A love for clothes definitely runs in my family, especially on my mother’s side. She spent a lot of time teaching both my brother and I that appearances do matter. I used to think that fussing and fluffing at your clothes was a massive waste of time and effort, but to her credit, my mom was a patient teacher. It took many years of dragging me to the mall, coaxing me, persuading me and encouraging me, to make me finally understand how wonderful clothing is.
Through the years, my mom drilled into me a few tips that I’ve never forgotten. Whenever I go shopping or whenever I get dressed, I can still hear her advice, in her shrill voice, ringing in my head.
1. Interview Outfit: Conservative is Best
At the beginning of winter quarter, I started to realize that I really needed an interview outfit. I brought up the possibility of a shopping trip to my mom, and she immediately jumped on it. After years spent as an accountant, my mom has years of experience about the best formal interview outfit. I wanted my interview outfit to be universal, so we shopped according to the most conservative standards.
The item my mom was pickiest about was shoes. Formal shoes usually means a classic pair of pumps: closed toed and black, with a small heel, preferably two inches or shorter. If the shoe is shiny, even better because a slight shine connotes formality. I found my entire interview outfit at Macy’s for a reasonable price, so I definitely recommend going there if you’re in need of a suit.
2. Stripe Width Makes a Difference
It didn’t take me long to realize my obsession with stripes. It’s a relationship that I know will last my entire life, but the kind of stripes you wear is very important. My mom taught me that wider stripes make you look fatter, while thinner stripes make you look skinnier. Half my t-shirt drawer is full of stripes, and all of the stripe widths are relatively skinny. I encourage everyone to explore stripes! They’re a great staple, especially for tomboys like me.
3. Avoid Colors That Match Your Skin Tone
There have been many times I’ve been stuck between two colors of the same item, say a cardigan in beige or navy blue. Both colors are basic colors, and both match with almost everything. I went with the navy blue color practically every time. Why? “Never get a color that matches your skin tone too closely,” my mom always said. I have yellow-tinted skin prone to tanning in the spring and summer, and I generally avoid light browns and beige.
Countless times I have tried on a beige piece, usually a jacket or a cardigan, and ended up hating it because it blended in with my skin too much. In certain lights, I looked like one giant fuzzball. Frankly, it’s just unflattering. To this day I don’t have much beige, and actually the cardigan I’m wearing in the picture is my roommate’s.
4. Find Your Colors
There are some colors that look good on you for whatever reason. If you’re conflicted between two colors of the same piece, always go with the rarer color if you can pull it off. One example is the velvet top in the picture, I remember I was deciding between this light blue and black. My mom told me to choose the light blue since black is a standard color, but not everyone can look good in this light blue.
I’m not saying that light blue is for everyone, but if you happen to look good in a certain kind of purple or something, choose the color that only you can look good in. The piece will have more of a “you” stamp on it then. Find your colors and stick with them; they will carry you through many days when you’re unsure of what to wear. Even on ordinary t-shirt-and-jeans days, if you’re wearing a special color it can still be a special outfit.
5. Never Clash Patterns
Unless you are trying to make a statement, never ever clash patterns! When I was younger, say twelve or thirteen, I was really adventurous and tried on some pretty interesting outfits, usually clashing patterns or mismatching colors. I would come out of my room all excited, see my mom and she’d say, “Please change, you look so weird.” The honesty was brutal at the time, but I do appreciate my mother for saving me from my own fashion taste, or lack of one.
If one piece is patterned, whether it be the top or the bottom, the other should be a solid. That way the patterned piece stands out more, and gets all the attention it deserves. It also just makes the whole outfit look more put-together.
6. “Hug Yourself”
Getting the right size for tops can be a challenge sometimes, so the tip my mom always tells me is, “Hug yourself and see how it feels.” It is pretty irrational since no one ever hugs themselves, but I think the point of the movement is the extension of your arms.
If the fabric around your shoulders or back pulls, or if you underarms feel choked, the size is too small. If there is room to move around your arms, the size is right. Silly as it sounds, I have hugged myself many times in the dressing room, and it has proven to be a useful exercise to test sizing.
I really appreciate my mom for always being my fashion guru. She has shaped my fashion sense into what it is today, but I still retained my tomboy ways. She has saved me from many outfit disasters, and I have her to thank for fostering my love of clothing.
Rules or not, fashion is a true expression of yourself. It is one of the few things that you have complete control over. What you decide to wear every day is completely up to you. In the twenty-first century, people are always challenging old rules, traditions and stereotypes, even in fashion. Anything goes! The best thing about fashion is that it’s fun. Do with it what you will.