Tag Archives: What Not to Wear

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!

Fashion Isn’t Frivolous!

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I have always enjoyed clothes and shopping, but over the years I’ve also come to learn the power of what we wear to help improve our body image.

I’m not necessarily referring to being a “fashionista” or a slave to trends, but rather the way that clothing can help to enhance our positive points and encourage body acceptance.

“What Not to Wear”

I’m sure many of you have seen the television show, “What Not to Wear.”  In case you aren’t familiar with this program, the premise is that a woman gets nominated for a makeover by a friend or family member because she dresses in a way that’s either frumpy, age inappropriate, or just plain over the top.   That person then gets “ambushed” by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, and is shown secret footage of her “crimes against fashion.”

The hosts then throw away virtually all of her clothes (actually, the clothes are donated to charity) and give her “rules” to shop for new clothes that will best suit her body and lifestyle.  She is given $5,000 to shop for a new wardrobe and is also treated to a make-up consultation and a new hairstyle.   In the end, all of the women look infinitely better, and many of them also appear ten years younger and ten pounds thinner, all through the magic of clothing.

An Added Benefit…

The fact that the women look better is no big surprise.  It stands to reason that a new wardrobe, a flattering hairstyle, and professional make-up would make anyone shine.  What’s not so obvious is the transformation which takes place in the women’s confidence and body image.  They all stand up straighter, smile more, and reflect a genuine glow and sense of pride in themselves.

Many of them actually seem like different people in terms of their attitude and demeanor, in addition to their appearance.  It is a joy to watch the metamorphosis that takes place in the makeover contestants, and I don’t doubt that they end up experiencing a higher degree of self-esteem and happiness once they return to their everyday lives.

My Personal Experience

During my many years of struggling with eating disorders and negative body image, I adopted a kind of “quirky and bohemian” style of dress that primarily consisted of loose-fitting garments in which I could hide my body.  I always did my best to look nice and paid special attention to my grooming and accessorizing, yet my clothes didn’t flatter me nearly as well as they could.

As I entered my late 30s and was inching ever closer to the big 4-0, I decided it was time for a change.  Over the next few years, I gradually transformed the way I dressed.  I began to wear more form-fitting clothing that showcased the positive aspects of my figure.  Along the way, I started to feel better about my body.  I found myself feeling slimmer and more proportionate, as well as more vibrant, attractive, and confident.

I sometimes still struggle with body image issues and have days when I feel fat and down on myself.  But if I take the time to dress in attractive and flattering clothing, I get a boost of energy and a shot of extra self-esteem.  What I wear really does make a difference!  Clothing helps me to take more pride in my appearance and my body.

At age 45, I feel like I look better than I’ve ever looked!  Even though my weight may be a bit higher than my personal ideal, I can see that I look good in what I wear.  I am gradually learning to accept my body as it is and stop striving to reach unrealistic ideals.  If I wear clothing that fits, but doesn’t pinch or bind anywhere, I feel slimmer and more readily accept my present weight and size.

When I shop, I buy items that fit me now, not 5 or 10 pounds from now.  The size number is becoming less important to me as I focus more on fit and style.  After all, who else sees your size tag besides you?  If it bothers you too much, you can always cut it off!  I used to do that, but now I am more able to let it go and enjoy having clothes that fit, regardless of the number.

The Power of Clothing

Some will still say that fashion is frivolous, but I have a very different view.  I believe that clothing has the power to help us look and feel better, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or especially time-consuming.  Once you determine what looks good on you, you can apply the same basic formula to a variety of outfits and occasions, and you can find beautiful pieces at all price points.  While I love to shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, I have found some fabulous pieces at Target and JC Penney as well.    No one need know where you bought what you’re wearing; they will just notice how fabulous you look!