COURTING STYLE

Is grey and white the new “black and white”?

I would have to say my favorite color combination for this summer is light grey with white. It’s a softer, more sophisticated variation of the all-white look which has been so popular this summer. Just adding a slightly darker tone – light grey – makes an outfit look airy and light but not glaringly in-your-face.

When I first saw my colleague Alyssa wearing the Banana Republic ensemble pictured below, I was reminded of an old black-and-white negative print: a reversal of the more commonly seen dark suit with white collar. She also looks a little celestial with her cloud-like white polka dot top, don’t you think? The black accents at her collar and feet “ground” her and nicely frame the outfit.

Grey and white outfit
My favorite element here is the double-stranded coral colored choker necklace, handmade by Alyssa herself. It is a perfect accent of color, contrasting beautifully with the white-to-black spectrum. Notice also how it draws your eye upward to her face.

Grey and white outfit

This next look (pictured above) is cool, casual and youthfully lady-like. The fitted, long-sleeved top is a more polished alternative to the more typical tank top or t-shirt, and the grey skirt keeps the white top in check so as to prevent too stark an impression. It is the perfect outfit for a warm Saturday afternoon.

Grey and white outfit

If you look closely, you will see that these pants have small grey and white stripes.

This third ensemble (pictured above) is a casual, comfortable look which I originally photographed for my last post regarding alternatives to yoga pants for everyday wear. It is simple and uncomplicated, but definitely stylish. With something like this in the closet, there’s no need to resort to those boring yoga pants for a weekend stroll about town, now is there? This woman was pictured on a shadowy sidewalk, but I assure you that when she stepped into the sunshine, she glowed (oh so softly).

Sandy’s lovely ensemble (pictured below) was featured in an earlier post about sparkly sandals. I include it here as a beautiful variation on the grey-white theme. Both Sandy and Alyssa (in the first photo) demonstrate how adding an additional color can wonderfully enhance the palette.

Grey and white with wintergreen

Adding a third color works best in my opinion, if it is very close in tone to the grey – as is the light wintergreen pictured above – or if it is a strategically placed small detail, as in Alyssa’s ensemble. Both ladies chose accent colors which flatter their natural coloring.

The only problem I can foresee with this grey/white pairing is the upcoming change in seasons. But then, we can always resort to grey and winter white! Does this combination get your vote?

Yoga pants again? Not sexy: 10 alternatives for everyday wear.

Have you noticed that yoga pants are not just worn at the yoga studio anymore? They are popping up everywhere: the grocery store, bank, movie theaters, cafes, classrooms and restaurants, and the trend seems to just keep expanding. Here are a few very telling quotes from the Wall Street Journal:

Demand for yoga gear… is outpacing growth of the sport itself. Yoga participation grew 4.5% in 2013, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Meanwhile, sales of yoga apparel were up 45%, according to Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource, a sporting-goods industry tracker…

Lauren Wheeler-Woodburn estimates that she owns at least 25 pairs of yoga pants.

As a graduate student at the University of Southern California and social-media strategist, she says she wears them mostly every day, for class or to work, or just sitting at home lounging.

(http://online.wsj.com/articles/yoga-poseurs-athletic-apparel-moves-out-of-the-gym-to-every-day-1408561182)

Twenty-five pairs?! Yikes! Can you imagine wearing yoga pants to go out in let’s say, Italy? It would be considered brutta figura, wouldn’t it? (La brutta figura, by the way, is the opposite of la bella figura defined in a post on August 25.)

 

Yoga pantsThe thing I most admire about people in countries such as Italy and France is an exquisite attention to subtle detail. Textures, colors and cuts are all taken into consideration to create sartorial works of art. Because of this, people watching is pleasurable, inspiring and part of the culture. Unfortunately, people’s sense of decorum seems to be rapidly declining here in certain parts of the U.S.

When I hear of women wearing yoga pants daily, I can’t help but think of the 2008 sci-fi movie “Wall-E” in which overfed, under-exercised humans transport themselves around in hovering easy chairs. A tongue-in-cheek article by Ellie Krupnick and Megan Mayer illustrates the similarities I perceive between daily yoga pant wearing and the state of humans in “Wall-E”.

Herewith, 11 reasons why yoga pants are the best pants.

11. They don’t have buttons. Therefore nothing to poke you or pop off.
10. The nonexistent waistband means no squeezing, pinching or muffin tops.
9. They’re the only pants worth wearing when you’re bloated from your period.
8. The elastic is so comfortable, you’ll never want to take them off.
7. You can sit cross-legged comfortably (for a long time…)
6. The knees won’t fade, like with jeans, even if you move around a lot.
5. They can pass for real pants with a pair of boots and a long(ish) shirt.
4. Two words: More. Food.
3. Quick shirt and shoe change? Ready to hit the gym (or just pretend you’re going to…).
2. You can sleep in them.
1. They’re also pretty good for, like, doing yoga.
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/20/yoga-pants_n_4597097.html)

yoga pants every day

Okay, this woman could probably express some style wearing a garbage bag. She is a rare exception, although I still think it looks slovenly.

In an online forum for commenting about yoga pants, I was struck by one woman’s reason for preferring yoga pants: her sweats get misshapen at the knees after wearing them three days in a row. Come again?! Who wears the same pants three days in a row?

Yes, we ugly Americans are getting uglier. By the second. And Lululemon is here to help:

The yoga apparel maker’s latest strategy is to get customers to wear their gear not only to the gym, but also in the workplace or during a night on the town with friends. (http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/08/24/youll-never-guess-where-lululemon-athletica-want-2.aspx)

The daily wearing of yoga pants, which is basically the clothing which feels most like pajamas, is the height of laziness. Aside from presenting an element of slovenliness, wearing yoga pants outside a yoga studio is the antithesis of style. That is, since style is all about expressing one’s unique and authentic self. Style is your personal way of being, rather than the adoption of a popular trend.

Yoga pants also lack any true aesthetic. They are devoid of structure and interest of texture. Aside from some with multi-colored patterns, they lack detail. Moreover, their wear is unimaginative and unsophisticated. In these respects, they have more in common with the Snuggy (fleece blanket with sleeves) than most regular clothing.

yoga pantsFilling your closet with yoga pants might save time in the morning, but it certainly does not help you save money. A quick perusal of Lululemon’s current online selection came up with a selection of pants ranging from around eighty to a hundred dollars. Even shopping cheaper brands, you don’t see a difference in price between yoga pants and dress or casual pants.

So, what would I suggest for casual wear? Here are 10 alternatives:

1) My favorite: an above-the-knee day dress

image
2) Designer or cropped jeans or skinny pants with a dressy t-shirt

3) A middy skirt with t-shirt and sandals

 

image

4) A maxi dress

5) If you live by the beach or wish to look as if you do, a pair of shorts and t-shirt with a long, flouncy blouse

image

6) A body-con or bandage skirt with a dressy/fun top

7) A sundress in summer or sweater dress in winter

8) City shorts and a casual top (and sweater for cooler temperatures)

DSC00547

9) A sporty skirt with a tee and/or sweater

10) Leggings with a tunic

I cannot guarantee you the same comfort with any of these options as you feel in pajamas, but there are always trade-offs, eh? As for effort, if you have these items clustered together in your closet and/or ready to grab in a split second, they require little to no hassle. Alysa (pictured at #9) had to rush out the door to take her son with strep throat to the doctor. She didn’t have time to apply makeup, but she looks quite cute in a skirt she purchased at Title Nine (now on sale!)

As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives to yoga pants when you want to dash out the door. Then you can save your yoga pants for looking great… at the gym!

yoga pants

Afterthought: My darling friend Erin pointed out to me, “The perception in the news lately is that yoga pants are see-through body-hugging sausage casings.” Yes, there is a lot of hype about how “sexy” yoga pants are. (Yawn.) So, they can squeeze a butt into a more rounded shape. (Second yawn.) Seriously, what does that matter when you combine them with sneakers, flip-flops or Uggs? I can think of infinitely sexier outfits with a high heeled sandal or pump which strategically reveal a little flesh here or there. I’m sorry, but the so-called “sexy” factor has gotten way too much press. My opinion is that they are simply unstylish and sloppy. What do you think?

Drowning in brown: dare we dress in non-autumn colors after Labor Day?

I detest brown. It is a practical color for shoes, I grant you. But when it comes to dresses? Drab! Suits? Boring. Shirts? Excuse me, but it was never “the new black”. I mean, brown is the color of dirt, not of elegance and sophistication. So, Labor Day has just passed, and what is everyone wearing? Let’s see: brown, moss green, burnt orange, mustard yellow, brown, burgundy-violets and more brown. Why do we feel compelled – maybe even obligated – to dress like autumn leaves right after Labor Day?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I wore a brown suit with pink and white pinstripes the other day. Hey, I am not immune to the tendency to be in-step with what I see going on around me. And I must acknowledge that some people seem to have just the right coloring to make brown clothing look rich and soothing, like a cup of hot chocolate.

While I occasionally succumb to this movement, I cannot help feeling a bit like a herd animal or even as if I am faking something. I mean, I live in California: this is our Indian summer. I am still surrounded by blue skies, a blue ocean and golden hillsides. There aren’t a ton of deciduous trees here. Ya know what I mean?

I used to live next door to a five-year-old named Samantha whose parents let her wear whatever she pleased. I would see her in flowery rubber rain boots in the summer and sparkly sandals in the winter. (I mentioned I live in California, didn’t I?) Sometimes I want to emulate that little girl and disregard convention.

Last Saturday in San Francisco while wearing a burgundy blouse with tan jacket and beige booties, heaven help me, I was relieved and inspired to see some people with style, dressing in glorious disregard to the fashion mandate to wear autumn colors in September. It was a gorgeous 74 degree day with little wind, and I would say the people pictured below looked totally appropriate for the conditions, wouldn’t you?

image

brown shoes

I have to say I think these brown shoes are pretty cool.

Non-autumn clothing in fall

We all seek that fine line between convention and individuality. My creative side suffers when I play it too safe, but then I might realize I’ve made a big, maybe even embarrassing, mistake when I totally disregard the norm. I suppose I couldn’t get by with flowery rubber galoshes while working in a courtroom. But when it is possible, I would like to try to be a little more like Samantha, wouldn’t you?

Altered state of dress: tailoring tips

What if I told you there is a way you can drastically alter your look without buying new clothes? And what if I added that it can be an even better investment than purchasing something new? Yes, tailoring can breathe new life into an old beloved garment for a more flattering fit. It can also personalize a garment to fit your unique style.

When you do want to buy something new, tailoring can allow you to customize a second-hand gem or attain the ideal fit of a brand new piece. We all have pants or jeans hemmed on occasion, but it can definitely be worthwhile to go the extra mile of having a special off-the-rack garment adjusted to fit your unique proportions. My last post describes the ideal fit of a suit. Tapering of a jacket torso and sleeves can work wonders to give us a slimmer appearance, and just the right skirt length for women gives the appearance of longer, leaner or more shapely gams.

My colleague Denine is skilled at dressmaking, a talent which came in handy when she revamped the dress pictured below.

dress tailoring

A coral panel inserted into the backing of this dress ensures a better fit and adds a burst of color.

She told me this frock had been uncomfortably snug, and so she attached to the backing, a vertical panel of a contrasting coral color. In order to achieve this, two strips of fabric were sewn together with a zipper in the middle. The black line of the zipper fits in perfectly with the geometric pattern of the dress, and the bright burst of color are in line with Denine’s unique flair for wearing vibrant colors. The contrasting texture of the back panel adds additional interest.

Denine further personalizes this dress with a matching coral colored belt ornament. I love the way her matching shoes tie the look together.

dress alterations

The belt detail is a great way to bring in a bright accent and bring in the color of the back panel.

So, what do we do if we are not blessed with Denine’s sewing expertise? It is important to exercise due diligence while searching for a tailor. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

1) Alteration services at a high end department store (where the tailors have experience working with pricey designer clothing) are a safe bet. If you have been following my blog, it won’t be a surprise to you that I greatly rely on Nordstrom alteration services. High end boutiques or stores can also recommend a skilled tailor.

2) For less specialized or complicated tailoring, it is wise to go with someone rated highly on yelp or by friends. I start off testing a tailor with less specialized (risky) projects such as hemming jeans, changing buttons, attaching a snap to prevent a blouse from gaping or lingerie guards to keep straps in place.

3) Trust me: don’t even think of going to a tailor at a dry cleaner shop.

I learned of the great disparity in skill level among tailors the hard way. After patronizing a highly recommended tailor for a few years, I brought her a Valentino gown purchased for a ridiculously low price at the late and great Loehmann’s. I needed to have the dress modified, since its neckline reached the bottom of my rib cage, exposing the inner half of each of my breasts. I wanted a bra inserted and the gaping gap closed up a bit for modesty, since I didn’t anticipate any walks down a red carpet in my near future.

When I returned to try on the altered dress, I struggled to get it over my head and past my shoulders. As my head was temporarily stuck in the bodice, I even started feeling a little light headed. That tailor had simply sewn the neckline together without inserting a zipper! I still fear asphyxiation each time I attempt to pull on or remove the dress.

4) Don’t expect a tailor to be a couturier. Just because your highly esteemed tailor is taking classes in designing her own clothing, it does not mean she can successfully clone a favorite skirt. I am sure it is still an excellent idea, but after an experience (with more gory details), I now realize that that kind of work requires specialized training and experience.

5) Tailoring should not be considered a panacea for any and every issue you have regarding fit. Alterations can get expensive, especially if you want them done right. If too much adjusting is required, it takes, as a very stylish friend of mine reminded me during the writing of this post, “a quality tailor with an engineering degree to alter an item without throwing off another part of it…the issues could cascade. Sometimes it’s best to find an item closer to a look [you want] and do little alterations to achieve proper fit.” So true! I almost forgot about a pair of Tahari pants I had taken in at the waist. The waistline fit perfectly after the alteration, but I had a perpetual air bubble where the pants billowed out just above my derrière! I had to take the trousers to two separate tailors afterward to finally get them mostly fixed.

image

The best case scenario is, of course, when you can be your own tailor. Alterations can be extremely helpful when we want to project a professional or polished image. Tailoring is in fact, indispensable on occasion: rarely do our measurements correspond to patterns intended for mass marketing. If you don’t possess skills to do it yourself, it is a boon to your personal style when you do find the right person to fit and maybe even personalize your clothing.

I wish you all much luck with meeting your tailoring needs, and hopefully, you won’t ever end up with your head stuck inside your dress.

If the suit fits, wear it!

Not as many people dress in suits these days. We’ve become more and more informal in the office. Tons of men on the west coast, for example, show up to the office in jeans and casual shirts, while women sport a myriad of alternatives to what might be considered a uniform. However, the suit is always the number one item of dress for success, for courtroom attire and for job interviews. Men who enjoy dressing creatively should also have at least one dark colored suit in their wardrobes. The blog TSBmen demonstrates a way cool suit-dashiki combo!

So, if you are going to wear a suit, it should at least fit very well. I mean, have you noticed how an ill-fitting suit can “make or break” a person’s look?

IMG_0721 - Version 2

Have you noticed how pants which puddle at the bottom look sloppy?

I recently observed a jury trial in which the key witness, an undercover informant, testified in what seemed to be an open and shut case. The defendant was videotaped selling the informant drugs and gave him a business card, complete with name and phone number. I had to suppress an urge to gasp when the informant walked into the courtroom. His flashy suit was at least a size too small; deep horizontal creases stretched across his back and at his crotch, and his sleeves and pants were inches too short!

I cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that his shady presentation influenced the deliberations, but it certainly could not have helped to keep the jury from unanimously declaring the drug dealer “not guilty“. Jurors mentioned after the trial that they had doubts as to the informant’s character. While we’ve all been told as kids to not judge a book by its cover, it is human nature to do just that. The image we present does make a difference.

We have no way of knowing if the poor presentation of that key witness tipped the scale or not in this trial, but we can be quite certain that ill-fitting clothes make a poor impression. They can look sloppy, unprofessional and unflattering. This is the case, whether a person is swimming in clothes which are too big or the other extreme: clothing is so tight that deep horizontal creases form in the shoulders, back and/or crotch from the fabric pulling.

With a few nips and tucks, you can effect a major transformation on an item of clothing and end up with it suiting you to a T. This is especially helpful if you find it difficult, as I do, to get a great fit with clothing purchased off the rack. If you lose a considerable amount of weight, re-fitted clothing will definitely be more flattering to your new shape. Also, most of us need a little tweaking to make sure sleeves are the right length and the hem is not too long. We may also want to taper the torso and/or pants for a trimmer appearance. When garments truly fit your body, you look more fit/slim, polished and professional.

DSC00161

My colleague Ed wears a shadow plaid suit (pictured above and below) which illustrates a flawless fit. The “shadow plaid”, by the way, is a very modern style of plaid suit with muted tones – both understated and interesting. When I commented on the fit, Ed said, “Yes, there is this really amazing technology out there. It has to do with string and a needle.” Translation: he had it tailored. I found out he purchased the suit at Nordstrom, and I can just hear in my mind the salesperson recommending free alteration services with their rewards program. If I don’t use those services for my own tailoring, I go to someone highly recommended on yelp or by word of mouth.

DSC00157

So, what exactly are characteristics of an ideal fit? Here are 6 tips regarding the jacket:

1) The shoulder area should lie flat, with a seam equal in length to the shoulder bone underneath it.

2) Sleeves should start at the underarms so that there are no ripples (or divets) at the top of the sleeve when your arms are resting are at your sides. This would mean the shoulder measurement is too small. Neither should there be lumps at the top of the jacket between the collar and sleeve, which would mean the shoulder allowance is too large.

3) If it is too tight in the torso, the jacket will flare out at the bottom and form an “X” shape when you are standing tall.

4) If it is too loose, the lapels will tend to stick out.

5) The jacket sleeves should be 1/4 to 1/2 inches above the end of the shirt to reveal just a hint of the shirt cuff.

6) The hem should hit the top of the curve of the buttocks. Beyond this length, it can look sloppy. Modern suit jackets tend to be more tapered and shorter.

DSC00146

 Now here are 4 suggestions regarding the way pants should fit:

1) The seat should not show deep horizontal wrinkles, which would mean the pants are too tight.

2) Nor should the seat sag. The inseam ought to fit or be fitted to avoid bagging at the crotch. This can look particularly unprofessional.

3) Tapering at the legs can allow the pants to nicely contour to the body for a neater look and trim silhouette.

4) Perhaps most importantly, it is best to have very little “break” in the pants. This is very flattering, since it lengthens the appearance of the leg. We see above that Ed’s hem just brushes the top of his shoes.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this short break is considered to be of “high fashion”, something which coincides with Ed’s fabulous necktie selection. I mean, doesn’t it look as if the tie was made for this suit?

I can’t tell how much this suit was transformed by alterations or if Ed simply selected a suit with a great fit, but I am positive any adjustments were well worth the investment. His presentation – with a precise fit and attention to detail – is both polished and professional, and we know how important impressions can be. This is yet another example of la bella figura in California. Bravo, Ed!

Ensemble with a dash of “princess”: sparkly sandals!

Here near the coast in central California, Indian summer is finally upon us! The fog has subsided, and we can finally enjoy a pleasant spell of beautiful sunny days. I want to share an ensemble I spotted last week (officially summer), which I feel would be perfect for an art opening or outdoor cocktail party – even post Labor Day.

DSC00188

I love the way Sandy tops this refreshing summer combination, of light grey and white, with a cool wintergreen blazer. Then we have the most striking feature of her ensemble: sparkly silver-studded stiletto sandals (say that three times fast!), which nearly resemble crushed ice. For quite some time, I have coveted a pair of sparkly high heeled sandals like these but was at a loss to envision more outfits than the standard little black dress to accompany them so that their purchase would not merely be an extravagance.

DSC00195

This luminous, icy palette easily supports the glamour of the sparkly heels, which by the way, were Sandy’s wedding sandals. A silver necklace echoing the crystal-like details of her sandals and tone of her blazer are also a nice touch. Thank you, Sandy for another great way to wear these killer shoes. Sparkly sandals, here I come!

La bella figura in California: a high-low dress success

I was strolling down Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, California this past weekend when I came across this wonderfully put together woman. Isn’t she great? She is proof that la bella figura can also be found here in Northern California.

This woman had pulled off a great look in a dress style (maxi dress with sheer bottom) which I recently tried on in a Nordstrom dressing room – and rejected. A sheer, open weave maxi dress over a shorter opaque layer is fun and sexy. The horizontal line created by the transition from opaque to sheer, however, can give it a blocky appearance, especially in a dressing room sans accessories. One very flattering feature of the dress pictured below is the high-low hemline, creating a diagonal rather than additional horizontal line at the bottom and helping to lengthen the silhouette.

image

The accessories here are what really save the day and make the ensemble great. A white leather shoulder bag and filmy black and white scarf cause the black dress to visually fall into the background and give it the appearance of a more continuous (i.e. flattering) vertical line. They also draw the eye upward to her face. Without these details, the high-low sheer hemline and interesting sandals would steal all the attention.

One particularly interesting aspect of this outfit is a theme of oval shaped holes, cutouts or black spots arranged in diagonal or starburst patterns. Do you think she consciously planned to wear all those diagonally positioned oval shapes in the dress, cut-outs in her shoulder bag, black spots on her scarf and loops in the straps of her sandals? Whether planned or a consequence of gravitating to a particular shape, she looks wonderful.

So, it seems the dress works after all!

Farewell summer

As Memorial Day approaches, I can’t help but pine for our favorite summer vacation spot: Lake Como. So, as a farewell-to-summer post, I would like to feature one final summer look from Italy: la bella expecting figura. (Click here for a defining post of la bella figura.)

image

What I love most about this lady’s look is how she drapes her rounded figure with a bright scarf of multi-colored concentric circles and flowers. These shapes associated with fertility provide a befitting motif to this sophisticated, sexy look. I especially like the fact that the scarf does not dissimulate, but instead, seems to visually/symbolically celebrate her protruding belly.

At the same time, this lovely lady’s ensemble visually elongates the legs. A body-hugging miniskirt in a color similar to that of her scarf elongates her silhouette rather than “chopping it up” with contrasting colors.  The tan chunky platform heeled sandals also allow her to achieve height while ensuring increased stability walking on cobblestone streets. Their tan color blends sufficiently with her legs to lengthen their appearance.

A tan shoulder bag of gorgeous Italian leatherwork along with the tan sandals, beautifully echo the same color in her scarf. This is a soothing but lively palette on the mother-to-be. What a stunning and appropriate ensemble for a hot summer day at Lake Como. Sigh!

Breaking the matchy-matchy rule… in style

Have you heard that if you are wearing a bright color, you shouldn’t wear matching shoes? I absolutely love Nordstrom’s awesome customer service and like to ask opinions of their salespeople. (Having worked there, I can attest to a general milieu of enthusiasm concerning style.) I vividly recall a Nordstrom saleswoman scrunching up her face one day when I suggested combining red shoes with a bright red suit.

None of us think twice about wearing shoes in the same color, shade and tone of a suit in black, dark grey, navy blue or brown, but many of us steer clear of matching shoes to a similar type of outfit in a bright and/or nontraditional color. I mean, who wants to bear any resemblance to Liberace or the quintessential lady in a big yellow hat, yellow dress, yellow purse and yellow shoes?

Now with more suit accessorizing experience under my belt, I tend to agree with that saleslady’s gut reaction. But is that rule – of not matching too much – one which ought never be broken? I believe the picture below of my colleague Darlene gives us the answer: ummmm, no!

image

When I first saw Darlene walking down the hallway in the outfit pictured above, I knew I had to get her picture; she was literally glowing. The tone and shade of pink perfectly compliment her complexion and features. Interestingly, she mentioned she was not wearing any makeup the day of the shooting. I had not even noticed!

What caught my attention even more was Darlene’s daring move to combine a pink suit with matching sandals and her success in doing so. Even though I had always thought that bright colors coordinate better with contrasting shoes, this rocks!

What makes it work? You could say that a good rule of thumb is to dial down the levels of detail and texture a few notches when you have the volume button for color turned up all the way. It is the principle of balance. As you can see, Darlene’s suit is of a classic cut with virtually no embellishments. The style of her footwear is also minimalist. Each sandal has only two equally sized straps, resulting in an uncomplicated, breezy look.

It is also important that the color flatter your complexion. As you can see, Darlene checked all the boxes while putting together a perfect summery look for the office, boardroom or courthouse.

 

Now you might be thinking, “Okay, I can see the potential of matching shoes to a brightly colored dress but would never ever attempt an animal print dress with animal print shoes!” You may want to take a look at this:

image

Would you give this a thumbs up or thumbs down? Feel free to weigh in below.

Unruffled – la bella figura

Why is it that so many Italian women look polished, even in denim shorts or jeans?! I recently mentioned this perception to a judge of Italian heritage, and he told me, “It’s all about the bella figura.” What is la bella figura?

La bella figura is “…an Italian philosophy that means putting careful thought into the face you present to the world by taking pride in one’s appearance from shiny, clean hair to real jewelry and freshly polished shoes” (http://labellafigura.net/what-is-la-bella-figura/). That is it!   imageI spotted this woman in a boutique in Bellagio and simply had to photograph her outfit. She is a classic exemplar of la bella figura: her look is clean and perfectly coordinated. Although her dress is casual, she is flawless!

Did you notice that she doesn’t seem to be wearing any jewelry? Its absence accentuates the clean, polished look of her skin and of her ensemble. Her shorts – the only item pictured here which appear to have been worn more than one season – look as though they were ironed. (How many women do you know who iron their denim shorts?)

The tank top with racerback straps is also a great choice. Its palette – greenish grey, darker grey and black – compliments her coloring, and its cut works well with the shorts. The ruffles of her top are not too billowy and of light fabric, and so, they do not distort her slender silhouette. At the same time, they fall just below the top of her short shorts, breaking up the line of her figure sufficiently to create a tasteful, refined look – even with plenty of skin exposed.

The cool straw fedora with black ribbon and immaculate, white shiny ballerina flats are the perfect final touches. They both lighten up and add sparkle to an outfit which would otherwise be dimmer in appearance. Nothing grungy about this bella donna! imageThe woman who stood on the other side of the boutique counter similarly exemplifies la bella figura, even while wearing faded jeans. Symptoms of this wonderful affliction are clean, shiny hair pulled up in a ponytail, tasteful gold earrings and t-shirt with a little spice: a ruffled gauzy panel in the back.

Even while these Italian ladies dress down, they don’t seem to settle for humdrum. Do you think la bella figura might be contagious? I would love to see it wipe out the yoga-pants-for-everyday-wear phenomenon!