Monday, 27 April 2015

Be the best you ever!

As well as writing my own blog - written for fellow over 60s, though under 60s are always welcome - I am an avid reader of other blogs aimed at over 40s and upwards. Many of them are written by professional bloggers whilst others are, like mine, the random thoughts of keen amateurs. There are some gorgeous looking and very stylish women out there, who always inspire me even if I cannot hope to emulate them! It's important to create your own style if you want to look your best. I love many of the outfits that Inès de la Fressange wears, however she is a tall, slender ex-model whereas I am short and not-so-slender, so I need to dress for my individual body rather than try to copy Inès.

What I am hoping for with this blog is to convince my readers that, even though we're older and not as slender as we were, even though we have a few grey hairs and lots of wrinkles, and even though we are over 60, we can still aim to look our best. We need to create outfits that flatter us, that reflect our personality and that we love wearing.

In my pursuit of becoming the best Sue Walker possible, I have tried colour analysis with the House of Colour, Dressing my Truth and finally the 7 Steps to Style system. It's been an interesting journey, especially with the different options I've been given for colours. I'm warm in two systems but cool in another one. I've posted photos of myself in both warm and cool colours for readers to comment on and even they couldn't agree. Click here for a few photos showing me in both warm and cool colours and see what you think.

First up is "Dressing Your Truth", which recommends that you choose colours and styles based on your energy type. According to their system I'm a bright and animated type one so I should wear clothes like the two tops and bright scarf shown in the photos below. They have an on-line store where you can buy clothes true to your type, however to be honest many of the clothes were too fussy or cutesy for me and I didn't like all of their colours. Colour-wise, type one is closest to Spring in seasonal colour analysis, however they did have some cool colours as well as the warmer tints. What I liked about DYT is the way that they encouraged you to be true to your own nature and appreciate who you are.

My DYT colours
DYT green top
DYT top and scarf

Seasonal colour analysis has changed a lot since I was first analysed as a Winter many years ago. When I booked a colour session with House of Colour I was expecting to be told that I was a different season, especially after so many people approved of me wearing warmer colours, however the verdict was a Jewel Winter. I think the key factor was my dark hair, which was one reason that many of the lighter Spring-like colours of DYT didn't look right on me. Here I am wearing a Kettlewell top from the Jewel Winter palette, in one of my best colours.


Some of my winter colours are shown above, with my best colours highlighted by **. The common factor between being either a Jewel Winter (House of Colour) or Enigmatic (7 Steps) is the fact that I have dark hair and eyes, so deep colours suit me. However a Winter looks best in cool shades while an Enigmatic looks best in warm shades. Confused? I'm not surprised - so was I! I am fairly close to the border between warm and cool though.

I also went for a style consultation with House of Colour, which I thought was very good value. We not only established that I'm a Natural Gamine, which was based on my answers to a questionnaire plus my consultant Fiona's input, but my body proportions, body shape and facial features were also considered, as was my lifestyle. This part of the consultation covered similar ground to the 7 Steps to Style system and this holistic approach does help you to create more flattering outfits that suit your lifestyle and your personality.

In the end I decided that the 7 Steps to Style system was the most comprehensive and enlightening colour and style system of them all. I have described the 7 steps in some depth in my previous posts, but when it came to Step 3: Your Colours what impressed me was not only the fact that Imogen's system has 18 different colour groups (I'm Enigmatic, because my colouring is warm, smoky and deep) but the way she personalised each colour swatch. I had some colours that other Enigmatics didn't have in their swatches and vice versa. When I look at the colours in my personal Enigmatic swatch, there are very few that don't appeal to me, and I have eighteen signature colours all of which I love and which are very flattering.

The knowledge that I gained through doing the 7 Steps helps me understand why the two DYT outfits in particular don't really suit me.  The green in the first photo isn't too bad, though it's not quite warm enough, but the style doesn't flatter my H shape figure and the proportions aren't right. The second photo highlights the fact that colour alone is only a small part of looking your best. I need high value contrast but low colour contrast. Basically this means I look better in monochromatic outfits or neutral outfits with one colour, ensuring that I have a mix of light and deep colours. There's definitely a high value contrast with the light coloured trousers and darker top, but have you noticed three different colours? The darker top against the light trousers cuts me in half, making me look broader and shorter than I would like and finally, the wide trousers - need I say more?

The third outfit is better than the two above it, however the blue is a bit cool. I'm only just on the warm side so I can get away with it, especially if I wear a lipstick that's warm or a scarf or necklace in the right colours. Most of us can't afford to discard an entire wardrobe just because the colours don't blend with our swatch so the solution is to choose make-up that flatters us and buy a couple of scarves or necklaces in flattering colours to wear near our face. My black jeans will stay in my wardrobe until they become faded, but I'll ensure that the tops I wear with them are in the right colours to compensate.

The cardigan I'm wearing below is what Imogen refers to as a "hero piece": any garment that's not a basic and that has some detail, colour or pattern that makes it the centre of attention. I love the fact that there are so many warm colours to choose from in the pattern when I'm deciding what to wear with it. In this case I selected brown and wore it with a brown necklace, top and jeggings (plus brown shoes that you can't see), thus creating a column of colour, which has the effect of making me appear taller and slimmer. What's not to like?

I'm wearing the same brown jeggings in the next photo with a soft teal top, plus a necklace and bracelet that blend well with both my top and my jeggings.

You can see from these photos that looking your best involves much more than just wearing the colours that suit you. It may have taken me more than sixty years to realise this - I'm a slow learner! - but I honestly believe that I now have the tools to truly look my best. What do you think?

Friday, 10 April 2015

Project 333 - á la 7 Steps to Style

It's April and I know that I should have been sorting out my Spring 33, but I've been too busy trying to summarise my 7 Steps to Style journey. This hasn't been an easy task, mainly because Imogen's system contains so much amazingly helpful information!

I now know that I'm an Enigmatic, which means that my best colours are warm, smoky and deep. Out of the 52 colours in my swatch, I have nine signature colours and another nine enhancers.  I have shown these in the photo below, and obviously these will be my best colours when shopping, but there are loads of other possibilities out there and all I need to do is check that they blend with my swatch.

When buying clothes I also need to bear in mind that I'm an H shape as well as being petite and that I have combination features, so outfits with purely curved lines or straight lines won't suit me as much as a mixture. My lifestyle is mainly casual now that I have retired, which I have to admit suits my style personality perfectly!

If you're wondering what the Spring 33 mentioned above refers to, I am also taking part in Project 333. As part of this I have selected a wardrobe of 33 items of clothing, shown below, to cover the 3 months of Spring.  At the moment it's not particularly warm where we live in Spain, plus we are visiting London next week, so I have included a few warmer clothes that hopefully will be packed away before the end of June!




My style recipe has evolved since I started 7 Steps in November last year and currently it is "Colourful casual chic, with a little bit quirky and a Parisian influence", which may (or may not!) be the final version. I think it is patently obvious when you look at my wardrobe above though that colourful and casual are very much an integral part of my style.

I  have several greens and blues in my swatch, as well as reds, pink, purple, coral and teal (plus a few colours I'm not so keen on), so that makes me happy. My best neutrals are charcoal and chocolate brown, navy is another option and, although I shouldn't wear black on my top half, there is a pair of black jeans in my Spring 33 because they are a flattering fit on me and too new to throw away! I can't afford to replace my whole wardrobe so will gradually phase the wrong colours and styles out. Project 333 will be a great help in this respect.

Talking about 33, I only show 32 items of clothing here.  This will allow me to add a dress for any smart events that may occur over the next couple of months. Obviously I hope to pack away my winter coat, long sleeved tops and jeans once the weather warms up and will replace them with lighter tops and trousers. For those of you who think this wardrobe may be a bit limiting, there are nineteen tops shown here and four neutral bottoms, which gives you seventy six different outfits. The skirt can be worn with several of the tops plus add in a cardigan or jacket for cooler days or with the short-sleeved tops and I should be able to wear a different combination every day for the next three months.

Before I go, I should confess that I am bending a few rules here. Strictly speaking my 33 items for each season of Project 333 should include shoes and accessories, but I have excluded those and allow myself 33 items of clothing. Following the 7 Steps of Style I discovered that I am high value contrast and low colour contrast so I look my best in monochromatic outfits - but you know how much I love colour, so that is another rule I occasionally bend!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Step 7: Your Values

If you've been following the long-drawn out account of my 7 Steps to Style  journey, congratulations on being so patient! I told you that you were almost ready to shop after Step 6, but to wait until the final step and here - pause for drum roll - it is. Step 7 concentrates on your values, so what are the implications of this final step?

Once you know your values, you should understand what to look for when you go shopping, to ensure that your wardrobe consists of clothes that you will actually wear and, more importantly, enjoy wearing. Clothes that reflect who you are and also look great on you.

First of all, you might want to watch this eye-opening video, where Imogen talks to Jill Chivers of Shop your Wardrobe about the relationship between self-esteem, value and your shopping habits. It might make you realise why you have a wardrobe of really cheap, poor quality clothes that you hardly wear. Or perhaps you have lots of very expensive items that you keep "for best" and they don't get worn either.

In my case I think I fell into the trap of looking for the perfect wardrobe as defined by many fashion writers: the classic black jacket, white button-down shirt, little black dress, pencil skirt, sleeveless tops in neutral colours, black court shoes etc. Fine, except not all of the colours and styles suit me, even though they have been defined as wardrobe essentials. So what did I do? Regular readers will probably know the answer: I filled my wardrobe with lots of bright colours to break the monotony! I wrote here about how I found my own version of the"essential" black jacket.

Four of my favourite coloured tops
You will notice red, purple, teal and pink in the collage above, however you will also discover coral, blue, green plus all the shades of the rainbow lurking in the back of my wardrobe. I tended to buy items on impulse, either because I loved the colour or because some quirky detail appealed to me. Sometimes this worked and I found that my new purchases went well with other items in my existing wardrobe, but this was by luck rather than by careful planning.

Working through Step 7 I discovered that, out of ten possibilities, my top four values were: sensory, aesthetic, economic and exploratory. This means that when I go shopping I should be looking for clothes that are comfortable, that provide value for money (not necessarily cheap clothes, but ones that will last), that are well designed and harmonious and, finally, clothes which are unique, to add a creative touch to my outfits. Of course not every purchase has to fulfil all of these criteria, but I need to have them in mind before I buy anything new.

I am going to visit friends and family in London in two weeks' time, so I am starting to make a shopping list and there will be room in my case for any new purchases. To recap, I will be looking for clothes in the right colours  (that blend with my Enigmatic swatch) and the right styles to flatter my combination features and H shape. They will need to fit in with my lifestyle as well as suiting my style personality and being true to my values. I will be aiming to fill gaps in my wardrobe, but the important thing is to ensure they will go well with the other items in my wardrobe. If I succeed, I will definitely share my purchases with you all. Wish me luck!

PS The jacket shown above is my version of the "essential black jacket", as mentioned earlier. It's one of my wardrobe staples and will be taken to London - weather permitting!