The Brooch Is Back

There’s something special about a look when you can personalize it and make it uniquely your own. Whether professional wear suiting, bold graphic designs, military-inspired khaki, or pretty floral dresses are your cup of tea, a quick way to add pizzazz to your look is with a brooch. Stylists have been adding brooches to add interest to fashion photographs over the last several months, and this trend holds strong this spring.

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For instance, the February 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar has a 10-page spread devoted to bold, graphic prints, and adorns four of the black and white looks with brooches. Above, a bold polka dot dress from Dolce & Gabbana serves as the backdrop for a fabulous De Beers Diamond spray brooch.

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In the same issue, a “message” dress, top, leggings and shoes by Stella McCartney receive added edge from earrings and a Maltese cross style brooch from Lynn Ban.

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The February 2017 issue of Marie Claire features a selection of two-tone metal brooches from Buccellati in a feature focusing on retro floral prints.

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The January 2017 issue of Elle suggests that “Sparkly pins are more punk than prim when they veer off jackets and onto rocker tees.” The brooches spotlighted in the piece vary in price from a message brooch in rhinestones from BAN.DO at $10 to a $22,700 flower clip from Van Cleef & Arpels.

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The April 2017 issue of Real Simple demonstrates how to wear a brooch on the lapel of a trench coat or jacket. In the photo above, a jacket from J. Crew is accented with a pin from White House Black Market.

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In the December 2016 issue of Marie Claire, models Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam, Fernanda Ly and Constance Jablonski demonstrate a variety of ways to wear a spectacular elephant head brooch from Tiffany & Co. The brooch, based upon an archival Jean Schlumberger design, was re-issued by Tiffany & Co. in support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, which raises awareness of the plight of those magnificent animals killed for their ivory tusks.

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The December 2016/January 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar recommends in its selection of what to buy now, an antique brooch. Pictured is a lovely piece from Cartier, but all manner of exquisite budget-minded designs are readily available on eBay. Considering the extraordinary versatility and sheer delight of these lovely pieces of wearable art, whether fine or faux , I couldn’t agree more.

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Dressing for Respect

A pair of articles in the February 2017 issue of InStyle magazine spotlight the power of dressing purposefully. How one chooses to dress can send a message of inspiration, and can communicate a demand for respect.

In a thought-provoking article in the February 2017 issue of InStyle, Eric Wilson asks: “Can fashion be feminist? With their spring collections, designers clearly had power and politics on their minds as they created wardrobes for modern working women. As the world continues to change in unpredictable ways, however, that message of strength may be more important than ever.”

0217 Can Fashion Be Feminist REVPictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle, Kendall Jenner imagined as Rosie the Riveter, from campaigns from the Independent Journal Review and Rock the Vote, fall 2016.

Wilson writes that “we are entering a season in which clothing can play an unexpected role in how we communicate our viewpoints to the world. Wearing a pantsuit or a pussy-bow blouse suddenly becomes a political act, open to interpretation.” He continues: “The cause of feminism, in particular, benefits when fashion embraces the imagery of strong women, much as Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace have done in their recent collections, because clothing is, in a way, a universal language. And it is becoming less of a stigma for smart women to talk about fashion or embrace feminine clothing in the workplace rather than dress like men to get ahead.”

Tucker describes how designer Gaby Basora, the founder and creative director of Tucker, “often considers how specific items of clothing can be empowering, even if the sense of strength is only what we ascribe to it in our minds. ‘Ultimately, fashion can be a way to express things about yourself that are more meaningful than just a blouse,’ she says. ‘It’s fascinating how we create illusions.’” Basora, Wilson writes, “like to think about . . . a family friend who, as a successful educator with a taste for immaculate clothes, made a point of riding the bus to work every day so that young women might see her and begin to imagine having important jobs of their own.”

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Illustration:  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, pictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle wearing Balmain.

The February 2017 issue of InStyle  also contains a profile of supermodel and style icon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, calling her “The Chicest Lady at the Airport.” Writer Stephanie Trong writes that Huntington-Whitely as “emerged as the foremost trendsetter” of “airport style” and quotes the model: “People probably think I’m overdressed for the airport . . . [but] that’s just me–a great outfit is my armor. I feel confident and ready to face the world.”

Consider how Huntington-Whiteley is an “influencer,” someone whom others choose to emulate, just like the impeccably dressed educator on the bus.  Consider how fashion  can serve as armor, and how fashion can convey a message of strength — a message that commands respect.

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Recognizing Your Personal Design Aesthetic

Inspiration may strike anytime, anywhere. So too may recognition of styles or motifs that resonate on a deeply personal level.

I was struck by the common elements of the designs pictured in the February/March 2017 issue of Traditional Home magazine in its Curated column entitled “Style, With Love: This season’s hottest furniture signs off with X’s and O’s.”

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Consider, for instance, this page of designs from the article: a chandelier of golden rings from Gabby; an X-base ottoman from A. Rudin; a side chair from Chaddock; an end table with asymmetrical “X” base by Jonathan Charles, and metal circles that playfully interlock on the “Nasir” objet from Made Goods. Studying this page gives me pause to consider which elements of which of the designs are my personal favorites and, taking it a step further, why they are my favorites.

As you look at the designs, consider:  Do you prefer a very structured, symmetrical look, or something more free-form and interpretative? Do you prefer a spare design or something that suggests abundance? Do you prefer visually light designs or those that make a more profound statement?

When it comes to personal style, what you find pleasing in home design may provide clues as to what you will find most pleasing to wear, and vice versa. Chandelier earrings may inspire you to look for a particular style of chandelier. Or perhaps a page of designs that incorporate X’s and O’s remind how charming it might be to wear these symbols of kisses and hugs, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches.

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New Resolutions for the New Year

As the New Year approaches, I was delighted to read Martha Beck’s article in the January 2017 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, “You Say You Want a Resolution. . . . ”

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Beck notes that her resolutions for 2016 were almost identical to those she made back in 1987 and asked herself two questions: “Do these goals resonate with me? Are they really what I want most in the entire world?” She concluded that it was time for new resolutions, which, I note, on their face look to be the polar opposites of classic New Year’s resolutions.

Among her new resolutions:  “spend more” (. . . positive attention to what she already has); “be self-involved” (and distance herself from people she doesn’t trust), and “forget what I’ve learned” (releasing misperceptions). She encourages her readers to compile their own new resolutions: “You may want to underachieve. Oversleep. Fritter away more of your days.”

My favorite on her list is the first resolution: “Gain weight.” Beck writes: “For so many people, January 2 is D day–diet day, that is. Losing weight can be a laudable goal, but this year I’m going to think about weightier matters–weighty as in ‘of great importance,’ a definition that does not apply to dress size.” Beck notes that it absolutely did not matter what Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai weighed when they made their marks on the world. And so, Beck writes, start asking “What would really make me happy right now?”:  “Whenever body shame creeps up on me, I resolve to refocus on adding meaning to my life.”

With the New Year, I resolve to be ever grateful for the increasing strength of my body as I enjoy more activity (including my rediscovered love of swimming); for already owning a wardrobe filled with flattering clothes in a range of smaller sizes in which I can “shop” as my shape reflects a fresh focus on fitness; and for my health, all within the context of the love of my husband and all those family members, professional colleagues and friends who are dear to me. In short, I resolve to gain weight (in the Martha Beck sense) and, by gaining weight, to lose weight in a healthy sense as well.

I resolve to concentrate on “what would really make me happy right now.” In that light, let me share a few images that resonate with me and make me smile — perhaps the inspiration for future resolutions. Happy New Year!

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There’s a High Price for That Low Price

I was going to write this month’s post on quite a different fashion-focused topic, when an article in the November 17, 2016 edition of the  Los Angeles Times caught my eye.

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This year, the U.S. Labor Department investigated 77 local Los Angeles garment companies that were supplying some of the biggest clothing stores in the nation, writes reporter Natalie Kitroeff, and found that many of these factories pay workers much less than the state minimum wage. “Investigators uncovered labor violations in 85% of the cases, the department said, and found that the companies cheated workers out of $1.1 million.” While even Nordstrom and Macy’s had ties to garment makers that did not pay minimum wage, “the retailers with ties to companies that had the most offenses were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx. Workers were paid as little as $4 an hour, and they got $7 an hour on average–$3 less than the state minimum wage. . . .”

Although the garment companies and some manufacturers that act as intermediaries between the factories and the retailers were ordered to pay $1.3 million in lost wages and damages to workers, the retailers “avoid any repercussions for hiring factories that violate labor laws. The Labor Department can only penalize companies that directly employ workers.” Keeping their distance from the factories by working with several layers of suppliers, the business model shields the retailers from liability.

Ruben Rosalez, a regional administrator with the Labor Department, said that the problem is “that retailers have not increased the rates they pay manufacturers in years. ‘The retailers are setting the prices. They’re saying, “Make this shirt for this amount,” but it’s the workers at the end of the chain that are getting screwed,’ Rosalez said.”

According to Rosalez, retailers “hire monitors to make sure their suppliers abroad are following the law but don’t do the same level of inspection in the U.S. . . . The stores ‘want to be able to meet demand on a quick basis. It’s cheaper to do it here as long as no one is looking,’ he said.”

Spokespersons for Ross Dress for Less and Forever 21 both responded to the reporter by email that they take these labor issues “very seriously” and are cooperating, as Ross puts it, “to make sure that suppliers understand the law.” Representatives of TJ Maxx did not return a request for comment. Kitroeff reports, “It is not clear whether the retailers are still doing business with clothes makers that underpay workers.”

Next time you consider buying that $18 jacket or $9 dress, consider how it’s possible for something new to be sold that cheaply. There’s a high price for that low price.

All is not lost. If you’re on a strict budget or enjoy scouting for bargains, shop online instead and head to eBay, where you can find all manner of brand new items with their original tags, purchases made that have never been used, from vendors all across the United States (yours truly included).

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For instance, among the big trends of this season are 1980s styles, padded shoulders included, along with floral prints, ruffles and metallics. I have a vintage $1,215 Judy Hornby Couture pink and silver metallic silk dress with a ruffled hem, purchased at Marshall Field’s, brand new with tags, listed for under $200.

You can find the dress at http://www.ebay.com/itm/JUDY-HORNBY-COUTURE-1215-Pink-Silver-Foiled-Floral-Silk-Dress-80s-NWT-38-B-/171021327963?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

I would love for the dress to be worn and enjoyed this holiday season.

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The Return of Matchy-Matchy

After years, if not decades, of the fashion world turning up its nose at the concept of wearing suites of matching clothing or accessories, matchy-matchy has come back into style in a big way.

“When it comes to this season’s brightest prints, don’t be afraid to double up” advises the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

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Featured examples of the matchy-matchy look  in the September issue of Bazaar  include a floral print skirt and matching boots from Balenciaga;

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. . . a skirt, bag and boots from Chanel;

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. . . and, my personal favorite, a tweed dress and bag from Loewe.

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The August 2016 issue of Vogue features a smaller-scale ballerina print on a matching frame bag and bow-necked dress from Marc Jacobs. Jewelry lovers, please note the exquisite watch from Vacheron Constantin in a fan shape that echoes the shape of the ballerina skirts in the print — fabulous!

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Aside from prints, matching the color of one’s shoes or boots to one’s ensemble is also making fashion news. People magazine featured celebrities who matched their shoes to their frocks in the August 15, 2016 issue.

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The September 2016 issue of InStyle features monochromatic coat and boots ensembles.

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The September 2016 issue of Elle goes further, labeling the new trend “monochromania.”

A matching ensemble is the most expensive way to dress, but when the color or print is one you absolutely love, it’s the perfect time to double or triple up on your purchases to incorporate these favorites into your wardrobe. With proper care, you’ll be able to enjoy the print or color well into the future mixed with other pieces in your wardrobe, even after the matchy-matchy trend has once more waned.

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All Hail the Return of Pantsuits

As Ingrid Schmidt wrote in the Image section of the September 11, 2015 Los Angeles Times, “A revival of women’s power suits may be a fashion bonus to emerge from this tumultuous presidential election season. With the potential of having the first female U.S. president, sharply tailored suiting somehow feels right right now in womenswear.”

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Hillary Clinton, a self-described “pantsuit aficionado” has a well-documented wardrobe of pantsuits in a rainbow of colors and textures, which she has favored since serving as Secretary of State. You’ll recall that her predecessor in that role, Madeleine Albright, had a similar uniform of tailored suiting with skirts in lieu of pants. For a professional woman, no look carries more authority than one topped with a tailored jacket. As Schmidt notes, celebrities including Beyonce, Rihanna, Rita Ora and Kirsten Stewart have also been photographed in suiting looks, proving that this professional woman’s staple has moved into the realm of fashion.

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Illustration:  “The Hillary Effect” documented in the September 2016 issue of Glamour.

Let’s consider some of the many reasons why pantsuits are such a wonderful option:

Footwear Choices:  Pants allow for comfortable low-heel shoes and give the wearer a long lean look without high heels. For someone on her feet a lot, this is no small benefit. I’ve written many times on the subject of “shoe sanity” —  the reasons to favor low-heel shoes.

Legwear Choices:  Hosiery, or rather, the fashion world’s view that hosiery is tacky, becomes a non-issue. Bare legs with a skirt suit or dress works well for women with shapely legs and excellent skin; not so well for everyone else. With pants, one may wear hosiery or bypass it. With appropriate low heel shoes, trouser socks too may be an option. A peek of hosiery at one’s ankles does not cause fashion followers to cringe.

Adaptability:  Having a removable jacket as part of one’s ensemble is a wonderful feature when one is moving in and out of different environments. Pants are warmer than skirts — a benefit when one is traveling on cold airplanes or sitting in cold offices, irrespective of the weather outside. And if the temperature is warm, a jacket can come off. As a bonus, the jacket from a pantsuit may mix with other wardrobe pieces, including skirts and dresses.

Accessories Change the Look: A small wardrobe of pantsuits combined with a wardrobe of blouses or tops plus scarves and jewelry create a multitude of looks. Color and pattern catch the eye. Tasteful jewelry adds authority and sophistication.

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Illustration: “The New Suit” with accessories featured in the September 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Figure Flattery: The long, lean monochromatic look of a pantsuit, well chosen, flatters every figure. Schmidt quotes celebrity stylist Kemal Harris: “Luckily, pant legs are definitely wider and waists are moving higher, which is great news because this drapey, flowing style is universally flattering.”

A well-tailored pantsuit is a worthwhile investment — authoritative in appearance and comfortable to wear. That’s something that every professional woman , whatever her political leanings, can support.

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Authenticity in Personal Style

As any image consultant worth her salt will tell you, your style should reflect your personality and taste — the authentic you.  As fashion pushes out the next trend and the next, urging you to try and buy, it can be fun to expand your horizons and see what works for you. Ultimately, however, the style needs to suit you. There is never one cool or right way to dress.

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Along that line of thought, the media has been full of examples that exemplify the call to authentic style. Consider this wonderful thought from fashion icon Iris Apfel, published in the September 2016 issue of Real Simple:  “To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and not see yourself.”  The charming photograph of the little girl in her mismatched prints is by Stephanie Rousser.

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The August 12, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times contains an article by Adam Tschorn:  “It’s what Adele wears to an Adele concert: Not the type to mull over myriad choices each show, she wears one Burberry design.” Literally, Adele, wears one custom-designed dress (of which she owns 10 copies). The dress is a “floor-length gown that nips in at the waist, has a crew neck, three-quarter-length sleeves and a multicolored floral sequin pattern that dazzles and sparkles like mad under the lights.” She finishes the look with comfortable flats, not high heels.  This is the epitome of uniform dressing. Every detail has no doubt been considered — what neckline is comfortable, what sleeve-length feels good, and what is most flattering. Having found the perfect dress, Adele sticks with it.

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Authenticity too sometimes means that not everyone is going to approve of your fashion choices. In the September 2016 issue of Glamour, associate fashion writer Lauren Chan defends her choice of a dress that, once posted, elicited comments about how unflattering it is. Chan responds: “Here’s where I call bullshit: Unflattering is just a code word for ‘not slimming,’ and shocking as it may seem, this size 12 woman doesn’t choose clothes for the sole purpose of appearing elongated, slimmer, or sucked in. ”

Chan continues:  “Curves are all well and good, these commenters seemed to be saying, as long as you wear Spanx and head-to-toe black and stay away from stripes (never mind stripes and ruffles).  In other words, while we’re embracing women of all sizes as never before, we’ve yet to accept that successful dressing doesn’t mean minimizing our bodies.”

Chan’s conclusion is worth contemplating: “So know this: If you hate what I’m wearing, I can take it! But I like my curves, and I don’t want to ‘flatter’ them away.”

When you look in the mirror, see yourself. Embrace the authentic you.

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The Forgotten Woman

If you’re reading this blog, you are almost certainly familiar with a national chain of boutiques dating back to the 1980s and ’90s that catered to full-figured women, by the name of The Forgotten Woman. The chain focused on designer and upscale clothing, and included designs by Geoffrey Beene, Oscar de la Renta, Adrienne Vittadini, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie. Sadly, the chain went out of business in 1999. Yet with a substantial portion of the adult female population wearing so-called plus-size fashions, you would think that this segment of the fashion industry would be thriving.

The good news is there seems to be fresh interest in catering to the full-figured woman. The less good news is that the target customer is decidedly younger than the typical customer of The Forgotten Women.

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The Los Angeles Times published a piece on Sunday, June 19, 2016, entitled “Pluses and minuses: The fashion industry improves its variety of sizes, but still lags.”  Three young women  - Nadia Aboulhosn, Gabi Gregg, and Nicolette Mason – are touted for the “hundreds, if not thousands, of outfits detailed on their blogs and Instagram profiles . . . they shop, and so do their readers. Their combined reach to followers on Instagram alone is creeping up to a million. What’s more, the three multi-hyphenates (blogger-designer-model-creative strategist, among others) have been pushing the fashion industry forward when it comes to broadening the range of sizes offered as well as the general messaging from brands.”

The CEO of plus-size-focused fashion website Eloquii comments that the customer “is buying the trend-driven fashion items the minute they’re available–there is no hesitation. . . . Off the shoulder, ruffles, ’70s, chambray–if it’s a fashion trend, it’s selling and selling well.” Research firm NPD Group views full-figured teens as “reinvigorating the plus-size market.  Today’s young consumers know what they want and won’t settle for less.”

Ruffles and off-the-shoulder looks at popular price points (dresses under $59) are not what the successful mature full-figured woman wants to wear, yet the needs of this extensive and affluent group are being met by very few designers.

The Times reports: “The plus-size bloggers say there must be a larger representation of different plus-size women. ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done– and still not a lot of diversity in plus fashion, despite the fact that it’s a highly diverse market, in terms of race, financial means and location,’ says Mason. . . . ‘We now know it’s OK to be a white, well-proportioned curvy woman, but what about everyone else that’s part of this demographic?’” And, one might ask, what about the more mature woman?

To the designers out there who are committed to serving the plus-size market, and to designers thinking of expanding their size ranges, here’s something to consider:  If our next President is a woman who embraces the flattering long line look of a pantsuit as her signature look (and who reportedly receives fashion advice from Anna Wintour of Vogue  magazine), isn’t it time to emulate that look and to start designing flattering quality professional wear for the mature full-figured woman?

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Quirky Hairlines

The vast majority of us have faces with less than perfectly symmetrical features. This is not something that should by any means diminish one’s self-esteem. Look at the photos of individuals considered to be among the most beautiful, and you will notice slight discrepancies between the two sides of their faces. One eyebrow may be slightly higher or thicker; one eye slightly larger; one nostril bigger, one ear slightly higher than the other, and so on. These features add immeasurably to the appeal of those faces.

One aspect of asymmetry that isn’t usually on display for women is the hairline. Bangs and hairstyles that dip over the top of the face hide the hairline. When all the hair is pulled back into a ballerina-style bun, or, with the “half-up topknot” style currently in vogue, the hairline comes into prominent focus, sometime with surprising results. Needless to say, those who would look to analyze a face shapes with an unusual hairline face a conundrum.

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I was struck by this photo of actresses Lucy Hale and Diane Kruger, along with the singer Rita Ora, featured in the June 2016 issue of Style Watch. While Ora’s hairline is quite straight and symmetrical, the hairlines of Hale and Kruger have all manner of darling quirks.

I remember attending my first AICI (Association of Image Consultants International) conference, meeting an image consultant who showed me the extraordinarily quirky hairline she hid under a clever asymmetrical hairstyle. She worked with her cowlicks and the dips and peaks of her hairline to create something quite fresh and charming.

When one is blessed with a particularly haphazard hairline, there are two ways to proceed. The usual approach  is to disguise the hairline with a well-chosen hairstyle that works with the quirks. The second approach exposes the hairline and creates a bold statement — love me, love my quirky hairline.

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