I’m not a sheep

Some people have been listening to our conversations. Specifically consumers, the lifeblood of our businesses. Many consumers are unhappy and dissatisfied with manufacturers. Consumers say manufacturers treat them like they’re stupid and don’t listen to them. Judging from some recent comments on this blog, I can’t say I’d disagree.

I’m printing a guest post from a consumer named Ronda. She is a 39 year writer from Chicago, with one child. She has a background in sales and marketing and she loves fashion. She says she finds the blog fascinating but some things offend her. Whether you agree with her or not, designers may want to think twice about the kind of impression that’s being left in the minds of consumers who visit.

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I have been reading through the ABC retailing thread and I wanted to take a minute to comment. As a customer and a fan of fashion I was confused and insulted by some of the comments I read, but after some reflection I am left thinking that maybe part of the problem for some of you is that you just don’t get it. And that isn’t a knock as much as an admission that I don’t get you guys either. I don’t hear a clear point of view, only criticism. I don’t see anything being offered as a replacement for what you term the expensive and boring. And I find that the design entrepreneurs represented here, liken me as a customer, media savvy, hip me, with my extensive sales and marketing background to sheep… That is a bit more than insulting.


I find it ironic that some DE’s postings are so vocal about anti-media branding because they are the type of designer who would benefit most from it and will probably not be as successful without it. From what I have been able to see of some designs, well all I can say is I don’t know what your point of view is, or who would be your customer, and I don’t think you know either. I think that many of the DEs here are missing the fact that tv/media as it relates to fashion, is a reflection of what/who the customer is as opposed to traditional marketing which tells the customer who she should be.

The reality is that there have always been fashion icons, from Jackie O to Twiggy, Cher to Lauren Hutton. Most fashion icons of the past were characters so dressed and defined by a designer or a look they weren’t as much people or personalities but living dolls. When a woman sees Sarah Jessica Parker on SATC or Terri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives her attention is drawn to characters that are reflective of what is going on with her and in her life. She relates and part of that is in the “costuming” or outfits that have been selected for that character.

The hard truth for most designers is that the days of designers dictating fashion are over. I know as a long time fashion fan that for the first time in a long history I am thinking about how to put my look together and how it will work with my life, and not get The Look that the industry is shoving. I find among the women I know, that we look to media and find our taste and sensibilities affirmed, but it’s not where we get our sense of style.

I mean designers lost power because they abused us (okay our mothers) with looks that make the average woman look ridiculous and when you looked back at photos of you past, you found yourself representing an era, an idea and not being yourself and it was embarrassing. The wrap dress, the safari look, the jumpsuit, the preppie look, the mini skirt, Russian Gypsy, Ladies who lunch pillbox hat with matching coat. Those weren’t looks of timelessness borne of creativity, nope in retrospect the game was to figure out what it would be for the season and make your own version of it at your markets price point. How original.

Fashion became a serious joke -what, do those designers get together and try to think of the most interesting way to make grown women look ridiculous? That is the way fashion was nothing short of a reality TV challenge. The color is orange and the fabric is linen, so create a summer look. Well you had a bunch of designers showing a bunch of stuff in a color few women wear well and in an unforgiving hard to maintain fabric, and if you weren’t in it you were out. So what’s a girl to do? I mean how easy is it really for the average mortal woman to wear orange linen, come on now.

And then something happened, Diane Keaton appeared in Annie Hall and everyone dug her style and wanted to be her, thus the style icon was borne. The same thinking that pretty much pulled men’s fashion from the grave, Richard Gere in American Gigolo, who single handedly saved GQ mag from extinction and created the first wave of the metrosexual male. Just as Miami Vice stylists created a whole new market for designers who were once limited to women’s apparel; inspired by media, you now had men considering color and cut as never before. I won’t even get into what Halston did for licensing because it irritates me that designers won’t admit that they can’t make any real money until they can sell something mass market. Hence the birth of the logo bag and perfume/beauty lines because branding gets you mindshare and market share. This frivolity that had nothing to do with the serious designer, was created to continue a brand idea and to help support the couture lines -that in truth is lovely to look at and a wonder to behold -but few can afford it and little is sold.

I wonder if you could parallel that to these modern “original” one of a kind creative pieces that the dumb American population just doesn’t seem to get. The truth is Mr. Designer, your stuff doesn’t sell on its own because we don’t want it and the only hope that your stuff has is that it may be seen on some major show so the poor fashion victims who still wander amongst us can buy it. And then you will be forced by demand to either create something wearable to continue to sell or your creative flash in the pan self will be out of business. But if that happens you can always chalk it up to corporate strong arming.

Let’s face it, the genie is out to the bottle and has been for a long time. Welcome to the 21st century folks. Video killed the radio star and if I don’t want to wear it you can’t make me any more. Because I, as the lowly consumer, have a choice, lots of it. My style icons aren’t models discovered by designers who tell me that this is who I should aspire to be. But female characters from music, movies, and television, women I can relate to or want to relate to and say hey that’s my life and that how I want to look when I star in it. Where did she get that necklace? I wonder how I would look in those jeans.

So now the stylist is king. I shrug my shoulders and think okay, so now I can see how this is supposed to work. I think your average person knows what they want but only when they see it. A good example of the trend toward TV’s influence on product marketing in modern times can be exemplified by the bed in Mad About You. Every young middle class couple starting out wanted that bed. Why? Because it was perfection. It was what they had in mind but couldn’t articulate and when they saw it in the show, the light bulb goes on.

Maybe the frustrated designer is mad because what they’re producing, isn’t what I am looking for. As a consumer, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t have to be bothered with someone’s creative vision because when I find what I want, I will know it when I see it. Too bad you can’t show it to me.

Think of the Rachel from Friends hair-cut. It was perfect, something new, different and wearable on almost everybody and could be adapted to most hair types. It was a pain to style but that would be discovered later. This is why women look to Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City, to see how to work the next great idea, for articulation of what is in their heads and in their fantasies.

For style is like porn, most people can’t describe it, but they know it when they see it. ~R
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[Post appended]
From time to time, the level of comment snarkiness increases and I’m tired of it. I should have stopped it long ago. It makes me want to avoid reading comments altogether and this is my blog. This is my living room. If you can’t respect each other enough to be polite then you should at least respect my feelings, I’m hosting you. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person. Let’s have a little civility here. Nobody needs to be hateful.

So, we have a new rule, call it censorship, I don’t care but if your comment or portions of it are a gratuitous jab -and irrelevant to the topic- I’ll delete it. By being snarky, designers are leaving a bad impression with consumers, validating what consumers already think. You shouldn’t be validating their impressions but challenging them. Some of you can be jerks and I’m tired of it.

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35 comments

  1. Alison Cummins says:

    “Sheep” wasn’t my word, but I might have expressed a similar sentiment as “we are social beings.”

    I’m interested in the idea that getting inspiration from television shows instead of runway shows or Godey’s Ladies Book – from stylists instead of designers – is more liberating. I’ll have to think about that one.

    Ronda is certainly correct that it comes from a different concept of what fashion is. In the old days people might buy new clothes once a year. Easter Sunday they would wear their new clothes for the first time and relegate their old Sunday best to everyday wear. And I guess their old everyday wear is what they would wear to do the laundry in.

    These days people buy so many clothes that a popular activity among youngish women is to get together and exchange all the clothes they’ve bought but never worn. A very different relationship to clothing and consumption.

  2. christy fisher says:

    I totally agree.. and I am the one who used the “sheep” metaphor.

    Here is an example recently seen on TV (for Ameritrade):
    Girl: “Dad, I need $80. There are these really cool jeans…)
    Dad: “Is everybody wearing them?”
    Girl: “Yes”…”and there are these shoes..”

    The Dad proceeds to invest in the stock for those said jeans (the girl also gets the $80)..

    The girl is a sheep.

    She wants those jeans because “everyone is wearing them”.

    In the “old days” it was called “keeping up with the Jones'”
    It still exists…and media advertising is built around that mentality.
    They push the heck out of a trend or a product in hopes that “everybody will be wearing it because they see it all around them and feel they are ‘out’ if they are not wearing it too.

    I applaud you for not being a sheep!
    I am glad I pissed you off and you wrote this!
    Usually we are offended because we have FALLEN for the bluff at one time or another ourselves and that “offended” emotion is our Ego screaming back.
    Good for you for being a freethinker!
    I have been pissed at myself recently for falling for media various media hype..that is why I said that I was a sheep too.. I realized all the time I have fallen for “a look” or “a thing”..because I innundated by it and it felt like there was a void if i didn’t have it ( a pair of stilettos, for instance)..I do not beleive that any of us have skated through life with total immunity to this. It is bred into our psychology at a very early age and it takes most peopla a very long time to break through it (if ever).

    I do think you are right that “most people do not know what they want until they see it”.. That is because they do not know it exists. A designer may “create” the item.. but the “non designer” just feels the “void without specifics”.

    I totally agree with you that we are sick of being dictated to in the Industry as to trends, ‘being in or out’, etc.
    But the “fashion police” are still out there telling everyone what to buy – and the majority of people are still doing it…the WalMarting of the world is proof.

    “Maybe the frustrated designer is mad because what they’re producing, isn’t what I am looking for.”
    On the Contrary..
    I am on your side..
    I am not mad at the consumer by any means.. I am mad at the advertising execs, and the people who think that they have to hang their garments on a celebrity and get press, press, press, and people will then “buy the look because ‘everybody else has it’ ”
    That is exactly why I wrote what I did.. because I am sick of the media game too.

    (I also do not like 2 year advance “trend reports” for the same reason.. they try to sell the designers on things like:”green will be the new black in 2008″, so everybody design in green..”
    ..and lo and behold- the designers do it too! (and you wonder why similar styles are on the catwalk at the same time..? why it seems everyone is all of a sudden wearing plaid and pearls?)

    My reason for the comment (complaint, or whatever you want to call it) is because I see too many designers who are just jumping on the same bandwagons that are already there.. because “everybody else is doing it”.
    ..and we wonder why ‘everything starts to look alike’.

    Thank Goodness for people like you!

  3. Ronda says:

    Alison, I didn’t become offended because it was implied that I was a social being. It was inferred and stated blatantly that the consumer of luxury casual and those who are the target audience/market for the Will and Grace, SATC, Desperate Housewives, etc… which is me as a consumer, had no taste, imagination or mind of my own.

    The truth is I wear luxury casual because it fits my lifestyle. My age group/demographic is the group that was raised on luxury casual. We wore Calvin Klein jeans and Ralph Lauren polos in middle school, Girbaud, Guess, Esprit in high school, and by the time we went to college we had graduated to Benneton helping to put Lucky and Diesel on the map.

    Gen X “invented” business casual so that they could wear jeans to work, which was the attraction of the dot.com work place, the luxury casual wearer could make money and not wear a suit. We understand luxury casual because we were the first group not only raised with it as fashion, it became an inextricable part of our lifestyles.

    So I don’t mind anyone voicing their opinion, but I need to understand your point of view when you give it. Are you saying that you have a better solution that would fit my taste and lifestyle but haven’t been given the opportunity to show me? Or are you just bitter and lashing out at the dumb customer who doesn’t realize how brilliant you are?

    Because those are two very different conversations. ~R

  4. christy fisher says:

    I read a wonderful designer’s comment in WWD the other day (the designer was from Antwerp):
    “I do not send my clothing to celebrities.. they have to buy it just like anyone else- and buy it because they like it.”
    “..and I don’t want people to buy my clothes just because some celebrity wears it”

  5. big Irv says:

    Ronda,
    Do you feel better now that you have gotten this off your chest ?
    “Preppie” look embarrassing ? Your joking , right ?

    big Irv

  6. Josh says:

    Ok, so basically her argument is that television icons are dictating fashion these days. Great, where do the clothes come from that the television stylist style the television stars with? Designers? So you see dear Ronda, your argument has a great big hole in it.

    And it wasn’t Richard Gere (he was a blip) who brought men’s fashion to the forefront like never before. It was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

    And I would never call my customer a sheep.

    The hard truth for most designers is that the days of designers dictating fashion are over.

    I don’t think designers DICTATE what’s in style. I don’t think they ever have. Good designers look at what’s going on in the world and have their ears and eyes open. They listen to what people want. They are into pop culture and predict trends. Was it a designer who forced women of the 1500s into petticoats? Probably not, it was the times and morals of the day that made designers design what they designed. Same as today.

  7. christy fisher says:

    Pop Culture IS based on sheep mentality..
    (Kathleen deleted my previous post,obviously)..
    If you wore Calvins because “everyone else did” If you wore Benneton because it was “in”..If I wore miniskirts bcause that is what was “hip” when I was in high school , then you are a sheep, and I am a sheep,,and (like I said in my original “sheep” metaphor..we all have been sheep at one time on another) We ALL are taught sheep behaviour from advertising from the time we are tots.
    This is what media is based on..
    There are VERY few trendSETTERS and the mass of humanity are trendFOLLOWERS. THAT is “sheep mentality”..
    I am not “calling my customers sheep” anymore than I am “calling my fellow designers sheep”.
    If you really read what I said originally you will see that. The orginal post is all about trends, mass marketing, and the gross lack of freethinking in the design and marketing world…which is bought by the consumer..

  8. Ronda says:

    “Preppie” look embarrassing ? Your joking , right ?

    big Irv

    No. I am quite serious plaid pant, with pleats and a straight leg, in pastels and brights, headbands, double polos under an oxford. Yeah that’s what I would call embarrassing, and I’m not even getting into the unflattering colors and fabrications. ~R

  9. Miracle says:

    And it wasn’t Richard Gere (he was a blip) who brought men’s fashion to the forefront like never before. It was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

    It was Richard Gere in the 70s, Queer Eye in this century. We’re not talking about the same time period.

  10. Josh says:

    Ooo, I’ve been bad… Get your cane out Nanny McPhee lol

    Christy, I don’t buy the whole sheep mentality thing. What I’m saying is I don’t see it as a bad thing. It’s human nature. Even pigmies with their bone headdresses (I’m being sarcastic of course). We could get into the whole social psychology of it all if we wanted to. But I won’t.

    I look at trends as important history markers. Like the 80s had big shoulder pads, tight legs and pastel colors. I’m trying to imagine if we were all individuals with everyone having their own style so unique that each person was wildly different from the next. Would that be a good thing? How would that effect us as a collective?

  11. Miracle says:

    then you are a sheep, and I am a sheep

    Actually Christy, I am a person. If you are a sheep, or if you wished to be reduced to being compared to an animal, then so be it. But to call me (or any other such person) such is a direct insult.

    I am a person.

    I am a person with capable of independent thinking. While I, personally, may have worn something that was popular, I am still a person who made a choice. Like it or not, it was a choice and had that choice been a Christy Fisher original, I don’t think you’d dare to insult me in such a way.

    I’m not as convinced that DEs dislike media branding as much as they are bitter that it’s not them being higlighted. I wonder how many of you would tell a television costume designer to get lost should they come knocking at your door.

    Or would you get excited at the chance to showcase your brilliance?

    It’s just a rhetorical question. Because I know that DEs who are so vocal against media influence wouldn’t dare have your wares featured on the pages of Vogue, Bazaar, WWD, if they sought you out. You’d tell them (proudly) that you are the anti-media and your customers are not sheep and that is not right for your product. You loathe the media and celebrity driven culture.

    I’m sure you’d turn them away, right? I mean, you’re consistent, you’d have to be.

  12. Kathleen says:

    I amended my post to make an announcement but I don’t think the people already commenting on this post have seen it so I’ve placed it here:

    [Post appended]
    From time to time, the level of comment snarkiness increases and I’m tired of it. I should have stopped it long ago. It makes me want to avoid reading comments altogether and this is my blog. This is my living room. If you can’t respect each other enough to be polite then you should at least respect my feelings, I’m hosting you. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person. Would you say something that ugly to somebody in my living room? Let’s have a little civility here. Nobody needs to be hateful.

    So, we have a new rule, call it censorship, I don’t care but if your comment or portions of it are a gratuitous jab -and germane to the topic- I’ll delete it. I’ve already deleted 3 comments and edited 2 others from this thread.

    By being snarky, designers are leaving a bad impression with consumers, validating what consumers already think. You shouldn’t be validating their impressions but challenging them. Some of you can be jerks and I’m tired of it.

    Regarding the post, I am very dismayed that we have a guest in our midst and members of this community can’t find it in their hearts to be 1) grateful and 2) welcoming. Just how many consumers do you think will even make the effort? You’re reinforcing the negative attitudes about designers with your responses. And you wonder why I say designers have a bad reputation?

    No more snarkiness.

  13. Miracle says:

    We could get into the whole social psychology of it all if we wanted to. But I won’t.

    Actually, it would be a good conversation to have.

    . I’m trying to imagine if we were all individuals with everyone having their own style so unique that each person was wildly different from the next. Would that be a good thing? How would that effect us as a collective?

    You have a good point. I don’t think the average consumer cares enough about his/her wardrobe to want to be wildly different and unique. Most people don’t find clothing to be that important, and this is why the dockers and polo, basic shoe, mall retailer, Old Navy, JC Penny, etc. constitute the bulk of apparel sold, in terms of numbers.

    If everyone was unique, we’d have a hard time. The entire concept of manufacturing, with economies of scale, is that you can have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people wearing a specific style that you make. If everyone was unique, then retail stores would have a hard time putting together a product mix.

  14. andrea says:

    Wow….hostility abounds here.

    This entire discussion originated in methods to market a line. Ronda, you may or may not be a typical consumer…savvy, interested, etc…but I think that the main focus of any manufacturer is to get their product to the right market that will sustain them in their endeavors. The truth of it is that it really doesn’t matter what a designer thinks or feels about what they design. If the market supports it, they stay in business, if the market doesn’t support it, they don’t.

    Designers are manufacturers and not retailers…some designers retail…most do not. We are in a very unique situation that really doesn’t exist with many other manufacturers. Fashion has become a spectator sport. You don’t often see the guys that manufacture rebar on TV selling to the end consumer, but somehow we are supposed to (and expected to)market to the end consumer and to the retailer. In a business that doesn’t see a dime until (sometimes) month 6 or 8 (from development) you gotta cut us a break. This is one of THE most complicated businesses to be involved with.

    And to weigh in on Celebrities dictating fashion? Personally I think it’s gross…just my opinion, and obviously the market is trending that way..so be it.

    I really just want to point out that the effort it takes to put a product in the market place (let alone 5 times a year)is phenomenal…we have a free market society in which things like that are possible. Great, but how a designer feels about the end consumer should show in the product, how well it’s made, how thoughtful it is. When we design, we are not only thinking about the style sense we are presenting, we are thinking about the functionality of it, and also how to make 100 pieces of a puzzle fit together so that we can produce and deliver it in a manner consistent with market standards…THAT’S A LOT. We operate as individual businesses with an idea or vision that we as individual businesses believe in.

  15. Big Irv says:

    . I am quite serious plaid pant, with pleats and a straight leg, in pastels and brights, headbands, double polos under an oxford. Yeah that’s what I would call embarrassing, and I’m not even getting into the unflattering colors and fabrications. ~R

    I do have to agree that some really took that “prep” look a bit too far, although men around the globe can be thankful that this was the beginning and acceptance of “dress down ” Fridays. Some consider today’s business casual look of khakis, button down or polo shirt and Bass loafers a welcome alternative to suit and tie. I can live without the sweater around the neck though. I hear the suit is making big comeback in many industries that abandoned it.

    Big Irv

  16. Josh says:

    Regarding the post, I am very dismayed that we have a guest in our midst and members of this community can’t find it in their hearts to be 1) grateful and 2) welcoming.

    I thought I was downright nice to her. After all she basically accussed designers of the torture and bondage of women. And called us dictators. Respect is earned, not demanded.

    I mean designers lost power because they abused us (okay our mothers) with looks that make the average woman look ridiculous and when you looked back at photos of you past, you found yourself representing an era, an idea and not being yourself and it was embarrassing.

    The hard truth for most designers is that the days of designers dictating fashion are over.

  17. Julie says:

    “lowly consumer?”

    I had always assumed that the consumer was king.

    Bravo Kathleen for posting this thread. One reason I believe so sincerely in the blogosphere is that it is one of the few forums in which consumer, fashion fans, and industry professionals can all come together in a space where we can inspire each other, learn from our mistakes, and work towards co-creating a brighter fashion future.

    Designers please learn to listen to us, we are not just your fans but your lifeblood. You may have vision but we have reality and it is in combining those two poles that something truly great is created.

  18. Judith says:

    Very interesting topic today. I think I heard all sides. I must say as a consumer in the 80’s I did follow the trends. I liked some of the fashion at that time( please dont flame me)
    Iam older now of course I have to tell you I cant stand most of the fashion today. I will not spend my money on trends of 2004,2005,2006 ect,ect ect. I look at a lot of trends today and I see the 70’s and my mother dressed me in 70’s clothing and I detest 70’s clothing!!!! It makes me want to bar# be ill!!! I really have to hunt for the clothes I like. I hope I have not offended anyone.

  19. Kathleen says:

    There was a lot that Ronda wrote that I didn’t agree with so I’m putting that out for the record. I don’t agree that a designer has to do something mass commercialized to turn a profit like a logo line or perfume. I’ve worked for many manufacturers who chugged along with their “piddley” 20-50 million in sales per year who never felt the need to do that but still, the owners made enough money to buy horse farms, mansions, rolls royces etc to say nothing of keeping their people employed -and domestically, I might add.

    I also object to the idea that making multi-million dollar bucks is the only goal worth having and that if you choose to not go that route then you’re some sort of failure. I don’t want to be that. I want to make a few nice things and do it well. I disagree you have to make those choices. I don’t care if nobody ever knows my name!

    I also don’t think it’s appropriate to look into the short term past and say designers lost their power due to those ugly looks they stuck us with (safari look, pill box hats etc) when stylists are doing their version of the same thing today. I mean, how are those big baggy pants anything better? You can peruse the entire history of fashion and find some nasty ugly stuff. I mean, you don’t see fellas wearing codpieces anymore either. The stuff that the stylist led fashion consumers like today, is something these same people will think is hideous 10 years from now.

    If anything, I find some of these older fashions to be quite lovely. The workmanship and craftsmanship is far and away much better than anything stylists are putting out today. I’m not trendy, I’m not hip (and I really could not care less that I’m neither) but just because I like all of these vintage styles -a pillbox hat was de rigeur- doesn’t mean I’m a sheep either.

    Maybe stylists “rule” but some of us aren’t playing the same game they are. There’s room in this market for all kinds of goods. The point is, nobody likes to be described as a sheep. In each market, the profile consumer considers themselves to be hip or with it or whatever and that they’re leading a trend rather than following a pack. It’s only *everybody else* (not them) who’s a sheep. Hopefully, the designers on this site won’t make the mistake of thinking like this or saying something like this again anytime soon. Iow, not only should you not insult your own customers, you should not insult the customers of your colleagues either.

  20. Jess says:

    I think Josh was snarky (when is he not?) but I also felt the entry from Ronda was snarky. Snarky begets snarky. I think it’s just a case of times change and people change and we can’t blame designers. The consumer has all the power. They decide if they like the new style and want to wear it.

  21. Karen says:

    First, I agree about the snarkiness. I stopped joining in on discussions on this blog because of being thrashed by two of the people responding on this very topic (you know who you are). A little kindness goes a long way, ya know. I would welcome a discussion where we could stop being so judgmental and just help each other along in this complicated business.

    I, for one, appreciate hearing from the public on what they would like to wear. I’m in the business to make clothes that make women feel beautiful and better about themselves. PERIOD. And if I can make a buck and support myself doing that, that would be lovely.

  22. Josh says:

    I’m thinking maybe we should all get into the World Wide Wrestling Federation. lol Then we could make a living at talking smack about each other. We could start our own wrestling federation that is apparel/industry related. It’s the Mills against the DEs…KathLEAN the great against HADDS.. you get the idea. Jess and I could be a twin duo, called DOUBLE STITCH. My trademark move would be called THE NEEDLE POKE. And wouldn’t we all be the most flamboyantly dressed wrestlers? lol I know I’d lay my money down to see it.

  23. Judith says:

    Karen’s post at 12:16 pm. 2nd paragraph.
    This is what I would like to acomplish, it would be really fabby if I could do this too!!!

  24. Cambric Tea says:

    I think there are two major markets in women’s clothes not being catered to.

    One is the mid-40’s woman who doesn’t feel that she is “done yet.”
    Her figure is too settled to shop in Juniors, and she doesn’t want to show bits of midsection or underarm. HOWEVER she will pay for higher quality than a college kid can.

    She doesn’t want JJill or Chicos. Anthropologie is a little closer to the mark..but really I think Topshop. Think of the initial wild enthusiasm for Hotpatterns!
    40 somethings thought, “I can make trendy clothes in good fabrics to fit me!”

    The other is the SAHM. I think that the last person to specifically address the needs of a SAHM was Claire McCardell with the Popover dress.
    We don’t want to live in jeans every day.

    See a need, fill a need, but I don’t think anyone of the DE’s here is obligated to entertain anyones’ stream of consciousness complaining.

  25. christy fisher says:

    A discussion on psychology and advertising has been happening on the “discussion board part of this blog” There is a lot of information on this subject there.
    Also, I hope you caught Oprah (the one with Pink) and their discussion of young women imitating celebrity lifestyle, how pop culture and advertising are manipulate the mass and and how that is affecting the entire generation. It was quite appropriate.
    Perhaps a topic like “Consumers speak up” would be grand on the discussion board.
    It really isn’t an “us VS them” situation.
    Everyone is a consumer.
    It doesn’t just apply to fashion.. it applies to food, cars, everything.
    It is necessary to be a wise consumer.. and I think it’s really necessary for consumers to SPEAK UP to the companies and let them know what they like and dislike in the products and marketing.

  26. Josh says:

    Christy, I caught Oprah yesterday. And I thought of this blog entry as I was watching it. I was outraged by the gold Olympic snowboarding guy who got on the cover of Rolling Stone and all that news coverage and the girl who won the same gold has gotten little or no press. I mean, I didn’t even know that the girl had won the same thing until yesterday on Oprah.

    Although I don’t see how the right apparel can fix all these woes.

  27. Sarita says:

    Haha, Josh. You know, there is a company in Chicago called Double Stitch, and it’s actually owned by a pair of twin sisters. They make neat stuff, too.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion.

  28. 40something and frustrated with fashion says:

    I know I’m adding a comment to a discussion from long ago. I hope some interested DEs will find a new target. Cambric Tea got it about right. There is a whole market segment that is jet not being served. Mid forties professional woman. There is almost nothing mid-market, that doesn’t require hours and hours of shopping to find.

    Let me define what I mean by mid market. $100 – $150 for a shirt or blouse. $300-$400 each for a skirt, a dress, a pair of pants, a jacket all in the same fabric. We are a segment who is paid premium for our smarts and experience, we travel a lot, we need clothes that really can transition from the airplane to a presentation, and swap out something from the carry on to appear more “feminine” at dinner.

    We can afford it.

    What we don’t have is time. We don’t have time to follow fashion, we don’t have time to watch TV. We don’t have time to shop. But when we do, we are frustrated with a paucity of styles, ugly fabrics, and generally poor sewing quality.

    (And yes, we are embarrassed by some of what we wore in the eighties.)

    I’d say I’m fairly typical of this segment. When I find a shirt or blouse that I like I buy multiples, 3 or 4. When I find a dress suit or skirt suit I like, I buy multiples. I am thrilled when I can find all the suit garments in the same fabric. I wear the pants and jacket on the plane, switch into the skirt suit for the meeting, then into the dress for dinner or to meet up with an old friend.

    We are the sandwich generation, evaluated by senior members of our industry who still dress on the formal side of business casual. We supervise a generation who hasn’t yet mastered discernment re
    attire/respectful demeanor/creative freedom.

    Yes, I’ll buy multiples so that i can have a full complement hanging in my closet at the office. No wearing a coffee spill all day. When an unexpected assignment keeps us there all night, we can at least freshen up and put on clean clothes.

    Any thoughts why designers seem to largely overlook us ?

    In short we need clothes we can forget about. We want to look good and wear clothes we love, that are so reliable we never have to fuss or worry.

  29. Quincunx says:

    Where does a designer have to place its product and/or ads so as not to waste your time? Where are your eyes focused? If you don’t have time to shop, even if the clothes you want are sitting, unpromoted, in the stores, you won’t find them. . .

    You’re cruising blogs and got the link to here from _somewhere_, that’s a starting point. I am assuming that you are willing to buy online from the likes of Zappo’s, with the return shipping guarantee, but can’t assume that you’d do the same from an internet retailer without that reputation for no-fuss returns.

    (Yes, I’m asking a lot of questions today. . .trying to deflect from the question I most want answered, WHY is someone blaring what sounds like a FOG HORN, repeatedly??? If someone sees marbles rolling past, propelled by waves of low-frequency sound, please collect and hold them for me.)

  30. 40something and frustrated with fashion,

    I’m a 40-something with less money than you but similar needs. I found two stores that sell what I need and I go back to them twice a year. Clothes shopping takes me… I dunno, six hours a year?

    Another way is to have custom clothes made. I used to have a dressmaker around hthe corner. I’d supply him fabric and notions and a pattern or picture. I’d get a three-piece suit that fit and was exactly what I wanted a week later. When I was just starting out I could afford one or two of these a year – that is, the work was affordable.

    Finally, I know a stylist whose clientele is you. You meet with him, you explain what you’re looking for, he goes shopping, you meet again, you pick from what he got you, he returns the rest and takes a cut. A great solution for people with money but no time.

  31. 40something and frustrated with fashion says:

    @Quincunx

    My complaint wasn’t personal against designers. I have a lot of respect for things I don’t understand. And I’ll be the first to acknowledge the apparel industry is a complicated endeavor.

    I wasn’t complaining that shopping is a waste of my time – my complaint is that almost no one is making clothing for us. You only have to put it in the usual places. Our work lives and personal responsibilities simply leave too little free time to have to hunt for clothes.

    I had not heard of Zappos. I looked at all the dresses and all the jackets/blazers. Many cute dresses. Some I might even buy – IF – I was shopping for play clothes. (I’m not). I will explore any other suggestions you have of where to look.

    Zappos is another example of the utter paucity of good quality business clothing for mid career women. 95% of the dresses / jackets are not appropriate for a mid career professional woman in a conservative industry. The few styles that are appropriate are only available in solid blue, black, or gray. Were there any matching jackets? Hard to tell, the site was not designed to reveal that easily. The fabrics available will show wear after a season or two of dry cleaning.

    Ideally, we are looking for clothing that can bridge at least 2 seasons and will last ~3 – 4 years.

    For what it’s worth: if you have a popular style in this market segment, please do bring it back again next year in additional fabric/s or colors.

  32. 40something and frustrated with fashion says:

    @ Alison Cummins

    Yes, I do the same as you. There are a few places and a few designers that I look at every season.

    How I got to this site: I’m hoping to have some time this summer to address the wardrobe challenge. It is a relatively new problem for me, as I spent the majority of my career NOT working in a conservative business environment. It took a while before I even understood why I want what I like: classic design, clean lines, attractive and feminine but not sexy.

    I have just started to explore custom. I was an expert home sewer by the time I graduated from high school, but haven’t sewn much in the past 25 years. I mentioned to a small independent designer here in NYC that I was so frustrated that I wanted to choose my own fabrics, make my own patterns, and hire someone to sew for me. She encouraged me to take a pattern making class, or at least read some books.

    That is what brought me to Kathleen’s excellent site.

    I’m working through some of her tutorials, to help me understand what my price will be for the time/difficulty of the sewing. Happened in to Paron’s Annex when they had a moving sale and I picked up some really great fabrics at a 30 -50% discount. Have discovered my favorite design ideas hail from the 30s and 40s.

    Dawning realization that there are a lot of us, who have grown accustomed to ill fitting clothing that we don’t actually enjoy wearing to work. IMO, it is a wide open segment.

  33. Quincunx says:

    Actually, I asked because I have _no idea_ what “the usual places” retailers are even for my own demographic, let alone for professional women. (You’re not the only one whose most recent clothing budget got diverted to fabric and patterns. ;) Excuse me while I suffer an attack of envy over your access to a fabric store moving sale. . .*ENVY* ok, done.) There’s plenty of professional-wear DEs with various visions floating around here and they’d like to know where to focus their line sheets, I am sure!

    Nor did I realize that Zappo’s sold anything other than shoes–recommended a look at that strictly for the return guarantee that would entice the shyest online shopper to take the chance.

    If you do continue down the current path to the point of hiring a seamstress to execute patterns you have drafted, the checklists for handing patterns to other people are mostly linked to from this post, although a practical tip for checking them yourself cropped up later.

  34. 40something and frustrated with fashion says:

    @Quincunx

    Admit that my wardrobe challenges are nice problems to have. ; ) I’ve been through each season twice now, since I’ve been trying to assemble a conservative business wardrobe for about 2 years now. Admittedly, I had no idea how to shop when I started. When I was younger I was an easy to fit 10 petite.

    Kathleen has a post about how sizing for women in mid life would do well to incorporate cartographic principles. I’m still a 10P in the shoulders, but a 12 or 14 in the waist/hips, and a 14 or 16 in the bust. That’s a large part of my frustration. I really can’t tell from the designers size chart which size might be the best starting place, 12, 14, 12P, 14P.

    Breakthrough moment was discovering Jamak Kazra at Bluesuits. Classic design, gorgeous fabrics, excellent craftsmanship, and truly outstanding customer service.

    Her clothes are a little out of my price range, but are worth every penny. She worked in finance before she started her company and really understands what this market segment needs their clothes to do for them.

    The RTW clothes I have bought from her are the “work horses” of my business wardrobe. They are feminine but not sexy, they project understated power, and they still look good after you’ve been in them 12 or more hours. They are versatile pieces and tolerate the demands of travel, long days, and unexpected changes in plans. They are comfortable to the point of being able to fall sleep in them (e.g. on the plane).

    She will not sell you something that doesn’t flatter your shape. It was she who suggested I take a pattern making class.

  35. 40something and frustrated with fashion says:

    @Quincunx

    The usual places: I live in New York and initially perused all the department stores here; e.g. Saks, Macy’s etc. As dismay turned to desperation, I became willing to occasionally devote an afternoon to a survey of the high end, such as Bergdorf Goodman, Madison Ave. or Soho boutiques. These clothes are for the most part out of my range, but gave me some ideas about what I look good in.

    Started looking on line, e.g. Liz Claiborne, Talbots, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, etc. Discovered that designers now have their own websites. Favorite mass market designers for my business suits are Tahari, Anne Kleine, Calvin Klein, Kasper. Would like to have some of their designs in better quality fabrics. Returns are a problem, even if they are free, the hassle factor is a big deterrent.

    Became willing to go into any store when I have 15 – 30 minutes free somewhere. Found one of my favorite Tahari suits at Boltons. Would love to have a matching dress and multiples of it in different fabrics for different seasons.

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