If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Shopping For Clothes

Picking Out the Right Clothes

One of the responsibilities of being an adult is picking out your own clothes. It can be a challenge for many reasons. Clothes can be very expensive, making shopping stressful. There’s no expert to tell you what size you are (waist, hip, bust, leg, collar). Even if you know, sizes on clothes can be deceiving. Every company has a slightly different system. You might be an S in one store and an XS in another. This is why it’s important that you try on everything before you buy it. And...

if it doesn’t fit, no matter how much you like it, don’t buy it! It might look good, but it won’t look good on you.

If you’re buying for someone else, keep the tags (cenovka) on, and keep a receipt (učet) so they can return it. At some stores you can request a gift receipt that doesn’t list the price.

Sales assistants usually aren't very helpful. Their main goal is to make money, so they'll tell you anything to get a sale. If you want a second opinion, bring a friend. If you buy the wrong clothes you might look funny, and/or unprofessional.

There are fashion rules, but they’re hard to find, and they change according to body type, age, and social setting. A good TV show that explained these rules was TLC’s What Not to Wear, with hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly (It just ended this year)

On this show, two fashion experts would help a hopeless person find the clothes and rules that work for them, in a complete fashion makeover – changing their hair, makeup, and wardrobe.

It’s a great show to discuss both fashion rules and fashion ethics. Let’s start with the rules:

1. Your clothes should be comfortable. If they’re not comfortable, don’t wear them. The idea that you have to suffer (trpieť) for fashion is false. So, don’t buy something that’s too small. It won’t look or feel good. Especially avoid any pants that wrinkle, crease, or pull at the crotch.

2. Oversized, baggy, shapeless clothes are comfortable, but they look silly! Many people think they can hide their bodies in big clothes, but it actually makes them look even bigger.
You don’t need to look like a pile of clothes to be comfortable. Buy clothes that fit your body. That means they’re snug, not skin-tight. And, if you’re overweight, there are ways to hide your bulk – a blouse or dress with a ruched waist...
or chevron stripes...
can draw attention away from a big belly.

3. Don’t hold on to old clothes for sentimental value, especially if they’re worn-out. If you’ve worn them a long time, you probably have photos of you wearing them. Keep the photos, not the clothes. There’s no need to look like a homeless person. And don’t wear them around the house or you’ll get in the habit of wearing them outside.

4. Buy clothes that are right for your height, age, skin tone, and body type – buy clothing that compliments (chváliť) your body, that brings it closer to ideal proportions.
For a heavyset woman, look for a dress that’s slim at the waist and fuller (wider) at the bottom.

Also look for wide leg trousers. If you have big, broad shoulders, don’t wear a puffy sleeve. If you have small slumped shoulders, those bigger sleeves are a good idea. If you’re bulky up top, avoid large, billowy shirts. If you’re really thin, maybe that billowy shirt is a good idea.

If you’re very tall, you probably don’t need high heel shoes. If you’re short, maybe those high heels are a good idea, and a high-waist dress or skirt will make your legs look longer. Another way to look taller is with a V-neck top:

It makes your neck seem longer. If you feel it’s too revealing, wear a camisole underneath.

As for age, if you’re an adult, you might not want to wear pigtails,

Also, note the clashing colors.
or school uniforms (especially not 1950's Ireland):

This is what happens when you let your grandmother
dress you, your whole life...

5. For women, look for clothing that gives you an hourglass figure – structured, or fitted shirts and jackets, with pleats that make them snug at the waist:

 You might find a blouse with draw strings at the waist that you can cinch (tie tighter).

6. Never wear anything that looks like it was made from a cheap, old piece of furniture, like some couch from the 1970’s. The material is important.
7. Make sure your clothing is appropriate for a social situation. You might look great in jeans and a T-shirt, but it’s not the right look for a business meeting.

Neither is a miniskirt. A knee length skirt is great because it’s long enough to be professional, and short enough to be flirty for after work. If you want to look professional, your clothes should look crisp and ironed. Meanwhile, crocs and sandals might be comfortable at home, but they’re not right for the dance floor.

8. Don’t be afraid of color, but don’t over-do it either. Everything you wear doesn’t have to be a bright, saturated color. Balance is key, just as in painting. You can balance bright and dull (mutná) colors, just as you can balance busy patterns and prints with solid colors, to give the eye somewhere to rest.

Don’t worry about matching colours, that’s outdated. They don’t need to match (to be the same), they just need to go together (look nice), meaning they’re in the same colour family.

If you're not careful, though, your colours might clash. To clash means to fight. We use the word for when two armies fight, when pots and pans fall on the floor, and when two items of clothing don't go together.

Colours typically clash either when they're slightly different shades:

The trousers are lighter than the jacket

or when they're complimentary - a stupid word, considering they don't compliment each other at all. Complimentary colours are those that sit on opposite ends of the color wheel:

They don't usually look very nice together:

Do your eyes hurt?
Clothes clash even more when the colours are bright and saturated:

Gucci tried making clashing fashionable last winter.

and, when the colours are combined in complicated patterns, it can be nauseating:

How's your stomach? Does it hurt looking at this?

Fashion designers often experiment with clashing colours as part of finding new ideas. One bit of advice is, if you're going to clash, you might want to separate them, spacing them out with a neutral black or metallic colour in between. And, make sure it looks like you did it on purpose.

9. Look for clothes that are multi-functional, meaning it’s acceptable to wear them in different situations. For example, a dark, denim jacket can be casual, yet still nice at work. A neutral color shoe, like a brown, grey, or black, will go with anything.

10. As a man, I know next to nothing about makeup, but I do know that it's not supposed to be obvious that you're wearing it. Fake never looks good, anywhere. If we can tell you're wearing makeup, that's not good, unless you're in a parade or something.

Fashion Ethics

As helpful as this show is, it does raise a few concerns. One has to do with materialism. How much should one care about physical appearances? When is it healthy, and when is it vain? And, how much money is too much to spend on clothes? Afterall, the people on this show get $5,000 to spend in two days. Is that much really necessary?

And, do the new looks really reflect who these people are? Some of the women simply look better, but some look like they've been dressed up to play a completely different character:

I think it's hit or miss, whether the person feels comfortable in their new look, and there's something destructive in the message of the show - telling someone she can't do the simple act of dressing herself well, but then boosting their ego with superficial things like an expensive new jacket or shoes.

There's a narrative to this program around the idea of a woman learning to be more feminine and sexy so she can find a man and be happy - that without a man she won't be, and that men want a woman who's pretty and sensual. It's a shallow message. There's an air of desperation to it, as if these women were being told, "You couldn't possibly get a man the way you look now. You need to change." And, that makes me wonder if the show really boosts anyone's self-confidence.

There is something good about being pushed out of your comfort zone, and trying new things. There's also no harm in dressing differently or changing your hair style. It all depends on what you're being pushed into. Often times the women  all end up looking a bit like clones at the end of the show. Some seem uncomfortable, but, then again, some seem completely clueless, and they'll follow any advice that sounds reasonable. Some need more help than others.

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