Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Style Direction, Part 1

image from thank you, ok

These days I am finding it harder and harder to piece together a cohesive ensemble. I have certain items that are so easily married, and others that repel each other like opposing magnets. I feel that my outfits are lacking in that certain something. I've begun to realise, through the mess of impulse buys and old favourites, that the "certain something" is me. Even more difficult than the putting together of an outfit is the cultivation of a cohesive style.

I feel that blogs can be tricksy creatures. At one moment you feel overpowered with inspiration: oh my goodness! That coat! That bag! It surely is a must have! The next minute, I'm beginning to wonder whether it was the coat or bag I was seduced by, or simply that the blogger modelling these items is traipsing through Paris, on her way to a fashion show. It's such an old truth in fashion: sometimes, the only reason you want something, is to make you more like that certain someone who has it. Perhaps if I don a sheer shirt I'll suddenly have the legs of Rumi Neely? Maybe these sunglasses will give me the captivating features of Jane Aldrige? Of course, it's all nonsense. The only clothes that are really going to make us look fabulous are the clothes that suit us, and bring out our own best features, not the ones that hold false promises of transforming us into someone else.

With the creeping realisation that most of my clothes in my wardrobe didn't reflect me, I began to wonder: who is my inner stylist? Where the hell was she when I bought this!? What does she wear? How can I channel her at all times? I believe it's a rather difficult task to find your own fashion guru, but she is definitely there. She is whispering to you through your wardrobe, living in the fabric, and hiding in the magazine clippings underneath your bed.

As enamoured as I am with Fairisle sweaters, grandfather cardigans, swinging maxi skirts or even denim shorts, they just aren't me. I am neither a boho gyspy-princess, nor a minimalist coveter of structured avant-garde designer pieces. I am not a slave to Topshop, but neither do I insist on wearing vintage.

So, who am I?

images via pinterest

Fashion is very visual - and, like most people, I'm sure, I have a collection of images that inspire me. I looked through a selection and tried to pick out recurring themes. Here is what I found: nipped in waists; froofy skirts; leopard print accessories; massive knitted scarves; tartan skirts; bouffant, luxurious hair; long, knee- or thigh-high socks; black mary janes; glitter manicures; lace and tulle; layered chain necklaces; velvet blazers; embellished tights; nude lips; strong eyebrows. All in all: a magpie's fantasy.

The next step was to put these aesthetics in a big melting-pot and stir it all together, until a glorious style with great direction emerged. But if we're dealing in metaphors here (and man, as an English student, I love me some contrived metaphors), then the aesthetics are merely the sugar and chocolate chips of this sartorial cookie dough, and the main ingredients are the Style Icons (or are they just the eggs? I'm not entirely sure. Maybe the metaphors are overcomplicating things).

Metaphorical cookies aside, time and time again the stylish women of the world have reeled off their lists of iconic figures that inspire their looks: Kate, Audrey, Marilyn, Ashley and Mary-Kate, Alexa, Coco, Carrie... I can safely say that as stylish as these ladies are, I am not that... bothered (!) about them.

Talking about Style Icons reminds me of the question: "Who's your hero?" People will often answer with either "my mum" or "my dad" (my hero? I always used to answer this question with "Bob Marley", and one time I wrote a whole essay in primary school about how it was "the people who invented the Hubble Space Telescope" for some reason...), but the truth is that you can never look up to one single person - there are different aspects of different people that we admire. This is how I look at the "Style Icon". There are different people that serve different purposes. As I contemplate who my icons are, I like to think that they provide different layers of my look.

images via pinterest

I'm going to go for three different layers. A strong, beautiful base, encompassing underwear to make-up and hair, this is the real beauty that underlies every outfit. Think natural glamour, elegantly put-together, with an edge of bed-head and kohl. I think that good style icons for this layer are old-school Hollywood starlets, with their perfectly arched eyebrows and beautifully coiffed hair, exuding just the right amount of innocence and experience. Think Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Christie... or if you want to go for a modern influence, possible icons include Gwen Stefani, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. The next layer up is the actual clothes, the influencing style that nudges you in the right direction, inspiring you and helping you choose what to wear and how to style it. Really, you could go for anyone/anything here... possible influences range from Daisy Lowe to David Bowie, Sherlock Holmes to Cher (!?), it's totally up to you. Finally, the last layer is the icing on the cake: accessories. Having completed the base of the look, it's time to decorate and embellish things - and do so lavishly. Consider: Catherine Baba and her stacks of cuffs encircling her wrists, her head wrapped up in a turban; Her Royal Majesty The Queen, with a pair of pastel gloves and matching hat, or, duh, rocking the crown jewels (I like to imagine that on rainy days she sticks on the crown and fist-pumps, sceptre in hand, to Beyoncé); Karl Lagerfeld, with his dangerously dark aviators and monochromatic tie, silver rings adorning his hands.

There are no real rules - as usual, I'm making things up as I go along but I like the idea of these layers, I think it helps clarify things a little. Of course, more layers could be added, if you wanted to dedicate your footwear exclusively to Lady Gaga, or your coats to Lara of Doctor Zhivago. For now, I'm sticking with three. And who are my top three icons for this upcoming season?

I'm keeping this for the next post! Please share your all-time favourite Style Icons - no matter who they are! Extra points for super-obscurity.


Anonymous said...

Great post!! You've explained this common dilemma so perfectly. I buy any piece I like and it all ends up coming together, mostly because I don't feel I stick to one specific style...Or at least not that I'm completely aware of just yet. I wear what I want when I want, but I always make sure I'm in love with something before I buy it.

My style icons are fabulous, glamorous old ladies. Little Edie Beale (of Grey Gardens fame) is probably my biggest inspiration. I'm also inspired by Jimi Hendrix and others with a hippie-rock style.

xox Courtney Michele
Breakfast in Wonderland

autumn jordan said...

Lovely post! I totally agree that it is just so easy to get caught up with all the pretty things other bloggers wear so well-- and then you walk out of the store wondering, "why did I get this?". I'm in the process of defining my style now, and your post has really inspired me!

My style icons are: Gwen Stefani (I am always searching for that perfecttttt shade of red!), Edie Sedgwick, Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl, Bohemia, and Audrey Hepburn.

autumn jordan

miranda.gabriela said...

Excellent post! Really a great way to get your head around all the different facets that make up one's style inspiration...

Hmm, my style icons... Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for certain... Eartha Kitt from the Batman years... Emma Peel - gotta love Diana Rigg! And Frida Kahlo. I love color mixed with bold, dark eyebrows and classy, delicate details. As for obscurity - my bestie, who you photographed for your blog back in January (here, ) - he always reminds me to just be that little bit more polished with my look. ^__^

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