Sunday, August 21, 2011


Or... "What do all those 'how-to dress' books mean when they're talking about dressing like a 'romantic bohemian' and what does that have to do with *me*?"

What they are talking about is your style of dress.  You will have noticed that policewomen and gypsies don't dress the same way?   And that some policewomen suit their uniforms and some look uncomfortable?  Yes.  Good.  This is what they're talking about. 

Some - even a lot - of what "style of dress" you end up with is determined by the shape of your face, the shape of your body, and your occupation.   I'm writing primarily for housewives, but let's face it... if you're taking a part-time job at the bank, it doesn't matter if you prefer to wear your hair loose and bangles up to your elbows, when you go to work, you're putting on a nice blouse and slacks or a fitted skirt.  You'd keep your sense of self (if allowed) by perhaps wearing a bolder print on your shirt and *one* bangle. 

Face shape, bustline and shoulders determine most of what collar options look best on you.  Go through a style book - or a sewing book, my Vogue book has a very completely list - and look at the options.   Fine tune by grabbing a camera and a friend and draping one of your neutral colors around your face, roughly in the shapes of the various necklines.  (Camera use, especially now that we don't have to develop the pictures or even keep them, is a *wonderful* tool.  Mirrors can lie!)  You'll find some you resonate with and some that you don't.

That gets you started on finding your style... you know necklines, you know colors... now what?  Well, now you experiment.  You'll soon find certain looks that please you and some that don't.  And you'll get surprises!

My daughter surprised me, because I couldn't imagine anyone born of me that would look good in uniform.  Small necklines, peter pan collars, neutral hues... well, my 7yo works them.  It's... startling.  That's not her main look, being that she's a 7yo girl and doesn't have to wear it, but it's something that she sometimes enjoys.  And most of her things look better a bit tailored.  (She's working the 80s retro look so hard that it makes me blink, and that is largely an edgy uniform look).

I, on the other hand, look entirely out of place in uniform.  I like flowing lines and bright accessories.   I don't do a full-out bohemian, because so seldom in my life am I in a place that suits an armful of bracelets - and I'm short, so a billion accessories overpower me.   I would call my look clean and romantic, with a natural edge.  You're never going to find that in any style book!  You *have* to find your own look.  Start with the basics and work up.  Experiment and play.

And that's where a lookbook comes in handy and where a camera comes in handy.  Create a lookbook - make a big  pile of looks that you resonate with.  Try a few things in your wardrobe on that look similar, take pictures.  See what works and what doesn't.  Figure out how to incorporate those looks with your occupation, and go from there. 

Then you can name it, and then you can understand it, and then you have a great starting tool when you shop or when you sew.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

High Contrast vs. Low Contrast

Here's a place in the color scheme that I've never heard discussed, but it's key to how well your colors end up looking on you.

Some people look best in high contrast looks - wearing their most intense colors.  Some people look best in their least intense colors, in a more monochromatic outfit.   You have to play with this to notice it, but if you're still feeling "off" about your colors, this is a place to check.  Go all-neutral (or all soft colors) and then spike it up to the power suit combo (a dark neutral with a bright) and see which looks better on you, which brings your features to the fore most effectively.

I think the reason that this is seldom discussed is because it's tied directly to age and complexion.  If you're getting a lot of exercise, and your complexion is naturally pink and flushed, you'll look younger than you are, but age does take its toll.  My mom is a Winter, and she spent her life in high-contrast looks.  Now, at almost 70, she's had to tone that down and wears pastels and ices most of the time.  That's because her skin and hair have faded, so her personal color intensity has faded.  In a similar vein, as a teenager I could wear flourescent green and orange... haven't been able to pull those off since I was 25! 

This doesn't change your base colors, it just changes what colors look best in the body of your outfit.  I can still wear a flourescent green print... in a scarf.  Mom can still pull off some pretty fierce accessories.  

Contrariwise, because I am in my 30s and have dark hair/ruddy skin/blue eyes, I wear high contrast colors.  if I wear an outfit made entirely of soft colors and neutrals, I fade out.  Even if those neutrals are "my" neutrals, even if all of the colors are "mine".... if I don't put *something* with some kick in there, I disappear.   BFF, who wears the same season that I do, glows when she wears the same set of colors that make me disappear.  It's very individual.

You will see celebrities do this all the time.  I've said that I won't name names, because I think celebrity culture is disgusting... but I assure you, if you keep your eyes on a few notable high-contrast and low-contrast women, and watch them when they step out of that character, you will quickly notice how it works (or does not).

The high-contrast and low-contrast are *not* about jumping into colors that don't suit you... and that color  pop (or not) doesn't even have to be near your face.  I can wear a neutral top and a bright bottom and it works well, and my "all neutral" look tends to have a bright accessory.  So this isn't about skimping on the colors that look well on you... it's about figuring out how much punch you need.

Of course every woman is going to have punchy times and unpunchy times... again, this is very individual.  It's something to think about when you're trying to perfect an outfit, not something to make into your uniform.

And speaking of uniforms, which we will do more at length later... do know that we all have lines and looks that suit us and those that do not.  It's not just color!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Letting the Little Ones Be Joyful

Joy is part of loveliness...

I am working hard, preparing my little girl's wardrobe for back-to-school.  Being generally displeased with the conventional offerings, I do a lot of sewing for her.  Certainly I try for practicality - at least *some* practicality - most of the time, but a girl can't just have practical things, right?  :)

We went to the fabric store, and were wandering about, and she brought me fabric.  It was on sale.  It was her color.  It was sparkly... but is also a linen blend, so it will be cool in the early (and hot!) months at school here. 

So... I made her a dress.  Yes.  It has sequins.  And yes, I intend her to wear it to school, not save it for church (our church tends toward casual dress, particularly at the service we attend).  Yes, it will probably get stained.  But ... she's lovely.  And she's *happy* with it.  She gets to be pretty and pink and sparkly - and how many of us would secretly like to wear something sparkly and pink to work/the store instead of what we do wear?

There are enough years in her life to find classic looks, understated elegance and subtlety.  Now?  Let her have some fun. 

Oh, and I have fun too.  Did you figure that out already?  (grins)

Le picture!

There will be a matching jacket, forthcoming from my sewing machine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loveliness is not just in clothing

In the search for loveliness, we cannot ignore the aspects of life that are not merely external.  Shall I say "merely" in speaking of externals?  I shall... because however important beauty is, inner beauty is much more so.

Things that I am working on now, and that I am interested in, include improvements to my health, and improvements to my comportment.  I am making an effort to have better posture and better manners.  Surely no matter how one is dressed, if one has poor manners and slouches, one cannot be said to have achieved loveliness. 

Loveliness is important.  Our world continues happily on its path to ugliness and disorder.  Putting my attention to the things that I can improve - and then not merely putting my attention on them, but actively working to improve those things which I can control, is my contribution to my own sanity and to the world at large.

I am spending a great deal of time at the sewing machine, translating my vision of beauty into clothing that can be worn.  My flirty skirt from the last blog was a great hit... with me.  It makes me happy when I wear it, and that happiness spreads out to the way I think, act and speak. 

Putting my "back" into working out in ways that improve my posture, thinking of cherishing foods to add to my diet, being more "in the now", spending more time in prayer... these all increase loveliness. 

Someday  I'll write that piece about purple and orange and go on to discuss all the beautiful textiles we've been given in this day and age... but for now, rest assured that though I have been silent, I am not inactive.

More tomorrow!