Nurturing Beauty Style Secrets Blog

Are Your Stories Keeping You From Feeling Good About Yourself?

When you look in the mirror what do you see?  Be honest.  Where do your eyes immediately go?  To your wide hips, a big tummy, heavy calves, wrinkles around your eyes?  Do you assume that everyone else sees them, too and judges you because of them?

Yes, you do.  And, what’s worse, you make up stories about what others think and then feel sad, discouraged or angry.

You’re not alone.  I’ve done it, too, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned from it and help give you some peace and relief.

I do not remember the exact moment that I became aware that my legs were different from other women’s, but when I look back at pictures now I can see that they were always that way.  As a 3 year old, my legs were sweet—I mean how can you not love a toddler’s legs!  Beyond that, however, I always felt like I had been shortchanged when it came to my legs.  While my friends had tanned, shapely legs, mine were as pale as pale can be and crooked!

As I got older, I became increasingly sensitive about how I dressed and what my legs looked like in what I was wearing.  I have a vivid memory of my junior year in college when friends wanted me to be in a picture.  Since I was wearing shorts the answer was no—no picture!  I went so far as to sit down on the stairs refusing to move until they pointed the camera in another direction.  No one understood my embarrassment and discomfort, but they finally relented anyway.

Silly, I know, but recognizing that I am knock-kneed and hiding that fact became an all-consuming pastime.  As a teenager in the 1970’s, the trend was to wear skirts above the knee.  That meant that since we were not allowed to wear pants in high school my legs were exposed every day!  This was so uncomfortable for me.  I was absolutely certain that every time someone even glanced down in my presence that they were chuckling at my crooked legs or, worse, were disgusted by them.  In my mind, I made up elaborate stories about why they thought my legs were so funny looking and what they were thinking.  “How could she wear that with legs like THOSE!”  Or, “Does she know her legs bend in a funny way?”  Or, “Poor Ginger, I’m so glad I don’t have legs like hers.”  And, on and on.  Why I thought my legs could garner that much interest is beyond me, but I had lost all perspective.

What was causing all that angst?

Stories!  That’s all they were.  Sure, I don’t love the shape of my legs, but what really caused me the most distress were the stories I created—crazy stories about what I thought people were thinking about my legs.  For all I know those people were wondering what to have for lunch or, hey, maybe even admiring my shoes.  They were not examining and critiquing my legs.

 

A few days ago, I was reminded of my propensity for making up stories about what others are thinking when I read a recent blog post by Cheryl Richardson.  In it she talks about how one day she was not able to give her cat, Poupon, his usual morning bowl of almond milk and she started creating stories about how upset he was and how neglected he felt.  As she caught herself mid-story, she laughed as she realized that she had no way of knowing what Poupon was thinking and not only that, but she was reacting to her own fabricated stories.  Meanwhile, Poupon had moved on.  He just wanted to sit her lap or look out the window.  He wasn’t pouting or planning revenge.

My stories about my legs and what others were thinking were exactly the same.  I was sure others were making fun of me, feeling sorry for me or were aghast that I would wear something that drew attention to my (unattractive) legs and I reacted accordingly by always wearing pants.  If I chose to wear a skirt or a pair of skinny pants that made the curve of my legs more pronounced, I would be sure always to stand with my weight on my right leg and my left leg slightly bent to offset its crookedness.  To be honest, I did that for so long that I still do it today purely out of habit.

Phew!  What a lot of expended energy on something that most likely no one else noticed.  And, like Cheryl, I could get quite elaborate in my fantasy world of how others were judging me.  None of it (really, none!) was based on fact.  I made it all up and then allowed myself to feel badly because of the stories I was telling myself. 

Last week I took a break from writing this blog post to travel to New York City to do a 2-day workshop.  As I walked into South Station in Boston to catch my train, I was wearing one of my favorite coats.  It is bright mustard yellow fleece with beautiful detailing at the bottom, as you can see here.

I noticed, as I was walking around South Station amidst a sea of black and gray, that I stood out.  I could see people looking at me and became immediately aware of the topic we are discussing here.

This is a very important point: Because I love this coat and feel great wearing it, my self-confidence was high.  I didn’t care whether anyone else liked it or not and I didn’t cringe and second guess myself when I noticed someone looking.  It is a very loud color (especially when everyone else within a hundred yards is wearing black) and if I hadn’t felt great wearing it, it would have been easy to imagine that people were thinking it’s an ugly color or who was I to stand out so much or for me to worry that I didn’t look as good in it as I thought.

Yes, of course, in a perfect world we would all have super duper high self-esteem and not worry about what others think.  We wouldn’t spend time making up stories about how others are judging us and we certainly wouldn’t be judging ourselves about how we look.  But, this is a world where unrealistic standards of beauty are the norm and especially as we get older we feel more and more like they are out of our reach.  This is where our own self-confidence comes in.  When you feel great about how you look, the anxiety dissipates and you don’t find yourself in the midst of an anxiety-ridden story of your own imagination.

Check yourself the next time you feel a story coming on!  If you’re walking down the street and people are smiling at you and you rush to check to see if you have something in your teeth or, oh, no, what if there’s a coffee stain on your jacket it’s now visible for all the world to see!  Hey, it couldn’t be just because they want to extend a friendly greeting or that they were admiring your sunglasses or necklace, right?  Why assume that the only reason they would make eye contact is because something is wrong!

If you find that you have a tendency to make up stories that relate to body image and personal style, remember that these two components are critical:

  1. Create a personal style and wardrobe you love.  When you feel good about how you look, one of these three scenarios will be true: you won’t notice when others look at you, you won’t care what they are thinking, or you’ll just assume they think you look good, too!  Wear a color you love and that makes your eyes sparkle.  Or, instead of rushing out of the house without any accessories on, stop for a minute and put on your favorite necklace or a pretty scarf.  Maybe you always wear the same comfortable shoes and haven’t even opened the box of new shoes you bought last month.  Now’s the time!
  2. If you are going to make up stories, make them positive and affirming.  Catch yourself the next time you are going down a long, dreary road of self-incrimination and shame.  You can turn it around!  Imagine that you are walking down the street and someone walks by you with a look of disapproval on her face.  Rather than assume it’s because she thinks your skirt is too short, your pants are too tight or your shoes are ugly, create a new story.  Perhaps instead it’s because she got bad news at work a couple of minutes ago or she suddenly remembered she forgot to bring her umbrella and it’s starting to rain.  Or, it could be that she’s just thinking about the board meeting she is on her way to and she’s lost in thought—looking more through you than at you.  Hey, maybe she’s even thinking, ‘Wow, I wish I looked that good in that blouse.’

If you are someone who has a relentlessly strong sense of self and you don’t ever make up stories about what others are thinking about how you look, more power to you.  You have the advantage of being able to put your inner strength to good use and empower others to feel good about who they are.  Someday I will get there completely, but for now I am happy that I am so far ahead of where I was when I sat down on the stairs as a teenager because I didn’t want my legs photographed by dear friends.

If body image isn’t an issue for you, instead be mindful of where you might make up stories in other areas of your life.  Maybe you do it about measuring up at work or worry that others question your effectiveness as a parent.  I certainly don’t wish any negative story-telling situations you on.  I just know that these insecurities can be insidious and creep in when you least expect it.  Stay alert and watch for signs that you can nip in the bud.

This week be hyper aware of every time you make up a story about what someone else is thinking about you.  The more you do this the earlier you will catch yourself and the less personal angst you will feel.  In fact, it can be a fun exercise—one you can laugh at as you go into (and pull yourself out of) storytelling mode!

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Time You Get Dressed

Every time you look in the mirror to get dressed you wonder who the woman is staring back. You shake your head in disbelief. When did you let your wardrobe dwindle to a handful of outfits that are easy and safe—none of which makes you feel fabulous? You sadly acknowledge that you have learned to settle for passable!

Sure, you can get out the door each morning in a jiffy, but it does absolutely nothing to help you feel good about yourself. It can even go so far as to undermine your self-confidence and take up space in your head as you push back the concerns about who might notice that your pants are a tad too short or that you’ve worn the same tired jacket three times this week. You feel aggravated as you tug at the waistband of your pants or keep checking to make sure your bra isn’t peeking out of the neckline. It’s exhausting, but you’ve gotten used to it.

Phew! Take a breath. It does not have to be that way forever and I’m going to show you how to get unstuck.

The truth is that when you feel good about how you look, your self-confidence soars and you waste no energy worrying about what others think. It’s a win-win on so many levels!

The problem is that if your wardrobe has slowly deteriorated and you are at a loss as to how to resuscitate it, the wardrobe gremlins take over and you either spend time convincing yourself that you don’t care or you worry that you do care!

Let me assure you that I am so much less concerned about what others think. As I mentioned, that takes care of itself when you feel good about how you look. So, instead of trying to please everyone else, we can put all our attention to helping you create a look and wardrobe you love. 

I am also not concerned with how much your clothes cost or whether you are dressed to the nines each time you leave the house. Creating a look you love has nothing to do with being fancy or spending a lot of money.

Creating a wardrobe you love has to do with listening to your heart and soul and regularly using a few guidelines to help you dress with intention instead of by default.

Before I share the 3 questions to ask yourself every time you get dressed, let me be perfectly clear. These 3 questions are the first step in creating a look you love. They will not solve every fashion dilemma you’ve ever had. But if you stay true to the heart of these questions you will make progress and every step forward gets you closer to how you want to feel in your clothes.

Start right now.

Take a look at what you are wearing and ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Do You Love It?

Even if you don’t, on first glance, know why you do or don’t love the garment, it gets the conversation flowing! What do you love about the outfit you are wearing right now? There has to be something or you wouldn’t have put it on. Perhaps it’s simply that it’s comfortable. Great…hold that thought. Maybe it’s that it’s black so you feel like you are getting the best slimming potential from it. Okay…good. It could be that, after really focusing, you realize that you love the neckline because it shows off your neck and shoulders and allows you to wear pretty jewelry. Whatever it is, write it down.

When you practice this question often enough, it will become your fashion mantra.

2. If You Saw It In a Store Today, Would You Buy It Again?

Before you answer, I want to remind you of one thing. The answer has to come from your heart—from the place of, “Yes, I feel fabulous wearing this and I wish I had 3 more.” If it speaks more to that ‘safe’ place of, “well, it’s cozy and I can hide in it,” then that’s not the answer you want. The question is, ‘would you buy it again because you feel amazing wearing it?’

Now, let’s take this to another level. Whether you answer yes or no, make a list of all the reasons why you would or wouldn’t buy it again. This is very valuable information for your next shopping trip! If you wouldn’t buy it again because you feel frumpy in it (even though it is a good color and is comfortable), then that’s good to know. Or, maybe you are somewhere in between. You love the print, but the style makes you feel like you have to hold your stomach in all the time, in which case, note both of these responses.

After a while you will begin to see patterns. Who knew you loved blue so much or that you feel best in a v-neck but that you tend to wear turtlenecks to keep warm. Maybe you love the fabric of the sweater or the ruching on the sides of the dress or the buttons on your favorite jacket. Consider everything. The next step will help you put it all together.

3. What Could You Add/Change To Make This Outfit Feel More Special? 

Let’s go back to the fact that you love blue (or whatever color you discover for yourself) and you prefer v-necks over turtlenecks, but you worry about staying warm. Even if you are dressed head to toe in black or gray, you can add some blue by way of a beautiful scarf. While you might not think the outfit is perfect, you’ve taken a step forward. This is big! You now have the benefit of the beautiful blue color and you can stay warm, too, without resorting to a turtleneck sweater. Here’s a pretty example:

(For help knowing how to tie a scarf check out my scarf-tying video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyerfgBfNro)

Another option is that you like the top, but it needs tailoring. Otherwise you will continually fuss with it by trying to keep the sleeves rolled up or folding the hem under so it isn’t too long and that’s just plain annoying. Bring it to the tailor right away. (Even if the top only cost $20 and you have to invest $15, you will have a $35 top that you love and will feel great wearing as opposed to a top that aggravates you every time you wear it.)

Maybe it’s less about adding something and more about combining pieces differently. Maybe the top is great, but it’s long and has some flow to it and instead of wearing it with old, sloppy jeans like you do now, it needs skinny jeans with knee high boots or a pair of wedge sandals.

Or, as we talked about in the first question, if you love the slimming quality of black, perhaps there’s another color that will offer the same advantage. Say, aubergine, merlot or midnight blue. Guess what? This aubergine top from Ann Taylor will be equally as slimming as black:

Chiffon Top Ann Taylor

If you do these three steps regularly you will transform your wardrobe. It has to happen.

When you break the pattern of throwing something on simply because it is safe and easy, you will feel happier when you look in the mirror.

It only takes seconds to stop and ask yourself:

  • Do you love it?
  • Would you buy it again if you saw it in the store?
  • What could you add/change about the outfit to make it feel better?

Start right now and see what happens. What have you got to lose? Nothing. And, each new awareness will bring you closer to feeling fabulous about the way you look, and you deserve to feel fabulous!

Do You Fill Your Closet With Black Because It’s Easy?

Black, black, black and more black. That’s what you have in your closet. Admit it (I promise you are not alone), you wear black out of habit. It’s easy, it’s slimming, there’s tons of it out there and it has a reputation of being chic and versatile. Phew! With that much going for it, who wouldn’t want an entire wardrobe in black?

The problem is that while black is certainly all of those things, I don’t see anything there that says anything about it looking fabulous on you!

Black is:

  • Easy…check
  • Slimming…check
  • It’s everywhere…check
  • Chic…well, maybe
  • Flattering on you? Hmmm…

With all the black hype out there it’s easy to assume you look great in it and so when it comes to buying clothes you think the more black the merrier. But, hold up a second. Before you drown in a sea of black (oh, yes, and a smidgeon of gray) clothes, let’s rethink your love affair with black.

Here are two critical things to consider before concealing yourself head to toe in black.

  • Other Colors Look Great, Too

Even if you look great in black, designers do make clothes in other colors and some of those will look beautiful on you. You don’t need the entire rainbow of colors in your closet. You just need a few exquisite colors to support and complement you. If you don’t know what those colors are, now (before you do any spring shopping) is the time to find out. If you don’t have a well-trained color consultant near you, then you can always start with the four colors that look great on everyone: forest green, deep periwinkle, deep teal and watermelon.

4 best colors

  • Your Personality Affects Your Color Choices

The other day I was shopping with a client who looks terrific in black. Her natural coloring (dark hair, light skin) embraces black, but if she dresses ALL in black, it squelches her fun, brightly-spirited personality. Head to toe black feels heavy on her UNLESS it has some fun design elements to it, like polka dots, a loose weave or cutouts that let her skin shin through.

Later that same day, I was shopping with my redheaded client. Her peaches and cream complexion complemented her hair and, as a result, black looks very intense on her. Lots of solid black seriously overwhelms her. That said, she will be presenting at a conference later this month and we did get her this amazing Joseph Ribkoff black coat jacket with sequins.

coat

It’s perfect. Why? Because the black speaks to the intense part of her personality that we dubbed ‘a little bit dangerous’ and the stunning style of the coat along with the sequins perfectly addresses the part of her that is elegantly alluring. Everyone in the store commented on how gorgeous she looked when she had it on. Her energy matches the intensity of the black and the sparkle softens it and allows her elegant nature to shine, too. It’s a bit of a sensitive balancing act, but in this case it paid off.

Then there is Diane. Two of Diane’s inner beauty words are delicate, natural beauty and fun. As you can see below, neither of those words is evident when she wears black..

dianebeforedianeafter

Photo Credit: Meri Bond Photography

Granted, the before outfit is not exactly ‘fun’ anyway, but when you see her in an equally business-like outfit in colors that support her, her delicate, natural beauty shines through and allows her ‘fun’ side to be seen more easily. Not to mention that she ‘feels’ more fun in the lighter outfit. The intensity of black swallows her up—both her physical being and her inner essence. This is not to say that she always has to wear light colors, but she must be very specific about the dark colors she wears (shades of navy, brown and deep teals are lovely) and how they interact with other colors. Too much contrast easily overshadows her. (You can see more pictures of Diane on my website.)

Are you wondering if anyone looks great in all black? The answer is absolutely! Heather Dominick is a perfect example. She’s a brilliant, intuitive, “EnergyRich” coach who rocks black. That’s because one of her inner beauty words is ‘stillness.’ Black has that qu ality of stillness like no other color and when Heather wants to embody the essence of stillness nothing supports her more than wearing all black. When she adds a touch of shimmer, sparkle or shine, she adds a feeling of ‘effortless shining’ to her presence—another of her inner beauty words—and the effect is magical as you can see here where she was on stage at one of her live events.

hands

The bottom line is that if you are filling your closet with black, solely (rather than soul-y) because it is easy, slimming, versatile and everywhere you look, then you are missing two of the key ingredients critical to creating a personal style you adore—colors that look gorgeous on you and colors that support you at a soul level.

Think about this the next time you shop. Pay attention to how you look and feel in black as compared to other colors.

That’s what Pam K. did as she shares here: “Your lessons are still working on me every day: I saw a top I loved that had GREAT styling and was so true to my words…except it was in black. I ordered it anyway, thinking I could go for black since I loved the style and cut. In fact, it didn’t sing on me like it did on the model and after wearing far more flattering colors recently I found I couldn’t stand the morbid black! So back it went.”

If you do decide to buy a black garment, make sure you are doing it because you look and feel amazing in it, not because it is easy. Really tuning in to what feels great will serve you in the long run and before you know it you will end up with a wardrobe you adore. How do you make black work in your wardrobe or have you eliminated it altogether?

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered ~ The Best & Worst Spring Fashion Trends!

After a long, cold winter, spring fashion designers have a tendency to get a little crazy with floral mania, explosions of color and a variety of exposed body parts. While it is certainly a welcomed relief from the bleak winter doldrums, it can also be a bit of a shock! How do you make sense of it all? No worries. That’s what the “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” seasonal trend update is all about.

I have a grand time revealing the upcoming trends, some of which are bewitching, others are quite bothersome and there are always a few that are downright bewildering. I’ll help you decipher what trends are worth pursuing and which require some serious eye-rolling!

Keep reading and find out what will make its way to your closet and what will stay on the racks.

BEWITCHED

Color

Just the fact that there is color after a dark, subdued winter, feels good. As you will see in a bit, the extremes of pastels and primary colors leaves an entire middle range unexplored. As much as they say the super soft colors and very bright colors are hot, you will still find pretty medium-toned colors, especially blues and greens this season. In addition, metallics are popular and can be very fun to explore for your wardrobe. For instance, a great pair of metallic shoes can be worn with almost anything!  Like these …

Metallic Shoes

Collar-less Jackets

These jackets have an elegance and simplicity that is stunning.  This one also incorporates the lace trend for this season and comes in this gorgeous periwinkle. Wear it over a pair of slim pants or a pencil skirt.

Periwinkle Jacket

Summer Sweaters

I don’t know about you, but I get cold even in May or June. New England weather is fickle and you don’t know if you’ll be bundling up in 40 degree days with rain or shedding clothes as the temperatures climb to 90 with high humidity. So you have to plan ahead and having a sweater or two that doesn’t look like you’ve pulled it out of the cedar chest in desperation is great. Here is a simple style in a popular blue this season.

Summer Sweater

Colorful Biker Jackets

In the early spring when there’s still a nip in the air, this faux leather biker jacket in a fun color can be just perfect. This lovely blush tone is very in and actually is flattering on a lot of skin tones.

Biker Jacket

Fringe

This is a tricky trend. I’m intrigued by it, although I’m not sure it’s generally my style, and it can easily become very hippie-ish or a little over-the-top (it’s hard to believe how many bathing suits are available with fringe!). Here is a very understated fringed tee if you want to add a nod to this fun trend.

Fringe Top

Bejeweled

Not sure you want a lot of sparkle and shimmer all over your body? This pair of bejeweled sandals will look great with a pair of white jeans or white linen pants. Pretty with just the right amount of jewels and combined with metallic faux leather that is so popular (and flattering) this season!

Sandals

Button Down Shirts

If you love button down shirts, you are in luck!  They are everywhere.  You’ll find the classic styling, white button downs with unusual detail, bejeweled collars…you name it, the button down will have it.  If they are ‘you,’ go wild!

Wide Leg Trousers

These are a nice contrast from the skinny pants that have ruled the fashion world for several years now.  You do not have to be six feet tall to wear them, but if you are petite, you might want to skip this trend or be sure the trousers come close to your natural waist to elongate your leg line.  Then pair them with a fitted shorter top.  Could be an interesting trend to explore.  One word of caution, if the trousers have pleats, leave them on the rack.  They will just add width.  Flat front is much more flattering.

Everything Sheer

As usual, sheer is in for the spring/summer and, with the right layering piece underneath, it can be very pretty, feminine and cool.

BOTHERED

Color

While the spring season is a relief after the starkness of winter, the colors that dominate the season are not always the most flattering. Pretty to look at, not so easy to wear. Radiant Orchid has been highly touted as the color of the season by Pantone. It’s a beautiful color, but doesn’t look good on everyone, especially if you have a lot of rosiness in your cheeks. Here is an example.

Pastels are a seasonal favorite and they are back.  Think of a big basket of Easter eggs and you’ve got an idea of what to expect. If you look best in deep rich colors, you’ll want to ignore these or wear them very sparingly—as an accent to black, white or your favorite neutral.

Orchid Dress
Primary colors have been around for the past couple of seasons and they are still popular. Personally, I wish they’d go away.They are too bright and overpowering for many people to wear well. And, this season they are showing them all worn together – forget it, you’ll disappear completely in that blast of color!

Black and white, as usual, is a strong (and popular) combination, but again, overpowering for many skin tones.

Don’t despair if the colors I’ve mentioned above sound too sweet or too strong for your taste.  There are always other options or variations on a theme, and when in doubt, remember to look for some of the colors that look good on everyone: periwinkle, teal and watermelon

Colorful Bomber Jackets

These can be fun, but they do remind me a bit too much of the 1980′s, so be careful. They can look frumpy or out-dated in a heartbeat. This one has a closer fit than most (which is nice) and adds some metallic that is so popular this season

Bomber Jacket

Sweatshirts as Fashion

Please make this trend go away or leave it to the teenagers. There is nothing attractive or fashionable about these bejeweled, patterned, textured sweatshirts masquerading as style.

BEWILDERED

Boxy, Cropped Jackets

To continue the cropped theme, they are introducing boxy, cropped jackets.  Stay far away from this style if you are at all curvy.  Here’s a perfect example.  If this model doesn’t look good in it who can wear it?

Boxy, Cropped Jacket

Black and White Graphic Prints

While I have absolutely nothing against black and white, do we really have to have so much of it! This severe high contrast combined with the sharp angles of the prints, makes it not so easy to wear. This is a fun dress, but it will look best on someone with high energy and high contrast in her natural coloring (e.g., dark hair, light skin).

Black & White Dress

Cropped Tops

Didn’t this style just go away?  Well, it’s baaaaack!  The difference now is that they are being worn with skirts and pants that come to (or very close to) the waist so what is exposed is your waistline and lower ribcage.  It is still very definitely the territory of the young.

Tea Length Skirts/Dresses

While these are very feminine and pretty, they are surprisingly tricky to pull off. They hit your leg between the mid-calf point and the ankle and can look frumpy in a heartbeat (especially depending on what shoe you wear with them). If you love this look be sure to choose a full skirt and shoes that are open on the top of your foot (low vamp) to elongate your legs and avoid looking frumpy.

Scary Combination of Trends

I couldn’t resist. These two designs take the trends to the extreme.

These need no introduction. If you’re sixteen have a blast. Otherwise, leave them on the rack.

Scary Combinations

 

Yes, it has been a long winter and it’s not over yet. But, the spring fashion trends are flooding the stores and bringing at least a little relief to brighten your days until all the snow and ice melts! With the plethora of bright colors and swirls of light fabric, spring is a happy time for fashion.  That said, it is also a time when you occasionally have to cock your head and think, “Really, you want us to wear what?!” and this season is no different.

Remember, it’s a happy time so have fun. Lighten up, but choose your trends wisely. Just one or two from this list will serve you well and add some new life to your current wardrobe.

*All photos feature clothing that is vegan/cruelty-free.

Hello Beautiful! 7 Styling Tools to Enhance Your Natural Beauty

You are beautiful no matter what your size or shape. Yes, I know, society wants to dictate a particular standard of beauty and that’s what you see day in and day out in the media. It is also what you use to compare your body to see if it measures up. Perhaps you’ve already noticed that this only makes you feel frustrated and deflated. Very few women, if any, actually achieve and maintain this standard. Instead, why not embrace your natural beauty and use a few styling tools for creating balance and harmony.

Beauty is not about looking like every other woman out there – how boring is that! It’s about celebrating who you are and creating a look you love. The key is to choose clothes and accessories strategically to give your body an uninterrupted line and draw the eye where you want it to go. It’s easier than you think!

Open necklines draw focus to your face. Your face is where you want the eye to go since it’s disconcerting to talk with someone while they are staring (for whatever reason) at another part of your body. Use this to your advantage. A v-neck or scoop neckline will do that by creating a long neckline and a beautiful frame around your face.  This neckline pictured here is just about the right amount of scoop (approximately one head length down) to balance her body. Scoop Neck Sweater
Choose your shoe color wisely. Want a long lean body line? Your shoes are key. When you are wearing pants, match the color of your shoes as closely as possible. If you wear navy, black or dark brown shoes will do the trick. If you are wearing a light colored pair of jeans, wear a skin tone colored shoe. Here’s a good example of that.This is particularly true if you are wearing a skinny pant because pants that end at the ankle or above, shorten your leg. By matching the color all the way to your toes, you are extending your leg line Skinny Jeans
Wear open vamp shoes with a dress. The recent trend that has gone on way too long is to wear a dress or skirt with ankle boots. It’s a hideous trend and rarely works. The only exception is if you are super tall, have very long legs and wear your skirts very short. Otherwise, especially if you wear a boot that contrasts with the color of your legs, it will make your legs look shorter and thicker.Here is the same Nordstrom model in two black dresses that are the same length, but she’s wearing different shoes.  You can see the difference very clearly. The photo on top doesn’t work, but the photo below with an open vamp shoe does.

 

Black Dress
Taper your straight skirt. A straight skirt can look great, but it can also visually add pounds. It hangs straight from the hipline and so the hem creates a wider horizontal line around your knees. You do not usually have this issue with a pencil skirt which is often stretchy and fits tighter to the body all the way down. If you like straight skirts, but sometimes feel like they make you look heavier than you are, take it to a tailor and have it tapered slightly at the sides. This follows your body line and creates a leaner look. Pencil Skirt
Pair flowy with fitted. There are lots of flowy tops out there right now. This is not surprising since there is still a trend towards skinny pants. Wearing a skinny top with a skinny bottom can feel a little revealing, but pairing it with a flowy top adds balance. Here’s a great example. Scoop Neck Sweater
Have a professional bra fitting. If it has been more than a year since you’ve had a bra fitting, it’s time to do it again. An ill-fitting bra will totally undermine the look of a great outfit. Go somewhere where that’s their specialty not to the local department store (with the exception of Nordstrom which usually has good bra fitting specialists). There is an art to finding the perfect bra. I can highly recommend Intimacy. They have stores around the country. If you are in the Boston area, make an appointment with Maria Stern at Intimacy at Copley Place. She’s terrific and helps me and many of my clients. Bra Fitting
Consider shapewear. I do not usually love wearing shapewear and mostly I don’t wear it! But, I wore a dress recently that was fitted and since the temperatures outside were in the teens, in addition to the smoothing benefits, I wanted the extra layer of warmth it provided. At my last bra-fitting at Intimacy I had picked up a control brief that came all the way up under my bra! I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was! This is the one.These days fabrics tend to be lighter and more revealing. Good and comfortable (yes, I can attest that it’s possible) shapewear can be very handy. Shapewear

Use these tips to help you make great choices and feel great about how you look!

All photos feature clothing that is vegan/cruelty-free.

5 Valentine’s Day Gifts Your Vegan Sweetie will Love

Dog With Glasses

Valentine’s Day gift-giving have driven husbands to settle for uninspired gifts. Step away from the cheap box of chocolates and over-picked flower bouquets. This special day is about celebrating your love, not destroying it. Husbands of vegan wives might think they have a tougher challenge than others, but it couldn’t be easier. She’s likely to love anything that shows appreciation of her lifestyle choices. Still having trouble? These gifts with a heart are sure to steal hers away:

Compassionate Fashionista

Vegan style-divas know faux is the new black. According to PETA, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals each year in the name of fashion. Everyday items like belts, shoes and purses are made at the expense of an innocent life. Support your wife in her efforts against animal cruelty. Surprise her with a humanely thoughtful gift like this vegan leather handbag from Lulu’s. She’ll appreciate the chic gesture, especially knowing no animals were harmed in the process. Pat yourself on the back for not only saving hundreds of dollars but also for supporting the fight against animal cruelty.

Hopeful Romantic

Vegans work steadily toward the greater good. Unfortunately, most of the world hasn’t caught on to cruelty-free, eco-friendly practices. Even simple romantic gestures like purchasing flowers can condone malpractice. According to the US Labor Education in the Americas Project, 60 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. come from Columbia, where workers are expected to work 12-16 hour days in exchange for minimal pay and exposure to high levels of toxic pesticides and fungicides. Floral arrangements from FTD.com are Fair Trade Certified meaning they come from farms that promote safe working conditions, living wages and environmentally-friendly growing practices. By Supporting Fair Trade Certified products, you can still partake in this age-old tradition without sacrificing ethic beliefs.

Savvy Shopper

Made in the USA, this adorable canvas bag by Vine Street Market is the perfect accessory for toting fresh produce, yoga gear or up to 60 pounds of any eco-friendly items she may need. The heart patterns add a loving yet trendy touch for an appropriately themed gift. Eco-friendly and versatile, this tote also folds into a tiny pocket when not in-use so she can carry it with her at all times.

Sweet Tooth

Don’t bypass the chocolate. Women still love a decadent treat, just not the half-hearted, last-minute, convenience-store kind. A handmade assortment of organic, vegan, fair trade certified artisan chocolates from Allison’s Gourmet sweeten this classic gesture. Made by vegan activist Allison Samson, each bite of these sweet confections represent compassion for animals and care of the planet.

Accessories with a Heart

Wrap your heart around her with this chic scarf from H&M. Made from 100 percent polyester, she’ll know you did your homework on cruelty-free fabrics. An excellent alternative to silk and fur, polyester fabrics are also lighter on your wallet. When shopping for your compassionate vegan, also steer clear of any wool, leather and down fabrics that come at the heavy cost of animal lives. Instead, read the labels for ethically sound fabrics like cotton, nylon, rayon and acrylic.

Categorized: Vegan Fashion

You Are Not Flawed, Imperfect or Botched

Be Yourself

It’s your differences that make you unique and beautiful not how well you fit a prescribed standard of beauty. Shefinds.com, an online shopping guide, clearly missed this point and the results made me fume!

I subscribe to all kinds of online fashion newsletters to keep up with what’s going on in the world of fashion. Recently, I saw a message from shefinds.com entitled, “H&M’s Huge Facebook Mistake.” Their marketing is brilliant and I was hooked. I couldn’t click to the site fast enough to read more.

When I went to the website, the title of the article was, “Is It Just Us or Did H&M Seriously Botch This Poor Girl’s Legs In Photoshop?” My sensitivity antennae was immediately activated and I kept reading. They start by saying, “Look closely–the right leg of the model seems to be awkwardly turned inward.” They go on adding, “….the model could be a little bow-legged, in which case: that’s awesome. It’s good to see beautiful women with real imperfections in advertising! Not everyone can wake up FLAWLESS like Beyoncé.”

At first read you might think, yeah, you’re right. Let’s see more real women in advertising.  But then, the subtle message comes through. On one hand they are saying that showing “real imperfections” is “awesome.” And, on the other hand they are saying that if she has “real imperfections” then her body looks “botched” and flawed and they pity that “poor girl.”

Given the line of work I’m in, and my own personal experience growing up, I am extremely sensitive to this kind of talk. The ramifications are insidious. The more we hear the message that our bodies are botched and imperfect, the more we internalize that and believe it. Every day I hear women speak harshly about their own bodies. If, like most of the women I work with, I ask you what you don’t like about how you look, I suspect you can spout an endless torrent of reasons you aren’t happy with your body. If I ask you what you like, the list dwindles dramatically.

The last thing you need is someone else cheering you on and at the same time telling you that your body doesn’t meet the standards that are prescribed by…by whom!? Celebrities? The media? Their idea of perfect beauty ultimately infiltrates society so we finally (even after resisting) get the message that there is something wrong with us. But, they add, yay, poor girl, we admire your willingness to venture out into the world, flaws and all.

The impact goes way beyond this article and is exactly why my virtual program has an entire chapter on hurtful comments and unwanted advice. These messages affect you at a deep, soulful level and eventually it is hard to resist and you unwillingly buy into their destructive message.

Although I think Shefinds was well-intentioned, this type of article comes in the guise of supporting women when, except for the most self-confident woman, it actually undermines their self-acceptance. I know this not only from my work with thousands of women, but also from my own personal experience. I have spent years coming to terms with the fact that I have knocked knees. My legs are different from other women in real life and in magazines. As a teenager I would sit on the beach with my friends and watch all the women walking by comparing my legs to theirs and looking for someone else who had crooked legs as she walked confidently along the beach. I never saw one which made me feel even more sensitive about my legs. Finally, years later, I have made peace with them despite the fact that the author of the H&M article considers them imperfect, botched and flawed.

Shefinds might believe Beyoncé to be flawless, but what would the world be like if we all looked like Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus or whomever the media has chosen as their latest obsession? Boring, that’s what. It is your uniqueness that makes you special and not how much you are the same as everyone else or how well you fit society’s vision of beauty.  Finding your own personal vision of beauty is the key to feeling personal satisfaction with how you show up in the world.

Use these two steps to move you closer to that personal goal:

  1. Find one part of your body that isn’t your favorite–that you wish, because of articles like these, was more like what you think it’s supposed to look like rather than how it is. Maybe, like me, it’s your legs. Or perhaps your waist, hips, shoulders, bustline or arms. Choose just one.
  2. Change your perspective. Find something great about this part of your body. For instance, my legs might be crooked, but they are long and that’s what I dress for every day. For you, maybe you always feel like your hips are too big. But perhaps, as a result (these two things often go hand in hand) you have a small waist. When you wear something that shows off your waist and your hips you feel curvy and feminine. Or, maybe you feel flat chested and like your body is shapeless. But then you realize that this allows you to add curves with your clothes and easily wear something strapless or with ruffles, ruching or patterns on your chest without worrying about appearing top heavy.

It is important to note that there is always a positive result to be found. Find yours and celebrate it. I invite you to share your awarenesses in a comment below to celebrate your natural beauty and inspire other women to find their unique beauty, too.

And, if you want help dressing your body so you feel great, get a copy of my body image, self-esteem and style handbook and virtual program: www.whotaughtyouhowtodress.com

Want to Look Great Every Day? Create a Daily Uniform!

Every morning when you get dressed and stand for what seems like an hour in front of your closet trying to find something to wear, you dream of being able to grab a uniform and go. Your mind goes to a fantasy of reaching into your closet while still half asleep and pulling on something fabulous without having to try on ten or twenty things.  Then, your mind snaps back to reality and you think, “Sure, I already have a ‘uniform’ and it’s so boring I can hardly stand it!”

While your mind is intrigued at the thought of wearing a uniform, your heart says no because it sounds so dull and limiting and holds out for something more exciting.

Before you give up on the idea altogether, let’s rethink the concept of a uniform.  It can run from firefighters’ and police officers’ mode of dress to your Catholic school outfit or what you and every other girl in your girl scout troop wore.  In these cases it identifies you with a particular group.  The problem is that none of those is appropriate to your every day dress now.  While that’s true, you don’t have to give up entirely.  You can create your own group uniform with a membership of one: you.

The thing about a uniform is that it does not have to be boring and it certainly does not mean that you wear the same exact thing day in and day out.  It’s about consistency of design and style and then you add variety within that consistency.

Ginger's UniformLet me show you how:

Choose a style that looks good on you, is comfortable and fits into your lifestyle.* For instance, my current favorite uniform consists of a pair of skinny jeans, a long layering tank, and a long cardigan. I just purchased the most spectacular belt (and I’m not generally a belt person) that adds great flair to the outfit. I actually have 3 sweaters – one forest green, one deep teal and one brown. Green, off-white and brown layering tops go easily underneath and besides my skinny jeans I have black skinny ponte knit pants and depending upon the weather and how cold it is I either wear black high-heeled ankle boots or black or brown knee-high lower-heeled boots. My earrings can change depending on my mood and where I’m going. The most exciting part: I can get fully dressed in two minutes and feel great. It’s no wonder I wear some version of this outfit several times a week!

Important: Notice that each of the individual pieces in my uniform is a solid color. This makes it more versatile and I add visual interest with my accessories.

Here’s another example: a client who asked me to help her find a work uniform to get her through the next few months. She has a very heavy work schedule and does not want to have to sit and ponder what to wear every morning. She needs it to be easy and automatic. She knows she likes dresses and what’s easier than a dress! So, I helped her find 5-7 dresses that she can alternate over the next few months adding different jewelry and a sweater or jacket if she wants to and know she looks terrific every day.

Teal Dress

Here’s an example of a dress that would make a great uniform.  It’s simple, the solid teal color is beautiful on many people and you can add a sweater or jacket over it if need be (but it’s not necessary). Just have a couple of different options for necklaces or scarves (here are some examples) or add a belt (hint: avoid basic belts that you would wear with your jeans.  Choose something fun and interesting and in keeping with your personality.  Ideally a belt should be 1″ to 2″ wide), and you are ready to go. Pair it with tights and pumps or knee high boots and you’re done.

Want to change it up?  Here are some ideas:
Turquoise + Silver Necklace Carmelia Necklace Silver Heart Necklace
Scarf Scarf
Here’s a fun belt for the dress:
Belt
Here are three ideas for earrings to pair with the dress and belt:
Gold Earrings Gold + Turquoise Earrings Teal Earrings

 

Think about what makes you feel good and what you can wear a lot. Whether it’s a dress or a long sweater and skinny pants or perhaps you love vests, jackets, trousers and turtlenecks.

It is also important to know that you don’t need a huge uniform wardrobe. That would actually overcomplicate things and it will then take you longer to get dressed as you weed through everything in your closet, thus defeating the purpose. Think of my 3 basic options or my client’s 5-7 dresses. Maybe you love button down blouses, but are sick of the baby blue and white options. Great, choose a blouse like this:

Nic+Zoe Blouse

Get several interesting button down blouses in gorgeous colors. Pair them with black pants, skinny jeans or tuck them into a skirt and add a belt. You can always add a vest, jacket or cardigan over it or leave it plain with fun earrings or a scarf, easily coming up with 5-7 options that you can wear over and over.

Not only does a uniform make it easy to get dressed, but it expands your shopping dollar: when you wear something a lot it cuts the price per wear every time you put it on.

Begin by finding one of your favorite pieces in your closet and start exploring and experimenting. Try some of the ideas above or add your own. Share your insights and uniform ideas by commenting on my blog. The season is just underway so there’s plenty of time to fine tune it as you go along. Find a uniform you love and you will look forward to getting dressed every day!

(Every outfit and accessory pictured here is cruelty-free and vegan-friendly!)

* Need help getting started? If you need help identifying and creating your personal uniform, register for my “Your Style, Your Way” workshop. The January 25 workshop has sold out, but if there is enough interest I will add one on February 22 or get on the VIP notification list for the May 3 workshop. That way we can work on it together!

3 Tips to Update Last Year’s Holiday Attire

You can look great this holiday season without spending a lot of money or hours shopping.

You have a couple of holiday parties to go to and, of course, New Years Eve is approaching. Although the holidays seem to come and go so quickly, you still want to look beautiful and feel special without breaking the bank. You just don’t know where to begin.  Yes, you could wear the same thing you’ve worn the past two years — your little black dress with a pendant necklace, or your velvet skirt and shimmery blouse — but that doesn’t feel special anymore. How can you spice it up without spending hours fighting the crowds at the mall or buying an entirely new outfit?

  1. Amazing ArmsAdd sleeves to your LBD. So many dresses are sleeveless and yet, at least here in the northeast US, it is freezing!  You have good intentions of wearing your favorite little black dress and then the temperatures dip and you realize you have to cover your arms or you’ll shiver through the entire party and dream of being home in your pj’s. So, you throw a sweater or jacket on over your dress and completely obliterate its beauty. You’re now warm, but you’ve lost that special feeling about how you look.There’s a new, very simple solution.  Add sleeves! No sewing experience necessary!  There’s a terrific creation called Amazing Arms. It adds a sheer sleeve to any sleeveless black dress. It comes in black and black lace so I recommend adding it only to a black dress (or a dress that has black in the pattern), otherwise the focus will go to your arms instead of the dress. You want it to look as much like a natural part of the dress as possible.
  2. Sparkle always works. You are going to a party, but think a LBD would be over the top. It’s a casual get-together to celebrate the holidays so a great pair of pants or dark wash jeans will be perfect. You just want to add some pizzazz to an otherwise basic, every-day outfit. You also want to avoid holiday theme sweaters and crop tops or split back tops — you’ll leave that to the teenagers. So, what’s left? Jewelry!Let’s say you’re wearing your favorite pants and simple jewel neck top. It’s nice but lacking any fun or holiday cheer. Add a stunning statement necklace and you’re done. Here are two ideas. There are SO many out there. Find one that speaks to you. I even have an entire Pinterest board with beautiful, exquisite jewelry.
    Turquoise Tear + Branch Necklace Faux Pearl Necklace
  3. Change your shoes.  You’ve been at work all day and there’s a party you’d love to stop by for a bit, but you don’t want to go all the way home to change. You know that once you walk in the door of your house, you’ll get comfy and cozy and not want to leave again. You’re wearing a simple sweater and a pair of skinny pants with ballet flats or a flat boot at work. How can you spice it up? Add a heel and you’re all set to go. It doesn’t have to be 4″ (or anywhere near that). Choose a pretty heel that says “party” to you and you’re on your way.Here’s a pretty and unusual dressy heel:

    Dressy Heel

    And, here’s a pretty, sparkly wedge (very comfortable):

    Sparkly Wedge

    Perhaps it’s really cold out and you want to stay well covered (even your feet), but you don’t want to feel clunky and like you’re ready for a blizzard.  There are still fun options like this (even if you have to carry them with you and put them on when you get there):

    Red Bootie

As you can see, when you have the basics (that LBD, velvet skirt or skinny pants, for example) there is no need to buy an entirely new outfit to look and feel special. A tweak here or there will add a smile to your face and a spring in your step. Plus, your version of these items above are great ice breakers as you get compliments on how beautiful, unusual or festive they are.

What are you adding to your holiday wardrobe this season? Leave a comment below sharing what you’ve done to make an old outfit new again! You will inspire other women to do the same.

Every item shown here is vegan and cruelty-free.

How To Never Hurt An Animal Again and Not Sacrifice Anything In Your Life

How To Never Hurt An Animal Again

It’s that time of year — winter — and who doesn’t want to be warm! When I first became vegan I was so concerned I wouldn’t be able to find warm clothes and I’d go through the entire winter freezing — but 8 years later, I can safely say it’s just not true.  And even better I realized that I don’t have to sacrifice ANYTHING to be vegan. In this day and age, we can have it all without ever hurting a defenseless animal again — and that feels great.

To be honest, up until eight years ago I had no idea that any choices I made were hurting animals. It wasn’t something anyone I knew ever talked about and, as a result, it never entered my consciousness. I’m sure the same is true for you. I know you don’t set out to cause misery and suffering to animals when you go shopping. But, if you are purchasing anything made of wool, silk, fur, leather or down, then you are. I know. I know. It was an eye-opener for me, too!

Nearly 20 years ago, I vaguely remember someone pointing out to me that although I didn’t eat red meat, I did wear leather. At the time, I thought, “Well, of course I do. What is the alternative? And, besides, leather is a byproduct of the meat industry so it’s not like they are killing the animals just for the leather.”*  Oh, dear. Can I tell you how much I WISH he had continued the conversation with me! I had no idea how misguided I was and how just a little more information would have changed my life (and saved the lives of so many animals). Sadly, I do not even remember who this phantom person was or why we were on that particular subject in general. I just know that I dismissed the notion that I was contributing to animal suffering because I didn’t know any better and thought there were no alternatives.

It was many years later before I learned the truth. I would like to share with you some of the information I waited so long to hear and understand, because I suspect that you might not know either, and I don’t want you to have the same regrets I do. Plus, let me share a little secret, it’s SO much easier now!

Two things are keeping you from making clothing choices that are cruelty-free:

  1. You aren’t aware that traditional, beloved fabrics like wool, silk, down and leather come with a very high price tag. Whether the actual monetary value is high or low, the one thing that is true across the board — they all cause immeasurable suffering. Yes, even wool production causes misery and ends in the death of the lambs and sheep (maybe not immediately, but always way before their natural life would end). You can read more about it here. Those pretty, delicate, soft, cozy sweaters are covering up a lot of pain and suffering. Believe me, I, too, was so sad to hear this.
  2. You think you will have to sacrifice beauty and comfort if you don’t wear clothes made from those fabrics.

I was in exactly your situation eight years ago. I had just learned about the horror these animals endured to make it to my plate (even though I hadn’t eaten red meat for over 25 years, I still ate chicken, eggs, fish and dairy) and then the full realization hit me! Animals didn’t just suffer to be on my dinner plate — some of the clothes I was wearing were fraught with that same pain. This was such a source of sadness for me and at the same time I had this awareness that it could dramatically impact my livelihood! I am, after all, in the business of helping women choose clothing they love and that they feel good wearing. Not only that, but I like to feel good in my clothes. I quickly realized that I had to find a way to do both — feel good about how I looked AND not cause any more animals to suffer so I could still look good and be a good representation of my business. Wow! I had a few moments of abject fear when I thought maybe it wasn’t possible. Could I really have a cruelty-free wardrobe and still feel stylish? Yes! I was determined to make it work and, even more importantly, I committed to making it an adventure, and that’s exactly what I did.

Lucky for you, though, times have changed. Since then, as awareness is growing and people like you and me are choosing cruelty-free fabrics — the options are exploding. Just today I took a client shopping and, without even looking (she’s not vegan…yet) the sweaters she purchased were soft and lovely and unless you looked at the tag you would have had no idea they were not cashmere. I have watched this happen over and over this fall and it is so heartening to see. Eight years ago you were hard pressed to find anything like those sweaters. The best you could do was cotton or a scratchy acrylic. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Yes, unfortunately, there is still plenty of wool, cashmere, alpaca, mohair and angora in the world, but if you want to find the other options, they are there, too and the choices are growing daily!

Are you ready for a change but not sure how to begin?

  1. Read labels. Everything you need to know is on the garment’s label. If it says wool, silk, fur, leather or down, it is not cruelty-free.
  2. Layer. This is good advice no matter what you are wearing since temperatures vary everywhere you go.  Recover offers great layering pieces in 28 different colors and at a great price point. I’m especially fond of the long sleeve scoop neck top. They are one size fits all (pretty much a size 2 to 16) and I take the sleeves in a bit at the wrist since I like them more fitted. I mention another layer piece below.
  3. Speak up. If you don’t see what you want … ask. It is easy to miss something that could work AND it is important for the stores to know that you are looking for something they might not have. If they know there is a demand for cruelty-free garments, they are more likely to consider including them in future seasons.

Not sure where to look? While you will certainly find some alternatives at the major department stores (Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom carry Nic+Zoe, for instance), you can find options everywhere from smaller chain stores like Ann Taylor Loft to boutiques and from all price points (Bloomingdale’s to Kohls).

Here are just a few examples:

Nic+Zoe Sweater
Texture Top from Nic+Zoe
(55% Cotton/35% Acrylic/10% Rayon).
Add this 3/4 sleeve layer piece for extra warmth.
Ann Taylor Cowl
Cowl Neck Sweater from Ann Taylor Loft
(60% Acrylic, 40% Nylon)
Chico's Sweater
Flame Stitch Chelsea Pullover from Chico’s
(76% acrylic, 12% nylon, 6% rayon, 6% polyester)
Kohl's Sweater
Lurex Cardigan from Kohl’s
(acrylic and polyester)

* In case you are wondering, leather is not a by-product of the meat industry. It is a co-product and helps keep the selling of meat economically viable. By buying leather you are supporting the meat industry. (I’ll share another article about leather and non-leather alternatives soon.)  You can learn more right here.

jackie-after
Jackie: Before
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Jackie: After
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Diane: Before
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Diane: After
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Amanda: Before
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Amanda: After
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Donna: Before
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Donna: After
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Jan: Before
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Jan: After
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Sara: Before
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Sara: After
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Marianne: Before
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Marianne: After
annie-before-closeup
Annie: Before
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Annie: After
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Meryl: Before
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Meryl: After

The workshop was fascinating! I can see why you love what you do. The insight gained by each person is almost magical! Nancy Mirtle