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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Balancing Act

You know sometimes when I'm out and about, I like to people watch.  Most of the time it is simply a way to keep my mind busy while I'm waiting.  But, on other occasions, well, it's more akin to visual torture, and it's all due to a lack of balance.  Let me explain.

When I say balance, it's not about on a beam or a tight rope, it's about proportion and cut of clothing (make up too, but that's another post). All too often, I see gorgeous women dressed in sacks of cloth they call clothes with no hint of the beauty underneath (it just makes you look larger). Or, I see attractive women with what amounts to a spandex suit instead of well cut pieces. Or further still, I see a lovely thing showing both all leg and everything but the nipple up top.  Don't get me wrong, volume, form fitting, and a bit of skin all have their place, just not necessarily from head to toe. Which brings us to the idea of a well balanced outfit.

Let me give you some examples:

Problem 1: The dreaded mom jean frump


Surprisingly, a lot of women wear mom jeans and don't know it. They wore high waisted, tapered jeans back in high school and never thought to see what those new fangled mid or low rise jeans felt like. Do you see what that bulk of material is doing to her crotch? Well, it's doing the same thing to her rear. The high waist is binding at the natural waistline emphasizing the dreaded lower belly bulge. No, it doesn't have anything to do with her size. She could be a size 2 and it would still create an illusion of a bump. I'll discuss color balance at another time.

The solution? Mid rise or (depending on your age and/or body type) low rise jeans! I don't mean you need a thong showing booty jean. I mean a dark wash, mid rise or low rise. Don't know what the heck I mean? Stand up and find your belly button. Now, place 2 fingers beneath it, that's mid rise. Three or more fingers? That's low rise. It allows the jeans to give structure to your frame without emphasizing anything you don't want emphasized.

Here's what the alternative would look like. And yes, I chose a woman with curves to give a proper comparison.

Look at the difference! Her leg line in lengthened by the boot cut, the mid rise is just skimming over her belly, and her form fitting top shows off the proportions of her waist and hips. No crotch bulges here! In other words, her outfit is balanced. Form fitting on top, less so on the bottom half. Now, that's how you do it.

What about trousers, you say? The same principle applies. More volume on bottom with, say, a wide leg trouser? Then a more body conscious top.

Professional, proportional, and balanced.

Problem number 2: Too tight all over! LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS-EVER!!!!

This attractive woman has reduced her lovely figure to lumps and bumps, not to mention that she now looks like a ho. Tight top, leggings for pants, and for that extra ho-like quality, heels. I mean, dressed like that she looks like she may start working that pole.

An alternative would be to balance form fitting pants with a more voluminous shirt.

Yes, her pants are quite tight, but the material is heavier keeping all the imperfections hidden. She has on a loose fitting sweater that-here's the key-balances the tightness on the bottom half of her body. Nothing ho-like here. Notice that she also has flats on in this outfit. Heels would not be inappropriate here, especially if she were going out for drinks or on a date, but for an easy day look, this is how it's done.

Problem 3:  Too short, too much cleavage

We all want to be sexy. We want to turn heads when we walk into a room. But, we also don't want to be featured on or have a wardrobe malfunction with our nipple as the principle player.

Again, nothing wrong with skin, but this is more of a fantasy for her partner kind of outfit. Now, let's assume that she is going out to a club or at least just out.  That is what makes this outfit so very wrong. The skirt barely covers the crotch, the lace, the boobs, it all screams, "I'm cheap! And have low self-esteem!" 

Again, we go back to balance. If you're going to show a bit of skin up top, then you need to cover up a bit on the bottom. Wanna show off your legs? Then, put the boobs away.

A day look that exemplifies this:

Her skirt is form fitting, shows leg, but goes no higher than mid thigh. Her shirt is loose, but not frumpy and shows no cleavage.  She looks elegant, sexy, and appropriate.

Or if you prefer to show more up top:

So, notice that she is showing quite a bit of skin up top, but the length of her dress is to the knee. With metallic heels, she is ready to go out, but doesn't look like she's going to work the streets.

Problem 4: College girl (or, God forbid, older) Frump

This is a phenomenon that I cannot get my head around. At the University of Alabama the majority of sweet, young things in their youthful prime, walk about in herd-like groups wearing oversized t-shirts (cut like a guy's) and Nike tempo shorts.

Let me explain what this does to their lovely figures. The t shirt makes their torsos look like one huge box. No chest, no waist, no nothing.  Just a big box. The Nike shorts, however comfortable they may be for running or working out, makes their asses (yes, I'm so incensed that I am cussing) look like big, lumpy diapers that need changing, if you get my meaning.

Think I'm making this up?

That's not a costume they have on-that's their first (of oh so many) sorority t shirts.  Every where you go, there they are. Out to dinner? T shirt and tempos. Shopping? T shirt and tempos. On a date (for the love of God!) You guessed it, t shirt and tempos. 

Girls,throw the guys a bone! Look like a female! You're not working out 24/7-wear real clothes!

Here are but a few alternatives:

 How about sandals and cute skirt? You can actually see her waistline!

Wanna go more casual? Ok!

See? Cute skinnies, a top, a jacket, and a pair of boots. It is fall after all...

Like a Parisian vibe? That's cool, just put on a black, fitted t, straight leg or skinny jeans, and black flats. You could totally walk the whole campus in that!

Don't like skinnies? No problem! Look how awesome she looks in her boot cut (almost flared jeans) with a fitted sweater and a scarf for a bit of interest.

Got a date? Throw on a summer dress, a cardi, then belt the whole thing. Voila! You'll look chic and feminine. Much more fitting for a romantic night than the same thing you wear to the gym.

Moral of our story (well, my rant):

All of the outfits shown can be tweeked to suit your taste, body type, age, etc. But they all have the basic rules working for them.

Rule #1: If you wear volume on top, wear something more fitted on the bottom.

Rule #2: Vice versa of #1. If you wear volume on the bottom, wear something more body conscious on top.

Rule #3: You can show cleavage or you can show leg, but not both. More skin does not necessarily equal sexy, it appears desperate or insecure.

Rule #4: Make an effort! Just because it's comfortable for the gym or when you are home sick does not mean you should wear it everywhere. That means gym clothes, sweats, and pajama bottoms should be used for their purposes. We don't want to see you like that. Seriously. We don't.

Rule #5: Have fun! These are more guidelines than hard and fast rules. Within reason you can play with them to find what makes you happy and confident.

Isn't that what all this is about any way? Walking out of our house feeling confident to face whatever may come our way? Feeling like you are sexy, professional, elegant, cute, edgy, mod, sweet, or whatever adjective you want to be.

After all this fashion talk, what to eat? How about one of our favorites? Black bean and corn salad. It has been a staple in our house since my dear friend, Linda Clements, served it to me eons ago.

 The great thing about this salad is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand, I can change it to suit my mood. Add jalapenos, avocados, green onions, cilantro, any or all-it's all good!

Black Bean and Corn Salad:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can corn, drained and rinsed (I prefer Mexicorn)

2 green onions, finely sliced

1 avocado, diced

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 or 1(to taste) jalapeno, finely diced

3 T. balsamic vinegar

1 t. ground cumin

1/4 t. salt

1/3 c. olive oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to mix. In a small bowl, mix vinegar, cumin and salt with a whisk. Gradually add oil while whisking to form an emulsion.  Pour over bean mixture. Toss gently to coat.

I serve these with pita chips or corn chips, both equally delicious.

Now that I've ranted ad nauseum about balance clothing, go out and make me proud to people watch you!