Five Secrets of Great Dressers

Did I say dressers? I meant singers! Oh well; since I already mentioned it in the title, this week I’ll address both singing AND fashion, and hopefully tie them together in some meaningful ways.

Those of you who know me know that in preparation for our move to Milan, I’ve been applying myself to learning the rules and caprices of fashion, partly from necessity but mostly out of an interest which has been augmented by my sudden proximity to a public library (unlike in library-less Thailand, where I was forced to haunt quiet corners of bookshops to read for free, before being discovered and discreetly admonished). I’m sure I’ll be able to expound on the topic much more after spending some time in Italy, which is, perhaps by no coincidence, the traditional heart of both opera and fashion design, but for now, I must admit that there is a lot to be learned from such frivolously-titled books as “How to Look Fab” and “The Secrets of Style” and the glossy magazines that inspired them. A lot of the advice is sensible and practical, and some of it makes me wish I had read them long ago.

Here are a few of my favorite tips:

1. The secret behind European elegance: choosing quality over quantity. Salespeople would like you to think otherwise, which is why many shop windows are full of bright, trendy items that will just last the season. With a little knowledge and forethought, you can invest in some quality, flattering neutral items that “play well with others” and form the core of your wardrobe.

Singers: Choose five songs in your repertoire that you love to sing and show off your best qualities. Master those songs and practice them often. Bonus tip: keep at least one song up your sleeve that can be sung “a cappella” at parties and family reunions.

2. Wear what suits your body, lifestyle and personality, regardless of trends. We all have our strengths and weaknesses in the looks department. Once you narrow down your options to clothing that really shows off your strengths, make sure it reflects your daily needs, and feels like “you”. Salespeople usually can’t be trusted on those last two, since (usually) they don’t know you.

Singers: As you probably know, there are trends in music (even classical music) just as much as there are in clothing. One year, it’s Britten, another year Bellini. I can think of a few arias that really made the rounds at my college. Still, find from these songs that suit your vocal ability and sensibility. Easier said than done; I’m still bitter that I can’t sing Rusalka’s Song to the Moon, or Susannah’s Trees on the Mountain…

3. Have a go-to outfit for the mornings when you feel uninspired.  

Singers: There is an easy parallel for you. Keep five vocal exercises on hand, written down, that you can pull out and sing through on mornings when you can’t think of what to sing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find practicing much more agreeable if you don’t have to think too hard about it.

4. Visit designer shops, even if they’re out of your budget. It’s important to recognize how it feels to wear quality, well-made clothes, so you can discern the real from the rip-off later on.

Singers: Listen to the best of the best, and live shows whenever you can. Fill your life with quality, lasting music (whatever that means to you!).

5. Follow your passion. Many items I’ve bought joylessly out of practicality’s sake, or because they were on sale, ended up in the Goodwill bin one year later. On the other hand, there are many “love-at-first-sight” items that I’m still getting use out of.

Singers: need I say more? Sing the music that is closest to your heart (in a way that is respectful to your vocal cords, of course!) and you may find yourself singing for a long, long time.

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