How Not to Flatter High-Contrast Beauty

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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

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

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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?”

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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“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.

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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?”

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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?