Lesson #3: How to Dress Like a Fashion Assistant

by Rachel on May 26, 2010

To anyone who wants to still work in fashion after reading about a typical day and a really bad but pretty typical day…well…you have to look the part!

From the second I realized I was probably going to intern at a fashion magazine to the day I left, I was always trying to figure out what to wear. The dress code was pretty much anything goes. So that meant you could really rock whatever you loved…but it also meant you could totally miss the mark. I definitely felt like there were some unspoken (uhh sometimes spoken) rules.

So besides a crazy work ethic and an addiction to the Crackberry, I did get a sense of style. So here are some of the things I learned!

1. Figure out your personal style. I always said that fashion people were like cartoon characters because they never seemed to change clothes. This came from the fact that everyone had such a defined sense of style that on any given day, they looked pretty much like they had the day before! Dressing up or dressing down…it still was rooted in something that was just them. If you aren’t sure what’s “you,” make a mini-vision board. Tear into a few (different!!) magazines and pull out anything that strikes your fancy  — colors, clothes, bands, celebs hairstyles, decor — and once you get it all into one place, look for themes and patterns. And look at runway pics on Style.com! You may not be able to afford it, but you can get a great sense of what you like.

2. Know your body and your hair. Part of defining your style comes from knowing what works on your shape and what works with your overall look. I can never, ever do “boho”…it doesn’t work with my body and it certainly doesn’t work with my hair! Part of having good style is taking a long hard look in the mirror.

3. Quality over quantity. One of the things I noticed right away about fashion people is that while they do wear crazy expensive things, they wear the same few things all the time. Seriously, they may have had just ten great outfits in rotation…but because they knew their style so well, they knew when they truly loved something enough to wear it a lot. Don’t buy three trendy tops; buy one good one that really works for you. Figure out what your “must-haves” are and then invest in nice ones.

4. Be smart with your investments (no matter how small)! Seriously, purchase wisely. I will always splurge on accessories I love but I buy cheap jeans because designer jeans do nothing for me. Other women cannot do denim that costs under $200. Working in fashion really helped me realize that I should only buy things I love and that work for me. I have less clothes now but I never feel like I have “nothing to wear.” And loving clothes has nothing to do with the price! My go-to “I need to feel sexy” LBD is from Forever 21; I’d be lost without it.

5. Only follow trends that work with your style. Some trends go with the style you figured out in step #1. Some don’t. Personally, I cannot do any kind of “edgy.” No matter how trendy it is, it’s still not me. So if I want to update my wardrobe, I go with the trends that are more in line with my style. Right now, I’m obsessed with flat lace-ups, but these are a trend that are pretty close to my style.

But it will be a cold day in hell before you see me in any booties. Not because they aren’t adorable, but because I look ridiculous and feel uncomfortable in booties.

Believe me, there are enough trends for all of us! You know when a trend is something that’s kind of you and when it’s just not. (See also: don’t be ridiculous.)

6. Do not wear fake shit. This was huge. Do not. Wear. Fake. Shit. Aside from the fact that the people who are making your fake bags are probably treated horribly and aside from the fact that no one believes it’s real…honestly, it’s just dumb. If you can’t afford real Chanel — and once you’ve played with real Chanel, you realize like everything that is wrong with knock-offs — then fine. But don’t try to be something you aren’t.

7. And don’t be a label snob. Someone in head-to-toe designer might be dressed “right,” but I think the most important thing was having style. On any given day, most assistants and interns were in some sort of H & M/well-known designer/random vintage/chick on Etsy mash-up. Going along with this, fashion people pretty much never wear logos. Like, ever.  Logos are kind of for mass-produced stuff; truly great/well-made designer pieces are recognizable for their shape, hardware, etc. and, really, for how you wear them.

7. Seek out talented designers. This is kind of hard to explain but…I would never tell someone to buy Gucci shoes. Why? Because Gucci isn’t a shoe company…it’s a fashion house that added shoes. Jimmy Choo and Sergio Rossi know shoes. So don’t just look at the label; consider the craftsmanship of the piece you actually want to buy.

8. Be resourceful. Get on eBay or Craigslist or hit up consignment shops for designer pieces. Don’t pay $300 for a pair of shoes from J. Crew (OMG WTF J. CREW??!??!?!)…you could probably get a really cool pair of designer shoes for the same price that are actually made well.

9. Have a uniform. Once you’ve put all the other steps together, you can really develop a “look.” Seriously, fashion people just always wear new twists on the same thing and they always look great. (It’s actually really weird when they venture away from it.) This isn’t the same as getting stuck in a rut; it’s knowing what works for you, suits your tastes, and makes you feel good.

My favorite designers have led me to a style that I define as preppy and earthy (Hermes, Ralph Lauren) but that’s still feminine and French (Chanel, Sonia Rykiel) and cut for a girl with boobs and big hair. Nothing about me is edgy or hip or boho or mysterious or super sexy at all, but I’ve owned it! I don’t think I’m the most stylish person on the planet, but I have found that I look more pulled-together now that I know these basic rules. I love people whose style is “so them” and that’s how working in fashion taught me to dress and shop!

You need confidence to have good style but you won’t get confidence until you fall in love with your true style. So figure out what you love, toss the stuff you don’t, and wear the same three outfits all the damn time if they are “so you.” Because then “so you” will equal “so stylish.”

So…what are your style rules and secrets? How did you find your true style, what is it, and how do you rock it? Seriously, share…I know how girls like to talk about this stuff!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel Marlena May 26, 2010 at 7:49 am

I get compliments on my style all the time and you are so right in saying that a if you know what works for your body and b if you know your inspiration/personal style you will always look like you. So I have MAYBE five colors that I wear in a given season…seriously. Winter is mostly dark denim, blacks, and greys, with a few shots of red and maybe the occasional piece of navy/olive/eggplant thrown in. Summer switches the major black to navy with lots of white, red, and yellow. If I am in pants they are skinny — always always always — it highlights my long-for-my-height/thin-for-my-overall-shape legs. Shorter hemlines, not a lot of low-cuts and lots of either solids of stripes. I can go in a store and immediately never consider more than about an eighth of the items in it because they just are not me. I would define my style as gamine/classic with a bit of edge thrown in.

What I would LOVE to see are some of your favorite outfits – I love seeing how people put together the items in their closets.

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2 Rachel May 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

Rachel Marlena — I would LOVE to share some of my fave outfits!! I just don’t want to me too “me me me” even though it’s “my” blog. But if people are interested, I can share. I legit have like four outfits I wear.

Also I think I have a similar color palette to you!! Love that you used the word “gamine” because I think that really incorporates your adorable haircut and again, it’s about what works with your HAIR!

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3 Rachel Marlena May 26, 2010 at 8:19 am

Over on the Glamour blogs sometimes they do “show us your favorite…” days. Maybe you could do one where everyone sends in their favorite pictures of themselves style-wise and you could include a few of your own! Thanks about my hair — it seriously took me probably three years of contemplating it before actually cutting it all off — but I am so glad I did because it is just so ME.

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4 Rachel May 26, 2010 at 8:21 am

Rachel Marlena, that’s a good idea! I actually wrote about “paparazzi days” on my blog in college/in the book. It’s those days when you look so damn cute, you want someone to snap a picture. So maybe we can share our “paparazzi days!” I’ll put out a call for it in the next couple weeks!!

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5 Ashley May 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

I want to see your fave outfits — I don’t think it counts as narcissism!
.-= Ashley´s last blog ..‘Sex and the City 2′: My thoughts (and spoilers) =-.

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6 midgetkeeper May 26, 2010 at 8:10 am

Awesome tips! I couldn’t agree more that you have to find what works for you. I know for me simple and classic is what I love and look good in. I just can’t pull off anything trendy, I look ridiculous and luckily it isn’t my thing anyway.

My favorite thing to do is to wear something simple, muted colors and add a pop of color with a bold accessory. Looks so chic!

I would also love to see some of your outfits.
.-= midgetkeeper´s last blog ..Healthy Living Blog? =-.

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7 Gracie May 26, 2010 at 8:40 am

A someone who dabbles in like, 5 different styles, those tips were definitely helpful for me. While I don’t always know what works *best* for me, I certainly know what DOESN’T work for me (color-wise, fit-wise, trend-wise, etc.)

For the most part, I like to have at least some sort of edginess to whatever I’m wearing. My favorite stores are H&M, Urban Outfitters, and consignment shops (at this point, as a recent college grad, I might as well not even glance at designer pieces).

As far as my “uniform” goes, I’m big on blacks, grays, and deep purples (not a huge fan of bright colored clothing), dark jeans, BOOTS, blazers, and bomber jackets. I usually add color via accessories like scarves and jewelry.

I’m currently searching for the perfect jumper/romper. That’s probably my favorite trend at the moment, but I’m not quite sure if my 5’3 frame can pull it off…
.-= Gracie´s last blog ..Vlog Vednesday & Easy Pizza Dough Recipe =-.

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8 Rachel May 26, 2010 at 8:41 am

Gracie, I LOVE rompers!! The key to wearing them if you’re short is to get ones with a pretty short hemline and wear them with really simple sandals…it makes your legs look way longer!!

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9 Gracie May 26, 2010 at 10:09 am

Ohh good thinking. Thanks for the tip!
.-= Gracie´s last blog ..Vlog Vednesday & Easy Pizza Dough Recipe =-.

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10 Manon May 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

Love, love, looooooooooooooove this post! I totally have the problem where I have 4 huge closets full of clothes, and still can’t EVER find anything to wear. Reading this post makes me want to just throw it all out and START OVER. I also agree it would be great if you shared some of your favorite outfits!!!
.-= Manon´s last blog ..Nightmare on Elm Street…..and a Back-up Plan…. =-.

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11 Beth May 26, 2010 at 9:48 am

This is so true! Establishing your personal style makes things simpler…you know what you like, you know what looks good and wa-lah! Simple dressing (almost) everyday.
I think I’ve finally figured it out – I like simple, streamlined, with a little mix of edge and the classics when appropriate. Most of my base items are black. I’ve been criticized for this, but I’ve come to realize that a good pair of black pants can be the most versatile item I own. My uniform: Black pants (in a variety of silhouettes), black tank and top of choice. The real variety in my wardrobe comes from tops, sweaters and jackets. Being larger, I cannot pull of busy patterns and do not wish to wear extremely bright colors. So I vary texture, deeper richer colors and lines. And then, my most favoritest! SHOES!! I am a heel girl. All day, everyday. I have heels and sneakers- nothing in between. The right pair of shoes can make even the blackest, most simple outfit amazing. That’s where I splurge. (Now mind you, when I splurge, its not $500 expenditures given my single Mommy budget, but more like $150) I also only wear silver jewelry- the result of a decade evolution from bright pink bangles to gold cuffs to bold silver everything. So, without further rambling, that’s me : black pants, killer shoes, silver frosting, a little edge, a little classic.

PS: I agree share your favorites.
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Wanna know something? =-.

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12 Rachel May 26, 2010 at 9:49 am

Beth I love “silver frosting” — that’s a great way to put it!!

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13 Diane May 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

Like you said, I think having a “uniform” is really the key to great style. I had a serious lack of personal style until I moved to Springfield and started thrifting on a weekly basis. You will not BELIEVE the awesome things I’ve found here, thanks to the fact that small town Midwesterners don’t appreciate vintage.

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14 sarah @ syrupandhoney May 26, 2010 at 11:07 am

Loved all the tips! I’m in the process of figuring out my personal style. I’ve also been encouraging some of my friend to do the same…They might say they like something but it’s not their style, which may be true but at the same time I remind them that YOU pick your style. It’s not something that just happens to you. For some people, it comes naturally…the rest of us have to think about it and practice before it’s easy.

Also, I used to be a J. Crew fan but their prices SUCK now.

@Gracie…I’m 5’4 and I just got a strapless seersucker romper from Target. I was kinda nervous but wore it to a festival where I saw everyone and their mother and got a ton of compliments!
.-= sarah @ syrupandhoney´s last blog ..Cooking Skirt Steak =-.

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15 K @ The Chic Teach February 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I totally dug deep and randomly found this post…and I’m loving everything about it!

As a fashion blogger, I find myself struggling to offer a wide variety of looks and styles on my blog. But I know what I feel most comfortable and “me” in, and I really need to stick to that at the end of the day. My blog has forced me to try fits and fashions I might not otherwise try, but has also forced me into molds that just aren’t me.

So, long story short, this post kicked me in my butt and made me think. As you nearly always do :-)

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