Square Necklines Are Not for Everyone

File this under “Oh, No!” The popular purewow.com web site posted a piece on April 2nd  declaring: “This Trending Neckline Is So Flattering, Everyone Needs to Buy It Immediately.”

A number of photos are included with the article, including this example of a square neckline that works beautifully for the wearer. More on why it works below.

The issue with a square neckline is that it brings horizontal emphasis to a place where one might not want it. For a large-busted woman with slender hips, a classic “inverted triangle,” the square neckline is likely to make her proportions look out of kilter.

For a curvy woman of any size, the straight line of a square neckline does not inherently relate to the lines of her body, which are curved, not straight. If her facial features are strongly horizontal, particularly her eyebrows and the line of her mouth, however, or if the wearer choose strongly geometric haircuts, a neckline that otherwise fits her physique correctly may be flattering.

In any case, be sure the square neckline you are considering is at least as wide as your face. A narrower neckline may make your face look out of proportion and your neck look relatively short.

Be sure the square neckline lies flat across your chest. If it does not, you are too curvy for that particular neckline. Seek another.

The photos above displays a square neckline that is wider than the wearer’s face. The neckline lies flat. The model appears to have an hourglass shape:  she has hips that are balanced by the neckline and puffy sleeves of her dress. Notice the center part and blunt cut hair, providing design elements that are complimented by the neckline. The model adds the finishing touch of a handbag that matches her hair and has a strong horizontal top line. The eye sweeps over the ensemble and finds a pleasing harmony.

Never ever listen to anyone selling something that purports to work for everyone.

Casual Wristwatch, Formal Dress

Menswear-influenced fashion plays a significant role in most professional women’s wardrobes. Luxe fine fabrics of wool and cashmere and subtle plaids bring elements of quality and elegance to a woman’s style. Today, chic pantsuits provide ease and comfort that avoid pesky issues about hosiery and heels (so long as the heel height is correct – reference my last post).

I’m having an “Oh No” moment, however, with the promotion of menswear-influenced wristwatches paired with women’s formal wear.

The perfectly gorgeous wristwatch in the ad shown here from Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, does no favors to the wearer paired with a stunning evening look, particularly when the evening look is so ethereal and delicate as the flower-appliquéd ensemble pictured. The watch interferes with the line of the sleeve and looks jarringly out of place.

The lovely model would be much better accessorized with substantial earrings that complement her long neck and coordinate in style with the top. A more delicate evening wristwatch would be a lovely option.

By all means, enjoy a beautiful menswear-inspired watch, but leave it at home when heading out in evening wear.

“ I Don’t Want to Walk Without My Nikes. . .”

It is with some amusement that I saw this page of 101 style ideas in the November 2018 issue of Marie Claire. Nine examples of wearing athletic sneakers are described as “the best ways to wear the surprisingly versatile chunky white trainer.” While six of the examples pair the sneaks with trousers, worn either with a sweater or a coat, three show the white shoes paired with long print dresses.

Back in the 1980s, it was common in my home town of Chicago, for career women dressed in their power suits to walk all or a good portion of the way to work. For many of us, wearing sneakers was part of the ensemble. The look became so ubiquitous and, some would say, so annoying, that the Chicago Bar Association’s Christmas Spirits gridiron show dedicated a number to the phenomenon. I’m proud to say that I contributed the idea for the number, using the 1940s hit “I Don’t Walk to Walk Without You”; the Bar Show writers penned some dandy lyrics that started: “I don’t want to walk without my Nikes, Pumas or Adidas or my Nikes. . . .”

The look of white sneakers with a dress or suit, or even with dark trousers, has not aged well. It draws the eye to the wearer’s feet, and the feet look bigger than usual in the chunky white shoes. There are all manner of low-heel pumps and flats in dark colors that can match trousers or tights, or coordinate with the colors in long skirts, and provide both comfort and a much less jarring version of style.

Fragile Shoulders

Perhaps one of the world’s most recognizable, prestigious and expensive fashion labels can afford in an ad to promote a look that is destructive to the wardrobe of the wearer because presumably the wearer can easily afford to replace it.

Here’s the ad, which appeared in the January 2018 issue of Vogue magazine. The woman is wearing a fur coat, and has slung over one shoulder a chain-strap designer bag. The coat is white; the bag is black.

I assume the bag is color-fast. However, that bag will be rubbing or bouncing against the side of the wearer, which in time will cause the coat to show wear if not discoloration due to whatever dirt is carried on the surface of the bag.

Even more damaging is the strap. The links of the chain will be doing serious damage to the soft surface of the coat, especially where the weight of the bag pulls down on the shoulder. The damage will be immediate and irreversible.

When wearing fur or faux fur, or any garment with fragile material on the shoulders, never wear a shoulder strap bag and never ever even think of wearing a shoulder strap made of chain. What an unfortunate image for a fashion label to promote.

The Front-Button Gap

Front-button shirts and blouses are a wardrobe staple for many women. Like front-button dress shirts for men, the women’s garments present issues of fit that require thought and attention.

If the shirt has a collar and is to be worn fully buttoned, the fit of the collar around the neck is an important consideration. A collar too big will make the wearer look like a little boy wearing grown-up clothes that are too big for him (consider Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live for this effect); a collar too small will find itself straining around the neck or unbuttoned to provide some relief.

A second issue is the lay of the shirt down the front. Curvy women in particular may find it difficult to find shirts that do not gap around the bustline. Look for garments with shorter distances between buttons (i.e., more buttons) to minimize the extent of any gap; also look for placement of a button at the largest part of the bust (a design detail that is maddeningly difficult to find).

050017 oh no front-button gap blouse InStyle REV

While celebrity model Alexa Chung looks adorable channeling Diane Keaton in Annie Hall in a photos spread in the April 2017 issue of InStyle magazine, the clothing selected for her just doesn’t fit. The above photo exacerbates the front-button gap issue with a striped shirt, which pulls across her bust and displaces the stripes for a visually distracting effect.

Some shirts can be worn open over a tank or camisole like an overshirt, eliminating the front-button gap.

Another fix would be to add a scarf , tie or vest (the latter two choices, a la Annie Hall) to cover the front-button gap. This can be an effective way to salvage a blouse or shirt that is otherwise not wearable.

050017 oh no blouse w tie InStyle April REV

A second photo from the InStyle shoot pictures Chung in an ensemble that closely imitates a most iconic Annie Hall ensemble with a tie. But whereas Keaton’s costumes were fit to her body (check the shoulder seams in stills from the movie), here the shoulder seams of the shirt are too wide and the underarm seams of the shirt pull out from the vest, for a most unflattering effect. Add to that the pants that drag on the pavement, and this photo, like the one above, goes into my Oh No! file.

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Cross These Cross-Bodies Off Your List

Cross-body bags are one of my favorite accessories. A beautifully designed bag that appeals to my aesthetic, combined with a strap long enough to cross from one shoulder across my body to the level of the opposite hip, is my idea of a marvelous invention.  Especially wonderful for travel and for taking public transportation, such a bag allows me to keep my handbag safely in view while enabling me to unlock doors, carry packages, wheel suitcases, or do other things that need to be done without leaving my bag unattended.

0417 short cross boddy Fendi in 0317 Allure REV

A number of high-end designers this season seem to have designed so-called cross-body bags with short straps, showing the bags worn essentially as necklaces. The March 2017 issue of Allure features a model who wears a leather bag and strap by Fendi as if she is wearing a necklace, presumably to show off the workmanship on the strap.  The look works because the model has a small bust, with no curves to disrupt the line of the strap. The handbag emphasizes her boyish figure.

0417 short cross body Dior ad 0217 Vogue REV

A current ad for Dior emphasizes the androgynous effect of a cross-body with a wide strap. Although worn to the side, the bag strap has little length to accommodate curves.

0417 short cross body D&G ad 0417 Elle REV

As for this current ad for Dolce & Gabbana, showing a structured leather bag with strap worn as a necklace, my initial reaction was “ouch!” — that pointed edge of the bag seems to be hitting in a rather awkward spot on the curvaceous model.

Bags with shorter straps, such as the Dolce & Gabbana, can be worn as classic shoulder bags, draped over one shoulder, the bag falling to the side of the wearer. Wearing a bag in this fashion likely requires some adjustment from time to time to keep the bag strap up on the shoulder, and, since the bag can easily be slipped off, this style is much less secure for travel.

To find the perfect cross-body purse, do a bit of planning. Determine the ideal length of a strap for a cross-body bag that fits your body, and use this strap measurement when selecting a new bag. You can confidently cross the other “cross-bodies” off your list.

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One for the Oh No! File

I rarely use this category in my blog, not from any desire to be polite, but because fashion mistakes, or the results of experimentation or outright playfulness in choosing clothing and accessories, don’t usually demand such strong condemnation.

However, with the arrival of the May 9, 2016 issue of People magazine, I am compelled to bring out the smarmiest of my blog categories in viewing a photo of a favorite actress, Cate Blanchett, wearing a fall 2016 Louis Vuitton design. In her defense, she was attending an exhibition put on by the designer, but still…… quelle horreur!

0516 Cate Blanchett in horrible Louis Vuitton dress REV

Here’s a perfect example of a dress wearing the woman. The design details that sit on her chest like overly high breast cups are as large as her head, and her fair coloring is completely lost competing against the graphic black, white and gold design. The sleeves make her look boxy and wide. The flounce at the bottom bears no relation to the rest of the design. On Project Runway, no doubt, the designer would be told that there are “a few too many ideas” in one garment.

0516 Cate Blanchett in Gucci REV

Fortunately, Blanchett appears just three pages later in the center of a spread spotlighting fantastic creatures embroidered into high-fashion gowns. The graceful embellishments and soft colors of her Gucci gown allow her to be seen. The spotlight is back on the actress, where it belongs. Think of the photo as the perfect palate cleanser generously supplied by People magazine.

0516 Cate Blanchett in Atelier Versace June InStyle REV

Blanchett is also featured in an Atelier Versace gown and a Tiffany & Co. necklace in the June 2016 issue of InStyle. Notice how the gown shows off her lovely figure, looking at least a couple of sizes smaller than she appears in the Louis Vuitton dress. Why, oh why would a design house choose to allow a fan of their to appear in such an unflattering dress?

The Sad Sack

The fall season presents an opportunity for an otherwise stylish woman to take on the appearance of a little girl dressed up in her mother’s clothes. The issue: designers and editors pushing oversized apparel that it too large or too long and swamps the figure of the woman wearing it.

0714 sad sack lapels on coat REV

This coat pictured in the July 2014 issue of Elle magazine creates the look in part because of the enormous lapels on the coat. Image consultants will tell you that details such as the size of lapels, buttons and trims should be proportionate to the size of the wearer’s features. The delicate features of the model are not flattered by the huge collar. The chunky shoes do nothing to elevate her look. The coat is from COS.

0714 sad sack Kors trousers dragging on floor w suspenders REV

The March 2014 issue of Elle styles a model in a silk tie-neck blouse and suspenders with trousers that pool on the floor. The blouse and trousers are from Michael Kors; the suspenders, from Star Struck Vintage Clothing. The bear in the photo wears a Chanel hat.

0714 sad sack Kim Kardashian poorly fitting dress REV

Particularly inexplicable is a celebrity with virtually unlimited financial resources wearing a dress that is ill-fitting. The July 28, 2014 issue of People pictures Kim Kardashian  walking in the rain in Paris en route to attend the Valentino Haute Couture show in July. She wears a dress with a plunging necklace meant to show off her figure, but many inches of fabric are unattractively bunched around her waist. There is far too much dress for her petite figure and small waist.

The fix for almost of these sad sack woes is the assistance of a talented tailor, who can make alterations so that the garment flatters the wearer.

Proportions and the Visually Saggy Bustline

One of the best ways to assess how a particular style may work for you is to see it on someone with similar proportions. My post today concerns the portion of your body from the top of your head to your waist.

Classic proportions are based upon the length, top to bottom, of your head. From the bottom of your head to your waist should measure two head-lengths for perfect classic proportions. If that length is shorter, you are “high-waisted” or “short-waisted”; if that length is longer, you are “long-waisted.”

The lovely model pictured in these photographs from the February 2013 issue of Lucky magazine is younger than my typical reader, to be sure, but she is a great example of a long-waisted figure. It appears that she is about two and one-half head lengths from the bottom of her chin to her waist. She looks great in printed pants with a scoop neck top and a jeans jacket, as she is tall and her entire frame is elongated. The long proportions of her legs balance her long-waisted figure.

But put the model in a strapless bustier, and she looks as though her breasts are sagging, much too low and close to her waist. Moreover, it appears the bustier is about to create a wardrobe malfunction of the most embarrassing kind. What further detracts from the look is that the bustier has a bit of a peplum which in this case extends the visual length of the model’s waist down even lower than it is. The look is thoroughly unflattering.

Here’s the same model wearing a garment designed with what is a high waist relative to her long-waisted figure, balancing out her proportions for an eye-pleasing effect. The multiple sheer layers of her ensemble provide horizontal lines that visually cut across the portions of her body that are proportionately long, making the entire ensemble harmonious.

If you are long-waisted, choose garments that do not visually lengthen your torso, and be mindful that a low-cut or strapless garment may make your bosom appear low on your body. Add interesting detail above your bustline to break up that proportionately long space. A statement necklace or double-wrapped scarf is a great accessory for you. It goes without saying that a good bra is essential. A saggy bustline is never a flattering look.

Softness Personified with Jewelry

Here’s an example of styling perfection that brilliantly uses jewelry to focus attention on the soft womanliness of the wearer.

The model in the Neiman Marcus ad has big round eyes, a small nose and ears, lush lips, and fair coloring – blonde hair and hazel eyes. She wears a cream-colored sweater of textured yarn that invites touch. Her look is soft, warm and approachable.

Further emphasizing the softness of the look is the beautiful pearl jewelry she wears, from design house Yvel. Fresh water pearls of luminescent peach and golden hues encircle her neck and wrist and dangle from her ears. The pearls are reminiscent of her pillowy lips and round features. The colors suit her perfectly.

There are designers creating all manner of fabulous jewelry at all price points. Choose for your jewelry wardrobe jewelry designs that draw attention to and highlight your best features.