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When It Comes To Leather, Simply Go With The Faux

emember the days when fake leather was called pleather? Back then, leather, with its vinyl look and feel, was not really considered fashionable by any means. However, if you couldn't always afford the luxury of leather, pleather was the next best thing. And we somehow made it work. Fast-forward to the current millennium, and pleather has a new, more appealing name: faux leather (French words make everything sound better, right?). The thing is, it isn't just the name that became more attractive. At times, the fabric itself is so similar to leather that you can barely tell it's not real, even up close.

Once consumers became more conscious of how (and where) things are made and if animals were harmed in the process, fashion brands took copious notes and started producing high-quality faux leather clothing and accessories at a fraction of the price of real leather (well, unless it's Stella McCartney). But what makes some faux leather items better than others?

What to look for

Now that many of us tend to spend more time shopping online than in the store, sometimes we are duped by uber stylized, edited images. There is no 100 percent foolproof way of knowing that what you see will be what you get, but there are a few things to look for when buying faux leather, both virtually and in person.

First of all, avoid shiny finishes (unless it is intentionally patent leather). Matte faux leather more closely resembles real leather. From dresses to pleated skirts to moto jackets, brands like J. Crew, Oasis and ELOQUII (one of my personal favorites) have quite a few matte options.

A not-so-glossy look is particularly important when it comes to faux leather leggings. Although leather leggings continue to dominate the market every fall and winter, we all can't spend $1,000 on a pair. Of course, the next best alternative is faux leather. Blank NYC, La Redoute, plus size brand City Chic and even Spanx have great selections, all of which are less than $100.

Secondly, pay attention to the fit. The more tailored the garment, the more similar it will look to real leather. This is why faux leather garments that also incorporate a little bit of knit or ponte fabric are so appealing. When mixed with leather, those fabrics allow the clothes to fit better in all the right places (which is especially important for curvy girls).

When it comes to shoes and handbags, faux leather options are literally everywhere. Faux suede, patent and metallic leather translate really well on accessories. There are Merona bags available now at Target that could easily blend in with a sea of real leather bags. And the metallic faux leather shoes offered by the likes of ASOS (the Montana mule) and Michael Kors (the Keaton sneaker) could easily be mistaken for the real thing.

The disclaimer

Now, don't get me wrong. There are some characteristics of leather that the fake version simply can't emulate. Faux leather doesn't breathe as well, and it may crease and crack after a few wears. And when it comes to jackets, don't expect it to keep you nearly as warm. But, hey, as low as the prices are on faux leather, you can also afford to buy several warm (translation: cashmere) layers to rock underneath.

At the end of the day, it's great to see the variety of stylish, faux leather items that exist for those who seek to wear them, whether it's due to affordability or conscious consumption. Any step toward a more inclusive and diverse marketplace is progress in my book.