Monday, 31 March 2014

Stripey Issues

Following on from last post - here is another example of a modestly priced optical illusion dress from Next at £38 - disguises a multitude of sins and creates the ideal shape!

This article tends to show M & S in a poor light and I must admit that I have moved from a previous endorsement I am also one of those who feels that this time M & S have got it wrong. Clothing should be aspirational not functional we need to be enthralled and be transported into a world of novel attractive images which we can emulate. This time their marketing and clothes have missed the objective.

On another tack why are there so many stripes around? Why do so many people who want to disguise a large top, whether they are just seriously overweight or who have a large bust, insist on wearing horizontal stripes which create an even larger mass! If you want to create a diminished top then the stripes should be vertical…? I can't understand why some magazines are still promoting horizontal stripes for the most inappropriate audience. Have a good look at your wardrobe and ask your most valued honest friend or relative to provide you with a critique of your wardrobe choices… and after you have got over the shock be prepared to take on board some of the comments!

I am 5ft 8ins tall and although I hated this when I was in my teens and early twenties height does have some advantages - clothes tend to drape well over a taller frame.
If you are say 5ft to 5ft 4ins then you do have to consider some of the rules we mentioned before in terms of creating an illusion and playing up or down of top or bottom.  If you place a line across the body at the waist you shorten the overall image so maybe disregard what has gone before and keep to one colour which provides an illusion of vertical length - don't attempt to accessorise with a belt!!

By identifying the dos and don'ts we all arrive at a style of clothing which works!!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dressing to Suit!!

If you are an apple or one of the other shapes where you do not feel you have a defined waist then you create the illusion of one.  In the last 2/3 years there have been many versions of a panel  dress which seeks to provide a curvier shape.  Kate Winslet I think wore the first one and then there have been many others since who have followed.

Here is one of the more recent ones I have found which is a little more complicated but nevertheless follows these principles.

This is by Antonio Beradi,  reduced to £484 from £1210

This is expensive but there many cheaper items on other sites and your local department stores.

If you are larger on the hips than the top then the rule is to wear dark colours at the bottom and light at the top. you may want the lighter top part more detailed to draw attention to this area and away from the bottom.  Maybe lace, a pattern and could even be horizontal stripes to attract attention at the top

Example to be found on

This dress is £85 reduced from £170

W118 by Walter Baker

If you are big at the top and small on the hips like an inverted triangle then this one might work for you
- dark at the top with a little interest and……. light at the bottom with a peplum, which you can make the most of with your shape

Jason Wu was £3130 down to £939 at Outnet.

Bit steep for my budget but it does give the general idea!

A real no no for a larger bust you wish to disguise - horizontal stripes - more about these later.

More in next post including "height matters", stripes and dress and skirt lengths …but before I go…...

You may have seen the medical reports in the press which talked about obesity and how best to assess if you need to lose weight. We have relied on BMI and other measures which tend to be complicated and difficult to understand and calculate.  This week an alternative was  outlined -a very simple way of deciding if you need to do something…… just using the tape measure!!

"Men with waists of more than 40 inches and women with waist measurements of more than 35 inches are at an incredibly high risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Read more:

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Body shapes - which one?

In my last post I mentioned the desirable "S" shape in women and that few really have the so called perfect shape.  Many of us dress in a way to create an illusion and show ourselves off to good effect.  Does this matter - well to many it is a matter of self esteem, vanity, love of clothes, getting a job, getting a partner, being credible, being taken seriously…..whatever is the underlying motive you can't get away from the fact that the way we look and dress sends a message to others - so what are we trying to convey?….and have we achieved in sending this message?

It has been an interesting week in politics. I noticed that Cameron, Osbourne and Gove have all been on diets - maybe this was for health reasons but more probably down to to image too. When you have to deliver a special presentation you need to feel right, feel confident, dress appropriately.  Before I retired I would often have to give presentations and understood that I would come under scrutiny so the preparation for these events was important.

So getting back to our shapes…….

Apple,  Pear,     Hourglass,    Rectangle,    Inverted Triangle,    Diamond

If you are

an "apple" you tend to have a larger waist compared to your hip and bust measurement

a "pear" usually have bust and waist measurements which are very similar - however the hip measurement  will be much higher.  Some people describe the snap as a "spoon"

an "hourglass" is a desirable shape and more closely aligned with the S effect. Here the bust and hips are roughly the same and the waist is relatively small in contrast and well defined.  It is often associated with voluptuous women like Sofia Vergara but it doesn't always follow.  In the mirror look at your shoulder width and hips do they look similar?  Do you have a definite waist.

a "rectangle"is far more common these days - bust, waist and hips have similar measurements.  Sometimes described as a trunk. 

an "inverted triangle" - shoulder width and bust are wide graduating down to quite small waist and hips

a "diamond" - here we had narrow shoulders and hips and the waist is wider in relative terms. Often confused with an apple - however the apple is much more rounded a shape whereas the diamond has a sharper angular line.

As I have mentioned previously there are many more descriptions of shape but I tend to stick with these.  Once you have identified which one more closely fits your shape you can then think about your choice of clothes, what is in your wardrobe and what will stay and which will go!!

We have all made the mistake of buying whats in fashion or just buying something because you like it…only to find that sadly it does absolutely nothing for you.  If you understand your body more you will make less mistakes and start to feel confident about your selection.

So next time we will take into consideration other factors which also play a part in looking good such as height, legs, arms.  We will look at enhancing the good points and disguising the less good!  So part of the preparation is working on this bit.

Talk soon……..

Monday, 17 March 2014

Body Shape - the desirable "S"

I was lucky enough to have a fantastic lecturer at St Martins who was teaching the human form and he explained about the "S shape" in fashion - a desirable shape which is aesthetically appealing.

The desirable shape is one which gently skirts the human form following the line of the breasts  down crossing a slim waist before sweeping across the rounded hip.  For the back follow the neck sweeping to the left around the shoulder down to the curve of the slim waist and and then following the left contour in the painting of the hip.

There aren't many who have this perfect shape and so that is why we create an illusion with the way we dress to create this utopian state.

So the start is being honest with yourself. Stand in front of a mirror - naked or in your underwear, depending how brave you are feeling and consider your shape. Maybe ask for the assistance of your partner when trying to decide on your best features and then those you wish to disguise.

To help you I have sketched out some well known referenced body types.

Apple                            Pear                                Hourglass                    Rectangle      Inverted Triangle                 Diamond

Of course you don't look like a cartoon….but you will start to see some similarities and you can decide …."which is the one I most identify with….?"

Next post I will expand on some of the characteristics of these body shapes and whether you still think you have chosen the right shape for you!!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Knowing Your Body Shape

I was reflecting on my posts about diet and exercise and I recalled that when I was at school - around 14/15 years of age, I can only remember one overweight girl in our year.  Also parents of school friends were slim and rarely did you see anyone who was particularly overweight.  So why was this?  We didn't have take aways thats for sure - mum always cooked from scratch even though she worked.  We were active and had regular sports whether we liked it or not!  I really didn't care for netball and tennis - well I did like the latter but was absolutely useless.  However whatever the weather rain or shine we were forced by our teachers to take part.  So now looking back I can see it made sense.  Today so many people young and old take enjoyment from more sedentary pursuits - computer games come to mind and social media.

If you have started dieting you will see your body changing and you see a shape you remember from your youth. Okay not quite the same but nevertheless you identify with the way you really are meant to be.  When I was modelling we were told about bodies and shapes and what suits some shapes more than others.  We were also told about fashion faux pas and these remain in my head to this day.   I am often asked by people to give advice and so i thought I would share some of these things with you.

As a model I was 5ft 8ins (quite short by todays standards) and weighed 8st to 8st 4lbs.  I was painfully thin but naturally so. All the girls were very slim but still different shapes and we were acutely aware of the items of clothing which worked with our figures or not.  I can remember the dresser with a rail of clothes and she would say "this will look good on you"  or "perhaps not" and pass the item to someone else.
As we get older we all tend to put on weight but if you keep it a healthy weight for your height and frame then you will see your shape is in line with what you had in your youth.

You will probably have heard about apple, pear, hourglass, triangle, inverted triangle……..and so on.

I hate putting a label on people but the rules around these shapes are useful but ……not cast in stone - so you can break the guidelines  if you want to!!

So look out for next post and the start of some tips from the past!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Interesting Friends………………...

On holiday I met quite a few people of similar age who quite openly said that they enjoyed doing nothing,  quite content to sit for long periods of time just staring out to sea. If this is what you want then fine.  However I like to surround myself with people who still have a zest for life and who are still excited with the prospect of what they can do next!  Age should never be a limiting factor in pursuing your dreams.

From time to time I am going to pass the gauntlet on my blog to friends who are pursing their dreams.  Here is one of them. If music is your thing you will certainly appreciate the passion and dedication of Alan!


Planning for retirement? Record an album!

When I worked in training & development, I organised my first pre-retirement course at the age of twenty-seven, so I’ve had plenty of time to figure out what to do when it eventually happens for me (which will probably be in a couple of years or so)!
I’ve been incredibly lucky in that my lifelong pastime of playing and writing music will hopefully now provide plenty of projects for the future – on piano my style is kind of a cross between Randy Newman and Bruce Hornsby and I can fortunately  also do reasonable guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
So, having played a lot of other people’s songs in bands, about ten years ago I invested in some decent recording equipment and set about recording my own back-catalogue of songs. Since then I’ve given up bands (too much artistic angst at times!) and concentrated on playing solo, with keyboard, 12-string and vocals (more nerve-wracking but at least you’re in control of things!).
On to my new album, ‘Storyteller’ – how did I actually set about making it? Well, you have to play every role – songwriter, artist, recording engineer, designer, producer and marketing agent – so it helps to be mildly schizophrenic for a start!
Usually a thought comes to mind which forms the concept of a song – for me, often a chorus. A good example of this on the new album would be the song ‘Ridgeway’. I live quite close to the aforementioned pathway, and sitting up there one day a few words came to mind ‘Ridgeway wanders through the country, Ridgeway knows of Father Time, Ridgeway welcomes all who know her, from Wessex Downs to Chiltern lime’.
A mad dash down the A34 muttering the words so as not to forget them and on to the piano – shut your eyes and see what comes out. If I start with words, I can usually form a concept of the song in my mind – ballad, up-tempo, rhetorical etc. In this case a kind of ‘piano Dire Straits’ came to mind and off I went. As an aside, I once wrote a song called ‘Leaving the South Behind’ as I was driving up the M42. On that occasion I phoned the sung chorus into my work voicemail as a backup.. good job my PA was on holiday!!
But usually I never record anything straight away, the idea is that you should sleep on what you’ve written and if you can remember it the next day, then it’s worth following up. I say ‘written’; for me that usually means a few scribbled words and guitar chords. It’s a bit like having brief notes when doing a presentation - a guide, and what comes out on the day just kind of follows the structure.
Anyway, the verses often follow a few days later (I sometimes cheat and do a bit of research on the Internet first, if the song is about a place, for instance) and the next acid test is playing it live. The occasional gigs I do are somewhat long (3 hours plus is not uncommon) so there is plenty of time to pop in a few new songs here and there and see how they go down. Depending on reaction, I modify things – you haven’t got to be too precious about what you’ve originally written (that’s the ‘producer’ bit!).
Onwards to the studio. I usually start with a piano or guitar, then start adding other parts – bass, drums, vocals etc. Some of my earlier efforts suffered a little from not knowing when to stop adding
instruments, which a) caused a nightmare when mixing down and b) caused audiences to comment that they weren’t buying the sound that I was playing live.
So ‘Storyteller’ is very much a live sound – one piano or guitar, vocals, some bass and maybe a few background synthesizer strings added, but not straying too far from what you can produce live – just enough to give the sound a bit of body. Now, my recording studio is not perhaps what you would envisage. Unlike recording ‘All You Need is Love’, there are no hoards of head-banded, pot-smoking, ‘hey man’ people – just me and all this equipment! So, off we go…..
Recording the first track on, say, piano is often a challenge. Especially with fewer instruments, you need to maximise the playing and expression, but with no-one there to perform to (perhaps I do need the hippies!). I don’t go in for lots of computer editing afterwards – you can lose too much of the ambience of the song – so for me, what goes in is broadly what comes out, so it has to be right. My usual routine is to keep playing the whole piece until I’m happy – which can often be a few hours and many cups of tea later - it used to be wine, but for some strange reason the playing got worse when I thought it was getting better! Putting second, third instruments on then becomes a bit easier as you have something to work with, listening to your first recording through headphones as you play along.
After the instruments come the vocals and it’s best for me to do those a couple of days after a live performance – my voice is a bit more relaxed then. That is the only part where a microphone is used and any background noise should be avoided…all the instruments are wired directly into the recorder, so it doesn’t matter if a 32-ton juggernaut drives past!

Now you have your recorded song and the technical bit now kicks in big-time, adding a few effects like reverb and compression to brighten the instruments, getting the balance right between all the instruments and the vocals, and making sure you have deleted any extraneous noises.
This part can often take as long as the recording, but what you end up with is the first cd of your new album, recorded directly from the recording desk. It is a truly wonderful feeling when a message pops up on the screen of the desk asking if you have copyright permission to make this cd and I always grin widely (now with the aforementioned wine) when I click ‘yes’!

I recorded ‘Storyteller’ at my house in France, so the next part of the album journey was to bring it back to the UK for ‘mastering’. This is the only part of the process I don’t do myself as it requires some expert equipment and personnel. The album sound is filtered through various electronic gadgets that boost certain frequencies etc, which has a similar effect to polishing a brass candlestick! The whole sound comes out as fresher, as if you are playing it in the same room. This is then called a ‘Red Book’ album and is of the technical quality to be pressed and played on radio stations. Also, there is a type of electronic bar coding added so that if the song is played on the radio, it is identified and the royalties roll straight into your bank account! So, my idea of retirement is……..

The last piece of the jig-saw is the album cover. I tend to design my own and I like to put the words in, so I usually end up with at least an 8-page booklet. I like a clean look and there are a number of critical issues, not least of which are the title, colour, typeface, pictures etc. For ‘Storyteller’, I chose one of the songs as the title, mainly as all my songs usually tell little stories and went for a typeface called HANA, which gave the right sort of ambience. For pictures, I used a couple of my collection of gig’ photos, but also Googled ‘Storyteller’ and found an interesting original print from a Norwegian professional storyteller. A few e-mails later and I had his permission to use this on the front cover!

So that’s about it. I currently have the final proofs for the album and am awaiting delivery of the first batch. Like most printing things, it becomes cheaper the more you order, but some self-control is needed otherwise you end up with a house full of unsold cds (cough)! Lots of this first batch will be sent out to radio stations in the hope that the royalties come flooding in…
What next, well I have thoughts of revisiting some of my earlier material – the ones I currently play live – maybe ‘Another time around’ or something a title. Also, I have another interesting project on the go, writing music for a one-hour musical/narration tribute for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016. With a bit of luck, that might coincide with my retirement - watch this space….

Alan Garmonsway
3 March 2014

© Alan Garmonsway 2014   All Rights Reserved                                                                                                                     

Alan Garmonsway has spent much of his career in biosciences companies in Human Resources and Change Management. His first gig was at the age of 15, to a bunch of skinheads in a church hall near Sunderland. He survived that and went on to play in both folk and rock bands before recording the first of his eight albums in 2001. His songs are regularly played on Internet radio stations and he has a webpage  at . If you are interested in purchasing the Storyteller album, just e-mail him at .