Shopping Sense

Welcome back to the “What Is In Your Closet?” series.  Have you ever bought a garment on pure impulse?  Of course you have!  And, like me you probably put it away in your closet only to rediscover it a year later wondering whatever possessed you.  We all fall into the trap of impulsive shopping; after all we are bombarded every day with endless advertisement designed to condition us to consume without restraint.  So, we end up with overstuffed closets not wearing half of what we have purchased.  The following tips might be useful to you next time you go shopping for garments.

Mental Checklist 

     Before buying a new piece of clothing ask yourself the following questions.

–          With what will I wear this?

–         Do I need to purchase something that will go with it or do I already have something suitable?

–         Is it washable or will it need dry cleaning?

–         Is it “my” color?

–         Why do I think this is flattering on me?  (Salespeople are trained to flatter you, listen to your inner voice instead of theirs!)

Quality over Quantity

How many black sweaters do you really need? Instead of hoarding five or more on a bargain just get a couple.  High quality costs more but it will look better and last longer.  Have you ever wondered about those cashmere sweaters sales? Every fall they are in every department store.  The sweaters look good at first glance…the colors are great! But look closer; the sweaters are thin, they don’t have much style and they are likely not 100% cashmere.  They will not hold their shape.  They are the illusion of bargain.  It will pay off in the end to buy fewer items, yet, be willing to spend more per item.

Outfit over Single Items

As already mentioned in the mental checklist always think “outfits” when shopping.  You will stretch both your closet and your pocketbook.  You will feel like an expert. Picture yourself in the new outfit.  Picture yourself going places in it. If you then feel excited by all means buy it!

Open-mindedness over loyalty

While I do favor certain labels and stores I try not to become an overly loyal customer.  I want to shop around.  I am looking for quality of textile, fit and style not for a particular label.  A prestigious designer label is pricey but not necessarily a guaranty for quality.  It should be, but in our days it is not.  An outfit should speak for itself and should not need the fanfare of a prestigious label to be a successful choice.   By shopping around you are not limiting yourself; shopping becomes an adventure and an opportunity for discovery.

Trends are Traps

Of course who does not want be in style?  To me, however, fashionable is not synonymous with trendy.  Trendy is a look the fashion industry creates; fashionable is a look you create. If for whatever reason you lack confidence, ask a friend whose style you like to help you in your decisions.

The Power of Accessories

While I might buy clothes on a wise budget, I will occasionally splurge on high-end designer accessories.  I consider them great investments.  A prestigious designer scarf, handbag or belt is timeless.  I have a number of such items in my closet that I have collected over the years.  I do not tire of them.  Like fine jewelry they add an instant chic to any outfit.

Lucky Finds 

     Rarely have I liked anything that I bought on an impulse.  Impulses are moments of temporary misguidance driven by a sudden urge.  With it comes a rush of adrenaline and a sense of excitement. It is precisely the excitement that is the bait.  On the contrary lucky finds have always given me a trump card. Lucky finds are surprises.  The best items in my closet are lucky finds and I have never regretted purchasing them.  I know a lucky find when I see it; it is a moment of unmistakable serendipity.  It feels as if this very item was meant for you…a true custom fit!  Never turn your back on a lucky find!

Photo Collage Project

Photo Collage Project

Whether it involved family snap shots or experimental abstract close-ups, I have always enjoyed photography.  The digital age has of course made taking quality pictures quite easy on one hand.   Yet, on the other hand, software like “Fotoshop” has given us so many ways to manipulate an image, I have at times found it challenging and overwhelming.  The following project involves no fancy digital manipulation.

First I start by selecting a category or subject matter.  I decided on a floral theme.  I selected four photographs from my “Picassa” library.  I manipulated two and ended up with a total of six images for the collage.  I experimented assembling them a different ways until I found the combination that pleased me.  I then added on top of the final image some real leaves taken from houseplants which are barely perceptible but add an interesting dimension.





In my selection I was after an abstract quality.  Close-ups are often a good choice.  I also wanted interesting shapes, minimal but vibrant colors as well as strong contrasts between light and shadows.


In a Horticultural Mood

Photo collages do not need to be complex in order to make a strong impact.  Collages take photography to another dimension and make you reflect on composition and effect.  They can be a wonderful departure point to a future painting.  I find such projects particularly rewarding when they involve an ordinary subject matter.  You too will discover there is “ Splendour  In The Grass”

(a poem by William Wordsworth.)

April 2013                                                                                            Yvette Stenzel

Petite in Style


I stand 5 feet and 2 inches tall, a short woman especially by American standards.  “Petite” decidedly sounds much more attractive and “pixie” immediately conjures up in most of us images of Audrey Hepburn.

Most of my life I have been acutely aware of my height; I need stepladders throughout the house and I need help in the grocery store when trying to get that one item on the top shelf.  High heel shoes are no help for me because my feet are also small and most shoe sizes for women in the United States start at size 6.  I am not used to wearing high heels and on the rare occasion I do, I find it difficult to walk efficiently in them.  And sorry, regardless of what the fashion industry will have you believe, most platform shoes look like orthopedic shoes.

The following tips and observations have worked for me.  I am by no means a style expert and I apologize if my remarks will offend anyone.  Over the years I have developed a style that not only works for me, but that others have liked.  I hope it will work for you too and perhaps you too will get quite a few compliments as well.


Wear horizontal stripes; they make you look smaller and fatter. However, if you must have that nautical top, choose a very thin stripe.

Wear highly contrasting colors except for the classic combinations; navy/white, black/white, light beige/brown.

Wear too much jewelry.  I find that most women do.  Just stick to one ring, a pretty watch, one bracelet, one necklace and earrings.  This is a max for me and I only wear this on “special occasions”.

Wear your fingernails too long.

Wear a big head of hair.  If you are blessed with curls and lots of hair, tame it!

Overemphasize your boobs; on a petite woman it looks especially out of proportion.


Walk with super posture.  Practice good posture with daily exercises.  Walk up and down the stairs balancing a book on your head.

Watch your weight within reason.  Any extra on a petite will make her look shorter.

Whatever you do and wherever you go always look well groomed.  While torn jeans and tees might be fashionable, they look ridiculous on shorter women.

Wear make-up especially lipstick, but aim for a “natural” look rather than a “made-up” one.

Always wear clothes that fit well and that feel good to you.

Keep the volume down.  Oversized or baggy anything is not for you.  Although with the right outfit a big occasional accessory like a big belt can be fun.


Which colors look particularly flattering on you?  Know your color spectrum and stick to it.  That said and regardless what some experts say, no one tall or short, overweight or slim should ever wear “canary yellow”, “Kelly green”, “Pepto-Bismol pink” or “true purple”, these colors make your skin look sickly.  As far as other screaming colors, petites are better off when wearing them sparingly.

Black or Navy Blue Outfits

They are classics and will make you look taller and thinner.  Emphasize this by wearing the same color tights or stockings.

Monochromatic Outfits

All components do not have to be in the exact same color, which is rather boring.  On the contrary, play with contrasts and textures, but play wisely.  Put your outfit together first and see how it works.  For example an outfit that works well for me consists of a chocolate brown tight skirt worn with a rust color sweater, chocolate brown textured tights, light brown ankle boots and a multi earth tones colored scarf.

Shape Cutter Colors

Don’t wear contrasting colors that cut you in half; no to the red sweater worn over black pants, yes to the black pants with a black sweater, thin red belt and cute red flats.


Most suits in one color, whether traditional or pant suits, are a good choice.


They are great choices and are more versatile than suits.  Dressy or casual, coordinates can look very sophisticated when put together with flair.



Unless it is an evening gown or formal skirt, don’t wear clothes that are maxi long or super short.  Forget shorts unless you are on a resort and no one should wear Bermuda shorts, they look unflattering on women. The more flattering length for petites is just below the knee or mid-calf.  And contrary to what some experts say, I find narrow ankle pants or even capris worn with flats very appealing.  Play with contrasting lengths; try a short skirt with a long fitted tunique or a tightly fitted short jacket with a mid-calf pencil skirt.  Try a long fitted evening gown with a boléro jacket.  I adore ¾ length sleeves; I find them extremely feminine and particularly flattering on petites.


Shape is somewhat of a challenge.  In general a narrow fit works better unless you are overweight.  Be careful with flared shapes; for example a flared skirt worn with a flared jacked or peplum jersey does not flatter your petite frame.  It will make you look shorter.  Remember you want to elongate not widen!  A long open fluttery asymmetrical cardigan is not for you unless you wear it with the same color leggings.  A petite needs to be careful how she layers; too much layering will cut you up too much making you look shorter.

Textures and Patterns

Stay away from big textures and patterns.  Herringbones, Glen plaids, plaids and hounds tooth all work well when small.  The same is true with prints.  Contrasting textures can be playful and sophisticated; for instance textured tights worn with a textured fabric is very chic when it works.  I love mohair and fur but wear it sparingly because of my small frame.


After you read all the suggested guidelines, challenge them a little.  Go ahead be a little daring, put on those power over sized shades, wear that hat or that oversized belt, drape that Pashmina over your shoulders, but do it wisely!

Finally celebrate the pixie by emphasizing the “gamine” style.  Only petites can do it.  It looks ridiculous on tall women.  So, take advantage.  Go for the impish even somewhat tomboyish look of disarming candor.  Strap on the girlish mary-janes , wear the colorful flats or the patent leather oxfords.  Get that sailor style dress and smile.  Remember Audrey Hepburn and her adorable pixie haircut?

And finally, don’t be a victim of the fashion tyranny, don’t imitate others.  Find instead your own color, style and flagrance and stick to it.

Watch for more articles from WHAT IS IN YOUR CLOSET?

Reflections on the year passed

     Rather than the usual New Year’s resolutions I decided to list 12 events that marked the year in positive ways.

1.  While there has been quite a hiatus in my “artbloging” and my web site has still not been fully updated, I have had a fully productive year in art.  I am pleased with both my progress and new direction.

2.  Ron and I purchased a true beach retreat at Cape Cod.  I love it there.  Every so often I have to pinch myself to make sure it is real.  The commute is no issue for me.  On the contrary, I welcome the quiet time on the road.

3.  I am blessed with a supportive husband who is neither possessive nor controlling and who understands my needs as an artist.

4.  I am blessed with wonderful friends.  We have fun times together and I can’t imagine my life without those close friendships.  Surround yourself with friends of all ages.

5.  OK this will sound cheesy to many.  I love my dog Max.  His loving presence is essential to both my mental and physical health.  I simply cannot put into words the marvel of having a loyal pet.

6.  I am happy to live in Boston.  To me it is one of the most European cities in the United States.  Not only is Boston an amazing research and medical center, it is also a city that thrives on art, music, gastronomy and maritime life without being an overwhelming metropolis.  The public spaces are gorgeous.  If you haven’t yet done so, you need to visit the newly developed water front and to walk the green way surrounding the inner city.

7.  I got voted into the St. Botolph Club.  This private club offers wonderful programs in the arts.  The food is delicious and Monsieur Chevalier, the general manager who is also French, is simply a darling.  There is a monthly French table which I will enjoy.

8.  I continue to study Italian.  I am in the advanced group now.  Everyone is highly motivated and passionate about the culture.  It is a great group of people.

9.  Ron and I went on a fabulous 3 week trip to the Tuscan countryside.  Ma che bella la Toscana!

10.  Trust me dealing with family gets easier with age.  Just put on your “humor” lenses and sit back to enjoy the show.

11.  I have been “de-cluttering” for a while now.  It feels great and gives you more living space.

12.  I am glad this is the last item.  I am running out of things to say.  Ron and I have belonged to the same health club for 15 years.  We go regularly though not together.  Both of us understand and appreciate the benefits of staying fit.

I urge you to write your own list for yourself.  Sharing it with a partner of friend is even better.  In either case it will make you feel good.  If, however, you cannot come up with 12 items to list, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the way your life is going.  Perhaps some changes are in order.

Happy New Year                                                                                 Yvette

Poem for March of 2012

Balance Sheet

Hold on to your childhood teddy bear

And river bed rock

Pressed violets in Baudelaire’s book of poetry

The love letter you no longer have

The one you remember

Hold on to your soft nightgowns

Your ivory silk kimono

And velvet slippers

Your Limoges opal tea cup

And Grandma’s Belle Epoque pin

The one Grandpa gave her

Your collection of buttons wooden spoons

The shoe box filled with seashells

Old family photographs of people

You never knew

Hold on to your empty canvasses

Your favorite hues

The blank journal in red leather

Your sun salutations and morning coffee

The quiet time at dawn

Your hidden sensual well

Hold on because it will never be the same

Never the same again

Hold on

Dispose of worn out outfits

The heavy sweater you never unwrapped

Journals detailing heartaches

Toxic false friends who misguide you in jealousy

And when thoughts of self-doubt corner you

Get into your warrior pause

And feel the wild cat inside

Hold on to the morning mist

And translucent shades of pearl

Your favorite shoes

The candle that glows like gold

Your French seductive perfume

Play lists in the hour after midnight

Hold on to silences the memory of a kiss

His hand in tenderness when he desired you

The memory of your first lover

Papa’s photograph as a young man


Promises made at twilight

Dispose of garish fabrics and cheap paint

They were never yours

Petty comments and memories of betrayal

Get into your warrior pause

Hold on to your inner most female

The mystique awe and curiosity

Secret fantasies of unconsumed romances

Pink socks and rhinestone barrettes

Your garden and penchant for discretion

The longing for harmony

Dispose of cruel remarks the haughty sneers

When cynics debunk your ideals and dreams

Distrust sarcasm ever so subtle

Teases that control and erode a part of you

Dispose of unrestraint exposure

Overt parading

Intrusion of all spaces

Hold on to the invisible hand of a friend

A sense of adventure and mystery

Your tender core when your voice like honey

And your touch a feather

When all is lifted surrender to a lover’s embrace

Hold on to your oasis in moonshine

Your Venus and Northern Star

When anguish besieges you

Hold on

Ride with the wave and float

Your face towards the sun

Listen to the ocean

Call your name

Feel the breeze in you hair

Taste the sea foam

Hold on because it will never be the same

Never the same again

Hold on

Now and tomorrow

Yvette Isabelle Stenzel

Poem by Yvette Stenzel

A New Day

Be happy when the morning awakes

And greet each day anew

Do not frown at the rising sun

Nor at the falling rain

How dare you

Don’t you see they rise and fall for you

Cleanse your heart of nagging nonsense

Silly predicaments and dramatic thoughts

Welcome the day instead

Ease into the new morning each day

Measure for measure

With small yet steady steps

Innocent and ready like a child

Be happy when the morning awakes

It rises and falls for you

Welcome the new day your good fortune

It rises and falls for you

With the summer wind and river wild

The new moon and vapor clouds

When the morning awakes

Greet the sacred dawn messenger

In silent reverence and awe

She may bring a new rainbow

And secret messages

You know

Expiration Date

Boston Winter, Photograph by Yvette Stenzel

Expiration Date

Two days before Christmas

In the twilight of dawn

The day breaks the night

Long shadows still shiver

Brick cement metal beams

Against a still steel sky

Two days before Christmas

Foghorns and ambulances

In the distance by the sea

Down below an alley awakes

Roars of city trash day

Rubbish piles a tree

Mesh wrapped Christmas tree

In the alley on trash day

Engines in high gear

The garbage truck takes

All that is left in the alley

Two days before the holiday

Reminiscing by the sea

Reminiscing By The Sea

Childhood long gone

In yellowed photographs remembered

A pink lampshade a wallpapered room

Summer socks polka dots and pigtails

First cherries in grand-père’s orchard

Joined at the stems hung like earrings

I played pretend in adults’ shoes

And changed my name to Daphné

After all how boring the ordinary

And twelve felt so very ordinary

Fourteen for sure had to be different

In yellowed photographs

Childhood remembered

Summer camp with girlish girls

In southern France by the sea

Twelve fourteen seventeen

Pigtails and summer camp long gone

First heartache giggles and tears

He loves me he loves me not

The hell with bourgeois conventions

Or so I thought

Muguet des bois” in May

Singing “La Bohème

John Lennon long gone

Horizons in tangerine still glow

In yellowed photographs

Sentiments remembered

Days of summer camp

In southern France by the sea

Silenced in the wind

Above the cliffs

Childhood long gone

Yvette Isabelle Stenzel