amaze magazine :: winter 2005

with sandra leal

plus size fashion

I've known Sandra for over a decade, but we have been sisters of style in our hearts for much longer. While she is on the West Coast and much more trend driven with a latin flare, she knows how to put a wardrobe together like nobody's business. She pushes my classic safety net and hopes to push yours out of your, "I can't wear that!' safety script.

Like myself, Sandra believes that personal style acknowledges who you are. Expresses who you are. Celebrates who you are. Finding your personal style gives you the confidence to be yourself. You buy fashion, but you own style. When we become a slave to fashion trends, we lose our sense of style. Attempting to look the same as everyone else, we forget that it's what makes us different that gives us our style.

Sandra will introduce you to her 5 key elements of style that she shares in her workshops and fashion shows across the country. She empowers women, especially those with curves, to break some rules, play up assets and to play down the parts we whisper about.

- Michele


1. Knowing the difference between a “staple” item and a “novelty” item.

Staple items are the pieces in your wardrobe that are your foundation and transcend from season to season.  Usually these items are solid or dark colors.  These items are basics such as a white shirt, a pair of dressy black pants, a solid color 2-piece suit, a dark colored skirt and leather blazer and a pair of great fitting jeans.

Novelty items are pieces that are fashionable (fads) at the moment.  They can be prints, colors or lengths.  Most importantly these are the items that will help up-date your staple wardrobe.  Accessories such as shoes, scarves, handbags and jewelry are simple, quick and inexpensive novelty items.

2. Knowing your body type and what silhouettes work best with your shape.

The main objective is to balance your proportions.  Your shoulders should be even with your hips and your waist should be drawn in.  Simply stand in front of a mirror and be very honest with yourself.  For example, if you are larger on the bottom or “bottom-heavy” balance your proportion by drawing the attention up and away from that area.  Wear dark/solid colors and form fitting items on the bottom and bright/prints and looser items on the top.  If you have a thick or no waist, you can easily create the illusion of one by adding a belt or looking for articles of clothing that are shaped with a seam at the waist (princess seams).  Steer away from boxy jackets and shirts.  If you carry the weight on top or are “top-heavy” you want to draw the attention downward and away from the top.  Keep to solids and dark colors and open up the area with a v-neck style top.  Wearing shirts or jackets that are closed and high up the neck make you look larger.  Balance by adding looser items that are bright or have large prints to the bottom.

3. Adapting fashion to fit your lifestyle needs.

The key is to be comfortable and to make fashion work for you.  For example if the trend is “short skirts” this season, wear them if you feel comfortable in them or if you have great legs.  A “short skirt” trend could also be adapted by simply wearing a shorter length than you are used to.  Just because something is on the cover or in the pages of a fashion magazine—it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to run out and buy it.  Wear it only if you feel comfortable in it or if it fits your personality.

4. Accessorize!

Accessories are the best way to up-date any outfit and the easiest way to take a look from daytime to evening.  You can change the whole look of an outfit by simply changing the shoes and the handbag.  The best analogy of what accessories are to fashion is “the icing on the cake.”  This is also a way to express your personality.  Keep in mind that accessories are everything from the conventional (shoes, handbags, jewelry, etc.) but they are also shapewear or foundations (such as proper fitting bra and panty o rbodysuits) and make-up (which changes from season to season).  Accessories always complete the look.

5. Forget about the size!

No two designers/manufacturers fit the same.  Even within the same brand you need to try on several different sizes to find the best fit.  Comfort is the most important issue.  Make sure that you have enough room across the back (lift your arms as if you are holding a steering wheel).  It shouldn’t pull or feel tight.  Make sure there is enough room across the bust.  No lines or gaping buttons.  The reality is – noone knows what size you are wearing.  What is important is that the clothes fit properly and comfortably.

about sandra leal

Sandra is the co-founder of Selling Style, Inc. and has been a part of the fashion business since 1986. She impacted the growth of retail sales as the department manager of Bloomingdale's Shop for Women in Los Angeles. As well as working in advertising/marketing sales, Miyares had an active career as a fit and runway model with Ford Agency/LA for the plus size industry and worked with companies such as: Torrid, Coco & Juan, J.C. Penney and Nino Wong to name a few.

She has commentated numerous fashion workshops and shows as the former Retail Fashion Editor for Mode magazine and continues to work with the West Coast branches of Saks Fifth Avenue/Beverly Hills, Bon Marche/Seattle and Bloomingdale's/West Coast stores in the same capacity for her new endeavor, SellingStyle.

sandra leal

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