There she is in all her loveliness stepping out here and dashing off there. The news is all aflutter about the engagement and upcoming marriage of Kate Middleton to Prince William. If pashminas, pearls, tailored tweed jackets and Tiffany jewellery are your passion, Catherine (as she is now known) is your fashion muse. As more stories come out about her fashion style, we are also learning that she has a personal shopper/stylist, gets regular hair blowouts and has seemingly endless funds to support regular shopping trips and beauty/spa treatments.
If you’re well past Middleton’s age of 28, have a few children in your household and have long past the days when you slavishly pampered yourself with the latest fashion and treatments, you might be feeling a bit long in the tooth compared to a media darling such as Kate Middleton or Demi Moore for that matter. Recent reports suggest that Demi spends as much as $140,000 a year on her appearance. In a roundabout way, considering the attention given to these women in the media, it begs the question – how can the rest of us go from frump (if we’ve gone down that road) back to fabulous? Here are some thoughts about how you can rev up your own personal look.
* Ditch the maternity clothes
Oh good heavens. Has it been months or longer since you gave birth and you’re still wearing those roomy tops? Even if you’re just wearing them around the house, they’ve got to go into the Salvation Army bin. Give some other expectant mother the opportunity to have a maternity wardrobe and move on. Whatever your body shape is, post pregnancy embrace your shape and buy some fitted clothes. Fitted clothes are always more flattering. If you are buying pieces that don’t quite hug your curves, bring your pieces to a tailor.
* So your clothes don’t fit anymore
Your body changed post pregnancy and there are a number of clothes in your closet that simply do not fit. You swear it’s because the dryer shrunk them. Whatever the reason, they’ve got to go into the aforementioned bin as well. Forget about fitting into them later. If it’s been over a years since you gave birth, let them go. Should you eventually return to that pre-pregnancy weight, or take up fitness boot camp, you could probably use some fresh pieces in your wardrobe.
* Do you still dress like you’re 25?
It’s time to spend some time watching What Not to Wear. Truly. Mini skirts are best left to the under 35. A length just above or resting on the knees can be just as flattering and sexy. Ditto for those teeny, stretchy tops and any clothing that screams “trend of the season”. This seems counter intuitive, since the fashion industry wants you to wear the latest trends. The problem here is that many clothing styles are designed for the under 30 set, are simply not flattering or sophisticated and will be out of fashion next year. On your family budget, can you really afford to be buying clothes one season and ditching them the next?
* Do your clothes make you look fabulous?
Whether you’re wearing your clothes around the house with your children or out on the street, do your pieces make you look fabulous from head to toe? If not, part ways. It’s that simple. Wait until you’re in a bad mood, get out the garbage bag (for your trip to the Salvation Army bin) and start tossing. Keep your best jeans, pants, t-shirts and sweaters. Even your gym clothes should make you look fabulous.
* Do you know what style fits your body type?
Harem pants may be making a comeback, but they’re certainly not for every body type. Don’t believe all the hype about jeggings either. They simple aren’t suitable for everyone. Love your body and celebrate it by wearing cuts that flatter your shape, create flattering silhouettes, celebrate your strong points and create a balanced look .
* Do you have a second pair of eyes?
They might belong to your husband. They might belong to your ten year old daughter. Who is the person in your life who really knows what makes you look fabulous? Listen to their opinions as well.
* Do you buy clothes full price?
If you’re looking to freshen up your wardrobe you will want to watch your pennies. Your money won’t stretch far if you rush out and buy a good amount of clothes at full price. On the other hand you want to be wary of buying the reject pieces stores are trying to dump just because they are on sale. If you choose classic (but not necessarily conservative) and well made pieces (as in construction and fabric), you can watch out for that moment when stores start to reduce their items. Don’t wait for the end of the season sales, though. The best pieces in your size may be long gone. It might take you a year to build up your wardrobe, but eventually you’ll have a good
* Go designer
Did you know that Joe Fresh clothes are premiered on the Toronto Fashion Week runway? Yes. You too can afford designer clothes. You can’t go wrong with Joe Fresh cotton pants and shorts. You can also find attractive, on-trend tops at reasonable prices. Keep in mind that their clothes fit small and can shrink after a wash. If you normally fit a medium, consider buying a large.
* Get Creative
Have you noticed how expensive it is now to sew? Fabric is expensive. So are patterns. However you can buy patterns (including those from designers) that have a good amount of various pieces that form a cohesive ensemble. Some of the major fabric stores have loyalty programmes and hold regular sales. You can also find patterns and nice quality fabric at church sales or in the closets of retired sewers. If you prefer to support local craftswomen, you can search out clothing on Etsy.com that is created in your province or state.
* Swap with others
As you are shopping your closet looking for pieces that make you look fabulous, you will find many pieces that you can give away. Before you head to the thrift shop, you could consider having a clothing swap with your friends. Very often the pieces you are giving away aren’t worn out or out -of-date. You’re just bored with them, they don’t fit or they simply don’t suit you. You can also find clothing swaps advertised in local papers and in the general section on Craigslist.ca. (Search for “clothing swap”)
* A few good pieces does the trick
Coco Chanel famously believed that if you had a few well made suits in your wardrobe, you wouldn’t need to own a lot of clothes. Somehow we can’t imagine that people like Audrey Hepburn had huge wardrobes. You can build up a strong core to your closet by keeping your colour choices to consistent groupings, make sure you buy fabrics that are as natural as possible, watch for solid clothing construction and avoid trends. Coco also believed that a woman needs to be two things – classy and fabulous!
* Don’t forget your accessories
Scarves, purses and bags, and jewellery can really transform a wardrobe. You can find these pieces at good prices in stores and online (for example at Stella and Dot*). You can also find them in consignment stores and at school fair fashion sales. You just never know when you will encounter a good quality piece at an affordable price. The latest jewellery can transform the plainest of dresses from a few seasons back.
* Quality Counts
Whenever you are looking at a piece (whether it is used or new), dive in and find the label. Pieces that are made of mostly natural fabrics will not disappoint over the long run. They feel better, breathe in warmer weather and wear well over time.
* Get inspired
Check out recent fashion magazines from the library and check websites and blogs online. Get up to date on what looks are flattering for women of your age group, life style and body shape. If you are approaching 40, check out the Canadian and American editions of More magazine. This magazine is catering to the women above age 35 who want to look fabulous. Every office or social group has at least a few women in their second adulthood (late 30s and beyond) who really know how to dress in fresh and inspiring ways. Take notes whenever you see them. You may learn more from this type of woman than from watching Fashion TV.
* Be an individual
Be inspired by others, but don’t feel compelled to copy the looks of other people. Be daring. Set your own trends.
* Keep your ear to the wind
Try to source out the best places, locally, where you can find good fashion deals. Of course Winners is always a good option, but which Winners has the best selection? Some Winners have a dreary selection of picked over clothing. Your friends and colleagues will let you know which outlets are best. Try the Winners at Cambie and 7th Avenue in Vancouver. Joe Fresh is available at Superstore outlets. (Some outlets have more selection than others.) Or you can head down to the new Joe Fresh store at 540 Granville street. There are a number of good consignment stores in the Lower Mainland. For local designers who sell at relatively affordable prices check out the selection on Main Street and in Gastown. Another great opportunity to find consignment items is at hospital thrift stores and in the fashion booths at private school fairs. (The designer clothing corner at the yearly York House fair is a great example of a fashion opportunity!)
* Have your colours done
Who has their colours done anymore? That’s so 1980s right? Well, actually no. Your skin tone really does have an impact on choices you should be making for colours to wear. If you don’t know what colours look best on you, you really need to investigate this topic further. Don’t believe any saleswoman who tries to convince you otherwise.
* Know your stores
Stores such as Zara on Robson are more pricey, but are favoured for their European designed, fashion forward looks. Spend time digging through The Bay on Granville Street and you never know what you will find on sale. HP3/Cora Fashions (3825 Main St, Vancouver / 5515 W.Boulevard, Vancouver) carry statement and designer pieces at affordable prices.
* Here are some great items that can make you go from looking dated to wow!
– A great pair of jeans. Avoid the distressed look, make sure the cut flatters your booty and make sure they are long enough (without dragging all tattered on the streets). Don’t get caught up in the designer jeans option. If you know your body type you can find affordable jeans anywhere. Costco often offers jeans by companies such as Calvin Klein
– When you are heading down to the States to visit designer outlets, check out Banana Republic for their affordable line of fitted suit jackets and pants. Their pieces are perfect for the office or off-duty play. If you go down at Christmas time the discounts are deep.
– A great pair of boots. During the colder season you might find you are wearing boots every day. This is an investment that pays off. Boots with spiky heels are the rage right now. If you are competent walking in them, go for it. Or you can favour the riding boot (long and flatter) look that has been popular for a few seasons. If possible find a boot that goes well either with a skirt/dress or with pants. If you need to wear rainboots, choose boots with attitude. This is the perfect time to take a daring approach to style. Vancouverites embrace the notion of highly patterned or classic and boring (yet hot) boots (think Hunter wellies). We found affordable boots with a Royal Copenhagen porcelain inspired pattern at Walmart!
– A great purse. Scour the images of high end purses that you like and then find a cheaper option. Ebay is a great place to find purses. Private school fairs are also repositories for designer pieces that are still classic looking. Ditto for consignment stores on the west side of Vancouver. It can be hard to find hot accessories in Vancouver so you will need to dig about. If you or a friend plan to visit Japan, this is a country where you can find high end style purses at very affordable prices.
– Jewellery can turn your outfit from pretty to pretty fabulous. Stella and Dot jewellery is an affordable option that will help you to inject a fresh and fashion forward look into your wardrobe every season. Their new Spring/Summer line will be unveiled in January.
– Other accessories such as socks, nylons, tights, gloves, scarves (warm and silky) and hats can completely transform multiple outfits. Spend time scouring Winners, large department store sales, school fair sales and high end consignment shops for fun and unexpected finds.
– Makeup and skincare is a whole different topic. Choosing a number of items from a specific company can go a long way to creating a unified look. For high end companies try Darphin, Chanel, Benefit and Nars. For drugstore lines try L’Oreal (which is the cheaper version of the sister company Lancome), Vichy and Joe Fresh makeup. Waleda is an all natural and affordable alternative available in health food stores.
Are you ready to embrace your outer fabulous this spring/summer? Once you’ve got your wardrobe and look in place, here’s a tip from the world of modeling to help you strut your stuff. Take a regular sized step. Bring your foot back and now take a large step. Find the spot just in between these two strides and you’ve found the walk that will complete your outfit perfectly.
Local designer stores
Best clips from frump to feminine on What Not to Wear
*Stellaanddot.com/chan is part of the BC Family Merchandise programme