How To Win At Fashion: A Comprehensive Guide

So…you like fashion. But can you live it? The difference between an everyday fashion fan and a bonafide — we're talking diehard — fashion nerd is much more nuanced than just having a frequent shopper card at Bloomingdale's. To really live, breathe, and sweat fashion (in a healthy, 'this is my hobby' kind of way), involves continual immersion — think lots of studying, reading, experimenting, and discussing. And, like any other form of geekdom, a whole lot of unabashed passion. Even if your day job doesn't involve fashion, and you haven't the pleasure of Daphne Guinness' credit limit, it doesn't mean you can't "get" fashion in a big way. From the best websites to read to research trips to take, these are the essential steps to take if you really want to succeed at style — and maybe even make it your livelihood. So, ready to ramp up your fashion cred? Here's our cheat sheet for taking your fashion passion to the Next Level.
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Know Your Body
Unless you're Gisele Bündchen and built like an avatar, not all clothing will feel good on you. While styles and trends are subjective, fits definitely aren't, and it's important to know the cuts, colors, and lengths that make you feel good about yourself — and in turn, you'll look more confident (read: better)!

An easy way to do this is to first write down the most distinguishable parts about your body, whether it's your strong calves, your wide shoulders, your small chest, or your long neck. Then, look for a celebrity that has a similar body type. If they're a regular red-carpet attendee, it's safe to say they've probably got a team of stylists and management looking out for their sartorial choices. Take advantage — just because you don't have grands to drop on a style consultation doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of people that do.

The most important thing, though, is to experiment and to try everything. Bring double the amount of clothing into a dressing room just to see how it looks on your body. Try out services like Rent the Runway and test drive new trends. Shop with friends and see how the same item looks on both of your bodies. Through some trial and error, you'll start understanding the transformative (both physical and emotional) effect that clothing has on a person.
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Establish Your Fashion Ethics
While it may be easy to imagine your favorite sweaters are being made by a workshop of happy elves in Soho wearing matching smocks, it's not the case. The business of fashion is as modern and messy as any other, and the consumer choices you make helps validate and perpetuate good and bad systems.

So, figure it out and do your research. Does buying new fur align with your ethics? Does vintage fur? For that matter, does leather? Is a $9 pair of jeans worth it if it was made in dangerous working conditions? How important is it to you that your shirt was made in the United States, as opposed to China? There are plenty of books devoted to subjects like these (as well as plenty of op-eds online — start Googling!). Though, these topics aren't as lighthearted as dissecting the pros and cons of a peplum, they're extremely important to ponder. Think about it this way: each time you buy something, it's like casting a ballot to vote. Would you ever vote without knowing how you stand on the issues first?
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Know Your Brands
Sure, knowing your brands is helpful in that you'll never make a "Guh-vin-chee" mistake, but knowing a brand's design history, its politics, its big players, and its tendencies gives you the context to really understand it. And hey — loyal sports fans, movie buffs, and vinyl lovers have encyclopedic knowledge of their own industries' biggest players — Alexander Wang should be your version of Tim Tebow.

Once you're familiar with the heavy hitters, move onto the smaller fish (our indie designers collection page is a good place to start). Watching an under-the-radar designer win awards, land a feature on sites like ours, and get stocked in your local boutique can be thrilling. And hey — when they finally land that H&M collaboration, you'll feel like a proud parent (with bragging rights!).

Furthermore, it's fun. Talking about who'll replace Ghesquière at Balenciaga or whether the new Carven collection was bogus or inspired is our idea of a good time.
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Blow Out Your RSS Feed
If you don't have hours upon hours in the day to get lost in fashion blogs (with or without your boss' knowledge), a robust, well curated RSS feed is a great way to stay on top of content. Are you a news addict? Use Google Reader and add a slew of fashion news sites to your feed to catch the latest happenings across a variety of publications. Obsessed with personal blogs? Set up a Blog Lovin' to follow your faces. Only want sound bites? Twitter should be your de facto RSS. Into visuals? Set up a Pinterest account and get lost in the pretty!
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Shop Smart
We're not asking you to go all Extreme Couponing on us here, but we do have to say that for the majority of clothing out there, if you look hard enough, you will find a way to save on it. There are plenty of websites that find these deals, promotions, and sales for you (Lyst and Hukkster being some of our favorites), and plenty more that allow you to do your online shopping more efficiently (Polyvore and Shopstyle). Get familiar with these tools, and just watch as your online shopping gets more and more savvy.

And it's not just about finding the best deals. Are there independent boutiques you really believe in and want to see thrive? If you've got the option, it can be a real statement to spend your hard-earned cash there.
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Find A Community
If your friends are already big fashion nerds, then congrats — you've found a family! If not, the Internet has made it extremely easy to engage with like-minded folk. Whether through Tumblr, Pinterest, Pose, IFB, The Fashion Spot, or any other number of forums and blogging networks, sharing your finds, reading about others, and discussing within a supportive community can be one of the most effective ways to learn.

It may be scary making your first post, but keep at it. Eventually, you'll find that you want your online fashion buddies' opinions on a new pair of shoes before anyone else.
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Go On Research Trips
So, maybe your local mall only has one department store. Perhaps you've never encountered an H&M before. Maybe you only have access to mass brands and haven't seen independently curated boutiques before, or you've never spent time digging for treasure in a consignment shop. Perhaps — God forbid — you've never held Prada in your hands before. To understand the shopping landscape out there, you've got to have encountered clothing in the optimal way it should be experienced — on the racks. Why not make a trip out of it?

If you're able, plan trips to nearby shopping Meccas (as a challenge, leave your wallet at home, so you're forced to just look) like NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, or Los Angeles…hell, make a week out of it! It's one thing to look at photos of designer products, and it's a whole other experience to hold something in your hands, put it on, and walk around. Don't understand the appeal of a $100 T-shirt? The magic of a pair of handmade shoes? The joy of a gown that fits just right? You can't really describe it until you've put it on.

If you've never been thrifting before, organize a roadtrip with your friends. Plan your route by hitting up thrift shops and just dig; practice spotting those brands you've been researching, and seeing other people's discards as potential wardrobe additions (don't forget that most things can be tailored). Just don't leave home without hand sanitizer.
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Make It Your Career
If this is truly your one passion in life, it's becoming increasingly easier (not to mention, more profitable!) to make fashion your career. Depending on your area of interest, whether it's writing, styling, designing, or even researching (yep, looking at blogs all day can be your career), you may find that you'll have to take a few classes first. Many universities offer associate degrees to help give you a leg up before you apply. And internships, most of which nowadays are paid and don't require you receive credit (like our own!), are a great way to get some experience, if you have the time to spare.

And if you've started a blog that's starting to take off, think about placing ads on your site, looking into partnership opportunities with brands, and other ways to turn your blog into a source of revenue. But remember — if you've plotted out your fashion ethics in advance, you should have opinions about how you feel about the marriage of content and advertising. Don't let an advertising opportunity confuse you.
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