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On a Raft in the Quarry

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I saw my friend again today.

We had a lovely conversation about, well, all sorts of silly stuff. Nothing too deep or earth-shaking, but we did both talk about my inability to measure stuff and also not wanting to mess things up.

And, yeah, that's a motivator these days. I guess so much was so messed up for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to have and retain success. Success is a very powerful motivator, in both a positive and a negative vein. Positive that of course you want to keep doing things that are good and fun and profitable and pleasant and efficacious, and negative in the sense that you also don't want to go back to where you were before, and who you were before.

Who was I before? And where was I? I was stuck in a very unpleasant rut. And I felt, deep down, that I didn't deserve to do any better, or be any better. And I spent time wishing that there was a big old reset button on my life and that it would let me erase everything that had happened before, and all of the mess ups that had led me down that path.

And you know something? There really is a reset button, but it takes a while to engage. You push it by walking. You push it by diarying your food choices. You push it by smiling. You push it by clothing yourself better. You push it by weighing and measuring (Even though I am still measurement-challenged; apparently my friend is a bit, too. Not exactly a good quality in a fishmonger, I suppose. It doesn't seem to have hurt him, though. He does all right.) your food. You push it by taking fitness opportunities where you can find them. You push it by accepting yourself and by loving yourself and treating yourself better and learning that there are failures amidst those successes but that that doesn't mean you are worth any less as a person.

So go ahead. Push it.

PS My husband said that today he noticed a guy in the grocery store checking me out (not the fish dude; this was just some customer). Apparently he, um, was reading the logo on my tee shirt. Over and over and over again, I s'pect. The logo was, er, right at the sternum.

I am almost halfway done with my journey. Will I hit 100 off at Monday's weigh-in? I don't know, but if it's the following week or the one after that, that's fine, too.

I've got a fighting chance at becoming hot here. And that's another good incentive, dontcha think? ;)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESPAH 10/28/2008 8:28AM

    Thank you for the laugh of the day.

I was walking past an old burial ground downtown yesterday, and some homeless dude yelled to me, "Hey, honey, wanna get married today?"

I waved my left hand at him and said, "You're too late!"

Weird. I attract an odd element.

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EMMASMART 10/27/2008 11:30PM

    Sometimes it's sorta nice when men are pigs. Eh?


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JESPAH 10/26/2008 10:29AM

    Thanks, G!

I'm having Japanese food out with girlfriends Monday night and might have some amazing news to share. Or we'll just eat sushi and gab. :)

It's all good.

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TUESDAYS 10/26/2008 6:42AM

    I'm thinking that those men who work in "meat" are on the lecherous side. At my grocery store, it's the butcher. Or from your DH's report, it's just "men in grocery stores!" ha! emoticon

I'm chilling the champagne for your 100 pound goal. It's good-to-go soon... or can be vintage in a couple weeks. At any rate, it'll be celebratory. Keep your eye on the prize, J!

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It's Not the Ribbons in Your Hair

Friday, October 24, 2008

Well, actually, it is. It's your hair and what you do with it, and its color and cut, and jewelry and scarves and hats and gloves and shoes. It's belts and sashes and even bandannas.

I'm talking, of course, about accessories. And about pulling it all together.

A part of the colors and style thing is not just which accessories you choose but even whether you choose any accessories at all. Of course everyone has to wear shoes, and on cold days you'd better be wearing a hat and scarf, and gloves or mittens. But jewelry and nail polish and the like are all a lot more fluid and optional.

Me, I am such a Sporty gal that I rarely wear any sort of jewelry except for my wedding ring. I own plenty, and most of it lives in the safety deposit box and I don't miss it one bit. Right now it's nestled among my mostly worthless AIG stock certificates. :)

But I do tend to do things with my hair. It's past shoulder length so today it's in barrettes. Often it's in a ponytail at work just to keep it out of my face but today is Friday so I'm loosening up a bit. I also color it, I readily admit that (I've had grey hair since my early 20s). Because I'm a Spring, I go with what is essentially a strawberry blonde shade. I could probably go browner if I wanted to, so long as had some sort of reddish or blondish highlighting going on. Very red hair is out (I've tried that and it looks brassy on me), and blackish hair serves to do nothing but make me look corpselike (probably good as Halloween is coming).

Accessories are kind of the details in the package. I tend to use them, if I wear them at all, to bring out more of the Feminine in me. Hence my wedding ring has a floral etching on the band, and I wear pins that are more like cameos than abstract designs and yes I own pearls and on occasion will wear them. My glasses are fairly Feminine/Classic, too.

Accessories can also enhance the overall look you're going for. If I were wearing a skirt suit and looking very severe and formal (and powerful), I might add to that with unadorned pumps, a straightforward gold necklace with no charms on it and a business-like watch. My hair would be pulled back into a bun or would otherwise be up and I might even wear a pocket square.

To soften that look and appear more approachable and Feminine, the hair comes down or maybe has a lacy barrette put in it, a charm bracelet or heart necklace is put on and even a pair of lacy tights or ballet slipper-type shoes could work.

To evoke Sportiness (still wearing that same suit!) I could add a LiveStrong Lance Armstrong bracelet and put my hair in a simple ponytail (probably low to the neck as I'm still wearing a suit) or even leave it down.

Evoking Drama could involve adding a cape or large scarf over the suit. When I was still practicing law, I knew a Court Reporter who was definitely the Dramatic type. She wore capes every day unless it was very hot outside. Her makeup was kind of heavy, with the eyeliner very strong.

Evoking Exotica could mean a chunky wooden or beaded bracelet or necklace or barrette, or a scarf with an exotic print.

And Alluring? That's easy. A low cut top, a short skirt on the suit, preferably with a slit, and probably higher heels. Hair would probably be down but big.

Each of these looks is appropriate for work or court or wherever you'd wear a suit, but they all say different things. And it's all done with accessories.

Bringing it all together means embracing and enhancing who you are and who you are trying to be. When I was in Junior High, I envied a girl named Debbie. She was thin and petite, with straight raven-black hair and dark eyes, and a very pale complexion. By the time we graduated from High School, I didn't envy her any more, as she wore too many dark things and always had a too-pale pallor going on. She never did anything with her hair and, well, missed opportunities to look good.

You've got lots and lots of opportunities to look good. No matter how much you weigh. Look in the mirror and see yourself. No, I mean, REALLY see yourself. See the sparkle in your eyes and the merriment in your smile. See the laugh lines and the chin or chins. See the bust, and maybe it sags a little, or the arms, and maybe they could stand to become trimmer. The belly. The keister. All of it.

It is all you, and it is all beautiful, and you know you're beautiful on the inside. And you can be as beautiful and wonderful as you can be on the outside, too. We all know that it's what's inside that counts but, let's face it, if slimming down did not improve our looks a lot of us might pay a little lip service toward becoming healthier but not really stick with it. Weighing less brings a benefit of making it easier to find and get into better clothes. It brings with it more and better choices, too, so that you can get what you really want and need, what will bring out the best in you.

Because, really, every bit of clothing ought to make you pretty.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESPAH 10/25/2008 9:59AM

    Used to be for me -- I think mine have already gone off to Goodwill ...

PS Gonna see about heading to the Post Office today.

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EMMASMART 10/24/2008 9:07PM

    Big scarves are the accessory for me!


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TELERIE 10/24/2008 3:10PM

    I'm really bad at seeing what suits me myself, and not really fond of shopping so I'm learning here - keep it up! Great to read about and I should get a color analysis done.

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JESPAH 10/24/2008 11:54AM

    Oh man how sweet you are. Nice to see my rantings appreciated. Today I am in yellow boatneck top (that's a lil small on me, truth be told), a tan vest with kind of a funky toile/Japanese garden pattern, plus jeans that are so big I can get them off without unbuttoning and unzipping them. Only accessories are loafers, aforementioned wedding ring which currently fits better on my middle finger, plus two plastic yellow barrettes in my hair that I just colored yesterday and is running a lil redder than usual (it'll fade and go back to normal in a day or so).

We should definitely hang out and play the -- can you spot the styles -- game some time. I played it with a friend of mine (she's Winter-Feminine/Classic/Sporty) while at an amusement park a few years ago. People are of course dressed casually because of where they are but my God you can spot the styles just the same. :)

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TUESDAYS 10/24/2008 11:29AM

    Okay J...
Your blogs are now my daily analytical therapy. (ha!)

I'm a Spring-Classic-Feminine-Dramatic (which makes me largely schizophrenic)! (I am decidedly NOT a Sporty and an Alluring is just, well.... toooo obvious!) Hair? Change is good. Highlights work for me, especially now that grey is sneaking in. (My theory? Put a couple colors up there and you can't see it!) I love jewelry. Diamonds and gold (not silver because my skin has warm undertones), but never to excess. Dainty or exotic, depending on the look/occasion. One piercing per ear and nowhere else. One ring per hand unless they're on the same finger. Tatoos? Never. Ever. (Did I say never? Nope, never.)

I think all this stuff is fun to play with. I'm enjoying your musings...and can't wait to see where you take us next!

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Turn to the Left, Turn to the Right

Thursday, October 23, 2008

We all know or hear of whatever trends come down the runways of Paris or Milan, every season. And, for the most part, those trends don't affect us until they hit the knockoff circuit, and sometimes a very low level of the knockoff circuit, like Kmart. But there's no question that what is offered for sale in 2008 is different from what was offered in 1998 or even 2003. Paris and Milan change their stripes (or spots or colors or cuts or whatever) every season or even more frequently than that, but Macy's and Nordstrom's change them more like once a year or two except for weather-related differences and Kmart and the like change every few years or more. That's not just the nature of trends; it's also the nature of the economics of stores. Discount chains thrive on sameness, and build their business models on that very thing. Paris and Milan build their business models on change.

But there are six fundamental styles out there which apply to every single article of women's clothing on the planet (men's clothing fits into fewer categories but it can be categorized, too). Trends come and go, but fundamental styles remain constant. They just get mixed up in different ways.

A few blog posts ago I mentioned an image consultant I had gone to a few years ago. She not only talked to me about color. She also talked about styles. The six basic styles are:

* Alluring
* Classic
* Dramatic
* Exotic
* Feminine
* Sporty

Alluring style is meant to attract a guy. Plunging necklines, skinny pants, high heels and big hair. Think Peg Bundy on "Married with Children". That character takes it to the extreme but that's Alluring in a nutshell.

Classic style is meant to convey seriousness. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin as a politician, her handlers dress her in a Classic style. Suits without too many frilly decorations. Knee-length skirts or chino-type slacks. Blazers. Collared shirts. Hair swept back (although hers is a little big sometimes) and without a curl. This is to convey ideas of power, of competency and of playing with the big boys. It's also an appeal to the conservative base.

Dramatic style evokes, well, drama. It's meant to excite (although not in the same manner as the Alluring style) and stand out. It's capes and big scarves. It's all of the things you associate with dramatic groups and stereotypical actresses and artists, like berets. Actresses at awards shows tend to be dressed in a somewhat dramatic fashion. Paris and Milan often evoke it as well (Paris and Milan also stay away from Classic, Feminine and Sporty styles because they are all about showing something different to the buying public).

Exotic style is all about being outside the norms of the West. It's tribal, it's primitive, it's ethic, it's back to nature but not crunchy. It's headscarves, wooden beads, and even saris. Erykah Badu is the epitome of Exotic style, although she also dresses somewhat dramatically.

Feminine style evokes not only femininity but also a degree of passivity. Like it or not, our society still equates femininity with being something of a pushover, or at least being passive-aggressive. Flower prints and lace. Curly hair or at least left in some sort of loose, soft style. Cozy pieces with a feeling evoking home and family. My image consultant friend referred to it a surefire husband catnip -- dress Feminine on dates and you bag the man. Wellll, I'm not so sure, but it sure is an intriguing idea. The best example I can give of the Feminine style is to suggest you rent "You've Got Mail". Every single outfit that Meg Ryan wears, and every accessory, from her pixie haircut to her sweater sets to her tasteful pearls and below-knee skirts and sensible flats, screams Feminine style.

Sporty style evokes not only power (albeit a different type of power from Classic), it can also, at times, evoke slovenliness (then again, any of the styles can if you don't keep your clothing nice). Few frills, built for speed and ease, Sporty style covers not just sweat pants but also standard (without too many feminine frills) jeans, sneakers, baseball jerseys and tee shirts, both long- and short-sleeved. On and off the court, Venus Williams exudes Sporty style.

Here's a book with very similar information, if you're interested: It's You: Looking Terrific Whatever Your Type by Emily Cho:

Now, the reality is that everyone has all six styles in them, but usually three predominate with one being most dominant. Me, I'm a Sporty kinda gal. I value comfort over frills. But I've also got some Classic and Feminine in me. In fact, most American women are these three, in some combination or another. Get down to your teen years and you'll probably see the Alluring style in you. As for Dramatic and Exotic, most women born in the US don't show those styles much except maybe when it comes to accessories.

I like to play a little game sometimes, if I'm waiting at a bus stop or in a doctor's office or just sitting on a park bench: name the three styles of any random woman passing by. The woman with the sweater set, the loafers and the chinos is Feminine-Classic. Her hair in a ponytail probably also marks her as Sporty. Like I said, those three dominate America, so you tend to see them over and over again. See that Goth teen over there? Dramatic, Sporty and sometimes Classic or Alluring. Dramatic because of the makeup and haircut, Sporty because often this is a crowd that wears sneakers or jeans (or both), plus tee shirts, and Classic if they wore loafers or the like instead, or Alluring if something like a bustier is added.

One thing I've learned from this kind of categorization is that while personal style is a matter of individual taste, there are a lot of areas of overlap. Trench coats are both Classic and Sporty. A ballet-neck top can be Feminine and Dramatic, and even Sporty if it's made from a jersey-like fabric. A string of pearls is both Classic and Feminine.

And that's a way that people can connect. My mother and I used to have all sorts of fights when I was a teenager, about my clothing choices. Well, of course we would! I am a Spring and she is a Winter, and I run Sporty-Classic-Feminine whereas she runs Feminine-Classic-Sporty. She would pull out a cranberry-colored lacy top and I would counter with a turquoise tee shirt. We were virtually destined to argue, but there are enough similarities that we can also agree on a lot of things, like suits in neutral colors. We don't trade off clothes very often and never have, not even when we've been the same size (which has happened, at various sizes), but there are a few pieces where we can agree.

As you continue putting together what you want to wear, think about the messages you're sending. Are you showing the world that you're a comfortable reminder of home and family? Or a world-beating business woman? Or maybe you should be on stage, or showing off your ethnic pride. Or perhaps you want to elicit wolf whistles, or maybe just an invitation to a pickup game of baseball.

You are saying something with your clothes. What is it that you want people to hear?


She's Like a Rainbow

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The somewhat creepy Gilliamesque animation is, well, odd.

Onto colors.

I suspect that most of us have heard of the following book: Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson:

There are certainly parts of it that seem dated now, or strange (e. g. she seems to think that all people of African decent are Winters, which can't possibly be true, due to skin tone variations), but the essential truth of it is still there: some colors look better on you than others. And they're tied up with your own coloration.

Jackson divides the world by the seasons. Winters are (usually) pale, with dark hair, light eyes and kind of bluish skin undertones. Springs (me!) are usually pale but blonde or red-haired, sometimes with some freckling, and with golden skin undertones. Summers are also light but the hair is more like ash or snow bunny blonde, and with barely noticeable skin undertones. Autumns are darker, redder, frecklier, with peaches and cream or reddish skin undertones. People may age (and so colors can grey or fade) but the season never changes.

From these seasons, Jackson pulls out a palette of colors to suit a person. Welllll, not so fast. First off, color, for real, isn't divided into four parts. It's tripartite, because of the three primary colors: blue, red and yellow. Hence there's a bit of fudging. Orange does not just belong to Autumns. Black is not the sole province of Winters.

Several years ago I had my colors done by a professional image consultant who was trained in the Jackson method. What she did for me was not to just hand me a Spring palette and say, "Here, you're done." Instead, she checked every swatch she had, and put together what looks like a little wallet. It's mainly Spring colors, to be sure, but there are also Summer and Autumn colors in there. Hence, don't box yourself in. I think the seasons are helpful but not dispositive. It certainly cannot hurt to have an idea of what to grab or order. It has the added bonus of being, mainly, colors that coordinate with one another. This makes outfit creation far simpler.

Here's how you do it at home. Grab a mirror and note the following about yourself: your childhood hair color, your eye color (including -- very important -- the flecking in your irises) and your skin undertones. For me, the childhood color was kind of a platinum blonde (which is Summer) but it quickly switched over to dirty blonde, which is more Spring or Autumn. The eyes are greyish blue but have yellow flecks. The yellow flecking (as opposed to white flecking) means a warm palette, so Summer was out and it was a question of Spring versus Autumn. I'm not terribly freckly, my skin is a bit yellowy and I don't tan too terribly well so Spring was the verdict. Spring. Actress Charlize Theron is a Spring.

My mother is a Winter. Dark brown hair when she was a kid. Blue eyes with white flecks. Light, slightly bluish complexion. No freckles whatsoever. Actress Elizabeth Taylor is a Winter.

My husband is an Autumn. Auburn hair. Hazel eyes with yellow flecks. Reddish complexion. Actress Nicole Kidman is an Autumn, although she's a rather pale one.

Actress Elizabeth Hurley is supposed to be a Summer, but I don't see that, although I do see Sharon Stone as one. To me, a Summer always seems like an Ice Princess or snow bunny look.

But what about the colors? There are guidelines, either in books or online. Another thing you can do is, get fabric swatches. Lots and lots and lots of them. And check them versus your face. Forget the color, forget whether you like it. Instead, concentrate on your face when it's juxtaposed with the color. Do you look younger or older? Lined or smooth? Does your face pop or does the color overwhelm you? Of course you are looking for colors that bring out you in a favorable manner. Fortunately, the chances of these being colors that you already like is very high, as we naturally gravitate to what looks good on us. It should go without saying that you need to do this checking with as neutral a light source as possible. Fluorescents will accentuate blues and incandescents will accentuate yellows, so you will want to go for natural light if you can get it while doing this.

If you don't have a lot of swatches, try your clothes, even pants and bras, by putting them near your face and checking in a mirror. I think that swatches are best because I like the idea of having a little wallet of color to carry with me or consult if I'm checking in a catalog. I highly recommend this method as it can help you if store lighting is bad.

What I've found is, it's miraculous. You just check. If the garment is the wrong color, you simply don't buy it, unless it's something that will be far from your face. Pants of course don't need to follow these guidelines, although I'd suggest that they be in colors or patterns to complement what you put near your face. Hence for me, the purchase of burgundy-colored pants is silly. Burgundy is not my color and the colors that work for me that are all similar, such as blue-violets, don't go with it. So I pass the burgundy pants by and don't give them a second thought.

Some designers fit in with my color scheme better than others. I've found, for example, that Liz Claiborne never seems to match my color palette. Things seem more geared towards the Summer palette so they don't work for me.

Another thing I have found is that I can go a little outside of the palette, but not much. If I take a turn into Autumn's rusts and golds, I'm more or less fine although the look isn't optimal. If I wear some of the Summer pales, I can be okay, too, but pale plain pink, without any blue or yellow in it, tends to not flatter me at all, and fuchsia is downright nasty. Winter colors, unless they truly coincide with what I have in the palette (e. g. Navy), are out unless they're going to be really far from my face. I stay far away from any color marked something like Plum or Berry although I wear a lot of purples. I just wear different purples.

Makeup should be similarly selected. With warm tones, your mascara really should be brown. For cool tones, go with black. For warm tones, lipstick and blush are usually peachier for lights like me or more like coral for Autumns. For cool tones, go opposite.

The bottom line is that colors come and go in fashion, but you as a person, your coloration stays similar throughout your life although inevitably it will eventually fade a bit. As we fight for our food rights and don't accept just anything plopped on our plates, I think it's high time we fought for our fashion rights as well, and stopped just accepted one color over another. Why take rusts and golds and olives in Autumn if you're a Summer? Why can't pastels and clear colors be available then? Who decided that Wintertime was just for dark colors, anyway?

Once again, the message is: accept who you are, and enhance yourself. Because you're a pretty cool person, you know that?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESPAH 10/22/2008 11:28AM

    So much of why my mother and I argued about clothes when I was growing up stems from this. Oy, if we had only known!

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TUESDAYS 10/22/2008 9:13AM

    I'm in your season too, Cutie!
I must admit, however, that because of the subtleties of shade, I still find the "color people's" set of rules a mite confusing. Basically, I know that fuschia and most reds are poison for me, but I have to try on everything else.
But, I guess that's part of the fun, isn't it?

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Every Bit of Clothing Ought to Make You Pretty

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've been dumping a lot of my old clothes, either giving them away to friends or Goodwill, and that's gotten me to think, more than I have in a long time, about what clothes really mean. Sure, they are a means of covering our nakedness. But then why wouldn't we all just wear strategically placed fig leaves? Clothes also exist to keep us warm and dry, but then again we don't all walk around wearing polar fleece stuffed into plastic garbage bags.

We exude style, even if we don't mean to. Our choices reflect who we are, or who we'd like to be. The image we project is very much our own self-imagery. We are not simply wrapped up in our clothes. Our clothes are wrapped up in us.

For the next few blog entries, I'm going to write about clothes, and about choices. I've been wearing clothes for 46 years! :) While I don't purport to be an expert on what looks good I can research with the best of 'em and tell you what at least works for me. And, in the meantime, I hope to make you think a little bit about the choices you make in clothing, at least as much as you think about the choices you make in food.

The first area is basic sizing/fit, cut and fabric.

Manufacturers vary sizes all the time. In fact, women's sizes have been getting larger in terms of surface area but smaller in terms of size number. Yesterday's six is now a zero. And so on and so forth, it goes up through the chain. Unless you are buying something perfectly tailored to a measured size, you can never be sure if you're getting a good fit. Menswear, on the other hand, is mainly sold in measured sizes (the size 16 collar or the pants fitted at 32 inseam). Except for bras, women's sizes are all in amorphous figures -- Small, Medium, Large, 2X, 18, whatever. It can be tough to figure out what's what.

What of fit? Does it really matter that we're a size 20 but squeeze into an 18? Does it mean anything different if we swim in a size 22 or bigger? I think that that can also speak towards wealth, particularly as we lose weight. It looms incredibly large if we're losing a substantial amount of weight.

Of course it's crazy to buy a whole new wardrobe every time we lose a size. But at the same time, walking around in ill-fitting clothes is sending another kind of message. Is it a message that we don't care about ourselves, or that we're just not interested in dropping a few grand on a size that we won't be in for more than a month or two? Is it a sign of low self-esteem, or is it a sign that we're so confident that we're going to lose weight and keep it off that we're just going to leapfrog over a few transitional sizes?

One idea that works is to measure everywhere. And I mean everywhere! For weight loss, I currently measure 8 areas (plus neck, but only for SP, so I actually measure 9 areas). But My Shape ( ) measures many more, like rise. I don't always agree with My Shape's stylistic recommendations, but their retention and review of a full complement of measurements is right on target.

What do you do with this newfound information? For one thing, there are sizing charts online. Particularly if you do a lot of catalog shopping (I do), it's not too tough to find this information. Even if you don't shop using a catalog, there are some things you can do. You can look for consumer reviews of the manufacturer's products online, for example. What do the reviews say? If you're seeing things like "runs small" or "tight across the bust" or "pants had to be cuffed", you'll know that the "standard" sizes are probably not closely followed by that particular manufacturer.

Another thing you can do is simply go to a store that sells that manufacturer's products and try a few of them on. Clothing is generally sized as against a specific model -- a man or woman who is a perfect size 20 or whatever and who is paid to, essentially, never let their measurements change. But that doesn't account for errors in assembly or other manufacturing quirks. A blouse might be hemmed slightly closer to the line than all of the others on a rack. Or the factory could have run out of material and put together one last pair of pants in order to fulfill an order. A garment might be irregular, and might or might not be so labeled.

You cannot try on every item in a store but you can get a ballpark idea of what's going on with fit.

Then it gets interesting.

What does it mean to select the proper fit -- or not? That may seem silly -- why would anyone choose items that didn't fit? Yet people do it all the time.

20 years ago I worked with a woman who was gaining weight. Not a lot, but it was enough for her to need to go to a higher size. Yet she refused, no matter how uncomfortable she got, no matter how bad she looked. Why? Because she could not bring herself to become someone who wore double digit sizes. She kept in size 8s, even as they dug meanly into her sides, even as she split seams. She was probably not even a 10 -- I suspect she was more like a size 12 -- yet she persevered. She stayed in that size yet did not diet or exercise in order to return to comfort and fit. Vanity is a crazy thing, and there are also women who do it with shoes, who see larger sizes (particularly very large shoe sizes, like 10s) as being unfeminine and will insist on getting size 8s or 7s or smaller and somehow walking in them. That's a surefire way to cripple yourself, yet people do it.

One thing I have found in my travels is that, no matter what size you are, you look best in that size. Too small and you only look like you're kidding yourself. Too big and you seem like you're sloppy. And in the case of a person who's lost considerable weight, such as myself, it could be a sign of being too lazy -- or stuck in the past, or afraid of change, or financially challenged -- to move on and finally toss the bigger item. Or you could just be waiting for the next size down item to arrive.

What does it mean to select a particular fabric?

Let's look at fabrics for a moment. Aside from the obvious cost and cachet, what does it mean if we choose a tee shirt made out of silk, or a sweater made of cashmere, versus a cotton tee or a sweater made of wool or even an acrylic? I believe that it says more than we may want to admit. It can say that we want to spend money on ourselves. Or it can say that we're living beyond our means. It can also say that we are attempting to fit in with a crowd or better ourselves, perhaps to stand apart from that very same crowd. The silk and cashmere not only speak of opulence on their own, but they also speak of sustained wealth and/or leisure. After all, it's a far different proposition to launder them than it is to just toss cotton or acrylic into the washer/dryer. Such things have to be hand washed, or hauled to a dry cleaner. Both take time. Dry cleaning takes money. There is a definite difference between the silk tee and the cotton one, even if they appear identical to the untrained eye.

Fabrics also speak to what's important to us. Do we value comfort? Looks? Cachet? Economy? When Sharon Stone wore a Gap tee shirt to the MTV music awards, what did that mean? Was she bucking convention (the tee shirt went over well and Gap sales soared), or just too lazy to go shopping for something normally worn at awards shows?

And, what does it mean when the cashmere or silk item isn't even tailored nicely, and looks like nothing special? Is a slovenly piece somehow better because it's made with a luxe fabric?

We are all shaped differently. Even two people with identical measurements can look different, given things like jiggle and sag factors. So what does it say about us as we make certain choices?

Take a yardstick or other long straight pole (a broomstick will work just fine for this purpose). Go in front of a full-length mirror and hold the pole so that it's perpendicular to your body, right at your waist. You're making a big plus (+) sign. Now, look above and below your natural waistline. What part of you is longer? Is it your legs or your torso? Or are they about the same?

Me, my torso is a little longer. I'm technically not a petite because I'm over 5'4", but I can sometimes wear petite pants because my legs are short.

Another idea about cut -- go to your closet and chest of drawers and take out everything of a certain type of clothing, e. g. all tee shirts, all pairs of jeans, all skirts or whatever. Try them on, one by one, and go back to that full-length mirror. Forget color, fabric and style. Forget fit, even. You're just looking at cut. What looks better? Let's say it's skirts. What works for you? A-line? Straight? Bubble? What about slits, or kick pleats? Or any pleating at all? Mini? Above knee? Calf length?

Look at your clothing in its basic elements. For skirts, that's things like length, drape, waistline and fullness, plus pockets if there are any. For pants, it's length, waistline type, leg fullness, pockets, pleating, belt loops (or the lack thereof), etc. Dresses are essentially a combination of a shirt and a skirt, sewn together.

Take notes about what works. You may find that you've got skirts that work pretty well but would be better if they had a few different features. Or you may find that a combination of two skirts would work best for you, e. g. this one's pleats and that one's length. Start to put together a portrait of what works on you.

Now, I'm not talking about size here. You may weigh enough that you feel that nothing you wear will ever look good. But that's probably not true. But for sake of argument, let's say it is. Yet there are things that look better than others, yes? Some things make you feel pretty, or confident, or sexy. Others make you feel dowdy. There are differences there if you're willing to look for them.

Or, you could just read this book: Flatter Your Figure by Jan Larkey, see:
. Amazon sells it (I get no commission from mentioning it or its sales; I just like the book and feel it works for me). The book is over 10 years old so ignore the fashions on the cover. The ideas are what you care about. The book essentially boils down cuts to their basic elements, and determines, based on what you've said about yourself, what will be best on you. If keyhole necklines are in style, but your figure type would look terrible in one, don't buy the top with the keyhole neckline!

Of course not everything is that easy. Sometimes you just need something, and size or budget or time constraints conspire against you. But they don't always.

Take some time and figure out the basic components of what looks good on you, and pair that with size and what you want to say about yourself when it comes to fabric. If you can combine these elements (and with the elements I'll talk about later in this little series of mine), then every bit of clothing really will make you pretty.

And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESPAH 10/22/2008 5:17AM

    Pretty soon -- once stuff arrives -- you'll get some of my faves. The farewell tour continues!

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EMMASMART 10/22/2008 2:02AM

    I'm petite on the bottom to... That's why it's so perfect. I still have shrinking to do. I'm glad to be a part of the purge. Now I have to resume exercising so I can get it all to fit!


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