When I hear the term “wardrobe stylist” I think Hollywood, red carpet, and expensive designer gowns! My friend Alicia Richmond, founder and stylist for Chic on a Shoestring, is changing my perception of that. She IS a trained wardrobe stylist, but she takes a practical DIY approach to fashion that I love! Her passion is educating women on how to recognize the clothing that is most flattering on their body-type. It’s more than the typical, “You’re a pear, you’re an apple,” it’s personalized with your measurements and your photos. Her Fit & Flatter Dressing Guide is an affordable way for any of us to benefit from her knowledge and experience and she’s giving OGT fans a 25% discount!
Alicia truly is a stylist for the everyday woman! Over the years she has worked with women from size 0 – 26, and every shape, age and height you can imagine.
Today she has been kind enough to do this guest post for me that poses a very intriguing question. Take it away Alicia…
This past weekend I had the opportunity to style and emcee an event called A Celebration of REAL Beauty (event photos courtesy of The Photog Alley).
The event is an inspirational gathering for women with the end goal of helping women to accept themselves as they are right now; embrace their inner and outer beauty. The final act of the day is a fashion show of REAL women. I’ve styled many fashion shows, including one for Macy’s with Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear,” but this fashion show is different. It puts the spotlight on women of all ages, sizes and shapes, which is a much more realistic sampling of our society.
But even with their varying backgrounds, I discovered a common thread between all of these eight women. Each one has struggled with her body image at some point in her life. The one thing I know for sure after 15 years of styling women is that we women are way too critical of our bodies, but this just fuels me to teach women how to embrace their shape, their curves and their beauty as they are right now.
I’ve seen it thousands of times working with individual clients that when a woman is self-conscious about an aspect of her body, she goes big and baggy – she hides in her clothes. Let me introduce you to Shannon, one of the REAL women models. She’s a successful DIY blogger (LuckyRedHen.com), wife and mother, and has a personality that fills up the room. I knew it was “game on” when she sent me a note before her fashion show fitting, stating, “Rumor has it that people don’t want me wearing overalls every day.”
It was the day of the fittings and my chance to work one-on-one with Shannon. This is a setting where my clients typically let down their guard and get REAL. Shannon admitted to me, “It would be awesome if someone could teach me how to play down my chest while hiding my spare, flat, tummy tire, but without too many temperature rising layers.” I accepted the challenge.
I wanted Shannon to see the beauty I see in her shape. I asked her what she liked about her body and she proceeded to tell me what she didn’t like. Shannon’s a strong personality, but I stopped her mid-sentence; I didn’t want to hear her negative list. I told her that I see her amazing, long, defined legs, shapely derriere, strong shoulder line and a well-defined bustline.
This is trap that many women fall into. We get so caught up in the negative parts of our body shape that we completely overlook what is unique and positive and beautiful. As our styling session continued, Shannon started to look at herself differently; she was starting to see what I could see. Finally she was willing to ditch the overalls for a day and to walk the runway in what I picked out.
For the fashion show I chose dark wash skinny jeans with a simple pocket style, a lightweight red and black thin striped fitted tee shirt with scoop neckline to frame her bustline. Then to define and narrow her waist and mid-section, I selected a camouflage, deconstructed jacket. This jacket also helped to balance the skinny jeans with a looser fit of the jacket to minimize the mid-section. This is an example of how I like to use high/low in my styling. Something loose with something fitted or something casual with something fancy.
When Shannon saw the skinny jeans she balked hard. But by the end of the session she said, and commented on my blog, “You showed me today! As you hunted for a pair of jeans, I told you the 14 wouldn’t fit around my waist but you insisted. Lo and behold the pair you said would work were FABULOUS; fit in all the right places, didn’t ride up in front, worked for my short torso (that I’ve always thought was considered long, but was measuring wrong), and didn’t show my junk out the back when I sat down. I’m a believer.”
I loved Shannon’s outfit because it still captured her vivacious personality, and it wasn’t overalls. She is excited about getting out of her overalls and learning to embrace her shape by focusing on a positive body image. (She’s vowed to wear her overalls just when she’s DIY’ing.)
Next was Melissa, she’s a mom of four, and like so many moms trying to balance work with motherhood. Unfortunately, for many women caught in this juggling act, it is often us whose needs get neglected. She was stuck in the rut of wearing clothing that was too big for her because she was self-conscious about her hips and thighs. Melissa was so worried about hiding these parts that she had lost focus on her positive features. When I met with Melissa, the first aspect of her shape that I noticed was her long torso, defined waist and great bustline. Melissa did not see the beauty of her shape that I did.
One of the ironies of styling women is that when they hide in baggy, over-sized clothing, they are actually making themselves look bigger, not smaller. For the best look clothing should skim the body; not hug it nor hang off of it. This is also when clothes can be a tool to bring out your best.
My first step was to get Melissa into a slim black pant that would fit and flatter her calves and legs. It was a smaller size than she was used to but she could see that this slim pant with hip curve showed off her legs. The pant was simple, no pockets with a clean leg line.
Next I wanted to balance out her narrow shoulders and slim waistline with her curvy hips. I selected a cowl neck jersey top that had ruching on the front to highlight her waist and bustline. A rule of thumb that I stick to is to pair a fitted pant with a top that’s looser in its drape, which is why this stripe jersey and loose swing cardigan was ideal. The end result was that she was smiling, embracing her curves and showing her daughters how she loves her body.
This fitted pant and top that showed her waist and bustline was just a small step out of her comfort zone, but looking at yourself differently is a process, not an event; it’s baby steps in the right direction. Embracing your real shape is accepting all of yourself as you are, choosing not to hide behind oversized clothing. It’s learning how to dress up your assets and minimize your “challenge” areas to reach your personal best and then, being content with that.
My experience is that as women make these outside changes with their clothes and focusing on the positive in their bodies, it tends to kick-off an upward spiral and women often start to make other changes in their lives. I’ve had many husbands send me a thank you note as I helped their wife to “come alive.”
We are all beautifully unique and that’s by design. My Fit & Flatter Dressing Guide is personalized to each individual, using your photos and your measurements. I hope you take a peek at the sample body-type analysis at this link. I’ve had some women sign up just because they want to be told what their body assets are and that’s fine with me. That means they’ll start to look at themselves more positively and that’s where it starts.
Again, I bring up the question, “Why do we as women hide behind our clothing?” Is it safe and comfortable? But growth never happens in the comfort zone. “Are you hiding your beautiful shape behind your clothes?”