Monday, September 9, 2013

THINGS I Know About Clothes, With a Side of Advice

In some ways, I know more about clothing than most people do (to be explicit, this is as distinct from fashion and design).  Not long ago, I had a fun little wigging-out on Twitter, that Rachel Zoe, a celebrity stylist/designer who has a reality show, apparently keeps all of her clothing in its dry cleaning bags.  Her assistants were going through her archive of past wardrobe, and every bit of it was plastic bagged.  Then there were several shots in her home closet, showing her whole family’s clothing, all in bags and (YEP) on wire hangers still sporting those “WE HEART YOU” paper hanger covers unique to drycleaning shops everywhere.

Now, I’m no snob, but this woman is, and she also puts money into fashion like few people in the history of the planet have ever conceived of.  I know that one of the first rules of your schmanzy label clothing (and, indeed, of many lesser beings, who simply prefer to take care of their clothing properly) is NO WIRE HANGERS.  We all think of that wretched film I won’t steal a still from, nor name, nor quote – but the thinking behind no wire hangers is that a wooden or padded hanger does not cut into the textile and seams of a garment, and therefore will both keep it shaped properly and not cause it damage.  The secondary effect of no wire hangers is the forced spacing of hung clothing in a closet – preventing a certain amount of wrinkling and simply being able to see everything, while everything has room to hang as it was designed to, and allowing the textiles all to breathe.

Which brings me back to those saran wrap bags.

On Twitter, I was all faux-shouty that Rachel Zoe (she is, by the way, the final poser – heh – here at this post) keeps her clothes in plastic bags.  Deliciously, so as to prolong my absurdity, one of my “fella babies” online asked me why that was a bad thing.

Much as it is with babies, so it goes with textiles:  plastic cuts off the air supply.  Nothing breathes inside a plastic bag.  This traps moisture and heat, which both have their deleterious effects upon fibers.  Also:  plastic bags are born of petroleum products and chemicals, and chemicals play with each other and perform that oh-so-fragrant game of chemical decomp:  outgassing.  Even if this were not terrible for the fibers of your clothes ... why would you want your garments to SMELL like that?  And finally, there is the simple practical matter of identification.  I can’t see anything so clearly as when it’s unimpeded by unnecessary packaging.

And so, though I wire hang and mush my clothes, that’s largely a private affair between me and my very odd closet – but, when a woman who makes millions based on her supposed expertise with clothes stores them in plastic bags, she’s opened herself up for critique on her total lack of care of her obscenely priced wardrobe.


The problem, of course, with the knowing-of-stuff is how frustrated a certain type of extreme twit such as myself can get when other people louse up a day not-knowing-stuff.  Trying to search online for a boat neck dress or sweater, it can get you a little crazy the number of vee-necks you have to slog through.  Don’t even try searching “bateau” – what few people are aware of the word invariably misspell it.  Likewise exotic shades such as “burgandy” and features including “sequence” (sequin is the singular, my little drag queens; sequins is the plural) – and one I ran across recently, “prolonged sleeves” ... I have to assume this is some sort of special long sleeve my paltry expertise does not encompass.

The sole justification I hold for getting uptight about this brand of ignorance is that, if you want to sell something, and you actually do make an attempt to describe it (surprisingly few actually do ...), then getting the description flat out wrong is irritating and will lose you sales.  If you list something as having long sleeves, and I buy it, and it turns out that they are ¾, your ignorance may well have been innocent – but I despise wearing ¾ sleeves.  HATE them.

This is, of course, one of the reasons that when I do buy online, I prefer to find measurements of a particular garment (size charts are worse than meaningless; they tend to actually be misleading).  Sellers who don’t automatically provide these, or who won’t answer the question of particular measurements when asked, I won’t buy from.  Your loss, kids – my money.  I don’t give it to the slipshod nor recalcitrant.

When I accidentally give it to the ignorant (see also:  ¾ sleeves), I generally forgive, but when I give it to the actually deceptive (people who pin garments to fit in ways the garment actually cannot hang in reality) I get mad.  So does every buyer on earth.  The skirt with the long side slit – I don’t like those, they make me feel cold on one leg, and they look stupid and can be inappropriate for work.  The apparently fitted sweater dress you snugged up on the mannequin, which in reality fits like a bag.  Tell me it’s a 42” waist or expect me to neg you at feedback time because you altered/hid the nature of your product.

And try, at least try, to categorize your items sanely.

  • Things that are not blazers:  cardigan sweaters of fluid cut and fabric; jean jackets; winter outerwear coats; any coat made of plastic; blouses.
  • Things that are not “wear to work”:  strapless dresses; lame’ anything; micro minis; bridesmaids and/or mother-of-the-bride suits; anything made of PVC, or more than 5% leather (if it is not a shoe).
  • Things that are not dresses:  two piece skirt sets; cardigans (those things show up in EVERY dadgum category on eBay); lingerie; boots.
  • Things that are not size fourteen regular women's clothing:  size XS junior; size 22W; jewelry; purses; shoes; car parts; vintage lamps.
  • Patterns that are not accurately described as “solid”:  plaids; stripes; leopard prints; paisleys.

All these bullets are to say ... yeah, the occasional misspelling or omission, or even inaccuracy is forgivable, sure.  But there’s no way to justify listing fuschia leopard print pony-hair “do me” shoes under “dresses-->wear to work-->silk blend” (or, for that matter, under “shoes-->flats”).  There’s no reason I should be cruising the pants category and have to look at your antique porcelain kitten lot, MUST SEE PLZ VISIT STORE.  Kittens are all very cute, but when I have 158 returns on a clear and specific search I’ve built, I don’t feel much but antipathy for anyone wasting my time on stuff so far outside the parameters.

Likewise, black is not white, wool is not chiffon, and – oh – juniors are not misses.  Let’s just get that one straight right here.  If the hips are the same width as the waist, I’m not going to be able to wear it, and I’m not going to thank you after I click through to find your product doesn’t even remotely conform to my size.  It doesn’t happen a lot – most juniors styles, I *am* far too old (and know it) to mistake as appropriate – but poor photos sometimes lead to poor choices, and if I like your fabric or the impression the blurry pic leaves on my mind, when I look and find you’re hawking a “skirt” smaller than most of my own sleeves, I’ma be ticked.  More to the point, if I find the same seller doing this sort of thing a lot (it does happen – particularly with Asian sellers, who winkle their way into “US Only” searches by having an awful lot of outlets on the West Coast), I’ll get to know you and skip you in future without so much as a clickthrough.  Shop online enough, and that gets surprisingly easy – your brain recognizes the mannequin/set they use, or the style of photography or titling, and goes, “oh that’s the seller with the cruddy feedback for selling way-too-small clothes” and so on.

If you want anyone to find your items – know what they are, and describe them.  It takes all of thirty seconds to verify that that thing you’re calling a crew neck is in fact an extremely low cut scoop neck – and it matters, even to those who don’t see the difference plainly by looking.  If they searched “crew neck” it might be because they wanted that, rather than a chest-baring extravaganza of a sweater.

If I searched “long sleeves” – it’s probably because I don’t like ¾ sleeves.  Nor, even, prolonged ones.  Nobody wants a sleeve to overstay its welcome ...


Mo said...

I have never been so interested in a post about clothes.

DLM said...

Oh yay! That makes the rambling mess of it worthwhile, because that's really my point with this sort of a post - to redeem the human trait of self-decoration from stupid fads and presumptions of vapidity. You made my day.