Create your own visual style…let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable by others.
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Sep 16

The Invisible Older Woman


The average older woman is still struggling with feelings of being invisible so says Jennifer Connolly of the 40 plus blog. A Well Styled Life.  For some, that may be desirable. Some women feel relief and love flying under the radar of society’s pressure to look a certain way. They revel in the freedom to march to their own drummer…even/especially if it’s got a funky beat.

invisible older woman

But for most, not so much. Being made to feel invisible is not a good thing. And I suspect it’s somewhat true for the trans woman too, at least for this one.

It’s no secret that America is a youth-obsessed country. When I was young, my friends and I couldn’t wait to grow up. Today, nobody wants to grow up. But there comes a time in every woman’s life when we can no longer chase youth and we can’t run away from age – nobody can run that fast, especially in high heels.

Marie Therese Norris of The French TouchMarie Therese Norris of the blog, The French Touch, (an over 60 woman) sends the message that she’s interested in the people and things around her is the way she presents herself. If she dresses as if she no longer cares, the world will return the sentiment. If she dresses as if she’s trying too hard to look young, the world will not take her seriously. Is it any wonder that, living in a Peter Pan society, mature women in their fifties and sixties start to feel as if they are invisible and slowly fading into the background? Sometimes we just feel like shouting, “Hey, we’re still here, and we have a lot to offer!”

I know this sounds incredibly superficial, but we need to face facts. We live in a superficial, increasingly visual world; and for men in particular, when it comes to women, the visual will always trump the verbal — at least, in the beginning. It doesn’t matter what’s inside; if they don’t like the wrapping, they won’t open the package. So, how we present ourselves matters a great deal. In fact, the older we get the more it matters, and not JUST to the opposite sex.

Being of advanced age, I worry less about meeting some arbitrary standard of beauty and certainly it’s almost easier to blend in as less is expected of me. But wanting to be invisible, no. I want to be seen for the woman I am. I want to be seen as being stylish and desirable, at least to know and not in a sexual way, that I have self worth as a woman

Jennifer gives this example of invisibility

“The last time a gentleman walked through a door ahead of me, and let it close in my face, I had a “word” with him. It was along the lines of, “I’m sure you’d love it if someone slammed a door in your mothers face!”  He gave me a blank stare which led me to conclude:

  • he was raised by wolves
  • his mother taught him no manners
  • he was a Neanderthal clod

As we age, we’re less likely to be noticed for our appearance which can sting and it’s all so unnecessary, but I’ll come to that in a moment.

Invisibility Impaired

Jennifer tells the story about being out and about in London with her beautiful daughter. When the heads turned to look at them, she realized they were looking at her daughter and not here. A small jolt went through her. Nothing earth shaking, but a page had turned for her, a shift had happened. A loss of something. A loss of power.  Her power of visibility

And I’m sure we may have experienced similar feelings when out with a beautiful younger person. God, I hate those photos of young 20 something crossdressers who look good in anything

Does losing visibility as you grow older matter?

  1. It matters because it affects our self-confidence.
  2. It matters because we have much wisdom to share that may not be heard.
  3. It matters because self-confidence affects our happiness.
  4. It matters because our happiness is crucial.
  5. It matters because it seriously pisses me off.

But what about the woman who is not happy being passed over and overlooked, merely because she’s gotten older?

Sister House is about fashion and our wardrobe can be a powerful tool in our struggle to remain visible. Author and stylist Sherrie Mathieson has this to say on the subject of wardrobe:

The fact that as women get older, the less likely they are to be noticed for their looks (certainly less by men, but also less by other women) is true. Too often the exceptions that get double takes and compliments fall into three groups,

  • the ones who dress very sexually
  • the ones who wear something like a bright color or “cute” (“Oh love that color on you! Oh isn’t that darling!?)
  • and the ladies who indulge in non apologetic eccentricity–wearing all sorts of clothing, especially odd hats, lots of jewelry,  glasses, scarves and tons of layers, textures and volume in clothing to an almost theatrical effect.” (The ladies of the Advanced Style blog would probably disagree)

Jennifer doesn’t quite agree. Here’s her take on the three groups.

The Sexual Look

Jane Pesch at 73 not invisible

Jane Pesch at 73

“Older women are and can look sexy. (Check out Helen Mirren) What we reveal needs to be strategically chosen. It’s often more important which skin shows than how much. For some older women, the  shoulders, for example, seem to be the last place to age. I don’t know about you, but my shoulder skin hasn’t sagged yet. and an off-the-shoulder dress or blouse is figure enhancing.” For many crossdressers and t-girls, our best feature is our legs hence 1-2 inches of skin above the knee creates an alluring look. More than that, you may be branded as something else.

Color is Personal.

Maye Musk not invisible

Maye Musk

Like many women, my wardrobe has many neutrals meaning too much black but I love patterns and royal colors, turquoise, dark blue and red  being my favorites. Some women love bright colors because it makes them happy. They don’t call it the Red Hat Society for nothing. These women are making a statement about their visibility. They will not be ignored and it’s their privilege to do so. There is a fine line between colorful and clownish. If we cross that line intentionally and are confident enough to wear it, that’s our choice too

Women who dress with true eccentricity and always have, are fabulous. There’s nothing wrong with trying on new looks and playing with theatricality, so long as you can own the look. If it feels like a costume…beware. Your confidence doesn’t get a boost by feeling pink outfitlike a fraud.

Betty Halbreich in her book Secrets of a Fashion Therapist says you don’t need a “color consultant” to tell you what looks good on you. Go to a mirror where there is good natural light and hold various shades up to your face. Do certain colors light up your face where other colors seem to f drain the light out of it. That’s a start.

Betty also said that she’s never known a woman who didn’t look good in pink. It looks clean and sensuous on everyone, not to mention incredibly feminine.

Eccentric Dress

I have dramatic, head-turning garments in my wardrobe, that I wear when I want to make a statement. I love capes, scarves, and drama. I adore hats. They’re attention-getting simply because most women don’t have the confidence to wear them. I don’t think I wear goofy ones…but goofy is in the eye of the beholder:)

We are all a combination of style components that make up our personal style recipe. No one woman has the right or wrong formula for personal style. However, some formulas can be more effective if visibility is your goal.

older eccentric but not invisible ladies

So how can older woman really combat invisibility?

  • Attention to personal grooming is very important.
  • Appearance and polishing your personal style is crucial… because frumpiness is the fast track to invisibility.
  • Being informed about current events and able to intelligently join conversations increases your visibility
  • Staying physically active and fit as possible will boost confidence which helps us feel and look more vibrant.

I’m just going to talk about the first two points.

Personal Grooming

I’m persnickety about how I look when I leave the house. I will not go out with unstyled or unclean hair. I always wear makeup…lipstick, mascara and eyebrow pencil (mandatory).  My clothes are clean, unwrinkled and presentable.

Paying attention to personal grooming is a matter of personal respect. How can a woman feel good about herself if she hasn’t taken basic care of her grooming? I just don’t get it? Simple things like arm hair and un-flossed teeth get noticed!

Personal style

We all have a unique combination of styles, that make up our personal style.

My personal style is a mix of classic,elegant, boho and a bit dramatic with a little feminine thrown into the mix. Each outfit I put together highlights different aspects of my personality and how I feel that day. How I want to be perceived also plays a role in what I choose.and I give some thought to where I’m going and who I will be with

And here’s where my point on our wardrobe choices comes in…you knew I had to have one:)

There is an alternative way to dress, which increases a woman’s visibility, and that’s with drama.

dramatic dresser at Royal AscotThe dramatic dresser projects a sophisticated and confident image. It’s strong and conveys assurance. Bold, often exaggerated in line and/or color it stands out in a crowd. It’s not for the faint of heart… because it makes people notice you. Because of its striking appearance, it empowers women. It can be edgy or severe, but it’s seldom overlooked. I love it!!

So what does dramatic dressing look like?

You will find many examples of dramatic clothes and looks  on my Pinterest boards.

  • The clothes are geometric, often with sharp angles.
  • Black and white are popular neutrals, worn alone or mixed with a bold color.
  • Fabrics are usually firm and hold their shape.
  • Patterns are seldom worn.
  • Jackets and coats are structured with sharp edges and straight lines.
  • Clothes have minimal details and are sleek
  • The silhouette is semi-fitted with a slightly defined waist.
  • Hats are a favorite accessory because they add instant drama.
  • There is usually 1 striking accessory and it is over-sized.
  • Hair is sleek, sculpted and worn in a precision cut.

The dramatic dresser is seldom just one of these characteristics. She can add touches of feminine, creative, sporty or classic to the mix, but there is always a striking element to her look.

I pull this look out when I need a boost of confidence and it never fails me. I mix it with other styles to produce my personal style recipe.

I’m reminded of this song…

My my, hey hey

Rock and roll is here to stay

It’s better to burn out than fade away

My my, hey hey

~Neil Young

aging is a privilege

I’m choosing to remain visible, are you?

We’re More Visible Than Ever

We’ve come into our own as a demographic of strong, stylish women who command attention. Our buying power is making corporations stand up and take notice of us. We’re all part of this new movement and I’m proud of each of us.

And our strength is not just our style, but our femininity too. Marie Therese Norris said it most succinctly,

“By the end of the 60s, the pursuit of Femininity had been moved from the Virtue to the Vice side of the Feminist orthodoxy. It was deemed not only to be frivolous, but downright subversive. The French woman sailed through the last four decades relatively unscathed by American-style Feminism. As a result, she continues not only to age gracefully, but to live her whole life as gracefully as she can to the delight of the French man. Femininity underpins everything she is and does. Her individual version of Femininity may be classic or quirky, but she owns it, she works it, and she will go to the grave with it.

A healthy dash of Femininity might just be the missing ingredient we are looking for.

femininity collage

Crossdressers and trans women should not want to be invisible. Kandi Robbins column on Visibility With Style in the Dressing Room gives us many ways to be accepted into our local communities for the feminine person we are

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


Aug 23

A Visual Record of the Joys, Fears and Hopes of Older Transgender People

This reprinted article from the NY Times deals with a largely unseen part of being transgender, that being the joys. fears and hopes of older transgender people. In “To Survive on This Shore,” the photographer Jess T. Dugan and the professor Vanessa Fabbre have created a road map, archive and remarkably moving body of work about a group almost entirely left out of many narratives: older transgender and gender variant people.

It is easy to forget that only recently have transgender issues become part of the public consciousness, with transgender characters on major television shows and even transgender celebrities. But transgender people — like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, key figures in the Stonewall uprising in 1969 — have contributed to the queer movement since the beginning, even if they have often been overlooked.

No more.

“We wanted to create representations of older transgender people, and gender nonconforming people, to both capture their stories, preserve their history, record some of the activism that they had been a part of,” Ms. Dugan said. “But we also wanted to create representations for younger transgender people to see a road map for what their life could look like, to see people aging and living these complicated and exciting and robust lives in many cases.

transgender woman Caprice

Credit: Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicag by Jake Naughton

Caprice, 55, Chicago. “I’m a 55-year-old woman of trans experience and I’m a woman of color. And my life is amazing. I have been working in the field of social service for 17 years. I have been an activist and advocate for trans women of color and trans-identified individuals for the majority of my life. My life relies upon me being able to give to my community.”

transgender people Gloria

Credit: Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Gloria, 70, Chicago. “I’m a senior citizen. I made it to 70, and a lot of them won’t make it, they won’t make it at all. Because most of them die from drugs, from sexual disease or they’re murdered. They ask me questions like, ‘Well, Momma Gloria, how did you get through?’ I say, ‘I got through with love from my family and the grace of God.’ That’s how I got through. You have to have some stability and you have to have some kind of class, some charm about yourself. I never was in the closet. The only time I was in the closet was to go in there and pick out a dress and come out of the closet and put it on

transgender people SueZie, 51, and Cheryle, 55

Credit: Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

SueZie, 51, and Cheryle, 55, Valrico, Fla. “When we got married, I never imagined that someday my husband would become my wife,” Cheryle said. “Right from the start, SueZie confided that she identified as female on the inside, but transition never appeared to be an option. But, I never had a problem with her wearing lingerie. You know, it’s just clothes. I fell in love with the person inside, and what’s on the outside is more about what they feel comfortable with.”Credit:  Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Ms. Dugan and Ms. Fabbre, a social worker and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, wanted to show the fullness of experiences of the older transgender community. The result is a book, to be released on Aug. 28 by Kehrer Verlag, that combines portraits and interviews with transgender people from various walks of life. The combination of intimate and arresting portraits, a signature of Ms. Dugan’s, with frank and deeply affecting quotes — they are often humorous, sad or both at once — is a startlingly deep dive into the individual and collective experiences of this generation of the transgender community.

Common themes include uncertainty of the future because of looming medical care and financial insecurity, which have long been sources of unease for the community. There also are a wide range of feelings about the transition process itself, and Ms. Dugan and Ms. Fabbre wanted to preserve that complexity.

For Ms. Dugan, the most difficult recurring themes addressed how much people struggled or missed out on because they were unable to be their authentic selves until later in life. “I was just struck by the extent to which pressure from society can be so damaging to people, and so limiting and cause so much pain,” she said. “In some ways it’s a big deal to transition and in other ways it’s such a small thing. Your gender identity and expression really shouldn’t have this profound of an effect on your relationship, your kids, your job, your housing, your access to health care. It simultaneously feels like a major issue and like it should also be a nonissue.”

transgender people Dee Dee Ngozi

Credit: Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Dee Dee Ngozi, 55, Atlanta. “This coming into my real, real fullness of knowing why I was different is because I was expressing my spirit to this world. And I didn’t know how God felt about it, but I believe in God and I have a deep spiritual background and I talk with the Holy Spirit constantly who’s taken me from the Lower West Side doing sex work to being at the White House.”

transgender people Bobbi

Credit: Jess T. Dugan/Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Bobbi, 83, Detroit. “I think people talk in either/or terms, right? Before transition and after. But to me, it’s really development. I’m proud of both lives. I’m proud of both mes, if you see what I’m saying. And I feel it has been a remarkable thing to have happened to a person. I’m grateful. You can’t just become a woman with a knife or a pill or anything like that. It takes a whole combination in a sequence, in a formation. You’ve got this time span, it’s a learning experience, it’s a little bit of everything.”

Conducting deeply personal interviews with her subjects also changed her image making. “Sitting down with someone and asking them to share their life story is really vulnerable but also empowering and very significant,” she said. “I was continually struck by how personal people were willing to be with us.” In other projects, like “Every Breath We Drew,” she took out all extraneous information. But in “To Survive on This Shore,” she let details of her subjects’ lives creep in, even including photos of objects.

Ms. Dugan and Ms. Fabbre envisioned their project as equal parts activism and art. The images and quotes will form an exhibition and book, and the work has also been acquired by the Kinsey Institute, the Sexual Minorities Archive and the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria. Ms. Fabbre plans to use the interviews in her scholarly research, and they have begun sharing their work with nonprofits for training and activism. They hope that the broader theme of aging can resonate with people beyond the transgender community.

Just as crucially, they want the work to serve as a visual record of the joys, traumas, fears and hopes of older transgender people that the younger transgender community — which often has no role models — can use to learn what the future might hold.

“Many of the people in the project have been out and have been working on progress for the trans community since as early as the 1970s,” Ms. Dugan said. “We were looking back at 45 years of advocacy and education and life experience, and I really wanted to capture that because I think sometimes our collective history is lost. We wanted to create a more broad and complex portrait of what it looks like to be an older transgender person.”




Aug 14

Bathing Suit Shopping- Decisions, Decisions!

It was time to face the challenge of buying a bathing suit after thinking ahead to a possible Tri-Ess cruise next February and realizing there would be snorkeling and pool time,  Becoming ship-shape is a more complex a task than I had presumed so I’m sharing some of my dilemmas, adventures, and conclusions.

What to buy

First, the male anatomy presents many challenges:

  • how to deal with hair normally not visible and often hard to reach, such as on the back.. from Phoebe’s account of waxing, this is an option I personally will avoid! Some suits have higher backs than others, but employing a shaver that can bend over the shoulder or a hair removal product seems essential for most of us;
  • how to fit a 38 x >38 x 38 form into something other than a cardboard box or giant bowling pin;
  • how to hide the family jewels.

gaffe and skirt for bathing suitAs to the last item, I know of only two obvious solutions:

1) a gaffe;

2) a skirt.

A “gaff”, by definition, is “a blunder”. Imagining the discomfort, inconvenience, and, to me, the seeming impossibility of this solution, for reasons which I will leave to the imagination of the reader, I dismissed this option, foreclosing many suit options available to women. This left me with the question as to whether a one-piece or two-piece would work best.

Key advantage of one piece bathing suit:

The indignity of an involuntary separation of top and bottom is minimized. This could lead to a disastrous snorkeling trip. I am notorious for losing skirts at embarrassing times due to my above-mentioned block-like form.. i.e., lack of a waist to impede the law of gravity. Imagine what I could do in the water! However, that DOES lend to more adventure, colorful stories for future Belle articles, and comic relief.

Key advantage of two piece bathing suit:

1) Easier to deal with the call of nature;

2) More options to mix and match. My top is a 16W, while my bottom is closer to a 12. It is hard to find a one-piece in these proportions.

Either way, the beer belly is tough to hide. Looking fit as a fiddle when you look like a cello is a losing proposition. With no clear winner, I looked at both options.

Through experimentation I soon realized that either situation would, in my case, require disguise. Something had to be done to avoid displaying a gut that has little resistance to the charms of sweets, potatoes, and beer. I found that layers of frills can cover some sins, while adding a touch of femininity. Apparently enough women face this issue that it is easy to find options that, while not creating an hourglass look, at least don’t stop a clock. Some garments have tummy control… helpful but far from a cure for the seriously afflicted.

What to do about the bust?

This is a more complex matter, but something with which we already have at least SOME familiarity. A few options:

  • BBWSeek a suit with built-in cups… most don’t have enough natural shape or support, forcing one to consider other alternatives;
  • Sew in padding;
  • Find a mastectomy suit;
  • Use forms that adhere to the flesh (OUCH!!);
  • Find a suit capable of holding forms. Not many I have seen would give me comfort that I would not be a disaster ready to happen… I can easily visualize silicone floating to the surface after a dive, assuming it is not so buoyant as to prevent a dive!… a useful spare life preserver in the ocean perhaps, but maybe not ideal for the pool.)

In my case, option 2) seemed feasible. Time will tell.

I perused catalogues and ordered a one-piece from Venus that has remote possibilities (i.e., great if I lose 10 pounds- not going to happen on a cruise!.. deckmates stay clear of IEDs!). So off to the malls I went.

The shopping adventure

A trip to Florida provided a perfect opportunity to shop incognito. I spent about 5 hours trying on suits at Sears and Penney’s, while Barbara shuttled back and forth to seek out and return supplies, appraising my looks whenever returning. A female appraiser is an invaluable asset! In the end, I purchased two one-piece swim skirts and one two-piece.

bathing suit

Of course a woman’s decision is seldom final, and two stores barely scratches the surface. So we went to Dillards’ the next day to browse some more for a bathing suit. This time Barbara determined that an attentive sales-lady should be told the truth of our situation. She asked the clerk if she were open-minded. When told “yes”, that led to two female appraisers. I learned that four female eyes is better than two and a lot more fun! The suits bought the previous day were quickly dismissed as being inferior to a two-piece outfit, the result of many more changes and appraisals. This of course meant that the other outfits had to be returned. But the quest was at least closer to a conclusion.

After being outed I took the opportunity to ask if the clerk regularly deals with crossdressers. She has done so before, although I gathered it is not too common. As part of their training the clerks learn how to treat TGs and to make others feel comfortable, whatever their gender or shape. To this end, all trainees are required to remove all of their clothes and fit other clerks a la fresco! I presume this is done after hours but will likely be more vigilant as I wander through Dillards in the future! I always thought Dillards was TG-friendly. Now I am beginning to understand why!

Upon returning home we made one more round through the local mall. As I walked by a clerk while carrying a dozen swim skirts she remarked that I’d look cute in them. This started a round of “Is she or isn’t he?” At one point she was chided by her manager for embarrassing a client. Barbara thinks the clerk was onto us even if her manager was not. It may have not gone unnoticed that I used the men’s fitting room while Barbara shuttled in and out to bring in new garments and return the discards. I was tempted to model the final picks but thought that might be pushing the envelope. My identity would be abundantly clear when finalizing the purchase and it is, after all, a small town.

The next stop, Macy’s offered the excitement of dressing room doors that would not close and giddy teens flitting from room to room. I found a great cover-up before calling it a day.

This experience was almost too much fun not to repeat. I am beginning to understand the women’s creed: Vini, vidi, visa (I came, I saw, I shopped), a mantra which requires frequent repetition.

Rhonda Lee in swimsuit

Rhonda’s final choice

Rhonda Lee in black coverup

Rhonda Lee in black coverup

Other adventures await, such as:

-dealing with swim cap issues: does one wear a cap over the wig? how does one hide and store the wig when required and reverse the process when necessary?;

– is it possible to swim without removing so much make-up as to emerge as a man in a woman’s bathing suit?

– is it feasible to devote the time necessary to apply and later re-apply make-up?

Inquiring minds want to know!

No doubt there is plenty of literature already on such issues, but for me this opens up new vistas, adventures, and possibilities for more colorful tales.

This could be chapter 1 of a new adventure novel. Stay tuned!

Rhonda (aka Ms. Nemo)

Rhonda LeeRhonda Lee

Rhonda is the Outreach Director for Sigma Epsilon, the Atlanta chapter of Tri-Ess. She has been active with churches, universities and support groups in promoting the understanding of crossdressing. She’s an active author and participant in research studies and regularly hosts dinners and other events to encourage closer relationships and inter-actions between members of the broader TG community and the general public. She’s a late bloomer so can relate to the mature crossdresser as well as helping those new to the experience. She can be contacted at

Aug 01

Thin Lips No More!!!

Raise your hand if you have thin lips (…slowly raises hand….).  Raise your hand if you’ve tried to correct  thin lips but ended up looking like Ronald McDonald (it’s okay…we’ve all been there!). Don’t panic – Corrie of Femme Makeovers has a few tips that will help give you fuller-looking lips without looking like a clown. BUT!!! Like I say with everything It’ll take a little practice – so dig out your lip pencils. Class is in session.

So – most of us weren’t born with a perfect pout…but that’s okay. We can totally cheat it and make it LOOK like we have lips that would make Ms. Monroe envious.


Before we begin – you’re going to need a few tools. Don’t even attempt to try this without the following items:

1. Lip liner pencil
2. Pencil sharpener
3. Lipstick
4. Lip brush

Why do I need all these things you ask? Because it will be next to impossible to get a nice, clean overdrawn lip without using a pencil. The second half of that is you don’t want to ruin your perfectly drawn on lip by applying lipstick from the tube. There’s not enough of an edge to create a clean line – so…applying with a brush allows for keeping that edge crisp and clean. Plus – it provides you with a more even application.

Alright – first we need to determine what it is we want or need to correct. Our upper lip? Our lower lip? Or perhaps both our upper and lower lip is a little on the thin side. Once you’ve figured out what it is you want to correct – grab your pencil. I like using a sharp, but slightly dull pencil (if that makes any sense). I like to sharpen the pencil to get a nice tip, then swipe it across my hand or a towel once or twice to take off the super sharp point. I find it’s easier to draw with a semi-dull point. Crazy, I know.

Next – start by finding your natural lip line. I find it’s easier if we lightly line our natural lip line first so we have a visual guide to go on. Once I’ve done that, I continue to go line by line, on the outside of my previous line, until I get the shape (here’s where you get to play and experiment with different shapes) and fullness I’m after. Be sure to play with a few different shapes to determine what you like and looks best. Example: do you want a rounded cupids bow, or something a little more pointed and sharper.

Also – going line by line allows you to correct any mistakes if you make them before things get too out of hand. It’s easier to add than to take away. So if you just start drawing and mess up – it’ll be much harder to fix.

**IMPORTANT NOTES: We are looking for symmetry. We want to make sure our lips look even. The best way to do this is to step back from your mirror after you think you have it done and look to make sure things are balanced. It’s really hard to tell when you’re looking at them inches from the mirror.

Second thing to keep in mind – ideally you want your lip liner to meet in the corner of your mouth. If you start drawing your lip line outside of where it meets in the corner, you’re tip-toeing into Ronald McDonald land. Not saying that you can’t do that – but it will overly exaggerate your lips and you could end up looking like a drag queen (which isn’t bad – it just might not look as natural).

Last thing I’d like to note is I typically prefer to over draw the upper lip more than the lower. I feel like an over drawn upper lip can still look relatively natural up close, where an over drawn lower lip can look a little strange if we go too far past our natural lip line. But hey! It’s your call! It’s makeup and you’re supposed to have fun with it.

Here’s an example of where you would over draw (or correct) based on your lip shape. Hey!! No making fun of my drawing! 😀
thin lips

Ultimately – you need to determine how far outside your natural lip you want and are willing to go. One thing to be mindful of is when you DO overdraw your lip, you have to be careful when eating, drinking, etc. because you’ll be more likely to smudge it. You’re essentially drawing on your face so just keep that in mind.

Once you get your new lip shape drawn on, you now can apply your lipstick. Any of you who have had lessons with me know how adamant I am about using a brush to apply lipstick. You can use the brush to easily (and cleanly) paint right up to your lip line, get much more even coverage and have so much more precision when applying the lipstick.

Over drawn lips can look great if done correctly. I encourage you to give it a try! It can really enhance your look.

A few more tips and tricks to fix thin lips:

  • Even if you’re not overdrawing your lips it’s important to use a lip liner. It helps keep your lipstick in place and from bleeding.
  • I try to match my liner to my lipstick if I can and think this is especially important when using reds. If I don’t have something that matches, I try to get as close as possible…..
  • …However, if I want to create a little more dimension with my lips, I’ll use something slightly darker than my lipstick and blend my lipstick into the liner (more so in the corners).
  • Using a slightly lighter color (to highlight) on the center of your lips will create a fuller looking lip as well. Just make sure you smoosh/blend together well (we want a nice gradient) – not a hard edge.
  • To aid in longevity of the lipstick, fill your natural and newly drawn lip in with your liner before applying the lipstick. If the lipstick wears off, you’ll have that liner underneath to color your lips.
  • Line your lips, apply lipstick, blot on a tissue, reapply lipstick and dust very lightly with a loose setting powder for a longer-wearing matte finish.
  • Anything that says “Long-wear” is going to be very drying on your lips. So after wearing a long-wear product – throw some lip balm on to help keep your lips from getting super dry!
  • If you like a shiny lip – know that gloss over lipstick will oftentimes shorten the wear of the lipstick underneath (also – worth a mention – cause your hair to stick to your mouth! Eeek! Drives me nuts!!). So if you do like to wear a gloss, bring something to touch up with.

That’s all I have for you this time around. If you have any questions (about this or other makeup-related things) – send them my way at

Lisa Eldridge also has some great tips to correct thin lips in this 8 minute video. Aging seems to effect the fullness of your lips (I’m old) and I certainly suffer from that too thin upper lip. Fuller lips definitely enhances your beauty, especially when red.





Dressing Styles
We all have our favorite style from ultra feminine to the casual jeans outfit, or perhaps the business look or Bohemian or the look of pure elegance. We explore them all here. This section talks about the various dressing styles and how to achieve them. And you only find this on Sister House
  • Bohemian Style Defined posted on July 24, 2017.
    The Boho or Bohemian style came from the hippy movement of the 60s/70s and then again in the early 2000s and is characterized by a long flowing look. We explore all those looks here and the ladies that made it famous More
  • What Fashion Style Are You? posted on July 22, 2017.
    Fashion is forever as is fashion style. Fashion is completely transparent. It’s fun, it’s confusing, and it never dies off. Fashions from the past are still being worn by women across the country and new fashions are being designed every day. There’s SO many different fashion styles, and we’ve come up with a list of the top 20 looks, from elegant to gothic, exotic to casual, and everything in between. More
Jul 20

Visibility With Style – an Introduction

Visibility with style is Kandi’s new monthly column for Sister House. Our purpose is to provide readers with real world advice on getting out in the mainstream public and doing so with style!  I’ll cite actual experiences and provide pictures.  The column will run here at Sister House as well as on my blog, Kandi’s Land, a daily diary of sorts, with uplifting and positive posts on being who I am.  Hopefully you will see how I have had my meal purchased for me by a mother with her family; been asked for hugs from total strangers; had drinks purchased for me on many occasions; and been complemented time after time.  Is this because I “pass”?  Because I am beautiful?  Absolutely not (although I will admit to photographing well, from a distance).  It is exactly the opposite, because I am who I am, do so proudly and with style, always with a broad smile on my face.

Through my blog and interaction with others on one of the leading CD forums, I do all that I can to offer support and advice to others like myself.  As a result, I think I get enough feedback to understand what many of us go through in dealing with our female alter egos.  Long story short, for me it was almost 50 years of struggle, followed by four years (and counting) of joy, happiness, complete acceptance by the world in general.  I am blessed to be able to go out usually three times a week, attending my church and volunteering for quite a few organizations including three of the most prominent museums in Cleveland (and we have quite a few world-class museums).  My outings are almost always in a mainstream setting, being who I am proudly and confidently.  I strive to place myself in front of as many people as possible on any given outing.  As I’ve explained to many, I don’t go to CD friendly restaurants, I go to restaurants.  I don’t go to CD friendly stores, I go to stores.  When dressed, I am a woman just like any other woman.  I hold myself that way and in turn, am treated as such.

The reality of me is that I do not pass, never have and never will.  I know this because of all the positive attention I receive, attention I would never receive if I did pass.  Strangers frequently complement me, many often hug me (I do like that) and I gather smile after smile.  Sure, there are those that probably roll their eyes or laugh behind my back, but now being out in public well over 400 times (just in the past four years), no one has ever vocalized that to me.  Zero negative experiences.  Please understand, I attempt to pass, I just accept my reality and have now road tested it so often, I know what works for me.

I have a male voice, male biceps, veiny forearms, male fingers, male facial features, I turn into a pumpkin after about eight hours, I am tall for a woman (especially in heels) and while thin, I have a male body frame.  None of this stops me from enjoying life as a woman when I want to.

So, what’s my secret?  First off, after all those years of struggle, I absolutely know that people are accepting, very accepting.  Times have changed, things are different.  I am talking about actual people, not the media, not organizations or religions, but people.  Working at three different museums, I face a constant stream of people, all kinds, from Cleveland, other towns and other countries.  I greet them with a smile and generally engage them in friendly conversation.  Most conversations flow with no acknowledgement of my attire.  I am frequently referred to as “she”.  I am also often referred to as “he” (I speak always in my male voice), but it is never done derisively, it is done as an acceptance that I am indeed a man, I simply choose to present myself as a woman.  I have studied human nature, how people in general move about, how women present themselves, what it takes to enjoy my Kandi time.

I have three basic rules that I preach.

Be smart.  I principally go anywhere I wish, without thought about how I will be perceived.  However, I am smart about it.  I don’t go anywhere that I would not feel safe in any attire.  I generally seek places where I would expect to find more accepting people.  So I spend quite a bit of time at art museums, where creative people gather as well as the theater.  I park my car where it is well lit.  Basically I practice safety in this day and age, just as I would if I were out (male) with my wife and/or children.

Be appropriate.  Dress for the venue.  Dress for your age.  Dress for your body type.  Be stylish but don’t overdo it.  Don’t wear a ball gown to a bowling alley.  While you can certainly wear a short skirt or dress dependent on where you are going, don’t dress like you are 19.  Don’t dress like a hooker (we’ve all seen that).  If you need to lose a few pounds, don’t wear a tight dress.  Exercise common sense.  Look at other woman.  Dress like them.  Act like them. Be one of them.

Be confident.  Smile!  Own it!  Be proud!  Love yourself!  A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.  Regardless of your attire, if you are looking nervous, you will draw negative attention.  I once met a sister who was very well dressed, but she had a five o’clock shadow and her hair pulled up over her face (no, really), looking like Cousin It.  Really!  It’s all common sense.

I’ve been the principal greeter at an art museum party with over 4,000 guests, almost all seeing me in my pretty pink sundress.  I walk into the Rock Hall and am immediately acknowledged by those that work there.  I am the main hostess for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland for special events and private parties.  My presence at The Cleveland Museum of Art is welcomed and noticed.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been elsewhere and told they knew me from the art museum.  I could go on and on.  I am not bragging, I am trying to clear that path for my sisters and those to come.

We’ll talk more about the benefits of volunteering in another column, but allow me to talk about a weekend I recently had this past summer.  I work for the North Coast Men’s Chorus, a gay men’s chorus and we perform in Cleveland’s historic Playhouse Square district (the largest in the country outside of Broadway).  This weekend we were at The Hanna Theater, where Tom Hanks got his start.

Here I am on Saturday:

Giving visibility by Kandi Robbins in cold-shouldered dress

I picked up the cute cold shoulder dress at Goodwill!  Money well spent.  The dress speaks for itself; I wanted to wear a prominent necklace and bright makeup.  I received two specific complements on my lipstick color, both from employees at the theater.  The one that stuck with me the most, a doll of a young lady told me how she liked the color and how it tied in with my dress and accessories. Well……that was what I was going for!  Both women got big hugs from me.  After dishing up that wonderful complement, she told me to keep being wonderful!  This world could use more wonderful people like that!

Kandi Robbins selfies

These selfies were taken as I walked about downtown before the show, in crowded public areas.  I was no different than any other adorable young lady!  Then before heading over to a favorite restaurant for dinner, I stopped in a bridal boutique, made friends with the proprietor and she took the picture you see above.  I sat at the bar, had dinner and some wine, chatted with those seated next to me, again  treated like the woman I am.  The show was a great fun as I renewed many friendships and doled out hug after hug.

Now here I am on Sunday:

Giving visibility by Kandi Robbins in peplum dress

As you’ve read, Saturday was a blast.  Sunday, a blast of heat!  Ninety degree temperatures dictating my activities for the day.  Short walks, stay inside.  We had a matinee performance.  I got this great peplum dress a while back and was looking for the opportunity to take her for a spin!  It’s funny, there is always one thing I tend to get complements on.  The day before it was my lipstick color, on this day it was the necklace.  I always seem to get complements on it every time I wear it.

As usual, I needed something to do to stretch my day a bit.  I am an active member of a church (Methodist).  Well our services were too early for me to have enough to keep me occupied until the performance.  So I decided to attend (Catholic) Mass at the Cathedral.  I got there early, as I really find it relaxing and cathartic to sit quietly in a dress in a quiet church.

So after Mass, I headed over to the theater and continued my hug-a-thon!  I am supposed to sell tickets for a wine raffle.  I sold very few tickets as many, many friends sought me out, pumped my ego with undeserved complements and chatted with me.  I am becoming more of a goodwill ambassador than a ticket salesperson.

All in all, it was a weekend that exceeded my high expectations.  I, as always, went wherever I wanted and was welcomed.  I did things and saw people I love.  And I had a great Father’s Day on top of everything.  Lucky, lucky, lucky…..

Ladies, things are better.  We do have work to do, but being visible, being out there, makes all the difference.  Be smart, be appropriate, be confident, get out there and be visible!

Kandi Robbins

Sister House Fashion and Style Columnist

Visit Kandi’s Land here

You can read about my back story in the “About” section of my blog and contact me through the “Contact” section.

If you are interested:

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland

Great Lakes Science Center

North Coast Men’s Chorus

Playhouse Square

Jul 03

A Primer in Accessorizing to Flatter Your Look

You may be surprised to learn that accessorizing is a learned skill that genetic women need to master too. It too intimidates them depending on their degree of socialization within their peer groups when growing up. Girls need to learn how accessories can add personality, flavor, and interest to outfits as they are the absolutely invaluable tools to becoming a stylish woman

But don’t go thinking that you need a blackbelt in necklace selection to accessorize well! All you need is the curiosity to experiment, a few items that fit your tastes, and some trust in your personal judgment. Accessorization, like any skill, is all about practice. So … practice!

Accessorizing is generally considered to be the finishing touch of an outfit. You’ve got your shoes, bottom, and top covered, but what is lacking to make the ensemble complete? Here are a few questions you can ask as you’re standing before your mirror, clothed but accessory-free:

  • Look for the areas of an outfit that are not-quite-perfect. Can an accessory cinch in a waist? Cover up a hole?
  • Look for the vast stretches of empty space in an outfit. Does an accessory belong there? In a wide or deep neckline, in an unbroken swath of cloth from neck to knee, on a bare arm?
  • Look for ways in which color or pattern seem to clash. Can an accessory bridge that gap?

Now let’s dig into the major categories of accessories one by one, and explore how accessorizing can improve your presentation by finding types and styles that suit your body shape.


 Accessorizing with earrings

When selecting earrings, consider the following criteria:

Haircut and style: How do you want your earrings to interact with your hair? Is it important that they be big and bright enough to show through? If you have a super short cut, will you feel odd wearing giant hoops?

Face shape: If you want to create balance, choose earring shapes that are opposite from your face shape. If you have a round face, go for long, linear, dangly earrings. If you have a square face, go for soft, rounded shapes. If you have a long face, pick earrings that hit about mid-cheek to avoid elongating it any further.

Neck length: There are certain styles of earring that are meant to dance across your shoulders and collarbones, but generally speaking, you want a pair that is at least three inches above shoulder height. So if your neck is shorter, you might want to balance earring length accordingly. In addition, exposed earrings can either balance or emphasize neck length, so bear that in mind. Wearing bulky, chunky earrings may make short necks look shorter. Wearing long, linear, sticklike earrings will make long necks look longer.

Neckline and scarf considerations: If you’re wearing a cowl neck sweater, long earrings will get tangled in the fibers and look sloppy. If you’re wearing a thick, bulky scarf, same. Be aware of how your earrings will interact with your neckline and neckwear.


 Accessorizing with necklaces

How a necklace interacts with your neckline can impact how flattering that necklace is on your body, so be sure to start there. But here are a few more tips on picking a necklace that works with your figure:

Neck length and shape: As you might have guessed, thick chokers will make a short thick neck look shorter and thicker. On the other hand, extremely delicate necklaces can make a short thick neck look shorter and thicker, too. That same extremely delicate necklace might make a long neck look even longer. You ladies can totally eyeball this. Put it on, see how it interacts with your neck shape, and decide if it works.

Bone structure: Some say that women with small, delicate bones should wear small, delicate jewelry no matter what their body shape, and women with larger bones can carry larger jewelry. But that rule is too confining, if you ask me. Nevertheless, bone structure can influence your decisions about how you select your necklace. If you want to create a look that is feminine and romantic, play up delicate bones with light, airy necklaces. If you want to go edgy, pick a chunky chain and think about letting the rest of your outfit de-emphasizes your bone structure.

Bust and decolletage: If you’re exposing some cleavage, necklace choice can either draw attention to or away from the girls. A pendant that nestles will draw the eye to, but a giant bib or statement necklace may cover up and draw attention from your bust. This holds true for all bust sizes, I belive. If you’re small of boob and self-conscious about it, don’t wear an open neckline and a pendant. Go for something bigger and showier to fill that naked space.

Also be aware of length issues, especially if you’re busty. A long necklace that bounces off your bust when you walk may just irritate you. Long necklaces should end about three inches above your navel, regardless of bust size. Shorter necklaces should generally hit an inch above the cleavage line, unless you’re going for an intentionally sexy look.

Face shape: As with earrings, try to choose necklace shapes that will balance or counteract the aspects of your face shape that are the most pronounced. Round faces will look rounder wearing decidedly round necklaces made from round beads, etc.


 Accessorizing with bracelets

Can a bracelet really be unflattering? Actually, it can. Keep these things in mind:

Wrist and forearm shape: Unless you are extremely slender, a giant cuff that masks your entire wrist will make you appear to have forearms that are the same circumference from wrist to elbow. Just as a pair of boots that shows off your ankle is more flattering than a tubelike boot that masks them, a bracelet that shows the curve of your wrist is more flattering than a massive cuff that masks it. It’s an aesthetic choice, and sometimes you just don’t care. And since giant cuffs are seldom worn on both wrists, the masking isn’t complete. But if you’re hypersensitive about your arms, as so many women are, choose bracelets that show your wrist off instead of hiding it.

Tightness: This may seem obvious to the extreme, but I want to cover all my bases. Elasticized bracelets can sit snugly against your wrist, but NO bracelet should squeeze your tender flesh.


 Accessorizing with brooches

I’m pretty sure there are zero unflattering ways to wear a brooch. Do what feels right!


 Accessorizing with hats

Audi’s guest post on flattering hats for every head should get the ball rolling, but here are a few highlights:

Body shape: Consider hat shapes that will balance your figure shape. Petites might want to avoid enormous, wide-brimmed hats or anything truly oversized. They’ll do better with a small brim and low crown. Tall ladies, consider avoiding anything overly narrow, pointy, or high as it will just add to your natural height. You can sport the wide brim that our petites may avoid, and try a shorter crown.

Face shape: Again with the balance thing. If you have a longish face shape, choose wide hats with curled or floppy brims. If your face is round, you’ll want to go for hats with high brims, angular shapes, and that are, overall, wider than your face is. This means that most caps are right out. Square-faced women should consider asymmetric hats, which can help balance strong jawlines. And if you’re an oval, a wide variety of hat styles will work for you. Play around and see what you like!

Hat position: There’s no right or wrong way to wear a hat, of course, but many people choose to push hats to the back of their heads. It might feel natural, but it’s not always the most flattering look. Experiment a bit in front of a mirror before you settle on a position. You never know what’ll work best until you tinker.


 Accessorizing with scarves

Scarves can be worn a trillion different ways, and if you’re looking for new ways to tie yours, I’ve got a few tucked away on this Pinterest board.

Neck length: If you’ve got an average or long neck, an outsized scarf or bulky cowl may work … but those styles will only make a short neck appear shorter. If you’ve got a very long neck, skinny scarves worn long and loose down the body will emphasize that length. As always, consider seeking balance with your natural features.

Face shape: My face is rectangular, so I can have a giant wad of scarfy material up by my face and still look relatively angular. If you have a round face and are concerned about emphasizing it, winding a giant pashmina around your neck is not the way to go. Try a long rectangular scarf that hangs down on either side of your neck, drawing the eye up and down. Experiment with various ties – paying special heed to how loosely or tightly you tie the scarf around your neck and near your face – and see what looks best.

Bust size: Consider how a scarf will interact with your bust, and how that interaction affects your overall silhouette. A giant pile of scarf atop a large bust may just make you look like an ice cream cone. A long, limp scarf dangling across a small chest may just emphasize small breasts. Consider the girls when you slap on a scarf.

 Accessorizing with belts

Waist, or lack thereof: Figures lacking a somewhat defined waistline can have a really tough time belting. Depending on belly size, hip-slung belts may work on the waistless as may belting with elastic or tie belts instead of stiff leather belts … but it’s still tricky. On the flip side, women with pronounced hourglass figures can generally do small and medium-sized belts, but extremely wide belts may conspire with boobs and butt to create a boxy silhouette. Experiment with belt styles and widths until you find a few that work for your waistline.

Shoulders and hips: If you’ve got broad shoulders or a big bust AND pronounced hips, huge belts can be unflattering. However, if you’ve only got one of the three, they can totally work. Play around a bit.

Placement: Just as there’s no right way to wear a hat, there’s no right way to place a belt. Depending on how you’re built, the cut of your clothes, and the style of belt, you may look fantastic buckled right under your bustline, high waist, natural waist, wearing waist, or hip-slung. Eyeball multiple placements in front of a mirror.

Accessorization is affected by your clothing color choices, too, of course. Bright, vibrant colors may work better with small matte accessories, muted tones can allow sparkly, eye-catching accessories to shine. But that call must be made on an outfit-to-outfit basis. If you’re going for a sleek, minimalist look then soft or dark colors and quiet accessories will work. If you’re feeling bold, go bright and loud with both colors and accessories. I couldn’t say there are any figure flattery guidelines specific to pairing color and accessories, at least none that I know of. Focus on how the colors and accessories interact, and then step back and make sure the overall silhouette is one that pleases your eye.

Pay some heed to overall accessory balance. Any body that is absolutely dripping with accessories is going to look a bit off. Your personal rules for amount and size of accessories may vary from mine, but just be sure you know what your parameters for balance are before you head out the door weighed down by belts and jewelry.

And finally, HAVE FUN. This is a lot to digest and may seem awfully confining, but you should definitely experiment and play and make your own accessorization rules. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

Want more detail. Check out our All About section in the Library

Originally posted on by Sally McGraw

Jun 15

Plus-Size Vintage on Instagram

Over the past year, Instagram has become flooded with small shops devoted to selling vintage and gently-used clothing. But this new wave of online shopping has had one glaring problem: the sizing is limited. While Instagram is now a destination for finding unique pieces without having to actually go to a thrift store, most items offered run under a size 10. But Belen’s Linens wants to change that. Selling clothing specifically dedicated to plus-size women, the store is, as it refers to itself, “vintage for thiccies.”


Belens Linens vintage fashion

The Phoenix-based vintage shop, which opened less than a year ago, styles and photographs its pieces on curvy ladies and indicates sizing in each caption (at the moment, its items run from size 12 to 18). With just 500 followers, Belen’s Linens may not have the reach some of the most popular Insta-shops do (@courtyard_la and @the_corner_store have 117k and 41k followers, respectively), but it is disrupting a space that for so long has been dominated by straight-size women. Because in the same way the fashion industry is not yet properly catering to the 67% of women who are plus-sized, the vintage market still has a lot of work to do. Let’s hope this is the start of a bigger movement on Instagram — and beyond.

Click on to shop some of Belen’s offerings, and throw them a follow for their affordable, on-trend pieces.

Learn more about vintage fashion in the Playroom By-Gone eras and check out Christina Napoli, our Stylish Crossdresser who loves 1950s fashions

Jun 04

Older. Wiser and More Stylish

tasi's fashion feature

You would think that being older, wiser and more stylish would be a given, but not so. The girls on the Facebook group, Trans Beauty Network, were recently discussing fashion and, in particular, the fashion faux pas’ of trans women seen by the group. High on the list was the perennial favorite of not dressing your age meaning you shouldn’t be a 50-60 year old woman and dress like your granddaughter. And this does not extend to just the trans community but is still a common observation by women in general. When TLC’s How Not To Dress TV show was still on the air, this was a common theme.

So, to those girls, you are missing the boat because as we see below, the older, wiser, and more mature woman can be far more stylish than the ragtag group of millennials that they try to imitate.

Ari Seth Cohen just released a new book, Advanced Style…Older and Wiser which features more senior street style and inspiration from all over the globe, including Los Angeles, London, Cape Town, Rome, Florence, Tokyo, San Diego, Palm Springs, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Stockholm, and Geneva. The book also features 22 short essays by the subjects of the book distilling the wisdom and lifestyle secrets of some of Cohen’s favorite Advanced Style ladies. But this is NOT a book review because this article is about how older ladies really are more stylish than the millennials and their super comfortable but sloppy lifestyle. This book is but an example of what you can be too.

Diane Pemberton-Sikes in her blog, Fashion for Real Women, wrote a travel article in which she said, “I’ve been on chicken buses in Central America that had better dressed occupants than most domestic flights. It’s amazing how much Americans stick out due to the clothes and overall shabby appearance.”

And since most readers here are probably in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond, we still remember how style was. Not because we necessarily want to return to those eras, but because we want the feeling that those eras had in helping us explore our inborn femininity. How we dress is a large part of that as our dress defines how we are perceived by others. I’m older than 60 so my favorite quote is “…I must tell you that I am not really an old lady; just cleverly disguised as one”.

La Contessa from The Vintage Contessa joined several other ladies at a book signing for this book. Here are several views of the ladies and please note the variety and color of their dress. No uniforms here.

more stylish older ladies 1

That’s Contessa on the right

more stylish older ladies and Ari seth cohen

Ari Seth Cohen on the far left

more stylish older ladies

What this book does is help us learn how to celebrate our femininity as we grow older, a message we all need to learn. It celebrates the poise and vivacity of women who have spent decades refining their personal style! This is one of the better `book of the blog’ types that I’ve read. You certainly don’t need to be familiar with the Advanced Style blog to enjoy the book but it adds some spice to your life. I list other blogs by over 50 women at the end of this article and all of them feature women that will inspire you and give you food for thought on how to dress stylishly regardless of your age.

The women in this book look amazing, and I don’t mean `for their age’, I mean just totally amazing in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be the freshest and most inspiring fashion book of this year. The book is 98% photos, page after page of lovely women wearing the most beautifully put together outfits. There’s a range of looks from quintessential elegance to total bohemian. What’s striking is how much of the wearer’s personality shines through. Usually when I look at street snaps, I’m focused on the clothes and haven’t got much interest in the wearer. But the women in this book seem like they’d be good for conversation over a cup of tea. I wish I knew more about them, what their homes look like or what paths their lives took that made them get through the years and looking more vibrant and beautiful than woman half their age. And my point is that you can be and should be amazing too.

One female commenter on the article by La Contessa said it far better than I ever could, “I also want to look like a woman, and wear flattering clothes as they did in the forties. You can’t find a decent skirt, dress, only ugly tight fitting pants. Skirts so short they are embarrassing, and if the women wearing them do not feel embarrassed, I feel it for them. Men do not like unfeminine women. The more indecent you dress the more they use you and disrespect you, they cast you aside and try to find what they are truly are looking for. They like women with soft voices, genteel, have a brain so they can carry on an intelligent conversation, with tenderness and loving in the most pure and innocent way.

Can you find that today? No, not very many exist.

They have lost a great deal in banishing truly flattering clothes. Women trying to be men. Also they have lost the dignity and the nobleness that God gave women.

These styles are sickening and make me sick. Everybody wants to be a man these days, unshaven, sloppy and crude. You can have it. Wild hair cuts, some not even caring to tend to their hair, and they do not care how they look at all. Quite unbelievable that the so called modern generation can no longer think for themselves. The word for today is Slobs!

Women modeling these clothes always look like they do not know how to stand, walk or sit in a dignified manner. They hold their legs in awkward positions as if they have some unidentifiable defect. Too bad, Class for women is gone. Thrift stores offer more opportunities than any of the fashions we see in today’s store. Today’s fashions are against women. They have been this way since the sixties. The sad part of all of this is that they believe everything the designers tell them. Ridiculous!”

One of the advantages of being women over 60 is that “we’ve seen it all” – we’ve been through every kind of fashion fad and short-lived trend imaginable during our lives. Now that we’re in our 60s (and beyond), we have the simple elegance and freedom that comes from being able to choose the styles that reflect who we are while having fun with fashion.

Just take a look at these two fashion boards on Sister House Pinterest pages. Over 60 and Still Fashionable and Age Appropriate is a Myth.

fashionable ladies over 60

That’s Sophie Lauren on the left in her 80s

more stylish older ladies 2

more stylish older ladies 3

One of the great things about being women over 60 today is that we have more fashion role models than ever before. Women over 60 are still too often marginalized and made invisible by the media and by our culture, but there are some prominent women over 60 who are fashion icons and there are many fashion lessons to be learned from them which you can see here in this article on Ageless Fabulous Women in Femme d’Certain Age on Sister House.

You might also enjoy this fabulous video series on Sixty and Me.

“Be bold, be adventurous. Do profound things, dazzle yourself and the world. Don’t wear beige: it might kill you. Contribute to society, and live large. Life is short, make every moment count. It is never too late to find your passion.” — Sue Kreitzman.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Lessons Learned from Ageless Fabulous Women.

If you are interested in the books, Advanced Style or Advanced Style, Older and Wiser, just click the link.

Here are some of my favorite over 50 fashion bloggers. They are well worth your time to visit.

Advanced Style
Style At A Certain Age
Lady of Style (DE)
Une Femme d’un Certain âge
The Vintage Contessa
Style Crone
Accidental Icon
Not Dead Yet Style
Susan After 60

May 16

14 Surprising Women’s Clothing Stores That Carry Plus Size

Plus size fashion has always been a shopping challenge, but now it’s a bit easier  for women who wear above a size 14.

plus size dressOver the past several months, many of your favorite mall retailers added inclusive sizing to their clothing racks. Loft now carries bright prints and bold patterns in sizes 16 to 26. The work-wardrobe experts at White House Black Market expanded their sizes up to 24W. Reese Whitherspoon’s clothing brand Draper James partnered with Eloquii to launch a full range of sizes. Even sustainable clothing brand Reformation low-key added a plus-size collection, saying, “Sorry it took us so long.”

It’s been a good year for inclusive fashion. While we still have a ways to go before all of our favorite retailers are curve-friendly (looking at you Everlane), it’s thrilling to see so many clothing options for curvy gals. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of some of the most surprising clothing retailers that now carry plus-size styles.

Below, 14 surprising clothing stores that carry above a size 14:

Source: Huffington Post

Jan 22

One Piece – Many Looks

Nadine Feil is a very stylish German crossdresser and in this blog post, One Piece – Many Looks, she aptly demonstrates just how to transform a few essential pieces, like a cardigan and a blazer, into many really great street style looks. We have much to learn from her

I quote:  Here it comes, “one part”, ie a piece of clothing or, for example, a sofa, a living room wall ,,with the simplest  “turn” means to. The whole should not generate any new acquisitions possible. When going,  I would them each  like to see three design examples – “Looks 3” .

Since I naturally thought it ridiculous if I do not find some examples. And voila, here are my amounts for your great action, love Traude:

Cardigan looks

My first part is all about a black cardigan. On the left, I combined it with a white top and a silver, short skirt, in the middle with a yellow dress and on the right with the same top as on the left and a blue patterned mini skirt. You have to click the photos to see them bigger.

Blazer outfit looks

My second collage shows a gray blazer. Left classic as a “business outfit” with a gray pencil skirt, a white blouse and black tights, in the middle casual with white top, a short mini skirt (the same as in the example above) and a matt, nude tights, right all ” Lady-like “with a white blouse body and paisley pin skirt. In addition, a slightly shiny pantyhose to enhance the elegant character.

Rosa_Rock looks

Now a simple pink pencil skirt is the focus. Three times very casual combined – for shopping and for a museum visit. Right with a trench coat, which comes down in honor again.

Bleistiftrock looks

We stick to a pencil skirt, this time a bit more elegant in gray. Left in an elegant setting with a purple top, in the middle with a white blouse, a black sweater and high heels boots and on the right again the business outfit from above. Forgive me for showing the photo twice, but it just fits in here as well.

Bolero outfit looks

Now comes a green bolero jacket in the limelight. It was purchased as a supplement to the blue dress, which you can see on the left. But it goes well with the black lace dress or a gray flared skirt and a red top.

gray cardigan outfit looks

Relatively recently, a gray cardigan was allowed to move into my wardrobe, which can be combined with many pieces. The gray dress, the gray skirt or the light blue pleated rocker will not be the last outfits with this all-purpose cardigan 😉

red sheath dress outfit looks

One of my oldest pieces is this red sheath dress. It’s actually part of a costume and comes – I think – still from the 80s … I know, I look younger :-))) But no matter if only with purple scarf, with belt and Cardigen (again the black of above) or combined with beige blazer, in this dress woman has to sit down while sitting down to hell that it does not slide up too high and provokes unwanted glances 😉

trench coat outfit looks

Last but not least, of course, comes my beloved trench coat to honor, I could show you in even more variants. Whether with beige skirt and pumps, with the gray pencil skirt from above or at the Vienna Central Cemetery with a green miniskirt (not visible), black high boots (both not suitable for the place – I apologize) and black tights (rather fitting), I always feel very well in this coat.

Of course, I have not bought any of the parts shown separately, but in the spirit of sustainability and Traude’s specifications only “carried”. Hard-working tribal readers will already know most of the outfits and pictures, some of which are already very old, but maybe I was able to encourage you a bit to participate in this beautiful action of Traude.

Translated from the original German

Jan 08

Eloquii Expands Its Plus-Size Offering


Eloquii is one of the most fashion forward and contemporary retailers in the plus-size market. I love all their designs and especially their dresses. Now I just need to win the lottery to buy them all.

Eloquii dresses

Eloquii announced today via email and social media that starting in Fall 2018, they will offering all their styles in sizes 26 and 28. But they did not stop there… Eloquii also announced that they will be extending their sizes to 30-32 in the fall as well.

With this said, let’s support Eloquii in its efforts. If they are willing to offer a broader size range, we have to be willing to back them up with our voices and wallet. Spread the word on social media and shop the brand.

So let’s celebrate this, share it on social media and talk about it! Let’s buy some stuff, wear it, slay it and post images to social media with the hashtag #XOQ. Let Eloquii know how they can serve YOU, the customer, better. It’s obvious they are listening.

Nov 25

Hannah McKnight

Meet Hannah McKnight, a happily married t-girl from Minnesota  She writes a blog, Hannah McKnight, focusing on fashion, advice and activism and occasionally models for Glamour Boutique or writes for Frock, an online transgender-focused magazine.  Hannah runs a social and support group for transwomen in Minnesota (and beyond) called the MN T-Girls.

MN T-Girls

Hannah says, “MN T-Girls is here to create awareness of crossdressers and transgender people in Minnesota.  Some of us are husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.  We are also beautiful girls when we want to be, whether that is a few weekends a month or every day.  We are all at different stages in our lives…some of us have transitioned, some are out for the first time, some of us just love dressing up a few times a month.  All are welcome.  Each month we get together and shop, have dinner, have private makeup lessons and have fun.”

Hannah is 42 years old,  6 feet tall, 163 lbs and wears a size 12 dress.

Hannah McKnight

Interview with Hannah

What is the secret to great style?  Confidence.  You can have flawless makeup, a beautiful dress and amazing heels but without confidence and self-assurance, none of that matters.

What is the one thing you would spend a lot of money on?  Makeup, particularly foundation.

What is the one thing you wouldn’t spend a lot of money on?  As much as I love heels, I wouldn’t spend a lot on a shoe simply because it’s trendy or by a famous designer.  I have about forty pairs of heels, something for every occasion and I can’t bring myself to spending a lot on something simply because of who designed it.

How do you balance new trends with a more timeless look?  I think looking your best never goes out of style, so regardless of where I go and what I’m doing, I strive to look my best, which is always timeless.  If there is a new trend that I am drawn to, I’ll follow it but not for long.

hannah mcknight with timeless look

What is your current obsession?  As we are in the Christmas season and stores are displaying fun sparkly dresses, I am obsessed with finding my perfect holiday dress.

hannah mcknight in evening wear

Who inspires you?  I really am inspired by women who are stylish and you can tell they are making an effort to look their absolute best.  When a women has a stylish dress, has clearly thought out their accessories and has amazing makeup, I am inspired to look my best.  I love seeing women in the office, the mall and out in the real world.  When you can tell her confidence and appearance are linked to each other, I am reminded how an outfit and really bolster one’s esteem.

Do you have a signature piece or style?  I am not sure if this counts, but I am usually the girl who is overdressed wherever I go.  I aim to look my best and it’s not unusual for me to run errands in heels, a stylish dress and matching accessories.

hannah mcknight with signature look

What’s your secret to making yourself stand out?  I tend to wear a lot of bright colors and a lot of floral prints. I am also tall, so that helps, and of course my four inch heels adds to that.  I also dress appropriately for my age and where I am.  I love my leather dress and five inch stilletos, but I am not wearing them to the mall.  I don’t want to stand out for the wrong reason.

hannah mcknight in bright colors, florals and leather dress

What’s the one piece of advice most crossdressers need but don’t get?  That there is no such thing as “passing”.  I also want to state that I do not believe in “passing”.  I don’t think I pass, and you likely won’t either.  What is passing?  Who decides if you pass or not?  Who has the right to decide if you look feminine enough?  What does that even mean?  Women, whether trans or cis, all look different.  Some cis-women are tall, have broad shoulders, hands of all sizes and have different facial features.  Holding ourselves to a certain standard means that we have expectations as to what a cis-woman “should” look like.  Here’s the reality:  Some cis-women have large hands.  Some are taller than men.  Some have deep voices.  Some have facial hair.  Does this mean they don’t “pass”?  Of course not.  All cis-women are women (if they choose to identify that way, of course), all transwomen are women, no matter how anyone looks.

“Passing” and loving how you look and feel are two completely different things.  When I walk through a mall wearing my favorite dress and heels I feel *amazing*.  I don’t care what anyone else thinks.  What do I care if someone thinks that I am not beautiful?  What do I care if someone knows that I am transgender?  It doesn’t affect me in the slightest.  You are the only one that gets to decide if you are beautiful.  And you are.

What’s the best piece of style wisdom you’ve ever received?  “You can never be overdressed or over-educated”  -Oscar Wilde

What is your favorite trend?  They are not really en vogue anymore, but I was obsessed with peplum dresses.  I also love bodycon dresses.

hannah mcknight in bodycon and peplum dresses

What would you not be caught dead in?  Open toe heels with black stockings.  Or a maxi-dress.  Or flats.

What are your favorite websites?  I love looking at outfit ideas on Pinterest and Instagram.

How would you describe your personal style?  I don’t know if I have one, but I love anything that is feminine, fun and shows off my legs.

Who are your style icons?  I love Dita Von Teese.  She is just…alluring in everything she wears.  She is famous for her fetish and lingerie wear, but it’s her dresses that are simply to die for.  I love her retros outfits and evening wear. 
dita von teese in fetrish and e vening wear

dita von teese in retro and evening wear

Hannah can be reached through her blog, Hannah McKnight, or at

Nov 24

Steffie Michaels

Steffie MichaelsSteffie Michaels is a 6 ft 1 in, 210 lb transgender girl that hails from Asheville, NC.. Despite her height and weight, her goal is still to fit in and just be a mainstream girl. Size-wise, I can fit into a size 12 or 14 for skirts/pants and 16 or 18 for dresses”. Steffie says, “I try and look pretty but still blend in. I will go out anywhere mainstream, including to Church, the beauty salon, the YMCA, and even public transportation. I just like to go out and be me and am fully accepted as a woman. ?.

Steffie Michaels going out to church and walk in countryside

Steffie is married and her wife is supportive to a degree. She lets me go out and I can dress at home in her presence. However she does not want to go out with me as Steffie. So it’s not too bad.

Steffie says, “I’m a late-bloomer in that I only started being me about a decade ago. I always tell myself before going out that I belong and am like any other woman. I never stray outside my personality (which would make me something I am not). I try to smile as often as possible as this enhances one’s feminine side. I’m not afraid to go anywhere and always love life and new adventures”.

I specifically wanted Steffie here because she represents a whole genre of crossdressers that face challenges to fitting-in and Steffie does it very, very well. Her style reflects her body shape and no one would doubt that she is every bit a woman. She totally rocks the a-line dress which is perfect for her body shape (and mine too). Notice how she uses both the normal a-line and the empress type dress to good effect and her use of color is outstanding, whether monochrome (single color) or a printed dress. She carries her style sense on to swimwear and skirts and blouses too.

Steffie Micjaels in sheath dresses

Steffie Michaels in skirt and blouse outfits and a swimsuit

Interview with Steffie

What is the secret to great style?  Knowing what trends fit your personality and style. Choosing age appropriate clothing and makeup. I like maxi-dresses, A-line dresses (gives me illusion of more female curves), leggings paired with tunic tops (accentuate my long legs and staples such as little black dress (LBD is always elegant). In my case, my personality is shy and reserved but still friendly. I prefer clothes for late 30s to late 40s age-wise.

What is the one thing you would spend a lot of money on? Hair. The right hair style can make or break a look. Mine is shoulder length with a part in front as it helps to frame my face. (how to find the right wig for your face shape is here)

What is the one thing you wouldn’t spend a lot of money on? Clothes. Good clothing can always be found at reasonable prices. I like stores clothes such as Dillards outlet, Banana Republic, Belks, Macy’s, Torrid and NY&Company. For shoes, Payless, Lane Bryant and Torrid carry my size (ladies,12). You can shop these stores right here on Sister House

How do you balance new trends with a more timeless look? I examine whether new trends are age- and size appropriate and ask: “Will this fit in with me?”  For example, a mini-skirt would not look good on me. Clothes that compliment my features like long legs (maxi-dress or leggings) are a must.

Steffiec Michaels in maxi dresses and leggings

What is your current obsession? Always finding styles that can make me look pretty yet help me fit in like any mainstream woman.

Who inspires you? Heidy Klum because on Project Runway I can see a lot of outfits and gauge how they would look on me and how society reacts to them.

Heidi Klum om Project Runway

Do you have a signature piece or style? I prefer dresses, like a maxi-dress or little black dress or A line dresses. A lot of my photos show this.

Steffie Michaels in LBD little black dress, black fur and leopard skirt, cocktail attire

What’s your secret to making yourself stand out? The right hair style, age appropriate clothing and the right shoes and accessories.

What’s the one piece of advice most crossdressers need but don’t get? Pick clothing, makeup and hair styles that fit your personality. For instance, unless you are a size 0 and not tall, don’t wear mini-skirts and high heels when going out. For makeup, for example, don’t use blue eyeshadow but a more nude color. For lipstick, a berry or nude color is best for blending in.

What’s the best piece of style wisdom you’ve ever received? Don’t dress overflamboyantly.

What is your favorite trend? A-line dresses because it helps me present a more feminine shape.

Steffie Michaels in a-line dresses

What would you not be caught dead in? Mini-skirt and stiletto heels.

What are your favorite websites? Facebook, Instagram,  Rachel Zoe site

How would you describe your personal style? Modest, not flamboyant. I wear things that help to enhance feminine features. For a tall girl like me, maxi-dresses, A-line dresses, dresses with gathered fabric and leggings which help to accentuate my feminine features.

Who are your style icons? Jennifer Aniston, Heidi Klum

Steffie and her idols Heidi Klum and Jennifer Anniston

Steffie Michaels can be reached on Facebook and Instagram.




Sep 28

Diversity Is Coming to the Fashion Industry

diversity in fashion

Fashion is finally figuring out diversity … in ways that actually matter. It is becoming  more diverse, more inclusive. More open. It is less them-vs.-you. It is us.

Yes, fashion still has its flaws. Designers often still have tunnel vision. The industry still makes head-smacking gaffes. There are far too many cases of profound insensitivity and cavalier cultural appropriation. (Will those Kardashians ever learn?) But in the past decade, it has opened its doors to more people of color, plus-size women, transgender women and those who simply don’t fit the industry’s classic definition of beauty. Most importantly, fashion is talking about diversity in more nuanced ways — and learning from its mistakes.

The fall 2017 advertising campaign for the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC collection by Raf Simons offers a nod towards a diverse Americana. (Willy Vanderperre/for Calvin Klein)

Two years ago, Brandice Henderson, who describes herself as a “fashion coach,” was having dinner with five designers at Harlem’s Red Rooster. They were all up-and-comers, lauded by major fashion magazines, who had dressed an assortment of famous women. The scene was typical for New York with one significant exception: All five of the designers were black.

This is no small thing.

Four years ago, five women walked into IMG Models and immediately impressed the company’s president, Ivan Bart. One of them especially stood out. Her name was Ashley Graham and she was plus-size. But as Bart put it: “A star is a star is a star.” Graham has gone on to become the rare model who is known by name well outside the insulated world of fashion. She is not a plus-size success story; she is, quite simply, a success.

This is no small thing, either.

Ashley Graham makes her entrance at the Costume Institute gala in May. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images For Us Weekly)

In 2017, Vogue ran countless photo stories celebrating Hollywood stars and cultural figures, but it also published visual essays on Latinas in Los Angeles, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, lesbian models and black servicewomen.

This is significant, too.

During the past decade, the New York fashion industry has been in upheaval over the subject of diversity, or the lack of it. The most egregious examples were on the runways. They are fashion’s billboards and its proving ground — the place where designers spin out their wildest fantasies, and where the public receives its notions of fashion at its most glamorous and rarefied. And the message, in the mid-2000s, was that high-end fashion was for emaciated white teenagers.

The ranks of editors and designers were lacking in diversity, too. There were no editors-in-chief of major fashion publications who were black. The rising generation of designers who had captured the industry’s attention were mostly white — sometimes Asian, but rarely black, Latino or even female. Plus-size women were not part of the fashion conversation. And gender fluidity had yet to become an aesthetic interest.

In 2007, activist Bethann Hardison organized a “town hall” meeting to start a conversation about fashion’s worsening diversity problem. In 2013, she meticulously tracked designers’ hiring practices and publicized the results. The lack of inclusiveness was striking. And Hardison unflinchingly called such practices “racist.”

Now, the industry looks significantly different from the days of clone-like waifs, golden-haired muses and magazine mastheads that read like the Social Register. There is greater recognition that fashion needs to change.

Marc Jacobs’s spring 2017 show caused an uproar on social media because white models were styled with dreadlocks, and the designer did not acknowledge the hairstyle’s history in black communities. (Kate Warren/for The Washington Post)

Last year, after designer Marc Jacobs featured models — many of them white — wearing fanciful dreadlocks in his spring 2017 runway show, social media lit up in anger because of his failure to acknowledge the hairstyle’s history within black communities. Six months later, his fall 2017 show was an ode to hip-hop; he cast mostly models of color and included show notes lauding the influence of black youth.

Fashion has also had several landmark moments: A black man has been appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue and a black woman is at the helm of Teen Vogue. Joan Smalls, who was born in Puerto Rico, became Estee Lauder’s first Latina spokes model. French Vogue featured a transgender model on its cover.

There are more models of color on major runways. A range of designers have included plus-size models and older women in shows and advertising. A more diverse group of designers, including four black men, make up the 10 finalists vying for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award. Women are also well-represented.

In 2010, Joan Smalls became the first Latina to represent Estee Lauder. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Models of all sizes were part of designer Prabal Gurung’s fall 2017 show. (Marcelo Soubhia/MCV Photo For The Washington Post)

 “I think fashion is becoming more democratized,” says Henderson — for consumers as well as those hoping to build a career in the industry.

As fashion designers unveil their spring 2018 collections over the next few weeks, it will be an opportunity to see whether fashion’s forward trajectory continues or stalls. “There’s a consensus about having an inclusive runway,” says Bart. “I’m hopeful at this stage.”

Alexander Wang Fall/Winter 2017 collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo For The Washington Post)

Alexander Wang Fall/Winter 2017 collection. (Olivier Claisse/MCV Photo)

Bart has been working in fashion for 30 years, and the first model he represented, back in 1986, was a young black woman who was part Russian. When a jewelry company was looking to hire someone “tall, pretty and effervescent,” Bart suggested her. The company hemmed and hawed and “finally said, ‘We’re not looking for black people.’ I dropped the phone.” He ultimately got her the job after traveling to personally show them her portfolio.

After Hardison’s 2007 town hall, Bart considered his place in the fashion business. As the head of one of the industry’s larger agencies, with a roster including Smalls, Kate Moss and a host of celebrities, he decided to help lead the way.

“I think the industry got lazy,” Bart says. “We’ve got to start telling [clients] what they need. When people say no, we have to tell them why they’re wrong.”

That’s why he decided not to simply target Graham for the plus-size market, but for womenswear in general. On the company’s website, she and fellow plus-size models Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring are not segregated in a separate category or called “plus-size.” They are simply models. Graham has appeared on the cover of American Vogue and in runway shows alongside whippet-thin models. She has her own line of lingerie.

Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post

Model Candice Huffine, in this 2015 photo shoot, is part of new generation of plus-size women finding success in the fashion industry. Huffine grew up in Bowie, MD.

Model Alek Wek’s dark skin inspired actress Lupita Nyong’o to embrace her own beauty. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

What the fashion industry does is important to the broader culture, Bart says, recalling actress Lupita Nyong’o’s heartfelt speech about finding validation of her own dark-skinned beauty in the images of Sudanese-born model Alek Wek, whom IMG signed some 20 years ago.

“It’s okay if people are resistant,” he says. “They will change if you stay the course.”

The website the Fashion Spot, which tracks diversity on the runway, has tallied about 30 percent nonwhite models in recent seasons. There are models in hijabs, models with vitiligo, models with physical disabilities. The question is no longer who isn’t represented but how to make that inclusiveness feel organic rather than self-consciously trendy.

IMG Models is offering a diverse group of models for Fashion Week. (Courtesy IMG Models)

IMG Models has broadened its roster of models. (Courtesy IMG Models)

 The need to change is not simply moral, Bart says, but also financially smart. “The Internet changed everything. Anyone can pull up anything online. If you want that consumer, you need to reflect who they are.” If consumers don’t like what they see, they are likely to make their displeasure heard.

Transgender activist and model Hari Nef arrives at the CFDA Fashion Awards last summer. (Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The Vogue website has become a more diverse, global experience than the print magazine, speaking to “more people and different people,” says Sally Singer, creative digital director. It even reads as if it is written by a variety of voices that share a common interest, rather than the single, dominant voice of print.

“I don’t think it’s a conscious decision,” says Chioma Nnadi, the website’s fashion news director. “Our staff is just very diverse and very young.”

Vogue’s digital natives roam freely and report on everything from the baati, a classic Somali cotton dress favored by hijab-wearing model Halima Aden to the personal aesthetics of people who identify as “they.” While Vogue might have written about these subjects in the past, Singer says, it’s doubtful that those stories would have found a readership within those communities. “Now, they’re sharing it on Facebook.”

The Internet is also broadening the ranks of designers. Ten years ago, Henderson founded Harlem’s Fashion Row, a production company aimed at supporting multicultural designers who were absent from the top fashion weeks, the store racks at influential retail outlets and the pages of mainstream glossies.

Back then, “I could barely count three designers of color. . . making a mark and getting the attention of the fashion industry,” Henderson says. Today, she can rattle off nearly a dozen. Social media and e-commerce have lowered the barriers to success, making it easier for designers to connect directly with customers.

Designers can market themselves around the globe with a single website and an Instagram account. If an accepting audience isn’t in New York or Los Angeles, perhaps there’s one in Indianapolis or Tupelo, Singapore or Qatar.

Backstage at Harlem’s Fashion Row fashion show earlier this year. (Rog Walker)

One of the Harlem’s Fashion Row designers, for example, found his fan base in Japan. Reuben Reuel’s Demestik collection, worn by Ava DuVernay as well as Beyoncé, sells on It’s not Bergdorf Goodman, but it gets the job done.

“For designers 10 years ago, it was just all about the art. They didn’t want to hear anything business-wise,” Henderson says. “I was different, too. Something in the economy woke us up.”

Director Ava DuVernay, wearing Demestik, at the 2017 Sundance NEXT FEST in Los Angeles. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images For Sundance)

A recession will do that.

As the spring 2018 shows begin, the conversation about diversity has expanded to include the role of immigrants in the industry and the rights of women. Diversity is not just about the imperative of an inclusive runway. It is also about identity: both personal and national.“Ten years ago people never wanted you to refer to them as a ‘black designer.’ Just call me a ‘designer’! Now, with Black Lives Matter, with the political climate, people are proud to be a black designer. They’re proud to say it to people in the fashion industry,” Henderson says. “I even have more stylists who say they have clients who [specifically] want to wear a black designer.”Diversity is political. It’s a form of protest.When Vogue posted a story in March about women in East LA, it happened to coincide with a conversation about a rise in ICE raids under the Trump administration. It was the fashion site’s most-shared story — in the middle of Paris Fashion Week.

“I thought we had lots of momentum after the civil rights movement and then we have Nazis go marching through Charlottesville,” Bart says. “This is going to be our resistance: Showing the totality of humanity.”

Reprinted from the Washington Post

Sep 12

Meet Exclusive Plus Size Resale Site CurvyCo

plus size market

Plus Size Resale Site CurvyCo creates new options in the plus size market, a market that is expanding every day.   GabiFresh and Nicolette Mason broke the fat internet recently with their amazing new line Premme (that goes up to a size 30/6X!); more retailers are venturing into extended and petite plus sizing; and designers are starting to include more plus size models on their runways.  Yes, despite the continued challenges (pricing is one), it’s a great time to be a plus size woman!! That’s where CurvyCo comes in!

Now, options are great, but one thing we hear often is that plus size clothing is too expensive.  Plus size clothing runs the pricing gamut, just like straight size clothing, but whatever your size, second-hand clothing can be a great alternative to buying retail.  It allows you to save a few coins, to reduce waste caused by over-consumption, and to take more chances with your style.  If an item is only $10, there’s little harm in playing with a “scary” trend or new-to-you color.

CurvyCo is the first online plus size only resale marketplace where women can buy and sell plus size clothing to each other.  Recently, we touched base with Karine, the founder of CurvyCo who gave us all the details on this amazing new fashion site!

How does it work?
CurvyCo lets you buy and sell affordable plus size clothing. On the site, you can easily shop thousands of plus size brands and styles ranging from popular brand names to hard-to-find vintage pieces. Our clothing is up to 80% off retail price, so it’s easy to find fashionable picks on a budget. You can also sell your clothing on the website – it only takes a couple minutes to list an item for sale on CurvyCo. As the seller, you set the price of the item and the shipping price.

When did Curvy Co start/get created? Where are you headquartered?
CurvyCo started in May 2017. We are headquartered in San Francisco, California.

plus size girl curvyco

Who can list/participate in buying and selling? Are there any restrictions?  Do you need a Paypal account?  Tell me more about cross-listing items on eBay and other auction sites – how does this work?
Anyone can participate in buying and selling on CurvyCo as long as they have a CurvyCo account. We allow the sale of new and pre-loved clothing sized 10 and up, accessories, and shoes. You currently need a PayPal account to buy and sell, but we will soon support purchasing through credit card and Stripe. We encourage sellers to cross-post items on any existing resale sites like Poshmark or eBay – just email us at and we can help! All we ask is that you keep your CurvyCo closet updated!

Does it cost to list items on CurvyCo? Does it cost to sell?  What are the fees and how do you pay them?
It is free to list items on CurvyCo. We take a 15% commission fee + PayPal processing fees when the item sells.

plus size girl curvyco

What made you want to start CurvyCo?
At my last job, I worked closely with Fashion to Figure and found the problem of how difficult shopping for affordable and stylish plus size clothing can be. Women would tell me how frustrating it was to sift through hundreds of straight sizes to find the clothes they were looking for, both online and in stores. I was surprised to find that there were no existing resale marketplaces exclusively for plus size. I ended up starting CurvyCo because I wanted to create a place where women could easily access fashion that made them feel proud and confident about their bodies, at affordable prices.

plus size girl curvyco

What do you hope to provide through your business?  What purpose does CurvyCo serve for plus size women?
I hope CurvyCo can become the go-to place for curvy women to buy and sell plus size clothing. I believe curvy women deserve to have a shopping experience tailored to their needs – for example, each item includes a fit description, and many of our sellers also model their own clothing and include body shape information. My hope is that when people think of CurvyCo, they think of an amazing shopping experience made just for them, and I think the care and love we put into the website shows that.

plus size girl curvyco

Tell me about you – the founder.  What inspires you?
I’m Karine, the founder of CurvyCo. I am inspired by women who uplift each other to feel beautiful and confident in their bodies. We recently had our first CurvyCo Launch Party in St. Louis and it was just magical seeing the friendships and community that formed. I can’t wait to host many more CurvyCo meetups and spread our mission of body positivity through sustainable fashion.

Anything else you want to add?
I truly make an effort to take the time to get to know every single curvy girl customer and get feedback about how to make the shopping experience on CurvyCo perfect. If you have feedback for us, please email me at Also, follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

plus size girl curvyco

Ready to start buying and/or selling on CurvyCo?  Check out the site and tell us what you think!

CurvyCo is exciting right? We at The Curvy Fashionista are all about options, so another place to find plus size fashion has gotta be good!  CurvyCo’s closet is well organized by brand and size to help you find something special to add to your closet!  Or, if you want to make some cash for your upcoming fall wardrobe, it’s super easy to make room in your closet by selling your old favorites on CurvyCo.


Aug 04

Creating Multiple Looks With a LBD

A little black dress or LBD is a wardrobe staple for every woman. It’s a blank canvas to show off your personal style. Whether you prefer to keep it simple or jazz it up with accessories, we’re here to help you get inspired. It’s a game-changer and has long been the fail-safe style for evening wear, and still remains a timeless classic for day or night

LBD little black dress styles

From velvet to lace, sleeves to strapless – there’s a whole host of LBD’s to suit any body shape and every budget. Most of you likely own, and heavily depend on your trusted LBD to take you through the party season and beyond, and naturally, with frequent wear, it can often become tricky to re-work your favorite frock  time and time again to avoid that look of sameness.

Having just one LBD is probably not enough. Having a small selection—so that you can dress up a little black dress or make it casual—will lend even more versatility to your wardrobe.

The key to making a neutral item like your LBD work for many occasions is that you want it to be neither too naturally dressy (not made of satin or silk) or casual (made from cotton).  Something that is cocktail length (not floor) is also easier to style in multiple ways.  

How to Dress Up Your LBD for Formal Dinners

Add a touch of sparkle and your evening shoes.

I generally advise against traveling with your expensive ‘real’ jewelry in case of loss or luggage theft!  Instead why not pair some fun costume pieces that have dazzle or sparkle with your LBD to give it a little more evening wear oomph. 

changing up your LBD

  • Taking some pashmina style shawls in a few colours will give you the option to make your outfits look more different and there are lots of ways to tie them (check out this video for 13 different ways to tie a pashmina).  By taking different colors (as color is what we remember most) it will make your outfit appear more different each time you wear it.
  • Add a little sparkle with a sequin shrug, this really dresses up your LBD.
  • Change up the look with different colored costume jewellery.

Dress Down Your LBD

So for more casual dinners and events, you can dress your LBD down so it feels like a different outfit completely.

Pair with your more casual sandal or espadrille to take it down a level of refinement.

dressing down your LBD

  • Throw on a denim jacket
  • Add a colorful kimono duster
  • Pair with a cotton cardigan and scarf
  • Add a decorative shawl or scarf in a colourful pattern

Accessories are key to creating a polished look for any occasion. Simply mix and match an accessory or two and you’re sure to make an impression anywhere you go.


accessories for the LBD

And check out this article from the Telegraph for adding some special glamor.

In this next grouping, we’ll show just how versatile the LBD can be by using layers to transform it for every need. This black Maje dress can take you from work, to dinner, to the ballet, and to brunch the next day.

dinner date and office wear with LBD

L – LBD for a dinner date R – LBD for office wear

LBD for the theater and going shopping

L – LBD for going to the theater R – LBD for going shopping

These are just a few ideas on how to change the look of a single garment quickly and easily. There are many more looks and you can see them on our Little Black Dress Pinterest page.

Summing up these ideas in this video

Resources: and

Jul 24

Bohemian Style Defined

The word bohemian literally means travellers and was originally associated with gypsies.

In the 16th century the Bohemian culture movement was formed and Bohemians became those who lived alternative lifestyles and existed on the fringes of society. Boho, short for bohemian, lifestyles and fashion shot to mainstream fame largely due to the hippie movement  of the 1960s and 1970s, and even the pre-Raphaelite women of the late 19th century. Hippies and bohemians are the same when it comes to both their style of dress and way of living.


Boho style is said to be feminine, comfortable, and beautiful and is.characterized by long flowing or tiered skirts and dresses, peasant blouses, ethnic touches like tunics or wood jewelry, embroidery or embellishment with beading, fringed handbags, and jeweled or embellished flat sandals (or flat ankle boots). The look is often layered and colorful.

The laidback ease and free spirited essence of bohemian fashion was seen as a rejection of the overtly feminine and sexualized women’s wear. Thus, boho style was in vogue in the 60s, and quickly felt like home to the burgeoning bra-burning feminist movement.

For many the resurgence of the bohemian look heralds a welcome departure from the conformity, speed and structure of many trends and lifestyles. A liberating fashion tree-change if you will that with its inherent irreverence and its self-embracing free spirit allows the wearer to just ‘be’. Just like the trend’s origin, its popularity is less about the clothes and more about the spirit you embody when wearing them. That is precisely what makes bohemian fashion so enticing for women all over the world.

Here’s what you need to embrace a Boho chic look

Hair and Makeup

A hippie girl has that au naturel look down pat. Keep your makeup look as natural as possible. All you need for this look is minimum coverage, a touch of blush on your cheeks and lips, and a swipe of mascara; you’re all set. As for a true boho hair look, you’ve got two options. You can either go with tousled waves or a poker straight look. But when it comes to the boho look, braids and flowers are always winners.

bohemian hairstyles

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4

Key Pieces

These 5 items are what you should keep at the top of your shopping list for that quintessential hippie chic vibe. Mix and match them with classic pieces in your closet to avoid looking like a bad retro flashback.

  1. Platform Shoes
  2. Bell Bottoms / Wide Leg Pants
  3. Aviator/Round Sunnies
  4. Peasant Tops
  5. Fringes
  6. Floppy and Rimmed hats

Other classic Boho items to include on your list: flowing maxi skirts and dresses, patchwork denim, suede mini skirts, fur collars and coats, crochet tops, and jumpsuits.

bohemian key pieces

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, Image 5

bohemian more key pieces

Source: Image 1,Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, Image 5, Image 6


Prints are a great way to integrate some boho hippie charm into your look. Paisley, tie-dye, and floral prints are popular patterns for this trend.

Bohemian patterns

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, Image 5.


Women who defined the look

Who better to look to for inspiration than these style icons that made bohemian style what it is today, take a cue from these amazing women and you’ll be on the right track. Whether you fancy a girly type of boho a la Ali McGraw (scarf headbands and flowing dresses), rock n’ roll influenced boho a la Stevie Nicks (bell sleeves and long dresses), out-of-this-world prints like Janis Joplin, or effortlessly chic peasant tops and denim like Jane Birkin; you’ll get endless inspiration from this range of historic bohemian and hippie looks.

  • Ali McGraw
  • Stevie Nicks
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jane Birkin

Muses-of-Bohemian look


Movies that define the look

Sometimes you need moving images to kick-start you sartorial creativity, these movies ought to give you enough material to work with for your next show stopping boho look. Take your pick from the ultimate hippie chic costume of the ensemble cast of Hair, or from Almost Famous’ Penny Lane’s platform knee-high boots, fur, and embroidered tops, or from the youthful characters on Dazed and Confused.

  • Hair
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Almost Famous

Bohemian movies

Modern Bohemian Style Icons

Now that you know the key pieces for the hippie look, and have seen the classic style icons and movies that embody it, it’s time to make the boho trend your own. Let’s look to our modern boho-loving celeb style icons for styling tips and tricks in updating the bohemian style and making it work for you.

Today, boho (and the bobo lifestyle that again became popular in 2000) influences are most often worked into a look with other trends as well, rather than wearing the trend from head-to-toe. The style hit an all-time high in 2005, and was exemplified by the ladies below. Currently, these women are still spotted in slightly boho looks, but in a modern mix with other influences like menswear, Americana and sleek minimalism.

Florence Welch
As far as modern boho style icons, it doesn’t get much better than Florence Welch. The lead singer of Florence + The Machine favors wide-leg pants, ethereal gowns and even milkmaid braids—all of which give her a fresh bohemian look all her own. Whether on stage or at an awards show, she showcases her long, wavy red hair and romantic sense of style.

To channel her look, rock a wide brim hat with an embroidered coat, try midi-length dresses with Western-style belts master those effortlessly lovely (but actually rather hard to achieve) beach waves. A bold paisley print coat with a Stevie Nicks inspired wide brim hat makes for a strong boho style statement. Balance that with understated leather accessories for an edgier take on the bohemian trend.

Vanessa Hudgens
For modern boho inspiration, also look to Vanessa Hudgens. This petite style star knows how to make the boho look work for her. Given her petite frame, she chooses lower hemlines and balances the voluminous sleeves at the top with sleek booties. Also take note of the trendy mirrored sunnies that give a contemporary flair to this hippie chic ensemble. Always mix the old and the new, and never forget to take your body type into account.

Nicole Richie
One of the original boho style mavens in Hollywood, take a cue from Nicole Richie’s leather wide leg pants and seek out unique materials done in classic boho silhouettes.

The Olsen Twins
A style lesson to learn from the Olsens is this: if you love it, wear it and own it. Despite frequent criticism, the Olsen Twins continue to rock boho frocks that ooze vintage glamour and individual style.

Sienna Miller

Though the apex of her bohemian style really arrived sometime between the years 2000 and 2006, actress Sienna Miller’s boho-chic sensibilities and style choices still resonate. Since the look has its roots in the 1970s, you can be sure that this trend with circulate in and out of style year after year—and that you can get away with a touch of boho anytime. Embroidered jackets, wide-brim hats and slouchy sundresses always work in the summer and fall, and Sienna is cited as an icon year after year.

modern bohemian muses

Sienna Miller

Sienna Miller

The Updated Bohemian Look

updated bohemian look

While the boho-chic craze has died down significantly since the early 2000s, the advent of highly personal style means that influences of all kinds and multiple trends can all be worn together.

No matter your age, if you gravitate towards loose silhouettes, beading or peasant-style blouses, there’s a way to work them into your current wardrobe. Try a wide brim hat or a faux fur vest over your favorite skinny jeans.

Layer some gold chains over your cashmere sweater. Beaded jackets look especially cool over mini skirts or little white dresses… You get the idea. Take an element that you love from the boho trend and adapt it in your own way.

Now check out all these great looks on our Boho Style Pinterest Board

Based on articles from Pretastyler and

Jul 22

What Fashion Style Are You?

Fashion is forever as is fashion style. Fashion is completely transparent. It’s fun, it’s confusing, and it never dies off. Fashions from the past are still being worn by women across the country and new fashions are being designed every day. There’s SO many different fashion styles, and we’ve come up with a list of the top 20 looks, from elegant to gothic, exotic to casual, and everything in between.

1. Trendy

tendy fashion style

Yup, you guessed correctly: the girl who follows a trendy fashion style is always up-to-date on the latest trends, and probably refreshes her wardrobe four times a year with the changing seasons. She always makes sure she’s following the latest fashion news and always looks like she just stepped off the runway.

2. Casual

casual fashion style

When you hear ‘casual’, you probably think ‘frumpy’; and the casual fashion style could really be ANYTHING but frumpy! Women who indulge in the casual fashion style don’t grab the exotic and bold items off the shelves. They would much rather prefer a simple white tee and a pair of black pants with a coordinating and trendy purse. The entire look is very modern and uncluttered with an extra touch of subtle elegance.

3. Exotic

exotic fashipon style

Just as the name would describe, exotic fashion is all about wearing something nobody has ever seen before. It’s a collection of bold, mysterious, and eye-catching pieces, usually consisting of vibrant colors and intricate embroidery, fascinating prints and standout jewelry that can be seen from a mile away.

4. Vibrant

vibrant fashion style

A vibrant fashion style is reserved for the lady who wants to say “Hey, look at ME, world!” This energetic and intense fashion style typically features garments with wild patterns and exaggerated embroidery as well as asymmetrical designs and tons of colors. Most of her wardrobe will be lined with super light and pastel colors that draw the attention of everyone’s eyes, no matter where it’s worn.

There’s nothing quite so vibrant as our African style Pinterest page

5. Sexy

sexy fashion style

There is two main goals of the sexy fashion style: gain the attention of every male around you and show as much skin as legally and humanly possible. Sexy style is all about showing off your *best* features, those being your breasts, stomach, and legs. A woman whose fashion style is set to sexy is usually loaded with plenty of miniskirts, body-con dresses, high heels, and crop tops or low cut tops.

6. Preppy

preppy fashion style

Preppy girls, often named simply ‘preps’, love to rock a college-inspired wardrobe. Their hangers are lined side to side with girly blouses with matching collared tees as well as a-line skirts and tights. Her hair is almost always amped up with a cute little headband and she usually wears glasses- whether she really needs to or not! This style may appear geeky and slightly luxurious, but the look itself is really not expensive and extravagant at all.

7. Elegant

elegant fashion style

With the elegant fashion style, refinement and glamour is key. The woman with this type of fashion style won’t step foot outside without looking her best, and pays close attention to creating a wardrobe filled head to toe with the most glamorous and classy pieces. She is a lover of all things that dazzle and wouldn’t be caught without her diamonds and jewels, as well as a very stunning outfit that makes heads turn. She’s the perfect combination of sophisticated and sexy! Check our Extraordinary Pinterest page for some truly glamorous looks.

8. Bohemian

bohemian fashion style

The bohemian fashion style- always referred to commonly as the ‘boho’ look- can easily be described as a style that focuses mainly on wild and intricate patterns and exotic textures. They get most of their inspiration from gypsys and hippies, creating a standout finish with plenty of tie dye, geometrics, chains, fringes, and other eye-catching designs.

The “Boho Look” was popular in the late 60s and early 70s and then again in the early 2000s. Check our BoHo Look Pinterest page for the many variations.

9. Girly

girly fashion style

A girly fashion style can most easily be described as the popular vintage style. Most of her outfits consist of plenty of beautiful lace as well as ruffles, hearts, flowers, and pale colors, especially pink and white. She’s a romantic at heart and wants to be treated like a lady at all times. She’s awaiting her prince charming and thus, adorns herself with only the girliest and most lovely fashions.

10. Cowgirl

cowgirl fashion style

It’s not hard to point out a gal that wears the cowgirl fashion style! In this particular style, there’s a few staples that are an absolute must for the wardrobe: undoubtedly an adorable cowgirl hat, typically in either some shade of brown or pink, a pair of flared blue jeans with western themed leather belt, denim jacket to match, a pair of cowgirl boots, and a few white t-shirt and plaid button-ups.

11. Girl Next Door

girl next door fashion style

The girl next door. The classic style that’s been around for ages. This fashion style doesn’t pay attention to the latest trends and doesn’t involve anything wild or exotic. This trend focuses on simplicity and cuteness, with a striped tee, shorts, and tennis shoes enough to make her happy. At the end of the day, she just wants to be adorable and casual!

12. Punk

punk fashion style

The punk fashion style is all about SCREAMING edge and attitude. Punks like to wear plenty of leather- especially when it comes to jackets and pants- and they wouldn’t be caught in the streets without studs, spikes, and chains. They tend to also indulge in spandex and wild animal prints as well as band tees, boots, and skinny jeans.

13. Artsy

artsy fashion style

Women who enjoy the artsy style tend to stay away from the traditional ‘trends’ of the fashion world and love to make a statement with their clothing. Oftentimes they will be the creator of their own fashions, designing and creating their own blouses, hats, and jackets. Each artsy style will be different per woman, as everyone has their own idea of what ‘art’ truly is. That’s what makes this particular fashion style so unconventional and interesting.

14. Businesswomen

businesswoman fashion style

The woman who dresses like a businesswomen is a smart, sophisticated lady who demands and deserves respect from everyone around her. She won’t settle for less and is an over-achiever who considers herself to be high up in society. Her wardrobe is incredibly smart and snazzy, with plenty of blazers and pencil skirts. Don’t miss our Dressing for Work Pinterest page either.

15. Tomboy

tomboy fashion style

Tomboys are anything but dowdy; in fact, this style can easily be described as simple and modern. Girls who wear the tomboy look don’t like to wear frills or lace, pinks or other bright colors. They prefer the boyish look, typically wearing jeans with a graphic tee or button-up and a pair of flat shoes to match.

16. Gothic

gothic fashion style

There is only one thing you need to create the gothic fashion style: BLACK. Everything about the gothic style is black, from black hair to black lips, black shirts to black boots. Women who wear gothic fashions will typically be seen wearing tight-fitting clothing, intricate black dresses, and tons of chains, spikes, studs, and other exotic accessory styles. The overall look is designed to say ‘morbid’ and ‘mysterious’, and that is easily accomplished with the super dark clothing and accessories from head to toe.

17. Rocker

rocker fashion style

The rocker style is very versatile and will change from person to person, depending on the particular type of rock they love. However, whether you’re sporting a Ramones t-shirt or a Metallica sweatshirt, you’ll have a few things in common: ripped denim, boots, leather jackets and pants, and studs.

18. 50s

50s fashion style

A super adorable blast-from-the-past fashion style, the 50s look is all about bright and pastel colors (unless you’re doing a more ‘pinup’ theme, then you’ll wear black and red very often!) in adorable fashions, usually featuring an assortment of flowers and polka dots. Women will typically either wear a high ponytail or lovely curls with this fashion, and poodle skirts are an absolute must.

Check out our 50s and the Fun and Flirty  Pinterest page and our post on 1950s Fashion for Women in the Playroom

19. 70s

70s fashion style

The 70s fashion style can also easily be referred to as the ‘hippie’ look, where women leave their hair long and straight and add an adorable little flower or stem of flowers to create a natural finish. Their wardrobe will undoubtedly have the classic super-flared jeans and tons of tie-dye tops and accessories, as well as simple white tees to go with their look. Floral patterns are also common in this fashion style and makeup is minimal to maintain a simple and natural appearance.

20. Sporty

sporty fashion style

It’s rather easy to describe the sporty fashion style: it’s sporty! Girls will typically wear some popular sport companies like Adidas or Nike and will always have runner shoes (or similar style shoes) on. They prefer a simple and subtle look that oozes ‘sports’, with plain colors like white, black, and gray being BIG hits. They won’t strive for anything fashionable or flashy and would prefer sweatpants, tight runner pants, and basic tees. Don’t forget the ponytail to finish it off!

There’s so many fashion styles out there! Which one do you prefer? Would you ever try one of these styles? Let us know in he comments what you like and what styles you would like to see more of

Reprinted from

Jun 09

Digitizing the World of Fashion

Dress of the Year exhibition at the Fashion Museum, Bath.

Dress of the Year exhibition at the Fashion Museum, Bath. May 2009. Photographer Freia Turland m:07875514528

For years, Google has been digitizing the world’s museums, making cultural artifacts accessible in extraordinary detail to millions of internet users. Now it’s turning to fashion. The Business of Fashion (BoF) website interviews Google on this astounding initiative.

Google allowed its engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on personal projects they thought would ultimately benefit the company. The tech giant has since scaled back on the policy, replacing it with a more focused approach to innovation, but Google’s famous “20 percent time” gave rise to some of its most successful products, including Gmail and AdSense.

Back in 2010, a Bombay-born engineer named Amit Sood used his “20 percent time” to kickstart the Google Art Project, an effort to digitize the world’s museums, making cultural artifacts accessible in extraordinary detail to millions of internet users. It was a Google-sized ambition that fit the company’s mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The project has since grown into the Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit arm of the company, now housed in a grand hôtel particular in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, that has partnered with over 1,300 museums and foundations to digitize everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Marc Chagall’s ceiling at the Opéra Garnier, making them accessible on a platform called Google Arts & Culture.
Now, Google is turning its attention to fashion.

Encouraged by the volume of fashion-related online search queries and the rising popularity of fashion exhibitions, Google’s Cultural Institute has partnered with over 180 cultural institutions — including The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Kyoto Costume Institute — “to bring 3,000 years of fashion to the Google Arts & Culture platform.”

Called “We Wear Culture,” the initiative, which launches today, is based on the premise that fashion is culture, not just clothes. Led by Kate Lauterbach — a Google program manager who began her career at Condé Nast in New York and later worked for J.Crew’s Madewell — it aims to digitise and display thousands of garments from around the world, stage curated online exhibitions, invite non-profit partners like museums and schools to script and share their own fashion stories, and leverage technologies like Google Street View to offer immersive experiences like virtual walkthroughs of museum collections.
For end users, it’s a cultural rabbit hole and research tool. For partners, it’s a way to reach a much wider audience online, furthering both their educational mandates and marketing objectives. But the benefit to Google is more complex.

After a day’s immersion at Google’s Cultural Institute and associated Lab in Paris, BoF caught up with Lauterbach at the company’s London King’s Cross campus to learn more about the thinking behind the initiative and how digitising the world’s fashion archives unlocks value for the tech giant.
BoF: Tell me about the genesis of the Culture Institute’s fashion project.

Well, starting from art we expanded into culture. We did something around performance art, we did something around natural history; so very different, but the same idea: you take Google technologies, you apply them to this facet of culture and you produce something, you push the bounds, you do something different.

I worked in fashion pre-MBA and I just felt like it was a really interesting subject matter. We were starting to see fashion cropping up in different partners’ collections; it’s a personal passion of mine; and it’s also relevant and interesting and searched for online. It’s a conversation I thought we could bring some value to. We started thinking about it almost two years ago now and began having conversations with places like the V&A and the Costume Institute at the Met.

The project is named “We Wear Culture.” What does that mean?

We wanted to show that fashion is much deeper than just what you wear; that there’s a story behind it, there’s people behind it, there’s influences that come from art, that come from music, that come from culture more broadly; and, in turn, what we wear influences culture. We really wanted to put fashion on a par with art and artists. You look at their influences, you look at their inspiration, you look at their process, you look at their materials. And we thought that if you can have this kind of singular resource online where all of this was starting to be discussed — and hear it from the authority, I think that’s really critical — it would be valuable.

Shapes and silhouettes come and go. We call them trends. But what are they really? Why do they keep coming back?

BoF: What real world problem or inefficiency does this solve?

KL: Well, I always bring it back to our partners. They have enormous collections; they have all of this incredible knowledge. But it’s often in storage. So first of all, it’s kind of unlocking access to all of this and bringing it out of storage — whether that’s physical storage or a curator’s brain — and really bringing it to people in a way that’s easily understandable and educational but also fun. The target is not just fashion enthusiasts, but anyone who’s culturally curious. Someone who might never go to the Met, might never get to visit the Rei Kawakubo show, can now see some version of it online. So I think that’s really the power.

BoF: Presumably there’s marketing value for museums as well?

KL: Yes we hope so. Everything they do on our site, it links back to their sites. They can also embed anything they do on our site back on their own sites. The really well resourced museums have their own digital departments and do these type of things, but if you’re talking about a small regional museum in Romania, they don’t. So this gives everybody, no matter how big or small, the same tools and technologies. So it’s really quite democratic in that sense.

BoF: What about schools and students?

KL: Central Saint Martins is right around the corner, so we met with them. Fabio [Piras, the director of the school’s MA fashion course] asked right away: how is this going to be a resource for students? What we ended up doing with them is catalogue the MA shows from start to finish. But the question is: how do we turn this into teachable moments? We have Google Expeditions, which are basically teacher-led educational experiences. Students get [virtual reality] Google Cardboard viewers and get taken on a tour. I think this has incredible potential.

VK: What about the industry? Do you see this as a useful tool for designers?

KL: I hope so. I think there’s some really interesting tools that we have developed, like the ability to search over 15,000 new artifacts online in high-resolution for the first time. And you can search through time, through color. So imagine you want to mood board something that’s in this specific shade of red, you can see all the pieces. Or you just want to see hats from the 16th century, you can slice the content in a way that I hope will make it useful to the industry. And then I hope it generates a conversation and makes connections. My understanding is that curators are experts but they’re often quite detached from other parts of the industry, whereas hopefully this kind of mashes up historians, designers, students.

BoF: Why is this valuable to Google?

KL: For one, we’re an engineering company at heart and so anything that forces our engineers to think on a new spectrum is very useful to us. And then including fashion content and these artifacts makes the Google Arts & Culture platform richer, which makes it a better and more comprehensive experience for the user.

BoF: I can only imagine the data associated with garments locked up in museum collections is also interesting to Google.

KL: Yes. Because it’s the first time we’re doing fashion in a real way, another challenge for our engineers was developing a taxonomy for how all this data fits into our existing schema, which was designed for art, not fashion. So we actually changed our metadata schema specifically for this project and added things like designer, fashion house, manufacturer. We have a very structured way of understanding and providing this data to the end user now. And you know your data inputs are really high quality because they’re coming directly from museums.

BoF: What’s the value of this data? What can Google do with it?

KL: It’s ring-fenced to our site. As a non-profit, we have to keep it quite separate from the rest of Google. Within the site, there’s a lot of interesting experiments we can do with it, like different kinds of data visualizations. We are also applying some of the things we’re working on with machine learning to this rich new set of content. But it has to stay within the safe space of Google Arts & Culture.

BoF: Tell me more about the machine learning experiments.

KL: So there’s a few different experiments, based on visual similarity. I think you saw “X Degrees of Separation,” where you choose any two objects and the computer finds a visual pathway connecting them through a chain of similar objects. Then there’s the color palette one. It’s like a search engine for colour palette based on an analysis of the objects available on the platform. But it’s interesting because that’s using no actual data. That’s purely using image-based recognition and you realize how accurate the machine is getting. We have millions of artifacts on Google Arts & Culture and the machine can visually recognize similarities and then group them. I just find it incredible that a machine has done this with zero data and purely based on image similarity.

One thing that’s very interesting to me is shape and silhouette. When we were first talking to the machine learning team I thought, shapes and silhouettes come and go and then resurface. We call them trends. But what are they really? Why does that keep coming back? And what if you saw that and could map that onto political events or certain geographical locations. What if you could understand: Why do ripped jeans keep coming back? Is there a trigger? Is there something wider?

BoF: Being able to predict trends has huge commercial value.

KL: There’s no commercial value for us. At Google Arts & Culture, there’s no direct commercial value to anything that we do. For us, it’s a resource. We won’t be the ones to make this commercially valuable. It’s more that we open it up and make it available, we pull it out of these museums, out of these experts’ minds, bring it all onto this platform, but then that’s sort of where our job stops.

BoF: How are you measuring success?

KL: A lot of our success is sort of intangible. We measure partnerships. Of over 180 partners, I forget the exact number, but more than half of them are new relationships, which from my perspective is a really big opportunity. Then, of course, we are tracking how people are interacting with the project. Are they spending time on it? Are they sharing it? All the normal things. And then, more conceptually, for me it’s really, is this something that’s useful? To me that’s really the measure of success; that it’s a useful resource for partners, for users.

BoF: How do you see the project evolving over time?

KL: A lot of this is driven by technology. As the tech evolves, it gives us new opportunities. Maybe machine learning follows a similar trajectory to virtual reality where four years ago 360-degree experiences were incredible and expensive and now things like Google Cardboard have made them accessible to anyone. We look at tech innovation and adoption cycles and follow that.
For me, the educational piece is also key. My hope is that this becomes something that is a resource for teachers and students to better understand that fashion is not just what you buy on the high street or what you see on Instagram — there is so much more. If we can make this teachable then that’s the direction I’d like to see it go, because we rarely have this combination of tech, experts and the most authoritative sources of content. When you have the three of those, I think that sort of triangulation can create something really powerful for education.

BoF: It’s interesting. So many of your partners — like museums — are primarily engaged with the past, whereas fashion is fundamentally about the now. How does the project grapple with the present?

KL: We have the museums, which are largely kind of historic collections that do stretch into the now. But it was really important for this project to capture past, present and future. For the present, that’s really why we made such an effort with schools. So you have Parsons, SCAD, CSM and LCF, Bunka in Japan. I wanted to get a pulse on what are they teaching, what’s happening at the fashion schools right now. As for the future, the Danish Fashion Institute contributed a really lovely story on sustainability and how technology is enabling fabric innovation.

BoF: What can we expect from the launch itself?

KL: So, you’ll see the new vertical on Google Arts & Culture. It will actually be called “We Wear Culture” and you’ll see different stories, high-resolution images, Street Views, virtual reality experiences. So it will be hopefully very rich from a user perspective. You might see a story from the Kyoto Costume Institute next to a section on sportswear with content from the Football Museum in Brazil.

And, of course, we’re going to unveil the project with the Costume Institute at the Met on the evening on June 8th. There will be some physical experiences, some of the online stories and virtual reality experiences which we’ll bring to life within the physical space of the museum. With the Met, we worked on a 360-degree tour of their conservation studio, which, of course, no one can visit. That’ll come to life in a physical space, but also through virtual reality on the night of the event.


Expectations? When Amit Sood first began experimenting with a platform for digitizing the experience of art back in 2010, it was little more than a side project. But Google Arts & Culture now attracts over 40 million unique users a year and has partnered with many of the world’s top institutions, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg to the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. When BoF learned that the platform was turning its attention to fashion, it’s fair to say that expectations were high. Yet Google is a tech company with limited understanding of how the fashion world operates and some of its previous fashion initiatives, like the ill-fated e-commerce site, have failed rather spectacularly. Would Google’s platform really resonate in a space where functionality plays second fiddle to feel?

First impressions? BoF got a sneak peek of the experience on a giant, wall-sized screen at the Lab in Google’s Cultural Institute in Paris. The look-and-feel of the platform was clean and sharp. Some of the garments on the site had been captured in “Gigapixel images” (images containing over one billion pixels) taken by Google’s custom-built Art Camera and these images were nothing short of extraordinary, revealing details invisible to the naked eye. On first glance, it was easy to see how a fashion nerd could spend hours immersed in the platform.

Most potential? Google has rightly realized that its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” inevitably puts the company into dialogue with museums, archives and foundations, where so much of the world’s cultural knowledge is locked up. Unlocking this knowledge and making it accessible to millions of people online is a remarkable goal. Feeding it to machines that can learn the link between the Sex Pistols, a safety pin and a Vivienne Westwood dress could prove to be even more valuable in a market for personal luxury goods worth €249 billion in 2016, according to Bain & Company. While Google Arts & Culture is strictly non-profit, what the wider company could, one day, do with machines that genuinely understand fashion extends from trend prediction to automated design with revolutionary implications.

What’s missing? Fashion is fundamentally about the present. Yet Google Arts & Culture feels more like a time capsule, removed from the real-time fashion conversation happening on popular platforms like Instagram. What’s more, while the initiative is non-profit, fashion is an unmistakably commercial enterprise where brands are critical creators of both cultural meaning and content and have huge importance across the ecosystem. It will be hard for Google to build a platform that grapples meaningfully with fashion without finding a way to incorporate brands.

Now explore what Google offers in the field of fashion 

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