Who Wants To Become Designer Savvy?
If you’re a long-time reader of fashion, you know its not the name on the inside that marks you as being well-dressed; it’s how you represent the clothes on the outside that delivers the final verdict.
That’s why some people can “stop traffic” in $80 worth of clothes from an everyday department store, while others languish like wallflowers in $4,000 worth of designer apparel.
It’s also why some women who rely on a designer scarf or handbag to upgrade their sloppy jeans or sweat suite look exactly like that is all they have done, while others can lift a mediocre outfit to one that people notice for all the right reasons.
But if you do like labels, how can you increase your designer savvy?
By studying the different design houses and finding the brands that work best for you.
Let’s start with a couple of definitions.
COTOURE (koo TOOR) is the French word for “sewing.” Couture clothes are those that are fitted and sewn specifically for a client, often requiring several fittings for an exact fit. The clothes may be specifically designed for the customer, such as a one-of-a-kind wedding dress or a one-of-a-kind red-carpet ensemble, or they may be part of a designer’s couture collection, which are the pieces the designer shows that are available for a custom fit. Couture is also known as made-to-measure or bespoke (British).
READY-TO-WEAR or pret-a-porter (pret a poor TAY) is designer apparel that’s made ready-to-wear in standard sizes and sold through boutiques, better department stores, mail order and online. While consumers can have pieces tailored to fit after purchase, customization is not included in the cost of ready-to-wear apparel. When people speak of designer brands, they’re most often referring to ready-to-wear.
So now that you know the difference between the two terms, lets take a quick look at the design philosophies of different countries:
ITALIAN designers have a long history of producing fine leather goods, and of lovingly showcasing the human form. If you have a dynamite figure and want your clothes to reflect that, Italian designers like Armani, Versace, Prada, Ferragamo, etc, can help you meet your goal.
FRENCH designers have been trendsetters for centuries, and you’ll find both classic and avant-garde designers here. Whether you seek the eternal chic of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent or Valentino – or something a bit more cutting edge from say, Balenciaga or Christian LA Croix, you can find your fashion fix in Paris.
BRITISH designers have a long tradition of producing classic silhouettes in sumptuous fabrics with an eye towards fit and finish. A visit to Savile Row will prove just how exacting their standards can be. But it’s not all highbrow and traditional. From the country that gave us both James Bond and the mini-skirt, you can find updated classics by brands like Burberry or Julien Macdonald – or go wild with the likes of Vivienne Westwood or Zandra Rhodes. There are plenty of choices.
AMERICAN designers made a name for themselves in the 1940’s with quality sportswear, and it’s a tradition that continues today with designers like Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein. But they are not just about leisure time. From the “ladies who lunch” in Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta to the women who work in Donna Karan and Michael Kors, to the “of the moment designs” by Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler, Americans have a little something for everyone. Take your pick.
AUSTRALIAN designers, like American designers, tend to lean towards the comfortable but fashionable instead of just fashion for fashion's sake. Want contemporary style but comfortable clothes? Try Lisa Ho, Saba or Collette Dinnigan.
As you can see, there’s a lot out there but the important thing to remember is that not all designers create with the same person in mind. Some houses excel in fine apparel, while other prefer contemporary or sportswear lines. So, don’t assume that just because of your neighbour, friend or sister bought a certain brand that you should buy that brand too. Everyone’s different. Every design house is different. You need to buy based on how the designs suite YOU. Not the other way around.
If you intend to spend your hard-earned money on luxury brands, take a little time to find the designers who create with you in mind. Don’t be swayed by the label on the inside; buy for the look it gives you on the outside.
Dressing the “Non-Standard” Body.
What can you do if you are not an “average” size? What choices do you have if you’re small, tall, petite or plus size, and every clothes-shopping trip you take becomes an exercise in frustration?
For starters, don’t give up!
Just because nothing in the stores seems to be made with you in mind doesn’t mean that you can’t find what you need. You just have to understand a few basic principles before you head off to the shopping centre or start clicking away online, including:
- Most retailers only stock regular sizes.
- Come to grips with your body.
- Learn some sleight-of-hand tricks.
- Experiment with different elements.
And love who you are, inside and out. Never listen to others who put their beliefs onto you. Follow your heart and your own style.
Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist. Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.