Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Fourteenth Tale: The Lamentations of a Fashion Fiend

I'd like to speak today on a topic that is close to my heart: fashion. Now, I rarely vent my frustrations about this using social media outlets, but seriously people! Some days I watch news anchors and weep for their tragic images, which are often filled with too-long hair in an attempt to conceal sagging jowls, not to mention hideous comb-overs and bad ties (a la the Donald). Ok, so I don't really weep, but I do have serious conversations with their stylists via the television set (and my mother).

You may be wondering, who are you to talk or give advice about fashion habits? What credentials do YOU have? Well, I grew up as the daughter of an aesthetician and visual artist who did makeup for movie stars and trained in Paris, then co-managed my father's salon. My father is a hairdresser who owned one of the best salons in St. Louis and took me to Paris to see the worldwide hair show. My grandfather was the CEO of Genesco (shoe company that now owns Journeys, Shii, etc.). Fashion is in my blood. I also worked in retail at The Buckle for a year and helped numerous people out of their fashion slumps, and have done personal shopping for close friends and relatives. Not that any of this should really matter; this is my blog and I can say whatever I want about it. Whether you take it seriously or not is ultimately up to you.

So, I can safely say that aside from some of the larger metropolises such as New York City, Chicago, and LA, America has a serious problem with fashion; mainly, with fit. It's not that people don't always know which colors to wear for their body or which styles are popular, it's just that they have a serious disconnect with seeing how clothes look on a rack and seeing how clothes look on themselves. They don't understand how to dress their own bodies.

I fully understand the feelings of anger and frustration that come with a long day of shopping and feeling like you cannot find anything made for your body. Folks, I lived in Seoul for a year as a size 10 pant. In case you didn't know, they barely make over a size 6 in Korea-you are literally not allowed to be fat in the culture (unless you are a foreigner, in which case you are relegated to Itaewon shops only, where buyer traps abound--"Good qualrity!! Good plriiiccee!!"). In short, I know it can be defeating-but you simply have to keep looking to find things that really fit you and not just settle for crap that makes you look like Eeyore in slacks.

On the positive side, living in Korea showed me that there are actually aesthetic standards other places in the world (even for older people, fancy that!). Now, one can argue that this goes to an extreme and is part and parcel of a highly pressurized society. I do believe it's cruel for women to have to wear stilettos and miniskirts every day, year round, but I did notice that as a consequence of this higher standard, women there really had learned how to dress their bodies well. I almost NEVER saw anyone, even an overweight person (which is rare in Korea-I mean overweight, not super morbidly obese) who didn't know how to dress themselves in a way that was flattering to his or her shape. Frumpy-ness just didn't exist. I'm including some example pictures here for anyone who doesn't believe me- this is what Koreans dress like, on a daily basis:
Sorry about the alignment of the pics, folks, that's the best I could do. Anyway, see how well their clothes fit them? They understand their bodies. It's a cultural value, which seems to have escaped us here in the U.S. In Korea, it's considered rude and disrespectful to others show up in a public place looking like something the dog threw up. It just isn't done.

You may be saying to yourself, "yea, but they're Korean- slim and trim. How do I dress my disproportionately sized 14 hips and my small top, or my size DD boobs?" The truth is that there are ways to dress to flatter your body. I'm not advocating taking no responsibility if you have let your weight get out of control, which happens to the best of us (yes, me). I'm just saying: dress for the size that you are at that particular moment in time, and don't try to deny it with your clothes, cause trust me... you 'ain't foolin' anybody; except maybe yourself.

So, what do I personally suggest to remedy the issue? First, be honest with yourself about your size. Denial is so easy and it's the worst way to begin looking for clothing. Don't dress in tight clothing because you think it will make you look sexier. It doesn't. Don't dress in shapeless sacks because you think you are fat-you still need to emphasize or create a waistline! Get out the measuring tape (or buy one, I'm pretty sure it won't break the bank) and measure yourself starting from the top to bottom. For women, measure around the bust (around fullest part of your bust), around the smallest part of your waist, and around your hips, which means around the fullest part of your butt. <---this link from About.Com is great. It will help you with measurements and some basics about fashion and designers. Women, everything starts with good underwear. Support the GIRLS!! Who has not heard Stacy London say these things? We all watch "What Not To Wear" and "Project Runway" but still don't get it! No one wants to see your chi-chis, so keep 'em tucked. As for men, for most casual looks measure around the chest and the hips (where you are widest at the chest, and fullest at the butt). For tailored suits, visit an actual tailor or enlist the help of a salesperson at the store.

I want to make something abundantly clear: clothes need not be ridiculously expensive or in designer labels to be a good buy; they just need to fit you well and be made well. Take your measurements into a store with you and enlist the help of a sales person. Yes, they may try to sell you things, but they really are there to help on some level. When I worked for the Buckle as a Team Leader, I really did want to help people find clothes that fit them. It is true (shock, surprise) that when they bought the clothes I made money. It was a mutually beneficial deal- but I was never pushy, and if someone says no or is not comfortable, that's that. So, enlist help and say no if you are uncomfortable.

Another issue to discuss on this same vein is that of men's fashion in the U.S. I was seriously in love with men's fashion in Korea; tailored suits, slim jeans, bold separates, interesting colors and patterns, accesories!! Scarves, PURSES for goodness sake! They even made the 'man bag' sexy. They did all of this with confidence. Guys will barely try any of these styles in the US. I attribute this to our way of gender socialization. As an aside, I hate the term "Metrosexual". This is a homophobic term to me. If a guy dresses well, it implies that he is gay? Tell me that's not what that implies. If not, it wouldn't have the term "sexual" tagged onto it. Seriously, men here are such wusses when it comes to fashion, afraid that if they dress in a bold color or in a jean that actually fits them instead of sagging off of their ass and legs that they will be labeled as a homosexual. If anyone else disagrees with this I would be happy to hear it, because I simply cannot come up with any other explanation. Okay, maybe I could see some guys arguing about comfort; but if comfort is the only issue that men can come up with as an excuse not to wear slimmer pants and tailored suits, I would suggest that they try them and find out. I had several men that I helped at the Buckle who were afraid to transition to a slimmer jean for fear of discomfort in 'the pals' and they ended up doing just fine.

So, moral of the story is, do not be afraid of your body. It is there, whether you like it or not, and other people have to look at it every day. For women, if nothing else, dress it well so that the rest of us don't have to sit around wondering if we should congratulate you on your mid-term pregnancy. For men, venture outside of your box! I'm not talking about kooky patterns or anything, just try a slimmer jean instead of the pitchfork hauling Wranglers you usually wear. Heck, even Wrangler makes a slim men's jean!!!!!!!!!!!:

If I were going to be in the country any longer, I'd be happy to go shopping with you and tell you my personal opinion ;) having done this once or twice myself. Unfortunately, it will be another year before I can bitch about this subject some more, because I'm fairly certain that Madrid will be a fashion extravaganza.

Enjoy yourselves, good luck!!

Much love, xoxo,
Anna :)

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