Thursday, 25 March 2010

A question of scale.

I've a blog post in my head about belts, and why some people don't think they can wear them.  This isn't that post, but it's inspired by the crucial aspect of scale in selecting lots of elements of your look. Although these rules are for everyone, the photos tend to focus on the mistakes slim people can make, and for that I apologise.  It's becaus if I'm pointing out mistakes, I want to use pics of celebs and models only, otherwise it's a bit nasty.  And most celebs and modes are, of course, slim.

Your hat's too big, Li-lo... (and actually, about the rest of this horrorshow...)

Basically, it goes like this: if you have a small frame, you will be most flattered by delicate things - if you are large framed, you need to think bigger.  So, let's start at the top.  Take, for example, the wooly hat.  If you have fine features and sleek hair, a baggy beret can make you look like a mushroom.  On the other hand, bigger hats will balance out a bigger body and be in proportion to big hair or a rounder face. A large lady in a juliet cap is wont to look like a cherry on top of a cupcake.  Hair too, then.  None of these rules are hard and fast, and if you love a look that is the number one most important thing, but bigger hair looks better of bigger people - it's very hard to pull off a gamine crop unless you're elven of features.  It works the other way - big hair on a petite frame and you're likely to look a bit cartoonish.  It's even true that very long hair looks best on tall people: and here I'm guilty of ignoring my own advice.  If you're short, too many long straight verticals can draw the eye too far down and make you look dragged down.

All these gorgeous necklaces would look better on larger women.

Jewellery - and by and large it's the same rule.  Fine chains are hard to wear if you're larger because they look overwhelmed by the surrounding flesh, whereas big statement pieces can look like they're wearing you if you don't have the frame to balance them out.  Of course, you might be a tiny size eight and have quite chunky hands - go for jewellery that suits the part of the body you're wearing it on.  It's not quite as simple as that, though.  Beware bracelets and chokers!  Anything chunky cinching the thinnest part of you (wrist, ankle, neck) actually makes it look wider.  It's the same reason that wrist-length sleeves are less flattering than three-quarter ones.  So look for larger circumference bangles or bracelets that will sit past the wrist, onto the hand, or up the arm a little: it's a much more flattering look.

 I've got some nice cushions to go with that...

Patterns are simple.  The bigger you are, the bigger the pattern you need... but: keep patterns simple as a big busy pattern on a big body will make you look like a sofa.

This belt should be twice as thick. It looks silly next to those boobs.

Belts follow the same theory, except that you also need to consider the weight and thickness of the fabric(s) in your outfit.  Sometimes it can be nice to juxtapose floaty and flimsy with chunky and industrial, but for a more elegant look you'd keep them in proportion.  There's often a fashion for big belts, worn by slim ladies - that's fine, but they should then be worn on the hips.  Trying to cinch a slim silhouetted outfit on teeny frame at the waist with a big belt can make you look like a weightlifter. Sorry.

 Chicken-legs ahoy! I actually found this as a recommended look on a style blog... eek.

Then, lastly, shoes - or more specifically, heels.  In theory, you'd want to leave slim heels to slim girls (a skinny stiletto beneath a plump calf can look like one of those balloons-on-a-stick they have in McDonalds for the kids) - and as far as possible you should aim for this, but more importantly, if your leg has curves, so, ideally should your heel, and that's more true the thinner the heel is.  Platforms and wedges also suit more substantial calves more than they do slim ones - remember my chicken-legged friend?  She should avoid a blocky heel lest it look wider than her calf.  Again, the actual proportions of the body part are important too: I have size 3 (36eur/5US) feet, but they're broad and so delicate strappy sandals wouldn't suit as they would if they were more narrow.  If your ankle is significantly narrower than calf and foot (mine look like the knots between sausages) again, avoid any straps that are right on the ankle.  Ties up onto the leg or down on the foot are far better.  

Massive apologies if you already knew that stuff, by the way.  It's the sort of thing that I feel like I've always understood, but people tell me quite often that they find these types of post useful.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A new one on me: Joules.

My big sister sent me a link yesterday to a site with such seriously pretty things that I couldn't wait to bring them to you.

Joules declare themselves to be "inspired by ... the love of all things equestrian and country" - and you'd be forgiven for thinking that that doesn't sound very swelegant.  And, in fact, I did find most of their collection to be a bit 'Henley Regatta': upper middle class, tastefully bland, desexualised, sporty, casual wear.  But then... Oh my! Such gorgeous, gorgeous frocks.  Such beautiful bags.  Such reasonable prices. The frock above, for example has a timeless cut, and beautiful teeny polka dots.  It's streets beyond the largely shapeless output of Boden, for example - but at only £65, far cheaper.

The frock above was the one that inspired my sister to contact me. The oversized gingham is fun and retro, the full skirt and fitted waist are flattering, and that crossover V neckline is perfect for bigger boobs.  I love the way, too, that the waist tie can be fastened behind or with a cute bow in front, as in the second picture.  I got rather excited about this dress, but then discovered that nothing on the site goes beyond an 18.  That's such a missed opportunity for them.  It's £55 - which is Dorothy Perkins kind of prices, for heaven's sake.

It's the attention to design detail that gets me excited about this store. Look at the lightweight jumper dress above.  Such a pretty colour, but look at those cuffs on the elbow length sleeves, or the flattering waistband panel, and then notice that each of the three buttons is a different colour. At £69 it's a little pricey, but this would be such a great, easy, throw-on frock for work.

The next frock is available in two perfect fabrics. As you can see on the model, it's less full-skirted and feminine than the first two frocks... but you know my feelings about polka dots, and how lovely is that summery Cath Kidston-style chintzy floral?  This dress is retro-flavoured, but without going the whole hog, and perfect for less curvy girls. It's £55.

Lastly a couple of gorgeous bags. The first one is a retro leather daytime handbag that costs a fairly serious £130, but it makes me wish with all my heart that I'd held off buying my car for a month so that I could afford it.  Aqua leather.  For summer.  *sigh*  And I'm not even a particular fan of handbags.  The second is also fabulously retro in wicker, and as pretty as candy hanging off your arm all summer long.  A more reasonable £39, I already have a very similar vintage bag, but if you don't...  Both these bags come in other colours, by the way.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Swelegencia Spotting at the People's Republic of Disco

I was out and about a couple of weeks ago at the People's Republic of Disco (my very favourite club night) and I spotted some very stylish boys and girls who I thought I'd like to share with you lovely lot.  Thanks to all these people for agreeing to my using their photos: you're all utter stars.

First up is this fabulous combination of spots and stripes. Combining patterns is a minefield, but a good rule of thumb, exemplified here with absolute aplomb, is that if you keep the patterns simple, and wear them boldly, then you won't go far wrong.  This also works because the scale of the patterns are similar. Imagine tiny dots with those tights, or thinner stripes with that frock and you can see that it wouldn't work.  It also helps that the white dots tie in to the white stripes and give the outfit cohesion.

Two ladies now both working a similar look, and since it's a versatile, easy-to-wear and flattering look, I'm going to explain how and why it works.  This is a shirt-fronted dress with a fullish skirt and short sleeves, worn with a contrasting belt.  It looks curvy and feminine on everyone, even those who have no curves.  The fuller skirt makes the waist look small in comparison, as well as skimming over larger thighs and tummies and bums - then, above the waist the sleeves help to balance out that width, making everything look in proportion no matter how small or otherwise your boobs.  Then, having created the wide points, the belt is an essential focal point to make the waist look different and narrow.  A buckle on the belt is important, it breaks up the horizontal line which, as we know, gives an impression of width.  Also helping to detract from the horizontal lines created by the wide hem, sleeves and belt is that flattering V neckline.  The buttons also mean that more boobalicious girls can still get a good fit without gaping and straining.  Undo the buttons to below the fullest part of your boobs and wear a matching or contrasting vest underneath, or simply show a flash of bra!  Want one?  The lovely UK site Pin Up Parade have the beauty below available for preorder from their 'Forthcoming Attractions' page. It's £90, available in sizes XS to XXXL.  I'm waiting for the sizing guide, but if it fits, I think it might be a good investment for work.  Red belt, though.

The next fabulous lady couldn't have been working a more different look.

Man, this girl looks fabulous!  It's a little bit Tura Satana, but smarter and more fun.  The boots are no-nonsense and fierce, but their length and tightness combine with those skintight jeans to look sexy and feminine.  The black jeans blend into the black vest, making the waist look tidy and tiny - and then the knotted shirt adds a little retro 'Calamity Jane' character to the look, meanwhile its comparative fullness and contrasting colour makes the waist look smaller and the boobs look a little larger.  I love her glasses too.

Next up, a couple of boys in bowling shirts (and with added smoke machine effect). I love bowling shirts - they sit open at the neck to just the right depth, and they often have vertical lines as here, which we know are flattering.  It's an easy-wear retro look for men, and an effortlessly chic one.  Try for a good selection if you're in the UK.

By the way, have you noticed all the red and black?  It's a People's Republic of Disco thing... not compulsory, but much loved...

A gorgeous gal next, in a lovely dress, but that's not why she's here.  This dress shows masses of her upper chest, and because of the contrast with her skintone, it creates an uncompromising horizontal line.  The solution, as here, is a statement necklace with diagonal lines - almost creating a V neck.  I should point out, a long pendant or long string of beads would draw the eye down too far, and give the impression of droopy boobs.  This necklace is just about perfect.

I'm making a little more of an effort to get to grips with man-style, and I'm starting by identifying what I like.  Two very different looks here, but both very stylish.  The chap on the left is more obviously 'on trend' (horrible phrase).  There are lots of those flannel-style checks around for men and women, but it's the fitted cut that makes it chic.  Also, these checks would be much less flattering if our man wasn't so slim. But the shirt on it's own is just fashionable, it's the horn-rimmed glasses (my grandad had a pair) and extremely sharp hat that make this look totally swelegant.  I'll say it again... everyone can suit a hat if they try.  The look on the right I love because of the juxtaposition of floral Hawaiian shirt with the leather jacket.  But because the shirt is black, the look is again, cohesive.  Rock and Roll.

My last style direction might not be on everyone's map, but I hereby declare Swelegant Style Shopping's support for the 'tache.  I think the reason that moustaches are more resistant to popular acceptability than the increasingly ubiquitous beard, is that moustaches are more of a statement.  It's less possible to blend into the crowd when you have a 'tache, but I'm not about blending in.  I also love the adaptability and transience of face fuzz: here today, gone tomorrow.  And my lovely late dad had a 'tache, which means they have a very fond place in my heart.

Lastly, as is customary, my outfit for the night.  The hat wasn't mine, someone plonked it on my head just before this pic was taken, and then all of a sudden it's a bit Annie Oakley.  Sorry about that...

Apple Shoes

 I can't say too much about this one, as the lady in question wants to keep her outfit a secret - but I can tell you that there's a strong fifties mood and that we're looking for a pair of heels in the ballpark of apple green... but that the precise shade can be a little flexible.  Which is a good thing, because the sheer panoply of hues that could be described as 'apple' is somewhat staggering - making matching hard.  Basically, we're looking for a true green - with a fairly even blend of blue and yellow tones - somewhere on the line between lime and mint.

Which means that my first suggestion might be a little too bluey-toned. Which would be a shame, because these are rather splendid. They're by Fornarina (£89) and available on the website Yoox - a brilliant resource if you have time to spare, because they have a massive range of clothing and footwear and a fairly unhelpful search facility. These shoes have sexy retro ankle straps, a cute vinatgey grosgrain bow front, and that sexy classic heel shape. I've a bit of a bee in my bonnet about heels that go straight down from the back of the shoe: they don't support your weight properly, and more importantly, they don't enhance the undulating curve of your legs. But these are great - sexy - and they have a little silver star on the heel... it's a shame they're probably the wrong shade.

A better shade, albeit less pretty, are these vertiginous stilettoes from Ted Baker (£80) I could never wear a heel this high, but to be blunt: that's only because I'm too weighty for my freakishly tiny feet to support.  People of more normal proportions seem to do fine.  These shoes are less attention-grabbing, but I love the retro-sexy peep toe, the textured finish and that gorgeous pink lining.

My next option is all about textures.  These open-toed heels from Poetic Licence at Yoox (£59) have a lovely pale upper, a fun, slightly 'trailer-trash' cork platform, and a marvelously tacky vivid green basket-weave effect heel.  It's all very Las Vegas. Not tasteful, then - but one of the glories of the fifties look is that you can spin it in one direction and it's all Grace Kelly, and then from the other side it can be gloriously plastic and fake. Although for 'plastic and fake' we couldn't do much better than the next pair...

These shoes are defiantly inelegant, but there's something about their design that means it all works out. They're by RAS, again at Yoox, and cost £69 (also available in raspberry and the most fabulous orange, as well as predictable black).  These shoes aren't the right kind of retro at all, but they are a fun statement, and they're definitely apple green.  The multicoloured espadrille-style platform offsets both the overwhelming shininess and the uncompromising shade.  I reckon they look quite comfortable too.  The girl in question doesn't have the most conservative of tastes, so I wanted to offer her something a little left-field.

My last pair of heels is a little more expensive, but if this were my outfit, they are exactly what I would go for.  The company is Bespoke Big Day Shoes and they're a fantastic find if your requirements are specific.  Forget the 'Big Day' bit - their raison d'etre may be weddings, but these shoes could take you anywhere. Like all the styles on the site, here you can specify your own heel height from 1 to 4 inches in half inch increments.  You can also choose between gold and silver heels and then, most importantly, you can choose your own glitter colour. So - imagine the style below with silver heels and the shade of glitter called 'lime' in the chart above.  Glorious!

At this point I may have to concede that not everyone shares my barely-repressed inner eight-year-old's passion for sparkles - but that's not the only reason I chose these.  The heel is perfect, there's a slight platform for comfort and the peeptoe is sexy and retro. They're £95 plus p&p, and I want some 'sparkle'-coloured, silver-heeled ones very badly indeed.

Lastly, I found a pair that aren't on the shopping list at all, but which I think are essential.  As the evening wears on and you want to dance all night you'll thank your Auntie Charlotte for these.  Ballet pumps are perfectly period and super cute.  These ones from Boden are in perky patent, and again have a splendid pink lining.  I love the bow detailing too.  £69 is steep, and there's a wait for some sizes, but they fit the bill so well that I'd have to get these too.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Qucik Boden Bargain

This gorgeous stretch frock has a subtle-as-sequins-can-be sequin neckline, flattering empire-line seaming, and that arm-coverage so many of you love.  The Schiaperelli pink shade isn't for the shy and retiring, and would be hard for blondes or others with fair colouring to wear - but it looks fabulous on everyone else.  It's £35 (reduced from £90) in the sale, available from sizes 12-20.

In other news, the new Boden line goes up to a size 22, where before it stopped at a 20.  It's rather pricey for me, but I do love their use of colour and pattern.

Don't it always seem to go...

I wouldn't like to imply by my title, that I thought Lee 'Alexander' McQueen was shamefully underrated in his lifetime: he was quite rightly vaunted and fĂȘted as a bright and fabulous talent.  I'm just a bit sad that it's taken a tragic and premature death for me to come out of the closet and pin my colours fully to the mast: My name is Charlotte and I love high fashion.  I love designers.  I'd give much to go to the shows.  I buy Vogue.

I'd like, in this post, to talk you through my highlights in one collection, in the hope that it will explain why I feel this way.  I warn you now, though, there's going to be a whole lot of florid language... it's going to get pretentious. 

Today, at Paris fashion week, the Alexander McQueen Autumn Winter collection ('All Angels and Demons') had its show. And it was glorious.  (I understand, by the way, that the label will continue - but this collection is unquestionably McQueen's own creation, and as such it's of course the last true McQueen one there will be).  Despite being nominally 'Ready-to-Wear', the shows in Milan, London, and Paris aren't really about creating outfits many of us would want to wear to work or parties.  When inventive catwalk fashion is taken out of its milieu, it often looks alien and undesirable. Hence Gwynneth Paltrow's gothic, string-vest ballgown at the 2002 Oscars (also by McQueen) looked unflattering, harsh and inappropriate.  But the shows offer me two things here on my grotty sofa in South London. In part they are the delivery of aesthetic concepts.  It's like a collision of art and theatre... textures, colours and shapes - given movement and personification.  Secondly, they point the fashion industry, and also me, in a new sartorial direction.  It makes me think about adding this accent or that flavour to my style.  It's inspiring.

The two short dresses I've selected (above and top) have loads of gorgeous elements that can, and I hope will, filter through to the high street this autumn.  Immediately obvious are those gorgeous theatrical reds and the heavy brocades the colour of old gold-leaf.  But look at the shapes. I bet we'll see that belted kimono (top) influencing jackets and cardigans as well as dresses of all lengths.  No buttons, cinched with a belt, bell sleeves (perhaps somewhat toned down for 'real life'), - It's flattering and wearable by women of all ages, and it's a new direction, although importantly for our sense of continuity, it still has an echo of where we've been (the belt cinching in voluminous heavyweight fabric has been big in coats and jumper dresses for a while).  The second frock also has a taste of the familiar: it doesn't take a fashionista to see the silhouette similarities with the tulip skirt.  But it's the new ideas that are exciting.  That effect of the top 'layer' looking as if it's been pulled to meet at the waist and then falling back like a curtain at a window to reveal the contrasting base fabric, that's an idea McQueen has used several times in the collection, and it has potential to make its way onto the high street in quite a direct way even if it's just a general trend to focus attention on the waist through diagonals, that's good news: this look even creates the illusion of a waist from scratch if you're boyish of figure.  The sleeves too, are beautifully excessive - so many folds and pleats, it screams sensuous opulence but with delicate, girlish proportions.  And wouldn't those of us with large upper arms welcome something so generous of cut and, well, spirit, that it'd make our own dimensions look mean in comparison?

Of course, as I said, some of it's about the artistry.  Fashion design - design in general - is the less-respected step-cousin of fine art, and I guess that's because of the bed it shares with commerce.  It's certainly not unfair to suggest that an artist might produce work which more purely represents their vision if they don't have to deliver several pieces of it to a preordained schedule twice a year, every year.  Art too, is free from  constraints of utility:  it does not have to withstand being worn and walked about in, and while fashion designers have pushed the envelope of avant garde, at the end of the day they are creating coverings for the human body.  It isn't then, pure artistic expression - but art, I would argue, it is.  The dress and mantle above inspire an emotional reaction in me that happens outside of my evaluation of them as clothing.  That heavy crust of gold towards the bottom makes me think of life and decay and glory. The quality of it is at once industrial and organic and I want to get close to it and see it in detail but for some reason I don't want to touch it and find it too essentially 'real'.  I'm experiencing it in the same way I might a painting, although admittedly not so deeply as, say, a Rothko. To someone else looking at the same frock, there might be no reaction at all (isn't that true of all art?) but to me - this speaks.

But ultimately, this is a style blog, and my passion is for clothes and the wearing of them. This jacket is by far my favourite piece in the collection. The shape is Old Hollywood - elegant, poised, dramatic - the face is literally framed.  The texture is my favourite part, though - and sadly I can't imagine that making its way to mass production with any success.  It's brittle and detailed like a delicate clockwork model, but at the same time reminds me of a viking feather cloak: tribal and animalistic -  it gives an overall impression of such strength. Over that skirt it puts a new spin on the fishtail gown - the look of a grown-up mermaid.  I'd love to see it on a bride.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


A mission from my fabulous New York-based performance artist friend Davi:

Hey Ms. Charlotte,
If you fancy a swelegant style project, here's one for ya!
I'm looking for a cocktail dress and some shoes to go with it.
I've got a bat mitzvah PARTY (not the service) to attend.  And I have  
no idea what happened to my favorite heels, which also happen to be  
green so they're limited in terms of what I can pair 'em with in my  
Here's the scoop; after 7 months of injury, I've gained a little  
weight and the dress I'd probably be most inclined to wear to this  
party feels a little tight on me.
I'd love to treat myself to a new dress.
I've got big boobs, big thighs, a reasonably small waist (but not an  
hourglass figure), and I'm short.  (you know all this)
I like dresses that show off my shoulders; halters work well,  
especially with structured support for the boobies.
I don't really like pencil skirts/dresses because they  make it hard  
to dance.
I have a really great pair of gold wedge sandals (but, um, it'll be  
mid-march) and I will try to figure out what happened to these (my  
green heels):


I'd love to spend under $150 on the dress.
Ideas? I just ordered the Nanette Lepore Evermore dress off ebay and  
was looking at some DVF wrap dresses (though I own one and I know that  
it's pretty hard to find one that covers my boobs adequately).
Something sassy!

My knowledge of American-based shops is limited (although bigger girls in the Big Apple should visit Re/dress NYC - a fun and friendly boutique selling vintage and new plus-size gems... who knows if I'll make it myself, but were I to visit New York it'd be the first place I visited... but anyway, I digress...)   but I have found some great frocks at Pinup Girl Clothing - purveyors of punky, retro and rockabilly fashions to the American Swelegencia.


We're looking for some boob support (and preferably the coverage to allow for a bra), but low enough cut to flatter bigger boobs, and ideally showing some shoulder-enhancing skin.  All the dresses I've chosen have A-line or full skirts; Davi feels restricted in anything tighter, and it also makes it hard to accommodate a good fit if your thighs are proportionately larger than your waist.  The first dress ($68) is a fun cherry-print on black or white. The black is more eveningy, but the white is irresistibly reminiscent of Monroe's frock in The Misfits. Both are edged in green piping which, although it isn't the same shade as her green shoes, is tonally in the same family, and will tie the frock to the shoes.

More conventional on first look is this gorgeous black frock with blue swallow embroidery on the bodice and hip and  matching belt ($110). It's not too conventional, though: the swallows suggest sailor tattoos, and the full skirt is crying out for a net underskirt in peacock blue - or perhaps a more shocking contrast - raspberry pink, violet or emerald green. It won't show Davi's toned shoulders, but this dress is an absolute classic.

Next to website Baby Girl Boutique. A green dress here - cherries again, but this time less sexy and more girly.  I see it with those quite schoolish shoes.  The empire line is flattering to Davi's shape, and the A line will skim the thighs ($78.50). Ignore the wholesome model - this dress is funky and punky and lots of fun.

Lastly, it's back to Pin Up Girl Clothing for the Dolly Dress by Paperdoll clothing ($84).  Paperdoll make this style frock in lots of colourways - but I'm struggling to find the brighter ones in stock anywhere.  It's no good for shoulder flattery, but the length is perfect for someone petite, and again, the empire line is flattering. The one on the left has a cutesy cupcake trim, while the other has a design of retro movie monsters. I really see Davi in this dress, if all the black isn't too sober for her.