Posts Tagged: fashion

Clothing Commentary

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

tiedye_outfit

This is my Audra Jean underbust harness. (That link is prolly not quite safe for work viewing …) I’ve had it for years, worn it in a variety of ways, and loved it all the while. It’s funky, badass, the perfect piece for bringing in a floaty A-line dress like this one, and a pleasure to wear. It is also a piece that some say has a design influenced by BDSM, and although I respect the BDSM community it’s not my scene and not why I like this harness belt.*

And no one has ever said anything nasty about it. Not directly to me, anyway. And I’m able to field whatever questions and opinions get thrown at me, no problem, because I’ve had years of practice and given it loads of thought.

But many readers and friends have mentioned that they love the idea of dressing smartly and stylishly – or even edgily and unusually – but worry about how peers will react. Specifically how often peers may comment upon or question any noticeable changes in personal style. So I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions for dealing with clothing and style commentary from your peer group.

Mentally prepare

If you’ve gone barefaced for 15 years and suddenly start wearing full makeup every day, people will likely notice and comment. If you’ve worn jeans or pants for ages and start bringing skirts and dresses into the mix, you might get a few questions. One reason why these inquiries feel difficult to handle is that they surprise us. Just knowing that your changes may prompt a few curious questions can help you feel more prepared to react and respond.

Role play

If you’re very anxious about how you might handle potential comments and questions, have a friend or loved one do some role playing with you. You can probably imagine most of the stuff that’ll come at you: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in slacks, Jane!” “Wow, new hair. Big change.” “You look so different!” “So dressed up. Going for an interview, or something?” Jot them down, and do a quick dialogue. You’ll be amazed by how this exercise will prime your mental/emotional pump for the real deal.

Have short and long responses

Even if the role playing thing seems a bit too in-depth, consider mapping out some potential replies to questions and comments. Different questions require different levels of response. You needn’t launch into your personal style journey or the decision-making process that led you to switch from heels to flats or long hair to short. Not with everyone. “Wow, new hair. Big change,” can get a simple, “Yeah, it is. I’m loving it!” On the other hand, “So dressed up. Going for an interview, or something?” might necessitate a bit more background. Something like, “Nope, just felt like it was time to mix up my personal style a bit. I’m having such fun with these changes!” Judge for yourself who merits a quick reply and who needs a deeper explanation.**

Give it two weeks

This nugget comes from the ever-wise Husband Mike. Several years ago, he decided to wear suits to his SUPER casual office. Every day. He wanted to make it his personal uniform. And, as you might expect, he got a stream of “job interview” jokes and curious comments. But they lasted for two weeks, then tapered, then stopped completely. Now, this will only help you if you’ve made a relatively drastic change and plan to stick with it consistently from here on out. If you wear the occasional foofy tulle skirt but generally stick to pencils and A-lines, that’s a different deal. But if you get a makeover, switch styles drastically overnight, dye or cut your hair, or do something similarly permanent, count on about two weeks of inquiries. Your peer group should acclimate by then. (Hopefully.)

Stay positive

I try so hard to assume the best about everyone, but I do feel that this kind of question/comment behavior requires some guardedness. If a coworker points out that you’ve changed your appearance and you shrink back in dismay or alarm, you’ve revealed a chink in your armor. If instincts kick in, your coworker may start asking more questions, or teasing, or prodding for more information. You made these changes because you wanted to, because doing so boosted your self-confidence, because you want to look and feel fabulous. Make sure to say so! If a fellow student saunters up to you and says, “Whoa. Why on EARTH are you wearing high heels to class?” say, “Because they make me feel gorgeous!” If your aunt says, “I wish you hadn’t cut off all your beautiful hair,” respond with, “Well, I did. And I think this new ‘do suits me perfectly!”

Of course, if someone is being rude to you, butting into your business, and commenting on your body, appearance, weight, or anything about your physical self, you always have the option to tell them to butt out and eff off. Your body, your business, PERIOD. However, you may reclaim some of your power by acknowledging their observation, owning it, and putting your own positive spin on it. When a person offers a negative or teasing comment on your appearance, they are likely trying to get a rise out of you. It’s classic bullying. Swearing, silent treatments, and rants can feel awesome. Denying a bully the satisfaction of an outraged or hurt response can feel even better.

Clothing, grooming, and appearance-related commentary is such a mixed bag. Compliments are like tiny little blessings, and can inspire unexpected joy. Comments and questions can cut both ways, and might make us feel scrutinized, judged, or targeted. But I hope that the possibility of generating curious queries won’t keep you from tweaking, finessing, or even completely changing your style or appearance. With a little bit of knowledge and foresight, you can field those questions with grace and aplomb.

*Think this is unusual or dishonest? Consider how many people own motorcycle jackets but not motorcycles, or how many wear cowboy boots but have never been near a ranch. Lots of task-specific or community-specific pieces end up in the fashion mainstream, and since Taylor Swift is a fan of harnesses, who knows? They might be next!

**If anyone. You have no obligation to explain yourself to anyone at all. But in terms of diplomacy, it’s often more advantageous to offer truthful information than withhold everything and let people make their own assumptions.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

Reader Request: Designer Inspired Items and Knockoffs

knockoff_handbag

Reader Jane Jetson emailed me with this fascinating question:

I am wondering about knock offs. I am not referring to counterfeit or “replicas”. Those are illegal and look terrible anyway. My friend bought a huge “Prada” bag downtown and I cannot imagine people think it is real. There is no way she or anyone I know can purchase bags in the thousands of dollars.

I was looking for a tote bag for a long flight. I bought this bag and liked it very much.

I later read a reviewer say she liked it better than the “original.” The original is a Longchamp bag which costs over $100 more. I just cannot see paying that much for a nylon bag. I was vaguely aware of the Longchamp bag and was not looking for something similar at a lower price. I just wanted an attractive bag. I do not like wearing labels and realize that many designers simply license their names to lower quality products and do not have much involvement with the actual production. I am OK with that too but something about showy labels rubs me the wrong way. I have labeled goods such as ray ban and northface so I am not completely opposed. My question is, what about knock offs? Will someone see my bag and presume I bought a lower grade (and perfectly legal) Longchamp copy or that I have a nice bag? I don’t know where this begins and ends. I am not seeking out copies but I am not that familiar with all the handbags in the expensive, fashionable handbag universe. I also think that certain styles just become popular and are part of the general look and not necessarily a knock off.

There is some research to support the idea that a thriving knockoff business is actually GOOD for designer lines. I’m not sure I completely agree, but it’s an interesting alternative to the typical black-and-white response that all of them are bad and evil and no one should buy them.

I read gobs of fashion magazines and blogs so when I’m cruising around Amazon and eBay I see the bags that are clearly knockoffs of the hot styles, and I have to say that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable purchasing one myself. I bought a bag off eBay in the same way Jane bought her Longchamp knockoff – liked the design, price was right, no idea it was a copy – and once I found out I wasn’t thrilled. But I also didn’t stop carrying it.

After a shape or style has been in the mix for a couple of years, I don’t think a designer can reasonably claim that they’re being “knocked off” anymore. Celine introduced the trapeze shape in bags, but they’re everywhere now several years later. Mulberry’s turnlock is distinctive, but also incredibly simple and easy to duplicate and so long as no one is imprinting their logo they don’t have much of a case that it’s being knocked off. Actively seeking out a knockoff of a current-season designer bag allows you to cash in on the talent of the brand’s design team and some of their cachet without supporting them with your dollars. Buying a bag that looks like a nylon Longchamp tote – a style that company has made for decades – is completely harmless in my opinion.

In terms of what people think, to some extent you’ve just gotta let that go. Some people will see it and think it’s real, some people will see it’s a knockoff and judge you, some people will see it’s a knockoff and not care, some people won’t even know it’s a copy. If you like the design enough to buy it, that’s key. You can’t control what other people will or won’t think about you. Especially in this situation because you have no way of knowing who is well-versed in handbags and who isn’t. If it’s something that’s really going to bother you whenever you carry the bag, though, that can certainly take precedence: If knowing it’s a knockoff makes you worry constantly, then all of the fun has been sucked out of the bag and you might feel better moving on to a different style. Totally your call, of course.

Bags are among the most-frequently knocked-off, but I’d say the same of clothing, shoes, and accessories in most cases, too.

What are your thoughts? Do you buy knockoffs and feel like it’s perfectly reasonable to do so? Never buy them and feel the knockoff market is harmful?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

Reader Request: How to Avoid Looking Dated

avoid looking dated

In a comment on this post about clothing details that read as young or old, reader Jane asked for some tips on how to avoid looking dated. Datedness is a social construct, of course, reinforced by a fashion industry that sells us new clothing based on our desire to look “current.” This means it is, in essence, bunk. But the same could be said of any dressing mores: They allow us to be expressive and visually communicative, but they’re all rooted in capitalism. It shouldn’t matter one whit if you’re wearing a blazer that was made 20 years ago, so long as it fits and is in good condition … but because of the value we place on youth and staying up-to-date on everything, it does matter. In some cases, it matters several whits.

So I’m definitely not saying that concern over looking dated is inconsequential. I think about it, as do most of my clients. Keeping your looks contemporary is a great way to feel stylish even if actual trends mean nothing to you. I just couldn’t resist pointing out that datedness is of manufactured importance.

And, sadly, avoiding dated looks will take some work. Here are some steps you can take.

Consume fashion media

Since you are a reader of this blog, you are likely doing this already. But consider focusing some of your consumption on studying shapes and design details on new iterations of wardrobe staples like dress pants, jeans, and blouses. Also pay attention to how they are worn and styled. Fashion magazines will be of limited use since most editorials focus on designer items styled in unwearable ways. The exception would be People StyleWatch, which showcases casual celebrity style alongside advice on re-creating those looks on a budget. Otherwise it’s helpful to follow a few style blogs run by women whose aesthetics are close to your own, and note shapes, design details, and styling choices. It can also be helpful receive catalogs from brands you buy and wear, since retail styling is generally more accessible than editorial. On a related note …

Window shop

Most of us window shop to gather information about items we might want to purchase and wear, but this activity can serve as contemporary styling reconnaissance. Just as you do with online and printed media, cruise through the mall and note shapes and design details. How do the dresses differ from the ones in your closet, if at all? Are you seeing different types or sizes of prints than you’re used to wearing? Do the blouse collars look large or small to your eye? Don’t forget to scope out the mannequins for styling choices: Merchandisers generally keep abreast of trends, and get additional input from corporate offices about how to group new items. What do the layers look like? How is jewelry used? Where are belts placed? Are tops tucked or untucked? How are colors combined within outfits, and more specifically how are neutrals utilized and distributed? You don’t need to spend a dime to get a lesson in modern style from retail stores.

Know which items date quickly

Both this post and the post on clothing that reads as young or old feature photos of blazers. Suiting and blazers are common culprits when it comes to datedness, mainly because they are fairly durable pieces that don’t need frequent replacement. Black blazers are also on a bajillion “must-have” lists, and many of us think, “Totally have a black blazer. I’m set,” even if said black blazer was made in the late 80s. Here are a few dated items I’ve noticed lurking in client closets:

  • Pumps and boots: Toebox shape and heel shape are the main details to watch. If your nude-to-your-skintone pumps have a square toe and block heel, they won’t look modern.
  • Blazers and suiting: Note stance, number of buttons, length, lapel shape, shoulder shape, and overall fitted-ness in blazers and suit jackets. Note leg shape, leg width, pocket placement, and hem length in suit pants. Note shape and hem length in suit skirts.
  • Leather jackets: The classic moto will always be around, but leather blazers and styles with quilting and/or gobs of hardware will look dated within the next five years. Pay attention to collar shape, zipper placement, and shoulder design.
  • Actually, all jackets: Both outerwear and items like utility and denim jackets that can be worn in place of blazers.
  • Jeans: Not as crucial as it once was in terms of design and construction, since various rises and shapes are always available now. (BLESS.) Do note hem length, leg style, and wash, especially on fashionable women whose style/aesthetic is similar to your own. Also pay attention to styling – cuffs, tucking, shoe pairings. etc.

Follow trends in dressing, skip trendy items

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Trendy items will date you, but trends in dressing can help you look your best. So, for instance, maybe don’t buy a pair of culottes or a fringed suede jacket, but consider incorporating trendy colors like yellow and marsala. Create your own interpretation of sporty minimalism or incorporate more black and white prints into your outfits.

I have to say that I find the typical “stick to the classics” advice to be relatively useless. Most classic items undergo design transformations if enough years go by, so although a classic item will date more slowly, it will eventually date. Naturally, items that are labeled as trendy right out of the gate will date faster, but you can’t build a date-proof wardrobe by keeping to button-fronts, bootcut jeans, and v-necked sweaters. Subtle shifts in shapes, design details, and styling will seep in over time, and those pieces will need to be updated, too.

I say “need” somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since wearing an outdated shirt or sweater will absolutely never cause you to break out in an itchy rash.

What are your feelings about dated clothing and looks? Do you worry about looking dated yourself? What tests or points of comparison do you use? Other tips for making sure your wardrobe and outfits look contemporary and modern?

Images courtesy Macy’s left | right

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts