advice, defining style, fashion, style, style tips, thoughts, what i wore, yours truly

defining style: on having a uniform (part II)

Read Part I, on the importance of having a uniform.

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There’s no doubt that I’m a perpetual purveyor of what’s traditionally defined as “classic;” it’s largely in part to my personal philosophy where I believe in the woman and not the clothes or products she uses (hence the emphasis on skincare and au naturel beauty philosophy). That said, however, those 10-100 (or whatever arbitrary — read: marketable — number) items gurus say everyone must own does not work for everyone. It shouldn’t, else it wouldn’t be style. What’s basic to me isn’t basic to another woman.

Here’s what’s prevalent in my wardrobe:

  1. The cheeky graphic tee. I love words. I love cheeky. Bam. Does that make me tacky? Probably, but semantics, babes. It’s all in how you wear it.
  2. High-waisted pants. Skinny jeans, fit and flare denim, or wide leg trousers. Low-rise things neither fit my body type nor my lifestyle well, plus, they’re the bane of a relatively curvy and petite girl’s existence.
  3. Ankle boots. I live in them all year long, and have since high school. This won’t be changing any time soon.
  4. Over-the-knee black leather boots. Actually, in an ideal world, thigh-high boots would be a wardrobe stable, but alas I have yet to find one that’s within my price range and fairly practical with my lifestyle (why buy things you can’t wear regularly? Unless it’s a party dress, I don’t believe in special occasions). Maybe when I’m in my mid-twenties, notably chicer, and not running around from place to place the thigh-high suede boot will fall in my favor.
  5. Leather jackets. The day I inherited my mother’s fitted, cropped leather number it was love at first sight. I’ve yet to find another that fits and looks the way it does (within my budget, that is), but I think it’s about time I bite the bullet and just invest in another. Or a few more, for good measure, since I’m rarely seen sans leather.
  6. Matching lingerie sets. Unmentionables my derriere! I could launch into a whole diatribe about lingerie’s negative connotation in the public sphere, but I’ll resist. Lingerie isn’t for everyone, and I understand that it’s not something (nor a subject) that people readily accept. It’s important to me, it’s a part of my regimen, my dress, who I am. (I also like pretty, lacy things.)
  7. Body-con dresses. Again, someting I’ve been wearing for years. They’re a classic staple in my evening wardrobe. Save for a well-tailored dress, bodycon and bandage dresses are what’s most flattering on my shape, and not to mention, comfortable too.
  8. Jumpsuits. The right one can be so flattering. I found one particular design and fell in love — and promptly hoarded it in a few more shades for evening rotations. I also not-so-secretly love that it’s something men don’t get, it satisfies the feminist in me.
  9. Crop tops. They go with everything high-waisted. And by transitive theory (or was it the communatative property? It’s been a while since I touched basic mathematics), that means cropped tops go with everything in my wardrobe.
  10. Semi sheer blouses. You just can’t live without them. And by you, I mean I.
  11. Off-the-shoulder tops & sweaters. I am a shameless Flashdance babe at heart, that’s all.
  12. 3/4 sleeve sweaters. The idea of the sixties sweater girl was forever ingrained in my 15-year-old brain after some film I watched with my mother, and now I seek to be the millenial version of the classic sweetheart.
  13. Fitted pencil skirts and dresses. If I’m not in a high-waisted-trouser-and-blouse combo, then you’ll find me swapping out my wide-leg bottoms for a fitted, more femme option. I love a super feminine, classic look; can you tell?
  14. Black leather handbag. I used to be a bag whore. It’s not to say that I’m a bag kinda girl — I always will be — it’s just that I’m not nearly as flighty as I once was. I’m faithful to one bag per season.
  15. Asymmetrical skirt. Another evening staple of mine. The Helmut Lang helix skirts I originally lusted after disappeared before I could hoard one of each color for my wardrobe, so I, being the resourceful little Nancy Drew I am, hunted down approximates. They’re not Helmut (one day; I’m still lamenting), but they’re pretty  darn close, and therefore, pretty much perfect.
  16. Strappy sandals. I have yet to find the perfect pump, so in the mean time, those strappy heels are filling the void all too well. I love how delicate and elongating they are on the legs.
  17. Nude, red, dark purple or burgundy nails. Confession: nail art has always driven me crazy. I like having a “signature” for everything — signature drink, Starbucks order, meal, outfit, etc. — so sticking to a color palette makes me happy.

.   .   .

What are your style staples?

xx

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defining style: on having a uniform (part I)

As I’ve said once too many times before, I haven’t written about fashion for a while — namely because I’ve been spending more than half of my time in some sort of leggings-sports bra-crop top and therefore feel less than qualified to offer any legitimate (or trustworthy) fashion opinion.

(Luckily for me, sports luxe is a real trend. Thank you, Alexander Wang.)

But in the time spent outside of rehearsal or classes — that rare 30-40% — I’ve come to realize that now more than ever, I have a definite uniform at the ready. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (and wiser, one should hope), maybe I’m beginning to value my limited time more and more. Regardless, it’s clear that I’ve developed a signature.

I’ve always known it was, to some extent, there. Some say that I’m a creature of habit, and while that could be true, I’m also definitive in knowing what I like. My philosophy is simple: know what I like, know what looks good on me and makes me happy, and stick with it. Is it limiting? Perhaps, but trade-offs exist in every situation. At the most superficial level, having a uniform grounds us. Maybe it’s just me; I’m notoriously restless, and I suppose relying on steadiness balances things.  But to dabble in everything, to overextend, is no different to me from being flighty. To develop personal style is synonymous to understanding self and speaks louder than whatever trend du jour you try to wear. Lack of cohesion or thought in clothing is transparent: it reads as indecisiveness about who you want to be and how you want to be portrayed.

People notice that level of definitiveness. It never occurred to me that my “look” was that distinctive, so much so that I was easily recognizable from afar. People have come to associate me and my clothes as one (ah, first impressions — another topic I could write a thesis on) and it wasn’t until a few friends mentioned that in conversation recently when I realized just how significant of an impact clothes played in our perceptions of people.

Case in point: who would Brigitte Bardot, Carine Roitfeld, Iris Apfel, Alexis Chung, even, be if not for their now iconic looks? It’s more than consistency, we appreciate a strong understanding and acceptance of self.

It’s one thing if your personal style evolves to better fit who you’re becoming, but there’s no sense if you’ve made it a mission to be challenging when it comes to your look. Why? What’s the point? It’s no different from mindlessly daring yourself to do something just because. Life’s to short for that sort of nonsense: you should only wear (and in that same note, do, commit to etc.) things that speak to you, reflect who you are, inspire you.  You’re meant to challenge your self, your mind, your body. Not your look.

Whether we like to admit it or not, clothing speaks monumental amounts. I see plenty of girls wearing fabulous, perfectly paired things or donning something wildly extravagant to be “different,” and while they look snap-worthy, I couldn’t tell you a thing about their personality. It’s either too contrived or off in fit; whatever it is, something about their outfit just doesn’t mesh with who they are. Personal style — having a uniform of sorts — entails how you wear the clothing too. It’s the whole package, really: after all, when you choose to buy something, wear it, wash it, and re-wear it again, you’re wearing clothing a certain way. Your way. Clothing then becomes a part of you, no? (Another reason I have no shame in repeating outfits: if you love it, you love it.) Choosing for the sake of trends or imitation doesn’t come across as sincere. It’s jarring, like you’re a little girl in your mother’s too-big-shoes and lipstick smeared across your mouth playing dress-up.

The power of clothing, while indicative of just how superficial our consumer-culture-plagued society has become, can become a positive: with our wardrobe, we craft our stories they way we want our narrative to be told so others don’t dictate who they think we are or should be.

That’s the beauty of fashion.

.   .   .

Peruse the previous “Defining Style” series if you’re so inclined!

xx

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thoughts on defining style

cobra

Currently blogging from my bed because I’ve just taken three exams within a 24-hour period — which, by the way, is illegal according to my college’s book of fancy rules. I’m usually a bit more professional (I write at my desk), so I’m wondering if typing away swathed in white sheets and blankets, sideways, will make the words come out differently any differently. Perspective and environment are, after all, everything.

What’s sleep? Where’s my caffeine? Why don’t I know anything anymore? Exhaustion doesn’t even begin to describe my current state of mind. Only a jumble of useless, last-minute cramming remain: something about in pari dilecto and n-ary relationships and Shattered Glass

Cue large, unladylike gulp from my beloved 20-oz. Starbucks mug.

But also on my mind lately is the concept of style. There is the impeccably-dressed woman and the woman who walks to the drum of her own beat. There is the extravagantly fashionable costume, and there is the outrageously-curated ensemble. It’s a buy-because-I-can mentality versus a what’s-my-story mindset. It’s not so easy to discern when you’re swept by the hype of who has the newest what, but once the aggrandization wears off, the former just looks, well, silly. Just a little girl in her grandmother’s flapper’s dress. More often than not, I see girls (both on blogs and in real life) who wear fabulous things, beautifully paired ensembles that I can appreciate but can’t admire because I can’t see their personalities. It’s too perfect, almost contrived. It’s right off the hangers. It doesn’t suit who they are or how they look. Something. It’s as if the girl is just a model, and not the woman wearing the clothes. Clothes are supposed to be worn. They’re supposed to be loved! I hate all-new outfits worn for the purpose of being new. It feels foreign to me. I have admiration for the woman (and man) who is spotted wearing something –  a signature – over and over again. For style to be effortless and authentic, it must be spontaneous: you put together things that make you feel happy in one particular moment and own it. There’s less preoccupation about fashion and being impressive. There’s no pretention.

Without spontaneity, there is no style. What would set it apart from any other magazine editorial, then?

It sounds cliche but it’s true: clothes speak a lot about the person who wears them. Clothes are a form of cultural self-expression built by years of your perspective, your environment, and various forms of socialization that ultimately become a part of your voice. That voice is your style, and your style, your voice. It is the most succinct and direct means of communicating all that you are and are passionate about. Style is attitude, your past, your present, your future.

It’s not a question of finance either. Yes, you could buy beautiful things at an exorbitant price tag and have a beautifully put together outfit — but almost just as easily you could look the opposite. Style transcends economics because part of being stylish is being realistic. I’m apt to think that those on a budget are pushed to be even more creative. Shopping is simplified when you set limits: you buy what you love, and love what you buy. There’s no room for anything less than perfect in your eyes, and there’s less temptation to buy whatever is hot off the presses in some editorial — you have to look into yourself to know what you want. At the end of the day it’s all about confidence and your outlook. All it takes is looking for the right pieces that speak to who you are. A signature is developed, and fashion becomes fashion no more, but a personal form of art. How you wear something and how you carry yourself is the binding glue that makes your style, ultimately, yours.

“The most stylish people I know have spent lifetimes searching for what complements their body shape, their professional and personal lifestyle, local climate and how much they can reasonably budget for this pursuit. Let me stress that this is not about how much money they have, but how attuned they are to their reality. It’s an almost zen-like sense of self-awareness. It stands to reason that if you only fill your closet with what works then just grabbing things from that closet will be a million times easier…hence the perception of effortless.”

-The Myth of Effortless Chic, The Sartorialist‘s Closer

Why do we wear what we wear?

.   .   .

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“French women don’t dress to be sexy. Of course we do dress to seduce — that’s different from trying to ‘catch’ a man by wearing flamboyant clothes. The basic attitude is different. A French woman never feels she’s offering herself. There’s never a sense of surrender, but an attitude of ‘I belong to me.’”

– Ellen Wallace, Secrets of French Girls

This is exactly why that Voltaire quote is my tagline.

.   .   .

x

style tips: secrets of french girls

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