Thursday, July 26, 2012

Already Pretty Giveaway

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 as 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 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.


  1. Love Sally! Consider me entered!

    My piece of fashion advice is: If you're not comfortable in it, don't wear it. If you're not confident in the prettiest outfit, it will show.

  2. I'd love to be entered!

    I think the fashion thought that I have almost every day is - can I (1) feel good in this at 2 PM after lunch and sitting at my desk? and (2) can I really walk in these shoes - I mean, for more than an hour?

  3. I love Already Pretty!

    My favourite piece of fashion advice is directly related to what you mentioned in your post -- Look good to feel good. I've gone through cyclical phases over the last several years where I dress up, then slowly get lazier, and dress dowwwwn. Way down. When I start dressing up again, I'm always amazed at how peppy and positive I feel!

    My other piece of fashion advice is to always keep a backup pair of comfortable shoes around. I keep pairs in both my car and office. There's nothing worse than thinking you'll be comfortable all day in a pair of heels, then realize by 10am that your entire day is going to be ruined by them!

  4. I don't know if I have advice, but I have an observation: when I was living and working in the city at a hip work place, I felt totally paralyzed about fashion and unable to take risks. I pined for a uniform, and basically created one for myself by wearing button up shirts and jeans every day. When I moved to a small town (and a new, less bundled-up climate) I suddenly felt way more free to experiment and I think my fashion has improved massively.

    I guess the "advice" I'd extrapolate from that is to remember that your style is a response to your environment, its a conversation with your culture. If you don't like your part in the conversation, maybe the relationship needs shaking up.

  5. Thanks for the great giveaway!

    I think the best advice I've heard is an interpretation from the great (though defunct) fashion site Inspired by their challenge to readers to create an outfit inspired by a book cover, I've found that it's really helpful to look for inspiration outside of women's fashion magazines/websites. Color palettes can be found in nature, cookbooks, art, book covers, etc; same for textures and even shapes. To really radicalize your perspective on contemporary fashion, look at fashion (men and women's!) from different decades or eras. Broadening your inspiration sources can really invigorate and freshen your wardrobe, and also can help disentangle some of the negative body messages that come from more standard fashion inspiration sources.

  6. I just love the title of the book! My favorite piece of fashion advice actually came from a drag queen, of all people. "Heels are meant to be seen, not walked in. If no one can see them, like in a car, take them off! If you have to walk farther than the distance between the valet and the door to the club, you're with the wrong man." My least favorite: most of the advice I find for apple-shapes like me. It's a tricky shape, I know, and a lot of fashion experts get it wrong.

  7. I think I found your blog through Already Pretty!

    My life-changing fashion advice? (Yup, life-changing, for me anyways.) Don’t compromise on fit. It’s not you, it’s the clothes. This completely shocked me; I wasn't FAILING to fit the clothes?!?! There was nothing wrong with my body?!

    I’m 5’ 10”, & have morphed slowly from a “boyish” figure (high school) to a more hourglassy one. And I struggled with buying clothes every step of the way, due to my height. I used to try on dozens of items, & when they were all too short, too small, bit into my skin in places, weren’t rescaled for height (more leg or sleeve just slapped on), I would wind up crying the change room & buying whatever item I liked the style of best, telling myself it didn't look that bad. Needless to say, I rarely wore them & felt awkward & oversized when I did.

    Finally, the advice about fit being foremost sunk in. I purged my wardrobe of everything that didn’t fit properly (my weight was fluctuating at the time, so a few things statyed that were “not current size” but fit properly at that weight). I was APPALLED at how many things went; at least ½ to 2/3 of my clothes.

    Now I try never to buy or wear anything that doesn’t fit properly. (I have a few straggling errors around, but I’m figuring out why they’re there & letting them go.) I don’t look or feel awkward or clueless (usually). I feel comfortable in my clothes. They’re a little bland, because I still have trouble finding things in my size, but they’re a decent foundation, and I can see new possibilities from here…

    & When I’m trying stuff on & nothing fits properly, I remember what my guy said, trying to coax me out of the change room after tearfully trying on 49 (yes, 49) pairs of spandex-free jeans (for wearing on my motorcycle) with no luck.

    “It’s not your fault they don’t know how to make clothes for goddesses!”

  8. "Clothing is the most versatile accessory."

  9. My best piece of fashion advice is to err on the side of dressing "up."

    If I go somewhere and I'm not certain how to dress for the occasion, I have found that I sometimes feel uncomfortable if I'm under-dressed, but I never feel bad about being slightly over-dressed.

  10. The very best advice - when you find something you just love, buy several (even in the same color, if that's part of what you love). Your first instinct is correct - you will never find anything to match it, and when it wears out, you will continue to wear it because you still love it. It's such a luxurious and virtuous feeling to throw out a worn out whatever and start using the identical new whatever. The worst advice - no long hair after thirty. Pooh to that.

  11. The most freeing fashion advice I got was also from Already Pretty - I don't have to look like an hourglass to look good. I can be okay with my big tummy, not try to squeeze it into something too small, and still look good. Thanks! Amy crazydavises at gmail dot com

  12. The fashion advice I try to keep in mind is the same advice I gave, in various forms, every day during my many years in retail: You are just right!

    If the dress is too tight, if the sweater is too loose, if the hem binds or the neckline gaps, if there are bulges and bumps, then the garment isn't right for you. But YOU are just right!

    It's disappointing but painless to leave behind a garment that doesn't work for you; it's painful and ultimately damaging to blame your body for that disappointment. Leave the disappointment behind with the garment; don't attach it to your body and take it home with you.

  13. As much as I love Already Pretty, I'm not sure that I've taken specific advice to heart. My great discovery is kind of like yours--Dresses let me look polished even though I feel like I'm wearing pajamas!

  14. My favorite advice: if you don't feel gorgeous in it, get rid of it. It's not you, it's the clothes - but why hang on to 'em if they make you feel less than perfect?

  15. Yay, Sally!

    I do like her. Probably my favorite piece of advice is to just wear what makes you feel good c:

    1. I would love to be entered in this. I have been following Already Petty for years, and it is the only fashion blog I have found that is worth reading every day.

      The best fashion advice I have at the moment is that your clothing has to work with what you _do_ not just how you look.

  16. i agree with your advice to wear dresses. so easy and cute! and, for me, much easier to fit than trousers and, surprisingly, skirts.

    lots of great advice on this thread, too. advice for "apple" shapes IS uniformly terrible -- whenever i've worn the oft-recommended wrap dress or empire waist, i've been offered seats on the subway and asked when i am due.

    i think for me, the biggest fashion revelation i've ever made is the discovery that stores design and stock for an incredibly narrow range of body proportions. it's an old, creaky industry based on outdated notions. i've embraced custom, self-sewn dresses as my uniform since stores don't seem at all interested in dressing my body's proportions. screw 'em.

  17. My favorite piece of advice from Sally is, don't be afraid to try something new and creative. She's given me the tools to explore and discover my style in a way that is empowering.

  18. I love Already Pretty! It's the first blog I check every morning.

    My best fashion advice: dress joyfully.

    My biggest fashion revelation since starting to read fashion blogs: Clothes at the store don't fit everyone but me. They're not intended to fit everyone, and especially not me. That to get a good fit, I need to alter them, which thankfully I know how to do.

    marylorenz at charter dot net

  19. I love dresses and skirts too! My favorite piece of fashion advice: find your "uniform," the combination of pieces that makes you feel most comfortable and attractive. Mine involves cardigans, tights, boots, and dresses/skirts.

    patchworkjackie (at) gmail (dot) com

  20. I love Deveraux' 'Elegance'. One advice I really like in it is that you should always think about how your new purchase fits into your existing wardrobe- a cheap blouse isn't cheap anymore if you have to buy new stuff as well to match it. Simple, but I had never considered that before.
    But I deeply dislike her obsession with pearls! I just don't especially like them and she makes thema sound like a staple.

  21. My favorite piece of advice is to move all around and try sitting in the clothing in the dressing room at the store. If there is anything uncomfortable about the clothing or you don't love it, don't buy it.
    Susan (at)

  22. I think the best fashion advice I've seen is that if you want to look a certain way, do it. You don't have to follow the norm of what looks good. If you have big boobs and don't want to hide them, don't! If you have a big butt and want to show it off, do it! Make your own definition of gorgeous.

    The worst is the opposite, from all the ladymags. That you have to be slim, tanned, flat stomached, big but only slightly big boobed, with slim hips and not much bum. That's not ugly by any means, but it shouldn't be what we all strive for.

  23. Hmmm... I usually feel as if I'm wearing too much, or not enough clothing. They just feel like one of those philosophical issues I can't *really* wrap my head around. And the way they change within themselves - the same piece can feel and look wonderful one day, and be the worst items you could ever have chosen the next.

    Except for petticoats. Petticoats always make me feel jaunty. :D

  24. The first piece of fashion advice I ever remember was my mom telling my very young self to not combine more than three colors in an outfit, but she didn't explain the idea of neutrals. I'm still uncomfortable breaking this "rule"