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Archive for the ‘Q&A’ Category

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

I’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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I’m just going to pretend the last post went up recently rather than an obscenely long time ago and delve right back into the business of blogging. My long absence will be explained, if obliquely, in later posts. 🙂 Thanks for your patience!!

Today’s post comes courtesy of reader and fashion blogger Marianna, who is wearing and writing fabulous things over at Absolutely Apple (go check her out at once)! Here’s what she asked me to do:

I’d be interested in reading more about your retail experience… can you share some examples of great  sales associates?

Without further ado, allow me to take you behind the scenes during this weekend’s accessory-shopping Extravaganza!

Yesterday I marched myself down to The Bay, i.e. Canada’s answer to Macy’s, in an effort to kit myself out for the myriad weddings I have to attend this summer. The turquoise cocktail dress is being assembled by a seamstress as we speak, so my job was to attend to the accessories needed to take my outfit to the next level. I’d already dealt with shoes by haunting a store that actually caters to people with yetti feet like mine. The silver sandals I found should serve me well for interminable cocktail hours, dancing, and other such wedding-esque goodness. My goal yesterday was to score a multilayered peral necklace, an appropriate evening clutch and a pair of versatile everyday summer sandals, preferrably in pewter metallic (my new go-to footwear shade).

Shopping on your own as a blind person takes planning if you expect to have any success. To that end, I called the Bay’s Guest Services desk Saturday morning, explained my situation and asked if someone would be free to accompany me through the store in search of my purchases. I need the help not so much for navigating the palacial flagship location, though that certainly helps, but more to help me sort the merchandise wheat from the chaff. Items like jewelry tend to be kept behind glass counters and away from prying little fingers like mine, and while I can size up the main style points of things like bags and shoes, functional eyes are still needed to fill me in on features like colour, price etc. The obliging folks at Guest Services got back to me promptly and informed me that they had found a staff member who would be free to help me out at 3:30. I suppose they would have dug someone up if I’d just arrived unannounced, but I know from experience that they appreciate having notice.

The staff member they found turned out to be Godi (sp?), a delightful 24-year-old sales associate plucked from men’s denim and thrust into an afternoon of unbridled femininity. She turned out to be fabulous, catching on quickly to my style preferences even though they appeared to differ somewhat from her own and being endlessly patient with her picky new customer.

Our first task was to find a necklace that struck the balance between understated elegance and evening glamour. I’ve developed a passion for pearls and decided a multistrand necklace would set things off nicely. Accordingly, Godi and I raided the jewelry counters, dragging another sales associate along with us, and unearthed several possibilities. Godi then made a strong case for future canonization by agreeing to snap pictures of me wearing these necklaces, which I could then forward on to my “Magnificent Mobile-Shopping Mavens” (TM), aka Marianna and Maya from the YouLookFab community.

Godi first selected a necklace that my friends ruled to be a little too blingy:

A picture of me wearing a tripple-row of pearls, each strand longer than the next. The middle row has sparkly faux-diamonds in the centre.

The next selection won an aesthetic thumbs up, but was rejected out of hand by me because it felt too cheap and flimsy. 🙂 Yes, sadly I am one of those who will pass up a bargain in favour of quality.

A picture of me wearing a simple tripple strand of white pearls. They're all around the same length, i.e. a little below my collarbone

An option that was just a tad more me

Godi and I indulged our inner girly streaks with the next two floral-inspired necklaces, which were both vetoed by my reliable friends (one too dainty, the other too cute).

caption id=”attachment_107″ align=”alignleft” width=”300″ caption=”I guess I shouldn\’t steal thunder from

A picture of me wearing a delicate single strand of pearls that has a single silver flower in the middle. The flower is about twice the width of the necklace with inward-curling petals. In the centre of the flower is a single stone that catches the light.

Not gonna lie, I thought this looked pretty and elegant, but my girls help keep me modern

“Guess I shouldn’t steal thunder from the bride\’s bouquet”]A picture of me wearing another multistrand necklace, this one with three or four silver flowers placed at intervals along the front.In the end, though, our efforts paid off when a sales associate unearthed this Ralph Lauren piece. The few silver pearls gave me the sought-after touch of evening sparkle, plus the tactile interest I can rarely resist, and it got the green light from real-life and virtual helpers alike.

A picture of me wearing the multistrand necklace I finally settled on. It's a tripple-strand of moderately-sized, almost champagne-coloured pearls, with all strands having beads the same size. Scattered over the three strands are about 10 silver pearls with a little sparkle. They're placed in no set order, but each strand has at least two such touches. Each strand is slightly longer than the one above it with the necklace stopping about two inches below my collarbone.

We have a winner!

With pearls safely in hand, we proceeded to the handbag department where I expected to be thoroughly overwhelmed with an outrageous selection. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I could count the number of clutches on one hand, and most of them weren’t my scene anyway. Fortunately we did find one reasonably-priced winner, a sleak silver satin bag that will fill a gap in my cocktail wardrobe. Kindly ignore the red one I’m also holding in the pic below. I loved it even more than the silver, but the shade was too dark for my purposes (I’m told a brighter red would work best with my dress).

A picture of me holding up two evening clutches for inspection. One is a dark red satin, almost a burgundy shade, with a sparkly couple of stones at the top. The other is a simple rectangular bag in silver satin. I am wearing a black dress with white polka dots, a chunky strand of creamy pearls and sandals in a brighter red than the bag in my hand.

With that accomplished, Godi and I proceeded to the shoe department, where an amusing misunderstanding soon gave way to the most frustrating part of the day. I don’t think she heard me when I talked about searching out every-day sandals, because she started directing me to various silver pumps, stilleto sandals and other evening shoes. Once she got on the same page as me, however, she soon realized why I hate shoe shopping so much. Ridiculously wide feet + very strong opinions about what I’m looking for = a hellish shopping experience. But being the pro she was, she listened carefully to my style preferences and trotted out a better selection of viable options in five minutes than bona fide shoe salespeople had shown me in three days. Silver or pewter metallic shoes with low vamps and moderate heels are a tall order for some, apparently. Designers, I’m talkin’ to you!

Unfortunately for Godi, her brilliance didn’t bare fruit immediately, since most of what she showed me proved too narrow for my snowshoe-esque peds. She’s a trooper, though, and stuck with it for half an hour until she came across these.

Imagine my shock and delight when they actually fit in the size above what I normally take? And imagine my further joy when the salesman, upon discovering they didn’t have that size in stock, ran to a neighbouring location in another shopping mall to get them for me? That’s the kind of customer service money can’t buy!

By now Godi and I felt like firm friends (never question the tie that binds you to someone who actively tries to help you put shoes on), and we chatted about our respective jobs, her family back in Jamaica, her singing aspirations and her planned course of study. But her bosses would have been proud to note that she wasn’t just passing idle time — she spotted a bag that she rightly guessed I would love and talked me into buying it. Gorgeous leather, lovely styling, a sale price and a silver tongue proved irresistable.

A picture of my new bag on it's own. It's a slightly shiny dark pewter colour with only one small piece of metallic hardware on the front. The bag itself is made of quilted leather, while the handle consists of two silver chains with leather woven through the links.

Some impulse purchases are worth it, no?

Obviously I felt the need to put these new pieces into action asap, and here are most of them in a real–life context.

A picture of me posing with most of my new purchases. I'm wearing a short-sleeve, v-neck top consisting of three parts. A blue and green floral pattern on a black background runs from the neck to just below the bust, at which point it's replaced by a stretchy black patent belt. Below the belt is solid black ending a bit above mid thigh. With this I am wearing skinny black jeans, my new multistrand pearl necklace, my new pewter bag and my new pewter sandals. The sandals have a 1.5-inch heel and consist of kind of criss-crossing leather parts, one at my toes and one further down on my foot. There are silver studs on the leather and my toenails are bright red.

A good day's work should be celebrated without delay!

By this time I’m sure Godi was delighted to receive a grateful hug, pop me in the back of a cab and see the back of me for a long time. But not as glad as I was to have lucked out with such a patient, fun and savvy sales associate!

Marianna, hope this answers your question!

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