Someone asked how I discovered my sense of style, and to be frank, I am constantly changing / evolving and trying new things.
If I could pin it down, I could say that the following has helped:
Sources of inspiration
- Instagram – I follow a lot of style people but the ones whom I like to see outfits of are : @bcrladinaj , @whatveewore , @lookfabulous.for.less , @meleponym , @9to5chic to name a few.
- Pinterest – all of the pictures I like are pinned here.
- TV shows – Bridgerton, Stylish, Emily in Paris, The Rachel Zoe Project, and so on. Anything with costumes, interesting looks, details.
- Books – My favourite style books are here
Developing my Sense of Style
How it started
When I was younger, I tried so many different things, trying to figure out what I liked. I wore my mother’s old clothing, and then, in a fit against my femininity, I refused to wear skirts until I was about 16. I didn’t wear anything “girly”, ruffled, feminine… and wore plain shirts and jeans.
I did have a spell where I also wore mostly black, and very goth/dark/heavy rocker style clothing (huge lace-up boots, lace trimmed items, bustier-style tops), and that all disappeared once I started university, where I started to wear more feminine but very much so, I am talking skintight tops, mesh items, tight skirts… even shorter ones.
I thought a lot about how people perceived me in those days, especially guys because I had never had much in way of dating experience, let alone a boyfriend at that point. It was all so new to me, this attention and I dressed for other people, not for myself, for the male gaze, as we might say.
Then I headed into my early 20s, and wore very bright, loud colours, clashing here and there, and couldn’t get enough of pattern and colour, which I now find a tiny bit too juvenile for my current tastes. I may like the print a lot but it doesn’t mean I want to wear it.
I would say it wasn’t until my late 20s that I started to evolve into a style I feel comfortable in, and enjoy. It’s me. I try different things, like baggy oversized items, and I like it for the most part – androgynous dressing – but only if it doesn’t veer towards a hobo vibe where everything is oversized and layered. I don’t feel comfortable.
These days, I couldn’t care less if a guy liked my outfit or not. I’ve noticed that men like outfits that are not for women, to be in any good taste. The tight dresses, the short skirts, the trashy leather ties on a skirt.. but women, particularly myself, tend to dress for ourselves and to greater extent – for other women.
How it’s going
I still avoid a lot of flash, glitter and sequins unless it’s done in an artful, more conservative way, or just simply as a pop of colour that is meant to be a clash of styles against what I wear.
I still don’t like ruffles, and very feminine details unless done simply (pleats are great, lace is nice in small doses or all over and in black, not in colours), and embroidery is fine as long as it isn’t too rainbow-brite.
Even with prints or florals, I have a specific sense of what I will or won’t wear. Anything too on-the-nose floral, or not graphic enough, or even in a range of colours that screams RAINBOW, is too juvenile for me to wear.
I still enjoy very bold colours and prints, but they have to be sophisticated, or interesting. I am picky even about stripes – they have to be a certain shade of blue for instance, a certain distance from each other, not too thick, not too thin…
Fashion is about mistakes
I know I don’t like any of the following for myself (but I love it on other people):
- peplum bottoms – very rarely will I allow this because I find it accentuates my apple-middle
- ruffly/poufy shoulders – but sleeves are okay, they just can’t be poufy at the shoulders
- super tight anything – I want to breathe and eat
- super short anything – I want to be able to walk and squat down with Little Bun
- lace in any other colour but black or neutrals – it’s a hard sell for me, to be honest, in colours, it looks very cheap
- strapless items – I am too uncomfortable yanking it up
- halter tops – it makes me feel uncomfortable as my shoulders look massive
- long-sleeved dresses – I like being able to layer items on top & sleeves stop this
- anything that laces up – this looks very cheap to me, with lacing done up on a skirt or bodice
- leather anything in any colour but black or neutrals – again, a hard sell for me
- no angora for me – it’s so darn LINTY
- no acrylic for me – it pills and looks cheap so easily
- …okay, no fast fashion in general unless it’s a very specific/well-done style piece which is rare
…and how do I know all of these things I don’t like? It’s because I’ve tried them all.
Fashion is about experimenting
I have tried so many styles, ideas, and sometimes, it pans out such as:
- skinny jeans – I hated this for years, only wore bootcut, but now I am in love, it’s 99% of my wardrobe
- ripped jeans – I used to hate this messy look but now I love it
- wide legged items – not bellbottoms but I love a good wide-legged pant now, wider than a trouser cut
- artfully baggy or oversized sweaters – my current jam
- asymmetrical items – I like the oddity of things not matching up perfectly (anything too buttoned up or perfect is less interesting now)
- one-shoulder items – I am in love with this look of baring ONE shoulder
- maxi skirts and dresses – I love the long length now (but the slit can only go up to the knee)
- booties – I own many pairs now!
- over the knee boots – I own three pairs!
Style is about contrasts
I love the juxtaposition of:
- feminine + masculine
- high + low
- baggy + tight
- tailored + messy
- perfect + imperfect
- …and a pop or a hint of something unexpected either in colour, print, or piece itself
This is an example of a tight short slip underneath something loose, silk and floaty..
The heels are not super high stilettos or glittery, but they’re sort of plain, leather wedges, and in black, white & gold rather than in green or black, which would be too matchy-matchy or expected. A more casual wedge + not so casual look.
Or this contrast of a cosy sweater with ripped jeans, but with a very fussy sort of silk bow blouse. The contrast of a ‘sloppy’ sweater that is baggy with something more tailored.
Or this really pretty feminine dress, made super casual with an oversized men’s shirt and sneakers, mixing the masculine with the feminine dress, and a casual sneaker with a casual shirt, but the sneakers are gold:
Normally, the dress is this, and very PRETTY, which makes it so different when you make dress it up.
Style is about comfort
Some people are very comfortable in skintight skirts and outfits (I can be..), but others are far more comfortable in baggier layers. The point is you have to be comfortable for your sense of self and style. If you try to emulate or wear something you think looks nice, but it isn’t quite you – then you haven’t made it yours.
Someone in 6″ heels might feel fine, but I personally won’t wear heels with a platform because I feel uncomfortable in them, even if the look can be fine for me on others.
Style is about emulating at first, and then creating
I take it all in, I absorb all of the clothing, I covet certain outfits and try to recreate the feeling or look. I may actually re-create the entire outfit as much as possible of an inspiration I saw. I learn by imitation, and then reiteration and riff off that.
I have done this since I was remotely interested in dressing up (age 5?), and I tried to recreate outfits for myself, my dolls and on paper. I imagined colours going together, not going together, and tried all sorts of things. I believe I may have been the only second grader in my class to ever pair a powder blue batwing sweater (extremely oversized before it was a trend) filched from my mother’s closet with bright red pants and pink shoes, and when my mother saw my outfit in its entirety, she exclaimed: How clever and creative you are to pair so many nice colours together and clothing shapes!!! .. which of course, boosted my confidence in “style”.
These days, I see looks like this, think: Hey I have that in my closet, or similar items… and I recreate it.
And then after I do that, I think about how it looks, and I try the skirt with something else, with a lace under layer to make it my own.
Other examples of me replicating outfits I have done in the past (the recreation of the poses themselves is very difficult, I must say, as it takes 30-50 shots to get the right angles):
I didn’t even try with this one:
And then I just try different outfits with similar items, like this one where I took the same shirt, but added a black lace layer underneath to peek out:
Style is not effortless
You might think putting together all of these pieces came easily or naturally to people – it doesn’t. You have to work at it, the same way that anyone works at any other skill. When I do an outfit, I think a lot about it, and what might go good with certain pieces, why and why not.
It took me YEARS of bad purchases and outfits, taking photos, seeing myself in others’ photos, trying on different styles and pieces to finally know what I like (80% of the time), and then the other 20% is me pushing myself out of my comfort zone by wearing orange, or a lace ruffly top. It’s a lot of work, but it seems like fun to me, so it isn’t as painful as for someone else who really just wants to wear a uniform of sorts and be done with it.
People also ask me how I shop, get great pieces, and have such good deals — it’s just constant browsing. I am always on sites looking, shopping, Pinning images I like, browsing on Instagram, and all of that adds up to building a directory or a mood board of sorts of what I am feeling I am gravitating towards these days.
ALL of the above, is a form of work. It’s time spent on my hobby, basically.