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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Random Sartorial Gleanings

A number of people have asked me what I thought of the Oscars. To be honest, a bit uninspired by it all. For months we’ll be seeing images of what everyone (particularly the ladies) was wearing. I know I didn’t see them all but I would have to say one of my favorites was Jennifer Lopez in Armani Prive. Score another for the designer who isn’t buying off the celebs and has enough sense to impose minimal standards for models  so he’s part of the solution and not the problem.

I do like Armani. He doesn’t drastically change his collections every season, he sticks with the basics and makes small changes. Really, let’s think about designers drastically changing their collections year-in, year-out. What are they saying? “Our collection last year was so bad (again), we had to scrap it and start over”? I know they’re probably trying to make a statement to impress the otherwise bored fashion press with their antics, but some get so carried away its more circus than fashion.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like Milan is the winner again over New York, London and Paris. They just seem to take it more seriously and show clothes that are wearable with pleasing silhouettes, fabrics and drape. Maybe they should consider letting Milan Fashion Week go longer than a weekend. They’ve earned it. Take the time from the French, they seem to have too much of it on their hands.

Men at the Oscars, or anywhere else that the dress is “formal”. Gentlemen, formal “black-tie” means wear a tux, a black bow-tie, a formal shirt with studs and cufflinks and black (preferably patent-leather) shoes. Why on earth is that so difficult? It’s a statement enough that you’re there, don’t try to make one by showing your insecurities and need to be different by disrespecting your host. Feel free to make an ass out of yourself the other 364 days of the year.
Have I mentioned one of my favorite sports is perusing consignment, vintage and thrift shops? Love it. It’s like a treasure-hunt. There’s a bit of a sliding scale depending on the type of shop it is. Higher-end consignment shops tend to have near mint condition clothes that are stylish and great quality. For that you pay a bit more compared to say, thrift shops or wherever clothes are donated. I got into this habit about 10 years ago. Living on the Upper-East side in Manhattan, I lived across the street from a consignment shop called “Gentleman’s Resale”. Next door was “Designer’s Resale”, which was for the ladies. Great shops. I’ve bought a number of things there that still had the tags in them. Why would someone pay retail from Barney’s, Saks or Bergdorf’s and not wear what they bought? Not my problem. Other than the small supply of truly new, they had samples and clothes used in photoshoots or shows. Everything else is high-end and mint. They simply won’t take it otherwise. Some people refuse to wear anything that’s been worn before. That’s fine. They and their pride can go pay retail. If it’s that good of a deal, I can be bought. A mint condition $4,000 suit for $500, $400, $200? Yes, my pride and I will keep the difference (and use some of it to have it perfectly tailored). Many of these stores have different colored price-tags. The longer it’s there, the more it’s discounted. One shop I know will take 25% off after 30 days and 50% off after 60 days. Recent example: Burberry tweed sportscoat, mint, minimal tailoring needed (a significant factor of the true price)- originally marked for $110, 50% off. Score!

Thrift-shops are a crapshoot. I have to be in the mood. You truly see what the average person is wearing in these and it’s not always pretty. In higher-end consignments, virtually everything is quite wearable and good quality- it’s just a matter of fit. For thrifts, it seems as though 1 in 100 items are worth a good look. Quality? Condition? Size? Fit? Value? Often times you go and find nothing. But sometimes…  you’ll hit the sartorial value homerun. Good rule of thumb is to go in a neighborhood where people dress well. Wealthier the neighborhood, the higher-quality the clothes tend to be, simply because they can afford it. OK, good examples of the home-run. Oscar de la Renta cashmere and wool sportscoat, no signs of wear, pockets still stitched closed and minimal tailoring needed: $7.99. Ralph Lauren Purple Label grey slacks, mint condition, need to be hemmed: $4.99. Probably 5 trips over time to land those two but in 10 years I’ll still be wearing them.

This just goes to show you don’t have to have a boat-load of money to wear high-quality clothes. Sure, you don’t have the thrill of walking out with a Bergdorf’s bag but the bank-account and wardrobe will be better for it. I like doing the high-end retail or boutique thing but sometimes a little treasure-hunting and finding jewels others overlooked or were too slow to get gives a thrill to the chase. A couple of other notes. Not surprisingly, women’s clothes greatly outnumber men’s. With the economy still waiting for a full comeback, supply at consignments is higher than ever which results in higher quality and more exceptional deals. Also, it's important to know what can be tailored and what can't or would be major work. Even new, off-the-rack clothes will need tailoring of some sort for a perfect fit. Tailoring is what makes the difference, don't skimp! We are looking for good material to work with, from there it takes a professional to make it fit your unique shape and size.

Happy hunting!

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