Cultivating a distinctive style that expresses your personality and tells the world how you want to be perceived doesn't have to break the bank. In Best Dressed, Suzy Gershman — internationally recognized for her retail acumen — offers a comprehensive guide, from bargain bins to haute couture, to building a wardrobe that not only works for you, but rewards you with a personal style that ensures you always feel comfortable in your clothing. Her insider knowledge of the fashion world helps you identify your fashion...
Cultivating a distinctive style that expresses your personality and tells the world how you want to be perceived doesn't have to break the bank. In Best Dressed, Suzy Gershman — internationally recognized for her retail acumen — offers a comprehensive guide, from bargain bins to haute couture, to building a wardrobe that not only works for you, but rewards you with a personal style that ensures you always feel comfortable in your clothing. Her insider knowledge of the fashion world helps you identify your fashion goals, maximize your fashion dollars, and look your best, whatever the budget or occasion.
Suzy outlines a foolproof three-step plan for cultivating a successful shopping style. She offers guidance for those still in "The Empty Stage," otherwise known as "Help! I have nothing to wear," showing how to select core pieces that will form the basis of a versatile, age-appropriate wardrobe. Next, you'll master "The One Good Stage" — in which you invest in one good example in each category of clothes and accessories, broadening your options and looks. By the time you're ready to conquer "The Rounding-Out Stage," finishing your wardrobe with seasonal accents and current trends, you'll have gained the confidence and flair to carry off your own unique style.
Suzy shares her personal philosophies on which items are worth a splurge (and when it's okay to buy "disposable" items); how to predict fashion trends (and when it's too late to buy in); and why the best foundation for any working wardrobe is a comfortable pair of shoes. For fashion novices and clotheshorses alike, Suzy's pointers and tips dissect the complex hierarchy of fashion retail andmake creating a flexible and up-to-date wardrobe the painless process it was destined to be.
Suzy Gershman, the world's smartest shopper, lets you in on dozens of insider's tips and secrets to creating a fabulous wardrobe marked by your own personal style. Best Dressed delivers answers to your most frequently asked fashion questions, big or small, including:
Where are the real fashion bargains?
When is it too late to get in on a trend?
What is the single best fashion investment?
Why are the best working wardrobes built from the bottom up?
With Suzy's expert guidance, you'll learn to crack the stores' and manufacturers' pricing secrets, separate hype from style, and make your fashion budget go further than ever before.
An author, a journalist, and a television personality, Suzy Gershman worked as a correspondent for Time before turning to the fashion world. In addition to writing Frommer's "Born to Shop" series, Gershman is an editor at Travel Holiday, Porthole, and Luxe magazines and has contributed to publications ranging from McCall's to Neiman Marcus's The Book. Both Harvard Business School and New York's Fashion Institute of Technology have studied her retail guidelines; numerous stores have relied on her as fashion consultant. She currently lives in Connecticut.
Your Personal Shopping Style
We've all looked at a closet filled with clothes and moaned, "I haven't got a thing to wear." Why do we laugh, knowing it's all too possible? Because we don't shop as well as we dress.
Unless you wear a uniform, or have such a highly evolved and distinctive style that 90 percent of the choices out there in stores and catalogs are automatically eliminated, you shop for your own clothes and you put them together to present yourself to the world. The more you like to shop, the greater the chances that you will be tempted to mix and match, to experiment and to create.
The world's most fashion-forward women create their own styles before they become a style, taking a little of this and a little of that and putting it together in a unique manner. Somehow, it works and even evolves into a trend or style that others will imitate. These women are usually in the fashion business or an artistic field that allows, and encourages, these statements. But no one creates a look without the ammunition to do so—and the ammunition is provided by shopping trips, whether to flea markets, designer showrooms, or local shopping malls.
I can spend hours trying on clothes at the beginning of a season or before a trip, mixing and matching pieces and seeing what works together. As my wardrobe expands each year, I have new pieces to mix with the old; my goal is always to give myself a current look with as few new pieces as possible.
Your style as a shopper and collector of wardrobe bits has a lot to do with the basics of your personality, with learned behavior, and with budgetary constraints. All of these factors change and shift, so it's natural that your shoppingstyle will evolve over a period of years, just as your wardrobe does. Shopping style does relate to personal style because you are what you buy, but trust me, the Helter-Skelter Shopper does not look like a mess.
When you're up against it and set free in a store, what kind of shopper do you become? Take this little quiz and see if it helps to identify your shopping style.
What Kind of Shopper Are You?
1. To me, shopping is:
A) better than sex
B) an occupation
C) a necessary evil
D) a creative endeavor
2. I go shopping:
A) whenever I can
B) when the new clothes get to the stores
C) only if I need something
D) if I can find the time
3. I prefer to shop:
A) whenever possible
B) at lunch or on Saturdays
C) on weekends or days off
D) at night when stores are less crowded
4. When I find something I like:
A) I grab it and pay; I can always return it
B) I walk away to seriously think it over or discuss it with a loved one
C) I try it on, then decide if I really need it
D) I try it on and decide if it makes sense
5. My preferred shopping partner is:
A) my husband, my boyfriend, my sisters, my mother, my friends—it's always a party
B) my mom or my best friends
C) my mom
D) no one
6. I buy clothes to:
A) have plenty of choices when I need them
B) make a statement
C) cover my figure flaws
D) flatter and favor
7. My personal style:
A) changes constantly
B) reflects tasteful trends
C) is constant and dependable
D) is always evolving at a slow pace
8. If I have extra cash, I:
A) hit the sale racks to load up
B) go to Chanel
C) save it for an emergency
D) save it for a big style purchase
9. When I'm wearing the latest styles, I feel:
A) sexy and sensational
10. I feel "best dressed":
A) in a new, cutting-edge outfit
B) when I have a new piece of serious jewelry
C) when I'm dressed in a tried-and-true winner
D) when I have put together my own statement of style
To score, if you have mostly A answers, you are a Type A shopper, mostly B answers, Type B, and so on. Most people will fall into one of the four categories below, and while each type has its strengths and weaknesses, certain shoppers seem to enjoy a consistently higher rate of shopping satisfaction and live more happily with the choices they make—and the wardrobes that they assemble.
Type A Shopper: Helter-Skelter Give Me Shelter
Shopping Grade: C
Mistake Ratio: High
Style Grade: B+ or A
Look: Trendy and Fashionable
Suggestion: Slow down, don't waste as much.
Of all shopping styles, Ms. Helter-Skelter is the most emotional and the most likely to make mistakes. She is also the least likely to learn from past mistakes because passion is a large part of how she defines her sense of self and she refuses to deny her personal passion when she goes shopping.
"I know I make mistakes," she is thinking, "but I can't not be me."
The Type A shopper buys without trying on, buys by guessing, buys with her heart, buys navy blues to go with other navy blues and is then dismayed when they don't match. She shops with others and may even be a social shopper; she's influenced by others as well as by fads and trends and colors and store promotions. She's exciting and creative, but she'd rather own a lot of inexpensive things than any really good clothes, and her budget is often spread thin with payments on things that are already on their way out. She owns too many pairs of shoes.
Should you give the Helter-Skelter $500 of mad money for a shopping spree, she's likely to come up with a whole new look, a whole new wardrobe, and lots of cheap thrills.
Type B Shopper: The EuroSpender
Shopping Grade: B
Mistake Ratio: Low
Style Grade: B- or C
Look: Statusy, can get boring
Suggestion: Don't be afraid of cheap clothes when bought carefully.
The EuroSpender is guided by a very strong cultural bias toward buying few clothes and wearing them a lot. Her look can be either EuroTrash (lots of jewelry and very body conscious) or EuroChic (simple but safe and statusy). The EuroSpender basically doesn't like sales or markdowns or anything that could be considered inferior merchandise; she likes to buy at the beginning of the season and to put her money into one or two of the key items that fashion magazines have told her will be envied by others and mark her as one of the cognoscenti. However, she does go to "good sales" to take advantage of status merchandise at marked-down prices. She disdains these sales but goes to them anyway.
The EuroSpender doesn't want to do too much thinking or creating on her own; she feels confidence with brands; she does not take risks in her shopping methods or her personal style. This is the shopper who has brought back the luxury trade; to her, luxe was never a four-letter word. She likes cashmere, real leather, real gold, and real fur. She can walk all day in a pair of high heels, as if blisters are an affiction suffered only by other people.
Give her $500 and she buys the best-quality item she can find, from a designer or luxury-maker house at the beginning of the season.
Type C Shopper: Conservative Classic
Shopping Grade: B
Mistake Ratio: Little to none
Style Grade: B
Suggestion: Loosen up, girl.
The Conservative differs from the Euro in that she doesn't care one whit about trends or new colors or what's hot—she has found her style and rarely even thinks about other looks. She gets a B as her grade because she looks good; it's just that she has no look, no real style; little of her personality shows in her choices.
Her shopping style is about going to the racks and the departments of her prechosen favorites and buying from them. She is a loyal customer to a few makers; she doesn't mix and match too much. This is the woman in the black Calvin Klein suit, the beige Talbot's pants suit.
This shopper has a more well defined signature style than most other types of shoppers although her "signature" style doesn't really make a statement about her individual personality.
Ms. Conservative is not as status conscious as other shoppers; she is not easily swayed by trends or fashion magazines. She thinks "less is more," tends to be practical and to buy good-quality clothes; she thinks fashion was made for others, not her. She is a big catalog shopper.
Give her $500 to spend and she buys a suit and a pair of pumps that she'll wear happily for a decade.
Type D Shopper: The Architect
Shopping Grade: A
Mistake Ratio: Low
Style Grade: A
Look: Smooth, elegant, not too much, not too little
Suggestion: Go to the head of the class.
The Architect is creative but she's also more careful; she is always building—her closet is her empire and the wardrobes she creates are pieces of a puzzle that are meant to work together. Architect shoppers on limited budgets know to stick with one or two color groups (most often, black), but Architects with unlimited funds still work with color groups, basing purchases on good pieces, such as shoes, handbags, coats, and other existing pieces.
The Architect also plays with texture and message—her wardrobe is flexible enough to include good-quality pieces and cheap indulgences that she melds together, often seamlessly. She builds slowly and carefully, and even if she makes a few mistakes she has enough carryover (safety net) from years of getting it right that mistakes teach her something and can either be learned from and left behind or even used to establish a new wing of her wardrobe. Her shoes are sensible but chic.
Give her $500 for a shopping spree and she carefully weighs the purchases and mixes up a cocktail of sensible and silly.