Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Essential Fashion Rules, or, What I've Learned So Far On My Makeover Journey, Interspersed With Photos Of The Looks I'd Like To Emulate

Some sort of nasty virus has been making the rounds at our house, and now it's my turn. I did my best to avoid it, but nothing has helped, and here I am today with the whole shebang.

I don't want to be sick! I want to go shopping!

See, I've had a little time lately to revisit my "makeover" plans, and I've been doing a lot of online window shopping and reading about fashion. I've saved pictures, I've pored over lists of "wardrobe essentials", and written my own lists. I've compared prices, and used Lands End's electronic paper doll to try on outfits. In fact, I've done just about everything short of creating a spreadsheet to quantify and analyze my wardrobe needs. (Except actually go shopping and BUY stuff!)

In passing, I want to note that if the goal of Lands End is to make me buy their products, their paper doll is shooting them in the foot. Either their software is inaccurate, or their clothes are completely wrong for my build. My poor model looked dumpy and fat in those clothes. She looked pretty much like me in her underwear, but the clothes did nothing good.

On the plus side, it did give me some practice in putting together outfits, which was fun and instructive. For example, I learned that for someone short like me with an "undefined" waistline, it's better to wear, say, a dark gray jacket with a black dress, than, say, a red jacket with the same dress. It's more streamlined, and looked nicer. At least, that's my opinion, and if I've learned anything, it's that, while trends have snarky rules about what "goes" and what doesn't "go"-- and what's IN today is so OUT tomorrow-- true fashion has timeless rules that are interpreted subjectively.

Did that make any sense at all? What I mean is, there are some rules of thumb about what looks good, but it all comes down to what looks good on you.

View Outfit

In all my looking I ran across some helpful things and some not-so-helpful things. One non-helpful opinion that cropped up regularly-- from non-experts--was the idea that fashion is all about what makes you comfortable and what you like and forget what anyone else thinks. That's not helpful. If I were to just "be comfortable" I would be wearing cute shirts and jeans from now till I die.

What's wrong with that? I want more than that now. I still want to be as comfortable as possible because I refuse to wear anything that makes me miserable, no matter how good I look in it. However, I want to look like a confident, intelligent, growing, learning forty-six year old. I will still wear jeans, but I want to expand my wardrobe to include things that make me look fabulous as the age I am. That is where all the research comes in. I'm retraining my eye and my tastes. It does me no good to always be drawn to clothes that don't fit my age.

To do this, I've decided to take the advice of the fashion experts. I don't mean the trend experts, the ones who keep an eye out for the latest buzz and tell us how to wear it right. I mean the real experts: the stylists and designers and makeover artists. What I found out is that they're all saying pretty much the same things.

View Outfit

First and foremost, whatever you wear has to FIT. I thought this was pretty obvious until I checked my own clothes and found how many of the things I have really don't fit right-- and I thought I was careful when I shopped! After thinking it through, I figured it out. What happened is that I would find something I liked and I'd buy it even if the shoulders were a little big, or it was loose in the waist, because, I LIKE IT, I WANT IT. (I usually don't err on the side of too tight. On second thought, I do have that one trendy sweater...)

So the first rule is, if it doesn't FIT, don't buy it.

View Outfit

Second, choose clothing for your body type. This is related to the first rule, but something can fit, that is, be exactly the right size, but not be the right proportions for your body. I'm a little better with this one, but I still fall prey to the I LIKE IT syndrome.

View Outfit

Third, avoid trends. Seriously, that's what the real experts say. They say you can incorporate small tastes of a trend into your wardrobe, but a)don't spend too much money on it-- since the trend will be gone soon-- and b) let trends be an addition to your wardrobe, not the foundation of it. I've had to study this one to learn to tell the difference between "style" and "trends." I guess I thought it was all the same thing, but it's not. A style is something classic that is always here, in one form or another (as in, cardigans, blazers, basic jeans, t-shirts). A trend is something that is flashy and unusual that is usually here this season and gone next season (as in, bubble dresses, super-cropped jackets, shredded jeans).

View Outfit

Fourth, treat your clothes as an investment. Don't be afraid to spend good money on a well-made, well-fitting classic item, such as a great pair of jeans that makes you look like a million bucks, or a classy pair of boots. I'm afraid I'm very bad at this one, which probably explains why I'm bad at the first one. If I'm only paying a few bucks-- on sale, or at a thrift store-- it doesn't matter, does it?

Note to self: oh yes it does.

That's one thing I'm trying to change. I think I should apply the same criteria to a Goodwill special as I do to something expensive at the mall. Does it fit? Does it look good? Will it be a great addition to my wardrobe?

View Outfit

I want to say one more thing, but I'm not sure how to get there. It's just that lately I've mentioned learning to be humble and listen to others when they know something I don't. This whole clothing/fashion/wardrobe thing, for me right now, is part of that. I've always ignored the fashion experts and most of the trends, just picking and choosing what I want from the fashion world. There's probably nothing wrong with that. But here's the kicker, if I want to look like "that," I have to follow the rules for "that"!

View Outfit


Laura said...

i see a lot of your pix are from anne taylor.. i love the anne taylor loft! :) they have clothes that are nicely made, not too expensive and make me look like a woman instead of a 20-year old stuck in the juniors department. definitely go try on/shop at anne taylor! :) a lot of places also do free hemming which is great when regular pants fit in the hips but not the legs. enjoy your 'makeover journey'!

Ornery's Wife said...

Wow! You've really put some thought into this. Maybe I can hire you as a consultant when I get my new body. After shopping the plus size stores all these years, and taking what ever I could get into as opposed to what I liked (it was a given NOTHING would look GOOD!) I am having to figure out what I like. I am doing better, but I sure haven't spent the time like you have.

Hope you feel better soon! The bug has been hanging out at Miller Manor, too. I'd like to see it leave before biting anyone else--namely ME!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Ooooo. I loves me a good makeover.

My big one is wearing what fits. Sadly, right now my best fitting clothes are still my maternity clothes. Luckily I have some cute maternity stuff. =)

Lulu said...

Do you have a TJMaxx or Marshalls in your area? That's a SUPER place to shop for fashionable, great-quality items at a reduced price. I practically live in that store...for my clothing and my home furnishings.

Regarding Land's End, I don't have much luck with their clothing. I think they're a bit pricey and some of their clothes fit me awkwardly. However, their coats and bathing suits are awesome! If you have a Sears in your area, they should have a Land's End section so you can go there and try on (and buy).

I can't wait to see more posts about your "makeover" journey! Do you watch "What Not to Wear" on television?