I’d estimate that I do 80% of my clothing, shoe, and accessory shopping online. And while shoes and accessories are slightly easier to procure without hassle, buying clothing online carries quite a few risks. No two companies measure their garments in the same way, and most use standardized size charts that aren’t applicable to more than half of the available garments. You’re unable to check potential purchases for material and construction quality. And, of course, nearly all online retailers use models.
Above is a photo of a lovely gal who models for Garnet Hill. She’s wearing a very cool oversized sweater, and it looks marvelous on her. But she’s a model. Just about everything looks marvelous on her because it’s her job to make clothing look as marvelous as possible. And she has undoubtedly fooled many women into thinking that this sweater will look great on THEM because it looks great on HER.
Viewing clothing on hard, cold mannequins or just laid out on plain white tables seldom feels as alluring as looking at clothing on actual humans. But clothing models are generally pretty similar in figure – tall, long-legged, slim – and many of us aren’t quite as tall, long-legged, and slim as the models wearing the clothing that we’re considering purchasing for ourselves. Not to mention that garments are often pinned, clipped, and altered to fit better for catalog photo shoots. It can mess with your perspective, logic, and self-esteem to view a garment online, order it, put it on, and discover that it looks funky on your body even though it looked elegant and chic on the model.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering a modeled item for purchase and wear:
Have you tried on anything similar in person?
You can’t have had direct experience with EVERY style of garment available, but there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to a decent majority. If you’re looking at a gorgeous wrap dress online that looks sultry and stellar on the model, but have tried on a dozen wrap dresses in your day and they’ve all drooped and hung weirdly on your own bod, try to call up that memory before hitting “buy.” And even if you haven’t tried on the exact style, search your memory banks: Do pants at that length usually make you recoil in horror when you try them on? Does anything with Designated Boob Room ride up or sag down? Mentally scroll through your shopping experiences and see what matches up.
How does this model’s figure differ from yours?
Is she shorter? Broader shouldered? Narrower hipped? Larger busted? DON’T make judgments on yourself or her. Just stick to the facts and take note of how your two figures differ. Then consider how those differences might affect proportions, drape, and overall fit.
What shapes and styles are your favorites?
If your closet is packed with wide leg pants and you’re eying up a pair of skinnies, give that some thought. If you have only ever worn wispy silk scarves and are pondering a thick, over-sized cashmere wrap, ask yourself why nothing similar is part of your wardrobe already. I’m not saying, “Stick to what works and never try anything new.” Oh no, no, no indeed. But remembering which cuts and styles work for you and make you feel amazing, and noting differences between those and your potential purchase can, at the very least, prepare you for an ill-fitting garment. Seeing items different from our own norms that look stunning on models can trick us into believing that those items will work for us, too.
Designers and manufacturers have long maintained that tall, long-legged, slim women are ideal models because they allow the clothing to drape almost as if it were on a hanger. Some manufacturers have started to incorporate a few more body types into their catalogs, but that mostly means adding a few size 10s in with the size 4s. No big busts, no women under five feet, no pear shapes. So many of us are still left guessing. Clothing on models looks flattering and fabulous, but that same clothing may look awkward and awful on non-models. Pondering a few questions and doing a bit of comparison can help you make a slightly more informed purchasing decision.
And eventually, when we’ve finally sussed out a clothing showcasing system that actually encompasses genuine human diversity, we won’t have to bother with any of the irritating guesswork.
Image courtesy Garnet Hill.