November 2, 2006

The Malls Of America

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Last week the United States population reached 300,000,000 people, a reminder that our so-called melting pot of a country is the third most populous in the world. While impressive, living in a nation home to so many culturally-diverse citizens makes one wonder why most Americans look like they’ve been put together on an assembly-line, dressed to match. The fault lies in the sterile, conventional designs of America’s clothing manufacturers who leave us wearers with few “fashionable” style options from which to choose. Sadly, it looks as though mainstream consumerism is here to stay, but fret not — it is possible to shop solely at these commonplace stores and have an (affordable) unique style tailored to your personality. Read on as we divulge how to cure the always unfashionable lemming-look ailing Americans everywhere.
If you haven’t already noticed, the stores we find a typical mall actively identify themselves with a certain style, vying for the patronage of a specific audience. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, two fairly comparable brands, have a preppy all-American and active feel attracting the wealthy American youth, from young teens to the college-aged. J. Crew is also characterized as being preppy, but is instead a distinctively classic and expensive look and targets an older crowd. Meanwhile, Banana Republic’s prices and audience ages are similar to those of J. Crew; however rather than being nostalgically preppy, the store’s look reads as more a simple, up-to-date, urban chic. Similarly, The Gap’s style can be described as a no-fuss look that is classically simple with the frequent appearance of trendy pieces, albeit those more conservative trends. Stores like Guess and Express pride themselves in carrying the latest trends, including those more wildly risqué. Finally, Target and Old Navy are imaged as being the universal depot for fashion, offering basics to trends and everything in between — most notably, dog accessories. As each new season encroaches, their windows, stereotypically display the same slightly tweaked handful of current full-blown trends.
The offerings are the same from store to store and you can save a bundle on basics. For example, there is no reason to buy everyday staples, like solid-colored tee-shirts or socks, at the pricier stores. Similarly, extremely trendy pieces that will be completely out of style next season can be found at all stores, but they only should be purchased at inexpensive prices from stores like Target and Old Navy. Conversely, like we’ve said before, both care and capital must be placed into finding wardrobe-building pieces like a nice pair of jeans or a winter jacket, which means that these items should be purchased at higher quality (and more expensive) establishments.
Mix and matching between stores is vital to your success as a fashionista, because while you might really enjoy and identify with the look of a store, it is never cute to look like a walking advertisement, making you appear to be the dull, creatively impaired person you aren’t. Shopping around does not mean that you have to compromise the look you love — the only thing that makes a perfectly punk outfit look even more so is the addition of, say, a preppy argyle scarf. It is this touch of contrast which can keep your look interesting and personal.
The search should always begin at the sale racks, where forgotten items are waiting to be snatched up — honestly I can’t think of anything more irreverent and utterly chic than a flimsy, white summer dress worn in the dead of winter with a thick sweater and wool tights (all of which can be found at your friendly neighborhood mall!).