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7 Dressing Do's and Don'ts For Fall
by Janet Behmer and Shirley Pierce

Fall is a bonanza for both the clueless as well as the "clothes-a-holic". The designs, colors and fabrics are rich and lush. And since fall clothing is designed with more fabric to keep you warm, you can use the extra material to cover or sculpt the body part of your choice.

Since common sense, every-day dressing is our thing, let us show you how to shop for fall with your body shape and personal style in mind.

1) Sweaters

If you think of yourself as "too thin", wear your sweater tucked inside your pants. It adds inches around your waist. But if you think of yourself as "too heavy", don't tuck. Also, another don't for women who self-identify as heavy, don't wear chunky cable knits. Stick with cashmere, fine cotton knits and silk/nylon pieces. It gives you the warmth but not the bulk.

Tight sweaters can make you look thinner or bustier than you might like. Don't believe Victoria's Secret. Really tight sweaters on women with extreme bust lines do not belong in the real world.

One Hollywood tip we can pass along regarding turtlenecks is that a lot of "mature" stars (both male and female) use them to hide a neck that they'd rather not call attention to.

The sweater that is a "must have" for every wardrobe is the sweater coat that's thigh-length or longer. They're very trim and very classy. For the rest of our love letter to this classic cut, see "Blazers" below.

2) Shoes/Boots

Fall is the perfect time to match your great leather or "faux" skin shoes with a great bag or belt for a really hot look. If the only thing smaller than your closet is your budget, keep your color choices to the neutrals and your styles basic. Neutrals work with more pieces and basic styles are safer. Trendy or exotic footwear can really trip you up. For instance, trendy "chunky" shoes can wreak havoc with rounder, heavier body profiles and exotic thigh-high boots will devour a woman who is petite.

Shoes are very retro now. The '40's and 50's are back with pointy toes and high heels. The pinched look Betty Davis had in movies wasn't all acting, it was the shoes. If "pain" is not your thing, go for toned-down versions with lower heels and more room for your toes.

If you prefer style over substance, please relegate any boot that can best be described as "galoshes" to the "I don't care how I look" category. This tip goes double for those rain boots that you slip on over your shoes.

3) Colors

The colors for fall are lush and rich - golds, browns, burgundies and rusts. Do buy your basics in any of these timeless shades. Wild and crazy colors are supporting players this year. For a happening look, give the world just a splash of color by wearing busy blouses under blazers, jackets and big shirts.

If you really want to make your mark, try monotone dressing. Pick a color that works for you and offset it with an eye-catching accessory like a scarf or some jewelry (no more than two matching pieces of jewelry at a time please). Just wear the accessory from the breastbone up so it brings attention to your face.

Yes, you can wear white after Labor Day. That rule was made when white was only used in summer-weight fabrics. Now they're called "Winter Whites" and from cashmere to wool and corduroy to leather, they are all to die for.

4) Blazers/Shirt Jackets/Sweater Coats.

Okay, so we mention this fall dressing "do" with all the regularity of Chinese water torture. Do buy a good blazer. It's the Swiss knife of dressing. You can mix and match it with tops and bottoms, dress it up or down and you can cover a torso you'd rather not call attention to. Also do try to own at least one "Duster" length blazer, jacket or sweater. It's instantly classy and elongates the profile.

If you can only afford one blazer, shirt jacket or sweater coat, make it a more conservative cut and a neutral color. It goes with more things and if you choose a darker color, you won't have to take it to the dry cleaners as often. Whatever color you choose just make sure it's one of the three colors you wear most and you can't go wrong.

We can't talk about fall jackets without mentioning coats. We see overstuffed ski parkas and boxy men's coats everywhere. But these styles are verboten if you think you're already "boxy" to begin with. Belted jackets and coats are also "in". However, if your waist isn't as small as you would like, forget the belt or opt for a more flowing beltless style.

5) Skirts/Pants

The second you slip on a skirt or a pair of pants, you are adding bulk If you're big on the bottom, stick with pants or skirts that are slimming but not tight. This year the very slim, almost legging pant should probably not be in your closet. If you're hippy, they make your rearend look like an overstuffed sofa. If you're thin and your thighs are the same size as your upper arms, they will make you look like a walking wishbone. If you think the wishbone-look is attractive, think again.

In the seventies, tucking your pants into your boots was all the rage. Just check Partridge Family re-runs. That look is back. If long legs are not your biggest asset, tucking your pants can literally cut you off at the knees. If your body profile is thick in any area, "tucking" will only make you look lumpier.

"Boot cut" is the word in pants this season. This cut is slightly flared at the bottom so it helps offset your butt if it's not as small as you would like. But no matter what your body type is, keep the angle of the flares slight or you will look like the missing member of Sly and the Family Stone.

Lots of pants are "low cut" now so you can put your belly button on display. Exposing your navel when it's cold outside is totally up to you but this look works best on young girls or women who spend a lot more time at the gym than they do eating.

Skirts are coming in more styles and lengths than ever before. Consider body type and height here. If you're short of stature, skirts can make you appear more so, especially one that stops mid-calf.

Sometimes age is a factor. If you can remember when miniskirts first made their appearance, you are probably too old to wear one. Stick to skirts that are knee length, just above the knee or just below. They work well for almost everyone's shape or age.

Be careful with the shapes of skirts this fall. The pencil skirt is great for hips you don't want to emphasize. The A-line works for slimmer hips, as well as hide heavier thighs. If you have a waist you do not want to emphasize, avoid all around elastic waists. They do no favors for your midsection.

6) Maintenance

Clothes are like kids. If you don't take care of them, they'll fall apart on you at the worst possible time. Clothing manufactured for the fall/winter season should last at least from September to May. If you buy wisely and well, it can last a lifetime. So the challenge is to keep the wear and tear to a minimum.

Do hang or fold your clothing neatly when not in use. Repeated dry cleaning or ironing to get the wrinkles out will shorten the life of your garment.

Do follow the garment's "care" label to avoid the heartbreak of shrinking, shredding or fading. If perspiration is a problem, invest in underarm dress shields or pads. They can be either washable or disposable and can protect against both odor and stains. If you have leather pieces, there are tons of products to protect, clean and waterproof them.

Do mothproof your closet. We don't believe in cruelty to animals. But if moths treat your velvets like an all-you-can-eat buffet, you must declare war. A tailor can render some moth holes invisible but a pre-emptive strike is recommended.

7) Hats

Hats are very personal. There are no strict rules on what shape works for you. However, if you are a larger lady, try to find larger brimmed hats to keep your proportions in perspective. If you are petite, a close-fitting cloche will look great. Berets work for almost everyone. But like jeans, you have to keep trying them on until you find the one that makes you say, "Hot stuff comin' through!".

No matter what you buy this fall remember our golden rule. "Don't just buy what's 'in'. Always buy what's right for you." The wrong choice can leave you standing out in the cold.


Janet Behmer and Shirley Pierce are the authors of the book that's changing the way women think about clothes and themselves -- Dress Me Now: How to Make Your Wardrobe Behave. http://www.dressmenow.com

Copyright (c) 2006 DressMeNow.com. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be copied, published, broadcast, or otherwise distributed or reproduced without the prior written permission of DressMeNow.com.

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