Finding your style 4 : trying out clothes

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 – if you start from a difficult point

If you are just starting this process, you may find it upsetting – all you’re aware of is how far you are from a ‘good’ solution. But very few people can make the jump from awful to ideal in one step.

If you do a closet clear-out following the rule to keep only items that fill you with joy, and find you have nothing left (I’ve been there. . . ), then keep items that are ‘good enough’ – just remove the items that are clearly ‘never again’.

Deciding if something is ‘best’ for you among all the options may be overwhelming. If so, just try on 2 items and decide which is ‘better’ : which is ‘more flattering’ or ‘more me’. Most people eventually work down to a smaller group of ‘good’ items. Though some people do like to wear a different style every day 😀

During this phase, try to avoid buying anything that you feel doubtful or negative about.

If you feel doubtful or negative about everything, maybe it’s time to take a pause and focus for a while on other aspects of your clothes choices – perhaps with help from some of the on-line style advisors suggested in this post :
– Size numbers, like style and colour categories, are just a tool for getting items you probably look and feel good in. Often people look better and feel more physically comfortable in a looser garment. Different RTW and pattern companies use different size numbers, so it’s essential to choose pattern size by body measurements. Simplicity patterns go up to 50″ bust, Butterick, Kwik Sew, McCall’s up to 54″ bust. Some indie pattern designers are extending their size range, so it’s possible to look good and current at many sizes. Making your own patterns is more of a challenge, the Sure-Fit Designs master patterns go up to 62″/155cm at bust and hips. Muna and Broad patterns go up to 71″ hip, and they offer to grade up for larger sizes.
– Do you know what flatters your body shape ? Some of the courses linked in the post about on-line advisors include it.
– And how about exploring your best clothes colours (for over half the population, black is not flattering) – see post about on-line advisors for some places to start.
– Or explore your most flattering hair shape and colour.
– Several of the courses linked in the post about on-line advisors have sections on body positivity. Anoushka Rees of ‘The Curated Closet’ has a body image makeover online class.

For all these aspects of your clothing, give yourself the gift of making small changes towards ‘more me’ or ‘more flattering’. A pity to feel you have to achieve ‘perfect’ in one step ! Make small changes towards having some ‘better for me’ items in your closet, and it will work out in the end.

What to do

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.

Some people find it helpful to take photos. Gives a more objective view of whether the fit, proportions, colours, shapes, style show you at your best.

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, style of print, size of pattern, texture, amount and type of trim, amount and type of detail, fabric drape/ body/ cling, style drape, line, shape, length, proportions, placement of style elements, 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 😀

More comments on this process

Trying on RTW is rather depressing for me as my body details are 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 not have only one style. 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 people like to wear similar outfits all the time – a ‘uniform’, some like to dress for the mood of the day or always wear something different.

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 and put in the time if you want to improve your style. Always buying black because it’s easy to find is not the best idea for the billions of us who don’t look good in black.

If possible start by walking through a mall, along a shopping street, or around a big department store. Preferably a better quality one. Looking around a cheap store can be depressing – as items have to be very easy to manufacture, they have simple shapes and few style elements, along with cheap fabrics and a small range of colours. Don’t worry at this point if you can’t buy high quality items – you’re just finding out what you like, so you need to be looking at a good range of options.

You will probably find that you often take a quick look and walk straight past. Would you feel at your best when wearing these items ? Try not to feel you ‘ought’ to want to wear any of the styles – at this point you’re just exploring your preferences. Your likes may not be ideal for working in a bank, impressing a fashion stylist, being a fairy princess, attracting attention at a festival, going mountaineering – but you’re now just learning about what is ideal for you.

Or perhaps you linger in places you were not expecting. Can you think out why ? what message does this give you about what you like ? about what you feel at your best when wearing ? You’re just exploring, so ignore any ‘I can’t wear that’ messages that spring to mind. You can go into the reasons for that, and how true it is, at some other time.

I remember when I first ‘knew my colours’ and found I could just walk in the door of a store, glance quickly around at the colours on the clothes racks, and walk straight out again. Most amazing !

– – –

Make your own choices

Many of us find that limiting ourselves to following a particular stylist’s categories is not the best option for us. We can start by learning from them, as a guide to exploring what we like to wear, but we may end up wearing our own combination of style elements which doesn’t fit closely to any particular category names.

My list of personal style questions is about style elements, not general categories. Perhaps use this as a starting point for finding your own personal combination.

I remember with glee the time when a well known stylist said that no-one should wear what I’ve found is my signature style element ! I’m happiest if I’m wearing a small frill or some ‘heirloom’ stitching, which may be categorised as soft/ romantic/ prairie/ ingenue. Here is my ‘uniform’ of frilled blouse, slim pants, lace-up shoes, worn with an over-sized casual layer. The blouse, pants and shoes are always there, the variety comes in the layer.

”soft-flamboyant”

Most stylists are very against over-sized clothes, but I love them. In Kibbe categories, oversized clothes are called ‘Flamboyant Natural’ in style. But my combination of over-sized with softness in neutral colours is not, I suspect, what the person who devised ‘Flamboyant Natural’ style was thinking of 😀

If you don’t fit into any simple group of 1, 2, 3 style categories ? It can be good idea to make your own short list of descriptive words, or a phrase, as a quick reminder when making decisions. Don’t be surprised if they are words which are not used by stylists. Mine might be “quiet classy practical quirky”.

– – –

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.

And keep an eye open, and an open mind 😀 , for garment types and style words which stylists rarely mention.

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

Categories can help us at first by simplifying things enough to make sense of all the styling issues. But in truth we are all different, and ultimately we have to make our own decisions. Perhaps Nancy Nix-Rice’s book Looking Good is the best short introduction to all wardrobing issues, and so a helpful place to start (though some people find the examples very dated). But you may quickly find such brief discussions don’t cover all your needs. At the other end of the scale, Imogen Lamport’s blog posts and 7 Steps to Style course are good for introducing all the complexities of individual differences – but there is so much to consider that it can be overwhelming for a beginner. Start with generalities and small steps, and gradually work up to understanding all the special features of your life, your personality and your body.

You may find there’s a switch point in this search for your style. At first you hope someone else can tell you what to wear. But you find that you need to change someone else’s ideas a little to suit yourself. Then you begin to recognise special clothes which help you feel confident when you’re wearing them, and this eventually leads to – magic – you can make your own decisions.

– – –

Comment from a style board :
“if you don’t feel confident and comfortable in your clothes then half the battle has been lost”.
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.”
It’s so heart warming and expanding to be surrounded by what you love and what makes you feel good.
♥️ ♥️ ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

And also knowing
your favourite styles and the colours, shapes, fabrics and trims that flatter your body and warm your spirit
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 !

Really you can ignore all this lengthy discussion. These 8000 words can be summarised in one phrase :
Only wear what makes you feel and look good 😀
Start by picking out a small group of items you love, then think about your climate, lifestyle, possible unexpected events, for guidance about the important gaps to fill 😀  

Best Wishes for 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.
3. exploring styles.

– – – – –

August 2019

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Explore posts in the same categories: personal style

4 Comments on “Finding your style 4 : trying out clothes”

  1. vancouverbarbara Says:

    Thanks for this great series. What a lot of thought and effort you put into this. I’m particularly interested in the travel wardrobe book.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Barbara – there are a whole lot more comments on personal style accessed at the top of the menu on the right – I seem to have been concerned about this for some time 😀

  2. Katrina B Says:

    You’ve covered a vast amount of information in a short series of posts! Thank you for all the resources as well as a good dose of common sense.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Katrina – one of the advantages of exploring my style for a long time is that I’ve fallen into and climbed out of most of the pitfalls 😀


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