Fixing Retail Fashion

While I was staying with my girlfriend, we ended up watching quite a few episodes of TLC’s What Not to Wear, a show that picks one person per episode who really cannot dress. They go through that person’s wardrobe, throwing it all out, then teach them how to get clothes that fit them better, then do up their hair, make-up, and then show them off to their families at the end. It’s a pretty fun show. The male host is, as my girlfriend calls him, a “dandy”. And the female is a hot chick with a little snobbishness.

TLC's What Not to Wear

One of the major themes of the show is that these bad dressers tend to just buy a lot of separates that they liked, but these separates never fit together to make an outfit. So the goal is to pick things that go well together. Naturally this means that one should have a lot of basics, clothes that go pretty well with everything and are flexible for various weather, temperatures, and occasions. Examples would be jeans, khakis, suits.

Well, I started talking with Julie about what’s going on here. Obviously this show is pretty popular because TLC plays it a lot. Obviously there’s a lot of people who can’t or don’t want to dress right — you see it every day. Most of the bad dressers don’t think they’re bad dressers; they’re just showing their personality. Also, mostly they don’t want to change how they dress because they think that they don’t care what other people think about them. They don’t want to conform to others’ opinions.

At the end of the episode, the target dresser usually figures out that the reason she’s a bad dresser is because she’s not wearing the clothes appropriate for HER and her only. She’ll wear clothes that don’t fit. Or clothes that don’t represent who she is and what she does for a living. You’ll see a bank employee wearing denim mini-skirts and over-sized geek shirts, for example. The point is that people don’t know how easy it is to dress and what a difference it makes.

So I asked Julie, what if there were a web site business that sold outfits and basics? Say you’re a guy like me who wants to start dressing a little more professionally. But you don’t have anything except the clothes you wore to college. Well, you go on the site, and select what sort of look you’re going for based on a series of photos of different styles of wear. These would be dependent on the occasion too, so you could search for “casual” or “work” or “celebration” or whatever.

Once the site knows what style you’re going for (or it will suggest one to you based on your job, age, looks, measurements), then it will give you a choice of complete outfits (pants, shoes, belt, shirt, jacket, tie, etc.) that you can buy. Or say you want to buy the basics. It could give you some good jeans, standard belts, shoes (black, brown, sneakers, work-out shoes), button-ups, and tees.

The site would also have an education center. I’ve looked online and surprisingly there’s not much good shopping tips out there. Certainly not with accompanying photos to show you what you’re looking for.

I think a lot of people want to dress well but think it’s kind of fey to actually spend time buying clothes. They also want to look like they don’t care about their appearance. But no one can resist wearing clothes that actually fit them, and flatter them.

Then I thought about the major problem facing online clothes retailers. The fit. How do people know what their fit is? Just the idea of having to find a tape measure and measuring themselves, as easy or hard as that may be, is a hindrance keeping people from fitting their clothes properly.

Wearing clothes that fit is probably the best thing one can do. After watching “What Not to Wear”, now I want to get all my clothes tailored! I do have a weird frame and I’d benefit from it a lot. I also want a really nice suit. =P As for me Julie (credit to Ali G), she’s a superb dresser who is a stunner to look at on the street.

So I think someone could make a lot of money being a local fitter. He would operate in a city and when people wanted to buy clothes online or just be fitted, the company would refer business to this guy, and he would drive to that person’s place and fit them for them. He could give them a sheet that lists their measurements so they won’t forget. He would get a cut from the company as a referral or from the commission. Or maybe there’d be a service fee, but I think that’d drive away potential business more.

I dunno, I just think we’re doing everyone a disservice by not showing them how to wear better clothes. This is a big market efficiency. How? Well, all these people who try to put on clothes that aren’t right for them feel worse about their clothes afterwards. They have a lower self-image and no idea what they’re doing when they shop. They’re throwing their money away. They keep shopping for new clothes because they’re never happy with the ones they bought. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

And while this excess shopping benefits retailers in the short-term, it doesn’t encourage favorable opinion of retailers. It sours the relationship between seller and buyer.

So I think there’s a lot of money to be made, revamping the retail fashion industry.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Fixing Retail Fashion

  1. Before I finally figured out how to dress properly, I would have super neat ideas for other people, but would end up buying random items I liked in stores with no thought to what I was going to wear them with. It used to kill me to watch these stylish females walking around in outfits that were stylish and perfect for them, and feeling super out of place in trying-too-much obvious outfits.

    I think I’d be pretty good at shopping for people, and helping people shop for themselves, if only because I really enjoy seeing well-dressed people. I’m not big on trendiness. I don’t like trends for the most part because they’re such a waste of everyone’s time (who is really going to be wearing those Chewbacca boots next fall???) and money. What I like is finding basics and original pieces that go well with me and with each other. That’s what creates style, and I’d love shopping for someone with that perspective in mind.

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