Friday, June 16, 2017

A New You #5...Dressing the Petite Plus Size Apple Shape...Investment dressing....

In my year long quest to find a more Chic presentation for my 57 year old self, I've made two investments that I think are amongst the best I've ever made.
First of all, I invested in Marie-Anne Lecoeur's French Chic Academy.
As I found Marie-Anne just before Christmas last year, and we were off on an overseas holiday, I elected to pay using the payment plan. That payment plan has just been completed, and I now have lifetime access to the Academy, and in fact, to Marie-Anne herself, who is generous with her time and advice on all manner of questions relating to what to wear, when and how, to present oneself in the most flattering light.
The most profound change I made once I had invested in Marie-Annes course, was to stop shopping. I mean really stop shopping. I was always proud of my thrifty ways, and my knack of shopping at the 'right' sort of thrift stores. I found many a good bargain over the years, and never once felt guilty about the spending. I was shopping frugally, supporting charity, recycling and wearing designer labels for a fraction of their retail cost.
BUT, was I dressing in the way in which I truly wanted? The honest answer is a no. I was finding things that I thought were 'me', and which suited my budget and looked nice, but were they the most supremely flattering garments? Not always, no. However, I justified that by telling myself that these items were costing under $10 per piece for the majority of the time, so if I only wore them 4-6 times, and then re-donated them, I was still doing okay. Meanwhile my wardrobe was bursting with things I didn't wear, and my sewing table was groaning under a mountain of garments that needed little alterations.
It couldn't go on. So I just stopped. Just like that. As you do with any undesirable habit built up over years, when you finally have the motivation. No longer do I just pop in to my favourite Op Shops as we call them, for a look. No longer to I spend up to $50 a week on items that surely are a bargain, but which are not going to live in my wardrobe for longer than 3 months. No more do I flick through the Sale racks in my favourite department stores, buying things based mostly upon their impressively reduced price. I just don't do it. Suddenly, there was the money I needed to invest in my course. And as there are weekly updates, I found I was looking forward to these, as much as I previously anticipated my trips to the Op Shop!
Marie-Anne's course suddenly made sense of all of those platitudes with which we are familiar, describing why the French are renowned for their Chic style, and why they continue to be admired worldwide, for their immaculate presentation. I'd heard many of them over and over in my lifetime.
 Here are some:
Invest in classics
Invest in quality
Buy the best you can afford
Have fewer garments, and love everything you own
Look for beautiful detailing
Buy what suits you
Buy what you love
Do any of those sound familiar to you too?
The thing is, that this advice is open to interpretation. And I'll be honest, my interpretation hasn't always been that accurate.
Let's deal with a couple of these today.
Invest in classics - well to me that means having a couple of pairs of jeans, a blazer, a white button down shirt, a pair of boots and a leather handbag. All items I've sourced according to the many '10 Things a French Woman has in her Closet' types of lists we've all seen hundreds of times. But what the lists don't tell you, is that there are a million variations on jeans, blazers, shirts, boots and bags, and what suits one person, is not necessarily going to suit you.
Because the number one thing, and in fact the FIRST thing that Marie-Anne taught me, was this.
 Are you ready? I've been talking about it a lot this year.
Honestly, that one piece of information was life changing for me.
First of all, I'd thought for many years, that I was an Hourglass shape. And yes, I may have been at one stage, but I haven't been for many years. I am an Apple shape. And not only that, I am a short, slightly overweight Apple shape. One of the most difficult shapes to dress.
Secondly, much of the information available on dressing the Apple shape, is seriously misguided. Belts? I don't think so. Rockabilly style dresses with fitted tops and gathered skirts, (and belts!) worn with mile high heels? Um. Nope. Lots of layers to 'disguise' fullness around the middle? Isn't that self defeating?
For every body shape, the aim is the same.
This is especially true for we who are petite and plus size. We desperately want to look taller, more slender, more streamlined. Right?
Here is the sort of thing that is marketed to the Apple Shape woman constantly. This is the very look I have cultivated for the last decade, wondering why I just didn't look the kind of 'pulled together' that I wanted. After all, this look is sold in the plus size section of every retailer you can possibly imagine, so it must be right....right?
Retailers are about fashion, not style. Retailers want you to buy stuff, so they present their stock in whatever manner required, to make you buy. They don't care if it actually looks good on you or not. In our case, they just label it 'Plus size', or 'Curvy', or use a full figured celebrity name on it, and we all just follow suit. Are you hearing me? And what it doesn't take into account, is that Plus Sized women can be all different body shapes too. There are Plus sized Apple shapes, Plus sized Pear Shapes, Plus Size Rectangles, Plus sized Hourglass, and Plus sized Inverted Triangles. What suits you as a Plus sized Pear, will not suit me as an Apple any more than it would if we were both slender. It's a stupid 'one size fits all fat ladies' sort of approach. Infuriating.
The look above, continues to sell, year in, year out, because we curvy types have been convinced that this is the only thing we should (can?) wear. Can I share what I've learned from applying the advice from The French Chic Academy, that has seen me donate 5 such Waterfall cardigans to my favourite charity bin?
1. These are usually made in a fine, closely woven knit. In theory, we Apple shapes SHOULD wear fine knits over bulky ones as the bulky knits add...well...bulk to our shape. But these waterfall cardigans are usually long at the back, and a fine knit is going to cling to your behind, accentuating all that is BIG about it. That might be okay if you're into the Generous Booty Brigade (and more power to you), but it's not the look I'm cultivating.
2. The whole 'waterfall' thing is considered flattering because it hides all of our perceived figure faults. Overly generous chest? Hidden. Round tummy? Hidden. Curvy thighs? Hidden. But it also hides all of our good points. Our generous chests are a good thing. Accentuated with a flattering V-neck in a slim cardigan or sweater, with appropriate visually lengthening accessories, our chests (fitted with the right size bra...a high chest is a youthful chest so says Marie-Anne), they can balance out our rounded tummy and thighs. V necklines are good for we Apple ladies. A V is visually lengthening in itself.
3.  We Apple shapes should studiously avoid anything that adds bulk to our frame. That goes for any superfluous fuss and frills....including waterfall cardigans. All that extra fabric might look okay front on, but side on, it presents the same problem as wearing a belt. To me, it looks as if I forgot I was!
If you like that look, there are ways to wear it so it flatters our silhouette. Let's look at how, according to French Chic principles.
The looks featured in the panel above, have a few faults. White is always going to make the part of your body on which you wear it, look larger than it is. Light colours 'advance', dark colours 'recede'. The second and third variations, both have the models (who by the way are NOT a plus size Apple shape....another trick!) wearing a white top with a nondescript neckline. That's okay to show off the cardi I guess, but not the most flattering way for us to wear it.
The best way to look Long and Lean, is to wear darker colours, or at least to not 'break' the visual silhouette by mixing colours. This means that a monochromatic (meaning single colour, not black and white) look is more flattering.
Look for plainer lines, forgoing the whole 'waterfall' idea. Of course, when I went looking for an image of something along those lines, it was almost impossible, but if you search 'Tunic Jacket' or 'Long Blazer', some ideas pop up. I liked this one.
I know, I know. She's not a petite plus sized Apple either. You begin to see the problem, don't you. But this jacket is better. It's more structured, it's in a fabric that is closely woven, but this one is not likely to cling where you don't want it to, and finishes at a point around the hips where it won't make you look larger than you are. I'd add weights to the inside hemline (a Chanel trick to make your garments drape more beautifully... fishing weights work well). This jacket has a narrow lapel, that forms a long flattering V shape down your centre front. It has that all important downward pointing V detail on along the hemline, tricking the eye into making your look long and lean. It also has an interesting zipper and cuff detail that draws attention to your lovely wrists. Little details are key in adopting a French Chic outlook, and you should look for subtle details in your key pieces. Worn monochrome in any colour, this jacket would be a Chic choice, for sure.
Now let's look at two other points...
Invest in quality
Buy the best you can afford
These points have confused me for most of my life. Investing in quality made sense in terms of longevity, but I always wondered what you did when fashions changed. And buying the best you can afford? Well I was doing that by shopping thriftily at Op Shops and end of season sales, wasn't I?
Here's where I was going wrong, and why 'fashions changing' shouldn't have even been in the mix.
The every day French woman, does not care about 'fashion'. She cares about 'style'. She cultivates a small wardrobe (partly because she only has a small closet in which to store it) of beautifully curated pieces, that she wears perennially. She adds investment accessories to bring variety to her choices.
I love that word 'curated'.
"Curated (kyew-rayt) verb to select, organise and look after the items in a collection."
Isn't that in itself, a revelation?
When I look back over my life, my 'style' has not varied greatly. I've always favoured jeans, straight skirts, blazers, pearls, scarves and long blouses. I've always looked for a classy presentation, depending upon where I was on that day. Some days I've been better at that than others. My size however, defeats me.
 I have grown from a size 8 at 21, to a size 16-18 at 57. That said, over each decade of my life, my size has not changed significantly. As for many of us, it's been a gradual 'creeping up' of things. So had I spent $120 on that divine silk blend t-shirt, or $650 on that designer blazer I admired greatly, and still regret not purchasing, I would have enjoyed wearing them for many years and probably not needed as many garments in my wardrobe. I would have been imminently proud and satisfied, in 'curating' those pieces.
 Instead, I went about spending $50 here, $75 there, perhaps $120 on a single occasion outfit, and never wore any of them more than a handful of times. Suddenly, that advice makes sense.
As for the advice 'buy the best you can afford', I have to confess that this is one of the very first questions I put to Marie-Anne. I had heard that French women beat a path to Monoprix (sort of the French version of Target or KMart) to purchase their Cashmere sweaters each Winter. Surely that is not buying the best you can afford. Her response was simple, and another revelation for me.
She said that French women know the value of a Cashmere sweater. They do indeed buy the best they can afford, and if the best they can afford is Monoprix, then they will buy a single Cashmere from Monoprix for 75euro, over several inferior synthetic ones for 25euro each. BUT they prefer to save for the expensive Cashmere they really want. They would rather wait, make other sacrifices, and invest in the quality Cashmere sweater of their dreams, and look after it. Invest in quality. See? The two really do go hand in hand.
I had wanted a strand of Baroque pearls since forever. I've written about that before. So armed with Marie-Anne's advice, I used the savings I was making on not shopping, to INVEST in my dream pearls. I've showcased them a couple of times now. I love them so much. These were my second investment. The first being of course, my investment in The French Chic Academy.
I'd heard, and read often, that pearls enhance the wearer, and that they are versatile, and timeless. I even had some pearls, purchased as a wedding gift by my husband.
But these pearls always felt very formal to me, and even though I saw others wearing them daily, I never felt they were what I was after. I wear them, but rarely. I wasn't getting that vibe that people rave about when discussing pearls.
I've often heard too, the advice that the 'fake it till you make it' strategy works with pearls. I have to now categorically disagree with that. Once you've seen good quality, genuine pearls against your skin, and felt the sheer weight of them, there is no way you could ever compare them to faux pearls in any way, shape, or form. I've seen department store faux pearl strands selling for nearly $200 because they have some designer name attached to them. I've seen 'estate' genuine pearls selling for twice that because they belonged to someones Granny, that look exactly like my wedding pearls. For $500, I was able to invest in exactly the pearls I wanted. Genuine pearls, that truly are everything I'd been led to believe pearls should be. That might sound like a lot of money, but again, if I had exercised some discipline some years ago, if I'd 'thought like a French woman', I could have had the pearls of my dreams and been enjoying them for so much longer. I've spent more than $500 on accessories in the last decade, and not worn any of them more than a dozen times.
THESE pearls, the ones at the top of my post, are the pearls I now wear almost every single day. Every. Single. Day. I wear the earrings daily. The long necklace, several times a week, and daily if I can. Just the thrill of knowing I have them, makes me far more careful about choosing my daily outfit. I WANT to wear them, so I now 'curate' my wardrobe, to ensure that I have every available opportunity to do so.
I purchased my pearls from Laura at JaguarJems, and she has pearls to suit every budget. And sure enough, when you see genuine, superior quality pearls up close, and come to appreciate their lustre and beauty, I guarantee that they do indeed, enhance the wearer. There is nothing like them. Especially these beautiful oversized Baroque ones. I made sure that I chose the colour of pearls, that was most flattering to my complexion and hair colour. Not for me, the traditional creamy ivory pearls. I wanted the lustrous blue-violet ones, to compliment my silver hair and blue-green eyes.
I got exactly what I wanted, and for a price that I consider 'an investment' and 'the best I can afford', whilst still staying within my budget. I paid for my pearls, AND my course, by using those very principles I'd heard so often, but did not make sense of until now.
I feel quite the grown-up.
Husband and I went antique shopping yesterday. We wanted to buy an interesting trinket as a joint wedding anniversary gift. So something warm and comfortable was the order of the day as far as dress sense goes.
Here below, you can see that I assembled an outfit that is:
Monochromatic (single colour or tone on tone) using dark denim, a fine knit navy cardigan with a row of vertical buttons to carry the eye vertically, a V neckline, and a plain black blazer with no superfluous detail.
Uses accessories to make me look long and lean. A scarf in a colour that is flattering to my complexion and hair, tied so that it shows a V at the neck rather than up around my neck choker style, dangling earrings, a long necklace.
Free of fussy detail, frills, or fabric, that would add bulk to my frame.
Was comfortable, warm, appropriate for where I was going, and saw me looking Chic (always my aim) for the entire day.
Saw me showcasing my investment pearls and a pure silk scarf.
The metallic silver sneakers are another investment. I bought these three years ago, and they were expensive by my standards. Over $200. But they have a properly supportive innersole, and are amazingly comfortable and versatile. Normally the advice for long and lean, would extend to wearing heels, but sometimes, that is simply not practical. What I love about these, is that the metallic finish renders them (to my eye at least) almost like a nude shoe. They could look clunky, but they don't. I have worn them constantly for three years and they are still going. I had a pair of silver imitation Converse sneakers that I paid $20 for at around the same time. My feet hurt in them, and I wore them but twice, before donating them to charity. Another lesson.
So what are your thoughts?
Are you thinking Long and Lean? Are you using monochromatic colour schemes, and eliminating superfluous fabric and detail, to visually trick the eye into thinking you are taller and more slender? Are you buying the best you can afford and investing in quality? Are you striving to be a Curator, not a Consumer?
Tell me all....


  1. You look wonderful, Mimi! Thank you for showing me your beautiful, real pearls!
    I've heard a little of figure-suiting tips, and what you write makes good sense!!
    A few quality clothes sounds ideal. It fits with my direction. Thank you!!
    Rachel Holt

    1. Dear Rachel...thankyou. I think I just got tired of reading so much that was misguided, that I thought I'd contribute to the fray with something! Quality over quantity is the way to go. None of this 'wait until I lose weight' nonsense either! Love, Mimi xxx

  2. Boy, am I relieved to hear a fellow "petite plus apple" debunk the waterfall cardigans!

    They never look right on me! I just look even shorter, stumpier, and 8 months pregnant--all whilst drowning in swaths of ill-draping fabric. My tummy sticks out more than my bust, and the waterfall cardi only emphasizes that.

    I just wish I could find more casual jackets like the lovely one you are wearing! Clothes are cut so close to the body nowadays that even if I do find something that fits my (very broad) shoulders, chances are it will still not close at the waist.

    Grrr! Menopause has been a breeze except for acquiring this apple shape. Frankly, I'd rather have hot flashes 24/7 than the struggle to dress this new body. :^(

    1. Sue, aaarrrgh! The Curse of the Waterfall Cardigan. Truly! You are spot on! Yep. Menopause messes with us, doesn't it? But you CAN still look good. You just have to be patient, persistent and very discerning in what you buy. Trial and error have taught me what suits me, but it's been a long road. Good luck! Mimi xxx

  3. Mimi I am suffering major MAJOR pearl necklace envy. However Bluey has told me that when we go on a road trip to Broome, maybe next year, he will buy me a pearl drop necklace. I love the large single pearl. He bought me silver chain close to 30 years ago that I have a locket on. This will be just perfect for the pearl. I can dream.
    I have found that if I buy shirts or dresses that as long as it has a princess seams I get a lovely shape definition. Empire lines on dresses, that done have too much gathering, also work well.
    Now that it's cooler I am having fun with my scarves and pashminas. As we're heading south I can see these being used a lot more.
    Enjoy your pearls and don't let me anywhere near them.

    1. Dear Jane, it's funny you mention Broome. That is where we went on our honeymoon, and where Husband and I immediately regretted our pre-wedding pearl necklace purchase. The pearls there are so positively LUMINOUS that it's hard to compare a granny strand of pearls (which have their place admittedly) with the gems of the pearling industry there. I love a large single pearl too. Princess seams don't do much for my Apple shape, but I can definitely see how flattering they'd be on you. Love, Mimi xxx

  4. Love the pearl. You look very chic. A great look. Blessings.

    1. Thanks so much Gail. That's nice to hear. Mimi xxx

  5. Good morning, I have a beautiful pearl necklace but I never wear it.
    But I'm going to start.

    1. Dear Rhonda. Life is too short. Wear it. Love, Mimi xxx

  6. The great thing about loving pearls is that they love you back. I don't think I've ever seen a woman wearing pearls that made me think 'wrong'. They are a great accessory.

    1. Janie, I love that. Pearls love you back. Indeed. Mimi xxx

  7. Great advice, as usual Mimi. Thank you for sharing what you have learned. It makes perfect sense. I have definately taken onboard your advice to be a ' curator'

    1. Curating is a mindset as well as an activity. And a valuable one! Love, Mimi xxx

  8. Such a lovely look Mimi. Pearls are so elegant. I love wearing dresses in the summer. Thank you for always sharing your posts at DI&DI. Happy summer.

    1. Thankyou Linda. It's Winter here, but I too, love dresses in Summer. Happy Summer to you too. Mimi xxx

  9. This was interesting, Mimi. I have a very large wardrobe. It is a blessing but somehow, while it is bursting to the seams with cloths, I find myself wearing a small group of favorites over and over again. I have to give it some thought, especially seeing how lovely you look in that last photo :-)

    1. Dear Amalia, that is the way of most women I think. I totally credit Marie-Anne with changing my mindset on this. For some reason, although I'd heard all the advice before, she made it meaningful for ME. Maybe I was just 'ready'! Thankyou for the compliment. I really appreciate it. Mimi xxx

  10. Great post Mimi! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  11. I love your pretty pearls and your outfit Mimi.
    Thanks for sharing all of your great fashion tips at Cooking and Crafting with J&J.

    1. Thanks Julie. It's always a pleasure to join you. Mimi xxx

  12. Your pearls are pretty.... glad you are enjoying what you have learned. :)

    1. Thankyou so much. Aren't the pearls lovely? Mimi xxx

  13. This is fabulous information and I can't thank you enough (saw your share at Share Your Style Party). Today, I will change everything about what I wear and what I buy!

    1. Thankyou Mary! I'm so glad you found it helpful! Mimi xxx

  14. I have never purchased clothing at thrift shops. I just haven't. Not that I think there's anything wrong with it. :) I find that I seem to wear my favorite things each season and some of the older clothing just hang in the closet. Now, If I don't wear it in a season I donate it. I love buying things that can be worn with both jeans or a skirt. Things that can be dressed up or down. Jackets and sweaters are great for that reason. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. Dear Jann, I think buying at thrift stores is a bit of an art. You have to be patient and very specific about what you want, to not make the same buying mistakes you make at retail stores, that's for sure! We all have our favourites too. You sound like you know what you're doing. Love, Mimi xxx

  15. So many great tips, Mimi! Isn't amazing the difference when we learn what to wear that flatters our shapes? Going from just looking good to looking and FEELING fabulous! Your pearls are stunning and I love this outfit on you! Thanks so much for sharing what you have learned and for linking up with me.


  16. First, you look fabulous Daaahling! Second, I love your comments regarding fashion. I applaud that you don't retreat from style, but embrace it and expect, that the majority of us who do not have model's figures, require access to well made and well fitting clothes. Thank you for posting this!

    1. Brenda, I'm pleased to find a like-minded enthusiast. Why do we have to give up on ourselves at a certain age and weight, right? Thankyou for your lovely comment. Mimi

  17. Thankyou Mimi....yes I used to be a shopaholic..... And yes only wore a tiny portion I did donate a lot of items.... Time to take my Apple shaped mumma shopping for her granddaughters wedding. I have a few dresses on hold since yesterday.... So hopefully when I take mumma to try them on. They will fit!!!! Yes mum was a size 14 pre covid... Now 16 or 18 around the middle. I'm just concerned with the shoulders.... Have you had this challenge... Both dresses are an Australian Designer.. made in Australia how rare is that!! We are in Melbourne so I am hoping to find a bright seamstress.. any ladies on line.. I will need recommendations as the ladies I had in the past are Os or retired..
    PS... I too have my dream to go to Broom....not sure how I'll work out the correct colour for me. Very pale olive (European) skin.. very dark brown also very dark brown tinted dark Red!!! I thought I would just purchase pale pink pearls... Mum insists gifting them to me for my very happy upcoming divorce!! Thankyou again Bella for inspiring me.... I did forget my dream about the pearls.... As I did not want mum to spend do much on me.... Now.... Maybe I'll have a fire sale here .. plenty of designer clothing and shoes .. never worn... Time to move forward... Waiting to hear what colour pearls you think would suit mum and I... Have a wonderful week!

    1. Hello lovely 'Unknown' person! It sounds like we lived similar lives as far as our wardrobes go! Yes, fit can be a real problem as I mentioned above. Manufacturers and designers don't cater for body shape. They only make the entire garment in a larger size, and for we petite folk, this can mean looking like we are wearing our big sisters clothes. Am I right? There's nothing for it, but to look for clothing marketed specifically as 'petite', or, as you said, find a good tailor or seamstress. I think the key, is really to find a style that minimises our challenging areas, thus negating the need for seamstresses and tailors. A-line shifts and empire line dresses can be very forgiving, but just watch the frills and flounces...they only add to our frame. Tailored pants and a beautiful flowing shirt can be a great alternative too. A small heel or wedge, and a long necklace, with any of those options gives the illusion of height, making you look taller and more slender. As for your pearls...with your colouring, I'd be leaning towards the silver tones (like mine), or look for some that throw bronze and purple. Pink could be lovely too if that's what you love. At the end of it all, wearing what you love will make you glow, and that's the best outfit of all. Mimi xxx


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx