Monday, July 18, 2011

Fake It 'Till You Make It: Building a Cheap Business Suit from Mismatched Separates

Contrary to the results in my previous post, thrifting a business suit is h-a-r-d hard! Especially if you are a woman. And especially if you are outside the average size range in your thrifting area. Why? Because thrifting a suit requires you to fit the exact, probably-tailor-fit measurements of someone else's top and bottom. It's a rare feat even on Ebay, where I've spotted more frustratingly lopsided suits than I care to remember -- seriously, who are all these people wearing size zero pants with size 8 blazers??

But I digress.

My solution to the elusive suit conundrum: shameless fakery. The alternative: paying full price for a suit. Nuts. To. That.

First up is a great Tahari ASL sheath dress bought at Goodwill (vacation shopping in NYC!) for $12. I paired it with a $1 Silence & Noise Jacket from the swap meet because the fabrics are of similar weight and color. The effect: A $13 Tahari ASL suit.

This Tahari wool jacket didn't come with this no-name pleated-hem skirt, but you'd never know it because 1) the colors look identical under fluorescent lights, 2) the fabrics weigh and move very similarly, and 3) the skirt is 90% covered by the jacket, anyway. The effect? A $2 Tahari suit. :)

I hesitated to wear this Forever 21 jacket with this skirt, because I thought I'd either look too matchy-matchy or like a straight-up poser. However, when I took the plunge, I kept getting compliments on my pretty "suit." Hey, if it works for you guys, then it works for me! The effect: A so-high-quality-you'd-never-even-see-it-at-the-mall suit. Or at least that's what I tell myself... shhh, the delusions keep me placid...

This Merona dress was passed on to me by a coworker and, since I've been trying to look more authoritative in my new position, I immediately know I wanted to try it with my brown blazer. The colors match, but the jacket is lightweight wool, while the dress is thin polyester. I think it still works, because the bottom layer is a dress instead of just a skirt. A thin, flowy skirt topped with a structured, wool jacket would have looked lopsided. However, since the line of the polyester fabric continues from the top of the outfit to the bottom, it looks more balanced and (most importantly) intentional. This one drew a compliment from my supervisor, so I consider it a success! Since the dress was free, I call this a $1 suit!

This blazer was another hand-me-down, so this is another $1 suit! I felt comfortable pairing this BCBG jacket with these Ann Taylor pants because the color, weight, and weave of the fabrics are all visually similar.

In summary, to effectively fake a suit, try to match:

  • Color - this is most important. No one will buy that your off-black jacket came with a saturated, blue-black skirt.

  • Weight - wintry wool + summery linen does not equal a convincing suit.

  • Drape - pair like with like (slinky with slinky or crisp with crisp)

  • Weave/Texture - it may seem like a small detail (literally and figuratively), but everyone will be able to tell that a pair of cotton twill trousers don't match a ponte knit blazer.

  • Style - a bit more ephemeral but, for example, you probably shouldn't pair a sweet jacket with a dramatically edgy skirt.

Conversely, if enough other elements match, you may be able to cheat on:

  • Fabric content - two plain weaves in the exact same color can look very much alike, even if one is slightly heavier/more stretchy/ etc.

  • Decorative details - if one piece sports a trim or a small pattern but otherwise matches the color, weight, and style of the other piece, I still think you've got yourself a suit.

Do you ever fake a suit? How's that workin' for ya'? Do you feel like you're thinking outside the box, or do you just feel like a fraud?

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