I’ve found trying to define my personal style isn’t all that helpful. Mine is such a mixture of the standard categories : yes must be comfortable and relaxed, but mainly ‘classic’ shapes, and with a touch of romantic lace or embroidery, a glimpse of boho, or a little something quirky that makes me laugh, and then there’s quality of make and fit and design. . . No drama, sporty, or hard edges. An atmosphere rather than something definite.
Not exactly useful when looking through a pattern catalogue.
I’ve tried many style-book exercises about shortening that into a statement, and the best I’ve come up with is :
soft, quirky, comfortable, refined.
Quite apart from the fact that I never remember it, I also don’t find it much help when trying to choose between clothes and patterns.
But I think I may now have found the key-stone . . .
Jill Martin in her book ‘Fashion for Dummies’ has a series of questions to ask about an ‘ultimate’ outfit. The first is :
‘Only wear it if you’d be psyched if the ex-boyfriend who dumped you ran into you while you were wearing it.’
Well, that question actually doesn’t have much impact for me. I’m old enough to remember most boyfriends with wry laughter that I could have been such a fool, or with a little affection, if I remember them at all. One of them – steam still comes out of my ears when I think of him, and it would even if I was wearing my worst ever clothes. (A black jogging suit – apologies to those of you who love track suits, but they’re not for me.) Well, I might have a bit of difficulty with him if I was wearing a black blazer. Interesting isn’t it – I know many people feel at their best in a black blazer, but they have the opposite effect on me.
(A couple of months ago the magazines were saying ‘Camel is the new black’. The recent UK ‘In Style’ says ‘Red is the new black’. Ah well, at least they’re not telling us to wear black all the time.)
So boyfriends are not a key test question for me. Which set me thinking what would be. And mine are people questions too :
‘If the headmistress of my high school appeared in front of me when I was wearing this, would I instantly become a gibbering idiot ?’ answer yes or no.
‘If the games mistress of my high school appeared before me when I was wearing this, would I immediately trip over my feet ?’ answer yes or no.
And so on.
Obviously I’m a people pleaser.
But the astonishing thing is, if I look through the Vogue patterns catalogue with this sort of question in mind, I go straight past all the clothes that I usually find attractive and buy the patterns for and then never make up because they really wouldn’t work for me. And I end up with only about half a dozen patterns, but they really are ones that are ‘right’. Amazing, I hope this clarification continues to work for me.
But perhaps people questions have the opposite effect on you – make you choose clothes you feel will be approved of, rather than clothes that leave you standing securely at your core.
So what types of questions might be more effective for you ? What is a situation where the right clothes might prevent you from feeling knocked sideways ?
- Would I feel comfortable in this ?
- Does this show my body at it’s best ?
- Would I be powerful/ authoritative in this ? or friendly and approachable ?
or in control, or attractive, or elegant, or fashionable, or kooky, or . . .
- Will this make me the centre of attention ?
- Does this express my creativity ?
Have a look at the clothing values post and see if it helps you find something which has this magic effect of separating right from wrong.
These core questions also have the power to make aspects of my style clear for me. Out of the BMV catalogues, I picked no jackets. A few fitted vests, but no jackets, even though I wear multiple layers. I’m a tunic and big shirt and big sweater knits person. No wonder I like Sewing Workshop patterns, they have so many stylish big shirt type jackets.
There are multiple detailed aspects of personal style. Favourite types of fabric and garment are important. Do you prefer :
- weave : fine knits, bulky knits, fleece, wovens, leather ?
- surface : plain/solid, textured, printed, woven pattern, embellished, pile, shiny ?
- bottoms : dresses, skirts, sweat pants, pants, jeans ?
- tops : camisoles, tees, sweat shirts, blouses, shirts ?
- layers : vests, tunics, overshirts, sweater knits, cardigans, hoodies, jackets, big shirts ?
- outerwear : coat, parka ?
There are more of this sort of question in my style questions post.
All this as well as style themes like classic, romantic, sporty, cool, edgey. . . And getting the best for our own body shape and colouring. . .
There are dozens of these little style questions, which it’s important to be aware of. But I’m thinking here about ‘big’ questions which help you to make a quick yes/ no decision. I found these ‘core’ questions cut through all the details. Though it is a pity to keep thinking of my old headmistress all the time
Incidentally, I haven’t looked at the ‘Fashion for Dummies’ book. Jill Martin’s 10 questions are listed in the Amazon.com description of the book. Her other questions are along the lines of :
- do I feel physically comfortable and warm ?
- is it a good fit ?
- am I dressed appropriately for the occasion ?
All important, but not keys to identifying personal style.
Best Wishes for your own style quest
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Links available September 2010