Thursday, March 31, 2011


So I'm pregnant. That radically changes my thinking about fashion and consumption like nothing else has. Some days, I couldn't care less about how I look.

I don't really want to buy things that I might outgrow in a few months and that I might not be able to fit into post-pregnancy. Ironically, although this pregnancy has disordered all  my plans and complicated things quite a bit (it was both planned and unexpected), it has, on the other hand, simplified my wardrobe into about a dozen workable pieces. I now have a minimalist's wardrobe! haha.

But I am determined to buy as little maternity-specific clothes as possible. There's no point in buying things you'll only wear for a few months, in any scenario. As long as I can still pull from my old closet, I'll continue to do so. It helps me to feel more like me, too, which is important because I have no plans to morph into Mom, capital M, with all its social expectations and stereotypes. There are no mini-vans in my future (but I feel obliged to say that if a mini-van were to appear in my {non-existent} driveway, I wouldn't refuse it! a 30-year-old short-bed truck is less than the ideal baby transport).

Which isn't to say that I haven't stuck a toe into the maternity arena. I went down to the local thrift store to see what maternity clothes were to be had, and it was a quick lesson in aversion therapy. Everything was either ugly, gigantic, shapeless, frumpy, or a combination thereof. While I feel sympathetic to the women who, I imagine, were strong-armed into such garments solely by the forces of circumstance and practicality, I hope to not end up in such desperate straits. (But really, who's to say? One thing I've learned in being a full-time incubator is that there is not a lot under your control.)

Towards that end, I have isolated two women whose maternity style I admire. One is Melanie Huynh, former editor at Vogue Paris, and Nicole Richie, former best friend of Paris Hilton. I'll post a study of their styles in separate posts at some point. I don't really plan to fully emulate their style--I did not wear spiky Balenciaga heels prior to being pregnant, and I certainly won't during--but I think they both tweaked their individual style admirably  to accommodate their changing body shape, in ways that would be instructive to anybody.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On Mr. Porter and wardrobe building

I came across this interview with Net-a-Porter's Natalie Massenet in the Wall Street Journal in which she talks about how Net-a-Porter came into being and grew into such a powerhouse. At the end, she remarks on the difference between how men and women shop. Here's the pertinent passage:
With Mr. Porter, we are not intending to just reskin Net-a-Porter and call it a men’s site. We’ve thrown away every thing we know about shopping online and started from scratch because we’re working with a customer base that’s inherently not crazy about going into stores. We’re tailoring the navigation and the services to cater to the male psychology of shopping, which is very different from a woman’s. Men shop to build a long-term wardrobe, while women focus more on short-term, trend-driven pieces. [italics mine]
I found the italicized concept pretty intriguing, so I went over to the Mr. Porter website (the male arm of NAP) to check out how this difference might translate into a different approach to dressing and strategy for selling.

Besides such hilarious features as "How to Please Her" (so dating anxiety isn't just confined to women!), the section that really intrigued me was the "Wardrobe Manager" section. It's basically what we've been calling the French Method for dressing. There's sub-sections that keep list the essentials for a complete wardrobe, a section to keep track of desired items, a re-order section to replace old and worn-out favorites, and a section that compiles recommendations from friends and the site. What this Wardrobe Manager suggested to me was a methodical, thoughtful approach to dressing as well as a style that remains consistent over time.

I really liked the Essentials list that they generated for their customers. While I don't agree that a tux is an essential item in a wardrobe (though for their target clientele it could be; but I imagine it's really on the list to flatter the consumer), I really appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the rationale for each of these items. Example:
It's useful to have a few casual shirts; you can always spot a man who wears the same shirts at the weekend as he does to the office during the week. Fabrics should be a bit heavier and less formal, which brings oxfords and substantial linens to the fore, and allows colours to be more expressive, because strong hues look better when the cloth is thicker.
Now I know it's difficult to compile a list of essentials for women, who have so much more variety in what they can wear, but I would love to have a list that narrowed down the features of any one essential item so that shopping becomes more analytical, targeted, and likely to end in success. I know various blogs do that to some degree, and I really love to hear the thought process behind figuring out what people really need and enjoy. I myself know that I hate overly textural fabrics next to my skin, but it took so much trial and error to come to that realization.

I would almost say that this approach to dressing, as evidenced at Mr. Porter, is more analytical and less emotion-driven, but I think that's only on the surface of things. Underneath, there's still that tried-and-true advertising strategy of creating anxiety about some heretofore unperceived deficiency or flaw, and then offering the panacea. Witness the "you can always spot a man who wears the same shirts at the weekend as he does to the office during the week." i.e. don't be that one of those boorish men who doesn't know how to have fun.

Anyway . . . Another long post. I realize I do this blogging thing all wrong, with lots of texts, very few pictures, and no covet-worthy items. So I appreciate the kind words in the comments that have encouraged me to keep writing. I hate to inundate or create more noise, so it's good to know that it doesn't come across that way.