SECRET #1: Texture

Let us start by saying that, of course, not all European women wake up each day looking like they just came from a personal photo shoot with Vogue. In fact, the fascinating thing about European style is that it looks so very “unrehearsed” and “un-planned” that it leaves many of us wondering just what is the true secret our sisters across the pond use almost intuitively when getting dressed each morning.

Like any good recipe there isn’t just one main ingredient that creates fashion perfection, but several things that, when used in the right combination, will win you the blue ribbon at the county fair -or at least keep you out of “Hell’s Kitchen”.

In each of our blogs over the next few weeks we will be revealing one indispensable style “ingredient” which will unveil  7 fabulous ways to create your own personal “Continental” style.

This week’s secret is based on something largely overlooked in America- but which is almost a staple to the European way of dressing. That secret is……..TEXTURE.

We’re not talking about hair shirts here – though the Europeans certainly did favor that look back in the dark ages. No, from the Parisians to the Venetians , one of the key style elements to any chic ensemble is the finish, weave, consistency- or in short, the texture of the fabric.

The reason many of us don’t even consider the texture of a garment when trying to create an “ensemble extrodinaire”  is because texture is largely lacking in our mass-produced American clothing choices.

Try sitting on a bench in the middle of any major city in Europe and you will notice two things. One: almost every chic outfit has texture as a main component and Two: almost every beautiful, charming aspect of that town is also based on texture. Yes, Europeans are surrounded by this seemingly unimportant detail. From the carved wooden columns on the bank to the ancient stone statues of the Saints in the church (whose folds of clothing seem to be made from fabric and not marble) to the cobblestones beneath their feet. Texture is one of the major elements Europeans use to create beauty and style.

Now lets sit down again on our “figurative fashion perch” in  any American city and notice the passers-by. Most people will have a noticeable lack of texture in their outfits. Due to America’s huge population, we have much bigger stores which carry much larger volumes of clothing. When any garment is mass produced, every penny counts and generally cheaper runs of fabric are used. Less expensive fabrics are almost always flat and lacking in any depth, weave (or interest!). In Europe smaller populations produce smaller, higher quality quantities of clothing- where many designers still see their creations thru from start to finish (and don’t send their “fashion babies” off to far away sweat-shops to be produced by the thousands).

Take khaki cotton pants, for example, a common wardrobe staple sold from Nordstrom’s to Costco. They might be a “good basic”, but combined with a cotton shirt and a gabardine jacket-you’ve got the perfect storm for a ho-hum outfit. Now lets send that same outfit on a European vacation…..

In Europe a well-dressed woman would, of course, give our previously ho-hum outfit  the “texture-treatment”. Interestingly enough, this “treatment” might only include a minor change for its chic transformation. For example: she might swap out that previously “dullsville” gabardine jacket for a beautiful, tactile cashmere blend.  Finished with a cordonne topstitch and an interesting button, this jacket can now even be worn with the ho-hum cotton blouse and khaki pants to create a stylish and versatile look.

So what’s an American fashionista to do?  Next time you’re out shopping be on the lookout for some texture to add to your ensemble.  It will require a little more digging, but your reflection in the mirror will thank you. Small boutiques can be a great place to find trendy tactile treasures (try saying that three times fast).  Also, if you’re like most of us and love the European designer fabrics and styles, but not the expensive price tags that go with them – check out designer re-sale stores and outlet stores.   Here you can find clothing in beautiful fabrics and cuts for a fraction of the price.   Of course you don’t forget to look for some fabulous Italian (textured!) shoes when you’re there ….but we’ll save the secret of picking out the perfect accessories for next week’s blog…….

Until then…

xoxo, Ruth


20 replies
  1. CMS
    CMS says:

    never thought about texture, but it is a very good point. Guess I’m going to have to be on the lookout for something to replace my plain cotton tees from Target!

  2. ruth
    ruth says:


    For example, jeans are an excellent way to add texture to any outfit. Thats why jeans worn with a nice jacket is practically a European style staple- for men and women alike. Europeans tend to wear jackets made from a very tactile wool. The textured jacket combined with the great sporty understated finish of jeans can look incredibly stylish. Of course, we Americans can do this too. We all have jeans -and probably have a top or jacket with some great texture as well. Maybe instead of wearing that flat cotton blouse, you might pick a linen one instead. Or some great outfits consist of pretty basic pieces in flat weaves BUT the accessories have gorgeous texture. That will be the secret for next weeks blog where you will also get some great ideas for adding texture with scarves, shoes, purses, etc. Thanks!

  3. BUNNY
    BUNNY says:

    Loved the idea of more texture and I’m sure most women never really think about it. You bring out a whole dimension that one needs to consider so thanks again for being so perceptive.

    As a musician we play with texture in music all of the time. Composers
    constantly use many instrumental and choral sounds woven together, sometimes into marvelous affects so why not with clothing as well.

    Love your ideas and keep up your outstanding Fashion Code ideas.

  4. LauralL
    LauralL says:

    Looking forward to next week’s blog – accessories are always a stumbling block for me. Thanks for sharing. interesting stuff.

  5. Sonneteer
    Sonneteer says:

    One of those secrets that seem obvious as soon as you know it. I have wondered why many outfits well chosen for color and line are kind of blah. Sort of like drinking flat champagne. I am going to be really looking for texture now.
    Thanks, Ruth.

  6. AliBi
    AliBi says:

    I totally agree about shopping resale shops – I’ve found some great European designer stuff that I never would have been able to afford otherwise. It’s also more fun to me as the clothing has more personality than the “flat”, mass made things in all these mega stores.

  7. Gloria
    Gloria says:

    This blog is really enlightening. When you think of style, you often think of Chanel….and Chanel is all about texture….think of their classic tweedy jackets. Another reason that clothes with texture are rare in the US may be ease of care. So many clothes today are designed to be washable and require minimum care, like polyester blends, and fabrics with texture sometimes require a little more maintenance. But the effect is worth the time. Thanks Fashion Code!

  8. Thecosmicgirl
    Thecosmicgirl says:

    Thx for this valuable tip!

    I live in Singapore where it’s summer all year round & most people dress for comfort than style. Appreciate it loads if you can give some ideas on how to dress well using different textures in the tropics.

    Thx again!

  9. Tammi
    Tammi says:

    Thank you for the tip this week! Looking forward to the next 6!

    I am a fashion retard, so I was wondering if you could add some picture examples? Also, where do you find European resale shops??? Can you find them on line? Thx a million!

  10. ruth
    ruth says:

    luxury-shops.comAlso, a great on -line designer resale shop out of Zurich and Paris which Ruth used to manage is
    They have an eve changing mix of designer clothing from all over Europe and a great on-line shop with free FedEx delivery.

  11. ruth
    ruth says:

    Good point about how to find texture for clothing in the tropics Lizanne and thecosmicgirl!
    You will see in our next blog about accessories that one of the easiest places to add texture to an outfit can be with your shoes, belt and handbag. Let’s say you have a plain cotton dress or top and shorts- You can add a great textured sisal or beaded belt with an interesting buckle and some cute matching sandals. Your bag could also have texture. The handle, for instance can be woven leather with the main body being heavy linen. Details like piping and tortoiseshell buttons can do wonders to an otherwise so-so outfit. Cool shades in tortoiseshell can also look incredibly stylish. Linen fabrics add a beautiful, tactile finish as well. Lastly, don’t forget about prints. Good quality light weight printed fabric can add stylish dimension to an otherwise so-so outfit.

  12. Renee Holman
    Renee Holman says:

    Hey, Ruth! I love texture. So glad to know it’s a plus in looking fashionable. Looking forward to the other six.

  13. Blair Cole
    Blair Cole says:

    Very well written post. It will be helpful to everyone who utilizes it, as well as yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – for sure i will check out more posts.


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