A stylist answers our toughest fashion questions

Don’t you wish you had a stylist best friend? I know I do! Dressing up can be an especially stressful endeavor, especially if you’re plus-sized like I am. The styles, fabrics, and color options available are endless, and yet the perfect pants or classic dress with just the right fit and length still elude us somehow. If I had a stylist best friend, I probably would not own clothes that barely get any use. I would have saved a lot of money and precious space in my closet!

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling fashionably-challenged, so I got in touch with Alex Lapa, the stylist, writer, creative consultant and blogger behind The Reluctant Stylista. She turned out to be super cool and fabulous! She told me that while taking up Multimedia Arts in college, she became interested in fashion photography, discovered her passion for conceptualizing shoots, and built her career around it. Currently she styles for magazines, fashion shows, and ad campaigns.

I hope you enjoy and learn from this interview as much as I did!

What are the common problems you usually face when dressing/styling clients and how do you address them?

It's always the cut and fit, first and foremost. With women, it's easier to fix because they can accessorize and layer clothes. With men, it's a lot more difficult, because the fit has to be precise or tailored to their body type.  When dressing clients for a shoot, clothes are much more manageable because I always have clamps and other tools to fake a great fit.  But if it's a live shoot, you just have to always be prepared with a lot of options and sizes.

When shopping for clothes, we are sometimes assaulted with more color choices than we care to deal with. What do you think are good colors to choose when attempting to build a reliable wardrobe?

Neutral shades are always the best foundation to start with, be it with shoes, accessories and clothes. Get your basics first: beige, black, gray and white, then choose the rest of your colors first according to what makes you feel good and secondly, what complements your skin tone.

For people on a fairly limited budget, what clothing items do you suggest we do not skimp on?

A really nice, tailored blazer and a little black dress cut to perfection that you can use on any occasion.

What are generally the best and most flattering fabrics to go for, especially in our warm weather?

Cotton is always the best choice for warm climates. It's durable and breathable, so pure cotton or anything blended with cotton is a good choice. Linen is also breathable, although not always the lightest of materials and it easily wrinkles.  Rayon is also great for warm weather, but needs more careful handling than cotton - you can't just wash it everyday. Many people mistake chiffon for being a breathable fabric. It's lightweight, but it doesn't do much to release trapped body heat.

When shopping for clothes, do you have a system on how to find the perfect (or at least a good) fit more easily? How can we know it has potential while still on the rack?

If you're looking for something to flatter your figure, the two things to check first are the neckline and waistline.  A neckline frames your face, and it can emphasize your features. It can make you look either slim or curvy, depending on whether you pick a roundneck, V-neck, or how high or low a neckline goes. The waistline is more or less the point of reference for your entire body in that outfit/dress, so it's equally important. The most flattering ensembles are ones where your waist is defined, no matter how skinny or curvy you are.

Something incredibly pretty grips our attention while sorting through the racks. But after trying it on, we find out it doesn’t fit very well. We love everything about it, except the fit. Should we buy it and attempt to make adjustments, or put it back and accept that it's just not meant for us?

Fit is everything. Put it back unless you know for an absolute certainty what adjustments to make so it'll be perfect - and let me tell you, even in my line of work it's not as easy as it sounds. Also, in my experience, these garments tend to just gather dust in the back of your closet because it takes time and effort (that you may not have) just to get it altered. Then you forget about it altogether. Is it really worth spending more time and money on something you're not sure of?

We see something daring or out of character for us that inspires or excites us nonetheless. Would you suggest going for it? If yes, how do you suggest we gather up the guts to actually wear it?

I know it sounds absolutely cliché, but confidence makes or breaks an outfit. I've seen pretty girls, who didn't know they're pretty, wear something new and fashionable, yet somehow the whole picture just looks out of place. If you don't look happy or comfortable, it will show and it will ruin the whole effect. Good clothes are nothing if you don't have the right attitude and posture.  If something inspires or excites you, I'd say half the battle is already won. You may just need a second or third opinion to bolster up your courage so you can pull it off without feeling self-conscious.

Sometimes clothes shopping can make us highly stressed or anxious (especially with such terrible lighting in dressing rooms that seems to accentuate every flaw). How do you turn such an experience into something fun and enjoyable instead?

Always bring a shopping buddy with you, one whose taste and honesty can be counted on. Preferably just one or two, as too many shopping buddies can have too many - sometimes unhelpful - inputs. 

What clothing items or styles do you think the planet is better off without?

Anything that gives you a camel toe! 

Images courtesy of Alex Lapa