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When style and body don’t match

There are any number of “style types”, and those types come with a default expected body.   One of the first great style books, Color Me Beautiful, actually wrote prescriptions for women’s style based on their bodies.   This works very well, if the woman in question has an innate preference for one of these types – but if not, then you have the problem of a woman who looks amazing in a certain type of clothing who won’t be seen dead in it.

Contrariwise, if you try to wear a style type *exactly the way you see it portrayed* and it doesn’t work for your body, you come off as a try-too-hard stereotype.

True style marries body and soul, mind and fashion.

That’s why you’ll find four elements of style used in my book rather than the usual breakouts of “bohemian” vs. “classic” vs. “ingenue”.   I use those words in my consultations because they’ve become standard fashion vocabulary, but they’re just a stopping point, not a destination – not a “why”.

Fire = Energy/Sexuality/Power

Water = Femininity/Flow/Softness

Earth = Solidity/Athleticism/Nature

Air = Whimsy/Change/Experimentation

It is my firm belief that we all incorporate all four elements somewhere in our personal expression.    Three are public, one is private.

So, having gotten your pinboard together, you’re looking at that look you would just DIE to wear, the one that you know would make you look like a half-grown boy (and you’re not the androgynous type).   Analyze it!  What elements are screaming at you?  What can be discarded or changed?  Pin up a few more outfits that you like almost as much.  What do they have in common?  What can you take from that?

Find the heart in the style, that which speaks most strongly to you.

That style can be incorporated into garments that fit your body shape and proportion.   Accessories are incredibly helpful here – they transform the spirit of an outfit.  You might not be dressing on easy mode, but you’re going to make it your own.

(This Part 1 of a series)

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Personal Stylist vs. Image Consultant

I read an interesting article last night about the personal stylist who works with Kylie Jenner.   Fewer than 10 clients, and she’s working 16 hours/day, deciding on every outfit they wear, every day.

Why?   Because her clients need to look up-to-the minute, all the time.   They’re followed by paparazzi.   They have too many other facets of their lives to manage, they don’t need to figure out their clothes.   Having a personal stylist is a lot like having a publicist.   Someone else takes care of your public image.

All power to her.

An image consultant, on the other hand, is someone who teaches her clients to take control of their clothing communication for themselves.   Of course there is a period of “try this outfit” as well as the (always necessary) closet purge, and even personal shopping.   But once you have your client well-taught, they can fly on their own.

One of my passions is teaching people to understand themselves better, so that they can take correct action.    That correct action extends to the clothing that they choose.   I follow the dictum by Yves St. Laurent, “Fashions fade, style is eternal”.  I’d rather teach you about the style lines that work on you, the colors that make you pop, and the ways to express your true self than tell you to wear this year’s latest trend.

There is room for both personal stylists and image consultants in this world.   I appreciate the work that Dani Michelle does – social media has made celebrity the catwalk for the world, and she determines what the world envisions when they see the latest trends.

I have something else in mind.   I’d like each woman to wear her own style with confidence, speak truth, and live in beauty.    Knowledge is power – I want to empower you by giving you as much knowledge as I can.

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Online Shopping

It was my last trip to [decent department store] that did it.  Camel, meet straw.   I hit the designer section – I was looking for some silk or linen blouses.  Being honest, I’d have accepted a nice rayon or a poly that was sufficiently high-quality.   Was that what I found?  No, it wasn’t.  What I found was polyester – thick, scratchy polyester.   If I wanted to wear sandpaper, I’d go to Lowe’s.

I grew up with that quality of polyester – I remember leaving it behind in the 80s.  Nasty polyester was ‘so 70s’.  But at least back in the day, you’d only find it in cheap clothing – low end department stores.  Now, it’s everywhere.   It’s the new standard.   I can’t support this.  Not if you know how to source better garments – and I do.

I have to come out of the closet on this…. we’re all going to have to learn to shop online.   I know.  I know.  I KNOW.  Who wants to deal with shipping and returning and credit cards and the whole rigamarole?    No one.  That’s who.  No one.

None of my clients want to do this.  I don’t want to do this for myself.   However, the market has determined that if you want nice clothing, you’re going to have to shop outside the box (or in very high end stores).  That means you’re going to have to shop in unexpected places, which include online retailers.

I would like nothing more than to take you out shopping – have a great day together, pile you high with beautiful garments, find your best lines, experiment, laugh, teach.   I love doing this, and my clients have gotten an education from our time together.   But unless we’re hitting Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Saks – or indie retailers at the same price-point – I can’t give you that.   It’s not you.  It’s not me.  It’s what’s in stock.

So I’m switching gears – I’m going to work up a list of online retailers with good return policies that sell quality clothes.    Send me your feedback – this is a project we can work on together.

Let’s start with a classic American brand – Pendleton USA.  Sells classic wool clothes, decent return policy.  Here’s a page of basic suit separates and a few wool dresses.    https://www.pendleton-usa.com/women/womens-featured/seasonless-wool/

 

The downside to online shopping is that without a plan, you can end up buying things you have no need for, or messing with the returns endlessly because you picked something up on a whim.   Want to *not* find yourself neck-deep in “oops” online shopping?   You need a plan.  Planning is where I come in – when you know yourself, and you know where you’re going, you’ll be able to get there with confidence.

 

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Must Have Item: The Pretty Dress

You need at least one pretty dress in your closet.

What sort of dress you choose is going to depend on your lifestyle and the events that come into it.  You must be honest with yourself.  While your pretty dress can go to church or date night or most parties, only you know which you spend more time attending.
For instance, I attend a very casual church, but I go out to dinner with my husband quite regularly and we almost never attend dressy parties.  Therefore, my “pretty dress” is going to be mostly a date dress.  If the situation was reversed, and I attended a church that still dressed up, I would have a nice quiet dress that I could sparkle up when we went on the town.  Likewise, if we went to a lot of parties, I would choose something that could be accessorized with endless variety (the classic LBD*).   My really dressy dress stays in the closet most of the year, but it’s stunning and I love it.
Your special dress should be fit you perfectly.  It doesn’t have to be a “timeless classic” unless you’re spending enough time in it that you’ll be recognized as wearing the “same old thing” over and over.  (Timeless classics, like LBDs, can be accessorized so as to not be obviously re-wears).    Wear what suits you, and what you love.    A pretty dress is exactly the right place to indulge your heart.

*The LBD doesn’t have to be black!  It should be a basic neutral, suited to the dominant season in your area.  It should fit and flatter you, which may well let out the slim sheath dress that has probably popped into your head at this point.

**You may substitute in your white blouse and dark skirt until you are able to find this special item.
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Blast from the Past: Dressing Your Changing Body

Ah, another picture snapped at the gym… we had a barbeque… I did some deadlifting…

This is why you rely on the camera for truth, not the mirror.  Because I look in the mirror every single day, and I hadn’t noticed how compact I’d gotten, how square I’d gotten.  How can I dress myself if I can’t see myself?compact-figure

How can you dress yourself, if you don’t see what someone else sees?   Take pictures.  Look at the pictures other people take of you.  And when you stop wincing at the unflattering angles and bad lighting, look at your overall shape.

What is your shape?  What are your proportions?  Where do your best horizontal and vertical lines sit?  If you put your hemline *here*, what happens to your overall impression?  If I added or changed my accessories, would it improve things?  Am I achieving the impression that I want to achieve?

When things change radically, you need to step back and completely re-evaluate your look.

Ask some more cheery questions like, “What is awesome about how I look right now?”  “What’s interesting about me?”  “What parts of my personality are peeking out of the corners?”

Maybe your changing figure means that you need to change your look to make the “you” show up a little bit more loudly.   Be open to throwing everything you think you know about dressing yourself out the window, and starting from scratch, as if you were dressing someone new.

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Craftsmanship

If G.I.G.O. is a rule, so is the inverse.   Put good in, get good out.

This is a piece of Harris Tweed.  It’s amazing stuff.  It’s more amazing that just anyone can get their hands on it.

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From start to finish, this is craftsmanship.

  • Only British wool is used
  • It’s dyed in the fleece, before it’s woven
  • The colors are mixed according to weight, and are inspired by nature in Scotland.
  • Woven on looms in homes, by human-power, by actual humans.  Every bit inspected and checked by more actual humans.

This picture has not been retouched.  I took it in the evening light in my backyard.   The color really is this luminous and deep.   And this is a simple, “one color” tweed!

Anything I make from this cloth is going to be elevated by its use.

We CAN get craftsmanship like this – but we don’t look for it.  When you see it, it stops you in your tracks.   Why not look for it?  Yes, it was expensive cloth.  But much less expensive than you might think.

It is possible to seek out beauty and be transformed by its presence.  Why not indulge?

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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!