Archive | November 2012

Smart or Stylish – How to Tell the Difference

Last weekend there was an article in the ‘U on Sunday’ magazine called ‘Roaring Forties’. It was about helping women over 40 dress on-trend without looking like a teenager.

As I read the advice and looked at the clothing examples, something was not quite right. I saw it again in an article called ‘Mix-Master – Part 2’ in the latest ‘Dressmaking with Stitches’ magazine. And I have seen it on the women I meet while out networking.

It’s the difference between looking smart and looking stylish or as one of my clients said – between looking neat and looking smashing.

We have all been taught to dress well and to co-ordinate a bit. We walk out the door feeling smartly dressed. All the articles in newspapers and women’s magazines show us that too. What they do not show us is how to lift ourselves to the highest level where we always walk out the door feeling great or smashing.

Here’s my simple fashion translator guide to the difference between smart and stylish. It is easier than you think.

Smart but Dull


This model is wearing black pants, top, shoes and handbag. Her jacket is dark blue and the blue and black patterned scarf co-ordinates and brings the two colours together. It is following the correct style principles but the colours are very similar. The result is smart but dull. I also think that the high neckline will drain the colour from your face. To look smart, stylish and fabulous, lift the contrast level.




Stylish with Good Contrast

This model is wearing blue top and jacket, white pants and a white and blue scarf. It is the same style principles but there is a more obvious contrast between the colours. A white and blue scarf rather than a blue & white scarf works better and the white brings light to her face. The result is smart, stylish and fabulous.




Smart but Missing Something


This model is wearing black and cream striped skirt, cream textured top, pale gold jacket and yellow and silver strappy sandals. Black and cream or black and white can be worn with any other colour. The colour proportions are right and she looks smart. The missing something is an accessory that brings the colours together. That could be a black, cream and yellow scarf, necklace, earrings, brooch, bangles or shoes. The yellow sandals are not enough.



Stylish with Colour Co-ordination


This model is wearing black pants and sandals, orange top and a black, orange and white scarf. The scarf brings the colours together. When you wear two or three plain-coloured items, your main accessory needs to combine all the colours. A black or orange necklace would take the outfit from stylish back from stylish to smart.







This model has added a necklace that is white with a brown piece in the centre front. She has added brown bangles. Without the necklace she would be smart. With it she is stylish.




Smart but Wrong Accessories

I see many examples of accessories looking smart and colour matched but not stylish.


This model is wearing cream pants, black and white patterned top, black and white necklace and black, white and red bangles. The necklace disappears into the pattern of the top. To lift it from smart to stylish, ditch the necklace. Add black and white earrings if desired. Change the four bangle combination to two black, one white and one red (or any colour) or one bangle with all those colours.






This model is wearing white pants and jacket, black and white striped jacket and a red, yellow and white scarf. It is casually smart but the colours in the scarf do not co-ordinate with black and white. It would be stylish if the scarf was black, white and any other colour.




Stylish with Co-ordinated Accessories



This model is wearing white pants and top, brown jacket, shoes and handbag, brown and black scarf and an animal print belt. The scarf (could be jewellery instead) add a touch of black and it is a great colour contrast over the white top.







This model is wearing white pants and coat, a blue top and handbag, neutral shoes and a blue and white scarf. The scarf is 50/50 blue and white and as it is worn over the white jacket, it stands out. If it was worn over the top, it would not be as noticeable or as stylish.




Simple Stylish Rule

Wear two colours or one colour and a pattern in unequal proportions. Add a tiny touch of a third colour if desired. Then add at least one accessory that brings those two or three colours together in medium or bright shades so that you shine rather than look dull. You are a whole rather than bits.

Then in the words of my client, you will always be noticed positively, remembered easily and feel ‘smashing’.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 29 November  2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)


How to Confidently Wear Black and Royal Blue Together

Some colours are the in colour of the season and then out of fashion for many more seasons at the whim of the fashion world. royal blue is one of those colours. Depending on when you are reading this article, it could be in or out.

Combined with black, royal blue makes a smart combination that you can wear for many years and it will always look great whether or not it is the colour of the season. Do not confuse it with navy. Royal blue is a brighter colour and at its deepest, is the blue colour used on many flags. Navy is made up of royal blue and black: so it is a much darker colour. Some shades of navy can be very close to black in colour.

Read on for some smart dressing tips for business and professional women over 40 so that you learn a few insider secrets to making this colour combination work for you.

Why it Works
Black and royal blue work as a combination when you can clearly see the difference between the two colours from a distance. Royal Blue is a classic colour: so combines well with classic black. The combination is unusual enough to always look smart in whatever situation you wear it. The challenge is to make it modern rather than staid and old-fashioned.

Royal Blue over Black
I think this is the best and smartest way to wear this colour combination. Wear the royal blue on the top half of your body and keep it in a modern style that is open at your neckline. The simplest way is to wear a royal blue jacket over a black dress or black top with black skirt or pants. Make sure you leave space at your neckline to add jewellery or a scarf.

A more unusual way to wear these colours is to wear a royal blue modern-style top over black pants or black skirt. Accessories again will be the key to looking modern and stylish when you combine two solid colours.


An easier and safer option is to wear a print top that combines the two colours and maybe, adds a touch of white or grey. When wearing a print top, add a royal blue modern style jacket with or without a collar. Wear the jacket unbuttoned to show the top underneath.

Royal Blue and black are cool colours and best suit those with that colouring. For you, add silver or black accessories. If you have a warm colouring or if you want to be more approachable, add gold or rose gold accessories or a scarf or necklace with warm colours and a touch of royal blue. This will soften the cool colours and blend more with your neck and facial skin.


Black over Royal Blue
This combination requires more care to make it look smart rather than dull or dowdy. I suggest sticking to a black jacket rather than a black top. Wear the jacket in a soft style which can be worn open and well away from that magic area below your neck. Experiment with a royal blue skirt or pants, a black, open drapey jacket and underneath it, a print top with those two colours plus some warmer colours.





Another idea from Burda patterns is to wear a royal blue skirt, black cardigan and a chambray blue shirt and a blue-grey scarf.

You can find examples of all these ways of combining black and royal blue in the pattern books or on their websites.






Black and Navy
Keep this combination only to black accessories worn with a navy dress. Add some white, grey or pale blue in the necklace or scarf. Make sure you can see the difference between the two colours from a distance or you will just look mismatched.

Last Words
Now you have learnt some creative ideas for combining these two colour, go and play. Translate royal blue and black into your individual style and create combinations that make you feel modern and more alive.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 11 August  2011. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)

New Fashion Terms – Coatigan & Vestigan

As I like to be at the forefront of new fashion terms, here’s one I found in the October Oprah magazine. Coatigan is the term for a cardigan that looks like a long coat. Strictly speaking, a coatigan has lots of buttons down the front of it and is a cardigan that comes to at least knee length.  It’s less formal than a coat and more upmarket than, and not as dowdy as a cardigan.



This is my playful take on it.  Use coatigan for any jacket that is long at the front (like the one on the left) whether it has buttons or not.

Vestigan sounds like a coat for a vegetarian. No! I have played with the coatigan word to create my newly-invented term for longs, sleeveless vests.  Both illustrations are from the November ‘Dressmaking with Stitches’ magazine. The jackets  are the same but the author has removed the sleeves in the one on the right to make it a vest rather than a coat.

Have fun playing with these terms and use them to sound like a very modern, trendy woman.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 22 November  2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)

Why Smart Women Wear Horizontal Stripes

‘I don’t wear horizontal stripes! They make you look fat!’

This is one of the biggest myths in the world of women’s fashion. Yes, there is some truth in it. Big, wide, obvious horizontal stripes can make you look wider (ie fatter).

Horizontal stripes are a basic fashion that all women can wear. Many brands make them plain and boring but good designers make them versatile and smart.

It’s All about Contrast

Stripes are usually a mixture of two colours. They can be muted, soft, medium or bright. In a basic design, these contrasting colours generate a ‘so-so’ response. When you find a design that uses horizontal stripes in unexpected or slightly different ways, it lifts the power of contrast to a higher level. Wearing these designs makes you look like a smart woman who shines. You stand out from the crowd. You attract compliments and you look like an influential leader.

Mix Thick & Thin or Horizontal & Vertical

Graduated horizontal stripes from thin at the top to thicker at hip level or in the skirt on the left , are one simple way to do this. Be careful of horizontal stripes on skirts. You do not want wide stripes around your widest area.







Another variation is where three thicker stripes are added (usually at bust level) to a basic, thin horizontal stripe top. Both these are classic variations.







Some designers make it slightly different by adding a vertical or diagonal collar in the same basic stripe material.







Variety can be added by mixing one panel of a thicker vertical stripe to the basic thin horizontal stripe as in this Butterick 5561 pattern. In muted or soft colours and with a two-thirds vertical to one-third horizontal width, it is slimming as it follows the magic princess line.








Go bolder by adding a slim horizontal panel down the front of a wider vertical stripe skirt like this Vogue 1292 pattern. It is unexpected and ‘wow’.









A Touch of Contrast

Horizontal stripes are a stand-out feature when they are added from bust to shoulder line on a plain colour background. Another touch of contrast is to have one of your wider stripes in a different colour like the Events top above that has with one stripe in red.


Some tops add a contrasting embroidered trim to the front neckline only.







Many tops combine wide and thin stripes using the princess line as their guide. This Ezibuy top minimises the fattening effect by adding a printed design over the midriff area.







I have a stripe top that has narrow horizontal stripes at the back while the front has horizontal and diagonal stripes.








Irregular Stripes

Not all horizontal stripes are regular. Melange stripes are irregular widths and blended so you only see parts of the contrasting colours.



Some stripes are a combination of straight and wavy stripes. This is an effective dress design ad it looks smart rather than reminding others of a grandpa’s night shirt.







Wavy, narrow horizontal stripes are unusual and timeless as well as subtly highlighting your female curves.







Irregular width stripes in three or more colours add interest and variety to your wardrobe. Just be aware of where the widest stripes and narrowest colours sit on your body.







Chevrons like this Chico’s jacket are zigzag horizontal stripes. They look best in variations of one colour. Wear the jacket over a plain singlet or T-shirt and not with the matching chevron singlet top.






Last Words

Horizontal stripes can be boring or interesting. Smart women look for the unexpected or the interesting. You choice will be governed by your Introvert or Extrovert nature. Make the most of yourself in horizontal stripes and you will shine. Other women will then be inspired to follow your lead.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 15 November  2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)

Most Sophisticated Casual Pants Length

While crop pants are very popular, most of the women I see are wearing a wide, baggy version of them. Many women do not know  what is the most flattering crop pant’s length for them. Crop pants are modest, comfortable and cool in summer. They also define the baby boomer generation in quite often a dowdy way.

Try this hint as a more stylish, modern and youthful way to wear pants. Whether they are denim or cotton, choose a style that is tapering (ie follows the line of your leg without being clingy like jeggings). Then as shown in the two examples either turn them up or hem them up to a few inches above your ankles. Every women’s legs look slim just above the ankles because this is the slimmest part of your legs.  Fold them up if you are wearing flatties and sew them up with a flat hem if you are wearing heels.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 8 November 2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)