Dear DC,

An open letter to the fashionably-challenged.

Dear DC,

I’ve noticed you struggle to dress yourself effectively lately, and I thought rather than cursing the damned darkness, I could light this candle: a weekly blog briefing on some simple steps and guidelines you can use toward making good dressing–and shopping–decisions.

This week’s tip:

TRY IT ON!

A few things men need to accept about shopping for clothes:

1. Not everything is going to look right on you
2. You are a different size at every store
3. Your clothes have a huge impact on how people see you

People who work in retail know that if they can get you into a fitting room to try stuff on, you’re exponentially more likely to leave their store with a bag and a receipt. That is, until they meet me: I am the guy who pulls one of everything off the rack (with some exception, true) and takes it al back to the fitting room. Why? Because if I didn’t:

1. I’d probably buy some really ugly and ill-fitting things
2. I’d never take any risks with color, styles, and fits

Having worked in retail, I can say that one of the great gender divides involves fitting rooms. Frankly, women use them; men don’t. Women take loads of options in; men take 1 or 2. I think this is because men tend to shop for an item, like “I need a pair of jeans, so I’ll go by jeans,” while women may go to the mall with a similar agenda, but are more likely to shop for outfits rather than pieces.

The fitting room is the greatest thing ever. I’ve saved myself countless dollars by not buying the wrong thing, and I’ve taken some calculated risks by trying on ugly things that actually look good with a body inside of them.

If something does not fit in the store, I do not buy it! I do not tell myself it will shrink in the wash/can be stretched out on a rack/can be hemmed or pinned or tacked. I’ve learned from experience it’s better not to buy something than to wind up carting it off to Goodwill after just one or two wearings.

You should try multiple sizes of things on to make sure you’re fitting yourself correctly. In some stores I am an XL shirt, unless it is short sleeved, in which case I am an L or an M. Sometimes I’m a L shirt, sometimes nothing fits me right. I can’t shop at Old Navy–nothing fits me there (I’ve tried; I like being frugal).

No matter what your body looks like, clothes that fit you correctly are the single most important consideration when getting dressed.

As we take this journey together, DC, I’ll return again and again to fit as our touchstone for making good fashion decisions. Until then, your homework: go try something on. Try on something you think looks ugly on the rack! You might just be surprised.

When Kristen Bell Narrates, I Listen.

I wanted to comment on a few more aspects of Gossip Girl that I’ve really enjoyed.

1. Production Value
Shot on location in NYC, GG is honestly such a gorgeously filmed show, you can’t help but want to move there–even me, who would rather have ebola than live in NYC. More than that, the show feels very cinematic in the quality of its film stock and lighting, set design, etc. There’s a lot of care and thought put in to where the action happens, which is more than you can say for your standard 30-minute joke-in-a-box sitcom.

2. Anachronism
I mentioned before here that I love me some good anachronism in my art (see also Jesus Christ Superstar. GG reflects anachronism when its modern world of technology and teens collides with the historic aspects of NYC and its Uppper East Side denizens. “Old Money,” cotillions, and formal brunches get a new-wave, txt msg makeover in the show.

I love its use of music, which rivals The Hills in maximizing my iTunes store purchases. GG‘s soundtrack features a lot of bands I already like, and a bunch more I want to get to know. The music, both orchestrated and curated, fits the show’s aesthetic to a tee, seeming at once both ultra-modern and reminiscent of times past.

3. Fashion
Since you know I love Top Model, Ugly Betty, Project Runway, and just about any other show that incorporates fasion, it’s no surprise that I appreciate GG‘s costume designer, who puts these kids in some of the hippest and outrageous outfits. Each character has a very specific aesthetic in terms of dress–contrast, for instance, social-climbing Jenny’s aspirational costumes with Blair’s austere, sexy-matron look complete with bows and fitted waists.

4. Someone went to film school
Aside from the sets, costumes, lighting, and hair design, the show incorporates a lot of interesting film techniques like jump cutting, cross-cutting, and rhythmic editing as the stories play out. It’s not that these techniques are innovative at all, but they are done thoughtfully and with a knowledgeable hand. Whoever’s behind the camera and in the editing room knows what they’re doing as these considerations enhance the action in the scene.

It’s a fashion face; a face full of fashion.

Yesterday’s fashion discussion reminded me to share this great YouTube clip a friend introduced me to a while ago. It features former soap opera star Brenda Dickson as she talks about how to be fashionable, but it’s been dubbed over with a great voiceover.

It’s a little long, but it is a total hoot.

Suit Yourself

I got a new suit last night. “New” is a funny term because my “old” suit is from 1999, the year I graduated from college, and was worn exactly once, to a friend’s wedding in Chicago a year or so later. It no longer fits me because I was 50 pounds lighter then. Also, I never really liked it. It’s double-breasted and it ended up looking like a zoot suit on me. This was before swing came back.

I needed a suit for a few important occasions this summer, one of which is my best friend from college’s wedding in June in Minneapolis. I’m very excited for her, and she kindly asked me to read the Margaret Atwood poem “Habitation” at the wedding. I want to look nice for it. I thought I’d bring a little bit of the desert with me in the shirt and tie.

We don’t wear suits much in Arizona. Things are pretty casual here. I wear a tie to work, but mostly because I like to, not because I have to, and many of you know my propensity for wearing sweater vests.

This has been our fashion discussion for today.