The great thing about fashion and style is the ability to do whatever you want, and to make it your own. I recently watched the documentary Iris, about style icon Iris Apfel. In it, she gives loads of insight and opinions about her own tastes and what she thinks about style today. To paraphrase, she thinks the way most people dress today is too homogenized and boring. I fully respect her style, but I could never dress the way she does. It’s just not “me” and all those accessories would make it terribly hard for me to go about my day and do my job. Her level of print and accessories makes me hyperventilate a bit, and what she might call boring on others, I might call clean, minimal, and refreshing. It’s all about your own personal perspective.
Which is why style is so awesome–we can all have our own. We don’t all have to follow what others are doing. And if you look around, pretty much everything is in style. It’s easy to see “trends” but unlike earlier in history when the masses really followed a set series of rules about things like hemlines, hats, and gloves, there really are no rules anymore. Nor have there been for some time. If you walk down the street in Los Angeles where I live, you will see wide legged pants, skinny pants, short pants, long pants, pegged pants, and on and on. All are acceptable, and none are wrong. It’s all about what you want and how you wear it. You can really do whatever you want.
This might be a big city thing, I’m not sure, so if you live in a smaller town, tell me–do you see that level of diversity? Or is it more streamlined? I’ve lived in a big city for many decades now, so it’s possible my perspective is askew. But add all of this together, and somewhere you get your style, based on what you do, where you live, and what you like.
In the original Colette Patterns worksheet, which is available here, making style more personal is broken down into the following seven topics: History, Philosophy, Culture, Community, Activities, Location, and Body. Asking yourself questions about these topics should help you identify how you should dress, what you like, and how your life influences your decisions. Instead of filling out these forms in private, I’m going to be transparent about my process. So below are all the questions from the form, and my thoughts on all of it.
Q: How has your personal history informed the way you dress?
I think growing up an art school kid really gives you permission to be who you are and do what you want with your wardrobe. I never felt like I had to stick to a certain mold, even when I was younger.
Q: When did your tastes crystalize?
Super young. I started getting Vogue around the age of 13 and I really fell in love with those fancy details like bows and collars that I still am a total sucker for today. I started wearing vintage dresses in high school, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
Q: Have they hanged over the years, and why?
They only changed a bit with age. As I matured, the styles did too a bit. I hope I make better choices as I’ve aged. And for sure my tastes have gotten less loud in print and color.
Q: How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits?
A: I am not a religious person, but through the years I have realized that I am a rather modest dresser. This is not due to any philosophy per se, but I do like an element of formality and class to my attire. I rarely wear things that are plunging, I prefer sleeves over not, and I would never wear anything with an open back.
Q: Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?
I would like to see it reflected in an adult wardrobe with a sense of grace and maturity.
Q: How has your cultural background shaped the way you look?
My cultural background has only shaped my look in my literal physical appearance. Meaning, my body is curvy, and that is a result of my Irish family history. But otherwise my cultural background has had little impact on my day to day look.
Q: How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?
I was taught to be a lady, and I think that has stuck with me as I’ve aged. I do feel like it’s a struggle though everyday, to be ladylike. I wish I were more graceful!
Q: How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?
I think I’m only slightly influenced by those around me. I think I can be easily swayed by a new pattern release, but generally speaking, I prefer a more tailored wardrobe than is likely considered the norm in Los Angeles. I was highly influenced by LA when I first moved here, and it proved really confusing to adapt my Chicago wardrobe to my LA life. But after some time, I figured it out and realized that I like a happy blend of the casual side of LA and my more formal tastes.
Q: How do your day to day activities influence your choices?
A: Working from home, in my studio, I am on my feet a large part of the day. My at-work style needs to be comfortable, something I can move in, and without restrictions. I prefer something that moves, isn’t terribly fitted, and with short or elbow sleeves, unless it’s very hot. Other activities I partake in throughout the day are exercising, sleeping, going out with friends for dinner/movies/etc, and lounging at home. These all require different clothes.
Q: Does the place you live inform the way you dress?
I touched on this in community above, but one key thing is that generally speaking, my wardrobe can be far less practical living in LA over living in other big cities. It’s rarely cold enough here to need warm weather gear for survival, and I never walk as much in LA as I do in other cities.
Q: How does climate factor in?
Obviously heat is a huge factor in LA, and one that I despise. I hate hot weather and on those rare days when it’s super hot, I live in flowy dresses. The rest of the time the weather is very moderate. Though as a lover of coats and jackets, I honestly wish I had more reason to wear them!
Q: In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing?
Like most people, body image effects my clothing a lot of the time. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Being honest with my body informs me to make flattering choices instead of choices that might not look as good.
Q: What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in?
I don’t like things that cling to my middle section, as this is where I carry the bulk of my weight. So I much prefer garments that skim the body or that have a more fit and flare shape.
Q: What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?
I’m not super comfortable being sleeveless in public, and as I wrote above, I do prefer to be a bit more modest with my coverage, which is much more age-appropriate anyway!
So, read to join in? Download the form here and see what you learn about yourself! I'd love to hear your thoughts so we can share and learn from each other. So do let me know what you're thinking in the comments section below!
Meanwhile, I'll be back with part two, Defining a Core Style in two weeks! Hope to see you here!
The Wardrobe Architect Series:
2016 Wardrobe Architect Project
Wardrobe Architect Week One: Making Style More Personal
Wardrobe Architect Week Two: Defining a Core Style
Wardrobe Architect Week Three: Exploring Shapes
Wardrobe Architect Week Four: Proportions and Silhouettes
Wardrobe Architect Week Five: Your Color Story
Wardrobe Architect Week Six: Organizing Your Palette
Wardrobe Architect Week Seven: Exploring Solids & Prints
Wardrobe Architect Week Eight: Hair, Makeup, & Beauty
Wardrobe Architect Week Nine: The Capsule Wardrobe
Wardrobe Architect Week Ten: The Capsule Palette
Wardrobe Architect Week Eleven: Planning Your Pieces
Wardrobe Architect Week Twelve: Adding Accessories
Wardrobe Architect Week Thirteen: Overcoming Editing Hurdles