Style Secrets From Our Grandmothers Part 2

Posted by Jill Chivers in Fashion, Style and Shopping

Welcome to part 2 of Style Lessons from our Grandmothers.  If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.

To recap, in a recent article in the Huffington Post proposed that our grandmother’s dressed better than we do now.  I agree, mostly… and I have some advances and additions to the ideas expressed in the HuffPost piece.

In this second article in this series, I’m going to share my translation of what we can do if we want to step in our grandmother’s stylish footsteps, using the HuffPost article’s list as a starting point.

Style secrets from our grandmothers – continued:

5. Pay attention to the details.

The details are what can make or break an outfit.  Here’s the least you should know about the details:

  • are your hems straight with no parts of them hanging down?  Think skirt hems, hems on pants, the two hems on jackets – sleeve and bottom of jacket, same for shirts and coats
  • are your clothes clean and in good repair?  Are there any stains of mysterious or known origin that are besmirching the good character of your clothing?  Are any threads hanging down where they shouldn’t be?
  • are any buttons missing?  Are the buttons of poor quality and in need of replacing altogether?
  • are your clothes well pressed?  Yes, sometimes an iron is required to achieve the best look – it’s worth it
  • how’s your grooming? Watch any makeover show and notice how much the grooming part (hair and makeup specifically) does the heavy lifting

Depending on who you ask, it’s either God or the devil in the detail.  Either way, the detail is important – pay attention!

6. Make sure your clothes fit you.

Mass producers and marketers of clothing are concerned about many things, but how the garment fits the actual body of the actual end consumer (that’s you) isn’t one of them.  Mass and multiple sales is their main, perhaps only, concern.  Don’t expect the clothing you purchase in these kinds of stores to fit you properly.

And if you are a plus sized woman, the story is even worse.  The patterns for plus sized clothing simply increased all around, making the only woman who could wear such garments of Amazonian proportions and at least 8 foot 6 inches tall.

Not all clothing needs to be of perfect fit of course.  Casual weekend clobber such as t-shirts and shorts are good candidates for wearing off the rack.  But anything that represents, expresses or informs who you are — ie: anything beyond casual weekend gear — with a price tag of over, say, $50 is definitely a candidate for alterations, if it doesn’t fit you like it was made for you.

There are so many ways that fit comes into play.   Here are a few common ones to look for, and make adjustments as necessary.

  • jackets need to finish in the right spot on your arm (just after or on your wrist bone) — not hang over your hand like a vaudeville player’s coat.  Oftentimes the sleeve needs to be slimmed through the forearm, not simply shortened
  • same for pants – don’t just lop them off at the right length, consider if they need to be narrowed or straightened from knee to finished length when you have them shortened
  • pants should fit through the seat (bottom area), not bag or pull
  • the shoulder seam (jackets, shirts, blouses) should sit on the outer edge of your shoulder – not partway down your arm
  • skirts should finish at the most flattering point on your leg (often just below the knee)
  • shirts should provide a pleasing silhouette through your midsection, not just flop to a finish at your hip.  Have them taken in through the waist or from under the arm to the hem

Any item of clothing you have carefully considered needs to be reviewed for its alterations requirements before buying (or after,  if you already own it).  Factor in the cost of alterations to the garment cost so you have an accurate measure of what your outlay really is.

Take garments directly from the store to the alterations place, or better yet have the store take care of the alterations, if they offer such a service.

Fantastic fit is crucial if it’s style you’re going for.

7. Spend enough.

Some folks say clothes are an investment, and perhaps they are.  I certainly enjoy my clothing and I consider them carefully in both the initial purchase and ‘should I keep this’ phases.  However you look at your clothing, consider these factors when contemplating new additions:

  • it’s style we’re going for here, not fashion.  Understand the difference between fashion and style.  And explore and start to identify your own personal style, so that any item you bring into your wardrobe supports and fits with your unique style
  • you’re looking to create a working wardrobe, so make sure that any item you purchase isn’t a ‘single event’ piece which you’ll get little wear out of
  • remember to factor in the important elements of colour and shape/silhouette when choosing new items to add to your wardrobe

8.  Shop consciously.

Our grandmothers probably never heard of the term conscious consumption or conscious shopping but I’ll bet many if not most of them practised it.

This is one of the key lessons I learned from my grandmother  – she never spent beyond her means, didn’t posses a credit card and would never dream of buying something that wasn’t pre-planned and absolutely needed.

Here’s a few places to start on your conscious shopping journey:

  • shopping doesn’t occur in a vacuum, so consider your shopping context.  When do you shop? How often do you shop?  What prompts your shopping?  And equally important….
  • who do you shop with?  Who you shop with affects you and your shopping behaviour.  Consider the impact of your shopping partners and whether this is helping or hindering you on your quest to become a better shopper
  • shopping isn’t just shopping and clothes aren’t just clothes.  Clothes impact our sense of ourselves and who we believe ourselves to be.  Consider the relationship between your clothes and identity
  • recognise that a lot of effort and time and enormous amounts of money are devoted to encouraging us, manipulating us, to shop more.  There are innumerable shopping messages (as well as those early messages about clothes, style and shopping we have been carrying around since we were kids)  we are on the receiving end of – begin to tune in more to these marketing and merchandising messages, and make a conscious choice to tune OUT those that aren’t serving you well.  Recognise the defining moments and powerful choices you have when it comes to your shopping behaviour

Thank you Nana

Our grandmothers knew a thing or two about style.  We can learn a lot from the strategies, and the secrets, they employed to bring a little bit of style into their every day lives.


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