Start with Style

By Stacy London
Founder and Stylist-in-Chief, Style for Hire
Co-host, What Not to Wear

There is no doubt that cancer changes everything. For many women the physical and emotional changes that can result from treatment lead to a sense of despair and to a new self-consciousness about the changes in their physical appearance. The Look Good . . . Feel Better program was designed to empower women during this time by teaching them to overcome some of these challenges and instilling in them a renewed sense of confidence.

In November 2011 a new component of the program—developed through a partnership between Look Good . . . Feel Betterand Style for Hire—was created to focus on apparel styling techniques, including color choices, fabric options, and silhouettes for skin tone and body shape. Introduced via a live-stream workshop, and the first addition to the Look Good . . . Feel Betterprogram since 1989, the new venture was designed to complement the existing program, which addresses skin care, cosmetics, nail and hair care, and headcoverings, such as turbans, scarves, and wigs.

Style

Style can be the first thing that goes out the window when a woman is fighting for her life. It can also, however, be a powerful tool in creating a positive sense of self during treatment and recovery. In that spirit the following guide can serve as a framework for using style to reclaim confidence in the face of cancer treatment.

Color

Many women find that their skin tone and moisture level change during treatment. Dryness is a common side effect that can result in flaky, ashy skin. Some women notice that they become extremely pale, whereas others find yellow or ruddy tones emerging. In some cases, changes in skin tone vary daily. Clothing colors that may have once enhanced a woman’s skin tone no longer serve to complement.

In the face of these challenges, the following color tips can come in handy:

As a rule, all jewel-tone colors are universally flattering. They contrast enough with all skin tones to create visual balance and color-correct changes in skin tone from treatment.

Try jewel tones such as emerald green, amethyst purple, ruby red, sapphire blue, turquoise, or teal blue.

Wear these colors near your face (scarf, headcovering, shirt, blouse, or sweater) for the greatest impact.

Fabric

Many women find that their skin is very sensitive during treatment. Look for softer fabrics in clothing and accessories to avoid irritating the skin. Natural fabrics like silk, cotton, and cashmere also allow the skin to breathe. There are also new microfleece fabric options, which are easy to wash and extremely comfortable. Stay away from wool and mohairs, which can further irritate the skin. If you are worried that a garment’s fabric might be irritating, always add a thin base layer, like a soft T-shirt or camisole. Be sure to wash clothes and undergarments with a gentle cleanser. Harsh chemicals in some laundry detergents can irritate skin.

Body Shape

Many women gain or lose a significant amount of weight during treatment. Unless that number is more than 50 pounds, the basic shape of the body should remain the same. The exception to this would be in women who wear a size 14 or above because women in that range typically gain primarily in the midsection.

The five most typical body shapes are hourglass (or “proportional”), straight, bigger-on-top, bigger-on-bottom, and bigger-in-the-middle. One way to quickly identify shape is by noting whether there is a size difference of more than two sizes between a person’s top and bottom halves. Another is to simply take measurements.

Once body shape has been identified, the goal in all of styling is to create visual balance and proportion on the frame. Regardless of the body’s actual shape, balance can be achieved by drawing attention to positive areas with lighter and brighter colors, shine, texture, and bold prints and camouflaging other areas with darker and neutral tones, matte textures, and muted prints.

Weight Gain

If weight gain is an issue, avoid flimsy fabrics that accentuate problem areas and opt instead for structured fabrics that create shape. Fitted jackets with a nipped-in waist or a slight shoulder pad can balance a heavier midsection, for example, and straight-leg trousers or jeans provide a longer leg line. Tailored pieces that skim the body without being tight are always a good choice, as is avoiding oversized pieces, as they will only add the illusion of more weight. Darker matte colors, V-shaped necklines, and thinner, less bulky scarves and jewelry will also help by directing attention up toward the face.

Weight Loss

If weight loss is an issue, sticking to closer-fitting silhouettes and bulkier knits will add the illusion of weight, as will wearing extra layers. Bolder colors are also a good option, but overly large prints can dwarf the frame completely. Pieces that add volume to the frame without overwhelming it, like pleated skirts and cable sweaters, are also good choices. Long-sleeved shirts, turtlenecks, matte opaque or wool tights, and full-length pants can work to mask thin limbs.

In both weight gain and loss, there are some universally flattering shapes that visually balance most body types by defining the waist or creating a longer body line.

Short V-neck tops keep the body looking longer, though they should be avoided if severe weight loss is an issue.

A-line skirts can camouflage weight gain by creating a smaller waistline and can also camouflage weight loss by creating some volume.

Straight, midrise, midwidth trouser-leg pants serve to keep the legs looking their longest without being overwhelming or unflattering on any frame.

Stacy London is a founder and the stylist-in-chief of Style for Hire and the co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Style for Hire helps clients learn to dress for their unique body types, budgets, tastes, and lifestyles and optimizes the investment they make in their wardrobes.

The Look Good . . . Feel Better program was founded and developed in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, a charitable organization established by the Personal Care Products Council, the leading national trade association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry. The program is a collaboration of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association | National Cosmetology Association, a national organization that includes salons, spas, distributors, manufacturers, and more than 25,000 beauty professionals. For information about Look Good . . . Feel Better, visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.