Dressing for Respect

A pair of articles in the February 2017 issue of InStyle magazine spotlight the power of dressing purposefully. How one chooses to dress can send a message of inspiration, and can communicate a demand for respect.

In a thought-provoking article in the February 2017 issue of InStyle, Eric Wilson asks: “Can fashion be feminist? With their spring collections, designers clearly had power and politics on their minds as they created wardrobes for modern working women. As the world continues to change in unpredictable ways, however, that message of strength may be more important than ever.”

0217 Can Fashion Be Feminist REVPictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle, Kendall Jenner imagined as Rosie the Riveter, from campaigns from the Independent Journal Review and Rock the Vote, fall 2016.

Wilson writes that “we are entering a season in which clothing can play an unexpected role in how we communicate our viewpoints to the world. Wearing a pantsuit or a pussy-bow blouse suddenly becomes a political act, open to interpretation.” He continues: “The cause of feminism, in particular, benefits when fashion embraces the imagery of strong women, much as Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace have done in their recent collections, because clothing is, in a way, a universal language. And it is becoming less of a stigma for smart women to talk about fashion or embrace feminine clothing in the workplace rather than dress like men to get ahead.”

Tucker describes how designer Gaby Basora, the founder and creative director of Tucker, “often considers how specific items of clothing can be empowering, even if the sense of strength is only what we ascribe to it in our minds. ‘Ultimately, fashion can be a way to express things about yourself that are more meaningful than just a blouse,’ she says. ‘It’s fascinating how we create illusions.’” Basora, Wilson writes, “like to think about . . . a family friend who, as a successful educator with a taste for immaculate clothes, made a point of riding the bus to work every day so that young women might see her and begin to imagine having important jobs of their own.”

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Illustration:  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, pictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle wearing Balmain.

The February 2017 issue of InStyle  also contains a profile of supermodel and style icon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, calling her “The Chicest Lady at the Airport.” Writer Stephanie Trong writes that Huntington-Whitely as “emerged as the foremost trendsetter” of “airport style” and quotes the model: “People probably think I’m overdressed for the airport . . . [but] that’s just me–a great outfit is my armor. I feel confident and ready to face the world.”

Consider how Huntington-Whiteley is an “influencer,” someone whom others choose to emulate, just like the impeccably dressed educator on the bus.  Consider how fashion  can serve as armor, and how fashion can convey a message of strength — a message that commands respect.

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Recognizing Your Personal Design Aesthetic

Inspiration may strike anytime, anywhere. So too may recognition of styles or motifs that resonate on a deeply personal level.

I was struck by the common elements of the designs pictured in the February/March 2017 issue of Traditional Home magazine in its Curated column entitled “Style, With Love: This season’s hottest furniture signs off with X’s and O’s.”

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Consider, for instance, this page of designs from the article: a chandelier of golden rings from Gabby; an X-base ottoman from A. Rudin; a side chair from Chaddock; an end table with asymmetrical “X” base by Jonathan Charles, and metal circles that playfully interlock on the “Nasir” objet from Made Goods. Studying this page gives me pause to consider which elements of which of the designs are my personal favorites and, taking it a step further, why they are my favorites.

As you look at the designs, consider:  Do you prefer a very structured, symmetrical look, or something more free-form and interpretative? Do you prefer a spare design or something that suggests abundance? Do you prefer visually light designs or those that make a more profound statement?

When it comes to personal style, what you find pleasing in home design may provide clues as to what you will find most pleasing to wear, and vice versa. Chandelier earrings may inspire you to look for a particular style of chandelier. Or perhaps a page of designs that incorporate X’s and O’s remind how charming it might be to wear these symbols of kisses and hugs, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches.

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New Resolutions for the New Year

As the New Year approaches, I was delighted to read Martha Beck’s article in the January 2017 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, “You Say You Want a Resolution. . . . ”

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Beck notes that her resolutions for 2016 were almost identical to those she made back in 1987 and asked herself two questions: “Do these goals resonate with me? Are they really what I want most in the entire world?” She concluded that it was time for new resolutions, which, I note, on their face look to be the polar opposites of classic New Year’s resolutions.

Among her new resolutions:  “spend more” (. . . positive attention to what she already has); “be self-involved” (and distance herself from people she doesn’t trust), and “forget what I’ve learned” (releasing misperceptions). She encourages her readers to compile their own new resolutions: “You may want to underachieve. Oversleep. Fritter away more of your days.”

My favorite on her list is the first resolution: “Gain weight.” Beck writes: “For so many people, January 2 is D day–diet day, that is. Losing weight can be a laudable goal, but this year I’m going to think about weightier matters–weighty as in ‘of great importance,’ a definition that does not apply to dress size.” Beck notes that it absolutely did not matter what Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai weighed when they made their marks on the world. And so, Beck writes, start asking “What would really make me happy right now?”:  “Whenever body shame creeps up on me, I resolve to refocus on adding meaning to my life.”

With the New Year, I resolve to be ever grateful for the increasing strength of my body as I enjoy more activity (including my rediscovered love of swimming); for already owning a wardrobe filled with flattering clothes in a range of smaller sizes in which I can “shop” as my shape reflects a fresh focus on fitness; and for my health, all within the context of the love of my husband and all those family members, professional colleagues and friends who are dear to me. In short, I resolve to gain weight (in the Martha Beck sense) and, by gaining weight, to lose weight in a healthy sense as well.

I resolve to concentrate on “what would really make me happy right now.” In that light, let me share a few images that resonate with me and make me smile — perhaps the inspiration for future resolutions. Happy New Year!

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Authenticity in Personal Style

As any image consultant worth her salt will tell you, your style should reflect your personality and taste — the authentic you.  As fashion pushes out the next trend and the next, urging you to try and buy, it can be fun to expand your horizons and see what works for you. Ultimately, however, the style needs to suit you. There is never one cool or right way to dress.

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Along that line of thought, the media has been full of examples that exemplify the call to authentic style. Consider this wonderful thought from fashion icon Iris Apfel, published in the September 2016 issue of Real Simple:  “To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and not see yourself.”  The charming photograph of the little girl in her mismatched prints is by Stephanie Rousser.

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The August 12, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times contains an article by Adam Tschorn:  “It’s what Adele wears to an Adele concert: Not the type to mull over myriad choices each show, she wears one Burberry design.” Literally, Adele, wears one custom-designed dress (of which she owns 10 copies). The dress is a “floor-length gown that nips in at the waist, has a crew neck, three-quarter-length sleeves and a multicolored floral sequin pattern that dazzles and sparkles like mad under the lights.” She finishes the look with comfortable flats, not high heels.  This is the epitome of uniform dressing. Every detail has no doubt been considered — what neckline is comfortable, what sleeve-length feels good, and what is most flattering. Having found the perfect dress, Adele sticks with it.

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Authenticity too sometimes means that not everyone is going to approve of your fashion choices. In the September 2016 issue of Glamour, associate fashion writer Lauren Chan defends her choice of a dress that, once posted, elicited comments about how unflattering it is. Chan responds: “Here’s where I call bullshit: Unflattering is just a code word for ‘not slimming,’ and shocking as it may seem, this size 12 woman doesn’t choose clothes for the sole purpose of appearing elongated, slimmer, or sucked in. ”

Chan continues:  “Curves are all well and good, these commenters seemed to be saying, as long as you wear Spanx and head-to-toe black and stay away from stripes (never mind stripes and ruffles).  In other words, while we’re embracing women of all sizes as never before, we’ve yet to accept that successful dressing doesn’t mean minimizing our bodies.”

Chan’s conclusion is worth contemplating: “So know this: If you hate what I’m wearing, I can take it! But I like my curves, and I don’t want to ‘flatter’ them away.”

When you look in the mirror, see yourself. Embrace the authentic you.

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Claim Your Space: The Body Positivity Revolution

1215 body positivity Jan 2016 Vogue musician performer REV1215 body positivity Jan 2016 Self sister models one plus size REV1215 body positivity Dolce & Gabbana earphones ad REV1215 holiday post Meryl Streep quote re diets 101915 People REVWhen magazines as devoted to the ideals of beauty and fitness as Vogue and Self provide the same self-affirming positive message, it’s the ideal time to take the message to heart. This is a new age of body positivity. 

The January 2016 issue of Vogue urges readers:  “Be Yourself:  Welcome to the revolution:  As fashion, following the world at large, embraces a new era of inclusion and diversity and FREEDOM,” Vogue gathered “the cream of the CREATIVE CROP–to showcase the season’s most EXPRESSIVE pieces:  real clothes that reflect real life.”

Above, writer and curator Allese Thomson and Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard model clothing from Maison Margiela and Tory Burch, respectively, in the January 2016 issue of Vogue. This is a very different Vogue magazine from the one that, not so many years ago, told Oprah she needed to lose 20-plus pounds in order to appear on the publication’s cover, despite her extraordinary and long-standing achievements and popularity.

In an article by Meredith Bryan in the January 2016 issue of Self, the magazine focuses upon “What Women Really Think About Their Bodies” and asks, “In the social media age, is our body image better than it used to be?” Bryan writes:  “After decades of talk about bold image, women’s body positivity looks to be at an all-time high. Behold a new crop of female icons like Beyonce, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Ronda Rousey, Amy Schumer and Serena Williams, whose bodies are as gloriously diverse as their pop-culture firepower.”

The January 2016 issue of Self  features models, and sisters, Alyssa and Chelsea Miller, who “look a lot alike except for one major difference–about five dress sizes.” Chelsea wears a size 14, while her sister wears a size 4. Alyssa reports of experiencing pressure early in her career to lose20 pounds in order to be a size 0, but she stood her ground. Some 12 years later, she relates that her resolve did not hurt her career at all and indeed, that seeing photos of her sister Chelsea on Alyssa’s Instagram, Alyssa’s agency, IMG, signed Chelsea to her own contract as a plus size model. 

Yet Bryan’s article in Self about body positivity is far from entirely positive. I did not see statistics in the article detailing the ages and other demographics of the “more than 3,100″ women surveyed by Self, but the results were disheartening (not surprisingly so for readers of a fitness publication, some 70 percent of whom “say they compare themselves to others on social media either constantly or occasionally”). Among other survey results:  “a whopping 80 percent of us remain unsatisfied with the number on the scale–and 57 percent think about it ‘constantly.’”

Bryan continues, “Perhaps worse still, 85 percent of women believe they should feel more body-positive than they do. meaning, not only do we hate on our bodies, but we also hate on ourselves for hating on them.” I prefer a more positive view of this statistic:  perhaps the self-affirming message is starting to sink in. Indeed, Bryan concludes, “As we choose how to engage with technology, our online lives have the potential to remind us of everything we can do, rather than everything we’ll never be.” Bryan ends her article with a quote from Cassey Ho, creator of YouTube channel Blogilates:  “I think the whole body-image positivity movement is very strong right now. The next step is to just do what you do, and have the body you have, and not even feel the need to mention it. We need to focus on our brains, our character, our knowledge and emotion–on what we’re able to contribute to the world.”

Consider the latest ad campaign from Dolce & Gabbana, featuring individuals of various shapes and sizes. There is nothing but love for all the individuals in the ads.

In the December 2015 issue of Allure, actress Claire Danes expands upon prior comments to People magazine that she and her friend Lena Dunham were “criticized for having different body types–I was too skinny, and she was too big.” Danes continues:  “It’s just so ingrained in us, the idea that we should take up the right amount of space, literally and figuratively.”

In the October 19, 2015 issue of People, Meryl Streep is quoted on the advice she would give to her 18-year-old self, to Time Out London:  “Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.”

Don a poncho or fling a shawl over your shoulders and claim your space. Be all the fabulous person you are. Embrace wholeheartedly the fun of living. Happy New Year! 

 

Signature Looks: Fashion Insiders’ Tips on Personal Style Uniforms

Every day, you need to dress  in garments that suit your activities and lifestyle. Whether you have a walk-in closet the size of a bedroom, or a closet shoe-horned into a tiny space, you need to be able to pull together from your wardrobe an ensemble that meets your practical needs and  pleases your sense of aesthetics too. Irrespective of whether you love to start each day putting together an ensemble that suits your mood, or whether your career dictates the parameters of what is acceptable in the workplace, you need to determine what works for you — the practical side of dressing.

It should come as no surprise that many designers default to a certain look — their personal style uniform, in essence. Designers like Vera Wang and Mary Katrantzou design colorful pieces but themselves dress in black;  designers Michael Kors and Roberto Cavalli dress in jeans, tee shirts and black blazers.

Even if you enjoy piecing together a creative look, there are occasions when a tight schedule dictates that you have no early morning fashion decisions to make.

One image consultants’ trick is to keep a list or spreadsheet detailing favorite ensembles from head to toe; if you can add a photo, so much the better, though the photo is not necessary.

In the March 2015 issue of Glamour, four of the magazine’s editors share their personal highlights of the spring shows during Fashion Week in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Each reveals her personal “show uniform”:

Uniform dressing 0315 Glamour NY fashion week REV

  • New York, “A pair of 3×1 jeans, a silk blouse, and a clutch”
  • Paris: “a crisp button-down shirt layered up with my signature silver jewelry, a pencil skirt, and heels”
  • London:  “I live in dresses during fashion month. The less I have to pack, the better. A structured leather belt helps pull it all together.

Uniform dressing 0315 Glamour Milan fashion week REV

  • Milan:  “I start with a perfect white shirt, then pair it with a full printed skirt and heels that don’t quite match.”

These are uniforms for women who know they are going to be photographed and who are circulating among people for whom fashion is their life; they need to look terrific, and yet they can find a streamlined way to dress.

A few pages farther back in the issue, freelance writer Emily Holt contributed a piece entitled “Yes, I Will Be Caught Wearing the Same Thing Every Day.” Glamour elaborates:  “Some of the world’s chicest women walk around in essentially the same look year in and year out. Emily Holt makes a case for the art of uniform dressing.”

Holt reveals her personal habit of wearing pants with a sweater and sandals. “The pant-sweater-sandal combination emerged during college in Los Angeles, where that laid-back attire was appropriate year-round.” Now living in San Francisco, she tweaks her wardrobe seasonally. “But while components change, the refrain remains: pants, sweater, sandals, repeat. And why not? It works.” Her look can take her comfortably–ah, there’s a key word–”from a breakfast meeting to a visit with a designer friend in her studio to a work dinner and even an after-hours drink. (Occasionally, I’ll swap the flat for a higher heel.)”

Uniform dressing 0315 Glamour Emily Holt article REV

The article includes photos of British Vogue fashion editor Sarah Harris, “consistently chic in crisp shirts, ripped jeans, and standout accessories” and J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, who “always pulls everything together with an oversize, tailored jacket atop her shoulders.”

Holt provides tips on how to find one’s personal style uniform:

  • Look at how you dressed when you were a kid. What you wore–or refused to wear–before you knew how to spell runway says a lot about your true sartorial nature.
  • Forget trends. Designer Carolina Herrera tells Holt “It’s important to know what looks good on you, not what’s fashionable.” Herrera’s signature white shirt is “something she’s been wearing since she was required to don one as a child in Venezuela as part of her school uniform. ‘Eventually I became accustomed to it,’ says the designer.’”
  • Embrace being different. Jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth “tends to wear colorful, patterned, feminine frocks that cinch at the waist and fall to her ankles”; fashion editor Sarah Harris is a devotee of androgynous jeans and blazers.
  • Think of it as branding. “The best part of a uniform is that you consistently look like you,” citing Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn, Celine designer Phoebe Philo, J. Crew president Jenna Lyons, Ellen DeGeneres, and First Lady Michelle Obama as examples.
  • If all else fails, jeans. “There’s a reason they’ve been America’s uniform for more than 100 years. But if they’re your daily fare, Harris has a critical warning: ‘Jeans can look lazy, so you have to amp up the accessories.’ Which means chic, dressier elements are a must. Harris goes for blazers by Stella McCartney, pumps with a heel, a men’s Rolex, and a pair of diamond hoops.” Harris explains: “It elevates the look and helps people think I made an effort. . . . It’s not that I don’t love other clothes. It’s just that in jeans, I feel like me.”

Crisp button-front shirts and jeans appear to be popular choices for personal style uniforms. You’ll find neither of these items in my wardrobe, however. Black slacks provide the common element in most of my looks. They are less informal than jeans and much easier to dress up. And shirts that button are a no-no for busty women (more on this in an upcoming post). I prefer a silk or cotton knit tank or tee, topped with a lightweight cardigan sweater or jacket. The third layer adds polish and also allows for adjustment of layers as the temperature dictates.

Think about what pieces work best for you. Learn what colors are most flattering to you, and wear them near your face. Add jewelry and accessories that are comfortable and, most important, make you smile. Feeling comfortable in your choices, you can relax and “consistently look like you.”

Jewelry for Women of a Certain Age

Jewelry purchase decisions encompass a wealth of factors, including:

  • For what occasions is the jewelry to be worn (spanning the range from daily wear to gala occasions).
  • With what apparel will it be worn (considering the style of the clothing and its design details).
  • What styles of jewelry are most flattering to the wearer ( considering such factors as scale and color).
  • What styles suit the personality of the wearer (from classic to singularly quirky).

Quite beyond all those factors is another consideration:  What makes sense as a fashion investment. Rare is the individual who does not need to be mindful of her budget. As with most purchases, what is cheapest is not synonymous with what provides the best value for one’s money.

What is of-the-moment trendy — immediately recognizable designs that have achieved cult status and seem ubiquitous for a season or two in the fashion press – will inevitably look tired and dated soon enough. If you want to wear one huge single earring because the fashion editors have embraced that trend right now, that’s fine, but rather than shelling out significant dollars for a single piece, consider purchasing a pair of identical huge earrings that either may be wearable as a set or possibly may be adaptable into a fresh look by a clever jeweler when the trend has finished its course.

What is incomprehensible to me is the promotion of inexpensive jewelry designs that riff off current trends but don’t merit cult status, when the promotion is directed to women of a certain age who have financial wherewithal. The September 2014 issue of More magazine is rife with this type of promotion.

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In your 40s, advises the editors, “become the boss–or just dress like her.” As to jewelry, “Embrace delicate,” urges the magazine. The jewelry selected to wear with the pulled together “multitasking looks” is a $40 metal cuff accented with crystals. The wide cutout style requires a wide expanse of arm, and would not work well with long-sleeved apparel such as the print wool-blend coat pictured. The missed opportunity: A lovely slender bracelet with a tasteful, daytime-appropriate sprinkle of pave diamonds on genuine gold or silver. That’s something the boss might actually wear.

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In your 50s, “dress to please yourself” suggest the editors, adding “You’ve earned the right to wear whatever feels best.” The jewelry selected:  An attractive but uncomfortable to wear square bracelet that has a modest $225 price tag.

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In your 60s, “break with tradition:  stop sticking to safe (yes, you) and show the world you’re full of surprises.” As to jewelry, “update your pearls” suggest the editors — excellent advice in this season of extraordinary designs that incorporate pearls. The first of two recommendations is a $588 necklace of brass, crystal and glass pearls in an eye-catching design from Lulu Frost that merits consideration.

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The second of two recommendations is something entirely off the mark:  a $28 pair of earrings incorrectly described as “12k gold-plated brass and pearl studs.” The earrings do not contain pearls — the pearls are faux, as one might expect from the price. The man-made pearl-like orbs are set on top of square backings. There is nothing whatsoever surprising about this design.

Why is a magazine that targets women of means promoting a $28 pair of faux-pearl earrings? A pair of freshwater cultured pearl stud earrings can be had for under $12 on Amazon.com.

Does anyone aspire to a jewelry wardrobe of inexpensive gold-plated — or worse, gold-tone metal — designs with faux gems and nothing-special style? Dress like the boss. Dress to please yourself. And show the world you’re full of surprises. Don’t settle.

What’s in your jewelry box?

My Famous “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” Recipe

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Style is more than fashion – it touches every aspect of our lives. Today I offer you  a very stylish addition to your cooking repertoire. For those of you anticipating your special someone will soon pop the question, I offer a recipe with a very special back story.

Many of you no doubt are familiar with “Engagement Chicken” – a recipe that Glamour magazine made famous and which is credited with prompting a number of marriage proposals. The first reported proposal came a full month after the dinner at which the lemon-accented chicken was served, the boyfriend  noting “It’s a meal your wife would make. It got me thinking.”

I’m pleased to share my recipe for “Expedited Engagement Shrimp.”  This is the entrée I cooked for my then-boyfriend’s family on Mother’s Day 2012 — a recipe that resulted in Paul making an impromptu marriage proposal that very evening, months before he had planned to do so. Tomorrow, Paul and I will be married one very happy year.

Do let me know if this recipe proves to be a charm for you.

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Photo:  “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” plated with sautéed carrots and brown rice

Expedited Engagement Shrimp

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In a large flat baking dish combine approximately 1 1/2 pounds jumbo or extra large raw shrimp (whatever fits in one layer), 4 cloves sliced garlic, and 2 tablespoons white wine. Season lightly with course-ground salt.

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Sprinkle with a mixture of 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.

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Bake at 425 degrees until the shrimp are opaque, 15 to 18 minutes.