Friday, October 27, 2017

A New You & the Petite Plus Apple...Casual Days...

We all have days where we just need to be a little more relaxed in the way we dress. I know some might argue the point, but we can't be Glamour Girls every single day now, can we?
I'm grocery shopping today. For me that means a trip to Aldi, wrestling groceries in and out of a trolley, back in again into bags, into the car, then home to wrangle them out again and into pantry and refrigerator. Sigh. A dirty job, but someone's got to do it, right?
But hang on. That's no reason to walk out the door wearing a tent. I know. It's hard. Retailers want to sell us tents as Fashion, don't they. It can be darned difficult to find anything that's not either a tent camouflaging as a dress, or a size 6 dress ballooned out to a size 16 with no consideration for whether that's flattering for we older, curvy ladies. Shame on you Retailers, shame, shame, shame.

 Here is what I am wearing to go grocery shopping today. It's not exciting really, but can I share, that I put just as much thought and effort into this outfit, as any other I've shown you.
Firstly, the purchase. This style of shirt goes against the grain for me these days. In fact it is a bit of a 'tent', isn't it.
But here are it's redeeming features:

It's gingham, a timeless and fresh print
It's neutral, so not too shouty
A print will often draw attention to our better features (for me, arms and wrists, hands and nails, and neckline)
It finishes at hip length, which is ideal for Petite Plus Apples
It's comfortable for the task at hand without having to resort to t-shirts and tent dresses
It can be teamed successfully with dark wash bootcut jeans, a black pencil skirt or white pants for hot weather, so it's versatile
It has sleeve details that draw attention to dainty wrists and hands
Here is how I styled it to give it a French Chic look. These are all tips I've learned from Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy:
1. It has a fussy neckline, so keep hair up and away for a sleek look
2. Similarly, keep earrings neat and small. I'm wearing pearl studs
3. Wear a long necklace for a elongating effect to the silhouette
4. Don't wear matching earrings and necklace...too much
5. Keep pants dark wash, boot cut, and full length (no Capris!) for a long and lean look

6. Manicured fingernails and toenails to say 'I care'
6. Wear nude shoes to lengthen the leg. Even here, where I am sporting my uber comfy Gizeh Birkis, they are in a nude shade. This gives the illusion of longer legs, even in flats. Frankly, much as I love the Birkis for comfort, they are not a shoe worth making a feature of!
I think I scrub up okay for an old girl heading off to Aldi.
What do you wear grocery shopping?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A New You....Get Fussy!

If I've learned nothing else this year from The French Chic Academy, I've learned to be Fussy. To be Particular. To CARE.
All of the elements of French Chic, like dressing for your shape, using optical illusion to trick the eye into seeing you more slender, taller, healthier and so on, are really just about being fussy, particular and above all CARING about your appearance.
For many long years, perhaps ever since I embraced full time Motherhood and child rearing, some 20 years ago (which I've truly loved and valued), I've been putting myself second. That's what Mums do, right? That's certainly what my Mum did, and hats off to the New Age Mums who don't see why that should be the case now. I embraced that idea with enthusiasm.
The children still at home, my disabled son, and my only daughter, took the lions share of my time, energy, and effort, and it was only when we secured independent living accommodation and funding for my son to live an Adult life like his brothers do, that things started to change. That was 7 1/2 years ago, and suddenly my days no longer consisted of endless carer tasks necessary for a totally physically dependent family member. Suddenly I could paint my nails knowing that a manicure would last longer than a day, I could wear nicer clothes, knowing I wouldn't be hoisting my son into or out of his wheelchair. I could show off my pretty jewellery without having to worry whether it would scratch him in sensitive places or accidentally fall down the loo when I was toileting him. A whole new world, right?
Not. Quite.
The habit of wearing flowing shirts and leggings or capri pants for ease of movement as a Primary Carer, was hard to break.
Mostly I dressed like these two pictures. A standard oversized denim jacket being my concession to fashion, when needs arose.

Enter the impending finalising of my youngest child, and only daughters schooling in just 11 short days, and the realisation late last year, that I now had time to get my act together and start behaving like the glam girl I once was. Oh the joy...and the fear!
Letting go of the me that I was comfortable with, was daunting. I didn't know where to start. I floundered around for a while, trying to work out whether I should go Arty Farty Nanna, or Glam Gran, not really knowing what either of those would entail. Then I found my Angel, Marie-Anne Lecouer. Her advice didn't come cheap, but then many things worth having shouldn't be measured only in financial terms. I bit the bullet and leapt in to The French Chic Academy with both feet, soaking up the knowledge like a sponge, and reinventing myself.
I went from this last December... this just this week, 10 months later...
... and there's no turning back!
I still have a way to go. I've lost 5kgs (12lbs) and several centimetres from my petite 163cm (5'3") frame, and I still want to lose at least another 5kgs. But I have made huge leaps and bounds, even weight loss aside.
The sheer thrill of wearing a dress that sits above the knee, heels, and a flattering hairstyle, is motivation enough to edge me ever closer to my goal weight.
But note that Marie-Anne Lecouers advice was NOT to lose weight to look like a French woman. Her advice, plain and simple is to know your body shape and dress accordingly. In short, Get Fussy!
One of the things that had to go, was my beloved denim jacket. Sturdiness and versatility aside, it just wasn't flattering on my newly discovered Petite Plus Apple shape. Too boxy. The wrong colour. Too masculine. I needed the versatility of a traditional Jeans Jacket, with a more feminine edge.
So, this is the bit where, for perhaps the 150th time this year, I Got Fussy.
Here are the details I was searching for in my new Denim (Jeans) Jacket:
Dark colour as dark colours help to minimise body faults
Minimal detailing to assist in a streamlined look
No collar to echo a more Chanel style jacket
Three quarter sleeves to show off dainty wrists
Hip length to elongate a petite frame
Nipped in shape to avoid a boxy look
You'd think that would be easy, right?
I found this one, but it had too much going on. In fact upon closer inspection, I don't think it's even a denim jacket. It looks like velvet. And I don't have the figure of a 20 year old Asian woman, more's the pity.

This one showed up in an eBay search and was almost right...collarless, minimal detailing, dark wash, and I was tempted. But I chose to Be Fussy, and noted the boxy shape, and the full length sleeves. Also it just looked cheap, which is definitely a look to avoid!

 This one was close. But still no cigar, as the saying goes. Too boxy. Be Fussy, remember!
These two ticked all the boxes, but although hip length on these sweet young things, were more likely to be up around the armpit on me. Be Fussy, be careful, be choosy.
This one looked like a winner, but it was the wrong colour. I wanted dark wash, remember. Be Fussy.

This one looked great, until I realised it had long sleeves. Yes I could roll them up, but that's not a streamlined look either. I wanted a neat streamlined appearance. Be Fussy.
I gave up looking online. I looked in my wardrobe instead. I had this mad idea that I could refashion the Jeans Jacket I already had, into what I actually wanted.
Lo and behold, hiding in the depths of what I laughingly call the Winter Section of my wardrobe, I found this little gem...
Well I'll be. I purchased this in the end of season sales a few years ago, and had worn it no more than a handful of times. Why? Because I didn't know how to style it! I was wearing it with jeans and feeling a bit like a remnant of the 60s Hippie movement (yes I lived through that era, albeit as a child). I should have been wearing it with pencil skirts, and fit and flare frocks and heels! Dang...who knew, right? There's something to having a bit of knowledge, I tell you!
Here it is, with my new lemon print Fit and Flare dress and heels...
So there it was. And for a measly ten bucks, a few years ago. Hiding at the back of my own closet, unworn, and unloved. A wardrobe staple, which you can be certain I'll now make good use of.
All because I was Being Fussy.
When I shop now, whether for a Jeans Jacket, or a pair of Nude Heels, I have a list of the details I want. And I stick to my list. Close enough is NOT good enough. Not any more. I've been around long enough to know that if I just exercise some patience, the right thing will come to me. Or it will magically appear in the back of my wardrobe.
Hmmmm...maybe I wasn't all clueless after all. Maybe I just needed a push in the right direction.
What about you? Have I inspired you to Get Fussy?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dressing the Petite Plus Apple #10...12 steps to styling the Fit and Flare dress...

I've been seeing these little frocks (love the word frocks) on other women for a few years now.
But try as I might, I could not make them work for me. If I'd had a more savvy shop assistant in the local Shop for Fat Ladies, I probably could have been frocking up a storm long before now. What I really needed, was someone more savvy than I, to show me how to style the dang thing.
Because you see, I'd try one on, instantly recoil at showing off my fat arms and round tummy, and scurry out of there suitably chastened for wanting to look feminine and womanly. Any wonder I've hiding behind jeans, capri pants and smocks for nearly 20 years.
It was only when I spotted this lemon print dress online recently, and at a bargain price, that I decided I'd brave this whole Frock idea again. I could fiddle with it at my leisure, in the privacy of my own home, and try and figure out why these dresses looked amazing on everyone but me.
Well the dress arrived in due course, I tried it on, and had exactly the same reaction. Not for me. Not on your Nellie. Just not right. BUT, something about that lemony dress, kept calling me back. I set it aside for a while, knowing that the solution would come to me.
This weekend just gone, I enlisted my 17 year old daughters help. She of the long, lithe limb and fashion nous denied to 50+ women (apparently).
I tried it on, she viewed it and pronounced it gorgeous. See, she didn't see my flabby upper arms or my protruding belly. She just saw Mum in a fairly glamorous kinda frock. She loved it.
Closer inspection revealed that a few minor adjustments would assist with the fit, so armed with a dress on inside out, and Daughter with a pincushion, we adjusted the Princess line seams, front and back of the bodice, to give a more streamlined fit.
We also removed the little bar of fabric creating the keyhole neckline, thus creating a more Sweetheart neckline. Far more flattering for my Apple Shape. A straight neckline, just makes me look short. A V neckline adds to an illusion of length. Thankfully the neckline was beautifully finished on the inside, so no further action was necessary, other than to carefully handstitch the new 'lapels' into place.

That done, we then proceeded to view many, many full figured ladies in Fit and Flare frocks, on various Rockabilly websites, and on Pinterest. These searches revealed that a Cardigan, Shrug, Bolero or jacket are accessories du jour for hiding flabby arms, and creating a prettier silhouette. We dug out my dark denim, semi-fitted, Chanel-esque jacket, another recent acquisition. It seems to do the job admirably.
High heels were also a must, creating height, and a certain glam feel, that one cannot achieve with Ballerina Flats in this sort of dress. Above, I tried patent nude sandals.

Here I gave my black peeptoe slingbacks a whirl...

...but ultimately, it was the Nude pointed toe, block heels, that got the thumbs up. Pointed toes, low cut, high heels, add length to the leg, you see. Holy heck...even I can see that my legs look longer here. I haven't seen my legs look like that in twenty years!
Now the Daughter insisted I retain the slim little yellow patent leather belt, even though belts truly are my nemesis, and not traditionally flattering on Apple shapes. She said that it completes the ensemble, making it look dressy. I agree with her there, but I'm torn on whether that's a good idea on me. I'll have to ponder that one. Maybe when I've shed a few more pounds I won't feel so self conscious about my waistline!
Here are a few more principles we used to style this outfit:
1. Dark colour recedes - Dark jacket slims my silhouette

2.Hip length jacket adds length to the frame

3. Apple shapes should show off dainty wrists and legs

4. Bright colours are youthful

5. A-line skirts give balance - this is more a semi-circle skirt, but the fabric sits beautifully without adding too much additional volume. I like how it makes my legs look more slender.

6. Above the knee is good for Apples to show off legs

7. Nude shoes add length to the leg

8. Low cut shoes add length to the leg

9. Pointed toe shoes add length to the leg

10. Heels add height giving a long a lean silhouette

11. Slightly 'undone/messy' hair gives a youthful look

12. When wearing a print, keep everything else simple

I'm calling this a raging success. I love this look, and it has inspired me to continue with my quest to lose several more pounds, which will give me the waistline I need to wear this style more beautifully.
Who knew that a few seamline adjustments, and styling a dress the right way could make such a difference? Will you try styling a previously unsuccessful look for you, to make it work?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dressing the Petite Plus Size Apple outfits to suit your shape!

As a Petite Plus sized Apple shape, I have to accept the limitations of my size and height.
Seen below is my new Summer Nautical flavoured dress, styled as it is everywhere, with a denim jacket, flip flops, dark lipstick, and statement necklace. Nothing wrong with that, right? BUT it makes me look shorter, fatter, older, and rounder than I already!
Look at it here below, styled with nude wedges, bright lipstick, bright jacket that sits below the hips to add length to my torso, a sterling silver heirloom pendant, and orange clutch.
There's a difference, isn't there.

I think this look makes me look taller, more youthful, happier, healthier, more glowing, and slightly more slender, than the denim jacket version.
Lesson learned. Slim young things can wear the t-shirt dress-denim jacket-flipflop look.
I however, cannot, and should not. Not any more.
I need a column of colour centre front to slim my frame. I need a long, good quality pendant to add length and class to my ensemble. I need nude heels to lengthen my legs and add height to my silhouette. I need bright colours to take a few years off my age.
I know what to do. It's interesting, isn't it?
What do you think? Which look do you prefer?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A New You....a pop of colour....

I've been a fan of the monochromatic look for many years now.
That's a kind way of saying I always wear black and grey!
Over the last 8 months though, I've been slowly replacing many black items in my wardrobe, with navy blue ones. I've been pleasantly surprised at how navy blue can still be a neutral, and be much softer on the complexion that flat black or grey is.
I've also realised that navy blue pairs well with most other colours, especially bright ones, thus rendering it another just as versatile as black. I'm happy to say, that these days, black is NOT my wardrobe staple, and that navy and brights are finding their way into my repertoire with pleasing regularity.
Now this was daunting at first. Abandon my basic black? Never! But as my confidence has grown, and the compliments have proven, there's something to this whole Navy and Brights idea.
I decided to be a little methodical in my approach however, rather than just going at it like a bull at a gate.
Here's a great colour wheel I found online, that not only shows the traditional basic colours, but also variations in tone and shade of those colours:
As with colour schemes in d├ęcor, it can be useful to use a colour directly opposite the one you are styling, remembering to keep the depth of colour similar. So pastel with pastel; vivid or bright with vivid or bright. Looking at the circles on this colour wheel, your strategy would be to try to choose shades of colours from the same circle. Thus, not a vivid green with a pastel lemon, and not a navy blue with a pastel pink.
That said, if you listen to the Seasonal colour experts, they have a different opinion again, so maybe be guided by your own preferences. I'm not trying to confuse you by saying that. I'm just trying to give you options. I've never been entirely convinced on the Season thing. I've been classified as a Spring, a Cool Winter and a Bright Summer at different times, so I don't have a great deal of faith in that particular! 
Personally, I've found that the colour wheel, and the idea of using an opposite colour for contrast, or colour choices in a triangle from any point, is  a great strategy for stretching my wardrobe ideas.
My recent purchase of an orange tailored jacket, has seen me pair it with a turquoise clutch, seen above...
...this tropical print silk scarf, with vivid pink, orange and turquoise print, and lime green and vivid pink trim...
...and this Pucci scarf, a graphic profusion of lime, turquoise and fuschia pink...
I used to be a fan of pastel scarves, especially that pale peach colour, often referred to as Ballet Pink. Here I am in my Basic Black cardi and jacket, with a Ballet Pink silk chiffon scarf. I still like this look, but can see the difference a bright pop of colour makes now.
I have learned that vivid colours are better next to my face, and I now have a growing collection of crazy bright scarves and accessories, that are far more flattering and, dare I say, youthful.
If like me, you're closer to 60 than 30, it may interest you to know that one of the best ways to look ten years younger, is to simply wear a bright colour. Not necessarily all over, but in a scarf, a solid coloured jacket paired with an otherwise neutral outfit, a cute clutch or bag, or a bright lipstick.
When doing this, I've learned to keep everything else simple. Especially for we cute and cuddly, Petite Plus Size Apple shape ladies, it's best to keep the jacket free of unnecessary embellishments, keep the rest of the outfit in a single tone and a solid colour, do not go over the top with jewellery, and minimise ruffles and frills and other frou-frou. This achieves the most streamlined, slender, flattering and youthful silhouette possible. You've heard the expression 'don't gild the lily'? That's what we're trying to achieve. WE want to shine in our outfits. We, as short and cuddly types, don't want the outfit to overwhelm us.
So now if I wear Navy Blue, I know that bright orange is a flattering contrast on me, rather than the usual Nautical style of red or white, and it's certainly a softer look than black. Looking at the colour wheel, that's actually an obvious choice (providing it flatters your colouring), and I prefer it, as red on it's own, has never really been kind to my colouring. The orange however, adds a pop of colour and harmonises with my gold skin undertones. As with the difference between wearing black or navy, so it seems the subtle difference of wearing orange instead of red, is a good decision for me.
This orange jacket was not expensive, having been purchased at the end of season sales. But I am so enamoured with it, that I am now on the lookout for other brightly coloured jackets, as we move into Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
What do you think? Do you like bright colours? What about navy VS black? Tell me all...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Super duper easy Moana Te Fiti cake...

The Disney movie 'Moana', is taking up where it's predecessors Frozen, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast, have left off. If you haven't seen or heard of it, you've probably, like me, been living under a rock.
So when my almost 4 year old granddaughter started asking for a Moana cake for her upcoming birthday, I actually had to go away and watch the movie to have any clue of what she was on about!
Here is the story of how I turned 3 $4 mud cakes, some Betty Crocker frosting, dessicated coconut, green food colouring, and purchased sugar flowers into the pretty cake you see above. Apparently a HUGE hit with the 4 year old set :)
You need:
3 purchased cakes, any flavour. Or of course you can bake your own.
2 tubs prepared buttercream frosting or again, about 3-4 cups of your own recipe.
Green food colouring
About 200-300gms of Dessicated Coconut
A small quantity of Green fondant
Sugar flowers, small light and dark pink and yellow, and medium frangipani and hydrangea blossoms or any other you like
Cake board
Bamboo skewers
Start by tinting the coconut green. This is not difficult but it is a bit tedious. I was adding about a teaspoon of green food colouring at a time, and just smooshing it around to break it up and mixing it through. It took about 5 minutes to add enough, and distribute it evenly, to achieve the depth of green I was after.
Take the first cake, and turn it upside down onto the cake board. Because mine were already iced with Glace` icing, there was no need to fix them in place with fondant or buttercream. The icing just grabbed onto the cakeboard.
You can see the icing reflected in the cake board here!
Empty a tub and a half of the frosting (about 2-3 cups) into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2-4 teaspoons of green food colouring.
This sounds a lot, but I was surprised at how much I needed to get the depth of green I was after.

Cover the entire cake with the green buttercream. No need to get fussy with smoothing because this will soon be completely covered in coconut and you won't see it.
...You don't even need a crumb coat with this cake, as the coconut will hide all ills...
Now start applying the green coconut. Sprinkle it liberally over the top...
...and spoon it into your cupped hand...
Pressing it gently on to the sides with your palm. You will lose a lot to the bench at this stage, so be prepared for a clean up later!
Keep going until the cake is covered, then gently angle the cake and the board over the bowl of green coconut and use your fingers or a pastry brush, to brush the excess coconut from the board and the base of the cake, back into the bowl.
Take your other two cakes...
...and trim about 5-7 cms (2-3 inches) from the outer edge to make 2 slightly smaller cakes. I was fortunate to have a cake tin just the right size to use as a template...
Just trim roughly. Again, it will all be covered with buttercream and coconut, so you won't see any irregularities.

 Sit the next cake, upside down again, on the first layer, top with buttercream, and sit the third cake, upside down on that one.
Fix the cakes in place with the three bamboo skewers, and trim the to the surface of the cake with a pair of scissors. Remember to remind anyone cutting the cake, that the skewers are there.
Completely cover the two top layers with your green buttercream.
Apply the green coconut to the two top layers, the same way you did with the first layer.
Take a piece of green fondant about the size of two thumbs, and roll it into a rough snake shape.
Press the shape of the Heart of Te Fiti into the front of the twin layers of your cake. Remember, it's not actually a swirl. Starting from the bottom, it's sort of a rough wave shape, with a curve over the top of it. If that seems too hard (and really it's easier than a swirl), do whatever works for you. There seems no limit on the variations of this idea, really. If it looks right to you, then it will look right to your child.

Us a piece of silicone baking paper and a fondant smoother to flatten the swirl out a bit if you wish.
Smooth the buttercream with the baking paper and smoother as well if you like, but it's not necessary.
Start applying your light and dark pink flowers, using mostly dark as far as you can to replicate Te Fiti in the movie.
Again, the flowers are going to hide any imperfections, like this dent you see in the right side of this photo. That was just from applying the swirl, and without scooping the icing off, I couldn't make it smooth for the life of me. It didn't matter at all. Te Fiti actually morphs into a hilly island, so islands have hills and valleys, right?
I just kept applying flowers until the dent was basically unnoticeable.
These little hydrangea blooms were wired (and were only 95c each!), making it easy to fix them wherever I wanted them.
Frangipani flowers were added to the top, and I was done.
This ingredients for this cake were as follows. Prices are approximate:
3 x premade mud cakes $4 each = $12
2 tubs frosting $5 each = $10
Supermarket small sugar flowers $3 each pack with lots in them = $12
Green food colouring $2
Green prepared fondant $3
Coconut $2
Fancy sugar flowers from a cake decorating store $17
Cake board $2
Total outlay : $60
BUT, I have plenty of ingredients left for another identical cake (my daughter wants one for her 18th in January!), including re-using the larger sugar flowers, so the next Te Fiti cake I make will only require an outlay for the cakes, frosting and a cake board, which will total $24.
So I could realistically make two Te Fiti cakes for $84, or just $42 each.
Try getting a professional cake decorator to make this cake for you for that price!
Other ways of reducing the costs might be:
Bake the cakes yourself
Make the buttercream yourself
Make your own cake board or just use a serving platter or dinner plate
Make marshmallow frangipani flowers for the top
Make pineapple flowers for the top and the base
If you used all of these ideas, you could reduce the costs of making this cake to around $20-$25, and THAT is overestimating.
I could have done any or all of these BUT, I had limited time as I'd already had three fails for another cake idea I'd had, AND my new range hood was being installed that day, and I could not get to my oven!
Things we do for our grandchildren, honestly ;-)
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful.
Have a great week!