MANual of Style


Spotlight: shopping online, silhouette examples by Elizabeth
9 January, 2010, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Basic Concepts | Tags: , , ,

Shopping online

Shopping online is a little tougher because you can’t try clothes on. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, though. You just have to do a little extra legwork.

If you’re just browsing, you need to pay attention to measurements to get your sizing right. Get yourself a tailor’s tape measure; they’re like a buck at a fabric shop. (It’s really hard to measure clothes accurately with rulers; clothing is neither rigid nor straight, after all.) Measure a piece you already own, that fits right, to figure out what size you’re looking for. Here is a little guide on how to measure a garment so you know you’re on the same page as the sellers. Armed with those numbers, you’re much more likely to end up buying clothes that fit the way you expect them to.

If you’re looking for a specific, hard-to-find item, think about setting up a Google alert for an appropriate search term, so you’ll be able to jump on it if it should turn up on eBay or something. Be as specific as you can! Include brand, size, and style in your terms; “46 double-breasted Armani suit brown” is going to pick up a lot fewer false positives than “suit”is.

A demonstration of silhouette
On Thursday, we talked a bit on price and how to shop. One of the inevitable questions that comes up during comparison-shopping is “Why would I buy [Garment X] when I can get a cheaper one somewhere else?” Sometimes the answer is that there’s no good reason to spend more. Sometimes, though, the answer is about small stylistic details that make a world of difference in how the garment is perceived when you wear it. Here are some examples.

Hanes Long-sleeve T-shirt: $7.99

Here we have your standard long-sleeved tee. On this model, the shirt looks pretty baggy; the shoulder seams are pretty far down his arms and you can see excess fabric at his back and wrists. It’s clearly cut for someone with wider shoulders and a little more mass in the torso and arms.


REI OXT Men’s Long-Sleeve T-shirt: $29.50

This one’s a little more slender in the arm and torso; the sleeves are also uncuffed and it’s shorter so it won’t bunch up around the waist as much. We can see that these models are similarly built if we look carefully, but the overall effect of this shirt is noticeably thinner and longer-looking, because it avoids the weighing down and shortening effects of excess fabric.

A|X Logo Panel Crew from Armani Exchange: $58.00

This one is cut similarly to the last, except that it has a lower neckline and still thinner sleeves, and it’s a little shorter. It also seems to be made of a slightly heavier fabric, which smooths out some of the wrinkles. The overall effect is longer and thinner again, with the low neckline adding apparent length to the neck (which makes you look taller). The colors work with this too, using bright contrasting elements at the sleeves and neckline to draw the eye, and dark panels to shave away the sides of the body, which taper toward the chest so they create a V-shape.

Since this shirt’s so closely cut, it’s going to be a lot less forgiving than the others of a few extra pounds, and if I’m right that it’s a heavier fabric, it’s less versatile to layer with. On the other hand, it’s a great silhouette.

So, when you’re looking at similar garments with very different price points, that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. Each cut will flatter a different kind of body. These particular examples are made of different fabrics, too; that’s another thing to keep in mind, since the weight of your clothes affects when you’ll be able to wear them comfortably and what you can wear them with.

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