Tie One On: Nora Ephron Would Approve

For some of us over 40 (or well over 40!), one issue of personal appearance that arises as we age is the appearance of our necks. Nora Ephron wrote a book famously titled I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.

This season, designers appear to have taken note. Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren are among the designers whose creations include a strip of fabric that encircles the neck and puts it out of sight. The September 9, 2019 issue of People spotlights a number of celebrities, both over and under 40, who have been photographed in the look. Note that many of the designs include an otherwise plunging neckline, but some attach the strip to a more modestly covered bodice (except in the case of Priyanka Chopra, where it appears to be sheer).

Another big trend for Fall 2019 is the return of the silk scarf, which of course can also serve the same purpose of encircling and hiding the neck. If you feel bad about your neck, you have some excellent on-trend fashion choices this season.

Orthotics for Pool Shoes

A quick post this month, sharing what may be useful information. After developing plantar fasciitis, almost certainly due to walking about in less than completely supportive pool shoes too often after pool exercises and swimming, I needed to find a solution.

I searched for water shoes with that would provide arch support yet have all the features I require. Flat pool socks and other types of water shoes with flat soles are out of the question. Sneaker-type shoes are too heavy to keep on while swimming. Ditto bulky protective water sandals. Slip-ons, sadly, tend to slip right off.

My preferred style of pool shoe has a rubber sole that provides traction, along with a cord that can be tightened to keep the shoes securely in place while I kick and dance my way around in the deep end of the pool. I found a style with those features and removable insoles.

I next searched for orthotic inserts for pool shoes to replace the removable insoles. At the time I initially did this search, I found nothing whatsoever online. Most or many orthotics have a fabric covering and other elements that would not be appropriate for use in the pool. I made inquiries to orthopedic doctors and physical therapists to see if I could obtain a recommendation. No luck.

I purchased a pair of Doctor Scholl’s gel inserts, not quite sure what the non-gel side of the inserts looked like, as the packaging provides no sneak peek and no description. Eureka! The gel inserts work perfectly, providing the additional foot support I require. After swimming, I remove the insoles and let them dry next to the mesh top pool shoes. My plantar fasciitis quickly resolved itself.

I’m not sure how to describe the non-gel side of the gel inserts, but they have been fine in the pool over many months now.

Before writing this post, I did another online search for water shoe orthotics, and have discovered that is possible to purchase customized waterproof orthotics, albeit at a price tag nearing $200. It’s nice to have a back-up plan. In the meantime, that $200 will buy me more than eight pairs of new pool shoes plus new gel inserts. I’ll be doing a lot of swimming!

Bring Attention to Your Eyes by What Your Wear on Your Feet

It’s true – you can bring attention to your eyes by what you wear on your feet. Indeed, you can bring attention to your eyes or lips or hair – those features as far away as can be from your shoes. This is possible through the strategic use of color.

Pops of color have been a thing for several years now (I wrote a blog post about the phenomenon back in August 2012). I approached the issue from finding an irresistible accessory in a vibrant hue and considering how to make the pop of color work.

Illustration:  Tempting vibrant hues of accessories pictured in the Summer 2019 issue of C California magazine.

As I wrote then, “The addition of a hue to an ensemble works best when it is repeated elsewhere in the ensemble, because repetition provides a pleasing sense of visual harmony. Reds, pinks and corals often coordinate with lipstick. Nail polish this season is all about bold color, and can easily repeat or approximate an accessory’s hue. Gemstones set in jewelry also can be selected to coordinate with the favored color.  This season is all about prints, and finding a print that repeats the color is easily accomplished.”

I continued: “If you are determined to utilize a single pop of color, consider its visual effect. Where does the pop of color draw the eye?  Shoes draw all eyes downward, so  if you’re thinking about a pop of color via your shoes, consider whether your feet is where you want people to be looking. If you have great legs and want the eye to sweep down over them, great. Otherwise, the effect suggests fashion victim rather than creative chic.”

Rather than starting with a random hue that catches your fancy for your footwear, consider focusing on colors that are part of your personal color palette. In particular, since it is always a good approach to have people focus on your face, look to the color of your eyes or your hair to determine what color shoes to wear.

Repeating your hair color is not difficult. Black shoes are perfect for someone with black hair, as are brown shoes for a brunette, reddish brown shoes for a redhead,  and camel color shoes for a blonde. Grey shoes are gorgeous for someone with silver hair. If you have gone creative in your hair color with streaks of blue or pink, wearing a matching hue on your feet will bring additional emphasis to your creative choice.

White shoes are back in fashion this season and present a bit of a challenge. Unless you have white hair, they can tend to draw the eyes down to your feet and stay there. The more white in your ensemble, the less this is likely to happen. If you have darker skin or a deep tan, white shoes can bring emphasis to the whites of your eyes and teeth.

Bringing attention to your mouth is as simple as repeating the color of your lipstick, or the natural hue of your lips, in your shoes. Lipstick red shoes call for red lipstick.

Repeating your eye color in your dressier footwear is easy to accomplish if you have dark eyes. With athletic footwear, you can readily find combinations of blue and green to compliment any color eyes.

I was intrigued to see actress Tilda Swinton in the June/July 2019 issue of Harper’s Bazaar pictured in a sunshine yellow dress that coordinates with her blonde hair, accessorized with baby blue pumps – shoes that match the color of her eyes. The effect is memorable. She is drawing attention to her eyes by what she is wearing on her feet.

It’s Not Dior, It’s Nature

I have been more than a bit amused at all the accolades given by the fashion press for the KaleiDiorscope or KaleiDiorscopic print featured on clothing and accessories introduced by the French design house Dior for summer 2019.

Image: Dior dress ($9,000.00), bodysuit ($1,650.00), bralette ($1,250.00) and bag ($3,450.00) as pictured in the May 2019 issue of C California magazine.

The name of the design is clever –a play on the word “kaleidoscope” referencing the toy containing mirrors in a tube that produces changing patterns when the tube is rotated. Indeed, there is something vaguely tie-dye about the patterns, something vaguely tropical….

Actually, something precisely tropical. Something natural. The natural tiger cowrie shell, to be precise.

Image:  Natural tiger cowrie shell earrings, available on eBay for $39.98.

Neither the American Dior web site nor any of the fashion press have noticed how beautifully the patterns coordinate, so I’ll do it here. And I’m offering a pair of earrings that will give you the look for less than one percent of the cost of the bag.

Image:  The earrings pictured with a Dior ad from the April 2019 issue of C California magazine.

Buy the earrings. Wear them. Enjoy the compliments. If someone asks, just tell them, “It’s not Dior, it’s nature.”

Square Necklines Are Not for Everyone

File this under “Oh, No!” The popular purewow.com web site posted a piece on April 2nd  declaring: “This Trending Neckline Is So Flattering, Everyone Needs to Buy It Immediately.”

A number of photos are included with the article, including this example of a square neckline that works beautifully for the wearer. More on why it works below.

The issue with a square neckline is that it brings horizontal emphasis to a place where one might not want it. For a large-busted woman with slender hips, a classic “inverted triangle,” the square neckline is likely to make her proportions look out of kilter.

For a curvy woman of any size, the straight line of a square neckline does not inherently relate to the lines of her body, which are curved, not straight. If her facial features are strongly horizontal, particularly her eyebrows and the line of her mouth, however, or if the wearer choose strongly geometric haircuts, a neckline that otherwise fits her physique correctly may be flattering.

In any case, be sure the square neckline you are considering is at least as wide as your face. A narrower neckline may make your face look out of proportion and your neck look relatively short.

Be sure the square neckline lies flat across your chest. If it does not, you are too curvy for that particular neckline. Seek another.

The photos above displays a square neckline that is wider than the wearer’s face. The neckline lies flat. The model appears to have an hourglass shape:  she has hips that are balanced by the neckline and puffy sleeves of her dress. Notice the center part and blunt cut hair, providing design elements that are complimented by the neckline. The model adds the finishing touch of a handbag that matches her hair and has a strong horizontal top line. The eye sweeps over the ensemble and finds a pleasing harmony.

Never ever listen to anyone selling something that purports to work for everyone.

Defensive Purse Carrying – The Advanced Class

I have long been an advocate of the cross-body bag. My fondness for the design stems from years of taking public transportation to work back in my student days when I lived in the Chicago area. The immediate benefit of a cross-body design is that it allows the bag to be carried hands-free. But the confidence a cross-body design conveys, in my view, goes beyond that convenience.

Having the long strap of a purse arranged cross-wise over my outerwear, the top of the bag in view and the bag close to my body, gives me confidence that no one can reach into the bag and steal its contents. With few exceptions, my cross-body bag design of choice has a top zipper to provide an extra sense of security.  It takes more effort to unzip a zipper than to turn a clasp on a flap-style bag. The cross-body bad is perfect for travel.

Reading the March 17, 2019 issue of Parade magazine, a supplement to many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, I read a blurb that gave me a new perspective on defensive purse carrying, this in a small piece headed “Meghan vs. Royal Fashion Police.”

Noting that the fashion choices of the former actress who became Prince Harry’s wife “are a refreshing break from the style dictated by royal protocol,” the article references, among other choices, her messy bun, her refusal to wear pantyhose, and her cross-body bags.

Illustration:  Breaking with royal protocol with a cross-body bag from Australian designer Oroton at an event in 2018.

A do recall noting that Princess Diana routinely carried a clutch-style purse that matched her ensemble. I attributed this fashion choice to the refined elegance of the design and the likelihood that a royal likely needs to carry not much more than a handkerchief.

There’s more to the choice of a clutch than that, according to Parade:  “Royals often carry clutches as a way to avoid shaking hands with members of the public or to use to cover cleavage as they climb out of a car.”

While I don’t anticipate most of us need be concerned about the need to shake hands with too many people, positioning a clutch to prevent an undesired peak of cleavage might be a skill worth mastering.

Casual Wristwatch, Formal Dress

Menswear-influenced fashion plays a significant role in most professional women’s wardrobes. Luxe fine fabrics of wool and cashmere and subtle plaids bring elements of quality and elegance to a woman’s style. Today, chic pantsuits provide ease and comfort that avoid pesky issues about hosiery and heels (so long as the heel height is correct – reference my last post).

I’m having an “Oh No” moment, however, with the promotion of menswear-influenced wristwatches paired with women’s formal wear.

The perfectly gorgeous wristwatch in the ad shown here from Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, does no favors to the wearer paired with a stunning evening look, particularly when the evening look is so ethereal and delicate as the flower-appliquéd ensemble pictured. The watch interferes with the line of the sleeve and looks jarringly out of place.

The lovely model would be much better accessorized with substantial earrings that complement her long neck and coordinate in style with the top. A more delicate evening wristwatch would be a lovely option.

By all means, enjoy a beautiful menswear-inspired watch, but leave it at home when heading out in evening wear.

Watch the Hem: Shoes Aren’t Always Readily Interchangeable

The January 21, 2019 issue of People magazine recommends an ensemble inspired by Princess Kate as “the perfect work outfit”:  “a classic, easy-to-wear ensemble for whatever is on your agenda.”

The ensemble consists of bootcut trousers (“a flared leg elongates your figure”), a layering tee in basic white, and a polished blazer, accessorized with hoop earrings, a classic wristwatch, a sleek clutch (recommended for after work activities), and kitten heel pumps. The look is a genuine classic – a great look for when professionalism is paramount.

People further recommends “3 must-have office extras”:  a “blanket scarf” (“Not only does an oversize scarf add some color to your look, it keeps you warm when the temperature drops”); a carryall tote (roomy and sturdy enough to fit your essentials and your laptop), and comfortable flats. People recommends padded shoes by Cole Haan that fold up and fit into a matching pouch “so you can easily stash them away post-commute.”

The recommendations for a colorful scarf and a roomy tote are excellent, as is the idea of comfortable shoes for one’s commute. However, the completely flat foldable shoes pictured do not work with the bootcut pants for the simple reason that the pants have been hemmed at a length appropriate for the two- or three-inch kitten heels pictured. Wearing the flats with the pants almost guarantees that you’ll be stepping on the bottom of your pants, soiling them if not also tripping over them. This simply doesn’t work.

What is the solution? The hemline determines your heel height. Find shoes comfortable enough for the commute that are the same heel height as the shoes you intend to wear at the office. Save those foldable flats for commuting on days when you are in a dress or skirt.

Appreciate the Beauty

It’s year-end 2018, and what a year it has been. The optimist in me kicks in as I contemplate 2019, and I wish to share a couple of recent items I read that made me smile.

The December/January issue of Town & Country urges, “It’s been a tough year. Have the DESSERT. Buy the JEWELRY.”

Oprah writes in the October 2018 issue of her magazine, “In the right light, beheld by the right eyes, most anything can possess its own special gorgeousness.”

Whatever special treat you choose to eat (the perfect heirloom tomato, fragrant baked apples, the pecan butter crescent cookies you make for your loved ones every holiday season), and however you choose to adorn yourself (real jewels or faux, vintage or artisan), appreciate every bit of the deliciousness and the beauty. Revel in the beauty. Share the joy.

Wishing all my readers much beauty and a wonderful New Year!

“ I Don’t Want to Walk Without My Nikes. . .”

It is with some amusement that I saw this page of 101 style ideas in the November 2018 issue of Marie Claire. Nine examples of wearing athletic sneakers are described as “the best ways to wear the surprisingly versatile chunky white trainer.” While six of the examples pair the sneaks with trousers, worn either with a sweater or a coat, three show the white shoes paired with long print dresses.

Back in the 1980s, it was common in my home town of Chicago, for career women dressed in their power suits to walk all or a good portion of the way to work. For many of us, wearing sneakers was part of the ensemble. The look became so ubiquitous and, some would say, so annoying, that the Chicago Bar Association’s Christmas Spirits gridiron show dedicated a number to the phenomenon. I’m proud to say that I contributed the idea for the number, using the 1940s hit “I Don’t Walk to Walk Without You”; the Bar Show writers penned some dandy lyrics that started: “I don’t want to walk without my Nikes, Pumas or Adidas or my Nikes. . . .”

The look of white sneakers with a dress or suit, or even with dark trousers, has not aged well. It draws the eye to the wearer’s feet, and the feet look bigger than usual in the chunky white shoes. There are all manner of low-heel pumps and flats in dark colors that can match trousers or tights, or coordinate with the colors in long skirts, and provide both comfort and a much less jarring version of style.