Sally McGraw

Sally McGraw is a stylist, blogger, and freelance writer whose massive shoe collection is threatening to overtake her tiny, North Minneapolis bungalow. Her popular daily fashion blog, Already Pretty, explores the intersection of personal style and body image, offers practical figure flattery advice, and urges women to love themselves regardless of weight, age, height, or body type. She firmly believes that style is a tool for self-love that should be accessible to everyone. Including you.

How to Play Up Your Assets

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women Updated: May 23, 2012 - 3:36 PM

Assets are relative, ya know? Each woman gets to decide for herself which aspects of her figure she'd like to highlight and play up, regardless of what various magazines may say. And, remarkably, there are some simple techniques for drawing attention to your bodily assets that work regardless of what those assets may be! If you'd like the observing world to take note of a specific feature, try:

CONTRAST

Whether you generate contrast by pairing colors with drastically different values, or adding a splash of color in an otherwise neutral ensemble, the place of contrast will become a point of interest. If you want to highlight your waist, make sure there's high contrast at your waistline. If you want to highlight your legs, try wearing a black dress and shoes with hot pink tights. Color contrast is a fantastic way to play up a cherished asset.

EMBELLISHMENT

Sequins, embroidery, beading, even an inset of pattern or texture can serve as embellishment on a garment. And wherever that embellishment goes, so goes the eye. If you'd like to highlight your derrière, go for jeans with flap or embroidered pockets. To draw attention to your shoulders, pick jacket with epaulets. Embellish those assets, my friends!

EXPOSURE

Naturally, you'll want to temper this one with your own modesty preferences and knowledge of social mores. But baring skin is a classic technique for asset highlighting. Should you wish to play up your rear end or thighs, you may need to see another method. (At least if you're going out in public.) But most other figure bits can be intentionally exposed under the right circumstances. If you want to highlight your arms, wear a scarf with a sleeveless maxi dress so your arms take center stage. If you want to highlight your legs, wear them bare with an above-the-knee skirt.

Since nothing is universal or foolproof, these techniques won't work across the board. It's tough to do contrast at the bust line or embellishment at the ankles. But all three of these work across a huge variety of scenarios, highlighting assets as they go.

Do you use any of these techniques to play up your assets? Which ones, and for which amazing assets?

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

How to Curb Impulse Buys

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: May 16, 2012 - 7:37 AM

I love to shop. You may have gathered this about me. I also love to thrift, and have spent many a pleasant afternoon scouring the racks of my local secondhand emporiums. I love clothes and feeling beautiful in my clothes, I read hundreds of style blogs every week, and I pore over countless magazines catalogs every month. My brain is brimming with products and prices and garments and outfits. I look at a lot of stuff and I buy a lot of stuff, including the occasional misfire. But I have managed to work on and nearly eradicate my impulse shopping urges. Here's how:

I ask myself, "Will you still want this in three weeks?"

Impulse buys can feel so fun in the moment, but the moment passes. And if - days or weeks later - a bout of buyer's remorse descends upon me, all that fun gets sucked out. And then some extra fun gets sucked out, too. I end up with a fun deficit, and that's just lousy. So I attempt to fast-forward into the future and consider how I'll feel about the potential impulse buy three weeks from the present day. In most cases, I can see SO CLEARLY that the item in question will be long forgotten. And if my foresight is fuzzy, I consider actually waiting the full three weeks before making a decision. Getting some real or imagined distance helps me be less emotional and more logical about purchasing decisions.

I ask myself, "What hole does this fill in your wardrobe?"

Some impulse buys turn out to be wardrobe staples, and some carefully plotted purchases turn out to be duds. But that doesn't mean that the former is wise and the latter foolish. And it certainly doesn't negate the importance of considering each potential purchase in the larger context of your existing wardrobe.

Now, admittedly, I have a large and varied wardrobe already. Buying items that duplicate or even resemble pieces I already own is just plain wasteful.* So I am very careful to ask myself, "Do you love this because it's so 'you,' or because it's got aspects in common with other pieces you already own and love?" I determine if an item is unlike others in my closet, and also consider if it would fill a niche that I've been longing to fill. Items that are unique and useful make the cut. Others get left behind.

I ask myself, "Where would you wear this?"

I DO believe in the practice of imagining at least three potential outfits for every new item bought, but more often I take this shortcut: I don't attend a lot of balls so I have little need for tiaras, satin sandals, and silk gowns. I don't live in a rainy climate so Hunter boots are well nigh useless to me. My meetings are virtually all business casual, so suits are a waste of money for me. Aside from my own comfort and aesthetic preferences, I try to envision context. Where will this potential new purchase be worn? A home office day? Weekend out? Fancy gathering? How practical is the purchase if the answer is a locale or activity that occurs only rarely in my life? My impulses to buy both super-fancy and super-casual items fall off once I consider location and application.

Are you an impulse shopper? How do YOU attempt to keep the impulsive buying urge in check? Would these tips work for you?

Image courtesy 401kcalculator.org.

* I do duplicate some items, though, and definitely know that buying staples in bulk can prove wise for many folks. Some multiples are accidentally bought non-staples - items that don't fill any need or hole or specific, known purpose - and those are the ones I try to avoid.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

Clothing vs. Body

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: April 30, 2012 - 1:56 PM

In college, I wore what my peers wore. I had a limited budget, limited resources, and limited interest in style so I just imitated what I saw. And what I saw was jeans, jeans, flannel, Doc Martens, jeans, oversized sweaters, jeans, long-sleeve tees and, jeans. Also jeans. And the jeans that were in style at the time were flares, which balanced my hips relatively well, and I wore them without thinking and assumed I looked as good as I possibly could.

After graduation I moved to San Francisco where I traded my flare jeans for wide-leg black dress slacks. And, again, I wore them without thinking and assumed I looked as good as I  possibly could.

It wasn't until I moved to Minneapolis in 2000 and began exploring my personal style in earnest that I realized I didn't look as good as I possibly could because I was wearing clothing that fought my body. Since I carry some squish right where mid-rise pants hit, their waistbands were cutting into me even when they fit properly, and some muffinage was inevitable. I was wearing blocks of color that bisected me and drew attention to my butt and hips. I never, ever layered, instead opting for heavy, bulky single-ply tops and sweaters.

Skirts were a revelation: They sat at my natural waist where there was extremely limited waistband dig, they flowed gracefully over my naturally lush hips, they FELT AMAZING. Learning to layer allowed me a far more artful way to stay warm than just throwing on the thickest, heaviest sweater I owned and disguising everything about my body in the process. Once I started wearing clothing that worked with my figure instead of against it, once I stopped pitting my clothing against my body, I looked like a completely different woman. And my confidence skyrocketed.

Sometimes, wearing clothing that fights your body is unavoidable: If you must wear a uniform, if you dress for dirty or dangerous tasks you may end up in garments that work against your figure. But it's also possible to simply default to clothing that fights your body, to wear it because you don't know what else to do, to follow the crowd. And you may not even realize you're doing it. Here are some sure-fire signs that you're pitting your clothing against your body:

Pinching, pulling, and subdivision: This is one of the most obvious signs of clothing fighting a bod, but it merits mentioning. Clothing that works with your form will sit flat and quiet against you without cutting into you, dividing up your torso, or otherwise hurting your physical form.

Unexpected results: You see a garment on someone else, like the look, purchase the item, wear it, realize immediately that it looks utterly different on you than it did on your inspirational model, silently admit that it might not be a good style for you, yet continue to wear it. Now, there's no "right" way to wear certain garments, but in this situation you can see that something is "off." The look or looks you're creating displease your own eye, but you're stuck on the vision of how they look on others.

Wardrobe malaise: If you either loathe everything in your closet or feel utterly indifferent to everything you own, it's possible that you're buying body-fighting garments. Exclusively. Nearly all people own a handful of items that make them look and feel utterly amazing. Everyone has the occasional, "I've got nothing to wear" moment, but if you suffer from a perpetual wardrobe malaise, you might want to reconsider some of your dressing choices.

If you feel like you might be in a clothing vs. body situation and don't know where to begin making changes, try going drastic. If you've been wearing nothing but skirts for 10 years, try pants. Skinny pants, wide legged pants, flares, straight legs, any pants. If you've been doing loads of layers, pare down to a single layer of garments for a while. If you've been wearing low rise bottoms, try high waisted ones instead. Whatever you're doing now, try the opposite. You'll probably end up meandering back to a middle ground eventually, but starting out extreme will allow you to explore the gamut.

Finding clothing that caresses your body, flows with its natural curves and accents its natural angles can be extremely challenging. I don't mean to imply that it's a snap for anyone and everyone. But questing for garments that work with - instead of against - your body is a worthwhile project. Because once you find them, your confidence will skyrocket, too.

Image courtesy Gap.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

How to stay smart while shopping clearance

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: April 18, 2012 - 10:11 AM

The area that surrounds clearance racks can feel like an alternate universe: Budgetary concerns and closet inventories seem to evaporate, along with the ability to make rational decisions. The lure of bargains is strong, and can monkey with otherwise savvy, reasonable shoppers. Which is especially unfortunate since many clearance items are final sale, so any unfortunate impulse buys may be irreversible. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you step into the Clearance Zone and risk an ill-informed purchase:

  • When you find an item that you feel compelled to buy, ask yourself, "What will happen if I don’t buy this? Will I remember that I wanted it in two weeks?"
  • Try to identify the aspect(s) of the item in question that make it worthy of purchase. What, exactly, thrills you about this thing? Is it the color, cut, fabric, and fit? Or is it just that it's a designer name on deep discount? Or something you've seen in magazines that's suddenly in your hands and affordable?
  • Force yourself to envision at least three outfits that will utilize your clearance find. I know this tactic may feel a bit played-out, but it really, REALLY works. Some garments need time to work their way into daily wear, but any garment that doesn't work naturally with your established style will just become a closet orphan.

Clearance items can become wardrobe workhorses, can add zest to ailing closets, and can constitute brag-worthy bargains. But I'd wager that the majority of shopping misfires take place within the confines of the Clearance Zone. So consider arming yourself with a few quiz questions before you start browsing the racks.

How do you avoid clearance sale mishaps?

Image via ReFab Online.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

Thrifting for Trends: Spring/Summer 2012 Edition

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: April 6, 2012 - 3:09 PM

It's time, once again, to examine the hot "new" trends for the season, and remind ourselves that fashion recycles EVERYTHING! Here are just a few of the garments, colors, and styles that are trending for spring and summer that you can easily track down at your local thrift and consignment shops:

20s glam

OK, this is likely the most challenging of the group. With the upcoming release of Leo DiCaprio's version of "The Great Gatsby," designers were all over fringed flapper dresses and embellished gowns. Thriftable pieces that will capture this trend include drop waist dresses, mid-calf skirts, skullcap style hats (especially with flowers and embellishments), white/tennis-reminiscent items, and silky blouses.

Pastels

As always, color-centric trends are the easiest to thrift. Do take a peek at a few contemporary photos before heading out to shop, as this particular batch of pastels is a bit more deep/saturated than some. But you'll find all the shades from a bag of Jordan almonds at virtually every used clothing store in the land.

Graphic florals

Ditsy florals are classic, but this trend calls for a more abstract iteration. Or if not abstract, bold, big, and eye-catching. And believe me, such prints abound at thrift stores. Keep your eyes peeled for bright and primary colors, large prints, and anything that looks a bit graphic-designy.

Printed pants

This one comes with a warning: I prowled my local thrift haunts in search of printed pants for more than a year, and eventually bought these instead. But floral, paisley, and other fun printed pants abounded ... they just weren't available in styles I loved. If you find a pair that works but they're not quite right, consider altering them or having them tailored. In this iteration of the trend, printed pants should either feature exaggerated wide legs or very slim ones. 

Orange

What could be easier! Don't let anyone tell you that you need to run out and purchase the perfect tangerine frock. Orange is orange, and even neon versions are hot right now. Cruise the aisles looking for cuts and fabrics that suit your taste, and nab yourself some bold, orange items. Will you thrift for trends this season? Which ones are you excited to try?

Images via style.com

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

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