Quick Tip: Easy Way to Create a More Interesting Outfit

Ever have an outfit on and you look at it and it looks fine, but also kind of boring? Or you have a great outfit, but you just can’t find the right accessories? Here’s an idea: Try adding an accessory that you expect to be completely terrible.

Most of the time…. yeah, it will look a little terrible, and you will have a good laugh. But in my experience, 1 out of 3 times, you will actually discover a combination that has just the perfect amount of “wrong-but-somehow-oh-soooooooooo-right” appeal. (Like this amazing grunge beanie/brightly colored tailored suit combo).Unexpected Combo

Bonus: It will help you stay open minded about what kinds of things can go together, and help you stay fearless about experimenting!

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8 Easy Ways to Recognize And Avoid Low Quality Clothing When You See It!

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1. The seams aren’t straight or have loose threads. 

One of the fastest way to determine the quality of an item is to turn it inside out and look at the seams! If the seam has loose threads, is not straight, or appears to have been stitched over multiple times, the item is not good quality. You can also grab the fabric on either side of the seam and gently pull it apart a little. If the fabric at the seam separates, the seam is very weak and was most likely poorly sewn.

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2. The fabric is mostly synthetic or poor quality.

First step, read the fabric tag. Ideally, you would want the fabric to be mostly natural fibers (cotton, wool, angora etc.) rather than synthetic fibers (polyester, rayon, viscose etc.). There is a big drop in quality when you drop below 80% natural fiber.  Fabric with mostly natural fibers and somewhere around 1-5% synthetic fibers (particularly lycra and elasthane) is more likely to retain it’s shape without getting baggy over time. Also, viscose is one of the fastest synthetic fibers to stretch, pill, and generally fall apart. So don’t buy viscose if you want to be able to wear the item over and over.

Second step, inspect the fabric. Run your hands over it and look for flaws. Grab a section and crumple it in your hand for 10-20 seconds and then release.  If it retains tons of wrinkles, steer clear. If it retains no wrinkles at all, steer clear. Hold the fabric up to the light and stretch the fabric to see how tightly woven it is, and how much give it has. A thin low quality cotton will have lots of give and let through lots of light, in comparison to a higher quality cotton.  

3. There are no facings or interfacings. 

If there are no facings or interfacings, the item will quickly get that rumpled sad baggy look that cheap items get after a few wears. Interfacing is a strong fabric sewn in between the layers of a garment to help it hold its structure. Facing is a piece of fabric inside a garment opening, like a sleeve or neck opening, that enclose the raw edge of the fabric. Both facings and interfacings help a garment hold its shape. You especially need them on blazers and skirts/pants. There should be interfacings around the waistband, by the buttons, on the collar and shoulders, at the edge of the sleeve, and on the hem. You can see facing just by turning the item inside out, and you can tell whether there is interfacing by feeling around where it should be. Cheap clothing manufacturers will often skip facings/interfacings to save money, and the garment will look just fine on the hanger, but it will quickly become misshapen after several wears.

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4. The garment doesn’t have a lining. 

Well ok, not all articles of clothing need a lining, but the kinds that do need one really really do need it. Linings seriously prolong the life of an article of clothing by providing some slip when you put a garment on or move around in it, which minimizes stretching of the garment fabric. This keeps the fabric from getting misshapen and baggy, especially in key movement areas like the elbows, knees, and butt. Linings also protect the outer shell from sweat and skin oils. If you buy a skirt that doesn’t have a lining, you can actually accomplish the same thing by wearing a slip underneath the skirt.

5. The buttonholes are flimsy.

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Make Getting Dressed Easy – Pick a Uniform!

Ever notice how so many designers wear the same outfits over and over again?

Vera Wang

Michael Kors

Carolina Herrera

Trying to create a new and interesting outfit every single day is stressful (not to mention a huge time-suck).  But you want to dress well because it affects affects how you feel about yourself and even how well you perform at work and in life (see this article from the Washington Post). The solution to this problem is easier than you think: develop a uniform.  Great designers and fashion icons have been doing this for years because you get all the benefits of dressing well, without having to reinvent the wheel every day.  You can wear your uniform as often or a little as you like, but the point is, when you need it, it’s there for you.  Here’s what you need to know to make this work for you:

WHAT A UNIFORM SHOULD DO:  

1. It should reflect your personality and values.  When you wear it, you should feel comfortable, confident, and like yourself. 

2. It should be tailored to your every day life. If you are an attorney, it should inspire confidence and be able to make it to 10 pm without wrinkling too much.  If you are a stay at home mom, it should do absolutely everything including the dishes and never ask for a day off or a thank you. Just kidding, it should be durable, comfortable, and washable.

3. It should bolster the rest of your wardrobe. To be economical, the items in your uniform should be able to do double-duty with the rest of the items in your wardrobe.

HOW TO CREATE A UNIFORM

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Myth: You Can’t Wear Brown Shoes with Black

This is a pretty common misconception, and you may already know this, but you really can wear brown shoes with a black outfit. People mistakenly think black and brown don’t go together because of the old men’s fashion guideline about wearing black shoes with a black suit.  In fact, its actually really easy to mix black and brown because they are both neutrals. Still, you want to look like you did it on purpose.  Here are a couple tips on getting started:

The most foolproof way is to get a pair of shoes that are both black and brown, like the pair below by Jeffrey Campbell. These can be worn with any black outfit.

You can buys these at FreePeople.com

Not entirely foolproof, but still pretty easy is incorporate another brown item into the outfit (like a leopard print scarf, or a brown bag):

Or, incorporate cream into the outfit. It makes the contrast between the brown and black not so stark:

Final tip, its easier to start out with unusual shades of brown, like a deep reddish brown or a light orangey brown like this girl:

So feel free to mix your brown shoes with your black clothes from now on.  And don’t over think it. If it looks good to you, then go for it!

How to Mix Prints Without Looking Crazy

If you mix prints well, it can be a lot of fun. If you aren’t thoughtful about it, it can make you look like a 6 year old. Here’s what you need to know to keep from being that 6 year old…

Challenge 1: Unity

The biggest challenge when you are mixing prints is creating a sense of unity, and the bigger and bolder the prints you use, the harder you are going to have to work to establish unity.  You can do this using any of the elements, but the easiest way to do this is either to repeat the same color palette in each print, like this:

Or use the same print (or a very similar print) in two different colors. Like with this Diane Von Furstenberg piece…

Challenge 2: Balance

It can be hard to keep a visual balance if you are using prints that vary in value or scale.  Think about the visual weight of each piece.  A print with a larger scale typically carries more visual weight, and darker colors carry more weight.  So if you do a larger and darker print on bottom, you will need to balance that out somehow. One way is to throw a something else dark on top, like this girl:   

Cheat: “Neutral Prints”

Some prints, like stripes, polka dots, or or naturally-colored animal prints, can be used as neutrals, in which case you can be a bit more lax about incorporating that piece into your color or pattern scheme.  Like this:

There are a lot of ways to maintain unity and balance while mixing prints it can get really sophisticated and abstract, but stick to the easy stuff until you get the hang of it.  If you are going to do two large prints, maybe stick with a black and white color palette.  Or if you are going to do color, maybe keep one of the prints very small so that the emphasis stays on the larger print. And don’t forget to have fun and keep a sense of humor with it.

Elements and Principles of Design

I think people would have a lot more fun with fashion and be less afraid of it if we thought about it more in the terms of the elements and principles of design. The elements/principles provide a framework for analyzing the aesthetics of an outfit. The fun part is finding an interesting way to use the elements to apply, stretch, or challenge the principles. I couldn’t find an authoritative list of the elements/principles anywhere, so I tried to combine the multiple sources I found to make a decent list, and here’s the best I could come up with.  If anyone knows a better one, please let me know!

ELEMENTS:

Line: This includes lines that are on the fabric (like stripes) and the line that is created by the edge of garments.

Form/Silhouette: Form is any three dimentional object.  Form can be organic or geometric. I’m not sure whether Silhouette should fall under line or form, but either way, it’s the outline created by the clothing.

Color: Color has three main characteristics: hue or its name (red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is)

Shape: defined as an area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a defined or implied boundary, or because of differences of value, color, or texture

Texture: the way a surface feels or is perceived to feel. Texture can attract or repel interest to an element, depending on the pleasantness of the texture.

PRINCIPLES:

Balance: Balance is the a state of equalized tension and equilibrium, which may not always be calm. It relates to our physical sense of balance, and creates visual stability.  Balance can take multiple forms, including symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial, mosaic.

Proportion: Proportion refers to the relative size and scale of the various elements in a design. The issue is not just the size of an element, but the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole. Viewing distorted proportions typically makes people feel uncomfortable.

Rhythm: Rhythm creates an easy, connected path along which the eye follows a regular arrangement of motifs. The presence of rhythm creates predictability and order in a composition.

Emphasis:It marks the locations which most strongly draw the viewers attention. Usually there is a primary point of emphasis, possibly with secondary emphases in other parts of the composition. The emphasis is usually an interruption in the fundamental pattern or movement of the viewers eye through the composition, or a break in the rhythm

Unity: Unity is the underlying principle that summarizes all of the principles and elements of design. It refers to the coherence of the whole, the sense that all of the parts are working together to achieve a common result; a harmony of all the parts

Contrast & Variety: (maybe): These was on quite a few lists, but not all. It seems to me to be somewhere in between an element and a principle. Basically the gist is that too little contrast/variety is boring, but too much can be overwhelming and/or distracting.