Vertically Challenged

 

If you have a male friend or relative who falls under 5’ 8”, this is for you.

I read an article recently offering some great suggestions for the shorter man.   Even though one third of men in the United States fall under the height of 5’ 8”, we don’t see stores targeting that market.  There are numerous big and tall men shops so why don’t we see specialty shops for shorter men?  The answer in part, may be the assumption that regular clothes can be altered to fit a smaller frame.  That is easier said than done.  The proportions of regular clothing do not adapt to a smaller frame so that the tailored garment still looks out of scale.  Quite often the collar is too broad, the elbow falls too low, not to mention the scale of pockets is too large,   armholes are huge and the rear of the trousers droop.   Smaller men look even smaller if their garment appears baggy.

If you are wondering why appearance is so important for short men, take note of this statistic.  Height for a man portrays power and will earn about $600 more per year per inch in height, provided that his qualifications are equal.   Height is also an important factor in attracting a mate.  This leaves the shorter man at a definite disadvantage.

Jimmy Au has a specialty store in Beverly Hills catering to the man under 5’ 8”.  He, standing at 5’ 2”, has a selection of clothing from jeans to tuxedos.  If a man is 5’ 7”, he must go the store’s tall section.  The scale of all the garments is adjusted just enough to fit the shorter man – smaller scaled pockets, slightly narrower collars and sleeves and higher crotches.   He even offers smaller socks and shoes.

Mr. Au’s customers include a “Who’s Who” list of professions that cater to smaller statured men among which are jockeys, astronauts, and jet pilots.  His celebrity clients remain nameless but he sent a large assortment of outfits to the Grammys.

Interestingly, research has found that a man who had an early growth spurt but ended up being short will be perceived as taller than he actually is.  Conversely, a man who got his growth late will often be perceived as being shorter than he is.   Apparently, the self-perception of being tall or short appears early and carries over into adulthood.

The article told of one man from Boston, 5’ 5” tall, who discovered Mr. Au’s shop and purchased a suit, several jackets and slacks as well as casual wear.  He has subsequently placed other large orders.   He stated, “I get compliments from people who say, ‘something is different about you.’”

Taking all of this information into consideration, I would like to suggest several strategies for the shorter man.  First, if it is not in the cards for him to go shopping in Beverly Hills, he should consider having his suits and slacks custom made, making sure the tailor scales the pattern for proper fit and proportion.  Secondly, choose styles that fit closer to the body unless you are a stout build.  Suits should be one color and might even have a small, subtle, vertical stripe.   Lastly, slacks should have a trim fit without a pleat if you have a trim build.  Do not add cuffs as that breaks the vertical line.

When someone starts getting compliments like Mr. Au’s client from Boston, he will undoubtedly carry himself with more confidence and appear taller.

 

Dressing to the Nines – Part II

 

Last week we began looking at the list of nine items Neiman Marcus had selected as their top nine looks for the spring season.  The first four items were: pink, one-shoulder dressing, snakeskin and statement shoes.  This week we will complete the list.

RUFFLES come in every size, configuration and fabric.  This season handbags even feature ruffles.  Mark Jacobs has a large bag with slight ruffles on the flap while a bag designed by Valentino features what appears to be a rose in soft leather ruffles covering the entire front of the bag.  Clothing ranges from multiple rows of tiny ruffles to something simple with just an accent of pleated ruffles.  They can be tiered or cut on the bias.  Most anyone can find something that will work, even if you are the all out sporty type who just wants a touch of femininity.  The key will be to choose the scale and intensity of the ruffle that harmonizes with your body scale

What to take for a month away

After reflecting on our packing strategy for a month in France, I thought you might enjoy my sharing some tips. Packing was complicated by being in a transitional season and ending with a few days in Paris.

International travel allows two bags each weighing up to 50 pounds if you are traveling coach.  We checked three bags at exactly 50 pounds each, one containing books and materials for my husband’s presentations.  We had our computer bag and one smaller bag to carry on.  I never allow my colors and materials for workshops to be checked.

I’ll give you a quick recap of what we took.   First, I coordinated everything around black trousers and shoes for both of us.  Black does not show soil as easily and is much easier to find in the stores that trying to follow your color palette.  You can then use tops in your palette to compliment your coloring.  We each took walking shoes and dressy casual shoes.  In addition, I took a pair of pumps with 2” heel.   Good walking shoes are a necessity as Europeans walk much more than we do here and the sidewalks and streets are often cobblestones, gravel or other uneven surfaces.  Men’s walking shoes have been quite easy to find for a number of years now while attractive, comfortable women’s shoes have only recently become available.  I just received a catalogue showing 8 different styles that would work very well, several of them being available in narrow and wide widths.

I took two pair of slacks, black and gray and a pair of black, cropped pants, while my husband took one pair of black slacks and one pair of  Chinos.  We each took three pair of jeans, black and dressy blue.   I packed one dress and my husband a sports jacket for any special occasion.   I prefer good, firm-weave wool slacks as they hold their shape and don’t wrinkle badly.  If wool has picked up some wrinkles, you can run a hot shower and let the steam relax the wrinkles.

We packed four dress shirts (be sure they are wrinkle free), two cotton knit shirts, three sweaters – one that could be layered over a shirt – and a light jacket for my husband.  I took three sweater sets, three individual sweaters, a suede jacket and a vest.  We both included heavier jackets for the last three days in Paris.  I also included two Pashmina scarves for added style and/or warmth.  I mentioned the wrinkle free shirts as we did take two shirts to “Pressing” which cost us 11 Euro!  That’s about $14 with the exchange rate.   Otherwise, we were fortunate to have access to a washer and dryer but I have used a public Laundromat in the past.  If traveling from hotel to hotel, one can wash out lingerie using shampoo, letting it dry over night.   Men’ s underwear is also available in silk and will dry overnight as well.

Along with our toiletries, appropriate socks/hose and tights, vitamins, lingerie (I always pack lingerie for 7 days), we each added one fleece top and bottom and warm socks to wear in the evenings at the cottage.   We even remembered two travel umbrellas.  This was one of the few times that Europe has not benefitted from our purchase of an umbrella!  We were happy that we had added two heavier jackets for Paris – temperatures dropped to 30 degrees the last two nights.

Throughout our stay, we always felt well dressed, looking as if we were locals.  We also had enough variety that we never felt like we were wearing the same thing to the same events.   And the best part – there was room to bring home treasures from France!  Along with some special wines, foie gras, herbs and gifts, we visited my favorite resale shop in Paris, which we had discovered two years ago.   This shop carries designer clothes and accessories that have been gently used as well as new with tags still on from a previous season.  Their second boutique next door has eveningwear and vintage.  Although I was not able to determine the original price this time, my purchases last visit were about 20% of the original price and then I got the 12+% return in vat tax when departing the country.   And yes, I did fine some treasures this time – all with new tags!

Parfum par Galimard

Parfum par Galimard

We had the opportunity to visit Grasse, the center of the perfume industry in the world, and take a tour of their facility.  There are three makers of perfume, Galimard being the oldest, established in 1747.  Additionally there are37 other perfume makers but they distill the ingredients down to oils which are purchased by the three perfume makers to fabricate a perfume for the public.  This region has a very favorable climate to grow the ingredients used in perfume, but now, many of the petals must be imported.   There is still abundant lavender but the other ingredients such as rose petal, jasmine, and mimosa are imported from places like Turkey and Morocco.   Other ingredients might include roots, stems, moss and seaweed.  There are only 49,000 residents in Grasse, yet they manufacture 60% of the world’s perfume.

 

When a famous designer wishes to launch his/her own fragrance, he comes to Grasse and talks with a well know “nose” – the highly trained and talented person who is able to discern difference fragrances.  There are only a handful of “super noses” in the world.  Now there is training for being a nose but individual gifting plays a big part.  One must first have a background in chemistry and have the unique ability to discern hundreds of different fragrances.  The designer gives a vision of what they would like as a fragrance.   Then the different “noses” produce the product that they feel will meet that vision.  The designer chooses the one they prefer and pays the “nose” several million dollars for the formula.  Then the new fragrance is launched.

It’s not all good news.  The predominance of noses is men and they must not eat spicy foods, drink alcoholic beverages or smoke.  However, for those very few in the world, they can make incredible money and it is probably worth the sacrifice to keep that “nose” functioning at top level.

Fragrances change over time.  In the past the best selling perfumes had floral fragrances, from delicate to more heavy.  Citrus flavors have become popular and most recently, the fragrance most preferred is a combination of chocolate, cotton candy and caramel!

These perfume manufacturers do not sell to stores or advertise, except to give directions to their location by the road signs.  They make their money by giving tours, selling products, and repeat orders.  Galimard has a service where they help you create your own individual fragrance.  Perfume making is done similar to music, the base notes are the bottom, which lasts for several hours, the heart notes are the middle and last for a shorter time, and the top notes are those essences that will last for the first 10 minutes.

One of the tips we learned is that we should not keep our perfume in the bathroom.   Exposure to sunlight and moisture change the fragrance and quality of perfume.   The lovely bottles that we all enjoy seeing on our dresser are only designed for eye appeal – not to preserve fragrance.   I’m sure you have all seen this process in an older perfume that turns a brown color and stains your clothing when you spray it on and happen to get some on your blouse!  Fragrance does best in a dark bottle protected from sun and moisture.  It is best to store your perfume in a closet in your bedroom, which will preserve it for a much longer period of time.

The best news is that we have a shop in Atlanta, one of the four in the US, which has all of the Galimard oils and will help you to fabricate your very own fragrance.  It is BLEND, web site: www.blendcustomparfum.com.  Susan Sexton, the owner, has trained with Galimard and has all of their oils to fabricate your custom perfume.  She and I do workshops together so you can have your own custom perfume and have an image consultation.

Purses, Purses, Purses

If you follow the fashion magazines, you know the new important statement is to carry a dramatic handbag.   These new bags come in every color, texture and design.  They must be big and the prices start at expensive and go up from there.

Let’s look at why the purse has become so important.  As you are probably aware, imported clothing has become more expensive due to the diminished value of the dollar against other currencies.  People are buying fewer high priced garments and retailers are responding with sales starting earlier in the season.   This is all good for us, the consumer.   However, designers have discovered that purses are not as subject to seasonal style changes and are a very profitable part of their total business.  Thus, they offer a wide variety of styles and colors that are promoted as “must haves” with prices in the stratosphere.

I am struck by the size of the newer bags.   Looking through a promotional magazine from one store, I saw that the size generally starts at 12” X 12” and goes up to 23” X 35”.    This seems more like a piece of luggage than a handbag.  With the large bags being so popular, ladies are naturally carrying more items in them – gym shoes, lunch, baby bottles and diapers, you name it.    This is a windfall for chiropractors but our bodies are telling us that we are not designed to be beasts of burden.   From a style perspective, purse size needs to relate to your own body scale.   The handbag should be a total part of your outfit and not the center of attention.  If you are petite, a smaller–scaled handbag is needed.  If you are 6’ tall and large boned, you can probably carry one of the 10” X 17” bags.

The variety of styles can be puzzling as well.  Many bags offer cargo pockets, fringes, zippers, or rivet details.  These bags will never be formal so they work better with jeans or a casual outfit.  The material from which the purse is made helps determine where it will be appropriate as well.  Napa leather is more casual while smooth leather or reptile prints are more formal.   Purses with lace or fur trim will no doubt become dated much more quickly.   I would suggest finding a bag that works for the majority of your schedule.  If your world is mostly blue jeans and casual tops, one of the casual purses should work just fine but if the bulk of your time is in a suit environment, I would suggest choosing a classic style that will still work for casual wear.   For you jeans gals, be sure to have a cute clutch for that dressy occasion.  Nothing can ruin the look of a great party dress and heels like toting a big bag with rivets and fringes on it!  And have you ever seen a bride at the reception porting a large, leather shoulder strap bag?!

The last criterion to keep in mind is your build and facial structure.  If you have an angular build and/or angular bone definition in your face, choose a structured bag that is geometric.  If you have an overall soft, rounded, feminine appearance, choose a bag that has a rounded and soft feel to it.    By taking your bone and facial structure into consideration, you handbag choice will support your total look.

I hope these guidelines will be helpful when you are making your next investment at the handbag counter.  Don’t forget that any color works as long as it harmonizes with your general wardrobe.  Gone are the days of matched shoes and bag.  For you business women who need to carry a computer or business bag, choose one that has a section for your purse items.   Carrying a purse and business bag is cumbersome and takes away from your professional appearance.

Time to go shopping – in your closet

Now that we have looked at the top seven trends, let’s go shopping.  First stop is your own closet.

I do a closet assessment each season.  As I took a survey looking for items that reflect the new looks, I hit the jackpot!    The first item that caught my eye was a pair or berry shoes.  I had bought them two years – the closest I could find to red in a  narrow width.  They are like new and will compliment several outfits.   Continuing, I spied a satin blouse with touches of ruffles, worn only once.  This designer blouse with tags still attached, was a nugget discovered in a resale shop in Paris last year.   Finally, I remembered a dramatic necklace that I have had for some 15 years but had forgotten about.    That did it – four out of seven is not bad.   I’ll bet your closet has some treasures waiting to be discovered as well.

Next, I do my semi-annual purge of items that need to be retired.  I arrange my closet into categories – blouses, slacks, etc.  First, I check each garment for obvious sign of wear or spots.  If it looks tired or a spot can’t be removed, it has to go.  (If you find it hard to part with a special garment, put it in a “Sentimental” box and store it away from your closet.)  Next, I try on each item for proper fit including scrutinizing the back carefully.  This is an important step as we don’t see ourselves from the back and garments can stretch and bag or maybe those pulls line or gapes have gone unnoticed.  If it can be altered, it goes into an alteration pile.   If not, it needs to retire.  I then look for different ways of combining outfits for a new look.   I can fall into the trap of dressing on auto-pilot – so it is good to take a fresh look after not wearing that season’s clothes for a few months.  The blouse, shoes and necklace I found will make several new combinations.   Oops, I forgot to check out my shoes.  On reevaluating my favorite pair of boots from last year, I discover that they are due for retirement.

The final step is to make a list of which basics need to be replaced and what items should be added to give a well-rounded wardrobe for fall and winter.  I look at my various activities, the percentage of time I spend at each, and determine if I have something to wear for each occasion, complete with appropriate shoes and handbag.   For example, if you work, that wardrobe should comprise a large percentage of your closet, while if you go to the theatre twice a year, you may just need one outfit.   Another weak area for a lot of people is a great work wardrobe but nothing that looks smart for casual wear.  Now, is time to make the list of those items that will round out your wardrobe.   The “must replace” should have priority while the wish list can be added anytime you’re shopping or nosing through sales or discount stores.   It is such fun to happen on that perfect piece to complete or give a fresh look to an outfit.

If you are not accustomed to doing the semi-annual purge, it is a good habit to start.   The goal is to walk into your closet knowing that everything fits, is in good shape so the only choice needed is which combination you are going to wear today.  If this is too daunting a task, you can always give me a call.  Helping do a closet expedition is one of my favorite activities!

 

 

Fall 2007 Trends

Lace – Like satin, lace is taking a prominent role in new trends for fall.   Although the variety ranges from delicate to bold to racy, I still consider lace inappropriate for daytime wear unless it used as an accent.   Likewise, the lace shoes (I have seen a range from ballerina flats to lace boots with 4” heels) have no place in most daytime settings.   For daytime or business, a delicate lace trim on a blouse or a lace camisole under a suit adds a subtle note of femininity.   Choose a lace that works with your bone structure, texture and personality.  If you have larger bone structure, a strong personality or curly hair (which adds texture), choose a stronger lace with obvious 3-dimenstional qualities.  Conversely,  if you are soft, feminine, or have delicate bone structure, a delicate lace will work better for you.   This year offers a wide selection for you to find the perfect lace for you.

 

Sleek Shapes – Oversized and sloppy is out.  Sleek, elongated is the big news.   Jackets and skirts are longer, hugging the body.  While many designers are showing a defined waist, there are still many styles to choose from that skim past the waist for those who are not an hour- glass figure.  There are lots of wide-legged trousers available – a great choice for the hour-glass and triangle (wide hips) figures.
These slacks need to just clear the ground so be sure to have them hemmed with the shoes you will be wearing.   A quick tip for handling the heel height – have two pair of your most worn slacks (black for example) and have one hemmed for flats and one for heels.    Monochromatic dressing lengthens the body as well – including opaque hose matching the skirt and shoes.

Romantic blouses – This season offers a wide range of tops incorporating ruffles, lace, rushing and you’re not limited to white.  There is a blouse in this mix for everyone and every occasion – even the most conservative business setting.   Just follow the parameters for lace to choose the right amount of ruffle or frill for your style and the setting.

 

Statement Jewelry – Whether real or faux, big jewelry rounds out the seven fall fashion trends.  This is the season to pull out all the jewelry you have had stashed away and show it off!  A well-chosen jewelry accent can make the most mundane outfit stunning.  Think monochromatic with  a statement piece of jewelry.  One caution note:  the scale of the jewelry needs to match your facial and body scale.   A petite person will be overpowered by large scale jewelry.

 

That wraps up the top 7.  Direct any comments to my  e-mail address.  Look forward to hearing from you.