Big bust, little bust, cardboard box

Apologies for the title – I trust you’ve heard of the dance move “big fish, little fish, cardboard box”? Sorry not-sorry about that ūüėČ

As an¬†ing√©nue, I don’t want or need bust emphasis. Whilst shopping online today I was thinking about bust size and how it influences the styles that flatter us (or not). Here are my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t, depending on whether you’re small or large of bust.

Small bust

What works: high necklines, a yoke*, detail above the bust, halter necks if shoulders aren’t too wide, long necklaces, polo necks, chokers.

Avoid: Low v-necks and any neckline that is too low.

Top with short yoke
Excellent example of a short yoke here. You can see how this model is very slim and how this would be rather unflattering on a large bust, not least because the top would sit away from the body, giving the illusion that the wearer was several dress sizes bigger than she actually was. Top from Next.
Pretty high lace collar and yoke blouse from ASOS. Small bust required.

Large bust

What works: lower necklines (scoop, v-neck), boat neck (works for medium-sized busts), detail below the bust, e.g. empire band or belt, avoid too much bulk at the bust e.g. ruffles. Romantics might be able to get away with the latter.

This neckline is a cross between a scoop and a v. Better for bigger busts. You could go a little higher if you wanted to slow less cleavage. Black lace top from ASOS.

Avoid: Long necklaces that straddle one asset (if you catch my drift) – necklaces that rest above the bust, as opposed to on the bust, are better. A large bust, when not dressed well, can give the impression of you being heavier than you are.¬†Pepperberry, if you’ve never heard of them, make clothes for the big of bust.

This top needs to hang straight down. A bigger bust will make this top stick out and make the person look bigger overall. If it was fitted beneath the bust (empire line) then it would work better. Blouse from ASOS.

Sheer tops can make higher necklines more wearable for bigger busts, I find.

The neckline here is too high and small. Frustrating that this is marketed at so-called plus sizes. This doesn’t flatter the model, I can’t imagine it flattering any wearer.

Several months ago now I visited Bravissimo in Norwich and it was somewhat life-changing. I was certain I was wearing the right size bra.¬†Turns out I was wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small. The right bra can take years off you and completely change your silhouette,¬†as I discovered. I can’t recommend a visit strongly enough. If your outfit is fabulous but your bra isn’t¬†you can be sure it’ll sabotage your look; I’m not being overly dramatic here. Alas, I digress…¬†There seems to be a lot of high necklines in the shops at the moment, which means I’m struggling. I can see that the slim models look better in these necklines, but I do not.

The above are, of course, only my observations – do you agree? What do you find works for you?

* yoke = a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached.

More style experimentation

I visited Matalan a while back on the hunt for some more leggings (the search is endless, I swear), and couldn’t resist some more style experimentation. I took some photos… Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves…

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My head looks separate from my body here. Do you like the lovely coral heels that do absolutely nothing for my legs?
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Jessie J would rock that chain. Me? Not so much…
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MY EYES! There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Lily Allen would wear this outfit well I think.
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This isn’t how an ing√©nue does sexy… Nope! The black is completely dominating.

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that none of these outfits made it home. I showed these photos to friends recently, and their replies were not repeatable in polite company. One of my friends commented on the consistency of my style usually, so these clothes are a stark contrast to my usual Summer Ing√©nue Natural look. I imagine a Winter / Bright Spring Dramatic would look good in these. They are pretty much exactly what I shouldn’t be wearing; mostly Winter colours with a little Spring, Dramatic style, large scale, heels. For the sake of completeness and contrast, here’s what I usually wear if I’m going out to something that requires a smarter look…

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I can’t remember why I wore this now, but this is my version of ‘dressing up’.
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Sometimes I’ll swap the leggings and flats for navy tights and kitten heels if I need to go smarter. I do get a little bit scared sometimes when I realise I’m leaving the house dressed like a princess.
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Apologies for the headless shot! If I need to do “going out / clubbing” (not that I’m a big fan of clubs) then the cord hot pants come out, with a pretty blouse.

So there you have it! When I’m next out shopping, who knows, I might experiment some more ūüėČ

My wedding

You’ll probably not¬†be at all surprised to hear that my colour and style knowledge was immensely¬†useful when it came to planning my wedding. As you know, I visited House of Colour back in 2010. You might not know that I got engaged in February 2012 and married in May 2014. Armed with my colour and […]

My Colour and Style Experiment

As you may have judged by the title of this post, it’s time for something a little bit different! I’m very excited to be writing about a colour and style experiment I did recently. For one day only¬†I¬†wore something completely different both style and colour-wise, in part to see if anyone noticed, and also to see how I felt.

I wanted my outfit to be believable. In fact, I wanted it to be something I could and would have quite plausibly worn before I had my colours and style done, so it was put together with much thought and with a little help from my style and colour-savvy friends.

Why did I do the experiment?

I had my colours done over 5 years ago and as a result I’m very¬†used to wearing clothes that feel right for me and not really having to think about what I wear. It is completely liberating. It means I can think about clothes as little or as much as I want. It also means I dress very consistently. I dress true to my clothing personality and I always wear colours from the Summer palette (as a Deep Summer this means I wear a lot of navy, purple and sea green). I did this experiment because I wanted to remember how it felt to leave the house feeling insecure about my outfit. I remember frequently¬†leaving the house for work hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone that day because I didn’t feel comfortable in what I was wearing but I didn’t know what else to wear. When I think back to that time the memory of it leaves me feeling quite drained. I had to think about clothes a lot if I wanted to feel vaguely comfortable when leaving the house. I had a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. I rarely got it right, and it took me a long time to figure out what I was going to wear.

I did the experiment because I wanted to see how the people I interact with¬†every day reacted to me dressing differently. Would they even notice? Generally speaking people don’t comment on my clothes and I think this is because when the clothes are right, people notice the person wearing them.¬†I’ll admit that I was expecting to feel very uncomfortable all day, but I was pretty sure that no-one would notice or comment. Turns out I was quite wrong¬†about that!

How would I describe my style usually?

Zyla’s tagline for his Sunset Summer archetype is ‘elegant bohemian’ and I think that phrase works well to describe me. I’d also describe my style as¬†pretty, casual and a bit ethereal. I have a love of detail in clothes, anything plain is a bit of a turn-off for me. In House of Colour’s system I’m considered an ‘Ing√©nue Natural’. It’s a young, casual look. Here is my style board on Pinterest, to give you a better idea:

Here are four¬†typical outfits that I wear both for work and during my leisure time. I don’t have a separate work wardrobe as I work behind-the-scenes in a technical capacity¬†and my colleagues dress casually too. We don’t need to wear suits. Apologies for the low-quality nates ūüėČ

typical-2

typical-3

typical-4

typical-1

What I chose to wear on my experiment day, and why

I was thankfully able to borrow clothes from friends so I didn’t have to go out and buy clothes in the wrong style and season! I opted for:

  • Wide leg black trousers
  • Heeled patent black shoes
  • A long jumper top in tan
  • A wooden bead necklace
  • A black patent belt

In terms of make-up I kept it minimal: navy mascara, a Summer blusher and¬†an Autumn lipstick; mismatching on purpose because those who aren’t aware of colour analysis typically don’t manage to wear make-up belonging to the same season. I used to wear black mascara (Winter), a warm brown blusher (Autumn) and a neutral lipstick that, if swatched, would have belonged to Autumn.

I chose the black trousers and black shoes because I used to wear those all the time for work. Admittedly I didn’t used to wear a heel but I chose the shoe style because it’s not me at all, but of course they look great on my Winter Natural Romantic friend!

I chose an Autumn/Spring (crossover) top because warmth makes me look ill, and my past mistakes were Autumn. I wore a lot of khaki which I know now to be one of the worst colours I could have chosen because I have very cool undertones and khaki is a very warm colour.

The outfit

When I first tried the outfit on (in front of my colour and style-savvy friends) they pulled horrified faces. I asked them if it was ‘too much’ and they insisted it wasn’t. It was something I might have worn pre-style/colour analysis. It was also an outfit that someone might very plausibly put together if they didn’t have style and colour knowledge.

I asked them how it felt to look at me. They said I looked ill (that’ll be the warm brown jumper!) and that I looked like I was dressing up, perhaps to perform in a play or similar. In other words, not me at all. Like I was dressing as someone else. Their comments didn’t surprise me at all. I felt incredibly uncomfortable looking in the mirror. I could hardly bear to look at myself.

IMG_3889IMG_3890IMG_3894IMG_3895The belt made me feel very uncomfortable. I think it was very unflattering but it matched the shoes. I think I might have disliked the necklace most of all. I still struggle to explain why. I think it looks faintly ridiculous on me and yet I knew that someone else could wear the same outfit and look much better in it (ideally the trousers and shoes and belt would be brown, to match the Spring/Autumn jumper).

The day of the experiment

Getting dressed on the day I noticed I was unconsciously trying to fight it. I wanted to plait my hair rather than have it in a bun (like I used to) because I hate how the bun looks. I wore all my own make-up bar the Autumn lipstick which I borrowed from a friend. I had wanted to wear black mascara but couldn’t find any. Putting on my Summer blusher was just easier and conveniently clashed with the outfit.

I felt more excited than uncomfortable until I looked in the mirror. I just laughed at myself because the outfit seemed so ridiculous, but then I reminded myself how I felt before I had my colours and style done, and suddenly it didn’t seem very funny any more. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, I literally cringed every time.¬†It really bought back memories, of days when I didn’t like what I was wearing and didn’t have anything else but had to go into work anyway (or call in sick). So I’d go to work and feel uncomfortable all day and hope I didn’t bump into anyone I knew.

I hated the noise of the shoes clip-clopping as I walked into work. I noticed I was having to walk slower. I confessed to my husband in the car on the way in that I was doing an experiment and he said (in relation to the outfit), “I don’t like it, it’s just meh. But it doesn’t look that out of the ordinary. No-one will notice.”¬†I had to remove the shoes for¬†driving. The impracticality of the heels drove me mad.

I hated walking down my corridor into work. I felt like the clip-clopping noise was attracting attention and my husband teased me about it. It made me realise I don’t usually make any noise as I walk because I wear flat shoes or boots.

My two (male) colleagues started commenting before I’d even sat at my desk.

“Oh my God who’s this?”

They¬†just STARED at me, grinning. I couldn’t ignore them so I said¬†“What?” and they replied “Can we have Janine back?”

One of them said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in trousers before.” I replied:¬†“You haven’t.”¬†I told them I was surprised that they even noticed what I was wearing.

They wouldn’t let up.¬†Later in the day they said: “We’re suspicious, what’s going on? We’ve been talking about it.” I just smiled at them and they said “How did the interview go?”

I posted some photos of me in the outfit in¬†a private group on Facebook for my friends to see. I didn’t tell them I was doing an experiment. Their reactions were really interesting.

“Wow – chuck the tunics girl!” one said.

“Ooooo very grown up… And omg!! your figure!!” said another.

But when I ‘fessed up they were relieved.

“I was quite surprised when I saw someone as expert in style as you, dressed up as someone else. You look ok. But you don’t feel ok. That’s the point. Innit?”

“I thought it was a bit 1980s”

“I think your awesome figure and the slim fitting top saves it, but I did think very classic and odd you in tan then got distracted by your figure so forgot about the colours.”

I made notes throughout the day:

“I can’t wait until the end of the day when I can take it off! Feel SO self-conscious. Looking in the mirror is SO uncomfortable, excruciating even. Dreading getting up from my desk to get water!”

“In order to get on with work today I’m going to have to try very hard to forget about what I’m wearing. It’s very distracting. I feel weirdly naked. Feels like a thought control experiment.”

“In the kitchen I bumped into someone I knew (female colleague). I noticed how distracted they were by my outfit. It felt awful to be looked up and down.”

“Outfit is tiring. Heels are tiring.”

After lunch I¬†‘fessed up to a colleague about the experiment, the one who kept asking me what was going on. I felt more comfortable after that but I still avoided getting up for water.¬†When I told my colleague I was 6’ in heels he said to me: “Your legs are 5’11” long.” I thought that it was interesting that the outfit was causing people to notice my figure more. No wonder I felt naked.

My singing teacher gave the best response of the day. Before she’d even said goodbye to her last student she’d asked me if I was okay. As soon as they had left she turned to me and said:

“Really, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

I assured her I was fine but she persisted.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you?”

“Honestly, about an 8, I’m fine!” I insisted.

I had to tell her about the experiment before we’d even made it to her studio. When I said, “It’s okay, I’ll tell you, it’s fine honest!” she literally recoiled in horror and seemed genuinely worried. “I knew something was up!” she said. I told her about the experiment and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. “You look so stern!”

She’s very astute and sensitive so I’m not in any way surprised she noticed, but I was surprised by the intensity of her reaction. She said to me that I looked drawn, I told her that would be the colour of the jumper I was wearing. She paused, and then said, “Wow. I really think I should get my colours done.” Afterwards she said, “It’s not that the outfit is bad, it’s just that it’s not you at all. You look like you wouldn’t take any sh*t. I don’t like it. It freaks me out.” I thought how ironic it was that I looked intimidating to her when I had felt so self conscious all day. I thought she might actually like my outfit because it was more her style than mine but clearly I was very wrong.

When my friend and fellow student arrived after my lesson she looked me up and down and said, “What’s all this?” I had to laugh and confess as my teacher said “Thank God you’ve noticed!” I told my friend¬†I was wearing the wrong style and colours for an experiment. “Thank God for that!” she said. “I knew something was up when I spotted the necklace!”

I will be very relieved not to be wearing the outfit again but I will admit that it prompted compliments from some which was a change for me because generally speaking I don’t get any at all. People notice me and not the clothes and of course I don’t usually wear anything quite so figure-hugging!

The experiment reiterated to me the importance of dressing for ourselves. There may be some people who prefer the tan and black outfit but I felt so uncomfortable in it and ultimately how you feel is what matters most.

I’m not surprised I felt so uncomfortable but I was surprised by the reactions I got. I would do something similar again but only in the name of fancy dress or another experiment to blog about. It made me feel very, very grateful for the colour and style knowledge that I have. It is amazing just how much of an impact one outfit can have.

Time for a wardrobe clear out!

This morning I suddenly found myself having a wardrobe clear out. I’d decided it was time to deal with the hand washing pile languishing at the bottom of my laundry basket and somehow I ended up sorting through all my clothes and accessories. This does happen periodically; I open my wardrobe and am overcome with a desire to clear it out. Several items had been bugging me every time I opened the doors of my wardrobe and I decided enough was enough this morning.

Whilst sorting through my clothes I found a jacket I’d forgotten about (just in time for Spring – perfect!) and a gorgeous little faux fur bag, hardly used. These were my rewards for my clear out, and you’ll have them hiding somewhere too! The other reward is a feeling of satisfaction when you open your wardrobe. Everything is in there, ready to wear, no clutter, nothing making you feel bad, everything fits, nothing that needs fixing. Having said all that, I’m certainly not going to tell you that you absolutely must clear out your wardrobe (not at all – no-one’s going to die if you don’t!) but it is satisfying and I can certainly recommend it for if and when the mood takes you.

When you decide to embark on your clear out, do ensure you look everywhere for your clothes/accessories/underwear. Look in your¬†wardrobe, under the bed, in drawers, in the dirty laundry basket, in wash baskets, on the washing line, ironing pile, and don’t forget to check the tumble dryer. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t forget scarves, shoes, underwear, coats, even socks! If you’ve got socks that are uncomfortable or ancient and you avoid wearing them then they’re just taking up valuable space!

You’ll need to evaluate each item in turn as you go through all your clothes. This sounds as though it could be a lengthy process but it really needn’t be at all (my clear out took 1.5 hours including texting my friends pictures of stuff I thought they’d like). The most important thing to note is that immediate thought or feeling when you very first look at something you own.

What’s your immediate feeling when you look at the item?

  • Excitement? “Oooh! I haven’t worn that in absolutely ages… I really like it though!”, “I love that – I wear it all the time!”, “Oooh I’d forgotten I had that!” Hang on to these items. You might not have worn them in a while simply because you’d forgotten you had them.
  • Annoyance? “Oh no, that’s the scarf that moults on me…”, “The sleeves keep riding up on that, drives me mad…” Get rid of anything that makes you feel annoyed or irritable.
  • Depressed? “I can’t fit into that any more…”, “I’ll get into it one day…” ¬†Get rid, or at the very least put it out of sight! Your wardrobe should make you feel inspired when you look inside, not depressed.
  • Guilty? “It’s still got the tags on but I haven’t worn it and I’m not sure about it now…” Return it if you can, charity shop if you can’t (or give to a friend).
  • Sentimental? “Aunt Sally made that for me…” Store anything of sentimental value (that you won’t wear) in the loft.
  • Irritated? “Argh, it needs fixing and I just don’t have the time…” Okay, time to be realistic now. Either add it to your to do list to do within the next week, or decide to take it to a professional to fix. If you can’t bring yourself to do either then it’s probably because you don’t love it enough in the first place.
  • Bored? “It’s OK I guess…”, “I suppose I quite like it, but it’s a pain because it’s dry clean/hand wash only…”, “Hmmm. It’ll do…” Get rid! “That’ll do” won’t do at all!
  • Weary? “I love it but it’s looking rather worn out now…”, “I’ve had this ages and I loved it, but I think it might have shrunk…” It is hard to part with items we love but are past their best. Time to let go and recycle these.
  • On edge? “I love how it looks but it’s a bit itchy..”, “I love them but they’re about half a size too small…” What you have in your wardrobe MUST be comfortable. This is probably single-handedly THE most important thing when considering whether to keep something or not. It HAS to be comfortable. If it’s not, it simply won’t get worn. On that cold Winter’s morning when you get out of the bath and just want something warm and soft to wear, you’ll not be able to bring yourself to reach for something that’s in any way uncomfortable or itchy.

If you find yourself struggling, ask yourself this: When did you last wear it? Can’t remember? Over a year ago? Time to give it a new home.

Bit scared about getting rid of everything you’ve cleared out? Perfectly understandable, especially if there’s a lot of it. Put those black bin bags full of clothes in the spare room or loft. If you find you need the clothes you still have access to them.

Hangers! Don’t forget to sort these out too. You don’t want your wardrobe full of empty hangers, have 3 or 4 in there but put the others somewhere else (I have a drawer in the bottom of my wardrobe for my spares). I realised I was getting irritated at the vast number of hangers clashing around in there and falling off the rail when I tried to get my clothes out. Put them away somewhere you can get to them when you need them.

So, what to do with all the clothes you no longer want? Give them away to a charity shop or to family and friends. Worn out clothes should be recycled.

Okay, so your wardrobe is certainly looking a bit emptier after that clear out… Now what? Don’t panic if you now have gaps. It’s time to go shopping and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Write a list of clothes you need, but don’t worry if you don’t end up finding something you really love to fill a gap. And you have to really love it which means that patience is key. You can start off with the cheaper shops like Matalan and Primark.¬†Charity shops are great, if you’re feeling nervous take a friend with you. You’ll be surprised at how much new or nearly new clothes end up there.¬†Swishing parties are great! Encourage your friends to have a clear out too. You could even swap clothes if you’re similar sizes.

I had my colours done back in 2010 and today was a momentous occasion for me. After writing a post about my own colour journey (and seeing just how bad black really is on me!) I finally got rid of that little black dress I’d been hanging on to in case I needed it. Making that decision and then texting my Winter friend felt so good! ūüėÄ

What is a ‘clothing personality’ and why is it important?

I had my colours analysed back in 2010 and not long afterwards I went back to House of Colour for a Style Day. On the Style Day, amongst many other things, we talked about our ‘clothing personalities’ which are a key part of knowing what clothing suits you and why.¬†What is a clothing personality you might ask? I will start by saying that personal style is about what suits you, it’s not about what’s in fashion. Your clothing personality explains why an outfit (even in the right colours) that looks great on someone else might look frumpy/at odds/like a costume on you. Personal style is about dressing to reflect what’s on the inside and knowing your clothing personality will help enable you to do this. Of course, two people who have the same clothing personality won’t necessarily dress the same, personal taste and personality comes into it too, but there will be similarities and the overall look (e.g. youthful or sexy or dramatic) will be the same. A clothing personality is designed to be a guide and an inspiration so that you are able to refine your clothing choices.

House of Colour aren’t unique in educating people about clothing personalities. There are several systems and most usually cover a version of the following style types:

  • Dramatic (statement dressing, think Victoria Beckham),
  • Natural (a much more relaxed and casual look, bohemian or sporty, think Elle MacPherson),
  • Gamine (young, boyish and fun, think Carey Mulligan),
  • Ing√©nue (youthful, feminine, elegant and pretty, think of Emmy Rossum when she was in Phantom of the Opera),
  • Romantic (sexy, grown-up, think Marilyn Monroe),
  • Classic (timeless, smart, think Kate Middleton).

David Kibbe came up with¬†13 ‘image identities’ in his 1987 book “Metamorphosis” but he¬†doesn’t include a type for Ing√©nue. I was diagnosed by House of Colour as a ‘Natural Ing√©nue’ and this feels perfect for me so I decided not to research that system very heavily.

This brings me neatly on to David Zyla.¬†I recently read Zyla’s book ‘Color Your Style‘ (which can be purchased on Amazon) and I really do like his approach to clothing personalities. He calls them ‘archetypes’ and so far I’ve been able to find my archetype very easily. I suspect knowing I’m a ‘Natural Ing√©nue’ in another system helped (considerably) but his descriptions are thorough and I do think that someone who knows their season would be able to identify with one of the archetypes (there are 6 per season). It’s also a very fun read. Zyla appears to have a lot of fans – a quick search on Pinterest reveals lots of different boards for each of the archetypes created by people who’ve read the book. I found these immensely inspiring after I was able to pinpoint my archetype and my own personal style board grew quickly as a result. I did find Zyla’s clothing recommendations in his book excellent.

The only real downside of the book is that if you’ve not had a colour analysis (that’s not a plug I promise!) you’ll find it impossible to figure out your season from the information given in the book, and you need to know what your season is in order to identify your archetype. This isn’t a fault with the book I should add – no book can tell you what season you are. It is impossible (of course) to know how your skin reacts to colour by reading a book, and this is a crucial part of identifying what season you are.

I have two Zyla-inspired Pinterest boards.¬†The first shows my ‘true colours’ according to Zyla: (to find out what the different colours mean you can look at¬†Zyla’s website)

I have to say, although finding these colours sounds simple I’m of the opinion you need a colour analysis before you can figure out exactly whether, say, peach is your more flattering version of pink, etc. My essence colour is in fact a fairly substantial mid-pink (a rose). The idea is that all of your ‘true colours’ flatter you, and a pale pink isn’t going to flatter someone (i.e. me!) if depth of colouring is important, for example.

Some clever person made an image for all the different archetypes and I’ve pinned them here:

You will need to read about the archetypes in the book to figure out which one you are, but the images are certainly interesting to look at and it’s nice to have them all there at a glance. If you buy the paperback version you can share it with your friends ūüôā