The sun is out and the traditional exodus to the beach is upon us. Being by the sea is a wonderful tonic and I love a beach as much as anyone but - and there is a “but” – my annual beach holiday is to a caravan, a pebbly beach and very few people. It is my week off from all things image related – a makeup-free face slathered in sunscreen (see below), an ancient tankini, a large sun hat and a good book.

Many of you, I know, will be heading off for beach holidays where you would like to look good so I have taken advice.  Jackie, who runs Sheen Uncovered and Ruby Blue in East Sheen (and their legendary sale is on!) has over twenty years’ experience of not only fitting women for bras but also for swimming costumes and bikinis.  She sees herself as a problem solver.  Many women, she says, come in for a black costume, probably because they think it will make them look slimmer, but following a fitting with Jackie, that is not what they walk out with. 

Here are three of her tips:

  1. Get fitted. As with bras, women very often have a false idea of their size and so the costumes they buy don’t fit properly. Has that been your experience? Once you get a costume or bikini that fits well, you will notice a big difference in how you look in swimwear. Maybe you will start to enjoy the experience instead of feeling negatively that it is a “covering up” exercise.

  2. Black is rarely the best colour for you. Jackie is an expert in this field and her observation is that colours you wouldn’t necessarily wear as clothes, can flatter when you are exposing the amount of flesh swimwear reveals.

  3. Patterns are more slimming than plain colours. (That was a surprise to me!)

So, the advice is – go to an expert! Get fitted, look and feel fabulous!



Relax knowing you look good on the beach.

WAIST NOT? WANT NOT! How to disguise a thickening waist.

Many of us post-menopausal and/or post children women find that our waists are not what they were.  In my case it was never brilliant but there has been a definite thickening in that area.  I do know that posture has something to do with it and if I remember to feel I am growing an inch taller it immediately creates more space between my ribs and my hips and a bit more waist appears.  Hard to keep it in mind for more than a few seconds though! 

Here are a few tips of shapes and ideas to look for to divert the eye away from your waist. 

1.       Shaped tops. There is a gentle suggestion of a waist and it skims your body shape rather than clings.  It comes to just below the waist or can be more of a tunic. Here’s a casual top from the go-to shop for basics, Uniqlo and a tunic from Seasalt Cornwall

2.       Dresses. My waist is six inches less than my bust and my hips are two inches bigger and I find shift or pinafore dresses – straight skirt but with a bit of shape – work for me. It means I am wearing the same colour from neck to knee and it by-passes my waist.  If you carry more weight around your hips and thighs, your dress will need to be more shaped with an A-line or flared skirt. Here are a couple, the first, a straight shape from Seasalt Cornwall and for curvies, this lovely wrap dress from Arket.

3.       With a top and trousers or skirt, consider monochrome – i.e. different shades of the same colour from top to bottom so there is no strong contrast around the waist area. Wear the lighter shade where you are smaller e.g. if you are an English “Pear” keep the lighter shade to the upper part of your body and the trousers or skirt to the lower like this outfit from Poetry. Crinkle linen trousers - £109 and Hemp and cotton scoop-neck top - £39 Poetry Fashion.

4.       Create interest around your face with a necklace or scarf so our eye is drawn to your face. This lovely scarf from Sophisticato.uk is described as “Autumn” but I think it would look gorgeous if you are a light “Spring”.

5.       If you are a straight shape (like an H), a dropped waist with a frill or flounce around the hip area can work for you. Here is one from People Tree.

6.       Don’t tuck blouses in.  Or if you do, pull it out as far as you can so the blouse flops over the top of your waistband.  It is then less obvious whether there is a waist there or not. A silky fabric will work best for this and I like this one from M & S. in several colours at £59

7.       Asymmetric shapes (diagonal lines as seams or as stripes) are flattering draw the eye away from the waist. Grizas.

It is all a matter of optical illusion – directing our attention to where you want it directed and not where you don’t.  Oh yes!  And for me, comfort is a major factor.  I don’t really like the feeling of a tight waistband.


How to give the illusion of a waist when you don't have one.

This article is not for curvies who fear their waist has gone.  It hasn't!  This is for people who have a naturally straight shape and never had a clearly defined waist even when they carried not an ounce of extra weight.  It is inspired by my visit to Kensington Palace and the exhibition of some dresses from Princess Diana's wardrobe.  At 5' 10.5" she was tall and slim and did not have a pronounced waist.  It was fascinating to see how her designers - from the Emanuels to Catherine Walker - gave her the illusion of a waist.  With dresses they used anything from ruching, empire line (a seam under the bust) with a lighter colour on top and darker underneath, an asymmetric waist - i.e. falling to a point at the side, a drop waist (her wedding dress) or a fitted shift (princess line!) shown in the image for the exhibition Diana - Her Fashion Story.  (NB the wide neckline.)  In suits, her jackets often were often fitted to the top of the hips and with straight skirts.  The wide 1980's shoulders helped in her early days too.  To sum up, the interest was around the bust/shoulder line and/or the hips.  She avoided obviously waisted clothes and dresses or skirts gathered at the waist. 

If you have a straight body, you too can give the illusion of a waist with these ideas.  Fashions may have changed but the basic style ideas remain the same.  Of course, you may not be bothered about suggesting you have a waist and if you are a real straight, you will look good in shifts and shirt dresses which fall - you've guessed it - straight!


The drop waist and interest at the shoulders

The drop waist and interest at the shoulders

The Asymmetrical waist

The Asymmetrical waist

Interest at the shoulders; fitted to below the waist; straight skirt in a different fabric.   

Interest at the shoulders; fitted to below the waist; straight skirt in a different fabric.


Are you a "Procedures" or an "Options" person?

If you have trained in NLP you probably know already.  I haven't but this particular concept of types of behaviour can be applied with great effect to your wardrobe and how you like to dress in the morning. It is a subject which we discussed at a recent workshop I held and I think it can be helpful to reflect on what your behaviour is when it come to how you dress.

 Put simply, do you like to follow rules or do you like lots of choice? If you are someone who tends to plan ahead and feels comfortable with guidelines and steps to follow, you may well be a "procedures" person, in which case it will suit you to have an outfit hanging, with its accessories, on one hanger.  You know then that you will have no stressful, time-consuming choices to make - it is all there!  You may also be someone for whom a limited "capsule" wardrobe will work; i.e. 12 pieces - 5 tops, 2 jackets, 2 skirts, 2 pairs of trousers and a dress -  all of which look good together.  Any of these tops will go with any trousers or skirts and the jackets will go over everything.  Minimal choice and, if the pieces are well-planned in colours which are right for you, there is a recipe for stree-free dressing!

 For me, as very much an "options" person, the capsule idea is an anathema. I like lots of choice. One of my pleasures rests in putting together an outfit I hadn't thought of before.  For example, I went to a wedding recently and was planning to wear a taupe three piece Armani trouser suit (bought on ebay, I hasten to add!).  In my wardrobe is a long dark red vintage Ghost coat which doesn't get much wear as it quite dramatic for every day, but which I love.  Anyway, at the last minute I decided to wear that instead of the suit jacket.  I felt good in the outfit and the bit of creativity that went into putting it together gave me an extra boost (see not very good photo taken at the Royal Horticultural Hall in Victoria.)

Whether you are a "procedures" or an "options" person it is to your advantage to refine your wardrobe so it has only your best colours in it.  Whether you have a tiny capsule wardrobe or a rich abundance of clothes, you will automatically have more possibilities of putting different pieces together effectively, whether as a result of planning or a last-minute whim! ‘

Please visit my Facebook page for more easy - to - implement tips and ideas on improving your style .

Come along to my next style workshop, "Style Doctor" on 6th May if your wardrobe fills you with despair rather than delight.  Email hilary@richmondpersonal-style for more details and cost etc.