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.

Over-Accessorization: The Making of a Look Memorable for the Wrong Reasons

In my last post, I assessed an ensemble that combines a number of the season’s trends flawlessly, resulting in a comfortable, chic look.

Sampling the latest trends is fun, and more than that, it shows the world that you are current with what’s fresh in fashion. Choosing shoes and a bag that are reasonably current, and always necessarily in impeccable condition, is a credit to your personal and professional image. Adding jewelry and other accessories to an ensemble requires a sense of discretion and restraint. Today’s post presents an example of a look of over-accessorization, where that sense of discretion is lacking.

From the September 2012 issue of Lucky, here is a lovely $1200 lace dress from Burberry London accented with “whimsical accessories” piled on with no rhyme or reason. The elaborate collar from a silk top peeks out from the vee neckline of the dress, a necklace with a huge pendant in the shape of grapes accenting the center. A belt accented with an animal head visually clashes with the cluster of grapes above. To confuse the eye even more, a pair of elaborate and colorful cuffs completes the ensemble. The eye doesn’t know where to look. There is no coherence to the ensemble. This is a case of accessories turning the potential for a lovely look into the sad look of a fashion victim.

A silk top with an interesting collar from Maison Murasaki might be spectacular on its own, but worn under the dress gives it a prissy look and seems to turn it into a form-fitting choir robe or judge’s robe. Moreover, it bulks up the figure under the dress. Wear this type of layered look judiciously.

All of the other accessories – the necklace from Thea Grant, the cuffs from R.J. Graziano worn singly or as a pair, and the belt from Burberry Prorsum, are lovely on their own, but they do not work together cohesively. The animal head belt in particular is too casual a motif to do credit to the lace dress.

As between the pendant necklace and the cuffs, the necklace is the better choice for several reasons. It draws the eye up to the face. It has fine detail that complements the elaborate lace of the dress. And it does not present the potential for snagging the dress that might occur wearing a bracelet crafted of elaborate metalwork.

I do not subscribe to the old saw that, once dressed,  you should remove one accessory before leaving the house. In this case, however, I recommend removing at least three out of four. Imagine how stunning the dress would look on its own, accented with an elegant pair of earrings.

The Making of a Memorable Look

The introduction of the fall/winter collections is, for many, the most exciting time of year from a fashion perspective. The heat waves of summer soon to be behind us, the prospect of dressing stylishly and comfortably in layers beckons.

Here’s one example of how to combine a number of the season’s trends flawlessly: boots, slacks, a slouchy textured sweater with a turtleneck, a cross-body bag, and stacks of bracelets. The visual look of the multiple bracelets echoes the folds of the pushed-up sleeves of the sweater. The look is comfortable, practical and wonderfully chic.

There is something reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy in this look, as she was known for wearing white slacks, and the model’s thick side-swept tresses are reminiscent of the former First Lady’s hairstyle.  This styling appears in the August 2012 issue of  Town & Country.

Wearing white pants tucked into knee-high boots requires slim calves. To adapt this look if you don’t have the long, slender legs of a model, wear slacks in a dark hue combined with flats or booties (the latter especially on-trend this season) in the same color as the slacks to give you the longest possible visual line.

Styling Perfection: Nuances of Color

Every so often I come across a photograph of a fashion styling that stops me in my tracks. Savannah Guthrie, NBC-TV’s Today‘s new anchor, looks phenomenal in this photograph published in People magazine, wearing a dress by David Meister and earrings by Kimberly McDonald, styled by Stacey Kalchman.

The color of the dress is perfection with Guthrie’s eyes, bringing out their arresting color. The vee of the neckline of her dress is an ideal depth, coming to Guthrie’s first balance point. The subtle weave of the dress repeats the nuances of color seen in Guthrie’s hair, the warm yellow being a near-complementary color to the blue hues.

And the earrings — if you ever wonder why I encourage my clients to seek the perfect pair of earrings, here is a demonstration of why. The colors of the earrings pick up the hues from Guthrie’s eyes as well as those in her hair. The shape of the earrings subtly reflects the vee neckline of the dress. The center stone is an eye-catching natural beauty, full of mystery and nuance. The earrings sit on her ear lobes in an appropriately professional style, bringing attention up to Guthrie’s face. And the diamonds surrounding the center stone add a touch of dazzle, the perfect accessory for a rising star.

Watch for opportunities to attend jewelry trunk shows, where you can see the full line of designs and colors from a designer. Try on different designs and observe what styles are most flattering to you. If you’re not sure where to start, engage the services of a professional image consultant to help you determine your best colors and to point out the nuances of design in your own person. It is those nuances that make you individually and beautifully you.

TheOhLook: Photo Styling with a Diagonal Bent

This exquisite, uncredited photograph of Emily Blunt that appears with her profile in the March 2012 issue of InStyle magazine deserves a closer look.  Blunt is gorgeous, of course, and younger than most of my readers, but the styling of the actress and the photo are both worthy of mention.

The teal color of her dress relates to and heightens the color of her eyes and compliments both her skin tone and hair color, demonstrating the power of a flattering hue. Her jewelry, a bronze or antiqued gold cuff and an interesting arrangement of blue ringed agate stones and antiqued gold leaves, balance each other. Having only a glimpse of the jewelry to the right makes one want to see more of it, adding active intrigue to the photo.

The position of her right arm repeats the diagonal of her one-shoulder top. The effect is to draw the eye up to her face. A similar effect to this styling can be achieved with a drape of fabric, the careful positioning of one arm, and some well-chosen jewelry.

Also worthy of note is the quotation that appears at the bottom of her photo: “The most beautiful people are those who don’t realize they are. Those are the ones I stare at.” When asked to sum up her philosophy of beauty, Blunt replied: “I love seeing faces that live and breathe–that are covered with lots of lines and you want to know how they got them. People who do too much plastic surgery often have a very still, startled expression. I can’t imagine that there’s much joy to be gained from that. If you can’t move your face, you can’t express yourself.”