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?
No doubt we all see fashions from time to time that we
simply cannot appreciate. Whether the design constitutes a reminder of personal
bad choices with which we dabbled in the past, or combines pieces or colors in ways
that jar and repel us, there’s likely something presented as new each season by
designers that doesn’t meet our personal aesthetic.
Some design ideas are bad for quite another reason – they are entirely impractical. This spring one style that has seen a resurgence is that of woven handbags. I’m not talking about tightly woven designs, such as the beautiful traditional Italian leathers of design houses like Bottega Veneta or summertime rigid wicker bags. I’m talking about loose weave, macramé-like designs. While these designs may have some eye appeal, they are remarkably impractical and can be downright dangerous to carry.
From the Spring 2021 issue of C California magazine, examples of tightly woven bags by Kate Spade New York and Maje M, plus a net “Filet Le Pliage bag from Longchamp and a macramé-embellished leather tote from Tod’s.
From the Spring 2021 issue of DuJour magazine, a wicker
bag from Celine by Hedi Slimane and a macramé bag from Fendi.
Consider you have one of these loosely woven bags slung over a shoulder or carried on your arm, and the weave catches as you walk by a store display, a door handle, the arm of a chair. . . . and suddenly you feel the tug and then the horror of knowing that your designer bag may cause damage to property if not bodily harm! (Do I sound like a lawyer?)
The only thing worse than a loosely woven bag is a loosely
woven skirt . . . . as pictured in the Spring 2021 issue of C California magazine. The look is great
so long as you don’t sit down anywhere any part of the skirt might catch. When
the look provides so little coverage, at least you won’t be exposing more if
and when the inevitable rip occurs.
It’s Halloween – the one day of the year when putting orange and black together is a tradition. Orange is not a color that is easy to wear, and charring the citrus, if you will, to produce burnt orange doesn’t make it any easier.
Thus I’m having an “Oh, No!” moment with a bit of
fashion advice given in the October 2020 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. On the cover, Oprah “gives a warm welcome to
chilly air” in “relaxed yet refined seasonal classics” consisting of “a comfy
sweater in rich burnt orange” plus slim pants, tall boots and golden double
hoop dangling earrings. She looks great in the hue. The fashion editor opines
that burnt orange is “a color that works with all skin tones.”
No, no, no. Burnt orange is a decidedly warm hue, and works beautifully on many skin tones that have warm undertones. Yet there are even exceptions to that, as burnt orange is an assertive intense hue. Someone with very pale warm skin may find the color too strong and overwhelming to wear; a soft “Creamsicle” orange or coral may be much more flattering.
And anyone with cool toned skin is likely to find
that burnt orange makes her or him looked washed out, as seen in this example
of an item offered by a major retailer. If pink is one of your preferred
colors, chances are that orange is not going to be flattering. As the character Elle Woods proclaimed in Legally Blonde: “Whoever said orange is the new pink was
Pink also won’t work for everyone, of course, although
it’s likely to be a great choice for a pale blonde. If you’re looking for a
color that truly works on all skin tones, think turquoise. It has the right mix
of cool and warm and a medium intensity that works beautifully for just about
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.