Posts Tagged: fashion

Reader Request: Designer Inspired Items and Knockoffs


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 See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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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 See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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This Week I Love …


… Grechen’s series titled The Minimal Closet.

We’re living in a polarized world, friends. Congress is the most visible example, but it seems like people are glomming on to extremes everywhere and in relation to issues both big and small. It’s been utterly fascinating to see polarization creep into the fashion blogging world: In terms of readership and definitely in the Instagram world, excess is celebrated. People love to see the pretty, the glamorous, the Louboutins on a white table next to some peonies and macarons. But in terms of discussion, minimalism is the buzzy topic. From Un-fancy to Into Mind, we’re all fascinated by downsizing and capsules.

But my absolute favorite minimalism-related read is The Minimal Closet series over on Grechen’s Closet. While other sources are urging you to discard absolutely everything that doesn’t “spark joy” or pare down until you have exactly 15 gorgeous items that will hang, perfectly spaced, on a single closet bar, Grechen is exploring the contradictions and challenges involved in moving toward minimalism. Buy what you love? But what if you only buy things you love and still end up with too much stuff? Is it really possible to populate your wardrobe with “perfect” items? She is a stylish woman who loves fashion and shopping and makes her living writing about those topics. She is also someone who came to the realization that she just owned way too much stuff and needed to make a change. She is not moving toward minimalism because it’s trendy, she’s doing it because she craves simplicity. But she’s refreshingly honest about her journey, and talks openly about how hard she has to work to make this change possible.

And perhaps more importantly, she doesn’t put parameters around minimalism – hers or anyone else’s. She doesn’t proclaim that she now has three pairs of jeans and will not buy jeans again until those three pairs are threadbare to the point of indecency. She still shops, and talks about shopping as being both risky and a natural part of her process. She has tinkered with capsules, but doesn’t limit herself to a set number of items. She says, and truly believes, that there’s no one right way to do minimalism.

Which is so refreshing for someone like me who ALSO loves fashion and shopping and makes her living writing about those topics. And who ALSO felt like she was drowning in choices but feared the systems and maxims handed down by self-proclaimed minimalists. Grechen has great insights, helpful tips, and a completely judgment-free tone. If you’re interested in an earthy, honest take on moving away from the collector mentality and toward simplicity, take a peek at The Minimal Closet.

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

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