The fashion trends that will keep you ahead of the posse in 2014?

Cara Delevingne on the catwalk at the 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York City.

From thigh gaps to wet-look hair, we have all the trends on the radar for 2014. Some are downright ridiculous — but others might just come in handy for the year ahead...

DIET: THE THIGH GAP

Good news ladies, here’s another thing to hate about our bodies! Yes, I’m afraid if you didn’t know already, your thighs are not supposed to meet at the top when you stand. Instead, you should sport a desirable ‘thigh gap’ (defined as a space between your upper inner thighs that demonstrates how thin, and therefore acceptable to society you are). Thighs that meet at the top (mine don’t just meet, they resemble two large seal cubs sleeping side by side) just won’t do.

I know what you are thinking — why have I been wasting all my time striving for greatness in my chosen field, raising my family or seeking happiness, when all along I should have been devoting my time to cultivating a pelvic bone deformity so I too can have thigh gap?

Good question, but sarcasm aside, the popularity of yet another unattainable and quite frankly ridiculous body obsession for women to strive after is quite depressing. For arguments sake, let’s add touching thighs to the existing list of our body parts we are supposed to loathe. Off the top of my head, there are ‘muffin tops’ (which sounds like a delightful Mary Berry creation, but actually refer to any inch of flesh visible above your waistline), bingo wings (or ‘any arms that don’t belong to Madonna’ as I like to call them), cankles (the meeting of a woman’s calves and ankles in a way that is displeasing to God knows who), double chins, imperfect breasts and so on. In fact, now that we are honing in on small areas of flesh dangerously close to our private parts (which by the way have not escaped judgment either — labiaplasty anyone?) it does make you wonder what part of our bodies are up next for scrutiny. This time next year will we be asking our partners ‘Does my temporal lobe look big in this?’ or considering having our esophagus nipped and tucked before we go on holidays?

Thigh gap has hit the headlines in recent weeks, partly due to a controversy sparked by the ridiculously beautiful model Robyn Lawley, who has been criticised online for not displaying adequate thigh gap. The Australian model retaliated labeling thigh gap as “another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body”. Lawley, who has fronted campaigns for Ralph Lauren and posed on the cover of Vogue Italia, has railed against suggestions she should change her whole frame to achieve something so trivial as thigh gap.

Trivial indeed, but it is hard to ignore the serious side. Search for ‘thigh gap’ on Tumblr or Pinterest and you’ll see a series of pictures of frighteningly thin girls proudly showing off their thigh gaps often alongside pro-anorexia messages such as “Look at your thighs. Now put the food down”. Thigh gap, like jutting hip and collar bones, ribs visible through your back and Lollipop Head that came before it, is yet another extreme and dangerous body fad that unfortunately has become part of our vocabularies.

While Lawley is lambasted for lack of thigh gap, celebrities, like model of the moment, Cara Delevingne, whose thigh gap has its own Twitter account (but just to put this into context, so do her eyebrows and fingers) are lauded as exponents of the trend. Of course Delevingne can’t be blamed for a spoof Twitter account, but it is disheartening to see others, like Kristina Rihanoff, the Russian pocket rocket from Strictly Come Dancing, splattered all over a national newspaper announcing she underwent a fat freezing procedure to remove two inches off each inner thigh in preparation for a calendar shoot.

Thigh gap may be the current body issue talking point, but it’s nothing new. I had the misfortune of hearing about it many years ago (blame my student days spent ‘studying’ in front of America’s Next Top Model). During one episode I recall supermodel Tyra Banks, she who devised the ‘smize’ (that’s smiling with your eyes), demonstrating how to create the illusion of thigh gap by standing pigeon-toed and leaning forward, hands on hips as if she was trying to pass a kidney stone.

If that’s anyone’s vision of beauty, then I think I might just crawl under my duvet with a pack of Digestives and never come out.

Thankfully it seems most women are far too sensible, grounded, busy or bored to waste a second’s thought on thigh gap.

I asked some colleagues, friends and family to weigh in and while they all knew what it was, most responded with laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.

One friend replied that horse riding in your formative years might help develop a natural John Wayne-style thigh gap.

Another helpfully suggested lead weights on the outsides of our shoes. Encouragingly, not one seemed concerned about it whatsoever.

So amongst the madness, let’s let sense prevail and leave thigh gap to the swimwear models to worry about.

In fact, we should probably file this thoroughly distasteful expression under ‘absurdities never to be mentioned again’, and move on to more (non-thigh) pressing issues.

— Katy Harrington

THE PARISIAN DIET

So we’ve done Dukan, Atkins and South Beach. Next up: The Parisian Diet.

This is the latest to join the canon of diet books advising how to lose weight.

Authored by DrJean-Michel Cohen, a leading French nutrition expert, it could be considered an anti-diet diet book as it’s strongly critical of yo-yo dieting and advocates an enjoyment of food, even when eating restricted portions.

The core of The Parisian Diet is that you should eat smaller portions of foods you like, while setting a time and place for meals and cooking fresh food from scratch.

If you don’t like salad you don’t have to suffer it and you are even allowed a Big Mac (500 calories) as long as you forfeit the fries and soda. Dr Cohen believes it’s better to eat a smaller portion of something full of flavour than a salad that gives no pleasure.

He proposes the regime as a guide to developing a new attitude to food and credits his interest in helping the overweight with his own experiences: “As a Frenchman it is in my nature to love food, and I wanted to reconcile this with my experience and studies as a nutritionist.

“For a weight loss plan to work, it must not feel like a diet. To turn it into a real lifestyle it must be enjoyable, sustainable and flexible.”

The age old French paradox of how the French manage to stay slim while consuming cheese, wine and pastries is demystified in this readable rational book.

The truth is that restraint follows indulgence, with Parisian vanity ensuring the desire to look their best, tempers their love of good food and wine.

Dr Cohen explains why French women are thinner than American women and why obesity rates are three times lower in France than stateside.

It’s all down to a combination of issues: social, cultural and culinary.

With French food, quality is more important than quantity — smaller portions of lovingly prepared fresh food contain less calories, compared to mammoth US servings that can be three times larger than their Gallic counterpart. The French also cook more at home while Americans eat more processed and fast food, possibly because they work a 10% longer working week.

He strongly believes that people should savour their food, eating slowly, not mindlessly, and ideally as a family unit: food should be a source of pleasure, not just the vehicle for calories and nutrition.

He advises lingering over your food and enjoying it — rushing is not only bad for digestion it confuses your appetite.

It takes 10 minutes to register that you are full — failure to recognise when you are sated leads to overeating and a loss of ability to gauge natural appetite.

He also advocates making food as flavourful as possible, using fresh herbs, spices, vinegars and fruit zest to stimulate the palate rather than sugar, fats and salt.

A defining element of the book is his emphasis on staying slim once the target weight has been achieved. The book’s subtitle “How to Reach your Right Weight and Stay There” is an alluring promise for serial dieters who have fasted zealously only to repeatedly regain girth.

His secrets to staying slim are common sense: savour and enjoy your food, take time to eat (at least 20 to 30 minutes per meal), size matters — so put a premium on flavour, texture and presentation in lieu of quantity, don’t watch TV, surf the internet or read while eating (if focused on something else you can mindlessly over-eat), be active — even small bursts of activity add up, use fresh, local ingredients and avoid processed foods, drink lots of water rather than juice or soft drinks, if you blow out then practice restraint afterwards, enjoy cooking — simple meals with fresh ingredients trump processed meals with excessive salt and saturated fats and re-discover fruit by poaching/baking/stewing it or creating fruit salads.

There are three phases to the Parisian Diet.

The first, the Café Phase, lasts 8/10 days (with daily loss of a pound) focusing on liquids including smoothies, purées, soups and beverages. A typical meal plan is a fruit smoothie for breakfast, a small portion of protein with vegetables or salad for lunch and a portion of soup and fruit for dinner.

The second, the Bistro Phase, lasts 2/3 weeks with a loss of 8 to 11 pounds with nutrient, fibre and protein-rich meals.

Breakfast is a small portion of non-fat yoghurt with tea or coffee, lunch is unlimited raw salad or vegetables with 3 ounces of lean meat, fish or 2 medium eggs (all cooked without fat), 6 ounces of non-fat yoghurt and a small piece of fruit. Dinner replicates lunch.

Finally the Gourmet Phase is followed until the desired weight is reached, with a weight loss of 8 to 11 pounds the first month and six to 9 pounds a month thereafter. Here there is greater flexibility as long as basic portions are adhered to: 4 ounces of meat or fish, 6 ounces of plain yoghurt, 5 ounces of cottage cheese, 1 ounce of hard cheese and 1 piece of fruit. Lunch is as per the Bistro phase except that 1 teaspoon of oil is permitted on vegetables or salad and the protein portion is more generous.

The challenge arises because, for all Dr Cohen’s talk of enjoying food and flavours, there is a very disciplined approach to portion control throughout all phases of the diet.

Quantities are specified precisely and it will take time to adjust to the exacting nature of the portion sizes.

His aim is “a realistic diet that is based on a healthy balance of eating enough so you’re not hungry yet reducing your calorie intake so you slim down, all while relishing each meal.”

He cautions that dieters should only weigh themselves weekly.

Traditionally taboo foods — pasta, potatoes, bread, even wine are allowed in moderation in the final phase because, as Dr Cohen admits: “Standard diets where everything is imposed are never effective over the long term.”

There is advice to counteract common dietary hurdles. To fight hunger pangs, he encourages drinking lots of water, tea, coffee and diet sodas.

If this fails then try non-fat yoghurt, fruit or cruditées. Wine, chocolate and bread can be indulged in moderation, eg a 125 ml glass of wine can replace a portion of fruit, as can three squares of chocolate.

Similarly a slice of bread can replace a portion of cheese or yoghurt.

He also advises re-stocking your fridge/larder with non-fat dairy products, canned vegetables, portions of puréed fruit and a selection of spices, herbs and vinegars.

A multi-vitamin to combat fatigue is vital and if you slip, don’t dwell on it, but go lighter the next day.

The diet is about the individual and dieters can set their own pace — it’s not a race or a competition.

He cautions against negativity — be patient and affirm your motivations for losing weight. Understand why you have struggled with weight and ignore unrealistic media messages and imagery.

Take a sensible healthy approach to weight loss and re-assert control of your life and wellbeing.

If at the end of The Parisian Diet you have rediscovered your joie de vivre for life and for food, then you’ll have perfected the art of being “bien dans votre peau”, and that sounds good in any language.

— Rose Mary Roche

BEAUTY

Tina Liu, marketing coordinator at Oribe haircare, says the 90s are back — “think messy waves, grungy buns and wet look hair”.

Models at Rag & Bone, Balenciaga, Marni and MaxMara were styled with severe centre partings and slick roots, resulting in a mixed texture that “gave the natural grunge look a modern element,” says Guido Palau, the hairstylist responsible for many of the looks at Fashion week.

Both ponytails and plaits remain popular but have been updated for Spring/Summer ’14.

Plaits are much less avante garde this season, and more romantic, giving the wearer a Renaissance vibe.

At Alberta Ferretti, Giles and Rachel Zoe, the texture was fuzzy and ‘undone’, while at Naeem Khan, Rebecca Minkoff and Nicole Miller, plaits were coiled around the head in a regal, Games of Throne style. Ponytails have received a hyper-makeover and were shown in every guise imaginable, from austere low ponytails at Valentino and faux-Mohawks at Issey Miyake, to three-section rolls at Haider Ackerman.

In beauty, Gabriella Fratangelo, the media manager with Wonderland Beauty Parlour, one of New York’s favourite salons, says she is, “seeing the return of the ‘no-makeup’ more than anything else.

“It’s almost as if your hair/makeup is an afterthought to your outfit — but it’s completely intentional.”

Only a touch of concealer was used to create the looks at Balmain and Alexander Wang, with Isabel Marant and Valentino also showing the ‘raw beauty’ trend.

That’s not to say that the bold lip has disappeared. Fratangelo says, “I see a lot of New York girls rocking a scarlet, oxblood or burgundy lip with a glossy eyelid and no mascara.”

Bright lips were prominent at New York Fashion Week, with models at Prabal Gurung and Altuzurra wearing a bold, matte lipstick, a look that was replicated at London Fashion Week by the makeup artists at Antonio Beradi, House of Holland and Mary Katrantzou. Of these, neon orange or a more traditional scarlet red proved most popular.

And for those who are addicted to their eyeliner, don’t lose heart.

Full on, kohl rimmed and heavily mascara-ed eyes appeared on the catwalk at Saint Laurent, Versace, Stella McCartney and Jill Stuart.

As Kate Moss’s makeup artist, Charlotte Tilbury, says, “The purpose of a feline eye is to elongate the eye and add intensity, giving the effect of an instant eye lift — and who wouldn’t want that?”

— Louise O’Neill

FITNESS

“It’s the same every year,” says Karl Henry, fitness expert and author of The Slim Solution , “all these extreme fitness gimmicks appear. They’re really only a short term solution.”

He doesn’t believe that crazes like SoulCycle and Studio57 fitness would translate well in Ireland, citing their prohibitive cost.

“Classes that do well here tend to be cheap to run and cheap to attend,” he says.

“But it’s important for people to check the instructor to person ratio. Personal attention is essential to ensure you get the maximum benefit from your class.”

If you do allow your exercise routine to slide during the festive season and are willing to try something a little more extreme to kick start your new year, some of the following might suit you.

Virgin Active have launched “24”, an intense 24 minute class with 24 different types of exercises.

The class is based around six simple movements, push, pull, lunge, twist, squat and bend. It also incorporates cardio at a high-intensity level to give you a great workout in a short period of time.

Psycho Circuits is popular at London’s Gymbox and has been described by Men’s Fitness as the ‘UK’s hardest circuit class’. It’s a 90-minute combination of cardio and weight exercises. There is a 30-minute warm up consisting of ab-work, squatting, skipping, star jumps, burpees before an hour long session of circuits.

One client said it “felt a bit like prison-camp torture run by a malevolent Garage DJ but you’d be hard pressed to find another class as fitness-boosting as this”.

Tabata training is an accelerated version of high interval training which uses 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for four minutes (eight cycles).

This is going to be a huge trend, with studies showing increased fat burning and a boost to the metabolism.

Metafit was created by a former Royal Marine Commando and is a 30 minute workout that combines interval training techniques, tabata training and bodyweight exercises which target the largest muscle groups in your body without using any specialised gym equipment.

— Louise O’Neill


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