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.

.   .   .

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?


defining style, fashion, style, style tips, what to wear, yours truly

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!


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thoughts on defining style


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?

.   .   .

defining style, femininity, french things, quotes, style, style tips

“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.

.   .   .


style tips: secrets of french girls

defining style, fashion, life, lifestyle, style, style tips

defining style: on memories + clothing

More on that later, I had written between parenthesis. I’ve found it’s the only way to keep myself from going off on tangents; too often I’ll be in the midst of writing one thing, only to branch off into pages of something else. Case in point: a paper analyzing Blood Dazzler turned into a rant on femininity and feminism. A post I’ve been meaning to write about self-confidence, as a request per a beautiful friend of mine, also turned into bullet points on media and feminism. A previous post about sweater dresses in February evolved into a discussion on racism.

I did it again. You get the point.

.   .   .

I suppose one of the reasons why I’m so intrigued by and drawn into fashion is its connection to memory. Like certains scents, only tangible. Real. One look at a particular article of clothing and something is triggered: it becomes a time machine of sorts, transporting you back to a specific moment. It represents an emotion, a feeling, a state of min, and state of being. I remember what I wore when he first looked at me and I knew he cared; I remember what I wore the day he told me I was beautiful. I remember what I wore to that interview that landed me a job as a dancer, and the one that brought me here to where I am today. I remember what I wore when I picked up the call saying I got the job. I remember what my best friend wore the time we spread ourselves across her couch and smiled and laughed talking about love and futures; I remember what he wore the night we met, the night we danced, first ones on the floor, my gauzy teal dress swooshing slightly with every double turn. I remember.

And other pieces are aspirational: they help me become something. Someone I want to be. Will be. Some are costumes for when I feel like stepping outside my skin. Others are comfort. I slip into a dress and become this woman – vivacious, charismatic, flirtatious; I put on a pantsuit and I convey rationality. I mean business.

I remember, and I become.

I suppose that’s where a fine line is drawn between emotional attachment and emotional baggage; sometimes I need to be reminded that it’s still – but not just – a piece a clothing. A thing – a material thing. We project because we’re human, but to hold on to all these physical (and sometimes emotional) things burden. The less we have, the more we are free. Free to move on, to move easily, in both the figurative and literal sense.

I wear with the intent of creating memoires. Happy ones, the kind that last forever. New things are savored, kept untouched until I decide to do something. It needn’t be a special occasion – just a day of intent and positivity. I love clothes. I do. They mean so much, and represent so much.

Every garment has its story. May it bring its owner happiness.

.   .   .


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inspiration du jour: miranda kerr

I love when an individual’s style has become so streamlined that every piece in her wardrobe works with another. There’s consistency, versatility, and ease that comes with understanding your personal style at that level – you need only a few pieces that lend themselves for infinite combinations. Less is more. It’s at that level of style nirvana where shopping is no longer a mindless task, but a process of curationYour wardrobe is your life story. 

(I kid, it’s not that dramatic really. I get carried away with metaphors.)

You are your personal stylist. You are your buyer, your personal shopper, the curator of an exhibition. Yours. Take that literally: if your wardrobe were to be the feature presentation of the Costume Institute, à la Daphne Guinness’ in 2011, would  – could – your clothes tell a story with continuity? No hiccups, no staccato, no gaps that leave quizzical museum-goers with questions as to who you are. Consistency is key.

It’s not to say you should fall into a pattern of safety or rely upon repetition; consistency is comprehensibility. Who are you? Food for thought. Without knowing, you lose the beauty of dressing for yourself, and begin dressing for others – your friends, the opposite (or not) sex, other women, societal standards. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, per se – it just becomes a dreaded chore. We’re meant to enjoy every moment of our being, not to just do because we have to. What makes you happy? What inspires you? What gives you heart palpitations whenever you slip into it? What brings back fond memories, of a first time, a best time, an emotional moment? (More on that later.)

Dress to fancy your every mood. You can. Style is dynamic, never stagnant. But safety is.

Equipment blouse, high-waisted skinnies, patent flats, Sofia Coppola x Louis Vuitton handbag

cotton tee, cashmere scarf, burgundy tote, black ankle-length pants, pointy-toe pumps

Miranda Kerr is one such example; every ensemble is deliciously, sartorially inspirational. From work to weekends – these are the perfect outfits for the working girl sophisticate. Classic, elegant, modern. Feminine, not girly. Note the distinct signatures – oh, to have one! – the rich, burgundy bag, the fitted pant, the neutral color palette, the pointed pump. Once you find something you love and know works for you, you gravitate towards it.

Style is organic. Innate.


For more on style, read “Defining Style: Part I, II, III.”

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