When I left New York for London nearly a year ago, currency wasn’t the only thing I converted.
I’ve made an effort to turn what little clothes I brought overseas into a wardrobe worthy of the Eurozone. I’ve looked to the men in Paris and replaced t-shirts for collared shirts. I’ve shorn my American boot-cut jeans for a slimmer-fitting pant.
I’ve dressed down to what I consider the bare essentials, and yet I find myself underwhelmed, not to mention underfunded.
With London Fashion Week’s menswear showcase approaching, my student budget depleting and job interviews on the horizon, I turned to my own closet asking the age-old question: WHAT do I wear?
This city’s high street retailers, back-alley charity shops and global fashion houses make my quest for a winning wardrobe more difficult than squeezing into size 30 jeans.
Even if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I can’t help but wonder what turns good clothes into great style. My sartorial opinion: one’s ability to adapt any article of clothing to fit their lives.
I turned to celebrity fashion stylist, image consultant and international fashion writer Gabrielle Teare to see if my ideas are en-vogue. When I asked Teare, who’s been featured in Elle, Marie Claire, The Guardian and Vogue, her opinion on buying high street versus high fashion, her answer reflected my dilemma: depends on the budget.
‘Some people only buy designer, and some people only buy high street,’ Teare told me. ‘What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. People have a style for their own life.’
I’ve noticed that today’s most successful sartorial decisions celebrate the balance of mixing high street with high fashion.
Photo-bloggers like Tommy Ton of Style.com and GQ pay attention to the minute details that make a street-scene outfit out-of-this-world. New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham focuses on the season’s trends reinterpreted and reincarnated by the Manhattanite imagination.
My next question considered what happens when someone’s life doesn’t allow them to afford the style they want. Teare said: ‘The biggest problem is that they don’t spend enough money.’ As a young professional with limited funds, I thought I was doomed. Teare went on to explain, it’s about quality, not quantity.
According to Teare, English people only wear 20% of what they buy. It’s called grazing. Not exclusive to Brits, grazing refers to a consumer’s practice of buying clothes for the sake of buying, not necessarily for wearing. The clothes may not be the best-suited, but people will buy because they think they’ll be able to make it work.
The trick is to know it works before buying.
‘We judge people in the first 30 seconds of meeting them,’ said Teare. ‘To not take advantage of that and use that is crazy’.
I asked Teare to direct me to the mistakes people make so I know what to avoid.
Teare said: ‘Men tend to buy too much black, navy and gray. Women buy too cheap, they don’t spend money on themselves the way men do. People should buy less.’
Teare’s observation that women buy too cheap could hold implications in work and in life. Consider a man and a woman both interviewing for the same job at a top financial firm. Both candidates are equally qualified, and the final decision comes down to an in-person interview.
‘A man will spend loads of money on a suit. He already has presence,’ said Teare. If a woman doesn’t invest on quality clothing, Teare believes it will show not just in the clothes, but in how seriously people will take her. Teare also believes ‘a woman needs to exploit her femininity’.
The meteoric rise of higher-end high street retailers like Hollister, Zara and Topshop have made simultaneously affordable and stylish options readily available.
The plus-side? I can purchase the jacket I saw the stranger in gay village wearing.
The downfall? So can everyone else.
Teare does not shy away from high street stores. ‘I just don’t do Primark,’ she said.
Teare’s career means that she is trained in body shapes, she knows what colors to put on people. If you’re budget doesn’t allow for Teare’s professional counsel, she shared what she believes are the classic pieces and brands every man and woman should invest in.
For men: a suit, proper dress shirt, great shoes and a watch. Treare’s favorites include Acne Jeans, J Lindeberg, Corneliani (on Bond Street), Reiss and Ted Baker (only for men, she doesn’t like Ted Baker for women).
Trease’s top pick for both men and women: Dolce and Gabbana.
With Teare’s blessing and a potential income, my new Euro wardrobe should be ready in time for London’s next rainy season.