SECRET #1: Texture
Let us start by saying that, of course, not all European women wake up each day looking like they just came from a personal photo shoot with Vogue. In fact, the fascinating thing about European style is that it looks so very “unrehearsed” and “un-planned” that it leaves many of us wondering just what is the true secret our sisters across the pond use almost intuitively when getting dressed each morning.
Like any good recipe there isn’t just one main ingredient that creates fashion perfection, but several things that, when used in the right combination, will win you the blue ribbon at the county fair -or at least keep you out of “Hell’s Kitchen”.
In each of our blogs over the next few weeks we will be revealing one indispensable style “ingredient” which will unveil 7 fabulous ways to create your own personal “Continental” style.
This week’s secret is based on something largely overlooked in America- but which is almost a staple to the European way of dressing. That secret is……..TEXTURE.
We’re not talking about hair shirts here – though the Europeans certainly did favor that look back in the dark ages. No, from the Parisians to the Venetians , one of the key style elements to any chic ensemble is the finish, weave, consistency- or in short, the texture of the fabric.
The reason many of us don’t even consider the texture of a garment when trying to create an “ensemble extrodinaire” is because texture is largely lacking in our mass-produced American clothing choices.
Try sitting on a bench in the middle of any major city in Europe and you will notice two things. One: almost every chic outfit has texture as a main component and Two: almost every beautiful, charming aspect of that town is also based on texture. Yes, Europeans are surrounded by this seemingly unimportant detail. From the carved wooden columns on the bank to the ancient stone statues of the Saints in the church (whose folds of clothing seem to be made from fabric and not marble) to the cobblestones beneath their feet. Texture is one of the major elements Europeans use to create beauty and style.
Now lets sit down again on our “figurative fashion perch” in any American city and notice the passers-by. Most people will have a noticeable lack of texture in their outfits. Due to America’s huge population, we have much bigger stores which carry much larger volumes of clothing. When any garment is mass produced, every penny counts and generally cheaper runs of fabric are used. Less expensive fabrics are almost always flat and lacking in any depth, weave (or interest!). In Europe smaller populations produce smaller, higher quality quantities of clothing- where many designers still see their creations thru from start to finish (and don’t send their “fashion babies” off to far away sweat-shops to be produced by the thousands).
Take khaki cotton pants, for example, a common wardrobe staple sold from Nordstrom’s to Costco. They might be a “good basic”, but combined with a cotton shirt and a gabardine jacket-you’ve got the perfect storm for a ho-hum outfit. Now lets send that same outfit on a European vacation…..
In Europe a well-dressed woman would, of course, give our previously ho-hum outfit the “texture-treatment”. Interestingly enough, this “treatment” might only include a minor change for its chic transformation. For example: she might swap out that previously “dullsville” gabardine jacket for a beautiful, tactile cashmere blend. Finished with a cordonne topstitch and an interesting button, this jacket can now even be worn with the ho-hum cotton blouse and khaki pants to create a stylish and versatile look.
So what’s an American fashionista to do? Next time you’re out shopping be on the lookout for some texture to add to your ensemble. It will require a little more digging, but your reflection in the mirror will thank you. Small boutiques can be a great place to find trendy tactile treasures (try saying that three times fast). Also, if you’re like most of us and love the European designer fabrics and styles, but not the expensive price tags that go with them – check out designer re-sale stores and outlet stores. Here you can find clothing in beautiful fabrics and cuts for a fraction of the price. Of course you don’t forget to look for some fabulous Italian (textured!) shoes when you’re there ….but we’ll save the secret of picking out the perfect accessories for next week’s blog…….