Nat Laurel Sat, 17 Dec 2016 12:07:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Formula Two: The “New Look” Follow-up Thu, 15 Dec 2016 01:32:36 +0000  

I posted an announcement to the “Formula Two: The “New Look” to my Instagram and added a couple of personal examples.  The conversations and questions that followed in comments inspired me to write a separate blog entry on this topic.


One of the Instagram readers commented that she rushed to Maje, tried on a skirt and what she saw in the mirror left her discouraged and confused.  She said that the skirt made her hip line look very defined and much more pronounced than in skinny jeans.   She lamented having a hip emphasizing mermaid effect… and asked for reassurance.    The fact that modern woman is so distressed by the mermaid effect of her hip line is the saddest news since the start of World War Two…


I meant the  “New Look” formula  as a tribute to soft, feminine, Siren beauty.  The point of the heavy jersey mid-calf skirt and the entire look is to put the quintessentially feminine snake-like line on display and allow it to shine in all  its glory.   Women of today are so preconditioned by straight, masculine lines, they get discouraged the moment they see soft, feminine contour.   I guess my mission is to have women stop apologizing for having hips.


One of my recent clients Anna, with whom we have been working on the same Maje skirt for a couple of weeks now, has kindly agreed to share her snapshots here.

Anya in heavy jersey in Degas

My client Anna is exploring the opportunities of  the heavy-jersey  Maje midi-skirt


Women of today are so preconditioned by straight, masculine lines, they get discouraged the moment they see soft, feminine contour. I guess my mission is to have women stop apologizing for having hips.


These examples show the versatility of this heavy jersey midi  as  it gracefully  transfers from classic “New Look” formula into post Industrial  gender-bending images. Anna has a typical Siren body, fragile on top with generous hips, which does not fit into the overwhelmingly androgynous modern fashion template.    When upon my suggestion she tried the skirt for the first time, she reported the same state of confuse as my Instagram reader did and said she felt  “decidedly undressed.”   Jersey does have this undressed effect on everybody, but  we actually want to hold on to it because this is  – to quote late Leonard Cohen – is the crack that lets the light in.  It allows us to widen variety of laid-back modern shoe-wear and various silhouettes, which we can’t bring into our style with a non-jersey midi.     Anna also felt her hips looked much more pronounced in the skirt and she felt wary about it.  I had to reassure her that she is on the right track and just needs to keep adding the right shoe-wear and tops to give her beautiful body the frame it deserves.


These snapshots capture her third iteration with the skirt, when the right satellites finally made her see the beauty of her body.     Yes, those childbearing hips will be more pronounced in the snug heavy jersey than they are in jeans, because denim is all about androgyny, while this skirt is the modern take on the  “New Look”  – an epitome of femininity.  And femininity is hips.


My goal with this look is not to hide feminine hips; my goal is to make them look beautiful.  And for that they need to be visible, don’t they?    Then we will bring in all the gear I talked about with such passion in the last entry:  the blending shoe-wear, the importance of the midi-length, the cropped chunky sweater with the medieval-knight like neckline creating a right amount of volume or a peek of bare skin, which works the same way those voluminous, structured tops do.  Anna’s snapshots are an interesting example of this. During our follow-up conversation she asked me how come she ended up with such great outline despite the fact I so insisted it was voluminous, cropped top that makes her generous hipline look graceful.   Well, this is the magic of bare skin.  I did not talk to her about a wife-beater because we concentrated on winter looks, but by experimenting on her own she expanded the skirt use into Spring and Summer combinations and witnessed the magic power of bare skin.   It creates a very powerful visual focus which  balances out generous hips.   No simple sweater will get you to the same destination.   You really need an artful piece of knitwear in which designer put as much love and wisdom as Mother Nature put in a woman when she created her.




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Formula Two: The “New Look” Mon, 12 Dec 2016 20:48:17 +0000 The last couple of entries were all about gentle, feminine beauty playing with fabrics and proportions to forge an athletic silhouette and blend into the modern gender-bending aesthetic. Herehere, and here you can find a lot of hands-on advice on how to disguise a fouetté thigh for a marathoner’s gam.

Yet, all that was about adapting a feminine beauty to athletic standards. What I truly want to talk about is how to build a look that fits into the modern landscape while staying true to an authentic feminine beauty, which I define as a Siren type. 

maruice rentner neiman marcus ad

Maurice Rentner 1954.


This will be my Formula #2 and I base it on “The New Look,” a signature silhouette from the 1950s, which represents the epitome of femininity, something that has been both missing and missed in the modern landscape. It is hard to imagine something as uptight and prim as the 1950s New Look in today’s laid back, informal world and yet modern designers have been using it as a base for casual everyday wear.

Donna Karan has been praised for marrying soft and structured, which is exactly what gentle, feminine Siren beauty needs. Many Donna Karan looks are a play of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s silhouettes executed in jersey. The 1950s “New Look” is most commonly associated with a circle skirt and heavily boned, tailored corset top. While this is true, it is also a bit limiting. “New Look,” a term that then Vogue Director Carmel Snow used to define fresh silhouettes introduced by the young Parisian designer Christian Dior, actually featured several silhouettes including a snug pencil skirt, full circle skirt, and another voluminous item, a tulip skirt. It was a step up from the war limitations of the 1940s characterized by a more subtle outline.


The key features of the “New Look” are:

* Exaggerated proportions of the female body

* Lush mid-calf length

Deeper into the 1950s the hems started climbing up closer to the knee and prepping the soil for the sporty moods of the 1960s. But all freshly pressed “New Look” skirts featured mid-calf length: the most feminine, sensual, sultry length, and a solid base of any Siren’s wardrobe. With stretchy jersey fabrics Donna Karan nails the body-con effect that in the bygone era was achieved by artful tapering and tailoring.

I took cues from the designer’s vision and did a little DIY recreating the 1950s “New Look” silhouette, to fit the modern laid back, informal way of life. My workhorse is a Haider Ackermann sweater skirt. Here is the closest version I have found from Maje. To get the desired results, aim for a generous mid-calf length and a really snug model. In the beginning it may feel a bit like vacuum packaging, rather than an easy jersey, but you just need to treat it like jeans. When you aim for a good pair, you always want them a bit tight in the dressing room. The tight, snug jersey will help mimic the tapered effect of the 1950s painstakingly tailored pencil skirt.

With stretchy jersey fabrics Donna Karan nails the body-con effect that in the bygone era was achieved by artful tapering and tailoring.


Donna Karan

Donna Karan




Michael Kors bootieSHOES: You know those ankle-booties that have been idling in your closet for years because they are just so good at truncating legs? The snug, body-con, mid-calf jersey skirt will finally give you a chance to wear them. Just make sure the skirt is long enough to turn the gap between the hem and the bootie into a little sliver of skin. This will modernize the classic silhouette while keeping your legs runway model long. Keep the skirt and the booties in the same hue family, ideally the same color. I like suede booties better than leather, because suede is more laid-back and blends in with the inherently sporty jersey. Also, once you swing from the “New Look” back to jeans, you will notice how much better job suede complements denim.
As if this is not generous enough, jersey fabric on a snug mid-calf skirt opens the door for a variety of shoe choices outside of the inherently feminine “New Look.” They range from slip-ons, sneakers, and spectators, to combat and rubber bootswhimsical pumps, or sandals over cashmere socks. All of these fashion-forward, gender-bending combos thrive in the company of jersey, which brings the required modern component into this eclectic look.





cropped sweater with zabralo necklineTOPS:  For more athletic and tomboyish beauties for whom I’ve developed my Amazon badge, soft jersey fabrics are exactly what allow them to sport the “New Look” without looking matronly and stumpy. Amazons do not need a tightly tapered hem to look swell; they can go for jersey skirts with more give. They typically have no problem finding something to pair it with as most jersey tops will work.

But it is not nearly as easy for Sirens with their soft, gentle torso lines. “Formula One: In His Shirt”  aimed to disguise the gentle S line of the feminine torso. Forthe “New Look” these exact lines are key. They need to be highlighted and/or exposed. Most tops that have been available on the market up until recently are either too long, their necklines are too loose, or both. This is not the cut that complements a well-defined waist and long, elegant back curve. Siren types are in need of cropped tops with crafty necklines as they help mimic the bolero or cape-like jacket from the 1950s, which often accompanied the tapered mid-calf skirt. One way to recreate the look with 21-century ease is a chunky cropped sweater. It is great to source one with the neckline structured to the point of a medieval helm, not a relaxed cowl-neck. Another way is to go in a completely different direction and pair the snug jersey mid-calf skirt with an off the shoulder sweater, which will evoke the image of Bette Davis in All About Eve. Remember that the “New Look” is all about exaggeration. For a soft, feminine, Siren type beauty, an off the shoulder sweater is not a hot trend, it’s a wardrobe staple.


Bette Davis as Margo Channning  in “All About Eve” (1950)


For a soft, feminine, Siren's type beauty an off the shoulder sweater is not just a hot trend, its her wardrobe staple.

moss-green-off-shoulder-sweater-croppedFound at



A piece of jersey peeking from underneath a fully closed coat is a poor sight. But put the entire jersey garment generously on display and everything changes. This is when cropped, tailored, or swing down coats with lavish necklines and sleeves gracefully shortened for longer gloves come into play and help your modernized “New Look” fit right in the middle of busy 21st century life. Don’t torture these 1950s inspired puffers with jeans tucked into boots. Pair them with a mid-calf, snug jersey skirt and ankle boots and enjoy your modern, feminine silhouette to its fullest.



Knit Sweater Skirt Title Collage

Jersey Mid-Calf skirt Maje $295

 Michael Kors bootie $225

Cropped sweater Haider Ackermann $667

Off the shoulder chunky sweater Baja East $1445

Herno down coat  $705

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Formula One: In His Shirt Mon, 28 Nov 2016 23:06:41 +0000 Once in a while readers ask me if I believe in capsule wardrobes. I never know how to respond because to me “capsule wardrobe” sounds like “free gift,” a definition generated in the age of uninhibited shopping. Before impulse buys and blowout sales became the norm of our everyday life, all wardrobes used to be capsules. That was the very definition of a wardrobe: to actually be a capsule. Now we have exploding (unusable) wardrobes and capsule wardrobes (ones that bear some promise of working for you.) Following semantics I guess I do believe in capsule wardrobes.



What I certainly believe in are formulas. Whenever fashion press refers to some celebrity style as “formulaic” it basically means “fail.” And yet, I stand by formulas. Jorge Luis Borges claimed that all fantastic literature had only four plots. With a couple more options thrown in, it holds true in the sartorial realm as well. The small details and nuances that come on top are what is called style. But in order to bring those in, one needs to prep the soil. Formulas do just that.


Here is one formula I separated from the variety of looks and refer to as “Formula One: In His Shirt.” A titillating image of a female chilling around the house in her man’s shirt. The highly sought after ‘I-am-so-sexy-without-trying-too-hard’ appeal stems from the idea that everything has already, well, happened.

This recognizable image goes beyond the most intimate environment and hits the streets reincarnated into an array of outfits, namely, the sack and cocoon silhouette. Yes, it was put on the map by Balenciaga nearly half a century before super models of the 90s popularized the look gracing magazine covers dressed in men’s shirts alone. I will ignore chronological order for once and continue referring to the formula as “In His Shirt.”

The essence of the formula is to disguise all the signature snakelike lines of a female body: well-defined waist, long gentle back curve, bosom, and shift accent to legs. This ensures all the clutter accumulates at the top, while the leg line stays uncluttered and clean. The gentle scoop at the hem creates a tapering effect, which is important because it mimics the curves, an authentic part of the female body, without emphasizing them. You don’t get the same appeal with flared hems so hunt down garments slightly tapered at the hem. Once you’ve built your base you can move on into taking the formula to a utilitarian or ladylike style or any other route to make it your own. It is equally important to stick to the formula and to disguise it with details and your unique finish.


Both, the 2007 parka look from The Sartorialist blog endorsed by the blogger in 2015 for its longevity and Balenciaga 1950s sack dress are based on the same formula, the one I refer to as “In His Shirt.”



What I mostly admire about the “In His Shirt” formula is how it provides an outlet from the jeans-tucked-in-boots rut during winter days in colder climates. Pull on opaque tights (or two) instead of jeans and stick your feet into performance boots, then slip on a sweatshirt. To take this rebellious combo out of the comfort of your home, just add a mini skirt in tweed or boiled wool. Make sure it is short enough to look like a onesie. The soft structured bulk on top will help elongate the legs and make fouetté thighs look svelte. The thick fabric of the mini will keep things down to earth, and the opaque tights will help you create that utilitarian chic look instead of a toxic-recycling-site-visit kind of look.

neil barrett sweatshirtGirls with marathoner’s gams who typically do not sympathize with the leg-lengthening drama and are more invested in finding things that will lengthen their necks and soften their torsos. They can pair such a skirt with knits, V-necks, and even office shirts– the ubiquitous look staring at us from all catalogs these days. The Siren beauties, who are usually the proud owners of fouetté thighs won’t benefit from such combinations. They are more limited in choices in this look, but they need it because it enables them to stay true to their authentic femininity in the subtlest way while dressing for an everyday busy life.  Therefore Sirens will have to invest time into finding the right sweatshirt, as it provides soft structure and tapering effects better than jersey or cashmere.

The sweatshirt is such an utterly athletic item; it can turn into quite an ordeal to spot the one that will enhance a Siren’s beauty. I like to look for some subtle glow in the fabrics, velvet and satin finishes, and jewel tones. This Neil Barrett neoprene sweatshirt does not meet any of the criteria but it sports a classic motif. Any Greco-Roman pattern is very Siren beauty friendly.

I saw the designer’s decision to bring a Greco-Roman motif into an utterly utilitarian garment as an open door into an earthy look with a touch of femininity to it, something all Siren beauties are in desperate need of.  The use of  masculine head, rather than some goddess makes this garment both,  relaxed and refined. This creates a wider choice of comfortable shoe wear,   ranging from block heel pumps to slip-ons, brogues and spectators  to  sorel boots, a proposition I’d  never considered.  The parity of the Classic sculpture with snow boots is very tongue-in-cheek yet also a very fragile balance. To prevent things from falling apart into an unstudied mess, I kept the color scheme in the dark green and black palette to serve as a backdrop for sartorial mischief.



November 22 week

Mount Blanc Beanie $120

Rockie Tote $ 795

Sorel Boots  $130

Neopren Sweatshirt Neil Barrett  20,500 руб

Neil Barrett Skirt  13,250 руб

Carolann Parka  $830


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Marathoner Gam & Fouetté Thigh Fri, 28 Oct 2016 20:38:38 +0000 Years ago, when I was a budding stylist, I was blessed with an online fellow-Russian friend, a garment construction industry old-timer, who decided I was worthy of gaining her impressive expertise. One of the things I remember catching right away was the jargon she mentioned they used in the old days to describe legs. Basically, she said that most legs fall into one of two categories: ballerina legs or marathoner legs. Today I will take the liberty of developing this concept in hopes of helping many women embrace their bodies and  live happily ever after.


Fay Fay FW201617Legs these days get a lot of scrutiny and the expectations are rigid. Most sophisticated, upscale fashion publications  have replaced prosaic ‘legs’ with the fancier ‘gams.’ Paradoxically, this nip into suave French-Italian vocabulary masks the fashion industry’s refocus from subtle ankles to earthier thighs.  This is where the problem kicks in. ‘Beautiful legs’ these days basically implies lithe thighs. No lithe thighs, no beautiful legs. In its confinement, the current situation mirrors what women had some two centuries ago when ‘beautiful legs’ meant a mere peek of ankle beneath petticoats. But not everyone is keen on constant comparative analysis of women’s fashions through the centuries. Instead we head to the gym to work on our legs and very often find we did not get close to the sought after image even after months of hard work. Some thighs just won’t comply.  This will happen to what my friend called “ballerina legs”  and what I want to present to you today as a  fouetté thigh.   A fouetté thigh will never turn into a marathoner’s gam.

The defining characteristic of marathoner’s gams is lithe thighs with a suave dent on the inner side of the hip, which makes the upper and lower part of the leg evenly proportioned.   These are the legs we mostly see in today’s magazines, campaigns, and runways. Clothing is designed and styled primarily to showcase these lissome limbs- the gams. Over time marathoner’s legs have come to not only dominate fashion scene, but also to define it. You can’t even necessarily call them a designer’s first choice anymore; they have become a blueprint.


upscale fashion publications today have replaced prosaic 'legs' with the fancier 'gams.' Paradoxically, this nip into suave French-Italian vocabulary masks the fashion industry's refocus from subtle ankles to earthier thighs.

But the marathoner’s gams are not the only type of fit legs. There are legs trained just as rigorously that will never fit the marathoner’s  evenly proportioned profile. It’s the ballerina legs, whose defining characteristic is thighs. The fouetté thigh  is disproportionally heavy in comparison to below the knee part of the leg.  Audrey Hepburn, who spent her adolescent years preparing for career in ballet, had these exact thighs. I wonder how much she could have benefitted from further tightening her fitness and dieting regimen.






One of the best known ballets, Swan Lake, was born in St. Petersburg at the end of the 19th century. It was choreographed by the French Marius Petipa and the Russian Lev Ivanov. By the time Petipa, who is considered the most influential choreographer in ballet history, got interested in choreographing parts of Swan Lake, Lev Ivanov, a humble ballet master assistant at the time had already put together all the Lake scenes and engaged the best ballerina in dancing Odette’s part for him. It was 1895 and the best ballerina in St. Petersburg was an Italian, Pierina Legnani. Famous for her furious fouettés, she was allegedly capable of doing 32 fast and stunning turns in one take.

Petipa set out to steal the prima for his Black Swan parts, but Legnani refused to betray Ivanov, with whom she had already been rehearsing the White Swan. She suggested that she could dance both parts. Never before had one ballerina danced the adversaries’ parts. In her charming, imaginative, and well researched account of the history of ballet, ABC of Ballet, Russian theater critic Yulia Yakovleva narrates the fictitious dialogue between prima ballerina and famous choreographer. She fashions their conversation as a plot between two naughty kids. In response to Legnani’s suggestion, Petipa grinned and promised to come up with Black Swan choreography so complex that Legnani would have to let go of the White Swan part, composed by the unknown Ivanov. Legnani grinned back and broke into her contagious Italian laughter, betting she’d master both. And master it she did. Swan Lake became the first ballet with one ballerina dancing the adversaries’ parts and Legnani’s signature 32 fouettés became the benchmark for all classical productions to come.

marathoner-legs-nat-laurelLike most intricate ballet tricks, fouettés rely on laden, hard-working thigh musculature. There is an old ballet legend about a ballerina who managed to break the legs of a bunch of scamps who surrounded her by performing a fouetté. True or not, those famous Legnani pirouettes do require some very fit thighs. The same goes for the arresting dips in which a partner holds a seemingly feather-weight ballerina. For the female dancer this is not a moment to catch her breath; it is quite the opposite. She is actually holding herself with her thighs. If she relaxes, this fragile composition may collapse.

Both marathoner and dancer require an enormous stamina but the dynamics of their movements are very different and seem to find reflection in the lineament of their legs. The runner’s contact with the ground seems brief and perfunctory; she uses the ground to push against, up into the air. Her leg contour seems to mimic this upward movement. Calves do the heavy work; it’s the thighs that gracefully cut through the air and steal the show.

Though dancers seem to be floating in the air just as much, their relationship with the floor is by far more intimate. Of all other crafts, a ballerina’s pointe work most resembles calligraphy. Calligraphy is wedded to the surface. It must be for that reason then that ballet dancers usually talk about theater stage floors with a lot of sentiment. Tango and salsa poetic folclore also refer to “la pista” (the dance floor) constantly, so that it feels like the dance floor is yet another protagonist, rather than a mere part of the venue. As if in support of this dynamic, a ballerina’s legs are outlined differently, drawing strong downward visual vectors. All the heavy work is performed by the thighs, shadowed with a stiff tutu, while the calves aggrandize the calligraphy of pointe technique.



All this is indeed purely symbolical. From a biomechanics and somatic point of view, both, marathoners and dancers engage their thighs and calves equally hard, not to mention that both largely depend on their core muscles. A female marathoner with fouetté thighs  is a common scenario and vice versa.  This text is not a kinesiology insight, but rather a portrayal of the visual differences  of a ballerina and a runner. The difference that  is so vivid  it once made its way into garment industry professional jargon and helped women to better understand and present themselves.

For non-athletic women, marathoner gams translate into  legs that look naturally longer in proportion to the torso. It also may result in spiky angular knees. More often than not all this will happen at the expense of neck length. This build opened the door for the millennium length pencil skirts, wildly exposed knees, boxy cuts, and athletic-utility footwear. All of these are used not only to help marathoner’s gams take center stage, but also to play down the challenges that come with them.  It is pretty much a Kate Moss-driven image that modern fashion feeds to us these days.

Now, what about fouetté thighs? The term covers a large group of women including those who never came close to a ballet barre. It basically means a thigh that is disproportionally longer or heavier in relation to the calves. It may be a lazy, wobbly, ‘carbo’-thigh, but it may also be a strong and fit one. The imbalance of upper and lower parts of the leg creates the short leg effect. In fact, many women with fouetté thighs do get them into some very nice, lean state, but once they have clothes on, as paradoxical as it may sound, the anatomical nature of their bodies announces itself, ruining all their efforts. It becomes particularly vivid when wearing styles designed with marathoner legs in mind, dominating the fashion scene today.  Women, young girls especially, confuse this with being overweight. They head straight into eating disorders and body image problems. I have also known athletic and fitness-minded women who were disappointed with themselves for not getting the desired results (aka marathoner gams) after months of rigorous training and dieting.


The fouetté thigh is a typical characteristic of Siren’s beauty type. Since it does not fit very well  into the gender-neutral modern fashion,  talking about outfitting  them and fighting the short legs effect  require a longer explanation and more ballet references.




On the stage, hardworking ballerina thighs look svelte against a bulky ballet tutu. Ethereal looking from your dress circle seat, it is actually a clumsy piece of costume that feels more like an armory than a breezy frock. But the tutu’s bulk helps to abate the visual disproportion between a heavier thigh and swanky calves, while the pointe technique elongates the leg. None of this seems to be useful outside of a ballet academy, but don’t be so quick to dismiss this gear as it offers some great styling clues.

Heavier ballet thighs will succumb to bulky, heavier fabrics such as boiled wools, tweeds, or leather. For a bare leg look during the summer,  starchy pique cottons come to rescue. These fabrics will mimic the tutu’s thigh-abating effect, without feeling costumey. Lots of women complained earlier that they don’t like heavy fabrics and prefer light weight jersey. With jersey, you will need to go one-piece and mimic Greek chiton. I will talk more about that another day.

Shoe-wise, keeping your footwear neutral to skin tone does help, but trust me, I didn’t keep you here for that long to give you this timeworn advice. I want go a little further.






For years fouetté thighs were restricted to heels. Tyranny of heels was  a complaint from one of my readers that inspired my Amazon-Siren beauty type concept in 2010. The SS 2013 rockstud Valentino shoes put pointy flats back on the map and made the lives of so many of us with fouetté thighs ever so easier. Doesn’t it feel like those Valentino rockstud flats have been around forever? Come to think of it, it’s only been three years!

To help you understand how they replaced the heels and why numerous ballerina flats B.V.(before Valentino) never worked, I will have to make another deep dive into history of ballet.

While ballet is an antique form of art, originating in the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, the pointe technique is a relatively new phenomenon. It is about 200 hundred years old. The pointe started humbly with dancers who performed in soft silk slippers balancing on their toes for a fraction of a second. The audience reacted wildly and despite the enormous risk of serious injuries, ballet dancers strived for more and came up with numerous tricks: firm inserts in their shoes and glue poured over silk slippers to make them harder, boxier, and stiffer. Ballet shoe makers took all these little DIYs to the next level and included the box in a ballet shoe, made of layers of fabric that contained the toes. This allowed dancers to perform more difficult routines and pushed classical ballet further. This growth spurt took place in the late 19thto early 20th century, a time marked with enormous technological developments. Newspapers at the time discussed ballet techniques along with the steam engine and other technological advancements. The highest praise for a ballerina at the time was “the steal pointe shoe.”

All this translates into a sophisticated, high-tech shoe required for a fouetté thigh working its way into the modern fashion.

trained fouetté thigh may look great on the beach or in yoga pants, but once outfitted in regular clothes, the anatomical nature announces itself, ruining all efforts and creating the short legs effect.
 If, reading this, you recognize yourself as a proud owner of fouetté thigh, then you might as well have your Eureka moment as to why those numerous Tory Burch soft ballerina and Ferragamo rounded toe flats never did anything for you. They are not the high-tech device fouettés thigh  requires. A generous, well-constructed heel helps fouettés thigh not only because it elongates the leg per se, but also because it adds the required high-tech factor to the look. Before Valentino rockstud flats defined the long-playing trend in 2013, the majority of flats came in simple designs or soft soles and rounded toes and were more evocative of Brigitte Bardot in Dieu Crea la Femme than of a highly disciplined ballet pointe shoe. The exaggerated pointed toes and boxy, sturdy soles enact the heel high-tech factor, while allowing us to have our degree of comfort.

It’s nice if you can put up $800 for Valentino pointed rockstud flats, but if you can’t, the good news is that ever since pointed flats were introduced by Valentino in 2013, the market has been saturated with various models, from pumps to Keds and shows no sign of slowing down. One hopes that hard soled, pointy flats will stick around, because they help fight the short legs effect for fouetté thighs while granting us the comfort of the flats.  They are just as essential for fouetté thighs as the bra is for anything B+. But, in case pointed flats enter into a market fatigue zone, you might need to stock up.


I meant this entry  as one in a series of articles, plotting my way to a comprehensive explanation of my Amazon-Siren beauty concept. Each article will deal with different body parts that affect which beauty type you belong to. Eventually it should  help you navigate the Amazon-Siren beauty concept and nail down the intricacies of your personal style.   Marathoner’s gams are one of the key features of an Amazon beauty type.  Fouetté thigh is one of the key features of a Siren beauty type.

The pelvis setup defines whether we  have fouetté thigh or marathoner gam.  It is all very connected to what is going on in our torso, and  my next write up will be elaborating on this link.    For now I just wanted to say that working out our fouetté thighs is like brushing our teeth.  It is something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Sorry, guys.   The bad news is that working our fouetté thighs hard does not mean we will stop having the short legs problem once we  change into our   everyday non-yoga clothes that are largely  inspired by the marathoners gams these days.  The good news is that I am here to share with you everything I know about mastering  fouetté thighs  sartorially and  enjoying  yourself in the process, while the fashion scene realizes that we, Sirens  are here to stay.



Fouetté thigh in action by the Russian prima ballerina, Maia Plisetskaya. 1925-2015


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Jeans, Flats & Victorian Porn Wed, 19 Oct 2016 01:00:16 +0000 Judging by the comments on Facebook and Instagram, questions about pointy flats and how to employ them are still bountiful. Here is a quick hands-on follow-up to my  pointy toes novella.

The approach depends on what beauty type you are in my little methodology.

If you are a Siren and you already own a sassy-classy Joan Holloway-inspired wardrobe or you have an ambition to build one, then you do need your pointy flats. If you don’t have such a wardrobe and building one is not on your immediate to do list, then exhale. You do not need those pointy flats!

However, if you do have or plan on such a wardrobe, you will basically be using your pointy toe flats to tone down your inherently glamorous, lady-like, sultry looks in order to make them more natural in our predominantly casual environment. Only by creating such harmony with the surrounding can we develop our personal style, and not a flashy costume. As a rule, a Siren beauty will not wear pointy flats when she attends a function, is engaged in public speaking/high profile business meeting, or heads to a romantic date. Formal events and boudoir settings are her natural habitat, where she can be completely herself, meaning that she is wearing heels. Pointy flats are to appease a Siren’s inherently elegant looks in more casual, down-to-earth situations. 

The Amazon beauty will use pointy flats for completely different purposes. She will rely on them in order to dress up her inherently casual jeans and easy knits wardrobe and to add a touch of sensuality to her tomboy looks. Unlike Sirens, an Amazon should head out in pointy flats for a date, a business meeting or, in selected cases, even a function. If you are an Amazon and you don’t attend functions, business meetings, or date and you haven’t gotten in touch with your sensual side just yet, then you don’t need those pointy flats. But I really hope you have or you will.

One place where Amazons and Sirens meet is cropped skinny jeans. I assume this is where I can get the Sirens’ attention, as scores of Sirens rely on jeans and casual clothes.   With Amazons, it’s easy:  they just add pointy flats to their jeans and they feel moderately dressed up. Sirens who perform a similar exercise will end up withCRu drastically different results! They will look completely undressed. Here is why: jeans accentuate our thighs and Sirens are notorious for those. Pointy flats will take it one step further, ending up in a very peculiar image, somewhat resemblant of a Victorian Porn postcard….


On one hand,  this  ‘Victorian undressed’ has long become a pedestrian look,  causes no ones eyebrows raised, tickles no ones fancy.  But  I am personally suffering immensely seeing women compromising their beauty everyday.

Here is the case of the aforementioned ‘Joan.’  While this is a  perfectly socially acceptable  casual look these days, I can’t help morning this type of beauty being  so betrayed  by her clothes.






In case you feel it got under your skin too, read on.   Dressing down does not  need to go hand in hand with compromising Siren’s  beauty.  The problem I see here  is that fashion scene has been dominated and defined  by an Amazon built woman, who looks swell  when dressed down, which is how our eye has developed an incredible tolerance for the mediocre results  Sirens get when  dressed in the current gender-bending styles.  This approach also propels body shame and weight-related issues while  a  typical Siren could be a US size 2  and still get  the same “Victorian Undressed” look, when wearing her (skinny) jeans with flats or classic pumps.    What Siren needs is a completely different approach to her Jeans + Flats combination.

Here is a strategy for your skinny jeans + flats look.  In order to combine the two you need to perform an exercise somewhat similar to the one described in my article about pencil skirts, “To Knee or Not To Knee,” namely, to build up the torso which will visually minimize those childbearing hips and thighs. Here are a couple of tips:


*Go with a chunky sweater with draping that does not hang, but floats, pulling the eye upward. In this picture I am wearing soft ballerinas with rounded toes, because they are more comfortable for air travel. In this combo, they work just as well as pointy toes.

*For sleeveless models, just find something cut to cover the shoulder, but not in a feminine, coquettish way, or you’ll get that Victorian erotic postcard look again! A similar effect can be achieved with a scarf you arrange around your neck like a travel pillow.

*I like to engage the fedora, because it enhances the androgyny component which is so helpful in visually minimizing the childbearing hips.    In this picture, the scarf does nothing for the look; the fedora does the entire job. Christina’s had does not dominate the look and the loose blouse is to saggy.

*Always, always, always opt for low-waisted cropped skinnies; otherwise you’ll get that Victorian bloomers undergarment look yet again.

*Cropped skinnies will get your better proportions than full-length ones

*Often times I notice that in this particular look the belt goes a long way and helps to complete this essentially disassembled combination.

These tips will elevate a Siren’s casual looks and allow for pointy flats.   The point is that with a built-up torso will open the doors for more comfortable, soft, rounded toe ballerinas and suffer much less.

This look basically means Siren  is playing an Amazon.  She plays down all her best features in order to simulate Anazon’s best.   I enjoy this game once in a while too.  But  this is what everyone is wearing these days and I have a built-in clock for ‘wearing’ against the stream.  But then again I indulge in my sociopathic tendencies, built my life around it  and sporting a strong Siren look is part of my sociopathic stance.  Having said that, I know that not all of you are sociopaths or  necessarily enjoy that.  Many Sirens are in deep need for  tips how to simulate a decent Amazon.  And I am always glad to share what I know  with you.

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Keep Your Pointy Flats Sun, 09 Oct 2016 04:25:58 +0000 My first introduction to pointy flats came in 2008. They were part of a Scheherazade-like story that a friend of mine is notorious for. That time she was describing a cozy get together at a stylish Northern California abode where she had been invited on a hot, summer afternoon. A great aesthete with a masterful hand in gardening, cooking, kitchen organizing, party throwing, table and flower arranging, clothes construction, and styling, my friend spoke in great admiration of the delicate refreshments served, of the subtle interior details, the flow of conversation, and what the hostess, a tall, stately woman, was wearing. She wore a linen mid-calf sheath dress with side slits paired with pointy flats. My friend, whose keen eye is used to dissecting all things beautiful, established immediately that the hostess’ shoe size must have been 11 and yet, she made an observation, the exaggerated pointy flats did not emphasize her big foot, instead they gracefully elevated her simple linen dress. She looked both comfortable and composed and enjoyed hosting her guests on a painfully hot afternoon.

Admit it; don’t you feel like those pointy flats have been around forever? But no, it has only been three years.

For years to come an image of this woman, refined and laid back at the same time, played in the back of my mind as if I had attended that party myself. Hence, five years later, in May of 2013, when I quickly raided a Palo Alto Nordstrom for a pair of socks and emerged from the store with a red Valentino shoebox and an $800+ receipt instead, I should have immediately known why. But I did not. I stood quietly in the parking lot, listening to the sound of my heartbeat thinking about what I had just done. This was my first pair of shoes of such caliber. Pointy, studded Valentino ballerina flats in fuchsia. Now, admit it, doesn’t it feel like they have been around forever? But, no, it has only been three years. SS 2013 is the season they valentino-pink-rockstud-ballerina-flat-in-pink-product-3-8043045-610332192_large_flexentered our realm.

At first I attributed my obnoxious impulse buy to my admiration of the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)  which I must have watched 500 times. At first it wasn’t so much about Valentino himself, but rather the outstanding qualities of Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary: unfiltered, raw, genuine, and intense investment in his subject. Everything a good documentary should be. I used to say, and I still believe it, that in a couple of decades this movie will prove not only a fascinating story of a great eccentric, but also an important account of the times, as significant as Battleship Potemkin. I remember people looking at me as if I were crazy. None of the fashion documentaries that followed Tyrnauer’s Valentino came anywhere close to it in terms of cinematographic craftsmanship and artistic value (Bill Cunningham New York (2010)  being the only exclusion). I remember watching The September Issue (2009) in the theater when it was released. I managed to power through the highly controlled chronicles, air-brushed by their subjects, but my stylist friend fell asleep. As we drove back from San Francisco I lured her to my place with the promise of what a real fashion movie should look like. After our movie-going fiasco and a 50 minute ride home, she stayed glued to the screen for another 90 minutes. As the number of Valentino converts among my friends grew, so did designer’s  and his right hand,  Giancarlo’s personalities grow on me. These were all the things going through my mind as I stood in a parking lot with the Valentino rock-stud pointy flats and an $800 plus 8.25% California tax receipt listening to the sound of my heartbeat. Curiously enough,  Valentino was filmed in 2008, the same year I first enjoyed pointy flats vicariously through my friend’s story. I am guilty of noting, collecting, and succumbing to mysterious coincidences like this.

I decided I’d sleep on it. I quietly put my Valentino shoebox in the closet, stuck the receipt inside, and left for Paris, missing out on all the early-adopter laurels. When I opened the box upon my return, the guilt about my cinematography-tribute impulse buy waned, but I still did not connect the dots. That happened during an outing with our kids.




Having children back-to-back, with a start-up building husband, and  a stylist career,  I literally stumbled upon meant we had neither time nor energy nor resources to go out much. With two nannies covering all the working hours, our social life boiled down to Sunday brunches at Rosewood. Our eighteen-month and three year old could move freely around the lounge area while we silently munched on tuna nicoise salad, staring at the views across the 280 freeway.This was supposed to feed my longing for glamour, away from child rearing and working at my home office. Naturally, I dressed up. I felt like a caricature of “Sunday best” but kept dressing up just to keep my sanity. And this is exactly where and when I had my Eureka moment. Happy to finally fit into the New Look, mid-calf skirt I bought in Milan the same year, 2008, woohoo!)  I slipped into my new Valentino flats and unleashed their magic powers: they freed me from the tyranny of heels. There I was, in a fancy place with two tykes, one still in diapers, with Valentino studded flats making me look relaxed and composed. Just like the mysterious lady from my friend’s story who had quietly occupied the back of my mind all these years. That is when I finally understood that what I had deemed an impulse buy was stylist intuition.

The exaggerated pointy toe flats take on all the duties of the heel: they elongate the leg, elevate your looks, and, if you are blessed with childbearing hips, then pointy flats provide the required lift traditionally deemed to be a task exclusively performed by stilettos.

That summer, Garance had immortalized them with her illustrations and they graced the feet of all the fashion mighty. Then they embarked on the inevitable descending curve of making it into the lists of “must-have-items” for anyone who needed to get their foot in the street fashion spotlight. The next summer, 2014, was marked with counterfeits. But the 2014-2015 seasons also proved the trend was not skin deep: the industry erupted with numerous versions of pointy styles in brogues and moccasins alike, even stepping into athleisure and offering pointy sneakers and slip-ons.

I watched my native Russian fashion scene warm up to pointy flats slowly. The trend went viral in the summer of 2015, two years after the shoes paraded through major fashion capitals. I attribute this delay partly to the fact that the last bit pointy-toe shoe moment happened in the 1990s. It coincided with the post-Soviet era when economical decay and sudden exposure to Western culture swept the traditional values-based Russian society off its feet. Add extreme weather conditions, which deprive Russians of the European nonchalance, and the pointy shoes trend of the 1990s translated into the epitome of the post-Soviet fashion monstrosity. More than twenty years later, some still found themselves struggling with pointy toe PTSD.

In my admiration for pointy flats I can sometimes get carried away and this is when my readers’ questions serve as a reality check. Below are some of the frequent questions I encounter when musing about pointy flats on Instagram or the Russian part of the blog.

Exaggerated pointy shoes only work on small, beautiful feet. I have 40+ shoe size, they don’t work for me. 

audrey hepburn size 10 half

Audrey Hepburn’s 10.5 shoe size never stopped her from employing pointy toes

This question never ceases to pop up every single time pointy flats are mentioned. Please refer to the opening paragraph of this write up to learn how only the most sophisticated eye used to daily dissection of beauty anatomy is able to notice how big your feet actually are. Providing you’ve mastered your entire look, that is. If you did and then you happened to cross paths with such an arbiter elegantiae, they would only applaud your shrewdness.

One of the big mistakes women make is assessing an item close up. You have to see everything from a big mirror perspective. If you are trying on sun glasses, step away from that counter and head to the bag department to see in the full length mirror how those glasses fit with your posture. If you are trying on your pointed flats don’t stare at your feet like an egret. Step away and check to see how they work with your facial bone structure and hair. I wear size 9 to 10 shoes too and there are shoes that grace my feet better than Valentino studded flats. But they can do nothing for me when I require a certain look: comfortable and composed. Once I get the look I aim for, the fact that pointed toe flats accentuate my shoe-size becomes inferior. They end up giving more than taking. Personal style is a system of checks and balances. Keeping this in mind helps you keep your sanity.



Pointy flat shoes require great ankles. My ankles are not svelte enough.

If you treat pointy flats as a trendy  ‘Must-Have’ item, then yes, ankles are more important.  But if you look at them as a heel-tyranny liberating technique then priorities change.   This question mimics the shoe size situation. If you stare at chunky ankles in pointed flats, you might not find it a pretty sight, but that is not a reason to give up on them. Once you master your entire look, then the big mirror consulted from a couple of feet away may suggest that pointy flats give your beauty more than they take away.

To disguise chunky ankles opt for pumps with square cleavage. It’s the rounded shape that accentuates cankles.

Also try shoes with an oversized square buckle. Think Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour and Roger Vivier pumps. A square buckle is a true gentleman. It gracefully drives attention away from chunky ankles, but still has a lot to give to the svelte ones. It also makes pointy flats look better with opaque tights for colder weather.


I can’t do pointy flats; I am 5’2”. I need at least a little heel. 

No matter how many times I repeat that pointy flats act like heels, I still receive a comment like this. Of course there is a limit to their lifting magic powers, and it is proportionate to your height. I would say that a 5’6” woman can simulate up to two inches with the pointy toe flats, while a 5’2” woman will get about an inch. But pointy flats are a much more versatile and edgy way to get that extra inch than the “a little heel” palliative.

Screen Shot 2016-10-08 at 12.36.49

Author relying on pointy flats while vacating on Elba, Tuscany in June 2016.

Secondly, a lot depends on the situation. I am 5’6” and I have looks that work equally well with pointed flats and heels. I alternate depending on the situation. Where am I going? How many people will be there? Who are they? What’s the ambience? What is my role? How do I feel today? – These are some of the questions I’ll quickly go through while putting mascara on and deciding whether heels or pointed flats are better on a given day. A 5’2” will have to ask all the same questions and decide whether heels or pointy flats are better for her that day. An average 5’6” will have a wider range of choices than a 5’2”, but 5’2” still enjoys choices. Choices are important.

If you are heading to a bar or you have a business meeting then you might need all the support heels can offer. Delegate your comfort component to Uber or whatnot. But if you are on a date that includes a long evening walk to the fortress in Tuscany with dinner to follow or you are presenting venues to clients in New York, then comfort becomes a key element of your entire image, whether you are 5’6” or 5’2”. Sipping drinks at the bar or having dinner at the table may vary tremendously in their dynamics. And so do business meetings in a conference room or outside of it. Everything, sounds, smells, landscape, and format of your interactions, go into consideration of what to wear any given day. Just remember that being comfortable and composed must always remain on your list of options.


Do pointy flats work for everyone? Are there particular body types they work best for? 

Pointy flats can serve as a magic stick if you are facing a heels and comfort dichotomy. Yet, with such rigid prerequisites as “mastering the look” and “getting a grasp on the situation” they can become a gargantuan task, however worthy, but still unfit for your immediate to-do list.

I don’t think I can talk about applicability of pointy toe flats in terms of body type, because there are just too many variables. But I can to break it down for my Siren/Amazon beauty type methodology.

For many of us, a good pair of pointy-toe flats is as important as a good bra.

The woman who will mostly benefit from pointy flats is the one feeling like a heel hostage.    She often times  clamors for ladylike dresses and skirts but never buys them because she thinks they require heels, which are not an option. Or she may actually keep such pieces in her wardrobe for years, unworn because she finds it hard to part with them. This is a typical situation for a Siren beauty type. Childbearing hips are usually a ticket into this beauty profile. Most winning Siren outfits consist of a “Schatzberg length” pencil skirt or an artfully tailored dress. These are precisely the items that are believed to require heels. But once you own pointy-toe flats that requirement is waived. This is the way for Sirens to enjoy their inherent lady-like styles without compromising on comfort. Pointy-toe flats can also help appease some earthy cropped jeans with the inherently elegant lines of a Siren’s physique. I would be careful about engaging pointy-toe flats in any “Millennial length” or shorter skirts, shorts, or casual maxis as all these typically need sportier shoes.

Amazons are typically in need of ways to subtly elevate their earthy looks just so their inherently fresh and natural beauty doesn’t look stuffy.




They may feel trapped in their casual, laid-back clothes, unable to bring in glitz and glamour to enhance their beauty. Heels may look like overdoing it or may not be an option for other reasons. This is when pointy flats step in to elevate an otherwise casual look and suddenly make it appropriate for the most glamorous setting and making it all look like the most gutsy “rules breaking” sartorial stance. Shirt dresses, shifts, “Millennium lengths,” and shorts may also enjoy the company of pointy flats on an Amazon woman.

What I wouldn’t do if I were an Amazon is pair pointy flats with the traditional lady-like outfits as this would risk making them seriously stuffy. Wrapping lady-like inspired clothes around an Amazon beauty usually goes hand in hand with Birkenstock, combat, and other gender-bending shoe choices.



I have been a vocal pointy-toe flats advocate since 2013 (and a silent one since 2008) and intend to continue serving as one. Not everyone needs pointy flats, but there are some of us out there who depend on them immensely. Their biggest virtue is liberating us from the tyranny of heels. The exaggerated pointy toe flats take upon themselves all the duties of the heel: they elongate the leg, elevate your looks, and, if your body morphology includes the child-bearing hips, then a good pair of pointy flats is as important as a good bra for a C+ cup.  They provide that lift    traditionally deemed to be a task exclusively performed by stilettos.  I find pointy flats’ visual reference to ballerinas’ feet at rest unbearably touching and gracefully subdued. The visual association is strong enough to evoke the fierceness of en pointe (something almond and round toe flats lack), yet it is not the en pointe itself, rather the sweet anticipation of it.


One of my biggest fears is to open my Instagram or fashion news feed one morning to see the signs, or, God forbid, fashion autocrats official statements that the pointy-toe is passé. I know this phase is inevitable. But I hope it will be brief. While it may be just another passing trend for the fashion-pack transported around megalopolises in limos, it is a staple for working women and moms, way more important than a LBD.


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Pencil Skirt: To Knee Or Not To Knee Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:34:22 +0000  

Like the beige coat, the pencil skirt is catered to women as a must-have staple item that should work for anyone unconditionally. And, like the beige coat, for many of us it just does not. Because, just like the beige coat, the pencil skirt is an umbrella term used for an array of species. Fortunately, unlike the camel coat’s hues, the pencil skirt’s variety is more comprehensive. It basically falls into one of the two categories: the knee concealing and the knee revealing, with the mid-knee vacillating between the two. Your body type and overall proportions dictate what to do with each of these lengths. For today I will focus on the knee-revealing pencil skirt. I want to set it apart from the mid-thigh minis and all the jersey dresses and skirts as these deserve a separate entry. Today the knee revealing pencil skirt  will take center-stage.

In her fascinating, and what is arguably the best account of modern fashion affairs, book The End of Fashion, Teri Agins, a style journalist and a WSJ senior writer, described in great detail the process of the garment industry turning into a marketing ploy. In the series of episodes that wrested control away from the forces in the fashion industry she singles out 1987, when “…designers missed the boat when they failed to sell women on short skirts…” Well, by now you can say they have certainly caught up. Today nearly all pencil skirts are knee revealing, creating yet another void.


jerry schatzberg

Jerry Schatzberg 1950s-1960s

But let’s backtrack a bit. The pencil skirt first showed up in glamorous black and white images immortalized by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, and Jerry Schatzberg. It fell below the knee or even mid-calf, the perfect length to enhance everything fabulous about classic feminine beauty: a long neck, fragile torso, delicate wrists and piano fingers, a well-defined waist, and sassy ankles. The skirt was tailored to disguise the heavy hips that typically accompany that very fragile torso. But it did very little for athletic bodies, which tended to look matronly in these intricately tailored confections. It hid their best assets- toned, athletic gams- and undermined their femininity by making their strong torsos look stumpy.  When the mod silhouette with its emphasis on the knee came along, the athletic girls cheered and in the boho inspired 1970s they cheered even more. In the following decade the mod silhouette took it to its maxima tight minis, while longer skirts experimented with volume. By the turn of the century a new group of skirts, currently known as the wardrobe staple “pencil skirt,” emerged. It can be knee-concealing (slightly below the knee), knee revealing (slightly above the knee), or something in between. In my native Russian, this in between length is known as “the golden length” or “the Italian length.” With an overall tendency towards sporty looks these days, knee revealing pencil skirts dominate the American market. “The Italian length” is a runner up and the tapered, knee concealing ones- I am going to coin them “the J.Schatzberg length”- are the hardest to find.


J Crew skirt styled for outdoors_m

Signature J.Crew pencil skirt styling inherent to ‘outdoor’ beauty types.

If you are on the athletic side or consider yourself top heavy then you probably wear your knee-revealing pencil skirt out and about and cannot possibly understand what on earth can be hard about it. If you are bottom heavy then you’ve probably fallen into a jeans rut because after numerous attempts you came to the conclusion that skirts just don’t work for you. Deep inside you may feel that jeans don’t work either, but at least it is not as apparent and allows you to sport your devil may care attitude. With skirts you look like you try too hard. And fail.

Come over here, my little bottom heavy girl, I have something to share with you about your classic beauty. This is what happened. The moment that the “J. Schatzberg length”  skirts became knee revealing they stopped being elegant and became sporty. By doing so they became inherent for an athletic top heavy body that often comes with a high hip (a body morphology in which the heaviest part of the hip is located above the crotch and constitutes heavier torso and lithe thighs). This is when the athletic gal finally received a go-to item for all her business wear, formal wear, and beyond, something she had been deprived of before, because the decidedly elegant “J. Schatzbert length” pencil skirt simply went against her physique. But with the   millennial-length  pencil skirt  emerged in the 1990s she wears it   with knits, jackets, frill blouses, and her husband’s shirts alike. She goes tucked and untucked and truly believes this is a fit-all, must-have item. And for her athletic body it really is. But for you, my dear snake-like torso, bottom heavy babe, that knee-revealing pencil skirt  lost the graceful élan of Cecil, Irving, and Jerry’s photography when it lost those couple of inches and rose slightly above the knee. You switched spots with the athletic gal; it is now you who look ridiculous in a classic pencil skirt, because this new knee-revealing length does not favor the fragile torso-heavy low hip combination.

But for you, my dear snake-like torso, bottom heavy babe, that knee-revealing pencil skirt lost the graceful élan of Cecil, Irving, and Jerry’s photography when it lost those couple of inches and rose slightly above the knee.




The snake-like torsos, immortalized by Beaton, Schatzberg and Penn, typically come with a heavy knee, which looks out of proportion. This is a so called low-hip setup, a body morphology in which the heaviest part of the hip is located below the crotch and creates that very heavy knee. That’s why it was disguised for the most part of human history.  When Chanel went outrageous in the 60s about raising hems and revealing knees, she wasn’t just disconnected with the pace of fashion, she actually had a point. Chanel did not have a fragile torso herself and while accommodating her very own body type,  did her share in dismissing the waist, but she had a low-hip and a heavy knee.  And she knew firsthand just how unflattering the knee-revealing length might look. What she did not realize though, was that there was a treasure buried under some classic women skirts. That treasure was a sharp, angular patella which inevitably accompanies what for centuries was considered a major woman’s curse: a compacted, heavy torso and a strong, short neck. Squeezed into corsets and petticoats those women were deemed misfortunate and nobody bothered to take a closer look at their stronger sides. Well, let’s face it, it wasn’t that easy to do. In the XX century when hems finally rose, it became possible for the knee to be discovered. Those who had literally unearthed it, must have felt like they came over a source of alternative energy and they set about making the most of it. Everything that happened to fashion starting at the Cuban Missile Crisis and after, aimed to accommodate the sharp patella and disguise the strong neck that often times comes with it. Resting on the premises that a classic feminine body is so beautiful that everything works for it, fashion bit off piece after piece leaving classical beauties with nothing to wear. The knee-concealing pencil skirt was just one of the casualties.



With the new knee-revealing pencil skirt the athletic gal got herself a polished item while the classic glam puss lost one. One drastic mistake that women of soft, classic beauty make these days is to keep taking this new easy going  breed of millennial knee-revealing pencil skirt for the glamorous item poeticized by Penn-Beaton-Schatzberg.  They tuck in their tailored shirts, slip into clingy knits, accessorize dutifully, sometimes even coiffure their hair and cannot understand for a life of them just how on earth they still look so ridiculous and unnecessarily exposed while wearing such a basic and conservative garment.


hoynigenn huenne

George Hoynigenn Huene 1930

The answer is it’s the knee.  There is nothing glamorous about the knee. Knee is all about casual,  easy going, and sometimes even outright sporty attitude. The athletic beauty’s strong torso does this job naturally, while the classic ones need to pivot. In other words, when an athletic girl received her new polished, formal garment, congruent with her physique, the soft, ladylike beauty was presented with a sporty one. And she needs to treat it as such. The picture on the left of the 1930s swimming suit by Hoyningen-Huene could pass for a millennial partygoer look; it basically serves as an archetype for the modern skirt. While the pencil skirts in question definitely cover more thigh, the very fact that the knee is revealed makes any pencil skirt look harken back to this swimming suit, rather than to Penn’s and Schatzberg’s images of the 1950s. That is why the athletic gal can sport her knee-revealing pencil skirt with more feminine tops (or boyfriend shirts), clingy knits, and sexy shoes and look great. Her balance is just right, but if the ladylike does the same, she will look like she could use some cover up, which is exactly what’s needed.

So what the classic beauty types need to do now is let go of their glamorous sentiments a bit and embrace their sporty side. Don’t worry, you will still keep your ladylike appeal- it’s in your veins. You just need to even things out for the right balance.

The answer is it’s the knee. There is nothing glamorous about the knee. Knee is all about casual, easy going, and sometimes even outright sporty attitude.
indoor adapted millennial length

The millennial-length, knee-revealing pencil skirt adapted for the ‘indoor’ beauty by J.Crew styling.

By embracing your sporty side you are basically trying to mimic the athletic girl’s torso. She knows that her waist can get lost in the clothes, but her gams, with their feisty knees, are always there for her. If you are that very athletic girl and feel that you are struggling with the pencil skirt, then check to see whether it is in fact too long for you. Fold it an inch or two and see if things improve. They should. If they don’t, get busy with colors. If you feel that both your upper and lower body can betray you then go for the mid-knee “Italian length” pencil skirt.

In the slide show above I put together a couple of graceful ways to bring a ladylike torso to the new sporty knee-revealing length. Go and check them out. You will see how these new knee-revealing pencil skirts can make your wardrobe both, versatile and comfy.


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Riding Hems Fri, 01 Apr 2016 19:30:34 +0000 Sand backdrop


The days I am in an I-am-my-own-girl kind of mood I reach for a shorter hem, but make sure it is see-through. A breeze-kissing fabric in a camouflage print: a combination that serves as connecting tissue between my faint features and the rough landscape of the Northern California coast.


breeze kissing camouflage

This is actually a three quarter skirt which creates perfect proportion when paired with husband’s henley’s  or cropped jackets. But if the weather forces me into a coat, I fold the skirt at the waist and turn it into a knee-length, which is leg-length friendly.




For someone with delicate bone structure pairing a stiff, knife-pleated jacquard skirt with riding boots will be as gender bending as it gets. It makes me think of (and feel like) the XIX-early XX century heroine who favors horse riding over afternoon tea gossiping, but is still riding side saddle.



Max Mara double face car coat took this skirt’s medieval mood to the next level, creating a Capuchine silhouette, with a knitted mink beanie mimicking the infamous hood.



The floor-sweeping hem that requires you to hold the fabric away from the messy road does create slight discomfort, but also adds a touch of romance to an overwhelmingly earthy environment.


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Belt Strategies Fri, 11 Mar 2016 05:51:04 +0000 A recent client, Daria, is in St. Petersburg and I am in San Francisco. With an 11 hour time difference between us, we exchanged information via Dropbox once every 24-48 hours. This reminds me of chess sessions, which, in my childhood, were published in the newspaper. The grandmasters executed their moves via snail mail, which were then published in the weekly editions causing a lot of excitement among chess aficionados. Now, deep into the 21st century, Daria and I fight the 11 hour time difference between St. Petersburg and San Francisco and exchange moves over her outfits once a day (which in today’s instant message dominated world equals the snail mail of the 80s) bringing them to perfection and ease.

Talking of ease, one night we worked on her knit dress. It looked… well, it looked drab like most knit dresses do. I suggested she liven it up with a belt. In the next morning’s Dropbox update, I saw Daria’s face lost and confused over the belt performing its magic, turning the plain-Jane sweater dress into a sartorial nightmare. Who would ever think that a little, boring, brown jersey  could stir emotions of any voltage? But the belt is indeed a powerful tool.
This is the bread and butter of a style blog. Now I have a case. The cliché “just throw on a belt” advice turns into a style essay: the dos and don’ts of belting your jersey.

This is the bread and butter of a style blog. Now I have a case. The cliché “just throw on a belt” advice turns into a style essay: the dos and don’ts of belting your jersey.

First and foremost, never ever, ever clutch your belt on your waist over a jersey dress (or jersey anything). A sharply clutched waist is a classic mechanism that reigned over a female silhouette before Coco Chanel manipulated jersey from lingerie into the garment department. In order for jersey to retain the status Coco fought for it to have, it needs an über carefree way around accessories. Take the belt. Never tighten it up over jersey; rather throw it in there. Give it some freedom gained by purchasing your belt one size up. Or better yet, do your belt-shopping in the Dries and Dolce men’s section.


Dropped down beltGiven the semantics of the ubiquitous advice, it seems only natural that all belts should be worn loosely these days. Yet time and time again I see boutique stylists clutching belts on the wasp waists of their shoppers who examine themselves in those slimming mirrors, evaluating yet another knit dress. To understand why the belt-snatching-over-jersey trick could possibly still be so popular among shop assistants, I ran a quick search on Pinterest. The review of ‘knit dress’ images revealed that jersey dresses featuring belts tightly clutched on waists basically fall into two categories.

First, a Victoria’s Secret repertoire. In the modeling world VS models go as ‘curvy’, but in the real world of gently sloped shoulders and childbearing hips, VS angels look pretty square and their pushed-up B cups only enhance their gladiator appeal. In the real world, such a physique translates into a teen body, which is a major demographic of the brand. Those budding curves acquire a certain degree of femininity when a belt is clutched over a knit dress that traces its origins to lingerie. But, this does nothing for a fully developed feminine figure.


The second scenario of waist-defining belts worn over jersey revolves around elaborate creations of top-tier brands like Chanel and McQueen. The level of details in those is so intricate and the dressmaking process so complex that it balances out the humble jersey fabric and gives the classic waist-clutching maneuver a twist. Yet it still calls for a boyish, rectangular body.   This dynamics  means some  some counter-intuitive actions. On a boyish trunk, belts slip down naturally forming a dropped waist. But the well-pronounced curve seems to cry for a belt snatched at its narrowest point. It is ironic, but with the newer, softer fabrics and ubiquitous knits, it is androgynous gals who actually look swell with belts parked on their waists. Ladies with softer, feminine curves will have to work their belts over jersey into an area below the waist to make it look carelessly thrown over. This appeases the classic feminine beauty call for ‘proper’ with the undergarment nature of jersey.


But, not all belts styles will succumb to that. Which  was exactly what caused Daria’s jersey-belt sartorial nightmare. Carefully placed below the waist, as instructed, her wide shocking pink cummerbund seemed to squeeze her hips like a chastity belt, with an oversized round matching buckle looking like Madonna-Cindy Lauper face-off item. The width of the belt hindered the ease required for jersey accessorizing. The attention grabbing round buckle that found itself practically in the pubic area took this sartorial fail to a whole new level.


About-the-Belt-Niina-Belt-AloneThe careless feeling that the belt is assigned to bring to a jersey outfit is typically delivered by a buckle located slightly- or not so slightly- off center. But not all buckles are naturals at that. Buckles of various geometric shapes that match the surface of the belt typically emanate a certain degree of formality. This means they prefer to sit on the waist or at least go through the loops and enjoy their solar plexus alignment. You cannot exactly throw them over clothes. These guys like to be placed. They are also known for forming more amiable relationship with fabrics of some pedigree.  Buckles contrasting to the belt in material or color (metal, plastic, rhinestones) will be happy to loose their solar plexus connection and play the asymmetrical card, wandering freely between the waist and hip area. So do seamless buckles, even if they are covered with a belt matching material. They are down to earth, easy going, and are true egalitarians when it comes to pairing with various fabrics.


Width-wise I see three scenarios:


  • The really skinny belt, a quarter of an inch wide, is a wonderful throw-over-jersey option because it needs no adjustment for gently pronounced curves. The buckle will travel easily and won’t make you feel clumsy. The trick is to make an inherently ladylike skinny belt agree with genetically casual jerseys. To get the look you want, simply make your skinny belt double. Or triple. This will create a casual vibe and make for a sought-after combination of lady-like and laid-back appeal. One thing you will need to watch out for is your shoes. Three, two, or one, skinny belts demand matching delicacy from your shoes.
  • Belts ½ to 1 inch wide are true workhorses. They accommodate gentle curves beautifully, but unlike their ¼ inch skinny siblings are less fussy about the shoes. Double or single, they are equally good. I rely on this one heavily to go with my Valentino ‘pointies’ and Brunello combats alike.
  • Belts  wider than an inch promise a head-turn, but can be pretty nasty when you try to throw them over jersey. They like to be parked on the waist (or stabilized with the loops). You will have better luck if you go for a contour belt; it is slightly curved and has the shape of a banana, thus forming a dropped waistline over your jerseys and silk tunic dresses. This body-complementing cut requires a larger piece of leather and produces a lot more leftovers than simple straight belts. It is therefore more expensive, but at least you know what you’re paying for.


All in all, when it comes to jersey belting, less is more and careless is key. Happy jersey-belting to all of you!




Enjoy more loosely belted jersey ideas.


Ralph Lauren,  2015




Peter Stigter 


Brunello Cucinelli


Rosie Huntington Whiteley



Jane Birkin

Michael KorsMichael Kors

katemossabouthtebelt Kate Moss



Ralph Lauren Fall 2015

]]> 0 Farewell to 2015 Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:12:20 +0000 I have some thoughts on New Year Resolutions; it’s a bit late in the game, I know, but oh well. A friend of mine and a wonderful Russian designer, Svetlana Levadnaja, posted on her Instagram that every December 31, she finds half an hour to sit down and go through all the good and important things that happened to her during the year. I got excited about that idea more than putting together New Year’s resolutions, so here are my 2015 milestones; my farewell and thank you to 2015.




MarcelWandersInspiredInterior2015 was the year of the interior for me. We bought our new house in 2013 but that did not bring any interior delights. The real estate market in Silicon Valley started to pick up in 2013. With all the crazy bidding and counter offers, it meant you didn’t get to pick the house you wanted, you just grabbed whatever came your way thanks to your real estate agent’s insider knowledge and, well, connections. This is how we ended up with a typical Los Altos contraption, a house built in an architectural style that I neither like nor understand. At least it was a newly built one. I spent several months mourning my interior hopes and aspirations and then set off looking for the right interior designer. I went through several San Francisco decorators but no one really seemed to get the concept. The traditional designers were pedaling the existing Los Altos ‘luxury’ which makes me lethargic. The contemporary edgy firms savvy in the minimalistic design of SF condos or earthy vibe of Tahoe ranch houses were drafting plans that looked more like a teardown than an interior design.

I was trying to marry three utterly different styles: the aloof elegance of Christopher Guy that appeals to me, Alex’s bold and geometric mix of Ikea and Marimekko, and the American traditional style that was forced on us with the house. All three of us were pulling the project in different directions and it seemed like there was no common ground. But, I was determined to find it, and find it I did. Or rather we did. Independently from one another Alex and I discovered Marcel Wanders, a Dutch designer who seems to have incorporated all three styles in his aesthetic. Bold, elegant, whimsical, with a heavy nod to European traditions, he served as a wonderful inspiration for our Los Altos home. Once I studied and mentally digested his work things seemed to take off.



When trees take precedence over shoes, you know you’ve hit an important milestone.

2015 was the year of the landscape for me. As soon as I thought I knew what to do with the interior, the landscaping jumped right at me with its 0.4 acre of dead grass. Already in poor condition, our front and back yards took a blow from the California drought. Then we neglected both further while struggling with the interior.


My mass mailing on produced five landscape contractors’ visits. Six weeks and a dozen of friendly reminders later, I got three quotes. Two of the contractors explained their delay with “nasty car accidents” they got into on their way from my home to their office. Landscape contractors in Silicon Valley are not hunting for work. They are reportedly booked six months in advance and all lead the life of a supermodel like Naomi Campbell who claims she does not get out of bed for less than $10,000. Since planting roses and lavender on 0.4 acre takes about ten trips out of bed, you do the math. I started moving forward slowly on my own with a trial and error method and a small Mexican contractor firm. In the fall of 2015 the kids collected their first figs from a newly planted fig tree. I also spent my entire 2015 spring/summer shoe budget on olive trees. When trees take precedence over shoes, you know you’ve hit an important milestone.







I think that many years from now, if I am asked about 2015, I will recall it as the year of Datis Kharrazian’s book Why Isn’t My Brain Working? It has changed my life.


why isnt my brain working kharrazian


2015 was the year I felt conventional medicine had failed me. I have never been a fan of alternative treatments; I would go so far as to say I was an energetic skeptic, but 2015 proved me all wrong. I have been fighting extreme fatigue since 2012. In 2015 I joined scores of people who were disappointed in Western medicine and tried the alternative way. An osteopathic dentist, an orofacial myologist, and a functional medicine practitioner were the doctors who helped me.


I ordered Kharrazian’s book on the recommendation of one of my doctors; when it arrived I laughed out loud. Two inches thick, the text-heavy folio looked like foolproof sedation material. I opened it primarily to make my check mark. But, four hours later when I finally took my eyes off of it, I was a different person. It completely changed me forever. The book is about the brain-gut connection, explaining how brain abnormalities, such as poor memory, fatigue, or neurological imbalance (depression, anxiety, lack of concentration) are more often than not caused by our diet.


The net result is “eat more broccoli and less sugar” which seems obvious enough and does not require reading a two inch thick folio. But I never cared about the net result. I cared about why. Understanding all the intricacies of the cause-effect relationship is what moves and inspires me. Kharrazian possesses a rare talent for explaining complex medical concepts and biochemical processes in our body in an engaging and educating manner. As a patient who went through numerous medical offices I can attest to that. It is a talent and it is a rare one. His writing is very graphic. The last time I was so consumed by a book was a quarter of a century ago. Back then, I was coming back from school, settling in an armchair in my overcoat and rain boots and reading Alexander Dumas’ Vicomte of Bragelonne for hours, until my parents chased me out of the armchair when they came home from work. I was nine.


Now I was reading Kharrazian and my entire life passed in front of my eyes, from elementary school to today. I suddenly understood my behavioral patterns and realized that certain things I couldn’t find an explanation for were actually a manifestation of anxiety or OCD. I found an explanation for some of my failures, fears, obstacles I never managed to overcome, conflicts I got into, and tasks I hadn’t completed. I realized why I felt particularly tired on weekends during middle school. Those were the days my mom baked pancakes and crepes. I have a dairy intolerance. I lived with it for almost thirty years without knowing because it never caused any indigestion symptoms but instead altered my moods and energy levels. As I started an elimination diet in 2015 and then re-introduced diary, I was presented with an opportunity to see how damaging it is for my brain.


This made me edit some foods out of my diet that I never felt motivated enough to stop indulging in. I am just not a dieting breed. I was blessed with a great body and losing those extra couple of pounds just never sounded inspiring enough to pace myself gastronomically. The standard American diet full of frozen and processed foods and morning cereals never made its way into my household; we kept cooking from scratch, Old World style. But I am guilty of croissant breakfasts and cappuccino Viennese served with a heap of whipped cream at 419 University Ave., Palo Alto. I am also big on cheeses and all things gourmet that tend to be cream based, as well as anything Herr Mendl. If you asked me whether I’d prefer a morning cappuccino Viennese or a better body, I’d go for a cappuccino, simply because my body is just good enough.  But, once I learned that the price of that cappuccino was actually my ability to concentrate and my energy level, it was deleted.


I wish I had known it all sooner, but I am glad I know it now. And it was 2015 that brought it all to me. I am thankful to 2015 and looking forward to 2016.


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