Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Celebrate the Holiday Season With a Little Bling!

What better way to celebrate the Holiday season than by spoiling yourself with a lovely piece of jewelry?

Jewelry can be made out of any material on earth and can adorn any part of your body. While the focus has been on jewelry that is made from gems and precious metals, there is also a growing demand for jewelry that focuses on design and creativity.

This ‘art jewelry’ is more highly prized for its form than for it’s material value. In addition, there’s plenty of less-costly costume jewelry made with less valuable material, yet makes a fine addition to anyone’s wardrobe. Fortunately, no matter the depth of your pocket, there is jewelry to suit every budget.

Choosing jewelry that enhances your looks is fun and exciting, but it can also be confusing and overwhelming. So keep the following in mind to make the right selections that compliment your unique style: 

If warm colors go well with your skin tone, choose jewelry in shades of yellow, rose gold, or bronze. If you find that cooler colors suit you better, then choose white metals, such as silver, platinum or white gold.
Another element to consider when selecting jewelry is your personality.

Are you a romantic gal, or is elegance more your style? Are you drawn more to the natural, bohemian look, or more to western dramatic designs?

Most of us are multifaceted, so our wardrobe - and thus our jewelry - should reflect this aspect of ourselves. If you have lovely, well-manicured hands, wear only one beautiful ring (in addition to a wedding ring, if you wear one). If your neck is your best asset, wear a necklace as the focus of your image, but make sure to wear tiny earrings.

Do not wear yellow earrings with a white metal necklace unless the necklace includes both yellow and white metals (my personal preference!). Remember to make a statement not a showcase. Focus on one piece of jewelry. More is definitely not better!

 Also, it’s important that you to take care of your jewelry. Polish your silver pieces and make sure to check clasps and mountings regularly on all your jewelry. Be gentle, or you might lose important pieces from your favorite earrings or necklace. In French, there is a saying, "Dis-moi quels bijoux tu portes et je te dirai qui tu es." Or in English: "Tell me what type of jewelry you wear and I will tell you who you are." Thus, it is important to remember that the jewelry you wear is an integral part of your image. Choose pieces that improve your image and are appropriate for you. Remember that your image is your first form of communication as well as your first business card. So choose your jewelry well, and enjoy wearing it!

Happy Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Look Great Face-to-Face in Cyberspace!

It is wonderful to be able to speak with people face-to-face on Skype, Face Time et al. For me personally, it has been a boon as I am able to consult with clients all over the world. Clients love it as it is much more personal than communicating via phone or email. However, it does have a downside: the camera is not kind to everyone.
I’m sure you too have noticed that webcams have no pity on wrinkles, pale complexions and sagging jaws. In fact, it seems to me they highlight these aspects! How cruel is that! Webcams certainly did me no favors. I was horrified how unflattering they could be! This led me to test drive different places in my office to find out which spot would create an optimum background. Then I tried different kinds of lighting and camera angles that would be the most flattering to my skin. I am an image consultant after all, so clearly I would like to give my viewer the very best first impression possible.   
Remember, you must look good to yourself if you want to look good to others! So, a little effort beforehand is really necessary. Put on a bit of makeup and make it a little brighter than usual. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes when on camera. Also, pay attention to your clothes. Choose clothing with solid colors. Reds and oranges are best. Wear earrings as they make you appear dressed up and ready to go. Be sure to sit up straight and smile! Think cadid camera! 

Test the lighting. The last thing you want is to look like a Shar Pei dog or Frankenstein. Stay clear of lighting from below your face. And forget back lighting. What we all need is gentle lighting. Natural light is best if at all possible. Face a window or use a simple desk lamp to light up your face. This enhances your appearance and gives shape to your face. If you’re using a desk lamp, turn off the other lights in the room and close the shades.
Now that lighting has been dealt with, look for the best camera angle for your face. If you use a laptop, raise it to the level of your hairline. Center yourself in the middle of the screen and angle it slightly forward. Computer cameras have wide-angled lenses which exaggerate things that are close up like the nose!  So put a little distance between you and the screen.
Be aware of the background. You want the viewer to focus on you, not what’s happening behind you.
Finally, we all make the same mistake. We look at ourselves when we should be looking at the camera. Remember we are talking to another person and not to ourselves! LOOK AT THAT LITTLE LIGHT ABOVE YOUR SCREEN.
As you can tell, I’ve given this matter a lot of serious thought and had to do quite a lot of experimenting before coming up with what works best. I encourage you to do a dry run with a friend on the other end of the camera before your next video call. Again, if you are an Apple owner, you can also use photo booth for a test.
Oh! One more thing, you do not have to face the camera. Try positioning yourself slightly sideways as it can make quite a difference.
Now let the cameras ROLL…



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Appearance on CBS Radio

Men, are you loving your shaved head? You might love it more if you know that being bald is good in business as study shows. Men who accept their baldness are going to show that they are powerful. Listen to my interview at #cbslocal to know more! #SF   http://tinyurl.com/9hag59j

Friday, October 5, 2012

Effortlessly Transition From Day to Night

It’s that time of the year again when our agendas will soon be filled with festive events to attend straight after work. Now is the perfect time to examine your wardrobe to ensure you have a few indispensable items that will enable you to make an effortless and glamorous transition from day to night.

With the right dress, the right accessories and fresh makeup, you can be out your office door on your way to a party or dinner in just about 20 minutes.

An elegant and simple dress that is feminine but not revealing is a perfect choice. For those in warmer climes, a pretty summer day dress with spaghetti straps can be worn with a well-chosen cardigan that can be removed before leaving the office. Of course a great choice would be the LBD--the little black dress, a requisite closet item. If it is sleeveless, wear it with a blazer and flats and come dinnertime, remove the cardigan and swap the flats for stilettos.

Absolutely essential is a complete redo of your makeup. (Keep an emergency skin care travel kit in your office drawer.) Remove all makeup, tone and moisturize your skin and then re-apply your makeup. Since evening indoor lighting is subdued, accentuate your makeup a little bit more.

Next is your hair. With your head down, brush it thoroughly to add volume. Personally, I prefer my hair to move freely. However, of you prefer to be ‘bien coiffé’ use a light hair spray.

A stunning pair of earrings that suit the shape of your face and complement your attire will boost your look to evening status and create a great impression. Should you choose to wear chandelier earrings, limit other accessories. A necklace would be a definite no-no. If you opt for a dramatic cocktail ring, wear no other jewelry except discreet earrings.

Another indispensable closet item is a sleek clutch bag. Pop it in your chic tote bag before leaving home. In it, you should have one credit card, your driver’s license, a $50 bill, red lipstick, a hand mirror and a handkerchief or tissues and, your cell phone, of course!

As for shoes, high heels but ONLY if you are able to walk straight and tall. Otherwise a pair of elegant low-heels or flats. No stockings if your legs are in great shape or wear black sexy ultra sheers. They are always flattering to one’s legs.

Choose your coat carefully that day. It should be as elegant as the clothes underneath. Remember making a great exit is as important as a great entrance. And with your beautiful red smiling lips, high heels, a clutch and erect posture, heads are sure to turn.
Relax and embrace the festive spirit.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Office Attire

At last fashion designers have realized working women are an untapped market and are designing clothes for us. Needless to say this makes me very happy! Especially as I believe it is vitally important that we wear appropriate attire to work that is both stylish and elegant.

Interestingly, strictly business attire seems to have disappeared. Only four percent of women in the United States say they wear strictly business clothes, while 31% claim to dress casually for work.

Being an Image Consultant, I naturally take great care about how I dress. It is imperative that my clothes fit perfectly and that they enhance my good features and camouflage my flaws. Unless my outfit needs to be uplifted in some way, my jewelry is minimal. As for makeup, it is religiously applied every morning. And it has to be flawless.
I know I do a better job when I am dressed for the part. Even when working from home, I dress professionally as I know my voice would project differently over the phone if I dressed down.

Here is a checklist of do’s and don’ts for you to keep in mind before heading out the door to work. I highly recommend that you place a full-length mirror next to your front door and look yourself over very carefully from the feet up. Details count!

·       Shoes - clean and in immaculate condition. No scuff marks or worn-down heels! Make sure they go well with what you are wearing.
·       Legwear - needs to be invisible. Only if the skin on your legs is smooth and you have no visible defects can you go barelegged to work!
·       Pants – check the hemline. It should NOT touch the ground.
·       Skirts/dresses - not too short, not too long, not too tight. Sit in front of a mirror and check out what others see.
·       Tops - fitted yet not revealing.
·       Hair and makeup - pulled together. A hint of flawless makeup.
·       Accessories - good quality and discreet.
·       Finishing touch - a coat or jacket will tie your entire outfit together.

·       Fragrance – wear very little. Your clients and/or coworkers could be allergic.
·       No cleavage.
·       No sleeveless tops - unless your upper arms are super toned.
·       Handbag – Keep it neat and tidy. A messy one shows you are disorganized.
·       Jewelry - less is better. Save the chandelier earrings for evening.

Last words…

Invest in high quality well-tailored pieces. The higher up you are on the work ladder, the better quality your clothes should be. Dress for the job you want, not the job you are in.

Find your signature piece of the season–whether it is a piece of clothing, a piece of jewelry, a handbag, or a scarf–your colleagues will admire you for your great style.

Finally, remember a good business outfit is all about fit, color and silhouette!

Knock ‘em dead!

About Michèle

Belgian born Michèle Benza is a European certified Image and Stylist Consultant. She founded her eponymous image consulting and posture business in 2003 as it combined her experiences as an owner of fashion boutiques, an esthetician and Pilates instructor. 
Michèle's unique blend of European flair and elegance combined with her focus on posture helps clients achieve unparalleled results. Her greatest pleasure while working with clients is witnessing their transformation as they embrace their style and new-found confidence.

The New York Times: On Sharing a Closet

From The New York Times:
The Great Divide:Wardrobe diplomacy. 

Tips on the perfect closet and, more importantly, how to share it with your husband!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My current business look

My current business look

Silk blouse
$580 - veryeickhoff.com

Valentino pencil skirt
$650 - farfetch.com

Lisa Freede bracelet

Pippa Small earrings
$5,180 - net-a-porter.com

Stila eyeshadow

Chloé fragrance
$69 - pret-a-beaute.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A MIXED BAG: Pre-Fall to Winter 2012/2013

I am in a quandary. Next season’s trends are not exactly making my heart sing. I’m seeing far too many unwearable outfits for everyday and very few for professional women! What are we supposed to wear?

Interestingly, I have noticed a new phenomena occurring in the fashion industry, which may contribute to the lack of attention to professional women and the perplexing mixed bag we have for this season.  Challenged by brands like Zara that produces new merchandise on a weekly basis, designers and luxury brands have added to their calendar “Transitional” collections.

So, instead of two collections, we now have four: fall/winter; cruise/resort; spring /summer and pre-fall. Chanel shows six collections a year!

Financially speaking these additions have been a real commercial success. Proof that novelty has the power of attraction.

One thing for sure, this season’s trends are influenced by both the distant and immediate past but they are all over the place. However, two trends stand out as this season’s markers: the return of the peplum and the 3-piece ensemble.

Here is a snap review of what to expect in the stores. I’ll let you untangle the puzzle and decide for yourself what works for you!

Baroque: All things ornate with lavish latticing on suits and coats. (Not my cup of tea.)
Borrowing from the boys. Very IN. From over-sized jackets to Oxfords.
Colors: Bright!!! Oranges, purples, hot pinks, greens.
Details: The feminine silhouette of the peplum is back again.
Dresses: Simple, elegant, close-fitting, ¾ sleeves, below the knee hemline. Safe bet for professional women and YES, perfect choice to wear from work to dinner.
Fabrics: Solid colors for elegance and chicness to embellished Gothic.
Faux-fur Collars (or any other fabrics): Ideal for quickly updating a dress or coat before dashing out the door. (Saw these all over Paris a couple of months ago.)
Gothic: who says 'noir' was boring? Rethink this!
Handbags:  Structured to hobo.
Hemline: Asymmetric, mini to maxi.
Leather: Mixed in with other textures, like tweed. (I did like Vince’s suede leggings!)
Makeup: Cherry lips, strong eyebrows.
Military style: Luxurious fabrics and more fitted silhouettes give it a fresh appeal.
Pant Suits: The three-piece look is big! With a twist. Narrow pants just below the ankle with matching short dress and jacket.
Ripped: Everything! Hem skirts and sleeves are unfinished. (Seems like designers are creating trends that lower the cost of manufacturing!)
 Silhouette: Fitted to boxy.
Shoes: Super high platforms to knee-high boots, the hottest item on the runways. 
Trousers; A la Marlene Dietrich, front pleated and flowy.  

That’s a wrap! Have fun shopping!

A bientôt
An excellent professional women's dress. 

Colors to watch this fall. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are We Image Obsessed?

  The mirror, it seems, has become our worst enemy rather than our best
   friend. Research indicates that at least 80% of women over 18 are
   unhappy with what they see. The main focus of dissatisfaction is the
   size and shape of their bodies, particularly their hips, waists and

   This has led me to think about this matter and air my views in this

   It does not help that we cannot watch TV, pass billboards, or read
   magazines and newspapers without seeing slender, beautiful people. So
   much so, that we are subconsciously brainwashed into believing this is
   the norm and that we should look like these people too.

   To make matters worse, the majority of celebrities, females in
   particular, almost always look perfect. Not a hair out of place, not a
   wrinkle to be seen and breasts and bottoms fixed where they should be
   rather than heading south, as they tend to do in the rest of us.

   Does this create a negative or positive impact on us ordinary mortals?
   Are we able to differentiate the star from the individual? Are we

   It seems so, when you examine the statistics. According to the American
   Society of Plastic Surgeons’ (ASPS), 2011 Statistical Report, there
   were, 307,000 breast augmentations, 182,000 nose reshapings and 182,000
   liposuctions among other cosmetic procedures.

   In 2010, almost 219,000 plastic surgery procedures were performed on
   13-to-19-year-olds. Teens rely on the knife to correct ill-shaped
   noses, protruding ears, too large or too small breasts, too big or too
   flat butts, and so on. Young Asian women go as far as having plastic
   surgery to westernize their appearance.

   Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against plastic surgery. Especially
   for adults who take the time to do in-depth research about their
   surgeon’s history and professionalism and the consequences of their
   proposed surgery.

   To what extent is all this related to our actual physical defects
   rather than the perception of our physical defects? We all have
   imperfections. But the issue is that we believe our defects stand out
   and everybody immediately notices them. Not true. The sad thing is that
   we are our harshest critics.

   How much is the media to blame? In my opinion, a lot. It is the media
   that creates and continues to magnify and exploit the celebrity
   syndrome. Thanks to the media, we have become accustomed to extremely
   rigid and uniform standards of beauty.

   These high standards are simply unrealistic and out of our reach. The
   truth of the matter is that the current median ideal of slenderness for
   women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population.

   Most of us cannot afford to have a personal make-up artist, hair and
   fashion stylist, yoga teacher or Pilates instructor. If we could, we
   too would look fabulous every time we walked out the front door.

   So what to do? Make the mirror your friend! Accept your body for what
   it is, zoom in on what is good and make the most of it.
   A Bientôt,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shop 'Till You Drop (With Caution!)

I know, I know. We all want to stay on point with our budgets in these tough economic times. But, there are some great bargains out there and, if you are careful, you won’t break the bank! Here are my tip offs and of course, as always, a few words of caution!
Tip Offs

  • If shoes are your weakness, the best deals are at Glory Chen and Joy Chen. If you like avant-garde shoes, hunt carefully as there are some at 50% off.
  •  Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer collection is already 50% off as is TUMI’s and they have great travel bags.
  •  MaxMara and Giorgio Armani begin their sales the second week of June.
  •  Price tags still a bit high for you? Then, head for the department stores for more affordable price points, as many are liquidating their spring/summer 2012 collections to make room for the next season’s trends.
OK. So you’ve been really disciplined and have been waiting for the sales to make the most of your budget, but buyer be AWARE!

  Glory Chen shoe
Shoe by Glory Chen
Words of caution
Shop for now.  Shop for items that fit you now and do not buy too-tight jeans thinking you’ll lose a little and it’ll fit!
Think like me.  Buy fewer pieces but all high quality. In Europe almost everyone looks good even when they wear the same clothes repeatedly. The reason? Because they are of good quality. I was brought up this way too, so it doesn’t bother me at all to wear the same clothes year after year. However, I do take the opportunity to freshen up my wardrobe during the sale seasons and suggest you do the same.
Remember that size does matter. Don’t pay attention to the number on the label, just buy what fits and looks good on you.
Don’t rush. Give yourself enough time. Window-shop and ask the sales person to hold the items you like. Then return for a second look AND try them on again.
Test. Whether you are shopping for dresses, trousers or T-shirts, comfort is supreme. Take a test drive. Walk around, swing your arms back and forth and make sure the garment falls back into place. I suggest that if you can, sit on a chair in front of a mirror to see what other people see! (I’m thinking mini skirts…!)
Trust your inner voice-1. You may come across the ‘It” piece that everyone else has, but if it doesn’t meet your needs just walk on by.
If you have to try too hard to make it work, forget it. You’ll never wear the piece.
Cost per wear. Buy high-end items that you will wear more often. The more you wear them, the less expensive they’ll turn out to be.
Don’t buy an item just because it’s on sale! Don’t panic or be afraid to lose a good deal.
Trust your inner voice-2. Dare to be a little adventurous. Shake up your wardrobe by adding a few elements that you would not otherwise acquire.
Finally, remember to always check the store’s return policy!
A bientôt,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Looking Great (Front and Back) in Jeans

Jeans are such a great fall-back position when we’re stuck with what to wear. So I think it is time to remind you of important points to consider before slipping into your favorite pair.

At the top of the list is the most important point to consider: Do not wear what everybody else is wearing unless you have the body type that suits the current trend!

To make it easy for you, here are my pointers for specific body types:
  1. Long waist: Super low-rise jeans are a no-no as they will hit the mid part of your hips and make your thighs look larger. And your legs will appear shorter! Better to choose a pair of jeans that either fit your waist or fall just below your navel. You can also wear high-waisted jeans as they will make your waist seem shorter and your legs longer. As a matter of fact, I fall under this body type and I find that jeans/pants in 'Petite' fit me better than a regular size. I am 5'7”.
  2. Triangle shape: Wear jeans that sit just on your hipbones and select bootcut legs. Avoid tapered jeans, as they will draw unwanted attention to your hips!
  3. Round ‘bubble’ derrière: Do not cinch your waist and do not wear jeans with faded areas on this part of your body! Wear low-waisted jeans, as they will make your derrière look more compact.
  4. Flat derrière: Avoid high-waisted jeans, as this cut will make your derrière look totally flat. Low cut jeans + flap pockets or just enough detailed pockets will make your bottom look perky.
  5. Long Legs: No, I am afraid you cannot wear cropped flared jeans, as you will look as if you grew out of them! Your best bet is to choose jeans with a long inseam, bootcut or straight-legged.
  6. Plus sizes: No baggy pants please! They make you look bigger. You need to wear slim-fitting, slightly low-rise jeans that just hit the hipbones. Choose darkish colors, as they will minimize your curves.
  7. Buffed full quads + small waist: Look for wide-leg styles. Fit your legs first, and then have the waist altered.
  8. All body types: Choose jeans that have at least 2% spandex.

Finally, remember jeans should never touch the floor. There should be a slight break in the front and they should fall a fraction above the ground in the back. This will prevent unsightly frayed cuffs. A frayed hem is a definite NO-NO!

A Bientôt,


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Top of the Season -- The Blouse

Surprise! The very ladylike blouse has floated back onto the runways and designers have finally made it super feminine.

This time round, it runs the whole gamut: it is filmy, puffy, floral, colorful, and transparent. It comes in classic plain white cotton and soft or sheer voile. I like it in all these versions and it is once again an essential. And, what’s more, a classic blouse is as versatile as an LBD (Little Black Dress). It can be casual or dressy, flirtatious or sensual.

This season it appears in endless forms, from the classic tailored form that just about hugs the body, to one that billows out. Some blouses are boldly transparent while others have cascades of ruffles.

Never underestimate the importance of tops, be it tees, blouses or sweaters. Since these pieces of clothing are worn close to the face, we should not overlook their impact. Believe it or not, a top can make our complexion glow or make it look dull.

For a chic lightweight style, dare to wear a transparent blouse belted at the waist and accented with a high-waisted skirt to lengthen the legs. To add even more height, wear open toe stilettos.

La femme will wear the blouse tucked in a wide leg pair of jeans­ – to refine her silhouette – with long necklaces gracing her neck.

Topping off with a blouse does not mean you have to be completely covered, especially if you choose a flowing, diaphanous fabric that will play hide and seek with your body. Very flirty and seductive.

To be honest, I want a blouse right now. A lovely green one to wear with a tuxedo suit. Perfect for business!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Be Bold This Spring 2012

Are you ready for spring?
I’ve put together my recommendations for the coming season.

Spring colors are so joyful; they immediately make me feel optimistic and happy! This spring is all about mixing a marvelous palette of uplifting colors: pink, yellow, orange, blue, lilac, turquoise, and my favorite color of all, red! But finding shoes to complement this cheerful array of colors will be a challenge. My suggestion: metallic sandals. For me, silver ones are at the top of my “must buy” list.

With such a wide range of colors ­­to choose from­­—yellow, orange and green to the more muted shades of lavender, blue and beige—everyone can find their perfect color. As they say in French, a chacun sa coleur!

Dazzle with solid colors used in blocks. Wear vivid orange with bright pink. Or, a blue top with coral pants separated by a brilliant yellow, very narrow belt to accentuate the waist. A statement with a fab finishing touch!

If bright colors are not for you, look for candy couleur, aka soft but add a bold necklace that lifts the look and makes a statement.

Go for geometric prints on pants or tops. My recommendation: contrast a print with a solid pop-up color for either the top or the bottom.

FLEURS (Flowers)
Don’t be shy! If you can get away with them, wear prints from head-to-toe!

Dazzle with horizontal stripes for tops, dresses, and jackets.

Shimmer in unexpected textures like sequins and metallic fabrics.

Stand out from the crowd! Forget the classic little black dress. This season’s little black dress is red.

The envelope please! There are a variety of ‘envelope’ style bags to choose from this season. Great from day to night.

For the lucky few, high heels are aplenty. And colorful too. BUT Learn how to walk in them! Practice in front of a mirror!

A few details to watch for this spring:

  • Hemline just below the knee.
  • Skirt-shorts, but choose carefully so you don’t look dowdy!
  • On the beach or around the pool, Chanel suggests wearing the classic Chanel jacket over a bathing suit. And why not?
  • Ribbon-edged cardigans, cropped jackets, lots of horizontal stripes everywhere, all good for updating your wardrobe!
  • Every store has at least one crisped glacier-white suit.
  • Jewelry is bold, really bold. Think BIG earrings.

To minimize your trendy investment, pick a colorful accessory and pair it with crisped whites.

Be bold, put a SPRING in your step -- and in your wardrobe.

A bientot,

Monday, January 9, 2012