Photos are a good reality check to see how you appear, unless they’re photo shopped or have been glamorized by a staff of lighting technicians, hair & make-up talents, not to mention stylists, which is not how most family pics are taken. I just looked at those from this year’s Thanksgiving and I am personally horrified and professionally embarrassed. I could have looked infinitely better had I not violated some basic Style Truths.
Style Rule # 1: Prioritize. I wanted to wear something festive, lightweight so I’d be comfortable in a hot kitchen, roomy enough so I wouldn’t be self-conscious enjoying the feast. This is the one time a year I grant myself permission to relish delicious carbs with abandon, even though since menopause, they INSTANTLY make me look like an Alien has settled in my stomach. I rummaged through my closet and found a pretty Derek Lam sleeveless blouse that fit those three requirements.
My mistake: I skipped the Style Rules below. Despite three days of cooking and cleaning to host the occasion, there was no time for me before the turkey was on the table. I showered and dressed in record speed without any forethought of what-to-wear. Nonetheless, the pictures will be remembered long past the meal. There I am with black button ta-tas, some sort of drooling black tongue hanging out of my modest décolletage and a swirling tent around my midriff.
Style Rule #2: Never Assume. The clothes you loved in the past may no longer fit or flatter. Our bodies are in constant transition, especially when tempted to indulge in tasty treats throughout the holiday season. Give yourself time to try on what you want to wear before each special occasion..
Style Rule #3: Realty Check. If I had looked in the mirror with a critical eye twenty minutes after dressing, I would have changed. Clothes have a way of shifting when you move around. This ritual has saved me from countless Style Blunders in the past.
Style Rule #4: Don’t even think about it. Whatever your size or weight, wearing excessively loose or baggy clothing will make you appear larger than you are. Clothes should skim or caress your body, not balloon away from it.
This photo revealed how the generous amount of fabric that made up the body of the blouse made me look pregnant. However pretty the blouse and stylish the silhouette, it would have looked better on someone who was pregnant or young and thin with nothing to hide or worn under a fitted jacket for shape or hemmed to mid-hip to counterbalance a large rump, chunky thighs or wide hips. Thankfully I wore skinny pants, which gave my body some definition.
Style Rule # 5: Never buy in a panic. I was confused. I bought the blouse when my body was in the throws of menopause. There was a buzz about the young designer, which made me feel “in the know”. More importantly, I was grateful that it wasn’t tight around my newly expanded middle. It took several months of difficult, frank discussions about my new body-reality with my closet before my fashion savvy caught up with this new stage in my life.
Don’t repeat my mistake. Try on a variety of styles until you find those that flatter. For a second opinion or an expert’s evaluation, work with a personal shopper (gratis at many large stores like Nordstrom’s) or a knowledgeable sales person you trust. Be open to new ideas. Also look for Style Mentors who are similar in age and body type to see what shapes look best on them. I pay attention to Diane von Furstenberg and Meredith Viera’s style choices, even though neither of them need to deal with my particular Alien. If you’re still in doubt, spend little on transitional pieces, wear all black with fun accessories, and play up an asset.
Diane von Furstenberg captured by Peter Lindbergh for Harper's Bazaar
Meredith Viera @ the Skin Sense Award Gala, October '07
Style Rule # 6: Don’t neglect your closet. How do you expect your closet to take care of you if you don’t take care of it? Had I diligently tried on my festive clothes before the holiday season, the blouse would have taken to a consignment shop so someone else might enjoy wearing it.
My fashion faux pas didn’t ruin my Thanksgiving. It was a fun gathering, the food was delicious, and I wasn’t aware of my miscalculation until I saw the pictures. As life transitions, photographs can be a useful tool of awareness for our body, our clothes, and ultimately for me this holiday, the blessing I had in sharing another Thanksgiving with my mother, daughters, sister and friends.