Originally created 05/14/05

Style briefs



Cosmetic definitions

NEW YORK - Savvy shoppers know that product labels have a wealth of valuable information. The problem, though, is that labels seem to have a language all their own.

Just what is that pantothenic acid in your hair conditioner, anyway?

Three Rivers Press recently published the sixth edition of "A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients," which answers most of those questions.

(Pantothenic acid is vitamin B-12, which aids in the metabolism of fats and proteins. It's commonly used as a conditioner in hair products.)

The book also addresses the difference between "natural" and "organic" cosmetics. It turns out there's no official definition for natural. The FDA says it implies that ingredients are extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically, according to the "Consumer's Dictionary." There also are no standards for organic, but the book defines organic cosmetics as "made from only animal or vegetable products."

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Flower figures

NEW YORK - Just because your shoulders are a little narrower than your hips, does that mean you have to be labeled a "pear" for the rest of your life?

Not if you use the fit guidelines offered by the lingerie collection Julianna Rae, which compares body types to flower shapes.

A snowdrop has "delicate shoulders and bustline with feminine hips and legs." The best styles for this figure are soft and flowing, especially bias cuts, and to stay away from sheaths and loud prints.

Other botanical bodies, as defined by Julianna Rae's Web site:

-The rose's waist is less defined but she has feminine shoulders and shapely legs. A-line chemises flow smoothly on this shape, and flattering vertical lines are created by wearing long tops over bottoms. V-necks also work well, as do styles that drape to the side. Cropped tops and cinched waists aren't the best looks.

-The tulip has an even shape - shoulders, waist and hips are all about the same measurement. Just about any combination of prints, patterns and solids look good on this shape. Seek out styles with interest at the neckline and drape on the body, while steering clear of shapeless silhouettes.

-The iris has an hourglass shape, with well-balanced shoulders, bustline and hips, and a well-defined waist. Choose soft flowing lines, and even sashes and cropped tops are OK for you. Combinations of prints and solids further enhance your figure. Tent dresses and caftans hide your nice figure, and you should avoid extreme necklines - either choking or plunging.

-There are many types of lilies but most common - at least when it comes to body shape - is the calla lily with slightly wider shoulders and bustline with slimmer hips and legs. It's the shape that can wear full bottoms and any printed pants. Almost every neckline flatters you except for halters, off-the-shoulder and asymmetric styles.

On the Net: http://www.juliannarae.com

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Charming trend

NEW YORK - Two new books are tackling the topic of dangling jewelry.

"Charming: The Magic of Charm Jewelry" (Thames & Hudson) and "The Charm of Charms" (Abrams) both examine the ancient accessory, a current fashion trend.

"Charming," by Deborah Alun-Jones and John Ayton, explains how four-leaf clovers, crosses, lockets and kitschy symbols have been used over the years for luck, spiritual devotion, love, style and celebrations. It's mostly filled with photos - both of jewelry and famous faces wearing jewelry - to illustrate its point.

In "The Charm of Charms," by Jade Albert and Ki Hackney, people reveal their favorite charms and why they love them. Fashion designer Betsey Johnson says she loves her celluloid charms from the 1930s and '40s so much that she's incorporated them into the decor of her home in East Hampton, N.Y., and chef Eric Ripert, of Manhattan's Le Bernadin, says he kisses the Caravacco cross he was given as a teenager to protect him from physical aggression.

The book also has a glossary, explaining the significance of some popular charms. A bear, for instance, is a symbol of diplomacy, strength, bravery and physical and spiritual health and well-being, while a dolphin suggests skill in communication, intelligence, joy and cooperation, according to Albert and Hackney.