Fashion Advice I Learned the Hard Way
Sometimes people ask me for fashion advice. No, really, they do: I promise I’m not making this up.
The problem with that, of course, is that most of the time I don’t really have much in the way of fashion advice to offer: I’m very far from being a fashion expert, and some days that’s more apparent than others. In fact, almost everything I’ve learned about style has been learned the hard way (Actually, almost everything I’ve learned AT ALL has been learned the hard way…), so today I present some fashion advice that you probably already know, but which I found out through trial and error. And sometimes even MORE error…
First, dress for the weather.
I spent a lot of years of my young life wandering around in the freezing cold without a coat: not because I was a fashion blogger, you understand (this was way before fashion blogging was even invented, young ‘uns), but because I was stupid. I thought coats weren’t cool enough for my fly self, so every morning on the way to school, I’d wait until I was just out of sight of the house, then I’d stuff my sensible coat into my schoolbag, and continue on my way. I thought I was awesome. I was freezing. Oh, and I didn’t look any more stylish either: I just looked like someone who didn’t know how to dress herself – which was pretty much the opposite effect from the one I was going for, really.
Fashion advice taken: before you consider anything else about your outfit, think about the weather. Because you will not look stylish with blue skin and icicles dangling from your nose – trust me on this.
Next, dress for the occasion
I know a lot of people advocate wearing whatever you want, whenever you want, because you’re just so special and unique that everyone will be blown away by your daring refusal to bow to sartorial convention. Or something like that, anyway. The thing is, though, while in my head I’d love to be the kind of Carrie Bradshaw-type person who wears a tulle skirt to the supermarket and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about it, in my heart I’m just not that girl. Oh, I’ve been that girl: or I’ve tried to be, at least. (Disclaimer: I have never worn a tulle skirt to the supermarket. Or not that I can recall, anyway…) But I’ve learned the hard way that I’m just as uncomfortable when I’m overdressed as I am when I’m over-dressed, and I feel most confident when I’m wearing something that’s at least somewhat appropriate to the occasion. Who knew?
Fashion advice taken: You probably wouldn’t wear wellies and jeans to someone’s wedding, so it’s probably not a great idea to go hiking in a wedding dress, either. Because no matter how amazing you look in that dress, people won’t see YOU at all: they’ll just focus on the inappropriate dress, won’t they? As we all know, you should wear the clothes: the clothes shouldn’t wear you, so dress for the occasion as well as for the weather. That doesn’t have to mean dressing the same as everyone else, by the way: it just means knowing how far you can push the boundaries before things start to get awkward.
Wear shoes you can walk in
People frequently ask me how on EARTH I can walk in my shoes, and when they do, I always think, ‘Come on: surely you don’t think I’m stupid enough to wear shoes I can’t walk in?” Then I remember the time I tried to climb a mountain in clogs. (You’re trying to work out what’s more shocking here, aren’t you: the fact that I climbed a mountain, or the fact that I wore clogs?) (In my defence, I was 16 at the time, and clogs were, like, SUPER fashionable, OMG.) (Also, we got a cable car to the top of the mountain, so it was just the very last bit that I tried to… I’ll stop talking now.) Or the many, many times I’ve decided stilettos would be the perfect choice of footwear for… actually, I’m not even going to list all of the times I’ve thought stilettos would be appropriate when they SO OBVIOUSLY WEREN’T APPROPRIATE, GOD.
Why did I do these things? Because I would rather have died than wear flat shoes, obviously: why else would I do it? Of course, what you all know, and I only learned after a lot of blisters, is that nothing bad will happen if you wear flats every once in a while. Well, if you’re me they WILL make your legs look stumpy, and that IS pretty bad, to be honest, but then again, so is limping over sand in a pair of 5″ stilettos, isn’t it? I think so.
Fashion advice taken: wearing shoes you can’t walk in (Or SHOULDN’T walk in, under the circumstances: I actually CAN walk in all my shoes, and I posted some tips on how to walk in high heels here, if you’re interested…) doesn’t make you look stylish. No one looks stylish when they’re staggering along in unsuitable shoes, so while you’ll still have to prise my stilettos off my cold, dead feet, these days I also wear flats if I think they’re going to be more appropriate…
Get everything tailored
I have a bit of an awkward shape. I’m slightly too tall to be “petite”, and slightly too short to be “regular”, plus I have a long torso and a completely flat chest: and trust me when I tell you that not many people are making clothes with THAT mix in mind. The fact is, though, we ALL have slightly awkward shapes in some way or other, don’t we? I don’t think I know a single person who can walk into a store and know that the clothes will fit her perfectly, right off the rack – and yet still we all persist in buying clothes off the rack, and expecting them to fit perfectly.
Fashion advice taken: I remember reading once that celebrities have EVERYTHING tailored: even thinks like t-shirts and tank tops are adjusted until they fit like they were made for them. Now, I’m not going to take it quite THAT far, but I do have quite a lot of items altered to fit, and it makes a big difference.
Trust your instincts
You know all of those times you’ve stood in front of the mirror, twisting and turning as you try to work out whether that dress you’re trying on looks good, bad or simply indifferent? Don’t buy that dress. Seriously, just put it back RIGHT NOW. I’m watching you. Oh yes I am…
Now that I’ve got you all freaked out, I can honestly tell you that not ONE TIME has an item I haven’t been sure about turned out to be a great purchase. Not once. The sad fact is that if something doesn’t feel right the first time you try it, it probably won’t feel right the second, third, or any subsequent times either: and if it doesn’t FEEL right, then it doesn’t matter how good it REALLY looks – the fact that you don’t feel comfortable in it will stop you enjoying it and feeling your best in it.
Fashion advice taken: These days I have a simple rule whereby if I try something on and don’t instantly think, “OMG, I LOVE this: I MUST have it!”, I don’t buy it. I mean, I make an exception for basics like t-shirts, or whatever – I’m probably not ever going to be blown away by them, but if I need them, I’ll buy them anyway. With things like dresses, though, I really have to love to them: and if I don’t feel comfortable, I don’t buy, simple as that.
When you find something you really love, buy multiples
Finally, and on the subject of things I really love, I can’t even count the times I’ve looked at them, fallen head-over-heels for them… and then totally missed out on them, because I decided to wait for the sale, or wait for next Tuesday, or do something else equally incomprehensible, that’s led to me missing on that perfect item. And there’s really nothing worse, is there? Other than all those things that are undeniably much worse, obviously?
Fashion advice taken: If you love it, buy it. Then buy a spare one, for when it wears out, or you spill red wine on it, like you always do. Actually, this is a piece of advice you sometimes CAN’T take: I mean, I love my newest pair of boots, but I can’t exactly go out and buy multiple pairs of £160 boots, can I? (Answer: NO.) I also don’t advocate buying things you really can’t afford, or getting into debt over dresses, so be sensible, kids. But if you CAN afford it, and you REALLY can’t live without it… don’t. Or you’ll end up like me: a bitter and twisted old woman, endlessly searching eBay for a pair of shoes from 2009, that you probably wouldn’t wear now, even if you found them. Er, don’t do that.