When I met Edgar in 1988, my clothes of choice were short, slim skirts and dresses, pencil style slacks, fitted sweaters and sexy high-heeled shoes. I had recently lost 50 pounds and wanted to show off my svelte body. Edgar, a non-practicing Southern Baptist living in oh-so-waspy New Canaan, CT, dressed accordingly: Blue blazer, white shirt, loafers and khakis. As we spent more time together, my style morphed into Pure Preppy. I even bought a wool plaid kilt that closed with a honest-to-goodness kilt pin and a pleated winter white skirt from Burberry of London, with matching cable-knit sweater. The darn kilt scratched like crazy and the pleated number spent a great deal of time in the dry cleaners, but I was determined not to let those piddling matters get in the way of my preppy persona.
When I gained back the weight—and then some—after staying slim for over 15 years, I became a fan of Eskandar. The designer’s over-sized sweaters and shirts, worn over his pants with drawstring waists, were anything but becoming on a big woman, but they helped me “hide” what I hated.
Fact is none of those three looks was the true Geri Brin. They didn’t reflect my inner nature—which is a bit unorthodox and resistant to too much structure—nor did they have anything to do with the way I moved, the shape of my features—from my long, thin face to my ample hips and big feet—or the pitch of my voice. I don’t have a sexy personality, nor do I move in an especially sexy way. But I thought maybe I’d be sexy if I wore sexy clothes.
And, goodness knows, the only preppy things I’m linked to are my Ivy-League educated sister and husband and their two Ivy-League educated sons. Looking like the female equivalent of Edgar wasn’t the secret to a successful relationship.
The opposite of sexy, Eskandar’s generously sized, limp pieces were comfortable, but they made me feel even more uncomfortable than I felt being overweight. Big clothes, I learned, actually make big women look and feel bigger.
At sixty-five I think I’ve finally connected the way I dress with the inner me as well as with my outer features and movements, which tend to be on the speedy side. I like easy clothes with some shape—boyfriend style jeans, sweatshirt style sweaters, dresses whose skirts flow modestly but have some shape up top, leggings with big tops that fall about three inches below my tush, I always wear my collars up and my sleeves rolled. I love soft fabrics but they need to have enough weight and shape so they don’t hang over every curve and bulge. Once my favorite colors, navy and gray will never grace my body. Once colors I detested, khaki green and chocolate brown are my new loves.
When I heard about an online program called Dressing Your Truth, by FOF Carol Tuttle, I was curious if Carol would confirm that my style reflects the “true me.” The foundation of DYT is called your Personal Beauty Profile. Are you “Bright and Animated,” “Subtle and Soft,” “Rich and Dynamic,” or “Bold and Striking?” Carol asks. Of course, we can each have a bit of all these characteristics, but Carol asserts we’re most like one or the other. “Beauty Profiling is not focused on putting beauty on, but on your inner source of beauty—the real you,” Carol writes in the introduction of her book Discovering Your Personal Beauty Profile. “What you will learn is that your outer beauty truly starts with your inner beauty, and when you know the truth about your inner beauty—your Beauty Profile—you’ll be ready to adorn your body to show your true beauty through your outer appearance.” That’s a lot of talk about beauty, but I get it!
“The baby boomer generation carries the most cultural conditioning,” Carol told me. “We grew up thinking we weren’t feminine unless we resembled Twiggy and looked good in mini skirts.” So true, I thought. Fashion magazines held us in thrall, which, when you think about it now, was pretty ridiculous since the fashion editors were 24 and the art directors were young gay men. These self-anointed style gurus had as much business telling us what we should look like as my great aunt Tilly. But we listened and many of us grew up hating our bodies. Our mothers didn’t help our image issues, either.
“Many women who stayed home grew up feeling lost if they weren’t fashionistas who read Vogue. They felt lost and unenthusiastic. As they got older, they started to dress like their grandmothers but blamed their age and their weight—not the clothes they chose—for looking frumpy, Carol explains. “You’ll age if your clothes and hair style don’t suit you.”
Carol’s online classroom is designed to help you “know your inner truth and feel confident and secure in your appearance.” Once you’ve learned what type you are (I’m supposedly Type 3—Rich and Dynamic—which Carol defines as “active, reactive, textured, angular, substantial and swift,”) the program offers courses and loads of support material for each Beauty Profile. You’ll learn what clothes look best on you (square or V-necklines, pointed collars and A-line or pleated skirts look best, for example, on Type 3); your best colors (brown); textures (grainy, bumpy, rough and ribbed); what metals to wear (gold, bronze, copper and brass), and even how to wear your hair (textured and angled).
Carol’s site has videos, community forums and live monthly Dressing Your Truth Club night broadcasts, covering subjects from emotional issues to how to grow your career.
“Where the fashion world left you guessing, Dressing Your Truth makes you your own beauty expert,” Carol explains. “You can throw out all your preconceived ideas about what FOFs should and shouldn’t do and start learning how to follow your instincts and use your natural beauty and inner nature to develop a style you can call your own.”
Although my favorite jewelry is silver and I am not a big fan of pleats, I like Carol’s philosophy and approach to style, and agree with her Type 3 assessment of me. We don’t really need to ask our husband if our butt looks fat in those pants or the saleswoman at Macy’s if she likes the way we look in that dress. And surely the beauty “expert” at Kohl’s doesn’t really know if red lipstick and blue eye shadow suit us? It’s really up to each of us.