From ‘Faux Pas’ to Fabulous…how to turn life’s little ‘disasters’ into fashion ‘moments’

Everything is getting more expensive these days, and that of course, includes fashion. The high cost of fashion is a continuing fact of life and a favorite topic of discussion, most recently tackled by Cathy Horyn for last Thursday’s Style section of The New York Times. And speaking of which, in an effort to cut expenses (newsprint, etc.), The New York Times itself just reduced the width of its pages by an inch and a half. And that’s not all that’s downsizing or shrinking these days: the ‘shrinking’ suit is the ‘height’ of fashion.

This got me thinking about how little imperfections, seemingly negative situations, and even ‘disastrous’ events, can often be turned around to one’s benefit. As luck would have it, modern fashion has nothing to do with perfection in the old fashioned sense of the word and in fact, designers seem to go out of their way to celebrate imperfection, often taking great pains to integrate these “off” moments into their collections. So, if you’re interested in hearing my tips for turning life’s little disasters, accidents, and faux pas into great (or at least interesting) fashion moments, AND save money at the same time, read on.

The incredible shrinking jacket

What happens when you’ve outgrown your favorite jacket, or gained weight after having that baby? Of what if (thanks to your local dry cleaner or tailor) your pants (or jackets) shrink, or perhaps the hems or sleeves were shortened a tad too much? Before you decide to get rid of them or donate to a local thrift shop, just consider that jackets and pants that are shrunken one or two sizes too small have been making news for the last several seasons thanks in large part to CFDA winning designer Thom Browne. He has been proposing natty, Savile Row-worthy suits for men (that have the appearance of being a few sizes too small) since he came on the scene and this season, has started translating his aesthetic for women with his new collection for Brooks Brothers, Black Fleece, which debuts in its stores next week.

And it’s not a secret that fashion savvy women have been shopping for their downsized tailored togs in little boys departments (where prices are much lower than elsewhere).

Of course, if it’s just a case of the sleeve of a coat or a jacket being deemed too short? Well, this coming season, as has been the case for quite some time, there’s no such thing as too short: ¾ length (bracelet) sleeves — or even shorter — on coats and jackets are de rigueur (very 40’s, 50’s).

Lost (g) love

While we’re talking about sleeves and gloves, what if you lose just one glove?
Several years ago, fashion went completely asymmetrical and off kilter: there were jackets and tops shown with just one sleeve, or with one sleeve a different length than the other.

Even gloves were given the same treatment and many outfits were shown with just one glove. So, don’t despair: go ahead and wear just one glove.

The jagged edge

How many times have you reached into your closet for a favorite tailored jacket or suit, only to realize that the edges are now frayed, and it looks tattered and mangled?

Before you get rid of it–or visit the tailor for some expensive repair work—consider the fact that historically, some designers purposely set out to create threadbare designs.

For example, back in 2003, Junya Watanabe showed elegant Chanel inspired tweed jackets and corresponding skirts, with edges purposely tattered, frayed, and threadbare. Vera Wang “destroyed tulle” as Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley aptly described it, infusing her luxurious evening separates with an edge. Cynthia Steffe seemed to use a pair of scissors in order to make her sleeves and hems appear to be uneven and unfinished.

Have a pair of favorite well-worn jeans that are torn and ripped and seem to have one hole too many? If you recall, that same year, Ralph Lauren put a modern spin on couture when he paired refined vintage-inspired Edwardian jackets in dainty wallpaper prints, as well as delicate beaded tops, with torn, ripped, well- worn, faded, distressed jeans for his highly acclaimed spring/summer collection.

He even fashioned a ball skirt with a bustle from the faded all American staple!

In distress

In the fashion world, well-worn items are not an emergency call for SOS but rather, a fashion moment in the making. Routinely, vintage-inspired, antiqued, distressed, well-worn leather goods (bags, belts, shoes) and clothing have been making their way onto runways and store shelves.

I don’t know about you, but I have almost thrown items out with those same attributes.So, before you head to the junk pile, please note: designers are purposely creating items that look as though they were treasures found in thrift shops, flea markets, and Salvation Army stores. The look is supposed to appear as though your new purchases are actually old collectibles and heirlooms.

Room at the top

What happens when you’ve recently shed those pounds and find yourself the proud owner of several voluminous jackets or coats that seem ill fitting and one or two sizes too big? Before you give it them away to your bigger sister/girlfriend/mom, keep this in mind: for many designers, bigger is better.

Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano for Dior are just two influential designers who have traditionally loved playing with volume, and awhile back, ‘room at the top’ was a true fashion statement with “Thriller”-worthy blousons, sweaters that appear to fall off the shoulders, jackets, and overcoats with a mannish bent.

Just remember to keep the bottom lean: a tall boot, narrow trouser, slim skirt. You might also opt for a pair of shorts, a mini, or leggings- if your legs are good enough.

The one tip you must remember

Just keep in mind that whatever you do, do it with style and above all, confidence. You’ll find you can get away with anything.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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