Whenever I see Norris Ford or Quentin Thrash, I have to stop and look them over.
What these LA stylists known as Norris x Thrash pull off seems improbable when you take apart the details—beads, espadrilles, starched pocket squares—but they have a serious and singular knack for putting things together.
There’s clearly a vision involved. Otherwise, I don’t know how you could throw so many different colors, textures and concepts into the blender, and make the final product look just so. Their work is a sort of alchemy, where the sum is greater than its parts and whatever or whomever’s been styled by them looks good—smooth, masculine and creative.
Even when the look is tame, stylists Norris X Thrash add a bit of something…
If you’ve ever talked to me about male style for even a second, you know my lament…too many American guys suffer from a serious deficit of dressing knowing-how. There are far too many guys who are hiding their fine selves under baggy sweatshirts and other horrors—okay fine—such as:droopy basketball shorts, shapeless pants with too much fabric in the seat, and anything that remotely looks like a puffy sweatshirt. Why? Because they don’t know another way.
But any guy can look fantastic, even if he’s headed to his job at RadioShack or walking to the diner on Sunday morning for waffles. A lot has to do with his demeanor, granted, but the accoutrements—grooming, clothes, shoes—matter.
So, in the interest of publicizing the fundamentals of everyday dressing, I cornered style maestros Norris X Thrash at an event and asked them for their top tips.
Norris x Thrash Basic Dressing Dos’ for Guys
Fit. Find a good tailor. The way that things fit is key.
Proportion. Everything has to be in proportion with your body.
Color. Know what colors work best for you. Color is really big.
Frame your Face. You always want your outfit to compliment your face. You want your clothes to be the frame that leads to your face. That’s always the focal point.
Norris, Me, Thrash
These male style tips may seem basic, but the execution can be complex. Lucky for you, chap, there is only one person you have to dress, and his name is I.
So take these four golden rules of dressing and apply them to everything you currently own—and are considering owning in the future. Don’t be afraid of getting rid of dead weight in your closet. Better you own a handful of items that fit your perfectly, visually balance your physique, flatter your skin-hair-eye combo and bring attention to your face—than a closet full of nothing.
If you a woman who happens to be reading this because you want to help a guy in revealing his hotness to the world— Congratulations! Now go preach the good word to him!
Parting note: Aside from their work as stylists, Norris X Thrash are doing an incredible job of shining a light on design talent in LA. They are a huge part of LA Men’s Fashion Week and also do consulting for brands. Find them here: www.norrisxthrash.com.
Have to wear glasses? Congratulations, you have yet another communication tool to help you present your most attractive and authentic self to the world.
There is an art to finding the best glasses for your face, though. Here are the steps to consider when shopping for new glasses. Note that these principles work when you’re buying sunglasses, too.
1. Zero in on shape and size first.
Once you determine the best shape(s) for your face–and the right size of each shape–your eyeglass world will get a lot smaller. Sure, there are a lot of great and groovy frames out there, but only a handful will be really right for you.
Experiment like heck, starting with basic shapes—round, square, oval. From there, experiment with variants of your best shape. Your glasses will either complement (match what already exists) or contrast (offer a contrary note to create visual harmony) with your overall face shape.
Keep in Mind: The best frames will draw others into your face, not obscure or overpower it.
For example, oval frames with a bit of an edge work best for my round-ish face. The big, owl-type of round frame are out, because they exaggerate the roundness of my face. Adding a hint of a cat’s eye, for instance, to an oval frame, breaks up the roundness of my face without looking too incongruous, or unmatched. You dig?
Warby Parker Glasses: Greenleaf Whisky Tortoise
Side Note: All of these eyeglasses are by Warby Parker (they retail for about $95 and up). They use premium Japanese titanium and other impressive materials in their construction. And I am most impressed by the excellent colors they offer, which are nuanced, distinctive and flattering to real people.
2. Next, know your colors.
Yeah, you might know that grey is great against your skin, or that tortoise is a personal favorite. Great. But know there are many variants of these colors, so understand which shades and intensities are best for you.
In the photo below, there are variants of tortoise to suit nearly every skin and hair combo. I happen to be very keen on the Annette Petal Tortoise (upper right) because I cannot believe someone has figured out how to finally marry pink and brown so prettily in a lens.
Warby Parker Glasses
To start, you must determine whether your coloring is cool or warm. From there, experiment to learn which shades of warm or cool work best for you. Intense or mild, or somewhere in between?
Learn by training your eye. Each time you try on a pair that are dead wrong, take a moment to determine what it is that is so off about them. Shape? Shade? Some characteristic they project? A very kindly salesgirl tried like the Dickens to talk me into a pair of groovy oversized glasses that made me look like an insane bug. Another pair made me look like my name should be Madge and I should be wearing a beehive hairdo.
Alternately, when you try on a pair of glasses that look fairly good, but don’t truly nail it, do a drill-down to determine what does work fairly well about them.
Back to color. Knowing your best colors will further cut out many eyeglass contenders. The shape might be perfect but alas, the color is not. That means Pass Go.
Color Tip: Pick out the lightest strands in your hair. Look at them. Visually remember what the color looks like. Match this color to the lightest shades in your frames.
Exception: Let’s say you’re sporting ombre hair, or there is a huge color differential between the lightest and darkest tones in your hair. An extreme example is having blonde at the tips, black at the roots. Pinpoint the mid-range between the lightest and darkest strands, and use it to match the lightest color in the frames.
The idea behind this tip is to creates balance—which is to say, a pleasant visual cohesion between your glasses, face and hair. One big happy family.
Warby Parker Glasses: Hardy Striped Pacific
Color Tip: There are many black frame glasses out there, yet black is ideal for so few people. Sure, it works if you are going for a stark or avant-garde look, but for the majority of people, it’s too harsh a color and puts the emphasis on your glasses—not your fine face, where it bloody well should be.
The model below has dark brown hair and light brown skin that appears to have warm undertones. The tortoise frames, with specks of warm amber, are a nice visual bridge between her hair, skin and eyes. She would also look great in frames that have more amber or other warm tones in them.
Warby Parker Glasses: Durand Whisky Tortoise
You have many beautiful eyeglass colors at your disposal to enhance your unique hair, skin and eye combination. These days, eyeglass designers know they must give consumers more than just black or brown, or something zany like cherry red or school bus yellow, to choose from.
But you must independently discover which colors and shades are best for you, and stick to them.
So what have we learned? Your best glasses must ace the shape and color/shade test.
There is one final hurdle: Quality.
It is important that you invest in the best quality glasses you can afford. The fit will be better, the feel will be less obtrusive and the depth of color in the frames will be finer, more nuanced and elegant. This does not always mean that you must shell out for expensive glasses, just quality ones.
Look, look and look some more, and you will find them. Happy hunting!
A sartorial challenge for the woman who likes to dress on the sexy side? Looking completely appropriate in her professional life while maintaining a shred or two of her individual style.
It’s not easy mainly because it requires beating back your curves when you’re used to showcasing them.
Sound dismal? Perhaps—but it doesn’t have to be. You can retain your authenticity and look excellent even in the most traditional of workplaces, but it requires stylistic creativity on your part.
Here are tips on how to dress beautifully for the office without smothering your individual sass or feeling like you’re in straight-up drag:
Switch Your Approach
When it comes to work clothes, switch your overall style code from “sexy” to “chic.” Chic is smart, self-aware and current—it’s also damn attractive. In the context of your professional life, looking chic carries a ton of positive traits that sexy does not.
You’ll Need New Tactics
Let’s say you typically express yourself via bold silhouettes, and garments described as skimming, body-conscious, slinky, high-cut, low-cut, thigh-high, bandage dress, bustier-top and so forth get your ears perked up fast and your little hands ready to whip out your wallet.
Start looking for different silhouettes, fabrics and
Move the spotlight away from your figure and towards the following: shoes and jackets. Make these the expressive cornerstones of your professional style and don’t skimp on quality. Better three pairs of exquisite hand-made Italian heels than a closet littered with junky pumps from the mall. When it comes to jackets, focus on fit above all.
A well cut jacket or coat transforms a basic ensemble into something quite professional
Have a Pow-Wow With Yourself
Who do you want to be? Your presentation is elastic–meaning what you communicate to others via your style, grooming and manner is completely up to you. But it must reflect an aspect of your true self. (Otherwise your presentation is a charade, and an exhausting one at that.) Consider what you want to say to others whom you interact with professionally. Get specific. Jot down a few adjectives or a phrase that sums up what you want others to think or feel upon meeting you and working with you. This is your Professional Style Brand. Use it as a compass to direct the items you wear in professional settings.
A Few Personal Favorites. I know of what I speak in this department, ladies. I bobble between several worlds, all with different dress codes, and in the interest of avoiding style schizophrenia, I’ve found style shortcuts that strategically enable you to bobble with ease between a world where body skimming silhouettes are welcome, and those where they will earn you a quick (and permanent) scarlet letter.
That said, here are a few indispensables that you might find handy when it comes to dressing in a stylistically satisfying and professionally appropriate way:
Love the Non-Iron Shirt
The best non-iron shirt I’ve come across is by Brooks Brothers which is offered in a few very flattering varieties. Great quality with lots of endurance, meaning you can wash and wear this shirt until the cows come home and it will still look great. Not the most inexpensive in the world, but you won’t need to replace them often.
Shirt + Wrap Dresses: Completely Appropriate
Select a quality one that fits you well and you’re golden. This is the type of garment that’s perfect when you need to get dressed quickly and are in no mood to pull together some high-concept work ensemble. The silhouettes are fairly traditional and quite respectable looking, so you can pair yours with a colorful or print heel for some flair. Don’t go higher than an inch above the knee, hemline wise. Look for those in cotton, linen and other crisp fabrics, and steer clear of slinky fabrics like jersey, which has a way of turning up, rather than beating back, the hot.
Back to Shoes for a Moment…
I really like Tod’s for professional shoes. They’re a luxury brand, and deserving of the title because of the perennial elegance of their designs and bullet-proof quality of their workmanship. For You: Look for 2-3 shoe designers or brands that consistently churn out pairs you love, are of excellent quality and comfortable to wear. Hunt for discounted pairs and, again, get in the habit of buying fewer shoes, but better shoes. Take care of your luxury heels and they’ll last forever. Plus, you might like that you rarely cross paths with another gal wearing the same shoes as you.
Work in a straight-laced place? Let your shoes do the talking…
Let Your Hair Down
Nail down a few hair styles that you can pull together quickly, look good and are consistent with your Professional Style Brand. Think of each hair style as a visual balancing act: In the photo above the model’s bouncy long waves work because the rest of her look is traditional and understated. If you’re going to wear something more edgy, tame your hair accordingly so the overall effect stays within the bounds of good taste for your professional situation.
I actually booked an appointment with my hair stylist, and we came up with three looks that I consistently use to beat back the big hair goodness for different professional scenarios. She showed me the hair accessories I’d need, and walked me through each step so I’d get it right on my own. Voila.
Use your hair style to visually communicate and balance your professional look
You have a small closet. You like clothes. Lately, every time you open your closet, your reaction ranges from “So Booor-ing” to straight-up “Ew.”
This could be the case because it’s been eons since you’ve engaged in a ruthless closet cleaning. Or, despite running a tight ship closet-wise (everything fits and is flattering in shade and style) your current number of treasures exceeds your physical closet space.
Here are some novel ways I’ve found to free up space in my seriously small closet.
Stow seasonal clutter. When summer comes, the parka and wool rap and heavy knit dresses get cleaned and stashed. So do those space-hogging boots.
While doing this, you’ll come across some items that have been worn to death, and look it. Congratulate yourself on getting out there and living—then toss the worn-out stuff. Repeat after me: I am no hobo!
Think like a retailer. You’ve tucked away the seasonal no-gos, whether it’s stashing the flouncy sun hats and flowing caftans since it’s fall, or tucking away knee boots and knit scarves since summer’s here.
But: your closet still looks like an overstuffed mess.
An over-stuffed closet is an uninspiring closet because each time you fling open your closet, your eyes rest on a big ole’ mess. You feel defeated even before you manage to pull something bland (jeans, again?) from its bloated, confusing jaws.
Plus, everything is smashed together, so your visibility is limited and you have no idea what you own. Just like an artist needs to see all of the colors on their palate, you need to know that you currently have exactly three dresses in your best shade of blue. Or, if you’re a guy, that you have four beautifully cut dress shirts and a blazer that fits so fine you could puke.
It’s called merchandising, and you need to know it in order to optimize your wardrobe.
First step? Thin out this season’s ranks.
Consider your overall look this season. Anything that does not fit in with this season’s look gets stashed away. Do fine stores hang onto five or six seasons at a time? No. And because you have a tiny closet, neither can you.
All You Small-Closet People in the House: Each season, pick an overall look. Stow away those items that don’t conform to it.
Example. This season I’m feeling rich colors, flowing fabrics and more accessories than usual. This means my leagues of clingy shifts in grey and beige, no matter how groovy, are exiled just like Napoleon was to Elba (joke, joke). And while I really think Brooks Brothers non-iron shirts are handy to have, I happen to have a bunch of them. Blazers, too. (Blazers? Was I drunk?)
These, too, are out of bounds for this season, style wise, so they’ve been neatly shuffled away.
You need to see those shoes…or you’ll never wear them! Tragedy!
You must do this for your shoes and accessories as well. The rest? Since your wardrobe is small, winnow down your shoe collection to the bare essentials, and line them up so you’ll see them clearly each time you open your closet. Or, shall I say, your private boutique?
Promote items you love but seldom wear by putting them up front.
As always, make sure your closet has curb appeal. Vacuum, dust and make sure your items are clean, polished and ship-shape for your most stylish season yet. And make sure you have the right hangers for a limited-space wardrobe.
The upside of having a small closet is this: It forces you to regularly declutter your wardrobe, and forces you to focus on your current style.
Will this take time? Yes. Will your closet look awesome and make you feel good each time you open it? Yes, also. Bonus round: You will look and feel better as a result, since you will dress more sharply, creatively and on-point in terms of who you happen to be at the moment.
I’ve finally decided to get with the program a bit and post more videos…I love the camera but I’m a writer by trade, so there’s my bias. But hey, you don’t have all days to read a treatise on how to manage perspiration or how to escort a lady into a room, so here’s a quick (under 2 minutes, can you believe it?) video on the 3Cs of How to Not Waste Your Money at the Mall. Or something really close to that.
Designer: The Bohemian Society (Spring/Summer 2014)
Now that’s an outfit to keep the sweat away
For many, daily life consists of waking up, running out the door and doing about 500 things before returning home in the evening, or even later. This means your body temperature must rise and fall to accommodate treks up the sidewalk, getting in and out of your car or moving from the warmth of sunlight into the crisp of air conditioning. And so on.
Since you’re made of flesh and blood, you sweat. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Your sweat glands are like a highly sophisticated internal shower. When your body temperature rises, they kick in to regulate that heat. When you’re under stress, they also get involved.
Two Types of Sweat
There are two types of sweat. The type produced by eccrine glands (aka exertion sweat); and the type produced by apocrine glands (aka stress sweat).
Exertion Sweat. Eccrine glands exist over much of your body and open directly onto the skin’s surface. When your body temperature rises from exertion, your eccrine glands secrete an essentially odorless fluid (made mostly of water and salt) onto your skin.
The sweat evaporates on the skin, and your body is cooled as a result. Side note: If you’ve ever wondered why you sweat more in humid weather, it’s because sweat doesn’t evaporate well in humidity. The evaporation process is crucial to the cooling of your body temperature.
Stress sweat can beat up white clothes!
Stress Sweat. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, start firing when you’re dealing with emotional stress. You feel the feelings, and your nervous system directs the apocrine glands to start releasing fluids.
These glands are located on areas of your body where a lot of hair follicles exist: the underarm area, pelvis and scalp. Unlike those mild little eccrine glands, apocrine glands pump fluid along the hair follicle and, this is key, the composition is different. There’s more than just water and salt coming out; there are proteins and fatty acids in the mix, as well. (This explains why sweat stains on clothes are typically yellowish in color.)
In short, bacteria love it. Plus, stress sweat occurs on balmy and hidden-away areas where it’s less able to evaporate. It simply sits there, where it’s quickly broken down by bacteria.
Our typical response is to tame sweat with deodorant or anti-perspirant. Side note: The difference between the two is this. Deodorants remove the body odor but not the perspiration. You’ll still have moisture, but it will smell like desert rain or new car or whichever variation you selected from the drugstore shelf. Antiperspirants temporarily block the sweat pore, enabling perhaps only a smidgeon of sweat to reach the skin’s surface.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m partial to at-home and natural beauty solutions because, “Hey, why heap on chemicals if you don’t need to?”
Here are two natural deodorant alternatives:
•Plain White Vinegar. Place white vinegar in a spray bottle and dilute with 2-3 parts water. This means that for every 1 ounce of vinegar, you’ll add 2-3 ounces of water; distilled if it’s handy. Spray it under the arms and use a cotton swab to clean the area. Some like to follow up by applying more of the mixture, undiluted, and allowing it to dry.
•Fresh Lemon. Cut into small slices. Squeeze a slice softly to get the juice to the surface. Apply generously to the underarm area. Do not apply on broken irritated or just-shaven skin.
Both of these are good alternatives if you’re avoiding aluminum or if ingredients in traditional deodorants cause irritation.
Lights, camera…being flesh and blood, we sweat
I hardly expect for you to squeeze a lemon on your underarm area and skip off to confidently handle some mind-boggling stressful situation, like arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court or auditioning for a part in a major motion picture.
But these alternatives might be swell for you on a day when you don’t need to call in the big guns, sweat-wise, or don’t feel like plugging up your pores with stuff.
On-the-go Sweat Solutions
You may want to run errands after yoga class, and don’t necessarily feel like swinging by home first for a shower and costume change. Or have just gotten off an endless red-eye flight and feel like a bit of freshening-up is in order before you face humanity.
•Antibacterial cleaning wipes are everywhere, but they tend to be hardcore in terms of chemicals. And we are dealing with porous, delicate areas. A kinder, gentle wipe that I’ve used is Swipe. They are made from tea tree oil, and are neatly and cheerfully packaged, too. You can buy them here.
Another plus: The material of the wipe itself is soft and biodegradable. The formulation is gentle and the scent is fresh and unobtrusive. They are a two-in-one situation, removing any existing issue and imparting deodorant on the area. I was running late to a luncheon and grabbed one off my desk and used it before leaving.
I ran around all day–through fun LA traffic too!–doing a bunch of stuff and by the time I hit the shower that night, things were still alright, if you get my drift.
•Hand sanitizer. If you don’t have any wipes handy, hunt down a bottle of hand sanitizer and as Tim Gunn famously says, “Make it work.” The alcohol in the sanitizer will kill the bacteria that causes odor.
3 More Tips
•Secret Clinical Strength. I don’t go here unless I have to, but this stuff works. It pretty much seals the pores under the arms for the entire day. Go ahead, wear a filmy white silk shirt and deal with supersonic levels of stress. Your underarms will be as dry as the Sahara at the end of of it all.
It’s 20% aluminum, though, so it’s off the table if you’re avoiding such products. I’m sure there are other super-duper strength antiperspirants out there, but this is the one I’m most familiar with and have used to good effect.
•Dress Shields. A good solution if underarm wetness is an issue. Pick up a pair or two at a fabric store. They are usually in-stock at Jo-Ann. Guys, you can use them too.
You can buy the type that are stitched into the seam of the garment, or disposable dress shields that affix to fabric via an adhesive strip. These are ideal for situations where you want to be 100% sure there will be no sign of sweat on your garments.
•Emerging Shapewear. Hit the shapewear section of your local department store to see what’s cooking in terms of sweat management. The photo below shows an under-shirt smoother with cushy underarm pads built in, perfect for capturing stray moisture. There is no end to the creative fixes those designers are coming up with.
You may love going to the stadium or arena to watch a game or match, or you might find it an activity bordering on torture. Whichever is the case, you should aim to look and feel as optimal as possible. Cute and comfortable is the best way to maximize your enjoyment of any sports event.
To that end, here are some style and beauty tips for watching live sports.
• Stay away from high heels. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But yes, flat shoes are a must. That has to do with the tricky terrain of stadiums, which includes possibly having to navigate steep and windy stairs, tiny bleachers and long walks from the car to your seats.
I like cool motorcycle boots, weather permitting, because they are sturdy and keep you balanced. But in the summer flats work nicely. Avoid open toe anything.
I was at a hockey game where a Lilliputian blond in precipitously high heels had to be practically carried by her date whenever she tried to get up from her seat. Gallant guy that he was, by the third period the whole thing seemed to be getting kind of tedious for both of them.
The strangest sports event I’ve ever been to. Ice hockey in open-air Dodgers Stadium; the LA Kings played the Anaheim Ducks. Kings lost, 3-0. (Hey, the warm weather makes the puck hard to handle!) But there was beach volleyball going on between periods (upper, left), along with yoga (upper, right) and, oh yeah, a KISS performance too.
• Showcase up top. Dress your lower half thoroughly, and in rugged materials. That is because stadium seats, even the good ones, are not the most dainty places on the planet.
Also, you should expect to be reasonably squished together with lots of other people. Mostly men. Crouching your way across a row of oversized dudes to get to your seat, all the while wearing a miniskirt or show-em-all-you’ve-got tight leggings, is not my idea of a good time. Probably not yours, either.
This makes denim or cargo pants a no-brainer, or even thick-ish tights and a cute skirt.
Upper body is for style. Since you might be wearing denims (nice-fitting ones in good condition, lady!) and boots, you might find that the upper half of your body is where you can show some individual style and polish. Wear a cute, fitted top and bring along a smart jacket or sweater to cover up.
Why does beer taste better during a game?
• Some accessory ideas.
A good looking scarf made from nice fabric, and in a beautiful color that flatters your skin, hair and eyes. An instant cleavage-cover, too, if you’re not feeling quite comfortable.
I usually go for a drink and something to eat with friends prior to hitting the stadium. I’ll wear earrings and a bracelet to polish things up. While walking to the sports venue I’ll typically cover up with the jacket or sweater and stow the jewelry in my pocket.
Ah, makeup. Here’s another area where you can bust out the glamour. Makeup your face nicely and use some bright colors.
A red lip expertly applied adds a look of visual polish, as do nicely flushed (ahem, blushed) cheeks.
Since you’ll be up close and personal with your date, seating being closely knit and all, keep your hand light and blend, blend and blend to achieve a look of natural beauty.
Related point: Bring some nice peppermint breath freshener with you; a nice touch for when the kissing camera comes your way. Or when the spirit moves you.
The speed and deftness of players makes ice hockey seem like a ballet on ice…
Until they start beating each other’s heads in
I really like ice hockey, so this post is biased towards matches in nicely chilled indoor stadiums. But it’s entirely possible that you’re getting ready to go to an outdoor arena on a sunbaked summer day.
Some tips for summer sports events:
Tons of sunblock. Everywhere. The backs of your hands included.
A hat is not just a handy style note; it’s an awesome sun-buster. I avoid anything with a brim unless it’s a polo match. (It’s the close seating thing again that makes big brims unwieldy.) For baseball, soccer and football, select a baseball hat that flatters your head (a brim that’s not too small or large) and face shape also.
Remember the covered flesh points above? If the idea of wearing jeans doesn’t feel alluring in 90-degree heat, consider some cute gauzy pants paired with a fitted tank top.
Attitude isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, said famed coach Vince Lombardi. This was meant for his players and it most definitely applies to you, Miss Fetching Spectator. No matter how cute and put-together you look, going to a game is ultimately about having fun with your friends or your guy (hopefully, he’s both!) Parking delays? Lines? Tons of people everywhere? Be flexible and go with the flow. Smile, cheer, laugh. Sing along to the cheesy fun songs blaring out of the speakers.
Me and Michelle of Catching Couture at LA Fashion Week
I was at Los Angeles Fashion Week and kept seeing this glitterball dressed in creatively eye-catching and very pretty ensembles. I happened to meet her at the closing party for the LA Fashion Council Collections and I found out that she was not only very fashionable, and very sweet, but she has this very snazzy and helpful blog called Catching Couture that’s all about pulling together a high fashion look no matter your budget. This was clearly a woman I had to interview!
Constance:Now, you routinely raid the racks of Ross, Marshalls, and T.J. Maxx for your fabulous finds. What are your two top tips for hunting high-end fashion at discount stores?
Catching Couture: Patience…patience is key. You can’t go there looking for a particular item—instead, you have to stop-in frequently (and with an open mind!) to browse.
It’s also important to know the market. High-end fashion tends to fly off the racks in high-end areas, so if I want to find some designer pieces marked down or on clearance, I go as far away as possible from, say, Beverly Hills. That is how I have had some great success finding $180 jeans marked down to $20!
courtesy of Catching Couture
Constance: Your “personal style brand” seems to be quite sophisticated and high style. Mine is more along the lines of easy, everyday glamour. But I’ve been wanting to perk up my look; add a touch of the au courant or a few couturesque notes without departing from my core style brand. Can you recommend a couple of strategies for achieving this?
Absolutely! There are several ways to easily boost your everyday glamour, but to me, it all comes down to details like the use of color, texture, and shine.
Color can be as simple as applying a lipstick (which can instantly make you appear more “dressed up”) or choosing everyday flats that have a little pop of a bright hue (i.e. Cole Haan’s oxfords for men and women with colorful midsoles). I believe the element of surprise is one of the most important things that keep fashion interesting and fun.
Playing with textures (which is much easier during cold months when thick knits and fuzzy coats are abundant) also naturally catches the eye and keeps an outfit from looking… like a uniform. Whether it’s adding a shaggy coat to your winter wardrobe, or opting for a pullover with a rough/unfinished him, contrasting textures and materials can make even the most basic pieces look more high fashion.
A good piece of jewelry can transform any outfit. Both delicate chain bracelets and blingy statement necklaces can complete an outfit and make it look refined and polished. And to clarify, please don’t mistake the word “good” for “designer/expensive”—I get compliments almost every time I wear this one curb chain ring that was $1.80 from Forever 21!
courtesy of Catching Couture
Constance: You and I chatted about the transformative effect of style and dressing well—and its power to uplift a mood and improve the way we relate to others, among other potent little life nuggets. What are some things that personal style does for you?
Style, like sports, concerts, or book clubs, brings like-minded individuals together. As a naturally introverted person, my personal style (and how others react to it) has greatly enhanced my confidence and made me more comfortable interacting with others. In a nutshell, conjuring up new looks for myself in creative ways has proven to be an exciting and rewarding experience.
I like to figure out ways to look and feel my best in the shortest amount of time possible, so I can get to the really important things, like staring at palm trees and drinking ice coffee.
I am probably not alone, though, as I suspect most people like to look their best without spending half the day getting there. In other words, does anyone want to spend an hour doing their hair, or 30 minutes buttoning themselves up into some concoction they pulled together from the closet? Yeah, me neither.
That said, whether you’re a lad or lady, consider figuring out your uniform. A personal dressing blueprint that looks good on you, feels comfortable and projects something satisfying about you to the world. A shortcut to pulling yourself together each day, clothing wise.
Having a dress uniform for work makes things incredibly each morning when you’re stumbling around, pre-caffeine. Why invent the sartorial wheel each day? It’s too annoying. Whether a suit is part of the equation or not, determining your desired dress profile for specific roles or scenarios gives you a pre-determined direction when you fling open your closet doors.
Tips to designing your uniform:
●After a certain period of time on Earth, one realizes that certain colors, cuts, silhouettes look better than others. Which look best on you? Figure them out—down to the detail. Acquire a manageable inventory of them, and in the best quality possible.
●Think about this season. What is interesting to you, style or fashion wise? Have you tried on any of these interests and if so, they look good on you? Do they help communicate something positive about you to others?
●First, create your style mission statement for the season. What do you, in general, want to look like? Seasons are an easy way to divvy up the year because they correspond neatly to weather changes. You’re thinking about completely different garments, colors and weights in the summer than the winter, even if you live in a mild climate.
●Translate your profile into a baseline look that you use for your major activity spheres. For many of us, these will include work/professional activities, running around/errands, social activities and so forth.
This is my baseline look for running around this season. It’s cold where I live, kind of, so clingy knit skirts and dresses form the basis of my uniform. They work with my figure, are super comfortable and easy care. They are also more interesting, to me at least, than denim. I’m wearing black leggings under the skirt, which increases warmth without adding bulk. What is the basis of your uniform? It can be as easy as jeans and denim, or mod dress slacks and a spiffy non-iron dress shirt.
I add a warmish neck scarf in a pleasing color, and/or a short jacket as outerwear staples. The grey half-sleeve jacket above is by Valette. It has a throwback design that adds a touch of something, and it’s easy to throw on and off, with no zippers; just a snap or two. If you’re on the petite side, keep jackets either short (waist-length or above), or go full-Monty long and fitted. Read here for tips on selecting a winter coat.
Suede slips-ons or ballet flats are go-to footwear. Ease of use, again, and they impart a certain femininity. No matter your shoe preference this season, please focus on quality. I’ve had the above pair of shoes by Tod’s for eons. They were not the most inexpensive on the block, but I estimate they would have outlasted 3-4 lesser-quality pairs. Tip: Great quality lasts longer and looks better, making it the smarter investment no matter your budget.
Which brings me back to your uniform. Formulate your baseline look by explicitly determining your desired fabrics, main garments, outerwear, accessories and shoes. It will make it easy to dress even if you’re sleepwalking. It will be easier and faster to get ready each day, and you will be more comfortable and pleased with your look. These are all good things.
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. In the meantime, girl or guy, go forth and be glamorous!
My eye caught the images, Before and After. It was Stacy Morris, a woman who battled a demon that had been hanging on her for many years. In 2009, she weighed 345 pounds (25 stone). Now, she doesn’t. She credits a mix of intensive inner work and a fitness system by Diamond Dallas Page as the two major factors that changed everything.
Her story is fascinating—optimistic and motivating, too.
As a woman who has experienced life “from both sides now” in terms of size, Stacy Morris was someone I wanted to talk to. She graciously agreed to a Practical Glamour Q&A. Read on…
Q. I understand that you dropped 180 pounds in just under 2 years, and continue to keep the weight off. What is your top tip for handling cravings?
Stacey Morris: From all my years of dieting and falling off the wagon, I realized that it’s just not realistic to ignore cravings and hope they will go away.
I can usually tell when a craving is biological and my body’s asking for something specific or if it’s a psychological craving and I just want to eat something for a little enjoyment. I’ve learned that it’s not only OK to give myself enjoyment, it’s crucial for long-term success.
Being too strict and denying myself only backfires. So the trick is to make sure I really want a treat, then eat it with awareness and not rush through the experience. This is an entirely different experience from eating as a reaction to stress or boredom. I tell clients it’s a learning curve but if you’re patient, you can teach yourself the difference.
Out & About Glamour
Q. How can a person understand when they are engaging in emotional eating?
Stacey Morris:The best way to describe it is a feeling of non-peacefulness.
A sudden, imperative urge to eat, especially an old binge-food that’s not very nutritious, is my first clue. I’m actually grateful when this happens because it’s important information. It means there’s stress to deal with constructively, or an emotion that needs tending to. That is my first course of action.
It’s part of how I live a more aware and honest life now. It took me decades to finally make the connection, but eating over a problem will not solve it. The distraction emotional eating provides is fleeting. And the problem only gets compounded with the excess weight and feeling of ‘yuck’ from being overstuffed. I’d much rather wade through the uncomfortable emotions and face the issue.
I’m hardly a monk, though, when it comes to emotional eating. Sometimes I allow myself an emotional release through food…but with a makeover of a former binge food, i.e., a gluten-free cupcake, rice crackers and a favorite dip, etc. But, I make sure to eat this with awareness, reminding myself it’s a treat, and quantity indeed matters. I eat till I feel satisfied, not stuffed. That’s key.
“Because all the skinny in the world won’t help if you’re not feeling good about yourself from the inside out.”~Stacey Morris
Q. Going out, engaging in the world and meeting new people. How are these things different for you now?
Stacey Morris: Oh, it’s SO different! Not having to worry about fitting into chairs has been a tremendous burden lifted. My size actually curtailed me from going to movies and plays, as well as traveling on trains and airplanes…it became too embarrassing.
I also love getting dressed in the morning, though it now takes me a little longer because I have a bigger wardrobe to choose from! And I wear colors and patterns of all kind now. Before it was black head-to-toe every single day. Kind of a drag.
Also, in general, people notice me more and make direct eye contact. It’s not really right or fair, but people of size tend to be treated as non-entities. Overall, life is more fun because I have the physical litheness and freedom that I always wanted but thought was forever out of my reach. I’m dedicating the rest of my life to letting others in my situation know there are indeed solutions. There is no magic, only an honest commitment to yourself. ☼
So a very nice Practical Glamour Facebook follower sent me a nice gift recently. I had been posting about the feminine handiness of the headscarf for a while, so a nice lad took it upon himself to mail me 3 color versions of this vintage headscarf. Thank you to Mr. Bernie Hanssen!
His timing was great. I’ve been wanting to integrate more color and patterns into my attire, and these scarfs fit the bill. So I had a scarf weekend—and have some photos that might inspire some scarf-wearing looks of your own…
Checking the Saturday morning surf…Since I have not yet had coffee, hair is best dealt with via a quick comb-through and, of course, a scarf!
To wear: Comb through your hair and gather it in a loose, low ponytail if it’s long. Place scarf at the crown of the head, letting some hair peek through if it suits you, and tie firmly at the nape of the neck. Release the ponytail. If baby hairs around the face annoy you, spray a dab of hairspray on a spare toothbrush and brush them back.
Below. A vintage scarf like this is a good way to add not only color, but some character and flair to your everyday runaround wear. The only embellishment here is a pair of sunglasses, but you can definitely gypsy up your look by adding some big ole’ hoop earrings and a chain or two.
Shopping can sometimes be boring, so a way I make things a tad more interesting is to dress up a bit. Here, my scarf helps add some practical glamour to a Saturday afternoon Target run.
Tip: The key to making this habit, and not feel like you’re “dressed up” is to feel comfortable. So stock up on those easy clothes that are easy to care for, look nice and feel like nothing at all. This James Perse dress feels as soft as an undershirt and is easy to pull on and off—no zippers or buttons. It’s uncomplicated, and the silhouette of this Malibu designer’s dresses seem to flatter every size.
Below. Let’s hear it for pho! I am a certified noodle maniac and my current fixation has to do with this incredibly scrumptious, popular Vietnamese soup. My favorite local spot is one of those little stripmall joints that’s nondescript, excellent and plays old big band tunes over the speakers. Pho and Glenn Miller, does it get any better?
I flipped up the scarf for a change of pace on a Sunday afternoon noodle date. This is an incredibly easy look to be had, no matter your hair length…
twist your hair and pull it into a low bun at the nape of the neck
center the scarf also at the name of the neck, under the bun
pull the long ends of the scarf up along the sides of the head, and knot at the crown
the loose fabric on either side of the head is also pulled up, then flattened to the head with hair pins or tucked into the knot at the crown
To get a freshen-up on what hair shades suit you best, here is a helpful infographic by online beauty retailers Beauty Bridge.
Guy or girl, before you buy another tie, another lip shade or even a T-shirt, take a moment and reflect on what colors work best for your unique hair, skin and eye combination. There are specific colors that will always suit you best, and others that you should pass on by, even if you like them on an aesthetic level.
I love a strong turquoise blue, for instance. There is something about the color that I find uplifting, but I wouldn’t buy personal items in turquoise, because the color is too intense, too yellow-based for my overall coloring.
Note that the infographic above begins by asking whether your skin tone is warm or cool. This is key. If you’ve never been sure, this is fairly easy to do with the following:
One sheet of plain gold wrapping or wallpaper, and one sheet of plain silver wrapping or wallpaper
Two towels: One in pure white with no yellow undertones; one in ivory, which is a yellowish-white
Place the paper or towels directly around your face—one first, then the other—and gauge the overall effect of each shade.
Extreme in contrast: (Left) A deep ivory. (Right) Pure white. Which is best for you?
Determine which is most flattering to your unique hair, skin and eye combo. Pure white looks best? This indicates that your skin tone is on the cooler end of the spectrum. If ivory looks best, this indicates that your skin tone is on the warmer end of the spectrum.
Over time, as you pay close attention to colors, shades and intensities, you will begin to instantly recognize those which flatter you most. This means you’ll make quicker decisions while shopping, and better decisions, with no costly closet mistakes.
Oh, and if you thought you could never wear red, read this.
Any woman—some men, too—who I talk with about style will eventually hear about my love of shapewear.
To me, the stuff is like physical alchemy, where you can enhance your favorite attributes and smudge out those that you’re not too fond of at the moment.
Even if you’ve got an A-1 figure and wouldn’t change a patch of flesh, why not make it even more scrumptious? It’s like not wearing mascara because your lashes are already so long and lush!
Online shapewear shop Hourglass Angel is like a one-stop shop for body morphing: waist cinchers, corsets, body shapers, booty plumpers, leggings that tighten and smooth—you name it and they have it.
I spoke with Ruben Soto from the company who gave me some great advice on how to properly select the best shapewear for your body, plus pointed out some extra benefits that I was not aware of. Read on.
Q. What is your top shopping tip for the gal who is new to shapewear?
A. Shapewear can sometimes be a difficult garment to find. I think it is really important to consider all of the options out there to be able to find the perfect garment, specifically for you.
Which is why I would suggest to consider the following when looking for shapewear:
What are the areas that you would like to target?
Would you like a garment that is going to target more than one area, or to specifically target one body part?
What amount of compression are you most comfortable with?
What benefits are you seeking to take from shapewear?
Overall, I would suggest getting something that you find yourself being able to wear as suggested. I find myself suggesting to my clients to think long term, and to not restrict themselves with something that they do not see being able to wear for months.
Lastly, make sure to get a garment that fits well, most size charts are composed to produce the desired results according to fit.
Note that wearing shapewear garments that are way too small for your size can be counterproductive. Instead of helping you get in shape, it might create additional rolls and bulges on your form. The garment should fit comfortably conturing your curves.
If more compression is something that you are interested in, I would recommend looking for a garment with a stronge enhancement level control, rather than sizing down.
The Almighty Vest by AMIA
Q. How can a shopper differentiate quality shapewear from the not-so good? In terms of craftsmanship, what are some things we should look out for?
A. The things that I look for when expanding our collection is a garment that is made of a rich material.
By rich material I mean something that is constructed to last, which can be seen in the durability and versatility of the garment. You will see the quality of the garment in its details.
The details that I find most important in a garment are if it is convenient to wear, and its adaptability as you begin to size down.
Q. What is a top-selling item at Hourglass Angel? What do you think makes its so popular?
A. One of the many best selling garments that I would suggest to anyone interested in purchasing shapewear would be the AMIA Almighty Vest.
What is great about this garment is that is sculpts inches from your midsection, as it increases thermal activity in your core and supports long-term slimming. What makes this garment so popular is its effectiveness, and at the same time it is very comfortable to wear.
Best of all is that the garment not only slims you, but reduces back pain by giving your back support.
Q. Off beat style idea: Several of my all-time favorite swimsuits and exercise leggings have actually come from the shapewear department. What do you think of this idea?
A. I am thrilled to hear that you have taken shapewear to the next level, by adding it to your workout routine. E-HealthyDirectory.net conducted research that showed that women who wear a tight girdle-like garment while walking in a treadmill burn more calories than they normally would without wearing it.
In addition to its greater calorie burning capacities, other health benefits that shapewear offers is the improvement of posture and toning of abdominal muscle. We like to promote a healthy diet, and exercise in addition wearing shapewear to increase weight loss. It’s kind of a packaged deal that way!
Busting out my evening jog in a pair of shapewear leggings. They last forever and keep things nicely in place when you’re bouncing around…
Q. Constance, I have a different problem. A large closet…lots of clothes but nothing to wear. And I don’t like to part with things. I have started a get rid of box, consignment, good will, yet the closet is still full. Might need to add I have range of sizes due to my weight fluctuating. Maybe others have my same issue, would love to hear some advice. Although I am certain I know what I should do…lol. Hope all is well with you. Nicole R.
A. I suspect your Get Rid of Box is not full enough! And your fine, non-wasteful blood is not helping things.
A successful closet overhaul always begins in the mind.
The bulk of your existing clothes do you no favors when it comes to you getting out the door each day in a timely manner, and looking your best. That is because they no longer represent who you are today. They are castoffs, leftovers from another time in your life. And if you come across any item that shows it, whether you see faded dye or pilled fabrics or misshapen silhouettes, out they go. I had a hoot not long ago getting rid of a pair of white, sky-high platforms and matching white leather miniskirt, among other dinosaur garb.
Some of us have tendency to hang on to the past, and when we do this we are not treating ourselves quite kindly. Your collection of clothes should be concise and on-point to who you are today. It doesn’t matter if your budget is endless or strict, either.
Back to the mind. A lovely lady wears lovely things. This means you. Once you have accepted this, each of your items should be examined with respect to the 3Cs – Cut, Color, Characteristic. If a piece does not pass all three of these criterion, into the box it goes. Be ruthless.
Pretend you are doing it for someone else, and play Bitchy Personal Shopper if you must, where you imagine you are throwing away closet castoffs for a particularly discriminating client, who happens to look just like you!
Wooden hangers are nice, but space gobblers they are for small closets
I have a small closet. This is a good and bad thing. Good because it keeps me disciplined in terms of hauling home and storing tons of junk, which is to say, clothes that do not pass muster when it comes to the three Cs: cut, color and characteristic.
Having a small closet means that you have to go through ruthless closet overhauls every season or so, and bid adieu to those things that no longer fit, are not in great condition or don’t help you communicate your best self to the world.
So in the end you have a nice collection of things you can pull out at any turn and wear, wear, wear. This is a good thing.
The downside of the bad closet is that it’s unforgiving. You have to make choices all the time, and it doesn’t leave you any leeway to store fun stuff, like a florid and heavy collection of flamenco dance outfits, for personal instance.
In a contest, velvet hangers beat wooden ones for space saving
*To ease up more space in your closet, there are many things you can do. One is to replace bulky wooden or, shudder, plastic hangers, with these sleek and skinny velvet ones. I purchased a few packs of velvet hangers (10 for $5.00) at a discount store.
Velvet clothes hangers are very thin—each wood hanger takes up the space of about three—and the material is sticky, in a sense, so clothes adhere to it and there is very little slippage.
I replaced all of my nice-looking but space-gobbling wooden hangers with velvet clothes hangers, and have freed up about 20% more room in my closet. For a small closet, that’s like one acre.
Velvet clothes hangers are rather delicate, so they are ideal for women’s clothes. I don’t think they are sturdy enough to handle men’s jackets and heavier items, so keep your sturdier hangers for those.
Being an evangelist for easy glamour means that whenever I find a quick way to get out of the front door while looking reasonably pulled together, I like to pass it along. I like wearing scarves because they are a simple way to contain hair and show some individuality while doing so. They are also eternally feminine and always available at better consignment shops and flea markets, no matter if you are in Rome or Rochester, New York.
It usually takes some experimenting to find your best scarf style, meaning the way to arrange a scarf in your hair so it’s not annoying and looks quite nice.
The steps to a Simple Saturday Scarf Updo, as seen in the photo above:
pull hair back in a high ponytail
smooth back stray hairs around the face
place a non-slip hairband around head; what you want is a band with nubs or sticky material to grip the scarf material and keep it from slipping oh-so annoyingly off your head
cover with a fabulous scarf; bet on a silk vintage scarf
knot firmly, arrange tail of scarf attractively on neck
Hey! Just because you’ve got a grown-up job doesn’t mean you have to give up glamour, individuality and all of those things that give you the pleasure of projecting your most attractive and authentic self to the world. A week or so ago I walked out on the sidewalk and there was this gal there. She looked great and so out I tumbled with: “Well, don’t you look great!”
I asked for a photo so I could share with the class on how to meld your individuality with even the most straight-laced jobs. She mentioned she worked for a local cable and phone company and her job had to do with checking in with new residential customers to find out how their service was going. So, it’s hardly the most jet-set type, wild and crazy gig.
But I loved how she looked so polished and comfortable and distinctive while doing it. If you’ve checked in here before, you know that I can go on endlessly how when you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you perform even better. If you’ve never tested the concept, I urge you to deck yourself out in something that you love and go traipsing down the street, or to the office or a party or wherever you’d like. And feel the wonderful difference. Hallelujah!
A few parting tips on selecting your professional wardrobe:
Quality. Cheaply made clothes give themselves away with a poor fit. Only buy items that fit you well. If an item needs a nip or tuck, enlist a competent tailor whose work you trust. If it needs more than that, bypass the item entirely.
Color. Opt for solids, which are versatile and often a safe bet for traditional workplaces. Also, solids are a great backdrop for going off the grid in terms of unique or distinctive looks. In the photo above, for instance, cool sunglasses, an arm tattoo and print flats look not at all jarring when nestled next to traditional professional clothes worn in the most solid color of them all—black.
Fit. A well-fitting jacket is the professional attire touchstone to end all others. That said, invest in 2-3 quality ones as the backbone of your work wardrobe. The nice thing about a great jacket is that you can wear more comfortable, relaxed pieces beneath it, and no one will notice. In the photo above, for instance, the gal could lose the jacket after work and be completely comfortable going for a walk with a friend or hitting a cafe.
Helena Bergström sporting a sassy summer scarf in the film, Under the Sun
I have been getting summer scarf inspiration from a few corners. The first from the fine Swedish film Under the Sun (Under Solen), a beautiful love tale that features an actor I really like, Rolf Lassgård, and the stunning Helena Bergström. A solid actress, her strong, exotic face is more than capable of handling the long closeups the director has her filmed in, and she can project these small emotional turns and nuances so perfectly I felt like I was watching an actress from another time.
Okay, which eventually brings me to scarves, and how extra-gorgeous Helena Bergström looks wearing them in the film, particularly in those scenes set against the golden Swedish countryside, like Exhibit A.
To emulate the look above, do the following:
Gather your hair in a high bun. To determine the optimum height, check your profile. Some ladies look better with their bun affixed close to the top of their head, as it can accentuate or lend you a sort of regal, Nefertiti look. Experiment raising or lowering yours until you find the spot that optimizes your profile.
Check your profile to find your ideal scarf silhouette
Place a no-slide headband, such as the Goody StayPut, towards the crown of your hair. This item has a and will help keep your scarf in place nicely.
Wrap the scarf around your head and knot firmly at the base of your neck. You can also pile the knot at the top of your head, to get this vintage-ish look. This will usually result a wider band of fabric across the head, which can also be a nice hair rescue if you’re roots are looking slick, let’s say.
Arrange the tail of the scarf over your shoulder or wrap it around the knot, tucking it out of sight. Experiment with how the scarf looks when placed very close to your forehead versus an inch or two back in your hair. Each head is different, and variables such as forehead span, overall face shape and so forth will help determine the best placement.
Lastly, keep your bun sleek or pull out select strands to give it that strategically mussed look. Employ some bobby pins to help you secure strands around your head.
Hair Tip: Make a mental note of what works for you when it comes to tying and otherwise arranging a scarf in your hair. It will make it much faster to realize your scarf do’ when you have a clear idea of what look you ultimately want to achieve, and the steps to go about making it happen.
Lastly, I couldn’t let you go without seeing a photo of the lovely Concha Buika, a Spanish singer of beautiful songs who also happens to wear a scarf very well.
Constance Dunn: I enjoy your site, GoodLooknOut, because it’s filled with a lot of smart content on the 360 of looking and feeling fine. You put out information that a woman can read and immediately put to good – and glamorous – use.
I think, these days, when people say they are “keeping it real” or “just being honest” they use it as a crutch or justification to be crude, coarse or just mean. The increasing number of women and girls who do things like post porno-like snaps of themselves online, or attack other women, is a sign that not all is well with the sisterhood.
Q. What advice do you have for young ladies who want to be themselves, and don’t want to swim with the status quo that increasingly equates personal authenticity with being undignified?
Marie Young: My advice would be to get to really know yourself as thoroughly as possible.
I equate doing so to the intense personal relationship you would share with your supreme higher being. You get into that deeply quiet space where you can be intimate and connect with this higher power to build on the personal relationship you share with this higher being. Well, you have to do the exact same thing with yourself. Be intimate with your self, connect and learn who you really are and what image you want to portray to the world.
Q. Okay, some practical glamour questions. You’ve been sporting natural hair for over one year. What is your top natural hair tip?
Marie Young: My top natural hair tip would be treat your hair as good as you want it to look. This means getting your trims, proper moisture and choosing wisely what products you put in your hair.
Q. And a dressing tip for glamorous and curvy ladies everywhere?
Marie Young: Get to know your body and learn what works best for your shape. If you have a big ‘booty’, own it, yet style appropriately. Meaning not too tight and try to create balance by taking away from your gluteus asset.
I steer clear of buying any jeans with embellishments and every now and then I throw on some heels to accentuate my curves!
Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor from the very beautiful film, “A Place in the Sun” (1951)
So much pre-prom hype floats around that by the time the big night arrives, it can be swallowed in a blur of overdone ensembles, corsages, overzealous makeup and serpentine hair. The natural enjoyment of the event can get obliterated by an emphasis on prom details and decorations – plus the fact that you may be as nervous as a cat at the prospect of the whole thing. Note for your future: The same thing often happens with weddings.
Maybe you’re not feeling up to the brim with confidence in the area of looks or your figure or dress clothes or dancing or whatever else might be fixed in your mind when it comes to prom. Perhaps the idea of dancing in heels makes you feel seasick, or you’re dealing with a monster zit problem that no triple-coating of foundation is going to camouflage. Or you’re insanely and squeamishly in love with your prom date – or the person who is not your date but somebody else’s.
So here are some across-the-board prom tips to keep the main points of the night – happiness, beauty and laughter – in main view, and keep the other stuff, like crippling self-consciousness, back in the shadows, where it belongs.
You’ve heard it before: Your prom is a once in a lifetime event. No doubt, you’ll want the experience and memories of prom to be wonderful, so here are a few keep in minds:
Bust your fears. Write down your top 5 prom plagues. Sort them from most atrocious to least. Then do something about them. Example: If you are scared of dancing, dedicate 10 minutes a day to building your confidence in this area. Rhythmically challenged? Close your bedroom door, put on your favorite tunes and sway to the music, your eyes closed. (No one is watching.) Gradually add more complex moves using your arms and some footwork. Find some videos and copy what you like – just leave out the sleaze moves, ladies; they’re beneath you.
What’s the look? Before you spend a sou on anything related to prom, spend some time thinking about the big picture: What do you want to look like, overall? Summon a few characteristics that appeal to you and don’t censor yourself while brainstorming: Goddess. Sleek. Regal. Exotic. Firm up a picture in your mind and stick with it. Say it out loud. Your styling ideas, purchases and the like should all conform to this vision. This will save you time and money, and give you clarity and confidence.
A side note on your prom vision. You are a teenager, and no doubt a bee-a-utiful one! So celebrate your natural allure and find ways to project your favorite features and characteristics on prom night. A gorgeous smile…swan-like neck…amazing hair – find your favorite feature(s) and put them in the spotlight. There will be plenty of time in your adult life to play sex kitten or brazen bombshell, so tuck away modern music and film images of soul-less showgirls (that’s saying it nicely) and embrace you as you are right now. It feels wonderful.
Left: Savoy Dress Right: Indigo Mist Dress | Find Both at Urban Outfitters’ online wedding shop, BHLDN.
Comfort=Ease. Remember this rule before you even think about buying those 6-inch platforms. Or that stiff, complicated dress that makes your most ambitious Halloween costume feel like a plushy track suit. There are plenty of options out there that will satisfy the formality of the night without making you feel and look as carefree as a hyperventilating mummy. Think ease and elegance for prom.
Prom shoe style tip: Those huge platform disasters that everyone has been sporting for the last few years? Ditch them. They are a horror to wear for longer than a few minutes and they don’t look all that jazzy. They almost always give the wearer a Herman Muenster-ish walk, and I don’t think that’s the look you are yearning for on prom night. If you hate all heels and consider them supreme torture devices, consider getting a pair of fabulous, dressy flats for prom. Flats have been hot for a while now, so there are plenty of great designs out there.
Herman Muenster style shoes give one a Herman Muenster walk
There are some fabulous flats out there!
Tip: Tuck a pair of fold-up flats in your bag if you want to wear heels but don’t think you’ll last all night in them. Running around a dance hall barefoot in a formal gown is not a cool look, unless the dance hall is some fabulous lawn party and you can pull it off in style.
Be a great date. Brush up on formal event and prom etiquette and put it into practice. Stand, move and speak like a lady. Be courteous and kind to your date. Don’t spend the night ignoring him while you’re huddled with your girlfriends, or worse, dancing with other guys.
Keep it simple. You will not need an industrial sized purse on prom night. Girl must-haves should be whittled to the essentials, usually a small comb to tame stray hairs, some lip color, money and a phone. And use makeup finishing spray to keep your prom makeup intact for many, many hours. Pack your essentials in the slenderest clutch or bag that you can muster. You will find the lack of baggage liberating on prom night and that you have all you need.
Randoms but important. If fresh breath is a concern, tote a small breath freshener with you. Health food stores have the best. In a pinch, grab a piece of lemon or lime and squeeze the juice on your tongue.
It starts with you. Prom night is not about making sure your hair and makeup are picture-perfect each second. Sure, those details are nice to have dialed in, but the best prom night look for you is to be yourself, feel relaxed and have fun. Whenever you are feel tense on prom night, just smile and breathe. And repeat.
Here’s to you. You will have an amazing time at prom.
Julie Christie sporting tweed in 1973’s “Don’t Look Now”
It’s March and it’s cold, and maybe you’re getting tired of your winter wardrobe. I know I am. I’ve have been scouting about for something new and interesting to add to the mix when I caught an eyeful of Julie Christie in the 70’s film “Don’t Look Now.” If you love Venice and/or suspense films, I recommend it.
On the style front, the movie’s notable because Julie Christie wears tweed throughout the movie, and looks fabulous doing so, fresh and elegant, even though she’s kind of tormented due to various plot machinations.
That said, if you are thinking of adding some new notes to your cold weather wardrobe, here are some tips on how to successfully select and wear tweed:
-Tweed, distinguished and distinct. Since tweed hasn’t been on any fad or trend radar recently, you’ll strike a singular note sporting it. Technically, tweed is a textured fabric that comes in the plain variety, weaved or patterned.
Whatever type of tweed you select, remember that it’s such an uber-classic and traditional fabric that you can effectively use it to sober up what you feel are the more radical or out-there elements of your ensemble.
-Tweed, the great balancer. Let’s say you’re a guy expanding your wardrobe horizons. You want to wear more mod clothes; this usually means brighter colors and more current silhouettes.
A touch of tweed goes a long way in sobering up an outfit that’s out there for you…
Such as trading in pleated, do-nothing office khakis for sunnier, skimmier slacks that do something for your fine physique without making you look like you’re headed to a disco on your lunch break. However, after years of wearing really safe clothes, you feel a bit odd or obtrusive wearing your new duds. And chances are, if you feel weird or not quite comfortable, you will also look somewhat uncomfortable or stiff or not quite assured in your ensemble.
Solution: Add a tweed vest, scarf or jacket to bring your look back to your comfort level.
Ditto for the ladies.
-The innocence of a miniskirt, in tweed. Wear a piece of tweed, such as a scarf or vest, when you feel like projecting a classic or elegant vibe.
Also, if you are in the mood for a quite short skirt – but are not always comfortable in quite short skirts – then acquire one in tweed. It’s a blameless fabric. After all, how many harlots are known to wear tweed?
Tweed cheats a short skirt. How short is ‘too short’ – the thigh’s the limit in tweed, the blameless fabric!
Which kind of brings me to my next point about selecting tweed. Tweed is typically a heavyweight fabric. This is owing to the fact that it’s a durable fabric and is therefore a perfect choice for using in the construction of outerwear.
-A tweed for all seasons. However, you can find tweed in light and medium weights as well. Silk tweed, for instance, is lightweight and flexible and feels luscious, and can be fashioned without a hint of that shimmery quality that people associate with silk.
And tweed can be patterned in the traditional, think herringbone or houndstooth, or dyed to shades seen along a rainbow. It just might take a bit of looking to find tweed garments in less-traditional weights and prints.
Whatever tweed you choose, please invest in the good stuff. When I say “invest” I don’t necessarily mean spend a ton of dough.I mean take the time to find a quality garment – one that is well-constructed and fits you well.
Classic fabrics are less forgiving when it comes to a poor or clumsy fit. And since tweed is classic, you can wear your tweed items as long as you wish to own them. Therefore, it will pay off in the long run to invest in quality tweed garments. Buy once and well, I say.
There’s this little breakfast and lunch spot in Manhattan Beach, California called Bill’s Pancake House. It’s a great spot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and on weekend mornings, it tends to be insanely busy. Insanely because I’ve never noticed anything Earth shattering about their pancakes or any other item on the menu, yet the sidewalk is always lined with people on Saturday and Sunday morning. Maybe it’s that thing about a crowd attracting a crowd.
I happened to be among those sidewalk people one morning when I spotted this very cool-looking woman walk by with great individual style. Tip hunter and glamour stalker that I am, I did a little two-step up to her and we had an impromptu sidewalk interview about her personal style. Fashion tips followed.
The vitals: A smart laidback look like this is no accident…items are high quality, in great condition and strategically mussed, cut or sheared. Example: the off-shoulder sweatshirt has colors that work well with her skin tone, and reveal a polka dot bra that’s in pristine condition and looks almost like a tank – a frilly or well-worn bra would have looked cheap.
The tattoos are artistic, and are inked in colors that compliment her skin, which, since she’s showing glimpses of, is in beautiful condition. She told me that her top natural skin tip is the regular use of shea butter to keep her skin in good condition and gleaming.
Because she’s sporting achic buzz-buzz cut, she can get away with super big hoops, or other dramatic accessorizing, during the daytime. Always think of your personal style in terms of proportions. Notice how Halle Berry can wear super sexy red-carpet ensembles regularly – yet never look anything close to tarty? Her fabulous lithe figure, poise and body confidence have a lot to do with it, and so does her super-short hair, which projects a chic, smart pretty versus the sensual vibe that super-long and flowing locks heap onto a look.
Confidence and happiness. These are two things that she projects, and are what caught my eye. I’ve said it many a time – glamour has zero to do with the price of your clothes and everything to do with your nonverbal communication and the spirit you exude while moving about in the world. A closetful of couture, and a face and figure that have been meticulously arranged fall flat when they’re not accompanied by ease and self assuredness – they are the soul of glamour.
When I landed in Las Vegas I headed to the ladies room to freshen up. I had plenty of time; I was meeting a couple of girlfriends who were arriving in an hour or so. So I did a bit of observing and noticed a thing or two: Folks arriving in Las Vegas look just fine, and those leaving Las Vegas – not so much.
It wasn’t just the eyes, red and blurry, and the faces that were bloated, with dry, blotchy or pimply skin. It was the overall energy of the people who were dragging themselves on planes to head back to wherever that did it; weary and not so bright.
About three days later I had pretty much joined them. On the Vegas scale of carousing, I had barely left the suite. I had even worked out a couple of times in the hotel gym. But I had drank, in three days, what I would normally consume in a month or maybe even two. Eating? Sleeping? Not so much. If you’ve read Practical Glamour, even a page, you know that I’m all about maintaining, guarding your natural assets – skin, figure, hair, nails – so they stay lovely for the long haul.
That said, here are 5 vital beauty tips to keep the party monster from having its way with you when you’re visiting Las Vegas.
Packets of C, and B too
Vitamin C is the queen of all antioxidants, and B is a superb Vegas supplement because alcohol zaps your body’s stores of it, particularly Vitamin B-12. I found that while I might bring along a few multivitamins, it’s rare that I’ll actually take them, and they end up in the trash like discarded M&Ms when I’m packing to leave.
I like Emergen-C mostly because you can find it everywhere, they work and it’s hard to miss the little envelopes, which are easy to pack in your luggage or stow in your purse. They are loaded with C and B, and you can quickly add one to a beverage when you’re sitting on the plane or having lunch. Plus, they taste quite good; fresh and kind of fizzy.
See, this is very basic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get a drinkable glass of water, or 20, while in a hotel room in Vegas. Little plastic room service bottles just don’t do the trick to counteract the dehydration that comes with drinking a couple of buckets of vodka.
So make it a point to hit your nearest drugstore and buy an endless supply of water before getting the party started. Your liver will thank you. Your eyes will thank you when they look at your skin in the mirror the morning after. And FYI, there’s a rad, newish Walgreens drugstore, open 24 hours, towards the north end of the Strip, outside the Palazzo and the Venetian.
Get in the habit of ordering a glass of water with every drink. Drink a cocktail, drink a glass of water. Repeat. And if you can find a spare lime in the place, squeeze its juice into your water glass and drink, drink, drink. Limes are fierce little Vitamin C carriers, and they are a naturally potent way to banish booze breath, which is notoriously unglamorous.
Know Your Number
You should have oodles of fun while in Vegas, but you can’t really have an optimal trip if your days are spent puking and sleeping. Or dragging your fading self down the Strip because you’re super-fatigued. Everyone know there’s a line between being buzzed and happy, and being too fogged to function – or care.
Think about your number, the one where, after drinking, you go from category A to category B. Memorize your number and promise yourself that you will not step a foot or take a sip over it. Emblazon that number (3, 8?) in your mind, your soul and scratch it on your drinking-hand wrist with a Sharpie if you think it will keep you from crossing over to the dark side while dancing on a table top at Tao around 2 in the morning. Or 3, who’s counting?
Save Your Skin
No matter how trashed you get, do not – do not – forget to remove your makeup before hitting the hay. It is beauty tip 101, but forgetting to do so does damage too terrible and scientific to get into here, so just trust me on this one. To avoid this sin, leave your face-cleansing stuff near the sink before you go out, and don’t forget to have a ton of cotton swabs on hand to thoroughly remove your eye makeup.
If you know in advance that your usual 20-minute nightly face ritual, complete with toners and serums and eye cream, is not going to happen, invest in some quality makeup removing cloths to at least remove the shellac before going to sleep. PS. Brush your hair, too. This is more of a cosmic tip, but you’ll want to release all that energy and smoke from your follicles so they don’t interfere with your dreamtime.
Preview Your Shoes
If the idea of being caught in flats after the sun sets in Vegas is horrifying, read on. High heel fans note: You’ll be walking a-plenty even if you travel by car, because casino and hotel complexes are huge. Don’t make Vegas your first out-of-town trial for a new pair of fabulous heels unless suffering is your game.
Before leaving on your trip, wear your new heels around the house or promenade around town wearing them to make sure you’ll be able to stand them while carousing in Las Vegas. And not just stand them, but walk and dance and flirt and have an excellent, all-around time in them.
If there is a pair of heels you love but they hurt in spots, identify the issue. Dr. Scholl’s has a good variety of shoe fixits, and their high heel insoles make heel-wearing more comfortable by moving the pressure strictly from the ball of your feet. If these insoles work for you, think about making them standard for all of your high heels over 2″. The insoles cost about $12, which you can figure into the price of any new pair of heels you’re thinking about adding to your collection.
A huge star-plus of living in a warmish climate is that you rarely have to get bundled up. In the winter there are many sunny and cool days where you can bust out a warm and agreeable outfit and never feel like a stilted mummy.
I’m very much about easy, simple and super-comfortable ways to cheat glamour. Basically, the test is this: the outfit must feel pretty close to wearing pajamas in terms of comfort — but make you feel lifted, or a bit lifted, in spirit. Pajamas, particularly flannel ones that drape on the ground, can’t do this. But something you find stylish, that gives off a pleasing projection of You when worn, can do this.
So here are some style tips on achieving a certain level of sass and comfort when the weather is cool, or even freezing for that matter.
Try a stretchy dress as a foundation piece. But not the flimsy summer kind. Go for the long sleeve, body conscious kind that range from stretchy ribbed cotton. The one I’m wearing is from BCBG, the Trenna Essential Knit Ribbed Dress — they seem to always carry them online or in their stores, they are great for layering and travel well. They retail for about $60 but can be had for less during sales. They are also warm and incredibly comfortable to wear, kind of like an endless t-shirt. Wear some smart shapewear underneath to contain your assets and present a smooth line (no VPL or bra lines) to the world…
Add cool-weather accessories that add color, personality and luxury. Invest in your accessories. Scarves, gloves, bags and so on. You don’t need to acquire many of these. When you go out a-hunting for them, though, realize that it will benefit you over the long haul to buy the best that you can find and/or your budget will allow. The best is not always the most $$, either. I’m wearing a circle scarf around my neck mostly for a dash of color and for a bit of sun protection on the neck. I purchased it for well under $30 from a groovy little entrepreneur I met at a woman’s show who would find fantastic silks in the garment district and sew them up at home in her spare time.
Tip: Discern high from low and in-between by learning to spot the difference between high-quality fabrics and materials and the not-so. Where do you start? Use the hands-on method, examining and touching accessories that run the gamut in price and quality. Feel the difference in your hands and on your body. After a while your senses will be able to spot the difference quickly.
The Martina Engineer Tall Boot by Frye. At $378, they are not the most inexpensive out there, but they are a staple that you can wear forever…
Find your favorite runaround boot. I have been a fan of semi-clunky knee boots for like, ages, and have been stoked to see them back in force during the last couple of years. Here’s the thing with boots. Some are spindly skinny and a bit dramatic for running around during the everyday, while some are reminiscent of what Fred Gwynne might have sported on The Munsters.
Somewhere between these two extremes is your perfect runaround boot: the pair that flatter your frame, are comfortable as heck and project something of your personal style. In the photo I’m wearing a vintage pair of motorcycle boots that I found in a thrift shop back in college for around $20 and have worn about 5 million times since then. Brown is a nice intermediary color because it’s a neutral that will works with a lot of items in your wardrobe from black. If it was colder I’d be wearing gray or taupe tights, which would work with these boots as well.
Okay, back to you. Before settling on your everyday cold-weather boots, give a thought about what you want to look like before heading to the stores. Here’s why: I have found that having a vision of what you want is a better shopping strategy than merely going blindly from store to store, looking for something kind of acceptable. That type of strategy will leave you with an awful pair of hiking boots made from unpronounceable meshy materials that were cooked up on a lab.
Tip: And if you like an old-fashioned look, check out thrift shops or vintage stores first. If you’re finding boots that are not throwback enough for your tastes (as in, you’re finding stuff from the late-1990’s when your flavor is more like 1960’s or 1970’s), then look at the “revived” lines from longtime boot manufacturers like Frye or, if you’re a guy, Red Wing. They usually won’t be inexpensive but they’ll be top-notch in terms of quality and if you take care of them, you’ll wear them forever.
Top with a Slender Cloak, Mi’Lady: Here’s where winter dressing can go terribly, terribly wrong. The parka or its puffy equivalent is heaped on your lovely frame, cloaking it from existence and and essentially banishing all the delicious by-products of style and glamour from your life. On the other hand, you don’t want to freeze.
Assess your climate and determine the amount of warmth you’ll need in your basic winter coat. Since winter can be dreary, please hunt out a coat in a color that gives you a buzz every time you wear it, and suits your frame and shape. And read this, unless you want to end up feeling like a dancing bear.
In the photo I am wearing a lightweight wool pea coat from Banana Republic. It is the right marriage of warmth and style, and is navy, which is a workable neutral shade. I bought it for a crazy sum, something like $28. I think the price had something major to do with the fact that it was hanging in one of their stores in West Palm Beach Florida during the summer. I tried it on over a white strapless dress and turned to my trusted shopping companion. “It’s about 100 degrees out. So why would I buy this?”
She shrugged and said, “Why wouldn’t you? It looks great. You’ll wear it.”
I was driving down a rural highway near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the middle of the night. It was rainy and I didn’t know the area well. I did know I was starving so when a spat of highway signs came into view listing a bunch of familiar fast-food havens it was like the clouds had busted open with the promise of a cold fizzy drink, warm nimble french fries and a palm sized hamburger smartly topped with tart pickles and a warm bun dotted with sesame seeds.
I raced for the drive thru of the only open place, which is also my favorite fast-food place, an indulgence from the kid’s menu that I allow every couple of weeks. I’ve had to negotiate this down from more frequent visits since I’ve shaved about 10 pounds from my figure and have managed to keep it this way for about six months. I ordered my most favorite and tasty trifecta and headed back to the highway. So enthralled and thankful for the lusciousness of the Happy Meal was I that I missed my way back to the highway, and looping around the area with the radio cranking, I was in the midst of sucking down the entire contents of that wonderful white paper bag when I hit an unpleasant snag in the proceedings: The sudden and unexpected feeling of dental floss stuck between two teeth, only thinner.
I knew, I knew. I gagged into a fistful of napkins and pulled out the offending particle, which was a hair. An unidentifiable and long hair of a color completely unlike my own. One could not devise a plan for McDonald’s interruptus more complete than this. I drove the rest of the way back to my hotel, gagging at intervals while trying to swish the lingering, spindly sensation of the hair in mouth that was threatening to snake its way down my throat, via the vat of bubbly cola. “Gross,” I repeated over and again.
The lesson goes something like this: I no longer have to wrestle myself from temptation when it comes to trips through the drive thru. I do have to wrestle myself from a small gag when I think of the place and the food that is served there. Those 10 pounds? I think they’re going to be staying away for good.
Tips for Diet Success
Identify your main diet downfall. For some it’s sweets, like chocolate or baked goods, while for others it’s fast food stuff like triple-layer hamburgers smothered in cheese.
You don’t have to slay all of your eating pleasures, just the big one. The one that is principally responsible for adding or keeping the pounds that you want out of your life. For instance, I may have nixed a certain fast food jones but am still very much a fan of a sometimes bag of glorious Lay’s potato chips and occasional Slushie.
If you are not lucky enough to unexpectedly discover a hair in your principal easting downfall, then figure out a way to mentally turn-off the charm of the food item you love. Remember the time you drank too much of a certain sweet nectar, then spent the rest of the night and maybe the next day vomiting? Then never, ever drank Midori, or tequila, or whatever made you hurl, again? It’s like that. Link the item with something that, for you, is utterly distasteful, and do it consistently. Maybe there is something you don’t love about the way this food makes you feel after you eat it, or something involved with how it’s made, or one of its ingredients.
Let the images and the thoughts follow one another—thoughts of the item you love, followed by the turn off—until they are automatic. I heard of a man whose yearning for greasy meat sandwiches was strong and persistent, while his desire for vegetables, particularly broccoli, was non-existent. He even found them gross. With the help of a hypnotist he swapped his mental conceptions of each item. The greasy meat became gross while vegetables, particularly broccoli, assumed most-favored food status in his life.
A lost-luggage ensemble, purchased mostly at a drugstore
Arriving in Philadelphia airport a day or so ahead of the storm was a good idea. What was not a good idea on the part of the airline was not having my luggage arrive.
For the last three days I have been sans luggage, cobbling together ensembles fit for a storm and one of my favorite hotels in Center City. A landmark property with beautiful detailing everywhere—a rotunda ceiling with ornate carving, window panes with that delicate and rugged look to them, and dinner by a fireplace with big, soaring windows of a storming city.
I arrived wearing a standard airplane get-up: jeans, a pair of suede slip on flats, a fairly sassy shirt and leather jacket. One of the best things about arriving at a destination after a long flight is immediately changing your clothes, which of course I couldn’t do unless I wanted to wear a bed-sheet.
I managed to find an open drugstore where I bought a pair of black leggings and a stretchy shirt. A friend gave me a gift, a beautiful ivory scarf with fluttery trim.
And I purchased a heap of toiletries and makeup. Having no cosmetics on hand, by the way, helps you determine your face and hair essentials pretty quickly. I discovered mine have to do with lip stuff and eyebrows, and that drugstore brand Milani makes a pretty good eyebrow pencil. And the Milani Brow Fix brow kit is compact and smart. A mini tweezer, brow brush and applicator; a powder highlighter and two brow colors. Pretty nifty.
Other new drugstore finds: L’Oreal EverCreme Nourishing Leave-in Spray for hair, about $8; and Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Gloss #952 in Sand Glow, a light neutral pinkish shade with a smidgeon o’ shimmer.
Tomorrow’s another day, which means another ensemble. Which means I’ll be looking for an open gift shop or drugstore for some fine lost-luggage fashion.
I like Raquel Welch for many reasons…her smarts, wit and the way she’s maintained that face and figure. Here’s a jewel of a Raquel Welch quote from some lad mag interview:
“Sex appeal is such a subjective thing. When you meet somebody that you know mostly from photos or movies, it’s not really the same as meeting them in person, when you can connect with them as a human being. In my career I’ve met so many men who were supposed to be the sexiest men on the planet, and I’m standing right next to them, thinking, “Hmm. Really?” And then there’s just the opposite. You meet people who are super- attractive in real life but it’s never translated to the big screen. It’s just such a weird, subjective thing.”
Her observation is a very female one. Men seem to be more lured by looks alone, at least initially. Women factor in a lot more variables, different variables, than just the physical.
Research: Ask a conventionally handsome guy how many not-hot women he’s dated. Yeah, zero. Ask a hot chick how many so-so looking guys she’s dated. Yeah, way more than zero.
My recent canvas of costume stores found an inordinate number of wench, naughty nurse, Daisy Duke and straight-up lady of the evening type costumes for the ladies to wear on All Hallow Even. Now usually, we have the style advantage over the fellows when it comes to garments, particularly since women have more options to begin with…skirts, dresses and pants in all lengths and silhouettes, for starters. And shoes, don’t get me started on shoes.
However, when it comes to Halloween the guys get a broader, more clever range of options. Last year, I remember howling at all the funny and creative costumes that I saw menfolk wearing, from a CHP officer to a lederhosen and feathered cap yodeler. Sherlock Holmes, a werewolf, Axl Rose, Vincent Van Gogh and on.
So I thought of a few Halloween costume ideas that might be a satisfying alternative to dressing up on Halloween as either a a) skank, or a b) super skank. Alternatives that won’t have you donning a thick wolverine outfit, or pulling a sheet over your head and poking out the eyes as a last-minute ghost who couldn’t find anything to wear except for a dusty devil costume in the corner of the store that generously came with a plastic staff, chintzy red lace lingerie and pair of horns.
These are fairly easy Halloween costumes to pull together and they have a bit of sass. And, since the word “Practical” is half of the name of this website, they all include a few garments and accessories that you can use throughout the year for more “Glamour,” (the other half of the equation here) so your Halloween investment is one that will last beyond October 31.
Grecian Goddess. Easy, easy and cute, too. Start with a strategic undergarment, such as a strapless or one-shoulder bodysuit. Fashion a white toga, or your most goddess-looking garment (could be a bridesmaid dress that is dyed, nipped and tucked) around your body and cinch with a wide belt, preferably gold. Since the gladiator sandal has been as commonplace as air during the last few seasons, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of a pair. Arrange your hair in ringlet curls, or employ a wig. Situate a little gold crown in your hair or a gold leaf accessory. For makeup, keep it light and glittery in places. Emphasize your eyes with liner and mascara, and dust highlighter with shimmer across your lids, cheekbones and shoulders.
1920’s Good Time Girl aka Flapper. You get to be sassy and culturally historic at once. You’ll need bobbed hair, or a wig, a cigarette holder and long pearls. Don a beautiful silk slip-dress, t-strap shoes and knee-high stockings, and voila. Don’t forget a smoky eye, thin brows and bee stung dark lips, either. If you have a flask and you’re of drinking age, bring it along as a nice, very useable accessory.
Spanish Dancer. Notice I didn’t write “slutty dancer.” I bust out the Spanish Dancer card on Halloween because I happen to have a few of these costumes on hand. Start with a pair of black heels with ankle laces and pair with a long circle skirt that cinches at the waist. Pair with something white or polka dot and flouncy on top. Pull hair back in a low ponytail and twist into a tight bun. Adorn your head with a big, bright flower. Paint your nails red. For makeup: Foundation, a bit of blush, an exotic cat-eye and deep-red lipstick on the mouth. False lashes and a fan or castanets to click-click-clack are nice extras.
Jacqueline Onassis. Bright pink skirt and blazer with floppy tie blouse or simple sheath top and pearls. Matching pill box hat. Bobbed dark hair. Vintage structured handbag, white gloves and low flats. Light lipstick and dark, but not dramatic, eyes. Fake eyelashes if you have them.
Equestrienne. Do you have an English riding hat? Do you have a friend who has an English riding hat? You’re halfway there. Knee boots, a pair of jodhpurs (use leggings in a pinch), a white button up shirt and a blazer, the tweedier and the brown-er the better. And get a crop; you’ll need a crop. Pick up one at a local feed or tack store that stocks riding accessories. A very helpful item to have in your little hand if you happen to find yourself near a drunken heel on Halloween, by the way. Or anytime.
Chinese Bride. A traditional Chinese wedding dress is a nice thing to have in your closet year-round because the silhouette is so feminine, flattering and crisp. Plus, the shimmery brocade of the cloth adds a nice touch of well-behaved glamour. Buy an authentic one, either online or at a Chinese import-type shop in your city or town. The dress fabric is typically a brocade of red (considered good luck) with gold and silver embroidery. Wear matching red shoes, slippers or even gold mules with a delicate heel, if you have them.
Straighten your hair and pull it back in a sleek bun, adorning it with an ornamental pair of lacquer chopsticks, all the better if beading is attached. Simple red drop earrings. For makeup: Opt for medium- to high-coverage foundation to even the complexion, and use face powder generously to achieve a matte look. Blush the apple of the cheeks, add a non-smoky cat eye and a carefully painted scarlet mouth.
Have a lovely Halloween, ladies. And if you have any dandy ideas for Halloween costumes that are fairly DIY, easy to pull together and wear, feel free to share with the class.
There a bit of retail trickery that I like to apply to my closet. And it always works. I simply move stuff around to see it new eyes.
With this little trick I discover treasures that were hidden from sight, or just see ordinary objects that have been hanging around forever in a new light. I recently became acquainted with a fabulous violet BCBG dress with strategic ruching on the side—don’t they all seem to have this lately?—that can be rolled up in a weekend bag and unfurled for an Olympic night of dancing and champagne drinking. It was hidden in the closet between two other dresses. A pair of chinos that were hemmed the perfect length—above the ankles and worn with flats—but forgotten because they were camoflouged in the closet among other ligh-colored pants. I could go on but you get the picture.
When I worked at a very cool boutique eons ago we used this strategy on items that were not selling well. We simply moved them from their back shelves to better real estate out front. Assuming that flowery frock that fit like a dream was priced correctly, in no time we would sell out. Even regular customers would comment on how great some item was after it was put in the front of the store. It had been hanging around forever, but no one ever noticed it.
You wearing something fabulous that you forget you owned
So back to you and your clothes. The problem is not that you have nothing to wear. It’s probably an issue of having more than you know. Which is really not a bad problem to have. I don’t even think it qualifies as a problem, come to think of it.
I’m confident that it’s high time you went through your closet and conducted a merciless removal of items that are dead weight, meaning items that should not be hanging around you due to their color, cut, characteristic or quality. (For more on the subject, watch this or read this or this.) However, you probably own many more perfectly usable, workable or even wonderful clothes than you think.
Even if your closet is supremely health, meaning everything fits you, looks great, is in good condition, makes you feel great and helps you say something to others about who you are (aka, your personal style brand), some of your clothes, shoes and accessories might not be getting enough prime time.
They are not being enjoyed by you, meaning, worn by you, because you forget they exist.
If you organize your items by type (slacks, shirts, jackets, skirts, etc) then reverse or mix up their order. Put your shirts on the left side of the closet if they are usually on the right, for instance. And if you organize by color, do the same.
If you want to go further, play stylist and put together two to three fabulous ensembles made up of items you usually do not wear together. Go beyond basic color matching and mix textures and prints. Go high-low by pairing an alluring t-shirt (you know, one that looks particularly fetching on you) with a smart little jacket. Throw in a scarf.
I’ll stop here and advise you to go do something radical: move your clothes around to see them with new eyes. It’s like getting new clothes without leaving the house. So happy shopping!
I think there’s some truth to the idea that romantic relationships are living things. Like plants or flowers, they need certain nourishment to not just get by but flourish. And not just the water and sun type either, but creative jolts of air that move a relationship forward. Nice surprises to pop on your mate that communicates that you care about him, you value him and that you know and like certain cool truths about him.
As a woman, some of the best romantic ideas for men are the simplest. Popular his and her psychology has, for a while now, put forth the idea that men tend to demonstrate love with action versus greeting cards, poetry and kittens. Making sure the oil is changed in your car and the tires are rotated before you head out on a solo road trip versus getting on one knee to recite a poem. So start to speak his language. Offer him warm, unexpected acknowledgements of him. In other words, act, don’t say.
Here are a few ideas to file under the romantic ideas or dating and love tips department:
Food, Wine, Love: If you don’t already know, figure out his favorite food. Better if it’s something he doesn’t eat a lot, is exotic or not readily available where he lives. Find a tiny restaurant that specializes in his favorite fare and take him there on a date. PS. And if Berlinersylta makes you gag, cheerfully keep it to yourself and order something you can stomach– food martyrs are not sexy.
If your guy’s not really the culinary type then transfer your detective work to beer, and stock his fridge. Get him a few bottles of wine or a very nice bottle of his favorite spirit. No definitive likes in food or wine? Be a profiler and pull together the traits of what he chooses to eat each day. Then introduce him to something fabulous and new that has all the characteristics that he enjoys. Who knows, you might turn him into a cheese fanatic or make him nuts for Vietnamese pho.
Find His Flattering Colors:If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about style, it’s rare that I can get through a column or article without mentioning color, and how the right shades and intensities can do natural wonders for your hair, skin, and eyes. And, of course, when you’re looking radiant it’s almost impossible to duck feeling pretty darn good also.
I have found in my various travels and adventures that the menfolk are less schooled on color selection then we ladies. (But they are really fast learners, by the way.) So the next time you’re sitting across from him, consider which colors flatter him, and think about those colors that you’ve never seen him in, but would probably look fantastic on him. Get him a scarf or shirt in that color, and when that uncertain look crosses his face while opening it, tell him how you think it will look great on him, and encourage him to try it on to see for himself.
His Health & Wellness: It can be as small an item as a lip balm with sunscreen in mint that is packaged in a masculine shape because you know a.) he likes mint b.) his lips get burned or chapped because he’s outside a lot and c.) and has a thing about putting on tubed lipstuff in public. Other ideas: a natural herbal sleep remedy because you know he’s been stressed lately…a small, no-maintenance chili plant because he loves hot food and this way, he can chop up a fresh chili and sprinkle it on pizza when he feels…herbal or natural skin ointments if he’s prone to oozing, cutting or bruising. (Arnica cream for bruising; for eczema, a chamomile cream; or a witch hazel antiseptic preparation for cleaning wounds) Tip: Avoid the coy Nurse Suzy looks or trying to dominate his health and eating habits unless you want him running for the hills.
Bond in the Great Outdoors: One of the grooviest things about being in a relationship or dating a guy who has a lust for life in him is the excitement of trying out new activities together. Even in the gnarliest of weather or the most one-horse of towns there are fantastic things you can do outdoors. And no, going through a fast food drive-through with the heat cranking is not among them.
Figure out an activity that you think he will really enjoy, then set it up for the both of you. Cross-country skiing…horseback riding…paddle boarding…ice skating…yoga…whale watching…golf…hiking…deep-sea fishing…sledding. Because you know how easy it is for well-intentioned plans for outdoor vigor can dissolve over Saturday morning coffee in an oversized t-shirt, be Captain Stubing: Make the reservations, pick up your guy, drive to the activity and pay for everything. He will not forget it. PS. Did I mention that showing enthusiasm and interest during such dates has the power to make or break them? In other words, if you’re not feeling it, and not a good actress, then pass go.
A fun outdoor adventure will bring you closer…
Personalize It: In the movie The Wedding Singer Drew Barrymore’s character gives her love interest music composition paper stamped with his name. Sweet. Easy.
Does your guy write letters or even to-do lists? Order a high-quality paper item that he’ll actually use with his name or a short quote or saying he’ll like printed on each sheet. It will be hard to not think of you each time he puts pen to paper.
So, back to the original idea of nice things to do for your guy. No matter what date or outing you set up, or what item you get him, remember that doing these things is not really about giving a gift. It’s about engaging in romantic communication. It is nonverbally saying: “Hi, I was thinking of you. I thought you might like this because I am someone who knows you, likes you, values you and likes to increase the amount of pleasure and happiness in your life. So here.”
Kimberly Fisher is an entrepreneur and writer whose ventures, like Jetsetera, tend to have two things in common: travel and glamour. Since, more and more, these concepts seem hard to reconcile (I’m thinking of air travel, for instance, which often feels like the glamour level of journeying on a packed city bus in the middle of July) I asked Ms. Fisher for some tips on looking and feeling calm and attractive while traveling.
You’re a woman who wears many hats and often travels to stylish and luxurious places. There are many rewards that come with looking good, or reasonably put together while traveling. What is the top reason that you like to look lovely while on the road?
The glamorous Kimberly Fisher on traveling beautifully
I think if you look good, you also feel good. If you feel good, others around you tend to feel good also. I try to keep things classic and simplistic. You will usually find me in neutral colors, classic bags and with articles that travel well.
Can you give us your most MacGyver Moment in terms of having to pull together some seriously practical glamour while traveling?
I tend to stick to the basics of my beauty routine and once in awhile I tend to forget to pack…a lot of things. While we were in the Philippines we had to attend a black-tie function and actually sent the hotel concierge out to buy us dresses. Needless to say, we looked like the hired wait staff.
You have great skin, which can be hard to maintain while traveling, particularly to a sunny or tropical locale. Do you have a non-sunscreen tip on how to save your skin and still enjoy the outdoors?
I love the sun and getting doses of Vitamin D. I tend to get a facial once a month to do away with the stress of traveling and different environments.
What is the one item (clothing or accessory) that you currently find indispensable to your personal glamour quotient–but is also totally practical?
A Bvlgari pink scarf. It does a lot of double duty as a scarf, shawl, pillow, blanket, etc. and adds just the right amount of color.
There are women and men who wouldn’t dream of traveling, or even going out to dinner, by themselves. I have the feeling that this is not a problem for you. What tip do you have that might increase the ease and public comfort of a person who is unaccustomed to traveling or going out alone in public?
I spend all of my time in the presence of others- at work, events, trade shows,etc. I absolutely welcome alone time. Sometimes I do end up traveling alone and love exploring new places by myself. The easiest thing to do to increase your own comfort level if you are unaccustomed to traveling alone is have dinner at the bar. The bartender is usually friendly and nearby, plus it opens you up to meeting other people.
A few years ago, Hayden was doing what millions of other twenty-something Millennials are doing: Scraping by on a series of minimum wage jobs and wanting more.
With no shop or office space, he learned how to fix iPhones and started making house calls, ending up at construction sites and doctors’ offices where he’d fix customers’ phones on the fly while they kept working.
With an innate entrepreneurial fire stoked, Hayden continued to grow his business (myibroke.com), which led him to start another business centered on websites and online marketing.
The confidence of achievement, particularly one that’s on your own terms, has a certain affect on a man or woman. A good one.
Dawes, who previously felt the nerves while in plush, traditional office quarters, has altered little of his personal style in the face of his growing success. It’s a brand of uncontrived hipness telegraphed with a steady gaze, polished, mostly denim ensembles, and unhurried speaking style tinged with pure Virginian, despite his time in South Florida.
So I grilled him for some tips on how to keep one’s personal presentation its most authentic and attractive no matter what rung you might be on your personal success ladder.
In his earliest days: “It was nerve wracking. I had never worked in any kind of setting as a professional. I did not have nice dress clothes. I was showing up at big, baller executive suites. They would be standing over my shoulder watching me do something I had done for, maybe, the third time in my life.”
“I don’t feel uncomfortable around ‘professionals’ anymore. I don’t look like your typical business executive. I have a beard and a laidback wardrobe. In the past I felt uncomfortable but now I’m okay with this because it’s working for me.”
His ‘work uniform’: “A collared shirt and denims. A collared shirt projects professionalism.”
Dressing up: “I’ll add a seersucker suit jacket over a collared shirt if I feel like peacocking. I love seersucker.”
Favorite jeans: “Levi red tag, button-fly 501s. Original cut.”
Beard maintenance: “People think beards are this low-maintenance look. Actually, you have to take care of your beard. They are high-maintenance. I use Pantene Pro-V Brunette Expressions to shampoo it, and Herbal Essence conditioner.”
On cultivating individual style: “When people try to look hip they often end up looking weird. Don’t go out and buy jeans that look worn. Buy a pair of jeans and wear them.”
Shopping tips: “Flea markets, consignment and thrift shops. I like clothes that have a classic or older-era look to them, so these are good places for me. Even if you have the cash for it, a man doesn’t need to spend a ton of cash to have great clothes. I recently scored an Oscar de la Renta sport jacket at a thrift shop that fits me perfectly.”
Motivation tip: “Take $300 dollars out of your account, put it in your wallet–and leave it there. It will motivate you and you will carry yourself differently.”
The best part of success so far….“Not living for other people. Not living in fear.”
Who is AJ Colby? Why, he’s the on-air meteorologist for FOX 8 in Cleveland, Ohio, and someone who knows something about the weather and personal presentation. I recently got to ask Mr. Colby some questions about the sun, looking nice in the heat and staying cool when the cameras are a-rolling.
Meteorologist AJ Colby
The sun can be really detrimental to one’s skin, so I always advise men and women to be sunscreen addicts, and apply the stuff daily. Is there any truth to the rumor that you don’t need to wear sunscreen on overcast days or during the winter?
There is no such thing as a “sunless day”. UVA and UVB rays still penetrate clouds and can damage the skin. On cloudy days, although you may not burn as quickly per se, applying the sunscreen anyway would be a good idea if your aim is to prevent skin aging! The sun, not time, is our skin’s greatest adversary. While time causes chronological aging, the sun causes “photo-aging”.
In the winter, especially over a snow-packed surface, the high reflection properties of the snow (also know as “albedo”) can absolutely lead to a sunburn. Just ask any avid winter-weather enthusiast what happens if they “play outside” on a sunny day over a fresh snowpack. Sunscreen is essential anytime you’re outside during the day, especially between 10 am and 3 pm. This is when the sun’s energy is at its strongest here on earth.
What is a good weather style tip for men when it comes to looking collected and put-together in hot or humid weather?
There’s nothing more annoying than sweating like a pig on a hot, humid, sunny summer day, especially prevalent during the “Dog Days” of summer! That’s the period from July through early August where heat and humidity are at their peak across the United States. Honestly, I use a highly effective product called “Certain Dry” antiperspirant. I would start there, especially if you’re a sweat-aholic like me!
In terms of fashion, if you don’t want those “pit stains” which can be rather unattractive, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing! Cotton is usually the best, but ironing is no fun for many, so a cotton-poly blend of some kind would be a good runner-up. I like wearing shorts, but I have several friends who do not, so a good pair of Dockers always wears well in sizzling summer heat.
If you stick to light colors, it helps to REFLECT solar energy instead of dark colors, especially black, which actually ABSORB the energy…causing you to cook. That’s no fun.
You’re in front of television cameras daily, and your fans point to your down-to-earth delivery as something they really like about you. What is a good tip for staying relaxed and natural in front of the camera or when talking in front of an audience?
There’s little question that live TV can cause you to “tense up” a little. Frankly, I have a tougher time with live and in-person audiences because at least I can PRETEND that no one is watching and that takes some of the pressure off.
When I do public appearances, I usually like to bring a big bottle of cold water. That helps to hydrate the vocal chords, not to mention hydrating the body. I sweat so much when I get nervous, so I try to meditate and pray before the event if I have time. I noticed that helps.
Trying to keep my energy level fairly constant and trying to relax while speaking is a wonderful tip. Knowing your material certainly helps. I always try to ask the organizer about the “lay of the land” if I can, so that I can get a better idea of what to expect in the room. Also, I try to know my audience (with whom I’ll be speaking). Anything I can do to alleviate some of the pressure. In my experience, the very BEST thing to do when talking in front of an audience is try to BE MYSELF! There’s nothing more liberating than that. I strive for that everyday.
I’m as guilty as the next gal, or guy, when it comes to wearing the heck out of a lovable new item or ensemble. So much so that, a month or so later, the item has been used and abused…and looks it. And if you’ve ever heard me preach my fire and brimstone lecture on how you’re too good to be prancing around in used and abused clothes–well, just know that there is no excuse for wearing stained, ribbed, pilled or misshapen clothes unless you are trying out for a local production of Les Misérables.
Here are some ways to put the brakes on the wear of your wardrobe, shoes included:
Think of your closet as a revolving workspace. Items check-in and check-out. Few, if any, will stay forever.
Regularly comb through your closet with the eye of a bitchy personal stylist and purge, purge, purge those items that are no longer up to snuff. Cart them out of your house immediately. (Putting them in a bag “for later” doesn’t count.)
Buy fewer clothes, and buy better clothes. Better does not always mean more expensive. Better means higher quality. Why? Quality=lasts longer.
There is something that saps the life from a bag, pair or shoes or clothing item when it’s worn heavily. Jeans excluded. Resist the urge to wash and re-wear–the repeat–that fantastic new tunic that wears as comfortably as a sweatshirt and looks and feels as chic as the French Riviera. Let the item rest in-between wearings, and lean on the rest of your wardrobe in the meantime.
Know how much cleaning is just the right amount. There are some items that will need cleaning more than others. A lady whose ship I passed in the night told me that she loved black dresses and cocktail parties equally. She did both a lot and, since going to a innocent cocktail party for a couple of hours is hardly the equivalent of mud wrestling, she would mini-dry clean her dress in between light wearings by letting it hang aloft in her hotel room near an open window or balcony, and place it in the bathroom when she was taking a shower for a little steam cleaning.
See your closet with new eyes. There are many self-evident reasons for cleaning out your closet. A few of them are psychological. One is that you will re-discover items that you like and look good on you. Another is that, with these new eyes, you will contemplate new concoctions, new ways to put together clothes and accessories so that they look like something else entirely. Something groovy.
In the early 1960’s American designer Sylvia Pedlar of Iris Lingerie designed a little something to be worn by women who sleep in the altogether, aka, sans clothing. The little something was called a sleep toga, and it became all the rage, winning Ms. Pedlar a Coty Award. Rumor had it that even First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore one.
The item, described as “A toga to shed when you go to bed,” by Life Magazine, debuted at a fashion industry luncheon in 1961, retailed for $28 and sold briskly. The design was simple–two narrow, floor-length strips of solid fabric that tied at the sides, making it easy to slip on and off when slinking into bed.
Ms. Pedlar’s inspiration was contrarian; a move against the frilly night-things that were everywhere at the time. “Everybody has gooked up lingerie too much,” said the designer. “There just had to be a reaction.” [Quoted in the Ottawa Citizen, Oct, 29, 1962].
Fast forward to you, circa the early 21st century: If you are not already in the habit of wearing pleasing things to bed, might I suggest you give some nice loungewear a chance. And if you prefer nothing at all while sleeping, indulge yourself with a nice robe or even a sleep toga, if you can find one. Single or no, your evenings and mornings should find you feeling luxurious and pretty.
This is Christy Roberts, an artist I recently met at a good friend’s MFA thesis show in Claremont, California. I was in a crowded gallery when I spotted her glancing over her shoulder, and I instantly thought of a movie still from the 1940’s or 1950’s. The angle of her face, and combination of rosy skin, Kewpie-ish red lips, and almond eyes has a sharpness and elegance that was commonly seen in film actresses of that time. And it didn’t hurt that such a look translated so seamlessly to the black and white film of the day.
We were introduced, so I had to launch into a discussion of glamour, the satisfaction of personal style and her cool red clutch, which happened to match her lipstick. Here are some takeaways:
Careful, bold touches of makeup on the face is visually softened by a bun with loose strands. Think about ways you can try out this yin-yang approach in your style, contrasting a neatly coiffed head of hair with a light, almost invisible, touch of makeup on the face. Or a bit of strategic tousle in the hair and wardrobe to relax an artfully made up face.
Good style is essentially the sum of a bunch of little details and notes, all balanced and blended. See above, the streak of mermaid green in her hair that gives a mod, au courant shot to other classic female details (red lipstick, neck-tie blouse, clutch, etc).
Translate everyday inspirations to your figure and personal style. Christy mentioned she had recently seen a German movie where the female lead wore a tie-neck blouse, and she liked the look. She said, however, that she would normally never wear a tie-neck blouse because it adds too much bulk at the neckline and by, extension, the upper body, for her liking. But this particular one works because the fabric is super thin, and the gauzy and sheer-ishnesh of the blouse creates a light look.
The clutch used to belong to her mother, and its nice color match with her lipstick was very much by design. (The style is in the details, remember.) The clutch is vintage, made by some fantastic 1970’s designer like Halston, though I had a glass or three of wine, so I can’t be certain. I do recall that the total cost of her ensemble, there was a leather jacket involved, was about $100, which makes it even more practical glamour.
I think being a trained artist gives one distinct style advantages, like an understanding of color and a tune-in to visual details. These are essentials when thinking about and constructing one’s presentation (which is clothes, yes—but also cosmetics, grooming, accessories and, of course, movement, manner and communication).
End note: Christy Roberts’ artwork can be found on Tumblr here. And there is ice involved.
The topic: Getting the 80/20 Rule out of Your Closet. Most of us wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. I share tips with WPLX’s Roxanne Stein on how to shop smarter, more strategically, for your wardrobe. The result: A leaner closet containing only those items that make you look and feel lovely–and no more money or time wasted lugging home bags of stuff you’ll never wear.
Actor Shailene Woodley: Picture of a Dignified Ingenue
Shailene Woodley, The Beautiful Ingenue. I almost fell off my chair when I spotted this 20-year-old while watching this year’s Oscars. (It was homework.) The gown is Valentino Couture, and reminds me of something a young Audrey Hepburn would wear. The rich cream, exceptional detail and quality of this dress was notable. Hair and makeup was kept soft and feminine, with the whole thing adding up to a picture of a elegant young woman, something that is rarely seen amongst the Hollywood crowd.
An assured, sexy woman many leagues away from matronly
On the other hand we have Glenn Close, who is the epitome of evolved sexiness. How she does it: This is a Zac Posen gown cut in a strategic, mermaid silhouette that is glamorous and alluring. The tuxedo jacket helps up the distinction and power of this look–and she is a woman who projects both. Both pieces are very structured and in a sophisticated color that incidentally works beautifully against the wearer’s silver hair. No glitter or sequins, which would not be consistent with her vibe or vintage.
Though the gown was a nice backdrop, what made Ms. Close stand out from the legions of other pretty young things on the red carpet was her confidence, poise and assured sexiness. Side note: I love that this is what 50-something is looking like these days.
Stefano Pilati is the head of Yves Saint Laurent with some wise words on elegance and how it can be cultivated:
My idea of elegance—and this refers to women as well as men—is that someone is elegant when he or she shows a good knowledge of what fits them, where you can find naturalness and self-esteem. Not showing off. Elegance is the idea of showing an optimistic depiction of oneself, and to lose oneself in the frivolity of style and fashion.
On another note, the above image is a still from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Ms. Audrey Hepburn is known for her style, which always seemed so simple. And it was. The ballet dancer knew how to dress her body, with uncomplicated silhouettes. Here she is wearing a simple boatneck top, denim pants and a turban.
Whether wearing this, or something more dressed, her style always came from her manner, which was graceful and demure. An elegant, uncluttered voice. A girlish, slightly mysterious smile. And the way she walked–proud and strong, and a bit like a cat. There is a reason that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is filled with long- and medium-shots of her walking in the streets.
I came across a quote from Britney Spears, something about how she felt that she was Audrey Hepburn in a past life. Blasphemy, I thought.
Jon Gordon is an author, consultant and speaker who does some very good work, helping individuals and organizations become more positive and productive. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions on how one can extinguish the unbecoming and not glamorous habit of complaining. (I am not immune.)
Here I ask some questions, and he offers some succinct, to the point solutions:
One of your many books, The No Complaining Rule, deals with ways that readers can “battle against individual and organizational negativity.” I’ve noticed that incessant complaining, the type that comes off like a lifestyle rather than a sometimes airing of grievances, doesn’t seem to serve the complainer on any psychological level, nor does it present that person in their most attractive light to others.
There is something magnetic, ebullient even, about a positive person, so leading a complaining “lifestyle” can really hurt a guy or girl when it comes to the quality of his or her social, professional and romantic life. What is one of your favorite, most useful strategies when it comes to helping a man or woman wean themselves from a complaining habit or “lifestyle”?
JG: My favorite strategy is the “get to” instead of “have to” technique. Instead of focusing on what you have to do focus on what you get to do. When you change have to to get to you change a complaining voice into an appreciative heart.
Much of your work seems to focus on how people and organizations can be more productive and fulfilled as a result of positive energy. To what extent do you think positive energy can be instilled in an individual? Do you think some people are “born with it” while, for others, it must be consciously cultivated?
JG: Yes some people are born naturally more positive. Research shows this. But the research also shows that we can become more positive by cultivating it.
Okay, personal trivia time. Is there anything in particular that gives Jon Gordon a lift in those moments when your cup of positive energy does not feel as full as usual?
JG: Yes. A Thank You walk. While I’m walking I practice gratitude and pray. Instead of worrying I let go and let God energize me.
When weather gets cold in places where it usually does not, such as tropical islands, the desert in daytime and so forth, what usually follows is a style scramble. A mishmash of grabbing whatever one might have in the house in order to be reasonably warm.
The result on the street is some pragmatic ensembles that are not quite flattering. In Southern California, when unexpected cold recently hit, I observed a certain style plague come over the womenfolk. I’m sure the men were not so innocent, but since female style is so flip-flop-and-tank-focused they just seemed to stand out more in their Wow, it’s freezing I’ll just grab anything approach.
And a garment seen often in this mishmash? The sweatshirt. The puffy, pull it over your head, might or might not have the name of a sports team or trucking company printed on its front or back. Usually black, but could very well be the color of a pumpkin, or a Crayon of forest green or purple.The kind of sweatshirt to amplify the upper body. (Along the lines of the Hulk, mind you, not Jayne Mansfield.) And if you’re looking Hulkish, you might be tempted to move, act and even speak like him. The Hulk, that is, not the kindly, soft-spoken scientist Bruce Banner.
Things to avoid in cold weather and life in general
What I’m trying to say, ladies, is this: The puffy sweatshirt is not your friend. And, since there is a host of cold weather wear that can be had at a fair price at a local mall that will make you look and feel nice, there is really no excuse to dress like a hobo when a cold front moves into town.
I’m not suggesting you get done up, catwalk style, each time you walk out the door for a quart of milk. What I am recommending is that you find your personal shortcuts to looking good, which, once habit, are as easy as looking not-so good. And the rewards of looking good, which is to say feeling good, are many.
A warm-climate version of cool-weather dressing, as spotted on this cute as a button walker of pugs told me she wants to feel good while working, and wearing UGGs and droopy sweatpants makes her feel slobby and unenergized. Her runaround ensemble consists of a knit hat, big sunglasses, a basic v-neck T-shirt, leggings and suede fuchsia flats. Effortless to pull together and sassy.
So, what can you do when seeking the rewards that come with being comfortable, warm and stylish? Here are a few ideas:
Shelter key spots. Don a hat, scarf, cute gloves, tights and boots to cover heavy heat-loss areas and maintain your overall body temperature. Buy these in your most flattering colors and go a bit brighter than usual. Keep the rest of your body lightly covered.
Strategic layering…is not just for hair anymore. Use layers of body conscious wraps, jackets and cloaks made from durable, condensed fabrics to warm your body. Bonus: These can be worn a la carte during warmer months, to drape over a bikini when the wind picks up, or on a sunset hike.
I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: Buy fewer items; buy better items. This means investing in quality fabrics and items of solid craftsmanship and a refined silhouette. The best way to know the difference is by comparing clothes of different manufacturers and studying their details. This knowledge will help you spot the truly great deals versus the so-so ones.
Balance your silhouette. You don’t want to layer the top half of your body so much that you look like a barrel balancing on sticks, or vice versa. If you’re wearing heavy boots, for instance, make sure you offer a visual parallel on your upper half, such as with a fluffy hat and scarf set.
Here I am on a brisk California day quite warm in jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt, fitted jacket and knit circle scar
Ah, the past year may not have been the thing that fairy tales are made.
Now at the top of a new year, many a show, blog, advice column and so forth are filled with talk of resolutions and end of year assessments and the like. How you should put your attention to what was good, not-so, what you would do differently and what you might want more of in the coming year.
Since the mind is expert at scrambling away from pain and running into the arms of pleasure, such thoughts may want to make you blanch, or feel faint, or want to get incredibly drunk in the middle of the day.
But when it comes to your life, introspection–consciously identifying what works and what doesn’t–is entirely valuable, and doesn’t have to be painful. It can be fun and quick, like this: Mentally comb through the past year hunting only for its sweet and bright, luminant spots, those big and small things that made you extra happy to be alive.
I’m thinking of Jackson Hole, jumping a sweet course on Steely the horse in Palos Verdes, a particularly luscious pair of new suede heels and khaki strapless dress,”Chopin the Patriot,” talking Practical Glamour with lads and ladies, and a host of other things that will make no sense to anyone but me.
Check your bright spots off in your head or write them down. It will make you smile. If you feel it, go further, and think about the details of your favorites, the parts that gave you the most pleasure and where you might find more of the same in the coming year.
How’s that for a painless recap?
To that end, Adieu to this Year and Aloha to the New One. May you have much passion and fortune in the coming year.
Since I’m all for gifting oneself early and often, here are some non-stuff-based items you might want to think about bestowing on ye:
–Up your nutrition. It seems that certain foods suit particular body types or constitutions more than others. This and a lifetime of eating habits that may or may not include Doritos and hybrid cola-wild cherry slushies adds up to the need for some professional dietary input. Book an appointment with a good nutritionist, preferably one whom you’ve heard good things about. Alternately, you can look up a U.S. dietician at Eat Right, the site of the American Dietetic Association.
Another reason to see a nutritionist: food allergies. Marsha McCulloch is a registered and licensed dietitian in the Des Moines area and owner of In The Aisles who has a speciality in this area. An expert is needed to diagnose food allergies, which may be the culprit behind an array of physical issues you experience, because, according to her site: “Identifying which foods are problematic can be challenging since sensitivity reactions may be delayed by hours or even days after consumption.”
A meeting with someone who can customize an ideal eating approach for you will serve your life more fully than any pretty bauble or pair of shoes. (Ah, but you haven’t seen the shoes…)
–Dispose of subpar shoes and garments. Go to your closet and play “These Things Don’t Belong.” Pull out at least three items that have passed their expiration date in terms of fit, style or condition. As in: The item doesn’t convey anything positive about you in its cut or characteristic, or it just looks used and abused. Remove and dispose of the items immediately. You deserve better.
–Step into another language, even a little. You’ve been wanting to learn Italian forever. You want to speak fluent French. Say a few things in Japanese. Book a month of conversational language classes or meet up with a group that gets together to chat in a chosen tongue. The Foreign Service Institute has online language instruction in 40-plus languages, courses that were developed by the U.S. government and are completely complimentary.
–Forgive yourself. Give yourself a nonrefundable, nonretractable pass on something from your past that, up to now, you haven’t quite been able to.
–Eat better, dine in. Get re-acquainted with your kitchen and use it more often. Make it a more welcoming, useful place by cleaning and organizing. Throw out old spices or items that you don’t use. Get rid or stow appliances that you seldom use and are taking up counter space.
Chef Doug Silberberg of Los Angeles does something along these lines that I think is completely useful. He will meet you at your local grocery store or farmer’s market and teach you how to smartly and coherently shop. You will learn how to assess vegetables, differentiate and select cuts of meat and so forth. He also offers a kitchen consult, where he comes to your home to help orient your kitchen for maximum use. I can think of no better gift for certain bachelors and bachelorettes, and a few college types too.
–Do yoga. The most comprehensive path to fitness on Earth, I am convinced. In one shot you tone, stretch and strengthen your body plus calm and discipline your mind. I’m sure there are other virtues involved, but these are personal tops. There’s a yoga style and studio for everyone. Look in your town for one that suits your sensibilities and go.
–Personalize your postage. Upload a favorite personal image onto a U.S. postage stamp and you’ll be more motivated to keep in touch the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper, which happens to remain the most civilized way. The more stamps you order at Stamps.com, the better the price.
–Supplement daily. Find a supplement to fill your nutritional gaps, perhaps with the help of that nutritionist I mentioned earlier, and integrate it into your daily regime. You will feel and look better for it; but daily consistency is key. Supplements don’t necessarily have to be straight vitamins, either. A gal I know, Lynne Reynolds, swears by Juice Plus+, which she described to me as something like a salad bar in a capsule. Judging from the gorgeous glow of her skin and her enviable energy, it works.
–Book a date…with you! Go somewhere local and fantastic by yourself or, if that’s just not your bag, bring along a friend. (Make sure he or shares your idea of fantastic.) One of my memorable recent solo dates was sushi at the Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles followed by a chamber music concert in one of the historic ballrooms. If you happen to love chamber music, historic places and live near Los Angeles might I recommend the excellent series, Chamber Music In Historic Sites.
Dole out these self-gifts on a monthly basis, adding a few of your own to the list. If you’re a planner, map out each month’s gift in advance to make up a year of fine and luxurious gifts that are most certainly not stuff.
A few years ago I happened to catch a doctor on the radio who was railing passionately about the evils of wearing outdoor shoes in the home. By traipsing through your home in fresh-from-the-street shoes, you were effectively transferring any and all types of filth—gum, dirt, oil, spit, other things—from the street into your personal space, which really should really be kept as pure as possible, dirtwise and vibewise.
He convinced me. I’ve been a practitioner of the no-shoe domicile for a while and wouldn’t dream of going back to having that level of grossness imported inside again. Levels of grossness of course, being relative to where you live. Cape Cod; not so bad, maybe some sand or a spot of soil. Manhattan or Downtown Los Angeles; unprintable.
I’ve noticed that in the U.S. it is increasingly common to visit homes that are no-shoe homes. That is, you leave your shoes at the door for all the reasons your hosts might desire: the basic hygiene argument outlined above, heels carving up a soft wood floor, an addiction to white shag carpets, and so forth.
Here are a few ways to gracefully adapt to or advocate a no-shoe house, either as a guest or host:
-Ask. After stepping into the entrance or foyer of someone’s home, ask if they prefer for you to remove your shoes. If they run a no-shoe house, they’ll love you. On a related note, recently I’ve had the fortune of befriending several lovely women of Japanese descent, who tell me that in Japan it is standard for a guest to remove his or her shoes before stepping into the main area of the house. Always.
-Offer House Shoes.As host of a no-shoe house, it is wise to keep a few pairs of house shoes, slides or slippers on hand to offer guests who might not want to walk around barefoot or in their socks. Keep at least two sizes on hand, one that will fit men and one for females. A great bachelor buddy of mine offers female visitors their choice from a basket filled with new, silken mules in a range of sizes, a gift to take home if they wish. I’ve never seen the basket he offers males, but I’m sure it’s equally as class. If you’re interested in this route, you can get house slippers in small lots, in an array of sizes, on ebay or even at discount and stores specializing in imported goods.
-BYOS, or Bring Your Own Slippers.Particularly if you’re going to be staying overnight or longer at someone’s home, and don’t feel comfortable mincing around the dining room in your bunny ear slippers (please don’t), bring a pair of grown up house shoes, flip-flops or slides to wear around the house. I have a totable pair that fit in almost any purse, take up nearly nil room in luggage and work with almost any ensemble, stylewise. Personalize yours if you wish by wearing an exotic or monogrammed pair.
For women. I love dainty leather Khussa slippers and shoes, which are easy to slide in your overnight bag, ornate and pretty. They are easy to carry with you and can be slipped on quickly. They are typically hand made, leather and beaded, with flat leather soles that are easy on any floor. You can also wear them on the plane if you wish. And when you tire of them, they can become street shoes, though I’d slip an insole in them for comfort.
Alternately, indulge in the totable or roll-up flat phenomenon that has made its way into the market the last few seasons and buy a pair of these sassy, take-it-with-you shoes, which have practical glamour implications far beyond the home, such as at the office or in the car. Though I have not personally tried any of these, I am aware of Fast Flats by Dr. Scholl’s (approximately $8-10), Delicate Soles (about $16) and Rollasole (about $20), though there are many other makers of these.
For men.Offer the menfolk a pair of cool indoor footwear that won’t embarrass them, either in the form of slides or house slippers. Admittedly this is a taller order than finding indoor footwear for women, since there are fewer options for men. You might want to offer something with a cool motif or keep it basic with a few pairs of rubber Adidas slides, which you can get for about $20 a pair and are easy to wash and reuse for other guests.
Lastly, the interesting blog Shoes Off at the Door Please lists the plusses of the no-shoe house. I happen to like #25: “Psychologically, removing your shoes helps you to enter a frame of mind where you keep your everyday troubles outside your home.” Hear, hear.
What I love about this San Franciscan’s ensemble is how smartly he keeps his individuality front and center while staying in the parameters of the classic gent signifier, the suit. Here, the man clearly makes the suit and not vice versa.
Breakdown: The narrow silhouette of the suit plus the fabric selection (great sheen and shade) are to-date and flattering on the wearer’s lean physique. Notice: No pleats! Anywhere! The square-toe loafers, pocket square, bow tie and glasses give you clues to the person.
Richard Torregrossa is a notable journalist and author of many books, one of which is the lovely Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style. He is also a soulmate of sorts, having been writing and speaking about the transformative effect of style for many moons.
Therefore, let’s just say I was more than a little pleased to have the opportunity to interview Mr. Torregrossa on the state of style and man.
The biography you wrote about the style evolution of Cary Grant focuses on how Grant self-optimized himself, how he clearly and consciously articulated what and who he was to the world via his presentation. What is the most important thing that a man, one who is just starting to think about his presentation in these terms, can do to become more aware about the state of his presentation?
Experiment with upgrading. And I’m not talking about spending a lot of money on designer clothes. For instance, switch from a sweatshirt or hoodie to a sports jacket and observe the reaction from others. I did. And it surprised me. I was going to a barbecue, a very informal event, and put on a sports jacket over a plain white V-neck T-shirt purely for utilitarian purposes. A sports jacket to me is like a briefcase. It cleanly holds my keys, cell phone, wallet, and other paraphernalia without any unsightly bulges like the kind you find when you stuff your pants pockets. As I stepped out of the house I ran into a neighbor who said, “Hey, Rich, where you going all dressed up?”
All dressed up? All I did was put on a sports jacket. I mean, I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. But the sports jacket clearly made a transformative impression and it surprised me. I learned something that day. The slightest upgrade in your wardrobe and personal appearance will be noticed for the better.
Another suggestion is to find a style (or style icon) you like and try to emulate it but not slavishly. Add personal touches to make it your own.
I laud the many benefits of presenting one’s most attractive and authentic self to the world, and on an everyday basis. As a gal I know that the benefits of a lovely presentation are rich, with some of them unique to the female experience, such as the desire to feel beautiful. What benefits of enhancing or optimizing one’s presentation do you think are rather unique or specific to being a man?
Confidence. Being well dressed, especially on bad days, can boost your mood, make you feel your mettle, and psychologically enable you to feel just a bit more prepared to take on the world. Also, it is, at least for me, an exercise in discipline. And the more discipline we have, the greater our chances of success in our personal as well as our business relationships.
Are these unique to men? Probably not. Women know these benefits and get the most out of them. Men just need to catch up.
Lastly, in a piece you wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle you coined the phrase The New Gentleman to denote a “fresh approach to style” for men. Circa 2011, what is the state of The New Gentleman? How do you characterize this concept today, and do you think men in general are moving closer to it, or further away?
There’s a huge polarity. There are guys who are keenly interested in menswear who have mastered all the details such as stitching and fabric and cut and pairing it all with the right accessories. They also experiment with different pieces from different eras in an effort to create a unique style, a presentation that is comfortable, fashionable, and at the same time expresses something about them, a point of view, as it were.
Then you have the other extreme; the Hipster look, for instance. These are guys who think they look smart but are laughable in my estimation. Unmanly even. The most execrable ensemble in sartorial history is cargo pants with a T-shirt and flip flops. Yet, sadly, it is ubiquitous. The reason for its popularity is the comfort factor, a kind of spiritual laziness. And it should be banned along with the three-day growth of beard that to me just looks ratty and unkempt, another sign of sloth and a kind of faux hipness. Follow the pack and you end up looking beastly.
And it’s not fully the guy’s fault. Why aren’t women making them tow the sartorial line? I see couples out and about all the time exhibiting an odd disparity: the woman is beautifully groomed and attired while the guy looks like he just came from a Home Depot workshop. Why is this? Why don’t women put their foot down, demand that their boyfriend or husband show some respect for the event, for the evening, for the romance of going out by insisting that they dress better?
The smarter men are moving towards The New Gentleman way of being for a number of reasons. First, dressing well gives you a competitive edge, especially in this dour economy. It sends a subliminal message to bosses, HR people, and colleagues with whom you network that you’re pulled together, even though you might not be setting the world on fire just yet.
Second, it’s fun. The New Gentlemen are in on this little secret. They know the delight in finding just the right suit, vintage garment, pocket handkerchief, or casual ensemble that makes them stand a little taller, walk a little prouder, and enriches their sense of aesthetic pleasure. And when one New Gentleman encounters another New Gentleman there is an instant bond, a mutual respect that represents an ever-widening circle of networking opportunities.
Third, the ritual of dressing smartly brings order into a world that is chaotic, cold, and entropic. Most of life is out of our control, but dressing well is certainly within our reach, every day, almost under any circumstance, and that in itself is satisfying, a kind of small but important antidote to the sea changes that are roiling the culture right now.
In conclusion, there are certainly more slobs out there than New Gentlemen (and not much in between). But the New Gentlemen, in 2011, stand out in a crowd so there seems to be more of them. When men understand this, perhaps the scales will be tipped in favor of the New Gentleman. But right now, like the Marines, we are the few, the proud.
Having been out and about and having seen the new fall and winter fashions on runways and racks and real people, I can say that things are fairly bright in the style stratosphere. Many of-the-moment style trends are quite practical glamour–wearable, strategically cut and with silhouettes that flatter almost every figure. And, drum roll, there is more than a bit of dignity to be found for fall and winter, which I hope heralds an everlasting trend.
This goes for women and men. Men’s styles are significantly more cleaned up, albeit still relaxed, with an emphasis on colors, cut and overall neatness of presentation.
I think the effect of the economy on the style and fashion world has been a force of focus on the realities and desires of the consumer, with the result an output of garments and accessories that the greatest number of people can easily adopt, and look and feel lovely while wearing.
A few of my favorites, seen at this year’s Fashion’s Night Out at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles: tuxedo jackets for women, neck-scarf blouses, wide trousers, knit swing coats, pencil skirts, lace detailing, deep and sophisticated colors. Now if I could only figure out the mystery of the extreme platform heel, which is not seen above but has lingered far too long on the trend radar, methinks.
*As for color, I recommend reading this great run-down on Fall 2011 colors at TypeF.com, which I had the pleasure of opining in and clearly discusses how you can integrate flattering and rich new colors into your everyday makeup and clothing repertoire.
As you may have suspected, Ms. Loren’s longevity and master glamour status are due to elements beyond her sculpture of a face and figure. Yes, she is disciplined and smart in maintaining her presentation and dressing her body to its best–but it’s really her attitude and spirit that tie up the package so beautifully.
“I always wake up early and jump out of bed – sometimes not wanting to, because one can always find an alibi not to exercise – and then I take a walk for an hour. And as I walk round the park I always think, “Maybe round the corner I am going to find something beautiful.” I always think positively. It is very rare that you find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic.’” –Sophia Loren, quoted in the U.K.’s Daily Mail
Have you ever met a voice that didn’t fit? You didn’t know what the man or woman looked like since you only spoke on the phone, but you sure liked what you heard. And your mental image of who they were, or hoped that they were, was greatly imagined by that lovely, resonant voice of theirs. And you expected, assumed or hoped there’d be a match in terms of appearance.
And there wasn’t. Not by a long shot. That Lauren Bacall voice belonged to a gal whose appearance was anything but. And that clear, assured male voice that made you want to do a little jig in your living room belonged to a scraggly prepubescent in his 30’s with a grubby baseball hat on backwards for extra measure.
So, what happens when there is a gap in one’s physical and vocal attractiveness? A study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, which is truly a hot read, finds that when a person has an attractive voice and a not-so attractive physical appearance, this discrepancy creates disappointment in the person beholding the physically unattractive person with the hot voice.
Not just your basic disappointment, either. Pairing an attractive channel (voice) next to an unattractive one (appearance) moved the impression of the person in a more negative direction than if the person simply had a voice and appearance that were equally matched in terms of attractiveness.
Sidebar: A good friend “fell in love on the phone” with a guy. Never saw a picture of him. When she went to meet him for the first time, all jittery and happy with the prospect of standing face to face with her phone-line dreamboat, she said that she almost uttered, “Oh, no” out loud, so much did he look like a hobo. She, being a girl, had spent about two hours getting ready and looked like anything but. He was thrilled, she was not. They stayed friends.
Since I’m known to dispel information on how to make your impression its most optimum, I say do a little information-gathering on the extent that your voice matches your physical appearance. And where there are gaps, close them tight.
Beautiful voice? Good for you. Make sure your appearance is just as pleasing. And if you don’t think it is, then get Practical Glamour and read it from cover to cover and follow all of the instructions and it will be. (That was easy.)
Attractive appearance and not-so-much in the voice category? Change it. This is one of the easiest areas to change and its impact on your life will be significant. I am tempted to write a volume right here and now on the matter. I do touch on the basics in my book, but if you are interested in a major vocal redo I recommend casting around for information from a speech therapist, vocal coach or the like.
Source: Zuckerman, Mirion and Sinicropi, Veronica (2011). When Physical and Vocal Attractiveness Differ: Effects on Favorability of Interpersonal Impressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35(2): 75-86.