stylish fashion or fashionable style?

fashion / Pronunciation [fash-uhn]
–noun

  1. a prevailing custom or style of dress, etiquette, socializing, etc.: the latest fashion in dresses.
  2. conventional usage in dress, manners, etc., esp. of polite society, or conformity to it: the dictates of fashion; to be out of fashion.
  3. manner; way; mode: in a warlike fashion.
  4. the make or form of anything: He liked the fashion of the simple, sturdy furniture.
  5. a kind; sort: All fashions of people make up the world.

style / Pronunciation [stahyl]

–noun

  1. a particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character: the baroque style; The style of the house was too austere for their liking.
  2. a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode of action or manner of acting: They do these things in a grand style.
  3. a mode of living, as with respect to expense or display. An elegant, fashionable, or luxurious mode of living: to live in style.
  4. a mode of fashion, as in dress, esp. good or approved fashion; elegance; smartness.
  5. the mode of expressing thought in writing or speaking by selecting and arranging words, considered with respect to clearness, effectiveness, euphony, or the like, that is characteristic of a group, period, person, personality, etc.: to write in the style of Faulkner; a familiar style; a pompous, pedantic style.
  6. manner or tone adopted in discourse or conversation: a patronizing style of addressing others.
  7. a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work: Her painting is beginning to show a personal style.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

In May 2006, I made the first serious decision regarding my work wardrobe.

So I went to Bangkok and had suits made. I saved a lot for that because I know I needed higher end fabric for this. I decided to use my tailor’s expertise from design phase, including identifying user requirements (I’m the user, of course). So, here’s what transpired:

Before meeting with tailor:

  1. I did reseach on fabrics and how they work in different climates. Also got a general idea of the logic behind combination of different types
  2. Decided what kind of clothes do I want to wear and generally where and what will I need them for

During meetings with tailor, I detailed my requirements: among them –

  1. I’ll be wearing the suits primarily in hot and humid tropical climate. Main purpose of clothes are not for meetings overseas cold climate locations
  2. Need tailoring that makes me look good e.g. I don’t tuck in shirts because my waistline is not obvious so I need shirts that are designed to be worn outside
  3. I’ve got a short torso so I need the design that makes me look well-proportioned. I don’t like shirts that ‘bubble’ because they don’t fall nicely on my lower back
  4. I’m overly concious of my thighs so trouser design must have a balanced degree of flare at the bottom without looking like the nanny of the Brady Bunch kids
  5. Type of fabric must take into account how nicely they fall ie hang on my body frame
  6. Type of fabric must be lightweight and suitcase-friendly ie does not crumple too much too easily.
  7. Style must be lean and not too bulky esp when we’re including linings
  8. Fabric must be travel friendly ie I don’t want to dry clean the damn stuff all the time. I’m cool with handwash – I handwash my own clothes
  9. Good color combo that brings out the healthiest of my skin tone and hair color
  10. Total mix and match ie all shirts must be able to be worn with any suit and colors must be ‘me’ enough within the generally accepted ‘corporate’ hues
  11. NO PLAIN BLACK SUITS, NO PLAIN WHITE SHIRTS

That’s just some of it. Apparently I hit the right nerve because my tailor became very engrossed in this project. Has the mark of not just a good tailor, but a great businessman. We collaborated harmoniously together, reviewing all fabric and color choices. We looked at different suit jacket lengths, trouser length, hem design, waistband design, skirt lengths – time consuming yet satisfying. I think my tailor bloomed more than I – he really enjoyed the challenge. No surprises then when I ended up with the higher end of fabric – I had had to agree to the combo of 70% cashmere and 30% wool for my suits; the only fabric that met all my requirements, no compromises. Shirts are normal lah – egyptian cotton.

So, after much civilised and unhurried discussion of price and package configuration, the final price came to THB 28, 000 for these items:
3 suit jackets
3 knee-skimming length skirts
3 pairs of trousers
4 long sleeve shirts with cuffs made for to wear with cufflinks
3 silk scarves

Suits came in dark dusty grey pinstripes, dark blue and khaki-beige. Shirts came in dark red/maroon, white and pink checks (small fine pink squares, not huge ones, on white background – my favorite!), corporate blue (the one between light blue and normal blue) and creamy sunflower yellow.

I remember comtemplating a lot of things during the 2 fittings. When everything was ready, I insisted on not having the clothes delivered to the hotel. I went to pick them up, and tried everything. Even the different mix and match combos of shirts and suits. Brought my pantyhose (dark and normal skin colors) and my 2 pairs of often-worn heels – 3″ and 1.5″. The other tailors employed by the shope were rather surprised, but my tailor didn’t even bat an eyelash. As I arrived, he asked the help staff to prepare cold drinks, sat me down and took out the clothing items from the bags and laid them out while I cooled down (Bangkok – hot and humid!) and offered a cool towel too, so that I wouldn’t get sweaty during fittings after. He continued with his work and let me sit there quietly reading the papers and sipping my drink until I said “OK, I’m ready now,” about 20 mins after I had arrived.

After the fitting he invited me to sign the customer pattern/measurement book. It’s a huge one that tailors use and he had shown me that book at our first meeting, for me to read the testimonials of other satisfied customers. A lot of them wrote long stuff. On my page, I wrote “Perfect fit. Well done.” I guess he caught my expression and knew that those were the only words needed. He presented me with a small box. Inside, a pair of Gucci cufflinks. I know they were from Patpong market or Chatuchak, but I don’t care. I wear them until now.

I returned to KL with my key wardrobe pieces. I wear them to death, knowing that I won’t have to purchase any new office wardrobe for the next 18 months, at least. Did I mention that adjustments (to accomodate for expansions or the opposite) would be free of charge?

I recommended him to my friends. Some are happy, some are not, but I know none of them received any cufflinks 🙂 but I note that the few who were unhappy did not approach this project with harmony and peace of mind. Expectations were not clear. Even if they were, they were communicated in a very fishmonger-ish manner. Harsh tone of voice, condescending, know-it all. Hey I love them, theyre still my friends 🙂 but it’s their clothes decision, so I never intrude.

For me, I began to see the difference between style and fashion. I see fashion as seasonal. Something hot now may not be so hot next year. Style lives forever. It’s what a person makes out of fashion. It’s something deeply personal. It’s the intangible thing that makes us see how can one dress look awesome on one person, yet the same dress doesnt really work on another body.

At the end of the day, I learnt this – it’s true that clothes maketh the man; but it’s the man who decides on the clothes, and he’d better have a great tailor.

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