The Forgotten Woman

If you’re reading this blog, you are almost certainly familiar with a national chain of boutiques dating back to the 1980s and ’90s that catered to full-figured women, by the name of The Forgotten Woman. The chain focused on designer and upscale clothing, and included designs by Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta, Adrienne Vittadini, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie. Sadly, the chain went out of business in 1999. Yet with a substantial portion of the adult female population wearing so-called plus-size fashions, you would think that this segment of the fashion industry would be thriving.

The good news is there seems to be fresh interest in catering to the full-figured woman. The less good news is that the target customer is decidedly younger than the typical customer of The Forgotten Women.

0716 LA Tiime plus size fashion REV

The Los Angeles Times published a piece on Sunday, June 19, 2016, entitled “Pluses and minuses: The fashion industry improves its variety of sizes, but still lags.”  Three young women  - Nadia Aboulhosn, Gabi Gregg, and Nicolette Mason – are touted for the “hundreds, if not thousands, of outfits detailed on their blogs and Instagram profiles . . . they shop, and so do their readers. Their combined reach to followers on Instagram alone is creeping up to a million. What’s more, the three multi-hyphenates (blogger-designer-model-creative strategist, among others) have been pushing the fashion industry forward when it comes to broadening the range of sizes offered as well as the general messaging from brands.”

The CEO of plus-size-focused fashion website Eloquii comments that the customer “is buying the trend-driven fashion items the minute they’re available–there is no hesitation. . . . Off the shoulder, ruffles, ’70s, chambray–if it’s a fashion trend, it’s selling and selling well.” Research firm NPD Group views full-figured teens as “reinvigorating the plus-size market.  Today’s young consumers know what they want and won’t settle for less.”

Ruffles and off-the-shoulder looks at popular price points (dresses under $59) are not what the successful mature full-figured woman wants to wear, yet the needs of this extensive and affluent group are being met by very few designers.

The Times reports: “The plus-size bloggers say there must be a larger representation of different plus-size women. ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done– and still not a lot of diversity in plus fashion, despite the fact that it’s a highly diverse market, in terms of race, financial means and location,’ says Mason. . . . ‘We now know it’s OK to be a white, well-proportioned curvy woman, but what about everyone else that’s part of this demographic?’” And, one might ask, what about the more mature woman?

To the designers out there who are committed to serving the plus-size market, and to designers thinking of expanding their size ranges, here’s something to consider:  If our next President is a woman who embraces the flattering long line look of a pantsuit as her signature look (and who reportedly receives fashion advice from Anna Wintour of Vogue  magazine), isn’t it time to emulate that look and to start designing flattering quality professional wear for the mature full-figured woman?

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Quirky Hairlines

The vast majority of us have faces with less than perfectly symmetrical features. This is not something that should by any means diminish one’s self-esteem. Look at the photos of individuals considered to be among the most beautiful, and you will notice slight discrepancies between the two sides of their faces. One eyebrow may be slightly higher or thicker; one eye slightly larger; one nostril bigger, one ear slightly higher than the other, and so on. These features add immeasurably to the appeal of those faces.

One aspect of asymmetry that isn’t usually on display for women is the hairline. Bangs and hairstyles that dip over the top of the face hide the hairline. When all the hair is pulled back into a ballerina-style bun, or, with the “half-up topknot” style currently in vogue, the hairline comes into prominent focus, sometime with surprising results. Needless to say, those who would look to analyze a face shapes with an unusual hairline face a conundrum.

0616 hairlines with half up hair June Style Watch REV

I was struck by this photo of actresses Lucy Hale and Diane Kruger, along with the singer Rita Ora, featured in the June 2016 issue of Style Watch. While Ora’s hairline is quite straight and symmetrical, the hairlines of Hale and Kruger have all manner of darling quirks.

I remember attending my first AICI (Association of Image Consultants International) conference, meeting an image consultant who showed me the extraordinarily quirky hairline she hid under a clever asymmetrical hairstyle. She worked with her cowlicks and the dips and peaks of her hairline to create something quite fresh and charming.

When one is blessed with a particularly haphazard hairline, there are two ways to proceed. The usual approach  is to disguise the hairline with a well-chosen hairstyle that works with the quirks. The second approach exposes the hairline and creates a bold statement — love me, love my quirky hairline.

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One for the Oh No! File

I rarely use this category in my blog, not from any desire to be polite, but because fashion mistakes, or the results of experimentation or outright playfulness in choosing clothing and accessories, don’t usually demand such strong condemnation.

However, with the arrival of the May 9, 2016 issue of People magazine, I am compelled to bring out the smarmiest of my blog categories in viewing a photo of a favorite actress, Cate Blanchett, wearing a fall 2016 Louis Vuitton design. In her defense, she was attending an exhibition put on by the designer, but still…… quelle horreur!

0516 Cate Blanchett in horrible Louis Vuitton dress REV

Here’s a perfect example of a dress wearing the woman. The design details that sit on her chest like overly high breast cups are as large as her head, and her fair coloring is completely lost competing against the graphic black, white and gold design. The sleeves make her look boxy and wide. The flounce at the bottom bears no relation to the rest of the design. On Project Runway, no doubt, the designer would be told that there are “a few too many ideas” in one garment.

0516 Cate Blanchett in Gucci REV

Fortunately, Blanchett appears just three pages later in the center of a spread spotlighting fantastic creatures embroidered into high-fashion gowns. The graceful embellishments and soft colors of her Gucci gown allow her to be seen. The spotlight is back on the actress, where it belongs. Think of the photo as the perfect palate cleanser generously supplied by People magazine.

0516 Cate Blanchett in Atelier Versace June InStyle REV

Blanchett is also featured in an Atelier Versace gown and a Tiffany & Co. necklace in the June 2016 issue of InStyle. Notice how the gown shows off her lovely figure, looking at least a couple of sizes smaller than she appears in the Louis Vuitton dress. Why, oh why would a design house choose to allow a fan of their to appear in such an unflattering dress?

Comfort: The New Key to Chic Dressing

There’s an exciting movement afield, a theory of dressing embraced by fashion icons that works for every woman of every age. Going far beyond the incorporation of athletic wear into daytime dressing, the trend reflects a new recognition of the importance of comfort.

0416 comfort Vogue tomorrowland REV

The April 2016 issue of Vogue features the theme “Tomorrowland” and poses the question, “How will the future family live and dress”?  Vogue‘s prognostications include “ultracomfortable day chic.” Discussing the photo of model Joan Smalls wearing a Vetements shirtdress and Boss pants, Vogue comments:  “‘Unfussy’ isn’t a new ideal, but it has great currency. We all want to be, finally, liberated from physically constricting clothes–and sartorial foolishness. That’s why a loose top and lounge-y, laid back pants are the shape of things to come.”

0416 comfort Elle get punked new designers REV

“Get Punk’d” urges Alex Frank in the March 2016 issue of Elle magazine, spotlighting design labels Vetements, Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy: “This new establishment is turning fashion on its head at a time of upheaval in Paris–some would call it a crisis.” With the departure of Raf Simons at Christian Dior, Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Elle  notes: “into that void stepped a bunch of upstarts who have very new ideas about what is chic.” These designers “represent the dramatic, refined, thought-provoking end point of so many recent trends. . . . All these trends have been leading us toward this:  a uniform that’s as cool as it is comfortable, the zenith of cozy and casual to keep you looking unbothered in a twenty-first century spent in uncomfortable airport terminals and in line for the next available treadmill.”

The embrace of comfort as the key to chic dressing is not limited to those over 40, by any means.

0416 comfort Lauren Conrad in People Watch REV

The April 2016 issue of Style Watch includes a feature on 30-year-old actress and  “style guru” Lauren Conrad. Responding to a question as to her “perfect no-fail party outfit” she replied: “It definitely depends on the event, but I think it’s important to pick looks you’re comfortable in. After wearing something I couldn’t breathe in a few times, I just realized it’s not fun. Once in a while, you can suffer through the night in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, but overall you should wear clothes you feel good in.”

0416 comfort Zoe Kravitz in Mar HB shoes in NY REV

The March 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar  spends 24 hours in New York with 28-year-old singer and actress Zoe Kravitz. She states: “When I’m in New York, I walk everywhere or take the subway, so I’m not one to wear heels, because your day is completely ruined if you’re uncomfortable.” Her focus on comfort extends to her evening activities, too:  “I don’t necessarily dress up to go out at night unless I have to wear something more formal for an event. Again, I want to be comfortable, especially when I dance, so I don’t put on high heels. . . .”

The March 2016 issue of InStyle profiles 24-year-old actress Shailene Woodley. On the subject of personal style, Woodley states:  “My style is dominated by my desire to be comfortable. Like, I never want anything ever constricting my stomach. I don’t know how people wear jeans so often, because that band is just so tight!” InStyle continues: “When choosing outfits for red-carpet events, she says, it’ snot just about looking comfortable; it’s literally the nuts and bolts and straps and buttons of it all–being able to breathe, to walk, and to feel like herself.”

0416 comfort 031416 People Victoria Beckham flat hoes REV

At the same time, with maturity comes wisdom as to the benefits of being comfortable. Fashion icon Victoria Beckham, now 42,  is quoted in the March 14, 2016 issue of People magazine:  “I just can’t do heels any more. At least not when I’m working. I travel a lot. Clothes have to be simple and comfortable.”

Vogue stated it simply and accurately:  “We all want to be, finally, liberated form physically constricting clothes.” I’ m completely comfortable with that.

The Perfect Hemline

Whether or not you find her style too conservative or traditional for your liking, you will find that Kate Middleton’s fashion choices present lessons in flattering dressing.

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One immediately recognizable aspect of her style is the length of her hems. The montage of photos above, from Elle.com, notes: “Take a look at our visual above. You’ll see that Kate’s hemline is the same every. Single. Time.” and adds: “We can’t blame her, though:  It’s clearly the most flattering cut for her body.”

The hemline length she prefers exposes the full length of her legs below the knees and hits at the narrowest part of her leg. this length is universally flattering. She wears simple pumps that elongate the look of the legs, with heels that are not too high but still chic. A clutch purse keeps her necessities at hand but doesn’t weigh her down.

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Other hem lengths are in style this season, of course. Elle magazine features a mid-calf length skirt and a mini in it March 2016 issue. A mid-calf needs to be long enough so that it doesn’t hit at the widest part of the leg. It can create the illusion of a long, lean look. As for the mini, most women have a good sense if that’s an appropriate and flattering style for them. Although Kate Middleton no doubt could carry off either style, I don’t expect we’ll see her in either one.

Organizing Your Wardrobe & What Not to Discard If You Have Multiple Sizes in Your Closet

0216 Marie Kondo decluttering 020816 People REV

With her 2014 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her unique methodology, Japanese author Marie Kondo has renewed interest in the satisfaction of organizing and decluttering. Indeed, through Pinterest boards and Instagram posts, there is a category of images that has come to be known as “org porn” — photos of perfectly organized, precisely arranged possessions.

As a trained and experienced professional image consultant (I received certification as a Certified Image Professional from the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) in YEAR), I am not surprised at the popularity of Marie Condo’s book.  Kondo takes a hard look of what possessions her readers require, and urges ruthless downsizing of readers’ wardrobes and other possessions.

One phenomenon that I and other image consultants frequently experience is that our clients seek permission to let things go. Assessing what isn’t flattering or doesn’t fit properly can go a long way to assisting this process with regard to a client’s wardrobe. Some garments can be tailored and thus salvaged; others do the owner no favor when it comes to his or her image and are better retired. Some of one’s discarded wardrobe may be sellable on eBay if it’s in new or near-perfect condition, and might better be donated to Goodwill or another charity if it is not.

Many image consultants advise their clients to discard every garment that no longer fits, even if (one might say, particularly if) the client has multiple sizes in her (or his) closet. If the client is losing weight, many diet advisors along with image consultants tell their clients to throw away their “fat clothes” so that they are not tempted to regain the weight.

Statistics show that the majority of dieters regain much or all of the weight lost. Moreover, their weight may fluctuate up and down by more than a few pounds over the years. For this reason, I found it extraordinarily comforting to be advised by my own personal image consultant that it is okay to retain multiple sizes in my wardrobe, even if not all my clothes fit me right this moment. The key is to retain only those clothes that merit saving — quality garments that flatter in design and color and that fit properly when one’s body is a different (smaller or larger) size. When I gain or lose weight, I “go shopping” in my own closet.

If you’ve invested in high-quality garments and have had them tailored to fit, your investment need not have gone to waste. However, if your wardrobe needs have changed — for instance, you no longer work in an environment where suits are de rigueur, you may no longer have a need to have many or any structured professional garments in one’s wardrobe. Organizations such as Working Wardrobes would be delighted to take discarded professional clothing in excellent condition to pass along to their clients who are newly entering the work force.

Dated vintage styles might at first glance be unsalvageable. Styles do come back around, however. For instance,  a well-made pantsuit that may have been unworn for several years may have another moment in the spotlight now as we have seen a renewed interest in coordinated jackets and pants for women. Shirtwaist dresses and choker-style necklaces are also back in fashion’s spotlight, as are top-handled handbags, ankle strap shoes . . . you get the idea.

What should be discarded?  Clothing that has been worn and loved to the point of looking tired, along with anything in a color that doesn’t flatter or a style that never quite fit properly. Also for the discard pile:  cheap disposable fashions, particularly those items that are too large and that were purchased to suffice as one’s “fat clothes.” These garments do not merit a place in a well-organized wardrobe. They can be replaced if and when necessary. As Marie Kondo writes, “Keep only things that spark joy.”

How Not to Flatter High-Contrast Beauty

0116 high contrast fail Rooney Mara REV

The E! Entertainment “Fashion Police”weren’t kind to actress Rooney Mara relative to her choice of gown for the 2016 Golden Globes. Although stylist Brad Goreski defended the choice, noting that the dress was an iconic selection based upon a design from Alexander McQueen’s archives, the stylistic importance of the dress was visually outweighed by how unflattering it was on the actress.

Mara is a stunning beauty, reminding one perhaps of Audrey Hepburn. The contrast between her fair skin and dark hair gives her dramatic beauty that calls for equally dramatic fashion to spotlight it. The Alexander McQueen gown made her appear washed out and frankly a bit sad.

0116 high contrast Jan 16 InStyle Rooney Mara REV

Interestingly, Mara appears in the January 2016 issue of InStyle wearing another Alexander McQueen design in another pale neutral color, equally unflattering. Note the gown on actress Elle Fanning, whose photo appears next to Mara’s above. Fanning, a lovely blonde with much less contrast in hair and skin color, likely would have looked stunning in the McQueen dress, while Mara would have beautifully carried off the high-contrast black and white ruffled Emilio Pucci gown worn by Fanning.

In choosing a red carpet gown (or any look, for that matter), the flattering fit of the garment is paramount. Similarly important is the choice of color. Consider the level of contrast of your own personal colors in choosing a look. The more contrast between your hair and skin color, the more contrast in the colors of the garments you choose will be appealing on you.  If you are pale with light hair or have dark skin and dark hair, your level of contrast is low.  If you are either pale or dark in skin tone and have dark blonde or medium brown hair, your level of contrast is medium, calling for colors are neither end of the light/dark spectrum.

0116 high contrast fail Amanda Peet REV0116 high contrast Michaela Watkins bright pink REV

The 2016 Golden Globes present other examples of color choices on high-contrast beauties. The first pictures the beautiful actress Amanda Peet in an unflattering neutral gown.

Contrast that look with the effect of the vibrant dress on the lovely actress Michaela Watkins. That is a gown that spotlights her dramatic high-contrast beauty.

 

 

Claim Your Space: The Body Positivity Revolution

1215 body positivity Jan 2016 Vogue musician performer REV1215 body positivity Jan 2016 Self sister models one plus size REV1215 body positivity Dolce & Gabbana earphones ad REV1215 holiday post Meryl Streep quote re diets 101915 People REVWhen magazines as devoted to the ideals of beauty and fitness as Vogue and Self provide the same self-affirming positive message, it’s the ideal time to take the message to heart. This is a new age of body positivity. 

The January 2016 issue of Vogue urges readers:  “Be Yourself:  Welcome to the revolution:  As fashion, following the world at large, embraces a new era of inclusion and diversity and FREEDOM,” Vogue gathered “the cream of the CREATIVE CROP–to showcase the season’s most EXPRESSIVE pieces:  real clothes that reflect real life.”

Above, writer and curator Allese Thomson and Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard model clothing from Maison Margiela and Tory Burch, respectively, in the January 2016 issue of Vogue. This is a very different Vogue magazine from the one that, not so many years ago, told Oprah she needed to lose 20-plus pounds in order to appear on the publication’s cover, despite her extraordinary and long-standing achievements and popularity.

In an article by Meredith Bryan in the January 2016 issue of Self, the magazine focuses upon “What Women Really Think About Their Bodies” and asks, “In the social media age, is our body image better than it used to be?” Bryan writes:  “After decades of talk about bold image, women’s body positivity looks to be at an all-time high. Behold a new crop of female icons like Beyonce, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Ronda Rousey, Amy Schumer and Serena Williams, whose bodies are as gloriously diverse as their pop-culture firepower.”

The January 2016 issue of Self  features models, and sisters, Alyssa and Chelsea Miller, who “look a lot alike except for one major difference–about five dress sizes.” Chelsea wears a size 14, while her sister wears a size 4. Alyssa reports of experiencing pressure early in her career to lose20 pounds in order to be a size 0, but she stood her ground. Some 12 years later, she relates that her resolve did not hurt her career at all and indeed, that seeing photos of her sister Chelsea on Alyssa’s Instagram, Alyssa’s agency, IMG, signed Chelsea to her own contract as a plus size model. 

Yet Bryan’s article in Self about body positivity is far from entirely positive. I did not see statistics in the article detailing the ages and other demographics of the “more than 3,100″ women surveyed by Self, but the results were disheartening (not surprisingly so for readers of a fitness publication, some 70 percent of whom “say they compare themselves to others on social media either constantly or occasionally”). Among other survey results:  “a whopping 80 percent of us remain unsatisfied with the number on the scale–and 57 percent think about it ‘constantly.’”

Bryan continues, “Perhaps worse still, 85 percent of women believe they should feel more body-positive than they do. meaning, not only do we hate on our bodies, but we also hate on ourselves for hating on them.” I prefer a more positive view of this statistic:  perhaps the self-affirming message is starting to sink in. Indeed, Bryan concludes, “As we choose how to engage with technology, our online lives have the potential to remind us of everything we can do, rather than everything we’ll never be.” Bryan ends her article with a quote from Cassey Ho, creator of YouTube channel Blogilates:  “I think the whole body-image positivity movement is very strong right now. The next step is to just do what you do, and have the body you have, and not even feel the need to mention it. We need to focus on our brains, our character, our knowledge and emotion–on what we’re able to contribute to the world.”

Consider the latest ad campaign from Dolce & Gabbana, featuring individuals of various shapes and sizes. There is nothing but love for all the individuals in the ads.

In the December 2015 issue of Allure, actress Claire Danes expands upon prior comments to People magazine that she and her friend Lena Dunham were “criticized for having different body types–I was too skinny, and she was too big.” Danes continues:  “It’s just so ingrained in us, the idea that we should take up the right amount of space, literally and figuratively.”

In the October 19, 2015 issue of People, Meryl Streep is quoted on the advice she would give to her 18-year-old self, to Time Out London:  “Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.”

Don a poncho or fling a shawl over your shoulders and claim your space. Be all the fabulous person you are. Embrace wholeheartedly the fun of living. Happy New Year! 

 

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.