Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hats are Hot! Hats are Back!

I had such a fun time!
Hats are Back and Hats are Hot!
Michele Benza

Hats are transformative

Winter beware! I am prepared. I have warm overcoats, water resistant raincoats and a toasty puffer to fend off cold, rain and icy winds. Well almost prepared. All I lack now are a couple of great hats to keep my head warm and dry and add glamour to my look.

I love hats but must admit that I don’t wear them often enough. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see that this accessory no longer belongs to the exclusive domain of haute couture. Hats are Hot! Hats are back! And fashion magazines are splashing the message across their pages.

Hats are the perfect way to add a touch of class and style to your outfit day or night. Hats can be utilitarian too. In the summer, they protect our skin from damaging sunrays. And when you’re having a bad hair day, the best thing to do is hide your hair under a hat! The French call a hat for this occasion, a ‘Cache-misère’- loosely translated, a cover-up or camouflage.

Since hats are all over the place this season, I thought it would be helpful to introduce you to professional milliner, Peg Purcell, owner of Hats on Post in San Francisco, www.hatsonpost.com.
Peg has had a lifelong passion for hats and has been wearing them since age three when her father bought her a Wee Scottish Hat! She is trained in millinery design and has expertise to share. If you want to make a hat smaller or larger or you wish to revamp an oldie into an elegant goodie, Peg has the answer.
How you care for your hat depends on the fabric used, whether to clean, reshape or store it. If in doubt, bring your hat to Peg and she will tell you specifically what you need to do.
When it comes to buying a hat, keep in mind what Peg said to me. “Your face is ‘the picture’ so consider the hat as the ‘frame.’ Don’t you love that concept? Peg added that a hat should not only frame your face but also reflect your personality and complement your physical proportions. The general rule is to choose a hat that counterbalances the shape of your face. But you know me, I tend to bend the rules and even break them on occasion. And I am not inclined to put anyone in a box.
Here are some guidelines to be considered when buying a hat:
• The shape and size of your face and head.
• The height of your forehead.
• How your eyes are set.
• How your eyebrows are set in relation to your nose.
• Is your nose short or a bit long?
• Demeanor and even height are important factors as well.
Come to think of it, choosing a hat is similar to picking out the right pair of eyeglasses.
Equally important is the reason for the purchase: What function does your hat serve? Is it for sun protection, for everyday use or for a special event? Is it for a gala, a wedding, a wine tasting or are you buying it to uplift your spirits and help you feel playful and lighthearted?
If you feel shy about experimenting with hats in large stores, find a really good hat store in your area like Peg’s, where you can receive one-to-one guidance in finding the perfect hat in comfort and privacy.

Before hitting the streets with your brand new chapeau, I recommend you try it on at home to get used to it. You may even want to personalize it by adding a brooch, a feather, a veil…and transform your basic hat into today’s hottest trend, the “Fascinator.”

Now, let me take off my hat and thank you all for the wonderful support you have given me since I opened my image-consulting studio in 2004. My grateful thanks for making my progress possible.


Feel free to forward to anyone who could benefit from this newsletter

*Work with Michele*
You can work with Michele on-line or face-to-face.
Call or email for a private appointment with Michele
You’ll be thrilled with the results.
415.956.3025 michele@mbenza.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I love the “puffer.” It is soft, warm and lightweight and can be worn in town as well as in the mountains. The “puffer” is also a good way to resist colds and flu as it will keep you toasty warm and protect your from freezing winds. By the way, the French translation for “puffer” is “doudoune.” I like this better as it makes me feel as if I’m nestled in down and feathers.

Designers, it seems, are enamored with the “puffer” this season, so I decided to head to the department stores in search of the perfect way to combine fashion with function this winter.

The first puffer I found looked perfect but it was bright gold. Pfff. I don’t think so. Gold? Honestly, who wears a gold puffer?

Lots of puffers got my attention but there was always something that did not work for me: a fake fur on a hood that made it look cheap, or the material looked like it should be used for garbage bags, or the puffers were either too short or too bulky…

I was on the brink of losing heart but decided to go back to my first find: the gold puffer. I looked at it closely, considered it again and again, but no—I really couldn’t wear it. It looked like something to be worn on stage at a rock concert. Not my style, and, simply put, too flashy.

As a professional shopper I am very persistent and when I am looking for something, I make sure I find it. I found a sales associate, and asked her if the gold puffer was available in black or brown.

She came back from the stockroom with every color of the rainbow, except black or brown! “Did you look in the fitting rooms?” I inquired. “There may be one there.” She had not. Luck was on my side! There was one in a fitting room, in black!

Upon closer inspection, the fabric was acceptable and it was made of down and feathers. Enough feathers to provide structure and enough down to provide warmth.

Let me just say, it is a real penance to try on a puffer in a department store in the middle of summer. The things we do for fashion! But at least, I know I won’t be cold this winter.

The size small was a bit snug in the hips but back on the rack, tucked in behind the original gold puffer was, if you can believe it, a size medium in black! Quelle chance!

The medium fit me very well and has a totally acceptable “look.” However, items like these always seem to be priced accordingly. One must pay dearly for a perfect fit. The brand is “Dries Van Noten” not a brand known for its “petits prix” (small prices). Courageously, I looked at the price tag: $1200, but it was on sale: 50% OFF!

I jumped in excitement. And, in addition, this particular day the store was offering an additional discount of 30%!

This was in my budget, so I paid up immediately knowing that I would wear my puffer often. I happen to take the ferry to work and back and usually walk about 20 minutes each way. With my fabulous new puffer, I am now eager for the weather to cool off enough to warrant wearing it. I just wish that my new purchase had a hood, but no big deal. I will find a great hat. But what the hey…this will be the subject of my next column. Stay tuned.

But meanwhile, check the new puffers out. They’re fun, functional and fashionable!


Feel free to forward to anyone who could benefit from this newsletter


*Work with Michele*
You can work with Michele on-line or face-to-face.
Call or email for an appointment.
You’ll be thrilled with the results.

415.956.3025 michele@mbenza.com

Monday, October 12, 2009

High High High Heels!

What are the fashion designers doing to us?

Shoes appear to have replaced bags as the driving force in the fashion accessories department and extreme stiletto heels are the fashion statement of the season.

I have a love-hate relationship with stilettos. I love them because they make women look sexy and powerful. I hate them because I can’t wear them as often as I wish and that makes me feel nostalgic.

They certainly enhance our legs and help make us look slender and taller. And as we all know, they seem to impact men’s libido and elicit many more compliments from the male of the species.

However, these perilously high heels make it hard to walk with ease and without breaking an ankle. Even the professional models find these stilt-like heels difficult as evidenced at the recent fashion shows.

But as treacherous as the current crop of stilettos may be, retailers claim they remain a much sought after fashion staple.

Fortunately, as always happens in the rarified world of high fashion, the extreme styles on the catwalk will be somewhat watered down by the time they reach the retail floors. Like the mini-dresses seen on the runways, these same dresses will have longer hems to make them more appealing to the public at large and thereby increase retail sales. Money rules!

With all of this said, don’t write off the sky-high heels entirely. To be sure, it requires effort to wear them. And those extreme heels with ankle cuffs can make us look strong and authoritative. However, if you choose to wear them, be sure to wear them with a simple dress.

Here are some more pointers to guide you if you decide to splurge on this extravagant trend. (Remember though, heels do not need to be long and thin to be considered fashionable.)
  • Buy the proper size. I so often see women wearing high- heeled shoes that are too big. There should be no space between the heel of the foot and the shoe.
  • Be aware that when wearing hosiery, the foot will easily slide out of the shoe and very likely lead to a fall or twisted ankle.
  • No matter how high the shoe, take extra caution to keep your balance. A graceful or sexy shoe is pointless if it causes pain or makes you walk in an ungainly manner, or worse, makes you fall.
  • Practice at home before venturing out in your heightened state!
  • Wearing high heels is all about femininity. When you walk in these heels think about a giraffe, not an elephant. Stand tall and upright. Elongate the waist, relax and rotate the shoulders towards the back and drop them down. This will open up your chest and help lengthen your neck. Make sure the chin is parallel to the floor.
  • Take small steps. Place your heel down first then your sole. Pay attention to your foot alignment. Toes should be pointing straight forward. As you walk be sure your legs are parallel and close together. Try to walk a straight line. And for a more sensual walk, move your hip slightly forward as you take a step. WALK SLOWLY AND GRACEFULLY.
I must confess I have been known to buy a pair or two of super high heels just to own and admire them. Once in a rare while I’ll cautiously wear them in my studio or at parties when I know there is valet parking. And I mean cautiously because a few years ago, I twisted my ankle in a pair of high heels and broke a bone in my right foot! Bummer! Since then I've been wearing mostly flats, which do not match my usual feminine style.

However, I am happy to report that those of us wary of extreme heels will at last be able to find moderately high heels that are attractive and très chic. The latest trend among shoe designers is to make the same shoe available in two, sometimes three, different heights. Prada seems to be the originator of this long-overdue sales trend. Our feet will thank these designers for many years to come.

Ah, I can hear you already saying to me: “Michele, what about cost per wear?” To which I reply: “Aren’t rules made to be broken?”

Viva la femme!
A là prochaine.


*Work with Michele*
You can work with Michele on-line or face-to-face.
Call or email for an appointment.
You’ll be thrilled with the results.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PARIS POTINS (Paris Gossip)

Who says that ‘back to school’ is synonymous with ‘metro, boulot, dodo’ (subway, work, sleep)? Not me! I’m rejoicing because summer’s end means new trends that’ll invade my closets and rock my fall season.
Tartans, furs, capes and the colors violet and orange rule and are the must-adds to your closet this fall!

Tendance Ultra-Violet
Ultra-Violet is evident everywhere in Paris: on shoes, belts, dresses and handbags. Violet will refresh and perk up the grays and blacks in your winter wardrobe. And there are enough shades of this wonderful color for you to find the perfect one to complement your complexion and wardrobe. If you find the Ultra-Violet too bold a statement, then subdue it with muted mauves or deeper tones like prune or eggplant. You can choose to make any of these colors your total look or simply add splashes of them to your accessories.
Tendance Tartan
Whatever you prefer to call it, tartan or plaid, it is this fall’s big comeback trend and can be found imprinted on coats, scarves, skirts and handbags. Be aware though that tartan should be used in moderation. My recommendation: accessorize with it.

Tendance Fourrure (fur)
After a shy comeback last winter, fur has returned with panache. Real or synthetic, you will find fur items to keep your back and feet warm, and as trimming on handbags. But like plaid, be careful how you wear it. A few simple touches here and there will suffice. But I dare you to wear a fur vest! IF you can carry it off!

Tendance Orange
Orange in a variety of hues—from reddish-orange to apricot­­­­­—is the other winter color of choice for designers like Ralph Lauren and Nina Ricci. Again, you’re sure to find the perfect shade for you. A note on orange: Do NOT wear it with black! Who wants the Halloween look? Think orange and khaki, orange and brown and orange and gray. Fabulous! BUT remember, orange does not always complement your complexion. Adjust your blush and lipstick accordingly.

Tendance Cape
For two winters now, the cape has been strong on runways. And again, this year it is still here, original and elegant as ever. Mini version or maxi, with or without buttons, black or colored. Perfect on a straight or pencil skirt for a chic look. The most versatile colors are black or gray and a cape in either color will add a sophisticated swish to whatever you’re wearing.

Tendance Handbags
CHANEL is launching its new handbag collection any day now.

And speaking of CHANEL, the latest potin (gossip)—via cyber space’s blogs—is that KARL IS LEAVING CHANEL…can this really be true? Rumor has it that the new chic Parisian, Albert Elbaz, Lanvin’s Artistic Director, will replace him. But, don’t panic yet; Karl will design next year’s Chanel collection. After that qui vivra verra… who lives will see.


Beth Ditto, star singer of Gossip is everywhere. In partnership with Evans, an English brand that focuses on stylish plus-size women’s fashions, Beth has designed and launched a mini collection. Think leather jackets and sequined tops that mirror her image: Rock’n Roll fun!

Every year, H&M calls on a designer for a capsule collection that will be sold in its stores within a few minutes of opening. This time it knocked on the door of renowned shoe and handbag designer, Jimmy Choo.
So fashionistas mark your calendars and get in line early November 14, at H&M, and be among the first to purchase something très chic from the first ever Jimmy Choo collection of men and women’s wear.

The classic trench coat, the fitted dress and black tuxedos are all excellent investments for the coming season.
For those wondering how to wear a women’s tuxedo, slip into one for a formal or semi-formal event. Or add pizzazz to staple pieces by splitting the tux and wearing the jacket or the pants.

Et voilà!

Thursday, August 6, 2009




Michele Benza

Not too long ago, I pulled a hot orange jacket, black pants and a black boat-neck top from a vast assortment of clothing racks before us. “ I like these for you” I said to my fifty-something client. She looked startled. “You have to be joking,” was written all over her face. I remained unperturbed and continued to rifle through more racks. My client’s eyes opened even wider; her jaw dropped. She finally said, “I’m not at all sure.”

Sometimes I have to gently remind my clients that they’ve hired me as their image consultant for good reason. I really do know how to do this. My client wanted to step out of her boring business attire and let her appearance shine, just as her work does. (Incidentally, this is a good tactic to improve other’s perceptions of you and help your progress up the proverbial corporate ladder.)

“This is just the beginning,” I warned her.

Makeovers transform us in subtle ways but when the transformation radiates from the inside out that’s when people look up and take notice. There is no doubt that if you feel great about yourself within and without, you cannot help but project confidence and a positive attitude to life.

Rest assured, a makeover does not necessarily require dramatic changes. A simple adjustment such as updating your eye make-up or wearing a hemline that is more flattering to your figure can make a quiet but noticeable difference.

We’ve all heard of the saying, “success on your own terms.” My take on this is “Dressing on your own terms.” I, for one—and there are many other women out there who feel the same way—want to wear outfits that represent moi. I want to be feminine. I refuse to wear female versions of men’s shirts and suits!

It seems to me that many of my clients believe that dressing for work means dressing like everyone else in the office and being invisible. This is fine if your goal is simply to do what needs to be done, collect your paycheck and go home. However, if your sights are set on leaping up the ladder, then along with excelling in your daily work, you need to excel in the appearance department.

This is true even more so now and if you are over 50 presenting a good image is absolutely essential. I don’t need to tell you that an interviewer more often than not forms an opinion within the first 30 seconds of setting eyes on you, even before you’ve uttered a single word. And, these days, your interviewer is very likely to be thirty-something! So you really need to take your appearance by the collar and retool it!

Take heart though, you women who are over 50 have something going for you that many younger women do not have and that is style!

Know who you are and what looks good on you. Then create a wardrobe that takes your image to a higher, stylish level. Spend time sifting through your clothes and trying different combinations whether it is with a belt, scarf, blouse or a piece of jewelry. Explore and play.

I hope you will now be prepared to dress on your own terms. Remember, as you climb the professional ladder, the more polished you and your clothes should look. Dress for the job you’re aiming for, not for the job you’re in now.

Whatever industry you work for, be yourself and be an inspiration to your younger colleagues. Be admired for your work AND for your perfect style and grooming.

A final note, when my client put on the hot orange jacket, the black pants and black boat-neck top, her face lit up when she saw herself in the mirror. The right colors, the right shapes and an updated fashion helped her to look herself—not like “Ms Humdrum Worker” or her mother in a business suit.

So go forth into your closet and slay your clothes dragons!


Work with Michele!

You can now work with Michele on-line or face to face. Call or email for an appointment. You’ll be thrilled with the results.

Michele Benza, Image Consulting & Posture
email: Michele@mbenza.com
phone: 415-956-3025

Send me your Style question at Michele@mbenza.com. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Personal Image Consulting: The Dreaded Days of Bathing Suit Shopping

Personal Image Consulting: The Dreaded Days of Bathing Suit Shopping

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Dreaded Days of Bathing Suit Shopping

The Dreaded Days of Bathing Suit Shopping

Summer is on our doorstep and for many of us in our fabulous fifties and then some, this is the only time our zeal for shopping wanes. One glance at the tantalizing bathing suits dangling from hangers makes us wince.

We may not share our bathing suit fears with others, but let’s be honest; exposing what we consider our physical flaws to the public is enough to fill us with trepidation as we set off to the beach or the pool.

Take heart! Here are some guidelines to help you select the almost perfect bathing suit for a less than perfect body. But remember, the best way to feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit is to feel comfortable in your own skin even if the years have given up the fight with gravity. Accept your body as it is. Confidence is your best accessory!

And if you need a reminder, look around. We’re all in the same boat so you’re in very good company!

You body type is an ‘8’ or an ‘Hourglass’

Shoulders and hips and a narrow waist make your silhouette perfect. Your shoulders and hips are approximately the same width.

For you everything works and you can indulge your whims. Bikinis and one-piece suits look equally flattering.

This season’s vibrant color trends with maxi motifs and geometric patterns will suit you well.

Your body type is an ‘Inverted Pyramid’

Narrow hips and wide shoulders characterize your silhouette. Since this shape tends to have more masculine lines, you need to feminize it more.

Choose a swimsuit with narrow straps that emphasize your décolleté. The goal here is to draw the eye downward toward the lower part of your body, so your hips appear balanced with your shoulders.

Your body type is ‘Rectangular’

Shoulders and hips are the same width but your waist is not well defined. Your goal is to define your waist and accentuate the curves.

Best for you is a one-piece bathing suit with graphic motifs. If a two-piece bathing suit is your preference, choose one with a triangular lower half so as to break up your rectangular lines. Avoid ‘boy cut’ bottoms.

Your body type is ‘Pyramid’

Shoulders are narrower than the hips so your goal is to place the focus on your shoulders.

Pick a bathing suit with a large wide v-neck or asymmetrical neckline. This will create the illusion that you have broad shoulders and make you look more in proportion.

Absolutely no horizontal lines in the lower area. A ‘pareo’ is your best cover-up and will mask the roundness of your hips.


If you have large breasts, select a bathing suit with a built-in bra. A crisscross design is very flattering and will create a minimizing effect. For a large stomach, a bathing suit with a panel across the midriff will help slenderize this area. And if you are uncomfortable showing too much of your thighs your best bet is a swim-dress which provides more coverage.

Beach Bag Check List

Before you leave home, make sure your beach bag contains the following:

• Sun Hat
• Sunscreen
• Beach towel
• Roll up beach mat
• Bath towel
• Hairbrush
• Tissues
• Water
• MP3 player/iPod
• Reading material

Lastly, when in doubt, it’s best to cover more inches than less. A lovely, long flowing beach cover-up will create a graceful entrance to either the pool or on the beach.

Now go out, catch some sun and have fun!

Work with Michele! You can now work with Michele on-line or face to face. Call or email for an appointment. You’ll be thrilled with the results. Michele Benza, Image Consulting & Posture www.michelebenza.com email: Michele@mbenza.com phone: 415-956-3025 Michele Benza Send your Style questions to me at Michele@mbenza.com. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


What a relief to have winter well behind us! And even more of a relief to have said goodbye to heavy winter wear. We can now sashay our way around in light fabrics and colors and add dash and daring to our look—not to mention instant glamour—with a vibrant red lipstick and trendy glasses.

In these hard economic times, buying a lipstick is a true pleasure because it doesn’t break the bank. I’m thrilled to see that classic lipstick colors are back in a multitude of shades so you are bound to find one or two or, even three, that suit your coloring perfectly. These are my preferred choices:

Lancôme – L’Absolu Rouge
Shiseido – Rouge Dragon
Clinique – Red-y to Wear
Estée Lauder – Rich Red
Chanel – Rouge Allure
Serge Lutens – ‘Fards à Lèvres’ in ten fabulous shades. Absolute elegance.
YSL – Pure Gloss, Pure fruit
M.A.C - Impassioned
Givenchy - Complement Arty
Thierry Mugler - Rouge Unique
Clarins - Instant Gloss
L’Oréal – Sunset Red #302


Sunglasses are necessary to safeguard the eyes from damaging sunrays. But remember this accessory, like jewelry, can either enhance or diminish your image. Here are some tips to help you select a pair that suit you perfectly.

Style and color:
The color of the frame is of utmost importance as it should harmonize with your hair color and skin tone so be sure to pick a color that complements both.

Equally important is the size of the frame, which should be in proportion to your face. If it is too big your face will seem shrunken and if too small, your face will appear enlarged. I know, I know, I can already hear you protesting … ”Michèle, big glasses are in!” Yes they are but that does not mean we have to look ridiculous in huge glasses that swallow our entire face.

Be aware that there are options for lens colors too:
-Brown lenses are ideal for bright sunny days and slightly overcast conditions.
-Gray lenses are softer and allow colors to be seen in their natural state.

The bridge of the frame should fit the shape of the nose comfortably to avoid indentation marks. Here are some guidelines:
- Fine narrow nose: narrow, high bridge
- Wide nose: wide, low bridge
- Long nose: narrow or large, low bridge
- Short nose: narrow or large, high bridge

• The nose plates and temple points must be comfortable.
• The upper part of the frame should follow the arch of your eyebrows.
• The frame should not touch your cheeks. To test the fit, smile and make sure the glasses do not move up.
• The weight of the frame is important too and should not leave a smudge on your nose or a mark on your cheeks.
• The last important step is to check your profile to view the final fit of the sunglasses. The gap between the lower part of the frame and your cheek should neither be too small nor too large.
Take a good friend with you who will give you an honest opinion. And remember sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to be both fashionable and functional.

Now, put your lipstick and new sunglasses on, collect a friend along the way and set off to your favorite outdoor café. Summer is a great time for serious people watching and a delicious iced cappuccino!
Savor the moment and enjoy!


*Work with Michele*
You can now work with Michele on-line or face-to-face.
Call or email for an appointment.
You’ll be thrilled with the results.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Personal Image Consulting: STYLE ON A BUDGET? ABSOLUTELY!

Personal Image Consulting: STYLE ON A BUDGET? ABSOLUTELY!

Monday, May 18, 2009



By Michele Benza

Beautiful spring days are back and it’s time to tip-toe into stores for some spring fashion updates. Yippee!

Before you do, be sure to look for what I call BGD, the ‘Best Great Deals.’ Where are they? Everywhere! There are significant discounts for Family & Friends, smaller discounts for the rest and free shipping, just to name a few. But before you even walk out the door, check your favorite stores’ websites for any BGD’s. More often than not, many have store coupons, free shipping, or big online discounts. My favorite thing to do when shopping online is to immediately click on the sale page where you will find a veritable deep pool of BGD’s!

The balmier days of spring usually mean serious backyard time so get to your closet toute de suite and clean it out before you laze on your chaise longue. My stern advice: Re-think your wardrobe!

A detailed inventory of your clothes is critical. Be ruthless when you look at your wardrobe. Ask yourself if you really need that many clothes. Toss! Toss! Toss! Don’t be nostalgic and don’t make excuses! Why store winter clothes that are worn out, do not fit any longer, or that are outdated? Be creative with the clothes you already own and love. Learn how to accessorize and figure out how to mix and match.

As for the pile of clothes you’ve tossed, either resell them or better yet, donate them to non-profit organizations. How about having an exchange party with friends and family? If you can’t clean out your closets, hire me! Be warned though, I’ll be merciless.

The other day I was pre-shopping for a client and was admiring one of those trendy voluminous necklaces. I was turning it around and around in my hands and finally decided to try it on. As I picked it up I realized that it is what we call in French a collier plastron; my best translation would be a ‘necklace bib.’ Beads and other appliqués were sewn onto a tulle bib. What a great idea! This eye-catching piece led me to ponder about it for a few days: To buy? Or not to buy? At $365, it was not cheap but I could so clearly see myself wearing narrow black pants and a plain black T-shirt with this fabulous necklace bib. It would be my ‘novelty’ for the spring season. However, I was saved from financial folly by a flash of inspiration. Instead of buying an expensive new piece, I decided to rework an old one.

I own a lovely Max Mara necklace made of thick round dark red beads that I bought in 2007. I thought, why not go to Britex (the best fabric store in San Francisco if not the USA) and buy a couple of appliqués and create my own collier plastron? Haven’t we all accumulated old jewelry that we would love to wear if only the pieces were more fashionable? My suggestion: get thee to the nearest bead store and create your own collier plastron for the season. It would more than likely only cost you a few dollars rather than a few hundred!

That’s it for now. A la prochaine! Until the next time!


*Work with Michele*
You can now work with Michele on-line or face-to-face.
Call or email for an appointment.
You’ll be thrilled with the results.

If you know of someone who could benefit from this article,
please pass it on.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Never Underestimate the Inpact Value of a Great Haircut

My longtime friend, Valerie, recently wrote to me and shared her frustration about having just received a disastrous haircut.
She’d decided to scale back on haircuts and went to a hair stylist who was more than half the price of her usual stylist, a co-owner of a prestigious New York salon. The added cost of not only tipping her wonderful stylist, but also the people who washed and blow-dried her hair, made going to the salon too prohibitive. Unfortunately her good economic intentions backfired horribly.
As Valerie said, she learned an expensive lesson! It really does not pay to skimp on such an important expenditure as a haircut. Admittedly, they can be pricey. In San Francisco they range anywhere from $25 to $250 and in New York City, according to a recent article in the New York Times, March 5, Style Section, prices are can go as high as $550.
I decided to check in with Barbara Blum, the salon manager of diPietro Todd (downtown San Francisco) to find out how the economy is affecting the salon business. Barbara acknowledged that even though the beauty business has been affected by the economy, many people view getting their hair done in a salon and maintaining it at home to be a high priority and consider hair care to be a necessity rather than a luxury. “They want to look good in order to feel good in these stressful times,” she added.
With regard to tipping Barbara said, “People are extremely varied in their tipping habits--from very little to very generous, and this holds true even now. The standard is still about 15-20% regardless of the price of the service. Most people tip assistants between $5-10 depending on how much work they did.” She added that color and blow dry assistants are usually tipped on the higher side because their tasks require more skill in comparison to that of the person who shampoos hair.
Personally, I believe tipping should be given according to your level of gratitude rather than according to a specific percentage.

To be sure, for most of us having a bad haircut is very frustrating for many reasons, not the least of which is that hair takes such a long time to grow out. We should keep Valerie’s experience in mind and not skimp on such an essential expense. I know how difficult this is to justify in these hard economic times, but remember our face is our best asset as it is what others see first.
Here are some tips to help stretch your dollars when it comes to hair care.
1. If you have a brilliant hairstylist who works magic on your hair, lengthen the time between visits. A great cut should last longer. Go every seven weeks to ten weeks instead of every six weeks. Calculate the difference that makes to your budget. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

2. If you wear bangs, have them trimmed between visits. A bang trim can refresh an entire haircut and is usually free if you’re a regular.

3. Consider becoming a hair model. Upscale salons often look for models. If you decide to go this route, make sure the apprentice is about to graduate. Haircuts by soon-to-be graduated hair stylists are about $30. A substantial saving in comparison to the usual $100 (excluding tips) for a good cut.

4. When glancing through magazines, cut out pictures of great haircuts, show them to your hair stylist and explain what you like about the haircuts. This will help your hair stylist understand better what you want. She/he can then explain the pros and cons based on your hair type and facial features.

5. Consider growing out your short haircut a bit. Short hair needs to be trimmed more often whereas longer hair needs less maintenance.

6. If you color your hair, use a shampoo created for color-treated hair. The mild formula will enhance your color, making it last a lot longer. Don't wash your hair for at least 30 hours after your hair has been colored, as the color needs time to set.

7. Wash your hair with a good shampoo. Expensive shampoos generally are thicker and contain less water therefore you need to use less than a regular brand.

8. Invest in one of the new ionic hair dryers like the HAI Tourmaline Ionic Dryer that finish drying hair in record time. Not only do they save you time in the morning, but they also cut down on heat exposure to your hair, and thus are less damaging.
9. Ask your hairstylist to teach you how to style your hair more effectively on a day-to-day basis. Some hair salons provide classes on how to blow-dry and style your hair.

So be good to your hair! After all, it is a vital part of your look and can create a great impression. Again, a good haircut combined with the use of high quality hair products can make those visits to your favorite stylist less frequent.

Finally, remember that good health and an optimistic attitude add immeasurably to your beauty.

Bon courage!

Work with Michele!
You can now work with Michele on-line or face to face. Call or email for
an appointment. You’ll be thrilled with the results.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


We know that many of you are struggling with economic challenges right now but in the words of one of our favorite movie characters, Auntie Mame, “Knowledge is power!” So, here is the scoop on the new Spring fashions. As always, my advice is to buy the best you can afford. If you have to buy less do so, just buy better.

Hot off the Press:
Michelle Obama’s inaugural suit designed by Isabel Toledo will be available at Barneys in March. $1500.
Sofia Coppola’s sober and chic shoes and handbags for Louis Vuitton will be available in stores March 9, 2009.
Calvin Klein’s latest jean campaign was declared “scandalous” by the American television industry and has been censored. (But that has not stopped it being seen on YouTube by millions of people worldwide.) The campaign will run as is in Europe while a softer version is being reworked for the US market.
Alexander McQueen is the latest designer to team up with Target. He will design a collection that includes leggings, printed T’s and a leather vest.

The spotlight this spring/summer is on Fluidity and Femininity
You know I’m all for that. However, while sifting through all the Spring/Summer collections, I had difficulty finding wearable outfits for us working women. Serene and beautiful as the collections are, I found very few items appropriate for every day office wear.
“Shouldering on shoulders,” is the new term for this season’s focus on the shoulders. This look emphasizes the shoulders à la the eighties but less dramatically and with more refinement. I noticed embroidery and embellishments around necklines to emphasize the shoulders. The same effect can be attained with chunky bold necklaces. I must admit that at first I didn’t like the structured shoulders but I’ve changed my mind and now find them empowering.

Max Mara hemlines are being accentuated too. Skirts are longer and reminiscent of Christian Dior’s look launched in 1947. My preference is a length that just covers the knee. This skirt length works well with straight skirts in a dark jersey, preferably with an opening in the back to facilitate walking. The little back slit creates a subtle but sexy affect! If your figure permits, choose a fitted pencil skirt that hugs the body. Wearers beware! Footwear with this length is of utmost importance. Ditch the booties! Show your ankles! Wear high heels! And forget about nude pantyhose too; it kills the look! Opt for bare legs. Heels add a sexy element to your wardrobe but only if you can walk in them with ease and grace. Practice your walk before you venture out!

Elegance and sophistication are the key words to remember to maximize the charm and appeal of this new length.

Armani’s love for China and things Chinese can be seen in his spring/summer ‘Privé’ collection. ‘Pagode’ shoulders, high waists and longer skirt lengths were everywhere.

As for colors, blue, rose, orange and sand predominated.

Stella McCartney’s collection is elegant and simple. She used embroidered silk fabrics for tunics that can be worn over narrow pants. As can be seen below, she too emphasizes the shoulders not only in the cut but also with eye-catching detailing.

Chez Chanel, the classic black and white tweed suits are still as chic and feminine as ever. Karl Lagerfeld has designed matching handbags too and even created a leather version of the CC shopping bag! Check out Chanel's hosiery. Karl brought us very sexy hosiery last fall and continues to do so for spring and summer, by using two toned hose.

Jean Paul Gauthier showed a timeless collection. His favorite color for the coming season is sand, an easy color to adopt as long as you pick a light fluid fabric. Colored shoes look especially great with neutral colored clothing.

Isabel Marant is bringing back the denim blouson that can be worn over everything except jeans. Chez Cacharel is all about suppleness and fluidity. Celine is all about blues. She presented all her pieces with VERRRRRY high heels and showed many straight skirts that emphasized the waist. Like Celine, Aquascutum’s world is blue too.

John Galliano loves rose. Flash and dash are the operative words for Agnes B’s collection where lots of rose, green, yellow and turquoise were mixed up in the same element, making for a vibrant and cheerful look.

Accessories are a major category this season. The ‘must have’ shoes are impressive looking with straps. As for jewelry, it’s all about wearing bold pieces.

In the beauty department the best sellers are red lipsticks (my personal favorites) like this one from Dior’s ‘Rouge Dior Satin Collection’.

On Death Row: Harem pants, baby doll look, heavy clunky hardware on handbags and yes, very pointy shoes. Ouch! I still own one pair that I really like.

Shopping in your closet may be the smart way to go at the moment but be sure to keep your look updated. So don’t let the economic climate get you down. Be bold; be beautiful as you can be!


Michele Benza – Completely Confidential Image Consulting Featuring European Style and Elegance. (415-302-9366 | fax 415-388-6753 | + 210 Post Street, Suite 611 | San Francisco, CA 94108 | : michele@mbenza.com | http://www.michelebenza.com |

Follow me on http://twitter/mbenza

You can now work with Michele on-line or face to face. Call or email for an appointment. You’ll be thrilled with the results.

If you know of someone who could benefit from this article, please pass it on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Love yourself too!

Valentine’s Day is a great reminder for us to lavish love upon those whom we cherish. It is also a very good time to lavish love upon ourselves. Think about it. Being loved and cherished not only intensifies our sense of inner well-being but also radiates outwardly and enhances our beauty.

True beauty comes from within

As that old adage reminds us “Beauty is only skin deep.” We can make ourselves very attractive with clothing and accessories but true beauty comes from within. How many times have you seen someone who is not conventionally attractive but yet is perceived as beautiful because he or she radiates a sense of well-being and an inner knowing of their self-worth and purpose in the world? They are completely at ease with themselves and the world.

Get rid of the negative gremlins

It is vitally important that we take as good care of ourselves within as we do without. It is, of course, much easier to enhance our beauty externally than to really develop aspects of ourselves within that make us feel comfortable in our skin and accept our perceived physical flaws. Many of us have internal gremlins that are hell bent on eroding our confidence and self-esteem. We can counter those critical gremlins by learning to accept ourselves as we are--large hips and all! Of course it is important that we try to modify negative behavior patterns and take action to improve our physical well-being in any way we can. But always be realistic. Some of us simply don’t have a Julia Roberts smile. But a smile is a smile is a smile and can lift your spirits and those of others around you.

What you can do!

There are so many simple things you can do to improve your inner well-being. There are myriads of books and articles with great advice on how to achieve this but here are some of my quick and easy pointers:

  • Breathe! Learn some simple breathing techniques that are calming and centering.
  • Avoid negative thinking and people!
  • Take time out to truly relax whether it is just being quiet listening to music or taking a stroll alone or with someone you love.
  • Turn the lights low or light candles when you eat, take a long bath or shower.
  • Choose a physical activity that resonates with your body whether it be Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, hip-hop, pole, swing or ballroom dancing, roller blading or simply walking. Make time for whatever it is regularly. Once you develop the habit, you’ll find your body demands that you keep it!
  • Meditate. If sitting still for any length of time is challenging, try an activity like Tai Chi that incorporates meditation with movement.
  • Find ways to create harmony in your mind and in your life through a mind-body practice.
  • Be grateful each day for whatever it is that is good in your life whether it be health, loving family and friends, a roof over your head, a comfy bed, a delicious meal, a beautiful sunny day.
  • Be optimistic against all odds.
  • Live in the moment.

Remember we all have the capacity to be beautiful, no matter our physical appearance.

A Happy and Loving Valentine’s Day to you all.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Press Release: "Appearances Matter" Consultations Now Available

For immediate Release

Michèle Benza
Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture

Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture announces a new service, APPEARANCES MATTER, particularly suited for job seekers.

San Francisco, CA. Michèle Benza, founder of Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture, has created “APPEARANCES MATTER.”

“Image consulting is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Our image is our first non-verbal way of communicating to others and it speaks louder than words,” she says.

Benza’s new service is designed to evaluate her client’s first impression. This is followed by a personality test that helps Benza and the client define a style that complements his or her appearance and that creates an effective impression. Then, step-by-step, Benza takes her clients through a process that helps them prepare their psyche and image for a successful job interview.

Her program ensures that clients leave their session equipped with tools to present themselves with confidence, excellent posture and elegant style.


For immediate Release

Michèle Benza
Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture

Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture announces a new service, APPEARANCES MATTER, particularly suited for job seekers.

San Francisco, CA. Michèle Benza, founder of Michèle Benza, Image Consulting & Posture, has created “APPEARANCES MATTER.”

“Image consulting is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Our image is our first non-verbal way of communicating to others and it speaks louder than words,” she says.

Benza’s new service is designed to evaluate her client’s first impression. This is followed by a personality test that helps Benza and the client define a style that complements his or her appearance and that creates an effective impression. Then, step-by-step, Benza takes her clients through a process that helps them prepare their psyche and image for a successful job interview.

Her program ensures that clients leave their session equipped with tools to present themselves with confidence, excellent posture and elegant style.