POSTED ON AUGUST 8, 2007:
Debunking Fashion Myths
You know that old wives' tale about wearing white after Labor Day? First it was you could only wear white between Easter and Labor Day, then it was just flat out no white after early September.
That so-called fashion rule (at one time a tradition of the Deep South) has been on my mind recently, probably because my mind has somehow convinced me that that particular holiday is just around the corner. Since it's barely August, I'm well aware that it's nearly a month away, but that color-coded myth has made me think of other fashion urban myths that we follow.
That particular "rule" of not wearing white after Labor Day is so ridiculous, it automatically makes my eyes roll. Why the color white? Why has it expanded to the entire wardrobe? Has no one heard of winter whites? It's absurd, but people quote it like a Bible verse, and I'm sure following it just as closely. There are more fashion urban myths out there that people believe and they must be put to a stop. Where is that fabulously mustachioed man from the television show Mythbusters when you really need him?
The first myth that comes to mind came to my realization in the years I spent in retail. If an item a customer was trying on was too small, it felt icky suggesting they go up to the next one because you knew the reaction would be bad. It has been burrowed so thoroughly into our brains, that it frightens people to stray from it: the rule of the number or the size.
Shoppers, women especially, are fixated on their size, and while that could read quite literally, I'm referring to the literal number or word on the tag. The myth that we've trained ourselves to believe is that we are always a particular size, no matter whatever store, whatever style, whatever the circumstance.
It is natural to walk into a store and grab the size that you typically wear. You think to yourself that you are a size six pant and a size medium top and you grab those sizes and make your way to the dressing room. But, alas, for some reason these items do not fit. Now, oddly enough, if the medium is too large, you have no problem asking someone to bring the size small. We have no qualms tied to going down a size, but if the top is too small? Well, you didn't really like that top to begin with, the color wasn't right, or it was too expensive anyways. Highly doubtful. Why can't you just suck it up and try the large?
What has happened is that, somewhere along the line, we have associated this number system or these words (small, medium, large) to correspond with our self-image and our own perceptions of our body. This myth, created by society, continued through our own self-perpetrated myths, makes us think there is something wrong with us, not that perhaps this particular brand runs small or that the fit isn't right for our shape.
Instead of finding something flattering, we keep buying that same size as always, or not buying it at all. This idea of thought has now reached the clothing retailers themselves, who have, in recent years, created "vanity sizing."
Vanity sizing means that the size six you are wearing in 2007 was really a size eight only a few years ago. The clothing is being made larger but keeping that small number so that customers feel better about themselves and therefore purchase. It's sad that something that feels so ecstatic in stores (Hooray! Only eating an apple all day yesterday paid off! This size is too big!) when actually explained out in a kind of marketing tactic is so smarmy and creepy.
Like zombies, or members of a cult, we have followed this myth about sizing for years and now it is time to deprogram ourselves. No longer shall we wear t-shirts that appear painted on, button down shirts with huge gaping between buttons, or pants featuring camel toes. We must banish muffin tops to bakeries only, wear shoes where our toes are neither scrunched into the toe nor sandals that are so small our toes and heels run over the edge.
Resolved: What we will do is buy items that fit, or items that have the potential to fit correctly with tweaking no matter what the size tag reads. We will disregard numbers, words and anything else that does not pertain to fit and flatter.
Well, to an extent. You'll still need to grab that size you traditionally wear, but from there, nix the numbers. If it's too small, try the next size up, regardless of what it is. At no point in your life will someone ask you what size your top is or if you have moved up in sizes on your jeans.
While pants have had a variety of words splashed across the derriere in recent years, SIZE TWELVE or LARGE weren't two of them. What you will hear people saying is how those jeans make your butt look good or how that top makes you look like you lost some weight. You know, flattering things. Because you'll now be moving around the size spectrum, and since most clothes are made for some kind of mysteriously proportioned person, you may have to invest in tailoring and alterations.
When shopping, buy for the largest part of your body. If your behind is your trouble spot, make sure pants fit there; same with your thighs. If you are busty, make sure blazers and button down shirts don't allow for any sideways indecent exposure. Women with long legs should ensure that the length is long enough. Once that tricky body part has been fit, the rest can be adjusted to fit you personally.
As anyone who has ever witnessed an episode of TLC's "What Not to Wear" can attest, hosts Clinton Kelly and Stacy London advise everyone to alter their purchases so that they look tailored and fit properly. This is the next step you'll need to take. Just as clothes worn too small aren't glamorous, neither are pants dragging the ground or figure-hugging shirts resembling tents.
Pants can be shortened, waists can be taken in, and darts in shirts can be adjusted. My seamstress skills ended abruptly in a sorry sewing episode in ninth grade home economics, but I'm positive that a professional can solve most problem areas regarding fashion fixes. Even something like the length of a pair of pants being too short can be solved if the bottom seam is big enough to let out.
Sadly, things with edged detailing are sometimes stuck as they are. Your best options with pieces like this, really with anything you feel needs to be altered, is to purchase the item, keep all tags attached and hold on to your receipt. Take it to someone who does altering to see if the problem can be fixed and if it can't, simply return. I can hear the grumbling of your checkbooks now at the sound of alterations, but nobody said looking good came cheap. (Well, I may have alluded to that in past articles, but I meant that not every look could be achieved so easily or thriftily.)
On to dispelling another modern myth. You've heard the one about how wearing horizontal stripes will make you look huge, right? Well, a girl I know totally wore them and she died! Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it, and yet we somehow still follow this old-school myth. Gut or six-pack, A cup or D, wide butt or no butt, horizontal stripes can be worn by anyone, if done so correctly. The key to unraveling this mystery is in finding horizontal stripes that are continuous in size throughout the whole piece.
Perhaps this myth extended from the past reputation horizontal stripes had. Apparently in the Middle Ages, prostitutes only wore them; then they became the look sported by the incarcerated. But designers, the people who make our clothes, now have decided they are in vogue again, so we must embrace the stripe. Let's be honest: they aren't one of those prints that will make you look slimmer, but the myth that they make you look larger is false.
Stripes that are universal in size can be worn by any body shape, whether the stripe is the thick or thin, or if the article of clothing is a top or a bottom. It is when the size of the stripe varies that problems arise. If some stripes are larger than others, the section of your body where that bigger stripe hits will look larger just because of the comparison.
While these fashion urban myths and others not mentioned here don't get as much discussion and publicity as whether or not you can die from mixing Pop Rocks and soda, they are taken more seriously than that urban myth. People tried the latter myth and didn't die, and now you can break these fashion myths and not die from fashion victim embarrassment.
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