The Secrets of Fancy Dress

05 Nov 2017

The invitation said “Halloween Chic” or “Black Tie and Masks”.

Normally, not only do I despise Halloween as a Festival (aggressive sales, intimidating teenagers at old peoples’ doors, demands for unearned treats, tasteless costumes, gory and threatening masks terrifying little ones….), I also despise the pressure implied by the order of “Fancy Dress”.   I’m quite “bah-humbug” about it. My heart sinks and I mumble crossly to myself about the pressure of having to come up with some amazing, original outfit in the allotted time. 

I like to feel glamorous when I go out in the evening.   I do admire the lack of vanity some people show when they go dressed deliberately as something unattractive, gruesome or scary.

I remember feeling very impressed by the beautiful Heidi Klum when she was pictured going in fancy dress to some party as an old and infirm woman, complete with sagging neck skin, face and knees.  She has taken the opportunity at Halloween generally to dress up as some pretty unattractive characters!  Good on her! 

I guess it’s easier if you are known as a natural Beauty.  But nevertheless, it is rather interesting to try and understand what makes a beautiful woman want to do that.  I think it implies a lot of confidence in the way you look normally to feel comfortable, but perhaps, even more than that, a general self-confidence in the person she is, which doesn’t rely on outward validation.

There is also an element of rebellion which is probably not a surprise coming from a model who has been “manhandled” for years by the make-up artist, fashion-stylist and hair-stylist, in a superficial world of appearances and pressures to conform to “Ideal” images of Beauty. 

Fancy Dress challenges appearances generally.  It is a form of disguise and could even a display of an alter-ego.  Could it be that ones choice of fancy dress is more revealing than we realise?  If there’s no set theme then one’s choice could be indicating a side to us which we would normally be too shy to show.

As a Stylist I look at someone’s clothes choice as being reflective of their personality.  It is so important to understand my clients’ Style Personality before I make suggestions on how they should dress or what to buy. 

What we wear and why is a great interest of mine.   The ramifications of this are probably more complex than we think, going back even as far as childhood, where we picked up our parents’ or carers’ attitudes towards clothes.

Many of us don’t even realise the mental and/or emotional blocks we may have with regard to what we wear.

Wearing a Fancy Dress costume may be a way of releasing some of those hang-ups!

For one night, we can be whoever we want to be.   This could be liberating.  It is the same liberation one may feel wearing a mask.

We can hide behind a mask, as well as a costume.  This gives us licence to be braver with what we say and even what we do. 

I have to admit that I had such fun dressing up for the Halloween party!  A black beaded, netting dress with a cobweb-appearance and a delicate black lace mask fitted the tone but still maintained some elegance.  In other words, it was my sort of Fancy Dress which I felt comfortable in.

What was most significant was that I felt a sense of empowerment and freedom behind the eye-mask.  I was partly in disguise while revealing a little bit of myself.   It also felt a bit like a licence to be a bit naughty too!  But I won’t go into that! 

 

A Happy New Year Of Authenticity!

04 Jan 2017

It is that time of year, the start of a new one, when you are maybe feeling a little less than perfect in your body.  Just remember, no body is perfect.  Thank God.

You wouldn’t guess it from the images thrown at us on social media and advertising.  But it is true.

But how you feel in your body is important.  Over Christmas it is a time to relax and indulge in things you wouldn’t normally perhaps.  As you may have put pressure on yourself during the year to eat properly and exercise regularly, it could feel like you’ve let yourself down.

Hopefully you don’t feel that way and are able to feel content that you’ve indulged to treat yourself  and have a good time, and accept that you it may take you a while to get back onto the “straight and narrow”, being gentle with yourself.

Personally, I feel more “rounded” and I translate that into feeling more feminine!  Even though my clothes may not be quite as “at ease” as usual,  I feel a sense of  “fruitfulness” (more full of chocolate and wine than fruit)!   Ok, yes, it may not feel much of a “happy place” or comfortable for many, but while your body is in this state of “expansion”, try changing your mindset towards it; don’t beat yourself up about it.  As Amanda de Cadenet said when she changed her mindset about her body, “these days I’d say if you want to eat the biscuit, eat the fucking biscuit”.  Quite.  Don’t punish yourself with self-flagellating, punishing gym schedules.  Don’t panic.  You will get there in time with picking up a more controlled regime of eating or healthy eating, and regular exercise. 

Embrace where you are, until you get to where you’d rather be (if it’s not conforming to some unachievable Ideal Body image).

In the meantime, enjoy your womanliness.  Dress it up lovingly.  And dress it up in a way which feels it is really you and comfortable for who you are.

I believe in styling a woman as she is in her body-shape (rather than as she hopes to be) and how and who she is as a person.  It is about Authenticity.  Optical illusions used in styling can come into play to make her feel better of course!

Whatever makes you feel comfortable and happy is good for you.  You will be more at ease in something which suits your body and personality.  Even a relaxed-fit can look elegant and attractive with the right accessories or attitude.

This concept of Authenticity is a growing trend which you may have been aware of much more recently in the media.

There are various movements promoting the idea of body- confidence worldwide.  One of these is the Body Image Movement led by Tanya Brumfitt who is taking a documentary about women accepting their bodies as are they are around the world. 

I have my ticket for the release of the film “Embrace” in the UK this month in London.   It will be inspiring and positive.  If you wanted to see the movie the link for tickets is Uk.demand.film/embrace.

Authenticity is supported more often in the fashion industry with “real” women as models, less photo-shopping and airbrushing; women who have dress sizes above size 6 or 8 (UK) and women who are over 30 years-old, and over 70! 

2017 is a reason to celebrate and nurture this new, growing movement which empowers women to be themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glamour

05 Nov 2016

What is Glamour?  I guess it means different things to different people. 

“Women in Clothes” by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton is a book of collated ideas, feelings and expressions by women on the complex subject of clothes and their psychological relevance.  One of the contributors comes up with a definition of glamour from the 1700s meaning “magic” or “spell”. 

Perhaps Glamour is to do with bewitching!  It has a suggestion of something just out of reach, elevated, special, hovering a bit above the mortal plane.  It is something Goddess-like, glossy and seductive.   I associate the word with images:  red lipstick, high heels, glossy blow-dried hair, something sparkly, and large sunglasses.  The word has sexual overtones of course (glamour modelling), but also, sophistication and elegance.

Another contributor from the book says she is “drawn to the kind of glamour that gives women strength with an elegance that is understated”.  This is the association of the word with sophistication.  People she includes in this definition include Coco Chanel, Jackie Onassis, and Grace Kelly.   In her opinion, Tilda Swinton is the closest person she can think of who can embody this in the way she holds herself in her clothes.   Personally, I don’t feel she totally nails it only because she doesn’t exude femininity in the same way.

I think one could add Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor to the roster.   Today, many people would say Kim Kardashian is “glamorous” (sexy, body-con, bling), but I think her glamour is a type without subtlety and therefore possibly without sophistication or elegance.  Cate Blanchett seems to be able to embody glamour in the more traditional way – she always does Red Carpet elegance in such a stylish and understated way.   I also think Amal Clooney totally pulls “glamorous” off.

Not meaning to sound flashy or pretentious, I’ve recently returned from Beverley Hills which exudes “glamour”.  It may seem a bit on showy side as it is possibly one of the most self-aware, self-absorbed populations in the USA!  There is a big emphasis and focus on health, fitness and appearance.  If you’re staying in one of the more “glamorous” hotels which is a magnet for the “beautiful people”, the whole aura is one of display.  It can be rather wearing to have to think about fitting in sartorially.  Even against your natural good sense, sense of self and self-confidence, you may find yourself “catching” the need to look glamorous or up-the-ante. 

I saw effortless glamour and self-consciously effort-full during my short stay there.  There is a fine line between looking glamorous and too “done”, and then too self-aware.  I think actually the most glam women there were the older women (maybe in their 70’s) who were old-school elegance, and totally at ease with it, in well-tailored clothes, a sparkle of jewellery or a swathe of brightly-coloured silk. 

A recent report in Vogue stated that where celebrities’ go-to look for increasing glamour used to be the daring cleavage, that appears to have had its day.  Stars who have put their cleavage first on the Red Carpet, have often been on the receiving end of on-line harassment via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook the next day. 

Stars like Emma Watson, Kiera Knightly, and Natalie Portman, have managed to look glamorous without resorting to the full-frontal!   They will always look effortlessly glamorous on the Red Carpet.  Stars are choosing to bare shoulders over the bust.

I will be exploring ways of doing “glamorous” in my next Newsletter for Winter, at the end of the month, in time for the Christmas party season!

 

 

 

Beauty - What is it?

01 Oct 2016

Everyone’s definition of Beauty is different.  Of course.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.

There is a “formulaic” definition of beauty and it is one which is promoted in the media and advertising.  We can’t all subscribe to this definition and just because many of us don’t, doesn’t mean we can’t be thought of as “beautiful”. 

In fact, many people think that whatever steers away from the norm is more beautiful, for its diversity or uniqueness.  Difference can be eye-catching, inspiring, challenging and have its own beauty because of this. 

There is an increasing undercurrent of restlessness with the advertising/media world’s definition of beauty.  This definition is seen as exclusive, not inclusive.  It overlooks an enormous part of the human race, and what it really means to be human. 

Physical beauty is more than skin-deep because actually it is a collage of “animations”:  the way someone holds themselves, moods and expressions, emotions passing over a face, the arch of an eyebrow,  the curl of a lip, the way the hair falls, a curve on the body, a smile, the glint of an eye. 

Beauty is also in the knowing.  Familiarity doesn’t just sometimes breed contempt, it can also breed appreciation, love, admiration and a recognition of beauty.  Sometimes, the more we know someone, the more we see their inner beauty on the surface.  This really is a case of beauty in the eye of the beholder.  It is what we see on a very personal, subjective level.

We can see how fluid a definition it can be, and therefore, how fascinating and beautifully unpredictable. 

This is why some fashion designers have been challenging our concepts of beauty with their models.  Make-up artists and hairstylists for the catwalk shows have been turning Beauty on its head.  Guido, hairstylist for Givenchy and Marc Jacobs says, “who’s to say what is right and wrong now?  Who is telling us what is beautiful?  I think we have to challenge our ideas about beauty.  Otherwise we’re just limited by them”.   Marc Jacob’s new campaign uses Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson as unlikely muses and his Autumn/winter show could be said to have been a disturbing view of beauty. 

Erdem Moralioglu says he has always been “drawn to an imperfect beauty” and celebrates a more natural beauty in his designs for women.

There are an increasing number of movements devoted to championing unexpected “looks” as beautiful, or equally beautiful as those images found in the media.

All Walks Catwalk is a movement which campaigns for diverse body and beauty ideals in Fashion and the media.  The Council of Fashion Designers of America issued diversity guidelines for September’s Fashion Week this year.  The designer Christian Siriano used plus-sized models and those from different ethnic backgrounds in his shows, Michael Kors used models aged 17-43.  Tom Ford and Vetements are embracing the new “buy it now” fashion shows where catwalks must better reflect the consumer who might want to buy instantly.

The photographer Peter Lindbergh takes black and white photos of  his models to help him see “under the skin” of them.  It is about them as individuals.  Cindy Crawford says of his work, “it is like being photographed right when you wake up in the morning”.  

Growing old needn’t be the end of beauty.  It is just another form of it.  As the journalist, Andrew O’Hagan writes “the greatest beauty is distinguished by knowledge, skill, spirit and longevity”.  He promotes the idea that there is a deeper fascination with beauty as it matures and a more fluid interpretation:  “If you are interested in a woman, you are taken with her beauty’s changefulness, its complications, its mysteries , and you come to see how the vagaries of time supply oxygen to the elegance of what she has”.

We must look at our own prejudices and definitions and challenge them.  

As a personal stylist, who takes a therapeutic, positive, nurturing and intuitive approach to styling, I love to find the beauty in people who can’t see it in themselves.  

From Uniform to Free-Style

18 Aug 2016

As we near the end of the holidays, thoughts will be turning to a new start, and for some that will mean a new school-year, University, College or a new job. 

For those moving into Sixth Form at school or leaving, and moving away from uniform, the prospect of no school uniform might be an unnerving one.  Whereas before the question of what to wear didn’t exist, it now has, quite possibly an overwhelming significance.  It is fraught with implications which are deeper than meets the eye.

For a generation of girls brought up under the burden of Connectivity 24/7 through Social Media and daily exposure to images which present a false “ideal body image” through photo-shopping and air-brushing, or psychological pressures from fashion and media industries to dress a certain way to be “on trend” and “perfect”, the pressure must sometimes be enormous.  The “Selfie” generation makes how one looks even more relevant than before.

Whichever way you look at it, first impressions count.  That is human nature and never is it more relevant than when you are attending an interview or starting off in the workplace.  How can girls dress to feel comfortable, be themselves and make a good first impression, if that is called for? 

When I present at schools to groups of girls about to make that journey into “uniform-free” territory, I address these issues in as light-hearted but effective a way as possible.  I emphasise the importance of staying as true to their authentic-selves as possible. Ultimately it is about embracing who they are and their own body-shape to make the most effective self-presentation, particularly in interview situations but also going forward into the outside world.

At that age, you have to be brave to dare to be different, or even, be yourself; not be swayed by peer-group pressure or celebrity/media culture.  It is all a learning-curve of course.  It takes some people years to find that confidence, and even their own style.

Finding your own style is actually a journey through many mistakes along the way.  This is ok.  The best you can do at this stage is try and feel more confident about being yourself and taking extra  consideration when it comes to interview situations.

There is a movement occurring right now towards Authenticity in self-presentation and body-shape.  In my presentations I emphasise the deception created in the images they are being bombarded by, daily.  They are sure to damage a girl’s, and boy’s, self-esteem and body-confidence and make them anxious.  The pressure is increasingly on boys as well as girls. 

There is now a growing collection of movements supporting this inspiring, heart-lifting more natural, authentic approach.  This is truly wonderful.  I have just become a supporter of @Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement and her film “Embrace” (relaeased soon in the UK), which encourages women to accept their own body-shape and so-called “imperfections” #ihaveembraced.

There is the Dove campaign, #mybeautymysay , the All Walks Catwalk who are ambassadors for the Be Real campaign #BeReal and their fabulous Body Confidence Awards,  the Beach Body Ready  #eachbodysready campaign in reaction to the infamous Beach Body Ready protein advert, Sport England (@ThisGirlCanUK) with their campaign #thisgirlcan, #BraveGirlsWant and the Government and their #truthInAds campaign.

Celebrities have come on board to highlight eating disorders (Demi Lovato, Ferne Cotton, Jennifer Lawrence), negative body image (Laverne Cox, Taylor Swift) and anti-perfection issues (Lorde, Miley Cyrus).

It will be a drip-feed of positive messages and encouragement for girls, and boys, to slowly make the change that is so desperately needed now.  I am motivated enough by what is happening to young people now to make a small contribution where I am given the opportunities to.

I am available to make presentations to girls in years 11-13 to give guidance on dressing for interviews, dressing in the sixth form, self-presentation and body-confidence:  email sarah@sarahgillmorestylist.com

#ihaveembraced #eachbodysready #thisgirlcan #Bravegirlswant #Truthinads #BeReal #mybeautymysay