Beach Bodies

16 Jul 2016

It is that first walk of the holiday season, down to the sea, in your swimwear which can feel so exposed and “naked”.

Even if it is a well tried and tested costume and you believe it suits you, it can still make you feel vulnerable or unsure.

Having just come back from a beach holiday in Portugal with my sister, I was interested to observe how our seaside conversation tends to be a lot about bodies! I was very aware, in a non-judgemental way, of the variety of bodies and attitudes towards semi-nakedness.

We all have insecurities about our bodies, particularly if they are not the ones we used to have.  The natural ageing process changes the body of course, and childbirth leaves it’s mark, literally:  stretch-marks, scarring, looser skin. 

However, counterbalancing that, I was interested and charmed to see what might be called “Pregnancy Pride”!  There was a woman standing out on the beach in the full-flush of pregnancy.  She had adopted what might be termed a “power pose”, standing with hands on her hips, tummy thrusting forward, surveying the beach and totally comfortable with whoever may be surveying her.

This is a special time, and the only time, when women may feel their weight is totally validated.  This is not weight from over-indulging, this is weight from making a baby.  This is something which is regarded as a beautiful and “acceptable” expansion.  It is feminising and beautiful.  Women may even feel more relaxed about being judged by a partner – this is something you are creating together and gives you full license to be “rounded”!  Not all women feel so at ease with pregnancy weight and all the discomforts which accompany it of course, but at least there is an excuse for ones shape, if that’s what one needs.

It is a bizarre concept, publicly parading in ones underwear.  Every bend-over is conscious: over the sun-bed to apply sun-cream on our loved-ones, collecting our flip-flops from underneath, arranging our towel on the sand!  We are probably never more conscious of our backside and its size than with that first walk down to the beach with an “audience” behind us.  You feel like your backside is expanding as you tiptoe as daintily as you can down to the sea.

How do you make yourself more comfortable and secure on the beach?  There are ways of minimising these mental insecurities and “problem areas”.  For those who subscribe to my monthly newsletter I will be giving some tips and ideas in the July issue.  (contact Sarah@sarahgillmorestylist.com to subscribe, simply put “Subscribe” in the Subject line).

Don’t think that an all-in-one black swimsuit is the answer either!  I only noticed one lady on the beach wearing one.  It was interesting to see how it looked there – it seemed inappropriate somehow.  There is obviously a way to do them, which I will discuss in my newsletter.  But this seemed out of harmony with the environment and holiday-mood.  It was a demure style and seemed to project a feeling of insecurity and desire to disappear.  The irony was that it made her stand out, against a bright backdrop of blue sea and pale sand. 

For most of us, it is not just a simple matter of throwing on the swimming costume or bikini and skipping down to the sea. A number of confidence-boosters have to be put in place (which my Newsletter will explore), and then we can relax more and have the holiday-fun we deserve!  

Summer Dressing And How That Feels

19 Jun 2016

Do you have a “Summer Personality” which suits summer dressing best?  How does dressing for summer feel for you?  

Even though summer is slow to come this year, we can’t help our minds turning in that direction: the anticipation of summer holidays, if we are lucky enough to go away and find the sun, and not least, the chance to get into our summer wardrobes.

It may not be like that for all of us of course.  Some people feel more comfortable in their Autumn/Winter wardrobes.  Claudia Winkleman in her column in the Sunday Times said how she would rather be in “bulky rollneck sweaters and charcoal-grey boiled-wool coats and black spiky boots” from her Winter wardrobe! 

Could it be related to personality type?  She says of Summer dressing; “my body, brain and temperament simply aren’t made for it”.

I think I must be a Summer-personality type:  I long for the sun, summer, and the feelings that go with dressing from my summer wardrobe.   My skintone also happens to have summer-colouring characteristics. 

It may not always follow, but it is suggested that your seasonal colouring characteristics relate to your personality type, which can be divided the four seasons. 

Katie Day, in her book “The High-Heeled Leader”, says she has observed character traits which relate to whether you are a Winter, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

Of Summers she says “they tend to be more reserved than other people, but they really love people”, they are more “phlegmatic” in temperament, speak quietly, listen intensely, slower than others to embrace change…..”  In contrast, Winters can be “melancholic”, born leaders, self-motivated, perfectionist, need reassurance from others…..”

Do you recognize these characteristics in yourself?  If not, you may be a Spring or Autumn!

I can acknowledge most of the Summer personality traits in myself, but I also know that summer is when I feel most comfortable and self-assured in my clothes.  Although I love a pair of figure-flattering jeans (with heeled boots) in the autumn or winter, I would rather wear them in white with a silky top and heeled sandals in the summer. 

Holiday dressing is when I feel most attractive.  Having a tan helps of course, but being true to my Summer palette, with pale pinks, taupes, stone, off-white, dove grey, baby-blue, and pale aqua is what lifts me. 

It is not just the colours and cuts of summer clothes which make some us feel good, but also the feel of certain fabrics associated with this season.  I adore the feel of silk but also fabrics which are so gossamer-light that you barely know you are wearing them! 

Maybe it isn’t just because of the way they feel but also the association with hot weather and being on holiday:  feeling a warm breeze on the skin, being by the ocean, walking down medieval, narrow streets in some Mediterranean town at twilight when the evening shadows bring a welcome, gentle coolness and the smell of ancient stone.  These are the images and sensations which are linked to the mood of summer and summer dressing for me. 

In a section of her book on the psychology of fashion, Professor Karen Pine, considers the possibility of creating a wardrobe of Happy Clothes and what that might include.  “Natural fibres like linen, cotton, silk…nurture us more than man-made fabrics because they exploit our affinity with nature”.  These happen to be fabrics associated with summer (although she also includes wool).  “Flowered prints, lacy tops and floaty fabric are associated with spring” (also summer) “making us feel ultra-feminine and glowing with health”. 

In “Women In Clothes” (Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton and 639 others), three women surveyed in the section “I feel most attractive when….”, write, “summer, summer, summer.  When it’s humid-hot out, and my hair is curly and I have a tan and am wearing hardly any makeup or clothes”.  Another one says, “Always in the summer.  In a dress and sandals that are somehow effortless, my hair up in a bun, and only lip gloss”.  The third interviewee writes, “At the beginning of summer, when I have just got a bit of colour on my skin and I can wear dresses and bright lipsticks”.    

Heidi Julavits gives the concept of a summer-feeling in clothes a rather bizarre twist.  In a chapter entitled “Summer Diary”, she considers how wonderful it would be if clothing could be designed that makes you actually feel the sensation of summer pastimes, like “lying on a beach or swimming in salt water”.  She questions why clothing designers don’t take more advantage of the fact that it touches your body and create these "sensational" clothes. 

These concepts are just another way which reflects how much more than just what we put on our bodies clothes actually are.  That is also why, to me, it is necessary to explore the psychology of fashion and clothes to know and understand why some people wear what they do, what they would feel better in and how their mood can be lifted with the right choices.

 

 

Dressing For The Occasion

23 May 2016

Along with the excitement of a Summer Season event, there is also a feeling of pressure to get it right.  Even if you are a free-spirit and don’t want to be restricted by the rules of style etiquette, in some situations, doing this is showing respect for the event. 

Whether you are going to attend horse racing, open-air opera or a wedding, each occasion needs some thought and preparation.

When you know you are dressing appropriately for the occasion the advantage is that you will feel more at ease, and leave room to really enjoy it!

For many of course, the fashion scene at these occasions can be almost as big an attraction as the horses (if not bigger!).  The people-watching opportunities are abundant.  It is a common human desire to see and be seen which is all part of the fun.

It can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to the etiquette of dressing for the Royal Enclosures at events such as Ascot or Epsom’s Derby.

Before you rush out and buy the most flamboyant hat or fascinator you can find, take a little caution.  Watch your hemlines too – if they are not the right length or you have a little too much “on show”, you won’t get passed the ticket barrier.

Ladies’ dresses and skirts should fall just above the knee or longer, and “just above” does not mean by a few inches!  Straps on dresses or tops need to have a width of at least one inch.  There can be no bare shoulders, halter necks of spaghetti straps and definitely no bare midriffs or sheer material.

Gratifyingly, women are also allowed to wear trousers suits.  There are some beautifully tailored trouser suits about too.  Whether you are going for the palazzo pant style or a slim-line version, you can achieve a very sophisticated look which is feminine and elegant.

The finishing-touch is a fabulous hat.  This is essential in the Royal Enclosure and the Queen’s Stand.  Even the width of the brim is specified to be no smaller than four inches in diameter and absolutely no fascinators are allowed!

Gentlemen are expected to be in Morning Dress, which is such a debonair look!  The danger is getting a bit confused with the fact that he is in traditional wedding dress and ladies veer into an outfit which would be suitable for a lunchtime wedding with dancing later.  If your outfit can turn into a look which is “dance-floor” ready then you have probably read the wrong brief!

Goodwood is more relaxed and probably more serious about the horses!  The look here could be more “low-key garden party”.  Hats are encouraged , especially in the Richmond Enclosure, but not so essential.

Pretty much anything goes at weddings nowadays, but the main point is not to upstage the bride! 

Summer opera such as Glyndenbourne, The Grange, or Garsington have varying degrees of formality.  Garsington is probably one of the more laid-back opera events.  Glydenbourne is quite often an area of debate on dress. 

Traditionally, evening dress was de rigour for Glydenbourne and is still regarded as the best way to “honour the performers”.  The code states that “formal dress is customary”, but there are many variations on that theme.  You could consider wearing a floaty, chiffon or silk maxi skirt which would give the impression of long evening-wear, and relaxed elegance.  As at Ascot, an elegant trouser suit would also work.  Just add eye-catching earrings and a jewelled clutch.  A pashmina (although rather "done to death") or better still, an embroidered evening coat, would keep off the evening chill especially if you want to return to your picnic spot at the end of the evening for your flask of coffee and petit fours, or sundowners.  

The point is that if you’ve spent a small fortune on the tickets (which you probably will have done), then make a special occasion of it and dress accordingly.   Contrary to what may seem an elitist approach, black-tie dress is actually a social-leveller when most people are in it.  Any excuse to dress up is a good one!

 

Although one can say “to be beautiful is to suffer”, when it comes to shoes, in all areas, at all events, elegant but comfortable are the keywords.  With eight hours on your feet at events like Ascot, and probably negotiating muddy puddles, towering stilettos are best avoided. 

 

If you are having the wobbles trying to decide what on earth to wear at any of the above, then give me that worry!  I love occasion-shopping for clients!  Contact me on sarah@sarahgillmorestylist.com or phone on 07801 749 260.

 

Spring-Cleaning Your Self-Esteem

16 Apr 2016

It is April and everything around us seems to be in bloom or slowly unfurling leaves and buds towards the sun (which is yet to make a reliable, regular appearance!). 

It is a time of year when very often we are thinking about making new starts.

Clothes or interest in clothes is often regarded as superficial (particularly as nowadays social-media feeds are full of people doing Selfies and flaunting their bodies and “fashion-sense” for approval).  Sadly, our culture emphasises looks and appearance.  The pressure is enormous!

However, when I see the positive effect that wearing flattering clothes and colours has on women, particularly those who have had a blow to their self-esteem, I realise how it can be turned around into something positive, on a fundamental level.

This form of styling can be therapeutic.  Everyone deserves to feel good, and good about themselves.  It shows a healthy self-love and respect.

When your self-esteem takes a knock, as it would when you are left by your partner, particularly for another woman, and even more so, if she is younger than you, it must be crushing.

I heard this and a similar story from two women whose friends went through this. 

These were long-standing relationships, involving children, shared homes and dreams, which they had thought were life-long.  Now, in their mid-late fifties, their former husbands had left them for younger women.

At an age when many women may start to feel slightly vulnerable and concerned about “fading” looks or changing figures, with children possibly about to flee the nest, the man with whom they believed they could settle with safely and companionably into old age, had gone.  They had been left feeling unattractive, unwanted and, in these cases, financially compromised. 

I was moved by these stories (along with feeling a certain amount of anger on their behalf!).  I thought about how much I would like to be able to help them find some self-esteem and more than that, help give them an emotional boost and visible transformation.

I could advise them on how to look their very best, and give them the confidence to start again and even face dating.  I had the temptation to call it “Revenge Styling”, but that would not be attracting the right kind of energy, let alone, sounding too aggressive!  The main focus anyway would be to give them confidence to carry on being themselves but a more stylish, glamorous, confident, and dare I say it, sexy, version of themselves.

However, in some circumstances having a professional styling done would be the last thing some women would be able to do if their financial settlement barely covered bills or child-support.

I have started what I call, “Fresh Start Stylings”, for those who are financially restricted, at a very reduced cost.  I give styling advice on clothes currently in their wardrobes, advice on accessories, hair and make-up, and draw up a list of possible “investment purchases” (large or small) which could be bought, as and when, budget allowing.

I am more driven by the idea of making a difference to women who have lost confidence in how they look from such a life-changing event, than financial reward.  It would be a reward in itself.

This nurturing, transformative concept compliments the work I do as a volunteer stylist for a charity called Smart Works in London:  I help dress disadvantaged women, often with low self-esteem, for job interviews, where first impressions count.  This work compliments the styling work I do for my paying clients just as much.

The power of clothes to raise self-esteem is often underestimated and is not as superficial as people think.

 

If you are a subscriber to my monthly Newsletter there will be a complimentary offer coming up for this for you or anyone you recommend for a limited period.  But if not, I am offering the reduced cost version to anyone in these straightened circumstances who follows me on Facebook. 

To subscribe to my Newsletter please email http://www.sarahgillmorestylist.com/contact

The Relief Of A "Uniform"

08 Apr 2016

I went to India over the Easter period for a short break.  It was my first experience of this intriguing, magical, exotic country, despite being a relatively sanitised, limited version of it.  It was one of those therapeutic wellness/yoga escapes in a “Destination Spa” in the most beautiful of locations - the foothills of the Himalayas, over-looking the Ganges.

The emphasis (if that word is applicable in such a non-pressured environment) was wellness in the four essential components of mankind:  physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual. 

When I arrived, I had hanging in my wardrobe two pressed white sets of “Kurta” pyjamas.  This consisted of a long, soft mandarin-collared over-tunic and a pair of drawstring trousers which were a comfortable cut from waist to knees and tapered slightly towards the ankle.  This was simple, traditional Indian attire to wear for ease and comfort during my stay.   They were made of the softest, lightest cotton and were so comfortable you could sleep in them (although I didn’t)!

The basic idea seemed to be encouraging simplicity (not only visually but mentally) and comfort and relaxation. 

I realised the main benefit was that it took away the pressure of having to even think about what to wear!  As everyone, more or less, was “in the same boat” on this one, there was no expectation to “dress up” or look a certain way. 

This had many advantages:  without the need to spend time considering what one wore to breakfast one could just head there as soon as one was ready!  And that it was totally acceptable.

The same outfit was for both male and female which is probably why it was in white - asexual and neutral.  In fact, in images of this form of dress it is usually the men in the plain white and the women have coloured kurta pyjamas.

perhaps there was a deeper reason for this outfit; with the focus taken away from clothes, you could use time to focus on bettering the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual parts.  I think to the Indians respecting the importance of these things in life, being side-tracked by the irrelevance of what to put on your body is distracting from the higher purpose. 

Everyone looking the same in some way also made it easy to “fit in” and feel part of the “community” (which is particularly beneficial if you are a solo-traveller)

Overall, it was liberating.  One could just Be.  

I could understand why many high-powered business women suffering from mental stress (and perhaps burn-out) in the workplace, cope by having a work-wardrobe which consists of a staple “look” of a jacket in one or two neutral colours and a co-ordinating skirt and/or trousers which they rotate each day, with a plain blouse.  Thinking less about what to wear reduces the stress.  It is one less thing to worry about.  It becomes a “Uniform”.

I found myself embracing the idea at first, and even feeling courageous enough through this to go a step further and wear less or no make-up (which is rare – I feel naked and washed-out with no colour to warm up my pale facial skin).  But after the novelty wore off I felt the need a couple of nights to “dress for dinner”.  Not in a glamorous way, but just to ‘’dress”. 

I observed the feeling when I did of feeling a bit stronger (especially having dinner alone), less vulnerable and more protected.  Flimsy pyjamas did not give me that necessary feeling of strength and being in control of my environment.

This is interesting as fundamentally, one can assume that being “in control” would be counter-productive to being open to change or spiritual enlightenment!  The idea for that is to let go and be receptive to your environment and intuition and see what develops naturally. 

Well, I can say that I was able to “let go” enough and felt the therapeutic benefits.  I must say however, that on the day I left, I really relished getting dressed in something more “me”: more figure-defining, sexuality-defining, and “on-trend” (even though pyjamas are on-trend at the moment!). I was ready to fly back home, with a healthy, subtle amount of make-up, a sprinkling of jewellery, and an enlightened consciousness!