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Archive for the ‘Individual style’ Category

A blind chick writing about fashion on her own blog is unlikely enough, but what are the odds of being asked to do a guest post for one of the web’s best style bloggers? That’s exactly what happened when Australian image consultant Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style approached me about contributing to her Stylish Thoughts series. I was stunned and flattered in equal measure and naturally agreed to do it. You can read the results right here.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Julie, who posed an interesting query in the Suggestion Box

Iā€™m very curious to know how you have developed your style persona?
How did you know you prefer modern classic clothes and develop your old Hollywood look?

Most people I know developed their style identity through observing people, whether they were friends, family members, movie stars or just wworkaday folks going about their business. It’s natural to take a fancy to a look and decide to emulate it. If I tried to go that route, though, I’d have to embrace stripes in a big way, since my days would be spent doing jail time on groping charges. Tactile cues take the place of visual ones for me, and my sartorial choices stem directly from what I find pleasing under my hands. Except for that vital substitution, though, I suspect my style identity evolution followed much the same course as most people’s.

I’m not sure exactly how someone develops a sense of aesthetics or how they come to conclude that look A appeals to them more than look B. I only know that such preferences start to take root with most of us pretty early on. That was the case for me. some of my earliest recollections involve tracing shapes in books, handling household items and generally starting to furnish my mental picture gallery with images of how the world around me looked. The items I kept coming back to time and again were the ones that I could imagine clearly in my mind after feeling them. The vision I had in my infancy may have left me with some capacity to retain mental imagery, because that’s what I’ve done all my life. When I think of, say, an apple, I have two levels of recollection. One is to recall the exact shape of the fruit in my hand, the texture of its skin etc. The other is to actually picture how it would look sittig before me on a table. The image is based largely on the details I ascertained with my hands, as well as bits of information dropped by sighted friends (the mental picture will change whether the apple is red or green). The clearer my tactile impressions and the more detailed the visual descriptions, the more vivid my mental image becomes. This doesn’t matter in the least for apples, since they all wind up looking the same anyway, but the mental picture process is integral to my style evolution.

Essentially, I don’t feel comfortable wearing things that I can’t picture clearly in my head. My mental gallery is expanding all the time, pushing my stylistic boundaries as it does so, but when you get right down to it, I still struggle to embrace looks that fall outside of my tactile comfort zone. By definition, tailored, classic clothing with clearly defined lines are much more pleasing under my hands simply because they’re structured in a way that makes it easy to note garment details. They contour my body, which of course gives me an excellent idea of their shape. They lack excessive embellishments, which frequently feel distracting under the hand and compete with the flow of an outfit in my experience. The details I can make out, such as necklines, sleeve styling, collar type, pocket placement and the like, are important features to take note of in any garment and are particularly easy to pick out on garments with clean lines. And of course, many classic garments tend to be made in higher-quality fabrics, which can lure me in on their merits alone. I grew up with classic garments in the closets of all my family members and developed a discerning touch when it came to the types of details noted above. Classic was my comfort zone, and I had to reach adulthood before I developed any degree of curiosity about looks beyond this admittedly narrow scope.

Nowadays I’ve branched out considerably. I’ve come to enjoy and even sport looks you wouldn’t have found anywhere near my body in the past. Just as sighted fashionistas adjust their eye to knew looks, I’ve gained tactile familiarity with moto styling, slim-legged silhouettes, billowy blouses, empire tops, ruched dresses, handkerchief hems and even colour-blocking. All of these elements have crept into my style as I tried to keep myself from getting bored with my wardrobe and maintain a current vibe with my sighted friends and coworkers. Even so, it’s those mental images formed early in life that remain my benchmarks for fashion decisions. I have a turquoise bib necklace that I enjoy wearing, but still prefer my chunky or multilayered pearl necklaces best because they’re easier to picture. The jacket that warms my heart most at the moment is a tailored black blazer with interestingly-shaped buttons, easily styled cuffs and a subtle ruffle trim that elevate it from the status of a true basic. My leather moto jacket, which comes out to play at least three times a week, still can’t dislodge that more classic blazer from atop my favourites list, simply because the touch-friendly details make it that much more enjoyable to wear. In a similar vein, I’m slower to adopt of-the-moment patterns because they rarely appear in a form that I can touch. Is it any wonder that, when I first embraced animal print, I acquired a zebra dress with raised stripes over a leopard blouse whose design could not be felt?

I don’t know how accurate Julie’s incredibly kind description of my look may be, but I do know my style has a decidedly classic bent. I’m ok with this so long as I keep finding ways to stay current and have fun with the whole process. Hopefully I’ve done something to explain why my wardrobe and image have shaped up the way they have.

A picture of me in a black pencil skirt, black lace-trimmed camisole, low-cut teal top and grey blazer with contrast cuffs. I'm wearing a tripple-strand of pearls tied in a knot with the outfit.

Stil classic after all these years

Thanks for the great question, Julie! If any others want to follow her lead, I’d love to see more comments in the suggestion box. I’m not shy about questions, so if there’s a topic you’d be interested to see me cover or even something you’ve always wanted to ask a blind chick, fire away!

A picture of me in a calf-length cotton dress with a purple and yellow floral pattern on it. The dress is sleeveless, is cut fairly low in the neck and has a fairly traditional silhouette that fits through my torso and then flares out dramatically. To compensate for this traditional style, I'm wearing it with taupe faux-snakeskin sandals, silver and pewter dangly earrings and a bracelet of concentric silver leaves. I'm carrying a white shoulder bag.

My favourite dress silhouette...with requisite modern touches

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CAVEAT: Sorry for the sideways pictures in this post. We don’t know what’s going on, but we’re working on fixing it!

I’m not always a big one for brand loyalty. I couldn’t care less whether my peanut butter sandwich contains Kraft or Smuckers jam, I’ve been known to have both Royale and Cottonelle tissues on my night table, and my clothes have been washed with everything from Tide Liquid Fresh to Sunlight Powder and a lot of things in between. But every now and then I stumble upon a brand that hits all the right notes and inspires lifelong loyalty in this fickle customer.

I don’t know about you, but nothing psychs me up more than stumbling onto my personal magic fashion brands. You know how it goes. You walk into a store, grab a handful of items, then alternate between gasps of shock and squeels of joy as piece after piece slips onto your body and settles into a glove-like fit. Styles you thought were incompatible with your body type settle effortlessly over your problem areas. Colours that make you radiant and that are nowhere to be found in lesser stores populate the shelves. Those accessories you’d dreamed of for months and despaired of ever finding are positioned right by the counter as a casual afterthought. You want to scoop up armfuls of clothes en route to the cash screaming “budget be damned, I’ll take it all!”

Everyone has these individual fashion meccas, and I currently have two — one on either side of the border, no less.
The Halogen brand from U.S. retail giant Nordstrom. has recently blown me away with the quality and fit of their relatively affordable pieces, while closer to home the offerings at Laura Canada feel like they’ve been designed and cut specifically for my body.

Busty girls everywhere can attest to the fact that woven tops and jackets are notoriously hard to fit, particularly if you throw a defined waist into the equasion. If it closes at the chest, it looks like your torso went on a camping trip and pitched a tent. If it fits through the lower body, you’re likely to be recruited by the next Hooter’s manager you come across. So imagine my delight when I recently ordered two Halogen jackets from the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. Not only did they fit perfectly, but they felt great and fulfilled my number one criterion for styling myself!

A picture of me modeling a grey blazer, which has a single-button closure and rolled-back cuffs revealing a cream pinstriped lining. I'm wearing it with dark-wash slim-cut jeans and a red silk tunic shirt.

It fits!!

A picture of me wearing a collarless, black and white tweed jacket with a silver chain trim around the neckline, placket and cuffs. The jacket has three-quarter sleeves and a small fringe detail around the neck and black satin edging around the front pockets. I've just thrown it on over capris, which is not how I would wear it in real life!

And so does this!! Please ignore bottoms šŸ™‚

Woven tops, particularly those with button closures, pose similar challenges for the well-endowed. Enter Laura Canada with their great offering of crisp, high-quality summer tops that actually make me feel polished and appropriate. The sleeveless blue impressed me so much that I promptly duplicated it in white! The selection of bottoms was equally exciting for a tall girl like me who struggles to find capris, or clams as I’ve taken to calling them, that hit me at the right point between my knee cap and the widest part of my calf (the secret is to buy them in petites). .

A picture of me in a store modelling two eventual new purchases. I'm wearing white clams that end just above my calf. I've paired them with a silky v-neck top that has a pattern of leaves in shades of blue and green.

Pant length and pattern and fit, oh my!

A picture of me in the same store. This time I'm wearing black clams that hit at the same spot paired with a sleeveless, v-neck cotton blouse with buttons down the front. There's no pulling or gaping, which allows the two small tuxedo-type stripes on the lower half of the top to lie properly just under the bust and run down to the bottom of the shirt. The blouse is a fairly vivid shade of blue.

More proper clam length? And a woven top in a signature colour that fits right? Yes please!

These are just the basics of what my two current magic brands can do! More on their myriad wonders in another post.

So what are the brands that make your heart skip a beat and your credit card cry out for mercy? How about on the other end of the spectrum…are there brands or stores that consistently fail to deliver the goods for your body and style?

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There are dozens of reasons why people try to dress well and are willing to put effort into devising appropriate outfits for a variety of occasions. Most of my reasons are directly informed by my blindness, and dozens of others were discussed in depth over on YouLookFab in a fascinating thread on why people want to look their best. One of the common themes emerging from that thread is one that resonated strongly with me, but seems to miss the mark with a lot of others I’ve encountered lately. Is the notion of showing respect through clothing choices going out of style? Based on a few recent experiences, I’ve got to wonder if more people shouldn’t crank the Queen of Soul’s classic anthem for the spelling impaired while getting dressed!

I’ve attended a number of weddings already this summer, and those occasions have clearly demonstrated the wide array of fashion standards people apply to these occasions. I personally believe weddings require you to put your best foot forward as a mark of respect to the bride and groom. With some luck, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime day for them. They have spent hours working through guest lists, logistical arrangements and endless other details in an effort to make the day as special as possible. Regardless of the vibe or venue, most couples have also dedicated significant financial resources to their special day. To me, it’s imperative to dress in a way that acknowledges both the significance of the event and the extraordinary efforts required to make it happen. To my way of thinking, turning up in jeans would send the message that this occasion is no more important than a get-together at a local bar. Unless the bride and groom have specifically indicated that they’re going for a casual vibe, I’m going to arrive in a cocktail dress and heels with my hair done and my evening makeup in place. I take my cue from the venue to some degree, but I happen to believe this type of dress code is applicable regardless of the location. Just because the festivities aren’t being held at a posh venue doesn’t mean they didn’t require a significant financial commitment. Dressing up for a wedding is just a fundamental mark of respect in my book. My boyfriend is of like mind and insists on wearing suits to all but beachfront weddings. But based on what we’ve seen at the first two weddings of the season, our approach is far from universal.

My boyfriend took it upon himself to do some people watching and made some discoveries that left our collective jaws agape. Men wearing golf shirts? Check. Women in dresses more suitable for poolside barbecues? Uh-huh. None-too-dressy capri pants? Mm-hmm. Jeans on both genders? You bet. Even flip flops were in evidence. The real winner had to be the woman who turned up at a beautiful waterfront yacht club sporting denim cutoffs and a spaghetti-strap tank top. I realize that some people are trying to contrive a dressy appearance from within narrow budgets and limited wardrobes, but you can’t convince me that shorts and a tank were the best she could do. There are bargans to be had, and even making the effort to pick up a simple pencil skirt and blouse on sale would show greater appreciation for the bride and groom. It’s a privilege to be invited to a wedding, not a right. The outfits my boyfriend spotted didn’t reflect that fact at all.

In general it seemed easier for women to miss the mark with their clothing options, probably because we have such a vast array of fashion options at our disposal. But men were by no means exonerated. My boyfriend was particularly affronted by adults wearing juvenile-looking ties that were either tied too short or featured patterns you’d expect to see on a six-year-old at his first formal function. He contends that only collared dress-shirts fit the bill for occasions like this, while acknowledging that jackets may be a bit hot at certain outdoor venues. I’m personally delighted by his sartorial standards and was thrilled when he wore his suit despite some relatives’ assertions that “khakkis and a golf shirt would be just fine.” Our outfit choices were directly proportional to the amount of effort the bride and groom put into their wedding day, and we could therefore enjoy the weddings confident in the knowledge that we were paying them the respect they deserved. We were by no means the only ones who chose to dress up, but even if we were, I don’t think either of us plan to change our approach any time soon.

The situation is a little merkier when you enter the realm of what I’ll call hybrid dress codes. I usually balk a little when I see things like “cocktail casual” or “biker chic,” since that involves striking a sometimes tricky balance. My personal strategy is to err slightly on the dressier side of the scale in question. The outfit I wore to a recent “cocktail casual” party, for instance, featured one of my smarter-looking day dresses that got sassed up with cocktail-worthy accessories. According to my fellow party-goers, that strategy served me well and my ensemble fit right in.

A picture of me in an outfit I wore to one wedding held at a slightly more casual venue. I'm wearing a knee-length black dress with white polka dots that change slightly in size as you go down the dress. It has a not-front below the bust, a deep v-neck and a waist-tie at the back. I am holding a dark red clutch in one hand and wearing dark red lipstick. I have accessorized the dress with sparkly silver sandals and a double-strand of white pearls.

A wedding held at a more casual venue still calls for a dressier getup

A picture of my boyfriend and me posing at a wedding. I am wearing my turquoise cocktail dress along with sparkly strappy silver sandals, a double strand of white pearls and diamond stud earrings. I am holding a rectangular silver satin clutch in my left hand. My hair has been blow-dried and is worn in its usual bob, but it has more volume than usual. I've applied a little eye shadow, blush and dark red lipstick. My boyfriend is standing on my right wearing a black suit with gold-ish pinstripes, a tie the same shade as the stripes and a blue shirt.

When wedding bells ring, this is the kind of thing we wear

What do you think. Are my boyfriend and I old-fashioned in our approach to things like weddings? What’s your strategy for occasions like the ones I’ve described? And what do you think of hybrid dress codes…are they liberating or maddening?

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I suppose it’s inevitable as you march through your 20’s that you’ll hit that summer where just about everyone you know decides to get hitched. For me, it’s Summer 2010 — everyone and their brother is running, not walking, down the isle! With no fewer than four weddings to attend in a two-month span, I knew it was time to give my outfit some serious thought — the couples involved all make unprecedented commitments of time and money for these affairs, and it’s only respectful to put your best foot forward (a rant for another entry, perhaps)? šŸ™‚

While I am an unabashed girly girl and love getting all dolled up, nothing brings out my body image issues faster than formalwear. So I decided to spare myself the indignity and demoralization of fruitless shopping sprees and painstaking alterations and splurge a little…I decided to get a dress custom-made.

The first part of the process was easy for me — I knew exactly who I wanted to hire for this job. My local tailor employs a delightful seamstress named Tania who has an academic background in fashion design, prodigious skills with a needle and the all-important ability to make style choices based on her clients’ needs rather than her own preferences. I had only tapped into her talents once before when I needed a very specific type of top to match a skirt and was most impressed with the results.

A picture showing me from the waist up wearing a champagne-coloured satin top. It has a low v-neck, ruffles that start near my shoulders and taper in at the waist and elbow sleeves.

Nice work, Tania!

I came to her with a fairly good idea of what I wanted — I envisioned a turquoise dress, since it’s a colour that’s both on-trend right now and a classic for my complexion. I figured it would also be a good four-season colour, looking appropriately summery in hot weather and introducing a dash of colour to winter gatherings. The amazing ladies at the YouLookFab forum, who I involved from the start, were in total agreement about the colour and even had numerous suggestions about the ideal style.

Much as I loved their suggestions, I decided to let Tania have the most input in the dress — this was her baby and I had enough confidence in her to give her, if not carte blanche, then at least carte creme.

She agreed that turquoise would be a good colour, but produced three options for me to show my “fashion consultants” and be absolutely sure. The turquoise received unanimous approval over the bright blue and emerald green options.

A picture of me holding a bright blue fabric sample

A picture of me holding a fabric sample in emerald green

A picture of me with a turquoise fabric sample draped around my neck

With colour instructions and style suggestions in hand, Tania went out to acquire fabric, which she fortunately got for a song during a store clearance event. She chose a semi-sheer turquoise silk and a slightly more green lining. The effect of the two layered together, she assured me, was a saturated turquoise shade that would play well with my paler skin and dark hair.

A picture of me holding up two fabric samples: the main turquoise dress fabric is in my right hand, the darker green lining in my left

I was promised the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts

Tania took my measurements at my first fitting and had constructed a very basic skirt and top by the second one. Using those prototypes she refined her measurements and could focus on the mor interesting stylistic elements. She went for a double-layer of silk in the skirt, creating an overlay effect that comprises about three-quarters of the dress. I loved the breezy feel of it and ok’ed that without hesitation. To maintain the same effect on the top she proposed the innovation of a halter detail, something I had never sported before as a result of my general curviness. While wearing the skirt and top separates, she passed a piece of fabric over the appropriate places to show me what she had in mind. I could feel that the halter formed the same type of overlay that was already incorporated in the skirt and liked the idea of maintaining symmetry between the two halves. . I had been insisting on some sort of sleeve to cover my less-than-ideal arms, and she assured me she could make the two potentially conflicting design elements work together. So I let her go ahead with the halter, slip on one sleeve and take a picture so I could get some feedback.

A picture of me in the preliminary dress, which currently only has an elbow sleeve on the right arm. The look is not yet perfectly sleek because most elements are pinned rather than stitched.

I told you it wasn't complete! šŸ™‚

The picture I posted over on YLF generated some intense discussion, from which I took away the message that the halter detail and the elbow sleeve were working at cross-purposes. The ladies unanimously felt the drama of the halter was compromised by the sleeve. When I called Tania to ask her opinion, she said she too felt the sleeve needed adjustment and proposed a shorter one using just the semi-sheer silk fabric. This struck me as a reasonable compromise. By the time I came back in she had prepared the sleeve at the right length, stitched most components together and moved the halter in a little bit to make the bodice more streamlined.

A picture of me wearing the tweaked, but still incomplete, dress.

Getting there...

I was perfectly cool with this adjusted version and gave her the goahead to finish it up, which meant just putting in last-minute touches (including fabulous keepers that snap around my bra straps and hold them in place — a particularly useful feature with such a low neckline)! The length and lightness of the sleeve gave me the tactile elusion of going bare-shouldered while still providing the coverage I wanted…SCORE!

My styling dilemmas are too boring to be relived, either in my brain or in writing, so I will wrap this up by showing you the final product as it appeared at one of the weddings. The light fabric and low shoulder and necklines were exactly right for the balmy breezes and scorching sunshine in which the ceremony took place, and I suspect I was one of the most comfortable people in the area. The fact that it was custom-made meant it felt absolutely perfect on my body, and the comments I got suggest that Tania created another winner.

A picture of my boyfriend and me posing at the wedding. I am wearing my dress along with sparkly strappy silver sandals, a double strand of white pearls and diamond stud earrings. I am holding a rectangular silver satin clutch in my left hand. My hair has been blow-dried and is worn in its usual bob, but it has more volume than usual. I've applied a little eye shadow, blush and dark red lipstick. My boyfriend is standing on my right wearing a black suit with gold-ish pinstripes, a tie the same shade as the stripes and a blue shirt.

Voila!

The process had its stressful moments (at least for a chronic overthinker like me), and it doesn’t come cheap, but overall it was one I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat again. Sure it’s as complex and calculated as the creation of your average 90’s boy band, but the combination of lovely fabric, unique styling and perfect fit ensures it will have a long and hopefully successful career as my go-to cocktail outfit (longer than O-Town’s, anyway). šŸ™‚ It won’t even need to do a chair dance in three years to keep itself in the spotlight!

Thanks to one and all who offered input on this new wardrobe favourite..and special kudos to the amazing Tania, if she ever reads this!

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It may sound foolish when someone puts off confessing something that’s immediately obvious with a simple glance. I am not a skinny girl, much as I might wish to be, and my size has caused me considerable angst over the past few years. Despite the fact that someone can note my size as easily as they spot my blindness (my silhouette and my guide dog make both facts equally apparent), I have always balked at the idea of admitting that I am a plus-sized woman. I haven’t let my denial shape my clothing choices — my preoccupation with fit drove me to the plus-size/woman/above average sections at most stores years ago, but admitting that I had exited the realm of mainstream fashion was a blow to someone who has always struggled with body image. Even at my slimmest I was never what one could consider small, though I was comfortably in the size eight to 10 range. My struggles with weight have escalated as I aged, taking a sharp turn for the worse when I moved out on my own. My abject failure to keep my weight in check caused me powerful feelings of inadequacy. I was raised on a healthy diet and knew full-well what constituted a good food routine, but as I discussed before, my culinary skills are entirely self-taught and a certain amount of trial and error was required. When the trials went poorly, I’d cop out and just order in. And even as my experiments met with more success, it took me ages to learn to use callory-intensive ingredients in the right ways. By the time I got it right, the damage was done and my figure had changed.

A long spell of self-castigation ensued during which I struggled to come to terms with my new and not-so-improved body. I hated sitting on public transit for fear I was crowding those around me. Walks with my guide dog were marred by fears that everyone was staring at the ungainly, chubby blind chick who was hogging all the sidewalk space. Getting dressed in the morning became a nightmare, and even meetings with my adored family became anxious affairs. Their criticisms of my weight and appearance, though warranted to some degree, bit deep and compounded my emotional state. My most unfortunate urge to indulge in “emotional eating” would then kick in, and to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, the circle game was afoot. My fashion choices suffered along with my self-esteem and social life. The idea of showing off my upper arms filled me with dread, I was convinced I had no waist to showcase, and I was loath to expose my tree-trunk-sized calves for any reason. But gradually I decided to approach my size much the way I handle my blindness, i.e. trying not to be frightened by the status quo and resolving to make the most of my present situation. Weight loss takes time, and I already resented the feeling that my life was on hold until I tipped the scale at a more reasonable number. I forced myself to start seeing my slender friends again and was greatly relieved at their understanding of my uncharacteristic lapse. I tried to ignore my unhealthy thoughts when out in public and began focusing on proactive steps I could take to improve my appearance. Angie and the You Look Fab community have been invaluable in helping me to make the most of my current physical assets and keep my style current. If I can’t have the body I want at this very second, at least I can wear flattering, up-to-date clothing that boosts both my confidence and my style quotient. I still don’t love my calves, but I wear knee-length dresses and summer pants at a more flattering length because life’s too short to hide completely. I rejoice in the fact that I have a proportionally small waist and now actively try to highlight it, and my upper arms will see the light of day if the weather gets hot because I’m just entirely too cranky and unpleasant to be tolerated if I’m overheated. šŸ™‚

Being attractively dressed and looking polished has become even more important to me in recent years as I strive to overcome the negative social stigmas associated with being overweight. My size and my blindness have put me at two social disadvantages, and although one is of my own making, I feel an extra onus to counteract the stereotypes they evoke. Being entirely realistic, blindness does present some limitations and fatness (for lack of a better word) can sometimes accurately convey an impression of laziness,, carelessness or lack of productivity. Taken in tandem, the two could combine to form a deadly first impression — one that I am eager to dispell from the get-go. Many blindness-related limitations exist solely in the imagination, and being overweight should never at any time be synonymous with the negative associations I’ve mentioned above. Weight struggles have myriad causes and just as many effects. In fact, some people take pride in their size and are able to conduct their affairs with total confidence.

I envy these people, for I can never join their ranks. I loudly applaud the size-acceptance movement for the emotional liberty it has granted hundreds of people, and I delight in the fact that size-biased industries like fashion are finally starting to take a more broad-minded approach.
But my current size does not make me happy. It threatens my health, dampens my confidence and curbs my enthusiasm for some of my favourite pursuits. I am working towards long-term weight loss, a process which can be both empowering and demoralizing. My occasional failures can take an emotional toll on me and cause me to withdraw from ventures I am genuinely engaged with. When this blog falls victim to one of those spells, plese understand where it’s coming from. I will try not to let those lapses happen often, and it is my hope that coming out as plus-sized, so to speak, will help hold me accountable in a variety of ways.

Thank you for getting through this admittedly self-indulgent rant. A lighter tone next, I promise. šŸ™‚

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Jenny asked me a question as part of a discussion over on You Look Fab — she wanted to know how I go about applying makeup and dealing with my grooming in general. Thanks for the question, Jenny, I’ll be happy to answer it!!

My approach to hair and makeup is really quite minimal for reasons that are both personal and practical. A fuss-free cosmetic routine absolutely fits my personality which shuns excessive fakeness, and my inability to see what I’m putting on my face or creating on my head pretty much demands a simple approach. I’ve always opted for hair styles that I can assess with my hands and tweak using just a round brush and hair dryer. My current bob cut fits that bill perfectly: if parts of the hair are flat, I can feel it immediately and simply fluff it up with the brush. If one side is falling lower on my neck than the other, I can play around until I’ve gotten it back into cymetrical lines. I’m all about natural hair texture, so I use no products on my head except on *very* special occasions when I’ve let my hairdresser take over.

My approach to makeup is similar, though a little more nuanced. I put the bulk of my effort into making sure I have good skin, not messing about with cosmetic combinations that just give me a handful of unreliable quick fixes. While I’m not a hippy-dippy person by nature, I have discovered the joys of natural skin care and have made Evan Healy my skin care solution of choice. Her products are genuinely natural, not faux-organic like “Kiss My Face” and that ilk. šŸ™‚ Her simple products, which feel incredible and smell even better, keep my skin soft and hydrated. I cleanse twice a day and moisturize only in the morning, allowing my skin a chance to breathe at night (the natural oil produced while you sleep is often enough to keep your skin healthy. Try it)!

Over time, though, I’ve come to accept the fact that my face could use some additional polish. This is one instance where I had to put myself entirely in the hands of professionals, try out their recommendations and see if they passed muster with the reliable style critics in my life! šŸ™‚ I allow someone to shape my eyebrows every six weeks or so, since I know they’d wind up resembling a ploughed farmer’s field if I took on the task myself. When it came to acquiring makeup, I decided to compile two sets — one for every day use and another for more festive occasions. My day-to-day cosmetics come entirely from Mac , a brand with sky-high approval from friends and professionals alike. My makeup regimen takes about 30 seconds to complete — dab on concealer as needed, put on minimal blush, apply lipstick and go. Powders, primers and all that extra business are just not on for a variety of reasons: they would undermine the natural look I’m going for, and I just flat out can’t be bothered! Ditto for mascara, which isn’t really necessary with my naturally long, dark lashes.

A couple of visits to the Mac counter were sufficient to sort out my every-day makeup choices. The friendly salespeople made a few consistent recommendations and hooked me up with a neutral-warm concealer , a subtle mineralized blush , and a versatile lipstick in a purplish-pink shade.

Applying makeup is a very tactile exercise, at least with these particular products. Concealer is the easiest of all — find the blemishes on your skin, touch the tip of your concealer pen to the area, then blend it in with no more than two fingers. Sure I may miss the occasional spot that can’t be detected through touch, but that’s absolutely ok — I’d rather have the odd natural spot than look like a painted lady.

Makeup experts taught me how to apply blush by showing me exactly where the apple of the cheek is located. That area is much more defined if I put on a ridiculously huge smile. My cheeks bunch up, allowing me to easily define the boundaries where my brush should go. I’d rather under than over-do it, so I swipe the brush over the compact once, do three to four strokes in a downward motion across the area in question, then repeat the procedure on the other side. I keep the number of strokes balanced for each side of my face to ensure cymmetry where possible.

Lipstick is also a breeze — just follow the contours of your lips. A lot of people have observed me as I put lipstick on and said my technique differs from the sighted approach. I’m not sure exactly what most people do differently, but I’ve been assured the results look comparable.

A picture of me wearing the sort of makeup I apply for day-to-day activities. I'm wearing a black boyfriend blazer with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows and exposing a beige lining, a black t-shirt with a studded red floral graphic, a double-strand of white pearls, slim dark blue jeans and pewter faux-snake ballet flats. I've just applied my every-day lipstick, blush and concealer.

Every-day makeup

My approach for dressier occasions doesn’t change too much. I substitute foundation for concealer and apply it all over my face, swap out the neutral lipstick for a more dramatic dark red shade, apply subtle eye shadow and use a different blush. A makeup specialist selected a Chanel foundation as the basis of this look, since it matched my skin tone beautifully and was childishly easy to apply with its liquid consistency and pump dispenser. I just put a bit onto my fingers, dab it onto a couple of areas of my face, then blend all over with my fingers. The creamy texture makes it easy to spread and leaves me with no doubt as to which areas have been covered. The Chanel Tweed Ambre blush was similarly easy to apply, with its streamlined design and convenient brush. I just follow the same technique as I do for my every-day look, being careful not to put on too much. Eye shadow is probably trickiest for me, but again a knowledgeable makeup salesperson came to my rescue and found relatively neutral shades in user-friendly pencil-style applicators. I didn’t automatically know the shadow had to be applied on both the lid and the skin covering the brow bone, but that’s what experts are there for, right? The lipstick routine is the same as above — I’ll just put on an extra layer for evening looks.

A picture of me heading out for a swankier evening. I'm wearing a knee-length, black wrap dress with a low v-neck, three-quarter sleeves and ruching through the torso. The lace part of a black camisole is showing above the v-neck to prevent clevage. A long strand of cream pearls is lying over the dress and falling just below my bust. A black quilted cross-body bag with a silver chain is slung across my body, and I'm wearing black hose and red pumps. I've put on my evening makeup, consisting of slightly deeper blush, a touch of beige eye shadow and dark red lipstick.

Evening makeup

Of course, on really special occasions like fancy weddings or swankier industry functions, I’ll just bite the bullet and let someone else do it. šŸ™‚

A picture showing me from the waist up as I'm about to go to a much more formal function. My hair is more styled and my makeup is more dramatic, with redder lips and much more detail around the eyes. You can't see my whole outfit, just a champagne-coloured satin top with a v-neck and ruffles that start at either side of my chest and taper in at the waist. The skirt you can't see is black with embroidery in the same champagne shade as the top. I'm wearing a necklace with black, cream and gold and gold earrings to match. The makeup artist played on the gold and made red the only other splash of colour.

So, Jenny, I hope that answers your question. But now I want to throw the floor open to you guys. This is the system I’ve devised so far, but I’m always open to new suggestions. If you don’t think these looks are working for me, speak up and tell me what’s not floating your boat. If you think there’s a shade that’s either too present or too absent from my arsenal, name it. I’m at your mercy! šŸ™‚

P.S. For those who are interested, a site called VisionAware has compiled a really great resource with detailed, descriptive makeup application tips for the blind. I’d never seen this guide when I was figuring out my own technique, but I can absolutely vouch for the pointers they provide.

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