Over her career Sara Idacavage has worn a lot of hats, or rather a lot of stylish hats: freelance writer, stylist assistant, and historical researcher for a high-end vintage retailer. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor degree in fashion merchandising, and now works at Parsons in the historic fashion archive, while also editing Parsons’ academic BIAS: Journal of Dress Practice, co-curating exhibits, and teaching for an undergraduate class on the history of fashion. So, you could say, she’s still wearing a lot of hats, and all of them are on trend.
Get the lowdown on how to take cues from fashion history, as well as modern trends without looking like a poster child for bad fads.
Expert Tip #1: You Don’t Know Unless You Try It On
You should never turn down the opportunity to try something new. You never know what will actually look good until you see it on you—and vice versa. That’s why trying rooms exist. Says Idacavage, “One of the fashion-related woes I hear most often is, ‘Oh, I could never try that style; it just wouldn’t look good on me.’ The funny thing is, most of those things would probably look great if they were only given a chance! Besides, what’s the harm in trying? That crazy dress you never dreamed of pulling off could be your new favorite look and may even lead to a total wardrobe revamp."
Expert Tip #2: Buy Less, Buy Better
Being a shopping addict doesn’t necessarily lead to a closet full of great finds. Overbuying isn’t just bad for your wallet; it’s also bad for the environment. Wane yourself off the “fast fashion” trend of recent years, i.e. pieces designed for this season—and this season only. Idacavage says, “Buying higher quality, even if it’s pricier, really does pay off in the long run because you don’t have to constantly replace your whole wardrobe, and that doesn’t mean you only have to buy well-made, expensive clothes: You certainly can still own fast fashion, but it should be pieces that you know that you’ll get a lot of use out of instead of a cute top that you only plan to wear for one night. When you do indulge in fast fashion retailers, pick items you love and be prepared to pay for the upkeep."
Expert Tip #3: Ignore Sizes and Buy What Fits You
You might have heard that some women will squeeze into clothing that’s too small for them because they feel badly about buying a size larger. Advises Idacavage, “Sizes and numbers are completely irrelevant these days, and can vary greatly between designers and brands. Brands are constantly deflating their numbers to coincide with ‘vanity sizing.’ You’ll feel more confident and look better in size 12 jeans than looking like a poorly packed sausage in size 8. Learn to accept your body shape and size. There is great fashion for all ages; so don’t feel badly if you can’t wear those jeans from college forever. You’ll find an even more stylish new pair."
Expert Tip #4: You Can Find Great Things in Strange Places
It never hurts to do a little searching in unexpected spots, especially for accessories. Says Idacavage, “Some of the most unique and most frequently complemented items in my wardrobe come from places and stores that you probably wouldn’t expect to find exciting fashion. I’m talking jewelry that I stumbled upon at discount stores, hats and scarves from men’s shops, and even jackets from army surplus stores. No one will ever guess that the awesome hat you have is actually from a cheap tween shop (unless you tell them)."
Expert Tip #5: Always Find a Way to Make an Outfit “Yours”
Back when people made their own clothes, or had them tailor-made, it was a lot easier to customize clothing. Today, with most people shopping from chain stores and following the same trends, it helps to put in a little effort into making your outfit a bit more unique, and a bit more 'you.' Whether it’s adding a special piece of statement jewelry, wearing a garment in an unexpected way, or even completely altering an item, you’ll be surprised by how good it feels to stand out from the crowd."