Does the label make the clothes? The answer is only if you feel like you have to be a name dropper or if you are on a red carpet revealing who designed your gown. There are some in certain social sets who would disagree with this, but the reality is that if you are an average person, it is much more important that you look your best in a style that is appropriate for your lifestyle and body type than it is to have the latest label.
When was the last time that someone who you respect for his/her fashion sense told you that you looked great? By keeping seven basic principles in mind, you can look great all of the time.
Step 1: Know your body type
None of us is perfect so know your measurements and shape. Think about arm, leg and torso length and shoulder, hip, waist and thigh shape and width. Evaluate your overall body shape. One trick we like for this is standing in front of a mirror with someone tracing your shape on the mirror with soap. Ok, so you will have to wash the mirror afterwards but it gives you a great sense of your shape. Finally think about the areas you want to hide or accentuate.
Step 2: Be realistic
This works for all body types. Wear clothing that fit properly. Squeezing into a smaller size does not make you smaller. It makes you look like you have gained weight and didn't buy clothing that are the right size. On the flip side, wearing baggy, bigger clothing in an attempt to hide things does not work either. You just make yourself look sloppy and larger. Don't buy what you wish you looked good in, but what really does compliment you.
Step 3: Just because they make it in your size...
...does not mean you should buy it and wear it. Fashion is only fashionable if you look attractive in it, not because a celebrity is wearing it or it was in all of fashion magazines. Low-rise pants brought this point home more than any fashion trend in recent history. A few years ago, you just couldn't be seen in public if you weren't wearing low-rise pants/jeans. However, 75% (and that is conservative) of the women in this country should not have been wearing them. Now at this point we need to say that our opinion of low-rise pants may not be mainstream with the rest of the fashion industry's opinions but we know what we see. Also bear in mind that there are different styles of low-rise pants and some of this disastrous fashion situation could have been avoided by changing the style of low-rise worn. Low-rise pants make long torsos look longer. The smallest amount of excess weight or flab in the middle is emphasized. Someone with no obvious waistline looks even straighter and less shapely. Large bums look larger as do wide hips. However, everyone rushed out to buy them and we have been subjected to rolls of fat, thongs sticking out the back and worse ever since. Moral of the story - wear a style that flatters not fattens and you will receive many more compliments.
Step 4: Know your colors
Black is not everyone's best friend. Colors sold in the stores in a particular season may not be yours. Regardless of which method you use to determine the right colors for you, it must be done. If you aren't sure, contact an image or wardrobe consultant for some professional help. It is worth the time and money. I had a client who went from people asking her if she was sick all of the time to people asking her if she was having an affair, all because she changed the colors in her wardrobe. Suddenly it seemed like her skin was glowing, her eyes were shining and she was well rested and ready to take the world by storm. People started to take notice. What do you do when your colors are not in the stores? Stock up on base pieces when the season or colors of the year are yours. When the main colors are not yours, you can usually still find accessories to complement your base pieces or check out last year's clearance and discontinued items.
Step 5: Build a base
You have conquered the major challenges: knowing your body, knowing your colors and not becoming a fashion slave. So now you actually need to build a wardrobe. Your lifestyle will determine where the emphasis lies on the core elements of your wardrobe. However, here are a few suggestions on what you should have. You will need to adjust according to your life, but remember the key to any successful wardrobe is having items that can be mixed and matched with other items. Please note that we are not breaking up the list by summer and winter. Some of your items will be year round and some will be season.
3 pairs of work pants
2 pairs of casual pants
1 pair of evening pants
2 skirts for work
1 skirt for weekend or fun
1 skirt for evenings or social events
Jackets/Coats: (Where you live determines the weight)
2 Blazers or suit jackets for work
1 casual jacket for weekend or fun
1 evening jacket or wrap
1 pair of tennis shoes (sneakers)
2 pairs of black, brown or navy (depending on your base color) casual or walking shoes
2 pairs of work shoes in black, brown or navy
1 pair of stylish boots for winter or sandals for summer
1 pair of evening shoes
One week's worth of work tops/blouses
2 casual weekend tops and 2 tshirt tops
1 evening top
Not all shapes lend themselves to wearing dresses. However, if you love dresses, you should have one for work, another for play and a third for evening if you have a lot of social occasions.
Step 6: Think before you buy
Unless you are buying a new base piece, don't buy an item unless you already have three things in your wardrobe with which you can wear it.
Step 7: Budget
Spend the bulk of your budget on the base pieces. You will thank me later for this advice. Quality base pieces will last and will remain fashionable. Fill in your wardrobe with accessories with the remainder of your wardrobe budget. These items are often the trendier or more seasonable items and have a shorter shelf life in your wardrobe. And for those of you who do not have a wardrobe budget - get one. The easiest way to have an out of control closet or overflowing shoe bin is too just go shopping willy-nilly without a plan.
We cannot possibly cover all of the do's and don't of fashion in one article but these seven steps should get you started. It is important to have a plan, make a list of what you have and stick to it. It is even more crucial to know your body, be realistic and wear what was made for you, not what was made for a super-model. Happy shopping!
Indra A Books, author of this and many other lifestyle articles is the owner and founder of ON THE GO 4 U, Personal Shoppers & Concierge Service in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The company's creed is to provide its clients with the ultimate life management experience. In addition to its shopping and concierge services, ON THE GO 4 U also publishes a monthly e-zine and conducts workshops on wardrobe, entertaining and decorating. For more information about the author and ON THE GO 4 U, please visit http://www.onthego4u.net.
© 2005 Indra A Books for ON THE GO 4 U