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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Today I wonder... what some people are thinking

Those who write for the citizen journalism site Helium.com know how its rating system works: two articles on the same subject are put side by side, you read them and then decide, which one addresses the topic better. So far so good. Then there are debates... Those frequently have me scratching my head as many of them are either outdated ("Who will win the 2008 presidential election?") or frankly just silly ("Are the earthquakes natural phenomena or punishment for our sins?"). One recent debate definitely fell into the latter category "Should summertime fashion be only suitable for the skinny?"

Questions like this one make me wonder... If the only summer fashions out there are those designed to flatter the skinny, does that mean the rest of us should just not show up in public at all during the summer months? Based on the Devil Wears Prada definition "six is the new fourteen" that would include a significant portion of the population. North Carolina summer starts sometime in early May and ends in late September, and in some states summer lasts year around (think Arizona and California). That would be an awfully long time to be cooped up indoors, just because too many fashion designers didn't bother to help you feel fit to be seen. Fortunately, not all clothiers are quite that clueless, enabling those of us who are not size 2 and 5 ft 10 in tall to still venture out and walk proudly during the warm weather months.

That said, being a non-model size makes it that much more important to dress decorously - in all times of the year and in the summer especially, because so much more is on display. Tapered pants look bad on everyone - get rid of them. Capri pants only look good on the super-thin models in catalogs - get rid of them. Cargo shorts only look good on Abercrombie photos - get rid of them. As pants go, both gentlemen and ladies should opt for flat front styles that are long enough for a bit of a drape over the top of the shoe in lighter colors and fabrics (black is positively stifling in hot weather). Companies like Travel Smith and Magellan's specialize in cool and comfortable travel clothes that are also easy to care for - these are good sources for flattering and comfortable summer bottoms.

Just as cargo shorts and capri pants hardly flatter anyone, the conventional American summer tops like t-shirts, polo shirts and tank tops, do not favor 100% of the population. A t-shirt may seem like a universal garment, but in reality it only works if it is the right cut for you - the right neckline, the right sleeve length, the right fit and the right fabric. Skin-clinging, super-thin fabrics are out - they will only make you feel self-conscious. Opt instead for higher-quality and slightly heavier silk weaves that will not emphasize every single roll of skin, but will make you look neat and trim. Silk is the coolest fabric to wear in the summer, so instead of throwing away your hard-earned cash on multiple synthetic blends that will make you sweat like pork in plastic, invest in two or three quality silk short-sleeve shirts, that are available to both men and women.

And there is absolutely no need to be stuck in white socks and sneakers all summer - nor do you need to go for the sandals that are only suitable for hiking. The same companies that offer classy comfortable travel clothes have a great selection of good-looking and superbly comfortable leather sandals that would work just fine with a business casual outfit.

Ladies, consider opting for the fabrics that skim rather than cling, but still ensure that the cut of the garment is flattering to your shape. There is a huge selection of gorgeous colorful wraparound dresses in comfortable summer fabrics - a style that flatters nearly everyone (with the exception of very flat-chested women), by enhancing the neck with that wraparound V, tightening the waist and flaring out over the hips. Many of these dresses come with comfortable roomy sleeves that either go just to the elbow or are three-quarter length - an added bonus for those of us with larger upper arms, because they emphasize the thinnest portion of the arm - the forearm and the wrist.

Pick dresses and blouses with gauzy fluttery sleeves. In addition to disguising a larger arm, they provide much-needed airflow between you and your garment. Make sure that the undergarments you wear are breathable and comfortable - a bra band that cuts into you becomes doubly irritating in sweltering heat. And speaking of bras - find a few good ones that can be worn with their straps cris-crossed - that way you will not have to worry about them sliding out from under the short sleeve or sleeveless tops.

Conventional ladies' shoes can also become a problem in the summer - a few hours in a traditional pump, and your toes begin to feel on fire. If you are delicate-boned and your ankles are thin and shapely, strappy sandals are definitely for you. Find a few pairs with a well-shaped stacked heel (high enough for the elegant look yet sturdy and stable enough not to wear you out as stiletto heels do) and be sure to keep your toenails in good shape, considering they'll be on display nearly all summer. For those with thicker ankles - wedges, wedges, wedges galore! Onex makes gorgeous wedge shoes in a variety of colors and styles that are also eminently comfortable. You will barely notice you have them on - and that, of course, is the key property of a truly amazing shoe.

In general, if you are a person of a larger size - a man or a woman - consider having a portion of your budget just for yourself and invest into quality clothes. Yes, they cost more, but they will fit you better, look better and last you longer. Go shopping with someone who is known for his or her dress sense. This may not be the same person you always go with - in fact, your usual shopping buddy might be stuck in as much of a rut as you are. Having someone with a different perspective will help you see yourself in a new way and discover the good points about your figure instead of focusing on (and trying to cover up) the perceived drawbacks. Disregard trends and conventions and focus on you. Who cares if you might look dressier than most? As far as you are concerned, it is everyone else that is under-dressed, and you are perfectly fine.

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