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Cincy Chic Staff

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    The first step to sprucing is to decide how big you want the project to be, what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend.

    There's an abundance of resources to help you get through your project no matter how big or how small. Look through magazines like Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Architectural Digest. Or check out the latest home décor products and trends in the online magazine Trendir at www.trendir.com.

    Plan A. The cheap quick fix. If that's your plan for fixing the place up, maybe all you need to do is rearrange the room and get rid of clutter. Get started by removing all the accessories from the room. Consider the function and focal point of the room.

    The focal point can be a piece of furniture, artwork or an architectural element in the room. Keeping in mind that you want to enhance the focal point, begin placing the essential pieces of furniture where they function best. Try to avoid the boxed in look with everything against the wall. Instead, create a softer look by placing furniture at an angle. Once you have the essential pieces in place, work with the complimentary pieces like end tables, ottomans and lamps.

    Now it's time to accessorize your new room. Group your accessories by theme, content, color and texture. Pick your favorites. Redistribute them in odd numbers. Before you put any accessory in the room, consider if it really compliments the room. If it doesn't, stop! Don't put it there. Clutter makes the room look smaller, unorganized and can detract from the focus of the room.

    Plan B involves more time and money, but you get to explore new options for your walls, windows, furniture and lighting.

    Walls
    Paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update a room. Faux finishes and a variety of techniques make paint a design tool with endless possibilities. Learn about the different techniques on www.profaux.com. For a simple but stylish coordinated look, Matt Knotts from High Street furniture and accessory store in Over-the-Rhine, suggests doing your walls in a flat paint finish and the woodwork the same color, but in a semi-gloss. By the way, your ceiling doesn't have to be white. Paint it a neutral color that matches the walls.

    Wallpaper, like paint, can be used in a variety of ways. It's not quite as easy to wallpaper a room as it is to paint, but either will quickly change the look and feel of the room. Use the two together. Paint three walls and paper the fourth with a bold large-scale pattern for a dramatic effect. Research the possibilities for wallpapering your walls at www.doityourself.com/stry/qnadecorate2.

    Windows
    Decisions, decisions, decisions! There's a lot to consider with windows. Do you want to emphasize the view, hide what's outside the window or see out during the day, but cover the window at night? There's a plethora of treatments to accommodate your needs. Of course, there are blinds, shades, shutters and fabric. Be daring; don't just think of two fabric panels to cover the window. Use an item you don't usually see as a window treatment. My bathroom window topper is an old corset. It works great and it was easy. I loosened the ties until the corset fit the window. It's attached to a curtain rod with Velcro. A simple lace curtain hangs below it. Click here to check out window treatments from Home and Garden Television.

     

    Furniture and Accessories
    To me, this is the fun part. It's not as much work as painting or wallpapering. It's more shopping, mixing and matching. Key point…shop around! The next time you go to Home Depot, just buy screws. Check out unique stores for fabrics, lighting fixtures and accessories.

    Drop by your local furniture store chain (I really can't believe I said that). But this will work as long as you don't do one-stop-shopping there. Don't stick to one design. Visit High Street, Bova or Voltage for unique furniture with a modern look.

    Update your hardware. Change the knobs on your cabinets and doors. Shop Anthropologie at www.anthropologie.com or drop in the store. It's a great place to do knob shopping.

    Stretch a tight budget. Shop the thrift store, garage sales, flea markets, or trade furniture with a friend. I once traded a ring for a dining room table and four chairs. Pull together an eclectic mix of furniture by painting all the pieces the same color. In my bedroom, I have an old four drawer metal Hallmark Card display unit that I use as my dresser, a bedside hospital stand I use as my nightstand and a tall metal laundry cabinet that holds my t-shirts. It's a fun mix of furniture that are totally functional all pulled together with paint in a lovely shade of butter crème.

    Don't be a chain store bore. Be creative! Add a little individuality to your home. Make it your style. Anyone can go to Pottery Barn and buy everything to match. Then you'll be just like the Joneses. You can visit the Joneses, but spruce your place up so you enjoy coming home.

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    Cassandra Mooar, the director at the International Academy in Cincinnati, says hair should maintain an acidic state to be at its shiniest. Acidic shampoos, conditioners and other styling products force the cuticle to lay smooth, which increases shine.
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    The cuticle is the outer layer of hair that is made up of long compressed bundles of Keratin (a protein) fibers. When cuticles are intact and lying flat they reflect light.

    Mooar recommends products in the Wella Color Preserve or Sebastian Laminates lines to boost hair and keep it shiny. These product lines are found only in salons.

    Sarah Hunterman, a stylist at Identity Hair Salon and Spa in Kenwood, agrees that the secret to maximizing shine is to get the cuticle layer to lie straight and smooth. She says that investing in conditioning treatments will help you achieve this. Hunterman says over-washing your hair can be counterproductive. Highlighting your hair can increase shine at first, but due to the peroxide, it can also damage the hair causing it to become dull. If you want to add color and minimize damage, try low lights.

    Mooar and Hunterman both suggest shine sprays to add everyday shine. Mooar says to look for products with dimethicone. Dimethicone is a type of silicone that can make hair soft, manageable, full, shiny and easier to comb. She recommends Wella System Professional Flashlight for instant glossiness.

    Hunterman warns to stay away from shine serums and other style products that you pump into your hand. She says that anything you apply with your hands can add greasiness and weigh your hair down. This can cause dullness. Instead opt for the spray, they have no hold, and won't weigh down hair.

    When using the spray shines, concentrate spraying from the mid-shaft to the ends. The roots do not need much because the hair in that area is new. Hunterman suggests using the Bed Head spray shine called Camera Ready. It not only adds brilliant shine, it also acts as a smoother and defrizzer. Another spray shine used at Identity Hair Salon and Spa is from the Aquage line.

    When styling hair, you may think that flat-ironing it will make it look the shiniest, but it also damages hair. The more you damage by flat-ironing, the more you will become dependent on the flatiron to reach the same level of shininess, Hunterman says. She says that taking the time to blow-dry your hair straight, and using a flatiron just on stubborn sections of hair, will keep you hair healthier.

    However straightening your hair every one in a while is fine, and it will add instant shine. Try using a leave-in conditioner before straightening. Also, as a side note, ceramic flatirons truly are less harmful to your hair. Ceramic styling appliances, everything from irons and hair dryers, to brushes are all around better for the health of your hair.

    Also available to smooth out the cuticle and pump-up the shine are Powerdose treatments at Identity Hair Salon and Spa. These treatments, Hunterman says, are customizable to each individual's type of hair or hair need. They are only $15, spray-on and can be asked for at your next salon appointment.

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    051407SOCIAL.jpg For evening entertaining, lighting has to be considered. Tiki torches and Christmas lights are a very simple, fun way to decorate a laid-back gathering such as a barbecue or block party. For a more formal gathering, you will want more elegant lighting options. The obvious solution is to use candles, but candles can present a risk if there is a large group. If you use candles, make sure to use some type of globe over them so nothing catches fire as a breeze blows by. Lanterns are a good alternative because they contain the flame (unless you use battery-operated lanterns) and they can be set on the table or hung from posts around the yard to be both functional and decorative.

    A more intimate and playful setting can be created by using an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. These are especially nice on cool nights or after a dinner party because not only do they provide light, they can be used to roast marshmallows. This might be a better late summer or fall activity, but can still be enjoyable in the summer as long as it is not too hot.

    Outdoor furniture and shelter are major considerations in hosting outdoor events. If you have the space and the money, a gazebo is a creative solution because it's beautiful and it provides both shade and seating. For a cheaper option, you can get a canopy (i.e., from Home Depot, $199) or a large umbrella. Canopies are really convenient if you plan on having food outside because you can set up tables and let the netting hang down to keep out pesky flies and bees.

    A truly fun piece for entertaining is this "barzebo," which is essentially a canopy that comes with a small bar and two bar stools (i.e., Home Depot, $399). Such a piece could be used for a more formal event, or made more casual by adding the tiki torches and Christmas lights. Either way, it makes entertaining as easy as it looks. Having a small bar outside is a simple matter of moving it to the right spot and stocking it with cold drinks, but it looks very impressive and shows your guests that you put a lot of thought into the event.
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    Once you have figured out lighting and furniture, it's time for the finishing touches that can take your party from good to fabulous! If you have patio furniture, make sure you have some throw pillows to add some of your personality and make your guests more comfortable. If not, think of how you want tables and chairs arranged (lawn chairs that you borrowed from neighbors will do just fine). If you're having a family-style meal, you'll want one large table or several small tables put together to form a large table. However, using small tables placed spread out from each other can encourage more conversation and help the guests get to know each other better. If you want music to enhance the atmosphere, it is better to purchase outdoor speakers and place them around the yard. They connect right to your stereo in the house and allow the music to permeate the whole yard better than bringing the stereo outside would.

    Everyone loves being outside in the summer, so think about some of these decorating ideas, get creative, and have fun entertaining!

     

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    Can that work wait until tomorrow? More than likely the answer is "yes." Between Blackberrys, cell phones and laptops, we've conditioned ourselves to remain connected, even when we don't have to be.

    Remaining plugged in at home can strain your personal relationships and rob you of the essential down time needed to rejuvenate yourself for the next workday.

    Check out the problems you may have on the job resulting from R&R deprivation, courtesy of mindtools.com:

    • Difficulty focusing
    • Harsh mood swings and rising workplace conflicts
    • Lack of fresh ideas
    • Loss of enthusiasm for your job


    Never fear, you can be saved from becoming the office grump by following these helpful tips:

    Leave the corporate gear at work. The best way to ensure you won't work at home is to ditch the trusty laptop and office gadgets. Odds are, the closer the Blackberry is to the sofa, the harder it is to avoid looking at it.

    Out of sight out of mind. Just as you physically prepare yourself to leave the office, take a mental break, too. Put all deadlines, e-mails and meetings on the back burner. Concentrate your thoughts on family, fun and friends.

    Create routines to help you unwind before you get home. Play your favorite CDs on the car ride home. Reward yourself for a hard day's work and stop for ice cream. Meet a friend at a park for a quick walk before heading home.

    Lose the uniform. Remaining in your corporate armor may make you feel as if you're still in work mode. Scrap the starched shirt and stilettos for a favorite pair of jeans and flip-flops.

    Set boundaries with your private life. Avoid making yourself accessible after work hours. Establish clear guidelines with co-workers on when you can be reached regarding business matters.

    We've all heard the saying "life is too short" and it really is. The average employee will spend 269 days and over 2,100 hours per year at work. So, believe it or not, the company can survive without you skipping Rover's walk to send that e-mail. Take a break from the corporate throne and enjoy your personal life!

     

    Use these resources to in your quest for happy and healthy work-life balance:

     

     

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    Sound familiar? After an active weekend, you know your key ingredient to work week survival is energy, the fuel for mental and physical stamina that keeps you at the top of your game.
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    Some energy "power point" suggestions:
    Don't skip breakfast. After an active weekend, and those planned nightly workouts, everyone needs to restore glucose, or blood sugar. Each morning, your sleepy brain cells need lots of glucose for the heavy mental (not metal) work you perform every day.

    Although a coffee and a Danish might seem to be the quick solution, the combo provides only a short term energy burst. Better: a wake-up menu. Try chai tea: a teabag of chai steeped for 5-10 minutes in 8 ounces of hot water during your shower time and stirred with skim sweetened condensed milk satisfies your caffeine fix with 35-55 mg caffeine. A cup of coffee is 100-150 mg caffeine. A quick mix of carbs, protein and fat is provided with a bowl of cereal with skim/low-fat milk and a banana.

    Tomorrow, try a fruit smoothie: one cup of yogurt, some frozen fruit, a little vanilla, and ½ cup fruit juice. Pop it in a blender and you're good to go.

    Plan your energy day. To help pass on the tempting high fat, no-brainer options at the office, stock your desk with bottled water, nuts and fruit.

    Carrying your own water helps you keep track of how much you drink and it also reminds you to do so. Dehydration causes fatigue and poor on-the-job performance. If you can't stand plain water, try some of the flavored powder "tubes" now sold everywhere.

    Almonds are tasty and provide the fiber and protein balance to help you make it through a busy day. A piece of fruit provides fiber, too. Foods with dietary fiber move through the body more slowly and help you to feel full and energized longer.

    Survive business lunches. Many business lunches feature fatty/fried foods and simple carbs, and are usually topped off with high calorie sweets. Munching those 1,000+ calorie meals can run a person down. When you returning to your desk, you won't want to finish that high priority project. No napping today! Soup, salad and a serving of good whole grain bread can keep you going.

    It's gym night. If you plan a late dinner after your workout, just go easy on the quantity, not the quality: a salmon filet, some quick-cooking brown rice, a small salad or some steamed veggies, plus plenty of water, herbal tea or diluted fruit juice will be just enough to prep you for the next work day. With energy to spare!

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    The Basics
    "First thing I like to do is a good, thurough look at everything in the closet. Assessing the mess," says Mary Kacaba, professional organizer and owner of Cincinnati-based company Choice Environment. "I try to get a picture of what the closet could look like in its best state," she explained. Kacaba then recommends removing everything from the space, using a system she calls "Treasure, Trash, Tithe," in which a person's belongings are separated into keep, trash and donation categories.

    At the same time, Kacaba advises the would-be organizer to put like treasures together and carry full trash or tithe bags to the car immediately, so that once the organization is finished orderliness mavens aren't left with twenty trash bags to carry out. Otherwise, "it's a breakdown in the exciting flow of the day," she says.
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    But if you don't like the sound of completely emptying your closet, Jamie Sebens, professional organizer and owner of Cincinnati company Working Order LLC, says a just as efficient way is to select a category of clothing, such as work, and remove those pieces from the closet. Then, make space in the closet for that section, hang the clothes back up and move on to the next.

    "Favorite categories are work, gym, casual, evening," Sebens says. "So that when you are getting ready for work you're not sorting through evening clothes to find your work clothes and so forth."

    This system works well for most people, Sebens says, but especially for people who have trouble getting ready in the morning. "So if every space is given a name, and those names correspond with uses, then when you go to dress you have a smaller section to look at," she explained.

    Kacaba agrees. "The goal of organization is for everything to have a home and putting like things together," she says.

    Another small, but important, step to organizing clothes is utilizing the right hanger. Standard plastic tube hangers are useful for most items, but for heavier pieces of clothing like suits, the best choice is the wooden variety with clips so that the jacket and pants or skirt can be on the same hanger, Sebens says. Wooden hangers also prevent ridges in sweaters and other heavy pieces of clothing, which sometimes happens with wire or plastic hangers.

    Shoes and Accessories
    Once you've got your clothing separated into sections, it's time for the hard part: shoes. "The shoes are the problem for a lot of women. Once you stop debilitating behavior, you've pretty much got it nipped," Kacaba says.

    One way to nip your shoe organization problem in the bud is finding your perfect shoe holder. This choice depends on the individual, but, as always, space can be the deciding factor.

    "Shoe holders oftentimes are not so much of a choice in terms of exactly what a person exactly wants, but often it's what will fit in the space that they have, although, my theory is that the floor is not a storage shelf," Sebens laughs.
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    Instead, try an over-the-door holder, plastic tubs or the oversized box variety, complete with compartments holding up to 50 pairs of shoes. Sebens also says running shoes and other non-crushable varieties can be stored in a basket on the closet floor.

    Once you've sorted your shoes, it's time to organize the trimmings: jewelry and accessories.

    Difficult to store items such as necklaces, bracelets and even camisoles and slips are easily kept on a belt rack, Sebens says. When hung this way, matching your accessories to clothes isn't a problem because you can see everything you own at once, and match accordingly.

    Another good way to store miscellaneous items, Kacaba says, is to hang s-curved shower hooks from your closet's rod. Scarves, purses and belts can be stored on them. "It's easy to slip one off and return it to its home on the hook," she says. Kacaba also recommended using plastic milk crates on their side, as a kind of cubby hole, to store oddly shaped items such as boots or tall handbags.

    Maintaining Order
    Once your closet's become a paradigm of organization, you may wonder, "How long will this last?" That's up to you, but both Kacaba and Sebens says five minutes will do the trick.

    "Put it on your calendar for every Saturday morning to spend five minutes making sure that it's still in order," Sebens says. "It's ongoing maintenance like anything else, and if you just check it once a week to make sure that it's not slipping, then you won't end up with it back where you started."

    Another way to keep your organized closet staying that way is to allow yourself a little breathing room, Kacaba says.

    "I like to create 12 inches of hanging space that can be your messy space. It creates a little space where you can quickly put things back and they don't have to return to its original home," she says. In other words, these temporarily-stored items can be put back in their proper place when it's most convenient, rather than shoving them in other sections.

    Extras to Remember
    Real life isn't a TLC special, Sebens says. "I think that, particularly, on TV shows, organization is done too much by neatness," she says. "Neatness and organization are not the same thing."

    Sebens stressed that while there are many neat people who are terribly disorganized, there are also fairly messy people who have strong base organizational systems, and know how to put things back quickly.

    "Gross organization is putting all of your underwear in the underwear drawer, but not necessarily folding it or dividing it by color," Sebens says. "And that's fine. Some people don't have time for refined organization. They can just work with gross organization and still get dressed."

    When you don't worry too much about neatness, your organizing can go even more smoothly by using the buddy system, Kacaba says. "It's a vulnerable experience to let someone into your messy space," she says. "Ask your friend or professional organizer to ask you questions like 'When did you last wear that?' and 'Will you wear it in the next year?'" If you're not sure about whether to treasure, trash or tithe, an extra voice can help move the process along.

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    "Next"
    Nicholas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Peter Falk, Jose Zuniga

    Entering the movie theatre to review Nicholas Cage’s most recent film, "Next" a moment of indifference overcame me. Recovering from the last movie I reviewed of his (The Wicker Man), I had very little expectation of being entertained. What came "Next" was a fast paced, sagacious, action packed film that kept me enthralled from start to finish.

    "Next" is the story of a small time magician who makes his legitimate living as an entertainer at a Las Vegas venue. His real money comes from weekly visits to the casinos where he wins and bets against the house. Nicholas Cage plays Chris Johnson who was born with the unique ability to see in to his future.

    Based on a short story Cage took the reins and produced and starred in this film. The premise of foreseeing his future, albeit if only for a two minute window creates a story that is ingenious at every turn. From meeting his love interest, to dodging the FBI with an uncanny awareness of knowing their next move even before they do; this movie offers an array of artfully shrewd twists and surprises.

    Colossal visual stunts, illustrious special effects and a believable cast of supporting characters makes for one dynamic film. Substantial women characters holding their own is a welcome change. Julianne Moore plays hardnosed FBI agent Callie Ferris. Jessica Biel plays Liz who is Cage’s love interest. A small role perfected by Peter Falk as Chris Johnson’s best friend adds a wholesomeness to a person facing the dangers and challenges of seeing into the future.

    Perhaps what is so appealing is imagining the concept of seeing one’s future; then watching Nicholas Cage play it with such vulnerability. Having a porthole into the future doesn’t always guarantee happiness. Having the opportunity to see "Next" will at the very least, guarantee an entertaining movie experience.

    Rating: Four Chic Stars

    Jan’s Movie Rating System:
    5 – Top notch entertainment
    4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
    3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
    2 – If you are bored watch it, or wait for DVD
    1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasé, an enigma.

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    050707CAREER.jpg
    Uniform, casual, business casual or professional — any way you put it, most of us have to follow them. To some, a dress code is a conspiracy theory to bring down the fashionably challenged, while others see it as no big deal. While it's just another day at the office for most, it can be absolute torture for others. None the less, you follow it, but why are those clothing policies necessary?

    There are obvious circumstances where dress codes are absolutely essential, particularly for safety purposes. It is understood why you can't wear your sling-backs and cocktail dress to a construction site, but many women question policies when it comes to working in an office or other professional setting. The mere existence of a dress code can get any women's pantyhose in a bunch, at least when wearing skirts no more than one inch above the knee.

    According to a study reported by Image Talks, LLC, a woman's appearance affects whether she is:

    • hired or passed over
    • taken seriously on the job
    • asked to represent her company in outside meetings
    • considered for raises and promotions


    With those facts, it just might be worth putting up that deep plunge v-neck and follow the dress code!

    Safety and Hygiene


    Steel-toed boots are not exactly considered sexy, but are a must when working in any sort of construction or shop-type job. But wait, you work in an office, far away from cranes and concrete. Why can't you wear those cute open-toed shoes? To this I ask, does anyone remember the McDonald's coffee lawsuit? While it seems reasonable to believe that you aren't going to drop that file cabinet on your toes, it doesn't mean that a drawer might slip off track, or those boxes of copy paper won't tumble over. Accidents happen, even ones that seem common sense, and a business is going to take every measure possible to prevent them and protect their employees.

    Not only are open-toed shoes a safety concern, they are a health and hygiene problem as well. It's hard not to slip those suckers off while at your desk, but do you know whose feet or filthy shoes were there before yours? Bacteria and fungus (such as athlete's foot) can breed on all sorts of surfaces, and pieces of small debris can pop up anywhere. It's also fair to say that no one in the office wants to see your half-painted hoofs poking out of your strappy heels, and potential clients and customers can feel just as disgusted.

    Speaking of nails, keep the ones on your hands clean and well kept. The policy on no nail polish or artificial nails is rightfully just, particularly in the food industry. Chipped nail polish isn't only tacky, but poses the question, "what happened to those polish chips?" While that dark red polish was seductive last night, or those press-on nails did the trick for the last minute dinner date, it's not as hot when serving food missing that red press-on thumbnail, or shaking a hand with dirty nails.

    With summer right around the corner, let's not forget about sleeveless shirts. Most policies allow those "close to shoulder" tops, but many forbid tank tops or anything less than around a two inch strap. It's a nice thought to think that everyone showers daily and applies antiperspirant/deodorant, but let's be realistic here. You might not notice it because it is your own scent, but we all know what B.O. and sweat smells like, and who the likely culprit is. Sleeveless tops also leave the possibility of nasty deodorant clumps, and are severely unsanitary if items are carried under the arm.

    For the Business


    All right, so you get the health and safety concerns, but you feel like your inner self is being suppressed. You can't have all of your piercings in, jeans are prohibited and you can't wear the clothes that's "your style." Try to understand that businesses don't enforce dress codes to keep you from being who you are, but to have normality and structure. Having a dress code established provides everyone with a clear and understandable policy that applies to everyone across the board, or is department specific.

    In a world where image is everything, a company cannot afford to lose customers or potential clients over your desire to wear that tight, nipple-bearing shirt to work. If what you have to wear becomes such a problem where you can't "express who you really are", then it might be time to re-evaluate your career goals, or even move on to a different place of employment that is more fitting for your sense of comfort. Any way you spin it, a business is going to put their best foot forward. It's really no different than how you present yourself and your home when having company over for dinner.

    For the Customers


    With the cliché "old granny talking about how the young'uns dress now-a-days" put aside, customers do judge a business on its employee's appearance. What might seem harmful to you can very well offend others, and even send them running to the competition. Think about a time when you judged a place of business, or thought twice about a sale based on its employee's appearance. Were their clothes clean? How did they fit? Did the worker look professional and put-together or like they just rolled out of bed after a night at the bar? Odds are, you won't do business with someone who offends you, and neither will your customers.

    Five Easy Ways to Make it Work


    Now that you are ready to make a change, take these tips from guru image consultant, Ellen York, author of Dressing the Petite Woman (Ellen York Image Institute, 2006), on how to look your best on the job and stick to your company's policy:

    1. Keep your hairstyle updated. Try something that flatters your features and creates "a more professional look" rather than what you think works the best on the go.
    2. Many businesses have policies on perfumes. York says that deodorant should be enough, but if you opt to add a little scent, use sparingly — a small dab on your neck and wrists.
    3. York advises to add new items to your wardrobe, or take away clothing that is no longer appropriate to your job. If you are serious about your career, then you have to break down and buy items that coincide with the code, or box up ones that don't.
    4. "If the neck line is too low, count it out for work." Camisoles or body shaper tanks are great for wearing under certain fabrics—and just because it's under something, you still need to wear a good bra.
    5. If you are allowed to wear jeans on any day or on Casual Fridays, be sure they are clean and unwrinkled. Ripped, torn or severely frayed jeans are not acceptable.


    All in all, your company has a business to run – not a runway show – and I'm sorry to tell you, there is no federal law that governs dress codes. Chances are, you dressed to impress when you applied for the job, so why should your standards change once you are employed? Don't be afraid to ask your supervisor or HR department for a copy of the dress code to keep at home, or if you have any questions at all. Ask for examples of particular items that are allowed when seasons change. If anything, following the rules gives you an excuse to go shopping!

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    Whether for exercise, work, nursing, comfort or seduction, most women – from almost A to double J – possess a rainbow of bras for a variety of occasions. It hasn't always been this way, though.

    The bra began its evolution a century ago to become the garment we know, love – sometimes hate – and wear today. In the early 1900s, the corset was still the standard for fashionable women. The tight-fitting dresses and beauty standards of the era demanded ultra-tiny waists, and cinchable corsets made this look possible.

    In 1907, French dressmaker Paul Poret designed a line of looser, less form-fitting dresses. And with them – God bless him – he introduced a smaller, less constricting undergarment. Alas, the brassiere was born.

    Fast forward 100 years, and Oprah Winfrey reveals that 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. The show's makeovers were incredible: droopy breasts were transformed into buoyant ones; torsos rippling with back fat became silhouettes as sleek as porpoises. And now – as Oprah's powerful word tends to do – women are flooding local lingerie shops to find a good fit.

    Jennifer Loerich, the store manager who specializes in bra fittings at Candice's Boutique on Montgomery Rd., says there's a few tell-tale sign that you're part of that staggering 85 percent. "The signs would be seeing the breast tissue coming out the bottom of the bra, the bra may creep up your back and you may see tissue bulge out the top of the bra," she says. "These would all be signs of a bad bra fitting."

    If you have any of the above, you'll want to get fitted. Loerich says you'll want to go to a place that has private fitting rooms and bra fitters on staff, such as those available at Candice's Boutique.050707FASHION2.jpg

    Proper sports bra fitting is important too, says Katie Rhodes, a West side-based physical therapist. "Prior to my pregnancy I just wore two or three sports bras to prevent the bounce, but when I jumped to a 32E/F, I had to get fitted," Rhodes says. "It has been the best decision of my life. The girls don't giggle and I am a ton comfier."

    So, hands down, a bra fitting is necessary. But if the sound of a bra fitting makes your knees weak with images of public nudity and a bevy of bra-fitters poking and prodding your breasts, Loerich says it's nothing like that. She says they do take a measurement, but it is a private situation if you go to a place with private fitting rooms.

    "With this measurement they will be able to tell you what bra size and body type you are and what bra will work best for you," she says. "They will then explain and teach you what to look for in a bra that will suit your needs."

    If you're still apprehensive about the bra fitting experience, you can go online to sites like www.brasize.com where there's a do-it-yourself guide to measuring yourself and a bra calculator that will give you a reasonably accurate indication of your size.

    Once you do figure out your bra measurements, then you have a completely different hurdle: cute – but tricky – summer tops. For those, Loerich says, you'll want to get a bra that is a little lower in front to accomidate the tricky cuts, but still give you a smooth look. There are also some bras that have detachable straps so you can wear it the standard way, or convert it to a racerback or strapless bra.

    And something else that sticks out just as bad as stray straps is the color of your bra. For example, just because you wear a white bra under a white top doesn't mean it won't scream "Hey everyone, lookie here, I have a white bra on!" Because it will. Instead, wear nude or other hue of bra that best matches your skin tone. Also, black lingerie is best worn under black garments.

    If your garment is too tricky for those tips, don't fret, you still have options. Loerich recommends stickies – adhesive-backed fabric stickies to cover your nipples – for garments such as low back dresses. "Because low back bras are hard to find, I don't recommend them for everyone because everybody has a different shape," she says. "What may work for someone may not work for the next person. So it really depends on the body shape and the size cup and the look they are trying to accomplish with the outfit or dress."

    Loerich says Candice's offers many other products, such as backless, strapless self-adhesive bras, breast prostesis and post-surgical bras, hair prosthesis and compression garments, as well.

     

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