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Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 10:03 pm
I hate shopping for clothes. I'm terrible at it, and it takes forever, and it is miserable. I have stories.[1] This is no doubt part of the reason that I'm getting close to the point where my entire wardrobe needs replacing.

And that strikes me as an opportunity. Part of my problem, I'm sure, is that I've never had even a slightly concrete sense of a personal style: what sort of look might be a good fit for me, and what sorts of clothes could get me there? I realized a few years back that I'd actually appreciate having some rudimentary answers to those questions, and I have a decent guess that it would make shopping less horrible.

The challenge, of course, is that there's presumably quite a bit of effort involved in figuring this stuff out from very nearly complete ignorance, and I've got plenty of higher priorities for ways to spend my time. (That's not even including the fact that trying to contemplate this stuff hits all my usual "oh god I'm shopping" buttons.)

So this is my question, or my plea: are there shortcuts? Can I find some algorithm or assistant who (perhaps for some not too painful investment of my time and money) could help me skip over most of the dreaded "personal style 101" tedium and get quickly to a halfway decent wardrobe? (In a perfect world, I'd be able to emerge from the process with at least a rudimentary idea of what made it decent. Enough so that I could have some confidence in my ability to shop for new clothes later, and maybe even use that as a starting point to learn more as time and interest permitted.) I'd welcome any suggestions, general or specific. Note, incidentally, that I live in a rather small town nearly an hour's drive from the nearest decent-sized city, and that my work schedule these days is roughly 9-5 (plus lumps of evening class prep and grading).

[1] Well, really just one, but it makes the point. A few years ago, I was trying to buy a few shirts at a local department store. I spent entirely too long wandering back and forth through the store figuring out what the options were and which ones I liked and whether the ones that fit came in other colors. How long, you ask? Long enough that about 3/4 of the way through, a security guard walked by to ask why I'd been hanging around for so long. "I just really hate shopping," I said, and I guess I was convincing enough that he left me alone.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 04:10 am (UTC)
Yes! There are!

Most midrange-and-up department stores (think Nordstrom) have a personal shopper service. You could set up an appointment to go there for a giant day of binge shopping, emerging not only with a wardrobe but with some clue (trying on a bunch of stuff will help you learn what you like & what looks good on you; conversation with someone more knowledgeable about trends will help you learn the concepts). This may also take the edge off the shopping hate since the personal shopper will do 100% of actually going to the racks and finding stuff; your job is just trying it on and having opinions. I hear you can even build relationships with them over time where they get to know your preferences, e.g. if you go quarterly for a while (which may be necessary if you're overhauling your whole wardrobe, since you will need to get seasonally appropriate clothing at different times of the year).

There are a variety of subscription clothing services cropping up these days, e.g. https://www.trunkclub.com/ ; they will outright ship a box of clothes to you (based on what you tell them about your size/preferences) and you buy the ones that fit and ship back the ones that don't. I would imagine it's harder to learn this way because you don't have the conversation, but it's very time-efficient.

There are probably lots of style blogs. I mean, *I* read style blogs, but they're very gendered, so they are probably no help to you, although if you want to wear women's clothes do not let me or cisnormativity stop you! (I don't know a damn thing about men's fashion, though I know a lot about how I learned about women's fashion.) Although I did come across http://putthison.com/ once and it seemed good.

There are probably some books. Again, the ones I've read are all strongly gendered so I can't throw specific titles at you without librarianing harder.

There are probably lots of Instagrams, if looking at lots of examples and reverse-engineering the details that you like is a learning strategy that works for you. There may also be a lot of Pinterests, but again, gender - Pinterest is overwhelmingly female-dominated so it may not have fashion options you're looking for. (There is, of course, everyday reality. You are surrounded by examples of men's outfits all the time, and you may have some sense of which you like better and/or who in your environment is stylish. Can you deduce things by observation? Are particular fabrics, colors, seam placements, accessories, etc. stylish? Do you *like* them? It helps to be really granular here in the details you look for. Assuming you can do that without ogling people ;)

Overriding style secret: anything that *fits you really well* will look good, even if it is not particularly stylish or expensive. (Corollary: a cheaper garment plus a bit of tailoring will look better than one that costs the same as the garment + tailoring, but doesn't fit right.)
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 06:19 am (UTC)
I have Stu's exact same question without the compelling need to overhaul my wardrobe (currently). I've finally matured to the point of the average 5th grader, where I notice some clothing people wear, and I notice that I'm not wearing the same type of clothing.

Luckily in my line of work, well-fitting jeans and a minecraft T-shirt will get me quite far, but when I have to go to the meet-and-greet events at my children's school, now I'm actually aware of the fact that everyone else is wearing fancy things that I generally wouldn't be caught dead in and would never pick off a rack. I bought 3 collared shirts at Costco a few years ago, but those are now wearing out.

I think my awaking came at a comment you made on LJ a few years ago when you were trying to learn how to read webcomics. You said something along the lines of having painfully developed an ability to read fashion trends, and didn't yet have the visual language to read comics and you were wondering how to get it.

It was then that I became aware that what people were wearing was something that I should consider paying attention to. I feel odd sitting at the mall eating a pretzel with my kids and trying to notice and judge the clothing of people walking by, but now at least I've done it. I still can't visualize myself in most of it though.

I'd love your female oriented links if they are easy to share.
--Beth
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 12:52 pm (UTC)
Well, in THAT case :)

http://www.amyherzogdesigns.com/f2f/ was really helped to me, but unfortunately is no longer available as it's been turned into saleable books and classes and so forth. Although most of the material is probably in Knit to Flatter (and you can ignore the knitting part if it isn't relevant to you :)

Useful books: Nina Garcia's The One Hundred (judgy, but a good basis for a shopping list, and a straightforward enough way to discover what items of clothing people might think you ought to own); Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (the least judgy book I read; his general principles can accommodate a wide variety of styles/garments); stuff by Stacey London or Trinny & Susannah (hosts of, respectively, the American and British versions of What Not To Wear).

Mainlining old episodes of What Not To Wear (the US version) will give you a sense of how to dress like an extremely cisnormative circa-2005 woman. So that has pros and cons, but Stacey is good at distilling things into simple rules. (The UK version is more likable TV but uglier fashion IMO.)

http://corporette.com/ will tell you straightforwardly what norms are for women with high-powered careers in places like NYC or DC (which may not be what you're going for, but starting there and stepping several levels of casualness down can be good). I never did get around to following http://www.alreadypretty.com/ but I hear good things about it (it's more artsy than Corporette). Again, there are a bazillion things in this space, so it might be worth poking around their blogrolls and their blogrolls-of-blogrolls and so forth until you find people who dress in ways you might actually want to dress, or who dress for lifestyles compatible with your own, and follow them.

https://www.stitchfix.com/ is a woman-oriented version of Trunk Club and if you message me I can get you a referral code. I've been trying them out and I have mixed feelings.

I don't think of it as "judging" their clothes so much as "analyzing" - if I like this outfit, why? if I don't, why? If I think it works *on them*, why? If I think it almost works but could be improved, what changes would help? (This last one is the most informative for me.)

If you can't visualize yourself in it, there may be lots of useful info in that gut feeling (like, it may not just mean that you can't see yourself as a stylish person). Maybe they are wearing colors that wouldn't flatter you, or their clothes are best for body proportions that you don't have.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 12:52 pm (UTC)
Hey my draft had too many characters sooooo, part 2!

I think the great secrets of women's fashion are:
1) layers;

2) mainstream style is an attempt to emphasize, or create the impression of, an hourglass figure. Examples: belts (draw attention to the waist and may actually physically cinch in the clothes to create narrowness there); full skirts or wider-leg pants, if your shoulders are broader than your hips (creates a visual impression of balance); likewise, narrow v-necks (visually narrows your shoulders); wide lapels or boat necklines on people whose shoulders are narrower than their hips (visually broadens the shoulders - strong horizontal lines broaden what they are near; verticals narrow it). Trends of *fashion* may or may not be of any utility for you in this regard, but an overall style which follows this principle will be pretty timeless.

3) The body is a system of thirds (ground to knee, knee to waist, waist to shoulder) and clothing should respect that. Clothing that breaks you up into two halves will make you look dumpy and unproportional; clothing that follows the thirds will lend you graceful proportions. So the classic sheath dress (runs the 2/3rds from shoulder to knee), or a blouse and knee-length skirt (likewise), or a blouse and long pants (the top 1/3 and the bottom 2/3). In point of fact, your SPECIFIC body may have proportions that depart somewhat from this (and that is *totally okay*); this may suggest some garments that will be better on you and some worse. For instance, if your torso is proportionally short, a tunic-length top will create the impression of lengthening it, and may be quite flattering; if your torso is proportionally long and you wear the same garment, you will be emphasizing halves, not thirds; you, and your legs, will both look shorter than they actually are. (To go all nerd, in the first case you'll look more elven; in the second, more dwarven. Most people prefer the former.)
Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 04:41 am (UTC)
The Elven/Dwarven reference and thirds makes sense. I'll have to figure out if my torso is long or short. I never really thought about it. I don't tend to like low pant lines, and my old favorites go up to my belly button, but they don't sell those any more, and when I bought some at the Gap with the help of a personal shopper, everyone told me they look really good. (For a while, until everyone got used to them.)

Thanks so much for the references. I'll have to track them down.

--Beth
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 04:12 am (UTC)
Oh, and there is also "go shopping with an articulate friend or relative who has good taste and will be delighted at the chance to use you as a personal dress-up doll". If you happen to have such a person in your life, you emerge with not only clothes, but a very clear sense of why they were good choices.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 01:23 pm (UTC)
Here's the other key, especially now that you are not in a major metropolitan area. You don't have to go shopping. Mail order works really well and let's you try stuff on at home.

Drew essentially has a uniform, one I think could easily be tweaked for your personality. He works in a Hawaiian shirt and khakis or khaki shorts every day. For you I'd switch that to a casual button down (hello Lands End catalog!) and khakis. In Wisconsin winters Drew used to wear a button down shirt and a wool sweater.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 01:41 pm (UTC)
But then you have to send it all back and re-order it in sizes that actually fit :/ (I have learned that I can't buy jeans at all from Old Navy because they are not designed for people who have a butt. I learned this by ordering two pairs of jeans and having to return them, trading one pair for another in a similar size, which I then also had to return. I gave up and went to the physical Levis outlet and tried on half a dozen pairs of jeans until I found one that fit and didn't fall off. It was early, so the clerk was able to get me clothes to try.)
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 01:53 pm (UTC)
[livejournal.com profile] ukelele has covered a lot of this, and quite well. You can do google image searches for men's fashion, modified as you like (classic? vintage?). Or look at what your colleagues are wearing and see what looks like something you'd like.

If there's a particular era of clothes you like (say, the 1920s), you can look for clothes that have similar shaping and go with those. If you just want to look like a grown-up, classic business dress (or business casual, depending on your work environment) for men is pretty easy: trousers (blue, black, khaki), collared shirt (solid, striped, subtle pattern; colors you like; usually long sleeve, short depending), tie (could be optional), jacket (to match trousers). Dress shoes in brown or black.

Jeans and a t-shirt is a style, and it's pretty much always 'in'. The cut and fit of the pieces changes year to year, but most people don't pay that much attention.

I am not very good at fashion myself, but I learned some things growing up a girl with a sister who was REALLY into looking right. fashion-era.com has a lot of historical (even recent past) info, but I think it's mostly female.

http://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/
http://www.gq.com/style
Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 11:17 pm (UTC)
When faced with this problem, I used $60/month to solve it and went with FiveFour Club (that's a referral link). I have been happy with the results.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 02:35 am (UTC)
What all do they tend to send each month? A shirt and a pair of socks? Two full suits and a collection of stylish underwear? It's not entirely clear from the site what you'd be getting. Oh, and why don't they seem to want to know my inseam?

(I'm asking because I'm intrigued, by the way.)
Edited 2015-09-09 02:35 am (UTC)
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC)
It seems to be usually two shirts and one pair of pants (or shorts). The shirts are usually fashionable enough that fashion-conscious friends notice and say good things. In the fall they also put in scarves and windbreakers and sweaters. I asked friends who buy their fashionable clothes in stores whether I was getting a good deal, and they said yes.

I recommend just trying it out - $60 is not nothing, but it's also not that much on the scale of how much clothes cost.