Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Petty Prejudices

September 20th, 2011

My sister’s a jewelry lady (she sells it with Premier Designs), and we were sitting around the lunch table one day when she mentioned that the other jewelry ladies say she should never leave the house without five or six pieces of jewelry on.

My knee-jerk-reaction (which, of course, I said out loud–will I ever gain control of my tongue?) was to say that I don’t like people who wear that much jewelry. I really can’t be friends with people who have so little style.

Not surprisingly, my dinner companions were aghast at my statement.

Really? I judge people that harshly?

One friend made a crack about her own lack of style, diffused the situation.

But the incident remained in my head, kept me asking myself why I reacted in that way.

The truth is, I sometimes (often?) have abominable style. How is it that I might hold others to a higher style-standard than I hold myself? Or do I really?

It took much rumination to get to the bottom of my reaction…but I think I finally figured it out.

My perception of people who wear tons of jewelry is that they’re trying really hard to be fashionable. I don’t try very hard to be fashionable. In fact, I regularly flaunt fashion and wear downright ridiculous apparel (particularly when I wear my pajamas to Bible study–a pink polo dress, white leggings underneath, a huge white sweater over top and fuzzy brown moccasins?)

When I see people that I perceive to be trying really hard, I presume that they would be embarrassed by me–so I never even give them a chance.

Sure, I’ll greet them when we’re introduced. I’ll say a nice hello. But I won’t really try to be their friend. If I see them in the hall, unless they approach me or somehow acknowledge me, I’m not going to acknowledge them.

I assume that I’d only mess up the image they’re trying so hard (and, in my opinion, failing) to project.

But is that really a fair assumption?

No. It isn’t.

That’s letting my flesh take preference over brotherly love. It’s petty prejudice and it’s ugly.

So, with my eyes now open to my own petty prejudices, I’m out to love the world–even the world who’s wearing five or more pieces of jewelry.

Book Review: “The Science of Sexy” by Bradley Bayou

January 6th, 2011

I’ve always considered science a pretty sexy thing.

Then again, I’m a bit of a nerd.

Lab coat and glasses and all that.

But that’s not what Bradley Bayou’s talking about in his The Science of Sexy. No, Bayou is interested in teaching YOU (and ME?) how to dress “sexy”.

**Interjection: Just thought of President Obama’s claim last year that insulation is sexy–and am envisioning someone dressed in insulation. Yeah, not quite.**

Bayou suggests that “sexy” is really all about symmetry and giving the illusion of an hourglass figure. His “science” is simply a collection of tips to help you dress YOUR body (or MINE?) to make it appear “hourglass-like”.

For an (admittedly soft) scientist like myself, I find Bayou’s “science” a bit mushy. The “science” in this book consists of measuring your shoulders, bust, waist, and hips and using those measurements to match you into one of four basic body shapes. Then, using a chart reminiscent of the size charts for pantyhose, you determine which “color” you are (12 different height/weight combinations). Having done this, you can now go to your “fitting room”, one of 12 chapters, which will give you hints and tips for dressing your unique figure.

The basic premise of the book isn’t bad. I agree with the whole symmetry and balance thing. I understand the hourglass illusion thing.

But is it really worth a whole book?

I’m not sure.

Since I’m only one woman, it just so happens that exactly four pages of this book directly applied to me–pages 246-249 for the “tall, medium hourglass.” These pages told me pretty much what I’ve already learned. I have a pretty decent body and my trick is to not cover up or de-emphasize my waist (and to not overemphasize my boobs, but that’s another story altogether). One new piece of information I learned from this book? I learned that apparently Bayou “thinks of [me] as a tall Play.boy bunny.” Marvelous. I’m ecstatic. (He did, thankfully, qualify that that doesn’t mean I have to or should dress like one. Whew–that’s a real load off my shoulders!)

Anyway, in order to more accurately assess the value of this book for those who may not be blessed (or cursed) with the body of a bunny, I took some measurements from willing guinea pigs (my mother, my sister, two brothers, and a slightly less willing father) and took a look at how they should dress in order to be “sexy.”

My little sister pretty much disagreed with everything Bayou said about her figure–but I couldn’t decide whether that’s because his recommendations were bad or because Grace is a teenager who’s into the “counter-cultural” thing (by which I mean into fitting in with her group of friends who refuse to let anyone but one another define them.)

Mom felt that the recommendations given for her body shape were just flat out wrong. They didn’t correspond with what she had experimentally found to be flattering in the past. So she started leafing through the book until she found some recommendations that were similar to what she finds flattering to her body type. She explained her problem to me and asked that I re-measure her. I did–and lo and behold, we’d classified her wrong!

The tricky thing about Bayou’s classification system is that the difference between a triangle shape and an hourglass shape or an inverted triangle and an hourglass is a 5% difference. Which for Menter women, at any rate is a difference of less than 2 inches. So if you get measured incorrectly, it can really throw off your readings.

Once we got Mom classified properly (as an average height, medium build, inverted triangle), the recommendations were spot on.

My brothers and Dad all ended up as “Tall Plus Inverted Triangles” (imagine that!) They were quite disappointed t not have breasts, since Bayou counseled those with their body shape that “Another blessing is that if you have breasts to play up, you can create cleavage to help create a sexy look.” Which began an interesting discussion of who had the bigger man-boobs. But I (and they) digress.

From my family’s perusal of this book, it seems a fairly sound system–as long as you do your measurements and calculations right. (For those of you who don’t remember percentages, to determine whether something is within 5% of your waist measurement, multiply your waist measurement by .95 to get the lower limit and by 1.05 to get the upper limit. If your waist is 40 inches, this’ll be 40x.95=38 and 40×1.05=42.)

Of course, even at the fairly low Amazon price of $11.90, I think this book’s a bit pricey considering that you’ll get about 60 pages of reading (20 pages at the beginning which basically say “I know what I’m talking about, I dress famous people” and 40 more that give general fashion strategies). Only four pages will directly apply to you.

So while this might be a worthwhile book to check out of the library and spend a max hour perusing, it’s probably not worth buying.

Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:Figure out your custom “shape” and read recommendations for making you look sexy (in other words, hourglass-like)
Recommendation: The recommendations aren’t bad, but I certainly wouldn’t buy a book for 4 measly pages of pointers.

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Book Review: Nina Garcia’s Look Book

December 8th, 2010

Confession: I am not a fashion plate.


Why ever not?

Despite my not-so-fashionable tendencies (inwardly, I’m really a denim jumper and birkenstocks-with-socks wearing Mom, with a patchwork vest thrown over top for good measure), I adore reading books on fashion, “style”, what-have-you.

Books like Nina Garcia’s Look Book.

Garcia’s Look Book tells the reader “what to wear for every occasion”–from when you’re asking for a raise to going on errands around town to Easter dinner to jury duty. Garcia covers it all.

Pick this book up, stick a sticky note in the most often used sections, and hope that you have a REALLY large clothes budget.

Maybe some women have this many clothes, but I certainly don’t. I briefly contemplated making a list of each of the items “called for” in each of Garcia’s “recipes”, but it took me only two or three pages to let go of that notion. It’d take forever.

So it’s not exactly the most practical book.

But it can’t be denied–it is a fun book. It’s fun to revel in the options one has with clothes, to imagine having to decide what to wear to a black-tie dinner, to read little anecdotes about others’ fashion faux pas and brilliant successes. And Garcia does have a good feel, after all, for the “vibe” you want to put off in different scenarios.

No discussion of this book would be complete without a mention of Ruben Toledo’s illustrations: lipstick tubes, fun shoes, and complete do’s. These illustrations are just great.

Yes, this is just the sort of book for a not-so-fashion-forward gal such as myself, who nonetheless likes to sink into a world of glamor through the pages of a book. Glossy illustrations, out-of-my-world scenarios, and just the tiniest touch of celebrity.

It’s the kind of book I love to check out of the library but would never dream of buying for myself.

Take it or leave it according to your preference.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Fashion Advice
Synopsis:Garcia tells you “what to wear for every occasion.”
Recommendation: Not so useful for what it’s billed as (unless you have an enormous wardrobe), but fun if you like perusing glossy illustrations of glamor.

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Book Review: Nothing to Wear? by Garza and Lupo

October 20th, 2010

What woman has not opened up her closet, surveyed its contents, and declared, “I have NOTHING to wear”?

And what woman, if she has declared this in the presence of a man or child, has not heard the response, “What are you talking about? Your closet is stuffed with clothes”?

Many a book attempts to help women out of this predicament–some helpfully, others not so helpfully. The majority of books within this category lay out a simple solution: Create a basic wardrobe where everything goes with everything and then accessorize from there.

Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo’s Nothing to Wear? offers this standard piece of advice–and gives a 5-step process for making it happen.

The five steps are:

  1. Define your style
  2. Edit your wardrobe
  3. Fill in the gaps
  4. Pull it all together
  5. Nurture the new you

I think the biggest advantage of this particular book’s approach to a wardrobe makeover is its first step. Defining your style consists of identifying your age group, your body type, your lifestyle, your arena, and your style type and then using that information to create a personal “style statement” that gives you a point of reference to use in evaluating your current wardrobe and any purchases.

A disadvantage to this book’s approach is that the authors recommend taking a great deal of dedicated time for making a wardrobe overhaul–and recommend purchasing several specialized closet organizers for the project. I don’t see the need for devoting so much time or money to such a project.

Of course, any wardrobe overhaul is going to take time–but I don’t think it has to be done in a single window of time, or that it needs to take as long as the authors of this book intimate.

I decided to reassess my wardrobe a couple of weeks ago and completed steps one and two in an afternoon. Now, admittedly, I might be a little more aware of my wardrobe and its quirks than many women are. For example, I didn’t have to try on many items during my “edit your wardrobe” step because I am already very aware of how each clothing item fits or doesn’t fit, flatters or doesn’t flatter, etc. So I spent most of my “editing” time holding up each item and evaluating how I felt it fit within the “style statement” I’d made for myself. From there, I divided my items into a giveaway pile (which I let my little sister “shop” in that evening), an alteration pile (for items that needed mending or tailoring or perhaps a complete makeover), a fabric scraps pile (for items in too poor of condition to give away, but which still had potential for quilting/sewing/crafting.) Clothes that could be kept were returned to my closet.

I am a bit anal-retentive, so as I returned each item to my closet, I logged it on an Excel spreadsheet. That meant that once my closet was complete (after 3 or 4 hours), I had a complete list of each article of clothing I owned. I categorized these by major categories and created a shopping list for myself (and a budget, since I’m that kind of person!) The next morning, I went shopping and completed step 3 in another 4 hours.

Total time for steps 1 through 3 and reading the entire book? Nine or ten hours. A far cry from what the book would suggest is necessary.

I also skipped step 4, which I thought was pretty extraneous. Step 4 consists of creating a collection of looks with your different separates and photographing yourself in them so that you can just pull out your personal “look book” and have a complete outfit ready to go in minutes. This might be useful for some people–but I find that I enjoy the spontaneity of creating different variations day by day. And since I set out my clothing for the next day as part of my evening rituals, I don’t have to worry about being pressed for time in the morning and ending up with a less-than-professional look.

In short, this book was pretty typical of its genre and perhaps a little too regimented to be of use to some people. Its great strength was the idea of creating a personal style sheet with which to evaluate your closet. Its great weakness was insisting on uninterrupted time and specialized closet organizers. If your library has a copy, I’d check it out and read through the first two steps, following the first to a T and using the second as a general guideline. But I wouldn’t buy this book.

Rating: 2 stars
Category: Fashion/Style
Synopsis: Two stylists talk about how to get your closet under control–so you never again have “Nothing to Wear”
Recommendation: First few chapters are interesting, first “step” is definitely worthwhile. The rest is ho-hum. Borrow it from your library and scan it, but don’t buy it.

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