Your Image: Dressing By the Book

Sandy Dumont: The Image Architect

In his book, Dressed to Kill, Colin McDowell admonishes women to never dress too closely by the book, because it looks as though you possess no real personality of your own. He says that breaking rules is an amazingly effective way of feeling better about yourself. 

Fashion magazines love to publish lists of what’s in and what’s no longer in – obviously suggesting there are rules. Occasionally I watch a TV makeover show, and I’m usually flabbergasted to see beautiful items tossed aside because they are said to be passé. Breaking the rules ought to be done more, but not just randomly. You must first know the rules before you can break them successfully. Ask the jazz musicians, who mastered Bach before breaking loose; and the French Impressionists, who painted bowls of fruit before they abandoned the rules about what they “saw.” 

Here’s how you can break the rules effectively and make a positive fashion statement every time: 

The new rule says to never match your shoes and handbag like your mother did. However, that doesn’t mean you have to purposely choose different colors for each. Most often, you’ll want to choose a handbag in a different color from your shoes only if your handbag picks up something else in your wardrobe – even if it’s only a necklace. It’s trickier to bring in a shoe color out of the blue than it is with a handbag. That’s because your feet are literally isolated from the rest of your clothing and accessories, so shoes in an unrelated color will tend to take the attention from the most important thing:  your face. Handbags are the ideal choice for a “shock of color.”

Put unusual colors together. That’s what top designers do. If you’ve got a red garment, add accessories in orange or purple. Whenever you use two unusual colors together, however, tie them together by repeating one of the colors somewhere else. For example, if you have a red skirt and a purple jacket, wear a necklace of chunky beads in the two colors. Or, wear a red flower or brooch on the lapel of your purple jacket.

Instead of wearing the “color of season” brand yourself for a season with an entirely different color. Make sure it’s a color that makes you look better, and wear different shades of the color as well as a sprinkling of items in your chosen color. For example, when coral is the designated color for spring, choose fuchsia instead. The colors are actually related; they both began as red, but coral had yellow added and fuchsia and more blue added. Obviously, you don’t want to wear fuchsia every day, but you can wear a fuchsia hat, gloves, scarf, computer case or jewelry. And, there are so many fuchsia shades from which to choose:  think magenta, hot pink, plum and raspberry.

Don’t slavishly wear what is decreed to be in this year. Mid-calf and ankle-length skirts are being touted by the fashion industry at the moment, but that’s not to say you must wear them. A good “rule” to adhere to is to avoid anything that doesn’t make you look better. Most women look stiff or rigid in long straight skirts because of the severe line created; long skirts that are full harken back to hippie days and make you look as if you cling to the past.  Most often, mid-calf lengths look matronly. The most balanced, harmonious and flattering skirt length is knee-length; that is, in the middle of the knee or just a bit above or below it.

Colorless or brown-toned lips have been foisted on women for years. That’s because there is no instruction needed in their wearing; they won’t make your small lips get noticed; and you don’t have to worry about touching up your lipstick, because there isn’t much difference with or without lipstick. Go against the trend. Take a leap of courage and go against this trend – wear a soft fuchsia or orchid lipstick and notice how many compliments you get. You’re certain to feel better about yourself! 

Sandy Dumont is a speaker and recognized pioneer in the field of color and color psychology. In March, look for her revolutionary book on color and image at Amazon, on Nook and Kindle, and on her website:


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