Friday, June 29, 2007


If you're like me, you've been shopping since before you could walk. I remember my mom talking to me about Clearance, as if it was a person, a friend. We liked Clearance. I was taught to shop for bargains. That is how I've come to donate so many items to Goodwill over the years.

Deals are great, don't get me wrong, but shopping is more about price. There is a method. If you are looking to build your wardrobe, not just increase the items in your closet, you need to be have a discerning eye and a plan.

Successful Shopping Rules
  1. It's not about size, it's about fit. The number on the tag is not reflective of your worth, it's just a number. What is most important is how the garment looks on you. How does it fit your body?
  2. Just try it on. It won't hurt. Plus-sized clothes are especially prone to looking bad on the hanger. You won't know how it will look on you unless you try it on.
  3. If you don't love it, don't buy it. Don't buy something because it is on sale or because someone else says you should. Those things end up hanging the back of your closet or neatly folded at the bottom of a drawer.
  4. Tailoring is a great tool. Buying off the rack does not lend itself toward finding the perfect fit. If you find garments you love, but need a little tailoring, get them tailored. Hems that are too long or too short, or blouses that pull at the chest can ruin the look of an otherwise classy and elegant outfit.
  5. Have a theme. When you are buying a wardrobe, you want to be able to mix and match as many items as possible. You'll need a neutral (beige or grey) and a solid (black or brown or navy) plus some accent items. Your accent is what can help put flair in your wardrobe. Are you into autumn colors? Bold, bright colors? Pastels? Pick accents that make you happy.
  6. Comfort is key! It doesn't matter how it looks if it will be uncomfortable after 12 hours of wear. When you try something on sit down in it and move around in it. Trying on shoes? Walk around. Do a little dance. Are they going to work for your lifestyle?
  7. You must have a solid foundation. I'm talking underwear here, people. Bras and panties, or pants, as the Brits say (I rather like calling them pants, but it leads to much confusion). Whether you realize it or not, you are probably wearing the wrong size bra. If you missed it on Oprah, Intimacy, The Bra Fit Specialists can change your life. I speak from experience, ladies. Undergarments form your silhouette. It's not about strapping yourself down, but giving support and coverage to your frame.
  8. Keep your receipts and know every store's return policy. I am the return queen. I'll get caught up in shopping and suddenly I get home with a $40 tank top that works with nothing else I own. If a new purchase doesn't match clothes you already own or looks weird in natural light, take it back.
  9. If you find something that is perfect for you in every way: fit, price, style, etc., consider buying more than one. A gal doesn't find her perfect slacks every day.

fashion IS a luxury

Being passionate about beauty and feminism at the same time can be difficult. In graduate school, I studied media effects on women's feelings about their bodies. I've looked at the statistics and know for a fact that women's negative attitudes about their appearance are related to their media use. It makes sense, doesn't it? Popular media represents a beautiful women as having a slim physique. So if I want to be considered beautiful, I need a slim physique.

But I am not slim. Thankfully, I have the presence of mind to know that I am fabulous and beautiful in my own way. I get appreciative glances from men. Truckers honk at me on the freeway. Women compliment my outfits, hairstyles and makeup. Yet, I still have that voice inside of me that says, "you would be happier/prettier/better if you looked good in a pair of size 28 Diesel jeans." I KNOW that isn't true, but the voice is still there.

So what does one do? I tried cutting back on my media use, but I love fashion. I think people can use clothing as a means of expression. Fashion is art. Am I to deny that form of expression and my joy in viewing that artistry in others? That doesn't seem right to me. However, I think fashion should be more accessible and inclusive.

SJP's claim that "fashion is not a luxury, it is a right" is not correct. Technically, fashion began when a middle class emerged that had enough money to purchase the styles that royalty wore. However, fashion is no longer in the hands of the elite. Using New York Magazine's Look Book and the grunge trend of the 1990's as examples, fashion can be influenced by artists with little money. But money helps.

Beyond money, I say that fashion isn't accessible to all because great clothes do not come in all shapes and sizes. A 5'6", size-6 woman is able to find clothes in almost any store that fit her. She can pick and choose items according to her personal style. A 5'6", size-20 woman has very limited options in terms of clothing. The clothing that fits her is likely to be bland. Fashionable zaftig women must be creative to inject style into their outfits.

I'm up to the challenge. I'm bright, sassy and creative. I make do with what the stores offer, but how daft are they to ignore this growing (pun not intended) market? How hard is it for designers to understand that cap sleeves are not flattering on a lot of women? Or that plus-sizes do not require elastic waists?

I am all for promoting fit and healthy lifestyles, but I do not think that means larger-sized people shouldn't be able to dress themselves attractively. Fashion IS a luxury, but it should be more accesible.