Make a date and keep it!

Real Housewife Ramona Singer is a real business maven. She says you need to sey aside time daily to get projects of the ground.Summer is a fabulous time to make a change, break a habit or start a new project.
 
According to experts, most people feel more energetic and alive in the summer months.
Days are longer making it easier to squeeze in another activity after work or dinner. 
 
Is there something that you would like to achieve? Maybe you’d like to
lose a few pounds and learn a new skill – or, maybe you have a bigger dream?
Get started, and jump right in. If you are intimidated, start small.
 
Experts say that it takes 30 days to break a habit and the same time form a new one. And it is easier to give up bad behaviour if you replace with something new that you enjoy.
 
Fitness, dieting, or learning new things is easier and more effective with help. So find a class or a teacher. A daily class or meeting with councilor is good as it forces you to set aside time to go. Also, remember, you don’t owe anyone information about how you spend your time. If you feel silly telling friends or colleagues that you can’t meet with them when you have your class or meeting for your weight loss or music lesson, all you need to say is: “Can we make it another time? I have an appointment”. You owe explanations to no one but an employer, if you are company time. Soon, everyone will understand you are not available at that time and leave you alone. Trust me darlings, it works! And it is empowering!
 
In her popular The Artist's Way books, writer Julia Cameron dictates the importance adhering to a daily routine and setting aside time to work. She assigns her students “morning pages” or journaling upon awaking to capture creativity of their awaking minds.
 
Recently Donny Deutsch, the former host of The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and the chairman of Deutsch Inc. a major Madison Avenue adverting company, encouraged Today Show viewers who wanted to start a new business to “just get started”. He told them to find something they had a passion and to go for it. Deutsch, however, cautioned fledgling entrepreneurs not to quit their day jobs right away. He advised viewers to start small and test their ideas.

Real Housewife of New York, Ramona Singer
might be too over the top for some, but she is a crack business woman who founded her own multi-million dollar fashion business by age 29. Singer’s business savvy is not exaggerated for the cameras; she is the real deal. She recently advised fellow housewife Sonja Morgan to spend three hours every day working in her new entertaining business.
 
Darlings, almost all of have something we really want to do or change. Fear or even just a lack of organization holds us back. So start small and change one thing.
 
You may want to lose some weight, get fit, start a business, and learn to play the piano, or even get some quiet time into your life. Learn to make a date with yourself every day to work on dreams – and keep it.
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Live more elegantly without spending a dime

Fresh flowers are lovely, but editing a room cost nothing and can make it look brand newDarlings, do you long to live more elegantly in this sometimes harried and vulgar world? You’re not alone. I often meet young women who yearn for a more serene and elegant life. It is within reach, but you have to work at it.
Get unpleasant tasks squared very early in your day
Too many of us are bogged down by untidy homes, lack of exercise, or piles of undone work. Get up 20 minutes earlier if necessary and do whatever you loathe or avoid the first thing in the day without thinking about it. Just do it and then relish your accomplishment and freedom for the rest of the day. You will be surprised how painless tidying up or working out becomes after it is habit. And you will feel better and more serene –really!
Set aside time for relaxation and quiet
I know you are busy. It is frantic world, but time to relax and renew is essential to an elegant life. Set aside small blocks of time to walk, breathe, and clear your mind. You will be amazed at how much calmer and more creative you become with a regular time-out from the world’s constant buzz.
Stand up straight and become more body conscious
Good posture is the cornerstone of elegance. It prevents fatigue and makes everything you wear look better. It also makes you look thinner and taller! Take core building classes and yoga to develop better posture and a stronger core. Walk like a diva.
Cultivate beauty in your daily life
Fresh flowers are fabulous. You can also add beauty to your life by rearranging objects you already own with a fresh eye. A bowl of fresh fruit or vegetables can look inviting. Fluff pillows, dust books, and enjoy your home. Read and study décor and art books for inspiration as well as to educate your eye. Many attractive homes are a mixture of high-low finds. Jeff Lewis, the star of the popular Bravo show, Jeff Lewis Interior Therapy, often works wonders by editing and rearranging rooms.
A similar editing process applied to your wardrobe will result in a more elegant look. Bite the bullet and donate anything that doesn’t make you feel fabulous. Trash stretched out or stained clothes. Play with your accessories and try out new combinations. Learn to set aside time to care for your clothes. Going over clothing with a lint brush, damp cloth, and needle and thread can save you a fortune at the dry cleaner as well as making you look more soigné.
Darlings, elegance is attainable but it needs to be nurtured. Surround yourself with those you admire and share your need for beauty.
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Just say you’re sorry.

Has a salon left your hair looking like this without an aplogY?Have you noticed that very few people apologize for mistakes or bad behavior anymore? Instead, they say that they "are sorry you are upset." It is patronizing and rude.
 
A sincere apology is balm to a bad situation, ruffled friendship, or even a serious inconvenience. Don’t hold your breath waiting for one.
Restaurants, airlines, salons, spas, and all kinds of businesses keep you waiting, cancel services, and expect you to respond to their insincere apologies and paltry attempts at restitution with a smile.
 
These days one is kept waiting online or on hold for hours to fix other people’s mistakes – only to hear "I’m sorry you are upset." Darlings, we are not upset, we are abused.
 
Abusive behaviour goes both ways. There are plenty of rude and unreasonable customers too. And lately, things have gotten out of control. Shoddy service and lame excuses have become the norm.
 
Airline passengers have finally begun to fight back after being held hostage for hours on runways without food, water, or bathrooms in worse conditions than we keep some criminals. There are finally new laws to prevent the worst offenses, but we need more.
 
I know employers are overworking and underpaying employees, but abusing customers is not the answer.
 
Companies cavalierly fail to deliver services every day. Complaints are too often met with repeated meaningless, insincere apologies, but no solutions.
I purchased Carbonite. It is advertised as an easy way to back up computer files, but it took me hours to transfer my files to my new laptop. Part of the problem is that Carbonite has still not fully trained their new tech staff. As a result, I was forced to spend more than 20 hours of my work time talking to their employees as they tried to figure how their system worked. No one sent me a paycheck for my time. On top of that, we are still trying reinstall our iTunes files correctly.
Beauty salons are notorious for shoddy service as are dry cleaners. They ruin your hair and your clothes and then apologize for "upsetting you" – not destroying your hair or trashing your clothes. Good salons and dry cleaners do exist. Show your appreciation for them by being polite, on time, and tipping well!
Darlings, I could go on. These days we all have a list of miscreants who annoy us. A decade ago, I would have advised you to write a polite letter to the president or CEO of the company. These days, my advice is to take your case to Twitter, Facebook and Yelp when you don't get a response to a polite and reasonable request. Companies may not care about one customer, but they do respond to social media. Take your business elsewhere too.
No one is perfect. I know I am not. We all have a bad day or make mistakes, but if you make a mistake or offend someone, apologize for what you did – not for upsetting them. Deal with your own bad behavior or faux pas. Saying ‘I am sorry, that should not have happened’ or ‘I regret that ever happened,’ goes a long way toward repairing relationships. This is not groveling; it is behaving with class.
So darlings, if you are sorry, say so.
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Feel fabulous at any age or size –An action plan!

Emme and Gracey Hitchcock “A woman can’t always look younger, but she can always look elegant.” This wonderful quote is from an elegant woman named Joyce Carati. She happens to be 79 years old and looks fabulous. She’s featured in the blog Advanced Style about stylish older women that Ruth Cohen and her grandson Ari started.  

Ruth is 100 years old. She does Pilates and looks fit and fashionable. I love her beauty advice, which Elizabeth Arden inspired: “Take care of your skin. Make sure and moisturize … If you want to look like this when you are 40, start when you are 20."
 
The same week that Advanced Style came on my radar, I attended a lunch with Emme, the first plus-sized super model, at the home of environmental activist Laura Turner Seydel. Emme is back on the fashion and beauty scene after recovering from cancer. She has launched her own blog and online forum as a spokesperson for “self-acceptance.” The diverse group of women in the audience related to her message of accepting your size and reveling in your own unique beauty.
 
As I looked around the room, it hit me: women need more than cheerleaders and platitudes to feel good about themselves. They need an action plan!
 
Getting the most out of life takes work. If you slump and shuffle through life in an endless parade of shapeless garments, chances are you will never feel fabulous.
 
However, if you embrace style and fitness, and decide to cultivate beauty, you can be fabulous at any age or size. Darlings, if you doubt me just look around. You will find plenty of women who prove my point.
 
So, if you are feeling less than fabulous because you think you are too fat, thin, or old, here is an action plan to get to fabulous:
 
Get moving
Vigorous exercise three to five times a week can improve any body type. Join a class, or get a trainer or a workout buddy. Do not try to go it alone; you need to be accountable to someone. Get moving. It will elevate your mood too.
 
I love classes or personal training gyms. I go to barre classes five times a week. It’s addictive. For the record, I am not in the least athletic or sports-minded, but I am fit. Ruth Cohen has been doing Pilates for 20 years, since she was 80!
 
Find a stylish friend or mentor
If you feel like a schlub, you are probably dressing wrong. There are fabulous clothes these days for all sizes, styles, and budgets. Not everyone one is born with style, but you can “borrow“ it until you develop it. Buy fashion magazines. Look for ones that have clothes for your body type. Marie Claire and Glamour have excellent plus-sized columns.
 
The Internet has good style blogs for all body types. Find one you like and study it. Find a good sales person. Many sales people are frustrated stylists who love to dress people. Do not shop in a hostile environment, ever. If a store makes you feel badly about yourself, leave!
 
If you can afford it, shop where they offer personal shopping, but interview for someone you really like. You know you have found the right person when you feel fabulous in your clothes.
 
Get a good haircut and colour if you need it
Ask friends with have great hair whom they use. Go for a consultation. Again, don’t settle for “good enough”. Never let someone you don’t like do your hair just because they have a great reputation. You need to feel good at your salon.
 
You deserve great hair, so keep looking. It took me — a professional beauty editor – three years to find the right salon in Atlanta. The right haircut and colour can take years off your face. A bad cut and colour can make you look worn and tired at 25.
 
Eat well and sleep
Darlings, I am not going give you another diet. There are scores of good ones. If you’re eating and your issues are emotional, get help with what’s really bothering you. If you need a diet, try one until you a get fit. We publish good food and diet info weekly.
 
Sleep seven to eight hours a night. If you sleep much more you may be sick or depressed, so see a doctor now! If you sleep less, it will age you and it may even make you fatter. Turn off, unplug, and relax.
 
Enjoy the process
Learn to enjoy fashion. Experiment with clothes and makeup. After all, darlings, you are your own work of art. Make time to try a new lip-gloss and budget for a new pair of boots. Try out new makeup trends with a mini makeover at the counter of your favourite brand. Make an appointment. Take a friend so you won’t be tempted to buy more than you really want.
 
Tune out negativity
Surround yourself with secure, life-enhancing people. Recently, a gorgeous friend told me she got upset when a woman she knows asked her pointedly why she was wearing white after Labour Day. My friend — a slim, stylish blonde — was wearing cream cords; she looked fabulous. Winter white also happens to be a very hot trend now. I suspect my friend’s good looks threatened the "fashion critic”, who then tried to shake her confidence.  That is exactly what I told my cute friend. I also told her to she might want avoid catty women.
 
Often people succeed because they have a talent for tuning out negativity. Darlings, sadly the world is full of unhappy, envious people who will — if you let them — pick you apart to give themselves a boost. Avoid them. They are soul destroying.
 
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Give your body a boost with Crystal Light

I'm not ready to trade my occiasiinal cocktaill --like this refeshing Mojito --but the new mocktails are a good option!Steamy summer weather calls for cool refreshing beverages, but beware of extra calories! Experts say many of us unknowingly drink hundreds of extra calories a day — and that adds up to unwanted pounds!

 
Recently I tried Crystal Light’s new limited edition “mocktail” flavours in Margarita, Mojito, and (I adore this one) Appletini. They are a delicious and only five calories per eight-ounce glass.
 
I find most fruit-flavored beverages too sweet, so I like to mix it to my own taste.
 
Tasty mocktails are only 5 calories an 8 ounce glass!If you haven’t tried Crystal Light or thought it was just grown-up Kool-Aid, give it a try. It may not replace your occasional cocktail — it won’t replace mine — but it is a great summer low-cal beverage. It is also a perfect drink to offer as a fun non-alcoholic option at parties.
 
There are other formulas too: Crystal Light Anti-Oxidant, Crystal Light Metabolism + Green Tea and Crystal Light Skin Essentials. I like the idea of giving my body boost with a tasty low-cal beverage while drinking lots of hydrating H2O.
 
 
 
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Your signature style

Darlings, take time to think about your signature style. You will be glad you did. Signature style is not just about fashion, although clothing is a large part of how you declare yourself to the world. Like it or not, your style declares your aspirations and allegiances. That is why teenagers act out their independence by dressing differently than their parents. It is all part of growing up. So if you haven’t left your teen or college style behind, perhaps you should think about who you want be when you grow up, and dress the part.

 
But remember darlings, your “signature style” should reflect who you really are, inside and out. So be sure your signature is stunning in its creativity, compassion, ethics, and style. It is a tall order, but darlings, it is your signature.
 
Until next week, please sign-up if you haven’t already by emailing your info to domore@dolcedolce.com . DolceDolce is free. And please forward us to all your friends. And please give us your comments by emailing us at the same address. We want to know what you think. Let’s start the conversation!
 
 
 
 
Gracey Hitchcock
Editor
Photo by: www.yanka.ca
© DolceDolce® 2011
All DolceDolce content is copyright
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When to fly solo

Author's lounge in the historic Mandarian Oriental Bangkok - once home to Somerset Maugham and Liz TaylorI want comfort and location when I travel. I have a fetish for posh hotels. I get a deep discount on their steep rates by shopping well. I don’t stay at beds-and-breakfasts. I have tried a few and they are not my style. My husband doesn’t like them either. In some cities, I might choose a slightly grand hotel, if it has a location to die for, but you can bet it won’t be a dump.

 
I want my own room and my own bath — so I am seldom a house guest.
 
Spoiled? Maybe, but I know what makes me happy.
 
Are you planning a summer getaway with friends? It may seem like a good idea when some one floats it over drink, after a good dinner. Think again. Travelling with friends can ruin a costly vacation, and worse, it can end a good friendship.
 
Vacationing successfully with others demands compromise and discipline. Ask yourself if that is really how you want to spend your vacation. I know it is not how I like to spend mine. Don’t get me wrong, darlings, I enjoy time with friends for a weekend or a few days. I love to have houseguests and enjoy pampering them. But when I travel, I want to do it my way.
 
I love elegant old hotels with history. I find them romantic, but not everyone shares my fascination. If friends don’t exhale with pleasure when entering the impeccable and historic Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, why pressure them to stay there? If they are not soothed by the flawless understated service and entranced by the hotel’s fascinating history they will just resent the bill.
 
My hotel and the ambience of the neighbourhood I stay in are intrinsic parts of my trip. I like to steep myself in the history and culture of the area before I leave. I will have read dozens of histories and biographies before my departure. When I arrive I want to “sink” in to the place and soak it up. Some people find this approach delicious; others think it is torture. As the French say — chacun à son goût — each to his own taste.
 
A couple of dear friends visited us in Moscow. The husband is a brilliant, very busy doctor. He has many hobbies, but still managed to brush up on Russian art and culture. He even learned to speak some serviceable Russian so he could get out on his own. His wife was also was also well-versed on the culture. Our intellectual staff went mad for them.
 
Other friends visited us in Moscow, also doctors. A busy couple with children, they barely had time pack their suitcases — never mind reading up on anything. We scheduled more tours for them and hit a famous Moscow night club. They had a fabulous time and we had fun hosting them. The key was letting the all do want they wanted.
 
When we travel, my husband likes a full English breakfast. He goes off and eats it in some small local places. He often brings me back something small, or I eat a little cheese and fruit in my room while I dress. Even when an early morning departure is on the schedule, as it often is in Asia or Africa, I prefer a quiet, leisurely morning. This eccentricity is easier when you are a just a couple. It also makes it easier to schedule afternoon naps and decide if you want a light dinner in local joint instead of an elaborate meal because you need a night off. I find it is the small daily decisions about dining and scheduling that chaff on travellers. After all, friends can usually agree that everyone wants to visit the major attractions or hang out at the beach.
 
The fabulous Taj Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur --I love the luxury and historyA friend has told me I am spoiled and need to relax my rules. I still like her, but I am not about to try it her way. Her attitude amuses me; she and her husband often vacation with friends. After each vacation they have a litany of complaints against their traveling companions. I have learned to say little, as after a few months the acrimony blows over. Sometimes they even decide to do it again.
 
As we have mutual friends, I have often heard the story of their bittersweet getaways from both sides. It seems everyone tries to get his or her own way about everything all the time. When they don’t, they view the others as “selfish.”
 
Another dear friend vacationed for years with another couple. Both couples are foodies and spend freely for a good time. But my friends often felt pressured when the other couple demanded a five-star dinner every night. It burdened their waistlines and budget, but the other couple sulked at the suggestion of taking a night off from their “Michelin Guide regime.” No one was being deliberately demanding or insensitive, but no one really wanted to compromise. Even a week can be too long to go along with things you don’t want to do, especially when you are paying for them.
 
It is easy to be accommodating for a weekend or few days, especially is if everyone is easy-going. Be careful about vacationing with friends with forceful personalities no matter how much you like them at home. They will try to boss you — and it may be hard to resist their managing gracefully.
 
Traveling together can work out beautifully for some young families and couples. Sharing resources can help stretch tight budgets. To make it work, be sure expectations are clearly understood. These arrangements are best for those who have similar discipline, dining, and housekeeping styles. We vacationed with friends on Cape Cod for years. There was never a problem. Sometimes we took a house nearby, and once or twice we stayed together. Everyone had impeccable manners and similar expectations. Bliss!
 
Whether you decide to keep group travel to short weekend getaways as I do, or decide to brave a longer trip, here are some rules to make it go smoothly and keep friendships intact:
 
Assume nothing
Your friends may not want to stay at the same type of hotel as you. They may take taxis or buses to save money. Find out before you go. There is no reason to stay the same hotel. People also want to use their points, so why force too much togetherness? Discuss everything — dining, touring, etc. — before you decide to go. Do not assume. If there are too many differences, you many want to travel alone and stay friends.
 
Carry your own bag
Problems and resentment brew when friends impose on each other when travelling. Don’t stand back and let friends carry bags or do other small tasks for you. They may oblige because they were brought up well, but after a time they will resent it. Be a grownup. Be prepared to take care of yourself. Be respectful, your friend is not your servant.
 
Pay your own bill
Unless you are specifically invited in advance and explicitly to be a guest, pay your own bill. Learn to divvy up and tip correctly quickly and quietly. That’s how real ladies do it.
 
Speak up
Learn to state your preferences clearly. Don’t sulk or complain later.
 
Be independent
Travelling together for adults doesn’t mean that you are joined at the hip. Take a few hours off to rest if you are tried. Go see an exhibit or cooking demo alone if no one else wants to go. This does not mean you should dump you friends – that’s bad form.
 
Don’t dump your friends
This applies to women travelling together especially.No one likes to get dumped. Unless you and your friend have an arrangement about meeting men before leaving home, don’t ask your friend if she minds if you leave her alone to go out with the new guy you just met. She did not plan a trip with you so she could sit alone. And a gentleman, understanding the situation, would include your friend in any invitation rather than leave her stranded for the evening. And she would insist on paying her check and then tactfully leave you two alone after dinner.
 
A vacation is for rest and relaxation. Travelling can be one of the most enjoyable pastimes in life, so learn to do it well. Friends are precious, but not all friendships travel well. So darlings, learn to distinguish good travelling companions from a bad –and learn when it is best to fly solo.
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Beat the bathing suit blues

The usally sexy Nigella in a burkiniShopping for a new bathing suit can give you the blues. Fitting rooms with their strange light seem to highlight flaws and throw insecurities into overdrive. But would it drive you to wearing a burkini?

 
Recently, paparazzi caught voluptuous UK beauty and cooking star Nigella Lawson in one of the unrevealing swimsuits on Australia’s BondiBeach. People wondered what drove the curvy kitchen goddess to cover up.
 
It seems that Nigella, who usually shows off her curves, was not seized by a sudden bout of modesty; she was simply protecting her skin. She was in Australia to film a cooking series and couldn’t chance a sunburn.  
 
Finding a bathing suit you feel comfortable in can be a challenge for many us, but it can be done. Here are some foolproof tips to help you find the suit that will make you feel fabulous.
 
It’s not just a bathing suit, it’s a look
Curvy Sofia Vergara has a look with her hat and hip wrap!Finding a bathing suit is easier when you think of it as finding a whole beach or pool look. If you are slim and fit, you may be comfortable in a bikini or bare bathing suit. But many women want a bit of camouflage and compression. And don’t forget poolside; you will spend a lot of time in a great cover-up. If you are slim-hipped and thin, you can simply wrap yourself in a sarong or "pareo." This look is classic French — very chic and St. Tropez. You can find a good selection of wraps from Victoria’s Secret and Gottex.
 
This summer there is no end of light-as-air maxi beach dresses that will skim stunningly over any figure flaws. The look ranges from an airy white romantic number from Spanx, to chic boho caftans from Brasymth.com. The caftans come in long and flowing styles that look romantic, or short and sexy to show off pretty tanned legs.
 
Marshals, T.J Maxx, and Winners also have great selections of these fun inexpensive cover-ups. We also loved the beach dresses from Victoria’s Secret.
 
Focus on what you like about your body
You’ll be happier when shopping for a bathing suit if you focus on what you like about your body rather than what you hate.
 
Balance your body by choosing the right suit
A bandeau or ruffle top suit will make the most of a smaller bust and help to balance bigger hips. A bottom that is shirred in the back is cute if you have a small or flat butt. Shirring across the front of a one-piece suit is flattering as it will disguise a pouch. Diagonal lines on one piece suit are flattering and slimming. If your breasts are not very firm, a molded or under-wired bra will enhance your bust. Victoria’s Secret and Gottex offer great options and fit.
 
To find the most flattering bikini bottoms try on lots of different styles. Very subtle changes can makes a big difference in how a suit looks on you. Do not assume thata larger bikini bottom will be more flattering; it is about how it sits on your on your hip.

Buy tops and bottoms separately
Many women will do better to shop for their two-piece bathing suits from stores that sell different sized tops and bottoms in matching fabrics. This allows for the most flattering fit and look. Victoria’s Secret, Spanx, L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer all offer that option.

Compression
Fuller-figured bathing beauties, such as the gorgeous Nigella Lawson and Sofia Vergara may prefer suits that offer their curves but still offer some control.
 
Flattering Gottex suitRecently Spanx, the popular shape-wear line, introduced a limited, but chic selection of bathing suits in classic styles.
 
Gottex offers very elegant suits for all figure types. Gottex suits are expensive, but are beautifully constructed, so if you get one to flatter your figure it will also support your body and look elegant and sexy.
 
Always for me www.alwaysforme.com offers an incredible selection of bathing suits and cover-ups in plus sizes.
 
www.Cyberswim.com offers a large selection of slimming suits including the “miracle suit.”
 
L.L. Bean, a great retailer that now has free shipping, offers these slimming types of miracle suits also.
 
Skirting the issue
Basic black by SpanxAll of sites above offer skirted suits or bathing dresses. Occasionally, it is possible to find a cute retro-looking skirted suit, but be careful that it doesn’t make you look matronly. 
 
If you have serious fitting issues
If you have serious fitting issues, buy the best suit you can afford. Do not shop with friends; they can be kind but less than candid. Unless you know you have an honest friend with a knack for fashion, find a top-drawer lingerie store to help with tricky fitting. Most have experts. They will not embarrass you. These women are pros. They know how to make you look good and love to help.
 
Or, order a selection of suits and try them on at home. You can return them. Check their return policy carefully. The small return fee, if there is one, may be worth it to find the best fit. Wear a thin pair of panties when you try anything on.
 
Fun trends
Trends can be fun, especially for a something you replace often, such as a bathing suit. This year florals and stripes are popular, as are metallics. Ruffled-top bikinis and suits with a retro feel a la Mad Men are also big this summer and can be very flattering for small-busted beauties.
 
Don’t forget a sexy pair of snappy beach sandals to give you height. Add a fabulous sun hat to protect and flatter your gorgeous face.
 
Darlings, don’t let the bathing suit blues ruin your summer.
 
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