If you’re into current fashion and watch TV, it’s hard to imagine you’ve never heard of Clinton Kelly, a smart, sassy and totally honest New York-based style expert, perhaps best known as the co-host (with Stacy London) of TLC’s “What Not to Wear” and most recently, on ABC’s “The Chew.”
Kelly was in Seattle recently for a Help Me Clinton event at the downtown Macy’s (for whom he is a brand ambassador) for a fun and very well attended trend presentation. I had a chance to sit down with Kelly for a few minutes before the event and shared a thoroughly enjoyable chat about what to wear, when and how.
Let me say one thing before I continue with the meat of our convo. I have had the privilege to chat with many fashion designers and fashionable celebs and sometimes they’re amazing and inspiring (DVF comes to mind) and sometimes they seem like they’re on pills (no comment), but Mr. Kelly was an absolute delight. He was articulate, intelligent and present. He answered my questions with thought and his commitment to helping to make women look and feel good was evident. Anyway, I really liked him and wish that we were best friends.
He started out talking about fashion pet peeves, which I figured he’d have a lot of (I was right). A biggie: athletic trainers used as fashion foot wear. Those sneaker wedges, which have become a trend, are fine for kids, he says, but when worn by older women tend to make them look like they’re trying too hard. And nobody wants that.
The t-shirt trend for women is another of his pet peeves, since “they’re shaped like a tee, and it’s rare that you find a woman who is shaped like a tee, so if you have any rolls or bulges, the shirt tends to vacuum seal itself to them.” Which, again, is not a good look.
This led us to talk about one of my personal pet peeves: trends. I know that most everyone in the mainstream fashion media deals in trends, but I think that they’re totally dumb. Guess what, military and menswear for women are in because they never went out and never will—because they’re not trends, they’re just styles. Ugh. If you like pointy-toed heels, wear them, even if a magazine says that rounded toes are in. Go your own way on those types of things. Of course, I do write about trends in the magazine, but I do always struggle with it because it’s a concept that I just fundamentally have an issue with. Anyway, I digress. But Kelly helped me out so much, I will forever be grateful to his levelheaded and totally smart response to the question of trends.
You’re right, he tells me, we need a new word to define seasonal trends, like what not to wear anymore once the season changes, but ultimately, larger trends give us something to talk about. They define generations, currently and in the past, and allow us all to participate in modern culture. Don’t be a slave to them, however, because once you are, you’re a trend ho, and that’s never cute.
A few more chestnuts from Mr. Kelly:
Women with big tummies or breasts should: wear jackets to take the attention away from stomach and disperse it around the upper body. Wear the right bra, one that fits you correctly, stationing your boobs should between the shoulder and the elbow (a professional fitting is the best bet for this). This creates some separation between the chest and the tummy. Look for pieces that accentuate the narrowness under the bust at the mid rib cage. Pick a top that accentuates that area with some kind of decorative element, a knot or a twist or a ribbon or something. The garment should float away from the tummy. Rather than cling to it.
The number one tip for women with large hips: keep the lower half of the body as streamlined as possible. Don’t chop up the line of the lower leg by doing a cropped leg or rolling up the hem. Opt for dark wash denim or other dark fabrics; wear little heels to lengthen the leg; look for tops that hit at mid hip; and balance the body by having your shoulders and bust comparable to your hips. Strengthen the shoulders to create an hourglass shape with epaulettes or flutter sleeves.
When talking to young girls about fashion make sure that they understand that there is more to life than fashion. The bottom line, he says, is that, “clothing is a wonderful way to express yourself to the world. Just make sure that what you’re saying is what you want to be saying, so align your message with your appearance. It’s not about the clothes. It’s about what you want out of your life and how your clothing helps you get there.”