Monday, March 27, 2017

A New You...Favourites Old and New...Dressing the Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape #3...

I'm working hard on my New You French Chic goals for this year. I'm a long way from being where I'd like to be, but I'm proud to say I've already made some significant changes. What about you? I'm also still perfecting the art of the flattering full length selfie, but I thought it important to update you, since you've come along on this journey with me.
So far I've decluttered my closet, my underwear and sleepwear, my shoes, and my jewellery. There is now nothing in my wardrobe or jewellery box, that I will not wear with pride.
That is a huge thing for me. I am a bower bird of the highest order, so letting go of my enormous collection of costume jewellery, belts that do not suit my Petite Plus size Apple frame, and shoes of all kinds, was actually very difficult for me. I had to sit down and dig deep, and journal the reasons why this was so emotionally draining. Having been raised in a large family, where sometimes there wasn't a lot of money for new clothes or shoes, is a large part of that. A little voice in me is constantly saying 'but what if you never see that item again, what if you need it sometime and have to go and buy it again, what if you MISS OUT!'.
Fear of missing out  has guided many of my purchases over the years. Not just of clothing and accessories, but of homewares, linen, gifts and a plethora of other items. It's only as I've grown older, that I've come to realise that 'things' are always available. Yes, even the so called 'rare' things like vintage kitchenalia, antique furniture, and embroidered linens. Everything goes in cycles, and this years 'must have', is next years thrift shop fodder. Even if it came from the thrift shop originally.
I have to credit this in part, to Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy. Her course has helped me in more ways than one, and much of it, nothing to do with French Chic, as such. I've always prided myself on my European outlook, courtesy of my Nanna and Mum, but Marie-Anne has helped me take that outlook to an entirely new level. Check out her blog, if nothing else. She's the 'how-to' in this journey, I'm the willing student!
So having decluttered according to Marie-Annes guidelines, I then wrote a wish list for myself. I had in my hand, her guidelines for my Petite Plus-sized Apple Shape, and was stringent in my list of requirements. I want bang for my buck. Whatever I buy from hereon in, has to be the best I can afford, versatile, and flattering. I looked at images of outfits I liked, and asked Marie-Anne personally (yes that's part of the course!), how to adapt these looks for my shape.
To my enormous surprise and pleasure, looks that I had thought unachievable for my shape and height, CAN work for me, with a few tweaks.
At the top of my post, is a recent accomplishment. Yes, an accomplishment. Why shouldn't looking good, and feeling good about yourself, be as much of an accomplishment as anything else? I loved the outfit that designer Caroline Herrera wears in the small top picture. I showed this to Marie-Anne, and asked her if this was a flattering look for my shape. She responded that yes, it was possible, and gave me a few tips. The result you see, is on the left. Not identical, admittedly, but certainly close enough to make me very happy. I have believed for years that this look was no longer for me, but a slim fitting shirt with a V neck, the right gentle A-line skirt in a heavy quality fabric, a pair of low cut peeptoe heels, and a long strand of pearls, knotted to give another V shape, rather than left 'rounded', all contribute to an illusion of height and length, that make a huge difference. See, it's all about 'illusion'. I am not tall, nor am I slender any more. But heels with 'toe cleavage', V necklines, long necklaces that end in a point, and skirts that have weight that stops them floating, and that have a hemline between just above and just below the knee, work magic for me.
I have decided that in preference to buying randomly, I want to assemble a series of complete outfits by the end of the year. So each month I will focus on one complete outfit. That means that between now and December, I will have assembled ten completely new outfits, with the proviso that each purchase I make, will enhance or supplement the previous purchases in some way.
To achieve my look for March, top to toe, I decided I needed the following:
-Neutral solid coloured, short sleeved, button through shirt with V neckline
-A-line skirt, black, ivory or white, in a heavy fabric, just above or just below the knee, maybe with assymetrical hemline
-black peeptoe heels. Conical heel for comfort, slingback, low cut on the top of the foot to add length to the leg, with some 'toe cleavage'.
-Long Pearl necklace and pearl earrings
-Good haircut
-Manicured fingernails and toenails
I found a good Curly hair specialist, and treated myself to a new haircut, and some fab products to nurture my curls, instead of torturing them with the straightener. Total outlay $240 including products. I will not need to see her for a trim or products for 4-6 months.
I scoured shoe stores and online shoe outlets to find my perfect heels. It took some time, but I eventually found them, for $160.
My daughter-in-law introduced me to Jamberry, where I've made significant savings by doing my own nails with their heat activated nail wraps. Each manicure and pedicure costs $11 in total, and manicures last up to three weeks, and pedicures up to 6 weeks. Total outlay initially of $96 including the little heater and a selection of wraps and application accessories that will last at least 8 months.
And finally, my big treat, a custom made strand of blue-white, oversized Baroque pearls with a crystal embellished enhancer clip/fancy clasp, to which I can attach different enhancers (pendant attachments) to give me that long, lean 'V' look, rather than the traditional 'round' pearl necklace look. Purchased from an Etsy dealer, Laura at JaguarJems who went above and beyond to manufacture the pearl necklace of my dreams for my budget of $380, including the enhancer drop and a matching pair of earrings.
My skirt I found at Big W, in a gorgeous heavy fabric, and is perfect for me. On sale, $12 (a lucky buy!).
My shirt also from Big W, on end-of-season sale also, just $7. I will be looking for a similar shirt in a better quality fabric as I go along. This one looks lovely, but I imagine it won't last more than a season at that price.
This brings my total investment in myself, since the beginning of December 2016, to $895 or $56 per week. I am being brutally honest, both with you and myself, when I say that I would have previously spent that much a week on random thrift store purchases, without thinking twice, because they were all 'bargains'. If I didn't wear them more than once, I felt justified in discarding them for the very same reason. If only I'd realised sooner, that I was going about things all the wrong way.
So, here below, is a before and after, of my favourite 'lunch with friends' ensembles.
On the left, is a favourite silk shirt, over casual, so called 'on-trend' ripped jeans in 3/4 length. I would wear this with my favourite Birkenstock Gizeh sandals which I love for comfort. Many of my friends would dress similarly. There is nothing really wrong with this sort of outfit here, especially in the middle of a Queensland Summer, but here are the reasons why I won't be dressing like this any longer.
The colour is not flattering and drains my face of glow. Ripped jeans are not 'chic', nor are they 'elegant', which is how I would now like to present myself. The long shirt is not figure flattering, but merely hides the bumps and lumps. The 3/4 pants just make me look shorter and fatter, because the length between the bottom of the shirt hem and the bottom of the jean hem, just makes me look stocky. The Birkenstock sandals do the same, by not adding height to my frame, and by having a surface that covers my foot from toes to ankle. Just as importantly for me, this is not what one might consider 'French Chic'.

On the other hand on the right, this black shirt is fitted without being figure-hugging, enhancing my waistline, and giving me a more flattering silhouette. The black is slimming too, and the V neckline, gives an impression of length. The pearl necklace (not my new pearls, but rather a thrifted $5 strand for now), knotted, also enhances a V rather than a round shape, lending further length and a slimming illusion to my frame. My new skirt skims my outer legline, flaring gently at the bottom to make my waist look trim. The skirt is A-line with a very subtle asymmetrical hemline that again, adds a long and lean look. The gap between the bottom hem of the skirt and my feet is longer, giving the illusion of height. The shoes, add length to my leg and foot, and a couple of well needed inches to my 5'3" (163cm) body. Lastly, this is far closer to my idea of embracing French Chic and making it work for me.
Can you see how a few simple illusions and tricks can make a difference? I had no idea that such easy little tweaks, could alter the way I look and feel so substantially.
Now if I can just work out how to take a full length selfie that doesn't have a double chin, I might be!
What do you think? Can my lessons be your lessons too?
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A New You...Financial discipline and what it gets you...

I've wanted a long strand of Baroque pearls ever since I spied some on my honeymoon 20 years ago. We visited Broome in Western Australia for part of that time, and the pearls there were astoundingly beautiful.
My husband had gifted me a more traditional strand of pearls as a wedding gift, seen here (as requested in my last post about hats here). But they to me, are not an everyday kind of pearl. The more modern Baroque ones, above, appeal to me as something I could wear constantly.
Late last year, I stopped frittering my money away on a bit of a sale purchase here, and an op shop purchase there to supplement my wardrobe, and stopped to really take stock. I decided I wanted to transition from my Upmarket Mummy wardrobe, which has served me well admittedly, to something more elegant and chic.
Which brought me to Marie-Anne Lecouer and her French Chic Academy. I pondered for a day or two, and finally decided that at my age (57), it was time to invest in myself. And not via retail therapy. I signed up for Marie-Annes course, opting for the monthly payments, calculating that it was no more than I traditionally spent on fabric, patterns, accessories, and so on, and finding that I was really no better off.
From the first day, Marie-Anne changed my thinking. All of those principles that I applied to other areas of my life, suddenly made sense in terms of personal presentation too. Why have a wardrobe of clothing to choose from, when a few classic separates, in quality fabrics will serve equally? Why have row upon row of earrings, and necklaces and other accessories, when a quality watch (which I already have), some pearls, and diamond or pearl studs, will suit any occasion admirably? Why have dozens of pairs of shoes ( too?), when a quality pair of wedges, and one pair of ballet flats will suit any occasion?
I immediately ceased spending indiscriminately. Don't get me wrong, I was always budget conscious. But I often didn't give a lot of thought beyond things being the right colour, usually black, and fitting me. A bonus. Dressing the Petite Plus Sized Apple shape is a trial, I tell you.
Instead, that money went towards my course with Marie-Anne.
I also stopped buying other trivial things, like sushi for my daughters afternoon tea. An insignificant purchase and only once or twice a week, but even that adds up.
Instead I transferred that money to my Mad Money account, while I followed Marie-Annes advice on decluttering my wardrobe and making a list of what I needed, including an in depth description.
Which is where these pearls came in. I remembered how much the deep lustre and blue violet sheen of those pearls on my honeymoon captured me, and how often I'd wished I could afford some. I wrote down in my journal, a description of my ideal strand of pearls. They had to be large, even oversized, a particular shape of Baroque pearl, a particular length of strand, and a very particular colour. I dreamed for a bit.
Then, suddenly, I had that money. $5 here, and $7 there adds up, as many of you probably know. I went looking and found a dealer on Etsy, who could custom make the very pearls I wanted all my life, for a price within my budget. The pearls I'd noted down in my journal.
These pearls are pictured at the top of my post. They're yet to be knotted and strung, but these are my pearls. A bonus is that there are pearls left over from the lengths she purchased for me, and she has made these earrings as a bonus for no extra charge.

 These are oversized pearls, very modern, and very elegant. And I am thrilled to bits. I cannot wait for them to arrive.
Discipline has it's rewards. But then you knew that, right?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Recipes in Four Sentences....Nannas Apricot Slice...

Quick and Easy Apricot Slice
Soak 200gms (6 ozs) diced, dried apricots in hot water for two hours. While they're soaking, measure out 2 cups of self-raising flour, 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup dessicated or shredded coconut, and set aside , along with 2/3 cup butter in a microwaveable bowl or jug, so you can melt it. Drain the apricots well, and add all of the other ingredients, including the melted butter, and combine well,  pressing into a 30 x 20cm tray (disposable foil ones are perfect), and baking in a 180C fan forced preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until firm to touch in the middle. Remove from the oven and chill before cutting, or let the family slice their own according to preference ;-)
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A New You...Tips for Curly Girls...

I've had a love-hate relationship with my curls for my whole life.
I hated them when I was a teen, pre-curly mousse and diffuser days.
Then I loved them for quite some time. Products made curls easy, and diffuser driers made styling a breeze.
The arrival of hormonal changes meant more than fatigue, irritability and an Apple shaped figure. It also spelled the end of easy curls. Suddenly my curls frizzed, and flattened, and did anything but behave in the springy fashion to which I mistakenly felt entitled!
I did what any self respecting frizzy haired lady would. I straightened it.
First like this. This was also the beginning of letting my over processed blonde hair, go naturally silver. Seems odd I know, but my natural colour at this stage was quite dark, with some silver strands.
Over a period of about three years, I progressed to this. Silver, and straight. I loved this look, but ultimately, the endless blow drying and straightening wasn't doing my hair any favours.

So a Curly Hair Artiste was found, and she is now in charge. I sat patiently for two hours recently, while she coaxed my frizz back into curls and swirls, whilst at the same time, complimenting me on my silver hair, and calling me 'lucky'. Well. I never! That's a first!
So apart from a very interesting cutting technique which involves cutting the hair dry, what else was new?
This method advocates a moisture, moisture, moisture approach. So a sulphate-free shampoo, good conditioner and a couple of styling products, are key.
You will need a sulphate-free shampoo, a good quality (thick) conditioner, a styling gel, and a leave-in conditioner or conditioning mousse.
 Here is the method:
1. Wet hair, and apply suphate-free shampoo to the roots of your curly hair. Using your fingertips, massage the scalp well. Curly hair is susceptible to product build-up on the scalp as we don't use a brush on our hair. Work the shampoo gently down to the ends of your hair. Do NOT pile your hair up on top of your head and swirl, like I always have. All you're doing is scrambling your curls, which results in frizz.
2. Keep the hair soaking wet, and using a about a large thumbnail sized blob of good quality conditioner, start working the conditioner into your hair starting at the ends, and using your wet, and  flattened palms to work the conditioner up towards the roots. Do not rub. Just use your fingertips and palms to gradually disperse the conditioner. Conditioning the roots of your hair is unnecessary. Do this in sections, until your hair is thoroughly saturated with conditioner.
3. Mentally separate your hair into four sections. Side, side, front and back. Flip your head over, and adding a little water to the hair with your palms, start sliding the conditioner through 'ropes' of hair strands (each section might be about 4 ropes if your hair is fine like mine...more if it's thick). Slide your hands from scalp to hair ends, like you're pulling on a rope. You're looking for your hair to feel like a wet noodle if that makes sense. So keep sliding till you achieve that feel, then move on to the next section. The first time you do this, it may take several minutes, but the more you do it, the less time it will take. You're looking to close the hair follicles, and lock that moisture in. Heat opens the follicles, the roping and the conditioner, helps to seal them.
4. Trickle rinse the hair, slowing the water pressure so that most, but not all, of the conditioner rinses out. Keep the hair soaking wet and stay in the shower.
5. Apply your styling crème, or leave-in conditioner with flat palms, the full length of your hair strands. Just slide it along. This should take no time at all.
6. Emulsify a coin sized blob of gel, and apply this the same way. You might need more than one blob.
This sounds like a lot of product, but you are only using coin sized blobs each time, emulsifying them with a little water to make them easier to spread.
7. Leaving the hair as wet as possible, flip your hair over, and blot with a microfiber towel. Do not rub, and do not coil longer hair on top of your head, twisting it into a towel, like I always do. Just blot gently, and leave it as wet as you can stand it.
8. Using little butterfly clips, clip sections up into little loops near the scalp. You're just pushing the hair upwards, and clipping it near the roots to form loops that will add volume when your hair is dry. Think of an inch worm. Pick up a curl, inch worm, clip. Yes, it looks a little silly. But it works. Alternatively, here is an old trick from the 80s when curly hair truly was the rage. Bend at the waist, and flip your hair upside down. Using a hairdryer with a diffuser, and without touching your curls, gently direct the heat at the ROOTS of your hair, close to the scalp, massaging with your fingertips to dry the scalp and roots. You want to encourage a little lift at the roots (as you are with the clips) without frying the rest of your hair. You even want to very gently 'tangle' the roots, to encourage that lift. So massage very gently until you feel the roots drying, and move your fingertips in tiny circles to facilitate that volume. Remember, just the roots NOT the curls. Leave the rest of your hair to air dry. This works really well, and is especially effective when you want your wet hair to look public-presentable in a hurry. My curly hair takes about 4 hours to dry, so this is a good way of speeding up that process without drying out the rest of my hair.
9. Now the hard part. Leave your hair alone. Do not touch it, or scrunch it, or dry the curls with heat. Let it dry naturally. My hair takes about 4 hours to dry properly, so on the days I'm washing it, I get up a little earlier. By the time I get through my morning routine, drive my daughter to school, and go for my morning walk, it's dry.
10. You can now gently and carefully remove the clips from your hair, and give it a final gently once over with a diffuser dryer if you wish. Do not disturb the curls. Just gently scrunch to break the 'cast' of the gel and crème, and allow your curls to look their best.
Now this sounds like a lot of trouble, but I find that if I do this one day, I can get away with a mist of water from a spray bottle, a bit of leave-in conditioner to refresh the curls, and not much else for 3 or 4 days, so it's well worth the trouble.

I'm happy with my new Curly Girl method.
Will you try it on your own curls?
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