So many choices

It’s not at all simple to find the clothes that work best for us. There are so many choices. And much of the advice out there isn’t good for everyone. So we have to try things out, and be able to move on when they aren’t right.

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What helps us look good

Body shape :
pear/ triangle, inverted triangle, rectangle, apple/ round, hourglass.
There are also more detailed distinctions, such as inverted triangles with wide shoulders or large cup size. I found Trinny & Susannah’s ‘Body Shape Bible’ very helpful on understanding my short-waisted pear shape, but some people don’t like that book. Many details of our body shape affect what looks good on us. And we only learn by trying and looking. (See my post with comments on pant styles, for two very different detailed accounts of ‘what works’ – fascinating.)

I have a whole lot of body shape features which aren’t dealt with by ‘easy fitting’ aids and aren’t mentioned in most books on fit. I’ve gradually learned about most of my fitting needs, but had some I was stumped on. Happily I’ve recently found the ‘big bible’ book “Fitting and Pattern Alteration” by Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert. It’s a great relief to know what my final fit issues are and what to do about them.

Colouring :
Many people like the seasonal approach to personal colour. But it doesn’t work well for me – I’m a mixture of warm and cool. I use the colours from David Zyla ‘The Color of Style’. (Colours from hair, skin, eyes – my colour check is a lock from my salt ’n pepper hair.) Though I don’t use my colours in the way he suggests. And that too doesn’t work well for everyone. There are many other methods. Some people only manage to find ‘their’ most flattering colours by experimenting.
There’s also good advice on colour and contrast from Nancy Nix-Rice.

Imogen Lamport has much useful guidance about colour and body shape in her blog.

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What helps us feel good

Key items :
Nearly all wardrobe plans are based round : jacket, top, skirt, pants.
Very rarely there’s a mention of : jacket, dress, top, skirt.
But what I wear is never mentioned : blouse, overshirt/ tunic, vest, pants. Jackets only for outerwear. Skirts only for special occasions. Happily the pattern companies are aware of this style, even if most wardrobe plan writers aren’t !

What are the items you like to wear ?
See my post on a personal wardrobe plan.

Personal style :
So many books on finding your style. Many writers use a basic four categories : classic, romantic, casual, dramatic. Yes I can sort of see myself here. But many women need different styles at different times :
work : classic
dressy evening out : romantic or dramatic
at home/ weekend : casual
exercise : sporty.
Some authors (such as David Kibbe and Judith Rasband) put all styles on a line from soft unstructured to angular tailored. I’m not happy with the idea that all human variety is one-dimensional !

And there are many different versions of the main style groupings – what type of ‘dramatic’: edgy, arty, fashionista, red carpet, vintage, hip-hop, goth, boho. . . ? I find it helpful to understand how my ‘minor’ styles affect my ‘major’ style. Okay I definitely wear casual clothes, comfortable and practical, but not sweats and sports gear or tees and jeans. I choose tunic-vest-pants rather than dresses or tailoring. But I like the soft textures and heirloom trims of a romantic, and the quality, basic shapes and neutral colours of a classic.

For me, in most wardrobe advice books there’s too little on ‘casual’ styles. Many writers think ’casual’ means people who don’t care about clothes and need to brush their hair, put on mascara, and generally sharpen up. But that misses the majority of modern styles, which include many ways of feeling relaxed yet looking stylish. See my previous post on styles in the English shops this season. For ideas from a professional stylist see YouLookFab’s posts on individual style. She also has many interesting questions in her Team X or Team Y section. And there’s Imogen Lamport’s personal style section.

Lifestyle :
Thankfully this is a simple option for me. I’m retired and wear informal clothes, which suits my personal style. Little need for businesslike, dressy, or exercise wear. Nowadays lifestyle is an area of clothing decisions where I don’t have to deal with a whole lot of complications 😀 People who love tailored clothes have much more difficulty finding a style they’re happy with when they retire.

Colour personality :
Do you prefer brights or neutrals ? contrast or monochrome ? see Imogen Lamport.

Clothing values :
What is most important to us about clothes – cost, comfort, fashion, effect on others ? see my post.

Wardrobe variety :
Do you like a lot of variety in your styles ? Do you have many different moods to dress for ? Do you like a constant supply of new clothes ? Or do you want a simple wardrobe ? Do you want many different outfits, or is that not important for you ? Do you like your clothes to be co-ordinates ? or to have free choice ? To dress without thinking ? or to enjoy finding new combinations and new accessory styling ? Or both, on alternate days 😀

And do you like to wear simple clothes, or ones with added style elements or embellishment ? No extras, or many accessories such as scarves, belts, jewellery, eye-catching shoes and bags ? A simple outfit or a complex one ?

Sewing style :
Do you prefer sewing that’s easy or advanced, quick or slow, knits or wovens. . .
So which are the clothes it would be better to buy ?

All these points to consider – I can fall in a deep pit of ‘analysis paralysis’. It’s a great relief to make dolls’ clothes – they don’t have to fit or be flattering or even co-ordinate 😀

What is your method for helping yourself to ‘just do it’ when you get stuck ?

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So many choices, no wonder we have difficulty sorting it all out ! I usually don’t fit the simple alternatives. Don’t know whether this is a cause for despair, or whether it just makes it all interesting 😀 At least, after several years of trying things out and exploring, I am beginning to know what is right for me.

Ruthie has recently written about her explorations of this too, in her blog.

I’ve learned a lot from all the times I’ve had to rescue myself from forcing myself to follow advice that is not right for me !

Take it slowly and enjoy each ‘aha’ 😀

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Links available September 2011

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Progress : there are some pictures in next week’s post !

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Explore posts in the same categories: personal style

4 Comments on “So many choices”

  1. Thanks for all your lovely links!

    Lots of great advice here and things to ponder.

  2. Lisanne, always a pleasure to read your blog. Don’t you think we also shift a little bit as our roles in life change? When I was last working I wore lots of classic suits in brighter colours than I would wear now — I need, I think, to project a “confident, professional” image. I’m much more confident now and so my clothing is softer, less tailored, more muted, reflecting more of the inner me.

    Regarding casual, I totally agree that the wardrobe books are often stuck in the past here. I wear a casual style which is completely appropriate for my workplace, with woven trousers and knit tops making up the bulk of my clothes, with the odd jacket, scarf, and cardigan thrown in. I never wear a suit any more; I rarely wear skirts and if so they are relaxed. My style currently doesn’t change much from weekday to weekend

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good point Elizabeth !
      At work I frequently had to look ‘powerful’ even though that isn’t ‘me’. We often have to wear clothes for their effect on other people rather than because they’re true to us. But it helps to be aware that’s what we’re doing !

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