Braille Monitor                                                   May 2010

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Looking Good Without Looking
A Guide to Personal Style for Blind Men

by Linda Zani

Linda Zani and her daughterFrom the Editor: In the January 2010 issue we published an article on women’s fashion by Linda Zani. Now she has pulled together material that men specifically will find useful. Linda is a member of the NFB of New Jersey. She serves on the board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey. She has designed and made her own clothes and a line of jewelry called Sparkle Brilliant. Linda’s daughter Marisa is multiply disabled and lives with her parents. Last year Linda conducted a fashion workshop at the New Jersey state convention. It was very popular, so she decided to put some of her useful tips on paper. Following is the information she believes will assist men who wish to look their best. Linda would love to hear stories of your personal style journey and will answer your questions at lindazani@aol.com or at (201) 314-8045. This is what she says:

Introduction

Discovering and embracing your assets is the cornerstone of your unique style and image and will give you great self-confidence to be the best you can be. Being assured in your personal style helps others see you as smart, self-disciplined, a good decision maker, and someone who pays great attention to detail. Hmmm--sounds like someone who has a great social life and an excellent career—a real go-getter. As you become more comfortable in your skin and your self-confidence increases, you put others at ease and attain better personal relationships. Your decision-making and attention to detail can help you land that job or promotion. Cultivating your own personal style is a discipline that benefits you in all areas of your life.

You can have much more success in becoming a style and fashion icon than a sighted person. You heard me correctly. Vision can be misleading and, in personal style, just plain confusing. You see, sighted people copy the fashion sense of those we admire, and this can really get us into trouble. Chances are you look different from other members of your family, your friends, coworkers, or classmates. One of them probably wishes he looked like you. Trust me, having vision causes us to make lots of errors when we aspire to the image of someone else, instead of accepting and celebrating the physical gifts we already have.

In this article you will learn what looks best on you, how to choose fashions and trends that fit your personal style, how to determine what colors suit you best and how to use color to convey your personal style, and how to master shopping tips, tricks, and resources.

Are you ready? Come with me for a style ride to looking good without looking.

Step 1: Find Your Natural Shape

For this all-important first step, you will need a measuring tape and a sighted person to read it or an adapted tape measure (tactile tape measure available at nfb.org or independentliving.com). Please measure yourself in your underwear. You will also need a small notebook and cellophane tape for this and the other steps. This notebook will become your personal stylebook. Jot these numbers down in your stylebook so you will have them to show the salespeople when you go shopping. You will need to record seven basic measurements:

Now for the fun part—determining your body shape and figure type. There are five basic male body shapes:

Trapezoid: Shoulders and chest are broad, waist and hips are medium. This shape is considered the most balanced male figure type. Personal Style Goal: Not to throw your look out of balance.

Rectangle: Chest, waist, and hips are all about the same measurement, torso shape is straight. Personal style goal: to emphasize the shoulders. For those with a slim build, the goal is to add bulk.

Inverted Triangle: Shoulders and chest are the widest part of the body, and the waist and hips are very narrow. Personal Style Goal: To balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the upper figure or maximizing the lower figure.

Oval: Chest and waist are about the same measurement and are much larger than the hips, or waist is the largest measurement. Personal Style Goal: To minimize the waist and balance the upper and lower figure proportions to create the appearance of a longer, slimmer torso.

Triangle: Hips are the widest part of the body. Personal Style Goal: To balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the lower figure and maximizing the upper figure, creating the appearance of broad shoulders.

Step 2: Determine Your Clothing Size

Now that you know your measurements, you can determine the size you will take. You may be two different sizes, one on top and another on the bottom.

Shirts are sized by neck measurement and sleeve length. On dress shirts you will generally see both measurements listed. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters are sized as S, M, L, XL, and so on.

Pants are sized by waist and inseam to get the right fit. This goes for khakis, blue jeans, and dress pants. Sweatpants are available in S, M, L, XL and so on.

Suits and sport coats are sized by the chest measurement. For pants with them, the sizing is a little different from regular pants. A two-piece suit with a jacket size of 36-42 will come with pants that are six inches smaller at the waist. For example, a man with a forty-inch chest will take a jacket size 40, but the suit will come with thirty-four-inch pants at the waist. Suits for men with a chest size from forty-four to forty-six come with pants five inches smaller, and those forty-eight inches and up will come with pants that are four inches smaller at the waist.

Many men are not built this way and should shop for suit separates instead of a two-piece suit to get the right fit. Stores like J. Crew and Today’s Man offer separates, as do many department stores. Stores such as Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor offer free expert alterations.

Tall sizes are generally for men who are five feet eleven inches to six feet three inches. Shirts will be about two inches longer in the body and one-and-a-half inches longer in long sleeves and three quarters of an inch longer in short sleeves.

Trim fit or tailored styles are becoming very popular for men who are fit and trim. J.Crew, Today’s Man, Joseph A. Banks, and Nordstrom carry tailored shirts and suits and sport coats.

Men's Clothing Size Chart


US Sizes

XS

S

M

L

XL

2XL

3XL

4XL

Neck

13-13.5"

14-14.5"

15-15.5"

16-16.5"

17-17.5"

18-18.5"

19-19.5"

20-20.5"

Chest

33-34"

35-37"

38-40"

42-44"

46-48"

50-52"

54-56"

58-60"

Sleeve

31.5-32"

32.5-33"

33.5-34"

34.5-35"

35.5-36"

36-36.5"

36.5-37"

37-37.5"

Waist

27-28"

29-31"

32-34"

36-38"

40-42"

44-48"

50-52"

53-54"

Step 3: Choose the Right Silhouettes for Your Shape

Now for the fun part—choosing garments that give you the right silhouette to balance your figure or, for trapezoid shaped men, to keep you in balance. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts:

Trapezoid: Fitted clothing looks great on you. Be careful not to add bulk, and choose color carefully so as not to throw off your proportions. Flat front pants are best for you as are straight-leg jeans.

Rectangle: Add width at your shoulders by wearing jackets with shoulder structure, pads or details such as epaulets. Make sure jackets cinch in at the waist. V-neck and boat neck tops work well on you. Emphasize your waist with a belt. Be sure shorts and sweaters are not boxy or too loose. For those with a slim build, try double-breasted, double-vented jackets.

Inverted Triangle: add width to your hips to balance your broad shoulders. Your tops should contain minimal details and be darker than your pants. One-button jackets and long jacket and coat styles work well on you. Boot cut or wide leg jeans work well on you, as do pants that are pleated in front.

Oval: your goal is to deemphasize your waist by focusing on your shoulders and hips to keep your look in balance. Wear tops that skim the body, and do not tuck them in. One- or two-button, single-vented jackets are a good choice, as are tops with V or scoop necks. Vertical stripes are great on you, but avoid horizontal stripes. You will find belts difficult to wear. Cardigans and vests are a good choice. Try wearing light colors on top with darker colors on the bottom or monochromatic dressing (all shades in one color family). Flat-front pants only, and straight-leg jeans—not too wide legged.

Triangle: balance your figure by adding emphasis to your shoulders with boatnecks and cap-sleeved T-shirts. Jackets and tops should cover your derriere; shoulder pads are great for you, as are lightly fitted shirts. Boxy, double-breasted jackets will probably not work on you. One- or two-button jackets with the top button left undone are good on you because the opening of the jackets will make a V toward your face. Tight tops with no structure will throw your figure out of balance—especially shorter tops. Flat-front, boot-cut jeans are a good choice for you. Try light colors on top, dark on the bottom.

Experiment with what looks best on you. Then cut out and tape your dos and don’ts sheet in your stylebook to help you find your best fashion styles quickly when you’re shopping. Most large departments stores like Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, and Nordstrom have personal shoppers who will work with you within your budget at no charge—and they offer free alterations, including hems on regular price items.

Step 4: Choose the Perfect Outfit for Each Occasion

What styles say about you: Before you attend your next meeting, have a job interview, or go out with friends or on a date, take a moment to consider what you want the outcome to be. How do you want to be perceived? How do you want to be remembered? Then dress accordingly. My own tip is, if the thought even enters your mind while you are getting ready that maybe you should wear something else, listen to that thought. Change your outfit.

Control the message: When you feel confident and dress right for the occasion, you control your message even before you open your mouth to speak. Remember the old saying, you have only one chance to make a good first impression. The sighted make a judgment call on vision alone right from the get-go. The fact that a visually impaired person can nail that first perception with excellent wardrobe choices will be impressive.

Your choice of color can also bolster your image. Experts suggest wearing charcoal gray or dark blue for a job interview, red to stand out when taking a leadership role or speaking in public. A shade of blue that looks good on you is an excellent choice for a date.

For men at work choosing your best neutral is important because your suits, pants, and sport coats will be in that color family. Choosing the perfect tie color both to flatter your coloring and to send the right message is key. If your tie is in any way distracting, it is not considered a business tie but more appropriate for a social event. Deep, rich colors look more expensive and are more authoritative. Lighter shades of these colors tend to be more friendly and social or used in the summer. A black tie is more formal than colors, and a white tie is definitely formal. Small, evenly spaced patterns are appropriate for business, including pin dots, paisley, or rep or striped ties. Solid dark colors convey quiet elegance, while satin-finish ties are more formal.

Step 5: Finding Your Best Color Palette

Choosing the right colors to wear is as important as finding the right silhouettes for your shape. To look your best, you can’t have one without the other. Color choices say a lot about the wearer, and, just like clothing silhouettes and styles, they telegraph to anyone with sight a lot about who you are. Seeing colors creates a different emotional reaction and assumption in the viewer. It’s important not only to wear colors that are most flattering but also to wear colors appropriate to the message about yourself that you want to convey. Here is a list of colors and the emotions they evoke:

Red: excitement, confidence. Red draws attention to itself and really stands out. If red were a scent, it would be a blooming rose or cinnamon. If it were a sound, it would be like Pavarotti holding the final note of “Nessun Dorma.”

Yellow: happy, bright. Yellow also draws attention to itself. If yellow were a scent, it would be a lemon. If it were a sound it would be Mariah Carey singing her highest note. Light yellow is a soft color and would taste like lemon custard.

Blue: serene, fresh, peaceful, spiritual. Blue can be calming in its warmer tones, and invigorating in its cooler tones. If blue were a scent, it would be the ocean. If blue were a sound, it would be rushing water.

Green: friendly, welcoming, relaxing, natural. If green were a scent, it would smell like mint or freshly mown grass. If you stand still in the woods in the summer and listen, that is the sound of green.

Purple: regal, sophisticated. If purple were a scent, it would be fragrant lilac. If purple were a sound, it would be a saxophone’s melody.
Orange: happy, welcoming. If orange were a scent, it would smell like an orange or an apricot. Orange feels like sunshine on your skin.

Light pink: gentle, feminine, soft. If light pink were a scent, it would be baby powder. It feels like a feather on your skin. Bright pink or rose is happy and feminine. It would taste like strawberry jam.

White: pure, heavenly, angelic, honest. If white were a scent, it would smell like clean sheets when they come out of the dryer. If white were a sound, it would be a breeze in the leaves.

Ivory: warm, sophisticated. If ivory were a scent, it would be vanilla. If it were a flavor, it would be vanilla custard or dulce de leche.

Brown: warm, earthy, sophisticated. If brown were a scent or flavor, it would be warm chocolate cake. Brown sounds like James Earle Jones’ voice.

Black: serious, mysterious, intense. If black were a scent, it would be incense. Black feels like the night.

Gray: a sophisticated, elegant neutral. It conveys quiet confidence. Gray feels like a cashmere pillow or a fine mist on your skin.

Determining Which Shades Look Best on You

Each color has both warm and cooler versions or shades. Warm colors have a bit of yellow to them and work best on people with warmer skin tones. Cool colors have a bit of blue in them. To determine which look best on you, it is helpful to determine your category, warm or cool.Get two pieces of jewelry—one gold tone and the other silver tone. Hold them up to your face. If you look best in gold, your skin has a warm tone; if silver looks better, your skin has a cool tone.

Let’s break it down further. According to a great book called Life in Color by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, those with warm coloring can be divided into sun or earth groups; those with cool coloring are divided into moon and star groups.

You can determine which of these groups you belong to by holding up two different colors to your face in natural lighting and choosing which looks best. These colors correspond to Benjamin Moore paint swatch colors 2020-30, Sparkling Sun, and 2169-30, Oriole, for those with warm coloring; and 2061-60, Little Boy Blue, and 2062-30, Blue Danube, for those with cool coloring. You can get paint chips at any Benjamin Moore store in order to do this exercise. The book Color Me Beautiful calls these groups winter, spring, summer, and fall. Some salespeople may be more familiar with those terms, so I have listed them below as well.

2020-30 Sparkling Sun: sun/summer
Suns look best in clear tropical colors with a yellow base such as saffron, coral, and apple green.
2169-30 Oriole: earth/fall
Earths look best in rich, deep hues with a yellow base like berry, moss, chocolate, and deep teal.
2061-60 Little Boy Blue: moon/spring
Moons look best in light, clear blue-based colors such as strawberry, sky blue, lavender, and pink.
2062-30 Blue Danube: star/winter
Stars look best in rich jewel tones with a blue base like ice blue, true red, and ultraviolet. Black looks best on Stars.

Once you’ve determined your color group, your best bet is to choose colors with either warm or cool tones that are in your color palette. Another thing I like about Life in Color is that the authors have removable color chips by group in the back of the book. Those without access to this book should not despair. Hold scarves or pieces of material of different colors up to your face to see which colors look best on you or to have someone with a strong color sense do so.

Once you have a pile of color swatches or scarves that look great on you, you can bring those items in to the paint store and have the manager scan them into the computer to determine which paint colors correspond to them. Here’s where your stylebook comes in handy again. Tape your paint color chips or swatches into your stylebook to guide salespeople at your favorite clothing stores. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can take a snapshot of any item and use the ColorCapture application from Benjamin Moore or the ColorSnap application from Sherwin Williams to translate them to paint chip colors.

Streamline Your Wardrobe with Your Personal Signature and Basic Colors

The best way to build a wardrobe is to choose one or two basic colors called neutrals to showcase your silhouette and form the building blocks of your outfits. Neutrals are grounding and calming; certain neutral shades will work best for your color palette.

Sun/summer: suns look best in medium warm brown, chocolate brown, and ivory. Grays are probably not best for you.
Earth/fall: earths look best in brown hues with a yellow base, like chocolate or camel, medium or light brown khaki. Medium or light gray or olive green are probably not best on you.
Moon/spring: moons look best in cool grays and dark navy blue. Beige and brown colors are not good for moons.
Star/winter: stars look best in cool medium to dark gray or bright or soft white. Beige, mustard or olive green will probably not work for you.

Suits and pants in your basic colors will form a base for you to pop your tops and ties with your signature colors. Your signature color is whichever shade in your color palette (sun, earth, moon, star) is not a neutral but gives you the most joy and makes you feel right. It will be the color or colors that make you look the best when held up to your face and that fit your personality. Do let me know which is yours.

One question I’ve received since this article was first published is, “How do I mix colors together”? Over 300 years ago Sir Isaac Newton invented the color wheel, a tool used mostly by artists to mix colors that work well together. The three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue--are equally spaced around the wheel and form three points of a triangle. Picture that triangle embedded in a circle. Now we fill in the spaces between each pair of these three colors with three secondary colors that are created by mixing together the two primary colors at each end of the arc. Between blue and yellow is green; between yellow and red is orange; and between red and blue is purple. To form the tertiary colors, combine one primary color and the secondary color beside it: yellow- orange, red-orange, fuchsia, blue violet, blue green, and yellow green—and all the shades between. These can be lightened with white or darkened with black to form all the colors in the rainbow.

Complementary colors are directly across from one another on the color wheel. For example, red orange is across from teal or a dark blue-green; fuchsia or bright blue- based pink is across from bright lime green. Colors placed side by side on the color wheel also look great together. These analogous colors may be something like blue and blue-green, yellow and tangerine or yellow-orange. Finally, different shades—whether lighter or darker—of the same color is called monochromatic and is a very popular way to dress.

Step 6: Streamlining and Organizing Your Closet

First, some basic tips: Unless it is a formal outfit of some kind, if you did not wear a certain item at all last season, give it to a friend, take it to a consignment store, or donate it. If an item is stained or hopelessly out of date, make it go away. If an item is not flattering on you because of fit, silhouette, or color--get rid of it. Now you are left with what looks best on you. You will probably need to go shopping to fill in the gaps. And you will need to arrange the items in your closet so you can match them correctly.

Here are some tricks to try: Hang clothing that is frequently worn together as outfits. I am a real proponent of Huggable Hangers, available on Home Shopping Network and at hsn.com. These velvety hangers enable you to fit more in your closet, and the cascading hooks can be used to hang multiple pieces on one hanger. They also have many great storage and organization ideas. To hear a video presentation of Huggable Hangers, go to hsn.com, click on home solutions, then Joy Mangano, and then click on any Huggable Hanger picture and go to the video.

Hang metal Braille tags on the hangers so you can tell the items by color. Use different labels for basic neutrals and signature color pieces. Keep all like items together. Always return the items to their place after washing or wearing.

GQ’s Seven Style Mistakes for Men

To conclude, here are some final tips from the experts:

1. Jackets too large
2. Dad jeans: High waisted, light wash.
3. Skimpy silk tie
4. Suit pants too long—ask for “no break” at tailor.
5. Soft collar—make sure collars frame your face even without a tie, use collar stays.
6. Wearing casual belt with suit—choose an all-leather belt with a subtle buckle.
7. Ill-fitting suit--make sure the bottom of the jacket can be cupped with your hand. Sleeves should not be baggy, and the entire suit should not be too large. Tip: Try suit jacket size that is just a bit uncomfortable on you, then go up one size.

Not sure what to wear? Contact me, and I’ll help you. It will be my pleasure to be your personal style consultant: <lindazani@aol.com>.

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