Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sophisticate

The Sophisticate is the most powerful...and intimidating of styles. 

Anna Wintour- Sophisticate

Refined, urbane, worldly-wise, cultivated, and usually rich, this woman is not to be
toyed with! Only the finest of the fine is almost good enough for the Sophisticate.
So pull out your credit card and plan on maxing it out to achieve this power look. 
Sumptuous fabrics,immaculate tailoring, and expensive accessories are the 
hallmarks of of this Style Code.
Note: Scowl optional.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Celebrity Before and After

Everybody needs help when it comes to the Style Code and embodying their "brand"!  Let's take a look at a typical celeb in her "real life".

This is how Charlize Theron look in her "off duty" hours. In jeans and a T-shirt, she could be meeting friends for lunch  or running errands. A busy girl-on-the-go. Clearly, not a lot of thought went into this outfit. I see movie stars everyday in my studio looking just like this. Now let's look at Charleze after she's "gone through the works" (movie lingo for a make-over)

A glamorous movie star!  Her golden dress sells her as a Golden Girl.  This is the movie star we pay to see!   While she had final approval on her dress, somebody assessed her strengths and worked with them to create this beautiful embodiment of her "brand", Movie Star Charleze!

Think about yourself as your "brand". What image are you selling?                

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Do I Look?

Objectivity is so easy when it comes to others.... but almost impossible when it comes to ourselves!
Which is why we torture our friends, loved ones, and anybody else within earshot, with the question, "Does this make me look _____ (fill in the blank)"?    

When it comes to your business, how you project yourself can make or break you. Try not to think of yourself personally, but rather as the embodiment of your business. For example, if you were designing a new business card, what colors would best reflect your brand? Which font would you select?  Would you use any graphic art? Approach your clothing choices with the same eye.

 I know it's difficult, we all struggle with this! But give it a try. You might be surprised by your new found objectivity!                    

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Uniform

When I went to school we didn't have to wear a uniform. We could wear anything we liked as long as it was a knee length skirt or pants and a white blouse topped off with a blue sweater or blazer. Borr-rring! 
Too many of us fall to "The Uniform" when we think about what to wear in business. We grab what's safe and gravitate to what we don't have to think about. Some of us are mandated by our company to conform to certain dress codes but even if not required, many of us fall into our own sort of self imposed uniform rut. 

However, if you are in business for yourself you have the opportunity become the embodiment for what your company stands for.  Think about that!

As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression", so make sure your image is in sync with your business' core message. Crack your business Style Code!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cracking The Romantic

Is your idea of a perfect day spent with you curled up on the sofa with a cozy fire in the grate, your best pet pal snug right next to you, cup of tea in one hand and a Jane Austen novel in the other?  If so, you are a Romantic!

It isn’t easy being a Romantic these days.  It’s a rough world out there and the clothing options associated with the style can be more suited to a 7 year old girl rather than a grown up woman.  Remember this?

 Yikes!  Believe it or not that style is still around and I'm sure you've seen it on someone....hey isn't that the dress all those polygamist women were wearing?

So what is the modern take on the Romantic?  Let's crack the code!  The romantic look is all about ruffles and soft colors.  The fabric should flow around the body and overall it's the most feminine of looks. But that doesn't mean it has to be fussy.

These two outfits are from Anthropologie, the shopping mecca for the romantic. There are gentle ruffles that drape and flow around the body. Soft colors don't have to be pastels, here the colors are all earth toned.  And not a floral print in sight! 
While you would have to have a fairly well proportioned body to wear the dress above, ruffles are a great way for the romantic to balance out her figure.

This top is great for a small busted romantic paired with a slim pant or skirt

While fuller busted romantics should keep the frills below the waist

If you like a bit of romantic color in your life, keep it simple

This dress combines soft color and a tiny bit of ruffles with a streamlined skirt that skims the hips and flows prettily around the hem. Very romantic without a fussy floral print in sight!.

The romantic look is great for a woman working in the arts.  Its fun and flirty without being fussy or childlike. Perfect for a modern, grown-up woman with a romantic soul!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bombshell...or Bimbo? Cracking Sexy

As Valentine's day rolls around, let's take a look at what's sexy and what just looks cheap.If there is one thing I've learned in my design career, it's that men like to see skin. 

Which explains why getups like these will be gifted to cringing women everywhere this Sunday. Years ago, before I came to know this fact, I would be frustrated whenever a director or producer said, "Make her look sexy". What does that mean, I'd ask myself. After all it's subjective.  One day I was discussing the problem with several of my cohorts at lunch when a nearby (eavesdropping) man interrupted us saying one word. "Skin".

I decided to put his assertion to the test.  The week before this I had arrived in Toronto to work on a film. The evening of my arrival I had gone to a little get together hosted by the producer.  I had worn slacks, a long sleeve silk blouse, and ballet flats.  Now I was invited to another cocktail party, this time given by the director. I wore a sleeveless little dress and strappy heels.  Well, where I had been basically ignored at the first gathering, I was now surrounded by men! Most of whom didn't even remember meeting me the week before! OK...lesson learned.

But how much skin is too much?  When does sexy become sleezy? Let's look at leopard prints considered by many to be sexy:

The dress above is cheap looking. It's too low cut, too tight and the too short length is hitting at an unflattering spot on her legs.

This dress by Michael Aram is sexy! It shows almost as much skin but the length is prettier and the top detail shows off the model's arms and shoulders without baring too much cleavage. It's nice to leave something to the imagination!

How about color?
Sleezy. Too tight, too short, too low cut, too see through, and what's up with the sides? The long sleeves don't make up for the cut out sides. Even the color looks cheap!

Sexy! This dress from J. Crew is still a v-neck and shows off her arms. The length is fun a flirty and the color pops!

What if you hate your arms...can you still look sexy? You bet!  Meet the wrap dress!
This DKNY dress is around $ 350. It's sexy and sophisticated. But personally, I'd love to see some color here.

Here is a similar dress by Banana Republic that sells for around $100. They both skim the body, have that sexy neckline but cover the arms.

This style also looks great on a fuller figure! This one is from Avenue, comes in sizes from 14-31 and has a variety of colors to choose from! All for $35.00 on sale!!!

So we've cracked the sexy code:

-show some skin (but not too much)
-wear a dress or skirt (but not too short)
-heels (gives you tower -power)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Decoding Black

Adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart – Coco Chanel

So why would anyone ever choose black?  Well, sometimes it is the right choice. 

Legendary costume designer, Edith Head, wore black almost exclusively when fitting actors. She had a very good reason, and it’s the reason you might want to re-think that option.  Edith wore black as she didn't want to draw any attention to herself. She wanted the focus to be on the actor and on the costume.  So if you want the focus to be on something other than's your color!

 I know, black is a safe choice…and so does everybody else! Does it really make you look slimmer? A little.  But maybe not enough to make up for it's drawbacks. It shows a lack of imagination and warmth. Black drains the color from your face. It deepens shadows and creates a somber, depressed effect. It looks like you are hiding something...usually weight. 

Black may also make you appear unapproachable. Just look at some of the words and phrases associated with it!

Black widow
Black hearted
Black sheep
Black death

I'm not saying never wear black, it's also the color of sophistication. It's sexy and mysterious. What I'm saying is consider the powerful message it sends and make sure it's the one you intend!

 Coco Chanel designed "The Little Black Dress" in the 1920's that Audrey Hepburn later made famous.   Notice how Coco used ropes of pearls to soften the effect of her all black outfit. She still looks pretty severe, however!


Angelina Jolie wears a lot of black and while I think of her as sophisticated and sexy, I don't think of her as all that warm and friendly.

I use black in my designs all the time. It can be edgy and mysterious.

 For The Craft I used it to make the girls (especially Fairuza Balk)appear as outsiders to the rest of the school.  

If you're over 40 think about adding a splash of color around your face when you wear black.  You want pretty color reflecting up, not black draining light from your beautiful face!

Black isn't a great choice if you are selling yourself or your business (unless you are a tattoo artist or the like). If you want to excite your 'audience' and open them up to your message ....use beautiful, glorious color.  You're sure to be a stand out - knock out!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Decoding My Own Designs

Let’s start off by cracking the style code of some of my own designs! For Battlestar Galactia I designed several costumes for #6 (aka Tricia Helfer). I wanted her to be strong, unapproachable, a little dangerous, and a lot sexy! All of her costumes
were all beautiful and cost a ton of $$ to create. Laser cut leather, hand beading, silk chiffon, a whole bunch of yummy-ness!
But what was the breakout design?

A little dress I had to whip up on the spot with no money left in my budget and only a few hours to get it from design to body...Yikes!
That’s when I learned the power of color. With Just $14 worth of fabric and a 4-hour deadline I was forced to come up what became the selling point of the entire series!

Let’s decode why that dress was so successful;

The body. By this point I knew Tricia’s body well. I knew what worked on her and what did not. Yes, even beautiful Trica can’t wear everything!
Simplicity. With only a few dollars to spend on fabric I knew I couldn’t go wild with the design. My motto? Keep it Simple, Stupid!
Color. Again, with that tiny budget I needed to get the most impact with my simple design…I chose red.
You too can make a slam-bam choice on a tiny budget if you remember these points!
* Know your body
* Keep it simple
* Embrace color

Lesson learned? When carefully chosen, the power of color can overcome any budget!

What's Style Code?

Welcome to my new blog! Here we will explore the mysteries of the Style Code and how to make it work for you.

After 25 years in the film business as a costume designer I know how the power of clothing speaks volumes about a person with just one look. After all, film is just a visual way of telling a story.But without the benefit of the character’s inner thoughts we rely on visual impact.

What you wear telegraphs information in a sort of code, telling people who you are and what you stand for. Most of us understand this visual code in a broad sense. A businessman wears a suit; a doctor wears a lab coat, etc.

But it’s much more subtle than that. Everything you put on your body means something to you and the person viewing you. Are you confident, artistic, shy, a free spirit?

There is a reason movie stars, celebrities, and successful business people hire stylists. They want to make sure you are buying what they are selling! When you see a celebrity walking the red carpet know they are not there for the fun of it. They are hard at work selling their brand….themselves.

Your clothing choices reveal all. Are you sending the message you intend? Are you truly sending the right message for you?

“Clothes can suggest, persuade, connote, insinuate, or indeed lie, and apply subtle pressure while their wearer is speaking frankly and straightforwardly of other matters. – Anne Hollander

I see the truth of this statement often while watching various women sell their products and services or apply for a new job. One after another, women take center stage trying with all their heart to sell us on their savvy and expertise. It’s clear each woman has honed her speech with skill but, while their speech says one thing, their clothing choices, unfortunately, say something entirely different! I’m shocked and saddened watching those women fall short of their desire. It truly hurts my heart. I keep thinking, ‘that woman needs me”!

“Know, first, who you are; and then dress accordingly” – Epictetus

While this statement is true for all, it’s especially important if you are selling your business. It has nothing to do with your personal wardrobe. In business YOU are the embodiment of your product or service.

I've heard that you either have style, or you don't. I'm not so sure about that. I would like to share with you all the knowledge I have gained over the past 25 years and help you develop your style!