If you’ve ever spent time looking for a good strapless bra – one that actually stays up while giving you a good shape – you’ll know how hard it is. Either they’re prone to slipping or they cut in on the breast and create an unsightly bulge. And those that don’t tend to be lined with a rubbery fabric which is uncomfortable on the skin.
However, after many years of searching, I’ve found a style that doesn’t have these problems and is good for young or mature. It is made by Marie Jo and is in their Ines range. It fits well, it’s comfortable and attractive. In my experience it’s hard to get all three in a strapless bra – and it’s particularly good for fuller and more mature busts.
Not only that, but if, like me, you have to have matching bottom half they do some nice shapes at that end too.
If you’re struggling with sleeveless dresses, especially in the English “summer” evenings (don’t we all), rather than a pashmina which tends to look a bit dated now, go instead for a three quarter sleeve short cotton cardigan.
Dusan has created some fabulous ones in cashmere and silk which are flying out of the shop at the moment – even though they are from next season’s collection (so I haven’t yet got a picture to show). For a more casual alternative, John Smedley has a three quarter sleeve short cotton cardigan available in lots of colours which is a good shape.
We know we feel good when we have some colour and we know we need to do it safely. So we use fake tan and sunscreens to help us to do that.
Recently a new word has come into my vocabulary, one which you may want to bear in mind when looking at which products to buy.
The word is ‘paraben’.
A paraben is a chemical that acts as a preservative in many cosmetics – including fake tans and sunscreen. And there is an increasing body of evidence that they may react with the skin – particularly when under ultra-violet (ie: sun) light – to cause the kind of damage that has previously been associated with long term over-exposure to the sun.
I don’t have enough knowledge to say that this is definitely a problem. But I’ve noticed that a number of my friends have complained about apparent sun damage on their legs (where people tend to use fake tan more often), when you’d expect it to be higher up on the body where we all most often got sun burned in younger days. This seems to me to support the suggestion that something else is at play.
The good news is that, since I’ve become aware of parabens, I’ve noticed an increasing number of products that say ‘no parabens’. They tend to be more expensive, but if the alternative is skin damage, it’s probably worthwhile.
Rodial – available at Space NK – and Origins – at among others Selfridges and John Lewis – both do both fake tan and sunscreens that are paraben free. Another interesting company that I’ve written about before – is Bare Minerals. They have sunscreen product that’s a powder which you apply with a brush. It’s SPF 30 and the minerals in the powder act as an efficient sunscreen.
In truth, we don’t really know what the effects of parabens are, so you’ll need to decide for yourself whether to look, as I now do, for paraben-free products. Here’s a link to some more information:
Of all the body parts which women want to camouflage or accentuate, bigger breasts seem to create the most angst in a work environment among women who sometimes feel that they their breasts get more attention than their contribution. And this can reduce confidence.
Here are some tips for handling this issue the working environment:
- Go for a lower neckline. This might be counter-intuitive, but a lower neckline breaks up the expanse between the bust and the neck.
- Don’t go too low. Your lower neckline should show off décolleté, not cleavage. The worst thing you can do if you want to be taken seriously at work is to show cleavage – save that for the evening.
- The first and most important purchase for anyone with big breasts, particularly if they are much bigger than average, is a well-fitting bra. These can be difficult to find, but it is worth looking and investing when you find one that’s right for you. Standard underwear can leave you looking droopy, but good underwear is sculptural and will last longer as good fabric can cope with the extra weight.
- Collars with revers on shirts are good because you are taking the emphasis off the breasts and dispersing it across the other parts of the upper body. Make sure that the shirt is loose enough across the bust so that the buttons don’t gape.
- Tops with capped sleeves are more attractive on bigger busts than sleeveless.
- Stretchier fabrics are more flattering on a large bust – and fabrics that drape nicely, such as a silky jersey or certain man-made fabrics are good on bigger busts. Avoid anything that clings.
- When buying a suit or dress don’t break up the bottom half with very different colours – keep it relatively monochrome. A white shirt can be flattering, but a simple white top with no collar or buttons isn’t, again because it leave a big expense of fabric which will draw people’s eyes.
- Single breasted jackets are easier than double breasted. There are some incredibly well cut double breasted jackets which can look terrific, but they must be tailored and fit well.
Obviously, all of this applies differently depending on how much bigger than average you are. But in principle my advice to people with big busts is, as with any part of the body, to accept that it is part of you and find clothes that accentuate or camouflage as appropriate.
Quite often people ask me: do people really come to you for advice on what to buy to make them feel confident? Are they really that insecure?
My reply is: no, they are not insecure. They are women who know exactly what they want. And they are also confident enough to know what they don’t know.
Most of the women who come to Wardrobe are sophisticated, well travelled and are expert in their careers. And they know there’s no way they can have as much knowledge as we have about what we have been doing every day for nearly 40 years.
So if they are going to purchase expensive clothes, they want to be sure that they’re not making mistakes and, just as importantly, that they’re not going to find better elsewhere.
I have always regarded my role and the role of my stylists as a professional friend to our clients, getting to know them over time, helping them to develop their style and making the shopping experience enjoyable.
The job of any good shop is to edit the collections they think are the best and then present it to their clients in a way that is right for them as individuals.
In this context, a good sales person should be trained in the art of styling, not just selling – not afraid to tell you that something really doesn’t suit your body shape, colouring or work environment. And you’re more likely to find that in smaller stores where style and building an ongoing relationship are as important as the bottom line.
Confidence is not just about how you feel when you wear the clothes you’ve bought. It’s also about how you feel while you’re putting together your individual style: knowing you’re not going to make mistakes makes it a much more enjoyable experience
I was catching up on some reading and came across a piece in The Times’ Luxx magazine about an increasing number of women, including Kate Moss and Annie Lennox, going to Saville Row to find bespoke tailoring from men’s tailors. You’ll find it here, on page 45 of edition 10.
Now, I’m the first to say that there isn’t enough good tailoring that is neither overly funky or boring available for women – that’s why I started Sfera, and why it’s been so successful for us.
But I would strongly advise caution with the Saville Row approach. Unless you are very beautiful – in the mould of the women featured in the article – or know exactly what you’re looking for, going to a men’s tailor could leave you looking like you’re wearing your husband’s suit.
The basic construction of men’s and women’s suits is, as it says in the article, similar but a women’s jacket needs other things – not least because women have boobs and are more curvy than men. Annie Lennox may look great in a very masculine suit, but I think many women wouldn’t.
Tailoring for women may have some masculine tendencies but in order for it work well it needs the eye and design skills of a womenswear designer who understands the feminine form.
For example, the suit below has a high feminine rever – this season done with a wider trouser. Next season the trousers will be slightly narrower with some longer jackets. And this is only one of eight styles of trouser suit that change each season, done in many fabrics to flatter the female form.
With the sun streaming in through the window for two days in a row, thoughts turn to holidays. On the Fashion Forum, E asked for advice on what to wear for a bit of a ‘grand tour’ driving/sightseeing holiday, so here is an update on the travelling capsule.
Last year, I wrote about how to achieve a versatile wardrobe for a weekend away .
The advice in that post still stands: what you are aiming for is what I call Comfort Chic. So check back to it and then read on here for the update.
If you’re travelling around at this time of year, you’ll need a lightweight summer coat. A classic navy blue blazer is very in at the moment. Or you might go for an edgy twinset, sweater or summer jacket like the ones pictured below.
Any of these can be worn with jeans or any narrow trousers in beige or white – well cut stretch fabrics are best if you’re going to be sitting down a lot – and with sneakers (check out Tod’s for a great range), a summer boot or a comfy flat or kitten heel shoe as shown below.
Add in some nice T-shirts – probably long-sleeved at this time of year; and a scarf, either a gauzy cashmere if it’s going to be cold, or linen for a warmer climate. Make sure the scarf has lots of fabric to soften the neckline of a mannishly cut blazer.
To finish off ad a nice big bangle and simple stylish bag for carrying around the daily necessities.
You might also take a look at my What to Wear When Travelling post from last year, which was mostly about flying, but most of which also applies if you’re driving around.
Here are three more tips to keep you looking and feeling your confident best. I recommend them to all my customers and know from personal experience what a difference they make.
I can hear you saying ‘I know all of this’ – and in truth it’s not rocket science – but do you actually do it?
Moisture is important both on the outside and on the inside. Most of us have a moisturising regime for our skin to keep it looking healthy and hydrated (and of course, don’t forget your hair). Do the same for your inside. Every couple of hours or so make sure you have glass of water – by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated on the inside. If you don’t already do this, you’ll be amazed at the increased energy levels when you do.
If you can get to the gym, great. If not, build at least some gentle exercise into your day. Even if it’s just walking, or climbing up the stairs a few extra times a day, make sure you use other muscles than your brain.
- Make lists
This is a very good way of not appearing – and feeling – old because you will remember things, and not be worrying about forgetting them, leaving you free to concentrate on the task at hand. And put them where you’ll remember to look at them. I keep mine in my purse because I know I’ll be looking in several times a day.
None of these will take up time – all of them will help keep a spring in your step and your confidence levels high.
I’m a little bit shocked to be writing this post.
I had thought after so long that there wasn’t an area of personal grooming where I was making basic mistakes.
That was until a few months ago when, along with some clients who had asked me how to deal with the effects of age on their hair, we met with a trichologist for individual consultations.
Here’s what I learned:
- There’s nothing wrong with washing your hair every day. I had always believed (and been told, I think) that daily hairwashing was bad. Not so. In retrospect it’s obvious that your hair is going to get as dirty as your face so, especially if you’re living in the pollution of a city, you really should wash it every day but with a good quality mild shampoo.
- You should get a regular “facial” for your hair. Just as you might have a regular facial, a regular hair treatment which includes a mask for your hair can keep it in great condition.
I was persuaded to try a course of treatments – basically a hair mask once a week for a month) – and I can’t believe the difference in the quality of my hair and the longer staying power of my hair colour. Philip Kingsley’s is the tops; but Kerastase and others have a good range.
- Diet can make a big difference to your hair. We were given advice on a range of dietary issues that would make a difference. For example, if you don’t eat red meat you might be lacking in iron which is needed for hair quality and growth.
Each client received a different appraisal but everyone agreed it was money well spent for the future.
If you’re at all concerned about what’s happening to your hair, or if you just want to maximise its healthy appearance, I recommend finding out what would work for you.
For a good introduction to this area, Philip Kingsley has written a useful book called Happy Hair Days: 50 Tips for Healthy Hair.