If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’re well aware of my admiration for Sally McGraw, the mind behind Already Pretty. The fashion blogs I read are few and far between: Unless it’s fashion history and theory like Final Fashion, or fashion politics and philosophy like Threadbared, in general I’m just not interested. Looking current means little to me (most of my clothing is vintage-inspired if not actually vintage), and once I figured out what looks work on me, I figured out where to shop and rarely visit new stores. Creature of habit, I suppose, leaving me with little purpose for fashion blogs.
But when I stumbled across Sally’s work, something clicked. Here was a voice that wasn’t just articulate and strong but feminist, and forthrightly so. Instead of just chirping about “loving your body” (which, half the time, I think is an empty phrase—what exactly does that mean?), everything on Already Pretty surged toward the larger goal of increasing confidence through the development of personal style. Whether it’s an essay on the flip side of envy, a tutorial on winter tights (leading to my SmartWool purchase), or her way of identifying why certain visual principles work the way they do without adopting the tone of rap-on-knuckles style schoolmarm I’ve seen time and again elsewhere, in reading Sally’s blog I felt like I had someone in my corner. Because, like any reader of Already Pretty, I do.
That said, sometimes style advice comes best in a package instead of in a daily blog—or maybe not best, but most handy. And Sally’s book, Already Pretty, is just that. Here, my three favorite points in the book:
1) No, there’s no all-purpose “must-have” list. Finally, confirmation of what I’ve suspected for years: No, I don’t need a suit, no matter what say those “basics every woman needs” lists that crop up every so often in ladymags. There is no universe in which I would need a suit—no job interview, no meeting, no business occasion in which I would ever, ever need a suit, something I wish I’d realized before buying a ridiculous little suit my last semester of college because all the fashion magazines told me I needed to, leaving me with a cheap polyester suit that made me look woefully out of place at the job I’d bought it for. (Hell, I don’t even own any button-downs, as they make me look like a 12-year-old boy, something that no other item of clothing has managed to do, ever, including baseball tees.)
2) Look good, feel good. This is something I misunderstood when I was younger, and by younger I actually mean when I started this blog at the beginning of 2011. I knew that I felt my best when I looked my best, but I thought that was something to sort of work against, because it was somehow a capitulation to the beauty myth. It was only upon articulating my thoughts here that I recognized that didn’t need to be something to work against; it could be something to work for—not working to stick to some sort of societal ideal of beauty, but rather to look how I feel my best. Which could mean jeans and a T-shirt that fits me well and that doesn’t make me feel self-conscious about my belly pooch, or a cocktail dress that skims over my midsection and shows off the parts of my body that I’m a touch vain about. Point is: When I started making a point of dressing my best on days I felt down in the dumps, instead of “saving” my “good” clothes for days I had more confidence and therefore wouldn’t mind being looked at, I noticed how easily the appearance of confidence (at least, what I associated with confidence) transferred to the reality. Yes, of course feeling good from the inside out is crucial. But sometimes it can come from the outside in.
3) “Figure flattery” doesn’t have to mean “skinny, busty, tall, and hipless.” Sometimes it might mean that, sure. But as Sally points out (and which was one of my biggest “aha!” moments in reading), flattery can mean so much more: clothing that lies flat against your body, clothing that doesn’t pinch or pull, colors that make your skin and features look more vibrant. On top of that, sometimes we may want to play with the proportions we have to create different kinds of “flattering” looks: The dress I’m wearing today has a flounce at the bottom, which makes me look hippier than I usually prefer to look, but with its polka-dot print and cigarette-girl styling, it’s super-flattering because it makes me look curvy. But the sheath dress I wore to a dinner this weekend minimizes my hips, giving me a straighter, slimmer look all around. In my pencil dress I prefer to look busty; in a slipdress I prefer less contour. All of these looks work on my body, but in an entirely different way, and the way Sally approaches the concept of figure flattery makes this clear.
So those are some key points I got from the book. Now (and here’s the giveaway part) what will you get from it? Sally will be giving away a signed copy of Already Pretty to a reader of The Beheld chosen at random from all comments on this post (whether at the-beheld.com, The New Inquiry, or Open Salon). Just leave a comment on this entry by 11:59 p.m. EST Wednesday, August 1. All comments will receive a giveaway entry (which will be chosen at random from an online number generator), but to keep it interesting, why don’t you leave a comment with your most favorite—or least favorite—piece of fashion advice, whether from your own mind or someone else’s? My favorite: Wear dresses whenever possible. People often think I’m dressed up; little do they know I’m just too lazy to pick out two separate pieces! Least favorite: “A-line dresses work on all figures!” Yeah, except mine. Your turn.