Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Look book - staple garments - versatile jacket
According to my role models Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine of British What Not To Wear, every woman's wardrobe begins with eight perfect garments - a t-shirt, a non-t-shirt top (sweater or blouse), a dress, a skirt, a pair of trousers (including jeans), jacket, and coat. The style, cut and color of these garments should be based on your own shape and coloring. Defining them involves two exercises. One is finding your best colors, and is fairly easy. You stand before a mirror in good light and hold up garments to your face to see which colors and shades bring out the best in you. Easy peasy! The second exercise, however, is utterly cringe-worthy. In order to define your shape accurately, you must strip naked (or nearly so) and stand before a full-length mirror, examining your body with a mindset that is both critical and objective - to make certain you see the good along with the not-so-good. As Carson Kressley demonstrated in his show How To Look Good Naked, this is when women often freak out and even cry. The media and pop culture pressure to be perfect is such, that they only see the lumps, the stretch marks and cellulite, ignoring their own beautiful legs, or great skin, or fantastic hair. This exercise can be gut wrenching, but it is also tremendously helpful, and I strongly recommend it. And to prove that I can not only talk the talk but also walk the walk, here is my own body analysis that shows the underlying structure for my staple garments. I frequently joke that I was designed as a regular height person with appropriate proportions, and then someone accidentally squished the drawings. I am very short - five foot even, in that gray zone between little people and regular people. I am also very stocky around the waist, and very curvy in the bust and butt. I used to be thin, which was not a good look for me. Two unsuccessful pregnancies knocked my hormonal balance out of whack, resulting in a substantial weight gain, which through me for quite a loop. At this point in my life, I am comfortable with my body. I do exercise regularly and eat well. Instead of focusing on the number on the weight scale and on the garment tag, I focus on my muscle tone and on how I feel overall. I do have good neck and shoulders, and although my upper arms are rather beefy, my elbows and wrists are very slim, and I make a point of showing them off in 3/4 length sleeves. My jawline is heavy - everyone in my family has that very hefty rectangular jawbone. To soften the effect, I wear my hair to fall softly around my face or, if my hair is up, nice dangly earrings. My thighs are chunky, but my knees, calves, and ankles are all well defined and strong from years of walking. So, my best skirt length is at or just above the knee. That said, I do wear full-length dresses. Some say it's a big no-no for shorter women, but I don't think that's true - if you pick the right dress that doesn't look like a pup tent and doesn't swallow you whole. I love my butt. It's big for someone my height, but high and perky. The only problem is finding pants that fit both around my waist and around my hips. The Girls are not bad either, but again, there is the same problem of finding dresses and tops that fit around my chest without looking bulky. I wear a lot of clothes in soft flowing fabrics that skim rather than cling. They allow me to have thin days and fat days without pinching or bulging anywhere. That said, with some garments, structure is essential - particularly with coats and jackets. Otherwise, they look sloppy and oversized - not the effect I am looking for. Most of my clothes are inexpensive, however, because it was so difficult for me to find a good jacket, this staple garment was a bit of a splurge. Not insanely so, but rather more than I normally spend on clothes. Considering how well it serves me, it worked out well in the end. It is made by Tribal and is in a soft, nicely textured gray rather than black, which makes it that much more versatile. It is nipped in around the waist, with almost a kind of little corset with two buttons in the front. The deep vee combined with the cut makes the most of my waist, and the structure locks in the boobs and dresses them up decorously. Here it is, in a very business-like outfit, worn with a fitted purple sweater, a skirt in a paler shade of gray, black fishnets, and high-heeled Oxfords. To avoid the matchy-match look, I opted for a bag that is in the same tonal range as the sweater, but in a different color. Here is the same jacket but worn more casually with a dark burgundy fitted sweater (I like fitted sweaters, can you tell?), wide leg jeans and chunky-heeled ankle boots. A word on jeans - the only jeans I discovered I could wear well are Westport sold by Dress Barn. They are fitted properly around the waist, have a little stretch to them to allow for PMS bloating, and clasp the bum nicely without looking tarty. They come in a nice, classic, dark wash, which I love. The brown-and-burgundy lace-up ankle boots are one of my "staple" pairs of shoes. Again, I don't have a lot of shoes - not many designers make size 5-1/2 shoes that are wide enough for me. However, I do my best to go for quality, and these were an investment. I've had them for nearly two years now and have worn them in more ways I can remember. Wearing pale colors is a bit of a risky proposition for me. Lighter colors to have an expanding effect, and who wants to look like Michelin Man? That said, I do like a classic white shirt or tee and khakis as an alternative to jeans, especially in the summer. Here, once again, is the same hard-working little jacket in another classy casual look, worn with khakis and a white top with a beaded neckline. The wide scoop of the top keeps the sparkles just far enough from my face to allow me to wear earrings without the entire thing looking like a Christmas tree. The chunky black suede laceup boots offset the formality of the jacket. When out and about, I wear this look with a colorful scarf or brooch and carry a colored bag to add a little something to it in addition to the neutrals.