Bridgette Raes Style Group Newsletter Annex

Enjoy reading all of our past Bridgette Raes Style Group newsletter articles here

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Style Makeover with Bridgette Raes

See me at work with one of my clients along with some fun before and afters!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Looks Like Chicken

By Bridgette Raes

As many of you know, I am famous for coining terms or phrases to help clients and readers of this newsletter better understand how to dress. Terms like “wishful wardrobing”, “Where are you going in that?” and “The Color Tripleplay” are terms that I have used so often that now I hear my clients using them just as frequently. I have compared certain colors to trusted friends and reference other colors as the popular friends. Yes, I will do whatever it takes to make a concept more tangible. It isn’t that I think any of my clients (or any of you who tune in to read this newsletter) are dim when it comes to getting dressed; I have simply found that sometimes an analogy is all that is needed when it comes to helping someone learn a new concept.

My most recent analogy is comparing clothing to chicken. I have used this comparison so many times in the past month that I thought it would be useful to share it with you. Now I can hear all of you thinking, “What is she talking about, clothing is like chicken?” So let me explain. Clothing is like chicken because, like chicken, you have to do something to your clothing to make it interesting. Think about chicken; on its own, chicken is boring and tasteless. If you were to just stick chicken in a pot of boiling water and eat it, how bland would it be? What makes chicken tasty is what you add to it. Clothing is exactly the same; by itself, with nothing interesting added, it is bland.

Many people, when getting dressed, do what’s comparable to sticking chicken in a pot of boiling water and eating it. No wonder most of my clients reach out to me in the first place feeling stuck, bored or uninspired. Most of my clients are hardly fashion nightmares, they simply are not adding anything to their wardrobe to make it tasty. When they learn how to do that, it is as though they have reached into the spice rack and learned how to make gems out of what they already own.

How can you turn your bland, chicken-like wardrobe into a tasty main dish? Here are some examples of some basics that many women wear, with some suggestions of how to add some spice.

The white shirt

The white shirt is as chicken-like as you can get. Be it a T-shirt or a white button-down, without something added it’s just a white shirt. Instead of just putting on a white shirt with your pants, explore these options:

•Pop your collar on a white shirt to make it more stylish
•Throw on a colorful necklace
•Find that funky bracelet tucked away in the bottom of your jewelry box or find a statement piece of jewelry at the local flea market that makes for a great conversation starter
•Layer another color over your white T shirt
•Grab a slim denim jacket or great khaki blazer and finish the look.

Black pants and a colored top

This look is as tired and pedestrian as it gets. But, alas, it is the most popular. To be less non-descript, finish the look with the following options:

•Ditch the boring handbag and uninspired black shoes and go for a funky bag and statement shoes
•Instead of black, try a light brown shade (like a pair of tan or luggage pair of shoes and handbag); this elevates the look tremendously
•Find a third color that you can wear back to create the color triple play. Example, if you are wearing a black pair of pants and a lavender sweater, go for a green handbag or fun green necklace
•Get a fun belt or pair of beaded or novelty sandals
•Ditch the black pants once and for all, and remember that whatever color you can wear with black, you can wear with any other neutral bottom. Some basic neutral bottom shades are brown, camel, tan, grey, olive, or navy. A black bottom is heavy and stark, but a softer neutral bottom makes it a more complete look.

T shirt and a pair of cargos

The staple casual look is a pair of cargos or cotton capri pants; but beware, this look can put even a highly caffeinated person to sleep if it doesn’t have elements of fun involved. Try the following to be more eye catching:

•Wear a pink T shirt and a pair of olive cargos. What about colorful flip flops in a darker pink?
•Try some natural colored jewelry like wood or leather to finish this more casual look
•Grab a printed scarf belt to bring some in some interest. Imagine a green T-shirt with brown cargos. Find a long scarf belt with some green in the print, along with some other colors to pop it
•Grab that denim jacket and throw a more fancy pin on the pocket to elevate the look
•Go for a cool trainer sneaker that is a standalone statement.

An all neutral outfit

Head to toe black or shades of brown is a wonderful monochromatic look. This is also your opportunity to punch in whatever color you want. A neutral base is the ultimate opportunity to really add a splash of color. Try the following:

•Add a turquoise (or any color you like) necklace to a head-to-toe tonal brown outfit
•Choose a fun red shoe to an all black look
•Pop a head-to-toe neutral with an interesting and colorful jacket to create a column look, very slimming
•Find that great brooch. When you create a neutral base it gives a statement accessory the opportunity to shine
•Try a colored or novelty handbag instead of one to match.

Basics are the chicken of the wardrobe world

I am a huge proponent of basics over too much novelty when it comes to purchasing your clothing. Most of your novelty should be found in the pieces you add versus your clothing. Novelty clothing is fine, but it is more of an accessory than it is a piece of clothing, so keep it to a minimum. Basics have more mix and match options, they last longer trend-wise and give women the ability to do more with less. However, when buying and wearing basics always keep in mind that you have only created your base or your foundation; like chicken, it’s a strong starting point but without some flavor you are denying yourself the opportunity to stand out in the crowd. When it comes to clothing, it’s what you do to it that matters.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Does your tush pass?

By Bridgette Raes

In case you missed it, you might like to know what was on the cover of the April 13th’ edition of the New York Post: “The Formula” for the perfect butt. Hmm, let’s see, with a war going on in Iraq, New Orleans still in shambles and our economy in the toilet, the formula for the perfect butt certainly seems like an extremely important issue to make cover news.

On the cover was a strange mathematical equation that looked like hard algebra (S+C)x(B+F)/(T-V), and even though I was seething at the sheer existence of this article I had to read on to sees what exactly women were supposed to calculate. There it was, right on page three (page three, are you kidding?) - the entire article.

I read on and the article told me that a team of British academics who call themselves tush-ologists (and apparently have too much time on their hands) developed a mathematical formula to determine just how perfect your butt is. Here is how it works:

First, a woman assesses her assets on a scale of one to twenty. Okay, that sounds really scientific, especially considering that most women hate their bodies.

Next, a woman has to assess the shape. According to them a ripe peach is just about right. Well I guess these scientists also have a direct line to God and they got the 411 from the man upstairs that the perfect butt looks like a peach. So those of you with flat booties - stop calculating, apparently you fail.

Circularity is next to be assessed; the rounder the better, apparently. So, my saddle-bagged friends, stop calculating, apparently you fail too.

If you are still fortunate enough to be in the running, bounciness is next. Less wobble is preferred. So let’s see if I understand this, you should have a round, circular butt, however if it wobbles you are out. How can you have a round, shapely butt without a bit of wobble unless you do lunges with every step you take?

Now that we are down to the miniscule number of women who can still continue calculating whether or not their butts are perfect, firmness is the next quality assessed. According to these scientists, too much push to that cushion loses points. So make sure it is round and shaped like a peach, BUT if you can’t bounce a quarter off it too, you fail.

Lastly, calculate texture, because if you have cellulite you lose points.

I was reading this article over breakfast and practically lost my appetite. It wasn’t that I felt shame about my butt (thinking that I should stop eating just to get the unsolicited approval of these British morons) it simply made me sick to think that this article could even be considered news. Nobody is going to tell me if my body is perfect or not based on some mathematical formula.

Perhaps this article was written with a lighthearted slant but it got my blood boiling. It is time to take a stand and stop this ridiculousness. I don’t know about you, but I am totally over the idea that there is a trend in body types, an ideal of perfection that few of us can even come close to achieving. It just amazes me that women are judged on something that they can’t control; I mean, if I had a choice, do you really think I would ask for cellulite?

I don’t think that we should get all koom-bye-yah and throw a celebration for the “flaws” we think we have. Let’s face it, if we could trade certain things about our bodies, we would do it in a heartbeat. The question that always plagues me is why is there only one standard of perfection? Why do we all have to try to fit into some sort of mold that is impossible for most of us to even come close to achieving? And if there is one perfect butt, body shape or weight that we should all be, then why is there variety in the world? Either God has a sick sense of humor, or we are supposed to celebrate (not shame) our body diversity. Personally, I like to think the latter.

In the end I couldn’t care less what a bunch of British tush-ologists (who are probably men, and if any of them are women, shame on them) have to say about my butt. As far as I am concerned, the only person whose opinion I care about (other than my own) is my fiancés, and according to him, I am doing okay.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Friday, May 12, 2006

What I have learned

By Bridgette Raes

After being in business for three and a half years I have learned a thing or two about women and style. Sure, I went into this business with knowledge, but I have acquired a great deal along the way. Here are some of the things I have learned:

I have learned that women love stylish shoes, but comfort always takes precedence.

I have learned that the closet tells on a woman: messy closet, messy life.

I have learned that most women wear clothing that is too big.

I have learned that women fear that other people will focus on their body issues as much as they do. Remember, nobody is looking at your body issues. Most people are too busy focusing and worrying about their own to be bothered with yours.

I have learned that women have too much reliance on black pants.

I have learned that when a woman likes the way she looks, the attached price tag doesn’t matter.

I have learned that when it comes to having a workable wardrobe, it is quality, not quantity that matters.

I have learned that most women look beautiful in teal.

I have learned that most women can shop in their closets. Almost everything she needs is already there. All she has to do is learn how to utilize it more effectively.

I have learned that a stylish woman looks timeless.

I have learned that women would rather be complimented on how good they look vs. how good their outfit looks.

I have learned that a good bra is really important.

I have learned that shopping is not a favorite pastime for many women. They consider it confusing, difficult and overwhelming.

I have learned that when women try clothing on and it doesn’t fit them, they blame their bodies and not the clothes. (How about blaming the clothes instead?)

I have learned that “dress for success” is a useless term unless a woman actually feels successful in what she is wearing.

I have learned that most women aren’t interested in being trendy; most women just want to express who they are through their clothing choices.

I have learned that once a trend is in Payless or Wal-Mart, it is basically over.

I have learned that finding the right pants means trying on about fifteen pairs.

I have learned that a woman may have an abundant wardrobe, but she will still wear the same few things, over and over.

I have learned that a woman looks better in clothing if it shapes her waist. Accent your waist if you have one, or create the illusion of one through your clothing if you don’t.

I have learned that black is not the most versatile wardrobe color.

I have learned that the fashion industry has a lot of learning to do with regard to understanding plus-sized women, African American women. and making inseams of pants long enough for women over 6’ tall.

I have learned that a woman’s chosen style is determined more by geography and lifestyle than it is by a fashion magazine.

I have learned that the most versatile accent color is green.

I have learned that most women feel confused about how to accessorize.

I have learned that the most expensive part of a woman’s outfit is usually her shoes.

I have learned that bulky clothing doesn’t camouflage anything; it only makes you look bulky.

I have learned that tan is the most elegant and sophisticated shoe color.

I have learned that every wardrobe should be equipped with sick-at-home pants which are old, comfy “never leave the house in” pants that instantly make you feel comforted the moment you put them on.

I have learned that there is no such thing as the perfect body; there is, however, perfect clothing for every woman’s body.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Feel good on the outside, smile on the inside

By Bridgette Raes

Like most women, I try to make a date to watch Oprah as often as possible. I recently caught an episode that really made me stop and pay attention. It was about young girls in Ethiopia, many of whom are married and pregnant before the age of thirteen. Because their bodies are hardly developed (many have only been menstruating a very short while,) after enduring several days of labor without the aid of any pain medication or support, these young girls are giving birth to stillborn babies. Sadly, this is not the worst of the effects that these girls are experiencing from having children too early. As a result of early childbearing, these girls are also left with a permanent condition called a Fistula which leaves them permanently unable to control their excretory functions. As a result urine and feces constantly drip down their legs, which causes their husbands and community to shun them because of this condition. For a fuller story about this click here

However, there is hope for these girls. Oprah continued to speak about Dr. Catherine Hamlin, an Australian gynecologist who has spent the last 44 years in Ethiopia and who is a pioneer in performing surgery for women with obstetric fistula. Dr. Hamlin is giving hope to women who feel like their lives have been ruined, who have no self-worth and are social outcasts from their community through no fault of their own.
Touched by this, I continued to watch the episode and was struck by one part in particular. After these women are cured by Dr. Hamlin and are ready to leave the clinic, each girl is given a new dress representing new beginnings so they can re-enter the world with their heads held high. To think that something as simple as a new dress was part of the healing process for these women really left an impression on me, and reconfirmed my feeling that the way we feel on the outside makes a great impact.

To some, makeovers or focusing too much attention on our outer selves seems frivolous or self-indulgent. There are still many women who, when meeting with me for the first time, tell me that while they are excited they also feel like they are being indulgent by hiring someone like me to help them. There is still a stigma about paying a significant amount of money to work on our outer beauty. But is it really such a shallow and self-indulgent thing? When we feel good on the outside, doesn’t it make us smile a bit more on the inside? Think about the last time you loved the way you looked and the impact it had on how you approached life, not to mention the freedom it provided.

Self expression isn’t just what comes out of our mouths; it is expressed through visual representation as well. In fact, the greatest way we are perceived and judged by people is through our non-verbal communication (which includes our image,) The number one request I get from clients is that they want to learn how to express outwardly who they are on the inside. This hardly seems like a shallow or self-indulgent thing.
This week, I want all of you to think about where you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to smile a bit more on the inside, and more importantly, really start identifying how it may be affecting you. I will share my own realization from this past week, to show you just how great an impact this can have.

When I am not seeing clients I work from my home. I have admitted in the past that when eyes aren’t on me, the way I look can slip. I come home from yoga and find that hours can pass before I get out of my yoga clothes; that some mornings I barely make it from pajamas to a pair of tattered jeans and a t-shirt, and that a pony tail and no makeup can pretty often be standard. I may work in the image business, but I am also a thriving business owner who often has several tasks to deal with at once. As a result, even I let myself go when nobody is watching.

Last week, I had my apartment painted and had to let the painter in every day to do his job. Wanting to make sure that I was ready to let him in, I would wake up, jump in the shower, put a little makeup on and pull myself together before his arrival. As a result, I was a lot more productive last week, even with the disruption of painting going on. This week the painter is gone but I have kept the practice up because I saw the value in focusing on my inner smile. Instead of rolling from my bed to my office chair to check my email (which winds up turning into a good hour or two behind my computer) I do a quick email check, start the shower and choose something to wear that may be casual, but I feel good in. Before running to get my coffee in the morning, I have even chosen to throw on a little lip gloss and concealer. The positive effects of last week’s effort to take a little extra time in the morning actually wound up saving me more time in the end, because my productivity level increased.
As a very dear client of mine said recently, “It takes just as much effort to look bad as it does to look good.” This is wise advice that I encourage all of you to consider.
Does this mean wearing a dress to the playground with your kids or a new pair of jeans to scrub the tub? Of course not. However, function does not have to mean sacrificing style, and taking the time to make sure that you can enter the world every day with your head held high is hardly self indulgent.

Here is a checklist of questions you can ask yourself every morning before you leave the house:

1. What word describes how I feel in what I am wearing?

2. If I run into an old flame, other mothers in the neighborhood, the CEO of the company where I work, or if I get a last minute phone call from some friends to meet after work, do I feel like this is the outfit I want to be wearing?

3. Could I add something to this basic outfit to make me feel better? Instead of the old sneakers what about a fun ballerina flat, or can I find an accessory to throw on with my outfit for work that gives me that extra lift?

4. My life is pretty basic and jeans and a sweater are okay, but can I update some of my “go to” pieces that have started to wear out, so that I could feel better wearing these clothes?

5. Have I let myself slip because it doesn’t seem to matter?

6. What easy style steps can I add to my life that make me feel great yet are still practical?

If you haven’t previously taken the time to focus on this, then making this change may feel a bit awkward at first, but on those days when you do feel inclined to let yourself slide, remember the mornings where you left the house feeling less-than-great and whether it had a negative effect. Once you start making a commitment to your “inner smile” start taking notice of how you interact differently with others, how much more productive you are, and how much more freedom you feel. If this isn’t enough impetus to get out of that worn T shirt, scuffed shoes or five year old suit, than I don’t know what is! Feeling good about the way you look isn’t frivolous or self indulgent, it’s a declaration to the world of your own internal self worth, regardless of whether or not anyone is paying attention.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Too much of a good thing

By Bridgette Raes

I have seen every type of closet you can possibly imagine, from the “neat as a pin” organized to the “chaotic disaster zone” and everything in-between. Each client’s closet has its own share of challenges and positive aspects. Believe it or not, one of the more challenging closets to clean out is the closet that has an overwhelming number of clothes, all of which are pretty good.

It may seem surprising that a closet overloaded with decent things is a challenge, but too much of a good thing can be just as detrimental as a closet that doesn’t have enough. I often use the analogy of a menu. Imagine going to a restaurant where a menu is placed in front of you containing a few appetizers, a few entrees and a few desserts to choose from. It’s easy to narrow down the selection and make a decision. Now imagine a diner menu hat is filled with pages and pages of choices. With all these choices, making a decision can become overwhelming. The same is true in an overloaded closet full of choices, and it is why too many options can sometimes be a challenge.

~If you aren’t sure if your closet has gotten out of control with an overwhelming amount, take a look at the following and see if any of these sound like you:

~If you have pulled out things from your closet and said, “Wow, I forgot I had this piece” too often, you have gone overboard.

~If you have a ton of the same thing (like ten white T-shirts or five pairs of black pants) you have gone overboard,

~If you have a decent sized closet space but have found that you have begun storing your clothes in other spaces of your home (like the kitchen pantry, your children’s closet, under the bed and in any other available space in your home) you have gone overboard. Note that this means current season clothing that you are wearing. Storing off-season clothing in other areas of your home is fine, but if you if you are running around your home searching all over the place just to put one outfit together, then yes, you have gone overboard.

~If you open your closet and find yourself seriously digging and rummaging to find something, then you have gone overboard. Nobody should feel like they have to dig for a shirt as if they are searching for buried treasure.

~If you can estimate that you wear 20% of what you currently own, then you have gone overboard.

~If opening your closet overwhelms you, then you have gone overboard.

Solutions for paring down

When your closet is full of decent things that you love but the sheer number of them is clearly overwhelming you, how do you edit? After all, it is much easier to part with things when you know that something doesn’t work. If it is all good, then how can you decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t?

The first thing that you need to do is get honest with yourself. Is it all really working? When was the last time you even checked? No matter how nice a client’s wardrobe is, there are always pieces that are so old or dated that even if they were decent at one time, they have been in the closet way past their expiration date. In addition, clients may love to look at some of the pieces in their closets because the fabric is nice, the print is pretty or it has a nice detail. What is most important, however, is that the clothing that you own isn’t just pretty to look at, but fits you well and is a viable piece that fits your lifestyle. Case in point, the classic article I wrote last year about my mother’s shoes (click here to read the article.).

If you have your “go to” then move on

The next thing that I suggest is looking for duplication. If you have several pieces in your closet that fit the same category, then try editing down. For example, if you own one or two pair of shoes in your closet that you always find yourself slipping on to run quick errands or wear to run around town, you don’t really need any more. If you have more than you need and your “go to” pieces are covered in a category then you are done. Don’t continue to load up in areas where you already consider yourself covered. Be honest with yourself! Many times we continue to add because we find something in the store that we think we must have because we like it. If you find a piece like this and you can identify that you are already covered in this area, but you simply must buy it then promise yourself that you will get rid of one of the currently existing “go to” pieces in your wardrobe. Another suggestion - if you find yourself loading up on the same types of basics, store some of the new pieces away until the ones you are currently using wear out. (This works better for basics than it does novelty items.)

Look at your life realistically

Take some time to really look at your life and figure out the percentage that you spend living each part. I recently met up with a new client who laid out her life for me clearly and succinctly. She separated her life into categories: the mom part of her life, the social part that included kids or going out with girlfriends or her husband, her part time job and the more social side of her life, which included dressing up. She figured out the percentage of time that she spent doing each. It was wonderful to work with her because zeroing in on the areas of your life and identifying the percentage that you spend doing each part can really help you create a balanced wardrobe.

If you are someone who spends most of your week in a work environment that doesn’t allow you to wear jeans and you only you wear jeans on the weekend, do you really need five pairs? It would be my guess that no more than three would be sufficient, each pair filling a specific and different need. Perhaps one pair for ultra casual that you don’t mind getting soiled, a nicer casual pair and maybe a dressier, going out pair that isn’t as worn.

If you are someone with an overloaded closet, before you edit it down take some time to really look at the areas of your life and the percentage that you spend doing each. Now look at your wardrobe, and honestly ask yourself if the percentage of clothing that you have for each category reflects your actual life.

I don’t even know where to begin

Working with clients whose closets are completely overloaded can be a long, tiring and overwhelming experience. The longest closet edit I ever did was eight hours and that was only one closet. She still had another one which we did at a later date and the second closet took just as much time. Sixteen hours to clean two closets of clothing!

After these types of sessions, I am tired and my client is tired; however, we are both equally satisfied with the end result. Finally my client has space between the pieces on the hangers; she feels lighter and more in control when she opens the space. Clearly, the positives outweigh the negatives of the task itself but getting up the energy and finding the time to actually do it can be tough. If every time you open your closet and you are overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is actually go in there and really clear it out.

Many of the clients who have an overloaded closet space hire me to simply stay on task and also ensure that if they are going to rid themselves of something, they are making the right decision.

The advice I give to most of my clients before a major closet overhaul is that the time we spend in the closet be time that they can really devote to the project, that they keep their plans for the evening on the lighter side, and that they also be prepared to be not only physically drained, but possibly emotionally drained as well.

If utilizing my services for your closet edit isn’t a possibility, here are some questions you can ask yourself during your next big closet purge.

Take each piece and ask yourself the following:

• Why do I keep this piece in my wardrobe?

• Do I wear it or do I keep it simply because I think it looks pretty and/or because it has sentimental value?

• When was the last time I wore it?

• If you haven’t worn it, ask yourself if you already have a “go to” piece in your closet that does the job that this seldom-worn item does. If you are already covered with a “go to” piece then ask yourself if this piece can be stored until the current “go to” piece wears out, or decide if this seldom-worn item can now replace or update your current “go to” piece.

• Try the piece on and really look at yourself in it. Many women with overloaded wardrobes haven’t cleaned their closets in years, which is how they got into the predicament in the first place; and because it has been a while, many of the pieces are dated. You have enough stuff in your wardrobe, if you really don’t like the way you look in something, let it go.

How to stop this from happening again

So, now you have cleaned out the closet and you feel great; how do you stop this from happening in the future? Cleaning out is one thing, but changing your ways is another. Here are a few suggestions:

• Implement the input output rule which means that for every item you buy in one category (like sneakers, jeans, shoes, t-shirts) you must get rid of an item in your wardrobe that you already own in that same category.

• Avoid duplication. When contemplating the purchase of something new, honestly ask yourself if you are covered in this area. Start by asking yourself where you see yourself wearing the piece you are considering buying, and then ask yourself if you already own enough clothing to cover this area of your life

• Avoid buying things just because they are pretty. You must be able to come up with places you will wear the piece you want to buy, what you will wear this new piece with and if it really, really fits your lifestyle. If you life revolves around being on your feet all day then how many pairs of heels do you really need? Yes, almost every woman is a sucker for a sexy heel, but if heels don’t work in your life you don’t need a ton of them.

Parting is SUCH sweet sorrow

Getting rid of ugly, worn clothes is easy. But getting rid of nice clothing to which you have some sort of an emotional attachment is harder, especially if these pieces still have the tags attached. To feel better, make wise choices about where you donate these items

I usually separate my clothing donations into categories. My worn casual clothing goes to a local church. My more professional clothing that is still good goes to Bottomless Closet which donates clothing to underprivileged women looking to get back on their feet. My third donation pile is the consignment or eBay pile, which are items of value that may bring me a profit. My last pile is family or friends who may benefit from some of my donations, like my sister who just had her second child and is in the process of losing weight. I send her all the beautiful items that are too big for me as she whittles her body back to her desired size.

Knowing that the clothes that I get rid of aren’t going to waste makes me feel better about parting with them.

It surprises many women who have overwhelming closets to hear me say that you should be able to mentally recall just about every piece that you own in our wardrobe. I can do this, as can many of my clients who keep their wardrobe pared down. Start being honest with yourself, and yourself if there might be a deeper meaning to why your closet got overwhelmed in the first place. Can it be that you never know what is right, so you keep buying until you do? Is it that shopping and buying gives you a rush and your wardrobe has become compromised as a result? Is shopping replacing something else that is missing in your life? Is buying clothing filling another void? There are tons of reasons why we shop, buy and create chaos in our own lives. It is just as beneficial to find out the root cause of why we do what we do, as it to just get your butt in there and clean it out.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Less than zero

By Bridgette Raes

If the possibility of having a magical power like flying seems more likely than cramming your thighs into a pair of pants in a size zero, you will be thrilled to hear that Banana Republic recently introduced a new size - the double zero - which is one size smaller than the already unattainable size zero. While the number sounds ridiculous, it doesn’t surprise me. As we are getting bigger as a nation, so are the physical sizes of our clothing.

Knowing of a woman’s psychological dependency on size numbers, in recent years the fashion industry introduced something called Glamour or Vanity Sizing, which means sizing up each clothing size one entire size. while keeping the size label the same. This means that, for many companies, what was once their size eight is now their size six. Because of this, the introduction of the double zero was bound to happen.

Glamour sizing is a funny thing; while we know we are being blatantly lied to, we accept the number on the tag for the lie that it is. We don’t want to know the truth. But what is the truth exactly? With no established standardization of sizes in the fashion industry, the number on the clothing is an arbitrary one that is actually more psychological than it is truthful.

Studies show that a woman feels better about herself when she wears a smaller size. I admit that I certainly feel better about myself when I can fit into what is considered a size four by today’s standards. even though I know darn well that this number means absolutely nothing. Right now I am the same weight that I was in high school. At this weight, back when I was a teenager, I wore a size eight. The only way that I can maintain my high school weight but wear a much smaller size is if there has been some size-tampering going on by the fashion industry over the years.

If you are reading this article aghast because you are feeling discouraged by the fact that your body isn’t as small as you thought it was, let’s back this conversation up a bit and try to find a new and more empowered way of looking at sizing and dressing our bodies.

How clothing is fit and sized

As I mentioned, there is no true standardization of sizing in the fashion industry. What is a size eight to one designer or clothing manufacturer is not necessarily a size eight to another. With no standardization of sizing, each and every designer has license to create their interpretation of each size. And it isn’t just the size number itself that affects how clothing will fit you; it is what the designer is basing their original fit on that plays an equally important role.

Here is a little inside information on how designers go about fitting and sizing their clothing: every designer uses what is called a “fit model” that is an actual model that designers use to create their standard of fit. The type of model they use is based on the type of clothing they are designing, their typical customer, and the fit they are trying to achieve. Generally speaking, more contemporary companies (or companies who are targeting a younger customer) usually use a thinner and leaner fit model for their standard, and companies who are targeting an older or more classic customer usually choose a fit model with a rounder, curvier figure. There are also plus-sized fit models, petite fit models and junior sized fit models in the industry. The fit model that a designer chooses sets the sample size standard for the fit of the company’s products. A sample size usually is a size eight. All fit models fit for several companies and spend most of their working days going from company to company fitting garments for different designers. However, even though these fit models lend their bodies to establish a fit for several companies, this does not necessarily mean that the fit will be the same at the various companies for whom she works. I clearly remember working with a fit model whom we used as our sample size ten who was also working for another company where they used her as a sample size eight.

But the inconsistency doesn’t stop there. When a fit model works with a designer she regularly comes in for fittings with the design staff. Designers try the sample sized prototype garments on the model and make alterations to achieve a better fit, based on their fit model’s body. Once the fit of that particular sample sized prototype is established and approved by the design staff, that prototype garment goes into production, where a patternmaker takes the approved prototype pattern and grades it. Grading of a pattern means adding or decreasing inches to specific parts of the sample sized pattern to size up or size down, creating a size run of varying dimensions. These measurements are called grade rules. Established grade rules vary from company to company. For example, one company may grade the sample size’s waist up 1 ½” to make a size eight a size ten, and another company may only grade their waist up 1 ¼” to go from a size eight to a size ten. With no standardization within the industry, each designer or manufacturer is free to decide how a production pattern gets graded and what their specific grade rules are.

So why isn’t there a rule that every designer and manufacturer should use the same grade rules? Wouldn’t that solve the problem? Not necessarily. While it is required that a fit model have a very balanced and proportioned body shape, the shape of each fit model varies from person to person. In the end, finding clothing that will fit you is dependent on how close your body is to the shape of the fit model that the designer or manufacturer uses to fit their garments. This is the reason why, no matter how large or small your body, if your body shape does not closely resemble the body shape of the fit model used, the clothing may not fit you properly.

Additionally, designers usually only see garments cut in their sample size. Once a garment is graded into larger and smaller sizes it has moved on to the production phase and it is pretty much out of the designer’s hands. In most cases a designer will never see what their garment looks like in a size that is larger or smaller than the original sample size.

All of this underscored just how the size number on the label really is arbitrary.

We are just a mixed bag of body components

The truth is that each woman’s body is merely a mixed bag of body components; some that they may like, and others that they would trade in a heartbeat. What is more important than focusing purely on the size number that you wear is breaking down your body, part by part, and learning how to dress these body specifics. This is much more important than the actual size you wear. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Both my friend Anna and I wear the same exact size number; however, Anna and I are built completely differently. Anna has broad shoulders, a smaller chest, a slight waist and a flatter butt. I on the other hand have very narrow shoulders, a full chest, a very defined waist and a much larger butt and thigh area. We wear the same size number but with different body specifics, our clothing choices are usually different and when we do choose the same clothing it looks completely different on each of us. The size number on the label plays a much less important role than how the clothing actually fits our bodies specifically.

The first thing I hear many women exclaim when they can’t get into their desired size is that they need to lose weight. While weight loss may be something that could be of benefit, it is not necessarily the magic-bullet fashion solution that many women assume it will be, case in point my friend Anna and I. The truth is that for most women, a body issue that a woman struggles with will always be her issue no matter what her size. Weight loss does not mean that the body issue will go away. Again, let me use myself as an example. Last year I lost a considerable amount of weight and went from wearing a size ten to a size four. While I definitely felt as though I had more clothing options in a smaller size, many of the body issues I struggled with at a size ten were still with me at my new size four body. I have realized and accepted that my thighs, no matter what size I wear, will always be an area where I collect weight, and that many of the other body components I possess will never really change. My body has pretty much remained proportionately the same; at a size four the issues are merely smaller, not gone. Since these body points will probably always be with me, I have decided to focus more attention on dressing these issues properly and seeking out the stores which cater more to the way my body is built. I avoid the stores or labels that cut narrower in the hip area, because I know that their size four pants aren’t going to be cut properly for the shape of my hips. And here is more proof that body shape has more to do with size - I have a client who is a size twenty-two and a client who is a size six; the size label in these clients’ clothing may be vastly different. but their body issues are quite similar. Both of these clients have a larger thigh area, a proportionately smaller waist and a larger chest. Because these two clients of very different clothing sizes share the same body issues the approach I use when dressing their bodies is actually quite similar, regardless of their size. Instead of feeling depressed by the thought that the body issues you struggle with at one size may never go away with weight loss, it is my hope that instead you find clothing that is the right for your body regardless of the size you wear. Don’t shame your body or think that you have to find some crash diet with the assumption that once you shed the weight your body will fit into the clothes. Instead, assume that the fit of the clothing at a particular store just isn’t right for your body. Always try to remember that it isn’t your body that is bad for the clothing, but instead it is the clothing that is bad for your body.

It’s all psychological

I can write forever about how much size really doesn’t matter, but let’s face it, for many women it does matter, even if it is purely psychological. We have a true love-hate relationship to the idea of glamour sizing. We know darn well that we are being lied to, but deep down inside we don’t care, we want the lies. We want to say that we wear a smaller size. Let’s face it; finding out that you can wear a smaller size can be a better mood lifter than Prozac, even if the size number isn’t based in any form of reality. The truth is that yes, the size on the label may not be based in any form of reality, but the psychological feelings associated with each size number certainly are just that— very real. And until this changes and the feelings we associate with each size number shift to something more positive. and until commercials and the media stop making us feel as though our value as a person is dependent on the size number we wear then glamour sizing, it seems, is the only solution.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Show style a little love

By Bridgette Raes

Ladies, we have all been guilty of putting ourselves last - behind our jobs, our partners, our children, or our schedules. No matter who we are, we have all chosen something to supersede our own self love at one point or another in our lives. Throw a little love your own way by choosing to do at least one of these ten loving things for your style.

10. Avoid wardrobe abuse

I wrote an article a few months ago introducting the term “wardrobe abuse.” If you find that you are being haphazard with your clothing, it may be a victim of this crime. Now before I call the authorities on you because you are an abusive clothing owner, take a few minutes to understand why you may be abusing your clothing the way you do.

In my opinion, while it may have something to do with laziness (or the fact that you are disorganized) I think the greater reason you may be abusing your wardrobe is because you don’t love it. Like anything else in life, if we love something we want to nurture it and take care of it, regardless of available time or habit. For example, if we love having someone in our life, we make it a point to always call to check in, or do nice things for them. Conversely, if someone is a drain in our life we tend to avoid them or not treat them as nicely as we would if we enjoyed their presence.

The same is true for your clothing. If you are not treating your wardrobe right, start thinking about whether your wardrobe is something that you really love. If it isn’t, it may be time to start incorporating some passion pieces into your wardrobe.

Once you do this, start to notice how much better you take care of the new items in your closet that you love.

9. Assess your space

If you are someone who hates to walk into your closet and choose your outfit for the day, consider that perhaps it isn’t just the wardrobe that is bad, but the closet space itself. If you are someone who opens the closet and feels immediate pangs of anxiety, or feels daunted by the task of merely navigating around to find your favorite sweater, you may want to think about working on the layout of your closet space.

There are a few solutions to this. You can purchase your own wardrobe management tools and do the job yourself. I recommend checking out our Lisa Zaslow’s online store. Lisa is our resident contributor on organization and not only is her selection great, but so are her prices. Click here to visit Lisa’s site.

The other route is to call in a professional. If you are in the New York area, I recommend Astech Closets.

8. Say goodbye to the “icks”

If you are looking to empower your life with an “I am woman, hear me roar!” attitude, then the safest way to start is in the closet. Similar to wardrobe abuse, keeping clothing that you don’t love around has the same negative effect. .

“Oh, come on!” you are probably saying, “It’s only clothing, who cares?” But before you toss out my theory as bunk, think about the last time you wore something that you loved, and how it made you feel. Think about how you interacted with others, how much more confident you felt. Then think about a time when you wore something that you didn’t love, that didn’t express your essence the way you would have liked.

If you are someone who loathes your entire wardrobe, use the “life support” technique I recommend to clients. When you “life support” an item the days of that item are now numbered, and your goal is to replace it in the near future as soon as the budget for that new piece becomes available.

7. Tackle your mending and repair pile

“That pant needs a hem. That shirt is missing a button. Oh, I can’t wear those shoes because they need to be re-soled.” With all of the other things going on in our lives, our mending and repair pile can really become sizeable. This week make it a mission to tackle the pile, and commit to doing something about it.

6. Buy one passion piece

A passionless wardrobe is very common. This week, make it a goal to buy one passion piece for your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be expensive; perhaps it is a bracelet that caught your eye on the street, a pair of earrings you have been eyeing at the store, or even a new hat that goes with all of your coats. If your wardrobe has been feeling expressionless it is time to infuse it with a little love. If it makes you stop and stare, and it works for your budget, buy it.

The best test to know if something is a passion piece is to walk away from the item. If you find that over the next twenty-four hours your mind is fixated on that item, then go back and purchase it.

5. Buy and wear some sexy underwear— for yourself

To me, there is no better way to honor my feminine side than to wear underwear that makes me feel sexy. Beautiful lingerie doesn’t have to be saved for that someone special. Be your own “someone special” and do it for yourself. If your skivvies have started to look like “granny-central” then make a plan to go and buy one pair of the laciest, frilliest, most girly underwear you can find. If you are someone who has a drawer filled with beautiful undergarments but have been holding off wearing them for the right reason, the right occasion, or the right person, stop waiting; the time is now.

I recently worked with a client who has lost a considerable amount of weight and is joyously wearing clothing several sizes smaller than when we started working together. The last item bought during our most recent session? A pink lacy thong.

4. Clean out your closet

If you haven’t started the New Year with a clean closet then use this week to clean out the space. You don’t have to do a full purge but with self-love as the theme this week, do a quick pass and pull out items that have lost the love. These are the items that you feel less than passionate about, and have time and time again passed over for something else.

Scared to get rid of these things for fear that you may need them? Be honest with yourself - if you have been passing these items over, chances are that you won’t miss them. If you are still hesitant, follow my suggestion of boxing them away and out of sight. Give yourself six months to see if you pull them out of storage. If six months go by and you forget you even had these items, let them go once and for all.

3. Show off your bod

Every woman is clear about what parts of her body she dislikes or would trade in a heartbeat. These are the areas where we immediately focus when we look in the mirror. Let’s face it, these areas aren’t going away tomorrow, and if they did we would find a new area of our body to fixate on.

Instead of damning the areas of your body that you hate, why not celebrate the areas that you love by showing them off. You may have larger thighs but you were blessed with toned arms. Perhaps your stomach isn’t your best feature but man, were you blessed with great legs. Women love to focus on what they don’t have or weren’t blessed with, vs. finding gratitude for the areas that we do love.

Women also don’t often give themselves permission to love their bodies just as they are. Why can’t we be proud, why can’t we look in the mirror with love? There comes a point when we all have to accept that the ideal isn’t going to happen. This does not mean giving up, or sulking in the bathroom because you have cellulite. It means stopping the unrealistic pressure to be something that, without airbrushing and Photoshop, you will never achieve.

The other trap that women fall into is believing that once we look perfect, we will be perfect. That attitude is just a silly hamster wheel, and I encourage all of you who are racing on it to get off immediately. There is no perfect body; there is no perfect size. There is the perfection that you are right now, and this week I encourage you to rediscover those areas that you love and honor them by giving them center stage.

2. Get a fresh new haircut

Isn’t it amazing how a few inches off your hair makes you feel like you’ve lost ten pounds? If you have been dying for a change, the quickest way to throw yourself into it is to make a date with your hairstylist.

I did this about six months ago. Prior to this big change I had variations of the same style for years. The simple trimming of about four inches off my hair changed everything. If you hair has been stuck in a comfort zone for too long, try something new and embrace the effects of change.

1. Do a style collage

So, you want to change your style but you don’t know where to start? Collaging is a great exercise. Before I work with a client I encourage them to rip images from magazines and catalogs that are representative of their desired style. If you are someone who has given thought to a style upgrade, I recommend this exercise to get closer in touch with the inner you who wants to come out,

Start by purchasing some magazines and collecting the catalogs that come in the mail. Set aside an uninterrupted hour to work on this project. Gather supplies like tape or glue and a piece of poster board, or a large piece of paper. Start going through each magazine or catalog and rip out any image that grabs your attention. If you stop on an image rip it out. Don’t think about it too much. There is a reason you are stopping and staring. Don’t muddy this process with thoughts like, “Well I could never wear that!” or “That’s not me.” Just rip and gather. After you have ripped out all of your photos from the magazines and catalogs, lay the images out in front of you. Start taking time to assess each image, looking for the similarities between photos. Perhaps you ripped out a lot images that showcase a particular color, or maybe there is a silhouette that keeps repeating itself. Maybe you will notice a style of jewelry that you have never considered buying before, but through this exercise you start to see it repeating through the images pulled.

After your assessment, start attaching the images as a collage and keep it for reference and inspiration in your closet. In addition, use this collage as an inspirational and working tool when cleaning your closet and shopping. Start by making a list of some of the items or colors that keep showing up in your collage, and make it a point to search for these items on your next shopping trip.

I have learned that the amount of love you have to give to others is equal to the amount of love you are able to give yourself first. This week, I hope that you will all take the time to fill you personal gas tanks with a little style-TLC.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Are you a black-cident?

By Bridgette Raes

Bryian is one of my dearest friends, and what bonds us (aside from our quirky sense of humorj) is our shared fashion background that span more than a decade. Yes, we get excited about fashion talk like two moms get excited sharing the strides their toddlers are making. Recently my friend Bryian called me and said, “I have a new fashion term, it’s called a black-cident.” He went on to explain that a black-cident means the mistake of relying too heavily on black in one's wardrobe. “Oh my God, I love it!” I exclaimed. “A black-cident; this will make for a wonderful article.”

I know from first-hand experience that a reliance on black as the most versatile wardrobe shade is a common faux-pas that I find in most closets. I was recently in a client’s closet and as she pulled out seven pairs of black pants she said, “Here are all my black pants because you can never have enough, of course.” There was such assuredness in her comment as though she wxpected me to reply to her with a, “Duh, well of course.” Instead, my reaction was a very questioning upturn of my eyebrows, which she returned with a stunned look, as if it was 1492 and I was Christopher Columbus trying to convince her that the world wasn’t flat.

I don’t have a fixed agenda to get women off of their black addiction. It’s not as though I am the Betty Ford Clinic of color dependency. Giving up the color black as that one main staple color happens naturally, with little to no effort made by me. All a client needs to change their opinion is an opportunity to actually look at the color black differently, to try other neutral colors, and to see how limiting black can be. And as a client said to me after just one shopping trip:

“I'm so 'off' black slacks. I've bought nice tones of grays and browns because I feel I can wear more color with it.”

And as another client of mine simply said:

“Black sucks!”

Need I say more?

Contrary to popular belief, black is not the most versatile wardrobe color. Yes, it’s an obvious given for most women, but black also has the potential to create a wardrobe that is pedestrian looking, expected and difficult to work with.

If you want to embrace style learn to let go of the black, or at least learn how to bring other colors into your wardrobe to balance out the heaviness of black.

Here are some ways that you can neutralize your black-heavy wardrobe:


It’s very common for me to open up a closet, look at the floor of the closet space and see a pile of mismatched black shoes resembling a pile of used tires. The best way to spruce up your wardrobe is to abandon the black shoe for other colors.

There are many ways to do this. My first suggestion is a tan or natural colored shoe in a feminine style. This versatile shoe color should be a staple in the closet. Use of this shoe not only makes an outfit look more sophisticated, it makes the wearer look more sophisticated. If your wardrobe is more tailored, use this shoe color with any of your tailored pants in any color (including black,) and watch the level of sophistication in the outfit rise exponentially. When trading out a black shoe for a tan shoe, many clients have gone from looking like middle management to executive status with this one subtle shoe change.

In addition, tan shoes make a leg look longer because the shoe color is closer to the color of skin. Even if you are of African-American decent or have darker skin, this will still work. Tan shoes with any skirt color is a nice alternative to a clunky, stark black shoe.

The other shoe color substitution is brown. Brown, instead of black, looks great with brown, grey, navy and denim. In addition to being softer than black, brown adds a level of sophistication that black shoes can’t.

Lastly, use your shoes as the pop focus of your outfit. If you feel dull in black, try a colored shoe worn back with a black outfit. My favorite is red, or an ornate shoe style that can punch up an outfit.

Black Pants

Like the ubiquitous black shoes, women also seem to have a strong reliance on black pants. Black pants aren’t versatile, they are limiting. Unlike softer, neutral pant shades such as olive, brown, tan, grey and camel, you can’t be as versatile with black as you can be with these other shades. Why? Well, black doesn’t it lend itself as well to mixing and matching as other shades. Let’s say, for example, that you start with an olive shade of pants. You can bring in a soft pink top and a soft tan jacket and all three colors work together and harmonize well. Conversely, if you put on a black pair of pants with a pink top and light tan jacket, the look still works, but since the black pants are so much heavier and stark, they don't harmonize as nicely.

Secondly, you can’t create tones with black like you can with other colors. Let’s take brown, for example. There are so many shades of brown, from light tan to dark chocolate. And the nice thing about brown is that there is usually a shade of brown for every skin type. By having a spectrum of shades in one color, you can play with different tones in one outfit. Black, on the other hand doesn’t have the same versatility. Of course, grey is an option to creating shades of black, and if you do decide to stick with black then be sure to bring in some grey to balance it out.

Lastly, I have said it before (gazillions of times) but color works back to any neutral pants shade just as effectively as it does with black. Treat other colored bottoms like olive, camel, tan, brown, navy and grey as you would a black pant. In addition, pinstripes, checks and tweeds can be treated like a solid pant. If you have a grey pinstriped pair of pants, any colored top can be worn with this novelty item.

I also want to say that encouraging all of you to trade out your black pants for color does not mean that I want you to go out and buy brightly colored pants. What I am suggesting is that you explore other neutral bottoms like brown, camel, tan, olive, grey and navy. The most balanced wardrobe has at least one pair of pants in those shades (in addition to black) peppered with a few novelty bottoms like the tweed, pinstripe or checks that I mentioned. No, don’t get rid of black completely, simply incorporate other color choices to create balance.

If you are going to wear black you have to do something creative with it.

Do I wear black? Yes, of course. In fact, almost every one of my headshot photos is of me in a black top. I am not anti-black, nor do I think you should eradicate it from your wardrobe forever. Even though I do wear black I will tell you that I have one pair of black pants which I haven’t worn in at least six months. I have one pair of black boots which I wear very infrequently, I have three black turtlenecks (because a black turtleneck is a chosen staple for me) and one black skirt along with a few pop-novelty black pieces peppered throughout my wardrobe. That is the extent of my black clothing. I don’t feel the need for any more than that, and I have never felt limited.

When I do wear black I know I have to do something with it, and those times when I haven’t I have actually had people remark on my lack of creativity. If you start with black as your base, I urge you to get creative. Don’t stop with a black pair of pants and a colored top. How much more boring can you get? Bring in a pop shoe, some accessories, a fun jacket; something, anything to liven up the outfit.

Try it out for yourself

I am not the black police and as I mentioned, I never force a client out of black. This discovery is one that a client normally makes when she is exposed to other avenues than the black that she has clung to as the only way. Instead of thinking that you have to abandon black, test out other shades and see how you feel with them.

Black will look fresh again one day

Fashion is cyclical, and so I believe that one day black will look fresh again. There was a time, in the mid-to-late nineties, when sleek black was all the rage. There will again come a time when we all look to black as a much needed palette cleanser. But until that time comes, I encourage you all to step out of black a bit and start embracing the versatility of other colors.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Fashion Do’s to be a fashion Yes

By Bridgette Raes

The following are 10 quick tips that you can implement to go from a fashion “no” to a fashion “yes!”

Fashion Do #1 -
Do organize your closet by classification from light to dark.

An organized closet is a crucial part of lessening the morning “what to wear” anxieties. A well organized closet is hung by classification, and within each classification your clothing should be organized from light to dark by color category. Doing this can also help you see just how many pairs of black pants you own!

Fashion Do #2 -
Do keep all dry cleaning bags off your clothing

Storage in plastic dry cleaning bags suffocates your clothing. Your clothing needs to breathe, and the longer it is kept in plastic the more quickly the fibers will begin to break down and your clothing will fall apart. Choose cloth garment bags. You can also protect the top of your clothes from getting dusty by cutting off the top half of a dry cleaning bag and placing it over your clothing.

Fashion Do #3 -
Do use baby shampoo and a salad spinner to care for your sweaters

Baby shampoo is much milder than commercial products like Woolite; it is just as effective, and much cheaper. After washing a sweater, spin the wet garment in a salad spinner to eliminate excess water before drying flat. This will cut down on drying time.

Fashion Do #4 -
Do avoid bringing home “orphans” for your wardrobe

When contemplating whether or not you should buy something, either:

•Identify at least two things that already exist in your wardrobe that you can wear with it, or;

•Buy something in the store that works with the piece.

Fashion Do #5 -
Do always ask yourself, “Where am I going in this?”

When contemplating a new clothing purchase, asking yourself this important question will help ensure that you will take only take home things that you will actually wear. If you can’t figure out where you will wear the piece you want to buy, then you have to let it go. Don’t “Wishful Wardrobe!” Wishful wardrobing happens when you buy things for a life you wish you had, versus the one you do have.

Fashion Do # 6 -
Do know when to save and when to spend when on a budget

When on a budget there are areas where you can cut corners, and other areas where it is always smart to invest.

When to spend

Pants that fit
Finding a well-fitting pair of pants is a priceless find.

If your feet are comfortable, your whole body is comfortable.

At least one good suit
Cheap suits are gross.

Because you don’t want to tuck your boobs into your pants when you get older.

When to save

After one season, you can use an old T-shirt for dusting the furniture.

Nobody sees your underwear unless you are a pole dancer.

Sure we all want the bling, but less expensive accessories can make an outfit look pricey at half the cost.

Fashion Do #7 -
Do wear darker colors where you are the largest

It is true, where you wear a darker color you look the thinnest. However, this does not mean just black! As long as the color is darker where you are larger, next to a lighter color where you are slimmer, this trick will work.

Fashion Do #8 -
Do add vertical lines in your clothing

Vertical lines in a garment make you look slimmer and horizontal lines make you look wider. Vertical lines can be added through pintucking or creasing on a pair of pants, a vertical line of buttons, vertical stripes and ribs on a sweater.

Fashion Do #9 -
Do “upgrade the downgrade” for casual

When a sweater of good quality (like cashmere) starts to show signs of wear, instead of parting with it, downgrade it to casual. The cashmere feels great, and even though it may be a bit shoddy it still looks and feels better than wearing a junky polar fleece, and will do just fine for casual situations.

Fashion Do #10 -
Do wash colored clothing inside out

New clothing always looks great because the color is fresh and bright. To preserve the color longer, wash your colored clothing inside out. Also, always wash colored clothing in cold water. Certain fibers hold color better than others, and cotton fades more quickly than synthetics.

Bonus Fashion Do #11 -
Do think about the main colors in your wardrobe when buying accessories

Many women are daunted by adding accessories to their wardrobes. Where to begin? A great way to start is by identifying the core colors of your wardrobe. If yor wardrobe has a lot of purple, pink and green in it, for example, then start there. To implement the color tripleplay into your wardrobe, think about a complementary color that can be worn with your primary wardrobe colors. Any light shade of green is a great tripleplay accent and complements any top color well. In addtion, always have natural accessory colors on hand when stumped by what color to add.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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It’s not you, it’s the pants

By Bridgette Raes

Expanding on the ever-challenging topic of trying to find pants that fit.

Trying on pants is the easiest and quickest way that I know of to get down on yourself and start developing a negative body image. It makes sense; if it is hard to find a pant that fits you properly then the only obvious answer is that there is something wrong with your body, right? Wrong.

As I tell many of my frustrated clients, “It’s not you, it’s the pants. All we have to do is find a pair of pants that flatters your body shape.” If you still aren’t convinced that it isn’t you but the pants, keep in mind that I have worked with all body types from a slim size two to a curvier size twenty-two. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, the wrong pant on the wrong body simply isn’t flattering. So here are some suggestions on how to find the right pant for your body, along with some tailoring suggestions to make the not-so-perfect pant fit perfectly.

“Ready to wear” isn’t so ready to wear

It is becoming more and more accepted that pants off the rack rarely work for anyone. From needing something as minor as a hem to requiring some major tweaks, few women can grab a pair of pants and go. Even I, at 5’7”, often need at least a hem. So if you are someone who can’t seem to find a pair of pants that fit, consider tailoring as your additional step.

When I recommended tailoring in the past I got an irate email from a reader. This reader felt that it was unrealistic to suggest tailoring as a necessary step. Living in the Midwest, she felt that it wasn’t as easy to tailor as it is in a more metropolitan area. Now, I am not the savviest when it comes to knowing much about the lifestyle in the Midwest, but I do know that there must be a local dry cleaner in most towns. Most dry cleaners offer tailoring services which are usually fine for your needs. In addition, if you need something as minor as a hem, a store like Banana Republic will offer hemming for free. If you feel that the pants cost enough and the last thing you want to do is pay more for tailoring, consider changing your thinking; if you ARE paying for a well made pair of pants, doesn’t it make sense to have them look as though they fit you well?

When it comes to the fit of pants there are small improvements you can make to enhance the fit, and then there are more extensive things you can consider. Here are some examples:

Remove pocket bags from flat front pants and stitch the pockets closed. When it comes to flat front pants like this one,187705&clink=187705, no matter how slim you are the pockets are going to bag open. In some cases you may find that these pockets lay flat on first wearing, but after several wears they start to bag open. Bagged open pockets at your hip area makes your hips look bigger, and nobody wants that. The solution is to have them stitched shut, and while getting the pockets stitched have the pocket bags removed. If you have any extra on your thigh, the line of the pocket bag will show through the pant.

Forget the waist. When I started writing this article I called on my dear friend Jerry Dellova who is the head designer at Barry Bricken, a company famous for the fit of their pants. My early days of being a designer were with Barry Bricken under Jerry’s fine tutelage. Not having actively designed for several years now my knowledge of pant fit isn’t what it used to be, so I wanted to get a seasoned expert involved to ensure that my memory was correct. The first bit of advice Jerry gave me was that unlike men, who fit their pants at the waist, women need to fit their pants at the hip because for most women, it is the widest part of our bodies. When fitting pants ladies, think first about your hip size and worry about the waist later. Taking a pant in at the waist is an easy correction for a tailor to do. So the next time you try on a pair of pants, focus on the fit through the hips and thighs.

If you are someone who carries their weight at their waist always look inside a pair of pants to see if there is what is referred to as a center back outlet in the pant. A center back outlet is an excess of seam allowance fabric at the back seam of a pant, which gives you the ability to let the pant out if need be. Most well made pants have this center back outlet. If the pants are lined and you can’t see if there is a center back outlet on the pants you are trying on, pull the lining up and out from the hem of the pant and put your hand up the pant leg with the lining removed to find the center back seam of the pant. You should be able to look through the pant leg and see. Any tailor should be able to let the pant out at the waist if you need it.

Saddle up. I explained a tricky fit situation that I recently experienced with a client to my friend Jerry. This client was petite but she also carried the majority of her weight in her stomach and had very narrow hips. As a result, we kept finding that any pant we tried on her pulled and bit at the bottom of her butt. The reason there was pulling like this was because the fabric was pulling forward to compensate for her stomach see this image for an example of what the pant looked like Normally in a situation like this I would find a pant with a more relaxed and wider thigh area to give her more fabric in the thigh and lower butt area. But because this client was petite, I also had to be careful about how full a leg I put on her. A fuller leg on a petite woman can make her look shorter. After trying on many pants we finally found one that was flattering and didn’t bite at her butt. But there is another solution to this problem.

If you have ever tried on a pair of pants that feel like they are too tight or pulling in the crotch, or you look at yourself from behind in the mirror and see that the pant is cutting or biting you in the butt area, you may find that you need more of what is called saddle. The saddle of a pant, as Jerry reminded me, is the seam of the crotch that runs perpendicular to the rise. For those of you who don’t know what rise is, the front rise of a pant is the seam that runs from your bellybutton to the base of your crotch, the back rise is what runs from your crotch to the top of the back of a pair of pants. The saddle seam runs perpendicular to that. Take a pair of pants and look at the crotch area. You will see seams that run in the opposite direction to the rise that intercept right at base of your crotch. A well made pair of pants will give you some excess fabric allowance in the saddle seam that allows you to increase the width. Increasing the saddle width will ultimately give you more room in this area which is great for women with a tummy, larger thighs or a fuller bottom.

Extra fabric at a saddle isn’t commonly found on pants and it is usually only well made pants that have this feature. But it is an important one, and a reason why it is also important to spend a little more on pants. To see if a pair of pants have extra in the saddle for letting out, check inside the pant if it is unlined, or pull the lining away as suggested above. Jeans will not have excess fabric in the saddle. Upon checking a pair of Banana Republic pants in my closet I found that there is a small amount of seam allowance that would allow the saddle to be let out, but note that it isn’t a tremendous amount.

I don’t want to tailor, I want ready to wear!

So you have read about what you can do with a pair of pants from a tailoring standpoint and decided that it is too much work. The last thing you want to be bothered with is construction technology; you just want pants that fit. Okay, I hear you. Here are some fit solutions for a variety of women’s body issues:

Large Thighs

•Go for the boot cut pant which counterbalances a large thigh, or choose a straighter leg that hangs straight from the largest part of your thigh. Throw the peg-legged pants away!
•Tops that have a wider neck have the same effect as a boot cut pant by counterbalancing a large thigh. Instead of wearing tops that cut in, choose a wider neckline which will optically make your thighs look smaller. Halter tops are no-no’s for large-thighed gals.


•Choose a side zip pant over a front closure pant. You don’t need to add excess to a place that already has fullness.
•Choose a pant with a wider waistband (even if it is a low rise pant.) The large band sucks you in and gives you support. Just make sure that it isn’t sucking you in so much that it causes your stomach to spill over.

Big Butt

•Avoid high rise pants. The excess fabric makes your butt look big.
•Choose a wider leg pant which won’t cup the butt and will give you more room.

If there is anything that I would like you to remember from this article, it is that there are pants out there for every fit and figure. Yes, it takes time, but I have yet to have a client finish working with me without finding a pair of pants that is flattering for her figure. Don’t give up if it takes a few stores or brands to find your well-fitting pant, it happens to everyone. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up that you aren’t thin enough or don’t have the perfect body. Is there really a perfect body out there? The most empowered attitudes about pant fit come from my clients who are African American. Knowing that pants are seldom made to fit with their body shape in mind (which is usually fuller in the thigh and butt area) they don’t blame their bodies; they blame the negligence of the pant manufacturers for overlooking their needs.

Many of these clients have learned to be persistent, understand that tweaking and tailoring is a necessity, and never have they considered that it is their body that is the problem. This is the way they are built, they tell me, and they make no apologies for that. I think we can all learn something from this positive attitude. The next time you have a hard time finding a pair of pants that fit you, remember that instead of mapping out your next crash diet.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Review of Spring Continued

By Bridgette Raes

Last week, I reviewed five of the ten new spring trends found in Marie Claire’s article, The Ten Looks You’ll Want This Spring, which is showcased in their February issue. As promised, this week I am tackling the remaining five trends from this Marie Claire article in an effort to give you some guidelines on how to incorporate these trends into your spring wardrobe.

So onto the remaining five

Marie Claire’s Must Have #6 - Polished Pantsuits

For most women, the pantsuit (or a suit in general) is no longer a necessity in the workplace any longer. Many of my clients who do work in a corporate environment tell me that their office dress code is business casual. Even though the suit is passé in many offices, I still think it is important to have at least one suit on hand in your wardrobe.

But what if your lifestyle doesn’t dictate that you need to wear a suit? While a pantsuit seems like an unnecessary and expensive purchase, every woman should have at least one suit on hand that becomes a versatile multi-tasker. This suit needs to be on hand for funerals, interviews, luncheons, functions, evenings out, etc. Most women automatically assume that a black suit would be the most versatile color to choose. While choosing a black suit isn’t a bad way to go, I think there are other color choices that work better. The most versatile color I would choose would be grey. Why grey? Firstly, a medium grey color is considered a universal color which works with all skin tones. Black, on the other hand, does not work for everyone. In addition, grey can be worn more universally. A grey suit is a better interview color than black as grey evokes feelings of loyalty in others, while black does not have the same effect. Still not sold on grey? Black, while it seems funeral appropriate, is also incredibly trite. You don’t have to wear black to a funeral and grey does the job equally well, as long as it is partnered with more understated colors. A funeral is not the time to wear a juicy spring colored print with your grey suit. Lastly, and I know I sound like a broken record, but any color that can be worn with black, can be worn with grey. In my opinion, grey looks ten times more sophisticated than black does when worn with color. Plus, you can also wear brown with grey, something that you can’t do as easily with black. Lastly, you can take grey to evening by simply making sure that the rest of the components are evening appropriate. As far as fabric goes, if this is going to be the only suit in your wardrobe, choose a versatile fabric like a flatter, lighter weave fabric such as a lightweight wool or wool blend with little to no texture.

Marie Claire Must Have #7 - The Easy Dress

Can it be that the dress is finally making a triumphant return? The dress market has been dead for some time now. In fact, years ago, when working as a designer, I vividly remember the dress division trying to figure out how to revive the dress for day because for the past few years dresses were only selling for evening. Fashion is cyclical and while the skirt has been in the forefront, the dress is picking up momentum.

Let’s take a look at the word “easy”. Looking at Marie Claire’s use of the word “easy dress” doesn’t mean that the dress has to be relaxed in look. So don’t worry gals, this doesn’t mean that we will all be walking around in muumuus this spring. I find this to be a relief considering I am a big proponent their being shape and fit in clothing to make you look slimmer. Easy, according to Marie Claire, means effortless or simple.

If you try a dress on for spring and it feels and looks boring, keep in mind that the dress is merely the foundation of the total outfit. You have to do something with it to make it exciting. The answer is accessorizing. Don’t forget to finish the look!

Marie Claire Must Have #8 - The New Coat

Every wardrobe needs a hit of novelty to add some spice and personality. This spring, according to Marie Claire, is the “strategically purchased killer coat”. Here are some key points to take into consideration when purchasing your “killer coat” for spring.

Marie Claire’s recommendation is to purchase a great coat which will make the underpinnings you wear with it a moot point. Ok, love Marie Claire, but hate this advice. While it is a great recommendation in theory, how many of you walk around all day in your coat (even if it is a light-weight spring duster style)? What are you supposed to do when you take your coat off? A statement coat is fun but make sure that you don’t have to keep it on all day to look stylish. Yes, I agree with Marie Claire that if your coat pops keep the rest of your outfit relatively simple, but before leaving the house, make sure that when you do take your coat off, you still like the way you look.

Another bit of advice from Marie Claire that had me concerned was their recommendation of a “full-volume cut” in the coat as being a perfect accompaniment to full-bodied skirts and dresses this spring. Ok, does Marie Claire want us to get lost in tons of fabric? This idea is pretty and theory but can be disastrous in application. Remember, don’t just listen to the trend reports and follow like blind sheep. Try this one out and don’t buy anything if you think you look like a pup-tent.

Marie Claire Must Have #9 - Heels

The two big trends in heels this spring, according to Marie Claire, are platforms and ankle straps. I may be thin, but when I read ankle straps, I am reminded of my thick ankles and decide to not even consider this trend. I am also 5’7” and must ask myself if platforms are right for me.

This is where trend dictation needs to take a backseat to your own lifestyle, physical characteristics and personal style. Not sure if you are going to partake? Here are a few guidelines:

If you are petite, have large ankles or calves, short legs or small feet then step away from the ankle straps. The horizontal line of the strap can make your legs look shorter and wider. Lovely, right?

Platforms are fun and can obviously make you look taller. But they can also make your feet look shorter and stubbier. Avoid a very round toe if you want to wear a platform shoe if your feet are already short as a platform with a rounded toe will make your feet look shorter. Platforms can also look very retro. When I think platforms, I either think 1940’s or 1970’s. As Marie Claire advised, and I agree, the platform can be your “over- the-top-statement”, so make sure everything else you wear with these platforms isn’t too over the top or a throwback to yesteryear.

Marie Claire Must Have #10 - Detailed Bags

This trend excites me because I have been preaching it for years. Keep your outfit simple and bang it out with accessories including the detailed, or as I like to call it, statement bag. One of my biggest pet peeves is a boring, nothing handbag. Many women don’t realize if they just chose a functional AND interesting bag that showcased their personality, they would be well on their way to being more stylish.

A very common argument that I get from clients when I encourage them to purchase a stylish, statement bag is that it is too much to think about. They automatically assume that if I am recommending a statement bag that I am also recommending that they go through the routine of changing their bag frequently to work with their outfits. This is not the case. Just because you choose a statement bag does not mean it doesn’t have to be versatile. Like Marie Claire says in their article, “Splurge on one fabulous handbag to reflect your personality, and take it everywhere you go.” Sounds like good advice to me.

Let me give you an example of this advice. I worked with a client this past month. Often choosing to shop for accessories after clothing has been bought, my client and I were finishing up our shopping together by looking for a great handbag. While shopping we found this stunning and versatile handbag by Michael Kors at Lord and Taylor. It was a medium brown shade that was both stunning to look and versatile. When we met up in her closet after finishing our shopping together, I showed her how this bag (which was an investment) could be worn with just about every outfit in her closet. From casual to work, she could tote this bag along. The bag was big enough, versatile enough and functional enough for her life, but at the same time eye catching, stylish enough and a true statement of her style. Don’t buy the illusion about handbags ladies, you can have it all stylish and functional in one bag. Toss those inconspicuous, ugly standard bags out the window. You don’t need them.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Taking “What to wear this spring” one step further

By Bridgette Raes

The weather outside may not feel like spring is here, but fashion is certainly saying so. Spring hits the stores as early as December and is in full swing by February. Fashion magazines are already starting to tell you what you need to wear to be in or out this season, Marie Claire magazine being among them.

Of all the fashion magazines out there, I happen to really like Marie Claire. It’s realistic and more how-to than most fashion magazines, and because of this I often encourage clients to pick up and read this magazine.

On page 113 of Marie Claire’s February issue there is an article entitled The 10 Looks You’ll Want This Spring, showcasing the ten “must-haves” along with how to work and wear them this season. Reading this article, I found myself coming up with further advice for each showcased trend. Below are some of my suggestions on the advice provided for the first five highlighted must-haves. For the sake of length, I will be giving the first five this week, and following up with the last five in next week’s article.

Marie Claire’s must have #1 - Bold Prints

According to Marie Claire, bold prints are hot for spring. While I don’t dispute this trend forecast, Marie Claire simply tells how to accessorize a bold print and where to wear it. They give great advice; but the problem is that many women don’t know how to choose their best print, and as a result they usually avoid wearing them. I know that when I ask clients how much print or pattern they have in their wardrobe. they generally tell me “very little to none.” When I ask them why, clients tell me that they wouldn’t be opposed to wearing prints if only they had some hard and fast rules on how to choose the best prints for them.

The first thing I want to say about bold prints is that they aren’t for everyone, because they are just that - bold. Unless you want your print to outshine you, take the following advice to heart when deciding whether or not you plan on partaking in this trend for spring:

When choosing the best prints for you, you need to take a close look at your own personal coloring. I call it the Snow White/Cinderella comparison. Snow White would be someone who has very bold coloring. Traditionally, Snow White’s hair and eyes are very dark and her skin tone is very light. The boldness in her coloring is due to the high amount of color contrast between her hair, skin and eyes. Cinderella, on the other hand, has very soft coloring; her hair, skin and eyes are very close in color, so there isn’t a lot of contrast, making her coloring less bold or low contrast. Putting Snow White and Cinderella at opposite ends of the spectrum, look at the coloring of your own hair, skin and eyes and see if you fall closer to Snow White or closer to Cinderella. Most people fall somewhere in-between. Even if you are not of Caucasian descent (like the traditional coloring of Snow White or Cinderella) you can still do this exercise. If you are of African-American descent, for example, you would most likely be closer to a Cinderella because the coloring of your hair, skin and eyes would be closer in relationship; lower in contrast, and not so bold.

Wherever you placed your personal coloring on the boldness scale in this exercise indicates the level of boldness that you can choose in your prints. So, if you found that your coloring is closer to Cinderella then it would be wise to stay away from very optic prints like black and white. If you are more of a Snow White, your coloring is strong enough to withstand the optic boldness of a black and white print. Don’t worry Cinderellas, this doesn’t mean that you can’t wear a bold print, just choose bold prints that aren’t as optic as black and white; instead, go for a lesser amount of contrast by choosing color combinations that aren’t so optic, like the soft green and white dress that Marie Claire showcased in this article.

Marie Claire’s must have #2 - Trouser Shorts

The Bermudians have been wearing trouser shorts forever, and it looks like the trend is hitting us hard for spring 2006. Normally I am not a fan of shorts, but I have to say that I like the professional way it is being done this season. These shorts look like a basic pair of pants with the bottom half of the pant cut off. Marie Claire is calling this the alternative to the skirt. While I am hard pressed to agree that this trend is going to replace the wearable ease of the skirts that many of us wore last season, the trouser short is a nice breath of fresh air.

I like the way Marie Claire showcased this trend, which says that this slimmer, longer, tailored short can be worn just about anywhere, like the office and out with friends. Of course, it all depends on how you wear it. Marie Claire suggests that if you do wear this slimmer, longer short, then go with a bigger, blousier top. This is good advice, but it is general. Big blousy tops aren’t for everyone, so if you require a little shape in your waist to look more streamlined and balanced, go for the suggestion they make of wearing these shorts with a cardigan or blazer, just making sure that these pieces have some shape in the waist.

Lastly, don’t balk at the price of these shorts. Many people assume that tailored shorts should be much less expensive than a tailored pair of pants, but what I learned from my years of designing pants is that the construction details of a tailored pair of shorts and a tailored pair of pants are relatively the same. The only difference is that the shorts obviously need less fabric because they are shorter in length, but using less fabric only saves a few dollars in the end. A pant and short cost relatively the same to make because of the elaborate construction at the top part of a pant or short, meaning the sewing of the waistband, the zipper placement, the pocket construction, etc. Both a tailored short and pant share these construction steps; however, the perception of shorts by customers is that they should be much less expensive than a pair of pants. Because of this, many manufacturers will set their pricing accordingly and offer shorts at a much lesser price than a pair of tailored pants, so you may be able to find a couple of shorts this season at a decent price.

Marie Claire’s must have #3 - Red

Red is one of those colors that you either love or hate. It takes a bold woman to feel confident in red because it is such an attention grabber. There are a few rules to follow when wearing red.

Firstly, red will grab attention so be ready to be memorable when you wear it. In addition, red can evoke feelings of rage in others, so the rule of thumb while wearing red is not to ask for anything (like a raise or a job.)

Contrary to popular belief, everyone can wear red. Choosing your best red involves discovering whether you look good in a cool red or a warm red. This may sound confusing, but it isn’t. Warm reds are reds that are yellow based, or more brick colored in tone. Warm reds look best on people who have warmer, more yellow-based coloring. Cool reds are blue based. Imagine the color red that Coca-Cola uses for their red shade. Cool reds look best on people who have cooler coloring. If you aren’t sure if your coloring is warm or cool, put a red colored garment against your face the next time you go shopping. If the red you are looking at doesn’t work for you, don’t throw out red as a wearable option altogether. Simply look at the red and identify whether it is a more brick red or a more Coca Cola red. Also, you can go to a makeup counter and see the shade of red lipstick that a makeup artist would choose for wear on your lips. If you wear a cooler red on your lips, then you would wear a cooler red on your body, and vice versa.

Marie Claire’s must have #4 - Gold

Gold is such a rich color, and can be worn by many women. When it comes to wearing gold it really is up to personal preference and style. It seems that, according to Marie Claire, the “how to’s” of wearing this trend are best left to the individual. You can either go head to toe or can just use gold as an accent. Here are some guidelines that you can follow when deciding how you are going to add this accent to your wardrobe for spring.

Firstly, remember that this is a trend. While metallic has been around for some time now, I wouldn’t advise investing heavily in this trend unless you can afford to do so. An accent through a purse or a couple of inexpensive trendy pieces to punch up your wardrobe is probably the best way to go.

If you want to wear gold for daytime, either do it through small accents or choose a gold that leans more towards champagne than disco gold. If you pick up Marie Claire (which I hope you’ll do) you will see that the gold they are highlighting is much more of a brushed gold than it is a bright yellow gold. This is a much more sophisticated look to follow, especially for daytime. Pairing it with ivory or beige instead of black is another way to elevate it elegantly for a sophisticated daytime look.

Marie Claire’s must have #5 - Cropped Jackets

Oh, where to begin with this one? While I love Marie Claire magazine, the words “boxy, swing shape” that they used to describe the hot look for a cropped jacket this spring really got me worried. Boxy can also mean shapeless. and that word means nothing but trouble.

I think these cropped jackets for spring are feminine, adorable and another breath of fresh air, but please take the following into consideration when buying.

If you are short and squat run the other way, because boxy and cropped are two words that shouldn’t exist in your closet vocabulary. Why? Well, if you are short and squat then this style of jacket will enhance that. While petite women benefit from a shorter jacket to look taller, it also helps when the jacket has a little shape. So petite ladies beware; choose a cropped jacket that has a little shape in the waist. If you are a larger petite woman this rule also applies. The rule of thumb with large, petite women is to create or emphasize the waist area with shape, therefore making her look taller and leaner. Boxy and cropped jackets will do the opposite.

If you are short-waisted or have a larger chest, this jacket will enhance your shorter torso. Clients of mine who have larger chests have a shortened looking torso by default, due to their larger breasts. What I usually do to balance a larger busted client is put tops on her that either skim or are longer than her hip bone. This optical illusion of a lengthened top makes the torso look longer, therefore balancing her body. So if you have a shorter torso, or a larger chest that naturally shortens your torso, choose a cropped jacket that is more shaped in the waist. The more you streamline and narrow an area, the longer and thinner it will look.

Lastly, if you have long arms (even if the jacket has a full length sleeve) the much cropped look of the jacket may make your arms look disproportionately long. So stay away from those ¾ sleeves, and when choosing a cropped jacket make sure it isn’t too cropped with too much swing or boxiness.

Overall, the cropped jacket looks like it is going to be an important trend, so don’t give up on it; just try a few on following the above rules, and you will likely find the cropped jacket that is perfect for you.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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