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.

Jewels of Inspiration

Every year, I would wrap up my jewelry blog at TrulyJewelry.com with a montage of recently published photos of spectacularly beautiful jewels. This year, for this TrulyBecoming.com blog, I wish to inspire with photos of a different theme.

Actress Julia Roberts, who turned 50 in October, is spotlighted in the December 2017 issue of InStyle magazine. She was crowned People magazine’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” for a record fifth time, and as the subject of a fashion photo shoot, she knows how to address a camera. But the photographs by Carter Smith and the fashion styling for the magazine (those responsible for hair, makeup, manicure and prop styling are identified but the overall fashion stylist does not appear to be identified) have put together one of the most exquisite fashion spreads I have ever seen.

1217 Julia Roberts InStyle 1 white lace w horse REV

Roberts is photographed in fashions with a Western wear theme, wearing flowing dresses, Southwestern jewelry, and cowboy boots. The above shot, featuring a lacy white dress by Chloe, is reminiscent of Runaway Bride.

1217 Julia Roberts InStyle 3 2 pc dress REV

This second photo features the actress in head-to-toe Dior.

Find the styles that flatter you and give you joy, and make them your signature look. Wishing all my readers a joy-filled 2018.

Among 101 Ways to Look and Feel Stylish This Season

Over the decade, writing innumerable pieces about image and style, I have found inspiration in many a “how to” list put together by the editors of various fashion-focused publications. There are nuggets of wisdom in most all of these compilations of tips.

1117 100 ways to look stylish People Mag Sept REV

For instance, the September 18, 2017 issue of People magazine suggests “100 Ways to Look & Feel Stylish This Fall.”

Some of the tips, like the opening item, “1. Accessorize like Selena Gomez” is a promotion of the actress’s 11-piece handbag collection with Coach. Many other specific handbags, shoes and items of makeup are included as items that each claim a number on the list.

Other tips are trend specific:  “5. Layer a slip dress over a turtleneck.” “12. Carry a daytime clutch.” “14. Sport some sassy socks.” These tips are likely to have a short shelf life, and should be considered in conjunction with this tip: “9. Pick and choose your trends.”

Other tips are evergreen bits of advice. For instance, “10. Make something old new again.” People quotes Jenn Rogien, costume designer for Orange Is the New Black:  “Every season I dig in the back of my closet and pull out something I haven’t worn in a while and wear it on repeat. It doesn’t cost anything, but it still makes you feel like you refreshed your wardrobe.”

That tip works well in conjunction with this one: “97. Take inventory.” The editors elaborate: “Do you own eight black shirts? Yet you still have your eye on another? Be honest with yourself. Write down everything you have and keep the list by your closet so you know what you definitely don’t need the next time you shop.”

Yet #97 conflicts somewhat with #98:  “98. Commit to your #OOTD.” Regarding the choice of one’s “outfit of the day,” People quotes Stacie Brockman, cofounder of a branding firm: “Instagram has made everyone terrified about re-wearing outfits for the sake of being sartorially outed, but there’s nothing chicer than a Steve Jobs-level uniform.”

I’ve written several time in this blog about the benefits of uniform dressing — finding one’s authentic personal style and sticking to it. Taking an inventory can be helpful in evaluating what might need to be replaced or refreshed. And if your personal uniform regularly includes black shirts, you should be on the lookout for new ones to replace any that are looking tired.

There is something wonderful about going through one’s closet and rediscovering items that haven’t been worn in a while. If these items make you look and feel great, let them have another day in the light. These are gifts you give yourself.

Let me add another tip: If there is something wonderful you have enjoyed wearing that is getting to the point of having seen better days, kind in mind that you may be able to replace it exactly, thanks to the worldwide market that is eBay. Brands and lines that have been discontinued may be alive in the form of vintage items currently available for sale, sometimes in brand new condition with the original tags. Vintage items are almost always going to cost far less than comparable new items.

You may also discover that your favorite designers or brands have additional items from previously released lines that you can be quite sure will prove to be flattering — a certain cut of jacket, style of pants, handbag, shoes, even a specific item of jewelry — because you already have like items in your wardrobe.

Think about any favorite item you wish you could replace, and take a look on eBay. You may be surprised and delighted with what you find.

Rich, Warm & Inviting Brown

The women’s fashion magazines tend to present a fashion trend as a fait accompli, usually without much explanation of the source of the trend.

1017 brown MC Oct made to mix shades for layering REV

Consider the resurgence of the color brown in fashion. “Layer with abandon in made-to-mix shades of brown” urges the October 2017 issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown MC Oct coffee break black w brown REV

And: “Perk up basic black with chocolate-brown pieces in luxe-feeling textures,” from the same issue of Marie Claire.

1017 brown menswear InStyle Oct REV

Current women’s styles reflecting a menswear influence and the fine woolens and other fabrics typical of menswear are, no doubt, part of the reason for the renewed interest in hues of brown. The color features prominently in this fashion spread from the October 2017 issue of InStyle.

1017 brown Esquire Oct color story REV

The October 2017 issue of Esquire takes an analytical approach to its discussion of the new popularity of shade of brown. In an article titled “That ’70s Color,” Max Prince writes about the trend and theorizes an explanation for its current popularity. Prince considers not only autumnal looks in menswear for men, but also the embrace of the “warm, inviting shade” in vehicles, hotels and even the re-introduction of the classic brown uniform of the San Diego Padres. About vehicles, he writes: “Just this year, fresh metal from Mercedes-Benz, MBW, Infiniti, and Volvo all turned up dripping in umber. Porsche and Lincoln also added new browns this year, while Bentley’s current portfolio features a half-dozen riffs on the color.”

“Why now?” Prince responds:  “It’s anti-tech. Designers are fomenting insurrection against the monochromatic status quo. Consumers want something that’s the opposite of the gadgets that have infiltrated their lives.”

While “sonic blues, candy reds and radioactive yellows” accomplish a break out of the doldrums, “these are blunt, basic tools,” writes Prince. “Brown is richer. It’s smart without being obvious, bold without being ostentatious.”

Prince concludes that “pulling off brown, whether it’s a tux or a velvet sofa or a chronometer, requires a certain confidence. It’s still a relative niche (acquired tastes always are), but the subtext is deliciously subversive.”

And you thought browns were cool because they complemented and brought attention to your eyes or hair color. Perhaps you’ve had your colors done and have concluded that you are an “Autumn” who looks great in umber hues. In a world of stainless steel appliances and the perennial popularity of head-to-toe black fashions, brown can indeed be viewed as not only rich, warm and inviting, but also delightfully and “deliciously subversive.”

The Elegance of Tone-on-Tone Dressing

Last month in my blog I celebrated the exuberance of mixing prints and colors, a most creative means of self-expression. This month I celebrate the return of perhaps the most elegant means of self-expression through fashion: tone-on-tone dressing.

Many if not most women find wearing head-to-toe black, accented with nothing more than the warm or cool metal of jewelry, a sophisticated look. Mixing black pieces is easy to do, as the subtle variations in shades of black rarely read as a mismatch. Black-on-black is sometimes considered the epitome of city dressing.

Wearing another head-to-toe color is more challenging and decidedly more expensive, but the efforts and expense can be worthwhile. Two hues represent the pinnacle of tone-on-tone dressing this season:  camel, and wine or burgundy.

0917 InStyle Sept Max Mara camel suiting REV

The gentle hues of camel soften the look of menswear-inspired suiting in this look from Max Mara pictured in the September 2017 issue of InStyle.

0917 Bazaar Sept tone on tone camel Hermes REV

Extending the tone-on-tone dressing to outerwear heightens the sophisticated look of a camel-hued Hermes ensemble. The ensemble is given a modern twist with darker sandals worn with camel socks, pictured in the September 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

0917 Zoey Deutch in LA Mag 1017 Max Mara burgundy REV

The influence of street style is also seen in this styling of a wine-hued Max Mara look by actress Zoey Deutch in the October 2017 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

0917 Max Mara ad burgundy tone on tone REV

Elegant, cozy comfort in beautiful burgundy hues is captured in this seasonal ad from Max Mara.

0917 Bazaar extras wine country burgundy accessories REV

Lest you think it can be a challenge to go head-to-toe matchy-matchy, rest assured — it can be. However, as this spread from the September 2017 issue of Harper’s  Bazaar illustrates, the time to find matching accessories is now, while these colors are on-trend. From shoes, handbags and purses, to delightful burgundy-accented jewelry, a favorite color can be repeated and emphasized with even the smallest details of an ensemble. The end result will look expensive, sophisticated, and decidedly elegant.

Getting the Max from Maximalist Fashion

As stated in the September 2017 issue of InStyle magazine:  “The latest way to express yourself? However you damn well please.”

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Or put another way, also quoted in the magazine, picturing two over-the-top looks by Gucci, “Getting dressed has never been such a party.”

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The looks are conversation starters, to be sure, but keep in mind that the conversation will be largely about the clothes. Authentic personal expression should be the foundation for every such display of exuberant dress. If the look makes you feel joyful, go for it. That excitement will come through in those conversations the clothes start.

0817 maximalist animal prints InStyle 0917 REV

A variation on the theme utilizes animal prints as the main component of an ensemble. Eye-catching, to be sure, but the wearer can get lost in all those feline motifs. Be mindful that animal prints are a sexy motif and can easily overwhelm one’s personal style.

0817 prints overwhelming crewel 0817 InStyle REV

In a fashion spread celebrating the art of embroidered fashions in the August issue of InStyle, actress Camilla Belle remarks: “It might seem too busy or colorful at first, but somehow it just works.”

Trust your instincts. If you get lost in your ensemble so that it is wearing you, give that maximalist look a pass. On the other hand, if the exuberance of the ensemble makes you smile from ear to ear, go for it!  Don’t be afraid to break a few rules. Celebrate! Have fun with fashion.

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Jewelry of Flattering Scale

Almost every ensemble becomes more polished with the addition of tasteful jewelry —  jewelry that is not only cohesive with the ensemble itself — the garments, shoes, handbag and any other accessories — but also flattering to the person wearing it.

0717 Effy jewelry scale on model REV

I was struck by this ad from a high-end design house, which features an exquisite suite of ruby and diamond jewelry. The beautiful model wears two chunky rings, a tennis-style bracelet, and a pair of earrings.

The model has generously sized features — eyes, nose and mouth. Consider how the jewelry selections relate to her. While the other pieces of jewelry in the photo have plenty of presence, the earrings are quite delicate –  too delicate to be flattering to the woman, as lovely as they are. The slender linear design of the earrings has the effect of drawing attention to the model’s nose and making it appear relatively larger.

This effect could be easily remedied by having the model wear earrings of a design more akin to the chunky design of the rings. Changing the scale of the earrings would be more flattering to the woman.

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Inclusive-Size Lines: A Concept Whose Time Has Come (Yet Again)

A tiny blurb in the May 2017 issue of InStyle magazine announced: “Teresa Maccapani Missoni brings her family’s luxe Italian glamour to Eloquii for an inclusive-size line of feminine dresses and separates in a resort-ready palette of white and azure.” Eloquii.com is a fashion site for sizes 14 to 28, and Missoni is its first-ever designer collaboration.

0617 March Vogue Prabal Gurung for Lane Bryant Ashley Graham REV

Designer Prabal Gurung is also receiving a good amount of press for his new collection for Lane Bryant in sizes 14 to 28. The April 2017 issue of Glamour reports that Gurung collaborated with Lane Bryant after he had “no luck getting luxury department stores to sell his line as plus-sizes.” The March 2017 issue of Vogue also spotlighted the collection.

At the same time, in a feature in the April 2017 issue of Glamour, “Hey Stores: Where’s My Size?” writer Lauren Chan and four full-figure fashion bloggers shopped clothing stores in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, and found no plus-size clothing whatsoever at 41 of the 69 stores.

For many full-figured women, Salon Z at Saks Fifth Avenue (remember the campaign “Saks First”) truly was their go-to choice for professional wardrobe and special-event dressing. Now Salon Z exists on-line only.  Nordstrom’s plus-size focused Encore department at its spanking new store in the large mall near my home had only a pitiful couple of racks of dated sale merchandise in plus sizes when I visited. Despite the increase in demand for plus-size fashion, the demographic is being served more by specialty retailers and boutiques.

0617 June Glamour Nicolette Mason I Am Not an Hourglass REV

There’s an issue aside from sizes, too — full-figured women, like women of all sizes, come in a variety of shapes. “I Am Not a Hourglass” writes Nicolette Mason in the June 2017 issue of Glamour. Mason writes:

“It feel like every day there’s another body-positive headline in fashion–airbrush-free swimsuit campaigns, designer collaborations, New York Fashion Week’s record number of plus-size models–and while those stories represent major strides in size inclusion, there’s one thing that still bothers me:  Almost every time we see a woman above a size 14 in magazines, in advertisements, or on the runway, she’s a perfect hourglass shape.

“Think about the most famous plus-size models:  They have big busts and full hips, with snatched waists and thin arms and legs. Gorgeous–but also, newsflash! That is not how most plus-size women look. Hell, all you need to do is look around on the street to know that many of us are rounder in the ‘wrong’ places, with full faces and thicker limbs.  . . . How progressive is body positivity if we’re affirming only one plus-size body type?”

Mason explains that, despite fluctuations in her size between 12 and 16, she is larger on top with large breasts and smaller hips. She cites Eloquii, Universal Standard, and Los Angeles-based Zelie for She as lines that design for various types.

This is not new, by any means. For instance, plus-size model and image consultant Catherine Schuller introduced a line on one of the home shopping channels some years ago, with styles identified as being appropriate for various body shapes. With few exceptions, plus-size clothing lines do not provide guidance to consumers as to what pieces will flatter which shapes.

0617 July MC model Denise Bidot Big Girl in a Skinny World REV

Look at the regular column “Big Girl in a Skinny World” in Marie Claire magazine. In the July 2017 issue, which features plus-size model Denise Bidot, the column spotlights for her a Vivienne Westwood skirt with a horizontal print (up to size 14), a Stella McCartney dress (up to size 14), and, a choker from Eddie Borgo. The choker has an interior diameter of 4.25 inches. None of these items will fit the majority of “big girls.”

0617 Christian Siriano in People REV

One option, for those who can afford it, is to go custom. Designer Christian Siriano is quoted in the July 3, 2017 issue of People: “My goal is to hopefully change people’s perceptions of what’s beautiful and what women should wear. I include a diverse range of sizes, races and ages on the runway. An then, there’s the red carpet. I don’t go after the young, new It Girl. They’re fabulous, but what’s exciting to me is seeing someone different on the carpet looking amazing, like Danielle Brooks. . .  Honestly I just love that I get to help change people’s perceptions, and I’m proud of what we’re doing. But it took me 10 years to get here, and it will take another 50 years to have my position become a little bit more of the norm. That would be really exciting.”

I’m thrilled to see that some designers and retailers are once again attempting to serve the 67% of American women who wear a size 14 or above. Stay tuned.

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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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