My daughter is just beginning the college and job interview experience and is in need of more professional clothing. Our challenge has been finding clothes that fit. She is a super athlete and pretty muscular, and while she’s petite, she’s got very broad shoulders. Finding jackets, oxfords and dresses that work can be tricky. She prefers clean lines and nothing too dainty. Any advice? — Mary, Libertyville, Ill.
The problem of fashion and fit is a perennial bugaboo. I remember interviewing Janice Wang of Alvanon, a business making fit mannequins for brands she started precisely because she discovered that the standard sizing was based on measurements taken in the middle of the last century in America, when bodies, obviously, were pretty different for a variety of reasons. (Her company actually scanned current bodies to create a new prototype.)
How this affects athletes was brought home to me back in 2009 when I met Andy Dunn, a founder of Bonobos, the men’s wear company. Bonobos was created because Mr. Dunn’s co-founder, a former hockey player, found himself buying pants a size or two bigger than his waist size and having them taken in so that they would fit his thighs. The two men realized he couldn’t be the only one with the problem, and decided to make pants that fit athletes. Bingo, a brand was born.
Not that Bonobos will help your daughter. But there is a growing subset of stylists who specialize in dressing sports stars, so I asked one of them, Erica Hanks — she has worked with Nascar drivers and NFL players and has her own e-commerce marketplace — what she would advise. Her email was simple: tailoring, tailoring, tailoring. Buy one size bigger, Erica wrote, and get the garment adjusted to fit.
Then, she added, “for muscular or athletic women, it’s all about finding tailored pieces with a little stretch in them.” She suggests looking for fabric mixes that contain some elastane, “to give muscles wiggle room.” A good starting lineup: Dorothee Schumacher, MM La Fleur and Ann Taylor.
It’s worth pushing the budget a bit for a brightly colored suit. You can wear it for years, in many different situations, and it can also be disaggregated with the jacket and pants worn on their own. Another strategic option that helps circumvent the size issue is a cool wrap dress. DVF is the classic, but check out Banana Republic.
Since there’s no substitute for direct experience, though, I also asked Christen Press, of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and the Manchester United women’s team, what she would suggest. Along with three of her former teammates (Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg), Christen started a gender-neutral streetwear fashion label, Re-Inc, which is about to release its newest collection, focused on gamers.
Christen emailed: “‘Professional attire’ is really changing in many workplaces. It’s far more acceptable to pair a sharp tee under a blazer with a pair of cool slacks and sneakers than it once was.” She recommends Equipment (especially the sale), though she adds that whatever the situation, your daughter should remember that clothes “should not confine her, but help her express herself.”
Perhaps the easiest way to start playing this game is with RenttheRunway.com since you can experiment to find out what shapes and brands work best without the commitment of an actual purchase. Then you can set your own goals.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.
This week, please write in and tell me: What unexpected purchase did you make during isolation because it held the promise of the future? What clothing questions keep you up at night? (I am working on a new project about life as we emerge, and your responses will help shape how this develops.)