The Wardrobe Architect is a popular series that ran in early 2014. It’s currently being expanded (with help and feedback from you) into a comprehensive toolkit. You can read all the posts here. If you want to give feedback and get first access when the toolkit is finished, enter your email:
Let’s acknowledge one thing right off the bat: style is not immutable.
It’s tempting to believe that you can define your ONE TRUE STYLE and never have to think about it again, but it defies common sense. We are people. We change, we grow.
However, there are some things that are so ingrained in our personality, tastes, and lives that they come up again and again, like refrains through our lives. Last week’s exercises were about uncovering some of those deeply held tastes and preferences.
I’m calling these aspects – the things that are closer to who you are and your life experiences – a core style.
My premise is this: We each have aspects of our style that are closer to who we are and to our own personal realities. These aspects don’t change much and form our more static style. That style can be expressed in different ways throughout our lives, but recognizing it and celebrating it helps you to feel more like you.
We often hear that style icons know what works for them; they have a specific look and they stick to it. The details change and the style evolves, but there’s always something at the heart of it that remains consistent. Think of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, Katherine Hepburn, Brigette Bardot. Or more modern it-girls like Alexa Chung, Solange Knowles, or Sofia Coppola.
Ok, so that’s true. These are all women in the public eye who I’m sure care deeply about the way they look and what “works” for them.
But behind each style is a woman. These are real human beings with their own experiences, tastes, and preferences that formed that look. We love Audrey for being chic, but also because her simple gamine look reflected her playful, charming personality. Jackie O always looked polished, but that poise seemed to go much deeper. Everything about Bardot’s look echoed her sex kitten persona.
Granted, these are famous women and to some extent their public personas were carefully constructed. I think the point stands, though. They each used style to communicate something more about themselves to the world, something more central about them.
What is at your core?
Defining a core style isn’t easy for most of us. Why is that? It isn’t because we have no tastes and preferences. We usually know what we like.
Rather, it’s because there are so many choices. One of the greatest appeals of fashion is that it lets us play with identity and try on new ways of looking at ourselves. How do you weed through all the lovely looks and pretty styles and choose what suits you and makes you feel good? And how do you do that while still allowing yourself to play around with fashion and have fun?
The answer is (I think) to take a multi-layered approach. First, you can define a core style that really feels like you. Once you have a pretty good idea of what that is, you can build on it with the seasons, making changes and tweaks and incorporating new ideas when they feel right to you. But you can always return to the things that make you happy, the things that feel like you.
Last week, we discussed some of the factors that can inform your core style: history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. I hope you had a chance to think about these aspects in a positive way, and not just about the challenges. For example, if you thought about what makes your body challenging to fit, I hope you also thought about what clothes make you feel good about your body.
This week, we’re going to go from thinking about these things in a cerebral way to figuring out how they might work on an aesthetic level.
This week is all about finding words and images that describe your core style, incorporating what we thought about last week. I hope you’ll have fun with it like I did! Again, I’m crafting these exercises based on my own musings, so I’m eager to hear what you think. I’ll probably share my complete answers early next week. And if you want to see my thoughts from last week, check out my recent posts on instagram.
- Download this week’s worksheet. You might want to have your answers from last week handy (or just have them in mind) as you fill it out.
- Collect 15-20 images that represent your answers from the worksheet. You can collect more or fewer if you like, but that seems like a good number to me. I’m using Pinterest for this purpose, but you could save them on your computer, put them on a blog, make a collage, whatever you want.
I’ve found that having a visual representation of your style can be really powerful. You can include anything you want: art, fashion photos, photos of yourself, color, anything that speaks to the answers you give. I’ve found it helpful to choose images that convey a mood or word, not just outfits you want to copy exactly (though that’s fine too).
Next week, we’re going to move from general words and images to examining the actual elements that make up a consistent, core style: things like color, silhouette, textiles, and details.
Does your style change all the time, or do you feel like there are some aspects that remain consistent? Why are they consistent for you?