

What makes for good quality fabric?  Fiber length.   Longer fibers are smoother fibers.   Softer fibers.  Silkier fibers.   Fibers that will drape more beautifully and are easier to make up into a more graceful garment.   Such fibers don’t pill as readily and last longer.

Not having weird chemical treatments and inclusions is generally an indicator of quality.  One doesn’t want one’s silk “weighted”, for instance.    Solid-colored fabrics should be yarn-dyed (or even fiber-dyed, in the case of Harris tweed).    Blended fabrics are acceptable, but should be natural mixes – silk/cotton is particularly nice.

When you buy the best fabric you can acquire, you’ll get a garment that will wear longer and be more enjoyable for every moment that you wear it.    You might not be able to tell the difference on Instagram, but the subtle difference in drape and color can easily be discerned by the naked eye – and that difference upgrades your outfit substantially.

I bought a piece of Harris tweed, and when it arrives in the mail, I’ll be sure to take a picture and show you how beautiful a “plain” bit of wool can really be…. look forward to that!

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The Importance of Good Lingerie

An excerpt from my book, Wardrobe Communication:

Your underwear is there to be a bridge between the body you have and the clothes you like to wear.  It’s a tool, and you should use it.  The modern attitude seems to be that we should shape our bodies to the clothes we like.  That’s a worthy goal, but not always possible… and what do you do in the meantime?

Your clothes will not look well with bad undergarments.  They just won’t.  Accept this, and figure out what you, personally, need to do about it.  Do the girls need balancing?  Pad one of them out.  Do you have visible panty line or a flubby tummy?  Either change what you’re wearing underneath your clothes, or change your clothes.   Wearing knit tops?  You need a t-shirt bra, not one made out of lace.  Is your bra a violently different color than your skin or shirt?  Add a camisole so you don’t have show through.  Slips are valuable for keeping skirts from inappropriate translucency, and they also work nicely to keep static cling at bay.  Want that wide vintage silhouette from your full skirts?  Get a petticoat or crinoline.

More outfits have been ruined by poorly fitting or missing undergarments than any other factor.  A good bra will not be cheap.  But you can buy two, wash them by hand and let them drip dry, and keep them for longer than you think.   I am the first one to complain of shoulder pain from bras, but I’ll tell you – the first bra I had that was properly fit, and seriously supportive?  I felt instantly more comfortable.  Better posture.  And –bam- it looked like I’d dropped five pounds.

If you’re carrying a lot on top, it is vital that you keep your girls hiked up.  This will make every bit of your clothing look better, and it will make you look slimmer and more youthful.    I know.  No one wants to be sentenced to underwire, but so it is.  Look for wide straps, and spend time at a good store being fit by someone who knows what they’re doing.  That last part applies to women of all shapes and sizes: June Kenton, lingerie expert, suspects a shocking 85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. This is a disaster for our health as well as our appearance. Finding the bra that fits will take time, and regrettably they change styles all too often, so you’re not going to be able to just get another one in six months or a year… but it is time well spent, and money well invested.    The older you get, the more important this becomes.

The reason we wear bras is to appear younger and firmer.   So, since you are wearing a bra to appear younger and firmer, make it do what it’s there to do.  Your nipple is supposed to be about 3-4” below your armpit – no lower.   And it’s not supposed to show, so if you’ve nursed a baby or two, you might consider a molded cup bra.

Slips smooth out the lumps and bumps of your other underwear.  They prevent sheer items from being see-through.   They keep static cling at bay and help your dresses drape properly.   It’s only been a few decades since a slip was assumed, and they can be beautiful.  This is a garment that deserves to be brought back to popularity.  It adds a finishing touch.

Girdles smooth the waist, belly, hips and thighs (depending on model) – they will sometimes produce some reduction in volume, but the best use is to reduce the appearance of lumps.  Tight camisoles can reduce the appearance of under-arm bulge (from the bra) as well as filling in a too-low neckline.  More ornamental camisoles fulfill the function of a slip, but only above the waist.    Petticoats hold long skirts or dresses out and they keep the legs warm, as well as being highly ornamental.  Crinolines are stiff petticoats, usually knee-length, and they are used to create volume under skirts.

Underwear is a tool in your arsenal.  Have some fun with it if you like – it can be great fun – but use it thoughtfully and without apology.   50 years ago no woman would be caught dead without a slip and pantyhose.  They’re called *foundation garments* for a reason – they are the foundation of your wardrobe.  Our generation is the first one in hundreds of years to make the outer layer do all the work – mostly it can’t.  Give your clothes some help.

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Spend Money Wisely

How do you spend money wisely on your clothes?

Quality over trends

Spend on signature pieces

 

What Does Quality Look Like?

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Jacket Cuffs by Menswear Market https://www.menswear-market.com/jacket-cuffs/
  • Fabric drapes nicely, doesn’t stick to the skin or other garments, doesn’t distort.  A high-quality garment will naturally hang well, you don’t have to pull at it and fidget with it to make it sit where it’s supposed to.
  • Fabric feels nice to the touch.  Natural fibers are a plus, but if artificial fibers are used, they should be difficult to tell from natural.  (Technical clothing excepted – but it should still feel nice).
  • Garments that should have a lining – do.  Lining hangs free and doesn’t show on the outside.  Lining fabric is likewise quality.
  • All seams should be finished properly.  Most garments now are serged, but you will still find french seams on translucent garments.  The seams should be even, and not prone to ravelling.
  • A quality garment has a weight to it or is nearly weightless – there’s not much in between.
  • Are made to last.

 

Signature pieces vs. cast members

 

 

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credit: Johnny Was

Signature Pieces

 

  • Start with the things that catch your eye.   Here, the jacket is the signature piece.   If you’re going to wear a look like this, the jacket has to be awesome.   And that’s where you put your money and your love – please don’t buy something as a signature piece that doesn’t feel like you!  That’s pointless – this is your signature, not mine.  No forging allowed!!
  • Anything that catches the eye must be flawless and speak for you properly.    (What does that mean?  Might be a good time to buy my book, Wardrobe Communication).
  • (Important note:  If you will be removing your jacket when you settle into work and it is your signature item, it will become invisible as it hangs on the back of your chair – make sure your blouse can hold its own and you have another, smaller signature item as backup).

Cast Members

  • The old-school way of treating cast members is to get one or two cast members that are functionally invisible (black pants, dark-blue jeans) and wear them repeatedly.   This still works – if you can find a perfect pair of “invisible” black pants, you can wear them three days/wk and no one will be the wiser.    If you want to use this technique, quality becomes paramount (because the item will be taking hard wear) and a very classic look becomes essential.   (In other words, you can wear the straight black trouser as much as you like, but the black palazzo pants are more eye-catching).  This is great for the minimalists out there!
  • The newer way to do this is to get multiple less-expensive cast members that are of decent (but not exceptional) quality.   NOTE:  Poor quality *is* visible, and you cannot throw the polyester nightmare in the mix and expect it do this job properly!   So you have  your basic dark-wash jeans – no rips, no design details, no major fake-fade.   You have your basic t-shirts/tank tops in neutral colors (ivory/white, black/navy, nude/grey).   You have your mid-range grey slacks, your navy pencil skirt.   Whatever the “invisible” clothes for your lifestyle are.  These are probably going to be found at a medium price point.

 

You don’t have to break the bank to have great style!

 

If you’d rather have someone else mess with this for you, drop me a line.  amyrosehearth@gmail.com

 

 

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How to Save Money on Clothes

I believe that we’re going to see a marked uptick in clothing costs in the next couple of years – so how do you keep your budget from exploding?

 

Make a plan.  

Spend money intelligently.

Spend time intelligently.

Expand your hunt.

 

 

Make a Plan:  This is where your wardrobe plan comes in.  Best done after a good session of introspection and personal analysis and a closet cleanse, you sit down with pencil and paper and figure out what you need to buy.  We’ve covered this recently (Link Link Link)… if you’d like professional assistance, give me a buzz.

Spend Money Intelligently:   Priority spends should be your basics and signature pieces.   The rest of your clothing should fit properly, be made of decent fabric that drapes well, and not scream “cheap”.    Mixing high and low priced garments is all the rage, and has been since Sharon Stone wore Gap to the Oscars.  The key to this technique is that you should not be able to *tell* that the lower-priced item is inexpensive.  Blog coming soon on this issue…

 

Spend Time Intelligently:  Spend your time searching out your signature pieces.  These are the items that shout to the world who you are.  This can be an impeccably tailored blazer, a suede vest, a piece of statement jewelry… what matters is that it’s visible to the casual glance and that it suits you to a T.    You could learn to sew – not a speedy skill to acquire, but once you have knowledge, no one can take it from you.  Sewing increases your number of options.

 

Expand Your Hunt:  The mall is not the only place to find clothing.   You can shop online, which includes Etsy and numerous specialty shops.   You can shop in consignment stores (always go to the most expensive neighborhood in your area).   You can shop the off-season at places like Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth (these also have an online presence).   You can shop at various fairs – gem fairs, the county fair, street fairs, etc.

 

I know I’m trying to get you to do two things at once – first, get your thinking back in the box of “make a plan, budget, keep your goals in mind” and simultaneously “shop out of the box”.    That’s okay.  With everything else in life, the effort you put in will be reflected in the quality of the product you reap.

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Answering Questions about Fabric

Why are my t-shirts see-through?

Answer:  Because we’ve gotten so close to the wall on cost-cutting with clothing that the textile manufacturers are just using less textile.

Why can’t I find a cotton t-shirt these days?  Everything I see is polyester or a blend.

Because petrochemicals are cheaper than cotton.  And the manufacturers figure that since they can’t get consumers to spend an extra $5 on a cotton t-shirt, they’ll just use a cheaper material.  Sure, it won’t breathe.  It’ll hold a bad smell until the end of time.  But it’s cheaper….

..

This is what is known as “false economy”.   When you spend less on an item up front, but it breaks down three times as quickly and doesn’t perform its function as well as it should.  You’re not actually gaining ground, because you’re disposing of your t-shirt before you would dispose of a well-made t-shirt, and if it’s thin enough, you’re probably having to layer it (meaning you’re going to have to use twice as many garments) not because you like the style, but because you don’t want your bra to show.

We as consumers have to change direction and start demanding quality again!  Vote with your pocketbook.  Truly enjoy the clothing that you bring into your life and make it work for you.  It is available, you just have to look a bit harder.

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Why Plan Your Wardrobe?

It seems like planning out a wardrobe has gone out of fashion.   Sure, it’s fun to shop on a whim – but it’s exactly like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry without a list.  You’re coming home with all the things – many of which you don’t need.    And now instead of solutions, you have problems:

  • You have a money problem, because you’ve spent $100 on five cute tops that don’t go with anything – and you have $40 left in your clothing budget – so the slacks that would go with everything are out of reach.   You feel like you never have enough money to buy what you’d really like to have, but you have a ton of things that you don’t use, don’t want, and don’t even like anymore.
  • You have a storage problem, because there’s not enough room in your closet to keep all your new acquisitions… things are getting squished, lost, and you’ve pushed some things so far to the back that 6 months later you find them with the tags still on!  You don’t know what you own.
  • You are contributing to the global textile waste crisis; the environmental issues surrounding the production of clothing (bleach, dyes, fabric fluff, using up non-renewable resources, etc) and the abuse of workers in other countries.  Buying cheap, low-quality goods?  Those are made in the worst conditions with the cheapest fabrics that are going to end up in the trash the fastest… that’s how they keep the prices down.

Yes, the retailers would like you to keep shopping on a whim.   They’ve shaped the industry around shopping by emotion rather than shopping with sense.   It’s not going to be easy to push back and take control of your closet, but you can do it!

How?  You make a plan.

  • What do I do?  – this is what do you do with your actual life, not in your daydreams –  Who am I?  – this is everything from the color of your eyes and width of your waistline to your personality – Where am I going? – looking to change jobs? make a life change? make an impression?-
  • What do I have *right now* that I can use that fits with who I am and will get me where I’m going?
  • What do I need to get?  -start with the basics, build towards the fun stuff, keeping an eye on how worn things get-

It’s a simple formula – which requires that you learn to be introspective and brutally honest.

Or you can call me, we can talk, and I’ll do the brutally honest for you and point you on your way.  I’ll even make it fun.

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DIY Dress Doctor

I’ve been listening to business podcasts, and one of the things that they talked about was, “Aren’t you happy to spend money on other professionals who do things for you?”  I think that a lot of us aren’t.  We want to be the ones who know how to do all the things!!!   Self-reliance is a thoroughly American value.

For every client who’s thrilled to tell her friends how much fun she had with me, I have a client who doesn’t want anyone to know she worked with a professional image consultant.   Somehow it’s a little shameful, to spend that much money on vanity – and not only spend the money on the clothes and the new look, but spend money on someone to tell you how to do it.

After all – we’ve all spent a lifetime reading books and magazines that tell us how to dress.  We should be able to handle it.   Right?    There’s a level of guilt there.

I don’t mind at all if you want to DIY your new look – that’s why I wrote a book.  I want to be of help.   And my book will walk you through the science of what I do.  It asks the same kind of questions that I ask in my consultations, and it’s full of loads of helpful information.   That’s why I write a blog.

When I work with a client, I not only give them a copy of my book, I also spend as much time as I can teaching them why I’m recommending the things I am – why is it that this color will work better than that, why is it that this line is more flattering, why is it that this combination reads as more approachable… etc.   Education is important to me.   I don’t expect that I’ll be standing by their sides at every purchase for the rest of their lives, they need to have the tools they need to go forward.

Some folks can get everything they need from me from reading that book or this blog – I celebrate you!   But not everyone can… and that’s okay too.  Because I’m a teacher, I’ll walk you through the “whys” and then I’ll get your closet cleaned out, make your shopping list, and then help you shop.   You might never need my services again – you very probably won’t need the first service more than once in a decade.

Working with an image consultant can be the help you need to learn to DIY the rest of your wardrobe adventures, or it can be an ongoing relationship.   Think of me as the accountant that comes to clean out your files, set up a bill-paying system, and show you how to use it.   You might learn so much that you never need to see me again, you might call me back to do your books once a year at tax season, and you might throw up your hands and decide that you don’t want to deal with it at all and call me in once a month.   That’s up to you.

Maybe the issue isn’t the discomfort with working with a professional, maybe it’s the expense.  The book is about the same cost as a coffee + cookie, and that’s a lot less money than it costs for an hour of my time.    I get you.  That’s why there is a book, that’s why there’s a blog – I want to help.   Not everyone is ready to replace half their wardrobe in a month – clothes might be cheaper than any time in history, but they’re still not free!   Metamorphosis is not an inexpensive process.   If that’s you – stay tuned.  I’ll be writing more about wardrobe planning soon.  Take notes and do your homework, we’ll get you where you need to be.

As with every DIY project, if you’re willing to put in the time to learn and the time to work, you can get the result.  If you’d rather work with a pro – well, you know where to find me.  I’d love the chance to work with you!