8 Fashion Mistakes You’re Probably Making
The Problem: A big event—a wedding, a Bar Mitzvah, a special birthday— looms on the calendar. Instead of heading to a store you can count on, with plenty of lead time, you refine a list of reasons not toshop: I don’t know what to get. I don’t have the time/money/energy. Maybe there’s something in my closet I can wear! At the last minute, you panic and race to make a purchase, perhaps plunking down extra cash for express shipping—to end up with something pricey that you don’t love and may never wear again. You don’t look your best, and you feel like a ding-dong for overspending.
The Solution: As soon as you get an invitation, schedule time on your calendar to figure out what to wear. When assessing your own clothes, bear in mind that with the addition of borrowed, thrifted, or rented accessories, your problem-solving dress or outfit might be right in front of your face. If you’re certain that you have nothing that’s right, consider a site like Rent the Runway, where you can borrow from an extensive library of new-season designer clothes at reasonable prices. (An evening dress for a wedding can rent for as little as $30.) Make sure to leave yourself at least four days before the event—a minimum of one for shipping and three to exchange (just in case). If you would rather own, you might want to sign up for a service like Keaton Row (keatonrow.com), which pairs you with a personal stylist who can help you pick out items or put together a head-to-toe look. Meanwhile, do a gut check. Maybe you’re stressing about choosing an outfit for reasons that have nothing to do with clothes. Is there something about the event that makes you uncomfortable? Are you scared to encounter someone you haven’t seen in a long time, or worried a family event will remind you of a loss? Maybe you’ve imbued your outfit with magical qualities. (If I don’t get the perfect dress, the day will be ruined.) Identifying your feelings—either on your own or with a trusted confidante—helps put the task of getting dressed into perspective.
The Problem: Sales and special offers cause you to lose your mind. Budgeting and good sense leave the building. You end up with clothes that you don’t need, would never wear, and don’t even look good in.
The Solution: Bargains are the number one reason that people end up with useless items, and flash sales only heighten the risk. So before you click “buy” or bolt to the checkout counter, pause. Reflect. Is it the thrill of the bargain that you’re responding to or the item itself? Ask yourself, If this were full price, would I still want it? Do I need it? Imagine what you’ll wear it with and for what occasion. Ask yourself what else in your closet serves the same purpose. Then think about how many hours you work to earn the money that you are about to blow on this item. And take a second to consider what else you could spend that cash on if you didn’t spend it here. If you’re good with the answers you come up with, then proceed with confidence. (And, by the way, congratulations on money well spent.)
The Problem: Failure to engage in preventive maintenance and regular rehab of footwear. Such behavior can result in beyond repair leather, trashed soles, and premature shoe death.
The Solution: Spare yourself and your wallet grief with this simple regimen for your best pairs. Treat new shoes with a lightweight, breathable water and stain-repellent spray before the first wear. (Try Protect All, kiwicare.com.) Then, depending on how often you use them, give shoes a spritz every week or so. (It’s like putting on moisturizer: It’s not a one-and- done situation.) Keep daily grime from setting into permanent stains with a quick onceover after each wearing; use a soft cloth for leather and a bristled brush for suede. (Spots on suede can be treated first with a special eraser.) When leather-soled shoes and boots are young, have a skilled cobbler add thin protective rubber soles. The look won’t be compromised, and they will last much longer. Don’t put this task off: If the original soles are too far gone, thin rubber soles won’t save them. Have the rubber replaced when it starts to wear.
The Problem: Piling multiple tops onto a single hanger, over-stuffing drawers, and cramming hanging rods so tightly that the jaws of life are required to extract clothes. Plumbing the depths feels so overwhelming, you default to grabbing what’s just out of the laundry—which means that you end up wearing the same things over and over and over again.
The Solution: First, carve out and honor an off-season storage spot. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Attic, basement, a spare dresser, under-bed bins—whatever you can make happen. Twice a year, move off season clothes out of sight. During this transition time, get rid of what no longer fits, suits your life, or makes you happy. And to ensure that you never (again?) end up with 12 pairs of black pants, organize the winners first by type and then by color. Use the correct hanger for the task: Lightweight, flat flocked hangers work for thin, light tops; sturdier hangers maintain the shape and structure of coats and blazers. Heavy knit sweaters and dresses will stretch if hung; instead, fold them and store in drawers or on shelves. Protect trousers from those telltale knee creases by hanging them from the bottom, on clip-style trouser hangers. Store handbags (emptied of pens, gum, and anything else that might leak or attract pests) on a shelf separated with clear dividers or, if you have no shelf space, on large S-hooks on the closet rod.
The Problem: Carrying your everyday bag to a wedding, schlep ping your work tote to a weekend party, or sporting a dark leather bag with a bright sun dress in July— you know, failing to change your bag regardless of season or occasion. You tell yourself that you can’t be bothered. (It’s such a pain! Who wants to think about it?) But inside you know that it’s an easy fix that will make a difference. Still, assembling (or paring down to) the right collection can be tricky. So the thought cycle continues.
The Solution: It’s pretty simple, really. The bag’s weight and material, like your clothes, should reflect the season’s temperature and esprit: darker and heavier for fall and winter, lighter all around for spring and summer. And you want to be prepared for any occasion (work, weekend, evening). You don’t need a bag in every color of the rainbow— just two or three for cold weather (say, a black or brown leather satchel for work, a slouchy bucket bag for weekends, and a velvet clutch for evening). And two or three for warmer months (a light, neutral tote for work; a bright handbag for weekends; and a raffia clutch for evening). Shop your own collection first. You might have all you need. And once you weed out (and donate) the excess, switching bags won’t feel like a big deal.
The Problem: You fall for a piece of clothing, but the sleeves or the hem is a little long—or there’s some gaping at the waist. You tell your self that it’s fine, no one will notice. And besides, you already paid so much for it, how can you justify spending more on tailoring? (Or, on the flip side: You spent only $25 for it. Why spend another $25 on tailoring?) Alteration aversion (another name for TAS) can also be chalked up to plain old laziness. (Who needs another errand?) But the truth is, you do—to look more pulled together and feel more confident.
The Solution: Take advantage whenever a store offers free or low-cost alterations. (What you lose in instant gratification, you’ll gain in compliments; even the least expensive item looks exponentially pricier when tailored to fit.) Ask around for a good local tailor, so that you’ll always have someone at the ready. And when you backslide and are tempted to skip the alterations, remind yourself that fit is a key component of style. If Katharine Hepburn’s trousers hadn’t sat just right on her waist and skimmed her shoes just so, she would have been a schlump instead of an icon.
The Problem: You refer to a certain sweater, jacket, or pair of jeans as your best friend. When you look back through your selfies or when people tag you on Facebook, you always seem to be wearing said friend. You are experiencing creeping doubts about the health of this relationship.
The Solution: Take a good, hard look at old faithful, and consider if it’s still earning its keep. If you have even once said to yourself, “Oh, no one will notice this stain/rip/fraying,” it’s time for a second opinion. Ask an honest and kind friend (of the human variety) to weigh in on its style (does it look up to date?) and attractiveness (does it flatter you?). It’s possible you have a genuine classic on your hands, something worth the investment of an alteration or a special cleaning. But there is a difference between a classic and something that’s just...old. If an item has deep sentimental value, you can treat it like a work of art: Frame it, take a photo of it, use it as a centerpiece for a quilt, or pack it away for posterity. If it’s not worth that treatment, bid it goodbye and trust that you will love again.
The Problem: Your panty lines aren’t just visible through your clingy skirt—they’re unmissable. You’re spilling out of the top or sides of your bra, and the lace cups are making your shirt stick where it should slide. Your shapewear is squeezing you like a sausage casing, you can’t remember the last time you didn’t have a wedgie, and you feel deeply unsexy.
The Solution: First, see a bra fitter at least once a year. Bodies are constantly changing, and skilled guides are at your service—free. Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, and the mall stores Aerie and Soma all employ well-trained fitters with the knowhow to address everything from back bulge to gaping shirt buttons. Second, explore the vast array of seamless panties. (Buy a single pair of a few different styles, then stock up on the winners.) Third, know that shapewear should not torture you. The key is to opt for breathable, lightweight raw-edge pieces (try the Vanishing Edge line from Soma) and select the size that you really are. Remember that underthings have a limited life span. Stretched-out elastic and wires that poke through are signs that items are ready for the trash. (Once the garments are purged from your drawer, there’s no chance you’ll accidentally wear them.) And, finally, as you restock, think about matched sets and pieces in your favorite colors.Then the first things you put on in the morning will make you feel comfortable, confident, and attractive. And that will make a happy difference in your day.