Saturday, 8 August 2015

Do you have a uniform?

I'm not talking about work uniforms here. I'm asking whether you have a favourite go-to outfit such as jeans and a t-shirt, or a black cashmere sweater with a pencil skirt. An outfit that expresses who you are and that you always feel comfortable in when you're wearing it. Something that you throw on when you are in a hurry with the confidence that you know you'll look good.

In the days when I had to wear a school uniform, I always changed into jeans and a t-shirt as soon as I got home.  Yes, I've got a very good memory! In the workplace my style was smart casual, which meant that I wore trousers or trouser suits whenever possible. Now that I've retired, I wear jeans and long-sleeved tops during the winter months. Can you see a pattern emerging? Is this my "uniform"?

Of course it's different in summer, especially living here in Spain. My jeans and long-sleeved tops have been packed away and most days I wear sleeveless or short-sleeved tops with cropped trousers or long lightweight linen trousers.

When I posted the photo shown above on the 7 Steps to Style facebook group, Carole commented "It seems that you have settled on a "uniform" that suits you well." Thanks, Carole! The one thing I need to change in this outfit is the fact that I have a watch on one wrist and my fitbit on the other one. Next time I thrown on these clothes I'll wear the watch and fitbit on the same wrist. Regular readers won't be surprised to hear that, when I went out to meet friends for coffee, I added a red bag. I do love a pop of colour and my style recipe is "colourful casual chic with a little bit quirky and a Parisian influence", so the red Longchamp bag was an essential part of my outfit.

Although I have more or less settled on my uniform, sometimes I just fancy a change. With temperatures between 30 and 34 degrees Celsius at the moment (86 to 93 Fahrenheit) wearing a dress can be a tempting proposition. Dresses are slightly out of my comfort zone, but if we're meeting friends for a birthday lunch or an evening celebration I will pull one out of my wardrobe and I'm starting to enjoy wearing them, especially on a hot day. Maybe I can have a casual uniform and a slightly more dressed up uniform?


Again this outfit won the approval of the other members of the group, with the only suggested change being a slightly longer necklace. I'm finding it quite enlightening taking photos of my outfits and getting feedback. When I assembled this outfit I was happy with my look, but I can see how it would be improved by changing the necklace.

What I'm finding is that, although I might be developing a couple of uniforms, I can express other sides of my personality and prevent boredom by using accessories to change the look.

Over to you: do you have a uniform or, like me, maybe a couple of uniforms to suit different occasions?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Doesn't petite mean short?

I'm short. At 5' and a bit, there's no denying it. That's why I always head for the Petite sections when shopping, whether I'm in a store or shopping on-line, but guess what? Many of these "petite" clothes seem to have been designed for taller women than me. A quick search on-line reveals that the average woman in the UK is 5'3" tall, so those of us who are a few inches less than this count as short, in my humble opinion. It's supposed to be the same average here in Spain but, trust me, I'm far from being the shortest woman in the Spanish town where we live, which is why I find it strange that most of the clothes in the local shops are far too long. My research has also shown that American and Canadian women are a little bit taller, so when looking for petite clothes I usually stick to UK websites and/or brands.

I checked out the Wallis website recently - as I've had some success there in the past - to see if there were any petite summer dresses that might suit me. "What about this one?" I thought.

I looked for more details about the dress and spotted that the model was wearing a UK size 8 and she was 5'3".  She's not petite, she's average!  Bearing in mind that I would need a UK size 12, which might be even longer, it was obvious this dress would be too long on me. I also felt that the pattern might be a bit overwhelming for petite women. Browsing the website, I was struck by how many of their petite dresses had large or high contrast prints, which don't necessarily flatter real petite women - though average sized models might look great in them.

Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style has written a very helpful post for Petites, taking into account the fact that some petites might have an H-shape rectangular body like me and others might be O-shaped or have other types of body shape. To be honest, as a petite, I'm just grateful if I can find a dress that doesn't overwhelm me and doesn't trip me up!

Yes, I know that I can shorten a dress, but that isn't really the point. Petite clothes should be the right length for short women, or am I missing something? I've now reached the stage where I usually select short or mini dresses when doing on-line searches and carefully check the dress length as well. That dress that is a mini length on a tall, slender model may still hit me mid calf.

My original midi-length dress
The picture above illustrates the importance of choosing the right length for a dress. I wore this dress to my 60th birthday party, the theme of which was "bring on the bling". I liked the colour of the dress and the style, however looking at it more critically (with the help of my friends in the 7 Steps to Style facebook group), the length wasn't very flattering. Petites generally don't look good in midi dresses. Knee length dresses, or even just above the knees, suit them better.

New version - knee length
Nearly eight years later the dress has taken on a new lease of life, after I had it shortened at my local dry-cleaners. Nowadays I am far more demanding when it comes to buying new clothes, especially if I'm choosing an item that is being marketed as "petite", and don't think I'm being too pernickety in expecting petite dresses, skirts and trousers to actually fit me. Is it really too much to expect a petite dress to be designed for petite rather than average women? Short ones, that is!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

My summer holiday capsule

We're half-way through June, though going by our recent weather here in Spain you might not think so! For many people it's time to start thinking about their summer holidays, especially if they have school age children. Being retired, John and I can choose to go on holiday any time of the year, though we tend to go away in March and September, which are our birthday months and which have the advantage of usually being a bit cheaper. 

Other bloggers have started posting their travel capsules, often with the aim of travelling with hand luggage only, and many of them are based around neutrals with very little colour to break the monotony. This is of course a very sensible, practical approach, which I commend to you.  You will look stylish and your outfits will co-ordinate beautifully plus you won't have to face that dreaded last day of the holiday where the only clean clothes left clash horribly. Yes, I've been there in the past!

I decided to share my travel capsule too. I know I should take a similar approach, but when I'm on holiday I like to wear colourful clothes. I have several navy and dark grey tops and bottoms, which could form the basis of a sensible holiday wardrobe, but my coral and teal tops will be the first items on my packing list. I plan to use dark brown and stone as my neutrals - so I am learning to be a bit more restrained - but I will throw in colourful scarves and jewellery to relieve the boredom.  

This holiday capsule is based around colours that I have now learnt (through following the 7 Steps of Style system) will flatter my colouring, with clothes that fit my style words of "Colourful casual chic".  My choices probably wouldn't be your choices - unless you're an Enigmatic with a similar style and body to me. What I'm trying to do in this blog is to encourage you all to discover your own style personality and find your best colours and shapes. Remember always: don't do as I do, do as I say!

Today I wore an outfit that won approval from other members of the 7 Steps to Style facebook group, so as well as the clothes shown above I will pack this dress for going out to dinner. The shoes are almost identical to the nude pair of ballet flats shown above and, although the bag isn't the same colour, it's a similar style. The shrug and four tops shown in the above picture are the ones I actually own, whereas the other items are the nearest I could find on Polyvore.

Do you belong to the "pack as much as you can in case you need it" brigade, or are you someone who plans carefully and manages to get away with hand luggage only?

PS (Just for Juhli!) These are the clothes that I packed for my holiday in France last year.  As you can see, the colours were brighter and cooler than the ones I've chosen here. They are close to Winter in the old seasonal colour systems, whereas Enigmatic colours are deep, soft and warm.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Packing for London in May

Packing for London is never easy, mainly because of the unpredictable weather. For my latest trip I was travelling hand luggage only, as I was going to be there for just six days. Of course the sensible thing would have been to create a small travel capsule, like many of my favourite bloggers do, based around neutrals. Sensible? Moi? No doubt you won't be surprised to read that I couldn't resist adding some of my favourite coloured tops.  This is what I packed for my trip.

To be more accurate, these were the outfits that I chose for the trip, as I wore the light coloured linen trousers, coral top and lace-up shoes for travelling, with a casual navy jacket and beige tote. I also carried my navy trench-coat, having read the weather forecast for London! The soft teal top was for travelling back to Spain and obviously the long-sleeved tops were for wearing with the brown jeans or the navy pair while I was in the UK.

The beauty of building a wardrobe using knowledge gained through the 7 Steps to Style system is that you have a lot more flexibility when creating outfits, the colours blend well and the resulting outfits suit both you and your lifestyle. Packing is so much easier now!

I had done some research on-line for possible purchases in London, though once again I discovered that some brands are only available on-line and not in the actual stores. Very frustrating! The main reason for my trip was to spend time with family and friends, but I had most of Thursday and Friday to myself, apart from meeting my youngest daughter for lunch on Thursday (before heading for the amazing Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A museum) and my son for lunch on Friday.

I started my shopping at Alicante airport, when I spotted a shop selling Longchamp totes. I decided on a red tote as it would go with the majority of my packed clothes (I had the beige one as an alternative) and of course I do love a splash of colour, so it easily won over the sensible neutrals. The first item on my shopping list had been ticked off even before I got to my destination.

My next purchase was totally unplanned and I'm blaming the weather for it! I was on Oxford Street and wearing the light shoes, which are fine for walking but not protective enough to cope with heavy rain. Luckily Debenhams store had a sale in the shoe department, so I bought the gold loafers seen below, which were half-price (yay!), and which kept my feet beautifully dry too.

My shopping list had petite khaki trousers as the second item, so I headed to the Wallis department eager to try on a pair. They had sold out and the only other trousers I liked the look of were far too long. Next stop was East, where my target was a light coloured cardigan.  Not the one shown above, but an ivory linen bolero. The good news was that it was in stock, but the bad news was that it didn't feel quite right on me, especially as the sleeves were far too long. I briefly flirted with a gold silk-lined sequin cardi (lovely with my new shoes!) but decided to be practical. How often would I wear it? I eventually decided on the cardigan above, which was a petite size and which I knew would be worn more often. Admittedly this isn't the best of combinations with the vertical stripes of my top, but the gold cardigan wouldn't have looked any better!

On my last morning I headed to another department store, hoping I might find the elusive trousers there. No luck, however I had decided to try on a kimono top having seen several featured in magazines recently and they had plenty in stock. I bought the one shown below, which I believe will get a lot of mileage as a lightweight extra layer during summer evenings in Spain.

My final purchase was the cream and coral silk scarf shown above, which I bought on the flight back to Alicante. I know - another scarf! However many of my scarves are budget buys, so I had been looking for something a bit more special and this one definitely fits that description. What about you? Are you planning any purchases when you next go on holiday?

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!