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2004-08-13 - 12:23 p.m.

Changing Times - Tarika cont'd

In the late 1980’s my customer base began to change in subtle ways. My younger customers were buying homes for the first time, spending their surplus money on redecorating and landscaping.

My older customers now had children entering college; tuition, board and room, and travel expenses seemed to be eating up money that they used to spend on clothing. The economy was forcing the major department stores to bring in private label merchandise and have on-going sales. Everyone seemed to be looking for a bargain during an economic downturn.

In order to increase my customer base, I advertised in Sacramento Magazine and increased Tarika’s exposure through fashion shows at various restaurants, accessory demonstrations in-store and on local TV news shows,as well as trunk shows with designers and scarf demonstrations by Willis the Scarf Wizard.

I gave Head-to-Toe Terrific classes on illusion dressing through The Learning Exchange.“Head to toe terrific…that’s what we all want to be. Right? And head-to-toe terrific doesn’t say anything about how old you are, how much you weigh…or how tall you are. It’s a given – we all want to look younger, taller and thinner. I don’t want to talk about weight! – ‘cause I weigh a bunch! I’m like Kay Ballard, who I remember hearing say, 'My top weight is 115# - and I won’t discuss my lower half!' And about age…well, there are three stages of age in my book…'youth, middle age,…and my, you look good!'"

I'd make an entrance to these illusion-dressing demonstrations with polka dot or red shoes…and change into solid black with off-black stockings. I increased my apparent height by two inches…and then I would put on a long scarf…and I appeared taller yet.

Then I’d say, “Next time you’re in the doctor’s office, waiting in that funny little gown with the air coming up the back, look at the height and weight chart. You know what? If you are 2 inches taller, you can weight 10 pounds more!” Illusion – that’s what it’s all about. Illusion is a mild form of deception. The intention of illusion is to alter the perception. And in the case of clothing, illusion is used to cause proportions to appear as close to the ideal as possible.

Leonardo da Vinci, in his wisdom, decided that the perfectly proportioned body vertically should be drawn with the head one-eighth of the body…and that the body to be ideal would then be divided into fourths. And this is the standard by which we judge “ideal” today; the ideal is one-fourth from the top of the head to the apex of the bust, another fourth to the largest part of the hip, and another fourth to the knee.

A fashion retailer for over twenty years, I’ve done hundreds of figure analyses. I want to stress that no one is perfect. We all want to look perfect, but sometimes the body just won’t cooperate – legs too short, neck too long. Even the most beautiful fashion models have some little imperfection that they wish to camouflage or correct. No one is perfect!

And, of course, fashions change. What is beautiful? It is cultural, geographic, and constantly evolving. Fashions change seasonally, often because of movies or television, as well as our changing role models. Remember Lara in Dr. Zhivago? Grace Kelly? Annie Hall? Twiggy? Madonna? Jacqueline Kennedy? Lady Di? or the Out of Africa look of Meryl Streep? Our ideas of beauty change. The body which was terrific yesterday may be passé today.

Think of the ages of fashion – the beautiful women portrayed by the great masters throughout the ages: bustles enlarged the hip area, corsets cinched in the waist and pushed the bosom unnaturally upward to create an hourglass figure – that was considered beautiful. And I remember the 50’s and the latex panty girdle, which made women look as though they had one rounded, firmly packed derriere. I also remember when every teenager wished to look like Twiggy? Today those same teenagers would be heading to the plastic surgeon for a breast enhancement to keep pace.

While we can send yesterday’s outdated fashions off to Goodwill or to a consignment shop or have a garage sale, or even put them away in a cedar chest hoping they’ll come around again, we can’t trade in our bodies each year. There is no way any one person can conform to the dictates of fashion beauty every year of her life, but she can use illusion. I demonstrated with the flip of a collar, the addition of a scarf, or by showing how a long line of one unbroken color could add the illusion of inches. By pushing up one’s sleeves, or adjusting the length of one’s handbag, the hips can be made to appear smaller. Demonstration of these tricks of illusion with before and after poses of real-life models impressed audiences over several months of classes...and increased Tarika's bottom line.

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