|Credit: Hannah Morgan @ Unsplash.com|
Sorry this post is so late this month – I was dealing with some personal issues which set back my health a little bit, and thus my focus was on ‘get back to striving again’ and that took a lot of energy and time. Not to mention that I had 2 books set to release this month (Book4 of the espionage romance Corpus Agency series, and the French translation of Book3 of The Daimsbury Chronicles series). So yeah, March kinda flew by.
Now, back on track. Let’s talk fashion, and style. Most of you know I had breast cancer in 2005 and 2010 – both times resulted in mastectomies (aka surgical removal of the breast tissue), and I opted not to have breast reconstruction done after both (frankly, I didn’t have the money, and even when I found out the government hospitals would do it for free and that my insurance would cover the costs even in a private clinic, I was so not going to go under the knife again. Nope!) Anyway, so what this means is that, since 2010, it looks like I swapped my chest with an ironing board, because I am now flatter than a pre-pubescent boy. My chest is literally skin on the bones of my ribs … and I wouldn’t have it any other way – less chance of a lump developing on that surface and me missing it under my fingers.
Which brings us to fashion. Ever seen a man in a skinny T-shirt? Well, a man would have pecs, if not outright man boobs sometimes! I don’t even have that. Put your ironing board upright and make it wear a T-shirt. That’s what I look like. Pretty tricky to find clothes that look good, right? Of course, I can wear special bras (they have pockets in the cups, in which you can slip in a breast-shaped prosthesis in silicone, foam, or even ones that have been knitted with stiff wool). My doctor actually gave me one fitted with prostheses that look like chicken fillets in. But here’s the deal – when you’re able to go without a bra for any reason and the girls aren’t getting hurt or pulled down by gravity, well, you say sayonara to the bra! Aka, I do not want to wear a bra now! I do wear sport bras when I work out, but these are mostly for aesthetics and these fabrics soak up sweat really nicely (sorry for the TMI visual).
So that’s my Number #1 dressing dilemma. Number #2? I’m not rich!
A lot of people think I must be rolling around in the moolah. My husband is retired, our son goes to private school, I have books coming out at the rate of 2-3-4 each year, I wear high-end makeup. Let me spell it out for you: my husband is retired, yes, and we live on his pension, month to month! Savings? Not really something we’re able to make. Our son goes to private school … but the money we pay is pretty much the same amount we’d be paying for private after-school tuition in 3-4-5 subjects to 3-4-5 teachers because free government schools are pretty deadbeat at actually teaching something in class hours! I write books, yes … but I make my own covers (so that’s $200-400 saved on every book) and I have a working agreement with my editor whereby she edits for me and I edit for her and no money is exchanged between us (thus saving me another $500-1,000 on every book). I have 2-3-4 books coming out every year … but I don’t have money to put into ads, into a Virtual Personal Assistant or a publicist to get me reviews and market exposure, so no, I don’t make that much money from those 2-3-4 books a year, either. I do, however, buy high-end makeup because I will not put crap on my skin, when you know the skin is the biggest organ of the body and everything you put on it gets absorbed into your system!
So how do I make this work? This is what you’re here to find out, innit? Here we go:
Know Your Style
When I was a little girl, my mother loved to dress me in fluffy, puffy dresses – the fluffier, the better. I looked like I wore a fairy costume every time I went out of the house. And yes, it’s okay when you’re 6. Not so much when you’re 11. As I grew into a teen, my parents finally relented in buying me a pair of jeans … and that became my ‘uniform’ from then on. I was a chubby girl (and yes, the fairy dresses made me look like a puffed up glitter and ruffles ball *cringe*) so I paired the jeans with oversize T-shirts and I had my style. That continued as a teen, then I moved to pant suits or trousers with blouses, tunics, and tops as a young adult. In my 20s, I went through a ‘religious’ phase where I dressed in the Islamic way, complete with scarves, shapeless long dresses, and where only the oval of my face, my hands from below the wrists and my feet from below the ankles were visible. Let’s just say I moved on from that (and yes, I’m surely gonna get comments that I’ll be going to Hell after ditching the scarf…).
So I knew I didn’t like long dresses – my legs kept getting tangled in them and I had to be extra careful not to be a Bella from Twilight/Anastasia from 50Shades tripping all the time. Same goes for long skirts. I have awful calves, which never look toned no matter how much Pilates, yoga, Stairmaster I do. I could get away with 50s style/vintage dresses, with the mid-calf bouffant skirt … but hey, you need a rack on top to balance that, and remember, I am an ironing board? So my biggest issue with long clothes was no ease of movement, and I have to cover my calves …
Enter skinny jeans! I had found my holy grail! I could move, walk, run, squat, bend, sit in the yoga pose, everything in them! Now, other thing, I hate my arse. I don’t think it looks good under any light or situation, so I like to cover it and forget it’s there. And again, anything skin-tight on top is not a good look on me – you will not believe all the looks I get when I wear something a little tight: is that a woman? Is that a man trying to pass for a woman? What the hell is that? I have an arse but I don’t have hips, so I look very androgynous, and couple that with my pixie haircut, well, you get the drift.
Lower body fashion = skinny jeans or dressy trousers, preferably slim fit or straight cut or even bootleg, because I don’t have hips so these tapered trousers with wider hip areas just look really weird on me. Upper body? I found my jam in long shirt-dresses, not-so-flat tops, and flowy tunics. I’ll show you some of these below.
And I love my skinny jeans so much that I even lounge in them. I ditched all the yoga pants and lounge track suits and the like. I pull on the skinny every morning after ditching my PJs, and at home, I am often in a little top or T-shirt. If I have to go out, in summer, I will remove the small top (remember, need to cover that awful arse!) and pull on a short dress or the like, on the jeans, yeah. In winter, I will just drag on a coat or anorak.
But yeah, this is typically 'my' style of dressing now
So this is what works for me! Took me a trial and error of almost 25 years (my mother dressed me for my first 10 years, so we won’t count that as I had no say in there!), but I found it.
Figure out what works for you! Does it look good on you? Does it suit you? Does it hide your ‘flaws’ and address your ‘assets’?
Just the other day, I was strolling the Woolworths shop, and half of its racks had ‘50% off sale’ on them. Can you believe I came out of there without a single thing bought? Because none of that would fit my style! The blouses were too short for my tastes – I could wear them with a skirt, but I hate skirts, remember? And they wouldn’t cover my arse in my skinny jeans. Sorry, I want the comfort of my skinnys more than anything, and I am not ready to compromise on that! The trousers all had that extra room for hips that I don’t have. The tops all have gaping necklines or needed a pair of breasts to give them shape – I am not putting on a bra with chicken fillets in just to fit into an item of clothing!
Before I figured this out, heck, just a couple of years ago, I went into that sale and came out with 15+ items costing me along the lines of 5,000 rupees. Just last month, when I was doing the Marie Kondo wardrobe cleanse (post on that coming soon, promise!), maybe 13 of these items ended up in the ‘donate’ pile, quite a few of them not even worn and still with their tags on. I bought because I saw ‘sale’ but didn’t pause to think if that would suit me, and I paid double for that because I quite literally lost that money by first buying it, then not using it, then having to give it away.
Know Your Size
I’m a SA12 at Woolworths. FR40 at Jennyfer. 2 or 3 at Harris Wilson, depending on the cut. US38 at MANGO. S at Women’s Secret. 2.5-3N in Dior makeup, and generally N to C in makeup colours (oranges, warm, gold do NOT agree with my skin tone, but blues are too sharp and greens make me look like an alien. But berry tones suit me, as do bluish-toned reds, and nude colours that are neither pink nor gold). Gold jewellery makes me look like I have jaundice, but silver and white-toned metals give my skin radiance.
All this knowledge came through trial and error. I remember for my first wedding, my in-laws had gotten me the most yellow gold jewellery (think sparkling turmeric!) and it is tradition that a bride wears the jewellery given by the in-laws on her wedding day. I destroyed all those pics not because that wedding went south in the end, but because I looked like I had taken a dip in turmeric powder and the tint had not washed off on my skin in there!
Again, during sales, I have bought stuff I thought I absolutely had to have because, sales, people … and there wasn’t the perfect size for me, but who cares, it’s sales! And ended up making my life miserable to try to get into those too-tight jeans, or having the belt dig into my belly and love handles because the trousers keep falling off as they’re too big even with a belt on!
I now go into shops and know exactly what size I need at each one, and at makeup counters, no sales person can BS me into getting a colour I know doesn’t agree with me.
Know your size, people, and never compromise on that! Don’t suffer when comfort is the biggest gift you can give yourself! And this also helps for my next tip:
Look Out For Sales
Everyone loves a deal – please don’t tell me you disagree! Though I can afford my clothes at the regular price, I will be jumping up and down with joy when I manage to nab a deal and a few hundred bucks off the thingie.
(FYI: a US Dollar exchanges for about 30-35 Mauritian rupees. A British Pound for about 45-50 rupees. A Euro for 40-45 rupees. Give or take, so you have an idea. When I’m talking hundreds without a currency mentioned, it’s Mauritian rupees)
So, everyone loves a deal … so you can expect everyone will be at the shops during sales! Think Black Friday or Boxing Day – you get the drift. Elbowing your way through the throng is not the most pleasant thing, and being jostled around when you even manage to park yourself in front of the table with the offerings or the rack or the shelf? Urgh.
And here’s where knowing your size helps even more! You manage to push your way to the table/shelf/rack, find the style you like … and look for your size, nab it, and you’re outta there, with the perfect clothing for you! Easy breezy peasy!
I just had this at the Harris Wilson sale/braderie the other day. The shop was teeming with people, but I managed to elbow my way in, scour through the tops on display, find a style that would agree with me (again, know your style!) … and quickly go through the underneath pile looking for my size which is 2 there, though I can get away with 3, too. Time saved, hassle-free scouring, and I was at the counter paying for my tops less than 5 minutes later. My husband who had opted to wait for me outside was surprised I came out before he’d zoned out on the bench out there!
And speaking of sales – the only shop I shop at outside of sales periods is Jennyfer and Mado Parfums (the equivalent of Sephora here in Mauritius). I can get the tops I wear at home at Jennyfer’s for about 250 rupees each, which is great when you consider the quality of the fabric and the construction and stitching. At Mado, I get my makeup and perfumes, things I do not scrimp on (I tried going with less expensive stuff. For example, Avon perfumes give me the worst rash ever when I apply them to my skin. Never had that problem with high-end fragrance, though).
My other clothes – yes, I dress at MANGO, Harris Wilson, Woolworths … but I get most of my stuff from them during sales. I have no qualms wearing the ‘old/previous’ seasons’ clothes (unless you’re a bona fide fashion victim, I suggest you get over that. Also, if you know your style, you won’t have to rely on fashion trends to know how to dress!). I get my MANGO/MNG skinny jeans at half-price, sometimes from Rs1,900 to Rs1,100 or even less. I get my Harris Wilson tops and blouses at between 30-50% of the original price during their sales/braderie (for example, 1 top usually retails around Rs900 there. I nabbed one that had been marked down to RS350 from Rs900. And no ‘defects’, no ‘rejects’, nothing. The clothes were in perfect store conditions!)
Look for sales! Follow your fave stores on social media, sign up for their newsletters, get loyalty cards, and get onto fidelity programs with them. You’ll be the winner!
The Woolworths fidelity card sometimes give you an extra 10% off during their sales. The fidelity card for L’Occitane en Provence, MAC, Cocoon, Colours & Senses (all from the same parent company) gives you 10% off ALL purchases with them, among other nice thingies like invites to private sales, etc.
In Mauritius, good sales periods are the twice-yearly Woolworths Quality Sales. The Ascencia malls NouSales where all their malls take part and many shops offer super deals. Bagatelle Mall has the BagaSales on top of the Ascencia sales. Caudan Waterfront has the yearly or twice-yearly braderie. Floreal shops that represent Harris Wilson and Blu River have their own braderie, too, on top of the Bagatelle Mall ones. MANGO, Jennyfer, Xti Shoes, and other brands under Fashion United also have 2-3 sales throughout the year. City Sport does the ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ deal often in December – that’s when I get the teen’s school shoes and I nab a new pair of exercise shoes for me or the hubby (we’re talking original Puma/Adidas/Reebok/Nike/etc. here). Mado Parfums often offers 10% off before occasions like Eid-ul-Fitr and Chinese New Year (plus they often have end of collection makeup that retails for 40% less or so on a side table in the shops - be prepared to open a lot of boxes to find the right colour, etc.)
Other shops to get good deals for are the Pridemark outlets, which now represent Pull & Bear and sometimes Zara, too. Vesti-One in So’Flo and Riche Terre malls has clothing similar to Woolworths but much less expensive (and their nightwear sections for ladies are awesome!)
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a huge rack in front of you to be able to dress well. Yes, some clothes do require well-supported breasts to aid in their hold – case in point, vintage/50s dresses, but post mastectomy or if you have mosquito bites as breasts, you can still ‘do’ fashion, too. Here’s what has worked for me:
I love Harris Wilson because their top/blouse cuts are loose and work well with breasts or a flat chest.
Buykud.com is a Chinese brand and their models are Asian girls who are usually not that well-endowed in the chest department, so this works in the favour of us flat chesters! There are hardly ever darts and tucks to enhance breasts in those styles. They also have these ‘blousy’ feels and cuts that look really cute, too, like empire waist styles, or flowy from the shoulder down cuts. Side note – I have shopped Buykud from Mauritius, online, and their service was amazing and truly wonderful. They are a delight to shop with!
Any flowing blouse like this works great to conceal a flat chest!
A total fail-safe when dressing for a flat chest is putting on a thick coat or a padded anorak! This is my go-to in winter … but not so doable in summer. If I’m wearing something that is also looking too flat, I will often throw on a scarf around my neck and do a double wrap, an infinity loop, or a cowboy tuck (just type these styles on YouTube and you should find a tutorial. I’m not able to add videos, strangely)
All those scarf styles can be used to conceal a flat chest or to cover your breasts if you want to cover them sometimes.
So that’s about it, peeps! I’m not including the usual/typical ‘Muslim’ fashion in here because a lot of the clothing I am seeing from them lately is cinched-waist dresses that will put emphasis on a flat chest if there aren’t breasts on the frame. A lot of their tunics, as well, being ‘big’ cuts to not show the body shape, actually end up highlighting the lack of breasts on a frame more than concealing it.
I hope this has helped you! Tell me in the comments what your style is, and how you came to figure out what works for you or not!
From Mauritius with love,