I've been working in fashion for 10 years. I've been a market editor, a stylist, and a writer. I've worked with celebrities, supermodels, major designers, and top fashion magazines. I used to stress out about shows and trends and models and what to wear. I watched other editors around me do the same until many of them just couldn't take it anymore and left the industry all together. I managed to stick it out, though, and I've gained some much-needed perspective along the way. Here are some of the lessons I've learned.
1. Trends are not worth stressing about. The trend cycle is so fast that nothing is ever "in" or "out" for that long. Certainly not to the point of that it's worth stressing about. What's more, the clothing market is so large and varied that you can find pretty much anything you want as long as you are willing to look for it.
2. Your "body type" does not dictate what trends look good on you. People are fond of saying that certain trends only look good on tall and/or skinny women - midi skirts, crop tops, wide-leg pants, etc. - but that's just not true. If the fit, proportion, and styling are on-point, then it doesn't matter what size or shape your body is.
Sure, if the clothes were designed on the body of someone who is 5-foot-10 and a size 2, they won't look exactly the same on someone who is 5-foot-2 and a size 12, but a little tailoring can fix that right up. And if it can't, then it's the dress that's shitty. Not you. You and your body are never the problem and anyone who says otherwise is just a toxic, body-shaming asshole.
3. Confidence - plus polish - really can sell any outfit. It's true that if you feel good, you will look good, but only to a point. The fact is, even a dress you love can still look sad if it's wrinkled and you just throw your hair into a greasy pony tail and slap on some foundation at red lights. It's when you take the time to add that extra layer of polish that a look really comes together.
4. People will only know your shit is cheap if you tell them. Most designer clothing is so overpriced that the only way to tell the difference between Zara and some high-end brand - at least at a glance - is by looking at the label.
5. Logos and other prominent branding will cheapen a look more often than not. Plastering yourself with logos and brand signatures is just tacky. You end up looking like a walking advertisement. You see it from time to time in fashion editorials, but it's almost always done with a sense of irony. The fact is, the "H" buckle on an Hermes belt, the all-over logo print on a tote bag, or the colorful sole on a pair of high heels may be attention-grabbing, but they don't actually add anything to the design of the piece. Wear them if you love them, but don't do it as some sort of status symbol.
6. Fashion is about following trends, but style is about finding a look that works for you and sticking with it. You'll never be satisfied chasing trends. Find what works for you and go with it.
7. Proper tailoring can make anything look like a million bucks. Seriously, fit is the single most important factor in making a piece of clothing look good. That's why professional stylists and fashion brands spend so much time pinning, clamping, and tailoring clothes on photo shoots. Just keep in mind when you are shopping that you should always fit your clothes to your shoulders, bust, hips, and butt. That's because it's easy for a tailor to cut something shorter, or bring something in along the waist, arms, or legs, but it is nearly impossible to make something bigger.
Don't want to go to the tailor? Well, you can look for clothes with a lot of stretch or stick to pieces that are just really loose and flow-y, but otherwise, you are out of luck. There's no hack for this one, people.
8. Shopping is NOT the answer. The success of the fashion industry is dependent on convincing you that you need to buy more stuff, but that's just a stone-cold manipulation. You don't actually need more stuff. You have enough stuff. If anything, you just need to change your relationship to the stuff you already have. For instance, research suggests that you will be more satisfied with your clothes if you only wear them for specific purposes - like having a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe and never mixing them.
9. When you are shopping on a budget: less is more, simpler is better, and embellishments should be avoided at all costs. Think about it this way, the simpler something is, the harder it is to fuck up. You should always save money by buying simple, basic pieces from more affordable brands; it's hard to tell the difference between a $50 pair of jeans and a $400 pair of jeans. Only splurge on items with complicated constructions, elaborate prints, special fabrics, or embellishments.
10. You can completely change the way people see you by changing the way you dress. We all make snap judgements about people based on how they look, but even a strong first impression is not set in stone. People want to think that when they look at you, they know everything about you - but it is a lot of work to hold onto an impression of someone as being sloppy and unorganized when they start showing up to work every day looking sleek and pulled together. You can huff and puff about how unfair it is that you are judged by how you look, or you can take control of the situation and the image you present to the world.
11. It's really hard to love fashion and the environment at the same time. Between the dangerous chemicals used to treat and dye fabrics, the horrible working conditions of the laborers in countries where clothes are often manufactured, and the fossil fuels used to ship clothes around the world, the true cost of a garment is a whole lot more than the $15 you spent on it at some fast-fashion retailer. What's more, every time you decide to throw an old piece of clothing away rather than donating or recycling it, you are adding unnecessarily to landfill waste.
At the end of the day, you still have to get dressed and very few of us have the money to wear head-to-toe Stella McCartney, no matter how environmentally-friendly and chic her clothes may be. But that doesn't mean you can't be smarter about how you shop. Don't just shop because you're bored. Shop because you need something. Buy less crap so you can afford to buy more expensive pieces that are made locally or out of organic materials. Take better care of your clothes so that they will last longer. And when you are ready to get rid of stuff, don't just toss it in the garbage can - donate or recycle it. Seriously, a quick Google search for "clothes recycling [insert your city here]" should lead you to a location near you where you can drop off your worn-out stuff after your next big closet purge.
12. You should never take fashion advice personally. A lot of people get really upset when they read that something is "out of style" or shouldn't be worn a certain way. The thing to remember is, when a fashion editor says that something is "out" or "not appropriate for the office" or whatever else, they are not calling out you personally. They are just giving their professional opinion, which you can take or leave. No one is attacking you.
13. Just because a company accepts your money doesn't mean they accept you. If you don't see yourself reflected in a brand's imagery, be it a designer or a fashion media brand, they are most likely choosing to exclude you. Not every editorial or campaign can reflect every type of person every time, but you're not crazy if you look at certain parts of the fashion industry and are upset by the lack of diversity, be it along the lines of age, race, or size. If you really are upset, then stop buying their products. Every time you patronize a businesses that excludes you, you reinforce their behavior. Similarly, every time you choose not to patronize a brand that is supporting you - maybe because you can save a few bucks by shopping somewhere else - you tell that brand that you are not actually worth their consideration, because you'll shop the same way no matter what.
14. People in fashion are often just as insecure and screwed up about fashion as everyone else. Fashion insiders might seem impossibly cool and chic, but they're just as anxious about fashion as everyone else - moreso, even, because their careers are riding on their ability to convince other people that they are an authority on stuff like which shoes go with which dress. If you feel overwhelmed by fashion, know that you are not alone. Everyone struggles with this stuff in different ways and often the best thing you can do is just cut yourself some slack. Yeah, fashion is judgey and exclusionary and contradictory, but it's also just clothes. And clothes are not worth making yourself miserable.
By Charles Manning
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