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Staying in Style

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with permission from Dialogue Magazine, Winter 2003.

There is an old saying that everything will come back into style eventually. Miniskirts, popular in the 1960s, came back into style in the '90s. Shoulder pads, so fashionable in the '40s, became stylish again in the '80s.

Men have less trouble than women do with style, but there are small details, like cuffs on trousers, that can make a man's clothes look dated.

So how can you be sure you are in style? One way is to listen to others. I overheard a woman at church telling another about a new suit she had bought, and said, "It has a short jacket like they're wearing nowadays." Sure enough, the jackets were all about three inches shorter than the ones in my closet.

Another time, I overheard a male acquaintance say, "Those capri pants all the women wear now sure are ugly." Inquiry elicited the description of tight pants ending two inches above the ankle.

Another source of information for me is the woman who does my alterations. I showed her the desired length of the pant legs I wanted hemmed, and she said, "But that's not the style now." I also overheard another customer asking to have her shoulder pads removed. "No more football player look," she said. That confirmed that shoulder pads were out of style.

Television is another source of fashion information--not sit-coms, but talk shows. I leave the "Today Show" on as I dress for work in the morning. Often it has a segment on fashion. A narrator describes what the models are wearing. "This skirt is right at the knee, which is the best length for everyone. The sweater dress is a nice informal look for all; with a blazer, it can be worn to work."

An unlikely but rather reliable source of fashion information is, believe it or not, current mystery and romance novels. The ones published in the last year to two can give you good information, such as a character's scornful reference to "the floppy bow tie and sheer stocking type." So that must mean blouses with bows at the neck were out and women were wearing coloured stockings.

You can also check what is being displayed in stores. You have to be careful here, since stores also stock clothes for women who don't like the modern look. A personal shopper, employed by many stores to choose outfits for your approval, can be an excellent source of current information. You are not obligated to buy what they show you, but it's a good way to find out what new fashions make your favourite clothes obsolete.

Men can take advantage of such shoppers, too. Shoppers can coordinate shirt, tie and sweater, or just update a look with a new four-inch wide tie or a Tabasco tie-a colourful tie with little tabasco bottles on it. Looking at the Tommy Hilfiger section is always a good idea. This brand is the latest fashion for men--and there is a Hilfiger line of clothes for women, too.

It's not unmanly to ask a woman for fashion advice. Most men let their wives choose their clothes, matching socks to trousers and belts to shoes. An unmarried man can ask a female friend for advice. My boyfriend, George, who is sighted, relies on the advice of a co-worker whose taste he admires. She gave him a list of colours that look good together, and he relies on it when selecting his clothes in the morning.

I have an advantage that many women don't have. My three sisters live in the same town I do. They sometimes take me shopping, but it's just as informative listening to them talk or asking them about fashions. Now and then I get one of them to go through my closet with me and cull out the garments that are hopelessly out of date. They often give hints on modernizing a favourite that I don't want to give to Goodwill. "This would be ok with a chain belt,"or "these pants would be ok with a long sweater." But the verdict is sometimes a simple "no way."

These are just a few of the ways I use to stay fashionable without hiring someone to read Vogue. I still make mistakes, but I've learned one thing from my sisters; you don't have to follow every fashion slavishly. If those capri's make your ankles feel naked, don't wear them.

Also, you can update your look by changing only a little of what you wear. For instance, a year or so ago, the Donna Karan look demanded that shoes and stockings be the same colour as the skirt. Who can afford to buy shoes to match every skirt she owns? But you could get just one outfit in the Donna Karan look, or just buy black stockings to go with the black shoes and skirt you already have. When jackets change dramatically, don't hem yours that short. Just buy a short jacket that will be wearable with what you have. It will give you an up-to-date look without destroying your budget.

Blind people can't be expected to intuitively know what's fashionable. You can stay stylish by listening to others and being aware of clues from other sources. Staying in style takes vigilance, but it can be done.

Dialogue is a publication of Blindskills, Inc., PO Box 5181, Salem, OR 97304-0181; Phone: 800-860-4224; Email: and Website: