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.”

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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.

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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.

Signature Looks: Fashion Insiders’ Tips on Personal Style Uniforms

Every day, you need to dress  in garments that suit your activities and lifestyle. Whether you have a walk-in closet the size of a bedroom, or a closet shoe-horned into a tiny space, you need to be able to pull together from your wardrobe an ensemble that meets your practical needs and  pleases your sense of aesthetics too. Irrespective of whether you love to start each day putting together an ensemble that suits your mood, or whether your career dictates the parameters of what is acceptable in the workplace, you need to determine what works for you — the practical side of dressing.

It should come as no surprise that many designers default to a certain look — their personal style uniform, in essence. Designers like Vera Wang and Mary Katrantzou design colorful pieces but themselves dress in black;  designers Michael Kors and Roberto Cavalli dress in jeans, tee shirts and black blazers.

Even if you enjoy piecing together a creative look, there are occasions when a tight schedule dictates that you have no early morning fashion decisions to make.

One image consultants’ trick is to keep a list or spreadsheet detailing favorite ensembles from head to toe; if you can add a photo, so much the better, though the photo is not necessary.

In the March 2015 issue of Glamour, four of the magazine’s editors share their personal highlights of the spring shows during Fashion Week in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Each reveals her personal “show uniform”:

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  • New York, “A pair of 3×1 jeans, a silk blouse, and a clutch”
  • Paris: “a crisp button-down shirt layered up with my signature silver jewelry, a pencil skirt, and heels”
  • London:  “I live in dresses during fashion month. The less I have to pack, the better. A structured leather belt helps pull it all together.

Uniform dressing 0315 Glamour Milan fashion week REV

  • Milan:  “I start with a perfect white shirt, then pair it with a full printed skirt and heels that don’t quite match.”

These are uniforms for women who know they are going to be photographed and who are circulating among people for whom fashion is their life; they need to look terrific, and yet they can find a streamlined way to dress.

A few pages farther back in the issue, freelance writer Emily Holt contributed a piece entitled “Yes, I Will Be Caught Wearing the Same Thing Every Day.” Glamour elaborates:  “Some of the world’s chicest women walk around in essentially the same look year in and year out. Emily Holt makes a case for the art of uniform dressing.”

Holt reveals her personal habit of wearing pants with a sweater and sandals. “The pant-sweater-sandal combination emerged during college in Los Angeles, where that laid-back attire was appropriate year-round.” Now living in San Francisco, she tweaks her wardrobe seasonally. “But while components change, the refrain remains: pants, sweater, sandals, repeat. And why not? It works.” Her look can take her comfortably–ah, there’s a key word–”from a breakfast meeting to a visit with a designer friend in her studio to a work dinner and even an after-hours drink. (Occasionally, I’ll swap the flat for a higher heel.)”

Uniform dressing 0315 Glamour Emily Holt article REV

The article includes photos of British Vogue fashion editor Sarah Harris, “consistently chic in crisp shirts, ripped jeans, and standout accessories” and J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, who “always pulls everything together with an oversize, tailored jacket atop her shoulders.”

Holt provides tips on how to find one’s personal style uniform:

  • Look at how you dressed when you were a kid. What you wore–or refused to wear–before you knew how to spell runway says a lot about your true sartorial nature.
  • Forget trends. Designer Carolina Herrera tells Holt “It’s important to know what looks good on you, not what’s fashionable.” Herrera’s signature white shirt is “something she’s been wearing since she was required to don one as a child in Venezuela as part of her school uniform. ‘Eventually I became accustomed to it,’ says the designer.’”
  • Embrace being different. Jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth “tends to wear colorful, patterned, feminine frocks that cinch at the waist and fall to her ankles”; fashion editor Sarah Harris is a devotee of androgynous jeans and blazers.
  • Think of it as branding. “The best part of a uniform is that you consistently look like you,” citing Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn, Celine designer Phoebe Philo, J. Crew president Jenna Lyons, Ellen DeGeneres, and First Lady Michelle Obama as examples.
  • If all else fails, jeans. “There’s a reason they’ve been America’s uniform for more than 100 years. But if they’re your daily fare, Harris has a critical warning: ‘Jeans can look lazy, so you have to amp up the accessories.’ Which means chic, dressier elements are a must. Harris goes for blazers by Stella McCartney, pumps with a heel, a men’s Rolex, and a pair of diamond hoops.” Harris explains: “It elevates the look and helps people think I made an effort. . . . It’s not that I don’t love other clothes. It’s just that in jeans, I feel like me.”

Crisp button-front shirts and jeans appear to be popular choices for personal style uniforms. You’ll find neither of these items in my wardrobe, however. Black slacks provide the common element in most of my looks. They are less informal than jeans and much easier to dress up. And shirts that button are a no-no for busty women (more on this in an upcoming post). I prefer a silk or cotton knit tank or tee, topped with a lightweight cardigan sweater or jacket. The third layer adds polish and also allows for adjustment of layers as the temperature dictates.

Think about what pieces work best for you. Learn what colors are most flattering to you, and wear them near your face. Add jewelry and accessories that are comfortable and, most important, make you smile. Feeling comfortable in your choices, you can relax and “consistently look like you.”

Make Anything Look More Expensive

The February 2015 issue of Lucky magazine, amid a display of fashions that unmistakably target a younger demographic than the readers of this blog, contains a piece entitled “Stylist Confidential:  Make Anything Look More Expensive.” Drawing upon the expertise of four top stylists, the magazine highlights “cost-saving fashion tricks” that elevate the perception of one’s personal style.

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From Kate Young: “Be careful with prints, as they can look inexpensive more easily. Instead, opt for items in bright solid colors or black, which is always a safe bet.” Not only can prints look expensive, they tend to be memorable and can be a look you tire of after multiple wearings. I would amend Young’s advice to suggest also generally avoiding bright solid colors, unless you know that they flatter your coloring. Generally, complex and subtle colors are more expensive to produce than brights and have nuances and shading that is more flattering to most complexions.

From Kathryn Neale:  “A good tailor can be a game changer. Hemming pants or cuffs to fit you perfectly costs less than $20 and adds polish.”  Unfortunately, the photo of Neale shows her in a skirt, not pants, so there is no visual representation of her tip. Image consultants, like stylists, will tell you that proper tailoring of your garments is the single most important way to upgrade your look. Good tailoring is worth every dollar you spend.

From Karen Kaiser:  “Elevate your basics–like a white shirt, structured blazer and wide-leg trousers–with splurge-worthy accents. I always invest in shoes, outerwear and a great pair of sunglasses.” She is wearing wonderful sunglasses, but her shoes are hidden by ground-dragging pants that might benefit from hemming. Since the point of the exercise was to provide “cost-saving fashion tricks,” “investing in” expensive shoes seems beyond the intended scope of the article. And, of course, there’s the issue that shoes must be kept in perfect condition, which can be expensive, as nothing makes an ensemble look more unkempt more than poorly maintained shoes.

From Jessica De Ruiter:  “Go timeless, not trendy.” Great advice, if you are able to sort out what is timeless and what is trendy. I would characterize the short-sleeve blouse she wears as trendy, although the skirt is classic. Pumps would be much more timeless than bright blue T-strap open-toe wedge shoes. I would have liked to see De Ruiter wearing what she considers a timeless ensemble.

The take-away from all this advice:  Buy classic styles in flattering solid colors or black, and have them tailored to fit. Know the style rules, and then feel free to break them to express your own personal style. Having your own unique personal style is priceless.

The Practical Versus the Editorial

It’s intriguing to see a quirky styling for the first time, and then to see it repeated by additional stylists, becoming a mini-trend of sorts in the world of fashion.

Sometimes the styling is borne of necessity in order to display clearly all the items being promoted. It does no good, for example, to have the model wearing a stunning cuff or stylish wristwatch that gets covered up by a long sleeve. The result:  stylings showing the bracelet or timepiece worn over the sleeve.

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The October 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar pictures a model wearing a pantsuit (a trend on the upswing) with a turtleneck sweater. Along with a necklace, she wears a cuff bracelet over her sweater sleeve with the jacket sleeve pushed up.

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The September 2014 issue of Los Angeles Magazine pictures a model in a Saint Laurent blouse and blazer, with a Chanel watch worn over the jacket sleeve.

This styling trick actually has a practical side as well:  when it’s brisk, or downright cold, outside, or in the environment in which you find yourself, protecting the skin of your arm from cold metal might be much appreciated.

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Trickier is a necklace styled over a coat, as pictured here in the July 2014 issue of  Glamour. It looks interesting, hair in and half out but the wearer must remember that the necklace is on when she takes off her coat so that the necklace isn’t flung aside and damaged in the process.

Other styling trends have little or no practical purpose, however. One example that is seemingly ubiquitous in the fashion press this season is the style of tucking long hair into a sweater or scarf, no matter that the hair might tickle or feel hot against the neck.

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The trend was reported in the May 2014 issue of Allure, which featured several photos from the fall 2014 runway shows of Anthony Vaccarello, Nina Ricci, and Sacai. Calling the style “Laissez-Hair,” Allure notes: “You’re probably already familiar with the coolest hairstyle of the moment:  you just don’t know it’s a style. Haristylists tucked the hair inside turtlenecks, scarves, and popped-up coat collars, creating a relaxed style that looked accidental.” Allure explains the appeal of the style:  “The result has all the benefits of a bob–it hugs the jaw, lifts the cheekbones, and makes fine hair look fuller–without the commitment.” Vaccarello wants to convey the look of “a realistic carelessness.”

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The August 2014 issue of Glamour reports that the hair tuck “is  now an actual hairstyle, as seen at Tory Burch, . . . Burberry Prorsum, and Calvin Klein Collection” and notes that high-collared tops and coats are necessary to make the look work. The scarf as an option appears a bit later in the fashion press.

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The December 2014 issue of Elle pictures this look, featuring brownish lipstick and hair tucked into a turtleneck sweater. Elle notes: “Like a visible bra strap, sexily tucked hair should be a happy accident. So bundle up and let your hair runneth over.”

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The October 2014 issue of Marie Claire features a model who forgot her pants (wearing a top as a very short dress with bare legs), but somehow managed to wrap a scarf around her hair, presumably so she wouldn’t feel cold.

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“Boost Your Street-Style Cred” suggests InStyle Your Look 2014, issued this autumn:  “Tuck the Tresses.” Two varieties of the style are pictured.  The first is simply an extra-long scarf looped around the hair — a style that requires a fairly long neck to carry off. The article continues: “To look even more carelessly chic, pull a funnel-neck top over your locks. Leave a few tendrils lose to avoid appearing too contrived.”

It looks as though the models didn’t finish getting their look pulled together. Contrived?  Happy accident?  Either way, this trend won’t outlast the winter.

 

The Scale of Dress Straps: Choosing What’s Most Flattering

One of the best tips for selecting clothing that will genuinely flatter you has to do with your face — or more precisely, with the size of your facial features. If you are blessed with huge eyes and luscious lips, you  can wear clothing with larger scale detail without that detail distracting from your face. If, like most of us, your features are small to average in size, you are likely to find that smaller detail on your garments will be more attractive on you.

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Case in point:  Actress Rose Byrne appearing on the cover of the November 2014 issue of Lucky magazine. She is wearing a gorgeous jumpsuit from the Roland Mouret Resort 2015 collection.  The jumpsuit is black with thick white edging at the bustline that crosses and becomes the straps of a halter-style neckline.

While the jumpsuit is beautiful, and the actress even more so, the detail of the wide white straps distracts from Byrne’s lovely face, even though her eyebrows and eyeliner are dark and dramatic in the styling. With her slender frame and the dark body of the jumpsuit, what the eye notices first are the thick white straps and, correspondingly, her bare shoulders.

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I came across two examples of similar designs, with straps of smaller scale, that might be more flattering on Byrne. The first is a David Koma dress modeled by actress Gabriella Wilde in the March 2014 issue of InStyle. The garment has the same style of white straps that crisscross and become the halter-style neckline, but they are narrower and therefore significantly less distracting. You see the woman, not the dress.

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Another example of the effect of straps, this in a different style, reversing the dark and light portions of the garment and with a square neckline, is a dress by Michael Kors pictured on actress Halle Berry in the November 3, 2014 issue of People. The thinner straps, while still providing a dramatic accent to the dress, do not distract from Berry’s beautiful face.

Incidentally, these principles apply to everyone, irrespective of body size or shape, and apply to all styles of clothing, from demure to dramatic. Never let the dress wear you.

A Season of Elegant Handbags with Small Scale Detail

This season, more than any in recent years, designer have foregone some of the logos and labels and extraneous buckles, straps and accoutrements, that have made handbags (and other accessories) chunky and sometimes downright unwieldy. This is the season of the return of the elegant, ladylike handbag.

If you have small to medium bone structure, rejoice!  Image consulting principles suggest that the appropriate scale of the construction details of your accessories, including handbags, shoes and jewelry, is most flattering to you when they relate to your physical features. Small to medium size wrists suggest that the  hardware and other details of your handbags are most attractive when they too are not overly large in size.

Small scale handbag Hugo Boss ad 1014 REV

A current ad for a Hugo Boss handbag presents a bag with a smooth surface, a small clasp, and minimal hardware on the bag’s handle. Notice how these relate to the small wrist of the model holding the purse.

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In a current ad for Max Mara, actress Amy Adams is pictured with a bag of beautiful smooth surfaces and minimal hardware, and a medium-width strap, which looks perfect with her average-size wrist.

Small scale handbag Coach ad relatively 1014 REV

A current ad for Coach also reflects restraint in the size of handbag details, although there are significantly more “bells and whistles” on these casual designs with their studs and hangtags and relatively chunky hardware.

Jewelry for Women of a Certain Age

Jewelry purchase decisions encompass a wealth of factors, including:

  • For what occasions is the jewelry to be worn (spanning the range from daily wear to gala occasions).
  • With what apparel will it be worn (considering the style of the clothing and its design details).
  • What styles of jewelry are most flattering to the wearer ( considering such factors as scale and color).
  • What styles suit the personality of the wearer (from classic to singularly quirky).

Quite beyond all those factors is another consideration:  What makes sense as a fashion investment. Rare is the individual who does not need to be mindful of her budget. As with most purchases, what is cheapest is not synonymous with what provides the best value for one’s money.

What is of-the-moment trendy — immediately recognizable designs that have achieved cult status and seem ubiquitous for a season or two in the fashion press – will inevitably look tired and dated soon enough. If you want to wear one huge single earring because the fashion editors have embraced that trend right now, that’s fine, but rather than shelling out significant dollars for a single piece, consider purchasing a pair of identical huge earrings that either may be wearable as a set or possibly may be adaptable into a fresh look by a clever jeweler when the trend has finished its course.

What is incomprehensible to me is the promotion of inexpensive jewelry designs that riff off current trends but don’t merit cult status, when the promotion is directed to women of a certain age who have financial wherewithal. The September 2014 issue of More magazine is rife with this type of promotion.

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In your 40s, advises the editors, “become the boss–or just dress like her.” As to jewelry, “Embrace delicate,” urges the magazine. The jewelry selected to wear with the pulled together “multitasking looks” is a $40 metal cuff accented with crystals. The wide cutout style requires a wide expanse of arm, and would not work well with long-sleeved apparel such as the print wool-blend coat pictured. The missed opportunity: A lovely slender bracelet with a tasteful, daytime-appropriate sprinkle of pave diamonds on genuine gold or silver. That’s something the boss might actually wear.

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In your 50s, “dress to please yourself” suggest the editors, adding “You’ve earned the right to wear whatever feels best.” The jewelry selected:  An attractive but uncomfortable to wear square bracelet that has a modest $225 price tag.

0914 bad jewelry exception Lulu Frost necklace 60s More REV

In your 60s, “break with tradition:  stop sticking to safe (yes, you) and show the world you’re full of surprises.” As to jewelry, “update your pearls” suggest the editors — excellent advice in this season of extraordinary designs that incorporate pearls. The first of two recommendations is a $588 necklace of brass, crystal and glass pearls in an eye-catching design from Lulu Frost that merits consideration.

0914 bad jewelry faux pearl studs 60s More REV

The second of two recommendations is something entirely off the mark:  a $28 pair of earrings incorrectly described as “12k gold-plated brass and pearl studs.” The earrings do not contain pearls — the pearls are faux, as one might expect from the price. The man-made pearl-like orbs are set on top of square backings. There is nothing whatsoever surprising about this design.

Why is a magazine that targets women of means promoting a $28 pair of faux-pearl earrings? A pair of freshwater cultured pearl stud earrings can be had for under $12 on Amazon.com.

Does anyone aspire to a jewelry wardrobe of inexpensive gold-plated — or worse, gold-tone metal — designs with faux gems and nothing-special style? Dress like the boss. Dress to please yourself. And show the world you’re full of surprises. Don’t settle.

What’s in your jewelry box?

Earrings & Beyond: The New World of Ear Adornment

If your jewelry wardrobe hasn’t been refreshed in a while, you may be surprised at the number and variety of developments in jewelry design that have made this an exciting time to explore new looks in jewelry. Although cutting edge, most of these designs are eminently wearable. The most significant developments reflect a new approach to adornment.

Earrings have taken new directions quite literally — moving upward and extending over a larger portion of the ears. With this new direction comes new terminology.

The initial groundbreaking forays into fresh adornment of the ears may be attributed to Dior, whose Mise en Dior front-back style earrings were ubiquitous in the fashion press in the autumn of 2013. I wrote about this style on October 2, 2013 in my post about stud earrings in my TrulyJewelry.com blog:

“One creative rethinking of stud earring design that has received a great deal of editorial attention is the Mise en Dior earring collection from Dior. The earrings are designed much like men’s cufflinks, with a small glass pearl on one end and a larger, more colorful bead on the other. The earrings are worn with the smaller of the beads in front of the ear with the larger one behind. The resulting look is fresh and unexpected.”

front-back earrings Emma Watson CU Dior earrings vogue.co.uk 2014 Golden Globes REV

Illustration:  Emma Watson wearing Mise en Dior earrings at the 2014 Golden Globes.

Notice that the Mise en Dior earring brings the front bottom of the earlobe slightly into prominence, a design that may not be flattering on large earlobes.

By the spring of 2014, earring jackets were back in the fashion spotlight in a big way. Traditionally, earring jackets are flat disks or other designs placed behind stud earrings, giving them more presence on the ears. They are affixed at the front of the ear. I wrote in my post on the new earring jackets in April 2014:

“”Ear jackets,” otherwise known as “stud earring jackets” or simply “earring jackets,” an add-on accessory for stud earrings, are receiving notice for their style potential this season. The latest styles go beyond designs that expand the perimeter of the stud earrings with which they are worn. They may attach to the earring posts behind the ears and may be worn singly for extra edginess.”

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“The April 7, 2014 issue of People magazine spotlights the ear jacket on the Style Watch page, reporting:  “The newest trend in ear candy is the ‘jacket’ which dangles from the post of a stud and is held in place with the earring back. Kate Mara wore a spiked gold one and completed the look by adding that other of-the-moment piece of jewelry: an ear cuff.“”

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Illustration:  A close-up of the Jacquie Aiche ear jacket worn by Kate Mara.

In my post on June 2, 2014, I noted that the meaning of the term “front-back earrings” had expanded to include what looked very much like the new style of earring jackets:

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“The June 2014 issue of People Style Watch confirms that front-back earrings have become a new category of ear adornment. Featuring styles from Forever 21, ASOS, Rebecca Minkoff, and GoJane, the magazine notes: “These fun pairs add a touch of color, sparkle or cuteness–it’s a party from every angle!”"

The distinction between front-back earrings and earring jackets in the new sense of the term, generally seems to be that the earring jacket is generally worn on one ear only. In addition, many earring jackets appear to cradle the outside edge of the ear, whereas front-back earrings do not relate to the shape of the ear.

Speaking of styles worn on one ear only, this widely reported trend likely started with the second groundbreaking change in direction of the adornment of ears, with ear cuffs. This trend took off in 2013, as I wrote in an October 2013 blog post:

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Illustration:  report on ear cuffs in the October 2013 issue of InStyle magazine

“[T]he outer edge of the ear is the focus of the latest styles of jewelry for the ears. Some designs attach to the top or side edge of the ear; others hang over and around the entire ear. The designs are sometimes seen worn on one ear, sometimes on both ears, providing even more variety. All of these designs are referred to as “ear cuffs.”"

* * *

“Ear cuffs are very much a fine jewelry phenomenon, not just a street trend. Writing in the September 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Emily Cronin writes, “what women want from jewelry is evolving. ‘Women are trying to find a different way to wear fine jewelry, where it’s not just the statement watch, the statement bracelet, and diamond studs,” says jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher. Instead designers like Fisher, Eva Zuckerman of Eva Fehren, Ana Khouri, Irene Neuwirth, Jennifer Meyer, Hoorsenbuh’s Robert Keith, Gaia Repossi, and Anita Ko are energizing the genre with pieces that are more than future heirlooms: From ear-climbing earrings to sleek modern bangles, they are a chance to express your style every day, no matter the dress code.””

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Illustration:  vintage ear climber earrings

Given the interest in adorning a larger portion of the ear, the vintage earring style that curves upward along the ear is finding a new renaissance in what are now termed “ear-climbing earrings,” or “ear climbers.” Quite fabulous mid-Century versions, usually in clip-on style, can be had for a fraction of the cost of the new pieces.

Front-back style earrings, earring jackets, ear cuffs and ear climbers:  these are all part of the sea change in jewelry design for the ears. There’s yet more for me to report, which will follow in an upcoming post.

 

The Sad Sack

The fall season presents an opportunity for an otherwise stylish woman to take on the appearance of a little girl dressed up in her mother’s clothes. The issue: designers and editors pushing oversized apparel that it too large or too long and swamps the figure of the woman wearing it.

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This coat pictured in the July 2014 issue of Elle magazine creates the look in part because of the enormous lapels on the coat. Image consultants will tell you that details such as the size of lapels, buttons and trims should be proportionate to the size of the wearer’s features. The delicate features of the model are not flattered by the huge collar. The chunky shoes do nothing to elevate her look. The coat is from COS.

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The March 2014 issue of Elle styles a model in a silk tie-neck blouse and suspenders with trousers that pool on the floor. The blouse and trousers are from Michael Kors; the suspenders, from Star Struck Vintage Clothing. The bear in the photo wears a Chanel hat.

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Particularly inexplicable is a celebrity with virtually unlimited financial resources wearing a dress that is ill-fitting. The July 28, 2014 issue of People pictures Kim Kardashian  walking in the rain in Paris en route to attend the Valentino Haute Couture show in July. She wears a dress with a plunging necklace meant to show off her figure, but many inches of fabric are unattractively bunched around her waist. There is far too much dress for her petite figure and small waist.

The fix for almost of these sad sack woes is the assistance of a talented tailor, who can make alterations so that the garment flatters the wearer.

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.

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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.