Three Necklines Difficult to Wear and One Universally Flattering

Here’s a collection of sparkly evening looks pictured in the June 2014 issue of InStyle.  The fashion spread does an excellent job of ordering the red carpet gowns from left to right according to which is the easiest to wear, giving us a wonderful opportunity to consider necklines.

TBe necklines 0614 Lena Dunham perfect Marc Jacobs gown REV

To the far left, actress Cate Blanchett wears a dress cut down to her waist in the front, a look by Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci not recommended except for a woman with a modest sized bust, perfect posture, and plenty of two-sided tape. For most women, this neckline is not one ever to be considered as a wardrobe option.. On Blanchett, of course, it’s dramatic and stunning.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence wears a strapless gown from Dior Haute Couture. The top hem of the gown is straight, without any dips or curves, requiring the woman to supply her own (which Lawrence does beautifully). While beaded to the hilt, the dress is essentially a blank canvas look, fitted beautifully but devoid of unique design elements — the perfect dress with which to pull out the stops with shoulder-duster earrings. This style of dress will only flatter if perfectly fitted.

Third from left, Naomi Watts wears a second design from Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, one which I think is not especially flattering to the lovely actress. The jewel neckline and straight construction of the garment make it resemble an oversized tee-shirt with not a lot of shape, hiding her figure. The length, cutting at mid-calf, is also notoriously difficult to wear. Drop earrings that blend with her hair add little and her sandals and chunky bag have a mismatched casual vibe. Watts would be more flattered by any of the other dresses on the page.

Particularly worthy of note is the stunning gown from Marc Jacobs modeled by actress Lena Dunham at the far right. The deep vee neck frames her face, and the gown is fitted beautifully to her figure. The color of the gown suits Dunham perfectly. She looks stunning.

An open neckline, whether a shaped sweetheart style, a scoop neckline, or a deep vee, as seen on the Marc Jacobs gown, is almost universally flattering as it serves as a frame for the wearer’s face and draws the attention upward.

The deep vee is even a good choice even for someone who doesn’t particularly like her neck. A smaller neckline draws the eye in toward the neck, whereas the expanse of a wide vee puts the neck into context with the face and body and diminishes its relative visual importance.

 

The Best Hues for Summertime Pale Skin

The June 2014 issue of InStyle magazine fields a reader’s question:  “I’m pale, and I don’t like to self-tan. How can I still show a bit of skin in the summer?”

At first blush (pardon the pun), the question would seem to call for a discussion of sunscreen, hats and protective clothing. Rather than focus on protecting and celebrating the beauty of very fair skin, the magazine takes a different tack in its published response:

“If you’re feeling self-conscious, skip the mini and go for a midi-length skirt or dress. Take a cue from Michelle Dockery’s bold plaid sheath, and look for a style in warm shades of red, yellow, or orange. Those colors radiate a glow that will nicely complement your fair complexion.”

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Putting aside the point that midi-length skirts are about covering up, not about showing skin, as the reader wants to do, the response is incomplete and seems particularly misguided in advising the reader on what colors to wear.

There are two issues here. If the reader has cool-toned skin (with pink or blue undertones), warm shades of red, yellow or orange can make her look off-color and pale in a rather sickly way. But even if the reader has warm-toned fair skin (with yellow or peach undertones), the colors recommended by InStyle may be too vibrant.

If yellow gold jewelry, particularly high-karat 22kt or 18kt yellow gold, looks harsh against your skin and you find you prefer silver, white gold or platinum, you almost certainly have cool-toned skin. If your skin is pale, your best version of red is likely to be a medium or soft cool pink or coral color. Coral has both pink and orange in the mix and may also be an attractive option.

Beyond hue, consider the intensity of the color. If your hair is light brown, blonde or grey, there is probably not a high level of contrast in your personal coloring between your skin color and your hair color. Choosing tone-on-tone shades of white, ivory, beige, taupe or khaki may be a stunningly attractive choice for you.

Michelle Dockery’s coloring is high-contrast. She can wear the bright plaid because the viewer will not lose sight of the woman wearing the vibrant hues. Her dark hair and eyes contrasting with her light skin provide the framework for the intense color. Note too that she wears bright lipstick and noticeable blush on her cheeks to allow her to carry off wearing the intensely warm hues.

When it comes to choosing colors, find your best hues and learn why they work best for you. In choosing your best summer color, orange may not be your next black.

Overly Casual Style Afoot

While the discomfort and injuries attributable to unreasonably designed footwear continues to pile up, a number of couture designers have looked to the youth market for their version of an antidote to their customers’ pain. The solution they proffer:  Sneakers.

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Athletic footwear is, this moment, high fashion, worn with absolutely everything, but in designer versions, of course. The May 2014 issue of Lucky magazine reports:  “With designers from Chanel to Marc Jacobs turning out sporty lace-ups, the sneaker is officially the shoe of the season.” Pictured above is a $299 dress from H&M worn with $995 Chanel perforated sneakers. The model’s earrings, $350, are also from Chanel. The cardigan sweater worn around her waist is $128 from Nic + Zoe.

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Some styles pictured in the Lucky photo spread, such as ensemble with jeans and a sporty perforated mesh look with a tee shirt — require not much of a stretch to accompany the look with sneaks. A ’50s-inspired look above, looks rather costumey with the addition of the $860 Dior sneakers. (The model wears a $66 Asos skirt, $10 Hanes socks, and  $16 crop top from Forever 21.)

sneakers 0514 Vogue editors eye REV

The design director for Vogue magazine, Raul Martinez, is quoted in the May 2014 issue of the magazine in the feature “The Editor’s Eye”:  “Right now it’s all about the sports influence, especially with the sneaker frenzy going on for fall.”

sneakers 0514 Vogue talking fashion REV

Without any tongue-in-cheek at all, the May 2014 issue of Vogue reports:  “The street-style set trades towering heels for colorful sneakers, pairing high fashion with gym-class footwear.” Among the looks pictured is a highly circulated photo of singer Rihanna in head-to-toe Chanel Haute Couture, wearing sneakers that match her ensemble. To Vogue’s credit, sneakers from athletic footwear experts Nike and Adidas also make the style cut.

While sneakers can be comfortable to wear, no doubt, they also can have a tendency to make an ensemble look more than a bit schlumpy, matchy-matchy Chanel Haute Couture versions notwithstanding, when not worn with sporting clothes or casual wear. As with all trends, in deciding whether to incorporate this trend into your wardrobe, consider whether sneakers contribute to the image you want to convey.

Shoe Sanity: Rationales & Recommendations for Comfortable Footwear Spring 2014

It is remarkable that the fashion press almost universally ignores the damage to feet caused by all too many of the fashionable shoes created and promoted by designers and featured in magazine editorial content. Here are recent articles that spotlight the potential issues:

0314 shoes Shape hard on heels jogging REV

The March 2014 issue of Shape includes an article entitled “Hard on heels” that concludes that rushing around in high heels “can wreak havoc on your joints.” The article elaborates:

“It’s no secret that they can cause foot, back, and even hip pain. But if you’re still sporting heels, here’s another potential peril to consider: Women who frequently run in pumps–to catch the bus or chase after their kids, for example–could be setting themselves up for serious knee problems later in life, according to research published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

The article references a test in which women jogged in 2 2/3-inch heels, compared with 1 1/4-inch heels and flat footwear. The women wearing the higher heels “had an increased range of knee and hip motion as they moved” which “puts unsafe pressure on joints . . . and can, over time, contribute to osteoarthritis.” The potential for ankle sprains is also noted. The article concludes:  “The bottom line:  Skip the stilettos if you know you’ll be on the go, and always pack a pair of flats in case you’re caught off guard.”

Notice that the “high heels” tested were only 2 2/3 inches in height, hardly stilettos of the heights common  in many designer collections.

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The April 2014 issue of Woman’s Day contains an article entitled “Fight Foot Pain:  Why your feet ache–and how to make them feel better fast” by Alyssa Shaffer. She reports that “the podiatrist says . . . Be smart about shoes.”  Shaffer files this report form Carly Robbins, DPM, of Foot & Ankle Specialists of Marysville, OH:

“You already know wearing heels isn’t great for your feet, but flats may be just as bad. The lack of support can cause painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue that runs from heel to toes)–and it’s not only your feet that suffer. Flimsy shoes can lead to knee, hip and back pain. To avoid injury, limit these styles to events that don’t involve much standing or walking, and consider using orthotic inserts. Over-the-counter options are available for most shoes–even heels and flats. But for more serious conditions, such as fallen arches, see a podiatrist for custom inserts.”

Still not convinced that low-heeled (but not flat) comfortable shoes are the way to go?  Consider these stories pulled from the pages of the fashion press:

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The December 2013/January 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar reports (with a startling admission):  ”The news is out–heels are getting low, much to the relief of our aching feet. But for the vertically inclined, never fear:  You can still get your kicks in with a block-heeled sandal–it’s the chic compromise between the vertiginous stiletto and the workaday flat.” Pictured are styles from Marvin K. and Marni. Block heels were first reported by Harper’s Bazaar back in fall 2012, over a year ago, as I discussed in my October 4, 2012 blog post. The block heel is proving to have staying power.

0314 shoes April Elle Nicole Richie REV

In the April 2014 issue of Elle, actress, House of Harlow 1960 designer and style icon Nicole Richie explains her flat shoes in the photo above to creative director Joe Zee: “I wear flat shoes all the time. There’s not anything cute about waddling in some heels that you’re not comfortable in. My one rule is that I always wear flats to weddings.” Joe asked why. She responded:  “Because I want to dance!  I want to be there all night. And I know people get cray.”  Richie wears an Alexander Wang dress over a House of Harlow 1960 sweater with Reed Krakoff shoes. Note that the oxford-style shoes are not completely flat, but rather have a heel of at least an inch – a perfect blend of comfort and chic.

0314 shoes Glamour Taylor Swift flats REV

Singer Taylor Swift, the cover girl of the March 2014 issue of Glamour, “says: Ditch your heels. ‘I’m obsessed with flats,’ Ms. Swift tells us. ‘Obsessed.’ (And when the 5’10″ superstar gets obsessed, step back.) Swift favors loafers, oxfords, ballet flats, and quirky-cute cat slip-ons from Charlotte Olympia, worn with anything and everything.”

More on the latest in chic and comfortable footwear will follow.

How Not to Conceal a Tummy: The Necklace Effect (Repost from My TrulyJewelry.com Blog)

A note to my TrulyBecoming.com blog followers:  I hope you have discovered my new jewelry blog that launched in late 2013 at www.TrulyJewelry.com – it focuses on “the what, why and how of wearing jewelry well.” (TM)  Here’s today’s post, which provides useful tips on how to (and how not to) conceal a tummy.

The haphazard addition of jewelry to an ensemble can completely change its visual effect when it redirects the focus of the viewer. An excellent example of this result appears in the February 2014 issue of InStyle, in an article sharing “editors’ best shape secrets.”

pendant necklace spilling how not to conceal tummy REV

The above photograph purportedly demonstrates how to “conceal a tummy,” the editors stating: “To cover a muffin top without venturing into muumuu territory, skip fitted Ts in favor of loose, untucked designs, like this one. Styles with ruching, draping, or center-resting colorblocking all do your midsection favors.”

Skimming over what is perceived as a problematic portion of one’ s anatomy is more flattering than accentuating the area with a snug, fitted garment. The style of the T by Alexander Wang shirt is excellent, the three-quarter length sleeves also contributing to the visual effect of a more slender waist. Shiny silk satin, however, is an odd choice – its highly reflective surface makes the garment, and the wearer, appear larger.

But it is the necklace pictured that counters the flattering shape of the shirt. The necklace itself is lovely, a pendant design in fluorite and gold vermeil by Margaret Elizabeth. Slung over the model’s neck and spilling over the collar of the shirt, however, it distorts the neckline of the garment, making the collar and button placket wrinkle. (I addressed this issue in a blog post for JCK Magazine back in October 2009.)  Wearing the necklace over the shirt, under its collar, would be a less distracting option for combining the pendant necklace with the shirt. (Watch for more examples of this styling approach in an upcoming blog post.)

Consider what the pendant necklace visually accomplishes — it draws attention downward and points to the models’ stomach, exactly the part of her anatomy this ensemble is supposedly trying to conceal.

A better choice would be a short necklace that peeks out from under the collar of the shirt. A single-strand necklace would be ideal, keeping the neckline open and allowing the shirt to do its flattering work. A short necklace would also draw attention up to the face — and draw attention away from and help conceal the tummy.

 

My Famous “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” Recipe

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Style is more than fashion – it touches every aspect of our lives. Today I offer you  a very stylish addition to your cooking repertoire. For those of you anticipating your special someone will soon pop the question, I offer a recipe with a very special back story.

Many of you no doubt are familiar with “Engagement Chicken” – a recipe that Glamour magazine made famous and which is credited with prompting a number of marriage proposals. The first reported proposal came a full month after the dinner at which the lemon-accented chicken was served, the boyfriend  noting “It’s a meal your wife would make. It got me thinking.”

I’m pleased to share my recipe for “Expedited Engagement Shrimp.”  This is the entrée I cooked for my then-boyfriend’s family on Mother’s Day 2012 — a recipe that resulted in Paul making an impromptu marriage proposal that very evening, months before he had planned to do so. Tomorrow, Paul and I will be married one very happy year.

Do let me know if this recipe proves to be a charm for you.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp on plate with carrots REV 6w

Photo:  “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” plated with sautéed carrots and brown rice

Expedited Engagement Shrimp

Expedited Engagement Shrimp with mise en place REV 6w

In a large flat baking dish combine approximately 1 1/2 pounds jumbo or extra large raw shrimp (whatever fits in one layer), 4 cloves sliced garlic, and 2 tablespoons white wine. Season lightly with course-ground salt.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp pre-baking REV 6w

Sprinkle with a mixture of 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp ready to serve REV 6w

Bake at 425 degrees until the shrimp are opaque, 15 to 18 minutes.

Lovely Long Necks

There’s something glamorous and lovely about a long, graceful neck – a neck long enough to accommodate a choker-style necklace that encircles the throat.

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CharlizeTheron has been wowing us with the extraordinary ensemble she wears in the Dior media ads.

Sometimes, however, a long neck can visually appear to be too long, out of proportion to a woman’s body. Recent magazine visuals show how an extra-long neck can be made to look more proportionate to an overall silhouette.

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A two-page ad from Dillard’s that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Real Simple demonstrates the point. In the above image, the model wears a sumptuous vee-neck sweater from Alex Marie Cashmere. She is long and lean, and her neck is almost startlingly long while her head is relatively small for her length.

long neck Dillards turtleneck REV

The vee-neck sweater emphasizes her extra-long neck, and visually she looks out of proportion. But put the same model in a turtleneck sweater, and the sense of skewed proportions is eliminated. The turtleneck sweater is far more flattering on the model.

long neck June July 2013 HB Chloe shirt stacked necklaces REV

From the June/July 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, here’s a great example of an ensemble created to work with a model’s extra-long neck. The model wears a turtleneck top under a collared shirt. Beneath the collar, she wears stacked pendant necklaces. The long neck can accommodate the layered garments and jewelry.

Most women do not have extra-long necks. If you have a short neck, you will find the vee-neck top much more flattering, and possibly also more comfortable to wear, than a turtleneck. Opening up space under the chin with the vee shape gives the appearance of a longer neck.

If you have an average-length neck, you may be lucky enough to be flattered by either the vee-neck or the turtleneck style. Lucky the woman with perfect proportions!

The What, Why and How of Jewelry at www.TrulyJewelry.com

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, this is a season of more than the usual number of occasions that call for festive dress. Is there anyone who isn’t aware that even a much enjoyed, seemingly overused little black dress can be revived with the addition of some party-appropriate jewelry?  Or how even the most fabulous red carpet gown is enhanced with the addition of some stunning well-chosen jewels?

More than that, consider how a workday ensemble, whether that be a conservative tailored skirt suit or almost any style required for a casual wear work environment, receives a visual upgrade with the addition of some tastefully chosen jewelry.

Jewelry can add gravitas; it can add playfulness. It makes an ensemble immediately look more polished, as if it took more thought to put together. It draws attention to the  areas in which it is worn and emphasizes the wearer’s features or the details of her ensemble through the repetition of design elements such as color, texture and scale. Jewelry reflects the wearer’s personality. Beautifully made jewelry is essentially personal little works of art.

In short, jewelry is mighty powerful stuff. I hope that you, my readers, have discovered my new blog devoted entirely to the subject of jewelry, and the “what, why and how of wearing jewelry well.” You’ll find my new blog at www.trulyjewelry.com.  

Here’s a sampling of some of my recent posts:

TrulyJewelry stories Capture REV 

I invite you to take a look and to follow my posts there. Add comments. Ask questions. I think you’ll find trulyjewelry.com an exciting complement to the fashion advice and style discussions here at www.trulybecoming.com.

Understanding Why an A-Line Skirt Does Not Work for All Body Types

 I understand that fit models can be expensive, but the disservice paid to a Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt by Saks Fifth Avenue in its online shopping site is perplexing.

A-Line skirt pulling Marina Rinaldi at Salon Z Saks 83 sale from 415 112913

The $415 skirt, pictured above, is currently reduced to $83, and it’s easy to see why — the skirt does not fit the model. Let’s look at a lightened version of the photo to better understand the fit issues:

A-Line skirt pulling Marina Rinaldi at Salon Z Saks lightened to show detail

What is happening here is that the skirt is not cut to accommodate a high hip. A high hip is that marvelous physical attribute that provides a place to balance a stack of books, a bag of groceries, or a baby – sort of a convenient natural  shelf.  A figure with a high hip is called a figure eight silhouette. The high hip can be found on women of all sizes – it is not a feature unique to full-figured women, by any means. The high hip requires a garment cut to accommodate the shape of the body.

The Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt pictured would work beautifully on a model with a low hip, which is more of a classic hourglass shape, with a gentler curve between the waist and the widest part of the hip.

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The model above, wearing an Eliza J fit and flare dress from Nordstrom, has a true hourglass figure with a low hip. Although she has her hand posed just under her waist, she has very little in the way of a high hip shelf. The Marina Rinaldi skirt would work beautifully for this model. The shape of  the skirt would skim over her hourglass curves.

Hip high Eliza J twist neck fit & flare dress_Capture 72dpi REV

Contrast the model wearing the pink dress with the above model, wearing a teal fit and flare dress, also from Eliza J at Nordstrom. The belt beautifully defines her figure eight shaped silhouette. The Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt would not suit her.

Consider how a high hip necessarily clashes with the shape of an A-line skirt or dress. In order to accommodate the high hip, the A would need to get very wide very fast, and, to be a true A-line, would need to keep expanding on that trajectory.  If an A-line garment can accommodate a hip shelf, often it is flaring out so severely as to look extremely wide toward its hem – perhaps the kind of dress that is worn with layers of ruffled petticoats. Great for square dancing, perhaps, or costume parties, but not for everyday style.

The solution for women with figure eight silhouette and a high hip:  Choose a style that has ease in the garment immediately below the waist and then curves back in toward the body after it skims over your hips and thighs. A pencil skirt may be a terrific option for you.

In contrast, if you have an hourglass shape with a low hip, there’s a marvelous Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt available at Saks on sale now.

Ankle Boots: When to Ignore the Booties’ Call

More than a few fashion designers and editors are strongly promoting the style of short boots referred to in the fashion vernacular as “booties” this season.  If your point of reference is models with legs that seemingly go on forever, it’ s easy to understand why you might think this style is fresh and chic.

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With a dizzying array of styles, what booties have in common is a relatively high heel, whether blocky, stiletto, or something in between, sometimes accentuated with wedges or platforms, and a top that ends high on the top of the foot or at the ankle. Here’s a selection from the October 2013 issue of Elle magazine.

The issue with ankle boots is their effect on proportions:  They have the visual effect of shortening the wearer’s legs. The longer your legs, the more likely you will find the style flattering.

To accommodate the visual shortening of the legs at the bottom, fashion editors suggest raising the hemline on the skirt so that more leg is showing.  That works great in theory, but, as a practical matter, most situations – and most mature bodies –  require more leg cover. Wearing booties with matching dark tights helps to minimize the shortening effect, but unless the tops of the booties fit close against the ankles or legs, they can’t quite make up for the visual effect of a horizontal line at the ankle.

Ankle boots Glamour 1013 black & white REV

This montage from the October 2013 issue of Glamour includes a couple of photos of ankle boots on models’ legs. Their long legs look short, lace-ups notwithstanding.

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Even Lucky magazine, which targets a younger demographic than this blog, reports that its accessories editor Melissa Lum “smiled kindly–almost pityingly–at this question”: “Socks with ankle boots. How to make this work?”  Lum replies:  “The short answer is you need to have really cute legs if you want to wear ankle boots–ankle boots with socks are even harder.” The magazine expands this view:  “The problem is, they cut your leg off at its slimmest portion–so any leg, no matter how lithe, looks a little chunkier and stubbier.”

As for ankle boots worn with pants, the issues are similar. For the sleekest line, tuck slim pants into the boots, but the visual line created at the top of the boots still shortens the legs. Alternatively, wear boot-cut pants over the ankle boots. While that avoids the cutoff effect, it also makes the style entirely superfluous because no one can see that the footwear consists of ankle boots.

Some of the ankle boot designs are stunning, no doubt — worthy of inclusion in a footwear collection. But in real life, they simply may not be flattering.