Category Archives: theory

High level of abstruction

Hourglass, pear, apple, rectangle, inverted triangle – what body type tells you and what not

This post is going to be more of sartorial philosophy than about detailed recommendations. If you need instructions how to determine your body type you can find it here.

I want to share my thought about what body type means for us and how knowing it or trying to determine it can be not only beneficial, but sometimes also harmful.

First of all it’s a way to identify yourself. When you are saying: I am hourglass (or pear, or whatever), it’s not just a label, there are some associations which almost everybody has, because they are translated by media, incorporated in the culture, you can have it even if you don’t know any body type classification! Several examples of myths which are attached body types: hourglass is considered to be perfect, but a little bit outdated, but when on extreme she must be a porn star, pear is the most feminine of them all, all models are slim rectangles, etc.

Then, second, when you know your body type you can easily found a ton of advise how to dress.  You have detailed descriptions what necklines are the best, what width should be your pants, where top hem should end etc etc… (inverted triangles shouldn’t wear tops which are embellished on shoulders, hourglass should avoid dropped waist, pear shouldn’t wear skinny jeans…)

But I think that there is a trap. When you happily (or not so happily) identified your body type there is always a danger to think about yourself as a body type instead of the real person. Being hourglass does not define who I am, it even does not define how I look. It just gives some idea about that. But it tells nothing about my facial features, my charisma, not even about my legs and arms, my neck, my posture, about the way I move. It doesn’t tell a thing about my personality and how I prefer to express it. It tells nothing about what I love about myself, what I would like to accentuate and what I would be happy to downplay. And all this is very important to choose clothes wisely.

Another trap is that body type stereotypes and associations are loaded. And some of them are loaded negatively. Apples could be seen as shapeless, inverted triangles as not feminine etc. So many women don’t want to be shapeless, or not feminine  and to archive that they deny reality, they find well defined waist with 3″ difference between  waist and hips, long legs with body to legs proportion 5 : 3 and so on. Then they start to dress the body they want instead of the body they have and hate mirrors.

Or it can be not just right for your personality. Hourglass should be all feminine and ladylike, they say? But what if you one of that girls who like hiking, baseball, beer and work in a fire department? I would bet that you would feel uncomfortable like hell in all that pencil skirts and heels suggested for your body type. Triangles are sporty and even masculine? What if it’s not what you are? And you are indeed delicate, kind, soft, hate everything that makes you sweat and strongly prefer cashmere to neoprene?

So, what’s the solution?

Identify goals: what you want to archive with your clothes (find a husband, get some extra points for your carrier, express your personality)

Identify what you have, what your physical characteristics are and what expression they create (broad shoulders translate strength, tan is about being active, tiny soft hands about being delicate an so on, so on, it might have nothing in common with how things really are and the same features mean different things to different people, but there are some constants here and associations are always almost unavoidable).

Identify how your proportions are different from the standard proportions artists have for ‘how to draw a proportional person’*. And ask yourself a question: “do I want to correct them?”.

Identify how you want to appear (I want to look put together and reliable|creative and energetic and intelligent for my carrier e. g.). And what you want to correct or emphasize for this look. But be realistic: you can’t appear delicate if you are 6 foot tall, naturally muscular and have broad shoulders. You can’t rock tomboy if you have very large difference between waist and hips and/or large breasts or large overall . If you try you just make a fool of yourself.  So self acceptance and common sense are important here.

How it works: let’s say you have inverted triangle body type and your shoulders are wider than your hips. Overall expression: strong, often athletic. if you want to look strong and intelligent – perfect! your shoulders say “physical strength”, so you don’t want to hide them, you want to highlight them! But if you want to look or feel feminine then you want to downplay and balance them.

Or. I feel that tomboy is the most close to my heart, but in reality I look like impersonation of Mother Earth. OK, let’s be realistic: what can be expressed? You can express funny and active in any body type, age and size. And downplay gender. So: no to very form hugging and accents on breasts, waist and hips, yes to bright colors, flat soles, funny prints on T-shirts, short hair, visually slimming clothes. But also no to very boyish clothes and accessories and too strait lines, acceptance of the fact that this is a body of a grown up woman. Note that this is mostly NOT about body type.

And now comes very important part: you need to understand optical illusions (I have some posts about Prints and optical illusions, but subject is much wider than that, I know some good sources in Russian explaining how lines created by clothes and textures are changing the perceived shape, but not in English, sorry, that I can’t provide good links here, may be I will write some posts later, but meanwhile you can google optical illusions and apply to clothes illusions which are about lines, angles and perceived size).

Most of advise about dressing body types is based on using optical illusions and trying  to create an illusion of more slim, tall and proportional body which is somewhere in between rectangle and hourglass more close to the last**. So if you know optical illusions you can create not that standard ideal body, but you can to a certain point control the impression your body creates and make it more close to what you want, and not to what is considered beautiful by mass media right now.

But overall shape of your body is only a part of the impression you create, colors have at least the same importance. And personal style is more important than lines and color combined.


 

* Those are considered to be universal harmony and AFAIK can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci drawings

**If it’s what you want then you can save a lot of time using Google to get instructions how to get closer, but you will be missing a lot of fun.

Prints and optical illusions. Animal prints and camouflage

This is continuation of the series. You can find previous posts by tag Prints and optical illusions.

Background and foreground colors, level of contrast play the same role for animal prints as for any other print: darker colors are more slimming, contrast is widening.  But animal prints also have one very different and very distinct characteristic they inherited from animal coloring they were copied from. They are blurring and flattening. And more close to the classic design from mother nature more blurring and flattening the print is. The reason for that is that most animals have protective coloration. Pray tries to be not seen by predators, predators try to be invisible for their pray until it’s too late. Bottom line: hiding themselves helps animals survive. And even if zebra stripes or leopard spots look very distinct and contrasting when we are looking right at them, they still have the same quality: they distort, blur and hide, but this effect shows itself only from some distance.

Leopard is here

Leopard is here

giraffe

Say hello to big guy )

Camouflage prints have the same quality because that’s why they were designed in the first place (zoologists and entomologists did a great work during WW2 and after to help the military to create classic camouflages).  So when we are wearing fashion versions we are prone to the camouflage effects – distorting, flattening and blurring. If a fashion version has a lot of grays in urban environment the effect could be quite noticeable especially when the light is poor.

Impressive, isn't it?

Impressive, isn’t it? (it’s one of new US camouflages)

So in my opinion animal prints are your worst enemies when you want to highlight shape, because they add a little blur, flatten. This can also can be used to erase some lamps and bumps, but it usually needs some “frame” to avoid shapelessness. Animal print tunic or dress plus dark jacket or coat could be very efficient in hiding pregnancy.

Leopard dress from Asos. Totally shapeless, you can't even tell where is body and where are sleeves

Leopard dress from Asos. Totally shapeless, you can’t even tell where is body and where are sleeves

Same dress from Asos in black, no you can see some shape

Same dress from Asos in black, no you can see some shape and tell where is what

One more thing about such prints worth mentioning: in semitransparent tights animal prints can look like some sort of skin disease.

Emm... not the best look

Emm… not the best look

But very bright and contrasting print can look good if styled right.

Photo from HK leggings blog, I think she looks seriously cool

Photo from HK leggings blog, I think she looks seriously cool

It’s usually safer to use animal prints  in small items (accessories and shoes).

Camouflage is always about fashion statement or some quirk, some sarcasm.* So I think this is the case when print illusions are less important than its sartorial message. But I would say that in tops, especially if jersey is involved it looks not so good.

My personal preference for animal and camouflage (I don’t take it serious): silk and very loose fit with dark belt and only top or skirt, not dress. And not classical coloring (except zebra), because I have neutral-to-cool coloring, so most classic colorways are too warm for me. I’m not the biggest fan of animal prints to tell the truth, because they are very demanding and it’s very easy to look bad or vulgar in them, but if you manage to master them, they could be gorgeous. I would say they usually look their best paired with bright casual or very neutral classical clothes and a lot of bare skin is great no-no. Another option: very classic and upscale item (like super-conservative coat).

Fabulous example how to wear leopard print from Sartorialist blog

This classical coat doesn't look boring because of the print, but print doesn't make it tacky, because it's so classic. Perfect!

This classical coat doesn’t look boring because of the print, but the print doesn’t make it tacky, because it’s so classic. Perfect!

Camouflage could be also worn seriously as a sign of non-conformism or like a social statement, but I’m too far from all such movements to give advise about how to wear it that way. **

*There are of cause cases when such items are bought from army or specialty stores because they  are relatively cheap, quite comfortable and durable, but I think vast majority of people (all that hunters, strike ball players, agricultural workers, campers and many others) who buy and use camouflage like this don’t really care how they look when they are wearing it.

** Although I’m pretty positive that shirt and pants from the same set and army boots in the city are totally uncool unless you are tall, super fit and serving your country 🙂

Winter clothes for slim and curvy. Ukrainian edition

Here in Ukraine we have winter. And it’s damn serious. Russians, who are like 50 miles to the north have it even more serious, but our winter is more than enough to get the idea.

Most of the time in winter we have temperature somewhere between +5C and -20C (41F and  -4F). It starts in the beginning or in the middle of November and ends in the end of March. Sometimes temperature can drop down to -35C (-31F)*, but it happens not every winter. the weather can change drastically during the day. Humidity is usually quite high and it’s also windy. From this description you can guess that right winter clothes are essentials. There are a lot of sayings like “Siberians are not irresistible to cold, they are just dressed right”. We are not Siberians, but it’s 146% true for us too.

So what does it mean to be dressed right for severe winter conditions?

  • You need good boots on a thick sole (5/8″ is a minimum) which was designed for winter temperatures. If we are talking about a city then it should be waterproof (reagents create liquid dirt even when it’s well below freezing point). There should be no way for snow to get inside. High boots are better than low.
  • You need a warm coat. Good materials for it are down, thick wool and cashmere, fur. There are some hi-tech synthetics designed for winter sports, but one freeze pretty quickly in many of them without active movement, so choose carefully.
  • You need good gloves (high enough, not supertight, lined with cashmere or fur, water resistant) and a winter hat (that means made from thick wool or cashmere or fur or leather lined with wool, for colder days it should cover ears completely).
  • You always should take wind and slush or snow into account. That means thick raincoat fabric or leather after special treatment or special windshield/waterproof fabrics. But you can care less about waterproof after it goes below -10C (14F). Of cause you can always just get an umbrella, but if it’s windy it’s not that much of help.
  • It’s virtually impossible to create a coat which will be good both for +5C and -35C, so in a fact you need not one winter coat, but at least two (but more is more in this case, it’s much better to have several for flexibility).
  • You most likely will need at least two layers under winter coat, so you don’t want your coat to be too form hugging, but too loose is also no good, because loose not only often looks bad on curvy ladies, it also allows frost to get under the hem.
  • Warm scarf is usually a good idea.
  • Bare legs or nylon tights are very bad idea. Jeans are great for temperatures around freezing point, but not well below: they become very stiff and insulation become really poor (there are pants which look like jeans, but have fleece inside, those are much better). From my experience tights with wool or polar fleece leggings + something windproof is the best combination. Something windproof could be a long skirt (but no maxi for me, too dirty roads and pavements**) if you aren’t going to run a winter marathon. Of cause it could be pants, but they shouldn’t be very slim. Some air between layers creates better insulation.

So here comes interesting part: how to look good in all aforementioned when you have body with curves. I have to be honest: it’s tricky, but it’s totally possible***.

First of all: bulky is your worst enemy. Not only because it looks super frumpy, but because it prevents you from moving comfortably. You need the most insulation effective (thin and warm) clothes you can get, but you don’t want anything to be tight, because it prevents normal blood circulation which is very important for staying warm and cozy.

Second: you want some waist definition if you have a waist.

Third: 1 : 1 proportion for top and bottom is no-no. So if you have contrasting color blocks avoid the equal length and amount of each color. If you want to elongate your body it’s always better to use hints of the same color or the same color head to toe.

Four: double breasted coats could be great or the could be your worst enemy. You will never know until you try them. But if they look good on you then you won a lottery because it’s always easier to find one that fits (when unbuttoned a little bit more, but it still could be warm because of the construction) than find a single breasted coat that could be buttoned.

So here are some Polyvore sets which in my opinion are good for winter.****

Set #1. For moderately cold weather, when it's around freezing point. Down coat is more convenient for slush

Set #1. For moderately cold weather, when it’s around freezing point. Down coat is more convenient for slush, but I really like coats much better

Leggings are leather and turtleneck could be quite lightweight if dress is warm or dress could be lightweight and turtleneck wool/cashmere. You can wear tights under leggings and warm turtleneck under warm dress to accommodate this set to lower temperatures. You can often see sets like this with opaque tights, but wind will make you miserable in them.

Set for a weather aound freezing point, office with dress code

Set #2. For a weather around freezing point, office with not super strict dress code

When you wearing a jacket and a coat it’s important that not both of these items have shoulder support. You can add warm tights under pants and wear cashmere turtleneck instead of more lightweight top and this will allow you to survive -10C. Scarf could be worn overhead. Wide leg pants are more tolerant to layering than slim fit, but they require clean pavements, because they should be not shorter than one inch above the ground to look good. If you want shortened pants look for slim fit, but then you will need higher boots (like 5 inches above the ankle without any embellishments on top).

Actually there are quite a lot of sets like these which are labeled as winter, but you can rarely see something more serious like this:

Set for cold weather

Set for cold weather

This could be quite comfortably worn when it’s like -15C, a key factor here is that boots are much taller than the skirt hem and the skirt is made from something windproof (like leather), and of cause that there are warm leggings underneath. With that you don’t need a long coat, so the aviator jacket totally makes sense, but it should be made from real fur which wasn’t perforated and stretched.

Set #4. It's freaking cold and I don't care

Set #4. It’s freaking cold and I don’t care

This is approximately how we dress for outdoor activities in winter when it’s cold. Some women, who use public transportation system opt to dress like this and change to more work appropriate bottom in the office when it’s really cold. Sometimes there could be mittens worn over gloves.

An alternative looks like this:

Set #5. Hell may froze, but it's not the reason not to look nice

Set #5. Hell may froze, but it’s not the reason not to look nice

This is the set for severe weather conditions. Long fur coat is quite heavy and uncomfortable in the car, so it’s not what you want to wear if you have other options. Combination of thin gloves and mittens allow you to drive, use your wallet etc while staying warm. And of cause the trick with warm leggings is done here too.

Women with a very strict dress code usually invest in a long mink coat if they can afford it (often it’s a true investment like buying a car). This is very warm and super expensive way to dress, because it’s also includes a lot of cashmere and fine wool, mostly not as jersey items, but as garments made from woven fabrics. But I can’t find all the right clothes to make such set.

What not to wear in winter

  • Clothes which are too cold for the season. Blueish lips, reddish nose, uneven skin coloring when you step inside always look pathetic. And hypothermia weakens your immune system.
  • Long down coats: they almost never look good unless they are super deluxe designer coats. And they look especially bad if you are larger than S.
  • Bulky coats. And bulky clothes in general when it’s more than one item or something large.
  • Anything that looks like a trash bag (I don’t know why but some coats do look like that).
  • Tight beanies. There are some very rare exceptions, but as a rule they look awful and kill any volume your hair had before you put them on.
  • Embellished beanies and barrettes. Barrettes could be used if you are going for a retro or military look, but it’s a thin ice.
  • Too much fur when it’s not that cold.
  • Too dark clothes for your coloring. I don’t know why, but many people tend to wear dark clothes in winter even if dark colors look terrible on them as if it’s not dull and gloomy enough.
  • White boots except the case you have super clean pavements and roads. And if you have then still think twice.
  • Heels when it’s rime (it’s not only uncomfortable, but it also kills insoles pretty quickly).
  • The same pair of boots every day. They need some rest believe it or not!
  • Cotton as a first layer if there is any chance of serious sweating. The reason is that cotton looses insulation qualities when it gets wet.
  • Very tight clothes, clothes which don’t breath (except the last layer when it’s near freezing point).

So that’s what I think about how to dress for winter and I will be happy to hear from your winter experience.

* Record is somewhere around -40C (-40F), but I was never stupid or unlucky enough to be outside when it’s that cold.

** In our climate we can choose between dirty and icy. I prefer ice, but actually it’s very egoistic of me, as icy could be a serious problem for senior citizens. Alas we don’t have crazy oil money or natural sources of warmth to make all our roads and pavements warm and sometimes it’s snowing pretty heavy.

*** Well, when it’s -35C (-31F) with strong wind and snow you usully don’t give a damn about how you look. So sometimes you more than willing to sacrifice appearance to comfort. When it’s really really cold I usually wear sky mask, because several years ago I was stupid enough to get a frost bite and since then my skin is very sensitive to cold.But if you can look good and feel cozy then why not?

**** I’m not a vegetarian, I eat meat like beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, so I would be a hypocrite if I was refusing to wear furs. I won’t buy lynx coat or coat made from any kind of fox e. g., because I like these animals, but I see that more as my personal choice. If your choices are different, please adjust.

Ode to boring clothes

This is the post in which I want to praise basics.

They are boring. Wiring and sewage system are also boring. But I don’t think that any of you would like to live in a house without them. And when they are not in a good shape, then house becomes uncomfortable no matter how much you paid for decoration. The same applies to wardrobes: without good basics they are driving their owners nuts. Basic clothes often look the same for people who don’t pay great attention to details (- stop sending identical cardigans to our what to buy and where chat! – but they are absolutely different!).

They all are so different, what should I chose?

They all are so different, what should I choose?

Details are very important when it’s a basic cardi (or jeans, or shirt or whatever), because when something is off with the basic item it’s like electric socket in the wrong place: it constantly gets on your nerves until you fix that.

I have some cool stuff in my wardrobe (bright colors, complex, asymmetric cuts, daring details), but that’s not what I wear most and it’s not what makes my wardrobe integral. All those wonderful things allow me to add drama or simply visual interest, but if my whole wardrobe was built on such clothes I would look like a total freak (not that it’s a bad thing, but I’m not a freak by nature). So clothes I love and I wear most are boring: dark blue skinny jeans, white shirts, black and silver grey sweaters and cardigans, black and dark blue jackets, black oxford shoes, flat sandals without embellishments. There are also not so boring clothes which serve as basics for me: leather leggings (I wear them a lot with tunics and sweater dresses in winter), black leather midi skirt (again ultimate winter item, which allows to hide thick ugly and super warm polar fleece leggings), high winter boots (like knee high, and they were intended to go a little bit above the knee if I understand correctly) with bright zipper in the back). I call such things “basics with a quirk”. When you add to otherwise very basic item some touch of your personal style it still can be basic: but only for you (or your style twin).

Pleated leather midi-skirt fro ASOS, mine is almost identical

Pleated leather midi-skirt fro ASOS, mine is almost identical

There are many lists of ‘must haves’ a.k.a. basic wardrobe lists floating around the internet and almost every book about style has such list.

Usually they look like this:

Your typical basic wardrobe

Your typical basic wardrobe

But problem with all those lists is that they are useless for most of women. Useful list should correspond to climate, lifestyle, body shape, coloring and personal preferences. Not the case if it’s not personified.

Black pencil skirt? For a mom sitting at home with her toddler? Really? )))

Trench coat? In Thailand? Funny.

LBD? For woman with very soft and warm coloring? It will make her look like an ER patient.

I could go on and on and on… Possibilities why any item from those lists could be irrelevant are endless.

I think that if you want a list of basics more effective approach is to identify where and how you spend your time, situations which regularly occur in your life, identify functional and social requirements to your clothes and then choose your basics in accordance with your coloring and body shape. Yes, they should be more classic cut, they should be neutral and have minimum amount of embellishments, but it’s still a lot of possibilities.

As you may know from other sources, there are three main pairs of characteristics that define coloring:

  • warm/cool
  • light/dark
  • soft(muted)/bright(clear).

There are several color analyses systems: 4-seasonal, BFAS, directional, 12-seasonal, 16-seasonal, but they all built on top of these three pairs. And if you have time and spare money you can go through draping with a consultant and get your color palette, but if you don’t then you can just follow your natural colors and buy clothes with approximately the same color temperature, saturation and level of contrast. The little trick I learnt over years is to look at my face without looking at the garment I’m trying: if I start to look tired, or there are odd shadows or lips look pale or jaw line looks less defined or anything else is off then it’s definitely a wrong shade for me.

For body shape recommendations I like ones from Trinny and Susanna (they are detailed and cover not only basic types like hourglass or apple, but a lot of specifics). Of cause they doesn’t cover every possibility, but they are a good start.

Basic wardrobe should be re-evaluated after any significant life change: e. g. when I changed my job (in the office, struggling to balance software development with managerial tasks) to my current job (remote worker, working from home and people I’m managing and my manager are in the different countries), there was a big change: I wear jumpers now! and I don’t need elements of power dressing.  While the second is obvious, first needs to be explained (I think that is a good example how local specific plays important role in what to wear). Actually it’s simple: in Ukraine offices in winter usually either too cold, or too warm (because as a rule in my country many buildings share the same heating system it’s almost impossible to fine tune the temperature and even when a building has it’s own heating system, owners always try to increase the temperature, so they can charge renters more for heating). So in my old office it was like 25-26C (77-79F) in winter and I was wearing lightweight blouses and tops (so for colder days I needed warm cardigans or jackets under winter coats). Now I don’t have this problem and I wear jumpers again, because smaller number of layers is more comfortable, I like when it’s two layers, but three or four are too much, I feel dressed in a cabbage costume.

Sometimes changes are much more dramatic (consider having a child and becoming full time mom after an office with a very strict dress code or moving from Anchorage to Miami).

So how it looks on practice.

I spent almost all my time at home sitting behind my desk. I don’t need to be active at home (I outsource cleaning).  So what I need from my clothes: they should be comfortable, but I don’t need active wear, they should be grey or greyish (my cat is grey and she is always happy to share some of her fur) and just a little bit dressier than PJs (I don’t know why, but it’s very hard for me to work, when I’m wearing PJs). I can wear both pants and skirts, but in winter I feel more comfortable wearing wide leg pants and in summer I prefer A-line skirts. I also need some tops: long sleeve for winter and short sleeve and more lightweight for summer. I can wear dresses in summer at home. Sometimes it could be colder than I like (the curse of central heating) and for this cases I need couple of really warm cardigans. My coloring dictates that of all shades of grey I should choose silver and charcoal, I should also avoid uneven grey which is very usual for jersey. If I don’t want to look (and feel!) frumpy I should add some waist definition, so my tops and dresses should be fitted in the waist.

I need to go shopping and run errands at least once a week. Requirements: urban casual and comfortable. I should cover temperatures as high as +40C (104F) and as low as -30C (-22F), but I don’t need to be outside for very long if it’s uncomfortable and maximum level of activity is walking + pushing a supermarket cart.

We have very heavy rains in summer sometimes, so I need jellies in addition to leather sandals. In highest summer temperatures I doesn’t feel comfortable in cotton, so it should be silk, but as simple cut as possible, matte and no embellishments. Skirts are more comfortable than pants for me (better ventilation, I guess, it’s almost like wearing nothing). I can wear any dark and cool/neutral or light and cool/neutral clear color I want, but my choice for summer basics is light grey and ivory (there are a lot of brights which look really good on me, but brights don’t make good basics, alas! darks are more flattering on me, but I don’t feel comfortable wearing them a lot in summer, alas (number two)!).

In colder months we often have dirty pavements and roads, cars also become dirty pretty quickly, so wide leg pants and long skirts are no good for such conditions. In winter it’s either around 0C (freezing point) often accompanied by slush or very cold and sometimes snow (which they usually try to tame with salt and some reagents creating unbelievably filthy dirt). For colder months I chose black, silver grey and dark purple. Plus dark blue jeans. I also have one navy jacket, but I wouldn’t buy it again. I also like white shirts, but they are the only item I like white.

I’m Vase (slim hourglass with longer waist) in Trinny and Susanna typology. My legs are slim enough, so I wear skinny jeans and leggings, but I feel more comfortable when I pair them with tunics which cover crotch,  but are not too loose to hide the fact that I have slim waist. Long cardigans with a belt are also a very good choice for me. So those are my basics for autumn and spring. It could be trench or lightweight parka, but I chose leather jacket for months when it’s cold, but not freezing (this is just a personal preference, I like leather). I could also wear skirt when I feel like it, A-line skirts are comfortable and when they kept simple they are casual enough, at least for Ukraine. I don’t like sneakers, they are too sporty for my taste, so I use black oxfords and riding boots as casual footwear. In winter it’s mostly midi skirts and sweaters, worn with something heavy duty (when it’s colder than -5C (23F) then it’s sheep skin coat). I could wear my leather leggings with a tunic, but only when it’s not polar fleece needed cold (polar fleece is a divine gift for a girl like me, seriously, I hate when my knees are freezing).

I go out something like twice a week, but nothing super fancy. So I need some more dressy stuff, but not over the top. This is the place when nude leather sandals with high heels (but not stilettos!) appear. So it’s not a lot of basics for summer, because summer is about dresses for me and basic dress? it’s so lame :-D. For colder months there is a place for jackets (they really flatter me), A-line and pencil skirts, which I wear with shirts and scoop neck sweaters and necklaces.

So my basics are:

  • silk light grey skirt or summer;
  • warm silver grey and black cardigans;
  • black jacket;
  • couple of jumpers;
  • dark blue skinny jeans;
  • black slim pants or leggings (now this position covered by leather leggings);
  • black A-line midi skirt (because it’s universal);
  • white shirt;
  • jellies;
  • nude flat leather sandals;
  • nude high-heel sandals;
  • black oxford shoes;
  • black riding boots (actually two pairs: winter edition and autumn/spring edition);
  • black leather jacket;
  • polar fleece leggings;
  • neutral color warm waterproof coat;
  • sheep skin coat.

I haven’t included home clothes in my list, because there are no true basics except of a silver grey cardigan there, it’s a whole wardrobe, just created from unified items. There are also no summer tops (I prefer to have fun with them, so no basics here).

As you can see it’s not a typical basic wardrobe list. These are my personal basics, items which worth my special attention and little investment.. I’m sure that if you do the same exercise you will come with your own personified basic wardrobe list different from mine. Sometimes it could be very useful to go into more details about positions of the list, to write down what is important for the item of clothes and why*, it helps not to get lost when you are buying stuff.

I think that personalized list is a good step toward the wardrobe with which you will never cry out “Oh, my god! My closet is full of clothes, but I have nothing to wear!”.

* E. g. my jellies should be suitable for driving and my sheep skin coat shouldn’t be too heavy, because it’s bad for my back, so it shouldn’t be long, that’s why I need warm leggings.

… but style is forever.

Not a lot of people could say that they have very distinct personal style when any person who can ‘feel’ clothes can look at an item and say “It’s [not] her/his style!”, most of people who carry the burden of first world problems just have a lot of clothes. And one of the most common complains from women when we speak about clothes is “I have nothing to wear (and I need more space in the closet, it’s more than full)”.

Another version of this, popular between women who are difficult to fit, is to buy clothes just because they are a little bit more fitted than a tent and don’t make them look like a zombie (and sometimes even despite that!).

I never really had the first problem, because when I was young I was on a tight budget, so I was thinking really hard about what I was buying (and as a rule if there wasn’t at least 5 items I already owned which could go with a new item I didn’t buy it). I have a good eye on colors and proportions, that also helped. So my wardrobe back then was a little bit boring and not always very flattering (see the part about fitting a little bit better that a tent). it had nothing to do with my personality, but very functional, I had clothes for any situation and it was color coordinated since I was 17, so I never had a reason for aforementioned rant. But as time passed by I began to want more from my clothes. There was a good portion of trial and error, when my choices were perfectly color coordinated, but stylistically all over the place and my wardrobe began to grow above my comfort level. So I returned to old habit: thinking and gathering information. One of my lucky findings was a very harmonious system of style personalities. This system is used by BFAS image consultants.

So it goes like this: there are 6 major types of style personalities: Natural, Town&Country, Classic, Romantic, Dramatic and Delicate. Most people are the mix of two. Some people are pure (one type), but harmonious composition of three is next to impossible. Being two types doesn’t mean that you should buy clothes from two types, you should rather look for items which have characteristics of both, which are most close to you, because you are not just a juxtaposition, but a unique mix.

Brief description of how clothes of pure stiles looks goes like this:

jennifer-aniston-street-style_Natural
Natural style is usually described as sporty and energetic, comfy, but not afraid of form-hugging.  it’s fresh and sometimes could get too casual. It’s all about jersey and effortless hairstyles, jeans and sportswear as citywear. Simple lines, otten bold colors and comfort of movement, often layering. Jane Birkin and Jennifer Aniston
Image from Harpers Bazaar

Image from Harpers Bazaar

Town&Country style is described as conservative and traditional, cozy, relaxed, it’s about wool and cotton, suede, tweed jackets, Hunter boots. Clothes often have a loose fit and layered. Think of British gentry, Susan Boyle and Bruno Cucinelly

Kate-MiddletonClassic is well, about classics, not only business classic, but also sailor stripes and ballet flats, riding boots and little black dress. Thin wool in woven fabrics of highest quality, silk, cashmere, quality cotton (think white button down shirt). Clothes are usually fitted, but not clingy, accessories are small to medium sized and have clean simple shape, Bags are geometric, simple and expensive. Diamond studs and pearls. Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton
130224A1_ZETA-JONES_B-GR_02
Romantic is full of frills, lace and semi-transparent fabrics, satin, soft drapes, silk and cashmere, mink coats, it’s all about being dolled up and lovely. It often uses vintage or their outfits inspired by it. Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Zeta-Jones (yep, Romantic could be dark colored, but look at her, she is so glamorous!)
the L.A.M.B. For Lesportsac Cocktail PartyDramatic is bold and extravagant, it could be sexy and aggressive, it’s chic and it’s edgy. Leather, especially patent leather, silk, furs. Colors are black. white and brights.  Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga
211351-top-10-quirky-fashion-moments-of-helena-bonham-carter-cbeDelicate is youthful, sometimes freakish, nice and naive, funny, it uses whatever is available, but combinations always original and somewhat unfinished, gravitates to lot of accessories, ethnic stuff, boho, subcultural stuff. Helena Bonham Carter, Björk and Iris Apfel

But these descriptions concentrate on how it could be presented by pure types in extremes, which isn’t very helpful. because it’s very hard to translate these pure essences to a wardrobe for day to day life. But there is more important part of style analyses, inner part, which could help to find a way.

Process of finding who you are is rather intuitive and it more depends on traits of your character, on what do you want from life, you vibe, your “essence”, on your personality than on shape of your hips or length of your nose. It’s all about identifying your true self and being faithful to yourself.

So here is my brief descriptions of the vibes. I’m giving here not only positives, but also negatives, because people who are not compatible with the particular vibe are more prone to distinguish negatives. Also when other people are giving us their opinions they also tend to be more precise about negatives.

Natural – positives: youthful, fresh, full of life, energetic, funny, bright, sporty, outdoorsy; negatives: unreliable, careless, rude.

Town&Country – positives: traditional, conservative, warm and comfy, reliable, practical, simple, outdoorsy, solid and sound; negatives: outdated, stubborn, frumpy and narrow-minded.

Classic – positives: elegant, polished, practical, sophisticated, balanced, harmonious; negatives: bureaucratic, boring, unapproachable, snobbish.

Romantic – positives: emotional, sensitive and sensual, glamorous, soft and warm; negatives: emotional (no, this is not a mistake! emotional is both, because different people see it differently), passive, silly, illogical, vain.

Dramatic – positives: striking, outstanding, sophisticated, original, creative, edgy, extravagant. ironic; negatives: bitchy, slutty, strange, vulgar, vain.

Delicate – positives: creative, original, funny, youthful, playful, innocent, fresh; negatives: messy, unreliable, strange, laughable, infantile.

Of cause you can find your characteristics in more than two pure types and some types have something in common (Natural and Delicate have youthful, but when Natural has forever 17, most popular kid in the class vibe in it, Delicate is more about something childish and something about being creative and naive in a good way, something about to be open).

Delicate and Dramatic both seek for original, but in first case it is “more is more and less is bore” original, primitive art original, and in the second case it is very artful and sophisticated, one-of-a-kind and hiring the best professionals original.

Romantic and Town&Country are both warm, but Romantic woman is warm like a loving woman and in Town&Country woman it’s more of a mother warmth.

And type or their combination or I think it’s silly and I’m no type )), the key to the style which is truly forever is to know yourself and to express yourself through your clothes. Aforementioned style personalities are just some blocks which could be combined to give a starting point. What’s very useful is that if you identified your style personality you can google a lot of clothes choices connected with it and choose not from the whole continuum, but from  1/36, which is significantly easier task to do (for an example you can go here and here). And you can also go with associations: when you a looking on an item, think which memories, which feelings it calls, is it cold and sharp or warm and comfy? is it fashion forward or traditional? Is it boring? Is it exciting? Could you imaging your celebrity style twin wearing it? It’s totally ok that you don’t like any item you googled. it could be wrong color or wrong shape for your body type, associations and meaning of items are different not only from country to country, or social strata to social strata, but from person to person (i. g. certain type of kerchiefs is strongly associated with granny for me and for many Russians, but I bet that for most you, who has no Russian origin, these are just colorful and exotic without any granny vibe, oversized smoke-colored glasses are forever associated with my elementary school teacher for me, but I seriously doubt that many people share this association). And national specific or personal specific associations can make an item doesn’t feel right.

It’s also quite important to distinguish style and dress code. Casual is not a style even if it sometimes called so. It’s a dress code for a wide set of occasions. It’s no less dress code than business formal (if you doubt that try to imagine people reaction if you come to a barbecue in your best formal outfit). So each style personality can (and will) create a different outfits for the same dress-code. Sometimes it could be more challenging (business formal for Romantic or casual for Drama), sometimes it comes naturally (business formal for Classic or casual for Town&Country), but it’s still the same person in any occasion and it could be expressed with details and nuances to create harmony.

Prints and optical illusions. Polka dot

This is the third post of the series, here are the links to the first one (about Stripes) and the second one (about Plaid and Check).

As usual with most prints color of the background matters, you can use dark background for slimming effect and light background for widening effect.

But polka dot isn’t that simple. There are more factors in play: size and of cause color of the dots, how close together they are and if they placed on fabric regularly or randomly.

Bigger dots are more widening than smaller when scale of the print is the only factor that is different.

Scale effect. The right is the same print, but 4 times smaller

Scale effect. The right is the same print, but 4 times smaller

Darker dots create less widening effect when we are talking about dots of the same size and placement.

Effect of the distance between dots really depends on colorway. Light/warm dots on darker/cooler background are more widening when they are placed more close together, more dense, but cooler and darker dots on lighter/warmer background are less widening when there are more of them.

density_effect_on_diff_bkg

Rare dots on black will be slimming, more dense will give no effect on visual perception of size, dense black dots on white will be slightly widening, and rare black dots will be a little bit more widening, close to the perception of the pure white

But on the equally warm/cool background dots with the same warmth/coolness are more dense print is more widening.

Those two are warm and bright, so widening, but left one is even more widening, because it's more busy

Those two are warm and bright, so widening, but left one is even more widening, because it’s more busy

Contrast adds to the widening effect as usually with prints.

Grey is desaturated green/purple

Grey is desaturated green/purple, Green/purple version of print will be more widening, because there is a high level of color contrast

There are only two variants of polka dot which are slimming:

  • dark background small to medium dots that are far from each other;
  • dark background and vertically or especially diagonally organised dots.

Here is example of vertically and diagonally organized polka dots:

Here us direction effect,  Left fabric will behave like small scale check, and it will be slightly more widening, but actually they both are widening, because prints are busy, to avoid this effect there should be much less dots per square inch

Here is the direction effect, Left polka dot print behaves like small scale check, and it is slightly more widening, but actually they both are widening, because prints are busy, to avoid this effect there should be much less dots per square inch

Polka dot is “flattening”, making shape less sharp when it’s busy and it could be distorting shape if dots are oversize.

Super large polka dot print on sweater. It's distorting the shape and body of the model looks somewhat assymetric

Super large polka dot print on this sweater is distorting the shape and the body of the model looks somewhat asymmetric

Taking into account all aforementioned it may look like to banish this playful and youthful, yet feminine and classical print is the best wardrobe decision.  Please, don’t, if you like it – wear it! It’s so retro. It’s just made for full skirts with wide contrasting belts, lingerie, tops which should be worn under jackets or cardigans (to lighten up an outfit and give it a touch of joy). And light medium to small not dense dots on navy or black are perfectly slimming! And after all a little bit widening print isn’t the end of the world, maximum thinness isn’t what make you look great.

Picture from The Sartorialist blog. Click on image for more polka dot outfits

Awesome set from Mimi Holliday

Awesome set from Mimi Holliday

The only case when it’s a good idea to consider avoiding the print near your face IMO is when your face is all straight lines and angles. In that case the print could be very unflattering or just look odd.

Face line effect. Soft face lines + blouse from Aliexpress vs straight face lines + sweater from Gucci

Face line effect. Soft face lines + blouse from Aliexpress vs straight face lines + sweater from Gucci

That’s pretty much it about polka dot, but there are more prints to come. So thanks you for your attention and to be continued ).

Prints and optical illusions. Plaid and check

This is the second post of the series. The first one, about stripes, is here. The third one, about polka dot, is here.

Both prints are classic examples of busy print and both create vertical and horizontal lines at the same time. So they are almost always somewhat widening.

So it goes like that: the big scale check/plaid is more widening than small, high contrast is more widening than low contrast,  light/warm or very bright prevailing color(s) are more widening than dark/cool/low saturation.

Light tartan in warms, widening

Light tartan in warms, widening

Low contrast, dark, cool colors. Slimming (not as much as black or blue plain colors though)

Low contrast, dark, cool colors. Slimming (not as much as black or blue plain colors though)

Very bright colors, widening

Very bright colors, widening

Blue swatch is actually a little bit bigger than the two others.

Plaids which have a lot of clashing colors are more widening than plaids containing shades of the same color or colors that are good match and neutrals.

This will be widening, because red, yellow and black are clashing contrast

This will be widening, because red, yellow and black are clashing contrast, you could compare this to monochromatic plaids below

With plaid you can also have some effects which are more typical for stripes because contrast between two squares in a row could be less than between two squares in a column or vice versa.

This will behave somewhat like stripy

This will behave somewhat like stripy

While this will be widening as hell in both directions

While this will be widening as hell in both directions

There is also one thing that could significantly mitigate widening effect: rotating print 45°. Then we will have diagonals instead of vertical and horizontal lines and with right color scheme the item could be in fact slimming.

Compare this two skirts in similar colorway.

"Normal" direction of plaid

“Normal” direction of plaid

diagonal_plaid

Diagonal direction

Checks of average to large scale and plaid are also (like stripes) prone to distortion effect, when garment stretches to fit curvy body. This effect is very visible.

Not very pretty, IMO

Not very pretty, IMO

It also usually makes darts and seams very visible and so they always draw attention to themselves. E. g. side bust darts get very visible because of that, so no decent designer does that, darts usually moved to the waist, sometimes they could be masked by lapels and pockets.

Side dart on tartan. Very visible

Side dart on tartan. Very visible

This is Vivienne Westwood jacket, it's very fitted, but darts are not in your face at all

This is Vivienne Westwood jacket, it’s very fitted, but darts are not in your face at all

Yokes can make you thighs look wider. So if you are V shaped and you want to balance you shoulders and chest then bright high contrast skirt with yoke is something to look for.

This is Victoria Beckham, she is size 0, but her hips don't look narrow in this skirt, so if you are not that thin beware of the effect

This is Victoria Beckham, she is size 0, but her hips don’t look narrow in this skirt, so if you are not that thin beware of the effect

And I really like what Vivienne Westwood does with tartan playing with its direction.

Beautiful Helena Bonham-Carter in Vivienne Westwood suit, after getting her CBE

Beautiful Helena Bonham-Carter in Vivienne Westwood suit, after getting her CBE

There is one more thing that is very important about this prints, but not really connected to optical illusions: they always create certain associations. Stripes are more or less neutral (of cause there are sailor and seaside holiday theme in them, but it’s not that strong), but plaid and check are laden with associations.

Plaid: Scotland and Ireland, cowboys, working class, school uniforms. So if you want elegance in plaid then cut should be really creative otherwise item will look very casual (nothing wrong with that under right circumstances) or it can make you look like you are trying to cosplay a teenager (and if it’s not intentional and very well done with right doze of irony it looks awful).

Check. It depends on what check. It can be Prince of Wales, or it can be school uniform again.

There is one more interesting effect. Small scale check, especially Prince of Wales check has somewhat smoothing effect on people who have a lot of texture (curly hair, uneven skin etc), but it looks a little odd on people who are ‘smooth’ (strait hair or or hair in accurate large scale waves, smooth skin).

This has some smoothing effect on skin

This has some smoothing effect on skin

The reason for that is that it creates effect of raw texture, so in comparison skin looks more even.