This is Lois Hobby. Her son Tim sent me this old picture of her last week and I’ve been captivated by it ever since. Mostly it’s Miss Lois’s demure expression, ladylike posture and hourglass silhouette. Every time I look at the image I think “They just don’t make ’em like they used to.” It also makes me think of something another friend, Matthew, observed a long time ago.
Back when I was a single lady living in Manhattan, Matthew called late one night saying that we had to talk… the sooner the better. Within minutes I found myself springing from the backseat of a taxi cab at the base of his tony apartment house before boarding a fast-moving elevator that delivered me to the hushed elegance of his bachelor pad high above Midtown. 
Lest you think this tale is about to devolve into Fifty Shades of Grey, let me disabuse you of the notion and assure you that Matthew and I were platonic friends. And, as I was about to learn, he was in love.
It took some coaxing to get him to divulge the name of the mystery woman who had planted a flag square in his heart, so I initiated the first of what would be many questions to prime the pump.
“Do I know her, Matthew?” 
“Yeeeeeeeessssssss…”
“Is she a model?”
“NO!!!”
Ouch! Not wanting to break the spell, I chose to overlook the snappy response and take no offense at the jab. Matthew was a fashion photographer and given my experience as a model we both knew the deal: sometimes it was better to love a pretty face from afar then just walk away before anybody got hurt.
Undaunted, I pressed on…
“Is she from NY?”
“Yeeeeeeeeeesssssss…”
The cat & mouse game went on for quite some time and was completely out-of-character for Matthew. I’d always known him to possess a certain degree of sange-froid that was unique to his professional brotherhood: those expert at maintaining their composure under circumstances which would leave most straight men staring, blushing, stammering or all of the above. After all, the photographer/model relationship is similar to that of doctor/patient where one wrong move of the part of either professional can cause all trust and credibility to fly out the window. Now the tables had been turned and the quintessentially cool cat was having a hot flash.
Finally, he confessed:
“It’s Tracey!”
“Tracey? Tracey Who??? My cousin, Tracey?! You mean Tracey-my-cousin???!!!”
‘Yessssssssss.”
It was more of an exhalation than a declaration. My boy was toast.
I’m almost certain fairy dust sprinkled from the ceiling at this point, bathing Matthew in a golden glow. And if memory serves I think he even levitated a few inches off the divan. When he finally floated back down I regained my bearings and asked what it was about my cousin that made his heart do a triple lutz. Matthew weighed his words carefully before answering– dragging out the last three syllables for maximum effect:  
“She…is…just…so… fem-i-nine.”

“Feminine?” I repeated, dumbstruck. “Is that so unusual a trait in women these days?”
It was not a rhetorical question.
When a who man earns a living by taking pictures of professional beauties tells you that feminine women are rare– you pay attention. Had I been overlooking some sad truth about women? How long had this been going on? And where was I on the spectrum, I wondered, as I twirled an escaped hair from my fuzzy ponytail, reassessed my cargo pants and stole a glance at my Puma-clad paws? 
The more I thought about it, the more I had to acknowledge that Tracey was the kind of woman who favored dresses over slacks. Whose thick tresses were always well groomed. Who rarely wore make-up. And when she did it was to accent rather than mask her beauty. Tracey was ever one to confuse dressing down with looking like she just didn’t give a damn. Her charms never screamed, but instead whispered “You (boys) and I are different and while I intend to match you in the workplace where equal opportunity, equal rights and equal pay are at stake… I will never beat you at your own game of sartorial indifference.  

Matthew was right. Women like Tracey were very rare…
And yet every so often from the red carpet comes evidence that all is not lost. That the  fundamentals of women’s fashion are timeless, still within our reach and the surest way to accentuate the differences between boys and girls. Of course, a faux pas here and there are to be expected, but even they serve a purpose as they render the right choices all the more delightful.
To wit:
Less…
…is more.
 “Smart” and “sexy” needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Leaving something to the imagination…

…is far more appealing than too much of a good thing.
Although gilding the lily is a no-no…
…in the deft hands of the right man…
…all that’s gilded can be golden.
And while metrosexuals are marvelous…

…vive la différence!!!

*Epilogue: Matthew and Tracey never made it past his crush, as she was already spoken for and his career soon took him to Hollywood, where he continues to shoot all of the pretty people and mentors up-and-coming photographers.
Here’s a link to his website: http://matthewjordansmith.com/

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