Monday, March 31, 2008

Non-Artists Can Create Wall Hangings

One day, you may get the urge to decorate a wall with something other than a mirror or photo collage. You could run to Kmart, Michaels or a department store and find a fairly decent still life or nature scene, but it’s probably already owned by several hundred other folks. Or, you could visit an art festival, gallery, or go online and purchase a print and have it expertly framed, but that takes time-and money. But, you may still not have something that identifies you or fits into your décor. The choice is simple: do it yourself.

Most people respond that they “can’t even draw a straight line.” Yet, most art does not rely on straight lines. Plus, if you mess up, no one will know because they’ve no idea what you intended, anyway. Making a wall hanging shouldn’t take more than a few hours or a few purchases.

First, look at the wall space and determine just how big of a hanging you need. Most folks think that a large space needs a large piece of art, but, that’s not always what may be best, for your taste. There could be a space that just screams for something to fill it up, or there could be something else hanging further down the wall that you may not wish to have as competition. It all depends on how you visualize your wall in terms of coverage. Once that’s determined, find an appropriately sized canvas panel, a prepared canvas with sides around it, or a piece of heavy cardboard,. (It doesn’t matter what printing or color is on cardboard because you’re going to cover it with paint anyway.)

Next, decide what colors would be best for the room. Again, this is very personal, but a good rule of thumb is to choose 3 colors, 2 of which may be found in the paint or wallpaper, rugs, or upholstery. Apply the “base” (normally the darkest color) over the surface of your canvas or cardboard and let dry. This can be done with spray paint, or applied with sponges or wide brushes. Small bottles of acrylic paints from craft stores work fine, are inexpensive, and contain enough to last through many more projects.

Third, take one of your other colors and dab it over the base-you can use wadded-up newspapers for this, adding as much or as little as you’d like, but making sure what you do add is relatively uniform in coverage. While this is still damp, take the third color and either drip on in little squiggles or globs, or flick a loaded paintbrush with your fingers for a sprayed effect. (This isn’t as messy as it sounds, but make sure your work area has newspaper under the artwork and you’re wearing old clothes.) Variations are fine, and actually preferred, as they’ll make the piece look interesting. The colors will blend as they dry, and if you stand your piece on its end, the colors may even be wet enough to drip down for another effect. Let it dry thoroughly.

Fourth, if you like the abstract look that you’ve achieved, you can quit. But you may wish to add something more. This is where colored, moldable clay comes in, the kind that never gets hard. Squeeze off hunks of clay and roll them into long, skinny, jelly-roll forms. If you wish different colors, simply break off pieces and blend them by rolling together. (You’ll have long tubes of clay that are predominantly one color, swirled with one or more colors) These strips can be pushed onto the canvas or cardboard foundation in any design imaginable. You can create modernistic designs (squiggles, swirls or curlicues), realistic shapes (like stars, hearts or sunbursts), spell out family member’s names, or even a simple line drawing that appeals to you. Once properly positioned and meeting with your approval, a little regular glue will help keep the clay strips anchored.

Superglue a wall hanger or thick “washer” to the back and it’s ready to hang. When you get bored, add or remove clay strips, or add more paint. This is your art, and as such, it can grow and change as you do.

What Clothing Annoys You?

Well, today I thought I’d try something new here at Fashblog. I spent a few pleasant hours last week going back through the archives here, reading what some of you have posted in the past. Many articles were enjoyable and enlightening. The experience found me wishing that the hundreds of you who read this site every day would share some of your new insights and findings, since you apparently cover the earth and have much more exposure to diverse fashion news than I.

Therefore, I thought it may be fun to pose a question ask all of you for your thoughts to give the rest of us interesting views to consider, and perhaps a laugh or two. Don’t worry about your ability to write or making it long; a few words will suffice. Since you need not use your full name (or your real one for that matter) it can be anonymous. I, for one, would love to know your opinions about what annoys you regarding clothing. There is such a wealth from which to choose, it’s almost overwhelming. I am going to list a few to get you started, and you can either add some new submissions or second some of mine. Feel free to share embarrassing stories about annoying clothing coming apart or falling OK, here goes…a few samples of clothing annoyances:

Problems with sleeves Don’t you just hate it when the rest of the top, jacket or coat fits, but the sleeves are just a smidgeon too short, making you feel like you’re a kid who’s outgrown their wardrobe? I can’t stand looking down and seeing my wrist bones sticking out, so I end up pushing the sleeves up and adding a few bracelets. Every once in a blue moon, sleeves may be long on me, and that’s a different kind of agitating. They get in the way, get filthy, and again I feel like a little kid instead of a grown woman. Just try pushing those suckers up; they’ll eventually inch their way back down your arm and the whole process begins again. But things could be worse-they could be elasticized (think puffy sleeves on baby girl dresses, which must be annoying to them as well) or wide (catching on everything you get near). As long as long sleeves are cotton, they don’t bother me too much, but you can forget wearing wool sweaters without long sleeved cotton t-shirts or blouses underneath because, chances are, you’ll end up scratching at your arms continuously.

Clothes that magically change Even though you may follow laundry directions word for word, some items have a mind of their own and shrink, fade or stretch out. That’s very disappointing, because, invariably, it happens to things you love. (Let’s face it-nothing ever happens to the things you regret buying, and they seem to live forever. This causes guilt feelings because you don’t like them as much as you should, and wish you’d have a good reason to get finally rid of them.) Clothes’ unpredictable life spans are very annoying.

Spots, snags, holes or stains that appear for no reason Now, I can understand if it’s toddler clothing, but most adults know how to take care of their stuff. How these imperfections appear is a serious mystery-just like sock mates disappearing into thin air. If you’re really lucky, the damage is in a place that’s not obvious. But most of us aren’t that lucky, and an unexplained mark in the middle of our favorite dress is extremely annoying.

From the lengths of pants to jeans sizing, to leisure clothes requiring dry cleaning, to discovering an item that hits you in the wrong places after an hour’s wearing time, the list can go on forever. Add to this, frustrations over store policies on exchanges and returns (we have one store with a two week return timeframe), sales that pop up daily (usually after you’ve already bought something) and the way many stores are even set up, and there’s a lot about which to complain.

So, share your personal frustrations. We’ll smile the next time we think of your annoyance as it affects us. This could be fun-but be nice; we’re all in this together.

Gown Necklines (And Backlines)

As I was flipping through an older rag sheet today, I happened upon photos from Oscar night. (I always knew that might be a good reason to keep such publications.) Anyway, it struck me that the one of the three defining features of a really glamorous evening gown-after the flowing, draping length and lustrous materials used-is either the neckline or backline.

Many are strapless, but it’s my opinion that a strapless gown just is not the most flattering for most women. I saw a few that were extremely low cut, even to the naval, and again, such frocks also require excellent posture (and good bust support!). There were a few that were filled in at the top with lace and a couple of one-shouldered deals, but a good majority have some type of support, by way of a connecting neckline, interesting variations on cap sleeves, or elegantly contoured straps. But I think that my favorite, both to look at as well as to wear, would have to be a gown that scoops over the top of the chest into off-the-shoulder sleeves. To me, it’s sophisticated, flattering, and relatively rare in any large group of formally dressed women.

But each neckline comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and some magazine, somewhere, probably has listed what kind of neckline would be best on a particular woman’s body, facial shape, and even with hairstyle. I’m not going to list what would be best for each , but I am going to point out what I witnessed, things we all need to keep in mind. First, most deeply cut or strapless dresses, even on celebrities, tend to look best with either no necklace or one necklace that packs a punch…either in jewels or design. However, long, splashy earrings seem to add that extra filler for what appears to be a lot of bareness-especially if the lady is wearing an up-do. (In the photo spread, 85% of women with a strapless or low cut dress wore such a hair style, although one left a pony tail lock hanging down on one side. Actually, when glancing through a large number of such photos, it becomes clear that exceptionally lovely gowns actually demand an exceptional hairdo. Leaving one’s hair straggling down like it does on a plain old day seems to take away from the dress itself. Now, with one strap or an off-the-shoulder dress, wearing the hair down looks sensuous, possibly because it’s almost touching dress material.)

Second, if a woman with shorter hair is wearing a low cut dress and wants to change her look, what seemed to work for the actresses is something any female can do, as long as her hair isn’t too short: That is to pull her hair away from her face and add a very decorative, glittery band (not a tiara). The hair can be fluffed up behind it, and the image is that of a hairstyle that complements the dressiness of the gown itself.

For reasons I can’t quite figure out, jeweled necklines with a bob seem to work, especially if one side is pulled back. Perhaps the level of elegance is matched by conservativeness, or it could be that the bob hits the jaw at a point where just enough is shown above the neckline. Regardless, it’s very sleek, and again, different.

Backlines are another story altogether. One very interesting specimen was cut out to right above the gal’s derriere, in a V shape. (How anyone could not be conscious of how she moves in something like that escapes me.) Another, more user friendly model hit right at the waist, with a gorgeous draping of beads and hanging embroidery in a scooped shape down the woman’s bare back-quite sexy. Most evening dress designers, if they consider the back at all, merely have either crossed straps, bands going across, or dangling neck ties. But, with some searching, a shopper can find a dress back that looks every bit as enticing as the dress front.

As usual, it all comes down to what looks good and how much one wishes to expose. Lucky for us there are so many evening gown designs from which to choose.

Who Wore It Better?

The In-Touch gossip magazine runs a spread every week, comparing outfits worn by two different celebrities, and gives an opinion as to which actress “wore it better.” This piece always intrigues me, as to my eyes, they usually both look good. I often have a gut reaction regarding my preference, but it’s usually based on whether I like the individuals or not. (Sorry, but we’re only human.)

Anyway, I thought I’d dedicate an article here on 50 reasons given for wearing an outfit better than someone else. Who knows? Someday we all may benefit by keeping these helpful hints in mind. (In no particular order of importance)

1. Wearing appropriate, supportive, invisible undergarments
2. Altering or buying clothes for a perfect fit
3. Employing an item that enhances cleavage
4. Not being washed out be bold colors if one’s blonde and fair skinned
5. Wearing strappy sandals with summer dresses instead of flip flops
6. Donning neutral shoes (instead of contrasting colored ones) with classic attire
7. Omitting necklaces when wearing ruffled necklines
8. Hemming a dress or skirt to slightly above the knee if one is short
9. Allowing a touch of bright color to brighten up a black and white ensemble
10. Utilizing muted color accessories with a dress that’s very busy in color or pattern
11. Choosing complementing shoes (same shade or metallic) vs. perfectly matching
12. Being brave enough to employ strong accessories with bold dresses
13. Filling the bust area properly, but not seeping out of it
14. Opting for purses that don’t detract from the woman herself
15. Selecting low-key jewelry with gold material, instead of diamond embellishments
16. Refusing to wear contrasting shoes, dress and jacket all at the same time
17. Filling in a bare neckline on a severe, plain dress with a large necklace or long hair
18. Lowering the hem if one’s tall, to avoid the look of a shrunken dress
19. Avoiding dark shoes with bright orange or yellow outfits
20. Ditching a cover-up from over a busy or colorfully patterned top or dress
21. Replacing sheer paneling around bust with opaque material
22. Rejecting elaborate necklaces when wearing ornate, Empire-waist dresses
23. Adding a neck bow to a halter dress that appears too bare
24. Restraining an urge to weighing down one’s self with thick, multiple necklaces
25. Not flaunting legs and cleavage if one is of “a certain age”
26. Eliminating a heavy coat over a short dress of the same length, that’s worn over jeans
27. Not permitting an evening gown, wrap, or shawl to drag on the ground
28. Wear a closed-in, covering-up dress with barely-there shoes
29. Picking neutral slacks instead of jeans to go with a gorgeous, detailed top
30. Avoiding tying of halter straps around neck if wide-shouldered
31. Choosing not to wear fake or real fur in combination with delicate, airy, clothing
32. Selecting open-toed shoes when wearing satin
33. Pairing a short, waist-flaring jacket with capris so hips don’t appear wide
34. Refusing to weigh down a light or bright dress with black pantyhose
35. Coordinating frilly smocks with understated hair and makeup
36. Opting for simple shoes when wearing an attention-getting dress
37. Rejecting the bogged-down look of low, oversized belts over simple dresses
38. Keeping dropped-waist dresses on their own, instead of pairing with leggings
39. Having fun with black dresses, such as combining with animal-print shoes
40. Searching for a metallic purse and bangles to pick up glittery dress accents
41. Matching delicate jewelry to delicate material, instead of going for chunky look
42. Avoiding shiny, satiny pants when wearing a satiny top
43. Achieving an elegant hairstyle when dressing up instead of a tousled bed-head
44. Selecting lower heels when wearing longer dresses
45. Keeping accessories to a minimum when wearing large, bold prints
46. Wearing simple shoes with short, billowy dresses instead of boots
47. Refusing to wear shoes that tie up onto the ankles with sophisticated dresses
48. Opting against circular prints if one is not thin
49. Trying not to downplay a colorful dress with a black jacket or shrug
50. Remembering never to wear light or metallic shoes with dark hose

Women-Are You Considering Summer Pants Suits?

There is a lot to say for lightweight-and light colored-summer pant suits. For one
thing, a monochromatic long sleeved jacket and pants set is slimming. For another, the two matching pieces can be dressy, businesslike, elegant, versatile, and comfortable. They can lessen the appearance of a multitude of figure flaws. Finally, it’s a creative choice when a gal can’t decide between a dress and a skirt, and the occasion is calling for something more than capris or shorts.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind before you go shopping for that perfect ensemble:

When purchasing a suit in a fancy fabric, such as satin or any material with an iridescent finish, know that it should be saved for the truly sophisticated affair, such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, formal parties, charity event galas, etc. Picture wearing a white, shiny suit to your niece’s graduation party in the backyard-it’s a bit overdone.

If you’re a gal who wants to look smaller throughout the torso, remember that a single-breasted jacket makes the waist appear trimmer, and longer jackets which touch the tops of thighs cover wide hips completely. If you wish to appear taller, avoid cuffs. Softly flaring pant legs may help to balance a small, petite shape, but classic suits will rarely accommodate the look of wide bell bottoms found in jeans, so don’t bother searching.

Just as with evening gowns, be sure to not allow the hems of your trousers to skim the ground. It’s bad enough when teens do this, but on grown women it’s plain silly. (Furthermore, who wants easily avoidable dirt or holes to ruin an expensive outfit?) Spend a half hour hemming them yourself while watching TV, or pay a seamstress the small cost to adapt the length to your legs and shoes.

Wearing a jacket that buttons at the naval without a blouse underneath can either be sexy or risqué, depending on how the lady is built, where she will be wearing this, and accessories. If she has a large bust, this idea should not be undertaken, as it will appear that she is purposely exposing herself. However, a gal with a smaller chest, who takes the time to secure the jacket (as well as herself, with various means of invisible support) may be able to pull off the look if she adds long, decorative necklaces to avoid looking bare. Another variation would be to button the jacket higher, and allow a lacy camisole to peek out; it’s still sexy but not as obviously attention-seeking.

To avoid jackets that pull across the chest or sleeves longer than the wrist bone takes trying on in different sizes or getting alterations. But, don’t just rely on the jacket to camouflage ill fitting pants; at some point, you will want to take the jacket off but, if you’re self conscious, chances you won’t. That means you will be left feeling either hot or overly-dressed, neither of which will make you want to wear the outfit again. Make sure both pieces fit well, if only for those occasions when you may be driving and wish to be more comfortable without a jacket.

The beauty of a summer suit is that it can be worn with a short or long sleeved blouse, a sleeveless top, a tank top (ranging from plain to glittery), a halter, or even a bustier. Since the suit will, more than likely, be unadorned, it leaves the window of opportunity wide open concerning the top’s print or color combinations. With a white or neutral tan suit, you can go any way you wish: flowers, patterns, animal prints, motifs, abstract designs, metallic material, or sold colors trimmed in exotic edgings. That means that the suit can serve its owner for quite some time and be taken to many gatherings. The look can easily go from “office professional” to “night out” with just a few changes in shoes, purse, top, jewelry, and hair-while still enabling the woman to look polished and intriguing.

Summer pants suits not make a woman look “mannish” if the cut is flattering, the material is soft, and the rest of her outfit is well planned. Try it and see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An Unforgettable Wedding Gift - Cake Towel

This article was submitted via our Submit An Article page.

One of the most remarkable and beautiful wedding gifts I have ever seen was created by one of my sisters for another sister's wedding. She built a pristine "wedding cake" from white towels and decorated it with ribbons, held in place with pearl pins, and hid a cd in one of the layers, not that anything additional was needed. The "cake" was such a work of art it stole the show from the real cake! Everyone wanted to know who had made it, how long it took, etc, and no one with a camera passed up a chance for a snapshot of it.

Creating a towel cake can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be. It is easy to make it unique with your own special touches and add personal touches that will make it an unforgettable part of any wedding or shower.

This is easy to make and the bride to be will love the personalized touch! The colors can be coordinated to go with the wedding theme and colors.

Step 1. Roll the Towels
Fold each hand towel in half lengthwise twice. Start with one end and roll the towels together. Set aside. Repeat this process with the wash cloths. Fold each bath towel in half lengthwise and repeat the folding until the width of the towel is roughly 6". Roll the two towels together in the same way as the hand towels. You should now have the three layers of the cake.

Step 2. Assembling The Layers
I used large wide rubber bands to hold each individual layer together for ease of handling. To decorate choose ribbon in colors that coordinate with the towels or wedding colors. My niece had requested purple towels so I selected a wide white ribbon adorned with pearls. Cut the ribbon into 60", 40" and 30" lengths. Tie the large piece around the bath towels layer and repeat for the other two cake layers. When complete, stack the cake layers starting with the largest layer at the bottom. I used small pins to hold the layers in place. If you do use pins try to place them through the tags on the towels not the towels themselves.

Step 3.
This is the fun part! Use your imagination and decorate with silk flowers, fall leaves or wedding bells. I placed the cake on a footed cake plate for presentation.

These tasteful cakes look so delicious. But please do not eat. It is the soft cotton washing clothes artfully hand wrapped to resemble a tasteful cake. This delicious looking designed favor will make your mouth water, but it is calorie free. They are great for wedding favors, bay showers, gift baskets, Christmas stocking items and all other occasions

Different Towel Cakes for Different Occasions
A towel cake is a unique and creative way to give a Gift for a wedding shower or a housewarming gift. I use matching bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths for the Towel cake. There will be 2 - 30 X 54" bath towels, 4 - 16 X 26" hand towels and 3 - 12 X 12 wash cloths. For a romantic theme, I use bath products such as lotions, bubble bath, incense, bath beads and other items. For a bath/kitchen theme, I use wooden spoons, wire wisks, spatulas and other kitchen implements. The color schemes vary and can be specified by the customer. The ribbons used can be specified to be a wedding theme, otherwise the ribbons will be color coordinated to the color of the towels used. The towel cake pictured is a chocolate cake theme. The bottle in the top of the cake is a champaign shaped bottle of scented bubble bath. Additional picture will be posted in the future.

Wedding Towel Cakes are Full of Charming Surprises!
The first thing to consider when makeing wedding towel cakes is what kind of towels to use. The usual "recipe" calls for two bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths, all white. But you can adjust towel cakes to include any type or number of towels you want. If you know what color towels the couple would prefer, choose accordingly. Don't skimp on quality. You'll only save a few dollars, and the appearance of your towel wedding cakes will suffer.

Decorations for your wedding towel cakes are limited only by your imagination. The tiers of wedding towel cakes would look elegant "belted" with wide ribbon. Or tie smaller bows and pin them here and there. Faux flowers are another possibility. Pearl-topped straight pins inserted around the edges give a finished look, help hold the cake together, and are a gift in themselves. Make sure, though, to warn the recipient of the hazard.

Your finished towel wedding cakes will have to sit on something, and a pretty bath tray would be perfect. You might want to buy the tray before putting the towel cakes together to make sure of a good fit. You could also set the cake on a matching round bath mat or rug. Surround the cake with scented flower-shaped soaps. Tie a bow around the handle of a fancy pumice scrubber and lay it beside the towel cake as a "server."

Cake Towels Gain More Popularity

A cake towel is practical and yet full of personality; so despite of the price which is a bit higher than traditional wedding gifts, people still prefer it as cute and romantic Wedding Gifts for the once a lifetime occassion.

Currently, towels sold as, for instance, a gift are folded in various manner and arranged in a storage box, and the top side of the storage box is covered with a transparent film, so that the customers can see the arranged towel(s) inside the box through the film, thus drawing the attention of the customers and increase the customer's desire to purchase. Among these, with the focus on characteristics such as the towel's texture, thickness, and flexibility, some towels are formed into animals and dolls by way of attaching the towel cloth by sewing or fastening with a pin or the like, thus being offered exclusively as decorations.

In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for cake-shaped decorative accessories using a towel cloth as a gift or present, and there has been a demand for other types of decorative accessories that have a cake shape.

Traditional wedding gifts such as chocolate gifts are so common that people want to add some personality and uniqueness to their wedding gift; cake towel seems to be a perfect choice.

A little about me: A lady keen on market information concerning products Made in China. Sourcing china products anywhere, anytime in www.Made-in-China.com.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where Did I Put That? (The Need for Organizers)

Is it my imagination, or are we all misplacing more things? Is it because we’re getting older, busier, own more stuff, or all of the above? Our homes are filled with countless items except for the one that we want at any particular moment. Certain things just seem to up and go away until they’re ready to be found again, seemingly disappearing into thin air. (Perhaps they think we’ll appreciate them more; there’s nothing like something re-appearing to make you hold it up in glee and shout, “Guess what I found!”) If this is supposed to teach us patience and organized thinking, apparently we need more practice!

Haste accounts for a good bit of this problem, but probably the biggest culprit is the lack of organizers.

The thing about losing or misplacing items is that it makes us feel stupid and guilty. That should not be the case, with drawers, shelves, cupboards, bags and boxes ready to help. Keeping organized relies on the space with which you have to work, and how often you use the items. Here are a few suggestions that may work for you:

Small plastic bins can be lifesavers. Consider lining them along a closet shelf (either on their bottoms or sides) to stash purses, belts, caps, etc. (In a child’s room, this may encourage neatness when used for underwear and pajamas, since drawers are often hard for little arms.) The same type of bins can contain crafts or art supplies, and since stackable, can hold a great deal of stuff in a corner area of less than a square foot.

Stuffed animals can be tossed into a laundry basket, or if it’s kept in the open, a large wicker basket or hamper. It’s difficult to keep toys neat, but open shelving does a better job than cabinets, since kids can see at a glance what’s where and won’t tear other things apart in their searches.

Consider stashing a plastic, 3 drawer organizer (sold in office supply stores) in a coat closet. Designate one drawer each for gloves, scarves, and hats/earmuffs. Once your family gets into the habit of returning stuff to the appropriate drawers when hanging up their outerwear, the next exit should be faster and smoother.

Misplacing paper is easy since we have so much. You may wish to invest in a file cabinet; a little time in labeling files can save you hours of searching in the future. If you don’t have extra space or don’t like the look, you can always just buy cardboard folders and keep them in a big box, out of sight under a desk or in a handy closet-and start putting receipts and bills away immediately.

Learn to maximize storage opportunities. Using plastic bags for seasonal decorations can keep them clean, while moldable enough to squeeze into narrow closets or fit under beds (or covered chairs and tables, if space is truly limited.) Decorative baskets in appropriate reading areas (i.e. cookbooks in the kitchen, hardbacks in the bedroom) can contain reading materially neatly if you don’t have space for book shelves.

However, you don’t want to have too many places in which an item may be hiding. Resist the impulse to use 15 storage bags or boxes when 8 will do. Sort items into categories that make logical sense, and label. Try to have “hubs” for stuff used on a regular basis (Good examples are kitchen utility drawers, a convenient area to keep all pet items, one large jewelry box, etc.) Having one space to dump miscellaneous items, such as information to be read, things to be repaired, and the like, should be available for each household member. This can be accommodated by any large drawer, bin, box, or container, and if it will be out in the open, can be found in wood or wicker.

It’s easy to keep your décor looking good while still finding more storage space; having set places for daily items will make you feel efficient and organized.

If you’re like me, you get cranky when you can’t find something. Make it a mission to become organized this weekend. You’ll be proud of the results.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Power of the Skirt

Ya’ gotta love the skirt. It really fits in everywhere, and has seen more reinventions than probably any item of ladies’ clothing. Skirts can be girly or all business, and worn by any age. It can reach from way up high to the ankles, be made out of just about any material and take any shape.

Personally, I have always loved skirts. In 6th grade, I discovered that skirts were super-easy to make, and proceeded to make a bunch…albeit styles with elastic waists instead of the hard-to-install zippers. Eventually, I followed patterns with several form-fitting seams, and was able to adequately create slits, but never quite graduated to putting flounces on the bottom or doing jagged hemlines.

What kind of skirt is your favorite? My favorite has been in my wardrobe for some time, and if every woman owned one, I think they’d all agree with me that it would be an invaluable part of her life. It’s long, black, straight, made of light-weight wool, and has served as foundation for many a dressy occasion as well as funeral. (It came with long sleeve royal blue top of the same weight of wool, with a cut out neckline edged with decorative black trim in a tunic style, which doesn’t get as much use.)

Anyway, this skirt has a slit that, when worn, long, goes up past the knee, but if the skirt’s waistband is rolled, the slit reaches the hip. It doesn’t’ take brain surgery to figure out that having a slit up to your underwear is not usually in the best taste, so I’ve learned how to pin along the finished pieces so that it’s not noticeably altered. And, as far as rolling it up, that’s one of the true beauties of this skirt: it has no zipper or buttons, just a wide waistband that sits comfortably on my hips, or can be easily rolled, making the skirt as short as I’d like. (Obviously doing so requires that I wear a longer top over the roll, and a wide belt to camouflage any bump.) On one occasion, I even pulled the waistband up under my arms and wore the skirt as a tube-top dress, bringing the hem to my knees and topping it off with a glitzy jacket and fancy shoes for a Christmas party. This may sound rather bizarre, but trust me-I wouldn’t wear it (in any way) if it looked bizarre. Over the course of years, this one item has gotten so much wear it’s more than worth its cost. It was a bit more expensive that I wanted to pay, but this was a case of getting more than I expected, which goes to show that sometimes a higher price truly does reflect quality in workmanship and design.

Some experts believe that full-fashioned women should opt for skirts that are basically A-line, but with a lot of material that can swirl down around the knees. This style conceals fuller hips and thighs. If it’s worn with a nipped top or jacket, the appearance is one of a thinner silhouette, since the waist becomes accented while the lower torso is camouflaged. Meanwhile, a well-tailored one that is tighter at the bottom-such as a pencil skirt-can make even a slim woman appear taller, and many agree that around the perfect length is at the knees or a few inches above.

Some skirts boast fringed hems or asymmetrical finishes, but care should be taken with these so the tops do not compete with the attention that will be given to the skirt itself. Plain colors, designs, and materials are the best choices.

There is a reason that women have worn skirts around the globe for centuries. Skirts are basically more comfortable than pants because there is less chance of an uncomfortable fit; as long as the waistband isn’t pinching. Usually, a woman doesn’t have to worry about a skirt dragging on the floor, what size heels to wear with it-or a front zipper coming down. It may take a little thought when it comes to bending down or getting out of a car gracefully, but a skirt can be versatile, flattering-and above all, feminine.

Some New Fashion Thoughts For March

Well, I’ve done my homework this week and found a few tips to get us up to date:

1. There are new electric toothbrushes on the market that are supposed to help whiten teeth. One has a “cool sanitizing chamber that kills bacteria” for $180, and another claims to offer almost imperceptible sonic vibrations, for the price of $170. (I guess they beat a Colgate soft-bristle used with whitening toothpaste)

2. Supposedly, throwing one aspirin in with a wash load of discolored whites will remove stains, even stubborn under-arm patches. If word of its success gets out, it will put a lot of bleach makers out of business, don’t you think?

3. A new look is achieved by layering two blouses over each other, or over a dress. This is a bit different from my news a few weeks ago, when I reported that a new fad is to wear cotton t-shirts under silky, spaghetti-strap dresses, and another style is to wear two vests on top of each other. Apparently, designers (or whoever decides these things) do not like the idea of women wearing one simple layer. Then again, perhaps they just want to sell more clothes. In any event, the bottom blouse should be tight fitting and a lighter color than the top blouse, which should have a deep neckline to give the appearance of a jacket. If wearing a blouse over a dress, the trick is to have both loose-fitting and presenting a coordinated look through pattern and material. I can actually see both of these ideas offering practical applications, but the time and energy spent for looking for two pieces that can be worn together may not be feasible for many women. But, if they’re lucky enough to find such items in their closet, they may have success.

4. When browsing dresses with jewel necklines, the optimum look is when they hit the collarbone and boast skinny straps which show off bare shoulders. Soft, flowing fabrics add the right sensuality, while long necklaces add extra femininity.

5. Something that excites me, a gal who tries to avoid heels at all costs: a whole slew of ankle strap flats. Now, these are the best of all worlds. All but one (shown in a new fashion magazine) have an open-toe design, and the one that doesn’t offers a large cut-out area filled in with sexy black mesh. The styles come with buckles, bows, twists, straps and intricacies on the top the shoe, in materials including animal skin, patent leather, metallic and straw-appearing leather. What’s great about these is that they are definitely much prettier and dressier than most sandals, but appear to be just as user-friendly. They are meant to be worn with anything above the knee, probably because wearing a long skirt or capris would cut the line of the leg from above the ankle strap, ruining the lean look that something short offers with this type of shoe. Plus, appearing so fragile, too much material right above them would probably sabotage their delicacy.

6. For those who have always wished to try tribal motifs in their wardrobe, but worry that the size of prints may overwhelm a small frame, thee are options to include this artistry in other clothing choices. Diabless offers a shortened cotton vest that would hit most women right under their bust. With only a small amount of material in a constrained print, and evenly decorated trim up to the shoulders, it has character without demanding attention. On the other hand, a leather, silk and crystal necklace by Renata Mann (in red, orange and black) deserves to be the center of attention. And, for someone who wants to extend the exotic look to their toes, sandals by Devotte evoke an African feeling-even though the slender 2 inch heels would not be conducive to treks through the wilderness. However, the designs on the crossed instep/ankle straps and matching center motif differentiate them from the norm. Finally, plain tunics with embroidered and beaded necklines have never appeared as detailed as they seem to be this year.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Lucky magazine for providing me with the news in today’s article.

Do You Own Anything With Sequins?

As I was flipping through a magazine, I happened upon a spread touting advantages of sequins. Years ago, I remember watching a television show where a wardrobe mistress advised a young starlet to always grab dresses with sequins if she can, because they’d “grab” the lights and call attention to her. (Doesn’t a starlet already get enough attention?) Oh well, here is what I’ve discovered on a treasure hunt of how the average woman can make sequins work for her:

First, on the photo spread I looked at, all 5 of the celebrities were wearing sequined tops with jeans. So, the first myth that is dispelled is that sequins are only for formal occasions and found on long evening gowns. Sequins, 80% of the time, were found as the sole material comprising jackets and in the last case, on a tunics, as trim on neck, sleep and hem. Two of the jackets had ¾ length sleeves and the other two boasted short sleeves. Not surprisingly, all jackets had only one point of connection-two a bit higher than the belly button, one at the cleavage area, and one at the neck. These ties allow the wearer to have some control while minimizing any distractions or gaps between buttons. (Come to think of it, the one sequined jacket I own has no buttons; I bought it because it resembled the one Madonna wore in “Who’s That Girl?”)

One famous model wore nothing under her jacket (exposing her belly button) but the other three actresses wore plain white silky or satiny tops underneath theirs. Almost all sequins were the traditional gold or silver, but one jacket was light pink, and worn with a matching pink belt. This article was a reminder a little bit of sequins goes a long way, and it’s important to downplay other items worn with them.

The ads that accompanied this article also showed an item that I would wear on a normal night out: When I wished to be dressy without feeling too over the top, a halter that added a tie around the hem to offset the neck tie, and a small strip of sequins that stretched from under the arms up onto the neck in a triangle shape would fit the bill. It seemed sophisticated and understated, yet with just enough glitter for eye-catching appeal.

Do you own anything with sequins? Someone gave me a long scarf trimmed with a single strip of sequins, and although its use has been limited, it’s been just the thing for a few social events where a touch of glamour was needed. Plus, I couldn’t resist buying a black collar (to wear over a black sweater) that was covered with beads, embroidery and, of course, sequins. I probably have not worn it more than a handful of times, but it’s one of those items around which one can plan an entire outfit. I also have a small, white evening bag from my high school prom that was once saturated with sequins and pearls. Now there is at last one bald spot, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away. That’s one detriment of sequins-they rarely stay adhered, even if the owner treats them with tender loving care never even washes them. Two years back, my daughter bought a black hoodie that had its hood trimmed with a strip of silver sequins. Let me say that I rarely had trouble finding her in the crowds at a mall; that little bit of glitz carried a greater distance than one could imagine. Unfortunately, as months went on, more and more were washed off in the laundry, but it still has enough not to warrant retirement just yet.

I believe there were even sequins on the hat and veil I wore for my wedding. If there are circumstances in which sequins are meant to be viewed, it’s candlelight and spotlights-think dance recitals with sequins on tutus, jazz tank tops, stretching over modern dance unitards, and gracing top hats in tap numbers. Sequins aren’t something a gal would want to wear daily because they cry out for special occasions. Every gal needs to feel like a Vegas showgirl at some time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Finery

I don’t remember cold Easters as a kid. I do remember the occasional need to wear my spring coat over a new Easter dress, but more often than not, it was wonderfully warm. I have pictures of me in my Easter finery, standing outside-sans coat but with white gloves-holding my basket of goodies. I remember associating the smell of ham and cloves with open doors and gentle breezes. It was the day that church seemed to blossom with flowered dresses and flowered hats. You can tell how old I am.

One Easter memory I have is going to Easter brunch with my parents on a day when it hit 80 degrees-practically unheard of for early April in Pittsburgh. Well, it was the most perfect Easter you can imagine. With sunshine, flowers and birds, the day looked like a Hallmark card. I guess it sticks out because I wore a rose, silk dress. I loved that dress, and like so many of my favorite items, can’t remember why it was finally ousted from my wardrobe. I think of that Easter often, which proves how a little thing like going out for a meal in a new outfit can stay with you for decades.

I also remember the Easter that I made my young daughter wear an adorable bonnet. She kept yanking it off and I kept tying it on. She didn’t care how cute she looked; the thing bothered her. That’s how parents are, I kept telling her: parents of daughter want them to look exceptionally adorable on holidays. She didn’t see eye to eye with that philosophy.

There is something unique about wearing new clothes, and traditionally, a person is supposed to wear new clothes on Easter. Many of us buy items, and then keep them in our closet for quite awhile, waiting for a “special” occasion. Have you wondered why we do that? It must be because there’s a desire in us to have something to celebrate, along with the wish to look good for the occasion. Every so often, I’ll pull out something I’ve been saving and wear it on a regular day, and it does make me feel a bit better. Unfortunately, we can’t get too used to always wearing new clothes, so, the rare incidence of doing so makes it even more special. The power that new clothes have is really outstanding; even new underwear can make a person feel like the day is going to be good…Perhaps the enigma lies in the sense of feeling different from our same old selves, and we like that.

Another memory I have is the year I was around 12 or 13, when I got my first high heels, to be worn with lacy stockings and a new navy and white Easter dress. It’s those kinds of memories that stay with us forever. Even though they seemed to be no big deal to my mother, I remember thinking those shoes were wonderful, but somehow the image of my daughter tottering around on her own heels didn’t have the same impact. Things appear decidedly different when a person is young, and it makes me wonder about what the memories kids of today will have of this holiday. The impetus to “dress up”, even for service and mass, isn’t a priority. With weather like this, what does it matter? It’s almost like not allowing one’s self to get excited about a Halloween costume because it will be covered up with a coat anyway. Maybe Easter shouldn’t come until May. Let’s see…if we have a “religious expert” doctor up the theological calendars…nah, the stores would never agree to have Easter sales clash with Mother’s Day sales.

You know, if there is only one day of the year we should have sun, it should be on Easter. The millions of Christians who enjoy the religious significance of this pinnacle of faith should have sun. It is only appropriate, considering what the holiday is about. Here is wishing all of you who will be celebrating Easter traditions a very happy day, regardless of the weather-but save your white shoes for another day. If you live in the Northeast, you may lose them in the snow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fashionably Finding Myself

This article was submitted via our Submit An Article page.

I am 23 years old and am about to graduate college. As security meets casual, I am stuck...in jeans, flip flops or my oh-so-comfortable, anti-boot, but very cool Ugg shoes. I would consider myself to be fashionaly comfortable. What I wear feels nice, it's fine for a day of sitting, listening to lecture...

I have my designer jeans and semi-designer tops (and by that I mean leisurely, laid-back fashion i.e. Project E, Michael Stars, etc...) all of this seems to me juvenile and representative of a period in my life that has been, well, appropriate for the moment. Now, I am going to start interviewing and going for my first career oriented job. I have great sweaters and blouses, trousers (no pant suits) and some relatively fashionable shoes (I prefer flats).

What would be suggested for my new wardrobe? What are the basic, must-have pieces that would transform me from college pro to career amateur (all the while looking quite professional, of course)? This is a question, not quite a fashion statement. Mine is not founded on insecurities, but rather, the need to, yet again, reinvent what it means to have an individualistic style.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Wearing of the Green-Happy St. Paddy’s Day

Top o’ the marnin’ to ya! I must reflect on the charm of St. Paddy’s Day, even though I don’t think there’s a drop of Irish anywhere in my bloodline. But, as they say, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I think it’s great; what other ethnicity has a holiday associated with it to the degree of this one? Very rarely do I think about having different heritage, but I’d venture to say that being Irish would be the most fun. How could it not be, with green funny hats, little green men, lucky clovers and green food coloring in almost everything? You gotta love it.

When I was in 4th grade, my mother let me choose between having a Valentine’s party and a St. Patrick’s Day party. I chose the latter, and my 8 girlfriends and I had a wonderful time-I remember loads of shamrock sugar cookies and still have the photo of us outside in the snow…It was on St. Patrick’s Day that I first visited Disneyland with one of my young beaus, who had moved there after high school to make it big in Hollywood. (He never did, by the way.) I still have a picture of myself in front of the park, wearing my shamrock pin. There was the time I went to New York for St. Paddy’s weekend and bought green carnations from a vendor while watching the parade down 5th Avenue, amazed at the literal human traffic jam. I had so many positive recollections of the St. Patrick’s days of my past, I wanted to make if fun for my daughter as well. In her former elementary school, someone would paint green footprints through the halls as evidence of a leprechaun visit. So, one year Mr. Leprechaun visited our house and left a note for her. My little 2nd grader was wowed! Unbeknownst to me, she took the letter to school to prove to other kids and teachers that he really did exist…suffice it to say she was not a happy camper when she came home.

Are you wearing green today? It’s always been one of those really cool things to me that, for one day out of the year, the majority of people wear shades of the same color. (Then again, I feel the same about almost everyone in the country eating the same food on Thanksgiving.) Now, as green goes, many people simply don’t like it or have it in their wardrobes. My husband is one of those; even if I would remind him to wear green, he can’t, as he has nothing green in work attire. On the other hand, I have a good deal of it, from an emerald green coat to more subdued mints. In fact, my all-girls high school had only two types of uniforms: light olive and dark olive. (I’m surprised I can even still abide the color.) St. Patrick’s Day is a day when I notice what colors folks are wearing, and I can’t imagine forgetting about it. There is a whole contingent who could not care less, for who knows what strange reason. Either they think they shouldn’t because they’re not Irish, or being part of the crowd is limiting their freedom of expression or something equally inane. St. Paddy’s day is for fun and laughs and all things silly, so perhaps that’s why it’s hard to resist celebrating, and wearing green is just one small way to do so. Of course, you could go all out and buy a green bowler hat, shamrock-checked scarf or any of the other really creative merchandise that’s out there-or you could still get into the spirit with a velvety shamrock pin (with a little leprechaun pipe in the middle, of course). This is one of those days, where, if you get into the spirit, you carry with you conversation pieces that may initiate small talk with people who you’ve never talked to before-and always wanted to. Surely everyone can dig out something that’s green to add a little spice to their day.

Hopefully, I’ve put you in the spirit to have some fun today with the wearin’ of the green-enjoy!

Color Myths

I happen to like looking at red, and I’m told it’s a flattering color for me, but, just like with fushia, it’s hard to coordinate cosmetics, and gets to be a little too overwhelming at times. I’ve also been partial to snowy white, but now that I read that women shouldn’t wear white because it will make their teeth look yellow, I can’t get that cheery thought from my head. When younger, I loved pastels, only to find out that they were more for blondes. Yikes. What’s a person to do?

Many folks research their color classification, or “type”, that’s been around for about 25 years. It separates looks into the seasons, and for each one, suggests the shades that are the most complimentary. My coloring is “winter”, and is the most dominant in the world. That is because the majority of the earth’s population is dark-haired, and usually darker eyed and skinned. When one considers Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, Middle Easterners and the people from the Mediterranean and India, it’s clear that there are more in this group than in the natural blonde group. Winter coloring supposedly looks best in strong, clear, primary colors such as red, royal blue, black and the like. Those with lighter hair colors fall into summer and spring, depending on their complexion tones and eye color, and as such, should opt for more pastel or neutral shades, while autumn individuals (usually with the auburn hair shades) have a more limited, but very striking, selection of flattering colors from which to choose. (If you are interested in pursuing this, there is a good deal of information available from the libraries and probably on line as well.)

However, the subject of this particular article is asking whether you believe in some of the color myths. For starters, do you think color makes any difference in how you feel on any certain day? We’ve been taught that we can tell a lot about a person regarding the color they’ve chosen to wear that day, but really, does anyone really get up and say, “I feel like wearing lilac today”? No. Most folks grab what’s clean, what they haven’t worn for awhile, or something that will suit their schedule for the day, regardless of color. I’ve also read that just putting on a certain color will lift my spirits or set the mood; again, I’m not sure if I believe this. When I was young, I read (with great interest) a book about how Anne Boleyn seduced Henry VIII, and the story often referred to her choices in dress color for the occasion. She, apparently, knew how to work her wardrobe. What I’ve often wondered is, does today’s woman put that much thought into color selection, other than wearing black to a funeral? (Speaking of which, there's another myth about how ultimate sexiness is a blonde in a black dress, but according to the seasonal classifications, it’s way too overwhelming for them; black should only be attempted by those with dark hair because it's considered too strong for light haired individuals.

Another myth is to never wear opposite colors, but look at Ralph Lauren’s polo shirts combining red and green, or the wealth of orange and navy in men’s athletic wear. There is an entire chain devoted to black and white worn together, and I’m sure that many Easter fashions will mix purple with yellow.

Probably some things will never change, such as toned down colors in men’s business suits and the wearing of black at evening and formal occasions. It’s also encouraging that when a color regains popularity, designers do manage to put out fashions in various hues in order to allow everyone’s personal taste to be accommodated. Plus, many items are available in almost every shade of the rainbow, so we shouldn’t complain too much.

Everyone has colors they love, and feel good wearing, regardless of whether they suit their coloring or not. There may be deep-rooted associations with a color, so on a subliminal level, we feel it’s good for us. We really shouldn’t feel limited in what we can wear when it comes to color. Life is already hard enough, and sometimes choices are few and far between. so let's go with what we like.

Who’s Old?

There was a time when I thought 23 was “old”-to be that young again!

On a brighter note, there seems to be a stretching of years into what’s now considered senior citizen age-although some movies and hotels start discounts at 55. It’s partly due to the baby boomers holding tight to youthful looks and wardrobes, partly due to so many folks now being older, and partly due to improved medical diagnosing and care. Plus, we can’t forget the benefits of working out and eating wisely, something not just health fanatics are doing.

Yesterday I met a woman who is a personal trainer and is now (around 50) going for certification in water aerobics, having taught aerobics, weight training, pilates and spinning. My new friend has students in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and even one at 92! I once taught a senior’s tap class, and it was refreshing to see that so many don’t let a number stop them from living to the fullest. The image of rocking chairs is long gone. With senior marathons and Olympics, age is irrelevant if one is in good condition. It validates that if a person trains consistently and properly, they can do what a younger person can-but their path is often different. Furthermore, the older athletic doesn’t take their success or their body for granted like a younger person, and therefore, is more apt to be healthier overall. This realization has given me joy ever since I hit 40. Ironically, it was only then that I returned to a really physical lifestyle, achieving more than I ever have in my life. Since then, I have met several women in their 50’s whose bodies and physical abilities rival that of any gal in their 20’s. We have reason to celebrate this emphasis and outlook, although it may seem silly to younger people. There will come a time when an older athlete or dancer is no longer a rarity even in less enlightened circles, and that bodes well for the state of our bodies and minds; it will keep us all younger.

So, on this note, how should an older woman dress? Are there still guidelines like in the past, such as anyone over 40 should never show her upper arms, or have hair past chin-length? What about wearing skirts or shorts halfway up one’s thighs? Obviously, a lot depends on the woman’s body. One school of thought is “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” but another is that people will-and do-make comments about trying to look “half her age”. It’s really difficult, especially if a lady finds herself drawn more to the styles in the Junior department than in the Misses’ or Women’s. Some fashions, of course, would look rather silly on a woman past 50, such as a baby-doll top with puffy sleeves, or raggedy, torn jeans-but most fashions fall into a gray area. For example, little flats in today’s designs look good on feet of any age, and hoodies really aren’t just for teens. Most pants and skirts can be worn by anyone who wants to take the time to find flattering styles, and I know many older gals who can easily pull off studded belts, denim jackets and rhinestone accessories.

And what do you other baby boomers think of changing makeup once you’re older? I’m torn on this one. The experts say older gals need to soften their hair color as well as their makeup, and go easy on the eyelid color. Well, that makes sense, but really, that applies to almost anyone. It’s hard to successfully pull off stark, bold hair color unless it’s natural, and the painted face look does no one much good. I just recently returned to a paler lipstick and do feel it’s more youthful, but I’ve known countless older woman whose bright or even red shades brighten their complexion considerably. I must confess, though, that I have not changed my methods of using mascara or eyeliner, as I think they still work for me.

In bygone eras, a lady’s age determined her fashion options, from when she gave up knee socks to when she could wear black. We’re lucky we have so many options, so let’s enjoy them.

Color, and the Lack of It

Today’s topic is going to be focused on color costs, and colorlessness. I think it’s appropriate to a fashion blog, since every season brings with it “hot, new” colors.

Have you noticed the preponderance of fashion photography in black and white? It seems that when a photographer wants to make a dramatic point, he removes the color. You rarely see a happy scene in black and white; it’s usually what could be termed “moody”. (Why moodiness would sell anything, who knows, but I guess that’s why I’m not making big advertising bucks.) Anyway, there is something about black and white photography that beckons me. I equate it to being a baby boomer, and wonder if others also feel nostalgic about it. After all, in our youth, there was a span of time where the only pictures of us were in black and white, and our parents’ lives were, for the most part, captured primarily in this media. Perhaps it’s just association, but when I see black and white photos, I’m taken to a time when life seemed easier and simpler and part of me wishes I could delve right into those photos. Photography has the miraculous ability to capture and hold a moment for all eternity, and it’s even more of an enigma when the photo is black and white. Perhaps it’s because of the suspension of reality in removing color, or maybe it’s that the visual impact is more pronounced and starker. In any event, I think that those of you who grew up before camcorders and digital cameras know about the intrigue I’m talking about. Is it any wonder that school photographers now charge more for black and white?

Wavering down another side road, I want to mention a new practice in my city, per a saleslady at a department store. She confided that certain colors of clothing were marked down with a steeper discount. I suppose if I were a business owner, I’d do what I could to reduce inventory, too, but that move strikes me as detrimental. A business is bound to tick off some percentage of customers by applying doing that, so why even chance it? Of course, we could have to barter over everything, like they do in many parts of the world, and we’d perceive that as unfair, as well. We who aren’t as argumentative would be frustrated when our vocal friends from the debate team saved 50% over the price we paid, so it’s a toss-up as to which is worse. But this charging extra for certain colors (check out the cell phone companies who offer pink phones for free but charge $100 for the red ones) or giving larger discounts on the passé colors does not seem right to me.

In yet another direction, have you ever noticed a phenomenon that I can only term color-less-ness? It’s the sense that a particular item simply lacks verve, or for better description, depth of color. I’m not saying that the object is necessarily dull; what I mean is that it just seems to fall flat.

For example, look at some of this year’s tones-they’re forgettable. The next step would be to wonder if it’s better to be forgettable than to be unforgettable-for all the wrong reasons. Spring purses of mixed pink and orange aren’t forgettable, but I find them jarring. It would be a hard choice between that combination, however, and a bland colored purse. Sometimes an item can have an amount of charm but still be void of the ability to light up, if that makes any sense. The only way to describe such an item is to say, for all of its attributes, true color is missing. It was if you expected it to shine with 150 watt light bulbs, and all you’re getting is 40 watts. Another analogy is like facing a cloud after facing the sun: something is missing. There simply is an element that is “off”.

We all have our favorite colors, and those that best suit us. Have you ever wondered why they don’t jive? That’s another color anomaly…But that topic deserves its own article; color is worthy of our full and undivided attention!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Considering Dyeing? Think Again

You may be one of those people who occasionally find themselves with an item of clothing that would be absolutely perfect-if it was just another color. It’s probably crossed everyone’s mind, at some point to simply dye it. On the surface, it makes great sense. After all, dyeing is positioned to be easy, quick and inexpensive-all the while allowing us to maximize our wardrobe options. It’s easy to believe that we’ll wear something more if only it matched something else, or went better with our favorite pants…But, truth be told, dyeing is nowhere the lifesaver advertisers would like us to believe.

My dyeing history goes back to my high school days. Back then, it was tie-dyeing, which usually succeeded because mistakes were never noticeable. (And, I’m glad to say, it’s still popular at children’s summer camps; my daughter still has her tied-dyed pillowcase from years ago…) But it’s when mistakes shouldn’t be noticeable that dyeing has failed me-because, unfortunately, mistakes are easily made when it comes to dyeing.

Now, I can read and follow instructions, so I simply don’t know why dyeing failed me. I used the right amount of color, the proper methods, and prepared the material as directed. I spent what must have amounted to hours of my life stirring heated pots of goop (inhaling what has to be one of the most disgusting smells ever created), only to face disappointment from discolorations, spots or unevenness when my item dried.

Ever the optimist, I’d keep going back, believing that I couldn’t let dye get the best of me. I’d do it until I got it right. Hah! Occasionally, a second attempt would work at providing uniform coverage, but there would be some repercussions. These consisted of the excess dye never really washing out, but managing to find its way onto my underwear and skin. It also meant that the item required separate laundering-a real pain. (However, overlooking this basic need meant the possibility of all other items coming out of the laundry splotched and stained and therefore ruined.)

Once I tried dyeing a shirt and top, out of the same material but different colors, in hopes of getting a coordinated set. Now, you’d think this would be fairly elementary for any basic dye, but the hues came out markedly different. I’ve dyed just about every item you could think of (except underwear or nightwear) and can’t say the experience was ever easy. Occasionally the results were fairly good, but never great-and more often than not, they weren’t even adequate. (I actually reached a point where I figured bleaching color out would be a lot less aggravating than trying to put color in-just like with hair...)

Along the way, I also attempted shoe dyeing. Now, this really isn’t anywhere near as annoying. First, you aren’t tying up your washer or stove, and don’t have nearly the mess. Second, it doesn’t take 45-60 minutes of constant attention; you simply sit the shoe on newspaper, brush the dye on the shoe and allow it to dry-with no worry about drips leaving permanent marks. If the color was similar to the original, I’d stuff with additional newspaper, but if it was a dramatic change, I’d go around the edges. (Be warned though, that doing so can result in dye transfer onto skin from sweating, and will be noticeable if light stockings or pantyhose are worn with the shoes.) However, it’s really a shoe rejuvenator if the pair is still comfy and fashionable, but rather scuffed or a victim of irremovable stains.

Dyeing is not for everyone, or the answer to many situations-but it may be helpful every so often. My humble opinion, for what it’s worth, it that only professionals should dye items that are expensive or have any amount of sentimental meaning; consumer dyes just don’t seem to be dependable enough to do an important job properly. But, if you have time on your hands and have been wondering if some unused clothing may acquire a second life with a little color change, dyeing is worth a chance-as long as you don’t get your hopes up. Who knows? You just may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Clothes That Worked For Vegas

Las Vegas has always intrigued me. For years, I wanted to see places I’d read and heard about, especially the themed resorts. I wanted to walk through every casino and listen for someone winning big. I pictured the traits of Las Vegas as similar to my favorite place, Manhattan, in the sense of being international, one-of-a-kind, touristy, never sleeping, and indulgent. But I wanted to avoid Elvis sightings, wedding chapels and wondering how much more showgirls made when performing topless.

Prior to my first trip last fall, I pondered over what to wear while there. Reading other traveler’s accounts that a person can wear “anything, anywhere” didn’t help. I even read one fairly long thread on a message board debating what kind of shoes to wear in Vegas; people who were out all day, walking the strip, had vastly different opinions than those who get into Vegas glamour, as you can well imagine. I was stumped. Going to Vegas, (where apparently one could wear summer or winter clothes in October) opened a world of possibilities. Unfortunately, with the first few days unusually cool and the last couple days hectic, I never did get to enjoy the Flamingo’s famed, landscaped pool area. So, I’ll just relay what I found appropriate for an average family doing normal, touristy things in the city when it’s around 50-60 degrees (By the way, I saw several women wearing winter boots at night, but even I, normally cold, did not think they were necessary.)

During the days I wore Capri’s with coordinating camisoles/tops under blouses. This worked because the blouses could come off easily and be tied around my waist when out in the warm sun, but the long sleeves were sometimes needed when in casino air conditioning. I felt a bit dressier than if I was wearing jeans or shorts, but not overly fussy. I always felt that length of pant can accommodate flats, sandals or tennis shoes equally well, and, since I wore all three at various times of day during my stay, I felt comfortable without feeling too frumpy. I didn’t feel that I wasn’t dressed well enough for the fancy digs of the Caesar’s Shops or walking through the mega-resorts, but wasn’t too overdressed for casual stops like the nature preserve or a fast food snack.

Nights deserved a total re-creation. Seeing a Cirque du Soleil performance was definitely a fancy occasion. For that I wore a slinky skirt and top set with heels and my teenager wore a short sleeved tunic dress with leggings and heels. (We needed outerwear, since the temperature dipped to 50, so I took a knobby, short, dressy jacket and she wore her Criss Angel hoodie purchased at the Luxor that day.) Again, we weren’t over the top elegant, but neither was the majority of the audience, either. Afterward, our choices comfortably took us shopping and were warm enough for the half hour wait at Treasure Island’s outside “Sirens” performance.

For Phantom of the Opera, my daughter wore a jumper with coordinating long sleeved top and leggings, and a long, sparkly scarf tied around a pony tail, while I wore silky black pants (with a slight flare) and a royal blue halter sprinkled with fine glitter. Heels and dressy bags set off our ensembles, and the same outerwear was much appreciated, since the Venetian’s theater was exceptionally cool. Afterwards, we were dressed appropriately for an upscale Chinese restaurant.

To attend a magic show, I wore a knee length, shirt-type dress with a matching wide belt and my daughter wore an embroidered, lace edged, denim mini skirt with a favorite top. These outfits also took us browsing downtown for dinner, souvenir shopping, and the outdoor Freemont St. experience.

(Lest I overlook the male view, my husband wore good-quality slacks in the evenings with a dress shirt, and more casual pants and pullovers during the days. Men have it so easy.)

Our clothes weren’t attention getting, but we felt warm, comfortable and more special than on run-of-the-mill-days. Our travel wardrobe added excitement but was adaptable to wherever we’d find ourselves. Keeping those goals in mind, we can all succeed when it comes to packing for our trips.

Yoga 101 And What to Wear

Even in today’s enlightened society, people are hesitant about yoga. Some view it as scary, where people fold their legs and chant strange sounds…hippie types who don’t eat meat and worship Buddha. As one otherwise fairly intelligent 35 year old woman asked, “Is that a cult?” How surprising that so much mystery still surrounds around the oldest practice in the world. Ironically, team sports such as football, hockey, and boxing, where players cause serious injuries, are more popular in America.0

Yoga will never replace those venues, but, thankfully, participation is steadily growing and more people are realizing its benefits. “So what exactly is yoga?” the novice may ask. It’s awareness of breath while holding specific physical position in order to activate, cleanse and remove stress from various internal organs. Yoga also relieves psychological stress by temporarily focusing on topics outside of the habitual patterns; and meditation at the end of all yoga classes can re-create the self by stepping away from mundane problems. It should be a restorative and uplifting experience, with better flexibility as the most obvious physical improvement. Yet, as with any physical or psychological outlet, yoga can be addictive in its ability to bring something special to life, one good reason it’s been around for thousands of years.

So, now that you’re ready to give it a try, the next question is, “What should I wear?” Yoga clothing has some specific needs, and it’s good to know of them before walking into a public class.
Since yoga is primarily physical, it requires materials that allow stretching and bending while staying in place. Also, since most poses in yoga are held for a duration of 4-5 breath cycles, it’s important to wear clothes that you don’t have to fuss with to keep them down-or up, as the case may be. (Holding a position means just that, not taking a hand off the floor to hold a shirt against your body so the guy on the floor behind you isn’t gazing up at your bra.) So, here are a few no-no’s: first, no jeans, no matter how “stretchable” they are-they will limit and bind your movement, and the zipper will probably pinch after awhile. Second, no wide legged cotton shorts-unless you want that same guy behind you to have a straight shot at your underwear as you hold you leg in the air for 12 seconds. Third, no socks; yoga is meant to be done in bare feet. On this point some instructors may give a little, but the idea is that you have the ultimate in balance and support while standing on the yoga mat; socks are too slippery. (Don’t worry about using the school’s mats; many offer spray cleaners if you wish to have a bacteria-free surface on which to stand and lay.)

Many stores offer yoga clothing, but first-timers may not wish to purchase such items just yet. There are other alternatives. Attire that is relatively form-fitting is the first option. This would include stretchy leggings, bicycle pants, or jazz pants, leotard/tights/warmers (if you’re already a dancer). If you aren’t up to seeing that much of your body, pajama-bottom type pants may be also acceptable by the instructor-as long as they are not too long. (What you don’t want is to be stepping on the hems, losing traction and balance.) Regarding tops, consider spandex-type material, preferably without long sleeves that move and become annoying. Again, leotards are a good choice, as are tighter tanks, or even one-piece bathing suits that resemble leotards. The one thing to keep in mind about yoga attire is that you don’t want to have to think about it! Even if it’s warm, it’s a good idea to bring a sweater or jacket with which to cover your body during meditation, a time when the body will cool down from the exertion of the past 90-120 minutes.

Teachers add their own training and individuality to yoga classes; some listen to Indian music and others have quiet natural recordings of the surf or oriental chimes. Classes can focus on healing, energy or different styles of instruction. As long as you’re dressed appropriately, you’re assured a comfortable and rewarding experience.

Modern Dance and Modern Jazz Class –And What to Wear

Someone looking through dance class offerings probably sees “Modern Dance” and thinks it’s the same as “Modern Jazz”. They aren’t. It’s good to know about both well before enrolling in either, and before shopping for dancewear fashions.

Modern Jazz is usually referred to as “Jazz”, a distinct style defined as sharp and sexy-think of the movie “All That Jazz.” Modern Dance, or “Modern”, is earthy and loose-picture Martha Graham’s flowing skirts and expressiveness. Therefore, classes are very different in form and execution. For an adult wanting a regular dance class, how is the choice determined? The tone of Jazz can be said to be lifted, in comparison to Modern s theme of being “down”, or closer to the floor. Both are equally challenging and offer students the chance to explore different aspects of their creativity through different music and exercises. In studios and dance schools, however, Jazz may be the only choice. However, local Modern Dance companies almost always offer Modern classes to the public, along with professional ballet company schools, colleges and universities. (Some colleges and universities may only offer class on a credited basis. Try to discuss your goals with the departmental director prior to registration.)

The first reaction of many adult students is that jazz is great fun. With high kicks, tight turns, and hip-swiveling struts, it’s a great aerobic workout to today’s contemporary music. Students have also claimed that it has helped them lose weight, get toned, and improve their flexibility. Jazz can make even a first time dance student feel as if she or he is truly dancing. If this appeals to you, then it’s necessary to hit a dance supply store before the first class. Jazz requires jazz shoes, no exceptions. There is no preferred style, but the most prevalent model is a flat heeled, tie-up black shoe that is made of very soft and flexible leather. (There are also jazz sandals that are literally flat soles with an intricate lacing up the arch and onto the ankle, but may not be as comfortable as the closed jazz shoe.) Jazz pants are also necessary. These are usually black as well, fitting tightly over the hips and thighs and flaring out over the calves. The material is stretchy and form fitting, and is meant to withstand jazz’s expression while flowing softly through kicks and turns. Jazz tops for women are often tight and cropped, but don’t feel the need to expose your midriff; a leotard will be just fine in providing unrestricted movement to the upper body. Men usually wear white t-shirts or specialized men’s dance attire.

Modern may be a bit more difficult for someone who has never taken dance class. It’s sometimes difficult to learn and remember Modern Dance choreography since its movements are often not symmetrical. On the other hand, more experienced dancers may love its rolls, lunges and reaches, especially after the exacting technique of ballet and jazz. This is not to say that Modern is sloppy or lazy; it’s simply that the focus is different. This class can include elements of ballet, jazz, lyrical, and even ethnic dance, in addition to classic Modern elements. Modern is done in bare feet and clothing that is also flexible, but the body definition is not as obvious as in other dance disciplines. (Although it’s good for beginners to wear clothing that allows the teacher to see what their body is doing for possible corrections.) Although the basic dance attire of jazz can be used, there is a bit more leeway, possibly tied t-shirts, or tight street tops that hug the body and keep skin exposure to a minimum.

Once you’ve invested in basic dancewear, you’ll get many years’ use out of the investment. You’ll also be able to step into class anywhere in the world and look like you belong there. This confidence will definitely add to your enjoyment. Plus, once you become familiar with brands and styles, you can order discounted dancewear more confidently from online suppliers. Finally, you will eventually fall in love with your dance fashions because they’ll signify a part of your life that brings invaluable joy and pleasure.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Can You Sue Your Realtor?

With the precipitous drop in home prices around most of the USA, the question of whether you ca sue your realtor is bound to become an active topic.

NowPublic.com has posted a story of someone doing just this. A home buyer is suing her agent, believing she paid too much.

A similar story is now at HouseKey.org. This story seems rather high profile, with one of the individuals involved having appeared on The Today Show. This situation appears to be discussed more thoroughly, including with feisty discussion, in an article at EricBramlett.com.

A relevant and somewhat helpful page can be found in Yahoo Answers. This article touches on a potential angle, that of a realtor's fiduciary responsiblity to you.

Also check out Trump University's (yes, this is, apparently, ANOTHER thing Donald has put his name on) article, "Can You Sue Your Agent If Your Paid Too Much." This article discusses a front page article in the New York Times, "Feeling Misled on Home Price, Buyers Sue Agent." This article discusses the above mentioned Carlsbad, California lawsuit, noting that is likely the first of many.

Also notable, trend spotting domaineer Adapt, Inc. has acquired several domain names related to this including RealtorLawsuit.com, RealtorLawsuits.com, RealtyLawsuit.com, RealtyLawsuits.com, and WeSueRealtors.com, in the belief that this type of action is likely to explode.

A company spokesman for Adapt states, "We're seeing increased interest in these domains, but nothing like what we think is coming. When the back of the Yellow Pages says SUE YOUR REALTOR, the day for these domains will have then arrived."

Hopefully you have been fortunate to avoid the financial disaster many appear about to experience due to imprudent real estate purchases. However, if not, and you believe you were misled, it appears you may have recourse.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Unlikely Pairings

Browsing through a fashion magazine the other day, I noticed two spreads on pairings of clothing that, to me, seemed a bit strange. You may not, however, and you may actually find them refreshing. I’ll describe them and you can decide for yourselves.

The first is based on the concept of taking a straight, short, dressy dress with spaghetti straps-in a slinky nylon, silk, polyester or chiffon type material-and wearing it over a short sleeved, cotton or rayon t-shirt. A belt is added, occasionally under the bust.

Personally, I don’t get it. First, even the pretty models appear to have grabbed the only clean things in their closets. Second, the different materials simply clash, both in appearance and relativity. It’s really hard to see what cotton has in common with silk, although both are natural fabrics. The one is considered casual, working-gal fabric while the other is fancy, night-time cloth. Third, I don’t like how this changes the cleanness and shape of the female line: narrow straps and a straight bodice are usually streamlined and figure hugging. Sticking a t-shirt underneath will balloon out the top part, probably create a horizontal ridge where it ends, and the short sleeves sticking out at the sides of the arms aren’t flattering. Fourth, the belts which match the dresses look fine, but when chunky, wide leather ones are used, I think they conflict with the elegant fragileness of the dresses. The copy states that such pairings give the dresses a “downtown quality” of casual polish, but I see only juxtaposition. Is the gal dressing for an office meeting or a wedding? There are times that when one tries to “serve two masters”, they fail at each. To me, this is one of those times where it’s best to have a clear focus and aim for a specific look, instead of trying to match what was never meant to be related in the first place.

The other pairings concern doubling up vests, and wearing two at a time. This look involves wearing another short sleeved t-shirt under a vest that’s hip length or longer, topped by another shorter vest, with all of it cinched in by a narrow belt and worn with high heels... Actually, the look itself isn’t unattractive (if the colors are thought out and coordinated with simple, straight pants) but it seems to be another case of women being expected to wear something uncomfortable and bulky. I also think that wearing the belt high (as suggested in the ad for a shrunken, cut-away vest) would make things even worse, but, again that’s just an opinion based on my comfort level. But I do admit some good things about this style: a smaller-chested woman could get away with just wearing a camisole, a thick-waisted gal can appear to have more of an hourglass shape, wider derrieres or hips can be camouflaged, and it does pack more punch than a simple top and pants. But I, for one, couldn’t wait to get home and whip off that belt and both vests, and kick off those heels.

As expected, the items in the glossy publication are far beyond what the average woman will spend for casual clothes. In my circle of reality, I don’t know any woman who spends over $100 for a cotton T-shirt, $300 for a belt, or $800 for a pair of skinny pants. However, to give credit where credit is due, they also have included a Gap shirt for $13, and couple of vests for under $100.

So that I don’t appear totally negative I’ll add a few examples of unlikely pairings that seem to be intriguing: “Genie” pants with high heeled, open toed, ankle strapped heels do seem to work. The same kind of shoes, but with flower petals adorning the heels, seem fun and whimsical without too much silliness, and bright yellow shoes and purses with black and white ensembles are very striking.

Have fun with mixing and matching, but remember that it’s hard to determine how pieces complement the other until you actually try them all on together. You want to be sure that the look is just as special once it’s on your body. Good luck!

Are You Drawn to Clothing From Another Culture and Time?

A lovely 4 year old once told me that her favorite food was in any Japanese restaurant. She was enamored of miso soup, crab salad, seaweed, and eel. Underneath that platinum haired, blue-eyed exterior of my little friend lived a black haired beauty with kimono and obi. When a preschool teacher brought in such attire, I could understand why little Maya wore her Japanese clothes for the entire day.

It’s believed that the younger a person is, the more they connect to a prior life elsewhere. How many instances have we read where very young children have a musical or artistic gift, or seem to know about places and things to which they’ve never been exposed? Many religions do not promote the belief of reincarnation or rebirth, but I wonder why else would a person be drawn to a relatively foreign life.

Do you have such attractions? I’m drawn to styles from American in the 1940’s and 1950’s. As a young girl, I would watch “I Love Lucy” over and over (and still do, when I can) and found Ms. Ball’s clothes fascinating. Women seemed emphasize more femininity then, and it’s not just the case of us now wearing pants for most of our waking hours.

I truly loved the 1940-1950 accessories, and still have a good many of my mother’s. But it was my grandmother who had the true creations of rhinestone chokers, multi-colored gemstones set into large pins, and elaborate bracelets. You can still run across them at flea markets, but I rarely have places to wear such finery. One of the shows that always stuck in my memory was when Lucy wanted to buy a new hat, and she described it as “turquoise, with lace and netting and little pearls” to a swooning Ethel. Would we see any woman wearing such a creation today? I very rarely see women wear hats in the winter, for fear of getting static electricity in their hair. But back then, hats topped off an outfit and set off a woman’s face. It really is a shame that hats are passé, except for events such as the Ascot races or society weddings…I also really liked flower rings or barrettes worn around Lucy’s hair bun. (As a ballet student years later, I made my own collection of similar hair ornaments.) And, you can’t forget the inevitable gloves that matched every outfit, even in summer…

Women seemed to always have polished red nails, nylons, and pumps. With the longer full skirts or straight peplum dresses, the look was classy, yet showed off curves. Even housedresses had embroidery, and I noticed that both Lucy and Ethel weren’t afraid to wear the same dress in various shows-just like real housewives. In my January jeans articles here on Fashion Blog, I mentioned a line from this show, where Ethel said, “I’ve never worn my blue jeans downtown and I’m not about to now.” That seems to sum up the fashion opinion of that decade-dress for where you’re going, and dress just a bit better than you need to be.

Since men’s styles don’t change as dramatically as women’s’, they may not be as susceptible. Even if they are, a gentlemen with leanings towards top hats and tails would be hard pressed to live out his fantasy, at least with any regularity. The funny thing is, 60’s and 70’s looks often return as retro, and even a few 20’s looks, but, no 40’s or 50’s. Was it just too fussy and involved for today’s woman? About 20 years ago, I found a great pink coat that was very reminiscent of that time, wore it for several seasons, and always felt right in it. That was probably the first and last time I’ll ever be able to enjoy a fashion from that period in history.

It’s fun to think we’ve had more exotic lives before this one. Most writings say that if such a thing exists, it’s an opportunity for continued growth and evolution. It’s good to imagine that we have a few more chances. So, the next time you’re drawn to an unexplainable place or time in clothing, don’t worry about the whys. Enjoy it whatever the reason!

At Home Footwear

This is a question I’ve thought about off and on for some time now. It seems that half of the people I know insist that family members (as well as child guests) remove their shoes upon entering their house to keep rugs and flooring as clean as possible. The other 50% don’t care, and allow kids to wear even outside shoes into their bedrooms.

The compromise would be some sort of very comfortable, casual flat shoe that never steps foot outside; fortunately, they are fairly easy to find-at least for the females of the family.

Not too long ago, fashion introduced an expanded line of such footwear based on the premise of oriental silk slippers. I actually have bought several pairs of those in New York’s Chinatown, and am happy to report that they brought me much pleasure. A woman can find lovely, elaborate beading or stitching on the top, and the ease of slipping into them assures they will be a perfect choice for at-home use. They usually last a long time, too, but eventually they will become stained or ripped. The good news is that they are inexpensively replaced. The department store versions took this look and re-created it on heavier fabrics, then added bugle beads and sequins. Again, the look is fun and still indulgent. You could wear these when folks stop by without feeling like they’re seeing you in your nightwear.

Another choice would be the many styles of “flip flops” now available. In this category, a lady can probably find dozens of styles from which to choose, including silky, thick versions, and models adorned with flowers, bows, jewels and bows. They’ve come a long way from the plain rubber style that used to be found only at the seashore and local swimming pool, and can be kept clean with a wet cloth.

Other women opt for the ballerina slipper type of shoe for home use. This is very flattering, as it usually appears to decrease the length of the foot. As long as it is wide enough, it’s also usually comfortable, if a woman doesn’t mind having her toes and heels closed in while relaxing. They’re excellent for entertaining, though, since they go with many outfits.

Younger members of the family may prefer to wear “slipper socks” that have treads at the bottom for added durability. The advantage of these is that they are easily laundered, and as such, can be kept fresh. But they have their limits, and can wear out fairly quickly.

Moccasins seem to the choice of many males, and have the advantage of long term functionality. In fact, quality ones may last a decade or more. Usually, they’re more of a cold-weather item, since they’re practically all lined with fleece, but just as with Uggs, they’re also appreciated for the lining’s ability to absorb foot sweat. (A really creative person may be glad to know that there are now kits to make their own moccasins!)

We also can’t forget the whimsy of attention-getting, plush animal slippers. No longer just for kids, adult sizes can be found with almost every famous cartoon character or furry friend. A person with a great sense of humor and fun-loving spirit will even wear them when expecting guests, and they can be good conversation pieces. But they aren’t without their faults, however. Rarely can they be washed and stay the same, and the bottoms wear away in due time. The styles with really large characters also take some getting use to when it comes to maneuvering. But you can’t deny their warmth and charm.

Probably every woman owns at least one pair of plush, slide-in slippers or slipper-booties. These are true pajama and robe accessories, and most gals don’t often wear them until guests leave. They are probably the most comfortable, especially the ones with arch supports or thick padding that allow the wearer to sink down into cushioning with every step…Being absorbing and washable, even inexpensive models offer long wear from any number of styles and colors.

I think that we all need definitive footwear for home. It validates that we have specific down time. We should be able to enjoy it in our way, as much as possible.
The Horse World-and What to Wear


Perhaps this may inspire some of you to try riding lessons…and to dress for the occasion, if you do! It’s hard to imagine controlling an animal several hundred pounds heavier than you-and may be having a rough day of their own. But it can be done. City parks and riding academies restrict winter outdoor riding, but there are indoor areas that give riders the space to practice. (My fondest memory is from such a place; when the song “Sweet Home Alabama” came on my horse and I finally got into synch. I swear it was because he wanted to move in time to the music.)

Some people are surprised that riding isn’t easy. Many prefer Western style riding, with a hard saddle that has a “horn” on the front. (This is seen in children’s amusement parks or venues open to the public, accommodating the most inexperienced riders.) English riding has a different saddle, rein hold, and process; it aims for artistry and union of rider and horse. Signals for changes of gait and direction should be imperceptible. Most aficionados strive for years to meet these challenges.

Decent horse owner don’t allow riders on unfriendly horses, but most noble beasts are exceptionally well mannered. Many will calmly stand while humans chat and are pleased to get so much attention. Horses act well if they are treated well, even if past owners were not so nice. This should put many of your fears at rest, along with proper instruction at your experience level.

So what do you wear? As a newbie, you won’t be expected to have traditional riding apparel your first time, but will be required to have specific clothing for safety and ease of movement. There is only one item that must be purchased, at least eventually, and that’s a riding helmet. (The instructor may provide a loaner temporarily.) These can be found at riding shops, farm/tractor type stores, and online. If you can trust a previous owner that a helmet has never suffered a blow, you may even purchase one second-hand. (Helmets must meet safety specifications and fit properly for the best protection from a fall.)

Straight-legged jeans are fine-but refrain from wide, flared, or bell bottoms. You don’t want the hems to impede what your feet must do in the stirrups. Don’t wear shorts or Capri’s, either, as you’ll probably suffer bruising and pain from the saddle after an hour’s lesson or ride. Replace tennis shoes or sandals with closed, hard soled shoes, preferably with a short, flat heel, perhaps short boots you already own. Avoid a top with long sleeves that are too long or won’t stay pushed up, because you won’t have a free hand to adjust them. Opt for a jacket that hits you above the derriere, so that it doesn’t get caught between you and the saddle, and refrain from scarves that could whip around and scare the horse. The same goes for a hat or sunglasses; if it won’t stay put, don’t wear it. (It’s not easy to switch reins to fuss with headgear that keeps moving.) Gloves are fine if thin enough to feel the horse’s mouth and his or her response to pressure on the bit, but thick gloves or mittens shouldn’t be considered.

If, after a few English lessons, you decide to make riding part of your life, you’ll feel more comfortable around other English riders if you dress like them. (Some academies may insist on it.) Riding britches are often a neutral color, and are made to be worn almost skin tight. This is so there is little material that can get in the way of signaling the horse or fitting into boots. But, to protect the knees, there is a bit of padding on the inside of the knee area of the britches. Knee-high riding boots have the correct weight and design for proper foot placement in the stirrup, and protect the shins as well. Riding jackets, also afford protection and warmth, while finishing off the ensemble. You’ll move easily, feel confident, and get many season’s wear from your choices.

Look in the mirror and you’ll see a horse woman looking back, one that could fit into any royal hunting party!