Building confidence from the outside in

LogoWhile it’s true that what we wear only enhances the beauty that comes from within, for most of us there is a direct correlation between how we look and how we feel about ourselves.

In a recent post, Sue Burpee who writes High Heels in the Wilderness, said that fashion blogging has given her greater self-confidence. Once very self-conscious about having her picture taken because she considered herself unphotogenic, blogging has given Sue a reason to accumulate and curate a collection of photos of herself that she’s very pleased with. Like anyone else, she can still have a confidence shattering moment when she walks by a mirror-like panel of tinted windows and catches her own reflection, but she has learned that it’s possible to build confidence from the outside in.

I have found the same thing. Sometimes posting multiple photos of myself and writing about what I wear can seem a bit narcissistic, but taking a greater interest in fashion and in my own appearance has definitely been a confidence booster.

Understanding how wearing the right clothing and accessories can contribute to our confidence, raise our self-esteem, and help us find greater success in the workplace has become big business. Image consultants and personal stylists assist everyone from celebrities to ordinary mortals rethink their wardrobes and make choices that enhance their appearance and boost their confidence.

Dressing for confidence doesn’t require wearing the latest fashion trends or spending a fortune on your wardrobe. Far from it. It’s simply a matter of knowing what looks best on you and what makes you feel good about yourself. Here are several things to keep in mind.

Learn to dress your body. What looks good on your friend may not suit you and vice versa. Though there are many different ways to describe body type, you can find a simple calculator here to help you determine which one of these 4 basic types best describes you. A quick search of “how to dress ____ body type” will lead you to many helpful tips and suggestions.

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I’m a banana! What are you?

Know which colours flatter you. Colours that suit your skin tone have the power to take your look from blah to radiant.

Consider the occasion. Whether you’re going to a business meeting, lunch with a friend, shopping, church or a gala event, what you wear should be tailored to the occasion. Your goal shouldn’t necessarily be to blend in, but you will feel much more confident if your outfit suits the occasion.

Consider your comfort zone. While I urge women to step outside their fashion comfort zone and try new looks, change can be intimidating. A complete makeover might be a confidence booster for some, but others of us need to take baby steps. Small changes can make a big difference.

Embrace your favourite features and downplay the ones you don’t want people to notice. You can find some good tips on how to flaunt your favourite features here.

Finally, think about a time when you felt great in what you wore. Think about the times when people complimented you on what you were wearing or how you looked. Chances are those occasions built your confidence from the outside in. What was it about those outfits that drew positive attention from others or made you feel so good? Was it a flattering neckline, the length of your skirt, the fabric, the colour, or maybe the shoes you wore? Perhaps you can implement something of those looks into what you wear for other occasions.

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Royal wedding favourites

LogoUnlike some of my friends, I did not stay up until the wee hours last Saturday morning or get up before the sun to watch the royal wedding. It just wasn’t that important to me. I was saddened, however, in the days that followed to see women making unkind comments online about what some of the invited guests chose to wear. Why is it that women feel the need to criticize and put one another down? Does it make them feel better about themselves? Is it the voice of jealousy speaking? How very sad!

We all have different taste in clothing; different personal styles. In fact, it would be a very boring world if we all dressed the same. After reading some of the catty comments, I decided to take a look at the photos and find out for myself what they were referring to. I saw some outfits that I liked better than others, of course, but mostly what I saw we’re happy looking people celebrating a joyous occasion. I loved the vast array of colours and styles. There was clearly no one trend or colour that dominated.

After careful consideration, I’ve chosen a few of my favourite looks to feature here.

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Always classy, Kate Middleton wore a figure-flattering silk coat dress by Alexander McQueen. The nasties complained that she wore white, considered a major wedding faux pas. Although it does appear almost white in the sunshine on the church steps following the ceremony, it was in fact cream and apparently looked much yellower in the dimmer lighting inside the church. What I love most about it, though, is the fact that this is a dress that Kate has worn several times before. We first saw it at her daughter’s christening in 2015. It’s obviously a favourite of hers and unlike a lot of women, she doesn’t feel the need to wear something brand new to every occasion.

Another favourite of mine is Jessica Mulroney’s royal blue tea-length dress with cap sleeves by Montreal based designer Di Carlo Couture.

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Lady Kitty Spencer, 27-year-old daughter of Princess Diana’s brother, the Earl of Spencer, looked elegant in a green floral Dolce & Gabbana dress. Internet chatter focused not on what she wore, but instead on her uncanny resemblance to her famous aunt.

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There’s something about American actress Troian Bellisario’s cream coloured gown by Temperley London that caught my fancy. I particularly like the embellishment at the shoulders of its long sleeves.

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And then there were the hats and the fascinators! Oh how I’d love to attend an event where the women wore such gorgeous headpieces! Yes, there were some that I wouldn’t have chosen, but again, why knock another woman’s choice? Here are a few of my favourites.

 

The sleeves on American actress Sarah Rafferty’s frock took a current trend to its outer limit, but her hat was just darling! Former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham’s was similar.
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The groom’s aunt, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, looked so very chic!

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Looking at these three, one might get the impression that I favour small navy blue headpieces with veils. While I do adore them, I was just as impressed by Amal Clooney’s (British-Lebanese barrister and wife of actor, George Clooney) broad brimmed bright yellow hat.

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Regardless of which outfits I like best and whether or not you agree with my choices, the point here is that we have nothing to gain from putting other women down for what they choose to wear. Let’s be kind to one another!

Let your beauty shine through

LogoAfter having our ceilings stripped and new stipple applied, then painting the living room, this week has been one of major house cleaning. If you had seen me in my painting duds or wearing old jeans and t-shirt while I applied furniture polish to practically every wood surface in the house, you would not have taken me for a fashion blogger. In fact, I’m quite sure I looked more like a fashion failure!

As these things tend to do, the work has taken longer and gone in different directions than we originally planned and while I try to post something on the blog at least twice a week, that hasn’t been happening. Suddenly it’s Friday again and I don’t have a new outfit or tidbit of fashion wisdom ready to share with you.

I have, however, been musing about something as I’ve applied oil to wood and polished it to a shine. The oil enhances the natural beauty of the wood. Similarly, what we wear only enhances the beauty that comes from within.

Stephanie Lahart, inspirational author of Overcoming Life’s Obstacles, puts it this way:

“Her outer beauty is just a bonus, but it is her inner beauty that’s most captivating. She’s loving, caring, kindhearted, empathetic, and genuine. She’s comfortable in her own skin, therefore, she’s able to compliment, celebrate, and build up others around her. She’s a quality woman with a strong sense of self! She doesn’t need the spotlight, because she is the light wherever she goes. Smart, confident, ambitious, and fearless… Beautifully created from the inside out.”

A woman like that can be dressed in rags (or painting clothes) and still be beautiful!

Scripture tells us:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”           1 Peter 3:3-4

So, whatever you’re wearing today… pay someone a compliment, do something kind for someone else, put a smile on your face and let the beautiful woman you are shine through.

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I’ll be in the city for another cancer treatment and some scans next week, so I should have an update on that front, and I promise a more traditional fashion post next Friday.

Cultural appropriation… what do you think?

Utah teen, Keziah Daum, has been harshly criticized online and in the media for herLogo recent choice of a dress for prom. Hoping to find something unique, Keziah decided to browse a vintage store in downtown Salt Lake City. There she found a beautiful red cheongsam; a high-collared, form-fitting traditional Chinese dress.

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The problem is that Keziah Daum is not Chinese. The dress “gave me a sense of appreciation and admiration for other cultures and their beauty,” she said, but she has been accused of cultural appropriation.

What is cultural appropriation and how is it different from cultural appreciation?

Cultural appropriation deals with the adoption of elements of a minority culture or a marginalized group by members of a dominant culture without permission and usually with little respect for or knowledge about the original culture. In true cases of cultural appropriation, elements that may have deep meaning to members of the original culture are sometimes reduced to exotic curiosities by those adopting them. For example, decorating your home with a Buddha statue when you are not, in fact, Buddhist would seem to me to be culturally inappropriate. If you are white North American and you include items that are representative of First Nations culture in your Halloween costume, that too is clearly cultural appropriation and may also help perpetuate harmful stereotypes. I question, however, whether using the same items or garments in the ways that they were originally intended is harmful to anyone at all.

The problem, in many cases, is that there is often no agreement amongst members of a supposedly offended cultural group about what is or is not acceptable to them. While Keziah Daum’s choice of prom dress elicited plenty of criticism from both Chinese and non Chinese, scores of other people also identifying as Asian Americans, defended her choice, saying that they did not consider it offensive. One of them tweeted, “I am a Chinese woman. I support you. You rocked that dress!!”

I have a Japanese yukata (summer kimono) that I purchased in Tokyo. The shopkeeper had no problem selling it to me and showing me how to wear it properly even though I was clearly a gaijin (foreigner). In fact, I believe that many of their customers are visitors to the country looking for a special piece of Japanese culture to take home with them. I also have a traditional Vietnamese ao dai, a two piece silk outfit comprised of a long tunic and pants that was made to measure in a tiny tailoring shop in Hoi An. When I traveled to  Vietnam I had no intention of buying an ao dai, but when I visited a few of the 200+ tailoring shops in Hoi An and admired the beautiful garments, the seamstresses were all anxious to make one for me and I couldn’t resist. I also have a Chinese silk jacket from Hong Kong as well as a beautiful silk abaya from the Middle East, both gifts from friends. I have worn all of these on special occasions and meant absolutely no disrespect to the cultures they came from. In fact, like Keziah Daum, I consider it a special privilege to be able to wear such gorgeous and meaningful pieces.

I also wear a beautiful ring made to order by Haisla artist, Hollie Bear Bartlett. A Christmas gift from my husband, it’s hummingbird motif in traditional Northwest Coast style is symbolic of love and beauty. I am originally a coastal girl of European descent. I do not think that my wearing a ring bearing the art of a different group of coastal people is inappropriate or disrespectful. I also have Northwest Coast and Inuit art in my home, as do many other Canadians.

On the other hand, I do think that our Canadian Prime Minister made an absolute ass of himself, roving around India recently on a highly publicized trip with his family, all of them wearing brightly coloured Indian garb. Their insensitive overuse of and excessive photo-ops wearing Indian clothing drew criticism from their host country with prominent Indian personalities referring to the outfit choices as “tacky” or “fake and annoying.”

Allegations of cultural appropriation have grown increasingly common in recent times with critics casting doubt on the legitimacy of everything from team logos to burrito shops. We in North America are privileged to live in multicultural countries where we can share in the rich heritage and traditions of our neighbours. It behooves us to be sensitive in how we do so, but I think that condemning a young girl for her choice of prom dress goes way overboard.

I realize that this is a controversial topic and that there are people with strong feelings on both sides of the issue. I welcome all opinions as long as they are offered respectfully. I am particularly interested in knowing how my readers from other parts of the world feel about this topic.

The classic trench coat

LogoSpring has finally arrived and with it comes the opportunity to put away my winter coats and start wearing the classic beige trench coat that I picked up for $4.00 at one of our local thrift stores a while back.

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The trench coat first appeared in the 1850s and by the turn of the 20th century, it had become an enduring fashion trend. During WWI, the coat shielded military officers from the unrelenting weather and the mud of the trenches; hence its name. Loved by the officers for its weatherproof qualities and its functional design which included large pockets that kept maps dry and strategically placed flaps that offered ventilation, the coat became popular with both male and female civilians after the war came to an end. Brigitte Bardot wore one, as did Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn.

In Hollywood, the trench coat became associated with detectives. Humphrey Bogart wore one as detective, Sam Spade, in The Maltese Falcon in 1941 and later as private eye, Philip Marlowe, in The Big Sleep in 1946. Peter Sellers wore one as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther in 1963, as did Gene Hackman as a private investigator in The Conversation in 1974. Even Inspector Gadget, a 1980s cartoon detective wore a trench coat!

A perfect go to for spring and fall, the trench coat is amazingly versatile. It can be styled with almost anything from blue jeans and sneakers to a dress and heels. Here I’m wearing a lightweight pair of dark wash jeans that have been part of my warm weather wardrobe for the past few years, my favourite Breton tee, and my new Sam Edelman sneakers that I’ve also been saving for spring. Though the photos make them look like they’re the same colour as the coat, they’re actually a lovely taupe rose.

There’s an unspoken fashion rule that says that even when the belt of a trench coat has a buckle, it should be tied, not buckled. In fact, the “buckle” on mine doesn’t actually  buckle at all. Google “how to tie a trench coat” and you’ll find numerous videos and tutorials showing a myriad ways to knot a trench coat belt. If you really want to use the buckle or you think it looks silly hanging there at the end of a tied belt, it is acceptable to buckle and tie as I’ve shown in the second photo above.

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Fashion is art

LogoIn a recent post, fellow fashion blogger, Pam Lutrell of Over 50 Feeling 40, wrote that “all fashion is art”. Her statement resonated with me because I also believe that fashion provides an opportunity for each of us to be creative and to express who we are through what we wear. 

My involvement in the arts is largely in the area of community theatre which actually intersects with my passion for fashion in an interesting way… costuming. I’m especially fond of period drama because it involves researching the fashions of a particular time in history and doing our best to recreate them onstage. As a small town theatre guild, we don’t have a large budget to work with. We have an incredibly talented costume mistress who can create amazing and elaborate costumes when they’re needed, but much of what we wear onstage comes from our own wardrobes or from the group’s substantial collection of clothing that has mostly been donated or purchased at thrift stores.

Our recent play was set between 1928 and 1946. I played the role of a household servant and was dressed accordingly. That’s me in front holding the serving tray.

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For one very short scene, however, I wore a dressier outfit that included a little velvet jacket from our costume collection that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s always bittersweet when a production comes to an end. After entertaining four dinner theatre audiences and having so much fun doing it, the time came to strike the set and put the costumes and props away, but I couldn’t part with the little velvet jacket. In my mind, I could imagine myself dressing it down with a pair of jeans. I just had to give it a try, so with permission, of course, it came home with me. It will eventually go back and be hidden away in the giant bin labelled “jackets” until it’s needed onstage again, but for a little while I plan to have some fun with it.

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First, I tried it with a simple black camisole and then over my white Indulgence Tank from cabi’s Spring 2017 collection. Since I’ve been told that a woman should be able to style every piece in her closet at least different three ways, I also tried the jacket over a column of colour, in this case my camel coloured cords and camisole. I loved all three of these looks!

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With the gold embroidery design on the jacket, I decided to keep the jewelry at my neck simple or nonexistent, but I did try it with my antique gold-finished Flapper Earrings from cabi’s Fall 2017 collection, reminiscent of the 1920s.

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Do you agree that fashion is art? Please tell me what you think in the comment section below.

Spring trends for 2018

LogoI’ve complained a lot lately about how long winter seems to be lasting here on the Canadian prairie, but the days are gradually warming up and some of you live where spring has already arrived, so let’s take a look at a few fashion trends for spring and summer 2018.

Fanny packs

That’s right! 1980s looks are back and with them come the fanny pack, or as it’s called in some places, the bum bag. The popularity of this simple zippered pouch worn around the waist like a belt was short-lived in the late 80s and who would have thought that it would make a reappearance thirty years later? It doesn’t do much for the silhouette, but when you think about it, the fanny pack is very functional. It allows for hands free shopping and is great for bikers, hikers and travellers. In our family, the fanny pack’s popularity in the 1980s was literally a life saver. Our oldest son was severely asthmatic and had to carry his inhalers with him everywhere he went. Now his asthmatic niece and nephew carry theirs in fanny packs just like he did. Fanny packs are available in a wide variety of colours and materials.

Head to toe denim

Dark wash denim seems to be making a resurgence this season and it’s being worn from head to toe. Ignore what I said in last week’s post about making sure the washes are different! This season denim is all about a monochromatic and slightly tailored look.

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Sheer top layers

This trend allows us to show off as much or as little skin as we like depending on what we wear underneath. I can see a top like this one, worn over a simple camisole, looking good on a woman of any age.

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As the weather gets hot, I’m afraid that this transparent look could be a style that goes very wrong! Hopefully modesty prevails and everyone remembers that some looks are meant only for the beach or the bedroom!

Fringe

Full-on fringe was a big look on the runways of New York, Paris and Milan, but there are simpler versions of the trend, like this poncho inspired blouse, that might appeal more to the majority of us.

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Adding a fringed or tasselled accessory, such as a handbag or even earrings, is also a good way to bring this trend into your wardrobe in a smaller way.

Pastels and paintbox colours

Soft pastels are a classic spring staple and they’re especially big this year. If you shy away from these “ice cream colours” try pairing them with your darker neutrals. Yes, you can wear black in the spring and summer, but add a pop of something pastel to lighten up the look.

Bright saturated colours are also on trend this season. Think Crayola crayons in primary colours or the paintbox that you probably had in grade school.

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If you invested in a trendy pink piece last year, you’re in luck. Pink is still on trend for spring and summer this year and it’s being seen in every shade imaginable from the palest blush to neon. Yellow is also popular, especially in dresses.

So now that I know what some of the latest trends are, it’s time to take a look at my spring and summer wardrobe and see what I already have that will work again this year. Believe it or not, I have a black leather fanny pack from the 80s hidden away somewhere! I also have a fringed top and some tasselled earrings as well as a summer tote with tassels. I have golf shirts in bold primary colours and here’s a very casual head to toe denim look. The photo was taken almost a year ago, but my dark wash jeans and waterfront shirt from cabi’s Fall 2016 collection will definitely work again this year!

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