Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh For A Kind And Good Tailor and A Few Do's

Tweets roll by until there is The One that makes you gasp. Well, I did just gasp, roll my eyes, smack my table, get up and pace for a minute. 

First you need to know that I've always cheered for the Don't Do This group, a by-product of my middle school years where I had almost daily visits to the Vice Principal of Skirts. Slouching didn't always work to get my skirt to touch the floor while kneeling awkwardly and her almost gleeful glints of something I couldn't name made me cross. In my thoughts, of course; in real time I apologized and promised to do better. I'd really thought my years of kneeling in Catholic school classrooms (catechism, not punishment; rulers were the scarier thing then) were over. My first lessons is fashion prejudice. 

Years later in Paris near Claude Montana's Rue St. Denis quirky neighborhood (a mix of sex shops and pizza stores) I tried to remember to carry a YSL shawl I liked to boldly throw on with the name showing. For some reason, labels and recognizable designer logos embarrassed me (I liked Bottega best back then because they didn't do initial bags). It was necessary to not look too fashionable (Issey Miyake coats were rather grand) because the drivers preferred neat to edge and it always rained when we needed a taxi. Most simply disappeared and the rest had drivers wagging a finger at us for trying to hail a cab in the rain. Sigh. Season after season. The magazine editors had cars, by the way.

Maybe because fashion requires so many judgements as a buyer, I hate being judgmental about fashion and beauty.  My favorite, sometimes very humbling, exercise is at airports with the requirement that I find at least one thing that I like about each person I see. Yelling people excused. Shudder.

The tweet is very friendly and actually comes from a fashion professional. Well, that makes it worse, I think. The tweet is this:

Don't bother saving anything that just doesn't fit you anymore. Ill-fitting clothes are absolutely DEADLY for the self-esteem #fashion

Oh dear. That is so not what I believe. I recently took two Gary Graham chiffon sort of Stevie Nicks wonderful dresses (ok, they were identical but I did get them on sale) to my alteration lady. There were three layers of dreamy chiffon and sort of a handkerchief hem that made the dresses so special. Actually too special for me. I love to wear beautiful dresses like this with tights and boots, sometimes with (I never got over grunge) skin tight jeans and someone's ballet flats. Nancy shopped the hems to make them all straight and it's "normal" with most of the Stevie thing removed, just the memory left. Two lovely skirts seemed just too long and the waist needed to be taken in (several of my skirts were meant to be worn below the waist and I'm very tired of that look). Maybe because we once had two seamstresses in our Beverly Hills store (it was normal back then to absolutely adjust everything to perfection) I picked up the habit of changing things to my way. OK, maybe I shouldn't have to some early John Galliano jackets from his earliest collections when fit was more unusual (nicely said, thank you) - they were his pieces but they did have to fit to be sold.

DO make friends with two tailors (seamstresses, alterations people: not sure how to phrase this). One for serious work involving taking things in all over, adjusting narrowness of sleeves and pants, removing waistbands to change the fit - this one will charge a lot and it's worth it. One step closer to custom. I think that most dry cleaners offer amazingly inexpensive hems for skirts (plain skirts, not those doubled ballooned picquet hem things) and simple hems for pants. Do it. Smile and say thank you; you'll have someone who cares.

DO remove the plastic bags by the way. Many (most?) dry cleaners use things that linger a bit on your freshly cleaned clothes. Air them out, change hangers (Mommy Dearest in mind here) and do not stuff them into your closet.

DO look at your shoes, boots, bags and at the first scuff, smudge, seam ... get them to the best shoe repair shop you can find. For some reason, my black Balenciaga motorcycle bag became my security blanket during the darkest days of my divorce (years, sigh). Twice a year I gave it up to be moisturized, cleaned, attended to (spa day?) and then when Lehman's collapsed and we all had financial insecurity, I stuck with it. The divorce ended and I do have an obscenely extravagant fuchsia Lanvin bag with those floppy flowers (my kids bought it for me).

DO get rid of anything that is frayed, that you hated every time you wore it guiltily, that is no longer your style, that reminds you of someone and you do not want to go there. Donate, trade off with friends, eBay ... choices.

DO have a system that you like for your clothes. I like dark things together and then whites (well that's about it for me) and then the handful of prints or (gasp) color.

DO stuff your boots, shoes, bags with the tissue paper that nice shops wrap your things in. It's just nice.

DO NOT get rid of things you love that you haven't worn in a year. Silly rule - ignore it.

DO take your suede shoes, boots and bags to the shoe repair shop to waterproof carefully. It's a nasty spray that can glop. It costs hardly anything and it works.

DO NOT listen to other people's rules because they are in fashion ... Take what you like and leave the rest behind works here too.

DO NOT ever ever ever wear a white anything that should have been washed. That's not grunge; that's a serious mistake.

DO what you love. Life is short and once you're out of school, there is no Vice Principal of Skirts.

DO find that nice thing about someone else because you'll be happier.


  1. Great post as always! Great tips! The biggest mistake I always make is donating clothes that I haven't worn in years then regretting it. It also makes me soooo sad when something that I love simply wears out (pilly) and I can't find a like replacement...saddest day ever!
    Thanks for the words of wisdom!

  2. I know, knits are the hardest to work with. Pilling and itsy holes. Some of my fave cashmere cardigans have become bed sweaters. Hate putting the heat on and hate being cold. Best ...

  3. I am a HUGE fan of alterations! I take everything to Jean at Ghost Tailor in New York. She works miracles. People who don't know a good tailor are giving up on their clothes way too easily!

  4. I so agree. I do something to almost everything I buy. Cannot begin to understand how someone would say no I can't have that because it's too long.

  5. I just Twittered this—I couldn't agree more! Especially the one about not listening to other people's fashion advice for you—I'm convinced that the only way to develop personal style is to Never, Ever watch so-called "fashion police" and to throw out all your fashion magazines for a few years.

    Tailors and cobblers are our best friends, plus, I need to hang on to a couple of sizes in my wardrobe. My weight isn't perfectly consistent from season to season, and I won't apologize for that!

  6. Ali, thank you so much. It's terrible that fashion people just wave one liners without a lot of wisdom, compassion or, umm, savvy.

    Not me standing in line for H&M Lanvin, no ... but elbows out at the sales that are coming of the real stuff which I will cherish, and apologize for stepping on someone's toes.

  7. Madeleine, you're so right! when are we going to get over this inane "consumption is always good" obsession as a society? I also like to sew my own: recommended for the therapeutic benefits, if not the finish. And let's not forget one more alternative to chucking or keeping: swapping! Curated of course. This is exactly why i created refashioner -- make it safe and exciting for fashion snobs like me to recycle... Xkate

  8. Kate, you're so right ... love what you do.

  9. I completely agree. I think maybe this tweet is applicable to the fashion novices. People who know what's good, valuable, sentimental or just simply too beautiful to part with, know what to keep.

  10. I agree with everything you said and I think the tweet is very misleading. Because many ill-fitting things can be altered as you suggested, but also because 'ill-fitting' can often be a good thing, i.e. a lot of people I know prefer to pick something a size larger to add a more casual slouch. Cobblers, dry-cleaners and seamstresses are definitely a best friend though!

  11. Agree, agree ... I love picking up something I love too big and fixing it up.

    Just so condescending to say and the thing is that I am sure she meant well.

  12. This is such a perfect post! Did you really have a Vice Principal of Skirts? Haha. My school did have an intense dress code, or should I say, "skirt code", in the middle school years.

    And I definitely agree that no one should keep clothes that simply do not fit anymore.


    Best wishes,


  13. I agree with you. Why throw things out when you can just alter them.

  14. This is brilliant, every single tip you share is spot-on, alterations can make and/or save a garment. (As can a good shoe repairman.)

    Love your mention of the bag as your security blanket during the dark days, I had a similar attachment to a necklace.

    Sending you a smile,

  15. I love that you say dont follow any rules but your own. My mom is constantly reading style books about how to dress and religious about following the rules they set out for her. I hate it and I've tried to tell her know should be telling her how to dress but herself. I love wearing things that go aganist the rules its fun for me. Your blog is amazing and I love how you write.



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