Every time I stress the importance of fit and foundation garments and tailoring your clothing, invariably, someone blasts me for saying it, as if I am suggesting they do something as outrageous as sewing the side of their head to their living room carpet. In fact, after once making a point to set aside the budget for tailoring when shopping for clothing, I got a lengthy email full of tongue lashes for being so insensitive to the fact that many Americans are so cash-strapped and how dare I suggest spending more. I was flummoxed by how incensed this person became over my advice.
Yet, here I am dedicating an entire blog post to the importance of tailoring your clothing. Despite the reactions I get, that are so out of line with the suggestion, I still think it is important.
Given what I do for a living, and for how long I’ve been doing it, it’s just natural for me to look at what everyone is wearing. While the world is full of fashion nightmares, I really believe that most women don’t dress that badly. However, what I do think is seriously lacking in what most women wear, is proper fit. Few women dress for their body shape, less give much concern about wearing the correct foundation pieces and even fewer thinking about alterations. No, people don’t dress badly, they just wear badly fitting clothes.
Why You Need to Tailor Your Clothing and Think About Proper Foundation Pieces
Yesterday, while taking the subway, within just five minutes, I snapped these three photos below. That’s right, all it took was five minutes to find examples of women wearing perfectly fine things that would have looked even better if they took a little extra time to tweak and alter their outfits to better fit their body.
The idea for this post all started with the first photo, the woman wearing the cobalt top and black pants. Trend-wise, this woman is spot on. However, I was distracted by the poor fit of her pants. They were just too big and bagging in her thigh area. Add to that, between the fit, the shape of the top and how badly I wanted to get her refit for a bra, it forced my eye to focus right where I’m imagining she wouldn’t want the focus to be, on her hips and thighs. It’s sad really, the outfit could be super cute if she thought through the fit and foundation of what she was wearing.
Next, I saw this woman in an adorable paisley print dress. While it was cute, the length was totally wrong for her, plus the poor proportion of the cardigan made it worse. A dress like this, with a large band across the hem, makes it seem like this dress is impossible to hem, however, it’s not. All a tailor would have to do is cut off the band, shorten the dress to the right hem length for her and sew the band back on. In fact, with this alteration, the long length of the cardigan might actually look in proportion with the rest of her outfit.
Lastly, this woman in the trendy mint skinny jeans. Seriously, you can get a pair of pants hemmed for under $20 at your local dry cleaner. Here is this woman, stepping out with a colorblocked look and her skinny jeans aren’t hemmed and, instead, she rolled the excess into a 6″ cuff. Couldn’t she wait a few days to get them tailored before wearing them?
Why Most People Don’t Tailor Their Clothing
One reason women don’t tailor their clothing is because clothing is cheap. I’ve explored the fast-fashion trend on this blog in depth in the past, but, basically, given the fact that we spend more to eat out a year than we do on clothing and that we pay less for clothes when measured as a share of our income than ever in history, clothing has basically become disposable. Who in their right mind is going to pay $20 to hem a pair of pants that they spent $16 on? In essence, fast fashion hasn’t just produced cheap, shoddy clothing, but it has produced women who look cheap and shoddy.
The other reason is that the American woman of today really hasn’t embraced the idea of tailoring. I’ve had several confrontations with clients who have said to me, “If I am going to spend this much on a suit then it should fit me right. I shouldn’t have to pay for tailoring too!” To which I respond, “Well, the fact that you are investing is why you SHOULD be tailoring it!” Often, the more women spend, the better they assume the clothing should fit them. Yet, with all the proportions that women come in, this is an unrealistic expectation. In fact, my friend Jenn Rogien, costume designer for HBO’s GIRLS and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, summed it up perfectly when she said, “Clothing that fits perfectly right off the hanger should be seen as a blessing, not an expectation.” This is the mindset that women need to embrace.
Setting the Right Foundation with Your Foundation Garments
Next, I want to talk about your foundation garments, as this is another reason why women don’t look good in what they wear. Once you hit a certain age, unless you are pumping iron at the gym on a daily basis, there is a good chance that you need a little help. I know for myself that the days where a stringy little thong will work under a flimsy dress are long gone and I now give more thought to the type of underwear that I choose to wear with my clothes. For some reason, women view good foundation pieces like they view good china– only to be brought out for special occasions. Meanwhile, we ooh and ah over how womanly the characters on shows like Mad Men look all turned out and polished. If we look back at women of that era, they had a lot of support going on underneath their clothing, they thought about things like bra fit, girdles, panties that offered support, etc. Now, I’m certainly not implying that you pour yourself into a girdle, but there certainly are better alternatives than the three for $5.00 panties you fished out of some bargain bin and wore while wondering why your butt jiggled.
Our hesitance to embracing foundation garments, I think, comes from the fact that many of us are wearing them wrong. Aside from the fact that most women wear the wrong bra size, many assume that shapewear should be uncomfortable. If worn correctly, it is actually quite comfortable and supportive. In fact, I have found a good pair of Spanx to offer me back support. In addition, I believe that some women feel like failures if they resort to wearing shapewear under their clothing, sort of like needing training wheels for your bicycle. However, having seen my share of women of all shapes and sizes naked, I can assure you, no body is perfect and every body needs some support somewhere.
In the end, what I am suggesting is this: instead of going out and bloating your closet with ill-fitting, disposable trends that you don’t care enough about to take care of, alter, mend or that look right on your body, think about buying less, buying better and putting some of your wardrobe money towards alterations. Trust me, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than it is to find a pair of pants for $7.00 that fit you like a glove. Wouldn’t you rather have less that looks good vs. a lot of stuff that makes you look as schlocky as the clothing itself? Secondly, think of your outfit beyond just the clothing that people see, look at your foundation garments similarly to how you see the foundation of a home or building. A bad foundation won’t support a building, just like bad foundation garments won’t support you.