Thursday, March 30, 2017

A New You...When I don't know what to wear....

When I don't know what to wear....I mostly freak out and consider not leaving the house! Seriously.
How do these ladies do it? How do they manage to just 'know' what to wear?
Caroline Herrera has this quality in spades. That elusive combination of class and confidence that spells  'Chic'. Grace Kelly had it too, as did Audrey Hepburn, and more recently, Australias own Nicole Kidman. Note that these woman are more about 'style' than 'celebrity'. They are two very different things.
The inherent ability to know what works for you and what doesn't, and how to use that to work magic on the way you present yourself each and every day, doesn't seem to come easily to many of us, but you can learn! This is after all, a skill, as much as any other, like driving, baking, embroidering, or learning to use technology. You have to 'learn' the skill, you practice, you might fail a couple of times, and finally you master the skill. For some of us, this takes a lifetime, and we only master it when we accept that looking good every day, isn't the domain of celebrities. It's within everyones reach.
It's a common misconception that you have to be wealthy or of a certain ethnicity or culture to know how to look good. Granted, the French do seem to be 'born' with the ability to look Chic, but that's a whole other topic. Caroline Herrera is Venezuelan, not a culture that immediately springs to most peoples minds (rightly or wrongly) when one imagines a stylish look. My point is, that we need not feel defeated before we start, just because we're Australian, or South African or from New Zealand or Canada or Russia. We can stop settling for less than lovely, by acknowledging that our place of birth or where we live, be it country, city or suburb, does not have to dictate the way we dress or how well groomed we are, when we step out the door each day.
So, step number one. Stop telling yourself that you are too old, too fat, too tired, too frumpy, too financially constrained, or that you live in the wrong suburb, the wrong city, the wrong country or that your friends will think less of you, because you suddenly decide to look your best. Stop it. Now. And promise me you won't do that any more. The first eight are just demoralising and aren't true anyway, and the ninth says that maybe you need new friends! Or as someone wise once said to me, 'when two people meet, one will be the influencer, and one the influenced...which will you be?'.
My Mum repeated this often, in a different way. She would say to me 'don't lower yourself for anyone Darling'. Yep. That's right.
Second step, what's wrong with being the best dressed person in the room? Why is that considered a no-no all of a sudden. Once upon a time, that was the aim. Why oh why, do we all suddenly want to be less than we can be? It's so sad.
When I was composing this post, and searching for images to accompany it, this quote from Caroline Herrera jumped out at me. Because at the bottom of the attitude that 'I don't matter anymore', which translates to 'I don't have time' and 'my friends will think I'm getting above myself' and the plethora of other excuses we use, is perhaps this one simple idea...
"I don't know how".
Dress codes used to be very cut and dried. People knew what to wear because social mores spelled it all out quite clearly. Even when I was a child there were rules. I remember being so excited to get Cherry Red patent leather shoes with a small heel to wear to church on Sundays. The Cherry Red was a concession to the fact that I was no longer a small child (I think I was actually about nine years old by then), and the small heel, even more so. Prior to that, I wore little white Mary Janes with white frilled socks for Sunday Best. Wearing Cherry Red Patent leather with a heel, with hosiery, was very special and grown up. Nowadays, toddlers wear black, and teens wear whatever they want, and it's all quite liberating, I'll grant you that.
But back to you and me, and the "I don't know how".
In the last little while, I've acknowledged that I've used all of the abovementioned excuses, and finally decided that enough was enough. I matter. I need to set an example for my own daughter, now entering her young adult life. I need to show that I care about ME, as much as I care about her, and my family. That's a very important lesson.
So here I am. Decluttering, and reimagining myself as I wrestle with the end of my child rearing years, and face what will happily be a long and prosperous retirement with my beloved.
I accepted that maybe, despite what I thought, I could learn a thing or two, so I signed up for Marie-Anne Lecouers French Chic Academy. I'm taking the full Academy course, but you can also opt to tackle it piece by piece, commencing with the module to dress your shape here.
So, thirdly, accept what you do not know, and work on that!
Getting to know my body shape and what suits me has been a huge learning curve and an extremely valuable one. I highly recommend you do the same. It will change the way you think. I promise. It is in fact, one of the key reasons that French women truly do always look chic. They know their body shape and dress to suit. No fashions and fads and trends. Just what suits them, each and every day.
If you are unable to invest the money in Marie-Annes courses at this time, there are plenty of other resources to support you online.
Try here for a Body Shape Calculator.
Try here for measuring your Body Shape Proportions.
Then educate yourself. Pinterest, blogs, books from your local library...they can all help.
Do it. For you.
So. Here's my question...When you don't know what to wear...what do YOU choose?
Last year, I was choosing ripped jeans, ballet flats, loose shirts and empire line dresses. I had a wardrobe full of things I didn't wear, things I was hoping I'd fit into one day, and things I'd worn once and decided I didn't really like. I had 23 pairs of shoes, and so many necklaces and pairs of earrings, I could have opened my own accessory store. Don't get me wrong, in the middle of all that was some stuff I really liked that was quite stylish. I'm not a complete dead loss! But it was time. Time to let go of my Mummy wardrobe, and emerge as the person I'd wanted to be for at least a decade, but didn't really know how.
I've educated myself by taking the French Chic Academy course, and by doing lots and lots of online reading. I'm getting better at this, I think.
This year, when I don't know what to wear, and bearing in mind my Petite Plus Sized Apple Shape, I'm choosing:
Black wrap dress
Peeptoe heels
Navy shirt
Bootleg jeans
Peeptoe heels
I've had my hair cut, and I spend time on it every day rather than racing out the door with it scraped into a messy bun, which was acceptable, but not ideal. I've invested in some products to help me style my hair well, and learned how to use them properly, by finding a hairdresser that specialises in curly hair. This means I can stop torturing my hair with the hair straightener, and learn to love my curls all over again. Remember, it's about learning, practising, mastering.
I lay my outfit out the night before, including appropriate accessories, and make sure I have made choices that are flattering, not just convenient. 'Convenience' has been a big part of my wardrobe repertoire for far too long.
I'm making ME a priority. You should too. We deserve it.
Here's me 'doing a Caroline'. She's my new style icon, and four short months ago, I would not have imagined I could model my wardrobe on hers. But here I am. Not Caroline. Not even imagining I could be her, but making her style work for me in my own way.
I've adopted her neutral colour scheme, a semi A-line skirt, her button down blouse, minimalist accessorising, her peeptoe heels with red toenails, and her confident stance. I'll be perfecting my French Chignon next, and working on a good self tanner for my legs a la Caroline, so it really is baby steps, isn't it. But it just goes to show, that you CAN adapt these looks for your own shape and colouring, once you deal with the "I don't know how" issue.
You can do it too. Make your number one task for the next month, to find two outfits, one every day, and one special occasion, that can be your go-to, when you don't know what to wear. Determine your body shape, find your own style icon, and go for it.
We can work our way up from there.
Love ya...

Monday, March 27, 2017

A New You...Favourites Old and New...Dressing the Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape #3...

I'm working hard on my New You French Chic goals for this year. I'm a long way from being where I'd like to be, but I'm proud to say I've already made some significant changes. What about you? I'm also still perfecting the art of the flattering full length selfie, but I thought it important to update you, since you've come along on this journey with me.
So far I've decluttered my closet, my underwear and sleepwear, my shoes, and my jewellery. There is now nothing in my wardrobe or jewellery box, that I will not wear with pride.
That is a huge thing for me. I am a bower bird of the highest order, so letting go of my enormous collection of costume jewellery, belts that do not suit my Petite Plus size Apple frame, and shoes of all kinds, was actually very difficult for me. I had to sit down and dig deep, and journal the reasons why this was so emotionally draining. Having been raised in a large family, where sometimes there wasn't a lot of money for new clothes or shoes, is a large part of that. A little voice in me is constantly saying 'but what if you never see that item again, what if you need it sometime and have to go and buy it again, what if you MISS OUT!'.
Fear of missing out  has guided many of my purchases over the years. Not just of clothing and accessories, but of homewares, linen, gifts and a plethora of other items. It's only as I've grown older, that I've come to realise that 'things' are always available. Yes, even the so called 'rare' things like vintage kitchenalia, antique furniture, and embroidered linens. Everything goes in cycles, and this years 'must have', is next years thrift shop fodder. Even if it came from the thrift shop originally.
I have to credit this in part, to Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy. Her course has helped me in more ways than one, and much of it, nothing to do with French Chic, as such. I've always prided myself on my European outlook, courtesy of my Nanna and Mum, but Marie-Anne has helped me take that outlook to an entirely new level. Check out her blog, if nothing else. She's the 'how-to' in this journey, I'm the willing student!
So having decluttered according to Marie-Annes guidelines, I then wrote a wish list for myself. I had in my hand, her guidelines for my Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape, and was stringent in my list of requirements. I want bang for my buck. Whatever I buy from hereon in, has to be the best I can afford, versatile, and flattering. I looked at images of outfits I liked, and asked Marie-Anne personally (yes that's part of the course!), how to adapt these looks for my shape.
To my enormous surprise and pleasure, looks that I had thought unachievable for my shape and height, CAN work for me, with a few tweaks.
At the top of my post, is a recent accomplishment. Yes, an accomplishment. Why shouldn't looking good, and feeling good about yourself, be as much of an accomplishment as anything else? I loved the outfit that designer Caroline Herrera wears in the small top picture. I showed this to Marie-Anne, and asked her if this was a flattering look for my shape. She responded that yes, it was possible, and gave me a few tips. The result you see, is on the left. Not identical, admittedly, but certainly close enough to make me very happy. I have believed for years that this look was no longer for me, but a slim fitting shirt with a V neck, the right gentle A-line skirt in a heavy quality fabric, a pair of low cut peeptoe heels, and a long strand of pearls, knotted to give another V shape, rather than left 'rounded', all contribute to an illusion of height and length, that make a huge difference. See, it's all about 'illusion'. I am not tall, nor am I slender any more. But heels with 'toe cleavage', V necklines, long necklaces that end in a point, and skirts that have weight that stops them floating, and that have a hemline between just above and just below the knee, work magic for me.
I have decided that in preference to buying randomly, I want to assemble a series of complete outfits by the end of the year. So each month I will focus on one complete outfit. That means that between now and December, I will have assembled ten completely new outfits, with the proviso that each purchase I make, will enhance or supplement the previous purchases in some way.
To achieve my look for March, top to toe, I decided I needed the following:
-Neutral solid coloured, short sleeved, button through shirt with V neckline
-A-line skirt, black, ivory or white, in a heavy fabric, just above or just below the knee, maybe with assymetrical hemline
-black peeptoe heels. Conical heel for comfort, slingback, low cut on the top of the foot to add length to the leg, with some 'toe cleavage'.
-Long Pearl necklace and pearl earrings
-Good haircut
-Manicured fingernails and toenails
I found a good Curly hair specialist, and treated myself to a new haircut, and some fab products to nurture my curls, instead of torturing them with the straightener. Total outlay $240 including products. I will not need to see her for a trim or products for 4-6 months.
I scoured shoe stores and online shoe outlets to find my perfect heels. It took some time, but I eventually found them, for $160.
My daughter-in-law introduced me to Jamberry, where I've made significant savings by doing my own nails with their heat activated nail wraps. Each manicure and pedicure costs $11 in total, and manicures last up to three weeks, and pedicures up to 6 weeks. Total outlay initially of $96 including the little heater and a selection of wraps and application accessories that will last at least 8 months.
And finally, my big treat, a custom made strand of blue-white, oversized Baroque pearls with a crystal embellished enhancer clip/fancy clasp, to which I can attach different enhancers (pendant attachments) to give me that long, lean 'V' look, rather than the traditional 'round' pearl necklace look. Purchased from an Etsy dealer, Laura at JaguarJems who went above and beyond to manufacture the pearl necklace of my dreams for my budget of $500AUD (about $380US), including the enhancer drop and a matching pair of earrings.
My skirt I found at Big W, in a gorgeous heavy fabric, and is perfect for me. On sale, $12 (a lucky buy!).
My shirt also from Big W, on end-of-season sale also, just $7. I will be looking for a similar shirt in a better quality fabric as I go along. This one looks lovely, but I imagine it won't last more than a season at that price.
This brings my total investment in myself, since the beginning of December 2016, to $895 or $56 per week. I am being brutally honest, both with you and myself, when I say that I would have previously spent that much a week on random thrift store purchases, without thinking twice, because they were all 'bargains'. If I didn't wear them more than once, I felt justified in discarding them for the very same reason. If only I'd realised sooner, that I was going about things all the wrong way.
So, here below, is a before and after, of my favourite 'lunch with friends' ensembles.
On the left, is a favourite silk shirt, over casual, so called 'on-trend' ripped jeans in 3/4 length. I would wear this with my favourite Birkenstock Gizeh sandals which I love for comfort. Many of my friends would dress similarly. There is nothing really wrong with this sort of outfit here, especially in the middle of a Queensland Summer, but here are the reasons why I won't be dressing like this any longer.
The colour is not flattering and drains my face of glow. Ripped jeans are not 'chic', nor are they 'elegant', which is how I would now like to present myself. The long shirt is not figure flattering, but merely hides the bumps and lumps. The 3/4 pants just make me look shorter and fatter, because the length between the bottom of the shirt hem and the bottom of the jean hem, just makes me look stocky. The Birkenstock sandals do the same, by not adding height to my frame, and by having a surface that covers my foot from toes to ankle. Just as importantly for me, this is not what one might consider 'French Chic'.

On the other hand on the right, this black shirt is fitted without being figure-hugging, enhancing my waistline, and giving me a more flattering silhouette. The black is slimming too, and the V neckline, gives an impression of length. The pearl necklace (not my new pearls, but rather a thrifted $5 strand for now), knotted, also enhances a V rather than a round shape, lending further length and a slimming illusion to my frame. My new skirt skims my outer legline, flaring gently at the bottom to make my waist look trim. The skirt is A-line with a very subtle asymmetrical hemline that again, adds a long and lean look. The gap between the bottom hem of the skirt and my feet is longer, giving the illusion of height. The shoes, add length to my leg and foot, and a couple of well needed inches to my 5'3" (163cm) body. Lastly, this is far closer to my idea of embracing French Chic and making it work for me.
Can you see how a few simple illusions and tricks can make a difference? I had no idea that such easy little tweaks, could alter the way I look and feel so substantially.
Now if I can just work out how to take a full length selfie that doesn't have a double chin, I might be!
What do you think? Can my lessons be your lessons too?
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A New You...Financial discipline and what it gets you...

I've wanted a long strand of Baroque pearls ever since I spied some on my honeymoon 20 years ago. We visited Broome in Western Australia for part of that time, and the pearls there were astoundingly beautiful.
My husband had gifted me a more traditional strand of pearls as a wedding gift, seen here (as requested in my last post about hats here). But they to me, are not an everyday kind of pearl. The more modern Baroque ones, above, appeal to me as something I could wear constantly.
Late last year, I stopped frittering my money away on a bit of a sale purchase here, and an op shop purchase there to supplement my wardrobe, and stopped to really take stock. I decided I wanted to transition from my Upmarket Mummy wardrobe, which has served me well admittedly, to something more elegant and chic.
Which brought me to Marie-Anne Lecouer and her French Chic Academy. I pondered for a day or two, and finally decided that at my age (57), it was time to invest in myself. And not via retail therapy. I signed up for Marie-Annes course, opting for the monthly payments, calculating that it was no more than I traditionally spent on fabric, patterns, accessories, and so on, and finding that I was really no better off.
From the first day, Marie-Anne changed my thinking. All of those principles that I applied to other areas of my life, suddenly made sense in terms of personal presentation too. Why have a wardrobe of clothing to choose from, when a few classic separates, in quality fabrics will serve equally? Why have row upon row of earrings, and necklaces and other accessories, when a quality watch (which I already have), some pearls, and diamond or pearl studs, will suit any occasion admirably? Why have dozens of pairs of shoes ( too?), when a quality pair of wedges, and one pair of ballet flats will suit any occasion?
I immediately ceased spending indiscriminately. Don't get me wrong, I was always budget conscious. But I often didn't give a lot of thought beyond things being the right colour, usually black, and fitting me. A bonus. Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple shape is a trial, I tell you.
Instead, that money went towards my course with Marie-Anne.
I also stopped buying other trivial things, like sushi for my daughters afternoon tea. An insignificant purchase and only once or twice a week, but even that adds up.
Instead I transferred that money to my Mad Money account, while I followed Marie-Annes advice on decluttering my wardrobe and making a list of what I needed, including an in depth description.
Which is where these pearls came in. I remembered how much the deep lustre and blue violet sheen of those pearls on my honeymoon captured me, and how often I'd wished I could afford some. I wrote down in my journal, a description of my ideal strand of pearls. They had to be large, even oversized, a particular shape of Baroque pearl, a particular length of strand, and a very particular colour. I dreamed for a bit.
Then, suddenly, I had that money. $5 here, and $7 there adds up, as many of you probably know. I went looking and found a dealer on Etsy, who could custom make the very pearls I wanted all my life, for a price within my budget. The pearls I'd noted down in my journal.
These pearls are pictured at the top of my post. They're yet to be knotted and strung, but these are my pearls. A bonus is that there are pearls left over from the lengths she purchased for me, and she has made these earrings as a bonus for no extra charge.

 These are oversized pearls, very modern, and very elegant. And I am thrilled to bits. I cannot wait for them to arrive.
Discipline has it's rewards. But then you knew that, right?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Recipes in Four Sentences....Nannas Apricot Slice...

Quick and Easy Apricot Slice
Soak 200gms (6 ozs) diced, dried apricots in hot water for two hours. While they're soaking, measure out 2 cups of self-raising flour, 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup dessicated or shredded coconut, and set aside , along with 2/3 cup butter in a microwaveable bowl or jug, so you can melt it. Drain the apricots well, and add all of the other ingredients, including the melted butter, and combine well,  pressing into a 30 x 20cm tray (disposable foil ones are perfect), and baking in a 180C fan forced preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until firm to touch in the middle. Remove from the oven and chill before cutting, or let the family slice their own according to preference ;-)
 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png