January 2016 archive

The Myth of “Universally Flattering”

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I was looking at tops for the Theatrical Romantic Casual blog post (which is taking me longer than I expected–TR is definitely out of my comfort zone!) when I came across this top from Forever 21.

ornate_peplum

Forever 21 Ornate Matelassé Peplum Top

The site has this to say about it: “With a universally flattering peplum silhouette, an ornate floral and paisley matelassé pattern, and a double V-neckline, it’s a subtly sultry statement-maker.”

If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that this is far from the truth. Peplums are something that you’re rarely going to see cross type boundaries. If you’re a yin type that can wear a peplum, it has to be the very specific kind that suits your type, and it has to be just the right length, or it just looks wrong. And an FG like myself shouldn’t even think of touching a peplum.

The Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress is an iconic piece of clothing that is probably one of the first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear “universally flattering.” Oprah herself even said it.


Diane von Furstenberg New Julian Two Silk Wrap Dress

Personally, I think this may be even worse for me than the peplum. I can’t imagine a garment less suited for my body. The cut and the material require smooth, long curves to lay correctly. Thin fabric looks cheap on me, and anything that lacks shape, yet skims the body, creates what I call the “lumpy bowl of gravy” effect on me.

The problem with this is that if you grow up hearing that something like a wrap dress is supposed to flatter every single woman, and then you try one on and it looks awful, you feel like something is wrong with you. So you begin to think that your body is wrong, and you just need to lose weight or tone up. But the truth is, even if I were as slim as I could be while still remaining healthy, something meant for a body with an S-curve is just never going to look right on my body.

audrey_twofortheroad
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Frankly, I don’t believe that a “universally flattering” clothing item exists. I have entirely different clothing needs from women with other line types. I need structure and asymmetry. Another woman may need clothes that are fluid and ornate. The idea that the same item of clothing could flatter both of us is laughable.

So why does this myth exist, and why do fashion publications continue to write about these mythical garments year after year? Obviously, it moves clothes. Ideas like an A-line dress being “safe” are going to get us to buy things. Figuring out what works for you as an individual can be overwhelming. But I guarantee that figuring out what works for you will go a long way in helping you no longer feel like there’s something wrong with you because you don’t look good in the same things your sister or your mom or your best friend does. Once you know the clothes that are made for your particular line type, you understand how these kinds of declarations are completely meaningless.

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Know your type in several systems but having trouble putting it all together? My workbook can help.

Cheating on Your Palette

I wrote about this today, among other things in a similar vein, for the workbook Facebook group as a sort of “bonus chapter,” but I’ve decided to go ahead and share about this specific topic in more detail here on the blog. This topic is, of course, how to cheat on your palette.

Cheating on your palette isn’t ideal. The ideal is, of course, to have a wardrobe where everything harmonizes together because it’s in the same palette. But we’re limited by what’s in stores and what we can afford. If you add in the fact that we have also each have a specific set of lines to deal with, finding things that are both in your season AND your line type can feel like finding a unicorn.

Sometimes, we have to make compromises. There are situations where I’d never make compromises (i.e., a wedding dress), but for everyday casual wear, I feel okay about it. I would never compromise on my lines–it’s very important to me that clothes fit the Flamboyant Gamine guidelines. Most stuff that isn’t FG is N in some way, and that’s my personal worst. But as long as I avoid my horrible colors, which tend to be light and springy, I can get away with cheating on my color palette.

The two sweatshirts I mentioned buying in this post are both really clearer than Dark Autumn. It’s evident when they are paired with my blanket scarf, which perfectly replicates the strips of browns and reds on the DA fan, that they do not harmonize exactly. But DA stuff can be hard to find in FG lines, especially in casual wear.

What’s important to me in my casual wear, which is generally just jeans or leggings with some kind of tunic/sweatshirt/tshirt, is that there are FG lines, with the boxy layer on top of the narrow base layer. It is way easier to find this in Dark Winter than it is in Dark Autumn. Dark Winter shares the most important trait with Dark Autumn, which is of course darkness. There are some Dark Winter colors I’d never be able to wear–anything approaching white, basically–but a lot of it, while I see it’s not quite as good, is a pretty good substitute for the real thing.

dw_brights

dw_darks

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For the most part, these colors will look okay on me, and no one who is not super into this stuff would be able to detect a difference. Again, the real issue is disrupting the harmony of your wardrobe. But for everyday casual pieces that are going to go through a lot of wear and tear and mostly be paired with very neutral basics, I think it’s a decent compromise while I try to build up a lasting, quality wardrobe of Dark Autumn pieces.

For Levels 2 and 3, I don’t think I’d be as willing to compromise. These clothes are generally more expensive, and things I’d want to last for a long time. But for a sweatshirt, Dark Winter warm blue instead of Dark Autumn warm blue isn’t a huge seasonal sacrifice.

The Three Levels of Dress: Soft Gamine for Work

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When I asked on the workbook Facebook group which level and Image Identity combination they’d like to see, Soft Gamine Level 2 was the top request, so this is the one I’m starting with.

Theatrical Romantic Casual was the next most often requested, and SG and TR share a special connection. It is not just that they are both mainly yin types with a touch of yang and no blunt yang. They are both also inspired by the same decade, the 1930s.

Theatrical Romantic, however, is inspired by the Hollywood glam side of the 1930s. It’s Jean Harlow in a slinky bias-cut dress. Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is something we learned about from women who have seen Kibbe within the past few years, and in my opinion, Soft Gamine’s 1930s influence is from more of the everyday life side.


(1, 2, 3)

I think we often see SG, for any occasion, looking something like this:

yellow_top

There is nothing inherently wrong with this look. It’s cute. It’s rounded and has detail and crispness. But for so long, Soft Gamine has only been represented one way, and that is a way that seems more Ingenue than Gamine and very, well, twee. If you’re a Soft Gamine and you like dressing like this, I don’t see why you can’t. But I’d like to present options for those of you who don’t, and I think the 1930s is a great place to take inspiration from. It shows an example of dressing that uses crisp material with some drape, a lot of details, that follows the shape of the body, but not quite as overtly as Theatrical Romantic.

Bette Davis+Joan Blondell3
Bette Davis, with Joan Blondell, modelling an alternative to the Peter Pan collar in 1932’s Three on a Match, which looks like a great movie to watch for Soft Gamine fashion inspiration.
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The key word for SG is “sassy,” and I think if you go too Ingenue, you lose “sassy” and only “sweet” remains. I think that the 1930s has great inspiration for stylish SG workwear, and keeps it sassy without going too yang. There are lots of details and little tucks and crispness, but it won’t look juvenile, the way some Soft Gamine Pinterest boards do.

You can go quite literal with the 1930s inspiration. It would be cute and sassy, but it could veer into costumey/twee…

raileen


Stop Staring Raileen Dress

surefete
Modcloth It’s a Sure Fete Heels

Or you can do something more subtle:
seasonless_trumpet_skirt


Talbots Seasonless Wool Trumpet Skirt

funwsymphinics
Modcloth Fun With Symphonics Top

maxstudio
Max Studio Jacket with Piping Detail

High-waisted, wide-legged pants are what people tended to wear in the 1930s, as you can see in one of the vintage photos above, but I think they may be difficult for Soft Gamines, who don’t have much in the way of length. Kibbe recommends slim-fit trousers that show the ankle, and I think that would be easier.

Shopping guide for SG Level 2:
-dresses with a trumpet skirt and lots of detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-blouses with drapable fabric, but again detail at the collar and cuffs (see above)

-slim-fit trousers that show the ankle OR sailor/wide-legged pants if you can pull if off
sloan


Banana Republic Sloan Slim-Fit Ankle Pant

passionspants
Modcloth Pursue Your Passions Pants

-tight-fitting angora sweaters, with detail if you can find it. I think these look especially cute when they have short sleeves.
fuzzy

Contemporary Fuzzy Knit Top

-shoes should be feminine and delicate. Both flats and heels are okay, and the heels should be tapered.
currantscones

Modcloth Currant Scones Heel (on sale right now for $15!)

-for jackets, SG can wear either jackets cropped above the waist or ones with a peplum. Jackets with a peplum are easier to find, in my opinion, than cropped versions that are feminine enough for SG (see peplum version above)

-I think wool coats that show the waist and have a fur collar are cute on SG.
coat

Miss Selfridge Faux Fur Collar Button Coat

Of course, this isn’t the only way to do SG Level 2. If you do it in a different way, I’d love to see it in the comments.

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If you would like more information on the Three Levels of Dress, it is part of the system outlined in the Style Syntax workbook.

The Three Levels of Dress: Your Native Level

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced the Three Levels of Dress from the system I outline in my workbook. I think that this concept can be applied to Kibbe’s system in a way that helps us understand why certain types struggle with different kinds of dressing, and what essential quality their clothes need to have in all three levels to work.

dramatic2
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DRAMATIC
Native Level: Third, Formal/Two Star
Key Word: Chic
People with a Dramatic base type have a natural formality. In Soft Dramatics, this reveals itself in glamour. A Soft Dramatic looks perfectly natural dripping with jewels, even if they’re at work or at the playground, while the rest of us would look a little nuts. Instead of glamour in the sparkly sense, Dramatics have a high-fashion element to their look, and what they wear would probably look severe on anyone else.
Most Difficult Level: Casual

romantic
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ROMANTIC
Native Level: Third, Formal/Two Star
Key Word: Feminine
Romantic women cannot go too feminine. While Theatrical Romantic has some sharpness, they still can’t borrow from the boys. Like Soft Dramatics, both Romantics also need some glamour in their look no matter what the occasion; their jewelry is just a bit smaller. Jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers just aren’t going to work.
Most Difficult Level: Casual

natural1
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NATURAL
Native Level: First, Casual
Key Word: Relaxed
“Relaxed” does not mean sloppy. “Relaxed” means ease of movement, lack of restriction. While Flamboyant Naturals have the scale to wear big jewelry and hair, they don’t really have to if they don’t want to, unlike Soft Dramatics, and dripping with diamonds would look like too much outside of a formal setting. Their long line can do a lot of the talking for them. Soft Naturals can go more ornate and feminine than we often think, but still it will look more formal on them than it would a Romantic. Both types need to be able to move in their clothes and their hair should be less stiff as well.
Most Difficult Type: Two Star

classic3
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CLASSIC
Native Level: Second, Business/One Star
Key Word: Elegant
Classics should never look sloppy, but they should also never “gild the lily.” The focus should be on their natural elegance and symmetry. Dramatic Classic can look like a stripped-down FG or a ready-to-wear version of Dramatic–it’s simplified, giving it the elegant air Classics need. Soft Classic always retains the femininity from its Romantic influence, but it never goes too far.
Most Difficult Level: Casual

gamine
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GAMINE
Native Level: First, Casual
Key Word: Fun
Gamines need to keep their sense of fun or they will wither like a flower without water. For Flamboyant Gamines, this fun is edgy. For Soft Gamines, this fun is playful–it’s winking at us. Gamines can wear things to formal events or work that would make anyone else look a bit silly.
Most Difficult Level: One Star

In the coming weeks, I’ll show how each type can dress in their most challenging level and retain the essential characteristics of the type.

Color DIY: New Posts

Today I’ve added two new “chapters” to my Color DIY series: Can You Know Without an Analysis? and Where Should You Start?

“Can You Know Without An Analysis?” is a controversial subject. People will say “Absolutely not,” and yet there are people who seem to have done it just fine… It’s up to you to decide what feels right for you.

“Where Should You Start?” talks about some of the major methods people use to figure out their season.

I will post about how to take draping photos and what to look for tomorrow.

New Series: Color DIY

I’ve mentioned before that I was working on a workbook that will help people DIY their season and yin/yang balance. Once I finished the color portion, however, I felt that I didn’t want to sell it as an ebook. Unlike the workbook, which outlines my original system for defining your personal style and rebuilding your wardrobe, it felt like I was compiling things put out there by other people. I’m not an analyst; I don’t have nearly enough education to come up with my own system for analysis or anything like that.

I realized that I just really wanted what I’ve learned over the past two years to be out there for anyone who is interested in attempting to find their season on their own. So over the next week or so, I’ll be posting the sections from the ebook. They’ll be available under the “Color DIY” tab in the menu bar.

As this project is posted, I will definitely be welcoming feedback and questions. If you disagree with me on something, or need something clarified, I can always add it to the project. Which is definitely an advantage over the ebook route!

Post One: Color DIY
Post Two: Sci\ART: A Brief Introduction