The Fashion Expert

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In the day and age of the internet, anyone can claim themselves to be an expert. Yesterday visiting a friend’s blog where she was discussing her plight in finding the appropriate spring wardrobe essentials I saw a comment from another blogger, “if you need any shopping advice, come to my blog, I am a shopping expert!”

A shopping expert, how does one become a shopping expert? Do you get a B.A. in Retail Consumerism, and then your SEC (Shopping Expert Certificate) after logging 1,600 hours of experience and finishing a grueling exam? Who checks these credentials? Does being a person with an unhealthy shopping habit make one a shopping expert? Sounds like a lot of bunk to me.

Then call me a shopping expert. I have been a shopaholic since the days of drooling over the new Barbie fashions at Toys R Us. I used to hide the latest JC Penney catalog under my bed, circling all the frocks I dreamed my parents would buy me. My high school days were spent more in the mall than in the classroom and let’s not even get into my decade working in the retail industry where I was for a while a… PERSONAL SHOPPER! Wow, can I put some fancy letters after my name in my email signature? Should I order myself some business cards? Update my resume?

But then think about yourself. You may be here because you desire fashion or style advice. You are looking for assistance. Think how you are a help, an expert in some other category. Maybe it’s accounting, maybe it’s cooking, maybe it’s French, maybe it’s parenting, maybe it’s pottery. You might be a fabulous singer, have a knack for remembering movie quotes or are the one all your friends come to when they need an ear or a shoulder to lean on. How did you learn these traits? Yes some is just born talent, but much is experience. You tried it, saw you either liked it or excelled at it and continued. You failed on occasion, but you also succeeded quite often. You are now relatively confident in your abilities and heck… you could start a blog and consider yourself and expert.

If you could do that with the flute, graphic design, baking or knitting, why can’t you with your personal style? Blogs like mine should not be considered gospel, nor should any other website or self-help book you read. As with a college degree, this is all research toward your own style certification. Your body is your science lab where you run experiments on blush shades and skirt lengths. As in a regular experiment, you have a hypothesis and a conclusion. You can only learn from experimenting.

The way I thought of the basics is through trial and error. I have been fat, I have been thin, I have been everything in between. I have been paid to dress people, and I have done it for my mom and friends. Through experiments with clothing on their bodies and mine I have come to the conclusion that these basics should work on almost every female body. As for your personal sense of style, you can read all the books, magazines and blogs you desire but no one can tell you this. Only you can come to the conclusion of what is right for you.

I was watching an old episode of Beverly Hills 90210 on cable the other day. It was from the first season when Kelly and Donna were shown as very wealthy and a stark contrast to Brenda from the Midwest. Kelly and Donna were in primary colors, layers, funky cuts and fabrics. No brand names were in sight and if we researched the designers of these duds, we may possibly find out that they were crafted by the costume designer for the show and not Gucci or Versace. I was thinking about great moments in award show fashion and I remember the time that Sharon Stone wore her husband’s white dress shirt to the 1998 Oscars and was on everyone’s Best Dressed List. Would that happen in this era of the Designer? Everything now is about the brand; it seems as though it is more acceptable to wear ugly designer pieces than attractive no-name garments. So much bad yet expensive fashion is now on the streets, it must be hard for women to know what is style and what is correct.

Again, only you can decide. I have personally decided that I don’t care about labels; I buy only what I find attractive. It’s like buying a Monet just because it’s a Monet, yet you hate Impressionistic art. There are some people out there who do that because they would love to have it on their wall to impress their friends and look cultured and rich. And then there are those who buy art because it is beautiful and inspiring. It may be a famous artist, it may be an unknown but it is clear that it is a true work of art. Guests may look at the painting and wonder if it is a famous artist, but they will be more interested in the composition, the use of light and texture, the way the painting highlights the glossy wood floors and the beautiful couch.

No one can tell you what type of paintings to like, no one can tell you what type of food to enjoy, no one can tell you what type of music to dance to. And no one can tell you what your personal style should be.

This is not to say stop reading this blog, or any blog for that matter. Just do your homework, read for research only, and take your findings back to the lab and come to your own discovery. For only then have you achieved true personal style and the status of Expert.

A few steps to gain personal style:

  1. Clean out your closet of anything you don’t like, doesn’t fit, you never wear because it makes your physically or emotionally uncomfortable, anything stained or torn.
  2. Grab all those catalogs that come to your door, and then grab a note-pad that would fit in your purse. Some are for brands you like, some you toss before even flipping a page. Scan through all of them and note what catches your eye and what makes you gag. Are you drawn to Victorian-inspired attire and hate anything Country? Note these things, as well as smaller things like colors, skirt lengths, hair styles, shoe heel heights.
  3. Buy some basic staples that will get you through the week but will grow with your wardrobe as you find this personal style. Make sure they are good quality so they will last multiple seasons and washings. Better to have one great pair of black pants than four pairs of not-quite-right ones.
  4. Step up your skincare regimen. Maybe now you’re lucky to wash your face before bed; for you make a promise to yourself that no matter how late, you will wash and moisturize your face for bed. Maybe you are doing this already; then promise yourself a weekly treatment of steam, a mask or a scrub. Already have the at-home spa? Consider a professional facial, they are worth the money if done by a skilled esthetician. Who care about clothes if your skin isn’t in good shape? You will also see that the better you treat your body and face, the more you care about what you dress it with.
  5. Be aware of what you like in other aspects of your life. Do you prefer sushi or lasagna? Wine or iced tea? Rap or Jazz? Crime novels or autobiographies? Grey’s Anatomy or Law and Order? Shabby Chic or Le Corbusier? Make a list in this little note pad of what inspires you, appeals to you and makes you YOU. You will see some themes… these should translate to your personal style.

As any good researcher knows, it takes time and it takes multiple trials to ensure accurate results. Enjoy this period of discovery!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I agree for skincare. I wash my face before bed and treat the pimples and blackheads with some tea tree oil and sanitize them with alchohol once every week. I apply some transformance and look a whole lot better next morning and sometimes can skip the powder/concealer step because my skin looks so much better.

  2. I’ve always wanted to use a personal shopper. Did you know that most Lord & Taylor stores have a shopper on staff – and the service is free! I read that in an article this week. I had no idea.

  3. It’s easier to bill yourself an expert to strangers than to those you know. I’ve had a lot of experience and success in counseling people about marriages, relationships and parenting and would consider myself a good source. However, those closest to me, (who acknowledge that I’ve succeeded in these areas, while they have serious problems) would never come to me for guidance.

    I am happy for your expertise! I use it often.

  4. I agree with you regarding skin care regimen. I have such a better day when I have scrubbed, exfoliated, and buttered myself from head to toe, I love feeling and smelling great!

  5. I agree with you – hogwash indeed. I went to a fashion college and graduated with a degree in fashion design and that was my career for 10 years…designing clothes for the mass market. Even DESIGNERS need help now and then. What happens when you are a designer, is, you become so picky, that you end up not being able to dress yourself. Anyone can be a shop-a-holic, but it takes someone with a good eye to see what looks good on people, flatters their figure, and will SELL. Let’s face it, the majority of American women are not 5’9″ and 110 pounds.

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