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.




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.


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.


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?


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.


One for the Oh No! File

I rarely use this category in my blog, not from any desire to be polite, but because fashion mistakes, or the results of experimentation or outright playfulness in choosing clothing and accessories, don’t usually demand such strong condemnation.

However, with the arrival of the May 9, 2016 issue of People magazine, I am compelled to bring out the smarmiest of my blog categories in viewing a photo of a favorite actress, Cate Blanchett, wearing a fall 2016 Louis Vuitton design. In her defense, she was attending an exhibition put on by the designer, but still…… quelle horreur!

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Here’s a perfect example of a dress wearing the woman. The design details that sit on her chest like overly high breast cups are as large as her head, and her fair coloring is completely lost competing against the graphic black, white and gold design. The sleeves make her look boxy and wide. The flounce at the bottom bears no relation to the rest of the design. On Project Runway, no doubt, the designer would be told that there are “a few too many ideas” in one garment.

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Fortunately, Blanchett appears just three pages later in the center of a spread spotlighting fantastic creatures embroidered into high-fashion gowns. The graceful embellishments and soft colors of her Gucci gown allow her to be seen. The spotlight is back on the actress, where it belongs. Think of the photo as the perfect palate cleanser generously supplied by People magazine.

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Blanchett is also featured in an Atelier Versace gown and a Tiffany & Co. necklace in the June 2016 issue of InStyle. Notice how the gown shows off her lovely figure, looking at least a couple of sizes smaller than she appears in the Louis Vuitton dress. Why, oh why would a design house choose to allow a fan of their to appear in such an unflattering dress?

Comfort: The New Key to Chic Dressing

There’s an exciting movement afield, a theory of dressing embraced by fashion icons that works for every woman of every age. Going far beyond the incorporation of athletic wear into daytime dressing, the trend reflects a new recognition of the importance of comfort.

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The April 2016 issue of Vogue features the theme “Tomorrowland” and poses the question, “How will the future family live and dress”?  Vogue‘s prognostications include “ultracomfortable day chic.” Discussing the photo of model Joan Smalls wearing a Vetements shirtdress and Boss pants, Vogue comments:  “‘Unfussy’ isn’t a new ideal, but it has great currency. We all want to be, finally, liberated from physically constricting clothes–and sartorial foolishness. That’s why a loose top and lounge-y, laid back pants are the shape of things to come.”

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“Get Punk’d” urges Alex Frank in the March 2016 issue of Elle magazine, spotlighting design labels Vetements, Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy: “This new establishment is turning fashion on its head at a time of upheaval in Paris–some would call it a crisis.” With the departure of Raf Simons at Christian Dior, Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Elle  notes: “into that void stepped a bunch of upstarts who have very new ideas about what is chic.” These designers “represent the dramatic, refined, thought-provoking end point of so many recent trends. . . . All these trends have been leading us toward this:  a uniform that’s as cool as it is comfortable, the zenith of cozy and casual to keep you looking unbothered in a twenty-first century spent in uncomfortable airport terminals and in line for the next available treadmill.”

The embrace of comfort as the key to chic dressing is not limited to those over 40, by any means.

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The April 2016 issue of Style Watch includes a feature on 30-year-old actress and  “style guru” Lauren Conrad. Responding to a question as to her “perfect no-fail party outfit” she replied: “It definitely depends on the event, but I think it’s important to pick looks you’re comfortable in. After wearing something I couldn’t breathe in a few times, I just realized it’s not fun. Once in a while, you can suffer through the night in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, but overall you should wear clothes you feel good in.”

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The March 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar  spends 24 hours in New York with 28-year-old singer and actress Zoe Kravitz. She states: “When I’m in New York, I walk everywhere or take the subway, so I’m not one to wear heels, because your day is completely ruined if you’re uncomfortable.” Her focus on comfort extends to her evening activities, too:  “I don’t necessarily dress up to go out at night unless I have to wear something more formal for an event. Again, I want to be comfortable, especially when I dance, so I don’t put on high heels. . . .”

The March 2016 issue of InStyle profiles 24-year-old actress Shailene Woodley. On the subject of personal style, Woodley states:  “My style is dominated by my desire to be comfortable. Like, I never want anything ever constricting my stomach. I don’t know how people wear jeans so often, because that band is just so tight!” InStyle continues: “When choosing outfits for red-carpet events, she says, it’ snot just about looking comfortable; it’s literally the nuts and bolts and straps and buttons of it all–being able to breathe, to walk, and to feel like herself.”

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At the same time, with maturity comes wisdom as to the benefits of being comfortable. Fashion icon Victoria Beckham, now 42,  is quoted in the March 14, 2016 issue of People magazine:  “I just can’t do heels any more. At least not when I’m working. I travel a lot. Clothes have to be simple and comfortable.”

Vogue stated it simply and accurately:  “We all want to be, finally, liberated form physically constricting clothes.” I’ m completely comfortable with that.

The Perfect Hemline

Whether or not you find her style too conservative or traditional for your liking, you will find that Kate Middleton’s fashion choices present lessons in flattering dressing.

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One immediately recognizable aspect of her style is the length of her hems. The montage of photos above, from, notes: “Take a look at our visual above. You’ll see that Kate’s hemline is the same every. Single. Time.” and adds: “We can’t blame her, though:  It’s clearly the most flattering cut for her body.”

The hemline length she prefers exposes the full length of her legs below the knees and hits at the narrowest part of her leg. this length is universally flattering. She wears simple pumps that elongate the look of the legs, with heels that are not too high but still chic. A clutch purse keeps her necessities at hand but doesn’t weigh her down.

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Other hem lengths are in style this season, of course. Elle magazine features a mid-calf length skirt and a mini in it March 2016 issue. A mid-calf needs to be long enough so that it doesn’t hit at the widest part of the leg. It can create the illusion of a long, lean look. As for the mini, most women have a good sense if that’s an appropriate and flattering style for them. Although Kate Middleton no doubt could carry off either style, I don’t expect we’ll see her in either one.

Organizing Your Wardrobe & What Not to Discard If You Have Multiple Sizes in Your Closet

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With her 2014 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her unique methodology, Japanese author Marie Kondo has renewed interest in the satisfaction of organizing and decluttering. Indeed, through Pinterest boards and Instagram posts, there is a category of images that has come to be known as “org porn” — photos of perfectly organized, precisely arranged possessions.

As a trained and experienced professional image consultant (I received certification as a Certified Image Professional from the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) in YEAR), I am not surprised at the popularity of Marie Condo’s book.  Kondo takes a hard look of what possessions her readers require, and urges ruthless downsizing of readers’ wardrobes and other possessions.

One phenomenon that I and other image consultants frequently experience is that our clients seek permission to let things go. Assessing what isn’t flattering or doesn’t fit properly can go a long way to assisting this process with regard to a client’s wardrobe. Some garments can be tailored and thus salvaged; others do the owner no favor when it comes to his or her image and are better retired. Some of one’s discarded wardrobe may be sellable on eBay if it’s in new or near-perfect condition, and might better be donated to Goodwill or another charity if it is not.

Many image consultants advise their clients to discard every garment that no longer fits, even if (one might say, particularly if) the client has multiple sizes in her (or his) closet. If the client is losing weight, many diet advisors along with image consultants tell their clients to throw away their “fat clothes” so that they are not tempted to regain the weight.

Statistics show that the majority of dieters regain much or all of the weight lost. Moreover, their weight may fluctuate up and down by more than a few pounds over the years. For this reason, I found it extraordinarily comforting to be advised by my own personal image consultant that it is okay to retain multiple sizes in my wardrobe, even if not all my clothes fit me right this moment. The key is to retain only those clothes that merit saving — quality garments that flatter in design and color and that fit properly when one’s body is a different (smaller or larger) size. When I gain or lose weight, I “go shopping” in my own closet.

If you’ve invested in high-quality garments and have had them tailored to fit, your investment need not have gone to waste. However, if your wardrobe needs have changed — for instance, you no longer work in an environment where suits are de rigueur, you may no longer have a need to have many or any structured professional garments in one’s wardrobe. Organizations such as Working Wardrobes would be delighted to take discarded professional clothing in excellent condition to pass along to their clients who are newly entering the work force.

Dated vintage styles might at first glance be unsalvageable. Styles do come back around, however. For instance,  a well-made pantsuit that may have been unworn for several years may have another moment in the spotlight now as we have seen a renewed interest in coordinated jackets and pants for women. Shirtwaist dresses and choker-style necklaces are also back in fashion’s spotlight, as are top-handled handbags, ankle strap shoes . . . you get the idea.

What should be discarded?  Clothing that has been worn and loved to the point of looking tired, along with anything in a color that doesn’t flatter or a style that never quite fit properly. Also for the discard pile:  cheap disposable fashions, particularly those items that are too large and that were purchased to suffice as one’s “fat clothes.” These garments do not merit a place in a well-organized wardrobe. They can be replaced if and when necessary. As Marie Kondo writes, “Keep only things that spark joy.”

How Not to Flatter High-Contrast Beauty

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The E! Entertainment “Fashion Police”weren’t kind to actress Rooney Mara relative to her choice of gown for the 2016 Golden Globes. Although stylist Brad Goreski defended the choice, noting that the dress was an iconic selection based upon a design from Alexander McQueen’s archives, the stylistic importance of the dress was visually outweighed by how unflattering it was on the actress.

Mara is a stunning beauty, reminding one perhaps of Audrey Hepburn. The contrast between her fair skin and dark hair gives her dramatic beauty that calls for equally dramatic fashion to spotlight it. The Alexander McQueen gown made her appear washed out and frankly a bit sad.

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Interestingly, Mara appears in the January 2016 issue of InStyle wearing another Alexander McQueen design in another pale neutral color, equally unflattering. Note the gown on actress Elle Fanning, whose photo appears next to Mara’s above. Fanning, a lovely blonde with much less contrast in hair and skin color, likely would have looked stunning in the McQueen dress, while Mara would have beautifully carried off the high-contrast black and white ruffled Emilio Pucci gown worn by Fanning.

In choosing a red carpet gown (or any look, for that matter), the flattering fit of the garment is paramount. Similarly important is the choice of color. Consider the level of contrast of your own personal colors in choosing a look. The more contrast between your hair and skin color, the more contrast in the colors of the garments you choose will be appealing on you.  If you are pale with light hair or have dark skin and dark hair, your level of contrast is low.  If you are either pale or dark in skin tone and have dark blonde or medium brown hair, your level of contrast is medium, calling for colors are neither end of the light/dark spectrum.

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The 2016 Golden Globes present other examples of color choices on high-contrast beauties. The first pictures the beautiful actress Amanda Peet in an unflattering neutral gown.

Contrast that look with the effect of the vibrant dress on the lovely actress Michaela Watkins. That is a gown that spotlights her dramatic high-contrast beauty.