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How to Dress Your Plus Size Body Shape in Vintage Clothing
Tired of raiding malls and chain stores to find something new and different? Don’t you see anything tempting in the catalogs? Then try VINTAGE! Where almost EVERYTHING is unique! Let’s put it this way: you won’t find yourself at a party!
You might think that because you’re plus size, you can’t wear vintage clothing. Yes you can! I’m tall, busty, broad shouldered and plus size, and my closet is full of great vintage clothes. Put it this way: If a 300 pound drag queen can dress like Cher, you can be anyone you want to be. We’ll start with the basics. Imagine holding your hand as we walk through Vintage Land!
Find your unique vintage style
What did you always want to look like? Like a wild rockabilly girl? A blonde sex bomb like Marilyn Monroe? A temptress like Bettie Page? A 1920s flapper like Clara Bow? A 40-year-old woman like Joan Crawford? A ’60s mod like Edie Sedgwick? Or an 80s Joan Collins with big hair? All of that is possible, when you mix the right modern and vintage pieces.
Think about what season appeals to you the most and why. That’s the key to finding your vintage personality.
Some are drawn to the beading, fringes, and velvet of the 1920s. Others want the elegant look of the 1930s. Others love the ultra-structured look of the 1940s or the “bomb” look of the 1950s. Others love Mod, hippie, in fact there are too many styles and eras to list here!
Don’t be afraid to dream! The only limit to getting started is your imagination.
Getting Started: The Basics
First, take a long look at your figure and what you want emphasize It can be your bust, your legs, your booty or your face. You should take your measurements everywhere: bust, waist, hips, shoulder to waist, waist to crotch, inseam, thigh width if you are going to buy pants.
Yes, this part is probably scary. Many of us don’t i want to know our measures. We delude ourselves about what dress size we are. I once had to take my measurements over the phone for a TV suit, and after every measurement, I screamed! (Luckily the costume lady was used to it.)
I recommend that you also measure your absolute favorite pieces to see how to get your best fit. Not the ones you used to wear, the pieces you wear NOW. Some like it tight, like Mae West; some like to flow. When it comes to defining your personal style, knowledge is power. And what is it about these pieces that you like? The color? The cut? (Sweats don’t count!)
You can go to your local bookstore or search the Internet for pictures of old movie stars. In the past, Hollywood fan magazines encouraged women to identify with movie stars. But who can identify with Nicole Kidman? Or Charlize Theron? This will also give you ideas of styles and eras. Pictures of the actual eras and personalities are much more useful than “Vintage How To” guides, which end up making everyone look alike!
Getting Started: Fundamentals, Part Two
Your type of figure
According to experts, there are four to six body types for plus size women. I will choose the four most basic ones.
1) The hourglass
Your general shape is curvy, hips and bust are roughly the same width. Your waist is well defined and at least seven inches smaller than your bust or hips. You can have a round and full derriere. Your thighs are full, but narrower than your lower hips, and your legs are shapely and proportionally slim.
2) The Pear
Your hips and thighs are wider than your shoulders and chest. You store most of your weight in your stomach, thighs and buttocks. Your hip may widen just below the waist, but it’s usually the widest eight inches below your waist in the “low hip.” Kate Winslet, believe it or not, is a pear.
3) The Rectangle You are straight up and down, with a somewhat small bust and little or no waist definition. It may have a fleshy back and a slightly short neck, but it usually has relatively thin arms and legs. Kim Cattrall is a rectangle, but you’d never know it.
4) the apple You carry most of your weight in your bust, waist and back, with relatively thin hips and legs. You have a somewhat heavy appearance. Catherine Zeta-Jones is considered an apple!
What body shape are you?
Not all bodies are EXACTLY like the shapes described above, but choose the one that comes closest to you.
Okay, first of all, anyone of any shape can wear a kaftan or a muumuu, so that’s out of the way. These are not hard and fast rules, just suggestions.
Hourglass: go for sexy! Just like Marilyn, you can wear 1950s fitted and fitted cardigans, capri pants, pencil skirts, and flowy dresses. Or like Jean Harlow, you can ditch those sexy 1930s bias-cut dresses and slips (though you might have to wear Spanx underneath). You don’t have to wear shoes, but any type of shoe that highlights your legs is a good idea. Mix in trendy pieces like corset tops to show off your chest or shrugs to cover your arms if you’re feeling self-conscious. You can wear almost any decade, except Mod can look “wrong” on your figure, especially A-line dresses. And too many frills can look dressy unless you’re on the petite side.
Pear: You often have shapely arms, so you can get away with tank tops and other sleeveless looks. Long Victorian and Edwardian skirts (and their 1970s counterparts) are great for your shape, as are vintage, high, low and mid-calf boots. Remember how great Kate Winslet looked in her “Titanic” dresses? If you’re shopping for mid-century dresses, look for dresses on the longer side, which will show off your top and skim your bottom. These will be easier to find in the 1950s and 1970s than in the 40s or 60s. Avoid novelty pockets on your skirts and dresses. Also avoid ’70s hip-hugger jeans, but look for dreamy tops from the same decade. Unlike the hourglass, you can work the 1960s A cut.
rectangle: Your wardrobe needs curves, but clothes that work for the Hourglass won’t work for your shape. Look for circle skirts (not pencil skirts!), luscious shoes, dresses with neck and shoulder interest (not ruffles, but more sophisticated details like darts, pleats, and sequins). They made you dress beautifully in beaded dresses from the 1920s. Shawls and scarves also add flow and curve to your look. And you can actually get Mod out!
Apple: Depending on the dress, you too can wear Mod clothes (remember Stacy Turnblad in “Hairspray”). Show off your legs in shorter dresses, flaunt your cleavage in trendy plunging necklines with vintage mini skirts. You can also wear 1950s beaded cardigans with modern flat front pants. As long as you avoid bulk around the waist and don’t hide in layers and layers of fabric, you can wear almost any decade.
Acquiring your unique vintage wardrobe
Start with basic pieces, just as you would with your contemporary wardrobe. If you like dresses, start there. Ditto with separated. Looking online is a better bet than most vintage stores, although you never know what you’ll find at your thrift store.
Unfortunately, as with contemporary clothing, a lot depends on your budget. There are spectacular plus size dresses from every era, but many of them also come at spectacular prices. I don’t sell expensive vintage clothes, but I don’t often find a famous designer or silk dress in perfect condition. Dior didn’t do plus size.
If you simply have to have that mink coat or taffeta dress, if you have the money, buy it! You won’t regret it for a minute. I’ve spent more than I thought I would once or twice, but it was for dresses that I love and wear quite often.
But if you’re on a tight budget, look for vintage winter clothes in the summer. It also limits the amount of vintage you buy. Vintage accessories are often affordable and you can get the look you want with the right vintage hat, shoes, bag and jewelry for a lot less than that mink coat.
And remember that part of the cost of your vintage wardrobe will be maintenance. Unlike clothes today, you can’t throw your Ceil Chapman in the washing machine. Much has to be professionally cleaned or carefully hand washed.
And invest in yourself! If you want a high-maintenance look, like a glamorous platinum blonde, that’s part of your budget: hair, nail polish, etc. You can destroy a great vintage look by carrying an old microfiber bag and not worry. do more with your hair than finger combing it.
The most important part of all!
Have confidence! You are beautiful!
You can do whatever look you choose, as long as you are comfortable and confident in your clothes and accessories. It takes guts (or what they used to call in the 1930s, “moxie”) to pull off a look that makes sense to you. But the more you do it, the more you’ll like it. I promise!
Now, go shopping! And remember, BIG ROOSTERS RULE!
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