Might Be In Over My Head…Maybe?

When it comes to the difference between a frumpy mommy and a Hot Momma, there are six general rules I think every woman should know. Each of these can be a whole series of blogs but for now let’s stick to general and over the next couple of blogs we will explore several from the perspective of dressing your age.

One: Know Your Maintenance Level

Learning my maintenance level was one of the best tricks I ever learned. This has changed throughout my life and I imagine as I hit different seasons of my life, it will continue to change.  My husband has often teased me I am high maintenance, to which I promptly reply, “Yes. But who is doing the maintaining…ME.” In reality, I am medium maintenance with times that I venture into high maintenance. But what does this all mean for the everyday woman…EVERYTHING.

I said previously that I truly believe that looking good is truly about choices not about time. However, determining how much time you are willing to give toward looking good is extremely important. A low maintenance woman would probably want to avoid high maintenance fabrics such as silk and dry clean only. Basically, you are GENERALLY High Maintenance, Medium Maintenance, or Low Maintenance. Answer these simple questions to see which you are currently most like in your season of life:

  1. You never leave the house without at least:
    1. A slamming hair style and complete “with it” makeup
    2. Hair neat and the must have brows, mascara and lip color
    3. Hair combed or in a pony and a clean face
  2. On your day off, you are more likely to:
    1. Get your hair, nails, toes, waxing or all done and perhaps some TJMaxx time
    2. Meet a friend for girlie time – browsing and coffee
    3. Sleep
  3. You wash your face with:
    1. A dermatologist recommended or prestige brand cleansing system
    2. A drugstore score
    3. The soap sitting in your shower or soap dish
  4. If you could be locked in the store of your dreams overnight, would it be:
    1. Neiman Marcus/Bloomingdales
    2. TJMaxx/Marshalls
    3. Target/Walmart
  5. Your little fine lines are:
    1. Gone or on their way out
    2. Something you wish you could deal with and worry they make you look old
    3. What fine lines? I have fine lines? Oh those. Never think about them.
  6. Your handbag routine is:
    1. A mix of bags that I rotate based on the event and what I am wearing
    2. Is the bag I purchased for the season and I hope works with most everything
    3. Is the same purse I have had for years. It works.

First let me say there is nothing wrong with any of these levels of maintenance. Each has their advantages. Each has their drawbacks too.

Mostly 1s – HIGH: You are willing to put it in the time, effort and money to maintain a HIGH level of style and fashion. Upside, you are truly willing to give yourself a level of pampering you feel you deserve and are probably complimented a lot and envied. Downside though, your high maintenance can be costly, tiring when trying to balance high stress times in life and you run the risk of going overboard.

Mostly 2s – MEDIUM: You’d love to try to look like someone you know who is high maintenance but something may hold you back – time or money or something else. Upside, you are more likely to selectively pick big ticket items that will last and try to balance between life and beauty. Downside, you may pass on the fund trends and settle for “good enough” when fabulous may be in your grasp. Sometimes splurging and getting that “wow” ticket item is worth it.

Mostly 3s – LOW: You don’t have or feel you can invest a lot of time or money in yourself. It may not have been a priority in your life. You may feel there are other more important things than spending hours in front of mirrors and that is okay. Downside, perhaps you have found yourself in a rut and are not sure how to get out because you can’t see how to fit fashion and beauty into your life. Upside, you are not getting caught up in mastering every latest trend and sacrificing what is important either.

Once you know what your maintenance level is, then it’s about mastering fashion at your level.

Two: Understand Fit

Fit is a so little talked about word in our society of off the rack clothing. Yet, I hear constantly women complaining in the dressing rooms, in stores or at my appointments about how they have an “unusual” body. So let’s set the record straight. THERE ARE NO UNUSUAL BODIES, ONLY REAL WOMEN WITH REAL BODIES. Understanding fit will help you avoid the depressing realities of dressing room disasters in an off-the-rack world.

A good FIT is defined best as clothing that skims the body’s curves without clinging, puckering or swimming in them, where details like lapels, pockets, slits, etc. lie flat. If your clothing isn’t skimming you and laying flat on you, then you don’t have a good fit. Bad fits can make you look heavier, older, sloppy and just a big hot mess.

Remember that fit can be altered. You just need to know what can and can’t be altered on clothing. Find a true tailor (not just a dryer cleaner who will raise a hem) and ask them what can they generally adjust with respect to your problem areas and shop knowing that it can be fixed. For example, my family has always had a small waist to large hip ratio. I inherited that trait along with one of my unique own – my butt rises way higher than my front part of my hip bone. What does this mean for me…jeans ALWAYS have a rather large gap in the back and if I buy anything that is mid to high rise in pants, the waist is always two to three sizes too big. I happen to know one amazing seamstress (my mom) and she has taught me that my waist issue is something that can be taken in to create the right fit. General rule of thumb – you can take things in but generally not easy to let things out.  This is where I feel investing in quality basic pieces that will be staples in your wardrobe for years are extremely important. Investing in a great pair of jeans that get altered to fit you perfectly is far better spent money than buying 10 cheaply made trend pieces that will be gone from your wardrobe by next season.

Brief look at fit through jeans

Brief look at fit through jeans

Three: Know Fabric

In my line of thought there are two important factors to fabric – drape and maintenance.

Drape is knowing how a fabric will flow and wear on you. Generally, fabrics that fall smoothly over your curves are the most flattering but knowing what those are takes time and patience. You may have to try several different fabrics to know what feels best on your skin and flatters you the most.

Maintenance is knowing the upkeep on your clothing. Cottons, jersey knits, polyesters and synthetics are generally low maintenance fabrics. You can call most of them wash and wear fabrics that usually involve you simply throwing them in the washer and dryer, hanging them up and wearing them when you need them. I happen to be a big fan of jersey knit. Natural fibers like silk, wool, cashmere, linen and the like often require more work to maintain them. If they are washable, you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with the gentle cycle on your washer. Most are dry clean only. This means planning to get them to the dry cleaner, the cost of the service and the pickup time. I would urge you to not eliminate any fabric from your life, just adjust appropriately to your life style.

Four: Understand Your Body and its Shape

This goes hand in hand with fit. Fit is determined by several things but one of them is your body, well rather your body’s shape. Let me start by saying there really is no ideal or “better” shape. Most women envy another woman’s shape but in reality it’s about embracing your shape and enhancing its beauty so you are radiant and confident and trying to not get so hung up on the aspects of your body that you aren’t so happy with.

  1. Boyish – I like to call this the Super Model Shape as well. This figure is generally athletic looking in that is lacks curves. It’s generally not big in bust or hips or butt and tends to be more up and down. While this figure can totally pull off tunic dresses and look awesome by giving the impression that curves are hiding underneath, it often has to work at creating curves or providing a diversion from not having them. Cameron Diaz is a great example of this figure.  Ruching on a bust can or ruffles can give the illusion of a bust. Cinched waists with flared bottoms can give an illusion of a waist. Flowing asymmetrical hems and properly placed accessories can distract away from the lack of curves. You might want to avoid form fitting straight lined elements and clothing as they will accentuate your lack of shape.
  2. Busty – Some may call this the Top Heavy Shape. Drew Barrymore in recent years has exemplified how to dress this shape beautifully but you can also look to Kat Denning as another example of this body shape. One mistake women make when they are top heavy is to try to hide behind bulky fabrics and tops. Unfortunately all this does is draw attention to it. This shape definitely needs a GREAT bra to help keep the right shape and frankly to keep them in place. You don’t want to over show them off but make sure you do pick pieces that are fitted to your body. Sacrificing your waist to hide your bust will only make you look hefty on top and masculine. Accenting below your waist with a hip belt and a straight skirt will help accent a more hourglass look. V-necks, cardigans and fitted jackets left open are your friend. Avoid things that hang around your bust line or things on your bust line such as pockets. Strapless anything, baby dolls and empire waist lines can accentuate your bust.
  3. Hip Heavy – Sometime called the Pear Shape. Jessica Simpson and even Tyra Banks fight the battle of hips and thighs. This is about up playing your top and down playing your bottom. Think dark on bottom and solids on the bottom and more color and patterns for your top. Spanx are not a bad idea for those of us who have thighs and hips that are our larger area. You will want to avoid things that accent your bottom half such as short shorts, animal print skirts, bright colored bottoms, leggings as pants, cargos, and anything pleated. Have fun with animal print peasant tops, jewelry that brings your eye up, heels, wrap dresses, dark denim, 50s style dresses and a wider legged pant. Plus a very well placed large accessory around your middle area as you walk such as a hobo bag tilted slightly forward in front of your mid-section is great camouflage.
  4. Curvy – Otherwise known as the Hour Glass Shape. Frankly there is no hiding your shape if you have curves so embrace them and show them off. If you got it, flaunt it! Choosing pieces that show off your bust (appropriately) is not only okay but encouraged. Good fitted tops balanced with a more straight legged pant or pencil skirt works well. Or go the other way with a looser blouse and more fitted jeans. It’s about balance and your shape allows you to play with both ends of the spectrum. On the other hand avoid items like tunics or loose and all over straight pieces as you will lose your shape and just look bigger than you are. Beyoncé and Salma Hayek are great examples of this shape.

There are two shapes that also exist but encompass any of the other shapes mentioned above – Petite and Full Figured. For these two shapes, all the other guidelines apply but there are some other items you will want to consider as well.

  1. Full Figured – I prefer DIVA-licious Curves Shape. This shape has a shape but it tends to be on the larger side. Which by the way is most of America these days and designers are FINALLY realizing real women like nice clothes too. Cut, color and balancing proportions is critical for your shape.  One general rule of thumb…showing a little skin at your neck and décolleté can bring attention up to your face rather than focusing elsewhere. Balance loose pieces with more custom or fitted pieces such as a more fitted (not slim cut) pair of jeans that have a boot or slight flare with a loose sheer blouse and cami underneath. Large allover prints are not advised and neither is all over small prints. Empire waistlines can be extremely flattering as well as pieces with interesting cuts or details that create or define your shape (in a good way). Brooke Elliott and Queen Latifah are great examples of women who excel at flattering their full figured shapes.
  2. Petite – Sweet Shortie in my mind. When you are under 5’4” the rule you need to keep in the front of your mind is shapes and patterns that don’t overwhelm your small frame. Avoid too many competing elements. A bold patterned dress should be paired with a simple purse and monochromatic shoes and minimal accessories. One continuous line can also be helpful as it gives the illusion of length. Monochromatic outfits can be very advantageous as they don’t break up the eye. Heels should become a staple of your wardrobe as much as you can. Eva Longoria is a master of elongating her figure and making you think she is taller than she is.

Knowing designers is also an important factor when it comes to your body and its shape. Different designers dress different women. They are still off the rack but they do design for different women and different shapes. Learning what designers design best for your body shape can save you a WHOLE LOT of dressing room drama and heartache.

For example, I am definitely curvy and occasionally border on full figured when my thyroid is acting up. I have learned to avoid Michael Kors for most clothing items as he tends to design a line that is more flattering on the boyish figure. I have found a middle ground in Kenneth Cole in that his fitted clothing tends to work well for curvy women but I avoid his dresses. My favorite designer, and not just for fit but also because his clothing line fits my personal sense of style, is Calvin Klein. There are very few things of his that I do not like and that do not complement my body. I have discovered that he not only cuts his shapes but uses draping, cut, piecing and pattern to flatter women’s curves. Do so research and discover who fits your body best.

My rendition of common body shapes

My rendition of common body shapes

Five: Know Your Strengths and How to Play Up Them Up

Fashion is not all about hiding what you don’t like but also about playing up what you do!  Again, if you got it, flaunt it. If you have awesome legs, embrace them and wear items that curve your legs or that accentuate them. You have a bust line that most women would die for, show it off in a tasteful way. Small waist – accentuate it with a belt and scarf.

Six: Understand the Power of Color and Pattern

Color or pattern can add so much to your outfit or your wardrobe. One of my best complimented outfits was a black pencil skirt, black top, black blazer, black heels and a large turquoise necklace. The little pop of color put attention where I wanted it and distracted from what I didn’t. That’s what monochromatic can do – glide your eye right past the not so nice  – where pops of color can focus attention.

Color can also balance you out. Larger on the top can be balanced by wearing a dark top and a colorful pant or pattern on the bottom. The opposite is true for someone larger on the bottom and smaller on the top.

Patterns should be proportionate to you and your shape and size. A petite woman should wear small and low contrast pattern while someone who is tall or larger should look to higher contrast and bigger prints.

Example of Working Your Strengths, Understanding Color and Pattern, and More

Example of Working Your Strengths, Understanding Color and Pattern, and More

Fashion is something that can be broken down to a whole novels worth but with these 6 general rules, fashion can move from drama to Hot Momma. The next part of the series will be looking at Fashion in your 20s. See you next post.

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