Conversations About Authentic Style for Women Over 40
Category Archives: TheOhLook
Bad stylist recommendations, ridiculous advertisements, and celebrity fashion disasters provide fodder for this feature, and great styling is recognized, too. Does a particular look merit an Oh Wow, an Okay, or an Oh Dear?
My congratulations go out to actress Renee Zellweger on her most recent accolades and awards for her portrayal of the iconic Judy Garland. Also worthy of accolades is Zellweger’s personal style. The confidence she conveys through her style choices merits our consideration.
As seen in the February 24, 2020 issue of People magazine, Zellweger’s Oscar gown
is a study in self-assurance. The sleek one-shoulder custom gown by Armani
Prive in white brought attention to the woman wearing it, not to any fussiness
in the details of design. Zellweger’s choice of a single chunky David Webb
diamond and rock crystal ring worn on the index finger of her bare arm likewise
was a confident and powerful choice.
Let’s face it, however. It is much easier to bring the wow
factor to a wow event like the Academy Awards. The real test of power dressing
is in circumstances where one cannot (or should not) be dressed like too much
of a diva.
In this ensemble pictured in the February 10, 2020 issue of People, Zellweger shows us how it’s
done. She is wearing red – the ultimate power color – in a head-to-toe pantsuit
ensemble. The designer is not identified. Notice the lace detail at the
flattering neckline of her blouse and the matching red shoes. Also note that
Zellweger again wears a single chunky ring on an index finger, declaring this
as a signature jewelry look. This is power dressing par excellence.
There’s something almost too easy about finding something to criticize about almost any particular look, whether it’s something we put together for ourselves or something put together by a professional for someone who is photographed for a living. Issues of fit are always major concerns. The color might be just a little off the wearer’s best hues, or the accessories aren’t as thoughtfully chosen as they might be.
It is with joy, then, that I propose to focus in 2020 on the stellar looks presented in the pages of the fashion magazines. At a time when social media makes so much of fashion whatever an influencer chooses (or, far too often, is paid) to wear, I suggest we look at the choices made by individuals who have a savvy sense not only of what is fashionable, but also of what is flattering to the wearer.
Flattering to the wearer does not come along all the time, by any means. Much fashion is pushed out to the public for their considerations. Fresh designs and new trends need time to imprint on the public. Some is inherently not flattering – and indeed, some fashion is purposely meant to make a statement that has nothing to do with making the wearer look good. Message fashions are an entirely valid choice.
To emulate a designer look on a budget is certainly an option. The cheap disposable fashion cranked out by some retailers serves a useful purpose in that manner, but these clothes are not the foundation of a stylish personal wardrobe.
With this background in mind, today I celebrate the fashions of Dior as modeled by actress Olivia Wilde in the February 2020 issue of InStyle magazine. The design of the jacket is complex but accentuates her every curve. The size of the hound’s-tooth print relates to the size of her features. Her retro hairstyle has volume and shape to match the volume and shape of the jacket. This is the photo of style so well done that it will never go out of style. Brava!
Every year I would wrap up my jewelry blog at TrulyJewelry.com with a montage of recently published photos of exquisite jewelry. This year I wish to bring the tradition here.
Think of these images as a gift to the visual senses, as seen in a collection of diamond earrings and ring adorning the very design of the word “GIFT” on a page of the December 2019 – January 2020 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
Consider the workmanship in gold, enamel and precious stones in a necklace from Bulgari pictured in the November 2019 issue of C California magazine.
Imagine the in-person visual impact of whole-ear diamonds that stretch from the cartilage all the way to the lobe from Cartier pictured in the November 25 – December 8, 2019 issue of New York magazine.
Revel with me in the color combinations of the ring designs from Pomellato pictured in the November 2019 issue of Town & Country.
And finally, marvel at the perfection of a ruby and diamond necklace from the high jewelry collection of Harry Winston pictured in the November 2019 issue of Elle Decor.
I have a pretty little magnet on my refrigerator with a suggestion I’d like to share as we head into the New Year, with all its promise:
How does one explain the photo below of the well-respected plus-size model Paloma Elsesser in the October, 2019 issue of InStyle magazine?
Elsesser is often described as an outspoken voice for plus-size models and has a vast Instagram following. She was honored earlier this year by being selected by the CFDA to join the selection committee for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.
Her beauty shines in numerous photos you can find on the Web, even if you aren’t an Instagram follower (and I put myself in the latter category). One lovely example is above.
Compare that with the photo chosen by InStyle, above, on a page devoted to “Cheap thrills to fast-track your style.” Elsesser is pictured in a trench coat that is wrong on so many levels that I find it entirely inexplicable. Consider:
The coat is far too small, and doesn’t fit around her.
The sleeves are too long, and one sleeve is turned up more than the other.
The tight belt looks terribly uncomfortable, like a desperate attempt to keep the coat in place.
The coat is shown over a dress and some kind of additional layer that hangs out from the bottom of the coat irregularly, which looks sloppy.
The high neckline isn’t especially flattering – it makes her look very much “closed off.”
The white shoes are trendy but draw the eye downward to the irregular hems and detract from the rest of her look.
The red purse is small and sloppy with all its straps and doesn’t go with anything else she is wearing.
Is this genuinely meant to inspire InStyle readers?
Interesting . . . Note that the month was left off the bottom of the page, which shows the place holder “MONTH” rather than the word “OCTOBER” as seen on the back of the page. I have to wonder if this page had a tentative photo intended to be replaced. Please tell me it was.
I do not know how much influence an actress is given relative to the costume she is required to wear in a film. I am incredulous that a celebrity chooses to wear something unattractive unless that is essential to establishing the character being played. I am also incredulous that an elaborate bejeweled wedding gown from a couture designer could purposely be designed to make a character look unattractive.
In the upcoming film “Marry Me,” Jennifer Lopez plays a woman jilted by her rock-star fiancé as she is about to get married at Madison Square Garden and who picks a guest from the crowd to marry.
Her publicists have released dozens of photos showing Lopez in a magnificently elaborate custom wedding gown and veil from designer Zuhair Murad. Celebrity watchers, including some in the main stream media, have been gushing over the dress, calling it glamorous and gorgeous.
Yes, the dress is gorgeous, but flattering it is not. Here is a photo from the November 4, 2019 issue of People.
No, that photo is not an aberration. Here is another shot from the Web.
Jennifer Lopez is stunning at age 50, in superlative shape. Why on earth would anyone put this beautiful woman in a dress that crushes her bosom? This is a custom dress – it could easily have been altered to fit her, whatever the cost.
I give this look a thumbs down and a serious oh no, J Lo!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.