Cardinal directions of style

I know that my posts here can look conflicted sometimes. One day I’m eagerly talking everything style; the other day I confess I don’t want to invest too much time in it. It’s a state of mind I often find myself in and it doesn’t matter whether I’m thinking about fashion, work, study or anything else; I often feel conflicted.

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Regarding style and clothing, there are two main opposite tendencies in my mind: First, that “cool” girl who seems to have everything well sorted out and doesn’t invest that much time and effort in what does she look like because she has “other stuff” to do and at the same time, she always manages to look good. Aren’t the most admired style icons those who had style more as a “side hobby”, primarily occupying themselves with something else?

Second, a girl who really really cares about everybody’s opinion and when she thinks of herself, it’s always from the point of view of the imaginary others, something that John Berger writes about in his Ways of Seeing, something that we as women are taught from early age – to be constantly watched, mostly by ourselves. So she feels the urge to make herself look better, more beautiful, more perfect, all day, all night.

The first one is more an ideal that I’d like to fully become one day while the second is one of my annoying aspects that are sometimes too loud in my head and my life. But both of them have at least one thing in common; that is, if there wasn’t the ideal that I’d like to reach one day and that annoying side that keeps me working on myself, I wouldn’t have found those style blogs from very real, very likeable people who seem to share some of my struggles, therefore making them easier. And I wouldn’t have created this blog that despite being messy sometimes (or at least how it seems to me), has helped me to learn and understand a bit better what I want from my image.

Right now it’s about half past Perfectionist so I’m trying to silence that urge that after few months got too loud and makes me going through my wardrobe, wanting something better and more despite having enough, leading my steps in shops to “just see what’s there” and towards almost certain impulse buy that I’d regret after. I bought few things lately but managed to do so after careful thinking and asking myself some questions, the most important being: “Do I really need it?” and “Will buying this make my life better?” It may seem ridiculous to ask yourself like this but it really cuts it as buying a few pieces of clothing seem very unlikely to influence your whole life.

In these times I turn to reading about style and living with what one already has. I go through my favourite essays from bloggers I follow, I remind myself of how much time and research others take before buying a single item, I’m grateful for those rigorous recordings of what was it like to go through a shopping ban, as well as for challenges where limited number of pieces have to be used and combined for certain amount of time. (Thank you all for that!) This time I soothed my desire to buy even more with a book; a book on love, style and life by one and only Garance Doré. A woman whose articles I love so much I turn to them as to a good friend for advice; a woman I admire for her talent, vision and authenticity. (My love letter for her would make a separate article.)

In a chapter dedicated to style she offers the idea of one’s own style as an intersection of four cardinal directions or four basic question you need to ask yourself. Here, my answers.

1. What do I know about myself?

“To know myself is to know the distance between my ideal self and my real self,” Garance writes and it couldn’t be more true. I have described my ideal self above, as well as one of my real selves that annoy me rather than anything else. Yet to find my style I need to make peace between what I want and what I’m really like. I have to be clear about how I live and what I need from clothes for the life I have and not the one I’m dreaming about. In past, I often shopped for my fantasy life full of glamour but these dreams were built on ill fitting clothes, impractical footwear and cheap looking fabrics and sewing. My real daily programme requires a lot of walking, changing environments and meeting with different people in different settings; I need clothes that will be comfortable, versatile and elegant enough.

2. What do I know about my body?

I have petite but athletic body with rather long torso and short, muscular legs from frequent running. Silhouttes with accentuated waist work well; combining fitted and relaxed cuts feels the best, however, it shouldn’t be too fitted. I don’t like too revealing clothes; I feel cheap in them, even in the combination of shorts + spaghetti strap shirt that is so frequent in summer. The shortest hem for me should hit above the knees (because when you sit down, it always goes up a few inches); the most comfortable neckline hits about an inch below from my collarbones.

3. What do I want to tell with my clothes?

I don’t want to stand out and attract too much attention but blending in with the crowd completely is bad option either. Yes, I’d like to wear something that is special only by looking close up – for those who get to know me. Quality tailoring here, playful detail there, a colour that looks black from afar but is a shade of midnight when coming closer. Subtle hints of my Asian heritage are welcome, too; I love delicate floral patterns, certain color combinations and cuts. I want to dress like my tribe but in a way that doesn’t discourage strangers; rather, telling that “this person is slightly different but it is totally okay to approach her and find out more.” Does it sound strange?

Overall, I believe in what someone said (Coco Chanel? Emmanuelle Alt? YSL?…): You want the other person first to notice you’re a beautiful, interesting person, not your beautiful clothes. If the first thing you notice about a woman are her clothes, she is not dressed well.

4. Who do you want to be?

My ideal job? Writer.

To go and research about people and cultures and lands for days and then to go home, to sit down and create stories where all these people, cultures and lands can live. To create windows to travel without moving. To make shelters for those who feel like escaping from the physical world at least for a moment. To put one word behind the other, one by one, until they become buildings of my mind.

What do writers wear? I guess they have their favourite pieces but mostly don’t occupy themselves too much with how they look. Does it depend on the genre? Neil Gaiman, my favourite author who writes fantasy and horror, has this signature all black look with a jacket and messy hair. I can’t recall what do Phillip Pullman, Jorge Luis Borges, Alessandro Baricco or other authors I admire wear; what I do remember, however, are their stories that remain vivid and intense no matter how much time has passed.

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Neil Gaiman. Source: telegraph.co.uk

What would be your answers to these questions?

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2 thoughts on “Cardinal directions of style

  1. It takes quite a bit of conscious effort to have an effortless look.

    I know what you mean about clothes for the fantasy life. As I’ve gotten older, and that life never happened, I’m less willing to spend money on things that I don’t use.

    If I were to think of who I want to be, I think less and less of attaining some job title. I would happily scrub floors or flip burgers if I meant I was able to travel. There’s something about traveling that can equalize people in a way, in that it unites people more by common interests in my experience. That we can all be from different walks of life, one person is a Hollywood producer and the other teaches high school math and here we are eating at the same restaurant in Marrakesh. I don’t think there is necessarily this shining definitive moment where we BECOME SOMETHING and then “LIFE” BEGINS. I feel as though I am just passing through life, and maybe I want clothes that reflect that. That give a bit of mystery and protection (as I am intensely private), that I like to move freely and comfortably, and grant me a bit of quiet respect. Other people’s reactions can be a mirror into the kind of energy or impression that we are projecting.

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  2. The learning curve – we got to respect it. I think I sort of asked the exact questions when I started my blog. What is my body like. Who do I want to be. And when do I say no and enough ? Perhaps we over think these things a little … Hopefully, the investment into ourselves in figuring it out, will lead to effortless later. Who knows ! we are all different.

    The only thing that I can say for certain :

    1. My investment paid off. I think I am at that point where I am reaping the benefits.
    2. Having fewer influencers helped. Less peer pressure to look stylish as accepted by the intenet. I will tell myself I look good and that is the end of it. I dont care if I am not stylish/dont look good in my clothes. I dont care if everyone hates my outfit posts. I just dont care.
    3. I went to a very fancy party this weekend wearing a cotton blue dress and ballet flats. Everyone asked me if that is really what I was wearing and tried to lend me some clothes for the party. I felt good in what I was wearing and didnt feel under dressed. The social pressure was there but I can still choose. I never had this sort of confidence when I was younger. Aging is a good thing inspite of what the media portrays it to be.

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