Let’s face it. A lot of women women can’t pluck items right off retail store racks and expect them to fit.
TV viewers who follow TLC Channel’s What Not to Wear are everywhere. Just ask any group of women huddled in conversation and there will be at least one or two who know the names of the show’s stars, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. These two fashion aficionados miraculously transform not only the facades, but also the self-perceptions of the female ‘victims’ who have been nominated by family and friends to receive a wardrobe, hair and cosmetic makeover because they need an intervention.
What is fascinating when watching these TV show transformations is that many of these women agonize over clothes shopping. Think of it. Many actually hate to shop, just when everyone thought shopping was in a woman’s DNA. One of the reasons they cite is that they have bodies for which they cannot summarily pluck items off the rack and expect them to fit their figures perfectly, so they just give up on ever finding clothes that fit. The show’s hosts point out that pants that fit a woman’s hips properly might not necessarily fit that same woman’s waist. Jackets that fit a voluptuous chest or broad shoulders may hang like a box instead of skimming a figure flatteringly. Bodies literally can change shape as the years progress, say the experts, so they advise their subjects to dress for the bodies they have now – not the ones they may have had ten or fifteen years ago.
The complaint that women can’t find clothing that fits is more an American phenomenon than a universal one. European women have used the services of dressmakers for years, choosing fabric and pattern while leaving the fit up to a skilled expert. Dressmakers and tailors are not in huge supply here in these United States, however, so most Americans are instead left to mercies of clothing store racks.
Fashion experts London and Kelly do have a solution, however. They advise women to fit their largest dimensions, no matter what the size, and get the rest of the clothing piece professionally altered to flatter their figures and fit properly. So if getting custom alterations is the answer, women are now faced with the dilemma buying high quality (higher priced) pieces that will stand the test of time and get them altered, or resort to big-box racks of less expensive clothing for which the cost of alterations may seem frivolous.
El Dorado Hills, CA-based master tailor JawidNader of EDH Custom Tailoring and alterations says that a full 95% of women and men will not find clothes to fit them off the rack. “Fit good to feel good,” is his mantra. “Clothes that fit you give you more satisfaction and you end up wearing them more often.”
Mary Sullivan Trivett, Sacramento, CA Nordstrom’s personal stylist and manager, is quick to agree. “Women tend to wear only 20% of their wardrobe,” she admits, “and they wear those clothes 80% of the time. Their closets may be filled to capacity, but (sadly) some clothes will remain unused in perpetuity. And I can’t tell you how often have I heard my clients say that they literally have ‘nothing to wear!’” Trivett says it’s all about the basics. “Buy classics,” she advises. “If they say you shouldn’t grocery-shop when you’re hungry, then don’t shop for clothes at the last minute, when you’re desperate.” She admits that there has to be a ‘wow’ factor, especially with accessories, but she also recommends avoiding trends and instead encourages her clients to buy things they truly love.
Shopping for clothing has become a more interesting task, now that there are more ways to shop for clothes than ever before. The Internet has taken a share of the market, with all the major department stores, clothing stores and even small boutiques cyber-displaying their lines. Purely online sites, like bluefly.com and Zappos.com have strong followings, along with storefront-online JCrew.com, Macys.com and Nordstrom.com.