I had a little bubbly at dinner –– it was champagne upon arrival –– and so I thought I'd tackle your fashion questions tonight.
This post was inspired by a conversation over cocktails last night, about where to find clothes in larger sizes. I don't shop much, because I am a size 14 or 16, and many stores stop at a 12, while most higher-end designers stop at an 8 or 10. So I spend a lot of time looking, and even less time buying, which suits me because I prefer to pay more for fewer, nicer things, as you know by now.
Further, I used to weigh quite a bit more, like, tons, and was quite the dashing heartbreaker, much more so than now, and I had a whole philosophy (about lending the appearance of deshabille) that really worked. When I decided to lose weight, it was solely for health (my knees hurt) reasons than those of self-worth or appeal.
My main point, however, and this will become more apparent as we continue, is to embrace who you are, wherever and whatever you are. I think the biggest mistake that curvy women make is when they try to embrace a style that is not becoming on them. There is a long list of things I simply do not wear, because they are not flattering: empire waists and turtlenecks are at the top.
Most of my clothes these days come from Talbots –– I bought a black satin strapless gown there last night –– Pendleton, J. Peterman and the occasional exquisite piece from Sally Cohen Vintage. I stick to the timeless, and I patronize places that stock my size. Dress Barn is also well-stocked in plus sizes, although the wheat to chaff ratio hardly favors the sifter. I also like to have ballgowns custom made in Chinatown now and then. The key thing is to know, really know, what suits you, and to avoid the rest. Shoes and handbags I splurge on, because they're the real deal, and that's when the serious glamour comes out to play. All of my furs are from thrift stores. I shop Estate Jewelry for sparkle, with my favorite Elizabeth Taylor quote in mind: "I'd like to see some rings and things, nothing over five thousand dollars."
Right now, I think I look best in dresses in a fitted style. When I was heavier, I looked for fine fabrics, and I embraced the drape of a good cape, and the comfort of jersey. Different things will suit you in different periods of your life. This is a good thing.
Not too long ago, a man well over six feet tall said to me, "you're tall, for a girl," which made me laugh. "How can you tell?" I replied. I am about 5'7", which does mean I have a few inches on most women. However, one of the reasons that I don't wear pants is that I don't feel like myself in them, but also: I don't feel like having them tailored, and that is because the relationship of my legs, proportionately to my body, is somewhat akin to that of a shrimp. This has made me realize the importance of size, and fit. Like, as in the case of larger sizes, what you do to accentuate your best features is going to make or break the look here. The key thing is not to try and wear anything that only looks right on a giraffe. Shorter-lengths (both in terms of skirt, cropped trousers and bracelet sleeves), rounded collars, smart suits, will all flatter you best. I avoid patterns. While I was very thin in high school, I shopped the Brooks Brothers' boys department to great effect. When I was in Osaka, I found a "Tall" boutique on a hidden floor in a department store, and correctly surmised that this was a socially-appropriate euphemism for "Medium." I bought two dresses that ended up being too short, and I don't do "tunics." A shirt is a shirt, a dress is a dress, leggings are not pants, Uggs are unspeakable. Classics endure for a reason. Start with them.
Whenever I feel that way, I go through each item and ask if, when I wear it, I feel like my best self. I give the rest to a charity that benefits a cause I believe in. This often lends a necessary spark. Keep the things that are truly well made; you may decide you love them again. Choose a muse as your beacon in the darkness between looks. Biographies are a good source. My favorite shepherdess in that regard of recent months would have to be Marella Agnelli. She keeps me from buying junk, and "settling."
Is there a way to look sharp while also wearing jeans?
Years ago, I was in the swimming pool one evening at a hotel in Palm Springs with a man who had me quite smitten at the time, and he asked me what I thought the ideal outfit was for a man. I said, "Oh, a suit, of course. Really tailored and well done." I asked him what he thought, for women, and he replied, "Jeans, a sweater and tennis shoes." "But, but," I stammered. "I don't even own any of those things." A few weeks later we met in Santa Cruz and I answered the door wearing a pair of Gap skinny jeans I had walked a few miles downtown to purchase. He looked at me quizzically: "What were you doing, fixing a fence?" I let him go, but I held on to them, and wore them over the winter. I think they looked best with an Eton crop, a sequin top, rain boots, and a fur coat. Although they did not last in my wardrobe as a staple, I can now see the appeal. The absolute key here, as in all things, is the fit and the condition. Try a few lines until you find one that flatters you and looks good. This is a question of time, rather than money. My sister swears by Old Navy. Too often people add casual layer upon layer to their jeans, until it looks sloppy, or try and do some weird dress-up thing by pairing them with a blazer. Both extremes are a mistake in my opinion. Go for a classic top and a simple boot, perhaps with brown accessories appropriate for the country. A little plaid, or a duffel coat, would give a basic outfit a preppy feel. I also like a simple black coat, cropped and sophisticated, without those big buttons and oversized details that are trendy but make everything look baby-ish, to elevate the vibe. In this instance, pair with black leather gloves and a smile.