Style File: Find what Fits YOU, then Stand out

Style File.   Men’s REPORT

My goal is to build you up step by step into effortless style.  We spoke about color in my last Style File, building on the concept of the Trifecta, which we will continue to expound upon in our future STYLEfile reports.

Today I want to tackle the two greatest obstacles facing shoppers in creating a fabulous wardrobe:

1. Fit

2. Personal Style

Style and fashion are often used interchangeably – however they are distinct from one another.  Style is the stitch that is tried and true, it is the compass and map guiding the trends of fashion, which shifts by season.

A fashion piece is an item you like – it is hip and cool in the right now with runaway glamor, but it does not have that classic ‘Bon chic Bon genre’ look that withstands the upheaval of clearance fashion police roller coaster of ‘what’s in, what’s out.’  Many popular clothiers are building their brand focus on ‘bon temps’ fast fashion.  H&M is not concerned with building staple core pieces – they want to roll out the best (and sometimes the worst) of the runaway to retail and in a snap the entire fast line pops in, pops out and the process starts over again.  Forever 21 has broken into the teen market with this concept too.  Fast Fashion is usually a bit cheaper than traditional brick and mortar chains – but many would argue – why pay for something that won’t be in STYLE next season.

Yves Saint Laurent famously said “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” Whereas fashion is an art that is notoriously difficult to keep up with because trends change seasonally, style is impacted by much longer-lasting factors. Style is affected by religion, politics, culture and subculture, weather, body type, profession, upbringing, I could go on and on and on. quote from:Paste (Style vs. Fashion)

I point out the difference between style and fashion because when you are building a wardrobe you want to invest in core functional pieces you can wear for a decade, while adding in ‘fashion’ pieces you can enjoy for special occasions or that year’s fashion bon temps.

Knowing the difference between fashion and style and their interplay – helps you be a more proactive shopper.  It also helps you realize that you want clothes that speak of your character and reflect the best you.  What do I mean by BEST you?  I’m not talking about your material image – I’m speaking to what makes your personality tick – who you are and what you are interested in.  When cultivating a style it needs to be something that reflects your interests – while being able to grow and branch out from time to time.  While you can purchase a fun fashion outfit for a night out – your focus on your core wardrobe should be clothing that speaks to your soul and who you stand for.  It also should be clothing that looks the best for your body size and fit.

Fashion is over quickly. Style is forever. A real man doesn't always have to be fashionable, but a he should always have class.

FIT is the hardest part of building a wardrobe, let alone purchasing one piece of clothing.  I’ll be the first to admit it – I hate trying on clothes – HATE it.  I’m a big-boned, 5’9 gal who is athletic and plus-sized and the idea of standing in a mirror rifling through sizes and different cuts.

Before you dive head first into trying on clothes it helps to have a general idea of your size.

Grab a measuring tape (or go to a tailor – or professional – at our men’s store we measure – no cost to you); This is a helpful website (Size Guide) on how to measure and finding your general fit.

If the shoe fits…shoes are hard for me – I am a tall female – with size 11-12 feet – so I often have to order my shoes on line.  We’ll do a separate set of articles on shoes and finding your best fit – and the varying dynamics of sizes in men’s shoes.  How a running shoe fits is often different that your needs for a pair of dress loafers. About.com has a great demo on how to measure for your shoe size.

Working in a men’s clothing store I am astounded how many different cuts you’ll find in different brands (sometimes the same brand and same style) for one item.  In Tommy Bahama, the Classic Fit/Standard Fit sits just below the waist and has a looser leg; The Authentic cut sits at the hip and has a tapered leg.  Ralph Lauren has a custom and classic fit.  Vineyard Vines has a Breaker Slim Fit and Nautica has a relaxed and slightly slimmer.

It is maddening for customers.  A 36/32 should be a 36/32 – shouldn’t it?  Rarely this is this the case – so sometimes you just have to have a stiff upper lip and try on sizes.  I spent five hours with a customer once just to find the perfect pair of pants for their tall, muscular frame.  They were a 32/34, but the slim fits were too slim and classic was too big.  I made the process as easy as possible and at the end of the day the customer found his ‘go-to’ pant (Bonobos)

Certain styles look better on different frames.  With men’s clothing – though I think the primary focus is finding the right fit and sometimes that means sacrificing a few hours and going to a quality men’s clothier – being measured and getting some advice on what your ‘fit type’ is.  We do this at my department store and all of our specialists are familiar with the different cuts.  I think there are fifty cuts in different styles of brands in our store alone.  Levi’s jeans has ten cuts in our store – each with a unique fit.

Fit usually boils down to several major issues:

– Your build.  Size matters – if you are athletic, big-boned stature…you will usually want to stick with the ‘Classic Fit’ – which is synonymous in fashion with a more gracious and traditional cut.  Classic is ideal for most body types unless you are a slim build – A 30/30 waist/length is going to gravitate more to the modern look of a Calvin Klein Slim Cut.

*Classic/Standard/Relaxed: more gracious cut – more relaxed cut

*Custom: Ralph Lauren is completing overhauling their sizing, but in most brands, particularly RL a custom is a slightly slimmer cut than the classic, but is not as slim as a slim fit

*Slim Fit:True to its name a ‘slim fit’ is more tapered – Slim Fit is the most complicated of the cuts because slim is all relative on brand.  A slim fit in Calvin Klein is high school skinny with a modern edge, while Slim Fit in Izod is still fairly relaxed – it all depends on what you want in a fit.

*Modern Fit: This is a bit of no man’s land: Modern Fit is the European cut that is more fitted and is typically a slim cut, but often it is not as slim as a ‘slim cut.’  For instance in Tommy Bahama the Island Modern Fit is roughly an inch and half smaller in the seam than the traditional cut.  Most of my customers go up a size in the IMF to move their arms. – while the body of the shirt is more fitted and typically more urban in design – Tommy Bahama’s IMF is a great option for bigger built men who like a more fitted look without looking like a weight lifter who shrunk their shirts.

Because the industry has no true standard on sizing anymore (there are norms but no standards) it is imperative, particularly when you order online that you check the style and sizing guide.  Most clothiers will offer detailed explanations on the fit.  In our store we have sizes in men’s jeans profiling each cut of jean by brand. This helps give customers a snapshot of fits so they can narrow down their field of inquiry when shopping.

Standard (more gracious fits): Lucky, Tommy Bahama, Nautica, Joe’s Jeans (has numerous styles – but spandex keeps these stylish denim jeans great for more athletic builds), Izod, Haggar, Savane

Custom-Classic: The Custom Classic fit is moving more towards a more tapered leg and fit but is still gracious enough in sizing that it can be worn comfortably in the 38-42 range.  Ralph Lauren excels in this area.  Bonobos has a few cuts like this. Vineyard Vines

Modern-Slim: Calvin Klein, Chip & Pepper are two brands in our store that are tailored to slimmer cuts

I will work on adding helpful sizing guides to Adele Belle and our Pinterest page (forthcoming) that will help you figure out the best fit for your body type.

Once you understand your frame you can explore what clothing style speaks to you and how to create outfits you WANT to wear and LOOK GREAT in.  Personal style is different that your Society Attire – we all need business professional and certain formula looks for everyday functions – that being said your personal style doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from professional or society attire.

Try out your ‘size’ with Levi’s Fit Finder on Belk.com  – this is a good indicator of the range of fits and your frame.  I’ll continue to post additional tips for finding your best fit on Adele Belle and pops on Pinterest.

What speaks to you?

This Buzzfeed article on the 25-Life Changing Style Charts is a go to for me – Love the simplicity of this article’s layout.  I absolutely love this reference sheet so kudos to Buzzfeed!  We’ll be getting to know many of the styles they talk about in men’s fashion

In our next Style File, we’ll be tackle several style ‘genres’ – style has hundreds of niches – vines on the branch from classic prep to Bohemian Baja.  I’ll discuss several key style niches that you might fight your groove in when you build timeless fashion into YOUR lasting style.  Trends come and go, you NEVER go out of Style – be true to yourself and nurture your creative spirit – give yourself room to roam on the fashion map, but never forsake your ‘style’ for a fast fashion trend you don’t like…once you know your personal clothing preferences it is easier to take risks and know when to scale back to find the best fits to define you personally and professionally.

And just because I couldn’t resist…sorry but this talk of style has music breaking out a beat: #Don’t Hate #Just Dance #break a beat

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