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This week’s secret to dressing like a European is something you notice on both men and women as soon as you step off the plane in Paris, Zurich or Rome ……and that is….. THE FIT OF THEIR CLOTHING. You may have observed on a trip to Europe- or just on a tourist you’ve seen here in the States, that European clothing fits differently. So what is the difference between the fit of American and European clothing? Are the clothes made differently over there? Are all Europeans dishing out the big bucks on tailored designer garments? Or is this secret to style classified information that one must be geographically destined to understand?

It’s none of the above. In fact, this “fit” secret is quite simple once you know it, and it is….“EXTRA FABRIC = EXTRA GIRTH” – ALWAYS!

For those of you who follow the Fashion Code or have heard us speak, you know that our mantra…“extra fabric = extra girth” is not only a secret to dressing like a European, it is a secret to creating the perfect outfit as well. With good reason. It is virtually impossible to look svelte and chic if you’ve got extra fabric hanging from your body and your clothes aren’t properly fitted. The ONE exception to this Secret is people who are rail thin and tall (think six foot tall anorexic runway model). They actually need a little bulk in their fashion diet. However, less than 1% of the population has this skyscraper-like body architecture.

In fact, the average American woman is now 5′ 4″ and a size 14, so we’re going to assume that more of our readers are closer to this American”norm” than the model’s norm of 6 feet tall and a size 0.  Interestingly enough, most European women are not very tall themselves (barring some Northern countries like Sweden and Norway). The French and Italians are especially small, so they work with this rule of “extra fabric = extra girth” almost religiously. And we don’t know about you, but when a stylish French or Italian woman is reverently following a fashion rule- we ‘re going to add it to our own fashion bible!

To illustrate our point, we’ve taken the SAME OUTFIT on our model below and put it on a “fabric diet”.  As you can see, by simply getting rid of the extra bulk in her shirt, sweater and accessories, she looks atleast 15 pounds thinner and incredibly more stylish.

So what does “EXTRA FABRIC EQUALS EXTRA GIRTH ” mean exactly – and more importantly how can we emulate this important style secret stateside? It simply means your clothing should always fit your body; never being too big or too tight. Clothing should skim your body- no matter what your size or shape.  Also, avoid wearing thick, bulky fabrics like the oversized, cable-knit wool sweater pictured on the left.  As you can see, it makes her look frumpy as well as two sizes larger than the thin, well tailored cardigan on the right.

We know…we know…many of us get embarrassed when we’ve put on a few pounds. The obvious solution (we think) is to hide it with larger clothing like a bigger shirt or wide leg pants. Unfortunately this solution can backfire in a sizable (pun intended) way. You see, no one knows if it’s air underneath all that extra fabric or if it’s you – and unfortunately they just assume it’s you. What does this do to your look? Well, not only does all that extra fabric end up making you look sizes larger, but it makes you look miles less stylish as well. Well dressed European women seem to know this intuitively. In fact, you rarely see the well heeled in anything oversized or bulky. Even full-figured European gals wear clothing which fits well and they never try to hide their curves beneath mounds of fabric.

The secret “EXTRA FABRIC = EXTRA GIRTH “ applies not only to clothing, but to shoes and accessories as well. For example, you won’t see our stylin’ continental cousins in chunky white tennis shoes or Uggs. If they are wearing tennis shoes, they are most often streamlined to the foot (and worn in dark tones). They understand that a clunky white “block” at the end of their leg makes them look shorter and loses them points in the style department. We, of course, can do this on our end of the fashion pond by choosing sleek, uncluttered footwear in deeper tones which recede…Also, if its elegance and sophistication you’re going for, stay clear of Uggs. They will shorten and widen your legs quicker than you can say garden gnome.

Now lets come full circle with last week’s European Style Secret – “Less is more”.  Not only is less clutter in your closet a huge help in finding a stylish outfit every morning, but in addition – paring down all the extra, over-sized, bulky American clothing will leave you looking sizes smaller and much more stylish as well.   So make sure any new additions to your closet are a perfect fit and you’ll leave women of all nations wondering what’s your secret to looking so stylish.

until next week…..

xoxo,

Ruth

This week’s secret to “Dressing Like a European” is….drumroll please…… LESS IS MORE. What does that mean exactly in relation to your wardrobe? Well, if the phrase “a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear” rings any bells, read on…..

As we mentioned last week, due to much smaller closet space, Europeans tend to have a lot less clothing than their North American friends. In contrast, most of us stateside have turned shopping into an Olympic event where our “over-fed” closets fight the battle of the bulge every day, bursting with clothing we never wear. You know which pieces we’re talking about. The ones taking up not only physical space in your closet, but huge amounts of emotional space as well. Those “unchosen” items  practically speak to you as you decide what to wear each morning. “I’m your skinny jeans which you definitely WON’T be wearing after last nights binge!”, “You’ve spent a lot of money on me but you never wear me!”, “Why do I still have my tags on?”, “Someday I’ll fit so you can’t give me away”, and on and on.

By the time we find our daily uniform- which might not be the most stylin’ thing in our wardrobe, we’re just happy to close the door on the whole thing and get the heck out of fashion dodge- that is, until tomorrow when we’ll have to face the music once again. Of course tomorrow we will start our diet and everything will miraculously look like its “supposed” to. All those unruly pieces will straighten up and start acting like the perfect outfits you always intended them to be…..maybe. And we hear Arnold Schwarzenegger is being considered as a possible presidential candidate….

Of course, one would think that having more clothing in your closet would make life easier by giving you a lot more options, but paradoxically the opposite is true. Getting dressed can be completely overwhelming when you have  10 jackets, 25 tops, 15 pants,12 belts and 30 pairs of shoes to choose from. This is where those savvy girls from the old sod can teach us a thing or two. While we take great joy in collecting masses of stuff, well-dressed Europeans do not.

European gals tend to spend more money on quality, timeless pieces on a shopping trip and aren’t simply looking to fill up their carts with piles of average clothing that will be here today and gone tomorrow. They know that one great jacket is far better than four so-so blazers. Try the following exercise: add up what you’ve spent on every single item of clothing in your closet you don’t wear.  You will probably be amazed at the dollar amount.  Even if Costco or Target are your fashion boutiques of choice, most women will find that for the same money they spent on their unworn discount impulse buys, they could have gone to a high end department store and instead gotten one or two great pieces that would have taken them out of park and put them into fashion drive. Don’t get us wrong, every woman loves a fashion bargain -but the well heeled European woman makes sure it’s not just a great deal, but a valuable addition to her wardrobe as well.

This is exactly what our chic friends from the Old World do- they go straight to a good store selling quality products and pick ONE item they LOVE and use it in their wardrobe for years. Some might think this doesn’t sound like a very exciting way to shop (without the adrenaline high one gets in ripping thru racks and racks of sales) but they know that there is simply no substitute for the thrill they get from walking to their closet, easily picking out a great outfit and effortlessly looking like a million bucks.– And no matter which side of the pond you live on, isn’t that all that any of us wants when getting dressed each morning?

xoxo, Ruth