Leah Feldon
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Leah's Style Tips and Editorial Comments

Fall and Winter 2003.

Because shoes are such an important part of the look this fall, I thought it was a perfect time to include an excerpt here from the accessory chapter of DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT? (Now out in paperback.) So here you go...


Women make more mistakes in their choice of shoes than any other accessory. Some of that might have to do with comfort--it's tricky to find shoes that look fabulous and are comfortable. But more often than not, it's simply a matter of choosing unsuitable styles-which can not only make you look shorter and heavier, but can change the entire mood and attitude of your outfit as well.

Case in point: A few years ago Pamela Anderson Lee was on Regis and Kathie Lee. She was pregnant at the time and had on a cute little floral summer dress. Had she worn espadrilles, or sandals, or little flats with the dress, she would have looked like a nice, pretty, wholesome, girl-next-door; the Hollywood version of someone you wouldn't mind your brother dating. But Pamela opted for knee-high, high-heeled, white patent leather boots and ended up looking...well, I don't want to say trashy exactly, but I'm stuck for a more appropriate word. These boots, which definitely were not made for walking, would have been ill advised even if she hadn't been pregnant, but in her state they were especially disconcerting. I really don't mean to pick on Pamela, who I hear is just a lovely person, but we're talking white shiny go-go boots here for heaven sakes! They may have been trendy that week, but a one-week trend does not good fashion make.

While go-gos are pretty obvious no-nos, there are plenty of other styles that should be avoided as well. Shoes are not like Mount Everest--you can't climb on to them just because they are there. There are way too many universally unflattering shoes on the market today that can trip you up- sometimes literally. Although shoe styles, like clothing styles, change season to season, the following guidelines should keep you out of hazardous territory and shepherd you safely into the land of Camouflage Chic.


Square Toes And Chunky Heels

Now I know clunky, chunky, square, heavy shoes have been all the rage, but it's a given that a few seasons down the road fashion historians will dismiss them with a derisive wave of their well manicured hands (if they haven't already). Elegant and graceful they are not. Heavy chunky shoes make your legs look heavy and shorten the whole body--unless you've got exceptionally skinny legs, in which case your legs end up looking like toothpicks. Neither scenario is especially appealing.

The younger you are, of course, the more you can get away with ultra-square toes and weirdly angled thick heels, because they're part of the whole stretchy synthetic, faux Banlon, unfortunate seventies, retro thing that post-teens seem to be into. At that age who cares how flattering a shoe is to the leg. The awkwardness of the style is somehow in keeping with the unwieldy cluelessness of juveniles; the uncoordinated charm of a foal trying to get it's footing. By adulthood, a little more grace is expected of both horses and humans.

This doesn't mean you have to trade in your comfortable walking shoes for pointy-toed stilettos. If you like the solid feeling of chunky heels, try to find slightly modified ones that are somewhat tapered and more refined, but that still give you the feel you want. But the broad square toes have to go. We can't have you looking like you stubbed your entire foot.


If you have heavyish legs you can get in trouble with ultra-pointy toed stiletto heels and other ultra-delicate styles. The contrast in proportion can actually make your legs look heavier. Even slingbacks are risky if your heel is the least bit pudgy. Your best bets are styles that are neither too delicate nor too clunky.

The fact is, stiletto heels are a questionable style for most everybody, regardless of leg shape. True, they elongate the leg and make for terrific Vogue pictures-where would Helmut Newton be without them-but you have to wonder exactly where they fit in the context of an average woman's life. They're inappropriate for the office, debilitating on public transportation, crippling on the streets, laughable for recreation, incapacitating on errands, and suicidal when dealing with kids. Let's face it, stilettos are only suited for limousine-chauffeured dressy evenings, or maybe, if one is to believe Jerry Springer and Cosmo, underdressed evenings in one's boudoir-but I'm not going near that one.

I'll leave it at this: According to foot specialists, super high heels thrust all your weight forward, which puts a huge amount of stress on the balls of your feet and the big toe joints, and can cause all sorts of problems including bunions, hammertoes, calluses, shin splints, corns, muscle spasms and faulty alignment. Whew! So if you must wear stilettos, at least do so in moderation, and wear them only a few hours a day. It would really be a shame in this day and age to ruin your feet in the name of fashion. Most experts agree that a 2¼” heel is about as high as you should go an everyday basis. If you feel you need a bit more height proportionately, think about getting a little extra lift from a thickish sole or mini-platform.

Ultra Flat Flats

Since I'm totally miserable when my feet are not 100% comfortable, I wear flats most of the time. I love the mobility. But there are flats and there are flats. Shoes with even as little as a one inch heel, although technically flats, will give you a much longer, leaner line than a shoe that is totally flat on the bottom. This is especially true in trousers-- something to keep in mind when you buy casual shoes like loafers and skimmers. You can also get extra height, while still maintaining the comfort level, in shoes with a nice double-thick rubber sole. These days, even first class shoe companies make wonderful casual/dressy slip-ons with thick rubber bottoms. (My personal favorites: Stuart Weitzman, Donald Pliner, Robert Clergerie, and Arche.) Styles like classic Keds, and stretchy aqua-sock type shoes (another personal favorite) are incredibly comfortable, but unfortunately will not make you look any slimmer or taller. They are, however, wonderful to have around for those days when you're taking a fashion `time out'.

Straps Across The Instep Or Around The Ankles

Strappy shoes are iffy styles for anyone with less than model-perfect legs. T-straps are the worst. The wider and darker the straps, the greater the risk. Reason: The straps interrupt the vertical line of the leg, making the leg look shorter, the ankle wider, and the calf more noticeable. The chunky-heeled nouveau Mary Janes that were in vogue for a few minutes were universally unflattering. And to make matters worse, the style didn't really go with anything. They were an anomaly with chic suits, too heavy for little dresses, and pointless with pants. What were they about anyway?

There are, on the other hand, some incredibly slim and sexy evening shoes and sandals with straps that fall across the instep. Some of those can actually look quite good, since the straps are very narrow, and your leg shape becomes a non-issue anyway when you're wearing long evening dresses or pants.

As for styles with straps that fall not only across the instep, but wrap around the ankles or creep up the leg-go for it if long gorgeous gams are one of your major assets --they will draw attention to your lovely legs. But please give them a miss if your legs are short or heavyish. In that case, go for simple pumps or sandals that are cut relatively low in the front. Shoes with streamlined fronts will always make your leg look longer and slimmer.

Missed Matches-Wearing The Right Shoes With The Wrong Outfits

You've probably heard that bad food combining can give you indigestion. Well, so can bad shoe/outfit combining--metaphorically speaking of course. It's a sort of aesthetic indigestion. Pumps and Bermuda shorts, for instance, can invite instantaneous heartburn. Stilettos with jeans are more of a squeamishness thing. Shoes should connect organically with your outfit: Sexy strappy sandals are lovely with a bare evening dress, ballet slippers are perfect with a long flowing skirt, sophisticated pumps a natural with a chic suit, loafers terrific with slacks and a blazer, boots great with jeans, sneakers with sweats, etc.

If you're just oozing personal style and have the personality and clout to carry it off--being famous, or at least involved in the arts, helps---you could go totally against type by wearing the opposite kind of footwear than expected. This is the anti-shoe approach, where you totally ignore all tenets of proportion and good taste, and just let 'er rip-pairing Doc Martens, say, with an evening dress, or motorcycle boots with a micro-mini. In fact, W (Woman's Wear's Monthly Magazine), in their January 1998 issue, paired everything, from a Chanel suit to a lovely calf-length Armani beaded dress, with Surplus Doursoux boots. The label may sound fancy, but they look like serious kick-ass army boots. The seventeen year-old models looked trés courant, but would you?

That kind of flagrant fashion rebellion is about making a personal statement and flashing attitude. That's why fashion designers do it in their collections--to make a statement, not necessarily to sell a look. It provides a certain couture tension, and makes for great fashion photos. It's a style that will be noticed and commented on--both negatively and positively. It's good press. Us normal folk, however, are probably better off toeing the company line, and sticking to tried and true pairings. Heavy shoes add weight to the whole outfit --and to you. Anyway, you have to ask yourself, would Audrey Hepburn have worn combat boots with her Givenchys?

Too Much Shoe. When you're wearing skirts or dresses, shoes with high horizontal vamps (vamp is the part of the shoe that goes across the top of your foot) will make your leg look heavier. Shoes with V-shaped vamps, or styles that scoop low, will lengthen the leg.

To make big feet (size 9 and up), smaller, make sure your shoes are cut to the foot--that is, without an extended sole showing around the edges. If you've got skinny ankles, look for shallow shoes, and try slingbacks. Too much shoe on skinny legs produces ze look of ze toothpick.

Squirrelly Openings Open toed shoes and sandals can be winners, but make sure the toe opening is the right shape for your feet. If the opening is too small, your toe can look like the nose of a little baby rodent trying to get out of a cage. If it's too big, some of your other toes might look deformed as they're mashed together in the opening. Neither look is particularly fetching.

Iffy Color Balance-Not A Matter Of Black And White For starters, the white pumps have to go! I've seen women wear them with everything under the sun, from dark stockings and velvet dresses, to Bermuda shorts and culottes. Yes, I have! All I can say is, white pumps border on the offensive. Aside from the fact that they make feet look bigger and bring attention to heavy ankles, white pumps, for some mysterious reason, tend to look cheap and tacky no matter how much they cost. (There may be exceptions, but if so, I haven't seen them.) Even if your outfit has white in it, you're usually better off with another color. The only time white shoes work is in fun, casual, styles like canvas skimmers, dance shoes, espadrilles, ballet shoes, and white bucks. Even White sandals are acceptable, because there's more foot and less shoe there --just a few straps. But white pumps? NO. When your inner fashion consultant is counseling white pumps, reach instead for bone, taupe, light tan, or even a subtle metallic like bronze, copper, or pewter.

As for black

Everybody needs basic black shoes in their wardrobe, but that doesn't mean black shoes go with everything. They often look too heavy with light to mid-toned outfits--especially pastels, unless there's some black accent on top to balance the whole deal. So if you don't have shoes that match exactly--á la Imeda Marcos (where is she now?), try mid-toned neutrals. Good choices: bronze and copper with warm colors, and grey tones, dulled silver, or pewter with cooler colors. In general, your shoe should be darker, not lighter, than your outfit.

Platform sandals are classics as far as I'm concerned-- well, trendy classics, anyway. I admit that's a bit of an oxymoron, but here's the way I figure it: Platforms have been in and out of fashion for at least five centuries, and are at least semi-utilitarian. Although with our omnipresent paved streets (in the western world anyway) we don't need platforms to keep us up out of the mud and dirt anymore, they are helpful in the kitchen when you're reaching for the balsamic vinegar on the top shelf. So if you love 'em, wear 'em. But please note; worn with short skirts or shorts they will make heavy legs look heavier, and skinny legs look skinnier. Proportionately, they really only look right with pants or long skirts, and even then they may give you more of a trendy edge than you're looking for. Essentially, they're a fun young look that requires good balance to wear. Not recommended for puddle hopping or fence leaping.

A few quick tips and recaps:

*Slim heel shapes will make you look taller and more graceful than chunky ones.

*In general, the shorter the skirt, the lower the heel. Longer skirts can take higher heels, but the style must be compatible.

*The flatter your shoe, the more narrow your pants can be.

*Keeping shoes the same tone as your hose will lengthen the leg.

*Shoes with tapered toes will make the foot look longer and narrower.

*Low vamps help lengthen the leg; high vamps will shorten the leg. A low-cut pump or low-cut slingback, with a low to medium narrowish heel, are very flattering designs for most women.

*Lightweight textures such as silks and rayons call for a relatively light and graceful shoe. Heavier textures, such as tweeds (if you dare), call for a heavier shoe, such as sturdy English walking shoes or fine leather boots.

*A general rule of thumb for dressy shoes: The less shoe, the better the leg will look.

8When it comes to shoes, quality counts. Get the best you can afford.

One last thing: Shoes have more attitude than almost any other accessory. They affect not only on the way you look, but how you feel and move. So make sure your shoes are not only flattering, but also allow you to move with grace and ease. Also consider if they are conveying the message you want them to. If you want to proclaim yourself competent and brainy, for instance, sexy stilettos are probably not the way to go.

Moving right along...This DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT? excerpt is from Rule #4---Watch Your Balance. There are some good slimming rules of thumb here to keep in mind as you put together your fall wardrobe

A Few Universal Balance Basics:

Long Over Short or Narrow, and Short over Long or Full: This means a long top (jacket, cardigan, tunic, whatever) is best with a short skirt or narrow pants. And conversely, a cropped top is better with a longer skirt or fuller pants. Why? In part, because this proportion separates the body into thirds, rather than halves, which is more interesting and pleasing to the eye.

Since designers are always experimenting with new looks, they often bend this rule—always, mind you, on statuesque models. As a civilian, you want to think twice before breaking it. A snug cropped top and skinny pants (short over narrow) is a risky combo for most women. Ditto for a slouchy jacket over baggy pants or full skirt (long/full over full).

The bottom line: Exceptions to this basic balance rule can sometimes work. The rule on the other hand, always works. The taller, thinner, and more evenly proportioned you are, the more you can get away with breaking this rule (and, for that matter, most of the others in this book.)

Skim, Don't Cling. Garments that skim and contour your body give you a nice slim look. Garments that cling to it make you look fatter. I can't stress this one enough. Tight clothing can make even a model sprout bulges.

Skirts are Most Slimming When They Fall Close To Your Body, And Are Longer Than They Are Wide. This makes for maximum elongation. You're in dangerous territory when a skirt is so short that it looks more square than rectangular. Although A-lines can help conceal bulges, they are style risks since they can come across as dull and matronly. Consider trumpet skirts instead.

Ultra-Wide Shoulders, Big Collars, And Wide-Legged Slacks add unnecessary dimension and thus are potential fat makers.

Floor-Length Skirts Will Make You Look Shorter. They tend to anchor you to the ground like a fire hydrant. The length is less risky in lightweight fluid fabrics, but as a rule, ankle length is as long as anyone should ever go—except with evening gowns.

The Wider The Pant Leg, The Softer And More Fluid The Fabric Should Be-- And The Longer The Length. No wide stiff palazzos. Narrow pants can be worn shorter. Most slacks are most slenderizing when they are straight and long.

Pleated Pants Are Only Slimming When They Are Extremely Well Cut. Pleats must lie flat, and the waistband must be easy fitting. Say no to trousers that are tight in the tummy, stretch tightly across the derriere, are ultra-full, have or large visible front or back pockets, or flirt with other excess detailing.

Over Gathering And Excess Pleating On Any Garment Is Fattening.

And there you have it! The following are from past tip columns...you never know when you might need the info.

All about Boots: First, boots are all about attitude. They make a very obvious statement. So anytime you wear them in any but the most expected way---low-heeled ankle boots with pants, for instance, or tall boots under a long skirt---you will need to bring a little attitude into the equation. That attitude can be humor, sass, wit, fun, irreverence, artistic creativity, retro, whathaveyou. The point being that you cannot wear white go-go boots without a smile on your face and a light heart. Same goes for cowboy boots and chiffon, lace-up granny boots and a mini, or combat boots and a Chanel suit. You need real attitude to travel those kind of routes. So take heed---regardless of what you see in the fashion mags.

Next, boots should be flattering. So make sure that whatever style you choose is in proportion to your body and your outfit. They don't have to be in classic proportions, but they should add positive, not negative, cache to your overall look. Tall boots that are too wide on a narrow leg could make for a bottom heavy look. Short boots that fall just under an overlarge calf could highlight the heft of the leg. Stiletto-heeled boots on a very short or heavy woman could look out of balance. And a big thick heavy heel can do just about anybody in anybody. You get the idea. Choose wisely. Always think of your entire look----don't buy a pair of boots just because they're gorgeous and leather is smooth like buttah. The boot has to look good on your leg and work with your wardrobe.

With those two caveats in mind, here are a few ways to wear boots this season:

Tall Boots: Wear with long, short, or above-the-knee length skirts---usually looks best with opaque or shaded hose. Make sure the shirt shape is compatible with boots. Short women---keep the hose the same color as the boot for elongation. Boots that come over the knee are risky---very hard to wear unless you're model lanky. Large muscular calves? In Style notes that J.Crew has some fuller calf widths this season, and that Stuart Weitzman (more expensive) also has some elasticized boots.

Midcalf Boots: Cute with a short skirt and opaque tights or dark hose. Can also work under a long skirt---again with opaque tights. A skirt that meets the boot top exactly will probably look a little odd. Better the skirt should be longer or shorter.

Short Ankle-Boots: Great with pants. Short boots with flat-heels can also look adorable with sporty skirts and fun socks or tights.

That should at least get you started in the right direction. Next----for those of you who haven't read, Does This Make Me Look Fat? yet (what? You haven't?!) a few more excerpts you may find useful. Enjoy!



The Prep: First you'll need a few basics: 1) A portable hanging rack. One of those nice big ones you see being wheeled around department stores would be perfect, but a smaller cheaper one will do. You can get perfectly adequate ones for between $15 and $40 at places such as Hold Everything, Bed and Bath stores, or huge Home supply warehouses like Home Depot. 2) Some of those lovely white storage boxes with cut out handles that come packaged six for $7.00 at office supply stores. And 3) Tissue or plastic cleaning bags to insure wrinkle-free storage. You also may need some clear plastic stacking boxes and a shoe holder, but wait to do a full assessment before purchasing these.

Next, you'll need some time. So set aside anywhere from a few hours to a few days to plow through, sort out, try on, and organize your closet. Base organization time on the magnitude and state of your wardrobe. How long has it been since you've explored the deeper recesses of your closet? How big a mess is it in there? My mess rarely takes more than a few hours to pull back into shape since I have a low clutter tolerant rate. My friend Betsy, on the other hand…Well, last time I visited we spent a good twenty minutes searching under piles of clothes for the mate to a particular shoe before we finally gave up. I've never seen anything like it! I'd say Betsy has a couple of good solid day's work there---if not a week. But even then it's not necessarily painful work. It's rejuvenating and liberating and actually kind of fun when you approach it with a brave new millenium spirit. Just think how lucky you are to have a unique and glorious opportunity to meet a new century fully together and utterly organized. You only get a chance like that every 100 years!

The Project: The best approach is to get everything out of your closet--It would be ideal to transfer everything to the big rolling rack, but you could also just lay them on the bed or floor. Then start trying on each and every garment one by one. Pieces that fit perfectly and are 100% ready to wear go back into the closet. Items that are totally unsalvageable (i.e. old stretched out sweaters, silk blouses with perspiration stains, etc) get tossed in the trash. Garments that are poor quality, itch, are in oversupply (T-shirts?), or you know you'll never wear again, go into a tax deductible charity pile. Things that need alteration in another pile. High quality gems that don't fit at the moment but you're sure will fit, once you loose that extra 4 ½ pounds, either get hung in a spare closet or covered storage rack, or carefully folded between tissue or plastic dry cleaner bags and packed away in storage boxes. (Make sure the boxes are labeled--something like `skinny clothes' should do it. Put a date on it too.) Questionable Garments—those you still like but haven't worn much and those you're just not sure about---go on the small rack for further scrutiny. (This will probably be your biggest section.) That's phase one.

Moving into phase two, everything should be off the bed (or big rack). Good clothes are back in the closet, others are in neat little piles on the floor, some are boxed up--labeled and gone, and the rest are on the portable rack. Now, realistically scrutinize everything on the rack—what's the story with this stuff? Something's wrong with it or it would already be back in the closet with your favorite clothes. So what's the problem? Is it a style or color you would ever dream of wearing again now that you're into camouflage? Was it a mistake in the first place? Is the silhouette fattening? Is it dated and you're just hanging on to it because you wore it the night you were voted Prom Queen? Or maybe you could just never figure out quite what to do with it—sometimes it's not the garment itself that's bad, but rather what you've been wearing it with.

Try combining different tops with different bottoms. Try various shape tops under jackets or doubling up on tops. Maybe you need to buy something to complete one of the outfits—if so start a shopping list. See if any of the pieces on the rack compliment any of the choice pieces you've put back in the closet. Experiment with accessories. You might just come up with something great. Finally, hang all acceptable clothing back in your closet with your perfect pieces). Then have a yard sale to get rid of whatever's left on the rack—or give it away to friends, relatives, or charity.

Next Step:. (are we having fun yet?) Hang your now pared down wardrobe in your closet according to garment type first, color second, then shape. This plan would have all jackets hanging together in one section, trousers in another, dresses, tops, vests, etc in their own sections. Within those sections items are arranged according to color; neutrals first, dark to light—starting with black, ending in cremes and whites, and lastly your brights. And within those color sections, say black tops, for instance, are the shapes—all v-necks together, or all mock turtles, or whatever. Don't forget--in the summer move your heavy winter-only pieces to another closet or on to a covered hanging storage rack. Do the same with your lightest weight summer-only things in the winter. Take a break, drink some water, relax, breathe deep…

Then move along to your dresser. Throw out all old underwear, stockings with runs, single socks, and bras that don't fit. Be brutal. New underwear is an affordable luxury and always a pick-me-up (literally, as well as figuratively.) Think about storing seasonal things such as thermal underwear in nice plastic see-through storage bins. Write a list as you go of what needs to be replenished, then go out within the week and buy it, so it will be there when you need it. Make sure you have surplus pantyhose in the right tones, the right style bras for all your tops, fresh white socks for the gym. You know the drill.

Then go through the same process with your accessories. Shoes that are stored in boxes should either be labeled, or moved into clear plastic stackable boxes. Those that are unboxed should be arranged according to style and color—all black dressy heels here, all brown sporty shoes there, either on the closet floor or in a hanging shoe organizer. Get rid of old shoes that don't fit (feet change size as we age.) Store those you simply can't part with, but will seldom (if ever) wear in another white storage box, labeled and dated, of course. Jewelry should be out of little cardboard boxes and easy to see—either neatly arranged in a large jewelry box, clear plastic divided boxes, or baskets. Belts should be hanging together or in clear boxes. And there you have it. You're a new person! You may even loose a few ounces doing this!


Monochromatic dressing is the favorite trick of virtually every fashion editor, designer, and stylist I know. Even Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan are adherents in their personal lives. Why? Because it makes everybody look slimmer and taller instantly. Plus, it's always elegant, and it's an extremely easy way to dress--almost a total no brainer! You have to wonder why more women outside the fashion industry don't take advantage of it.

Technically, dressing monochromatically is wearing one color--any color-- from head to toe (although we can fudge that bit, as you'll see in a minute), and it works for two main reasons. Number one, color is the first thing most people notice about an outfit. Even someone who is clueless about fashion and rarely notices what anybody's wearing will notice color. And number two, dressing in one color produces a strong unbroken vertical line that elongates the body. Put those two facts together and you've got a very powerful slimming tool.

Audrey Hepburn was one of the multitude of stylish celebrities who fully appreciated the marvels of monochromes. There's the much told story of how Audrey was driven to tears during the making of 'Funny Face' by director Stanley Donnen's insistence that she wear white socks with her black dancer's outfit. Audrey tried to explain that the socks would interrupt the continuous black line of her outfit and make her legs look shorter, but Donnen, apparently unschooled in the finer nuances of Camouflage Chic, just didn't get it. Ultimately, Audrey wore the maligned socks, and after seeing the footage actually acknowledged that in that particular cinematic instance they were, in fact, acceptable, since they helped to separate her from the background. I don't think she ever incorporated the socks into her personal wardrobe, however. Audrey was way too hip to the glories and chic of monochromes.

USE TEXTURE TO ADD INTEREST TO MONOCHROMES: While were talking one color here, we're in no way limiting texture. You can incorporate as many different textures into an outfit as you like--within reason, of course. In fact, you'd be surprised at the extra pizzazz and sophistication you can get with a little warp and woof. Imagine the rich interplay of a buttery soft suede jacket, cashmere turtleneck, fluid wool flannel trousers, and silk scarf. Even if all colors were identical, the variation in textures would give the outfit a rich interesting dimension and relief from sameness.

With textures like ribbing, knits, tweeds, and jacquards type fabrics, you can even add patterns without ever getting near another color. Plus, texture can even help define the mood of your outfit. You could, for instance, add a touch of affluence with silk charmeuse, a hint of femininity with lace or chiffon, or a dash of romanticism with velvet. So take advantage of texture. It can lend as much interest and pizzazz as a second color, but offers much less risk of leading the eye off its slimming vertical course. Try a navy silk charmeuse shell with your navy gabardine suit, for instance, or a wonderful navy chiffon and velvet scarf, or both.

HOW TO BEND THE MONOCHROMATIC RULE: Of course, you can bend the rule. You didn't think I was going to keep you in fashion jail, did you? There will probably be times when you just don't feel like dressing in one color. Even I, who have more black in my closet than a nun, occasionally get the urge to mix and match a color or two--not often mind you, but it does happen. So a little cheating is fine, as long as we don't lose the monochromatic magic. Once we start on this course, the resulting outfits might not be technically monochromatic, but they'll be real close, which is good enough. Bending a rule is always fun if you can get away with it. No sticklers, we.

PLAY AROUND WITH VALUES: The first bend in the road is the juxtaposition of values. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Black is the darkest value, white the lightest. Every other color falls somewhere in-between. It's really easy to see value when you look at black and white photographs because it's the only color element that actually comes through. Medium red and medium green, for instance, come across as the same shade of grey. Ditto for pale yellow and pale pink, or dark brown and navy. So when you're trying to determine value of a particular color, just imagine what shade of grey it would be in a black and white photograph. The closer the shades of grey, the closer the colors are in value.

One VALUE of different colors: Theoretically, you could mix almost any colors of the same value and create some pretty spiffy fashion combinations. In the pastel ranges, for instance, you could mix a yummy melange of dusty pinks and blues, lavenders, muted greens, and melons. Bright combos such as red and purple, bright blue and emerald, turquoise and yellow might also be viable and exciting. But if you're serious about looking thinner your best bet is to mix subtle dark colors, such as navy and deep loden green, mink brown and charcoal grey, deep wine and raisin, or any of the above with black. It's a very effective and creative way to skirt the monochromatic rule. The slight variations in color add interest, but you get almost the same solidarity as a single color since the eye is not terribly distracted. It works best with the darker tones because they absorb light and seem to blend seamlessly together. The intensity of the brighter colors, on the other hand, tends to draw the eye to where the two colors meet, which would be risky in terms of camouflage if the colors intersected in an undesirable area, say across the hips. Not only would you be drawing attention where you might not want it, but a horizontal line would be created that would interrupt the vertical line of the body. Two strikes, almost out.

One COLOR of different values: The other value-mixing tactic is to blend different values of the same color. In other words, blend lighter and darker shades of one color. You could blend a range of greys, for instance, from pearl to putty to slate to charcoal; or a palette of browns from taupe to cocoa to chocolate. (Oops sorry, didn't mean to alert your sweet tooth.) It's always a good idea to keep lighter tones on top for balance. Also, since lighter tones draw attention first, they lead the eye up to your lovely face and away from any potential trouble spots. Blends in the same color family give the impression of solid color unity and make for a longer and leaner look. Plus, they are quite chic and very sophisticated to boot...

And finally, the nitty-gritty on hemlines from DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT? Cheers. Come back soon!

A hemline that hits at the heaviest part of your leg adds pounds. So if your legs are skinny, you can wear your longer skirts around mid-calf –which is the heaviest part of the lower leg. If you have heavy legs, long skirts would look better hemmed lower, at the narrowest part of the calf. As you experiment, see if this holds true for you.

Skirts should be longer than they are wide since you always want to get vertical lines from a skirt for maximum elongation. That's why fuller skirts usually look better a little longer, and straight skirts a little shorter.

Wearing a skirt longer than midcalf can make you look matronly—especially if you're short. This length requires a triple check, and is another thing to look for as you experiment. Just above the ankle can be a graceful length, but is not recommended for women with thick ankles. As for ultra long skirts that fall below the ankle—well, that's an extremely tough length to make work with anything but evening gowns. Frankly, I wouldn't suggest it.

Skirts with side slits are a natural if you have good legs. Skirts with front slits, on the other hand, never move very gracefully and are generally unflattering on everybody.

And finally, New York custom designer, Rob Kinch, has an interesting theory. He feels that short skirts are usually most flattering when they fall right around a certain part of the knee. "There's a little part of a woman's leg that goes in at the knee on the inside—a little indentation," he says. "If you finish the skirt above that indentation you'll be surprised how long and lean your leg will look. Many women will go right below that indentation so that you see the widest part of their knee, which makes them look very large and their knees not very pretty." Something to think about.

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