Not So Hot Under the Collars

Wide collar-style necklaces may have an aesthetic appeal, but they are notoriously difficult to wear, as recent fashion photographs confirm.

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior REV

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior CU REV

Actress Zoe Kravitz makes the best-dressed list in the November 2015 issue of InStyle. One of the photos pictures her at the Guggenheim International Gala Dinner wearing a white crop top and split skirt from Dior, accented with a thick pearl collar necklace with an enormous blue cabochon. The necklace separates her head from her body, almost making it appear to be pasted onto the photograph, just a tad larger than might be expected for such a slender frame. The unfortunate accessory distracts the eye and makes it look as though she has no neck.

1115 collar InStyle Hailee Steinfeld in Stella McCartney Jennifer Fisher neck cuff REV

Better  is this look, also pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle declared to be the “best dress” of the issue. Actress Hailee Steinfeld wears a Stella McCartney ensemble with flared pants and cape, again in solid white, accented with a wide Jennifer Fisher collar.  The actress has a slender neck, long enough to accommodate the necklace, and its plain design complements the sleek look of her ensemble. With the wide shoulders of the cape, her face appears to be in proportion to the rest of her body.

1115 collar story InStyle Drew Barrymore long neck Etro choker REV

The ideal neck length for any wide collar-style necklace is long, longer, longest. Actress Drew Barrymore, pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle, demonstrates how this might look. Indeed, she is pictured in a Dior dress and coat from The Row accessorized with a slender metal choker from Etro. This is a look that can accommodate much more of a statement piece on the actress’s neck.

1115 collar InStyle thin neck cuffs REV

For the vast majority of women with average or short necks, slender metal collars are a far better choice than a thick collar. The same issue of InStyle spotlights four examples of cuff-style collars that are narrow and have an opening in the front. The exposed skin on the neck is a look flattering to most everyone.

Black Pants That Fit: One Publication Gets It

In my July 2015 post “Bypassing the Cult of Denim,” I wrote:

“News flash, editors:  To many of your readers, denim is not all that. . . . for many successful career women and for most women of a certain age, denim is simply not an important part of our wardrobes.  * * *  Consider, editors:  Why not dedicate a similarly substantial number of pages of your magazines each autumn to finding the perfect pair of flattering black pants that can take a woman through the autumn and winter? That’s an item of clothing that women of every age and circumstance can embrace.”

I’m delighted to report that the November 2015 issue of Real Simple includes a six-page feature entitled “The Essential Pants Buying Guide” — “With help from experts, Real Simple updates–and uncomplicates–the wardrobe stalwart.” Whether your look is professional and polished, business casual, dressed up or dressed down, the magazine provides guidance in selecting pants. One great tip addressing the need for alterations:  “If the crotch doesn’t fit, walk away.”

1015 black pants that fit Nov 2015 Real Simple REV

The feature includes one page dedicated to “Black pants that fit,” the magazine noting: “They’re fashion’s holy grail–at least for the Real Simple reader.”

Be sure to pick up the November 2015 issue of Real Simple. I hope we’ll see this discussion of “fashion’s holy grail” updated annually.

Personal Style Calling Card: Your Winter Coat

In Southern California, unless you travel to colder climes, your winter wardrobe necessities are very much reduced. Especially with the continuing unseasonably hot weather we’re experiencing this year, winter coats are but a distant memory for this writer. I recall with pleasure, however, the process of choosing a new winter coat. Classic trench coats with detachable wool lining, lush cashmere or wool coats, down-filled varieties for sport, and real or faux fur –  all manner of outerwear beckons and fills the well-stocked winter closet.

In climes colder than So Cal, a basic wool or cashmere winter coat is a workhorse of every woman’s wardrobe. It should be long enough to cover the season’s popular length in skirts (unless the coat is noticeably and intentionally shorter) and, when worn with boots, should keep the wearer’s legs entirely covered and warm. This year, the choices are abundant.

1015 coats Oct Elle Dior green wool tweed coat REV

The October 2015 issue of Elle counsels:  “This fall, don’t get stuck in dullsville with outerwear that keeps you warm but leaves you cold on style. The first crisp days of October serve as a reminder–now’s the time to invest in a topper that reflects your personality.”

Elle features a “shamrock green tweed” coat from Dior, in a color mix that may well lift the spirits every time it’s worn. The model wears the coat with over-the-knee boots and what appears to be very little else, given the expanse of bare thigh showing, but it would adapt perfectly to more conservative styling.

1015 coats Nov InStyle Belstaff coat Valentino top handle bag REV

The November 2015 issue of InStyle encourages readers to combine a colorful coat with a top-handle bag for a chic look this winter season, noting: “During the winter months, your everyday outerwear becomes a personal-style calling card.  And while neutrals are a fail-safe choice, there’s something to be said about a coat that can instantly brighten the dreariest of days.” InStyle suggests trying a “pretty pastel or warm saturated hue like cinnamon” to team with a structured frame bag “and you’ll look refined and ladylike but not precious.”  (Pictured above is a wool blend coat from Belstaff and Valentino Garavani bag.) While the top-handle style bag is chic and stylish, keep in mind that one that has an attached shoulder or cross-body strap gives you options that are especially practical when traveling in inclement weather.

1015 coats Amazon grey REV

Speaking of fail-safe options, a current ad for Amazon Fashion features a luscious grey coat from Badgley Mischka. A peek of skirt falling below the hem of the coat mars the look, and the model’s legs are not flattered by the camel-hued booties styled with the coat. The same coat with tall boots and the skirt hem raised just an inch would make all the difference. There’s something about grey wool that always feels delightfully cozy. This is a coat to be enjoyed for years to come.

When choosing a coat, be certain that it is large enough to accommodate what you will be wearing underneath it. For many professional women, this means that the coat should be large enough to fit over a blazer or jacket.

I find it disheartening to read the opinion proffered by one of the editors of Harper’s Bazaar  in the magazine’s October 2015 issue. She notes:  “My boss, Glenda, swears by low-priced turtlenecks ‘because they lose their elastic and you have to throw them out anyway.’ Do what she says, dear reader, like I do,” continues the editor. “I buy trendy coats from chain stores–hot pink or a wacko plaid, one-season wonders that keep you warm and cool, but you won’t kill yourself if they start pilling.”

How very sad to be saddled with a cheap, pilling wacko plaid topper when there are coats of marvelous fabric and construction that will pay for themselves many times over when enjoyed over the years.  Classics in quality fabric are well worth the investment and are never out of style.

Specs Appeal: Stylish Eyewear

There was a time not so very long ago, when seemingly every style-conscious woman with less than perfect eyesight found contact lenses to be an essential component of day-to-day living. Finding perfectly comfortable lenses was often a challenge. In addition, there remained the necessity of having standby eyeglasses to fill in when one went swimming or removed the contact lenses at the end of the day.

Today eyewear is the epitome of chic and for many women, myself included, contact lenses are a thing of the past. Meeting my now-husband, I was thrilled when he told me that he likes the way I look in glasses. That’s all the encouragement I needed to abandon contact lenses and to focus on finding attractive spectacles.

Glasses 0915 More Tina Fey REV

“Smart Is the New Beautiful” reads a headline in the September 2015 issue of More magazine. More notes: “So pervasive is the idea that intelligence confers desirability that more and more you will see beautiful people sporting glasses, the universal symbol of braininess.” Examples of celebrities mentioned but not pictured are Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Garner, and Michelle Williams. Pictured above is Tina Fey.

Glassses 0915 More specs appeal celebrities REV

The September 2015 issue of More includes a series of photos labeled “Specs Appeal,” inquiring, “Is there a nationwide shortage of contact lenses? No, it’s just that at the moment, wearing glasses makes the beautiful people look even more beautiful, by suggesting they’ve been up all night reading Kant. Luminaries with a flair for this counterintuitive chic include, from  left, Tina Fey, Julia Roberts, Rick Perry, Anne Hathaway and Courteney Cox.”

Glasses 1015 InStyle how to do geek chic glasses right REV

The October 2015 issue of InStyle includes a short graphic feature entitled “How to Do Geek-Chic Glasses Right.”

Glasses 0915 Elle new romantics Gucci REV

A look described as “New Romantics” in the September 2015 issue of Elle included geek-chic eyewear from Gucci.

Glasses 0915 GH geek chic REV

In a feature entitled “Geek Chic,” the September 2015 issue of Good Housekeeping reports:  “Nerd alert: Frame your face with stylish specs that are better suited for the boardroom (or bar!) than the classroom.”

With eyewear playing such a prominent role in one’s style these days, it’s a great idea, if the budget permits, to have an extra pair of glasses in a fun color and shape — perhaps even to build a wardrobe of stylish frames.

Your eyewear draws every viewer’s eye. Be sure to coordinate your jewelry with your eyewear– particularly earrings, necklaces and brooches worn near your face– and let the chic glasses play the starring role. You are sure to look both smart and chic.

A Fine Season for Shoe Shopping

Even the venerable celebrity fashion guru Tim Gunn has come around to practicality and comfort in shoes:  low heels. He responds to the following question posed by a reader in the September 2015 issue of Marie Claire:  “What are the three shoe styles I should invest in for fall?”

0815 shoes MC 0915 TIm Gunn flat shoes low heels REV

Gunn replies:  “There’s a major shift happening in footwear right now. In the past, fashion felt synonymous with sky-high heels. But recently, designers have been all about the flat shoe.” Gunn explains: “The latest crop is modern, fresh, and has an understated cool–almost like, ‘I’m so sophisticated I don’t even need to rely on high heels.’ I would load up on three styles of flats for fall: a versatile slip-on, a lug-soled Chelsea boot, and a sporty loafer.”

0815 shoes MC 0915 TIm Gunn flat shoes low heels CU REV

By “flat shoe,” as the illustrations show, Gunn is referring to shoes that have a small heel or thick sole. Designer Michael Kors does produce a variety of genuinely flat shoes, but the Michael Kors slip-on recommended is actually a slide sandal with a low heel. The Prada loafer and Chelsea boot by Balenciaga both feature thick soles that are a far cry from unsupportive flat shoes.

0815 shoes 0915 PSW low heels Stuart Weitzman REV

Indeed, other fashion watchers spotlight the difference between flats and low heel shoes. In the September 2015 issue of People Style Watch, the magazine addresses the fashion goal “I have to give my flats a break.” The reply:  “Fact: You can (literally and figuratively) elevate your look without killing your feet. Go for a pair of lower, chunkier heels–they have a cool retro look that’s totally on-trend, and they are easy to walk in.” Pictured are designs by Nina originals, Calvin Klein, and Stuart Weitzman.

As Gunn concludes:  “Cheers to more comfortable days ahead!”

Bypassing the Cult of Denim

My favorite time of the year for fashion is the autumn. Each summer I can hardly wait for the huge September issues of the fashion magazines loaded with fresh ideas and the most complex, lush styles of the year.

Alas, every year, just before those fabulous September issues, arrive the August issues. Somehow every fashion editor drinks from the same Kool-Aid and concludes that the August issue simply must be devoted to denim. Here’s Anne Fulenwider, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, writing in the August 2015 issue:

Cult of Denim blog 0715 Aug 2015 MC REV

“My entire relationship with denim rests on the almost-mythological notion that I’m just one store away from the absolute perfect butt-hugging, leg-lengthening pair of jeans.  But that’s the thing about denim, the reason why we’ve devoted this issue to it. It’s the one article of clothing that, in its purest form, promises utter transformation. It is at once sexy, cool, youthful, and swaggering. You don’t just wear a great pair of jeans so much as rock them.”

News flash, editors:  To many of your readers, denim is not all that.

Granted, for those readers heading off to school, where denim is de rigueur, and to those with actual or wanna-be careers in music or Hollywood, a review of the latest denim styles can be valuable. But for many successful career women and for most women of a certain age, denim is simply not an important part of our wardrobes.

Part of my bias against denim stems from my mother, who despised denim. To her, it reminded of farmers’ overalls, a style most certainly not considered chic at and after the Great Depression (think Grapes of Wrath).

Part of my bias is that I am simply not shaped properly for denim. My legs are short and sturdy, and no jeans in the world are ever going to make them look long and lean.

Consider, editors:  Why not dedicate a similarly substantial number of pages of your magazines each autumn to finding the perfect pair of flattering black pants that can take a woman through the autumn and winter? That’s an item of clothing that women of every age and circumstance can embrace.

It’s Healthy to Feel Younger Than Your Age

Worthy of note is a research paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2014. The study, performed by Isla Rippon and Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London (UCL) Epidemiology & Public Health, examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality in a long-term study of aging in Britain.

The results of the study were noteworthy and downright exhilarating, concluding that “older people (the 6,489 individuals studied had a chronological age averaging 65.8 years) who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age,” according to the press release from UCL. Professor Steptoe is quoted by CBS News: “People who felt younger than their real age were more likely to survive over the next eight years or so compared to those who felt older.”

The UCL press release reports that the “mechanisms underlying these associations” merit further investigation:  “Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviours than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age. Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviours and attitudes toward ageing.”

Sadly, some journalists have taken this study as a green light for lying about one’s age. The study does not suggest, however, as published in O, the Oprah Magazine, that “Shaving a few years off your age may actually help you live longer,” or, as published by CNN:  “Go ahead lie about your age. It may be the very thing that helps you live a longer life.”

Feeling younger than one’s age is very different from lying about one’s age. And indeed, about two-thirds of the individuals studied by UCL met the criterion of feeling three of more years younger than their actual age (the average self-perceived age was about 57).

I very much enjoy the surprised expressions on people’s faces when I tell them my actual age. Isn’t that much preferable to pretending I’m, say, 10 or 15 or even just three years younger?  What’s the point of that?  I feel significantly younger than my chronological age.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that living with a rather large whopper of a lie about one’s age is likely to cause additional stress, shortening one’s life. Whether and when there will be a medical study on that issue remains to be seen.

I say embrace your real age — revel in it, with all the experiences and adventures of your life.

Oh yes, and, in case you’re wondering, as in the last line from one of my favorite movies of all time, Murphy’s Romance, let me conclude by saying, “I’m  sixty.”

A Broader View of Beauty

Being an outlier when it comes to beauty, as someone far too short and wide to meet the standards of classic loveliness, I have always taken an expansive view of what constitutes attractiveness. The world of fashion has gradually gone farther and farther down the path of embracing the quirky, from the French concept of jolie laide (“pretty/ugly”) to such features as gaps between front teeth and outsize feet.

0515 Tess Holliday size 22 plus size model REV

The June 1, 2015 issue of People magazine (“The 2015 Body Issue”) announces on its cover “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel!” and adds:  “From Bullied Teen to Plus-Size Star:  Tess Holliday on her traumatic childhood and inspiring journey: ‘You can be beautiful regardless of your size.’”

With reportedly over 800,000 likes on Facebook and almost 700,000 followers on Instagram, Holliday caught the eye of the U.K.’s MILK Management and became, at size 22, “the largest model ever to sign with a major agency.” People continues:  “At 5’5″ and 280 lbs., the heavily tattooed Holliday is a pinup for a brand-new era: body-positive, outspoken, social-media-savvy and no one’s idea of a cookie-cutter mannequin.” Noting other plus-size models currently making waves, including Candice Huffine, Denise Bidot, Ashley Graham, and Robyn Lawley, the magazine poses the question: “Maybe the fashion industry has finally realized that women wearing size 14 and up account for 67 percent of the American population?”

0515 Not-So-Real Housewives of Orange County plastic surgery Botox REV

Without comment, the same issue of People includes a one-page spread on the “Not-So-Real Housewives” of Orange County, who “dish about their plastic surgery and Botox.” Not a mention of liposuction appears in the article although the most senior of the five women reports having had a tummy tuck more than 15 years ago. Three of the five women in the article admit to having breast augmentation, three have had nose jobs, two have had “chin jobs,” one tried a lip injection, and all five have had Botox injections. 51-year-old Shannon Beador comments that she wants her three daughters (ages 10-13) “to grow up loving their bodies. I don’t want them to think that they’re going to have to change anything.”

Overly Photoshopped images seem more and more passé as consumers protest when advertisers go too far in correcting perceived flaws or in striving for an unnatural level of perfection. Has there finally been a sea change in appreciating the beauty in every individual, whatever her size?

Awkward Necklaces

“Necklaces should always be chosen with the neckline you’ll be wearing in mind. ” Thus I concluded my blog post in September 2013, ” Necklines & Necklaces:  The Issue When Everything Is the Same Perfect Length.”

A spate of recent examples in the fashion press of necklaces not chosen to coordinate with necklines prompts my post today.

0415 awkward necklace Y choker over wide neck More 0315 REV

A pair of examples derive from the same fashion spread in the March 2015 issue of More magazine. The first example pairs a thin rigid collar necklace with a drop, visually creating a Y-shape, with an overly large knit tee shirt that looks to be puckering rather than lying flat. The necklace hangs awkwardly over the neckline of the tee, further drawing attention to the problematic neckline. The top was not chosen with consideration for the necklace or the model. In my opinion, the necklace is also too delicate a design for the model, who is tall and has strong features.

0415 awkward necklace ladder style More 0315 no 1 REV

0415 awkward necklace ladder style More 0315 no 1 CU 72dpi 6 in wide

A substantial necklace more flattering to the model appears in the second photo, but again here, the neckline of the ensemble clashes with the necklace. The necklace, with its rigid chunky lattice design, is placed over the vee shape of the neckline, creating a jarring visual effect. The lovely flowing lines of the ensemble would be much better served with a long pendant necklace, which would extend the vee of the neckline.

0415 awkward necklace Kelly Ripa Shape 0315 tee over camisole REV

My final example is modeled by actress Kelly Ripa, whose necklace dips to meet the neckline of her camisole in this photo from the March 2015 issue of Shape magazine. The necklace is just about at the sweet spot of her first balance point, as is her neckline. The result: a visual clash. The necklace looks droopy, not an adjective that any woman of a certain age wants to embrace. Shortening the necklace a couple of inches, or choosing a different necklace at a shorter collar length, would make all the difference.

Button-Front Shirts & the Busty Woman

In the March 2015 issue of Lucky magazine, a reader asks:  “How can I get button-downs to fit correctly? If you don’t know what I mean, ask any woman with large breasts.”

0315 white shirt 0315 Lucky REV

The editor who fielded the reader’s question responded by consulting with another editor at the publication. Their response: “If a button-down’s gaping or straining in any way, you’re wearing it too tight. This doesn’t mean you have to go with a shapeless men’s shirt–it’s a button-down moment, so there are many cuts right now. ” So far, so good.

The recommendation continues: “There are purposely slouchy, rounded-back ones, and T by Alexander Wang makes them slim and straight, rather than hugging the body.”

0315 T by Alexander Wang cropped short sleeve poplin shirt model 5-11 size 2

Here’s the only T by Alexander Wang button-front shirt in the designer’s current on-line collection. It is cropped, and available on the designer’s web site only up to size 6 (the model pictured is 5’11″ and a size 2). The cropped and unfitted top is decidedly not a look for a woman with large breasts — assuming a size 6 would accommodate her chest, the shirt will stick out in front in a most unattractive manner.

The advice continues: “Then there’s long in back, short in front, which is just–a thing now. If ever there were a season to find your ultimate shape, it’s now.”  No example or picture of this style is provided, but the cropped shape above seems to be a related style.

The editors’ response does include an illustration, a picture of a model wearing a plaid button-front shirt over a white tee (and under an army jacket). As lovely as she is, a sample-size model is not one who can provide perspective on the issues unique to large breasts.  In the picture the shirt is buttoned only at the top button and does not demonstrate correct fit at all. This provides no solution to the reader’s issue.

0315 white shirt 0315 HB Michael Kors shirt REV

The type of blouse styling to which the reader more likely refers is exemplified by the classic front-button design Michael Kors white shirt pictured above in the March 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  The shirt is pictured on a model with long-waisted proportions, tall and slender with a modest bust.

The issue with button-front shirts is that they have a strong propensity to gap when buttoned over large breasts.  The reason for this is a flat garment design is not meant to accommodate the dimensionality of full breasts.  Going up a size or two (or three) may well not resolve this issue.

One important factor in finding a shirt or blouse that does not gap is selecting a design that has buttons spaced so that the garment buttons at the biggest part of the breasts, in line with the nipples. This placement will vary from woman to woman — this is a matter of an individual’s height and body proportions.

The necessary button placement to avoid a gap can be difficult if not impossible to find.  The larger the spacing between the buttons, the more likely the garment will gap, as there is more opportunity for it to pull while being worn. The more closely spaced the buttons, the more likely a gap will be minimized. However, there is a secondary issue that arises with a garment with front buttons, especially with closely spaced buttons:  the buttons themselves bring attention to the front seam and, with that, to the wearer’s chest.  One mitigating suggestion I might add:  Blouses with soft bows attached and scarves draped over the front of a blouse or shirt can help mask the issue.

If you are busty and want to wear a button-front shirt buttoned, the shirt must be tailored to your shape with darts and seams that accommodate your shapeliness. A straight cut, like that of the Michael Kors shirt, will probably require significant tailoring to make it work for you.

This is one time that engaging a tailor to custom-make a garment may be the best, albeit not inexpensive, solution if you have a large chest and simply must have a classic button-front shirt.