Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hard to fit size? Join the club!

In my grandmother’s time in China, many people - those who could afford it - had their clothes custom made by tailors.  Over time, manufacturers figured out that it would be more efficient for them if they mass produced clothes in “average” sizes that would require only minor alterations at the point of sale, allowing individual shops to buy and stock more inventory.  This is how ready-to-wear came into being, and it has brought convenience to our life.  While this works wonderfully in most situations, there are still many of us left behind with off-the-rack clothes that don’t quite work. Let me give you an example: In China, my home country, I am considered tall though I am only a bit above average by Western standards.  In high school, I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am today, so by Chinese standards I was considered a giant in those days!  I could not find any decent ready to wear clothes to buy, and in my summer job (working as a sauce preparer at the Renaissance Hotel restaurant) I had to wear a boy’s uniform!  Trust me, it was hard to think of myself as pretty back then!

You see, our so-called mainstream sizes are actually controlled by manufacturers. Over the years I have worked in fashion, I rarely meet any women who don’t have any complaints about their body, especially when they can not find their idealized size to fit them.  Sometimes, they may start to daydream about going on a diet or having plastic surgery, so that they can fit into what they believe to be ideal clothes.  I call this the Cinderella syndrome.  If we fit into that special “shoe size”, we will meet our “prince” - i.e., find our ideal, whether an actual prince or some fantasy vision of ourselves.  But think of all the time, effort, money and energy that is wasted trying to fit some delusional, external idea of beauty! This happens to plus size women even more.  Ironically, the average American women’s size is 14-16.  In the real world, not some designer’s fantasy world, plus size in America should be normal size.  

In fact, speaking from personal experience with my clients, I can say that many plus size women are not even overweight - they may be big, healthy and athletic and not simply fit the fashion model ideal.  Not only plus size women have issues with fit, either - I have clients and friends who are petite and sometimes find themselves shopping children’s sizes to find something to wear! So please know, if you struggle to find ready to wear clothes that fit you properly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I want to share with you a few ideas to solve this body/fit puzzle.  First, you need to have a clear understanding of your body type, and know which areas to minimize, where to enhance, and where to balance.  Secondly, you need to have some basic knowledge of what vendor will fit you and then pay attention to the measurements and try a few.  For myself, I’ve learned I have a wider shoulder and smaller hip than typical.  I often wear a A-line skirt to create an hourglass shape, which works for me.

One thing I love about living in America (and especially Austin) is that it’s really O.K. here to be different.  In my view, it is just like our culture, and our personality, sometimes we are different.  As people more and more accept differences in the world, we just need to face the fact that not everybody can fit so-called mainstream clothes sizes.  BUT, that absolutely does not mean we have to sacrifice looking good!  There ARE good choices out there.  You may have to work harder (or find someone to work harder for you) than the mainstream body type person to flatter your body type in the right way, but you don’t have to look like I did in the boy’s uniform in high school!

I was inspired to write on this topic because during the course of my daily fashion online research I saw an truly fabulous plus-size dress - this is one of the best plus size dresses I’ve ever seen.  It has almost all the features you would look for:

  • Washable knit fabric that flows gently over your curves without clinging.
  • A polished and flattering silhouette. V-neck to longate the neckline, shape-defining bodice, elbow sleeves and knee length
  • Three beauiful simple colors to choose from
  • And it is only $69.99!

Finally, I need to plug my business a bit.  As with many things in life, you can absolutely do a fine job finding fashions, outfits, and looks for yourself...if you have the time, if you have the eye for it, if you have the passion for it, if you want to deal with running around, shopping multiple vendors, returning items, etc.  Or, you can do what most successful people do, and hire an expert to work with you, spend the time, energy and effort as your agent in the marketplace, looking for the best things out there on your behalf, and handling all the grief that comes with shopping as well as providing a keen eye and an honest opinion.  After an initial meeting and discussion, and taking some measurements, I can be out in the marketplace on your behalf finding you great clothes, helping you understand how they can be worn with your existing wardrobe, and providing results very quickly!  The time commitment is minimal - my clients are busy so I don’t waste their time taking them around to stores.  Much of what I provide to clients I find online.  At Nordstrom, I learned the meaning of service, and in my business I take service to the next level.  If you would like to see what I mean, please get in touch.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring Wardrobe Planning Pays Off in Texas

Greetings!  I hope you are all off to a great start this year.  As the spring season is approaching, I recently got hired to do a number of closet reviews.  I finally have a moment to sit down and elaborate on this topic a little bit more.  

If you live in Texas and looking good and spending wisely matters to you, the spring season is the most important fashion season because of our climate.  The weather here is springlike for most of the year - the wardrobe investment we make in spring can usually last at least until early fall.  Spring is therefore the best time of year to do a closet cleaning, organizing and review, and then make a wardrobe buying plan for yourself - doing so will give you the best bang for your buck.

There is still time to review your closet and put together a plan to get yourself ready for a great spring and the rest of 2013.  If you prefer to do your own closet review and purchase plan, I’d like to share with you what I learned from my teacher, noted image master Carol Davidson:

1.  Clarify your own unique style. Look in magazines or online and begin to assemble a file of items that appeal to you.  Think about what they share in common - perhaps it's the colors, silhouettes, styles or manufacturers?  Begin to cultivate (or refine) your style so that you know what to look for and consistently love your look.  Keep in mind, some of the looks might not be suitable to your physical condition.  

2.  Identify your assets - and then flaunt them!  I'm not sure why,  but we all seem to dwell on the negative. Why not take the time and energy you'd use to hide a challenge area and instead think about your assets and how you can best show them off?

3.  Assess your wardrobe.  Try to understand what works and what doesn't, and why.  Let go of the things that are simply not useful.  "Just do it."  Give discarded items a second life by donating them or giving them to a friend.

4.  Don't put off alterations or repairs.  There is nothing more frustrating than having an item that you could wear and enjoy, if only... Just as you schedule everything else in your smart phone, take the time to schedule these activities as well.

5.  Organize your closet.  Does this seem overwhelming?  Split this task into one or two hour chunks, over the course of several weeks. Think about your wardrobe routine.  Would it make sense to organize your closet by item, by color or by outfit?  Play some music and focus on creating a sanctuary of organized items that make you deliriously happy!

6.  Find new ways to combine your clothes.  Pick one item each week and challenge yourself to come up with a new way to wear it.   (FYI, many of you don't really need more items...just some fresh ways to wear what they own.  That's where I can help!)

7.  Make a shopping list.  Do not - I repeat - do not - go into a store without a list of what you need.  This will keep you from coming home with the 'nice-to-haves' as opposed to the 'need-to-haves.'

8.  Make a conscious decision to make wiser choices.  Assuming an item fits both your budget and your body, ask yourself:  Do you love it?  Does it flatter you?  Does it represent you at your best?

9. Make a point to add color.  No one can live in all neutrals all the time.  Easy ways to add a splash of color are by way of a bag, shoe, nail color or as part of a print.  Not only will color add visual interest to any outfit, it can help you get through any gray days.

10.  Discover that comfort and style need not be mutually exclusive.  Take the time to search out items that hit the mark in both categories.  No one should suffer for fashion.  However, no one should  sacrifice it for comfort, either.

11.  Give yourself permission to shop for the whole outfit.  So many people are frustrated because they have orphan items (aka items that don't have a companion piece) in their closet.  When considering a new item, either make sure that you own two to three items to go with it, or take the time to hunt for the complete ensemble.

12.  Learn to accept compliments graciously. They will come!