After our first discussion on style and trends last week, somebody wrote to me and asked me a very pertinent question which I will attempt to answer in this column.
It is my hope that this response will be helpful to many of you.
Question: Dear Thembani, Thank you for a very interesting piece in this week’s H Metro. Unfortunately, it appears that in Zimbabwe, many of us have access to a lot of the same types of outfits coming in from South Africa, China or Turkey and in some instances, we buy from vanhu vemabhero.
How does one find their own “style voice” which you spoke of in your article given that some of us may not be able to afford a designer or a personal stylist? Vimbai.
Vimbai’s question is not a peculiar situation.
I have been confronted with this question many times.
Let me start by saying this; creating your own style voice does not necessarily mean becoming completely different and having to create your own designs.
It means putting together looks that best represent you.
And yes, it can be done using what is available.
As was rightfully pointed out in the feedback above, not everyone can afford or has access to a stylist or designer.
I have also found that some people invest in what we call ‘bespoke” garments for major occasions such as weddings, birthdays, photo shoots or award events.
Let’s get into how we can create a unique style voice with those garments from China, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey etc.
I cannot over emphasise how attention to detail is so critical to you looking your best. One of the simplest things that makes a garment speaks volumes for you is how it sits on your body.
Fitting is so important. When you buy a garment it is a small, medium, large or extra large or depending on the source country it is a size 8,10,12 or 14 etc.
When you try it, it fits. The question is does it fit well?
Always remember that a number of the garments we purchase are made from a particular stencil or pattern for mass market, for a certain body frame, again, depending on the source country. However, as you know, our bodies are not all an exact match.
For example I have found that a lot of shorter individuals with fuller figures struggle to get the perfect jeans or pants as often garments with the right waist and hip size are on the longer side.
The reverse is true, taller thinner people will find the right length with a bigger waist size. This is just one of many examples of how some garments may fail to be a perfect fit. How do we resolve this?
It is important for you to identify a good, efficient and creative tailor or seamstress. Most of us have wrongful associated this respectable trade with “cheap clothes”.
For some they are the “African Attire” people. Your tailor is somebody who appreciates you as an individual, your character, your body type including your insecurities because we all have those, as well as your best features. Make you tailor your best friend.
Take that store bought garment to them and have them transform it into your dress, trousers or blazer.
From something as simple as an alteration, your dress can really look like it belongs on your body.
A tailor who understands you will know what to take in or let out to make sure that your best features are accentuated.
Gentleman, have those trouser pants trimmed to the perfect length, bring that jacket back in. If it’s a slim fit do not let it hang.
However, your tailor is there to do more than just alterations.
Remember, you want your clothes to speak for you.
Speak to your tailor about adding or removing detail to a piece where possible to make it speak your language.
Sometimes, adding a belt, a bow, a motif even a dart will add your personal touch to a garment.
I have seen how a simple addition of African print on a t shirt collar or a jacket lapel reinvents a garment into something new.
It’s ok to add or remove detail to something that has flooded the market and turn it into something unique to you.
I’ve even seen some people repurpose old cloths and give them a fresh new look. Don’t be afraid to try.
I hope you will head over to your wardrobe and start getting creative. Start small and soon you’ll get bolder.
Happy reinventing and styling…
NB: Thembani Mubochwa is an award-winning Fashion Designer and Celebrity Stylist.