It's So You!
You thought that maybe it would pass you over. Indeed, you were counting on that wacky off-chance that your daughter would be booked with other things on the night of the prom (like homework or the flu) and so you wouldn't have to worry about Lady Ga Ga shoes and shiny polyester tubes of fabric (often called dresses).
But here she is. She's come to you with her demands: "A decent dress that's nothing like your ugly 80s outfit you tried to pass off as fashion at a thing you tried to pass off as a prom," she says.
Then, your demands: "Yes, a decent dress for sure. And it has to be at a price that won't risk our grocery fund. And 80s... what?" (You weren't even thinking about the 80s when she started, but now that she's mentioned it...)
If you don't have any angst as a parent about prom night, then you are missing out on some of the most colorful kind of angst there is (colorful and shiny).
Think of it: We spend the whole year telling our daughters to "study hard," "use your brain," "reject those sexualized marketing messages" "don't worry about what your peers think," and "beware of those creeps out there," only to parade them (our girls, not creeps -hopefully) out to the stretch limo in a type of fashion which serves poetically as metaphor for what we don't want our girls to be.
And we pay for it.
It's kind of twisted.
Of course, we don't like it. ("Oh that's just teen stuff...it'll pass; Why make a fuss?) We laugh nervously as our daughters get compliments from people we think should never have noticed.
Well, it's okay to just say no. Go back to the basics and explain simply that she's just too good for polyester tubes and Lady Ga Ga shoes. Tell her why she's important. Tell her why with love rather than anger.
Ensure her that she can be hip, elegant, and at the same time...dare I say it? Modest.
There is such a thing as modesty (it's not meekness or shyness about one's accomplishments...more like an I-value-myself/self-preservation- kind-of-thing), and one remembers that it is indeed a virtue, especially at times like this. (Remember those things called virtues? Some basics are honesty, industriousness, charity, etc.)
So, establish your rules and offer some alternative fashion. Use the word "tasteful," "sophisticated," "understated" and such. The dress you find might be from T.J. Maxx or Macy's or the Salvation Army. It might even be from the Misses department of your favorite boutique. Just don't pull out your puffy sleeved 80s polyester tube thing.
Some on-line finds: (This year it's long, short, full skirts, or simple sheaths; Color is key.)
Look at retail right now and you'll see coral (a little darker than what we used to call "peach" in the 90s), every shade of a pretty little pink, beige, "dove," cobalt, aqua, red (especially trousers and Capris), and, of course, white.
Sure, there's gray, brown, and all sorts of green too.
But what's missing? I mean, think of that one color which has dominated fashion for generations; the "it" fashion color. (The one I wear all the time.)
That's right: Black is missing. Well, maybe not missing, but absent in ways it never has been before. Could it be that the the oft-quoted fashion color forecaster, David Wolfe, was right when he suggested that retail will one day meet the demands of Boomers who see black as an unflattering color for them as they age?
I'll never forget that day in '03 when I heard on NPR that black will no longer rule the runways. It was shocking news to my fashion sensibilities, and I figured that the guy was just overstating the case to make his name stand out among the gaunt of the fashion world.
Well, here it is! Look at all the pretty colors! (But choose your most flattering to wear around your face - even if black is sometimes one of them.)
One really expensive way to cheat yourself out of creating your own distinctive brand of personal style, is to either buy the "it" pieces "as seen on" so and so, or to just lump on colorless bling - kind of that Proletariat fashion thing.
So, when I find jewelry makers who offer truly unique peices at reasonable prices, I love to sing their praises. (See my newsletter for "homegrown talent" for some of them.)
Two have been brought to my attention just recently, and I'm happy to encourage the world to check them out:
Here in Milwaukee, see the work of Tina's "Take-Out" Jewelry. I just attended her Open House and was impressed to see high quality peices of simple, yet distinctive style; So wearable, those of you with "relaxed" fashion personalities could feel comfortable sporting just about any of them. And, for those of you who are a bit hard on the pretty stuff, pieces are durable and 100% guaranteed to last.
Email Tina Rojahn Elsafy at firstname.lastname@example.org. And visit her photos at
Further away, in Singapore to be exact, there are some precious treasures taking shape through the creative energy of my friend Stephanie Wong. All that fashion talent she has is embodied in her use of high quality materials in breath-taking forms. (The necklace I have from her really turns heads!) See her work on Etsy.
I love to discuss Christopher Hopkin's Staging Your Comeback with other women. It seems to come up whenever we discuss books:
Friend #1: "I'm reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, how about you?"
Friend #2: "Funny you should mention it, but I am reading another fabulous Russian named Leo Tolstoy. How about you Mary?"
Me: "Oh I'm on to the heady and esoteric: Staging Your Comeback, by Christopher Hopkins!"
But what if - as I considered after a while- one never left? Suppose your style mostly worked for you through the years and you're not really staging a comeback, but trying to just stay on the stage?
You're perhaps the very same woman who reads More magazine and never missed an Oprah. Yet, even within the landslide of fashion information, you've lost track of one vital fact about yourself:
You have earned the right to appear as if you are at the top of your game... even if you aren't. (And anyway, if you dress the part, you'll rise to the top!)
So what follows is what I advise clients to key into when arriving at the reading demographic for Mr. Hopkin's book:
1. Be picky about fit. Demand that a garment up for consideration is just right. If it's not, get it altered or don't buy it.
2. Good fit also means that any item doesn't exaggerate a certain area of your body or sabotage correct proportion. For example, if on you the current skinny jean/chunky top look calls to mind an apple on tooth picks (perhaps because your legs have become thinner through the years or your breast size has increased) then ignore the trend. Consciously seek vertical, proportioned looks in your wardrobe.
3. Less skin; More great fabrics. Wrinkled cleavage is best replaced with cashmere or silk. A beautiful drape which flatters the chin line will do wonders at keeping the focal point on your face, and a good wool gaberdine pencil skirt with hosiery will clean up the poly-wrinkled-mini-freezing-leg look that the youngsters are sporting.
4. Older style? No, just more tasteful. Tasteful doesn't have to bring to mind "old" and remember it's okay if it does indeed bring to mind "mature." You are more mature. You may also be someone's mother or grandmother or aunt or great aunt. That's okay. Allow yourself to look the part: You worked darn hard at it.
5. Wear your best colors around your face, soften the makeup to your currently softer facial tones, but maintain your playfulness with color by layering and/or accessorizing.
6. So how exactly do you accessorize in a world where "matchy-matchy" is treated like the moral equivalent of a crime against humanity? Well, avoid buying things in sets. The nice thing about the current trend is that there is a bit more room for individuality. So, for example, use the brown croc-embossed satchel you love so much and wear it with the black boots you chose with so much consideration. Don the pearl earrings, but opt for a pink scarf instead of the corresponding pearl necklace. Embrace blue and black or even brown and black in single ensembles and attempt to vary texture when inspired.
7. Pare down the "standby classics" as you call them. Keep the pointed toe pumps, but move along the long structured equestrian blazer. Show off the gorgeous silk scarf from Rome, but send away the circa 1990 handmade leather vest. In other words, hold on to the classics that truly stand the current test of time. If it makes you feel better, create a time capsule for your "vintage" peices and leave them to a youngster in your will.
8. Update your hair style, but ensure that it flatters your face shape. Long hair gets tougher to pull off as you age, but you can opt for a graduated style which frames your face in front, and is longer toward the back and sides. Generally, too far below the shoulders is just too far.
9. Coloring gray hair does indeed maintain a fresh and ready appearance. Your natural hair color with highlights or a slightly lighter hue (for those with naturally very dark hair) is generally the most flattering.
10. Smile. There might be a lot more stress than when you were thirty, but you probably recall to yourself that you finally know which "battles to pick." Smile at that thought. Often.
In a few days, I will hit the target market for Christopher Hopkin's Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45. (If you get my drift.)
I originally began reading it to help my clients, but now, I must admit that not only has this book become the single most helpful resource I've used for the past year, but it has also helped me personally.
Christopher Hopkins, the "Makeover Guy" is extremely talented and seems like a delightful person. You can't help but love him as you read him say "I believe that as women mature, the more beautiful they become but the less attractive they feel," and "You have the power to express yourself not as expected but as amazing."
So, does he really deliver? Or is he just another pretty boy with pretty words?
Oh, he delivers. The book is in a highly readable and engaging format with quotes, biographical sketches of clients, graphics, and fantastic photos. The makeover photos are what influenced me to buy the book, and I still smile whenever I survey these faces of happy, confident women, all experiencing their greatest physical potential.
This is very powerful stuff.
So, what's his secret? A lot of what he does has to do with the key concept of moderation. In fact, I was happy to see that he says many of the same things I say in any one of my services, including the discussion of body type and fashion personality, and his information on hair and makeup is based on his years of experience in the salon.
Some pearls of wisdom:
"One must learn to use discernment and good taste to conceal more than reveal," he insists, and offers the practical advice, "[ a hemline] shorter than fingertips is too short for most women, but particularly for the second-act woman of taste."
"In the workplace, hosiery provides a professional business boundry for women who prefer to wear dresses rather than pants," he says as the basis of his view toward hosiery and career wear and reminds us that although we hear "from fashionistas everywhere that wearing hose with open-toed shoes is wrong," that "fortunately, [the] sentiment is so 2003. Sandal-foot hosiery is made for no other reason than to be worn with sandals."
And, "The thong has ended but the melody lingers on" is his take on thong undies, and he quips that a bottom "without shapewear is like Jell-O without a mold."
Oh don't worry. He never gives you the feeling that he's rolling his eyes or laughing at the ladies. This guy is genuine and loves women. I highly recommend this book as an additon to your self improvement library if you are over 45... or under it as well.
Check out his site: the makeover guy
I just finished reading The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease. If you could see my body language right now -actually watch my face and shoulders and palms and feet - you'd pick up that I'm rather enthused about the topic these days.
After about the first chapter I began to wonder how it is I got through life this far without knowing all these things the authors insist are true. Sure, I instinctively know, for example, that crossed arms imply a defensive attitude and that a lack of eye contact usually means a lack of interest in a speaker. But there were many things I didn't know, and the Pease Team managed to weave each bit of information into an organic whole which made sense to me as a regular observer and user of body language. (Regular user because I'm human not because of what I do for a living!)
The book was a quick read because it has diagrams, cartoons, and photos (of some very famous people) to provide examples of many of the astounding claims made in the book.
Do I sound doubtful? Perhaps maybe more than I actually am, but, as my husband reminded me, some of these phenomena can be overstated by the experts.
Overstated perhaps, but eerily true in so many situations.
You decide: (Check out these randomly chosen claims.)
"Being 'perceptive' means being able to spot the contradictions between someone's words and their body language."
"When a person's words and body language are in conflict, women ignore what is said."
"When men lie, their body language can be obvious. Women prefer to look busy as they lie."
"Turning your palm from facing upward to facing downward completely alters how others perceive you."
"Only 15 percent of our laughter has to do with jokes. Laughter has more to do with bonding."
"If you're not sure whether you're being lied to or not, look under their desk."
"Jiggling the feet is like the brain's attempt to run away from what is being experienced."
I could go on! The book is packed with tips, stories, cautions, and exceptions. Fortunately, it's also packed with studies which back up some (but not all) of the claims. It also provides some wiggle room for the obvious conscious control of body language.
All I know is that I'm going to...
- Hold my head up high.
- Smile more.
- Make eye contact.
- Wear a large watch.
You'll just have to read the book to see what I mean.
So I blog about boots and voila! in comes a DSW add to my email account.
Anyone who is really into shoes knows all about this place. Unfortunately, even the greatest shoe enthusiasts can become a little overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the store.
So, here is some DSW advice:
1. Eat a high carb meal the night before you plan to visit your local DSW.
2. Arrange for a babysitter for your trip as well.
3. Eat a high protein breakfast the morning of your planned visit.
4. Put on the socks or hosiery you normally wear with the kinds of shoes for which you are searching.
5. Okay...kinds of shoes: For this trip, it's to find really really smart boots.
6. When you arrive at the store, leave your coat in the car. (You need freedom of movement.)
7. Walk in and focus on just the boot section. Take a deep breath.
8. Do the "walk through" to survey everything.
9. Go back through the route and grab the ones that interest you in the sizes you need to try.
10 Try on both pairs of everything under consideration. Walk around. Sit and cross your legs in front of the mirror. Stand in front of the mirror.
11. Think about how sturdy you need these babes to be. Are you walking through snow, water, ice, salt, mud? (Don't walk through mud in them, please. Get Wellies for that.)
12. If you like brown, buy them in brown. We are wearing brown with everything.
13. Settle only for ones with lower chances of giving you a bunion. (Unless you want a bunion, of course.)
14. Go for it! (Either by process of elimination or by gut instinct, you've found a pair that hits the mark.)
15. Put the sales receipt in your wallet. Bring home the shoes in your trunk. (Don't want any shoe-robbers to see that bag from DSW.
16. Wear them while you do something ordinary that evening. It will make the task seem just a little zippier.
I finally found a way to wear skirts and dresses in this climate: Boots! Now, there's no excuse for not looking feminine, festive, and chic.
Wide calves? Try Fitzwell.
Foot pain? Try Clarks.
Desire for foot pain? Try Christian Louboutin.
Wear your "sweater hosiery" or your leggings under your skirt and you'll be warm and cozy, and stylish.
One of the first things I learned when I moved to the Midwest is that you just can't exist in a silly little coat. Sure, a wool pea coat is quite the snappy layer to your winter ensemble, and a short puffer has its merits. But neither of these can withstand the Arctic blasts which make their way to our shores of Lake Michigan. For these, we have the beloved parka.
Even better, a stylish parka!