At Plum we like to combine the fun and artistic side of fashion to build a practical intelligent wardrobe. The basic elements are colour, shape, scale, proportion, line and texture.  This post is about texture, proportion and shape. The idea is to match your clothing with your natural features. If you have curves, curly hair and a soft matte finish on your skin, then find clothing that has similar features (curved lines, textured fabric, matte finish) so that your look is coherent. You’ll find others will notice *you* instead of the items of clothing you’re wearing. 
Texture: the roughness or smoothness of fabric. Texture can be a feeling, as in nubby or rough fabric, or visual, as in pattern. People who have a bit more texture (curly hair, freckles, etc.) generally match well with textured fabrics like knits that are bulkier and soft. People that have less texture (straighter hair, no freckles, etc.) generally match better with smoother fabrics like lambs wool or silks. 
Proportion: is the relative amount of space given to different features in a garment or the relative size of different parts of the body. For example, a body can be long in the torso and smaller in the leg or evenly proportioned between the torso and legs. Certain shapes and balance points will work better for different proportions and using different proportions of clothing can change the visual line of the body, if desired. 
Shape: the outline of your torso from the shoulder to the hip is commonly considered your body shape. Some bodies have straighter angular shapes and some have curvier shapes with softer angles. Choosing the right garment to fit your shape is important to your overall look.  It is best to get an honest and knowledgeable opinion from sales people who are well trained and who have experience with many body shapes.
Everyone chooses clothing for different reasons. Clothing can be used to cover or reveal different parts of our bodies, can be used to create different proportions, or to draw attention to one area or another. So it is critical that you know and understand your own body without judgement.  What you choose depends largely on the function you want the clothing to serve, as well as on your personality. We can help you look at clothing from a design perspective if you’re interested in learning more about why certain items work better than others; if you already know what works, we can help you find things that go well with what you choose or what you have in your closet. 
Katherine Lazaruk's picture

Dress with Purpose - Working in Style

It happens all the time in our stores; a customer storms into Plum because she has a job interview, or is meeting an important client or has advanced to a new position.  Many women hate to shop for clothing so they put it off... and who can blame them when there are so many stores where the staff do not know how to really help.  They certainly don’t know what it is like to work at your job.
As part of our training program, we’re looking at the different levels of formality in different workplaces and developing wardrobe formulas to help you choose a complete wardrobe for your career. Because Western Canada is generally pretty casual, it can be tricky to navigate the business workplace while keeping true to your personal style.  No one ever seems to explicitly state what makes up the different levels of formality and employers don’t want to tell their team what they should purchase.  And the wheels really come off the wagon on Casual Friday (which we think is basically dead!).  Here’s the lowdown; some general guidelines we think will work to figure formality into your position at work:
  1. Number: the more pieces of clothing you’re wearing, the more formal you are.  The exception is a dress.   See Colour, Pattern and Style below for guidance on dresses. 
  2. Colour: the more colour you wear, the more casual you are.
  3. Pattern/Texture: the more patterns or textures you wear, the more casual you are.
  4. Accessories: more of these, and more chunky or colourful equals more casual.
  5. Style: the level of tailoring and the smoothness and tightness of the weave makes a garment more formal. 
  6. Shoes: is it a science or an art?  The right shoes can make all the difference. Soft and flat is more casual than heels and polish.  
* CAUTION: These are only general guidelines and there are exceptions to all of them.  Plum associates are trained to assist you in finding what works for you.
Most professional women today "dress for the occasion," at work.  A suit is in order for meeting the big client but if you are knuckling down with the 'team' for the day, the comfort of well chosen separates might put everyone at ease and in a creative spirit.  It doesn't matter who designed your jersey jacket, jeans or yoga pants... they almost never belong at work.  If you take pride in what you wear it will show that you take pride in the work you do.  So with or without a dress code, you can have your own code and you will inspire others to do the same... and all without rules!
Katherine Lazaruk's picture
Get the most bang for your buck in the closet
When you’re building your functional wardrobe (see our last blog post to find out what we mean by functional), there’s always a consideration of what you value most. No matter if your budget is large or small, there’s a universal desire to get value out of what you purchase. There are several ways to determine value and straight economics is just one. Here are three ways to measure the value you’re getting from your closet:
1. Dollars and Cents: This way of measuring value looks strictly at the way you spend your cash. A good guideline to follow for clothing purchases throughout the year is 5-10% of your net income and this includes socks and underwear. If your lifestyle is more casual, then your expenses will be closer to 5%. If your lifestyle is more formal, then you’d likely be spending closer to 10%. You can also look at cost per wear - take the cost of the item and divide it by the number of times you expect to wear it. This is where fast fashion often loses out – a $10 shirt you can only wear twice ends up being more expensive in the long run at $5 per wear than a $50 top you can wear 50 times at $1 per wear. 
2. Emotional/Physical: If you have a strong feeling about what you wear, then the value of your wardrobe might be more emotional than economical. In this way, you’ll be shopping more for things that make you feel great, things that will suit your mood when you get dressed in the morning and feel great on your body. You might buy clothing that makes you feel confident, powerful, alluring or fabulous. You might like shopping for trend or for fun. Therefore, the strict dollar value of something won’t matter as much to you as how you feel in the clothes you buy. In a later blog post we’ll also be looking at ‘age appropriate’, a term we define a bit differently than most. 
3. Versatility: Things you can wear more than one way or with more than one outfit give more value over time. That top that looks great only with one pair of pants isn’t going to give you as much value as the top that looks great with two or more bottoms. There are a couple of different wardrobe formulas that our staff is learning to help you build these kinds of combinations effectively, according to what suits your colouring, body type, personal style and lifestyle. (more info). Also, we look at ways to combine those pieces with accessories that can level up the formality, dress an outfit down, increase polish or express your personality, whichever you prefer. 
Whatever measure you use for valuing your wardrobe, we want to make sure that what you’re buying will give you good value. Wondering how this will work for you? Come and see us!
Katherine Lazaruk's picture

Dress with Purpose - Fun, Function, and Both?

Unless you live in a nudist colony, you're pretty much going to need clothes to wear. Dozens of 'must-have' lists populate fashion magazines, with 'essential' this and that. Unfortunately, these lists don't make a lot of room for individual expression. The idea that "every woman needs a little black dress" or "every woman needs a tailored white shirt" is a bit ridiculous.
What we consider to be a functional wardrobe isn't built on a 'must-have' list; it's built on your lifestyle requirements. Here’s an example: 
Let's say you're a professional woman, working in an office downtown and commuting to work on transit. You sometimes attend after work parties in the evening and you love to do active things on the weekend. A functional wardrobe for you will need to include professional items such as jackets or cardigans, tops with sleeves (unless you’re never going to take off your jacket or cardigan) and more tailored skirts or pants. It might also include dresses (if you like them) and ideally, you’ll want items that all work with one another so you’ve got maximum mix and match opportunities. You’ll also need a cocktail outfit (which doesn’t have to be black) or two for those after work parties and some yoga jeans, casual tops and bottoms for your active weekends. How many of each kind of item you’ll need is based on how many hours you spend working, socializing or doing other activities. Throw in as many accessories as you like (scarves, jewellery, belts and bags) to complete the outfits and you’re good to go. Then you can always add in items for fun, things that are new or trendy to try, things with pattern or texture, or things that are more occasion specific, like a fun piece of jewellery or a fun top or dress for a special occasion. You can have fun with your day to day items too by adding more colour or pattern, but we want to make sure that everything you buy is something you’ll actually wear and enjoy wearing. 
Most people have far more items than they need to have a complete wardrobe and many people have items that don’t go with anything else in their wardrobe, or that don’t quite fit or don’t suit them. We’re learning the skills (check out what we’re up to on our website) to match the colour and style of pieces with your colouring and personal style to make sure that what you buy suits you well and has a purpose in your closet.  You may find you can buy better clothing and still save some money.
Katherine Lazaruk's picture

Fictional Fashion Sells

There’s a lively debate going on at Plum about whether or not fashion advertising should be ‘aspirational’ or ‘real’ or some component of both. 
‘Aspirational’ advertising presents something people will long for, something they would like to do or have, or even someone they might like to be.  The results are pictures of ‘ideal’ women.  Taken to the extreme, it can be interpreted as the ‘perfect body’ type, the photoshopped, elongated, chopped, airbrushed and fictionalized pictures we see in fashion magazines and advertisements that bombard us daily.  It can create a feeling that we have shortcomings and that we ought to be doing something differently.  This type of advertising suggests that if we only buy this or that product we’ll miraculously be saved... unfortunately it often works. The beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that has been profiting on these kinds of messages for years. It is what we have become accustomed to so it is difficult for advertisers to abandon those ‘aspirations’ for something more ‘real.’
‘Real’ advertising, such as the popular Dove Campaign for Real Beauty emphasizes diverse body types, diverse racial representation and advocates for fewer photoshopped images in ads for beauty products and fashion. This type of ‘real’ advertising is more about making people feel good about themselves and showing that a particular product isn’t restricted to a particular kind of person or designed to make you into anything other than who you are. 
We love that we have a diverse client base at Plum, from fashionistas to functional dressers and we do our best to accommodate as many of them as we can in our stores. 
We use professional models on our website and in our emails because it is what women are used to seeing and because the models are trained professionals. But we do not alter bodies in our images. We do remove blemishes and alter images as needed to remove wrinkles from fabric or slight imperfections in the images, smoothing out the edges. We feel that fashion can be aspirational, artistic and expressive and that everyone should be able to enjoy what it can do for them as individuals.  
We have invested in a new training program for our staff so they can help individual customers more effectively.  They have learned about colour, body, wardrobing, personal style and lifestyles.  Let us know what you think by commenting below – what do you love seeing in fashion advertising? Aspiration or real or both? 
Katherine Lazaruk's picture

Why are we asking for your size?

I wish I could say I loved filling out surveys but I don’t.  I do them anyway because I believe the information could be important to improving a service or a product.
If I am being asked for personal information I often wonder how it is going to be used and who has access to that information.  
As one of the owners of Plum I know how important good information can be to making good business decisions.  Good decisions can result in better service or a better product for our customers.  We often do surveys but we never connect the information that we get to the customer.  The survey we are asking you to fill out today is an exception and this is why.
We are very careful to produce only what we can sell but for sizes it is often very difficult to estimate the number of units in each size.  It can vary from store to store and from style to style so getting reliable information about the sizes of our customers connected to what they purchase can mean we can be very accurate.  That means less waste and lower costs.  Since we produce locally that is extremely important to our competitiveness.
So when we ask for your size it is not because we want to know ‘your’ size but because we want to count the number of customers in each size category, by store location and by age.  That is powerful information and simply means we are more likely to have ‘your’ size when you go shopping with us.
To complete this survey (and enter the draw for a Gift Card), please click here. We do not share, sell, give or in any way permit the use of this information by any entity other than Plum to create and market clothing.
While we're on the topic of sizes, did you know that if we don't have your size at a Plum store, we will often be able to find it at another store and have it brought in for you?
Katie O’Brien
Co-owner Plum Clothing Ltd.
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