Embrace Your Assets

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Thanks to everyone who entered the Gigi Hill Bags Giveaway. Congratulations to Gloria who was Comment #13! Remember any other orders placed through Brenda will receive 10% off. Contact her through the link on the PARTNERS page which brings you directly to her site/e-mail information. The Gigi Hill site is not set up to take discount codes, so e-mail Brenda directly and tell her you are a Style by Karen reader! You will LOVE these bags.

Embrace your assets! My clients and customers at the boutique may tire of this phrase, but sometimes repetition is good so the concept sticks!

Women are hard on themselves. If I would ask you to name FIVE ASSETS, I would dare say that you would have to stop and think. It’s not that you don’t have that many assets, but the bottom line is that we are all quick to point out our flaws.

If I asked you to name FIVE FLAWS, I would imagine you could do that in a heart beat. It’s just how we are wired.

Embracing your assets will influence the way you weed out your closet, shop and put outfits together. I guarantee it.

So for fun, take a minute RIGHT NOW and write down five or more of your assets. Ok, I’ll go first just to give you the idea.

1. Eyes: I get many compliments on my eyes. To think that when I was younger, I didn’t like them because they “bulged out”.

2. Skin: I’ve been blessed with good genes. I also take care of my skin. It makes such a difference in your overall appearance.

3. Hair: I have very fine, thin hair and most people with my hair would NOT consider it an asset. However, for whatever reason I seem to be able to do a lot with very little. My hair stylist compliments me on that fact–and I’ve even been known to cut it myself!

4. Legs: If you have thinner calves it creates an illusion that helps you look taller and thinner–if you do not cover them up.

5. Smile: I wore braces as an adult for two long years.

 Why is this so important? When you dress you want to choose things that bring the eye to your assets and away from your flaws. Add accessories that bring the eye up to your face if most of your assets are above the waist. If your assets are below the waist– shoes, patterned tights, belts worn at the hip call attention there. A set of bracelets brings the attention to the wrist. I wear a lot of bracelets!!

 Once you learn to do this, you will receive more compliments because people start noticing different things. You may even get asked if you’ve lost weight. I know I’ve scored when I am asked this question when indeed I have not lost one ounce. When you focus on your assets, your confidence level rises.

Just so you know I’m normal and I think about my flaws. Here they are. It might be good to do this (as long as you don’t dwell on it) so you know what you need to downplay when you are dressing your body type.

1. My waistline or lack thereof.

2. Height: I’m 5’4 with very short legs. Need I say any more.

3. Feet: They are small which is a good thing, but the other problems which I’ve explained in previous posts often far outweigh this attribute. Oh what I would do with a stileto heel!

4. Chest: Although I know women pay for what I have, there are times I feel my chest adds weight. However, I’m learning to embrace my curves!

5. Shoulders and Arms: When I did my own body type analysis, my shoulders are not exactly small. Since my weights have been collecting dust, I don’t like my upper arms much either.

How is that for honesty! This little exercise is a good one–try it.

Embrace what you have!

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Body Types: What if you are a Combination?

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Last week I addressed the Body Type topic with a little different approach. Recently I was cleaning out some of my books and came across Clinton Kelly and Stacey London’s (of What NOT to Wear fame) DRESS YOUR BEST  book published in 2005. I read this years ago-even before my stylist training. When I opened up and re-read the introduction, lo and behold they have the very same take on body types.

Their book is categorized in a way that it highlights combinations of body types. No fruit names, no shapes, just various attributes.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m the epitome of a combination. I have to be careful not to extend my shoulder line with certain styles so they still say balanced with my hips. I have a larger chest which sometimes adds weight visually. I have excess weight around the middle. (Luckily I have a longer torso which helps it spread out a little.) But since my torso is longer, that means I have short legs and I’m only 5’4. I explain this to impress upon you that we all have characteristics that we can point out as negative. It’s what we do with them that counts.

Instead it is important to focus on the positive assets and learn to dress to hide those flaws. Once you bring the eye away from the flaw, you’ve won half the battle. When I work with clients, we list at least FIVE ASSETS. I sometimes have to pull it out of them. Aren’t we so quick to name FIVE FLAWS? I just did so above. Here are two assets.

My legs (from the mid-thigh down) are reasonably thin. When I wear skirts above the knee or even skinny jeans, my calves create an illusion that helps me appear thinner. I get many compliments on my eyes so I consider them an asset. I’m a jewelry person and am rarely seen without a bigger necklace or earrings. Learning to wear the right colors that bring out your eyes is another important trick. The way I figure, if they are looking at my jewelry, they’re not looking at my middle.

I can’t wear high heels which would help immensely, but for the most part I try to wear a some kind of heel and the right jeans (that aren’t too short) so it extends my leg line. Most people think I’m taller than I am.

I make sure to have a good fitting bra which separates my bust from the upper middle (problem area for me). Most women don’t realize that the measurement directly under the bust is the smallest. It needs to be shown off! The right empire waist tops and dresses that have structure can be very flattering. I’m not saying they are easy to find. Too much fabric right under the bust can “poof” out and add pounds. Too tight of a band can emphasize a large bust even more. Tricky but doable.

Supportive, smoothing garments are a staple in my closet. SPANX are a great choice; there are many others

Soft lightweight scarves can drape perfectly and actually minimize the bust rather than add volume to my top half. When tied certain ways, they also elongate my 5’4 frame. Scarves have become one of my favorite fashion accessories.

I actually took these pictures to show the thought process I go through in putting an outfit together as I get asked that a lot. They work for this too.

The lightweight scarf with interest and texture gives a boring outfit life. If you have a brown aversion, this won’t be for you. It’s one of my best colors. Brown is dull so I added the belt with shine and a little bling on the buckle, the bracelet and earrings. The scarf is the focal point. The coat pulls it together and lightens it up. Normally I would put gold jewelry with brown and if I did, it would have a whole different look. The pewter and silver accents work with the scarf.

This is nearly a complete Nordstrom Rack outfit. Scarf: Willows Boutique: Earrings: Kohl’s


Sunday was a cool but sunny day. We get excited in the land of rain to see signs of life (camelia and daphne buds in background)

Yes, I have a LOT of shorter cardigans. I have too many; though they are all different. I love the look with a belt that helps bring in my thicker waist. Higher waisted skirts “reign” in the middle. The MISTAKE in this outfit? Generally I should keep larger prints and florals on my bottom half and solid colors on my top half. The coat subdues the pattern so it works ok. Prints do camoflauge some flaws. The sweater has a metallic gold in it. I mixed gold/silver jewelry for this because typically I like silver with black but needed to pull out the gold. The red coat pulls out the orange/red in the sweater which like the jewlery is hard to see. The red also gives the outfit some life and is a much better color for me than black/white.

Sweater and tights: White House, Black Market. Skirt: BCBG: Coat: Accentuate Boutique: Shoes: Lily Atelier Boutique Two-tone pendant: Lia Sophia, Belt: The Rack; Earrings: Divine Decadence Boutique

Last year’s post on Creating Illusions will give you even more tips for minimizing the middle.

Another body type that can be hard to fit is the petite woman who is short waisted. I’ll address that in a few weeks with a guest post. Questions about how to dress YOUR unique attributes? Send them my way and I’lll address it in a future post.

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Body Types: Does the Name Really Matter?

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Today I’m writing about Body Types, but be sure and check out all the other fashion advice at Musings of a Housewife.

I probably see more references to body type than any other topic when I weed through magazines, fashion blogs and books. Frankly, it is a starting reference point that is necessary to help you find styles that flatter. What I hate to hear is when women get stuck on their body type and dwell on it. As I’ve mentioned many times, only 1% of women are completely happy with their bodies. Calling yourself an apple or pear is one of the reasons that statistic is accurate. Some blogs and companies have created more flattering names. Even when I did my stylist training, the body types were referred to as gemstones.

However, it doesn’t matter if the name SOUNDS nicer, fixating on your body type keeps women from embracing who they are. I’m ready to kick these terms to the curb! Let me explain.

First and foremost, the most important fact to know about finding the right styles for you is BALANCE. Ideally you want the shoulders and hips to be balanced and bring in the waist. This of course represents the typical hourglass shape we all strive to be. What surprises many women is how close they really are to being balanced.  In this series on body types, I’m going to teach you how to look at yourself in a little different way.

First, I encourage you to take TWO measurements. 1. circumference of your shoulders 2. circumference of your hips. If they are fairly balanced (just a couple inches apart) consider yourself fortunate.

Next, I also recommend you do a visual analysis. For example, my shoulders and hips are fairly balanced in measurement. HOWEVER, visually my shoulders appear larger. Part of this is because I have a larger chest and overall carry my weight from the waist up. If this visual analysis sounds like I’m bringing more negative aspects to the picture, keep in mind that so much can be done visually with clothing which will work to your advantage! Keep reading.

If your hips and shoulders are several inches apart, all is not lost! I’m going to give you some great ways to balance. And what about expanding middles? I have suggestions for that too. Are you short waisted? Long waisted? There are ways to work with all of these attributes.

Rather than dwell on the name of your shape, have you noticed that I often say, “I carry most of my weight in my torso.” 

Recently I spoke to a church women’s group. When speaking, I often use models from the audience, which is pre-arranged ahead of time. One of the volunteers I met and worked with described herself as the “former hourglass with more of the sand on the bottom than the top.” I LOVE this analogy. It told me she had accepted the changes in her body instead of saying,”I’m a pear!”

Women who carry most of their weight below the waist are actually quite hard on themselves. In some ways, I find them the easiest to balance. All the ruffles and embellishments on tops visually balance the hips because they add volume to the shoulders and bust. Fortunately those styles are everywhere. Styles like this create interest and bring the eye away from the hips.

All tops from Macy’s

I also love a 3/4 length jacket or cardigan which takes the emphasis away from the hips. Look at what a difference it can make with this client.

While shopping with another client last night, she saw first hand at what a STRAIGHT LEG pair of jeans and a long cardigan that draped over the hips perfectly can do to flatter her “pear” figure. It was amazing.

CABI has some great lightweight choices that are perfect for those who carry their weight below the waist. The first view, the “Got you Covered Jacket” is a favorite of mine. It is not a jacket, but more like a heavier blouse with a great fit. I’ve seen these clothes on this body type and others and they were flattering.


Also shown: Pintuck Vest, Dream Jacket, Shakespeare Tunic

Coming Next: What if you are a combination of body types?

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I am not sure what is worse–trying on jeans or swimsuits. The latter gets my vote for worst dressing room “trauma”. I hate shopping for swimsuits. Most women would agree. So how do you choose the right suit for your body type? Actually many of the same rules I’ve been talking about for balancing the body type apply to suits as well. Now when there is way more skin showing this proves to be quite a challenge. Again, it’s about creating illusions to help one area look bigger or smaller. You always want to draw the attention AWAY from the flaw. From my research, it seems I could sum up this post in two words MIRACLE SUIT. Every magazine and site is talking about them. I’ve tried them on and they are fabulous. 


I’ve heard some critique Miracle suits as a little “matronly”. How about these? Also Miracle suits.     


Check out Eddie Bauer for even more styles. Note how they highlight what style enhances/minimizes an area. Very helpful! You can now get swimwear from Spanx. www.spanx.com

 Trying on Tips:  

1. Give yourself enough time and be prepared to try on 10 or more suits. If you just can’t bring yourself to go to the store, then try online shopping. 

2. If possible use a tanning cream or get a spray tan. Everything looks better when it’s combined with a little color on the skin. (Just stay away from the tanning beds) 

 3. Choose sizes larger than you wear in pants/tops. One of the worst mistakes women make is purchasing and wearing a suit that is too small. Keep in mind that suits run very different and don’t get discouraged by the size. 

I found some of the best tips from O magazine. Don’t miss the related links! Lots of good info here.

One piece or two-piece: How do I choose?

Hopefully the photos on the Oprah site gave you some ideas what will be the most flattering. Generally, from everything I’ve read and seen a one-piece suit is the most flattering as far as hiding the most flaws and helping enhance your assets. There are some great 2-piece suits out there and you don’t need 6 pack abs to wear them. If you are in the market for a new suit, spend some time at the beach or the pool and OBSERVE. Note what you like and don’t like. Think of how you want to present yourself at the beach and follow your instincts with a few rules thrown in:

-Small bust: add details such as ruffles

-Large Bust: Halter top, deep V, suits with built in cups

-Minimize the middle: criss cross, faux wraps, ruching and color blocking.

Add curves or volume: ruffles or tiers

-Long Torso: A band below the bust takes inches off the torso

-Short Torso: Faux belt or other fun details lower on the torso visually lengthen

-Dark colors minimize the bottom half.

-High cut legs elongate the leg.

If you go swimsuit shopping let me know how you do. Were the tips helpful? Do you have a better idea of how to “suit” your body type? Keep the questions coming.

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Creating Illusions Part 2

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Statistics show only 1% of women are completely satisfied with their bodies. We never seem to be happy with what we have. I believe that is especially true when it comes to bust size. Those who don’t have it, want more. Those who are amply blessed would like a little less. Then there are the women who complain about their hips and rear. These two ”flaws” really do work together. The last post dealt with the middle, this one will take on bust and hips.

The main message I want to convey in this series: Embrace your assets and learn to create illusions that hide what you don’t love. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not happy with my weight and haven’t been for a number of years. Yet I’ve learned to fool many by wearing the right styles. No one would guess what I weigh, and I look taller than I am. If I mention that I need to lose weight, people look at me like I’m crazy. We all have a certain standard in our minds, and we long to be at that ideal weight. I urge you to also be realistic when it comes to that perfect number. Weighing what I weighed in high school or college is not where I’m going  to be and I’m Ok with that. Weight loss and dieting is a very extensive topic to deal with in a blog. I may attempt it later on. For now we’ll focus on hiding our flaws correctly.

I feel I can relate to women’s struggles to hide flaws. It’s one of the main reasons I love what I do. I’m on a mission to teach women the tricks to dress their shape instead of hiding behind unflattering styles. In a previous post on turtlenecks, I thoroughly explained body types. Be sure and do your measurements at www.holobi.com if you missed this. Women who have larger hips often have smaller shoulders and bust. We want to bring the eye up and create volume on top which will visually balance the bottom. This season’s styles are perfect. This post touched on t-shirt styles to create volume on top. Since then I’ve even found styles that have chiffon layers right on the chest. No need to worry about a small bust this season!

If you want to add volume on top and minimize from the waist down, choose styles with lots of detail(ruffles and embellishments) on top and something a little longer to cover the hips. The tunic styles that are all over this spring work well. Here are a couple of ideas–they also hide the middle. Photos are from www.nordstrom.com and I searched: Tunics. Note the asymmetrical styles. This design is flattering for petites who don’t want to drown in length.


If you want to minimize the bust, middle or hips, your best choice is a “cascading” cardigan.  What about minimizing a large bust and hiding the middle?

Again, things that drape beautifully are the key. Caridigans, tunics in the right fabrics will do the trick. Note how the photo of the black top is on a plus sized model, but it still shows her curves.

Large bust, thick middle and smaller hips? V-necks, long necklaces and A-line skirts with a little volume.

Still confused? Take advantage of my 30 minute FREE phone consultation. We can “shop” over the phone by both being on the computer and searching item numbers. (My sister and I have shopped long distance for years.)

Soon your eye will be trained to look for what is best for your body type. Check out my Fab Finds on Facebook this Friday and I’ll have more photos of flattering tunics.

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Creating Illusions Part 1

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Most women I know are trying to hide a flaw or two. Even if they have few flaws, they are their own worst critics and are quick to point out every tiny inconsistency. This is Part 1 of a three part series on creating illusions. The problem areas? Chest, Middle and Hips. This series could also be named ”How to Look 10 lbs thinner!” 

Choosing the right styles create illusions to highlight one area and downplay another which takes off lbs. It is healthier to lose the weight; the right clothes can perform a lot of tricks in the mean time. Rather than hide behind big and baggy, try this.

 I’ve become an expert at hiding my middle with or without shape wear. This post will focus how to do it without shape wear because so many women have aversions to “sucking it all in” with a support garment. I’ll address shape wear at another time!

1. I know low-rise jeans are hip/cool, mid to higher rise is much more appropriate when you carry weight in the middle.

2.  Wear skirts and dresses. Skirts have a higher rise. The right style dress can hide many sins. I find skirts to be extremely comfortable and flattering.

3. A Camisole adds an extra layer that can cover a slight muffin top. I hear women “freak out” when suddenly there is a little “extra” by their waistbands. Honestly it can be smoothed so easily with one layer and a flattering top.

4. Prints and texture hide more than solid colors. Avoid large prints especially if you are petite. I try to couple a print with a solid cardigan or jacket.

5. This brings me to my next tip: Layering! Not so easy in the summer… but there are many lightweight fabrics in sweaters and jackets. Click the link to review cardigans and how to wear them.

6. Choose fabrics that do not cling. Don’t judge a top on the hanger. SOME, looser tops show off your shape because they are designed using the right fabric. There are designs that show the curve of your waist, yet can hide the flaws. Wear looser tops with fitted jacket if possible.

7. Empire Waists. Women cringe when I show these because it reminds them of a maternity top. It is one of the biggest misconceptions of this style. If the garment is well made and has a structured band or elastic underneath the bust, it will drape beautifully over the middle. If it “poofs” out and adds volume at the wrong place–leave on the rack!

8. Ruching, Gathers, layers, knots, V-necks, wraps. (see photos)

9. I’ve said it before and I’ll be saying it again. The RIGHT fitting bra does wonders in lifting your assets to the right place and creating a definition between the bust and middle.

10. Take the eye away from the middle with scarves, handbags or jewelry!

Photos from Nordstrom, Anthropologie and White House Black Market  Each link will take you directly to tops. If these styles do not suit you, study the characteristics so you know what to look for when shopping. Designers truly get it. Some are better than others-choose carefully. You will find even more photos this Friday on my Style by Karen Facebook page. Check out my first installment of Fabulous, Flattering Finds which will be a set of photos each Friday!

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Spring Trends

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Thank you to everyone who commented and participated in the Lily Giveaway. I loved reading the comments and input many of you had. Congratulations to our winner: Kristi-Comment #12. I hope everyone reading will check out the store–I know you won’t be disappointed. Jot me a note if you are going and maybe I can meet you there.

Yesterday I met with the owners of a consignment store and shoe store in Portland who are excited to partner with me. My goal is to feature a local store one time a month and incorporate another monthly giveaway which will allow for long distance readers’ participation. More great things to come. If you are on Facebook, you can join my Style by Karen page which will also keep you updated if you are not a subscriber.( Becoming a subscriber allows you to receive every post directly to your e-mail.) Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your support and comments.

The calendar says it is spring! Many of you across the country are on spring break or perhaps just finishing your break. Easter is on Sunday–and that is often a turning point for wearing spring clothes. Here in Washington we are on break and experiencing some of the worst weather of the month. We’ve had some nice spurts of sunny weather, but not this week! In celebration of spring, I plan to post several times focusing on photos of some of the latest styles. Earlier I gave you a taste of spring trends when I took my own challenge to step out and visit different stores. This month I spoke to two different women’s groups. I love to bring samples and use models from the group– dressing them in some of the latest fashions to show great fit. I have seen lots of clothes this past month, and I’m eager to share with you.

First off: Tops. You’ll see a pattern here with the embellishments, detailed necklines and ruffles. If your body type allows you to wear details on top, many of these styles are great for you. The extra embellishments around the shoulders and bust help give you a little something where you need it. Details on top balance larger hips. If you carry your weight on the top, you can still wear many of these styles. Be careful to choose ruffles that lie flat or cascade and do not protrude which can increase bust size. I chose Ann Taylor Loft as they had such a great representation of the variety of embellished tops and tees. I like this store because of the price point which allows you to purchase trendier pieces without spending a fortune. Your first reaction may be…”it looks a little young.”  It will look different on you and it will look different when you combine it with something in your closet. Combine any of these tops with dressier pants, jeans, and pair with a cardigan or jacket and you are set. Don’t forget stylish, comfortable shoes! You will also find similar embellished tops at J Crew and Anthropologie.

Next Up: Cardigans: The Long and  Short of It

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Let’s Talk Turtlenecks

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Recently I received a question from a reader about turtlenecks and cowl necks. The stores are full of them, but are they still a good look? First let me start off by saying that in the past I have been a lover of turtlenecks. They were warm and cozy. I owned them in a myriad of colors. I wore them to keep warm at my sons’ ballgames. One of my favorite looks was a black turtleneck with jeans. My sister and I were always comparing notes to find the best quality fabric that would hold up, wouldn’t pill or worst of all– shrink!

I retired all my turtlenecks except a favorite in cashmere and a casual one I wear under a hooded vest. I live in a part of the country where it rains most of the winter. 40 degrees may seem warm to those in the midwest, but our damp weather can feel ten degrees colder than the thermometer reads. Why would I give these up?

A few years ago I began seeing the beauty and versatility of a V-neck sweater or tee. This style really flattered my body type. When I went through stylist training, this fact was confirmed with a body type analysis. I’m 5’4. My torso is average in length. I carry most of my weight from the waist up. My neck is also average in length. Turtlenecks were doing nothing to elongate my body to help me look taller/thinner. They were having the opposite effect by coming up high on my neck instead of a V-neck that drops down. My top half appeared heavier. If you are tall, relatively slim, with a long torso and neck, turtlenecks can be a sleek look!

There has been a lot written about body types. You may have been named a piece of fruit, or even a geometric shape. Pictures are one thing; measurements tell the real story. Take a minute, click here and find where you fit. No matter where you carry your weight, and even if you are the perfect hourglass, the key is to balance your shoulders and hips and bring in the waist with the outfits you wear.

What about a Cowl Neck? If designed correctly, these can actually have an opposite effect from a turtleneck because they automatically elongate the torso. If you carry your weight below the waist, a cowl neck and other styles with more fabric on top help balance your bottom half.

cowl for sapphire

 black cowl

 If you carry your weight on the top half of your body, have a larger chest and broad shoulders, watch the cowl necks (and patterns) because they can throw things off balance and make you look heavier than you are. Excess fabric adds volume and pounds. Only certain body types can pull off the styles below!

white cowl

red cowl

    Love turtlenecks? Choose styles and fabrics carefully. Long necklaces which are all the rage will go a long way to dress up a turtleneck and elongate your torso.

 Check out this video.You’ll see a polished look with turtleneck/pencil skirt/belt  for a woman of 50. The tips in this clip are the best!

How do I keep warm when the wind picks up and I have on a V-neck sweater/jacket? Scarves– a topic for another post. Keep the questions coming.

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