Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Power of Alterations

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Power of Alterations

If your first thought upon seeing the title of this post is, “I never alter my clothes,” you’re not alone. With the exception of having their pants hemmed or getting wedding or formal wear tailored, most people do not alter their clothing.

In this post, I present an overview of the incredible power of alterations to help you look more stylish and polished, as well as slimmer and more attractive.  It’s amazing how some simple and often inexpensive tailoring can take garments from so-so to fabulous.

Off the Rack = Not Perfect

Most people expect clothing to fit them perfectly off the rack.  If that doesn’t end up being the case, they tend to blame their bodies and think something is wrong with the way they are shaped.  In truth, it is extremely difficult for clothing designers and manufacturers to create clothing for all of the many body shapes and sizes which are out there.  In fact, it’s next to impossible.  There are just too many possibilities and permutations!

Celebrities Tailor ALL of their Clothes!

Now you may look at celebrities in their impeccably fitting clothing, even jeans and t-shirts, and think that if you were shaped like them, your clothes would fit you like a glove.  But what you don’t know is that many celebrities have each and every thing they own tailored, right down to their tank tops, khakis, and shorts.  I have this on good authority from Clinton Kelly of “What Not to Wear” fame.  No, I didn’t speak with him personally, but it’s splashed all throughout the Internet, including in this article.

Love Your Wardrobe More & Feel Amazing

I discovered the power of alterations myself about seven years ago and I have been an “alterations junkie” ever since!  My clothes are now tailored to showcase my figure’s strong suits and skim right over those parts I don’t love as much.  Please believe me when I tell you that a tailor can help you to love your wardrobe more and feel even more amazing in what you wear.

Many Tailoring Possibilities…

Here is a list of alterations that I have personally had done to my clothes over the years or have seen done to other people’s clothing (if you are in the Point Loma area of San Diego, check out Tiffany’s Alterations – I swear by her excellent work and reasonable prices!).

Alterations for Shirts and Jackets

  1. Take in at the sides (my most common alteration!)
  2. Shorten straps on tank tops and camisoles
  3. Narrow sleeves
  4. Shorten sleeves (e.g. too short long sleeved tees can be made into ¾ length)
  5. Lengthen sleeves (take down hem or add fabric at bottom)
  6. Narrow shoulders (shoulder seam should hit at the outside of your actual shoulder)
  7. Remove or replace shoulder pads (modernize those 80s and 90s style blazers!)
  8. Take up at shoulders (give a very low-cut top a more manageable neckline)
  9. Replace buttons (can really modernize a dated look!)
  10. Shorten shirts and blouses
  11. Shorten jackets (not always possible, but can be done)
  12. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style tops (or sew shut at top)
  13. Add snaps between buttons on blouses to avoid gaping

Alterations for Pants

  1. Hem/shorten (most people know about this and have done it!)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow legs
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. Take out side or back pockets and sew shut (good for those of us with fuller hips)
  7. Make full-length pants into cropped pants or shorts
  8. Remove or add cuffs
  9. Take in seat / shorten rise (a difficult alteration but can be done)

Alterations for Skirts and Dresses

  1. Shorten (good for petites or for when styles change)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow at sides
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. If elastic waist, tighten or loosen elastic (can also replace with wider or narrower elastic)
  7. Tack down pleats
  8. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style dresses (or sew shut at top)
  9. Take in sleeves on dresses
  10. Shorten sleeves on dresses (make ¾ sleeves, short-sleeves, or sleeveless)
  11. Add sleeves (in same or contrasting fabric)
  12. Take up dress at shoulder to make less low-cut

Give Your Clothes New Life

The list above is just a sampling of the magic that can be worked by a talented and qualified tailor.  There are many other options at your disposal!  It never hurts to ask if something can be done to improve the fit and functionality of a garment.

Often, clothing items that might otherwise be tossed aside or donated can be revitalized and given new life with a visit to your local tailor.  Of course, you’ll have to decide if the alteration is worth the cost to you.  I have to admit that I’ve had occasions of “throwing good money after bad” by altering garments I probably should have let go.  But more often than not, my alterations have been of great benefit.

I hope this post has helped to open your eyes to the power of alterations.  At the very least, I hope you’ll at least consider the possibility of tailoring your clothes moving forward.  It really can make a tremendous difference and help to amp up your style!

Shop for YOUR Life!

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Shop For YOUR Life!Before you set out on a shopping trip, it’s very important to consider your lifestyle!  This tip may seem self-evident, but I can’t tell you how many shopping mistakes I’ve seen in people’s closets (not to mention my own!) because they failed to take a moment to think about their own lives before shopping.  It’s so easy to become mesmerized by all of the beautiful things in the stores and buy things for someone else’s life instead of your own.

A few personal examples may help to drive this point home.  Back in 2004, I discovered the television show, “What Not to Wear,” and began the journey of transforming my style.  As each new episode aired, I sat at the edge of my seat trying to absorb all of the fashion wisdom being doled out by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.

Blazers and Pointy-Toe Heels

In the early days of “What Not to Wear,” two wardrobe items often recommended for the makeover participants were blazers and pointy-toe heels. Being a good student, I set out to buy these “necessary” pieces, and of course I needed at least a few of each!  What I failed to consider were three very important things about myself and my life:

  1. I live in San Diego, not New York City
  2. I work from home
  3. I have very fussy feet

No Jacket Required…

Let’s take these things one at a time.  Those of you who’ve been to both San Diego and the “Big Apple” know that the two cities have very different climates and cultures.  In San Diego, most people dress very casually (I often think too casually, but that’s another topic…) and traditional style blazers are rarely seen in this town.  Of course, there are people who wear them, but those who work from home are probably not among that group!

Not only did I work from home, but even when I went out to client or networking meetings, a blazer wasn’t generally needed.  Business casual was usually as dressed up as I ever needed to be for my work at the time.  Sadly, the fabulous new blazers I dutifully purchased largely went unworn and were in nearly new condition when I donated them to charity a few years later.

“Taxi Cab Shoes” – Just Say No!

As for the shoes, I loved the way the pointy-toe pumps looked on my feet.  However, they were quickly relegated to the ranks of “taxi cab shoes,” shoes that can only be worn from the cab – or car – to the restaurant and back again.  Since I usually needed to walk more than a few feet at a time, I often found excuses not to wear my lovely new shoes.  Plus, the shoes were often too dressy for my standard attire and the occasions of my life.  Much like the blazers, the shoes were in excellent shape when they were donated.  I hope that someone ended up loving and wearing them!

I Must Confess… Shoe & Dress Transgressions

I wish I could say that I never make these types of mistakes with my shopping anymore, but I have to admit that I sometimes still shop for someone else’s life.   My largest transgressions in recent times have been in regards to shoes and dresses.  Since I still love the look of a high heel, especially with the skirts and dresses I enjoy wearing when the weather is warm, I find I have too many shoes that are not suitable for all-day walking (or even walking for a few hours at a time). Not long ago, I vowed to only buy walkable shoes and with each purchase, my feet are gradually becoming happier – and healthier.

Now about those dresses… I love to wear dresses, but some of the ones to which I am drawn are not only a bit too formal for my life, they also look their most smashing with those uncomfortable heels I wrote about above.  Since I can count the number of occasions in my life which call for a cocktail dress on one hand, I have instituted a moratorium on buying such dresses until the ones I already own have received sufficient wear.   I have learned to just say no when I pass by these lovely dresses in a store.  I may sigh a bit at first, but then I remember I’m doing the right thing and move on with my head held high.

Tips to Avoid Dressing for Someone Else’s Life

A few tips for you to use when shopping to avoid the mistakes I’ve made.

  • First, write a list of the activities in which you engage on a regular basis.
  • Then do your best to assign a percentage value to each type of activity.
  • The proportion of clothing types in your wardrobe should adhere to those percentages as closely as possible.

If, for example, only 5% of your life involves attending cocktail parties and formal events, only 5% of your wardrobe should consist of formal attire.  If you work in a business casual environment full-time and your hobbies include hiking, cycling, and going to the movies, the majority of your wardrobe should be comprised of jeans, casual pants (and skirts/dresses, if you are a woman and you wear them), casual tops, cotton jackets, and workout wear. Think Gap, Old Navy, or J. Crew, not the Men’s Wearhouse or the Special Occasion department at Nordstrom!

Do Your Homework Before You Shop!

Take a look in your closet… See what garments are getting a lot of wear and which ones are gathering dust.  Chances are the latter pieces were bought for someone else’s life!

Next time you shop, do your homework.   Create a list of what you really need for your unique life.  Be prepared when you shop and you’re much less likely to make costly mistakes!

Shopping and Body Perspective

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I recently found a journal entry I made following a shopping experience I had in 2004.  I titled my journal entry “Perspective.”  I’m sharing what I wrote eight years ago because I feel it’s still relevant today for those who struggle with body image issues. 

NOTE:  I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity and removed references to specific sizes, as such information may be “triggering” to some and is not pertinent to the overall message.

Size – It’s All Relative…

Shopping and Body Perspective

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day.  While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation between the customer in front of me and the saleswoman behind the counter.  The customer was buying a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size, a size I feel is unacceptable.  I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me.  While I would have been dismayed to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I don’t like wearing the size I am now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What depresses me thrills her.  Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.

Powerful Questions

Some powerful questions came into my mind following the above experience:

  • What would be possible for me – or for any of us – if we were to change our perspectives?
  • What if I could be grateful for wearing my current size, as well as grateful for the fact that I am basically healthy and have many advantages in life?
  • What if I could focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong in my life?

What’s Right…

Many things are right about my life.   Despite my continuing struggle with my weight and body image, a number of things are also right in that area of my life.  Here are a few things that are right for me at this point in time:

  • I no longer have lists of good and bad foods.
  • I no longer suffer from the utter tyranny of diets!!!
  • I now have a life beyond worrying about my weight and what I eat.
  • I am no longer a captive to the scale. (In fact, I no longer weigh myself at all!)
  • I am gradually learning to define myself in ways outside of what I look like, and learning to love myself for who I am instead of what size I wear.

Those are just a few things that are right in my life regarding food, weight, and body image.

Eight Years Later…

Looking back on my words from eight years ago, I am reminded of the importance of perspective in the body image recovery process.  There will always be things we don’t like about our bodies or our lives.  If we choose to focus on those things, we will be miserable and dissatisfied.  If we instead choose to focus on the areas of our lives – or our bodies – that we do like, we will experience a much greater degree of happiness and peace.

My “right things” from 2004 are still right for me!  In addition, I can add some more things to my list:

  • I am now in touch with my body and have learned to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’ve had enough.
  • My weight has leveled off at a point that is healthy and attractive, and I am able to maintain my weight fairly easily through eating nutritious foods and moderate exercise.
  • I have learned how to dress to maximize my unique figure, highlight my greatest assets, and downplay the areas that are not my best points.
  • I am able to look in the mirror and more readily see the good instead of criticizing the “negatives.”
  • I have fully committed to recovering from my negative body image (and I am making good progress!).

Closing Questions

For those of you who also struggle with body image issues, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • So what’s right for you in terms of food, weight, and body image?
  • What do you have to be grateful for in these areas?
  • How can you shift your perspective in a positive direction to help with your body image recovery?

We are all a “work in progress” and each new day presents new opportunities for growth and change.  We all deserve to love ourselves and our bodies, and shifting our perspective toward gratitude and appreciation can help us reach those goals.

Fitting Room Tips

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This is the second in my series of shopping tips to help you shop smarter and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.  I invite you to check out my first tip, “Try On Again at Home,” in case you didn’t see it when it was posted.

This tip focuses on the actual process of trying on clothes at the store.  You are trying on all of your clothes before you buy them, right?  If not, then that’s the first part of the tip.  Make sure you try everything on before you buy it!   As we all know, sizing is inconsistent, even within garments from a given manufacturer, so we can’t rely on past experiences to dictate how something will fit.

Take the Time to Try Things On

I understand that you may be in a hurry when shopping or have small children in tow, but the few moments you take to try things on can potentially save you the larger chunk of time required to make returns later.  In addition, some people won’t even take the time to return ill-fitting garments.  They’ll either end up wasting their money or wearing “it will do” clothing bought during a hurried shopping trip.

Once you enter the dressing room, I have a few pointers on how to make the most of that experience.  Following these quick and easy suggestions can help you make better choices and avoid having comfort or fit issues later.

Check Out the Rear View

If you’re shopping in higher-end stores, the fitting room will likely be equipped with a three-way mirror, or there will be one available nearby.  If so, make sure to check out the fit of your potential buys from all angles.  Something may look fabulous from the front, but not so great from the side or the back.  It’s good to know how you will appear to others in what you’re wearing.

Since many discount retailers and resale shops have smaller fitting rooms with just one flat mirror, it’s a good idea to take a small hand mirror with you when shopping.  This can be a make-up compact or a fold-up mirror that easily fits into a purse.  Such a mirror will come in handy for seeing your rear view in fitting rooms that don’t include three-way mirrors.   Simply turn around and hold the mirror in front of you until you can see your back side.  This view will provide additional data points to guide you in making your purchasing decisions.

Sit Down

When trying on pants, jeans, skirts, and dresses, it’s important to know how the garment will feel when you’re sitting down.  Fortunately, most dressing rooms include some sort of bench or chair in which you can do a “sit test.”  If no seating surface is available in the fitting room itself, it’s likely you’ll find some sort of chair in the nearby vicinity.  If not, then do your best to mimic a seating position by partially squatting in the fitting room, if you can…

To do this quick test, simply sit down and position yourself as you would be seated in your normal life situations.  If you generally cross your legs when you sit down, do so and check out how the garment moves with you.  When you stand up, notice if a lot of repositioning of the clothing is necessary.  Clothing pieces that require a lot of fidgeting and fussing throughout the day are often the ones that sit in a person’s closet unworn.  Since most of us sit down and stand up many times each day, we want to make sure our clothing moves well with us and doesn’t require a lot of adjustment as we go about our daily activities.

Move Around

When most of us try on clothing, we just stand straight and look at ourselves in the mirror to determine whether or not there is a good fit.  But how many of us stand still during our day to day life?  Not many!

To better ascertain the suitability of a garment for your life, move around in the fitting room as you normally would during the course of a typical day.  Raise your arms over your head, twist around, and bend your waist and your knees.  Notice what happens to the clothing as you do these things.  Minimal readjustment after movement may be okay, but if you have to smooth and pull at a piece a lot after you move, you might be better off saying no to buying that item.

I learned this lesson the hard way, particularly with tops.  I’ve had a number of tops that would ride right up each time I raised my arms, necessitating a lot of adjustment with every movement.  Needless to say, these tops weren’t worn much due to sheer annoyance and frustration!  I now make sure to move around in the dressing room before deciding to buy something.

Consider Companion Pieces

This last tip has to do with how we might wear a garment we’re considering buying.  If you usually tuck your shirts in and you’re buying pants, consider whether or not there is enough room to do so.  If possible, do a “tuck test” in the fitting room to be sure.

If you are buying pants or jeans and like to wear heels, notice if there is enough extra length for you to do so (or if there is a hem allowance for the appropriate alteration).  You might want to either wear your heels while shopping or tote them along with you to do a quick try-on in the fitting room.

Here’s to Saving Time and Money!

The bit of time it takes to use the tips above will hopefully save you time in making returns down the line.  Implementing my suggestions can also save you money in little worn (or unworn!) purchases due to fit and fuss issues.  If you have any other fitting room tips that I didn’t mention, please feel free to add them in the comment form below.