CHRISTINA'S DIGEST ISSUE # 4
The Informed person's guide to beauty, fashion and lifestyle. YOU HAVE SEEN women at poolside wrap a towel around their waist or chest and make a quick knot or tuck. This is called a sarong, and when the item is designed for it with curved hems and ties, it can add a lot of interest to your look. Sarong skirts make a nice change the from straight, multi-gore or long and billowy skirts to which you were introduced in my last contribution. They add softness and a casual elegance to your look. The most versatile ones are pre-wrapped and pre-tied, in a print or color that builds with your other clothes. They are simple to hook together, but because they dominate a fashion statement, top it simply. A cat-suit, body suit, leotard or tank top may not be advisable for you, but stay away from a frilly poet's blouse; the two pieces will compete for the eye's attention, and the look will be too busy. As a rule, when skirts are special, tops should be spare. At the very least, use a top that tucks in and has a close fit. And do not use a tailored jacket with a sarong skirt, or you will end up with a strange bulge; save the blazer for sheaths or drindles. In shopping for a sarong, choose softer, lighter fabrics for a prettier, more flattering wrap and drape. Stay away from stiff cottons, denim and twill. Another addition is a dramatic top. A clean long shirt in a comfortable fabric -- get that tunic if you haven't done it yet. Or maybe it will be a shirt with long collar points and huge puffed sleeves. And if the blouse is exceptional, keep the bottom simple: narrow, simple skirt, or tapered pants, leggings, slim jeans. As an across-the-closet rule, never dilute a dramatic, grand- gesture piece by wearing it with anything that competes. As you build a wardrobe, choose pieces with staying power. You can get clothes with style longevity by getting classic cuts. You can get these to be more feminine by choosing softer fabrics and colors. Try transparent fabrics in a blouse or skirt. Such a skirt can be worn under a long tunic, and a blouse can be worn over a tube top or leotard, or under a jacket for a more modest look. A sheer scarf can make the plainest suit more feminine and dramatic. Somewhere down the line, consider a softer jacket with a natural shoulder line. A sheath dress can have scarves, blazers and sweaters added to change their look. A sheer shirt as a jacket with a classic necklace is more elegant for evening than the blazer and bolder jewelry you can wear to work. Tie a sash around your waist and wear a big cuff bracelet and earrings to make it fun. Big white harem pants can be worn with that blazer and a matching scarf around your neck for an elegant look. Find a shirt with a long hem and tie the ends around your waist for a sexy twist to a classic shirt shape. You can tie the hem loosely low for a more demure look, or higher to bare the midriff for a more revealing look. Such a look can be accented many ways. I remember the old bell-bottoms used to work well this way, and you might consider today's tighter, slimmer jeans with such a top. The sweeping billowy skirts that were already recommended in part one will do nicely, or you can wear stirrup pants in a nice spring color or print. SHOPPING IN YOUR CLOSET Maybe you don't stand in front of your closet thinking "I have nothing to wear." But often shopping for a new outfit can take place in your own home. "Most of us have what we need; we just have to rethink, rearrange and regroup," says a New York wardrobe consultant. Go through everything in your closet or collection at least once a year. Twice a year is even better. Look at every piece individually and consider what you really wear. Most women wear a few favorite outfits over and over again. Try on a few of your clothes, then divide them into piles. One for the dry-cleaners. One for getting rid of. One for mending, altering or updating. One for clothes that are just fine as they are. Remember that if you haven't worn it in three years, it's probably okay to get rid of it. Break up all your suits and think of different ways of putting things together. Both pieces of a black suit can probably be worn with many things in your wardrobe. Reorganize your closet into separate sections for jackets, skirts, blouses, etc. Try to combine your sweaters and blouses with many different jackets, skirts and pants. Pull out all your accessories. Do you have a lot? Hang scarves where you can see them. Keep jewelry on view for inspiration. Display earrings on a wire grid, hang necklaces from a nail or a belt hanger. Use a tackle box for pins and earrings. Or pin pins onto a small pillow. Find the courage to try a little larger earring, a wilder scarf, a bolder belt. These can all completely change your look. Photograph your new outfit combinations so you'll remember the way you put them together. Paste snapshots on the inside of your closet door, or create a photo album for your own personal style workbook. Make a list of the items you'll need to complete your wardrobe. Keep in mind how versatile some basic pieces are, like a black turtleneck, which goes under almost everything, a good black skirt, and bodysuits, which pull everything together. Jackets are important wardrobe-builders; that's where you should invest your money, to get good fit and quality. A jacket will be with you for some time hence. A MEMORABLE TOAST Consider your words as a gift to the one your toasting. Be sincere, upbeat, flattering and if possible make reference to your relationship. Be brief; think three sentences, not a speech. Be audible and articulate. As a courtesy, wait for the host (or the senior person at business functions) to propose the first toast. If none is forthcoming, discreetly ask your host if you may offer a toast. As you give that toast, stand, lift your glass and make eye contact with the toasted. If you are called upon in advance to make a toast, prepare! Enlist a sympathetic ear or practice from a script before a mirror. Also, don't omit the clinking of glasses to honor the history of the toast. In Medieval days, the ring of the toast was believed to drive away the evil spirits. CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHER Examine the samples. Make sure that the photos are the type you want, that they have the same look and style that you are seeking. The photographer is likely to place his best work before you. Ask him or her if she can accomplish the same effect with you as the subject. Ask him or her how any difficulties or problems you have in mind will be overcome. Scrutinize the quality of the prints. Ask whether retouching and color balancing are done automatically or only upon request. Ask exactly what the fees include. How long is the sitting, and what happens if none of the proofs are to your liking. Does the price include a specific number of enlargements? Can you keep the proofs? Make sure you know precisely what you're getting for your money. Are the samples done by the actual photographer with whom you'll be working. In larger studios, perhaps one photographer did the albums and somebody else will be on called for you. Inquire about delivery time. Make sure that it's reasonable and within your schedule. Some couples wait for up to a year for their wedding pictures. Establish a rapport. Exchange ideas about what your looking for. Ask for references. Follow them up. MOVING FORWARD THE FIRST STEP to moving forward is to realize that you are stagnating. before you can take control of any growth, you have to understand what your problem is and that you have a problem in the first place. Complacency will keep you forever in your situation. If you are unhappy, it's time to recognize that you are this way and try to figure out what you are lacking. Next, you have to define the problem. Often we think we know what the problem is, but I find that I often externalize my problems. It is so easy to blame other people for our unhappiness. It's just as easy to blame others or even "circumstances" for our problems. But the fact is that circumstances do not make us what we are, but they show us who we are. Your problem has to be stripped of all the external stuff and boiled down to things which you can personally control. Sometimes there are things that we think we can't control that we really can. For example, some of us think that we can't control our job, but the fact is that we can. We can quit, we can ask for a new office mate: there are lots of changes we can make if we will just empower ourselves to do it. Only after you have discovered that there is a problem and what it is are you ready to start planning out what to do about it. Often people start to do things before they have figured out what the problem is. Just as often, instead of planning some course to change things, people dwell on their problem and refuse to dream up any courses of action. When you focus on your problem like this it is called worry. "Worry" means thinking about what you don't want. And the funny thing about life is that we usually get the things we think about. Why worry? If anything, it will help you create precisely what you're worrying about. Better to dream at this stage; begin to think up alternatives and things that you might do to change your problem situation. Another really common response to some of the things you might dream up is, "well the problem with that solution is ..." Do not be afraid to exchange one problem for another. Often, there is a clear path back to the previous problem, if the new problem is worse. More often, though, I perceive that exchanging old problems for new ones is a legitimate pathway of growth; face the fact that we will always have problems, and we can dwell in our old problems and stagnate, or trade them for new ones, and maybe in a few years, the BIG problem won't seem so big. After you have dreamed up several possible solutions, choose one, then imagine how your problem would end up if you did this. Keep working with your alternatives until you find an outcome that you are happy with. Run through this script you've created for yourself all the way through to the end several times. Then start on it. It may not go the way you planned, but keep in your mind your desired outcome. Focus not on the stumbling path that you find yourself taking, but in the ultimate outcome, the situation you're trying to create. You'll find that a lot of the things that keep you from getting there are your excuses. But excuses can be devastating to a plan. There is so much going on inside of us that we all need an edge to get the better of our subconscious, because left to it's own, it will run our lives. It will give you rationalizations for not proceeding with your plan. It will throw all kinds of emotional baggage in your way. It will fight you every step, unless it is recruited to be your ally instead of your enemy. But here is one of the ways that magic rules your life. Either way, your subconscious will tell you the same things, but framed the right way, they are your friends. The wrong way, and you are depressed, contrary, sad, and not any fun at all. Western culture has a really big investment in analyzing all of this, but it has been my experience that analysis cannot help us overcome our emotional baggage. We can figure, analyze and calculate to exhaustion, but after we finish, we are still scared. Or jealous. Or grieving. Common sense does not cure your panic. Basically, rationality has no hope of understanding emotions; emotions are of the heart, not of the mind. There are times when we doubt our own judgment on big issues. Sometimes we think we might be going off the deep end, and I ask, how deep is your deep end? Some of us have pretty deep deep ends! I think mine is pretty deep. Certainly deep enough to drown in, if I'm not careful to stay afloat. Fortunately, I learned how to swim, and the real purpose of this article is to pass on a few "strokes" for those of you who find yourselves just "treading water" a lot. You see, when you tread water, you use all your energy up and never get anywhere. Not only is it easier to stay afloat when your moving, but your also getting yourself out of the situation that's causing you the problems in the first place. Maybe you'll even find a part of the lake that isn't so deep, and you can reach the bottom with your feet. What I'm trying to say with this metaphor is that you have to have a direction. Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream" and his dream gave him the power to endure all the racism, violence and rudeness so that he could bring his message to us. Proverbs (in the Bible) says that without vision, the people perish. When you lose your dreams, you die. Without our dreams we lack that direction. We find ourselves on a treadmill going nowhere; or treading in deep water, eventually to run out of energy and drown. Sometimes our choices are horrifying. Sometimes we are scared senseless about the decisions we have to make. We are paralyzed. Perhaps we are empowered and productive employees, great family people, contribute to the community in large ways, but in this one little thing -- or big thing -- we simply can't move forward. Perhaps our decisions are going to hurt people whom we care about. Perhaps our decisions are going to hurt us; maybe we just can't think of a course of action that doesn't hurt, or maybe it's simply one of those cases where it's going to take more pain to get through the existing pain. Start by convincing your rational mind that you really want to go through with it, that the decision needs to be made. You can use such tricks as listing pros and cons and prioritizing your results. Consider carefully what you would be leaving behind and what you would be gaining by your chosen course of action. Think about how they would affect all the areas of your life: your hobbies, activities, relationships, work, church groups, spirituality, etc. Then think about the advantages of staying where you are. Do you really have to give these up? Picture yourself five years down the road, and look and see what it would feel like to have stayed where you are now all that time. Would you feel as though you wasted those five years? And what if you went ahead and proceeded; how would those same five years look in retrospect? We tend to cling to what is familiar. This is called inertia, or the physical notion that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. The emotion that favors inertia is fear, which is a response of your body to change. Ah, yes, fear. Just as we will always have problems, we will always have fear. Fear is not an emotion associated with danger, although often danger accompanies fear. Fear is more accurately associated with the unknown; all fear is fear of the unknown. If you're scared of snakes, you can assuage your fear by learning all you can about snakes. You can study them, handle them, learn how they behave, and you may always have a healthy respect of them, but your fear will subside. Fear is created in the mind. We can place a plank on the ground, and let's make it easy: the plank is two feet wide and ten feet long. Almost anybody can walk such a plank without falling off, and with no fear at all. Place this same plank 200 feet above the ground, and suddenly we have far fewer volunteers to walk our plank. It's the same two feet wide, the same ten feet long, but now your subconscious is not thinking about walking across the plank; it's thinking about falling. And falling is what you fear, not walking that plank. So, don't think of falling. Convince yourself that you're going to step off the other end unharmed. Picture it in your mind. While you do that, consciously address the physical symptoms of fear, the tightening of the gut and the shortened breath. Consciously relax, and take long, slow breaths. Fear has a survival value, a purpose. When you face an unknown situation, it's advantageous to remember how you faced it, providing you survive, so that a similar situation in the future will be remembered instead of being unknown again. Memory, or more correctly recall of memory, is linked to the emotional amplitude of the memory. Things that cause you great pleasure or pain are more easily remembered than mundane happenings. Fear is a gift given to enhance our memory of facing unknown situations. So when you begin to feel afraid, make an effort to realize that the reason you're afraid is simply that you've never done this before, and you a begin given the gift of clear memory for this event. And one more little facet: fear and excitement are the same feeling. You can create the same physiological changes and emotional feelings by excitement. At the top of a roller coaster, are your scared or excited? Sometimes hard to tell, because they're really the same. If you can take that "Oh, NO!" feeling and change it into an "Oh BOY!" feeling, reframing fear into excitement, it's easier to get over that drop. Then you can just hang on and scream like the everybody else. Another thing about fear often forgotten is that fear goes away after you decide. Remember that plank? If you decide not to walk, you aren't afraid any more. You decide that you will walk, and know certainly that you'll succeed, your fear will be greatly attenuated. Whether you do what you fear or you don't, the fear goes away after you decide. Particular fear, that is. Know that as long as you face new situations, you will have fear. It's not something to escape or avoid. As surely as we grow, as we make plans and advance... as sure as we solve a problem now and then, we will have fear. Learn about fear, learn to be friends with fear, and you'll be less controlled and paralyzed by it. Just as we trade our old problems for new ones when we grow, we trade our old fears for new ones. As long as there is change, there will be new fears to face. CHRISTINA'S BEAUTY WORKSHOP All dressed up and nowhere to go? Polishing the silver should be done more than twice a year, girls. Why not prepare yourself a romantic dinner for YOU! If you are a kitchen ignoramus, you can call a local deli or grocery store that has such a service and have your dinner catered, or even order take out food from a Chinese. But really do it like a formal dinner. Decorate your table, and be sure to have candles. Put on some soft dinner music, jazz or classical. Use the good china and silver, and treat yourself like a lady. Want to protect your nails while gardening? Wear nail polish, says Cutex, a major distributor of nail polish. Do you need any more encouragement? Don't shave your legs right after waking up. While sleeping, your skin puffs up with fluids, and they need time to disperse. Afterwards, the hair shafts will be more exposed. Foundations with SPF 15 or more are a good way to deal with incidental sun exposure of the kind you get driving or walking outdoors. Few people, however, apply foundation evenly across the entire face. Ears and neck, for example, are frequently unprotected and are important areas to protect. Makeup is less effective during sports or outdoor excursions. Designed to be easy to apply and lighter in texture, cosmetics wear off faster than a real sunscreen, so for activities in which sun exposure is expected, don't depend on the sun protection in makeup to be effective.