Finding your style 1 : using style categories

Posted August 22, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: personal style

Do you feel good in your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel confident ?

As usual my opinions on this topic kept spreading, so I’ve divided this discussion into sections. This first section is about using the style categories that stylists suggest for us.

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Using style categories

Personal Style consulting is a big industry these days – in person, online, and in books. The consultant has a way of deciding what style category you come in, and then suggests appropriate clothes. The 4 styles usually included are classic, natural, romantic, dramatic. Then most stylists add other styles they think many people wear, such as boho, creative, chic, gamine, ingenue.

Ignore it when stylists say you ‘must’ or ‘must not’ wear some styles at a particular age. You probably combine several styles, and you probably find the balance of styles changes with changes in life style in different decades.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t fit cleanly into anyone’s style categories. I’ve tried the systems listed in the next post (and many others), and I don’t fit neatly into 1, 2 or even 3 of the categories suggested. I’ve never found myself liking everything suggested for a particular style. Or I like the clothes but have a very different body shape or colouring from the typical shape or colouring described for this style. In the past I’ve spent too much time trying to force myself to fit into various simple ‘types’, instead of realising that the key to decision making is how I feel about it all.

Stylists suggest options for you to try, in your clothes and in your life. They give you permission to try things you may not have done before. But these suggestions are just a starting point, you choose if you want to go further with them.

The important issue is not which category you are in, it’s how what you wear and do makes you feel : when you wear this do you feel special ? do you feel confident ? do you feel true to yourself ?

The categories are just a guide in getting to that happy position. The stylist has picked out, from the rich range of clothing possibilities, some styles which may be more likely to help you feel that way.

It doesn’t matter if your favourite garments and accessories are spread around in someone else’s categories. When you feel good about yourself, you’re too busy living your life to be bothered about what label describes you. At best the label just becomes a shorthand way of remembering your priorities, in clothes and in life. Such as : “I’m a 2/4 so I’m a double introvert so I prefer. . .”, “I’m an INFJ so have a constant tug between kindness and perfectionism.”

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Starting from what you love

After years of exploring stylists’ suggestions, I know that my clothes need to be comfortable, easy to move in and care for, with soft lines, ‘modest’ body coverage, of high quality in design/fabric/fit/make, in textured light neutral fabrics. For detail I like ‘heirloom’ stitching and cargo pockets. I wear early 20c brooches, and flat shoes, and carry a basket rather than a handbag.

Which of those descriptions did you respond ‘yes please’ to ? or ‘aargh, not for me’ ? 😀 What does that tell you about your own style ?

Clothes like that ‘say’ quite a bit about me.
some Personality words : practical, value quality, private, a little quirky.
some Style words : Casual Chic with a touch of Ingenue.
I don’t look child-like or dainty, but ‘Ingenue’ is the style word nearest to some of what I do like. ‘Chic’ and ‘Ingenue’ don’t appear in many stylists’ word lists, so most stylists don’t suggest what to wear for those styles, and they miss out part of what is important to me.

”soft
A photo of favourite things, which I made years ago as a style exercise. These are embellishments, I wouldn’t wear them all at the same time 😀

It’s not surprising that stylists only mention styles that at least 10% of people wear. But that does mean that if you have some less popular elements of your style, the big style advisors aren’t the people to look to for help with finding out more about the possibilities. See the later posts for some ideas.

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So choose your clothes according to how you feel when wearing them, not according to which style category they might fall into. The categories are tools, not an end in themselves.

Of course it’s good to have that ‘this is my tribe’ feeling. But it’s not good to wear clothes that we don’t feel happy with, just because they’re in a category we have identified with. There are on-line presenters who identify so strongly with one of the style systems that they treat the person who devised it as a guru who can do no wrong and must be followed to the letter. But I don’t find that extreme attitude is helpful for many of us.

Use the categories for suggestions about things to try. And don’t expect the categories to include all your preferences. Make your own decisions about what works for you.

Going through all this is definitely not a quick fix, but it can have a big pay-off.

Very Good Luck with your explorations 😀

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There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
2. on-line style advisors.
3. exploring styles.
4. trying on clothes.

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August 2019

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Finding your style 2 : on-line style advisors

Posted August 22, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: personal style

Do you feel special in your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel confident ?

There are many sources of personal styling advice :
– national styling companies with local representatives who do face-to-face consultations,
– in-store shopping advisors,
– on-line advisors, some of whom do personal consultations locally or on-line using Skype or photos,
– books – there are shelf yards of books on choosing your best clothes according to your colouring, body shape, and personal style. Here’s my post on my favourite styling books.

The first post in this group was about what style categories can do for you, and how to use them.
This is about some on-line sources of advice about ‘best clothes for you’.

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Some of the many on-line style advisors

Doctor T Designs – Kibbe styles – see Sew your Kibbe under the Wardrobe Planning tab. There’s a wealth of Kibbe-related guidance on the web. This site is good for sewists because it has extensive suggestions of sewing patterns for each style – for casual, work, and special occasions.

Inside Out Style from Imogen Lamport, for colour, body shape and personal style. She has a huge range of excellent free advice.
My favourite saying of hers :
“You want to love your clothes, and have them love you back.”
Her Style Manifesto might be a good starting point for your own explorations.
In the Evolve Your Style course there are daily challenges, a quick way of finding the limits to what you can happily wear – I refused the challenge on the days when she told me to wear bright red lipstick or high heels !
I enjoyed her ‘7 Steps to Style’ course, not free but rich with useful information on colouring and body shape.

Truth is Beauty and Fantastical Beauty can give you many ideas to try if your style is less mainstream.
Truth is Beauty is where I found my ‘Ingenue’ style word, though I certainly don’t dress like her natural/classic/ingenue group.
I’ve never thought of myself as living in a fairy tale, but if you do then what fun 😀 . Fantastical Beauty is an example of a site which gives advice only about a specialised group of style categories, doesn’t attempt to cover the whole range.
These are some others :
Stunning Style has good guides to variations on ’classic’ style. I found myself as ‘Soft and Sporty’ here, but it is best for people who like to wear classy classics and look good in ‘Winter’ colours.
While Stasia’s Style School encourages people who want to be boldly individual in their style.

The Wardrobe Architect posts from Colette patterns are an interesting series of exercises on all aspects of choosing your clothes.

You Look Fab has daily posts on style topics – fun to follow, but not the best place to start as a guide for your style search.

Body shape, wardrobe planning

Different advisors focus on different aspects of your clothes choices. Again, just examples.

My Private Stylist suggests clothes that are good for your body shape. It focusses on style elements, tells you what to avoid and why. The guidance given is sensible.

The Vivienne Files is a site bursting with ideas for planning a capsule wardrobe, but most of the clothes shown are ‘normcore’ in style. There’s a big focus on colour co-ordination, but little on finding your most flattering colours. Excellent if planning is what you want to optimise, but little help with alternative styles.
Classy yet Trendy also suggests capsules, hers are in 6 ‘styles’ : teacher, essential, workwear, athleisure, stay at home mom, French minimalist. The first 3 differ mainly in how formal the clothes are, ‘athleisure’ is a little more sporty, ‘stay at home’ clothes have a little more softness, and the ‘French’ clothes are a little ‘edgy’.

There are many many on-line colour analysis services. Sadly most of them do not acknowledge the existence of grey hair, and if they do they often insist if you have grey hair you must have cool skin – so not for me. As screens and cameras can differ, colour advice not something that’s easy to do well on-line or in photos. I think Imogen Lamport has a workable solution in her ‘7 Steps to style’ course (Inside Out Style, see top tabs).

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Examples of ‘fails’ for me

I’ve so far mentioned stylists I have learned from. But some I find less useful.

For me, Dressing Your Truth is very limited, I can rarely fit people I know into it. But people who aren’t used to the idea of having a personal style often find it a helpful starting point. It divides us into 4 Types according to how we mainly use our energy, basically : fun lovers, sensitives, achievers, perfectionists. Everyone of the same Type is supposed to wear the same season of colours : spring, summer, autumn, winter, and have the same facial features. (There have been 100s of research studies looking for a relation between physical characteristics and personality, and none have ever found anything.) The wealth of human nature means there are more than 4 types of people, and people who do fit the 4 DYT Types do not all look good in the same colours. (30somethingurbangirl pairs style personality and colour season in a different way – these things are not set in stone !) However there are many free videos on the DYT site, which may help with getting a quick idea of where your tastes lie, and what to look out for when assessing clothes. The DYT system is not for me, but I confess I enjoy watching the make-over shows.

Imogen Lamport’s 16 Style Types course, on dressing according to your MBTI personality type, is expensive (but then so is a personal consultation with a top stylist). I tried the shorter ‘Discover your style type’ version. I’ve never, in years of reading about it and trying tests, found which MBTI Type I am. From the indicators given in this course I am, as usual, ‘6 of one and half a dozen of the other’ on 2 of the dimensions. I tried 2 of Imogen’s reports and find one of them is a better fit than the other, but there is much in it that is not ‘me’ at all. Matches some of my attitudes to clothes and shopping, but there’s very little about specific styles. Some people find this approach opens up important insights for them. I got good value from Imogen’s ‘7 Steps to Style’ course, but not here.

My Private Stylist has a section called What’s your style personality which is a good example that some stylists may not be right for us at all. She has a questionnaire which claims to guide you to 1 of 50 categories. But the first 2 questions are about shoes and all the choices have high heels, which I never wear. Then the next 2 questions are about dresses – I haven’t worn a dress in decades, and all the choices have a fitted waist, which I didn’t wear when I did wear dresses. So I don’t think going through the rest of the questions would be likely to lead me on a path of self-discovery. Of course many people love the clothes illustrated, but that’s not where I belong.

We just need to accept this will happen with some stylists, and move on.

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If the main categories are not ‘you’

Look at the suggestions from several stylists. For example, one person’s advice for ‘natural’ may not be the same as another stylist’s advice for ‘casual’. Stylists certainly don’t all agree. For example, some stylists say that Casual and Chic are complete opposites, while others have a ‘Casual Chic’ category.

Style is a matter of judgement and opinion, not accurate measurement. This can be difficult for people like me, I prefer clear simple rules when I’m learning something for the first time (though I’m flexible later). That really is not possible with ‘style’. So look for stylists you feel you have something in common with, follow them as far as they can take you, but be prepared to move on.

You may come across style words which you respond to, but which the general stylists do not give information about because the words only apply to a small percentage of people.
Search style words in google, pinterest, youtube.
Try : lagenlook, vintage, retro, prairie, pioneer, mori girl, folkloric, hip hop, grunge, punk, goth.
New style words emerge in each season and each sub-culture.
What is the style of your favourite movie or fantasy character ?
Would you like to look like Iris Apfel or the ladies with Advanced Style ?
Are any of the Folkwear patterns to your taste ?

Some people like to follow celebrity style. But celebrities have genes which mean they look good photographed from any angle, and my gifts lie elsewhere so I don’t feel I have much in common with them ! If you do like this idea, have a look at the celebrity outfits suggested by style ARC patterns.

Or start from images rather than words. Cherish and collect the images which do ‘speak’ to you.
Choose a pinterest image and see what pinterest suggests have something in common with it.

Also check for your own wardrobe needs. I wear many pullover layers and vests, and they’re rarely mentioned in wardrobe plans or by stylists.

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Notice how you respond to a stylist – some make me feel oppressed. They can have powerful personalities – I’m a quiet person, and there are some stylists I need to avoid !

Go along with any stylist who helps you feel you know what style direction to go in, but only follow them as far as they do. Once you start to feel you don’t fit in, move on to look for more insights elsewhere. And one day you’ll find yourself making your own decisions 😀

In our searches it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Go through your collection of ideas frequently and keep only your ‘top’ choices. Use the pinterest ‘delete’ button !

Start from the clothes you have found which really help you feel good. Pick out the style elements which are important for you, and combine them in your own way, as I did in the previous post. Sadly polyvore no longer exists. I use pinterest or, as I use a lot of words, Text Edit on my Mac. There is also simple image combining software.

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May you enjoy yourself and have Good Fortune on this quest 😀

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There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
1. using style categories.
3. exploring styles.
4. trying on clothes.

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Links available August 2019

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Finding your style 3 : exploring styles

Posted August 22, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: personal style

Do you feel ‘right’ in your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel confident ?

How do you go about exploring which style is best for you ?
This may not be a quick and simple process.

Always attend to your inner voice. There are clothes you react to with love, clothes you react to with horror. But for many of us there’s a large range of possibilities where the effect is less clear-cut, so you have to ‘listen’ more carefully to whether you smile or cringe. Many advisors suggest you only buy clothes which score at least 8/10.

Sometimes when you ‘have nothing to wear’, are in a hurry, and don’t have easy access to good stores, this is not possible. But surely you don’t need to go lower than 5/10 ! This is a situation where it’s good to have done some wardrobe planning for your lifestyle. So you’re unlikely to be caught out by rare unexpected events, and have something wearable waiting in your closet for when they do occur.

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Explorations

In my experience, finding the clothes that are best for you is not a quick process. It needs some effort, but there are many things you can try.
At each step – notice how you feel about the clothes – do you want to wear them ? do they make you feel good ?

There are many possible ‘exercises’, for both clothes and accessories. Start with the activities you think you will enjoy :

– start with one of the free or cheap systems for choosing your style category and work through the exercises (see previous post for some links).

– go through fashion magazines and catalogues and pick out pictures of clothes and accessories you feel good about.

– look at the designer collections during Fashion Weeks (vogue.com) (hmm, there are 100s of designers, that could be rather a big commitment). Different designers attract different types of customer, and most don’t design ‘everyday’ clothes, so don’t expect to like them all. Are there any that really appeal ? What are the elements of their designs that you respond to ?

Butterick, Kwik Sew, McCall’s, and Vogue pattern lines all belong to the same company and aim to appeal to different customers. Do you like one of them more than the others ? Or do you prefer Burda which has more ‘European’ style ? The Burda pdf patterns site is much easier to use.
Maybe you’re like me and pick out a few from each site.

– find an on-line store which has a good selection of indie patterns, such as :
US : Pattern Review,
UK : Dragonfly Fabrics, Minerva Crafts (scroll down left menu), Sewbox.
– and find companies which have good options for you.
There are 100s of indie pattern companies, they come and go daily, but it can be good to find ones you like.

– enter a style word at pinterest and make boards of items and outfits you like the look of.

– do a wardrobe sort and remove all clothes you don’t feel good about. They do rather attract your attention when you look in your closet, which is not a happy effect ! If the clothes were expensive and you feel guilty, at least put them somewhere where you don’t have to keep looking at them.

– remember outfits you have worn which made you feel good, right back to childhood. (The first outfit I was awed by was my 12-year-old’s velvet dress with lace on the collar. As I was wearing blue jeans and fleece when I did this memories exercise, that was a good and surprising ‘message’ for me.)

– if you live somewhere where this is possible, go on ‘playshops’ – leave money/cards behind and go to a mall or big department store where there are many different styles and just try on clothes and notice how you feel about them.

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I love clothes, so I can pick out many pictures of clothes which are not actually right for me to wear myself. And I’m a pattern nerd – with a similar effect ! So checking in with ‘would I be happy if I was wearing this ?’ feelings is important.

Make your explorations into fun sessions. Allow yourself to notice when your heart leaps, to celebrate or laugh about the styles you find. After all, none of this is real yet 😀

I have a good visual imagination, so I can imagine myself in a garment, both at home and out and about. The results have often surprised me.

But imagination is not essential. The next step is – moving all this into the real world by actually trying on some clothes.
Ideas on doing that in the next post.

Good Luck with going through this 😀

There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
1. using style categories.
2. on-line style advisors.
4. trying on clothes.

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Links available August 2019

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Finding your style 4 : trying out clothes

Posted August 22, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: personal style

Do you feel good about your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel special ? to feel confident ?

Have you done some initial sorts of what clothes appeal to you ?
Some of us can imagine ourselves in clothes, but all of us need to try them for real.

Real clothes

Try all this with the clothes in your existing wardrobe. Then go to a store which has full length mirrors on the shop floor and repeat.

In a full length mirror, hold up clothes in front of you and assess the effect.
Try on ones which you feel positive about.

Have a good look at yourself, from back and sides as well as front.
Can you can move and bend easily – walk, run, sit down, bend over, bend your arms and knees, reach forward and overhead. . . and does this matter to you ?

Asses the clothes both quickly and slowly : how do you feel ? what do you like/ dislike ?
One feature may be right for you but not all : colour, print, texture, trim, amount and type of detail, drape, line, shape, length, proportions, closeness of fit. . .
Make notes or take photos of what you feel good about (and what you hate), so you can go back over your experience later and pull together an overview of your positive reactions and what to avoid in future.

Aren’t we sewists lucky that we can pick out the best of these features and combine them for ourselves when they’re not available in RTW 😀

Trying on RTW is rather depressing for me as my body is so far from ‘average’ that nothing fits well. Add on to that problems with finding flattering colours and quality makes. . . If you’re like me, just look out for favourite style elements when you look round the stores. We need to do some work on fitting our own basic patterns, then we can think about how to add favourite style elements onto them.

Remember to try outfits as well as individual items. Perhaps some of your garments look ‘right’ in combination with some others but not all.

You may find you enjoy several styles, perhaps different styles for different occasions – you may enjoy sweatsuits at home, but wear dresses so tight you can’t sit down when at posh parties. Or you like one style for clothes and another for accessories.

Some of us do not enjoy shopping – if so you will have to grit your teeth and keep trying at an early stage of this process ! Most people who are working can’t shop then, but stores are quieter in the mornings for the first few days of the week. You do have to make a commitment if you want to improve your style – always buying black because it’s easy to find is not the best idea for the many millions of us who don’t look good in black.

There are some quick ways of simplifying the process.
If possible start by walking through a mall or along a shopping street – you will probably find that you take a look in the window and just walk straight past many of the stores. Can you think out why ? what message does this give you about what you like ?
I remember when I first ‘knew my colours’ and found I could just walk in the door of a store, glance around at the clothes racks, and walk straight out again. Most amazing !

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As April Grow at Stunning Style says :
“If you’re trying to talk yourself into anything you don’t genuinely love to wear, just put it away.”

A few people are in for a big surprise about their style.
I know someone who went from being a tweed and brogue wearing hockey player to reclining on a chaise longue in velvet maxi dresses.
And someone who went from insisting on wearing a wig if her hair was not perfect to being a sportswoman in a wet suit.
Of course for most of us the changes are not so dramatic, but do allow the process to take you where your heart indicates.

It’s like improving the fit of your clothes – for most people finding your best style is not a quick process, but every little step can improve the way you feel.

And happily, knowing all this can greatly reduce the number of times you start sewing a garment and don’t want to finish it, or finish making a garment and then find you don’t want to wear it !

So Best Wishes for going through this 😀

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There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
1. using style categories.
2. on-line style advisors.
3. exploring styles.

– – – – –

August 2019

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