Two completely different blog posts arrived in my google reader today – one having to do Halston and almost-Halston sewing patterns from the 70s, and the other having to do with the 80/20 rule that motivational and self-help types like to talk about. I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is just showing up (20% effort)? The way I understand the 80/20 rule is that 80% of your efforts are your solid bedrock, and 20% are the flourish that give you your creative and competitive edge. I’ve also read a variation that 80% of your returns come from that 20% of your efforts. Kind of like a cake… you can have a delicious cake base (the 80%) but it’s the frosting (20%) that’s the make or break between a sale or not, or how much people anticipate and enjoy it. So, the 20% is an intensely valuable little zone.
Anyway, the juxtaposition of these two posts, side by side in my reader, was interesting to me. Peter of Male Pattern Boldness was asking, just what is the difference between a Halston pattern from the 70s, and a nearly identical pattern from the same period? I’m a regular in the high end department store in town (not like I buy there… ha! I’m pawing clothes for inspiration!), and I sometimes ask myself, what exactly is the difference between a $600 dress here, and a $120 dress elsewhere?
I know that some… well, many… cynically disparage high-end fashion as being ‘just a label.’ A top is a top is a top. I wonder how many of them have really paid attention to the elements of garment production. Probably very few; I’ve known a number of people who confess to being intimidated by high end fashion. Which I kind of get – my SO was suit shopping a few weeks ago, and doesn’t have a lot of options outside of Big and Tall stores, which he really doesn’t like for good reason. Their stuff tends towards the horribly unfashionable. I agreed to scout out some places for him to see what they have in his size, and when I came up to the super high end menswear shop in Vancouver (Harry Rosen), I paused. I didn’t go in. I was intimidated.
While a top is a top, and a jacket is a jacket, I’m starting to appreciate that it is the 20% that makes so much of the difference. So much of it is about the subtleties in cut, never mind the flattering placement of prints, and plaids that match. I once saw a D&G shirt with narrow pinstripes – which formed perfect chevrons at the darts. That kind of precision sewing is the difference maker. It’s the chains used in jacket hems, and the petersham ribbon used to cover a zipper. It’s the use of decent lining – not acetate – and knits that recover their stretch.
I now think maybe it’s that 20% that makes people what to throw up their hands while shopping. We can see the effects of the 20% in the different ways that jeans fit, but I think the frustration is that we generally don’t understand why there’s such difference. (sheesh, who outside of pants makers understands the subtleties of crotch curves and rises!?) Why does one dress look so much better on than another that, on the rack, would seem to be its twin?
All of this is useful to keep in mind as I’m marketing myself… I’m on the job hunt. Good times. 80% of us have roughly the same qualifications. We can all plan projects, use excel, be nice. I’ll have to pay attention to that 20%, and keep asking myself – what does my 20% say about me?