Have you ever spoken to a dentist and felt super awkward because all you can think about is how yellow your teeth are and whether he or she can see that giant cavity on your back molar? Or wondered what’s running through your hairstylist’s mind when he combs his fingers through your (dry! Greasy! Tangled!) hair?
Being in the midst of fashion editors is sort of like that. There’s always that niggling thought that perhaps they’re mentally ripping into you for what you wore to work. Or sniggering behind your back because you didn’t get the memo that pairing tight jeans with heels is just so don’t (yes, really).
So we decided to bite the bullet and ask one of the most respected fashion folk around, ELLE Singapore’s own fashion director Sharon Tulasidas, to get brutally honest with us about what goes through the fashion family's mind when they meet regular people like us. Can you handle the truth?
What crosses your thoughts when you walk on the street? Are you more likely to look at people and think, OMG, why is she wearing that with that - or get inspiration for your shoots?
I never get inspiration because high fashion is very different from street fashion, which is essentially what Singapore’s fashion is. Of course Singaporeans are more savvy now when it comes to fashion, because social media has changed things. But they’re still not very daring.
There will be people who catch your eye though - people who make me go, oh, that girl knows what she’s wearing and why she’s wearing it. You can tell when a person is just following a trend, and when someone wears it with her own intrinsic style.
Do you look at people and mentally restyle them?
Of course! I’m also guilty of labelling people as real girls - which isn’t really a compliment in the fashion world. I’ll see somebody in a pretty blouse with tight jeans and heels and a Chanel bag, and I’ll be thinking, “If only she would wear it with ballet flats. Then she would look less tai tai.”
What’s your opinion on style influencers on social media?
Hmm…they might not be entirely credible about what they have to say about fashion, but you can’t deny that they’re eye candy. And they translate fashion in a real way. If it can look beautiful to a person in fashion, it will look a hundred times better to the person on the street, so I understand the appeal.
What’s your pet peeve about Singapore/Asia style?
I really really can’t stand thong slippers. And it really bugs me that everyone here wears them everywhere and with everything! I suppose it’s not technically wrong but I find it very irritating when people wear nice clothes, then ruin it with slippers. Plus I hate the sound they make!
Then there’s the way a lot of people wear bell-bottomed jeans. They don’t know the hems should be touching the ground. That’s one of the reasons why platforms were created - so you can wear bell bottoms without altering and killing the bells. The worst is when they wear it with stilettos and pumps - there’s just something about that that doesn’t feel correct and it’s a question of proportion as well.
The other thing is how knee-high boots are worn. You need a sliver of flesh between the top of your boot and the hem of your skirt, otherwise it just looks so…unkempt.
Your fave thing?
It’s impossible to not find something that you want to buy here. Either we carry the brand or you can find it online. We are very advanced in many areas like retail and the Internet, and you don’t hear stories about how people’s connections get cut off. That helps us advocate fashion.
Have you ever looked at someone on the street and wished you could use him or her in a photoshoot?
I have. One was this woman - I approached her because I was looking for stylish people to feature. She was an older Asian woman and she had a head of salt and pepper hair cut very short and she was wearing a black shift dress with a very chunky tribal necklace. It was just like, wow. This was more than 10 years back and it was quite eye opening to see people so adventurous in fashion. Unfortunately she said no.
Then there was this boy who was one of the earliest Singaporeans to have a fashion blog. It was called Vogueite and his name was Carlos. He looked really strange and I found that a lot of things he said were very mature and insightful - it’s always nice to find this kind of old soul. I asked to do a photoshoot with him, which he agreed to, and I shot him in womenswear. That was the first time ever my decision to shoot someone from the street actually happened.
What do you think of your own style?
I really don’t think I have much of an interesting style. But people are intrigued by the fact that it’s a uniform because I literally wear the same thing in different permutations every day. As I grow older, I find that I like basic things more. I like pocket tees, cardigans, plain tees, polo tees, basics. I like pencil skirts, A-line skirts, the things that as a child you recognise as clothes. And I always must have an auntie handbag, the kind of bag that is usually quite boring and sensible and classical. This is something that I discovered in the last 7 or 8 years.
So my style has become a uniform and I quite like the idea of that. You don’t have to think too much about it and you can dress around it. If people comment how boring it is, I just say it’s what I like. People think that if you’re a fashion editor you have to dress a certain way, but who made up that rule? How you dress yourself is not a reflection of what your work is. You need to be comfortable in what you wear and how you wear it. At least be stylish to yourself.
For more hard truths, check out What Makeup Artists REALLY Think About Your Skills. Or for more on fashion, head here!