I know, I know, it's only March. So why should you start thinking about your summer wardrobe? Have you gained or lost weight since last summer? Is your wardrobe too casual or does it contain lots of "work wear"? Or is it time for something new? Do you have the appropriate color for the bridal party pictures? Are you an odd size (who isn't!) and should you order from the Internet or catalogs? Will you need alterations or have something custom made? Would you like to make it yourself?
Whether you are attending a wedding as a guest or you are a family member who will be included in photos, these are all reasons to start shopping now.
Maybe you have a great wardrobe filled with clothes for all occasions. Try on a few of your favorites to make sure 1) they still fit, and 2) they weathered the winter. Did you have them cleaned before you stored them? Check for spots, bug bites, and staining at the armpits. If they don't fit, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your tailor or dressmaker to talk about ideas to make the garments bigger or smaller. Many clothes can be made bigger, but it's better to find out now whether this is cost effective. Sometimes you just have to start over.
Let's talk about style. It used to be a person never wore black or white to a wedding. You always had on your "Sunday best," but there are no hard and fast rules anymore. From a barefoot beach wedding to a formal church service, couples are very creative about where they get married these days. First on your list: find out where the wedding will be. If it's on the beach or in a park with the BBQ grill blazing, you don't want to show up in a formal gown. Conversely, you don't want to wear jeans to a formal sit-down dinner.
For a casual wedding, remember that "casual" does not usually mean jeans! Linen and cotton are always appropriate, especially in a hot climate: pants with a long tunic shirt, a tailored dress with sandals, or even a casual suit can be appropriate for this type of wedding. Lightweight silks can also work for more casual settings.
A formal wedding requires formal wear, usually a long dress, or even evening pants. Remember that men will be wearing suits, usually black, charcoal, or midnight, so keep that in mind when shopping for an outfit. Ask yourself, will this look good next to a suit?
For ideas on what to wear, I'd like to share one of my favorite websites: www.style.com. It was created by Vogue magazine and it posts runway shows from New York, Paris, London, and Milan. Just go to the website, click on "Fashion Shows" along the top of the page and you can choose between Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Couture or Ready-to-Wear. Then you can select a slide show from a huge list of designers. It's a great place to get ideas!
I always search for my favorite designers and then I like to check out new ones, too. I look at Badgley Mischka and for Spring 2010, they have a mid-1950s Cuba theme with great suits along with some ethereal dresses. Lanvin is showing a lot of what I would call tailored ruffles -- classic clothing styles with ruffled embellishments that are quite stunning. Carolina Herrera is showing a lot of textured tailoring, classic styles turned out in textured fabrics. The colors for her dresses are unique, too.
I always love Donna Karan's lines as well. She has a great way of using folds and pleating in her designs that both flatter and disguise the body where needed. Max Azria, on the other hand, is showing a lot of body-hugging styles with bold geometric prints out of colors such as salmon, yellow, and turquoise.
No room in your budget for designer clothes? You're not alone, but at least you will see what is in style and what catches your eye. Remember runway designs fuel fashion and even the less expensive lines are influenced by these ideas. There is really something for everybody on the runways, and when looking for inspiration, why not go to the best?
Once you have an idea of what you like, it's time to shop. I always suggest starting local and don't forget to check the little boutiques as well as the department stores. The great thing about the smaller shops is the personal service. Salespeople and owners have a trained eye and they really go out of their way to help you, sometimes recommending clothes that you wouldn't otherwise consider. We have a tendency to go for the same old thing and getting a fresh opinion can really help our closet as well as our self-image.
With Internet shopping, I recommend sticking to name-brand stores. That way you are assured of a certain quality and a return policy. I think Internet and catalog shopping are well worth the extra shipping costs to find a special outfit. Sometimes you can find some great deals to offset those costs, too.
Remember, if the fit isn't just right, tailors and dressmakers can help. We are experts on good fit and style and we can tweak your outfit so it's both comfortable and stylish.
And that brings up the subject of custom clothing. If you have the budget and a desire to be unique, custom clothing may be the avenue you want to pursue. Always go to a professional; we are trained in clothing construction, fit, and design, as well as pattern making. We keep up with trends, colors, and the latest fabrics. A good dressmaker or tailor can guide you to the styles and colors that will work for you ... or not! We can help you decide what you like and don't like in terms of fit and fabric choices and give you shopping options. We love making custom clothes, but sometimes what a client needs is a garment that can easily be bought and altered. Make an appointment for a consultation; it's well worth the money, even if you decide not to have anything made.
Also consider getting the advice of a professional constructionist if you decide to make an outfit yourself. Maybe your basic sewing skills make you a little nervous about cutting into a $25-per-yard piece of silk for that gorgeous evening gown. Some dressmakers will give you one-on-one advice/lessons/hand-holding for an hourly fee. It's well worth the money when you want your outfit to look fashionable and well-tailored rather than "home-made."
Whatever you decide to wear this summer, make sure you feel comfortable and confident. You want to enjoy the occasion as well as your clothes!
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or [email protected]