Eliminating Fashion Confusion
In This Chapter
▶ Fashion consultants and what they can do for you
▶ Using the services of a personal shopper
▶ How fashion magazines, Webzines, and TV programs can help
Keeping up with fashion is a full time job and you probably already have at least two of those! Luckily there are people who earn their living by keeping track of what Paris, New York, and Milan are producing, and in this chapter I show you who the best ones are and how to make use of their skills.
Calling In the Pros
Most professionals don’t perform their respective service on themselves. Obviously there are many procedures that doctors or dentists couldn’t do for themselves even if they wanted to, but even most lawyers seek outside counsel if they run into a legal problem. And the reason is that when it comes to a personal problem, your emotions can get in the way of your reasoning ability and cause you to make mistakes. (How many women hang onto their long hair when in fact they’d look far better with a shorter haircut? Check out the “Ambush Makeovers” I do every Friday on Today, and you’ll know the answer is “Too many!”).
The point? When it comes to creating (or refining) your style, you can probably use a professional fashion expert. If you tend to look like the woman in Figure 8-1 when you try to get dressed up, maybe the time has come for you to consult with an expert. Fortunately, you have a few options to get the help you need.
The following sections describe what fashion consultants and personal shoppers do and explain where you can get help even if you’re shopping online. To find out how fashion media can help, head to the later section “Fashion Media: Where to Look for Fashion and Style Help.”
There are two basic services a professional fashion expert can offer:
✓ Teaching you how to dress in general, using the clothes you have and/or adding to your wardrobe
✓ Selecting what you need to wear for a particular event, which usually means going out to shop for you
In many cases, one person does both, but because you can hire a professional to do one or the other, you have to let them know what services you require.
Figure 8-1: Don’t know which pieces work together and which don’t? Time to call in the pros.
Using a professional consultant
If you have some money in your budget to spare, hiring a fashion consultant may be the route for you.When you pay for something, you tend to put more importance on it. If a friend tells you to stop wearing so much black, you may not heed her advice, but if a trained professional whom you’re paying tells you the same thing, you are more likely to listen up! (The woman who wrote this book with us, Dana Ravich, is actually my consultant whenever I have a question about something!)
There are distinctions between a fashion consultant and a fashion stylist. A fashion consultant generally works with private clients, while a fashion stylist generally works doing photo shoots for magazines, television, and so on.
What a consultant does
A fashion consultant is going to look at you, ask you questions about your lifestyle, examine your closets and tell you what to keep and what to get rid of, and push you in the right direction when it comes to the way you dress. She may also put together outfits with items already in your current wardrobe (see Figure 8-2). And if you choose to take it further and decide to spend the money to add more items to your wardrobe, then the consultant will actually take you shopping. Or the consultant may go to the stores on her own, pick out several items, and then bring them to you — a more practical option if you need help with a specific event and not an overhaul of your whole wardrobe. Either way, if shopping is involved, in addition to the cost of the consultant, you’ll also be spending money on items for a new wardrobe.
Figure 8-2: A fashion consultant helps you put the pieces of your fashion puzzle together.
Selecting a consultant
The best way to find a fashion consultant is by personal referral. You could look in the phone book, or go online to a Web site like www.fashion-411. com, but before you put your image in somebody else’s hands, you want to make sure they know what they’re doing. If none of your friends or family has ever used a fashion consultant, ask the owners of any boutiques in your area. They should be a reliable source.
When you’ve narrowed down the field, ask the two or three you like best to provide you with referrals and call them.
Before you choose any fashion consultant, do the following:
✓ Get a referral. Since referrals tend to be satisfied customers, you can’t expect to get very many negative reviews. But ask the referrals how this consultant operated: Did she ask a lot of questions about their likes and dislikes, or was she dictatorial? You may be happy to just put yourself into someone’s hands, but if not, you’d better know ahead of time. Also find out whether the store owners they visited knew the consultant well. Finally, ask questions to find out whether she was very busy: Did she leave the minute the time was up to go meet another client? (This could be a good sign, because it means she’s talented, but it may also mean that you could become like Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight.)
✓ Have a consultation with the person you’re considering. Check out the consultant’s style. Is her personal style one you’d like to emulate? When you speak to her, does she understand your lifestyle and your personality? Even if your goal is not to look exactly like a professional fashion stylist, you should still expect to get help defining a style that works for you. You should also ask the consultant what her background is to get an idea of her level of experience.
What you can expect to pay
The cost of a consultant varies according to where you live (consultants in small towns usually charge less than those in big cities) and the consultant’s experience. The consultant will charge in one of two ways:
✓ By the hour: Most consultants charge this way. The hourly fee can range from $50 to $300 per hour, and usually a minimum of three hours is required. At the mid-level price range (about $150 an hour), your mini- mum cost is going to be $450. (And that doesn’t include the cost of the clothes!)
✓ Day or half-day rate: Stylists who charge this way, charge you a flat fee for the day.
In addition to the consultation rate, some consultants get a commission from the stores they take clients to. Some simply pocket that commission (and may push you to buy more clothes in order to fatten their wallets), while others offer you that percentage as a discount for your purchases. While the second option may sound like it’s more to your advantage, if the consultant charges a higher hourly fee, it may not be.
Using a department store’s personal shopper
Many major department stores allow you to come into the store and work with a personal shopper for free (ah, yes, I said free!) Saks Fifth Avenue for example, has the Fifth Avenue Club. You just call, make an appointment, give your sizes, and when you show up to shop, there’s a room with all of your desired looks waiting for you! There is no minimum amount you need to spend and no fee; you just need to make an appointment. Call your favorite store to see whether it offers this service. Other department stores that have personal shoppers include Macy’s (Macy’s By Appointment), Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Belk, and J.Crew.
You’re also likely to find a personal shopper in the smaller department stores in only one or two cities. These stores offer this service as a way to stay competitive with the larger chains. However, you won’t find personal shoppers at lower-price stores, such as Target of Kohl’s, because the prices are already so low, they don’t offer this additional service.
If you use a personal shopper, keep the following things in mind:
✓ Using a personal shopper can be a time saver. If you pick something out that doesn’t fit you, the shopper will go back to the floor to get the right size. And if she knows her merchandise, once she sees something on you and realizes why it works (or doesn’t), she’ll be able to get you other items to try that should work on your body.
✓ While a personal shopper is there to sell clothes, the stores recognize that if a personal shopper is too pushy, she’ll turn away customers rather than make sales. So for the most part, your personal shopper will be as helpful as possible without seeming overbearing (though remember, she does get paid a commission).
✓ If you’re going to ask the advice of a professional, be willing to accept at least some of it. If you walk out of a store with shopping bags full of clothes that you would have bought without anyone helping you, there’s no point in using a consultant of any kind. You have to be willing to trust this person to take you out of your comfort zone. Just make sure every- thing you buy is returnable. That way you can afford to be a bit more daring when you shop.
✓ It’s always wise to call ahead to make an appointment. You may go into a store and find that one of the personal shoppers has an opening, but they’re usually busy.
✓ Since either a consultant or personal shopper is going to be right there in the dressing room with you, make sure that you’re wearing underwear that you don’t mind being seen in.
Fashion Media: Where to Look for Fashion and Style Help
The fashion media may not create styles, but if they decide to blow their collective horns about a particular designer, you can be sure that very soon people everywhere will be wearing that designer’s creations (for a more in-depth look at the role the fashion media play in setting a trend, head to Chapter 6).
Print and online media
The Grande Dame of fashion media is certainly Vogue. Begun in 1892, Vogue’s current editor is Anna Wintour. While she’s known for having her own style, a famous bob haircut (which she adopted at the age of 15 and never changed), and ubiquitous sunglasses, as an editor she’s actually very much for change, always championing young, new designers. And while Vogue gives expanded coverage to designer wear, in a televised interview with Barbara Walters, Wintour admitted that “Jeans and T-shirts can be equally fashionable as an Oscar de la Renta ball gown.” Figure 8-3 proves her point.
But any fashion magazine can help you when you’re trying to figure out the current trends and, more importantly, what looks work for you. Buy one or two fashion mags a month, and check out the Web sites of the others, and you’ll definitely be au courant (up to the minute!).
Many of the weekly magazines we all love to read also offer the hottest trends (admit it, you love to see what your favorite celeb is doing!). I work with Us Weekly, and every week you can find great buys and finds at every price point. To broaden your knowledge, check out some of these sources:
✓ Women’s Wear Daily is the fashion
industry’s daily newspaper. Much of
the information is on the business of fashion, which may interest you or not. While you may not want to pay to receive either the paper copy or get
access to the full Web site, there’s plenty of good information (including photos from the latest fashion shows) that anyone can access at www.WWD.com.
✓ Burda is the world’s best-selling magazine for those who sew their own clothes. But even if you can’t sew on a button, there’s a lot of good information within the magazine’s pages, or on its Web site (www.burdafashion.com). For example, you can learn a lot about fabrics through Burda, knowledge that will serve you well when checking out the clothes on the racks of your favorite stores.
✓ Figure, which bills itself as being for “Real Women,” is for larger women. It includes lots of tips on how to dress if you’re a size 14 and above.
✓ More Magazine is for women over 40. The magazine covers fashion along with many other areas of interest.
✓ MaternityandStyle.com is a good place to get ideas if you’re expecting.
✓ Magazines from other countries: You can learn a lot by checking out magazines from other countries. Some will be in English, such as Canada’s Flare, while others may be in a language you don’t understand, but because fashion is a visual medium, you may still get some ideas, especially from the French magazines, such as Jalouse, L’Officiel, and Madame Figaro, since many styles originate there before crossing the Atlantic.
Figure 8-3: Chic can mean jeans and a T-shirt as long as it’s the right jeans and T-shirt!
There are also magazines that don’t have a paper version but are strictly electronic. Among the top Webzines for those interested in fashion are Hintmag.com, Fashion156.com, Glossmag. ca (which is a Canadian company), Unvogue.com, and Glam.com. Like their paper cousins, Webzines cover more than just fashion, but unlike them, you can find videos from the latest fashion shows and any late-breaking fashion news long before the print magazines can cover it. (Many of the women’s magazines have deadlines of three to six months, meaning the stories have to be written that far ahead of time in order to make it into the magazine.)
TV goes high fashion
Though fashion was never off the radar of women, in recent years, it’s been even more in your face with the advent of a multitude of television shows.
It began with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and exploded into more reality shows covering every aspect of the fashion business, and turning models and fashion professors into superstars overnight.
Many reality shows are centered around fashion. Here are a couple of my favorites:
✓ The Fashion Show (Bravo) will keep you glued to the TV. Fifteen professional designers compete in this series for a chance to have their creations sold in the retail market. Over $100,000 is also at stake! Designer Isaac Mizrahi and Grammy Award-winning performer and actress Kelly Rowland run the show. You really get to see what goes into the making of a clothing line.
✓ What Not to Wear (TLC) is also extremely entertaining and informative. The show teaches women how to find their personal style. Hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly take someone who dresses frumpy and give her a fabulous new look.
While some of these shows are more educational than others in that they focus on teaching you about how to dress, they’re all fun. If you enjoy watching them, go ahead. (Just don’t watch them instead of my fashion pieces on Today!)