Learning from my mistakes

( photo credit: Sandra Juto )

Some days I think I'm a bore. I've been trying for a while now to branch out of my comfort zone into something a less predictable and unfamiliar. I don't usually wear dresses  but for some reason, a  few months ago I bought a handmade dress that didn't quite turn out to fit me (not that it was the maker's fault, it was advertised as being cut in a 'relaxed fit'). Last winter, I bought a wool dress that ran both wide and short, again, being tailored and marketed as somewhat relaxed. I recently bought an oversized sweater for an insane amount of money because (a) I was misinformed about the sizing and (b) it looked too damn good. It's now languishing in my closet, waiting to be resold.

I'm not sure what my "branching out" constitutes, but I think that the whole oversized, relaxed ideal of style doesn't really work for me even though I want it to. I keep forgetting that I am only 5'1" with ample hips and narrow shoulders and that anything that is wider than short is going to make me look like a runaway cupcake.  It's a little depressing sometimes when height and size works against you such that the smallest item from APC runs long and what is sometimes marketed as "fitted" actually becomes boxy against a backdrop of a non-existent chest.

I have gotten into the habit of shrinking my clothes in the washer and dryer whenever I can - I have an Alexander Wang jacket that ran big in the bust, so I threw it into dryer and now it looks like an outfit for juggling midgets. Alas, many articles of clothing I own are slightly less robust now than when I first got it, after a 40 minute stint in the mighty Whirlpool home shrinking contraption. I know I should start investing in a tailor, but a good one is hard to come by and the good ones would most certainly mean that I'm paying twice as much for an item of clothing. If I'm already paying an amount that would feed a small country, I don't know if I want to indulge in a tailor. Off the rack should mean exactly that, right? Off. The. Effin'. Rack!

I've come to the realization that the things that work for me - jeans, button downs, tee shirt and sweaters may be ubiquitously boring, but maybe I should learn from my mistakes and avoid spending copious amounts on something that I can never quite pull off and embrace the fact that I will never be able to look like a slouchy gamine (genetics, I blame genetics!) or a Zooey Deschanel wannabe. And I guess in retrospect, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing after all.

14 comments :

  1. maybe an option would be to never buy things online, but at least online stores tend to have better return policies that normal boutiques. I have the opposite problem with APC, I'm 5'6" and the smallest size tends to be about an inch short for me

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  2. @Anonymous
    Are you 5'6" and an XS? I can see that being a problem as well. It's hard not being part of the "regular" demographic, whatever the model clothing company use.

    Unfortunately I really hate going into stores and even when I do go into stores, I can never find something I like or they are out of sizes. That's why I like sticking to few brands I know would fit me, boring as it is. C'est la vie.

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  3. I think we actually have a very similar body shape, based on your description, and I tend to wear a lot of the oversized, boxy, relaxed kind of styles. Yet I can totally see how you wouldn't feel comfortable in those types of styles ... sometimes I think it's a matter of being used to a certain cut or look on you. Like no matter what, I can never feel right in a button down shirt, no matter how much I enjoy the look on others. To me, the bad thing about fashion blogger or going on fashion forums is that little bit of pressure to look interesting, to wear things in unexpected ways, to never wear the same designer head to toe. I've slowly learned to not care about those things so much. Who cares if other people think it's boring if you feel comfortable and enjoy what you're wearing? Lovely blog, btw

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  4. Slouchy gamine is really hard to pull off when you're under 5'8. Maybe those big slouchy pieces in your wardrobe will work if you pair them a bit differently? A loose cardigan with slim shorts and oxfords has a nice balance. It's boyish and it'll still flatter your shape, especially if it's all within the same color family. I know you don't like belting your dresses but try it with the handmade one and add a slim cardigan. You could also layer a pull-over on top and work it as a two-piece. Or just wear it with a scarf. Scarves makes everything look intentional and stylish. :)

    If all else fails, just bite the bullet and get them tailored. The price does add up, but think of it as an extra $30-40 for a "new" dress that fits you perfectly and makes you happy.

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  5. I'm 5'3 with a pear-shaped body (31-25-36), and I know what you mean about slouchy clothing. I think my greatest physical asset is my, well, ass and slouchy clothing doesn't quite do that justice, if you know what I mean. All the same, I have come to accept my tailor as part of my clothing expenditure and I simply buy less to accommodate that luxury. In my opinion, one dress that fits well is worth more than the opportunity to buy many dresses that may or may not fit right. I don't know about the area where you live, but I found my tailor because of the line they had outside their door.

    The cost of tailoring has never cost more than 40USD for me, and the fact they're Chinese is an added bonus since we can converse with greater ease (plus, the fact we're friends makes it less likely for them to rip me off--I will really miss them when I leave!). I get practically everything tailored: pants always need to be hemmed, skirts always need to be adjusted, suits need to be taken in at the bust, straps need to be shortened, etc. Sometimes I take things to them just to get their honest opinion about the fit. They have transformed clothes from barely worn to closet staple many a time!

    I really recommend a tailor--even for women who aren't short--just because off the rack almost always means 'doesn't fit hardly anyone the way it should.'

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  6. Sometimes you just have to accept it. I will never look like a vogue editor because I don't really like wearing black, and I'm okay with that. However, like 0000 said, I think tailoring is a good idea for you. Shop around, see what you can get.

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  7. @S
    Thanks for stopping by. I've always found your look pretty hard for me to pull off even though I love it and am quite envious that you're a mom and you still look fab (you and Garderoben, both!) I agree about blogs and forums putting some kind of subconscious pressure to conform and dress in a certain aesthetic, I'm not bothered by that - I'm just mostly irritated when I find that most clothing just aren't cut for people my stature.

    @Wrapped in Firs
    The last dress I altered, bust and sides taken in was $37. The dress was $258. Then I found out that I don't even like how the dress looks on me. =) Lesson learned? Always shop where there's a return policy and you get to try it on!

    @0000
    Thank you for the comment! As I'm gearing up toward a more professional wardrobe (jackets and what nots), I find that I need a tailor even more. I should be more proactive and go hunting for an actual good one where I don't have to feel nervous about getting pricey clothing altered. Hope you're enjoying China by the way.

    @Kate
    Kate, always a pleasure to read your comments. Will definitely look into finding a tailor and definitely stop whining about not being able to pull off Emmanuelle Alt, even though I think the only person who can pull of Emanuelle Alt is herself.

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  8. yeah I'm 5'6" and xs or 2-0, and I think a lot of designers make their smallest sizes for someone who is 5'4" - 5'5", which is fair I guess as thats the average height in a lot of countries. Is the sweater you are referring to the mens comme des garcons play one in your blog shop? I have tried on both and have a womens one. Its a lot shorter in the body, the xs or s would probably not be too long on you

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  9. I always thought slouchy gamine worked well on petite people - I was probably picturing Audrey Hepburn.

    In any case, oversized clothing can look silly on me because I have such broad shoulders and some clothes make me look like I'm a big square on top. But I've learn that they work in some instances, like if the top is sleeveless, if the armholes are smaller, if the sleeves can be pushed to the elbow, if I avoid overly huge dolman sleeves. And shift dresses always look better belted on me, even if I belt it loosely at the hips. I have no aversion to shopping, so I've tried enough clothes in my life to figure out what works.

    I also refuse to alter things unless it's simple length thing. You need a very good, very trustworthy tailor to do something complicated, and those aren't easy to find. And if it's something expensive, it better fit super well to begin with! That said, I have a good tailor just in case, and I use my judgement to decide whether something is worth fixing or not.

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  10. Why don't you take classes to learn how to make your clothes yourself ? Women have been doing this for centuries ,it runs in our DNA . See it as an investment to your style

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  11. @Anonymous
    I wanted to go for the whole boyfriend look but didn't realize how big the sweater turned out. I actually have another CdG pullover in size S that fits really well. So I think it must have just been the whole "relaxed menswear" thing. I read somewhere once that the average height they use in for clothing is 5'7". But I'm not sure if that's the middle of the bell curve or the lower end.

    @lin
    Unfortunately I wish I was petite ala Audrey Hepburn because she was 5'7" and 110lbs. So she's basically a waif. And thank you for understanding my predicament! I was trying to find a way to put it in the post and it got all obtuse. "I also refuse to alter things unless it's simple length thing. You need a very good, very trustworthy tailor to do something complicated, and those aren't easy to find. And if it's something expensive, it better fit super well to begin with! " My thoughts exactly.


    @angie I've thought about sewing my own clothes, but the initial investment seems to cost a little bit more than I would like, and also, I'm a supremely impatient person - I see, I buy, I wear. =)

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  12. Don't worry about these dilemmas, I find that the search for style is a neverending process. I've been dealing with it for years and always came to different conclusions. It's because we change so much as people too, and what used to work well for you might not always continue to do so. I'm glad you realized you bought some pieces because you liked the way they look on someone else, the image they created in your head - it's a great first step towards discovering "you".

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  13. i really enjoyed this post, along with the comments contributed by others (i like what Eva said, haha, cos it makes me feel better). i'm 158cm tall and people say i do the slouchy gamine look well (i'm assuming me and them are on the same frequency). i was always thinking of 'branching out' too, lately less so for about the same reasons you have.

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  14. You should try Northwest Tailors on 2nd Avenue. I'm forgetting the name of the gentleman there, but he is an amazing tailor.

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