STYLE FILES LEVEL 1: FASHION VS. STYLE
"HOW TO DRESS 'TRUE TO YOURSELF' FOR ANY OCCASION"
You know the woman who always looks put together, comfortable, and never out of style? I know you do, since we all have that friend, mother-in-law, or co-worker who makes us feel just slightly shabby with her ever-present je ne sais quoi and seemingly unflappable poise.
There's a good reason I'm using the ubiquitous French phrase here, which literally translated means “I don't know what”. The women who display it do have a presence of self that is hard to define, and it often has nothing to do with what's in style in any given season. It doesn't matter whether they are wearing custom dresses, unique vintage outfits, or tailored suits, they have unlocked a formula that ensures they will always feel their best, which translates into looking enviable to the rest of us. These women have taken the time to define their own sense of style, not by what the rest of the world thinks of them or is wearing, but by what looks and feels like the best representation of themselves.
"We all have that friend, mother-in-law, or co-worker...with ever-present je ne sais quoi and seemingly unflappable poise."
APPLYING THE CONCEPT TO YOUR OWN WARDROBE
I have many clients who ask me to create a custom gown for special events, because "what's in style doesn't suit me". With most of these women, one of the first questions I ask is:
"Do you or did you have a favorite garment that made you feel incredible, stylish, sexy, et al..."
The answer is always "Yes", usually followed by "but I don't wear it anymore because it doesn't fit, isn't stylish anymore, wore out, etc etc".
What I'm really getting at with this question is the true nature of this woman's purest personal style, because what made her feel like her most fabulous self in her perfect outfit probably didn't have much to do with fashion, and everything to do with how the garment fit her and her own sense of what felt stylish. The next step for me, being a professional designer and stylist, is to recreate the feeling and the sense of self this garment gave her in a version that is suited to the current fashion, event, and figure its being showcased in.
THAT’S GREAT, YOU SAY, BUT YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL. WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ME AND MY WARDROBE OR EVENT?
Everything! This exercise is literally the key to developing that sense of self that is reflected in your style. The "secret" is to find the two or three elements of your "perfect outfit" that truly fit who you are and represent your own personal style, and then make sure that you re-create at least one of those elements in every piece of clothing you buy, and every outfit you wear. Once you find the shapes and elements that make you feel your best, you are well on your way to creating a personal style that you'll feel comfortable and incredible in, no matter the outfit or the occasion.
THE 10 MINUTE HOW-TO DRESS TRUE TO YOURSELF GUIDE:
So, let's apply this to your own wardrobe. I promise you can get a good start in less time than it takes to find what you're going to watch on Netflix tonight. You'll thank me when you're getting ready for work in the morning, or that special event next weekend.
Put down the fashion magazine/app/instagram. Seriously.
When you look at pictures of other people's style without having a clear understanding of what works for you, the best case scenario is that you'll try to be the model in the clothes, and you won't ever achieve that "you-ness" that will make you feel fabulous in them.
Think about the ONE outfit you wore where you felt your best.
This has to be something you've worn as an adult, not a child, and I want you to think about a feeling, not that photo in your college spring break album where you went on a crash diet and lost 15 pounds and you love looking at because of your skinny self. If we're talking about the psychology of style, that photo has nothing to do with how you felt in the outfit, and everything to do with the fact that you felt like you could wear whatever you wanted. Its an outlier, and needs to be discarded ASAP (I mean, keep the photo if you must, but stop using it as your yardstick against every outfit you wear. For the love...)
Write down not only what the outfit was, but how it fit you [skintight, layered, tailored, loose, etc] and how it made you feel [comfortable, confident, powerful, sexy, etc]
Fit. Accept your size and use it as a tool in your wardrobe.
Whether you're a 2 or a 22, you won't ever feel your best in ill-fitting clothes. Clothing that is too large or too small often has a way of emphasizing what you would rather hide.
Be objective, and try on what's in your closet. Notice what pulls, where, and why. Notice where there are wrinkles, bunches, or things not sitting right. This is the part of your body you need to pay attention to when you dress yourself or shop for new clothing. Find the silhouettes and sizes that don't pull or bunch there. You will have ample opportunity to have your looks tailored, tucked, or accessorized to fit the rest of the parts of you.
Not sure what size you are? Check out this blog post.
If you are curvy, I would suggest that you veer toward silhouettes that emphasize the waist, and give you room to fit or drape over your curves. Don't hide them, but don't feel like you need to shove them into skintight pieces that are restrictive either. This is one of my favorite body types to style, because you are naturally feminine and don't have to be loud about it to be sexy.
If you are proportionately larger on one half of your body than the other, make sure you are fitting the larger half and dressing it in the sizes it needs. Use a belt, a fitted jacket, skinny trousers, or a professional tailor to help showcase the proportions of the smaller half. Don't shove one half of your body into something that is too tight, or let billowy silhouettes make you look bigger than you are.
If you are straight or athletic, congratulations. You have an easy body to find clothing for. Don't screw it up by obliterating it in bulky layers or squishing it into too-tight garments. You'll look and feel a lot better in something that politely hugs your body, shows off those one or two parts of you that you like the best, and otherwise is not loud about the fact that you are a well-built, put-together woman.
Put it all together. Re-create the feeling of your most perfect outfit using the wardrobe you already have, and, more importantly, don't try on someone else' style when you go shopping for a new outfit!
Don't get me wrong, there are going to be some pieces you'll need to discard. Specifically, those that you look at or try on that don't fit or definitely feel like something you bought because you liked how someone ELSE looked in them.
If you're still not sure exactly how to re-create it, start with the silhouette. If you felt your most fabulous in a flowy dress with a cinched-in waist, use belts and sashes to capture that same silhouette with a variety of pieces. Try wide-leg pants or trousers for a more casual take on the silhouette, and tuck blouses in to define the waist.
And now, you're well on your way to capturing your own je ne sais quoi. I bet you'll be surprised at how effective it is once you know what your personal best can be!