Saturday, January 27, 2018

Authentically You....every day different...

So you have a role model.
It's Adele, or it's Dita, or it's Kim or Rhianna or whoever. Awesome. Good stuff. It's good to have someone to emulate.
But within that, find a way to be you. That's what this journey is about. Finding a way to condense what it is about the person you've chosen as role model, and making that work for you.

Dita Von Teese is my chosen role model. I admire her glamourous outlook, her attention to detail, and her determination to be herself, no matter what anyone thinks. It's nothing to do with her profession as Burlesque actor. It's about Dita just finding her inner mojo, and sticking with it. I want that.

 I used to think that if I had a 'look', I had to stick with that unreservedly, not even wearing my hair differently. I've changed my mind on that. I've discovered a new joy in experimentation, not perfection.
In a single week, as seen in these photos, I can be 60's Mod, 40's glam, Monochromatic with dramatic red, and 70s mint with pearls. I never dreamed that getting dressed in the morning could be such an adventure!
I've practised using heated rollers, hair ribbons, curling wands, gel, mousse, sprays.
I've found that I like mineral makeup, eyeliner, mascara, and nude or red lipstick.
I know the difference between blonde and brown eyebrow pencil, and that I can't use liquid eyeliner to save myself.
Experimenting has shown me that I can engineer a French braid (given sufficient time!), a Chignon, and a bun with a donut...nothing to do with sugary sweets and cakes!
I even know what a 'rat' is and how I'll use it when I find one in my silvery hair tone.
Look! Here's some donuts AND some rats. Gruesome looking, but very useful things, hair-wise.
I've worn new colours, new styles, shown off my previously hidden arms and legs, worn my hair pulled back severely instead of wispily framing my face, and decided I like it all.
Basically I stopped worrying about what others would think, and started having fun....always with an eye to dressing for my shape.
Life is so very short, friends.
Stop putting yourself second, third or fourteenth down the list. Who wants to get to their dying breath, and be saying .... 'I wish'.
I want to get there and be able to say 'I'm glad'.
That's where I am.
Can I encourage you to come along with me?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Authentically You....Role Models...Adele...

This week, Christy, a long time follower and reader of  A Tray of Bliss, shared with me that she has chosen Adele, as her role model for our task for 2018. She feels that she is a similar body shape and height to Adele, and that emulating her style is an achievable goal.
Adele is a great choice.
Now Adele, back in 2008, as seen above, was a pretty girl with beautiful skin and hair, but once she was in the public eye regulary...wowsers! She became a stunner. And surprisingly, I believe it has less to do with weight loss (despite what everyone thinks), and more to do with just simply finding what suits her body shape including hairstyle and accessories, and some clever makeup tricks!

I've known, as someone with a full face, that pixie cuts and flat hair....well...we just don't do well together. Pixie cuts with a fringe (bangs)....never. The flat hair and the low fringe (bangs) just make a round face look rounder. Sure it's easy, sure it's cute. So if you just want 'cute and easy', no worries!
But if you're looking for 'flattering', then look at the difference a long ponytail seen left, or a 1940s, glamorous, Jean Harlow sort of style, seen in the middle pic below, achieved really simply with heated rollers, can do. And if you're after cute and easy, then practice as I've learned, mastering the messy bun on top of your head, a French chignon, or a low ponytail with a bit of teasing at the crown, to give a look as seen in pic number three, adding height to your frame, and sophistication to your ensemble.

If you simply must have a pixie cut, make sure you get a hairdresser who knows how to do one that suits you...
Here's Dame Judi Dench with her rounder face and a pixie cut. Check the small nuances. She has a bit of texture, softness and height. She does not have a fringe (bangs), except for a bit of a tufty feature centre front of her hairline. These two things make her face look longer and slimmer, and expose her beautiful bone structure and fine features. She has a uniform colour to reflect light and draw attention to her piercing blue eyes. And she makes sure her makeup is also soft and flattering.

Looking again at the comparison between these two pictures, what else do you notice?
Here's a few details and differences that I picked out:
The eyebrows are more defined and arched. This draws attention to the eyes, and overall gives the illusion of more open eyes and a longer face.
The eyeliner is limited to a winged effect on the top of the lashes, and a mere hint under the eye. Previously, Adeles eyes were made to look smaller with a ring of eyeliner all the way around.
Her browbone has been highlighted to open the eye area as well, and there's a little contouring going on beneath the cheekbones and around the jawline. Contouring is not new. We were sucking in our cheeks and filling the space with darker blush back in the 70s!
The hair is longer in the second shot, giving a similar column effect to wearing a coat over a dress for we Apple shaped ladies. The additional length of the bob cut, gives a column of attention, framing her face and making it look slimmer.

Her lighter hair colour is so much more flattering and draws attention to her gorgeous face and eyes.
These are all really simple things that any of us can achieve. Yet look at the difference they can make!
My new favourite secret is heated rollers. I had these back in the 70s and loved them. I'd forgotten though until now, what magic they weave. I just purchased a set for $35, brand new, rolled my hair into them...just like getting on a bike after 30 years...and...
...just look at these lovely, soft, loopy curls. No secret. About 14 rollers and 15 minutes to achieve. If I can do it, so can you. I roll my hair, hop in the shower, and by the time I've dried off, they've cooled enough to be taken out. I don't even brush. I just put a bit of hairspray on my palms, and run my fingers through my hair to arrange it, then a light spray of hairspray over. I pin it back inconspicuously where required to get the front to sit right if necessary.

This isn't my best 'messy bun', above left, but it does demonstrate, what a difference it makes to ones face shape compared to hair freshly washed and worn loose as seen on the right...*cough*. Note too, the comparison between a photo taken from skywards, and one taken looking slightly down. I look completely different. Ahhh....thanks to the Millenials in my family for that selfie!
Another great photo photo secret, is to simply remember to kind of push your head forward, lift your chin, and tilt your head slightly to one side or the other. This elongates the face and neck, and avoids your having multiple chins. If you look closely, you'll see celebrities doing this all the time.
So...back to Adele as a role model. Above here she looks fabulously feminine.
In this photo, she's magic-ed herself slimmer by using these visual tricks:
Hair is bouffant and away from her face, lending height and a slimmer look overall.
Her sleeves are fitted, and cover her arms (always a tricky one for we full figured ladies), also lending a lean look to her frame.
The colour and print are flattering and hide any figure faults admirably. She has ensured that the rest of her look is simple and pared down, to offset the busy print.
The skirt of the dress is full and balances her silhouette perfectly.
She wears high heels, with pointed toes and a low 'vamp' (that's where the top of the shoe sits), adding length to her legs.
And she also poses perfectly, elbows out to give a pleasing line to her shape in the photo, and ankles crossed to slim her down.

This look above, is my favourite though I think.
Here's why:
The dress has simple lines, and slim sleeves, rendering her neat, classic and stylish.
Although the neckline is high (not normally flattering on cuddly shapes), she carries it off by swooping that hair up into another gorgeous bouffant up-do, and topping it with a bit of soft frou-frou in the shape of a fascinator, to draw the eye upwards.
She's kept other accessories to a bare minimum, or they're non-existent.
The dress is the perfect length for her. Enough in the skirt to create the illusion of volume and height, and enough leg showing to enhance that illusion.
Dark hosiery slims the legs.
I daresay she's wearing heels to give her additional height too!
The deep jewel colours are gorgeous against her alabaster skin.
The fabric has a low sheen that just says 'luxury'.
Simply stunning.
These are all little tricks that Christy can use to give her Adele style makeover a kick start. Very easily achieved, with minimal fuss.
Let's just recap our Adele look:
Adele is full figured with a rounder face. Nowadays she sports longer hair, no more flat pixie cuts, and either wears her hair loose, to slim her face, or swept into a variety of bouffant updos creating a taller, more slender shape overall.
Adele wears heels with a low vamp, to lend height to her frame, length to her legs, and sophistication to her ensembles.
She primarily wears fit and flare type dresses in flattering colours and prints, keeping all other accessories to a minimum.
She can also be seen wearing casual ensembles featuring trim jeans or leggings, and sleek, minimalistic tunic tops with A-line coats, to streamline the extra bulk that Winter woollies create.
 Boots with a heel, again create that longer and leaner look, even for casual wear.
She also frequently employs the monochromatic colour scheme to avoid dividing her silhouette, and does so with great success.
She makes sure that her hair is a colour that flatters her looks.
She wears her hair in different styles according to the mood she is trying to strike with her outfit.
She emphasises her beautiful eyes with subtle eyeshadow, shading, eyeliner applied appropriately, and lots of mascara and/or false eyelashes. False eyelashes aren't just for dancers and models, you know!
Her perfectly groomed eyebrows frame her eyes and give oomph to her pretty face. A box of Eyebrow dye costs around $20, lasts up to 20 applications, and can do the same for you.
You can use these tricks too. It has nothing to do with how much you spend. You just need to be as savvy as Adele. Or as Adeles stylist ;-)
I love Adeles look too. I foresee some Adele days in my future as well Christy. Thanks!
Who's next?
Who is your style idol?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Authentically steps...

Let's explore role models....
I shared in my post here, that this year, I'd be furthering my goal of December 2016, by finding ways to emulate the rather glamorous Dita Von Teese. I look nothing like her, and I'm older than her by at least THIS many years. But life is too short to trifle with such details, right? I say, wear the dresses, curl the hair, shine in heels, and boast the red lipstick, while there's still breath in the body to do so.
Now you might not be Dita in hiding. Jane shared with us that her role model is Babe Paley. And that she at a similar stage of life to myself, is slowly edging towards a Babe Paley style.
It's never too late, and it seems strangely appropriate, that when we women have reached a stage in our lives where we have time to ourselves, that sometimes, just sometimes, an overhaul is just what the doctor ordered. Lets do that before the doctor gets around to ordering anything else, shall we?
Nobody becomes who they are overnight.
In fact, I've discovered you can be several 'people' in one lifetime, and in fact, most of us are.
How else does one go from school student, to University scholar, to Careerwise adult, and maybe wife or husband, parent, caregiver, and glamorous grandparent.
Within each of those 'lifetimes' are many little changes that we adopt through necessity or choice. Habits that sustain us through each phase of our life and make us who we are.

When you're young, your ambitions are invariably quite different to those you may have in middle age, or retirement.
I remember when all I wanted was to be respected in my field of expertise, and earn a decent income to support my little family.
Life throws us all curve balls though, and few, if anyone, remains unscathed. So when my third child was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, it was time for a new me, to emerge. The career girl me left the building, figuratively speaking, and the stay at home carer me, emerged.
Meeting my husband changed that again, and I morphed into stay at home wife and mother, with the birth of my daughter.
I bet you've had some unexpected challenges and changes in your life too, and I wonder how those have altered the path of your life?

I loved being a full time homemaker and relished treating the task as professionally as I had my previous career. Occasionally I'd look back with fondness and miss my Corporate Career girl days, but truly, what I missed most was dressing up! And we will come back to that!

Meanwhile, we bought and renovated a tiny house, turning it into something a little more grand, and I delicately planted the seed of an idea (pun intended!), that as we had a little bit of land, we might eventually plant some productive trees. Husband argued strenuously against this until it miraculously became his idea some 10 years later...
I think for most of us, establishing a home is a lifelong task, and I'd be interested to know how many of you have done as we have, and built something lovely, from something humble, as opposed to buying picture perfect from day one? Please share your stories...send me some photos if you'd like. I'd love to feature them...

In the interim, I set about changing my 'image' for want of a better word, to suit the stay at home Mum and carer that became my persona for two decades. This was hard work. Many of my friends were spend-a-holics, and did not take kindly to hand crafted gifts, by the new stay at home Me. I decided that if my efforts were not appreciated, perhaps I had the wrong friends, and over time, those connections diminished and faded, and new ones took their place. This happened gradually and peaceably over a decade or so, and it was really pretty painless in the end. As someone wise once said, we become most like the five people with whom we spend our time. Those were not my 'people'. Not only that, I did not aspire to be like them.

Creating gifts was an enormous money saver for someone who hadn't in the past, blinked an eyelid at investing some $7000-$8000 a year, in gifts alone. At first I went at this task in a generic fashion, gifting the same thing to everyone...and that didn't always work. Over a period of years, I became more adept at anticipating peoples preferences, and now have an arsenal of hand crafted ideas that were, and remain, welcomed by the new people in my life.

I spent those years learning a new skill each year, and promising myself that I would not obsess with being perfect, perfect not really being the point. However I would ensure that my efforts were targeted, thoughtful, and beautifully presented.

As time wore on, I became more clever with all kinds of things, including cake decorating, and these days, a gift of a cake, is a greatly anticipated one amongst our social circle.

Meanwhile we grew things, both pretty and productive, and turned our home into the castle we desired. Not the one everyone else had. The one we wanted.

My point is, that it took me close to a decade and a half to master being 'that person'. So I can fully expect to take at least half as long again, becoming the New Me.
In 2017, my most active child rearing days drew to a satisfying close, with our youngest child and only daughter, graduating high school, and successfully auditioning for a Tertiary performing arts placement.
Suddenly, time is my own and 7 years of practising how to look pretty again, is a manageable task, however sad I am about the completion of my previous life. I wonder how many of you have faced as I have, the bittersweet freedom from the routine of school days and school vacations? Wonderful, peaceable, but lacking the closeness with offspring that long car rides provided without even trying. But that's the natural progression of life, isn't it.
At nearly 58 years old, and aware that my maternal grandmother and my mother, didn't get more than 60 years, I've declared this my time. Time for me to continue to enjoy being a homemaker, because I wouldn't trade that for the world. But also time for me to reassert my former glamorous self. That self that's been hidden behind the day to day tasks of Full Time Mama.
So here I am. And here you are too. Perhaps you're not at quite the same stage, or perhaps you're ahead of me and happily retired. Either way, we are in this together, so where to now?
Well, I've chosen a role model. So has Jane. Maybe your role model has less to do with appearances and more to do with good deeds and higher learning. That's okay too. What we're here for, is to support one another through this time of change.
I started in 2017, by educating myself on good style principles in general. That was a real eye opener for me.
In 2018, I've chosen to expand on those ideas and use them to become a rather more upmarket version of 'me', for myself, and perhaps too, for my husband. He most certainly deserves to have the best version of Wifey possible.
So it's baby steps. A whole year just learning about how to flatter my much changed body shape in 2017.
This year, another whole year of finding my inner 'Dita'. Of relearning the art of curling my hair, applying eyeliner, wearing heels, and buying frothy petticoats.
It will be interesting, I think. I am looking forward to it.
What about you? What baby steps can you take to transition from where you are, to where you'd like to be, no matter what or who that is?
Tell me all.
Love, Mimi

Monday, January 8, 2018

Authentically You...choose your role model....

We've been talking about being your authentic self, and in my last blog post here, I shared my love of glamour and dressing up. My role models include women like Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and more recently Dita Von Teese.

These women demonstrate a rather uncompromising approach to their personal presentation, never being seen in public with anything less than impeccable grooming and dress. I could very well have been setting myself up for failure two or three years ago with those! But my time is my own now in ways that it's not been for over 40 years. My youngest child is finished school, and my husband will soon retire, so if ever there was a time to be 'uncompromising', it's now!

My point is, that in choosing a role model, do be sure to choose someone whose style you can emulate on a practical basis. There are reasons and seasons in life for us all.

My friend Jane, a long time reader and supporter of A Tray of Bliss, shared in a recent comment that her style idol is Babe Paley.
She feels that she has a similar athletic build to Babe Paley, and favours her pared back, elegant style.

Now I'd never heard of Babe Paley, but she was quite an interesting woman.

Babe was a socialite and style icon in New York in the early and mid part of the twentieth century. Born into a wealthy family, she and her sisters all then went on to marry into further wealth and prestige. She worked as fashion editor for Vogue, and was named second only to the inimitable Wallis Simpson as Best Dressed Woman by Time Magazine.

A heavy smoker, Babe was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974. She planned her own funeral, right down to the food and wine selections that would be served at the funeral luncheon. She carefully allocated her jewelry collection and personal belongings to friends and family, wrapped them in colorful paper, and created a complete file system with directions as to how they would be distributed after she ultimately succumbed to her illness in 1978. Clearly this was a woman who was particular not just about personal appearance, but about every aspect of her life.

First of all, thankyou to Jane for introducing me to such a fascinating woman. I'll be off to the library shortly to see whether I can find more information on Babe Paley and her cohort. Their era continues to be a source of style inspiration for me.

Secondly, I want to share how Jane, despite living in Tropical Queensland, Australia, strives to emulate her role model.

I love Janes strategy of assembling an outfit, complete with shoes and accessories, and photographing it. I did this once for my daughter when she was about 8 years old, but I've never thought to do it for myself.

And yet I have those moments where I go 'damn, this outfit looked so much better last time...why?'. It's usually something simple like a different pair of earrings or a slightly different heel height, or undergarment. A photograph would solve the inevitable 20-30 minutes I'd then spend trying to figure out where I've gone wrong.
So this alone is a brilliant idea.
Note that Jane has adapted the Babe Paley look for her climate, and location. But she has strived for a streamlined silhouette, timeless colour combination, neat classic pieces, and a pop of colour in this red white and charcoal ensemble. Note the pop of blue in the feather in Babe Paleys fabulous hat in the photo at the top of this post...all black...with just that pop of vivid sapphire blue. Stunning.
Further down, is another neat, timeless look. Denim, crisp white shirt, and cute heels looks good on just about everyone. And again, that pop of colour in the heels just elevates the outfit from nicely presented, to sleek and chic.
Jane lives in a beachside community so unlike Babe Paley, doesn't need to extend her wardrobe to silk ballgowns and statement millinery.
Nonetheless, she has taken the elements of the style of her role model...the classic tailored lines, timeless colours and shapes, quality fabrics...and adapted them to suit her. It's not about mimicking precisely, it's about emulating in a way that is practical for you.
Who would like to be featured next? Please send your photos and details to me at to be the next featured reader.
And thankyou to Jane for sharing her Style Icon.



Friday, January 5, 2018

A Year of Authenticity......

Are you hiding behind a persona that's not really you?
Do you dress a certain way because that's how Mums/Nannas/Doctors/Teachers/Support Workers/Office Staff are 'supposed to dress'?
Have you lost yourself in the day-to-day drudgery of life?
I can tell you that was me. Right up until about December 2016.
December 2016 brought me epiphanies of many kinds. Soon my daughter, my youngest child would be finished school. Soon she would be off to University with all the life changes that brings. Soon it would be just Husband and I at home. Soon, I would have time to be me. 
I had realised that in being a full time Mum, I'd lost a big part of who I really was. Don't get me wrong. I've treasured every single moment, and can see the evidence of my presence in the lives of my disabled son, my daughter, and my grandchildren. My older sons did not have the luxury of Mum 24/7. They've done me proud all the same. Thankyou boys.
What my older sons DID have was a glamorous young Mum, a career girl, who dressed impeccably every day, sky high heels and all. A Mum who would be up at 5am to roll her hair into fat heated curlers to create the looks fashionable at that time. A Mum who would change her nail polish to match her clothes. A Mum who sewed her own clothes because the retailers simply didn't have what she liked. Someone who was entirely comfortable in their own skin.
That changed for me, when my youngest son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. My world fell apart. My family and especially my older sons, supported me as much as they were able. But suddenly my world shrunk to a schedule of endless therapy and medical appointments, and time for me became scarce on the ground.
Pretty dresses and killer heels became a thing of the past, as I wrangled with hoists, wheelchairs, commode chairs and lifting and transferring that would shame a body builder. My uniform became one of freshly washed natural curls, 3/4 pants, loose shirts and comfortable shoes. After a while, that was all I had. Going out became a trial because I simply, truly, had 'nothing to wear'.
Above, was me, day in day out, in December 2016. Neat and functional. Dying to be more glamorous, but really, not knowing where to start.
Enter Marie-Anne Lecouer into my life. I found her through her French Chic Facebook group, and never looked back. A small monthly payment over six months gained me access to her French Chic Academy, with knowledge and power beyond my expectations, and it was life changing.
Those 3/4 pants? Gone. Ripped jeans? Never again. Birkenstock sandals...only in the home thankyou.
A year and a bit down the track and there's a new me in every way.
I've gone a bit Heather Sweet....or Dita Von Teese as she is better known. Yes I know. You imagine that French Chic style is all about Chanel-esque suits, white shirts and trench coats. But NON! It's about finding your own style, and adopting ways of wearing what you love, so that it flatters your shape. Mon Dieu! A revelation!
So yes. Of course I can be 40s-50s glam, and still engender a French Chic look. It's all in the execution of the idea.
These before and after pics of Dita tell an interesting tale.
What a box of black hair dye, eyeliner, matte red lips and a killer frock has done for this woman is inspirational.
She was pretty as a blonde, but as a raven haired beauty, she's a stunner.

She made her mistakes along the way. I don't think this look was doing her any favours...
..but she's steadfastly refused to succumb to the temptation to adopt todays Look du Jour with a spray tan, Balyaged locks and a nude lip as seen her below photoshopped by some clever person.

She remains uncompromisingly herself. And it works for her. One might argue that 'Blonde Heather' is the 'authentic' person, and 'Raven haired Dita' is the ring-in here. But I admire that Dita has discovered who she wants to be, and then set about reimagining the way she looks to fit that. Her exterior presentation, is the manifestation of her inner self. Go Dita.
Now I'm no Dita. I'm older and a bit heavier, although we are the same height (!) and I live in the 'burbs.
But here's a story for you.
There's a certain dress store where I live that sells Dita style frocks as seen at the top of my post.
When it first opened, I was walking past with a 'friend'. I admired the dresses longingly (and I was slimmer then!), and she commented 'yes but that's a lifestyle isn't it. It's a statement. You can't dress like that one day, and wear jeans the next'.
Well. That stuck with me for the next ten years. I continued to look longingly in the window, but didn't dare venture inside this shop for fear of being laughed at. Silly, I know.
Enter my dalliance with the French Chic Academy, and particularly a module titled Authentically You, and here I am, snapping up pretty dresses and patent leather wedges like there's no tomorrow.
Because I CAN wear a pretty dress today, and jeans tomorrow. So long as I style them to flatter my Apple shape. So long as I remember to aim for a Long and Lean look, to wear heels to add to that illusion, to minimise accessories when wearing a print, to take care with my hair and makeup. I remember to wear good shapewear with my pretty frocks to minimise the bits of me that would make a pretty frock look lumpy where it shouldn'
All of that matters. Every bit, and more. It all makes a difference.
Yesterday I purchased a set of heated rollers. Yes, those little instruments of torture that once yielded me a Good Hair Day every, single, day. I deserve that now...the Good Hair Day Every Day, AND the heated rollers. What a Godsend they are. I'm relearning how to use them to my advantage. I'm loving what they do for my silver locks, as much as I did when I sported a frosted Farrah Fawcett look 40 years ago. I'm loving that they turn me into a teeny weeny bit of a Dita.
Is there something you can do to set yourself free this year? A way of digging deep and finding a bit of you that's been lost for a while?
Who are you, deep down inside?
I don't imagine that everyone aspires to the Glam Girl look like I do. Perhaps you're more Stevie Nicks, or Audrey Hepburn, or Grace Kelly. I love all of those ladies and their style too. On different days I might aim for emulating them.
Because I can. Because I don't have to be Dita every day. And no. It's not a 'lifestyle choice' or a 'statement look' that once entered into, cannot be changed.
Your personal style represents you on any given day. And that can be a different 'you' EVERY day if you want.
Just remember the number one rule. Dress for your shape. That is all.
Today I'm being Dita. Who are you today?