MacGyver Fashion

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I think a big part of fashion that people don’t realize is that it rarely works straight off the rack. Those women who look so effortlessly chic, polished and put together actually do a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation to get to that point. I call MacGyver Fashion – while some is pretty standard, many are strange little ways to make fashion work for real women. Here’s a few of my favorites; I encourage you to share your own MacGyver Fashion tricks in the comments!

macgyver fashion tips to look polished

Prevent Button-Front Shirts from Gaping
Be you a B or F cup, button-front shirts are not forgiving to a woman’s curves. While there are brands out there who specialize in shirts for busty gals, such tops on smaller-busted women can also gape just from sitting, stretching, or walking.

My favorite trick is safety pins. I love those teeny-tiny ones brands use to attach hang tags to garments – I keep them in a little bowl on my dressing table and find they do a fabulous job of holding shirts together. I have them on the inside where they go through all the layers of fabric for the bottom portion of the placket, and catches just the hidden under layer of the top portion.

I know some women keep these shirts permanently fused together with Stitch Witchery or a similar product. It’s a fusible tape that adheres fabric with the heat of your clothing iron and can be found at fabric stores and on Amazon. I go the temporary route so the shirt is more versatile (can wear open, lower-cut with a tank, tied at the bottom, etc.), but this is perfect if you need to wear your shirt the same way always (uniform, under a suit, etc.).

Keep Skirts and Control Garments from Sliding Down
I love high-waisted control garments because they prevent muffin top and give a smooth and consistent look, but I find they often shimmy and roll down my torso throughout a day of sitting and walking. While some companies make garments like this with straps to loop around your bra or straps to go over your shoulders, not all do.

Safety pins again to the rescue! If the garment is extra stretchy and long, I will tuck it under my bra and then safety pin just outside the cups and then two in the back as far as I can reach without dislocating a shoulder. I do this with garments that either have a split crotch, or that are brief/thong style where I can slide to the side when I have to go to the bathroom.

I also use this method for skirts that are a bit big and grow throughout the day. My Ann Taylor Ballet Maxi is a perfect example, and the inspiration for this post. Yesterday I wore this skirt and I had it held in place by three old-school diaper pins. The pin goes through the grosgrain waistband of the skirt and the bottom hem of my bra – this way the skirt has space and can swing on its own. Also by having the two pieces separate, the pins lay flat against my body and aren’t visible even under a fitted knit. I had two in back as far back as I could and one between the breasts in the center.

Stop Feet from Slipping and Sliding in Heels
A pair of pumps may seem very comfortable in the shoe store, but once you wear them out and your feet start sweating a bit, you can easily walk out of your shoes or get a toe cramp from desperately trying to cling to the shoe.

While there are many insoles on the market, I am partial to Footpetals. They are very thin and flexible = they won’t change the size of your shoe. There’s a bit of adhesive tape on the back to hold it in place but it can easily be removed to be replaced at a later date. Footpetals will absorb sweat and give a grippy layer to your shoe insole, preventing your foot from sliding forward and mashing your toes. Not only that, since Footpetals are removable they extend the life of your shoe. All season long, the Footpetal absorbs sweat and prevents slipping, which keeps the shoe from stretching out or getting stinky. I just peel out the old Footpetal at the end of the season and replace!

Footpetals come in several sizes and styles, but my favorite is Killer Kushionz which cover the majority of the insole. They come in several neutral colors and are practically invisible even in open-toe footwear.

Making Too-Short or Too-Long Sleeves Work
Cuff them. Seriously, I think this is why cuffing has become so popular – it reduces the tailoring bill! I do this often since I am petite, but find petite jackets and shirts are often too small elsewhere. I also think it makes my arms look a bit longer.

I always do a classic roll of the sleeve, but I saw this article on Babble, “Fashion Tips from a J. Crew Stylist” that showed a more creative way to roll sleeves that lets the cuff detail be on display. I may have to try this!

Dressing Up/Down a Dress
Own an arsenal of belts. Many shifts and sheaths can be completely transformed with the addition of a belt; a dress with a self belt can look far more expensive and cool if you replace it with a real belt.

Belts are always on sale and you can find great ones at discount shops. Belts don’t really go out of style; when I have a belt that doesn’t seem to be on trend right now I just roll it up in a shoe box and save it for another season. Skinny croco-embossed belts, gold chain belts, wide elastic belts, obi-inspired belts, rhinestone-encrusted belts… this is a great investment for transforming your wardrobe. While it’s helpful to have a skinny and wide belt in black or brown, the colored or blingy belts can be quite versatile. I bought a black snakeskin skinny belt with a pave buckle in 1998 and I still wear it a few times a year to make a simple black work dress suddenly look theater-appropriate.

Dealing with Ill-Fitting Garments
I considered putting this as the first topic of this post, but I feared people wouldn’t read the rest.

Clothes NEVER fit perfectly off the rack.

It’s not you, you’re not deformed. Everyone, even super models get their clothes tailored to fit. People are like snowflakes – each woman is built differently. There is no way on earth that a brand can fit all the women all the time. Instead of curing your reflection or boycotting a brand, befriend a tailor.

Tailors and seamstresses aren’t just for the rich and famous, they aren’t as expensive as you would think. While you’ll have to shell out a few more dollars to get that blazer sleeve shortened or that dress properly nipped in at the waist, the result is a piece that looks far more expensive, and does good things to your figure.

We women are quick to blame ourselves for things. Those pants gape at the waist because your butt is too fat, the dress pulls at the hips because you don’t go to the gym like you should, that dress hits at a bad place on the leg because you have ugly legs. Nope, you’re not to blame. Your body is gorgeous, and with well-fitting clothes the rest of the world can see it.

Many dry cleaners can do simple alterations like hems and shortening of straps. Check out Yelp or a local community listserv for suggestions on quality tailors in your area. Ask your local formal or bridal boutique who they recommend. Nordstrom does alterations on-site – free for cardholders and reasonably priced for other customers. Don’t settle for ill-fitting clothes. There’s no point in spending a single dollar on a garment if it doesn’t work with your figure. Celebrities and fashionistas look so good because they have a good relationship with a seamstress or tailor. Start small – take those too-long pants or the dress that shows your bra under your arms and see what they can do with it. I promise you, it will change your mind about your body and open a world of fashion to you!


So what are your MacGyver Fashion tips?  What crazy things do you do to keep yourself looking pulled-together and polished?

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