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.



As you may have realised by now I like going to the movies.  The latest was "Miss Sloane" starring Jessica Chastain who wore, almost exclusively throughout the film, black and white.  Jessica Chastain is a redhead with green eyes.  As such she is a candidate for "warm" colours like brick red, olive green etc.  She was dressed in black and white in the film for a very good reason - she plays an apparently super-confident hard-nosed lobbyist, striding about in stratospheric stilettos, totally in charge of herself and her material, with no room for showing a softer side to herself because winning is everything to her.  Greater contrasts give off authority and she needed that to the maximum. She brings it off because she wears very red lipstick and lots of black eye makeup so there is plenty of contrast created in her face.   In the final scene - and I won't spoil it for you - she appears, apparently without makeup, in a muted buff/yellow.  This is the only time we see the real person.

Sometimes we need a bit of "armour" and if we don't have lots of natural contrast in our faces, we need to create it with makeup so as not to be overpowered by strong contrast in our clothes.  So the decision is, are you dressing a persona or the real you?  There is no right and wrong - it is just a choice.

Oh, and it is a great film!

Couture for Plus Sizes in Barnes

In my March newsletter I told you about one exciting fabric experience.  Another has been to discover Carolyn de la Drapiere  (is this a made up name?  Reminds me of Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners' Question Time) in Barnes. Carolyn designs dresses.  She began designing for plus size ladies but now designs for ladies of any size. The dresses or outfits are then made by the three ladies of Barnes Sewing Company.  I went recently with a client who wanted "the perfect dress".  Not something for best (most of Carolyn's clients are after a Mother-of-the-Bride outfit or a ballgown) but a dress she would feel fabulous in every day. This seemed a great idea to me and to Carolyn. On a "pay per wear" basis, my client would get much more value from her dress(es) than if it were a ballgown. We were ushered in to what I can only imagine one of the French couture houses would be like.  Rows of dresses, rolls of fabrics, dummies with sample outfits on them and a velvet sofa for me!   Carolyn will make up fabric you take to her but she carries a lot -  all exquisite -  herself.  Some of them are ends of designer rolls - Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani. My client was thrilled to find all the dresses hanging up were size 16 or larger.  She arrived with a clear plan of two dresses she wanted and then was utterly seduced by three off-the-peg dresses which were, to her delight, taken IN, to fit perfectly!

None of this comes cheap.  If you want a dress made it will cost £400 for the making.  (Having made dresses myself, I know this is not over-priced. It takes many hours to make a dress or a jacket and if it is going to fit perfectly,  be lined and finished to a high standard as these are, it is actually reasonable.)  Off-the-peg is less expensive and Carolyn has designed styles which particularly flatter a more generous figure.

My client was thrilled with her dresses and said she felt pampered throughout the experience - something she had never felt before. Now all she needs is some nice weather to wear them!


Rows of dresses and a chaise longue for me!

Rows of dresses and a chaise longue for me!

A snap taken before Carolyn's signature wrap dress was shortened and taken in to fit perfectly

A snap taken before Carolyn's signature wrap dress was shortened and taken in to fit perfectly

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.


Love the Fabric

The first thing my tutor at the London College of Fashion said on my Style course was, "Fabric is King".  This month has been all about fabric for me.  You may have caught my Facebook post about a talk by textile historian Dr. Kate Strasdin at Loving the Fabric in Richmond.  There was a chance to look at the wonderful cottons, wools and silks Gay the owner, has for sale in the shop beforehand. (And how amazing to have a fabric and haberdashery shop in Richmond when not so long ago you had to go to Kingston to buy a needle!) The talk itself was about a "dress diary" or scrapbook of dress fabrics kept by a woman from Lancashire from about 1830 - 1870.  It made me wish I had kept such a thing because I remember clearly clothes I wore as a child, dresses my mother and sister wore and I would love to have a record of them.  My husband remembers events by what food he ate.  I remember by what I wore.  What images come to your mind as you remember your past?




How to wear Patterns

I spoke to someone recently who said she was scared of patterns and feels safer sticking to block colours. Is that how it is for you or do you like to wear patterns?  Are you sure what sort of pattern really suits you? Florals are still very much around for the Summer so if you would like to wear patterns - squares, florals, polka dots, paisley etc., but are unsure about them,  I hope you will find the following ideas helpful.

First of all, choose one that has predominantly the most flattering colours for you.  Then, as long as your not-such-good colours are less dominant, it will look good.

Secondly, you need to find a pattern that is the right size for you.  If you have small features, you will look good in a small-scale pattern, whereas if you have larger features such a pattern will look at odds with you.  You will need to choose a larger-scale pattern. 

Thirdly, the contrast in the pattern needs to echo the contrast between your eyes and your skin and your hair and skin.  For example dark-eyed beauties with white skin (a typical "Winter" can look good in black and white).  If your hair and eyes are light you will be better in patterns with very little contrast.

And lastly, try and echo something about you in the pattern - e.g. my curly hair seems to fit with the circles in the pattern of my shirt. 

Have fun and experiment!