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Follow Emily’s style transformation. This is part 2 of a 3-part series.

I’m making over my assistant Emily for Coastal Fashion Week. She’s a college student and photographer. I wanted to take her style from college student to professional.

Everyone has a style. You may think you lack style, but it’s like being sort of pregnant. Either you are, or you’re not.

Emily’s style is comfortable and effortless but not always in a good way.

One of the style faux pas I’ve mentioned regularly in this blog is not knowing one’s body. Shopping is easier when you know your sizes and have a healthy assessment of your body type. Most people — I’ve noticed men are just as guilty as women — tend to exaggerate their features. Emily is no different in that respect. This is the chief hindrance to any shopping trip.

When we exaggerate what we perceive as unflattering features, we create style rules that never really exisedt. It creates this sort of halo effect. We spotlight certain features and obsess over them. The five pounds we need to lose become 25. The acne on our nose is really big. Everyone is just staring at it.

I loathe the words “I can’t wear.” You can. Can connotes ability. The more precise phrase may be “I don’t like to wear” or “I’m not sure it will fit.” I don’t allow the words “I can’t” in the classroom. It’s a fortress that shuts out effort. I don’t allow it in styling either.

Once this filter of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” is created, we categorize clothes accordingly. We can’t wear [insert color, print, or cut], therefore, we don’t even try it on.

Here’s a little confession. I hate shopping with other people. I have to wield an ax to defeat all the body image demons. Psychology is not my area of expertise.

It’s just fabric. It’s an inanimate object. We put it on. It comes off. Unfortunately, we assign so much meaning to clothing that we’ve made it a symbol of value and perception. This issue isn’t wide-legged pants. It’s the perceptions we maintain of how a person with an imagined degree of fatness should dress that does not exist.

Yes, maintains.Β  Regularly. Like their lawn. Let that sink in for a moment.

Emily came armed with self-imposed rules. She has an aversion to print. She doesn’t wear form-fitting pants or skirts. She doesn’t wear heels. Most of these rules don’t have a reason. They just are.

So, I had to meet her in the middle.

Problem 1: Doesn’t know sizes

Problem 2: Self-imposed style rules

Problem 3: Skewed body image

It simplifies the shopping process when one knows their measurements. I understand many brands use vanity sizing. It makes it difficult to pin down an exact size. However, you should have a ball park figure.

Emily’s jeans came from the juniors section. This isn’t uncommon for 20-somethings to shop in juniors. There are several reasons this occurs:

  • Brand loyalty: They fell in love with a brand that doesn’t service adults.
  • Youthful trends: They think modern trends are not featured in the women’s section. Retailers are to blame for this.
  • Body acceptance: Juniors sizing is designed for teens with developing bodies. It doesn’t allow for breasts and hips. Moving up to adult sizes does not mean you’re fat. It means you’re a fully-developed woman.
  • Reality acceptance: For those who place too much symbolism into clothing, they don’t feel like an adult; therefore, they do not dress like one either.

In Em’s case, she doesn’t put much stock into sizing. She tries it on. If it fits, she wears it. This was the strategy we used while shopping.

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Alas, the leather skirt did not fit.

Shopping Strategy:

I like the idea of consignment. Thrift stores can be hit or miss. Most items are donated, so the price point is really low. Many thrift stores support charities.

Let’s be honest. People do not donate their best goods.

Consignment is different. Many consignment shops carry upscale brands. The shop offers a price for the clothing and sells it at a markup for profit. Consignment shop owners know what sells and what doesn’t, so the quality is higher than what you would find at thrift stores.

Not to say that you can’t find great secondhand goods at a thrift shop. I love thrifting. I will admit it takes more patience and time to sift through dross than to find the gem. I’m sure my metaphor is pathetic. You get my meaning.

We settled for Rave Reviews Consignment Boutique and Plato’s Closet.

IMG_0543Rave Reviews is a locally-owned shop I frequent for professional clothing.

Frugal fashion tip: Shop in August and January. Everybody offers discounts, even on clearance apparel, to make room for new inventory.

Rave Reviews had 60-80% off all apparel except formal wear. I live in the original birthplace of Mardi Gras in the U.S. (hence the wreaths on the doors in the above picture). Balls are a big deal. It’s sequin-paloosa around here right now. Laissez les bon temps roulez and all that jazz.

Consignment pricing on secondhand itemsΒ  + discounts = a steal

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This was $1.

Plato’s is a national chain. They sell name-brand youth apparel like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe.

If you read my thoughts on fast fashion, you know I’m a little leery of certain brands. The goal is to save money on well-made items with a degree of longevity and not throw-away trendy items.

I would post pics from Plato’s if I had any to post. Local boutiques tend to be more receptive to bloggers.

Emily walked out with an outfit and shoes from Rave Reviews. We accessorized at Plato’s Closet.

In the next and final installment, I will unveil Emily’s new look with a detailed description explaining why the outfit works for her.

Spoiler alert: The final look is way under budget.