Things I wish my mother had told me. Thoughts on the book.

Book Review: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me, Lessons in Grace and Elegance by Lucia Van Der Post. John Murray Publishers, UK, London 2008.

I chose to write about this book because of its title. The mention of My Mother brings to mind so many things… Personal things I wished my mother had told me years ago, and most importantly, things I have to say to my daughters! This is going to be a review with that in mind.

Lucia Van Der Post is an associate editor of the Financial Times’s How to Spent it magazine, and has also written for the New Statesman, Departures and many others. She writes about style and luxury and has a devoted audience.

Inside  the Book

The book covers a variety of themes such as: How to Wear Clothes; How to look Good; Love, Marriage and Happiness; Perfect Presents; Fun and Games. Her Lessons in Grace and Elegance derive from personal experience and are solidified by her proven reputation as lifestyle writer. She offers valuable advice such as a list entailing what is worth spending money on. There is also her “golden rules” for shopping at the sales. Her advise is timeless and it extends beyond dressing elegantly and looking smart. She also offers insights into being a good host, a stylish professional and a delightful friend.

Going back to the title, there is clearly a positive message. You don’t have to worry about the things your mother didn’t tell you; you will find everything in here! And you do find everything in there.

What do I tell my daughters?

I think this book is practical rather than inspirational; it does cover everything in a very comprehensive way. More importantly, this book made me think about my role as a mother. It made me think about all the things I have to tell my daughters. It made me realize that I’m not here to teach them the basics and remind them to do their homework. My role is a lot more complex than that. It is equally important that they know how to take good care of themselves, how to manage their life, their manners, their feminine questions and aspirations. I’m not sure how much help I actually got from this book, but the title stayed with me over the years and made me feel more responsible as a mother. I hope I will be able to teach them how to determine their unique identity, how to define their personal look, how to set their priorities and lead their lives in a balanced way. Elegance and style included!

I would love to read your thoughts on this. As a mother what do I need to tell to my daughters? What would be the most important lesson? How do I teach them without being overbearing? Any ideas?

 

 

How to wear black successfully. Five tips you need to know.

I’m not here as a fashion expert, but rather as a friend. I’m not here to determine trends, nor to echo the voice of the fashion giants. I am here to summarise the basics for you, and make you realise that exuding style is easier then you think.

Forget the extravagant suggestions of the glossy magazines. We both live on Earth, both legs firmly on the ground. As I said when I talked about our community we are leading busy lives with other priorities. I know. But I also know that fashion and style can make you feel good; both as a professional and as a woman. Never too late to do this. You can, and you must allow yourself this luxury. The luxury of making conscious choices.

The luxury of identifying your perfect style and expressing yourself through your choices. It’s not vanity. It’s self-respect and you deserve this. And this is the purpose of my posts, to guide you to the right direction for yourself. I am not suggesting you suddenly ignore your responsibilities at work or at home and run around buying clothes. I am merely saying it’s important to find the right balance between your responsibilities and your right to nurture your personality. So have no fear. I am here to give you quick tips about the basics without the intimidation of the fashion experts.

Well, black is a fashion must, isn’t it? Everybody knows that. Safe choice!

Especially in relation to French style and that je ne sais quoi, black serves a purpose. Fashion editors and designers all too often wear just black.

Nothing more popular than LBD, the Little Black Dress. There is no book or magazine that doesn’t mention this. And a black suit, coat, pants …

However, for the amateur wearing black is not as easy as it sounds. It is all too easy to end up looking drab, neglected, boring or like a grieving widow. There are a few elements that require special attention and make all the difference.

1. Sharp tailoring

The outfit has to be the right size. The stitches need to stand straight on your shoulders, the neckline hanging closely around the neck, the trousers defining your legs. Too tight and you are not comfortable, too loose and it’s a sad look.

2. Well groomed

Don’t even think about wearing black without immaculate hair, clear skin and neat manicure. Black makes every detail stand out, so make sure you are well groomed and don’t forget your teeth. Clean, white teeth guarantee the best smile. This simply requires the regular visits to the dentist twice a year, and a consistent care of your skin. Expensive treatments not needed, but that’s another post.

3. Red lipstick

It goes fantastically well with black. Makes the right contrast, exudes femininity without being too much. Red lips and a colourful outfit can be risky but red lips and black dress is just the epitome of style. If red lips are not your type, still apply makeup that defines your femininity, your eyes or your lips. I’m sure you know the rule about not emphasising both at the same time. Do either.

4. Be careful with your accessories

As always, shoes, bag and jewellery can make or break the whole look. To be on the safe side, choose shoes and bag that are also black. But you could go for a bold coloured bag that would make the look pop. In that case, choose jewellery that is minimal or none at all. Alternatively go for a big bold necklace and keep all else plain.

5. Be careful with textures

Not all black is the same. The fabric matters. Silk, cotton, wool, velvet, synthetics, they all reflect light differently. When combining materials and textures check them beforehand in natural light. To be on the safe side, also check them in strong artificial light to make sure a thin fabric doesn’t turn too revealing under the unexpected light at night or day.

Treat black as a canvas for your beauty and your style. Make sure you always present the best version of you. Love yourself, your style, your choices!  Wear black with confidence and as always, don’t forget to smile!

 

Revealed: How to determine your perfect style in 5 steps

It’s all about style isn’t it? Stylish home, stylish look, stylish life. Easier said than done. So what can we do to accomplish this? The main thing is to determine your perfect style. Determine the images that reflect your personal preferences. Everyone is different and has different views on things, so embrace this. Determine your ideal and bingo! You are half way there. Below you can find 5 easy steps to help you pinpoint the look you prefer. Remove the rest and make choices that support this throughout your life. Once you know your direction you can ignore the sidelines and the distractions.

Step 1: Look for the archetype

Next time you look at magazines, look for the archetypes of each era that still influence and define today’s looks. Look for:

  • Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich or Josephine Baker from the 20’s and 30’s with All That Jazz and Art Deco.
  • Any model portraying Christian Dior’s iconic New Look from the 50’s. See Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and Grace Kelly in Hitchcock movies.
  • Jackie O and Twiggy. Audrey Hepburn dressed by Givenchy. Look at the iconic scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Then again, you might prefer the bohemian look from the 70’s, the groupie look or the glamorous Studio 54 influences.
  • You might prefer the Old School prettiness of the Royals or the pop culture of Vivienne Westwood.
Step 2: Choose what you like

Choose the image you like best and keep it in your mind. Think about it and determine the elements that speak to you. Is it the colours, the shapes, the idea behind it? Do you want to feel sexy like Brigitte Bardot or pretty like Audrey Hepburn? Is the bohemian ease more you? Whatever it is, keep it close to your heart.

Step 3: Reality check part I

Well, now it’s time for the reality check. Take an honest look in the mirror and decide on your best bits. What do you love about your body that you can showcase with your true style? Forget about dieting, exercising, etc. Now, today how can your beautiful eyes smile more? Isolate the elements that flatter you and ignore the rest.

Step 4: Reality check part II

Look at your life style, your everyday activities, and your workplace. Look at who you are and who you want to be and balance the two. Balance them in a way that is the most flattering and the most respectful of your identity. No point investing in heels when your life involves running around all day. There are so many choices in sport shoes today, they can be as ornamented or as plain as you like.

Step 5: Discipline

Last point is discipline. Yes, discipline comes into this as well! Once you identify your look, stick to it. You buy nothing out of this spectrum of colours and shapes. This pays off in style and in money. You don’t end up with unfit pieces that don’t match with anything. Impulse buying can be uplifting, but treat it with scepticism. And don’t mix different styles together. Every piece has an identity; it belongs to a category. Nothing worse than a boho dress with a sharp jacket. You can mix and match options but they need to belong to the same category. Let your message be clear.

On a final note, pinpoint the image you like and have fun with it.

Let it be your signature, a point of reference for your choices. No style endeavour is going to be complete unless you look at your mind as well as your body. Make sure your choices respect your unique personality.

Make your dressing ritual a source of confidence that leads to a beautiful day.

And smile!

The Beginning

 

Thanks for joining me!

This blog is about relationships, style and etiquette. It was inspired by my effort to convince my teenage daughter that there is indeed a happy medium between:

  • modesty and fashion
  • good manners and individuality
  • respecting the rules and challenging them

Perhaps a challenge for us adults too, huh?

My struggle to find balance gave birth to the idea for a book and also this blog. I want to cherish every relationship, respect each individual personality, but at the same time there is a line to draw.

I am here to say:

  • Let’s all be polite again, at home, on the street, at work and online.
  • Let’s find a way to express ourselves genuinely whilst wholeheartedly respecting all others.

I want to explore and promote individuality and honest relationships. I want to communicate boundaries without harming affection.

On a practical note, individuality is expressed through:

  • how we speak and what we say
  • how we look and how we present ourselves in each social situation
  • what choices we make and how we act on them

Those are the issues that I plan to explore in this blog.

The theory and the practice of savoir-faire, in an honest and thoughtful way.